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September 2010
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“Teach us to study the works of Thy hands that we may subdue the earth to our use and strengthen the reason for Thy service; and so to receive Thy blessed Word, that we may believe on Him whom Thou hast sent to give us the knowledge of salvation and the remission of our sins.”
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Fruit Flies Not Evolving     09/30/2010    
Sept 30, 2010 — A long-running experiment trying to get fruit flies to evolve has failed.  A research team forced selection on the flies to explore the limits of natural selection.  Only minor changes were detected after 600 generations.  The research team was disappointed and surprised; there was even less evolution in these sexual organisms than in similar experiments with microbes, like bacteria and yeast (but see 07/12/2010).  And all this was under ideal lab conditions.  Success is even less likely in the wild.
    The Editor’s summary of a paper in Nature was titled, “Experimental evolution reveals resistance to change” and ended that the authors “conclude that unconditionally advantageous alleles rarely arise, are associated with small net fitness gains, or cannot fix because selection coefficients change over time.”  Nature this week published the results of a 35-year study by UC Irvine and University of Southern California (USC).  Here is the abstract:1 
Experimental evolution systems allow the genomic study of adaptation, and so far this has been done primarily in asexual systems with small genomes, such as bacteria and yeast.  Here we present whole-genome resequencing data from Drosophila melanogaster populations that have experienced over 600 generations of laboratory selection for accelerated development.  Flies in these selected populations develop from egg to adult ~20% faster than flies of ancestral control populations, and have evolved a number of other correlated phenotypes.  On the basis of 688,520 intermediate-frequency, high-quality single nucleotide polymorphisms, we identify several dozen genomic regions that show strong allele frequency differentiation between a pooled sample of five replicate populations selected for accelerated development and pooled controls.  On the basis of resequencing data from a single replicate population with accelerated development, as well as single nucleotide polymorphism data from individual flies from each replicate population, we infer little allele frequency differentiation between replicate populations within a selection treatment.  Signatures of selection are qualitatively different than what has been observed in asexual species; in our sexual populations, adaptation is not associated with ‘classic’ sweeps whereby newly arising, unconditionally advantageous mutations become fixed.  More parsimonious explanations include ‘incomplete’ sweep models, in which mutations have not had enough time to fix, and ‘soft’ sweep models, in which selection acts on pre-existing, common genetic variants.  We conclude that, at least for life history characters such as development time, unconditionally advantageous alleles rarely arise, are associated with small net fitness gains or cannot fix because selection coefficients change over time.
In other words, they looked for evidence of a “selective sweep” – the signature of a beneficial mutation becoming fixed in the population – and could not find it.  They did the selection artificially, forcing the fly embryos to evolve toward faster embryonic development.  Despite lots of mutations, they found the flies resistant to change.  Not only that, the flies underwent “reverse evolution” – they said, “forward experimental evolution can often be completely reversed with these populations, which suggests that any soft sweeps in our experiment are incomplete and/or of small effect” (a soft sweep meaning selection is acting on standing variation instead of new mutations).  Possibly any beneficial mutations were hindered by linked deleterious alleles (canceling out the benefit) or antagonistic pleiotropy (in which one good mutation to a gene can cause one or more bad effects elsewhere).  Either way, the evolution is like one step forward, one or more steps back.
    There was even more bad news for neo-Darwinian theory: the lab situation was more optimistic than the wild, where adaptive evolution is expected to occur.  You can get a lot of variation and mutation to appear in genomes, but no unconditionally beneficial mutations.  Their last paragraph expressed surprise at this, with a subtext of disappointment:
Our work provides a new perspective on the genetic basis of adaptation.  Despite decades of sustained selection in relatively small, sexually reproducing laboratory populations, selection did not lead to the fixation of newly arising unconditionally advantageous alleles.  This is notable because in wild populations we expect the strength of natural selection to be less intense and the environment unlikely to remain constant for ~600 generations.  Consequently, the probability of fixation in wild populations should be even lower than its likelihood in these experiments.  This suggests that selection does not readily expunge genetic variation in sexual populations, a finding which in turn should motivate efforts to discover why this is seemingly the case.
This experiment was begun in 1975.  After 35 years and 600 generations, accelerated by artificial selection, the net evolution (in terms of adaptation and improvement in fitness) was negligible if not nil.
1.  Burke, Dunham et al, “Genome-wide analysis of a long-term evolution experiment with Drosophila,” Nature 467, 587-590 (30 September 2010); doi:10.1038/nature09352.
Natural selection is always presumed to be the wonder-worker that can produce eyes, ears, sonar, flippers, jaws, hearts, and brains with its gradual, step-by-step improvement of natural variation, without design (07/20/2010, 05/04/2010).  OK, where is it?  It doesn’t work theoretically (09/28/2010, 06/11/2010, 03/21/2010, 03/17/2003), it doesn’t work rhetorically (04/17/2010), it doesn’t work historically (08/05/2010), and it doesn’t work experimentally (09/22/2010).  It doesn’t work in the lab, and it works less in the wild.  Unless you include “reverse evolution,” (06/26/2010), it doesn’t work at all.  Game over, Charlie (05/14/2010).  Stop the hype (08/13/2010).
Next headline on:  Terrestrial ZoologyGeneticsDarwin and Evolutionary Theory
Probability Life Not Found on Exoplanet: 100%     09/29/2010    
Sept 29, 2010 — Headlines are screaming that an earthlike planet in its star’s habitable zone has been found.  Many sources, though, are claiming that life must certainly exist on this planet.  Their hubris stems from the words of Steve Vogt, an astronomy professor at UC Santa Cruz.  “Personally, given the ubiquity and propensity of life to flourish wherever it can, I would say, my own personal feeling is that the chances of life on this planet are 100 percent,” he said at a press briefing today.  “I have almost no doubt about it.
    That’s all the headline writers needed: “Planet’s Life Odds ‘100 Percent,’ Astronomer Says,” Jeanna Bryner wrote for Live Science – an article echoed on Space.com.  “Life Likely on Newfound Earth-Size World” announced another Live Science headline.  Some sources were a little more tentative.  David Shiga wrote for New Scientist, “Found: first rocky exoplanet that could host life,” omitting the Vogt 100% number.  Science Daily wrote, “Newly Discovered Planet May Be First Truly Habitable Exoplanet.”  Another Space.com article explored the planetary system around Gliese 581, only stating that the discovery of its six planets is “further cementing its status as a top candidate to harbor extraterrestrial life.”
    One thing is 100% certain: no life has been found.  All that is known about this planet is that it is 3 to 4 times the size of our Earth, and it orbits a red dwarf star.  Those two factors reduce the probability of life (see the film The Privileged Planet on YouTube for explanation, esp. ch 4-5).  The only factor announced in the reports that could be favorable to life is that Gliese 581g, as it has been dubbed, orbits in the small star’s temperature habitable zone: the zone where liquid water could exist.  There are, however, requirements for a UV habitable zone (08/15/2006), a tidal habitable zone (06/11/2009 bullet 2), and a habitable zone immune from planetary migration (05/21/2009).  Many other factors that could affect habitability of this planet, like the presence of a large moon, plate tectonics, the right atmosphere, composition of the crust, and more, are unknown at this time, and probably will remain unknown for years.  The probability that life has not been found is certain – 100%, for now at least.
    Nevertheless, most of the articles cheerfully echoed Vogt’s confident 100% probability estimate, although some reported that co-discoverer Paul Butler (a planet-hunting pioneer), though optimistic, did not want to put a number on it.  None of the articles criticized Vogt for stating an evidence-free, and therefore unscientific, personal opinion.
Some day this exuberant, over-the-top headlining will backfire on the scientific community.  Is Gliese 581g an interesting place deserving of more study?  Certainly.  So is Titan, or Venus.  Given the track record of SETI, or of finding life right here in our own solar system, one would think scientists would have learned a little restraint.  Undoubtedly Dr. Vogt is assuming that if life had been found there, it would have evolved there by a long process of chemical and biological evolution.  Given the track record of explaining life right under their noses with that assumption, one would think scientists would have learned a little restraint.  In both cases, one would have thought incorrectly.  The chances of finding hubris in a naturalistic scientist’s brain, however, is 100%.  There’s almost no doubt about it.
Next headline on:  StarsSolar SystemOrigin of LifeMedia
SETI Calls Alien Signals Unnatural     09/29/2010    
Sept 29, 2010 — It may be harder to find alien radio signals than thought.  If aliens follow the human technological path of progress, they will move from analog to digital broadcasting in a century or less.  In that case, it will be much more difficult to eavesdrop on intelligent signals, because digital signals tend to be more focused, and sometimes encrypted, than analog broadcasts that leak out in all directions.
    Zoe Macintosh explored this concern in an article in Live Science, “Finding E.T. May Become Harder If Aliens Go Digital.”  Macintosh reported on a study by Duncan Forgan [U of Edinburgh] who is preparing a paper for the International Journal of Astrobiology.  The Drake Equation only considered the lifetime of a civilization.  What if the time before a civilization goes “radio quiet” is factored in?  That new factor, according to Forgan, drops Drake’s optimistic estimate of the probability of detection down to one chance in 10 million (assuming the capabilities of a new radio telescope being constructed in the UK).  “The radio quiet concept reduces the timescale to a very low number, which means your chances of hearing it are very small,” he said.
    What would SETI researchers be looking for?  “Scientists continue to use radio waves to search for life because of the scarcity of natural sources of radio waves in the universe, and the fact that they are less easily lost by absorption than other forms of light,” Macintosh wrote.  This implies that intelligent signals are unnatural.  Forgan agreed; “An artificial signal will have patterns in it that usually do not appear in nature, even if distorted.”  Would researchers be justified in inferring an alien signal from an unnatural signal?  “Even the smallest snippet from an alien broadcast could count as evidence of an extraterrestrial intelligence.”
    The remainder of the article discussed other channels than radio that aliens might use to communicate.  Forgan even took a step into alien psychology.  In discussing whether the long turnaround time would make human-to-alien conversations undesirable, Forgan said: “On the other hand other civilizations may have a different outlook.  They may be desperate to make communication with other civilizations.”
Are Macintosh and Forgan saying that aliens are unnatural?  Well, then, are humans unnatural, too?  Are intelligent signals unnatural?  If something is unnatural, does that imply it is designed?  What evidence would it take for someone to make a design inference?  “Even the smallest snippet from an alien broadcast could count as evidence of an extraterrestrial intelligence,” the article said.
    This means that SETI researchers accept the design inference: “patterns” that have no known natural origin can be discerned by the human mind as having come from another mind – on purpose, by design.  Seth Shostak, Mr. SETI himself, tried to wriggle out of this conclusion but couldn’t (12/03/2005).  Why not just face the obvious and admit it?  We invite SETI researchers to join the Intelligent Design movement.  The only drawback is that they have not found evidence for their targets yet, while leaders of the I.D. movement have found plenty – their own genes, cells, bodies, and minds.
Next headline on:  SETIPhysicsIntelligent Design
  Our 8th anniversary celebration began with a clear political choice between candidates who believed in creation and those who mocked intelligent design as “malarkey” (09/01/2008).  Needless to say, the Darwinists were all rooting for one side (09/28/2008).  The Neanderthal myth, meanwhile, was unraveling (09/23/2008), Darwinists were at a loss to find scientific laws behind their theory (09/15/2008), and an evolutionist’s new word, “prevolution,” motivated a spoof in the commentary (09/17/2008).  So if your brain outperforms intelligently-designed computers (09/14/2008), and thousands of papers on adaptive evolution were falsified (09/05/2008), does the church really need to apologize (09/14/2008) to Darwin?

Morphogenesis: Evolution of Form Solved?     09/28/2010    
Sept 28, 2010 — The body plans of organisms are hard to account for in linear strands of DNA.  How do you get a backbone, vertebrae, and ribs out of a chain of nucleotides?  Recognizing the mystery of morphogenesis (the origin of form), the director of the Synthetic Life Lab in New York, Stuart Pivar, has published an “Innovative solution to the evolution of form,” reported PhysOrg.  His new theory is “based neither on a genetic code nor on natural selection, thus contradicting the orthodox Synthetic paradigm that has dominated evolutionary biology for seven decades.
    If it’s not neo-Darwinian, is it based on creation or intelligent design, then?  No way; “Nevertheless, this model offers an alternative naturalistic theory that can account for the origin of form without recourse to any form of creationism or supernatural intervention,” the press release ended.  “If it should gain widespread acceptance, this model would negate the creationist argument that science has no theory for the origin of complex life.”
    The essence of this promising theory that eluded da Vinci, Vesalius, Goethe, von Baer, D’Arcy Thompson and others, published in the International Journal of Astrobiology,1 is “based on the premise that the body is a mosaic enlargement of self-organized patterns engrained in the membrane of the egg cell.”  The paper consists largely of drawings of egg cells morphing into limbs, skulls, hands, feet, vertebrae, ribs – all put together into a human skeleton.  One of his drawings is reproduced in the PhysOrg article.  The caption in the paper states, “The mutual rotation of the two toroidal spheres through two rotations implants the notochord and the nerve chord beneath the dorsal midline, causing the ribs to fragment.  The reassembly of the fragments forms the vertebrae and the somites, the latter forming the interior bands of muscles that encompass the body.”
    How does this become an exercise in astrobiology instead of a demonstration of embryonic development?  Pivar claims that his “hydrostatic model” gives a “causative” explanation of how body plans evolved, “independent of the environment, rather than the result of random errors in the genome.”  What is this hydrostatic model?  In short, “The body is a mosaic enlargement of the pattern of circumferential bands assumed by the columns and rows of molecules that comprise the egg cell membrane.”  Under its internal pressure, the egg cell assumes a toroidal shape that produces an incipient notochord.  Let’s let him describe what happens next:

The hypothesis presumes that, in response to physical forces, the molecules comprising the egg cell membrane become arranged in circumferential bands separated by polar meridians, subdividing the surface into trapezoidal plates, much like a geodesic globe of Earth.  Subject to deformation during subsequent hydrodynamic disruption, each of the plates will curl axially to become a bone of the vertebrate skeleton, the apical cap forming the skull.  This topological theorem predicts the form of the bones of the vertebrate skeleton and their configuration in the body with accuracy beyond the possibility of coincidence.
PhysOrg quoted Mt. Holyoke paleontologist Mark McMenamin calling this new hypothesis “a seismic event in science” and pointed to a reviewer who said, “the article should be published, so that as many scientists as possible can participate in the discussion on this new important subject.”
1.  Stuart Pivar, “The origin of the vertebrate skeleton,” International Journal of Astrobiology, FirstView online 21 Aug 2010, doi: 10.1017/S147355041000025X.
Surely he cannot be serious, can he?  Body plans are more than bones – what about the muscles, nerves, and organs that animate them?  Besides, most life forms are unicellular and invertebrate.  If he is suggesting a physical, mechanistic, natural-law explanation, why the diversity of body plans, especially in the Cambrian Explosion?  His drawings take known end points (a skull, a rib cage) and extrapolate them backward to known starting points (egg cells), with no explanation of how, mechanistically, the egg cell necessarily gets from there to here.  How do hydrodynamic deformations produce eye sockets and a jaw in a vertebrate skull?  He has no causal explanation; just his imagination.  Any set of n 7-year-olds could produce xn different drawings from the egg, where x is a positive integer from 1 to infinity, producing infinite bizarre end points from hydrodynamic forces on molecular bands in the egg membrane.
    If Pivar thinks he can pin all morphogenesis on initial conditions in the egg, he has merely displaced the puzzle into the egg.  How did the egg cell get so precisely designed to be able to generate such complexity and diversity?  This is no more an explanation than displacing the origin of life on earth to the assertion, “Aliens brought it here.”  OK, then, where did the aliens get it?  It’s a classic sidestep.
    The only way this silly hypothesis could get through peer review is that Darwinians are desperate.  They cannot answer the devastating critique of naturalism found in the second half of the film Darwin’s Dilemma, where the mind-boggling details of development were shown in a mind-boggling way (after the film gave airtight documentation of the sudden emergence of all the body plans of all the major phyla at the Cambrian Explosion).  Caught empty-handed, the naturalists have been driven to say something – anything, even cartoon diagrams – to fill in the void in their world view about how body plans arose.  Hypotheses this vapid, this hyped by the secular press as something that might “account for the origin of form without recourse to any form of creationism or supernatural intervention,” can only be interpreted as “something is better than nothing” – if you can call it something.
    “How life originated and evolved is arguably the greatest unsolved problem facing science,” they said.  “Thousands of scientists and scores of organizations and scientific journals are dedicated to discovering the mechanisms underlying this mystery.”  It’s not unsolved by science at all.  By naturalism, maybe, but not by science.  The science of intelligent design solves it perfectly.  Darwinian desperation at this fundamental level shows that ID is winning the evidence war.  Now on to the persuasion war.
Next headline on:  Darwin and EvolutionIntelligent DesignGeneticsDumb Ideas
Documentary Ties Darwin to Disastrous Social Consequences     09/27/2010    
Sept 27, 2010 — Todd Friel’s new documentary, What Hath Darwin Wrought (see trailer at WhatHathDarwinWrought.com), harps on the proverb, “Ideas have consequences.”  The twentieth century, “Darwin’s century,” saw some of the most horrendous ethical abuses the world has ever seen.  The documentary includes lengthy interviews with David Berlinski (mathematician, author), John West (ethicist and legal analyst) and Richard Weikart (historian, author, and professor at UC Stanislaus), who connect the dots from Darwin to eugenics, Hitler, communism, abortion and the modern resurgence of eugenics (now couched within population control and genetic engineering).  Each scholar was careful not to draw simplistic connections.  The quotes from prominent evolutionists and perpetrators of atrocities, and from Darwin himself, using primary sources, should suffice to silence critics who discount the connections.  Prominent atheists were invited by the producer to share their views but refused.  Instead, the editors spliced in representative statements from YouTube by Dawkins, Hitchens and Sam Harris which Berlinski, West, and Weikart were able to analyze and refute.
    The film is about two hours long and is scheduled to air on TV this fall.  DVDs of the film are being marketed by the Discovery Institute from the What Hath Darwin Wrought website.  The package includes a bonus DVD with additional interview footage.  The Discovery Institute blog Evolution News & Views commented on the film Sept 14, Sept 15, Sept 17, and Sept 20.  Todd Friel is a Christian radio commentator with a program name “Wretched” (taken from the second line of Amazing Grace).  His website is WretchedRadio.com.
This is an excellent companion to Expelled: No Intelligent Allowed (see 09/12/2009 Resource of the Week), which lacked sufficient time to document the connection from Darwin to Hitler.  In this documentary the documentation is lengthy and convincing.  The quotes by Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger and her grandson about abortion are shocking, as are quotes by George Bernard Shaw and other secular progressives in the heyday of eugenics.  Quotes from Hitler’s own writings, and those of his aides, should dispel any myths that they were “Christian” in any conceivable sense; they may have had a pantheistic streak, but were thorough-going Darwinians and pagans in thought and act, devoid of any Judeo-Christian moral compass.  To them, natural selection was the law of nature to which all life, including humans, societies and nations, must bow.
    Production quality is good, but the documentary is long and mostly talk, though Todd Friel livens it up with enthusiastic stage questions and comments.  It’s probably best to use it as a series with Q&A and discussion after each segment.  The documentary divides nicely into three 30-minute segments, and the website has a printable study guide with discussion questions, bibliography and references to quotes cited in the film.
    One theme that comes through prominently is how the scientific community was a willing accomplice to all the worst of the social catastrophes that were rooted in Darwinism.  John West does a great job tying the consensus of science to the eugenics movement.  The American Museum of Natural History had an exhibit he describes, with the two founding fathers of eugenics prominently displayed in large statues at the entrance – Charles Darwin and Francis Galton, Darwin’s cousin.  They knew the connection; why should anyone else doubt it?  Get this DVD and watch it.  It’s a great lead-in to the next story about embryonic stem cell research (below).  Put the quotes from the film next to today’s crybaby quotes by scientists about the need for federal funds to cut up human embryos, and connect the dots.  What hath Darwin wrought?  Rot.
Next headline on:  Darwin and EvolutionPolitics and EthicsMedia
Ethics Shmethics: Scientists Obsessed with Embryonic Stem Cells     09/26/2010    
Sept 26, 2010 — With non-controversial adult stem cell research zooming along, like finding ways to prevent adult stem cells (ASC) from aging (PhysOrg), providing hope for leukemia patients (Science Daily) and giving mastectomy patients a chance for beauty once again (Science Daily), why are so many scientists adamant about keeping embryonic stem cell research on the public dole?
    The scientists who were in despair about Judge Lamberth’s ruling earlier this month against federal funding (see 09/03/2010) got their reprieve: an appeals court granted a temporary stay (PhysOrg).  But now, scientists are urging Congress to make a law protecting embryonic stem cell (ESC) research.  They have allies on Capitol Hill.  PhysOrg reported about Senators Arlen Specter and Tom Harkin urged their fellow Senators to get busy and fight for the right of scientists to bleed taxpayer dollars for their pet projects.  “We’ve come too far to give up now,” Harkin said, pointing to the more than $500 million already spent on ESC research.  One scientist defended it with worries about prestige, worried that courts are “disrupting our research, they are dissuading scientists from entering the field and they are threatening American preeminence in the research” which has yet to produce a cure.  “Embryonic stem cells have the potential to be turned into different kinds of tissue that could be used to regenerate and repair tissue and treat a host of diseases,” the article said.
    The article then mentioned the dark side: “Opponents say the research is another form of abortion because human embryos must be destroyed to obtain the stem cells.”  Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss), co-author of the 1996 Dickey-Wicker amendment that prohibited federal funding for projects that result in the death of human embryos, argued for using adult stem cells to avoid the “ethical challenges” of ESC.  That law has hampered ESC-eager researchers, because they can only “work with stem cells after private money is used to cull them from embryos.”  Inconvenient as that may be, why should taxpayer dollars be spent on anything that is ethically controversial?  Is there some constitutional right to ESC?     A feel for the emotional state of some ESC researchers can be seen in the Sept 16 issue of Nature.  It prominently featured a study that suggested some adult stem cells may have “troublesome memories” of their non-embryonic origin, presumably making them less useful than true pluripotent stem cells like ELS.  Nature News described scientists in near frantic terms as they strive to get Congress to keep the taxpayer funds flowing, protected from judicial decisions which, presumably, would be based on ethical concerns.  The article said nothing about ethics, only mentioning once “the controversial human cells” at stake in the political battle.
    Nature’s editors printed two letters in support of ESC funding and none opposed (see card stacking in the Baloney Detector).  Both letters could be described as “over the top” in their assertions that opposing ESC funding is an attack on science.  Jian Feng [State U of New York at Buffalo] called Lamberth’s decision “troublesome” and “akin to our earlier obsession with Earth’s central position in the Universe and its anthropocentric implications.”  Gordon Cash, apparently speaking as a private citizen, was even more adamant, essentially calling Judge Lamberth or anyone who agrees with him a religious nut.  He sarcastically said that the court’s decision was not a threat to the federal funding of science, then let loose with this: “No, allowing research agendas to be dictated by religious fundamentalists threatens the very enterprise of federally funded science itself.”  Similarly, New Scientist described scientists as “anxious” about the court action.  Jack Mosher at the University of Michigan harped on the opponents’ ideological beliefs, pretending to have none of his own: “It’s worrying that I could come into work one day and I might not be allowed to do my research because of someone’s ideological beliefs rather than the quality of the science.”  Would such reasoning have been influential at the Nuremberg trials?
    Some cooler heads are trying to assess the situation more dispassionately.  PhysOrg reported on an international team of scientists who just published an “in-depth and balanced view of the rapidly evolving field of stem cell research” including both adult and embryonic stem cells.  The article noted that “apart from the scientific and technical challenges, there are serious ethical concerns, including issues of privacy, consent and withdrawal of consent for the use of unfertilized eggs and embryos.”  This statement omitted the largest ethical concern of all: whether it is ethical to destroy human embryos in the first place.
    PhysOrg also reported about two stem cell researchers from the University of South Florida who would like to see created “an independent national ‘Stem Cell Research Ethics Consortium’ to provide better guidance on stem cell issues for regulatory agencies, law makers and policy makers.”  One of them, Dr. Paul Sanberg, confessed that “Two decades of cell-based research has been accompanied by poor management of public discussion regarding ethics.”  An ethics consortium, he thinks, would help “to sort out the ethical, legal and social issues” that might lead to better dialogue and public policy.  “Stem cell science has contributed to misperceptions within the public and the research communities, and those misperceptions have hindered the progress of scientific innovation,” he said.  “In some respects, the failure of the scientific community to effectively address controversy in stem cell research has helped create today’s heated, yet poorly informed, debate.”
    Is a committee the answer?  Whether “Bringing together all stakeholders – including the legal, scientific, religious and the public sectors” would “allow a much more educated and logical approach in handling the public disbursement of funds for stem cell research,” or whether such a pipe dream will ever come true, is it realistic?  Is the question just about how to handle the public disbursement of funds, or whether to at all, if the ethical issues are deemed serious enough?  And even if a consortium were formed, would it have the political clout to stand up to a scientific consensus willing and able to shout down any opponent as an ideologically-motivated religious fundamentalist?
    PhysOrg reported that the first human clinical trial of a spinal cord treatment with embryonic stem cells is open for enrollment.  The public will soon see if the hope of ES cures lives up to the hype.  But even if it succeeds, the controversy over the ethics of destroying human embryos will not go away.
    Science magazine (09/17/2010, pp. 1450-1451) provided a timeline of US policy on human embryonic stem cell (hESC) funding from the Dickey-Wicker Amendment (28 Jan 1996) to the present, naming prominent politicians and scientists arguing for and against it.
As participants with a conflict of interest, ESC researchers should recuse themselves from discussions about ethics and federal funding of embryo destruction.  This is a matter for philosophers and theologians.  Notice that everyone has a philosophy and a theology – even atheists.  But there are some specialists, notably ethicists, historians and theologians, who have the background and training to assess human nature and the ethics of scientific decisions.  Bioethics is a hugely important topic these days with many subcategories beyond just ESC research.
    No amount of scientific research on embryos can address the ethics of doing what they can do.  The hubris and shameless emotional ranting of the scientific community (as legitimated by the journals) is all the more reason to discount their testimony.  Scientists can tell us they can build a bomb or cure a disease; they cannot tell us what we should do.  Curing a disease can be an ethical atrocity if done the wrong way (see parody in the 09/03/2010 commentary).
    Even less should scientists order John Q. Public to reach into his pockets and give them what they want.  That’s why we have a representative government of the people, by the people, and for the people.  Scientists, you are citizens, too.  Act like you have one vote, not a privileged, exalted, oligarchical position over the rest of humanity (03/12/2004).  You can state the facts as you see them, and make your case in the marketplace of ideas, but lay off the tantrums and accusations that anyone who disagrees with you is somehow a “religious fundamentalist” out to attack science itself.  In short, grow up.
Next headline on:  Cell BiologyHealthPolitics and Ethics
  During our 7th anniversary celebration, as Cassini was flying close by Iapetus (09/07/2007, 09/13/2007), we found scientists questioning long-held assumptions (09/24/2007) including the Central Dogma of genetics (09/12/2007); so we questioned other dogmas: imaginary feathers on dinosaurs (09/22/2007, 09/06/2007), geological dating (09/19/2007), the Cambrian explosion (09/04/2007), peppered moths (09/03/2007), evolutionists’ knack for storytelling (09/17/2007), and Christian colleges’ compromises with Darwin (09/14/2007), among other things.  It was also a busy month for molecular machines (09/28/2007), stem cell politics (09/26/2007) Lee Strobel (09/16/2007), anthropology (09/09/2007) and much more.

