Creation-Evolution Headlines
December 2005
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“Darwinism is an exercise in creative bookkeeping for hiding that its explanatory debts far exceed its explanatory resources.  Think of the No Free Lunch principle, therefore, as an auditor’s tool for scrutinizing Darwinism’s inflated claims and showing its debts to be in default.  Fortunately, as recent corporate debacles have taught us, creative bookkeeping can at best postpone but not avoid an official declaration of bankruptcy.”
— William Dembski, The Design Revolution (IVP, 2004), p. 258.
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Do Guppies Make Good Darwinian Grandmothers?   12/31/2005    
If a report on EurekAlert is right, some evolutionary biologists used lack of evidence for natural selection as confirmation for evolution.  They predicted guppies would show no evidence of a “grandmother effect” on life history after reproduction, and “that is what they found.”
    The question under study is why evolution keeps aging individuals living if it’s only reproductive fitness that matters in keeping a species going.  Perhaps the aging are worth keeping around if they contribute to the fitness of the offspring (see 07/23/2003 entry).  After admitting that the “granny effect” is not found in many mammals, even among sociable groups, the article said:

Since guppies are livebearers that provide no postnatal maternal care, Reznick et al. predicted the populations would show no differences in postreproductive lifespan--which is what they found.
    Though overall lifespan varied among the populations, these variations stemmed from differences in time allotted only to reproduction.  Postreproductive lifespan, in contrast, showed no signs of being under selection, and appeared to be what the authors called a “random add-on at the end of the life history.”  Random or not, this is the first demonstration of a postreproductive lifespan in fish.
  (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
The article then stated that whether postreproductive lifespan can be under selection at all is an open question.  But then, it said that this new study helps gain an evolutionary perspective on such matters – including how they relate to humans.
What kind of reasoning says, “we predict there will be no evolutionary natural selection” on a process, then uses the confirmation of the prediction as evidence for evolution?  You can’t have it both ways.  The article stated an evolutionary principle: “For natural selection to shape the twilight years, postreproductive females should contribute to the fitness of their offspring or relatives.”   Notice that word should.  If natural selection is the be-all and end-all of existence, and if nothing makes sense except in the light of evolution, and if most biologists expected there to be a granny effect, then Reznick’s study amounts to falsification.  Grandparents everywhere should be relieved that another evolutionary principle has been falsified, because now their self-worth does not need to be tied to their tubes.
    You can’t bet at the racetrack that an aging Charlie Horse will win because it is more fit, then claim his loss also confirms your prediction.  Charlie Horse is not just a loser; he’s a pain in the arm of science.  Charlie’s hoarse cries for his theory to get to the finish line, or even past the starting gate, are increasingly falling on deaf ears among those who know how to spot winners and losers (see 09/26/2005, 08/15/2005 commentaries).
Next headline on:  Marine BiologyDarwinism and Evolutionary TheoryDumb Ideas
A Foxhole Anthology: News from the CrEv Trenches    12/30/2005  
If Judge Jones or the NCSE thought for a minute that the Dover ruling would bring an end to the ID wars, the news media should clear up any miscalculations.  Here is a clearinghouse of recent headlines:
  • Peruse Pyrrhus:  “Pyrrhic victory” is a phrase used by John West, Pat Buchanan on Real Clear Politics and others to characterize the completely one-sided decision by Judge John E. Jones.  (For those needing a history refresher, King Pyrrhus of Epirus won a battle against the Romans in 279 BC, but sustained such heavy losses it nearly ruined his kingdom, and eventually contributed to its downfall.)
  • Hail Storm:  “Victors hail US evolution decision,” wrote the BBC News with a big portrait of Charles Darwin.  The article quoted the decision and echoed primarily the attitudes of the winners.
  • Praise Be:  News@Nature similarly accentuated the positive attitude of the winners: “a complete victory,” said a lawyer representing the Dover parents who brought the ACLU lawsuit.  Kevin Padian, pro-Darwinist scientist who testified, called ID effectively dead, crowing, “The whole place here is saying that this is beyond our wildest dreams.”
  • Straight Story:  Jeffrey Mervis at Science Now was a little more reserved at the celebration, at least giving one quote to John West who called this “government-imposed censorship” that “won’t work.”  He gave Judge Jones last word, though, with his attempt to head off at the pass claims he was an activist judge.
  • Basking Sharks:  The two lawyers who won the Dover case are enjoying some fame, reports  Their comments seem like verbatim duplicates of those by Judge Jones.  Tom Magnuson on Access Research Network, however, noted an irony in their views.  Their stated principle, “right to believe includes the right not to believe,” seems to fly in the face of the Dover decision: “The Darwinistic worldview will now be taught unchallenged.  While in school in Pennsylvania, you WILL be taught the state-sponsored worldview,” he commented.
  • Slam-Dunk?  No.  Mortal Wound?  No.  Alan Boyle at MSNBC said the debate will move on to new grounds.  As much as it “pleased Darwin’s defenders,” it rankled intelligent design proponents at least as much.
  • Networkers:  The ID Network went on offense, not defense.  They accused the ruling: “The decision in Dover today took evolution out of science and made it a religion.”
  • Catholic Rebuttal:  Cardinal Schonborn answered his critics with a forthright response in First Things about the limits of science.  Tom Magnuson on Access Research Network called this “a MUST read to understand the current culture war between scientism (neo-Darwinism) and design theory.”
  • Politically Incorrect:  Tom Bethell, author of A Politically Incorrect Guide to Science, wrote in The Washington Times that this is not even “remotely a setback for ID”  Making it “Banned in Boston” is only going to ignite the flames.
  • Public Justice:  The Center for Public Justice denounced the ruling, calling it “largely philosophical and theological in character” and that Judge Jones was outside his domain, acting like a “court authority in the high Middle Ages.”  School choice was their recommendation.
  • Neo-Orthodoxy:  Paul Campos in the Rocky Mountain News referred to the Spanish Inquisition in a satirical editorial about the irony of free-speech liberals embracing an intolerant orthodoxy.
  • Judge in the Dock:  John West wrote a series of articles for EvolutionNews asking pointed questions about Judge Jones and his decision: #1 Is Judge Jones an activist judge?  #2 Did Judge Jones read the evidence submitted to him in the Dover trial?  #3 Did Judge Jones accurately report and describe the ID resources?  #4 Is Judge Jones a conservative Republican?
  • No Waterloo:  ID leader William Dembski wrote in Science and Theology News that the Dover decision is no Waterloo, but merely one battle in a long culture war.
  • Skittish:  A school in Fargo, ND won’t allow intelligent design as a debating topic.  It’s too awkward and controversial, reported the Bismarck Tribune and InForum.  Tom Magnuson quipped on Access Research Network that apparently schools don’t want to infringe on anyone’s Constitutional right to be comfortable.
  • Museum Shrapnel:  MSNBC talked about ongoing efforts at museums, zoos and aquariums to help docents deal with evolution critics. 
  • Sunday School for Scientists:  The AAAS is planning a special session at its annual meeting at St. Louis in February to deal with the teaching of evolution in American high schools.  “Evolution on the Front Line” will feature a series of presentations Sun. Feb. 19, including one by Vatican astronomer Rev. George Coyne.  “The Sunday evolution forum is considered especially important in light of events in neighboring Kansas and other heartland areas,” the announcement states.  Talking points: integrity of science, the best in science education for a knowledge-based, globally competitive economic future.
  • Horn on the Cobb:  Skipping over from Dover to Cobb County, an article by Joseph Knippenberg appeared in The American Enterprise talking about the textbook sticker case in Georgia as a textbook case on religion in the public square.  Regarding the efforts to remove the stickers that merely called for critical thinking, he ended, “One begins to wonder whether liberal toleration is a sham, offered only to the most docile, and whether liberalism isn’t itself the very sort of orthodoxy it claims to eschew.”
Bluffing words, commotion, posturing, strategizing, politicking, grandstanding... science, please?  None of this matters, really; Darwinism has already been falsified (see next story).  Since evolution has failed “in a most spectacular way,” we ought to be concerned not with war but with clean-up.
Next headline on:  DarwinismIntelligent DesignEducationPolitics and Ethics
Thermodynamics Defeats Evolution “in a Most Spectacular Way”    12/30/2005  
The second law of thermodynamics (2TD), what Sir Arthur Eddington called the supreme law of nature, does not permit evolution, argued Granville Sewall in The American Spectator; in fact, evolution violates it “in a most spectacular way.”  A mathematics professor at Texas A&M University, Sewall explained that 2TD applies to much more than heat flow; it applies to every real system.  He defended the second law against the “standard reply,” the “open system” argument.  Not “anything” can happen in an open system, he explained, not even with a Darwinian mechanism; otherwise, we would expect computers, spaceships, television sets and DNA to appear just with the energy of the sun.
    Sewall’s lay-level article was prompted by the wars over intelligent design.  He adapted it from the appendix of a book he co-authored on The Numerical Solution of Ordinary and Partial Differential Equations (see end of article for reference and link).  The appendix, “A second look at the second law,” asked, “Can ANYTHING happen in an open system?” and is available online at
The venue may have been a conservative rag, but the author knows what he is talking about.  Dr. Sewall is a mathematician and author with expertise in probability and the second law of thermodynamics.  He is right; tell a Darwinist about 2TD, and you will get little more than an “open system” brush-off.  This article pulls that rug out.  No more simplistic open-system answers, Darwin Party: fess up, you cannot get brains from matter in motion, open system or not.  Do the math.  Face the real world.  Just-so storytelling cannot help in the world of hard physical science.  It’s the ultimate Reality Check.  No federal judge can help you now.  What would you have him do: declare the second law of thermodynamics unconstitutional?  Rule it inadmissable because of separation of church and state?  Go ahead and try.  Your opponents will just appeal it to the court of last resort: the real world.
Next headline on:  DarwinismPhysics
Evolutionary “Arms Race” – Is Coevolution Relentless?    12/29/2005  
Camellias and the weevils that attack their seeds seem locked in conflict.  The thicker a camellia grows its protective woody covering around its seeds, the longer the feeding tube on some weevil to break through and devour.  John R. Thompson talked about such “coevolutionary arms races” in Current Biology1 and asked whether such wars can go on forever, leading to increased exaggeration of traits.
    The answer is, apparently, there are limits.  Traits vary in a mosaic pattern across populations.  Not all camellias are infested by beetles with the longest boring tools.  As with any war, there are hotspots and coldspots.  The dynamics of arms races seem to buffer both species against extremes.
Collectively, these studies suggest that coevolution is a pervasive process that continually reshapes interspecific interactions across broad geographic areas.  And that has important implications for our understanding of the role of coevolution in fields ranging from epidemiology to conservation biology.  Many diseases, for example malaria, vary geographically both in parasite virulence and host resistance, potentially creating regions of coevolutionary hotspots and coldspots.  The spread of introduced species seems be creating new geographic mosaics of coevolution as some species become invasive and coevolve with native species in different ways in different regions or drive rapid evolution in native species, sometimes in less than a hundred years or so.  The results for Japanese camellia and camellia weevils reinforce the developing view that interactions coevolve as a geographic mosaic across landscapes, and it is often difficult for one partner to get ahead of the other (or others) everywhere.   (Emphasis added.)

1John R. Thompson, “Coevolution: The Geographic Mosaic of Coevolutionary Arms Races,” Current Biology, Volume 15, Issue 24, 24 December 2005, pages R992-R994, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2005.11.046.
This appears to provide more slippage on the evolutionary treadmill (see 03/17/2003 entry).  Though the word “evolution” is involved, don’t be confused; this has nothing to do with macroevolution, like bacteria evolving into people.  Coevolution leads to exaggerated traits between two interacting species, like the beaks of hummingbirds and the flowers they pollinate.  As with all other observed forms of microevolution, including Darwin’s famous finches, it involves the modification of existing traits – not the origin of new ones.
    Notice how quickly changes can result; Thompson referred to rapid “evolution” in native species in less than 100 years after an intruder was introduced.  Young-earth creationists could use such concepts to explain the rapid diversification of varieties and species within created kinds, and there would be nothing Thompson or the Darwinists could do to prove them wrong.  Studies like this do not establish that coevolution can be extrapolated endlessly into macroevolution.  In fact, the quote above seems to indicate otherwise: there are limits to the amount of change in the “coevolutionary arms race.”  World War II did not produce Superman.
Next headline on:  PlantsTerrestrial ZoologyEvolutionary Theory
Echoes of Historic Supernovae Observed    12/29/2005  
Astronomers using telescopes at the Cerro-Tololo observatory in Chile were able to detect the faint light echoes of supernovae (see EurekAlert, and original paper in Nature1).  They found three light echoes for six of the smallest previously-catalogued supernova remnants (SNR) in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), a small irregular galaxy visible from the southern hemisphere.  Assuming the shock wave moves out less than 10,000 km/sec, and calibrating against the echoes from the known 18-year old remnant of SN1987A, they estimated the ages of two of them at 410 and 610 years.  They believe surveys could uncover many more, now that they know what to look for.  The light echoes provide a method for fixing the ages of supernova remnants. 
1Armin Rest et al., “Light echoes from ancient supernovae in the Large Magellanic Cloud,” Nature 438, 1132-1134 (22 December 2005) | doi:10.1038/nature04365.
It’s interesting that there are no supernova remnants claimed to be tens or hundreds of thousands of years old or older.  One of the most distended SNR's in our galaxy, the Veil Nebula, is believed to be only 5,000 years old (see 02/16/2001).  Even so, all things being equal, the light from such an event would be expected to take some 160,000 years to arrive at earth.  Why are there no older remnants reported?  Is the same true for novae?  Here is a good research project for someone who likes to catalog things and think about their implications.
Next headline on:  Stellar AstronomyDating MethodsPhysics
Astronomers See Poison Around Star, Think Life    12/29/2005  
The Spitzer Space Telescope discovered acetylene and hydrogen cyanide, two deadly gases, around a star.  Some astronomers got all excited and thought of the birth of life.  The title of a press release from Jet Propulsion Laboratory read, “Partial ingredients for DNA and protein found around star.”  The two carbon-containing substances were found in the dust disk of star IRS 46 in Ophiucus by the Spitzer infrared instrument.    This was the only one of 100 similar stars that contained the signature of these molecules in its surrounding disk.  The press release explained the significance:
Here on Earth, the molecules are believed to have arrived billions of years ago, possibly via comets or comet dust that rained down from the sky.  Acetylene and hydrogen cyanide link up together in the presence of water to form some of the chemical units of life’s most essential compounds, DNA and protein.  These chemical units are several of the 20 amino acids that make up protein and one of the four chemical bases that make up DNA.
    “If you add hydrogen cyanide, acetylene and water together in a test tube and give them an appropriate surface on which to be concentrated and react, you’ll get a slew of organic compounds including amino acids and a DNA purine base called adenine,” said Dr. Geoffrey Blake of Caltech, a co-author of the paper.  “And now, we can detect these same molecules in the planet zone of a star hundreds of light-years away.”
  (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
The implication is that this star might be in the beginning stages of a chemical evolution process, assumed to be similar to what they believe led to life on earth.  Another team member explained, “This infant system might look a lot like ours did billions of years ago, before life arose on Earth.”
Evolutionists and astrobiologists like to call anyone who questions their views “people of faith.”  You have just seen one of their stories use the words believed, thought to be, possibly and might.  OK students, what are the observations?  100 stars with dust disks, and only one with two poisonous substances in their spectra.  Another observation is that these substances, if mixed on earth in a test tube by intelligent chemists, who have provided an appropriate surface in the presence of water, at the right temperature and concentration, will form some amino acids and one purine that is part of one DNA base.  Does the word life jump out of these observations?  If not, where is your faith?
    Consider the need for water.  That constrains the boundary conditions to a small fraction of possible temperatures and pressures.  Consider the need for a surface.  That constrains the boundary conditions to the crust of a terrestrial planet.  So let’s be really generous and give these evolutionists a watery terrestrial planet.  Let’s say that a few molecules of acetylene and hydrogen cyanide (the simplest nitrile, just HCN) form naturally or survive crash landing from a comet.  So what?
    To begin to even think of imagining of starting to commence to conceive of hoping that something remotely resembling life is in the works, a lot more than two poisons with simple molecular structures is going to be required.  Like ribose.  Like phosphate.  Like a way to link the adenine, phosphate and ribose together to get a nucleotide.  Like a way to get different nucleotides to link together into polynucleotides.  Like a way to isolate amino acids into a mixture all of one hand.  Like a way to get the one-handed amino acids to link up into a polypeptide.  Like a way for the polynucleotides and polypeptides to interact in functional ways.  Like a membrane.  Like metabolism.  Like an information storage and retrieval system.  Like a stable solvent.  Like protection from radiation damage.  These are just the beginnings of gigantic high hurdles that teensy weensy simple molecules need to learn how, without guidance, to overcome.
    It is a shame for scientists to hide this logic and scientific information from uninformed readers of press releases, many of whom don’t even know how to spell DNA.  It is a disgrace to wildly and recklessly extrapolate one’s speculation far beyond what the data permit.  It is a crime to propagandize the public by taking rather dull, mediocre data and making it sexier by throwing in the “L” word life.  Don’t be suckered by the people of frothy faith.  Get real.  Get Creation-Evolution Headlines.
Next headline on:  Stellar AstronomyOrigin of LifeDumb Ideas
Bombardier of the Sea    12/28/2005  
Creationists have made much of the bombardier beetle (#1, #2) whose firing chambers would explode if the timing and mixture of ingredients did not work perfectly together.  Now, here is a similar case in the lowly sea slug.  EurekAlert described research by Georgia State University scientists, who found that the sea slug Aplysia mixes three inert ingredients to produce a sticky secretion, dyed purple, for defense:
“Aplysia packages these innocuous precursors separately and then releases them simultaneously into its mantle cavity at the precise time when they are needed,” explained [Charles] Derby.  “This mechanism insures the secretion’s potency against attacking predators to enable sea slugs to escape.”   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
The secretion seems to contain a healing compound.  “The antimicrobial property probably evolved to work against predators,” said Derby.  “But it might also function as an antimicrobial salve for Aplysia’s own wounds.”
The evolutionary mythoid contributes nothing of substance to this story.  On grounds of intellectual honesty and scientific integrity, we need to call Darwinists on the carpet for simply claiming evolution blindly made irreducibly complex systems without telling us how.  This is more of the BAD strategy (bluffing assertions of dogmatism) that lets Darwinians escape while secreting a sticky dyed goo that obscures understanding.
Next headline on:  Marine BiologyAmazing Stories
Historic Scopes Trial Photos Uncovered    12/28/2005  
Dozens of photos of the 1925 Scopes Trial, never before published, were uncovered in Smithsonian archives by independent historian Marcel C. LaFollette, reported Science News.1  One photo shows the famous scene of Clarence Darrow interrogating William Jennings Bryan on the witness stand; another shows a close up of John Scopes.  LaFollette is writing a new book on the Scopes Trial based on the photographs.  They were taken by Watson Davis, managing editor at the time of Science Service, the publisher of what is now Science News.
    The article by Ivars Peterson states that Science Service was a help to Darrow and was helped by the trial – in fact, the trial launched it to prominence:
The Scopes trial was important to Science Service financially.  Newspapers paid for articles from the trial, and these funds helped support the struggling organization.
    Science Service also played a role behind the scenes, aiding Darrow’s defense team.  The Science Service staff helped coordinate the gathering of scientific experts on evolution to testify at the trial. It also distributed a series of articles, written by prominent scientists, explaining and defending evolution.

