Creation-Evolution Headlines
March 2010
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“Dumbed-down media coverage has bred mistrust among some scientists, leading them to withdraw from what they regards as a media circus.  Most, however, seem to be largely content with a system that disguises the very human process of scientific discovery as a seamless stream of ingenious and barely disputed ‘breakthroughs’  Like other elites, researchers feel no great yearning to be held to account by the press.....
    Science is being misrepresented as a cacophony of sometimes divergent but nonetheless definitive ‘findings’... The public learns nothing about the actual cut and thrust of the scientific process”.
—Colin Macilwain, discussing how science journalism has become a “weekly routine, which converts original scientific findings, via a production line of embargoed press releases from journals and universities, into a steady stream of largely uncritical stories.”  Nature News, Feb 17, 2010.
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Stem Cells Promise Regeneration     03/31/2010    
March 31, 2010 — Imagine being able to grow a new limb or jaw.  Adult stem cells may one day make possible something almost unimaginable in hospitals today: the regeneration of new limbs or organs.  There’s growing evidence, too, that mammals once had a regenerative potential that has been lost.
    Hydras do it.  Salamanders do it.  Why can’t mammals regrow damaged limbs?  Science Daily reported this month that a gene has been identified in mammals involved in regeneration: “A quest that began over a decade ago with a chance observation has reached a milestone: the identification of a gene that may regulate regeneration in mammals,” the article said.  “The absence of this single gene, called p21, confers a healing potential in mice long thought to have been lost through evolution and reserved for creatures like flatworms, sponges, and some species of salamander.”  Why evolution would ever lose something so beneficial was not explained.  But without p21, cells in a mouse’s damaged tissue began acting like embryonic stem cells and started differentiating into new tissue without forming a scar.
    Scientists at the Wistar Institute found this by accident in 1996.  They routinely pierce holes in the ears of lab mice for identification.  They found the ear holes on those with p21 knockout genes healed without a trace.  One researcher said, “Much like a newt that has lost a limb, these mice will replace missing or damaged tissue with healthy tissue that lacks any sign of scarring.
    This raises a question of why the p21 gene exists if its absence confers a benefit.  It turns out there is a delicate balance between the cell cycle, regeneration and cell death.  “In normal cells, p21 acts like a brake to block cell cycle progression in the event of DNA damage, preventing the cells from dividing and potentially becoming cancerous,” Dr. Ellen Heber-Katz of the Wistar Institute explained.  But this gene’s role must be considered in context: “The down regulation of p21 promotes the induced pluripotent state in mammalian cells, highlighting a correlation between stem cells, tissue regeneration, and the cell cycle.”  Because we know that regeneration works in salamanders and other organisms, it may be possible to steer these processes toward the repair of damaged limbs.  Think of the potential for athletes, soldiers and accident victims.
    Scientists at Duke University are making headway in regenerative medicine, too.  Science Daily reported that they “identified a new growth factor that stimulates the expansion and regeneration of hematopoietic (blood-forming) stem cells in culture and in laboratory animals.”  The protein they identified that can stimulate expansion of adult stem cells from umbilical cord blood or bone marrow may also have application in regeneration.  “Perhaps more importantly, systemic treatment with pleiotrophin may have the potential to accelerate recovery of the blood and immune system in patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiotherapy,” Dr. John Chute of Duke University said.  So far he has not seen the accelerated stem cells become malignant.
    According to another story reported by Science Daily, regenerative potential exists not just in stem cells, but in mature cells, too.  Scientists at Salk Institute for Biological Studies and the Center of Regenerative Medicine in Barcelona are hot on the tail of zebrafish, trying to figure out how they can regrow heart muscle.  “What the results of our study show is that mother nature utilizes other ways besides going all the way back to pluripotent stem cells to regenerate tissues and organs,” one of the Barcelona scientists said.  They found they could chop off 20% of the ventricle of a zebrafish heart and it would grow back, young and fresh as new.  Why can’t human hearts do that?  Why is our damaged heart tissue replaced with scar tissue?  In trying to find out, the scientists are suggesting that tissue regeneration could be coaxed with a little push in the right direction: “forced expression of cell cycle regulators can induce cardiomyocyte proliferation in mammals.”  The director of the CRMB said, “If we could mimic in mammalian cells what happens in zebrafish, perhaps we could be in a position to understand why regeneration does not occur in humans.”
    Today, Science Daily announced an even more dramatic regeneration story: a jaw bone grown from adult stem cells.  “A Columbia scientist has become the first to grow a complex, full-size bone from human adult stem cells,” the surprising subtitle declared.  Specifically, a tempero-mandibular joint was grown on a scaffold acting as a template for stem cells from bone marrow.  “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could get the patient’s own stem cells and grow a new jaw?” said Dr. June Wu, a craniofacial surgeon.  Currently, pieces of bone are taken from a patient’s hip or leg to replace facial injuries.  The lab still has to figure out how to connect the graft to the patient’s blood supply, but imagine surgeons some day being able to put a framework in place of a broken joint or bone, injecting it with your own stem cells, and getting it to grow back just like new.
    The hydra genome was sequenced recently.  This is an organism that, despite its small size and apparent simplicity, is a master of regeneration.  Science Daily said the study of the hydra “continues to advance research on regeneration, stem cells and patterning.”  Did you know this little organism has about as many genes as a human being?  If it can regrow parts, why couldn’t we?  Dr. Robert Steele of UC Irvine said, “Having the Hydra genome sequenced also enhances our ability to use it to learn more about the basic biology of stem cells, which are showing great promise for new treatments for a host of injuries and diseases.
    The University of Rochester Medical Center is looking into how to prepare adult mesenchymal stem cells and keep them ready for use, reported Science Daily.  They want these amazing regenerative cells to be available in the right condition and at the right time for treatment of knee injuries, osteoporosis, or whatever: “stem cells that create bones, cartilage, muscle and fat.”  It’s part of a medical bonanza in progress: “The work is part of ongoing research around the world aimed at harnessing the promise of stem cells for human health.”
    Note that none of these stories talked about embryonic stem cells.  Most of the stories about embryonic stem [ES] cells this month discussed efforts to understand how they grow and differentiate (e.g., Science Daily, PhysOrg, PhysOrg).  Some mentioned promises of possible treatments in the distant future (e.g., Science Daily), but none of them mentioned any realistic new treatments for human disease.  Another article on Science Daily worried that human ES cells may be much more different than mouse ES cells than was previously believed, making tests based on a mouse model “pointless -- and sometimes even misleading.”  Even with nothing practical to show for it, though, Science Magazine’s Insider Blog reported that “Congressional supporters of stem cell research have introduced legislation to codify President Barack Obama’s 2009 executive order, which lifted restrictions on the number of human embryonic stem cell lines available to federally funded researchers.”  Meanwhile, Science Daily said that amniotic fluid stem cells can be reprogrammed to pluripotency efficiently, “where they have characteristics similar to human embryonic stem cells that can develop into almost any type of cell in the human body” – so are ES cells, with ethical clouds surrounding them, even needed any more?
    Let’s end this entry with another miracle-cure story from adult stem cell research: PhysOrg reported this month, “University College London scientists and surgeons have led a revolutionary operation to transplant a new trachea into a child and use the child’s own stem cells to rebuild the airway in the body.”  The boy is recovering and breathing on his own.  Because the boy’s own stem cells were used, there is no problem of rejection.  A doctor said, “We have shown that stem cell-based treatments can save lives and can be used in the creation of living structures which draw upon the body’s own natural healing mechanisms for their support.”  Need more good news for the encore?  “The step-wise progression in technique from first patient to the present has delivered a highly streamlined, rapid process.  This means that such treatments potentially can be moved out of the hands of a tiny number of specialist centres into many hospitals around the world, including those in developing countries.
Update 03/31/2010: No sooner did this entry go to press but PhysOrg gave news that may make the song Three Blind Mice obsolete: “Gene therapy restores vision in mice,” the headline announced.  “Scientists from Buffalo, Cleveland, and Oklahoma City made a huge step toward making the blind see, it said.  They found that inserting DNA nanoparticles appears hopeful for curing inherited and acquired vision disorders that cause blindness, like retinitis pigmentosa.  “Making the blind see was once called a miracle,” said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal.  As we have expanded our understanding of evolution, genetics, and nanotechnology, chances are that ‘miraculous’ cures will become as commonplace as those claimed by faith-healers past and present.”  Aside from begging the question what the word miracle means (or what an understanding of evolution has to do with it), this treatment involves the returning genetic information where it is needed.
    Simultaneously, Nature News announced good news for burn victims and other people needing help with repairs on the largest organ of the human body: the skin.  “The identity of a stem-cell type that gives rise to different epidermal-cell lineages has just been revealed.”  Called bulge stem cells, they provide the “first evidence that skin stem cells can differentiate into interfollicular epidermis, sebaceous gland and hair follicle lineages.”  Harnessing and steering these cells may lead to treatments that “help with the rapid regeneration of the wounded skin.”
    Did we say bonanza?  Don’t read the New Scientist article about regenerating brain neurons with stem cells, or you may get overstimulated.  Jeff Macklis at MIT is thinking about neurogenesis with adult stem cells as a possible treatment for dementia and other brain disorders.  Caution is in order, of course: “the nervous system was built with precision,” he said, “and we will have to rebuild it with that precision.”
Update 04/01/2010: The father of induced pluripotent stem cells [iPS] was honored again.  In its “Random Samples” for April 2, Science said that Shinya Yamanaka won the $250,000 March of Dimes prize.  “Rapidly evolving iPS cell technology not only potentially eliminates the need to destroy human embryos for stem cells; it also has, in effect, democratized the field by making it possible for any cell biologist to work with pluripotent human stem cells.”

These bittersweet stories – sweet for the lifesaving treatments coming from adult stem cells, bitter for the incorrigible attachment of some scientists and politicians to cutting up human embryos for no good reason – are mostly sweet.  It appears that many research teams are following the promising leads with adult stem cells.  The interest in embryonic stem cells seems to have dimmed considerably, but we need to keep the addicts in check.  It’s no coincidence the staunch proponents of ES research are often far left politically – and support unlimited abortion; sometimes worse (euthanasia, death panels).  In a particularly disgusting example, leftist New York Times columnist Paul Krugman agreed that “Death panels would save money.”  He said of advisory panels making end-of-life decisions on whether to grant expensive treatments or not, “That is actually going to save quite a lot of money” (see World Net Daily).  Follow the people who love and respect human life.  The work on adult stem cells illustrates how science should be done: increasing understanding of natural processes for the purpose of benefiting human life.
    Switching gears, let’s think a little about the original creation.  These thoughts are admittedly speculative, but the possibility of restoring the capability of regeneration in mammals suggests that it used to exist.  Are we to believe the Darwinians’ ridiculous assertion that this “healing potential” was “lost through evolution”?  Why would evolution lose something so precious?  The original creation may have included the ability to recover completely from accidental damage.  After all, we do have such mechanisms, such as the blood clotting cascade, and we see regeneration working in the hydra and amphibians.  Automatic healing may have included internal factors (regeneration via stem cells) and external factors (the Tree of Life, for the healing of the nations, Rev. 22:1-3).  A Biblical creationist could account for loss of function because of the curse on sin.  In fact, much of medicine amounts to trying to regain ground from the cumulative effects of millennia of decay – mutations, sin, and a deteriorating environment.  There have also been genetic bottlenecks (the Flood) that could have squeezed out other health capabilities that may have existed in the first generations of people, before mutations accumulated and became fixed in the post-Flood remnant.  Original healing mechanisms might account for maintenance of an entropic world, since it is difficult to imagine a universe without a Second Law of Thermodynamics.
    With these considerations in mind, it can be seen that recapturing lost capabilities, like limb and organ regeneration, is a morally good, though temporary, solution.  Jesus Christ went about healing and doing good (even regenerating limbs and organs), knowing that the recipients of his grace would die eventually anyway.  His example shows that, even though death is inevitable, alleviating suffering is worthwhile.  What we really need, though, and what Christ focused on, was spiritual regeneration.  That treatment is already tested, working, paid for, and available to all (Titus 3:4-7).  Get your heart transplant today.
Next headline on:  Cell BiologyGeneticsMammalsHuman BodyHealthPolitics and EthicsBible and TheologyAmazing Facts
Elephants Equipped with 4WD     03/30/2010    
March 30, 2010 — An elephant is built like a four-wheel drive vehicle, say scientists from the Royal Veterinary College in London.  Unlike other mammals, which divide acceleration and braking between the front and rear legs, “power is applied independently to each limb,” reported PhysOrg from a paper in PNAS.1
    “Elephant limbs operate analogously to four-wheel-drive vehicles,” the authors stated unabashedly in their paper.  “Although the four limbs share qualitatively equivalent mechanical functions (i.e., their contributions to braking and propulsion are proportionately similar, not skewed toward one or the other), elephant locomotor mechanics are dominated by the forelimbs, which do more work and contribute more power to the CoM [Center of Mass].”
    The benefits of independent leg control come at the cost of lower effective mechanical advantage, requiring more energy at higher speeds, the authors explained.  That’s why elephants do not run very fast for very long.  Another study published by the University of Manchester last fall, however, said counterintuitively that “Large, lumbering animals such as elephants move much more efficiently than small, agile ones such as mice” (see PhysOrg).  In fact, contrary to man-made vehicles, “bigger animals move three and a half times more efficiently than smaller ones.”  This comes from having upright posture and more spring in the step.
    The reduced mechanical advantage from four-leg drive needs to be seen in context.  Another study reported by Royal Veterinary team last month in PhysOrg said that an “elephant’s movements are extremely economical.”  They compared it to mice and men:2 “Consuming a minimum of 0.8J/kg/m, an elephant’s cost of transport is 1/3 that of humans and 1/30 that of mice.
    They also examined whether elephant locomotion at higher speeds is best described as walking or running.  It’s both, depending on the definition.  They observed that, running or walking, elephants keep a remarkably even keel.  Watch an elephant’s shoulder next time you see one at a trot.  The scientists measured this, and found that “the elephant’s centre of mass bounces less than other animals’, reducing the giant’s cost of transport.
    From the baby elephant walk to the bull run, the gait of the elephant appears well designed for its four ton bulk.  None of the papers said anything about how this independent leg control might have evolved.  The PNAS paper, however, made one astonishing admission about evolution.  The authors essentially said that a contradiction to evolutionary expectations was somehow due to evolution anyway: “Functional equivalence of all four limbs is in contradiction to our previous findings, which assumed some functional similarity between the limbs of elephants and other mammals.  This equivalence seems to be a unique specialization of elephants that relates to their unique size, range of habitats, and evolutionary history.”  That statement did not include any references to evidence of fossil transitional forms going from rear-leg to four-leg design.
1.  Ren, Miller, Lair and Hutchinson, “Integration of biomechanical compliance, leverage, and power in elephant limbs,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published online March 29, 2010, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0911396107.
2.  Recall from the 11/18/2004 entry that human anatomy is remarkably well adapted for distance running.
That lone reference to evolution was disgusting.  Did you catch that?  They used zero evidence to support evolution.  (Again.)  If unique traits can be attributed to “evolutionary history” as much as homologous traits can, Darwin has rigged a scam.  It’s the old heads-I-win-tails-you-lose trick.
    If anything, elephants have devolved.  The fossil record shows larger, more powerful members of the elephant family – the wooly mammoths, and several other robust behemoths no longer with us.  We can appreciate the design of the sport utility vehicles still around, and only wonder at the humvees and tanks of the past.  And just imagine the power of the dinosaurs, like the gigantic Titanosaurs.  The Creator knew how to move a lot of mass around with efficiency and grace; after all, he created the laws of physics, too.
Next headline on:  MammalsPhysicsAmazing Facts
  An elephant was mentioned along with other amazing animals in the 03/24/2005 entry – not for its gait, but for its Rich Little talent.

Comets Are Cracking Up     03/29/2010    
March 29, 2010 — An amateur astronomer observed a comet splitting in two, reported (PhysOrg), but it’s not just the comets that are breaking up.  Theories about them have undergone a revolution at revelations they are not all they were cracked up to be.  They used to be pristine remnants of the formation of the solar system.  Analysis of actual cometary material has changed all that.
    Last month, a headline heralded the first dating of comet stuff (see Science Daily).  Beneath the surface, though, the article recognized a paradigm shift:

The NASA Stardust mission to comet Wild 2, which launched in 1999, was designed around the premise that comets preserve pristine remnants of materials that helped form the solar system.  In 2006, Stardust returned with the first samples from a comet.
    Though the mission was expected to provide a unique glimpse into the early solar system by returning a mix of solar system condensates, amorphous grains from the interstellar medium and true stardust (crystalline grains originating in distant stars), the initial results painted a different picture.  Instead, the comet materials consisted of high-temperature materials including calcium-aluminum rich inclusions (CAIs), the oldest objects formed in the solar nebula.  These objects form in the inner regions of the solar nebula and are common in meteorites.
    The presence of CAIs in comet Wild 2 indicates that the formation of the solar system included mixing over radial distances much greater than has been recognized by scientists in the past.
The date and location of CAIs, though, is dependent on theories of the formation of the solar system.  Something is clearly wrong.  To salvage the theory about where and when high-temperature materials form, the scientists now have to invoke “radial transport of material over large distances in the early solar nebula.”  Is that even probable?  Could it be just a theory-rescuing device at work?  A scientist at Lawrence Livermore recognized the problem: “These findings also raise key questions regarding the timescale of the formation of comets and the relationship between Wild 2 and other primitive solar nebula objects.”  Those are quotes from the paper in Science Express posted Feb 25, 2010.1  The paper claimed a date of 1.7 million years for the particle studied.  Is that kind of precision plausible, given the following explanation?
This observation in turn requires transport of inner solar system material to the outer reaches of the solar system at distances exceeding 30 AU and incorporation into cometary bodies over an extended period of at least several million years.  Outward transport of Coki [the name they gave to the particle] to the Kuiper belt must have occurred as late as (if not later than) the time over which chondritic meteorites and the oldest differentiated meteorites formed [see (30)].  The age constraint derived from Coki indicates that the transport mechanisms which supplied high-temperature inner solar system material to the outer reaches of the solar nebula, whether by lofting above the disk in an X-wind model (31) or via mixing processes within the solar nebula [e.g., (32, 33)], operated over a >2 million year timescale as solids settled to the midplane and the disk evolved.
In other words, this particle had to be cooked in the inner solar system, then fly outward to 30 times the earth-sun distance to get to the assumed comet-forming region.  Giving these implausible stories names like “transport mechanisms” and “mixing processes” seems a cover for ignorance.  Space.com recognized the ignorance: “How the material in Coki got transported to the outer solar system, whether by lofting above the solar system disk or mixing processes within it, isn’t yet known, but it likely occurred during a time period of more than two million years, the researchers say.”  If one cannot describe how it happened, it seems presumptuous to claim to know when it happened.
    Meanwhile, we do know from direct observation that comets don’t last forever.  Space.com and National Geographic reported another SOHO observation of a sun-grazing comet making a death plunge into the sun, where it was seen to vaporize and vanish.  That’s the thousandth one.  Before SOHO, the article said, only 16 sun-grazers were known.  New Scientist reported that “Three years ago, the comet 17P/Holmes exploded with a blast comparable to a small nuclear bomb.”  And National Geographic reported in January a “strange” comet that may have formed from the collision of asteroids.  These observations, combined with the breakup observed by the amateur astronomer, show destructive processes at work – not comet formation processes.  The comets we see are cracking, vaporizing, exploding, and fizzling out.  They form only in theory.
    National Geographic fell back on the old paradigm: “It’s believed most comets come from the cold, distant reaches of the solar system and travel on long, elliptical orbits, which keep the icy bodies far from the sun most of the time.”  That must be – or else they would be young.  The collision was not observed.  At the tail end of the article, scientists admitted they didn’t even know what an asteroid collision would look like.  Jim Scotti [U of Arizona] said, “We have some ideas, but I’m not sure anyone has really sat down and modeled the size and velocity of the debris, or where all that debris goes and how long it would remain potentially observable.”  It seems premature, therefore, to say that a collision formed this particular strange comet.
    Another detail came out at the end of the article: scientists were puzzled this comet had any ice left after billions of years:
For now, scientists can only wait and watch to see if P/2010 A2 (LINEAR) slowly dissipates, like debris from an explosion, or continues to act like a comet—which would pose a new round of puzzling questions.
    A rare handful of comet-like bodies are known to orbit in the main asteroid belt.  But if P/2010 A2 (LINEAR) is actually a comet, how did it conserve its water ice so close to the sun for some 4.5 billion years—roughly the age of the solar system—only to begin releasing gases now due to some unseen event?
    “That’s a long time to bake an object,” Scotti said.
    “It’s hard to imagine how an object would maintain a reservoir of volatiles that it could use to suddenly start producing a tail.  But you know, stranger things have happened.
Comet science marches on.  Science Daily reminded us that the same Stardust spacecraft that collected Coki and her friends is honing in on a rendezvous with Tempel 1, the comet that Deep Impact blasted with a projectile five years ago.  Also, the WISE infrared orbiting telescope got a nice infrared image of a comet, reported National Geographic.  At least now we know not to worry about comets as bad omens (unless they impact the earth).
1.  Matzel et al, “Constraints on the Formation Age of Cometary Material from the NASA Stardust Mission,” Science Express, Published Online February 25, 2010, Science DOI: 10.1126/science.1184741.
Kids!  Now you can give a scientific excuse to dad.  Next time he asks you who broke the window with a baseball, you can just shrug your shoulders and say “some unseen event” did it.  Tell him you don’t know how long it was “potentially observable.”  If he persists, just say, “It’s hard to imagine” how an object could do that, but “stranger things have happened.”  This has the all the authority of the Lunar and Planetary Lab of the University of Arizona behind it.  Try it!  For extra fun, claim that the ball came from the Kuiper Belt millions of years ago!
    In most careers, if you were as wrong as astronomers have been about comets, you would lose your job.  What if astronomers’ jobs depended on the correctness of their predictions when observations come in?  It should be noted that puzzlement is a function of expectations.  Comets themselves are indifferent to what humans think about them.  They just exist and go about their orbital business.  The scientists were puzzled because they expected to see cold, pristine material from the outer reaches of the solar system.  They taught that idea for years.  They were wrong.  This shows the value of better observations.  They can put the lie to evolutionary theories.  More power to Stardust, Deep Impact and other missions that gather data to replace speculation.  It’s a little too late now for the false prophets to make up stories after the fact and tell the public, who pays much of their salaries through federal grants and tuition, that “stranger things have happened.”
Next headline on:  Solar SystemDating Methods
Explaining the Undetectable: Science or Faith?     03/28/2010    
March 28, 2010 — Scientists routinely portray themselves superior to religious people who (in their estimation) accept things on faith.  This ignores the fact that many theories in science walk by faith, too.  Theories frequently posit entities that cannot be detected by any means – and may not exist at all, except as props for the consensus.  When a potentially falsifying observation is made, the theory is often modified to accommodate the difficulty, but is rarely abandoned.  Some recent examples might show how scientists respond by faith when evidence is lacking.  These examples are from astronomy, but the problem is not restricted to that branch of science.
  1. Dark matter:  Several expensive projects are underway to detect dark matter.  Every once in awhile, a scientist or team publicizes a finding that might suggest an elusive dark matter particle has passed by.  The discovery of these particles is routinely put in future tense, and is sometimes justified on the grounds that the neutrino was discovered long after its existence was deemed necessary for theory.  One successful theoretical prediction, though, cannot justify reckless positing of unobserved entities to keep a theory going.
        Today’s popular cosmologies require more matter than is detected – thus the search for dark matter.  Last month, for instance, PhysOrg reported on a dark matter conference at UCLA.  The substance was all about the detectors, not detections.  Dr. David Cline, a UCLA physics professor, put a positive spin on how to describe unknowns by promising future treats: “Once we know what it really is, we will break through into a new realm of nature.  It’s going to be an entirely new era for science, it’s going to pose fascinating new questions, it’s going to be exciting.”  All excitement aside, how can he say we will know what it really is without begging the question that it really, indeed, is?
        This week in Science,1 Rafael F. Lang tantalized the reader with the line, “After analysis of a year-long detection experiment, resolution of the dark matter mystery may be near.”  Yet the same issue of Science said of the actual report,2 “Details of possible, but unlikely, detection events produced by dark matter are reported.”  The paper said that analysis of two candidate detection events is “not statistically significant evidence” for dark matter.  Lang remarked, “It is a sobering fact that of all the matter in the universe, only 17% is made of particles we know.”  How can a fact be 83% unknown?  Doesn’t a fact become a fact when it is known, based on some evidence?  Dark matter may turn up some day, but until it does, how does the offering of tantalizing press releases differ from a cult that endlessly promises, sans evidence, that the deliverer will arrive any day now?
  2. The Venus that never was:  Modern Venus is much, much different than the Venus of the 1960s.  Before space probes landed and mapped it in radar, it seemed a twin to the earth that may have sported a lush, tropical environment.  Those ideas are laughable now.  Venus is so hot, life is unthinkable under its acidic clouds.  But another surprise was the lack of plate tectonics and active geology we observe on Earth.  The surface appears to have been catastrophically reworked all at once.  Everything appears young – craters, volcanoes, lava flows.  To explain this, planetary scientists have suggested that 90% of the planet’s history was erased by recent resurfacing events.  An article on PhysOrg brings this idea up to date.  Peter James (MIT) expected to find mass concentrations (mascons) that are detected for Earth, the moon and Mars, but was surprised to find none at Venus, the article said.  “He believes that the absence of mascons is consistent with the idea that the Venus surface experienced some sort of ‘catastrophic overturning’ at least 500 million years ago.”  Thus the anti-uniformitarian enigma remains.  What caused it?  James rightly noted that “that would require a mechanism that more thoroughly reworks the crust.”  But what “sort of mechanism – perhaps large-scale volcanic activity – periodically creates a new surface on Venus”?  Why would such a mechanism kick in 90% of the way down the planet’s timeline?  Did the pre-catastrophic timeline even exist?  Whatever evidence might exist for it is buried under lava.
  3. Missing light:  What would you think of a theory that missed 90% of the data?  Science Daily said that “Many Surveys of Distant Galaxies Miss 90 Percent of Their Targets.”  Assumptions about spectra from distant targets have apparently only accounted for 1 in 10 objects that are out there.  New methods with different assumptions about a particular spectral signature of hydrogen have concluded that “The number of missed galaxies is substantial.”
        But it’s not as if this finding seals the deal and makes sky surveys more accurate.  The article included a warning about interpreting observations that can be applied more generally: the answer you get may depend on the methods you choose.  “Different observational methods, targeting the light emitted at different wavelengths, will always lead to a view of the Universe that is only partially complete,” the press release from the European Space Agency noted.  “The results of this survey issue a stark warning for cosmologists, as the strong Lyman-alpha signature becomes increasingly relied upon in examining the very first galaxies to form in the history of the Universe.”  This stark warning was followed up by a quote that assumed progress is being made: “Now that we know how much light we’ve been missing,” said co-author Miguel Mas-Hesse, “we can start to create far more accurate representations of the cosmos, understanding better how quickly stars have formed at different times in the life of the Universe.”  But can we be so sure, when up till now, their numbers were off by 90%?  What other unknowns remain unknown?
  4. Dynamo revisions:  Students learn that magnetic fields are generated by convection currents inside the spinning liquid cores of planets.  That presumes a massive enough body exists to support a molten core.  What happens when you find magnetic fields in bodies thought too small?  That’s exactly what PhysOrg reported, and the response of scientists is instructive.  The article starts confidently with claims stated factually: “The Earth’s global magnetic field is generated in its metallic core, located nearly 3,000 kilometers beneath the planet’s surface.  The field has existed on Earth for at least 3.5 billion years and offers clues about how other planets, stars and celestial bodies may have formed.”  After some elaboration about dynamo theory, the article descends into problems:
    But scientists’ understanding of dynamo theory has been complicated by recent discoveries of magnetized rocks from the moon and ancient meteorites, as well as an active dynamo field on Mercury – places that were thought to have perhaps cooled too quickly or be too small to generate a self-sustaining magnetic field.  It had been thought that smaller bodies couldn’t have dynamos because they cool more rapidly and are therefore more likely to have metallic cores that do not stay in liquid form for very long.
    Bring on the theory-rescue devices: it’s as if scientists respond, “Well, what do you know: small bodies can form a dynamo after all.”  Isn’t that exactly what this sentence says?  Notice the word somehow: “According to Weiss, the finding suggests that sustaining a magnetic field like the one on Earth might not require a large, cooling core that constantly moves liquid and creates currents, but could also be somehow generated by the cores of smaller bodies like planetesimals – some of which are only 160 kilometers wide.”  The theory requires it; therefore it exists.
  5. Yucking it up over a weird supernova:  Type Ia supernovae are standard candles for measuring cosmic distances – except when they’re not.  A story in PhysOrg is at once heartwarming and heartburning.  The casual reader will enjoy the narrative as scientists show their human side when trying to understand an anomalous supernova observation:
    [Peter] Nugent [Berkeley Nearby Supernova Factory] laughs when he recalls the Caltech response.  “Caltech got right back to us with their opinions, all expert and all different: ‘It’s a variable star’; ‘It’s an active galaxy’; ‘It’s a core-collapse supernova’; ‘It’s a funky nova outburst.’”
        But later Avishay Gal-Yam at Caltech (now with Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science) obtained spectra from Palomar after classical supernova features had emerged.  He told Nugent he thought it was a Type Ia after all.  “And we’re supposed to be the Ia experts,” says Nugent.
    Nugent and team were able to save the phenomena by proposing that two white dwarfs had collided to cause the unusually bright supernova outburst.  Otherwise, theorists would have been faced with explaining a star more massive than the Chandrasekhar Limit, a theoretical natural barrier to growth.  Their elegant explanation might have saved the phenomena, but every solution breeds new problems.  Several tweaks were necessary to get the idea to work – especially how to overcome another natural barrier about age.  Notice the confidence in the ending line, “We know better now” –
    “The last time I remember anybody trying to blow up a system like that I was in graduate school, and nobody believed it,” Nugent says, referring to modeling such a merger.  “Back then, everybody thought it would take more than the age of the universe for two orbiting white dwarfs to get close enough together.  We know better now.”
    But how do they know better?  Only because it happened – or if it did happen, there must have been some way for these white dwarfs to get into orbit in less time than expected, because theory demands it.
        The explanation bred another problem.  Type Ia supernova are widely used as standard candles in cosmic measurement.  The assumption is that since the Chandrasekhar Limit cannot be breached, the white dwarfs that accrete matter and then blow up do so with a predictable luminosity.  If some Type Ia’s can result from mergers, it casts doubt on the assumption of uniform brightness.  Astronomers could exclude the superbright supernovae as a procedural matter, but that answer seems to make any conclusions tainted with human arbitrariness.  How bright is too bright?  What other factors could be altering the expected light output?  What other observations are deemed anomalous, on what grounds?  Type Ia supernovae were supposed to be a check against arbitrariness.  They were supposed to be standard candles.  The end of the article discussed various ways that astronomers have to pick and choose data based on theoretical considerations – a worrisome aspect made even more worrisome by the cavalier attitude expressed by Richard Scalzo of Yale in the concluding paragraph:
    If we are successful in differentiating between the subclasses of Type Ia’s, and can find spectral and physical features that will allow us to tag even less-obvious examples in a clear-cut way, that’s progress.  If not, it could cause trouble.  Whatever is not known should make people nervous – but excited!
    Demolition derbies are exciting, too.
  6. Living galaxy dinosaur:  “Imagine finding a living dinosaur in your backyard.”  That’s how a story in Science Daily began last month, but it wasn’t about dinosaurs.  It was about an apparent galaxy merger that was too recent for theory.  “Astronomers have found the astronomical equivalent of prehistoric life in our intergalactic backyard: a group of small, ancient galaxies that has waited 10 billion years to come together,” the preface claimed.  “These ‘late bloomers’ are on their way to building a large elliptical galaxy.”
        According to their scenario, a collision in the Hickson Compact Group 31 is very improbable.  Why?  Because they are dated as far along their evolutionary path.  “It is an extremely rare local example of what we think was a quite common event in the distant universe,” one astronomer explained.  So why did these galaxies wait so long to interact?  In science, hearing a folksy analogy does not always inspire confidence: “Perhaps... because the system resides in a lower-density region of the universe, the equivalent of a rural village,” Sarah Gallagher [U of Western Ontario] said.  “Getting together took billions of years longer than it did for galaxies in denser areas.”
  7. Multiverse tugs:  The most egregious example in recent memory of scientists appealing to unobservable entities is the multiverse hypothesis – that universes forever outside our observational horizon may exist ad infinitum.  National Geographic News tried to sanctify the notion with a bit of empiricism by claiming proof exists: “New Proof Unknown ‘Structures’ Tug at Our Universe.”  What is the proof?  Actually, the only observation concerns some peculiar motions of galaxies that appear to be streaming in the same direction.  Since “This mysterious motion can’t be explained by current models for distribution of mass in the universe,” the “controversial suggestion” has been made by some researchers “that the clusters are being tugged on by the gravity of matter outside the known universe.
        Not content to stop with that dramatic assertion, National Geographic sauntered into an even bigger unobservable notion: “The find adds to the case that chunks of matter got pushed outside the known universe shortly after the big bang—which in turn hints that our universe is part of something larger: a multiverse.” 
Seeing is believing” was the headline of a story in PhysOrg this week.  It was about the detection of a gamma ray burst that may be the most distant object in the universe.  Based on the stories above, however, it could be argued that for some scientists, believing is seeing.  Having a strong enough faith in one’s favorite theory is enough to generate visions in the mind’s eye – by faith alone.
1.  Rafael F. Lang, “Fishing for the Universe,” Science, 26 March 2010: Vol. 327. no. 5973, pp. 1582 - 1583, DOI: 10.1126/science.1187972.
2.  CDMS II Collaboration, “Dark Matter Search Results from the CDMS II Experiment,” Science, 26 March 2010: Vol. 327. no. 5973, pp. 1619-1621, DOI: 10.1126/science.1186112.
These issues are important.  Science has taken on the role of a priestly caste in our culture.  We trust their pronouncements as much as ancient Romans trusted their oracles, on the basis of the assumption that they use methods guaranteed to generate true knowledge.  The assumption is bolstered by the practical benefits science has brought us.  We tend without adequate warrant to extend that assumption to all scientists and everything they say.  We look to them for enlightenment about matters beyond our experience, assuming that they are trustworthy.
    Many scientists are trustworthy.  Many, hopefully most, have a deep regard for empirical facts, and maintain their epistemic modesty.  But strict empiricists are rare these days.  It is too restrictive on their imaginations.  The trust we place in scientists is based on their presumed empiricism – that they walk by sight, not by faith.  As these articles have shown, however (and they are not rare exceptions), much of what we call science today has become reckless in its propensity to trade in unobservable reality (if that oxymoron makes any sense).
    The popular philosophy of science today is scientific realism – the assumption that scientists have the right to appeal to unobservable reality to explain observable reality.  To a certain extent, this is reasonable.  We all commonly infer unseen entities to explain observations – like an unobserved rainstorm when we see the car and the pavement wet.  That kind of common-sense reasoning, though, usually refers to things that have been observed – like previous rainstorms that produced the same wet pavement and car.  We could be wrong, though: a movie company’s rainmaking machine might have passed by.  We wouldn’t usually say that a water asteroid from the Oort Cloud did it.
    Despite the popularity of scientific realism, many philosophers strongly question the propriety of scientists to deal in unobservable realities.  One of the values of David Berlinski’s book The Deniable Darwin (see Resource of the Week for 03/13/2010) is his deft expose of the pretensions of scientists.  He said of multiverse theory,
A scientific crisis has historically been the excuse to which scientists have appealed for the exculpation of damaged doctrines.... What we are discovering is that many areas of the universe are apparently protected from our scrutiny, like sensitive files sealed from view by powerful encryption codes.  However painful, the discovery should hardly be unexpected.  Beyond every act of understanding, there is an abyss.  Like Darwin’s theory of evolution, Big Bang cosmology has undergone that curious social process in which a scientific theory is promoted to secular myth.  The two theories serve as points of certainty in an intellectual culture that is otherwise disposed to give the benefit of the doubt to doubt itself.  It is within the mirror of these myths that we have come to see ourselves.  But if the promotion of theory into myth satisfies one human agenda, it violates another.  Myths are quite typically false, and science is concerned with truth.  Human beings, it would seem, may make scientific theories or they may make myths, but with respect to the same aspects of experience, they cannot quite do both.  (from “Was There a Big Bang?” in The Deniable Darwin, p. 232)
As we have seen some scientists have become so reckless in their mythmaking, they need to be shamed back to their empirical roots.  They are turning science into a cult.  They need to cultivate empiricism, not the occult.  What is the occult, if not appeals to mysterious unseen entities and forces – the very things science was invented to avoid?
    No fallible human being deserves your trust just because he or she claims to be a knower (scientist).  If you would not join a cult, don’t follow any scientist blindly.  Isn’t it ironic that the Good Book is sounding once again more empirical than modern science?  The apostle Paul warned his readers about what is “falsely called knowledge” (science; I Timothy 6:20) and admonished them to not be “children tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14) but to “test all things; hold fast that which is good” (I Thessalonians 5:21).  That’s solid scientific advice.
Next headline on:  Solar SystemStars and AstronomyCosmology
  Scientists perform Much Ado About Nothing, 03/12/2004.

