Solar System Solved? 08/30/2007
This has been a stumbling block for 30 years, said Mordecai-Marc Mac Low, an astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, of planet formation theories. The reason is that boulders tend to fall into the star in a celestial blink of an eye. Some mechanism had to be found to prevent them from being dragged into a star.Surely writer Dave Mosher did not mean to imply literally that boulders were conspiring to defend themselves from doom. But the problem is evident: without some sort of ad hoc speculation to insert into the models, astronomers know that small pieces of dust and rock dont naturally form planets. They fall into the star in a very short time. Alan Boss, another modeler, agreed with this characterization: Overall, the calculations present an encouraging approach to understanding how something happened that we know must have happened, at least for the terrestrial planets. (The article continued by saying that the gas giants need another mechanism to form.)
For small dust grains and rocks in orbit, the game is over in just a few hundred times around the merry-go-round with the vacuum cleaner in the center making a large sucking sound. Mac Low said his explanation was like a group of semi trucks on a highway creating a friendly pocket of air behind it that other semis can travel in without using up as much fuel. Still, he has to have the small rocks combine into planetesimals large enough to attract more material by gravity. The new model is far from a complete theory. At this point, it is a little more than a chuckle during the usual grief session.
This is a real-life demonstration of the Harris cartoon that shows a scientist doing a derivation with complex equations on the blackboard, with one intriguing step inserted, Then a miracle occurs. Titling this story Planet Formation Mystery Solved yields an even bigger chuckle.Is the Universe Hole-y? 08/29/2007
Cosmologists are trying to avoid a void. Since astronomers at U of Minnesota announced a gaping hole in a distant part of the universe, representing a region of space devoid of matter a billion light-years across, others are scrambling to discern what it means. The issue was discussed on EurekAlert, BBC News, Science Now, and Space.com. It even made the nightly TV news.
The Minnesota team compared observations from the Very Large Array of radio telescopes with WMAP data, and looked closer at a region showing a remarkable drop in the number of galaxies in a region toward the constellation Eridanus. Other voids have been detected in the past, but never one this large. Astronomers dont know why the hole is there, said science writer Robert Roy Britt. Others dont know that its there.
Cosmological observations are so deeply intertwined with theory, it is often hard to tell the one from the other. The hole could be real, or it could be an artifact of the theory and techniques used. Some cosmologists (see the BBC article) are claiming this a confirmation of dark energy. ScienceNow said it contradicts the inflation theory. And it quoted one astronomer who thought the conclusion was premature. The Minnesota team said their announcement will need independent confirmation, so it is unwise to lean too heavily on the reports. Still, its fun to see scientists get surprised once in awhile.Your hairy ears provide optimum sensitivity, from 08/09/2004.
Solar System News 08/28/2007
These are great days for discovery about our solar neighborhood. So much is happening in planetary science, its hard to take it all in. Be sure to separate the observations from the speculations. Sometimes thats like trying to unbutter toast.Tales of Two Footprints 08/27/2007
Footprints in the sands of time have been found at two different locations. What tales do they tell?
One is a footprint of a Roman soldier. EurekAlert described how the sandal print was uncovered at Hippos, or Susita, on a hill east of the Sea of Galilee. It hints that soldiers participated in building the walls of the city. The Israel newspaper Haaretz contained some more details about the find, and Todd Bolen commented on its limited tie-in to Biblical history on his Bible Places Blog.
Another print is claimed to be far older. The BBC News reported what may be the oldest human footprint ever found. The article did not describe the print, but called it human instead of ape-like. The problem is that it is claimed to be two million years old, or more as much as 3 million, maybe even older than Lucy. The secretary general of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities, Zahi Hawass, is calling it possibly the most important discovery in Egypt. Others are not so sure what to think of it.
You, too, could leave tracks that will allow future scientists to speculate. For fun, leave a note with your next footprint saying, Todays date is August 28, 1,598,251 BC.Evolution Takes Credit 08/24/2007
It may be more blessed to give than to receive, but evolution often just takes. The following news stories show evolution taking credit for a variety of phenomena when it is not quite clear how it earned it.
We need to understand how the Darwin Party achieves its consensus that evolution is a fact. They do it by assuming it. Like the campers in the woods trying to figure out how to open their tuna can, they simply state, assume a can opener. Assumption performs the miracles without all the hard work. Say this often enough, and every camper can get on handsomely by assuming can openers and whatever other tools real campers used to have to pack.Fossil Gorilla Forces Hominid Ancestor Earlier 08/23/2007
A set of gorilla teeth found in Ethiopia pushes the evolutionary story of a split between apes and humans back almost twice as far as previously thought. Nature reported the fossil announcement that estimated the date of the teeth as 10.5-11 million years old.1 The prior estimate for a human-ape divergence was about 6 million.
The authors named the fossil a new species, but Rex Dalton in the same issue of Nature2 reported the team lead saying that the teeth are collectively indistinguishable from modern gorilla subspecies in form, size, internal structure and proportion.
Both papers alluded to an extreme paucity of fossils from the period of 7 to 12 million years on the evolutionary time scale. Dalton claimed this fossil helps to fill in a huge gap in the fossil record. Yet the original paper admitted that Phylogenetically, these fossils represent the first Miocene ape species to be recognized as a strong candidate for membership in the modern gorilla clade, because the teeth are indistinguishable from those of modern gorillas except that they show a large size variation.
National Geographic put a good-news-bad-news spin on the story. The good news, to them, was that the discovery fills an important gap in the fossil record but at the same time, unfortunately for paleoanthropologists, it could also demolish a working theory of human evolution. Why? It means that everything has to be put back farther in time than expected. This gorilla was essentially modern at least 2 million years earlier than the alleged common ancestor was thought to exist. The common ancestor, therefore (for which there is no fossil evidence), had to live even earlier by millions of years.