Mere Biochemistry: Cell Division Involves Thousands of Complex, Interacting Parts     09/25/2010    
Sept 25, 2010 — In biochemistry, the stem -mere means “part” (as in centromere, telomere) and -some means “body” (as in chromosome, ribosome).  Biochemists are learning that these cell organelles are not -mere bit parts, but -some fit bodies.

  1. Telomeres and chromosomesPhysOrg reported that the chemical “caps” on the end of chromosomes, called telomeres, have a special code to keep them intact.  Scientists from Portugal and U of Indiana found that a histone tag near the telomeres keeps the DNA Damage team from tying separate chromosomes together – a response that would spell death for the cell.  “It’s amazing,” a Portuguese scientist remarked, “but it appears to be this single change that underlies the cell’s ability to distinguish the end of the chromosome (i.e. a telomere) from a break in the middle.”  Described as “like the plastic caps on shoelaces,” telomeres not only keep chromosomes intact, but are also implicated in the aging process as they wear off, or in cancer when they go awry.
  2. Ribosome quality control:  Cells need to search and destroy nascent proteins that fail to have a “stop code” when being translated in the ribosome.  PhysOrg reported that a quality control mechanism in bacteria that corrects or deletes failed polypeptides in the ribosomes operates similarly, but is unrelated to, the system in eukaryotes.  Scientists at the Scripps Research Institute used a “homology approach” to identify a protein in yeast that performs the same inspection role on nascent proteins that a different protein plays in bacteria.  “The [bacterial and eukaryotic] mechanisms are very different, but the concepts are remarkably similar,” one researcher said.  “—that’s the beauty of it.”  We know all about that.  Search engines are a concept, but the manifestations (Google, Bing) can be very different.
  3. Centromere code:  It goes without saying that heredity depends on accurate copying of DNA at each cell division.  PhysOrg reported on a finding at Pennsylvania School of Medicine that showed how the “histone code” epigenetically (i.e., apart from DNA inheritance) identifies the center of each chromosome – the centromere – so that the spindle apparatus accurately connects to it during cell division (see also 05/06/2010 and 12/17/2007).  Science Daily described how a “centromere identifier attracts other proteins, and in cell division builds a massive structure, the kinetochore, for pulling the duplicated chromosomes apart during cell division.”  The article quoted a researcher happily saying, “Our work gives us the first high-resolution view of the molecules that control genetic inheritance at cell division.  This is a big step forward in a puzzle that biologists have been chipping away at for over 150 years.”
  4. Telomere linemen:  Researchers at the Wistar Institute identified another key player in the cell’s task of keeping its chromosome ends (telomeres) intact.  A two-part protein named Cdc13, which has a “crucial support role in maintaining and lengthening telomeres,” is able to simultaneously grip the tail end of the telomere while recruiting the telomerase enzyme to add more cap units.  Emmanuel Skordalakes of Wistar had an interesting analogy to describe the action: “You can think of Cdc13 as if it were you hanging on to the edge of a cliff, with one grip stronger than the other,” he said.  “You’re going to keep that strong hand on the cliff’s edge while your weaker hand reaches into your pocket for your phone.”
  5. Centrosomes untangled:  Centromeres, centrosomes; what’s the difference?  Centromeres are the center parts of chromosomes where attachments are made to pull paired chromosomes apart during cell division.  The centrosome is also involved in cell division, but it is a “complex made up of several hundred different proteins,” reported Science Daily, that includes the centrioles and the spindle apparatus that winches the paired chromosomes apart.  In attempting to dissect differences between normal divisions and faulty ones, German biochemists investigating centrosomes in fruit flies “identified more than 250 different proteins making up this complex.... They found a whole series of proteins responsible for the separation of chromosomes, number of centrosomes and their structure.”  They hope their detective work will “unravel regulatory networks in the future, which will help to target and interfere with the division of cancer cells.”
  6. Switched-on mitosis:  A casual look at cells in identical circumstances seems to show them dividing at random.  Some scientists have preferred to think there is something inherent in a cell that tells it when to divide.  There is: a toggle switch.  Scientists at Duke University found a switch in the cell that determines which cells will divide, and which ones won’t.  PhysOrg said this “gene circuit” acts like a “bistable switch.”  The article explained, “The gene circuit is in all cells and can tell identical cells to live in two states simultaneously, either on or off.”  When the signal to divide comes, some respond, and some don’t.  This helps reconcile competing hypotheses about how cells know when it’s time to divide.  “Bistability is not unique to biology,” the article said.  In electrical engineering, for example, bistability describes the functioning of a toggle switch, a hinged switch that can assume either one of two positions – on or off.”  The bistable switch in the cell determines which cells will be the dividers and which will not.  “Genetic switch underlies noisy cell division” was PhysOrg’s headline.
  7. Coded chromosomes:  Cell division is like a symphony, reported Science Daily, describing what researchers at Rockefeller University have found.  They found hard evidence for the “histone code hypothesis,” the idea that tags on the histone proteins on which DNA is wound provide an independent epigenetic code, distinct from the DNA code, that affects heredity (for historical background, see 11/04/2002, 02/16/2004 and 07/26/2006).   “The orchestration of the exact timing and localization of the vast array of molecules and processes involved in reproducing the chromosomes is one of the basic wonders of biology and is at the core of both healthy living and diseases such as cancer, that arise when the process goes awry,” the article said.  “We cracked one code,” Hironori Funabiki, head of the Laboratory of Chromosome and Cell Biology at Rockefeller, said, “but there are yet many to be decoded to understand how chromosomes orchestrate mitosis.
Most of the articles either never mentioned evolution, or only asserted merely that such-and-such a complex system had evolved – without saying how.  No wonder; an article on PhysOrg reported that scientists at the University of Edinburgh “were able to define some 4,000 proteins involved in the division of cells.”  These proteins “protect the fragile genetic material and help it fold into the correct shape before it splits into two new cells.”  They were astonished at “the intricacies of this process” but had nothing to say about evolution.
This is some of the de facto intelligent design research taking place around the world.  Keep pouring on the evidence: nothing in biology makes sense in the darkness of evolution; nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of intelligent design.
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Scientists Pursue Natural Champions     09/24/2010    
Sept 24, 2010 — Animals and plants have what scientists want.  They continue to pursue the technology inherent in some of the common organisms around us, hoping to lead to inventions to improve human life.  Certain champions keep showing up in reports over the years, but other new ones are joining the ranks.
  1. Spider power:  Several reports continued to praise the wonder of spider web silk.  Scientists have known for years that it is stronger than steel and Kevlar, the material in bullet-proof vests.  Now, a world-record orb web spinner has been found with silk ten times as strong.  Live Science said the Darwin bark spider (Caerostris darwini), a new species found in Madagascar, spins silk twice as strong as any previously studied silk, and twice as elastic.  This “toughest biomaterial ever seen” is 10 times stronger than Kevlar.
        Not only that, the spider manages to spin its giant webs across rivers, streams and lakes up to 25 meters across.  “Our initial reaction was simply 'Wow!'” said one researcher.  Another commented that the discovery “opens up new technological applications for spider silk that capitalize on C. darwini silk’s truly impressive combination of light weight and high performance.”
        National Geographic posted a photo gallery that shows giant webs that could have been the inspiration for Shelob’s lair in Lord of the Rings.  The spider catches large mayflies, but scientists believe that bats or small birds could get entangled in the large, super-strong webs.  Learning how this little spider, less than an inch long, can spin such massive structures will probably keep the National Geographic Society busy for awhile.
  2. Bird power:  An old joke has a businessman saying, “I just flew in from Chicago, and boy, are my arms tired.”  Flying like a bird has been a dream ever since man watched the effortless flight of our feathered friends.  Now, for the first time, human-powered flight has been achieved in a new “ornithopter” that slowly flaps its wings as the operator pedals a cycle inside a compartment.
        The Snowbird, invented by Todd Reichert of the University of Toronto, “represents the completion of an age-old aeronautical dream.”  Reichert piloted and powered the test flight of Snowbird and was one of its lead developers.  “Throughout history, countless men and women have dreamt of flying like a bird under their own power, and hundreds, if not thousands have attempted to achieve it,” he said.  This represents one of the last of the aviation firsts.”
        To really enjoy this achievement, watch one of the videos available at the BBC News and Live Science #1 and #2.  It’s a pretty clumsy contraption compared to a sparrow or pelican, but getting a man with a 0.3 horsepower human “engine” off the ground with flapping wings is quite a sight.
  3. Plant champions:  Leaves act, in a way, like perfect solar cells.  Why not follow their example?  “A team led by a North Carolina State University researcher has shown that water-gel-based solar devices – ‘artificial leaves’ – can act like solar cells to produce electricity, an article on PhysOrg began.  “The findings prove the concept for making solar cells that more closely mimic nature.  They also have the potential to be less expensive and more environmentally friendly than the current standard-bearer: silicon-based solar cells.” 
        Will our homes some day be independently powered by rooftops of leaf-like solar systems?  Dr. Orlin Velev of the University wants to “learn how to mimic the materials by which nature harnesses solar energy.”  One challenge is to mimic the self-regeneration capabilities of plants.  The other is to mimic their efficiency.  While hedging his bets at this point about the potential for human technology at this early stage of development, he said, “we believe that the concept of biologically inspired ‘soft’ devices for generating electricity may in the future provide an alternative for the present-day solid-state technologies.”  His team has even shown the ability to incorporate chlorophyll, plant’s light-snatching molecule, into his arrays, along with synthetic light-sensitive molecules.  Science Daily accompanied their write-up with a photo of leaves uplifted under the sun.
  4. Plant champions II:  It’s not just their light-gathering power that has some scientists excited about leaves.  Their unique shapes offer interesting possibilities for invention.  Scientists at the Max Planck Institute in Germany succeeded in taking a plant stem with leaves and replacing all the cells with iron carbide, a magnetic material.  Why?  “Biology’s intricate forms provide a wide range of templates for a variety of applications,” the article explained.  Specifically, “Nature’s fine structures are also suitable for technical applications – they exist in a myriad variety of forms, they usually display high mechanical stability and, due to their large surfaces, provide suitable templates for catalysts and electrodes.”  The structure of the leaves was preserved down to the last detail.  Zoe Schepp, who carried out the experiment, said, “What is important about this study is that it shows how we can exploit nature’s formal variety to produce wafer-thin metal carbide structures in one simple step.”
  5. Gecko champion:  Our biomimetic friend the gecko is back with a new trick.  Scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have found away to use the sticky-foot mechanism to print electronics on a variety of surfaces, like clothes, plastic, and leather.  See the story at Science Daily.  Will electronic clothes be in our future?
  6. Cell champions:  Most cells have “primary cilia” that act as tiny antennae, sensing their environment.  Science Daily and PhysOrg talked about a “cilia revolution” in materials science where inventors are using that strategy to build materials that can respond to thermal, chemical and electrical stimulation.  “University of Southern Mississippi scientists recently imitated Mother Nature by developing, for the first time, a new, skinny-molecule-based material that resembles cilia, the tiny, hair-like structures through which organisms derive smell, vision, hearing and fluid flow,” Science Daily said.  The “Man-made, hair-like structures [are] poised to change industry paradigms,” PhysOrg headlined.  The “artificial cilia” produced by USM scientists respond to acidity, temperature and radiation by bending over and fluorescing blue.  The fact that the researchers can control this behavior opens up “unlimited possibilities for future use.”  The article continued, “Scientists long imagined what could be done if they could engineer cilia for other organic and nonorganic uses.  But creating them solely belonged to the life nurturing processes of nature, until now.”  Of course, they are not quite as elegant and exquisitely controlled as living cilia, but “There is no limit to dreaming up applications for such a material,” the article ended.  The press release originated from the National Science Foundation.
  7. Jellyfish power:  Plants don’t monopolize the solar power market.  Some jellyfish contain green fluorescent protein (GFP) that holds promise for better solar cells, too.  “When exposed to ultraviolet light, the GFP absorbs photons and emits electrons, which travel around a circuit to produce electricity,” an article on New Scientist reported.  A team at the Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden, is excited about the possibility “to create a biological fuel cell that generates electricity without the need for an external source of light” by using the ingredients of biological light.  Their “jellyfish biophotovoltaic device” might be able “to power nano-devices embedded in living organisms,” the lead author said.  The design is simple, green, and efficient.
  8. Beetle meterNature last week (470: p. 370, 09/23/2010) included a short research highlight about scientists at Sogang University in Seoul, Korea, who imitated the way the Hercules beetle changes color in muggy weather.  “Inspired by the natural design of the Hercules beetle,” the short article said, “researchers have created a film that changes colour according to the ambient humidity.”  What’s it good for?  “A sensor made from the material would not need electricity and could be used in small medical or agricultural devices.”
  9. Bee democracy:  Can biomimetics inform politics?  Thomas D. Seeley, a professor of neurobiology and behavior, thinks so.  He has written a new book on “Honeybee Democracy,” reported PhysOrg.  What do our honey-making friends have to teach us?  Seeley has observed the bees’s decision-making behaviors and observed that they tend to achieve optimal decisions, even though no one individual has a complete view of the situation.  “Indeed, humans can learn much about democratic decision-making by looking at bees, Seeley said.  If the members of a group have common interests, like the bees in a swarm, then the keys to good collective decision-making are to ensure the group contains diverse members and an impartial leader, and conducts open debates.”
Most of these articles said nothing about evolution.  The one exception was the spider silk story.  The champion spider was named after Darwin because it “may become a model for evolutionary studies,” said PhysOrg.  One of the authors of a paper in PLoS One said, “these spiders may have evolved a novel mechanism for the production or assembly of their ‘super silk.’”  Evidence was lacking for either of these assertions.
    The authors of the article in PLoS One could only speculate about the evolution of this spider.1  “The rivers across which adult C. darwini suspend their webs are used as flyways by large insects, birds and bats,” they said.  “It is tempting to speculate that Caerostris evolved giant webs under selection to capture such extraordinarily large prey.”  Using “evolved... to” as a goal-directed action, however, is inconsistent with Darwinian contingency, however, and adding “under selection” does little to mitigate the fallacy.  They had to admit that there was no evidence for it, anyway: “However, as appealing as the hypothesis that Caerostris evolved such extraordinary silk under natural selection for the capture of giant prey might be, the meager preliminary data that exist on Caerostris prey only found abundant smaller aquatic insects in their webs.  Regardless, the webs allow access to habitat and prey that other spiders cannot utilize.” 

1.  Agnarrson, Kuntner and Blackledge, “Bioprospecting Finds the Toughest Biological Material: Extraordinary Silk from a Giant Riverine Orb Spider,” Public Library of Science ONE, 5(9): e11234. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0011234.
Did the spider hunters help their Darwinist case at all with their ending paragraph?
In summary, we hypothesize that the world’s longest orb-webs and toughest silk coevolved within the genus Caerostris as species began to occupy a novel habitat – the flyways above rivers.  This spectacular adaptation puts C. darwini at a considerable advantage over other forest dwelling species of orb spiders, by allowing Caerostris to ensnare abundant insects or other prey flying over water.  Perhaps most importantly, our study demonstrates how understanding the ecologies of spiders can play a critical role in biomimicry.  The discovery of C. darwini’s incredibly tough dragline silk followed from our initial observations about its extraordinary orb webs and greatly expand our understanding of the potential performance of silk fibers.
The bluffing here is odious.  Darwinism had nothing to offer this discovery or the practical uses that might come from it.  It wasn’t evolutionary theory that played the “critical role” in understanding the extraordinary orb webs this spider makes.  It was ecology.  Ecology as a science has no necessary connection to Darwinism.  The team found this spider and predicted its webs would be strong, based on the habitat, and they were.  What’s Darwin got to do with it?  They produced no evidence of a mutation or selection effect that would have produced this extraordinary material.  Evolution was only a distraction, a tumor, a parasite, a name-dropping gimmick to give their dictator, King Charles, some credit for a story that had everything to do with intelligent design, not evolution.
    OK, enough of Darwin.  We love biomimetics here because the stories are usually so interesting, amazing, useful, promising, and de-Darwinated (that’s like decaffeinated or detoxified).  We’ve been reporting biomimetics stories for years, but many of them seem to predict future inventions that have not yet made it to market.  Here’s a project: List products people are using today that have a plant or animal inspiration.  In a sense, all aircraft could qualify, because the Wright brothers studied birds for ideas.  Synthetic sponges seem to imitate their natural counterparts.  We know that Velcro got its start when a man was curious how cockleburs stuck so effectively to clothing.  There are three examples to get you thinking.  This website lists ten interesting “product designs that are inspired by nature,” but not all of them are in common use yet.  Send in your examples of biomimetic items you use, so that we can assemble a list of useful products we all use that had natural design, not Darwin, as their inspiration.
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The Evolution of Speech, and v.v.     09/23/2010    
Sept 23, 2010 — The brain just got more complex – that is, the part that helps us speak.  “Complex brain landscape controls speech,” reported PhysOrg, discussing findings by German researchers that show Broca’s region, implicated in speech disorders when damaged, appears to be “a much more complexly structured centre of language than was previously believed.”  Not just a sum of two parts, Broca’s region is now seen as a “a highly differentiated mosaic,” according to co-author of a study published in PLoS Biology.1 “It’s a complex world that’s dedicated to our faculty of speech.”
    The concluding paragraph described the impact of these findings on over a century of thought:
The discovery in question of several molecularly and cellularly different cortical areas in Broca’s language region and in neighbouring areas shows that our faculty of speech is actually embedded in a much more differentially developed brain landscape than we have believed for the past 150 years.  The findings are not just important for language research and the diagnosis and treatment of strokes.  They also alter the neurobiological basis for current discussions on the evolutionary development of language, speech training and language disorders.
The authors of the original paper did not describe how this complex region might have evolved.  They only mentioned one other paper that suggested where it might have evolved from: “Fadiga and coauthors have speculated that this capacity evolved from motor and premotor functions associated with action execution and understanding, such as those characterizing the mirror neuron system.”  But their next sentence fit more with intelligent design: “Others proposed that the role of this region is associated with complex, hierarchical or hypersequential processing.”
    Do monkeys show this level of complexity in their corresponding brains?  They noted that “the topography and the sulcal pattern of the ventral frontal cortex differ considerably between macaque and human brains,” but then tried to draw similarities: “If the abilities associated with Broca’s region have evolved from premotor functions, area 6r1 may be interpreted as some kind of ‘transitional’ area between the motor cortex and Broca’s region.”  That partial suggestion, however, needed more study: “Future cytoarchitectonic mapping studies would help to understand the extent of the inferior frontal lobe areas and its intersubject variability.”  Any actual evolutionary insight was going to take more work now that the complexity of this region of the brain has been revealed:
In conclusion, the novel parcellation of the ventro-lateral frontal cortex and Broca’s region provides a new anatomical basis both for the interpretation of functional imaging studies of language and motor tasks as well as for homologies between human and macaque brains.  It will, therefore, contribute to the understanding of the evolution of language.  The analysis of the receptor distribution sheds new light on the organizational principles of this region.  This direction is a further step from a rigid and exclusively cytoarchitectonic parcellation scheme as introduced by Brodmann 100 years ago towards a multimodal and functionally relevant model of Broca’s region and surrounding cortex.
Given that the complexity of their findings overturns a century of simplistic description, it would seem that a “multimodal and functionally relevant model” of the region raises even more difficult challenges to mutation and natural selection.
1.  Amuntz, Lenzen, Zilles et al, “Broca’s Region: Novel Organizational Principles and Multiple Receptor Mapping,” Public Library of Science: Biology, 8(9): e1000489; doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1000489.
So these findings “alter the neurobiological basis for current discussions on the evolutionary development of language,” the press release said.  How do they alter them?  Let’s be specific.  Do they falsify, destroy, demolish, render irrelevant, capsize, ruin, annihilate, crush, nuke, extinguish, dismantle, ravage, suppress, repudiate, abolish, supersede, invalidate, abrogate, cancel, impair, mutilate, expunge, eradicate, dissolve, or obliterate them?  Use your Broca’s region, if you “understand” with mere neurons, and speak up.
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  During our 6th anniversary, Cassini was finding new Saturn rings (09/19/2006) and struggling with Titan’s ethane deficit (09/14/2006), while we helped teachers use the “Face on Mars” hoax to develop educational resources (09/21/2006).  There were also amazing stories about cell safety switches (09/19/2006) and machinery in spores (09/16/2006), and plant protection (09/13/2006) and bacterial oxen (09/06/2006), while atheists were wringing their hands on whether to fight or smooth-talk religion (09/25/2006).