Biomimetics: Science for Now     03/27/2010    
March 27, 2010 — Do you want science that makes a difference in our lives?  Look at real plants and animals with real solutions to practical problems.  That’s where researchers are making amazing discoveries with practical spinoffs.

  1. Shellfish materials:  Strong, lightweight structures are coming, thanks to the imitation of oysters and shellfish.  PhysOrg reported that researchers at the University of Helsinki are coming closer to manufacturing nacre-inspired polymers that are unbreakable, fire resistant, and gas free.  Such materials are a dream in electronics; they can insulate and are strong and flexible.  Lightweight, too – and they self-assemble when you get the conditions right.
        The press release ended with a quizzical juxtaposition of ideas: “The new material is an example of biomimetics, which aims to mimic the most attractive materials in the nature, but in simpler terms.”  The idea is that nature’s solutions are much more complex than ours.  But then one of the scientists was quoted saying it all just evolved:
    “The materials scientists are fascinated by the delicacy of natural materials.  The properties have been developed due to the lengthy process of evolution and in some cases extraordinary properties relevant to technology can be identified.  In addition to nacreous shells, the materials scientists explore for example mimics for silk, jaws, and bones.”
  2. Leaf mimic:  “Blueprint for 'Artificial Leaf' Mimics Mother Nature” announced Science Daily.  A presentation by Chinese scientists to the American Chemical Society showed how “design of artificial photosynthetic systems based on biological paradigms” is leading toward “a working prototype to exploit sustainable energy resources.”  This is a long-sought goal: to imitate the energy-efficient harvesting of sunlight achieved by plants and algae.  The scientists actually took “a closer look at the leaf” for ideas.  “Not too surprisingly, the structure of green leaves provides them an extremely high light-harvesting efficiency.”  The next step was clear: “The scientists decided to mimic that natural design in the development of a blueprint for artificial leaf-like structures.”
        The word “design” was as ubiquitous in this article as the word evolution was scarce: e.g., “design of novel artificial solar energy transduction systems based on natural paradigms, particularly based on exploring and mimicking the structural design.  The last sentence was a virtual manifesto for biomimetics: “Nature still has much to teach us, and human ingenuity can modify the principles of natural systems for enhanced utility.”
  3. Bee nose:  We all know about the sniffers of dogs, but did you know honeybees are their equals?  PhysOrg reported about how the Defense Department is not just imitating bees, but training them for active duty.  Maybe you never heard that “In 2010, bee training in the fields of defense and security, medicine, food, and building industries is big business.”  Bees are smaller, cheaper and easier to transport than dogs.  Honeybees with diodes on their backs are now being used to sniff out TNT.  Let them find the landmines, the military says, so that human farmers don’t have to find them “the ugly way.”
  4. Green materials:  As an environmentally-conscious citizen, you would like to reduce the use of styrofoam cups going into landfills, wouldn’t you?  Well, thank a seashell for finding a better use for them, said Science Daily.  “Scientists have made synthetic ‘sea shells’ from a mixture of chalk and polystyrene cups – and produced a tough new material that could make our homes and offices more durable.”  PhysOrg quipped, “Strength is shore thing for sea shell scientists.”
        And where did they get the idea?  “A team of materials scientists and chemists have taken inspiration from sea shells found on the beach to create a composite material from dissimilar ‘ingredients’.”  That’s how sea shells do it: they intersperse mineral crystals with proteins in ways that provide crack resistance and structural strength.  Researchers at University of Manchester are boasting as if they did the hard part: “We have replicated nature’s addition of proteins using polystyrene, to create a strong shell-like structure with similar properties to those seen in nature.”  Shouldn’t the shell – or the shell-maker – get the design credit?
  5. Spider silk:  Spiders are the “masters of materials sciencePhysOrg reminded us, and “ scientists are finally catching up.”  Attempts to understand and imitate spider silk have been reported here many times.  “Silks are among the toughest materials known, stronger and less brittle, pound for pound, than steel,” the article recapped.  “Now scientists at MIT have unraveled some of their deepest secrets in research that could lead the way to the creation of synthetic materials that duplicate, or even exceed, the extraordinary properties of natural silk.”  That leads to an interesting philosophical question.  If humans create it, is it natural?
        What the MIT team found out is that the arrangement of the silk elements makes the difference.  The protein components known as beta sheets “are arranged in a structure that resembles a tall stack of pancakes, but with the crystal structures within each pancake alternating in their orientation,” Markus Buehler, an MIT civil engineering professor, explained (see picture in the Science Daily article).  “This particular geometry of tiny silk nanocrystals allows hydrogen bonds to work cooperatively, reinforcing adjacent chains against external forces, which leads to the outstanding extensibility and strength of spider silk.”  Slight deviations in the length of the beta sheets leads to breakdown of the silk’s remarkable strength and flexibility, the team found.  Expect good things from what biomimetics is discovering:
    Buehler says the work has implications far beyond just understanding silk.  He notes that the findings could be applied to a broader class of biological materials, such as wood or plant fibers, and bio-inspired materials, such as novel fibers, yarns and fabrics or tissue replacement materials, to produce a variety of useful materials out of simple, commonplace elements.  For example, he and his team are looking at the possibility of synthesizing materials that have a similar structure to silk, but using molecules that have inherently greater strength, such as carbon nanotubes.
        The long-term impact of this research, Buehler says, will be the development of a new material design paradigm that enables the creation of highly functional materials out of abundant, inexpensive materials.
    The fact that the arrangement of elements is critical to their success is reminiscent of how the properties of DNA and proteins are critically dependent on the sequence of the building blocks.  Applying this new paradigm – that it is arrangement as much or more than material – provides a whole new design pathway for inventors, thanks to the lowly garden spider.
  6. Signal in the noise:  An article in PhysOrg sounds at first like a strictly physical engineering problem of how to amplify signal in a noisy environment using a principle called stochastic resonance.  But at the end of the article, the researchers talk about designing an “artificial neuron” that mimics the signal-enhancing capabilities of nerve cells.  Artificial neurons are defined as “simple computing, logic gates.  Their actions resemble the firing of signals as they are observed between neurons,” the article explains.  The team at University of Wurzburg “believes that its devices can be thus used in the future to mimic neuron action in artificial networks and to serve as sensors for signals usually hidden under the noise.”
        With neural networks in mind, their plans will imitate neurons even more.  In the brain, “actions cascade based in part on the noise of individual spiking neurons,” the article explained.  “This incredible sensitivity makes the devices an ideal candidate for quantum computing.”   Quantum computing has been a design goal for years.  Finding ways to maximize signal in a noisy environment, as neurons do, would allow circuits to keep getting smaller and more efficient despite increases in thermal noise that accompanies shrinking size.
  7. Snail armor:  Snails seem good for little more than amusing children, annoying gardeners and making the French say Bon appetit.  But they’re good for something else, reported Live Science: inspiring a new generation of body armor.  The article is an interview with Christine Ortiz, a materials scientist at MIT, who is studying a snail that lives near hydrothermal vents 2.5 miles deep in the Indian Ocean.  Athletes or soldiers might benefit from what she is learning: “Understanding the physical and mechanical properties of the snail could improve load-bearing and protective materials in everything from aircraft hulls to sports equipment.”  Other beneficiaries of snail-inspired materials could be emergency responders, firefighters, police officers, aircraft designers, commercial designers, and recipients of prosthetics coming out of regenerative medicine.  The interview pointed to a NSF press release from January about “the fantastic armor of a wonder snail.”
Dr. Ortiz was asked how she got into her field: “I was always fascinated, since I was a small child, by nature, biology, evolution, and related fields.”  Was one of those fields intelligent design?  Probably not, but she feels one of the most important qualities of a scientist is “The ability to see the unexpected in data, to fearlessly explore areas outside of one’s comfort zone, and to draw on and link to bodies of work in other fields, regardless of vocabulary and language barriers.”  Follow that advice consistently and you never know where your world view might end up.
Our entries on the imitation of nature are valuable in multiple ways (see 03/06/2010 and the other 200+ entries on biomimetics over the years).  For one, it is simply fascinating how animals and plants do what they do.  That’s why the Biomimetics and Amazing tags often go together.  In addition, these reports provide our readers a wide-ranging education in biology, physics, engineering, and even philosophy of science.  Think, too, of the teachable moments they provide for parents wanting to inspire their precocious youngsters with the wonders of nature and the possibilities of science as a career.  For another, unlike some scientific subjects of doubtful utility, biomimetics promises really cool technologies that are likely to make a big difference in human comfort, safety, security and convenience – all with lower energy costs and less impact on the environment.  (We still want the gecko boots, the lotus windshields and the spider-man gloves).  And for a final reason, the sheer entertainment value of watching evolutionists sit on the sidelines pretending to be relevant to these efforts that are design-based from start to finish is priceless.
Next headline on:  Terrestrial ZoologyPlantsMarine BiologyBiomimeticsIntelligent DesignAmazing Facts
March 27, 2010 – For those who like to dig deeper into the science behind Biblical creation, the Journal of Creation is just the thing.  It’s published by the lively creation organization from Australia, Creation Ministries International.
    When the Journal comes in the mail every other month, you’ll want to get comfortable in your favorite reading posture, scan the table of contents, browse the book reviews, see what hot topics and debates are going on, and read the abstracts of the papers for the ones to dig into.  Like the CRS Quarterly (see 09/05/2009 Resource of the Week), the Journal of Creation is a peer-reviewed journal of scholarly research on all aspects of creation: geology, astronomy, biology, archaeology, and more – like history, mathematics, and law.  Contrary to what some Darwinians claim about creation bringing science to a halt, you will quickly find there is actually more to research and debate about the natural world from a creation worldview than to say “Darwin did it.”  Sections include Perspectives, Book Reviews, Countering the Critics, Letters to the Editor, and Papers.
    Each glossy-paper issue has a color cover and many illustrations and photographs.  There’s plenty to interest the serious devotee of creation science whether or not the reader has a graduate-level proficiency.  Improve your education in origin science; subscribe to the Journal of Creation.  Order it from Creation Ministries International.
Next resource of the week:  03/20/2010.  All resources: Catalog.

How Much Can One Bone Say?     03/26/2010    
March 26, 2010 — Two fossil discoveries are generating a lot of news from a single bone.  The first is a dinosaur hip.  The second is a human finger.  How much weight can a single bone carry?

  1. Australian tyrannosaur:  The tyrannosaurid dinosaurs had a distinctive hip bone.  This particular trait has been identified in a bone found near Victoria, Australia – the first tyrannosaurid found south of the equator.  The animal must have been about 9 feet long – making it much smaller than its North American cousins.  Science Daily said, “The find sheds new light on the evolutionary history of this group of dinosaurs,” but it “also raises the crucial question of why it was only in the north that tyrannosaurs evolved into the giant predators like T. rex.”  National Geographic showed a picture of the bone and announced “Tiny T. Rex Ancestors Achieved World Domination.”  The BBC News predicts more will be found in Africa, South America and India.  Only Live Science cast any doubt on the claims: “it’s still a hypothesis that will need to be backed up by further research.”  Nevertheless, Science Daily was confident that “This find has major significance for our knowledge of how this group of dinosaurs evolved.”
  2. Finger pointing:  What does a pinky finger bone in Siberia say?  A lot, according to the science media.  National Geographic claims it represents a new kind of human.  The BBC News gave the bone a name right out of Hollywood: X-Woman.  Because mitochondrial DNA was extracted from her 40,000 year old cells, X-Woman can now tell her amazing story of having evolved in Africa and migrating to the far reaches of Asia.  This migration, the scientists tell us, was separate from the other hypothesized migrations of human ancestors and represents a whole new chapter in human evolution.  Science Daily announced, “New Human Species Discovered.” One finger yielded a tribe of “previously unknown hominins,” the headline blared.  PhysOrg called it a new branch on the human family tree, but did include some doubts about the interpretations.  The doubts are drowned out by shouts of overconfidence: “As shown by a detailed analysis of the mitochondrial genome, these hominins shared a common ancestor with modern humans and Neanderthals about 1.0 million years ago,” Science Daily told its readers.  “In addition, the age of the fossil suggests that these unknown people in Southern Siberia lived close in time and space with Neanderthals as well as with modern humans.”  Some of the reporters are even ready to tell the relationship of X-Woman and her people to the hobbits of Indonesia – all based on a single pinky finger.
Scientists used to respect “evidential modesty.”  They used to restrict their interpretations to observable facts, and check each other’s extrapolations via a culture of peer pressure that discouraged unwarranted assertions.  As Colin Macilwain pointed out last month (02/18/2010), a weekly routine has grown in science reporting that “converts original scientific findings, via a production line of embargoed press releases from journals and universities, into a steady stream of largely uncritical stories.”
You thought it was just the cosmologists who had gone stark raving mad (03/19/2010).  Evolutionists and their lackeys in the news are completely out of control.  If this keeps up, they will lose what little credibility they have left.  The strong evidence for design is being completely ignored, and the tiniest finger bone that gives the Darwin storytellers something to yack about for the media gets front page coverage, especially if it “sheds light on evolution” by one black-light photon aimed at empty space.  It’s disgraceful.  Who will shame them back to the founding principles of science?  Who will hold their feet to the fire of logical integrity?  Who will remind them of the reasonable limits of evidential modesty?  We can’t do it alone.  Join the Dragnet campaign: tell a scientist, “Just the Facts, Please!”
Next headline on:  FossilsDinosaursEarly ManMedia
Can Morality Be Darwinized?     03/25/2010    
March 25, 2010 — There’s a cottage industry within the Darwin empire that tries to explain morality in terms of natural selection.  Hardly a week passes without some new paper trying to explain why humans reward moral behavior and punish immoral behavior.  Some try to do it by finding morality in animals, as if to portray a continuity in moral motions between bacteria, fish, insects, birds, rats, apes, and Homo sapiens.  Others try to model morality on game theory.  How well do these attempts succeed?  Can they explain the outpouring of support for victims of Haiti?  Can they explain the soldier who gives his life for his friends?  Can they explain the person facing a firing squad for having given aid to the persecuted?
  1. Unselfish molecules:  One of the most extreme continuity approaches attributed unselfishness to molecules.  This bases morality back at the origin of life itself: “Unselfish molecules may have helped give birth to the genetic material of life,” announced PhysOrg.  When those RNA strands were struggling to get together, according to Nicholas V. Hud of the Georgia Institute of Technology, small molecules might have unselfishly acted as “molecular midwives” to enable the base pairs to bond.  It doesn’t appear that Hud was intending this model as anything beyond a metaphor, but he visualized a rudimentary form of morality right at the start: “a sort of ‘unselfish’ molecule that was not part of the first genetic polymers, but was critical to their formation.”
  2. Evolutionary forces:  A recent example of the genre is found in PhysOrg and Science Daily.  “Researchers have long been puzzled by large societies in which strangers routinely engage in voluntary acts of kindness, respect and mutual benefit even though there is often an individual cost involved,” both articles began, ignoring any input from theology.  “While evolutionary forces associated with kinship and reciprocity can explain such cooperative behavior among other primates, these forces do not easily explain similar behavior in large, unrelated groups, like those that most humans live in.”
        Enter the theory of Richard McElreath at UC Davis.  He and his team have it figured out in terms of market forces, religious beliefs and criminal law.  Their paper in Science used the E-word in the title: “Markets, Religion, Community Size, and the Evolution of Fairness and Punishment,”1 and extensively throughout.  Norms evolved; and with them, “Recent work has also tentatively proposed that certain religious institutions, beliefs, and rituals may have coevolved with the norms that support large-scale societies and broad exchange.”  They spoke of “our evolutionary history” and “Evolutionary approaches” to understanding our “evolved psychology” expressed in the “evolution of social complexity.” – evolution here, there, and everywhere.
        It should be understood that fairness, norms, religion, trust and other moral terms were used without reference to absolute standards.  They are mere props in a behavioral model seeking to understand how evolutionary forces produce observed behaviors.  They treated these words as mathematical terms: e.g., “Theoretical arguments suggest that punishment (MAO) should be related more directly to the natural logarithm of CS [community size], because the effectiveness of reputational systems decays in rough proportion to this variable.”  The “experiments” they talked about were really games: “we used three experiments that were designed to measure individuals’ propensities for fairness and their willingness to punish unfairness across 15 populations that vary in their degree of market integration and their participation in world religions,” they said.  “Our three experiments are the Dictator, Ultimatum, and Third-Party Punishment Games.”  Volunteers in these made-up games acted as proxy lab rats for real human populations under evolutionary forces.  (The reader should remember that “evolutionary forces” are passive like the bumpers in a pinball game.)
        The study, funded in part by taxpayer dollars via the National Science Foundation, “found that overt punishment, religious beliefs that can act as a form of psychological punishment and market integration each were correlated with fairness in the experiments.”  It doesn’t appear that “fairness” was given any non-question-begging definition in their model.  Those punished probably thought it was unfair.  And was it fair for the researchers to take taxpayer dollars to treat their fellow human beings as lab rats?
        Karla Hoff of the World Bank, commenting on this paper in the same issue of Science,2 saw that same evolutionary forces in her vision: “A society is not just a random group of people with a shared territory,” she said.  “It is a group that shares cognitive frames and social norms.  We cannot know for certain how fairly our ancestors in foraging bands behaved in situations lacking relationship information, but Henrich et al. bring us a closer understanding by studying people in simple societies that may be very like those of our early ancestors.”
  3. Greenbeard altruism:  The prior week in Science,3 Stuart A. West and Andy Gardner of Oxford gave a more traditional Darwinian account of altruism.  They defended Hamilton’s theory of inclusive fitness that “showed how natural selection could lead to behaviors that decrease the relative fitness of the actor and also either benefit (altruism) or harm (spite) other individuals.”  All they felt they had to do was clean up a few contentious issues:
    Here, we show how recent work has resolved three key debates, helping clarify how Hamilton’s theoretical overview links to real-world examples, in organisms ranging from bacteria to humans: Is the evolution of extreme altruism, represented by the sterile workers of social insects, driven by genetics or ecology?  Does spite really exist in nature? And, can altruism be favored between individuals who are not close kin but share a ‘greenbeard’ gene for altruism?
    That odd “greenbeard” term refers to any genetic marker (such as a green beard) that – well, let them explain: “Dawkins proposed the hypothetical example of a gene that gives rise to a green beard while simultaneously prompting individuals with green beards to direct cooperation toward other green-bearded individuals.”   One of their diagrams even includes cartoon figures of men, some with green beards and some without (see “Beard Chromodynamics,” 03/31/2006).  They dispensed with the problem of “falsebeards” (cheats) who might sport the marker without performing the behavior, thus reaping the benefit without paying the cost.  They said altruistic greenbeards have been found in slime molds, yeast, bacteria, and a lizard – but the greenbeard trait is amoral.  It could just as well be a marker for spite.
        It’s clear that West and Gardner are in the continuity camp: i.e., they view human morality as continuous with animal behavior observed in social insects and microbes.  So is morality due to genetics or ecology?  Both, they concluded.  Did they miss something in their either-or formulation?  Whatever; right from the opening sentence, their paper started on a Darwinian foot: “Darwin’s (1) theory of natural selection explains both the process and the purpose of adaptation.”  That (1) in the quote gave pride of place to Darwin’s Origin of Species as first entry in the list of references.  They also praised Darwin later (after discussing Hamilton’s and Fisher’s extensions to selection theory), saying, “inclusive fitness is not simply a concept that relates to interactions between relatives; it is our modern interpretation of Darwinian fitness, providing a general theory of adaptation.”  (See “Fitness for Dummies, 10/29/2002).
  4. Evolving morals:  The most recent article in the evolution-morality tale genre was Paul Bloom’s Opinion article in today’s Nature,4 “How do morals change?”  Right at the outset, he asked, “Where does morality come from?”  For answers, he looked to atheist philosopher David Hume (certainly not to Moses or Jesus), noting that “Babies as young as six months judge individuals on the way that they treat others and even one-year-olds engage in spontaneous altruism.”  To many psychologists, Bloom says, the fact that “a rudimentary moral sense is universal and emerges early” means it is a non-rational (i.e., unreasoned) aspect of our biology.  We rationalize it later; but really, according to some, “we have little conscious control over our sense of right and wrong.”  Theologians used to refer to this as a conscience.
        Bloom thinks this view of morality, “in its wholesale rejection of reason,” will be proved wrong.  Why?  Because it cannot explain why morality evolves, he argued.  We can change our minds about moral standards.  We can be persuaded, and persuade others.  He pointed to evolving views of racial minorities and homosexuality as examples.  Not even the “contact hypothesis” (that our views evolve as our circle of contacts enlarges) explains this.  “It doesn’t account for how our moral attitudes can change towards those with whom we never directly associate – for example, why some of us give money and even blood to people with whom we have no contact and little in common.”  He even found flaws in the typical Darwinian explanations for morality: “There have been attempts to explain such long-distance charity through mechanisms such as indirect reciprocity and sexual selection, which suggest that individuals gain reproductive benefit from building a reputation for being good or helpful.  But this begs the question of why such acts are now seen as good when they were not in the past.”
        What is missing, Bloom argued, is the role of deliberate persuasion in morality.  “Stories emerge because people arrive at certain views and strive to convey them to others,” he explained.  “It is this generative capacity that contemporary psychologists have typically ignored.”  He sees humans as “natural storytellers, [who] use narrative to influence others, particularly their own children.”  But what about his initial question of infants engaging in spontaneous altruism?  And how can we be sure he is not telling us a story himself?  Whatever questions might be posed back to Bloom, he is one of very few evolutionists seeing shortcomings in a strict materialistic or behavioristic account of human morality.  “Psychologists have correctly emphasized that moral views make their impact by being translated into emotion,” he ended.  “A complete theory must explain where these views come from in the first place.”  Though he spoke of morals evolving, he offered no Darwinian theory for them.
In all but the last of these papers, preachers and theologians were assigned a status no different than worker bees in a hive, fruiting bodies in a slime mold, or yeast cells in dough.  What a different interpretation has arisen these days in the Apostle Paul’s proverb, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump” (Galatians 5:9).
1.  Henrich, Ensminger, McElreath et al, “Markets, Religion, Community Size, and the Evolution of Fairness and Punishment,” Science, 19 March 2010: Vol. 327. no. 5972, pp. 1480-1484, DOI: 10.1126/science.1182238.
2.  Karla Hoff, “Fairness in Modern Society,” Science, 19 March 2010: Vol. 327. no. 5972, pp. 1467-1468, DOI: 10.1126/science.1188537.
3.  Stuart A. West and Randy Gardner, “Altruism, Spite, and Greenbeards,” Science, 12 March 2010: Vol. 327. no. 5971, pp. 1341-1344, DOI: 10.1126/science.1178332.
4.  Paul Bloom, “Opinion: How do morals change?”, Nature 464, 490 (25 March 2010) | doi:10.1038/464490a.
The Darwinians never include themselves in their models, or their models would implode.  They presume to teach the rest of humanity from some exalted plane of science.  Yet if they were consistent, we would have to conclude their scientific reasoning is also a behavior determined by natural selection.  (Notice that they devised games for their human subjects, but did not ask what game they themselves were pawns in.)  To them, morality is just an effect of an essentially amoral process.  It’s no different from what happens in any other organism.  In fact, Darwinian reasoning kind of resembles a slime mold in a sandwich, or a fruit fly larva population in an apple.
    It’s ironic that these Darwinians often refer to yeast behavior in their evolutionary models of altruism, because their views are like the spreading, corrupting influence often used metaphorically in Scripture of leaven.  Jesus said to his disciples, “Beware the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matthew 16:6-12), referring to their doctrines.  Today’s disciples need to beware of the leaven of the Pharces and Sadducers, otherwise known as Darwinists.  The other metaphor Jesus used was the gradual spread of the kingdom of the God through the world, silently like a small bit of leaven in dough (Matthew 13:33).  Today’s disciples need to beware of the corrupting leaven of Darwinism, while working to spread their beneficial influence through the world.  It’s the battle of the leavens.*

*If the Christian leaven won, the Darwinists, on purely theoretical grounds, could not complain.  Why?  Because evolution is what evolution does.  The defeat of Darwinism would fit their model.  The Christians would be the altruists winning against the cheaters.  So why fight it, Darwinists?  Stop cheating and let the good guys win.  In fact, join the good guys and help them out, to increase the fitness of the population.  Step one: abandon Darwinism.
Next headline on:  Darwin and EvolutionBible and Theology
  Recall the biggest cosmic mysteries of 2003 (03/25/2003).  While you’re at it, see 03/12/2003, 03/06/2003 and 03/03/2003.  Science hasn’t made much progress in 7 years; these things are still just as mysterious today (at least to some people).

Archaeologist Employs Design Detection with Little Evidence     03/24/2010    
March 24, 2010 — There are hundreds of large stone spheres in Costa Rica, some up to 8 feet in diameter weighing 16 tons.  There are no written records or tribal traditions about them.  John Hoopes, an anthropologist at the University of Kansas, has been studying these spheres for a long time.  According to PhysOrg, he’s had to dispel myths about them, that they are related to Stonehenge or Easter Island or Atlantis, or came from extraterrestrials.  “Myths are really based on a lot of very rampant speculation about imaginary ancient civilizations or visits from extraterrestrials,” he said.
    Nevertheless, he thinks they have special value to humanity and should be protected with U.N. World Heritage Status.  He doesn’t know when they were made, or by whom.  They seem to be associated with pottery from pre-Columbian tribes, but no one knows who made them, when, or why they were made.  Tribes living in the area have no oral traditions about them.  Professor Hoopes acknowledged that they could have been made long before the artifacts surrounding them.  He has detected marks on some of them he thinks are from hammer stones.  They are very close to perfect spheres, though they can vary from perfect by about two inches.