1Suwa et al, A new species of great ape from the late Miocene epoch in Ethiopia, Nature 448, 921-924 (23 August 2007) | doi:10.1038/nature06113.
2Rex Dalton, Oldest gorilla ages our joint ancestor, Nature 448, 844-845 (23 August 2007) | doi:10.1038/448844a.
If you take out the evolutionary dates and assumptions, the facts show this: modern-looking gorilla teeth of unknown age were found fossilized in water-laid sediments in Ethiopia. Where is the evolution? There is none. The ancestry/phylogeny talk is all inference based on the usual dogmatic evolutionary rules that require every fossil bone to decorate Charlies tree somehow, even if the fit is poor.Hollywood Film to Expose Darwin Dogma 08/22/2007
Darwin is going to get a surprise on his birthday next year. Ben Stein is releasing a film on Feb. 12, 2008, entitled Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. The gift may not be what Darwin wants. The press release subtitle asks, Whatever happened to free speech? Apparently Premise Media decided to document the trend among Darwinists to crush any dissent:
What freedom-loving student wouldnt be outraged to discover that his high school science teacher is teaching a theory as indisputable fact, and that university professors unmercifully crush any fellow scientists who dare question the prevailing system of belief? This isnt the latest Hollywood comedy; its a disturbing new documentary that will shock anyone who thinks all scientists are free to follow the evidence wherever it may lead....The Discovery Institute, one of the frequent targets of the Big Science Darwinian machine, is looking forward to this documentary with cautious optimism. The movie trailer can be found at ExpelledTheMovie.com. It shows Ben in shorts and a tie blowing the bullhorn on suppression. The site contains a blog, newsroom and other resources for involvement.
Well, this is an interesting development. Will the Darwin attack machine try to take on Ben Stein, or just ignore him? Do we finally have a courageous reporter unafraid to ask the hard questions and stand up to institutionalized suppression? What will the NCSE do to forestall a media crisis, right when they are trying to make Darwin Day an international event? They certainly have ample warning, so this will be a battle royale worth watching. We just hope that the comedy-documentary format will not detract from the scientific and philosophical flaws of Darwinism. These need airing in serious circles among trained minds. Still, sometimes a media focus can help shake a stalled discussion loose. Steins appeal to the rebel instinct may attract some youthful bystanders to ask questions.Editorial 08/21/2007: A stinging indictment of Darwinist tyranny by David Warren appeared in the Ottawa Citizen on Aug 19.
Crows Use Tools on Tools 08/21/2007
Lets be good empirical Darwinists and take the evidence where it leads. Chimps evolved into birds, which evolved into humans. Mustnt let species bias cloud our reasoning, now. Darwinists have made a big deal over intelligence as evidence of our evolutionary kinship to apes. Now, having to eat crow at this finding, they must be feeling in the mood for some Old Crow at the Crow Bar.Two Ways to Look at a Fin 08/21/2007
Two science articles this month showed very different ways to look at a fish fin. One looked for evolution; the other looked for design. One tried to trace an evolutionary story with no practical application; the other tried to find ways to improve our lives.
The evolutionary story involved a fossil coelacanth. Science Daily reported that a fossil coelacanth fin found by researchers from University of Chicago fills a shrinking evolutionary gap between fins and limbs. Yet it was unclear how it did so, since the article went on to say that both the fins of coelacanths and lungfish, once thought to be ancestral to tetrapods, are in fact actually specialized. Matt Friedman, the team leader, denied even that coelacanth was a living fossil. It was also unclear how this fossil helped the evolutionary story. With things like this [fossil], he said, were beginning to hone in on the primitive conditions of fins that gave rise to limbs later on. This indicates that they do not have evidence of primitive fins only of advanced fins that could not have been part of an assumed evolutionary sequence leading to limbs.
The other story, a press release from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, described how a team is trying to imitate the swimming action of fish fins. Inspired by the efficient swimming motion of the bluegill sunfish, MIT researchers are building a mechanical fin that could one day propel robotic submarines. The sunfish can hover, turn, and store energy. This particular species is able to propel itself forward with no backward drag. As part of their research, the team broke down the fin movement of the sunfish into 19 components and analyzed which ones are critical to achieving the fishs powerful forward thrust. Then they built an artificial fin using advanced polymers to mimic the motion. Some day, autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) may use these principles to achieve greater maneuverability at less energy cost. This effort gives us the potential to build machines or robots in a manner closer to how nature creates things, said one, and will help engineers figure out how to best adapt natures principles to designing robotic vehicles.
Compare the benefit of biomimetic research with the utter uselessness of Darwinian speculation. The nonsense going on at U of Chicago, the Center of Tetrapod Evolution Fability (01/16/2007 commentary), is wasting our time. They cannot connect the fossil dots in any believable sequence between fish and amphibians, but have the gall to lie to us: first, about the shrinking evolutionary gap between fins and limbs, and secondly by denying coelacanth is a living fossil. Do they even know what a living fossil is? Here was a creature known only from the fossil record, thought to be extinct from the age of dinosaurs, that was found alive and well in 1938. It doesnt matter whether it is considered a transitional form now, because it was thought to be so by all evolutionists then. When they found that it does not use its fins for supporting its body on land, they had to quickly change their fable in light of the facts in front of them. Theyve learned nothing in the intervening 70 years and have done no one any good. Evolution is useless, vapid, evanescent speculation about things they cannot know and cannot prove, holding us hostage to promissory notes about insight that turns out to be positively anti-knowledge (see Luther Sunderland comments).Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week: Let Darwin Take Over 08/20/2007
Jack Szostak (Harvard Medical Center) wins this weeks prize for a comment in an Associated Press article (see PhysOrg) claiming that scientists will create life in a test tube within 10 years. Szostak was explaining the process of creating a cell membrane to the reporter:
His idea is that once the container is made, if scientists add nucleotides in the right proportions, then Darwinian evolution could simply take over.Several international organizations, such as ProtoLife in Venice, are in the competition to create life from scratch, the article claims. Creating synthetic life will need to overcome three hurdles: the membrane, the genetic code, and the metabolism. Its the membrane that Szostak had said was not a big problem.
