Creation-Evolution Headlines
January 2007
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“Few received the truth of Jesus.  But why?  It was the pride of intellect—straining to be wise above what is written; it forgets its own limits, and steps out of its province.  How little the wisest of mortals knew—of anything!  How preposterous for worms to think of fathoming the counsels of the Almighty!” 
—Sir David Brewster, 1868, a founder of the British Association, on his deathbed commenting on the skepticism frequently found among scientists.  Cited by Mulfinger and Orozco, Christian Men of Science (Ambassador Emerald, 2001), p. 64.
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Cells Perform Sporting Interactions    01/31/2007  
The components of living cells perform such acrobatic moving interactions, one would think they are having fun.  Here’s the news from the Wide World of Cellular Sports.

  1. Speedway:  A news release from Penn Medicine talks about how motor proteins step on the gas and the brakes in their motions around the cell.  The announcer from the booth calls the action:
    “Imagine that the daughter microtubule is a short train on the track of the mother microtubule,” explains [Phong] Tran.  “The molecular motor is the train’s engine, but the problem is that the cargo – the molecular brakes – gets longer, slowing down the daughter train.  But when the train gets to the end of the track it remains attached to the end of mother microtubule.  At the tail end, it stops moving and that defines the region of overlap.  Our work shows that the cell can make microtubule structures of defined lengths stable by coordinating the sliding of the motors and the slowing of the brakes.
    The press release contains videos of the speedway in action.

  2. Square Dance:  Chromosomes line up in their territories like square dancers on cue, explained an article in Nature (1/25).1  They even use their arms: “In addition, the structure of the DNA within chromosome territories is nonrandom, as the chromosome arms are mostly kept apart from each other and gene-rich chromosome regions are separated from gene-poor regions.  This arrangement probably contributes to the structural organization of the chromosome, and might also help in regulating particular sets of genes in a coordinated manner.”
        “Remarkably,” even the territories themselves “arranged in particular patterns within the nucleus,” the article explains.  Here’s part of the choreography inside the dance hall (i.e., the nucleus):
    In lower eukaryotes such as plants and flies chromosomes tend to be polarized, with the ends of the arms (telomeres) on one side of the cell nucleus and the point at which the two arms meet (the centromere) on the opposite side.  In mammalian cells, however, chromosome arrangement is more complex.  Even so, each chromosome can be assigned a preferential position relative to the nuclear centre, with particular chromosomes tending to be at the nuclear interior and others at the edge (Fig.  2a).  This preferential radial arrangement also, of course, gives rise to preferred clusters of neighbouring chromosomes.
    The players get to socialize, too: “Even the two copies of the same chromosome within the same nucleus often occupy distinct positions and have different immediate neighbours.”  Each chromosome tends to hang out with partners in the same developmental pathways, though.  “It seems that the actual position of a gene in the cell nucleus is not essential to its function,” the author writes.  So, the interviewer asks, “Why have all this organization?”  Is it just for fun?  “It is more likely that positioning contributes to optimizing gene activity.”  It also serves the time-honored strategy of networking:
    The nonrandom organization of the genome allows functional compartmentalization of the nuclear space.  At the simplest level, active and inactive genome regions can be separated from each other, possibly to enhance the efficiency of gene expression or repression.  Such compartmentalization might also act in more subtle ways to bring co-regulated genes into physical proximity to coordinate their activities.  For instance, in eukaryotes, the genes encoding ribosomal RNAs tend to cluster together in an organelle inside the nucleus known as the nucleolus.  In addition, observations made in blood cells suggest that during differentiation co-regulated genes are recruited to shared regions of gene expression upon activation.
    How each partner finds its spot, we don’t know.  Somehow, they always find their way back: “Chromosomes are physically separated during cell division, but they tend to settle back into similar relative positions in the daughter cells, and then they remain stable throughout most of the cell cycle.”  The author claims this behavior is “evolutionarily conserved” (i.e., unevolved).
  3. Baton race:  Passing chemical tags without stumbling is described by a paper in Nature2 that opens, “Modifier proteins, such as ubiquitin, are passed sequentially between trios of enzymes, like batons in a relay race.  Crystal structures suggest the mechanism of transfer between the first two enzymes.”  As the tags get passed from group to group, the players sometimes undergo large shape changes to hold the tag properly.  In one case, for instance, “combined conformational changes create a surface to which an E2 enzyme binds with high affinity.”  These bends and rotations make the enzymes act like a “conformational switch” to turn on the next reaction in the chain, like handing off the baton.
  4. Capture the Flag:  Another paper in Nature3 described how the cell cycle often depends on reading tags hidden on chromosomes.  Describing the “intricate process” of this game, even describing the participants as “players,” a researcher from UC Berkeley calls the action: “Transitions between all cell-cycle phases are controlled by the activation and deactivation of a series of cyclin-dependent kinases (CDKs), which control the phosphorylation of other proteins.”  Researchers were having a challenge following the flag.  “Thus, after the origin-recognition complex had been identified, finding the actual targets for S-CDK, the CDK known to promote the switch from G1 to S phase, became a major objective.”
  5. Acrobatics and juggling:  A paper in PNAS4 describes the dynamic motions of one enzyme that uses three metal ions and multiple conformational changes for precise action on its substrate.  “It is evident that the trimetal cluster undergoes significant structural reorganization in the course of the reaction,” they wrote.  Visualize this circus act as they describe it:
    The analysis presented here emphasizes the significant level of complexity involved in enzymatic catalysis by multinuclear enzymes even when the underlying chemical transformation is relatively straightforward.  At the same time certain universal patterns regarding the multiple mechanistic roles of the metal cofactors emerge.  First, the metal ions play a role in generating the reactive nucleophile.  This process involves precise positioning of a carboxylate ligand to deprotonate an exogenous water molecule and orient the resulting hydroxide for an in-line attack.  Deprotonation is further facilitated by the combined electrostatic effect of two zinc ions (Zn1 and Zn2), necessitating a relatively close distance between them.  The second role of the metals is to accommodate and electrostatically stabilize the more compact partly associative transition state.  Hence, an overall contraction of the trimetal cluster is observed.  Finally, a metal cofactor (Zn3) is responsible for stabilizing the developing charge on the leaving group toward the end of the reaction.  To effectively carry out these roles, the active site rearranges dynamically, a finding, that underscores the crucial importance of flexibility for the reactive transition.
    Since this enzyme is part of the DNA Repair Team, the participants probably don’t do it for applause or to be heroes.  To them, it’s all in a day’s work.
Human researchers seem to be joining in the games.  Identifying the sports repertoire inside a cell is like a treasure hunt.
1Meaburn and Misteli, “ Nature 445, 379-781 (25 January 2007) | doi:10.1038/445379a.
2Trempe and Endicott, “Structural biology: Pass the protein,” Nature 445, 375-376 (25 January 2007) | doi:10.1038/nature05564.
3Michael Botchan, “Cell biology: A switch for S phase,” Nature 445, 272-274 (18 January 2007) | doi:10.1038/445272a.
4Ivanov, Tainer and McCannon, “Unraveling the three-metal-ion catalytic mechanism of the DNA repair enzyme endonuclease IV.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, doi 10.1073/pnas.0603468104, January 30, 2007, 104:5, pp. 1465-1470.
We used to think of chemistry as bonding of outer electrons in orbitals as molecules bounce against each other at random.  Biochemistry has shown much of the action in cells to be mechanical in nature, with parts acting like machines, dancers and acrobats.  It’s hard not to view this new living chemistry as a series of sporting events by highly skilled players.  Be sure to cheer for your home team.
Next headline on:  Cell BiologyAmazing Facts
Cell Quality Control Runs a Tight Ship    01/31/2007  
Without the surveillance and rapid response of quality control, cells would collapse and die.  Here are some recently-published examples of nanoheroes in action.
  1. Plant checkpoints:  Picture a child watching the wonder of a seedling breaking through the soil into the light for the first time.  Within hours, the ghostly-white stem turns green, and a day later, leaves begin to appear.  Does he or she have any idea what is going on at a scale too small to see?  Not until that kid grows into a modern lab scientist with sophisticated equipment.  The transformation requires the coordinated transportation of key elements through specialized checkpoints, an international team reported in PNAS.1
        Without boring the reader with technical terms, what basically happens is this.  The underground seedling contains pre-chloroplast parts in readiness for the arrival into sunlight, but saves its energy by not allowing the light-gathering factories to assemble until it’s time.  “Chloroplasts need to import a large number of proteins from the cytosol because most are encoded in the nucleus,” they reported.  Once there, they have a double membrane to get through.  Specialized gates permit entry of the authenticated parts.  One particular light-sensitive part has its own unique gate.  The team decided to see what happened when they mutated one gene in the process.  The results were not pretty: the light-sensitive molecules accumulated outside the plastid because they couldn’t get into the factory.  “After a dark-to-light shift, this pigment operated as photosensitizer and caused rapid bleaching and cell death,” they found.  “Our results underscore the essential role of the substrate-dependent import pathway” that this protein depends on.  Maybe this error resembles a chemical spill outside a pharmaceutical plant, or pistons firing before they get into the engine.
  2. Now hear this:  In a surprise finding that might provide hope for the deaf, scientists publishing in PNAS reported that “Restoration of connexin26 protein level in the cochlea completely rescues hearing in a mouse model of human connexin30-linked deafness.”2  Two protein partners are needed for healthy hair-cell formation in the cochlea of the inner ear.  Mutations in one of them, connexin26, account for about half of all cases of inherited human deafness.  Usually, connexin26 and connexin30 join together to form gap junctions, but if one is mutated, deafness results.  The gap junctions are essential for cell-to-cell communication.  Surprisingly, connexin26 (Cx26) appears able to bridge the gap when connexin30 (Cx30) is missing; therefore, “up-regulation of Cx26 or slowing down its protein degradation might be a therapeutic strategy to prevent and treat deafness caused by Cx30 mutations.”
        The scientists suspected that these two isoforms of connexins regulate each other.  They also noted that this partnering occurs in the lens of the eye.  Losing one by mutation, therefore, affects the regulation of the partner.  On a hunch that one of the isoforms could compensate for the loss of the other if allowed to assemble, and could build functional gap junctions on its own, they tried up-regulating the remaining connexin.  To their surprise, hearing was completely restored in mice. 
  3. Bad translator triggers SOS:  We’ve talked about the DNA translation team a number of times (e.g., 12/28/2006, 07/26/2005, 06/09/2003, 04/29/2003).  The team of 20 aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases, as they are called, have rigid requirements.  “Mistranslation in bacterial and mammalian cells leads to production of statistical proteins that are, in turn, associated with specific cell or animal pathologies, including death of bacterial cells, apoptosis of mammalian cells in culture, and neurodegeneration in the mouse,” said Bacher and Schimmel in PNAS.3  “A major source of mistranslation comes from heritable defects in the editing activities of aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases.”  This is because the protein machines, which snap the right amino acid onto the appropriate transfer-RNA (tRNA), cannot perform their vital role in protein synthesis if broken.
        These researchers suspected that broken synthetases could also cause mutations.  They decided to test what happens when they caused an “editing defect” in one of them.  (These enzymes are usually able to proofread their own errors with a high degree of accuracy.)  The result, again, was not pretty: “A striking, statistically significant, enhancement of the mutation rate in aging bacteria was found.”  The bug was like flipping a fire alarm: “This enhancement comes from an increase in error-prone DNA repair through induction of the bacterial SOS response,” they explained.  “Thus, mistranslation, as caused by an editing-defective tRNA synthetase, can lead to heritable genetic changes that could, in principle, be linked to disease.”
        Another press release from Ohio State also discussed the neurological disease that can result from mistranslated proteins caused by mutated aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases.

1Pollman et al, “A plant porphyria related to defects in plastid import of protochlorophyllide oxidoreductase A,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.0610934104, published online before print January 29, 2007.
2Ahmad et al, “Restoration of connexin26 protein level in the cochlea completely rescues hearing in a mouse model of human connexin30-linked deafness,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.0606855104, published online before print January 16, 2007.
3Jamie M. Bacher and Paul Schimmel, “An editing-defective aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase is mutagenic in aging bacteria via the SOS response,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.0610835104, published online before print January 30, 2007.
Dear Darwinist, does this increase your faith that random accidents in working systems are going to make things better?  Is this a better way to build a plant, an ear, or a translation system?  If you think terrorism is the best way to build a civilization, reread the 12/14/2006 entry. 
Next headline on:  BotanyCell BiologyAmazing Facts
  Earth’s ugly sister can’t get a date, from 08/16/2004.

The Space Race: Just Staying Alive    01/30/2007  
“Ad astra!” the sci-fi slogan announces with eternal optimism: “To the stars!”  Medical doctors and astrobiologists are not sure you would want to stay there long, though.  Some recent findings give a dismal picture of the prospects for life – human or bacterial – at least in our solar system, if that can be assumed a plausible random sample of the universe.
    New Scientist Space announced that future moon astronauts may be in grave danger from solar X-rays.  These come without warning preceding a solar flare.  Without a 21-kg shield 3 square meters in area, an astronaut roving around on the surface could be killed by lethal doses of X-rays before he even knew what was happening. gave depressing news that life on Mars is unlikely to be found.  The reason?  Cosmic radiation levels would likely sterilize the first few meters down.  While this article and one on EurekAlert envision deep aquifers providing a safe haven for life, they both admit that current and planned missions are unlikely to get to such levels.  Earth’s bacteria protect against DNA damage with elaborate repair mechanisms.  These would be unlikely to work, however, in the permafrost of Mars, where life would come near a standstill.  The radiation would not stop for days off by the repair crew.  Tests of Martian radiation levels on Earth organisms under various conditions were not encouraging.  Even if a colony could live for a few million years, the cumulative effects of constant radiation would eventually take their toll.

And that’s under present conditions.  Obviously surviving is easier than emerging in the first place.  Is anyone going to believe for a moment that the first primitive Martian organism evolved with genetic quality control and repair right off the bat?  It’s sad to have to puncture so many dreams of sci-fi writers and early advocates of space flight, bit reality must be faced.  Life underground in perpetual darkness is probably not what the dreamers had in mind.
    These discoveries are having an unexpected benefit, though.  They are generating thankfulness for all we have down here.  As the old hymn expresses, I sing the goodness of the Lord, who filled the earth with food / Who formed the creatures through the Word, and then pronounced them good. / Lord, how Thy wonders are displayed, where'er I turn my eye / If I survey the ground I tread, or gaze upon the sky. // There’s not a bird or flow'r below but makes Thy glories known / and storms arise and tempests blow by orders from Thy throne, / While all who borrow life from Thee are ever in Thy care / And everywhere that man may be, Thou God art present there.
    This calls for an encore!  A little Beethoven, perhaps?  Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee, God of glory, Lord of love; / Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee, opening to the sun above. / Melt the clouds of sin and sadness; drive the dark of doubt away; / Giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day! // All Thy works with joy surround Thee, earth and heaven reflect Thy rays, / Stars and angels sing around Thee, center of unbroken praise. / Field and forest, vale and mountain, flowery meadow, flashing sea, / Singing bird and flowing fountain call us to rejoice in Thee.
    The moon and Mars are interesting and worth exploring, but there’s no comparison.  Rejoice and give thanks today on God’s green Earth, the best real estate in the world!
Next headline on:  Origin of LifeHuman BodySolar System
Dating a Star is Glamorous Only in Theory    01/30/2007  
Hollywood stars may be fickle, but so are great balls of fire in outer space when it comes to understanding them.  Some recent examples:
  1. Taking the pulse:  The Chandra X-ray Observatory wrote a glowing report about a “textbook supernova,” which is a nice pairing of observation and theory.  It added this caveat, though, about dating stars:
    By combining X-ray and radio observations, astronomers have evidence that G11.2-0.3 is likely the result of the explosive death of such a massive star, perhaps witnessed in 386 A.D.  Radio observations measure the remnant’s expansion rate, which, in turn, can be used to calculate how long ago the star exploded.  The radio data is consistent with association of the supernova remnant with the “guest star” reported by Chinese astronomers nearly 2,000 years ago.  Chandra’s ability to pinpoint the pulsar at nearly the very center of G11.2-0.3 also supports the idea that this debris field could have been created around the time of the Chinese observations.  Surprisingly, the age of the pulsar determined from the X-ray and radio data differs from the standard pulsar age estimate, usually determined from how fast it is spinning.  In this case, the so-called spin parameters suggest the G11.2-0.3 is 10 times older than the remnant age.  This argues strongly that young pulsar spin ages can be very misleading and should be considered with caution.
    Previously, pulsar ages determined from spindown rates were thought to be well constrained.

  2. Standard (flickering) candles:  An article on EurekAlert described another supernova remnant observed by Chandra.  The goal was to determine if Kepler’s supernova, observed by Johannes Kepler 400 years ago, was the “Type Ia” variety.  “Astronomers have studied Kepler intensively over the past three decades with radio, optical and X-ray telescopes,” the article states, “but its origin has remained a puzzle.”  In theory, the white dwarf companion of a neutron star pulls in iron-rich material that produces a Type Ia.  But the material in the surrounding nebula is rich in nitrogen, more characteristic of a Type II.  To explain the unusual mix, the astronomers speculate that this event was a rare “prompt Type Ia” explosion that took place in a young progenitor (100 million years, not several billion).
        Why is it important to tease out the oddballs among Type Ia supernovas?  The ramifications are simply astronomical.  “This information is essential to improve the reliability of the use of Type Ia stars as “standard candles” for cosmological studies of dark energy as well as to understand their role as the source of most of the iron in the universe.”  All the hubbub over the last decade about an accelerating universe of 73% dark energy depends, in large measure, on distance measurements made using Type Ia supernovas.  This case shows that not all members of the type are cooperative.

  3. Anorexic black hole:  The black hole at the center of our Milky Way had a snack recently, reported  Maybe it was a Mars bar or Starburst.  Anyway, Ker Than wrote that for a supermassive black hole in a galaxy’s core, ours doesn’t eat much.  “Why our black hole is so dim is not entirely understood,” he said.  Quoting an astronomer, “The huge appetite is there, but it’s not being satisfied.” 

  4. Supernova blasts theory:  Supernova 1987A was caught in the act 20 years ago.  Finally, astronomers had a fairly nearby supernova to watch develop with modern telescopes.  And watch they did, with shock and awe.  A press release from UC Berkeley contained some interesting glimpses into astronomer reactions to uncooperative data.  SN1987A “provided important tests for theories of how stars die, but it also raised some new questions,” the article begins.  In theory, blue supergiants become red supergiants before exploding.  Three analogues to 1987A, however, never went through such a phase.  Also, the rings are supposed to form after the explosion, not before.  Why are similar rings found around some stars that haven’t exploded yet?
        The article confesses, “This makes a pretty solid case,” for what?  for confirmation of a theory?  No: “that we should rethink models for how the rings around SN1987A were formed.”  Nathan Smith remarked that this “would be a bit of a shock” to what? to the interior of a star?  No; “to our understanding of stellar evolution.”  In addition, the triple-ring nebula formed around SN1987A has been “difficult to understand”.  Astronomers are modeling a complex interaction between two cannibalizing stars and a supergiant to fit the data.  Other problems between theory and observation are noted in the article.

  5. Faux pas de trois:  A rare triple-quasar system was described in Science (Jan 27, p. 454).  How could this form?  Dr. Frederic Rasio [Northwestern U] believes he has the program notes.  At a recent meeting of the American Astronomical Society, he told a story of colliding galaxies, their central black holes waltzing happily till a third galaxy collided and its black hole intervened, leading to a violent reaction.  The three then split apart at up to tens of thousands of kilometers per second.  Testing this “partner-swapping dance” theory, however, might take some time.  The black holes are only in Act 1.  The peroration of the denouement, when all is understood, won’t happen for 100 million years.  One critic said,
    “The process that Dr. Rasio has modeled is very, very far in the future,” said astronomer Virginia Trimble of the University of California, Irvine.  “So in some sense, the prediction has been verified by the observation, and the observation has been explained by the theory.” 
    Writer Tom Siegried seems to have sensed a non-sequitur here.  How can something be considered verified in the present if the verification data lies in the future?  “100 million years is a long time to wait to see whether the future behavior of the triplet really matches the theoretical forecast,” he remarked.  Rasio obviously will not be concerned about defending his story then.