Professor Hoopes should be fired for not doing his job as a scientist.  He’s bringing science to a stop by assuming intelligent design made the spheres.  If they were designed, who is the designer?  And who designed the designer?  Are we supposed to believe an intelligent designer wasted his time making round rocks?  If he doesn’t know what they were used for, how can he claim they were designed?
    A scientist is supposed to look for natural explanations for natural objects.  These stones are perfectly natural.  They are not angelic material.  There are plenty of known natural forces that can make spheres; all you need is a centripetal force applied evenly over a material.  That’s why moons and planets are spherical.  The stones could be concretions, growing outward from a central core by mineralization.  They could have been irregular stones that rolled around in a bowl-shaped valley, then were distributed when the land rose up later.  Natural explanations abound that could be applied to explain these stones without resorting to the myth of intelligent design.  Professor Hoopes’ designer did a pretty lousy job – the spheres are not perfect.
    As for the alleged hammer marks, that’s another example of Professor Hoopes’ taking the easy way out.  Even if no one saw the marks being formed, there are plenty of natural forces – woodpeckers, exfoliation, lightning strikes, whatever – that should always be considered in scientific explanations.  Haven’t we learned anything since Darwin conquered Paley?  If Hoopes doesn’t have a good enough imagination to come up with a naturalistic story, he doesn’t belong in science.  He should be scorned, ridiculed, vilified, marginalized and expelled.
Next headline on:  Intelligent Design
Beetle Pulls 1,141 Times Its Weight     03/23/2010    
March 23, 2010 — Ever watch those contest shows for the World’s Strongest Man?  Compared to dung beetles, they’re wimps.  Scientists at Queen Mary, University of London found that the strongest beetle tested could pull an astonishing 1,141 times its own weight – “the equivalent of a 70kg person lifting 80 tonnes (the same as six full double-decker buses),” reported PhysOrg.
    The strength of an individual beetle was found to be a function of diet and exercise, just as with humans: “Even the strongest beetles were reduced to feeble weaklings when put on a poor diet for a few days.”  From there, the article descended into a lurid story of how this super strength is all due to sexual games.
The stuff at the end of the article about beetles battling for sex in tunnels of dung should be understood in context.  For one thing, it is not their dung.  Their environment, to them, is no worse than gardeners handling fertilizer or plants imbibing our exhaled carbon dioxide.  The stuff about sex games is typical evolutionary personification.  It commits the fallacy making dumb insects capable of intrigue and selfish strategies.  None of it explains their amazing feats of strength and complex organs.  Animals and plants need to be understood on their own terms.  We do not disparage human strong men by comparing them to beetles.  We do not expect them to lift six full double-decker buses.  Given their environment and genes, their feats are impressive and honorable in a human context.  Be the best you can be with what you were given.
Next headline on:  Terrestrial ZoologyAmazing Facts
Laetoli Footprints Fully Modern Too Early     03/22/2010    
March 22, 2010 — Science Daily has reported a bombshell announcement from the University of Arizona School of Anthropology: the famous Laetoli footprints in Africa said to be 3.6 million years old are identical to modern human prints.
“Based on previous analyses of the skeletons of Australopithecus afarensis, we expected that the Laetoli footprints would resemble those of someone walking with a bent knee, bent hip gait typical of chimpanzees, and not the striding gait normally used by modern humans,” [David] Raichlen said.  “But to our surprise, the Laetoli footprints fall completely within the range of normal human footprints.
They weren’t quite ready to abandon the human-evolution story, though.  Biological anthropologist Adam Gordon reassured readers that this unexpected detail still can fit the tale from chimp to man: “What is fascinating about this study is that it suggests that, at a time when our ancestors had an anatomy well-suited to spending a significant amount of time in the trees, they had already developed a highly efficient, modern human-like mode of bipedalism.”  The tree-people just saved up their evolutionary novelty for a couple of million years until the time was right.  Gordon explained:
“The fossil record indicates that our ancestors did not make a full-time commitment to leaving the trees and walking on the ground until well over a million years after these (Laetoli) prints were made.  The fact that partially tree-dwelling animals, like Lucy, had such a remarkably modern gait is a testament to the importance of energetic efficiency in moving around on two legs,” Gordon said.
That was a very deft sidestep from evolutionary theory to physics.  Maybe it was inherited from that time of full-time commitment.  The article tiptoed around the implications: “The fossil footprints at Laetoli preserve a remarkably even depth at the toe and heel, just like those of modern humans,” it said.  Right before Gordon did his sidestep, the article teased, “If the Laetoli footprints were made by Lucy’s species, as most scientists agree to be the case, these experimental results have interesting implications for the timing of evolutionary events.
    Science Daily swallowed Gordon’s quasi-Lamarckian explanation and sanctified it as scientific evidence: not just for a bipedal gait, but also the whole human evolution story: “Evidence Indicates Humans’ Early Tree-Dwelling Ancestors Were Also Bipedal.”
There you see it: another apparition of the Precambrian Rabbit (02/18/2010, 02/11/2010).  There you also see an incredibly stupid excuse to dodge the implications, with the science press regurgitating it without any critical analysis.  This stretches evolutionary paleoanthropology to the breaking point.  Now we are supposed to believe that human feet and legs evolved on the body of an ape in the trees.  The ape found it could occasionally walk on the ground just like a man, but didn’t commit to it for two million years.  What a waste of anatomy.  They could have had marathons and door-to-door salesman long before we showed up.  If you believe their story after this embarrassing revelation (that we already have known for years, 03/12/2005, 07/20/2005, 02/03/2006, 01/10/2007, 03/02/2009), we have something to sell you: an autographed copy of Gullible’s Travails, signed by the author, Movealong Swiftly.  Climb down out of that Monkey Puzzle Tree and buy yours today!  Only $13,199.99 – limited time offer!  Order now and we’ll throw in free health care for a trillion dollars, and a luxury cruise to the Isle of DeBris (return fare extra).
Next headline on:  Early ManFossilsDating MethodsDumb Ideas
  Fossil discoveries that challenged Darwin stories in 2002: 03/31/2002 entry about a living fossil; a pre-Schweitzer story about blood in a dinosaur bone (03/25/2002); and fossil redwoods in the Arctic (03/22/2002).

Everything You Know About Evolution Is Wrong (Again)     03/21/2010    
March 21, 2010 — There’s a genre of science news stories characterized by pointing out things Darwin got wrong.  It’s not creationists that do this – these are secular reporters and evolutionary biologists.  They seem to try to one-up Darwin by proposing new theories that do evolution better.  They usually don’t go far enough to jettison Darwin completely, but some come close.  A couple of stories in this genre surfaced recently.
    “Evolution More Rapid than Darwin Thought” announced a story in Science Daily.  Maybe that was a way for a grad student writing his dissertation to attract attention.  Magnus Karlsson, a doctoral candidate at Linnaeus University in Kalmar, studied pygmy grasshoppers and found that they change color by natural selection, probably due to predation.  That’s a pretty standard peppered-moth kind of conclusion.  “But the most important part of the dissertation is that I have shown that evolution sometimes proceeds incredibly rapidly,” he said.  “This is huge.”  How huge?  Some color variations appear in one generation.  Karlsson has outdone the peppered moths for speed, and Mr. Slow-and-Gradual himself, Charles Darwin.
    Oliver Burkeman went even farther to one-up Darwin.  His story in The Guardian is really a bombshell of the genre: “Why everything you've been told about evolution is wrong.”  The subtitle added, “Evolutionary thinking is having a revolution.”  It’s not that evolution itself is wrong, Burkeman explains, but there is a kind of Lamarckian revival: “What if the way you live now affects the life expectancy of your descendants?” the subtitle teased.  First, Burkeman ridicules the creationists to get them out of the way, holding up the old NASA-Joshua internet myth for instant dismissal and using the usual scare quotes around intelligent design.  But then his bombshell comes with the same “This is huge” line Karlsson used:

Such talk, naturally, is liable to drive evolutionary biologists into a rage, or, in the case of Richard Dawkins, into even more of a rage than usual.  They have a point: nobody wants to provide ammunition to the proponents of creationism or “intelligent design”, and it’s true that few of the studies now coming to public prominence are all that revolutionary to the experts.  But in the culture at large, we may be on the brink of a major shift in perspective, with enormous implications for how most of us think about how life came to be the way it is.  As the science writer David Shenk puts it in his new book, The Genius in All of Us, This is big, big stuff – perhaps the most important [discoveries] in the science of heredity since the gene.”
That really would be big, but Shenk and Burkeman seem to underestimate the resiliency of Darwin theorists against potentially falsifying observations.  Their proposed Darwin crisis revolves around epigenetics and the definition of organism.  Burkeman also describes the trouble Jerry Fodor is causing with his book What Darwin Got Wrong (02/24/2010).
    In the end, though, Burkeman comes to Darwin’s rescue by claiming that Charles Darwin never claimed to have the only mechanism by which evolution acts.  “Darwin, writing before the discovery of DNA, knew very well that his work heralded the beginning of a journey to understand the origins and development of life,” Burkeman ended, dismissing millennia of belief in creation.  “All we may be discovering now is that we remain closer to the beginning of that journey than we’ve come to think.”  So despite the conflict and setbacks, at the end of this scary novel, the protagonist is saved, and Darwin lives happily ever after.
These stories appear from time to time; they’re kind of like dummy missiles intended to throw the enemy off track.  They pretend that internal squabbles are about to lead to the collapse of the Darwin Empire.  But in the end, they’re never really trying to chuck Chuck.  They may give him a Charlie horse, but never a hammerlock.  Watch for the hoarse of a different calor.  Their real caloric is saved up for the common enemy: the creationists.  What is it about those guys that makes them the target of such venom and strange antics?  Makes you almost want to get to know them.
Next headline on:  Darwin and EvolutionIntelligent Design
Bacterial Flagellum Can Tune Its Swim Speed with Network-Controlled Brakes     03/20/2010    
March 20, 2010 — What’s new with flagella?  These are the favorite toys of intelligent design supporters, because they are irreducibly complex molecular machines that evolutionists rarely attempt to explain by a Darwinian process.  More fodder for their position comes from a paper in Cell1 that finds that bacteria can fine-tune their swimming velocity by means of a molecular brake under network control: “This behaviour is governed by a molecular motor-brake protein that upon binding of the bacterial second messenger cyclic dimeric GMP interacts with a specific subunit of the flagellar nano-motor and thereby curbs motor output.  The intracellular concentration of cyclic dimeric GMP is controlled by a network of signaling proteins” – at least five of them.
    The authors, hailing from Switzerland and Germany, said: “These experiments demonstrate that bacteria can modulate flagellar motor output and thus swimming velocity in response to environmental cues.”  Noting that “E. coli directs its movement in an aqueous environment via phosphorylation-mediated control of motor reversals.”  That led them to ask, “Why would bacterial cells, in addition to this sophisticated motor control, modulate their swimming speed?” and answered that this mechanism may work best when nutrient supply is low: “Switching to a fuel-conserving locomotion regime is particularly important under low nutrient conditions....one function of the mechanism described here might be to adjust bacterial velocity to the energy status of the cell.”  The flagellar system, therefore, has good brakes as well as reversible gears.
    The research team said nothing about evolution.  Their paper was summarized by Science Daily and PhysOrg from information supplied by the University of Basel.  Science Daily threw in a biomimetic angle: “the discovery of flagellar motor curbing could be exploited for biotechnological applications, for example to engineer nanopumps in microfluidics or to build cell-based microrobots.”  Here’s what the paper said about that: “The discovery of flagellar motor curbing might have implications beyond the biology of bacterial locomotion.  On the basis of our findings, one could for example imagine to exploit the flagellar motor to engineer a rotary nanomachine that can be fine-tuned ad libitum.”  Driving your machine ad lib; that’s cool.
1.  Boehm, Kaiser et al, “Second Messenger-Mediated Adjustment of Bacterial Swimming Velocity,” Cell, doi:10.1016/j.cell.2010.01.018.
How many mousetraps does it take to establish irreducible complexity?  Just one.  Here we see mousetraps controlling mousetraps, and other mousetraps signalling those mousetraps to control the first mousetraps.  It’s irreducible complexity all the way down, all the way up, all the way in, and all the way out.  Then it’s biomimetic mousetraps coming in for inspiration.  Darwinian mice should be running scared.
Next headline on:  Cell BiologyIntelligent DesignBiomimeticsAmazing Facts
March 20, 2010 – We recommended an easy resource last time, so here’s one for the postgrads: The Deniable Darwin and Other Essays by David Berlinski (547 pp, Discovery Institute, 2009).  No pictures in this tome, but those appreciating a well-read, professorial mind with rapier wit will relish the deep thoughts and trenchant analyses in Berlinski’s essays written from 1996 to 2009.  The author, a mathematician with a gift for turning a phrase, explores Darwinism, materialism, cosmology, philosophy, the mind-body problem, laws of nature, relativity and more with a logic sharpened by mathematical rigor.  You’ll find one of the best critiques of big-bang cosmology not written by a creationist here.  Berlinski is a non-religious scholar who does not even endorse intelligent design without qualification, but finds it interesting and worth consideration (enough to be a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute).
    Viewer’s of Expelled will remember Berlinski’s charm and wit.  He also appeared in the documentary Icons of Evolution.  His “un-creationist” standing, combined with scholarly depth, broad experience in academic circles, unflappable brashness and dazzling command of the English language make him an interrogator the Darwinists cannot easily dismiss.  The title comes from his 1996 essay in Commentary that set off a firestorm of responses from senior devils, which Berlinski, in his responses reproduced here, committed to their hellholes with alacrity and a yawn.  Christians and creationists will understandably disagree with some of his opinions, but can profit from this unexpected ally in the battle to overturn the hollow authority of secular naturalism.
    Readers will find some challenging solid food for thought here.  Some familiarity with calculus and set theory helps.  But along the way, they will be amply rewarded with numerous delectable appetizers to digest with pleasure: e.g., “no conspiracy is required to explain the attachment of biologists to a doctrine they find sustaining; all that is required is Freud’s reminder that those in the grip of an illusion never recognize their affliction.”  Order this book from Amazon.com.
Next resource of the week:  03/13/2010.  All resources: Catalog.

The Whole Universe Is Crazy     03/19/2010    
March 19, 2010 — Suppose you engaged a mental patient about the origin of the universe.  He tells you that it banged and it whooshed and it crunched.  He elaborates and says that there’s lots of universes out there crashing into each other all the time.  “Yep, that’s how it happened, and that’s how we got here.  I’s sure ’bout it.  Know how I know?  Cuz anything can happen!  I got proof—the sun is up.”  Could that be any crazier than what Space.com reported about cosmologists with PhDs believe, in the most prestigious universities of the world?  “The Big Bang: Solid Theory, But Mysteries Remain,” Clara Moskowitz reported.  She takes us beyond the old simple Big Bang into the world of modern cosmology.
    Crazy may be in the eye of the beholder, but here is what her article claimed.  Picture yourself as a rationalist from the 17th century hearing these ideas for the first time:

  • A popular picture of the early universe imagines a single Big Bang, after which space blew up quickly like a giant bubble.  But another theory posits that we live in a universe of 11 dimensions, where all particles are actually made of tiny vibrating strings.  This could create a universe stuck in a cycle of Big Bangs and Big Crunches, due to repeat on loop.  Which scenario is closer to the truth remains to be seen....
  • However, what caused the Big Bang, what happened at that exact moment, and what came immediately after it, are much more open to debate.
  • A dominant idea that connects the dots between the Big Bang and the universe we find today is called inflation.  This is the notion that during the first roughly 10 to the minus 34 seconds (0.0000000000000000000000000000000001 seconds), the universe underwent exponential expansion, doubling in size at least 90 times.  During this early stage, matter was in a much different state than it is now.
  • “Inflation is easily the most popular theory in cosmology,” said theoretical physicist Neil Turok, director of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Ontario, Canada.  “It’s a good theory, but it has some weak points.  It can’t describe the moment of the Big Bang.
  • And inflation has other problems, in some people’s view.  Because of quantum fluctuations, different parts of the universe could inflate at different rates, creating “bubble universes” that are much larger than other regions.  Our universe may be just one in a multiverse, where different scales and physical laws reign.
  • It means everything and anything that can happen, will,” [Paul] Steinhardt [Princeton] told SPACE.com.  “So basically everything could be a prediction of inflation.  This to me is a fundamental problem and we don’t know how to get away from it.”
  • Others say that while inflation may not be complete yet, it’s still the most useful thing we’ve got to describe the origin of the universe.
  • M-theory requires the universe to have 11 dimensions.  So far, we can only detect four dimensions – three of space and one of time.  But maybe the other seven are hidden, proponents say.
  • “If you have another brane living in higher dimensions, it’s extremely likely to move and slam into our own brane,” [Burt] Ovrut [U of Pennsylvania] said.  “You have a brane with exactly the structure of our real world, and other branes that are likely to hit us, and all of the energy of colliding universes would come into play.”
What’s really alarming is that the article said that there’s a 100 per cent consensus about these beliefs.  Watching the battle of the branes, with today’s biggest brains arguing for inflation and multiverses, it might appear the whole world has gone crazy.  And they’re dead sure about these things they can never know.  They believe that observations may help, but can’t hurt: “not finding the [gravitational] waves wouldn’t really blow a death knell to either theory, since some versions of inflation don’t require gravitational waves,” Moskowitz ended.  “Either way, it should be exciting.”  Funny farms are exciting places.
When people cease to believe in God, they don’t believe in nothing; they believe in anything (G. K. Chesterton).  This is “the most useful thing we’ve got to describe the origin of the universe,” they said.  Why?  Only because they have ruled out a Creator.  The founders of science (who were Christians, for the most part) would be appalled at the recklessness of these theories.  No evidence required; no possible way to test them; invented “notions” presented as evidence; everything becomes a prediction and nothing qualifies as a potentially falsifying observation.  Don’t be deceived just because these guys are good at math.  Even some idiot savants have that ability.  We’ve come full circle from the Sumerian myths to modern cosmology, where consensus counts more than evidence, and you can make up a story and foist it on the populace, the crazier the better.  In the beginning, God sure has a welcome sound about it right now.
Next headline on:  CosmologyDumb Ideas
  Ancient monuments older than the pyramids: read about them in the 03/10/2009 entry.

No Clear Explanation for Saturn’s Rings After 6 Years of Cassini     03/19/2010    
March 19, 2010 — Those who hoped Cassini would solve the puzzles of Saturn’s rings should read the paper today in Science.1  The state-of-the-rings report, authored by a Who’s Who of ring scientists, is filled with questions.  Titled “An Evolving View of Saturn’s Dynamic Rings,” the report cannot determine their origin, their age, or their composition.  List the points of doubt after the initial word understanding in the abstract:

We review our understanding of Saturn’s rings after nearly 6 years of observations by the Cassini spacecraft.  Saturn’s rings are composed mostly of water ice but also contain an undetermined reddish contaminant.  The rings exhibit a range of structure across many spatial scales; some of this involves the interplay of the fluid nature and the self-gravity of innumerable orbiting centimeter- to meter-sized particles, and the effects of several peripheral and embedded moonlets, but much remains unexplained.  A few aspects of ring structure change on time scales as short as days.  It remains unclear whether the vigorous evolutionary processes to which the rings are subject imply a much younger age than that of the solar system.  Processes on view at Saturn have parallels in circumstellar disks.
Note: “evolutionary processes” refers here not to any Darwinian-like theory, but only to physical changes over time, such as the grinding down of icy particles or spreading of the rings.
    It’s not all bad news; certainly much has been learned from Cassini’s ringside seat and unprecedented views.  Scientists have watched the moons Pan, Pandora, Daphnis, Prometheus and others tug on ring particles.  The rings have been photographed in multiple wavelengths from radio to ultraviolet through seasonal changes.  Waves, spokes and impacts have been observed.  Structures large and small have been watched as they change.  The data set is rich – but the explanation set is impoverished.
    Among the main surprises are the dynamism of the ring particles.  “The very short lifetimes of particles in this size range [centimeter size] to various evolutionary processes suggest that sizes are determined by an active accretion-destruction cycle and are not primordial; thus, any radial variations indicate ongoing dynamics,” they said.  In other words, if the centimeter-sized particles had formed when Saturn is believed to have formed 4.5 billion years ago, they would be gone long before now – unless some process of accretion and destruction cycles them in and out of that size range.  Ring scientists now believe that self-gravity and inelastic collisions take particles through repeated cycles of clumping and dispersal.  This is very different from the picture of the rings prior to Cassini.
    The particles are moving very fast relative to Saturn – on the order of 20 km/sec, but collisions between them are very slow (0.01 to 0.1 cm/sec).  Like fluffy cars gently tapping one another going at the same speed, they damp each other’s motions, spread and circularize their orbits.  “Meanwhile, these small random motions are replenished by collisions and gravitational encounters with large particles and clumps of particles, ultimately deriving energy from the overall orbital motion.”  For practical purposes, the rings can be treated like a dense gas or fluid with its own viscosity and pressure.  Unlike a gas, though, the ring particles can clump and produce “self-gravity wakes” that appear ubiquitous throughout the dense parts of the rings.  The rings are also perturbed by spiral bending waves and density waves caused by gravitational perturbations from moons orbiting right outside the rings (and some within the rings).  These give the rings a corrugated appearance that was seen clearly at equinox when transverse waves cast long shadows.  “Some faint rings have changed appreciably since Voyager’s visit,” the authors noted (some of whom have been studying rings since the Voyager flybys in 1981).  “Both the D ring and inner C ring display a vertical corrugation that may have been generated only 25 years ago” by a large impact whose imprint is winding up over time.  The waves contribute to clumping and spreading of material.  Also, since the particles move otherwise independently at speeds determined by Kepler’s laws of motion (faster closer in, slower farther out), there is a “Keplerian shear” effect from the faster-revolving inner particles compared to those outside a given radius.
    Particularly surprising are dynamical effects that take place in matters of days or hours.  These are especially visible in the F ring, a thin bundle of ringlets outside the main rings, where streamers of material get pulled out when the small moon Prometheus passes by.  The motions are quasi-periodic but also have a chaotic component.  This means the patterns cannot be explained by simple shepherding models.  “Occasionally, more extraordinary events are observed,” the authors said.  “Within a few days, a ring sector’s brightness can double or triple after a sudden injection of dust.”  That suggests that incoming material from micrometeoroids is making the ice dirty.  If injections of dust can be observed now, how much dust would have been added after billions of years?  There’s even a moonlet about 5km in diameter that passes through the F ring on a regular basis.  “The primary core of the F ring has an eccentric, inclined orbit that precesses smoothly, maintaining its integrity in seeming defiance of the large distortions and variations present, and, like Uranus’s rings, avoiding differential precession as well.”  A few embedded moons 30-1200km in size have been observed.  “These may be members of a previously unseen population of larger bodies that serve as dust sources and that provide the mass needed to stabilize the ring’s orbit.” One wonders how long these dynamical processes can be sustained in such a tenuous, chaotic environment: “The F ring dramatically documents the difficulty of living near the edge of the Roche zone, where accretion and disruption are in continual combat.”  There are also diffuse, faint rings: the G ring with its dense arc, the E ring (fed by the geysers of Enceladus), and the newly discovered Phoebe ring (see 10/07/2009).  These are subject to disruptive forces from the solar wind, gravity and collisions.
    Two observations suggest the rings are young (at least far younger than the assumed age of Saturn).  Due to exchange of angular momentum, Mimas and the other close-in moons could not have maintained their presently-observed proximity for billions of years.  The other is the purity of the rings.  They are 90 to 95% water ice, with some reddish impurities of unknown origin – despite ongoing pollution from incoming micrometeoroids.  The authors estimate these two factors put limits on ring ages to about 1/10 the age of Saturn.  “These short lifetimes are problematic because the generation of the entire ring through disruption of a Mimas-size (or larger) parent is unlikely on this time scale.”  Therefore, they needed to find “loopholes” in the “young-ring arguments.”  The resonances with ring moons have been confirmed – the puzzle remains.  “Some flexibility in their implications for ring age may emerge if ring-moons periodically interact and perhaps temporarily destroy each other or are held up by much-sought-for, but as-yet-unidentified, resonances with exterior massive moons.”  Those two loopholes are appeals to unobserved factors.  How about the problem with impurities?  A loophole could be found if the rings are denser than thought.  That would give them the ability to absorb (and hide) some of the incoming pollution from micrometeoroids.  Unfortunately, “Firm mass measurements from density waves now blanket most of the rings, but the murky depths of the B ring may contain considerably more material than previously believed.”  That’s another appeal to an unobserved factor.  Even if there is considerably more material, it is not enough to keep the B ring pristine for 4.5 billion years (12/13/2007).  The thinner rings have even less time to stay clean.
    Are ring scientists better off than they were before Cassini?  Yes and no; the measurements are better than ever; “Yet, much of the ring’s structure—the irregular structure covering the B ring; the crisp, symmetrical, banding in the C ring; and the Cassini division itself—remains unexplained.... Far more needs to be done.”  By mission’s end in 2017 there will be hundreds of times more data than Voyager.  Examination of the flood of data is still in the early stages, they claimed.  “Explanations for the origin of Saturn’s rings,” they said in conclusion, “will remain unconvincing until we have understood the powerful dynamical processes that have formed, and continue to shape, these elegant structures on time scales reaching from yesterday to billions of years.”  At least they have job security.

The April issue of the journal Icarus has a special section on Saturn’s rings and icy satellites.  And late last year, a thick technical book by the Cassini scientists, Saturn from Cassini-Huygens, was published by Springer Link, with five chapters about the rings of Saturn.  Some of the authors of the paper commented on the rings in a JPL press release March 18.  Cassini enters its second extended mission this September, hoping to last into 2017.


