Five years ago
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Bullahalloo: The Jerusalem
Post reported that a Solomon-era clay seal (bulla) has been found in the Arab dump outside Jerusalem the first
inscription from the First Temple period. (See 04/17/2005 story.)
Far Out: Cassini just took the best-ever
pictures of Saturns moons Tethys
The latter is one of the most bizarre-looking moons yet seen around Saturn (see
and zoom movie).
It has deep, steep-sided craters coated with dark, smooth material at the bottoms. One crater is
almost the size of the moon itself. For official
images with captions, go to JPLs Planetary Photojournal,
click on Saturn, then the moon of your choice. The first place to find new Cassini images is on the
Images gallery. The Planetary Society usually
posts detailed interpretive guides fairly quickly, and some amateurs beat the pros to the punch by
creating mosaics and animations on the Unmanned Spaceflight Forum.
Coming Up: Scientists await close up images of Dione, October 11, and Rhea, November 26.
Spider Blood Survives 20 Million Years So They Say
announced, Spider blood found in 20 million year old fossil.
repeated the story. The articles even tell how the spider died (it was climbing a
tree and was struck on the head by fast-flowing sap).
The BBC News said,
Spider is 20 million years old. At least they put quotes around
the date, but they quoted Dr.
of the University of Manchester scratching his beard and saying, Its amazing
to think that a single piece of amber with a single spider in it can open up a window into
what was going on 20 million years ago. The date comes from the Miocene deposits
in which the amber was found in the Dominican Republic. Those deposits rank at 20 million years
according to the evolutionary dating scheme.
How could blood survive decay for 2000 years, let
alone 20 million? Suggested revision for Penneys thoughts:
Its amazing to think that a single piece of amber with a single spider in it
does not open minds to the realization that 20 million years is implausible fiction.
Tell your friends about the shortcut address to Creation-Evolution Headlines:
Lets remind readers of the way evolutionists reason about fossils and dates.
How do you know this spider is 20 million years old? Answer: it was found
in a 20-million-year-old rock. How do you know the rocks are 20 million years
old? Answer: because, stupid, it has this 20-million-year-old spider in it!
Next headline on:
Can a Robot Build Itself?
The news media got a load of Joseph Jacobsons toy robots that could make copies
of themselves. Ker Than on
for instance, called these biological robots:
Inspired by biological systems, scientists have developed miniature robots that can
self-assemble using parts that float randomly in their environments. The robots
also know when something is amiss and can correct their own mistakes.
(Emphasis added in all quotes.)
(See also MSNBC News).
Calling these things robots requires a little stretch of imagination.
They dont walk or clean the carpet.
They only have two parts. The parts line up in sequences five parts long.
If extra parts are floating around, new copies of the 5-element sequence will form
automatically because of the way they are designed to fit together.
Jacobson (MIT) made the parts latch onto each other in specific ways.
The work was inspired by DNA, according to Stefan Lovgren
Geographic, who said the goal was to illustrate the fundamental aspects of biological replication.
Self-assembly had been demonstrated before:
But the new robots mark the first time a mechanical system has been created that can
self-replicate from random parts using the same principles as biological systems, which
assemble structures from disordered building blocks using error correction.
Jacobsen also said, The analogy really is that of biology. Biology is exquisitely
good at building highly complex, well-ordered structures from disordered parts.
The paper was published in Nature.1
We identified two ingredients about the biological process,
Jacobson said. One is that it can make these copies from random parts that
are distributed throughout the environment, and second is that it can do so with
very high fidelity [accuracy].
Does this new work bear at all on the question of the origin of
this high-fidelity self-replication? None of the articles speculated about it
explicitly, but the paper did state that attempts by robotics experts have yet to
acquire the sophistication of biological systems. The authors also
noted that without error correction, the yield for replicating an n-bit string
becomes exponentially small, the longer the string.2
1Griffith, Goldwater and Jacobson, Robotics: Self-replication from random parts,
437, 636 (29 September 2005) | doi: 10.1038/437636a.
2(1 - e)n, where e is the error per input. For a string of
length 5 with two parts, as in this experiment, the yield would be just 3% if e=0.5. For a
string of length 10, the yield drops to .09%. For a string of length 100, the
size of a small protein, the yield is 8 x 10-29, and that is assuming only
two kinds of parts. Since proteins are made up of 20 different kinds of amino acids,
the error is correspondingly higher, and the yield much, much lower.
One wonders of anti-ID apostle Ker Than lept onto
this story during the week of the Dover trial to show that the problem of the origin
of life may not be that bad. He could show pictures of self-replicating
robots, just like DNA. The devil is in the details.
Were Dinosaurs Gasping for Air? 09/29/2005
supports ID and defeats chemical evolution theory in many important ways.
(1) It illustrates the extreme differences in complexity between Jacobsons
simple 2-part, 5-length strings of nonsense and the luxuriously ordered forms of DNA and proteins.
(2) It shows that intelligent guidance is required to make the parts fit together
according to rules. (3) It overlooks the problem of left- and right-handed
forms. (4) It requires a suitable environment for the parts to come together
(here, a frictionless surface with ample spare parts). (5) The error correction
derives from the parts themselves. In the cell, DNA errors are corrected by
multiple proofreading machines. (5) It makes the yield for lengthier strings
of more parts appear hopeless. (6) It demonstrates that no language convention arises by
the attractive forces of components. Jacobson got strings of GGYYG and
YGGYY. What does that spell? What function or meaning does it convey?
In living cells, the DNA is a code that specifies parts that
have function. These codes are translated by machines into
another code. Multiple machines and pathways exist to maintain and correct
the DNA language. Any resemblance, therefore, of these so-called error-correcting
robots to DNA is as superficial as bits (0 and 1) are to an encyclopedia.
Dont allow such things to be used as propaganda for evolution when they are
really strong arguments for intelligent design. According to Dembskis
free lunch principle, any semblance of complex information achieved by this evolutionary
algorithm was only made possible by the insertion of intelligent design on the front end.
Naturalism can permit no such luxury.
Next headline on:
Origin of Life
A news story on CNN
claims that the air contained only about 10 percent oxygen at the time of the dinosaurs.
It climbed to 23% by 40 million years ago, then dropped to its current level at 21%, said the researchers.
They feel that the rise of oxygen almost certainly contributed to evolution of large
animals. Mammals and birds need three to six times the oxygen, they claim.
They arrived at the oxygen levels by measuring carbon isotopes in sedimentary rocks at the bottom of the
Atlantic Ocean. Their results were published in Science.1
all carried the story.
1Falkowski et al., The Rise of Oxygen over the Past 205 Million Years and the Evolution of Large Placental Mammals,
Vol 309, Issue 5744, 2202-2204 , 30 September 2005, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1116047].
Lets think this through.
If this theory were correct, 80-ton dinosaurs, fast-running velociraptors, and pterosaurs
as large as fighter jets (09/09/2005)
were able to live on 10% oxygen, yet mammals could only survive as
small rats, and as time went on oxygen levels increased. So the already big dinosaurs
died off and the miniscule mammals grew in size due to the more oxygenated environment?
Another Record Distant Galaxy Found 09/29/2005
According to prior evidence, some mammals were at least medium sized during
the time of the dinosaurs (see This badger ate dinosaurs for breakfast,
01/12/2005). The authors note this but simply
dismiss it: Data show a rapid increase from small to medium-sized mammals in
the first few million years after the K-T event (Fig. 2). This size contrast is
blurred slightly with the recent discovery of larger Cretaceous mammals, but this
trend does not appear to be driven by oxygen. Blurred slightly?
It falsifies their basic idea that oxygen drove the development of large placental mammals.
Whatever data they dislike are thus simply discarded as irrelevant.
Many other life forms, such as plants, insects, shellfish and crustaceans, grew to
enormous sizes during the supposedly low-oxygen periods.
Notice how they
also placed their trust in the K-T meteor hypothesis: Whereas a bolide impact at the
Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T) boundary and the ensuing extinction of dinosaurs provided
ecological opportunity for the radiation of placental mammals, la te dah, dum de
dum dum, etc. This is more of the opportunistic theory of evolution: if you clear
the ground of big dumb dinosaurs, large mammals will evolve, as if by magic, to fill in
the space. Opportunity is thus the necessary and sufficient cause for the emergence
of complete revolutions in body organs, body shapes, decorations, behaviors and capabilities,
from bat flight to whale sonar, in hundreds of new kinds of animals.
The Darwinian Density: Well, theyre here, arent they?
Since evolution is a fact, they must have evolved.
The researchers didnt seem to notice that the carbon-isotope measurements
contradict direct measurements of oxygen from amber. According to an article on the
USGS website, air trapped in prehistoric
amber was claimed to have 30% oxygen in it not 10%. Were the
300 analyses by USGS scientists of Cretaceous, Tertiary, and recent-age amber from
16 world sites wrong? Or did these researchers forget to cross-check their
measurements with the amber data? How about a little classic lab experimentation?
They could grow mice in different amounts of oxygen and see if that affects body size.
Once they find the magic oxygen formula, they could breed elephant shrews into elephants.
The hypothesis is based on circumstantial evidence, comparing oxygen
with the geologic column, which is itself based on evolutionary assumptions.
One would think that a few more requirements beyond oxygen would be
necessary for the success story of the mammals. Why the news
sources all repeated this wild idea uncritically is a study in itself.
Footnote: It turns out that
Geographic, bless its evolved heart, did consider other requirements
for mammals to flourish. After indulging in the myth of mammalian
opportunism, they quoted Robert Asher of the Berlin Museum of Natural
History who, though impressed by the fascinating correlation of oxygen levels
with mammal size and diversification, thought more had to be involved.
Of all the other causative factors he could have listed, he mentioned only
the one that Darwinists love most, because it intuitively explains the rise of specified
complexity without a Designer. Listen carefully:
But is global oxygen is the magic bullet that explains the evolution
of mammals 50 to 40 million years ago? My guess, Asher said,
would be no. ... Like most other issues, there are a number of causative factors
involved, including chance.
Next headline on:
The Spitzer Space Telescope found a positively gigantic galaxy at a time
the universe was supposedly only 800 million years old just 5% the assumed
age of the universe according to a press release from
Lab. For the galaxy to be this big that far back, it must have
bulked up amazingly quickly, the report says.
This shows more of the trend reported last week
(see 09/21/2005). Notice which camp is always surprised.
Scientific Institutions Root for Darwin 09/28/2005
Next headline on:
With the Dover trial in the midst of its first week (09/26/2005),
the Goliath fans are sounding off, led by their cheerleaders, Nature, Science and
- Nature had two pieces this week, claiming the Dover trial represents
Do or Die for
Design. This editorial ended, Scientific organizations are well aware
of this cases significance, and many have lent public support to the plaintiffs
[i.e., the ACLU and the 11 parents suing the school district for allowing alternatives to Darwinism].
A ruling in their favour will be welcomed not just by scientists and teachers but by American parents,
whose children need to be protected from an injection of superstition into science
teaching. (Emphasis added in all quotes; sic means thus in the original;
our usage is intended to point out the assumptions and biases of the source.)
- Nature writer
titled his report, School board in court
over bid to teach intelligent design. Even though the school board did not require
teaching intelligent design, but only mentioning that an alternative source was available
for the students, Brumfiel focused on the testimony of the pro-Darwinists, Ken Miller,
Eugenie Scott and Eric Rothschild. He reported that when Ken Miller was asked about
problems with the origin of life, Miller responded, I would rather say that Darwin
was incomplete, not that Darwin was inadequate.
- Science reporter
wrote about Darwins (First) Day in Court. She also highlighted
Brown U professor Kenneth Miller, describing him in terms of a prize fighter: Even the
flagellum got its moment in the spotlight. Miller tore into a favorite example
used by biochemist and ID proponent Michael Behe.... She made a short reference
to the co-option argument; i.e., that the flagellum resembles a simpler molecular syringe,
presumed to be a precursor.
- Kansas University: Chancellor of KU, Bob Hemenway,
a letter to colleagues asking them to hold their ground against the ID movement.
The United States cannot accept efforts to undermine the teaching of science,
he said, although he hastened to mention that no one is attacking peoples religious
beliefs. Creationism and intelligent design, he said, are most
appropriately taught in religion, philosophy, or sociology class, rather than a science class.
- Citizen War Invades Museum The
Journal-World reported about growing numbers of patrons entering the Sternberg
Museum of Natural History angry about the pro-evolution exhibits. Pro-ID advocate
John Calvert claims there is no organized effort, but the museum director says the
following scenario is becoming increasingly common: A person or group will come
in and confront one of the guides with rapid-fire questions for which the person is
not qualified to respond (see 09/22/2005 story).
The museum is counterattacking with more evolutionary
displays and pamphlets, but Calvert, who thinks the museum is not educating but rather
indoctrinating, predicts a backfire: These exhibits are not going to work,
he said. People are going to wind up laughing at them.
Hey; great idea.
Laughter may be one of the best medicines for chronic
Darwinism. Give it a try after the pepper spray of rapid-fire questions (be nice,
of coursesee 09/22/2005 commentary). Lets get
the museum directors, the docents, the scientists, the lawyers and the reporters all laughing and
having a good time. Hire comedian Brad Stine to come into the dinosaur exhibit
and give his wacky impressions of Dr.
Tall. Stroking his goatee, gazing
into the air, he could say, Yes, children, this Diplodocus slowly
morphed into your parakeet, over millions and millions of years. Somebody
could hang a sign on the stuffed cow, Whale Under Construction. Hold
a karaoke contest of the Evolution Songs.
Find more ideas on the Darwin Day Top Ten (02/13/2004 commentary).
Do Dead Meteorites Tell Tales? 09/28/2005
Face it; evolution is funny. Its the craziest thing you ever heard.
Hydrogen: a light, odorless, colorless gas, that
given enough time, turns into people. Wah-hoo!
Hey, this could be just the thing: a positive, constructive strategy to heal the cultural rift in society.
It might even be good therapy for the Darwin Party leaders, who take themselves way too seriously.
Visualize Eugenie Scott and Ken Miller at the mike, hamming it up with Gory, gory
evolution, 'tis ruthless marching on while the party is cracking up uncontrollably
under the Charlie
poster with the caption, O, my sick stomach; I just looked at my
eye in the mirror again.
One wonders if Hitler would have gotten anywhere if the crowds
packed into his beer hall speeches not to be swayed, but for a rollickin good time
at Amateur Comedy Hour. Embarrassed at everyone mocking his antics,
he might have slinkered away back to a career in art.
Next headline on:
Several researchers lately have claimed that meteorites can tell us the history
of our solar system. How can this be?
- Messages from Heaven: Richard Kerr in Science1
reported on work by Strom et al. in the same issue2 that the asteroid
belt was the source of the so-called late heavy bombardment that is said to have pummeled
the early solar system 3.9 billion years ago. One researcher who had been working on
this problem for 35 years completely changed his view based on the study.
Stroms team hypothesized that the gas giants rearranged themselves, and then
modeled how impactors might have been flung inward from the asteroid belt as a consequence.
Kerr writes, Cratering specialists suspect that Strom and his colleagues are
on to something, but they say the case remains open. Another said they
could be right, but we have to be careful.
- Crystal Balls: A
University press release says meteorites offer glimpse of the early Earth.
Purdue scientists measuring the isotopic ratios in Antarctic meteorites think they can
deduce the temperature of their formation. From this, they believe, they can tell
whether they formed at the same time Earth formed, or later. Its not like
reading a book, exactly; one scientist said, There are still quite a few unanswered
questions about the earliest periods of the Earths history, and this study only
provides one piece of the puzzle.
- Treasure Chest: As if to one-up the previous claim,
printed a Florida State story that an unusual meteorite unlocks treasure trove of
solar system secrets. The Tagish Lake meteorite that fell in Canada in 2000
led a FSU geochemist to a breakthrough in understanding the origin of the chemical
elements that make up our solar system, the press release claimed. What did
he find? An unusual ratio of isotopes of osmium. From this, he believes he
can tell what kind of star produced the element, and when. His hypothesis,
however, flies in the face of earlier suggestions that the element came from dust from
a nearby star. No, the leader of the team says: his findings reveal that the
raw materials from which our solar system was built are preserved in a few exceptional
meteorites, from which we can now recover the prehistory of our solar system.
1Richard Kerr, Another Hint of Planetary Marauders,
Vol 309, Issue 5742, 1800, 16 September 2005, [DOI: 10.1126/science.309.5742.1800a].
2Strom et al., The Origin of Planetary Impactors in the Inner Solar System,
Vol 309, Issue 5742, 1847-1850, 16 September 2005, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1113544].
Several things stand out from stories of this genre.
(1) The new finding contradicts earlier beliefs. (2) The new finding is put in the
context of a vast field of unanswered questions. (3) Evolution is a given.
(4) The accepted age of the solar system (4.6 billion years) is a given. (5) Most of the
work remains to be done. (6) The check is in the mail (e.g., from this tiny tidbit
of hypothesis, we can now recover the prehistory of our solar system).
(7) Once we figure this out for our solar system, we will unlock the keys to other stars
and planets, and to the whole universe. (8) This finding is the greatest thing
since primordial soup.
Hobbit Update 09/28/2005
This is the way evolutionists kid themselves that they are doing science.
They envelop themselves in periodic tables, lab instruments, and equations. So far
so good. But since the Big Picture of Evolution has already been decided to be
fact by decree, every piece of data must be forced into it.
Working this way requires adding whatever ad hoc elements are needed to
keep the story going, as well as ignoring uncomfortable facts. Dr. Walt Brown,
for instance, who has a very different theory for the origin of impactors
(see website), said this
about Stroms theory:
Without explaining how asteroids formed in the first
place, Kerr and Strom try to explain why asteroids in the main belt were shaken up
by moving the giant planets around, and appealing to the extremely weak Yarkovsky effect
and planetary resonances. (The radiometer effect is much stronger, because water
molecules are much more massive than photons.) Showing that the size distribution
of MBAs [not accountants, but Main Belt Asteroids] corresponds to the early craters in
the inner solar system does not mean that
the early impacts came from the asteroid belt.
Each scientist working under evolutionary, naturalistic assumptions is
a willing accomplice to this game of self-deception. Their motive is to contribute a brick for the Temple of Charlie,
which produces gratification that one is doing his part to advance the cult. Whether the
cult matches the real history of the universe, well how could they ever tell?
Of course, youre only likely to hear the evolutionary side in the media, because
they are all part of the cult, too.
Next headline on:
BBC News posted an
article updating the story of Homo florensiensis, the so-called Hobbit
Man miniature-human fossil (see 10/27/2004).
Opponents of the missing link interpretation are becoming more ardent in
their claim that the fossils represent diseased modern humans with a condition known
as microcephaly. The discoverers are not convinced.
Wait for this story to play out before jumping to
conclusions. If like most early man claims, it will be debunked in time.
Never be swayed by initial claims. Wait for the rest of the story.
Carl Sagans Cosmos Is Back
Next headline on:
MSNBC News reported that Carl Sagans
popular 13-part series Cosmos is returning to TV this week, digitally remastered
and enhanced with new up-to-date animations. The 1980 series, which began with its own Agnus Dei invocation
The cosmos is all that is, all that ever was, and all that ever will be,
went far beyond the study of stars and galaxies. It preached a profoundly atheistic,
evolutionary world view of the meaning of life, its origin and destiny, and even
cosmopolitics. Facing the camera in one episode, Sagan stated emphatically (after
showing a case of microevolution), Evolution is a fact, not a theory.
It really happened. Stick-figure animations made up for the fossil record
by showing smooth transitions from single cell to man. Religious people, especially
Christians, were routinely portrayed in a negative light except for the Hindus,
who got surprisingly good press from the science popularizer who really knew how to put the
b in billions.
Oh good. Now we can all laugh again as Sagan
shows people, cities, spaceships and everything in the zoo and tells us, with all
seriousness, These are some of the things hydrogen atoms do, given fifteen
billion years of cosmic evolution. Maybe the series should be
Rhetoric Heats Up Over Dover IDea
Next headline on:
Now that the ACLUs lawsuit in Dover, Pennsylvania has gone to trial, more and
more news media are writing about the controversy over intelligent design.
Many seem to think that the school board is trying to replace
Darwinism in high school science classrooms with I.D.;
actually, the Dover case does not
mandate the teaching of intelligent design at all, but rather requires that administrators
read a short statement in class expressing the point that evolution is a theory, not a fact,
and that materials showing alternative explanations are available to students who are
interested. No student is forced to read them or use them, and no student is tested on
I.D. Darwinian evolution is still the only explanation for the evolution and
development of life taught in the biology curriculum.
This legal detail
has not prevented a flurry of rhetoric over whether ID is scientific, and whether
students should be allowed to hear alternatives or not or even to be told
alternatives exist. In that sense, the controversy should be about whether
Darwinism, and the naturalistic philosophy behind it, should be government-protected from
scrutiny. Instead, however, most of the reporting is focused on the
scientific merits of intelligent design. The implicit assumption is that Darwinism is
already sound science, no longer in need of critical evaluation. The mere attempt
to arouse doubt about the soundness of Darwinism was enough for the ACLU to pursue its
lawsuit. Since any such doubt is assumed to be religiously motivated,
the ACLU argues it amounts to an establishment of religion and is prohibited
on the grounds of separation of church and state, even though no church
or sect is being promulgated, let alone mentioned.
Regardless of positions on the lawsuit, both sides are facing the Dover
case with trepidation. A single federal judge John E. Jones III
may set precedent affecting many other states and school districts. One side
or the other may face difficulty advancing their views depending on the outcome.
With the scientific institutions nearly unanimously lined up on the pro-Darwin side,
it looks like a classic David vs. Goliath setup.
The Discovery Institute has posted a
page for reporters and interested court watchers.
Most of the media coverage begs the question of whether it is proper for the courts to
decide matters of science (see 09/16/2005 entry).
- LiveScience.com is posting a strongly anti-ID series by Ker Than:
- Part 1 claims
ID is trying to drag science into the supernatural.
- Part 2 calls ID
the death of science. This article was reprinted on
- Part 3 calls ID
belief posing as theory.
- Part 4 looked at the
history of court cases that supposedly ruled creationism unconstitutional.
- MSNBC reporter Alex Johnson wrote
about the trial. Discovery
Institute thought this article was fair-minded enough to reprint on their pro-ID site.
York Times printed a story with pictures.
Street Journal calls the case Scopes 2005 (but this time, the
Darwinists are the ones trying to outlaw their opposition).
- Fox News, along with other major news sources,
reported on the trial.
- Lou Dobbs had Eugenie Scott of NCSE
and Frank Sherwin of ICR face off for a few minutes, but the short time slot did not allow for much more than
a few sound bites.
- Pressbox.co.uk last week tried to make the strange case that intelligent design is blasphemy.
They appealed to some religious people who think I.D. is blasphemous to science, and some
who thought it is blasphemous to Christianity (because it declines to identify the Designer).
- York Dispatch wrote about the
Discovery Institutes refusal to back Dover.
Institute did not approve of Dovers policy, but nevertheless denounced the
Orwellian attempts of the ACLU to stifle scientific inquiry.
- EvolutionNews, a media-watch blog of the
Discovery Institute, has Jonathan Witt on the scene who is providing blow-by-blow coverage.
listed media myths to watch out for.
Saturns moon Titan is shrouded in smog that obscures
its surface, but scientists have a trick: at certain infrared wavelengths, light travels
unhindered through the haze, letting the complex geography be seen clearly. Were
going to give you some wavelengths to see through the haze of rhetorical smoke that is obscuring
the real atmosphere around the intelligent design movement. The smoke is coming out
in billows from certain Darwinistas. Look at
this big lie Ker Than tells, for instance: Yet no true
examples of irreducible complexity have ever been found. Are we to just take
his word for it? No elephants have ever been found in his living room, either,
despite the smell and the fact he cant move or see anything, because Big Science
ruled that elephants cannot be invoked in explanations.
He follows it up with the old bandwagon gimmick:
The concept is rejected by the majority of the scientific community.
With this kind of smoke in the air, a well-tuned Baloney Detector is a must for navigating
through the media without following the blind into the ditch. Learn to use well these penetrating wavelengths:
Is Archaeology Like SETI, or is SETI Like Religion? 09/24/2005
The Darwinist strategy is to attach the label scientific to their beliefs
and label their critics religious. In this way, they hope to
protect themselves from scrutiny by framing
the legitimate controversies about their storytelling empire in terms of religion vs.
science. They arrogate to themselves the euphemism scientific
and try to pigeonhole anyone who disagrees with their fable
with the meaningless and contemptuous label, people of faith.
By inference, they assume for themselves the contrasting ribbon, people of reason.
- Science and religion, not science vs. religion: If you have
been told that science and religion are two non-overlapping domains that have nothing to
do with each other, you have been sold a bill of goods, and should demand a refund. Philosophy
of science has a long and varied history. Up until the Darwinian usurpation, it was
primarily religious people who did science. They were the ones who categorized the
fields of inquiry, devised the scientific method, founded the branches of science, and
were motivated by their philosophy to do scientific work. The word scientist
did not even exist till William Whewell invented it in the 19th century; it was natural
philosophy, restricted to the study of tangible, observable natural phenomena.
Scientists were committed to proof by observation, experimentation, and repeatability.
There was no conflict between the pursuit of knowledge (what science means, by definition)
and religion. This is not controversial.* Of all religions, in particular,
it was the Judeo-Christian worldview that was the patron and best friend of science.
The supposed warfare between science and religion is a myth that was promulgated by
anti-religious Darwinists in their efforts to make science a secular replacement for religion.
*For support from disinterested scholars (which is always
encouraged here), check out, for instance, the two Teaching
Company college-level lecture series on the history of science, where you will find
two reputable secular professors making this point emphatically. You can also read
our online book, or the new book by
For the Glory of God. Also, notice this line from John Tresch in Science
09/30/2005 in a book review of Making Modern Science: A Historical Survey by
Bowler and Morus: ... the book shows that the history of science itself has a rich
and varied history--how, for instance, in the 1870s and 1880s the idea of a longstanding
war between science and religion was invented to bolster budgets in new research
- Limits of science: Science cannot know everything, because not everything
can be tested in the lab. History, for instance, is a branch of knowledge that deals
with non-repeatable events of the past; consequently, the methods of investigation are
different eyewitness testimony, artifacts, journals, textual criticism, and the like.
