Creation-Evolution Headlines
July 2006
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“The Darwiniacs play a shell game with the evidence, but the evidence is never under any of the shells.... In the end, evolutionists’ only argument is contempt.  The cultists know that if people were allowed to hear the arguments against evolution for just sixty seconds, all would be lost.  So they demonize the people making those arguments.”
—from the New York Times best seller, Godless, the Church of Liberalism by Ann Coulter (Crown Forum, 2006), pp. 243, 244.
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Journals Consistently Tout Embryonic Stem Cells, Criticize Bush   07/31/2006    
This is not news.  It just bears repeating that the Big Science journals continue to push embryonic stem cell research and criticize Republicans.  The latest case in point was President Bush’s veto of the stem cell bill July 19, that led to a flurry of articles and editorials in the leading British and American science journals.
    Science July 28 tried to undermine the conservative argument that adult stem cells have a proven track record of therapies without the moral concerns.  Constance Holden in the same issue of Science reported cheerfully on every effort working to promote ES research around the obstacles of conservatives and ethicists.
    Nature included three articles on the “progress” of ES research and the “disappointment” over setbacks, including a stinging Editorial criticizing the “obduracy” of the White House on this matter.  In an article about “The lure of stem cell lines,” Nature stressed primarily the competition between countries.  Moral qualms were given minor attention, with a concession that some researchers are trying to find ways around the “emotionally charged debate” over creating human zygotes only to harvest their stem cells.  Adult stem cell alternatives were criticized for various reasons (such as lack of supply), but there was this admission in the article:

Adult-derived stem cells are the only form of stem-cell therapy to make it to the clinic so far.  For example, stem cells from bone marrow (pictured) have been used for more than 30 years to treat blood disorders.  Adult stem cells are less likely to cause tumours than embryonic stem cells, and less likely to be rejected by the immune system.
Whether the number of adult stem-cell therapies is 65 or 9, depending on how words are defined, this statement supports the conservative contention that embryonic stem cells have no proven cures, while adult stem cells have several—or many.
    It must also not be forgotten that the complaints against President Bush and other conservative politicians opposing ES research is over funding.  There is no ban on ES research; the debate is over whether taxpayers should pay for it.
    A subtext in the articles, no matter how adamant, is that the editors and scientists are aware of and sensitive to the ethical problems.  This is clear in the frequent attempts to assuage the concerns of ethicists.  They uniformly announce opposition to human cloning, a sister technology to ES research, and usually warn against the creation of human-animal chimeras by similar lab techniques.  As an example, Nature, while discussing a possible way around the creation of embryos for destruction, said, “But tampering with human embryos in this way may not address everyone’s ethical concerns.”  In the Editorial, Nature also admitted, “It can be argued in good faith that not a single embryo should be destroyed in the name of medical progress.”  But then it justified the use of embryos from fertility clinics already slated for destruction.  If the taxpayers don’t fund the derivation of ES lines (non-federal funds would be required for that part), then everyone should be happy: why, look how well it works in another ethically-charged situation—
This may seem like a subtle point, but it exactly this kind of compromise that has forged America’s uneasy but workable abortion policy: abortions are legal, but in no case are taxpayers required to see their dollars fund them.  It may be tenable to argue that dissenters should not be asked to finance a practice that they find morally unacceptable.  What is not acceptable is for the president to use false pretences to stand in the way of a compromise that the Congress has sensibly endorsed.
If Nature is a science magazine, and science is ethically neutral, what are UK editors doing criticizing the ethics of American politicians?
Let’s follow their ethical argument.  If it’s OK for private parties to create embryos (the ethically debatable part), and then the taxpayers simply pay for scientists to use the embryos, is there a difference in allowing private parties to buy slaves, and taxpayers to fund using slave labor to build federal projects?  If certain people are slated for the gas chambers anyway, why not do some medical research on them and learn something that can help the country in the next war?  If people are going to have abortions anyway, should taxpayers fund organ farms where the fetuses, instead of being destroyed, could be used for research or organ transplants?  If someone else does the dirty work of stealing, robbing, or committing mayhem, is it morally acceptable for the public to utilize the products?  It should be obvious that rationalizing the results of a deed create a market for it.  Similar compromise arguments were used by slave states 150 years ago: if you don’t like slavery, go north.  If you don’t like experimenting on human subjects, move out of Germany or North Korea.  Compromise with evil never works.  America fought a bloody war to affirm the dignity of all people, and we are a better country for it.  If the creation of human embryos is a moral evil, and if abortion is a moral evil, then compromise is not an option.  Science can inform the debate, but it is not the role of scientific elitists to make ethical decisions for the rest of us.
    The editors of today’s Big Science journals are almost uniformly Darwinists, and most of them atheists.  Words like ethics and morality are terms of convenience, not eternal principles.  Not all scientists are evolutionists, but the leaders of the journals and societies are.  They didn’t used to be.  They’re like the leaders of labor unions, some of whom started out with noble motives, but who gravitate toward liberalism by some inexorable law of entropy, because governments and funding give them their power, and power corrupts.  If you thought Big Science was all about honest inquiry into the workings of nature, get over it.  They’re another brand of liberal pressure group.  Get used to it.
    By the way, private researchers are already toying with human-animal chimeras and clones, just because they can (see LifeNews for one example).  The Nobel Committee (since they considered Yasser Arafat worthy of a Peace Prize) would probably have no ethical qualms about giving their millions in prize money to the first scientist to demonstrate human cloning.  Recall how quickly moral barriers can collapse.  It was only a few years ago when conservatives feared the worst when RU-486, the “morning after pill” was announced; today, politicians were discussing whether to make it available over the counter to 18 year old girls (see BP News).  Heated debates over state lotteries eventually fizzled to where now gambling is a multi-billion dollar industry and nobody cares any more, organized crime, broken homes, exploitation of the poor notwithstanding.  Abortion?  A debate lost in 1970s.  Trying to stop it now, or even restrict it, or even to get the truth about it known, is enough to exhaust the most stalwart crusader (example on BP News).
    Tomorrow’s fears about embryonic experimentation are too chilling to imagine: races of chimeras bred for slave labor, clones created for personal legacies, brainless humans bred for spare organs, supermen bred as athletes or soldiers, female bodies bred for private sex toys, and (if embryos are merely scientific playthings), even blurrier lines about what constitutes human life and is worthy of dignity and human rights.  If embryos can be treated as experimental subjects, where will the line be drawn?  The most radical Darwinists already predict infanticide and euthanasia as neutral actions, even blessings.  The trail being blazed right now may soon become a highway.  Radical relativists do not readily give back the ground they take.  If the brave new world ahead is unthinkable, what on earth are you doing about it, for heaven’s sake?
    Some articles for thought: Apologetics Press articles by Dave Miller and Brad Harrub and another by Harrub on human cloning, stem-cell debate issues by Baptist Press and details about the presidential veto, follow-up issues on stem cells, on Agape Press, Michael Fumento in National Review about the stem-cell scam, Chuck Colson on BreakPoint about the presidential veto and crossing the great moral divide.  Alarmism?  Read the comments of David Barash in the LA Times.  He’s a psychology professor who advocates creating human-chimp hybrids just to offend Christians.  See also the commentary on this by LifeSite.
Next headline on:  Politics and Ethics
Opal Plesiosaurs, Flashy Pterosaurs and Hot Titanosaurs Inspire Stories    07/30/2006  
Paleontologists continue to dig up bones of fascinating species of long-lost animals.  When it comes to extinct species, the line between observation and interpretation becomes fuzzy, since there is no way to be absolutely sure how they behaved and what they were doing when they died.  This does not prevent scientists from freely speculating on what the bones tell us.
  • Precious stone bones:  Two new species of plesiosaur were discovered in Australia this month, according to the BBC News.  The bones of the beasts were replaced by opal minerals that seeped in and replaced the original fossil-bearing rock.  Interpretation: one species had crests on its head, “perhaps for display or mating purposes.”  Other inferences were stated, with copious use of possibility words: suggests, believe, and might have; other times, interpretations are stated as matters of fact:
    They are thought to be of juvenile animals, suggesting the lake was a breeding and nursery ground.
        Scientists believe sea-dwelling adults returned to the shallow inland waters to breed and raise their young.
        At the time, Australia was much colder, and the inland ocean would have frozen over in places during the winter.
        Scientists believe the creatures might have evolved mechanisms to cope with the harsh climate, such as a faster metabolic rate.  They were carnivorous, feeding on fish and squid.
  • Crest aphrodisiacs:  Another BBC News story talks about the exotic head crests on a rare species of pterosaur in Brazil.  Scientists found a younger juvenile with a less-developed crest.  Interpretation: the crest arose as a sexual display during puberty.  At least Dr. Darren Nash left the door open for doubt: “We don’t know this but we imagine they would have bobbed it around and used it to attract other pterosaurs.”  The title of the article said, however, that a flying reptile mystery was “solved.”
  • Hot beef:  Earlier in the month, Live Science and other news sources reported on a study that suggested body temperature was a function of dinosaur size.  The interpretation was based on models that correlated dinosaur growth rates with maximum size as adults.  From here, it was speculated that the largest beast was 118 degrees Fahrenheit, and that temperature was the main factor setting a size limit.  The article also speculates, “Dinosaurs likely got warmer as they became adults.”
Speaking of big beasts, National Geographic News reported a new record: Puertasaurus, a sauropod of the titanosaur group, found in Argentina.  One back vertebral bone is nearly as big as a small car.  An artist’s rendition shows the monster with beefy calves and monster quads, and a chest 16 feet across.  They estimate it grew to be 130 feet long, weighing 110 tons.  (Only neck, back and tail bones were found, so the rest is extrapolated from other species.)
Bones are interesting, dinosaurs are fun, and gathering data is good Baconian exercise.  Most people are not content with dry accumulations of facts, however, and want a story to put them in context.  Scientists are usually happy to oblige this desire.  It’s nice when they go to the trouble to state when the facts end and the speculation begins.  All too often they leave that task to the reader – and the artist.
Next headline on:  DinosaursFossils
Self-Correcting RNA: Is It a Missing Link?    07/28/2006  
A team of Russian scientists at Rutgers discovered a remarkable phenomenon: RNA that proofreads itself during its own synthesis.  The work was reported in Science1: “We show that during transcription elongation, the hydrolytic reaction stimulated by misincorporated nucleotides proofreads most of the misincorporation events and thus serves as an intrinsic mechanism of transcription fidelity.”  It has already been known that DNA transcription and translation includes a whole suite of error-correcting mechanisms, but this is the first instance of RNA self-correction.
    The researchers did not comment on the evolution of this capability except to state that it “is likely evolutionarily conserved” (i.e., unevolved in all living organisms), and that in an RNA-protein world, a “proofreading and repair mechanism similar to the one described here could have allowed a large RNA genome of the last common universal ancestor to exist.”  This is because without an accurate proofreading mechanism even in an RNA world, duplication fidelity would have been too low for evolution: “the relatively low fidelity of RNAP-catalyzed synthesis could not have been sufficient for stable maintenance of large RNA genomes in the absence of cleavage factors.”
    Patrick Cramer (Gene Center Munich), however, writing in the same issue of Science,2 launched their final, speculative paragraph into a story of how this RNA must be a missing link.  Starting with the admission that “Precision can be vital,” Cramer immediately invoked the E word: “cells have evolved processes for proofreading and correction to shut down the propagation of errors” in the DNA-to-protein pathway.  Referring to the work by Zenkin et al., he said, “This finding helps to explain the fidelity of gene transcription and suggests that self-correcting RNA was the genetic material during early evolution.”
    But how, exactly, could that have come about?  In his missing-link story, notice how many times Cramer used speculation words like could, probably and suggests compared to the hard requirements of reality:
The discovery of self-correcting RNA transcripts suggests a previously missing link in molecular evolution.  One prerequisite of an early RNA world (devoid of DNA) is that RNA-based genomes were stable.  Genome stability required a mechanism for RNA replication and error correction during replication, which could have been similar to the newly described RNA proofreading mechanism described by Zenkin et al.  If self-correcting replicating RNAs coexisted with an RNA-based protein synthesis activity, then an early RNA-based replicase could have been replaced by a protein-based RNA replicase.  This ancient protein-based RNA replicase could have evolved to accept DNA as a template, instead of RNA, allowing the transition from RNA to DNA genomes.  In this scenario, the resulting DNA-dependent RNA polymerase retained the ancient RNA-based RNA proofreading mechanism.
    Whereas an understanding of RNA proofreading is only now emerging, DNA proofreading had long been characterized. DNA polymerases cleave misincorporated nucleotides from the growing DNA chain, but the cleavage activity resides in a protein domain distinct from the domain for synthesis.  The spatial separation of the two activities probably allowed optimization of two dedicated active sites during evolution, whereas RNA polymerase retained a single tunable active site.  This could explain how some DNA polymerases achieve very high fidelity, which is required for efficient error correction during replication of large DNA genomes.
Of course, being only a “scenario” for how proofreading “could” have evolved, Cramer offered no evidence, lab or otherwise, for such a self-correcting RNA “missing link.”  For a discussion of problems with the RNA-world scenario, see the 07/11/2002 entry.
1Zenkin, Yuzenkova and Severinov, “Transcript-Assisted Transcriptional Proofreading,” Science, 28 July 2006: Vol. 313. no. 5786, pp. 518 - 520, DOI: 10.1126/science.1127422.
2Patrick Cramer, “Perspectives: Molecular Biology: Self-Correcting Messages,” Science, 28 July 2006: Vol. 313. no. 5786, pp. 447 - 448, DOI: 10.1126/science.1131205.
Was blindness ever so dark as to look design in the eye, and attribute it to mindless chance?  The blind see naught but their own imaginations.  Cramer took an incredibly wondrous phenomenon (imagine! self-correcting code) and weaved a purely fictional tale about how it emerged from The Ancient Soup.  Yet this is the myth that our culture only allows to be heard by students in public schools, because any other explanation, such as design, is classified as “religion” (along with, presumably, rocket-launching Hezbollah terrorism).  In the same issue of Science was a very positive book review of a new work about Richard Dawkins, the rabidly atheistic Darwinist who subscribes to the Ancient Soup myth or something very like it: reviewer David C. Queller says, “Dawkins spills his own dirty, obscene secret, again no less powerful now that we have known it for 30 years.  All flesh is survival machinery, and the survival it promotes is that of our selfish genes.”
    If this makes you angry, then it is time to take back science from the powers of darkness, obscenity, and selfishness that swept in like a flood after Darwin.  What would the original founders of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, like Joseph Henry, think of what has become of their honorable institution?
Next headline on:  Cell BiologyGeneticsEvolution
Eye Sends Information at Ethernet Rates    07/27/2006  
Neuroscientists from Pennsylvania and New Jersey calculated the information rate of the eye.  Using guinea pigs (real guinea pigs, not humans as guinea pigs), they came up with a number and interpolated it for humans:
In the classic “What the frog’s eye tells the frog’s brain,” Lettvin and colleagues showed that different types of retinal ganglion cell send specific kinds of information.  For example, one type responds best to a dark, convex form moving centripetally (a fly).  Here we consider a complementary question: how much information does the retina send and how is it apportioned among different cell types?  Recording from guinea pig retina on a multi-electrode array and presenting various types of motion in natural scenes, we measured information rates for seven types of ganglion cell.  Mean rates varied across cell types (6-13 bits • s-1) more than across stimuli.  Sluggish cells transmitted information at lower rates than brisk cells, but because of trade-offs between noise and temporal correlation, all types had the same coding efficiency.  Calculating the proportions of each cell type from receptive field size and coverage factor, we conclude (assuming independence) that the approximately 105 ganglion cells transmit on the order of 875,000 bits • s-1.  Because sluggish cells are equally efficient but more numerous, they account for most of the information.  With approximately 106 ganglion cells, the human retina would transmit data at roughly the rate of an Ethernet connection.
Their article, published in Current Biology,1 also discussed the difference between sight and sound processing: specifically, why is auditory information sent to the brain at much higher efficiency?  Frog auditory nerve fibers, for instance, “are reported to encode naturalistic stimuli with an efficiency sometimes reaching approximately 90% of capacity,” three-fold better than optic fibers.  “Naturally one wonders why an optic fiber fares so poorly in these comparisons,” they said, then proposed an answer based on the different ganglion cell types and the difference in information fields between sight and sound:
Auditory fibers apparently achieve their high coding efficiency via a “tuned” nonlinear filter that selectively amplifies the anticipated signal.  A similar strategy is apparently used by the mammalian rod bipolar cell to encode single photon responses.  However, this coding strategy, highly effective when the anticipated signal is sparse and well defined, may serve poorly for ganglion cells because the information of biological interest in natural scenes is so varied that highly tuned, nonlinear filters would either reject too much information or require too many cell types.
    Given the ganglion cell strategy of broad tuning and equal coding efficiency, why does the retina not send all visual information over one cell type with a high information rate?  This is possibly because the energetic cost of signaling increases nonlinearly with temporal frequency and information rate of individual axons.