  6. Midlife crisis:  Two old interacting galaxies are producing stars like newlyweds, reported East Tennessee State University.  The Arp 82 pair looks middle-aged, the article states, but apparently never got reproductively active till now.  “The puzzle is: why didn’t Arp 82 form many stars earlier, like most galaxies of that mass range?  Scientifically, it is an oddball and provides a relatively nearby lab for studying the age of intermediate-mass galaxies.”  They call this a case of “arrested development,” that needed a “kick-in-the-pants to get the stars forming recently.”
This model only works, of course, if the pants are kicked at the correct angle.
It’s kind of sadistic watching astronomers try to fit their observations to their theories.  Science operates only by the constant interplay of modeling and observing.  Astronomy wouldn’t be fun if all the ideas were locked up.  It’s important to remember, though, as these examples illustrate, that one must always be prepared to shed assumptions and chuck theories in the light of new evidence.  The one needing a kick-in-the-pants is the cocky astronomer.
Next headline on:  AstronomyDating Methods
Article:  Jonathan Wells wrote about cellular zip codes on Evolution News (see 01/13/2007 entry).  The problem for Darwinians, he asserts, is much greater than reported here or in the original paper.

Squid Eye Beats Zeiss    01/29/2007  
A squid whose scientific name means “vampire from hell” wears specs with excellent specs (that’s lenses with excellent specifications, for the pun-challenged).  Elisabeth Pennisi in Science reported on a talk given at an Arizona science conference about the vampire squid, whose “lenses are designed for seeing details, even in virtual darkness.”  Researchers studying cephalopod eyes found interesting optical features in the eyes of this species.  “Seeing clearly underwater requires a special spherical lens with a high refractive index in the center but a lower index toward the edge,” explained Pennisi.  In the vampire squid, “This gradation is achieved with progressively lower concentrations, from the lens’s center outward, of proteins called crystallins.”
    How well does this design work?  Pennisi ends,

After her study, [Alison] Sweeney [Duke U] is deeply impressed by cephalopod vision.  Indeed, she noted, the shipboard tests showed that the vampire squid’s lens, which appeared early in the evolutionary history of cephalopods, “has a visual acuity better than in a state-of-the-art Zeiss dissecting microscope.
Pennisi explained, “For a lens to be transparent, crystallins must stay folded and evenly dispersed to create a glassy state.”  A developmental biologist was quoted as remarking, “It’s amazing how finely tuned the squid lens is to do its job.”
    For more on crystallins and how they achieve transparency, see the 08/28/2003 entry.  For another example of a finely-tuned visual system in the marine environment, read about the box jellyfish eye (05/13/2005).
1Elisabeth Pennisi, “News Focus SOCIETY FOR INTEGRATIVE AND COMPARATIVE BIOLOGY MEETING: Loopy Lens Proteins Provide Squid With Excellent Eyesight,” Science, 26 January 2007: Vol. 315. no. 5811, p. 456, DOI: 10.1126/science.315.5811.456a.
It’s sad that this article was suffused with evolutionary storytelling.  The biologists told a fable about how the crystallins became optimized after some ancient gene duplication event, and that the “old” crystallins were on the periphery, and the “new” ones in the center of the lens.  Moreover, this lucky accident that produced a lens superior to Carl Zeiss specifications happened multiple times in different lineages!  The fability (01/16/2007 commentary) of Darwinians is fabulous.
    Pray for poor Elisabeth.  She comes up with some of the most amazing examples of design in her reports for Science (e.g., next entry) but always has to tow the Darwin Party line.  Such mandatory myopia must be causing a splitting headache.  Suggested therapy: take the blinders off.
Next headline on:  Marine BiologyPhysicsAmazing Facts
History Anecdote:  Was Alfred Russell Wallace jealous of Charles Darwin for taking most of the praise for the theory of natural selection?  Apparently not; Science last week (Random Samples) found a quote on a new Wallace exhibit on the British Natural History Museum website where he confessed to a friend that he was “thankful that it has not been left to me to give the theory to the public.” (cf. 11/30/2005).

Muscles Use Gears, Automatic Transmission    01/28/2007  
Analogies may not be perfect representations of reality, but it must pique the interest of all of us the way Elisabeth Pennisi in Science1 compared muscle to cars and bicycles:

One look at a ballerina as she pirouettes and poses drives home the remarkable ability of our muscles to adapt to diverse biomechanical demands.  Manny Azizi and Thomas Roberts, biomechanists at Brown University, have now found that as certain muscles contract, they vary their shape to balance the need for speed and force.  It’s as if these muscles have a builtin automatic transmission, says Azizi....
[Azizi’s] simulations showed that certain muscle shapes caused contracting pinnate fibers to shift to a less steep angle.  When that happens, the muscle’s overall height decreases more than it would have had the fibers maintained their angle.  In other words, the virtual muscle shifted into the equivalent of a high gear ratio, increasing the speed of contraction.... Azizi then looked at whether real muscles acted this way.  He had expected that each pinnate muscle would have just one gear ratio, that is, undergo a characteristic shape change, and therefore be strong or contract fast but not have both features.... [they found] the muscle operated at a lower gear and took full advantage of the dense packing of pinnate fibers....
    Just as one changes gears on a bicycle to crawl up an ever-steeper hill, “the direction of change in the muscle gears matches the mechanical demands of contraction,” Azizi said.  Moreover, the muscle’s shifting of gears required no nervous system input, occurring automatically depending on the load applied.
Imagine--your muscles are like a bicycle with automatic transmission.  The gearbox of muscle surprised the researchers.  “A single muscle undergoes not one shape change but a range of different shape changes under different circumstances,” Azizi found.  While pinnate muscles can rotate under light loads, they are prevented from rotation under heavy loads by the pull on the fibers.  “Thus, although pinnate muscles are supposedly specialized for force, under light demand, they can also work fast,” Pennisi explained.  A colleague admired this study “assessing muscle architecture with relation to function.”
1Elisabeth Pennisi, “News Focus: SOCIETY FOR INTEGRATIVE AND COMPARATIVE BIOLOGY MEETING: Muscle Fibers Shift Into High Gear,” Science, 26 January 2007: Vol. 315. no. 5811, p. 456, DOI: 10.1126/science.315.5811.456b.
Need we say?  There was no mention of evolution in this article.  Picture some examples of human muscle in action: the ballerina on tiptoes, a skater doing a triple lutz, the contestant in the World’s Strongest Man Competition hoisting a car, the concert pianist pounding a fortissimo section of a Rachmaninoff concerto, a gymnast doing an iron cross on the rings, a sprinter doing the high hurdles, a Chinese contortionist balancing water-filled glasses all over her body while lifting herself by a mouth grip – or just you, reaching on tiptoe for an item in the top cupboard.  Did anyone score you a 10 for that?  You’re amazing.  You knew that, of course.  But the right response should be, “Shucks, I’m just enjoying the gifts I got for my birthday.”
Next headline on:  PhysicsHuman BodyAmazing Facts
  Darwin is the best teacher of Darwinism, from 11/21/2003.

Cell Membrane Has Ticket-Operated Turnstiles    01/27/2007  
Cells are like castles surrounded by walls.  A wall without gates, however, would prevent commerce and trap the inhabitants inside.  The cell has ingenious gates that control the flow of goods and services through its outer membrane under tight surveillance and quality control.  This controlled flow, as opposed to passive diffusion or osmosis, is termed active transport.  Depending on the type of import or export required, the cell uses a variety of mechanisms.  It might wrap the cargo in clathrin proteins and send it through in a self-mending breach of the walls (endocytosis; 05/15/2005, 11/04/2005, bullet 7).  It might use one of the specialized authenticating channels through the membrane (e.g., aquaporins 04/18/2002 and ion channels, 05/29/2002).  It might export genetic material or proteins through one of the pumps, or secretion systems (10/11/2005, 11/10/2004).   Or, it might check cargo through one of the varieties of self-operating ticketed turnstiles.
    A description of one of these gates excited awe in a commentary in PNAS.1  Robert M. Stroud summarized decades of work on a kind of lactose turnstile.  Key researchers published their latest results in the current issue of the journal.  They believe they have finally figured out how this molecule-sized machine works.  It is a protein, 417 amino acids long, folded into a kind of rocking door in the membrane.  For a lactose passenger to get through the membrane using this transporter, it has to pay the fare: a proton ticket must first be inserted into the active site.  Then, the lactose molecule gets in and fastens its seat belt, so to speak, for the short but wild ride.  The nanomachine undergoes a conformational change that seals off the outside and opens the door to the inside, where the passengers undock.  Then, the gate automatically repositions itself for the next load.  Called LacY, or lactose permease, this molecular machine operates with practically 100% efficiency: each proton ticket grants admittance to one and only one lactose passenger.
    LacY is one of a whole family of gates called the “Major Facilitator Superfamily” (MFS).2  “The mechanism most probably pertains to the many other transporters of the MFS that are found throughout all domains of life,” Stroud says.  Another member of this family, for instance, is called GlpT.  This machine works with a reverse-ticketing process; a phosphate outside the cell is exchanged for a glycerol phosphate inside.
    Stroud was palpably delighted with the elucidation of the mechanism of these intriguing nanomachines after so much research by so many scientists for so many years.  Here’s what he said about the LacY device:

The MFS of transporters can be run in reverse, such that outward movement of lactose, driven by reverse concentration gradient, can generate an H+ gradient across the membrane; LacY can work in either direction toward a coupled equilibrium.  It is a beautiful example of energy transduction at the level of the membrane and is a near-perfect machine in the sense that the stoichiometry3 is always 1:1 without any leakage.
Leakage would allow contraband through.  Experimental inventory shows all goods accounted for, before and after.  The protein undergoes “large global conformational changes to transport the cargo” that are reversible, providing “oscillation between structural states that become accessible alternately to one side or the other, which can therefore be coupled to other sources of energy.”
    Understanding how these machines work could lead to treatments for diseases, such as cystic fibrosis and lactose malabsorption, caused by malfunction of the gates.  In addition, medical researchers may discover novel ways to co-opt the gates for special delivery of antibiotics and chemotherapeutic drugs.
1Robert M. Stroud, “Transmembrane transporters: An open and closed case,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.0610349104, published online before print January 24, 2007.
2Another superfamily of transporters, the ATP Binding Cassette (ABC) family, is driven by ATP hydrolysis inside the cell.
2Stoichiometry refers to the ratios of combining elements in a chemical reaction, from the Greek stoichea, “basic principles,” as used in Colossians 2:8.
Wonderful, amazing, mind-boggling discoveries come from the investigation of design in nature.  Stroud said nothing about how these machines arose by evolution; indeed, he said these mechanisms are “found throughout all domains of life.”  Moreover, this particular 100%-efficient machine is made up of 417 amino acids.  Our online book calculates the probability for a 400-amino-acid protein arising by chance as one in 10161.  This unfathomably low probability rules out its formation by any lucky accident in trillions upon trillions of universes (ch. 7).
    The LacY protein machine cannot tolerate much error, either.  One primary method the scientists use to learn about them is by replacing amino acids with the wrong ones, and watching how the machines break.
    From the top of the giraffe to the lowly crocus, molecular machines transduce life within a physical medium.  This is no hocus, folkus.  This is intelligent design coming into focus – at the locus of mind and matter, at the intersection of faith and reason.  Let the NCSE run for cover, wailing, “Cloak us from the face of ID, for the facts emerging from biophysics provoke us to shame and despair.”  Rejoice, O science, as the lens of molecular biology leads to a refocus on intelligent design.
Next headline on:  Cell BiologyAmazing Facts
Moon Origins Not Set in Stone    01/26/2007  
The leading theory for the origin of the moon has been for some time now that a massive object hit the Earth, and the debris formed the moon.  New Scientist reported one astronomer who doesn’t buy it.  “The collision has to be implausibly gentle,” said Peter Noerdlinger to the American Astronomical Society.  “You practically need someone to hold a Mars-sized object just above Earth and drop it, to avoid messing up Earth’s orbit.
    His theory returns to the old idea that the Earth and the moon both formed from a primordial nebula.  He adds a twist that the moon was ripped apart by a close encounter with the Earth, then re-formed without its iron core.  The iron was redeposited as a layer on the early Earth.  “This fits with evidence that the Earth acquired a veneer of iron after it formed, Noerdlinger says.”
It’s premature to say whether Noerdlinger’s ideas will become accepted.  What’s notable at this time is that the accepted theory has problems, and that his theory seems even more ad hoc.
    Positing an unknown body to come in just at the right time and velocity to make two bodies from one seems a tremendously lucky accident.  The glancing-impact theory was a post-Apollo invention to overcome big objections to the three other hypotheses: the primordial nebula hypothesis, the spin-off hypothesis, and the impact hypothesis.  Now, at least one astronomer feels the consensus theory is also too improbable.  But is his any better?  He has to envision a close encounter with just the right conditions to break up the moon and make the Earth steal its iron.
    If nothing else, this article shows that people living today who weren’t there and don’t know everything have a hard time putting the pieces together.  There’s always a way out for them: believing in miraculous luck.  At least his miracle led to iron for the hemoglobin in his brain, and iron for the sword that defined human history.
Next headline on:  Solar System
  The Lutheran allies of Copernicus, from 04/30/2004.

Robot Legs Can’t Keep Up With Animals    01/25/2007  
Robot designers are envious of animals.  Insects, crabs and lizards leave them in the dust.  Alison Abbott in Nature (Jan 18) described the latest attempts to get the bugs out of insect-imitating “biological robots.”1  “Programming a robot to think like an insect is tough,” the subtitle reads, “but it could help breed machines as manoeuvrable as flies.”  Which animals are robot designers looking at?

  • Flies:   Abbott described a German robot named Tarry II with six legs that creaks with every step.  Building legs, though, is the easy part.  The legs need to be programmed to work.  Tarry II’s designer is envious of the software in a fly: “Although our encounters with flies often leave an impression of aimless and irritating meandering,’ Abbott writes, “these tiny creatures’ decisions are just as purposeful as those of other animals.  A fly scans its environment with eyes and antennae, processes this information in its brain and then makes a decision, perhaps to turn away from potential danger or hurry towards food.”
        Much of the information processing in an insect occurs outside the brain.  Circuits of nerves in the fly’s nerve chord direct some of the movements.  This can be seen when a fly is decapitated and a neurotransmitter is applied onto the chord: “then it will start to walk around like – well, like a headless chicken.”  A headless fly can even be stimulated to groom eyes that are no longer there.  This kind of distributed processing has not escaped the notice of robot designers.  “These basic movement programmes are well studied and have been transferred to robots” like the predecessor to Tarry II, which “has been walking with the confident coordination of a decapitated stick insect for more than a decade.”  The “cleverer stuff” like decision making and coordinated movement, of course, requires a brain.  Designers are also observing how insects use stereo vision and parallax to sight their targets, and how they vary step size and walking rate to achieve optimum energy efficiency.
  • Cockroaches:  “If only the Mars rovers had been more like cockroaches, sigh insect biologists, they might have been able to extricate themselves from the sand dunes and rocks on which they have occasionally come a cropper and had to be carefully steered to safety by their human controllers,” Abbott writes.  Roland Strauss, builder of Tarry II, said, “We are very happy if what we learn from nature can be put to use to make better robots.”  Cockroach brains are about 50 times bigger than fly brains.  Using “brain damage” experiments, designers learn how the cockroach software works to encounter obstacles.  It’s a challenge to detect an obstacle, decide whether it needs to be avoided, and decide which way to turn.
        “Insect biologists are eager to model ever more intricate types of insect behaviour in their robots, such as walking uphill or climbing,” Abbott writes.  “....But until these robots can be programmed with more sophisticated and autonomous software – precisely the directions that biologists are extracting from insect’s brains – they cannot pass for true robotic insects.”  Autonomous control is a highly-sought-after skill being watched by NASA, the European Space Agency and other groups into robotics.  That’s why they are watching these experimental labs with great interest.  “Just a few of an insect’s effortless navigational skills would be a boon for many of today’s applied robots, which can negotiate obstacles only via human intervention and remote control.”  Abbott envisioned insect lookalikes someday navigating the moon or “confidently striding” the canyons of Mars.
        On Earth, too, we can all benefit from these studies.  The military will be able to perform safer surveillance.  Victims of natural disasters might some day be met by friendly search-and-rescue robots with a marked resemblance to spiders or cockroaches.
  • Crab Legs:  When robots have mastered insect navigation, they might be ready for the big time.  It’s hard enough to walk on a hard surface.  Sand provides a new challenge: the foot slips with every step.  The ghost crab, however, is king of the sand hill.  Elisabeth Pennisi writes in Science (Jan 19),2 “With legs that are a blur to the naked eye, Ocypode quadrata scoots up to 2 meters per second on hard-packed sand” – the Olympic champion of sand locomotion, at least when it is firm. 
  • Leapin’ Lizards:  “But soften up the sand a bit,” Pennisi continues, “and the gold medal instead goes to the zebra-tailed lizard, an animal that spends little time on the grainy material.”  It clocked 1.5 meters per second on soft sand that slows the ghost crab to a gecko-like crawl.
        Daniel Goldman and a team from the Georgia Institute of Technology built an artificial sand track to learn from the abilities of animals having to negotiate a variety of surfaces in the wild: mud, gravel, sand, and debris-covered surfaces.  The zebra-tailed lizard has long, gangly toes that spread out when hitting the sand and curl up with lifting the foot.  Robot designers want to invent machines that can navigate all kinds of surfaces.  That’s why they study the animal experts for clues.
Lest you envy the foot feats of lowly insects and crabs and lizards, you have some pretty remarkable legs yourself.  Lucy Odling-Smee in Nature (Jan 19) discussed a mathematical model developed by Herman Pontzer (Washington State U of St. Louis) that measures an animal’s leg length, body weight and other physical factors to determine the efficiency of walking and running.  Although Odling-Smee and Pontzer both assumed humans developed long legs by an evolutionary history, they agreed the proportions in the modern human transportation system are good at saving energy.

1Alison Abbott, “Biological robotics: Working out the bugs,” Nature 445, 250-253 (18 January 2007) | doi:10.1038/445250a.
2Elisabeth Pennisi, “Crab’s Downfall Reveals a Hole in Biomechanics Studies,” Science, 19 January 2007: Vol. 315. no. 5810, p. 325, DOI: 10.1126/science.315.5810.325.
Evolution has nothing to do with it; these stories are about design through and through.  We can observe design, we can study it, and we can imitate it.  When we do, science progresses and leads to wonderful inventions that improve our lives and extend our reach.
    Go to the ant, thou sluggard evolutionist; consider her ways, and be wise.  When you’ve learned those ways, go to the fly, the cockroach, the crab, the lizard, and all the other examples of optimized hardware and software in the living world.  Catch up to the design-theoretic scientists who are way ahead of you.
Next headline on:  Terrestrial ZoologyBiomimeticsAmazing Facts
Your Body Knows Its Allies at Gut Level    01/24/2007  
How come your body doesn’t fight its good bacteria?  It sounds like a question only a scientist or a kid would ask, but think about it.  Your body jumps to arms to fight off pathogens, but lets millions of bacteria live in the intestines.  These bacteria help you digest your food, but are not “you.”  What is it that keeps these invaders from alerting the cops?  Do they carry a green card or something?  Sort of; their employers do.
    Margaret McFall-Ngai discussed this concept in a Nature essay Jan. 111 (see also EurekAlert Jan. 9).  It was known that the pancreas has dendritic cells that put the immune system at ease by placing antigens of friendly allies on cell surfaces.  A similar but different signalling mechanism is at work in the intestine.  Stromal cells from lymph nodes train the immune system’s police, the T cells, to tolerate the intruders as good guys.  The EurekAlert article ends with this quote from Shannon Turley, co-author of a study in Nature Immunology:
“Our study points to a previously unknown mechanism of immune system tolerance,” Turley explains.  “When you think of the conditions in the small intestine, with so many millions of bacteria cells and so much opportunity for dendritic cells to stimulate an immune attack, it’s remarkable that intestinal tissue is so rarely the target of an immune attack.  Our findings demonstrate that the immune system has features that remain to be discovered.