1Ivars Peterson, “Archival Science: Rediscovered photos provide a look inside the 1925 Scopes evolution trial,” Science News, Week of Dec. 24, 2005; Vol. 168, No. 26/27 , p. 408.
It’s important to know about the Scopes Trial because so much political hay was made out of it.  The hay machine grinds on to this day.  Maybe Science Service provided the eminent rhetorician Dudley Field Malone (see loaded words in the Baloney Detector), or the scholarly scientist Maynard Metcalf (see equivocation), or the logician Horatio Hockett Newman (see either-or fallacy).  Maybe Watson Davis helped provide boilerplate for The New Republic (see fear-mongering).  The reporting about evolution in Science News hasn’t changed much.  In this same issue, Bruce Bower, in an attempt at being funny, wrote a scathing satire against intelligent design, so biased and full of his own hot air it is not even remotely credible or amusing.
    The reality of the Scopes Trial was far different than most of the reporting on it.  This has come to light recently in several books by historians like Edward J. Larson and Marvin Olasky.  Worst of all was the parody Inherit the Wind, so factually inaccurate as to be evil (see The Monkey Trial).  Yet Inherit the Wind established the modern stereotype about what happened that hot summer in Dayton, Tennessee.  These photographs are valuable for helping visualize the setting, but the words spoken about the issue at hand are what matters.  One lesson of the trial is that a win in court can be a loss in the public arena.  Maybe that will work against the Darwinists this time in the case of Judge Jones’s Dover decision (see comments by William Dembski in Science & Theology News).
Next headline on:  Darwinism
Abortion Pill Can Kill    12/28/2005  
An ugly secret has come out of the abortion drug mifepristone known as RU486.  It can kill normal, healthy women, and its approval by the FDA involved procedural violations that overlooked known safety concerns at the time.  Source: Annals of Pharmacotherapy news release (see also EurekAlert).  The research paper by Margaret M. Gary, MD and Donna J. Harrison, MD1 examined 607 cases from the FDA’s Adverse Event Reporting System (AERS):
RESULTS: The most frequent AERs were hemorrhage (n = 237) and infection (66).  Hemorrhages included 1 fatal, 42 life threatening, and 168 serious cases; 68 required transfusions.  Infections included 7 cases of septic shock (3 fatal, 4 life threatening) and 43 cases requiring parenteral antibiotics.  Surgical interventions were required in 513 cases (235 emergent, 278 nonemergent).  Emergent cases included 17 ectopic pregnancies (11 ruptured).  Second trimester viability was documented in 22 cases (9 lost to follow-up, 13 documented fetal outcome).  Of the 13 documented cases, 9 were terminated without comment on fetal morphology, 1 was enrolled in fetal registry, and 3 fetuses were diagnosed with serious malformations, suggesting a malformation rate of 23%.
The authors suggest these may be just the tip of the iceberg due to reluctance of institutions to report adverse effects.  They concluded, “AERs relied upon by the FDA to monitor mifepristone’s postmarketing safety are grossly deficient due to extremely poor quality.”
1Margaret M Gary and Donna J Harrison, “Analysis of Severe Adverse Events Related to the Use of Mifepristone as an Abortifacient,” The Annals of Pharmacotherapy, Published Online, 27 December 2005,, DOI 10.1345/aph.1G481.
The power of advocacy to trump ethics and safety has been seen in this case and in the recent stem cell flap.  How many anxious women have been reassured by abortion providers that RU486 is a safe and private way to end an unwanted pregnancy?  Why have not these reports caused the FDA to pull this dangerous drug from the market?  When desire runs science, watch out.  That would never happen with a materialist wanting to remove God from science now, would it?
Next headline on:  HealthPolitics and Ethics
Health from Unlikely Sources: Poison and Scum    12/27/2005  
“Everything in moderation,” health professionals remind us during the holidays.  Some things, however, none of us would have wanted at all – till scientists found there was treasure in them.
    Botulinum toxin (botox), for instance, is one of the deadliest of biological poisons, but by now everyone knows it is being put to good use in cosmetic surgery.  A news release on EurekAlert announced that botox is useful for more than just “ironing wrinkles.”  In addition to treating excessive sweating or reducing skin wrinkles, “it is also a highly effective natural substance that normalizes muscle activity and can be used to reduce pain and itch.”  Doctors keep finding new uses for botox at both ends of the digestive tract.
    Another article on EurekAlert announced a promising substance in “pond scum” that might lead to a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.  A substance in Nostoc, a cyanobacterium, shows potent activity as a cholinesterase inhibitor.  If so, it might help slow the degradation of mental and memory functions in those suffering from the degenerative disease.
Science should not only help us understand the natural world, but find ways to improve the human condition.  Sir Francis Bacon echoed Jesus’ teaching that a tree is known by its fruit.  A good science will produce good fruit: in the case of science, increased health and prosperity for humans in ways that improve the environment (compare with the fruit of Darwinism: see 11/30/2005).  We should look at the world like a treasure hunt, the way George Washington Carver did.  Things that seem dangerous, ugly or boring sometimes prove to contain hidden treasures.
    These two stories owe nothing to Darwin.  Evolutionists would have us believe that everything is out for itself, trying to propagate its own genes at the expense of its neighbors.  Darwinism sees a world of fierce competition, with cooperation only useful occasionally, but with selfishness as the highest good.  Creationism sees a biosphere made for man and the other organisms.  Design-based science could scour the world for cures while adding to the store of human natural knowledge.  Design science sans Darwinism has the intellectual foundation to usher in a new scientific revolution.
Next headline on:  Health
How Blind Cave Fish Lose Color    12/26/2005  
A study on cave fish revealed that several populations can have mutations to the same gene.  A gene that produces melanin, named Oca2, was found to be mutated in two separate populations of cave fish, resulting in albinism.  This same gene can produce albinism in humans.
The replicated experiment is a powerful tool for experimental science, but typically unavailable in the study of evolutionCave adaptations have evolved in many species independently, however, and each cave species can be considered a replicate of the same evolutionary experiment that asks how species change in perpetual darkness.  A frequent outcome is that the species lose pigmentation or become albino. Cavefish, therefore, are a rich source for the examination of the evolutionary process.   (Emphasis added.)
It was surprising to the multidisciplinary team why this gene, and not others that can also produce albinism, was implicated.  “One possibility, suggested by the researchers, is that it is a large gene presenting a big target for mutations, and it seems to have no other functions besides helping to make melanin,” the press release on EurekAlert states.  “Therefore, it doesn’t diminish other aspects of fitness when it is mutated.”
Here is a situation where “evolutionary theory” is compatible with intelligent design or creationism.  It’s not a case of evolution in the sense of new functional information being added; it’s a case of function being lost.  How this loss of information affects an organism is interesting, and it is worthwhile question to ask why two cave fish populations would get the same mutation to the same gene.  If one assumes that the fish began with fully-operational Oca2 genes (as in creation/design), then it follows that a reproducing population of fish with mutations in that gene will lead to a population of albinos, if the benefit of having color no longer matters in the cave environment.  This is downward evolution, not upward evolution.  The story differs from the just-so storytelling of Darwinian theory, because we have plenty of empirical evidence that mutations lead to loss of function, but no evidence that mutations can produce new function.  Darwinists try to call this “evolution” (in the sense of change over time), but it doesn’t do anything to help Charlie’s story that fish evolved from pre-fish, or ultimately, from one-celled organisms.  Creationists could just as well study loss mutations to investigate the extent of genetic load (deterioration) over time since the original perfect creation; convergent devolution, therefore, is non-controversial, but convergent evolution is what lacks empirical support.
Next headline on:  Marine BiologyGeneticsEvolutionary Theory
How Apemen Learned to Give Christmas Presents    12/25/2005  
For your Christmas amusement, some scientists think they have solved the evolution of gift giving.  In an announcement on EurekAlert called “Why we give: New study finds evidence of generosity among our early human ancestors,” the introduction states, “A groundbreaking new study examines the origins of holiday giving and finds that our early human ancestors were frequently altruistic.”  How could Michael Gurvin (UC Santa Barbara) figure this out, without human ancestors to observe or ask?  For his paper in the upcoming Feb. 2006 edition of Current Anthropology, he studied “food exchanges in two small-scale, non-market societies – a classic context for understanding the evolution of conditional cooperation in humans.”  He found that altruism is costly without some kind of payback, but he also found that close kin and neighbors unable to produce much food sometimes receive more than they give.
    On the media front, the Science Channel has been airing a series called “The Rise of Man” during Christmas week.  Producers seem to be getting more bold with skin.  One episode showed tribes of completely nude Homo erectus humans in various stages of increasing enlightenment (these are played by actors, you know, with some creative facial makeup, but otherwise anatomically correct human bodies).  Another showed a newly-evolved Homo sapiens tribe watching the effects of lightning in fear and awe.  A delirious female falls to the ground in some kind of trance, jerking and babbling uncontrollably as the others look on with stupefied expressions.  The narrator explains: and thus begins a new chapter in the rise of human consciousness: religion.
Cavorting in the wilderness with incomprehensible grunts – how did it come to this.  (We’re not talking about the actors in The Rise of Man; we’re describing figuratively the evolutionary anthropologists.)
    It’s superfluous to have to describe how dumb Gurvin’s theory is, but for those imprisoned in the mental concentration camps known as public schools, here are some suggested cerebral exercises to awaken one’s atrophied sensibilities.  What are the empirical observations?  Gurvin observed modern humans acting like human beings: understanding trade, and knowing how to give and care for the helpless.  Do the observations connect at all with a story of the evolution of generosity?  No.  (Chimpanzees don’t act this way; see 10/28/2005 story).  Did he establish any transitions from primate precursors to modern man?  No.  Did he explain the origin of true, unselfish giving?  No.  Did he tie altruism to a lucky random mutation?  No.  Does he have any way of proving that these non-market societies did not degenerate from advanced associations of highly-capable, intelligent human beings who were created with all their moral attributes?  No.  Does his theory destroy Christmas?  Yes.
    Gurvin approaches science like all Darwinists do: since evolution is already a fact in their own imaginations, research is just a metaphysical program for stuffing all data into their predetermined belief system.  If he had to prove his speculation against criticism, like a true scientist, he would come up as naked as the actors in The Rise of Man.  The Science Channel doesn’t debate the origin of humans; it just states as a matter of fact that this is the way it happened.  Any disagreement is only between Darwinists about the details.  That’s why we need to get the Darwin Party out of its cushy comfort zone of presumed authority and demand accountability.  (By the way, did you notice how the title The Rise of Man assumes the myth of progress?  Michael Ruse and Stephen Jay Gould would be appalled.)
    Darwinians have had free reign for too long, and this is the result: naked grunting actors, and scientists grunting with intellectually naked theories.  They need to be confronted with alternative scientific theories not woven out of materialistic cloth (the kind found in The Emperor’s New Clothes).  They need to be confronted with the soundest criticisms of philosophers and theologians who have not been contaminated with Darwinian LSD, that universal acid that dissolves sound reasoning into hallucinations.  Evolutionary storytelling in the journals and on TV only survives by being insulated from debate.  The Darwin Party faithful cannot tolerate confrontation, because they fear the survival of the fittest ideas.  The Science Channel doesn’t want confrontation, because it might jeopardize their agenda of pushing the envelope of prime-time prurience.  The actors don’t want confrontation or they might have to put their clothes back on and get a real job.  Isn’t it fun to slap on mud, make funny faces and grunt?  Only on The Science Channel.
    Tip: watch Survivorman instead; at least you’ll learn something that might come in handy on the next camping trip.  Here’s a suggestion for an episode that might prove too much even for tough guy Les Stroud – surviving as a creationist at the university.
Next headline on:  Early ManMediaTheologyDumb Ideas
Evolution of the Christmas Tree:  Firs Tie Oaks in Fitness Race    12/24/2005  
In the struggle for existence, the conifers should have lost, because when angiosperms appeared, they had fancier valve jobs.  That’s the feeling of a story introduced by Elizabeth Pennisi on Science Now.  “Those of us who celebrate Christmas tend to take fir and spruce trees for granted around the holiday season,” she quipped, “But without a special modification that allows these trees to efficiently transport water, we might be hanging our ornaments on a ficus instead, according to a new study.”  She explained:
In order for photosynthesis to occur, tall trees must supply their uppermost leaves with water, which is pulled up from the roots by evaporation.  Angiosperms such as oaks and willows accomplish this using a series of centimeters-long, tube-shaped cellular pipes.  Tiny valves made of cellulose membranes connect each “pipe” and help keep air bubbles out.  Christmas trees and other conifers have much shorter pipe cells, however, and therefore must use many more valves than angiosperms.  This should create more resistance and make it harder for them to transport water.  But they don’t have any trouble at all, says John Sperry, a plant biologist at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
Sperry’s team measured water flow in 18 conifers, including bald cypress, junipers and redwoods, and compared results with 29 species of angiosperms.  There was no essential difference.  Conifers hoisted the water with equal ease, despite the shorter pipe cells.  How do they do it?
The reason, says [Jarmila] Pittermann, has to do with key differences in the valvesAngiosperm valves are simple membranes full of miniscule pores.  In conifers, the valves consist of a circle of impermeable tissue surrounded by porous tissue.  The conifer’s pores are 100 times larger than those in angiosperms and allow water to pass through relatively easily.  This efficiency more than makes up for the additional valves on the way to the tree top, Pittermann says.
The researchers said that this helps scientists understand water transport in wood.  “But the work also points to how conifers, which predate angiosperms and are often considered primitive, were able to survive once angiosperms populated Earth,” Pennisi explains.  “Without these very special cells, one biologist claimed “there wouldn’t be any conifers anymore” – presumably because they could not compete against the angiosperms.  The work was published in Science.1  In the paper, the authors did not explain how or when the unique structure of the conifer valve evolved.  They just said that without the adaptation, angiosperms would have a 38-fold advantage in water transport:
The superior hydraulics of the conifer pit are crucial for minimizing sapwood resistivity.  If conifer tracheids had the pit resistance of angiosperms, their sapwood resistivity would increase by 38-fold.... This, added to the narrow diameter range of tracheids, would make it much more difficult for conifers to compete effectively with angiosperms.
    .... We conclude that the evolution of the torus-margo membrane within the gymnosperm lineage from homogenous pits was equivalent to the evolution of vessels within the angiosperms.  The towering redwoods and the sweep of the boreal coniferous forest exist in no small part because of this clever microscopic valve.