That’s why many of the ganglion cells are of the “sluggish” variety.  “Because the dominant metabolic cost in neural signaling is associated with spiking, the cables with lower firing rates would save considerable energy.  Likewise, theoretical studies predict that metabolic cost is minimized when signals are distributed over many weakly active cells.”  That may not be the only reason for multiple cell types.  There’s a lot of processing the eye has to do.  Some cells zero in on the narrow details, and others need to summarize a rapidly-changing big picture.  The solution is a mixture of cell types, to optimize the benefits and trade-offs of each sensory strategy:
Spatial acuity requires narrow-field cells with a high sampling rate.  Because such a type must necessarily distribute densely, its information rate should be relatively low to reduce costs.  On the other hand, encoding of high stimulus velocities requires extended spatial summation and thus a broad-field cell—plus the ability to transmit at high bit rates so as not to lose the higher temporal frequencies.  Such a cell type must necessarily be expensive, but given the extended dendritic field, this type can be sparse.  Consequently energetic considerations probably interact with other constraints to set the number of cell types and a general information rate of roughly 10 bits • s-1 and 2 bits • spike-1.
By the way, the so-called “sluggish” ganglion cells spiked at up to 75 times per second (though averaging 4 per second over the recording time).  Some of the rapid cells spike at over 300 times per second.  No wonder your eyes get tired.
    Incidentally, this paper did not mention anything about the evolution of these capabilities for the frog, the guinea pig, or the human.
1Koch et al., “How Much the Eye Tells the Brain,” Current Biology, Volume 16, Issue 14, 25 July 2006, pages 1428-1434, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2006.05.056.
When our body’s capabilities are compared with machinery, the comparisons are often wonderful and amazing.  If 10 megabit-per-second ethernet-eyes don’t seem particularly cutting-edge in this age of gigabit-ethernet rates, consider that eyes are only one of millions of sensors across the body transmitting information on touch, taste, smell, and hearing as well as vision.  In its little 3-pound CPU, the brain must process that information 24 x 7 for decades.  Plus, the kind of information your brain handles is in neural-net form, not the serial data that computers process.  It is sent down tiny bundles of neurons in a package that doesn’t short out when you go swimming.
Imagine yourself in a recording studio, watching an orchestra playing a score in sync with a new movie about Robinson Crusoe.  Your brain is taking in the complex waveform of a hundred instruments and performing Fourier transforms on it such that you can make out each individual instrument.  Simultaneously, the eyes can see the rapid motions of the violinists’ bows, the action on the screen, and the static information from the studio walls and ceiling.  Millions of touch sensors are sending information on the temperature of the room, the feel of your socks, the comfort of the seat, how hungry you are, and much more.  Your tongue is reporting the mint candy in your mouth.  Your nose is deciphering complex chemical signals in the environment through a series of decoding maps.  The brain filters and focuses on information that is important for each moment.  As the intensity of the music or screen action rises, adrenaline races through your system switching on organs to be ready for action.  Next, your mind is transported to an exotic island, and you become Robinson Crusoe, using all your native senses to the hilt to survive and find your next meal.
And this all runs on potatoes! (as Dr. A. E. Wilder-Smith used to say), or on lettuce! (for the guinea pig).  Undoubtedly, if we were aware of all the factors involved in the transfer of information from the environment to the mind via our sensory apparatus, the comparison with ethernet transfer rates would seem foolishly simplistic.  In this story we have seen again that the more detail is shared about organic workings, the less there is a tendency to discuss evolution.  Scientific detail is inversely proportional to evolutionary storytelling.
    Articles like this also raise interesting philosophical questions.  What is it we are really seeing?  Clearly, the input data is being massaged.  Scientists tell us that there are not really walls and chairs and violins, but quarks separated mostly by empty space.  There are not shades of blue and beige and jade, but electromagnetic waveforms.  There are not sounds, but pressure waves in a gas.  There are not smells, but molecules.  The data points impinging on our sensors go through multiple stages of information transfer from one medium to another before arriving in our brains, with multiple rounds of filtering, processing and interpretation before and after it arrives.  What you see may be what you get, but what you get may not be what really is out there.  But then, also, unless you believe all our internal technology is nothing more than glorified mashed potatoes, you are more than what you eat.
Next headline on:  MammalsHuman BodyTerrestrial ZoologyAmazing Facts
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Honey More Effective than Antibiotics    07/27/2006  
A good old nature remedy is making a comeback: honey for wounds.  An article on EurekAlert about research at the University of Bonn states that honey is more effective than antibiotics at healing cuts and wounds.  Apparently the ancient Egyptians knew about its healing power.  Honey rejects dead tissue faster, repels bacteria, promotes more rapid healing, hurts less when changing dressings, and even smells nicer.  In a day when bacteria are quickly developing resistance to antibiotics, natural alternatives like honey are again coming into their own.  You may be finding a new name in the bandage department of the drug store: medihoney.
    If you’re getting along in years, another story on EurekAlert from Johns Hopkins research said that exercise is still good for you.

The honey article states that the antiseptic property is due to glucose oxidase.  This enzyme continually generates small amounts of hydrogen peroxide from the sugars in the honey over time, enough to kill the bacteria without harming the tissues.
    It’s good to know what natural remedies are available when a long way from a hospital.  What with maggots (10/24/2003) and worms (07/13/2004), you’ll be all set.  The problem is how to get the honey away from the bees.  If you succeed, at least you can put it on the stings.
Next headline on:  HealthBiomimetics
Genetic Loss Is Evolution’s Gain    07/26/2006  
Three scientists in the University of California system found that “Repression and loss of gene expression outpaces activation and gain” among recently duplicated genes.  Surprisingly, publishing in PNAS,1 they claim the non-intuitive hypothesis that this the mother of evolutionary invention.  From the abstract:
Evolutionists widely acknowledge that regulatory genetic changes are of paramount importance for morphological and genomic evolution.  Nevertheless, mechanistic complexity and a paucity of data from nonmodel organisms have prevented testing and quantifying universal hypotheses about the macroevolution of gene regulatory mechanisms.  Here, we use a phylogenetic approach to provide a quantitative demonstration of a previously hypothesized trend, whereby the evolutionary rate of repression or loss of gene expression regions is significantly higher than the rate of activation or gain.  Such a trend is expected based on case studies in regulatory evolution and under models of molecular evolution where duplicated genes lose duplicated expression patterns in a complementary fashion.  The trend is important because repression of gene expression is a hypothesized mechanism for the origin of evolutionarily novel morphologies through specialization.
They found that the repression rate of genes is at least twice that of gene activation.  They assume that duplicated genes will go their separate ways, and even if down-regulated by the trend toward loss, may undergo “subfunctionalization” – i.e., come up with novel means of achieving function separate from that of the original genes (see 10/24/2003).  This begs the question of how the original functions arose.  Nowhere in the paper do they explain how novelty can arise, or has arisen, that produces complex function, except to speculate that animal limbs and fly halteres arose through duplication and subfunctionalization.
    The question of original function and expression, though, is still apt: “Overall, our results raise an important question: If gene expression regions are more commonly lost than gained, why is all gene expression not eventually lost over evolutionary time?”  They surmise that the total expression rate will be constant through the copies; the activation event will have a common ancestry, though two repression events may occur in the daughter genes.  How, though, can this create novelty?  They do not explain how.  They only speculate that since loss occurs, it must be another tool in the evolutionary toolkit: “...our results highlight the fact that because genes and their expression domains duplicate commonly, they must also be lost commonly.  As such, the patterns of loss may be as important as gain in dictating the evolution of genomes and phenotypes.”  More research will be required, they admit, to see if this is the case.
    If this still seems like getting something for nothing, it all comes together in the last paragraph:
In summary, an emerging theme in evolutionary genomics is that loss is a major factor in evolution.  For example, gene duplication is quite common, and the fate of most duplicated genes is loss.  At least in several cases, DNA loss may be related to a mutational bias, where deletion mutations outnumber insertion mutations.  Here we present strong statistical support for a similar loss hypothesis for the evolution of discrete regions of gene expression.  Our data were chosen without respect to the hypothesis at hand but represents rapidly duplicating genes, which may have higher rates of expression domain loss.  Nevertheless, the methods introduced here are general and could be used to test the hypothesis in future studies by using more data from any species or multiple species.  Our results support the idea that gene duplication and loss of discrete, modular expression regions may provide a general mechanism for increased specialization over evolutionary time that may be linked with increases in genomic complexity by gene duplication.

1Todd Oakley et al., “Evolution: Repression and loss of gene expression outpaces activation and gain in recently duplicated fly genes,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.0600750103, published online before print July 24, 2006.
Folks, it is time to get indignant at the Darwinists.  Again.  They continue to pull rabbits out of hats with these shenanigans of theirs, their magic words couched in jargon, published in prestigious science journals, trying to make us believe that you can get something for nothing – or worse, that trends toward loss produce gains in complexity and function.  This is like believing that shopping centers will emerge from the terrorist rockets landing in Haifa.  If such ideas should not become part of the official history of Israel, then neither should this dumb idea become part of the corpus of scientific literature.  It only happens because non-Darwinians are disqualified from participating in the discussion.  The Darwin Party’s club lounge of tantalizing speculations is making some biologists fat, lazy and corrupt (12/22/2003).  Time to unbar the doors and boot the rascals out.
    Some things can overcome downhill trends.  Fish can swim upstream.  Living things can grow against the inexorable law of entropy.  Even Jesus said that he who would gain his life must lose it.  But all these include intelligently designed mechanisms for harnessing energy against the downhill trend, or intelligent goal-directed behavior.  Darwin was supposed to get rid of all that.  We can’t let the Darwinian magicians sneak into their bag of tricks things that don’t belong there.  It’s like when a Congressman performs voodoo economics to claim his massive pork-barrel project actually saves taxpayers money.  With scientists, too, we must demand an accountant and an independent investigator.
Next headline on:  Evolutionary TheoryDumb Ideas
A Second Code Controls the DNA Code   07/26/2006    
More has been discovered about the histone or nucleosome code (see 02/17/2004), a second genetic code independent of the DNA genetic sequence that directs the formation of proteins.  The New York Times (see also Science Daily) reported on work by scientists at Northwestern University who found that the wrapping of DNA around nucleosomes (made of proteins called histones with varying “tails” of atoms) follows a pattern that regulates how genes are expressed.  These patterns determine where transcription factors bind to the DNA:
The pattern is a combination of sequences that makes it easier for the DNA to bend itself and wrap tightly around a nucleosome.  But the pattern requires only some of the sequences to be present in each nucleosome binding site, so it is not obvious.  The looseness of its requirements is presumably the reason it does not conflict with the genetic code, which also has a little bit of redundancy or wiggle room built into it.
The transcription factors are prevented from binding to the wrong genes when they are wrapped around parts of the nucleosome that make them inaccessible.
    The news story by Nicholas Wade states that this code is highly conserved (i.e., unevolved) in all living organisms:
The nucleosome is made up of proteins known as histones, which are among the most highly conserved in evolution, meaning that they change very little from one species to another.  A histone of peas and cows differs in just 2 of its 102 amino acid units.  The conservation is usually attributed to the precise fit required between the histones and the DNA wound around them.  But another reason, Dr. Segal suggested, could be that any change would interfere with the nucleosomes’ ability to find their assigned positions on the DNA.
Yet the phenomenon might just as well be interpreted as intelligent design instead of evolution.  In fact, Wade uses the D word at the end of the article, when describing how this new code explains a mystery about DNA – why there is redundancy in the number of codons that code for a given amino acid: “Biologists have long speculated that the redundancy may have been designed so as to coexist with some other kind of code,” he said.  “And this, Dr. [Eran] Segal [Weizmann Institute] said, could be the nucleosome code.”  See also the 07/21/2006 article on design-oriented research done at Weizmann (Rehovot, Israel).
The work is done by specialists in “computational biology” – a field of study more appropriate for design thinking than for evolutionary speculating.  If Darwinists started computing the probability of evolution (see online book), they would get discouraged real fast.
Next headline on:  GeneticsIntelligent DesignAmazing Facts
SETI: Shut Up and Keep Looking    07/25/2006  
On, Seth Shostak of the SETI Institute answered the critics who think they’re “barking up the wrong tree.”  Well-meaning people send him emails explaining why there is “still no confirmed chitter from the cosmos” after 46 years of looking.  The top four include: (1) aliens use more advanced technology, (2) the Fermi Paradox means nobody’s there (see 06/30/2006), (3) the aliens aren’t interested in us warlike primitives, and (4) the real aliens are in the Zeta Reticuli system.
    His basic answer: we’ve only begun the search.  Unless you can come up with better strategy that works, pitch in and help.  We’ve got a lot of stars to go.
Maybe there’s a bright side to this SETI business.  It keeps a lot of pesky Darwinians occupied and out of trouble.  This is fine as long as their acronym S.E.T.I. employs another: O.P.M.*
Next headline on:  SETI
*Other People’s Money
Is This Frog Marrow Really 10 Million Years Old?    07/25/2006  
LiveScience reported finding intact bone marrow from fossils of frogs and salamanders.  Without blinking an eye, reporter Ker Than croaked that the marrow is ten million years old.  He compared it with the intact soft tissue and blood cells found in a T. rex specimen last year (see 02/22/2006, 06/03/2005, 03/24/2005), and said,
The discovery raises hopes for finding soft tissue in other regions and from other animals, including mammals, [Maria] McNamara [University College, Dublin] says, because the amphibian bone marrow was discovered in an environment vastly different form the one in which the T. rex soft tissue was found.
The article also surmises that many more examples of soft tissue and marrow may lie undetected in museum specimens.  See also the report on National Geographic News which says the marrow is organically preserved and even maintains the original color.
Never question what the scientists say; that’s how symbiosis between the media and the Gurus of Knowledge is maintained.  It helps preserve the social order.  Imagine the chaos that might ensue if unbelievers started finding soft tissue in fossils from different environments all over the world; it might throw the whole evolutionary dating scheme into a cocked hat and start a revolution.  Enforced conformity may subvert freedom of thought, but it keeps the peace.
Next headline on:  FossilsDating MethodsTerrestrial Zoology
Titan’s Land-o'-Lakes Found   07/24/2006    
The Cassini spacecraft has found features that look like methane lakes in the northern latitudes of Titan (see JPL press release).  The large dark patches, some about 30 miles across with rounded edges, appear to be associated with fluid channels.  Radar echoes cannot determine for sure whether the surface is liquid (dark means smooth, light means rough); the dark features could represent dry lakebeds like those found by the Huygens Probe.  Still, the surfaces appear extremely flat, although some of them may show evidence of waves.  Since these large, rounded dark features did not appear at equatorial latitudes, a comparison with the south pole at a future flyby will be instructive.  The radar images were obtained during the T16 flyby on Saturday, July 22.  Amateur enthusiasts are abuzz with excitement and interpretations at Unmanned Spaceflight, and Emily at the Planetary Society is sure they are lakes, comparing them to other lakes in the solar system.  They could be calderas from cryovolcanism – or just remnants of long-gone lakes.  A report on Science Now says the dark areas show higher temperatures, as would be expected from liquids, and reside north of 70° where methane rains would more likely occur.
    Another Titan story comes from the European Space Agency.  By analyzing interference patterns in the radio signal from the Huygens probe to the Cassini orbiter, researchers calculated that the surface the probe landed on is covered with pebbles 5-10cm in diameter.
    Also from the Saturn system, another view of Enceladus was released, paired with the moon Rhea.  Taken from 2.5 million miles away, the jets of Enceladus (en-SELL-a-dus) are clearly visible (see 07/11/2006 story).  A processed image was released July 21 allowing details of the outer plume to be shown feeding the E-ring.  The next close flyby won’t be till March 12, 2008 near the end of the prime mission (see timeline).  Since Enceladus has proven extraordinarily interesting, it will doubtless become a prime target for any extended mission if the spacecraft continues its nine-year record of good health.
    Heads Down:  Cassini is now increasing its inclination over the next few orbits (plot, the 180-degree transfer).  By fall through spring, we should get unprecedented views looking down over Saturn’s rings from high overhead.  This will provide a welcome change of view after months of seeing the rings as thin lines (example).  The edge-on views have reminded us that, for all their vast extent, the rings are only about 100m thick.  The new vantage point, showing the ring system’s full breadth and detail of color and structure (example) is sure to inspire artists and poets as well as scientists (see overhead diagram).
Titan appears to be showing a distinct regional difference between the equator and the poles.  Being cooler, the poles may be condensing out more of the liquid methane and ethane that is believed to be constantly produced in the upper atmosphere.  The current radar SAR image strip represents only a tiny fraction of Titan’s surface, so it is impossible to say if this region with its dark patches represents much of the polar regions or not.  The last two radar passes have been exceptionally intriguing (see also the July 19 press release about the April 30 flyby).  Titan presents a few familiar landscapes, but many unique ones.  Impact craters are rare, and there are no high mountains (as detected on the smaller moons like Iapetus).  It’s going to take awhile to sort all this out.  Too much theorizing too early might spoil the fun of discovery.