This limitation becomes extreme when dealing with prehistory. Without observers,
one can only make inferences that are more or less plausible. The farther back
one goes, the more these inferences overlap heavily with assumptions, presuppositions and
philosophical preferences. In the limit (when considering ultimate origins),
evolution and theology are indistinguishable; the story of origins becomes the science
of one religion against the science of another religion. Here, science
loses all hope of testability and repeatability, and reduces to its core values:
honesty, integrity, love of truth, submission to laws of
logic, carefulness and other traits that are essentially religious values.
To suppose that Darwinists, who presume that honesty is a mere emergent property of matter
in motion, are more capable of it than theists is as arrogant as it is self-refuting.
- Natural, Supernatural and Intelligent Causation: Much of the smog in the
debate comes from the Darwinist straw man habit of calling
intelligent design supernatural and calling it giving up on science.
Penetrate this fog with your light saber and you will see much. Intelligent
design is not based on what we dont know, but on what we do know.
It is not an appeal to a god-of-the-gaps or theological explanation, but the very approach
science uses all the time to discern between intentional and non-intentional effects.
I.D. proponents argue that it is a superior explanation of complex, specified,
information-rich phenomena, based on the uniformity of experience, than appeals to
chance and blind natural law.
Not all phenomena have intelligent causes, but ruling them out by definition
is an arbitrary and potentially show-stopping limitation on science. Intelligent
causes can be discerned from natural causes through rational
analysis of the causal resources available. But it is an exercise in futility to
rule out intelligent causes when an intelligence has, indeed, acted. When one is trying to make an
inference to the best explanation about Mt. Rushmore, for instance, or about an archaeological
inscription or stone tool, it is foolish to restrict ones
thinking to natural forces like wind and rain. The ID takes well-known and fruitful
methods of design inference and applies them rigorously to biology not with theological
pronouncements from prophets, but with rigorous mathematical and logical reasoning
the same kind used in forensics, cryptography, archaeology, and even SETI.
If the Darwinists
did not have such a political and emotional stake in defending their religion of naturalism,
they would find this perfectly acceptable and reasonable. In short, ID is not a cop-out
answer or escape clause the way the Darwinists portray it: We cant figure it out
scientifically so God must have done it, but rather a positive affirmation about
something we can know from the uniformity of experience. Any time we find a language
especially one that can be translated into another language and maintain its meaning
we know that a mind produced it. To say otherwise in order to maintain ones philosophical preference
is the cop-out. To promise the check is in the mail and its
an unsolved problem, but well figure out some day is the escape clause, and
the Darwinists are red-handed guilty.
- Darwinism, R.I.P. An assumption clouding up much of the reporting is that
Darwinism works, or at least that it works better than any other scientific theory
(see best-in-field fallacy).
If you have read Creation-Evolution Headlines for any time, you know that Darwinism
is positive anti-knowledge (to borrow
Colin Pattersons phrase). It cannot explain
the origin of life, the development of the embryo, speciation, abrupt appearance of
new body plans, anything. It is a dismal failure, a lame, crippled, half-dead
horse at the starting line where the rules prohibit the I.D. Seabiscuit from entry.
There is not a single part of evolutionary theory that is not controversial among
evolutionists themselves. The Darwinian method of science has two parts: (1)
declare evolution a fact by fiat, and (2) hunt for corroborating evidence (that is, if you feel
up to it; none is really necessary, since by #1, evolution is already a fact).
Darwinism has grown into an unwieldy, just-so storytelling empire built on Charlies
flimsy heuristic (unguided, purposeless natural selection)
that is tautological at its root, and fraught with a history of evil fruit.
Darwinists spend their time connecting distant dots of data with pure fiction. They think
that by extrapolating submillimeter changes in beak size they can explain the vast diversity
of life, from whales to magnolias. Its time to call the Darwinists to
accountability after 146 years of failure and open the field to fresh ideas.
- Design vs. non-design exhausts the possibilities. LiveScience.com mocked
anyone who disagrees with Darwinism
by posting its Top 10 Intelligent Designs (or Creation Myths) with the
implication that if alternatives to Darwinism need to be permitted, then we must decide
if schools should teach the Norse creation myth, the Egyptian creation myth, the
Zoroastrian creation myth, etc., or all the above. Luring the unwary reader in with nude art was
a cheap trick, but they forgot to include the most lurid fable of all
Darwinism. The display assumes all these creation stories are on a level playing
field. Any reasonable person could rank them in order of plausibility, but that
is beside the point. Even with the historical fact that it was Christian Europe that
gave birth to science, not Persia or the Norse or the Egyptians,
that is also completely beside the point. No one in the I.D.
movement is asking that a specific religious account of creation be taught as science.
The issue is about design, not the Designer or how he designed just
whether the phenomenon under investigation was, in fact, designed.
Either life was designed, or it was not. Those
options exhaust the possibilities. Design can be inferred by the methods of science
without making any claims about who did it, or why.
Even the Darwinists like Richard Dawkins admit that life looks designed for a
purpose. Their approach is to explain away the design, and tempt us away
from our common sense and logic, to chase a phantom story that in the misty past
design just emerged (their favorite miracle word) out of disorder.
Should this mythology have sole rights to be heard in science class? Intelligent causes are
known to be the only explanation for certain classes of phenomena capable
of scientific investigation. No one has ever seen a complex information-rich system,
like the DNA language and translation factory, complete with error-correcting mechanisms,
arise by chance or natural law. Why should the philosophical naturalists, like snarling
Dobermans, keep healthier bloodhounds, with a nose for design, at bay? Why
should science be arbitrarily restricted from unlocking the mystery of life with a
key that works? More ominously, why should philosophical naturalism be
established as a de facto religion guised in the sacred name of science?
Since we are immune to bluffing here,
after evaluating their rhetoric and performance, we suggest a counter-label to describe the rabid Darwin defenders:
People of Froth. Foaming at the mouth, these merciless warriors
emit masses of fearsome-looking, bubbling matter from their lips, making reporters
wilt with awe. But what is froth upon closer inspection,
but a mere agglutination of thin, vulnerable membranes enclosing hot air?
Realizing this can inspire the next thing that is needed after confidence in ones
own intellectual weapons: courage.
Fear thou not the course of the wroth; go forth against froth with the force of truth.
Say that five times real fast, then act on it.
Next headline on:
Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory
Archaeologists have their Rosetta Stone, but so far, SETI investigators have no
artifacts. Still, Douglas Vakoch wrote for
archaeologists and anthropologists can teach SETI researchers how to prepare for
encountering exotic cultures with strange languages.
Vakoch recounted the interest in this angle at an anthropology
conference last year:
One of the best-attended sessions of that meeting consisted of papers from leading scholars
who pondered the daunting challenges of reconstructing alien civilizations at
Yet how can SETI be compared with anthropology or archaeology, when the latter have bones
and artifacts, but SETI has (so far) found nothing? Vakoch asks if such speculations
are premature without first obtaining proof extraterrestrial life exists. He ends
with quotes from psychologist Albert Harrison, who thinks there is value in contemplating
such an encounter:
The approaches we take as archaeologists in our search for peoples from another
time and place may well offer some useful analogy
to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, suggested archaeologist Paul Wason,
one of the participants. Our work is conducted without the benefit of
direct contact with living beings, he observed, which is akin to SETIs
attempt to detect intelligence around distant stars.
But how can analogies help us anticipate contact with extraterrestrials?
For starters, by providing a case study of Homo sapiens encountering an alien intelligence,
Wason explained. The meeting of Neanderthals and sapiens
may be a good example for analogyfor it was a meeting of two different kinds of consciousness,
But be forewarned as we start to draw lessons for SETI from such encounters, Wason urged.
The analogy may be humbling.
It may be that in such a comparison of us with ETI, ... we are the Neanderthals, he said.
(Emphasis added in all quotes.)
Planned efforts to communicate beyond Earth should force us to step back and look
at the big picture, said Harrison, a professor at the University of California at
Davis. Deciding what might be important for another civilization forces
us to move beyond our pathologically narrow time span and develop a long term perspective.
And thats it for this addition of SETI Thursday on Space.com.
Since Vakoch ends with that, one might assume an implicit Amen.
Even if we never make contact, Harrison observed, we might reap significant benefits by pondering
these issues now.
Determining what we should say and who should say it could be a useful self-study
that fosters self-contemplation and encourages consensus, Harrison noted.
These deliberations should encourage us to think about what makes us human, where
we are going, and how we conceive of our place in the universe.
Does anyone need further proof that SETI is a religion?
(See Michael Crichtons allegation, 12/27/2003
link). This psychologist, enamored with dreams and visions of contact with aliens,
believes these super-beings will be able to help us answer the big questions of life,
questions typically addressed through philosophy or religion. Not only will they
teach us wisdom, but we will learn to bow humbly before their eminence. Even if
they never show up, we can gain wisdom by contemplation of their existence. Next thing you know,
Harrison will have us all repeating some mantra, like seti, seti, seti, to help us meditate.
Alternative Gene Splicing May Be Common
Harrison and his fellow believers are converging on Fantasyland from both
directions. From the past, they misinterpret the bones of Neanderthal Man by
relegating him to racial inferiority (see 09/23/2005
commentary). From the future, they expect that beings will have evolved by
natural means far beyond us, like gods. A system that relies on myths and legends,
teaches morality (e.g., humility and contemplation), tries to answer the big questions of philosophy,
and encourages charitable giving to support the priesthood and infrastructure necessary to
support them is indistinguishable from a cult. SETI has come full circle.
Attempting to replace belief in a Creator God, they have become,
to borrow Maxwells wordcraft, an enterprise to
curry favour with beings who cannot exist,
to compass some petty promotion in nebulous kingdoms of mist.
(See 08/10/2005 commentary;
try re-reading Maxwells entire poem with SETI in mind).
Next headline on:
Scientists at MIT publishing in PNAS1 detected instances of alternative
splicing in over 1,000 genes of stem cells. They also computed possible isoforms
of mRNA transcriptions and found 80% of them in the cells. Not only that, the
isoforms (alternatively spliced versions of exons from the same gene) appeared to be
functional: We find that alternative splicing can modify multiple components of
signaling pathways important for stem cell function, they say. In short,
alternative splicing, in which exons from genes are recombined in different ways,
expands the information content of the genome:
We also analyze the distribution of splice variants across different classes of
genes. We find that tissue-specific genes have a higher tendency to
undergo alternative splicing than ubiquitously expressed genes.
Furthermore, the patterns of alternative splicing are only weakly
conserved between orthologous genes in human and mouse. Our
studies reveal extensive modification of the stem cell molecular
repertoire by alternative splicing and provide insights into its
overall role as a mechanism of generating genomic diversity.
(Emphasis added in all quotes.)
They took note that different mRNA isoforms from a single gene
can often encode proteins with distinct, sometimes opposite functions.
In fact, they point to earlier research that said, Numerous biological processes ranging from sex
determination to apoptosis depend on the alternative splicing of
specific genes. Later, they said,
alternative splicing was found to extensively affect
components of signaling pathways that are functional in stem
cells, suggesting an important role of splice variations in self-renewal
and differentiation. Thus,
their work adds to a growing body of research showing that alternative splicing is
a general mechanism to increase the coding capacity and diversity of the genome in
What regulates how the exons are spliced? Previous
studies of individual genes have shown that splicing is coupled to
transcription by protein-protein interactions between components
of the transcription and splicing complexes. Their work suggested that
tissue-specific genes seem to undergo the most alternative splicing, and ubiquitously-expressed
genes less so. They offered an evolutionary argument that tissue-specific
genes could afford more experimentation: ubiquitous transcripts responsible for crucial and general cellular
processes have evolved not to be modified, whereas diversification
is advantageous for tissue-specific gene products. This hypothesis, they felt, was
reinforced by the finding that patterns were conserved for only 20% of the examined orthologous
genes in the human and mouse species, despite the general conservation
of their exon-intron boundaries. This, they feel, could lead to rapid
evolution of alternatively spliced exons, and subsequently to functional differences
in otherwise analogous cell types between distant species.
1Pritzker et al., Diversification of stem cell molecular repertoire by alternative splicing,
Proceedings of the
National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.0502132102, published online before print September 23, 2005.
These findings add to the growing realization that the genome
contains much more embedded information than mere gene count would suggest (see
09/08/2005 entry). If the introns themselves
transcribe into RNA regulatory elements, then nothing is wasted, and nothing is junk.
If all parts of the system can be shown to produce function, it becomes harder to claim
evolution built this tight ship. These authors weak attempt to produce an evolutionary
argument did not demonstrate that any heritable, functional advantage derived
from mistakes in alternative splicing, but only that it could have.
Did they demonstrate an example of a new function arising from a mistake?
No; they just expressed faith that randomness creates the possibility space
for order. This is a doctrine of pantheism (a religion).
More Indications Neandertals Were Like Us
On the other hand, the high degree of conservation found in ubiquitously-expressed
genes and at intron-exon boundaries are anti-evolutionary observations.
To argue evolution out of this data is to rely again on slippery homology vs.
analogy arguments (see Homology for Dummies,
Because such arguments depend on embedded evolutionary
assumptions, they are inherently circular.
It is just as logical to conclude
that a common Designer built the system around two principles: (1) modular construction,
wherein commonly-needed functions are coded similarly between different organisms,
and (2) robustness, in which regulatory networks can maintain stability in changing
environments. The design inference has the added advantage of an adequate cause
for the high degree of information involved.
Whatever geneticists continue to uncover about the particulars, the system
works. Somehow, a human genome gives rise to a human, and a mouse genome gives
rise to a mouse. Unless mutations disrupt the program, the mouse will have all the parts in
the right places. It will be covered with the right kind of fur, have the right teeth in the
right order, have feet and muscles and eyes and a brain and every organ necessary for
its little life. The molecular processes may seem disorganized to us.
We see that one gene can be alternatively
spliced into several products, some which can produce opposite functions.
How does the right one get selected at the right time it is needed?
There are wonderful mysteries here that could be illuminated by a scientist looking
for intelligent design. If the DNA is not the master controller of its own transcription, what is?
What controls the spliceosome? (09/17/2004). Can protein-protein
interactions really be responsible for regulating the splicing, or is there another
layer of genetic information directing their interplay? What do all those short non-coding
RNAs do? How can so many competing processes and such a multiplicity of molecules
guarantee a working mouse at the end of the assembly line? We see only
glimpses of how the plethora of processes at the molecular level leads invariably to the right result.
There may be more information and more design operating than we can possibly imagine.
Next headline on:
Two more hints that Neandertals were only variants of modern humans have surfaced
recently. British and American researchers publishing in PNAS1
studied tooth enamel growth patterns, and found that Neandertal tooth growth and,
by extension, somatic growth, appears to be encompassed within the modern human range
of interpopulation variation. This finding was summarized on
Another study written up by Bruce Bower in Science News2
hints that Neandertals in Europe, based on analysis of artifacts in a French cave,
either knew how to make tools and artistic works themselves, or learned how from contemporaneous
1Gautelli-Steinberg et al., Anterior tooth growth periods in
Neandertals were comparable to those of modern humans,
Proceedings of the
National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.0503108102, published online before print September 23, 2005.
2Bruce Bowers, French site sparks Neandertal debate,
week of Sept. 17, 2005; Vol. 168, No. 12, p. 189.
The time has come to discard the evolutionary stories
about Neanderthals being some sort of primitive, less-evolved ancestors of Homo
sapiens. In terms of physique, intellectual capacity and every other measure,
they fell within the range of variability of modern humans. They would probably be
indistinguishable from Inuits or other stocky-build populations alive today.
Absence of tools or art could be merely a function of materials used. Some jungle tribes
today, for instance, make spears and blowguns that would rarely survive with their bones.
Assuming the hypothesis that Neandertals learned how to use longer-lasting materials from other people,
this does not reflect on their intelligence. Even modern humans learned how to work with different
metals over different times and places. If Neandertals picked up on
new ideas that their slightly-different brethren were doing, this further proves their human nature.
They were capable of plagiarism.
Evolutionists Finally Figure Out the Eye Well, Partly 09/22/2005
The fable of Neanderthal Man as a beetle-browed, stoop-shouldered,
brutish human precursor, slowly evolving into todays businessman has been known now for
decades to be incorrect. That myth served the propaganda of early Darwinists,
but did a lot of damage by promoting the dark art of ranking humans on racial scales.
We owe brother Neandertal an apology. Let us welcome Homo sapiens neanderthalensis,
with a big hug and handshake, as peers in the neighborhood cave.
Next headline on:
As if tackling Darwins worst nightmare with gusto, evolutionary biologists
published a paper in Current Biology1 about the evolution of the
eye at least the lens. Though the paper is restricted to a discussion
of genes involved in making the crystallin proteins that make up the lens,
announced this as Insight into our sight, linking this paper to one
of evolutions biggest challenges:
The evolution of complex and physiologically remarkable structures such as the
vertebrate eye has long been a focus of intrigue and theorizing by biologists.
In work reported this week in Current Biology, the evolutionary history of
a critical eye protein has revealed a previously unrecognized relationship
between certain components of vertebrate eyes and those of the more primitive light-sensing
systems of invertebrates. The findings help clarify our conceptual framework
for understanding how the vertebrate eye, as we know it, has emerged over evolutionary time....
The upshot of the paper by Shimeld et al. is that sea squirts have a gene that
is similar to the one that codes for crystallin in the eyes of vertebrates.
In the sea squirt, it is only expressed in the palps and otoliths, near the ocellus
that senses light without forming an image. Since the same regulatory circuits
that control the gene in the sea squirt also controls the gene that builds a lens
in vertebrate eyes, the authors
conclude that this gene must have been co-opted by the common ancestor of vertebrates to build
a crystallin lens. From the abstract,
Fish, frogs, birds and mammals all experience image-forming vision,
thanks to the fact that their eyes all express crystallins and form a lens;
however, the vertebrates nearest invertebrate relatives, such as sea squirts,
have only simple eyes that detect light but are incapable of forming an image.
This has lead to the view that the lens evolved within the vertebrates early
in vertebrate evolution, and it raises a long-standing question in evolutionary
biology: How could a complex organ with such special physical properties have evolved?
(Emphasis added in all quotes.)
The conservation of the regulatory hierarchy controlling beta-crystallin expression
between organisms with and without a lens shows that the evolutionary origin of the lens was
based on co-option of pre-existing regulatory circuits controlling the expression of a key
structural gene in a primitive light-sensing system.
The team took the same regulatory genes that control crystallin production in the sea squirt
and transferred them to a frog. Those regulatory circuits were used by the frog to
build its visual system, including the lens. This was enough for EurekAlert to nearly
declare that the problem of eye evolution, if not solved, is well on the way:
This strongly suggests that prior to the evolution of the lens,
there was a regulatory link between two tiers of genes: those that would later
become responsible for controlling lens development, and those that
would help give the lens its special physical properties. This combination of
genes appears to have then been co-opted in an early vertebrate during
the evolution of its visual system, giving rise to the lens.
Presumably, after a working lens emerged, the rest was just fine-tuning.
1Shimeld et al., Urochordate Beta-Crystallin and the Evolutionary
Origin of the Vertebrate Eye Lens,
Volume 15, Issue 18, 20 September 2005, pages 1684-1689.
Let us hope the highly-complex DNA-snipping protein
emerged simultaneously (08/28/2003) to keep the lens
from becoming opaque out of the factory, as well as mechanisms for stacking the crystallin
cells and making them interlock, and supplying them with nutrients from the edges
without blocking the light, rewiring the brain to receive and process the new sensory data,
and a dozen other things that would make expression of
raw crystallin useless to the unidentified, mythical early vertebrate
that first decided to co-opt sea squirt technology.
Museums Train Docents to Deal with Evolution Skeptics
A programmer wrote in and observed, I can take code that performs the same or
similar function and use it in a completely different program. Sometimes I have
to change things a little to make it work, sometimes virtually no changes are required.
That is economy of effort. Reusability does not demonstrate common ancestry
without assuming it, nor does it explain the origin of the crystallin protein and the
genes that regulate its expression. He continued, I can take 2 bicycle fenders,
hammer them into one and make it into a motorcycle fender, but that doesnt explain
how the bicycle got to be a bicycle or how it got fenders.
Co-option is just a fancy word for the Tinker Bell theory of evolution.
Evolution is a tinkerer, they tell us. She cobs existing parts to build new things.
Aside from the gratuitous personification fallacy
this commits, the idea requires that Tinker Bell be blind, dumb and indifferent.
In Darwinese, there is no teleology: Tinker Bell is not trying
to invent an image-forming lens. She flits from sea squirt to sea squirt with her mutation wand,
zapping various individuals recklessly and carelessly.
Its a lottery which sea squirt will find some benefit in the damage
instead of dying from the genetic bomb. Remember, no functional advantage,
no natural selection except the negative kind (Yikes! Eliminate this mutation
before it kills us!).
Can we get real? One girder hanging over the canyon does not
make a bridge (05/22/2002 commentary).
There is no smoothly graded sequence of transitional forms. Whenever an organism
is suggested as a primitive ancestor, as in the case of the box jellyfish (see
05/13/2005 entry), closer inspection shows the
organism has eyes perfectly suited for its habitat and lifestyle. Each visual
system is too different from those of other
organisms, and too complex to imagine having evolved on its own. So the follow-up question
to the EurekAlert Darwinist propaganda celebration is, where are science reporters
exercising freedom of the press, freedom of conscience and critical thinking skills?
Next headline on:
Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory
Being a museum docent wasnt supposed to be this hard. Many have always
led peaceful groups of compliant tourists through the halls of science, telling their
near-memorized lines without incident: Sixty million years ago, the dinosaurs
were wiped out by a meteor, but their descendants are still with us today.
Anyone know who those might be? Yes Johnny? Birds! Thats correct.
Now, according to the New
York Times, growing numbers of museum visitors are challenging the evolutionary
explanations and asking questions that indicate theyre not buying the story.
This has led to a new cottage industry, according to Eugenie Scott of the
NCSE, of training guides for guides, teaching them how to deal with such situations.
The training emphasizes non-confrontational yet firm emphasis
on the difference between science and faith: to be polite but firm. Docents are warned against
challenging visitors religious beliefs directly. Instead, they are told to
say things like, The landscape tells a story based on geological events, based
on science, or this is a science museum, and we deal with matters of science.
They are warned against antagonizing Bible-believing Christians who argue that the world
is only a few thousand years old; after all, they paid the admission fee and have just
as much right to visit the museum as anyone else. Dr. Scott in her sessions
teaches docents not to avoid the word evolution or be defensive, but
simultaneously not to slam the door in the face of believers. Your job is to
help them, to explain your point of view, but respect theirs. The manuals
encourage them to practice with memorized responses.
Tom Magnuson at Access
Research Network found one such docent guide online on the front page of the
Paleontological Research Institution, entitled
Evolution and Creationism: A Guide for Museum Docents. It explains
how to respond to a complaints about natural selection or other evolutionary mechanisms:
The question of whether evolution occurs is separate and different from the question of
how evolution occurs. The evidence is overwhelming that evolution has occurred
that it is a satisfactory explanation for the observations we make about the history, order,
and diversity of life....
Later in the document, one of the answers seems more firm than polite.
The question is, Is it true there is lots of evidence against evolution?
Questions or debates about evolutionary mechanism have nothing to do with our
confidence in whether evolution occurred.
(Italics in original, bold added.)
Essentially all available data and observations from the natural world support the
hypothesis of evolution. No serious biologist or geologist today doubts whether evolution
occurred; debate continues, however, among scientists about the mechanisms by which evolution
The response to the question on intelligent design is also instructive. Doesnt
the complexity/design of nature imply an intelligent designer?
Science deals only with material causes of material phenomena. Nothing we can observe in
nature requires a supernatural designer; we therefore defer to material processes to explain what
we see in nature.
The document denounces the idea that evolution is a religion. At the bottom, it refers to
the National Center for Science Education, indicating that the NCSE probably provided
content or advice for the publication.
The guide warns against arguing with convinced creationists, saying you cant win.
The docent can try to deflect the question, agree to disagree, claim ignorance, or
state that the museum is not the place to discuss philosophy, religion or politics
but only science or state-of-the-art scientific knowledge.
If all else fails, the docent can say, Please excuse me. I have to go to the restroom.
The Times says that the American Museum of Natural History is about to
open the most in-depth exhibition ever of Darwin and his work.
Already, curators and staff are gearing up to deal with visitors who will challenge
This is a golden opportunity for informed visitors.
The Darwin Party has published all their Talking Points, and all that is needed is to
formulate good follow-up questions aimed at them. The Talking Points are so vapid
and uninformed, this should be easy. For instance, look at the way they treat this
question: How do you know evolution happened a long time ago?
Cosmic Baby Boom Becomes Baby Explosion
By examining fossils and comparing them to organisms alive today. In the Museum
exhibits, for example, a short film about Cornell professor Amy McCune shows how she uses
fossil fish to study how evolution happened in what is now the Connecticut River Valley around
200 million years ago. She collects fossils from different layers and compares them to fish alive
today and tries to conclude how evolution may have produced the patterns of similarity and
difference she observes.
This is a non-answer. One has to assume evolution and long ages to believe it.
At most, it only demonstrates microevolution, which is not the issue.
The same fossils, layers and comparisons with live fish could be used by a knowledgeable
creationist to argue against evolution and long ages and, instead, for a worldwide flood
that sent many species into extinction. The Darwinist answer confirms
that evolutionary science is merely a storytelling enterprise by ideologues
intent on force-fitting fragmentary observations into a preconceived belief system.
The blindness of evolutionists to their own circular reasoning
is astounding. The question was, How do you know evolution happened a long
time ago? The answer was, Because evolution happened a long time ago.
See these 200-million-year-old fish? Surely the Darwinists could do better
if better answers were available.
The talking points provide nothing new (see 09/02/2005
commentary). Most of them
revolve around science vs faith.