Evolutionists Promise Without Delivering     09/22/2010    
Sept 22, 2010 — Some science news reports lead the reader to think that some major new understanding into evolution is under the headline, but they often fail to deliver. 

  1. Darwinian abominationScience Daily promised, “Toward Resolving Darwin’s ‘Abominable Mystery’: Patterns of Flower Biodiversity Point to the Importance of Having ‘Room to Grow’.”  The article was accompanied by a photo of a cheerful biologist, Dr. Jana Vamosi [University of Calgary], looking like she had a breakthrough answer to Darwin’s great mystery about the origin of flowering plants and their diversity.  Below the headline, though, was nothing of the sort.  Her team found some measurements of biodiversity as a function of living space, but that’s all.
        Yet she claimed that “the findings of this research mostly shed light on what produces the world’s diversity,” without any hint of where flowering plants came from and how they evolved into orchids, daisies, tomatoes, buffaloberries and a host of deciduous trees.  To say that living space “drives the incredible diversity of flowers” would be like saying the multiplicity of stars drives the emergence of aliens.
  2. Abomination, take two:  An article in Science Daily from the Journal of Botany tried to explain the emergence of land plants, but ended up comparing living plants.  “By comparing green algae and bryophytes, [Linda] Graham [U of Wisconsin, Madison] and her co-researchers obtained insight into the evolutionary hurdles that plants needed to overcome to transition successfully to life on land, and how early plants’ success influenced carbon cycling.”  Identifying the hurdles does not generally win races, unless the racer has the goods to get over them.  The article gave no clue about how plants even knew hurdles existed, let alone succeeded in surmounting them.  The article merely assumed evolution without evidence: “All plants descended from a group of ancestral green algae, whose modern representatives thrive in aqueous environments.”
  3. Crow bar:  Last week, Science published another paper on the amazing tool use of New Caledonian crows.1 (For background see 05/26/2009).  “Tool use is so rare in the animal kingdom that its evolutionary origins cannot be traced with comparative analyses,” the abstract began, tantalizing the reader that insight into this mystery was at hand.  “Valuable insights can be gained from investigating the ecological context and adaptive significance of tool use under contemporary conditions, but obtaining robust observational data is challenging.”
        The authors took up the challenge, but only delivered this tidbit: tool use seems to help the crows’ diet – “just a few larvae can satisfy a crow’s daily energy requirements, highlighting the substantial rewards available to competent tool users.”  The rewards are clear, but how did tool use evolve?  It just did.  They asserted, “basic stick tool use is heritable, and hence an evolved adaptation.”
        This team also thought that opportunity alone produces the evolutionary goods.  Humans brought candlenut trees to Malesia, they noted; “In light of our findings, it seems possible that the anthropogenic introduction of this tree species to New Caledonia created foraging opportunities (i.e., lipid-rich, but hidden, larvae) that, presumably in combination with other factors, led to the rapid evolution of tool use in NC crows.”  Possibly, presumably, in combination with other factors; does that lead to anything?  Does that constitute an evolutionary explanation?
Without the assumption of evolution, these explanations make no sense.  There is nothing about opportunities, hurdles or living space that cause complex traits or behaviors, with all the genetic information behind them, to just “emerge” on their own.  The American westward expansion had opportunity and living space, but required intelligent agents with purposes and goals and motivation to construct the towns, ranches, farms and railroads to utilize it.  If new foraging opportunities alone were sufficient to induce crows to make tools, why didn’t other animals learn how?  Foraging opportunities are presumably common throughout the world; why, then, is tool use so rare?  How could living space alone drive bryophytes and conifers to evolve into angiosperms and explode into hundreds of thousands of tremendously varied species, alongside the conifers?  These are the questions Darwinists need to answer; they cannot merely assume that evolution did it, then call that a scientific explanation.
1.  Rutz, Bluff et al, “The Ecological Significance of Tool Use in New Caledonian Crows,” Science, 17 September 2010: Vol. 329. no. 5998, pp. 1523-1526, DOI: 10.1126/science.1192053.
This is how the Darwin Party creates the illusion of progress, pushing a dead hulk without an engine and announcing it as a powerful sports car.  It’s fakery running on dogmatism, masquerading as science.  These articles are representative of the tricks of the charlatans.  They must be exposed. 
Next headline on:  Darwin and EvolutionPlantsBirdsDumb Ideas

See Brett Miller’s clever new cartoon showing how Darwinists conduct scientific observation at EvidentCreation.com.

More Neanderthal Promotion     09/22/2010    
Sept 22, 2010 — It’s a good time to be a Neanderthal.  You’ll get more respect than ever before from paleoanthropologists.  The latest example, published in PhysOrg, is headlined, “Neanderthals more advanced than previously thought.”  Julien Riel-Salvatore [U of Colorado at Denver] says he is “rehabilitating Neanderthals” by challenging a half-century of “conventional wisdom” that portrayed them as numbskulls.  His studies in Italy show Neanderthals to be creative, adaptable and successful, coming up with tools, art and hunting implements on their own without “modern human” help.  “We are more brothers than distant cousins,” he thinks.  See also the 05/08/2010 entry.
UpdateNational Geographic just published a strange new idea: that volcanoes killed off the Neanderthals.  Ker Than explained that major volcanic eruptions near the Caucasus Mountains so damaged their habitat they were unable to bounce back.  This flies in the face of a long-standing theory that modern humans proved too brainy for them and pushed them off the world stage.  And didn’t Neanderthals cover a wide area from northern Europe to the Middle East?  Other anthropologists were quoted with objections to the new idea.

It’s going to take a long time to undo the Neanderthal myth because of the Law of Inertia for Falsified Theories (01/15/2010).
Next headline on:  Early ManMind and BrainFossilsDarwin and Evolution
Piston Engine Joins Rotary Engine in Cells     09/22/2010    
Sept 22, 2010 — The rotary engine ATP synthase has been discussed frequently in these pages (e.g., 12/22/2003, 08/10/2004, 08/04/2010) as an exquisite “molecular machine” that produces the cell’s energy pellets (ATP) with a rotary, turbine-like mechanism.  Now, a piston-driven engine has been found at work in every cell’s energy factory.
    ATP synthase operates at the end of a sequence of machines in the respiratory chain that generates chemical energy (in the form of ATP) from the food we eat (or from sunlight, in the case of plants).  The enzyme runs on proton motive force – a flow of protons that drive its carousel-like rotor.  But how does the proton gradient get established?  That’s the job of Respiratory Complex I, the first machine (enzyme) in the chain.  Complex I takes electrons from food, stored in NADH molecules, and transfers them down a chain of electron receptors to parts of the machine that pump protons across the mitochondrial membrane into the periplasm, setting up a proton gradient.  It now becomes evident that Complex I includes parts that move like pistons.
    Complex I was reported in a July Science Express paper as having a railroad-like coupling rod (see 07/06/2010).  This week, The Scientist described it as “A piston proton pump,” referencing a paper from Nature last May:1  Richard P. Grant reported,
The mechanism proposed by Leonid Sazanov’s group at the Medical Research Council in Cambridge is “almost completely unexpected,” says Faculty Member Thomas Meier.  Unlike the ATP synthase, which “drives protons across the membrane in a rotary turbine-like motion,” writes Faculty member Nathan Nelson in his review, the transfer of electrons from NADH cause a slight widening of one part of the complex, forcing the long helix to move like the a [sic] row of pistons that shove protons across the membrane.
Some scientists feel this important finding will rival the excitement about the discovery that a rotary engine produces ATP.  One faculty member “predicts that it will become one of the most cited papers in respiratory chain research, as important to our complete understanding of energy generation as is the mechanism of ATP synthase.
    The original paper in Nature1 used the same piston metaphor and contained the same enthusiasm:
The overall architecture of this large molecular machine is now clear.  F-ATPase [ATP Synthase] has been compared to a turbine.  In a similar vein, complex I seems to resemble a steam engine, where the energy of the electron transfer is used to move a piston, which then drives, instead of wheels, a set of discontinuous helices.
Tomoko Ohnishi, commenting on this paper in the same issue of Nature, continued the piston metaphor in his title, “Structural biology: Piston drives a proton pump.2  He described how the food we eat goes through a “highly efficient process” called oxidative phosphorylation in the mitochondria, ending in the synthesis of ATP.  Complex I was known to have some distance between its electron acceptors and the transmembrane antiporters.  It was unknown how the parts were coupled.  Now, the mechanism of the first enzyme, Complex I, is becoming clear:
The membrane-spanning enzyme known as complex I couples the movement of electrons to that of protons as a way of converting energy.  Crystal structures suggest how electron transfer drives proton pumping from afar.
    Complex I is one of the energy-converting enzyme complexes found in the membranes of the cell’s fuel factories, the mitochondria, and was the last such complex without a structural portrait.  But in an epoch-making paper in this issue, Sazanov and colleagues1 describe X-ray structures of bacterial complex I, and report that it has an unusual ‘piston’ mechanism for controlling proton movement across mitochondrial membranes (see page 441).
Both the original paper and Ohnishi’s summary contain diagrams showing how the piston mechanism works in conjunction with the connecting rod described in the 07/06/2010 entry.
    ATP Synthase was mentioned in a PNAS commentary this week.3  Stuart L. Ferguson [Oxford U] recounted the decades of effort to determine how ATP was generated.  He indicated that much remains to be learned, including why different life forms have different numbers of c-subunits in the F0 rotor (for background, see 12/22/2003, 08/10/2004, 08/04/2010), but mentioned “the apparently universal nature of the ATP synthase” in passing, indicating that even lowly bacteria have these elegant machines.  Eukaryotes (including all plants and animals) and eubacteria, but not archaea, “are from sequence analyses very similar,” he mentioned.  Archaea also use forms of ATP synthase that differ from those of eukaryotes in some respects.
1.  Efremov, Baradaran, and Sazamov, “The architecture of respiratory complex I,” Nature 465 (27 May 2010), pages: 441–445, doi:10.1038/nature09066.
2.  Tomoko Ohnishi, “Structural biology: Piston drives a proton pump,” Nature 465 (27 May 2010), pages 428–429, doi:10.1038/465428a.
3.  Stuart L. Ferguson, “ATP synthase: From sequence to ring size to the P/O ratio,” http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2010/09/20/1012260107.full.pdf+html>Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published online before print September 21, 2010, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1012260107.
So what can evolutionists do with the discovery of rotary engines and piston engines in the simplest forms of life, all the way up to humans?  They just attribute it all to the remarkable creative power of the goddess Evolution.
    A Nature Education article by Nick Lane (cf. 08/11/2010) referred to the piston paper by Efremov et al, saying “Again, the structure betrays the mechanism – in this case not a rotary motor but, even more surprisingly, a lever mechanism not unlike the piston of a steam engine (Figure 2),”  But then, Lane invoked Michael Russell’s lame hydrothermal waste dump myth (02/15/2008) – you remember, the one that falsified the primordial soup myth (02/05/2010) – to draw a parallel from simple proton gradients in deep sea vents to the proton gradients that drive pistons and rotors in the cell.
    That’s like comparing rolling stones to automobiles, or clouds to aircraft.  Look at his convoluted reasoning to get from rolling stones to automobiles without intelligent design:
There are, of course, big open questions – not least, how the gradients might have been tapped by the earliest cells, which certainly lacked such sophisticated protein machinery as the ATP synthase,” Lane admitted.  “There are a few possible abiotic mechanisms, presently under scrutiny in Russell’s lab and elsewhere.  But thermodynamic arguments, remarkably, suggest that the only way life could have started at all is if it found a way to tap the proton gradients.
  So tell us, Nick, did Life try to tap into these gradients on purpose?  After all, if it “found a way,” it must have been looking for it.  In Lane’s vision quest, Life, in some nebulous form lacking ATP and a proton gradient, studies those deep-sea vents with furrowed brow, asking “How can we tap into that?”  But wait – without a way to tap into it already, it would have no energy to look for, discover, and harness the proton gradient.  Well, that must imply, then, that all the machinery just “arose” all together, fully formed, by chance.  Maybe it was a miracle: “the acquisition of mitochondria and the origin of complexity could be one and the same event,” he said.
    Only an evolutionist gets away with this kind of nonsense in scientific lit.  But that’s not all.  Lane proceeded to extend his mythology to all complex life, with all its organs and functions, speculating how it all originated with proton gradients.  In the end, though, he had to admit the whole idea was a myth:
The question is, what kind of a cell acquired mitochondria in the first place?  Most large-scale genomic studies suggest that the answer is an archaeon – that is, a prokaryotic cell that is in most respects like a bacterium.  That begs the question, how did mitochondria get inside an archaeon?  The answer is a mystery but might go some way toward explaining why complex life derives from a single common ancestor, which arose just once in the 4 billion years of life on Earth.
Well, at least he recognized he left some “big open questions” begging.  Nothing more needs to be said.  He just shot any claim to science out from under his own feet and showed himself belonging to a “mystery” cult, along with the editors of Nature, who, by printing his speculations, became willing accomplices in promoting the mystery cult.
    Take Nick Lane’s freak show (08/11/2010) to Mad Magazine where it belongs.  The rest of us are enjoying this confirmation of intelligent design at the smallest scale of life.  You’re running on pistons and rotary engines.  Cool!  Lane gets a teeny bit of credit for sharing one amazing factoid in his article about the electrical potential in your body set up by these proton gradients: “A membrane potential of 150 mV across the 5-nanometer membrane gives a field strength of 30 million volts per meterequivalent to a bolt of lightning.”  You’ve got lightning in your tank.  Hot!
Next headline on:  Cell BiologyIntelligent DesignAmazing Facts
  On the Fifth Anniversary, CEH was covering the Darwinian exasperation with creationists: the rhetoric that was heating up in Dover, Pennsylvania (09/26/2005), the natural history museums training their docents how to deal with evolution skeptics (09/22/2005), and the pundits cussing out I.D. in editorials (09/02/2005).  That month also had the usual variety of other reports about cellular machines, Saturn, genomes, pterosaurs, the big bang, Grand Canyon and much more.

Exodus Theory Inherits the Wind     09/21/2010    
Sept 21, 2010 — An old theory that the Exodus story occurred because of natural winds has surfaced again.  It seeks to provide a purely natural explanation for what the Old Testament records as a miracle.
    Two atmospheric scientists from Boulder, Colorado, Carl Drews and Weiqing Han, referenced a theory by Doron Nof (see his website) that briefly made a splash in 1992 on TV with model demonstrations of high winds blowing back the waters off a submerged sandbar.  Some believers tended to think this might give a plausible explanation for the Exodus story, while unbelievers tended to discount the Exodus story as elaboration of a natural phenomenon.  Drews and Han drew from Nof’s idea, which was elaborated on by Russian scientists Naum Voltzinger and Alexei Androsov, with new models and experiments: “A suite of model experiments are performed to demonstrate a new hydrodynamic mechanism that can cause an angular body of water to divide under wind stress, and to test the behavior of our study location and reconstructed topography.”  They also pointed to a new site for the crossing on the western Sinai Peninsula rather than the Gulf of Aqaba.  Between the Lake of Tanis and the Nile, they calculated, a land passage 5 km wide might have opened up for 4-7 hours under winds of 28-33 m/s (62-74 mph), but they admitted, “these stronger winds may render walking too difficult for a mixed group of people.”  Their theory was published in PLoS One.1
    As to whether this provides a plausible natural explanation for the Red Sea crossing, Drews and Han were restrained in their paper: “Wind setdown is the drop in water level caused by wind stress acting on the surface of a body of water for an extended period of time.  As the wind blows, water recedes from the upwind shore and exposes terrain that was formerly underwater.  Previous researchers have suggested wind setdown as a possible hydrodynamic explanation for Moses crossing the Red Sea, as described in Exodus 14.2  But in the popular press, they drew the connection more directly.  Drews was quoted in Live Science saying, “People have always been fascinated by this Exodus story, wondering if it comes from historical facts.  What this study shows is that the description of the waters parting indeed has a basis in physical laws.”  Similar, in Science Daily, the subtext was that the Biblical miracle can be explained naturally: “Computer Modeling Applies Physics to Red Sea Escape Route” was its headline; Live Science titled its story, “Parting of Red Sea Jibes With Natural Laws.”  Indeed, Brett Israel in his write-up was ready to exchange Gods: “Mother Earth could have parted the Red Sea, hatching the great escape described in the biblical book of Exodus, a new study finds.”