1Pitterman et al., “Torus-Margo Pits Help Conifers Compete with Angiosperms,” Science, 23 December 2005: Vol. 310. no. 5756, p. 1924 | DOI: 10.1126/science.1120479.
What did evolution have to do with this story, really?  Did it contribute anything of value, even an ornament to hang on the tree?  The results were not what evolutionists expected.  Conifers ruled the Jurassic forests, then along come angiosperms with superior plumbing, and there should have been no contest.  Those old, primitive conifers should have gone the way of the dinosaurs, and our Christmas trees would look very different.  Sweep away the Darwinian mythology, and what remains?  Two well-designed, highly successful groups of plants.  They may have different ways of lifting water, but so what?  From a design perspective, it would be just as productive a research program to find reasons for the difference.  Clearly the conifers are doing well.  The tallest trees in the world are conifers (see 04/22/2004).  Conifers seem to do even better than angiosperms in many locations, such as at timberline, where they survive numbing cold storms and snow without even having to drop their needles.  Nobody told them they were at a disadvantage against the new trees on the block.
    The gem of this story is the beautifully-designed valves in conifers that allow them to pump thousands of gallons of water straight up, hundreds of feet into the air, to fill our world with beauty and dignity (see photos #1, #2, #3) while adding to the life-giving oxygen in the atmosphere.  Pennisi jokingly entitled her article, “The Grinch Who (Almost) Stole Christmas” pitting angiosperms in a phony battle against their friends, the conifers.  Not funny.  The Grinch is Charles Darwin.
Next headline on:  PlantsEvolutionAmazing Stories
Dover Fallout Is Radio Active   12/23/2005    
Reaction in the media from Judge Jones’ stinging decision against intelligent design (ID) in the Pennsylvania case Kitzmiller vs Dover Area School District has been rapid and varied.  Evolutionists are overjoyed at this Christmas present the judge delivered, a dirty bomb they hope will put ID out of business, but the other side claims the damage is minimal and the debate goes on.  Here are some samples:
  • Party Time:  Evolutionists were giddy with praise for the decision.  The National Center for Science Education listed a who’s who of “educational, scientific and civil liberties groups” who not only approved of the decision but opined that it would have far-reaching consequences.
  • Breaking the Point:  Conservative Christian commentator Chuck Colson, on his Breakpoint radio commentary, said he was disappointed at the ruling, but not disheartened.  “Bad cases make bad law,” he said, agreeing that the Dover policy was ill advised.  Nevertheless, optimism is justified because “if we equip ourselves and do our job, truth will out,” he said. “We should not despair.  Our case is compelling if we frame it carefully, ask the right questions, and expose the claims of Darwinists.”
  • Worry but Smile:  Michael Powell at the Washington Post (see reprint on San Francisco Chronicle) said that ID backers found the ruling worrisome, but vow to continue pushing the debate forward; William Dembski thinks the future looks bright, because it is going international and crossing metaphysical and theological boundaries.
  • Charge Onward:  Rachel Zoll for Associated Press (see Yahoo News) acknowledged the ruling as a setback for ID, but quoted several ID and Christian leaders who seem more galvanized than ever over the decision.  She acknowledged that the legal ramifications of the ruling are limited to the Dover area.
  • Farewell, PartnerFox News reported that U.S. Senator Rick Santorum is severing ties with the Thomas More Law Center that defended the Dover school board, because he thinks they “made a huge mistake in taking this case and in pushing this case to the extent they did.”
  • Principle of the Thing:  The Discovery Institute also disagreed with the strategy of the school board, not feeling it proper to mandate the teaching of ID, but also strongly criticized the decision for attempting to institutionalize dogmatism.  John West said it may be over in Dover, but not for intelligent design: “Efforts to mandate intelligent design are misguided,” he clarified, “but efforts to shut down discussion of a scientific idea through harassment and judicial decrees hurt democratic pluralism.  The more Darwinists resort to censorship and persecution, the clearer it will become that they are championing dogmatism, not science.”  Listing himself as “former Discovery Institute attorney,” Seth Cooper issued a statement to set the record straight on his involvement in the case.
  • Ohio Unaffected:  The Discovery Institute also issued a statement that the Dover ruling will have no effect on the Ohio program to allow for critical analysis of evolution.  Law professor David DeWolf explained that not only is Ohio outside the jurisdiction of Judge Jones, but Ohio’s program comports with Congressional laws and Supreme Court decisions.  Stephen Dyer agreed that the effect on Ohio is muted, but he wrote for the Ohio Beacon Journal, that there still could be ripple effects.  Opponents of ID will take the ball on Jones’ opinion that singling out evolution for criticism is wrong, and having even a voluntary program is wrong if instigated from religious motives.
  • Iowa Debt to IDThe Scotsman reported that ID will probably still come up for discussion in Iowa next year, even though board members disagree about the impact of the Dover decision on their opinions.
  • Darwinism Corrodes Religion:  Columnist David Klinghoffer wrote in the Seattle Times that Judge Jones was wrong that Darwinism does not conflict with religious belief.  Klinghoffer quoted leading Darwinists that stated clearly how evolutionary theory is corrosive to religion and, by positing a materialistic philosophy, is antithetical to belief in God of any kind, and is therefore a religious philosophy in its own sense.
  • Lawyer Blog:  Albert Alschuler gave his opinion of the case in the U of Chicago Law Blog.  He chided the court for its contempt for religious belief, saying that ID should be judged on its merits, not because of what the court felt the motives of the plaintiffs were.  “Freedom from psychoanalysis is a basic courtesy,” he said.
Undoubtedly this is a small sample of opinions expressed on radio talk shows, TV programs, newspapers and letters to the editor.
Can we all remember that Judge Jones is just one man?  His complete buy-in to the ACLU side, and complete rejection of all the pro-ID testimony, shows he is a sadly biased man at that.  Isn’t it just like liberal leftists to look to unelected judges to get their power.  In no way does this decision reflect the amount of strong support ID is getting all over the country, and even other nations.  If a vote were taken by most American parents of high school students, Charlie would be put out on a one-way ship to Christmas Island, along with his blood brother the Grinch.
Next headline on:  DarwinismIntelligent DesignEducation
Mars Water Evidence Evaporates   12/23/2005    
The strongest evidence for water from the Mars rovers has been called into question.  Scientists from the University of Colorado at Boulder believe that the observations of sulfates and concretions are better explained by fumaroles in volcanic ash deposits (see also EurekAlert).  Their paper in Nature1 explains that the model means high temperatures: “Consequently, the model invokes an environment considerably less favourable for biological activity on Mars than previously proposed interpretations.”  Another paper in the same issue of Nature2 by scientists from University of Arizona and Los Alamos proposes rapid turbulent flows caused by meteor impacts produced the deposits, not periods of long-standing water as was previously assumed.  The report by Robert Roy Britt on included a response from Steve Squyres, principal investigator for the Mars Exploration Rovers.  He said he always contended that the water was primarily underground, but thought that alternative views are good for science.  The rovers, by the way, both celebrated their “One Martian Year Anniversary” recently (about twice as long as an Earth year).  Both rovers are still going strong (see JPL press release).  Opportunity recovered from a shoulder injury not long ago.  Engineers were able to get the robotic arm working again.  The MER Website has posted some more “special effects” images in which the rovers are placed into the scene.  This one of Opportunity on Burns Cliff would make a nice Christmas stocking stuffer.
    In other Mars news, the first results of the MARSIS instrument (Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding) on the European orbiter Mars Express were published in Science.3  The radar instrument can penetrate the surface for up to a kilometer.  Researchers found an underground impact basin 250 kilometers in diameter, and probed the northern polar ice deposits in this first-ever survey of the 3rd dimension of Mars.
1McCollom and Hynek, “A volcanic environment for bedrock diagenesis at Meridiani Planum on Mars,” Nature 438, 1129-1131 (22 December 2005) | doi:10.1038/nature04390.
2Knauth, Burt and Wohletz, “Impact origin of sediments at the Opportunity landing site on Mars,” Nature 438, 1123-1128 (22 December 2005) | doi:10.1038/nature04383.
3Picardi et al., “Radar Soundings of the Subsurface of Mars,” Science, 23 December 2005: Vol. 310. no. 5756, pp. 1925 - 1928, DOI: 10.1126/science.1122165.
Remember the optimistic claims that Opportunity had found evidence for long-lasting surface water?  Remember how the astrobiologists immediately jumped to the conclusion that Mars probably had good conditions for life?  (They’re still doing it; see the 11/29 JPL press release).  It was interesting to hear that the concretions or “blueberries” that seemed to clinch the argument for water have another explanation; they are apparently expected in an impact scenario, when a meteorite strike causes a short-term flood or “base surge” that can travel hundreds of kilometers from the impact site.  It may be possible that the H2O on Mars is subsurface ice that might liquefy during an impact event, only to freeze or vaporize quickly afterward.  Whatever they eventually decide, Mars doesn’t have to be lively to be interesting.
Next headline on:  MarsGeology
Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week   12/22/2005    
Two Elizabeths – Culotta and Pennisi – get the award for evolutionary bravado for their piece in Science.1  They were trumpeting the magazine’s award of Breakthrough of the Year to “Evolution in Action,” a series of findings that ostensibly help us understand how evolution works.  Whether the particular breakthroughs (the chimp genome, a study on chickadees that seems to support sympatric speciation, and studies of microbial resistance to antibiotics) actually supported belief in the common ancestry of all organisms (macroevolution), it didn’t seem to quell their enthusiasm in the slightest:
The big breakthrough, of course, was the one Charles Darwin made a century and a half ago. By recognizing how natural selection shapes the diversity of life, he transformed how biologists view the world.  But like all pivotal discoveries, Darwin’s was a beginning.  In the years since the 1859 publication of The Origin of Species, thousands of researchers have sketched life’s transitions and explored aspects of evolution Darwin never knew.
    Today evolution is the foundation of all biology, so basic and all-pervasive that scientists sometimes take its importance for granted.  At some level every discovery in biology and medicine rests on it, in much the same way that all terrestrial vertebrates can trace their ancestry back to the first bold fishes to explore land.  Each year, researchers worldwide discover enough extraordinary findings tied to evolutionary thinking to fill a book many times as thick as all of Darwin’s works put together.
  (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
They didn’t seem to pay much attention to the fact that the geneticists and paleontologists were having a little difficulty in the same issue of the journal (see next entry).  Nor did they pay any notice to the worldwide controversy over Charles Darwin and his theories.  Editor-in-chief Donald Kennedy did notice, however, as he defended the award:2
Wait a minute, I hear you cryHasn’t it been a trying year for evolution, considering the debates about teaching evolutionary theory in science classes in the United States and the headlines about Intelligent DesignOn the contrary; in the research community, it’s been a great year for understanding how evolution works, through both experiment and theory.  No single discovery makes the case by itself; after all, the challenge of understanding evolution makes multiple demands: How can we integrate genetics with patterns of inherited change?  How do new species arise in nature?  What can the new science of comparative genomics tell us about change over time?  We have to put the pieces together, and it could not be a more important challenge: As the evolutionary geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky once said, “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.”
One might wonder, then, what scientists are seeing in the dark.  Didn’t Darwin himself promise light was coming 146 years ago to shed on most of these same questions?  Kennedy pointed to his favorite example of the new light: a case of microevolution in stickleback fish.  The findings, however meager, are not as important as the process, Kennedy explained: “The exciting thing about evolution,” he said, “is not that our understanding is perfect or complete but that it is the foundation stone for the rest of biology.”  Other foundation can no man lay than that which has been laid, apparently.  Maybe, though, even intelligent design has a role to play – like the building inspector (see quote at top right of this page).  Kennedy claimed, “Genes that are now known to exert complex effects on body form at the macro level answer the commonly stated objection that complex structures could not have evolved from simpler precursors.  And so it goes: Scientific challenges are raised, inviting answers.”  Hard to disagree with that, but who gets to judge the validity of the answers, if not the challengers?
    Other news outlets were quick to pick up on the “Breakthrough of the Year” story: MSNBC, San Diego Union-Tribune, the Independent and the BBC News, for instance.  Readers are free to comb these articles for contenders for the SEQOTW award.
1Culotta and Pennisi, “Breakthrough of the Year: Evolution in Action,” Science, 23 December 2005: Vol. 310. no. 5756, pp. 1878 - 1879, DOI: 10.1126/science.310.5756.1878.
2Donald Kennedy, “Editorial: Breakthrough of the Year,” Science, 23 December 2005: Vol. 310. no. 5756, p. 1869, DOI: 10.1126/science.1123757.
Pennisi ought to know better; she has reported on many an evolutionary crisis (e.g., 12/14/2004, 08/06/2004, 06/13/2003).  To hear these two reporters cackling like spring chickens over a scrambled Darwin egg is pathetic.  None of the “breakthroughs” listed bear any real support to the central claim of Darwin that all species descended from a single common ancestor in the dim, unrepeatable past.  Kennedy acknowledged that scientific challenges have been raised by intelligent design proponents, and that they invite answers, but look who gets to judge the answers.  It’s like the kid getting to grade his own paper, or the defendant getting to play judge and jury, or the corporate boss getting to set his own salary and benefits.  It’s even worse than that.  The Darwinists not only control the answers; they usually control the questions.  They even control the language and the definitions of words.  Small wonder that Charlie gets another medal.
    Also pathetic was that evolution won “Breakthrough of the Year” over more worthy competitors.  First runner-up was the “Planetary blitz” of dramatic space successes, including the Mars rovers and orbiters, Deep Impact, and the Cassini-Huygens achievements at Saturn.  In this golden age of planetary reconnaissance, there has been drama, adventure, engineering prowess, and real observational science.  Yet these were slighted by boisterous bluffing that a piece of data here, a controversial study there amount to vindication of Charlie as he lies a-moulderin' in Westminster Abbey.  Are you stimulated by the possibility that slight changes in stickleback fish promise to finally show us how humans came from bacteria?
    One can only guess that Donald Kennedy and the other Darwin Party hacks at the AAAS had to perk up the ears of their congregation in light of the uproar outside, and like the preacher’s sermon notes scribbled in the margin advised, “Point weak – pound pulpit harder here.”  Sorry, all you scientists who did great work on other subjects.  Priorities are priorities.  Now is the time for all good Darwinists to come to the aid of their theory.  That means strike up the band and roll it down the parade route, and conjure up the ghost of Emperor Charlie, so he can play his perennial role of Master of Ceremonies, wearing his customary robes.
Next headline on:  Darwin and Evolutionary TheoryDumb Statements
Cambrian Explosion Still Troubling to Evolutionists   12/22/2005    
Despite Darwinian efforts to muffle it or spread it into a diffuse rumble, the Cambrian explosion (the near-sudden emergence of most animal body plans in the fossil record) was loud and snappy.  A new phylogenetic study by Antonis Rokas (MIT), Dirk Krüger, and Sean B. Carroll (U of Wisconsin), published in Science this week,1 could not rid the models of rapid evolution across diverse clades, what they call “radiations compressed in time.”  Their new broad study of gene sequences reached the same verdict as the fossil record.  Their technical terms, translated into plain English, mean that the Cambrian explosion was real:
The phylogenetic relationships among most metazoan phyla remain uncertain.  We obtained large numbers of gene sequences from metazoans, including key understudied taxa.  Despite the amount of data and breadth of taxa analyzed, relationships among most metazoan phyla remained unresolved.  In contrast, the same genes robustly resolved phylogenetic relationships within a major clade of Fungi of approximately the same age as the Metazoa.  The differences in resolution within the two kingdoms suggest that the early history of metazoans was a radiation compressed in time, a finding that is in agreement with paleontological inferences.  Furthermore, simulation analyses as well as studies of other radiations in deep time indicate that, given adequate sequence data, the lack of resolution in phylogenetic trees is a signature of closely spaced series of cladogenetic events.   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
Three other scientists commenting on the story in the same issue of Science2 tried to find ways around the study but were not too successful.  “Is the big bang in animal evolution real?” they asked.  Maybe it can be circumvented with more data, or with different analytical methods.  “In light of these concerns, are the conclusions of Rokas et al. justified? Should we ignore their study?  Most certainly not, because they have produced a wealth of data and have shown that it might just be possible that the fossil record can be reconciled with molecular data.”  The resolution, however, was left in future tense (with emphasis on tense).
    Rokas et al. did not seem so optimistic.  A press release from University of Wisconsin underscored Carroll’s conclusion that the animal family “tree” is looking “bushy” in places.  There were “frenetic bursts of evolution” he said.  Despite their efforts to resolve the record, “instead of a tree, we got a bush where many branches sprout close together.”  He said it was hard to distinguish evolutionary events, even with “boatloads of data.”  Rokas found a way to put a positive spin on it.  “The difficulty we are facing in telling animal relationships apart is evolution’s signature that some very interesting evolutionary stuff happened here,” he chuckled.
1Antonis Rokas, Dirk Krüger, Sean B. Carroll, “Animal Evolution and the Molecular Signature of Radiations Compressed in Time,” Science, 23 December 2005: Vol. 310. no. 5756, pp. 1933 - 1938, DOI: 10.1126/science.1116759.
2Lars S. Jermiin, Leon Poladian, Michael A. Charleston, “Evolution: Is the ‘Big Bang’ in Animal Evolution Real?”, Science, 23 December 2005: Vol. 310. no. 5756, pp. 1910 - 1911, DOI: 10.1126/science.1122440.
Very interesting evolutionary stuff, indeed (but only to a demolition expert).  The Darwin Party knows that critics hammer the point that the Cambrian explosion falsifies evolutionary theory.  Oh, how the Darwinists would love to get around it!  These two papers and the news article show that they cannot.  Look at the bars on their timeline, representing the data: they stack nearly on top of one another.  To the left are fictional, imaginary dashed lines connecting them into a phylogenetic tree, with absolutely no data, fossil or genetic, to support the inference.  Should they be depriving students of these embarrassing findings?  Most textbooks glibly state that evolution is a fact, and the fossil record proves it.  This is a snow job if there ever was one.  Demand accountability.
Next headline on:  Darwinism and Evolutionary TheoryFossilsGenes and DNA
How to Overcome Student Objections to Evolution   12/21/2005    
Biology teachers face increasing difficulty from students coming into class with bad feelings about evolution (11/30/2005, 08/30/2005).  Many pro-evolution teachers will be attracted to methods that have a demonstrable track record of relieving tensions and facilitating the process of getting students to accept Darwin’s theory.  David Sloan Wilson (Binghamton U, NY) has just the thing.  Writing in PLoS Biology,1 he introduced Evolution for Everyone, or EvoS for short, with the upbeat title, “Evolution for Everyone: How to Increase Acceptance of, Interest in, and Knowledge about Evolution” (compare 11/01/2005 entry about another suggested method)  First, the bad news that made this initiative necessary:
Evolution is famously controversial, despite being as well established as any scientific theory.  Most people are familiar with the dismal statistics, showing how a large fraction of Americans at all educational levels do not accept the theory of evolution, how efforts to teach evolution often fail to have an impact, and how constant vigilance is required to keep evolution in the public school curriculum.  Even worse, most people who do accept the theory of evolution don’t relate it to matters of importance in their own lives.  There appear to be two walls of resistance, one denying the theory altogether and the other denying its relevance to human affairs.   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
Wilson impresses the reader right off the bat with statistics from tests of the EvoS method at Binghamton University, showing a pronounced shift toward acceptance of evolution among students, regardless of religious background, familiarity with the theory, or political persuasion.  How did he do it?  Wilson describes the multi-pronged approach as focusing on teaching “a sequence of ideas” and helping students “catch the evolution bug.”  From the long article, a few highlights stand out.
    For one thing, EvoS does not shy away from controversy, but embraces it as a teaching opportunity.  When students feel threatened by evolution, for instance, the teacher delves right in.  “Threatening ideas are like other threats,” Wilson says; “the first impulse is to run away or attack them.  Make the same ideas alluring, and our first impulse is to embrace them and make them our own.”  OK, so while the teacher is trying to explain how evolution explains the world and helps provide ways to improve the future, a student objects that evolution has produced a lot of bad social policies.  Now what?  Don’t dodge the question:
This requires a discussion of past threatening associations, even before the theory is presented.  Evolution has been associated with immorality, determinism, and social policies ranging from eugenics to genocide.  It has been used to justify racism and sexism. All of these negative associations must be first acknowledged and then challenged.  It’s not as if the world was a nice place before Darwin and then became mean on the basis of his theory.  Before Darwin, religious and other justifications were used to commit the same acts, as when the American colonists used the principle of divine right to dispossess Native Americans, and men claimed that women were designed by “God and Nature” for domestic servitude.  These beliefs are patently self-serving and it should surprise no one that an authoritative scientific theory would be pressed into the same kind of service.  It is the job of intellectuals to see through such arguments and not be taken in by them.  Moreover, the deep philosophical issues associated with topics such as morality, determinism, and social equality are increasingly being approached from a modern evolutionary perspective and are among the topics to be discussed in the course.  When these issues are discussed at the beginning of the course, students put their own threatening associations with evolution on hold and become curious to know how a subject that they associate with science (evolution) can shed light on a subject that they associate with the humanities (philosophy).  Students who indicate exceptional interest are referred to books that are both authoritative and accessible, such as Daniel Dennett’s Darwin’s Dangerous Idea.
Wilson teaches evolution not as a choice between theology or materialism, but a third way: a process of change, in which the material organism “becomes a kind of living clay that can be molded by environmental forces that influence survival and reproduction.”  This, he explains, enables evolutionary theory to make predictions about how organisms and populations adapt to their surroundings.
    Wilson encourages discussion groups.  As another example of facing a controversial topic head-on, he divides students into groups to discuss infanticide:
Choosing the subject of infanticide, I say that superficially it might seem that organisms would never evolve to kill their own offspring, but with a little thought the students might be able to identify situations in which infanticide is biologically adaptive for the parents.  I ask them to form small groups by turning to their neighbors to discuss the subject for five minutes and to list their predictions on a piece of paper.
    After the lists are collected, I ask the students for some of their predictions to list in front of the whole class.  They are eager to talk, and reliably identify the three major adaptive contexts of infanticide: lack of resources, poor offspring quality, and uncertain paternity, along with less likely possibilities, such as population regulation, that can be set aside for future discussion.  I conclude by attempting to convey the simple but profound message of the exercise: How can they, mere undergraduate students, who know almost nothing about evolution and (one hopes) know nothing at all about infanticide, so easily deduce the major hypotheses that are in fact employed in the study of infanticide for organisms as diverse as plants, insects, and mammals?  That is just one example of the power of thinking on the basis of adaptation and natural selection.
Lest one think this is just talking about birds and bees, Wilson makes it clear that a key feature of EvoS is encouraging students to see human beings as integrally involved in the evolutionary process:
One of the biggest tactical errors in teaching evolution is to avoid discussing humans or to restrict discussion to remote topics such as human origins.  The question of how we arose from the apes is fascinating and important, but is only one of any number of questions that can be asked about humans from an evolutionary perspective—including infanticide.  If evolutionary theory can make sense of this subject for organisms as diverse as plants, insects, and mammals, what about us?  If we operate by different rules than all other creatures for this and other subjects, why should this be so?  The most common answer to this question is “learning and culture,” but what exactly are these things?  Do they exist apart from evolution, or do they themselves need to be explained from an evolutionary perspective?  I raise these issues early in the course, not to answer them, but to emphasize how much is “on the table” as part of the course.
Wilson says that for millennia, people have considered humankind categorically different from other creatures in their mental, moral and aesthetic abilities.  “We are obviously unique in some respects,” he acknowledges, “but in exactly what way needs to be completely rethought.”  Students are encouraged to view human infanticide along the same lines as they did for animals, and to do the same for human warfare, learning, and culture – all of which the teacher can demonstrate are present in varying degrees in the natural world.
    Such directness might seem worrisome to a biology teacher.  Wilson reassures the reader that, in practice, the method actually produces compliant students:
It might seem that boldly discussing subjects such as human infanticide (which the students quickly connect to the contemporary issue of abortion), along with other topics such as sex differences and homosexuality later in the course, is the ultimate in political incorrectness.  However, I have taught this material for many years in prior courses without a single complaint, and the assessment of “Evolution for Everyone” demonstrates an overwhelmingly positive response across the religious and political spectrum.  Clearly, there is a way to proceed that arouses intense interest without animosity or moral outrage.  In the case of infanticide, evolutionary theory doesn’t say that it’s right—it is used to make an informed guess about when it occurs.  All of the students want to know if the guess proves to be correct for humans in addition to other creatures, regardless of their moral stance on abortion.  Moreover, they see that the information can be useful for addressing the problem, whatever particular solution they have in mind.  The importance of culture is not denied, but becomes part of the evolutionary framework rather than a vaguely articulated alternative.  The picture that emerges makes sense of cases of infanticide that appear periodically in the news (typically young women with few resources and under the influence of a male partner who is not the father) and that previously seemed inexplicable.  Nearly everyone values this kind of understanding and thinks that it can be put to positive use, as demonstrated by the quantitative assessment. More generally, including humans along with the rest of life vastly increases students’ interest in evolution and acceptance to the degree that it seems to lead to understanding and improvement of the human condition.
Wilson continues; evolutionary changes are not always adaptive, nor are they always benign.  “Fitness is a relative and local concept,” he explains.  “It doesn’t matter how well an organism survives and reproduces, only that it does so better than other organisms in its vicinity.”  Overall, the teacher presents evolution as practical for explaining the observations without making any moral judgments.  But then, what about morality?  That’s part of our evolution, too, as more group discussion helps the students realize:
If behaviors regarded as immoral in human terms are adaptive and “natural,” then aren’t all the fears about evolution justified?  No—because behaviors that are regarded as moral in human terms are also adaptive and “natural” under the right circumstances, which can be illustrated with the following exercise of the sort suggested by Nelson and Alters.  First, the class is asked to list the behaviors that they associate with morality.  The most common items include altruism, honesty, love, charity, sacrifice, loyalty, bravery, and so on.  Then they are asked to list behaviors that they associate with immorality, and respond with opposite items such as selfishness, deceit, hatred, miserliness, and cowardice.  With these lists in mind, the students are asked three questions: (1) What would happen if you put a single moral individual and a single immoral individual together on a desert island?  (The students quickly conclude that the moral individual would become shark food within days.)  (2) What would happen if you put a group of moral individuals on one island and a group of immoral individuals on another island?  (The students are equally quick to conclude that the moral group would work together to escape the island or turn it into a little utopia, while the immoral group would self-destruct.)  (3) What would happen if you allow one immoral individual to paddle over to Virtue Island?  (The answer to this question is complex because it is a messy combination of the straightforward answers to the first two questions.)
The students learn, then, that situational ethics pop right out of evolutionary theory.  “This exercise is simple and entertaining,” he says, “but profound in its implications.  It shows that most of the traits associated with human morality can be biologically adaptive.”  Students are assured that a quasi-traditional morality, including altruism and honesty (except for the occasional freeloader or non-cooperator) is a natural consequence of natural selection within groups.  Alas, the teacher must admit that group selection can lead to “a disturbing corollary.  Can’t behaviors that count as moral within groups be used for immoral purposes among groups?  The answer to this question is ‘yes,’ which means that moral conduct among groups is a different and more difficult evolutionary problem to solve than moral conduct within groups.”  By this time, students understand that scientists should one day be able to figure this out by such a useful, predictive theory as natural selection.
The important point is that evolutionary theory can potentially explain the evolution of behaviors associated with morality and immorality.  This is vastly different than the usual portrayal of evolution as a theory that explains immorality but leaves morality unaccounted for.  The average student is well aware that immoral behaviors usually benefit the actor, that human groups have a disturbing tendency to confine moral conduct to their own members, and so on.  When evolutionary theory is presented as a framework for understanding these patterns in all their complexity, including the good, the bad, the beautiful, and the ugly, it is perceived as a tool for understanding that can be used for positive ends, rather than as a threat.