The published guide perpetuates the myth that evolution is a fact of science (even if the
mechanism is hotly debated), and anything that doubts naturalistic explanations is ipso
facto religious. This is a setup for any logical thinker, because it
is another circular argument.
Ask, how can a theory without a mechanism be considered scientific? How can one
call evolution, a hypothesis (their own word) with no agreed-on mechanism,
a fact without first assuming it is a fact? How can one declare
what is scientific and what is not with mere definitions? If I discuss only
scientific evidence in rebuttal, how can you assume I have a religious motivation without reading
my mind? How can I know you dont have an equally philosophical motivation
to deny design? Surely you are not insinuating that a Christian is incapable of
reasoning from evidence or caring about the truth, or that materialists are more unbiased,
What if the true answer lies outside natural causes what if it really was
designed? Wouldnt that prevent naturalism from ever finding the right
answer? Eventually, the discussion
must return to the observable evidence. That is not where the Darwinians want the
discussion to go. When forced, the museum curator may point to all the exhibits of
intelligently-designed organisms on the wall, and say, See? There is the
evidence, right there. Look at those peppered moths, for instance.
Now we can get somewhere.
In the film The Triumph of Design,
Phillip Johnson looks forward to the day when students will respond to the evidence
for peppered moths, finch beaks and the other usual Darwinist propaganda fare, with informed follow-up questions
like, Yes, we know about that. We know the peppered moth story was a fraud,
and that it did not really prove anything about macroevolution. We know about Darwins
finches, and that the changes to beak size showed no long-term trend; that does not
demonstrate macroevolution, either. Where is the evidence that macroevolution occurred?
One can sympathize with a teachers sudden urge to go to the restroom.
All this being said, the last thing any reasonable person wants is for
a poor, well-meaning docent to end up sobbing in the restroom over an extremely
argumentative or confrontational visitor. Want to destroy any chance for
progress against Darwinism? Just be a mean-spirited, dogmatic, unkind, loudmouth
disputer trying to make the docent or curator look foolish in front of other people.
For a Christian, who believes in loving ones neighbor and sharing good news,
nothing is uglier, and nothing will backfire faster. The goal is to encourage discussion, to build
bridges to other people to appeal to their sense of logic and integrity.
Long-shut doors need to be opened so the fresh air and sunshine can come in.
Let the Darwinists be the ones culpable of shutting off discussion.
Let them be the dogmatists. Let their tactics backfire against the evident
congeniality and reasonableness of their opposition. The firm but gentle pressure of
an increasing number of thoughtful, informed visitors will have its
healing effect over time. Many of these docents are volunteers or poorly paid
workers just trying to do their job. (This is true, sometimes for summer hires, or leaders of
cave tours who, without any formal training in geology, simply parrot scripts that glibly
describe formations as x million years old.) If such workers are merely repeating what they were
told to say, its not fair to pin the blame for all of Dogmatic Darwinism on them
as individuals. Yet unwarranted claims should not go unchallenged, either, whether
from trained curators or untrained volunteers. What to do?
One productive approach might be to speak with the docent
alone, before the tour. Lets call the docent Linda. Introduce
yourself with a friendly greeting (it must be genuine, not forced), and let her know
your point of view. Reassure her that you are not there to argue; instead, say that
both of us know that Darwinism is a controversial subject. Let Linda know you
respect scientific evidence. Explain that many times evidence can be interpreted in
more than one way, and that you just want the scientific evidence to be able to speak for
itself as much as possible, and for problems or controversies to be acknowledged.
Ask Lindas permission to present an alternative explanation for
the fossil series, rock layers or whatever. If she agrees, this takes the pressure off her to
talk about it (and possibly misrepresent it) in front of the group. If you are
given the chance, be brief and accurate. Dont steal the show.
Hopefully you came prepared with knowledge specific to the display.
If she doesnt want you to speak, at least she will know that an informed visitor
is present, and that awareness may temper her dogmatism.
Whatever happens, express kindness, appreciation and diplomacy
at all times. Show respect. Compliment the things that are good about the museum.
Most people are more influenced by the way you say something than what is actually
said. Be real and transparent. Dont speak beyond your knowledge,
but dont settle for pat answers, bluffing or evasion, either. The normal
civil manners waiting ones turn, not interrupting, not attacking anothers
character or motives these should all be second nature.
If you can communicate an informed, knowledgeable position
in a winsome manner, you may find others in the group maybe
even Linda crowding around you after the tour wanting to hear more, and
thanking you for speaking up. Another unobtrusive way to influence the museum
is to write polite but firm statements on response cards about dogmatic exhibits.
Heres another: infiltrate the ranks.
Sign up to be a museum docent and ask the hard questions to the trainer
in the dealing with creationists class. This could neutralize
Dogmatic Darwinism before it affects hundreds of visitors. If the museum retaliates by
forbidding non-Darwinists from joining the museum volunteer docent staff and
requiring a statement of faith, call the ACLU. When they decline, well,
you have a story for the local newspaper, and perhaps a case for the
Readers may wish to write
in with their own suggestions and experiences.
Next headline on:
There has been a trend in deep space astronomy to find more and more mature-looking
stars and galaxies farther back in time (04/06/2005,
That trend just doubled or tripled. An
announcement in Nature1 (see press release by
Southern Observatory), a thousand galaxies were found at distances
corresponding to estimated ages of
9 to 12 billion years, just 10% to 30% the presumed age of the universe.
To our surprise, one team member stated, this is two to six times
higher than previous finds. These observations will demand a
profound reassessment of our theories of the formation and evolution of galaxies
in a changing Universe, he said. Science
Now quoted an astronomer who doubted the counts, but more out of disbelief than
counter-evidence. The survey team remained confident that their numbers,
arrived at by a brute force technique that avoided prior assumptions, are solid.
1LeFevre et al., A large population of galaxies 9 to 12 billion years back in the history of the Universe,
437, 519-521 (22 September 2005) | doi: 10.1038/nature03979.
More and more structure earlier and earlier
does this sound like evolution or creation? Evolutionary biology has a Cambrian explosion.
Evolutionary cosmology has a structure explosion. Creation has abrupt appearance
intelligently guided and designed by an adequate cause. Explosions?
We have no need of that hypothesis.
Can Chemicals Be Fertile?
Next headline on:
Simon Conway Morris wins Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week for the following
entry in Current Biology.1 Ostensibly he was trying to be
light-hearted and funny about mass extinctions. Well see if anyone is
laughing about whether massive impacts are a blessing or a curse:
Manna from heaven. So yet more violence, with the Earth
subject to cataclysmic destruction? Indeed yes, but there is a silver,
or rather organic, lining. It appears that Earths position, relatively
close to the Sun, was highly precarious. This was because the light elements,
essential for life, were swept by solar radiation far beyond our planet, out
to the so-called snow-line. So no oceans, and life is cancelled? Yet help
was on the way, with a delivery system that via asteroids and comets
resupplied Earth with both an ocean and a fertile brew of organic molecules.
(Emphasis added in all quotes.)
1Simon Conway Morris, Quick Guide: Mass Extinctions,
Volume 15, Issue 18, 20 September 2005, pages R744-R745.
The only redeeming quality in his mythoid is an
offhand reference to the fact that our earth occupies an unlikely and privileged
position. Lets offer simple Simon our Comet Cocktail Blaster
and see if he thinks he will remain fertile: a teaspoon of polycyclic aromatic
hydrocarbons (07/21/2005), one microgram each of
L-glycine and one of D-glycine, carbonated with HCN in ammonia with water ice.
Delivered inside a rock thrown at 120,000 mph.
Big Guys Finish First, Except in Drought
Next headline on:
Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory
Nigel Williams tried to explain in Current Biology1 why size matters
among marine iguanas in the Galapagos Islands: the vectors of natural and sexual
selection dont always line up. Females appear to like the big males when
times are good, but when drought comes, the smaller dudes do better.
Theres a difficulty with such investigations. Even though this
habitat was a rich source of information for Charles Darwin when developing
his theory of evolution, the article admits that
Factors influencing the evolution of complex traits such as body size are
notoriously difficult to study but a new review of work on marine iguanas
in the Galapagos islands suggests an answer may lie in the interplay of
natural and sexual selection (emphasis added).
1Nigel Williams, Size matters,
Volume 15, Issue 18, 20 September 2005, Page R742.
Why should Darwin be mentioned in this article,
except as a historical embarrassment? There is no evolution here.
Heap big iguana is still iguana as much as peewee. Size is not a complex
trait in the sense of evolving wings or some new organs; it is just a
modification of parts already present. There is no long-term evolutionary
trend here, but rather only oscillations around a mean that reflect climate
conditions otherwise we should see iguanas the size of Godzilla by now.
If natural and sexual selection work against each other, then stasis rules,
not evolution. Charlie wont get anywhere with slippage on the
treadmill (see 03/17/2003 entry).
How Did Blue Stars Get So Close to a Black Hole? 09/20/2005
Next headline on:
Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory
Every solution breeds new problems, Murphys Law suggests. Astronomers working with
Space Telescope feel that pain. While finding confirming evidence for a
supermassive black hole at the center of the Andromeda Galaxy M31, they are perplexed
to see a disk of hot blue stars orbiting it too close for comfort.
Estimated to be 200 million years old, the 400+ stars are in a tight orbit a light-year
across and careening around the black hole at 2.2 million mph.
are thought to be short-lived and could not have formed so close to the black hole;
the extreme tidal forces there should tear the matter apart and prevent collapse into stars.
Gas that might form stars must spin around the black hole so quickly that star
formation looks almost impossible, said one astronomer, But the stars are there.
They said this is like watching a magician pull a rabbit out of a hat.
You know it happened but you dont know how it happened.
Since even younger stars have been found orbiting the presumed black hole at the
center of the Milky Way, maybe this odd activity is the norm.
Puzzles are good for scientists, and better
observations are welcomed like rain in a desert, but scientists also need to learn
to think outside the box. One question never asked is whether these stars
really are 200 million years old.
Validity of Evolutionary Explanations Demonstrated 09/20/2005
Next headline on:
An article in Ethology is claiming much for itself. It purports to
show New evidence for the validity of evolutionary explanations,
according to EurekAlert.
Researchers are claiming evidence that Men holding high positions within a hierarchical
organisation have more offspring than those in other positions within the same organisation.
The sample was male university employees. Apparently this group compensated
for unexpected results from other groups:
Although a positive relationship between male status and offspring count has been
predicted by evolutionary theory and found in animal species and traditional
human societies, in modern societies, most studies found no or even a negative relationship.
(Emphasis added in all quotes.)
So how to account for the discrepancy? According to the brief summary,
status may be a more important dimension for subsamples than for
representative samples of entire societies.
Economists and managers should take note of this finding, the report
says. It suggests that evolutionary forces may still be at
work in modern societies and might explain the striving for high and
prestigious positions in men.
There are so many things wrong with this study,
Darwinists should silence these researchers so as not to embarrass the Party.
(1) When you have to use subsamples instead of representative samples to get the
results your theory predicted, what does that tell you about your theory?
(2) What kind of bizarre sample is university male employees, anyway? Perhaps it could
be compared to the jungle, so we might grant that possibility. (3) More
offspring is not better. In the university milieu they might all be gay.
(4) Evolution is not a force. Suggestion: replace o with a, then
it works. (5) Men in high and prestigious positions dont
have time to have kids. If their fable were true, why is the country being overrun
with low-income workers with big families who grow up to repeat the cycle?
(6) Women dont marry such men to have kids. They marry them to divorce
them and take their money. (7) Feminists are going to get mad about this
sexist idea, because it will appear to give scientific justification for male ambition.
(8) The argument is self-refuting,
because if being a scientist is an example of a high and prestigious position, then
these scientists did not come up with their fable to
discover a truth, but to pass on their genes.
Subway System Found in Immune Cells 09/20/2005
That should do for starters. Evolutionary explanations
is an oxymoron, like vanilla fudge, rock opera or
Microsoft Works. O, for reporters who would not let
the Darwinists get away with unadulterated tripe. Nobody on a school board
is going to read Ethology, but the Darwinists hope their little bugle calls
on EurekAlert will make everyone salute as a conditioned response. Sorry,
those days are over. Since the Baloney Detector went
online, the prisoners in the Darwinist concentration camps (i.e., high school
biology classes) have seen the outside world, and are no longer afraid of the
authority figures behind the Bamboozle Curtain.
Next headline on:
Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory
The announcement of a third form of intercellular communication hit scientists
like TNT: tunneling nanotubules, that is.
reported that Scientists have found what appears to be a whole new way for immune
cells to communicate with one another: long, narrow tubes that enable them to connect
and exchange molecules. These subway tunnels between cells pass molecules
quickly from cell to cell, including calcium ions that trigger actions in the cell,
and possibly antigens. If so, this may help explain how immune responses
can be initiated so rapidly.
This system presupposes other systems in place.
If one cell extends a TNT, the other cell has to be prepared to receive it.
When a package arrives, the other cell needs to know what to do with it.
One must also ask how or why, before this system existed, any cell in a community of cells
would even venture to send a message outside itself.
Here we have another method of communication (see also
09/14/2005 entry) that allows cells, long thought to be
rugged individualists, to be cooperative members of society.
Rooting for Human Evolution 09/20/2005
Next headline on:
Can you squeeze human blood out of a turnip? A new story floating around for
how humans began their long divergence away from apes in the jungle was that they
developed a taste for roots. EurekAlert
reported a story coming out of U of Minnesota: About five to seven million years ago,
when the lineage of humans and chimpanzees split, edible root plants similar to
rutabagas and turnips may have been one of the reasons. A line of apes
found fleshy roots attractive as a supplement to meat and fruits. They had to move
out into the savannah to get more of them. For evidence, the evolutionists
point to larger jaws of early humans needed for chewing the tough roots.
Sorry, chimps were already out there, too (see
09/01/2005 story). They didnt evolve into
anything like us. Try again, and this time, lets see some equations
and 08/19/2005 entries) with the fables.
Elie Wiesel Gathers Nobel Laureates to Urge Kansas to Nix ID
Next headline on:
Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel has gathered 38 Nobel prize winners to join him in
urging the Kansas school board to reject their new science standards that question
evolution (see 08/11/2005).
According to MSNBC
News, their document calls evolution an indispensable foundation of biology.
The story was reprinted by LiveScience.com.
Odd. Biology got along just fine without this
indispensable foundation for a long time. In fact, it could be argued that
evolution is only a naturalistic facade on a creationist superstructure.
John Ray, Carl Linnaeus,
Pasteur and many others did just fine
biologizing without evolution. Their Christian
faith was their motivation to do excellent scientific work. Had the Nobel prize
existed in their day, they certainly would have been among the most distinguished
and honored recipients. Any such lists of authorities are therefore contrived
Cell Has Automatic Jam-Clearing Proofreading Machinery
endured under the Nazis is horrendous, but it did not
have to make him lose his faith and go haywire over evolution.
The faith of Corrie ten Boom
and other Holocaust survivors was their beacon of hope despite experiencing the darkness of
human evil, and gave direction and purpose to their lives.
Wiesel has dedicated his life to helping people never forget what happened there.
Why then, instead, does he not point to the roots of that evil the evolutionary ethics
rooted in Darwinism that Haeckel took to Germany and spread like a dark evangelist?
How ironic that he would exalt the very foundation of two political ideologies
Nazism and communism that have caused more inhumane treatment and death than
the world has even seen. Over 100 million deaths in less than a century can be
traced to the actions of evolution-inspired dictators, and that doesnt begin to
describe the suffering of many millions more who survived their lies, tortures, brutalities,
deprivations, midnight arrests, hard labor camps, gulags, and associated nightmares.
We agree with Wiesel that mankind should never forget, but for even stronger
reasons. Our reasons give moral impetus to the debate over evolution today. One should
not presume that Nazism and communism have exhausted the potential evils inherent in
Darwinian thinking. One only has to think of todays ethical tensions over
stem cells, clones, chimeras, abortion, genetically-engineered humans and other
controversies to envision horrors that would make Stalin look like a playground bully
(see Apologetics Press for a
recent example). Learning from history is an important start. Thats
why we strongly urge readers to learn twentieth century history, and read accounts of those
who survived the brutality of Nazi Germany and endured the unspeakable horrors behind the
Iron Curtain. That such atrocities continue to exist in North Korea, Cuba, China and
other communist countries is a stern reminder that there is still much to do to combat
this evil at its root. For a scholarly treatment of the Darwin-based teaching on
evolutionary ethics between 1859 and 1932 that fed Hitlers views on racial policy,
read From Darwin to Hitler
by historian Richard Weikart. And since many historians omit the Darwinian
assumptions and motivations behind Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin, its vital
to review Jerry Bergmans
paper on The Darwinian foundation of communism and first-person works like
Solzhenitzens The Gulag Archipelago and Wurmbrands
Tortured for Christ.
A tree is known by its fruit and is fed by its root.
The Kansas school board member rightly said, I dont think anything
should be taught as dogma. The debates over evolution and intelligent design
cannot be won by appeals to authority. Nobel laureates are smart people in
their specialties, but that does not make them experts on politics, ethics, education and
philosophy. Look at the dumb things two of them said a couple of years ago
(see 08/24/2003); some of their remarks demonstrate
that they dont even know that much about biology, let alone history or logic.
Maybe most of us cant split an atom or learn how reverse transcription works,
but anyone can learn common sense. How ironic that scientists, supposedly
committed to observation and verification by experiment, want us to
accept their word on evolution as dogma.
Next headline on:
Darwinism and Evolution
Findings at Rockefeller University
have scientists excited. DNA copying machines work on a sliding clamp that
can hold two repair machines at the same time. One is a low-fidelity repair tool,
the other a high-fidelity repair tool. Usually, the high-fidelity one is active,
but when it needs a bigger hammer that is perhaps more effective but less accurate,
it automatically switches to the other. Heres how the abstract of the paper
in Molecular Cell by Indiani, ODonnell et al.1 describes it in detail:
This report demonstrates that the beta sliding clamp of E. coli binds two different
DNA polymerases at the same time. One is the high-fidelity Pol III chromosomal replicase
and the other is Pol IV, a low-fidelity lesion bypass Y family polymerase. Further,
polymerase switching on the primed template junction is regulated in a fashion that
limits the action of the low-fidelity Pol IV. Under conditions that cause Pol III
to stall on DNA, Pol IV takes control of the primed template. After the
stall is relieved, Pol III rapidly regains control of the primed template
junction from Pol IV and retains it while it is moving, becoming resistant
to further Pol IV takeover events. These polymerase dynamics within the beta toolbelt
complex restrict the action of the error-prone Pol IV to only the area on DNA where it is required.
(Emphasis added in all quotes.)
The paper says this is like having a toolbelt with different tools depending
on the need of the project. Bacteria have five DNA polymerase tools; humans have more.
Pol III is like the perfectionist editor that cuts out the typos, but it can stall.
Pol IV, like the plumber with a big wrench, isnt as picayunish about the details but
knows how to get the operation flowing again. The findings by ODonnell and his
colleagues, the press release explains, show that, because both polymerases are
bound simultaneously to the beta clamp, it can pull either of the polymerases out if its
toolbelt as needed. This apparently forms an automatic switchover mechanism
where Pol III has priority. A stall either loosens the grip of Pol III, or triggers
a change in the sliding clamp that lets Pol IV intervene for the brute-force repair.
A paper in Cell2 earlier this month described how multiple parts
work together to fix mismatched DNA. Since mismatched bases have serious health consequences,
a suite of operations, still poorly understood, checks to detect and correct the error.
The paper by Zhang et al. describes part of the process:
Evidence is provided that efficient repair of a single mismatch requires multiple molecules
of MutS-alpha-MutL-alpha complex. These data suggest a model for human mismatch repair involving
coordinated initiation and termination of mismatch-provoked excision.
The cover of the issue humorously highlights the problem with a picture of a guy with
unmatched socks. Mismatch in DNA is no joke, however; it can lead to cancer
and genomic instability.
1Indiani et al., A Sliding-Clamp Toolbelt Binds High- and Low-Fidelity DNA Polymerases Simultaneously,
Volume 19, Issue 6, 16 September 2005, pages 805-815.
2Zhang et al., Reconstitution of 5'-Directed Human Mismatch Repair in a Purified System,
Volume 122, Issue 5, 9 September 2005, pages 693-705.
How could evolution ever devise a mechanism like
an automatic toolbelt? This is uncanny. Here is a set of molecules that
are programmed to act like a multi-faceted assembly line with a built-in,
automatic-switching, multipart repair kit. Neither the press release nor either
paper made any attempt to explain how Tinker Bell and her mutation wand could have
produced wonders like these. Who would dare?
Both Sides Fear Court Ruling on Intelligent Design
Next headline on:
The stakes are high, said Constance Holden in Science,1
and both sides in the Dover, Pennsylvania case would probably agree with equal trepidation.
The ACLU is representing 11 parents who sued the Dover school board for ruling that intelligent
design should be taught as an alternative to Darwinian evolution in their public high schools
(This policy was later reduced to having administrators read a one-minute statement to students
in their classrooms01/11/2005.)
The ACLU is arguing that teaching ID is an unconstitutional establishment of religion,
and is supported by Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the National
Center for Science Education.
Why would the secular scientific establishments fear the outcome, after a
long string of successes in the courts? Holden quotes ACLU lawyer Witold Walczak:
If we prevail, its not going to be a knockout punch... if we lose, ... youre
going to see intelligent design taught in schools all across the country. To
try to prevent a loss that could be a disaster, according to Holden,
the ACLU has lined up 25 witnesses, including experts in philosophy, theology,
science education, and mathematics as well as two veterans of the ID wars, Brown University
biologist Kenneth Miller and paleoanthropologist Kevin Padian of the University of California,
ID proponents also have reason for concern. The leading ID think tank,
the Discovery Institute, does not advocate mandating the teaching of intelligent design,
and tried to pre-empt the situation by advising the Dover school board against it.
...theyre worried about a big court defeat, in the words of a plaintiff
counsel quoted by Holden.
Now that the suit has come, it puts them in a difficult position of defending the right for
students to hear alternatives but not endorsing the action of the Dover board.
On advice of counsel, Stephen Meyer and William Dembski dropped out of the defense, leaving
only Michael Behe and Scott Minnich to testify. Miller senses the defense strategy is
to try to present as small a target as possible.
1Constance Holden, ID Goes on Trial This Month in Pennsylvania School Case,
Vol 309, Issue 5742, 1796, 16 September 2005, [DOI: 10.1126/science.309.5742.1796].
It is indeed lamentable that a scientific dispute, one that
should be aired in the open marketplace of ideas, may come down to the decision of one
or a few judges. Because courts do not generally have the kind of knowledge about these
subjects to rule wisely, it becomes almost a matter of luck for either side, depending on which judge
winds up on the bench. Will the court be swayed by the sheer numbers of alleged
experts, or by the force of the arguments? If a judge rules that ID
is not science will that make it so? Scientific positions are supposed to be
evaluated on the preponderance of evidence, not by majorities of experts or judges.
Grand Canyon Still an Unsolved Puzzle
Any parents, school board members, public officials, activists or writers
interested in giving ID a chance should learn to be very careful in their approach.
Charging out with well-intentioned but misguided enthusiasm can do more harm than good.
The strategy that is likely to succeed in these matters is defensive, not offensive.
No one wants to hear authorities mandating anything
certainly not a position on a controversial issue. What makes sense to courts, politicians, and
the public is defending students rights against indoctrination. The Darwinists
have had unrestricted power to pour their philosophy into student heads without challenge.
A large majority in the public feels that is wrong. Science is not supposed to
be about indoctrination, but about critical thinking. That is the strong point
of the teach the controversy approach to the origins issue.
Progress in that strategy will bring much-needed fresh air into one of the most
important issues facing the country. It is likely to garner the most supporters
willing to fight past the Darwinist gestapo to open the doors and windows.
Fresh air has tremendous healing potential.
Food for thought: Based on their actions and proposals,
which side is apparently the most confident that an open and fair examination
of the evidence will lead to vindication of their views?
Next headline on:
Arguably the best-known geological landmark on the planet, Grand Canyon has been
scrutinized and geologized for well over a century, yet remains an enigma,
according to the title of a new book by James Lawrence Powell, Grand Canyon: Solving
Earths Grandest Puzzle (Pi Press, 2005). The book was reviewed by John
C. Schmidt (Utah State) in Science.1 Powell (same surname,
interestingly, as the famous
John Wesley Powell
whose intrepid band of explorers made the first boat trip
through the canyon in 1869) is a geologist now directing the National Physical Science Consortium.
Overall, Schmidt liked the book and its historical glimpses: While Darwin was
developing his explanation of evolution, geologists were debunking the notion
that a Great Flood formed Earths topography a few thousand years ago (emphasis
added in all quotes). Yet despite his optimism, Schmidts review sounds only a
weak overtone of confidence above a fundamental tone of uncertainty regarding geological
theories and their volatility. Some examples:
Despite these uncertainties, Schmidt took a swipe at those who disagree with these
generally accepted notions. He ended,
- Depending on what guide book we read or what ranger talk we listen to, we might
learn that the Colorado River is perhaps 30 million years old...
- The author moves on to describe the observations of later generations of geologists,
including the observations and reasoning that completely revised the early explanations
of how the Grand Canyon formed.
- The evidence is scattered and incompletely preserved, and geologists today
are still unclear about details of the Colorado Rivers development.
But these gaps are relatively minora few million years of missing evidence here or there...
- He also offers readers a taste of modern speculation and the uncertainties
surrounding these generally accepted notions.
- Until a time machine is invented, we will never know for sure how the Grand Canyon
formed. Nonetheless, we do know that the rocks forming the canyon walls
are of immense age and that the cliffs and slopes exposing those rocks are features
of the last instants of their history.
In telling the Canyons story, Powell provides an honest and open description of
geological detective work and the rethinking of ideas. At a time when the
National Park Service sells a book describing a creationist explanation of the Grand Canyons formation
little different than the ideas from which modern geology emerged more than 150 years ago,
the book reminds us of the timeless contrast between the methods of modern natural science and the power of myth.