1.  Carl Drews and Weiqing Han, “Dynamics of Wind Setdown at Suez and the Eastern Nile Delta,” Public Library of Science: One, 5(8): e12481. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0012481.
2.  See Exodus 14 (ESV) at BibleGateway.com.
There’s baloney in this story, but first, some disclaimers.  It’s true the authors and reporters never denied the Exodus story was miraculous or called it a myth.  It’s also true that Biblical miracles can be accomplished with natural means (example: the Jordan crossing made possible by a landslide upriver, as described in Joshua 3).  These become, then, miracles of timing of natural events.  For all we know, the authors respect the historicity of the Bible’s account and may even wish to shed light on its miraculous character.  Lastly, studying the power of wind and its ability to create land bridges under specific circumstances is honorable scientific practice.
    The baloney is in two inferences: (1) that explaining a Biblical story “naturally” is superior to accepting a miracle.  That assumption begs all kinds of questions: what is meant by natural and miracle?  What is meant by a scientific explanation?  There are nuances of coordination between natural law and divine action that are glossed over in the broad-brush assumption that natural law trumps miracles (see joke).  A false impression is promulgated that all Biblical miracles can be subsumed under “natural explanations,” with a corollary that the Biblical accounts themselves are extensions of normal, natural phenomena that ancient people exaggerated and interpreted as miracles.
    The second problem is this: it would take more faith to believe the “natural” explanation in this tale than the straightforward Biblical account in Exodus 14.  Yes, God did use a “strong east wind all night” as part of his action (v. 21), but the Bible goes on to say the waters became “a wall to them on their right hand and on their left” (v. 22).  Moreover, the timing of this amazingly specific wind (if that is all that was involved) – a finely-tuned wind that could blow waters left and right and maintain dry land in the midst of the sea (v. 22) without blowing women and children into the water with hurricane force gusts – was so precisely timed as to begin when Moses stretched out his hand over the sea (v. 21), allow all the Israelites to cross, then stop exactly when Moses stretched out his hand again (v. 26), drowning the entire army of Pharaoh.  Is the theory of Drews and Han, and their predecessors, somehow an improvement?  By any account, it’s a miracle anyway taking their theory, so where is the net gain in “natural” explanation?
    The Bible is explicit that this was an actual miracle under the direct purpose and intervention of God.  Throughout the Old Testament, the prophets and psalmists recalled this extraordinary example of God’s power to protect His people, by opening a path in the “great deep” for them to cross.  If such things happened normally from time to time, any Jewish teen could see through it, telling Mom and Dad, “What’s the big deal?”  It would be a miracle if the Exodus story lasted more than a generation.  If you are a Bible believer, avoid getting sucked into the idea that these so-called “natural” explanations of Biblical miracles help make them more plausible.  At best, they still require a lot of faith and leave many questions begging.  At worst, they are paths to unsophisticated skepticism and leave many questions begging.  Be more charitable than Science Daily and Live Science; feed the beggars.
Next headline on:  Bible and TheologyGeology and Earth Science
Waltzing with Dinosaurs     09/20/2010    
Sept 20, 2010 — An international team of paleontologists wrote a kind of “State of the Tyrannosaur Address” in Science last week,1 boasting about all that is known of these creatures:
Tyrannosaurs, the group of dinosaurian carnivores that includes Tyrannosaurus rex and its closest relatives, are icons of prehistory.  They are also the most intensively studied extinct dinosaurs, and thanks to large sample sizes and an influx of new discoveries, have become ancient exemplar organisms used to study many themes in vertebrate paleontology.  A phylogeny that includes recently described species shows that tyrannosaurs originated by the Middle Jurassic but remained mostly small and ecologically marginal until the latest Cretaceous.  Anatomical, biomechanical, and histological studies of T. rex and other derived tyrannosaurs show that large tyrannosaurs could not run rapidly, were capable of crushing bite forces, had accelerated growth rates and keen senses, and underwent pronounced changes during ontogeny.  The biology and evolutionary history of tyrannosaurs provide a foundation for comparison with other dinosaurs and living organisms.
As the article proceeded from this grandiose introduction into the details of children’s favorite pet monsters, a question arises: what to say about the biggest “shocker” (see Smithsonian, May 2006)of recent tyrannosaur histological studies, the discovery of soft tissue and blood cells in a T. rex leg bone? (03/24/2005, 06/03/2005, 04/12/2007)  After all, they could not just ignore such a pertinent matter without saying something about it and its implications.  Answer: they just waltzed right around it, with all the dainty grace of T. Rex Sue in ballet shoes.
    First, they made a passing mention of soft tissue: “These discoveries have fostered an increased understanding of tyrannosaur anatomy (6, 7), growth dynamics (8, 9), population structure (10), feeding (11), locomotion (12), biogeography (13), and soft tissue morphology (14–16),” they said, continuing the triumphal tone.  “This breadth of information, and of research activity, on a restricted group of organisms is unparalleled in contemporary dinosaur paleontology.”  The references 14-16 mentioned above include Mary Schweitzer’s bombshell Science paper from 2005.  What would they say next?
    “The spate of new discoveries has prompted a renewed focus on tyrannosaur anatomy, including external, internal, and soft-tissue morphology (Fig. 3),” the section on Tyrannosaur anatomy opened.  But Figure 3, “Tyrannosaur soft tissues,” shows none of Schweitzer’s famous photographs of flexible structures and putative blood cells.  In time, though, they could not ignore the evidence any longer:
Several easily degraded soft tissues, such as cells, blood vessels, and collagen, have been reported from a specimen of Tyrannosaurus (15, 35).  Some of these findings have been met with skepticism (36), and they remain to be validated by other research groups.  However, if correct, they promise to give radical new insight into the process of fossilization and may allow for molecular phylogenetic analysis of these extinct taxa (37).
References 15 and 35 are to Schweitzer’s two papers (03/24/2005, 06/03/2005; see also 04/12/2007)  The “skepticism” of reference 36 is to the counter-claim that the alleged soft tissues came from biofilm contamination (07/30/2008) – an argument Schweitzer vociferously denied, defending her procedures and conclusions (11/11/2006, 04/30/2009).
    After the above paragraph, surprisingly or not, the authors waltzed on to other matters like Tyrannosaur behavior and biogeography, saying nothing more about Schweitzer’s explosive discovery that threatens to undermine the dating and phylogeny of the world’s most famous dinosaur, if that is what “radical new insight into the process of fossilization” might include.
    Of the popular sites the reported on the Science paper, PhysOrg, Science Daily and National Geographic didn’t even join in the waltz, but ignored the soft tissue issue entirely, focusing instead on the triumphal march of science and millions of years.  Only Jeremy Shu at Live Science came on the dance floor, smiling, “One of the most exciting areas of research involves the possible discovery of soft tissues, such as cells, blood vessels and collagen, in one tyrannosaur specimen.  Although controversial, the findings could overturn ideas about what body parts can survive fossilization.”  Stephen Brusatte of the American Natural History Museum added this open-ended comment: “one of the joys of paleontology is that each new fossil has the potential to tell us something new, and even to overturn ideas we once thought were bulletproof.”  The bullets, meanwhile, have been flying from creation sites (e.g., CMI, AIG).
1.  Brusatte, Norell et al, “Tyrannosaur Paleobiology: New Research on Ancient Exemplar Organisms,” Science, 17 September 2010: Vol. 329. no. 5998, pp. 1481-1485, DOI: 10.1126/science.1193304.
The Smithsonian piece contained the expected Two Minutes’ Hate against “young-earth creationists,” talking about how horrified Schweitzer gets when these ignoramuses “misrepresent” her findings, “twist your words and they manipulate your data,” which “drives Schweitzer crazy,” as if it’s their fault these soft tissues were found in the bone.  Not even terrorists get the abuse that creationists endure from academia.  Despite the rhetoric, the Smithsonian article provoked many comments from Darwin skeptics, some wise, some otherwise.
    Though Schweitzer is a Christian, she’s the schizophrenic type that evolutionists can tolerate (cartoon): “For her, science and religion represent two different ways of looking at the world; invoking the hand of God to explain natural phenomena breaks the rules of science.  After all, she says, what God asks is faith, not evidence.”  So religion has no evidence but faith, and science has no faith but evidence.  How nice and neat (see 01/06/2008, and appeasement and false dichotomy in the Baloney Detector).  A true “scientist”, according to them, must have faith that evidence always will somehow lead to exaltation of their idol, Darwin-Baal.
    Evolutionists are tragically comical sometimes.  In this case they act like the musicians on the Titanic still entertaining the guests as the ship goes down.  Only this time, they are not playing Nearer My God to Thee, but Everything’s All Right:
Sleep and I shall soothe you
Distract and dogmatize you, 
Molecular phylogeny for your hot forehead
oh then you’ll feel
Everything’s all right
Yes everything’s fine;
Fossils are cool and consensus is sweet
For the shock in your eyes 
Close your eyes
Close your eyes
And relax
Think of nothing tonight.
[Chorus]
Everything’s all right
Yes everything’s all right yes.
Escapism is the cure for worry about secular paleontology’s timeline falling, never to rise again.  We say, wake up!  If Schweitzer’s data have been met with skepticism, fine; resolve it.  If the claims remain to be validated by other research groups, what are they waiting for?  Do it (02/22/2006, 11/23/2006).  You can shut up the creationists by falsifying the soft tissue evidence or else explaining, with preferably a demonstration, how blood cells and flexible tissues could survive for 65 million years.  But don’t give us a song and dance. 
Next headline on:  DinosaursFossilsDating Methods
Big Bird Was Scary     09/20/2010    
Sept 20, 2010 — A giant fossil bird with a serrated-edge beak was found in Chile, reported Science Daily, PhysOrg, Live Science, and New Scientist.  The projections on its beak look like teeth but are not true teeth.  They probably helped the sea bird hold onto fish.  The artist reconstruction gives the bird a scary-looking demeanor.
    The 17-foot wingspan of Pelagornis chilensis establishes a new record (the largest living bird, the California condor, measures 10 feet).  National Geographic has a photo gallery of the find, and New Scientist includes a photograph of the actual fossil.  New Scientist began its coverage, “It was a bird that really lived up to its dinosaur heritage,” even though, according to the evolutionary timeline, at least 55 million years separates the fossil from the last dinosaurs, and not all dinosaurs were large.  PhysOrg suggested these true birds may have co-existed with the earliest humans.
Why do we keep finding bigger and better animals in the fossil record?  That doesn’t sound like evolution.  As for the millions of years and dinosaur heritage talk, see the 05/10/2010 entry.
Next headline on:  BirdsFossilsAmazing Facts
  By our 4th anniversary, when the Smithsonian controversy was just heating up (09/24/2004), Creation-Evolution Headlines was boldly looking for baloney in the biggest names in evolutionary biology (09/12/2004, 09/03/2004) and chemical evolution (09/03/2004) and debunking Darwin with hostile witnesses (09/02/2004).  Meanwhile, CEH was also finding a treasure trove of amazing facts supporting design (09/16/2004, 09/10/2004, 09/08/2004, 09/07/2004) and had even found Paley’s watch (09/15/2004).

Synonymous Codons: Another Gene Expression Regulation Mechanism     09/19/2010    
Sept 19, 2010 — Some words in English have alternate spellings, but sound the same.  If the sound is the same, how would a recording device tell them apart?  Would it make any difference?  It shouldn’t, but now scientists are realizing that genetic codons spelled differently can influence the protein formed – even when the spellings, called “synonymous codons”, produce the same amino acid when translated.
    Suppose you are a prompter at a spelling bee.  You read the word "aneurysm" aloud as the next word to be spelled.  One student spells ANEURYSM, the next spells it ANEURISM.  Since both forms are acceptable according to the dictionary (though the first is more common) each student should be graded as correct.  But imagine that the judge, listening to the second spelling and not as familiar with it, has to check the dictionary before announcing her decision.  Now suppose that the slight time delay affects what a reporter has time to write before rushing his story to the press.  The resulting story could differ substantially, even though both spellings are, for all practical purposes, equivalent.  Something like that happens in the genetic code, according to researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, publishing in Science.1 
    There are 64 possible triplet codons in the DNA code (table), but only 20 amino acids they produce (chart).  As one can see, some amino acids can be coded by up to six “synonyms” of triplet codons: e.g., the codes AGA, AGG, CGA, CGC, CGG, and CGU will all yield arginine when translated by the ribosome.  If the same amino acid results, what difference could the synonymous codons make?  The researchers found that alternate spellings might affect the timing of translation in the ribosome tunnel, and slight delays could influence how the polypeptide begins its folding.  This, in turn, might affect what chemical tags get put onto the polypeptide in the post-translational process.
    In the case of actin, the protein that forms transport highways for muscle and other things, the researchers found that synonymous codons produced very different functional roles for the “isoform” proteins that resulted in non-muscle cells – beta-actin progressing to the sites of cell movement at the membrane, and gamma-actin staying in the interior, “in dense non-branched networks and long contractile stress fibers that impart morphological stability and support cell adhesion.”  Though both forms got “arginylated” with an arginine tag after translation, the beta-form appeared to start folding earlier, producing a slightly different shape that affected other post-translational modifications, thus affecting its functional role in the cell.  The gamma form also got tagged with ubiquitin, targeting it for earlier degradation in the proteasome.
    The authors proved that it was the different codon spellings that produced these changes by modifying the codons in both genes with their look-alike synonyms and watching the outcomes.  Sure enough, the beta-actin gene produced a protein that acted like gamma-actin when spelled the gamma way, and the gamma-actin gene produced a beta-actin-like protein when spelled the beta way.  The authors extended the principle they discovered to say, in conclusion, “This mechanism may be used not only with actin isoforms but also with other closely homologous but selectively arginylated proteins.”  As a result, an alternate spelling difference in the DNA code can result in different functional outcomes for two isoforms of actin, even though their amino acid sequences are essentially identical (98%).  This amounts to a new mechanism for regulation of the genome and proteome (the set of proteins in the cell).
    Ivana Weygand-Durasevic [U of Zagreb, Croatia] and Michael Ibba [Ohio State], commenting on this finding in the same issue of Science,2 recognized it as a fundamental discovery: “This is an unexpected example of proteins whose properties are determined at the nucleotide rather than the amino acid level, forcing a reassessment of what defines a synonymous change in a gene sequence.”  In their conclusion, they repeated, “Whatever the exact mechanism, the discovery of Zhang et al. that synonymous codon changes can so profoundly change the role of a protein adds a new level of complexity to how we interpret the genetic code.”
    For other recently-discovered regulatory mechanisms in the genome and epigenetic factors affecting function, see 08/09/2010 bullet 2, 08/02/2010, 07/31/2010, 07/24/2010, and 06/24/2010, or search for the words regulation, gene expression, or epigenetic in the Search Bar.


1.  Zhang, Saha, Shabalina and Kashina, “Differential Arginylation of Actin Isoforms Is Regulated by Coding Sequence–Dependent Degradation,” Science, 17 September 2010: Vol. 329. no. 5998, pp. 1534-1537, DOI: 10.1126/science.1191701.
2.  Ivana Weygand-Durasevic and Michael Ibba, “Cell Biology: New Roles for Codon Usage,” Science, 17 September 2010: Vol. 329. no. 5998, pp. 1473-1474, DOI: 10.1126/science.1195567.
The mismatch of 64 codons to 20 amino acids has struck some geneticists as wasteful.  “Degenerate” is the term used to describe mismatched codes that do not show a one-to-one correspondence.  The finding described above may change that view.  Perhaps all those synonyms have functional purposes after all.  If so, it suggests that synonymous mutations might be more destructive than thought, even though the same amino acid sequence is produced in translation, and even though there may be some tolerance to synonymous mutations (i.e., they might not result in the death of the organism).  Design theorists might find some functional role for adaptation at the micro-evolutionary level (where no new genetic information is added) where synonymous mutations might be switched on by epigenetic factors from cues in the environment.  There are several ways this finding can enlighten design thinking while causing new strains for evolutionary theory.
    The authors did not comment on how this regulatory system might have evolved, other than to state that the two forms of actin are “homologous,” or presumably descended from a common ancestral form.  But that’s a circular argument for common descent, because it assumes that sequence similarity is evidence of common descent.  It could be evidence of common design.  An ancestral cell would need the two functions simultaneously: motility at the cell membrane, and network maintenance in the interior.  Arguing that one evolved from the other begs the question of how the functions arose in the first place.
    Each “reassessment” of our knowledge of the genetic code leads to more functional complexity.  That’s not evidence for evolution, but for intelligent design. 
Next headline on:  GeneticsCell BiologyAmazing Facts
China Suffers 30 Years of Misguided Malthusian Idea     09/18/2010    
Sept 18, 2010 — China has had a “one-child policy” for 30 years this week.  This policy has caused untold grief for many families desiring children, and has resulted in unexpected demographic problems – such as aging of the population, not enough brides for young men, and enormous numbers of abortions.  Two articles in Science this week explored the convoluted reasoning that resulted in history’s biggest social experiment, and asked, what are the prospects for abolishing the policy, or at least relaxing it?  After all, this regrettable “case of ideology trumping science” sprang out of “a wave of neo-Malthusianism” that captivated government officials in the days of Chairman Mao – a view of population demographics that had influenced Darwin (01/15/2009) – but has largely been discredited today (12/09/2009 bullet 3, 12/12/2008, 06/05/2007, 03/17/2003).  Unfortunately, the inertia of the policy has only added to the horrific consequences.
    Dutch reporter Mara Hvistendahl wrote a detailed historical account of China’s one-child policy in Science,1 and added a short article about some of the personalities that influenced it.2  Her main article dove right in with a list of the consequences:
Elementary schools converted into nursing homes.  Lonely only children coddled by parents and grandparents.  A generation in which men seriously outnumber women.  China’s one-child policy may have slowed population growth in the world’s most populous country.  But it has also produced a rapidly aging population, a shrinking labor force, and a skewed sex ratio at birth, perils that many demographers say could threaten China’s economy and social fabric.
    As the most spectacular demographic experiment in history, the one-child policy is unprecedented in its scope and extremity.
As with many social experiments, the policy began with seemingly good intentions.  Chinese leaders were led to believe they faced a monumental population explosion and food shortage unless the birth rate were reduced.  It began in Mao’s reign with public persuasion, trying to nudge families to marry later and have fewer children, but by the time of Mao’s successor Deng Xiaoping, it became a mandate.  “One child per family” soon led to horrors like birth police dragging weeping pregnant women to the abortion clinic:
To implement the policy, the government beefed up its birth planning infrastructure, adding thousands of workers and launching propaganda campaigns.  Enforcement was flawed from the beginning: The central government assigned stringent birth quotas to local governments but left them to shoulder a portion of the costs.  Some local officials intent on meeting targets forced pregnant women to abort and sterilized men against their will.  Others issued offending parents outrageous fines to recover program costs.
    The drive sparked a backlash, fueling discontent among peasants.  It also led to a rash of female infanticide among Chinese hoping to make their sole child a boy—a prelude to sex-selective abortions that later became widespread.

