Plant Perfume Manipulates Pollinator Behavior 08/31/2008
1. Kessler, Gase and Baldwin, Field Experiments with Transformed Plants Reveal the Sense of Floral Scents, Science, 29 August 2008: Vol. 321. no. 5893, pp. 1200-1202, DOI: 10.1126/science.1160072.
2. Robert R. Raguso, The Invisible Hand of Floral Chemistry, Science, 29 August 2008: Vol. 321. no. 5893, pp. 1163-1164, DOI: 10.1126/science.1163570.
The authors presumably presume that Darwins mechanism could achieve the mutualistic symbiosis. Creationists might agree that natural selection could intensify the symbiosis, leaving behind only the most capable at it in the harsher post-Flood environment, but how the symbiosis arose in the first place is a different matter (cf. 02/26/2007). Plants possess an astonishing chemistry set. They can produce hundreds of complex organic molecules with finely-tuned signals for the animals they need (see 02/21/2006). Other molecules talk to nearby plants or deter predators (see 04/26/2007). Organic chemists would have a major challenge duplicating this feat. These molecules dont just emerge or arise (favorite Darwinist words) by undirected processes of chance. They are coded in the genes. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.*Learn about Survival of the Fictitious in the 08/26/2004 entry. Evolutionists gaze into space in the 08/19/2004 entry.
Describing Star and Galaxy Growth Without Looking 08/30/2008
Science should thrive on controversy and alternative models. It is disturbing to see astronomers make statements that go far beyond the evidence with impunity. Imagination may roam free among the stars, but the fact is, our bodies are stuck on Planet Earth. Our theories should be grounded in that reality.Dark Matters, When All You Have Is Light 08/30/2008
August 30, 2008 A cluster of galaxies equivalent to a thousand Milky Ways was observed at a distance of 7.7 billion light-years. What does it mean? According to astronomers mentioned in an article on Space.com, it can only mean one thing: dark energy makes up 70% of the universe.
The existence of the cluster can only be explained with dark energy, one spokesman said. How can that be, since dark energy is invisible? It depends on a theory of galaxy evolution. To test dark energy, scientists compare frequency of these massive clusters today with earlier times, the article said. If there were no dark energy, they would expect clusters to grow relatively quickly, so the largest clusters we see now would be very small at half the age of the universe, and there would be no gigantic clusters. The cluster exists, so voilà dark energy is real. Without dark energy we would observe much more massive clusters and many more of these massive clusters than we actually do.
Another example is found in an article by National Geographic News. Some University of California astronomers divined large quantities of dark matter from the orbits of small satellite galaxies of the Milky Way. Basically galaxies like our own wouldnt have formed if we didnt have dark matter, one said. How he knows this, never having watched a galaxy form, and never having seen dark matter, is somewhat of a dark secret. He did hedge his bet at the end of the article. If you dont find something [about dark matter] in the next five to ten years, he said, there's something very wrong with all the theories we have.
These are egregious examples of pronouncements made as fact when they are indistinguishable from theory. They observed a bright cluster at a certain distance, thats all. The others observed dwarf galaxies in orbit, thats all. This does not justify appealing to imponderable substances and occult forces.Can Evolution Survive Without Darwin? 08/29/2008
August 29, 2008 Charles Darwin and the theory of evolution seem synonymous. Nevertheless, many evolutionary biologists have pointed out that a lot has happened in evolutionary biology since Darwin died. Some even criticize creationists for using the term Darwinism for evolution, though often it is just as much the habit of evolutionists (example: Genome Research: Genomics and Darwinism). These days, however, there is a movement to let old Darwin fade away and remove his name from evolutionary theory altogether. Some even see his main idea, natural selection, as an impediment to progress in the field.
In a letter to Science August 29, U. Kutschera of the University of Kassel in Germany suggested we replace Darwinism with evolutionary biology a term first coined by Julian Huxley. This is because evolutionary theory has expanded far beyond Darwins limited domain into other disciplines such as geology and computer science. He also pointed out, though, that we need another update of our concepts about the mechanisms of evolution a suggestion that natural selection is inadequate.
A distinct down-with-Darwin attitude was most clearly seen in an interview August 24 by Susan Mazur with Stuart Newman, published in The Scoop, an independent news service in New Zealand. Mazur was asking Newman about his recent involvement in a closed conference of 16 evolutionary biologists in Altenberg, Austria last July (see Revolt in the Darwin Camp from 03/07/2008 and Mazurs July 6 preview of controversial issues in The Scoop; for list of participants and their public statement on the outcome of the meeting, see the Rationally Speaking blog for July 17). Some of the participants wanted to formulate an extended evolutionary synthesis with less natural selection and more of the new perspectives that have recently taken hold, such as self-organization and epigenetics. Some of them see natural selection only as a culling filter after other mechanisms generated novelty that caused the origin of species and body plans. These ideas remain controversial.
Newman described why self-organization might lead to complex structures. To avoid misunderstanding, he prefers the term phenotypic plasticity
Plasticity is not only associated with self-organization. Molecular self-assembly can also be plastic. It is now recognized that many proteins have no intrinsic three-dimensional structure their forms and functions change depending on their microenvironment, including other proteins that may or may not be present. The structure and function of macromolecular complexes can therefore change dramatically over the course of evolution with minimal genetic change, or as a side-effect of other changes, not driven by adaptation. This is quite relevant to the evolution of highly complex structures like the bacterial flagellum, a problem constantly harped on by advocates of Intelligent Design.Newman is saying that complex structures, composed of many parts that ID scientists would call irreducibly complex, might just happen spontaneously without any evolutionary force of adaptation or natural selection driving the process. Obviously such ideas are going to raise eyebrows among biologists trained in traditional Darwinism.
Newman and Mazur both complained that the establishment biologists are not welcoming the new ideas of self-organization. What is most interesting in Mazurs article is her vitriolic description of the Darwinian industry that remains sold out to traditional Darwinian adaptationism. They abhor the concept of self-organization, she said, because of fear those in the intelligent-design community will exploit it. She held out particular disdain for the NCSE, which advises schools in America on what textbooks are suitable.