So you see, students, evolutionary theory should not be threatening.  It’s just a tool, a neutral way of looking at the natural world (including ourselves), so that we can explain a wide variety of observations that before Darwin seemed inexplicable.  It’s time to get into the heavy stuff:
At this point (about mid-semester), the students are told that they have acquired a conceptual framework that can be used to study virtually any subject in biology and human affairs, which will be used to study particular topics for the rest of the semester.  There is great flexibility in the topics that can be chosen, which is facilitated by having the students read, rather than a textbook, well-chosen articles from the primary scientific literature.
(It can be safely assumed that Wilson does not have in mind sources like Of Pandas and People).  The enlightened student is now ready to think about Darwinian medicine, and topics as diverse as “violence, sexuality, personality, and culture” to see what insights evolutionary thinking can provide.  “They realize that they have started to approach the study of humans in the way that evolutionary biologists approach the rest of life, with a common language that can be spoken across many domains of knowledge.”  They have arrived.
    One more thing: the student gets to choose his or her own topic and write it up in evolutionary terms.  Suggestions: “adoption, alcoholism, attractiveness, body piercing, depression, eating disorders, fashion, fear, hand dominance, homosexuality, marriage, play, sexual jealousy, sibling rivalry, social roles, suicide, video games, and yawning.”  As Dobzhansky famously remarked, “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.”
To summarize, “Evolution for Everyone” works by establishing a general conceptual framework through a sequence of ideas.  The framework is then strengthened and consolidated by applying it to a number of specific topics.  Virtually all students respond to the class because they cease to be threatened by evolutionary theory and begin to perceive it as a powerful way to understand and improve the world.  Once the theory becomes alluring, the only remaining obstacle to learning is the intrinsic difficulty of the subject.  That, it turns out, is not much of an obstacle either.  Almost anyone can master the basic principles of evolution and incorporate them into their own thinking, providing both a foundation and an incentive to advance their knowledge in subsequent courses.
Speaking of subsequent courses, Wilson is thinking way outside the box of high school or college biology.  First, he encourages students who have “caught the evolution bug” to spread their newfound interests into a campus-wide program.  The anthropology, psychology, economics and philosophy departments, with help from the administration, can all merge their evolutionary ideas into a cohesive picture, transcending traditional disciplinary boundaries.  Special seminars can be held.  Students can earn special EvoS certificates by completing required courses.  Faculty advisors can counsel each student to “develop a curriculum tailored to his or her interests from the menu of offerings.”
    One last obstacle: other faculty.  Though most of them already ridicule creationism, Wilson contends that most of them don’t yet see the relevance of evolution to their disciplines.  His plan, therefore, includes faculty training as well as student training, so that the university becomes “a single intellectual community.” 
In many ways, this type of experience approaches the ideal of a liberal arts education.  It should be especially appealing to small colleges that have difficulty achieving a critical mass in single subject areas.  Evolutionary theory is not the only common language, but it is a very good one that will eventually become part of the normal discourse for all subject areas relevant to human affairs and the natural world.
That’s “Evolution for Everyone” – one big, happy campus.
1David Sloan Wilson, “Evolution for Everyone: How to Increase Acceptance of, Interest in, and Knowledge about Evolution,” Public Library of Science, Biology, Volume 3 | Issue 12 | December 2005.
In James Clavell’s chilling tale The Children’s Story, (a must read before continuing this commentary), the New Teacher comes to class after the conquest (presumably a communist takeover).  She takes a frightened group of children and calms them into becoming compliant, trusting citizens.  In just 23 minutes, she has gently and effectively dismantled their patriotism, their faith, their family loyalty and their most cherished beliefs before they even know what hit them.  A well-trained, master manipulator, she is not a teacher: she is a facilitator, a guarantor of compliance with the new regime, an electrician who has cut off power from the resistance.  She is just as much an arm of the State as the soldier on the battlefield, and perhaps even more effective.  This is not education.  It is indoctrination with finesse.
    David Sloan Wilson is talking about college students, not children.  They are a more difficult lot to indoctrinate, but the parallels with the New Teacher are striking.  Consider a few:
  1. Teach only one side.  Wilson’s method depends on carefully controlling what the students hear.  The New Teacher’s success depended on first removing Miss Worden, the Old Teacher, before she could say anything.  A debate with Miss Worden might have led to very unacceptable results, so it was essential to dispense with her quickly and quietly.  With EvoS, unlike with Verhey’s inoculation technique (11/01/2005), which at least gave the students a carefully measured taste of a contrary viewpoint, Wilson acknowledges that evolution is “famously controversial” but gives voice only to the Darwinist propaganda.  This is indoctrination by definition.  He prescribes “well-chosen articles from the primary scientific literature” (read: DODO, for Darwin-only, Darwin-only).  Notice his favorite recommended reading: Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, in which Daniel Dennett advocated putting creationists in zoos, or otherwise eliminating them, since they are a threat to the regime.
  2. Eliminate the negative.  The New Teacher knew that the children were afraid and had heard bad things about the conquerors, so she was quick to allay their fears by distraction – singing, complimenting the children, disarming them with friendliness, and other tactics – while sidestepping the evils her regime was doing in the background.  Similarly, Wilson’s first step is to confront the students’ fears about the implications of evolutionary philosophy (including eugenics and genocide) by soft-pedaling the history and implying “we’re all in this together.”  Why look, Christians have done many bad things, too.  It’s not like the world was a nice place before Darwin came along.  EvoS tries to disconnect evolution from its historic disastrous consequences by selling it as only a neutral, objective, unbiased, useful, scientific, explanatory tool.  Sure, some people might misuse it, but that doesn’t make it bad now, does it children?
  3. Euphemize.  Johnny’s daddy didn’t believe “bad” things, just “wrong” things.  Daddy and Miss Worden were not going to concentration camps (or worse), just to “school” (remember how the communists called this “re-education”?  A little brainwashing, a little torture, some mind-altering drugs – all very effective).  EvoS helps us understand “morality”.  It helps us understand how we are all a part of nature.  It helps us improve the human condition.  The new regime is nothing to be afraid of; why, it is just “a tool for understanding that can be used for positive ends, rather than as a threat.”
  4. Confront.  The New Teacher stops them in the middle of the pledge and asks them, what does it mean?  What does pledge mean?  What does allegiance mean?  Those are good questions, but she didn’t define them like Red Skelton did in a famous monologue.  She asked the questions not to answer them, but to raise doubts about what they had been taught.  Wilson confronts the students with questions about abortion and infanticide, not to make them think critically, but to draw them into his net: it’s all about evolution.  Evolution explains infanticide.  Evolution explains abortion.  Evolution explains yawning.  Evolution explains everything.
  5. Disarm.  The New Teacher did not charge through the door as the ogre or beast the children feared; she was dressed neatly, smiled, and greeted them by name.  She sang them a song.  She sympathized with their fears.  She gave them candy, demonstrating that prayers to “Our Leader” are legitimate prayers, but only if a human being actually answers.  Under the sweet surface was a hideous assault on their freedoms and values.  Similarly, Wilson’s “Virtue Island” game is a subtle form of mind control.  It simultaneously oversimplifies the issue of morality and teaches moral relativism, while denying any opportunity for rebuttal.  EvoS keeps the tone happy and positive by utilizing discussion groups, giving the students games to play, and rewarding compliant students with certificates for completing the brainwashing. 
  6. Dismantle.  Clavell’s schoolchildren fondled their little pieces of the flag, oblivious to what The New Teacher had done in cutting it up and giving them each a piece of it.  Then, amidst shrieks of excitement, the children tossed the flagpole out the window with their own hands.  Wilson starts by saluting virtue and pledging allegiance to morality, but then he proceeds to cut it up and hand out the pieces by getting the students to slowly agree that it, too, is a product of evolution.  Since people evolved – since everything evolved – then, well, morality evolved, too.  Isn’t evolution a wonderful and powerful theory?
  7. Think Big.  At 9:23, the New Teacher “was warmed ... by the thought that throughout the school and throughout the land all children, all men and all women were being taught with the same faith, with variations of the same procedures.  Each according to his age group.  Each according to his need.”  Utilizing techniques appropriate for college students, EvoS promulgates “the same faith” that children and adults will get.  While focusing in this article on the college age group, Wilson understands the big agenda of the regime.  He sees beyond EvoS to the entire intellectual program of the university, and of the world.  Evolution is to become the campus-wide “common language” the “conceptual framework” for the liberal arts and humanities, the lens through which all knowledge will be sifted.  Debate won’t have a chance, because the Ministry of Truth will control the dictionary and the history textbook.  There will be no controversy, for everyone will have completed the required brainwashing sessions, from freshmen to faculty.  It will be... Utopia.
If you were swayed by David Sloan Wilson’s article, and thought it sounded like a nice program, there might still be hope, but it will require desperate measures.  Brainwashing is a serious mental disorder.  Undoing its effects requires rescue and deprogramming.  The stakes in this intellectual takeover that the Darwinists are advocating could not be higher.  Wilson, PLoS Biology, the NCSE, and Big Science in general have their sights set on nothing less than totalitarian rule.  It is not a matter of debating peers, or winning in the free marketplace of ideas.  This is an agenda for wage and price controls, for one-party rule, and for dictatorial power over the means of idea production.  John Stuart Mill, the atheist-empiricist utilitarian philosopher (a friend of Darwin), the father of the “open marketplace of ideas,” would be appalled.  Pay him no mind; he was just a product of evolution, too, and his ideas have no external validity apart from evolution.  Evolution is all; all is evolution.
    Any view trying to encompass morality, philosophy, religion, anthropology, psychology, economics, history, sexual ethics, culture, eating disorders, video games and even yawning has long ceased to be just a biological theory.  Evolution for Everyone is a complete and total world view: “a powerful way to understand and improve the world” including “deep philosophical issues associated with topics such as morality, determinism, and social equality.”  Like a communist ideal State, it is the machine of history.  Students are expendable; they must be molded into obedient pawns of the regime.
    The first step in deprogramming is to realize you’ve been had.  If you still have some control of your rational faculties, consider that this evolutionary indoctrination program falsifies itself.  Wilson talks about morality, but makes morality a by-product of a mindless, relativistic, unguided process that succeeds by squashing the unfit.  What is “right” or “wrong” in such a world?  Obviously, it could be anything, including cruelty or genocide.  There is no such thing as a “Virtue Island.”  He cannot define groups of moral and immoral people without borrowing vocabulary from a religion or philosophy that believes in absolutes.  In philosophical dualism or pantheism, yin and yang are morally indistinguishable.  Moral categories are in the eye of the beholder.  The immoral group can call itself the moral group without any guilt or contradiction, because evolution is what evolution does.  Whatever it does is “good,” whatever that means.
Richard Weikart in From Darwin to Hitler underscored the chilling point that Hitler sincerely believed he was doing the right thing.  He was not amoral; he did what he did from a deeply held conviction based on what he believed evolutionary ethics demanded (and remember, he got willing compliance from the intellectual leaders and scientists of his day—see 04/07/2005).  Hitler’s views are disdained by evolutionists today – but on what basis?  If they say Hitler was “wrong” to murder 11 million people, challenge them to define “wrong” without reference to absolute standards of morality.  It cannot be done.  Weikart explains, “Darwinism provided no basis to consider some forms of morality “better” than any other, or for that matter, it gave no reason to think that morality was “better” in any real sense than immorality” (p. 229).
    Likewise, Wilson cannot claim moral equivalence between the evils committed by Christians and Darwinists.  It is undeniable that so-called “Christians” have committed atrocities.  For one thing, however, the differences in scale are mind-boggling (see 11/30/2005 and also the January 2006 issue of National Geographic which, although underreporting communist democides by over 50%, still shows Darwin-inspired communism and Nazism outstripping any religious-inspired murders by orders of magnitude).  The body counts simply cannot be compared.  Furthermore, it is impossible to derive genocide or other moral evils from the teachings of Jesus Christ, who taught that we should love one another and turn the other cheek and pray for those who persecute us.  There is, by contrast, a very logical, plausible line of reasoning from the premise of survival of the fittest to a Hitler or Stalin.  This is important to ponder for year 2006.  Don’t think for a minute that the atrocities inherent in Darwin-inspired politics were exhausted in the 20th century.
The EvoS talk about morality, therefore, is self-defeating and self-refuting.  What else do you need to know about Wilson’s utopian vision?  How about the way EvoS shields the students’ eyes from all the controversies between Darwinists?  EvoS espouses the game-theoretic, environmental approach to evolutionary theory when other ardent Darwinians would disagree strongly with it on numerous points (except for the mantra, “evolution is a fact”).  Would you trust any teacher who takes a tattered hodgepodge of chopped-up guts and blood and toxin and packages it neatly to sell as a delicious sausage that will improve your health?  Wilson is all bluffing and no credibility.  You have been taken in by a cult.  It’s a dangerous cult.  It is Darwin’s Dangerous Idea.  If you listen to the New Teacher and the regime she represents, realize that life will be sweet only as long as you comply.  Try to disagree with them after they have achieved all power, and they will put you in the zoo.  That’s if you are one of the lucky ones.
    We can’t afford to be little Johnnys with only a nebulous “hate” that somehow gives us “strength” in the face of some perceived threat we don’t understand but have been told to fear.  As Clavell showed, it was only a matter of time before Johnny succumbed.  If the regime succeeds in rewriting history, defining terms and violating our rationality, as Orwell showed, it’s only a matter of time before Winston acquiesced and confessed, from his heart, that he loved Big Brother.  Sir Francis Bacon said, knowledge is power.  Know your history.  Know your science.  Understand philosophy, theology, the history of ideas, and the art of reasoning.  Practice the skill of baloney detecting.  Thankfully, the Darwin Borg has not yet become powerful enough to assimilate by physical coercion; this means that, so far, only weak minds are susceptible.  Till then, knowledge is the best defense against a seemingly overwhelming force that is turning brainwashing into a fine art.
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Judge Rules ID Unconstitutional    12/20/2005  
Judge John E. Jones III gave his ruling on the Dover school board case in favor of the plaintiffs, as expected.  His wording against the board was strident, even accusing them of lying about their religious motives for including intelligent design (ID) as an alternative to evolution.  He spoke of the “breathtaking inanity” of the school board’s policy, and claimed the citizens of the Dover area were “poorly served” by the members of the board who voted for the ID policy that required a statement be read by school administrators in biology classes disclaiming evolution as a fact and mentioning an alternative text that would be available for interested students.  “We conclude that the religious nature of ID would be readily apparent to an objective observer, adult or child,” the judge said.  MSNBC News reported:
Jones blasted the disclaimer, saying it “singles out the theory of evolution for special treatment, misrepresents its status in the scientific community, causes students to doubt its validity without scientific justification, presents students with a religious alternative masquerading as a scientific theory, directs them to consult a creationist text as though it were a science resource and instructs students to forgo scientific inquiry in the public school classroom and instead to seek out religious instruction elsewhere.”   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
(See also LiveScience.)  Judge Jones clearly embraced all the arguments of the plaintiffs and their witnesses, lawyers and scientists, and accepted none of those on the other side.  He tried to pre-empt claims that his ruling would be viewed as “the product of an activist judge” by claiming the only activists were the members of the Dover school board.  Bill O’Reilly on Fox News didn’t hesitate to accuse him of being an activist judge, shaking his head in disbelief at the ruling, as did his guest Judge Napolitano: now, just mentioning the idea of a designer in a public school class, without specifying anything about said designer, without requiring any testing or assignments on it, but just informing students that an alternative theory exists, is unconstitutional.  The Fox News segment mentioned that Jones is a Republican appointed by President Bush.  It also noted that Jones added insult to injury by forcing the defendants to pay all the plaintiff’s legal bills, probably astronomical, a move which will likely have a chilling effect on other school boards wanting to test the waters on intelligent design.  It is also unlikely this ruling will be appealed, since the board members who instituted the policy were voted out of office in last month’s election (11/09/2005).  That also means the ruling will remain limited to the central Pennsylvania district where the trial occurred.
    The Discovery Institute was quick to respond, calling the ruling a “futile attempt to censor science education.”  Articles by Jonathan Witt and John West soon followed; the very one-sided ruling is bound to generate a great deal of polarized commentary.  Access Research Network found it surprising that the ruling not only prohibited offering ID as an alternative to evolution, but even made it unconstitutional to criticize evolution in any way: “To preserve the separation of church and state mandated by the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution,” the ruling stated, “we will enter an order permanently enjoining Defendants from maintaining the ID Policy in any school within the Dover Area School District, from requiring teachers to denigrate or disparage the scientific theory of evolution, and from requiring teachers to refer to a religious, alternative theory known as ID.”  Leaders in the ID movement see the Dover trial as a poor test case that will probably not be the last.
    See also the Fox News report and a commentary on it by Tom Magnuson at Access Research Network.
Given the nature of the case, a ruling in favor of the board would have been surprising.  But Jones went overboard; his ruling is so full of bluster and emotion, it sounds like another bluffing shout before the dying gasp of the materialists wanting to maintain their stranglehold on education and to police student brains against entertaining doubts about the authority of Pope Charlie, a shriek by the wicked witch threatening death to her captives before the water of scientific evidence makes her melt away.  Undoubtedly Jones did not want to soil his reputation among the scientific elitists.  Now he can continue to party with his liberal friends without them calling him the judge that destroyed science.  He may have rescued his reputation for the short term, but in the long term of history, his ruling may well be cited as the epitome of activism, of judicial meddling in science and philosophy.
    Already, columnists like Dennis Byrne in the Chicago Tribune are wondering, “what is so scary about intelligent design?”  What are the DODOs (Darwin Only! Darwin Only!) so afraid of?  If their theory is rock solid, it should stand any scrutiny and critical analysis.  Anything that has to be so protected that no one can even be allowed to consider that alternatives exist is going to look silly in due time.
    Perhaps some onlookers will feel pity for the losers, wondering what all the fuss was about, and why it generated so much rancor.  The fuss will continue, and judges can be overruled.  Why?  Politics?  Religious activism?  No: because evidence cannot be suppressed indefinitely.  Remember, in Georgia already, Judge Clarence Cooper’s similar ruling against the disclaimer stickers is being viewed by the appeals court as gratuitous and contrary to the evidence (12/16/2005).  The NCSE may find Jones’s ruling to be a pyrrhic victory.  The important thing is that design in nature is ignoring the decision.  It is so ubiquitous at all scales (see next two entries for examples), it cannot be hidden forever by mountains of rhetoric.  The glacier grinds on.
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Undersea Christmas Lights Explained   12/19/2005    
There is a marine animal like a jellyfish that puts on one of the most dazzling light shows in nature.  Some ctenophores, or comb jellies, can send multi-colored pulses of light that radiate down their sides in a rainbow of colors.  If you’ve ever seen one of these on a TV nature show, you were probably stunned and asked, How does it do that?  Three scientists from Oxford and Paris were intrigued by the “spectacular iridescence” of these comb jellies and decided to find out.  The first thing they found out was that nobody had ever explained it before.
    Their investigation, published in Current Biology,1 concluded that the effect is part photochemical and part structural.  The animals have rows of specialized cilia associated with light-producing (bioluminescent) organs.  The cilia are arranged in precise formations such that they act as “photonic crystals” that can concentrate particular wavelengths of light (this mechanism also operates in bird feathers and butterfly wings; see 11/18/2005).  The color seen by an observer depends on the angle of the photonic crystals along the line of sight.  As the cilia beat in synchronized patterns down the sides, this angle changes, causing the colors to change in wavy patterns down their sides.  The result is a dazzling undersea light show:
Our results show that the observed colouration of the ctenophore Beroë cucumis can be explained by the structure described, which operates as a photonic crystal.  This is the first time a photonic crystal composed of cilia has been reported.  The parallelogrammatic cilial packing is also new: the two-dimensional photonic crystals previously described have had hexagonally, squarely or rectangularly packed components.
    Remarkably, our results indicate that this structure is optimised not only for reflection of ambient light to generate bright colouration across the visible spectrum, but also to transmit light of wavelengths around that of the organism’s bioluminescence.
  (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
    Since ctenophores lack eyes, the scientists figure these function as a deterrent to predators.  The researchers hope by learning about the design of these light-producing structures, inventors might find useful applications: “A photonic crystal is a rare type of colour-producing structure,” they said, “composed of a regularly repeating structure with dimensions a fraction of the wavelength of light, complex optical properties and large commercial potential.”
1Welch, Vigneron and Parker, “The cause of colouration in the ctenophore Beroë cucumis,” Current Biology, Volume 15, Issue 24, 24 December 2005, Pages R985-R986.
Watch for these on the next undersea nature program on TV; the light show truly is “spectacular” as the authors describe it (click here for an image gallery, but to be fully appreciated, the lights must be seen in action).  Ctenophore lighting is another “useless” wonder of nature that appears to be overkill simply for evading predators.  The world is a vast treasure chest of ingenious solutions to physical problems that challenge our own intelligence to understand.  Approaching these phenomena from a design perspective not only helps explain them, but also leads to what Francis Bacon called experimenta fructifera, fruitful experiments that can improve our lives.  For more thoughts by William Dembski on intelligent design and biomimetics, particularly regarding the Vorticella spring (12/13/2005), see Uncommon Descent.
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Choose You This Day: Multiverse or I.D.   12/18/2005    
If Leonard Susskind is right, cosmologists are escaping the conclusion of intelligent design (ID) by backing into a radically speculative idea: a near infinity of universes.  Susskind, a theoretical physicist from Stanford, just published a book, Cosmic Landscape: String Theory and the Illusion of Intelligent Design (Little, Brown 2005), that explores current cosmological thinking about the Anthropic Principle – the observation that the constants of physics in our universe appear finely tuned to make stars, planets and life possible.  Susskind was interviewed by Amanda Gefter in New Scientist.
    Susskind spoke as if he and other cosmologists have been forced into the concept of a multiverse (multitude of universes, of which our entire universe is just one sample) because the fine-tuning problem won’t go away.  Try as they might, physicists cannot come up with a theory that explains why the constants are the way they are.  All they know is that, were they different, life would be impossible in our universe.  Initially, string theory seemed to allow for a million possible vacuum states that would have determined the type of universe that emerged.  That was not enough, Susskind thought; getting one life-giving universe out of a million was still too improbable.  When two physicists upped the number of vacuum states to 10500, Susskind became a believer.  Out of that many universes, surely some would have the anthropic conditions for life.  We notice ours does, because we’re in it.  Intelligent design could remain just an illusion, therefore, because uncountable numbers of other universes exist with random values for the physical constants.
    When Susskind started sharing this idea, “The initial reaction was very hostile, but over the past couple of years people are taking it more seriously,” he said.  “They are worried that it might be true.”  Cosmologist Stephen Weinberg considers it “one of the great sea changes in fundamental science since Einstein,” a radical change that alters the nature of science itself.
In a way it is very radical but in another way it isn’t.  The great ambition of physicists like myself was to explain why the laws of nature are just what they are.  Why is the proton just about 1800 times heavier than the electron?  Why do neutrinos exist?  The great hope was that some deep mathematical principle would determine all the constants of nature, like Newton’s constant.  But it seems increasingly likely that the constants of nature are more like the temperature of the Earth – properties of our local environment that vary from place to place. Like the temperature, many of the constants have to be just so if intelligent life is to exist.  So we live where life is possible.   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
Susskind remarked that the conclusion of a vast ensemble of universes came as a disappointment to many physicists.  He himself finds the idea that reality might be vaster than we ever imagined “exciting.”  It doesn’t destroy the hope for a grand unified theory, he claims; now, the challenge is not to explain just our universe, but the entire array of all possible universes.  Unfortunately, another disappointment is the realization there appears to be no principle of natural selection among the universes that would favor the life-giving types.  There is “no evidence for this view,” he admitted; “Even most of the hard-core adherents to the uniqueness view admit that it looks bad.”  Furthermore, Susskind is unconvinced by appeals to exotic forms of life that might exist without worlds; “in my heart of hearts,” he said with resignation, “I just don’t believe that life could exist in the interior of a star, for instance, or in a black hole.”
    Susskind denied that belief in a multiverse will bring on the “Popperazzi” – those who follow Karl Popper’s teaching that an idea must be falsifiable to be scientific.  His reason?  Undetectable universes are no more metaphysical than claiming our universe is homogeneous, including the parts beyond our observational horizon.  He even suggested ways to test it, such as looking for evidence of negative curvature that might suggest our universe tunneled from one vacuum state to another.
    Last, Gefter asked him if we are “stuck with intelligent design” if we do not accept his landscape hypothesis.
I doubt that physicists will see it that way.  If, for some unforeseen reason, the landscape turns out to be inconsistent – maybe for mathematical reasons, or because it disagrees with observation – I am pretty sure that physicists will go on searching for natural explanations of the world.  But I have to say that if that happens, as things stand now we will be in a very awkward positionWithout any explanation of nature’s fine-tunings we will be hard pressed to answer the ID critics.  One might argue that the hope that a mathematically unique solution will emerge is as faith-based as ID.
A blogger named David Heddle on, with “reformed views of a nuclear physicist,” found Susskind’s remarks in this interview profoundly unsatisfying; “To save materialism,” he quipped, “Susskind argues that we must explain this fine-tuning, and his landscape has the best chance of playing the role of a white knight.”
    George Ellis (U of Cape Town) also reviewed the book for Nature last week.1  He quipped about how physicists used to deal with real, observable stuff; “Nowadays things have changed,” he said.  “A phalanx of heavyweight physicists and cosmologists are claiming to prove the existence of other expanding universe domains even though there is no chance of observing them, nor any possibility of testing their supposed nature except in the most tenuous, indirect way.”  Ellis confirms that Susskind argues for the multiverse because of the “anthropic issue: the ‘apparent miracles of physics and cosmology’ that make our existence possible.”  The only way out was to posit a large enough set of random combinations of universes such that “the incredibly special conditions for life to exist will inevitably occur somewhere in the multiverse.”  It follows, then, that “The apparent design of conditions favourable to life in our own universe domain can therefore be explained in a naturalistic way.”
    What does Ellis think about this argument?  He is uncomfortable that it is neither testable nor predicted from well-established physics.  It is also a vacuous answer: “if all possibilities exist somewhere in the multiverse, as some claim, then it can explain any observations, whatever they are.”  Ellis finds the test that Susskind proposes only partially in its favor, but even then, the data are not exactly supportive.  He finds this “a symptom of some present-day cosmology, where faith in theory tends to trump evidence.”  He also disparages the use of infinities with “gay abandon” and the use of the “many-worlds” hypothesis of quantum mechanics for support, “an unproven and totally profligate viewpoint that many find difficult to take seriously.”  Speaking of faith, Ellis waxes philosophical on the subject – even theological – gently chiding Susskind for lack of scientific rigor:
As a philosophical proposal, the multiverse idea is interesting and has considerable merit.  The challenge facing cosmologists now is how to put on a sound basis the attempts to push science beyond the boundary where verification is possible – and what label to attach to the resultant theories.  Physicists indulging in this kind of speculation sometimes denigrate philosophers of science, but they themselves do not yet have rigorous criteria to offer for proof of physical existence.  This is what is needed to make this area solid science, rather than speculation.  Until then, the multiverse situation seems to fit St Paul’s description: “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  In this case, it is faith that enormous extrapolations from tested physics are correct; hope that correct hints as to the way things really are have been identified from all the possibilities, and that the present marginal evidence to the contrary will go away.  This book gives a great overview of this important terrain, as seen from an enthusiast’s viewpoint.