The Chinese government patched but did not abandon the policy in the face of these consequences, leading to “a clunky policy that is comparable in complexity to the U.S. tax code.”  When ultrasound machines became available later, many couples desiring sons used them to selectively abort female fetuses, leading to the skewed sex ratio that has left many Chinese men out of the marriage market.  In addition, the pension population has risen as the labor force has dwindled.
    It makes no sense.  While it succeeded in drastically curtailing the birth rate, it’s bad science and it’s terrible social policy.  How on earth did the Chinese government get led down this path?
    Hvistendahl indicted Malthus in the justification for the one-child policy, but it wasn’t just Chairman Mao that was mesmerized by Malthus in the 1970s – it was the western world, too:
He [Mao] wasn’t alone in worrying about population growth.  In Western countries, too, public health breakthroughs and falling mortality rates had led to a fear of overpopulation, sparking a wave of neo-Malthusianism that culminated in the controversial 1972 report The Limits to Growth by the Club of Rome, an international group of scientists.  Doomsday projections found their way to China.  “Developed countries spread Club of Rome thinking to the developing world,” says Liang Zhongtang, an economist at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences who participated in deliberations over the one-child policy.
    In China, neo-Malthusianism resonated with a government intent on boosting economic growth.  The aim was to manipulate population dynamics under the planned economy.
Problem: Mao had already decimated the population through his ideologically-caused famines during the Cultural Revolution.  Solution: he could blame the famine on overpopulation.  “Poor central planning had helped cause food shortages,” she euphemized, “but now attention focused on population as the culprit, and Chairman Mao Zedong, who had once encouraged large families, shifted course.”  By deflecting criticisms of the famine to a new culprit (too many mouths to feed), he simultaneously found a new way to manipulate the populace under his Marxist “planned economy”. 
    In her second, shorter article,2 Hvistendahl told the story of how Song Jian, a protégé of American defector Qian Xuesen (see 12/10/2009) who had become Mao’s trusted science advisor, was entranced by a Dutch game theorist.  At a meeting in the Netherlands, “over beers at a pub,” Geert Jan Olsder used questionable statistics based on game theory to convince Jian that China needed to drastically cut its birth rate to avoid catastrophe.  Jian, a military scientist who wasn’t even a demographer, took Olsder’s equations back to China enthusiastically.  He came up with calculations that “dazzled policymakers, making the policy appear to be good science.”  It wasn’t.  Jian Song made ““wild projections of a population explosion” based on “unreliable data”; nevertheless, his appearance of scientific credibility “wowed Chinese leaders” and propelled them toward measures to “avert catastrophe”.  As a result, the “policymakers responded with an extreme plan” to combat the mythical threat: restrict all couples to one child per family, and maintain it for 20 to 40 years.  That was 30 years ago – September 25, 1980.
    Now that we know this, why not just abolish the policy?  After all, it was never intended to last forever, and the unforeseen consequences are now obvious in hindsight.  Unfortunately, Hvistendahl explains with frustrating candor, the inertia is too great.  Reformers are attempting to raise awareness and argue that it’s time to abolish the policy, or at least relax it in certain areas, but are finding that the policy has become sacrosanct to many bureaucrats.  “As of 2005, the family-planning bureaucracy had swollen to 509,000 employees, along with 6 million workers who help with implementation,” she stated.  “Those stakeholders are ‘risk-averse,’ says Wang [Feng, a UC Irvine demographer].  ‘They pay no cost for doing nothing.”  The Chinese culture also tends to value stability and continuity.  The reform advocates sound like heretics.
    Another consequence of a whole generation raised on the one-child experience has surprised advocates of reform.  They are finding that people have become emotionally consigned to the idea of having only one child.  It’s all they have ever known.  All their friends have only one child.  In a test city that relaxed the policy, researchers found that many women did not intend to have a second child, even when it was permitted.  So in spite of negative demographic consequences facing China’s elderly, bachelors, work force, and the sustainability of its population – all based on flawed math and science and ideology – a majority of the couples in a province who were given, once again, the opportunity to have families with siblings, responded, with no disagreement from the bloated bureaucracy, “one child is best.”
1.  Mara Hvistendahl, “Demography: Has China Outgrown The One-Child Policy?” Science, 17 September 2010: Vol. 329. no. 5998, pp. 1458 - 1461, DOI: 10.1126/science.329.5998.1458.
2.  Mara Hvistendahl, “Of Population Projections and Projectiles,” Science, 17 September 2010: Vol. 329. no. 5998, p. 1460, DOI: 10.1126/science.329.5998.1460.
Chairman Mao was one of the most evil men the world has ever seen.  The influence his beliefs and actions had on hundreds of millions of people yearning to breathe free is beyond appalling.  And this story is not the worst of the nightmares traceable to that evil, evil dictator.  When his policies led to a famine that killed tens of millions of Chinese (because he trusted the science charlatan Lysenko), he didn’t accept responsibility for any of it.  Hvistendahl says, “attention focused on population as the culprit, and Chairman Mao Zedong, who had once encouraged large families, shifted course.”  The people would now suffer for his mistake with the “most spectacular demographic experiment in history,” the one-child policy adopted by his successor.  Mao died in luxury, accompanied with wine, women and song, as his victims starved and rotted in hard labor camps.  He never took any responsibility for murdering 77 million of his own people (11/30/2005), but paraded his big-brother visage throughout the country, forcing his subjects to adore him like a god.
    He was no god; he was a devil.  Mao justified his political horrors with “scientific” ideology.  He venerated Lenin, Stalin, and Darwin, building a political apparatus – and guiding the most populous nation on the planet – around their views.  Darwin, in turn, was strongly influenced by the know-nothing Thomas Malthus, a preacher of sorts dabbling in a subject he did not understand.  It resulted in Darwin’s vision of a secular world uncared for by God, a world of natural selection, a cruel world of struggle and hunger and death, pitiless in its indifference to the suffering of the individual.  Too bad Malthus was not good at math and economics.  Who told him population grows exponentially but food supply grows linearly?  Nobody.  Malthus made it up!  Who told Olsder that game theory proved China would have a population catastrophe?  Nobody.  He made it up!  These big liars and their willing dupes have the blood of millions on their hands.
    This story is a lesson not just to China watchers but to the whole world.  The consequences of flawed ideas can be far-reaching, emotionally wrenching, and cruel.  They can be matters (literally) of life and death.  The true stories that could be told by Chinese couples deprived of their natural rights to life, liberty and family are too horrible to contemplate.  Can you hear their cries?  Can you see their tears?  The conclusion piles insanity on cruelty: political inertia, propaganda and indoctrination have made this horrendous demographic experiment very difficult to stop.
    If China’s people had been given the liberty to enjoy their natural rights endowed by their Creator, it’s likely there never would have been the feared population bomb.  (It didn’t happen in Europe and America, despite the Club of Rome and Paul Ehrlich.)  People with freedom to explore their potential, especially those taught to value work and improve their lives and society, become wealthier (wealth generation, remember, is not a zero-sum game; the scientific findings of Faraday and Morse, for instance, created millions of new jobs).  Free people develop technology and science and better medicine.  Free people don’t have to depend on lots of children for their future, hoping that a few infants might survive the perils of childhood diseases to assist them in old age.  If anything, in Europe and America, the problem is that birth rates are too low.  It’s the repressed poor in third world dictatorships that tend to have high birth rates.
    Yesterday was Constitution Day in America (see US Constitution Initiative website and the National Archives Charters of Freedom).  If China, desiring to modernize in the 1970s, had followed the example of the American Constitution, with its foundation of individual liberties granted by God, its people could have avoided so much heartbreak and terror.  Unless we learn the hard lessons of this story, we are doomed to see even worse horrors from any big government bent on an agenda trusting the bad ideas of Darwin and Malthus.  Never assume that past dictatorships have exhausted the horrors in the Darwin Pandora’s box.  A new documentary, What Hath Darwin Wrought, has just come out.  Watch the trailer, and spread the message, before a world government picks up where China left off.
Next headline on:  Human BodyDarwin and Evolutionary TheoryPolitics and EthicsPhilosophy of Science
Lunar Complexity Challenges Simple Theories     09/17/2010    
Sept 17, 2010 — Tomorrow is “International Observe the Moon Night” according to Space.com, stimulating laypeople and astronomy neophytes to get outdoors to look at the moon with telescopes, binoculars, and the naked eye while the last-quarter moon is in convenient position for evening viewing.  Humans have contemplated the moon for millennia on such evenings and imagined all sorts of tales for explaining its appearance.  Now that the Space Age has given us samples and detailed measurements, do scientists know what they are looking at?  Yes and no.  The current spacecraft, NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), now past its first year of operation, has shown our moon to be a more complex body than previously thought.
    Popular science articles and TV shows speak of the history of our moon as a foregone conclusion: formation from an impact with earth 4.5 billion years ago, a Late Heavy Bombardment 3.9 billion years ago from large impactors from the asteroid belt, formation of the maria (seas) of lava, smaller craters from near-Earth impactors, and ongoing space weathering and regolith formation as the moon cooled down into the body we see today.  The realities defy such simple tales.  Some observations seem to support the story, but as is common in scientific discovery, new observations throw curveballs at simplistic theories.  This is evident from three new LRO papers published in today’s issue of Science.1,2,3  “For the first time we’re actually detecting how complex the lunar surface is,” one of the lead authors, Benjamin Greenhagen of JPL, remarked.  “It’s a bit of a paradigm shift.
    Popular science sites were awash in headlines like “NASA’s LRO Exposes Moon's Complex, Turbulent Youth” (Jet Propulsion Lab), “New Type of Moon Volcano Discovered” (National Geographic), and “Moon's Face Reveals Extreme Cosmic Abuse” (Live Science).  While Science Daily published an optimistic headline “Moon's Craters Give New Clues to Early Solar System Bombardment,” New Scientist focused on controversy with, “Crater map rekindles debate over moon impacts.”  Everyone agreed that the LRO findings make explanations for the moon’s origin more complex.
    Head et al led the trio of papers with an analysis of 5,184 large craters (> 20km diameter) as measured by LRO’s Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA).1  This instrument has provided the best bias-free data on crater topography, allowing unprecedented mapping of large craters with less sampling error.  They produced size-frequency distribution plots for craters from all over the moon.  Given a host of assumptions about secondary cratering, crater obliteration by impactors, and prehistoric volcanism, their crater-count data seemed to support the idea of two distinguishable populations of impactors – in favor of the Late Heavy Bombardment (LHB) hypothesis of large impactors 3.9 billion years ago, and smaller impactors in later eras.  The LHB idea began when samples from the Apollo missions gave similar radiometric ages.  Planetary scientists envisioned some kind of disruption of Jupiter and Saturn that sent main-belt asteroids careening toward the earth and moon at that time with a different population of near-earth objects forming craters later (see Wikipedia description).  The LHB has even been extended to account for crater densities on the Earth, Mars and other parts of the solar system.
    The hypothesis, however, is admittedly controversial, the authors agreed: “Controversy has long existed concerning the nature of the impactor population bombarding inner planetary body surfaces throughout solar system history.”  Some allege the Apollo samples gave similar dates because they were all related to Mare Imbrium.  New Scientist quoted a German researcher countering that the “distribution of crater sizes may instead be due to local surface processes that can cover up craters, such as lava flows and ejected debris from impacts.”  Craters can cover up data in complicated ways, he alleged, “making it impossible to equate the size distribution of craters with the size distribution of impactors.”  He told New Scientist, “Don’t take [the crater counts] at face value.  You have to apply corrections.”  But which corrections are the correct ones?  Each correction rests on assumptions.
    The second and third papers, by Greenhagen et al2 and Glotch et al,3 announced the rather surprising detection of volcanic silicate minerals on the moon (see National Geographic and JPL articles).  They used LRO’s infrared “Diviner” instrument to indirectly detect the composition of lunar rocks at numerous representative swaths from orbit.  Most of the moon’s surface has been known to contain basalt and anorthosite, simpler products of standard volcanic magma eruptions.  To get “highly silicic compositions on the moon,” though suggested in earlier observations, was unexpected,3 because the circumstances for obtaining these “evolved lithologies” are more complex.  Perhaps the silicates didn’t mix well with liquid magmas and became concentrated, or perhaps underlying basaltic magma melted the silicates and pushed them up onto the surface.  Either way, the scientists found intrusive and extrusive silicates at scattered locations on both sides of the moon, complicating any explanations for their formation.  One of the sites is the crater Aristarchus, known for many observations of transient lunar phenomena.  It also suggests, according to Glotch et al, that “magmatic processes capable of producing highly evolved compositions occurred over an extended period of time” – perhaps 500 million years, about 1/9 of alleged lunar history.  No evidence of fresh mantle material, though was detected, even though the Orientale Basin impactor should have penetrated the mantle.
    These findings from LRO should keep the theorists busy for awhile.  They may not be able to invoke eccentric orbits in the moon’s history, though (sometimes theorists invoke heat from circularization of a highly eccentric orbit to explain internal heating, surface and internal tides, and geological effects at the surface).  A paper in press at Icarus4 by Matija Cuk of Harvard, however, criticizes earlier attempts to infer a highly eccentric orbit for the early moon based on its shape.  After calculating numerous factors (despin rates, effects of impacts on spin, resonances and such), and analyzing arguments for the eccentric orbit hypothesis, Cuk concluded, “there is currently no compelling evidence for a significantly higher past lunar eccentricity.”  If the moon entered existence in a relatively circular orbit (its eccentricity today is e=0.055), that makes the already-improbable impact hypothesis for its origin require even more special conditions.
    More discoveries continue to show our nearest celestial neighbor to be full of surprises.  New Scientist showed a photo of natural bridges on the moon that, we are quickly told, “probably formed as a result of an impact in the last billion years” but have survived without collapsing all that time, even though they are not sure they would support the weight of an astronaut.  And last month, an article on PhysOrg showed a new map of the Schrodinger Basin taken by LRO, revealing a complex patchwork of very old and very young features, including recent volcanic activity, all mixed up in one crater alleged to be 3.8 billion years old.
    These reports provide plenty to ponder on International Observe the Moon Night.
1.  Head, Fassett et al, “Global Distribution of Large Lunar Craters: Implications for Resurfacing and Impactor Populations,” Science, 17 September 2010: Vol. 329. no. 5998, pp. 1504-1507, DOI: 10.1126/science.1195050.
2.  Greenhagen, Lucey et al, “Global Silicate Mineralogy of the Moon from the Diviner Lunar Radiometer,” Science, 17 September 2010: Vol. 329. no. 5998, pp. 1507-1509, DOI: 10.1126/science.1192196.
3.  Glotch, Lucey et al, “Highly Silicic Compositions on the Moon,” Science, 17 September 2010: Vol. 329. no. 5998, pp. 1510-1513, DOI: 10.1126/science.1192148.
4.  Matija Cuk, “Lunar Shape Does Not Record a Past Eccentric Orbit,” Icarus (article in press, accepted manuscript, available online 09/15/2010), DOI:10.1016/j.icarus.2010.08.027.
Are planetary scientists coming closer to “the truth” about our moon’s origin?  The data are certainly getting better.  But infrared maps and crater size-distribution statistics do not interpret themselves.  They need to be incorporated into a paradigm (interpretive framework with its ancillary assumptions).  That paradigm has shifted again, according to Greenhagen.
    The paradigm has not shifted to revolution status, evidently.  Scientists are at the stage of admitting more anomalies in the current paradigm.  According to Thomas Kuhn, this is a routine part of normal science.  Only when the anomalies accumulate to the point of unwieldiness, or younger scientists enter the field with maverick ideas, can the paradigm get replaced by a new paradigm in a “scientific revolution.”
    The current paradigm includes a time framework and numerous unproveable assumptions.  Entrenched assumptions currently include the Age of the Solar System (A.S.S.) of 4.5 billion years (the Law of the Misdeeds and the Perversions that cannot be altered), the reliability of radiometric dating along with its copious assumptions about initial conditions, the hypothesis the moon formed when a Mars-size body impacted the Earth, the Late Heavy Bombardment, the reliability of crater count dating, and more.  Interpretations made about the moon (our nearest neighbor) are often extrapolated to other bodies in the solar system.
    The moon, though, is a very complex body.  There are big differences between the maria and the cratered highlands, some of which approach crater saturation (which implies that any history before saturation has been erased).  There are old-looking things and young-looking things side by side.  There are differences in surface composition, texture, regolith depth, and elevation.  There is evidence of ongoing activity today (08/23/2010), including young-looking lava flows (11/12/2008), recent cratering (05/21/2008), and transient lunar phenomena (07/12/2007) witnessed for decades by amateurs.  Why isn’t the moon stone cold dead after 4.5 billion years (01/25/2009)?  How could gas and lava get to the surface now (11/09/2006)?  Why is the far side of the moon so different from the near side?  Why does the terrain differ so much from place to place? 
    To handle the anomalies, a host of special conditions and one-time events need to be invoked (02/19/2007).  The Late Heavy Bombardment (LHB) itself is an ad hoc proposition, specifying unique conditions that presumably sent main-belt asteroids toward the earth once but never again (a Jupiter-Saturn tango?  Uranus and Neptune passing by on their way out?  a unique swarm of comets?).  One must not be fooled into thinking that giving a speculative idea a name like LHB somehow confers plausibility on it.  The impact hypothesis for the moon’s origin is even more highly contrived, requiring just-right conditions for the impactor’s size, speed, composition and angle of attack (01/26/2007, 11/04/2002).  Divination must be used (not with LRO’s Diviner infrared instrument, but the occult kind) to envision histories forever buried beneath craters and the consequences of unobserved secondary and tertiary craters.  Head et al assumed certain patterns from secondary craters, but how do they know that large secondaries were not launched into orbit, to land with a bang centuries or millennia later?  Tweaking assumptions can have drastic effects on conclusions.
    Bro, can youse paradigm?  Scientists are often oblivious to the assumptions they spend on paradigms.  Within the guild, everything seems intuitively obvious.  Anomalies are mere puzzles that will be solved within the consensus, they glibly presume (03/31/2005).  What is needed is thinking outside the box, if for no other reason that to study the soundness of the box.  Why, for instance, must scientists take a bottom-up strategy for origins?  Is it somehow more blessed to explain everything up from particles to people, from hydrogen to high-tech, than from top-down design?
    Top-down thinking certainly has the Second Law of Thermodynamics in its favor.  For an example of outside-the-box, top-down thinking about the moon, you might want to examine the new updated edition of Our Created Moon by Whitcomb and DeYoung, available on Amazon.com.  It explores the design purposes of the moon as well as analyzing flaws in secular origin theories.  Other top-down analyses of the moon include Tas Walker’s analysis of fault scarps (9/2/2010 at CMI), an analysis of transient lunar phenomena by Dr. Don DeYoung in Journal of Creation April 2003 (free access to PDF file), videos on “Our Created Moon” by Dr. DeYoung viewable on Answers in Genesis, and an article by DeYoung on ICR comparing bottom-up and and top-down views on the origin of the moon.
    Regardless of world view, everyone should take a look at our amazing moon this weekend for “International Observe the Moon Night” (see Space.com).  Think about not only its beauty and rarity (05/04/2006), but also another powerful reality: without that moon, we could not exist (07/13/2008, 12/24/2008).
Next headline on:  Solar SystemGeologyDating Methods
  On the 3rd anniversary of Creation-Evolution Headlines, we reported about the mystery of introns in genes (see 09/03/2003 and 09/12/2003).  Researchers have since learned much more about this so-called “genetic junk” and found that introns are key to alternative splicing, producing many more proteins than would be possible without them (12/15/2009, 02/02/2010, 05/06/2010).  This is consistent with predictions of design, not evolution.

Many Stars Are Planet Destroyers     09/16/2010    
Sept 16, 2010 — A NASA study is being called “Bad news for planet hunters.”  A survey of stars in globular clusters has not turned up the number of planets expected.  Astronomers conclude that stars in these presumably ancient clusters have long since devoured their planets or sent them careening out into oblivion.
    The leading popular science outlets, including Science Daily, PhysOrg and Live Science covered the story that was published in Astrophysical Journal.  Since at this time it is simpler to look for “hot Jupiters” (large planets close to the star), and none were found in the large globular cluster 47 Tucanae, the research team concluded that they have been destroyed.  They believe that violent tidal forces caused early planets to spiral into the stars or be flung out of orbit.  It also seems apparent that planet-building material has been depleted around these stars.  “Globular clusters turn out to be rough neighborhoods for planets,” said Brian Jackson [NASA-Goddard], “because there are lots of stars around to beat up on them and not much for them to eat.”
    Speaking of eating, Space.com added the thought that when alien worlds collide, the chances for finding life in extrasolar systems dwindle.  Based on Spitzer Space Telescope data, researchers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics publishing in Astrophysical Journal Letters believe that the large amounts of dust around tight double-star systems they observed are also evidence for destroyed planets – planets that collided with each other.  Dust should be long gone in these stars’ life cycles, they surmised.  That dust is still present implies that planetary collisions “must be kicking up fresh dust.”  The four dusty binaries Spitzer has found so far implies also that “the observations are not a fluke: something chaotic is very likely going on.”  Consequently, double stars “may not be the best places to look for extraterrestrial life,” the article said. The study leader called their results “real-life science fiction” if there is such an oxymoronic category.

Results like these are statistical and preliminary, so no firm conclusions should be drawn.  SETI hopefuls can argue that there are quintillions of other stars out there.  Still, both types of systems (globular cluster members and tight binaries) are assumed to be ancient.  There’s no reason that these stars should lack planets, if planets are a natural consequence of stellar evolution.  If so, the lack of planets around them suggests that planets have limited lifetimes.  It could be argued that binaries and globulars have more destructive tidal forces than single stars like our sun, meaning that the multitude of single stars may still have long-lived habitable zones.  Perhaps.  The most interesting aspect of the reports may be that survey results were not what the scientists predicted.
Next headline on:  Stars and AstronomySolar SystemPhysicsSETI
No Consensus on Scientific Consensus     09/15/2010    
Sept 15, 2010 — How much do you trust scientific experts?  Most of the scientific experts expect us to trust them.  They are appalled when lay people express doubts about matters the consensus of experts take for granted.  Yet others tell us we should doubt.  There seems to be no consensus about whether to trust the scientific consensus.
    Science Daily reproduced a study from the University of Michigan that concluded, “Women More Likely Than Men to Accept Scientific Consensus on Global Warming.”  That begs the question of which gender should accept the scientific consensus.  It was partially answered in a quote, “women underestimate their scientific knowledge” – i.e., the women who accept the consensus must be the more scientifically reasonable ones.
   PhysOrg reproduced a study by Yale University law professor Dan Kahan and friends who tried to figure out “Why ‘scientific consensus’ fails to persuade.”  The hidden subtext is that the consensus should persuade, because it’s scientific, but that people, who are unscientific (i.e., dumb) tend to only agree with the consensus when it matches their own biases.  People are “threatened” by scientific findings that contradict their beliefs, the article intimated, so they must be shmoozed into the accepting the findings by means of non-threatening ways of framing the information.  One colleague explained, “To make sure people form unbiased perceptions of what scientists are discovering, it is necessary to use communication strategies that reduce the likelihood that citizens of diverse values will find scientific findings threatening to their cultural commitments,” which presumably include religious beliefs.
    One of the skeptics about consensus (more or less) is Anthony Gottlieb.  Writing for Intelligent Life magazine, he reviewed two books: Science: A Four Thousand Year History by Patricia Fara (2009) and Wrong: Why Experts Keep Failing Us—And How to Know When Not to Trust Them by David Freedman.  On the one hand, Gottlieb provided plenty of entertaining examples of the scientific consensus being flat wrong, and recognized that most of today’s consensus beliefs are likely to be flat wrong in 100 years.  But on the other hand, he pigeonholed crackpots into strange bedfellows: “the deniers of evolution, or the devotees of homeopathic medicine, or people who believe that childhood vaccinations cause autism” whom he lumped together as “demonstrably mistaken as anyone can be....”  Is it because the scientific consensus feels that way that he said this, or has he performed his own controlled experiments?  However he decided to lump these groups together, it could be called a form of the association fallacy.
    Scientists and science journalists who buck the consensus are sometimes called mavericks.  They are legitimate scientists or journalists, but they sometimes have to exercise personal and moral courage to hold their ground against the majority.  A recent example was told in Columbia Journalism Review.  Pallava Bagla was an Indian journalist who broke the news that the IPCC had provided false information about the rate of glacial melt in India in their famous report.  At the time, this was a career-limiting move for Bagla, who faced trepidation and the threat of ostracism for revealing the error at a very politically inopportune time (right before the Copenhagen Summit) – and he did initially get ridiculed by the head of the IPCC.  Later, that same head apologized, and Bagla ended up getting a journalism award for his daring.
    The idea of consensus loomed large in Robert Crowther’s recent entry on Evolution News and Views, “Academic Elites Don’t Appreciate Uppity Scientists Who Buck the Consensus.”  Discussing the risk that independent thinkers take when challenging orthodoxy, Crowther said, “The average scientist can find lots of fruitful areas of research that won’t get her in hot water with the pointy-headed elites who’s [sic] all-seeing academic eyes keep a watch out for anything that is out of line with the current orthodoxy.”  At least that’s how some of Gottlieb’s “deniers of evolution” feel about it.
We’ve harped on consensus many times, so no long reruns here, but science is supposed to be about truth based on evidence, not majority rule.  There are times when a consensus, with its presumed authority of the collective, can actually hold back scientific progress (e.g., 04/30/2009).  This is especially true for areas of science that are inference-based and non-repeatable.  Recall novelist Michael Crichton’s blistering attack in 2003 to a Caltech audience on the notion of consensus (12/27/2003); the whole address is available in PDF form from Stephen Schneider’s Stanford website.
    The philosophy of science of the pro-consensus reporters is appallingly shallow.  They picture scientists as ruling elites, the Knowers of the Culture, and lay people as ignorant scum.  There’s plenty of scum to go around.  It’s not only lay people who have cultural biases.  Those biases are nearly impregnable in certain “scientific” circles and situations.  Science becomes corrupt when it demands allegiance on the basis of sheer numbers or authority.  Remember that one of the great physicists of the 20th century, Richard Feynman, joked that “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.”
    For a good introduction to philosophy of science that reveals the difficulty of establishing infallible trust in the scientific community, we recommend again Dr. Jeffrey Kasser’s lecture series (see 04/18/2009 Resource of the Week) and Dr. Stephen Goldman’s lecture series, Science Wars (12/19/2009 Resource).  Even if you have no reason to doubt the consensus, at least be knowledgeable of the philosophical issues involved.  Without a doubt, many scientists are honest and above reproach, particularly in the less politically-charged areas of research.  Many scientists are sincerely looking for the truth.  So are many in the public.  You could be, too.  Orient yourself to truth, not consensus.
    Related reading:   See also the 11/25/2008 entry for examples of how wacky some scientific ideas can become, the 11/15/2010 entry on the inertia of specious theories, the 03/17/2006 on ways scientific journals can perpetuate false ideas, and the 04/02/2010 commentary for a list of 30 factors that can distort consensus science into groupthink.  Other commentaries on philosophy of science can be found at 05/13/2010, 04/30/2009, 10/29/2008, 06/28/2008 on “Yellow Science”, 08/13/2007, 03/19/2007.  More can be found using the search phrase, "philosophy of science".  Lest you think it doesn’t matter, keep in mind this maxim from Greg Bahnsen: “Everyone does philosophy, but not everyone does it well.”  Know what you believe – and why you believe it.
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Did a Global Flood Move Rocks Across Continents?  No, uh...     09/14/2010    
Paper View Sept 14, 2010 — Geologists were baffled.  Something moved rocks up to 3,000 miles across whole continents.  They found evidence in Asia and also in America.  How on earth could that happen?  Their list of explanations omitted one possibility: the transporting power of water.  Maybe it’s because it would have implied a global flood like the world had never seen.
    An international team publishing in the GSA Bulletin wrote about “Extraordinary transport and mixing of sediment across Himalayan central Gondwana during the Cambrian–Ordovician.”1  They found similar detrital zircon samples across a wide swath of the Himalayan foothills, covering “great distances” of at least 3000 km and perhaps as much as 5000 km.  They used assumptions to rule out time as a factor, suggesting that this “extraordinary” transport of material occurred at one time.  What does it imply?  “In any case, by examining samples within a small window of well-constrained depositional ages from across the length of the Himalayan range, our data not only indicate extraordinary transport distances, but a high degree of sediment mixing and homogenization.”  They emphasized it again: “In this regard, both transport distances and sediment mixing within early Gondwana are extraordinary for the geologic record.”  It likely applies to “much, if not the whole of Gondwana” (the hypothetical supercontinent that broke up into today’s continents).
    The Himalayas are not the only location.  They referred to evidence published earlier that assigns the origin of many of the Grand Canyon sediments to the Appalachian mountains thousands of kilometers to the east (09/15/2003).  Again, extraordinary long-distance transport mechanisms must have been in operation.  What could possibly do it?  Their short list of possible mechanisms omits one that creation geologists would probably be saying is intuitively obvious: a global flood.
The causes of such a pattern might be unique to time and place, and may include a combination of (1) lack of continental vegetation, (2) clustering of continents near the equator, (3) increased continental weathering rates, (4) widespread uplift and erosion associated with regionally extensive and relatively synchronous orogenesis [mountain-building] recording supercontinental amalgamation, and (5) production of significant relief, providing stream power for large-scale river systems.
A closer look reveals that none of those mechanisms contradicts a global flood; in fact, they would each appear to be consequences of one.  What else would produce any one or a combination of those causes?
1.  Myrow, Hughes et al, “Extraordinary transport and mixing of sediment across Himalayan central Gondwana during the Cambrian–Ordovician,” Geological Society of America Bulletin Sept. 2010, v. 122 no. 9-10 p. 1660-1670, doi: 10.1130/B30123.1.
Composite explanations are generally avoided in science because of Ockham’s Razor: “plurality should not be posited without necessity.”  If a scientist explains the yard being wet by saying, “It might have rained, or the sprinklers might have come on, or a water-spraying truck drove by,” the power of the explanation is decreased.  Here, the scientists admitted that something extraordinary – something possibly unique in the geologic record – occurred to move sediments so far at one time.  (Notice, incidentally, this amounts to a rejection of uniformitarianism.)  Nothing like that is seen happening today.  Special pleading is also to be avoided when explaining things scientifically, but isn’t that what they just did?  They did not explain with reference to natural law and observable, repeatable processes.  They said, essentially, that an extraordinary one-time effect might have been caused by five things or any combination of them.  On the surface of it, the explanation sounds weak.
    A scientific explanation is strengthened when a single cause explains multiple effects.  Suppose your yard is wet, some objects are knocked over and a swath of wetness covers several homes in a line.  Which explanation is better?  (A) House #1 turned the sprinklers on, house #2 had a watering truck drive by, house #3 got rained on and house #4 had an above-ground pool that leaked, and the houses just happened to be in a line.  (B) There was a brush fire nearby and a water-dropping plane doused the area.
    A global flood would produce all 5 effects that the geologists listed as causes: (1) a lack of continental vegetation, because it had been stripped away at the onset of the flood; (2) clustering of continents near the equator, because creationists generally agree the continents split apart as the fountains of the great deep opened; (3) weathering rates increased dramatically (well, duh); (4) widespread uplift and erosion associated with regionally extensive and synchronous mountain building occurred (because the mountain ranges formed as a consequence of the dividing continents, and erosion was intense); and (5) production of significant relief, providing stream power for large-scale river systems, because the new mountains caused dramatic runoff as the waters receded, transporting soft sediments over vast distances.  One more for good measure: a global flood would explain the “high degree of sediment mixing and homogenization” of sediments they observed.
    Notice that the secular geology explanation cannot account for increased weathering rates, widespread erosion, homogenization, synchronous mountain building and large-scale river systems (cf. 04/30/2009, “Are Secular Geologists Ready to Consider a Global Flood?”).  In the current example, the composite, special-pleading scenario in the paper leaves much to be desired as a scientific explanation.  Biblical creationists can point to a single cause that explains all the effects.  They have eyewitness testimony, too: Yes, uh... Noah.
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  On our 2nd anniversary eight years ago, we also reported about archer fish (see next story).  The 09/30/2002 entry described how “archer fish are better than baseball players at calculating where their prey will land.”