The National Center for Science Education director Eugenie Scott told me that her organization does not support self-organization because it is confused with intelligent design, i.e., design-beyond-laws as Michael Behe, a biochemist at Lehigh University describes it. NCSE also pays lucrative fees to conference speakers who keep the lid on self-organization by beating the drum for Darwinian natural selection. NCSE and its cronies completely demonize the intelligent design community, even those who agree evolution happened. Religion is not the target since even the National Academy of Sciences embraces religion. So it seems the real target is those who fail to kneel before the Darwinian theory of natural selection and prevent the further fattening of the Darwinian industry tapeworm.Somewhat taken aback at the language, Newman agreed, but with the disclaimer that I may not use all the terms that you used. He pointed out that at the Dover trial, for instance, the idea was reinforced in the public mind that if you believe in evolution, you believe in Darwins theory of evolution because its supposedly the same thing. And if you dont believe in Darwins theory, you must believe in something supernatural. In bold print, Mazur quoted his next statement:
This is not at all valid and I think its a big mistake because we know there are non-linear and what I call saltational mechanisms of embryonic development that could have contributed -- and Im virtually certain they did -- to evolution. It was Darwin who said that if any organ is shown to have formed not by small increments but by jumps, his theory would therefore be wrong. [Emphasis in original].Newman seems to be implying that, by Darwins own standard, natural selection theory has been falsified. He called it a Darwinian orthodoxy that everything has to be incremental, including something very complex like the bacterial flagellum or the segmented vertebral column, they say that it had to have arisen in an incremental fashion. Self-assembly and self-organization, Newman believes, can account for these things without natural selection. I think its an unfortunate error that some advocates of evolution are making by adhering so closely to this incrementalist Darwinian dogma, which he later attributed to implausible and incorrect mechanisms. Mazur reacted by calling this mediocre science being pushed on the public and wasting of public funds at a time of serious economic downturn in America.
Newman and Mazur discussed how funding can perpetuate a consensus, even when its wrong, and how the consensus controls communication with the public. It really undermines confidence in science if people are always being subjected to what we call handwaving arguments that all complexity had to have had an incremental origin. Nevertheless, Newman himself, when describing how self-organization might produce a flagellum, seemed also to be just waving his hands.
Wont it be fun if Darwinism collapses just in time for Darwin Day? There was going to be a big celebration in 1992, remember, for Columbus on the 500th anniversary of his voyage to the New World. The party fizzled, however, when activists got all untied about his supposed links to racism, exploitation, disease, and slavery. (Whether this was true to history or not is beside the point.) Maybe thats the secret. Hire a bunch of live-at-home dropouts and history professors who have nothing better to do than protest things. Convince them that Darwin brought racism, sexism, genocide and a host of other evils. (That this is true to history is the point.) Turn them loose, get the media focused on them, raise a ruckus and watch Darwin become very politically incorrect on campus. What a surprised look we will see on Eugenie Scotts face when the people chanting Down with Darwin! are not religious creationists, but a motley mix of radicals, liberals, progressives, diversity departments and evolutionary biologists like Stuart Newman.Origin-of-life theories are kind of like the meatball theory for the origin of music, from the 08/06/2003 entry.
Angry Atheists Arrogate Authority in Science 08/28/2008
1. Matthew Cobb and Jerry Coyne, Atheism could be sciences contribution to religion, Nature 454, 1049 (28 August 2008) | doi:10.1038/4541049d.
2. Editorial, Templetons legacy, Nature 454, 253-254 (17 July 2008) | doi:10.1038/454253b.
Historians of science know, sadly, that the warfare thesis that science and religion are hopelessly at odds is a mistaken and indefensible myth propagated by a vocal minority of religion-hating dogmatists in the late 19th century (01/06/2008 commentary). Too bad leading scientists today havent learned their history.Evolutionist Calls Everyone Crazy 08/27/2008
August 27, 2008 Last month she called everyone a hypocrite (07/06/2008). This month, Robin Nixon of Live Science called everyone crazy. Her latest article is entitled, Why We Are All Insane. But then, how could we trust her explanation?
Attributing everything about humanity to a blind process of evolution, Nixon wove a tale of mythical ancestors going a little nuts to survive:
Natural selection wants us to be crazy at least a little bit. While true debilitating insanity is not natures intention, many mental health issues may be byproducts of the over-functional human brain, some researchers claim.Nixon deflected the charge of calling everyone crazy with a lateral pass to Geary. But it sounds a little twisted to think of natural selection wanting anything especially wanting something as crazy as making its products crazy but not too much so.
She proceeded to explicate how craziness is a by-product of natural selection having done too good a job on the brain. Using an analogy by Randolph Nesse, author of The Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology [Wiley, 2005], she said, Just as horse breeding has selected for long thin legs that increase speed but are prone to fracture, cognitive advances also increase fitness to a point. The point for our brain is narcissism, anxiety, guilt, and other forms of mental illness:
Perhaps to check selfish urges, in favor of more probable means to biological success, social lubricants such as empathy, guilt and mild anxiety arose.In other words, natural selection bumbled by giving us aptitudes but failing to consider the law of unintended consequences. Forget about joy, she says. Quoting Geary, Nixon asserted nature cares about genes, not joy. (That is The Nature of Joy, one of her subtitles that would surprise C. S. Lewis.)
But wouldnt the unintended consequences become maladaptive and lead to our extinction? Crazy as it sounds, Nixon has it all figured out.
Certain types of depression, however, Geary continued, may be advantageous. The lethargy and disrupted mental state can help us disengage from unattainable goals whether it is an unrequited love or an exalted social position. Evolution likely favored individuals who pause and reassess ambitions, instead of wasting energy being blindly optimistic.Natural selection thus worked by intelligent design. It chose attributes that are advantageous. It favored certain individuals. It worked to increase productivity and creativity. It worked to fill the earth with selfish, crazy hypocrites who dont care so much about the environment as sex and survival of ones kids the whole point of evolution. If natural selection made you depressed, hyperactive, bipolar and obsessed with sex, why fight it? Deal with it.
In this view, rationality is merely a by-product, not the goal. But then, where would a rational person categorize Nixons explanation on the side of reason, or of acting out, like a marionette on a string, the forces of natural selection on her own mind?
That scientists and science writers can continue to write such self-refuting nonsense with audacity is a sign that we have much work to do. Darwinian thinking is a blight on rationality and a force for wickedness (see recent example on Evolution News). It excuses everything that is evil as the inevitable consequence of forces beyond our control. But then it turns around and engages in rational discussion as if rationality had any meaning. Its like vacuuming out a skull and filling it with gravel, and expecting it to still think.Neanderthals Win Toolmaking Olympics 08/26/2008
August 26, 2008 Scientists have taken another step toward debunking the myth of the stupid Neanderthals who went extinct when competing with their supposedly advanced neighbors, the modern humans. Science Daily is one of several news sites reporting a study on toolmaking by the two groups of humans, that concluded that stone tool technologies developed by our species, Homo sapiens, were no more efficient than those used by Neanderthals. In fact, Neanderthal tools may have been superior.
More important than the study about flint knife efficiency was the change of attitude expressed by Metin Erin (U of Exeter), lead author of the paper:
Our research disputes a major pillar holding up the long-held assumption that Homo sapiens were more advanced than Neanderthals. It is time for archaeologists to start searching for other reasons why Neanderthals became extinct while our ancestors survived. Technologically speaking, there is no clear advantage of one tool over the other. When we think of Neanderthals, we need to stop thinking in terms of stupid or less advanced and more in terms of different.Museum displays had long portrayed Neanderthals as stoop-shouldered, beetle-browed, grunting cavemen not as evolved as the upcoming modern humans. Many long-held beliefs suggesting why the Neanderthals went extinct have been debunked in recent years, the article said. Research has already shown that Neanderthals were as good at hunting as Homo sapiens and had no clear disadvantage in their ability to communicate. Now, these latest findings add to the growing evidence that Neanderthals were no less intelligent than our ancestors.
