Cosmology at the Outer Limits 06/30/2008
For a revealing article on the feeble state of modern cosmology, see what Michael J. Disney wrote last fall for Sigma Xi American Scientist. He described big bang cosmology as not a single theory but a structure of five layers held together with the ugly bandages of inflation, dark matter and dark energy. A skeptic is entitled to feel that a negative significance, after so much time, effort and trimming, is nothing more than one would expect of a folktale constantly re-edited to fit inconvenient new observations, he charged. The real problem, he ended (quoting historian of science Daniel Boorstin) is not ignorance but the illusion of knowledge.
Its sad that Carroll has retreated into the darkness after asking such good questions back in 05/11/2006. He could have been heaven-bound by now by logically thinking through the evidence from fine-tuning for a Creator, but is now wallowing in his intellectual vomit. A mind is a terrible thing to waste.Are ants invading your kitchen these hot summer months? Before exercising genocide on them, take a moment to ponder their built-in pedometers. Its all part of the sophisticated ant navigation system, described in the 06/29/2006 entry.
Yellow Journalism Invades Science 06/28/2008
Kerian has a simplistic view of science; he suggested that there is one scientific method, and that falsification is the criterion for testing. These standards have been analyzed and criticized by philosophers in the 20th century. Nevertheless, his label yellow science is apropos. Many have noted the same dogmatism and fear-mongering used by evolutionists as by propagandists of man-made global warming. The same spirit of absolute trust in what scientists say is a common flaw.Public Views on Darwin Not Evolving 06/27/2008
June 27, 2008 A new Gallup Poll shows that American views on evolution have changed little for 26 years. Since 1982, the Gallup organization has periodically polled a random sample of adults to see if they believe humans evolved millions of years ago (with or without Gods help) or were created by God in their present form within the last 10,000 years. The results never seem to change much. In seven polls now, 43% to 47% have given the recent-creation answer, and 35-40% the theistic evolution answer. That means 85-90% of American adults include God in the explanation. Only 9-14% accept the secular evolutionary answer that humans evolved with no divine guidance.
According to the Gallup organization, Perhaps surprisingly to some, the results for the broad sample of Americans show very little change over the years. Republicans were much more apt to give the recent-creation answer (60%) over independents (40%) and Democrats (38%). Gallup explained this divergence by saying that Republicans are more likely to attend church.
This flat-line trend is all the more surprising in light of the vigorous dogmatic-Darwinism campaign waged in the media, the schools and the scientific institutions. Why is evolutionary propaganda so ineffective? Evolutionists probably attribute much of the poll result to the inability of Bible-thumping fundamentalists to understand science. Maybe, instead, a lot of adults view the dogmatic Darwinists as a bunch of unattractive ideologues without common sense (04/13/2008).Birds of Different Feathers Evolve Together 06/26/2008
June 26, 2008 Are pigeons like parrots? Are hummingbirds like hawks? And are falcons unlike eagles? Scientists are all a-flutter after results of a massive genetic comparison of birds has put some members in unlikely pigeonholes. The largest ever study of bird genetics has not only shaken up but completely redrawn the avian evolutionary tree, said Science Daily. The study challenges current classifications, alters our understanding of avian evolution, and provides a valuable resource for phylogenetic and comparative studies in birds.
That last clause seems unjustifiably optimistic considering what news reports are saying about this study. Here is a short list of quotations gleaned from Science Daily, New Scientist, Reuters, and the blog Living the Scientific Life. They give you a sense of the upheaval among scientists upon finding out that birds appearances tell little about their supposed evolutionary history.
So why is avian taxonomy suddenly in such a state of upheaval? The precise evolutionary relationships between major groups of birds have long been contentious because they underwent an explosive radiation event sometime between 65 million and 100 million years ago. Nearly all of the major avian groups arose within just a few million years -- a very short period of evolutionary time. As a result, those groups of birds, such as parrots, doves and owls, that are united by distinct morphological characteristics seem to have appeared suddenly because there are few, or no, known evolutionary intermediates that provide clues to their deeper relationships with other avian groups.She thus tried to save the appearances within the evolutionary framework by appealing to a lack of data. The hidden events that led to the emergence of groups of birds left no trace in the record. Whats more, the new phylogeny requires more appeals to convergent evolution Now, scientists will have to believe that unlikely events occurred multiple times in unrelated groups.
The five-year Early Bird study was part of the Assembling the Tree of Life (AToL) research project funded by the National Science Foundation (10/30/2002, 09/08/2006).
This entry falls in the category of Everything you know is wrong. Throw out the field guide and forget everything your teacher told you about how birds evolved. Now we know the truth about bird evolution. Evolutionists play this game every once in awhile to look busy. It provides job security. You need the evolutionist to interpret the world for you lest you be misled by your senses and common sense.These rocks took millions of years to ... uh, correction, just a decade to form. See the 06/30/2005 entry.
Not Another Tetrapod Missing Link 06/25/2008
1. Ahlberg, Clack et al, Ventastega curonica and the origin of tetrapod morphology, Nature 453, 1199-1204 (26 June 2008) | doi:10.1038/nature06991.