Archer Fish See Like People     09/13/2010    
Sept 13, 2010 — An archer fish can spit out a man’s cigarette.  That’s actually a humorous scene at the end of a video clip on The Scientist that talks about the amazing eyes of this underwater sharpshooter.  New research shows that these freshwater fish, known for their ability to spit bugs off bushes, have a mammal-like ability to pick out their targets against various backgrounds.
    A paper in PNAS describes the experiments that proved archer fish possess “orientation saliency,” a “fundamental building block of vision” that allows the brain to discern a target from its background.1  The Scientist said,

Up till now, researchers believed that the ability to see objects positioned out of line with their backgrounds, known as orientation saliency, was only found in mammals, which have specialized neurons in their brain that allow the animal to perceive these off-kilter objects.  But recent anecdotal evidence suggested that archer fish are also capable of picking out askew objects, such as insect prey, from complex visual backgrounds.
The first video clip in the article shows some of the experimental setup scientists at Ben Gurion University used to test the orientation saliency of the fish.  The second video clip explains other physiological abilities that allow these fish to compensate for refraction and gravity as they shoot out bugs (or cigarettes) up to two meters above the water.
    Both The Scientist and PNAS were baffled by how such a complex trait could have evolved.  Why?  The authors of the paper explain, “Given the enormous evolutionary distance between humans and archer fish, our findings suggest that orientation-based saliency constitutes a fundamental building block for efficient visual information processing.”  But if so, they did not demonstrate that all fish have this ability, to say nothing of the all animals in the evolutionary branch leading to mammals.  The Scientist quoted a German researcher (not involved in the study) with a different evolutionary suggestion: “Obviously evolution manages to bring out phenomena when they are useful for a species.”
    The authors, however, noted that fish do not have a visual cortex where orientation saliency is located.  “If fish, who don't have a visual cortex, can exhibit the same behavior, then researchers need to reestablish their understanding of how these processes work,” the article ended.  But in the paper, the German suggestion appeared again: “These observations demonstrate how evolutionary pressures for efficient visual processing bring distant evolutionary paths to express similar functional solutions,” the authors said.  Somehow, some way, the call for survival introduced “an evolutionary pressure toward orientation-based visual saliency processing.”
    At the end of their paper, the authors hedged their bets.  They tried to argue that either way, whether the trait evolved by homology (common descent) or analogy (convergent evolution), Darwin can’t lose:
Another intriguing question raised by our findings is the implications of the evolutionary relationship between orientation saliency in the two species investigated.  If orientation saliency mechanisms in archer fish and humans are homologous (i.e., derived from common ancestry), then the fact that this functionality has been preserved for so long implies that these mechanisms are of high functional importance and that no better alternatives have been found during the course of evolution.  This further suggests orientation saliency as a fundamental building block for visual representations and efficient visual processing.  Similarly, if orientation saliency mechanisms in archer fish are analogous to those of humans (i.e., reflect independently convergent evolutionary processes), it would strongly support the notion that orientation saliency has computational optimality in a wide variety of contexts.  Hence, both evolutionary alternatives suggest that orientation-based saliency constitutes a universal building block for efficient visual information processing.

1.  Alik Mokeichev, Ronen Segev, and Ohad Ben-Shahar, “Orientation saliency without visual cortex and target selection in archer fish,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published online before print September 13, 2010, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1005446107.
Evolution dogmatists are funny sometimes.  The most embarrassing facts fail to dislodge their beliefs.  They’re like bugs wrapping themselves with velcro around a twig, lest the facts, like the spit-cannons of an archer fish from the observable world below, knock their feet out from under them.
    Consider how silly both evolutionary explanations are.  If the trait “arose” in some common ancestor of fish and humans (perhaps some acorn worm), what ancestor was it, and why did the worm need orientation saliency?  Why doesn’t every animal from the ancestor up have it?  Without a natural law demonstrating a path from need to function, it’s an appeal to a miracle anyway.
    If, on the other hand, evolution “gave rise” to the trait independently by “convergence,” is that not an appeal to two miracles?  A miracle can be defined in the materialist world as any improbable situation that requires a leap of faith to accept the evolutionary explanation.  It’s a corollary of the Stuff Happens Law (SHL) that says, “Sometimes amazing stuff happens.”  (The SHL, in philosophy of science, represents the absence of scientific explanation.)
    The more amazing things that happen – e.g., flight six times (insects, birds, mammals, reptiles, humans with their flying machines, and flying fish, 09/11/2010), the more the miracles like human-like sight in archer fish, the more evolutionary theory is lacking in explanation, the more they reach ecstasy.  It gives the Darwiniacs even more reason to sing their praises to Evolution, that miracle worker from which, and to which, and for which, are all things.
    Now go watch the video clips on The Scientist and think like a rational human being.
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Nerve Traffic Cop Identified     09/13/2010    
Sept 13, 2010 — What makes signals go in one direction in neurons?  It’s important, because a reflex signal from a bump on your knee needs to go in the direction of the controlling muscle and on to the brain, not any which way.  Is there some kind of traffic cop that directs the placement of “one way” signs in nerve cells?  Indeed there is.  According to a press release from the University of Georgia, it’s the enzyme MEC-17.
    Researchers were not attempting to cure a disease or derive an application from finding this out; they just wanted to know how it works.  How do neurons know which direction to send the signals?  It appears that MEC-17, which they studied in roundworms, zebrafish and human cancer cells, is responsible for placing the traffic signs, called acetylation marks, on the cellular highways made of microtubules.  The paths with lots of these marks are on the sending end, and the paths with few of them are on the receiving end.  When the marks are not set properly, bad things happen: zebrafish develop neuromuscular defects, and humans are subject to debilitating neural diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s.  This discovery may lead to new treatment strategies by enhancing or inhibiting the action of MEC-17.
    By noticing that MEC-17 works identically in animals as diverse as roundworms, fish and humans, the researchers deduced that “this microtubule acetylation process using MEC-17 is an evolutionarily conserved function.”  Conserved means un-evolved.
Saying evolutionarily conserved is like saying “aimlessly straight.”  It’s a meaningless phrase we should not be duped into thinking signifies anything logical.  This discovery emphasizes once again that things do not just happen; specific parts that are functionally exquisite are necessary for function.  One question the research team appeared to overlook, though, is what controls MEC-17?  If this enzyme puts up the signs, who is the foreman?  We are certainly not consciously controlling much of this in our bodies.  Most of it happens without our knowledge.  It’s like the infinite regress question: who watches the watchers?  The hierarchy of design must eventually stop at a Designer who is omniscient and omnipotent.
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Tip Link
Exercise: get out your Baloney Detector and analyze Robert Roy Britt’s defense of the scientific consensus about evolution against the threat of creationism at Live Science.  He was upset at the award-winning Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm in Bristol, UK (see 08/06/2010) providing a list of “30 Reasons Why Man Is Not Descended from the Apes.”  Ask if it is true that, according to Britt, there is no controversy over evolution.  What makes him so agitated about one little park offering an alternative view to children in a country where evolution rules almost everywhere else?
Suggestion: compare Britt’s remarks with some of the items on their list at Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm “Evolution and Creation” page, and watch for real evidence on both sides, not bluffing, generalities and fear-mongering.

World’s Top Chemists Can’t Match a Plant     09/12/2010    
Sept 12, 2010 — There’s a race on: a race to get cheap energy from the sun.  “The design and improvement of solar cells is one of the most vibrant areas of science,” said the BBC News, “in part because sunlight is far and away the planet’s most abundant renewable energy source.”  Two recent articles show that top labs around the world have not been able to do what plants do with such seeming ease under the sun.
    The BBC News article explores one approach: harvesting real photosynthetic enzymes from plants and employing them on a scaffold of carbon nanotubes.  Michael Strano of MIT and his team have succeeded in getting the enzymes, lipids and surfactants to self-assemble on nanotubes, a promising step that may allow for solar cells that both harvest light and can repair themselves.  Oxygen, unfortunately, is very damaging to solar cells.  “There’s a kind of a horse race among scientists around the world to make the highest efficiency cell, but very few people are asking what happens with that cell when you plug it in for a few hours or for a week or for months.”  Obviously a short-lived efficient cell is no good.  Despite Strano’s advances in mimicking self-repairing structures, “the efficiency of the cells as designed is just a tiny fraction of that provided by the current best solar cells,” the article noted.  Still, plants give him hope that a solution will be found: “What our paper is good for is starting to think about device lifetime and borrowing concepts from nature.  Can we make cells that have an infinite lifetime?”
    A different approach is to imitate what photosynthetic cells do using synthetic materials.  New Scientist reported that chemist Daniel Gamelin at the University of Washington is building on a previous synthetic water-splitting discovery to find ways to mass produce tiny arrays of them, get the cost down and the efficiency up while improving device lifetime.  Meanwhile, a team led by another scientist, coincidentally named Dr. Sun, is at work in Stockholm, Sweden experimenting with different kinds of electrodes that produce more-desirable hydrogen gas instead of hydrogen ions.  Unfortunately, “the efficiency is abysmal” for these and all other electrodes tested so far, said rival John Turner in Colorado at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.  Dr. Sun would be happy to get 10% efficiency – far below the near-100% efficiency plants get from the sun. Turner has achieved 12% efficiency, but his electrodes are only stable for a few days.  (The best solar cells achieve 27% efficiency.)
    Getting efficiency, durability and low cost in one device is, so far, out of reach.  That’s why the photo in the New Scientist article of green leaves under the bright sun, with its caption “Catching up with nature’s innovation,” remains tantalizing but frustrating.  “Take sunlight, add water, and there you have it: free energy,” the article teased.  “Plants have been doing this for quite some time, splitting water’s hydrogen apart from its oxygen, but our efforts to turn water into a source of free hydrogen fuel by mimicking them have borne no fruit.

Even if their efforts do bear fruit some day, the next trick – bearing fruit, with its seed in itself, after its kind – would make electrolysis look like a fruitcake.  Stories like these are important to remind ourselves that the wonders in nature are far more marvelous than we realize.  If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, cheap imitation that falls far short of the goal only accentuates the perfection of the original, like a bunch of sports fans with vuvuzelas trying to play a Mozart symphony.
    Plants (even the measliest weeds in your yard) are light-years ahead of human science.  They split water with ease, at near 100% efficiency in ambient temperatures (09/16/2004, 02/10/2010, bullet 1, 05/09/2007), with self-repair (06/29/2010), self-defense (09/13/2006), sunscreen (08/22/2002, 06/23/2006), and automatic response to vastly different light levels and temperatures (01/24/2005, 11/28/2007, 10/13/2008, 05/13/2008).  On top of all that, they then package their technologies in tiny seeds launched into the air or soil or water (06/16/2009, 06/02/2009, 05/11/2007), where they can take root and grow into copies of themselves.  Until you can mimic that, scientists, don’t tell us plants evolved by blind, unguided processes (01/17/2010, 03/23/2009).  Even if you ever succeed (03/27/2010, bullet 2, 01/12/2010, bullet 3), you will have only illustrated the necessity of intelligent design to account for the exquisite engineering we observe in living things.
Next headline on:  PlantsPhysics or ChemistryBiomimeticsIntelligent DesignAmazing Facts
Flying Fish Tested in Wind Tunnel: Match Bird Flight     09/11/2010    
Sept 11, 2010 — Sometimes engineers investigate things biologists take for granted.  Flying fish have been observed by countless sailors and cruise passengers, and have been described by life scientists.  It took an engineer, however, to investigate these “unexpected fliers” in a wind tunnel.  Surprisingly, though many have speculated about these creatures, “detailed measurement of wing performance associated with its morphometry for identifying the characteristics of flight in flying fish has not been performed” till some engineers caught the inspiration.
    Haecheon Choi, a Korean mechanical engineer, took an interest in flying fish while reading about them to his children.  According to Science Daily, a scientific paper in the Journal of Experimental Biology resulted (see the JEB press release; the paper is available for free).1
    Choi and a colleague Hyungmin Park designed experiments using a wind tunnel to measure the gliding efficiency of flying fish.  It was difficult obtaining specimens, the article told; they couldn’t find them in Japanese fish markets, so they got a permit to fish for them in the open sea.  Out of 40 fish caught, five were dried and stuffed (they would have died anyway in the wind tunnel, you know) and outfitted with sensors to measure their aerodynamics.  Some had their pectoral and pelvic fins outstretched in gliding position, or just the front pectoral fins outstretched, while one, as a control, was measured with all its fins in swimming position.  “For the first time, we have performed a direct wind-tunnel experiment to investigate the aerodynamic properties of flying-fish flight and provided qualitative and quantitative data for the flying fish flight,” they were able to boast.
    The pair was impressed by their gliders.  “Choi and Park found that the flying fish performed remarkably well: the gliding performance of flying fish is comparable to those of bird wings such as the hawk, petrel and wood duck,” they said in the JEB paper.  The fish performed best in their natural horizontal position close to the water, avoiding the wing-tip vortices that otherwise would cause the most frictional drag.  When gliding above water, their lift-to-drag ratio actually increased, measurements of flow patterns in the wind tunnel showed.  “Park explains that the tandem arrangement of the large pectoral fin at the front and smaller pelvic fin at the back of the fish’s body accelerates the air flow towards the tail like a jet, increasing the fish’s lift-to-drag ratio further and improving its flying performance even more.”  The fish have other morphologic adaptations to improve lift, such as a torpedo-shaped body, a flattened bottom, and the ability to rapidly wag the tail fin on take-off to get airborne, a behavior called taxiing.
    Not only are their wing-fins well-adapted for gliding in the air, they are also ideal for swimming in the swept-back position.  “So flying fish are superbly adapted for life in both environments,” the article said.  The intro also contained these fast facts: “Flying fish can remain airborne for over 40s, covering distances of up to 400m at speeds of 70km/h” (that’s about a quarter mile in 30 seconds aloft, gliding at over 40 miles per hour).  The authors said, “The aerodynamic performance of flying fish is comparable to those of various bird wings, and the flying fish has some morphological characteristics in common with the aerodynamically designed modern aircrafts.
    It can reasonably be assumed that live fish perform even better in their natural habitat, with wet skin, the ability to adjust wing camber and attack angle using their muscles, and with additional taxiing movements to stay aloft.  With results in hand showing high performance in the flying fish due to good design, the researchers’ thoughts turned to biomimetics: “Having shown that flying fish are exceptional fliers, Choi and Park are keen to build an aeroplane that exploits ground effect aerodynamics inspired by flying fish technology,” the article ended, stating nothing about evolution or how this flight technology might have evolved.

1.  Hyungmin Park and Haecheon Choi, “Aerodynamic characteristics of flying fish in gliding flight,” Journal of Experimental Biology, 213, 3269-3279 (2010); published by The Company of Biologists 2010; doi: 10.1242/jeb.046052.
It is a pleasure to report good scientific work that is not dependent on Darwinian storytelling (cf. 09/10/2010).   Most of the elements of classic science are here: noticing an interesting phenomenon, observing it carefully, asking questions, searching existing literature, proposing an experiment to gather more detailed data, obtaining specimens, designing an experimental apparatus, running controlled experiments and taking measurements, evaluating the findings, publishing, and suggesting applications for the benefit of humanity.  What’s missing is Darwin worship, thank God.
    The original paper had no use for evolutionary theory.  The authors stayed out of political trouble by donating the required pinch of incense to Emperor Charlie: “the flying fish has evolved to have good aerodynamic designs (such as the hypertrophied fins and cylindrical body with a ventrally flattened surface) for proficient gliding flight,” they said, but the emphasis of even that statement was clearly on the design, not the evolution.  From then on, they left the Charlie Temple turnstile behind, and focused on the good engineering (intelligent design) of their fish.
    They did not even try to speculate on the origin of the adaptation, other than to say, “Although reasons for the flight of flying fish have been suggested (i.e. escape from underwater predators or saving of transport cost) (Rayner, 1986Go; Davenport, 1994Go), the exact reason is still not clear.  Nevertheless, their behavioral adaptation for flight is quite unique.”  Those statements would be just as comfortable in a creation paper.  They dodged the temptation to tell an evolutionary just-so story (see next entry), and focused instead on the design.  And thankfully, we were also spared a miracle story about “convergent evolution,” or the genes for flight being pushed back to some imaginary ancestor of fish and birds.  It takes discipline to avoid falling into these Darwin traps.  Engineers are comfortable with the concept of intelligent design.  The authors work for the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and the Institute of Advanced Machinery and Design at Seoul National University.
    Does design-focused research of the living world produce good science?  Here was one more great example.   Maybe some day we’ll be able to buy cars that can sprout wings and glide across a lake – thanks to flying fish and design-conscious science.
Next headline on:  Marine BiologyPhysicsIntelligent DesignBiomimeticsAmazing Facts
  Nine years ago in the aftermath of 9/11, Creation-Evolution Headlines found occasion for reporting the terror attack’s impact on science, scientists, theology and moral philosophy.  On this anniversary, revisit the hymn quotations on that day, followed by the reports of 09/13/2001, 09/14/2001, 09/14/2001, and 09/19/2001.

Evolution Storytellers Unrepentant     09/10/2010    
Sept 10, 2010 — Evolutionists have been criticized for telling “just-so stories”1 for decades and decades, even by other evolutionists (see 08/08/2010), yet the storytelling continues, as recent examples in the news media illustrate.