Are you angry at the evolutionists who misled generations of impressionable students with their myth of the stupid Neanderthal caveman? Why not?An animal covered with optically-perfect glass eyes: read about it in the 08/23/2001 entry.
Use Your Cow Compass 08/25/2008
1. Begall et al, Magnetic alignment in grazing and resting cattle and deer, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, published online 08/25/2008, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0803650105.
What this means is that you will have a statistically better chance of getting your buck trophy if you look east or west. And cowboys will never look the same with large electromagnets on the backs of their saddles.How Chromosomes Pack Without Exploding 08/24/2008
August 24, 2008 When preparing to divide, a cell has to copy all its DNA accurately and pack it into chromosomes. A professor at U Chicago told Science Daily this is like compacting your entire wardrobe into a shoebox. The cell has another difficulty in this compaction process, though: DNA, being negatively charged, resists packing.
Eukaryotes overcome the resistance by neutralizing the negative charge with histones. DNA wraps around the histones, forming nucleosomes, which then coil and supercoil into the familiar chromosomes. One class of marine algae, the dinoflagellates, uses a different method: it neutralizes the negatively-charged DNA with positively-charged ions of calcium and magnesium.
The U Chicago team was puzzled at this exception to the rule. They wondered if this may have been the first and very efficient step toward the goal of neutralizing DNA, long before histones came into play. The statement was only a suggestion, however. It also does not explain why dinoflagellates have much more nuclear DNA than human beings.
One observation, though, was dynamic. When the scientists removed the positively-charged ions from the dinoflagellate DNA, the chromosomes exploded.
Did they find a sequence from positive-ion neutralization to histone neutralization? No; their evolutionary belief dictates that they use imagination and speculation to invent stories to link different organisms with common ancestry. There are puzzles to solve here, for sure. Why would a marine alga have so much more DNA than a human? Why would it use a different method of neutralizing the DNA? Dont let these puzzles overshadow the major question: how genetic information arose that could be systematically and accurately copied, then condensed by orders of magnitude into a tiny space. If you ever figure out how to compact your wardrobe into a shoebox, one thing is certain: you will not have done it by an evolutionary process.Darwin doberman admits evolutionary theory is practically useless, from 08/30/2006.
Flatlife Has More Genes Than It Needs 08/23/2008
The compact genome shows remarkable complexity, including conserved gene content, gene structure and synteny [i.e., conserved linkage without requiring colinearity] relative to human and other eumetazoan genomes. Despite the absence of any known developmental program and only a modest number of cell types, the Trichoplax genome encodes a rich array of transcription factors and signalling genes that are typically associated with embryogenesis and cell fate specification in eumetazoans, as well as other genes that are consistent with cryptic patterning of cells, unobserved life history stages and/or complex execution of biological processes such as fission and embryonic development in these enigmatic creatures.One of the authors of the paper said, Trichoplax has had just as much time to evolve as humans, but because of its morphological simplicity, it is tempting to think of it as a surrogate for an early animal.
Update 08/23/2008: Elisabeth Pennisi, reporting for Science,2 added rhetoric to the surprise effect coming from this genome. Trichoplax barely qualifies as an animal. she said. It is one millimeter long and covered with cilia. It glides along like an amoeba. It usually divides by budding or fission. One biologist was quoted saying, Yet this animals genome looks surprisingly like ours. Here are some other quotes from her news report:
1. Srivastava et al, The Trichoplax genome and the nature of placozoans, Nature 454, 955-960 (21 August 2008) | doi:10.1038/nature07191.
2. Elizabeth Pennisi, Genomics: Simple Animals Genome Proves Unexpectedly Complex, Science, 22 August 2008: Vol. 321. no. 5892, pp. 1028-1029, DOI: 10.1126/science.321.5892.1028b.
The predictions of evolutionists that they would find Darwins tree of life in the genomes of organisms has been falsified. Genomes do not show a straightforward progression from simple to complex, with gradual acquisition of new function over time. The evo-talk in the article and paper sounds forced and superfluous. It may be tempting to think of it as a primitive evolutionary thing, but moral philosophy admonishes us to overcome temptation.Early Art Confounds Evolutionists 08/16/2008
August 16, 2008 The artwork on the walls of Chauvet Cave in France is too good to have been made by early modern humans. Chauvet should be removed from assessments of early modern humans in Europe, said UK archaeologist Robin Dennell. Including it leads to a gross distortion of their cognitive abilities. Other experts who dated the artwork at 30,000 years twice the estimated age of the more famous cave art at Lascaux stand by their dates. Chauvet is the best dated rock art site in the world, said French rock art expert Jean Clottes. Randall White (New York U) agreed: There are more dates from Chauvet than from most other caves combined. Michael Balter reported on the controversy in the Aug 15 issue of Science.1
The art in Grotte Chauvet was discovered about 10 years ago (07/26/2001, 04/22/2003). Its charcoal and ochre paintings of horses, bison and rhinos are so good, they surpass in quality the cave paintings estimated at half that age. Evolutionary anthropologists divide the modern human period in which the first signs of culture appear into the Aurignacian period (beginning 40,000 years BP) down to the Magdalenian period (17,000 to 12,000 years BP). They expected to find a progression in cognitive ability as reflected in art. The reverse is true. The fundamental importance of Chauvet is to show that the capacity of Homo sapiens to engage in artistic expression did not go through a linear evolution over many thousands of years, says cave art expert Gilles Tosello of the University of Toulouse (UT), France. It was there from the beginning (cf. 10/04/2001, 12/13/2003).
Because this runs contrary to evolutionary expectations, Dennell and colleague Paul Pettit of the University of Sheffield have found it too hard an empirical pill to swallow. They mounted a serious challenge to the dating of the art. They claim that later Magdalenian people could have picked up old charcoal off the floor to make the paintings. The Chauvet old-date defenders find that idea ridiculous. They present other arguments against attempts to revise the date, claiming, for instance, that the cave opening was sealed by a landslide well before the Magdalenian period had arrived.
Balter left the controversy at a standoff with Pettit looking like the underdog. He quoted Margaret Conkey (UC Berkeley) asking, Chauvet was an expression of the sensibilities, beliefs, and social relations of anatomically modern humans in this part of the world. What was it about their lives that made imagemaking in caves meaningful?
1. Michael Balter, Archaeology: Going Deeper Into the Grotte Chauvet, Science, 15 August 2008: Vol. 321. no. 5891, pp. 904-905, DOI: 10.1126/science.321.5891.904.