Probably this was just Jennifer Clacks latest attempt to one-up Neil Shubins fish-a-pod after the press gushed on him without shame or restraint (04/06/2006) and made him a celebrity (01/16/2008). Clack had been the darling of PBS till this rival muscled in. Remember her sermonette on 04/06/2006 that one skeleton is unlikely to unlock the key to understanding of evolution, and that the concept of missing links, though having a powerful grasp on the imagination, contains unfounded notions of evolutionary progress?Bacterial Flagellar Motor Has a Protein Clutch 06/24/2008
June 24, 2008 The bacterial flagellum, the whiplike outboard motor that has become an icon of intelligent design, has another artificial-looking part: a clutch. Science reported this in machine language as follows:1
The bacterial flagellum, powered by a motor that generates 1400 pN-nm of torque, can rotate at a frequency of greater than 100 Hz. EpsE [the clutch protein] disabled this powerful biological motor when associated with a flagellar basal body and, in a manner similar to that of a clutch, disengaged the drive train from the power sourcee (fig. S5B). Clutch control of flagellar function has distinct advantages over transcriptional control of flagellar gene expression for regulating motility. Some bacteria, such as E. coli and B. subtilis, have many flagella per cell. The flagellum is an elaborate, durable, energetically expensive, molecular machine and simply turning off de novo flagellum synthesis does not necessarily arrest motility. Once flagellar gene expression is inactivated, multiple rounds of cell division may be required to segregate preexisting flagella to extinction in daughter cells. In contrast, the clutch requires the synthesis of only a single protein to inhibit motility. Furthermore, if biofilm formation is prematurely aborted, flagella once disabled by the clutch might be reactivated, allowing cells to bypass fresh investment in flagellar synthesis. Whereas flagellum expression and assembly are complex and slow, clutch control is simple, rapid, and potentially reversible.The clutch thus puts the flagellum in neutral and lets the motor idle without having to be shut down. Among the co-authors of the paper was Howard Berg of Harvard, who has spent many years studying the molecular motor. The paper did not attempt to explain how a clutch might evolve by natural selection.
For popular reports on this finding, with illustrations of how the clutch works, visit NSF News, Nano.org, Photonics.com, PhysOrg and Science Daily. ARN discussed the paper from an intelligent design perspective.
1. Blair, Turner, Winkelman, Berg and Kearns, A Molecular Clutch Disables Flagella in the Bacillus subtilis Biofilm, Science, 20 June 2008: Vol. 320. no. 5883, pp. 1636 - 1638, DOI: 10.1126/science.1157877.
This is another of many instances of one of the best-established laws in nature: evolutionary storytelling is inversely proportional to observational detail. A good scientific law needs a popular name. Write in with your suggestion.Animal Patterning Keeps Scientists Puzzle-Solving 06/23/2008
June 23, 2008 Heres a fascinating area of research for a budding young scientist: the development of animal patterns. Look at the dazzling wing patterns on butterflies in an illustration on Science Daily or consider a zebras stripes. How do such patterns emerge from a single fertilized egg? Although this has been studied for years, said a researcher at Johns Hopkins University, there is still a lot we dont understand.
Clues from gene knockout experiments have shown that the patterns can be disrupted if one or another of two genes is not expressed properly. During development, it appears that pairs of genes do a sort of tug-of-war. As cells migrate, their protein products work against and battle each other: when one gains a slight advantage, the other weakens, which in turn causes the first to gain an even bigger advantage, the article said. This continues until one dominates in each cell. Sometimes one protein wins, sometimes the other. Thus a black stripe can appear in one place on a zebra and a white stripe in another.
This is only a partial answer, however. It explains how a pattern can emerge from no pattern, but does not explain why the pattern unfolds in the exact places it does. Something tells the cells where to move and when to stay put. What regulates and choreographs all this motion? More research will be required.
We need bright, young, curious kids to go into science with a design mentality. This is another area ripe for intelligent design research.Four years ago on June 30, the Cassini spacecraft entered orbit around Saturn. Re-live the anticipatory entry from SOI Day on 06/30/2004, then search for "Cassini" in the search bar for articles about the string of discoveries made by the most advanced outer-planet mission in history. On July 1, Cassini begins a 2.3-year Extended Mission (see JPL press release).
Love Your Heart: Look at Nature 06/22/2008
We are losing direct experiences with nature. Instead, more and more were experiencing nature represented technologically through television and other media. Children grow up watching Discovery Channel and Animal Planet. Thats probably better than nothing. But as a species we need interaction with actual nature for our physical and psychological well-being.Young people today are suffering from environmental generational amnesia, he said. They are so used to air pollution and cityscapes that they have lost the memory of an experience with real blue sky, fresh air and trees. The researchers were surprised to find that looking at such things on a TV screen was no more beneficial than staring at a blank wall.
For more on the benefits of exposure to nature, see the entries from 12/05/2001, 03/27/2001 and 03/23/2001.
Watching TV programs about animals and nature is worse than nothing if it preaches the usual evolutionary sermon. Get outside and see what God made: go on a Creation Safari.Evolutionist Learns from Neo-Creationists 06/21/2008
June 21, 2008 Neo-creationists: the Intelligent Design (ID) people as well as the active old creationists, are still to be despised and expelled, thinks an evolutionist. That doesnt mean, though, that they arent making some good points.