1Margaret McFall-Ngai, “Adaptive Immunity: Care for the community,” Nature 445, 153 (11 January 2007) | doi:10.1038/445153a.
When you say grace for a meal, you can now mean it from the gut.  In the ancient near east, the bowels were considered the seat of the emotions.  Talk to your stromal cells, T cells and bacterial allies like Paul did to Philemon, “Yea, brother, let me have joy of thee in the Lord: refresh my bowels in the Lord.”  (Works best when you send down regular donations of healthy provisions.)
Next headline on:  HealthHuman BodyAmazing Facts
SETI Head Discusses Criteria for Failure    01/24/2007  
When does the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) project decide enough is enough, and close up shop?  Seth Shostak, director of the SETI Institute, took up that question on  He thinks people should realize that this is a much bolder expedition than the classic voyages of discovery by James Cook and Ferdinand Magellan.  He likens it more to the multigenerational projects of the medieval cathedrals.  When will it be completed?  “not in my lifetime, nor in that of my children or grandchildren.”
    Still, a cathedral project had a blueprint and an expectation of completion.  Shostak gave the following indications that some day it could become appropriate to at least think about throwing in the towel.
  1. The search technology is picking up speed, so by mid-century it would be difficult to continue arguing that SETI is still in its early stages.
  2. If missions searching for earth-like planets fail, “That would be a premium-grade bummer.”
  3. If expeditions to Mars and Europa fail to turn up evidence that these bodies ever produced a microbe, “then that would certainly put me on the defensive.”
He hastened to add that none of these has caused him to “break out the worry beads” at least yet.  He claims the elements of the Drake Equation have become more encouraging with time.  “The more we learn about the universe, the more it seems disposed to house worlds with life,” he claims.  “It didn’t have to be that way.”
    Even so, continued failure might not mean nobody is out there.  It might just mean the search strategy is wrong (06/30/2006).  New discoveries in physics may unveil methods much more cost-effective, he explains.  “This doesn’t seem likely, but science is all about surprises.”
    His final inspirational thought for the week says more about philosophy, anthropology and character than science:
Indeed, my personal feeling is that if SETI hasn’t turned up something by the second half of this century, we should reconsider our search strategy, rather than assume that we’ve failed because there is nothing—or no one—to find.  Would I ever conclude that we’ve searched enough?  Would I ever truly give up on SETI’s bedrock premise, and tell myself that the extraterrestrials simply aren’t out there?  Not likely.  That would be to assume that we’ve learned all there is to know about our universe, a stance that is contrary to the spirit of explorers and scientists alike.  We might yearn, or even need to believe that we are special, but to conclude that Homo sapiens is the best the cosmos has to offer is egregious self-adulation.
In short, don’t expect the SETI Institute to close up shop any time soon.  See also the 07/25/2006 entry.
You have to hand it to Seth Shostak for at least trying to tackle the biggest criticisms of his craft head on.  We had raised the objections here that SETI had no criteria for failure (02/11/2003, 04/17/2006).  It still doesn’t, despite his hints that some eventualities might be discouraging – but at least he talked about it.  As long as he wants to spend Paul Allen’s millions, it doesn’t hurt anything to look.  It might even keep them busy so they don’t cause political trouble.
    Shostak might be the latest incarnation of Percival Lowell.  That committed advocate of life on Mars squinted through his telescope at the red planet for decades looking for the fabled canals with nothing but faith in flawed assumptions to keep him going.  His failure bequeathed to us the Lowell Observatory, where some legit science (like finding Pluto) has been done.  It’s also a nice place to visit when passing through Flagstaff on the way to Grand Canyon or Meteor Crater.  Someday a docent may tell students at the Allen Telescope Array, “Here, children, is where people who used to believe in ET tried for 50 years to detect signals from other civilizations” (sounds of giggling from the group).  “Now astronomers use it for mapping the cyanogen distribution among Seyfert galaxies.”
    What we’ve said before about SETI still holds: it is not a science till it has a subject (06/03/2006).  Using scientific equipment no more validates SETI as science than using mortars and pestles validated alchemy.  Moreover, it is held to with religious zeal (notice Shostak’s appeals to courageous faith in the face of their daunting lack of evidence).  Paradoxically, most SETI proponents are evolutionists (11/30/2006, 09/30/2006) despite using intelligent-design principles in the expectation of being able to separate natural from intelligent causes (02/16/2006, 12/03/2005).  But unlike the intelligent design movement, which has an observable message already in the bag (DNA and molecular machines), SETI has nothing at this point but faith.  It is, therefore, indistinguishable from a secular religion (01/04/2007).  They can build their cathedrals if they want to on their own time and dime.  Try to force it on students in textbooks and science classes, though, and there will be a fight for Separation of Search and State.  (Wow; has anyone thought of that SETI line before?  Copyright!)
Next headline on:  SETI
Tiny Fish Smell for Miles    01/24/2007  
Fish hatchlings no more than a few millimeters in size are able to find their way home by smell, scientists from James Cook University found.  After hatching from a reef, baby fish are often swept out to sea for miles.  The scientists were curious how they are able to get back to the particular spot where they were born.  “The team exposed tiny fish larvae in a tank to pure streams of water from four different reefs,” the article says.  “To their amazement, within minutes a surprisingly high percentage of baby fish had congregated in the water flow from their home reef.”  Every reef has a unique chemical signature.  The scientists were surprised that so soon after hatching fish were able to detect that signature and use it to home in on home.
    The press release speculates on how this trait causes biodiversity by evolution.  “We think some fishes then choose currents that smell like ‘home’ and swim up them.  The ones that cannot do this perish.  The ones that get home preserve the unique ‘ethnic’ make-up of their tribe — and so continue the process of evolving into separate new species.”
The team did not see the fish evolving into separate species.  Even if they had, they would be talking about microevolution, which is not controversial.  It would contribute no argument to how the fish emerged in the first place with their remarkable sense of smell.
    For a fascinating documentary on how a salmon is able to smell its way from the open sea all the way back up to the particular tributary where it was born, see the film Wonders of God’s Creation by Moody Video.
Next headline on:  Marine BiologyAmazing Facts
Stardate: Destruction Estimate Was 0.1% Correct    01/23/2007  
According to a press release from JPL’s Spitzer Space Telescope team, the famous Eagle Nebula “Pillars of Creation” are eroding fast.  A supernova that was possibly witnessed by humans 1,000 to 2,000 years ago is sending a blast wave at the structures.  An earlier supernova that may have occurred 6,000 years ago has probably already torn them apart.  Because the nebula is 7,000 light-years away, humans won’t see the destruction for another 1,000 years, the report says.
    Ker Than reporting this for mentioned an earlier link on from 2002 that claimed these pillars were eroding, and “might have only a million or so years to go.”  Rodger Thompson was quoted as saying, “It is hard to estimate the end point, but it will probably be in less than a million years, since most of the material has already been dissipated.”  Yes, far less: about a tenth of a percent of a million years.
Astronomers toss around millions of years recklessly.  If they were charged a penny for every year their estimates are found to be inflated, they would be a lot more careful.  Couching the fluff with qualifiers like a million years or less is like saying “Your house is worth $300 million, or less,” or “Honey, I’ll be home at 3007 AD, or sooner.”
Next headline on:  StarsDating Methods
What’s On ETV Tonight?    01/22/2007  
SETI researchers are building radio telescopes that might be able to catch leaking airwaves from the aliens, reports National Geographic and  Some 1,000 stars within 30 light-years may be within the reach of an array of new radio telescopes in Australia.  SETI researchers can piggyback on this astrophysics facility to listen in on frequencies used on Earth by military radio and broadcast TV.  Future arrays may extend the reach 10 times as far, to encompass 100 million stars.
Imagine the sound of snow, hissing.  If someone hears occasional gunshots in the noise, will it be a Bonanza?  Maybe the mike’ll land on a planet in the west, listening to little little Lorne Green men giving us cowboy logic.  Ponder Rosa sitting at the console listening to all this; will Dan block her?  “Boss,” she’ll say, “this ain’t no chance string of bits; it carries a message.”  “What’s it say?”  She pauses, translating: “Keep your Hoss before the cart.”  “Right,” he responds.  “Good design detection work.”
Next headline on:  SETIPhysics
  Dirty little secrets of radiometric dating methods, from 10/06/2004.

Skeptics Society Apology Illustrates Christian Virtue    01/21/2007  
Some evolutionists leaped onto a press release from a group named PEER last December that claimed national park rangers at Grand Canyon were obeying some new policy under pressure from the Bush administration that did not allow them to claim the canyon was millions of years old (see 01/11/2007, bullet 2).  This was supposedly related to sales of the young-earth creationist book Grand Canyon: A Different View in park bookstores (10/14/2004).*  PEER’s claim got mention in Science magazine, though the journal did note that the park denied it.
    The online newsletter of the Skeptics Society, eSkeptic, had also parroted this claim but then gotten taken to task for it by readers.  A former park ranger’s blog, parkrangerx, said on January 16 that “this story just won’t die” and explained again why the story was unfounded.  Michael Shermer, president, decided to investigate.  He explained that “in our eagerness to find additional examples of the inappropriate intrusion of religion in American public life (as if we actually needed more),” he had taken the PEER press release at face value.  “Embarrassed and angered” after calls and emails to PEER and its executive director Jeff Ruch, he found it was an unreliable source:

PEER is an anti-Bush, anti-religion liberal activist watchdog group in search of demons to exorcise and dragons to slay.  On one level, that’s how the system works in a free society, and there are plenty of pro-Bush, pro-religion conservative activist watchdog groups who do the same thing on the other side.  Maybe in a Hegelian process of thesis-antithesis-synthesis we find truth that way; at least at the level of talk radio.  But journalistic standards and scholarly ethics still hold sway at all levels of discourse that matter, and to that end I believe we were duped by an activist group who at the very least exaggerated a claim and published it in order to gain notoriety for itself, or worse, simply made it up.
After this, Shermer apologized for printing the story without checking up on it, and said “Shame on us.”  But he added, “But shame on you too, Mr. Ruch, and shame on PEER, for this egregious display of poor judgment and unethical behavior.”
We congratulate Shermer for acting like a good Christian by testing all things (I Thessalonians 5:21, Philippians 4:8) and not bearing false witness (Exodus 20:16).  We say this tongue in cheek, of course, because Shermer lost his childhood faith under the tutelage of a Darwin bulldog professor in college (06/01/2004), and now treats Christians and creationists like unscientific fools (11/29/2001).  Last week, the Darwin bulldog rag Nature also had a moralistic editorial about the need for ethics in the laboratory.  It portrayed the myth of the honest scientist in the white lab coat, claiming that misconduct is rare and must be guarded against by some unspecified standard of honesty: “It is here in the laboratory – not in the law courts or the offices of a university administrator – that the trajectory of research conduct for the twenty-first century is being set.”  I.e., shape up, scientists, if you want to keep the government off our backs.
    Though Shermer illustrated diligence in getting the facts straight and hastening to apologize, is this behavior not inconsistent with his core beliefs?  He denies that the Hegelian process is worthy of “journalistic standards and scholarly ethics” for finding the “truth”.  Yet, to quote Pilate, what is truth?  To a Darwinist, whatever exists arose through competition and power, a Hegelian process.  Truth, then, is relative.  Absolute truth is incomprehensible to an evolved brain fully described by the motions of its constituent atoms.  It is not just incomprehensible; it is inconceivable.
Why do the editors of Nature and eSkeptic know intuitively the difference between right and wrong?  They use the vague words ethics and trajectory and misconduct but you know what they’re talking about.  They don’t mean some kind of wishy-washy Hegelian ethics that could some day be orthogonal to today’s moral trajectory.  Moral relativism would not make any sense.  They speak with conviction, assuming absolute morality and honesty are eternally valid principles.  If not, then let them admit that “for now, our culture values honesty, so let’s all go with the flow till it changes.”  If they said that, they would have to admit that some future society might deem it ethical to burn all the back issues of Nature.  As philosopher Greg Bahnsen teaches, one cannot choose the consequences of one’s world view, and the place the materialists’ plane is headed is not where they want to land.  Don’t let a materialist think he can get off at Chicago and change planes when his ticket is only valid for Boston.  (Our apologies to Bostonians; this is the illustration Bahnsen used.)
Shermer talks materialism, but uses his soul.  He acts as if truth has external existence.  He shows that the pursuit of truth is a value in and of itself.  His actions, therefore, echo his childhood memories of Ten Commandments and other absolutes he abandoned in college.  Now, however, he is a committed evolutionist and anti-creationist.  He has substituted old values for new ones.  If he were consistent, he would join PEER and do whatever he could to stamp out the creationist competitors, even if it involved lying and terrorism.  That is the way things get done in Darwinland.
    If his pretensions of journalistic ethics are part of a surreptitious ploy to catch Christians off guard (like terrorists stealing and using American weapons), then he is being consistent, and we can discount his apology as a ruse.  (One piece of supporting evidence for this theory is that he did manage to sneak in a smokebomb that millions of years is science, and the creationist view is pseudoscience: he referred to Vail’s book in the inspiration section along with “other books of myth and spirituality.”)  But if he was really sincere about apologizing for a breach of ethics, then he needs to apologize for another: theft of intellectual property.  We cannot allow the pro-evolutionary materialistic skeptics to borrow a little Christianity when it suits them.

*Footnote:  Interested in learning more about the creationist view of the Grand Canyon?  Want to have a lot of fun doing it?  Tom Vail, the author of the book Grand Canyon: A Different View, is leading a 3-day raft trip in August, and you can sign up here: see Creation Safaris.
Next headline on:  GeologyMediaPolitics and Ethics
Bats Exhibit Aerodynamic Superiority    01/20/2007  
They may look clumsy fluttering around in the twilight air, but “Flexible, highly articulated wings give bats more options for flight than birds: more lift, less drag, greater maneuverability.”  Thus reads the caption to a picture of a bat in flight on a Brown University press release.  Researchers at Brown U are studying the differences between bat wings and those of insects and birds.  They are finding that “bats have unique capabilities,” and that “a novel lift-generating mechanism may be at work in bats and point to the highly maneuverable mammals as a model for tiny flying machines.”  Those unique capabilities include highly articulated bones, over two dozen independent joints and flexible membranes.  By watching videotapes of bats flying in an aerosol mist, the scientists discerned a number of novel flight mechanisms:
Birds and insects can fold and rotate their wings during flight, but bats have many more options.  Their flexible skin can catch the air and generate lift or reduce drag in many different ways.  During straightforward flight, the wing is mostly extended for the down stroke, but the wing surface curves much more than a bird’s does – giving bats greater lift for less energy.  During the up stroke, the bats fold the wings much closer to their bodies than other flying animals, potentially reducing the drag they experience.  The wing’s extraordinary flexibility also allows the animals to make 180-degree turns in a distance of less than half a wingspan.
    The researchers also considered how bat flight might have evolved.  Could bat wings have developed from gliding mammals, like flying squirrels?
[Sharon] Swartz, an associate professor in ecology and evolutionary biology at Brown University, and longtime collaborator with [Kenneth] Breuer, is particularly interested in how bats evolved their capabilities.  “The assumption has always been that bats evolved from some sort of flying squirrel-type animals,” says Swartz.  “Gliding has evolved in mammals seven times.  That tells us that it’s really easy for an animal with skin to evolve into a glider, but going from a square gliding wing to a long, skinny flapping wing has not happened seven times.  It might have happened once.  And now it doesn’t look like bats have any relationship to these gliding things.
The Air Force funded work was published in Bioinspiration and Biomimetics.
The design work was productive; the evolutionary speculation was useless.  Actually, it was useful for one thing: to show that bats did not evolve from gliders, contrary to “the assumption” that has “always been”.  How about fewer assumptions and more videotape?
Next headline on:  MammalsBiomimeticsEvolutionary TheoryAmazing Facts
This Bug Is Whiter than White, Brighter than Bright    01/19/2007  
Detergent manufacturers should get a load of this beetle.  Cyphochilus, a resident of southeast Asia, is clothed in one of the brightest white surfaces (per unit thickness) known.  British scientists reporting in Science1  were intrigued how the bug accomplishes this shining performance.  Most bright-white surfaces, such as paint and paper, need a hundred times the thickness to achieve such brilliance.
    Some insects and birds are able to intensify particular colors using photonic crystals, which are regularly-spaced pits or shapes on scales or wings (see 01/29/2003, 10/13/2003).  The microscopic geometric patterns serve to add up particular wavelengths and cancel others.  White light, though, requires a high degree of scattering across the spectrum.  The scientists found that the 5-micron thick scales of Cyphochilus contain “a random network of interconnecting cuticular filaments with diameters of about 250 nm.”
    Imitating this trick may lead to several applications.  Brighter paints and paper could be in our beetle-inspired future, and maybe even whiter teeth.  See also the articles on Live Science, BBC News and University of Exeter.
1Pete Vukusic, Benny Hallam, and Joe Noyes, “Brilliant Whiteness in Ultrathin Beetle Scales,” Science, 19 January 2007: Vol. 315. no. 5810, p. 348, DOI: 10.1126/science.1134666.
Good science can discover, understand, and imitate the natural world without any need for evolutionary storytelling.  That’s another reason why biomimetics can provide a nonsectarian, nonphilosophical escape hatch for disillusioned Darwinists.  The authors did not need to mention evolution.  Intelligent design was not mentioned either, but was implicit.
Next headline on:  Terrestrial ZoologyBiomimeticsPhysicsAmazing Facts
No Evolutionary Tree for Galaxies    01/18/2007  
Edwin Hubble was famous for many important discoveries, including the confirmation of external galaxies and the expansion of the universe (no, he did not build the Hubble Space Telescope; he died in 1953).  One of his theories, though, a kind of evolutionary story of galaxies, has not fared so well.  Sidney van den Bergh discussed this subject in Nature this week.1  He commented, “Galaxies are like people: the better you get to know them, the more peculiar they often seem.”
    Hubble had classified galaxies with his famous “tuning-fork diagram” showing ellipticals evolving into normal spirals on one fork and barred spirals on the other.  Each branch supposedly evolved into more open forms.  It was never clear, however, whether the evolution proceeded from left to right or from right to left.  The situation has not become more clear over time.  In fact, Hubble’s classification does not mesh with more recent plots of galaxy color vs. brightness (luminosity), on so-called Hertzsprung-Russell (H-R) diagrams.  Other complications include differences as a function of mass or of lookback time (i.e., distance).  “It is not clear,” he said, “how the apparent dichotomy of galaxy characteristics, seen in the distribution of galaxies over the colour-luminosity diagram, can be reconciled with the continuous change of galaxy characteristics along the Hubble classification sequence.”
    After surveying the evidence, van den Bergh concluded that no simple diagram explains the observations: “A grand unifying scheme that incorporates both the continuity of the Hubble diagram and the dichotomy in the galaxian colour-magnitude diagram does not yet seem to be in sight.” 
1Sidney van den Bergh, “Concept: Galaxy Morphology: Out of order,” Nature 445, 265 (18 January 2007) | doi:10.1038/445265a.
Van den Burgh raised another interesting point in passing.  Is the evolutionary tuning-fork diagram an artifact of human psychology?  Maybe what’s evolving is not the phenomenon under observation, but our science:
Albert Einstein and many others have commented on the effectiveness of mathematics for formulation of the laws of nature.  As a result, science sometimes evolves in those directions in which mathematics can be applied.  However, several areas, including friction, turbulence and morphological classification, remain largely in the mathematical wilderness.  Progress in galaxy morphology has mainly resulted from the remarkable human capacity to recognize patterns.
Van den Bergh here speaks as a believer; he is not criticizing mathematics or pattern recognition.  He speaks of “progress” instead of “random walk” in our science.  The question deserves consideration, though, to what extent humans impose their psychological predilections on the observations instead of truly understanding what is “out there” in nature.  Could there be a selection effect that biases our outlook?  Because of our skill at pattern recognition, are we seeing mainly the phenomena that can be classified by simple mathematical laws, and overlooking the more difficult phenomena in the “mathematical wilderness”?  If so, how well do we really understand the universe?
    Hubble’s evolutionary diagram – a tree with only two branches – appears simplistic.  It discords with the observations.  How much more the imposition of an tree pattern onto the bewildering diversity in the living world?  As we have seen, evolutionary biologists strive to impose “tree-thinking” onto their psyches before the observations speak (11/14/2005).  What if the data are discontinuous at a fundamental level?  Human psychological needs do not justify imposing continuity on a discontinuous data set that refuses to be so classified, any more than you can have pi or e integers, evolutionize the prime numbers, or rationalize irrational numbers (or people).
    Hubble’s tuning fork can still be salvaged.  Instead of making it an evolutionary symbol, make it do what tuning forks are designed to do.  You’re not supposed to look at it for meaning as if it’s some kind of divining rod.  You strike it and listen to a very precise, pure tone.  Compare that to the observations, and you hear a very strong concordance (11/27/2006, 08/11/2006).
    Science has strayed so far off pitch from its original program (online book) that it has become, like a John Cage concert, a bewildering cacophony of conflicting and nihilistic discords, with blaring trumpets and clanging cymbals going nowhere without a score or conductor.  Time out for a tune up.  Following the right pitch can lead to harmonious and pleasing insights into the world (see Kepler). 
Next headline on:  Cosmology
  The evolution of folly (or vice versa), from 10/14/2002.  Why humans act irrationally, and how evolutionary determinism is self-refuting.