One other interesting detail in the article is that the humans who made the paintings apparently shared the cave with large, dangerous predators: cave bears. Hundreds of cave bear bones were found in the cave. Who were the hunters and who were the huntees? Maybe they took up residence in different seasons.Human Skeletons Found in Sahara 08/14/2008
August 14, 2008 They went looking for dinosaur bones, and found human skeletons instead. Thats what is being reported by National Geographic and the Los Angeles Times. A barren wasteland in the Sahara, covered with sand, has turned out to be a treasure trove of evidence of human occupation. The area appears to have been a lakeside paradise thousands of years ago.
The area of human habitation, with skeletons and artifacts indicating fishing and hunting, lies on top of Cretaceous strata known for dinosaur fossils. This Stone-Age site, which National Geographic called a Green Sahara and the Times called Green Eden, appears to have supported two different tribes of people at different times. 200 human burial sites were found. One of them showed the tenderness of family affection: A woman, possibly a mother, and two children laid to rest holding hands, arms outstretched toward each other, on a bed of flowers.
The area, named Gobero, was a spine-tingling discovery when first found in 2000. Paul Sereno (U of Chicago) and team just published their data in PLoS ONE after several seasons of excavation.1 The team classifies the human strata as Holocene and the underlying bedrock as Cretaceous. Still, it was surprising to find human bones when they were looking for dinosaur bones. Sereno and colleagues have also made several dinosaur discoveries in the region, including the bizarre cow-like dino Nigersaurus and the bus-size SuperCroc, National Geographic reported. Imagine Serenos surprise when he found human skeletons. Youre not looking at [dinosaurs], he said; youre looking at your own species.
1. Sereno et al, Lakeside Cemeteries in the Sahara: 5000 Years of Holocene Population and Environmental Change, Public Library of Science ONE, 3(8): e2995 doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0002995.
This is an intriguing discovery. The team did not find a mixture of dinosaur bones and human bones in the same strata, but the close juxtaposition calls for explanation. Evolutionists would have us believe 65 million years separated the Cretaceous and Holocene deposits. The strata are classified, and their ages are inferred, however, by the bones they contain, and their presumed position in the evolutionary story. Where are all the intervening epochs between the two deposits?Membrane Switches Keep Your Brain Humming 08/14/2008
August 14, 2008 Tunnels with rotating gates and rocker switches this sounds like mechanical engineering. Its the machinery that helps power your brain, reported scientists from UCLA and the Pasteur Institute.
Their paper in Science described the structure of just one of many kinds of membrane channels.1 Cell membranes are lined with elaborate one-way gates. This one binds a sodium ion to a galactose sugar molecule and brings it inside the cell. Its a key player in the process that brings fuel to the brain. Karpowich and Wang brought it home in their review of the paper in the same issue of Science:2
The average Western adult metabolizes hundreds of grams of carbohydrates per day, half of which is used as an energy source for the brain. To benefit from these ingested carbohydrates, they must first be broken down into simple sugars, such as glucose, and absorbed through the epithelial cells of the intestine. The glucose must then be reabsorbed in the kidneys. On page 810 of this issue, Faham et al. report a major advance in elucidating the molecular mechanism by which this highly effective absorption is realized.The wording in this statement reveals the stage that molecular biology is in. Scientists have known about the chemistry of biological processes for decades. Only now, however, are scientists revealing the mechanics behind that chemistry. And mechanics it is: the paper describes gates made of protein that rotate open and closed to let the proper molecules in. Other gates that are members of some of the other 250 families of membrane transporters use other mechanisms. One of them in a simplified illustration in Karpowich and Wangs review looks like a rocker switch: the cargo drops into a V-shaped mechanism, which when properly authenticated, inverts into an upside-down V and ejects the cargo outside the cell.
The sodium galactose transporter studied by Faham et al looks more like a cylindrical gumball machine. As the outside gate rotates, the cargo drops in. Once safely enclosed, the inside gate rotates open and out falls the cargo into the cytoplasm. Faham et al described this an alternating-access mechanism. Since they act as one-way gates, Karpowich and Wang called these symmetric transporters for asymmetric transport.
What did the scientists think of these clever machines? For one thing, the researchers noticed that there are other families of transporters that use similar mechanical methods, but have nothing in common in terms of their protein sequences. This structural homology is surprising, they said. ....These findings support classification of proteins using criteria such as topological arrangement, molecular function, and unique structural features involved in mechanism, rather than solely on the basis of primary sequence. The statement implies that evolutionary relationships are less useful in classifying the machines than functional descriptions. In fact, evolution was never mentioned in either paper.
1. Faham, Watanabe et al, The Crystal Structure of a Sodium Galactose Transporter Reveals Mechanistic Insights into Na+/Sugar Symport, Science, 8 August 2008: Vol. 321. no. 5890, pp. 810-814, DOI: 10.1126/science.1160406.
2. Karpowich and Wang, Symmetric Transporters for Asymmetric Transport, Science, 8 August 2008: Vol. 321. no. 5890, pp. 781-782, DOI: 10.1126/science.1161495.
Riddle: where would Darwinism go if it entered a cell by one of these transporter machines? Answer: first, it would be tagged as foreign and dangerous contraband. Then, a kinesin would carry it down a microtubule to a proteasome, where it would be cut up into little bits, then ejected outside where it belongs. Where would Intelligent Design go? It doesnt need the transporter, because its already in the nucleus, encoded as DNA.Mad scientists engage in bellicose rhetoric over intelligent design, from 08/13/2005.
Does Cancer Illustrate Fitness? 08/13/2008
After analyzing a half million gene mutations, the researchers found that although different gene mutations control different cancer pathways, each pathway was controlled by only one set of gene mutations.Gerald Weismann, Editor-in-Chief of the The FASEB Journal, wins Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week with his comment on the paper: Little could Darwin have known that his Origin of the Species would one day explain the Origin of the Tumor.
Good grief, cancer is not fitness. Evolutionists (at least those who think consistently) have to believe that everything destructive is just as worthy of our respect and admiration as everything good and beautiful, because it is just another manifestation of the mindless, senseless, directionless, purposeless laws of evolution (which are not laws at all in the classical scientific sense: where are the equations?)Cassini Survives Enceladus Geyser Plunge 08/12/2008
August 12, 2008 The Cassini spacecraft has done it again returned some of the most stunning outer planet images ever taken. Zipping by at just 30 miles over the active surface of Enceladus, Cassini did a skeet shoot of high-res images achieving 7 meters per pixel in places the highest resolution of any shot of a moon taken during a flyby. The images can be viewed at JPL, NASA and Ciclops, website of the Imaging Team.
Its too early to interpret the bizarre texture of this active moon as revealed in the images, but certain things stand out. There are no craters. The terrain is criss-crossed by fractures, new ones overlying older ones. Boulders as large as houses dot the hills. And the tiger stripes sites of active eruptions have heaps of material lining their edges. Press releases arrived on Thursday August 14: for the latest on the discoveries and what scientists are thinking about them, see the websites for Cassini and Ciclops.