1George Ellis, “Physics ain’t what it used to be,” Nature 438, 739-740 (8 December 2005) | doi:10.1038/438739a.
Read this as a stunning defeat by the materialists and a victory for intelligent design.  In a debate, when your opponent’s only retreat is to espouse an absurd position, you know you are winning.  Like bugs scrambling for cover when a rotting log is lifted, the materialists are avoiding the light of intelligent design at all costs.  They call to speculative mountains and rocks, saying, “Fall on us, and hide us from the design inference, for the light of fine-tuning has come, and who is able to stand?”
    To clarify one mistake in Susskind’s last quote, ID is not faith-based, except in the sense of putting faith in the uniformity of experience.  ID makes a design inference when specified complexity is detected.  The specification in this case is the precision of the values of physical constants which permit the existence of stars, planets and life.  Susskind conceded the point that there does not seem to be any way that the correct values were determined; i.e., the constants appear contingent, not necessary.  In most universes, random values would make life impossible.  A straightforward application of ID reasoning follows.  There is a specification, there is low probability – the universe, therefore, was designed.
    Susskind cannot escape Popper’s falsification criterion by claiming others violate it, too.  That doesn’t work with cops, nor with scientific requirements.  The Popperazzi have a warrant to arrest his landscape hypothesis on the grounds it is unfalsifiable.
    This entry can also be taken as a resounding endorsement of claims made in the film and book The Privileged Planet.  The second part of the film argued that the fine-tuning of the universe implies intelligent design.  In the Q&A portion, William Lane Craig emphasized how precise the tuning is, and dealt squarely with the opposition tactic of retreating into a multitude of universes; he said that cosmologists have been “driven beyond physics to metaphysics” to the “extraordinary” position of postulating an infinite ensemble of universes, all in order to rescue the materialistic, chance hypothesis from the evidence.  Guillermo Gonzalez followed up by stating the obvious: this idea cannot be scientific, because there is no way to test it.  It’s a metaphysical response to the physics we observe.  To this we add, Susskind’s proposed test is circular, because it depends on the very materialistic assumptions that are being contested.  Materialism is being debated; the observation of fine-tuning is not.
    The admissions made by Susskind in this interview provide all the more reason to hand out copies of the Privileged Planet DVD to skeptical friends and invite them to think about it.  Now you can print out copies of this New Scientist interview as supportive material, and ask the skeptic if he or she finds the multiverse escape clause as awkward as Susskind describes it, or more “faith-based” than following the evidence to its logical conclusion.  “Come to the light” can be an appropriately modern invitation to the cosmological sinner.
Next headline on:  CosmologyPhysicsIntelligent Design
Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week   12/17/2005    
This week’s entry comes from an article by Richard Robinson, a freelance science writer, on the origin of life.  It was printed last month in PLoS Biology (see next headline).  It is a prime illustration of the assumption on the part of many evolutionists that Darwin’s theory of natural selection is omnipotent:
Beginning with a single cell, Darwinian evolution provides a simple, robust, and powerful algorithm for deriving all the astonishing richness of life, from bacteria to brains.  Natural selection and other evolutionary forces, acting on surplus populations of replicating cells and multicellular organisms, lead inevitably to evolution and adaptation.  Give biologists a cell, and they’ll give you the world.   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)

