Creation-Evolution Headlines
April 2007
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“My opinion is that most people believe in intelligent design as a reasonable explanation of the universe, and this belief is entirely compatible with science.  So it is unwise for scientists to make a big fight against the idea of intelligent design.  The fight should be only for the freedom of teachers to teach science as they see fit, independent of political or religious control.  It should be a fight for intellectual freedom, not a fight for science against religion.”
—Dr. Freeman Dyson, renowned physicist and futurist, in an interview for CCNet (see Uncommon Descent).
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Naturalism Extends Into All Realms of Scholarship   04/30/2007    
Defenders of evolutionary theory typically argue that their ideas are merely scientific approaches to explaining biological objects.  Why, then, are evolutionary approaches extended to intangible realms, like psychology, ethics, criminal law, politics, religion, character and morals?  Here are some recent examples to think about:

  1. Evolution and the Criminal Mind:  In a paper this month in the Public Library of Science: Biology, four evolutionists gave naturalistic views on “Law, Responsibility, and the Brain.”  They said we need to examine the violent behavior of our alleged hominid ancestors to understand the criminal mind.  They also asked, “Should we rethink free will?”  One would think such subjects belong to the realms of moral philosophy and theology.  While they agreed that “Violent and anti-social behaviours undoubtedly arise from a symphony of factors,” they admitted only naturalistic approaches: “Optimal understanding will require cooperation among many disciplines such as economics, sociology, psychology, evolutionary biology, cellular physiology, and neuroscience.”  Preachers and philosophers apparently do not have any opinion worth thinking about—if, indeed, thinking is even possible in a world reduced to particles.
  2. Matter over Mind:  In an essay in the same issue of PLoS Biology, Kevin J. Mitchell (Trinity College, Dublin) got physical in his essay, “The Genetics of Brain Wiring: From Molecule to Mind.”  That his conception of mind did not extend beyond the material world is clear in his conclusion, “Putting It All Together” –
    The challenge for the fields of neurodevelopmental and psychiatric genetics is to develop methods to take these factors into account in attempting to map from genotype to anatomical and physiological phenotypes and beyond to behaviour and cognition.  Modelling this complexity may require both new mathematical methods and more detailed empirical data derived from studies of model organisms.  Whichever approaches are taken, it is clear that to understand the origins of individual differences in psychological traits we must keep developmental trajectories, and not just phenotypic end points, in mind.
    Yet one might ask, is there a mind in which to keep such abstractions?
  3. Language:  The ability to speak in abstract terms using verbal constructs is no longer a human distinctive.  In the evolutionary view, it’s only a matter of degree.  A duo from Emory University studied chimpanzee gestures for clues to a natural story of language.  Publishing in PNAS, they began and ended with Darwinian explanations: “The natural communication of apes may hold clues about language origins, especially because apes frequently gesture with limbs and hands, a mode of communication thought to have been the starting point of human language evolution.”  Popular news sources, like Live Science and MSNBC, quickly featured this speculation as a scientific “finding.”  Ker Than titled the story, “Apes Point to Origins of Human Language.”  It came complete with photo of a gesturing chimp.  No alternative viewpoints that would question naturalism were considered.
  4. Natural Politics:  Not even political science is exempt from the naturalistic approach to the world.  Two Princeton economists writing in PNAS discussed “Political Polarization” with a Bayesian (i.e., mathematical) model of how groups tend to polarize on issues.  The content of the debates and the weight of arguments were not elements in the equation: “We offer an explanation of such polarization, based on a natural bimodality of preferences in political and economic contexts and consistent with Bayesian rationality.”  The paper is full of calculus and graphs and models that predict degrees of polarization based on bimodal inputs.  What kind of political issues fall under the spell of their equations?  “Current examples are policies concerning discrimination, immigration, gender, religion, welfare state, human rights, terrorism, civil wars, national sovereignty, and nuclear armament.”
Though this last paper is not overtly Darwinian, and does employ concepts of the subjects’ world view and opinions, it treats human subjects as mathematical objects that follow natural laws.  The degree of detail with which the authors manipulated human subjects as elements of differential equations is striking.  It raises profound questions about the extent to which such domains fall within natural science: e.g., are populations of rational agents determined by natural law, and if so, are they really rational agents?  And one would be hard pressed to imagine these scientists giving a naturalistic answer to this question: “On what basis are you assuming that reduction of polarization is a good thing?”  If their model is valid, it should be possible to debate that question and plug its variables right back into the equation to arrive at a degree of polarization, then iterate the process ad infinitum to the vanishing point of the point: i.e., ultimate pointlessness.
No one asks the questions that deflate these naturalistic studies and make them shoot their own feet.  Each one of these studies is self-refuting and thereby pointless.  If responsibility is an evolutionary by-product, it is not really responsibility.  If crime is an evolutionary by-product, it is not really crime.  If language is glorified ape gesturing, it is not really language.  And if voters are pawns of mathematical functions, they are not really informed, thoughtful voters.
    Overarching above all these conundrums is the meta-conundrum that pulls down the curtain on the whole charade: each of these scientists, according to their own presuppositions, is also a pawn of evolutionary forces.  Nothing they say, therefore, has any validity.  If they are thinking they need to rethink free will, they are not really thinking!  They are not free to think.  Their own thoughts are determined by their evolutionary past.  This is so obvious, why doesn’t anyone ever call their bluff?  On their own assumptions, you can dismiss everything they said.
There is nothing stopping a trickster from turning these same tactics against them.  Let’s say, for instance, that David Horowitz were to hire a skilled mathematician to construct a mathematical model of liberalism in academia.  A conservative sociologist could play the game, too.  They could produce an impressive-looking paper, loaded with graphs and equations, showing the tendency for academics to slide into liberalism as a function of time and peer pressure.  They could even formulate a new natural law: the second law of intellectual thermodynamics.  If they had enough connections to get this published in a major journal, would it not make as much sense as the paper on political polarization?
What on earth is a paper on poli-sci doing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences?  What are biologists doing trying to reduce responsibility and the mind and religion to molecular interactions?  Even if their models occasionally correspond with observations, that would not ipso facto validate them.  The cliche fits: even a broken clock can be right twice a day.  There are things about intelligent agents and their behaviors that science cannot address with laws and equations.  You can’t treat human beings like lab rats (the ratomorphic fallacy).  And we cannot let pointy-headed academics with a bad case of the Yoda Complex (03/21/2007, 09/25/2006) get away with folly in the name of science, using their minds to claim that minds don’t exist.
    When a materialist makes material claims, ask them those four little words, How do you know?  If the mind is the result of contingent or determined natural processes, then so are any thoughts about it.  This undermines any truth claims—including those of these papers.  We must not permit the evolutionists to stand outside their heads, looking down on the rest of us, telling us how WE evolved.  They must get into the game.  But a little reflection shows why they cannot do that.  When they enter the game, the game is over.  Without an Umpire, without rules, without standards, without truth, and without morals, it’s not a game.  It’s chaos.
Next headline on:  Evolutionary TheoryPolitics and EthicsTheology
Snot Serious: Artificial Nose Works Better with Mucus   04/30/2007    
What will they think of next?  Designers of electronic noses cannot yet come close to the natural nose in sensitivity.  But in trying to improve their devices, they tried another trick from nature: artificial boogers.  Yes, believe it or snot, adding a layer of synthetic mucus “improved the performance of their electronic nose allowing it to tell apart smells such as milk and banana which had previously been challenging smells for the device.”  So reported University of Warwick in all seriousness.  Science Daily also had a nose for the news.
    Why did this work?  In the natural nose, a mucus layer entraps incoming particles.  This “dissolves scents and separates out different odour molecules in a way they arrive at the noses receptors at different speeds/times,” the press release says.  “Humans are then able to use this information on the differences in time taken to reach different nose receptors to pick apart a diverse range of smells.”  The electronic nose has only 50 receptors, compared to a human’s “100 million specialised receptors or sensors which act together in complex ways to identify and tell apart the molecules they encounter.”  That’s not something to sneeze at.
You probably had no idea that mucus had that function.  You knew that it conveys dust and particles out of the nasal passage and helps keep those sensitive linings moist, but did you realize it actually enhances your sense of smell?  Amazing.  Think of all the information you toss out with each tissue.  Now they need to figure out how to blow an electronic nose.  (Do NOT use the electronic finger.)
Next headline on:  Human BodyBiomimeticsAmazing Facts
Swifts Don’t Just Dream of Flying...   04/29/2007    
...they fly while dreaming.  Did you know that swifts, the aerial acrobats of the air, sleep on the wing?  That’s not all, they adapt their wing shape to turn on a dime.  Science Daily summarized the cover story of Nature this week (April 26) that examined “wing morphing” in swifts – their ability to change wing shape in flight.  Dutch and Swedish scientists ran tests in wind tunnels to measure the lift and drag for different wing shapes.  Extended wings are more efficient for gliding, but swept wings are good for tight turns and speed.  Swept wings also protect against breakage.  Swifts gain a 3-fold advantage in flight efficiency by continually adjusting the shape of their wings.
    Wing morphing is the “latest trend in aviation,” the article says.  NASA is experimenting with micro-aircraft that can vary wing shape in flight for use in surveillance.  Students in the Netherlands are also imitating the flight of the swift with their model aircraft.  But then, even the Wright brothers observed birds for ideas on how to construct wings for the first airplane.
    The article also says that swifts even mate in the air.  They only land on their cliff-hanging nests to lay eggs.  Otherwise, it’s in the air all the time—up to 1.5 km high at night while roosting in mid-air.  European swifts migrate to South Africa and back each year.  In a lifetime, a swift will fly 4.5 million kilometers—equivalent to 100 round trips around the Earth.
Swifts also eat up to 20,000 insects a night.  Fortunately, no evolution fables polluted this story.  No one tried to say that a T. rex morphed into a swift over millions of years.  That wouldn’t fly on a wing or a prayer.  Who taught swifts the kind of aerodynamics NASA admires?  Who gave them both the hardware and software to live on the wing almost all the time?  Who programmed the autopilot that allows them to roost without a roost?  Calling a swift swift is like calling an orange orange.  What would they call a human?  Smart?  Wise?  Sometimes.  Homo is not always sapiens sapiens.  For proof, see next entry.
Next headline on:  BirdsPhysicsBiomimeticsAmazing Facts
Stupid Evolution Quote Prizes   04/27/2007    
The Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week goes to Mark Gladwin (04/25/2007) who said something the gentler sex will probably wince at: “Study the pregnant women, because that’s where you’ll see evolution in action.” No offense intended, we hope.  A runner-up goes to Deborah Charlesworth, who in Current Biology April 17 named Darwin as a scientific hero and associated Darwin-doubters with militant ducks.  Asked what is the biggest current challenge facing the scientific community, she said,
I think it is the difficulty of communicating an understanding of what science really is.  This is affecting young people who don’t feel the fascination of science, and it is allowing the spread of all kinds of irrational beliefs, such as quack medicine.  Evolutionary biology is under repeated attack from those who think, or wish, that non-natural processes must be involved.
Another contestant was Charles Lineweaver in Astrobiology Magazine who, in reviewing a book about the Gaia hypothesis, swept away Darwin-doubters with one hand while scratching his head over a fundamental Darwinian question with the other hand: “Forget the debates with creationists and intelligent designers; the scientific debate about the unit of selection is one of the most important challenges that Darwinism has ever had to face.”
    A new prize for Stupid Evolution Quote of the Month should probably be instituted for contestants like the following.  David Brooks, a conservative columnist for the New York Times, wrote in an editorial entitled “The Age of Darwin” that evolution has become the “unifying grand narrative” of the modern age.  Writing from Jerusalem, where he compared the holy sites to the Rockefeller Museum, he wrote in superlatives that would make Darwin blush:
And it occurred to me that while we postmoderns say we detest all-explaining narratives, in fact a newish grand narrative has crept upon us willy-nilly and is now all around.  Once the Bible shaped all conversation, then Marx, then Freud, but today Darwin is everywhere....
    According to this view, human beings, like all other creatures, are machines for passing along genetic code.  We are driven primarily by a desire to perpetuate ourselves and our species....
    The cosmologies of the societies represented in the Rockefeller Museum looked up toward the transcendent.  Their descendants still fight over sacred spots like the Holy of Holies a short walk away.  But the evolutionary society is built low to the ground.  God may exist and may have set the process in motion, but he’s not active.  Evolution doesn’t really lead to anything outside itself.  Individuals are predisposed not by innate sinfulness or virtue, but by the epigenetic rules encoded in their cells.
He ended, “We have a grand narrative that explains behavior and gives shape to history.  We have a central cosmology to embrace, argue with or unconsciously submit to.”
    This editorial by David Brooks (read it in its entirety at Free Democracy) brought sharp rebukes from Richard Kirk at The American Spectator and Bruce Chapman at the Discovery Institute.  Kirk accused Brooks of personification in his depiction of the “logic” of evolution: “One must slip a personifying image of Mother Nature through an intellectual back door to make the term mean what Brooks implies in his paean-of-sorts to Richard Dawkins’ ‘Blind Watchmaker.’”
    But the bluntness of the wording in the editorial led some to believe that surely Brooks was satirizing Darwin.  That’s what Logan Gage at Discovery Institute first thought, but now he’s not sure.  Maybe our readers can tell if it was all just a joke.
Update 04/28/2007: The verdict is in.  Logan Gage wrote again for Evolution News that despite his incredulity Brooks would say such things, he stands corrected: Brooks would, and did.
For the sake of Mr. Brooks’ reputation, we certainly wish he had been joking.  A worse statement of utter capitulation to Darwin could hardly be found.  It is totally groundless, self refuting, simplistic and uninformed – if he meant it seriously.
    Current Biology, true to form, dredged up another Darwin lover for its biweekly interview.  The answer to the obligatory question “Do you have any scientific heroes?” must include “Darwin” or else you get dunked.  It’s all a game the editors play.  Deborah Charlesworth, like her husband Brian, are card-carrying members of the Darwin Party attack force.  This means they have to portray the peace-loving Visigoths as the attackers.  At least she also included Gregor Mendel as a scientific hero.
    Charles Lineweaver showed the childlike faith in Darwin, characteristic of good disciples, that can permit the most damning questions to remain unanswered while ignoring those who have a different approach.  Oddly, he can give the time of day to weird science like Gaia, but not offer one short sentence to the kind of theistic science that built modern science in the first place (online book).
    It’s quotes like these that lead one to resign oneself to the strategy of Max Planck who, when asked why quantum mechanics became accepted, remarked that the doubters simply died off.  Sad to say, a younger generation of more open-minded scientists willing to consider design arguments will likely have to tolerate the rantings of Darwin’s old fogies (like certain Senators) for a few more years.
Next headline on:  Darwinism and EvolutionBible and TheologyDumb Ideas
Update on Plant Communication   04/26/2007    
Plants have both an intranet and an extranet.  Some recent papers investigated further about how plants, though rooted in the ground, keep in touch with the inside and outside economy.
  1. Intranet:  In 2001 (07/13/2001), and periodically since (10/04/2004, 11/09/2004) we reported the current thinking about how a plant knows when to flower, and described a kind of email system the plant uses to keep in touch with itself.  Scientists have been hot on the trail of the mysterious “florigen” (whatever it is) that travels through the vessels to the growing tip and turns on the flowering process.  They have known since 1865 that something travels from a sunlit leaf to the apical meristem where flowers are produced.  Now, according to both Science April 20 and Nature April 26, they think the packet is not the messenger RNA from the FT gene, as previously announced (08/12/2005), but the protein it encodes.  Understanding what the protein does upon receipt is an obvious next step.  Then, what in a leaf triggers the email to be sent?  And is the packet sent throughout the entire plant?  For now, the botanist hackers are just trying to get good at sniffing the internet to find the packets, let alone decode the payload.
        Down below, at the root level, what happens?  A European team reporting in Current Biology thinks they have unmasked the signals that turn on (or off) root cell differentiation: “Analysis of the root meristems of cytokinin mutants, spatial cytokinin depletion, and exogenous cytokinin application indicates that cytokinins act in a restricted region of the root meristem, where they antagonize a non-cell-autonomous cell-division signal, and we provide evidence that this signal is auxin.”