The evolutionist is Gordy Slack, a science writer from Oakland, California, who previously wrote a book about the Dover trial. Writing for The Scientist, he admitted that theyve gotten some things right. Here are some lessons he has learned by hanging around them:
1. Intellectual historian Charles Alan Kors (U of Pennsylvania) has said, there are few terms more equivocal, more ambiguous, that have more multiple meanings, than the term nature. For each sphere of phenomena a philosopher would wish to circumscribe with this slippery word, clever interlocutors could find appeals to phenomena outside the sphere. These, by definition, would also be supernatural meaning, above, or beyond nature, whatever it is. If nature is defined as that which is open to sense perception, for instance, are black holes and unobservable entities like strings, quarks or dark matter extra-natural? If nature encompasses only particles and forces, what of reason or the laws of logic?
It was unusual of the dogmatic Darwiniacs to allow one of theirs to say something deferential about their most despised enemies. We appreciate the gesture, but its not enough. We demand complete and unconditional surrender. They have no ground to stand on empirically, philosophically or ethically. False humility and crocodile tears are a ruse (as in Michael Ruse). The Darwiniacs took scientific institutions through deceit and manipulation, so until and unless they relinquish power, they are still at the top of the Most Wanted Ideologues.Sunshine Is for Health 06/20/2008
June 20, 2008 The old wisdom: stay out of the sun. The new wisdom: your life could depend on getting sunshine: about 10-15 minutes of exposure three times a week.
Science Daily reported that Vitamin D, produced in the skin by exposure to sunlight, provides more health to the body than previously thought. Health professionals have known for a long time that Vitamin D is necessary to prevent rickets and bone disorders. Now, evidence is growing that Vitamin D also fights cancer, cardiovascular disease, and autoimmune diseases.
No one is suggesting overexposure. Clearly, too much sunlight raises risks of skin cancer and ages the skin. Still, many people are probably getting too little sunshine in their life. Those at northern latitudes, and those with dark skin, may need to take more steps to get their arms and legs and faces out in the noontime sunshine. The elderly and office workers may also be vulnerable to Vitamin D deficiency.
Use the Search Bar with keywords "Vitamin D" and sunlight for a half dozen previous articles on this subject.Sea shells: to sell them, she would first have to learn how to make them, from 06/26/2003.
Hopes Die for Enceladus Longevity 06/19/2008
The consensus old age of the solar system has been falsified. They just wont admit it. How much longer do you want them to tweak their models to keep Enceladus hot? Remember, they have to do it with Io and Neptune and Uranus and Pluto also. Numerous phenomena in our solar system mandate an age limit far shorter than 4.6 billion years. Long ages are no longer necessary for planet formation or for any other geological feature. The only one who wants them is Charlie, and he doesnt count.Long Live the Seed 06/18/2008
June 18, 2008 A seed buried under the rubble of Herod the Greats fortress took root and is now growing into a palm tree. Science Now reported this as verification of claims that ancient seeds can still grow. See also the National Geographic News report that added this record beats out the previous verifiable claim of ancient seed germination by 700 years.
The Israeli research team nicknamed the tree Methuselah after the Old Testament man who sets the Guinness record for human longevity at 969 years.
Radiocarbon tests of other seeds from the cache showed dates of 1995-2110 years. That makes this remarkable tree a date palm in more than one sense.
This seed lay buried in a fortress in the hot Judean desert for two thousand years and was still alive. It has been growing now for two years into a healthy, green plant. Can you imagine Herod the Great with all his wise men designing a machine that could be unpacked and made to work after two millennia? If so, youre probably thinking of a simple machine like a lever. Try a miniaturized robot that reads codes, can grow and draw up nutrients from the desert and produce sweet fruit, then duplicate itself. Amazing. If all the kings horses and all the kings men couldnt pull off a trick like that using intelligent design, dont expect blind evolution to do it.Human Face Book Is Customized 06/17/2008
June 17, 2008 Make a face. How do you make a face? We are all made with faces that can make unique facial expressions, thanks to unique combinations of subcutaneous muscles. Nature News said that humans have unique faceprints of 16 common expression-making muscles.
We all have the same 5 subcutaneous muscles that can make us look angry, happy, surprised, afraid, sad and disgusted. But we have different combinations of 11 more muscles that allow us each to have our own idiosyncratic facial expressions. This was announced by researchers who examined 18 Caucasian cadavers. It means that all humans can express shared emotions important for social communication, but each of us can add our own nuance.
One of the researchers speculated that this can be explained in evolutionary terms. Humans have been selected to communicate the same basic emotions, he said, but have differences to allow for creating relationships within social groups. He did not explain why this strategy never occurred to social bees, ants, schooling fish and flocks of birds.
Well just ignore that little evolutionary fable with an expression of disgust and move right along. Facial expression is one of many unique traits among humans who were created like animals in many ways but with special features to express an inner spirit made in the image of God: intellect, emotions, will, love, personality, and faith. To communicate our rationality, we needed a voice apparatus appropriate for the sophisticated nuances of human language. For combined spiritual and physical intimacy, we needed skin instead of hair. For face-to-face communication and stewardship, we needed upright posture. For work, we needed hands with opposable thumbs. None of these is quite the window of the spirit as a persons unique countenance.Evolutionary trees are positively misleading, claim two evolutionists; tree-building methods are guaranteed to produce erroneous results, from 06/08/2006.
Big Dino Site Found in Utah 06/17/2008
These animals were sure dumb to keep wandering into floods that would bury them alive. The trees were dumb, too. Scientists, of course, have it all figured out.Magic Box in the Cell Baffles the Experts 06/16/2008
June 16, 2008 Put a string of amino acids into this magic box, and it comes out all precisely folded into a protein. How does it do it? A molecular machine described by Science Daily has scientists baffled. Ironically, its name is TRiC.