1.  Cuzzi, Burns, Porco, Esposito, Spilker et al, “An Evolving View of Saturn’s Dynamic Rings,” Science, 19 March 2010: Vol. 327. no. 5972, pp. 1470-1475, DOI: 10.1126/science.1179118.
Today’s secular scientists just love the E-word.  The have to bring up evolution in everything.  Most of the problems these authors have with the rings is that they are married to billions-of-years thinking and cannot even begin to visualize thinking outside that rigid box.  While we are all fascinated by Saturn’s beautiful rings and see great value in trying to understand them (and the observational parts of this paper were terrific), there was a subtext evident that the authors were struggling to find ways to str-r-r-r-r-etch the rings into the moyboy cartoon (moyboy: millions of years, billions of years).  Many of these problems would evaporate if they thought outside the box.  The rings don’t just look young; they are young!  Why not?  Isn’t science supposed to follow the evidence where it leads?  No – they don’t need evidence any more.  They can postulate unobservable entities: hidden mass in the B-ring, “much-sought-for, but as-yet-unidentified, resonances with exterior massive moons” and clumps of ice that hide the pollution on their insides, where it cannot be observed.  Post-Voyager scientists were eager to find embedded moons that would supply the rings endlessly.  Except for a few examples at specific radii, these have not turned up.  The destructive processes that are observed (which they euphemize as “evolutionary processes” and “dynamical processes”) put serious upper limits on the age of the rings.
    One would think that these unmet expectations and stark realities would humble the scientists from stepping out on flimsier limbs, but no—one would think incorrectly.  One must learn the character of the Scientist.  The Scientist must be perceived as a Knower of the Deep Secrets.  The authors, therefore, did not hesitate to speculate about the origin of planets and stars.  Saturn has a disk of orbiting material; what can that tell us about how planets and galaxies evolved?  One would think very little, but again, we are dealing with Scientists.  They love to extrapolate far beyond their knowledge – and beyond their ability to observe, because they see it as their duty to tell the common folk how the universe, life and ultimate things came to be.  Do we see ring particles accreting into planets?  No.  Do we see them evolving little people on them?  No.  But while they’re speculating, they notice that some of the gaps in the rings have little bitty moons inside them.  Why, this must mean that an accreted planet can clear a gap for itself to avoid the giant sucking sound at the center (08/21/2009, 05/21/2009).  They can see that other embedded moons in Saturn’s rings do not have the mass to clear a gap.  This “holds the promise of directly observing processes analogous to the complex evolution of a protoplanet through a circumstellar disk,” they clucked.  Does one directly observe an analogy?  That’s a bizarre scientific logic.  They directly observe the rings, but nobody could watch the “complex evolution of a protoplanet.”  It would take too long, for one thing, and there aren’t any protoplanets in our solar system – just planets.  The scale between ring particles and planets differs by orders of magnitude.  If anything, the lack of ring particles clumping into larger and larger objects over time should put a stop to speculations that protoplanets (imaginary entities) would ever form in their fictional creative circumstellar disks, where destructive processes are observed – not acts of creation.  A reasonable scientific conclusion would be that circumstellar disk particles might also undergo continual processes of clumping and disruption, and planets would never form.  But saying that Saturn’s ring dynamics have “parallels with the processes active in protoplanetary disks” (with emphasis on the suggestive term protoplanet) is like saying that the processes at work in a Piper cub have parallels with the city-sized UFOs in Independence Day.  Maybe in Hollywood they do.  Scientists: Get real.  Stay real.
Next headline on:  Solar SystemPhysicsDating Methods
“Synthetic Evolution” – Is it Really Intelligent Design?     03/18/2010    
March 18, 2010 — Some Cambridge scientists engineered a four-character genetic code and made some proteins with it.  They guided the process at every step, but claim that they “evolved” this code.  Is that a fair use of language?  This strange admixture of concepts is found in today’s issue of Nature.1  The confusion began right in the title: “Encoding multiple unnatural amino acids via evolution of a quadruplet-decoding ribosome.”
  1. ...orthogonal pairs have been evolved to incorporate a range of unnatural amino acids...
  2. Here we synthetically evolve an orthogonal ribosome (ribo-Q1) that efficiently decodes a series of quadruplet codons....
  3. Because the synthetase–tRNA pairs used have been evolved to incorporate numerous unnatural amino acids it will be possible to encode more than 200 unnatural amino acid combinations using this approach.
  4. ....this work provides foundational technologies for the encoded synthesis and synthetic evolution of unnatural polymers in cells.
  5. Natural ribosomes are very inefficient at, and unevolvable for quadruplet decoding, which would enhance misreading of the proteome.
  6. ...orthogonal ribosomes ... may, in principle, be evolved to efficiently decode quadruplet codons on the orthogonal message....
  7. To discover evolved orthogonal ribosomes that enhance quadruplet decoding we first created 11 saturation mutagenesis libraries in the 16S ribosomal RNA of ribo-X (an orthogonal ribosome previously evolved for efficient amber codon decoding on an orthogonal message)....
  8. We used ribo-X as a starting point for library generation because we hoped to discover evolved orthogonal ribosomes that gain the ability to efficiently decode quadruplet codons while maintaining the ability to efficiently decode amber codons on the orthogonal mRNA....
  9. To explicitly compare the fidelity of triplet decoding and quadruplet decoding for the evolved orthogonal ribosomes and the progenitor ribosome we used two independent methods....
  10. ....which is derived from the ... pair, by a series of generally applicable directed evolution steps....
  11. ...it will be interesting to investigate the enhancement of protein function that may be accessed by combining the encoding of these cross-links with directed evolution methods.
What’s notable in this paper was not only the flagrant use of evolve as an active method that the scientists used to investigate function for the purpose of enhancing protein synthesis, but also their use of the stem word “natural.”  They spoke of unnatural amino acids (those not found in wild-type living cells), and described their attempts to achieve of “synthetic evolution of unnatural polymers in cells.”  They spoke of the “inefficiency with which natural ribosomes decode quadruplet codons” but then praised their fidelity with their triplet system: “Natural ribosomes decode triplet codons with high fidelity (error frequencies ranging from 10-2 to 10-4 errors per codon have been reported).”
    Another mixing of unguided and designed concepts appears in their use of synthetic.  They spoke of “synthetic evolution” (their lab work) but also used and altered the “natural” molecular machines that bind amino acids to transfer-RNA, the tRNA synthetases.  Consider also how the concept of coding was used: they wished to achieve “synthetic genetic code expansion” They shifted seamlessly between the natural genetic code and their expanded, synthesized quadruplet code.  With all this mixture of terms synthesizing and evolving natural and unnatural codes, the reader is left wondering what “evolved” on its own, if anything, and what was intelligently designed.
1.  Neuman, Wang, Davis, Garcia-Alai, Chin, “Encoding multiple unnatural amino acids via evolution of a quadruplet-decoding ribosome,” Nature 464, 441-444 (18 March 2010); doi:10.1038/nature08817.
Answer: everything was intelligently designed, both the natural and unnatural codes and functions.  This paper was one of the best examples in recent memory of Truman’s Law: “If you can’t convince them, confuse them.”  Using evolve as a synonym for design is a clever way to blow smoke using equivocation.  Words mean things.  This has nothing to do with evolution in the way Darwin used it, and in the way the debate rages today.  It has everything to do with intelligently designing codes to synthesize things they would not naturally do (that is, without the intervention of a human mind).  These human designers did not “evolve” anything, and they did not rule out intelligent design in the “natural” systems.  If they really wanted to talk about evolution, they should have left the lab and let “nature” take its course.  “Synthetic evolution” is as sophoxymoronic (02/02/2008 commentary) as holy atheism.
Next headline on:  Darwin and EvolutionIntelligent DesignGenetics
The Copernican Geological Revolution     03/17/2010    
March 17, 2010 — The Copernican Revolution did not just affect astronomy and physics: it revolutionized geology.  So argued Walter Alvarez in Geology this month.1  Geologists usually talk rocks in their rags, but Alvarez (the one who brought impacts into extinction theories) decided to play historian.  With Henrique Leitao, he announced, “we argue that the Copernican Revolution represented not only a revolution in astronomy and physics, but also a radical change in understanding the Earth.
    Part of their motivation seems to be to extend the history of their discipline.  “Many geologists think of geology as a young science that originated about 1800,” they said.  Apparently it would be more prestigious for geologists to sink their roots deeper into intellectual history.  To do that, though, Alvarez and Leitao have to navigate geology through multiple upheavals: the plate tectonics revolution of the late 1900s, the Darwinian revolution of the late 1800s, the Hutton revolution of the late 1700s – and now, the Copernican revolution of the late 1500s.  (Not much happened in the 1600s geologically except for the foundational work in stratigraphy by Nicholas Steno around 1669.)
    The authors acknowledged the revolutions in philosophy and history of science of the 20th century; they mentioned Kuhn, Laudan, Lakatos, Rudwick, and others.  They had to justify the word “revolution” to make their case that geology has foundations in Copernicus.  This was made somewhat more difficult by the fact that the word geology was not invented till after Copernicus (1603) and was not widely used till about 1800.  Nevertheless, they felt that the Copernican system led to a new view of the earth: “there has never been any serious reason since then to think that Earth is not a planet.”  This contrasts sharply with the earth view of Aristotle and Ptolemy, they argued.  The “recognition that Earth is not compositionally different from celestial bodies” was important for the founding of geology as a science: it was the Copernican revolution “that gave Earth its personality and its independence and finally made it a worthy object of study.”
    Alvarez and Leitao tried to recreate the world view of the medieval mind.  Planets were wandering stars, points of light that moved in complicated patterns against the stars, which were perfect celestial objects embedded in crystalline spheres.  The Earth meant different things to different people.  “In Medieval Christianity, Earth was a temporary abode for human beings prior to the Day of Judgment,” they said; “For philosophers, earth was one of four elements, along with air, fire, and water, which made up the terrestrial globe.”  Whatever one thought, nobody believed till Copernicus that the Earth was a planet.  “It is difficult today to recapture that alien worldview, but we may imagine that ‘Earth’ and ‘planet’ had as little to do with each other then as, for example, ‘Pangea’ and ‘B-flat minor’ do today,” they quipped.  Then Copernicus comes, and now Earth is a planet!  “It was as if we were to learn that Pangea was written in B-flat minor.”  (Wasn’t that a march by John Phillip Sousa?)
    Seeing the earth as a planet orbiting under physical laws of motion opened the way for using it as a natural laboratory, Alvarez and Leitao said; “It is difficult to imagine a more profound change in the understanding of the Earth, or to envision a serious science of the Earth that does not recognize that Earth is a planet.”  They spent most of their conclusion clearing up confusion about the Copernican cliché:
In addition, contrary to what is commonly believed, we now know that in the eyes of its contemporaries, the Copernican Revolution glorified the Earth, making it an object worthy of study, in contrast to the preceding view, which demeaned the Earth.  Ironically, the Copernican Revolution is almost invariably portrayed today as having demoted the Earth from a position at the center of the universe, the main concern of God, to being merely one of the planets.  Danielson2 (2001) made a compelling case that this portrayal is the opposite of what really happened, i.e., that before the Copernican Revolution, Earth was seen not as being at the center, but rather at the bottom, the cesspool where all filth and corruption fell and accumulated.  The revolution changed that view, as can be seen in a quote from Galileo, speaking as his alter ego Salviati, in Dialogue of the Two World Systems: “As for the earth, we seek...to ennoble and perfect it when we strive to make it like the celestial bodies, and, as it were, place it in heaven, from whence your philosophers have banished it” (see Danielson, 2001, p. 1032).
    Danielson (2001) showed how historians came to misinterpret this glorification of the Earth as a demotion, an erroneous change of interpretation embodied in the now almost universal viewpoint that he called the “Copernican cliché.”  It is difficult to imagine a science of geology developing when Earth was considered an accumulation of filth and corruption.  The post-Copernican Earth, ennobled and perfected, became an object worthy of study by the emerging science of geology.
In the acknowledgements, Alvarez credited a “2007 visit of three Portuguese historians of science to Berkeley that triggered this study”.  His thesis can be summed up thus, “With the advantage of hindsight, we realize that recognizing Earth as a planet was a precondition for understanding the universe.  When that recognition destroyed the Aristotelian view that Earth is fundamentally different from celestial bodies, the Earth could become a laboratory for studying the universe.”  The science of geology, therefore, can extend its origins to the Copernican revolution.
1.  Walter Alvarez and Henrique Leitao, “The neglected early history of geology: The Copernican Revolution as a major advance in understanding the Earth,” Geology, v. 38 no. 3, p. 231-234, doi: 10.1130/G30602.1.
2.  D. R. Danielson, 2001, “The great Copernican cliché,” American Journal of Physics, v. 69, p. 1029–1035, doi: 10.1119/1.1379734.
To his credit, Alvarez helped clear up the misinterpretation of the Copernican revolution being a demotion; this was a point emphasized in The Privileged Planet, in which Danielson himself appeared to clarify the historical record.  It would have been nice to chastise Carl Sagan a little bit for misconstruing the medieval world view in Cosmos so badly for his millions of viewers, but at least this article agreed with Danielson.  And Alvarez did not use his article to bash Christians and creationists.  Still, there are a number of problems.
    For one, he used fairly broad brushes to portray historical views.  Any period was likely to have many dissenting opinions.  It’s doubtful that nobody ever thought of studying the earth before Copernicus.  Could any traveler climb the mountains or cross the deserts without wondering about them?  Many people may have studied the earth without leaving written records.  A good historian of science would probably find many examples in ancient writings through to the middle ages displaying early “geological” thinking.  Are we to believe, too, that every Christian before Copernicus held their nose at the Earth as a pit of wretched filth?  Read Psalm 96, Psalm 104 and Psalm 148.  See if those hymns of praise to the Creator of the earth are so dismissive.  Notice that these were all written long after Genesis, even though the Hebrew authors knew about the curse and the judgment of God.  They still saw the creation of the natural order as a beautiful, wonderful, source of awe and joy.  Psalm 111:2 said, “Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in them.”  That verse alone should have liberated science many centuries before geology was born.  It is wrong, therefore for Alvarez to allege that the Earth was “ennobled and perfected” by Copernicus.  It was ennobled long ago by the Bible.
    A central hold-up to serious study of the earth was that the medieval church became wedded to Aristotelian and Ptolemaic concepts that were not Biblical.  There is nothing in the Bible about crystalline spheres.  There is nothing that rules out the Earth as a planet.  There is nothing that says that all the filth and corruption finds its place at the center, where Earth is located.  Those all came out of pagan Greek philosophy.  Jeremiah taught that the stars were innumerable.  There are indications in Job and elsewhere that creation follows natural laws.  Jesus referred to the beauty of birds and wildflowers, and used them as examples of God’s care for his creation.  To the extent “Medieval Christianity” was anti-scientific (a dubious proposition to those who know their history), their mistakes cannot be traced to the Bible.  (Note: three statements in the Psalms that “the earth shall not be moved” are not talking about geology or physics, but about God’s sovereign rule over the earth; they have nothing to do with the question of earth’s physical motion.)
    There are also some non-sequiturs in the proposition that nothing serious could be done in geology before Copernicus.  It’s not clear that one has to see the earth as a planet to study it.  Any medieval person, or Roman or Egyptian for that matter, could have picked up rocks, wondered about fossils, and examined other real-life geological phenomena.  Maybe more of them did than we know.  Maybe they didn’t write down their ideas.  Whatever we think about the stars, we humans all walk on the ground, and curiosity is a normal human trait.  Seeing the connection of the Earth to other celestial bodies might enhance understanding of the Earth, but not seeing it does not preclude investigation.  Consider that comparative planetary geology in our own day did not really begin in earnest till Mariner 4’s flyby of Mars in 1964, long after geology was established as a science.  Geology was not held up till Copernicus arrived.
    Two of the most serious flaws in this article are the myth of progress and the assumption of deep time.  “During the geological revolution” of the late 18th and early 19th centuries],” he said, “geologists recognized that Earth has a long, complicated history that is recorded in rocks, and learned to read that history and to date those rocks using fossils.”  That’s an overly simplistic characterization.  Actually, the assumption of deep time was a choice, not a discovery.  Geologists did not recognize millions of years.  They needed them to back up anti-Scriptural interpretations.  This is clear from the writings of Buffon, Hutton and Lyell, who wished to liberate science from Moses.  Steno was a creationist, but the 18th-century founders of geology determined a priori that nothing in Scripture could be used in the interpretation of the rocks.  Thus the only potential eyewitness accounts of earth history were ruled out of court.  That’s objective science for you.
    Early geologists jumped on that bandwagon and scorned the “scriptural geologists” as old fuddy-duddies out of touch with the new fad.  They set to work fabricating an artificial framework for interpreting strata, assigning them the millions of years needed to fulfill Hutton’s vision of an ancient planet with no Creator and no Flood.  There is nothing written on the Cambrian layers Sedgwick and Darwin found at Wales that shouts out “550 million years old!”  (On the contrary, there is a lot to suggest otherwise.)  Darwin became the leader of the band, and now we have this ossified bandwagon called the Geologic Column that has become the cart pulling the horse in university geology departments today.  What are the chances it corresponds with reality?  To answer that, one only need consider the other major flaw in Alvarez’s article, the myth of progress.
    Notice the first major subheading: “Major Advances in Understanding the Earth.”  How much do we understand the earth?  That’s a loaded question.  We tend to see science as progressive because of the very clear evidence of technological progress: we have cell phones; our great grandparents didn’t.  Nobody questions that kind of progress.  But when you ask whether we really understand a scientific phenomenon, the assumption of progress is naïve.  One of the ideas Dr. Stephen Goldman emphasizes in his Teaching Company lecture series “Science Wars” (see Resource of the Week for 12/19/2009) is that science has a historical character.  This is not the same as progress; it means that scientific ideas and concepts are relevant to the time periods in which they are expressed.  The “earth” means something very different today than it did 100 years ago – and 100 years before that.  In 1900, he says, Earth was a basically static globe with occasional volcanoes and earthquakes.  Now, geologists believe tectonic plates are moving all over the place and colliding, and catastrophism is back with a vengeance.  You need to ask the follow-up question: how confident can we be that 100 years from now, geologists would have anywhere near the same theories and concepts of the earth as we do today, considering the fact that at each time in history, the intelligentsia were confident their concepts were correct?  Our concepts of the universe have changed even more dramatically from what they were in 1900 – more so, arguably, than after the Copernican Revolution.  We didn’t even know about external galaxies before 1923.  Each branch of science has a similar story to tell.  Physics was pretty much locked up in the late 1800s except for refining a few decimal places, then boom! relativity and quantum mechanics changed everything. 
    The basic question is whether our scientific theories provide a view of nature that is True with a “capital T” – or is at least progressing toward that truth.  Notice that truth is not the same thing as explanation, prediction, or control.  Our theories can provide those things, but so did ancient Greek and Egyptian theories that are now known to be incorrect.  Regarding control, the Egyptians built the pyramids with false views of nature.  And prediction can be misleading; the fallacy of “assuming the consequent” dogs scientific reasoning (theory predicts A, A happens, therefore theory is correct – ignores other successful theories).  Explanation can be little more than storytelling.  Geologists today should not be naïve to think that their ability to explain, predict and control nature with current theories means that their theories are true.
    Much of geology deals with phenomena that are not observable (e.g., the core of the earth, earth origins and history).  Even the phenomena accessible to observation produce theories subject to major revisions.  The same issue of Geology this month has a paper about alluvial fan formation that overturns a previous theory that had overturned one before that, and supports the earlier theory.  Is that progress, or rather a swinging pendulum?  Some liken scientific progress to the path of a hunting dog.  A bloodhound may wander from left to right, but the resultant vector shows progress as he hones in on the scent.  Even so, how do you know you are on the right trail?  Maybe when the dog catches up with the suspect, it will be the wrong culprit, and the forensic team would have to start over.
    The point is that even if you see progress in explanation, prediction or control, it does not mean your scientific efforts are converging on the Truth.  Neither does it mean so if you have thousands of PhDs pursuing the consensus paradigm, munching croissants at huge AGU conventions, and teaching textbook science to undergrads using calculus.  Geological theories of the earth go far, far beyond what can be verified through observation.  In the years between Buffon and Lyell, a priori decisions were made to disregard Scripture as having any relevance to geology.  Suppose historians decided to build a theory of Rome by deciding in advance to disregard all texts and inscriptions, and only studying monuments and ruins.  Suppose they won over all the universities and journals with this approach.  Imagine them celebrating their Enlightenment, their independence from the slavery to texts.  Would they be likely to make much progress toward the true history of Rome?  Consider that none of the following accoutrements to a paradigm have any necessary connection to its truth:
  • The number of experts promoting a view (10,000 Frenchman can be wrong)
  • The tightness of the camaraderie binding supporters of a view together
  • The prestige of the institutions supporting the view
  • The reputation of the journals doing the publishing
  • The number of journal articles published (10,000 lies don’t add up to a truth)
  • The length of time a view has been believed (Ptolemaic astronomy lasted 1500 years)
  • The dazzle of the charts, graphics and textbooks available
  • The quality of animations in TV documentaries produced to illustrate the view
  • The denseness of the jargon used in discussing the view
  • The cleverness of the classification schemes employed
  • The chutzpah of its supporters
  • The political power of its supporters
  • The ability of its leaders to demonize and marginalize opposition
  • The incompetence of some of the view’s detractors (they could still be right)
  • The ability of its proponents to win court cases
  • The dignity of the conferences held in support of the view
  • The view’s success at explanation, prediction and control
    What matters is evidence.  Eyewitness testimony is evidence.  Rather than ruling out that class of evidence for geology, the question 18th-19th century geologists should have considered was the reliability of the only Eyewitness available.  Sedgwick and Lyell and others tried to hang on to their Christian God, but they abandoned his Word, leaning on their own understanding (Prov 3:5-6).  They also dismissed the greatest witness of all – Jesus Christ – who taught creation and the Flood (Matthew 24:38-29).  By cutting off their authority at the knees, they have been hobbling around on stumps in shifting sand, thinking it was progress.  Not all motion is progress.  Some is just commotion.
    Next headline on:  GeologyDating MethodsBible and TheologyCosmologySolar System
  •   A sample of geological consensus woes with one of Earth’s most famous landmarks: Grand Canyon.  Revisit the 03/05/2008 entry.

    Search for Intraterrestrial Life Scores Big     03/16/2010    
    March 16, 2010 — Single-celled organisms may be tiny, but what they lack in bulk they make up for in volume and importance.  Scientists have been appreciating more than ever the ubiquitous presence of microbes on our planet and the roles they play to sustain the biosphere.
        PhysOrg reported that half of the world’s life may lie below the land and sea.  Scientists at UC Santa Cruz are thinking earth’s “habitable zone” may extend much deeper than previously thought: to depths of hundreds or thousands of meters.  Microbes inhabit subsurface aquifers that could contain more water than all the rivers on earth.  The search for ET begins at home, they think: “Scientists say research on ‘intraterrestrial life’ complements astronomers’ hunt for ‘extraterrestrial life’ around other stars and planets,” the article said.
        Of course, all life we know on earth uses the same genetic coding and translation system.  But the vast bulk of life on our planet may never see the sun, and some of it does not even need oxygen.  “Diving for Microbes,” an article in Caltech’s Engineering and Science magazine (LXXIII:1, 2010) discussed work to understand the microbes on the seafloor that digest methane and support entire ecosystems in the dark.  In passing, author Marcus Y. Woo gave some “wow factor” information about microbes in general:

    Scientists estimate that the planet has 5 x 1030 microorganisms—that’s more than a hundred million times the number of stars in the observable universe.  Scoop up all these little critters together, and they’ll weigh several hundred billion metric tons, a mass about a thousand times greater than that of all the people on Earth.  The majority of the planet’s microbes are believed to live inside Earth’s crust or just below the seafloor, regions that are scarcely understood and explored, so many more bug-based ecosystems are likely still undiscovered.
        Often unjustly maligned, microbes are essential for life.  “They are an integral part of almost every facet of our planet,” [Victoria] Orphan [Assistant Professor of Geobiology, Caltech] says.  No species of archaea are known to cause diseases, and only a small fraction of bacteria do; most are harmless or even helpful.  Bacteria help digestion, and, as biologists are finding, they play essential roles in our immune systems and overall health....
    (For more on microbes aiding digestion, see this recent article on PhysOrg.  An article on Science Daily noted that there are more microbe genes in your gut than human genes for your body; so did the BBC News, that said your microbe passengers constitute a “second genome” of yours.)
        What scientists are finding, therefore, is not only that we depend on microbes, which outnumber our own cells 10 to 1 as we live and move, but that they are essential for the habitability of the entire planet.  The methane-eating bacteria on the seafloor, Orphan’s team found, play a huge role in earth’s nitrogen cycle.  They are among the only life forms capable of “fixing” nitrogen from atmospheric nitrogen gas and making it available for use by other organisms.  “Without these microbes, the planet would run out of biologically available nitrogen in less than a month,” the article said.
        Realizations like this are stimulating a flourishing field of “geobiology” – the study of relationships between life and the earth.  One member of the Caltech team commented, “If all bacteria and archaea just stopped functioning, life on Earth would come to an abrupt halt.”  Microbes are key players in earth’s nutrient cycles.  Dr. Orphan added, “...every fifth breath you take, thank a microbe.
        Since we depend on microbes so much, why not let them become our teachers?  Another article on PhysOrg reported about scientists seeking better ways to convert carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide, using sunlight.  They asked, “WWND?  What would nature do?”  They don’t have a particular microbe in mind that does this task, but realized that thinking like a microbe might provide a fruitful way to approach the problem.  An Oxford scientist commented, “We looked for a way that seems like nature’s way of doing it, which is more efficient.
    Update 03/19/2010: Scientists at Michigan State found that microbes are important for promoting biodiversity and cleaning the environment, reported PhysOrg.  Because many of them can live for long periods in a dormant state, they can hold out in unfavorable conditions and respond to environmental cues.  “Microbes are the most abundant and diverse organisms on earth; they carry out essential ecosystem services,” said one of the scientists.  “Among these services are contaminant degradation, carbon sequestration and various processes that affect plant productivity.
    Are you really an “individual”?  Yes and no; you couldn’t live without your contingent of microbes constantly at your service.  We are beginning to see biology as hierarchies of interrelated systems.  Who would have thought that our health depends on microbes digesting methane seeping out of the deep ocean?  Who would have thought that the air we breathe and the plants we consume owe their existence to hundreds of billions of metric tons of organisms too small to see?  Who would have thought that channels deep under the crust and ocean are thriving habitats for life?  Earth’s biosphere is a system of systems of systems – each of them showcasing intelligent design at all levels.
        Unfortunately, some of the articles spoiled their otherwise good content with evolutionary non-sequiturs.  They told us that SITI is a first step to SETI – finding intraterrestrial life helps the search for extraterrestrial life.  That’s like saying finding a library in a large city will help locate libraries on Mars.  They told us that microbes were around billions of years before humans arrived – an unsupported assertion.  They told us that since microbes can digest methane on Earth, they might be digesting it on Titan.  Such statements serve little more than to restate reigning dogmas.  Learn to keep them separate from the observational facts, and you can still enjoy scientific articles.
    Next headline on:  Cell BiologyGeologyBiomimeticsSETIAmazing Facts
    Mars Discoveries Change Paradigms     03/15/2010    
    March 15, 2010 — Mars is under assault by an armada of orbiters gathering intell from the planet with photons and radar beams.  What kind of information has been seized recently?
    1. Dry rivers:  Remember the networks of river channels that were telltale signs of water?  Remember the hope for life those images generated?  Some of those riverbeds could have been lava flows.  Lava, understandably, doesn’t have quite the same astrobiological ring to it.
          Space.com reported on the most detailed analysis of the channels by NASA scientist Jacob Bleacher.  “To understand if life – as we know it – ever existed on Mars, we need to understand where water is or was,” he said.  Then he compared Mars channels with those on Hawaii.  On Mauna Kea, he found “most of the features that were considered to be diagnostic of water-carved channels on Mars.”  He also noticed evidence of collapsed lava tubes in some of the Martian channels.  He believes his analysis allows making “a strong case that fluid lava can produce channels that look very much like water-generated features.”  It’s important, therefore, not to jump to conclusions about water on the red planet, he said.  His co-author Andy de Wet believes what they found applies to channels all over the Tharsis Bulge.  While their study does not rule out some liquid water channels, “It may also have some implications for the supposed widespread involvement of water in the geological evolution of Mars.”  National Geographic shows pictures of the channels.
    2. Hard water:  There is water on Mars – if you’re talking about the hard kind (ice).  PhysOrg echoed a press release from Jet Propulsion Laboratory about findings from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) with its powerful HiRISE camera.  “Extensive radar mapping of the middle-latitude region of northern Mars shows that thick masses of buried ice are quite common beneath protective coverings of rubble.”  Jeffrey Plaut of JPL explains its origin: “The hypothesis is the whole area was covered with an ice sheet during a different climate period, and when the climate dried out, these deposits remained only where they had been covered by a layer of debris protecting the ice from the atmosphere.”  Nothing was stated about whether the H2O was ever liquid.
    3. Mars on the move:  Mars is alive in one sense: the dunes are moving.  Another press release from Jet Propulsion Lab described how scientists are identifying which sand dunes are traveling and which are marching in place.  Some dunes, they claim, “have been stationary for 100,000 years or more.”  How would they know, since observations go back only a decade or more?  That’s only 1/10,000 the time claimed.  The method used depends on crater counts (see 09/25/2007, 10/20/2005).  “Examination of ripples at the edges of craters can show whether the ripples were in place before the crater was excavated or moved after the crater formed.”  This gives relative ages; how are absolute ages estimated?  Mars expert Matt Golombek said, “There’s enough of a range of crater ages that we can bracket the age of the most recent migration of the ripples in this area to more than 100,000 years and probably less than 300,000 years ago.”  This depends on the current accepted scheme for assigning dates to craters based on their characteristics and densities.  To keep the dunes static for such a long time, in spite of wind and dust, Golombek postulated the stable dunes are made of heavier particles, like the “blueberries” (concretions) found by the Opportunity rover: “The blueberries appear to form a [sic] armoring layer that shields the smaller sand grains beneath them from the wind.”  It was not clear from the short press release why finer sand would not form on top of the armoring layer, or why the blueberries would form ripples at all if they are too heavy to be moved by the wind.  In the finer sands of Meridiani Planum, “Opportunity has seen resulting changes in its own wheel tracks revisited several months after the tracks were first cut.”
    4. Mars-o-Phobia:  The Mars Express orbiter of the European Space Agency took the highest resolution photos of Phobos, the larger of the Martian moons named for the Greek god of fear.  Scientists fear that tidal forces will tear this low-density rubble pile apart some day.  “Researchers suspect the moon is simply a collection of planetary rubble that coalesced around the Red Planet sometime after its formation,” BBC News article speculated.  “Another explanation is that it is a captured asteroid.”  Its density is so low, some planetary scientists believe “its surface probably hides many large interior voids.”
    JPL is working feverishly to assemble and test its next-generation rover before a scheduled launch in the fall of 2011.  One chief goal of the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), nicknamed Curiosity, will be to look for evidence of current or past life.  Jennifer Eigenbrode, a Goddard scientist highlighted in a MSL press release, strung together a series of maybes in her description of the rationale: “Maybe life existed back then.  Maybe it has persisted, which is possible given the fact that we’ve found life in every extreme environment here on Earth.  If life existed on Mars, maybe it adapted very much like life adapted here.”  None of MSL’s 10 instruments is prepared to look for life directly, however; but “SAM [Sample Analysis at Mars] has a key role of checking for carbon-containing compounds that potentially can be ingredients or markers of life.”
    We can play the maybe game, too.  Maybe pigs had wings in the past and flew.  Maybe they left no fossils.  Maybe they evolved on Neptune and flew here.  Maybe doesn’t cut it in science, baby.  Let’s see your evidence.  You can’t appeal to life in extreme environments on earth when discussing fictional life on Mars.  That’s called begging the question.  Show us life on Mars, then we can discuss how well adapted it is.
        Once again we find ad hoc theorizing to keep Mars old.  The dunes move, so they had to cap them with blueberry armor to keep them as old as the craters tell them they must be.  But even then, they can’t keep them older than 300,000 years – just 7% the assumed age of Mars.  How come there are no craters 300,001 years old or more?  The error bars are bigger than the bars.  On a body that has global dust storms and volcanoes, it is a risky business to estimate crater ages.  It is risky estimating the moon’s age by craters – and the moon has no atmosphere (read about some of the problems in crater-count dating in the 09/25/2007 and 10/20/2005 entries).
        Most egregious in planetary science reporting these days is the endless storytelling about life.  The lava-flow theory of the channels will only be a temporary setback.  Since the Maybe Game has achieved legitimacy, they can invent stories ad nauseum without needing any evidence.  Maybe a crater hit the ice and melted it for a few days.  Maybe life evolved on the fast track.  Maybe it evolved antifreeze before the heat was all gone.  Maybe MSL will find it.
    Next headline on:  Solar SystemDating MethodsGeology
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    Zebra pretends to be cleaner fish: a BBC News article shows a zebra cleaning the teeth of a hippopotamus for 15 minutes without getting beheaded in the process.  The hippo seemed to enjoy the dental care.

    Robotic Pothole Crew Keeps Your Genetic Highways in Good Repair     03/14/2010    
    March 14, 2010 — What a thought – a repair crew of molecular machines roaming the strands of your DNA, fixing errors 24 x 7.  It happens.  New techniques are showing the machines jumping from strand to strand like fleas, stopping at suspicious points, and fixing errors, reported Science Daily.  Dr. Bennett Van Houten (U of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute) had an earthy way of illustrating what goes on.  “How this system works is an important unanswered question in this field,” he said.  “It has to be able to identify very small mistakes in a 3-dimensional morass of gene strands.  It’s akin to spotting potholes on every street all over the country and getting them fixed before the next rush hour.
        A bacterium has about 40 team members on its pothole crew.  That allows its entire genome to be scanned for errors in 20 minutes, the typical doubling time.  The machines were observed jumping and sliding at random, but engaged sometimes in paused motion that “seemed slower and purposeful,” the scientists said, as if they were scrutinizing a pothole (i.e., a structural abnormality or defect) needing repair.  These smart machines can apparently also interact with other damage control teams if they cannot fix the problem on the spot.

    Strange story.  None of the scientists said anything about evolution.  Weren’t they supposed to tell us how these smart robots evolved?  We were told nothing made sense in biology except in the light of evolution.  Are they going to leave us here in the dark?  Someone, please shed light on evolution before the I.D. bogeymen get here!
    Next headline on:  Cell BiologyGeneticsAmazing Facts
      Our sun as a star: how does it compare?  Read the results of one of the longest continuous observation programs of any astronomical object in the 03/07/2007 entry.

    Fruit Flies: From Darwin to Design     03/13/2010    
    March 13, 2010 — The fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster is an icon of evolution.  Since the 1930s these poor little bugs have been mutated endlessly and watched for signs of Darwinian change.  So far, though, only useless mutants, unable to survive in the wild, have been produced.  Recently, scientists seem more enamored with their design.  Two recent articles had nothing to say about evolution but a lot to say about the amazing ways they are put together.  They are so well put together, in fact, that they put humans to shame in some ways – not only because they can fly and we can’t.

    1. Fly eye:  Did you know fruit flies have better color perception than we do?  Science Daily said that scientists studying phototaxis (attraction to light) in Drosophila found their 8 photoreceptors produce different responses in behavior.  One of the study authors pointed out, “This simple insect can achieve sophisticated color discrimination and detect a broader spectrum of colors than we can, especially in the UV.”
    2. Fly fountain of youthScience Daily reported on work to study how fruit flies overcome aging.  Scientists at UC San Diego identified a protein named Sestrin that “serves as a natural inhibitor of aging and age-related pathologies in fruit flies.”  The structure and biochemical function of this protein is “conserved” (i.e., unevolved) between fruit flies and humans – meaning that we may owe the ability to live longer, healthier lives some day to research on these tiny insects.  Experiments that reduced Sestrin in the flies produced stress and deformities.  “These pathologies are amazingly similar to the major disorders of overweight, heart failure and muscle loss that accompany aging in humans.”
          The pathologies appear to arise by disrupting an important “quality control” mechanism called autophagy, the article explained.  The team is trying to find out if “proper Sestrin expression will provide the explanation to some of the currently unexplainable degenerative diseases associated with old age.”  One researcher hoped for good fruit from these experiments: “Maybe one day we will be able to use Sestrin analogs to prevent much of the tissue failure associated with aging, as well as treat a number of degenerative diseases, whose incidence goes up with old age, including sarcopenia and Alzheimer’s disease.”
    3. Fly time:  Oregon State is studying the fruit fly biological clock, reported Science Daily, in hopes of helping humans find the “key to better health and a longer life.”  A properly-functioning biological clock is important in preventing damage from oxidative stress.  The article noted that the genes for the fruit fly clock are essentially the same as in humans, having been “conserved [unevolved] through many millions of years of evolution.”  Obviously some other things have not been so conserved.  Most of us don’t resemble them much.
    4. Fly power:  Bodybuilders, be humble before the fruit fly: on your scale, they could bench press triple your personal best – for more reps, too.  PhysOrg noted that the muscles in these tiny insects are among the strongest in the animal kingdom (ounce for ounce, that is).  Frank Schnorrer of the Max Planck Institute said of their flight muscles, “They are able to produce 100 watt per kilogram muscle mass and that over a long period of time.  Bodybuilders and Tour de France riders can only dream about such a performance.  They steadily manage about 30 watt per kilogram muscle mass.”
          About 2000 genes in the fruit fly genome of 12,000 genes are involved in the production of these flight muscles.  Schnorrer remarked, “It is fascinating how the genetic programme of an organism is able to produce such different cell types out of identical precursor cells.”  Live Science posted a video last month showing how the fruit fly’s supercharged muscles ramp up during flight.
    Humans share some of the same genes with fruit flies.  That’s leading to some other scientific design-based scientific research: using Drosophila as a model organism to understand the structure and function of genes for muscles, so as to produce cures for disabilities like muscular dystrophy.  “In the future, insight into such connections may help to detect and treat muscle diseases individually,” Schnorrer said, without a word about Darwin.
    When you approach a scientific problem with design in mind, you have different goals and methods than a Darwinian does.  You attack the problem assuming there is a good design that needs to be understood.  Then, you have a goal of improving human life by applying what is understood to real problems we face.
        One of the most amazing stories we ever reported on this subject was by Michael Dickinson of Caltech back on 12/08/2003.  We urge you to revisit that entry now to be convinced once for all that design-based science is vastly superior to zapping creatures in the vain hope of finding something to offer Charlie.  Thinking about all that power and design in a tiny little fly is enough to turn a child into an enthusiastic scientist – the kind that would sign a growing list.
    Next headline on:  Terrestrial ZoologyGeneticsHealthIntelligent DesignAmazing Facts
    March 13, 2010 – Here’s a book that illustrates how creation science can be applied to a specific topic.  The Cave Book explores the creation underground (literally).  Part of the “Wonders of Creation” series by Master Books, this was written by a renowned speleologist (cave scientist), Dr. Emil Silvestru.  The 80-page book is filled with interesting information and pictures.  Speleology brings together a host of subjects in geology, biology and history that can be addressed from a creation perspective: “cave men” like Neanderthals, cave mythology, bats and cave-adapted animals, karst topography, mineral formations, human artifacts, dating methods.  While intended as an educational book for middle school students and precocious juniors, it can be enjoyed by adults as well.  Dr. Silvestru’s expertise is clearly evident on each page.  He also entices the reader with the sport and science of cave exploration.  Having this book will also entice you to get the other books in the series: books on archaeology, astronomy, fossils, weather, geology and oceanography.  They can be ordered from Master Books or on sale sometimes from Amazon.com (search on “Wonders of Creation Series”).
    Next resource of the week:  03/06/2010.  All resources: Catalog.

    Man Will Never Fly (to the Stars)     03/13/2010    
    March 13, 2010 — It’s risky to say “never” in science.  The Man Will Never Fly Society had a short life.  However, an article on Space.com makes it seem a safe bet that, Star Trek notwithstanding, warp-speed flights to the stars are out of the question for humans.  “Warp speed will kill you,” the article announced; why?  Because interstellar hydrogen atoms would become lethal weapons, delivering a deadly radiation blast to ship and crew.  The ship’s electronics would fry and the crew would be killed instantly.  The last thing Kirk might have told Scotty was, “Jump to warp speed.”
        Don’t think that “Shields up” would have helped.  If the Enterprise didn’t have shields a kilometer thick (making warp speed all the more impractical), they would not have done any good.  William Edelstein (Johns Hopkins U) explained these problems to a meeting of the American Physical Society last month.  The demise of the Trekkie dream is not the only ramification, he said.  The physical barriers to near-light speed also suggest that aliens would have been physically unable to drop in for a visit – if they are made of atoms.  “Getting between stars is a huge problem unless we think of something really, really different,” Edelstein said.  “I’m not saying that we know everything and that it’s impossible. I’m saying it’s kind of impossible based on what we know right now.”  Trekkies might still take hope in lessons from history where yesterday’s impossibilities, like flying, became today’s everyday experience.