  2. Extranet;  When plants need to talk to their neighbors through their own kind of VPN (virtual plant network, our joke), they waft volatile compounds into the air.  Some of these compounds are chiral – they come in left- and right-handed forms.  Scientists are just at the leading edge of understanding what these compounds are and what they do.  A news item in Nature described the work of a team that flew a Lear Jet over the forest canopy to gather some of the compounds.  “A sophisticated survey of certain volatile organic compounds in the air over forest ecosystems shows how such work can reveal varied emission patterns of different chiral, or mirror-image, forms of these compounds.”  Plants emit more volatiles than animals by orders of magnitude, the article states.  Some compounds can repel insect pests, while others can attract pollinators.  This article described how the plant can send out different chiral forms of the same molecule for different purposes.  Some, for instance, appear to be temperature dependent, while others are light dependent.  “Volatile organic compounds have a fundamental role in the coexistence of the flora and fauna in ecosystems,” the article explains, “But there is still much to learn about the relationships and interactions between species that can be related to an effect of naturally produced compounds such as monoterpenes.”  The compounds may vary by species, by individual plant, and even by tissues within the plant.  The scientists are comparing forest emissions from South America, Suriname and Finland.
The trees may not talk like the Ents in Lord of the Rings, but they do have a language that humans are just beginning to translate.
Don’t talk to your plants unless you learn the language.  Suggested learning tool: a Lear Jet.
Next headline on:  PlantsAmazing Facts
Human Adaptation Can Be Rapid   04/25/2007    
How long does it take for humans to adapt to environmental changes?  Some recent papers investigated this question.
  1. Paleface:  If it is assumed that humans started out medium or dark-skinned, how long did it take for Europeans to lose much of that original pigment?  An article in Science April 20 says maybe just 6,000 to 12,000 years.  “This contradicts a long-standing hypothesis that modern humans in Europe grew paler about 40,000 years ago, as soon as they migrated into northern latitudes,” the article states, reporting on a March meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists.  Pale skin is said to have an adaptive value at high latitudes: “Under darker skies, pale skin absorbs more sunlight than dark skin, allowing ultraviolet rays to produce more vitamin D for bone growth and calcium absorption.”  The new date was based on genetic studies that suggested a “selective sweep occurred 5300 to 6000 years ago” or up to 12,000 years ago, “given the imprecision of method”.
  2. High life:  Ann Gibbons in Science reported on another discussion item from the American Association of Physical Anthropologists: how Tibetan children can tolerate the high altitude.  “Researchers seldom see Darwinian natural selection happening in living people,” she began.  “So physical anthropologist Cynthia Beall was delighted in 2004 when she discovered a trait that boosts the survival of some Tibetan children, apparently by raising the level of oxygen in their mothers’ tissues--a crucial advantage during pregnancy 4 kilometers above sea level.”  Updated research has revealed a genetic change that allows women to boost their blood volume and deliver more oxygen to the tissues.  Beall measured the selective pressure at 1:0.44, stronger than the fitness ratio measured for the sickle-cell gene.  They said, “the adaptation represents some of the strongest natural selection yet measured in humans.”
        Surprisingly, this appears to be a different adaptation mechanism than that found in populations living in the Andes.  There, mothers are able to boost the amount of hemoglobin.  These correlations are uncertain, however; “it’s quite possible that the Tibetans have evolved more than one way to boost blood oxygen,” Beall cautioned.  Mark Gladwin threw in a Darwinian proverb: “Study the pregnant women, because that’s where you’ll see evolution in action.”
  3. Got milk?  Another strong selection effect in humans is for lactose tolerance.  Current Biology (April 17) had an article on this phenomenon, which “might have meant the difference between life and death” to early dairy farmers, Greg Gibson (North Carolina State U) said.  The admittedly imperfect ability to tolerate lactose represents another selective sweep some 5,000 to 10,000 years ago, about the time humans began to domesticate cattle.  He remarked, “It is hard to refute that this is a lovely example of the coevolution of genes and culture.
        Nevertheless, Gibson spent most of the article debunking the “thrifty genes” hypothesis of evolutionary selection.  This is a 45-year-old idea that the “high incidence of diabetes in modern humans is a result of positive selection for alleles that confer the ability to rapidly sequester rare caches of carbohydrates as fat that would tide us over during famine.”  This adaptation now works against us in our urbanized society, it is claimed: it tends us toward obesity.  So why does Gibson think this is a poor hypothesis?  “Unfortunately, these three preconditions for natural selection are all too often mistaken by adaptationists as both necessary and sufficient for evolution to occur,” he cautioned.  But we need to be more quantitative if sufficiency is to be proven.”  At the end, he was even more emphatic: “Those inclined toward Darwinian medicine like to explain disease as the price we pay for the beneficial effects of alleles that have accompanied human adaptation.  These cases of not-so-thrifty genes suggest though that we should not be so quick to jump on the bandwagon: the coevolution of genes and culture is tremendously more complex.”
Funny he should mention Darwinian medicine.  A paper on that very subject appeared in Public Library of Science: Biology this month.  Catriona J. MacCallum tried again to make the case that medical doctors need to study evolution to understand disease (cf. 01/13/2003.  Distressed that medical schools are not considering evolution essential to the curriculum (see 06/25/2003), MacCallum wrote,
It is curious that Charles Darwin, perhaps medicine’s most famous dropout, provided the impetus for a subject that figures so rarely in medical education.  Indeed, even the iconic textbook example of evolution—antibiotic resistance—is rarely described as “evolution” in relevant papers published in medical journals.  Despite potentially valid reasons for this oversight (e.g., that authors of papers in medical journals would regard the term as too general), it propagates into the popular press when those papers are reported on, feeding the wider perception of evolution’s irrelevance in general, and to medicine in particular.  Yet an understanding of how natural selection shapes vulnerability to disease can provide fundamental insights into medicine and health and is no less relevant than an understanding of physiology or biochemistry.
MacCallum agreed that the “thrifty gene” concept has fallen into disfavor.  Some other evolutionary ideas are also simplistic: “The relationship between changing environment, diet, and susceptibility to disease, however, is also far from clear.”  Attempts to recreate a Stone-Age Diet “can be misleading,” she said.  Still, she promoted the idea that evolutionary concepts can help medical practice.  Granted, a mechanic may not need to understand the history of technology to fix a car, but an understanding of the evolutionary principles can help prepare for outbreaks of infectious disease, like bird flu, she argued.
    Why the resistance to evolutionary teaching in medical schools?  In some cases, it’s the students who rebel:
Although Paul O’Higgins thought a comparison of the brachial plexus to the pentadactyl limb was helpful, not all his students agreed—complaints were lodged that he was forcing evolution on them.  That lack of support was also reflected in the participation of only three medical students at the York meeting (albeit enthusiastic ones), despite being widely publicized.  It is not clear whether this is because medical students are more overburdened than most or because of a more deep-rooted resistance to the subject, reflecting wider political and religious prejudice against evolution.
So what’s the solution?  “But evolutionary medicine isn’t and shouldn’t be controversial, and the best way to challenge prejudice is through education.”  She took refuge in the famous Dobzhansky quote, “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.”  As an experiment, let’s consider the three cases listed above.  It isn’t very controversial that survivors of lactose, decreased sunlight and oxygen will predominate in those environments, but aren’t they all still human?  Is this really the kind of evolution that Darwin meant?
    MacCallum was undaunted by such questions.  “The time has clearly come for medicine to explicitly integrate evolutionary biology into its theoretical and practical underpinnings,” she ended with rhetorical flair.  “The medical students of Charles Darwin’s day did not have the advantage of such a powerful framework to inform their thinking; we shouldn’t deprive today’s budding medical talent of the potential insights to be gained at the intersection of these two great disciplines.”  Convincing the medical students of this may be the hard part.
You do NOT want an evolutionary biologist in the room when you need TLC at the hospital.  Lying in bed with pain and weakness, you are not going to look like a fit individual who deserves to survive.
    MacCallum again exhibited the shallowness and uselessness of evolutionary thinking.  Notice also the elitist snobbery: anyone who doesn’t agree with the Darwin Party Framework is prejudiced by definition, and must be sent to the re-education camp (cf. 12/21/2005).
    Despite the pleas to pul-lease teach Darwin in medical school, medicine is doing fine without the help of Dropout Darwin.  Medicine has a multi-thousand year history that was advanced largely by Christians.  The examples she cited, including the “iconic textbook example” of evolution – antibiotic resistance (dealt a blow by Jonathan Wells in his book Icons of Evolution; see also the Darwinist confession from 09/12/2004) – are all just microevolutionary changes.  The three examples reported above are all microevolutionary changes.  Natural selection at the micro level is not the issue.  Even young-earth creationists accept that.
    Such evidence has nothing to do with Darwin’s colossal simplistic generality, the Mystical Tree of Life (02/01/2007).  It has nothing to do with proving that humans have bacteria ancestors, and most medical students and professors know it.  You can almost hear the snickers of students in the classroom when the Prof tells his little fable about how the brachial plexus resembles the pentadactyl limb.  “Right, Teach.  Will that be on the test?  Can I take a pill and call you in the morning?”  Maybe the only way to get a higher turnout than three students at the next well-publicized “Medicine and Evolution” meeting is to award extra credit, provided the students are allowed to bring cots and pillows.
    Despite the Dobzhansky rallying cry, things make perfect sense without evolution.  In none of the three cases listed above is Darwin vindicated or needed.  All the humans in those societies are still one species with the rest of humanity, capable of intermarrying and raising children.  What’s more, the adaptive changes observed did not take hundreds of thousands of years.  To the consternation of earlier Darwinists whose ideas are now discredited, the changes fit easily within a Biblical framework of human history.  What is Darwin’s score?  Even MacCallum admits that previous evolutionary ideas like “thrifty genes” have been discarded.  Is anything left that is not controversial and subject to overthrow?  We don’t need Darwin.  We don’t want Darwin.  We want to make sense in the light of the evidence, and help the weak in the process.
Next headline on:  Human BodyHealthGeneticsEducation
Time for Mammals   04/25/2007    
Three recent news stories about mammals involve time.  Does nature time things well, or do evolutionists tell swell things about time?  Time will tell.
  1. Placental mammalsWatch those assumptions:  How much can you trust dates that can vary by 50%?  A report in Science Daily says the new “consensus” date for the appearance of placental mammals just jumped from 122 million years ago to 84 million years ago.  The article mentions assumptions three times, though, with serious caveats about those dates: “However, this discrepancy may not be real, but rather appear because of the violation of implicit assumptions in the estimation procedures, such as abrupt acceleration of evolutionary rate entangled with gradual variation and large-scale convergent evolution in molecular level.”  Later, “They emphasize the necessity to scrutinize the implicit assumptions adopted by the models of molecular evolution and to develop procedures which rely little on those assumptions.”  A follow-up question: what are the new assumptions of the new study?
  2. Laotian Rock RatYep, It’s a Living Fossil:  The unusual rat-like mammal found in a Laotian food market in 2005 (05/16/2005) is a living fossil, reported National Geographic News.  Some researchers claim that it “belongs to a family of rodents thought to have gone extinct 11 million years ago.”
  3. BearsKeeping fit while sleeping:  On much shorter time scales (months), bears manage to keep most of their muscle strength during the winter hibernation.  Science Daily reported that “Bears in this study exhibited remarkable conservation of muscle function.... In spite of a size difference of almost three orders of magnitude and a 30 degree Celsius difference in torpor body temperature, the black bear may conserve muscle function to the extent of or perhaps better than small-mammal hibernators.” 
How the authors entered Colorado bear dens to take the measurements sounds like an adventure to be told somewhere.
Anyone see evolution here?  Anyone see millions of years here?  Always scrutinize those implicit assumptions.
Next headline on:  MammalsEvolutionary TheoryDating Methods
More “Candy” Found in Junk DNA   04/24/2007    
Powerful regulators that play a crucial role – this is how non-coding sections of DNA are now being described.  A story in Science Daily says that these regions of “junk DNA” once dismissed as “gene deserts” actually orchestrate the expression of genes during development.
    In a related paper in PNAS,1 researchers found regulatory roles for many conserved noncoding elements (CNEs).  “We identify nearly 15,000 conserved sites that likely serve as insulators, and we show that nearby genes separated by predicted CTCF sites2 show markedly reduced correlation in gene expression,” they said.  “These sites may thus partition the human genome into domains of expression.”  They found one family that might have a “broad role” for gene expression, and other “striking examples of novel functional elements.”
    This realization is opening eyes to a new realm of genetic marvels.  “Right now it’s like being a kid in a candy warehouse,” said one geneticist.  Others who looked at transposons and jumping genes as nuisances that were “messing things up” now see them as useful.  Evolutionists are invoking the E word in various ways.  Transposons might be a “major vehicle for evolutionary novelty,” said one, while another remarked about emerging new view of junk DNA, “It’s funny how quickly the field is now evolving.
1Xie et al, “Systematic discovery of regulatory motifs in conserved regions of the human genome, including thousands of CTCF insulator sites,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.0701811104, published online before print April 18, 2007.
2From the above paper, “CTCF, a protein containing 11 zinc-finger domains, is a major factor implicated in vertebrate insulator activities.  An insulator is a DNA sequence element that prevents a regulatory protein binding to the control region of one gene from influencing the transcription of neighboring genes.  When placed between an enhancer and a promoter, an insulator can block the interaction between the two.  Several dozen insulator sites have been characterized, and almost all have been shown to contain CTCF binding sites.  In some cases, the CTCF site has been directly shown to be both necessary and sufficient for enhancer blocking activities in heterologous settings.  The known CTCF sites show considerable sequence variation, and no clear consensus sequence has been derived.”
It’s not funny.  For decades, Darwinian preconceptions have held back a promising field of genetic research with their falsified notion that most of the genome is composed of evolutionary leftovers.  Now that we see the design that was there all along, can we get on with what science should have been doing?  Away with this new plot line that junk DNA is a source of “evolutionary novelty.”  Darwinians, you have been exposed as usurpers.  Get out of the way.  The field is not evolving.  Intelligent design is taking back its rights.
Next headline on:  GeneticsDarwinian evolution
Scientists Track Homing Pigeons with GPS   04/24/2007    
How do homing pigeons find their way?  Scientists are still not sure.  They know that the birds use a sun compass and magnetic fields, but what other cues guide them back to the specific roost they know as home?  A new study shows they are smarter than we thought.  They use multiple cues and weigh the reliability of conflicting ones.  Oxford scientists reporting in PNAS1 tracked the birds with GPS and found some surprises – and more questions.
    The team outfitted 32 birds with 28-gram GPS loggers on their backs, attached to clipped feathers with glue and velcro.  As a control, they made them do training flights with dummy weights.  Some birds were very familiar with the route; others were novices.  This allowed the researchers to contrast the influence of landmarks (piloting) with compass-guided flight.  They tracked the flight paths on courses up to 10.6 km.
    Once the birds learned the way, the experimenters played tricks on them with sun-shifted release times.  They kept the pigeons in light-tight chambers for a week where the sunrise and sunset times were shifted by 4 hours, corresponding to a 90° shift in sun position.  They found that even when these jet-lagged birds started off perpendicular to the correct orientation, they quickly found parallel routes to the targets.  The scientists concluded that multiple cues are weighed by the birds when they encounter unexpected conflicting information.
Thus piloting birds continue to maintain memories of, attention to, compass information even after they apparently have the sufficient and necessary route-based information homeward guidance.  While it is possible that such compass memories are, and have always been, associated with representations of familiar visual landmarks as hypothesized here, also possible that they originate from an initial, and now residual, olfactory navigational map.  In addition, a potential role for magnetic compass acting as a backup to the sun compass when solar and landmark guidance cues are put in conflict (although apparently not otherwise; see ref. 9) still remains to be explicitly investigated.  Either way, our results clearly indicate that birds combining multiple sources of onward guidance information during the local homing task.  Both the origin of this compass information and the function of its integration with landmark guidance remain to be elucidated.