TRiC is a chaperonin, a member of a class of molecular machines that chaperone or guide polypeptides emerging from the ribosome (the translation machine, 02/21/2007) into their final folded shape. The shape of a protein is essential to its function. Most polypeptides find their native fold without help, but about 10% need a chaperonin shelter, like a private dressing room (05/05/2003) to get in shape.
The article shows that TRiC looks like a barrel-shaped box with two lids. Each lid opens and closes like the iris of a camera. Scientists cant see what goes on inside when the box is closed. The press release explains,
TRiC, like all chaperonins, consists of a double-ringed structure that gives it a barrel shape. One ring opens to admit the raw protein into the inner recesses of the folding machine, then closes tightly while, inside the chaperonin black box, the mysteries of molecular origami unfoldor, more correctly, fold. Upon completion of the folding, the ring at the other end opens up to push out the finished product.Whats remarkable about this cellular magic trick is that there are many more possible incorrect folds than the right one. How this machine can fold each protein correctly, like solving a Rubiks Cube in the dark without hands, is one of those mysteries of life science is trying to unlock. Its not just the shape of the box that matters. The two iris-like lids have to open at the right time, and keep the protein inside the right amount of time, or it doesnt work and the product comes out misfolded.
Judith Frydman at Stanford discovered TRiC in 1992 and has been trying to figure it out ever since. Co-director of the Center for Protein Folding Machinery, Frydman describes TRiC as a two-stroke motor wherein the opening of one end is linked to the closing of the other end. What has been so intriguing is that everything is connected, she said. This is a very large machine and every part of the machine is communicating with the other parts.At first her team thought the machine opened like the flaps on a cardboard box, but then they discovered the iris-shutter mechanism. She thinks the twisting of the lid transfers rotational motion to the interior and this helps the folding process, but so far the secret is still hidden inside.
If Frydman and her team figure out the TRiC, new medical advances may be forthcoming. She said, If one could understand what the environment in there looks like, what this machine does, what the cell does to fold its proteins, then we could begin to design ways to fold proteins for therapeutic purposes. This implies design following design. In fact, no mention of evolution or natural selection was made in the press release, originally published by the Stanford University news service. The chaperonin is called a machine eight times in the brief article.
This science project needs evolutionary theory like a fly needs a swatter. Tell us, Charlie, how the protein machinery that codes, transcribes, translates and folds proteins originated without the machinery to do it. We want scientific facts, not stories.Worlds Fastest Computer Approaches Brain Power 06/13/2008
June 13, 2008 IBM has broken the petaflops barrier. Whats that, you ask? In computing lingo, it stands for a quadrillion floating-point operations per second. The new Roadrunner supercomputer at Los Alamos National Laboratory has set a new record for computing speed that may usher in a new era of scientific analysis of complex systems: Roadrunner gives scientists the ability to quickly render mountainous problems into mere molehills, or model systems that previously were unthinkably complex. Such as?....
Science Daily reported something even more amazing. Roadrunner is now able to mimic some of the complex neural reactions going on in the human brain. To date, computers have been unable to match human performance on such visual tasks as flawlessly detecting an oncoming automobile on the highway or distinguishing a friend from a stranger in a crowd of people, the article said. Roadrunner is now changing the game.
One test program called PetaVision tries to model how the brain performs vision. PetaVision models the human visual system--mimicking more than 1 billion visual neurons and trillions of synapses. Because there are about a quadrillion synapses in the human brain, an artificial brain is finally entering the ballpark of keeping up with the biological computer.
One researcher put it, Just a week after formal introduction of the machine to the world, we are already doing computational tasks that existed only in the realm of imagination a year ago. Imagination is a human intellectual skill carried on with the aid of the brain. Its not clear if the researchers have calculated how many petaflops would be required to perform that feat. It might require exaflops (quintillions), zettaflops (sextillions) or yottaflops (septillions), if one can imagine such numbers.
Did you catch the point of this story? Decades of human intelligent planning and engineering and experience have gone into producing a monstrosity of big iron that is just now getting up to the capability of keeping up with one operation of your brain, vision. The man-made machine occupies a room of metal, wires, and sophisticated circuitry that requires electricity, artificial cooling and a team of system administrators, to say nothing of programmers, to operate.Darwin Partying: Miller Time in the Astrobiology Lab, 06/16/2005; intellectual sex orgies, 06/17/2005; war games, 06/22/2005.
Divining the CMB 06/12/2008
The know-nothings (02/22/2008 commentary) seem to know an awful lot (emphasis on awful). They have a lot to say about things they admit they cant say. Did it occur to any of them that science was meant to be restricted to phenomena that are observable, testable and repeatable? Yes; tell us about the odds of getting a new universe from a previous one. Tell us all about it. Do a demo in the lab. Tell us about the infinite regress while youre at it, and why there was something instead of nothing.Few Typos Get Past Your Spell Checker 06/11/2008
June 11, 2008 Inside your cells are thousands of spell checkers that put any human typist to shame. In a process critical to all living things, RNA Polymerase II transcribes DNA into RNA rapidly with high fidelity. Even very similar chemical letters are accurately discriminated by this wonder of a molecular machine that is described in Science Daily.