    It is a safe bet that star travel is not going to happen in your lifetime.  And if the UFO people are wrong, aliens have not figured out a solution, either (or they do not exist, or have quarantined us).  This might be the answer to the Fermi Paradox – where are they?  They can’t get here.  Reality has a way of spoiling a good fantasy.
        Accept your limitations.  You’re stuck here, physically (not a bad place though, no?).  In your mind’s eye, you can travel to the outer limits at the speed of thought.  Star Trek is real – in the movie theaters.  Those movies did not just happen.  They were made by the combined efforts of dozens of creative minds with feet on the earth.  Star Trek demonstrates that anything creative requires intelligent design.  It reminds us that our aspirations outpace our physical bodies.  It can be a stepping stone to the realization that we had better quit fantasizing and get busy fulfilling those aspirations by reading and following the Operations Manual of the ultimate intelligent designer, who planted those aspirations within us.  Joining his enterprise is the only hope of star travel some day.
    Next headline on:  AstronomyHuman BodyPhysics
    Who’s In Control: Your Brain or You?     03/12/2010    
    March 12, 2010 — Do you have a self that controls your brain, or is thought a secretion of the brain, as Darwin claimed?  Do you use your brain, or does your brain operate you?  Who is in charge?  These are deep philosophical questions with a long history, that some people prefer to avoid, as in the common joke:
    What is matter?  Never mind.
    What is mind?  No matter.

    The answer is probably not an either-or proposition, because we know that physical changes in the brain, whether by drugs and injury, can have profound affects on the self – if there is one.  But there is also ample evidence that people can affect their physical brains through choice and will – just as a person can order her arm to rise against the pull of gravity.  Some recent findings suggest that opinions of neuroscientists (for a long time those most tending to physicalism) seem to be shifting back to belief in the existence of a determinative self.
    1. Memory flexibility:  Rats have brains, too, and while humans may not appreciate being compared to them, we might learn some things from the physical aspects of a rat brain.  For one thing, how the brain stores memory is a lot more complicated than the old computer storage model.  Science Daily reported on work at University of Minnesota that shows that “the phenomenon of memory replay is much more [sic] complex, cognitive process that may help an animal maintain its internal representation of the world, or its cognitive map.”
          The hippocampus has long been known to be involved in memory recall.  Rather than just playing back a memory verbatim, the hippocampus provides flexible playback.  “It gives animals the ability to plan novel paths within their environment,” said A. David Redish of the U of Minnesota Medical School.  “This replay process may be an animal’s way of learning how the world is interconnected, so it can plan new routes or paths.”  That almost sounds like the rat is in the driver’s seat, not its brain.  The article spoke plainly about the rat’s “decision-making process.”  The brain was not just playing back a tape recording: “The rats were not just reviewing recent experience to move it to long-term memory,” Science Daily said.  “This is important because brain cognition and the human decision-making process are poorly understood.”  Someone might argue that computers have a decision-making process, too.  Yes—but those processes were programmed by intelligent design.  To claim that animals are capable of decision making while being physical products of evolution would beg the question about physicalism.
    2. Multisensory perception:  If physicalists want to say humans are only animals, they can’t say they are less equipped.  PhysOrg posted an interesting story that said psychologists are finding amazing perceptual abilities in humans thought to be mastered by animals alone.  The article begins with examples:
      Blind mountain bikers use echolocation to hear rocks in the trail.  A connoisseur sniffs out the world’s most expensive cup of coffee.  An artist whose sight disappeared as a young man paints and chooses his colors by touch.
          New research in perceptual psychology and brain science is revealing that our senses pick up information about the world that we thought was only available to other species, Lawrence Rosenblum, professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside, writes in a new book, “See What I’m Saying: The Extraordinary Powers of Our Five Senses” (Norton, 2010), published this month.
      Rosenblum has amassed many examples of people who have compensated for the loss of one sense by developing heightened sensitivity from the other senses, both singly and in combination.  “Brain-imaging and other tools have enabled researchers in the last decade to discover that the human brain is capable of changing its structure and organization – a process called neuroplasticity - as it is influenced by experience.”  Don’t be down on yourself.  You are highly skilled, Rosenblum says: “We all have an onboard sonar system and a type of absolute pitch; and we all can perceive speech from seeing and even touching faces,” he said.  Those abilities can be brought to sharpness by practice.
    3. Forget to remember?  Science Daily delved into the question of why we can remember some things instantly when exposed to a triggering sense, like a smell, but can’t remember other things when we try.  “Science still does not fully understand why” this happens.  Experiments by Kristina Kompus, a Swedish scientist seem to suggest that the instant recall and the slow search-and-retrieval mechanisms are controlled by different regions of the brain.  Her studies “also reveal that our long-term memory is more flexible that was previously believed.  There is not just one single neurological signaling path for reliving old memories but rather several paths that are anatomically separate.”
    4. Hormone assistPhysOrg added more thought to the story about testosterone (see 12/09/2009).  Subjects involved in a trading game were actually more rational and fair when they did not know they were given testosterone.  Since women given the hormone without knowledge behaved differently than those who knew, the effects of hormones are more complex than previously thought.
          This raises questions about the uniqueness of the human mind.  How could such an experiment be done on animals?  How would they know what they were given?  How would they have certain expectations that a hormone would produce a certain kind of behavior?  The authors of an article in Nature noted, “biology seems to exert less control over human behavior [than in other animals].”
    5. Self-controlled rehab:  A man in Texas has had difficulties in work because of several traumatic brain injuries, like concussions from falling off a horse when he was young.  He felt discouraged about his prospects for work and living a normal life, PhysOrg said, till he realized at age 42 that he was not a prisoner of his brain injuries.  He heard about “brain plasticity – the concept that the brain can heal and learn at all ages.”  He realized that abilities he thought were gone could be re-learned.  “It was a relief,” he said.  “It helped me regain my self-esteem and self-confidence.  It gave me hope.”  The article then noted, “Neuroplasticity, or the brain’s ability to adapt and change through life, is gaining increased traction in medical circles.”  The author of a book on the subject, Dr. Norman Doidge, calls this “the most important change in our understanding of the brain in four hundred years.” 
      “For the longest time our best and brightest neuroscientists thought of the brain as like a machine, with parts, each performing a single mental function in a single location,” he wrote in an e-mail from the University of Toronto (he also teaches at Columbia University).  “We thought its circuits were genetically hardwired, and formed, and finalized in childhood.”
          This meant that doctors assumed they could do little to help those with mental limitations or brain damage, he says -- because machines don’t grow new parts.  The new thinking changes that: “It means that many disorders that we thought can’t be treated have to be revisited.”
      A doctor told of a patient who suffered a massive stroke.  In five weeks he went from coma to paralysis to walking out of the hospital.  “The brain has the amazing ability to reorganize itself by forming new connections between brain cells,” he said.
          Dr. Sandra Chapman is founder of the Center for Brain Health at the University of Texas.  She remarked, “Our brain is one of the most modifiable parts of our whole body.”  Think about that.  It means that intentional thought for the brain might just be as important as exercise for the body.  She advises taking a “neck-up checkup” to find areas needing improvement: such as learning how to focus, learning how to reason, learning how to create.  These skills can be improved with targeted exercises.  For those of us getting older (100% of humans), it also means we don’t have to look ahead to hopeless decline, but can actually maintain or improve mental skills as we age.  “People in their 80s and 90s can do incredible things,” Chapman said.  “They may do them a little bit slower, but they can do them at a much deeper level.”
          The article said “It’s possible that the connections that the brain makes may become even more profound with age.”  If so, do they just result in more profound secretions of the brain, or do they provide a self with better tools?
    6. The scientific brain:  Some experiments done at the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research seem to show that humans are hard-wired to think scientifically.  Our brains are comfortable with predictable outcomes, but strain at unpredictable ones.  PhysOrg said, “This suggests that the brain’s main job, alike [sic] that of a scientist, is to generate hypotheses about what is going on in the outside world.”  Do we all have a little scientist in our head?  “At present the idea of the scientific brain is rapidly spreading through the neuroscience community and provides a novel approach to resolving how the most complex organ of the human body works,” the article ended.
    7. Control your cortex:  Scientists can observe brain waves that predict how someone will feel days after a marital spat.  But do the brain waves determine this, or are the waves a product of the spouse’s control?  Science Daily reported on work at Harvard reported in Biological Psychiatry that seemed to show that “brain activity – specifically in the region called the lateral prefrontal cortex – is a far better indicator” than common wisdom about not going to bed angry “of how someone will feel in the days following a fight with his or her partner.”  The more neural activity seen in the lateral prefrontal cortex, the more forgiving the partner was likely to be.  But what does that mean?
          Dr. Christine Hooker “also found that those who had more activity in the lateral prefrontal cortex and greater emotional regulation after a fight displayed more cognitive control in laboratory tests, indicating a link between emotion regulation and broader cognitive control skills.”  So while the brain waves might serve as a predictor of those most vulnerable to emotional stress after a fight, it doesn’t mean the subject is a victim of her or his brain waves.  It could mean the opposite – that the moral traits a person has learned can be observed in brain waves, just like the choices one makes in a diet are visible in the waistline.  “Scientists believe that what we are looking at in the scanner has relevance to daily life, but obviously we don’t live our lives in a scanner,” noted Hooker.  Relevance is a commutative property.  She could have said, “Our daily lives have relevance to what we see in the scanner.”
    8. Train your brain:  According to Science Daily, we can choose to remodel our brains.  Researchers at the University of Goldsmiths London observed neuroplastic changes as a result of brainwave training.  They “demonstrated that half an hour of voluntary control of brain rhythms is sufficient to induce a lasting shift in cortical excitability and intracortical function.”  The article continued, “Remarkably, these after-effects are comparable in magnitude to those observed following interventions with artificial forms of brain stimulation involving magnetic or electrical pulses.”  It means that painful and risky physical interventions (drugs, electric shock, etc.) could be replaced with a more “natural way” to modulate cerebral plasticity through “inner control of one’s own brain activity”.  The finding has “important implications for future non-pharmacological therapies of the brain and calls for a serious re-examination and stronger backing of research on neurofeedback,” the article said.  Inner control; is that the same thing as self control?
    Advocates of intelligent design are most often philosophical dualists – those who accept a mental (or spiritual) reality in addition to a physical reality.  It appears these studies and others like them are giving them fodder for their case.  Denyse O’Leary, co-author of The Spiritual Brain, discussed some of these findings in a podcast for ID the Future.  For more news about the brain, see the 02/21/2010 entry.
    It’s nice to see secular neuroscientists entertaining thoughts again about the actual existence of a self that can control the body.  But there’s a shortcut to tipping the debate in favor of dualism.  Ask them, when they are thinking about the question, who is doing the thinking?  To be consistent in their physicalism, they would have to deny their own selves.  This would be a self-refuting position that would give the dualist interlocutor opportunity to call the debate.  Like Dr. Greg Bahnsen used to taunt his opponent, merely showing up at the debate proved his point.
        Each of the stories above makes sense in the light of creation, and only in the light of creation (the top-down approach that assumes intelligent design), on two grounds: (1) the alternative is self-refuting, and (2) our uniform experience shows that decision-making entities (robots, software) are products of a mind.  It may not answer all the mysteries we have about the mind-body problem (e.g., what happens to the self when an aging person shows dementia, the differences between animal and human mental states, the interactions of soul and brain, what happens during sleep, why do we recall things when not concentrating on them, etc.), but it is a self-consistent framework in which to provide useful employment to the little scientist in your head.  Otherwise, what’s the point of the sign over the businessman’s desk? – “THINK.”
    Next headline on:  Human BodyBible and TheologyIntelligent Design
      Great balls of fat: read about why fat is not all bad, but actually essential and good for you (in moderation, of course): 03/06/2006.  The way fat is made and maintained is even more amazing.

    Science Proves the Morally Obvious     03/11/2010    
    March 11, 2010 — When scientists find that virtue brings reward and vice bring trouble, are they doing a better job than preachers and parents?  Hold that thought while reading some of the things scientists have been telling us lately about ourselves.

    1. R-Rated Movies Increase Likelihood of Underage Children Trying Alcohol.”  Thank Science Daily for that bit of advice that emanated from Dartmouth University.  A study published in Prevention Science “showed that R-rated movies not only contain scenes of alcohol use that prompt adolescents to drink, they also jack up the sensation seeking tendency, which makes adolescents more prone to engage in all sorts of risky behaviors.”
    2. Kids Taught Self-Control Behave Better at School.”  Parents might not have known that without help from an article on Live Science about a study conducted by University of Rochester Medical Center.  “Children taught skills to monitor and control their anger and other emotions improved their classroom behavior and had significantly fewer school disciplinary referrals and suspensions, according to new research.”
    3. Video-game ownership may interfere with young boys’ academic functioning,” said PhysOrg.  Parents may be relieved to have the authority of science to back up their orders to go to the bedroom and do the homework.  Whether it was ethical to experiment with 6- to 9-year olds for four months to find this out was not stated.  It could be an issue, though, because “the boys who received the video-game system at the beginning of the study had significantly lower reading and writing scores four months later compared with the boys receiving the video-game system later on.”  What permanent setbacks and bad habits were created in the minds of the little boy lab rats?  “These findings suggest that video games may be displacing after-school academic activities and may impede reading and writing development in young boys,” the article continued.  “The authors note that when children have problems with language at this young age, they tend to have a tougher time acquiring advanced reading and writing skills later on.”  Maybe they justified this experiment on the grounds that sacrificing a few boys for the sake of scientific knowledge of possible practical benefit to the public was morally acceptable.
    4. New Research Looks at Beliefs About God’s Influence in Everyday Life,” wrote Science Daily, noting the truly astonishing finding that “Most Americans believe God is concerned with their personal well-being and is directly involved in their personal affairs, according to new research out of the University of Toronto.”  My, where have the scientists been?  Apparently not in church – nor in logic class.  “Many of us might assume that people of higher social class standing tend to reject beliefs about divine intervention,” explained Scott Schieman (U of Toronto).  “However, my findings indicate that while this is true among those less committed to religious life, it is not the case for people who are more committed to religious participation and rituals.”  Maybe he expected that more of the religious were participating in spite of their beliefs.  On one thing he was clear, though: the job of interpreting this phenomenon belongs to scientists: “Given the frequency of God talk in American culture, especially in some areas of political discourse, this is an increasingly important area for researchers to document, describe, and interpret.”
    5. Happiness Is Experiences, Not Stuff,” explained Live Science.  Eight studies converged on that finding that was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.  The researchers based their conclusions on questionnaires that asked participants things like visualizing a vacation deal, or how satisfied they felt with a purchase they made.  It’s not clear if there was some sort of satisfactionometer instrument used, or what the metric units were.
    6. Modern man found to be generally monogamous, moderately polygamous,” announced PhysOrg, accompanied by the iconic image of man emerging from the apes.  This study was done not by observing human behavior but by discerning patterns in the genes.  The author did not make any value judgments about monogamy, however.
    7. Students’ Perceptions of Earth’s Age Influence Acceptance of Human Evolution,” a story on Science Daily announced, before going off into a discussion of polls and the law.  The authors of a survey published in Evolution apparently didn’t catch the logic that without belief in deep time, belief in evolution is unlikely.  The lead author used the survey to give an NCSE-style application: “The role of the Earth’s age is a key variable that we can use to improve education about evolution, which is important because it is the unifying principle of biology,” said Sehoya Cotner (U of Minnesota), noting with horror that “about one in four high school biology teachers in the upper Midwest are giving students the impression that creationism is a viable explanation for the origins of life on Earth” – something she denounced as “just not acceptable.  The Constitution prohibits teaching creationism in schools,” she added, something readers might have trouble finding in the Constitution, which does not mention teaching or creationism.  It might also be hard to defend that statement since the Declaration of Independence, written by the same group of founding fathers, had said all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.
    On the other hand, scientists sometimes announce counter-intuitive findings that make moral judgments.  For instance, Live Science told its readers that some looting in Chile after the earthquake might have been caused not by loose morals but by survival instincts.  Taking food could be “excusable given the circumstances,” the article said, and “if people do take non-necessities, such as TVs, they’re probably not thinking about right and wrong since these uncertain situations can lead to a breakdown of social norms”.  Was that a reference to situational ethics?  The article noted that most people act altruistically in the aftermath of disasters.  Daniel Kruger at the University of Michigan commented, “If we were absolutely selfish when disasters like this strike, I would be surprised if we survived as a species.”
        More and more, scientists are inserting themselves into the moral dimensions of human life.  Not only do they scrutinize and analyze our moral instincts, they also play preacher and give us advice.  Live Science, for instance wrote about “How to Grow Old Gracefully.”  Much of the advice is common sense, or advice you would hear from a doctor.  But Rachael Rettner also noted that “Churchgoing and a generally sunny outlook on life have also been linked to longer, healthier lives.”  (It is left as an exercise whether following that path would promote the belief in evolution that Cotner said is important.)  What is notable is that the scientific researchers seem to expect that their opinions on these matters should carry more weight than those of religious leaders and other scholars or experts.  Do religious leaders, theologians and non-scientists have any voice left in answering the third of the three great philosophical questions, (1) Ontology: What exists?; (2) Epistemology: How do we know what we know?; (3) Ethics: How should we live our lives?
    Not that long ago people wanting a moral compass would seek the Scriptures and talk to a trusted pastor, priest or rabbi.  Many still do, but the cultural elite act as if those opinions are of no value, and we must look to scientists for answers.  They treat “the religious” as lab rats like the little boys with video games.  What if the tables were turned?  What if the scientists had to sit in church and hear a preacher say, “Thus saith the Lord”?  And why shouldn’t they?  They need to repent.  They are breaking the Ten Commandments.
        A logical truth overlooked by researchers is that scientists have absolutely nothing to say about ethics without input from a theological world view.  If naturalism is their world view, ethics reduces to Stuff Happens.  There are no gridlines, guidelines or goals.  They do not have the functional operators in their toolkit for h(S), this stuff Should happen, or h(!S), this stuff Should not happen.  Should is not in their vocabulary.  Only a theological perspective can say should.  Indeed, only a theological perspective makes the three philosophical questions meaningful and approachable.  Consequently, we just caught several scientists (in the stories above) plagiarizing Judeo-Christian assumptions about right and wrong – that is, using their principles without attribution, as if they were their own.  Thou shalt not steal.  Thou shalt not bear false witness.*
    Exercise:  List some other Commandments the scientists might be breaking by pretending to exercise secular, naturalistic authority on moral matters.  You can find some suggestions in the introduction to our online book, The World’s Greatest Creation Scientists.
    *Steal=h(!S)=0; BFW=h(!S)=0; source=Ex 20.
    Next headline on:  EducationPolitics and EthicsBible and Theology
    Divining Violent gods as Natural Cosmic Creators     03/10/2010    
    March 10, 2010 — Ancient stargazers imagined the violent actions of gods in the heavens giving rise to the stars, earth and man.  Today’s secular astronomers engage in a similar kind of lore.  While not naming their gods after mythical heroes, they describe them as forces of nature whose violent clashes give rise to order and design.  Sometimes they even personify these forces.  Maybe the only thing that has changed since Greek times is the sophistication of the observations.
    1. Modern Asteria:  A cosmic war of titanic proportions is occurring in the heavens, but out of the struggle comes spiral jewelry fit for Asteria, goddess of the stars.  As she gives birth, she in rage rips open the wombs of her rivals, preventing them from bearing sons and daughters, but some of the barren escape.  So the oracles have determined.
          A press release from University of Durham would not be altered much by replacing Asteria with galaxy, sons and daughters by suns and debris, and oracles by theorists.  Astronomers using the Gemini Observatory’s Near-Infrared Integral Field Spectrometer said of the galaxy with its violent outflows:
      The explosions scattered the gas needed to form new stars by helping it escape the gravitational pull of the galaxy called SMM J1237+6203, effectively regulating its growth, the scientists added....
          Effectively the galaxy is regulating its growth by preventing new stars from being bornTheorists had predicted that huge outflows of energy were behind this activity, but it’s only now that we have seen it in action.”
          We believe that similar huge outflows are likely to have stopped the growth of other galaxies in the early Universe by blowing away the materials needed for star formation.
      One wonders, upon reading this tale, whether the explosions helped the gas escape on purpose, and whether there was a plan to regulate the growth of the galaxy.  Whatever it was, it was “effective,” we were just told.
          Perhaps the modern myth is an improvement in its explanatory power.  “They believe the huge surge of energy was caused by either the outflow of debris from the galaxy’s black hole or from powerful winds generated by dying stars called supernovae.”  This is known as a disjunctive theory: kind of like your shrink saying you are neurotic either because your mother didn’t breast-feed you or because space aliens are sending energy pulses into your head.  There might be a black hole in this galaxy, or there might be supernovae, but those were not observed.  Even so, both are violent, destructive phenomena not intuitively known for creative acts like star birth (which was also not observed).
          The outflows are so violent, in fact, it’s not even sure that supernovae are up to explaining them.  “According to their findings the galaxy exploded in a series of blasts trillions of times more powerful than any caused by an atomic bomb.  The blasts happened every second for millions of years, the scientists said.”  For one thing, it’s hard to imagine anything creative coming out of that kind of violence.  But for another, that would seem to require so many supernovae going off for so long, the problem shifts from whether any stars formed as a result to how the stars formed that exploded as supernovae in the first place.  The reader can pick a preferred oracle and explanation.
    2. Modern Atreus:  There were rare cases of cannibals among the gods, but in modern cosmology cannibalism is the preferred heavenly vice.  Our own Milky Way is a cannibal, we were told by Space.com.  How do we know?  The Missing Link told us, according to PhysOrg.
          Cannibalism may be the mark of the uncivilized, but in astronomy, the vice is nice.  A leading theory claims that the large spiral galaxies we love so much, including our own, grew by cannibalizing the midgets.  Trouble was, astronomers had no evidence for this “bottom-up” approach to galaxy-building.  (It also leaves unanswered what the midget galaxies ate for growth and health.)  But now, the presses are rolling with gladness, now that the Missing Link has spoken.
          That missing link is a metal-poor star found in a nearby dwarf galaxy; it was announced last week in Nature.1  One might think that a large galaxy would need quite a few candidates to grow into the range of 100 billion stars, but astronomers were relieved for small progress.  They had been looking for a metal-poor star for years, and frankly, were getting a little worried.  The paucity of metal-poor stars in dwarf galaxies suggested, scientifically speaking, that their theory might be proven wrong.  But rather than letting that happen, they rejoiced to find one small red star with 1/4000 the metals2 of our sun and one-fifth the metallicity of any star measured in a dwarf galaxy before.  The idea is that the dwarf galaxies, being the first to form, had to form before metals were produced by supernovae.  Only after the cannibal party was over would mature galaxies have lots of metals in their systems; who knows, maybe they ate the forks, too.
          Finding this star was like finding a needle in a stack of needles, one astronomer said.  Why that should be, he did not say; it would seem the theory would predict metal-poor stars would predominate in dwarf galaxies.  Be that as it may, here’s how the paper put a happy spin on the change of fortune:
      Current cosmological models indicate that the Milky Way’s stellar halo was assembled from many smaller systems.  On the basis of the apparent absence of the most metal-poor stars in present-day dwarf galaxies, recent studies claimed that the true Galactic building blocks must have been vastly different from the surviving dwarfs.  The discovery of an extremely iron-poor star (S1020549) in the Sculptor dwarf galaxy based on a medium-resolution spectrum cast some doubt on this conclusion.
      “Some doubt” is right.  The astronomers said later in their paper, “we cannot rule out the possibility that some metal-poor stars in the halo came from more massive systems than the ones considered here.”  They also recognized it was a poor showing: “future discoveries of extremely metal-poor stars in these galaxies would be required to demonstrate the feasibility of this picture,” they said – a picture that includes the popular Cold Dark Matter model of the Universe.  Can the discovery of this one metal-poor star resurrect the cannibal theory?  Can it account for the enthusiasm in the popular press?  You decide:
      But were enough dwarf galaxies accreted to account for all of the metal-poor halo stars?  The surviving ultra-faint dwarfs are the least luminous and most dark-matter-dominated galaxies, and they possess very few stars despite containing some extremely metal-poor stars.  It is thus unclear whether the accretion of even large numbers of analogues to such systems can provide enough stellar mass to account for the entire population of low-metallicity field stars.  On the other hand, massive satellites like the progenitors of the Magellanic Clouds are thought to have provided the vast majority of the inner halo.  Galaxies, like Sculptor, with stellar masses in between massive gas-rich objects (early versions of today’s Magellanic Clouds) and less luminous systems (appearing today as ultra-faint dwarfs), hence appear to be more natural candidates for providing the metal-poor stellar content of the outer halo.
      Bosh with this pessimism, Science Daily thought, as it announced gleefully, “First of Missing Primitive Stars Found.”
    3. Modern Bacchus:  Some astronomers believe they can peek into the food fights of the star gods.  PhysOrg reported on work at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics about the birth of large stars, to see whether it involves cannibalism or not.  Readers might be surprised to learn that the process of star formation for giant stars is poorly understood.  There were fears that large stars would blow away their food due to ionizing radiation and star formation would stop.  It turns out, the astronomers simulated on computers, that small stars capture some of the outflowing material, resulting in riotous feasts of big and small stars.  They called this “fragmentation-induced starvation.”  The obese giants can prevent their own demise by sharing some of their food with the midgets.  The article says that it “appears to offer realistic answers to many of the outstanding puzzles of massive star formation in clusters.” 
    4. Modern Medea:  “Medea took her revenge by sending Glauce a dress and golden coronet, covered in poison,” the Greeks taught.  Modern mythmakers love poison.  Whenever they find it, they believe that life cannot be far behind.  PhysOrg announced that the orbiting Herschel Telescope discovered carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, methanol, dimethyl ether, hydrogen cyanide, sulfur oxide and sulfur dioxide in the Orion Nebula.  Conclusion?  “Herschel Finds Possible Life-Enabling Molecules in Space.”  William Herschel and John Herschel were not consulted on this announcement, because they might have objected to having their names associated with a naturalistic myth.  Science Daily bested it with this title: “Precursors of Life-Enabling Organic Molecules in Orion Nebula Unveiled by Herschel Space Observatory.”  Later, that article called these poisons the “direct precursors to life-enabling molecules.”  Warning: do not try these molecules on yourself to see if they are life-enabling.
          One of the Herschel astronomers was enamored not only with the poisons but with the violence in the cloud.  “The high spectral resolution of HIFI shows the breath-taking rechness [sic] of molecular species, which are present, despite of the hostile environment, in the stellar nurseries and sites for planet formation,” he said.  To some astronomers, poisonous violence is what to look for when you want to witness a baby boom of stars, planets and life.
    5. Modern Nemesis:  Death and destruction is raining down on Earth from the jealous god Nemesis.  Space.com said that Sol’s alter ego, an unseen star nicknamed Nemesis, may be perturbing comets from an unseen Oort Cloud onto the planet at 26 million year intervals.  The article explained that observations are not required:
      While there’s little doubt about the destructive power of cosmic impacts, there is no evidence that comets have periodically caused mass extinctions on our planet.  The theory of periodic extinctions itself is still debated, with many insisting that more proof is needed.  Even if the scientific consensus is that extinction events don’t occur in a predictable cycle, there are now other reasons to suspect a dark companion to the Sun.
      The existence of odd minor planets with weird orbits may be the footprint of Nemesis.  The destructive star may have come from the tribe of the Red Dwarfs.  The article, with a section entitled “Finding Dwarfs in the Dark,” ended with an occult suggestion: “Even if Nemesis is not found, the WISE telescope will help shed light on the darkest corners of the solar system.”

    1.  Frebel, Kirby and Simon, “Linking dwarf galaxies to halo building blocks with the most metal-poor star in Sculptor,” Nature 464, 72-75 (4 March 2010) | doi:10.1038/nature08772.
    2.  By metals, astronomers mean any and all elements heavier than hydrogen and helium.  Metallicity is the ratio of heavy elements to hydrogen and helium.  Presumably, metallicity increases with age, as more supernovae seed the cosmic clouds with elements forged in the interiors of stars.  The first stars (not observed) would have been made entirely of hydrogen and helium.
    It takes many years of training to become a modern scientific priest.  The math and science is admittedly difficult.  Not everyone can survive the ordeal.  Once inducted into the order, though, the priest earns free rein to add to the cultural mythology.  The press adores the priests and never questions their wisdom.  Once in a while they have to employ the hard math they learned, but only for the observational parts.  The interpretive activity is liberated from that requirement – all it takes is a good imagination.  Some linkage to observation helps, on occasion, to keep the peasants from suspecting they are speaking beyond their knowledge.
        Willard van Orman Quine famously said in 1951 that scientific theories and the Greek gods are in the same business – providing categories to organize experience.  Though he later moderated that position, the comparison may be more apt than he realized.  Both the Greek gods and their modern counterparts described above are not transcendent Creators, but rather elements of the cosmos that emerged from the void with special powers.  Both priestly orders assumed a philosophy of naturalism: a bottom-up assumption about the way the cosmos came to be.  Neither were dependent on empirical evidence (though it helped if the Delphic Oracle got the prediction right occasionally).  Both ascribed personality to natural forces.  Both used the myths to teach the peasants how to understand the mysterious forces around them.  And both provided power and prestige to the priestly class.
    Next headline on:  AstronomyCosmologyPhysicsOrigin of Life
    This Tree of Life Is Real     03/09/2010    
    March 9, 2010 — Imagine a tree that can provide both nutritious food and clean water.  Moringa oleifera is such a tree.  It grows in Africa and Asia and is being looked at as a life-giving plant that can reduce bacterial contamination of water by 90 to 99.99% by filtering water with its seeds.
        Science Daily has a picture of the tree’s leaves.  “A billion people across Asia, Africa, and Latin America are estimated to rely on untreated surface water sources for their daily water needs,” the article said, based on information from John Wiley & Sons Corporate Citizenship Initiative.  “Of these, some two million are thought to die from diseases caught from contaminated water every year, with the majority of these deaths occurring among children under five years of age.”  Michael Lea, a researcher at Clearinghouse, a Canadian organization dedicated to investigating and implementing low-cost water purification technologies, just published a low-cost water purification technique using seeds from the Moringa tree at Current Protocols.  By low cost he means no cost.  The trees already live where they are needed.
        “Moringa tree seeds, when crushed into powder, can be used as a water-soluble extract in suspension, resulting in an effective natural clarification agent for highly turbid and untreated pathogenic surface water,” the article explained.  “As well as improving drinkability, this technique reduces water turbidity (cloudiness) making the result aesthetically as well as microbiologically more acceptable for human consumption.”
        But that’s not all.  Lea said, “Not only is [the tree] drought resistant, it also yields cooking and lighting oil, soil fertilizer, as well as highly nutritious food in the form of its pods, leaves, seeds and flowers.”  He calls it “one of the world’s most useful trees.”  Lea is trying to make the procedure widely available, because children have been dying in third world countries when a solution has been growing right around them.
        Lea counted other benefits, like income from cultivating the trees.  He envisions the “possibility that thousands of 21st century families could find themselves liberated from what should now be universally seen as 19th century causes of death and disease.  This is an amazing prospect, and one in which a huge amount of human potential could be released,” he said.  “This is particularly mind-boggling when you think it might all come down to one incredibly useful tree.”
    What a great story.  It’s a modern-day Acres of Diamonds tale that hopefully will make a real difference in the health and happiness of people suffering from unnecessary diseases in poor countries.  There’s wealth all around them – right there in trees that many probably took for granted.  Killmer’s poem Trees is rustling in the background of this article.  Visions of Eden (Genesis 2), or of the heavenly Jerusalem with trees lining the river of life bearing fruit for the healing of the nations (Revelation 22:2), come to mind.  Only God can make a tree of life – He did, and He will.
        Moringa is undoubtedly not the only case of an undiscovered renewable resource that can benefit man.  If you are a young person interested in science, let this kind of story be your inspiration.  Don’t follow the crowd after Darwin’s fake tree of life.  That’s a deadly tree that produces Darwincense, a habit-forming drug that gives cheap highs while frying your brain.  Instead, seek to understand the world around you so that you can make it a better place and help your fellow man.
    Update 03/11/2010: A reader suggested a tie-in to a Biblical event: check it out in Exodus 15:22-26.
    Next headline on:  PlantsHealthAmazing Facts
      Go figure: Five years ago, a secular scientist made an amazing statement, equivalent to “intelligent design is the future of biology” (03/14/2005).  But that same month, the president of the National Academy of Sciences gave a call to arms, calling all scientists to defend Darwinism from the threat of intelligent design (03/24/2005).
        Be sure to watch the fun “irreducibly complex” car commercial we mentioned (03/01/2005); now it’s available on YouTube.  And to reinforce the take-home ID lesson that complex things don’t just happen, watch The Making of Honda Cog.