The Evolution of Electrical Engineering:  An Imaginary Tale    01/17/2007  
Nerves carry electrical impulses.  Ipso facto, they are subject to laws of physics concerning conductance, capacitance, and resistance.  Getting a signal from one end of an animal to the other in time can be a matter of life and death.  In order to maintain optimum levels of electrical conductivity to meet their lifestyle requirements, animals possess numerous adaptations to increase throughput.  In a paper in Current Biology,1 D. K. Hartline (U of Hawaii) and D. R. Colman (McGill U, Quebec) described how these adaptations fall into two main categories:

Nervous systems have evolved two basic mechanisms for increasing the conduction speed of the electrical impulse.  The first is through axon gigantism: using axons several times larger in diameter than the norm for other large axons, as for example in the well-known case of the squid giant axon.  The second is through encasing axons in helical or concentrically wrapped multilamellar sheets of insulating plasma membrane – the myelin sheath.  Each mechanism, alone or in combination, is employed in nervous systems of many taxa, both vertebrate and invertebrate.  Myelin is a unique way to increase conduction speeds along axons of relatively small caliber.  It seems to have arisen independently in evolution several times in vertebrates, annelids and crustacea.  Myelinated nerves, regardless of their source, have in common a multilamellar membrane wrapping, and long myelinated segments interspersed with ‘nodal’ loci where the myelin terminates and the nerve impulse propagates along the axon by ‘saltatory’ conduction.  For all of the differences in detail among the morphologies and biochemistries of the sheath in the different myelinated animal classes, the function is remarkably universal.
Hartline and Colman went on to describe how the insulation provided by myelin increases throughput dramatically:
Myelin sheaths are frequently associated with rapid reactions, especially in invertebrate taxa.  For fibers of a few microns or more in diameter, myelin speeds the conduction of nerve impulses by a factor of ten or more compared to unmyelinated fibers of the same diameter.  This increases the nervous system’s information processing capacity and delivery speeds, decreasing reaction times to stimuli, increasing temporal precision, more closely synchronizing spatially distributed targets (such as different regions of a muscle sheet), and providing for shorter delays in feedback loops (for example in muscle control).  Because less current is needed to satisfy the charging needs of myelinated fibers, mean sodium channel densities averaged over the length of a fiber are much lower than for unmyelinated ones.  This results in a smaller ionic imbalance that must be restored after an impulse passes and confers a several hundred-fold improvement in metabolic efficiency for recouping the energy cost of nerve impulse traffic.  For a nervous system such as ours, which already accounts for 20% of the body’s resting metabolic energy budget, this is not an inconsequential advantage.  Another advantage is economy of space: to achieve the same ten-fold improvement on conduction speed through increasing axonal diameter, axons would have to be 100 times larger (with a comparable scale-up in soma size to accommodate the metabolic needs).  Imagine yourself with a 100-fold thicker spinal cord!
    The authors were also interested in how these adaptations could have evolved.  Consider the scope of their puzzle:
  • Both mechanisms (axon gigantism and insulation) are dispersed throughout the animal kingdom.
  • There are great evolutionary distances between similar adaptations.
  • There are no transitional forms.
  • There are no clues from fossils.
So despite confidence that these adaptations did evolve, they admitted they had only speculation about natural selection might have achieved it:
So ancient is its evident appearance in each of these lines, and so sophisticated its morphological and chemical structure, that its exact origin in most of those lines is hard to establish.  Even in vertebrates there is a great evolutionary distance between the unmyelinated hyperoartia (lampreys) and the gnathostomes.
    The initial steps in the evolution of myelination may not, however, be that difficult to reconstruct.  Electrically sealing together two apposed membrane surfaces over a small region of axon decreases its transverse capacitance and proportionately speeds impulse propagation along it.  The sealing can be achieved by narrowing the conductive space, either cytoplasmic or extracytoplasmic, between adjacent axonal and/or glial membranes ... or through impermeable specializations at margins, for example precursors of septate junctions.  Even the random sealing of patches of single-layer glial membrane over half of an axon’s surface is predicted to increase conduction speed by about 20%.  Once such a process has started, it is not difficult to imagine a sequence of small improvements driven by natural selection that would ultimately lead to the complex structures we see today.  This is speculative, however; no cases have been described so far of ‘intermediate stages’ in extant groups.  Developmental sequences, the lack of fossil records and the paucity of candidate molecular precursors so far identified have made the task more difficultPerhaps better insight will be gained through increased attention to myelin evolved in the invertebrates.
(Bold and underlining added.)

1D.K. Hartline and D.R. Colman, “Rapid Conduction and the Evolution of Giant Axons and Myelinated Fibers,” Current Biology, Vol 17, R29-R35, 09 January 2007.
These guys started right off the bat with the BAD strategy (brazen assertions of dogmatism): “Nervous systems have evolved...”  Ahem--there are a lot of people who do not accept that.  Your evidence, please?  Some fossils, perhaps?  A long sequence of intermediate steps, each with increased survival value?  A clear phylogenetic pattern?  None of the above.  So here is their argument: “it is not difficult to imagine...”
    If you thought science was about evidence and proof, welcome to the Storybook Land of the Darwinist (see 12/22/2003 commentary).  Instead of launching into another sermon against imagination in science as a substitute for evidence, this time we will let the Good Book do it for us.  Substitute Darwin and natural selection where appropriate:
  • God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (Genesis 6:5)
  • the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth. (Genesis 8:15)
  • Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? (Psalm 2:1)
  • they imagined a mischievous device, which they are not able to perform. (Psalm 21:11)
  • They also ... imagine deceits all the day long. (Psalm 38:12)
  • Which imagine mischiefs in their heart (Psalm 140:2)
  • Deceit is in the heart of them that imagine evil (Proverbs 12:20)
  • neither shall they walk any more after the imagination of their evil heart. (Jeremiah 3:17)
  • But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in the counsels and in the imagination of their evil heart, and went backward, and not forward. (Jeremiah 7:24)
  • But have walked after the imagination of their own heart, and after Baalim, which their fathers taught them. (Jeremiah 9:24; for fun, try substituting Darwin for Baalim here)
  • Yet they obeyed not, nor inclined their ear, but walked every one in the imagination of their evil heart (Jeremiah 11:8)
  • This evil people, which refuse to hear my words, which walk in the imagination of their heart (Jeremiah 13:10)
  • And ye have done worse than your fathers; for, behold, ye walk every one after the imagination of his evil heart (Jeremiah 16:12)
  • And they said, There is no hope: but we will walk after our own devices, and we will every one do the imagination of his evil heart. (Jeremiah 18:12)
  • Thou hast seen all their vengeance and all their imaginations against me. (Lamentations 3:60, 61)
  • What do ye imagine against the Lord? (Nahum 1:9)
  • He ... hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. (Mary, praising God in Luke 1:51)
  • Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. (Paul, in Romans 1:21)
Paul continues, “professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.”  Here you have witnessed academic elite scientists claiming, out of thin air, without any evidence, that sophisticated electrical engineering emerged by mistake!  Does the shoe fit, or what?  They have glorified their own speculations.  They have imagined a fable that runs 180 degrees contrary to the evidence.  They have totally refused to bend their stiff necks to alternative explanations, like intelligent design.  They have shown themselves to be dogmatist wolves in scientist sheep’s clothing, walking after the imaginations of their own foolish hearts.
    So we end with more advice from the Apostle Paul: words that would have been understood as a mission statement by many of the founders of science: “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God” (II Corinthians 10:4).
Next headline on:  Cell BiologyEvolutionary Theory
Dinosaur Fight or Common Fate?    01/17/2007  
A fossil discovery by amateurs in Montana, reported by the Great Falls Tribune, shows “a meat-eater and a plant-eater – with their tails crossed like swords.”  The fossils show “remarkable detail, right down to tendons and teeth.”  The three amateur discoverers had been scouting on private property in Garfield County.  Finding bone fragments on a canyon floor, they noticed they came from bone sticking out of the hill in crumbly stone on the hillside. 
He scrambled about 20 feet up the side of the canyon, following a trail of bone fragments, to a flat ledge where he saw what was unmistakably a large fossil: a dinosaur pelvis exposed in the rock.
    “Literally his butt was hanging out of the hill,” [Mark] Eatman said.
    The team brushed away the crumbly stone, exposing a femur articulated into the pelvis and, even more striking, tendons.
    “To see them like guitar strings going down the side of this big bone was pretty amazing,” Eatman said.
The “world-class dinosaur find” included a Gorgosaur (like a T. rex) and a ceratopsian.  The carnivore was nearly 100% complete except for a claw.
    The article discussed two controversies.  The primary dispute was about the rights of amateurs to find and sell fossils (see also a Nature article this week).  Another concerned the circumstances of the burial.  The discoverers found a tooth in the back of the plant-eater and wondered if the two were locked in combat when they died.  A paleontologist had another view.  “Based on the placement of the skeletons, it’s more likely that the two unfortunates were victims of a flood event and their bodies washed up on the same sandbar,” he said.
The hypothesis of mortal combat appeals to our sense of drama from seeing B-movies of dinosaurs, but think about it: would Gorgon be thinking about a meal while drowning?  The pro believed that they were buried in a flood event.  That’s a common explanation for a dinosaur here, a dinosaur there, and a dinosaur over yonder.  The impressive wall of bone at Dinosaur National Monument far to the south in Utah is also explained by watery burial.  They never seem to consider connecting the dots that maybe the same flood event buried them all.  For tendons and articulated limbs to be preserved it must have been a very unusual and widespread event, unlike anything ever seen in Dinotopia before.  Does their entombment in crumbly rock really support the notion that the burial occurred 75 million years ago, and that these explorers happened along just as the bones were disintegrating?  Only if one believes in dumb luck.
Next headline on:  FossilsDinosaurs
Fossil Non-Embryos Quench Cambrian Explosion Fuse    01/16/2007  
Alleged fossil animal embryos in Precambrian rock in China are not.  Last year (06/18/2006) and before, researchers found what looked like cleaved embryos in the strata under the Cambrian “explosion” layers.  Now, a paper in Nature reclassifies them as giant bacteria, not embryos.1
    Some evolutionists had hoped the discovery of animal embryos would soften the explosion by pushing the origin of symmetrical body plans further back in time.  In a News and Views article in the same issue of Nature,2 Philip C. J. Donoghue (U of Bristol) termed this an “embryonic identity crisis” that deflates those hopes.  “The oldest known animal fossils, identified as eggs and embryos, had been expected to reveal secrets from a period of great evolutionary change,” he said.  “Will the latest theory about the fossils’ origins confound these hopes?”  Apparently so; he ended by admitting that evolutionists still have “overarching questions” about the timing and embryological basis of animal origins.  Finding that these structures are something less than embryos means the evolutionists are back at square one; “like all other theories about Precambrian animals, the classification of these fossils is far from resolved, even at the kingdom level.”

1Bailey et al, “Evidence of giant sulphur bacteria in Neoproterozoic phosphorites,” Nature 445, 198-201 (11 January 2007) | doi:10.1038/nature05457.
2Philip C. J. Donoghue, “Palaeontology: Embryonic identity crisis,” Nature 445, 155-156 (11 January 2007) | doi:10.1038/nature05520.
Evolutionists have been on their own one-yard line since they took possession of the ball and got the referee to disqualify the other team.  Even with their overwhelming advantage, they have been moving one yard forward, one yard back for 146 years.  The crowds are getting restless.
Next headline on:  FossilsEvolutionary Theory
Evolutionary Reversal: Is the Neanderthal Category Collapsing?    01/16/2007  
The Oase skulls found in Romania share modern and Neanderthal characteristics, reported Science Daily in a story reverberating on major media sites (see Reuters).  From a press release by the University of Bristol, Science Daily reported, “By comparing it with other skulls, Professor [Joao] Zilhao and colleagues found that Oase 2 had the same proportions as modern human crania and shared a number of modern human and/or non-Neandertal features.”  That’s the modern part.  But:
However, there were some important differences: apparently independent features that are, at best, unusual for a modern human.  These included frontal flattening, a fairly large juxtamastoid eminence and exceptionally large upper molars with unusual size progression which are found principally among the Neandertals.
What history does this imply?  Zilhao suggested an “evolutionary reversal” may have occurred – or maybe our sampling of human diversity in the period dated between 30,000 to 40,000 years is incomplete.  “Oase 2 is ‘modern’ in its abundance of derived modern human features, but it remains ‘nonmodern’ in its complex constellation of archaic and modern features.
    The original paper was published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.1  See also the BBC News and Live Science.
    Meanwhile, other scientists working in South Africa are claiming that “A 36,000-year-old skull from South Africa provides the first fossil evidence that modern humans left Africa 70,000 to 50,000 years ago to colonize Eurasia,” according to National Geographic News (see also a press release from Max Planck Society).  How can that be?  Well, one researcher was “struck by its similarities to the skulls of the first modern humans found in Europe.”  But if Neanderthals had already been in Europe 130,000 years ago (maybe even more than 200,000 years), would they be expected to be interfertile with new arrivals 50,000 to 70,000 years ago?  A press release from Texas A&M University admits that “we still don’t have all of the evidence required to test these models – to disprove or prove them.”  No one seems to be asking if it is plausible that two divergent groups would be able to interbreed after a separation of 60,000 years or more – ten times as long as recorded history.  Another study of skulls in Russia puts the migration even later, at 45,000 years ago, reported EurekAlert.  At the extremes dates, Neanderthals and modern humans would have been evolving on separate courses for over 150,000 years.  Ted Goebel [Texas A&M] put it this way in Science:2
Current interpretations of the human fossil record indicate that fully modern humans emerged in sub-Saharan Africa by 195,000 years ago.  By 35,000 years ago, modern humans thrived at opposite ends of Eurasia, from France to island southeast Asia and even Australia.  How they colonized these and other drastically different environments during the intervening 160,000 years is one of the greatest untold stories in the history of humankind.

1Rougier, Trinkaus, Zilhao et al, “Pestera cu Oase 2 and the cranial morphology of early modern Europeans,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, published online before print January 16, 2007, 10.1073/pnas.0610538104.
2Ted Goebel, “The Missing Years for Modern Humans,” Science, 12 January 2007: Vol. 315. no. 5809, pp. 194 - 196, DOI: 10.1126/science.1137564
What does he mean “untold stories”?  The evolutionists have been telling this “story” and others in their molecules-to-man tale for a century and a half.  It’s like guns.  Fossils don’t tell stories; evolutionists do.  You notice that this story is told in the absence of facts.  Goebel gets all excited because someone interprets a data point in the middle of nowhere as being 60,000 to 50,000 years old, and he thinks they’re getting warmer.  It’s like they find a brick in Russia, one in South Africa and one in Tanzania and think they almost have their yellow brick road to Charlie’s emerald city.  There’s more gap than text in this fictional plot.
    Evolutionary reversal – how’s that for an evolutionary euphemism for non-evolution?  We need an evolutionary reversal, all right, back to a science that doesn’t tell fables.  If the Oase folks gained their peculiar mosaic of traits by interbreeding with Homo sapiens, then the Neanderthal fable is over.  These were people.  The myth of the brutish Neanderthal has outlived its usefulness to a discredited view of human history.  Adding new twists to the fable is not helping.
    Speaking of fables, we’re going to coin a new word: fability, the ability to tell fables.  Darwinists are very good at this ability.  It’s closely related to fibility, the ability to tell fibs.  Adding fable upon fable is similar to telling new lies to prop up earlier ones.  For a century and a half now, the Darwinists have been fibbling and fabling about Neanderthal Man, accentuating the differences and underplaying the similarities.  Using fabled dates, they have constructed elaborate imaginary histories of early man grunting and hunting for tens of millennia, never becoming smarter than a teen-age videogame player.  Then the wise guys showed up (Homo sapiens sapiens) and quickly outwitted them in the job market.  The whimpering dimwits retreated to their caves, leaving bones for evolutionary paleontologists to use as props for the story.
    TV producers have leapt onto the opportunity to visualize all this fability.  Especially in Darwin’s turf, they have found no shortage of actors willing to go nearly naked with lots of Neanderthal brow-ridge clay and body hair to portray the whole diorama.  It’s been a long-running series, but the fans are getting bored.  Can we switch now to the History Channel?
    Just because our Neanderthal brethren looked slightly different from us doesn’t justify categorizing them outside the human family and considering them less urbane.  Like the cave man in the Geico commercials, it makes them very frustrated.
Next headline on:  Early Man
  Relive the drama of the Huygens landing on Titan two years ago, from 01/15/2005 and 01/21/2005.  Big list of links at 05/18/2005; links to awesome animations at 05/04/2006.  Latest updates at ESA.

Human Body Inspires Engineering Design    01/14/2007  
The chemical processing industry is keenly aware of the complexity of the refineries and chemical processing plants that produce the multitude of chemicals that make our life easier.  A chemical processing plant can have thousands of motors, hundreds of tanks, miles of piping, and tens of thousands of transmitters sending measurements back to a control room to allow operators to properly control a process for making just a few products.  The computers that control these processes take thousands of hours to program.  Imagine a chemical plant that is self maintaining, self repairing, self regulating, responds to a huge variety of conditions, uses a large variety of feedstocks, and lasts for over 75 years!  That chemical plant would be our bodies, of course.  Control Magazine published an editorial challenging engineers to look to the human body for inspiration for new ways to deal with the challenges the processing industry faces in process control and in engineering design.  It seems that a Designer has not only solved many problems processing plant engineers face, but has done so elegantly:

" ...taking a closer look at biological processes can help adapt or improve existing process controls and systems.  And, as available biological examples grow increasingly sophisticated, this simple analogy may fuel more and better ideas on the process-control side.
Opportunities for copying the body's designs exist for refinery piping, communications, and artificial intelligence to allow computers to improve how refineries are controlled.  Self healing communication networks now beginning to come into use in refineries have always been in use in our bodies:
"...remember that arteries have the many of the same backflow preventers as industrial pipes.  So, I think maybe studying capillaries’ elastic properties and epithelial cells may suggest some new flow-conditioning methods.  Likewise, low-voltage swapping across nerve-cell sheathes and neurons’ interactions with receptors and ganglia at either end are the basis for nervous system communications, and so they too might suggest better models for process-control networking.  For example, artificial neural network (ANN) models and fuzzy logic software have long sought to mimic and benefit from biologically based decision making.  Self-healing mesh networks already reroute data packets around obstacles, much like phone-switching protocols and neurological pathways.  