The article describes its performance as exquisite precision and unerring accuracy. RNA Polymerase II (Pol II) has been studied for years (01/10/2003, 01/05/2006), but new secrets continue to pour forth. Two teams found out more details about how the proofreading works. Mutations, they found, caused severe losses in fidelity. The researchers said their findings not only offer unprecedented details about the fidelity mechanism of Pol II, but likely about fidelity in all cellular genetic copying machines.
What? You mean theres more? Absolutely (03/21/2002). From transcription to translation, each stage of protein manufacture from the DNA template is checked for errors by molecular machines (03/22/2002, 05/17/2002, 06/13/2002, 01/19/2005, 03/31/2005). When those machines break down due to mutations, bad things happen. The last word: As DNA polymerase is responsible for gene replication, the result of its malfunction could be a burst of gene mutation causing an error catastrophe that could lead to genome instability and cancer formation.
This is the science of intelligent design (ID) at work (05/18/2005). No mention of the E-word evolution was heard in these labs (cf. 06/17/2002). The researchers were hot on the heels of major discoveries about how biological machines achieve phenomenal accuracy. And at what do they achieve phenomenal accuracy? the translation of coded information (12/17/2007). Information is a very ID-friendly word. Evolutionists speak very little about information. What can they say? that material particles subject to various non-intelligent forces built the most accurate code-storage and translation mechanisms known in nature? How long would it take Lenski to evolve that? (see next story). Lets take off the Darwin leg irons and propel science full speed into the Information Age.Darwinism Demonstrated in the Lab 06/10/2008
June 10, 2008 Lenskis done it. The champion of Avida, a computerized evolution demo (see Evolution News) has demonstrated Darwinian evolution with real live organisms. His achievement announces his inauguration into the prestigious National Academy of Sciences.1
Lenski and team ran one of the longest-running evolution experiments ever with E. coli bacteria. After more than 30,000 generations, some of the bacteria traversed several random mutations to achieve a new function: the ability to digest citrate. This occurred without any guidance and quickly made the new variety more fit in the culture. New Scientist trumpeted this as a demonstration of a major evolutionary shift in the lab that has unfurled right before the researchers eyes.
Darwin critic Dr. Michael Behe, biochemist at Lehigh University, author of Darwins Black Box, seems unconvinced. He thinks, as he discusses on his Amazon blog that Lenski has only demonstrated something far less Darwinian: the Edge of Evolution. A response was also posted on Access Research Network.
1. Zachary Blount, Christina Borland and Richard E. Lenski, Historical contingency and the evolution of a key innovation in an experimental population of Escherichia coli, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, June 4, 2008, 10.1073/pnas.0803151105.
Its a good thing Dr. Behe quickly dispelled the significance of this experiment. It saves us a lot of work having to trudge through the overhyped claims in the paper. Basically, the E. coli already had the machinery to digest citrate, but just lacked a gateway to get the nutrient inside, which was not that improbable a hurdle for a couple of mutations to permit. This accomplishment is orders of magnitude simpler than the kind of luck required to build the machinery in the first place. Its like blindly pushing and finding a weakness in a fence. This is all the longest-running lab experiment in evolution was able to accomplish in 20 years of trying, with almost 40,000 generations. Are you impressed? If you can tell a lawyer is lying when his lips are moving, you can tell an evolutionist is lying when the reporters go wild about how Darwin has been vindicated.Three great space triumphs of 2004: our only close look at Saturns moon Phoebe, four years ago this Saturday, from 06/14/2004; Stardust team deciphers comet dust, from 06/18/2004; and Cassini enters Saturn orbit to begin its spectacularly successful tour, from 06/30/2004.
The Andes: Pop-Up Mountains 06/10/2008
1. Garzione et al, Rise of the Andes, Science, 6 June 2008: Vol. 320. no. 5881, pp. 1304-1307, DOI: 10.1126/science.1148615.
2. Richard A. Kerr, The Andes Popped Up by Losing Their Deep-Seated Rocky Load, Science, no. 5881, p. 1275, DOI: 10.1126/science.320.5881.1275a.
What is the take-home lesson of this article? That scientists recognized their past sins of omission and have now come clean? That science is progressing toward a true understanding of the history of the earth? If so, we have a piece of Jurassic mantle on the auction block.Evolutions Tinkerer Creates the Brain that Creates Evolutionary Theory 06/09/2008
June 9, 2008 A tinkerer usually implies a human being with a brain. A man in his garage, for instance, might look around for spare parts to arrange into some new contraption. What would he think if he were told that his own brain was made that way? Thats what evolutionists commonly teach: our bodies and our brains were organized not by design or plan, but by natures tinkerer: a blind, aimless physical process that somehow cobbled parts together to allow us to think, and tinker, and even design master plans.
A good example of this tendency in the popular press was published in Science Daily and PhysOrg. They reported on the Genes to Cognition Programme at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, a group attempting to discern connections between genes and brains (see original press release). The team concluded that brain size alone was not the deciding factor in human cognition. More complex synapses the junctions between neurons had to evolve first. Surprisingly, some of these complex junctions appear in yeast and other organisms we think dont think. Some of these junctions humans use in learning and memory.
The first arrival was the most impressive: The number and complexity of proteins in the synapse first exploded when multicellular animals emerged, some billion years ago. Thats even before the Cambrian explosion, when all life was single-celled. Another explosion occurred at the arrival of vertebrates, they said.