1John C. Schmidt, The Grand Question, Science,
Vol 309, Issue 5742, 1818-1819, 16 September 2005, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1116363].
The book to which he refers as myth is,
of course, Tom Vails
Grand Canyon: A Different View
that became the center of controversy when geologists found it in the bookstores and
tried to censor it (see 01/08/2004 and
This attractive book, filled with beautiful photographs, also contains entries by
15 PhD scientists, many of them geologists, who disagree with the generally
accepted notions. With a sweep of the hand, Schmidt dismissed their
opinions as myth while assuming all the paradigm shifts
and uncertainties of modern geology constitute science even
though he confessed that, without a time machine, we could never know for sure how
the canyon formed.
There are many good reasons, however, for doubting the immense age of the canyon
walls and the canyon itself. Here is a short, but not exhaustive, review:
Zoo Wants You in the Cage
You will notice that this list contains only scientific evidences no references
to the Genesis Flood. Any similarities with the Flood account have nothing to do with the point that
the observational evidences suggest a very different story than the
generally accepted notions of modern (i.e., secular, Bible-discrediting)
geology. Science is not supposed to consist of generally accepted notions
(see 12/27/2003 entry), nor indeed notions
at all, but rather proofs rigorously demonstrated based on observation and experiment.
Based on the observations listed above,
it would seem more scientifically justifiable to place upper limits on the age of the canyon
and its walls than to extrapolate todays slow processes recklessly into the past by
many orders of magnitude, and to introduce ad hoc scenarios when the story doesnt
fit the observations.
- Gaps: The gaps are much larger than Schmidt admits; one gap is 10 million,
another 60 million, and another 100 million. Above the Great Unconformity
is a gap of over a billion years, with no soil between it and the overlying
sedimentary layers. These gaps give no evidence of
large passages of time between the one below and the one above, suggesting the
gaps are fictional: no long ages did elapse. The ages claimed for the layers
come not from the onsite observations, but from the a priori belief that they must
be fitted into a pre-existing construct, a model constructed and later Darwinized in England:
the Geologic Column.
- Flat contacts: The contacts between many layers are knife-edge thin and
straight for hundreds of square miles, with no evidence of erosion between.
- Flat layers: The generally accepted notions expect us to believe
that the Colorado Plateau rose and sank above and below sea level repeatedly,
yet kept the layers flat and undisturbed, a preposterous notion.
- Gravity: The Grand Canyon traverses the Kaibab Plateau, a mile higher in elevation
than the river upstream. Clearly, rivers do not flow over mountains.
Something caused the canyon to scour through this region after a catastrophic period
of sheet erosion and rapid downcutting.
- Source of material: secular geologists dont know where all the sedimentary material
came from. Some have speculated that it was transported somehow over
long distances, from as far as Appalachia (09/15/2003).
On the other hand, a flood could have
scoured and pulverized great quantities of lime mud and sand, and deposited it
rapidly underwater. The characteristic layers could represent material brought
in from different directions as the currents changed. (This could also imply
that the similarities to Appalachian sediments indicate that similar processes were
occurring there also).
- No evolution: Squirrels on the north rim are subspecies of those on the south rim,
with smooth gradations of varieties in between
They differ mainly in fur color.
If these species were geographically isolated for at least five million years, why
did they not evolve further apart? In that same length of time, evolutionists
claim that humans evolved from ape-like ancestors.
- No evolution II: Investigations of organisms inhabiting the forests of Shiva
Temple, a forested butte isolated from the north rim, found no differences between
species on the rim, even though they, too, should have been geographically isolated
for millions of years. (CRS.)
- Downstream: no large river-delta deposits can be found downstream
that would be expected if the Colorado River carved the canyon over a long time.
- Upstream: large basins that could have held enough water to carve the canyon
by a dam breach can be discerned upstream. Also, portions of the canyon
(Marble Canyon, inner gorge) are convincing secular geologists that it was carved
quickly (see 07/22/2002) entry).
- Tectonics: faults intersect the canyon all the way from top to bottom at multiple
points, but not part way up. This indicates the layers were deposited rapidly,
then faulted together as units.
- Folding: The layers fold together as if they were still soft and unconsolidated
at the time. Some folds, such as in Carbon Canyon, show more than 90°
fold with no evidence of cracking or crumbling.
- Volcanos: Volcanic dikes and cones poke up through all the layers from bottom
to top, but not part way up, casting doubt that millions of years transpired during
- Fluting: The inner gorge rocks are only fluted at river level, indicating the
river has not been cutting downward through the igneous rocks for long.
- Sheet erosion: Vast quantities of rock above the canyon were swept away by
sheet erosion before the canyon itself was carved. Evidence for this can be
seen at Cedar Mountain and other buttes which protrude above the canyon, displaying
remnants of the thousands of vertical feet of sediments that had been swept away
before the downcutting of the canyon began.
- Sand Dunes, Not: The Coconino Sandstone, long claimed to be sand dunes turned to
rock, are too fine-grained to be aeolian (wind-blown) sands, and cover too a vast
an area (much of the Southwest: 100,000 square miles, with a volume 10,000 cubic
miles) for this scenario to be plausible. The crossbedding could have been
laid down as sand waves by deep ocean currents. The fossil trackways could have
been made in shallow water and would have had to be buried suddenly to be preserved.
All other layers in the canyon are indisputably water-deposited. To believe the
Coconino was wind-deposited, the entire region would have had to be lifted above
sea level without cracking or folding, yet the contact with the water-deposited Hermit
Shale below it is flat and smooth. This indicates that deposition of the Coconino
in the Grand Canyon began immediately after the Hermit formation, without 10 million
years between them.
- Monsoons: a type of 3-D crossbedding called hummocky cross-stratification, visible
in numerous places in the canyon, gives evidence of gigantic cyclonic storms on scales
larger than anything observed today.
- Sapping: The Redwall shows evidence of sapping (rock fall occasioned by springs
weakening the rock above). The large amphitheater-shaped alcoves characteristic
of the Redwall suggest that the layers were still soft and unconsolidated and impregnated
with water when they formed.
- Dam Break Redux: Large lava dams that formed in the lower canyon are known to have
backed up the Colorado River into a huge lake since the canyon formed, yet broke
and catastrophically drained quickly, perhaps multiple times. Why not suggest
the same mechanism for formation of the canyon itself? In recent years, this idea
first proposed by creationists has become popular among secular geologists
(05/31/2002). Why have they not given the
- Lava Dates: Radioactive dates from the lowest lavas in the canyon (underneath all
the sedimentary layers) show up younger than those on the top at Vulcans
Throne, indicating that radioactive dating methods that yield millions of years
cannot be trusted. Another falsification is that different radiometric methods
applied within the same formation yield widely divergent dates. In addition,
carbon-14 has been found in coal seams around the Grand Canyon. Since the half-life
of carbon-14 is 5,700 years, none should remain if the coal were really millions of years old,
- (For more detail on these evidences, see
Tom Vails book, ICRs
Canyon: Monument to Catastrophe, and
Walt Browns analysis.)
Schmidt arrogantly applied the word myth to the creationist view,
but what is the power of myth, if not speculating about unobservable millions of
years that left no trace? If it were not that the creationist interpretation
discredits uniformitarianism and hurts the feelings of the moyboys*, most of the other
books in the Grand Canyon bookstore would similarly be following the evidence where it leads.
*Moyboys, n. pl.: secular scientists who toss around the phrases
millions of years, billions of years with reckless abandon, simply
because Charlie & Charlie** needed the time.
Next headline on:
Visitors to the Zagreb Zoo
get to walk through displays detailing the ways in which humans
contribute to the destruction of wildlife and the
environment, and then spend a little time in a cage that was
deemed unsuitable for the foxes and martens who were its previous
inhabitants. The zoo calls humans the most dangerous species
on the planet. In March of this year Animal Friends Croatia staged a similar stunt to protest the
treatment of chickens on commercial farms. Although they object to
all zoos as a form of prison, in April the group gave the Zagreb Zoo a
passing grade on its treatment of animals.
The animals in the Zagreb Zoo appear to be safe and well treated, but
what about the people? They are subjected to a series of accusations and
then put into a substandard cage as if to say, You are guilty, and
you deserve to be caged. They are then free to tour the rest of
the zoo, basking in shame for enjoying the experience. Maybe there
should be a dispenser of complimentary Prozac at the front gate.
How Much Can the Origin of Life Be Simplified?
Agence France-Presse press
release was accompanied by a file photo only identified as
a lion in his cage at a zoo. Pictures from the zoos web
site and the statement from Animal Friends Croatia indicate that this
was a stock photo and was probably not taken anywhere near Zagreb.  AFP
was trying to add a little more drama to the story.
There is no doubt that people have done some very irresponsible things
in regard to the environment and the treatment of animals, however
Genesis is clear that humans are not merely another species of
animal, but distinctively persons, made in the image of God. If people have
done some stupid things in the past, the answer is not to do more stupid things.
Next headline on:
Politics and Ethics
No problem, a report from Spains
Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona
seems to say: Lifes origins were easier than was thought.
(See also EurekAlert.)
The problem they claim to have solved is described in their press release:
In the primordial soup that produced life on earth, there were organic
molecules that combined to produce the first nucleic acid chains, which were the first elements
able to self-replicate. According to one of the more accepted theories, these
molecules were ribonucleic acid (RNA) chains, a molecule that is practically identical to
DNA and that today has the secondary role in cells of copying information stored in DNA
and translating it into proteins. These proteins have a direct active role in the
chemical reactions of the cell. In the early stages of life, it seems that
the first RNA chains would have had the dual role of self-replicating (as is
today the case with DNA) and participating actively in the chemical reactions of the
cell activity. Because of their dual role, these cells are called ribozymes (a
contraction of the words ribosome and enzyme). But there is an important obstacle
to the theory of ribozymes as the origin of life: they could not be very large in length
as they would not be able to correct the replication errors (mutations). Therefore
they were unable to contain enough genes even to develop the most simple organisms.
(Emphasis added in all quotes.)
What they refer to is the phenomenon of error catastrophe. If the
error rate in replication is too high, any gains in complexity or function are quickly lost in just
a few generations. This brings natural selection, which depends on future generations
carrying any beneficial variations, to a halt. How did the UAB researchers get around this obstacle?
An investigation led by Mauro Santos, from the Department of Genetics and Microbiology at
the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, alongside two Hungarian scientists, has shown that
the error threshold, that is, the maximum number of errors that may occur during
the replication process of ribozymes without this affecting its functioning, is higher
than was previously calculated. In practice, this means that the first riboorganisms
(protocells in which RNA is responsible for genetic information and metabolic reactions)
could have a much bigger genome than was previously thought: they could contain more
than 100 different genes, each measuring 70 bases in length (bases are the units that
constitute the genes and codify the information), or more than 70 genes, each measuring 100
bases. It is worth remembering that tRNAs (essential molecules for the synthesis of
proteins) are approximately 70 bases long.
The press release puts 200 genes as the minimum for a bacterium, but claims that
a prebiotic RNA replicating organism could have gotten by with much fewer genes
because it would not have needed the current DNA-to-RNA translation machinery.
The discovery, published in Nature Genetics, has greatly relaxed the conditions
necessary for the first living organisms to develop. This quantity of genes
would be enough for a simple organism to have enough functional activity, according
to the researchers.
In recent origin-of-life literature, three hopeful-sounding
claims have been made. First, atmospheric scientists revised upward the amount
of reducing hydrogen and methane gases essential for natural formation of amino
acids that could have existed on the early earth (06/16/2005).
Second, a natural mechanism for
producing a slight excess of same-handed chiral molecules about 2.5%
was described. Third, this announcement has relaxed the threshold
for error, long thought to be too stringent to expect a minimal genome to survive the
error catastrophe. Taken together, just how positive are these developments for
encouraging belief that life could have arisen by chance in a primordial soup?
Bacterial Parcel Service Discovered 09/14/2005
Its time to review the helicopter-in-the-canyon analogy from
our 05/22/2002 commentary. Evolutionists
think they are making progress if they can add little bits and pieces to their tall
tale that make it sound more plausible. But the outcome of the story has
already been determined in their minds: life did evolve by chance, somehow,
somewhere. Since they will not even entertain any other possibility (i.e.,
that life was designed by a Creator), then some kind of scenario like this RNA World
ribozyme story must have taken place no matter how many the problems,
no matter how wide the canyon between non-life and life (02/06/2005).
Since Pope Charlie ruled the plausibility criterion legal in science (12/22/2003
commentary), no more rigorous proofs were required to consider a claim scientific.
The legalization of storytelling opened up the current welfare state for storytellers.
Each of these three hopeful suggestions has monstrous problems:
These are just three of many problems. Taken together, they
amplify each others implausibility to the extent that continuing the discussion
is futile. Thats being gracious about it.
- A reducing atmosphere would have been necessary but not sufficient
to produce some but not all of the so-called building blocks of
life. RNA itself, you recall from 08/23/2005,
is horrendously difficult to produce, especially in a watery primordial soup.
Beyond that, the concentrations of the ingredients would have been negligibly dilute,
and even if that obstacle were overcome, toxins and competing chemicals would quickly
overpower the desirable ones. Furthermore, the lack of an ozone shield would
subject the ingredients to destructive radiation that would quickly annihilate them
(amino acids, you recall, have a half-life of 8 hours on the Martian surface with
even less radiation dosagesee 05/18/2005
- Chiral molecules must be 100% one-handed to produce useful biomolecules.
Close enough is not good enough, and a 2.5% excess is not even close.
- The amount of genetic information necessary to produce a self-replicating entity
that could (theoretically) evolve by natural selection is still a sky-high hurdle.
These Spaniards agree that 200 genes was too high, but presume that 70 of length
100 is approachable. When even one is astronomically improbable so much
so that a success could never be expected in this or multiple universes (see
online book), thats like hoping that we can leap over
Alpha Centauri with a pogo stick (but no map) just because we no longer have to leap over Sirius.
In totalitarian regimes like those of Hitler and Stalin, it was a
standard propaganda technique for the newspapers to accentuate the positive and eliminate
the negative. Since the state controlled the media, no dissent was ever heard.
The citizens might be starving, cold, poor, miserable and destitute, but their ignorance
was the medias bliss. Day after day, the people would hear messages of
progress, hope, joy, and success on the radio and in the papers. Photographs
of smiling faces and public works assured the populace that the latest 5-Year Plan
was on schedule, and things were looking up. Atrocities committed by the regime,
of course, were shielded from view. In addition, the propaganda
machine had free reign to tell big lies
about the opposition. Party leaders painted the enemy as evil monsters, and described
awful conditions in enemy lands, giving the impression that, however bad things appeared,
the citizens were living in utopia compared to the rest of the world.* Since no one
could ever get a dissenting letter to the editor printed (and if they tried, they were
usually never heard from again), the peasants often just
accepted what was told them unless they had a radio that could hear unjammed broadcasts
from free lands, or happened upon an air-drop package from the outside world. Do you see
some parallels with the Darwin Party elitist establishment? Thank God for the World Wide Web.
Next headline on:
Origin of Life
*This calls for a Russky joke heard on an old
comedy album called The Other Family by Larry Foster and Marty Brill (1962). In one scene,
Kruschev is holding a rare press conference. A reporter
asks, Premiere Kruschev, I have heard about a place the Americans have called
Disneyland. Why cant we Soviets have a place like Disneyland?
The premiere replies, after a long pause, What is... Disneyland?
(he pauses again, so reporters can think about the question). Incredible
fantastic beyond our wildest imagination We have always had such
a place. Siberia!!
Bacteria send letters and parcels to one another. Some of them are love letters,
some of them are letter bombs. This amazing packaged system of communication, separate from
the mere sending of diffusible chemicals, was described in
Nature1 with the title, Microbiology: Bacterial speech bubbles.
Stephen C. Winans described what is known about bacterial communication:
Many bacteria socialize using diffusible signals. But some of these
messages are poorly soluble, so how do they move between bacteria? It seems
they can be wrapped up in membrane packages instead.
(Emphasis added in all quotes.)
He said that two research studies in the same issue of Nature, one on how bacteria talk to their friends, and
another on how they attack their enemies, met in an unexpected convergence.
One type of parcel, for instance, is released in bubble-like vesicles that
also contain antibacterial agents and probably toxins aimed at host tissue cells as well.
Through this form of packaged communication, a community of microbes engages in quorum sensing
to detect whether it is alone or surrounded by its own kind or other species. Some
genes only turn on when there is a quorum reached. One of these Winans mentioned
is bioluminescence turning on the lights.
The parcels can contain chemicals, proteins, toxins and other molecules in
a lipid envelope. The packaging permits delivery of proteins and chemicals that
otherwise might be insoluble. Some bacteria have three separate kinds of signal parcels.
The packages form lipid bubbles around them as they emerge from the bacterial membrane.
These can merge with a friendly neighbor or, depending on the need of the moment, deliver a
toxin to an enemy a package bomb on the scale of bacteria.
To work, the system requires multiple parts: the contents, the packaging, the
delivery method, and the response to received parcels. Winans did not
speculate on how this system might have evolved, other than to say, Various
groups of bacteria use diffusible chemicals to signal to their own kind, and this
method of communication seems to have evolved independently several times.
1Stephen C. Winans, Microbiology: Bacterial speech bubbles,
437, 330 (15 September 2005) | doi: 10.1038/437330a.
This is an interesting phenomenon that deserves further
investigation by science and medicine. Since humans are sometimes targets of the
toxins delivered by these vesicles, interrupting or targeting the bacterial
UPS might lead to cures for disease. Was this system originally a beneficial delivery
service that got co-opted for harm? It seems unlikely that a mindless
bacterium could come up with such a complex system of interacting parts once,
let alone several times, by an evolutionary process of trial and error.
Next Generation Microchips Inspired by
Natures Nanotech 09/14/2005
Its a stunning thought to envision lowly bacteria with a
social life and a coordinated, effective package delivery system. Rather than assuming it
arose spontaneously as an opportunistic mechanism for serving the bacterial self,
perhaps it is best to look at this phenomenon from the vantage point of systems
What role might it play in the bigger picture?
Attacking and killing enemies is a metaphor with metaphysical baggage
(see Metaphors Bewitch You, 07/04/2003).
Another way of thinking about the parcel bombs might be with the give-and-take
metaphor of action/reaction, feedback/feedforward, agonist/antagonist i.e.,
a sensory mechanism of messages and responses
that keeps a larger dynamic system in balance (homeostasis).
Such balancing interactions take place at many levels in biology,
from interactions between molecules and proteins within the cell all the way up to
interactions between higher organisms.
If too much of one side causes pain and suffering, that does not preclude the
possibility that, in balance, the operation had a beneficial role.
An evolutionist would undoubtedly study this bacterial UPS
as a byproduct of selfish genes at
work trying to ensure their own survival. A design theorist could continue
investigating it with just as much curiosity and enthusiasm, but without the
tunnel vision of Darwinian self-centeredness. He or she would ask,
in the big picture, what role does it play, and has that role gone awry?
Next headline on:
An article in ComputerWorld1 reports that Hewlett Packard,
IBM, Fujitsu, and Texas Instruments are putting effort into developing
nanotechnologies for chip manufacturing based on a principle found in
nature: the tendency of matter to fall into predictable
patterns as molecules assume low energy states. There arent many
structures that can be built today, but researchers are finding new ways
to manipulate molecules all the time. IBM has been using
self-assembly in a capacitor, and HP Labs have self-assembled 10-atom
wide conductive wires.
Self-assemblythe tendency of certain structures to fall naturally into
patternsis one of natures most common occurrences. On a grand
scale, for example, wind direction, temperature and moisture in the air
result in predictable types of storms.
Now think smallermuch smaller. Certain molecules combine without
guidance in predictable ways. Some molecules recognize each
other and find natural low-energy states, says W. Grant
McGimpsey, a biology professor and director of the Bioengineering
Institute at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts.
(Emphasis added in all quotes.)
1 Steve Ulfelder,Molecular Self-Assembly: Nanoscale
circuits build themselves, breathing new life into Moores Law, ComputerWorld, pg 28, 5
Certain molecules in nature recognize each other and combine
into predictable patterns as they settle into low-energy states.
This fits very nicely with the Second Law of Thermodynamics and the formation of
snowflakes, but is exactly the opposite of what evolutionists claim
happened three or four billions of years ago on Earth at the origin of life.
Biological RNA and DNA are not mere crystals or repetitive patterns. They are highly volatile and energetic, requiring
cellular machinery to build and maintain. Most important, they contain
genetic information not derivable from the atoms of which they are
composed nor from the laws of physics that describe how their parts interact.
In contrast, Self-assembled materials form very simple patterns, said
one of the engineers. Though ordered, these materials do not specify anything.
Though the article spoke of natural self-assembly, there
was no mention of evolution good,
because evolution and engineering dont logically mix. Neo-Darwinian evolution
is unguided and purposeless; the engineers here were harnessing natural processes toward
intelligently-designed, functional ends.
Who Needs a Big Bang? 09/13/2005
Next headline on:
Physics and Chemistry
Origin of Life
Noted in passing: there are astronomers who dont accept the Big Bang theory.
Spaceflight Now had
an article denying that the WMAP microwave data supports the big bang.
Also, a small but active Alternative Cosmology
Group decries the unjustified limiting of cosmological funding to work within
the Big Bang framework.
They held their meetings last month.
When the leading model is called ungainly by
its own supporters
has to invoke three major fudge factors (inflation,
dark matter and dark energy) to stay in business
how long before the theory itself goes bang?
Remember the prominent commentator who said the majority cosmologists are
In science, majorities are not always right
(see 02/06/2003 on Grote Reber); but that doesnt
make these particular minorities right, either. The mavericks are very vocal
and confident, though (see 12/06/2004).
It should be an interesting year to see whether the empire strikes back
(see Dork Side of the Farce, 06/20/2003 commentary).
Shark Glows in the Dark 09/13/2005
Next headline on:
The Eye-in-the-Sea infrared camera
(see 08/26/2004) found all kinds of exotic life in the Gulf of
Mexico, reported EurekAlert
with pictures. The submersible with its dark-light camera is able to sneak up on
organisms without scaring them. The team from Harbor Branch
had to dodge Hurricane Katrina, but scored on its
second annual mission with a new gallery
of deep-sea marvels, including a crab that can see ultraviolet light, a fluorescent sea anemone
and a shark that glows in the dark.
No evolutionary talk, discovering new things science
can be good. The deep sea organisms didnt seem to notice the hurricane.
Good Publicity for I.D.: 09/13/2005
Next headline on:
Michael Behe got interviewed in the UK newspaper The Guardian and was compared
to Galileo for being condemned by the NAS curia. See reprint on
Next headline on:
Mars and Moons Shed Cocoons 09/13/2005
With so many spacecraft touring our solar system, theres almost too much news
to process. Here are a few highlights, starting with Mars, then comets, asteroids,
a Titanic puzzle, and what Cassini found mini moons ago.
- Mars Ice Age: Mars Express may have found evidence for deep ice deposits
on Mars around the equator in the past, reports BBC
News. The article also states that, unlike Earth, Mars is subject to changes to its
tilt axis of up to 15° due to the lack of a large moon.
- No Mars Life from Methane: Forget microbes or Martians, begins
an article on Science Now.
According to veteran planetary scientist Sushil Atreya, the methane comes from a natural
geological process called serpentinization.
- Mars Gusev Crater Had Water: A team analyzing Spirit data believes
they have chemical evidence that water moved and deposited some of the rocks, according to
a U of Washington press release.
- Mars Missing Carbonates:
Sky and Telescope proposed
a solution to the Martian missing carbonates problem: they never had a chance to
form in the first place. This is one of the great mysteries about Mars.
Thus far, geologists have yet to find more than small amounts of carbonates on the Martian surface,
the article said.
- Comet Tempel 1, a Gutless Wonder: Comet reveals crumbly guts
The texture appears to resemble a loose collection of particles, like a weak sponge held
together only by its own gravity. Investigator Michael AHearn thinks you
could dig from one side to the other with your bare hands.
Science News made the
Deep Impact mission its cover story for Sept. 10, and it also made prominent press in
week. The presence of carbonates and other
minerals on the comet, thought to require formation in liquid water, is also puzzling.
More detail on the spectral analysis can be found at Earth Files
by Linda Moulton Howe who interviewed Dr. Carely Lisse of the Deep Impact team.
Now that Comet Tempel 1 looks soft and crumbly, the mission planners of Rosetta
are worried their spacecraft wont
find a solid surface to land on when it encounters another comet in 2011.
Scientist is asking why in the last four comet encounters, the scientists
predictions were all wrong. In Comet Tails of the Unexpected,
Stuart Clark begins, We have now had four close encounters with comets,
and every one of them has thrown astronomers onto their back foot.
- Cowabunga, Hayabusa: A little-known Japanese spacecraft named Hayabusa has arrived at an
asteroid. The Japanese Institute of
Space and Astronautical Science has its first close-up picture of asteroid Itokawa.
If successful, it may become the first sample-return mission of an asteroid.
Find links to more images at Space.com.
- Cigar Moon: A planetoid on the outskirts of the solar system is spinning so fast,
says Nature Sept. 8, that
it is stretched into a cigar shape. If orbital calculations are correct, its day is under four hours.
- Spoken For: Ring scientists have finally detected the elusive spokes in Saturns rings,
reports the Cassini imaging team. Their manifestation
is apparently a function of solar incidence angle on the rings: the lower the sun angle, the
more they appear. With these facts, scientists are working on new models of spoke formation.
- New Titan Landscape: Cassini photographed a new region of Saturns moon Titan
on Sept. 7. The JPL
press release shows an H-shaped region of contrasting dark and light areas named Fensal and
Aztlan. The dark patches are littered with light-colored islands that may be
upwellings of water ice surrounded by hydrocarbon precipitates. Individual images can also
be found on the imaging website.
- Titan Moonsoons: A suggestion by Dr. Ralph Lorenz that Titan may have rare monsoons
of liquid methane rain generated a headline on New
Scientist. (For context, see the Planetary Society
blog by Emily Lakdawalla, who attended the meetings of the Division of Planetary Sciences of the American
Astronomical Society in Cambridge last week, and reported what she heard.) The idea is that Titan
has long periods of dryness punctuated by heavy downpours, similar to American southwest deserts.