Because it functions at every size from the visible to the microscopic to the molecular, biology also may be the key to developing and implementing many future nanotechnologies. 

Mentioning random, mindless evolution in this editorial would be like jumping in ice water from a warm bath, and indeed, there is no mention of evolution to be found.  Engineers appreciate the comparison of evolution to a tornado in a junkyard producing a 747 more than other people because they know how much hard work it is to design something even as simple as an airplane.  How much more complicated are our bodies, with literally thousands of little refineries producing many thousands of chemicals, each in the right amount, at the right time, and delivered to the right place.  We have much to learn from this well oiled machine.
Next headline on:  Human BodyEvolution
Cells Use Zip Codes to Determine Their Body Location    01/13/2007  
Scientists reported in an article in PLOS1 that cells have the equivalent of a Zip-code built in to their DNA that codes their location in the body.  Skin cell DNA from 47 locations on a subjects were compared.  Three locations on the DNA were found to correspond to the location of the cell in the body, specifying whether it came from the upper or lower torso, near to or far from to the center of the body, and near to or far from the surface of the body.  How cells know where they are in the body has always been a puzzle, and now it turns out the cell address is coded into the DNA:
A major question in developmental biology is, How do cells know where they are in the body?  For example, skin cells on the scalp know to produce hair, and the skin cells on the palms of the hand know not to make hair.  Overall, there are thousands of different cell types and each has a unique job that is important to overall organ function.  It is critical that, as we grow and develop, each of these different cells passes on the proper function from generation to generation to maintain organ function.  In this study, the authors present a model that explains how cells know where they are in the body.  By comparing cells from 43 unique positions that finely map the entire human body, the authors discovered that cells utilize a ZIP-code system to identify the cell’s position in the human body.  The ZIP code for Stanford is 94305, and each digit hones in on the location of a place in the United States; similarly, cells know their location by using a code of genes.  For example, a cell on the hand expresses a set of genes that locate the cell on the top half of the body (anterior) and another set of genes that locates the cell as being far away from the body or distal and a third set of genes that identifies the cell on the outside of the body (not internal).  Thus, each set of genes narrows in on the cell’s location, just like a ZIP code.  These findings have important implications for the etiology of many diseases, wound healing, and tissue engineering.

1 Rinn JL, Bondre C, Gladstone HB, Brown PO, Chang HY (2006) Anatomic Demarcation by Positional Variation in Fibroblast Gene Expression Programs. PLoS Genet 2(7): e119 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgen.0020119
This study is obviously just a first step in what will be a long and complex process to determine not only how a cell knows where it is, but how it knows what to do there.  At each of the many cell divisions from single egg cell to fully formed person with trillions of cells, each cell must pass on information to the next cell about what what kind of cell it is and what happens next.  At some point in the path from single cell to human being, there is a single cell that goes on to become an arm, or a leg or a pancreas.  Contained in that cell is the information about how to build an arm, leg, or pancreas, but also, it is somehow keeping track of the fact that it is the cell whose job it is to become that arm, leg or pancreas.  Building a body requires not only the information in the DNA to be able to manufacture the right parts, it must also contain the information on how to put the parts together.  Scientists are just beginning to find that this information is there in the DNA too.  Breaking the code so that they can read it, something that cells do all the time, will take much hard work.
    Evolution is not mentioned at all in this article, which is not surprising in light of the enormous complexity of building a working human body from the plans coded in our DNA.  Anyone working day to day with the problem of trying to fathom how our body builds itself probably doesn't want to think about how this could have all come about accidentally.
Next headline on:  Cell BiologyGenetics and DNAEvolution
Evolutionist Lost Faith Over Flawed Geology Lesson   01/12/2007    
A college student’s Biblical faith could not survive a geology lesson that seemed to offer convincing proof that the earth was old – much older than the Bible said it was.  This test of his faith was a tipping point.  He began to question the Bible, and ended up becoming a prominent evolutionist.  His books and articles present a halfway sympathetic view of his former creationist friends, but he is convinced now that science has disproved the Bible and established the truth of evolution.  But now, the rest of the story: that evidence that challenged his faith back then has since been shown to be wrongly interpreted – so wrong, in fact, that even secular geologists now agree with the creationist interpretation.
    The man is Ron Numbers, now a professor of the history of science and medicine at the University of Wisconsin.  The geology lesson was about the fossil forests in Yellowstone.  In the 1970s, geologists taught that what looked like 30 separate forests had grown on top of each other, one at a time, only to be buried by periodic volcanic eruptions.  A sign at Specimen Ridge in the park explained this as a matter of fact.  Estimates ranged from 20,000 years minimum to 30,000, or 50,000 years or more were required – in any case, far more than a conservative Genesis timeframe could allow.
    On May 18, 1980, an explosive event with profound repercussions for geological science took place.  Mt. St. Helens erupted.  In one day, this event literally overturned the long-age interpretation of Specimen Ridge.  In the Roadside Geology book about Yellowstone sold in the park, geologist William Fritz described his reaction to mudflows he witnessed along the Toutle River in Washington.  “It was just like Yellowstone!” he exclaimed.  Since that widely-observed natural experiment in catastrophic geology, the work of volcanic mudflows has become the leading explanation for how the Yellowstone fossil forests were emplaced, layers and all.  The old sign that explained the old theory to millions of park visitors is long gone.
    When telling his life story, Ron Numbers has pointed to that premature lesson about the Yellowstone fossil forests taking tens of thousands of years to form as the incident that began turning him away from creationism to evolutionism.  Most recently, in an interview in Salon Magazine published January 2, he was asked at what point his ideas about creation began to change.  He responded,
I wish I knew.  There are a few moments that proved crucial for me.  I went to Berkeley in the ’60s as a graduate student in history and learned to read critically.  That had a profound influence on me.  I was also exposed to critiques of young earth creationism.  The thing that stands out in my memory as being decisive was hearing a lecture about the fossil forest of Yellowstone, given by a creationist who’d just been out there to visit.  He found that for the 30 successive layers you needed -- assuming the most rapid rates of decomposition of lava into soil and the most rapid rates of growth for the trees that came back in that area -- at least 20,000 to 30,000 years.  The only alternative the creationists had to offer was that during the year of Noah’s flood, these whole stands of forest trees came floating in, one on top of another, until you had about 30 stacked up.  And that truly seemed incredible to me.  Just trying to visualize what that had been like during the year of Noah’s flood made me smile.
He went on to describe how he and a fellow Bible-believing student wrestled all night with the implications of this explanation.  “Before dawn, we both decided the evidence was too strong,” he said.  This was a crucial night for me because I realized I was abandoning ... the authority of Genesis.
    He did not indicate whether he had ever heard “the rest of the story” about Yellowstone.
And thus, an evolutionist professor, who writes books against creationists, was molded – partly but significantly from a flawed interpretation of geological evidence.  Ron Numbers is the embodiment of a fable we told in our 11/13/2006 commentary.  An evolutionary explanation is presented as a matter of fact; it shakes a student’s faith; the damage is done; he “sees the light” of evolution and becomes a convert.  Then, years later, new evidence comes out showing that the creation explanation was trustworthy all along.
    In both that case and this one, we are not saying that secular geologists have come running back to Genesis confessing their sins and saying the Bible-believers were right.  Of course they continue to talk long ages; the Yellowstone eruptions were umpty hundred thousand years ago with multiple episodes, the Nevada eruptions were similarly age-old, etc. (as if they were there with a stopwatch).  What’s important to remember is that data does not interpret itself.  Look again at the other story links at the end of the 11/13/2006 commentary.  Despite geologists’ philosophical commitment to the geologic column and its evolutionary foundation, they continually revise their stories, sometimes overturning them completely, as new evidence comes in (e.g., last week, 01/03/2007).  It just so happens that the latest interpretations of the Yellowstone and Nevada deposits are consistent with a catastrophic, flood-geology, young-earth view.  As such, they present neither a necessary nor sufficient reason to doubt the trustworthiness of the Bible.  The sudden catastrophic model is superior in many respects to the slow-and-gradual model.  Since the Bible-believing scientists propounded this idea before it became the new consensus, even when Ron considered it incredible and laughable, and no one took it seriously at the time, you could even say that in this instance the Bible-believing, young-earth creationists have been vindicated.
It’s ironic that the old-age view was presented by “a creationist.”  Obviously not all creationists accept the Genesis timetable.  But creationists who subscribe to an old-earth or theistic-evolution view should ponder the impact of that view on Ron as a student.  It did not help him resolve conflicts between the Bible and “science” – it eroded his trust in the Bible completely.  Some old-earth creationists like Davis Young have touted the Yellowstone fossil forests as proof positive that the earth could not be fitted into a few thousand years.  Now they have egg on their faces.  Regardless of one’s position on the age of the earth, one lesson is clear: what science is claiming today is always subject to change.  Using today’s consensus to argue against the Bible’s history, which has withstood scrutiny longer than any scientific claim, is risky business and of doubtful support for Biblical worldview construction.
Ron Numbers’ view of creationism is more nuanced and sympathetic than that of the typical Darwinist, owing to his personal experience.  But since that fateful geology lesson, it appears he began interpreting subsequent scientific claims through a new lens – an evolutionary, materialist lens.  One can only wonder how differently his life would have turned out had someone rushed into that class at the end of the lecture, yelling, “Wait!  Mt. St. Helens has just erupted, and billions of tons of logs are being deposited in layers along the Toutle River in a matter of hours!  It’s just like Yellowstone!”
    As stated in the 11/13/2006 commentary, unbelief often becomes a deep trench once it starts.  It is highly doubtful Ron Numbers would retrace his worldview journey back to that point if someone were to tell him about the paradigm shift at Yellowstone.  By this time he has cut too deep a trench to climb out.  His reputation among his peers is also on the line.  Few people who publish books taking strong positions ever change their minds.  The twig is bent; the die is cast.  He is no longer the Learnuh, he is the Mosstuh.  He has seen the light.  Miracles can happen, but the new Yellowstone story is unlikely to make someone who touts the so-called “overwhelming evidence for evolution” change sides at this late date.  Pastors, parents, and Christian teachers wanting to prepare students for adulthood should take some sober lessons from this case study.
    In the first place, Biblical history should be presented as more than just stories.  It needs to be shown to correspond to actual historical events.  The new Archaeological Study Bible is a great resource to show the correspondence between Biblical history and archaeology and history from other sources.
    Secondly, Christian students should not be insulated from contradictory ideas.  Conflicts are inevitable anyway, so it is very counterproductive to avoid them.  Children and teens want to know their beliefs are sound.  Instruction about scientific controversies must be age-appropriate, of course, but in Ron’s case, why did it take college age at Berkeley (of all places) for him to discover critical thinking?  That should have started before age 10.  (Note: “Critical thinking” at liberal universities often becomes imbalanced questioning of traditional values and religious beliefs – see quote by Berkeley law professor Phillip Johnson in the header of the Baloney Detector).  It is by facing difficulties head-on that confidence in one’s worldview is built.  Like Johnson has often teased, we should teach students more about evolution than the schools want them to hear!  A student can’t understand our modern world without understanding Darwinism and evolutionary theory and the best arguments put forth to support it.  But, unlike in public schools, they should also get the scientific arguments against it.  A vast majority of American citizens believe that.
    Thirdly, and even more important, students should learn the limits of science.  They need to develop a healthy skepticism of the ability of fallible human science to make knowledge claims about the past (or even the present, for that matter).*
Ron grew up in a Seventh-Day Adventist church.  Though outside the mainstream of Protestant tradition, SDAs are staunch Bible believers.  However much his well-meaning parents and teachers might have thought they were protecting students by teaching only the young-earth view and avoiding contradictory scientific views from secular geology and evolutionary biology, it is clear in hindsight that insulation from challenge can backfire.  By high school and college age, young adults are questioning the beliefs they were taught as children anyway.  We should help them learn how to do it right.  Dodging hard questions or making a child feel guilty for doubt is a bad example.  It gives the impression that Christianity is anti-intellectual, or too weak to stand up under examination.  The great Christian physicist James Clerk Maxwell believed that Christianity was the only system that allowed full and free investigation, without sacred spots that were off limits to scrutiny.
    Chuck Colson and Nancy Pearcey gave a memorable example of facing controversy in chapter 5 of their book How Now Shall We Live? (Tyndale, 1999).  They portrayed a father confronted by his daughter’s questions about evolution.  He didn’t have ready answers at the time.  But he did a brave thing that made an impression on her: he answered, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.”  And he let her know he was willing to lay his own faith on the line to find answers.  So with his daughter, he did a research project on the evidence for creation and taught her more than just answers to her specific questions: he taught her that a Christian need not be afraid of investigating the evidence.  He showed her that the way to handle a doubt is to confront it with research and honest analysis of both sides of a controversy.
If Ron Numbers had left the safety of church and home armed with critical thinking skills and an arsenal of sound strategies to consider skeptical claims fairly, how much different would his life had been?  It’s hard to say.  Some students will rebel for other reasons: perhaps, a rationalization to explore their lusts, or a desire to fit in with a peer group.  It appears, though, that Ron has maintained a soft spot for his childhood worldview, as if nostalgic for it.  Some ardent anticreationists grew up in a church but were completely unprepared for the allure of evolutionary propaganda.  They not only embraced it readily, but became ardent foes of Christianity.  E. O. Wilson and Michael Shermer come to mind.  From Ron Numbers’ own testimony, though, it seems he and his friend sincerely wanted to keep their faith.  They respected truth and yet were conflicted by what appeared to be solid evidence against what they had been taught.  A solid education in handling difficulties and controversies honestly and critically is good insurance against sudden challenges by conflicting ideas.
It goes without saying that bad beliefs deserve to fall when unable to withstand a challenge.  Some Christians fall for foolish ideas that are not supportable from the Bible or scientific evidence, like myths of NASA support for Joshua’s long day, or speculations about where heaven is in the visible universe.  Critical thinking demands the honesty to abandon a belief that is no longer defensible after rigorous investigation of the evidence and research into all the well-reasoned points of view.  The same standard cuts both ways.  When will the evolutionists abandon Haeckel’s; embryos, junk DNA, vestigial organs and the other discredited props for their beliefs?
    Unfortunately for Ron, his doubts about a young earth were aggravated by legitimate doubts about the credibility of SDA’s prophetess Ellen White – a writer no other Christian groups consider authoritative.  This contributed to him tossing the whole religious package altogether.  Most SDAs are very congenial and sincere people, but any Christian who gets too closely tied to one particular sect or denomination should take warning.  Beware if you belong to any group that becomes ingrown and isolated, trusts only its own material and shuns fellowship with other true Christians in other denominations.  Sectarianism can pose a setup for rejection of all Christianity by the young when maybe the fault is with unusual teachings or practices of the denomination, not the Bible itself.  The more a church, tradition, or a strong leader becomes the authority rather than the Bible itself, the greater the risk.
Science is a search for truth, but it is not the truth.  It is limited in its domain (the observable world).  It is done by fallible humans.  Science is tentative at best, and often wrong.  There are deep and abiding philosophical doubts about the ability of mere mortals to comprehend reality by our senses with any confidence that what we deem scientific today is true, necessary, universal and certain.*  It bears repeating: evidence does not interpret itself.  Over and over in these pages you have read about evolutionists twisting and forcing contradictory evidence into the rigid container of their world view.  The same evidence can often bear one or more other equally-valid interpretations.  At best, science can claim evidence is consistent with a belief but cannot thereby claim it is True with a capital T.  Even the claim of consistency is a judgment call.  It often involves willfully ignoring some inconsistent evidence rivals might consider weighty.
    The next time someone shows you supposedly incontrovertible evidence that the Bible cannot be trusted, and that science has proved it wrong, don’t be so quick to believe the claim.  Like the father in the story above, go find out.  The Bible has withstood millennia of attacks from all sides.  Sometimes you may have to wait a few years for the scientific consensus to shift back, or for a volcano to blow the old theory up in smoke.  A world view worth living by is one that is rooted and grounded in conviction that has been tested by challenge.  Victorious faith requires both exercise and armor.  Young people should go to “world view boot camp” for both.  Exercise teaches one how to use the armor, and the sparring of ideas allows quality armor to show its true mettle.
Next headline on:  EvolutionGeologyDating MethodsBible and Theology
*Suggested resources that explain the difficulty of associating scientific claims with “the truth” are available from The Teaching Company.  These secular, non-sectarian, college-level courses listed below are, if anything, favorable to evolutionism and dismissive of ID – yet they grapple head-on with the long debate over what constitutes knowledge in science.  Despite their feeling that science is “onto something” worth special status in society, both professors are unable to come to a resolution.  They fail to provide incontrovertible reasons why scientific knowledge should be trusted over other kinds of knowledge – including common sense, religion or even young-earth creationism.
    The lectures, of course, should be listened to critically, especially when the professors critique intelligent design (with arguments refuted by their own arguments in other lectures).  The fact that these products do not come from Christian or creationist sources makes their refutation of scientific infallibility all the more compelling.  Many evolutionists are profoundly ignorant of the history and philosophy of science.  They are logical positivists without knowing it, assuming without warrant that science is progressive, and that empiricism alone is sufficient and superior for understanding the world – ideas that have been debunked for decades.  Learning some philosophy of science, therefore, gives you a strategic advantage in debating them.  Though challenging and requiring concentration, these lectures are highly recommended for teachers, parents, scientists, and anyone dealing with the claims of the scientific materialists.
Science Wars by Steven L. Goldman (Lehigh U), 2006.
Philosophy of Science by Jeffrey Kasser (North Carolina State U), 2006.
Note: about once a year, any set of TC lectures goes on sale for a fraction of the list price.  They can be downloaded for MP3 players (cheapest) or ordered on CDs or DVDs with study guides.  The audio versions are usually sufficient.
Evolutionists Fret Over Persistent Creationism    01/11/2007  
Fretting and fuming over the persistence of creationism (and belief in God, which usually accompanies it), evolutionists are trying to come up with ways to combat it.  This presupposes that they are not listening to the arguments of the creationists.
  1. Ambassadors for Darwin:  In an editorial in Science Jan. 12, editor Alan Leshner encouraged scientists to become ambassadors.  Calling it the best of times (in terms of the rate of new discoveries) and the worst of times (because of public distrust of science): “Perhaps worse, public skepticism and concern are increasingly directed at scientific issues that appear to conflict with core human values and religious beliefs or that pose conflicts with political or economic expediency,” he said.  Specifically, “These include embryonic stem cell research, the teaching of evolution in schools, evidence for global climate change, and controversies over genetically modified foods.”  The complex issues and tensions in the creation/evolution issue, he said, requires a long-term commitment by scientists to public engagement, including “genuine dialogue with our fellow citizens about how we can approach their concerns and what specific scientific findings mean.”  Though toned down somewhat from last week’s war council (see “Become an Evo-Warrior,” 01/06/2007, bullet 3), the advice from Science left it ambiguous whether the content of said dialogue would be bidirectional.
  2. Grand Canyon rapids:  In the Random Samples newslets of the Jan. 12 issue of Science, mention was made again of Tom Vail’s creation book in the Grand Canyon bookstores, Grand Canyon: A Different View that caused a furor among secular geologists three years ago (see 01/18/2004, 10/06/2005, 09/16/2005).  The group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) in Washington, DC is up in arms that the book is still sold, even after the National Park Service compromised by moving it to from the scientific section to the inspirational section.  PEER renewed its demand in December that the book should not be sold at all.  In addition, they issued a press release claiming that park rangers are being agnostic about the age of the Grand Canyon, citing some kind of policy that “park personnel are not permitted to tell visitors the Grand Canyon’s true age of 5 million to 6 million years.”  The National Park service “emphatically denies this charge,” Science reported (see PDF of statement) and defends its decision on book sales, saying “Our job is not to convince the public how to think.”
  3. Creationism a conservative plot, or evolutionism a liberal plot?  In a letter to the editor in the same Jan. 12 issue of Science, Allan Mazur, a member of the Public Affairs Program at Syracuse U, confirmed an earlier article hinting that “American views on evolution may be related to political liberalism and conservatism.”  Mazur cited polls that show correlated disbelief in evolution with political conservatism.  “Political liberals were significantly more likely than conservatives to believe that humans evolved,” he added.  “Belief in evolution rises along with political liberalism, independently of control variables.”
  4. Atheists on Attack:  Casey Luskin found cause for criticism of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) which has defended the “Flying Spaghetti Monster” parody of an “intelligent designer” (see Evolution News entry for Dec. 25).  As Luskin wrote for Evolution News, does this endorsement include the flagrant mockery of world religions?  The quotes he found by a satirist invoking this myth go beyond the pale of “light-hearted fun at the opposition’s expense” and get downright ugly and intolerant, in his opinion.  The feedback Richard Buggs got in The Guardian for defending intelligent design has a similar temperature and flavor.
  5. Turkish dogfight:  After exposing the creation heresy in Turkey recently (11/27/2006), Nature (Jan. 11) seemed glad to print encouraging news from the evolutionary field.  Two Germans and a Turk wrote the journal relaying that “Turks [are] fighting back against anti-evolution forces.”  The teaching of evolution is not a lost cause in Turkey, they cheered.  Against the discouraging backdrop of a 25-year conservative trend, and a poll of biology and teachers saying only 47% accepted evolution (27% of young teachers, a “more disturbing” statistic), Turkish scientists are working to reverse these trends.  How hard are they working?  “A group of graduate students known as Evrim Caliskanlari, or ‘hard-workers for evolution’, has started translating the University of California, Berkeley’s Understanding Evolution website into Turkish.”
        Apparently taking another tip from California, a non-governmental group in Turkey “has filed a lawsuit against the Ministry of Education, demanding that creationism should be removed from textbooks and evolutionary biology should be covered appropriately in the curriculum.”  They are not sure how this will turn out.  “The ministry has responded by asserting that darwinism is scientifically suspect – using publications by the US intelligent-design Discovery Institute for reference,” they said.  “It goes on to claim that developed countries are including creation-like theories in their curricula and to imply that evolution is not compatible with Turkish ‘culture and values’.”  They ended by calling on more Turkish scientists to engage the battle, to “put pressure on their academic bodies to take a pro-evolutionary position,” to influence the ministry of education and public opinion.  “Better late than never,” they ended.
  6. Whose pressure?  A News Focus editorial by Nigel Williams in Current Biology (Volume 17, Issue 1, 9 January 2007, Page R2, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2006.11.056) was titled “Creation pressure,” but only spoke of the free packets with intelligent-design DVDs by Illustra media sent teachers by Truth in Science.  These free materials included no coercion or pressure to use them; in fact, by Williams’ own admission, the UK government “condemned” them as “not appropriate to support the science curriculum.”  Williams quoted evolutionists were “alarmed” that these materials were being used in at least 59 schools: but, presumably, those teachers chose to use them of their own free will.
        Williams went on about whether intelligent design is science or not, then alleged that “The DVDs were produced in America and feature figures linked to the Discovery Institute in Seattle, a think-tank that has made concerted efforts to promote intelligent design and insert it into high-school science lessons in the US,” a claim the Discovery Institute has repeated denied (see policy statement).  Williams then hailed the Dover decision as an event that should have trumped ID once for all (see 12/12/2006).  Despite its title, it was hard to find any instance of pressure by creationists in Williams’ editorial.
Except for the undefined word “dialogue” by Alan Leshner (bullet 1), in none of these cases was there a hint anywhere that the pro-evolution side was listening to or taking seriously any of the evidences for creation or scientific criticisms of Darwinism. 
The only “creation pressure” Williams is feeling is that of the victims tightening their muscles on Darwin’s Rack.  He wants them to just lie down and take their due like the compliant penitent heretics.
    When confronted with challenges to their beliefs, the Darwinists dig in their heels and become obstinate.  They don’t engage in debate, they run to their lawyers and threaten lawsuits.  They translate their propaganda into Turkish, but don’t reason about scientific evidence.  That tells you a lot.
    Compare today’s Darwiniacs with Charles Darwin’s own appeals to reason and desire to weigh both sides of each issue.  In the 1860s, evolutionists were in the minority.  Once they got power, it was like a communist takeover.  At first, communists just want seats in Parliament and a fair shake at the debate.  When they get their revolution, Parliament is quickly disbanded and the purges begin.  That’s why you can’t trust the Darwinists with Big Science control.  They talk science (reason, logic, evidence, impartiality) when in the minority, but once in power, they redefine science to keep everyone else out, make debate about alternatives unlawful, and force their indoctrination on the young.  And like under communism, a few elitists actually enjoy power while the masses suffer in silence.
    Notice again that evolutionary faith is strongly correlated with political liberalism.  That’s the side of the coin that is often ignored.  The Darwinist People of Froth rush to link intelligent design and creationism to “religious fundamentalism” but don’t face the counter charge that evolutionism props up their political agenda – stem cells, global warming and all – along with their entire progressivist world view and religion (atheism).*
    So let’s do a little scientific reasoning from a Darwinian perspective.  If you accept the logical rule that any self-refuting proposition is necessarily false, then explain, in terms of natural selection, why Darwinism consistently fails to gain a majority in a population of human organisms.  Clearly, faith in evolution must have negative survival value.  It might be that the selfish genes are conspiring to keep their secret about evolution suppressed.  But then, how would anyone know this is true?  Q.E.D.
Next headline on:  EducationEvolutionIntelligent DesignPolitics and Ethics
*If you are an evolutionist reading this, your only hope to regain credibility with the majority of people who disagree with you is to engage the serious scientific criticisms of Darwinism honestly.  Using legal pressure and propaganda tactics proves the point that the real motive behind the Darwin-only program is a liberal-leftist political power trip.  Tell the creationists and intelligent design people and other Darwin skeptics how molecular machines evolved, why all the major animal body plans arose without ancestors, and why the universe appears exquisitely fine-tuned for our existence.  Ostensibly it is scientific evidence that gives evolutionism the epistemic priority to exert dominance in education and funding.  Without that, less noble motives are unmasked.  While you’re at it, tell us why atheistic materialism must be the foundation for scientific reasoning when the history of science shows otherwise.
Book review:  Philosopher Alvin Plantinga thinks calling Dawkins’ book The God Delusion “sophomoric” is an insult to sophomores.  Read his review at Prosthesis Blog.