On the Enceladus Flyby Blog you can find links to animations of the event (see the Aug 7 and 11 entries), and other interesting facts about Enceladus and Cassini.
Catch the thrill of discovery. Read some of the responses of space enthusiasts to these pictures at Unmanned Spaceflight, and learn more about them on the Planetary Society blog. Pictures like this are hard to come by: it takes a spaceship costing billions of dollars, and years of flight and planning. Soon we will have more to say about Enceladus. For now, enjoy history in the making.Admissions of Ignorance in Evolutionary Theory 08/11/2008
August 11, 2008 For a scientific idea some have proclaimed as a fact no longer in need of proof, and as well-established as gravity, Darwins theory of evolution still reveals surprising weaknesses when its defenders speak about the details. Detecting these weaknesses requires tuning out the media hype, and tuning into scientific papers and pro-evolution journals where evolutionary theory is debated. Elisabeth Pennisi wrote one such account in Science last week.1 It revealed that the public is getting a very misleading view of evolution both its operation and the strength of the evidence for it.
It would seem obvious that evolution needs a genetic basis. Darwin attempted to explain it in his day, unsuccessfully. The neo-Darwinian synthesis of the 1930s was supposed to explain it. Serious questions about how evolution works at the genetic level remain, however, to this day. This was evident in Pennisis use of war metaphors to describe two groups of evolutionists that are locking horns over a current issue: whether genes or regulatory elements (in particular, cis regulatory factors) are key to evolutionary change. The latter, a fashionable idea, has been growing in popularity among those in the evo-devo subculture: i.e., evolutionary biologists who focus more on developmental than genetic influences. When Jerry Coyne and Hopi Hoekstra wrote a pointed critique of the regulatory-element hypothesis in the journal Evolution last year, Egos were bruised. Tempers flared. Journal clubs, coffee breaks at meetings, and blogs are still all abuzz, she wrote.
None of the combatants doubt Darwins theory in the slightest, of course. Still, some statements in Pennisis account could give a Darwin-doubter cause for gloating. Consider this paragraph:
[Sean] Carroll [U of Wisconsin] argued that mutations in cis regions were a way to soft-pedal evolutionary change. Genes involved in establishing body plans and patterns have such a broad reach--affecting a variety of tissues at multiple stages of development--that mutations in their coding regions can be catastrophic. In contrast, changes in cis elements, several of which typically work in concert to control a particular genes activity, are likely to have a much more limited effect. Each element serves as a docking site for a particular transcription factor, some of which stimulate gene expression and others inhibit it. This modularity makes possible an infinite number of cis-element combinations that finely tune gene activity in time, space, and degree, and any one sequence change is unlikely to be broadly disruptive.This sounds like damage control. Is the standard explanation too risky? Yet critics of the evo-devo alternative argue that every such fine-tuning change must be adaptive to persist through natural selection. Precious few examples, they say, can be found to illustrate a regulatory change related to a morphological change. One regulatory change in a mouse, for instance, can make its digits grow slightly longer (see 01/18/2008), but the mutant mouse is hardly ready to take off flying like a bat.
Wheres the beef? challenged Pennisi, giving the floor to Coyne and Hoekstra, who countered that mutations for evolutionary change must occur in genes:
But Hoekstra and Coyne say this enthusiasm doesnt rest on solid evidence. In their Evolution article, they picked apart these examples and the rationale behind them. They pulled quotes from Carrolls work to criticize his fervor and berated the evo-devo community for charging full speed ahead with the cis-regulatory hypothesis. Evo devos enthusiasm for cis-regulatory changes is unfounded and premature, they wrote. Changes in gene regulation are important, says Hoekstra, but they are not necessarily caused by mutations in cis elements. They do not have one case where its really nailed down, she says.Those be fightin words, indeed. Coyne even used psychological warfare, telling Science, Im distressed that Sean Carroll is preaching to the general public that we know how evolution works based on such thin evidence.
The opposition did not take this sitting down. Almost as soon as their article appeared, lines were drawn and rebuttals planned, Pennisi reported like a war correspondent. But did they come back with a knock-down case for evolution? All Sean Carroll could reply was that his view is the best of a bad lot:
I am not trying to say that regulatory sequence is the most important thing in evolution, he told Science. But when it comes to whats known about the genetic underpinnings of morphological evolution, its a shutout in favor of cis elements, he asserts.That one statement could come as a shock to students who have been taught all their lives that evolution by natural selection acting on genetic mutations is well understood. The article degenerated from here into the battle of the T-shirts and other fluff. Coyne, for instance, sported a T-shirt that said Im no CISsy, and entitled his talk at a recent conference, Give me just one cis-regulatory mutation and Ill shut up.
Pennisi reported statistics from pro-evo-devo people purporting to show the extent of regulatory elements involved in mutated genes. Yet even these data are inconclusive, another was quoted admitting. At the end of the article, there was no winner. Pennisis closing theme, with variations, was how little is known. Everyone was making excuses. Evo-devo devotees complained that associations between regulatory elements and morphological effects are hard to measure. I really want to emphasize, Carroll bluffed, that evo-devo [researchers] havent come to this way of thinking simply through storytelling but through data. Was this a response to ridicule he has heard? Or was it a backhanded charge that his opponents are the storytellers? Either way, its hard to feel his conclusions are compelling when the relevance of certain regulatory elements, and their interactions, are confusing, and the numbers may be misleading. How much more so when genetic mutations can affect the regulatory elements themselves? What role do RNA elements play? What about gene duplications? Patricia Wittkop (U of Michigan) suggested there may be more noise than signal when she said, The important question is about finding out whether there are principles that will allow us to predict the most likely paths of change for a specific trait or situation. It would seem any scientific claim needs such principles to be deemed scientific.
If the evolutionists cannot resolve their conflict, they can at least improve their battlefield protocols. Pennisi ended with this:
With so much unknown, we dont want to spend our time bickering, says [Gregory] Wray [Duke U]. He and others worry that Hoekstra, Coyne, and Carroll have taken too hard a line and backed themselves into opposite corners. Coyne doesnt seem to mind the fuss, but Hoekstra is more circumspect about their Evolution paper. I stand by the science absolutely, she says. But if I did it over again, I would probably tone down the language.
1. Elisabeth Pennisi, Evolutionary Biology: Deciphering the Genetics of Evolution, Science, 8 August 2008: Vol. 321. no. 5890, pp. 760-763, DOI: 10.1126/science.321.5890.760.
The vast majority of the public, including high school students, never sees the bickering between Darwiniacs over the most fundamental aspects of their theory. Thats why you need to see it exposed here.Evolutionists gas each other, from 08/05/2004. Niles Eldredge bashes Dawkins and the Selfish Gene idea, promotes his punctuated equilibria model in 2004 book.