This all suggested to the researchers a vision of the human brain as an example of tinkering. The view was best expressed by team member Richard Emes, lecturer in Bioinformatics at Keele University. He said, It is amazing how a process of Darwinian evolution by tinkering and improvement has generated, from a collection of sensory proteins in yeast, the complex synapse of mammals associated with learning and cognition. The project head, Seth Grant, used his tinkered brain to think that this is bringing human cognition closer to understanding its origins. This work leads to a new and simple model for understanding the origins and diversity of brains and behaviour in all species, he said. We are one step closer to understanding the logic behind the complexity of human brains. He did not specify how many steps have been traversed, how many lie ahead, or what direction to go, assuming he himself is tinkering with ideas that emerged from a product of tinkering. Can such a product have any assurance its cobbled neurons are capable of understanding anything?
The tinkering metaphor was echoed in another context by Meredith Small at Live Science. She was trying to explain why men have breasts and nipples. Her explanation combined immiscible concepts: that we were produced by an aimless process, yet are somehow capable of thinking rationally about that process:
In fact, mens breasts are a good lesson in the higgledy-piggledy way that evolution works. Natural selection chooses for and against body parts, but there is no master plan that aims for the perfect creature. Men have boobs, women get facial hair, and we all stand in front of the mirror asking, Why?She also claimed that we all start out as women in the embryo, but males only become male after testosterone kicks in about the sixth week of development. She called femaleness the default or fallback position of the human form. How she could know any of this was an unasked and unanswered question.
Ironically, philosopher and astronomer John Herschel ridiculed Darwinian theory as the law of higgledy-piggledy after reading The Origin of Species. He was not speaking of how natural selection works. He was speaking of the concept of natural selection itself. Proposing a law of nature that depends on higgledy-piggledy ways is a higgledy-piggledy scientific idea, he meant; a law that acts haphazardly is no law at all.
Some day these evolutionary explanations are going to sound so stupid, students will shake their heads in disbelief that smart people could have believed such things. Lets hasten the day. Did it occur to Ms. Small that Rube Goldberg designed his comical devices by intelligent design, not by chance? As kludgy as they looked, they were quite effective. How much more effective are her eyes, hands and brain? It seems highly inconsiderate for her to employ them with finesse and then call them hodgepodges of bad parts.Will Evolutionary Psychology Be the First Darwinian Theory to Go? 06/06/2008
June 6, 2008 Evolutionary psychologists are not getting much respect these days. Some evolutionists, like Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin, criticized them for years. Now, a new book came out against them and Science gave it a good review.1 To turn a Darwinian phrase, reviewer Johan J. Bolhuis said that the field of evolutionary psychology is undergoing negative selection pressure.
The book under review also turned a Darwinian phrase in its title, Evolutionary Psychology as Maladapted Psychology, by Robert C. Richardson, a philosopher of science. Bolhuis, a member of the Behavioral Biology Group at Utrecht University, tied this maligned field to Charles Darwin right in the first sentence: As we approach the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species, the theory of evolution is still not without controversy in the popular domain. It seemed logical to many to extend Darwins theory of evolution to cognition, as Darwin himself did in The Descent of Man when he considered human characteristics such as morality or emotions to have been evolved.
Both the author and reviewer accept evolution, and assent to the claim that our psychological capacities are evolved traits. Nevertheless, they have problems seeing evolutionary psychology as a scientific enterprise. Its flaws include:
Richardson rightly suggests that paleontologists are unlikely to unearth the evidence that can inform us about the social structure of our ancestral communities. I think one can go a step further. Even if we would be able to muster the evidence needed for an evolutionary psychological analysis of human cognition, it would not tell us anything about our cognitive mechanisms. The study of evolution is concerned with a historical reconstruction of traits. It does not, and cannot, address the mechanisms that are involved in the human brain. Those fall within the domains of neuroscience and cognitive psychology. In that sense, evolutionary psychology will never succeed, because it attempts to explain mechanisms by appealing to the history of these mechanisms. To use the authors words, We might as well explain the structure of orchids in terms of their beauty.Bolhuis ranked this book as excellent. Combining this book with David Bullers 2005 critique Adapting Minds (see 04/28/2005), he said, the two books are complementary, and together they constitute a formidable critique of evolutionary psychology. Richardson in particular, he said in conclusion, shows very clearly that attempts at reconstruction of our cognitive history amount to little more than speculation disguised as results.
Bolhuis joked that Richardson is piling on the selection pressure against evolutionary psychology. Presumably, he meant that Richardson did it intelligently by design.
1. Johan J. Bolhuis, Piling on the Selection Pressure, Science, 6 June 2008: Vol. 320. no. 5881, p. 1293, DOI: 10.1126/science.1157403.
This is great. Evolutionists are getting bold enough to criticize evolutionary psychologists in a pro-evolutionary science journal. Progress is being made.How old is the earth? Our 06/04/2003 entry looked at how the leading evidence for 4.567 billion years was manufactured, and compares it with other evidences throughout the solar system.