Mark Bedau of ProtoLife tried to assure the reporter that artificial life will not get out and run amok. He claims artificial cells will be too weak to pose a risk: But them getting out and taking over, never in our imagination could this happen.
One of our readers thought that Szostaks entry deserved to be called Stupid Evolution Quote of the Century. But then, there are already too many entries in that category. Tryouts are opening for the millennium class.Can atheism survive an anthropic universe? from 08/16/2005.
Mystery of the Ultraconserved Elements, Cont. 08/18/2007
1Katzman, Kern, Bejerano et al, Human Genome Ultraconserved Elements Are Ultraselected, Science, 17 August 2007: Vol. 317. no. 5840, p. 915, DOI: 10.1126/science.1142430.
2Ahituv et al, Deletion of Ultraconserved Elements Yields Viable Mice, Public Library of Science: Biology 5(9): e234 doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0050234.
Evolutionists had predicted that once genes could be deciphered, there would be a clear branching pattern of evolution retracing the assumed millions of years of steady evolutionary change. The more diverged the groups, the more the genetic differences would be found. Well, that picture has not materialized. So now, Darwinites, since you have displayed ineptitude in finding the way to the future of biology, will you get out of the drivers seat?SETI Camp Promotes Make Believe 08/17/2007
Every kid loves to play make believe, wrote Lisa Grossman for Space.coms SETI Thursday feature. How did Lisa spend her summer? Playing make believe with 16 undergraduates at a NSF- and NASA-funded SETI camp. For many of us, the experience was nothing short of fantasy fulfillment, she cheerfully said in her report entitled, How I Spent My Summer at SETI. The SETI Institute organized the event.
Her report, in fact, seemed long on make-believe and short on evidence. For Grossman, fantasizing began in third grade and carried through non-stop to SETI Camp (or, more formally, the Summer Research Experience for Undergraduates).
I imagined a universe full of tiny, hardy life. Why not? Microbes can live comfortably in the most absurdly unfriendly reaches of the planet. If these little creatures can survive in volcanoes, at the bottom of the ocean, embedded in glacial ice, and even in countless human guts, then they must be able to exist on other planets! Life must be absolutely everywhere!(Cf. 03/29/2007 entry.) She mentions what some fellow campers worked on: searching for extrasolar planets, studying the geology of Europa, working on a Mars lander instrument, watching meteors, and other projects. Nothing Grossman mentioned, though, provided any direct evidence for life beyond Earth. What the projects did do was to harness youthful euphoria for otherwise mundane research:
Another student spent her days studying the geology of Europa, one of Jupiters moons. Scientists believe that it has a vast liquid water ocean beneath a layer of ice at the surface. She analyzed images of Europa from the Galileo mission, looking for areas of the surface whose appearance changed over time and trying to determine if those changes are what you would expect if there were a liquid ocean. She thinks the possibilities for life on Europa are especially exciting. As soon as I heard about Europa, I thought, Oh, awesome. Lets look for lobsters! she said. So far, she hasnt discovered any Europan crustaceans, but shes enjoyed learning more about geology and approaching biology and chemistry from an astronomy perspective.Grossman discussed all the fun the others were having with their experiments not one of which found any evidence for life out there. Just the possibility that might play some role in the hunt was enough to make their scientific work a thrill of lifetime. Why, its just like in the movies:
All of us got to take a week-long field trip to the Hat Creek Radio Observatory, home of the Allen Telescope Array, where Jill Tarter, SETIs director of research and the inspiration for Carl Sagans novel Contact, explained how the telescopes work and what research theyll be used for. Several of us even camped overnight in tents under the array. It wasnt very scientifically useful, but it was definitely something to write home about.So the hunting came up entirely empty; Nevertheless, whether we continue on in astrobiology or not, this summer of playing alien hunters will stay with us. Thanks for the memories; sorry about the data. She ended on a missionary appeal, encouraging readers to spread the word about next years SETI Camp.
Heres a suggestion for them. The name Summer Research Experience for Undergraduates is way dullsville and has no catchy acronym. Nor does it convey what the SETI Camp is all about. It fails to encapsulate the experience of being there. They need something that connotes vivid imagery and action, where anything can become vibrant and moving and animated, where even stars, bubbles and volcanos can spring to life. Maybe they should call it Fantasia.Artificial Selection Is Not Natural Selection 08/16/2007
From Nature1 comes this point to ponder:
Evolution has crafted thousands of enzymes that are efficient catalysts for a plethora of reactions. Human attempts at enzyme design trail far behind, but may benefit from exploiting evolutionary tactics.The subheading summarized a commentary by Michael P. Robertson and William G. Scott (UC Santa Cruz) on directed evolution experiments by Burkhard Seelig and Jack Szostak, reported in the same issue of Nature.2 The commentary began:
Chemical reactions in living organisms are catalysed by enzymes, the vast majority of which are proteins. These finely tuned catalysts are the result of billions of years of evolution, and far surpass anything yet created by humans. Indeed, our ability to design enzymes, on the basis of our knowledge of protein structure and reaction mechanisms, can most charitably be described as primitive.Burkhard Seelig and Jack Szostak used an iterative selection process to yield useful enzymes, but did not claim this is how nature did it. They had a goal: product formation as the sole selection criterion, they said, meaning they were watching for a match to an intelligently chosen standard. Though they called this directed evolution and selection, it was clear that the scientists were doing the directing and selecting. Yet the commentary by Robertson and Scott said this was just like nature did it:
Although proteins have won the fitness contest of natural selection to become the pre-eminent enzymes, billions of years ago life may have started with RNA enzymes ribozymes in a putative RNA world that pre-dated proteins and DNA.4 The RNA bond-forming (ligation) reaction is a favourite of those studying evolution from an RNA world, because it is presumed to be the crucial chemical step of RNA self-replication. Szostak and fellow molecular biologist David Bartel were the first to isolate a ribozyme ligase, using artificial selection. Their technique is the prototypical method for the in vitro evolution of ribozymes, and has been adapted for protein enzymes by Seelig and Szostak in the current study.Artificial selection toward a goal, however, is very different from natural selection as conceived by Darwin. Natural selection has no goal, no direction, no retained knowledge, and no reward.3 Even Darwin worried about his term natural selection, because it seemed to imply an intelligent selector. He later acquiesced to Herbert Spencers term, survival of the fittest, as a better encapsulation of his idea.