Amphibious Assault Against Gradualism    01/10/2007  
A State of the Salamander Address was printed in PNAS recently.1  An international group of scientists looked for evolutionary ancestry and “Global patterns of diversification in the history of modern amphibians.”  It would seem Mr. Darwin has a bit of frog in his throat:

The fossil record of modern amphibians (frogs, salamanders, and caecilians) provides no evidence for major extinction or radiation episodes throughout most of the Mesozoic and early Tertiary.  However, long-term gradual diversification is difficult to reconcile with the sensitivity of present-day amphibian faunas to rapid ecological changes and the incidence of similar environmental perturbations in the past that have been associated with high turnover rates in other land vertebrates.  To provide a comprehensive overview of the history of amphibian diversification, we constructed a phylogenetic timetree based on a multigene data set of 3.75 kb for 171 species.  Our analyses reveal several episodes of accelerated amphibian diversification, which do not fit models of gradual lineage accumulation.  Global turning points in the phylogenetic and ecological diversification occurred after the end-Permian mass extinction and in the late Cretaceous....   Approximately 86% of modern frog species and >81% of salamander species descended from only five ancestral lineages that produced major radiations in the late Cretaceous and early Tertiary.  This proportionally late accumulation of extant lineage diversity contrasts with the long evolutionary history of amphibians but is in line with the Tertiary increase in fossil abundance toward the present.
Note: “accelerated diversification” can be considered a synonym for “abrupt appearance” for all practical purposes.  “Because of its incompleteness, the fossil record of amphibians sheds little light on the time and rate at which modern taxa attained their current diversity,” they said; “...the timing and intensity of important macroevolutionary trends are obscured by fossil scarcity.”
    Molecular evidence, however, failed to rescue Darwinian gradualism.  Their charts show no clear upward trend in diversity over time, but peaks and valleys and a sudden burst of diversification in the most recent epoch.  “Our results, inferred from extant taxa,” they said in conclusion, “provide evidence for substantial fluctuations in the history of amphibian net diversification and reject the hypothesis of gradual lineage accumulation.”  See also the report on New Scientist and its discussion of “exploding frogs.”
1Roelants et al, “Global patterns of diversification in the history of modern amphibians,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.0608378104c, published online before print January 9, 2007.
OK, another research project has falsified Darwin’s prediction.  Keep up the good work.
Next headline on:  Terrestrial ZoologyFossilsEvolutionary Theory
Are Evolutionists Converging on a Story of Vertebrates?    01/10/2007  
Here’s what the Linnean Society said in 1909, celebrating the 50th anniversary of Darwin’s Origin of Species, about the rise of vertebrates (fish, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals):
“When we return home and our friends gleefully enquire, ‘What then has been decided as to the Origin of Vertebrates?’, so far we seem to have no reply ready, except that the disputants agreed on one single point, namely that their opponents were all in the wrong.
Henry Gee, senior editor of Nature, quoted this remark by a participant at those meetings as a foil to his optimistic conclusion in a review article,1 where he crowed, “we have come a long way since 1909.”  Gee built his optimism around the reclassification of a hemichordate worm as the ancestor of all vertebrates based on studies by Lowe et al. in the 4 Jan issue of Nature.  Yet the basis for optimism was hard to find in the body of his review.  He indicated that many issues in this long-running problem in evolutionary biology are still only at the beginning of hopes for a solution, 98 years after the Linnean forfeit.  Some clips:
  • Molecular investigations of the origin of the dorso-ventral axis in an obscure marine invertebrate illuminate one of the longest-running debates in evolutionary biology – that over the origin of vertebrates.
  • Vertebrates are so different from other creatures that discovering their origins within the animal kingdom has always been problematic.  But molecular, developmental and genomic work on the sometimes obscure invertebrate relatives of vertebrates is prompting a re-evaluation of this vexed topic.
  • The quest to understand the deployment of the dorso-ventral axis has been one of the most enduring themes in the study of vertebrate origins.
  • This notion [a proposal by Geoffrey Saint-Hilaire in the 19th century] joined a list of seemingly eccentric theories about vertebrate origins that has been lengthening ever since.
  • Lowe and colleagues’ work on hemichordates adds welcome perspective.... More seriously, this new perspective will prompt a reappraisal of the many peculiarities of the development of the mouth that are seen in lampreys (primitive, jawless vertebrates) and amphioxus (a primitive, non-vertebrate chordate).  However, the central nervous systems of insects and chordates – and indeed those of all animals that have them –represent a range of solutions in which the location is governed by the BMP-Chordin axis, if not directly specified by them.
  • The status of amphioxus itself has likewise been a matter of debate....
  • Of course, sequencing a genome is not the same as understanding the evolution of morphological novelties. But we have come a long way since 1909....
In the end, his article really amounted to a brief look at one new perspective in a long-standing debate, contingent upon results of more genomic studies.
    Meanwhile, in the same issue of Nature,2 some Finnish scientists in conjunction with the Denver Museum studied mammal teeth using a “homology-free” approach (see “Homology for Dummies,” 05/05/2004).  Their method did not consider common ancestry, but just looked at tooth shape of carnivores and their prey.  They devised rules for categorizing tooth phenotype based primarily on diet.  It was striking to them how similar some teeth looked considering how long ago their lineages diverged according to evolutionary theory:
Cat teeth and mouse teeth, for example, are fundamentally distinct in shape and structure as a result of independent evolutionary change over tens of millions of years.  There is difficulty in establishing homology between their tooth components or in summarizing their tooth shapes, yet both carnivorans and rodents possess a comparable spectrum of dietary specializations from animals to plants.  Here we introduce homology-free techniques to measure the phenotypic complexity of the three-dimensional shape of tooth crowns.  In our geographic information systems (GIS) analysis of 441 teeth from 81 species of carnivorans and rodents, we show that the surface complexity of tooth crowns directly reflects the foods they consume.  Moreover, the absolute values of dental complexity for individual dietary classes correspond between carnivorans and rodents, illustrating a high-level similarity between overall tooth shapes despite a lack of low-level similarity of specific tooth components.  These results suggest that scale-independent forces have determined the high-level dental shape in lineages that are widely divergent in size, ecology and life history.
It seems that for teeth, regardless of evolutionary history, you are what you eat.
1Henry Gee, “Developmental biology: This worm is not for turning,” Nature 445, 33-34 (4 January 2007) | doi:10.1038/445033a.
2Evans et al, “High-level similarity of dentitions in carnivorans and rodents,” Nature 445, 78-81 (4 January 2007) | doi:10.1038/nature05433.
How long do you give a scientific hypothesis time to be established?  Five years?  Ten years?  Has 148 been enough yet?  Darwin’s gangsters have been scratching their heads for over a century to put the pieces of the vertebrate puzzle together.  Despite Henry Gee’s confident optimism, they are still at square one.  (This same Henry Gee is an ardent foe of Darwin critics and rarely prints their letters in his Huxley bulldog rag.)
    Their failure to explain the origin of vertebrates and every other plant and animal group did not stop the Darwinists from celebrating the 50 year anniversary of the Origin, and the 100th year anniversary in 1959 (a whopper of bombast, bravado and bluffing with enough hot air to lift a tank).  Now, plans are already underway for a huge Darwin year of celebrations in 2009.  Hate to rain on your parade, fellas, but how about a little evidence that your theory fits the observational facts?
    Meanwhile, science marches on without need for approaches based on evolutionary homology.  The researchers in the second paper assumed evolution, but did not use it in their work.  They did science the old-fashioned way: measured things about teeth and related them to observable factors like what the animals eat.  Darwin’s tinker-fairy tales provided little practical help in their actual work.  The only influence of Darwinian thinking was a surprise effect: “Shazam, look how similar these teeth look after 65 million years of independent evolution!”  Chew on that thought.  Then put it where it belongs – in the spittoon.
Next headline on:  MammalsEvolutionary Theory
Teaser:  Was this microscopic object intelligently designed?  It has no function, so it must be junk.  Read the caption on Live Science, then “think” about the reasoning behind design detection.

The Perfect Shock Absorber – An Amazing “Feet” of Design    01/10/2007 
[Guest article]  The wonders of the human foot should make you stand up and take notice.  The Los Angeles Times reported the findings of two professors, Edward Glaser, a podiatrist from Tennessee, and Dr. Nancy Kadel from the University of Washington.

“It’s ingenious,” says Edward Glaser, a Tennessee podiatrist who switched professions from mechanical engineering to podiatry because of his admiration for the foot’s function.  “As a machine, it’s an engineering marvel.”
    The foot is built to walk on everything natural – grassy knoll, pine needle forest floor, volcanic rock – uphill and down.  It is constantly balancing, changing direction and absorbing a pounding equal to 3.5 times the body’s weight, only to spring back in time for the next step.
    With its 26 bones and 33 joints, the foot is a biomechanical masterpiece.  “There’s something wonderful about it,” says Dr.  Nancy Kadel, professor of orthopedics and sports medicine at the University of Washington.  “It’s a flexible shock absorber, then it’s a rigid platform that propels you forward.  It adapts to sand when you walk on the beach.  Then you climb onto rocks to look at the tide pools, and it drapes over the rocks.”
Despite expressing wonder and awe at such magnificent design, the article soon dips into speculating about its evolutionary origins, claiming that the foot took millions of years to take shape.  It cites the Laetoli footprints (02/03/2006, 07/20/2005, 03/12/2003) and Australopithecus aferensis (09/20/2006, 04/27/2006) as evidence of ancestral evolution.
Despite the usage of the term design by Dr. Carol Frey, an assistant professor of orthopedics at UCLA, this is yet another example of evolutionists beholding exceptional design yet refusing to acknowledge its source in an intelligent cause.  The article admits, “Gaps in the fossil record don’t allow for pinning down exactly when hominids stood up and walked on two feet,” so it’s unclear why they proceed to assert evolutionary ancestry, or why they cite Laetoli footprints and Australopithecus aferensis as examples of foot evolution.
    The Laetoli prints are clearly human footprints.  They reveal essentially no difference between the foot that made them and today’s modern foot structure.  Fossils of Australopithecus (which evolutionists assert was from about the same time frame) bear no relevance to the evolution of human feet, because whether they walked upright is controversial, based only leg bones, not foot bones.  Connecting fossil dots fails to account for exactly how the interoperational complexity of the foot could have evolved.  “Ancient” snapshots in time show little or no change.  How did the first modern shock-absorbing structure for upright balance come about?  Accidental mutations?  All changes would have to be drastic, perfect and simultaneous.  As any podiatrist will tell you, one little toe bone out of alignment in the structure of the foot can be very painful.  That would most certainly make any hopeful ape considering making the transition from knuckle walking to the “full and upright position” stop dead in its tracks.
Next headline on:  Human BodyIntelligent DesignAmazing Facts
  Does microevolution add up?  How science is done when the charlatans become the shamans, from 01/15/2004.

Dreams of Planetary Oceans Dry Up    01/09/2007  
Astrobiologists like oceans.  The vision of life evolving on Earth in a primordial soup drives the quest to find liquid on other worlds.  It doesn’t have to be liquid water: just liquid that stimulates the imagination with visions of exotic life.  Two solar system bodies once considered prime candidates for ocean front property, though, have recently dried up substantially, reducing their value as astrobiological real estate.