Next headline on:  Solar SystemAmazing Facts
Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week Judges Swamped   07/23/2006    
What can editors do when too many entries come in a week?  Print them all, and let the public decide:
  • Fear Factor:  Ker Than, proposing in LiveScience that fear of snakes led to the rise of humans: “To avoid becoming snake food, early mammals had to develop ways to detect and avoid the reptiles before they could strike.  Some animals evolved better snake sniffers, while others developed immunities to serpent venom when it evolved.  Early primates developed a better eye for color, detail and movement and the ability to see in three dimensions – traits that are important for detecting threats at close range.  Humans are descended from those same primates.”  How eagles and mongooses overcame their fear of snakes without becoming philosophers was not explained.  What did a Cornell scientist think of this new idea?  “It strikes me as a very special piece of scholarship and I think it’s going to provoke a lot of thought.
  • No Problemo:  Eors Szathmary, in Science: “The uniqueness of language raises special problems.  Some see this as a fundamental impediment to a successful Darwinian approach.  I disagree.  Uniqueness presents special methodological challenges, but we should bear in mind that the origin of the eukaryotic cell, as one example, was also unique in the sense that all eukaryotes today share the same common ancestor.  This did not prohibit us from insights into the origin of, say, mitochondria....”
  • Necessity our Mother:  Dolezal et al. in Science: “In creating mitochondria some 2 billion years ago, the first eukaryotes needed to establish protein import machinery in the membranes of what was a bacterial endosymbiont.  Some of the preexisting protein translocation apparatus of the endosymbiont appears to have been commandeered, including molecular chaperones, the signal peptidase, and some components of the protein-targeting machinery.”
  • If It Ain’t Broke:  From Berkeley Lab: “The molecular machinery that starts the process by which a biological cell divides into two identical daughter cells apparently worked so well early on that evolution has conserved it across the eons in all forms of life on Earth.
  • Bells & Whistles:  Eva Nogales, on Science Daily: “The specialization of DNA replication initiators took place a long time ago, separating them from other members of the AAA+ superfamily of proteins while maintaining an identity among themselves that reflects the importance of the replication process.  Through the millions of years, evolution has added bells and whistles around this highly conserved central engine.
  • Abracadabra:  Bowmaker and Hunt, in Current Biology 7/11/2006, explaining how the sudden appearance of all four opsin genes is not a problem for evolution: “By applying estimates of the rate of gene divergence, it is suggested that the appearance of the four classes occurred very early in vertebrate evolution, about 450 million years ago.  This is close to the time of one of the major steps in vertebrate evolution, the appearance of jaws.... Animals have evolved their visual sensitivity to match aspects of their photic environment, and it is likely that the primary adaptive selective pressure is the spectral range and intensity of daylight.
Now you know why the NCSE needs a “Faith Project Director” (07/22/2006 entry, last bullet).  Whatever is needed in the presumed emergence of everything appears on cue, fully formed, by evolution.  Shine sunlight, and eyes appear.  Bring on a snake, and the human brain and binocular vision appear.  Machinery, codes, complex organs, bells and whistles – you name it – there’s nothing that Darwinian faith cannot imagine emerging by unguided processes of selection.  You should be ashamed, o ye creationists of little faith.
Next headline on:  DarwinismDumb Ideas
Theory Battles Observations in Near-Field Cosmology   07/23/2006    
Which is more important in science: a consistent model, or a good fit with observations?  Clearly both would be the ideal.  A report in Science1 this week revealed that astronomers are having trouble holding the two together.  The problem is especially acute for near-field cosmology that deals with nearby galaxies.
    It may seem odd that astronomers feel more comfortable talking about the large-scale structure of the universe instead of our nearest neighbors, but that’s essentially what Joss Bland-Hawthorn and veteran cosmologist P.J.E. Peebles said: “These are exciting times for astronomy and cosmology,” they crowed.  “On the one hand, we find that the main predictions of Big Bang inflationary cosmology are confirmed by observations of distant objects.”  One hand usually implies another is coming: “On the other hand, nearby galaxies continue to surprise and inform us.”  The gloating over Big Bang certainty must be tempered by later admissions that 96% of the universe needs to be made up of unobservable stuff for the models to work: “The evidence for the existence of these dark components is strong, but their properties are only loosely understood.”
    The pair reported on meetings in Aspen, Colorado in February where problems were aired and data shared, including findings from the largest simulation of galaxy evolution ever made, the Millennium Simulation.  In the spirit of the hunch that the most interesting parts of science are not the successes but the puzzles, let’s look at some of the problems Bland-Hawthorn and Peebles listed in their article, where theory and observation didn’t quite match up:
  • Iron Age I:  New stars are mixed in with old ones, both at the edges of galaxies and in their centers.  Although “nuclear burning in stars is forever increasing the amount of mass in heavy elements,” two stars in the halo of the Milky Way were found to have 1/200,000 the iron abundance to hydrogen as found in the sun.  The authors conclude that this means these stars are ancient, and assume that “their very unusual mix of chemical elements provides vital information about the nature of the earliest generations of stars.”  Yet which came first, the model or the observations? 
  • Iron Age II:  Not only are these halo stars surprising, but they confess that “Other ancient stars may be hiding in the centers of galaxies, where the mass density is high and conditions likely first favored star formation....”  Yet it would seem this is the place where heavy element production would be the highest.  Searching for these ancient stars in the dense cores of galaxies is “a project for the future.”
  • Figure Fudging:  The only illustration in the article shows a remarkably good fit between simulations and an actual survey of galaxy distributions from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.  Both show a web-like structure of filaments and voids.  The fine print reveals a problem: “But close examination of the nearby galaxies shows discrepancies with what the simulations might lead one to expect.  For example, our Local Group is expected to have a thousand small mass concentrations, but we infer the presence of fewer than 50 from the number of visible galaxies.”  The two-order-of-magnitude mismatch is quickly brought into conformity with model tweaking and assumption addition – or by shoving the problem into The Future:
    It is plausible that when the universe was ionized, the heating of the gas in the smallest of the dark matter concentrations was sufficient to prevent the formation of any stars, leaving dark galaxies.  But dwarf galaxies are observed.  Consistent with that knowledge, the simulations indicate that some stars formed in small mass concentrations before or shortly after the disruption by ionization (as discussed by Andrey Kravtsov and Oleg Gnedin), producing almost dark galaxies.  The challenge is to reconcile the large number of low-mass dark matter concentrations with the smaller number of observed dwarf galaxies.  Ideas are being tested by ongoing searches for the faintest nearby galaxies and the study of their properties.
  • Merger Mania:  The models also show that mergers should continue to the present day.  Mergers are observed, but...
    But the patterns of heavy element abundances indicate that no major component of the Milky Way could have been assembled largely by accretion of dwarfs of the kind observed today (discussed by Eline Tolstoy).  The two large galaxies in the Local Group certainly could have formed by merging of dwarfs in the early universe; the curious thing is that the dwarfs that were left behind have to be substantially different.
  • Globular 4-D Puzzle:  Observed globular clusters are not cooperating with the models, either.  Astronomers infer a great deal from the color of starlight.  For decades, the spectra of globulars led to the common conception that they are among the oldest objects in the universe (but see 10/05/2003 entry).
    Another aspect of the merging issue concerns the tight concentrations of stars known as globular clusters.  The color of a globular cluster—and likely its heavy element abundance—correlates with the luminosity of the host galaxy.  Because globular clusters generally are old, this indicates either that the globulars became attached to the present host galaxy a long time ago—which does not naturally agree with the substantial recent merging in the simulations—or that the globulars were recently attached to the host galaxy but “knew” the luminosity of the host, which seems strange (discussed by Jean Brodie).
  • Local Gangsters:  Our local group of galaxies has two large spirals and many small ones.  Is this the norm?  The Millennium Simulation, one of the largest ever carried out, produced more points for debate at the meeting:
    But because the theory predicts substantial merging and accretion in nearby galaxies, which tend to destroy thin disks, a pressing issue is whether disk-dominated systems that contain old stars as well as young are as common in the simulations as they are observed to be nearby.
Time to sum up.  “In short,” they confess, “present-day cosmological simulations do not give a very complete account of the finer details of the nearby universe.”  This is tough work, after all.  The gas dynamics are extremely difficult to understand, how stellar winds and explosions stir things up and affect star formation, and the limited capabilities of computers provide room for excuses.  “But we have observations of forming stars to teach us what happens, and what we are learning is being applied to increasingly detailed simulations of this complex process.”
    Yet, a discontented bystander might ask, which is the cart, and which is the horse?  That question becomes especially apt when, as admitted in their last paragraph, the enormity of the fudge factors in the models is revealed:
Also to be borne in mind is that the problems with the simulations may be highlighting the need for improved physics.  After all, the simulations invoke many parameters to describe the 4% of the universe that is made of baryonic matter, while using only a few to describe the remaining 96% in dark matter and dark energy.  It was surprising to find that we must postulate dark matter.  Dark energy was another surprise, and the dark sector may surprise us yet again.
Maybe the biggest surprise of all will be to someday look back and realize that there was less darkness in the real observational universe than there was in the models.
1Joss Bland-Hawthorn and P.J.E. Peebles, “Astronomy: Near-Field Cosmology” Science, 21 July 2006: Vol. 313. no. 5785, pp. 311 - 312, DOI: 10.1126/science.1127183.
Always be wary when a scientist assures you he has the big picture all wrapped up and tidy, and just a few pesky details to sweep up.  Physicists boasted in the late 19th century that all the big questions were solved, and the only work left to do was improving the measurements to the sixth decimal place.  Then came general relativity and quantum mechanics, and the universe changed.  This article should be read with that in mind.  They spoke glibly about how well the large-scale models fit with the WMAP results (something we have reported earlier is far from certain: see 03/20/2006, 09/13/2005 links), but then this list of problems in near-field cosmology should have struck fear in their minds.  It seems really ominous to say that new physics are going to have to be invented to figure out the most basic objects right around us.  Then, at the end, to admit that even the large-scale model involves 96% fudge factor – and growing – well, now you understand the difference between what astronomers know and what they claim they know.  You have the observations, and you have their models.  Take your pick.
    The best early astronomers were driven by observations.  William Herschel and his son John Herschel spent incredibly long periods of time gazing into the eyepieces of their own home-made telescopes.  In more recent times, Halton Arp, Margaret Geller and John Huchra have had less use for armchair theorizing than for the hard work of observing.  It’s so much nicer to sit at a desk in the daytime and push a pencil, or punch imaginary worlds in the mind’s eye into the keyboard.  Laplace introduced a trend with his nebular hypothesis of modeling the origins of things and putting observations in the back seat.  Einstein is said to have stated that no observation can be trusted until confirmed by theory.  For shame.  Theories are man-made; observations belong to the Lord.  Choose you this day whom you will serve.
    Models can be helpful.  They have become essential tools in research.  Important questions must be raised, however, about the assumptions that go into them, and to what extent they inform us about reality.  Even in the most famous example, the physics of Newton, the classic of hard science that fueled the enthusiasm of the Enlightenment, the great Newton assumed things he could not possibly have known: that space was flat and infinite, that it was unaffected by matter, that time was constant, and that matter travels in a straight line unless acted upon by an outside force.  These are idealized definitions that he stipulated in advance.  There is no piece of matter anywhere that is not acted on by an outside force, nor could he have known with certainty that his definitions held true everywhere.  Worse, Newton assumed things called “forces” that acted mysteriously at a distance, an issue that horrified the Cartesians at the time.  Yet it worked, and worked extremely well, so Newton prevailed.  Now, of course, we know that Newtonian physics had to be replaced in the 20th century by a different model, Einstein’s, that, of course, we now know has the complete and final answer to everything.  (Scratch that.)
    Whether the finite human mind is capable of modeling this enormous universe must be constantly challenged, not merely assumed.  Just because a model works does not mean it is true.  It is a long-standing philosophical debate whether our experience, which deals only with particulars, is capable of establishing knowledge beyond our experience that is timeless, universal, necessary and certain.  It seems an inherent limitation on us that we cannot validate the system in which we are imbedded without reference to a standard outside the system.  At best, models are human playthings that must always be the slaves of the observations.  If they help improve our lives, if they help make better observations, if they seem self-consistent, let us be content with that rather than claim we “know” how the universe is put together and where it came from.  The arrogance of many modern astronomers is a character flaw that dishonors the leadership of Kepler, Herschel and many others who followed the data wherever it led, and pursued science as an attempt, however feeble, to fathom the mind of God.  It’s time to put the observations back in control and walk humbly in line.
Next headline on:  Stellar AstronomyCosmologyPhysicsDating Methods
Education & Political News   07/22/2006    
What’s been happening in school boards about evolution and intelligent design?  Here are some recent stories about politicians, reporters and ordinary citizens:
  • Kansas Grass Roots:  Candidates vying for school board seats in Liberal, Kansas squared off over the evolution issue: see Hutchinson News.
  • Ohio Rematch:  Despite an earlier loss, Darwin critics in Ohio are hoping to bring up the issue for a vote again, reports CNS News.  The article editorializes that “Their goal is to force curriculum changes that would also allow discussion of the intelligent design theory,” when the wording of the proposed changes specifically denies this.
  • McCain’s Open Mind:  Though an evolutionist himself, Senator John McCain thinks students ought to hear both sides in the debate over evolution, according to a piece in Evolution News that comments on a story reported in the New York Sun July 18.  The Sun said, “the senator mocked the idea that American young people were so delicate and impressionable that they needed to be sheltered from the concept” and compared it to cold-war efforts to shield students from learning about Marxism.
  • White House Press:  President Bush’s press secretary Tony Snow entertained Wesley J. Smith of the Discovery Institute.  Smith was there to congratulate the president for vetoing the stem cell funding bill this week.
  • Quilt Warfare:  In a bizarre piece of propaganda, Canadian quilt-making mom Barbara West ridiculed intelligent design on her (hopefully) intelligently-designed quilt.  According to Canmore Leader, West, whose quilt showed the earth on a pile of turtles (see humor page), won the National Award of Excellence for her design.  Casey Luskin of Discovery Institute had some smirks about this.
  • Free Press:  Patrick Gavin, associate editorial page editor of the LA Examiner, gave lengthy coverage to Casey Luskin and John West about their post-Dover book Traipsing Into Evolution that critically analyzes Judge Jones’ ruling.
  • WWJD:  Lita Cosner wrote for Creation Ministries International about how governments and secularists are fighting to make US schools Christ-free zones and are erring on the side of censorship.
  • Conservative Backlash:  Not all pro-evolutionists are liberals.  A new group calls itself Conservatives Against Intelligent Design.  See also report on Science and Theology News.
  • National Wahoo:  In the vein that everyone is someone elses’ weirdo, George Gilder of the Discovery Institute wrote a lengthy article supporting intelligent design for National Review, only to be trashed a week later by John Derbyshire on National Review.
  • Evolutionary FaithUncommon Descent found out that the National Center for Science Education is looking for a “Faith Project Director,”  This is odd, because the NCSE argues that evolution is built on science, and creation is based on faith.  The job duties include “developing materials pertaining to evolution and religion for print and web; representing NCSE to the faith community, in print and in person; serving as liaison between NCSE and professional theological societies and religious organizations; speaking to the press about issues involving evolution education and challenges to it; counseling teachers, administrators, parents, and others facing challenges to evolution education.” 
Thanks to Evolution News and Access Research Network for most of these leads.  Let’s get the ACLU to turn on the NCSE over separation of church and state.  Derbyshire is an arrogant hack who likens creationists to whack-a-moles.  This is a psychological disorder known as role reversal.
Next headline on:  EducationPolitics and EthicsMediaDarwinismIntelligent Design
Bear Tooth DNA Yields New Date Record: 400,000 Years   07/22/2006    
According to a story posted on Yahoo News, Swedish scientists found intact DNA in a bear tooth claimed to be 400,000 years old.  The team leader remarked, “It is usually hard to find DNA that is older than 100,000 years, and work on fossilized DNA mostly focuses on material that is a few tens of thousands of years old, at most.”
Is it credible to believe these fragile molecules could survive for more than a few thousand years, let alone half a million?  If and when they find DNA in dinosaur soft tissue (02/22/2006), evolutionary dating is going to be stretched to the snapping point.  But we’ve already seen that Charlie Gumby is as flexible as a cartoon superhero.
Next headline on:  MammalsFossilsGenetics and DNADating Methods
Chinese “Living Fossil” Amphibians Found   07/22/2006    
World Net Daily found a story on People’s Daily Online that 1200 specimens of an amphibian, Hynobiidaes, have been found in southwest China.  The article states, “These are a type of amphibian species around 300 million years old that once used to live in the dinosaur period.”