Govert Schilling wrote a short report for Science
Now, called Your Outdoor Adventure Guide to Titan. Its a world of cryovolcanos,
convective clouds, outgassing and condensing methane, and other strange things.
- Titan Canyonlands Seen in Radar: The radar data swath from the latest Titan flyby, feared
lost due to a commanding error to the solid state recorder, was partly recovered and released
Sept. 16 and what a beauty. In three stunning panoramas, scientists detected a methane-lake shoreline,
a system of channels most likely scoured by methane rain, and a region of deep canyons up to 650 feet deep and
0.6 miles wide. Some of the canyons can be traced for 120 miles.
As noticed before on other parts of the moon, there is a dearth of impact craters in all three frames.
See the Cassini press release
for the full scoop, images and captions.
Space.Com also has a writeup.
- Splash of the Titans: Southwest
Research Institute thinks that an exotic form of life may inhabit Titan, now that evidence
for liquid hydrocarbons has been found. BBC
News reported on Jonathan Lunines contention that Titan, like Earth, occupies a
sweet spot in terms of temperature and mass that drives active geological and
atmospheric processes. Liquid of any sort is all that is needed to get speculations
about life flowing (see 07/26/2005 also).
- Enceladus: Me Too: Science
Daily reported a claim by Robert Brown about the results from Saturns little moon
Enceladus, that the building blocks of life could have formed in subsurface liquid water.
- Miller Time Hangover Back at Earth, Washington U scientists are speculating
that there actually was a reducing atmosphere on the early earth, just like Miller and Urey
supposed back in 1953 when they generated a few amino acids with their famous spark-discharge
apparatus. They deduced this by complex models about minerals in chondrites that they
think made up the infant earth. Geologists dispute the scenario, they admit, and getting
a reducing atmosphere is not the only requirement for resurrecting the Miller scenario (see
Brown gets Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week for
trying to stimulate funding by appeals to the L word:
Are Democrats the Guardians of Science? 09/12/2005
So youve got subsurface liquid water, simple organics and water vapor welling up
from below. Over time and Enceladus has been around 4.5 billion years,
just like Earth and the rest of the solar system heating a cocktail of simple organics,
water and nitrogen could form some of the most basic building blocks of life.
Whether thats happened at Enceladus is not clear, but Enceladus, much like Jupiters
moon Europa and the planet Mars, now has to be a place where we eventually search for life.
This is known as the JAWS theory of life (just add water, stupid). We can enjoy
the discoveries in the Golden Age of Planetary Science better without the mythoids and the
noise of banging crutches on the funding trough (see Berlinski quote).
Readers who appreciate more substance than the usual newspaper fluff are encouraged to go
nugget hunting on the Planetary Society
blog, provided one knows how to separate data from opinion. There are very strange
goings on out there (not only at Cambridge, but throughout the solar system).
Next headline on:
Origin of Life
Dan Danbom reviewed Chris Mooneys The Republican War On Science in the
Mountain News. According to Danbom, Mooney argues that the Bush administration
ignores, subverts, twists and misrepresents science to conform to its political goals. The review
includes these quotes from the book:
....in politicized fights involving science, it is rare to find liberals entirely innocent of abuses. But they are almost never as guilty as the right.
Danbom calls The Republican War on Science a book that is as carefully constructed as a laboratory experiment. According to the book, Republicans pick and choose among the scientific data in order to support their pet projects. He concludes his review with, Mooney challenges the reader to ask just how important unvarnished science is to us, no matter what our political predilections.
Reagans self-appointed state board of education had pushed to weaken the teaching of evolution and endorsed creationism....
The Reagan administrations sympathies with creationism signaled a new development for the Republican Party and conservatism more generally. From this moment forward, many of the partys leaders willingly distorted or even denied the bedrock scientific theory of evolution, and encouraged pseudoscientific thinking, to satisfy a traditionalist religious constituency.
The book and the review are exercises in hypocrisy. Mooney argues that Republicans are more guilty of selective science than liberals (notice that Democrats are not specifically named in the article) who support bedrock scientific theory of evolution. Just how important is unvarnished science to someone who thinks evolution rocks?
Planets Can Form Rapidly
Next headline on:
Politics and Ethics
Observations by the Spitzer Space Telescope, announced in a
JPL press release,
pose a challenge to existing theories of giant planet formation, especially those in
which planets build up gradually over millions of years. Three young stars show
clearings in dust disks surrounding them, suggesting that gas giant planets inhabit the
clearings and must have been formed in a million years or less. Instead of
growing slowly like giant redwoods, these new planets must have sprung up quickly
like wildflowers, the report describes. This is an update on the
10/18/2004 findings from Spitzer. See also
OK, now that we know that planets can form in far
less time than textbooks have claimed for centuries, can we finally ditch the
mythical age of our solar system? Can we entertain the notion that many
phenomena in our solar system look young, because they actually are?
06/05/2003 and other chain links on Dating Methods). The
only one who needed the billions of years was Charlie, and hes dead.
Will Hurricane Katrina End Social Darwinism in America?
Next headline on:
Harold Evans, writing an op-ed piece for the
thinks the TV images of destruction from Hurricane Katrina will arouse a new wave
compassion in government (which he interprets as the responsibility
of government to relieve individual suffering), and spell the end of Social Darwinism (which he interprets
as laissez-faire individualism):
My judgment is that the log of Social Darwinism will disappear again under the toxic
flood waters of New Orleans. The corpses floating face down in the muddy overflow
from broken Mississippi levees are too shocking a sight for Americans of all classes
and parties. They are too kindly a people. They will look once again for
vigour and compassion in government, even at the price of higher taxes.
Evans pointed to Herbert
who coined the term survival of the fittest
nine years before the great man himself Charles Darwin wrote the
Origin, as the founder of Social Darwinism. Evans claimed that Social
Darwinism caught on in America more than in Britain, under the Yale polemicist
William Graham Sumner.
How does Harold Evans illustrate the Social Darwinist attitude
in America? Primarily, by presidents of both parties who have expressed reluctance to
send federal aid for disaster relief. His only Democrat example, however, was
Grover Cleveland; Republicans Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Ronald Reagan and George
W. Bush he used as illustrations of the Social Darwinist attitude that government
should not get involved when nature takes its course. FDR, who according to
Evans, almost drove a stake through the heart of Social Darwinism with
his rapid-fire government aid programs during the Depression, illustrates to him
a compassionate reaction to Hoover, who
was swept away by a riptide of anger and fear like that which may threaten the
Republican ascendancy today.
Its always welcome to hear Social Darwinism
get badmouthed, but Evans, clearly a British liberal seeing government as the
solution to everything, makes some historical and logical
flaws in his arguments. He portrays
Social Darwinism as a primarily conservative/capitalist phenomenon, when actually
it was embraced not only by laissez-faire capitalists like Andrew Carnegie and
John D. Rockefeller, but just as much if not more so by political liberals
and materialists in the eugenics movement. (Laissez-faire capitalism actually
had roots in Adam Smith, long before Darwin.) He also wrongly conflates
belief in individual responsibility with Social Darwinism; the two overlap somewhat
at a pragmatic level, but are clearly pointed in nearly opposite directions.
Belief in individual responsibility is as old as Moses; its a matter of
character, not evolution. Individual responsibility
and compassion are Christian virtues. Christianity and Social
Darwinism are polar opposites. Many Christians and political conservatives
who have nothing but the utmost disdain for Social Darwinism do not feel it is
solely the governments job to bail people out of all their mishaps.
The amount of government aid that is proper, compared to private charity, is hotly
debated in both parties. Social Darwinism enters very little into the discussion
nowadays. Evans thus creates a false dichotomy
that one is either a compassionate Democrat who believes government is the primary provider
of disaster relief, or a laissez-faire Republican who lets people die in floods.
Isnt that a switch. Many conservatives arguing for limited government are
the first rushing to help the New Orleans victims, illustrating that compassion and responsibility are
not mutually exclusive values. Evans also commits a
non-sequitur that big government equals effective
aid. Some would argue that some of FDRs well-intentioned reforms
caused more and bigger problems than they solved. The New Deal created lots of
activity, motion and emotion, and many touching stories, but the court is still out on
whether its policies or World War II actually ended the Depression. And just
who is the government, anyway? Who pays the bills? Taxpayers!
Government is not some independent benign Father, dispensing its own largesse with
magnanimity and impunity. When it steers the peoples money toward disaster relief,
it is supposed to be acting as a steward, managing the peoples compassion with
the consent of the governed.
Some of the New Deal alphabet agencies, long past
their period of usefulness during the Depression, have become eternal bureaucracies.
Drawing on the finite pool of wealth available for disaster relief by a process Frederic
Bastiat called legal plunder (i.e., taxation),
agencies like FEMA do provide
relief in the name of Government, but this begs the question whether they do it faster
or cheaper than private charities. Go to any disaster center and you are just as
likely (if not more so) to see aid being dispensed by local churches, the Red Cross, World Vision,
the Salvation Army, Samaritans purse and many other non-governmental groups
funded by charitable contributions, not by taxes and with typically far less
overhead than government.
The main contributions of government to disaster relief are mobilizing the armed forces
for civil defense, providing protection from disease epidemics,
and rebuilding the infrastructure.
For Evans to use Reagan or Bush as exemplars of a Social Darwinist attitude,
therefore, is absurd. A Christian and advocate of intelligent design (08/02/2005),
Bush is no more a Social Darwinist than Richard Dawkins is a Pentecostal.
The heirs of Spencer and Sumner are not Republicans, but the overwhelmingly-liberal
elitist scientists in the AAAS, NAS and Smithsonian who remain committed to the principles of
the great man himself to this day. For consistent Darwinists, disasters have opened up new
evolutionary niches for billions of years. Altruism is just a game to them
with no moral content whatsoever. If disaster has produced such biodiversity,
who are we to get in the way of progress?
If it werent for the historical fact that Social Darwinism produced the likes of
Hitler and Stalin, Darwins disciples would still be advocating it today, and some are, with
the prospect of a New Eugenics (10/12/2001),
Evans should look not to the Americans but to his British brethren Spencer, Darwin and
Francis Galton (Darwins cousin, the father of eugenics) as the instigators of
the worldview that would rob civilization of civility, and passion of compassion.
Social Darwinism has only preceded its intellectual forebear onto the ash heap of history.
Meanwhile, churches all over America, without government pressure or assistance,
are rushing into New Orleans and Mississippi with aid
and with messages of hope, comfort and salvation (example.
Lets see the Church of Darwin put its rubber on the road. What are they
going to tell victims: Tough luck?
Next headline on:
Politics and Ethics
Aug. 2005 issue: Censoring God: Why is the science establishment so threatened by the intelligent design movement?
Contains a dozen articles on this timely issue.
Are Brains Evolving Bigger, or Fatter?
Two papers in Science Sept. 9 claimed that human brains may still be evolving.
According to the authors, two genes related to brain size appear to be under positive selection in
certain people groups. One team said their variant occurred the same time as the
emergence of art, music, religious practices and sophisticated tool use, though such
inferences are subjective (see 11/12/2004 entry).
Michael Balter, commenting on these findings in Science,1 said that
although the claims are potentially dramatic, caution should be exercised
in interpreting the results. Francis Collins of the Human Genome Project, warned
in an AP story printed on LiveScience
that is totally unproven and potentially dangerous territory to get into with such sketchy data
because scientists dont know when the variants arose or even what the genes do.
The BBC News, however, though
admitting that the findings were merely a tantalising prospect, titled
their version of the story, Proof Our Brains Are Evolving.
New Scientist announced
cheerfully, Human brains enjoy ongoing evolution.
1Michael Balter, Evolution: Are Human Brains Still Evolving? Brain Genes Show Signs of Selection,
Vol 309, Issue 5741, 1662-1663 , 9 September 2005, [DOI: 10.1126/science.309.5741.1662].
Evolutionists are hastening to mention that the
variants have nothing to do with intelligence. This is apparently
to avoid repeating the sins of the early Darwinists, who sought ways to rank humans
on an IQ scale that ensured the Brits would remain on top. But if the haves
are better musicians than the have-nots, this might lead to ranking by
MQ, the music quotient. The world isnt ready for a new form of Social
Darwinism characterized by a battle of the bands and survival of the hittest.
Some of todays musicians could use a little genetic engineering to reverse
the descent of man, but thats intelligent design, not evolution.
Reader Project: Calculate the Speed of Plant Package Delivery
Next headline on:
Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory
Get out your pencil and hand calculator. A team of Swedish and French scientists
measured the velocity of a message traveling on the intraplant internet (see 08/12/2005,
and 07/13/2001 entries). Publishing in Science,1
they believe they have witnessed a signaling molecule, in the form of a messenger-RNA (mRNA;
see yesterdays entry) moving through the phloem, from leaf to shoot,
telling the tip to begin flowering. The leaf is sensitive to day length.
When the clock strikes that the days are right for flowering, messenger molecules travel
to the tips to initiate the process. This is one method by which a plant, distributed in space
without a central nervous system, can keep synchronized with itself.
The mRNA moved 6 to 7 mm in an Arabidopsis leaf to the tip
in 2 to 5 hours, which they calculated as 1.2 to 3.5 millimeters per hour.
Problem: Calculate what speed range that would represent in miles per hour if the mRNA
were the size of a delivery truck on a freeway. You need to find out the approximate size
of an mRNA molecule and work it out with proportions. Send your answer
1Tao Huang et al., The mRNA of the Arabidopsis Gene
FT Moves from Leaf to Shoot Apex and Induces Flowering,
Vol 309, Issue 5741, 1694-1696, 9 September 2005, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1117768].
Your answer can be reprinted here to help other readers visualize what a human might
see if shrunk to the size of an mRNA molecule. The answer will be simplified
somewhat since it will not take into account how many twists and turns the molecule
must make on its route, nor the amount of traffic and inspections it
encounters, but it should be interesting. One reader estimated 20-60 mph, one
23-66 mph or up to 68 to 200 mph, another 2000 to 6000 mph, and another,
8181 mph. Give us your best calculation: write here
and tell us how you arrived at it. Hint: an RNA molecule is about 1 nanometer
wide (10-9m). You need to figure not only the length of an average
mRNA, but whether or not it folds into a more compact structure before traveling.
Beautifully Engineered: Giant Pterosaur Compared to Aircraft
The reader who seemed to work the hardest on the problem said,
if we use 5 nm as the width of the mRNA folded up on itself, the scaled speed
increases dramatically, and would be in the range of 1100 to 3300 mph.
Additional factors would need to be known, like how compact the mRNA folds, and
whether it passively rides along in the sap for part of its journey.
Anyway, it was an interesting investigation thanks to all who wrote in
with their calculations.
Next headline on:
Imagine an aircraft engineer trying to convert a Eurofighter into a jumbo jet while it was still flying.
Thats how David Martill (U of Portsmouth, UK) described the abilities of a baby pterosaur growing into a large adult,
a BBC News story says.
Evidence suggests that pterosaurs were capable of flying soon after hatching.
Some had wingspans up to 60 feet, nearly six times that of the largest living bird,
and as big as a medium size commercial aircraft or F14 fighter, according to
An article in The Scotsman
provides further comparisons with aircraft design:
Their enormous sail-like wings, made of a thin hair-covered membrane between their two
front limbs, allowed them to use air currents to fly with little effort over huge distances.
Pterosaurs have no evolutionary line to any living creatures in the fossil record, the BBC article states.
The Scotsman article claims that their nearest relatives are crocodiles, but the MSNBC
news article notes that they had a very different shoulder joint among all
the other adaptations for flying.
Their flight membranes could be controlled by adjusting the angle of
the forelimbs at the shoulder, the elbow and at the base of the hyper-elongated flight finger,
said Dr Martill. In addition it could be controlled by movement of the hind limbs
at the hips, the knees and to some degree at the ankle.
This gave pterosaurs far more flight control than birds of equivalent size.
Analysis of fossils has shown the intricate details of its super-strong but
light bone structure. Dr Martill said they could even be used to help with modern aircraft design.
They took bone to new limits in terms of making it thin yet strong, he said.
Their skeletons were very lightly constructed and most of their bones were hollow and enclosed an
air sac system connected to the lungs.
The bone itself was composed of many microscopically thin layers stacked together
like a spirally bound plywood tube.
Sometimes the bones had cross-sectional shapes that provided added
strength, such as D, T and A shapes.
(Emphasis added in all quotes.)
Fossils of a variety of forms have been found in such widely-scattered locales as
Brazil, North America, Mexico, Romania, and Israel.
Contrary to previous ideas that pictured pterosaurs as mere gliders, Martill thinks they flew rather elegantly:
Their ability to utilise air currents, thermals and ground effects would astonish aeroplane designers.
They were beautifully engineered, he remarked.
Engineering is not the language of Darwinism.
The Darwin Party lacks the training to deal with the facts of biology as observed,
and the history of biology as read in the fossil record. The article
states, Indeed, there is still great debate about where exactly they should be
placed in the evolution of life forms on Earth. The answer is, of course,
they should be taken out of the evolution fairy tale book, and placed into the engineering
textbook, where pterosaurs could inform modern aircraft design.
Were the references to evolution really useful for anything, other than
entertainment? We would like to see the transitional forms between crocodiles
and beautifully engineered aircraft, or watch some crocodile gliding experiments.
Next headline on:
Dinosaurs and Extinct Reptiles
Interviewed in the Dallas Morning Herald Sept. 4, David Berlinski was asked why many
scientists strongly oppose intelligent design. With concentrated wit, Berlinski answered,
For scientists forever banging their crutches against the trough of public funding,
any form of criticism represents an alarming turn of events, the more so when it
affects their traditional claims to speak with authority on matters of culture, faith
and morals. They are right to be alarmed. A great many people have come
to regard Darwinism as tedious, illiterate, uninformed and tendentious. Darwins
theories seem destined to disappear by negative selection, an interesting but rare
example of a Darwinian process reaching a sound conclusion.
RNA Research Uncovers a Previously Ignored Universe of Genetic Information
A slow revolution is occurring in the study of genetic information. Until
recently, the only interesting items in DNA sequences were the genes the genetic codes for proteins.
Since these usually represented only a small fraction of an organisms genome, it was
assumed the rest of the material was junk DNA sequences that were either
mutated leftovers of real genes (pseudogenes), spacers (introns), nonsense strands, or
regions that merely provided structural support for the more important genes.
Indications that something was wrong with this picture have arisen over
the last few years. For one, geneticists were surprised to count only about 30,000
protein-coding genes in the human genome; more recent counts have dropped the number to
25,000. How could such a complex organism as a human being arise from such a small
library of genetic information? Another clue was the mismatch between messenger
RNAs and proteins. Messenger RNA (mRNA) is the transcript of the DNA template that
carries the genetic information outside the nucleus of eukaryotic
cells to a ribosome, where it is translated into the amino acid language of proteins.
Scientists found that many mRNAs never got that far. Were they simply disassembled
and recycled? A third clue was the discovery of vast quantities of small RNAs in
the cell (10/26/2001). Some were found to apparently regulate the
expression of genes; what did the others do? Additionally, the mystery of
viewed as useless nonsense strands of DNA cut out of genes by spliceosomes
(09/17/2004), deepened when some were shown to be
remarkably conserved (05/27/2004) between primitive and
advanced organisms, suggesting they had a function. Is it possible scientists have
vastly underestimated the amount of information in the cell, like walking into a
forest and assuming the only living things there are the trees? Perhaps a kind
of gene chauvinism has masked the reality of a much higher order of complexity.
The cover story of the Sept. 2 issue of Science, Mapping
RNA Form and Function, explored this question. Of the 18 articles about
RNA and its functional role in the cell, here are a few glimpses of the emerging picture that
is putting to rest the old notion that biological information is comprised
only of genes and proteins.
Space does not permit delving into the other 13 articles that describe such things as RNAs role
in the ribosome, how RNA is recycled, and other interesting topics.6 These samples
should suffice to show that the information content of the cell has probably been
vastly oversimplified before now. Remarkably, some researchers are looking at this new universe
of RNA regulation and seeing an evolutionary path leading back into the fog of prehistory.
Since the leading origin-of-life theory is the so-called RNA World scenario,
some are speculating about whether todays small RNAs are
relics of a lost world in which early RNAs shared the roles of genetic storage
and catalysis. Readers are referred to earlier entries on RNA and the origin of life
for further study.
- Parallel universe: Guy Riddihough, in the introductory article,1 ventured
into the forest of RNA dark matter and found a wonderland:
For a long time, RNA has lived in the shadow of its more famous chemical cousin DNA and of
the proteins that supposedly took over RNAs functions in the transition
from the RNA world [07/11/2002,
08/23/2005] to the modern one.
The shadow cast has been so deep that a whole universe (or so it seems) of RNApredominantly
of the noncoding varietyhas remained hidden from view, until recently....
As if that were not enough, he noted that even the coding and base-paring capacity of
RNA can be alteredby RNA editing, in which bases in the RNA are changed on the fly.
It appears there is much life in the forest than just the trees.
The discovery that much of the mammalian genome is
transcribed, in some places without gaps (so-called transcriptional forests),
shines a bright light on this embarrassing plenitude: an order of magnitude more
transcripts than genes.... Many of these noncoding RNAs ... are conserved across
species, yet their functions (if any) are largely unknown....
(Emphasis added in all quotes.)
- Hidden infrastructure: Matthew W. Vaughn and Rob Martienssen2
discussed the probability that vast numbers of small RNAs (sRNA) may be essential for regulation
of genes. Some of these micro-RNAs (miRNAs) and small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) have
already been identified in gene regulation, but many more remain to be studied.
In one plant, 1.5 million sRNAs composed of 75,000 unique sequences were recently found, suggesting
that many more genes may be under the control of sRNAs than had been
previously imagined. These noncoding RNAs, usually 20-something bases long, keep a bag of
tricks up their sleeves:
They can direct cleavage of other transcripts and
can also promote second-strand synthesis by RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRP), resulting in
dsRNAs [double-stranded RNA]. In addition, siRNAs are implicated in recruiting
heterochromatic modifications that result in transcriptional silencing.
The authors mentioned several ways in which these sRNAs had escaped detection due to the methods
- Pseudo Not: Vaughn and Martienssen also noted the relationship of
sRNAs to pseudogenes. Once thought to be mutated relics of true genes because they often contain
premature stop codons, pseudogenes might be sources for siRNAs that regulate the true genes they
resemble: they could act transitively on transcripts from paralogous protein-coding
genes by promoting cleavage or interfering with translation, they continued.
More than half of the pseudogene sRNAs matched sequences elsewhere in the genome,
indicating that this may be the case and suggesting a mechanism for coordinated trans-acting
regulation of closely related members of gene families.
- What Are They There For? Now that we know large numbers of small RNAs
exist, what do they do? John S. Mattick3 suggested that they are not
transcriptional noise, but rather constitute a critical
hidden layer of gene regulation in complex organisms, the understanding of which requires
new approaches in functional genomics. This will be a big task, he warns. One study
of one such small RNA found it acting as a scaffold for the assembly of protein complexes
and for coordinating nuclear traffic, helping localize gene products to their correct
subcellular compartments. This one case reveals a new dimension of organizational
control in cell biology and development, and
illustrates the magnitude of the task that is in front of us, which may be
an equal or greater challenge than that we already face in working out the biochemical
function and biological role of all of the known and predicted proteins
and their isoforms. Since cataloging the human proteome is the next
daunting task after deciphering the genome, this statement should put geneticists on notice.
- New Glasses Needed: One assumption guiding previous research was that if
a sequence was evolutionarily conserved (i.e., largely unchanged from primitive to
advanced organisms), this indicated it was probably functional. Mattick cast doubt on
that assumption: Notably, evolutionary conservation may not be a reliable signature
of functional ncRNAs [non-coding RNAs]. The conserved ones may act on many
substrates, he noted, but non-conserved ones may have few and be less restrained to vary.
Many ncRNAs, Mattock thinks, may be evolving quickly and escaping detection
by methods that look for sequence conservation.
Here is another indication that
junk DNA actually represents information we havent yet decoded:
It is also clear that the majority of the genomes of animals is indeed transcribed,
which suggests that these genomes are either replete with largely useless
transcription or that these noncoding RNA sequences are fulfilling a wide range of
unexpected functions in eukaryotic biology. These sequences include introns
(Fig. 1), which account for at least 30% of the human genome but have been largely
overlooked because they have been assumed to be simply degraded after splicing.
However, it has been shown that many miRNAs and all known small nucleolar RNAs
in animals are sourced from introns (of both protein-coding and noncoding transcripts),
and it is simply not known what proportion of the transcribed introns are subsequently
processed into smaller functional RNAs. It is possible, and logically
plausible, that these sequences are also a major source of regulatory RNAs in
That higher animals should run on complex genetic programming should
come as no surprise, he concluded. It means, though, that we
may have seriously misunderstood the nature of genetic programming in
the higher organisms by assuming that most genetic information is expressed
as and transacted by proteins. Truly we have embarked on a long road.
- Mt. Improbable Looms Higher: Jean-Michel Claverie4 echoed Mattocks
estimation of the task, saying it is only recently that the sheer scale of the phenomenon
of functional non-coding RNA has been realized. He pointed to research on the mouse
genome that half its transcriptome (the corpus of RNA transcribed from DNA)
consists of non-coding RNA (ncRNA). He found a eureka moment: These results provide a
solution to the discrepancy between the number of (protein-coding) genes and the
number of transcripts, he wrote. Missing them has been an artifact of our
methods. Noncoding transcripts originating from intergenic regions, introns,
or antisense strands have probably been right before our eyes for 8 years without having
- Prokaryotes Say Me, Too: Claverie doubted that the discovery of functional
ncRNA is limited to eukaryotes: The notion that transcription is limited to protein-coding
genes is also being challenged in microbial systems. He pointed to E. coli
which contains many transcripts from intergenic sequences and antisense strands (i.e.,
transcribed from the opposite strand of DNA). His ending paragraph should humble
Watson and Crick, who thought they had it figured out 50 years ago:
The intergenic, intronic, and antisense transcribed sequences that were once
deemed artifactual are now a testimony to our collective refusal to depart from
an oversimplified gene model. But what if transcription is even more complex?