1Richard Robinson, “Jump-Starting a Cellular World: Investigating the Origin of Life, from Soup to Networks,” Public Library of Science, Biology, Vol 3, issue 11, Nov 2005, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0030396.
Evolution is not an algorithm.  Evolution is not a force.  Evolution is not inevitable.  Evolution cannot deliver the world.  That being understood, we will grant Richard a little slack for telling a funny joke right before this quote:
A physicist, a chemist, and a mathematician are stranded on a desert isle, when a can of food washes up on the beach.  The three starving scientists suggest, in turn, how to open the can and ease their hunger.  The physicist suggests they hurl it upon the rocks to split it open, but this fails.  The chemist proposes they soak it in the sea and let the salt water eat away at the metal; again, no luck.  They turn in desperation to the mathematician, who begins, “Assume we have a can opener....”
The purpose of the joke was to show that origin-of-life scientists need a cell to get their story started.  “Give biologists a cell, and they’ll give you the world,” he said.  “But beyond assuming the first cell must have somehow come into existence, how do biologists explain its emergence from the prebiotic world four billion years ago?”  And that’s the subject of our next headline, below.
Next headline on:  EvolutionDumb Ideas
Don’t PNA in our OOL   12/17/2005    
Evolutionary theories for the origin of life (OOL) are in a bit of a crisis, unable to imagine how something as complex as a replicating cell (the necessary unit for Darwinian natural selection) could come into existence.  Richard Robinson, a freelance science writer, surveyed the scene in PLoS Biology,1 and agreed: “The short answer is that they can’t, yet.”  The word “yet” hinted that hope remains: “But this question may be a little closer to being answered as new money enters the field, and two new discoveries provide support for two competing models of prebiotic evolution.”
    The two competing models are the “genetics first” model, that a replicating molecule bearing genetic information arose first, and the “metabolism first” model, that a metabolic cycle emerged that was later co-opted by information-bearing molecules.  We’ll examine the two new discoveries he spoke of shortly.
    Robinson brought his readers up-to-date on the history of origin of life studies in a lighthearted manner.  He pointed out that funding is a big issue among researchers in the field.  He surveyed the Miller experiment (05/02/2003) and subsequent milestones from the 1950s to the present day, quoting Harold Morowitz (George Mason U) that “The initial Miller experiment was earth-shaking,” even though Morowitz himself discounts its relevance today, since in subsequent years researchers realized the initial conditions were wrong.  Robinson discussed the leading “RNA World” scenario (11/01/2002, 07/11/2002), but acknowledged that assuming RNA would emerge is like the “assume a can opener” joke (see prior commentary).  Some have suggested a simpler polymer, like peptide nucleic acid (PNA), preceded RNA:
The case for PNA is weak, though.  While modern cells still bear traces of a catalytic RNA world within them, “there is absolutely nothing that I know of to suggest there is evidence for PNA or other such molecules in present cells,”says [Leslie] Orgel [Salk Institute].  If they ever contributed to the development of life, all traces of their existence appear to have been wiped clean.   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
Apparently there was no PNA in the OOL, in other words.  Robinson also discussed the problem of chirality, that is, how life selected only one hand out of mirror-image molecules (see online book).  Robinson paid particular attention to the hypothesis by Michael Russell (12/03/2004) and William Martin that life began as a self-perpetuating chemical cycle in minerals around hydrothermal vents, but acknowledged again that this model also depends on RNA.  Amidst the bad news, Robinson announced two recent discoveries he thinks provide new hope for the two competing theories.
  1. In the beginning, hydrogen:  The Miller experiment is not down for the count, he encouraged: “in June of 2005, the prebiotic soup got a new lease on life.”  New calculations appear to show that there was considerably more hydrogen in the early atmosphere than once thought” (06/16/2005).  Orgel thinks this could resurrect Miller’s chemistry, although “there is still an enormous way to go” to get all the precursor molecules for RNA.
  2. Jumpstarting the bootstrap on piggyback:  The other discovery, announced by Morowitz in support of the “metabolism first” scenario, is that “small organic molecules, such as amino acids, can catalyze the formation of other small organic molecules, such as nucleic acids.”  The catalysis of sugars by amino acids was announced in Chemistry this past August, for instance.  Coupled with new ideas about molecular networks (10/05/2005), Morowitz finds such results dramatic and filled with potential:
    “What has emerged is a very strong self-organizing principle,” says Morowitz.  In this view, while iron sulfide may have been the original catalyst, it did not remain the only one for long.  As products of the original reactions catalyzed new reactions, metabolic networks quickly arose.  Feedback loops developed when two molecules regulated one another’s synthesis.  “The system can piggyback its way upward,” he says.
Robinson acknowledged that both scenarios, genetics-first and metabolism-first, have serious problems; “It is still unclear how, or whether, these competing models will fit together, and whether they will lead to a robust scenario for life’s origin” he said.  “Indeed, all may eventually prove wrong, and the real solution may lie hidden in some discovery yet to be made.”  Such speculations may not be practical, but the fascination lies in tackling the big questions.  “You’re going to make a philosophical impact,”  Morowitz said.  Jack Szostak, another OOL researcher, added, “These are the big questions.  Anybody who thinks has to be grabbed by these.”
1Richard Robinson, “Jump-Starting a Cellular World: Investigating the Origin of Life, from Soup to Networks,” Public Library of Science, Biology, Vol 3, issue 11, Nov 2005, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0030396.
Evolutionary OOL is a faith ministry, funded by charitable contributions from the federal government.  It survives purely on hope – hope that somehow, somewhere, scientists may find the holy grail of a purely naturalistic origin of life.  Evolutionists often chide creationists for believing in a “God of the gaps” – attributing to divine action what science has not yet explained.  Yet here we see a naturalism of the gaps, as philosopher of science J. P. Moreland (Biola) quips.  Putting God in a gap such as the origin of life by attributing it to design, he says, is justifiable when the gaps have been getting wider for a long time.  The design inference is not a mere God-of-the-gaps retreat, he also argues, because there is positive evidence for design, not just lack of evidence for a natural explanation.  Evolutionists lack both of these qualifiers for dealing with gaps.  They cannot coax intractable molecules to fill in a gap that molecules do not naturally wish to fill, and there is no evidence nor requirement that chance and natural law could, would or should fill it.
    Robinson’s article illustrates how evolutionary hope springs eternal despite pitiful snippets of evidence to bridge a widening canyon with disconnected bits of wet tissue paper.  This hope is evident also in a 2005 lecture series on the Origin of Life by Dr. Robert Hazen (George Mason University) published by The Teaching Company.  Hazen is a good teacher and storyteller; the listener can learn some organic chemistry and geology, and hear some interesting anecdotes about personalities in the field.  But throughout the 24 lectures, Hazen was frank and honest about the difficulties, which as yet have no solution.  The glue that holds all the bad news together is hope that a naturalistic explanation for OOL can be found.  Never did he consider that other scientific explanations, like intelligent design, might have a better explanation, nor did he explain why scientists should be permitted to contradict the evidence of chemistry and physics indefinitely, just to maintain a philosophical preference for naturalism.
    We need to remind such People of Frothy Faith that the science is against them.  RNA is an extremely intractable molecule; it thrives in cells because there are genes and protein machines that manufacture it according to specifications written in DNA, and repair it or dispose of it when it breaks.  Hazen admitted openly that no plausible natural environment produces the phosphates, the ribose sugars, the bases, or can assemble them into nucleotides, even if the building blocks formed somehow.  Nor could the nucleotides plausibly link themselves into an RNA strand.  Amino acids (a requirement for PNA), similarly, do not naturally link together – they dissolve in water.  Furthermore, the chirality problem is serious.  Hazen and Orgel sweep it away with whimsical speculations, but the probability is against them (see online book).  The metabolism-first scenario (which Hazen and Morowitz favor), must face the eventuality of needing a genetic, information-carrying molecule.  Without it, there is no hope of a Darwinian mechanism to preserve any gains.  If PNA or TNA (threose nucleic acid, another hypothetical precursor to RNA) were to arise, there is the difficulty of imagining any plausible “genetic takeover” by RNA or DNA (11/05/2005).  These are just a few of the show-stoppers.  It only takes one show-stopper to stop a show.
    Meanwhile, the gap between “top-down” and “bottom-up” approaches (02/06/2005) is getting wider.  Is there anything that will force evolutionary OOL researchers out of the naturalistic pool?  Robinson’s “two new discoveries” are pathetically inadequate.  Adding a little more hydrogen to revive the Miller myth is like tossing iron filings into the Grand Canyon, hoping a bridge will emerge.  Describing how some amino acids might catalyze some sugars is like the self-replicating robot story (09/30/2005); it was pathetically simple compared to a real person, and even then, only worked with a lot of intelligent assistance.  This is all too little, too late.  The OOL pool of scientifically verifiable facts belongs to intelligent design.  Notice that there is no PNA in it.  Let’s keep it that way.  We won’t swim in their toilet of speculation if they won’t PNA in our pool.
Next headline on:  Origin of LifeEvolutionary Theory
Creation-Evolution Controversy in the News    12/16/2005  
Darwin, Genesis, Paul Mirecki, disclaimer stickers, Kansas and intelligent design continue to be searchable keywords in news reporting about science education.
  • Mirecki’s got a fight on his hands:  The embattled U of Kansas prof who was going to ridicule intelligent design (ID) in a religion class till his inflammatory email surfaced (11/29/2005), and who later claimed to be beaten up off-campus (12/07/2005), continues to get a pummeling in the news as he tries to defend himself.  Though he claims he was pressured to resign, and threatens to sue over his lack of support by the university (see Lawrence Journal-World 12/10), the Lawrence Journal-World claimed Dec. 13 that he left voluntarily.  The Journal-World also reprinted a postcard sent out by the Religious Studies department of the University repudiating Mirecki’s “inappropriate comments” but expressing appreciation for his scholarly work and teaching.  Science Magazine took note of this in its Random Samples column, but focused on the attack and not the controversy about it.  No arrests have been made of any suspects.  Conservative commentator Michelle Malkin has been trying for a week to get to the bottom of this.
  • Georgia Stickers Reviewed:  When federal judge Clarence Cooper ordered evolution-disclaimer stickers removed from Cobb County, Georgia biology textbooks last January (see 01/13/2005), the school board appealed.  The item has come up for review by a federal appeals panel, according to an Associated Press story on MSNBC News and South Carolina’s The State.  The three judges are questioning the accuracy of Cooper’s decision.  To them, the disclaimer seems non-religious and straightforward.  The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said the judges gave the lower court ruling a “hostile reception,” indicating they might side with the school board in their ruling next year.  Rob Crowther for Evolution News put the pieces together to claim that the ACLU lied to the federal court while making its claim that the stickers constituted an endorsement of religion.  Pam Sheppard reported on this story for Answers in Genesis and also mentioned the lawsuit against the University of California by Christian Schools accusing the university system of discrimination.
  • Evolution of Conservatism:  Casey Luskin argued in Human Events that intelligent design is within the future of the conservative movement.  This was to rebut the claims of Charles Krauthammer and George Will, who had sided with the Darwinists in their editorials (see 11/19/2005, third bullet).
  • Dutch & Such:  The University of Leiden is holding a half-day symposium on intelligent design today (Dec 16), according to Tom Magnuson at Access Research Network.  The question is, “Is ID about theology or science?”
  • The Whole Truth:  The Darwin exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History (12/08/2005) is giving a sanitized version of Darwinism, wrote John West for Evolution News.  The exhibit mentions little or nothing about the social implications of Darwinism, such as racism and eugenics – including the Darwin’s own ideas on those subjects, which West says the museum “completely suppresses.”
  • Bible SpinTop Tech News reported as an oddity the ministry of Rusty Carter, “who has a degree in biblical studies from Colorado Christian University and earns his living doing floor maintenance.”  Carter leads Christian school groups on tours of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science but gives a “Biblically Correct” interpretation of the exhibits.  The curator seems not sure what to do about it.  See the earlier stories from 10/17/2005, 09/28/2005, and 09/22/2005.
  • Kansas Rolls Up Its Sleeves:  Now that the Kansas school board is permitting criticisms of Darwinism, school board member Kathy Martin wants curriculum materials for teachers, reported the Kansas City Star.
  • Icons Defended:  Jonathan Wells has been posting reprints on ID the Future of rebuttals to criticisms of his 2000 book, Icons of Evolution.
  • Anti-ID Folks Weigh In:  Alan Boyle, in his Cosmic Log on MSNBC News on Dec. 13, tallied up the feedback from his list of biggest scientific controversies of the year (12/08/2005).  He was “frankly surprised by the overwhelming sentiment against intelligent design” in his unscientific experiment.  He reprinted examples, like “If the proponents of intelligent design are successful in foisting their delusions on a new generation of young Americans, they will likely further undermine future American competitiveness in the biological sciences, and possibly in other fields of scientific endeavor as well.”  Boyle surmised that “perhaps it demonstrates that mainstream scientists have made some headway after all, in spite of the political challenges in Pennsylvania and Kansas.”
  • This Guy Is Falling:  Donald Kennedy in Science 12/16, in an editorial about science education, warned about terrible consequences if science educators don’t help students think critically about things like intelligent design:
    Second, the future of the world is at stake!  That’s not melodrama.  Never have exciting new developments in science been more tightly connected to real dilemmas in public policy.  If the electorate distrusts science and doesn’t understand how scientists explore and interrogate the natural world, how will they vote on issues ranging from stem cell research and global climate change to the teaching of intelligent design in our schools?  In addition to full-time scientists, we need educated citizens who can think critically about the science and technology choices so prominent in contemporary political life.
    But then, isn’t that what the Georgia textbook stickers asked students to do about evolution – think critically?
We’re still waiting for substantive arguments on why students should be taught that humans have bacteria ancestors.  Pro-evolution reporters seem to get worked up over politics, definitions, motives, implications, religion, and authority.  How about a little scientific evidence?
Next headline on:  Darwinism and EvolutionIntelligent DesignBible and TheologyEducationPolitics and Ethics
Were Dinosaurs Cold-Blooded?    12/16/2005  
A paper in Science1 shows that at least one dinosaur species came in large and small forms.  Martin Sander and Nicole Klein studied fibrolammelar bone on plateosaurs (a heavy two-legged dinosaur with an elephant-like body and long neck), and found that the growth rates were poorly correlated with body size.  Some plateosaurs were full-grown at five meters, others at twice as big.  It suggests that the creatures were dependent on environmental factors for warmth.  This calls into question the conventional wisdom, held for 20 years, that dinosaurs were warm-blooded, because most warm-blooded creatures grow steadily to their adult size (see the BBC News and National Geographic News).
    This find also suggests that the earliest dinosaurs were not the two-legged fast-running kind, but the four-legged, lumbering kind.  Sander calls this a paradigm shift: “The idea that it [the earliest dinosaur] walked on two legs has been pretty much dogma for the last 20 years.”
    The paper also calls into question some assumptions about dinosaur evolution.  “Since the common reptilian ancestor of the dinosaurs, and their closest relatives, the pterosaurs, or flying reptiles, was believed to have been warm-blooded,” the BBC News article states, “the [University of] Bonn discovery could throw ideas about their evolution into disarray.”  To salvage the idea of warm-blooded dinosaurs, some are seriously suggesting warm-bloodedness evolved multiple times: “My hunch right now is that maybe there was repeated evolution of warm-bloodedness,” Martin Sander told BBC News.  If so, warm-bloodedness was not inherited from a common ancestor.
    Carolyn Gramling, commenting on this paper in the same issue of Science,2 quoted Thomas Holtz (U of Maryland) remarking about how little we still know about early dinosaur evolution.  “There has been the tendency to infer that features found in all advanced dinosaurs were found in all of their ancestors,” he said.  “This emphasizes the importance of tree-based thinking.  We have to look at as many branches of the evolutionary tree to get as big a picture as possible.”
1P. Martin Sander and Nicole Klein, “Developmental Plasticity in the Life History of a Prosauropod Dinosaur,” Science 16 December 2005: Vol. 310. no. 5755, pp. 1800 - 1802, DOI: 10.1126/science.1120125.
For more on tree-thinking, see the 11/14/2005 story.  Tree thinking is an escape into the briar patch (11/26/2005) where Darwinists can hide from scrutiny within the tangled web of varying interpretations.
    Warm-bloodedness is not just a trait; it is a complex suite of traits involving fine-tuning of the circulatory system, the developmental system, the respiratory system, the nervous system, the skin – basically, of the whole animal.  When evolutionists want to take such an improbable event (in evolutionary terms) and multiply it several times just to keep their common-ancestry belief intact, it becomes evidence once again that evolution is a theory in crisis.
Next headline on:  DinosaursFossilsEvolutionary Theory
Stem Cell Achievement a Possible Fraud    12/16/2005  
South Korean stem cell researcher Woo Suk Hwang has reason for stress and fatigue, as news reports show him escorted by bodyguards on the way to the office.  His landmark paper in Science1 last July that announced the creation of stem cells matching the donor’s DNA (05/23/2005) has been called into question on two fronts.  On the scientific front, the claims are being questioned by colleagues.  On the ethical front, critics say he covered up the fact that females in his lab were pressured to donate egg cells.
    Science this week2 reported that his as-yet unreplicated results “inspired a global ramp-up in stem cell efforts” last summer.  A co-worker accused Hwang of pressuring a lab worker to forge evidence.  Hwang stands by his work (see BBC), but is requesting a retraction of the paper.  He has resigned from the World Stem Cell Hub.  Other sources for this story: Nature,3 MSNBC News, BBC News, Town Hall 12/15, Town Hall 12/16.
    The clash of ethics with science continued on other fronts as well.  The Salk Institute embedded human brain cells into mice, reported Live Science; (see 03/10/2005).  On the issue of abortion, researchers from University of Oslo in Norway found that mental distress from an abortion lasts for years (source: EurekAlert).
Update 12/23/2005: LiveScience reported Dec. 23 that Hwang also resigned from his post as professor at Seoul National University after allegations he fabricated his research on stem cells became stronger.  By the end of the month, news reporters were declaring his entire study fraudulent.
1Woo Suk Hwang et al., “Patient-Specific Embryonic Stem Cells Derived from Human SCNT Blastocysts,” Science, 17 June 2005: Vol. 308. no. 5729, pp. 1777 - 1783, DOI: 10.1126/science.1112286.
2Dennis Normile and Gretchen Vogel, “News of the Week: Korean University Will Investigate Cloning Paper,” Science, 16 December 2005: Vol. 310. no. 5755, pp. 1748 - 1749, DOI: 10.1126/science.310.5755.1748.
3David Cyranoski, “TV tests call into question cloner’s stem-cell success,” Nature 438, 718 (8 December 2005) | doi:10.1038/438718b.
Many have warned that science devoid of ethical standards could generate fraud and abuse (07/11/2005, 02/11/2005, 02/08/2005, 11/03/2004, 10/21/2004, 10/18/2004).  With the highest values in science tending toward prestige, prizes and money, these could represent just the beginning of sorrows.
Next headline on:  Politics and EthicsHealth
Darwin Descendent Enters Narnia   12/15/2005    
Did you know that one of the great-great-great-grandsons of Charles Darwin plays the part of bad-boy Edmund in the new Chronicles of Narnia movie?  After difficulty finding an appropriate person to play the part, Director Andrew Adamson saw a picture of Skandar Keynes and said, “I think it’s Edmund” and signed him up.  Keynes gave a few snippets about his life to USA Today.  His father Randal Keynes helped make possible a special screening of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe at the Galapagos Conservation Trust in London, with profits to go toward conservation of the islands the teen actor’s ancestor made famous.  Skandar Keynes and other celebrities will attend the showing.
If you have not seen this film, by all means go.  It is outstanding.  This anecdote about Keynes is interesting for its symbolic value.  Darwin is an icon of materialism, C. S. Lewis of Biblical Christianity.  Of all the characters in the movie for a Darwin descendent to play, it must strike many as fitting that he acted the part of the disobedient, selfish-centered, unethical Edmund.  But look how Edmund turned out after experiencing the bitter fruit of his sin, and after watching the Christ figure, Aslan the noble lion, take the punishment he deserved.  Let this anecdote be a reminder to pray for the redemption of the materialists.
Next headline on:  DarwinMediaBible
Planet Out of Bounds    12/14/2005  
There’s a small planetary object where it shouldn’t be.  New Scientist reported the discovery of a Kuiper Belt object (KBO) with a high inclination of 47° and a nearly circular orbit.  Astronomers can’t figure out how it got there.  It’s too far out to have been flung by Neptune into such a strange orbit.  They have nicknamed it Buffy, the “theory slayer.”
Theories are fun, till data get in the way.  One planetary science professor years ago was heard to say that astronomers usually get stuck at some point in their models of solar system formation, and have to invoke some kind of miracle to continue on and wind up with the real worlds.
Next headline on:  Solar System
One-Celled Organism’s Spring Generates Enormous Forces    12/13/2005  
The pioneering Dutch microscopist Antony van Leeuwenhoek marveled at the miniature “animalcules” he witnessed darting through the water and spinning like a top.  One such marvelous protozoan was Vorticella.  The way it rapidly contracted and expanded on its little stalk must have reminded Leeuwenhoek of a spring.  It turns out, it is a spring – a remarkable motorized spring made of molecules that generates “enormous forces,” according to a report on EurekAlert.  In fact, this little spring sets the speed and power record for cellular nanomachines.
    Researchers presenting their findings at the annual meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology likened the spring to a stretched telephone cord that recoils rapidly – so rapidly, in fact, that size for size, it outperforms human muscles and car engines.  The secret is a bundle of contractile fibers called the “spasmoneme” running through the center of the stalk.  The researchers looked “under the hood” and found a calcium-fueled engine that uses spasmin, a protein in the centrin family.  The exact mechanism of this engine is poorly understood, but scientists hope that by learning about it they can some day build nanomolecular machines of exquisite power and efficiency.
For a stark illustration of the unbelievable schizophrenia of today’s biologists, read this story – marveling at the design and complexity of this little machine, just one of thousands being discovered in the simplest and smallest of organisms – and then go to the ASCB Public Policy website where the society encourages its members to sign petitions, write letters and in every way possible fight the idea of intelligent design.
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Marine Unicorn Tusk is a Precision Sensor    12/13/2005  
Unicorns exist – in the north sea.  Not horses, these are marine mammals, called narwhals, a kind of whale that sports a unique spiraling tooth that gives them the appearance of a unicorn.  Scientists have puzzled for centuries over what these tusks are for.  Leading theories were that males used them for joisting to defend territory, or they were artifacts of sexual selection.  Now, scientists from Harvard School of Dental Medicine under Martin Nweeia think they have solved the mystery.  The tusk is lined with ten million tiny nerve connections that give this unusual tooth an extremely sensitive probe into the temperature, salinity and pressure of the icy water in which they live.  With the proteinaceous membrane on the outer surface connected to the nerves inside, it acts as an antenna of sorts, guiding the animals to their prey in the deep water or sensing the environment at the surface.
    The tooth on males can be up to nine feet long, yet is resistant to breakage.  It grows in a spiral pattern straight out without curving, as with elephant tusks.  No other mammal has a tooth anything like it; the press release states, “there is no comparison in nature and certainly none more unique in tooth form, expression, and functional adaptation.”  Tooth scientists are interested in learning how the narwhal tooth remains both strong and flexible (it can bend a foot without breaking), for possible applications in restorative dental materials.  See also the reports on LiveScience, National Geographic News, and Science Daily.  Narwhals have also been seeing rubbing one another’s tusks for perhaps some pleasurable or social purpose humans cannot imagine.
No missing links.  Functionally useful.  Optimally designed.  The truth about the tooth required discounting evolutionary stories and going into the Arctic to study these animals and their structures up close, to determine their design.  Chalk up another study that assumed there was a purpose beyond the just-so stories, and did good scientific work to uncover it.  Now we can all be amazed a little more.
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Micro-RNAs are Cell’s Optimizers   12/12/2005    
“Unnoticed next to the main ingredients, microRNAs were considered to be ‘junk’ DNA, leftovers from millions of years of evolution.”  That line comes from an article on EurekAlert telling about how dramatically that picture has changed.  RNA molecules are now seen to be indispensable, with many roles in the cell.  This article talked about how a certain microRNA has a “fail-safe” role in development, preventing birth defects.  Researchers at the University of Florida found microRNA that acts “as protective mechanisms in healthy development not just by strategically turning off gene activity, but by making sure it stays turned off.”  This is one way a hindlimb is prevented from turning on genes that are only supposed to be expressed in the forelimb.
    Another article on EurekAlert claimed that RNAs have “shaped the evolution of the majority of mammalian genes,” but the connection to macroevolution is obscure.  What scientists at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research found is that most genes have microRNAs that regulate them.  These RNAs don’t just switch them on and off; they finely-tune the expression, to help cells achieve the optimum levels of proteins for the tissues that need them.  Many of these microRNAs are “evolutionarily conserved” (i.e., unevolved) from animals as different as humans and chickens.  One researcher noted, “Our genomes have good reason to maintain the microRNA targeting sites necessary for turning down these genes at the appropriate place and time.”
We really didn’t need any of the references to evolution.  Those evolutionists who are desperately trying to understand the origin of life have tremendous headaches with RNA.  While the “RNA World” is the most popular speculation about how life got started, getting from carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and phosphorus to RNA is a big hurdle (07/11/2002)  No plausible prebiotic soup experiment has been able to produce RNA: not the phosphates, not the ribose sugars, not the bases.  Furthermore, no soup of chemicals puts them together into nucleotides – the links on the RNA strand.  And furthermore, even if the soup got lucky and made a nucleotide, there is no known natural mechanism for linking them together into RNA polymers, to say nothing of getting them all one-handed, and in a sequence that could accomplish anything (except self-destruct with the next UV ray or lightning bolt).  OOL researchers look at RNA and DROOL (Darwinist Rambling about Origin Of Life).  Notice how evolutionary thinking about evolutionary junk hindered real understanding of what these molecules were there for.  Therefore, the field belongs to those who see optimized, interrelated complexity functioning with high fidelity and reason, that is well-designed.
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Does Big Science Know What Science Is?   12/11/2005    
How well do the leaders of the world’s major scientific institutions understand the nature of science?  This rather audacious question is occasioned by recent statements by scientific leaders that might raise the eyebrows of some philosophers of science.
    No serious philosopher of science denies the benefits wrought by medicine, physics, chemistry and biology; after all, science took us to the moon.  But “Science is one of those troublesome nouns that seems to convey too little by standing for too much,” said philosopher Daniel J. Robinson in a lecture on philosophy of science.1  A philosopher with a deep respect for science, Robinson nonetheless went on to illustrate widespread disagreement among the world’s foremost philosophers of science as to just what it is, and how science can be distinguished from non-science.  Though few would see trouble classifying physics and chemistry as sciences, what about economics, political science, psychology, cognitive neuroscience, and what earlier generations referred to as moral science?  Because of its many achievements, the word science has taken on an aura of honor and authority that can be misconstrued, as with the cults of Christian Science, Science of Mind, and Scientology.  Yet the need for precise definitions and criteria are often overlooked by practicing scientists.  Without clarity, using a broad-brush term like science can obscure rather than enlighten a discussion.
    Much of the controversy over the status of Intelligent Design (ID) revolves around the definition of science.  This came to the forefront in the Kansas school board decision to change the definition from “natural explanations for phenomena” (05/18/2005) to “explanations for natural phenomena” (11/08/2005)  To many evolutionists, this was a sneaky way for creationists to open the door for “supernatural” explanations in science.  Bruce Alberts, former president of the National Academy of Sciences now at UC San Francisco, underscored that point of contention forcefully in a commentary in Cell about science education that he gave the alarming title, “A Wakeup Call for Science Faculty.”2 
We have recently received a wakeup call.  A new survey finds that two-thirds of Americans agree with some of our political leaders that “intelligent design theory” should be taught as an alternative scientific explanation of biological evolution.  What does this mean?  According to intelligent design theory, supernatural forces acting over time have intervened to shape the macromolecules in cells, thereby forming them into the elegant protein machines that drive a cell’s biochemistry (Alberts, 1998).  In other words, at least from time to time, living things fail to obey the normal laws of physics and chemistry.   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
The 1998 reference was to his earlier paper in Cell titled, “The cell as a collection of protein machines: preparing the next generation of molecular biologists,” in which Alberts said, “the entire cell can be viewed as a factory that contains an elaborate network of interlocking assembly lines, each of which is composed of a set of large protein machines” (01/09/2002).  This quote got him into some trouble because it has been widely quoted by intelligent design proponents.  Clearly, Alberts and other evolutionary biologists do not dispute the existence of biological machinery that looks designed; the question is whether these natural objects can have natural explanations.  The quotation above also begs the question whether intelligence (the explanatory agent in “intelligent design”) necessarily denotes a “supernatural force,” or to what extent intervention can be natural, unnatural, or supernatural.
    “Natural,” too, is one of those words with multiple meanings, depending on the context.  Intellectual historian Alan Charles Kors demonstrated this point by listing several ways the word “nature” has been used historically in science and philosophy.3  Most scientists assume that nature refers to anything empirically observed: anything not “supernatural” is “natural,” in this view.  But nature can also mean a statistical norm: i.e., the usual action or behavior of something: for instance, it is natural for parents to care for their children.  Natural in this sense can have moral content and is not necessarily the opposite of supernaturalism.  “Finally,” his notes state, “we can understand nature as essence (that which distinguishes the creature from all other things).”  For example, when humans use their distinguishing faculty called reason to interact with the world, that behavior can be called natural; failing to use reason would certainly not be considered supernatural, but rather unnatural.
    That raises additional questions.  Does reason qualify as a “natural” phenomenon?  If it is subsumed under the laws of chemistry and physics alone, is it really reason?  Or does the observation of unnatural things fall within the realm of science?  Scientists can quickly fall into traps when trying to define science and natural too narrowly.  They might rule existing scientific studies, like abnormal psychology (11/13/2005), out of court, or even deny the validity of their own conclusions.  Yet the black-and-white meanings sufficed for Alberts to rule out intelligent design by definition.  Having summarily dispensed with ID, he appealed to emotional arguments to suggest that only evolutionary biology can cure cancer:
Teaching intelligent design theory in science class would demand nothing less than a complete change in the definition of science.  This definition would give those of us who are scientists an “easy out” for the difficult problems we are trying to solve in our research.  For example, why spend a lifetime, constrained by the laws of physics and chemistry, trying to obtain a deep understanding of how cells accumulate mutations and become cancerous if one can postulate a supernatural step for part of the process?  Yet we can be certain that, without the deep understanding that will eventually come from insisting on natural explanations, many powerful cancer therapies will be missed.
This argument, however, also begs the question whether physical and chemical laws fully explain biological behavior, such as how cells accumulate mutations and become cancerous.  With computers, by analogy, it is clear that the silicon, plastic, glass and metal are “natural” (empirically observable) objects subject to the laws of chemistry and physics – drop a computer from a height, and it will fall at 32 feet per second per second and obey the second law of thermodynamics – yet an important part of the “nature” of the computer, its essence as a device to run intelligently-designed software, would be overlooked.  Knowing the physics and chemistry of the hardware would not help debug the software.
    In biology, mathematically-precise laws are hard to come by.  The Harvard Law states cynically, “Given precise conditions of heat, pressure and temperature, the organism does what it darn well pleases.”  Physics and biology are both classed as sciences, but the latter envies the elegant and deterministic equations of the former.  Even Mendel’s equations of inheritance and the Hardy-Weinberg Law are statistical in nature, with many exceptions.  The attempt to formalize evolutionary theory with mathematical rigor is fraught with problems and anomalies (see 10/26/2005, 10/01/2005, 08/19/2005).  Conversely, modern theoretical physicists delve into questions not amenable to observation, like string theory and multiverses, and even write elegant equations about conceptual frameworks that might be dubbed “super”natural (because they lack empirical verification even in principle).  To Alberts, however, more dogmatic assertions and emotional appeals suffice to restate the obvious, provided the words science and natural are left undefined:
The idea that intelligent design theory could be part of science is preposterous.  It is of course only by insisting on finding natural causes for everything observed in nature that science has been able to make such striking advances over the past 500 years.  There is absolutely no reason to think that we should give up this fundamental principle of science now.  Two-thirds of Americans might seem to have no real idea of what science is, nor why it has been so uniquely successful in unraveling the truth about the natural world.  As I write, the Kansas State Board of Education has just changed the definition of science in revisions to the Kansas State Science Standards to one that does not include “natural explanations” for natural phenomena.  What more proof do we need for the massive failure of our past teaching of biology, physics, chemistry, and earth sciences at high schools, colleges, and universities throughout the United States?
Sparing Dr. Alberts the additional challenge of defining the words truth and reason, it seems premature to expect readers of Cell to charge out on his proposed crusade without knowing where they are going.  He called on scientists to “completely redesign our undergraduate introductory science courses, so that all students come into direct contact with science as inquiry and are forced to develop their own understanding of what science is, and what it is not.”  Alberts praised the approach of teaching “science as inquiry,” which stresses the finding answers rather than memorizing rote facts.  This will be the demise of Intelligent Design, he assures: “It is through the careful analysis of why intelligent design is not science that students can perhaps best come to appreciate the nature of science itself.”  This seems to do little more than reinforce definitions: we define science in such a way that intelligent design is not science, and that explains the nature of science – i.e., the only alternative, methodological naturalism.  The reason why inquiry should be restricted to natural causes, furthermore, he failed to make clear.
    Throughout 2005, other leaders of large scientific institutions, such as Lord May of the Royal Society (11/30/2005), Alan Leshner of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (07/11/2005, 02/11/2005), and the editors of Science and Nature (09/28/2005, 08/13/2005, 08/10/2005, 05/19/2005, 04/27/2005) have echoed sentiments similar to those of Bruce Alberts (03/24/2005)  Recognizing that early scientists referred to themselves as “natural philosophers,” perhaps this demonstrates the evolutionary principle of allopatric speciation by geographical isolation between the science and philosophy departments.  Or was that by design?
1Daniel J. Robinson, “Philosophy of science,” The Great Ideas of Philosophy, The Teaching Company, 2002.
2Bruce Alberts, “Commentary: A Wakeup Call to Science Faculty,” Cell, Vol 123, 739-741, 2 December 2005.
3Alan Charles Kors, lecture 18, “Bishop Joseph Butler and God’s Providence,” The Birth of the Modern Mind, The Teaching Company, 1998.
It is probably common for scientists to go through their entire educational career without a single philosophy of science class.  Elementary and junior high schools often teach a Baconian view: just collect lots of facts, make observations, write a hypothesis, test it, take notes, and produce a science project to attract the attention of the judges and give Mom and Dad something to brag about.  High school science is similar; science is what the textbook says and what scientists do.  The budding scientist goes right into the university and starts taking calculus, astrophysics, biology or whatever, gets a degree, narrows his or her studies in grad school, gets a PhD, gets a job, and goes into a career – all without knowing what science is.
    Your commentator took years of science classes where the definition of science and nature were just assumed, or else were given simplistic Elizabethan definitions with no mention of the subsequent revolutions.  The work consisted of math and word problems, homework, tests, experiments, memorization, projects, term papers and the like; rare was the teacher or professor who ever asked what is science?.  This pattern was given a jolt in a one-semester elective on Philosophy of Science.  The professor began by listing half a dozen well-known scientific facts on the chalkboard and proceeded to tell the class how all of them were untrue.  He also brought up disturbing questions about how we know what we know, how much the experimental apparatus perturbs the phenomenon under investigation, whether models accurately reflect reality, and why new theories have such a hard time getting a hearing.  This professor was also fond of pointing out how few scientists he knew actually thought about such questions.  Scientists, in general, hate philosophers.  They don’t like someone telling them what they can or cannot do.  Philosophers upset their equilibrium.  They hurt their self-esteem.  They react in a huff, “It takes a scientist to know what science is.”  Yet even feeling that way presupposes a philosophy of science.
    To be sure, scientists have an impressive track record like space travel, cures for infectious disease and the Human Genome Project (11/20/2005) to argue that what they are doing explains reality and produces useful results.  The problem is that these known successes are fairly limited to present-day, empirically-observable and repeatable phenomena.  Science Departments are not content to restrict their inquiries to these.  They want control of mind, psychology of morals and religion (Robert Winston, 10/13/2005), art, history, the origin and destiny of the universe and even of alternate universes.  They would push the Humanities off-campus if they could.  Runaway reductionist science needs the checks and balances provided by philosophers, ethicists, historians and yes, even theologians.  The question “what is science?” is not itself a scientific question.  It is a question of philosophy about science.  That raises serious questions about whether science can explain itself, as in the evolutionary literature that routinely expects to derive human rationality ultimately from hydrogen.  These scientists fail to recognize the self-refuting nature of that line of inquiry.  A self-refuting statement is false by definition.  C.S. Lewis (of Narnia fame) once said, “A strict materialism refutes itself for the reason given by Professor Haldane: ‘If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true... and hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms.’ ”  Metaphysics, therefore, must precede physics; the logical positivists, who wanted to rid science of metaphysics, were hopelessly stalled.  One must have an ontology (philosophy of being) and epistemology (philosophy of knowing) before one can even do science.
    The extreme scientism of the 1930s short-circuited itself when enough philosophers recognized that the proposition “only things empirically verifiable are real” was not itself empirically verifiable.  This episode represents one of many revolutions in philosophy of science.  The early Baconian model of science was found to be incomplete; scientists began emphasizing experimentation and repeatability, but this, too, did not always lead to new fundamental insights.  Scientists realized they needed to be able to make predictions.  That, however, led to some pseudoscientific practices that seemed to succeed at their predictions, while other legitimate models garnered only probabilistic correlations.  Karl Popper argued for the falsification criterion.  Yet how much falsification is enough, and by whom?  A theory is not often abandoned just because one critic claims to have falsified it, especially if a rival.  Evolutionary theory itself seems to outlast numerous falsifications, whether from the fossil record, speciation, Haldane’s Dilemma or irreducible complexity.  Thomas Kuhn proposed the controversial view that science had the character of a guild, with members reinforcing one another’s beliefs until a younger generation could overthrow the reigning paradigm.  Carl Hempel tried to define science according to the logical form of its explanations and the class of events to be explained, but this leaves out many areas assumed to be legitimate subjects for scientific inquiry, and permits spurious explanations without valid causal content.  Others argue that an explanation must be evaluated in the context of who asked the question, or that models only reflect simulations of reality, not reality itself.  Philosophers of science still argue these and many more issues.
    In short, as J. P. Moreland (Biola) has argued, there are no demarcation criteria for science that succeed in excluding all forms of pseudoscience while simultaneously including all disciplines recognized as valid by scientists.  The field permits contests at all levels among advocates of this or that subject, either wanting to gain the respectability of science, or wanting to exclude others from that respectability.  Moreland argued that the primary success of the Darwinian revolution was to redefine science to exclude theology out of hand, and thus claim that all prior scientists who had been doing their work based on belief in a Creator were doing religion and not science, by definition.  This explains much about the efforts by Big Science to exclude intelligent design.  It’s no longer necessary to play a fair game when you have disqualified your opponent.  Big Science, for example, gives approval to the methods of design inference in cryptography, forensics, archaeology and SETI (12/03/2005), but wants to exclude them by fiat from biology.  “The great obstacle to the progress of our understanding is always complacency,” said Robinson.  “A fundamentalist ‘scientism’ risks developing a hostility – at least an indifference – toward criticism, and thus it risks depriving itself of its own traditional sources of inspiration.”
    It is also unwise to ignore the role of personality in scientific disputes.  Science is, after all, a human invention, performed by fallible humans.  Bruce Alberts was not acting as Dr. Cool, Objective Scientist in his “wakeup call.”  He displayed the same human emotions and biases to which we are all prone.  Due to our finiteness, human science must always remain incomplete and tentative, its explanations judged for their utility rather than their ability to answer ultimate questions.  Surely sciences exist and pseudosciences exist.  We do, after all, fly space ships and treat disease.  Science must be doing something right; at some levels, it must have attained a reliable correspondence with the real world.  At the other extreme, nobody wants pyramidology or astrology labs competing in the university science department.  Yet the boundaries are not as sharp as Alberts draws them, or else he would have to admit that much of evolutionary theory and cosmology fail the definition.  Whether “supernaturalism” or “interventionism” are fair characterizations, or are illegitimate subjects for scientists to consider, become moot on closer inspection.  The history of science is filled with religiously devout people who believed that understanding nature was understanding the mind of God.  Newton himself was delighted that his theories helped to refute atheism.  Both lecturers for The Teaching Company’s series on the history of science have stated without hesitation that the picture of a “warfare of religion vs science” is a myth.  They both illustrated with many examples how belief in God and his creative design were instrumental in gaining new insights into the workings of nature.  A new book by Rodney Stark makes that case as well (see The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success on and Human Events).  Stark shows how the Christian commitment to rational theology were absolutely essential in the rise of science.  It can safely be assumed that each of these Christian practitioners of science believed in the essence of “intelligent design.”  This makes it hard to take seriously Alberts’ wakeup call that the sky is falling if intelligent design gets [back] into biology (consider Linnaeus for one example).
    We shortchange students by shielding them from these questions and giving them a spoon-fed, black-and-white picture of science vs. religion, natural vs. supernatural, and other shallow concepts based on false dichotomies.  The history of science is one of vibrant debates and controversies.  Philosophy of science has undergone many revolutions, and is still embroiled in debates between realists and anti-realists, rationalists and materialists, and scholars who actively dispute what is scientific and what is not.  Alberts, even though he has been a leader in calling biologists to recognize the machine-like nature of living cells, is characterizing the debate over intelligent design emotionally and dogmatically, begging these questions in a way that shields Darwinists from critical scrutiny and competition.  Is it not the Darwinians who teach that competition and struggle has produced all the complexity and beauty of life?  It is only by teaching the controversy that students will escape a shallow conception of this human enterprise called science that has amassed so much moral authority in our modern world.  Anything less is serfdom to the oligarchy Phillip Johnson has called the Mandarins of Science.  Anything less is bound to turn Big Science’s dogmatic views on origins into an unaccountable, self-perpetuating paradigm.  Daniel Robinson ended his lecture on philosophy of science by taking off on a rocket:
Getting to the moon and back is largely the work of rockets, once the basic laws and the necessary engineering have been worked out.  And so the question that survives, even in the wake of such a momentous achievement, is whether those laws, and that engineering, are drawn from a culture, so to speak, that is to have pride of place in assessing all of reality.  The word itself “reality” presupposes a percipient.  It’s not a sophist trick to ask, “Whose reality?” or, “Reality in relation to what?”  The aim throughout is to understand the setting of our own lives, at once physical, social, political, and moral.  And it remains to be debated whether ultimate authority in these respects is held by science.
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Instant Geology and Undersea Activity    12/09/2005  
We’re accustomed to thinking of geological processes as slow and gradual, except for volcanoes, earthquakes and landslides, but some recent stories are surprising for the speed and extent of active processes.
  1. Run: The Earth Is Splitting Apart:  Geologists were amazed to find a rift in the Afar desert east of Ethiopia opening up 8 meters wide and 60 kilometers long in just three weeks, reported BBC News.  They call this a rapid episode in the slow formation of a new ocean basin, a process that normally takes millions of years.  This rapid change was called “unprecedented in scientific history.”
  2. Springs of the Sea:  Hydrothermal vents are popping up everywhere, wherever scientists look.  USA Today said they ocean floor is covered with them; MSNBC News said they are not just along tectonic plate boundaries like the pacific Ring of Fire, as previously assumed.
Wow, at 8 meters every 3 weeks, that ocean basin would be 82,000 miles wide in a million years, bigger than the whole earth!  Just kidding, of course.  Nobody is saying that is a typical or uniform rate.  It does illustrate, however, that big things can happen in a short time if the conditions are right.  Faster rates than that could be envisioned, and must have been the case for certain large-scale, catastrophically-formed regions.
    It’s time to relegate Lyell to the history books where he belongs.  His uniformitarian gradualism was useful to Darwin in the Victorian age.  Darwin became obsessed with the vision of how large changes could occur by the accumulation of small variations over long eons of time.  That vision has seen too many challenges to be assumed in our day.
    By the way, how did the ancient philosopher Job know about hydrothermal vents?  “Have you entered the springs of the sea?  Or have you walked in search of the depths?” (Job 38:16).  He must have been told by someone who knew.  There’s another source of data too often overlooked by moderns: direct testimony from the Architect.
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Darwin Display Becomes Rallying Point    12/08/2005  
The Charles Darwin exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History (11/21/2005, 11/17/2005, 10/17/2005) has become a safe haven and symbol of dominance for Darwinists otherwise flustered by the controversy over evolution.  This most in-depth exhibition of Darwin’s life and thought will make the rounds to Boston, Chicago, Toronto and London in coming seasons.  Alan Packer reviewed the exhibit for Nature1 and found it “splendid.”  He opined, “In explaining what we know about the theory of evolution and its originator, given the limitations of what an exhibition can convey, Darwin could hardly be bettered.”  He also thought it was well-timed because of the controversy in Dover, Pennsylvania over intelligent design.  Darwin, according to Packer, “removed the nebulous idea of belief from the discussion.”
    A panel of academics met last week at the museum to discuss the controversy between Darwinism and intelligent design, Reuters reported (see MSNBC News).  Their panel discussion, entitled “Darwin’s Legacy,” considered ID as a “cultural battle, a global phenomenon or even a brilliant marketing scheme” but not a serious scientific theory.  Michael Ruse puzzled over why America is so religious yet also a “scientific powerhouse.”  He attributed the religious nature to historical reaction of the South to the Civil War.  They turned toward the Bible and away from everything they thought represented the North, he asserted, while evolution “was taken to represent everything about the North that they disliked.”  Ronald Numbers expressed concern that ID is not just an American phenomenon, but is growing rapidly in Asian countries, Russia, China, and Islamic states.  He chocked ID up to a successful P.R. campaign. 
Finally Edward Larson, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his 1998 book on the Scopes monkey trials, held that the debate boiled down in the United States to what is being taught in high-school biology classes.
    In the only remark to draw applause from the large audience, Larson said the “problem is partisan officials trying to tell science teachers how to do their jobs,” and for “blatantly religious motivations.”  He also noted that “so far, the issue hasn’t affected scientific funding.”
  (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
Some evolutionists, like E. O. Wilson, have claimed that only anti-evolutionists refer to it as “Darwinism,” but Casey Luskin at Evolution News found many hits on the word in science journals.  Darwin still remains a hero to many evolutionary biologists.  In a recent issue of Current Biology,2 for instance, John Raven (U of Dundee) was asked, “Do you have a scientific hero?” Only a short answer was considered necessary: “Charles Darwin.  I hope I do not need to say more.”
    Yet Darwin continues to elicit controversy 146 years after the publication of his influential book.  Alan Boyle on MSNBC rated “Darwin vs. Design” as #1 of the top five science-related social controversies.  Robert Crowther on Evolution News said that academic persecution of scientists investigating intelligent design is a dangerous and growing trend.  Despite the risk, more schools are poised to look at ID favorably and Darwin with a critical eye.  After the debacle of the ID-mocking class at U. of Kansas (see next entry), Knox College in western Illinois will be offering a more balanced philosophy class on ID, reported the Daily Review Atlas, and depending on how the Dover trial goes, school boards may be lining up to give ID more exposure in science classes.  Lisa Anderson wrote for the Chicago Tribune that no matter which way Judge Jones rules, the controversy will not be quieting down.  And if the judge rules that ID is constitutional, “we’re going to have school boards across the country trying it (introducing ID) the next day,” she quoted one analyst.  Anderson’s title summarized what might happen: “Dover ruling could be its own genesis.”
1Alan Packer, “Exhibition: A close look at Darwin,” Nature 438, 741 (8 December 2005) | doi:10.1038/438741b.
2John Raven, “Q&A”, Current Biology, Volume 15, Issue 22, 22 November 2005, Pages R905-R906.
Despite their attempts to get the focus off Darwin and onto the word evolution, and claim scientific legitimacy for the bits and pieces of evidence of microevolution here and there that they can extrapolate to support the idea that humans descended from bacteria through numerous, successive, slight modifications over millions of years, the antics of the Darwin Party really boil down to Charlie worship.  John Raven is not the first evolutionist interviewed in a magazine that immediately pointed to Charlie as a scientific hero.  They really, really love the guy, because he is the patron saint of storytellers.  His Moses-like face, shining with the glory of naturalism, led them to the promised land of endless scientific funding for lazy speculations (12/22/2003).  Notice how Larson (a man who personally helped overturn the Inherit the Wind stereotype about the Scopes Trial) worried about how the controversy has not yet affected funding.  The Darwin Party has reason to worry.  A lot of useless speculative projects that get nowhere and produce nothing but vaporware on back order will be scrutinized carefully if the presumed authority of Pope Charlie falls into disrepute (ex., 11/05/2005).
    Charlie had a moderately interesting life, piddling around his garden, getting people to make funny faces on camera (11/22/2005) and other things, but he only had a degree in theology, no PhD, and lived off his wife’s family’s fortune.  Sickly and private, prone to self-centeredness, he was not that admirable a person.  Maybe it’s because his ethical reputation is the best of the worst among his tribe (see 09/02/2004) that museums like to have exhibits on him instead of Haldane, Fisher, Wright, J. M. Smith, William Hamilton and the later lineup of reckless communist zealots and prima donnas that have held up the standard of evolutionary theory.  At least Charlie as an old man, like Santa, looked cuddly and innocent (but see 11/30/2005 entry).
Next headline on:  Darwin and Evolutionary TheoryIntelligent DesignEducation
Who Beat Up Paul Mirecki?   12/07/2005    
A dark sequel has been added to the story of the Univ. of Kansas prof who was going to teach a class ridiculing intelligent design, then canceled it when a defamatory email he wrote surfaced (see 11/29/2005 story).  Now, he claims he was accosted while driving off campus early Monday morning and beaten up by two guys in a pickup truck who had been tailgating him, according to a report in the Lawrence Journal-World 12/06.  The details appear sketchy, making some doubtful of the story, but his injuries were not in doubt; he was treated at the Lawrence Memorial Hospital for bruises and sore spots which he said were caused by the men punching him and hitting him with a metal object.  According to Mirecki, the attackers “made references to the controversy” as their reason for the attack.  The suspects have not been identified, and Mirecki himself has kept mum about the details (see Lawrence Journal-World 12/07.
    Subsequently, on Wednesday, Mirecki decided to step down as chairman of the Religious Studies department, reported the Wichita Eagle.  This article also mentioned the attack, but did not say if it had anything with his decision to step down.  It said he acted on the recommendation of his colleagues in the department.
Let’s make one thing crystal clear up front: whoever attacked Dr. Mirecki should be punished.  If you know who did this, turn them in.  If you did this and are reading this, turn yourself in.  (A doubtful possibility; our feedback shows our readership to be a virtuous and intelligent lot.)
    Assault is a heinous crime.  In a controversy like evolution vs. ID, it is also extremely counter-productive.  How can someone hope for open discussion by shutting it off and resorting to violence?  If this really happened the way Dr. Mirecki described it, it is completely out of bounds, and the perpetrators should be punished.  Respect and reason are the only tools of effective engagement in intellectual controversies.
    Still, the details seem sketchy and somewhat incoherent.  There was a case of a professor in California last year who staged an incident of vandalism to her car in order to appear a victim of a hate crime.  Let’s give Mirecki the benefit of the doubt.  We won’t even print the links of bloggers who think Mirecki made it all up.  Treat this as a story in progress and hope the whole truth comes to light.  Dr. Mirecki could help the situation by giving a full report.  In the meantime, we wish him well as a fellow human being, thank him for his apology, and respect his decision to step down.
Next headline on:  EducationPolitics and Ethics