Alien Messages via Neutrinos 06/06/2008
1. Random Samples, Science, Volume 320, Number 5881, Issue of 06 June 2008.
Lets strive to understand this reasoning. The three scientists believe we could reasonably infer the existence of intelligent design in subatomic particles, which carry no information, due strictly to their physical characteristics. But finding a coded language in DNA and calling that intelligent design would undoubtedly be criticized as a religious argument. They think that high-energy neutrinos could only be produced by non-natural intelligent causes. They probably believe DNA, however, with its sophisticated language transcription and translation systems, was produced by natural causes.Living Iridescence Dazzles Scientists 06/05/2008
June 5, 2008 The flashing colors of butterflies and birds (peacocks being the classic example) do not come from pigments, but from black structures on a microscopic scale. How and why they do it is of great interest to scientists and engineers. Susan Milius explored this topic in Science News this week.1
The basic principle behind iridescence, whether it be on a peacocks tail, a Morpho butterfly or swallowtail butterfly wing (11/18/2005) or an undersea comb jelly (12/19/2005) is an optical trick. Tiny repeating structures on the wing or feather reflect light in ways that cancel some wavelengths and accentuate others. The structures, called photonic crystals (10/13/2003, 01/29/2003) may look under an electron microscope like rows of Christmas trees, fields of lattice-work honeycombs, [and] bristles that work like fiber-optic cables (but better). The optical effects can even work using light humans cannot see: ultraviolet or circularly-polarized light.
A beetle that knows the latter trick was reported by Science Daily and PhysOrg and mentioned in the Science News article. It has a name to match its shimmering green glow: Chrysina gloriosa. The crystal structure resembles that of diamonds. Milius said the beetles decor reflects both left-handed and right-handed circularly polarized light. (Read about another photonic beetle in the 01/19/2007 entry.)
Scientists and engineers have been hunting for a champion photonic crystal that has the ideal qualities of a glittering diamond. They may have found it in this beetle, the PhysOrg article said. The crystals are made not of carbon, but of chitin similar to fingernail material but arranged in diamond-like crystals that reflect green light from all directions. The composite effect of green shimmering light is achieved by the beetles ingenious engineering strategy. Though Nature uses very simple strategies to design structures to manipulate light, one researcher said, they are structures that are beyond the reach of our current abilities.
How scientists would love to imitate this engineering strategy! Why? Get ready we could have ultrafast computers that run on light instead of electricity. Optical integrated circuits with switches running at the speed of light could outperform electrons by orders of magnitude. A photonic computer could solve some problems in seconds that would take years on an electronic computer. Connect these light-speed computers to a fiber-optic network (11/16/2007) using cables with specs like those of the Venus flower basket sea sponge (07/08/2005 the most perfect design I have ever seen 04/05/2006), and we would have the makings of a new generation of ultrafast computers running on an ultrafast internet.
Other devices could change color depending on the presence of gases or vapors, without the need for electricity. And imagine the optical effects gadgets of the future could achieve by imitating natures photonic crystals in toys, theaters and stage productions, electronic devices, medical sensors and who knows what else. We only have to recall the applications that sprung out of the invention of the laser to imagine what might become possible with these biologically-inspired tricks of light.
In her article, Susan Milius speculated about possible reasons animals use photonic crystals. The simplistic answer is to attract mates. But it seems costly for peacocks and moths to build and maintain these precision structures, and flashing ones presence poses the risk of attracting predators instead of lovers. Does the male put on this show to signal his genetic fitness or health? Its not clear the brilliant iridescent colors signal any kind of information an animal brain would find useful. Maybe the lights are just beautiful. Milius used a subtitle that said, Iridescence could be pretty meaningfulor maybe just pretty.
1. Milius, Susan, How They Shine, Science News, 173:28, pp. 26-29, June 7, 2008.
It is wonderfully inspiring to hear about natures incredible designs. Most articles, though, toss a fly in the ointment by speculating about evolution. The Science News article, for instance, claimed that birds, beetles, butterflies and plenty of other creatures evolved cutting-edge optical systems long before modern technology did. Later, it said, The animals devices come from millions of years of evolutionary trial and error. Puke attack.Asian Bees Speak European 06/04/2008
June 4, 2008 Asian honeybees and European honeybees went their separate ways millions of years ago, say evolutionists. Why, then, were Asian bees able to readily learn the European language? An international team watched this happen. They ran some affirmative-action integration experiments on the two species, and reported their results today in PLoS One.1
The honeybee waggle dance, through which foragers advertise the existence and location of a food source to their hive mates, is acknowledged as the only known form of symbolic communication in an invertebrate, they said. It was known that some families of European honeybees speak slightly different dialects of the dance. The evolutionary divergence of dialects should have been extreme for honeybees halfway around the world, but learning how to do as the Romans do was no problem. When reared in the same colony, these two species are able to communicate with each other, they found, and readily learned how to locate food according to the waggle-dance clues about direction, distance and quality of the food source.
The scientists were surprised by the results. While the subspecies of Apis mellifera [the European bees] may have diverged around 0.67 million years ago, our study confirms that the ability to use the information encoded in an unfamiliar dance extends even across species separated by six to eight million years of evolution, they said. They watched with astonishment as the Asian bees quickly picked up on the language of their new European hosts.
How does this observation fit with evolution? These results highlight the highly conserved [i.e., unevolved] nature of not only the dance itself, but also the mechanisms by which the dance is interpreted by follower bees. Those mechanisms include behaviors, learning abilities, and the production of chemical signals. Amazed, the authors left evolutionary explanations to future researchers:
We now know that honeybees have a variety of impressive cognitive skills and an amazing learning ability. Owing to the small brain size of the subjects, the study of honeybee learning has a good tradition of deconstructing seemingly complex phenomena, and explaining them in terms of simple processes. This provides an ideal perspective to study the mechanisms of social learning, too. The mixed-species colonies of Acc [Asian] and Aml [European] have paved a new way to study communication and learning between individuals of different species, which will be helpful in understanding the neural mechanisms of the striking dance language of honeybees.Live Science reported the story, but did not attempt to explain the evolutionary conundrum that these bees were supposedly separated for 30-60 million years but could still communicate.