  1. Blame Mom:  In its “Science News” category, Science Daily trumpeted the headline, “Acting Selfish?  Blame Your Mother!”  In the article, we are told, “The fact that our female ancestors dispersed more than our male ancestors can lead to conflicts within the brain that influence our social behaviour, new research reveals.”  And what did the Oxford scientists use for evidence?  Very little: “They found that because, historically, women moved about more than men, and so are less related to their neighbours, our paternal and maternal genes are in conflict over how we should behave – with our paternal genes encouraging us to be altruistic whilst our maternal genes encourage us to be selfish.”  Before now, you may have thought that men tended to be the wanderers, or the more selfish.  Not according to this evidence-deprived tale.  The scientists did not prove a relationship between any gene and selfishness, or between any gene and any behavior, for that matter – even less that Mom’s genes are more selfish than Dad’s.
        Oxford zoologist Andy Gardner went further.  He even evolved the proverbial cartoon demon and angel on the shoulder: “This leads to conflicts over social behaviour: the genes you receive from your father are telling you to be kind to your neighbours, whereas the genes you receive from your mother, like a demon sat on your shoulder, try to make you act selfishly.”  Gardner did not consult his mother for her opinion on this story.  Maybe she would have cast her husband in the demon role.
        Science Daily printed this story without any critical analysis whatsoever, basically just regurgitating a press release from the University of Oxford that, curiously, illustrated the theory with a contrived photo of a demon and an angel on a hapless man’s shoulders, whose expression suggests he is a witless dupe of conflicting genetic voices in his brain.  Apparently, the Oxford team did not apply their theory to their own motivations for writing the story in the first place.
  2. Thank Mom:  Redeeming dear mother, New Scientist gave some hairy ape-mom of past eons appreciation for bequeathing us with large brains.  Michael Marshall wrote, “Thank mothers for large ape brains.
        For evidence, he cited a study by two London profs who compared brain size with metabolic rate for hundreds of marsupials and placental mammals (we are the placental type).  “Placental babies are connected to their mothers via the placenta for a long time,” Vera Weisbecker [U of Cambridge] explained, conveniently failing to explain why inside connections are superior to outside connections like a pouch and a nipple.  From there she launched a story: “So if she has a high metabolic rate, the baby is more likely to benefit.”  Those poor kangaroos and wallabies are left behind as big-brain wannabees.
        Marshall continued, “By contrast, marsupial babies are born while they are still very small, then spend a long time feeding off their mothers’ milk – a slower way to grow a large brain,” he said without providing a graph of lactation vs brain development.  “Placentas offer a continuous supply of rich nutrients” he said, without providing a table of comparative nutrient richness of placentals vs marsupials.
        Problem: not all nutrient-enriched placental mammals have big brains.  “However, the pair found no difference in the average brain sizes of marsupials and placental mammals – as long as they excluded primates,” Marshall admitted.  The placental-vs-marsupial distinction appears to have just dropped out of the story as irrelevant.  Solution: change the plot.  “These, it seem [sic], got their disproportionately large brains from a double maternal boost.  They are supplied with large amounts of energy by their mothers during gestation, and then receive additional months or even years of care after birth.”  Funny the kangaroos never thought of that.  Doesn’t Dad get any credit?
  3. How the animal got its personality:  Whenever an evolutionary story begins with “How... ” there is a risk of sounding like Kipling’s “How the Camel Got Its Hump.”  New Scientist published its latest entry in, “How animals evolved personalities.”  Notice that the question was switched from “Did personalities evolve?” to “how did they evolve?”
        Max Wolf at the Max Planck Institute took up the story.  For evidence, he played video games: he “created simple simulated animals with personalities that were either consistently aggressive or meek, or flipped between the two.”  Presumably he applied a little intelligent design to do this – maybe even a little moral judgment.
        As Wolf took his sim-lambs and sim-wolves and pitted the aggressives against the meeks, the latter did not inherit the sim-Earth, “until Wolf introduced a new one that could learn about the behavioural patterns of others.”  Without explaining the evolution of learning, he found that was the “Aha!” moment.  “‘Learners’ and those with a consistent personality wiped out animals whose behaviour was not consistent.”  Well, it’s all about survival of the fittest, not consistency, you know.
        But modern evolutionists are a kinder, gentler bunch.  They view cooperation as Darwin’s fairy godmother.  “These types together formed a more stable society because the learners could adjust their behaviour to that of the others, and so avoid costly conflict,” the article ended.  “The study shows that sociality could be a strong factor in the evolution of personality differences, says Sasha Dall of the University of Exeter, UK.”  A strong factor?  Are there others?
  4. How the leader got his authority:  Appropriately, Anjana Ahuja”s article on “The natural selection of leaders” in New Scientist begins, “Imagine this.”  From then on, imagination is the key to her story: “In our new book, Mark van Vugt at VU University in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and I propose that leadership and followership behaviours can be traced to the earliest days of our species,” she said, having observational access only to living populations, not those in the earliest days.  “Given that all human groupings – be they nations, gangs or cults – have leaders and followers, and that these behaviours appear spontaneous, our thesis is that leadership and followership are adaptive behaviours.”  If evolution is the only game in town, that follows naturally: they are adaptive, not subject to moral assessment.
        And what evidence does Ahuja provide to prove her proposition?  Evolution itself: “In other words, they are behaviours that evolved to give our ancestors a survival advantage (our book’s title, Selected, reflects the role natural selection plays in leadership).”  Since she and her colleague observe modern people groups often selecting leaders from the bottom up, they assume that ancient primitive humans, and even other animals, found this kind of selection “natural” or advantageous for survival.
        The plot permits some corollary sub-plots.  Since she sees many modern leaders being tall (a photo of Barack Obama stands alongside the article, with the caption, “Was he born for the job?”), she projects tallness as a survival advantage selected for in primitive human populations.  She sees modern leaders (like Obama and Putin) being fitness buffs, and projects that brawn was selected over brain by cavemen.  Strangely, she did not evaluate how Kim Jong Il ever became leader of North Korea.
        It would seem that if this is the way evolution made us, we should just go with the flow.  “That is not to say that workplaces should become havens of primitivism,” she cautioned, however.  Backpedaling a little from the implications, she found room for us thinking machines to overrule our Darwinian urges.  “Evolution might have bestowed on us an instinctive suspicion of leaders who are short, female or who belong to a different tribe (skin colour is an obvious badge of belonging), but we need to ask whether such prejudices belong in today’s interconnected world, in which citizens of all colours and religions need to rub along.”  Why would evolved machines ever wish to do such a thing?
        From there, she got preachy, implying that humans “should” contradict our evolutionary heritage: “Perhaps the most important take-home message in our book is that there is a mismatch between the way we lead and follow today, and the way our ancestors operated.”  Fortunately for us, her just-so story provides “insights into our recent past [that] may help improve things.”  To be consistent, though, it would seem that evolution improved things on its own for a long time without our needing to intervene with immaterial things like design, plan, conscious thought, ethics, and leadership training.
Science is supposed to explain things with reference to natural laws and observable, repeatable evidence, not vacuous appeals to the Stuff Happens Law (09/22/2009) and imaginary scenarios that amount to tall tales.  Only rarely do any of these articles in the popular science media criticize the ideas as just-so stories.  That’s because many of them simply reprint press releases from the universities and research centers that have a vested interest in making their scientists not look stupid.
1.  The essence of an evolutionary “just-so story” is its arbitrariness, lack of evidence, lack of critical analysis, and lack of consideration of alternative explanations.  Named for the silly “Just-So Stories” Rudyard Kipling wrote for children, just-so stories are made-up tales to explain the origin of any trait in the living world, assuming evolution produced it.  As such, they are a form of circular reasoning: “Evolution produced this trait, which illustrates how evolution produces traits.”
Who could forget Richard Lewontin’s memorable candor when he said, “We take the side of science” [read: Darwinism] “in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, ... in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism” (see full quote in the Baloney Detector under Subjectivity).
    The situation is analogous, maybe even homologous, with state-controlled media like Pravda, in the height of the communist dictatorship, with its prior commitment to Marxism, interpreting world events in the light of class struggles, and glorifying the progress of the regime while conveniently overlooking the failures (like millions starved because of Lysenko-driven artificial famines).  How about a bloodless coup?  “Mr. Darwin, tear down this wall!”
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Dino-Bird Link Confused by New Fossil     09/09/2010    
Sept 09, 2010 — A “bizarre” new dinosaur fossil found in Spain with a hump on its back that resembles a fin also has quill knobs on its arms, interpreted as attachment points for feathers.  For this reason, the BBC News announced that it “may” yield clues to the origin of birds.”  It has been named Concavenator corcovatus and was described in Nature.1
    The fossil, however, does not provide unequivocal evidence for a dinosaur-bird kinship; Live Science said this fossil “surprises and puzzles experts” and even National Geographic which a decade ago embarrassed itself with Archaeoraptor seemed to downplay the dino-bird link, calling it a “carnivorous camel” in its headline.  Whatever attachment points the bumps on its skimpy forearms provided (assumed to be quill knobs for feathers) were certainly not anything like flight feathers of birds.  NG called them “protofeathers” but the filaments in the artist’s reconstruction (not found on the fossil) may have been merely for display, since the discoverers could not think of any locomotive or thermoregulatory function for them.  New Scientist alleged, “This pushes back the emergence of theropods with bird-like feathers by some 50 million years.”  Live Science, however, was more cautious, stating that the idea the bumps were anchor points for feathers is “only speculation at this point....”  The authors of the paper in Nature said only that “These bumps correspond topographically to, and are morphologically similar to, feather quill knobs, and we consider them homologous to those present in many birds.”  The comparison photos, though, do not show them equidistant as on modern birds.  At the end of the paper, they speculated on how to interpret the bumps:
Recent findings have reported the presence of filamentous tubular integumentary structures in ornithischian dinosaurs such as the heterodontosaurid Tianyulong and the ceratopsian PsittacosaurusThe debate about the homology between these structures and bird feathers is open.  If ornithischian tubular filaments are a kind of feather, they are an evolutionary novelty in dinosaurs, and their presence is expected in non-maniraptoran theropods such as ConcavenatorIf they are not a type of feather, Concavenator marks the most primitive presence of non-scale skin appendages in the theropod lineage, placing them at the node Neotetanurae.  The simplest hypothesis about the ulnar Concavenator skin appendages is that they are short, rigid filaments (Fig. 2).  However, it is possible that they might have had barb ridges, because these structures appear before the formation of the follicle.  In any case, Concavenator shows that the combination of scale and non-scale skin appendages exhibited in present-day poultry was already present in large theropod dinosaurs 130 million years ago.

    Another surprise is that this member of the carcharodontosaurid (“shark-tooth”) family was found in Europe.  “Ten or 12 years ago everybody thought that carcharodontosaurids were a group that was exclusive to South America and Africa,” NG quoted a paleontologist as saying.  Now they have to surmise that the group originated in Europe then drifted or migrated across the globe. 

1.  Ortega, Escaso and Sanz, “A bizarre, humped Carcharodontosauria (Theropoda) from the Lower Cretaceous of Spain,” Nature 467, 203-206 (9 September 2010); doi:10.1038/nature09181.
For analysis of the confusion that reigns in the alleged evolutionary transition from dinosaurs to birds, see Casey Luskin’s entry, “Inconsistent Reasoning Governs Evolutionary Interpretations of Feathered Dinosaurs” in Evolution News and Views.  If the evolutionists want to interpret the bumps on Concavenator as feather attachment points, they should apply the same reasoning to Protoavis.  But they don’t want to do that, because “it would wreak havoc with standard evolutionary story” because Protoavis, in their timeline, would represent a bird living contemporaneous with the earliest dinosaurs – a conclusion that “could undermine the entire dino-to-bird evolutionary theory.”
Next headline on:  DinosaursBirdsFossils
What’s Flipping the Earth’s Magnetic Field?     09/08/2010    
Sept 08, 2010 — Why has the earth’s magnetic field changed orientation in the past?  How often does it happen?  How long does it take?  Such questions arise from a story reported by New Scientist that claims, “Second super-fast flip of Earth’s poles found.”  This implies there was a first case – and that “super-fast” reversals are strange.
    The article stated matter-of-factly, “The magnetic poles swap every 300,000 years, a process that normally takes up to 5000 years.”  But then it said that a reversal that went 10,000 times as fast was inferred from an ancient lava flow in 1995.  “Not many people believed it” at the time, but now, a second case has turned up in Nevada.  “Such fast flips are impossible, according to models of the Earth’s core, but this is now the second time that evidence has been found.”
    Another statement in the article suggests, however, that inferring such reversals is not an exact science: “It may have been a burst of rapid acceleration that punctuated the steady movement of the field,” explained Now Bogue of the US Geological Survey, invoking the image of “punctuated equilibria” usually associated with biological evolution (12/19/2008, bullet 2).  But then another scientist offered an alternative explanation – the data in Nevada were local rather than global.  Either way, it’s an anomaly that defies a predictable, lawlike behavior of the field – and neither scientist offered a physical cause for the anomalies.
William of Ockham taught that entities should not be multiplied without necessity.  Scientific explanations become dubious when ad hoc conditions must be added to otherwise lawlike behavior.  If the field reverses like clockwork, as the article claims, why would it occur 10,000 times as fast on occasion?  And wouldn’t local effects call into question the whole inference of regularly-timed global reversals built on measurements of local fields?  How, then, can New Scientist claim that we are overdue for another reversal that “would cause widespread chaos – for navigation and migratory birds”?  It appears geophysicists know less about this subject than they claim.
    As an alternative explanation, consider the theory of Dr. Russell Humphreys that invokes a single cause to explain all the effects: a catastrophic global flood.  This theory, that made predictions confirmed by Voyager 2, is explained by Jonathan Sarfati at Creation.com along with answers to skeptics’ objections.  Which theory would Ockham prefer?  (See Jan 2010 Scientist of the Month.)
Next headline on:  GeologyPhysicsDating Methods
Children Propagandized Into Evolution with Fishy Tale     09/07/2010    
Sept 07, 2010 — An award-winning children’s book was written by a man who said, “We have got to stand up for evolution.  Lots of kids don’t know about it....”  Chris Wormell, who wrote and illustrated One Smart Fish, received the Booktrust Early Years Award, according to the UK Telegraph.  The book is a story about a fish wanting to evolve into a land animal.  According to one of the judges, the winning books “invite children to laugh, share, think and wonder.”  Google News also reported on the award.
    Richard Dawkins must be delighted with the new book.  The Telegraph said, “Richard Dawkins, the atheist academic, has called on the Coalition to make evolutionary theory a compulsory part of the curriculum.”  In June, the article said, he and 3 Nobel laureates wrote the Education Secretary, saying that they were “deeply concerned that evolution and science form a core part of any revised primary curriculum.
    Trouble is, One Smart Fish presents a very poor impression of evolution.  Mr. Wormell, age 55, said, “I had the idea of this very smart fish, and then I had the evolution idea — that the one thing this fish wants to do more than anything is walk on the land.”  Any “smart” fish that has a motive and purpose to reach a goal actually illustrates intelligent design more than the blind, aimless process of natural selection.  It appears that evolutionists can overlook major flaws like this within the broader desire to introduce Darwinism to impressionable young imagineers.
Pernicious pragmatism for propaganda purposes – that’s telling Big Lies to children.  The only people who can “laugh, share, think and wonder” at One Smart Fish are mature creationists who can see through the naked propaganda ploy of this book: laugh, because the story is so insipid; share, like this CEH commentary is doing; think, something the Darwinbots are deficient at; and wonder how judges can be so stupid – unless they are willing accomplices in a conspiracy to bend young minds toward evolutionary dogma.  Darwin would blush at this convoluted mischaracterization of his theory; but the Bearded Buddha and his priests will accept the brain offerings just the same, with or without convolutions.
Next headline on:  Darwin and EvolutionEducationMediaPolitics and Ethics
  By our second anniversary in 2002, we were on a roll with reports of amazing cellular machines: like the cargo system (09/26/2002), the splicing machine (09/12/2002), the quality control system (09/09/2002), nitrogen fixing (09/06/2002) and membrane channels (09/05/2002).  And remember the geek story about the DNA code being written with “even parity” (09/12/2002)?  Many readers have enjoyed these kinds of “Amazing” stories about cellular wonders most of all.

Asteroid Piñata Found     09/05/2010    
Sept 05, 2010 — Asteroids are much more diverse than previously imagined.  The Spitzer Space Telescope (now in its “warm” mission after the liquid coolant has dissipated) is targeting about 700 asteroids in a program called ExploreNEOs (Near-Earth Objects).  NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope website reported results from the first hundred studied.  The scientists found that near-Earth asteroids...

...are a mixed bunch, with a surprisingly wide array of compositions.  Like a piñata filled with everything from chocolates to fruity candies, these asteroids come in assorted colors and compositions.  Some are dark and dull; others are shiny and bright.  The Spitzer observations of 100 known near-Earth asteroids demonstrate that the objects’ diversity is greater than previously thought.
The diversity is inferred from the asteroids’ infrared signature, the temperature disclosing something about surface size, composition, and thermal inertia (ability to hold heat).  From that data, scientists try to infer where the objects originated from, and how old they are.  One of the surprises is that numerous bright NEOs appear to be young:
Since asteroid surfaces become darker with time due to exposure to solar radiation, the presence of lighter, brighter surfaces for some asteroids may indicate that they are relatively young.  This is evidence for the continuing evolution of the near-Earth object population.
    In addition, the fact that the asteroids observed so far have a greater degree of diversity than expected indicates that they might have different origins.  Some might come from the main belt between Mars and Jupiter, and others could come from farther out in the solar system.  This diversity also suggests that the materials that went into making the asteroids — the same materials that make up our planets — were probably mixed together like a big solar-system soup very early in its history.
But extending the primordial soup metaphor to the solar system decreases the explanatory power of previous cosmogonies (stories about the origin and development of the solar system), which depended on composition as a function of radius, and complicates new explanations (cf. 09/24/2008, 05/04/2007).
    The original paper in The Astronomical Journal1 noted that an object at Earth orbit should become dark by “space weathering” in a million years.  Noting the large number of bright objects, the authors suggested that the bright (and presumably young) objects may be extinct comets or remnants of recent collisions that exposed fresh surface material.  They acknowledged, however, that much is still unknown about asteroid origin and evolution.  Evolutionary theories tend to be complicated, and some findings contradict expectations.  For instance, “The small (500 m long) NEO Itokawa was visited by the Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa, and was found to have a highly varied surface, with both regolith-free regions and regions of substantial regolith,” the paper said, referring to pulverized surface material.  “This unexpected result has greatly increased interest in the surface properties of NEOs and how they depend on an object’s history.”
    In addition, about 15% of asteroids appear to be binaries (co-orbiting objects) – a dynamically improbable phenomenon, given asteroids’ low gravity and relative motions.  Though recently split objects from a collision might tend to remain in proximity enough to remain gravitationally bound, the Yarkovsky effect (a perturbing force due to sunlight pressure) and other forces would seem to disrupt the delicate pas de deux of a binary pair in short order (see 10/25/2001, 05/24/2002, 09/12/2003, 09/28/2005).
    According to current thinking, most NEOs originated in the main asteroid belt and became perturbed into earth-vicinity orbits through collisions, the Yarkovsky effect and chaotic motions.  “We find that the distribution of albedos in this first sample is quite broad,” they said, however, “probably indicating a wide range of compositions within the NEO population.”  That diversity had to originally exist in the main asteroid belt, therefore, or requires positing a larger-than-predicted mixing of material from different parts of the solar system.  Either case complicates simplistic ideas about the origin of the solar system that preceded the space age.
    One other asteroid phenomenon is making a planetary scientist “lose sleep,” according to New Scientist: the problem of Trojan asteroids.  These are not condoms or malware, but asteroids that get locked into the stable Langrangian points of planets, making them lead or follow large planets in their orbits.  “A family of asteroids that travels in lockstep with Jupiter appears to be different in one important respect from their purported kin in the outer solar system,” New Scientist began.  “The mismatch could spell trouble for the leading theory of how our solar system evolved.”  Called the “Nice” model, the theory, which proposes that the gas giants disrupted objects as they migrated after formation and gathered some into its Trojan orbits, predicts a different size distribution than was found by Wesley Fraser of Caltech.  He said he has “lost a lot of sleep” over the puzzle; he “cannot imagine any scenario that has a chance to explain this result.
    As with most asteroid science, though, like the asteroids themselves, our knowledge is too sparse to provide solid ground for any theory of formation or evolution.  ExploreNEOs is important work in another respect all earthlings should care about:   the authors said, “Knowledge of the size distribution is critical for estimates of the Earth impact hazard.”  Space.com reported that two small asteroids came pretty close to the Earth on September 8, and that such close encounters are not all that rare.  One rogue asteroid with our name on it could ruin a nice piñata party.
1.  Trilling, Mueller et al, “ExploreNEOs.  i.  Description and First Results from the Warm Spitzer Near-Earth Object Survey,” The Astronomical Journal, Vol 140, No 770; doi: 10.1088/0004-6256/140/3/770.
With all due regard for journalistic creative writing, piñatas are typically created by intelligent design.  So who filled the asteroid piñata with such a creative variety of goodies?  Are they implying scientists are scooping up the treats without thanking the Source?  Metaphors bewitch you (07/04/2003).
    The scientific work behind the metaphors is dull but necessary, tedious but incremental.  No one can draw firm conclusions from this admittedly preliminary work, other than the common experience of scientists working in exploratory projects: (1) surprises abound, (2) predictions are made to be broken, (3) nature yields its secrets with difficulty, and (4) human hubris tends to outrun reality.
    Consider what they said about space weathering darkening objects within a million years.  That sounds like a long time, but it is a tiny, tiny fraction of the assumed age of the solar system (4.5 billion years).  Have there been that many impacts within the last .02% of the assumed age?  Liberate your mind.  The few planetary scientists not wedded to the moyboy paradigm (“millions of years, billions of years” see 09/16/2005), with its reckless drafts on the bank of time (07/02/2007), have the freedom to think outside the box and perhaps provide novel solutions to puzzles inherent in deep-time addiction (e.g., 09/05/2002).
Next headline on:  Solar SystemPhysicsDating Methods
Hierarchical Evolution Proposed     09/04/2010    
Sept 04, 2010 — Science Daily gave good press to a Dutch grad student who proposed the “next step in evolution” – robots that pass on knowledge and experience without Darwinian natural selection.  Gerard Jagers op Akkerhuis, according to the article, developed a complete and “consistent” system called an “operator hierarchy” that goes far beyond biological evolution; it even “includes the classification of inorganic natural matter.”
    Science Daily explained, “The next life form will not necessarily develop by means of biological evolution: as far as Jagers is concerned, a machine that shows intelligent behaviour based on a neural network fulfils the definition of life.”  When robots can share their knowledge, a “new step in evolution” will have been achieved.  “However,” Jagers admitted, “for the time being such robots still need humans to build them.”
Can anyone explain why this is not a cult like Scientology?  No wonder one of our readers renamed the news site Seance Daily.
Next headline on:  Darwin and EvolutionDumb Ideas
Embryonic Stem Cell Researchers Reeling from Judge’s Decision     09/03/2010    
Sept 03, 2010 — Political conservatives have often been stunned by lone judges overturning the will of the people.  This time, liberals in support of embryonic stem cell research are reeling from the decision of a federal judge that halts funding of such research that was recently energized by the President.
    Federal Judge Royce Lamberth’s August 23 ruling was based on the Dickey-Wicker Amendment of 1996 that prohibits funding for research that destroys human embryos.  Suddenly, researchers happily using NIH funds (National Institutes of Health) generously made available by the Obama administration (12/17/2008, 01/31/2009, 04/07/2009) are facing the cancellation of their work in mid-stream.
    Nature’s editors were up in arms.1  Not expecting appellate courts to overturn Lamberth’s injunction, they called for subscribers to pressure Congress to act swiftly:
Congress is unlikely to have a huge appetite for a bruising, highly polarizing debate in the weeks immediately preceding November’s midterm elections.  Yet time is of the essence, and a great deal is at stake.  The House may revert to Republican control in November, in which case action to affirm the funding would be highly unlikely....
    Congress should take up the issue speedily when it reconvenes mid-month.  And if ever there was a time for scientists to let members of Congress and the public know what they think, it is now.
The urgency seems strange, since most of the momentum is with ethically-untainted adult stem cell research (08/06/2010; see also list below).  Furthermore, embryonic stem cell (ESC) researchers are free to seek private or corporate funding.  Notwithstanding, reporters are acting as if a calamity has occurred.  Nature News told a tear-jerker about Candace Kerr, whose ESC research has been “thrown into limbo” by the judge’s ruling.  Similarly, PhysOrg printed a Stanford press release describing the woes of Joanna Wysocka, whose research has also been “thrown into an uncertain limbo” because of it.  (Presumably, some limbos are certain, and others are not.)
    Science Magazine’s editors said that U.S. research on ES cells has been thrown into a “tailspin” by the “controversial ruling” that has “left scientists across the country confused, upset, and angry.2  Even NIH director Francis Collins, an avowed Christian and theistic evolutionist, was upset.  He said, “This decision has just poured sand into that engine of discovery.”
    PhysOrg reported that the Obama administration reacted quickly to appeal the decision, arguing that “the scientific community and the taxpayers who have already spent hundreds of millions of dollars on such research through public funding of projects which will now be forced to shut down and, in many cases, scrapped altogether.”  A White House spokesman said breathlessly, “We’re going to do everything possible to prevent the potentially catastrophic consequences of this injunction.”  In a similar refrain, New Scientist explored the options available to Congress to overturn this “shock court ruling that has frozen US government support for work on human embryonic stem cells.