Our commentary in the 11/29 story only used the word “evil” because Mirecki applied it to himself.  Our assumption was that readers understood “drive the vermin out” in a figurative sense, implying that administrators need to do housecleaning on campus and not tolerate hate speech like that in Dr. Mirecki’s email, speech that the state legislators regarded as vile and repugnant.  (In fact, his email could have been viewed as a provocation to violence against creationists: “nice slap in their big fat face” etc.)  As the last sentence made clear, the commentary was meant to foster open, free discussion of ideas among informed, ethical, rational people.
Genome Complexity No Measure of Evolution    11/07/2005  
Do genes show an increasing pattern of complexity from lower to higher organisms?  Not necessarily, reported Elizabeth Pennisi in Science Now.  Cnidarians, including sea anemones and corals, for example, show almost as much complexity in their genomes as humans, whereas fruit flies and worms, seemingly more complex than cnidarians (06/25/2005, 2nd par.) appear to have lost some of the complex gene families found in corals.  A molecular biology team in Norway found that cnidarians have a more complex genome than previously thought.
...cnidarians such as coral and sea anemones have similar genetic underpinnings to vertebrates, be they fish or people.  Cnidarians share extended gene families with vertebrates that fruit flies and nematodes lack, suggesting that insects and worms lost many members of those families.  Indeed, the data hint that cnidarians have more genes than either fruit flies or nematodes.
Pennisi ends with a quote by John Finnerty, an evolutionary biologist at Boston University.  “There is no simple relationship between the numbers of genes an animal possess and its complexity at the morphological level,” he said.
OK, then, Darwinism has been falsified.  Again.  (See 11/25/2004, 12/30/2004).  The complexity was there near the beginning and has not increased over hundreds of millions of years.  There is no linear progression from simple to complex.  This is not what evolutionary theory predicted.  It chops down the evolutionary “tree of life.”  Good; now we can build an intelligently-designed log cabin with it and come in out of the cold.
Next headline on:  GeneticsMarine LifeEvolutionary Theory
New Mammal Discovered in Borneo   12/06/2005    
Caught on camera: a cat-sized quadruped with a long, bushy tail.  See the picture on National Geographic News.  Found in Borneo’s rain forests, it is so new we don’t know what to call it yet.  The article says this is the “first new mammal species discovered on the Southeast Asian island in more than a century.”  See also the Reuters story on MSNBC.
It looks like a cat with a fox face.  How did such a creature escaped detection for so long?  There are still plenty of mysteries on this vast planet.  The natives probably knew all about it, though.
Next headline on:  Mammals
Wine for Your Heart?  Think Again   12/06/2005    
“Any heart gains from drinking alcohol in moderation are likely outweighed by the harm, say researchers.”  That’s how a story on BBC News begins that warns that alleged benefits of alcohol for heart health may not be trustworthy.  A New Zealand team investigated earlier scientific studies that purported to show benefits of drinking in moderation, and found that “the way the studies were carried out did not allow the researchers to be able to say with certainty that the findings could not due to other factors rather than solely the amount of alcohol consumed.”  This did not mean that health benefits have been falsified – only unconfirmed.  Meanwhile, the known harms of alcohol may outweigh any benefits.  “If so, the public health message is clear,” the article warns.  “Do not assume there is a window in which the health benefits of alcohol are greater than the harms – there is probably no free lunch.”  One theory keeps getting more and better confirmation, though: exercise is good for the heart.  See the latest example on EurekAlert.
The science is inconclusive that there are any coronary benefits to alcohol consumption, but the harms are well known.  It may just be that alcoholics tend to have clean arteries.  There are two lessons in articles like this: (1) much of what we think we know is wrong, and (2) scientific findings are tentative.  The assumption that wine is healthy has been going around since the 1960s and 1970s.  How many people have been led to believe that they should drink wine more often for good health?  How many following that line got drawn into alcoholism, or swamped any gains with greater harms?  This is not to take a hard-line position on who is right, but just to remind everyone that some claims by scientists may be based on flawed studies.
    If you choose to drink during the holidays, don’t claim you do it for health reasons.  The last sentence in the article makes the best sense: “Our advice remains the same – the best way to reduce the risk of heart disease is to quit smoking if you smoke, increase levels of physical activity and eat a healthy balanced diet.”
    A reader pointed out that it is not the alcohol, but the antioxidants, that confer upon wine its healthy benefits.  But consumers can find equal or better antioxidants in pomegranates, dark chocolate and many other non-alcoholic foods and drinks.  It would seem most drinkers primarily want the taste of the alcohol, or else there would be a large market for non-alcoholic wine among health-conscious consumers who want the antioxidants without the harm of ethyl alcohol.  Wine consumption still cannot be rationalized, therefore, on claims it is good for the heart.
Next headline on:  Health
It Was the Year of Titan   12/05/2005    
Of the top 10 astronomy stories for 2005, Astronomy Magazine gave #6 to Cassini’s year at Saturn, and #1 to the Huygens landing on Titan last January 14 (01/14/2005, 01/21/2005).
    The official science papers from that event are now in.  In a special online edition, Nature1 published 9 new papers and articles with the latest results and interpretations of what Huygens found on its 2.5-hour descent and historic landing on the surface, where it survived at least another 3 hours taking pictures and measurements.  Most of the Nature online articles, including video and audio files with links to other resources, have free access.
    Titan, the second-largest moon of all (bigger than the planet Mercury), called the “largest piece of unknown real estate in the solar system” took on a vaguely familiar face as Huygens revealed river channels dissecting hills and emptying out into lakebeds littered with boulders – but with a bizarre difference – methane instead of water, ice grains instead of sand, and ice blocks instead of rocks (see EurekAlert story).  The Cassini orbiter, working in tandem, also took multiple radar scans and focused all its precision instruments on Titan in nine encounters so far, with at least 36 more to go (05/18/2005).  EurekAlert summarized announcements at the American Geophysical Union meeting about the jets on Enceladus (11/28/2005), which joins Titan as a dynamic, eruptive body.  To complete the collection, a gallery of Cassini 2005 images of Saturn’s moons was released by the Imaging Team.
    A series of new mosaics of the Titan landing site, composed of frames taken by the descent imager on Huygens, was released on both the JPL and ESA websites.  Huygens was also the lead story on the Science Channel weekend program Discoveries This Week and will be the subject of a special program December 13-14, Rendezvous with Saturn’s Moon.  NASA and ESA scientists are already working on a follow-up mission: this time, perhaps to float a blimp in the atmosphere to cover more territory and survive longer.  Actual arrival, after planning, building, launching and cruising, will probably take at least 17 years, if funds can be raised.
1Web focus, “Huygens on Titan,” Nature online feature.  See also the print edition starting with a News Focus by Tobias Owen, “Huygens rediscovers Titan,” Nature 438, 756-757 (8 December 2005) | doi:10.1038/438756a.
After months of waiting, the scientists have spoken.  There is way too much material to cover here.  Titan has to be one of the most intriguing worlds in the solar system beyond earth.  The lack of impact craters and strong suggestions of surface activity (06/09/2005, 04/08/2005) give indications this world is young.  The atmospheric methane blanket is eroding quickly (03/11/2005).  The scientists still have no idea how the atmosphere could last more than a tiny fraction of the assumed age of the solar system (about one forty-fifth), and why no oceans of liquid ethane were found on the surface.  Titan invites intense follow-up investigation by scientists and serious amateurs.  The pictures, meanwhile, are sure to stimulate the wonder and imagination of everyone.
Next headline on:  Solar SystemAmazing Stories
How You Tune In   12/05/2005    
Studies on rats have shown there are certain neurons that respond to changes in the background sound (see LiveScience story on MSNBC News).  We humans probably have these, too.  Rather than firing continuously, they search for changes in the auditory landscape that might be of interest: changes in pitch, loudness or duration in single sounds or patterns of sounds.  The work was done by Ellen Covey and a team at the University of Washington and published in the European Journal of Neuroscience.  “The novelty detector neurons seem to act as gatekeepers, Covey and her colleagues conclude, preventing information about unimportant sounds from reaching the brain’s cortex, where higher processing occurs.”  This is how we can ignore unimportant information, even though it may be loud.  It also may play a part in our sense of humor: “Whatever we have just heard allows us to anticipate what will come next, and violations of our predictions are often surprising or humorous.”
One of the great mysteries of neuropsychology and of philosophy is the mind-body problem.  We continue to learn about the intricate machinery, the physical and chemical properties of our neurons, but how do these mechanical activities translate into our sensations of the external world?  How does a chain of processes leading to the brain connect us to what is really out there?  How can we be sure that the end of the chain, what is actually closest to us, corresponds to the source of the signal in the external world?  How can our minds choose to focus in on certain sensations around us?
    Even the act of raising an arm is a complete mystery.  You can command your arm “Up!” and make it go up, or you can even make it disobey your command or stay still.  Such simple things are really baffling when you think about them.  It is clear that a fantastic array of biological instrumentation is involved, but it also appears hopelessly inadequate to reduce our mental operations to the motions of molecules.  Stories like this can be cause for thoughtful reflection.
Next headline on:  Human BodyMammalsAmazing Stories
SETI vs. Intelligent Design   12/03/2005    
Intelligent Design proponents have often pointed to the similarity between what they are doing and what SETI is doing.  For example, SETI is attempting to detect evidence of intelligence in coded signals from space, and design biologists are detecting evidence of intelligence in the DNA code.  Seth Shostak, Director of the SETI Institute, decided to challenge that comparison in the weekly SETI report on  He started with a comparison of his own: ID people are no more to be taken seriously than the comedian who found a potato that looked like Richard Nixon’s head.  But then he got serious; isn’t there a double standard, if SETI is accepted by the scientific community and ID is not?
    First, Shostak argued that the signals SETI is searching for are not all that complex.  A code or message is not a requirement; a valid candidate might just be a “persistent narrowband whistle” of no known natural origin.  Still, why would SETI be able to deduce intelligence with far less complexity than the high complexity found in DNA?  Here, Shostak made a surprising statement: such a simple, narrow signal from space would constitute better evidence for intelligence than the DNA code:
Well, it’s because the credibility of the evidence is not predicated on its complexity.  If SETI were to announce that we’re not alone because it had detected a signal, it would be on the basis of artificiality.  An endless, sinusoidal signal – a dead simple tone – is not complex; it’s artificial.  Such a tone just doesn’t seem to be generated by natural astrophysical processes.  In addition, and unlike other radio emissions produced by the cosmos, such a signal is devoid of the appendages and inefficiencies nature always seems to add – for example, DNA’s junk and redundancy.   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
He admitted that the pulsar first thought to be evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence in 1967 did not convey information, but then says that it was profligate in its signal, broadcasting all over the spectrum.  This, he claims, shows that it was a signal no alien would produce; it would be too “wasteful.”  In cells and sea lions, on the other hand, nature produces things full of “Junk, redundancy and inefficiency” he claimed.  To him, this proves they were not artificially engineered because they are not “optimally built.”
    A second error in the comparison, Shostak continued, is in overlooking the importance of context.  SETI researchers would be justified in inferring artificiality if they found a large green square on an earth-like planet (instead of in a group of stars), just like archaeologists are justified in inferring hominid tool-making if rock chips are found in a cave.
    In summary, Shostak disavows the comparison between SETI and ID research on two counts: (1) SETI is not looking for messages with evidence of intelligence, but only for simple artificial signals; (2) SETI is looking for artificiality in the context of places where such “very modest complexity” would be unexpected and not otherwise observed.  The last word: “This is clearly nothing like looking at DNA’s chemical makeup and deducing the work of a supernatural biochemist.”
We have to hand it to Seth Shostak for tackling an argument head-on without too much mocking.  Will his arguments stand up to scrutiny?  You decide.  In the first place, looking for a simple signal is just the first pass filter.  All the SETI literature has been replete with claims that eventually humans want to converse with the aliens and learn from them.  Jimmy Carter spoke for the earth in writing, “We hope some day, having solved the problems we face, to join a community of galactic civilizations.”  That’s also why our messages to them have been very complex: from the Arecibo message, to the Pioneer plaque, and especially to the Voyager records – loaded with information, telling them as much about ourselves as the bandwidth allowed.  Finding a “persistent narrowband whistle” would most certainly instigate an intensive follow-up search to first confirm the artificiality of the signal, and then try to discover more complexity in it.  Shostak and the world would certainly not be sufficiently convinced to get off at the whistle-stop and say, “well, we found intelligent life, so let’s move on to something else.”  Look at how the alleged canals on Mars sent scientists and the public into a frenzy to get more data and learn more about a possible Martian civilization.  The confirmation of extraterrestrial intelligence would surely demand more complexity in the signal, just as it did in the SETI-dominated movie Contact.
    As to Shostak’s second argument that an artificial signal would be efficient whereas life is profligate and wasteful, who is he kidding?  This is a red herring wrapped in circular reasoning.  Like most of the SETI crowd, Shostak is an evolutionist.  He assumes life evolved, and he assumes evolution is a wasteful process without design, so when he finds what (to him) looks like wastefulness and redundancy, he only argues his assumptions.  This is the old dysteleology (bad design) argument, but it is rather presumptuous to tell the Designer “if you were really so smart, you would have done it my way.”  In the first place, Shostak obviously has not been listening to the molecular biologists who are in such awe of the efficiency and robustness of biological machinery that they are racing to imitate it (11/19/2005).  (Artists may try to imitate junk, but not engineers.)  In the second place, the “junk DNA” he speaks of is rapidly being redefined as more about its essential functions is being uncovered (10/20/2005, 09/08/2005, 07/15/2005).  In the third place, he presumes he knows what the aliens would do, when maybe, to them, sending a wideband message might make more sense than a narrowband one.  In the fourth place, he assumes human intelligence is not profligate, redundant and wasteful.  Ever seen government regulations?  So not only is he presumptuous and uninformed over the particular claims of this argument, it is an irrelevant argument anyway: SETI would certainly follow up any sign of “artificiality” with a massive search for more complexity containing a message.  He argued that the ID claim that “complexity would imply intelligence, is also wrong.”  But this misrepresents the claims of ID (see next paragraph), and will come back to bite his own assertion in the end.
    Shostak also misleads his readers by making a false distinction between artificiality and complexity.  This equivocation also begs the question about design vs. evolution.  The ID literature has made it clear that it is not just complexity that makes a design inference valid, but specified complexity.  If an “artificial” signal were found with enough complexity beyond what could be produced naturally, it would be specified by definition, even if it were a persistent lowband whistle.  After ruling out chance and natural law as sources, both Shostak and the ID community would conclude that an intelligent design inference is warranted.  So the distinction disappears.  Both sides also agree that specified complexity depends on context; a little complexity, like a cairn on a trail, is sufficient to make a design inference in the mountains, whereas much more specified complexity would be required to declare a forger guilty.
    And what is “artificial” anyway, if not designed by an intelligence?  Shostak is not being consistent here, because to him, artificiality evolved: it has its roots in non-design.  How could artificiality (i.e., purposeful action of a designer) evolve in the first place?  At what point did purpose and intent (i.e., free will) diverge from chance and necessity?  A beaver is intelligent, but is hauling a piece of wood for the purpose of making a dam equivalent to sending an intelligent signal bearing information?  Is the guard crow sending intelligent communication when it caws the warning signal to the flock?  Suppose an alien planet had frogs that croaked with a persistent narrowband whistle in the radio range; would SETI be ready to ask them about the meaning of life and how to survive global war?  Clearly a different category of communication is being sought here.  SETI goes beyond astrobiology.  It would not be content to find bacteria on Mars; it wants evidence of purpose, intent, intelligence and free will – beings capable of harnessing nature to send information-bearing messages that would never occur by chance or natural law.  Humans do this all the time: smoke signals, skywriting, petroglyphs, writing with a stick in the sand, or beaming bits into space.  How can Shostak make a design inference based on artificiality (extraterrestrial intelligence, the kind that intends to communicate with us) without first assuming the very criterion he wants to deny to advocates of intelligent design?  And without coming up with some sort of criterion for minimum specified complexity, how can he distance himself from the comedian who finds a potato that looks like Richard Nixon’s head?
    Finally, let’s have a little fun at Seth Shostak’s expense, with all due respect.  One of the persistent harangues against intelligent design is that it “brings science to a halt by claiming a designer did it.”  According to this view, ID scientists are lazy and prone to jumping to conclusions.  They don’t want to be diligent in performing the rigorous work necessary to find natural explanations for complex phenomena (see 11/21/2005 end of main article).  This is not true, because using the Dembski Explanatory Filter, intelligent causes are always a last resort after natural and chance causes are eliminated.  But let’s put the shoe on the other foot for a change.  Dr. Shostak, Jill Tarter et al.,wouldn’t it be the lazy way out for a SETI scientist to infer intelligence for a persistent narrowband whistle?  Surely a naturalistic explanation must be out there.  You must keep trying, ad infinitum, till a natural cause is found.  If you infer intelligence was the cause, you are just giving up.  You are failing to perform the rigorous analysis necessary to do science; you are bringing science to a halt.
    Nice try, Dr. Shostak.  Think about this some more and try again.  And while you’re at it, tell us how your own intelligent message-sending capacity evolved, or how it can be distinguished from chance and natural law, if nature is all there is.
Next headline on:  SETIIntelligent DesignCosmology
Archaeopteryx in the Headlines Again: New Specimen Reported   12/02/2005    
The best-preserved fossil yet of Archaeopteryx was announced in Science this week,1 the tenth in all.  This one, described by Gerald Mayr of the Senckenberg Natural History Museum (Frankfurt, Germany), had a better-preserved foot than the others (all found in the Solnhofen Limestone beds of Bavaria) with indications it had a hyperextendable second toe somewhat similar to those on deinonychosaurs.  Not being reversible, as on modern birds, this toe led the discoverers to conclude Archaeopteryx was not a perching bird.  National Geographic News is convinced this fact plus the theropod-shaped skull settles the dispute about the relationship of birds to theropod dinosaurs.
    Erik Stokstad, however, in a News Focus article in the same issue of Science,2 denied that there was anything radically new about this specimen.  There’s another problem: Burkhard Pohl, an amateur collector and founder of the for-profit Wyoming Dinosaur Center where it will be housed (also co-author of the announcement in Science) is not forthcoming on this fossil’s pedigree:
The origins of the Archaeopteryx, however, remain hazy.  Pohl says he “found a donor” to buy it from a private collector after the Senckenberg failed to raise enough money.  (Mayr declines to reveal the asking price, but the Paläontologische Museum München paid DM 2 million--about $1.3 million--for a less spectacular specimen in 1999.)  The Archaeopteryx appears to be legal, because Bavaria allows the export of fossils.  Pohl won’t say who legally owns it, but he says that it’s “guaranteed that it will stay in a public collection.”   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
Pohl has connections with the world of commercial fossil dealing, and some scientists “remain uncomfortable” working with him, according to Stokstad.  “They want to be absolutely certain that fossils, particularly foreign ones, were legally excavated.”  They also want such important fossils to be housed in accredited public collections.  Stokstad did not question the authenticity of this fossil specifically, and included some details supporting Pohl’s credibility and good intentions, but that he did raise these concerns by scientists in the same issue as the announcement of the discovery seemed unusual.
    Science News (Week of Dec. 3, 2005; Vol. 168, No. 23, p. 355) offered additional information.  It said that the interpretation of the foot is not conclusive.  Some scientists, including Larry Martin (U of Kansas) and Alan Feduccia (U of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) are not convinced that the discoverers proved their case that the bird was unsuited for perching in trees.  To them, the claws look curved for perching and the toe looks reversible for clinging, just like on the other specimens.
1Gerald Mahr, Burkhard Pohl and D. Stefan Peters, “A Well-Preserved Archaeopteryx Specimen with Theropod Features, Science, 2 December 2005: Vol. 310. no. 5753, pp. 1483 - 1486, DOI: 10.1126/science.1120331.
2Erik Stokstad, “Best Archaeopteryx Fossil So Far Ruffles a Few Feathers,” Science, 2 December 2005: Vol. 310. no. 5753, pp. 1418 - 1419, DOI: 10.1126/science.310.5753.1418.
Once again, a cloud of doubt is raised around this icon of evolutionary “transitional forms.”  Fred Hoyle wrote a whole book about possible fraud surrounding the most famous feathered Archaeopteryx fossils (not all have feather impressions), and others have done the same over the years.  Now we have another, the best-looking of all, and we can’t be absolutely sure where it came from.  Why can’t the best paleontologists go over to Bavaria and uncover a clear example of a feathered specimen in situ to end all doubt?
    Although Hoyle’s hoax theory is not widely accepted, the lure of famous fossils cannot be discounted (05/06/2004).  Owning a feathered Archaeopteryx is a prize so lucrative, one can imagine the temptation to hire shadowy figures to carve feather impressions around a plain old theropod fossil.  The cost of an expert carving could be covered many times over by the sale of a prize specimen.  We’re not claiming this is what happened; it probably does not matter anyway.  Jonathan Wells argued in Icons of Evolution that cladistic diagrams show that Archaeopteryx preceded the “bird-like dinosaurs” thought to be the ancestors of birds, so its status as a transitional form is questionable (08/05/2004).  Clearly, “an animal cannot be older than its ancestor,” he joked (cf. 10/24/2005).
Next headline on:  BirdsFossilsDinosaursEvolution
Cell Ribosome Assembly Is Like Throwing Car Parts Together   12/01/2005    
Ribosomes are the protein-assembly machines in the living cell (11/24/2005, 07/26/2005, 01/19/2005).  A bacterium can have thousands of them.  They are composed of two large RNA complexes; the smaller one has 20 unique proteins that fit snugly in various parts of the apparatus, and the larger complex has even more.  How do the parts all come together?  That’s an area of intense study, reports Sarah A. Woodson in Nature:1
Many of the biochemical events that occur in a cell are performed by huge complexes of proteins and nucleic acids.  A cunning approach promises to show how the components convene to make a functioning ‘machine’.
    The cell’s macromolecular machines contain dozens or even hundreds of components.  But unlike man-made machines, which are built on assembly lines, these cellular machines assemble spontaneously from their protein and nucleic-acid components.  It is as though cars could be manufactured by merely tumbling their parts onto the factory floor.
  (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
Clearly there is more to it than that, because the parts all fit together in the right places, at the right times.  Woodson describes how researchers are trying to observe whether the assembly steps are strictly determined in a predefined sequence, or whether the parts can arrive via alternative paths, like band members in a scatter formation.
    Whatever happens, it needs to be reliable and energy-efficient.  All the parts “interact through highly specific interfaces,...” she explains.  “Actively growing cells demand many thousands of ribosomes, whose synthesis consumes a large fraction of the cell’s metabolic energy.  So ribosome assembly must be efficient as well as precise.
    Unlike car parts, protein and RNA parts have some flexibility.  In a process called induced fit, they snap together snugly, like rubbery puzzle pieces:
In the soft world of biological materials, cooperativity and specificity are achieved by the induced fit of molecular interfaces; that is, as two or more components come into contact they mould around one another to create stronger, more specific junctions.  The idea that ribosome assembly can follow more than one path is consistent with redundant cooperative linkages in the assembly map.  These cooperative linkages ensure that individual complexes are assembled completely.  They also create alternative kinetic paths that make the assembly process itself more robust.
Woodson spoke of machinery and machines five times, but only mentioned evolution twice, neither time explaining how the machinery and its precision assembly process came about.  In her introduction, she merely said, “Knowing how cellular complexes organize themselves is crucial for understanding molecular evolution and for engineering materials that can mimic their properties.”  The other mention of evolution was in her last sentence: “In the ribosome, these interactions have been fine-tuned through billions of years of evolution, providing a clear window into the world of cellular machines.”
1Sarah A. Woodson, “Biophysics: Assembly line inspection,” Nature 438, 566-567 (1 December 2005) | doi:10.1038/438566a.
And for that classic line, Woodson earns Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week.  We’all just throw a bunch of car parts on the factory floor for billions of years, and when they get it right by chance, presto: we can expect a fully operational vehicle.  This article, therefore, gets listed in both the Amazing and Dumb categories.  It can be considered typical of references to evolution in scientific papers: nobody tells us how such things could have evolved by mindless, directionless chance processes; they just claim they did.  You call this science?  Read Gerald Schroeder’s editorial on AISH.  He examines the probability of such accidents occurring naturally, showing that the argument of our online book is still valid.  Any scientists who can believe that chance could perform miracles on this order should be called People of Frothy Faith.
Next headline on:  Cell BiologyAmazing StoriesDumb Ideas