  1. Titan:  A JPL press release painted a rosy picture for realtors looking at Titan’s lakefront property, after Nature1 wrote up the scientific results of a July flyby by Cassini (see also the comments by Christophe Sotin2).  Though Sotin boasted “Titan’s lost seas found,” those who know the history of the region must sigh over the long-lost global ocean that was once thought to exist on this huge Saturnian moon (see Science 12/16/1983).3  In 1983, Titan expert Jonathan Lunine and team “proposed that Saturn’s satellite Titan is covered by an ocean one to several kilometers deep consisting mainly of ethane.”  Cassini found, on the contrary, that the bulk of Titan is crisscrossed by sand dunes (05/04/2006).  Scientists are pretty sure now that the lakes, only found between the 70th and 83rd parallel north, have some liquid in them.  As to what happened to the vast oceans of liquid ethane and methane thought to have accumulated over 4.5 billion years, they can only speculate that it went underground or glommed onto solid particles (10/18/2006).  Cassini is incapable of directly confirming that possibility.
  2. Mars:  Few probably heard the whimper about Mars water expressed in Science last week.4  In the heyday of early science results from the Mars Exploration Rovers, scientists trumpeted the possibility of extensive and persistent oceans of water in the Martian past (12/20/2004, 08/06/2004, 04/12/2004, 01/03/2004).  These days?  Here’s what was overheard about “a nastier early Mars” at last month’s meetings of the American Geophysical Union (AGU):
    When the Opportunity rover sent back signs of water early in martian history, the usual descriptor was “shallow salty seas.”  Sounded nice and cozy for any early martian life.  But at a press conference at the meeting, rover science team leader Steven Squyres of Cornell University made a point of spelling out the team’s best current understanding of early Mars, which is much less encouraging.  “At the surface, this was primarily an arid environment,” he said.  Only occasionally, here and there, would puddles of salty, acidic groundwater form between dunes of salt sand.  As the team’s latest paper puts it, “dominantly arid, acidic, and oxidizing” environmental conditions would have posed “significant challenges to the origin of life.
      (See 10/30/2006).  Best the Martian realtors can advertise now are small, localized waterparks (12/06/2006).
Jupiter’s moon Europa remains as a prime candidate for a vast under-ice ocean that might harbor exotic life.  The other large Galilean satellites might have deep water, but it’s probably too deep to encourage astrobiologists.  The geysers of Enceladus might not require liquid water (see 12/15/2006, last par.).  As waterfront real estate shrinks, the stakes for astrobiology marketing skyrocket.
1Stofan et al., “The lakes of Titan,” Nature 445, 61-64 (4 January 2007) | doi:10.1038/nature05438.
2Christophe Sotin, “Planetary science: Titan’s lost seas found,” Nature 445, 29-30 (4 January 2007) | doi:10.1038/445029a.
3Lunine et al., “Ethane Ocean on Titan,” Science 16 December 1983: Vol. 222. no. 4629, pp. 1229 - 1230, DOI: 10.1126/science.222.4629.1229.
4Richard A. Kerr, “FALL MEETING OF THE AMERICAN GEOPHYSICAL UNION: Snapshots From the Meeting,” Science, 5 January 2007: Vol. 315. no. 5808, p. 37, DOI: 10.1126/science.315.5808.37a.
Liquid water is a rare and beautiful substance.  If you want to float your life boat, better do it here.
Next headline on:  Solar SystemOrigin of Life
New Scapegoat for Your Golf Score: Evolution    01/09/2007  
Stanford scientists are blaming evolution for our difficulty at golf, according to The Stanford Daily.  Working with rhesus monkeys, the researchers found that primate brains are too adaptable to changing conditions to become good at a repetitive tasks.  “One possible explanation for the observation is that evolution favored predators who could improvise, as they never face an identical situation twice when hunting prey,” explained reporter Daniel Novinson.  But with the D word designed used twice by Mark Churchland, what is the message?
“The nervous system was not designed to do the same thing over and over,” said Churchland, a co-author of the study, to the Washington Post.  “The nervous system was designed to be flexible.  You typically find yourself doing things you’ve never done before.”
Apparently no one asked the traditional follow-up question, “Who designed the designer?”
Some weeks we may need a category for Stupid Evolution Quote of the Day.  Did it never cross their designed minds that a flexible nervous system is a good example of purposeful design?  Why give Charlie Chance the credit?  Meanwhile, if you hit the sand trap, blame yourself, not evolution.  Golf would not have evolved.  It has negative survival value.
Next headline on:  DarwinismDumb Ideas
Non-Embryonic Stem Cells Found in Amniotic Fluid    01/09/2007  
A vast source of possibly pluripotent stem cells without ethical problems has been discovered in amniotic fluid by scientists at Wake Forest University.  Ronald Green of Dartmouth is hoping the science pans out, according to National Geographic News.  He said, “We are very much in need of ‘ethically universal’ lines [of stem cells] that anyone can use, regardless of their views on the moral status of the human embryo.”  The amniotic stem cells also avoid the problem of cancerous tumors that plague embryonic stem cells.  See also reports on Baptist Press, BBC News, Live Science, Family Research Council and Agape Press, which hopes Nancy Pelosi is listening two days before a Congressional vote on funding of stem cell research.
It will be interesting to watch the liberal pro-embryonic-stem cell people respond to this announcement.  So much money and momentum is behind the use of embryos for stem cells, they are sure to find flaws in this study that help them argue that killing embryos is still needed.  Follow the money trail, as always.  If this turns into a victory for the pro-life side, remember that it is only one stem of a thorny tree.  Last week, for instance, a Nature editorial (4 January, doi:10.1038/445001a) vacillated on chimera research (the mixing of human brain cells with animals).  The main thing holding back the editors from endorsing a full-steam-ahead attitude was fear over a public outcry that might restrict funding.
    Remember, nobody is banning embryonic stem cell research with private funds.  Why, though, should the public be forced to spend their tax dollars on research many of them find objectionable?  Some call the harvesting of human embryos the moral equivalent of cannibalism, said the BBC News.  As radio talk show host Laura Ingraham likes to point out, we are all former embryos.
Next headline on:  Politics and Ethics
Woodpecker Heads Absorb Shocks    01/09/2007  
Pounding a tree with your head 12,000 times a day would tend to give one a headache, but for woodpeckers, it’s all in a day’s work.  How do they manage?  Corey Binns on Live Science interviewed Ivan Schwab (UC Davis) who explained some of the specialized adaptations in a woodpecker head: thick muscles, spring-like bones, a third eyelid, a compressible bone in the skull, a firm outer eyeball, and a rigid brain without cerebrospinal fluid.  “Along with their straight-as-an-arrow strikes at the tree, which safeguards against head trauma, birds” bodies are designed to absorb the impact,” he said.  The whole bird participates in the act.  The third eyelid, for instance, closes a millisecond before impact, preventing the eyeball from popping out as the woodpecker hammers its beak into the wood up to 20 times a second.  Specialized claws hold the bird in the vertical position, and tail feathers brace it against the trunk.  Schwab explained that without these adaptations woodpeckers would not advance.  The excuse, “Not tonight, honey, I’ve got a headache” would quickly bring an end to the woodpecker heritage.  Either they are very tolerant of headaches or the systems work as “designed.”
It was nice of Corey and Ivan to spare us evolutionary tales in this short but fun look at a natural wonder.  For a more complete look at the wonders of woodpecker anatomy, learn from Job Martin in the delightful films Incredible Creatures that Defy Evolution.
Next headline on:  BirdsAmazing Facts
Mars Life With Bleached Hair    01/08/2007  
Mars has hydrogen peroxide.  Bombardier beetles use peroxide.  So maybe the Viking landers in 1976 didn’t find life, because they didn’t look for peroxide-based life.  That’s the essence of the reasoning in an Associated Press story circulating on the net (see
    Reporter Seth Borenstein earns Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week for relaying this thought from a researcher behind the idea that Mars life is peroxide-based: “ [Dirk] Schulze-Makuch acknowledges he can’t prove that Martian microbes exist, but given the Martian environment and how evolution works, ’it makes sense.’”
    To his credit, Borenstein quoted some skeptics.  “ Other experts said the new concept has a certain logic to it, but more work is needed before they are convinced.”  Mitch Sogin [Woods Hole] went further.  Hedging his bets that he is open to the possibility of peroxide-based life, he cautioned against “just-so stories about what is possible,” Borenstein ended.
We need a new principle in science, especially in astrobiology.  All new ideas should be considered dumb until proven otherwise.  First corollary: all “givens” to a dumb idea are accessories to dumbness.  Second corollary: the dumbness of a proposition implicates dumbness in its accessory givens.  Try this out on: “Given how evolution works.... it makes sense.”
Next headline on:  Solar SystemOrigin of LifeDumb Ideas
Is Legal Hammerlocking the Way to Win a Scientific Controversy?   01/06/2007    
The cartoon stereotype of a scientist as an unbiased truth-seeking nerd wearing a white lab coat is hard to reconcile with some recent events.  Not that the cartoon stereotype was ever realistic, but the row over Darwinism vs Intelligent Design (ID) shows just how biased and unethical certain people and organizations can behave in support of their side.  One would think a scientific controversy would involve the debating of evidence in the open marketplace of ideas (another cartoon stereotype).  But what if some participants work instead to prevent their opponents from even being heard?  Is making one’s opponent cry uncle a measure of scientific progress?
  1. Georgia: Stickers gone “for good”:  The Cobb County School District near Atlanta, Georgia thought they had a strong case for appealing the decision of Judge Cooper, who ordered stickers in high school biology textbooks calling for critical thinking on evolution to be removed (05/24/2005, bullet 6).  The appeals court did not rule on the constitutionality of the stickers.  Instead, it remanded the decision back to the local court on grounds the records of the lower court were incomplete.
        In the meantime, though, the burden of legal proceedings and costs on the school board grew too great.  Weary from legal hassles and mounting costs, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the school said last month it was giving up.  It settled with the five parents who sued the school with backing from the ACLU, by agreeing to remove the stickers.  Not only that, they would never again apply any similar stickers, they said, and agreed to pay a third of the plaintiff’s costs: some $160,000.
        The school board was not acknowledging fault by this action, as if they felt they had done something wrong or without merit.  Attorney Larry Taylor expressed his feelings to the paper in an editorial Dec. 21 (article reprinted on Uncommon Descent): “Once again, the potent combination of a liberal judge and the deep pockets of the American Civil Liberties Union have proved too much to overcome,” he said.  “...This case was never about questioning evolution.  It was about making sure it was taught honestly, fairly, accurately and completely – all of which the current textbooks fail to do.”  Nature (4 Jan 2007) agreed that the decision was pragmatic: “The school board had a right to appeal but decided to abandon the case, in part because of rising costs.”  CNN quoted the board chairwoman saying, “We faced the distraction and expense of starting all over with more legal actions and another trial.”  They just wanted to get it over with and start the year with a clean slate.  Attorney Brian Fahling of the American Family Association, according to Agape Press, regrets that the school board buckled under pressure.
        Needless to say, the pro-Darwin side is rejoicing over this capitulation.  The NCSE justified the decision, and Science Now smirked that the stickers are “gone for good.”
  2. California:  Frazier Park a year later:  What happened since the Frazier Mountain High School capitulated to legal pressure in January? (01/25/2006)  In that case, also, it was not that the teacher or the school board felt that they had done anything wrong; they were concerned over the cost of defending themselves in court.  Even though they agreed in the settlement to “never again” offer a class that promotes creationism or intelligent design, the teacher had every intent of offering her “philosophy of design” class again this year, because “promoting” creationism was never the purpose to begin with.
        Nevertheless, certain persons saw to it that it wouldn’t happen.  Though the people in the communities around Frazier Park are overwhelmingly conservative and supported the class, the only newspaper in the little mountain town is owned by a liberal pro-Darwinist.  She not only wrote articles strongly biased against intelligent design (example), and tended to print only letters of similar persuasion, but promoted anti-ID candidates in the school board election.  As a result, two anti-ID candidates won seats—one of them the plaintiff who had filed the lawsuit.  Ethics would demand he recuse himself over this issue because of a conflict of interest, but because the community appears weary of the controversy, it appears unlikely it will be discussed again any time soon.
        Unfortunately for the pro-ID side, one of their allies, the district superintendent, had to quit his position over charges of ethical violations unrelated to the ID controversy.  The school board is now strongly stacked against the class and it is unlikely a repeat will be attempted again any time soon.
        One pastor in the area says that the paper pushed the two anti-ID candidates ad nauseum and reported against ID with false information and bias approaching hysteria.  He said the people of the community tend to get excited over an issue for awhile but quickly tire of it.  Thus the anti-ID minority in this small mountain town gained the momentum against the majority—not by debate over the issues, but over legal pressure, threats and propaganda.
  3. Darwin’s arsenals:  Apparently not satisfied with their legal victories, or rather their ability to wear down the opposition, the pro-Darwin forces are ratcheting up their battle tactics.  Science this week (Netwatch, Jan 5) urged readers, “Become an Evo Warrior.”  What, pray tell, is an evo-warrior?  The news item pointed to an arsenal of evolutionary info at FASEB, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, which contains “pointers on meeting with public officials, testifying at school board hearings, and related topics” in case your local school board tries something like Cobb County or Frazier Park did, or even if your hometown newspaper runs an editorial in favor of intelligent design.  The site has sample letters to write, Powerpoint presentations, posters, cards and even buttons that proclaim “Teach Evolution – Learn Science.”
  4. Paper victory:  A congressional committee found evidence for harassment and discrimination by the Smithsonian against Dr. Richard Sternberg, who had allowed publication of a pro-ID paper in a Smithsonian journal (see Evolution News).  The report listed numerous examples of spying, plotting, lying, scheming and creating a hostile environment against Dr. Sternberg by Smithsonian staff with the NCSE’s help.  It is unlikely those charged will suffer any consequences of this report, however, or that many citizens will even know it exists.  The NCSE website makes no mention of the accusations against them in the report and shows no signs of changing anything they are doing.  Apparently there are no fines, penalties or legal consequences against those involved—unlike the large legal costs faced by school boards sued by the ACLU or Americans United for Separation of Church and State.  The report, headed by Republican congressman Mark Souder, only makes recommendations to Congress about what should be done to prevent such behavior by the Smithsonian in the future.  With the new Democratically-controlled congress in session, that will most likely not be on the agenda.
It would seem that school boards intellectually prepared to debate evolution and ID lack the fortitude or budget to count the cost of protracted, expensive lawsuits.  Is Darwinism winning by pressure, then?  John West of the Discovery Institute, however, is encouraged by the events of 2006.  In his podcast for Dec. 25 on ID the Future, he listed reasons to believe Darwinism is imploding and ID is making headway – not the least of which is the apparent paranoia of Darwinism’s defenders.
After the Darwin idol topples, we’re going to remember the litany of shenanigans and intimidation tactics of the Darwiniacs and hold it up for all to see.  Philosophers and historians of science are going to shake their heads over this one.  It’s hard to remember a time when people ostensibly committed to evidence, debate, logic and reason behaved so badly.  Where is the rationality, the intellectual dignity and integrity, behind Darwin buttons and Darwin Days and legal hammerlocks against poor local teachers who just want their student to hear both sides of one of the biggest scientific controversies of our time?  This is crazy.  They don’t have a philosophical or historical leg to stand on for believing Darwin’s fairy tales and insisting that people can’t hear anything else.
   Whenever the Darwiniacs have tried to debate the evidence in a fair exchange they have almost always walked away with dodo droppings on their heads.  No wonder they are paranoid.  Notice that nothing in the Darwin Party’s reaction deals with scientific evidence.  It’s all about strategizing to silence anyone who opposes them.  If they can only win by threatening with their ACLU attack dogs and silly propaganda games, how can they look at themselves in the mirror?  The evidence, meanwhile, marches on (example).
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Are Cellular Motors Related by Evolution?    01/05/2007  
Just because two things go round and round, does that make them related by common ancestry?  A Japanese team thinks so.  A bacterial flagellum rotates (06/04/2002).  So does ATP synthase, though it is about 10 times smaller (04/30/2004).  Publishing in PNAS,1 these researchers looked for a relationship, and noted that these two motors bear some structural similarities.  Also, the Type III Secretion System (TTSS) seems involved in this evolutionary family.  “These results imply an evolutionary relation between the flagellum and F0F1-ATPsynthase and a similarity in the mechanism between FliI and F1-ATPase despite the apparently different functions of these proteins,” they said.
1Imada, Minamino, Tahara and Namba, “Structural similarity between the flagellar type III ATPase FliI and F1-ATPase subunits,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.0608090104, published online before print January 3, 2007.
Sad to see these researchers, who do great work on understanding cellular motors, be drawn into the dork side of the farce.  Their argument seems based strictly on structural similarity.  This represents a very weak understanding of homology (05/05/2004) and cannot hold up under scrutiny.
    According to Darwinian theory, each random variation or mutation can only be selected if it has survival value.  In the first place, not all bacteria have flagella or TTSS systems, so the evolutionary need for them seems doubtful.  More importantly, how could you go from a working motor to one ten times larger in a stepwise fashion?  Imagine evolving a dump truck from a motorcycle.  Let’s say that the next generation has a lucky mutation on the way to our goal—a piston ten times larger.  But now it doesn’t fit the cylinder!  The motorcycle is broken, and stops working.  Being useless to the motorcycle, it rapidly finds its way to the junkyard.
    The laws of natural selection are very demanding.  Unless each small step aids survival, it cannot be selected.  (We’re assuming here, too, that you hadn’t yet heard that neo-Darwinism has already been falsified, so none of this matters anyway—see 12/14/2006).  All the parts of the ATP-synthase motor and the flagellar motor are not only necessary, they are fitted together to each other’s specifications.  What’s more, the genetic code also has to assemble all these parts in the right order, in the right location, or they won’t work.  In other words, you can’t get from the motorcycle to the dump truck in a series of chance mutations, nor can you get from ATP synthase to a flagellum, or vice versa.
    For these scientists, therefore, to presume for a moment that the two motors are related just because some parts of the ATP-synthase bear some structural resemblance to the parts of the flagellum, like motorcycle to the dump truck, admitting as they do that they have different functions, is ludicrous.  They must realize this.  They work as close as anyone to the paragon of molecular machines (10/07/2006).  They appreciate their complexity (11/02/2005).  Is this paper their annual pinch of incense to Charlie so that they can keep their jobs?  We need scientists with the courage to tell the truth: complex interacting systems do not arise by chance.
Next headline on:  Cell BiologyEvolution
SETI: A Systematic Theology    01/04/2007  
Thick books on systematic theology usually include sections about creation, anthropology, and eschatology.  Those sections are also present in condensed form in an article by Adrian Brown of the SETI Institute at  As for origins, Darwinian materialism was implicit passim and needed no elaboration.  As for anthropology, he said man is like a god, creating beings in his own image by his own free will: “A compelling theme in science fiction is the potential of humanity to create life and the hazards arising from such an endeavor.”  As for eschatology, he suggested that our robotic creations will someday evolve to make us superfluous; “once robots destroy mankind, they will be able to live on without us.”  If we can play god, so much for our eternality and omnipotence.
    Though Brown admitted it is “fraught with danger to tell stories about the future to help make our decisions now,” he allowed himself some “imaginings” about “a timeline where humankind creates life and is destroyed by its creation.”  Our consolation will be to have been a part of the grand scheme of evolution:
Is this inherently bad?  It certainly is not a reassuring future for the generation that will deal with such conflict, presumably a generation that will live not far from today.  But once the conflict is over, as long as we have invested in our creation the means of Darwinian evolution, it is likely that Earth, viewed as a complete ecosystem, will continue marching towards further technological achievement and eco-systemic enlightenment.  Humankind will have played a heroic part in this adventure.  Even robots (perhaps especially robots) will have to acknowledge that.  Our lives will have meaning through our progeny, a common enough goal for everyday man.
He did not consider the possibility that the robots, as in 1984, will have written the memory of humans out of their history books.  Oh well, we will have been extinct too long a time by then to care.  Better this scenario than vanishing like smoke on a burning cinder of Earth after the sun goes out, he surmises.
    Can a Darwinian be the Intelligent Designer?  Do we have a choice, assuming that evolution is propelling us in that direction?  Let Brown comment on those teasers, and their corollaries:
Often the essential conflict for humans considering whether to produce intelligent life is: are we perfect enough to consider playing God?  It certainly is an achingly poignant question to a modern progressive thinker—but perhaps the question is moot.  Maybe machine life is inevitable in order that Darwinian evolution should continue on Earth.  Whether it is through humanity’s loins or through humanities laboratories that Darwin’s game is progressed may not matter.  Indeed, if humans gradually augment themselves with technology of their own creation in the coming centuries, will we fully realise when machines have ‘taken over’?  What will it be about a robot with a few original Homo sapien brain cells that makes it human?
It seems odd that a SETI researcher would be talking about such theological matters.  The relevance to SETI, he ends, is that our alien friends may already be at that stage, and this affects what we should be looking for.  We need to realize the possibility that “when we make contact with alien beings, they may be the robotic progeny of beings similar to ourselves.”  What an astonishing thought; they might be watching, but thinking we are not yet evolved enough to be worth their fellowship.  “Is it possible they are waiting for us to be smart enough to construct a robot that can talk to them?”
Sure; anything is possible in Fantasyland.  There could be monsters under the bed.  We could be software artifacts in the Matrix.  Or you can wish upon a star, and all your dreams come true.  Your robot progeny live happily ever after.  When people give free rein to the imaginations of their own hearts, miracles can happen.  Evolution can be progressive, and we can be as gods! (at least till the heat death of the universe).
    Boy, what a weird dream.  OK, time to get up and go back to work.  Wise people don’t make decisions in the daytime about their nightmares at night.  Adrian, while staring at your console today, good luck finding a persistent narrowband whistle.  If you luck out, we’d love to hear your rational explanation of how it is not the work of intelligent design (12/03/2005, 02/16/2006) and why SETI doesn’t stand for “Seminary for Extra-Terrestrial Imaginings” (06/03/2006, 03/09/2006).  Be sure you’re wide awake when you answer, because we can tell when you’re doing science and when you’re daydreaming.
Next headline on:  SETIBible and Theology
Article:  What Hath Galileo Wrought?    01/04/2007  
For the PhysicsWeb site, philosopher and historian Robert B. Crease (State U of NY at Stony Brook) wrote a “Critical Point” article called “The Book of Nature.”  He discusses Galileo’s contention that there is a Book of Nature separate from the Book of Scripture that can be investigated on its own through the language of mathematics.  What are the ramifications, and dangers, of this approach?  What impact do metaphors have on assumptions about the nature of science?  (See also the 07/04/2003 entry, “Metaphors bewitch you.”)
This well-written and thoughtful short piece needs little comment.  Take a moment to read Dr. Crease’s penetrating analysis of the consequences of ideas that are often taken for granted.  Galileo believed he was helping the church by segregating scientific interpretation from the Bible, but did it lead to a kind of secular priesthood of science?  While we do not endorse his statements entirely, they are worth considering, and you can draw your own conclusions.  It’s interesting that this nearly-theological piece appeared on a site devoted to news about physics.
Next headline on:  PhysicsPolitics and EthicsBible and TheologyIntelligent Design
  Presto!  A superfast motorized amplifier in your inner ear, from 03/27/2001, 02/21/2002 and 09/19/2002.