The confusion between artificial selection and natural selection continued to the end of the article, where Robertson and Scott said, Designing a selection process that includes ground-state interactions (as Seelig and Szostaks study does) and transition-state interactions (as the previous catalytic-antibody approaches did) might yield even better-designed enzymes.
1Michael P. Robertson and William G. Scott, News and Views: Biochemistry: Designer Enzymes, Nature 448, 757-758 (16 August 2007) | doi:10.1038/448757a.
2Burkhard Seelig and Jack W. Szostak, Selection and evolution of enzymes from a partially randomized non-catalytic scaffold, Nature 448, 828-831 (16 August 2007) | doi:10.1038/nature06032.
3Survival cannot be considered a reward in Darwinism. Reward implies a rewarder and a goal that a contestant strives for. In the value-neutral, materialistic world of blind natural selection, nobody could care if an organism survives or not. For these reasons, the commentators characterization of a fitness contest won by evolutionary tactics is misleading.
4For problems with the RNA World scenario for the origin of life, see the 07/11/2002 and 02/15/2007 entries.
Even a middle school biology teacher or an NCSE staff member would know this is not natural selection. How can the premiere science journal in the world allow this egregious an example of the fallacy of equivocation to make it into print? Happens all the time, folks. If the logical inconsistency was obvious to you, youre wiser than eggheads at UC Santa Cruz and the editors of Nature.Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week: Shark Chefs and Finger Food 08/15/2007
A press release from University of Florida wins this weeks prize for trying to make dogmatism funny (or at least appealing to snackers):
When the first four-legged animals sprouted fingers and toes, they took an ancient genetic recipe and simply extended the cooking time, say University of Florida scientists writing in Wednesdays issue of the journal PLoS ONE.But sharks dont have fingers, you say? Right; they just had the recipe but never used it: the genetic processes necessary to muster fingers and toes existed more than 500 million years ago in the common ancestor of fish with cartilaginous skeletons and bony fish more than 135 million years before digits debuted in the earliest limbed animals, the article says.
And what were these finger genes doing 135 million years before they were used? Just making fins, apparently. ...sharks and many other types of fish do not form more dramatic appendages during this late phase of Hox gene expression because it occurs briefly and only in a narrow band of cells, compared with the more extended time frame and larger anatomical area needed to prefigure the hand and foot in limbed animals.
So for 135 million years, no animal ever tried the latent innovation. But when it was time for fingers and toes to debut, their appearance was an extremely dramatic, important point in evolution that has captured the interest of many. Otherwise we would be playing finball instead of handball.
The finding shows what was thought to be a relatively recent evolutionary innovation existed eons earlier than previously believed, the article says. The following paragraph makes it all so plausible:
Weve uncovered a surprising degree of genetic complexity in place at an early point in the evolution of appendages, said developmental biologist Martin Cohn, an associate professor with the UF departments of zoology and anatomy and cell biology and a member of the UF Genetics Institute. Genetic processes were not simple in early aquatic vertebrates only to become more complex as the animals adapted to terrestrial living. They were complex from the outset. Some major evolutionary innovations, like digits at the end of limbs, may have been achieved by prolonging the activity of a genetic program that existed in a common ancestor of sharks and bony fishes.Question: What was the observation that gave rise to all this kitchen prose? Scientists at UFL watched the pattern of expression in Hox genes in living sharks, and discovered a phase of gene expression in sharks that was thought until recently to occur only when digits began to form in limbed animals. Well, then, (snap fingers): evolution is the only possible explanation.
Its the only possible answer because it is the only answer the Darwin Party will allow in the arena, which has become a circus. Lets all do Steve Martins rendition of When the shark bites... while re-reading the quote at top right of this page.Largest Dinosaur Mass Grave in Switzerland Found 08/15/2007
As many as 100 plateosaurs may be buried in a mass grave in Switzerland, reported the Reuters news service. The finds show that an area known for Plateosaurus finds for decades may be much larger than originally thought as much as a mile in width in the town of Frick, near the German border. An amateur found bones while investigating a construction site.
The article mentions that Germany has two other large plateosaur burial sites. It described the animals as peaceful herbivores that lived along a river delta. Plateosaur fossils are common in Europe. The four-legged herbivores, classified as Triassic, grew over 30 feet in length and could weigh as much as 1500 pounds.
Must have been a bad day in dinotopia. Anyone know of a modern example of hundreds of large animals like elephants or giraffes all being buried at the same time over many miles while grazing peacefully along a river bank? We were once taught the present is the key to the past. Remember the specimen found under the North Sea? (04/25/2006).Gophers: natures rototillers, from 08/02/2004.