    What Good Is Natural Selection without Progress?     03/08/2010    
    March 8, 2010 — Three papers recently claim to have seen natural selection.  None of them, however, identified a functional advantage that would have tied changes to novel benefits that could improve a species. 

    1. Yeast:  “New Type of Genetic Variation Could Strengthen Natural Selection,” trumpeted a headline in Science Daily.  It was about a study of two varieties of one species of yeast – one in Japan, one in Portugal.  Scientists compared the genomes of the two isoforms of the same species and found one form had a particular functional gene network, the other did not.  Remarkably, they said in their paper in Nature,1 “these polymorphisms have been maintained for nearly the entire history of the species, despite more recent gene flow genome-wide.... This striking example of a balanced unlinked gene network polymorphism introduces a remarkable type of intraspecific variation that may be widespread..”  The word “Remarkably” is even in the title of their paper: “Remarkably ancient balanced polymorphisms in a multi-locus gene network.”
          Remarkable as that may be, the authors did not identify the origin of any new function, organ, or genetic information.  The paper said, “The numerous cases of long-term balancing selection, complex genetic interactions, and theoretical considerations all hint that BuGNPs [balanced unlinked gene network polymorphisms] might be important for explaining the evolution of complex traits, but we know of no other definitive examples of balancing selection acting to preserve alternative states of a multi-locus gene network within a single species.”
          So not only was this a case of preservation rather than progress, it was all taking place within a single species.  No “origin of species” was claimed for this “New Type of Genetic Variation [that] Could Strengthen Natural Selection.”  Even more surprising is that neither the paper nor the press release tied the alleged natural selection to actual fitness or survival.2  The press release from Vanderbilt University, nevertheless, was almost breathless in its excitement about The Force: “The unexpected discovery of a new type of genetic variation suggests that natural selectionthe force that drives evolution – is both more powerful and more complex than scientists have thought.”  As noted before, though, if natural selection is a force, it is only the force of a bumper in a pinball game (07/14/2009, 08/09/2009 commentaries). not the flipper operated by a game player trying to get somewhere.
    2. Primates:  Another study claimed remarkable powers for natural selection in primates.  PhysOrg began an article with standard boilerplate about natural selection, followed by questions:
      During evolution, living species have adapted to environmental constraints according to the mechanism of natural selection; when a mutation that aids the survival (and reproduction) of an individual appears in the genome, it then spreads throughout the rest of the species until, after several hundreds or even thousands of generations, it is carried by all individuals.  But does this selection, which occurs on a specific gene in the genome of a species, also occur on the same gene in neighboring speciesOn which set of genes has natural selection acted specifically in each species?
      A team in France set out to compare genomes of humans, gorillas, chimpanzees and macaques to answer these questions.  Surprisingly, they never again addressed the topics of fitness and survival assumed in the boilerplate description of natural selection.  They could not have cared less if the mutations they compared had anything to do with fitness, progress, or new genetic information.  All they tried to do was find out if the same genes showed the same differences in different species of primates.  Here’s the closest they got: “An example that has been confirmed by this study is the well-known case of the lactase gene that can metabolize lactose during adulthood (a clear advantage with the development of agriculture and animal husbandry).  The researchers have also identified a group of genes involved in some neurological functions and in the development of muscles and skeleton.”
          But the case of lactose tolerance is moot; some have argued that intolerance is the norm, and adult lactose tolerance is due to a loss of function.  Humans did not evolve into agriculturalists and ranchers by mutations and natural selection.  It presumably took intelligent design for people to plant the first crops and raise cattle.  And regarding development of muscles and skeleton, it would be hard to argue that humans are more fit than monkeys and macaques who swing in the trees with ease.
          So what gains did natural selection make?  The authors did not identify any new function, organ, or information linked to the gene differences.  Any linkage to fitness was put in future tense: “Using a larger number of primate genomes, the study now needs to determine the extent of this phenomenon in terms of genes and biological functions,” the article ended.  “By including other vertebrate species in the study, it will also be possible to determine whether we share adaptive events with rodents, birds or fish, as some isolated observations appear to suggest.”
    3. FishScience Daily was almost giddy as it announced today, “Stickleback Genomes Shining Bright Light on Evolution.”  It’s not just shedding the usual flashlight on evolution; they’ve upped the ante.  Now a discovery is shedding a “bright light on evolution.”  The eyes of scientists are wide open and filled with light.  They said, “Twenty billion pieces of DNA in 100 small fish have opened the eyes of biologists studying evolution.  After combining new technologies, researchers now know many of the genomic regions that allowed an ocean-dwelling fish to adapt to fresh water in several independently evolved populations.”  But again, this study showed no new genetic information or fitness – just fluctuating amounts of body armor and minor changes to the shapes of existing structures, coloration and behavior in stickleback fish.  These are changes any young-earth creationist would yawn at.  Salmon and other species are already known to prosper in both salt and fresh waters.
          “Can we find genomic regions that were altered due to natural selection?” one scientist asked.  Where would they look?  Well, they certainly did not look for an increase in fitness, whatever that means, or a new organ or function.  In fact, fitness and survival were not even mentioned in the article, and natural selection was only mentioned one time – as a question, seen in the quote above.  The article suggested that genes “may be evolving”; one scientist pined, “We hope to learn something about these fish while they are still evolving, literally, from an ocean population to a freshwater one.”  The team did not show that anything new has emerged by natural selection.  They only showed adaptation of existing genes, structures and functions to a change in environment.  Stickleback fish apparently come preprogrammed with the ability to thrive in a variety of habitats.  If this is a bright light on evolution, it didn’t reveal much.
    It is clear that to evolve a bacterium into a human would require enormous gains in functional information encoded in genetic information.  Neither of these articles contained observational evidence that the mutations or variations that were alleged to have been preserved by natural selection created any gains in fitness, function, or information.
    1.  Hittinger et al, “Remarkably ancient balanced polymorphisms in a multi-locus gene network,” Nature 464, 54-58 (4 March 2010) | doi:10.1038/nature08791.
    2.  The paper spoke of fitness only in a theoretical sense: “Therefore, keeping co-adapted interacting alleles or gene complexes together is probably crucial to optimal fitness,” or, “it is conceivable that functional GAL80 (and perhaps other functional GAL genes) could also confer slight conditional fitness costs by other unknown means in the Japanese population.”  The authors only speculated on why the two populations differed.  Persistence of the polymorphisms alone was taken as evidence of natural selection – even for the isoform that was non-functional.  The non-functional polymorphism did not seem to the researchers to be a temporary condition on the way to being selected out.  “Instead,” they said, “the striking localized peaks of extreme sequence divergence between populations are best explained by strong balancing selection on the GAL genes, which suggests that non-functional alleles are fitter in some genetic backgrounds and/or environmental conditions.”  When fitness is linked to survival, however, it becomes a tautology: survivors are the fittest, and the fittest are the survivors.
    You have just witnessed how the Darwinists pretend to be scientists by acting busy, talking jargon and making promises.  Busy work, talk, and promises are cheap.  To demonstrate the prowess of natural selection, they would need to demonstrate actual progress – a new complex organ, a new wing or eye or ability that never existed before, arising without any intervention, solely by the power of natural selection.  Instead, they busy themselves with comparing little genetic changes between organisms that are already fit.  They use divination techniques to tell the peasants what differences, like the folds in a liver or the motions of the pendulum, indicate that the Spirit of Charlie has been at work.  It’s pure poppycock.  Even a poppy and a cock are more fit than these scientists.  They ought to get on a fitness treadmill and do something useful with their energy (but watch out for the slippage on the treadmill: 03/17/2003).
        Natural selection, the phrase that made Darwin famous, is a glittering generality wrapped in a personification pretending not to be a tautology, “survival of the fittest.”  That phrase launched a thousand ships in the 20th century and led to unspeakable horrors by ruthless dictators who thought it was their scientific duty to eliminate the unfit.  But who is fit?  Fitness is a meaningless term that means anything that survives, whether it has good genes or not (see “Fitness for Dummies,” 10/29/2002).  That’s why Hitler had to conclude Germans were not the fittest since they lost the war, despite all that propaganda, the health campaigns and the Holocaust he perpetrated in the name of fitness.  That this shaky foundation for the Battle Hymn of the Repulsive persists into 2010 is enough to make one really, really angry.
    Now the fit will be survivors and survivors will be fit,
    And survivors will survive to prove the fitness of the fit,
    Oh, this natural selection, it’s so simple, isn’t it?
    ’Tis ruthless marching on.

    Next headline on:  Cell BiologyMammalsMarine BiologyGeneticsDarwin and Evolution
    Life Crams Stuff on the Long Road     03/07/2010    
    March 7, 2010 — This quote from UC Berkeley wins Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week:
    In the long evolutionary road from bacteria to humans, a major milestone occurred some 1.5 billion years ago when microbes started building closets for all their stuff, storing DNA inside a nucleus, for example, or cramming all the energy machinery inside mitochondria.
    Any questions?  Science Daily repeated it without laughing.
        The occasion for the comment is research on a microbe that can switch between an amoeba-like form and a flagellated form.  Naegleria gruberi, when stressed, can switch on genes that grow two flagella.  A Berkeley bioinformaticist commented that “It is a very rare process to go from amoeba to flagellate like this.”  It has two completely different modes of motility.
        The flagellum is a poster child of intelligent design.  It would seem the ability to switch between two completely different modes of motility is even more complex.  Nevertheless, to these scientists, this germ is “shedding light on the set of perhaps 4,000 genes that may have been part of the first, most primitive eukaryotes” and will “shed light on how cells move, how they signal one another and how they metabolize nutrients.”  Presumably, discoveries about this living microbe “will help in understanding the evolution of more complicated organisms” hundreds of millions of years ago.  It “can help scientists understand the origins of these parallel systems during the evolution of eukaryotes.”
        Wow, there’s light and understanding all over the place.  According to one team member, “By comparing diverse organisms like Naegleria from all over the family tree of eukaryotes we can begin to understand where we come from.”  Apparently we are to understand this: we are amoebas, just a few million years down the long evolutionary road, but we have learned one thing: how to cram our machinery in closets.
    It is said that the difference between stuff and junk is that junk is the stuff you throw away, but stuff is the junk you keep.  How many of you cram your irreducibly complex machinery in a closet when moving down the road and keep it there for 1.5 billion years?  How many of you like to mix metaphors while doing it?
        The long evolutionary road from bacteria to humans... (sigh).  What can you say to such people.  Where do you start.  Is it even worth trying.  They don’t call it UC Berserkeley for nothing.  Prevention is the only intervention with hope in such cases.  Reach the inmates before they get into the asylum.
    Next headline on:  Cell BiologyDarwin and EvolutionDumb Ideas
    March 6, 2010 – Need an easy reference on creation astronomy?  Try Taking Back Astronomy by Dr. Jason Lisle (Master Books, 2007).  A thin hardback loaded with beautiful photos, this book has the strong advantage of an author with a PhD in astrophysics.  “The heavens declare creation and science confirms it,” the subtitle says.  While not intended as a deep treatise on Biblical astronomy, this introductory work is sufficient for most lay readers interested in space and how the facts of astronomy fit with the Bible.  Dr. Lisle has the right stuff to lay out the philosophical as well as scientific positions.  He provides accessible arguments about the age of the universe, world views, Biblical soteriology in light of the size of the universe, laws of nature, SETI, starlight and time, and the big bang to complement the easy material about the size and beauty of celestial objects.  The book, which doubles as a coffee-table photo gallery for casual browsing, conveniently puts “in depth” sections separate from overviews.  The 115-page work includes 50 astrophotos (some rarely seen), endnotes, glossary and an index.
    Next resource of the week:  02/20/2010.  All resources: Catalog.

    Natural Wonders Can Be Useful     03/06/2010    
    March 6, 2010 — To find great ideas, look to nature.  Many plants and animals are as useful as they are ornamental.  They can show the way to solve problems of great interest to humans.

    1. Mussel power:  Want an abrasion-resistant, highly-extensible coating?  PhysOrg reported that mussels are providing inspiration to materials scientists.  They build a byssus, or network of threads, that attaches to hard surfaces and absorbs the energy of crashing waves.  A cuticle on the outer surfaces of these stretchy, flexible fibers is “a biological polymer, which exhibits epoxy-like hardness, while straining up to 100% without cracking.”  The cuticle’s success depends on its careful tailoring of protein-metal chemistry and organization of cross-links at the submicron level.  All human inventors need to do is study and copy what the mussel has achieved.  “Nature has evolved an elegant solution to a problem that engineers are still struggling with; namely, how to combine the properties of abrasion resistance and high extensibility in the same material,” said Peter Fratzl, director of the biomaterials department at the Max Planck Institute for Colloids and Interfaces.  “Conceivably, this same strategy could be applied in engineered polymers and composites.”  ScienceNow has a close-up picture of the mussel fibers.
    2. Insect glue:  The caddis fly is well known to fishermen.  They are accustomed to hunting for the tube-shaped larva shelters, made of grains of sand and rock.  The larva glues those grains together with silk made of a wet adhesive that is attracting the attention of inventors.  Science Daily reported on research into the characteristics of this glue.  It could be extremely useful to invent a glue that works when wet.  Imagine trying to put on a bandage in a shower.  Surgeons often have to attach sutures to wet biological tissue.
          Scientists have found that the caddis fly can work its magic with glass beads replacing sand.  The silk, they found, resembles tape more than anything else.  It fastens the beads together from the inside.  They are studying this mechanism “for the purpose of trying to copy it,” the article said.  The material properties of the silk that allow it to work underwater have something to do with the way electrical charges are arranged on the molecules.
          The article ended by speculating about how these abilities evolved.  The ability to make underwater adhesives has been identified in four phyla – members of which include caddis flies, sandcastle worms, mussels and sea cucumbers.  What does that mean?  To Russell Stewart (U of Utah) it can only mean one thing: “They came to this underwater adhesion solution completely independently,” he said.  The press release added, “showing that it repeatedly evolved because of its value in helping the creatures live and thrive, Stewart says.”
    3. Sea squirt lab ratScience Daily said that hope for those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease may come from the lowly sea squirt.  Scientists have found that they produce the tangles and plaques characteristic of Alzheimer’s quickly.  This makes them suitable as a model organism on which new drugs can be tested in a shorter time.  The article said, for whatever it means, “as long ago as Darwin, it has been recognized that sea squirts may be our closest invertebrate relatives; in their immature, tadpole form, they resemble proper vertebrates, and they share about 80% of their genes with us.”  But does this imply we are 80% sea squirt, or 60% banana?
    4. Bee silk for aviationScience Daily reported on progress to imitate bee silk.  Maybe you didn’t realize that bees make silk.  Maybe you also didn’t realize that silk is useful.  Indeed they do, and indeed it is: “Possible practical uses for these silks would be tough, lightweight textiles, high-strength applications such as advanced composites for use in aviation and marine environments, and medical applications such as sutures, artificial tendons and ligaments.”  A team in Australia is working on recombining the ingredients by producing them with the genes of other organisms, so that silk fibers can be hand-drawn without the need for the bee’s silk-producing glands.  Those glands are probably as hard to work with as bee’s knees.
    5. Pitcher plant medicine:  Some day, your cabinet may not just have pitchers, but medicines inspired by the pitcher plant.  Researchers at Tel Aviv University are producing anti-fungal drugs, said Science Daily, based on the carnivorous plant’s technology.  Pitcher plants need more than just the ability to digest animal products to gain carbon and nitrogen from poor soils; “Carnivorous plants also possess a highly developed set of compounds and secondary metabolites to aid in their survival.”  It’s in those compounds, produced in special glands by the plant, where anti-fungal medicines are waiting to be discovered.
          The plant has to protect itself from fungi that would steal its meal.  “To avoid sharing precious food resources with other micro-organisms such as fungi, the carnivorous plant has developed a host of agents that act as natural anti-fungal agents,” said Prof. Aviah Zilberstein of the university.  Some of these compounds, if isolated for medicine, “may avoid the evolution of new resistant infective strains.”  Secondary infections from fungi are a serious problem in hospitals.  “There is a lot of room for developing compounds from nature into new drugs,” Zilberstein said.  “The one we are working on is not toxic to humans.  Now we hope to show how this very natural product can be further developed as a means to overcome some basic problems in hospitals all over the world.”  The article noted that drinking pitcher plant liquid as an elixir has been documented in the folk medicine of India.
    6. Green fertilizer:  Nitrogen is a tough nut to crack.  The triple bonds of N2 gas usually require high amounts of energy, like lightning or the Haber process, to pull apart so that ammonia and other compounds can be produced (this is called “fixing” nitrogen).  Somehow, nitrogenase enzymes in bacteria that live in nodules attached to the roots of some plants do it with ease at room temperature.  “It sounds simple, but it is a complicated and poorly understood process,” the article said.
          For thousands of years, farmers have known that legumes (including peas, beans, alfalfa and clover) can increase productivity of fallow ground when alternated with other crops.  That’s a major reason George Washington Carver urged southern farmers, whose fields were being depleted by cotton and boll weevil infestations, to grow peanuts.  Until recently, no one understood why legumes were so effective in boosting the productivity of the soil.  Science Daily reported on a discovery at Stanford that helps explain their potential.  The finding might reduce fertilizer use and help the environment.  “We have discovered a new biological process, by which leguminous plants control behavior of symbiotic bacteria,” said Stanford molecular biologist Sharon Long.  “These plants have a specialized protein processing system that generates specific protein signals.”  The scientists have identified the gene responsible for the signal.  If scientists can generate that signal in other plants, perhaps through genetic engineering or selective breeding, they might trigger more nitrogen fixation in crops without fertilizer.  World farmlands could remain more productive as population grows while simultaneously reducing pollution by nitrous oxide (a highly potent greenhouse gas) and other fertilizer byproducts.  “When you deal with a natural soil, you are dealing with a lot of complexity.  Everything we learn about what makes symbiosis work gives us a tool to understand why, sometimes, symbiosis fails,” said Long.  “Plant breeders who are trying to help develop better-adapted plants can now analyze traits such as this.  We’ve given them a new tool” – a tool that was there all along, but needs a little prying and coaxing.
    7. Energy the way plants make it:  There’s no more effective solar power plant than a plant, so why not plan to imitate plants?  PhysOrg said that’s just what scientists in France are trying to do.  Photosynthesis may become the next new source of electrical energy.  The team has found a way to convert the chemical energy from photosynthesis into electrical energy in biofuel cells.  “They thus propose a new strategy to convert solar energy into electrical energy in an environmentally-friendly and renewable manner.”
          This kind of biomimetics actually employs a real plant – in this case, a cactus.  By implanting special enzyme-modified electrodes sensitive to the products of photosynthesis, the French scientists were able to generate 9 watts per square centimeter.  They could see more juice when the light was turned up.  They envision not only more efficient solar cells, but medical applications.  Similar biofuel electrodes in human skin, sensitive to glucose and oxygen in biological fluids, could power implanted medical devices autonomously, without batteries or external power sources.
    In each of these stories, evolution was either ignored or mentioned only in passing.  This indicates that the heavy lifting in the scientific research is being done without it.  Instead, the impetus of the research is drawn from attention to biological design.
    Biomimetics could well be a major player in the downfall of Darwinism.  For one thing, evolutionary theory has very little to do with biomimetics, if anything.  Saying stupid things like, “This organism figured this out 150 million years ago,” or, “Four phyla came up with this elegant solution independently,” contributes only entertainment, not substance.  For another, biomimetics is a completely positive enterprise.  Scientists don’t have to get bogged down in philosophical debates about origins.  They can get funding, work constructively, increase understanding of nature, and come up with Nobel-prize-quality discoveries that will help the world – all without Darwin.  Here is a positive alternative to evolution that relies on intelligent design assumptions.  The wealth that can be generated is enormous.  Darwin will be left in the dust as the world stampedes to biomimetic technology.  Think Michael Behe’s famous illustration as we repeat, “If you can build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door.”
    Next headline on:  BiomimeticsMarine BiologyTerrestrial ZoologyBotanyCell BiologyPhysicsGeneticsIntelligent Design
      A geologist began a major rethink of the geological layers  They may have less to do with time, and more to do with sediment supply.  Read about his radical thoughts in the 03/05/2004 entry.

    Dinosaur Evolution Is Relative     03/05/2010    
    March 5, 2010 — The science news media are all reporting that the “oldest known dinosaur relative” has been found.  The artist reconstructions of Asilisaurus kongwe, found in middle Triassic layers in Tanzania, make the creature look quite dinosaurian; at least it was dog-sized and walked on thick legs under its body like its famous brethren did.  Its early date (230 million years, by evolutionary reckoning) creates a conundrum for evolution.  It pushes the common ancestor of dinosaurs and pterosaurs (if there was one) farther back in time, to 245 million years ago.
        The fossil presents another problem for evolution.  “Until now, paleontologists have generally believed that the closest relatives of dinosaurs possibly looked a little smaller in size, walked on two legs and were carnivorous,” PhysOrg said.  “However, a research team including Randall Irmis, curator of paleontology at the Utah Museum of Natural History and assistant professor in the Department of Geology and Geophysics at the University of Utah has made a recent discovery to dispel this hypothesis.”  That discovery was a herbivorous, four-legged silesaur – a sister group of contemporaries to the dinosaurs – that looked very different from what was expected.  One of the authors of a paper in Nature said, “The crazy thing about this new dinosaur discovery is that it is so very different from what we all were expecting, especially the fact that it is herbivorous and walked on four legs.”  Science Daily also echoed the press release from the University of UtahNational Geographic announced, “Dinosaurs Ten Million Years Older Than Thought.”
        The evolutionary story that was expected was that herbivory evolved late in the silesaur lineage.  Finding a herbivorous silesaur 10-15 million years earlier means that its carnivorous ancestor had to be earlier, too.  But even that story is murky.  Are vegetarians better adapted?  “Although difficult to prove, it’s possible that this shift conferred an evolutionary advantage.”  But then, herbivory arose in three groups: silesaurs, and both major groups of dinosaurs.  “The researchers conclude that the ability to shift diets may have lead [sic] to the evolutionary success of these groups.”  Why do paleontologists think so?  “These shifts all occurred in less than 10 million years, a relatively short time by geological standards, so we think that the lineage leading to silesaurs and dinosaurs might have had a greater flexibility in diet, and that this could be a reason for their success.”  It sounds like he just said that fast evolution is evidence for evolution.  Live Science put it this way: “The analysis provides a window into dinosaur evolution, particularly how the animals acquired plant-eating abilities.”  Somehow, evidence that the animal ate plants told them how they got the ability to eat plants, even though National Geographic admitted, “What emerged looked nothing like what paleontologists had imagined.”
        Evolution was not very evident in the fossil bed where Asilisaurus kongwe was found, however.  Also found were crocodiles.  So much for dinosaur-like body plans evolving from crocs.  “The presence of these animals together at the same time and place suggests that the diversification of the relatives of crocodilians and dinosaurs was rapid, and happened earlier than previously suggested.”  Somehow, we are told, this “sheds light on a group of animals that later came to dominate terrestrial ecosystems” for 185 million years.  Irmis was apparently not shamed by this blow to expectations.  Quite the contrary: he said, “It’s very exciting because the more we learn about the Triassic Period, the more we learn about the origin of the dinosaurs and other groups.”  Christian Sidor, a co-author of the paper, was less sanguine: “It’s making the picture a little bit murkier, because we have a possible herbivore and quadruped very close to the dinosaur lineage.”  Christopher Brochou made hey out of both sides of the truck: Hey, “it’s part of a larger, growing realization that the earliest archosaurs were far more diverse than we ever thought,” he said, but hey: it’s also “an elegant fulfillment of a prediction” that dinosaur ancestors would include members that were both crocodile-like and bird-like.  Picturing the common ancestor of those is left as an exercise.
        Live Science noted that the research was funded by the National Geographic Society, Evolving Earth Foundation, Grainger Foundation, and the National Science Foundation.

    To be a good evolutionary paleontologist these days, you have to mold your brain contrary to its natural tendencies.  You have to get rid of shame, reproach and despair.  You have to think positive: no matter what happens, no matter what turns up, it glorifies Darwin and sheds light on evolution.  It must.  It may look like abrupt appearance.  It may look like a falsification of common ancestry.  But if you have trained your mind to think Darwinly long enough, you learn to say that looks are deceiving.  What it really means is that evolution is very flexible.  It can happen in the blink of an eye, leaving no trace.  Then, animals that burst onto the evolutionary tableau can persist with little change for hundreds of millions of years.  See?
        Imagination is the caulk that holds these disparate bits of fact together, so they can be force-fitted into a mosaic of King Charles that the public can worship.  Shedding light on evolution does not mean shedding light on the facts as facts, but onto the mosaic into which they have been placed.  That’s why nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.  King Charles makes sense.  Creationism is nonsense – by definition.  Practice this long enough and you get used to it.  Floodlights on the mosaic; ain’t it grand? 
    Next headline on:  DinosaursFossilsDarwin and Evolution
    Atheism in a Test Tube     03/04/2010    
    March 4, 2010 — Conflicting views on atheism by scientists show that deducing the intellectual status of atheism is not an exact science.  Are such questions even approachable by the scientific method?  What conclusions could be drawn?
        National Geographic reported Kanazawa’s theory that liberals and atheists are smarter (02/27/2010) without much criticism.  Reporter Maggie Koerth-Baker only said that a new study “suggests” that “liberals, atheists [are] more highly evolved” and “more inclined to nontraditional values,” but the blaring headline and opening bold summary left little doubt about the correct way to approach the question: “Your apelike ancestors probably aren’t top of mind when you enter the polling booth,” she began.  “But a new study suggests that human evolution may have a big influence on whether you’re liberal or conservative—not to mention how smart you are, whether you believe in God, or whether you’ve got a cheatin’ heart” (see 02/27/2010 for critique of Kanazawa’s thesis).  The article did critique Kanazawa’s measure of IQ a little, but did not question the science underlying the notion that intelligence evolved by a Darwinian process: “For instance, other researchers have advanced the theory that intelligence arose as a way of competing for sex,” she said.  “If that’s the case, Kanazawa’s conclusions only make sense if, say, being liberal or atheist also makes you more sexually attractive.”  Then the article invited readers to “Take a Darwin quiz” on the National Geographic website.  It doesn’t measure your sexual prowess, intelligence, or fitness, though; just your knowledge of Darwin trivia.
        New Scientist presented a less privileged view of atheism.  “Where do atheists come from?”, asked Lois Lee and Stephen Bullivant.  They started by echoing what seems to be a truism in academia: “where Reason reigns, God retires.”  It seems intuitive.  Isn’t that why atheists predominate at Oxford?  “Of course, things are never quite that simple,” they quickly countered.  In fact, surveys show that postgraduates tend to be less atheistic.  Evidence from elsewhere, they said, shows “there is no straightforward relationship between atheism and education.”  They produced statistics to show this.  One surprise is that more degree-holders are religious than atheists.  “It appears that Enlightenment assumptions about the decline of religion as the population becomes more educated will no longer do – at least, not without considerable qualification.”
        So where do atheists come from?  They discussed a “collective blind spot in research: atheism itself.”  Atheists have put religious people in a test tube without jumping in themselves. 
    What we need now is a scientific study not of the theistic, but the atheistic mind.  We need to discover why some people do not “get” the supernatural agency many cognitive scientists argue comes automatically to our brains.  Is this capacity non-existent in the non-religious, or is it rerouted, undermined or overwritten – and under what conditions?
        Psychologically, we need to know how the self functions without theistic belief, and how our emotional resources might be altered by its absence.  Anthropologically, we need to understand how people without religion make sense of their lives, how they find meaning, and how non-theistic systems of thought are embedded in, and shape, the different cultures in which they are present.  Sociologically, we need to know how these alternative meaning-making systems are shared between societies, how they unite or divide us, and whether non-religious groups contain pro-social elements commonly associated with religion itself.
    Since nobody has asked such questions, Lee and Bullivant announced that they have set up a “Non-religion and Secularity Research Network” in 2008.  The first problem was getting the vocabulary right: the words atheistic, non-theistic, non-religious, unbelieving and godless do not mean the same things.  What has turned up in the test tube?
    Interesting findings have, however, begun to emerge; some providing insight into the relationship between education and atheism.  Voas, also a keynote speaker at the Wolfson conference, says one reason why a greater number of religious people are degree-holders may be that “better educated people have typically reflected on religion and have the self-confidence to come down decisively, on one side or the other’.  The issue is not which idea – atheism or theism – is more stupid than the other, but that education helps us either to work out or simply to communicate our beliefs, no matter what they are.
    Their article, surprisingly, said nothing about evolution.  It did not try to describe atheism or theism in terms of selection pressures on primitive ancestors.  And their conclusions had something nice to say to both sides: “The believers may take heart from the fact that the most comprehensive studies no longer suggest the unreligious are cleverer or more lettered than them,” they said.  “But the non-believers might also comfort themselves that they are no longer outside the mainstream.”
    Sociology is a peculiar science.  Sociologists think they can scientifically analyze populations of people from some neutral platform.  But some uber-sociologist could decide to analyze the sociologist population from another platform.  An uber-uber-sociologist could do that to the uber-sociologist, and so on.  This infinite regress is a consequence of the Yoda Complex mixed with scientism.  Only God has an unbiased platform; therefore only deductions from his view of the world are solid and rational.  In other words, a theist can put an atheist in a test tube, but not vice versa (reason).
        It seems lost on the Darwinian-style atheists that their position is self-refuting.  They cannot deny that the majority believe in God.  This must mean the majority are more fit.  It follows that they, as non-cooperators, are the mutants.  Mutations are predominantly deleterious.  As atheists, therefore, unless they can defend their atheism mutation as beneficial according to some neutral standard which Darwinism cannot supply, they reduce the health and fitness of the population.  Why?  Because the population has to expend energy to punish the non-cooperators.  This is not a moral judgment, but a strict application of the evolutionary game theory they themselves employ.  Yet if the atheists decided to cooperate to become more fit, they would have to believe in God, and their belief in evolution would implode.  Maintaining non-cooperative status in spite of its irrationality is known as Enlightenment.  Maybe it’s why Richard Dawkins is content to remain an intellectually fool-filled atheist.
    Next headline on:  Bible and TheologyDarwin and Evolution
    Cold Castles: Bad Climate for Imperial Science     03/04/2010    
    March 4, 2010 — To some people, the world would be a better place if ruled by scientists.  They could be like a benevolent oligarchy, employing the knowledge gained by the scientific method for the good of the people.  A recent editorial might shake that belief.
        In Nature News this week,1 Daniel Sarewitz had some sobering thoughts for scientists who think their views should direct national policy.  The context was the Climategate scandal (02/06/2010).  He used the incident to call attention to inherent weaknesses in the ability of science to rule the people. 
    Science has been called on to do something beyond its purview: not just improve people’s understanding of the world, but compel people to act in a particular way.  For nearly twenty years, researchers, policy-makers and activists have claimed that climate science requires a global policy agenda of top-down, United-Nations-sponsored international agreements; targets and timetables for emissions reductions; and the creation of carbon markets....
        The idea that a mounting weight of scientific evidence would gradually overwhelm ideological opposition to the climate policy regime is not just false but backwardsScience is much more pliable and permissive than deeply held beliefs about how the world should work.  Scientific understanding of the complex, coupled ocean–atmosphere–society system is always incomplete, and gives the competing sides plenty of support for their pre-existing political preferences – as well as plenty to hide behind in claiming that those preferences are supported by science.  Science can decisively support policy only after fundamental political differences have been resolved.
        The crucial point here is that no amount of reform of the IPCC, or rooting out of bad science – or of scientists behaving badly – will begin to correct the flaws in the dominant approach to climate policy.  Rehabilitation of climate policy is a matter not of getting the science right, but of getting the politics right.
    Science is the handmaiden of politics, not its queen.  That appears to be what Sarewitz is saying.  Because scientific understanding of complex issues is always incomplete, it will never be able to overwhelm the opposition by the sheer weight of evidence.  Whatever party wins can use “science” to support their policies.  The picture of science Sarewitz just painted is hugely deflating to the presumptive authority and epistemic privilege normally granted to scientists by the public, but the scientists did it to themselves: “the public legitimacy of climate science [is] under assault” from recent revelations.  Along with it, distrust of “political” science is growing: “To those who already distrust climate science because it is used to justify action that they deem ideologically repugnant, such revelations make it look as though the science is systematically, if not congenitally, biased in one direction.
        The Climategate scandal created a “poisoned political climate,” Sarewitz said, that deepened the divide between conservatives, who “typically distrust international governance regimes and the United Nations in particular” and “hate government programmes that demand major wealth transfers,” and liberals, who have an “equally naïve and idealized version of how the vaunted scientific consensus on anthropogenic warming demanded action consistent with their ideological preferences.”  Liberals “counted on science to deliver progressively greater certainty about the reality and consequences of climate change, an approach embodied in former US vice-president Al Gore’s movie An Inconvenient Truth.”  The unraveling of that certainty in recent months has made “climate rhetoric” take on an increasingly insistent and hysterical tone” like comparing future catastrophes to the Holocaust.  That must change.  Science is incapable of offering such certainty, Sarewitz argued.  He noted how quickly the IPCC incorporated outlandish claims about Himalayan glacier retreat into their report, but then said, “One can hardly imagine that equally bad data tending in the other direction – for example, saying that the glaciers were not retreating – would have made it into the report.”  Thus, he undercut the assumed objectivity of science.
        Sarewitz appears to favor the liberal position on climate science; he ended by saying that “the imperfect science we already have will turn out to be plenty good enough to support action.”  Even so, he had some advice for conservatives and liberals.  “With the public legitimacy of climate science under assault, political progress in the United States may now depend on the willingness of thoughtful conservatives to chart a better way forward,” he said.  “But liberals and moderates must meanwhile abandon the claim that the science supports only their way of doing things.”
        Sarewitz spoke half the time about climate science and half about science in general, suggesting he felt the lessons from Climategate can be generalized: “Science carried out in the context of divisive politics cannot but be influenced by that politics, as the CRU e-mails so starkly showed.”  It appears, therefore, that his themes in the editorial can be generalized to four lessons for science and politics: (1) Science does not belong to one political persuasion.  (2) Science is pliable to deeply-held world views and can be used to support either position.  (3) Because the conclusions of science on complex issues are always uncertain, science cannot convince an opposition on the weight of evidence.  (4) Politics should lead science, not the other way around.
       