This Bacterium Moves Like a Tank    01/03/2007  
Mark McBride (U of Wisconsin) has been trying for a decade to figure out how a gliding bacterium glides.  His conclusion: the microbe has tire treads like a conveyor belt that make it roll over a variety of surfaces, like an all-terrain vehicle.
    According to a U of Wisconsin press release, the Department of Energy (DOE) is interested in this bacterium, Cytophaga hutchinsonii, because it can digest paper and other forest by-products.  This is the first step in converting biomaterial into ethanol, to use as fuel.
    Of the cell’s “parts list,” McBride identified 24 genes involved in its gliding motility.  He attached tiny latex spheres to the cell surface and then watched them move in all directions.  “The cell wall appears to have a series of moving conveyer belts,” he said.  He described these nearly invisible filaments as like tire treads, “designed to help the organism move over a variety of surfaces, like an all-terrain vehicle.”  He believes these structures also convey cellulose into the interior of the cell, toward specialized organelles that digest it.
    Figuring out how this cell digests cellulose is still a work in progress.  Unlike other bacteria that know the trick, this one “may use either a novel strategy or novel enzymes.”  The Department of Energy is interested in this research.  It may help our energy-hungry civilization “find other renewable materials that will be cost-effective alternatives, such as paper pulp, sawdust, straw and grain hulls.”
    What really intrigues McBride about his research on C. hutchinsonii, though, is what makes it go.  He and his students have been comparing it with another gliding bug, Flavobacterium johnsoniae, that although “not closely related,” may “use the same basic machinery to move.”  How different are these two?  McBride claimed, “You are more closely related to a fruit fly than these two organisms are to each other.”

Question: how much did evolutionary theory contribute to this decade-long science project?  Apparently, none.  The press release said nothing about evolution, but quoted the professor using a forbidden word to describe the structures he found: “They are designed to help the organism move over a variety of surfaces, like an all-terrain vehicle.”  Have you ever seen an ATV that emerged by evolution?  How about two that arrived at the same engineering solution independently, with nothing but mutations for information input?
    A mousetrap only takes 5 parts to be considered irreducibly complex; here is one system in one cell that requires 24 parts.  When any one of them was missing, the bacterium was stuck at a standstill.  From one of his comments, McBride apparently believes in evolution, but his research method assumes intelligent design and proceeds without Charlie’s superfluous counsel.  As a benefit of this team’s persistent efforts for more than ten years to understand how these microscopic ATVs work, we may some day be able to fill our car gas tanks with the output of microbial tanks.
    Could we see the world at the bacterial level, we would be astonished at the engineering.  Animators could have fun depicting these microscopic tanks appearing over the horizon, consuming all the cellulose in their path.  What kind of sound track would go with such a scene?  Imagine the crescendo to a climax when each machine divides into two working copies.  Let’s see military engineers try to duplicate that feat with just wood chips for fuel.
Next headline on:  Cell BiologyAmazing Facts
Precambrian Pods Promoted to Pleistocene (!)    01/03/2007  
The bulletin of the Geological Society of America started 2007 with a bang.  (Geeks sometimes refer to the exclamation point as a “bang”.)  It’s not often one sees an exclamation point in the title of a scientific paper, but the bang in one by Donald R. Lowe (Stanford) and Gary R. Byerly (Louisiana State)1 conveys something of the shock and awe they must have felt when they had to reclassify a rock formation from one end of the geologic column to the other:
Irregular bodies of goethite and hematite, termed ironstone pods, in the Barberton greenstone belt, South Africa, have been previously interpreted as the Earth’s most ancient submarine hydrothermal vent deposits and have yielded putative evidence about Archean hydrothermal systems, ocean composition and temperature, and early life.  This report summarizes geologic, sedimentological, and petrographic evidence from three widely separated areas showing that the ironstone was deposited on and directly below the modern ground surface by active groundwater and spring systems, probably during periods of higher rainfall in the Pleistocene.... These deposits represent a remarkable iron oxide-depositing Quaternary hydrologic system but provide no information about conditions or life on the early Earth.
Moving the earliest rocks on Earth to modern times is thus cause for a bang: “Ironstone bodies of the Barberton greenstone belt, South Africa: Products of a Cenozoic hydrological system, not Archean hydrothermal vents!”  The prior accepted date for the Barberton deposits was about 3.55 billion years.  The Pleistocene epoch is assumed to have begun about 1.8 million years ago.  This means the new date (within the evolutionary geologic timetable) is, at most, 0.6% of the old date.
1 Lowe DR, and Byerly GR (2007), “Ironstone bodies of the Barberton greenstone belt, South Africa: Products of a Cenozoic hydrological system, not Archean hydrothermal vents!” GSA Bulletin, January 2007, Vol. 119, No. 1 pp. 65-87, DOI: 10.1130/B25997.1.
Astronomy (10/01/2006, 01/16/2001), geology (11/13/2006, 08/08/2006, 04/01/2006) and evolutionary biology (12/13/2006) are some of the only fields where you can be over 99% wrong and still keep your job.  Is there no accountability for the geologists who claimed these rocks were Archean?  Does this give us any confidence that the current dating method is the final word?  Notice how geologists and evolutionists could point to these rocks and weave their stories about ancient primitive life on the planet, only to find out the rocks are so recent, they could be forming today!  (That deserved another bang.)
    Other articles in this month’s Geology and GSA Bulletin continue to propound dates for various formations with the same brazen aplomb with which geologists had told us the Barberton greenstones were billions of years old.  Let this be a lesson to our astute readership, because the geologists and evolutionists are apparently not learning theirs.
Reader Research Project:  Someone should do a literature search on this South African formation and see how the evolutionists have used it in their tales about early life on the planet, now that we know “These deposits ... provide no information about conditions or life on the early Earth.”  (Here’s one example from the AGU found quickly on Google, and another on GeoScience World glibly claiming these are 3.55 billion years old.)  Look for the dating methods that were used to claim they were ancient.  Search especially for how the “truth” of their old age was presented to students.  For an advanced project, someone should follow this story and see if there are any retractions as a result.  If you find anything interesting, send it in and we will post it.
Next headline on:  GeologyDating Methods
  Fitness for dummies, from 10/29/2002.

Human Endurance: Is It Evolutionary?    01/02/2007  
Some people are gluttons for punishment.  Many a couch potato is probably content to watch an Ironman or Ultramarathon on HDTV from a recliner, but the ones who take part in the grueling endurance contests gaining popularity illustrate some human capabilities scientists are only beginning to understand.  Nature1 described one called the Primal Quest adventure race:

Trek 125 kilometres, and cycle 250 more.  Kayak 131, rappel through canyons for another 97, and swim 13 in churning whitewater.  Throw in some horseback riding and rock climbing; spread it all over six days in the blistering Utah heat; and never stop to sleep.
Only some contestants complete this “adventure torture” but the fact anybody does has attracted the attention of physiologists.  Participants burn more calories than can be replaced by food.  Some scientists focus on the chemistry of fat metabolism for answers; others look at genetics.  Still others think the explanation is in the minds of the winners, not their physiques.  One researcher did not think the bodies of ultraracers are significantly different from those of other active people.  “The brain is the oft-overlooked organ that sets ultraracers apart,” he said; “– they are mental freaks, not physiological ones.”
    Freaks or not, ultraracers carry out feats that push their physical abilities to the limit and seemingly beyond.  Evolutionists look to something in human ancestry to explain abilities only a few today are using.
But even couch potatoes may have something of the endurance racer in them.  Daniel Lieberman, a biological anthropologist at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, argues that the human body is well-adapted to long-distance running, as an evolutionary hangover from our hunting and scavenging days.  Ultraendurance racers “are able to be freaks because evolution has enabled us”, he says.  A body capable of jogging tens of kilometres at a time helped our ancestors survive, he says.  Fuelled by plentiful water, energy bars and yet more training, that body can complete the 90 or more kilometres of an ultramarathon.
The article ended with an anecdote about one researcher who joined them to study them.  “If this is true, then many of those who study ultraendurance racers have also embraced their evolutionary past,” reporter Helen Pearson remarked.  A sidebar lists five of the most notorious international competitions.
1Helen Pearson, “Physiology: Freaks of nature?”, Nature 444, 1000-1001 (21 December 2006) | doi:10.1038/4441000a.
It was Lieberman who dazzled us in the 11/18/2004 entry about human endurance running.  This would be a good time to re-read that fascinating article that explained how unique it is in the animal kingdom, and how many physiological adaptations have to work together to make it possible.  The myth that all these remarkable traits converged in humans so that they could hunt and scavenge better takes great faith.  No other animal requires swimming, cycling, kayaking, trekking and running for six days in Utah heat to catch a meal, leastwise our chimpanzee brethren who were supposedly evolving alongside us in Africa in the same environment (09/01/2005).  The widespread phenomenon of overdesign, beyond what would be expected for mere survival, is a “major problem in quantitative evolutionary design” (see 06/19/2002).  The evolution of the couch potato lifestyle would be much easier to explain.  At least there is a known physical law behind it: entropy.
    As usual, Darwinian evolution is just a mythoid attached to the observational facts of the phenomenon, and contributes nothing to our understanding.  The science of human physiology has long prospered by viewing the body as a paragon of design.  If the body was created, then any attempt to “embrace one’s evolutionary past” is tantamount to hallucinating.  Lieberman is right about one thing; he and his fellow evolutionists have an “evolutionary hangover.”  Dar-wine has a deleterious effect on a researcher’s cognitive and logical faculties.  Suggested New Year’s resolution: kick the habit and sober up.
Next headline on:  Human BodyEarly ManEvolutionAmazing Facts
2006: A Year of Evolution Inaction    01/01/2007     
[Guest article]  New Scientist followed the suit of other commentators and comedians in reviewing the year 2006.  In terms of evolution, these finds/observations were highlighted:
When researchers introduced a larger, predatory lizard onto the tiny Caribbean islands where they live, A. Sagrei immediately began to evolve longer legs for speedier escapes.  But then the little lizards learned to flee into the branches of shrubs, where the predator could not follow – and within six months evolution had changed tack again to favour shorter-legged lizards, which are better climbers.
The article went on to describe a case of butterfly hybridization, and concluded with a mention of “evolutionary misfires”: i.e., “failed speciations” that reverted to the original type.
If this is all evolutionists can boast for the year 2006, it has clearly not been a good year for them.  Fossils such as Tiktaalik from early 2006 were not included because they were looking for actual cases of speciation.  A. Sagrei is, once again, evidence of microevolution; no new organs or genes indicating increased complexity were involved.  As New Scientist ruefully acknowledged, the lizard story is “small beer compared with the hard stuff of evolution: making new species.”  The only “new species” of butterfly documented was merely a hybrid between two existing species of butterflies.  The concluding “misfires” were non-events as well; they were not misfires, they were failures.  In 2006, biologists trying to document evolution in action have only documented their own inaction.
Next headline on:  Evolution

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“ 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 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 January

Sir David Brewster
1781 - 1868

The man who invented the kaleidoscope and was a leading physicist in Britain and one of the founders of the British Association for the Advancement of Science was a born-again Christian and opponent of Darwinism.

David Brewster, a gentleman scientist, born 10 years before Michael Faraday, resembled his famous younger contemporary in many ways.  He was considered the greatest living experimental physicist in his time, yet was largely self-taught and born of humble means.  He learned science as a teen from James Veitch, an ordinary plowman who had taught himself astronomy, mathematics and philosophy and had garnered a notable following from his inventions.  For decades, Brewster designed his experiments using simple throwaway items like bottles and pieces of wire.

Also like Faraday, Brewster never was financially secure till well into his senior years, despite numerous inventions that could have made him a wealthy man.  He eschewed personal glory, seeking instead to find what was interesting in each person he met.  It was not scientific education and science degrees that made David Brewster one of the great scientists of the days before Darwin (and like Darwin, Brewster’s only degrees were in theology).  It was hands-on experience, enthusiasm, diligence and love for God’s creation.  An observer once watched Brewster in the lab every few minutes leaning back with his hands stretched upward exclaiming, “Good God!  Good God!  How marvellous are Thy works!”

The kaleidoscope, one of Brewster’s clever optical inventions, became a huge fad.  Hundreds of thousands of these “beautiful forms for seeing” (from the meaning of the name) were sold all over Europe.  Sadly, Brewster never got much income from these curiosities, though he needed the money for his wife and four children.  Patent laws at the time were insufficient to guard against piracy.  Brewster watched helplessly as others profited enormously from his stolen (and poorly imitated) invention.  Kaleidoscopes remain popular to this day; who can resist the geometric patterns formed from the reflection of random bits of glass?  Other contributions to optical home entertainment that sprung from Brewster’s creative genius included improvements to photography and stereoscopes.  He also wrote about optical illusions and was fascinated with the optical properties of soap bubbles.

Brewster’s work in optics had much more scientific value than as mere toys, though.  For instance, he is considered the father of optical mineralogy.  This discipline allows specialists to identify minerals by their properties with light.  He even invented a new tool, the lithoscope, for this purpose.  Another of his inventions probably has saved countless lives at sea.  He invented the dioptric system for lighthouses—an advancement that produced a much more focused, planar beam that could be seen at much greater distances.  These lenses were adopted widely, such that his successor at St. Andrew’s University remarked, “Every lighthouse that burns round the shores of the British empire is a shining witness to the usefulness of Brewster’s life.”  (The Fresnel lens, developed independently in France, operates on similar principles).  Brewster discovered fundamental properties about polarization, double refraction, color, emission and absorption lines in spectra, photography, and the structure of the eye.  He considered the eye the pinnacle of God’s natural creation.  He wrote,

Although every part of the human frame has been fashioned by the same Divine hand and exhibits the most marvellous and beneficent adaptions for the use of men, the human eye stands pre-eminent above them all as the light of the body and the organ by which we become acquainted with the minutest and the nearest, the largest and most remote of the Creator’s work.”

Sir David Brewster published over 1,000 articles, including 314 scientific papers.  He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society and received most of its medals.  Though his only earned degree was in theology, he received many honorary degrees for his scientific work.  Of these he mostly valued an honorary MD German scientists had awarded him for his work to find a cure for cataracts.  Sir David Brewster was knighted by the king at age 50, having done his most significant work in his thirties.  At age 56, he was elected president of St. Andrew’s University in Scotland, where he served for 21 years.

Concerned over the decline of science in Britain, he helped found the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1831.  In 1851, he was elected president.  By the late 19th century the British Association had turned into a pro-Darwin force, but not in its early years.  Brewster resisted the rise of Darwinism and encouraged others to take a strong stand against it.  In fact, in 1851 he had found an object that should have falsified the belief in millions of years gaining popularity at the time: a nail embedded in a rock freshly taken out of a quarry.  Clearly, this human artifact could not be more than thousands of years old, he argued; but the scientific world ignored it, and embraced the long-age evolutionary views of Lyell and Darwin.

Brewster remained stalwart against the Darwinian tide.  When challenged about his religious faith, Brewster proudly showed a list of 717 scientists who had signed a statement affirming the priority of God’s Word over the changing opinions of science.  This document urged students not to be hasty to trust in the word of man over Scripture when contradictions were alleged.  It was impossible for God’s created world and His revealed Word to disagree, the document stated, and priority should be given to God’s word over the fallible and ever-changing opinions of man.

Brewster’s contributions to a Christian philosophy of science, and to church history, are no less significant than his scientific discoveries.  As an early editor of the fledgling Encyclopedia of Edinburgh, he wrote 40 of its articles himself.  As a pre-teen, he followed his father’s wishes to study for the ministry.  Entering the University of Edinburgh at 12, he completed his master’s degree at 19.  He was not cut out to be a preacher, though, and he knew it; he was too shy as a speaker.  Nevertheless, he had many Christian associates and friends.

One episode contributed incidentally yet significantly to the Scottish Free Church movement.  While editing the encyclopedia, Brewster asked his friend and colleague Thomas Chalmers, a mathematician, to write the article on Christianity.  It was through researching this article that Chalmers awakened to the truths of the gospel.  Chalmers became a historic leader of the Scottish Presbyterian Church, and later, a leader in the Free Church movement.  This was no easy break.  It meant giving up centuries of encrusted traditions and foregoing the financial gain and prestige of their positions in the established church.  Counting the cost, 470 men, a third of the pastors of the Scottish Presbyterian Church, bravely and willingly signed their names in 1843 to a document committing their lives to follow Christ and the purity of the Scriptures.  Brewster joined them (he was now 62 years old.  It nearly cost him his position at St. Andrews.  The public rallied to his support, so he was able to remain another 15 years.

Though Brewster believed in God and the Scriptures all his life, his faith did not become personal and real to him till his senior years.  Most of what he believed had been a collection of intellectual convictions.  Only after the death of his wife after 40 years of marriage did he struggle to understand the meaning of Christ’s death on the cross for him personally.  This point should be noted by creationists and by those in the “intelligent design” movement.  Just knowing there is a Creator is not the same as knowing the Creator personally.  Facts are not enough.  Each person must take the step beyond the evidence to trust in the Person to whom the evidence points.

Though David Brewster was intellectually convinced of the truth of the Bible and the divinity of Christ, he had a contentious and argumentative streak.  The work of the Holy Spirit was not evident in his life.  After diligent study of the Scriptures in his sorrow over his bereavement, he understood that he needed to trust the death and resurrection of Christ alone for his salvation: not his science, not his fame, not his intellectual knowledge.  As each pilgrim must do to enter the door of salvation, he confessed his sin personally and gave his life unreservedly and completely to Christ.  Only then did real evidence of regeneration begin.  He grew less opinionated and more gracious, more peaceful and contented.  The last years of his life were characterized by dynamic and confident faith and infectious love for Jesus Christ, his personal Lord and Savior.

One conviction remained constant throughout his 86-year life: the harmony of science and Scripture as means to know God.  Brewster denied there were contradictions between the two.  When confronted with alleged contradictions, he argued for the deficiency of science, not the Bible; any discrepancy was due to imperfect understanding or faulty interpretation, not the trustworthiness of God’s Word.  On his deathbed, he lamented the growing skepticism among men of science.  “Few received the truth of Jesus,” he said.  “But why?  It was the pride of intellect—straining to be wise above what is written; it forgets its own limits, and steps out of its province.  How little the wisest of mortals knew—of anything!  How preposterous for worms to think of fathoming the counsels of the Almighty!”  Looking ahead to his earthly end, he said, “I shall see Jesus, who created all things; Jesus, who made the worlds!”  His family heard him express his innermost feelings, filled with joy and confidence: “I have had the Light for many years, and oh! how bright it is!  I feel so safe, so satisfied!”

David Brewster’s epitaph is fitting for a man who had spent so many years studying light, vision, and optics.  Quoting Psalm 27:1, it reads simply, “THE LORD IS MY LIGHT.”

Credit: This short biography is adapted primarily from the excellent chapter on the life of David Brewster by George Mulfinger and his daughter Julia Mulfinger Orozco, in Christian Men of Science (Ambassador Emerald, 2001), ch. 3, pp. 49-68.  Incidentally, Brewster was also a historian of science.  He wrote works on the lives of Brahe, Kepler and Newton.

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).

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