Could it, for instance, lead to mRNAs generated from two different chromosomes (Fig. 1)?
A year ago, we would have immediately suspected such sequences as further
artifacts arising from large-scale cDNA [complementary DNA, a strand that forms
a template for mRNA] sequencing programs. But now?
Perhaps its time to go back to the cDNA sequence databases and reevaluate
the numerous unexpected objects they contain. Transcription will never be
simple again, but how complex will it get?
- The Life and Times of mRNA: Melissa Moore5 provided a more whimsical view of
the actors in the genetic play. Dismissing the simplistic short obituary
of RNAs as simply a central conduits in the flow of information from DNA to
protein, she wrote, this dry and simplistic description captures nothing
of the intricacies, intrigues, and vicissitudes defining the life history of even the most
mundane mRNA. In addition, of course, some mRNAs lead lives that, if not
quite meriting an unauthorized biography, certainly have enough twists and turns to warrant
a more detailed nucleic acid interest story. She offered a prècis for
her novel, giving us a glimpse into the frenzy of activity in the life of mRNA:
We will follow the lives of eukaryotic mRNAs from the point at which they are birthed
from the nucleus until they are done in by gangs of exonucleases lying in wait
in dark recesses of the cytoplasm. Along the way, mRNAs may be shuttled to
and from or anchored at specific subcellular locations, be temporarily withheld
from the translation apparatus, have their 3' ends trimmed and extended,
fraternize with like-minded mRNAs encoding proteins of related function, and
be scrutinized by the quality-control police.
It turns out the mRNA is not just a carrier of information, but a posttranscriptional
operon with many roles in the cell. For instance, some RNAs bind with proteins to
form messenger ribonucleoprotein particles (mRNPs): Individual mRNP components can be
thought of as adaptors that allow mRNAs to interface with the numerous
intracellular machineries mediating their subcellular localization, translation, and decay,
as well as the various signal transduction systems. For a sampler, Moore listed a
cheat sheet of 11 such mRNPs and their functions. Her article gave some
up-close-and-personal vignettes of some of the players, personifying their birth, baptism
(entry into the transcriptionally active pool), examination, recruitment, retirement,
dispatch and burial.
Addendum: Genes themselves, too, may contain much more information than previously
realized. Several articles recently hinted at how genetic information could vastly
outstrip the mere gene count. One mechanism of compressing information on DNA is
alternative splicing: the spliceosome, after removing the introns, apparently can rearrange the
exons into multiple products in some cases, something like the way kids
take Lego blocks and make a variety of machines out of them. Another possibility
for information storage is the overlooked opposite DNA strand, or antisense strand.
Even though it represents a photographic negative of the normal strand,
some mRNAs can apparently read it and generate additional, different protein products from it.
These and other mechanisms, such as frame-shifted transcription, the histone code, or
the ability of mRNAs to join transcripts from different chromosomes, suggest that the
information coded in genes is just the tip of a very large info-berg.
1Guy Riddihough, In the Forests of RNA Dark Matter,
Vol 309, Issue 5740, 1507, 2 September 2005, [DOI: 10.1126/science.309.5740.1507].
2Vaughn and Martienssen, Its a Small RNA World, After All,
Vol 309, Issue 5740, 1525-1526, 2 September 2005, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1117805].
3John S. Mattick, The Functional Genomics of Noncoding RNA,
Vol 309, Issue 5740, 1527-1528, 2 September 2005, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1117806].
4Jean-Michel Claverie, Fewer Genes, More Noncoding RNA,
Vol 309, Issue 5740, 1529-1530 , 2 September 2005, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1116800].
5Melissa J. Moore, From Birth to Death: The Complex Lives of Eukaryotic mRNAs,
Vol 309, Issue 5740, 1514-1518, 2 September 2005, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1111443].
6For popular reports on these subjects, see
EurekAlert #3 (the
software of life), and
a press release from U of Delaware.
Which theory intelligent design or Darwinism
would have predicted this complexity? Is there any hint of an evolutionary sequence
leading up to this highly-coordinated, quality-controlled, information-rich system?
(Recall from the 08/23/2005 entry that RNA
does not form readily in water, and is highly unstable; its presence in the cell is
only made possible by stringent programmed operations with quality control.)
The gap between a mythical RNA World and the living world of real functioning
RNA in the cell could never have been wider. As the cloud cover lifts, the
summit of Mt. Improbable stretches higher into the sky.
Comet Theories Vanish in Puff of Powder
Darwinism had enough trouble explaining the 4-letter (G,C,A,T) triplet-codon genetic code.
Simple Watson-Crick base pairing and the old
one-gene one-enzyme principle, the so-called Central Dogma of genetics
was taught as The Big Picture till we knew better. Now that junk DNA is out
(07/15/2005), the whole
cellular information flowchart appears as complex as that of a well-run city, where
each employee has a role. Each information-rich molecule is born, lives an
active life and is retired, as Moore personified it.
Its time for the Darwin Party to let go of the steering wheel and let the
Intelligent Design community drive science out of the naturalistic rut its in.
Knowing how to read the signs of intelligent causation, they can help
get science back onto the freeway of enriched understanding (see
06/25/2005 entry and commentary).
Next headline on:
They were supposed to be dirty snowballs, those comets, pristine relics from the primordial
solar system. They were supposed to be blasting volatile ices from their interiors
as they approached the sun. What are they doing with aromatic hydrocarbons, olivine, iron,
clays and carbonates? When the
Deep Impact probe hit its
target July 4, it made a big impression not only on Comet Tempel 1 but on Earth scientists
wondering at the bright plume of powdery material that came out. A
JPL press release
announced the rather surprising deduction that the comet
has a very fluffy structure that is weaker than a bank of powder snow.
Since the low-density, fluffy surface cannot conduct heat to the interior efficiently, the coma must
not be produced from volatiles deep inside. Also, some of the materials detected,
such as clays, were thought to require water for their formation.
Nevertheless, though these findings are shaking the conventional wisdom
about comets, some news sources are spinning the angle about hydrocarbons to suggest
a link with the origin of life. BBC
News, for instance, said this might support the idea of panspermia, that comets
delivered lifes ingredients to our planet. Some experts, it
claims, say such molecules could have kick-started life on Earth
(emphasis added). Another
JPL press release
highlighting cooperative observations by Deep Impact and the Spitzer Space Telescope
tried to describe the primordial soup from which comets form.
Then New Scientist
titled its report, Deep Impact collision ejected the stuff of life.
For goodness sake, comets have nothing to do
with life. They are not storks delivering little replicating biomolecules to the Earth, unless you
consider aromatic hydrocarbons, found in barbecue pits and automobile exhaust
the kind of ingredients you find promising. Using the L word (life) is a distraction
from the very real problems planetary scientists now face explaining the origin of
Controversy is the Fuel of Science, So Teach the Controversy, Educator Says
How did clay and carbonates form in frozen comets? is one
such problem asked by Dr. Carey Lisse (Johns Hopkins U). We dont know,
but their presence may imply that the primordial solar system was thoroughly mixed together,
allowing material formed near the Sun where water is liquid, and frozen material from
out by Uranus and Neptune, to be included in the same body. That suggestion
represents a big change in what was taught as fact about comets just a few years ago.
Its an act of desperation to need distant materials to mix in the same body for a
model of comet formation to work. The gap
between dont know and may imply is about 30 AU, or
2.8 billion miles. Its a little presumptuous to use Deep Impacts
puzzling data to be talking about how life formed
(see 08/23/2005) entry), wouldnt you say?
The BBC wins
Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week for its entries, Some experts say such
molecules could have kick-started life on Earth and
Under the pan-spermia idea, comets pounded the early Earth
billions of years ago, bringing organic molecules that reacted with
the Suns light and heat, creating a rich chemical soup within which life
began. If you like your soup diluted to a few parts per quintillion,
you might as well just be drinking water; shall we call this the homeopathic theory
of the origin of life? And if life can be kick-started, its
a machine, not a chance assemblage of molecules. Kick implies a kicker.
Start implies a program.
Next headline on:
Origin of Life
Journal published a response from Rebecca Keller after admitting misrepresenting her
position. She did not claim that intelligent design science is looking toward transcendent
beings, but rather is asking scientists to become willing to consider design inferences
when the data point in that direction. She clarified the intent of the new science
standards that include teach the controversy provisions, and explained why evolution is controversial.
It is understandable that people are concerned about the metaphysical implications; if there is
design then there must be a designer.
The only way to deal with a controversial subject such as evolution is to encourage
discussion about the issues. She formulates some sample questions:
But the basic trouble, and the underlying reason this controversy never ends, is
that evolution is a creation story; it has huge metaphysical implications no matter how it
is taught. How is it less religious or less controversial to teach
evolution as it is now, pretending that we somehow know that there is no design?
(Emphasis added in all quotes.)
If we are going to teach students about biological origins we need to help them understand
all the issues behind origins science, including evolution. Why is it controversial?
What worldview assumptions are behind it? Do we really know that life
was generated only by random processes of mutation and natural selection? What evidence
supports it, what evidence is against it?
Keller, a science textbook writer for
Gravitas Publications of Albuquerque,
has a PhD in chemistry of U of New Mexico. She defended intelligent design as
a scientific approach to judging evidence, but explained that both evolution and ID
have philosophical or religious implications. Since Darwinian evolution today is often presented
without the possibility of criticism or dialog, she argues, it amounts
to a secular religion, and the public recognizes it. Science should welcome
Not only should students learn that reasonable people disagree about the meaning and
interpretation of data, they should learn that scientists disagree, too. In fact,
disagreeing about how data should be interpreted is what scientists do. That is science.
The history of science illustrates that disagreements in science are the very thing that fuels scientific discovery.
On that basis, Keller defends the Rio Rancho school district science policy.
She portrays the New Mexico case as representative of what is being
proposed around the country.
Evolution as a secular creation story is already being preached from the classroom pulpit.
Teaching the controversy helps keep religion, of any flavor, out of the classroom.
This is another example of a cogent, well-written
letter. Maybe people who agree with her should ask the ACLU to prohibit the
Darwin-only dogma on the grounds of separation of church and state.
Bird Brains: No Evolutionary Pattern in Size
Keller makes a good case for the religious equivalence of the opposing
views, but a subtext evident in the argument religion, of any flavor must
be kept out of the classroom is that religion is inferior to science and
incapable of contributing to debates about the merits of scientific claims.
Perhaps some good follow-up questions would explore
the ability of evolutionary theory to make scientific truth claims about ultimate origins,
and the ability of theology to prescribe the limits of science or whether it
is even possible for an investigator to be unbiased in such matters.
Next headline on:
A scientist went looking for evolutionary patterns in bird brain size, but his chart
shows data all over the map. Fahad Sultan (U of Tuebingen, Germany) measured
brains in a wide variety of birds, and published his results in Current Biology.1
How does brain size and design influence the survival chances of a species?
A large brain may contribute to an individuals success irrespective of its detailed
composition. I have studied the size and shape of cerebella in birds and looked for links
between the birds cerebellar design, brain size and behavior. My results indicate that the
cerebellum in large-brained birds does not scale uniformly, but occurs in two designs.
Crows, parrots and woodpeckers show an enlargement of the cerebellar trigeminal and visual
parts, while owls show an enlargement of vestibular and tail somatosensory cerebellar regions,
likely related to their specialization as nocturnal raptors. The enlargement of specific
cerebellar regions in crows, parrots and woodpeckers may be related to their repertoire of
visually guided goal-directed beak behavior. This specialization may lead to an
increased active exploration and perception of the physical world, much as primates use of
their hands to explore their environment. The parallel specialization seen in some
birds and primates may point to the influence of a similar neuronal machine in
shaping selection during phylogeny.
(Emphasis added in all quotes.)
He measured the cerebellum (a a highly conserved part of the brain present in most vertebrates)
in birds as diverse as turkeys, owls, robins, buzzards, flamingos, crows, woodpeckers,
swifts, gulls, and lovebirds, and plotted them against body size to relate them to functional
or phylogenetic differences. One look at his chart, though, shows no
clear pattern, although similar birds cluster together in different parts of the chart.
But there are some wide differences that seem unexpected: pheasants and turkeys, for instance,
fall in different quadrants, as do phalaropes and gulls. The only statistically significant
groupings he could point to were the owls vs. the crows, parrots and woodpeckers, which he
attributed to functional differences in their lifestyles. Did he find any
evolutionary mechanism that would have led to these differences?
One unexpected observation was that in excellent flyers only the buzzard
scores positively, and that several birds with excellent flying capabilities like the
swift and falcon score negatively in the principal plane (Figure 1). This implies
that well-developed motor skills per se do not require a large cerebellum, contradicting
the common idea that cerebellar size increase in birds is mainly linked to their flying capabilities.
What could be the behavioral denominator common to crows, parrots and woodpeckers
that is not developed in owls? All of these birds also have large brains; however,
their cerebellar designs differ arguing against a simple co-enlargement model.
The enlargement of specific visual and beak-related cerebellar parts in crows, parrots
and woodpeckers fits well with their marked adeptness in using their beaks and/or tongues to
manipulate and explore external objects. Their skills are even comparable to those of primates
in using their hands. The tight temporal coupling between motor command, expected sensory
consequences and resulting afferents during visually guided hand and beak usage may be the
reason why these animals need large cerebella. The comparative analysis of
the birds cerebella reveals that some brains may have enlarged to solve similar problems by
similar means during phylogeny. Furthermore it shows that large brains have a specific architecture
with dedicated building blocks.
1Fahad Sultan, Why some bird brains are larger than others,
Volume 15, Issue 17, 6 September 2005, pages R649-R650, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2005.08.043.
Sultan uses the word phylogeny three times in
this short article. Anyone see any phylogeny here? His only observational,
scientific data are: (1) cerebellum size and structure, (2) body size, (3) functional
abilities of birds for flying and beak manipulation. The data points are all
over the map. While there are clusterings of similar bird types in some
quadrants, nothing in the data suggests any kind of evolutionary trend. Again,
evolutionary biology fails at mathematical formalism (see 08/19/2005
entry). (This exercise in futility harks back to Brocas detailed measurements
of skull size as a way of ranking humans.) The point is not that Sultans measurements are
worthless or uninteresting, but only that they are useless for propping up evolutionary theory.
Floored of the Rings: Cassini Baffles Scientists at Saturn
Add this to the growing list of Rudyard Darwins Just-So
Stories: Why some bird brains are larger than others. The short
answer is, they evolved that way because they needed to. Since a woodpecker
has to have quick information (tight temporal coupling between motor command,
expected sensory consequences and resulting afferents during visually guided ... beak
usage hows that for jargon), well wouldnt you know it,
this may be the reason why they need large cerebella.
Their need is evolutions command: some brains may have enlarged to solve
similar problems by similar means during phylogeny. So off Charlie sends
Tinker Bell with her mutation wand and a cheerful response for poor, slow-witted
Woody, One big, specialized brain, coming right up!
It must have worked, because Woody didnt die of starvation during
however many millions of years she took to get it right. Or, maybe Woody found
a way to revive vestigial genes (01/16/2003)
from some ancient ancestor:
Lignosaurus, the woodpecking dinosaur.
Next headline on:
For the past few months (02/28/2005), the
Cassini spacecraft has had a ringside seat
at Saturn, with high inclination orbits that have provided the best viewing angles
since orbit insertion last year (07/01/2004).
Cassini scored, as it soared around and around the horde of ring particles, and
poured its stored data toward waiting scientists at Earth. They werent bored.
News about the rings has just been announced by the American Astronomical
Society Planetary Sciences Division at their meetings at Cambridge. The
findings underscored a growing feeling that cannot be ignored: the rings are youthful and active.
The Cassini and
Cassini Imaging websites are good sources for the
latest images. See the Cassini
multimedia page for latest press images and images by category.
As the MSNBC article highlighted,
scientists are baffled by many of these findings. They show Saturns
rings to be highly dynamic, ephemeral structures that are undergoing rapid changes.
- D is for Detached: The D ring
shows dramatic changes since the Voyagers
flew by in 1981. Parts have detached and migrated 125 miles toward Saturn
It has also grown noticeably dimmer. See: MSNBC News.
- B is for Bumpy: Particles in the main B and A rings show a fluffy, airy
appearance rather than being hard like ice cubes. This was determined from infrared
thermal comparisons between lit and unlit sides of the rings, which showed a 15° K difference
Such a sharp thermal gradient implies that the particles spin slowly enough to cool off
when in shadow an unexpected result considering the density of particles and
high probability of collisions. See: BBC News
- A is for Animated: Ultraviolet measurements of the A ring revealed
clumps of material continually forming and reforming
- F is for Flimsy: The thin F-ring outside the main rings may be unstable
or ephemeral, claim Cassini scientists. They found an unexpected spiral band wrapping
around the planet (picture).
This spiral forms by a different mechanism
than the density waves and bending waves observed in the main rings
is apparently caused by small embedded moonlets
that pass through the dense parts of the F-ring and
pull material out, which follow spiral paths back to their resonant positions.
It is unusual for a moonlet to be able to exist at
this radial distance, near the Roche limit of Saturn, where tidal forces are strong enough to tear bodies
apart. See: New
Scientist and Science Daily.
- G is for Gossamer: The F and G rings contain particles the size of
dust or smoke. The tenuous G ring, just outside the F ring, was found to contain
a partial ring, or ring arc
similar to those found at Neptune. See:
- E is for Enceladus-Fed: It now appears fairly certain that at least
some of the E-ring particles are being supplied from eruptions at the south pole of
Enceladus (08/30/2005). See:
By scientific consensus now, Saturns rings
are young. If so, how could they survive for anywhere near the assumed age of
the solar system? Why should we be lucky enough to see them now,
when humans just happen to be around to observe them? These findings have not
dimmed such questions that were asked back in 1981, when Voyager 1 and 2 first provided
glimpses into the dynamic processes at work. Rather, they have put these
philosophical issues under the spotlight. If this were the only example of an
apparently young phenomenon in a hoary old solar system, it would be one thing, but...
Mars Joins Active Volcano Club
Next headline on:
Mars may join Earth and Jupiters moon Io in having active hot-lava volcanos,
says a report on BBC News.
A field of smooth volcanic cones near the north pole show no sign of impact craters or wind-blown
features, suggesting they could have erupted recently. If so, Mars could still
be geologically active.
At half the radius and one-fourth the volume of Earth,
Mars should have cooled much faster over assumed geologic time. Mars also lacks
tectonic plates. Yet both Mars, and possibly Venus, show evidence of recent
volcanic activity that could be ongoing now. Where is the evidence for billions
of years of slow cooling? These are not isolated cases. Cryovolcanic activity
has been observed on Enceladus and Titan, and is either extant or recent on Triton,
Europa and Ganymede. Many of the other moons, like Iapetus, Tethys, Miranda
and Ariel display youthful surface features. Earth, of course, has a highly dynamic surface.
The solar system looks much too lively to be an elderly 4.5 billion years old.
Men Arent Going Extinct Yet 09/03/2005
Next headline on:
Not long ago, evolutionary biologists were predicting the demise of manhood (see
03/31/2004). The idea was that the Y chromosome, with no
redundant copy (unlike the females two X chromosomes, and all others) appeared
to be shriveling up and mutating itself out of existence. Now that the chimpanzee
genome has been published (see 09/01/2005 story), one of
the many surprises that has come to light is that the human Y chromosome appears to
have kept its store of genetic information better than the chimps. Coupled with the discovery
that the male chromosome protects itself with palindromes
men seem to have a bright future ahead. That the Y chromosome of humans, having
emerged later than that of apes, should be in better condition than that of chimpanzees
seems an evolutionary conundrum.
Sources: MSNBC News,
Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
Another evolutionary speculation has been shot
down. Keep up the good work.
How Proteins Build Teeth Like Glass on a Mattress
Next headline on:
Heres something to chew on.
Tooth enamel is hard, like crystal, but is bound to dentin underneath, which is pliable,
like a mattress.
Your teeth can last a lifetime only because the ceramic-like enamel is cemented to a foundation
of softer dentin, and because both of these materials are built to the right hardness
specs so that the glass on the mattress doesnt shatter or come loose.
The construction of teeth is assisted by an unusual pair of proteins that are
coded by a single gene, reports EurekAlert
on work by USC dental researchers.
The gene for dentin sialophosphoprotein is
expressed into a single protein, which is subsequently split into two:
dentin sialoprotein (DSP) and dentin phosphoprotein (DPP). DSP goes to work in
dentin to help build the very important interface with enamel; DPP makes sure it is
the right hardness. The two proteins work in a coordinated way to ensure the tooth
is not too brittle or too chalky. The fine balance between DSP and DPP
highlights the delicacy of the critical dentin-enamel junction, the
article states. Dental researchers sometimes liken dentin and enamel to a
bed mattress and a glass plate, respectively, [Michael] Paine [lead author]
said, with the difference that the supple dentin-enamel junction prevents the enamel
from shattering over an individuals lifetime of chewing and grinding.
Something as simple as a tooth is really a marvel
when you consider how it is put together. Its amazing to find a
dual-purpose gene, for one thing. The cellular transcription machinery has to know that
this particular protein needs to be cleaved into two parts at the right time, and
at the right point in the chain. Then, these paired proteins
must work together in a delicate, choreographed balance, like a brickmason and
inspector, to be sure the critical junction between dentin and enamel comes out
just right without breaking, like glass on a mattress. How could that evolve?
Is Intelligent Design the New Cussword?
When you think of how long
teeth can last with good care (barring disease or trauma), they are truly
wonders of engineering. Not only that, their shapes are just right for their
functions (incisors, bicuspids, molars), and the uppers and lowers fit together.
In a very real sense, your mouth contains
a set of high-tech grinding tools. On top of everything else, theyre
pretty. Smile! the photographers say, asking us to pronounce whiskey or some
other word to get the teeth to show for the camera; those thirty white horses on a
red hill, as Bilbos riddle described them in
Clean, white, straight teeth are more handsome than stallions, more dazzling than
a string of pearls. Made of the hardest substance in biology, they are
arguably the most important and valuable crystals in the world. What would
you rather have: a set of diamonds, or a set of good teeth?
Evolutionists usually only talk about teeth in the coarsest sense
how they evolved from one animal to another, or how they might suggest some mythical
transitional form. You almost never
hear them attempting to explain the details such as how this important gene and the
two coordinated proteins it produces came
into existence by chance.* Bad philosophy leads to truth decay. Its
time for sensible people to help floss away the accumulated plaque of evolutionary
speculation that does nothing but cause flapping gums and intellectual halitosis.
Many Darwinists are also ingrates. They like to complain about wisdom teeth,
calling them vestigial or poorly designed,* but rarely do they express thanks for the ability
to chew that delicious steak or salad on the plate in front of them.
To whom would they give thanks, anyway?
Thats why Paul wrote that Gods wrath is against those who see His wisdom and
power in the things that are made, yet are not thankful
If you are celebrating Labor Day with a barbecue or special meal,
take a moment to thank God for your teeth. Another way to express gratitude
is to take good care of your tools and jewelry.
Next headline on:
*Dr. Jerry Bergman wrote a paper on the problems with tooth evolution
in the Creation
Research Society Quarterly June 2005 issue. Perhaps it will show up online
in the selected articles
section sometime soon; if so, it is well worth reading. Bergman is also co-author
of the book Vestigial
Organs Are Fully Functional, which discusses the function and design of wisdom
teeth. It may be that many of our problems with them are due to poor diet,
lack of breast feeding or accumulated mutations among certain people groups.
Why would evolution produce a smaller, more crowded jaw, anyway? What survival
advantage is that? When wisdom teeth erupt properly, they work well and
The phrase intelligent design is being bandied about everywhere.
Pro-Darwin scientists generally put it in quote marks with palpable derision; it has
practically sunk to the level of the older cussword, creationism.
Yet a groundswell of support for I.D. continues not only in America but in other countries.
Here are recent events, attacks and counterattacks about evolution, intelligent design and education:
- Aussie Glossy: The transcript of an Australian
Broadcasting Corporation story aired Aug. 30 featured proponents and opponents of the proposal to permit intelligent design
as an alternative to Darwinian evolution in public schools down under. The report was
interspersed with scenes from the ID film Unlocking
the Mystery of Life.
- Rusher Flusher: William Rusher, writing Aug. 31 in
thinks the label evolutionism is too nice. He thinks accidentalism
would be more appropriate. He finds irony in Darwinists referring to the Scopes Trial,
when this time it is they who are forbidding the competition to be taught.
- The Case Against I.D.: Karl Lembke in Opinion
Editorials defends the position that Darwinism (as he carefully defines it) is scientific,
and intelligent design is not. He insists that methodological naturalism is a rule of
science and claims evolution is falsifiable.
- Albuquerque Quirk: The school board is trying to come to a consensus on how
to teach science now that more and more students and parents are asking questions and complaining about
the Darwin-only policy. Rick Cole, New Mexico Science Teacher of the Year in 2001,
who elevated his high schools science fair from non-existent to award-winning status,
taught intelligent design alongside evolution for 11 years. He used the controversy to help his students learn to
think critically about the two positions, until a single phone call from an atheist brought
down an order from the department chairmen for him to stop.
- Big Guns: Big-time Darwin defenders Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne came out
swinging in The Guardian,
intent on stuffing intelligent design into the science trash can once and for all.
Claiming that there is no evidence in favor of intelligent design, but
massive evidence for evolution, they say, The weight of the evidence has
become so heavy that opposition to the fact of evolution is laughable to all who are
acquainted with even a fraction of the published data. Evolution is a fact: as much
a fact as plate tectonics or the heliocentric solar system.
Amidst this bluster, however, they did admit in some depth that there are
deep and serious debates between evolutionists that are genuinely challenging
such as neutral vs. adaptive selection, group selection, punctuated equilibrium,
cladism, evo-devo, the Cambrian explosion, mass extinctions, interspecies competition,
the relative roles of natural and sexual selection, the evolution of sex, evolutionary
psychology and Darwinian medicine yet they argue that I.D. is not an argument
of the same character as these controversies because it is religious, not scientific.