1Biro, Freeman, Meade, Roberts and Guilford, “Pigeons combine compass and landmark guidance in familiar route navigation,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.0701575104, published online before print April 23, 2007.
Homing pigeons have fascinated humans for thousands of years.  How do they do it?  Here we are in 2007, still trying to figure it out.  The birds are not just robots with a compass.  They have the ability somehow to choose what cues to follow when they are in conflict.  There’s more going on in a bird brain than we can fathom.  The “origin of this compass information” doesn’t really need to be elucidated (if by that they think a Darwinian answer is in the wings).  They know where it came from.  In plain English, design reveals a Designer.  Make sense e’en to Pidgin speakah.
Next headline on:  BirdsAmazing Facts
Fossil Forest Found in Coal   04/23/2007    
A Carboniferous forest extending some 4 square miles has been found in the ceiling of a coal mine, reported Science Daily, Live Science and News@Nature.  About 50 species have been identified, including ferns and horsetails over 10 times taller than those alive today.  News@Nature remarked that the forest contained some mangrove-like plants.  The article quoted a surprised researcher who said, “It was always assumed that mangrove plants had evolved fairly recently.
    The fossil forest was found in 2005 but was announced today in the online journal Geology.  The area is now 100 meters underground.  The research team believes an ancient earthquake some 300 million years ago caused a sudden lowering of the area, resulting in the inundation and fossilization of the forest.  Another surprise was that the ancient forest was so diverse for such an early period.  “This discovery also shows that the fundamental processes that guide the complexity and evolution of forests has been around for hundreds of millions of years,” News@Nature said.
Is this a “mangrove-like” plant or a true mangrove?  If the latter, it sounds like a big out-of-order problem for evolution, because mangroves were not supposed to appear till the late Cretaceous (source) and these forests are Carboniferous, over 200 million years earlier.  That would be a bigger problem than finding a living dinosaur.  A quick check of the original paper in Geology (May 2007) does not reveal any mention of family Rhizophoraceae or any of the other mangroves, but that doesn’t mean they were not found.  We’ll have to see if more of the details come to light.  In any case, gymnosperms were not thought to live in “mangrove-like” habitats.
    This story also illustrates, as seen so often before, that wherever evolutionists look, they find more complexity farther back in time than they expect.
Next headline on:  PlantsFossilsGeology
Bursting Moons:  Saturn’s mini-moon Enceladus is seen spouting away from 2.4 million miles in a new photo from Cassini.  How long has this been going on?  (see 03/28/2007, bullet 2).  Another picture of the huge geyser was posted April 18 at the Cassini site.
    Jupiter’s volcanic moon Io was imaged in action last month by the New Horizons spacecraft while passing by on its way to Pluto.  The Tvashtar volcano, observed closely by Galileo, is still going strong, its plume rising 300 km above the north pole of Io.  For a colorized version, visit Astronomy Picture of the Day, April 4.  For background on Io’s anomalous heat, see 03/01/2007 bullet 1, 05/04/2004, 10/04/2001 and CEH’s very first news story, 08/16/2000.
Update 04/20/24: Slides from an upcoming CHARM telecon about Enceladus have been posted on the Cassini website.  The presentation (PDF) by John Spencer gives many fascinating details about the Enceladus plume, what scientists think might be powering it, the best images and data so far, and plans for upcoming flybys.  A new high-resolution, high-phase image of the geyser may arrive in a few days, April 24 (slide 54).  Slide 30 claims that 20% of the mass of Enceladus would have erupted in 4 billion years (that comment appended by an exclamation point!) – and that is with only 1% of the material escaping into the E ring (slide 39).  The power output in the hottest spots (24 watts per square meter, slide 42) exceeds that of Yellowstone.  No variation in output was seen in two observations 16 months apart (slide 49, 51).  Enceladus is now a major target for the extended mission (slide 56).  The close flyby next March 12 (slide 55) will fly right through the plume!  Four other close encounters are planned by end of October 2008 (slide 57).
Update 04/28/24: Apparently Saturn’s medium-large moon Dione is active, too.  Space.com reported that evidence of cryovolcanism and outgassing appears to be occurring today on Dione, though at a lesser rate by about two orders of magnitude.  Dione has a diameter about 2.5 times that of Enceladus.  Like its smaller neighbor, Dione has craters that show evidence of modification by heat.
Next headline on:  Solar SystemDating Methods

  How little we know about Earth’s interior, from 04/02/2004.  Some models almost need to repeal the First Law of Thermodynamics.

Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week:  The Evolution of TV Dinners   04/20/2007    
Humans still have genetic memories of feasting and telling stories around the campfire, says Martin Jones at Cambridge University.  That’s why we gravitate toward eating TV dinners in front of the telly.  This opinion is expressed in all seriousness by United Press International, titled “Television dinners linked to evolution.”  Jones calls today’s TV dinners “today’s campfire.”  The article explains, “Martin told the London newspaper [The Telegraph] he believes it is natural for humans to gather and to eat while also consuming information and entertainment.”
    Other scientists are not sure about this idea.  “Martin’s theory has been called ‘unhelpful,’ particularly by groups who attribute child obesity to eating in front of the television.”
    Perhaps a few Darwinians worry that the all-seeing eyes of Creation-Evolution Headlines are ever lurking about the internet, searching for candidates for the SEQOTW prize.

Perhaps there is something to this idea – but in a philosophical, not evolutionary sense.  Lost humans have always amused themselves in Plato’s cave, thinking they understand the world, when in reality, their backs are to the light, and they see mere shadows projected on the wall.  Now, we have Hollywood to deliver the shadows to us in our own homes.  Goes best with the Swanson Pterodactyl Pteriyaki.
Next headline on:  Early ManEvolutionDumb Ideas
Fatty Acid Synthesis: A Machine with “High Degree of Architectural Complexity”   04/19/2007    
As Bruce Alberts said in 1998, the biology of the future was going to be the study of molecular machines: “the entire cell can be viewed as a factory that contains an elaborate network of interlocking assembly lines, each of which is composed of a set of large protein machines.”1  One of those machines is like a mini-factory in itself.  It’s called fatty acid synthase (FAS).  Three Yale researchers just published the most detailed description of this machine in the journal Cell.2  (cf. last year’s headline, 03/06/2006).  They remarked that its most striking feature is the “high degree of architectural complexity” – some 48 active sites, complete with moving parts, in a particle 27 billionths of a meter high and 23 billionths of a meter wide.
    Despite our aversion to fat, fatty acids are essential to life.  It’s when fat production goes awry that you can become fat.  The authors explain:
Fatty acids are key components of the cell, and their synthesis is essential for all organisms except archaea.  They are major constituents of cellular membranes and are used for posttranslational protein modifications that are functionally important.  Saturated fatty acids are the main stores of chemical energy in organisms.  Deregulation of fatty acid synthesis affects many cellular functions and may result in aberrant mitosis, cancer, and obesity.
The chemical steps for building fatty acids appear in the simplest cells and remain essentially unchanged up to the most complex organisms, although the machinery differs widely between plants, animals and bacteria.  In plants, for instance, the steps are performed by separate enzymes.  In animals, a two-part machine does the work.  Which organism has one of the most elaborate fatty-acid machines of all?  The surprising answer: fungi.  The researchers imaged the fatty acid synthase enzymes of yeast and, despite their academic restraint, were clearly excited as the details came into focus:
Perhaps the most striking feature of fungal FAS is its high degree of architectural complexity, in which 48 functional centers exist in a single ... particle.  Detailed structural information is essential for delineating how this complex particle coordinates the reactions involved in many steps of synthesis of fatty acids.... The six alpha subunits form a central wheel in the assembly, and the beta subunits form domes on the top and bottom of the wheel, creating six reaction chambers within which each ACP can reach the six active sites through surprisingly modest movements.  This structure now provides a complete framework for understanding the structural basis of this macromolecular machine’s important function.
Calling it an “elegant mechanism,” they proudly unveiled a new model that tells the secret inside: a swinging arm delivers parts to eight different reaction centers in a precise sequence.
    Their dazzling color diagrams are, unfortunately, copyrighted inside a technical journal, but a Google image search shows one reasonable facsimile of the overall shape at a Swiss website: click here.  Some of the protein parts provide structural support for the delicate moving parts inside.  Taking the structure apart, it looks something like a wagon wheel with tetrahedron-shaped hubcaps above and below.  Picture a horizontal wagon wheel with three spokes, bisecting the equator of the structure.  Now put the hubcaps over the top and bottom axles.  The interior gets divided up into six compartments (“reaction chambers”) where the magic takes place.
    In each reaction chamber, eight active sites are positioned on the walls at widely separated angles from the center.  Spaced nearly equidistant between them all is a pivot point, and attached to it by a hinge is a lever arm.  This lever arm, called ACP, is just the right length to reach all of the reaction sites.  From a tunnel on the exterior, the first component arrives and is fastened to the ACP arm (priming).  The arm then swings over to another active site to pick up the next part, then cycles through the next six reaction sites that each do their part to add ingredients to the growing fatty acid chain (elongation).  The machine cycles through the elongation step multiple times, adding carbons to the growing fatty acid.  When the chain reaches its proper length (16-18 carbons, depending on the fatty acid needed), it is sent to a final active site that stops the cycle (termination) and delivers the product through an exit channel to the cytoplasm.
    The ACP hinged arm, then, is the key to the system.  Imagine a life-size automated factory with a roughly spherical interior.  Its task is to build a chain of parts in a precise order.  The first ingredient comes through a shaft and is attached to the robotic arm in the center.  The arm then follows a pre-programmed sequence that holds out the product to eight different machines on the walls that add their part to the product.  The final operation of the arm delivers the product to an exit channel.  In a cell, though, how does this arm actually move?  The answer: electricity.
    Yes, folks, yeast cells contain actual electrical machines.  Don’t visualize wires of flowing current; instead, picture active sites with concentrations of positive and negative charges in precise amounts.  How does the lever arm use this electrical system?  Owing to the specific kinds of amino acids used, each active site has a net positive charge, while the ACP lever arm has a negative charge.  Each time a part is added to the product, it changes the overall charge distribution and makes the arm swing over to the next position.  Thus, a blind structure made out of amino acids follows a cyclic pattern that builds up a specific product molecule one carbon at a time, and automatically delivers it when complete.  After delivery, the system is automatically reset for the next round.  Clearly, the precision of charge on each active site is critical to the function of the machine.3, 4
    Now that we have described one reaction chamber, step back and see that the yeast FAS machine has six such chambers working independently and simultaneously.  Another surprise is that the lever arm inside must be activated from the outside during assembly of the machine by a structure (PPT) on the exterior wall before it can work.  There’s a reason for this, too:
The crystal structure of yeast FAS reveals that this large, macromolecular assembly functions as a six-chambered reactor for fatty acid synthesis.  Each of the six chambers functions independently and has in its chamber wall all of the catalytic units required for fatty acid priming, elongation, and termination, while one substrate-shuttling component, ACP, is located inside each chamber and functions like a swinging arm.  Surprisingly, however, the step at which the reactor is activated must occur before the complete assembly of the particle since the PPT domain that attaches the pantetheine arm to ACP lies outside the assembly, inaccessible to ACP that lies inside.  Remarkably, the architectural complexity of the FAS particle results in the simplicity of the reaction mechanisms for fatty acid synthesis in fungi.
Maybe the activation step is a quality-control step, to ensure the system doesn’t cause trouble in the cytoplasm before the machinery is completely assembled.
    The authors did not mention how fast the synthesis takes place.  But if it’s anything like the other machinery in the cell, you can bet the FAS machine cranks out its products swiftly and efficiently, and life goes on, one molecule at a time.  Baking a cake with yeast will never seem the same again.
1See 01/09/2002 for citation.
2Lomakin, Xiong and Steitz, “The Crystal Structure of Yeast Fatty Acid Synthase, a Cellular Machine with Eight Active Sites Working Together,” Cell, Volume 129, Issue 2, 20 April 2007, Pages 319-332.
3In addition to electrical charges, some amino acids have side chains that attract or repel water.  These hydrophilic and hydrophobic side chains also contribute to the force fields that cause the conformational changes in the enzyme.
4The diagrams in the paper show the details of each active site.  To the uninitiated, enzyme models appear like random balls of putty stuck together, but humans should not impose their propensity for straight lines and angles on the world of molecules.  The shape and folds of the structure are critical to the function because they control the charge distribution in the vicinity.  The active sites are recessed within tunnels.  The ACP lever arm tip is guided by charge into these tunnels where ingredients are “snapped on” to the molecule through precise chemical reactions.  Each reaction changes the charge distribution, leading to the next stage of the cycle.
Reading this paper was almost a transcendent experience.  To imagine this level of precision and master-controlled processing on a level this small, cannot help but induce a profound sense of wonder and awe.  Here, all this time, this machine has been helping to keep living things functioning and we didn’t even know the details till now.  How would such revelations have affected the history of ideas?
    The authors did not say a peep about evolution except to note five times that certain parts are “conserved” (unevolved).  They also assumed evolution (without evidence) in one astonishing reaction to the fact that certain folds in the protein parts of this machine are unique in nature: listen – “They consequentially represent new folds and may have evolved independently to tether and orient the multiple active centers of fungal FAS for efficient catalysis.”  OK, everyone, a collective rotten-tomato toss for that enlightened suggestion.
    Remember that origin-of-life researchers are stumbling and fumbling trying to get even single amino acids to form (04/04/2007), let alone get them to join up in useful, functioning chains (see online book).    The fatty acids are useless without the amino acids, and vice versa (09/03/2004).  Even if some kind of metabolic cycle were to be envisioned under semi-realistic conditions, how did this elaborate machine, composed of amino acids with precise charge distributions, arise?  It’s not just the machine, it’s the blueprints and construction process that must be explained.  What blind process led to the precise placement of active sites that process their inputs in a programmed sequence?  What put them into a structure with shared walls where six reaction chambers can work independently?  All this complexity, involving thousands of precision amino acids in FAS (2.6 million atomic mass units) has to be coded in DNA, then built by the formidably complex translation process, then assembled together in the right order, or FAS won’t work.  But the storage, retrieval, translation and construction systems all need the fatty acids, too, or they won’t work.
    We are witnessing an interdependent system of mind-boggling complexity that defies any explanation besides intelligent design.  Yes, Bruce Alberts, “as it turns out, we can walk and we can talk because the chemistry that makes life possible is much more elaborate and sophisticated than anything we students had ever considered.”  We have tended to “vastly underestimate the sophistication of many of these remarkable devices.
    Yeast.  Who could have ever imagined this simple little blob possessed a high degree of architectural complexity and robotic technology.  Many questions remain.  Why do plants and animals have different mechanisms, but the same chemical steps?  Why do fungi, of all things, have the most elaborate architectures?  Are the other architectures equally complex in their own ways?  What other factories regulate this one, and how does this factory regulate other downstream systems?  We have much more to learn about fatty acid synthesis, but the “biology of the future” – design biology – is shedding far more light than Darwin’s myths ever did.  The fact that life functions so well, from yeast to human, should spur us on to uncover the design principles that make it all come together as a finely tuned system, in a finely tuned world, in a finely tuned universe.
Next headline on:  Cell BiologyAmazing Facts
Spider Silk Admired, Not Duplicated   04/18/2007    
Spiders still maintain the edge in a technology humans want: a material that absorbs huge amounts of energy without breaking.  The dragline silk spun by spiders is extremely robust – ounce for ounce stronger than steel, yet more flexible than Kevlar.  If a web the size of a football field could be erected in the air with strands one centimeter thick arranged in concentric circles 4 cm apart, it could stop a jumbo jet in flight.  (We won’t try to envision a passenger’s view of the spider sneaking up on the captured plane.  Whoops, too late.)
    Fascinating facts about spider silk made the cover story of Science News (171:15, p. 231, 04/14/2007).  Aimee Cunningham told about teams like that of Nikola Kojic (MIT) that are trying to replicate this ideal material but have not yet succeeded in matching its strength.  Human versions require high temperatures, high pressures and toxic substances to make.  Your humble garden spider has no such limitations:
In contrast, natural spider silk is produced at room temperature with water as a solvent, says Chris Holland, a zoologist at the University of Oxford in England.  “It’s made in the spider, and with the spider eating flies.  That produces a fiber that we can’t even come close to.
The formula for synthetic dragline silk is a prize humans eagerly seek.  Such a tough and flexible material would find many applications, from bulletproof vests to suspension cables for bridges.  Maybe even Spiderman toys will come from it.  “The spider hasn’t given us all the secrets,” said one researcher.
    Somehow, the spider extrudes a silk dope through ducts in its abdomen, and this goop solidifies into a strand that is stretchy and very tough.  “A silk thread contains hundreds of thousands of protein chains, each of which folds on its own and also arranges itself among other chains in the fiber.”  One researcher found that repeating units are able to snap together like Lego blocks.
    Even more amazing, spiders spin seven kinds of silk from the same machinery.  Dragline silk, forming the spokes of the web, absorbs the brunt of the energy.  Capture-spiral silk is stretchy and sticky.  Other forms are used to wrap the prey, coat the egg sacs and perform other functions.  One team found that the prey-wrapping silk is up to three times tougher than dragline silk.  This adds drama to that scene of Shelob’s lair in The Return of the King.
    At this point, the R&D of spider technology is still in the R stage.  Spiderman wannabees will probably not find webshooters under the tree this year.  But even though the researchers interviewed for the article stand in awe of spider silk, they did not shy away from speculating about how evolution gave the spider a technology our brightest minds cannot emulate.  “Spiders and silkworms evolved the capacity to spin silk independently of each other,” said one:
The dopes contain different proteins, and the resulting fibers have distinct properties.  Yet “what we see is that the flow properties are very similar,” [Chris] Holland [Oxford] says.  Despite their differences, the spider and silkworm “use similar tricks,” he continues.  “This gives fantastic insight into how silk production has evolved and how the production of an energy-efficient, high-performance fiber is made by nature.
Not only that, it happened a long, long, time ago: “Spiders have been spinning these silks for almost 400 million years.”  No questions asked.
The evolution-talk ruined an otherwise great article.  Notice that the Darwin storytelling was absolutely useless.  Evolution was assumed without evidence and contributed nothing to helping the scientists on their quest to reverse-engineer the technology.
    Most people detest spiders and find them creepy or scary.  Let’s teach our kids to admire them and respect them, along with ants, honeybees and the many other critters around us.  Some of our fellow denizens we need to admire at a distance, and yes, it’s OK to keep them out of the house.  Spiders don’t mean to invade your space; they just wander and get disoriented sometimes and need a little help.  Maybe instead of stepping on every spider you see, you should teach kids to scoop them up and let them play in their own space outside.  Your reporter once watched a four-inch-wide hairy mygalomorph come strutting into the bedroom just before lights out.  Mutually startled, the human jumped up and the spider ran under the bed.  The spider needed a little help for about half an hour getting rediscovered and assisted into a more suitable habitat.  All lived happily ever after.
    Help children observe the wonderful ways spiders weave their webs.  Have you ever witnessed the whole web construction process?  The material is amazing enough, but watching how the spider creates the pattern is a lot of fun.  When they wrap their prey, it shouldn’t seem that different from what we do with our food.  Think how repulsed a hen in a Far Side Horror Movie would be watching humans cut up a rotisserie chicken, shrink-wrap the pieces and put them in the refrigerator.  It’s all in the point of view.  What do you want, a yard full of flies?  Spiders do us a service.  By capturing, stunning and wrapping their food, spiders keep their meat fresh and help maintain the balance in nature.  Their ability to turn fly guts into techno-silk should not be minimized.  Don’t feel slighted.  You can take barbecue chicken and transform it into cerebral cortex. 
Next headline on:  Terrestrial ZoologyBiomimeticsAmazing Facts
Keeping the Media Safe for Darwin   04/17/2007    
The world’s mainstream science journals often discuss Darwinian ideas.  From these fountainheads, science reporters and popularizers collect and distribute their libations.  Considering that a large population of the public maintains serious doubts that Darwinism is true, it is instructive to see how issues of origins are stated, and what parts are left unstated.  Here are some examples from the journals and the popularized reports that followed.  It gets really interesting when problems in evolutionary theory are discussed.
  1. MulticellularityNo contest:  In an essay in Nature April 5, Paul B. Rainey (U of Auckland) speculated that although the origin of multicellularity is “poorly understood,” good old Darwinian survival of the fittest rises to the explanatory rescue: “Could the evolution of multicellular life have been fuelled by conflict among selective forces acting at different levels of organization?”  The default answer must be yes, because no hint of a design alternative was even considered.  Instead, considering that the difficulties produce “an impossibly difficult challenge for evolution” that looks at first like an “evolutionary dead-end,” he offered “one plausible scenario” and explained it all with game theory, with cells acting as “cooperators” and “cheaters.”  Voila—“this is by no means beyond the capacity of evolution – given an appropriate selective environment.”  No debate, no challenge.
  2. Marine biologyBorn again:  One would think the phrase born again to be patented by Christians, but Philippe Janvier in the same April 5 issue of Nature titled his news article “Evolutionary biology: Born-again hagfishes.”  Hagfish are jawless, cartilaginous eel-shaped marine vertebrates whose evolutionary ancestry is confused: “the hagfish puzzle,” he calls it.  “Palaeontology sometimes settles such conflicts.  But it is powerless in this case, because the earliest (300-million-year-old) hagfishes, preserved as soft-tissue imprints, are very similar to living ones.”  But is this an opportunity for non-evolutionary hypotheses to get a hearing?  Clearly not.  Janvier discussed findings of a neural crest in one species that “possibly made vertebrates more competitive in the early stage of their evolution.”  Thus, even in the absence of evidence, Darwinian hopes can be born of water and the spirit: “Further analyses of the developmental genetics of hagfish embryos might enable us to discover whether hagfish anatomy is primitive or degenerate, and may help in reconstructing the theoretical common ancestor to all vertebrates.” 
  3. Animal behaviorUnguided intelligence:  A book review in the April 5 Nature mentioned “intelligent” and “design” several times – but not together.  Tore Slagsvold reviewed a book called Animal Architects by James L. Gould.  Here was a prime opportunity to discuss theories of intelligent design, but the subtitle of the book reveals the only point worthy of discussion: Building and the Evolution of Intelligence.  The bulk of the review was only about how animal intelligence and the architectures animals produce might have evolved.  Humans were not exempt.  A sample quote: “Bower birds are considered to be intelligent, suggesting that recursive cycles of selection for a single set of cognitive building abilities and aesthetic refinements are part of the same sort of positive-feedback loop that may have led to the evolution of the human mind.
  4. History of scienceA bow to our worthy opponents:  Lest this list appear overly selective, here is an example where non-evolutionary ideas got a plug.  Peter Dear (Cornell) reviewed a book in the April 12 Nature that acknowledged the religious motives of many early scientists: Stephen Gaukroger’s The Emergence of a Scientific Culture: Science and the Shaping of Modernity 1210–1685.  Dear’s review was favorable.  It acknowledged the debt of modern science to religion: “Far from separating itself from religion, European science at the time became the principal tool for underpinning it: understanding nature was the path towards knowledge of God” he says (see online book and recent article by Michael Egnor).  “And having attained this status by the 1680s, argues Gaukroger, science hasn’t looked back since.”
        Nevertheless, it could be argued that a historical survey ending in 1685 poses no threat to Darwinism.  “By starting the story in thirteenth-century Latin Europe, Gaukroger presents a world in which theology, not ‘natural philosophy’, was regarded as the ‘queen of the sciences’.  He then traces how this gradually ceased to be the case, and natural philosophy, albeit of a new kind, displaced theology as the touchstone of cognitive propriety.”  Indeed, the child grew to devour its mother: “By the end of the seventeenth century, many people were arguing that the standards and procedures of natural philosophy were appropriate models for all kinds of cognitive enquiry, including those involving theology and religion.”  The suggestion was that this was a good, progressive trend.
  5. MoralityAll men are evolved equal:  Whence the human motive for fairness and equality?  One need look no farther than natural selection, according to a team writing in the April 12 issue of Nature.  Five scientists presented a paper called “Egalitarian motives in humans” that placed this noblest of human ideals squarely on an evolutionary footing.  They modeled how a sense of fairness arises through emotions in social groups based on game theory: “The results suggest that egalitarian motives affect income-altering behaviours, and may therefore be an important factor underlying the evolution of strong reciprocity and, hence, cooperation in humans.”
        A question arises: WWJD? (What would Jefferson declare?)  In the scientific community, it is no longer self-evident that all men are created equal, nor endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.  The Founding Fathers were noticeably absent in the footnotes.  All 14 references (John Maynard Smith, etc.) were to Darwinian papers by Darwinian thinkers presenting Darwinian ideas on this question.
  6. TetrapodsBite-size Darwin:  A paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggested that “Terrestrial-style feeding in a very early aquatic tetrapod is supported by evidence from experimental analysis of suture morphology.”  In other words, fish developed a bite before invading the land looking for something to eat.  A picture story of the whole tale was promptly supplied by Live Science: “Ability to Bite Evolved in Fishy Ancestors.”  No other explanation was hinted at, even though the evolutionary explanation was only tentative: “Did fish make the move to land to escape from predators or to exploit new food sources?” Jeanna Brynner asked.  “Our findings do support the idea that they came on land to exploit new food sources, but we’re not sure,” one of the authors admitted.  Still, the suggestion was fit enough to print.
  7. Public policyFramed Darwin:  Moving on to Science, the problem about what to do with “antievolutionism” was discussed.  Matthew Nisbet and Chris Mooney in the April 6 issue of Science equated evolution with science and anything else as pseudoscience.  The article mentioned creationism and intelligent design in context of other heated social-policy issues like global warming and stem cell research.  The idea was not so much how to hold fair debates on these issues in the marketplace of ideas, but how “scientists” should “frame” their arguments for best effect: “Without misrepresenting scientific information on highly contested issues, scientists must learn to actively ‘frame’ information to make it relevant to different audiences.”  They justified this tactic on the argument that opposed groups are also framing their arguments.
        Yet Nisbet and Mooney hedged a little on whether framing arguments for social acceptance amounts to a kind of misrepresentation.  Somewhat sheepishly, they stated at the end, “Some readers may consider our proposals too Orwellian, preferring to safely stick to the facts.  Yet scientists must realize that facts will be repeatedly misapplied and twisted in direct proportion to their relevance to the political debate and decision-making.  In short, as unnatural as it might feel, in many cases, scientists should strategically avoid emphasizing the technical details of science when trying to defend it.”  This raises many moral and ethical issues for a group of professionals often on the public dole who are assumed to be objective.  Launching from that word “Orwellian,” some of the “antievolutionists” discussed these issues on Evolution News and Access Research Network.
  8. GeneticsPrimate’s Progress:  The rhesus monkey genome made the cover of Science April 13.  There were surprises, but nothing blocked the “evolutionary insights” from passing through.  One major surprise was that the chimpanzee seems to have more evidence of positive selection than humans.  This anomaly, however, was no threat to “big picture” of evolution but will undoubtedly “shed light” on how natural selection works.  The boon for “understanding primate evolution” was promptly echoed in Science News (“Primate’s Progress”), National Geographic, BBC News and other science news outlets.
  9. PaleontologyDino Protein:  Because it deserves mention again in this context, recall how the announcement of protein fragments in dinosaur bone was “framed” for the media (04/12/2007 entry).
  10. AestheticsDance for Darwin:  Venturing into the arts, an evolutionary ballet called Orion was reviewed by John Bohannon in Science April 13.  Except for a few simplistic reductions of complex subjects and trying to cover too much material, it was gorgeously good, he thought.  The script is seamless from big bang to man: “the dancers bring the rapidly evolving universe into being.... From here, we dance through the history of the universe along a logarithmic scale.  By the time we reach the midpoint, we’ve already seen inflation, solar systems, complex molecules, cells, and multicellular organisms, and judging by the sound of bird song in the distance, we’re past the Cretaceous by the intermission.  The final act is devoted to the past few million years of human evolution, both anatomical and cognitive.”  Bohannon describes some of the special effects: “During a footrace between knuckle-walking dancers, the losers curl up and play ‘extinct’ while the survivors gradually stand erect.... A woman peels herself out of a full-body condom and collapses in a melodramatic ending that is pure performance art.”  One wonders if this is a Darwinist answer to the creation of Eve.