Gratitude Protects Against Health Loss 08/15/2007
Gratitude is a healthful attitude. Its a Biblical attitude. The Bible is filled with admonitions to be thankful (e.g., I Thessalonians 5, Philippians 4, Colossians 3). Even in a hospital, there are many things to be thankful for. The patients in this study should have been grateful that donors made their organs available for transplanting, and that medicine has advanced far enough to make transplanting a life-saving option, and that the body is filled with wondrous repair mechanisms (see next entry). It should be easy to list dozens of blessings. How many things can you count right now? Dont do it just for preventive medicine; really be thankful. If you do it just for the health benefits, youre not being grateful; youre being selfish.DNA Repair Is Highly Coordinated 08/14/2007
The remarkable ability of cells to repair DNA damage has been the subject of several recent articles. As a long, physical molecule subject to perturbing forces, DNA is subject to breakage on occasion. If repair mechanisms were not in place, the genetic information would quickly become hopelessly scrambled and life would break down. Studies are revealing that multiple levels of control are involved in maintaining genomic integrity.
Isnt the cell wonderful? We each have trillions of them, but each one deserves our love and respect. None of these articles, as usual, tried to explain how blind evolution could have produced all this coded information with its self-healing mechanisms. Instead of Darwinizing it, maybe we should Pasteurize it: use the research to cure disease and improve the human condition, and to stand in awe of God. Like Louis Pasteur said, The more I study nature, the more I stand amazed at the work of the Creator.Science Confronts Philosophy, or Vice Versa 08/13/2007
Practicing scientists often disdain philosophy. To them, it seems like mumbo-jumbo with convoluted arguments telling them why they dont exist or why two-ness cannot be represented on a chalkboard. To a scientist dealing with real lab rats or chemicals off the shelf, such ramblings seem detached and worthless. Who would know more what science is than a scientist? Philosophizing about science seems far less productive than just doing science. One described philosophy as incomprehensible answers to insoluble problems.
Philosophys domain is all-encompassing. It attempts to address, in a systematic and rigorous manner, questions about what exists (ontology), how we know things (epistemology), and how we should live our lives (moral and political philosophy). Philosophers ask the pointed questions that give precision to our thoughts. A fairly new branch of philosophy is the philosophy of science. The question what is science? is not and cannot be a scientific question. It is a statement of philosophy about science, describing the limits of its epistemology and the nature of its ontology.
On the rare occasions when the scientific journals discuss philosophy of science, they usually delve into it only long enough to come back to a reassuring verdict that objectivism is still the only philosophy worth believing (i.e., that our sensations of the world correspond to what is objectively real). Here were some examples in the form of book reviews in Science magazine.
1Peter Lipton, Philosophy of Science: The World of Science, Science, 11 May 2007: Vol. 316. no. 5826, p. 834, DOI: 10.1126/science.1141366.
2Christoph Adami, Philosophy of Mind: Who Watches the Watcher?, Science, 25 May 2007: Vol. 316. no. 5828, pp. 1125-1126, DOI: 10.1126/science.1141809.
These book reviews have been in the queue for three months but finally needed airing, because they are important. Scientists cannot escape philosophy. They are embedded within it, whether they like it or not. To pretend philosophy has no bearing on their work is itself a philosophy. The question is not whether a scientist practices philosophy, but how well he or she does it. These two did not do it very well. Both appealed to emotion and flights of fancy to defend objectivism and materialism.Oil made from marble, from 08/13/2002.
Immune System Appeared Early 08/12/2007
One way to estimate the characteristics of the organism that went before those that were multicellular is to look for characteristics that are present in two, three or all four of these main groups, he said.Kuspa did not describe how this might have come about by a blind process of random mutation and natural selection. Astrobiology Magazine picked up on this story, adding this comment to its article, We Are one
The evolution of multicellular organisms on Earth was an important step in the diversification of life on our planet. Understanding these important moments in the history of life can help elucidate the mechanisms through which life develops and evolves, which in turn can help astrobiologists determine the potential for lifes development on distant worlds.The original work was published in Science.1,2 Kuspa and his team only speculated about the evolutionary significance of their description of sentinel cells. They said that this first glimpse of an immune-related signaling system might represent an ancient function in the common ancestor of plants and animals, but they did not explain how it arose; in fact, their discovery represents another layer of complexity to the cellular cooperation observed in the social amoeba. They ended with more speculation about this as a function present in the hypothetical common ancestor: If true, it would suggest that this system of pathogen recognition was advantageous to organisms before the evolution of multicellularity. Mitch Leslie said amen in his commentary: the results suggest an early beginning for the specialized immune system now seen in multicellular organisms.
By contrast, another paper on the immune system in Science the prior week said nothing about evolution.3 Ira Mellman wrote that immune cells often exhibit remarkable degrees of specialization and adaptation. The system comprises a variety of cell types whose activities must be carefully regulated to act as a coherent unit for the purpose of host defense. Because of the emerging complexity of the field, he encouraged cell biologists and immunologists to get their heads together to try to understand how immunity works.
1Chen, Zhuchenko and Kuspa, Immune-like Phagocyte Activity in the Social Amoeba, Science, 3 August 2007: Vol. 317. no. 5838, pp. 678-681, DOI: 10.1126/science.1143991.
2Mitch Leslie, A Slimy Start for Immunity?, Science, 3 August 2007: Vol. 317. no. 5838, p. 584, DOI: 10.1126/science.317.5838.584.
3Ira Mellman, Private Lives: Reflections and Challenges in Understanding the Cell Biology of the Immune System, Science, 3 August 2007: Vol. 317. no. 5838, pp. 625-627, DOI: 10.1126/science.1142955.