Other news sources have not yet reported this story, but if corroborated, it should only be news to an evolutionist.  Those who hold to the Biblical creationist explanation for fossils and life deny the millions of years, so the gap is only a few thousands.  Stories about so-called “living fossils” surface once in awhile to embarrass evolutionists; see 03/31/2002 about tuataras, 03/27/2003 about salamanders, 05/30/2003 about ginkgo trees, 12/05/2003 about ostracodes, or search for living fossils in the search box above.
Next headline on:  FossilsTerrestrial Zoology
Neanderthal: Am I My Sequencer’s Brother?   07/21/2006    
Associated Press reported a two-year initiative to sequence the Neanderthal genome (see MSNBC News, and also a separate report on News@Nature).  A progressive creationist society headed by Dr. Hugh Ross, Reasons to Believe, is predicting the results “will show Neanderthals did not evolve into modern humans.” RTB has long contended that Neanderthal Man had nothing to do with the original Adam and Eve.  According to the RTB article, only about 0.03% of Neanderthal DNA has been sequenced so far.  Comparisons to date show Neanderthal distinctives yet some overlap with modern human DNA – yet too little data to establish the amount of relatedness.  “There are no firm answers yet about how humans picked up key traits such as walking upright and developing complex language,” according to the AP article; ”Neanderthals are believed to have been relatively sophisticated, but lacking in humans’ higher reasoning functions.”
Of course the Neanderthals don’t believe they are lacking in higher reasoning functions, because they were not invited to the panel.
    For a contrasting view of Neanderthal place in a Biblical history, see Answers in Genesis.  For earlier entries here on Neanderthal comparisons with modern man, see 06/06/2006, 02/27/2006, 01/24/2006, 09/23/2005, 05/19/2005, 02/25/2005 and 10/01/2004, or search for Neanderthal or Neandertal in the search box above.
Next headline on:  Early Man
Darwin’s Yard De-Evolves   07/21/2006    
According to the BBC News biodiversity in Darwin’s yard at Down House in England has declined 15% since he fastidiously catalogued plant species there in 1855.
This story signifies nothing significant.  Biodiversity naturally declines in some grasslands as forests encroach and a climax community develops.  Evolutionists would not expect noteworthy genetic change in just 150 years.  The significance of this story lies in providing another opportunity to keep King Charlie’s name before the public.
Next headline on:  PlantsDarwin
Cell Backup Systems Challenge Evolution, Show Design Principles    07/21/2006  
Has an intelligent design paper been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences?1  Read the abstract and decide whether this research supports Darwinism or design:
Functional redundancies, generated by gene duplications, are highly widespread throughout all known genomes.  One consequence of these redundancies is a tremendous increase to the robustness of organisms to mutations and other stresses.  Yet, this very robustness also renders redundancy evolutionarily unstable, and it is, thus, predicted to have only a transient lifetime.  In contrast, numerous reports describe instances of functional overlaps that have been conserved throughout extended evolutionary periods.  More interestingly, many such backed-up genes were shown to be transcriptionally responsive to the intactness of their redundant partner and are up-regulated if the latter is mutationally inactivated.  By manual inspection of the literature, we have compiled a list of such “responsive backup circuits” in a diverse list of species.  Reviewing these responsive backup circuits, we extract recurring principles characterizing their regulation.  We then apply modeling approaches to explore further their dynamic properties.  Our results demonstrate that responsive backup circuits may function as ideal devices for filtering nongenetic noise from transcriptional pathways and obtaining regulatory precisionWe thus challenge the view that such redundancies are simply leftovers of ancient duplications and suggest they are an additional component to the sophisticated machinery of cellular regulation.  In this respect, we suggest that compensation for gene loss is merely a side effect of sophisticated design principles using functional redundancy.
The three authors, all from the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, Israel, speak freely of the evolution of this phenomenon in their paper; they also, interestingly, refer to design and design principles just as often:
In particular, we suggest the existence of regulatory designs that exploit redundancy to achieve functionalities such as control of noise in gene expression or extreme flexibility in gene regulation.  In this respect, we suggest that compensation for gene loss is merely a side effect of sophisticated design principles using functional redundancy.
    Clues for regulatory designs controlling redundancy were obtained first in a recent study...
They call these cases of functional redundancy responsive backup circuits (RBCs).  Interestingly, they found some cases where one RBC is regulated by another RBC.  Though often the two backup copies were differently regulated, they could become coregulated under certain environmental conditions.  The team also found that some of these functionally redundant genes are found all the way from yeast to mammals; this is sometimes called “evolutionary conservation” but actually describes stasis, not evolution.
    The authors do not deny that these backup systems evolved somehow: “For a single cell, the ability to quickly and efficiently respond to fluctuating environments is crucial and offers an obvious evolutionary advantage,” they postulate, suggesting that accidental duplication of genes was co-opted for this purpose.  They do not get into any details of how this might have happened, however, and their analysis seems more interested on the complexity and design benefit of the systems.
    Their criteria for functional backups were stated thus: “Two lines of evidence could indicate a function’s direct benefit from existing redundancy: first is the evolutionary conservation of the functional overlap, and second is a nontrivial regulatory design that utilizes it.”  How many such systems exist in nature they could not say, because there have not been enough studies.  Many functionally equivalent copies of enzymes (isozymes) are known.  The genes that produce them are often regulated by different pathways.  Under stress, however, some can become coregulated to provide robustness against environmental irregularities or damaging mutations.
The model that emerges is that although many isozymes are specialized for different environmental regimes, alarm signals induced by particular stress stimuli may call for their synergistic coexpression.  Here, RBCs provide functional specialization together with extreme flexibility in gene control that could be activated when sufficient stress has been applied.  For example, in yeast, glucose serves as a regulatory input for alternating between aerobic and anaerobic growth.  Its presence is detected by two separate and independent signaling pathways, one probing intracellular glucose concentrations and the other probing extracellular concentrations.
They searched the literature and found several interesting ones that are described in detail in the paper.  “In all these cases, the common denominator is that one of the two duplicates is under repression in wild type and that that repression is relieved upon its partner’s mutation.”
    This raises an interesting question – one that could have been asked by someone in the intelligent design movement.  They even answer a possible objection with a design principle:
The extent to which genomic functional redundancies have influenced the way we think about biology can be appreciated simply by inspecting the vast number of times the word “redundancy” is specifically referred to in the biomedical literature (Fig. 5, which is published as supporting information on the PNAS web site).  Particularly interesting is the abundance with which it is addressed in studies of developmental biology (Fig. 5).  In fact, it is here that concepts such as “genetic buffering” and “canalization” first had been suggested.  Furthermore, the robustness of the developmental phenotypes such as body morphologies and patterning have been repeatedly demonstrated.  So the question is, are these redundancies simply leftovers of ancient duplications, or are they an additional component to the sophisticated machinery of cellular regulation?
    In criticism, one may argue that many of the reported redundancies do not actually represent functionally equivalent genes but rather reflect only partial functional overlap.  In fact, knockout phenotypes have been described for a number of developmental genes that have redundant partners.  For these reasons, it has been suggested to define redundancy as a measure of correlated, rather than degenerate, gene functions.  Although these facts may suggest that redundancies have not evolved for the sake of buffering mutations, it has, in our opinion, little relevance to the question of whether they serve a functional role.  The interesting question is, then, can such a functional role for the duplicated state be inferred from the way the two genes are regulated?
Along that line, they found that the amount of upregulation of one gene was often dependent on the regulation of the other.  This suggested to them that the sum of the expression of the two copies is nearly constant as a buffer against noise in the system.  When one line gets noisy, due to a mutation, the other responds with more signal.  They call this “dosage-dependent linear response.”  In some cases during development, the responsive overlap decreases as the organism grows.  In short, “The abundance of redundancies occurring in genes related to developmental processes, and their functional role as master regulators (Fig. 5) may be taken to suggest their utilization in either the flexibility or robustness of regulatory control.”
    Some examples they give are even more complex.  RBCs may also be implicated in the resistance of some organisms to multiple drugs.  In some cases, each isoform can compensate equally for the other; in others, one of the forms is the main (the controller) and the other acts as the backup (the responder), only coming into play when the primary goes sour.  “One of the most profound and insightful of these recurring regulatory themes,” they exclaim, “is that, although both genes are capable of some functional compensation, disruption of the responder produces a significantly less deleterious phenotype than disruption of the controller”.  In evolutionary terms, why would the backup copy be better?
A simple potential interpretation may suggest that although the controller is the key player performing some essential biological role, the responder is merely a less efficient substitute.  Yet, accepting the notion that redundancy could not have evolved for the sake of buffering mutations, this interpretation still is severely lacking.
    A different, and more biologically reasonable, hypothesis accounting these asymmetries is that one of the functions of the responder is to buffer dosage fluctuations of the controller.  This buffering capacity requires a functional overlap that also manifests itself in compensations against the more rare event of gene loss.  Other models accounting for this assymetry are discussed further in this work, but our main point of argument is that this complex regulation of functionally redundant, yet evolutionarily conserved genes, strongly indicates utilization of redundancy.
Their next subsection is called “Regulatory Designs.”  What emerges from their discussion of how each gene can regulate its partner is a complex picture: in one case, “redundancy is embedded within a more complex interaction network that includes a unidirectional responsive circuit in which the controller (dlx3) also represses its own transcription, whereas the responder (dlx7) is a positive autoregulator.”  More examples like this are described.  They predicted, and found, that RBCs could also regulate “downstream processes from variation and fluctuations arising from nongenetic noise.”  The net result is that by using these functional backup systems, the organism has more robustness against perturbations, yet more flexibility in a dynamic environment.
    What is the fruit of this research?  Why should scientists look for these “regulatory designs” in the cell?  They offer an intriguing example.  It is known that one form of human muscular dystrophy occurs when a member of an RBC suffers a mutation.  Studies of this pair in mice, however, shows that the other member can respond by upregulating its expression.  It is thought a similar response might occur in humans.  “Inspired by the compensatory effect demonstrated by this RBC in mice, its artificial induction in humans by means of gene therapy has been suggested.  Although such modalities have not yet been realized, they suggest a fruitful possibility.
1Kafri, Levy and Pilpel, “The regulatory utilization of genetic redundancy through responsive backup circuits,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.0604883103, published online before print July 21, 2006
This is really a remarkable paper filled with inspiring possibilities.  If we can just think design instead of years of mindless mutations, we might find cures for debilitating diseases.  This paper has much of the obligatory evolutionspeak, but what does Darwinian thinking really contribute?  Nothing.  Although the researchers paid lip service to the evolutionary explanation that members of RBC pairs might have arisen through gene duplication, and that the coregulation might have provided a selectable fitness advantage, such language is really nothing more than the usual aftermarket sales pitch on the designed product.  The real heart of their argument was that design exists, it is functional, and we can learn from it in ways that could help mankind.  The future of design-theoretic science looks bright.
Next headline on:  Cell BiologyGeneticsIntelligent Design
Likely, Evolution May Be a Fact, Presumably   07/19/2006    
When reading evolutionary science papers, one gets the feeling there are more than the usual number of words indicating conjecture, doubt and uncertainty.  We decided to check this out in the July 11 issue of Current Biology.  Scans for the words perhaps, probably, might, possibly, likely, may, apparently, seem and presumably and their derivatives were conducted on two papers dealing with evolutionary research and two papers of similar length on cell biology research that did not concern evolution.  On average, the two evolutionary papers had 3.7 times as many conjecture words than the non-evolutionary ones.  Some examples:
  • The phylogenetic distribution of some of these mutations indicates that they probably occurred before the divergence of the two groups of whales.
  • Trichromatic colour vision in monkeys probably evolved from an ancestral dichromacy present within the arboreal environment of early primates, where the driving force was the ability to distinguish the redness of ripe fruits or reddish young leaves from a green background of foliage of highly variable luminance.
  • ...this is therefore a possible explanation for the evolution of colour vision so early in vertebrate evolution.
  • The intriguing possibility is, therefore, that in marked contrast to placental mammals, the RH2 opsin gene has been retained and is expressed in these marsupials.
  • Animals have evolved their visual sensitivity to match aspects of their photic environment, and it is likely that the primary adaptive selective pressure is the spectral range and intensity of daylight.
  • Why these losses have occurred is not immediately apparent.  Superficially, as these animals are all nocturnal, it could be concluded that colour vision is of little functional significance and that the loss of the SWS1 cones is therefore of little consequence.  However, many of these species have close relatives that are also nocturnal but retain both cone types and presumably exhibit dichromacy.
The same issue contained an editorial that began, “As creationists seek to increase their influence on the scientific agenda, the world’s leading scientists urged schools and colleges last month to stop denying the facts of evolution.”  Nigel Williams spoke out against public schools where “scientific evidence, data, and testable theories about the origins and evolution of life on Earth are being concealed, denied or confused with theories not testable by science.”
There’s the shell game (see top right quotation).  Evolutionists preach about science and criticize faith, but look at their research.  This is why Colin Patterson, in a moment of frankness, asked his evolutionary colleagues if they could point to one thing about evolution that they knew was true.  All he got was silence.
    Four papers from one journal, of course, cannot represent a statistical sample, but maybe this anecdotal evidence can interest someone in performing a larger study on the comparative numbers of conjecture-words between evolutionary papers and research papers on observable, testable lab science.
Next headline on:  Evolution
Evolutionists Idolize Darwin Daddy    07/18/2006  
What is it about Charles Darwin?  Evolutionists seem to hold this one 19th-century scientist in higher regard than any other man in history.  In print or debate, they sometimes criticize anti-evolutionists for attacking “Darwinian” evolution, arguing that evolutionary theory has come a long way since Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species by Natural Selection in 1859.  One would think if evolutionists really believed this, they would pick up and move on, focusing on the work of the latest and greatest proponents, rather than exalting a Victorian individual whose views have been largely superseded.   Yet their own fixation on the bearded father of evolution is a running theme in their own literature.  Consider these three examples from the most recent issue of Current Biology (07/11/2006):
  • Darwin Iconography:  Florence Maderspacher, the magazine’s reviews editor, wrote about how the “tree of life” imagery from Darwin’s book needs to be revised.1  Revisiting the one diagram in the Origin, she explained how a coral, rather than a tree, represents the image that guided Darwin’s development of his theory.  (This is the historical revision presented in a new book by Horst Bredekamp, Darwin’s Coral.)
        The aroma of Maderspacher’s review exudes not primarily from the debate about the path of evolution as understood today, however, as much as the desire to accurately preserve the old man’s vision.  “Bredekamp offers fascinating insights into how Darwin’s thinking developed,” she says in one place, and speaks of his sketches “that allow us to watch Darwin think” in another.  The medium-length review, which ends with the theme of accuracy in “evolutionary iconography,” mentions Darwin’s name 50 times.
  • Darwin Goliath Squad:  An editorial called “Darwin’s Champions Fight Back” begins, “Researchers are building their response to the attack by creationism on evolution as interest in Darwin memorabilia continues to grow.  Nigel Williams reports.”2  As the subtitle suggests, the article discusses both the counterattack against creationism and the growing interest in Darwin collections.  Williams first summarizes the work by “Darwin’s champions” against creationism in the UK, including the international joint statement (see 06/19/2006), and statements by the Royal Society, Nottingham University and the press.  Then Williams’ attention turns affectionately to Charles Darwin:
    But in spite of this battle, Darwin memorabilia and other material are attracting growing interest.  The world’s largest collection of editions of Charles Darwin’s works was bought last month by Britain’s Natural History Museum for nearly £1 million, the most expensive acquisition in the museum’s 125 year history.  Antiquarians, Chris and Michele Kohler collected about 3,500 items, filling four rooms of their house, over 20 years.  The collection includes almost everything Darwin published from 1829 onwards.
        The museum’s director said: “This acquisition makes the museum the ultimate Darwin resource.  Darwin brought about a revolution in how humans think about themselves and the natural world.  Combining this collection with our existing holdings gives us an unprecedented insight into how the theory of evolution developed, and how Darwin worked.
    Williams follows with the story of a “lovely letter” by Darwin to a Victorian clergyman who had questions about his evolutionary theory.  In the letter, Charles Darwin gently helps Rev. William Denton overcome his doubts.  “As in The Origin of Species,” Williams explains, “he uses specific examples to make his point.  For example, he discusses the origin of deafness in cats and why pigs in Florida are black.”  The “striking” letter is expected to fetch £20,000–30,000.
        Williams sees the rise in interest over Darwin as timely: “With the bicentenary of Darwin's birth and the 150th anniversary of the first publication of The Origin of Species due in the next few years, researchers hope that these events will help provide a prop to garner public interest and support and also help stem the anti-evolutionary tide.  This short article mentions Darwin 16 times.  Another project is raising funds for the 2009 Darwin Bicentennial.  The BBC News reported on a project to build a full-scale replica of the H.M.S. Beagle, the ship that launched Charles Darwin to fame.
  • Darwin Daddy-O:  “Who’s your daddy,” cartoon pops ask, when junior needs to show a little respect.  Well, Lynne Cassimeris (Lehigh U) is no smart aleck.  In her interview in the same issue,3 she knows who’s in charge:
    Do you have a scientific hero?