David Berlinski, as usual, was quite amused by all this. He wrote to
inviting people to read Coyne and Dawkins diatribe, endeavoring not to laugh, chortle, snicker, hoot or whistle,
which he claimed could not be done. He was gratified to see them finally admitting
that Darwinian theories are simply riddled with problems for which Darwinian theories have no answers,
as critics have been saying for years. The list of problems that Coyne and Dawkins
have produced could be extended far into the night, Berlinski says, but its
a good beginning. That they use the deficiencies of Darwinian theory to argue against
ID is an added pleasure.
- Spectator Sport: Paul Johnson in The Spectator
wrote a correspondingly vicious attack against the evolutionists, especially Richard Dawkins,
who he called the ayatollah of atheism. He senses a groundswell of discontent
at this intellectual totalitarianism and predicts its collapse: The likelihood that
Darwins eventual debacle will be sensational and brutal is increased by the arrogance
of his acolytes, by their insistence on the unchallengeable truth of the theory of natural selection
which to them is not a hypothesis but a demonstrated fact, and its critics mere flat-earthers
and by their success in occupying the commanding heights in the university science departments
and the scientific journals, denying a hearing to anyone who disagrees with them.
Case in point: Iowa State, where
Institute says the thought cops and inquisitors are leading
a crusade against astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez (08/30/2005).
- Red Blog: Homunculus is trying to get a debate going on ID on the
Rob Crowther on EvolutionNews was glad he got the
definitions right, but suspects he will be inundated by rabid Darwinists irked by such an insightful post.
- Dont Teach the Controversy: John Derbyshire on
votes against teaching the controversy over Darwinism. To him, Darwinism is accepted
science and ID is not. Plenty of good scientists are religious people, he agrees,
and so are some Darwinists.
- Ho-Hum, Old Stuff: Alan Cutler reviewed Before Darwin: Reconciling
God and Nature by Keith Thomson (Yale, 2005) in Science1 and treated the design-vs-naturalism
debate like its as hoary as the hills. He pointed out that the question in Robert
Boyles time was not whether science and God could be reconciled;
It was whether science and atheism could be reconciled, and the answer seemed to be a definitive no.
By popular consent now, though, Darwin settled the question once and for all; According to Thomson, it was
principally Darwins theory that, by removing the necessity of a designer, doomed natural theology.
Interestingly, Cutler cut down natural theology not as much for its scientific arguments as for its theology.
In his opinion, William Paleys divine watchmaker is little more than a compassionless technocrat
Natural theologians had long been criticized for emphasizing God the Creator over God the Redeemer.
Paleys book nowhere mentions Jesus. When Darwin grieved over the death of his beloved daughter at the age of ten,
Paleys watchmaker God was cold comfort at best. It was this, as much as any
intellectual argument, that undermined Darwins Christian faith.
Natural theologys theology was ultimately as unsatisfying as its science.
(Emphasis added in all quotes.)
(See 09/01/2005 commentary.) When Thomson devoted a mere few
pages to the current intelligent design controversy, Cutler dismissively remarked, This is enough.
The answers to their arguments are basically the same as the answers to Paleys.
- Dumb design: In a short piece on the evolutionary water-to-land transition,
Science Now used the
phrase intelligent design as a Darwinian counterthrust. Robert Carroll described
the awkward stance of presumed primitive tetrapod Ichthyostega: Its not a very intelligent
design, he chuckled. (For more on Ichthyostega and the evolution of tetrapods,
see Evolution of the Darwin Fish, 08/09/2003.)
- Friendship Evo-evangelism: Science editor2 Don Kennedy liked the movie March
of the Penguins (08/19/2005) so much, he thinks
it could provide a teachable moment for Darwinist evangelists to use on the ignorant:
By all means see March of the Penguins.
Better still, you can accomplish a good work by inviting an advocate for intelligent design
to accompany you. After the show, buy him or her a beer, and ask for an explanation of
just what the Designer had in mind here. If that advocate were Paul Nelson,
undoubtedly he would have a counter-question ready in response, as he hands Kennedy a Diet Coke.
1Alan Cutler, Science and Religion: 200 Years of Accommodation,
Vol 309, Issue 5740, 1493-1494 , 2 September 2005, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1116362].
2Donald Kennedy, Emperors on the Ice,
Vol 309, Issue 5740, 1494 , 2 September 2005, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1118709].
OK, were going to do the Darwin Party a favor,
and list all their talking points as bullets. Readers are invited to print these
out alongside our Baloney Detector and exercise their critical
Chimpanzee Fossil Upsets Early Man Speciation Theory 09/01/2005
Parents and teachers may wish to print this list in one column, and the types of propaganda tactics,
logical fallacies and smokescreens from the Baloney Detector in
another column, and have students draw lines connecting them (multiple lines per item
are permitted). Or, they can make a game of the exercise, like
a Scavenger Hunt the student who reads Dawkins article and finds the most
big lies wins. Suggested prize: [root] beer.
- Evolution is a fact.
- Evolution is science.
- Creationism is religion.
- Intelligent design is just creationism in disguise.
- ID refers to the supernatural, which is disallowed in science.
- Evolution is comparable to the law of gravity.
- Intelligent Design is comparable to alchemy and belief in a flat earth.
- Evolution is supported by massive amounts of evidence.
- ID has no evidence.
- Science must be naturalistic by definition.
- ID only finds fault with evolution and has no answers of its own.
- Evolution promotes fruitful research.
- ID brings science to a halt by saying God did it.
- ID is just another god-of-the-gaps non-answer.
- Evolution employs natural laws, not miracles.
- Evolution has been highly successful in explaining living things.
- Evolution helps us understand medicine.
- Evolutionists will solve their problems given enough time (and funding).
- Nothing in biology makes sense apart from evolution.
- ID advocates are religiously motivated.
- The principle of separation of church and state precludes ID being taught.
- ID is unconstitutional, and the Supreme Court said so.
- ID can be taught in religion, history and sociology classes, but not in science class.
- Teaching the controversy is just as dangerous as teaching creationism.
- There is no controversy over evolution among scientists.
- Evolutionists are motivated only by love of the truth.
- Teaching ID would require teaching every cultures creation myth equally.
- Allowing alternatives to evolution is like allowing Holocaust-deniers to have equal time in history class.
- Evolution is falsifiable.
- ID is not falsifiable.
- Evolution does not need to explain the origin of life.
- Evolution does not need to explain the origin of the universe.
- ID needs to answer the question, who designed the Designer?
- ID is a disingenuous euphemism (Dawkins) for religious advocacy.
- Educators and politicians must not give in to the pressure from the ID zealots.
Next headline on:
Paleontologists need no longer lament the complete dearth of chimpanzee fossils. Nature
announced the discovery of the first fossil chimpanzee teeth. The location,
however the Great Rift Valley in Africa was unexpected. The
discoverers, Sally McBrearty and Nina G. Jablonski,1 explain:
There are thousands of fossils of hominins, but no fossil chimpanzee has yet been
reported. The chimpanzee (Pan) is the closest living relative to humans.
Chimpanzee populations today are confined to wooded West and central Africa, whereas most
hominin fossil sites occur in the semi-arid East African Rift Valley.
This situation has fuelled speculation regarding causes for the divergence
of the human and chimpanzee lineages five to eight million years ago.
Some investigators have invoked a shift from wooded to savannah vegetation in
East Africa, driven by climate change, to explain the apparent separation
between chimpanzee and human ancestral populations and the origin of the unique
hominin locomotor adaptation, bipedalism. The Rift Valley itself functions
as an obstacle to chimpanzee occupation in some scenarios.
Here we report the first fossil chimpanzee. These fossils, from the
Kapthurin Formation, Kenya, show that representatives of Pan were present
in the East African Rift Valley during the Middle Pleistocene, where they were
contemporary with an extinct species of Homo. Habitats
suitable for both hominins and chimpanzees were clearly present there during this
period, and the Rift Valley did not present an impenetrable barrier to chimpanzee
(Emphasis added in all quotes.)
The teeth, estimated by radiometric methods to be around 500,000 years old,
were found within 1 kilometer of a hominid fossil site. This should not
be surprising, since scientists believe chimpanzees ranged over a much wider area
than the past; their restricted habitats today are due partly to pressure from
human occupation. The area where the three chimp teeth were found has revealed
fossils of many other large and small mammals, including monkeys. The authors
explain what this means to evolutionary theory:
This evidence shows that in the past chimpanzees occupied regions in which the only
hominoid inhabitants were thought to have been members of the human lineage.
Now that chimpanzees are known to form a component of the Middle Pleistocene
fauna in the Rift Valley, it is quite possible that they remain to be recognized
in other portions of the fossil record there, and that chimpanzees and hominins
have been sympatric since the time of their divergence.
By sympatric, they mean that the lineages diverged in proximity, without being geographically
isolated (allopatric). Sympatric speciation was until recently viewed as heretical (see
01/15/2003 entry); now, paleoanthropologists will
have to come up with new ideas for why humans diverged from the great apes, given that
they apparently shared the same habitat.
See also News@Nature,
BBC News, and
1McBrearty and Jablonski, First fossil chimpanzee,
437, 105-108 (1 September 2005) | doi: 10.1038/nature04008.
Part of the reason none have been found in this area
before is that paleoanthropologists were not looking for them. McBrearty said
that now we know they are there, researchers will start looking for them,
implying that the favorite story of human divergence through migration to the grasslands
blinded their eyes to the possible presence of chimpanzee fossils in the Great Rift
Valley. Since this was the hotbed of hominid bones that made the Leakeys famous,
hunters wanted missing links, not existing species of chimpanzees.
Chimpanzee Genome Published: Is There a Monkey in Your Genes?
This announcement will not frustrate Darwinists very much. They actually
enjoy new twists to the plot of their favorite story. Maybe some will say the
Homo neighbors brought the chimp back from a hunt in the jungle and had it
for dinner, spitting out the teeth. Most likely this will give a temporary
boost to the internecine heresy of sympatric speciation, but it will be harder to
come up with a reason why Pan and Homo diverged so much if they lived
in the same vicinity. Maybe it will also revive the simplistic Larry King question,
If we evolved from apes, why are there still apes? The answer is,
of course, that some of them had a choice.
Sharp minds will notice that there is no evolutionary evidence
here. The Homo fossils were described in the BBC piece as probably an advanced
form of Homo erectus, whatever that vague category means (see
07/03/2004 entry). They
looked like people and were a fairly sophisticated culture with various stone
tools and lived in the same environment as humans. If they looked like people and
and acted like people, why even differentiate them from people? There are
Homo sapiens sapiens today that share that same habitat and match that same description right
now. People come in a variety of sizes and shapes, but are all one species of people.
Whats evolution got to do with it?
Next headline on:
Natures cover story September 1 is about the publication of the chimpanzee genome.
Evolutionists are digging through the data for evidence of human common ancestry.
Have they found it? The results, as usual, are mixed:
MSNBC News states the situation concisely:
Genome comparison reveals many similarities and crucial differences.
Here is the gist of seven articles and papers about the chimpanzee genome from Nature,
with additional references to popular reports:
Its interesting to notice how the news media differ on the emphasis given to
these stories. Some, like the BBC
News focus on parts of the two genomes that are 99% identical, while minimizing
the few differences. Others, like
MSNBC, mention many similarities and crucial
differences up front. One EurekAlert
entry emphasizes right in the title the big differences in segmental duplications.
piece gives examples of the dramatic genome alterations during primate evolution.
Geographic, though, shamelessly emphasized the similarities, practically venerating Darwin while
putting humans in the chimp cage
(08/29/2005) with this quote from a primate scientist at Emory University:
Darwin wasnt just provocative in saying that we descend from the apeshe didnt
go far enough. We are apes in every way, from our long arms and tailless bodies to our habits and temperament.
And that, many would say, qualifies for Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week.
- Introduction: Chris Gunter and Ritu Dhand, The Chimpanzee Genome,
Nature 437, 47 (1 September 2005) | doi: 10.1038/436047a.
Comparing the genetic code of humans and chimps will allow us to comb through each
gene or regulatory region to find single changes that might have made a difference in evolution,
they say, but remind us that the oft-quoted 96%-similar-gene figure between chimps and humans must be
seen in context: At a conservative estimate we share about 88% of our genes with
rodents and 60% with chickens. Applying a more liberal definition of similarity, up
to 80% of the sea-squirts genes are found in humans in some form. So its
no surprise that we are still asking, What makes us human?
- Overview: Wen-Hsiung Li and Matthew A. Saunders, The chimpanzee and us,
437, 50-51 (1 September 2005) | doi: 10.1038/437050a.
After summarizing statistical similarities and differences in genes of chimps and humans,
this article hastens to remind readers that a clear picture of evolution does not jump out of the mass of data.
The question of what genetic changes make us human is far more complex. Although the two genomes are very similar, there are about 35 million nucleotide differences, 5 million indels and many chromosomal rearrangements to take into account. Most of these changes will have no significant biological effect, so identification of the genomic differences underlying such characteristics of humanness as large cranial capacity, bipedalism and advanced brain development remains a daunting task.
(Emphasis added in all quotes.)
- Chimp Culture: Andrew Whiten, The second inheritance system of chimpanzees and humans,
437, 52-55 (1 September 2005) | doi: 10.1038/nature04023.
A primate psychologist in Scotland, Andrew Whiten presents an overview of a study parallel the genome project,
the attempt to understand chimpanzee culture and social inheritance. He highlights a key difference:
Ape culture may be particularly complex among non-human animals, yet it clearly falls far short of human culture.
An influential contemporary view is that the key difference lies in the human capacity for cumulative culture,
whereby the achievements of successive generations have built on previous developments to create complex
structures such as languages and technologies. Chimpanzees have accumulated many traditions,
but each remains sufficiently simple that there is little scope for it to have developed significant complexity
compared to its original form. Hints of cumulation exist, such as the refinement of using prop stones to
stabilize stone anvils during nut-cracking, but these remain primitive and fleeting by human standards.
One possible explanation that has been offered for this human-chimpanzee difference lies in the social learning mechanisms
available to each species, an issue that new genetic approaches based on the complete chimpanzee genome sequence
may help to unravel.
Actual studies of chimp social behavior are relatively recent. Whatever the differences,
Whiten seems to never doubt they are matters of degree, not kind.
- Chimp Psychology: Marc Hauser, Our chimpanzee mind,
437, 60-63 (1 September 2005) | doi: 10.1038/nature03917.
Marc Hauser (evolutionary psychologist, Harvard) is quick to justify his
preposterous title, imagining the rage of
Bishop Wilberforce at the suggestion humans have a developed chimpanzee mind.
He means to say that the entire animal kingdom shares mental relatedness:
....the bottom line at present is that for each psychological capacity explored,
some other animal shares this ability with chimpanzees. The reason why chimpanzees may be
uniquely placed to enlighten human origins is due both to their phylogenetic proximity to humans
as well as the extent to which they have accumulated a suite of psychological abilities
in the service of solving social and ecological problems that were largely shared
with those faced by our hominid hunter-gatherers.
Based on observations of chimps, Hauser thinks humans share two things with chimpanzee mental powers:
folk mathematics and folk psychology. In his conclusion, he says,
At the genetic level, the publication of the chimpanzee genome will lead to increased
capacity to pinpoint homologies. However, we are woefully ignorant about how genes build brains,
and how the electrical activity of the brain builds thoughts and emotions,
although the situation is more promising than it was five years ago, owing to the convergence of
three disciplines: comparative genomics, animal psychology and developmental neuropsychology.
The gap between genomics and psychology is shrinking, he is thinking.
- Brain Evolution: Robert Sean Hill and Christopher A. Walsh, Molecular insights into human brain evolution,
437, 64-67 (1 September 2005) | doi: 10.1038/nature04103.
Noting that the human brain is twice the size of the chimp brain, Hill and Walsh attempt to
explain the difference by evolutionary mechanisms. The addition of whole new genes lacks
support, but there appears to be evidence for changes in gene regulation or coding sequence.
Most studies focus on what goes wrong when a gene is mutated. Anomalies in the FOXP2
gene, for instance, cause language disabilities in humans, and chimps and other animals exhibit
sequence differences in that gene. This, they feel, is evidence for positive selection
toward language capability. They admit, however, that linkage of studies of gene
function in humans with evolutionary analysis is just beginning, and much work remains
to be done.
- Chimp Genome: The Chimpanzee Sequencing and Analysis Consortium, Initial sequence
of the chimpanzee genome and comparison with the human genome,
437, 69-87 (1 September 2005) | doi: 10.1038/nature04072.
Here is the bulk of the genome report. They start with Darwin:
More than a century ago Darwin and Huxley posited that humans share recent common
ancestors with the African great apes. Modern molecular studies have spectacularly confirmed
this prediction and have refined the relationships, showing that the common chimpanzee
(Pan troglodytes) and bonobo (Pan paniscus or pygmy chimpanzee) are our closest living
evolutionary relatives. Chimpanzees are thus especially suited to teach us about ourselves,
both in terms of their similarities and differences with human. For example, Goodalls pioneering
studies on the common chimpanzee revealed startling behavioural similarities such as tool use
and group aggression. By contrast, other features are obviously specific to humans,
including habitual bipedality, a greatly enlarged brain and complex language.
Important similarities and differences have also been noted for the incidence and severity of several major human diseases.
The report highlights similarities but also large and surprising differences (summarized in #2, above).
Many of the differences occur in non-gene-coding regions. Some sequence differences appear too great
to have arisen by mutations since the time humans are said to have diverged from chimpanzees,
considering that most mutations would be deleterious or, at best, neutral; in fact, it appears
that mutation rates would have had to vary widely from gene to gene. They indicate evidence
for selective sweeps in the human lineage, in which all humans share mutations that have
become fixed. In short, Our results confirm
many earlier observations, but notably challenge some previous claims based on more limited data.
Their ending discussion asks the same question posed in the introduction, and reminds us that not all differences
between species can be explained by genetic sequence differences:
The hardest such question is: what makes us human? The challenge lies in the
fact that most evolutionary change is due to neutral drift. Adaptive
changes comprise only a small minority of the total genetic variation between two species.
As a result, the extent of phenotypic variation between organisms is not strictly related to the
degree of sequence variation. For example, gross phenotypic variation between
human and chimpanzee is much greater than between the mouse species Mus musculus
and Mus spretus, although the sequence difference in the two cases is similar.
On the other hand, dogs show considerable phenotypic variation despite having little
overall sequence variation (0.15%). Genomic comparison markedly narrows the search for
the functionally important differences between species, but specific biological insights will
be needed to sift the still-large list of candidates to separate adaptive changes from neutral background.
- Comparison Study: Ze Cheng et al., A genome-wide comparison of
recent chimpanzee and human segmental duplications,
437, 88-93 (1 September 2005) | doi: 10.1038/nature04000.
A third of apparent segmental duplications in the human genome (defined by more than 94% sequence
identity) are not found in the chimp genome. This team compared the two genomes, and figured
that this required a duplication rate of 4 to 5 million bases per million years since humans and
chimps parted evolutionary ways. Most of the changes, surprisingly, deal with chromosome
structure. No clear picture emerges for how or why these differences arose:
It is unknown whether slow rates of deletion, high rates of duplication or gene conversion
are largely responsible for the evolutionary maintenance of these duplicates.
A surprising conclusion is that when compared to single-base-pair differences, which account
for 1.2% genetic difference, base per base, large segmental duplication events have had a greater
impact (2.7%) in altering the genomic landscape of these two species.
Data are gems. The critique that follows is in no way
a criticism of the valiant effort to sequence the chimp genome, the human genome, or any other
genome. Like dreams, speculations inhabit the sleep of data darkness. Data
make a good alarm clock to jolt visionaries out of their slumbers and remind them
its time to go to work.
You can see how the same data can motivate vastly different interpretations,
depending on ones world view. The evolutionists are grasping at the similarities,
while the creationists are emphasizing the differences. One thing stands out of these
reports: the data are so complex and convoluted, anyone can spin the story almost any way
they want. Yes, there are phenomenal similarities, but there are also profound
differences. There are so many differences, in fact, that it stretches credulity to
believe that millions upon millions of base pair substitutions and segmental duplications
could have occurred in the time assumed by evolutionists that humans and chimps went
their separate ways (see Alan
Greys blog thoughts on this). Clearly there is no clear discernible evolutionary trail
linking the two as evolutionists had hoped. That being the case, keep in mind
several key points before going data mining:
These points challenge the Darwinian story, but creationists have a challenge, too, to
explain the similarities. Some evolutionists are convinced this is a crippling blow to
creationism, and establishes evolution as the only explanation (despite their own
challenges). Really? Lets attempt a creationist
explanation of the similarities between the human and chimpanzee genomes, because clearly
the vast majority of the DNA is essentially identical. First off, lest we overplay
these similarities, remember that both human and chimp genomes share many commonalities with mice and even
with sea squirts, worms and chickens. The whole living world is built on the same
genetic code and basic toolkit. But why would a Creator make things similar, especially
humans, who were supposedly created to be the stewards of the earth?
- Epigenetics: Genes cannot be telling the whole story. Theres a lot
more going on to make us human than just DNA. If two mice species that look similar
have just as much genetic difference (4%) as humans and chimps, and if dogs, from great danes to chihuahuas, have
far less genetic difference (0.15%), then clearly phenotypic difference (outward appearance) is not a linear
function of genotypic distance. Mining just the genome for explanations is an exercise in
- Inconsequential Differences: Why should genes differ so widely that are
only concerned with chromosome structure? Why should there be so many segmented
duplication differences, and neutral differences? Evolutionists wanted
to find clear evidence of positive selection leading to upright posture, language and
culture. Although such studies are just beginning, they only have a paltry few to
suggest so far, and those are ambiguous. They admit that the picture looks far more complex than expected.
- Phenotypic Revolutions: Humans exhibit several profound anatomical differences shared
by no other primate: upright posture, ability to do long-distance running (11/18/2004),
naked skin with thermoregulatory function, prolonged maturation, vocal apparatus suited for
language, a very large brain relative to body size, and much more. Could this much
interrelated change occur by undirected, accidental mutations over a few short
millions of years? Consider just all the bodily adaptations for endurance running mentioned
in the highly-informative and interesting 11/18/2004 story.
It would seem that mutations to multiple systems would have had to conspire together for the
end result of producing a marathon runner but where is the evidence for strong positive
selection in the DNA? This underscores the point that genomics cannot provide a full answer.
- Social Revolutions: Despite the antics about chimpanzee culture and mind,
there is really no comparison with humans. Take a luxury cruise, enter a national
research laboratory, go to the symphony, fly a supersonic jet, run an advanced software
program, carry on a discussion about algebra, read a philosophy book then watch chimps screech
and groom and break nuts with a rock. Impressed? Can such profound differences
be accounted for by segmented duplications, ALU repeats and base substitutions alone?
A good first reply to a why? question is to ask: why not?
A wise king doesnt send a complete foreigner as ambassador, but chooses one from
among their own. The Old Testament prophets, too, were men, not angels or aliens
in spaceships. Even the Lord God incarnate was born of a woman, laid in a manger
as a human baby. He grew up to live, eat, sleep, and speak as fully man though,
according to Hebrews 1:1-2, he was an exact representation of Gods divine nature.
It is a non-sequitur to assume that humans,
in order to serve a special God-given role in the world, must be completely genetically
distinct from other living organisms in their embassy.
Human beings, in the image of God, have to inhabit the same biosphere with chimps. We are
creatures as much as they are. We breathe the same air, require the same bodily
functions, eat much of the same food (e.g., bananas), have the same senses and share
the same world. Evolutionists often knock down a straw
man by insisting that a divine Creator would have created every species separately
and distinct from each other one. Why so? If a protozoan needs a peptidyl
transferase enzyme, why should the human analog be utterly and completely different,
designed de novo from scratch out of other materials? Why would it not be a
good design feature to provide redundancy of basic functions and
parts, like subroutines and modules of a complex software suite, mixed and matched for
a variety of environments and purposes? Homology does
not prove common ancestry without first assuming it does a circular
argument, as Jonathan Wells demonstrates in his book
Icons of Evolution
(see Homology for Dummies, 05/05/2004).
The nested hierarchy of animal forms, resulting in similarities and differences between
groups at all levels, can be employed as an argument for design.
In his thought-provoking book The Biotic Message, Walter ReMine argues that there
is enough commonality to falsify polytheism, but enough difference to falsify evolution.
Look at the new data for a moment through Biblical creation glasses. This is
nearly impossible for Darwinists, and for those steeped in Darwinian education,
it requires a painful removal of many ingrained assumptions. In the beginning, God
created a perfect world, filled with animals and plants made to reproduce after their
kind. This does not imply fixity of species, because God would have programmed
in variability for robustness against perturbations (see 03/14/2005,
01/26/2005 and 09/22/2004 entries).
Nor does it predict a lack of similarity, because everything came from a common
designer. The creation of man by the hand of God from the dust of the ground does not imply
utter and complete distinction from chimpanzees because its not
the raw materials that made Adam and Eve distinct, but the genetic program
the intelligent design that organized the material into the human form.
This program evidently shared many if not most of the subroutines and modules
God previously used in apes, mice and sea squirts.
Then, God breathed into the mans nostrils the breath of life,
and man became a living soul. This is fodder for theologians, not biologists,
but most certainly included the spiritual, social, emotional, moral, lingual and intellectual
faculties that so distinguish humans from all other animals: we alone were made in
the image of God. We are, as Wernher von Braun
worded it, souls cast in
animal bodies. Our physical, material nature had much in common
with the animal world, but the human pair alone walked and talked with God in the
original very good creation. But thats not the whole story.
The world was cursed when man sinned. The fall is critical to
the creation explanation. Darwin lost his faith in Christianity primarily from
two things: (1) Lyells persuasion that the earth was millions of years old, too
old for Genesis, and (2) the problem of evil. Natural theology was strong in
the early 1800s. Powerful as its arguments were, it had no answer to the suffering
and evil we see in the world around us. Darwinists gleefully knock down the
straw god of the beneficent artificer deity by pointing
to evil and suffering, when the Bible presents a God of wrath who judges sin and
punishes disobedience but then offers salvation to the rebels through his own
grace. Only the Biblical picture of creation, fall and redemption gives a logically self-consistent picture
of why the world is both beautiful and ugly, both sublime and painful. (The Darwinians
solve the problem by denying the existence of evil whatever is, is right
but our consciences know better.) Theres still more to the creation explanation.