As usual in evolutionary fables, the observation-to-assumption ratio is so low, the paper is indistinguishable from fiction. They assume the millions of years, they assume a hypothetical progenitor, they assume neo-Darwinian mechanisms can invent an immune system, and they assume it can evolve into the highly-functional immune systems of higher animals and plants. Whats the only observation? that an organism observed today (not millions of years ago) has a clever way for ridding itself of harmful bacteria and toxins. Those not infected by Darwin narcosis might think this to be evidence of design.We have no idea why these galaxies grew so large so soon 08/11/2007
Five full-sized galaxies have been detected at the edge of the visible universe, reported Science Now. This continues a trend over the last few years where astronomers have been detecting old objects at young ages (e.g., 07/25/2007, 09/24/2006, 08/18/2006, 03/31/2006). The galaxies, which are forming stars very rapidly, are big for their age, meaning that astronomers might have to rethink current ideas about galaxy formation.
Rethinking looms big as a theme in the article. The first stars were supposed to coalesce slowly into the first galaxies, but this process was supposed to take billions of years. A team using data from Hubble, Spitzer and Keck telescopes confirmed these are Milky Way sized galaxies, not small members of a cluster. We have no idea why these galaxies grew so large so soon, remarked Giovanni Fazio of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. I think we still have a lot new to learn about whats happening in the early universe,
This is not a surprise to creationists. It is a surprise to big-bang secular cosmologists. We hope the astronomers will rethink current ideas, but for significant progress, they will have to think outside the bang.Weird-Science Origin-of-Life Theories 08/10/2007
Two news articles on the origin of life seem bizarre at best. One even used the word bizarrely in its own self-evaluation.
The second article failed to deal with the difficulties of assembling ribose and amino acids of the right handedness on the surface of a dead planet, explaining the origin of genetic information, getting it packaged into a meteorite, and delivering it unharmed to Earth in sufficient quantity and safety where it would not be destroyed the moment it splashed down. The article dismissed the idea that building blocks of life were delivered by comets, but then presented a similar idea (that they were delivered from Mars in a meteorite by a chance process) as plausible.
The 15th Intl. Conference on the Origin of Life will be held a year from this month in Florence, Italy.
The gutless science reporters, who should be gatekeepers of rationality, let anything and everything pass as long as it is materialistic and Darwinian. This, folks, is the sorry state of science reporting in our world today. These same reporters will attack creationists in the worst vituperative rhetoric, and portray them as the enemies of science wanting to bring on the dark ages, but in the same breath will let weird Frankenstein tales pass right on through unopposed as long as they assume evolution. The only controversies they occasionally report is when two Darwinists disagree about whose Darwinian tale is better. We have a lot of work to do.Homo habilis Contemporary with Homo erectus 08/09/2007
Homo habilis couldnt have been the ancestor of Homo erectus, because they lived side by side. This has been all over the news since it was announced in Nature yesterday: see the Times UK, PhysOrg, the BBC News, Reuters Africa, National Geographic, and MSNBC News, which says the new discovery paints a messy view of human origins: Surprising fossils dug up in Africa are creating messy kinks in the iconic straight line of human evolution with its knuckle-dragging ape and briefcase-carrying man.
OK, what happened? Meave Leakey found a small female Homo erectus skull in Kenya that dates from the same period as Homo habilis, or handy man, long thought to have been a predecessor:
In 2000 Leakey found an old H. erectus complete skull within walking distance of an upper jaw of the H. habilis, and both dated from the same general time period. That makes it unlikely that H. erectus evolved from H. habilis, researchers said.But this should not cast evolutionary science into doubt, the article A.P. article was quick to point out: All the changes to human evolutionary thought should not be considered a weakness in the theory of evolution, [Bill] Kimbel [Arizona State] said. Rather, those are the predictable results of getting more evidence, asking smarter questions and forming better theories, he said.
Yet it is hard to see how this helps the evolutionary story of progress between apes and humans. This upset is similar, Kimbel said, to the revised story of Neanderthals, which also used to be considered human ancestors. This effectively removes Homo habilis from consideration as an ancestor, leaving a gap where paleoanthropologists thought they had a link. National Geographic speculated that the two hominid forms might have originated two and three million years ago, which is a well-known gap in the fossil record. The evidence for human evolution, therefore, has been reduced, not just messed up.
Although the skull was found in 2000, it often takes years for a research team to clean, date, and document the find. Another claim from the announcement is that apparently males were larger than females (sexual dimorphism), but see commentary and picture from the 08/02/2007 entry about the flaw of drawing conclusions from limited samples. Leakey and team believe the two forms lived contemporaneously and in proximity, as do chimpanzees and gorillas, for half a million years.
Ann Gibbons wrote in Science2 the next day about this find. She noted that the blurring of distinctions between H. habilis and H. erectus makes ripples with another famous fossil, too: Homo ergaster:
The skull also shows features that had previously been seen only in Asian fossils of H. erectus, such as a keeling (or ridge) on its frontal and parietal bones. These traits had persuaded a growing number of researchers in recent years to split the fossils of H. erectus into two species, with H. erectus from Asia and H. ergaster from Africa. But the skull's mix of traits shows H. erectus cannot be easily divided between two species from Africa and Asia, says Spoor. Kimbel and Arizona State graduate student Claire Terhune reached a similar conclusion after studying the temporal bones of 15 H. erectus skulls, in a paper published in the July issue of the Journal of Human Evolution.
1Leakey et al, Implications of new early Homo fossils from Ileret, east of Lake Turkana, Kenya, Nature 448, 688-691 (9 August 2007) | doi:10.1038/nature05986.
2Ann Gibbons, New Fossils Challenge Line of Descent in Human Family Tree, Science, 10 August 2007: Vol. 317. no. 5839, p. 733, DOI: 10.1126/science.317.5839.733.