    Darwin is quickly becoming my scientific hero because he synthesized so many observations into one coherent theory of evolution by natural selection.  His theory is beautifully logical and explains so much of what we see in biology.
    Speaking of affection, here’s how Cassimeris responds when someone takes Darwin’s name in vain:
    Speaking of evolution, your colleague Michael Behe is one of the leading proponents of ‘intelligent design’: care to comment on what it’s like to be in a biology department that includes an ‘ID’ proponent?
    An article in the student newspaper falsely accused me of taunting Mike with chants of “Darwin’s your daddy”, so I guess that’s another reason why Darwin is my science hero – he’s my daddy too.
    Cassimeris went on to praise Behe in a backhanded way.  “Mike’s ideas led all of us to think more about evolution and how important it is to our own fields and to biology education,” she said.  “Before Mike’s book, evolution was something that many of us took for granted and didn’t consider all that much.... So, I have to credit Mike with inspiring me to think about evolution much more than I had before.” 
Maybe this includes closing one’s eyes, sitting in a lotus position, and repeating Abba, Darwin over and over.
1Florence Maderspacher, “The captivating coral – the origins of early evolutionary imagery,” Current Biology, Volume 16, Issue 13, 11 July 2006, pages R476-R478, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2006.06.019.
2Nigel Williams, “Darwin’s champions fight back,” Current Biology, Volume 16, Issue 13, 11 July 2006, pages R479-R480, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2006.06.035.
2Lynne Cassimeris, “Q & A,” Current Biology, Volume 16, Issue 13 , 11 July 2006, pages R480-R481, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2006.06.015.
Can you think of any scientist in history that gets this kind of attention?  Einstein scores high points, maybe, and perhaps Newton, but certainly no other scientist, no matter how great his or her achievement, gets the gushy worship that Pope Charlie gets from his devoted foot-kissers.  There is no annual Einstein Day or Newton Day, but Charlie’s birthday is becoming an international event.  Even in Darwin’s old age, his groupies would stand in awe in his presence at the Shrine of Down House, and “grown men would crumble in the presence of the god” as biographer Janet Browne described the new cult (see 02/13/2004 commentary).  This is not even weird science.  Clearly, it’s religion.  No wonder creationists, intelligent design advocates, theologians and pastors often target the cult of Darwin (see op-ed piece by Albert Mohler), because evolutionists themselves have placed Charlie’s fatherly image on their own standards.  If he falls, who is there (09/02/2004) to stand against the attacking Visigoths? (07/14/2006)  Richard Dawkins?  Bring it on.
Next headline on:  DarwinIntelligent Design
Cell Untangles Its Own DNA    07/17/2006  
DNA is packed like spaghetti in a basketball (07/28/2004), but must constantly be accessed by transcribers, duplicators and other molecular machines.  Scientists at the Karolinska Institute, according to EurekAlert, have found a complex of protein machines that know how to untangle DNA.  Machines that can keep DNA from separating too early (cohesins) and keep DNA coils compact (condensins) have been studied extensively, but these scientists looked more at another mechanism.  When they artificially perturbed DNA strands, the machines went to work fixing the damage:
The research group has studied the third, less well understood, protein complex, known as the Smc5/6 complex.  This protein complex was found to bind to locations on the DNA strand that the researchers had artificially damaged, suggesting that it is directly involved in the repair process.  Moreover, the Smc5/6 complex also seems to be required for the disentanglement of undamaged chromosomes before cell division.  If these tangles, which are a natural consequence of the DNA copying process, are left unresolved the chromosomes cannot be separated and sent to the two nascent daughter cells.  Like in the repair process, the Smc5/6 complex appears to resolve these intertwines by direct interaction with the DNA molecules, but this process is differently regulated as compared to the function in repair.
The press release starts with a “wow” factoid: “Every second, the cells constituting our bodies are replaced through cell division.  An adult human consists of about 50,000 billion cells, 1% of which die and are replaced by cell division every day.”  Machines like the Smc5/6 complex are essential to maintaining our genomic integrity.
So, evolutionists, tell us again about how this all worked out in the mythical RNA world when none of these repair and maintenance mechanisms had yet accidentally emerged.
Next headline on:  Cell BiologyAmazing Facts
Eye Can See Clearly Now    07/17/2006  
The cornea has no blood vessels.  That’s weird.  But it’s a good thing, or we would be looking through a network of threadlike strands all the time.  According to EurekAlert, scientists at Scheppens Eye Institute decided to find out how the cornea stays clear.  They found that it is heavily stocked with a special protein, VEGFR-3, that halts the normal progression of angiogenesis (blood vessel growth) that occurs in all other tissues of the body except cartilage.
If this were the only thing allowing us to see clearly, it would be amazing enough, but it’s just the tip of the eyeball.  For examples of other factors involved you may have never realized, read our 08/31/2005 entry (second bullet), and the 08/28/2003 entry.  How do Darwinists deal with these observational facts?  Watch them blink: 09/22/2005, 05/13/2005.
Next headline on:  Human BodyAmazing Facts
Plate Tectonics: Are Modern Geologists Treading on Solid Ground?   07/14/2006    
Plate tectonics is the reigning theory of earth’s dynamic crust.  Laymen may not realize that acceptance of plate tectonic theory came quite suddenly in the 1960s.  It was like a revolution.  For decades, the consensus of geological scientists was adamantly against the notion of shifting plates moving horizontally in various directions.  Those who taught such things were considered on the fringe and were shunned at conferences.  The consensus view, however, was quite rapidly subducted under heat and pressure till now it’s hard to find any academically trained geologist who does not accept at least some form of plate tectonics.  Yet many details remain controversial.  Though taught as fact in schools and on national park signs, how strong is the evidence?  And how do geologists arrive at theories of the earth?
    Alexandra Witze, American correspondent for Nature, traveled with a large group of geologists in Wyoming last month.  They had gathered near the Wind River mountains for conferences and field trips to try to anchor the shifting consensus about plate tectonics theory.  Though all are believers in the ruling paradigm, groups and individuals among them differ sharply on the details, particularly whether tectonic movements began early or late in earth’s history.  Some feel it began 3.5 billion years ago, soon after the earth cooled.  Others feel it began a billion years ago or even less.
    Witze’s report in Nature1 puts a human face to scientific inquiry, as we follow a group of geologists working out their differences as both personalities and experts.  Her diary allows us to tag along and see how science is done – before the textbook writers set the conclusions in stone.  In discussing several stubborn controversies that continue to cause sharp disagreement, however, she unwittingly raises some larger questions about what geologists know, or can know.
    Undoubtedly it was not Witze’s intention to suggest that any of these scientists doubt the general picture of earth history and its age, nor their ability to find answers and come to agreement.  After all, plate tectonics has achieved the status of the “grand unified theory of geology” as she dubs it.  But to the perceptive reader outside the guild, certain statements she makes stand out as quite startling.  They hint that the theoretical ground on which modern geology stands is more social than solid.  Historians of science know that geological science has already endured numerous revolutions since the 18th century.  Who can tell whether today’s ideas are closer to “the” truth?  Though the context deals primarily with the debate over an early vs late onset of plate tectonics, the following excerpts feel like tremors of deeper issues:
  • Murmurs of earth:  Witze follows the group as Kevin Chamberlain (U of Wyoming) calmly displays a rare kind of rock he claims is komatiite, 2.7 billion years old.  “But as the other geologists chip off fresh layers and scrutinize them through hand lenses, murmurs of dissent start to grow,” she reports, saying “few are convinced” of his claim.  The lesson: “The scene brings home the difficulties of trying to study the early Earth – there aren’t many old rocks to look at, and those that are around are often so altered, chemically and physically, as to be nearly indecipherable.”
  • Solar system context:  Why here and not out there?
    On other Earth-like planets there’s no evidence for today’s plate tectonics.[2]  Planets do not have to work this way, and there was probably a time when this one didn’t.  “You don’t just make a silicate planet and plate tectonics starts,” says Robert Stern, a geologist at the University of Texas, Dallas.  “Something special has to happen.
  • Heart surgery:  Invoking “something special” in earth history is a painful operation. 
    The nature of that special something cuts to the discipline’s philosophical heart.  Since the early nineteenth century, geology has been ruled by the principle of uniformitarianism – that the planet operates on unchanging laws, and that the present can be used as a key to the past.[3]  But how can that approach hold up when a science from a world where plate tectonics explains more or less everything is applied to a world that may have lacked itHow can you understand ancient rocks when you do not know what processes put them there?
  • Word games:  To understand one another, experts need to talk the same language:
    Scant and difficult-to-interpret evidence presents one set of problems; slippery definitions present another.  Plate tectonics has lots of constituent parts.  It’s not just a theory of how things move, but of how they are made and from what.  For example, explanations for different sorts of volcanism in different settings also explain why the mineral make-up of continental crust and the crust beneath the oceans is so different.
        Working out which attributes are essential to the theory, and which incidental, is not easy.  The 65 attendees at the Wyoming conference came up with 18 different definitions of plate tectonics.
    In fact, the only points of agreement in the definitions were that the plates are rigid, they move apart due to seafloor spreading, and they dive under one another at subduction zones.  But that leads to another problem:
  • Alternate explanations:  “The problem is that Earth could display one or even two of these properties without necessarily having a system like that described by modern plate tectonics.”  Polar ice floes, for instance, fit some of these characteristics.  Witze found one point of agreement; most of the geologists considered subduction as the diagnostic process of plate tectonics.
  • Collateral damage:  A late onset of plate tectonics, as argued by Stern, would have had catastrophic effects on earth’s atmosphere and biosphere, such as extreme glaciations enveloping the earth – “It was a wild time of change,” says Stern.  “The biosphere was out of control.”  Yet those who disagree with his late-onset view have tectonic motions occurring for billions of years.
  • Dramatic effects demand dramatic explanations.  Stern claimed that those who need to explain “snowball earth” scenarios need a cause big enough, and that could be the onset of plate tectonics about a billion years ago.  As support, he says that portions of ocean crust that looked mashed up, called ophiolites, and metamorphic rocks called blueschists, diagnostic of subduction, are rarely found earlier than a billion years according to standard dating methods.  A critic, Alfred Kröner of Germany, disagrees, Witze points out.  He thinks there are other markers pointing to plate tectonics over three billion years ago.
  • Silent treatment:  Apparently a conference like this a first – or at least rare. 
    The exchange of papers led to the Wyoming conference.  “It was overdue,” says Kröner.  “Nobody ever talks to one another.”  In Wyoming, they did: palaeomagnetists clustered around a white board with field geologists; geophysicists sat down for a beer with geochemists.
    Hopefully it was not to drown their sorrows.  Though new friendships were struck and some altered their views, no strong consensus appeared to be forthcoming.
  • Whoops, we were wrong:  Witze tells about how one ophiolite from China was reported in 2001 as being 2.5 billion years old.  “Now Guochun Zhao, of the University of Hong Kong, has re-dated those rocks, giving them an age of just 300 million years.”  That’s an 830% difference.  Some at the conference criticized the new date, but others found Zhao’s result convincing.  With corrections and disputes that large, some outsiders may not feel comfortable that rock daters know what they are doing.
  • Can’t get a date:  Another dispute arose over claims that Australian zircons were 4.4 billion years old, as dated by hafnium ratios.
    Simon Wilde of the Curtin University of Technology in Perth, Australia, isn’t so sure.  “You have to be very careful with these rocks,” he says.  Measuring one spot on a crystal, as opposed to another, can yield very different hafnium values that lead to very different interpretations, he says....
        Such differences of interpretation make the problem of solving when plate tectonics began extremely difficult.  In many cases, data can be interpreted in several completely different ways – all of which may seem valid.
    A follow-up question arises at how such measurements can be calibrated, and whether all the interference factors are taken into account.
  • Battle of the stories:  Witze tells about contradictory explanations for the Pilbara formation in Australia.  One Aussie geologist, Hugh Smithies, presented “seemingly convincing evidence” based on geochemical signatures that two sections of the formation date from different times, one from before the onset of plate tectonics, and one from after. 
    But then along came Julian Pearce of Cardiff University in Wales, who argued that each of the geochemical markers in the western Pilbara can be explained by other phenomena, such as magmas with an unusual amount of water in them, or crustal material from different places getting mixed up.  The various researchers are hoping to settle the matter with a field trip.
    Alas, “field trips don’t always resolve things,” Witze laments, telling how in the Wind River mountains, “the meeting attendees continued to argue about plate tectonics as they hiked from outcrop to outcrop.”
  • Social consensus:  By the end of the conference, most of the geologists tended to converge on the earlier date for the onset of plate tectonics, with Stern remaining a stern defender of the later date.  “It’s not a simple question,” he maintained.  Witze adds, “And on that, at least, others agree.”  Then there’s Michael Brown (U of Maryland), who came up with a compromise solution.  He suggested that plate tectonics may have started early but changed around the time of Stern’s favorite date.  An even more complex idea was put forth by Paul Silver (Carnegie Institute) who thinks tectonics started and stopped several times during earth’s history.  Apparently Stern would drink to that.
In summary, despite their disagreements, they all seemed to get along and enjoy the conference and the hikes in the mountains.  This might make for an interesting case study in scientific sociology, but what about the true history of the earth?  Witze ends with a disturbing side note to the art of consensus building:
An ‘intermittent approach’ would be a wonderful way to reconcile things – but it takes geology even further from the comforting realm of uniformitarianism, into a world where the most basic principles come and go in fits and starts.
Could Charles Lyell have attended, he might have shed a tear for the subduction of his comfort zone.
1Alexandra Witze, “Geology: The start of the world as we know it,” Nature 442, 128-131(13 July 2006) | doi:10.1038/442128a; Published online 12 July 2006.
2Mars, for instance, shows no sign of plate tectonics.  As for non-uniformitarian “special somethings,” consider the case of Venus.  Planetary scientists are convinced that 90% of its surface history has been obliterated by some unknown global catastrophe; see 08/16/2004 and 11/26/2003.
3On uniformitarianism, see 11/05/2003, 11/04/2003, 05/22/2003, 07/02/2002, 02/02/2004, and 06/10/2002
Alert readers will notice more than just surface disputes about the details of a scientific theory.  We supplied lengthy quotes to give an adequate feel for what Alexandra Witze revealed: there is almost nothing that modern historical geology can stand on and claim is factually true.  To stave off charges of quoting out of context, we provided ample disclaimers that we don’t intend to portray any of these geologists as doubting plate tectonics, uniformitarianism, billions of years, or any of the standard secular evolutionary theory of the earth.
    The question in the title, was, however, are modern geologists on solid ground when they come up with theories about the early earth?  They may believe they are, but they are not the ones to tell.  They are too close to their craft, too much inside the guild, too familiar with reigning paradigms to break ranks very far and risk thinking boldly outside the box.  They are too partial to the validity of their vocation to be able to fairly evaluate whether anything they claim they know they really do know.
    This is not to suggest that currently observable processes and measurements are in serious doubt, such as the current rate of seafloor spreading, the current rate of continental separation, the chemistry of this or that crystal and its hafnium ratios, the strength and orientation of a magnetic signature in a rock in Utah, and the like.  But as ideas are built (by humans) about how things got this way and when, observation and interpretation diverge, complexity increases, and assumptions crowd in.  It’s no longer possible to have a single, simple answer that will explain everything to everyone’s satisfaction.  Worse, the best ideas can never be adequately tested without a time machine and an observer.
    Notice that there was not one piece of hard evidence they agreed on.  Data do not speak for themselves; they must be interpreted by fallible humans.  Interpreting geological data from supposed billions of years ago when there were no human observers is fraught with problems, both technical and philosophical.  The less a process can be observed or repeated, the more assumptions must be made, and the more one’s world view determines what questions are interesting, and even what qualifies as evidence.
    From outcrop to outcrop these geologists wandered (whether in Wyoming or Australia doesn’t matter), murmuring among themselves about how old this formation is and what the earth was doing at the time it was deposited.  To a positivist or progressivist, this is wonderful.  Scientists get together, swap ideas, share data, air their differences, and come to at least a partial consensus.  This is how science is done.  Whether a consensus has anything to do with the truth of what really happened in earth history is a completely separate question.
    If you doubt it, look at what was taught as fact (or the “best theory” of the day – see best-in-field fallacy) through the centuries.  Look at what the consensus of scientists was in 1800 compared to 1900, and 1900 compared to 2000.  Current ideas of earth history are radically different than they were 100 or 200 years ago, and there is no reason to believe they won’t be radically different 100 years from now if science continues.  If even the hard sciences of physics and chemistry have undergone complete overhauls since 1900 (relativity and quantum theory), how much more vulnerable are sciences where unobservable history must be inferred from evidence in the present?