  11. Cell biologyDie, mascot, die:  Let’s wrap up this list with a classic example of “framing” an evolutionary argument that appeared today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  Everyone tuned to the Darwin vs. Design controversy has heard about the bacterial flagellum, a molecular outboard motor found in many species of bacteria.  It has become an unofficial mascot of the Intelligent Design Movement (IDM).  Ever since Dr. Michael Behe (Lehigh U) brought the public’s attention to this molecular machine he described as “irreducibly complex” in his highly influential 1996 book Darwin’s Black Box, the flagellum has been a standard-bearer for the IDM.  It is prominently featured in the intelligent design documentary Unlocking the Mystery of Life.  Could any scientist publishing in a journal be unaware of this?
        Yet the paper in PNAS by Renyi Liu and Howard Ochman, which specifically addressed the problem of the origin of the bacterial flagellum was startling not only for its claims but its omissions.  The reader will search in vain for any mention of intelligent design, or for any footnote reference to Behe, Dembski, Johnson, Minnich, Nelson or any of the other leading intelligent-design scientists who, for over a decade, have held up this molecular machine as a falsification of Darwinian evolution.  The reader will also fail to find any mention that alternative explanations exist: only that “Elucidating the origins of complex biological structures has been one of the major challenges of evolutionary studies,” and that “The bacterial flagellum is a primary example of a complex apparatus whose origins and evolutionary history have proven difficult to reconstruct.
        Furthermore, the reader will fail to find a Darwinian mechanism by which a functional flagellum could emerge by mindless mutations and blind natural selection.  Their entire case relies on homology – similarities between parts.  Since there are some sequence similarities in the genes that code for the 50 parts of the flagellum (24 at the theoretical minimum), and since a smaller rotary motor (ATP synthase) bears a slight resemblance to the flagellum, the authors proposed a “Stepwise formation of the bacterial flagellar system” by means of gene duplication and modification.  “Within a genome, many of these core genes show sequence similarity only to other flagellar core genes, indicating that they were derived from one another, and the relationships among these genes suggest the probable order in which the structural components of the bacterial flagellum arose.”  They left it unstated how ATP synthase might have arrived, considering that it is arguably just as irreducibly complex as the flagellum.
        Thus all the arguments offered by the IDM against this kind of structure forming naturally were ignored: the need for all the parts to function together or not at all, the failure of co-option to account for “irreducible complexity all the way down,” and the even more complex assembly instructions, to mention a few.  The authors did acknowledge that the Type-III Secretion System (TTSS) was probably a devolution, not an ancestor, of the flagellum.  But the entirety of their case rested only on similarities between parts.  They assumed that this “suggests” a common ancestry – not a common Designer. 
The huge disparity between what the public thinks about evolution and what the scientific community says is part of a larger problem, said Joel Belz in an editorial for World magazine (April 21, p. 6).  “Without a conversation on major issues,” he said, “the media’s intent remains suspect.”  In “Seven Big Lies,” Belz singled out Evolution as Number One on his “short list of where the big media regularly get it not just slightly skewed but exactly backwards.”  Evolution is one of “seven Big Lies we are all subjected to virtually all the time”:
Amazingly, according to polls , the masses—after at least two generations of propaganda—aren’t convinced.  By majorities of at least 2-1, they still think “God” had something to do with where everything came from.  But evolution remains a basic assumption of the elites who control the media.  The evidence?  Almost never will you hear an argument.  What you almost always get instead is an ”expert.”
Other lies in his list are global warming (“‘experts’ instead of serious two-way arguments”): abortion (“imagine 45 million people dying from any other cause...and then avoiding painstaking media analysis”); homosexuality (“Why no serious pursuit of why homosexuals have a life span 20 years shorter than the general population?); stem-cell research (“The mainstream media so often and so consistently confuse the two practices that their basic honesty has to be called into question”); Islam (“But isn’t it a hallmark of serious journalism that the truth must be pursued no matter what the cost?”) and pluralism (“Basic test: How do the media determine which movements can be mocked and ridiculed, and which ones can’t?”).
    Belz sums it up: “On all these issues—and they’re not tiny, insignificant social questions—we’re not asking that the media agree with us.  All we want is an honest discussion.  So long as such a conversation is regularly denied, why should we not conclude that someone actually means to be lying to us?”
Undoubtedly, the PNAS flagellum paper will become the new official answer of the Darwinists to the IDM challenge of how a complex molecular machine could have evolved.  It will be cited endlessly in the journals as proof that the superweapon of the IDM has been defused once for all.  Don’t be fooled.
    Did you notice something?  In every case of Darwin spin, the strategy was twofold: (1) assume evolution (begging the question) and (2) ignore the opposition (sidestepping).  In case that fails, (3) characterize the opposition as stupid, insane and wicked with association and loaded words.  The popularizers take the oracles of the gods and decorate them for the public with visualization, humor, authority and all the other tricks of the tirade (pun intended, for our proofreaders).  One of the worst offenders is Lie Science (ditto).  The extent of distortion on their evolution propaganda page is breathtaking.  It is only surpassed by the silliness of their arguments.
    Now that you know how the Media Machine operates, you can see how the Darwin Party protects and perpetuates its tyranny.  The strategy is repeated in Current Biology, American Naturalist, BioScience and nearly every other mainstream science journal.  Intelligent design scientists and their arguments are systematically censored.  All arguments are “framed” to keep Charlie’s corpse looking fresh and pink, as materialistic utopia marches onward and upward right past their opponents behind the soundproof barrier.
    Aren’t you glad for the alternative media?  If you have a reaction to these revelations, write here and describe your feelings.
Next headline on:  Darwinism and EvolutionIntelligent DesignMediaCell BiologyMarine BiologyTerrestrial ZoologyGeneticsPolitics and EthicsTheology
Jurassic Park Gets Overhaul   04/17/2007    
How much do we understand the dinosaurs?  ABC News reported on some big-time updates and revisions being made to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History dinosaur exhibits.  The title of the article is, “Getting Their Dinosaur Facts Right, at Least for Now.”
The problem is that even though the newest of the dinosaurs are 65 million years old, scientists’ understanding of them has been racing along, changing with each new find.  So the Carnegie staff has decided to dismantle – and rethink – its entire collection.
    Our image of dinosaurs comes mostly from what one finds in old sci-fi films – big, lumbering creatures, dragging their tails on the ground.  In recent years, scientists have decided they were probably much more energetic and agile – and the way most fossils were displayed was wrong.
    “Unfortunately, they don’t come with instruction manuals,” Matt Lamanna, a paleontologist at the museum, said with a smile.
The project requires “a small army of painters, sculptors, welders and former museum staffers” to fix the newly-found errors and set the dinosaurs to rights.
The scientists back then certainly had the best of intentions but not the best information.  Very few of the fossil skeletons they dug up were complete, so they made educated guesses, sometimes based on their knowledge of other species.
This may satisfy the purists for now.  But the article speculated that “years from now, as the scientists learn more, they say they’ll probably have to change the exhibits all over again.
Evolutionists insist that some of their theory’s greatest strengths are the very driving forces of the theory itself: change and adaptation.  However, when an idea that you defend constantly changes, very few would consider that a strength.  Indeed, Charles Darwin himself would scarcely recognize his own theory today.
   This is illustrated in scientific interpretations of dinosaurs.  When putting the bones together, they had to place the backs out of joint merely to fit with their beliefs of dinosaur skeletal structures – literally, forcing the evidence to match their theories.
   Notably, the Carnegie collection itself has not changed.  Those old bones remain the same, and it is only evolutionists’ understanding that has changed.  And as ABC aptly pointed out, it will probably all need to be changed again mere generations from now – which means that even this updated display is probably wrong in ways we cannot recognize.  So what is racing along?  Understanding?  Scientific progress?  Human imagination?  The bones aren’t saying.  —DM
Next headline on:  DinosaursFossils
Are the Red Dwarfs Ready for SETI?   04/16/2007    
There are oodles of M-type red dwarf stars.  Before now, most SETI researchers didn’t pay them much attention, because their habitable zones are narrow.  Also, because the habitable zones are closer in, any planets in the lucky radius would most likely be tidally locked to the star, leaving one hemisphere in darkness and the other scorched in ceaseless heat and light – if not sterilized by deadly flares.  Those constraints appear to be loosening, according to a SETI Institute article on Space.com.
    The advantage of M-type stars is their long life.  Presumably, this gives intelligent life more time to evolve and mature.  They are also the most common stars.  It’s hard for SETI scientists to overlook all that potential real estate, even if not as suitable as the zone around our sun.  Edna DeVore, public outreach director for the SETI Institute, wrote:
There’s considerable interest in the question of whether M-Stars could host habitable planets.  Would the planets be tidally locked with one face always directed toward the M-Star?  Would flares wipe out life on the local planet?  If M-Stars could host habitable planets, life may be much more widespread that we’ve previously thought.  Thus, M-Stars are of interest to astrobiologists including SETI scientists who are searching for life beyond Earth.
A study just published in the Feb. 2007 Astrobiology journal includes papers from the NASA Astrobiology Program about the habitability of planets around M-type stars.  If DeVore’s summary is representative, the papers focused on the long lifetime of the stars as the major reason for exploring their environments.  Though their habitable zones are narrow, potential warming from CO2 in the atmospheres of terrestrial planets was considered, and some of the drawbacks and hazards were re-evaluated.  This particular issue is free for download at the Astrobiology journal site.
Wishing upon a star does not make SETI dreams come true.  Ms. DeVore’s article did not delve into the problems: flares, narrow zones, tidal locking.  Notably, she remarked that initial hopes that solar systems would be arranged like ours have been dealt a blow.  “We also expected to find solar systems like our own with small terrestrial planets near the star, and larger gaseous planets farther out,” she said.  “This particular pre-conception was discarded with the discovery of hot Jupiters on 4-day orbits about their stars.”  There’s the fallacy of extrapolating from a sample of one.
    Choosing M-Stars as a backup plan, though, may not be a cause for joy.  It might turn out like the following hypothetical bad-news, good-news joke.  Two pioneers crossing a mountain range hope to live off the bounty of fruit trees on the other side.  Upon arriving, the trees that haven’t been destroyed are very few and far between.  “But look,” the younger one chimes in, trying to be helpful.  “There’s an endless supply of poison oak.”
Research Project:  Some of the free papers in the Astrobiology journal deal directly the problems of flares, tidal locking and other habitability issues of M-Stars.  Perhaps one of our readers would like to evaluate the claims and see if their hopes are plausible.  Keep in mind, though, that finding billions of suitable zones does not imply they have renters.  That’s a different question.
Next headline on:  SETIStars
Cosmology: Crisis or Confidence?   04/13/2007    
What is it with cosmology these days?  On the one hand, astronomers seem more confident than ever.  They speak of this as the era of “precision cosmology,” when the only task remaining seems to be refining the decimal points; e.g., the first refinements of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) won John Mather and George Smoot a Nobel Prize this year.  On the other hand, there have been disturbing comments from respectable quarters hinting that if a complete collapse is not imminent, at least major rethinking is going on.  Some of the most fundamental evidences for and assumptions behind the “standard model,” presented as fact in popular publications and planetarium shows, are being questioned.
    The confident claims are so ubiquitous as to need no documentation (see, for instance, 11/02/2002, 02/21/2005, 10/31/2006).  As reported here recently, however, there are rumblings of discontent bordering on revolution (see 02/18/2007, 09/05/2006).  Alarming statements of cracks in the cosmological edifice have intensified in recent weeks.  Let’s take a look at some examples.
  1. String at the breaking point:  As noted previously, (02/18/2007), string theory seems to be on trial for impersonating a science.  What’s notable in a book review in The New Criterion, though, is that for a long time, it has been the only game in town – the only theory of fundamental physics under serious consideration to unify the large and small aspects of the universe.  Martin Gardner called it a “messy” theory that is beginning to mimic the clumsy epicycles of Ptolemaic cosmology.  The book he reviewed tells all: The Trouble with Physics: The Rise of String Theory, the Fall of a Science, and What Comes Next by Lee Smolin (see also 11/07/2006, bullet 2).1  In this book, Smolin, a former believer in string theory, chides the “groupthink” atmosphere among the adherents as a “cultlike atmosphere in which those who disagree with the ideology are considered ignoramuses or fools.”  Yet critics point to the fact that it makes no predictions and is little more than an untestable conjecture propped up with adjustments as needed.
  2. Ugly desperationNature this week2 reported on a conference in London by cosmologists unsatisfied with current theory.  It quotes Douglas Scott, one of the attendees: “There is a sense of desperation.  The standard model is horribly ugly, but the data support it.”  The ugliness stems largely from current big bang theory’s dependence on two imponderable substances, dark matter and dark energy.  Even though WMAP measured the cosmic background radiation to high degrees of precision (09/20/2004, 02/14/2003), invoking dark energy as an explanation is “a profound problem from the viewpoint of fundamental physics.”  Can a horribly ugly model really be true, even if the data seem to support it?  Attendees were encouraged to share their misgivings about the standard model.  No consensus or alternative was forthcoming.
  3. My unlucky stars:  “When astronomers wish upon a star, they wish they knew more about how stars explode,” began Tom Siegfried in Science this week.3  “In particular, experts on the stellar explosions known as supernovae wonder whether textbook accounts tell the true story--especially for a popular probe of the universe’s history, the supernovae designated as type Ia.”  He then shares some dirty secrets that should cause gasps among those who respect cosmological law but don’t know how the sausage is made:
    In fact, new observational surveys suggest that cosmic evidence based on type Ia supernovae rests on a less-than-secure theoretical foundation.  “We put the theory in the textbooks because it sounds right.  But we don’t really know it’s right, and I think people are beginning to worry,” says Robert Kirshner, a supernova researcher at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  “We keep saying the same thing, but the evidence for it doesn’t get better, and that’s a bad sign.”
    The import of this can hardly be overstated.  For the last decade, fundamental concepts about the age, expansion and acceleration of the universe have rested on the assumption the Type Ia supernovae are reliable standard candles.
        Siegfried even invokes the imagery of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” to describe how cosmologists parade their theory without evidential support.  Apparently not all Type Ia supernovae have the same brightness as formerly presumed, and may fall into two classes– as if the Type I vs II and Type I vs Ia distinctions were not upsets enough in the history of astronomy.
        Even accepted models of how supernovae ignite are being questioned.  One of the architects of the “accelerating universe” theory, Alex Filippenko (UC Berkeley), who based his conclusion on supernova measurements, calls the contradictory evidence “a very, very serious issue.”  Siegfried ended with talk of “worrisome gaps in current textbooks accounts” that must be plugged, and how “answers to many critical questions remain elusive.
  4. Faulty ladder:  Lower down in the cosmic distance-scale ladder, Cepheid variables are causing new worries.  Robert Cowen wondered in the Christian Science Monitor if the universe might be 15% larger than earlier thought, based on recalibration of the variable stars first used as distance indicators by Henrietta Swan Leavitt.  Cowen writes that astronomers need to heed Ronald Reagan’s advice, “Trust but verify.”  Unfortunately, trusted values are not holding up.  As one astronomer worried, “astronomers absolutely need to trust this number because we use it for countless calculations.”  It underlies the crucial value of the Hubble constant as well as helps calibrate the Type Ia supernovae.
  5. Can darkness shed light?  The universe is getting darker, said the New York Times.  Richard Panek didn’t mean to imply that there is more dark matter or dark energy than previously thought.  He meant to question science’s ability to fathom the universe when it has to resort to imponderable substances.  He feels science is going backwards by positing that most of the universe is unknown, and possibly even unknowable.  His article rips current thinking that cosmology knows what it is talking about.  What is dark energy?  “The difficulty in answering that question has led some cosmologists to ask an even deeper question: Does dark energy even exist?  Or is it perhaps an inference too far?  Cosmologists have another saying they like to cite: ‘You get to invoke the tooth fairy only once,’ meaning dark matter, ‘but now we have to invoke the tooth fairy twice,’ meaning dark energy.”  This is not sounding very scientific.  It makes one wonder what new experiments like ESSENCE (see Science Daily), searching for dark energy, will find: the essence of the universe in outer space, or the essence of human imagination in inner space.
  6. Glad to be here:  Again in the New York Times (April 12), an article questioned how the universe was able to survive the big bang.  Kenneth Chang reported on a Fermilab test: “An experiment that some hoped would reveal a new class of subatomic particles, and perhaps even point to clues about why the universe exists at all, has instead produced a first round of results that are mysteriously inconclusive.”  The impact on big bang theory: “The Standard Model has proved remarkably effective and accurate, but it cannot answer some fundamental questions, like why the universe did not completely annihilate itself an instant after the Big Bang.
        The problem is that the MiniBooNE, or mini-Booster Neutrino Experiment, did not provide evidence that neutrinos could keep the universe from collapsing: “The birth of the universe 13.7 billion years ago created equal amounts of matter and antimatter,” Chang asserts.  “Since matter and antimatter annihilate each other when they come in contact, that would have left nothing to coalesce into stars and galaxies.  There must be some imbalance in the laws of physics that led to a slight preponderance of matter over antimatter,” he continues.  Presumably, “that extra bit of matter formed everything in the visible universe.”
        Another new detector will also attempt to address the antimatter problem, reported Science Daily.  The conundrum of why the universe contains so little antimatter is a long-known dark secret rarely discussed in the literature.
For those needing respite from all this controversy, look at Astronomy Picture of the Day where a colorful new picture of the Pleiades was posted, just taken by the Spitzer Space Telescope.  And JPL started a new feature called “What’s Up” listing heavenly sights the rest of us can just look at and enjoy.  Kind of reminds you of the good old days when astronomy was calm and relaxing.
1Gardner’s review ends with an interesting historical anecdote about a cosmological conjecture by Lord Kelvin that sounds surprisingly modern.
2Jenny Hogan, “Physicists question model of the Universe,” Nature 446, 709 (12 April 2007) | doi:10.1038/446709a.
3Tom Siegfried, “Surveys of Exploding Stars Show One Size Does Not Fit All,” Science, 13 April 2007: Vol. 316. no. 5822, pp. 194-195, DOI: 10.1126/science.316.5822.194.
What are layman supposed to believe?  Evolutionary cosmologists are looking increasingly like soothsayers, whose pronouncements sound good in generalities but fall apart under scrutiny.  Now you see why Bob Berman got so frustrated a few years ago (10/06/2004) he exclaimed that cosmologists were clueless.  They are living in Alice in Wonderland where imagination rules.  “Unfortunately,” he ranted, “cosmologists are starting to resemble naked emperors parading before the mass media.”  Where have we heard that allusion before? (11/30/2005, 01/31/2003).
    Try to imagine anything in creationist cosmology that is anywhere near as as far-fetched or empirically challenged as the ideas now being discussed by modern secular cosmologists (cf. 08/11/2006, 12/18/2005).  At least creationists have an adequate Cause for the origin and fine-tuning of the universe.
    Every person struggling to relate the big questions to the evidence of the senses will have problems to solve, but when the pros run headlong into absurdities without remorse while conning the public with textbook lies, it’s time to blow the whistle and call for a serious “time out,” like Bob Berman advised.  Big words and big toys are inadequate to cover intellectual nakedness.  Cosmology has lost its way.  It is not making progress, it is going backwards.  Why?  Because its underlying assumption that secular naturalism is adequate to explain ultimate origins is flawed from the get-go.
    You can’t explain a system from within the system.  The universe has a cause that is beyond itself.  By definition, that makes the cause supernatural (05/11/2006).  Let that be the starting assumption once again, and science will get back on track (online book).  Let it recognize the fundamental nature of information—intelligence—design, and the lights will come back on (John 1:1-4).  Let it rediscover purpose in life (John 1:5-18), and it will again make progress – full steam ahead.
Next headline on:  AstronomyCosmologyPhysics
Proteins Found Preserved in T. rex Bone   04/12/2007    
Preserved fragments of collagen have been found in a dinosaur bone alleged to be 68 million years old.  Read all about it in Science Daily.  Analysis of soft tissue found by Mary Schweitzer and team turned up the recognizable protein fragments.  Protein was also detected in soft tissue from a mastodon said to be half a million years old.
    “When an animal dies, protein immediately begins to degrade and, in the case of fossils, is slowly replaced by mineral,” the article states.  “This substitution process was thought to be complete by 1 million years.”  Here’s how the original paper in Science1 put it:
It has long been assumed that the process of fossilization results in the destruction of virtually all original organic components of an organism, and it has been hypothesized that original molecules will be either lost or altered to the point of nonrecognition over relatively short time spans (well under a million years).  However, the discovery of intact structures retaining original transparency, flexibility, and other characteristics in specimens dating at least to the Cretaceous suggested that, under certain conditions, remnant organic constituents may persist across geological time.
Veteran dinosaur hunter John Horner was a co-author of the paper.  MSNBC News mentioned that he’s sending 100 people on nine research teams to look for more examples of soft tissue preservation.  Schweitzer kept a positive spin on this surprising finding.  She said in the Science Daily article, “This information will help us learn more about evolutionary relationships, about how preservation happens, and about how molecules degrade over time, which could have important applications in medicine.”
    This story is being widely reported, such as on National Geographic, the BBC, Associated Press and Live ScienceNews@Nature admitted in a caption, No one thought protein from a 68-million-year-old bone could be preserved.”  All but Science Daily, however, gave the most prominence to the part of the story alleging this is evidence of an evolutionary relationship between dinosaurs and birds.  Shocked as they are about the preservation of soft tissue and protein, not one of the articles questioned the age of 68 million years.
1Schweitzer et al., “Analyses of Soft Tissue from Tyrannosaurus rex Suggest the Presence of Protein,” Science, 13 April 2007: Vol. 316. no. 5822, pp. 277-280, DOI: 10.1126/science.1138709.
How can they completely ignore the big question?  Don’t just tell us this stuff did survive for millions of years—tell us how it could.  Why should anyone accept the premise of long ages any longer in light of this powerful evidence against it?  What do they think we are, a bunch of silly dupes who believe every yarn just because a “scientist” says so?  What’s more, many of the reports are spinning the story to promote even more evolutionary ideas.  They are claiming the collagen protein sequence proves the evolutionary ancestry of dinosaurs and birds.  Look: if this collagen is young, there was no evolutionary relationship.  Get it?
    What should have shocked and humbled the scientific community after decades of their now-falsified tales of dinosaurs being millions of years old has only fossilized the soft tissue of their consciences into rock-headedness.  Read these articles in disbelief.  Notice how nothing in secular science is fixed in stone except for faith in evolution and its requirement, “geological time.”
    Meanwhile, Motorola pagers across the country are buzzing with the MSNBC spin, “T-rex analysis supports dino-bird link – For the first time, researchers have read what they say is the biological signature of a tyrannosaur, a signature that confirms the increasingly accepted view that modern birds are the descendants of dinosaurs.”  *Sigh.*
    It just never ends.  USA Today exclaimed, “Yesterday’s T rex is Today’s Chicken”.  Oh, barf.  What’s next, an ad for a five-year supply of McNuggets?
Next headline on:  DinosaursFossilsDating Methods
Co-Evolution Theory Challenged   04/11/2007    
A classic case of co-evolution has been called into question.  EurekAlert reported that a “paradigm change” is needed regarding plant-eating beetles and their angiosperm hosts.  Dr. Jesús Gómez-Zurita and collaborators in the Natural History Museum in London have challenged the view that the two groups co-evolved, diversifying rapidly in response to one another.  Neither the fossil record nor molecular phylogeny support this view, they said.  “Hence, the coevolution hypothesis can be rejected in this case, demonstrating a different, perhaps more sophisticated principle of speciation in such diverse groups: phytophagous chrysomelid beetles radiated on a pre-existing diverse resource.
What kind of sophistication is that?  If a diverse resource pre-existed, that’s not evolution.  Why wouldn’t all the beetles pick the plants they liked and stay the same, uniform and unchanging?  Saying that beetles radiated on a pre-existing diverse resource provides no cause or effect; it assumes what they need to prove.  Their explanation is reduced to little more than, “stuff happens.”
    The short article does not elaborate on the impact this “paradigm change” would have on other examples of co-evolution, but if the textbook example is flawed, what are we supposed to think the next time someone uses the term?  This removes another mystical arrow from the Darwinian quiver.  Now they can’t say that the plants are forcing the beetles to evolve and vice versa.
    At the rate that studies are eroding evolutionary paradigms, it may soon be possible to predict the date the Charlie idol topplies over.  Wisdom would prescribe keeping one’s distance.
Next headline on:  Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory
  Wild West in a stem: the amazing interplant communication system that produces flowers and leaves, from 04/29/2003.