These people do not know who begat whom, and they cant tell dates with any credibility; they keep losing links into gaps and moving things around, yet they expect us to believe they are the Masters of Enlightenment when telling us where we came from.Science Journals Make Dogmatic Atheist Statements 08/08/2007
Science is supposed to be restricted to the physical and observable world, but the major journals do not hesitate to state ardent, dogmatic opinions about the non-existence of God. Often they assert without debate that belief in God is an artifact of human evolution. Here are some recent examples:
1Georg Striedter, Brain botch, Nature 447, 640 (7 June 2007) | doi:10.1038/447640a.
2Editorial, Evolution and the brain, Nature 447, 753 (14 June 2007) | doi:10.1038/447753a.
3Editorial, Meanings of life, Nature 447, 1031-1032 (28 June 2007) | doi:10.1038/4471031b.
4Kevin Padian, The case of creation, Nature 448, 253-254 (19 July 2007) | doi:10.1038/448253a.
5Sean B. Carroll, God as Genetic Engineer, Science, 8 June 2007: Vol. 316. no. 5830, pp. 1427-1428, DOI: 10.1126/science.1145104.
6Scott Atran, The Nature of Belief, Science, 27 July 2007: Vol. 317. no. 5837, p. 456, DOI: 10.1126/science.1142653.
7Letters, Evolution and Group Selection, Science, 3 August 2007: Vol. 317. no. 5838, pp. 596-597, DOI: 10.1126/science.317.5838.596d.
The debating tactic of the Darwin Party in the public marketplace of ideas is unchanged since Huxley: ridicule, attack, threaten, marginalize, and hoard power. None of the ideologues above have a scientific leg to stand on to claim that their brains evolved, because if that were true, they could never know it or claim it was true. By asserting that their claims are true, and that religion and creation is false, they have affirmed that there is a world of knowledge outside the realm of particles that is eternal and does not evolve. This cannot be possible within their own world view. They have therefore shot themselves in the brain; their position is self-refuting, and necessarily false.The World Is a Free Lunch 08/07/2007
One of the strangest Darwinian models to be put forth recently has to be a paper by James V. Stone (a psychologist at Sheffield U, UK), published in PLoS Computational Biology.1 He basically says that evolution is a free lunch. Brains and whole body types can emerge if an organism can learn parts of adaptive tasks, provided the rest of the task has enough built-in substeps that will fall into line. Despite his whiz-bang mathematics, does he prove the point that you can get something from nothing? He says so.
Some lines from his paper qualify for Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week. Heres a Well, duh line in the Authors Summary:
Some behaviours are purely innate (e.g., blinking), whereas other, apparently innate, behaviours require a degree of learning to refine them into a useful skill (e.g., nest building). In terms of biological fitness, it matters how quickly such learning occurs, because time spent learning is time spent not eating, or time spent being eaten, both of which reduce fitness....He continues with a synopsis of his thesis:
Using artificial neural networks as model organisms, it is proven that it is possible for an organism to be born with a set of primed connections which guarantee that learning part of a skill induces automatic learning of other skill components, an effect known as free-lunch learning (FLL). Critically, this effect depends on the assumption that associations are stored as distributed representations. Using a genetic algorithm, it is shown that primed organisms can evolve within 30 generations. This has three important consequences. First, primed organisms learn quickly, which increases their fitness. Second, the presence of FLL effectively accelerates the rate of evolution, for both learned and innate skill components. Third, FLL can accelerate the rate at which learned behaviours become innate. These findings suggest that species may depend on the presence of distributed representations to ensure rapid evolution of adaptive behaviours.Stone attempts to prove his thesis with various computer runs that measure fitness and penalize errors. According to William Dembskis book No Free Lunch,2 however, introducing a fitness function sneaks information into the back door that cannot be assumed in any realistic Darwinian scheme, because the essence of Darwinism is that evolution be undirected and purposeless. With that restraint, there is no free lunch: any evolutionary algorithm is indistinguishable from blind search.
This difficulty seems to have been lost on Dr. Stone, however. In his final paragraph he waved his FLL (free-lunch-learning) as a possible solution to one of Darwinisms biggest problems, the Cambrian explosion:
It has been demonstrated that FLL accelerates the evolution of behaviours in neural network models. Given that FLL appears to be a fundamental property of distributed representations, and given the reliance of neuronal systems on distributed representations, FLL-induced behaviours may constitute a significant component of apparently innate behaviours (e.g., nest-building). Results presented here suggest that any organism that did not take advantage of such a fundamental and ubiquitous effect would be at a selective disadvantage. Finally, if FLL accelerates evolution in the natural world, then it may have been involved in the Cambrian explosion, an explosion that began when brains (and therefore learning) first appeared.An astonishing claim by any standard: you can get a brain as a free lunch.
1James V. Stone, Distributed Representations Accelerate Evolution of Adaptive Behaviours, Public Library of Science: Computational Biology, Aug 3, 2007, doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.0030147.
2See ARN for info on this book.
Dont be fooled by the math. This is absolutely insane. To think that inventing a term like FLL will generate brains and whole new body plans in nature is wonderfully weird. Apparently Dr. Stone needs to learn some physics, particularly thermodynamics and information theory. Even Julie Andrews could help: Nothing comes from nothing; nothing ever could.Can Life Survive for Millions of Years? 08/06/2007
How long can cells and tissues last? Two different yet related stories should raise questions about the dates claimed, because the observations are astonishing.