These Bugs Have the Right Stride 08/09/2008
Well ignore the brief Darwinist nonsense thrown into the lead paragraph, since it appears to have nothing whatsoever to do with the scientific work:Life in Space: Follow the Hot Water, not the Hot Air 08/08/2008The amazing water strider known for its ability to walk on water came within just a hair of sinking into evolutionary oblivion.Actually, that was too funny not to award Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week. Evolutionary oblivion; what a suggestive term. It has possibilities.
August 8, 2008 Planetary scientists have their eyes and instruments on regions of hot water, but speculating too dogmatically about life in space could get you in hot water yourself.
Simon Klatterhorn (geologist, U of Idaho) is mesmerized by the possibility of life at Europa, Jupiters ice-crusted oceanic moon. In an interview by Science Daily, he said that Europa brings out the adventurer in him. Cracks in the ice of Europa and of Saturns moon Enceladus are peepholes into the possibility of life down there. He knows that life requires water, and he knows that life survives on earth in some of the most inhospitable environments. Put the two together, and he finds the possibility of life in space compelling. This research feeds that need that I have as a geologist and as a person to be the explorer, to be the adventurer, to see things that no one else has seen before and figure out things that no one else has figured out before, he said. And out in the solar system is a great place to do that, because there are some thingslike the plumes on Enceladusthat we really are seeing for the very first time.
Speaking of the plumes of Enceladus, the Cassini spacecraft is all set for another daring dive through the geysers Monday night (Aug. 11). Swooping down at just 30 miles over the surface, the spaceship might be able to peer right down into the geyser vents. Follow the Blog for details, and read the Flight Plan. On this encounter, the cameras get priority time. Undoubtedly some scientists will speculate about the possibility of life in a subterranean ocean.
Even those who study life in space full time, like SETI researchers, can get annoyed by dogmatists. Seth Shostak, director of the SETI Institute, let his emotions fly in an editorial about UFO-diehards on Space.com. He has gotten pretty tired of their ad hominem attacks on anyone who demands more physical evidence than they can provide after 60 years of sightings. He quoted some examples of hot-headed UFO bullies. Hes willing to listen, and evaluate decent evidence: After all, he said, I happen to think that extraterrestrial intelligence is a frequent occurrence in a universe of ten thousand million million million stars. But he expects civilized discourse and respect among those who want to approach the subject scientifically.
One point Shostak emphasized is that one doesnt have to be personally involved in UFO reports to be able to express an opinion about it. Carl Sagan was asked his opinion about many matters in which he had no research background, he said. His thoughts on same were valuable and worth hearing. The burden of proof in science is on the one making a claim.
Shostak is a favorite SETI researcher to engage in civil discourse and respectful debate, because he so honestly opens himself up to judgment by his own standards. OK, then, can outsiders express opinions about SETI? Can the opinions of a SETI critic or Darwin doubter with strong academic credentials and good presentation skills be valuable and worth hearing? Is the burden of proof on the SETI researcher to back up his belief that ETI is a common occurrence in the universe? Obviously he has no way out, and would have to say yes. So thank you, Dr. Shostak; well take you up on it.New Camera Imitates Eyeball 08/07/2008
August 7, 2008 Scientists at the University of Illinois and Northwestern University have succeeded in manufacturing stretchable optical electronic sensors on curved surfaces. This will open up a whole new world of new imaging products inventions that imitate the human eyeball. The team said this about the eyeball in their paper in Nature:1
The human eye is a remarkable imaging device, with many attractive design features. Prominent among these is a hemispherical detector geometry, similar to that found in many other biological systems, that enables a wide field of view and low aberrations with simple, few-component imaging optics. This type of configuration is extremely difficult to achieve using established optoelectronics technologies, owing to the intrinsically planar nature of the patterning, deposition, etching, materials growth and doping methods that exist for fabricating such systems. Here we report strategies that avoid these limitations, and implement them to yield high-performance, hemispherical electronic eye cameras based on single-crystalline silicon.... In a general sense, these methods, taken together with our theoretical analyses of their associated mechanics, provide practical routes for integrating well-developed planar device technologies onto the surfaces of complex curvilinear objects, suitable for diverse applications that cannot be addressed by conventional means.Commenting on this new technology in the same issue of Nature,2 Takao Someya (U of Tokyo) remarked that flat-field imagers used up till now suffer from distortion and non-uniform brightness. He said that the new breakthrough came because the researchers have drawn inspiration from animals eyes and have succeeded in eliminating these fundamental limitations of conventional artificial-vision systems. What can we expect from this invention? Compact health-monitoring devices, ultra-compact cameras with less distortion, adaptive focusing mechanisms, and more gadgets for industry and the home maybe high-resolution, bright cell-phone cameras, for instance.
Someya even foresees using the technology to imitate insects compound eyes with exceptional dynamic visual acuity and fish eyes that have a 360° field of view. Its an exceptional advance in optical engineering, he said. Where did it come from? These and other types of biologically inspired device should become feasible given the advances in optical engineering made possible by the advent of geometrically transformable and stretchable-compressible electronics and optoelectronics something animals, insects and fish have had all along.
The UK Telegraph said this invention heralds a cyborg revolution. Reporter Roger Highfield quoted team member John Rogers of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. We believe that some of the most compelling areas of future application involve the intimate, conformal integration of electronics with the human body, in ways that are inconceivable using established technologies," he said. This approach allows us to put electronics in places where we couldnt before. We can now, for the first time, move device design beyond the flatland constraints of conventional systems. See also the Science Daily report.
1. Rogers, Ko et al, A hemispherical electronic eye camera based on compressible silicon optoelectronics, Nature 454, 748-753 (7 August 2008) | doi:10.1038/nature07113.
2. Takao Someya, Optics: Electronic eyeballs, Nature 454, 703-704 (7 August 2008) | doi:10.1038/454703a.
How much did this discovery owe to the theory of evolution? Zip. The word was absent in all the papers and articles about it. How much did it depend on intelligent design (i.e., reverse-engineering a contrivance with attractive design features)? That was the whole point.How the lens of the human eye stays clear: see 08/28/2003. Can evolution explain such wonders? See 08/20/2003.
Adult Stem Cells Race Ahead; Embryonics Falter 08/07/2008
1. Kim et al, Pluripotent stem cells induced from adult neural stem cells by reprogramming with two factors, Nature 454, 646-650 (24 July 2008) | doi:10.1038/nature07061.
2. Aoi et al, Generation of Pluripotent Stem Cells from Adult Mouse Liver and Stomach Cells, Science, 1 August 2008: Vol. 321. no. 5889, pp. 699-702, DOI: 10.1126/science.1154884.
3. Gretchen Vogel and Constance Holden, Ethics Questions Add to Concerns About NIH Lines, Science, 8 August 2008: Vol. 321. no. 5890, pp. 756-757, DOI: 10.1126/science.321.5890.756b.