    Consensus science may provide a comfort zone to those in the guild, but they have no guarantee it is not the twilight zone.  As was plate tectonics before the revolution in the 1960s, today’s fringe idea could become tomorrow’s orthodoxy.  Wait a few more decades and the orthodoxy could switch back, or to some completely unforeseen new heresy.  Most people don’t care as long as the national park diagrams look nice.  If your kid reads one and asks, “but how do they know that?” you should respond, “That is a very good question.”*
Next headline on:  GeologyDating Methods
*For a stimulating discussion of these issues and the problem of knowledge in science, we recommend “The Science Wars: What Scientists Know and How They Know It,” a new (July 2006) set of 24 half-hour lectures by Dr. Steven L. Goldman (Lehigh U), available from The Teaching Company.  Goldman is an enthusiastic lecturer and good communicator, with an impressive grasp of the sciences and history.  Though we cannot recommend all his conclusions, especially his misrepresentation of intelligent design, Goldman’s ability to delineate the historical and philosophical problems in deciding whether (or to what extent) science generates true knowledge of the world should cure any simplistic, positivist illusions about science.
Darwinism Confirmed!  How?  Finch Beaks Got Smaller!   07/14/2006    
Randolph E. Schmid of Associated Press (see ABC News) seems hardly able to contain his excitement.  “Finches on the Galapagos Islands that inspired Charles Darwin to develop the concept of evolution,” he wrote, “are now helping confirm it by evolving.”  This sounds like big news.  How, exactly, are they evolving?  “A medium sized species of Darwin’s finch has evolved a smaller beak to take advantage of different seeds just two decades after the arrival of a larger rival for its original food source.”
    There is no question that Darwin’s finches on the Galapagos Islands have achieved iconic status.  Charles Darwin believed that the 13 species (although the term species is loosely applied, since many are interfertile) originated from one ancestral species on the mainland.  All the species are quite similar except for the size and shape of their beaks.  Books have been written on this group of birds, often called the best example of natural selection at work in the wild.  Now, according to the Associated Press story, we have witnessed the action of selection in just 24 years.
    A Princeton husband-and-wife team has devoted 33 years of study to documenting the evolution of Darwin’s finches.  Peter and Rosemary Grant published their latest paper this week in Science1 (see earlier work in 08/24/2005, 09/03/2004, 04/26/2002 entries).  In 1982, the large ground finch (Geospiza magnirostris) invaded Daphne island, posing competition to the medium ground finch (G. fortis) that ruled the roost there.  The competitor ate them out of house and home.  Because of the new food fight, G. fortis beaks shrunk so that they could adapt to eating alternate food, the seeds of cacti and other plants.
    A specific morphological change caused by competition is termed character displacement – in the Grants’ words, “an evolutionary divergence in resource-exploiting traits such as jaws and beaks that is caused by interspecific competition.”  They judged this change of beak size in G. fortis, due to the competition from G. magnirostris, “the strongest evolutionary change seen in the 33 years of the study.”  Sounds like a Q.E.D. in the bag.  The mean change in beak size was about 0.7 standard deviations, “exceptionally large” in their view (actually, it represents a shrinkage of less than a millimeter on average, or 5%).  Nevertheless, they hedged, the “evolutionary changes that we observed are more complex than those envisaged by [D.] Lack” who had published a book on Darwin’s finches in 1947 on the role of competition in selection.  That’s because other factors were implicated in the population dynamics of the birds.
    Surprisingly, they said no one ever studied this before, here or anywhere else.  “The process of character displacement occurring in nature, from the initial encounter of competitors to the evolutionary change in one or more of them as a result of directional natural selection,” they began the paper, “has not previously been investigated.”  That seems very surprising, almost shocking, given the fame of these finches and how they are used to support Darwin’s theory, to say nothing of the wide acceptance of Darwin’s theory itself and the number of evolutionary research studies performed around the world since 1859.
    Yet even with this apparent success, the Grants cautioned that “Replicated experiments with suitable organisms are needed to demonstrate definitively the causal role of competition, not only as an ingredient of natural selection of resource-exploiting traits but as a factor in their evolution.”  That seems to suggest that this 33-year experiment did not establish a definitive cause-and-effect relationship between competition and natural selection, or clear evidence for evolution, either. 
    Nevertheless, Elizabeth Pennisi in the same issue of Science2 summarized the work in glowing terms:
Evolutionary biologists consider the paper important because it demonstrates the interplay between population numbers and environmental factors: The shift in beak size occurred only when there were enough large ground finches and large seeds were scarce enough to cause a problem, says [David] Pfennig [evolutionary biologist at U. of North Carolina].  “This study,” he adds, “will motivate researchers to go into the field and see if they can document other examples of character displacement in action.”
Pennisi also quoted a biologist who feels this study “will be an instant textbook classic.”
1Peter R. Grant and B. Rosemary Grant, “Evolution of Character Displacement in Darwin’s Finches,” Science, 14 July 2006: Vol. 313. no. 5784, pp. 224 - 226, DOI: 10.1126/science.1128374.
2Elizabeth Pennisi, “Competition Drives Big Beaks Out of Business,” Science, 14 July 2006: Vol. 313. no. 5784, p. 156, DOI: 10.1126/science.313.5784.156
Folks, ignore the hype and look at the data.  There were already specimens of medium ground finches on Daphne with beak sizes in the final range.  The shrinkage was less than a millimeter, on average!  The only evolution was in the relative numbers of birds with an average length of 10.6 millimeters instead of 11.2 millimeters, and an average depth of 8.6 millimeters instead of the 9.4 millimeters before.  That’s it!  This is what evolutionary biologists are proclaiming as a textbook classic?  If this is all the textbooks can point to as actual field evidence for Darwinian evolution, our students need alternatives.
    Any fair-minded reader of the Grant paper would have to ask some very serious questions about the methodology used and the empirical quality of the research, and especially what it signifies.  The Grants are very good at measuring beaks down to the submillimeter range, but think of the problems.  The numbers of birds counted varied drastically from one year to the next.  How did they know they were getting an adequate sample?  Were they taking into account the age of the birds, assuming that beak size could vary in individuals throughout their lifetimes?  Think how much your beak has changed since you grew up.  How much did their presence and picking up the birds to measure them influence the poor critters’ fitness?  Peter and Rosemarie claimed to have ruled out all factors other than natural selection, but remember, this is their life work to shore up evidence for Charlie darling.  How much does their need for success and fame play into their findings?  Their dedication to this work is admirable, but human nature strongly influences the NSF grant money (if you’ll pardon the expression) and desire to bring back the goods when you want to honor your alma mater and go down in history as the best researchers on the most famous icon of evolution.  Even assuming their honesty, they couched their conclusions with safety valves and downplayed the significance of the study, saying more work is needed.
    Yet the news media, as usual, chirped up a storm over any hint of a suggestion of a possibility that Charlie has (finally) been vindicated.  “Darwin’s finches evolve before scientists’ eyes,” writes Sara Goudarzi triumphantly in LiveScience, echoed on MSNBC.  The only glimmer of hope in this media circus is that it somehow seems less bombastic than before.  Some of the other usual Darwin trumpets (New Scientist, BBC, National Geographic) chose not to sound off on this song for some reason.  Maybe they knew they would get a thrashing on the blog.  Update 07/15/2006: well, we spoke too soon.  National Geographic, naturally, fell for this story hook, line and sinker.  In a stupidly gullible report, Mason Inman wrote about “instant evolution” and won Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week with this groaner:
David Pfennig at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill agrees that the study has important implications.
    For Pfennig, the study’s greatest surprise was “the apparent speed with which the character displacement occurs—within a single year!”
    Usually we think [sic] of evolution as being a slow grind, he says.
    But, Pfennig added, the study suggests that evolution due to competition between closely related species “paradoxically may often occur so rapidly that we may actually miss the process taking place.
So, evolution is usually so slow we can’t see it, but then it happens so fast we may miss it.  In no other avenue of life where truth claims are debated would such flimsy evidence get any respect.  Beaks shrink, and thus prove natural selection can create scientist brains from a chemical soup.  This is plain silly.  What will our grandchildren think?  We document this stuff to show that at least some people in 2006 still had their heads screwed on, otherwise historians may wonder what caused the mass imbecility back then.
    In their lists of references and quotations, the Grants (and the media) did not even pay one ounce of attention to the long and loud disputations by creationists and intelligent-design leaders about the finch beak problem.  From Duane Gish to Jonathan Wells and beyond, reputable scientists not polluted with Darwin addiction have argued that this is not evolution!  David Berlinski (no Christian fundamentalist) said that this evidence doesn’t even rise to the level of anecdote.  If Darwin gave us the great theory to which we are all supposed to give our allegiance, the best idea anyone ever had, the only theory worth mentioning in the science classroom, then we are going to need a lot better evidence than finch beaks varying by less than a millimeter in response to climate and food supply.  Neo-Darwinism by mutation and natural selection is supposed to explain all the complexity of life from ameba to man, and they get excited about beak size?  Come on!
    Lest someone at Panda’s Thumb or Pharyngula get self-righteously indignant about our picking on Darwin’s finches without mentioning the “mountains and mountains of evidence” throughout biology, remember, that numerous evolutionists have pointed to Darwin’s finches as the best example of natural selection ever found.  This means that all the other examples are weaker and less convincing.  Not only that, the other studies on these same finches have produced nothing more than oscillating changes around a mean, certainly dubious as evidence that birds evolved from pre-bird ancestors.
    Weak evidences do not add up.  A thousand buckets of sand do not provide a strong foundation.  This is especially true when other interpretations of the evidence are available.  Only a commitment bordering on religious zeal would look at this evidence as confirming of evolution over the common-sense interpretation that these birds look designed.  They fly, they digest food, they reproduce, they have eyes and ears and whole systems of complex, interrelated parts.  Under the most favorable light, the Darwinists might be able to claim that existing small beaks became more predominant when the food was gone.  OK, even creationists buy that.  Now tell us about the rest of the bird, please.
    This nonsense continues because the gurus of the Cult of Darwin have safely ensconced themselves in the castle of academia, renamed it Daphe, and have barred entry to all who will not swear the oath of allegiance to King Charles the Usurper.  But now we have the internet.  It’s going to take an army of persistent Visigoths to storm the walls (cartoon and 05/09/2006 entry) and restore truth and justice.  From outside the castle, the evidence is accumulating for Darwin’s flinches.  We’ll Grant them that.  Once inside, we shall see if a little competition forces their beaks to shrink.
Next headline on:  Darwinian EvolutionBirdsDumb Ideas
Cambrian Mollusk: Does It Help Animal Evolution Story?    07/13/2006  
A soft-bodied mollusk named Odontogriphus known from the Burgess Shale, placed in the Middle Cambrian, has been described in more detail in Nature.1  If the Middle Cambrian is well after the Cambrian explosion, how can the authors claim this pushes the story of animal evolution far back into the Precambrian, before the explosion?  A reporter for the Globe and Mail learned this from David Rudkin, one of the four co-authors of the paper:
This discovery pushes back the history of animal evolution tens of millions of years to 560 million years ago in Precambrian time (543 million years ago and earlier), according to the Royal Ontario Museum’s David Rudkin, co-author of the article published in today’s issue of the journal Nature.
This interpretation is based on perceived similarities with Kimberella, an unusual flattened, frond-like fossil categorized as Ediacaran (see 08/19/2004), dated at 555 million years ago in the late Precambrian.  Yet a look at the original paper shows that the association is tenuous: “Odontogriphus and perhaps the Ediacaran form Kimberella possess distinctive characters that place them in the molluscs before the acquisition of a calcified dorsum,” it says.  It qualifies the association with prefaces like, “If the interpretation of Kimberella as an early mollusc-like organism with radula is correct,” and portrays affinities with other early and mid-Cambrian mollusk fossils as “ambiguous” and “highly contentious.”
    A look at their timeline chart demonstrates the point.  There are more dashed lines and question marks than solid lines.  All the indisputable mollusk fossils are found in the early or mid Cambrian, side by side.  The evolutionary relationships are inferred by dashed lines extending into the Precambrian, with no fossils except for the puzzling Kimberella, which may have nothing to do with mollusks.
    Moreover, the Globe and Mail article admits that very few fossils exist from the Precambrian, and that the Cambrian “marked the sudden appearance of complex multicellular macroscopic organisms” (see 04/23/2006).  It also states that “In the Precambrian era, before the so-called explosion, organisms were thought to be much simpler, but this study shows that was not the case.”  The paper describes these organisms as possessing a nervous system, a digestive system, reproductive system, excretory system, salivary glands and neat rows of teeth (radula).  Nor is Odontogriphus the new kid on the block.  The authors describe it as a holdover from “a handful of Cambrian fossils that probably represent surviving Neoproterozoic lineages” that survived whatever made the Ediacaran biota go extinct.
    Such statements would seem to pose severe challenges to evolutionary theory, yet the news report speaks glowingly of how this fossil is helping evolutionists rather than hurting their case.  “This is a crucial interval in evolutionary history because it seems to represent a time in which a great deal happened,” Rudkin is quoted as saying.  He added that the specimen is “opening up new windows on evolution for us.”  The article ends with a call for us to learn the lessons of evolution:
Mr. Rudkin said the fact that many mollusks have survived such a catastrophic extinction could shed light on the evolutionary path many animals may take.
    “Those lessons we learn from the past — about where groups of organisms originated, when they become extinct, how they became extinct, or if they didn’t become extinct entirely, how they recovered from extinction — we use that kind of historical background to help us predict what might happen in modern extinction circumstances.  Maybe there’s a lesson in there for us.

1Caron et al., “A soft-bodied mollusc with radula from the Middle Cambrian Burgess Shale,” Nature 442, 159-163(13 July 2006) | doi:10.1038/nature04894; Received 15 February 2006; Accepted 8 May 2006.
The lesson is not to tell myths and call it science.  This paper registered multiple hits on our Baloney Detector.  Enough baloney, and you have a virtual big lie.
    These extinct mollusks with all their complex parts have nothing to do with evolution.  If this is a window on evolution, it’s a new view of the wreckage.  How scientists can take evidence that falsifies their view and turn it into praise service for Charlie is another example of the shameful shenanigans of the shameless Darwin Party these days.  Their shifty shell game is a sham and should be shot down by those who respect real science sans spin.
Next headline on:  FossilsMarine LifeEvolution
How Atheistic Is Darwinism?   07/12/2006    
Many evolutionary biologists argue that the theory of evolution is religiously neutral.  Why then, does Nature, arguably the most widely read pro-evolution journal in the world, seem to go out of its way to glorify atheism and present religion as an evolutionary artifact?  Clearly, whatever evolved as an adaptation by an unguided process cannot have any claim to Truth or correspondence to reality.  Faith is contrasted with science, the closest thing man can ever come to knowledge of what is really out there.  It goes without saying that this assumption leads to a completely atheistic view of the universe.  Consider the latest issue:
  • Rapprochement or human sacrifice?  In an Editorial in the July 12 issue,1 Nature praised theistic evolutionist Francis Collins of the Human Genome Project for “reaching out, from an exalted position in the world of science, to the realm of faith” in his new book, The Language of God (Free Press, 2006).  While calling his overture a “laudable ambition,” the editors also expressed anti-religious sentiments when criticizing the moral positions of religious leaders who oppose presumably scientific positions about stem cells and condom use:
    They also irritate or enrage those (probably comparable in number) who are agnostics and atheists.  After all, to many people, including scientists, the world simply makes more sense without the existence of God, and religious interventions are either offensive or irrelevant.
        In response, some scientists are tempted either to publicly dismiss religious belief, or else to argue stridently against it.  The latter approach is valuable in that it exposes religious dogmas to rational consideration and leads to their abandonment where they conflict with reality.  But it is damaging if it fails to acknowledge the inability of science to deal with many of the issues that people face in their everyday lives.
    No such qualification was provided against naturalistic or atheistic theories when they conflict with reality.  It seems clear where the editors’ religious inclinations lie.
        The editorial also pointed out Collins’ book was “unsparing in its criticism of both creationism and intelligent design,” but then was not impressed by his case for a Creator of any kind: “Even so, his reasons for believing in God and for becoming a devout Christian are unlikely to sway anyone who doesn’t already believe.
  • Tactics vs. Truth:  Erika Check reported on Collins’ book in the same issue.2  Her opening lines were not particularly friendly to religion:
    Is it really possible to combine dedication to science with belief in God?  In a new book, prominent US scientist Francis Collins sets out his case for combining a strong religious faith with a zeal for the scientific method.  But his views have already sparked debate, with critics suggesting that more talk of religion is the last thing that science needs.
    After summarizing his position on theistic evolution, Check was quick to provide the counterthrust:
    Many scientists disagree strongly with such arguments.  Some suggest that science is on the defensive today – not just in the United States – and that society needs exactly the opposite of what Collins suggests: less talk about faith and more about reason.  Religious concerns are largely behind the US law restricting federal funding of stem-cell research, for example.  And many feel threatened by the influence of intelligent design in science education.
    How many, and why, is not stated.  As is common in atheist rhetoric, “faith” is contrasted with “science,” as if no religion cares about observable, historical evidence, and as if no scientists in their theories about the unobservable past ever employ faith.