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“I came across your site while browsing through creation & science links.  I love the work you do!”
(an attorney in Florida)

“Love your commentary and up to date reporting.  Best site for evolution/design info.”
(a graphic designer in Oregon)

“I am an ardent reader of your site.  I applaud your efforts and pass on your website to all I talk to.  I have recently given your web site info to all my grandchildren to have them present it to their science teachers.... Your Supporter and fan..God bless you all...”
(a health services manager in Florida)

“Why your readership keeps doubling: I came across your website at a time when I was just getting to know what creation science is all about.  A friend of mine was telling me about what he had been finding out. I was highly skeptical and sought to read as many pro/con articles as I could find and vowed to be open-minded toward his seemingly crazy claims. At first I had no idea of the magnitude of research and information that’s been going on. Now, I’m simply overwhelmed by the sophistication and availability of scientific research and information on what I now know to be the truth about creation.
    Your website was one of dozens that I found in my search.  Now, there are only a handful of sites I check every day.  Yours is at the top of my list... I find your news page to be the most insightful and well-written of the creation news blogs out there.  The quick wit, baloney detector, in-depth scientific knowledge you bring to the table and the superb writing style on your site has kept me interested in the day-to-day happenings of what is clearly a growing movement.  Your site ... has given me a place to point them toward to find out more and realize that they’ve been missing a huge volume of information when it comes to the creation-evolution issue.
    Another thing I really like about this site is the links to articles in science journals and news references.  That helps me get a better picture of what you’re talking about.... Keep it up and I promise to send as many people as will listen to this website and others.”
(an Air Force Academy graduate stationed in New Mexico)

“I’m a small town newspaper editor in southwest Wyoming.  We’re pretty isolated, and finding your site was a great as finding a gold mine.  I read it daily, and if there’s nothing new, I re-read everything.  I follow links.  I read the Scientist of the Month.  It’s the best site I’ve run across.  Our local school board is all Darwinist and determined to remain that way.”
(a newspaper editor in Wyoming)

“Congratulations on your 5th anniversary.  I have been reading your page for about 2 years or so.... I read it every day.  I well educated, with a BA in Applied Physics from Harvard and an MBA in Finance from Wharton.”
(a reader in Delaware)

“ I came across your website by accident about 4 months ago and look at it every day.... About 8 months ago I was reading a letter to the editor of the Seattle Times that was written by a staunch ‘anti-Creationist’ and it sparked my interest enough to research the topic and within a week I was yelling, ‘my whole life’s education has been a lie!!!’  I’ve put more study into Biblical Creation in the last 8 months than any other topic in my life.  Past that, through resources like your website...I’ve been able to convince my father (professional mathematician and amateur geologist), my best friend (mechanical engineer and fellow USAF Academy Grad/Creation Science nutcase), my pastor (he was the hardest to crack), and many others to realize the Truth of Creation.... Resources like your website help the rest of us at the ‘grassroots level’ drum up interest in the subject.  And regardless of what the major media says: Creationism is spreading like wildfire, so please keep your website going to help fan the flames.”
(an Air Force Academy graduate and officer)

“I love your site!  I **really** enjoy reading it for several specific reasons: 1.It uses the latest (as in this month!) research as a launch pad for opinion; for years I have searched for this from a creation science viewpoint, and now, I’ve found it.  2. You have balanced fun with this topic.  This is hugely valuable!  Smug Christianity is ugly, and I don’t perceive that attitude in your comments.  3. I enjoy the expansive breadth of scientific news that you cover.  4. I am not a trained scientist but I know evolutionary bologna/(boloney) when I see it; you help me to see it.  I really appreciate this.
(a computer technology salesman in Virginia)

“I love your site.  That’s why I was more than happy to mention it in the local paper.... I mentioned your site as the place where..... ‘Every Darwin-cheering news article is reviewed on that site from an ID perspective.  Then the huge holes of the evolution theory are exposed, and the bad science is shredded to bits, using real science.’”
(a project manager in New Jersey)

“I’ve been reading your site almost daily for about three years.  I have never been more convinced of the truthfulness of Scripture and the faithfulness of God.”
(a systems administrator and homeschooling father in Colorado)

“I use the internet a lot to catch up on news back home and also to read up on the creation-evolution controversy, one of my favourite topics.  Your site is always my first port of call for the latest news and views and I really appreciate the work you put into keeping it up to date and all the helpful links you provide.  You are a beacon of light for anyone who wants to hear frank, honest conclusions instead of the usual diluted garbage we are spoon-fed by the media.... Keep up the good work and know that you’re changing lives.
(a teacher in Spain)

“I am grateful to you for your site and look forward to reading new stories.... I particularly value it for being up to date with what is going on.”
(from the Isle of Wight, UK)

“[Creation-Evolution Headlines] is the place to go for late-breaking news [on origins]; it has the most information and the quickest turnaround.  It’s incredible – I don’t know how you do it.  I can’t believe all the articles you find.  God bless you!”
(a radio producer in Riverside, CA)

“Just thought I let you know how much I enjoy reading your ‘Headlines’ section.  I really appreciate how you are keeping your ear to the ground in so many different areas.  It seems that there is almost no scientific discipline that has been unaffected by Darwin’s Folly.”
(a programmer in aerospace from Gardena, CA)

“I enjoy reading the comments on news articles on your site very much.  It is incredible how much refuse is being published in several scientific fields regarding evolution.  It is good to notice that the efforts of true scientists have an increasing influence at schools, but also in the media.... May God bless your efforts and open the eyes of the blinded evolutionists and the general public that are being deceived by pseudo-scientists.... I enjoy the site very much and I highly respect the work you and the team are doing to spread the truth.”
(an ebusiness manager in the Netherlands)

“I discovered your site through a link at certain website... It has greatly helped me being updated with the latest development in science and with critical comments from you.  I also love your baloney detector and in fact have translated some part of the baloney detector into our language (Indonesian).  I plan to translate them all for my friends so as to empower them.”
(a staff member of a bilateral agency in West Timor, Indonesia)

“...absolutely brilliant and inspiring.”
(a documentary film producer, remarking on the 07/10/2005 commentary)

“I found your site several months ago and within weeks had gone through your entire archives....  I check in several times a day for further information and am always excited to read the new articles.  Your insight into the difference between what is actually known versus what is reported has given me the confidence to stand up for what I believe.  I always felt there was more to the story, and your articles have given me the tools to read through the hype....  You are an invaluable help and I commend your efforts.  Keep up the great work.”
(a sound technician in Alberta)

“I discovered your site (through a link from a blog) a few weeks ago and I can’t stop reading it....  I also enjoy your insightful and humorous commentary at the end of each story.  If the evolutionists’ blindness wasn’t so sad, I would laugh harder.
  I have a masters degree in mechanical engineering from a leading University.  When I read the descriptions, see the pictures, and watch the movies of the inner workings of the cell, I’m absolutely amazed....  Thanks for bringing these amazing stories daily.  Keep up the good work.
(an engineer in Virginia)

“I stumbled across your site several months ago and have been reading it practically daily.  I enjoy the inter-links 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 don’t 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 that’s 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 Awareness Center)

“Hey Friends, Check out this site:  This is a fantastic resource for the whole family.... a fantastic reference library with summaries, commentaries and great links that are added to daily—archives go back five years.”
(a reader who found us in Georgia)

“I just wanted to drop you a note telling you that at, I’ve 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?  Isn’t 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)

“I’ve had your Creation/Evolution Headlines site on my favourites list for 18 months now, and I can truthfully say that it’s 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.  I’m 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 humor).”
(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 I’m not being presumptuous in suspecting the existence of contributions from a ‘Truth Underground’ comprised of dissident college faculty, teachers, scientists, and engineers.  If that’s 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)

“I’m from Quebec, Canada.  I have studied in ‘pure sciences’ and after in actuarial mathematics.  I’m visiting this site 3-4 times in a week.  I’m 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.  OUTSTANDING JOB!!!!”
(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.  It’s great to see real science directly on the front lines, toe to toe with the pseudoscience that's mindlessly spewed from the ‘prestigious’ science journals.”
(a biology student in Illinois)

“I’ve been checking in for a long time but thought I’d 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.  I’m 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 light.”
(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 reader’s interest.”
(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.  I’m a Christian that is interested in science (I’m 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 I’ve 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)

“I’ve 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 don’t 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 insight.”
(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)

“It’s like ‘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 it’s 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 conclusion.”
(a medical doctor)

“A church member asked me what I thought was the best creation web site.  I told him”
(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 informative.”
(a reader from Scottsdale, AZ)

“I still 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 see–very much.  I really appreciate a decent, calm and scholarly approach to the whole issue... Thanks ... for this fabulous endeavor–it’s superb!”

“It is refreshing to read your comments.  You have a knack to get to the heart of the matter.”
(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 Baloney Detector.”
(a scientist).

“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

“WOW.  Unbelievable.... My question is, do you sleep? ... I’m utterly impressed by your page which represents untold amounts of time and energy as well as your faith.”
(a mountain man in Alaska).

“Just 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.  I’ll 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 December

William Herschel
1738 - 1822

The father of stellar astronomy and the pride of the English in the late 18th to early 19th centuries was neither English nor a scientist originally, but a German-born immigrant musician, and a Jewish Christian.  Friedrich Wilhelm Herschel (called William Herschel in his adopted country) was a pioneer of the heavens, taking Galileo’s early attempts at sky surveying to grand lengths.  Patrick Moore considers Herschel the greatest observer who ever lived.  Though just an amateur at first, he built the largest telescopes of his era, and in the process of spending countless hours on cold nights perched on a ladder at the eyepiece of his instruments, he discovered binary stars, nebulae, comets, and the planet Uranus – the first man to discover a planet since antiquity.  He proved that the laws that govern our earth and moon are the same throughout the heavens.  He brought into focus the understanding that the earth and sun are but specks among thousands of similar suns.  He launched modern astronomy’s project to understand the nature of the nebulae, the distribution of stars in the galaxy and our place in it.  He discovered invisible infrared light.  In addition to his scientific observations, William Herschel became a leading natural philosopher and a friend of kings and intellectuals, yet he was described as a man of devout, yet simple Christian faith.

To the Herschel legend we must quickly add his sister Caroline and his son John William, who both rose to his level of greatness.  William’s father was a bandmaster in the Hanoverian guard.  Each of his children became talented musicians; William gained proficiency on the oboe.  Troubles with the Seven Years War in Germany made him leave for England, where he landed with scarcely one coin in his pocket.  His musical skills kept him gainfully employed as a church organist and oboist.  Seven years after arriving, he began to take up seriously a hobby he had always enjoyed, astronomy.  The telescopes of his day were not powerful enough for him.  He learned how to grind mirrors, and spent all his spare time (when not playing music) perfecting the art.  Patrick Moore says that one of his first attempts at making a 5" objective succeeded after two hundred failures.

By 1774, his brother and sister also arrived in England.  Caroline stayed with William and became his assistant.  William’s observing career was launched in earnest with a look at the Orion Nebula, and he continued for 37 years, making bigger and better telescopes along the way until his home (Observatory House in Slough) boasted a 48" mirror weighing over a ton inside a 40-foot tube slung within a giant wooden scaffold.  Caroline, short and unmarried, was her brother’s biggest helper.  Even after William married at age 50, she remained near at hand, keeping his records and doing some significant observing herself.  She discovered six comets (a big interest in those days), and was eventually honored by royalty, famous in her own right to the age of 98.  Caroline, however, thought little of her own fame.  Like a humble moon, she was content to bask in the “reflected glory” of her famous brother.

Uranus was discovered accidentally while William scanned the skies.  The fame of being the first human to discover a new planet around the sun resulted in King George III granting him a permanent salary as royal astronomer, enough to let him abandon his musical career and do astronomical work full time.  He wanted to name the new planet in the king’s honor, but other astronomers voted to stick to the naming convention of mythological gods, so the name Uranus was chosen.  Uranus is a strange planet, hard to explain by naturalistic theories, because of its energy, composition, and inclination; tipped at 98 degrees, it circles the sun with its retinue of moons like a bull’s eye.  Stranger still, discoveries by the Voyager spacecraft in 1986 showed its magnetic field to be highly tilted and off-center.  No one has been able to explain why.  One of its moons, Miranda, has some of the strangest terrain ever seen, including a cliff so high that in the weak gravity of that world, someone stumbling over the edge would be in free-fall for eight minutes.  Speaking of moons, Herschel also discovered two more moons of Saturn (Mimas and Enceladus).  How awe-struck and fascinated would be his expression today to see what spacecraft have revealed close-up on these objects that, to him, were mere faint points of light twinkling in the eyepiece of his telescopes, as he gazed in the cold, still night air.

One of Herschel’s main goals was to sample the sky systematically and map the distribution of stars, to gain a picture of where the sun stood in relation to the Milky Way.  Due to assumptions later shown to be flawed, his map put the earth at the center of a somewhat flattened, oblong shape.  It was an important start, nonetheless.  Herschel was a diligent observer, ever willing to sacrifice his hypotheses on the altar of new evidence.  At first he thought binary stars were chance alignments, but later observations proved they were in orbit around each other.  He thought the nebulae were composed of stars made faint by distance, but later realized some were composed of dust or gas.  Herschel gave us the unfortunate term “planetary nebulae” because these objects at first appeared to him as disks like planets; they have nothing to do with planets and exist far beyond our solar system.  The Hubble Space Telescope has revealed many of these as brilliant, colorful stellar explosions with intricate hourglass and spiral structures.  Some show evidence of repeated incidents of mass loss.  In all, Herschel catalogued over 90,000 stars, far more than any of his predecessors, and he increased the number of known nebulae from 103 to 2500.  Most mysterious were the non-planetary nebulae.  Herschel considered Immanuel Kant’s idea that these might be distant and distinct stellar associations — galaxies like our own Milky Way, but the proof would have to wait for 202 years after Herschel’s death.  Another contribution was calibrating of the old stellar magnitude scale of Hipparchus; he realized that a difference of five magnitudes corresponded to a change in brightness of 100.  Herschel submitted 90 volumes to the Royal Society during his productive life.  Patrick Moore says, “More than any other man, he put stellar astronomy on a really firm footing. ... He was knighted in 1816, he received every honor that the scientific world could bestow, and he became the first President of the newly-formed Astronomical Society of London (now the Royal Astronomical Society).  He presented his last scientific paper when he was eighty years old, and he was active almost to the date of his death on August 25, 1822.”  He is buried under the tower of the old Anglican church in Slough, England.

Though sources I’ve checked agree William Herschel was sincerely religious, none are detailed enough to indicate if he was really a “born-again” Christian.  His family attended church regularly, but musician that he was, William could have been more performer than believer.  Was he just a Sunday Christian, and secular astronomer the rest of the week?  N. S. Dodge wrote in 1871 of the family’s sincere Christian faith, but Dan Graves (Scientists of Faith, p. 115) called him “a nominal Christian, at best.”  Herschel had some strange ideas: he believed the other planets, the moon, and even the sun were inhabited (but so did many others in his day).  Some of his writings seem to assume long ages and the insignificance of man in a universe populated not only by myriads of stars but perhaps other civilizations.  He speaks of the Author and Creator of the heavens, but not of the Scriptures or Jesus Christ.  Herschel dined with Hume and LaPlace, the skeptics, but as a dignitary in frequent touch with the intellectuals of the day and polite society, this cannot be taken to assume agreement with them.  In some of his diary entries, it appears they conversed about music or the fine cuisine rather than philosophy or theology.  In The Scientific Papers of Sir William Herschel published by the Royal Society in 1912, he relates an incident where the First Consul and La Place were having an argument over naturalistic philosophy.  Herschel writes in his diary,

The difference was occasioned by an exclamation of the First Consul’s, who asked in a tone of exclamation or admiration (when we were speaking of the extent of the sidereal heavens) ‘and who is the author of all this.’  M. de La Place wished to shew that a chain of natural causes would account for the construction and preservation of the wonderful system; this the First Consul rather opposed.  Much may be said on the subject; by joining the arguments of both we shall be led to ‘Nature and Nature’s God.’

Compromise?  Theistic evolution?  Wishy-washy belief in God, or signs of a true believer?  Hard to say, because he changes the subject in his diary after leaving us hanging with “much may be said.”  At another point, the Royal Society editor leaves a tantalizing footnote about missing letters by Herschel:

These letters, which extend to some 400 pages, are still extant but have not been at our disposal.  We are informed that Herschel in them interweaves his philosophy and even his musical studies with references of an earnest kind to the Creator as a beneficent Deity, expressing his gratitude and addressing him in a prayerful spirit.

Again, this could be said of a unitarian or deist, but hints at something more.  In a philosophical essay on Liberty and Necessity, he comes out opposing the necessitarians (those that believe natural law necessarily leads to the order we observe).  This would be consistent with one who believes God intervenes in human affairs.

Several Christian biographical essays have echoed Henry Morris’ attribution to Herschel of the line, “An undevout astronomer must be mad” (Men of Science, Men of God, p. 30).  Unfortunately, I have not been able to corroborate this quotation.  The slightly different line “An undevout astronomer is mad” is part of a poem entitled “Night thoughts“ by Edward Young, whose life was earlier but overlapped with Herschel’s.  Perhaps the poem was inspired by the life of Herschel, or a statement by him.  It would not be unrealistic to assume that the statement reflected Herschel’s own feelings about his work.  It seems clear that Herschel was devout, prayerful, humble, gracious, kind, and moral – good, but not enough to indicate a true believer in the gospel of Jesus Christ.  The sources I have checked do not provide enough evidence to call William Herschel more than a nominal Christian.  Scientists in this period of the so-called “Enlightenment” were enamoured with natural laws.  They were taking Newton’s emphasis on laws to new extremes, and knowingly or not, tended to distance God from immanent action in the affairs of the world.  Where Herschel fits in this trend is not clear.  But even if he falls short of an example of a thoroughly Biblical Christian, he clearly does exemplify one who believed in a divine Creator and Author of the laws of nature, to whom we owe our worship and admiration.  As such, he was at least continuing in the tradition of empirical science motivated by the Christian world view.

Observatory House was pulled down in 1960, but the tube of his 40-foot telescope was kept at the Greenwich Observatory as a monument to the years of painstaking observation of the skies by a man starstruck by the wondrous majesty and order of Creation.  In the summer of 1986, the Voyager 2 spacecraft made a historic flyby of the planet Uranus.  The St. Laurence Anglican Church in Slough, England, where Herschel is buried, was recently restored after years of damage and neglect, and in February 2001, was adorned with a new stained-glass Herschel Window commemorating his astronomical discoveries.  Another nearby window quotes Psalm 8, “When I consider the heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained, what is man, that Thou art mindful of him?”

If you are enjoying this series, you can learn more about great Christians in science by reading our online book-in-progress:
The World’s Greatest Creation Scientists from Y1K to Y2K.
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A Concise Guide
to Understanding
Evolutionary Theory

You can observe a lot by just watching.
– Yogi Berra

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.

Darwin’s Law
Nature will tell you a direct lie if she can.
Bloch’s Extension
So will Darwinists.

Finagle’s Creed
Science is true.  Don’t be misled by facts.

Finagle’s 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.

Finagle’s Rules
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.

Murphy’s Law of Research
Enough research will tend to support your theory.

Maier’s Law
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.

Eddington’s Theory
The number of different hypotheses erected to explain a given biological phenomenon is inversely proportional to the available knowledge.

Young’s Law
All great discoveries are made by mistake.
The greater the funding, the longer it takes to make the mistake.

Peer’s Law
The solution to a problem changes the nature of the problem.

Peter’s Law of Evolution
Competence always contains the seed of incompetence.

Weinberg’s Corollary
An expert is a person who avoids the small errors while sweeping on to the grand fallacy.

Souder’s Law
Repetition does not establish validity.

Cohen’s Law
What really matters is the name you succeed in imposing on the facts – not the facts themselves.

Harrison’s Postulate
For every action, there is an equal and opposite criticism.

Thumb’s Second Postulate
An easily-understood, workable falsehood is more useful than a complex, incomprehensible truth.

Ruckert’s Law
There is nothing so small that it can’t 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.

Macbeth’s Law
The best theory is not ipso facto a good theory.

Disraeli’s Dictum
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

Maxwell’s Motivation

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,
Wisdom’s 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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