Dont forget how the Big Science community held President Bush hostage with claims he didnt care for the disabled when he twice vetoed Congressional attempts to expand embryonic stem cell research. Dont forget how Hollywood tugged at our heartstrings with disabled celebrities begging for cures that could only come from ES cells. Let this be a lesson about the trustworthiness of Big Science to make right choices on political and moral issues. Meanwhile, can Californians get their $3 billion back after they were deceived into splurging on this morally-corrupt, dishonestly-hyped boondoggle? (11/03/2004, 02/08/2005, 10/13/2006). Maybe after they get the Lottery removed. Good luck. The Lottery was similarly sold to voters as desperately needed for education. Multiple editorials since have admitted that Lottery money doesnt amount to a hill of beans in the school budget. Meanwhile, a few lucky individuals get filthy rich for no admirable reason on the backs of millions of gullible individuals (who never learned math at public school) who are the least able to throw their money away.Survival of the, Whatever 08/06/2008
August 6, 2008 Two articles recently have cast doubt on whether the classic Darwinian phrase survival of the fittest fits what happens in nature.
Science Daily reported on work by researchers at University of Texas at Austin that suggests evolutions products may not always be optimal. The team speculated that mutations which help an animal in the short term may not help in the long term. Working on this idea with computer-simulated RNA, Their computer models show that the evolution of optimal organisms often requires a long sequence of interacting mutations, each arising by chance and surviving natural selection. Good combinations are hard to evolve, they said; thats why evolution opts for the easy solutions at the expense of the harder, better ones.
An article in Discover Magazine considered the cute oddball of the animal world, the giant panda. The pandas strange diet and clumsy sex life were subjects for a discussion on whether it makes a better poster animal for intelligent design or for evolution. Surprisingly, author Lizzie Buchen claimed that the panda is a favorite animal of creationists, who argue that the pandas survival proves the existence of God. Where did that come from? An embedded link points to an essay by Laurence Smart, who appears to be somewhat of a lone ranger among creationists judging from his website, which lists his own book and writings. His article on pandas questioned whether natural selection theory would have produced such a creature. Perhaps Buchen was also thinking of the intelligent-design textbook Of Pandas and People; but in that book, Davis and Kenyon only used pandas as a case study on difficulties with classification and homology. They did not claim the panda was intelligently or poorly designed.
Buchen put forth a possible evolutionary explanation based on lack of competition for the pandas diet and sex life. Summarizing the explanation of Megan Owen at the San Diego Zoo, she opined,
When pandas split off from the bear lineage about 3 million years ago, tasty and nutritious cuisine like meat, fruit, and nuts may have been difficult to obtain while bamboo was ubiquitousa wide-open ecological niche. So there were two choices: Exert some serious effort to get the good stuff, or munch away on a seemingly inexhaustible supply of woody grasses.This led to their modified chewing muscles, unusual thumbs and weird digestive system. The biggest argument for the intelligent design crowd is the pandas mating habits, she alleged without a reference, though Laurence Smarts lone article did list reported problems with panda sexuality as evidence against natural selection (not, though, as evidence for intelligent design). Buchen, however, after explaining how natural selection might have favored the pandas reproductive apparatus and behavior, concluded that The pandas weaknesses in todays worldfrom its failure to reproduce in captivity to its yawn-inspiring lifestyleis a product of its natural history, not a malicious joke of an intelligent designer.
Here we have malicious jokes against creationists and slanders against intelligent design, propped up with the Gribbleflix theory of evolution (12/19/2007). Somehow Buchens ability to tell an evolutionary tale gives her the privilege of misrepresenting her opponents and impugning the character of God. Evolutionists should disown her for bringing up a very Lamarckian view of evolution. The purpose-driven panda made a choice: munch away on inexhaustible bamboo instead of work hard for meat as if pandas are capable of choice, or their offspring would inherit an acquired taste.Defeat Spam: Imitate the Bodys Defenses 08/05/2008
August 5, 2008 Your bodys immune system is inspiring the next generation of email spam-fighters. The University of Southampton reported that An algorithm for spam recognition inspired by the immune system will be presented at the first European conference on Artificial Life (ALIFE XI) being held in Winchester this week.
The idea is that in the same way as the vertebrate adaptive immune system learns to distinguish harmless from harmful substances, these principles can be applied to spam detection. The conference is hosted by the Universitys new Science and Engineering of Natural Systems group.
Natural systems do not do their own science and engineering. The engineering is embedded in their DNA. The conference attendees will hear from experts on alleged self-organizing structures and embedded, embodied, evolving and adaptive systems. This is code for intelligent design. Embedded instructions require design. Embodied adaptive systems require pre-programmed design by intelligent agents (as in robotics). Evolving systems that perform such feats without intelligent help, however, exist only in the vivid imaginations of secular evolutionists. Their best example so far is a tornado in a junkyard.Contrary to popular perception, the book by Copernicus about the sun-centered universe was widely read at the time. See the 08/15/2002 entry. Another 2002 story showed that oil can be made from marble; see 08/13/2002.
Phoenix Did NOT Find Mars Life 08/04/2008
So they did not claim to find any organics, and they found a highly-oxidizing substance that would normally be toxic to life. Youd think after so many years of bad news from Mars (02/18/2008, 01/09/2007, 01/28/2005) that Martian fever would be dead, but look at faith of the believers. Phoenix could find one molecule of tailpipe soot, call it organic, and the press would go bananas. Even if the soot turned out to be residue from the landers own thrusters, by then the media will have soaked it for all its evolutionary worth. The Martian Meteorite story launched NASAs revitalized Mars program and started the new science of astrobiology (04/17/2006). Only later did we realize it was scientifically unfounded. Were all for exploring Mars but NASA had better find better reasons for going than titillating the public with false hopes and dubious inferences from questionable data.Scientists Bemoan Research Fraud 08/02/2008
August 02, 2008 A commentary entitled Repairing research integrity published in Nature June 181 struck a nerve. Three letters to the editor in the July 31 issue said the problem is worse than Titus, Wells and Rhoades indicated when they said many issues of research fraud go unreported, and suggested principles to fix the problem.
The letters to the editor were disturbing. Two Brazilian researchers said fraud is widespread in their country: If misconduct allegations are ever filed, official statements are usually vague and investigations can take several years, they said. Whistle-blowers are typically frowned upon by their colleagues and officials at their institutions.
A Croatian letter-writer said that integrity is more common in America than elsewhere. Take Europe, where apart from in Scandinavia, Germany, the United Kingdom and, to some degree, France little or no regulation exists to control scientific misconduct. Individual cases of fraud can therefore be more easily hidden and may be far more common than in countries with established standards.
A letter by two Americans was perhaps the most disturbing. They opined that dishonesty is endemic from the top down: The academic and financial rewards of calculated, cautious dishonesty on the part of some scientific leaders are, we believe, all too apparent to the junior scientists they supervise, they said. No amount of tutoring, stricter supervision or courses in research ethics will fix this problem.
Maybe scientists need a little fear of God.