    1.  Daniel Sarewitz, “World view: Curing climate backlash,” Nature 464, 28 (2010); doi:10.1038/464028a.
    Darwinians may get upset if we apply these lessons to the creation-evolution controversy, but consider the similarities.  Typically, the very same people who have staunchly asserted that the science supporting AGW is unassailable say the same thing about evolution.  The same people are typically leftists and atheists.  The same people assume the science is on their side.  And the same people have a propensity to want to impose their one-party rule on all the people using “science” as a weapon.
        So let’s apply the Sarewitz themes to the question of whether schools should be DODO (Darwin-Only, Darwin-Only): (1) Science does not belong to the Darwin Party.  There is plenty of evidence debunking Darwinism and supporting intelligent design.  Students should have a right to hear this evidence.  (2) Because science is pliable, the cases of the Darwin Party bending the rules of science, cherry-picking the data, and forcing evidence to an atheistic, secularist, progressivist political agenda should be exposed.  Those who oppose their views should be given the chance to criticize this behavior in public.  (3) The Darwin Party has failed to convince their opposition for 150 years.  If anything, the opposition is stronger today than it ever has been.  The opposition should be allowed, therefore, to debate Darwinists in the arenas where it counts: the journals, the universities, the courts, and the school boards.  Scientific institutions should end their one-party rule and accept outspoken critics of Darwinism into their membership.  Journals should print papers and editorials critical of Darwinism. (4) Because politics should lead science, it is perfectly acceptable for a conservative school board to end the DODO rules and order teachers to teach the controversy.  Indeed, that is the only way to prevent one side from co-opting “science” for a political agenda.
        Read Daniel Sarewitz’ article with this in mind and see if there is any reason Darwinism should be treated differently in the public square than climate science.  If what he said is correct (and he arguably did not go far enough), Imperial Science has no legitimacy.  It must give way to democracy.*  For more on the connections between Darwinism and climate change, see this Jay Richards blog.
    Next headline on:  Politics and EthicsEducation
    *No, Eugenie, this does not mean anarchy.  It does not mean the man on the street gets equal time to propound his personal theory of everything.  Reason, logic, evidence and knowledge will still matter – more than ever.  What it means is the end of one-party rule and persecution of those who buck the consensus.  Finally!  No longer will the Darwin Party have presumptive authority in matters of origins.  They will have to end their smoking parties in cushy lounges where everyone agrees with them because all their opponents have been systematically expelled.  They will have to get used to debating PhDs who are their intellectual peers or superiors.  The will have to get used to producing evidence for evolution instead of assuming it.  As John Stuart Mill believed about the public marketplace of ideas, good ideas will push out the bad without the need for political thought police enforcing uniform belief.  Isn’t this how science was supposed to operate anyway?
      Michael Ruse admitted that Darwinism can sometimes be presented as a secular religion in the 03/07/2003 entry.

    Ida Not a Human Ancestor     03/03/2010    
    March 3, 2010 — If Ida known then what I know now: the media-frenzied presentation of Ida (Darwinius masillae) as a distant relative of human beings last year has been debunked.  “Many lines of evidence indicate that Darwinius has nothing at all to do with human evolution,” said Chris Kirk (U of Texas) in an article on Science Daily.  Researchers publishing their analysis in the Journal of Human Evolution accused the presentation of ignoring decades of research and an enormous body of literature on the evolution of strepsirrhines, a primate group that includes lemurs and lorises.  Ida’s discoverer claimed it had characteristics suggesting a linkage to haplorhines “However, Kirk, Williams and their colleagues point out that short snouts and deep jaws are known to have evolved multiple times among primates, including several times within the lemur/loris lineage,” the article claimed.  “They further argue that Darwinius lacks most of the key anatomical features that could demonstrate a close evolutionary relationship with living haplorhines (apes, monkeys, humans, and tarsiers).”
        The announcement about Ida included a book, a History Channel documentary, and an exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History.  Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled the specimen at a news conference in New York city.  The lead author of the new paper remarked, “Just because it’s a complete and well-preserved fossil doesn’t mean it’s going to overthrow all our ideas.”  For more on Ida, see the 05/19/2009 and 10/24/2009 entries.

    It’s nice when scientists criticize overblown claims of other scientists, but does it help to have one lie displace another?  Ida has nothing at all to do with human evolution, but it also has nothing at all to do with evolution.  A well-designed mammal lived, and it died.  Some variations existed between existing kinds of primates.  That’s all a strict empiricist should say about it.  Did you notice the fudging the new team had to make about convergent evolution?  They said certain traits are “known to have evolved multiple times among primates, including several times within the lemur/loris lineage.”  Known?  Would they swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?  The truth may not get you a book or History Channel documentary, but it has one major benefit over the alternative: it’s true.
    Next headline on:  Early ManMammalsFossilsDarwin and EvolutionMedia
    Flight Design: Flies and Birds Get it Wright     03/03/2010    
    March 3, 2010 — Parse the following sentence for logical consistency: “Just as the Wright brothers implemented controls to achieve stable airplane flight, flying insects have evolved behavioral strategies that ensure recovery from flight disturbances.”  That is the first sentence from a paper in PNAS yesterday about the stabilizers in fly wings.1  Ristroph et al just compared design principles employed purposefully by inventors to the trial-and-error process of evolution.
        The authors studied how fruit flies recover from disturbances.  They made them stumble while flying, and watched how they responded.  Their abstract continued the invention motif all the way up to modern times: “Thus, like early man-made aircraft and modern fighter jets, the fruit fly employs an automatic stabilization scheme that reacts to short time-scale disturbances.”  It only takes them 60 milliseconds to recover to within 2 degrees of their original heading.  They do this because they are equipped with “a pair of small vibrating organs called halteres that act as gyroscopic sensors.”  More aerodynamic engineering lingo ensues forthwith: “These findings suggest that these insects drive their corrective response using an autostabilizing feedback loop in which the sensed angular velocity serves as the input to the flight controller.”  The word “control” was one of the most prominent in the paper, used 27 times.  Later, their transition from biology to human engineering was seamless:
    Flight control principles uncovered in this model organism may also apply more broadly, and this work provides a template for future studies aimed at determining if other animals employ flight autostabilization.  The control strategies across different animals are likely to share common features, because the physics of body rotation is similar across many animals during flapping-wing flight.  Additionally, animals that lack halteres may use functionally equivalent mechanosensory structures such as antennae.  Finally, the control architecture of the fruit fly offers a blueprint for stabilization of highly maneuverable flapping-wing flying machines.
        For fixed-wing machines, the need to overcome instabilities spurred the invention of autostabilizing systems by 1912, only 9 years after the Wright brothers first manually controlled airplane flight.  The development of such automatic steering systems also led to the first formal description of proportional– integral–derivative control schemes and advanced gyroscopic sensor technology.  The fruit fly’s autostabilization response is well-modeled by a simple PD scheme that receives input from gyroscopic halteres, and, like airplanes, uses fine adjustment of wing orientation to generate corrective torques.  Roughly 350 million years after insects took flight, man converged to this solution for the problem of flight control and joined animals in the skies.

    Want to see what animal flight technology has achieved?  Look no further than the aptly-named swift.  The common swift (Apus apus) is the speed champ in the category of sustained level flight.  The BBC News reported that swifts have been measured faster than peregrine falcons in level flight, though the falcon, employing gravity, sets the record in freefall dives.  A swift was recently measured going 69.3 mph, “the highest confirmed speed achieved by a bird in level flight,” said Swedish researchers publishing in the Journal of Avian Biology.  This is nearly triple their normal fast flying rate of 22-26 mph.  Apparently males do it to show off in “screaming parties” when flocks of swifts come together in jubilant displays of prowess.
        Dr. Per Henningsson said, “It is remarkable that a bird that otherwise appears to be ‘finely tuned’ to perform at a narrow range of flight speeds at the same time is able to fly more than twice as fast when it needs to.”  The reporter added, “That means the birds need to be able to radically alter their aerodynamic performance, by altering their wing profile and physiology, depending on whether they are flying normally or in a screaming party.”  The article includes a short video of swifts in flight.  They go by in a blink of an eye, so a slow-motion sequence follows the real-time blip.  Reporter Jody Bourton called them “supercharged swifts”.
    1.  Ristroph et al, “Discovering the flight autostabilizer of fruit flies by inducing aerial stumbles,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, online March 1, 2010, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1000615107.
    The fruit fly experimenters only slipped on the E-word banana once, but then they got back up and talked design engineering the rest of the time.  But the cognitive dissonance of hearing them use evolution in the same sentence as the Wright brothers, engineering and flight control principles was jarring.  Maybe they did it on purpose.  It could have been to raise awareness of the logical inconsistency.  Or it could have been to ensure their intelligent-design paper got past the censors.  Hopefully that was the case; otherwise, it betrays endemic mental illness in the halls of academia.
        Next time you see a fruit fly or gnat, watch it for a while.  Think about how much technology is built into that tiny, tiny body.  It does things that our best aerospace engineers would like to imitate.  Become aware, also, of the birds in your area.  Watch some swifts in flight if you can.  You might just want to join their screaming party.  Flap your arms long enough, and you might be able to join them in a few million years.  Actually, probably not.  For more on swifts, see 12/09/2004, the 04/29/2007, and 07/18/2007.
    Next headline on:  Terrestrial ZoologyBirdsPhysicsIntelligent DesignAmazing Facts
    Origin of Life: Claiming Something for Almost Nothing     03/02/2010    
    March 2, 2010 — Getting life to emerge from nonliving chemicals is either a cinch or the most impossible thing in the universe, depending on whom you ask.  Let’s look at a couple of recent papers that suggest the origin of life was no big deal.
        A press release from the University of Colorado advertised a paper by Michael Yarus and team in PNAS.1  The team, funded by a $415,610 grant from the National Institutes of Health, concocted a “Tiny RNA Molecule With Big Implications for the Origin of Life.”  It’s the smallest ribozyme yet, with only five nucleotides, and it is able to “catalyze a key reaction that would be needed to synthesize proteins.”  Tom Blumenthal, a colleague working with Yarus, said, “Nobody expected an RNA molecule this small and simple to be able to do such a complicated thing as that.”  By implication, this ribozyme could have been a stepping stone on the way to larger and more complex molecules of life.
        Yarus has been a strong proponent of the “RNA World” hypothesis.  The team’s findings argue that RNA enzymes (ribozymes) did not have to be as complex at first to have a function.  He said, “If there exists that kind of mini-catalyst, a ‘sister’ to the one we describe, the world of the replicators would also jump a long step closer and we could really feel we were closing in on the first things on Earth that could undergo Darwinian evolution.”  He refers to the fact that Darwinian evolution by natural selection cannot be invoked till there is a replicator – a system able to duplicate its parts accurately.  Yarus admitted, “the tiny replicator has not been found, and that its existence will be decided by experiments not yet done, perhaps not yet imagined.
        But does this work support a naturalistic origin of life?  A key question is whether the molecule would form under plausible prebiotic conditions.  Here’s how the paper described their work in the lab to get this molecule:
    RNA was synthesized by Dharmacon. GUGGC = 5’-GUGGC-30 ; GCCU – 5’P-GCCU-3’ ; 5’OH-GCCU = 5’-GCCU-3’ ; GCCU20dU = 5’-GCC-2’-dU; GCC = 5’-GCC-3’ ; dGdCdCrU = 5’-dGdCdCU-3’ . RNA GCC3’dU was prepared by first synthesizing 5’-O-(4,4’- Dimethoxytrityl)3’-deoxyuridine as follows: 3’-deoxyuridine (MP Biomedicals; 991 mg, 0.434 mmol) was dissolved in 5 mL anhydrous pyridine and pyridine was then removed under vacuum while stirring.  Solid was then redissolved in 2 mL pyridine.  Dimethoxytrityl chloride (170 mg, 0.499 mmol) was dissolved in 12 mL pyridine and slowly added to 3’-deoxyuridine solution.  Solution was stirred at room temperature for 4 h.  All solutions were sequestered from exposure to air throughout.
        Reaction was then quenched by addition of 5 mL methanol, and solvent was removed by rotary evaporation.  Remaining solvent evaporated overnight in a vacuum chamber.  Product was then dissolved in 1 mL acetonitrile and purified through a silica column (acetonitrile elution).  Final product fractions (confirmed through TLC, 1.1 hexane:acetonitrile) were pooled and rotary evaporated.  Yield was 71%. Dimethoxytrityl-protected 30dU was then sent to Dharmacon for immobilization of 30-dU on glass and synthesis of 5’-GCC-3’-dU.
        PheAMP, PheUMP, and MetAMP were synthesized by the method of Berg (25) with modifications and purification as described in ref. 6.  Yield was as follows: PheAMP 85%, PheUMP 67%, and MetAMP 36%.
    Even more purification and isolation steps under controlled conditions, using multiple solvents at various temperatures, were needed to prevent cross-reactions.  It is doubtful such complex lab procedures have analogues in nature.  They started with pre-existing ribose, furthermore, and did not state whether it was one-handed.  The putative ribozyme function only consisted of one step of a complex multi-step reaction in living organisms: “The small ribozyme initially trans-phenylalanylates a partially complementary 4-nt RNA selectively at its terminal 2’-ribose hydroxyl using PheAMP, the natural form for activated amino acid.
        The team’s interpretation of the significance of their work relies heavily on imagination: “The ultimate importance of these observations may lie partly in the unknown number of other reactions that can be accelerated by comparably small RNAs.”  They simply assumed that a “geochemical source” would be able to produce a suite of other five-nucleotide ribozymes, including theirs.  “On one hand, with this few ribonucleotides to dispose in space, there may not be other similar nucleotide structures that are both stable and capable of catalysis,” they concluded.  But then they relied on future work and imagination: “On the other hand, for obvious reasons, it will be extraordinarily important to look for other tiny RNA active centers, now knowing they can exist.”  Finally, another reason they worked on the RNA-World hypothesis is that they recognized that “it is implausible that primitive peptides were synthesized using already-formed protein catalysts....”  It must be remembered, too, that these chemical reactions, even if they could occur naturally, have no forward-looking capacity.  They have no desire or power to direct their work toward the goal of producing life.  Because natural selection is out of the question before accurate self-replication, any success will be strictly due to chance.
        A prerequisite for RNA is sugar.  How did they arise?  Another recent paper in Science might be called the rock candy theory for the origin of life.2  The authors argue that sugars might form naturally in the formose reaction and be stabilized in silicates.  They called this a “bottom-up synthesis of sugar silicates.”  Recognizing that previous work on the formose reaction produced mixtures that were complex and unstable, they argued that “Silicate selects for sugars with a specific stereochemistry and sequesters them from rapid decomposition.  Given the abundance of silicate minerals, these observations suggest that formose-like reactions may provide a feasible pathway for the abiotic formation of biologically important sugars, such as ribose.”  For a summary of this paper, see Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) press release.  The research was supported by the National Science Foundation, Dow Corning Corp. and Schlumberger Ltd.
        The formose reaction “is a possible process whereby sugars form abiotically,” they said.  “This reaction converts formaldehyde (HCHO; C1) to a variety of sugars, in the presence of strong bases, organic bases, or minerals.”  Problem is, it “generates a plethora of unstable sugars, of which the key sugar, ribose, is present in a very small proportion.”  And, “An additional drawback is that the products from the formose mechanism are racemic [mixed-handed], whereas sugars under terrestrial biological conditions are homochiral” (one-handed).  Their work showed that some of these limitations can be overcome with silicates.
        A look through the paper, however, shows complex lab procedures that are hard to justify in nature.  They claimed that “This bottom-up synthesis of sugar silicates is a plausible prebiotic process,” but noted that the sugars “oligomerize very slowly” and “uncomplexed higher sugars decompose rapidly under alkaline conditions.”  The RSC article states, though, that high alkaline conditions are required for the scenario, and that most of the silicates formed in weathering processes are consumed by other reactions.  To delay the decomposition, the sugars have to be complexed quickly on silicates or clays.  But they did not say how complexing the sugars with silicates might prevent, rather than accelerate, downstream biogenetic reactions.  So in their best-case scenario, some sugars might form in the formose reaction, and be sequestered in silicate complexes.  Ribose (essential for RNA) would constitute a tiny fraction of product (see 11/05/2004).
        At some point, something would have had to take the correct sugars out of the silicate cabinet and use them to assemble RNA while preventing damaging cross-reactions occurring with other compounds.  Even then, the problem of sequencing the nucleotides – the key question – has not been addressed.  Where did the genetic code come from?  One ribozyme is not a code.  Unless and until all the ingredients for a self-replicating system are accounted for, none of these suggestive steps constitute progress toward the origin of life.
    1.  Turk, Chumachenko and Yarus, “Multiple translational products from a five-nucleotide ribozyme,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences February 22, 2010, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0912895107.
    2.  Lambert, Gurusamy-Thangavelu and Ma, “The Silicate-Mediated Formose Reaction: Bottom-Up Synthesis of Sugar Silicates,” Science, 19 February 2010: Vol. 327. no. 5968, pp. 984-986, DOI: 10.1126/science.1182669.
    Origin-of-life research suffers from a glaring flaw: lack of critical analysis.  Papers and press releases like this should immediately be subjected to unbiased criticism: “Those are not plausible prebiotic conditions!” or “How would nature sequester the desired compounds from damaging cross-reactions without the techniques you used?”  Many more questions should be asked.  Instead, because secular science has a vested interest in making the origin of life sound simple on the way to Darwinism, the journals allow these views to be aired uncontested.  It presents a false impression that science is making progress toward an answer in little, cumulative steps.  Institutions like the University of Colorado also have a vested interest in making their professors look good in the media.
        If Big Science would do its job, the creationists and intelligent design community would not have to be cast in the role of spoil sports, showing why these ideas won’t work.  They won’t work anyway, but other insiders, not just the expelled, should be saying so.  After all, much of the work was paid for with taxpayer dollars.  Where are the watchdogs?

    THE ROCK CANDY THEORY OF THE ORIGIN OF LIFE
    In the Big Rock Candy Mountains, science takes a holiday;
    Your funding comes around once a week and it’s Darwin Day every day.
    You never have to clean your lab or put formose away;
    There’s a little white lie you can wink your eye,
    Notions jump so high they can touch the sky
    In the Big Rock Candy Mountains.

    Next headline on:  Origin of Life

      Eight years ago this month, before online video came of age, the film Unlocking the Mystery of Life premiered in Los Angeles to a standing ovation (see 03/11/2002).  Translated and distributed around the world, it has been one of the key media tools for popularizing intelligent design.  Now you can watch it online at YouTube along with other great Illustra films produced since then.

    Swinging at Saturn’s Moons: Keep Your Eye on the Ball     03/01/2010    
    March 1, 2010 — Cassini flew by Saturn’s moon Rhea March 2 at just 100 km.  Dr. Paul Schenk, one of the planetary scientists, said on his blog Stereo Moons, “it should be axiomatic by now that the closer you look at a planetary object the more surprises you see.”  Keep your eye on the ball.
        One surprise from 2008 Cassini scientists want to check more closely is evidence for a ring around Rhea (03/10/2008).  Schenk, whose talents include generating 3-D flyovers of surfaces from image data, posted a “ringside seat” flyover of Rhea Feb. 25 on YouTube from the 2008 flyby.  It has a striking characteristic that may provide more smoking-gun evidence for a ring: bluish patches along the equator.  Schenk believes these are marks of impacts of low-orbiting ring particles on the surface.  The discussion going on at Unmanned Spaceflight, a blog frequented by planetary scientists and knowledgeable amateurs, doubted that the streaks could be ancient, because they would have been erased by now.  The images of Rhea arrived at the Imaging Team website the next day.  Unmanned Spaceflight prosumers started stitching and processing the images immediately.  It will take time to analyze the data from the radar, optical and remote sensing cameras, and particles-and-fields instruments.
        Gushin’ geysers; Enceladus is bustin’ out all over its tiger stripes.  Space.com, Science Daily and National Geographic were among the news feeds highlighting amazing views of the plumes emanating from the small moon of Saturn (see Imaging Team gallery).  The images, taken last Nov. 21, were released Feb. 23 with enhanced measurements of heat taken by the composite infrared spectrometer (CIRS).  The photos show that the plumes vary with time.  The jets can erupt along the whole lengths of the stripes.  A new detailed map of one of the stripes “illustrates the link between the geologically youthful surface fractures and the anomalously warm temperatures that have been recorded in the south polar region.”  Eleven more flybys of this moon are scheduled for the seven-year second extended mission.
        Titan continues to astonish planetary scientists.  Two papers appeared in last month’s Icarus on this giant gas-shrouded moon.  The one with the most extensive list of authors evaluated what is known about Titan’s geologic processes.1  “The paucity of impact craters implies that Titan’s surface is geologically young, having a crater retention age between 0.2 and 1 Gyr” (200,000 to 1 billion years), the paper claimed.  But “There is also no evidence of impact craters superposing any cryovolcanic feature,” which implies the volcano candidates are “relatively young” also.  The dunes and channels are among the youngest features on Titan.  In conclusion, “The majority of Titan’s surface is young, that is, less than a billion years, even assuming that all the crateriform structures discussed are due to impact.”  What would cause global resurfacing activity for 80% of the assumed lifetime of this moon was left unexplained.  “It is not yet clear what the role of cryovolcanism has been on crater obliteration, as so far cryovolcanic processes are not seen to be as widespread as erosional processes.”  The mountains appear the oldest, but are only relatively older – unmodified by dunes, channel erosion, and craters.  “It is clear, however, that the patches of hummocky and mountainous terrain are scattered all over the surface and that nowhere do they appear uneroded or stratigraphically younger than another local terrain type.”  And the volcanoes are young, too: “Cryovolcanism may be a relatively young process or possibly ongoing...,” the article said: “The large flow fields mapped so far do not show any evidence of fluvial erosion, perhaps implying that they are quite young.”  To keep this big moon as old as the assumed age of the solar system (4.5 billion years), the authors had to suggest episodic activity.  Despite the belief in long ages, “young” was a frequent word in this paper.
        The conclusion stated, “Titan’s surface is overall very young, given the small number of impact craters and the clear evidence of lacustrine, fluvial, and aeolian processes on the surface.”  And Titan is still active: “It is likely that both aeolian deposition and fluvial activity are still ongoing.” In addition, “it is possible that some cryovolcanism may still be happening on the surface.”  The paper made a passing reference to the methane–ethane problem (01/17/2002, 03/11/2005, 10/18/2006, 02/15/2008, 12/18/2008): “the observed lake inventory is inconsistent with photolysis throughout Titan’s history.”  To keep the methane budget from being depleted over 4.5 billion years, they said it “seems likely” that there has been “episodic injection, by cryovolcanism, of methane from the interior” into the atmosphere, “Although there is no direct evidence of such events....”.  The other Titan paper in Icarus investigated the longevity of methane in proposed eruptive events.2  Their model of outgassing “would be sufficient to maintain the presence of methane in Titan’s atmosphere” the paper claimed, but for far less than the amount of time needed: “for several tens of thousands of years after a large cryovolcanic event.”
        If Saturn were alone in having active moons, it might be considered an anomaly.  But Jupiter has Io, the most volcanically active body in the solar system, and Europa, a smooth moon with lines and cracks that “remaining active or being periodically active as Europa’s decoupled icy shell rotates with respect to its interior,” according to Patterson and Head in Icarus.3  They noted that some of the cracks appear “relatively young” although they did not speculate on absolute ages of features.  Then, two planets out from Saturn, there is Triton.  Another Icarus paper said,4Triton is a spectacularly dynamic world” with a “geologically young surface” – despite being the coldest moon in the solar system.  Observations over the last decade show seasonal variations in volatiles from ices in different geological regimes.  That seems to be happening on Pluto, too.  The BBC News reported observations of seasonal changes on the surface of this body, formerly called a planet but now looking more like Triton, Sedna and other Trans-Neptunian Objects.  If volatile ices are moving about on these small worlds, some of it must be escaping to space.  Maybe that’s why Space.com called Pluto “still a big mystery” 80 years after its discovery.


    1.  Lopes et al, “Distribution and interplay of geologic processes on Titan from Cassini radar data,” Icarus, Volume 205, Issue 2, February 2010, Pages 540-558.
    2.  Choukroun, Grasset, Tobie and Sotin, “Stability of methane clathrate hydrates under pressure: Influence on outgassing processes of methane on Titan,” Icarus, Volume 205, Issue 2, February 2010, Pages 581-593.
    3.  Patterson and Head, “Segmented lineaments on Europa: Implications for the formation of ridge complexes and bright bands,” Icarus, Volume 205, Issue 2, February 2010, Pages 528-539.
    4.  Grundy, Young, Stansberry, Buie, Olken and Young, “Near-infrared spectral monitoring of Triton with IRTF/SpeX II: Spatial distribution and evolution of ices,” Icarus, Volume 205, Issue 2, February 2010, Pages 594-604.
    If these bodies are not really as old as claimed, one would expect the old-age consensus to encounter frequent anomalies.  Since the surprise density exceeds the prediction of consensus planetary science, it should lead rational planetologists to re-open the assumption of billions of years.  Why do they never go down that path?
    Next headline on:  Solar SystemDating MethodsGeology

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    “Instead of criticising every piece of evidence for evolution how about presenting some evidence for creationism?  Obviously there are holes in evolutionary theory – we can’t even define a species!  But its a theory with a whole load of evidence and if taken at its definition is a mathmatical [sic] certainty.”
    (a student in Leeds, UK, who must have reacted to one or a few articles, and appears to be philosophically and mathematically challenged)

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    (dean of the aerospace engineering department at a major university)

    “I stumbled upon this web site more than once by following links from my usual creationist web sites but now I visit here quite often.  I am glad to see that there are more and more creationist web sites but disappointed to find out that this one has been running for nearly 10 years and I never knew about it.”
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    “I am a teacher ... For three years i’ve been learning from you at crev.info/... My wife, a teacher also, passes your website on to all interested.  We are blessed by your gifts to the body of Christ through this site!  Thank-you for ALL your efforts over the decade.”
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    “I believe there is a middle ground between ID and Evolution that defines what goes on in the real world.  It hasn’t been labeled by humanity yet, and it’s probably better that it hasn’t, for now.  The problem is there is still so much that humanity doesn’t know about the universe we live in and our learning progress is so uneven throughout our population.  If there is an Intelligent Designer, and I believe there is, these problems too will be taken care of eventually.  In the meantime, you do the best you can, the best that's humanly possible, to be objective and logical, while maintaining your faith.”
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    (a former atheist/evolutionist in aerospace engineering, now Biblical creationist)

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    (a business analyst in Wisconsin)

    “...this is one of the websites (I have like 4 or 5 on my favorites), and this is there.  It’s a remarkable clearinghouse of information; it’s very well written, it’s to the point... a broad range of topics.  I have been alerted to more interesting pieces of information on [this] website than any other website I can think of.”
    (a senior research scientist)

    “I would assume that you, or anyone affiliated with your website is simply not qualified to answer any questions regarding that subject [evolution], because I can almost single-handedly refute all of your arguments with solid scientific arguments.... Also, just so you know, the modern theory of evolution does not refute the existence of a god, and it in no way says that humans are not special.  Think about that before you go trying to discredit one of the most important and revolutionary scientific ideas of human history.  It is very disrespectful to the people who have spent their entire lives trying to reveal some kind of truth in this otherwise crazy world.”
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    “Hi guys, thanks for all that you do, your website is a great source of information: very comprehensive.”
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        Anyone who has interest at where science, as a whole, is at in our current times, does not have to look very hard to see that science is on the verge of a new awakening....
        It’s not uncommon to find articles that are supplemented with assumptions and vagueness.  A view point the would rather keep knowledge in the dark ages.  But when I read over the postings on CEH, I find a view point that looks past the grayness.  The whole team at CEH helps cut through the assumptions of weary influences.
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        I know that Creation Evolution Headlines has a growing and informative future before them.  I’m so glad to be along for the ride!!”
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    “Thank you very much for your well presented and highly instructive blog” [news service].
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    (a PhD geneticist, author and inventor)

    “Thank you for your great creation section on your website.  I come visit it every day, and I enjoy reading those news bits with your funny (but oh so true) commentaries.”
    (a computer worker in France)

    “I have been reading Creation Evolution Headlines for many years now with ever increasing astonishment.... I pray that God will bless your work for it has been a tremendous blessing for me and I thank you.”
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    “I totally enjoy the polemic and passionate style of CEH... simply refreshes the heart which its wonderful venting of righteous anger against all the BS we’re flooded with on a daily basis.  The baloney detector is just unbelievably great.  Thank you so much for your continued effort, keep up the good work.”
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    (a software engineer in Texas)

    “Your piece on ‘Turing Test Stands’ (09/14/2008) was so enlightening.  Thanks so much.  And your piece on ‘Cosmology at the Outer Limits” (06/30/2008) was another marvel of revelation.  But most of all your ‘footnotes’ at the end are the most awe-inspiring.  I refer to ‘Come to the light’ and Psalm 139 and many others.  Thanks so much for keeping us grounded in the TRUTH amidst the sea of scientific discoveries and controversy.  It’s so heartwarming and soul saving to read the accounts of the inspired writers testifying to the Master of the Universe.  Thanks again.”
    (a retired electrical engineer in Mississippi)

    “I teach a college level course on the issue of evolution and creation.  I am very grateful for your well-reasoned reports and analyses of the issues that confront us each day.  In light of all the animosity that evolutionists express toward Intelligent Design or Creationism, it is good to see that we on the other side can maintain our civility even while correcting and informing a hostile audience.  Keep up the good work and do not compromise your high standards.  I rely on you for alerting me to whatever happens to be the news of the day.”
    (a faculty member at a Bible college in Missouri)

    “Congratulations on reaching 8 years of absolute success with crev.info.... Your knowledge and grasp of the issues are indeed matched by your character and desire for truth, and it shows on every web page you write.... I hope your work extends to the ends of the world, and is appreciated by all who read it.”
    (a computer programmer from Southern California)

    “Your website is one of the best, especially for news.... Keep up the great work.”
    (a science writer in Texas)

    “I appreciate the work you’ve been doing with the Creation-Evolution Headlines website.”
    (an aerospace engineer for NASA)

    “I appreciate your site tremendously.... I refer many people to your content frequently, both personally and via my little blog.... Thanks again for one of the most valuable websites anywhere.”
    (a retired biology teacher in New Jersey, whose blog features beautiful plant and insect photographs)

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    (a software development team leader in Texas)

    “I want to express my appreciation for what you are doing.  I came across your website almost a year ago.... your blog [sic; news service] is one that I regularly read.  When it comes to beneficial anti-evolutionist material, your blog has been the most helpful for me.”
    (a Bible scholar and professor in Michigan)

    “I enjoyed reading your site.  I completely disagree with you on just about every point, but you do an excellent job of organizing information.”
    (a software engineer in Virginia.  His criticisms led to an engaging dialogue.  He left off at one point, saying, “You have given me much to think about.”)