1. Su, Cai, Si, Zhang, Tautz and Chen, East Learns from West: Asiatic Honeybees Can Understand Dance Language of European Honeybees, Public Library of Science One, 3(6): e2365. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0002365.
Wouldnt a simpler and more economical explanation be that these species were not separated by millions of years? Why is that never considered? Why this insistence on conserved traits over millions of years of a fluid process like evolution? Youd almost think scientists are deaf sometimes. They dance, and they waggle, they wiggle and they waffle, but they communicate little. Their followers thus fly off in all directions except the one that can provide nourishment.A June 2002 exhibit of cell wonders, from switchboards (06/26/2002) to outboard motors (06/24/2002) to scaffolds and machines (06/17/2002) to word processors and translators (06/13/2002, 05/31/2002).
An Evaluation of Evolution as an Explanatory Device 06/03/2008
Rogers and Ehrlich stood by their claim in the same issue of PNAS. They defended their use of evolutionary explanations by pointing to the many scientists who do the same thing. This is a commonly accepted signal of negative (purifying) selection for genetic evolution and when interpreting the fossil record, they said. Although it does not prove that natural selection was at work, it certainly supports that inference.
Their ending paragraph gets to the heart of the issue. What qualifies as an explanation in science?
As most scientists know, how one defines scientific is a complex and heavily debated topic, and one should be cautious in making ex cathedra statements about it. The degree to which our results can be generalized remains to be seen.
1. James L. Gould, Animal Navigation: The Evolution of Magnetic Orientation, Current Biology, Vol 18, R482-R484, 03 June 2008.
2. Michael Dickinson, Animal Locomotion: A New Spin on Bat Flight, Current Biology, Vol 18, R468-R470, 03 June 2008.
3. Florian Maderspacher, Genomics: An Inordinate Fondness for Beetles, Current Biology, Vol 18, R466-R468, 03 June 2008.
It should be clear that evolution is a modern secularist form of cultural mythology. Evolution serves the same function as the Greek gods did in explanations about phenomena the ancient Greeks did not understand. In fact, philosopher Willard van Orman Quine in 1951 stated as much by analyzing how scientists explain recalcitrant data (e.g., 10/29/2004). In his influential paper Two Dogmas of Empiricism, he asserted that Homers gods and modern causal references serve the same explanatory function. Its not that Quine believed the Greek gods provided an equally good explanation; But in point of epistemological footing the physical objects and the gods differ only in degree and not in kind, he asserted. Both sorts of entities enter our conception only as cultural posits. The myth of physical objects is epistemologically superior to most in that it has proved more efficacious than other myths as a device for working a manageable structure into the flux of experience. A workable device, however, is not synonymous with a truthful or established explanation.Can Darwin Fit into Designer Genes? 06/02/2008
June 2, 2008 Humans are tinkering with DNA in ways that appear to blur the boundaries between design and nature.
Would an unbiased alien be able to discriminate between a genetically-engineered bacterium and a natural one?Lamarckism Still Shuffles Around 06/01/2008
June 1, 2008 Examine the following quotation and see if it sounds like what Darwin or Lamarck would say:
Somewhere in the murky past, between four and seven million years ago, a hungry common ancestor of todays primates, including humans, did something novel. While temporarily standing on its rear feet to reach a piece of fruit, this protohominid spotted another juicy morsel in a nearby shrub and began shuffling toward it instead of dropping on all fours, crawling to the shrub and standing again.This is how Science Daily began a story about the evolution of human upright posture. No attempt was made to tie the behavior to random mutations or to explain how natural selection acted on them. It sounds like Lamarcks old hypothesis of the inheritance of acquired characteristics through use and disuse a discredited idea according to most contemporary Darwinists. Nor was an explanation offered, if the new stance was so effective, why modern apes still stoop around most of the time on all fours.
Lest Science Daily be accused of misunderstanding evolutionary theory, quotations in the article tie the Lamarckism to the researchers themselves. Patrick Kramer, an anthropologist at University of Washington, said, There is nothing that will get you to do something you dont want to do other than food. Thats why we bribe animals with food to train them. Yet after centuries of bribing animals with food to stand upright, no elephant, horse or ape has acquired upright stance by either Lamarcks or Darwins mechanism.
The researchers studied metabolic efficiency of standing, knuckle-walking and shuffling, but such measurements are about living animals. They have no necessary connection to the evolutionary theory that made Darwin famous: natural selection acting on random variations.
If a creationist were to make this kind of blunder, or tell this kind of just-so story, he or she would be condemned as an ignoramus. Yet evolutionists get away with violating their own theoretical principles time and again and are only rarely called on the carpet for it (05/31/2004). Why? Because in support of their worldview (naturalism), facts dont matter (see Fairfaxs Law in the Baloney Detector). Alls fair in love for Darwin and war against creationism. Thats why Darwin himself slipped back toward Lamarckism in his later years when stubborn facts hampered his ability to market natural selection.Visit an exhibit of molecular machines in the cell, from last year, 05/30/2007.