1. Titus, Wells and Rhoades, Repairing research integrity, Nature 453, 980-982 (19 June 2008) | doi:10.1038/453980a.
Remember, this is the culture announcing to you that Darwinism is a fact of science. Tell us, Mr. Darwin, where integrity evolved from. Science needs Biblical morality whether it acknowledges it or not. Let him who is without sin cast the first stone at the despised outcast accused of prostituting science with religion.How Much Is Known About Climate History? 08/01/2008
August 1, 2008 Scientific papers on earth history can seem very erudite and confident, filled with jargon and named periods that appear carved in stone. Every once in awhile, though, a surprise discovery raises questions about how sound their timelines and models really are. Get a load of this opening to a review by Jacqueline Flückiger,1 an environmental physicist in Zurich, of a paper in Science2 that said major climate changes can occur much more rapidly than thought:
When Manhattan froze in a day in the movie The Day After Tomorrow as a result of an abrupt change in the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation, scientists emphasized the physical impossibility of this scenario. Now some might be stunned by how quickly climate can change. On page 680 of this issue, Steffensen et al. zoom in on three climatic shifts recorded in the NGRIP ice core from central Greenland... and show that the atmospheric circulation at mid to high northern latitudes changed within just 1 to 3 years.In looking at the paper and the review, however, questions arise about how scientists know what they are talking about. The conclusions rely heavily on ice core data, and interpreting these rely heavily on oxygen-isotope ratios. We saw from the 07/29/2008 entry that assumptions underlying the use of oxygen isotope data can be drastically wrong.
Flückiger wrote matter-of-factly about several prehistoric climate periods, such as Bølling-Allerød warm period (~14,700 years ago) and the onset (~12,850 years ago) and termination (~11,700 years ago) of the Younger Dryas cold period. To the extent these periods, named after modern human beings who werent living at the time, are calibrated by proxy measurements based on questionable assumptions, how reliable are the conclusions?
The review waltzes past these questions with an air of certitude: The high resolution of the records allows them to precisely define the duration of the shifts, and because all measurements were done along the same ice core, the sequence of events in different proxies can be compared without uncertainty in the relative timing. In addition, she discussed correlations with other data sets besides the ice cores.
Actually, though, the interpretation of the data is heavily influenced by the consensus theories in which the models are embedded. The fact that both the reviewer and the research team were very surprised at the rapidity of major climate changes they interpreted from the ice cores should disturb the confidence placed in the pronouncements of the experts. In addition, they are dealing with very complex almost chaotic causes of change. In her ending paragraphs, Flückiger herself cast doubt on the confidence level of the outputs based on the complexity of the inputs:
Global coupled climate models provide one way to study the complex mechanisms that underlie climate shifts. Simulated climate shifts are, however, considerably slower than the observed ones, lasting a hundred to a few hundred years. This might be due to missing feedbacks, the wrong forcing of the abrupt shifts, or a misguided focus on changes in ocean circulation or temperature, rather than other aspects of the climate system. A closer look at wind patterns and atmospheric circulation in models will either reveal faster shifts and help clarify the underlying mechanisms, or tell us that better models are needed to study that question.So the modelers are dealing with just a few inputs, without knowing what other inputs there are, or how relevant they are. Scientists may have a misguided focus on some data sets. Their models differ in resolution from real-time effects by orders of magnitude. They do not understand the dynamics of important events, nor what they have in common. Some inputs are admittedly random. The question no one seems to be asking is, based on these uncertainties, how do they know the timeline and named periods of which they speak confidently have any connection to the real history of the earth? Steffensen et al ended their paper saying, Neither the magnitude of such shifts nor their abruptness is currently captured by state-of-the-art climate models.... If we are to be confident in the ability of those models to accurately predict the impacts of future abrupt change, their ability to match what we see in the past is crucial. For more on problems with climate models, see the 02/05/2008 entry.
Another indication that global climate reconstruction and prediction is a dubious art showed up in a Science Daily story. Everyone has been hearing lately about the shrinkage of the Antarctic ice sheets and the disappearance of ice near the North Pole. Such announcements are usually stated in a tone of alarm, foretelling that the earths climate is in peril. Why, then, did this article state nonchalantly that Antarctica was ice-free 40 million years ago? Sure enough, a fossil snapshot from New Zealand reveals a greenhouse Earth, with warmer seas and little or no ice in Antarctica. Another article in Science Daily discussed warm-water fossils found in Antarctica and said it proved that the South Pole continent was ice free again 14 million years ago. The BBC News said the warm-water ostracod fossils show exceptional preservation in three dimensions.
Considering these questions and issues about scientific certainty when dealing with complex phenomena, it seems ironic that Nature, in a book review this week,3 took a jab at politicians. Jan Witkowski (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory) reviewed a new book about the tragic story of how Stalin elevated Lysenko, a charlatan, and murdered Nikolai Vavilov, a noble-minded scientist sincerely trying to help feed the Russian people through good genetic research. Lysenkos misguided policies resulted in the death of millions of people from starvation. Instead of aiming his moral lesson at communism, however, Witkowski seemed to have Washington on his mind: Even now, politics continues to trump good science, as is evident from the delays in reducing global carbon emissions, he said. Pringles very readable account is a timely reminder that public policies must be based on rational decisions drawn from the best data available. Does he really think that is what is going on at the U.N.?
Update 08/04/2008: The paper on the Antarctic fossils came out on PNAS today.4 The authors found moss tissues that were freeze-dried and unfossilized i.e., the actual moss tissues were intact. Based on radiometric dating of ash falls in the area, they claim these delicate tissues, along with detailed parts of beetles and ostracods, have persisted in this dry valley for 14 million years. PhysOrg reported the story, too, and Live Science quoted a researcher who said, We knew we shouldnt expect to see something like that.
On the same day, Science Daily reported claims that an abrupt climate change occurred in Western Europe 12,700 years ago. The extremely rapid cooling occurred long before human-made changes in the atmosphere.
1. Jacqueline Flückiger, Climate Change: Did You Say Fast? Science, 1 August 2008: Vol. 321. no. 5889, pp. 650-651, DOI: 10.1126/science.1159821.
2. Steffensen et al, High-Resolution Greenland Ice Core Data Show Abrupt Climate Change Happens in Few Years, Science, 1 August 2008: Vol. 321. no. 5889, pp. 680-684, DOI: 10.1126/science.1157707.
3. Jan Witkowski, Stalins War on Genetic Science, Nature 454, 577-579 (31 July 2008) | doi:10.1038/454577a.
4. Lewis et al, Mid-Miocene cooling and the extinction of tundra in continental Antarctica, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, published online before print August 4, 2008, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0802501105.
One of the scientists in the Antarctic-moss story quickly used the data for a global warming sermon: You have to understand where these thresholds are, because, if human beings are unfortunate enough to push climate over one of these thresholds, it could be a total catastrophe. Instead of repenting over his evolutionary timeline have just been falsified, he got self-righteous about what humans should do.