        Erika Check continues by quoting P. Z. Myers (see 7/09/2006), who calls Collins’ position “nonsense.”  Staunchly anti-religious evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins gets the stage next.  He is allowed to state without rebuttal, “I cannot see how this could be good for science – supernaturalism is fundamentally anti-scientific.  Scientists work hard at trying to understand.  Supernaturalism is an evasion of this responsibility.  It’s a shrug of the shoulders.”  While acknowledging that there might be good “tactical reasons” for trying to “get on” with religious people (particularly in the United States), Dawkins claims that “That is a perfectly reasonable political stance, but it has nothing to do with truth.”
        Eugenie Scott’s ending comments seem tame by comparison.  The staunch advocate of evolution-only in public schools thinks Collins’s approach is “helpful” to make a case for the compatibility of science and faith.  Not that religion might have any validity does she say this, but merely to point out that the Dawkinses and Dennetts don’t speak for a “fairly sizeable proportion of non-theists who are not out to destroy religion.”
  • Brain Dead Faith:  In a book review in the same issue,3 Crispin Tickell spoke glowingly of a new book with this theme: “Religious belief can be viewed as an adaptation that was favoured as the human brain evolved.”  The book is Lewis Wolpert’s Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast: The Evolutionary Origins of Belief (Faber and Faber, 2006).  In the book Wolpert argues that at some point in primate history, a “God gene” became an essential part of the human condition, “Whether its products are true or not”.  A bone is tossed to Richard Dawkins’ meme theory of religion.  Criticizing those who make medical and life decisions on “faith” Crispin praises Wolpert for standing up for “science.”  His paean to science sounds like a throwback to the days of logical positivism:
    Wolpert firmly goes for science.  Although science can be counterintuitive (he refers to “the unnatural nature of science”), it provides the only fundamental explanation of how the world works.  It is in constant evolution as knowledge accumulates, it is self-correcting, and it is universally valid without cultural bias.  It is much more than the kind of relative social construct suggested by some sociologists, and if we need a basis for belief, it is the best available.  As Wolpert concludes, we have to respect the beliefs of others, but it is their – and our – actions that ultimately matter.
“Faith” (i.e., as Nature portrays it, the sum of all non-atheistic positions on anything) of course, gets no such respect (see either-or fallacy).
    See also the op-ed piece by Albert Mohler on Daniel Dennett’s latest pro-Darwinist, anti-religion book Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon.  Mohler arguest that the “strident and condescending atheism of Dennett and Dawkins is actually the logical conclusion of the Darwinian project.”
1Editorial, “Building bridges,” Nature 442, 110(13 July 2006) | doi:10.1038/442110a; Published online 12 July 2006.
2Erika Check, “Genomics luminary weighs in on US faith debate,” Nature 442, 114-115(13 July 2006) | doi:10.1038/442114b; Published online 12 July 2006.
3Crispin Tickell, “God is bred,” Nature 442, 137(13 July 2006) | doi:10.1038/442137a; Published online 12 July 2006.
So here in one issue of the leading pro-evolution science journal in the world, you get three polemics for pure, unadulterated atheism, without any rebuttal or counterarguments.  The only experts quoted are all atheists.  Francis Collins is held up only for dismissal.  Though he embraces complete evolutionary universal common ancestry, his insertion of the finger of God at the beginning immediately rules him out as having an intellectually valid position.  Theistic evolution might be tactically astute for calming down the rabble of lunatics out there who don’t understand the Truth of Science, but don’t think for a moment of taking it seriously.  That’s the message.
    However unfair and despicable their unbalanced reporting might be, it is kind of sad.  This is 2006 and they still are embracing logical positivism.  This is the Information Age, and they still think it’s the Age of Reason.  Don’t they realize that reason went out the door with Darwin?  And that Darwin went out the door with the discovery of information as the fundamental basis of life?  The Darwiniacs are exhibiting themselves as intellectual atavisms to a more primitive past when people who didn’t know better held the now-discredited faith position called the myth of progress.  Carrying on as if nothing happened since 1859, the Tribe of the Clueless, oblivious to the merciful pleas of the missionaries trying to rescue them from intellectual darkness, still cling to their Victorian animism with chest-pounding and threatening grunts.  An armed mind fears not the wroth of the People of Froth (10/24/2005 and 09/26/2005 commentaries),
    Student Exercise:  Judge which of two debaters is more likely correct on grounds of reason alone.  Debater A claims that the religion of B evolved by unguided processes of natural selection.  In support of his claim, he argues that religion is an emergent property of matter in motion.  Debater B contends that the atheism of A is a corruption of the internal knowledge of God implanted in him by his Creator.  In support of his contention, he argues that nothing comes from nothing, so the capacity for mind must come from Mind or else reason is an impossibility.  Is A right, or is B right, or is neither position defensible on the basis of observation and reason alone?  Write a short essay and support your position.  As a footnote, decide if Nature was justified in its promulgation of position A to the complete exclusion of the case for B.
Next headline on:  DarwinismIntelligent DesignPolitics and Ethics
Saturn E-Ring Oxygen Bubble Blown by Enceladus    07/11/2006  
From a distance, the little moon Enceladus at Saturn looks for all the world like a leaking water balloon.  The Cassini Mission just released a new photo of Enceladus that fits that description well.  The plumes are faintly visible emanating from the south pole of the 300-mile-across moon as it orbits beyond the rings.  A second photo was released July 7; both were taken about 2.4 million miles away from Enceladus, and a third on July 19 with Rhea in the background.
    Two years ago, Cassini scientists were puzzled by a surge of oxygen detected in the E-ring as the spacecraft closed in on the planet (see 07/02/2004).  At first they thought some moonlets had collided in the extended, ephemeral ring of micron-sized particles.  It now turns out, according to another Cassini press release June 29, that Enceladus fits the bill as the source.  “We were able to measure the shape of the cloud, estimate the amount of water it contained and the rate it would be destroyed and produce oxygen,” said Larry Esposito, leader of the ultraviolet instrument team.  The little moon puts out a million tons of water.
The mystery of the atomic oxygen was solved.  At the same time, its source, the diminutive Enceladus revealed itself to be completely different than the cold, dead icy moon it should have been.  Small as it is, it has an internal heat source and is geologically active.  Its geysers throw out enough water vapor and ice to maintain the moon’s atmosphere, feed the vast E ring, and decompose into clouds of oxygen like the one first spotted by Cassini on its way to Saturn.
A third Cassini press release from July 5 said that the E-ring has structure.  There’s an arc of bright material racing around the ring (movie), and two distinct bands of material (see Space Science Institute press release).  Scientists are not sure what is causing these orbital dynamics, but hope to get a closer look at Enceladus on March 12, 2008 when the spacecraft flies within 100 miles of its surface.  There are five distant flybys (25,000 to 70,000 miles) before then.
    Cassini was launched on October 15, 1997 and arrived at Saturn seven years later, on July 1, 2004.  Enceladus is sure to be a target of the extended mission that begins July 2008 for three more years, through 2011 – perhaps even longer if all systems continue to function.
Enceladus is one of the biggest surprises of the entire highly successful, surprise-laden Cassini mission.  Scientists expected Enceladus would be a highlight, and it sure has fulfilled that prophecy.  What is heating up this little moon?  They have no answer at this time.  The usual suspects (radioactive heating, tidal flexing) fall short by a factor of 10.
    More observations will be needed to constrain the variability of the jets.  If the early 2004 output was an unusually large outburst, how often do similar bursts occur?  Pictures at each encounter suggest a continual ejection of a substantial mass of material.  Could Enceladus really have been spouting this much ice for billions of years?  How could a small moon, smaller than other Saturnian moons with no signs of activity, have maintained an internal heat source since its origin up to 2006?  Planetary scientists are attempting to come up with explanations after the fact, but finding a small moon jetting water out of one pole was surely not what their theories – or imaginations – predicted.
Next headline on:  Solar SystemDating MethodsAmazing Facts
Why Your Knuckles Pop    07/10/2006  
Science reporter Corey Binns occasionally decorates LiveScience with articles about the human body that are informational as well as amusing.  His latest is about cracking knuckles and creaking joints.  We have four kinds of joints (pivot, ball-and-socket, sliding and hinge), which he illustrates with diagrams that look like machinery.  The pops and creaking noises, he says, come from gas bubbles escaping from fluid that lubricates and cushions the moving parts.  But then, that’s a pretty amazing thing.  “A protective fluid cushions most of the joints in our bodies,” he says.  “Inside a capsule that safeguards bones connected at a joint, synovial fluid keeps the cartilage, tissues, and muscles lubricated and well nourished.  Nutrients float inside the fluid, along with gases, such as oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide.”  Stretching those joints forces gas bubbles out – that makes the snap, crackle and pop we hear.  “Before your knuckle can crack again, the fluid must reabsorb the gas.”  Other noises can arise from tendons and ligaments snapping back into place, like rubber bands, when we stretch or get up from a sitting position.
    Binns leaves it as a debate whether cracking knuckles is harmful.  But if you are doing it too often as a habit related to stress, well, that’s another issue.  But creaking or not, joints perform a wide variety of functions.  Binns lists several: “A baseball pitcher uses the tremendous range of motion of the ball-and-socket joint in his shoulder to throw fastballs,” he says.  “And sliding joints in the backbone make gymnasts’ backs so flexible.”  Even shaking your head yes or no demands fluid-lubricated cushioning in the joints.
Every kid finds out that our bodies do funny things.  Parents usually get a load of physiological questions: Why do we yawn?  What makes our ears pop when we drive down from the mountains?  Why do our legs fall asleep?  Why do they call it a funny bone when it hurts?  Why does my stomach growl?  What causes goose bumps?  How come milk comes out my nose when Susie makes me laugh at breakfast?  These are teachable moments.  As simple a thing as cracking a knuckle points to an underlying marvel of design.  Something has to manufacture a special lubricating fluid, filled with nutrients, to keep our joints supple and responsive.  Without it, imagine the pain and wear that would quickly beset us.  Our joints, our hearts, our senses, our brains – our bodies usually outlast every artificial technology.  It’s only when things go wrong that we appreciate how many things must work together within tight constraints just to get through an ordinary Monday.
    The fact that we are curious about our bodies is a curiosity in itself.  Our self-consciousness points to a reality that is more than physical.  We sense ourselves inhabiting our bodies, as if our selves are mere tenants.  We are surprised by the passage of time.  C. S. Lewis pointed out how strange this sensation is.  We live in time; why should we be surprised by its flow, any more than a fish should be surprised by the wetness of water?  These realizations are signposts to a reality beyond the temporal, for which the soul within us yearns.  They cannot be explained by materialism.
    The Bible speaks of our bodies as temporary dwellings.  Peter wrote of his body as a tent (II Peter 1:13; Paul also in II Corinthians 5:1-7); Paul spoke of possessing treasure (the knowledge of the glory of God through Christ) in jars of clay (II Corinthians 4:7).  Viewing our bodies, with all their infirmities, as temporary dwellings can give hope to those who love God and His salvation in Christ.  Pity the evolutionist who must view this life as the only shot in a senseless lottery.  Paul continued (II Cor. 5:17), “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”  To be “in Christ” is to already have the Spirit of God as a guarantee, he said; the only thing left to claim is our new glorified bodies, after these old knuckles loosen their grip on this world, to crack no more.
Next headline on:  Human BodyAmazing Facts
Science Attacked by Mother Nature of the Spiritual Left    07/10/2006  
“Think only the religious right is anti-science?  How about the spiritual left?” asks Lee M. Silver in The Scientist.  His article details the holistic thinking invading much of popular culture and university student minds, that pictures nature as a benevolent super-organism (with usually feminine characteristics).
    The article is an excerpt from his book CHALLENGING NATURE: The Clash of Science and Spirituality at the New Frontiers of Life (Harper Collins, 2006).  Silver (molecular biologist, Princeton) points out cases where “Mother Nature” can be downright nasty.  He finds it surprising that “even in America, where traditional Christianity is still a powerful force, highly educated young people are attracted to the post-Christian worldview of a unified ‘Mother Nature’ that is more than a metaphor.”
    One reviewer of the book said, “The threat to science from what Silver calls the spiritual left may already have overtaken the threat from the religious right.  Now it’s time to apply our collective energy to counter the rise in mysticism and fall of skeptical inquiry.”
Metaphors can be misleading (07/04/2003), but so can excesses of rationalism and skepticism.  Silvers is described as a rationalist.  The term requires clarification; is he a rationalist like Descartes, as opposed to an empiricist like Locke?  To what extent does he trust reasoning out of his own mind, and to what extent his sense experience?  The history of science, and its underlying philosophy of knowledge, is replete with rich debates about how much we know and can know.  Many of these same debates are with us today.
    It would be very simplistic for Silver to Hi-Ho about the rationalist’s ability to describe the world in ways that are value-free or neutral, or to know anything in science that is universal and certain.  Silver cannot avoid engaging in his own metaphors to attack those of his target; he calls Mother Nature “nasty” and pictures organic life as a laissez-faire democracy.  It wouldn’t take too deep an analysis to reveal that, while Silver criticizes both left and right (a metaphor), there are some deep questions he needs to ask himself.  Assume, for instance, he is a materialist.  If his brain is composed solely of atoms, how can he know his brain is composed of atoms?
    Nevertheless, it’s good to hear a scientist point out the fallacies in leftist mysticism instead of making the “Religious Right” the perennial bogeyman.  (Note: there’s another metaphor right there.)  OK, now can we talk scientific evidence?*
Next headline on:  Politics and Ethics
*But then, define evidence.  Can we trust our senses?  How do we know our sense experience relates to what’s really out there?  How can you be sure your experience is like mine?  To what extent have our perceptions been colored by the idols of the tribe, the idols of the cave, the idols of the theater and the idols of the marketplace? (Bacon).  Are we really perceiving the world as it is, or just seeing shadows projected on the cave wall? (Plato).  Can we trust our instruments?  To what extent must data be interpreted, and how much does our interpretation depend on our assumptions?  Are models accurate simulations of reality, or do they omit something fundamental, and how would we know without being omniscient?  Just because a theory works, does that make it true?  Is it possible to describe the world without images, and are these mental pictures merely metaphors?  How far should skepticism go before it becomes skeptical of everything, even its own skepticism?  Have a nice day.
Rocket Pioneer Remembered as Man of Faith    07/10/2006  
Wernher von Braun (1912-1977) deserves a good reputation, said Anthony Young in an article for The Space Review.  He was loved and admired by the people who worked with him but vilified by others because of his involvement with the German V2 rocket.  Young desired to set the record straight about his integrity.  To round out his defense of von Braun, he ended with a recounting of the sincere religious faith of the man who launched our astronauts to the moon.
    Young, currently working on a book on lunar and Martian rovers, said that “Von Braun, a life-long Lutheran, was a believer in intelligent design in the Universe long before it became a catch phrase and a lightning rod of debate.”  One detail that may not be well known: Von Braun’s gravestone is inscribed with his favorite Bible verse, Psalm 19:1 – “The heavens are telling the glory of God and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.”
See also the chapter on Von Braun in our online book, The World’s Greatest Creation Scientists, including a page of Von Braun in his own words.
Next headline on:  Politics, Ethics and HistoryIntelligent DesignBible and Theology
Darwinists Foment Civil Disobedience Against Questioning Darwinism   07/08/2006    
The new science standards in Kansas require students to learn more about evolution, including evidence for and against it (see Discovery Institute press release).  The standards specifically exclude the teaching of intelligent design theory.  To some activist groups, however, this requirement is so intolerable, they want teachers to disobey it.  According to Evolution News, there is a campaign of misinformation about the standards, especially from “Kansas Citizens for Science,” including calls for teachers to disregard them.
    In response, the Discovery Institute has launched a new website, Stand Up for Science, trying to correct the misrepresentations with fact sheets and resources.  It includes a petition for citizens to join forces in supporting the new standards.
    According to Discovery Institute, Kansas joins four other states (Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Mexico and Minnesota) and numerous local school boards requiring critical analysis of evolution.
What will the ACLU do now?  They don’t have a legal leg to stand on, since (unlike the Dover case) there is no requirement to teach any alternatives to Darwinism.  This puts the Darwin Party in the untenable position of having to argue that a biological theory should be taught dogmatically.  Science is supposed to be the opposite of dogmatism.
    Anyone who thinks evolution is not controversial among parents, students and teachers (06/29/2006) and among scientists themselves (06/14/2006, 06/09/2006) hasn’t been paying attention.  When the evolution-as-fact-only crowd’s only course of action is to lie and disobey, it tells you they have no legal grounds for opposing the standards, and – most of all – no evidential case for arguing that evolution is so obvious and factual that it is beyond scrutiny and therefore must be taught as dogma.  See the quote at the top right of this page.