Dirt for Physical and Mental Health   04/11/2007    
Live Science has an article suggesting that exposure to dirt can improve your mood by boosting the immune system.  This is an unexpected twist on the “hygiene hypothesis” that childhood exposure to dirt and animals helps innoculate the body to certain diseases (see 08/02/2006).  Certain bacteria might not only boost the immune system, but also release neurotransmitters that could fight depression.  “These studies help us understand how the body communicates with the brain and why a healthy immune system is important for maintaining mental health,” said Chris Lowry (U of Bristol).  “They also leave us wondering if we shouldn’t all be spending more time playing in the dirt.”

Maybe horses and dogs are onto something.  You can’t give them a bath without them running for the nearest place to roll over in the dirt, to the frustration of their owners.  This is not to imply that pigs set a better example.
    Anything can be taken too far.  There are things in some soils that are clearly harmful.  Some locations have to worry about pathogenic roundworms, valley fever, and other risks.  Cleanliness is still a virtue, but it is possible to be too clean.  We were made to live in the great outdoors.  Some African tribes, like the Masai, living close to animals and plants, seem happier than Westerners.  Moderate exposure to sunshine, fresh air, soil, plants and animals is healthy for body and soul.  When was the last time you did some good, hard, sweaty, dirty work outdoors?  Didn’t it feel good when the day was done?  Don’t hire a landscaper to do it all; get out there and do it yourself.  A good shower afterwards is still a big reward when you’ve earned it.  Just don’t use antibacterial soap (see 08/02/2006).
    Our bodies are not intended to be hermetically shielded from nature.  There are microorganisms we depend on.  Consider how Adam and Eve would have worked close to the soil, the plants and the animals without covering in an ideal world.  That would have been the norm had things not gone wrong.  Even today, gardening and farming and outdoor work is honorable.  Don’t we all have a place in our hearts for the iconic farmer, outstanding in his field, wiping away the dirt and sweat from his brow as the rooster crows and the sun’s rays spread over the land?  Doesn’t the proverbial milking maid walking through the chicken yard sing cheerfully as she carries the buckets of milk she squeezed with her bare hands?  City slickers driving their Lexi down concrete roads from plastic offices to their townhomes are missing out on a big part of life.  Watch the fun movie City Slickers again and see how some hard work and fresh air and risk-taking transformed a group of dudes in a midlife crisis into handsome, noble, proud heroes for a week, riding their steeds like kings.*
    Don’t take this too far; nobody is prescribing mud wrestling.  Some things are dirty in an unhealthy sense.  If you are always depressed and tired, though, maybe your doctor needs to prescribe an oxymoron: clean dirt.
Next headline on:  HealthHuman Body
*A real-life example is instructive.  Theodore Roosevelt, depressed over the loss of his wife, mother and first child within two days, headed west and worked with cowboys at a ranch in North Dakota.  He spent a year roping cattle, riding horses, hunting and doing hard, outdoor labor.  When he returned, not only was he cured of his depression, he was presidential material.  The formerly sickly and asthmatic youth became a picture of vibrant health and tough manliness.  His adventures and experiences influenced his policies.  He became a lifelong advocate for national parks and conservation.
Cave Chimps Suggest Cave Men   04/11/2007    
Some chimpanzees have been found in Senegal using caves for shelter from the heat.  Jill Pruetz (Iowa State) took note of this and is publishing a paper about it in Primates.  National Geographic speculated that this sheds light on human origins:
The adaptations of savanna chimpanzees are particularly interesting to researchers because early humans are thought to have occupied similar environments.
    “The finding would be notable in itself, but the implications for reconstructing the evolutionary origins of shelter in our ancestors make it even more so,” said Cambridge’s McGrew.
    Some monkeys use caves to stay warm at night, he noted.  What is intriguing about the new study is that it shows “not the nocturnal use of caves for overnight sleeping but rather [daytime use] for siestas, socializing, and picnicking.  No one expected this”....
    “By building up our understanding of how such environments shape [modern human relatives], we can better model our early ancestors,” Moore added.
Live Science also focused on the human connection.  Charles Q. Choi announced his article, “Chimps Spotted Using Caves, Like Early Humans” and said, “Savannah chimpanzees, which can make weapons to hunt other primates for meat, can also seek refuge in caves, much like our earliest human ancestors.... These dwell in environs much like those from which humanity’s ancestors are believed to have emerged.
    He quoted Adrienne Zihlman (UC Santa Cruz) who added, “They are giving a little window to some of the problems that have to be solved if you want to survive in the savannah, and are confronting the kinds of problems that our early human ancestors had to face.”  The Live Science article was echoed elsewhere, such as Fox News.
To make a valid scientific inference from this observation, the evolutionists need to consider all the other creatures that inhabit caves.  A scientist must not discriminate and show species bias.  Chimp chauvinism is not politically correct.  Looking at the data without preconceptions, it could be that humans are evolved from cave crickets.  It might be that observing cave biota in toto can shed light on how humans emerged from bats, or fish, or birds or snakes.  They could even test various ideas.  They could place a house cat near the cave, for instance, to see if it shows human-like behavior.  After all, cats are curious, like chimpanzees, and presumably would want to keep their cool, too.  That would demonstrate the possibility we have cat in our ancestry.  It would explain why the Broadway show Cats strikes a chord in humans.  Caves are also the home for salamanders and beetles.  Since Beetle Bailey was human, the connection is obvious.  Need we even mention Batman?
    So let’s reword this story-fest in a bias-free manner, and substitute crickets for chimpanzees.  “Crickets spotted using caves, like early humans: Savannah crickets, which can hunt other insects for meat, can also seek refuge in caves, much like our earliest human ancestors.  These dwell in environs much like those from which humanity’s ancestors are believed to have emerged.  The adaptations of savanna crickets are particularly interesting to researchers because early humans are thought to have occupied similar environments.  This finding is notable in itself, but the implications for reconstructing the evolutionary origins of shelter in our ancestors make it even more so.  By building our understanding of how such environments shape modern human relatives, we can better model our early cricket ancestors.”
    By Jiminy, they’re right.  Evolutionary theory is useful.  It helps us build up our blunderstanding of how the world works.  It sheds dark in a light place, and helps us see things we couldn’t possibly have imagined any other way (01/17/2006 commentary).  Someday this age may be called The Endarkenment.
Next headline on:  MammalsEarly ManDumb Ideas
Lucy the Gorilla?   04/10/2007    
Three scientists from Tel Aviv found a “gorilla-like” jaw structure on a recently discovered specimen of Australopithecus afarensis, of which “Lucy” is the best-known example.  This is a problem, because Lucy was supposed to be transitional between chimpanzees and humans, not gorillas.
    Publishing in PNAS,1 they said, “The presence of the morphology in both the latter and Au. afarensis and its absence in modern humans cast doubt on the role of Au. afarensis as a modern human ancestor.”  How did the gorilla-like mandibular ramus end up on Lucy?  Their conjecture was “its appearance in fossil hominins must represent an independently derived morphology.”
    In other early-man news, Science reported that certain paleoanthropologists are claiming “Hobbit Man” (cf. 10/11/2006) is a unique species, not a microcephalic human.2  At a meeting of the Paleoanthropology Society, Matthew Toucheri (Smithsonian) based his opinion on the “primitive” appearance of some wrist bones.  Critics are countering that it’s part of the pathology of the individual.
1Yoel Rak, Avishag Ginzburg, and Eli Geffen (edited by David Pilbeam), “Gorilla-like anatomy on Australopithecus afarensis mandibles suggests Au. afarensis link to robust australopiths,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.0606454104, published online before print April 10, 2007.
2Ann Gibbons, “Hobbit’s Status as a New Species Gets a Hand Up,” Science, 6 April 2007: Vol. 316. no. 5821, p. 34, DOI: 10.1126/science.316.5821.34.
So all this Lucy talk was for Peanuts.  Charlie, Browne indicated (01/06/2004), was frequently ill and relied on a propaganda squad to promote his book.  Now he’s looking like a wishy-washy blockhead.  Instead of acting Snoopy about human origins, he should have learned something useful, like Linux.
    Speaking of cartoons, our warmest wishes to the family of Johnny Hart, creator of the unforgettably funny strip B.C., who died yesterday (see tribute cartoon on TownHall.com).  Hart was a strong Christian who gave increasingly overt religious themes to his later cartoons despite criticism from some quarters.  Collections of Hart’s work will warm your heart and tickle your funnybone.
    As for hobbitses, go read Tolkien’s version instead of listening to evolutionary fiction.  At least the original novel was written by intelligent design.
Next headline on:  Early Man
Mutation Rate Catastrophe: You Can’t Even Break Even   04/09/2007    
In a tortoise-and-hare kind of story, a team of geneticists figured out what happens when positive natural selection tries to outrun mutations: “mutation rate catastrophe.”  Publishing in PNAS,1 they described how beneficial mutations might become established in a population rapidly (that’s the hare).  Eventually (this is the tortoise), harmful mutations accumulate to the tipping point, and the population goes extinct.
    The abstract begins with one of only two praises of natural selection (both qualified with reality checks):
The intricate adjustment of organisms to their environment demonstrates the effectiveness of natural selection.  But Darwin himself recognized that certain biological features could limit this effectiveness, features that generally reduce the efficiency of natural selection or yield suboptimal adaptation.  Genetic linkage is known to be one such feature, and here we show theoretically that it can introduce a more sinister flaw: when there is complete linkage between loci affecting fitness and loci affecting mutation rate, positive natural selection and recurrent mutation can drive mutation rates in an adapting population to intolerable levels.
The only other praise of natural selection was more of an insult.  Calling it robust does not help it jump the high hurdles their model revealed.  In a section called “How Genetic Linkage Can Subvert Natural Selection,” they spoke of it as a myopic fallen hero:
Our theoretical findings indicate that mutator hitchhiking can set in motion a self-reinforcing loss of replication fidelity, but the question of how a process as robust as natural selection could allow this to happen remains.  The key fact is that natural selection, although eminently robust, is a short-sighted process that favors traits with immediate fitness benefits.  The fitness cost of mutator hitchhiking is generally not anticipated because of the slow accumulation of deleterious load.  When a mutator hitchhikes with a new beneficial mutation, a simple model shows that the increased deleterious load due to the mutator is in fact suppressed during the spread of the beneficial mutation.  Indeed, the full fitness cost of the mutator is only realized well after the beneficial mutation has stopped spreading.... A mutator may therefore enjoy the immediate benefit of producing a new beneficial mutation without anticipating the eventual increase in deleterious load.  Because of this delay in the accumulation of deleterious load, natural selection can drive mutation rate up to the point of no return....
Indeed, their graphs all show that the temporary, wobbly rises of evolutionary progress under the best of conditions all come crashing down suddenly in the end.
    This particular study involved asexual, one-celled organisms.  It was not purely theoretical, though.  They stated that it is known that bad mutations “hitchhike” on the same genes with rare beneficial mutations.  Fatal mutations, of course, kill the organism right off, but some bad mutations delay their harm, adding to the mutational load over time.  Eventually, they catch up and, like the tortoise, win the race after the hare is pooped out.
    Why don’t the beneficial mutations ever win?  After all, they can spread rapidly in a population.  The reason is that fitness is short-sighted.  Natural selection cannot see down the road or have a goal.  It can only act on the immediate consequences of a change.  Harmful mutations, by contrast, are not necessarily weeded out immediately.  Consider, for instance, a slightly damaged proofreading enzyme.  It may not kill the organism right off the bat.  Give it time, though, and the damage will add up – right after the beneficial mutation has reached equilibrium in the population.  Their model shows that the mutation rate actually accelerates over time.  Surprisingly, it is the very process of adaptation for fitness that accelerates the mutation rate – not just in bacteria, but in higher organisms, too:
There is almost certainly no physiological barrier to such an effect in most organisms: the genomic mutation rate in organisms from viruses to eukaryotes is a quantitative trait affected by many mutations whose effects can readily cumulate to intolerable levels of error.  In what follows, we show that there need not be a selective barrier to this process either: because the full fitness effect of increased deleterious mutation takes some time to accumulate after a higher mutation rate has evolved, it is theoretically possible for a population to evolve a critically high mutation rate and subsequently go extinct.
The team tweaked the parameters of their mathematical model in various ways to try to get natural selection to make some headway.  They used infinite populations and small populations.  They used large and small genome sizes.  All efforts yielded the same result: negative mutations eventually swamped any gains from positive natural selection.  In cases of sustained “arms races,” like bacterial invaders vs. the immune system in mammals, the antagonists may struggle back and forth till both fall off the cliff.2  Surprisingly, the beneficial mutation itself may trigger the catastrophe.  Under equilibrium conditions, mutations tend to accumulate slowly, especially if some error correction mechanism is present.  A new beneficial mutation changes the rules.  Now, the population is adapting to a new situation, and the model shows that mutation rate rises to the occasion.
    In short, the population has no way to break even.  In a section called “Evolutionary Implications,” they wrote, “Our results suggest the possibility of a novel complement to existing explanations for why truly asexual populations are evolutionarily short-lived.”  Pick your poison: “Either an asexual population does not adapt and goes extinct as a result of the slow accumulation of deleterious mutations, as suggested by existing theory, or else it adapts and goes extinct as a result of the mutation-rate catastrophe.”
    How, then, could these authors, being evolutionists, keep faith in neo-Darwinian theory, which relies on mutation and natural selection?  Since their study concerned only asexual organisms, they assumed that early one-celled organisms quickly learned about this problem and adapted ways to get around it.  Maybe they invented proofreading.  Maybe they tried recombination.  Eventually, the idea goes, sexual reproduction arrived and helped mask the effects of “mutation rate catastrophe.”  But they freely admit this is all just speculation:
It is tempting to speculate that the mutation rate catastrophe phenomenon that we have observed here played a role in the early establishment of recombination in the most primitive life forms (41).  It seems probable that adaptation was continual in primordial populations and that only rudimentary mechanisms of genomic proofreading and repair had evolved, such that mutation rates were closer to intolerable values than they are in most present forms.  Under these circumstances, the mutation-rate catastrophe could have posed an imminent threat to any purely asexual population.
Nevertheless, they did not offer any detailed models of how the catastrophe could be avoided.  Other studies have denied that sexual reproduction offers any resistance to mutational load (10/12/2000, 05/16/2004).  The origin of sex has been called the “queen of evolutionary problems” (04/14/2003).  With 20 competing theories about what it’s good for, it would seem a hard sell that claim sex came to the rescue to prevent error catastrophe.
    These problems are not new.  Other evolutionists have written about “mutational meltdown” (12/14/2006).  Hermann Joseph Muller in 1932 described “Muller’s Ratchet,” a principle that shows mutations in asexual populations accumulate in an irreversible manner.  “Our findings depart from previous work, however,” they said, “by showing that such high mutation rates can be the catastrophic result of unfettered natural selection.
    Neo-Darwinian theory may suffer from this model, but there is one bright side for biomedical research.  Maybe pharmacists can take advantage of this finding and help pathogens to mutate themselves to death: “Our results suggest the interesting and related possibility that the adaptive immune response itself could drive a purely clonal pathogen to mutation rate catastrophe and extinction within the host.”  Locked in an arms race, the pathogen and the immune system can drive the germs over the cliff like a big buffalo jump.  “This mechanism could, in theory, help to explain the spontaneous clearance of some viral infections and suggests that recombination, which prevents runaway increases in mutation rate, may be essential to the persistence of other viral infections that are not cleared.”  Now you know why your cold or flu eventually clears up on its own.
    One final question: does recombination really prevent mutational catastrophe?  They did not discuss this “suggestion” in any detail.  They only assumed that it would.  Other studies reported here indicate that recombination, while it may stabilize the genome and aid genetic repair (07/18/2001, 07/31/2002), cannot add new genetic information (08/20/2003) and, at best, only delays the inevitable (10/19/2004, 12/14/2006)  Some recombinations, in fact, can be toxic (10/27/2005, bullet 3).  It would seem that adding another random influence in the mix would not overcome the “genetic entropy” of cumulative mutations.
1Philip J. Gerrish, Alexandre Colato, Alan S. Perelson, and Paul D. Sniegowski, “Evolution: Complete genetic linkage can subvert natural selection,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.0607280104, published online before print April 3, 2007.
2See the “Red Queen Effect” – i.e., running and getting nowhere, 09/07/2006.  The authors modeled the Red Queen Effect in the context of pathogen-immune arms races.  Their graph shows an upward adaptational fight ending in sudden collapse.
OK, how many times do we have to show that neo-Darwinism has been falsified for its disciples to throw in the towel?  (For a partial list, see 10/19/2004, 11/29/2004, and 12/14/2006).  Jason Wolf told us four years ago how indirect genetic effects produce “slippage on the treadmill” that hinders evolutionary progress (see 03/17/2003).  Now, this paper practically waxes the treadmill to a shiny, frictionless surface, complete with banana peel.  Think of it: neo-Darwinists have pinned their hopes on the rare, mythical “beneficial mutations” to generate novelty, and for natural selection to save every blessed tidbit in its sieve, leading to the wondrous variety of adapted life (wave the magic wand of millions of years here).  But now, their own mechanisms have turned on them.  Beneficial mutations (if there are such things) actually trigger a mutational arms race.  This subverts natural selection, begins a mutational meltdown, and sends the population off the cliff to extinction.  Charlie will never get endless forms most beautiful at this rate.
    He who has ears to hear, let him hear (04/06/2007).  If you have placed your eternal hopes on Charlie’s natural selection tale to win the cosmic lottery without responsibility to your Maker, then have faith.  You’re going to need a lot of it.
Next headline on:  Evolutionary TheoryGenetics
King David’s Walled City Surfaces   04/07/2007    
A wall 21 feet thick from the First Temple period has been excavated in Jerusalem’s old City of David.  The Jerusalem Post reported on Eilat Mazar’s latest discovery: “A wall from the First Temple was recently uncovered in Jerusalem’s City of David, strengthening the claim that it is the site of the palace of King David, an Israeli archeologist said Thursday.”  The First Temple was built in the time of Solomon, David’s son and successor, in the 10th century BC.  Mazar estimates that the 20-meter-long section represents one fourth of the wall.
    Some modern “minimalist” archaeologists deny that David was more than a local chieftain; others relegate the stories about him to myth.  This new find, however – the largest structure yet found in the old city – “indicates that the City of David once served as a major government center, Mazar said.”  In 2005 she had found a large building that she has claimed was David’s palace (02/09/2007, 08/09/2005).
    This story was found from a link on the website of the Biblical Archaeology Society.  On April 10, Todd Bolen added some cautions about interpreting this find on Bible Places Blog.
Keep digging and you will find the evidence corroborating the Bible’s accuracy.  For a good example of this, see the film “The Second Battle of Jericho” from Associates for Biblical Research, where further digging “re-corroborated” the Biblical account of Jericho after results by an earlier dig cast doubt on the story.  Not long ago, skeptics were pointing to the lack of evidence for King David in support of their minimalist views.  Then the Tel Dan inscription was found, mentioning the “house of David” in plain text for all to see (see Bible Places).  Other pieces of the puzzle continue to surface (examples, 04/12/2003 04/17/2005).  Mazar’s excavations are the most spectacular in a long trend of findings that show the Bible to be a reliable historical record.
    Why are mentions of David so rare in extrabiblical sources?  It’s easy to understand for anyone who has visited Jerusalem.  Almost every square yard is occupied by buildings.  Real estate in this center of three world religions is hotly contested.  It is very difficult or impossible to get access to the most interesting sites (like the Temple Mount; see 10/31/2006).  Considering how many times in history Jerusalem has been leveled, pillaged and burned, the remarkable thing is that any trace of David’s glory would remain.  Mazar’s dig concerns a small section of a hill otherwise covered by modern-day Palestinian dwellings.  To their credit, the Israeli government has made this a national historic park which tourists can visit.  Now past its second year of excavation, Mazar’s site is certainly one to watch.
    A thousand years after King David came another king, the Son of David, whose kingdom is not of this world.  An easy walk north of the palace dig are sites famous in the Easter story, where Jesus of Nazareth rode triumphantly into Jerusalem, only to be put on trial and crucified a week later.  Within an afternoon, tourists can walk the Temple Mount, where Jesus confronted the Pharisees; visit the location of the upper room, where the Last Supper occurred; walk up the Mount of Olives, where Jesus was arrested; climb down into the dungeon where He was most likely held (under the modern church of St. Peter of Gallicantu); tour the Citadel, where the trial before Pilate took place; see remnant stones of Golgotha, where He carried the cross and was crucified and rose again (inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher).  Within a day’s drive are Emmaus, where He appeared to the two disciples after His resurrection; Tabgha on the Sea of Galilee, where He performed the miracle of the draft of fishes and told Peter to “feed My sheep”; and the summit of the Mount of Olives, where some 500 eyewitnesses saw Him ascend to heaven (see Christian Answers, Gary Habermas and Josh McDowell).  The millions who will shout, “Christ is risen – He is risen indeed” this Easter morning have a faith grounded on real estate.  Will your estate in heaven be real?  If any doubt, watch the Christian Answers video and read I John.
Next headline on:  Bible
  Evolutionary faith chills Easter hope, from 03/27/2005.