Either give up the long ages, evolutionists, or give up your credibility. Some of us have long ago given up our credulity.Monkeys Prefer the Sound of Silence 08/05/2007
Given a choice, chimpanzees choose silence over music. The Random Samples page in Science1 mentioned experiments by scientists from MIT and Harvard where monkeys were given a choice of booths playing a flute lullaby, a Mozart concerto, techno-rock, and silence. Between the musical booths, The monkeys spent an average of about two-thirds of their time on the lullaby side, showing that they prefer slower tempos, the article says. But when given the choice of silence, lullabies, or a Mozart concerto, they spent most of their time avoiding music altogether. Eight human subjects, by contrast, all preferred the lullaby over silence.
Isabelle Peretz (U of Montreal) remarked that this shows humans have a natural, or innate, inclination to engage with music. The scientists who performed the experiments had earlier found that monkeys show no preference between harmony and dissonance (cf. 12/13/2004). To the scientists, the new experiments suggest that humans music responses may reflect a unique evolutionary history of selection for cognitive processes linked to emotion and motivation.
The snippet is accompanied by a picture of a chimpanzee with his hands over his ears. The article, titled Monkeys have tin ears, began, A new study finds that monkeys prefer silence to music, suggesting that some of the acoustic preferences that underlie music are unique to humans.
1Random Samples, Science, Volume 317, Number 5838, Issue of 03 August 2007.
The evolutionary explanation is dissonant cacophony. Are they claiming chimpanzees have no emotion or motivation? Monkeys show a lot of emotion when they screech, and a lot of motivation when they want a banana. Besides, no amount of emotion or motivation is going to affect neo-Darwinisms capacity to produce the random mutations needed for a brain containing a music appreciation module.Four Evidences of Cosmic Youth 08/04/2007
Astronomers and planetary scientists routinely talk in millions and billions of years. Three recent science news reports raise questions about how to fit apparently young objects into a vast timeline.
1Matthew M. Hedman, Joseph A. Burns, Matthew S. Tiscareno, Carolyn C. Porco, Geraint H. Jones, Elias Roussos, Norbert Krupp, Chris Paranicas, and Sascha Kempf, The Source of Saturns G Ring, Science, 3 August 2007: Vol. 317. no. 5838, pp. 653-656, DOI: 10.1126/science.1143964.
2Jennifer Meyer and Jack Wisdom, Tidal Heating in Enceladus, Icarus, Volume 188, Issue 2, June 2007, Pages 535-539.
Every once in awhile, it bears repeating: it is more empirically justifiable to infer young ages than old ages, because the observation-to-assumption ratio is much higher. You can take an observed phenomenon and extrapolate it backward from the present a bit that is reasonable. But to start with an assumption of billions of years and then try to fit a short-lived phenomenon into it lowers the observation-to-assumption ratio by many orders of magnitude. Would it be reasonable to observe a sparkler for 5 seconds, and then claim it has been burning for 100 years? We think science should tether itself to the observations rather than run amok like a stray dog.Body scan: high-tech engineering inside of you, from 08/05/2005.
Darwinism Seen in Action! 08/03/2007
The conflict has been likened to a battle of the sexes or an arms race at the molecular level between mothers and fathers. At stake: the fetuss growth rate and how much that costs the nutrient-supplying mother.The gist of the story is that some placental minnows had higher levels of a gene called insulin-like growth factor two (IGF2). The researchers found that the biggest genetic changes were in those species of the minnows that had developed placentas, supporting the Darwinian theory of natural selection, the article claimed.
The researchers from UC Riverside believe that the male and female compete for control of the offspring. The male wants fast fetal growth, so that his offspring will be the hardiest, best survivors and the ones who demand the most of the mothers placental nutrients, while the female gives all her offspring equal maternal care (i.e., equal levels of the growth hormone), so that her nutrients will be available to support her and the offspring from all her matings.
You have to laugh at the lengths the Darwinists will go to in trying to prop up Charlies idol. They did not see these fish evolve. They admitted that The placenta is a complex organ of maternal and fetal tissues that nourishes the developing fetus in the uterus, but did not explain how this complexity arose; they only found differing levels of one growth hormone. They admitted that their theory of genetic conflict is controversial. And they committed the usual grievous sin of the Darwinists, personifying poor little fish that dont know their right fin from their left with goal-oriented actions and human patterns of conflict. This was not evolution in action. The only thing in action was the Darwin fogma machine (05/14/2007).Romanian Neanderthal May Have Interbred With Modern Humans 08/02/2007
A report in National Geographic says that a skull found in a Romanian cave is shaking up ideas about Neanderthal Man and its relationship to modern humans. The mostly modern skull shows a feature that was characteristic of Neanderthals: The otherwise human skull has a groove at the base of the back of the skull, just above the neck muscle, that is ubiquitous in Neandertal specimens but has never been seen in the remains of a modern human, the article states. Discoverer Erik Trinkaus (Washington U in St. Louis) was surprised: My first reaction was, that shouldnt be there, he said.
If they interbred with us, they were us. Are there any doubters left? Thus ends a century-and-a-half myth that Neanderthal Man was less than human. The range of variations in fully human specimens probably encompasses other skeletons that paleoanthropologists mistakenly classify as outgroups. Look at this picture from the Daily Mail: would you have classified these guys as separate species only from their skeletons? Works for other species, too (see another Daily Mail picture).Deep Sea Vents Tantalize Evolutionists 08/01/2007
A team of Chinese and American scientists pulled up fragments of deep-sea vents and analyzed their contents, reported Science Daily. They said the creatures inhabiting these vents are the most primitive life forms on Earth, and so thought that the fragments might provide clues to the origin of life. Timothy Kusky of Saint Louis University said, This discovery provides tantalizing suggestions that early life may have developed and remained sheltered in deep-sea hydrothermal vents until surface conditions became favorable for organisms to inhabit the land.
And so another just-so story is born. The sagacious primitives of the deep knew that all good things must wait, so they hid out in the depths till the surface was ready. Perhaps they sent pioneers upwards every few million years to see if any returned with good news.