A world-wide Flood happened. The antediluvian world, cursed and
decaying, endured possibly thousands of years of human violence and genetic decay. Humans and
many other animals could have varied substantially and, while living in the same
times and places, experienced the same genetic pressures and changes. Then, only 8
human representatives and 2 of each animal survived the Deluge aboard the Ark.
This would have resulted in genetic sweeps and bottlenecks and, again, subjected the
animals to similar gene-altering pressures. After the Flood, a vastly
different environment opened up to the survivors. They have undergone additional variation
and genomic pressures ever since. The varieties of finches, hummingbirds,
dogs, cats and human races did not require millions of years, only
thousands. These changes are (1) conservative, to maintain the species, and
(2) horizontal, not adding new genetic information but just shuffling what was
already present (more or less melanin, more or less fur, longer or shorter beaks on
birds, accentuated markings on insect wings, etc.). Since dispersal was not
uniform, the differences between created kinds (not species, but groups able
to vary within limits) led to the biogeographical differences seen today, including
those on the Galápagos Islands that so impressed Darwin.
Whether you find this account plausible depends on many presuppositions
you trust. It does have two forensic advantages over the evolution just-so storytelling method, though:
(1) sufficient causal agency (intelligence) for the spectacular complexity observed in the genomes
and (2) an eyewitness testimony (by the Creator himself). In challenging Darwinists,
we cannot stress that first point enough (they ignore the second one, but cannot
ignore the first). Evolutionists play marbles with diamonds when playing their
storytelling games with genes and DNA. The human and chimp genomes,
and all others, are incredibly, stupendously complex, such that we should
humbly stand in awe of these evidences of intelligent design. Remember the
complexity of a nose (06/27/2005), or a tiny roundworm
(06/25/2005) or fruit fly? (12/08/2003).
If even Richard Dawkins is stupefied by the wonders around him
(09/12/2004), it would seem that building on a
foundation of intelligent design at least, if not (better) trusting the Word of
the designer, is the best starting point for interpreting any vast library
Press for an initial creationist response to announcements about the chimp genome by Dr. Brad Harrub, co-author
Truth About Human Origins (2003, 526pp).
Next headline on:
Scientist of the Month
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|Guide to Evolutionary Theory
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to previous material as well as the links to the quoted
research. I've been in head-to-head debate with a
materialist for over a year now. Evolution is just one of
those debates. Your site is among others that have been a
real help in expanding my understanding.
(a software engineer in Pennsylvania)
I was in the April 28, 2005 issue of Nature [see 04/27/2005
story] regarding the rise of intelligent design in the universities. It was through your website
that I began my journey out of the crisis of faith which was mentioned in that article. It was an honor to see you all highlighting the article in Nature. Thank you for all you have done!
(Salvador Cordova, George Mason University)
I shudder to think of the many ways in which you mislead readers, encouraging them to build a faith based on misunderstanding and ignorance. Why dont you allow people to have a faith that is grounded in a fuller understanding of the world?...
Your website is a sham.
(a co-author of the paper reviewed in the 12/03/2003
entry who did not appreciate the unflattering commentary. This led to a cordial
interchange, but he could not divorce his reasoning from the science vs. faith dichotomy,
and resulted in an impasse over definitions but, at least, a more mutually respectful dialogue.
He never did explain how his paper supported Darwinian macroevolution. He just claimed
evolution is a fact.)
I absolutely love creation-evolution news. As a Finnish university student very
interested in science, I frequent your site to find out about all the new science
stuff thats been happening you have such a knack for finding all this
information! I have been able to stump evolutionists with knowledge gleaned from
your site many times.
(a student in Finland)
I love your site and read it almost every day. I use it for my science class and
5th grade Sunday School class. I also challenge Middle Schoolers and High Schoolers to
get on the site to check out articles against the baloney they are taught in school.
(a teacher in Los Gatos, CA)
I have spent quite a few hours at Creation Evolution Headlines in the past week
or so going over every article in the archives. I thank you for such an informative
and enjoyable site. I will be visiting often and will share this link with others.
[Later] I am back to May 2004 in the archives. I figured I should be farther
back, but there is a ton of information to digest.
(a computer game designer in Colorado)
The IDEA Center also highly recommends visiting Creation-Evolution Headlines...
the most expansive and clearly written origins news website on the internet!
(endorsement on Intelligent Design and Evolution
Check out this site: www.creationsafaris.com.
This is a fantastic resource for the whole family.... a fantastic reference library with summaries,
commentaries and great links that are added to
dailyarchives go back five years.
(a reader who found us in Georgia)
I just wanted to drop you a note telling you that at www.BornAgainRadio.com,
Ive added a link to your excellent Creation-Evolution news site.
(a radio announcer)
I cannot understand
why anyone would invest so much time and effort to a website of sophistry and casuistry.
Why twist Christian apology into an illogic pretzel to placate your intellect?
Isnt it easier to admit that your faith has no basis -- hence, faith.
It would be extricate [sic] yourself from intellectual dishonesty -- and
from bearing false witness.
Sincerely, Rev. [name withheld] (an ex-Catholic, apostate Christian Natural/Scientific pantheist)
Just wanted to let you folks know that we are consistent readers and truly appreciate
the job you are doing. God bless you all this coming New Year.
(from two prominent creation researchers/writers in Oregon)
Thanks so much for your site! It is brain candy!
(a reader in North Carolina)
I Love your site probably a little too much. I enjoy the commentary
and the links to the original articles.
(a civil engineer in New York)
Ive had your Creation/Evolution Headlines site on my favourites list for
18 months now, and I can truthfully say that its one of the best on the Internet,
and I check in several times a week. The constant stream of new information on
such a variety of science issues should impress anyone, but the rigorous and
humourous way that every thought is taken captive is inspiring. Im pleased
that some Christians, and indeed, some webmasters, are devoting themselves to
producing real content that leaves the reader in a better state than when they found him.
(a community safety manager in England)
I really appreciate the effort that you are making to provide the public with
information about the problems with the General Theory of Evolution. It gives me
ammunition when I discuss evolution in my classroom. I am tired of the evolutionary
dogma. I wish that more people would stand up against such ridiculous beliefs.
(a science teacher in Alabama)
If you choose to hold an opinion that flies in the face of every piece of evidence
collected so far, you cannot be suprised [sic] when people dismiss your views.
(a former Christian software distributor, location not disclosed)
...the Creation Headlines is the best. Visiting your site...
is a standard part of my startup procedures every morning.
(a retired Air Force Chaplain)
I LOVE your site and respect the time and work you put into it. I read
the latest just about EVERY night before bed and send selection[s] out to others and
tell others about it. I thank you very much and keep up the good work (and
(a USF grad in biology)
Answering your invitation for thoughts on your site is not difficult because
of the excellent commentary I find. Because of the breadth and depth of erudition
apparent in the commentaries, I hope Im not being presumptuous in suspecting
the existence of contributions from a Truth Underground comprised of
dissident college faculty, teachers, scientists, and engineers. If thats
not the case, then it is surely a potential only waiting to be realized. Regardless,
I remain in awe of the care taken in decomposing the evolutionary cant that bombards
us from the specialist as well as popular press.
(a mathematician/physicist in Arizona)
Im from Quebec, Canada. I have studied in pure sciences and after in actuarial mathematics.
Im visiting this site 3-4 times in a week. Im learning a lot and this site gives me the opportunity to realize that this is a good time to be a creationist!
(a French Canadian reader)
I LOVE your Creation Safari site, and the Baloney Detector material.
(a reader in the Air Force)
You have a unique position in the Origins community.
Congratulations on the best current affairs news source on the origins net.
You may be able to write fast but your logic is fun to work through.
(a pediatrician in California)
Visit your site almost daily and find it very informative, educational and inspiring.
(a reader in western Canada)
I wish to thank you for the information you extend every day on your site.
It is truly a blessing!
(a reader in North Carolina)
I really appreciate your efforts in posting to this website. I find
it an incredibly useful way to keep up with recent research (I also check science
news daily) and also to research particular topics.
(an IT consultant from Brisbane, Australia)
I would just like to say very good job with the work done here,
very comprehensive. I check your site every day. Its great
to see real science directly on the front lines, toe to toe with the
pseudoscience that's mindlessly spewed from the prestigious
(a biology student in Illinois)
Ive been checking in for a long time but thought Id leave you a
note, this time. Your writing on these complex topics is insightful,
informative with just the right amount of humor. I appreciate the hard
work that goes into monitoring the research from so many sources and then
writing intelligently about them.
(an investment banker in California)
Keep up the great work. You are giving a whole army of Christians
plenty of ammunition to come out of the closet (everyone else has).
Most of us are not scientists, but most of the people we talk to are not
scientists either, just ordinary people who have been fed baloney
for years and years.
(a reader in Arizona)
Keep up the outstanding work!
You guys really ARE making a difference!
(a reader in Texas)
I wholeheartedly agree with you when you say that science is not
hostile towards religion. It is the dogmatically religious that are
unwaveringly hostile towards any kind of science which threatens their
dearly-held precepts. Science (real, open-minded science) is not
interested in theological navel-gazing.
Note: Please supply your name and location when writing in. Anonymous attacks
only make one look foolish and cowardly, and will not normally be printed.
This one was shown to display a bad example.
I appreciate reading your site every day. It is a great way to keep
up on not just the new research being done, but to also keep abreast of the
evolving debate about evolution (Pun intended).... I find it an incredibly useful
way to keep up with recent research (I also check science news daily) and also
to research particular topics.
(an IT consultant in Brisbane, Australia)
I love your website.
(a student at a state university who used CEH when
writing for the campus newsletter)
....when you claim great uncertainty for issues that are fairly
well resolved you damage your already questionable credibility.
Im sure your audience loves your ranting, but if you know as much
about biochemistry, geology, astronomy, and the other fields you
skewer, as you do about ornithology, you are spreading heat, not
(a professor of ornithology at a state university, responding to
the 09/10/2002 headline)
I wanted to let you know I appreciate your headline news style of
exposing the follies of evolutionism.... Your style gives us constant,
up-to-date reminders that over and over again, the Bible creation account
is vindicated and the evolutionary fables are refuted.
(a reader, location unknown)
You have a knack of extracting the gist of a technical paper,
and digesting it into understandable terms.
(a nuclear physicist from Lawrence Livermore Labs who worked
on the Manhattan Project)
After spending MORE time than I really had available going thru
your MANY references I want to let you know how much I appreciate
the effort you have put forth.
The information is properly documented, and coming from
recognized scientific sources is doubly valuable. Your
explanatory comments and sidebar quotations also add GREATLY
to your overall effectiveness as they 1) provide an immediate
interpretive starting point and 2) maintaining the readers
(a reader in Michigan)
I am a huge fan of the site, and check daily for updates.
(reader location and occupation unknown)
I just wanted to take a minute to personally thank-you and let
you know that you guys are providing an invaluable service!
We check your Web site weekly (if not daily) to make sure we have
the latest information in the creation/evolution controversy.
Please know that your diligence and perseverance to teach the
Truth have not gone unnoticed. Keep up the great work!
(a PhD scientist involved in origins research)
You've got a very useful and informative Web site going.
The many readers who visit your site regularly realize that it
requires considerable effort to maintain the quality level and
to keep the reviews current.... I hope you can continue your
excellent Web pages. I have recommended them highly to others.
(a reader, location and occupation unknown)
As an apprentice apologist, I can always find an article
that will spark a spirited debate. Keep em
coming! The Truth will prevail.
(a reader, location and occupation unknown)
Thanks for your web page and work. I try to drop by
at least once a week and read what you have. Im a
Christian that is interested in science (Im a mechanical
engineer) and I find you topics interesting and helpful.
I enjoy your lessons and insights on Baloney Detection.
(a year later):
I read your site 2 to 3 times a week; which Ive probably done for a couple
of years. I enjoy it for the interesting content, the logical arguments, what I can
learn about biology/science, and your pointed commentary.
(a production designer in Kentucky)
I look up CREV headlines every day. It is a wonderful
source of information and encouragement to me.... Your gift of
discerning the fallacies in evolutionists interpretation of
scientific evidence is very helpful and educational for me.
Please keep it up. Your website is the best I know of.
(a Presbyterian minister in New South Wales, Australia)
Ive written to you before, but just wanted to say again
how much I appreciate your site and all the work you put into it.
I check it almost every day and often share the contents
(and web address) with lists on which I participate.
I dont know how you do all that you do, but I am grateful
for your energy and knowledge.
(a prominent creationist author)
I am new to your site, but I love it! Thanks for updating
it with such cool information.
(a home schooler)
I love your site.... Visit every day hoping for another of your
brilliant demolitions of the foolish just-so stories of those
who think themselves wise.
(a reader from Southern California)
I love to read your website and am disappointed when there is
nothing new to read. Thanks for all your hard work.
(a missionary in Japan)
I visit your site daily for the latest news from science journals and other media,
and enjoy your commentary immensely. I consider your web site to be the
most valuable, timely and relevant creation-oriented site on the internet.
(a reader from Ontario, Canada)
Keep up the good work! I thoroughly enjoy your site.
(a reader in Texas)
Thanks for keeping this fantastic web site going. It is very
informative and up-to-date with current news including incisive
(a reader in North Carolina)
Great site! For all the Baloney Detector is impressive and a
great tool in debunking wishful thinking theories.
(a reader in the Netherlands)
Just wanted to let you know, your work is having quite an impact.
For example, major postings on your site are being circulated among the
Intelligent Design members....
(a PhD organic chemist)
opening a can of worms ... I love to click all the related links and
read your comments and the links to other websites, but this usually makes me late
for something else. But its ALWAYS well worth it!!
(a leader of a creation group)
I am a regular visitor to your website ... I am impressed
by the range of scientific disciplines your articles address.
I appreciate your insightful dissection of the often unwarranted conclusions
evolutionists infer from the data... Being a medical
doctor, I particularly relish the technical detail you frequently include in
the discussion living systems and processes. Your website continually
reinforces my conviction that if an unbiased observer seeks a reason for the
existence of life then Intelligent Design will be the unavoidable
(a medical doctor)
A church member asked me what I thought was the best creation web site.
I told him CreationSafaris.com.
(a PhD geologist)
I love your site... I check it every day for interesting
information. It was hard at first to believe in Genesis fully, but
now I feel more confident about the mistakes of humankind and that all
their reasoning amounts to nothing in light of a living God.
(a college grad)
Thank you so much for the interesting science links and comments
on your creation evolution headlines page ... it is very
(a reader from Scottsdale, AZ)
visit your site almost every day, and really enjoy it. Great job!!!
(I also recommend it to many, many students.)
(an educational consultant)
I like what I seevery
much. I really appreciate a decent, calm and scholarly approach to the
whole issue... Thanks ... for this fabulous
It is refreshing to read your comments. You have a knack to get to the heart of
(a reader in the Air Force).
Love your website. It has well thought out structure and will help many
through these complex issues. I especially love the
I believe this is one of the best sites on the Internet.
I really like your side-bar of truisms.
Yogi [Berra] is absolutely correct. If I were a man of wealth, I would
support you financially.
(a registered nurse in Alabama, who found
us on TruthCast.com.)
WOW. Unbelievable.... My question is, do you sleep? ... Im utterly
impressed by your page which represents untold amounts of time and energy
as well as your faith.
(a mountain man in Alaska).
wanted to say that I recently ran across your web site featuring science
headlines and your commentary and find it to be A++++, superb, a 10, a homerun
I run out of superlatives to describe it! ... You can be sure I will
visit your site often daily when possible to gain the latest information
to use in my speaking engagements. Ill also do my part to help publicize
your site among college students. Keep up the good work. Your
material is appreciated and used.
(a college campus minister)
Featured Creation Scientist for September|
1571 - 1630
By anyones measure, Johannes Kepler ranks as a gold medalist
in the history of science. This great German mathematician
and astronomer (contemporary with the King James Bible and the Pilgrims)
discovered fundamental laws of nature
that have stood the test of time and are still widely used today. He
advanced mathematics in science to new heights, including the first use of
logarithms for astronomy and the foundation for integral calculus. He made useful
inventions. He was a major force in moving science away from its
subservience to authority and onto an empirical foundation, and from
superstition to mathematical law. He helped mankind
understand how the universe works. When the great Isaac
Newton expressed that his ability to see farther than others was due to standing on
the shoulders of giants, he most certainly had Kepler in mind.
Yet this humble, devout Christian, from a poor, uneducated home, had a life
filled with difficulty. In spite of it, he stands as a consummate example
of a Christian doing excellent science from theological motives; Kepler pursued
science as a mission from God. In his words, he
was merely thinking Gods thoughts after Him.
Anyone who thinks Christianity is inimical to science should take a close
look at the life of this giant of science and Christian faith.
Kepler is considered the Father of Celestial Mechanics.
The story of how he worked for eight years trying to figure out the orbit of
Mars and the other planets from the observations of Tycho Brahe
is legendary. Kepler was a perfectionist; close enough
was not good enough. He started by assuming the common belief that the orbits
of the planets were perfect circles. Moreover, he had a tempting
hypothesis that the ratios of the orbital distances matched the proportions of the regular
solids, but it did not quite work. It was Keplers genius
and integrity that forced him to abandon his pet theory and discover the truth.
After many years of work, and thousands of pages of tedious calculations, he
fit the data to the formula for an ellipse, and finally, everything fell into place. This
illustrates how in science frequently a fundamental truth lays lurking in
the minute details that do not fit the expectations. To an
honest scientist, the data
must drive the conclusions, and Keplers discovery ranks as a seminal
point in the history of science. With this finding, he overcame 1500
years of error based on the thinking of Ptolemy, Aristotle and even Copernicus
that the heavenly orbits must be perfect circles.
From his discovery, Kepler derived his famous Three Laws of Planetary Motion.
These were the first truly scientific laws, based as they were on empirical data and not
authority or Aristotelian logic. Kepler established precise mathematical
relationships describing orbital motion: (1) the orbits of the
planets are ellipses, with the sun at one focus, (2) the motion of a body is not
constant, but speeds up closer to the sun (a line connecting the sun and the planet
sweeps out equal areas in equal times), and
(3) the farther away a planet is, the slower it moves (the square
of the period is proportional to the cube of the semimajor axis). Newton later
explained these relationships in his theory of universal gravitation, but Keplers
Laws are just as accurate today as when he first formulated them, and even more useful
than he could have imagined! Even today, NASAs Jet Propulsion
Laboratory navigates spacecraft around the
solar system using Keplers Laws, and astronomers routinely speak of
Keplerian orbits not only for the solar system but for stars orbiting galaxies, and for
galaxies orbiting clusters and superclusters. The whole universe obeys Keplers
Laws, or as he would have preferred to say, obeys Gods laws that he
merely uncovered: he said, Since we astronomers are priests of the highest God
in regard to the book of nature, it befits us to be thoughtful, not of the glory of our
minds, but rather, above all else, of the glory of God.
These discoveries would be enough to guarantee Kepler membership in the science
hall of fame, but theres
much more. Not only was he the Father of Celestial Mechanics, Kepler is also
considered the Father of
Modern Optics. He advanced the understanding of reflection and refraction and
human vision, and produced improvements in eyeglasses for both nearsightedness and
farsightedness, and for the telescopes that
his colleague Galileo (with whom he corresponded) had first turned toward the
heavens. He invented the pinhole camera and designed a gear-driven calculating machine.
He investigated weather phenomena and also made other fundamental
discoveries about the heavens, such as the rotation of the sun, and the fact that
ocean tides are caused primarily by the moon (for which Galileo derided him, but Kepler
was proved right). He predicted that trigonometric parallax
might be used to measure the distances to the stars. Though the telescopes of his
day were too crude to detect the parallax shift, he was right again, and the recent Hipparcos
satellite used this principle to refine our measurements to thousands of stars.
Keplers firsts make an impressive list of accomplishments.
One would think a man must be the son of a privileged family to rise to such heights, but
nothing could be farther from the truth for this, and other, great Christians in science like
Newton, Carver and Faraday.
Kepler was from a poor, uneducated family. He was often ill, and lived with no advantages
that would have predicted his success. His mother was a flighty woman given
to superstition, and his father was a roaming mercenary, frequently off to the battlefield
to fight for the highest bidder. At age six, Kepler saw the Great
Comet of 1577 which in those days people assumed were bad omens, but Kepler
was fascinated. Later, his father bought and operated a low-class inn, and young Johannes was
required to do hard labor to help the struggling family business. When given a chance to go to school,
Keplers genius coupled with diligence advanced him quickly. Devout by nature, he decided
he would serve God as a clergyman.
He studied for two years in a seminary at the University of Tubingen, receiving training in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, mathematics
and the usual Greek philosophy, but there also became acquainted with
the newer ideas of Copernicus and those who doubted that the Greeks were the last
word in knowledge. It was only when he was pressured to accept a position
as a mathematics instructor 500 miles away in Graz that he reluctantly postponed
his goal to become a Lutheran minister. Later, he was chosen
by the great but eccentric Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe to figure out the problem
of the orbit of Mars, and the rest is history.
In spite of his successes, Keplers life was filled with hardship, poverty,
political turmoil, false accusations and difficult work. He had to defend his
mother who was falsely accused of being a witch. He was forced to move
on several occasions due to war or pestilence. He was not paid near what
he was worth. He probably never thought of himself as famous. Yet
he had an inner joy that would make his imagination soar when he thought of the
heavens and how everything worked according to the Creators mathematical
plan. He imagined space travel and speculated about earthlike planets around
distant stars. He wrote 80 books, including the first science fiction story,
The Dream (about an imaginary flight to the moon), and of course more technical treatises such as the consummate
compilation of Tychos data using logarithms, The Rudolphine Tables;
this work did much to advance the heliocentric theory. His signature work, expressing his
philosophy of science, is Harmony of the World in
which he saw the heavenly bodies making a kind of celestial music of the
spheres as the outworking of the mind of God, perfect in geometric harmony.
It expressed his belief that the world of nature, the world of man and world of God
all fit together into a harmonious system that could be explored by science.
Kepler had once believed that becoming a clergyman was the only way to serve God and proclaim
His truth, but he found that astronomy and mathematics were also a ministry, a way to
open windows to the mind of God. Deeply spiritual all his life, he said, Let also my
name perish if only the name of God the Father is elevated. On November 15, 1630, as he lay dying, he
was asked on what did he pin his hope of salvation. Confidently and resolutely, he testified:
Only and alone on the services of Jesus Christ. In Him is all refuge,
all solace and welfare.
Craters on the moon and Mars are named in Keplers honor, and NASAs
spacecraft will be launched in 2008 to search for earth-size habitable planets
around other stars.
If you are enjoying this series, you can
learn more about great Christians in science by reading
our online book-in-progress:
The Worlds Greatest
Creation Scientists from Y1K to Y2K.
Copies are also
available from our online store.
A Concise Guide|
You can observe a lot by just watching.
First Law of Scientific Progress
The advance of science can be measured by the rate at which exceptions to previously held laws accumulate.
1. Exceptions always outnumber rules.
2. There are always exceptions to established exceptions.
3. By the time one masters the exceptions, no one recalls the rules to which they apply.
Nature will tell you a direct lie if she can.
So will Darwinists.
Science is true. Dont be misled by facts.
Finagles 2nd Law
No matter what the anticipated result, there
will always be someone eager to (a) misinterpret it, (b) fake it, or (c)
believe it happened according to his own pet theory.
3. Draw your curves, then plot your data.
4. In case of doubt, make it sound convincing.
6. Do not believe in miracles rely on them.
Murphys Law of Research
Enough research will tend to support your theory.
If the facts do not conform to the theory, they must be disposed of.
1. The bigger the theory, the better.
2. The experiments may be considered a success if no more than 50%
of the observed measurements must be discarded to obtain a correspondence
with the theory.
The number of different hypotheses erected to explain a given biological phenomenon
is inversely proportional to the available knowledge.
All great discoveries are made by mistake.
The greater the funding, the longer it takes to make the mistake.
The solution to a problem changes the nature of the problem.
Peters Law of Evolution
Competence always contains the seed of incompetence.
An expert is a person who avoids the small errors while sweeping on to the grand fallacy.
Repetition does not establish validity.
What really matters is the name you succeed in imposing on the facts not the facts themselves.
For every action, there is an equal and opposite criticism.
Thumbs Second Postulate
An easily-understood, workable falsehood is more useful than a complex, incomprehensible truth.
There is nothing so small that it cant be blown out of proportion
Hawkins Theory of Progress
Progress does not consist in replacing a theory that is wrong with one that is right. It consists
in replacing a theory that is wrong with one that is more subtly wrong.
The best theory is not ipso facto a good theory.
Error is often more earnest than truth.
Advice from Paul|
Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle
babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge by
professing it some have strayed concerning the faith.
I Timothy 6:20-21
Song of the True Scientist
O Lord, how manifold are Your works! In wisdom You have made
them all. The earth is full of Your possessions . . . . May the glory of the Lord endure forever. May the
Lord rejoice in His works . . . . I will sing to the Lord s long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my
being. May my meditation be sweet to Him; I will be glad in the Lord. May sinners be
consumed from the earth, and the wicked be no more. Bless the Lord, O my soul! Praise the Lord!
from Psalm 104
Through the creatures Thou hast made
Show the brightness of Thy glory.
Be eternal truth displayed
In their substance transitory.
Till green earth and ocean hoary,
Massy rock and tender blade,
Tell the same unending story:
We are truth in form arrayed.
Teach me thus Thy works to read,
That my faith, new strength accruing
May from world to world proceed,
Wisdoms fruitful search pursuing
Till, thy truth my mind imbuing,
I proclaim the eternal Creed
Oft the glorious theme renewing,
God our Lord is God indeed.
James Clerk Maxwell
One of the greatest physicists
of all time (a creationist).
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