Preprocessed Sound Produces Tone Map in the Brain   04/06/2007    
Most of us know that our ears involve three domains: the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear.  We learned in school how the eardrum transmits the sound to tiny bones that transmit it to fluid in the cochlea, which stimulates hair cells that send the impulses down the auditory nerve to the brain.  What happens after that?  Scientists know surprisingly little, reported Andrew J. Kinga and Jan W. H. Schnupp in Current Biology,1 but are beginning to find out.  “Research on the auditory cortex is at an exciting stage,” they said as they shared some of the current knowledge about how the brain hears sound.
    The article mentions nothing about the origin of hearing by evolution or design.  It begins, though with this accolade for the sensitivity and complexity of the system:

Recognizing other people, animals or objects by the sound they make is something that most of us take for granted.  In fact, this ability relies on a series of rich and complex processes that begin when sounds are transduced into electrical signals by the exquisitely sensitive hair cell receptors that lie inside the cochlea of the inner ear.  These messages are then encoded as volleys of action potentials by the axons of the vestibulo-cochlear nerve and transmitted via a complex chain of nuclei in the brainstem, midbrain and thalamus towards the auditory cortex (Figure 1A),* where the interpretation and recognition of sounds is thought to take place.  Compared to other sensory systems, in which information reaches the cortex more directly, auditory signals are heavily pre-processed by the time they arrive at the cortex, and, in many animal species, this subcortical processing can mediate quite complex auditory tasks.
*A diagram of the auditory cortex regions in the brains of rhesus monkey and cat
The pre-processing is so extensive, in fact, that they “wonder what is left for the auditory cortex to do.”  Quite a lot is the answer.  We get clues from studies of people with brain damage to the auditory cortex, which can result in “severe hearing loss, at least temporarily, and an inability to recognize complex sounds or to pinpoint sound source locations,” they continue.  “Auditory cortex thus plays a crucial role in hearing, but how it does this is still very poorly understood.”  One thing is known: each sense “maps” the incoming information onto the brain:
A common feature of the primary cortical areas in different sensory systems is that they contain topographic representations or maps of the appropriate receptor surface.  Thus, neighbouring neurons in the primary visual cortex (V1) receive inputs from adjacent parts of the retina in the eye, which results in the presence of a map of the visual world across the surface of the cortex.  Similarly, each region of the skin is represented in a different part of the primary somatosensory cortex (S1), producing a cortical map of the body surface.  The same principle applies in the auditory system, except that hair cells located at different points along the length of the cochlea are tuned to different sound frequencies rather than to different locations in space.  The topographically organized projection from the thalamus to the primary auditory cortex (A1) therefore gives rise to a ‘tonotopic’ map of sound frequency.
These cortical regions for different senses appear so similar, in fact, it raises the question of whether one could substitute for the other.  To some degree, in fact, this appears to be the case.  Experiments with “rewiring” ferret brains showed that the auditory cortex could, after a fashion, “see” what was coming through the eyes.  We all know how the deaf can read Braille, and some blind people have been given devices that allow them to “see” through their skin.  Then there is the phenomenon called synesthesia, in which some people “taste” color or “smell” sound.  We each experience some of these mixed cues while falling asleep or dreaming.  The parts are not completely interchangeable, however.  The visual cortex appears optimally organized for sensing motion, while the auditory cortex appears to work as “linear filters of the acoustic stimulus,” detecting edges of frequencies instead of edges of moving objects.
    The auditory neurons are more than simple filters.  Kinga and Schnupp describe how they can adapt to the circumstances:
A number of studies have now shown that the response properties of A1 neurons can change over different time scales, indicating that they are sensitive to the context in which stimuli are presented.  This plasticity allows the filter properties of the neurons to be rapidly retuned according to the stimuli that have occurred previously and the task that is being performed.  These findings have important consequences for the way in which combinations of different sounds are represented in the cortex and argue against the presence within A1 of an invariant representation of the physical features of sound sources.
They next describe how portions of the auditory cortex seem to respond to specific properties of sound, like the controls on an oscilloscope: “response threshold, dynamic range and shape of response-level functions, sharpness of frequency tuning, sensitivity to frequency modulation, and the type of binaural interaction exhibited by the neurons” (i.e., differences in the data coming from the left and right ears).  This information is mapped onto the brain.  Sounds of a certain frequency, for instance, might form an “isofrequency contour” with intensity orthogonal to it.  It’s more complex than that, though: “more recent studies have characterized the interactions between the ears in more detail and shown that they are organized into smaller clusters, rather than continuous bands of neurons with similar properties.”
    Another aspect of the brain’s interpretation of sound is “division of labor.”  Researchers have found areas outside the auditory cortex involved in the perception of pitch, and other areas involved in processing spatial orientation of sound.  These areas are not distinct, however, and some overlapping of function occurs; “it is possible that this segregation of function relates more to differences in how information is processed than to clear categorical distinctions in what is processed there.”
    Another interesting finding involves the two-way communication of the brain and the ear.  Sound is not just dropped off at the brain’s doorstep like a postal package.  The brain talks back to the ear and tells it what to focus on.  Surprisingly, the brain replies more than it listens:
As in other sensory systems, the auditory thalamus receives a massive descending projection, with four times more inputs arising from the cortex than from the ascending pathways.  Cortical neurons also innervate the midbrain as well as various targets in the brainstem, nuclei that do not have direct access to the cortex, indicating that their influence on subcortical processing is likely to be very pervasive.
Thus, auditory inputs, after processing by the brain, set off a massive response of signals to the ears and other parts of the body.  Think of how your body responds to a loud sound like a gunshot.  You might start breathing faster, your head will turn, and your adrenaline may flow – all before you even consciously take any action.  That’s what these “corticofugal” signals trigger.  But they might also send messages back to the ears to filter out unwanted information.  The constant hum of a motor, for instance, or the sound of a passing train – while detected by the ears – is effectively shut off by the brain that has learned that these inputs are uninteresting during work or sleep:
These findings have led to the suggestion that corticofugal axons may be involved in selectively filtering information in the midbrain and thalamus, which may enable us to pay particular attention to certain aspects of our auditory environment while ignoring others.  This, in turn, would lead to an enhanced representation of stimuli that are frequently encountered or of particular significance, and could trigger longer-term, use-dependent plasticity.
That last sentence indicates we can train our ears to hear things.  Hope, perhaps, for the tone-deaf?  Or for husbands who don’t pay attention?  Practice makes perfect – maybe even perfect pitch.  In closing, Kinga and Schnupp remark that these are exciting times for research on the brain and hearing.  Scientists continue to watch what happens to different parts of the brain when selected auditory “probes” are used.
A better understanding of the transformations that take place from the thalamus to the cortex and between different cortical fields will shed light on the extent to which the processing of biologically important information is parsed into parallel functional streams.  At the same time, elucidating the functions and mechanisms of action of the many descending corticofugal projections will provide insights into both the dynamic coding of information throughout the auditory pathway and the role of the cortex itself.  Finally, a complete description of how the auditory cortex works also has to take into account how inputs from other sensory modalities – now known to be widespread in the temporal lobe – as well as cognitive factors, such as attention and memory, influence the activity of its neurons.

1Andrew J. Kinga and Jan W. H. Schnupp, “Primer: The auditory cortex,” Current Biology, Volume 17, Issue 7, 3 April 2007, pages R236-R239.
Philosophers have a field day with information like this.  Are we really hearing what is “out there” in the world?  We say that we “hear” a Beethoven symphony, but in reality, there is catgut scraping on horse hair, vibrations of air columns in tubes, impacts of cotton on stretched plastic or metal on metal, and other physical activity generating pressure waves in gas (the air).  By the time the eardrum has sympathetically vibrated and sent these pressure waves through the bones and fluids and nerves, a great deal of preprocessing has occurred.  Then, the brain is effectively shutting out what it doesn’t care to hear, either consciously or by habit.  A “trained ear” is going to hear much more out of the performance than someone unfamiliar with the nuances of music.
    Similarly, what do we know about things heard in conversation?  We cannot get “outside our head” to truly connect with someone else’s thoughts and feelings.  My thought has to be modulated through a voice and tongue (with feedback from my ears modulating the pitch and intensity of my words) to set up pressure waves, which your ear picks up and manipulates before your auditory cortex sends it to your conscious mind – and vice versa.  We all know people who tune in and tune out of a conversation or lecture.  We find ourselves doing it, too.  We joke about things going “in one ear and out the other.”  The amusing line sums up the problem: “I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”
    This filtering and processing happens in all our senses, individually and in concert.  To what extent, then, can we know anything outside of our minds as it “really is”?  Interesting questions – with no simple answers.  It’s what leads some philosophers to become solipsists (“only I exist”) and others to become realists, trusting that our senses provide reliable representations of reality, while other philosophers camp on a variety of positions in between.  We know how realistic dreams can seem, complete with sounds, sights and physiological responses.  Exercise: try proving that you are not just a brain in a vat, with someone sending you impulses from an elaborate program called “This is your life.”
    Enough of that.  Assuming a degree of realism and trustworthiness of our senses, we are at the threshold of understanding the mental processes involved in hearing.  As if the ears themselves were not remarkable enough, what the brain does after receiving the nerve impulses remains a vast uncharted territory.  We have just the first glimpses of what is going on in the black box.  All that these two authors have described, though, still involves the physical – the midbrain, the auditory cortex, the thalamus.  Above that is an additional layer we call “consciousness” (as if giving it a name confers understanding).  How these layers upon layers of complexity interact to give us a life that is simultaneously physical, mental, emotional and spiritual is a puzzle whose sophistication is underscored by each attempt to tease out the details.  This is irreducible complexity to the extreme.
    That is why we think it is essential to be reminded daily of the details under the hood of life.  Every time someone comes along claiming that something as elaborate as hearing emerged out of deaf chemicals by mistake, through long processes of purposeless, directionless, disinterested collisions of matter, you can ask some probing questions.  Hold up a head-shaped rock next to his head, and ask him what’s the difference in response when pressure waves impinge on the two shapes?  Read this article to him.  If he refuses to listen, you can say to the rock, he who has ears to hear, let him hear.
Next headline on:  Human BodyMammalsAmazing Facts
Evolution to the Rescue for Abused Ape   04/05/2007    
The UK Guardian reports that Austrian courts are being asked to grant human status to an ape to allow it to sue a company for importing it into Austria for medical research.  In 1999, New Zealand granted “non-human hominid” status to apes to protect them from maltreatment, but this case attempts to give full human rights to apes to allow them to initiate their own lawsuits.  Animal rights advocates base their case on the similarity of humans to apes:
One of their central arguments will be that a chimpanzee’s DNA is 96 - 98.4 per cent similar to that of humans – closer than the relationship between donkeys and horses.  They will cite recent findings that wild apes hunt with home-made spears [2/01/2007] and can fight battles and make peace.
Activists are trying to ditch the “species barrier” that allows such discrimination.  The article quotes Sommer, an evolutionary anthropologist, saying: “It’s untenable to talk of dividing humans and humanoid apes because there are no clear-cut criteria – neither biological, nor mental, nor social.’”
Having rejected the Biblical account of man being created in God’s image, it is easy for animal rights activists to claim that there are no clear-cut criteria between apes and humans.  Given the logical starting place of evolution, such a deduction follows.  Unfortunately, because evolution is trusted as science instead of philosophy, a large number of people have bought into the whole package.  This one is based on flawed statistics.  The 98% similarity figure, often echoed in the news media, is both false and misleading (09/23/2002, 10/25/2002, 08/22/2006).  Depending on what parts of the genome are compared, you can derive almost any figure you want
    The Animal Rights movement is a study in itself, but Wikipedia gives us a brief introduction:
Animal rights, also known as animal liberation, is the movement to protect non-human animals from being used or regarded as property by humans.  It is a radical social movement insofar as it aims not only to attain more humane treatment for animals, but also to include species other than human beings within the moral community by giving their basic interests — for example, the interest in avoiding suffering – the same consideration as those of human beings.  The claim is that animals should no longer be regarded legally or morally as property, or treated as resources for human purposes, but should instead be regarded as legal persons.
Protecting animals is one thing, but giving them human legal status is quite another.  We all support the idea of protecting animals from abuse, but leveraging that support into a law to humanize animals is a bit out of bounds.  Nowhere in the Bible is there any indication that God holds animals to a moral standard.  The application of moral standards to animals is a result of the evolutionary doctrine that we are just smart animals.  Notice that their use of “morally” in the above quote is applied only to humans, not animals.  We know from experience that animals do not behave morally, and we have no expectation that they will.  How then can they be included in the “moral community”?  We are the moral community, not animals
    Wikipedia continues with an interesting statistic that does not bode well for our legal future as humans, and sheds some light on the ultimate Animal Rights goals:
Animal law courses are now taught in 79 out of 180 United States law schools, and the idea of extending personhood to animals has the support of some senior legal scholars, including Alan Dershowitz and Laurence Tribe of Harvard Law School.  The Seattle-based Great Ape Project is campaigning for the United Nations to adopt a Declaration on Great Apes, which would see gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees and bonobos included in a “community of equals” with human beings, extending to them the protection of three basic interests: the right to life, the protection of individual liberty, and the prohibition of torture.  This is seen by an increasing number of animal rights lawyers as a first step toward granting rights to other animals.
When rights are granted to the Great Apes, will they be expected to abide by them?  Will chimpanzees be expected to respect the rights of monkeys, and stop eating them?  When rights are granted to “other animals” will wolves be expected to stop killing and eating deer, which have as much right to life as they do?  Will the United Nations pass a motion censoring wolves for their disregard of the rights of deer?  This should raise some red flags in the minds of evolutionists that perhaps their logical train of thought is about to derail, but we shouldn’t hold out too much hope.  Morality is a human trait.  You can’t apply such a thing as the prohibition of torture to animals.  They don’t even understand the concept.  They are not sentient.  They are not morally responsible.  They are not made in the image of God.    —DK
Next headline on:  MammalsPolitics and EthicsGenetics
Can the Miller Experiment Be Revived?   04/04/2007    
Jeffrey Bada at the Scripps Institute is finding more interesting stuff in Stanley Miller’s spark-discharge tubes – with a little tweaking of ingredients.  Scientific American acknowledges that the famous experiment fell into disrepute when scientists used a more realistic atmosphere: “It seemed to refute a long-cherished icon of evolution—and creationists quickly seized on it as supposed evidence of evolution’s wobbly foundations” (see also Robert Shapiro’s critique in the 02/15/2007 entry, “the soup kettle is empty”).  This realization caused many in origin-of-life research to postulate that the building blocks of life came special delivery, from comets and meteors.
    Bada decided to try a variation.  He neutralized the acids and removed the nitrites that interfere with amino acid formation, and got amino acids to form in abundance.  He rationalized this by saying that iron and carbonates on the early earth would have neutralized the primordial soup in a similar way.
    Other researchers were buoyed by this finding.  They think it will tip the paradigm back toward local formation of amino acids on the Earth, through lightning and radiation.  Others caution that not all the building blocks can be formed in this manner; special delivery may still be required.
Same problems: mixed handedness, no concentrating mechanism, no peptide bond formation mechanism, no nucleic acids or sugars, competing reactions, investigator interference, the fallacy of using the intelligent design of the scientist to emulate chance and necessity, etc.  Check our extensive reporting on origin-of-life research and debates by following the “origin of life” chain links going back over six years.
    Interesting that they called this an icon of evolution.  Jonathan Wells had a whole chapter about the Miller experiment in his book of that name.  They also are painfully aware that creationists have had a field day with the refutation of the Miller icon.  On the ropes since the heady days of the 1950s, the OOL research community thinks there may be life in the useful lie yet (05/02/2003). Not likely.  Creationists not only seized this wobbly player in Darwin’s wrestling match; they have him in a chokehold on the floor.  He will need a lot more nutrition than a few random amino acids to get up again.
Next headline on:  Origin of Life
Adult Stem Cells Form Heart Valve   04/04/2007    
The BBC News reported that part of a heart valve was grown from stem cells.  The article did not state till halfway down the page that the feat was achieved with adult stem cells, not embryonic stem cells.
Everybody knows that the big battle over stem cells revolves around the ethics of using human embryos for research.  Adult stem cells have no ethical issues, whereas embryonic stem cells garner big debates about bioethics and morality.  Why did the BBC News understate this important point?  Why did they tout the loaded term “stem cells” in the title and first few paragraphs, leading the casual reader to assume that the more-hyped embryonic cells were responsible?  Why did they equate the two in the graphic, as if embryonic stem cells have an equivalent track record with adult stem cells?  Here was a key opportunity to score one for adult stem cell research, but the reader had to dig to find out it had nothing to do with embryos.  This is one way the media can tell the truth with bias aforethought.
Next headline on:  HealthPolitics and Ethics
Chinese Claim Early Man Fame   04/03/2007    
The “out of Africa” hypothesis must be wrong, some Chinese anthropologists claim, because they have a modern skeleton 40,000 years old.  The story is reported by the BBC News, EurekAlert, National Geographic News and Science Daily.
    The BBC News report starts, “The find could shed light on how our ancestors colonised the East, a movement that is only poorly understood by anthropologists.”  The 34 fragments of bone suggest, according to the discoverers, that the individual was a modern human with some archaic characteristics.  If modern humans had migrated out of Africa 30,000 years earlier, why did this individual retain earlier features?  One possibility offered was that the two interbred.
Evolutionary news stories often include two tell-tale phrases.  Such-and-such a new discovery “may shed light” on something that is “poorly understood.”  This is code for “we’re about to tell a fictional tale that props up Darwinian hopes for another day.”  Like we said, they are tell-tale phrases.
Next headline on:  Early Man
Earliest Comb Jelly Fossil Looks Modern   04/03/2007    
One would think that a paper listed in the category “Evolution” would include supporting evidence that evolution had occurred, but a new Evolution paper in PNAS provides more arguments against it than for it.1  An international team studying early Cambrian fossil beds in China found a comb jelly embryo essentially identical to those alive today.  Using Raman spectroscopy, they identified the comb rows (used for locomotion), an oral cavity and other diagnostic features of ctenophores, and said it looks remarkably similar to those inhabiting China seas in modern times.  This is the earliest known fossil of a comb jelly.  They dated it to 540 million years – the base of the Cambrian period.  The prior record holder was dated at 530 million years.
    The authors of the paper included the renowned Cambrian fossil scientist J. Y. Chen, the avid hunter of Precambrian fossils Bill Schopf, and USC paleontologist David Bottjer.  They considered whether this fossil might fit into an evolutionary sequence.  They briefly dismissed the idea that comb jellies were intermediate between the enigmatic Ediacaran biota (08/19/2004), sponges and cnidarians (jellyfish).  Nope, can’t be, they decided; too many missing transitional forms and other problems.  Here’s what they said about that hypothesis after concluding the organism shared the pelagic (free-swimming) lifestyle of living comb jellies:
In contrast with this pelagic interpretation, Shu et al. recently hypothesized an evolutionary link between the benthic, frondose Chengjiang fossil Stromaveris psygmoglena and modern ctenophores as well as some Ediacaran vendobionts.  To link these groups, they proposed that the early evolution of ctenophores was marked by a shift from a benthic, sessile existence to a pelagic habit coupled with a change in the function of their cilia from feeding to locomotion.  Such a shift would involve major changes in basic morphology and ecology and would require many (undocumented) intermediate stages.  Furthermore, their interpretation of S. psygmoglena as a stem-group ctenophore is based heavily on the presence of closely spaced branches that because they are “probably ciliated” were inferred to represent precursors of the diagnostic comb rows of ctenophores.  Given that cilia are of widespread occurrence, not only in metazoans but in protists as well, and that they have diverse functions, not only for locomotion or feeding, use of the presence of probable cilia as a prime character by which to infer a ctenophore affinity for S. psygmoglena is problematic.  Similarly, the suggestion by Shu et al. that the Ctenophora occupies an intermediate evolutionary position between sponges and cnidarians is inconsistent with numerous lines of evidence, both anatomical and molecular.
They left off the evolution discussion there, concluding only that this is an “important find” and that Raman spectroscopy “can yield important data to the understanding of life’s early history.”
1Chen, Schopf, Bottjer et al, “Raman spectra of a Lower Cambrian ctenophore embryo from southwestern Shaanxi, China,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 0.1073/pnas.0701246104, published online before print April 2, 2007.
Notice they said that Raman spectroscopy can yield understanding about life’s early history, not that it does.  Actually, it does – it helps scientists falsify Darwinism.  The earliest comb jelly bursts onto the scene at the lowest fossil layer, fully formed and essentially modern.
    Several things in this paper show the squeeze Darwin is in with the Cambrian explosion.  The authors actually use the term Cambrian explosion in the first paragraph, indicating that it is still a problem 148 years after Darwin hoped that new fossils would explain it away.  They call it a “rapid rise in the diversity of skeletonized metazoans,” a euphemism for “Darwin’s gradualism is in heap big trouble.”  Using words like “radiation” masks the problem this is for Darwinism.  It merely attempts damage control through jargon (see 04/23/2006), also known as “perception management.”  It’s not a bug; it’s a feature.
    Other problems for Darwin include their frank admission that the only competing evolutionary hypothesis linking comb jellies with putative ancestors contradicts evidence from fossils, anatomy, and molecular phylogeny.  They also dispute the idea that cilia could be co-opted for the locomotive comb rows of the ctenophores.  Then they leave their paper without any better evolutionary story, merely hoping that the new technique they used will some day help evolutionists understand life’s early history.  All tired of waiting for them to understand, say aye-yi-yi-yi-yi.
    Comb jellies are remarkable marine animals.  They have a complex digestive system, with mouth and “pharynx, where ingested material passes into a complex system of radiating vascular structures that include eight meridional canals, one beneath each comb row,” the authors state.  The combs are used for locomotion, another complex system.  And they give the most remarkable light shows in nature: colorful streams of blinking lights that cascade down their sides (see 12/19/2005).  Each of these are irreducibly complex systems without fossil precursors.  The fact that delicate fossil embryos of these modern-looking animals could be discerned in rocks today gives the lie to Darwin’s myth of slow, gradual evolution over millions of years.  Why don’t we be done with it and give Charlie a quiet burial at sea?
Next headline on:  FossilsMarine LifeEvolution
Binary Asteroid “Formidable Challenge to Theory”   04/02/2007    
Two asteroids found orbiting each other in the asteroid belt are found to be mere rubble piles.  They are composed of rocks loosely held together by gravity, says an article on Science Daily.  French astronomers measured the rotation of the pair and their density with better accuracy, and modeled how the pair might have split up and regrouped after a collision two and a half million years ago.  Another scientist says we should not be too hasty:
“Despite this intensive study, the origin of this unique doublet still remains a mystery,” said team member Pascal Descamps, an astronomer at the Institut de Mécanique Céleste et de Calculs des Éphémérides (IMCCE) of the Observatoire de Paris.  “The formation of such a large double system is an improbable event and represents a formidable challenge to theory.  It is possible that a parent body was spun up so much that it broke apart, but this seems very hard to do for asteroids in the main belt, unlike, for example, near-Earth asteroids.”
The article did not address how such a loose collection of debris could remain in orbit for that long.
This commentary does not claim that creationists would have a better answer to this mystery, or that a plausible natural explanation could not be found with further study.  It does raise the issue, however, of dating.  It seems highly implausible in a system of careening impactors that such a delicate balance of two loose objects could be maintained for so long.  If this were the only case, it might be excused as an exception, but binary asteroids are common (see 05/04/2002).  This is but one of many problems that come with assuming billions of years (see 06/05/2003 commentary).  It’s not acceptable to play fast and loose on a date.
Next headline on:  Dating MethodsSolar System
Box Jellyfish Sees and Reacts with “Human-Like Vision”   04/01/2007    
Who would expect a jellyfish to have complex eyes?  Updating what we reported previously about complex optics in the 24 eyes of the box jellyfish (see 05/15/2005), Live Science says the most complex eyes are found on the top and bottom of the cube-like “head” of the animal, “giving it an extreme fish-eye view, so it’s watching almost the entire underwater world.”  Scientists experimented with objects in a tank and found that the box jellyfish can avoid objects based on color and shape.  “Unlike normal jellyfish, which drift in the ocean current, box jellyfish are active swimmers that can rapidly make 180-degree turns and deftly dart between objects,” the article says.  There was no mention of evolution till the last line: “Because jellyfish belong to one of the first groups of animals to evolve eyes (the phylum Cnidaria), [Anders] Garm [Lund U, Sweden] said, understanding how their eyes operate will show scientists what eyes were like early in evolutionary time.”
Notice that the evolution talk is always in past and future tense: someday they might figure out what might have happened before there were observers, assuming evolution before thinking.  In the present, where we can observe things, we don’t see anything evolving.  Go back and read the 05/15/2005 entry about box jellyfish superb optics – and no transitional forms among multiple groups of animals with complex optics.  For a jellyfish – one of the most primitive animals in evolutionary thinking – to have “human-like eyes” is an astonishing upset.  It’s almost like God threw in surprises here and there to falsify evolutionary notions.
Suggested reading: Billions of Missing Links by Geoffrey Simmons, MD, available from ARN.
Next headline on:  Marine BiologyAmazing Stories
  April Fool?  Clear case of natural selection, or another just-so story?  How the horned lizard got its horns, from 04/01/2004.  Don’t miss the follow-up comments from other evolutionists on 09/27/2004.