    “I have learned so much since discovering your site about 3 years ago.  I am a homeschooling mother of five and my children and I are just in wonder over some the discoveries in science that have been explored on creation-evolution headlines.  The baloney detector will become a part of my curriculum during the next school year.  EVERYONE I know needs to be well versed on the types of deceptive practices used by those opposed to truth, whether it be in science, politics, or whatever the subject.”
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    “I would like to express my appreciation for your work exposing the Darwinist assumptions and speculation masquerading as science.... When I discovered your site through a link... I knew that I had struck gold! ....Your site has helped me to understand how the Darwinists use propaganda techniques to confuse the public.  I never would have had so much insight otherwise... I check your site almost daily to keep informed of new developments.”
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    “This website redefines debunking.  Thanks for wading through the obfuscation that passes for evolution science to expose the sartorial deficiencies of Emperor Charles and his minions.  Simply the best site of its kind, an amazing resource.  Keep up the great work!”
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    “I have been a fan of your daily news items for about two years, when a friend pointed me to it.  I now visit every day (or almost every day)... A quick kudo: You are amazing, incredible, thorough, indispensable, and I could list another ten superlatives.  Again, I just don’t know how you manage to comb so widely, in so many technical journals, to come up with all this great ‘news from science’ info.”
    (a PhD professor of scientific rhetoric in Florida and author of two books, who added that he was “awe-struck” by this site)

    More feedback

     
    Featured Creation Scientist for January

    Sir David Brewster
    1781 - 1868

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


    If you are enjoying this series, you can learn more about great Christians in science by reading our online book-in-progress:
    The World’s Greatest Creation Scientists from Y1K to Y2K.

    A Concise Guide
    to Understanding
    Evolutionary Theory

    You can observe a lot by just watching.
    – Yogi Berra

    First Law of Scientific Progress
    The advance of science can be measured by the rate at which exceptions to previously held laws accumulate.
    Corollaries:
    1. Exceptions always outnumber rules.
    2. There are always exceptions to established exceptions.
    3. By the time one masters the exceptions, no one recalls the rules to which they apply.

    Darwin’s Law
    Nature will tell you a direct lie if she can.
    Bloch’s Extension
    So will Darwinists.

    Finagle’s Creed
    Science is true.  Don’t be misled by facts.

    Finagle’s 2nd Law
    No matter what the anticipated result, there will always be someone eager to (a) misinterpret it, (b) fake it, or (c) believe it happened according to his own pet theory.

    Finagle’s Rules
    3. Draw your curves, then plot your data.
    4. In case of doubt, make it sound convincing.
    6. Do not believe in miracles – rely on them.

    Murphy’s Law of Research
    Enough research will tend to support your theory.

    Maier’s Law
    If the facts do not conform to the theory, they must be disposed of.
    Corollaries:
    1. The bigger the theory, the better.
    2. The experiments may be considered a success if no more than 50% of the observed measurements must be discarded to obtain a correspondence with the theory.

    Eddington’s Theory
    The number of different hypotheses erected to explain a given biological phenomenon is inversely proportional to the available knowledge.

    Young’s Law
    All great discoveries are made by mistake.
    Corollary
    The greater the funding, the longer it takes to make the mistake.

    Peer’s Law
    The solution to a problem changes the nature of the problem.

    Peter’s Law of Evolution
    Competence always contains the seed of incompetence.

    Weinberg’s Corollary
    An expert is a person who avoids the small errors while sweeping on to the grand fallacy.

    Souder’s Law
    Repetition does not establish validity.

    Cohen’s Law
    What really matters is the name you succeed in imposing on the facts – not the facts themselves.

    Harrison’s Postulate
    For every action, there is an equal and opposite criticism.

    Thumb’s Second Postulate
    An easily-understood, workable falsehood is more useful than a complex, incomprehensible truth.

    Ruckert’s Law
    There is nothing so small that it can’t be blown out of proportion

    Hawkins’ Theory of Progress
    Progress does not consist in replacing a theory that is wrong with one that is right.  It consists in replacing a theory that is wrong with one that is more subtly wrong.

    Macbeth’s Law
    The best theory is not ipso facto a good theory.

    Disraeli’s Dictum
    Error is often more earnest than truth.

    Advice from Paul

    Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge – by professing it some have strayed concerning the faith.

    I Timothy 6:20-21

    Song of the True Scientist

    O Lord, how manifold are Your works!  In wisdom You have made them all.  The earth is full of Your possessions . . . . May the glory of the Lord endure forever.  May the Lord rejoice in His works . . . . I will sing to the Lord s long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.  May my meditation be sweet to Him; I will be glad in the Lord.  May sinners be consumed from the earth, and the wicked be no more.  Bless the Lord, O my soul!  Praise the Lord! 

    from Psalm 104

    Maxwell’s Motivation

    Through the creatures Thou hast made
    Show the brightness of Thy glory.
    Be eternal truth displayed
    In their substance transitory.
    Till green earth and ocean hoary,
    Massy rock and tender blade,
    Tell the same unending story:
    We are truth in form arrayed.

    Teach me thus Thy works to read,
    That my faith,– new strength accruing–
    May from world to world proceed,
    Wisdom’s fruitful search pursuing
    Till, thy truth my mind imbuing,
    I proclaim the eternal Creed –
    Oft the glorious theme renewing,
    God our Lord is God indeed.

    James Clerk Maxwell
    One of the greatest physicists
    of all time (a creationist).

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    “I visit your website regularly and I commend you on your work.  I applaud your effort to pull actual science from the mass of propaganda for Evolution you report on (at least on those rare occasions when there actually is any science in the propaganda).  I also must say that I'm amazed at your capacity to continually plow through the propaganda day after day and provide cutting and amusing commentary....  I can only hope that youthful surfers will stop by your website for a fair and interesting critique of the dogma they have to imbibe in school.”
    (a technical writer living in Jerusalem)

    “I have enjoyed your site for several years now.  Thanks for all the hard work you obviously put into this.  I appreciate your insights, especially the biological oriented ones in which I'm far behind the nomenclature curve.  It would be impossible for me to understand what's going on without some interpretation.  Thanks again.”
    (a manufacturing engineer in Vermont)

    “Love your site and your enormous amount of intellectualism and candor regarding the evolution debate.  Yours is one site I look forward to on a daily basis.  Thank you for being a voice for the rest of us.”
    (a graphic designer in Wisconsin)

    “For sound, thoughtful commentary on creation-evolution hot topics go to Creation-Evolution Headlines.
    (Access Research Network 12/28/2007).

    ”Your website is simply the best (and I’d dare say one of the most important) web sites on the entire WWW.”
    (an IT specialist at an Alabama university)

    “I’ve been reading the articles on this website for over a year, and I’m guilty of not showing any appreciation.  You provide a great service.  It’s one of the most informative and up-to-date resources on creation available anywhere.  Thank you so much.  Please keep up the great work.”
    (a senior research scientist in Georgia)

    “Just a note to thank you for your site.  I am a regular visitor and I use your site to rebut evolutionary "just so" stories often seen in our local media.  I know what you do is a lot of work but you make a difference and are appreciated.”
    (a veterinarian in Minnesota)

    “This is one of the best sites I have ever visited.  Thanks.  I have passed it on to several others... I am a retired grandmother. I have been studying the creation/evolution question for about 50 yrs.... Thanks for the info and enjoyable site.”
    (a retiree in Florida)

    “It is refreshing to know that there are valuable resources such as Creation-Evolution Headlines that can keep us updated on the latest scientific news that affect our view of the world, and more importantly to help us decipher through the rhetoric so carelessly disseminated by evolutionary scientists.  I find it ‘Intellectually Satisfying’ to know that I don’t have to park my brain at the door to be a ‘believer’ or at the very least, to not believe in Macroevolution.”
    (a loan specialist in California)

    “I have greatly benefitted from your efforts.  I very much look forward to your latest posts.”
    (an attorney in California)

    “I must say your website provides an invaluable arsenal in this war for souls that is being fought.  Your commentaries move me to laughter or sadness.  I have been viewing your information for about 6 months and find it one of the best on the web.  It is certainly effective against the nonsense published on Talkorigins.org.  It great to see work that glorifies God and His creation.”
    (a commercial manager in Australia)

    “Visiting daily your site and really do love it.”
    (a retiree from Finland who studied math and computer science)

    “I am agnostic but I can never deny that organic life (except human) is doing a wonderful job at functioning at optimum capacity.  Thank you for this ... site!”
    (an evolutionary theorist from Australia)

    “During the year I have looked at your site, I have gone through your archives and found them to be very helpful and informative.  I am so impressed that I forward link to members of my congregation who I believe are interested in a higher level discussion of creationist issues than they will find at [a leading origins website].”
    (a minister in Virginia)

    “I attended a public school in KS where evolution was taught.  I have rejected evolution but have not always known the answers to some of the questions.... A friend told me about your site and I like it, I have it on my favorites, and I check it every day.”
    (an auto technician in Missouri)

    “Thanks for a great site!  It has brilliant insights into the world of science and of the evolutionary dogma.  One of the best sites I know of on the internet!”
    (a programmer in Iceland)

    “The site you run – creation-evolution headlines is extremely useful to me.  I get so tired of what passes for science – Darwinism in particular – and I find your site a refreshing antidote to the usual junk.... it is clear that your thinking and logic and willingness to look at the evidence for what the evidence says is much greater than what I read in what are now called science journals.  Please keep up the good work.  I appreciate what you are doing more than I can communicate in this e-mail.”
    (a teacher in California)

    “Although we are often in disagreement, I have the greatest respect and admiration for your writing.”
    (an octogenarian agnostic in Palm Springs)

    “your website is absolutely superb and unique.  No other site out there provides an informed & insightful ‘running critique’ of the current goings-on in the scientific establishment.  Thanks for keeping us informed.”
    (a mechanical designer in Indiana)

    “I have been a fan of your site for some time now.  I enjoy reading the ‘No Spin’ of what is being discussed.... keep up the good work, the world needs to be shown just how little the ‘scientist’ [sic] do know in regards to origins.”
    (a network engineer in South Carolina)

    “I am a young man and it is encouraging to find a scientific ‘journal’ on the side of creationism and intelligent design.... Thank you for your very encouraging website.”
    (a web designer and author in Maryland)

    “GREAT site.  Your ability to expose the clothesless emperor in clear language is indispensable to us non-science types who have a hard time seeing through the jargon and the hype.  Your tireless efforts result in encouragement and are a great service to the faith community.  Please keep it up!”
    (a medical writer in Connecticut)

    “I really love your site and check it everyday.  I also recommend it to everyone I can, because there is no better website for current information about ID.”
    (a product designer in Utah)

    “Your site is a fantastic resource.  By far, it is the most current, relevant and most frequently updated site keeping track of science news from a creationist perspective.  One by one, articles challenging currently-held aspects of evolution do not amount to much.  But when browsing the archives, it’s apparent you’ve caught bucketfulls of science articles and news items that devastate evolution.  The links and references are wonderful tools for storming the gates of evolutionary paradise and ripping down their strongholds.  The commentary is the icing on the cake.  Thanks for all your hard work, and by all means, keep it up!”
    (a business student in Kentucky)

    “Thanks for your awesome work; it stimulates my mind and encourages my faith.”
    (a family physician in Texas)

    “I wanted to personally thank you for your outstanding website.  I am intensely interested in any science news having to do with creation, especially regarding astronomy.  Thanks again for your GREAT website!”
    (an amateur astronomer in San Diego)

    “What an absolutely brilliant website you have.  It’s hard to express how uplifting it is for me to stumble across something of such high quality.”
    (a pharmacologist in Michigan)

    “I want to make a brief commendation in passing of the outstanding job you did in rebutting the ‘thinking’ on the article: “Evolution of Electrical Engineering” ...  What a rebuttal to end all rebuttals, unanswerable, inspiring, and so noteworthy that was.  Thanks for the effort and research you put into it.  I wish this answer could be posted in every church, synagogue, secondary school, and college/university..., and needless to say scientific laboratories.”
    (a reader in Florida)

    “You provide a great service with your thorough coverage of news stories relating to the creation-evolution controversy.”
    (an elder of a Christian church in Salt Lake City)

    “I really enjoy your website and have made it my home page so I can check on your latest articles.  I am amazed at the diversity of topics you address.  I tell everyone I can about your site and encourage them to check it frequently.”
    (a business owner in Salt Lake City)

    “I’ve been a regular reader of CEH for about nine month now, and I look forward to each new posting.... I enjoy the information CEH gleans from current events in science and hope you keep the service going.”
    (a mechanical engineer in Utah)

    “It took six years of constant study of evolution to overcome the indoctrination found in public schools of my youth.  I now rely on your site; it helps me to see the work of God where I could not see it before and to find miracles where there was only mystery.  Your site is a daily devotional that I go to once a day and recommend to everyone.  I am still susceptible to the wiles of fake science and I need the fellowship of your site; such information is rarely found in a church.
        Now my eyes see the stars God made and the life He designed and I feel the rumblings of joy as promised.  When I feel down or worried my solution is to praise God the Creator Of All That Is, and my concerns drain away while peace and joy fill the void.  This is something I could not do when I did not know (know: a clear and accurate perception of truth) God as Creator.  I could go on and on about the difference knowing our Creator has made, but I believe you understand.
        I tell everyone that gives me an opening about your site.  God is working through you.  Please don’t stop telling us how to see the lies or leading us in celebrating the truth.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.”
    (a renowned artist in Wyoming)

    “I discovered your site a few months ago and it has become essential reading – via RSS to Bloglines.”
    (a cartographer and GIS analyst in New Zealand)

    “I love your site, and frequently visit to read both explanations of news reports, and your humor about Bonny Saint Charlie.”
    (a nuclear safety engineer in Washington)

    “Your site is wonderful.”
    (a senior staff scientist, retired, from Arizona)

    “I’ve told many people about your site.  It’s a tremendous service to science news junkies – not to mention students of both Christianity and Science.  Kudos!”
    (a meteorology research scientist in Alabama)

    “...let me thank you for your Creation-Evolution Headlines.  I’ve been an avid reader of it since I first ‘discovered’ your website about five years ago.  May I also express my admiration for the speed with which your articles appear—often within 24 hours of a particular news announcement or journal article being published.”
    (a plant physiologist and prominent creation writer in Australia)

    “How do you guys do it--reviewing so much relevant material every day and writing incisive, thoughtful analyses?!”
    (a retired high school biology teacher in New Jersey)

    “Your site is one of the best out there!  I really love reading your articles on creation evolution headlines and visit this section almost daily.”
    (a webmaster in the Netherlands)

    “Keep it up!  I’ve been hitting your site daily (or more...).  I sure hope you get a mountain of encouraging email, you deserve it.”
    (a small business owner in Oregon)

    “Great work!  May your tribe increase!!!”
    (a former Marxist, now ID speaker in Brazil)

    “You are the best.  Thank you.... The work you do is very important.  Please don’t ever give up.  God bless the whole team.”
    (an engineer and computer consultant in Virginia)

    “I really appreciate your work in this topic, so you should never stop doing what you do, ’cause you have a lot of readers out there, even in small countries in Europe, like Slovenia is... I use crev.info for all my signatures on Internet forums etc., it really is fantastic site, the best site!  You see, we(your pleased readers) exist all over the world, so you must be doing great work!  Well i hope you have understand my bad english.”
    (a biology student in Slovenia)

    “Thanks for your time, effort, expertise, and humor.  As a public school biology teacher I peruse your site constantly for new information that will challenge evolutionary belief and share much of what I learn with my students.  Your site is pounding a huge dent in evolution’s supposed solid exterior.  Keep it up.”
    (a biology teacher in the eastern USA)

    “Several years ago, I became aware of your Creation-Evolution Headlines web site.  For several years now, it has been one of my favorite internet sites.  I many times check your website first, before going on to check the secular news and other creation web sites.
        I continue to be impressed with your writing and research skills, your humor, and your technical and scientific knowledge and understanding.  Your ability to cut through the inconsequentials and zero in on the principle issues is one of the characteristics that is a valuable asset....
        I commend you for the completeness and thoroughness with which you provide coverage of the issues.  You obviously spend a great deal of time on this work.  It is apparent in ever so many ways.
        Also, your background topics of logic and propaganda techniques have been useful as classroom aides, helping others to learn to use their baloney detectors.
        Through the years, I have directed many to your site.  For their sake and mine, I hope you will be able to continue providing this very important, very much needed, educational, humorous, thought provoking work.”
    (an engineer in Missouri)

    “I am so glad I found your site.  I love reading short blurbs about recent discoveries, etc, and your commentary often highlights that the discovery can be ‘interpreted’ in two differing ways, and usually with the pro-God/Design viewpoint making more sense.  It’s such a refreshing difference from the usual media spin.  Often you’ll have a story up along with comment before the masses even know about the story yet.”
    (a system administrator in Texas, who calls CEH the “UnSpin Zone”)

    “You are indeed the ‘Rush Limbaugh’ Truth Detector of science falsely so-called.  Keep up the excellent work.”
    (a safety director in Michigan)

    “I know of no better way to stay informed with current scientific research than to read your site everyday, which in turn has helped me understand many of the concepts not in my area (particle physics) and which I hear about in school or in the media.  Also, I just love the commentaries and the baloney detecting!!”
    (a grad student in particle physics)

    “I thank you for your ministry.  May God bless you!  You are doing great job effectively exposing pagan lie of evolution.  Among all known to me creation ministries [well-known organizations listed] Creationsafaris stands unique thanks to qualitative survey and analysis of scientific publications and news.  I became permanent reader ever since discovered your site half a year ago.  Moreover your ministry is effective tool for intensive and deep education for cristians.”
    (a webmaster in Ukraine, seeking permission to translate CEH articles into Russian to reach countries across the former Soviet Union)

    “The scholarship of the editors is unquestionable.  The objectivity of the editors is admirable in face of all the unfounded claims of evolutionists and Darwinists.  The amount of new data available each day on the site is phenomenal (I can’t wait to see the next new article each time I log on).  Most importantly, the TRUTH is always and forever the primary goal of the people who run this website.  Thank you so very much for 6 years of consistent dedication to the TRUTH.”
    (11 months earlier): “I just completed reading each entry from each month.  I found your site about 6 months ago and as soon as I understood the format, I just started at the very first entry and started reading.... Your work has blessed my education and determination to bold in showing the ‘unscientific’ nature of evolution in general and Darwinism in particular.”
    (a medical doctor in Oklahoma)

    “Thanks for the showing courage in marching against a popular unproven unscientific belief system.  I don’t think I missed 1 article in the past couple of years.”
    (a manufacturing engineer in Australia)

    “I do not know and cannot imagine how much time you must spend to read, research and compile your analysis of current findings in almost every area of science.  But I do know I thank you for it.”
    (a practice administrator in Maryland)

    “Since finding your insightful comments some 18 or more months ago, I’ve visited your site daily.... You so very adeptly and adroitly undress the emperor daily; so much so one wonders if he might not soon catch cold and fall ill off his throne! .... To you I wish much continued success and many more years of fun and frolicking undoing the damage taxpayers are forced to fund through unending story spinning by ideologically biased scientists.”
    (an investment advisor in Missouri)

    “I really like your articles.  You do a fabulous job of cutting through the double-talk and exposing the real issues.  Thank you for your hard work and diligence.”
    (an engineer in Texas)

    “I love your site.  Found it about maybe two years ago and I read it every day.  I love the closing comments in green.  You have a real knack for exposing the toothless claims of the evolutionists.  Your comments are very helpful for many us who don’t know enough to respond to their claims.  Thanks for your good work and keep it up.”
    (a missionary in Japan)

    “I just thought I’d write and tell you how much I appreciate your headline list and commentary.  It’s inspired a lot of thought and consideration.  I check your listings every day!”
    (a computer programmer in Tulsa)

    “Just wanted to thank you for your creation/evolution news ... an outstanding educational resource.“
    (director of a consulting company in Australia)

    “Your insights ... been some of the most helpful – not surprising considering the caliber of your most-excellent website!  I’m serious, ..., your website has to be the best creation website out there....”
    (a biologist and science writer in southern California)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “Hey Friends, Check out this site: Creation-Evolution Headlines.  This is a fantastic resource for the whole family.... a fantastic reference library with summaries, commentaries and great links that are added to daily—archives go back five years.”
    (a reader who found us in Georgia)

    “I just wanted to drop you a note telling you that at www.BornAgainRadio.com, I’ve added a link to your excellent Creation-Evolution news site.”
    (a radio announcer)

    “I cannot understand why anyone would invest so much time and effort to a website of sophistry and casuistry.  Why twist Christian apology into an illogic pretzel to placate your intellect?  Isn’t it easier to admit that your faith has no basis -- hence, ‘faith’.  It would be extricate [sic] yourself from intellectual dishonesty -- and from bearing false witness.”
    Sincerely, Rev. [name withheld] (an ex-Catholic, “apostate Christian” Natural/Scientific pantheist)

    “Just wanted to let you folks know that we are consistent readers and truly appreciate the job you are doing.  God bless you all this coming New Year.”
    (from two prominent creation researchers/writers in Oregon)

    “Thanks so much for your site!  It is brain candy!”
    (a reader in North Carolina)

    “I Love your site – probably a little too much.  I enjoy the commentary and the links to the original articles.”
    (a civil engineer in New York)

    “I’ve had your Creation/Evolution Headlines site on my favourites list for 18 months now, and I can truthfully say that it’s one of the best on the Internet, and I check in several times a week.  The constant stream of new information on such a variety of science issues should impress anyone, but the rigorous and humourous way that every thought is taken captive is inspiring.  I’m pleased that some Christians, and indeed, some webmasters, are devoting themselves to producing real content that leaves the reader in a better state than when they found him.”
    (a community safety manager in England)

    “I really appreciate the effort that you are making to provide the public with information about the problems with the General Theory of Evolution.  It gives me ammunition when I discuss evolution in my classroom.  I am tired of the evolutionary dogma.  I wish that more people would stand up against such ridiculous beliefs.”
    (a science teacher in Alabama)

    “If you choose to hold an opinion that flies in the face of every piece of evidence collected so far, you cannot be suprised [sic] when people dismiss your views.”
    (a “former Christian” software distributor, location not disclosed)

    “...the Creation Headlines is the best.  Visiting your site... is a standard part of my startup procedures every morning.”
    (a retired Air Force Chaplain)

    “I LOVE your site and respect the time and work you put into it.  I read the latest just about EVERY night before bed and send selection[s] out to others and tell others about it.  I thank you very much and keep up the good work (and humor).”
    (a USF grad in biology)

    “Answering your invitation for thoughts on your site is not difficult because of the excellent commentary I find.  Because of the breadth and depth of erudition apparent in the commentaries, I hope I’m not being presumptuous in suspecting the existence of contributions from a ‘Truth Underground’ comprised of dissident college faculty, teachers, scientists, and engineers.  If that’s not the case, then it is surely a potential only waiting to be realized.  Regardless, I remain in awe of the care taken in decomposing the evolutionary cant that bombards us from the specialist as well as popular press.”
    (a mathematician/physicist in Arizona)

    “I’m from Quebec, Canada.  I have studied in ‘pure sciences’ and after in actuarial mathematics.  I’m visiting this site 3-4 times in a week.  I’m learning a lot and this site gives me the opportunity to realize that this is a good time to be a creationist!”
    (a French Canadian reader)

    “I LOVE your Creation Safari site, and the Baloney Detector material.  OUTSTANDING JOB!!!!”
    (a reader in the Air Force)

    “You have a unique position in the Origins community.  Congratulations on the best current affairs news source on the origins net.  You may be able to write fast but your logic is fun to work through.”
    (a pediatrician in California)

    “Visit your site almost daily and find it very informative, educational and inspiring.”
    (a reader in western Canada)

    “I wish to thank you for the information you extend every day on your site.  It is truly a blessing!”
    (a reader in North Carolina)

    “I really appreciate your efforts in posting to this website.  I find it an incredibly useful way to keep up with recent research (I also check science news daily) and also to research particular topics.”
    (an IT consultant from Brisbane, Australia)

    “I would just like to say very good job with the work done here, very comprehensive.  I check your site every day.  It’s great to see real science directly on the front lines, toe to toe with the pseudoscience that's mindlessly spewed from the ‘prestigious’ science journals.”
    (a biology student in Illinois)

    “I’ve been checking in for a long time but thought I’d leave you a note, this time.  Your writing on these complex topics is insightful, informative with just the right amount of humor.  I appreciate the hard work that goes into monitoring the research from so many sources and then writing intelligently about them.”
    (an investment banker in California)

    “Keep up the great work.  You are giving a whole army of Christians plenty of ammunition to come out of the closet (everyone else has).  Most of us are not scientists, but most of the people we talk to are not scientists either, just ordinary people who have been fed baloney for years and years.”
    (a reader in Arizona)

    “Keep up the outstanding work!  You guys really ARE making a difference!”
    (a reader in Texas)

    “I wholeheartedly agree with you when you say that ‘science’ is not hostile towards ‘religion’.  It is the dogmatically religious that are unwaveringly hostile towards any kind of science which threatens their dearly-held precepts.  ‘Science’ (real, open-minded science) is not interested in theological navel-gazing.”
    (anonymous)
    Note: Please supply your name and location when writing in.  Anonymous attacks only make one look foolish and cowardly, and will not normally be printed.  This one was shown to display a bad example.

    “I appreciate reading your site every day.  It is a great way to keep up on not just the new research being done, but to also keep abreast of the evolving debate about evolution (Pun intended).... I find it an incredibly useful way to keep up with recent research (I also check science news daily) and also to research particular topics.”
    (an IT consultant in Brisbane, Australia)

    “I love your website.”
    (a student at a state university who used CEH when writing for the campus newsletter)

    “....when you claim great uncertainty for issues that are fairly well resolved you damage your already questionable credibility.  I’m sure your audience loves your ranting, but if you know as much about biochemistry, geology, astronomy, and the other fields you skewer, as you do about ornithology, you are spreading heat, not light.”
    (a professor of ornithology at a state university, responding to the 09/10/2002 headline)

    “I wanted to let you know I appreciate your headline news style of exposing the follies of evolutionism.... Your style gives us constant, up-to-date reminders that over and over again, the Bible creation account is vindicated and the evolutionary fables are refuted.”
    (a reader, location unknown)

    “You have a knack of extracting the gist of a technical paper, and digesting it into understandable terms.”
    (a nuclear physicist from Lawrence Livermore Labs who worked on the Manhattan Project)

    “After spending MORE time than I really had available going thru your MANY references I want to let you know how much I appreciate the effort you have put forth.
    The information is properly documented, and coming from recognized scientific sources is doubly valuable.  Your explanatory comments and sidebar quotations also add GREATLY to your overall effectiveness as they 1) provide an immediate interpretive starting point and 2) maintaining the reader’s interest.”
    (a reader in Michigan)

    “I am a huge fan of the site, and check daily for updates.”
    (reader location and occupation unknown)

    “I just wanted to take a minute to personally thank-you and let you know that you guys are providing an invaluable service!  We check your Web site weekly (if not daily) to make sure we have the latest information in the creation/evolution controversy.  Please know that your diligence and perseverance to teach the Truth have not gone unnoticed.  Keep up the great work!”
    (a PhD scientist involved in origins research)

    “You've got a very useful and informative Web site going.  The many readers who visit your site regularly realize that it requires considerable effort to maintain the quality level and to keep the reviews current....  I hope you can continue your excellent Web pages.  I have recommended them highly to others.”
    (a reader, location and occupation unknown)

    “As an apprentice apologist, I can always find an article that will spark a ‘spirited’ debate.  Keep ’em coming!  The Truth will prevail.”
    (a reader, location and occupation unknown)

    “Thanks for your web page and work.  I try to drop by at least once a week and read what you have.  I’m a Christian that is interested in science (I’m a mechanical engineer) and I find you topics interesting and helpful.  I enjoy your lessons and insights on Baloney Detection.”
    (a year later):
    “I read your site 2 to 3 times a week; which I’ve probably done for a couple of years.  I enjoy it for the interesting content, the logical arguments, what I can learn about biology/science, and your pointed commentary.”
    (a production designer in Kentucky)

    “I look up CREV headlines every day.  It is a wonderful source of information and encouragement to me.... Your gift of discerning the fallacies in evolutionists interpretation of scientific evidence is very helpful and educational for me.  Please keep it up.  Your website is the best I know of.”
    (a Presbyterian minister in New South Wales, Australia)

    “I’ve written to you before, but just wanted to say again how much I appreciate your site and all the work you put into it.  I check it almost every day and often share the contents (and web address) with lists on which I participate.  I don’t know how you do all that you do, but I am grateful for your energy and knowledge.”
    (a prominent creationist author)

    “I am new to your site, but I love it!  Thanks for updating it with such cool information.”
    (a home schooler)

    “I love your site.... Visit every day hoping for another of your brilliant demolitions of the foolish just-so stories of those who think themselves wise.”
    (a reader from Southern California)

    “I visit your site daily for the latest news from science journals and other media, and enjoy your commentary immensely.  I consider your web site to be the most valuable, timely and relevant creation-oriented site on the internet.”
    (a reader from Ontario, Canada)

    “Keep up the good work!  I thoroughly enjoy your site.”
    (a reader in Texas)

    “Thanks for keeping this fantastic web site going.  It is very informative and up-to-date with current news including incisive insight.”
    (a reader in North Carolina)

    “Great site!  For all the Baloney Detector is impressive and a great tool in debunking wishful thinking theories.”
    (a reader in the Netherlands)

    “Just wanted to let you know, your work is having quite an impact.  For example, major postings on your site are being circulated among the Intelligent Design members....”
    (a PhD organic chemist)

    “It’s like ‘opening a can of worms’ ... I love to click all the related links and read your comments and the links to other websites, but this usually makes me late for something else.  But it’s ALWAYS well worth it!!”
    (a leader of a creation group)

    “I am a regular visitor to your website ... I am impressed by the range of scientific disciplines your articles address.  I appreciate your insightful dissection of the often unwarranted conclusions evolutionists infer from the data... Being a medical doctor, I particularly relish the technical detail you frequently include in the discussion living systems and processes.  Your website continually reinforces my conviction that if an unbiased observer seeks a reason for the existence of life then Intelligent Design will be the unavoidable conclusion.”
    (a medical doctor)

    “A church member asked me what I thought was the best creation web site.  I told him CreationSafaris.com.”
    (a PhD geologist)

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

    “Thank you so much for the interesting science links and comments on your creation evolution headlines page ... it is very informative.”
    (a reader from Scottsdale, AZ)

    “I still visit your site almost every day, and really enjoy it.  Great job!!!  (I also recommend it to many, many students.)
    (an educational consultant)

    “I like what I see–very much.  I really appreciate a decent, calm and scholarly approach to the whole issue... Thanks ... for this fabulous endeavor–it’s superb!”

    “It is refreshing to read your comments.  You have a knack to get to the heart of the matter.”
    (a reader in the Air Force).

    “Love your website.  It has well thought out structure and will help many through these complex issues.  I especially love the Baloney Detector.”
    (a scientist).

    “I believe this is one of the best sites on the Internet.  I really like your side-bar of ‘truisms.’  Yogi [Berra] is absolutely correct.  If I were a man of wealth, I would support you financially.”
    (a registered nurse in Alabama, who found us on TruthCast.com.)

    “WOW.  Unbelievable.... My question is, do you sleep? ... I’m utterly impressed by your page which represents untold amounts of time and energy as well as your faith.”
    (a mountain man in Alaska).

    “Just wanted to say that I recently ran across your web site featuring science headlines and your commentary and find it to be A++++, superb, a 10, a homerun – I run out of superlatives to describe it! ... You can be sure I will visit your site often – daily when possible – to gain the latest information to use in my speaking engagements.  I’ll also do my part to help publicize your site among college students.  Keep up the good work.  Your material is appreciated and used.”
    (a college campus minister)

    Disclaimer: Creation-Evolution Headlines includes links to many external sites, but takes no responsibility for the accuracy or legitimacy of their content.  Inclusion of an external link is strictly for the reader’s convenience, and does not necessarily constitute endorsement of the material or its authors, owners, or sponsors.