Next headline on:  EducationDarwinian EvolutionIntelligent DesignPolitics and Ethics
Evolving Consciousness Without a Soul    07/07/2006  
A paper tackling the theory of consciousness begins,
Any scientific study of consciousness is based on the premise that phenomenal experience is entailed by neuronal activity in the brain.  Given this premise, an adequate theory of consciousness must be consistent with physics and with evolutionary principles.  Nonphysical or dualistic forces or processes must be excluded, and neural mechanisms of consciousness must emerge ontogenetically and provide adaptive advantage to a species via the ongoing exchange of signals among brains, bodies, and environments.  Ideally, a theory of consciousness should propose neural mechanisms that account for its various features, which range from the multimodal characteristics of conscious scenes to the emergence of a first-person perspective.  An adequate theory should also consider whether certain of these features are susceptible to a quantitative analysis.
Unfortunately, Seth et al., writing in PNAS,1 admitted that a fully quantitative theory seems elusive, and “a satisfactory theory is likely to be one that combines both qualitative and quantitative elements.”  They surveyed various approaches to understanding consciousness as an emergent property of physical neurons, but admitted in the end, the complexity of the mind-body problem is intractable to simple approaches:
The various dimensions of relevant complexity discussed here require different strategies for their quantitative characterization.  Although we have considered several presently available candidate measures of the balance between differentiation and integration in the spatial domain, measures appropriate for the analysis of neural systems in the temporal and recursive domain remain to be adequately specified.
They add, “Given that consciousness is a rich biological phenomenon, a satisfactory neural theory of consciousness must avoid reductionistic excess.”  Any theory that relies on one measure is likely to be excessively reductionistic, they explain.  “Even so, some aspects of consciousness are likely to resist quantification altogether.”  That’s why an evolutionary, naturalistic theory of consciousness is likely to be “one that consists of a combination of qualitative and quantitative elements.”
1Seth et al., “Theories and measures of consciousness: An extended framework,“ Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.0604347103, published online before print July 3, 2006.
Is it any wonder that when science restricts itself to physical causes, it comes up with physical explanations?  It is any wonder that such explanations are often reductionist and unsatisfactory?  (Notice that these scientists are not against reductionism per se – just excessive reductionism.)  C. S. Lewis argued that modernism is not an inductive enterprise, but deduction from a prior commitment to the position that matter is all there is.  Here, in the opening sentences of this paper published by the National Academy of Sciences, they have just shown themselves guilty as charged.
    Consciousness is one of the greatest enigmas of all to an evolutionist.  What is this seemingly immaterial phenomenon that gives us our sense of self, duty, purpose, longing and choice?  Why does our consciousness so often look beyond itself and mere survival, and ask questions about ultimate meaning?  Why can it deny itself and defy survival for altruistic purposes?  Why does it create art and music, and sense a source to whom it is responsible?  The problem of consciousness has baffled theologians, philosophers and the man in the street since Adam (ever notice the “Wherever you go, there you are” sensation?)  The mind-body problem is one of the biggest of all philosophical problems.  The body clearly influences the mind, and vice versa, but what is the nature of the connection?  Just what is this thing we call consciousness?  Descartes was sure it was nonphysical (I think, therefore “I” am), but the atomists and some Enlightenment elitists wanted to include it in the physicalist box along with everything else.  Unquestionably, theologians have always considered human consciousness as something “other” than physical stuff, whether calling it soul or spirit.  (This is different than the life principle animating animals, since they [as far as we know] do not manifest the human qualities of self, rationality, choice, religion and true altruism.)  Today’s evolutionary biologists say to all the great thinkers of history, “Step aside, we can tackle this one,” assuming that MRIs and better instrumentation and math will improve their chances of success.  Their record shows otherwise.
    So-called scientific psychology is a mishmash of conflicting opinions and paradigm upsets.  In the late 19th century, consciousness was “in.”  During the behaviorist fad, it was “out.”  Now it’s “in” again, but in a reductionist, evolutionary sense.  Freud invented the idea that consciousness was mere foam on a sea of Unconsciousness that actually controlled our behavior, but now Freudianism is out.  (One could ask, was his theory generated by his Unconscious?)  No matter the fad, no matter the presuppositions, no matter the bravado the naturalists display, consciousness continues to defy reification.  The very idea of a conscious mind trying to understand itself as collection of matter in motion seems inherently self-contradictory.  Yet the evolutionist must live with this contradiction and try to make the best of it.  It’s no surprise, therefore, that these authors ended up procrastinating their scientific theory of consciousness into the never-never land of The Future and admitted that it will probably never be quantifiable.
    The theory of consciousness sought in this paper is part and parcel of the evolutionary world view.  But what if evolution is wrong?  Why should one accept their stated presuppositions?  The fact that they have no answer argues against accepting their premise.  Think about it.  See?  You just illustrated our point.
    One cannot get from observation of the physical world to consciousness without the key, and the key is inferring a Mind that can create minds.  Out of nothing, nothing comes.  When you throw away the key, even if you’re having fun wandering around, you’re lost.
Next headline on:  Human BodyEvolutionTheology
Nature Gives Top Blog Honors to Radical Atheists    07/06/2006  
P. Z. Myers (U of Minnesota) has been one of the most foul-mouthed critics of creation, intelligent design and religion in general.  He has said that Abraham was worse than Hitler (see Evolution News).  He has ridiculed the crucifixion of Christ (see Evolution News).  His opinion on how to treat anti-evolutionists: “I say, screw the polite words and careful rhetoric.  It’s time for scientists to break out the steel-toed boots and brass knuckles, and get out there and hammer on the lunatics and idiots” (see Evolution News).  Yet this man’s blog, Pharyngula, was given top honors by Nature in its list of the Top 5 Science blogs on the Internet.  Second with the silver medal was Panda’s Thumb, another strongly anti-ID blog to which Myers also contributes.  Once he responded on Panda’s Thumb about the stridency of his remarks: “Please don’t try to tell me that you object to the tone of our complaints,” he retorted.  “Our only problem is that we aren’t martial enough, or vigorous enough, or loud enough, or angry enough.  The only appropriate responses should involve some form of righteous fury, much butt-kicking, and the public firing and humiliation of some teachers, many schoolboard members, and vast numbers of sleazy far-right politicians.”
Now you know where Nature’s heart is.  It has not changed much since it originated as Darwin’s mouthpiece in 1867 (see 03/04/2004 commentary), except that before the Darwin Party gained absolute power, they had to talk nicer and pretend to be interested in truth.  This does not disparage the many working scientists who submit their papers faithfully for publication to as wide an audience as possible when they have done good lab work in their specialty, but it shows you the mindset of the editorial board.  If they endorse this kind of attitude as the way to carry on scientific discussions of controversial issues, do they have a case?
Next headline on:  Evolution
Genetic Code Began by Lamarckian Evolution    07/05/2006  
It takes guts to tackle the origin of the genetic code from a naturalist perspective.  It also takes guts to resurrect Lamarck in the age of Darwin.  Carl Woese and colleagues tried a new hypothesis in PNAS1 that boldly goes headlong into both challenges.  To preserve a natural explanation for the genetic code, they felt it necessary to abandon Darwinian “survival of the fittest” for a stage, in favor of an admittedly Lamarckian process.  “Evolution of the genetic code, translation, and cellular organization itself,” they confessed in their last sentence, “follows a dynamic whose mode is, if anything, Lamarckian.”  In this paper, they picture a more cooperative living soup of theoretical semi-genetic entities.  With apologies to Darwin, they introduce the prebiological commune:
If Darwin had been a microbiologist, he surely would not have pictured a “struggle” for existence as “red in tooth and claw.”  Our view of competition in a communal world as a dynamical process is very different from the widely understood notion of Darwinian evolution.  “Survival of the fittest” literally implies that there can only be one winner from the forces of selection [sic], whereas in a communal world, the entire distributed community benefits and its structure becomes modified by the forces of a selection that is an inherently biocomplex phenomenon involving the dynamics between the community elements and the interaction with the environment.  The most general sense in which we mean competition in this article is the complex dynamical rearrangement of the community structure.
Their hypothesis is dominated by Horizontal Gene Transfer (HGT).  In their imaginary scenario, early organisms were more tolerant of ambiguity.  They had similar but variable genetic codes instead of the universal code we see today.  Blocks of code were freely shared between organisms, with mutation and variation exploring the functional landscape.  Transcription and translation processes were less precise.  At some undefined moment, this horizontal process of sharing became fixed, and vertical evolution of the Darwinian kind took over:
With this work, we have revisited the largely overlooked problem of genetic code universality and the conceptual difficulties associated with it.  These difficulties can all be avoided if one takes, as we do, the stance that evolution was essentially communal from the very beginning.  We have argued that there are three distinct stages of evolution, which we might classify as (i) weak communal evolution, which gave way via development of an innovation-sharing protocol and the emergence of a universal genetic code to (ii) strong communal evolution, which developed exponential complexity of genes, finally leading via the Darwinian transition to (iii) individual evolution—vertical, and so, Darwinian.
They provided a computer software model that demonstrated these stages:
Most of our analysis explored the transition between regimes i and ii, through detailed consideration of the way in which a generalized form of HGT operating on long evolutionary time scales brings universality via dynamic competition between a wide variety of collective innovation-sharing protocols.  In particular, we argued how such protocols emerge through the important coevolutionary mechanism of code attraction and presented a specific model that is capable of explaining the simultaneous universality and optimality of the genetic code.
Since “the genetic code is an expression of the translation process,” more work will be required to understand the origin and dynamics of the translation mechanism; that is, the “evolutionary development of translation and the organization of the cell” and its hardware components, the transfer RNAs and aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase family (see 06/09/2003).
1Vetsigian, Woese and Goldenfeld, “Collective evolution and the genetic code,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.0603780103, published online before print July 3, 2006.
Time fails to pick apart this paper, but is it even worth it?  Their hypothesis fails on the meagerest application of common sense.  It’s a story riddled with personification, wishful thinking and naturalistic miracles.  The scenario only makes sense to people so blinded by evolutionary naturalism that they cannot imagine seeing outside the cave of their own making.
    If you are impressed with computer models, then you don’t know the magic tricks of programmers who can sneak intelligently-designed information in the side door while you are distracted.  Do these models have anything to do with the real history of the world?  How could they ever know?  Anything is possible with the magic wand of “long evolutionary time scales.”   What if the time scales are not evolutionary, but entropic?  The apparatus for evolutionary magic is always hidden in the black boxes of millions of years where nobody can watch.  Abracadabra!  You see that “collective information-sharing protocols emerge” through “code attraction.”  Why, they even have a computer to demonstrate it.  Dime-store magic tricks are more credible than this.  These guys just stole ID words (information, sharing, protocol) to make translation machinery “emerge” from a black, purposeless hat.  Presto, change-o.  Demand your money back.
    Ann Coulter in her new book Godless retells the joke about three hungry scientists on a desert island with a can of food, wondering how to open it.  The physicist suggests dropping it from a height.  The chemist suggests heating it till it pops open.  The economist says, “Assume a can opener.”  Woese, the king of Archaea with his underlings, has assumed not only a can opener but a whole kitchen in his imaginary world where evolutionary dreams come true (because – you see, we’re here – so that proves they did come true, doesn’t it, now?).  In his fantasyland, primitive organisms already possess rudimentary genetic codes and translation machinery, which he has assumed came from an RNA world preceding it (see 07/11/2002 for all the problems in that tale).  Unlike Darwin’s nasty beasts red in tooth and claw, his organisms start out like friendly smurfs in kindergarten, eager to play and share and learn new things.  They all freely exchange genetic subroutines that once in awhile prove “beneficial” (whatever that means).  The translations can be clumsy and incomplete, and the machinery might only partly work, but accuracy is not a concern in this land where mistakes always eventually lead to higher good.
    Out of this hodgepodge of chaos, Woese imagines not a junkyard as a result, but the emergence of the most elegant and efficient system of transcription and translation known to the mind of man.  At a magical moment, a consensus code emerges, becomes frozen and universal.  Soon it includes elaborate redundancy, backup and proofreading routines.  Here, Woese hands off to Charlie, who takes over to convert the Lamarckian horizontal evolution into Darwinian vertical evolution.  With this new genetic code and an unguided hand, he proceeds to craft giraffes and blue whales and fruit flies and philosophers.
    This is about as good as good grief.  A child could see through this scenario.  Since imagination rules in the evolutionary science journals these days, let’s play the game, too:
Imagine of world of simple robots without souls, bumping into each other occasionally.  (Where the robots came from is our “assume a can opener” part of the story.)  One robot speaks broken Chinese, one speaks broken English, one speaks broken Spanish, and another speaks broken Eskimo.  They have a few words in common, like McDonalds, Google, soccer and barf.  They mumble nonsense phrases in their own languages without understanding what they mean, but once in awhile they can pick up new words from one another.  They can’t reproduce.  They have no desire to improve (because, remember, they have no souls).  Nobody cares about what they do; nobody is there cheering them on.  The second law of thermodynamics is in operation.  No intelligent designers are around.  Once in awhile a big meteor hits the planet.
Come back in a few hundred million years.  Will you expect to find democratic governments, concerts, and departments of evolutionary robotics at universities?  If so, what planet are you from?*
Next headline on:  GeneticsOrigin of LifeEvolution

*Probably one with robots who say over and over, If you don’t believe this tale, you are a wacko fundamentalist nut who doesn’t understand science.
Rip Van Winkle Revives    07/03/2006  
A man in a coma 19 years has regained some brain function, surprising scientists.  Terry Wallis is relearning how to count and speak, and thinks Ronald Reagan is still president.  The story of his remarkable recovery has been reported widely in the news (see Fox News) and was featured on both News@Nature and Science Now.  What was surprising was that “his brain slowly regrew the nerve connections that were devastated as a result of his accident,” said Michael Hopkin for News@Nature, forcing neurologists to reconsider the dogma that hopes for recovery decrease over time.
    Although scientists caution against raising hopes for other patients, the case of Terry Wallis shows that the idea that there are hopeless cases may need to be reconsidered.  Most of the reports claimed that patients in a persistent vegetative state (PVS), such as that alleged in the highly-publicized case of Terry Schiavo, are in a different category than that of Wallis.  News@Nature ended, however, with a surprise finding even for PVS patients:
Neurologists are reluctant to declare that PVS, the condition at the centre of the controversial debate over US sufferer Terri Schiavo, can ever be truly permanent.  Earlier this year, researchers made the bizarre discovery that some PVS patients could be roused with a simple sleeping pill (see ‘Sleeping pills offer wake-up call to vegetative patients’).
A report on World Net Daily says that Terry Wallis is able to tell jokes and, according to his father, “seems almost exactly like his old self.”
The brain’s capacity to repair itself may be more remarkable than realized.  The ScienceNow article stated, “the brain regions that survived Wallis’s accident forged new connections, perhaps in an attempt to re-establish contact with regions that were damaged.”  It’s remarkable how much of his memory remained intact during nearly two decades out of touch with reality.  This should give medical care professionals and family members pause when tempted to think a comatose patient is beyond hope.  It also raises questions why a brain would try to repair itself, if reproductive success is the be-all and end-all of natural selection.
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(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 system 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 July

James Prescott Joule
1818 - 1889

If any principle in science deserves to be called a “law,” what would it be?  Undoubtedly, the law of conservation of matter and energy: neither of these fundamental entities can be created or destroyed.  Also known as the first law of thermodynamics, this law has no known exceptions anywhere in the universe.

Whoever discovered this law must have been a scientist of the highest rank, a PhD, director of a reputable university research department, respected the world over, and interred in Westminster Abbey, right?  Actually, he was none of the above.  For him, science was just a hobby.  He had trouble getting his ideas published.  Professional scientists looked down on him, and were it not for the help of a friend, his work might have been lost in obscurity.

Yet his experimental procedures and measurements were of the highest caliber, and the principles he deduced from them are of fundamental importance.  They helped shape our modern world, and every housekeeper is a beneficiary of the discoveries he made.  Units and laws of physics were named after this somewhat reserved, unassuming, serious-minded citizen scientist by the name of James Prescott Joule.

Second son of a wealthy brewer in England, James Joule was home-schooled till age 15.  He was not a spoiled rich kid, even though he could spend a workman’s annual income on a painting if he wanted it (and once did).  James loved playing outdoors with older brother Benjamin and younger brother John.  Together they engaged in the typical boyish amusements like playing guns, rowing on the lake, climbing hills and throwing snowballs.  Their play included observational skills like measuring the depth of a lake, estimating the distance to a lightning bolt by timing the thunder, and using electricity to see if a lame horse’s muscle would jump.

Once as a young man he stuffed a pistol with three times the normal charge trying to get a better echo across the water; J. G. Crowther describes the scene:....
Click here to continue the story.

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.

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).

Disclaimer: Creation-Evolution Headlines includes links to many external sites, but takes no responsibility for the accuracy or legitimacy of their content.  Inclusion of an external link is strictly for the reader’s convenience, and does not necessarily constitute endorsement of the material or its authors, owners, or sponsors.