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“I first learned of your web site on March 29.... Your site has far exceeded my expectations and is consulted daily for the latest.  I join with other readers in praising your time and energy spent to educate, illuminate, expose errors.... The links are a great help in understanding the news items.  The archival structure is marvelous....  Your site brings back dignity to Science conducted as it should be.  Best regards for your continuing work and influence.  Lives are being changed and sustained every day.”
(a manufacturing quality engineer in Mississippi)

“I wrote you over three years ago letting you know how much I enjoyed your Creation-Evolution headlines, as well as your Creation Safaris site.  I stated then that I read your headlines and commentary every day, and that is still true!  My interest in many sites has come and gone over the years, but your site is still at the top of my list!  I am so thankful that you take the time to read and analyze some of the scientific journals out there; which I don’t have the time to read myself.  Your commentary is very, very much appreciated.”
(a hike leader and nature-lover in Ontario, Canada)

“...just wanted to say how much I admire your site and your writing.  You’re very insightful and have quite a broad range of knowledge.  Anyway, just wanted to say that I am a big fan!”
(a PhD biochemist at a major university)

“I love your site and syndicate your content on my church website.... The stories you highlight show the irrelevancy of evolutionary theory and that evolutionists have perpetual ‘foot and mouth’ disease; doing a great job of discrediting themselves.  Keep up the good work.”
(a database administrator and CEH “junkie” in California)

“I can’t tell you how much I enjoy your article reviews on your website—it’s a HUGE asset!”
(a lawyer in Washington)

“Really, really, really a fantastic site.  Your wit makes a razor appear dull!... A million thanks for your site.”
(a small business owner in Oregon “and father of children who love your site too.”)

“Thank God for ... Creation Evolution Headlines.  This site is right at the cutting edge in the debate over bio-origins and is crucial in working to undermine the deceived mindset of naturalism.  The arguments presented are unassailable (all articles having first been thoroughly ‘baloney detected’) and the narrative always lands just on the right side of the layman’s comprehension limits... Very highly recommended to all, especially, of course, to those who have never thought to question the ‘fact’ of evolution.”
(a business owner in Somerset, UK)

“I continue to note the difference between the dismal derogations of the darwinite devotees, opposed to the openness and humor of rigorous, follow-the-evidence scientists on the Truth side.  Keep up the great work.”
(a math/science teacher with M.A. in anthropology)

“Your material is clearly among the best I have ever read on evolution problems!  I hope a book is in the works!”
(a biology prof in Ohio)

“I have enjoyed reading the sardonic apologetics on the Creation/Evolution Headlines section of your web site.  Keep up the good work!”
(an IT business owner in California)

“Your commentaries ... are always delightful.”
(president of a Canadian creation group)

“I’m pleased to see... your amazing work on the ‘Headlines’.”
(secretary of a creation society in the UK)

“We appreciate all you do at crev.info.”
(a publisher of creation and ID materials)

“I was grateful for creationsafaris.com for help with baloney detecting.  I had read about the fish-o-pod and wanted to see what you thought.  Your comments were helpful and encouraged me that my own ‘baloney detecting’ skill are improving.  I also enjoyed reading your reaction to the article on evolution teachers doing battle with students.... I will ask my girls to read your comments on the proper way to question their teachers.”
(a home-schooling mom)

“I just want to express how dissapointed [sic] I am in your website.  Instead of being objective, the website is entirely one sided, favoring creationism over evolution, as if the two are contradictory.... Did man and simien [sic] evovlve [sic] at random from a common ancestor?  Or did God guide this evolution?  I don’t know.  But all things, including the laws of nature, originate from God.... To deny evolution is to deny God’s creation.  To embrace evolution is to not only embrace his creation, but to better appreciate it.”
(a student in Saginaw, Michigan)

“I immensely enjoy reading the Creation-Evolution Headlines.  The way you use words exposes the bankruptcy of the evolutionary worldview.”
(a student at Northern Michigan U)

“...standing O for crev.info.”
(a database programmer in California)

“Just wanted to say that I am thrilled to have found your website!  Although I regularly visit numerous creation/evolution sites, I’ve found that many of them do not stay current with relative information.  I love the almost daily updates to your ‘headlines’ section.  I’ve since made it my browser home page, and have recommended it to several of my friends.  Absolutely great site!”
(a network engineer in Florida)

“After I heard about Creation-Evolution Headlines, it soon became my favorite Evolution resource site on the web.  I visit several times a day cause I can’t wait for the next update.  That’s pathetic, I know ... but not nearly as pathetic as Evolution, something you make completely obvious with your snappy, intelligent commentary on scientific current events.  It should be a textbook for science classrooms around the country.  You rock!”
(an editor in Tennessee)

“One of the highlights of my day is checking your latest CreationSafaris creation-evolution news listing!  Thanks so much for your great work -- and your wonderful humor.”
(a pastor in Virginia)

“Thanks!!!  Your material is absolutely awesome.  I’ll be using it in our Adult Sunday School class.”
(a pastor in Wisconsin)

“Love your site & read it daily.”
(a family physician in Texas)

“I set it [crev.info] up as my homepage.  That way I am less likely to miss some really interesting events.... I really appreciate what you are doing with Creation-Evolution Headlines.  I tell everybody I think might be interested, to check it out.”
(a systems analyst in Tennessee)

“I would like to thank you for your service from which I stand to benefit a lot.”
(a Swiss astrophysicist)

“I enjoy very much reading your materials.”
(a law professor in Portugal)

“Thanks for your time and thanks for all the work on the site.  It has been a valuable resource for me.”
(a medical student in Kansas)

“Creation-Evolution Headlines is a terrific resource.  The articles are always current and the commentary is right on the mark.”
(a molecular biologist in Illinois)

Creation-Evolution Headlines is my favorite ‘anti-evolution’ website.  With almost giddy anticipation, I check it several times a week for the latest postings.  May God bless you and empower you to keep up this FANTASTIC work!”
(a financial analyst in New York)

“I read your pages on a daily basis and I would like to let you know that your hard work has been a great help in increasing my knowledge and growing in my faith.  Besides the huge variety of scientific disciplines covered, I also enormously enjoy your great sense of humor and your creativity in wording your thoughts, which make reading your website even more enjoyable.”
(a software developer in Illinois)

“THANK YOU for all the work you do to make this wonderful resource!  After being regular readers for a long time, this year we’ve incorporated your site into our home education for our four teenagers.  The Baloney Detector is part of their Logic and Reasoning Skills course, and the Daily Headlines and Scientists of the Month features are a big part of our curriculum for an elective called ‘Science Discovery Past and Present’.  What a wonderful goldmine for equipping future leaders and researchers with the tools of clear thinking!
(a home school teacher in California)

“What can I say – I LOVE YOU! – I READ YOU ALMOST EVERY DAY I copy and send out to various folks.  I love your sense of humor, including your politics and of course your faith.  I appreciate and use your knowledge – What can I say – THANK YOU – THANK YOU – THANK YOU – SO MUCH.”
(a biology major, former evolutionist, now father of college students)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I stumbled across your site several months ago and have been reading it practically daily.  I enjoy the inter-links to previous material as well as the links to the quoted research.  I’ve been in head-to-head debate with a materialist for over a year now.  Evolution is just one of those debates.  Your site is among others that have been a real help in expanding my understanding.”
(a software engineer in Pennsylvania)

“I was in the April 28, 2005 issue of Nature [see 04/27/2005 story] regarding the rise of intelligent design in the universities.  It was through your website that I began my journey out of the crisis of faith which was mentioned in that article.  It was an honor to see you all highlighting the article in Nature.  Thank you for all you have done!
(Salvador Cordova, George Mason University)

“I shudder to think of the many ways in which you mislead readers, encouraging them to build a faith based on misunderstanding and ignorance.  Why don’t you allow people to have a faith that is grounded in a fuller understanding of the world?... Your website is a sham.”
(a co-author of the paper reviewed in the 12/03/2003 entry who did not appreciate the unflattering commentary.  This led to a cordial interchange, but he could not divorce his reasoning from the science vs. faith dichotomy, and resulted in an impasse over definitions – but, at least, a more mutually respectful dialogue.  He never did explain how his paper supported Darwinian macroevolution.  He just claimed evolution is a fact.)

“I absolutely love creation-evolution news.  As a Finnish university student very interested in science, I frequent your site to find out about all the new science stuff that’s been happening — you have such a knack for finding all this information!  I have been able to stump evolutionists with knowledge gleaned from your site many times.”
(a student in Finland)

“I love your site and read it almost every day.  I use it for my science class and 5th grade Sunday School class.  I also challenge Middle Schoolers and High Schoolers to get on the site to check out articles against the baloney they are taught in school.”
(a teacher in Los Gatos, CA)

“I have spent quite a few hours at Creation Evolution Headlines in the past week or so going over every article in the archives.  I thank you for such an informative and enjoyable site.  I will be visiting often and will share this link with others.”
[Later] “ I am back to May 2004 in the archives.  I figured I should be farther back, but there is a ton of information to digest.”
(a computer game designer in Colorado)

“The IDEA Center also highly recommends visiting Creation-Evolution Headlines... the most expansive and clearly written origins news website on the internet!”
(endorsement on Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness Center)

“Hey Friends, Check out this site: www.creationsafaris.com.  This is a fantastic resource for the whole family.... a fantastic reference library with summaries, commentaries and great links that are added to 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 www.BornAgainRadio.com, 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.”
(anonymous)
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 CreationSafaris.com.”
(a PhD geologist)

“I love your site... I check it every day for interesting information.  It was hard at first to believe in Genesis fully, but now I feel more confident about the mistakes of humankind and that all their reasoning amounts to nothing in light of a living God.”
(a college grad)

“Thank you so much for the interesting science links and comments on your creation evolution headlines page ... it is very 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 TruthCast.com.)

“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 April

James B. Irwin
1930 - 1991

Last month we had Dr. Irwin Moon; this month a man named Irwin who walked on the moon!

This month’s entry was not a scientist in a professional sense; he was an astronaut, and not just an astronaut, but one of the 12 people in history who has walked on the moon.  But what is a scientist?  If we mean by the word a seeker for truth, someone who uses observation and experimentation to uncover explanations for natural phenomena, than anyone can be a scientist more or less.  James Irwin qualifies more than most.  He deployed scientific experiments on the surface of the moon, and helped earth-bound scientists uncover many important facts about our celestial neighbor.  To qualify for his rigorous Apollo training, he had to know more than most about celestial mechanics, astronomy, and geology.  Even after his historic mission, James Irwin used his scientific training on some rigorous expeditions of discovery most historians don’t tell you about.

When you lean far back and look up, you can see the earth like a beautiful, fragile Christmas tree ornament hanging against the blackness of space.  It’s as if you could reach out and hold it in your hand.  That’s a feeling, a perception, I had never anticipated.  And I don’t think it’s blasphemous for me to say I felt I was seeing the earth with the eyes of God.  I believe, looking back on it now, the good Lord did have His hand in it.  For me to travel such a roundabout way, and finally end up in the space program, and then go to the moon—it’s amazing it ever happened.

Thus begins Jim Irwin’s book To Rule the Night (Holman, Nashville, 1973, 1982), an autobiographical account of the events leading up to and following his historic Apollo 15 mission to the moon.  Written with the help of William A. Emerson, Jr., the book’s title is taken from Genesis 1:14, “And God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night.”  (That the moon shines by reflection makes it no less a “light” than a lamp; we speak still of a bright full moon.)  For millennia, people saw the lesser light from earth.  What a rare privilege to see the earth from the lesser light!  Surely God’s handiwork must seem all the more sublime to see our home, blue and brilliant, standing out against the stars.

Irwin’s comment that it was amazing it ever happened stems from the fact that up into his Air Force career, he did not seem to have either qualifications or interest in the space program to have ended up in such a privileged position.  He did not get particularly high grades, and seemed rather bored with military life.  He was expecting to fulfill his term and get a job as a commercial pilot when he had a chance to fly a P-51, the hottest new aircraft of the time.  Feeling all that power as he accelerated almost vertically, that was the turning point.  He was hooked.  He lived to fly.

Even after becoming passionate about flying, it was still amazing Irwin ever made it into the astronaut corps.  He had a serious accident as a test pilot at Edwards that left him hospitalized and grounded.  He had high blood pressure and heart problems.  And despite repeated attempts, he was turned down by NASA, until he was just about at the age limit (36).  With only one month to spare, and with his superiors going to bat for him, he finally got a call in spring 1966 from Deke Slayton, inviting him to come to Houston.  “I’m ready,” he said eagerly.  “When do you want me?”  He had trained hard, exercised hard and tested hard; by this time, he felt he had the best qualifications of all the Air Force candidates.

We’ll fast-forward past the astronaut training (those interested can read the book) and let Irwin describe another rare privilege he had: riding on top of one of Wernher von Braun’s mighty Saturn V rockets.  On the morning of July 21, 1971, strapped into his seat beside Col. David R. Scott (mission commander) and Major Alfred M. Worden (command module pilot), Col. James B. Irwin gripped the controls at the word, “Ignition.”

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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.
Corollaries:
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.
Corollaries:
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.
Corollary
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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