Meanwhile, adult stem cell research is humming along as if nothing happened.  Here are ten examples of recent findings reported in the last week or two:

  1. Asymmetric cell division:  University of Oregon researchers have come closer to identifying how adult stem cells in fruit flies differentiate into specific cell types (see Science Daily).  PhysOrg said this was observed with live cell imaging.
  2. Stem cell factories:  Researchers at the University of Nottingham are perfecting the art of inducing adult cells into stem cells, reported PhysOrg.  “Large scale, cost-effective stem cell factories able to keep up with demand for new therapies to treat a range of human illnesses are a step closer to reality,” the article announced cheerfully without referring to embryos.
  3. Cell conversion:  The same issue of Nature that complained about the Lamberth ruling featured a success with adult stem cells.3  Richard P. Harvey reported that it may be possible to skip the inducement state altogether: “Scientists report the conversion of one type of differentiated cell, the fibroblast, into another – the cardiomyocyte.”  Embryos were not needed for this or other adult cell research, which can turn cells into an “embryonic stem-cell-like state.”  The application is good news for the disabled: “This approach may find use in regenerative strategies for the repair of damaged hearts.”
  4. Boob jobScience Daily announced, “Adult Mammary Stem Cells in Mice Identified and Isolated for First Time.”  This discovery may aid the development of treatments for human breast cancer.
  5. Liver in the skin:  Imagine regenerating a liver from skin.  That’s what Science Daily reported: “Liver Cells Created from Patients’ Skin Cells.”  This might help many people, because “In the UK, liver disease is the fifth largest cause of death after cardiovascular, cancer, stroke, and respiratory diseases.”
  6. Lung stem cells:  Lung cancer is a scary diagnosis, because it metastasizes rapidly and often kills its victims.  PhysOrg reported hope for this leading cause of cancer deaths, because it now appears possible to identify lung stem cells gone awry and arrest them before they proliferate.
  7. Partners in healthPhysOrg reported that “A study led by a researcher at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University has revealed a unique ‘partnership’ between two types of bone marrow stem cells, which could lead to advances in regenerative medicine.”  This is a step toward re-growing damaged cells, tissues and organs.
  8. Different strokes:  Strokes may not have to be debilitating, thanks to research at the University of South Florida.  PhysOrg reported that a simulated stroke could be intercepted with adult stem cells.  “Human umbilical cord blood cells (HUCB) used to treat cultured rat brain cells (astrocytes) deprived of oxygen appear to protect astrocytes from cell death after stroke-like damage,” the article said.
  9. Leukemia linkPhysOrg said that researchers at the University of California at San Francisco are coming closer to understanding how blood stem cells suffering from mutations can lead to leukemia.  “The discovery also suggests a possible therapeutic strategy, the scientists say, for reducing the risk of leukemia that results from chemotherapy used to treat solid tumors.”
  10. Smart heart ASCsPhysOrg reported on landmark work at the Henry Mayo Clinic that showed that “ rationally ‘guided’ human adult stem cells can effectively heal, repair and regenerate damaged heart tissue.”  Even stem cells benefit from intelligent design.
Examples of adult stem cell progress toward real benefits to people could be multiplied, but claims of positive results with embryonic stem cells often appear muted, tentative, and rare in the press.  PhysOrg reported that researchers at Columbia University have coaxed ES cells into some neuron cell subtypes, but any benefit to humans was put into a nebulous future: the insight “may prove useful for devising and testing future therapies for motor neuron diseases.”  PhysOrg also reported that “Natural lung material is promising scaffold for engineering lung tissue using embryonic stem cells,” but no clinical trials appear in the offing.
Update 09/09/2010: New Scientist reported, “An appeals court in Washington DC has granted a temporary stay ... to the controversial injunction that last month froze government funding for future hESC research.”  This means that “US-government funding for research on human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) is back on – for now, at least.”  The article provided some background on the cause of the injunction: “The injunction came in response to action from two researchers working on adult stem cells ... who oppose the use of hESCs on moral grounds.”
1.  Editorial, “A law in time?”, Nature 467, p. 7, 02 September 2010; doi:10.1038/467007a.
2.  Jocelyn Kaiser and Gretchen Voge, “Controversial Ruling Throws U.S. Research Into a Tailspin,” Science, 3 September 2010: Vol. 329. no. 5996, pp. 1132-1133, DOI: 10.1126/science.329.5996.1132.
3.  Richard P. Harvey, “Regenerative medicine: Heart redevelopment,” Nature 467, 39-40 (2 September 2010) | doi:10.1038/467039a.
The tear-jerking stories of scientists whose taxpayer-funded experiments on human embryos were interrupted by the judge’s decision are horrendous examples of biased reporting.  Does your heart bleed for scientists whose chance at the public teat might be cut short, and they might have to actually earn their money?  Do they realize that many people are appalled at the prospect of human embryos being cut up for research, and consider it immoral and a violation of the sanctity of human life?
    Let’s put the ESC researchers’ bleeding hearts in perspective with a little tale.  Picture a Nazi scientist working for the Max Planck Institute in 1938 wringing his hands over a shortage of prisoners to work on.  We’ll take Nature’s crybaby article and revise it for that context:
Human Experimentation Thrown Into Limbo by Prisoner Shortage [Fiction]

Gunther Monster was working late on 23 August when a postdoc sent him the headline about a newsreel story entitled: “Bad news for human experimentation researchers.”  Monster, a human experimenter at Max Planck Institute, says that as his eyes flew down the newspaper article, he thought: “This can’t be real.  This can’t be right.”  Earlier that day, in Berlin, a judge overturned an SS officer’s policy of providing prisoners without question, and had put a temporary stop on government supply of prisoners for research, pending resolution of a suit that is seeking to make the hold permanent (see ‘The legalese behind the funding freeze’).
    “I was devastated,” Monster says.  “It was a huge blow to the research I have spent so much time working on.”
    He summoned enough presence of mind to phone his lab technician, asking him to release 20 subjects first thing in the morning back to Auschwitz.  They were part of an experiment funded by the Max Planck Institute.  Then, recalls Monster, “I went home and stared at the walls and thought: ‘What am I going to do next?  What is going to sustain me for my job in the future?’”
    Monster is one of hundreds of researchers whose MPI-supported work has been thrown into legal limbo and financial jeopardy by the new policy....

...but the prisoners took some relief, however small, at their temporary respite.  Unfortunately, in America 2010, human embryos are not available for interviews about their feelings about the ruling for about 12 years.
Next headline on:  Cell BiologyHealthPolitics and Ethics
  On our 1st anniversary 9 years ago, we provided several detailed reviews of the PBS $14 million TV series Evolution.  Unfortunately for PBS, it came out just two weeks after 9/11/2001, when the world was reeling from the display of evil shown in real time when Islamic terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center skyscrapers in Manhattan and part of the Pentagon, killing nearly 3000 people.  Nevertheless, the show went on, and CEH provided independent coverage.

Stephen Hawking His Atheism     09/02/2010    
Sept 02, 2010 — Science reporters are creating sensationalist headlines about Stephen Hawking claiming there is no God.  His new book has a title, The Grand Design, that sounds theistic but in fact claims that God is not necessary because our existence is a consequence of the law of gravity.
    The headlines like PhysOrg’s “God did not create Universe: Hawking” or the BBC News quotelet, “Stephen Hawking: God did not create Universe” are misleading because this is not a new position or discovery by the ALS-afflicted physicist, but more of a restatement of his beliefs elucidated in his 10-year-old best seller, A Brief History of Time.  Roger Highfield in New Scientist says, “Hawking hasn’t changed his mind about God.”  In fact, his beliefs are as old as Einstein’s, and Spinoza’s, who believed that whatever we mean by “God” is just a restatement of the laws of physics.  Einstein famously said, “I believe in Spinoza’s God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with fates and actions of human beings.”  Hawking told Highfield, “If you believe in science, like I do, you believe that there are certain laws that are always obeyed.  If you like, you can say the laws are the work of God, but that is more a definition of God than a proof of his existence.”  One thing that is new is that Hawking appears to have abandoned the hope that mankind would come up with a “theory of everything” as promised in A Brief History of Time.
    Craig Callender, writing for “Culture Lab” at New Scientist, had perhaps the most nuanced coverage of the latest Hawking-atheism claim.  Reviewing The Grand Design, Callender was doubtful Hawking had achieved his goal of removing a personal, intervening God from the universe.  For one thing, Hawking appears to have cast his dice on M-theory, a future hope for a reality that is only partly glimpsed by various string theories.  M-theory can also mean the set of all current string theories.  For another, Hawking’s confidence relies on an unknowable multiverse.  Callender elaborated,

M-theory in either sense is far from complete.  But that doesn’t stop the authors from asserting that it explains the mysteries of existence: why there is something rather than nothing, why this set of laws and not another, and why we exist at all.  According to Hawking, enough is known about M-theory to see that God is not needed to answer these questions.  Instead, string theory points to the existence of a multiverse, and this multiverse coupled with anthropic reasoning will suffice.  Personally, I am doubtful.
    Take life.  We are lucky to be alive.  Imagine all the ways physics might have precluded life: gravity could have been stronger, electrons could have been as big as basketballs and so on.  Does this intuitive “luck” warrant the postulation of God?  No.  Does it warrant the postulation of an infinity of universes?  The authors and many others think so.  In the absence of theory, though, this is nothing more than a hunch doomed – until we start watching universes come into being – to remain untested and untestable.  The lesson isn’t that we face a dilemma between God and the multiverse, but that we shouldn’t go off the rails at the first sign of coincidences.
Calendar’s critical thinking was refreshing from the other articles’ regurgitations of the Hawking view, but he failed to identify what he meant by “the rails” that he thinks Hawking and his co-author Leonard Mlodinow got off of.  Where do the rails begin?  Where do they end?  What direction are they headed?  How does one know that one is on or off?
    Even more alarming, Calendar asserted that Hawking’s position risks perspectivalism – an anti-realist ontology that asserts multiple independent views of reality are possible, each one model-dependent, each one hopelessly incomplete.  “This radical theory holds that there doesn’t exist, even in principle, a single comprehensive theory of the universe,” Callender explained.  “Instead, science offers many incomplete windows onto a common reality, one no more ‘true’ than another.”  This philosophy, he warned, leads to “an alarming anti-realism” that would seem to preclude any defensible position by Hawking or anyone else, because “not only does science fail to provide a single description of reality, they say, there is no theory-independent reality at all.”  Indeed, it sounds indistinguishable from postmodern relativism.  What may be true for Hawking would not be true for you or me, so why even do science?
    Hawking’s assumption that laws of nature will produce guaranteed results may be vulnerable to falsification, undermining much of his world view.  The Economist printed an eye-opening story that suggests the fine-structure constant, itself dependent on several physical constants, may vary from place to place in the universe, contrary to the assumptions of most physicists for centuries.  If so, it has other consequences – that measurements of the universe’s age and distance scale might also vary, and that humans might occupy an even more privileged location in the cosmos than previously acknowledged.  Sounds like a “Grand Design” beyond Hawking’s limited view.  For more of a taste on what cosmologists can and cannot know, see the debate about dark energy theory in New Scientist, “Void that is truly empty solves dark energy puzzle.”  (If you thought a void was empty by definition, it takes a theoretical physicist to provide the necessary circumlocution.)  Surprises in cosmology in just the last decade should make it seem dubious that any living cosmologist has a firm grip on reality.
You may have noticed that we added a long-overdue “Philosophy” chain link.  Many of our entries over the past decade have needed this tag.  Perhaps some day a volunteer can help add it to the back issues where appropriate.  It will include philosophy of science, history and sociology of science, and related topics that do not necessarily invoke theology (though it is arguable that philosophy, logic and reason themselves cannot be isolated from the presupposition of an all-wise, independent, immutable Mind).  A good lecture series that explores perspectivalism as a running theme in the history of science and philosophy is the Teaching Company product Science Wars by Steven Goldman (see Resource of the Week for Dec. 19, 2009).
    A simple principle can make you wiser than Stephen Hawking.  Not necessarily smarter, but wiser.  It’s the ability to spot the self-refuting fallacy and its relatives: arbitrary beliefs, begging the question and unargued presuppositions.  While Hawking was busy typing away on his speech synthesizer telling us God is out of a job because the laws of nature will do all the work, he was invoking mind, reason, logic and intelligence.  None of those are laws of nature.  They deal in the rational realm of concepts.  What’s more, the concept of a “law of nature” is loaded with questions begging for answers: are laws of nature decrees of God, or mere observed patterns in experience?  In what realm do laws of nature exist, and how do they impress their will on mindless reality?  What do we mean by the fine word “nature” in the first place?  Hawking cannot employ a concept he cannot justify.
    Even more devastating to Hawking’s view is that he started with something – laws of nature and a multiverse – instead of nothing.  Then he had the gall to tell us it explains why there is something instead of nothing.  The late Francis Schaeffer reminded his students that theists can turn the tables on atheists who love to invoke the “Who made God?” argument by pushing back on the “something” that they typically presume already existed: e.g., where did the laws of nature come from?  Where did gravity come from?  Where did the multiverse come from?  Schaeffer insisted that secularists cannot tell us that the universe came from nothing unless they mean nothing nothing: no laws, no fields, no quantum energy, no categories, no mind, no evolution – really nothing.  He would illustrate it by drawing a circle on a blackboard and announcing that within the circle was everything that is.  Then he would erase the circle.  Stephen Hawking’s failure to go all the way back is the latest incarnation of the “Get your own dirt” joke (see Humor Page).
    Once again, Hawking and his followers cannot defend their world view without stealing goods from the Judeo-Christian smorgasbord.  One cannot get something from nothing nothing, and if something material pre-existed, it cannot be eternal by the law of entropy.  Also once again, the evidence for creation (suggested by their “anthropic reasoning” and Callender’s amazement at our luck at being alive, as if “pure dumb luck” constitutes a scientific explanation) is overwhelmingly evident to everyone.  For all his brains and education, therefore, Stephen Hawking is a fool (“Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools”) for ignoring the abundant evidence for God (Romans 1:16-22).  A fool is arbitrary or inconsistent, or both.  As such, a fool can prove anything, and therefore can prove opposite things.  That’s what fools do (see Alice in Wonderland and 04/26/2010).  If you understand this, and are therefore wiser than Hawking, help him and his followers gain some wisdom.  How?  Speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).  Pray also for Stephen Hawking.  The Lord has been longsuffering with the poor sophoxymoroniac (02/02/2008 commentary), whose disease normally would have taken his life many years ago.  Pray that he will see the light in time.  Wouldn’t it be great to imagine him fully restored to perfect health in heaven?
Next headline on:  MediaPhysicsCosmologyOrigin of LifeMind and BrainPhilosophy of ScienceDumb IdeasBible and Theology
Malthusian Maniac Killed Before Killing Hostages     09/02/2010    
Sept 02, 2010 — James J. Lee took hostages today at the Discovery Channel headquarters in Maryland, but was killed by police before he harmed anyone (see New York Times).  Lee, who authored a website called SaveThePlanetProtest.com, left a manifesto with a list of demands, calling humans “filth” and demanding the Discovery Channel inform viewers that humans were ruining the planet.  His rants included demands to saturate the public mind with indoctrination into Darwinian ideas: “Talk about Evolution.  Talk about Malthus and Darwin until it sinks into the stupid people’ brains until they get it!!”
    The Discovery Institute (no connection to the Discovery Channel) used this incident to highlight the deleterious effects of Darwinian thinking.  David Klinghoffer on Evolution News and Views listed other killers who used Darwinian ideas for their rampages, and Robert Crowther on Evolution News and Views followed up with a quote from Bruce Chapman, Discovery Institute Director, on the disparity in news coverage between religious madmen and this Darwinist one: “Oddly missing from initial news accounts was any mention of Darwin,” he said; but James J. Lee made it clear that Malthus and Darwin were prime motivators of his mental anguish, as was Al Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth.  John West in Evolution News and Views compared the silence of major newspaper coverage about the Darwin connection to what would happen if an anti-abortion vigilante took hostages at an abortion clinic: “you can be sure the newsmedia would tenaciously track down and publicize every anti-abortion association and comment of the criminal in question,” he remarked.
Update 09/03/2010: David Klinghoffer dug deeper into the case and found a stronger connection of Lee’s thinking to Darwin than with Al Gore, where the news media was focusing.  See Evolution News and Views.  For an example of whitewashing the story, PhysOrg tried to make the case that eco-terrorism is rare and usually not deadly.
Every movement has nutcases.  Lee was no spokesman for Darwin any more than Charlemagne for Jesus Christ as the emperor killed pagans who refused to convert.  But consider that the misanthropic ideas of James J. Lee were not that different from university professors who have taught that human beings are a plague on the planet, and that mass death of humans would not be such a bad thing (e.g., Eric Pianka, 04/02/2006, who told the Texas Academy of Sciences that humans were no better than bacteria and got a standing ovation for saying it would be a good thing if airborne ebola wiped out 90% of humanity).
    No Christian theologian familiar with Christ’s and Paul’s teachings about loving one’s neighbor and loving our enemies would ever condone genocide in the name of Christ, and certainly Darwin and Malthus would have been appalled at the actions of today’s hostage-taker.  Still, Klinghoffer’s list of recent madman who felt they were fulfilling Darwin’s laws of nature is noteworthy and disturbing.
    One of Lee’s statements demanded saving the lions, tigers, giraffes, elephants, ants, beetles and other animals, but then he said, “The humans?  The planet does not need humans.”  This shows he was a nutcase, because he could not think logically about evolution.  If humans arose by a Darwinian process, then they are just as much a part of nature as beetles, and whatever they do is just as amoral, meaningless and purposeless as any other part.  If humans wipe out all other life, so what?  Why would Lee care?  His anguish is a desperate cry from his soul.  Despite his love for Darwin, he could not extricate himself from the image of God imprinted in his being.
    The late Greg Bahnsen used to complain about the inconsistency of the media.  He said he wouldn’t mind reporters drawing attention to the religious beliefs of Christians who go berserk as long as they were consistent.  When a Darwinist goes nuts, why is there no connection made to his motivations?  If reporters were truly objective, they would highlight the beliefs of Darwinist madmen as quickly as they point out the religious beliefs of those who commit crimes in the name of Christ.  “This incident goes to show the danger of Darwinist ideas to promote hate and intolerance in young men,” would be a fair assessment.  “When young men’s minds are filled with ideas of survival of the fittest and view humans as responsible for wrecking the environment, it’s little wonder that they sometimes go off the deep end and take actions into their own hands.  Too bad no one shared with him the love of Christ.”  The heat death of the universe will likely occur before you ever hear that in the mainstream media.
Next headline on:  MediaEducationDarwin and EvolutionPolitics and EthicsBible and Theology
Clever Animals Amaze and Inspire     09/01/2010    
Sept 01, 2010 — The living world is an endless source of wonder and inspiration.  There’s an octopus that does a convincing imitation of a flatfish (Science Daily, Live Science), and a red crab species that emerges from its lethargic life around Christmas and migrates miles to the sea by the millions (PhysOrg).  There’s a tiny frog that can fit on the tip of a pencil (PhysOrg) and a whale with perfect pitch (Science Daily).  National Geographic released a gallery of sea creatures newly discovered deep in Indonesian waters that is as colorful as it is bizarre.  Some scientists get so excited about what animals they study, they want to imitate them.
  1. Embryo trick:  Scientists inspired by the cilia that embryos use to direct cells to their places copied the trick with “biomimetic cilia” they hope to use with lab-on-a-chip applications (see abstract at PNAS).
  2. Stickybot:  Inspired by gecko feet, scientists at Stanford designed a look-alike robot, reported Science Daily, that uses the same principle of dry adhesion by multiplication of surface contacts.  “The material is strong and reusable, and leaves behind no residue or damage,” just like a gecko foot, the article said.  They even imitated the gecko’s rotating ankles so that it can change direction.
  3. Perfect little engine:  Ever heard of a salp?  This small jelly-like creature lives in the sea and is important for carbon cycle.  Science Daily told about its “near-perfect little engine” that propels it and filters its food with a microscopic mesh.  Because “the scientists are captivated by the unique, almost magical performance of this natural undersea engine,” they think inventors could learn something.  Science Daily asked, “What if trains, planes, and automobiles all were powered simply by the air through which they move?  Moreover, what if their exhaust and byproducts helped the environment?  Well, such an energy-efficient, self-propelling mechanism already exists in nature.”
  4. Beetle bifocals:  Scientists at the University of Cincinnati were stunned to find a diving beetle with bifocal compound eyes.  Live Science reported that the eyes have two retinas, one for distance and one for close-up inspection.  Analysis of how this unique beetle sees could help bifocal manufacture.  “Bifocal glasses and contacts create two images that interfere with each other, creating an area of blur,” the article said.  “The beetle larvae solve this interference problem by having focal planes [that] are slightly shifted so they aren’t completely on top of each other.  In fact, the researchers found the shift of the focal planes improved contrast of the resulting image three-fold.”
  5. Oyster glue:  The Navy is employing “interdisciplinary, cutting-edge research” to copy oysters.  The amazing underwater adhesives that oysters use are attractive to the Navy not only because of their importance to the marine ecology, but also because of the insights they provide.  Naval researchers have been “studying marine animals’ various adhesives, uncovering fundamental properties that could yield new innovations from replacements for medical sutures to surface coatings that keep waterborne craft from picking up marine hitchhikers,” the article said.  They found that oysters have a unique adhesive for sticking to one another as they build oyster reefs.
  6. Put on your bacteriaNew Scientist posted an unusual article and video about researchers using bacteria to grow fibers for clothing.  Such biodegradable clothing will be “green” not necessarily in color, but in the sense of being biodegradable and environmentally-friendly.
  7. Code in the nose:  Inventors have been working on artificial noses for some time, with only mixed results at distinguishing the thousands of odors that natural noses are so good at detecting.  PhysOrg reported that Stanford inventors are finding that a touch of DNA helps.  The combinatorial flexibility of DNA is providing the coding repertoire for sensors to respond to many more molecules than before.  Live Science added that frog egg cells are providing a key ingredient in robotic noses as receptors.
  8. Cornea breakthrough:  Synthetic corneas are too hard to make, and cornea transplants are expensive and difficult, so why not regrow the real thing?  The BBC News reported that biosynthetic implants, using “a synthetic version of human collagen designed to mimic the cornea as closely as possible,” are providing real hope for restoring impaired vision.  Already in tests patients reported “dramatically improved” vision with the new technique.
  9. Pop goes the circuit:  Manufacturing circuits inspired by bacteria?  Why not?  Synthetic circuits is a relatively new method within the “emerging field of synthetic biology” of organizing genetically-modified bacteria to “produce a myriad of useful proteins, enzymes or chemicals in a coordinated way.”  Science Daily reported that scientists at Duke University were surprised to find bacterial cells popping, or committing suicide, when reaching a certain stage of plasmid density.  They modeled the behavior with a sample circuit they called ePop and found that it can “increase the efficiency and power of future synthetic biology circuits.”
  10. Flying with altitude:  Somehow, fruit flies know the right altitude for their flying and hovering needs.  Live Science reported that findings about how they calculate optic flow might help designers of “insect-inspired robots.”  Mike Dickinson’s team at Caltech found that flies use horizontal edges and “integrate edge information with other visual information to pick flight plans.”  This work not only helps “unveil the mysteries of insect flight and cognition, but it may have practical implications for humans, as well.”
These articles are part of an increasing flood of reports about biomimetics – the imitation of nature.  Whether biologists look high or low, large or small, at plants or at animals, they find amazing feats in the living world that amaze and inspire.  And if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the designs in life are getting rave reviews.
Biomimetic designers wanted: bright, young, observant, inquisitive, logical, perceptive, entrepreneurial, honest, forward looking, optimistic, enthusiastic.  This implies that Darwinians need not apply. 
Next headline on:  BiomimeticsMarine BiologyCell BiologyTerrestrial ZoologyIntelligent DesignAmazing Facts
  The first news story reported by Creation-Evolution Headlines was about excess heat coming out of the volcanoes on Jupiter’s moon Io on 08/16/2000.  Since then there have been thousands of reports on every scientific subject under the sun.

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“I don’t remember exactly when I started reading your site but it was probably in the last year.  It’s now a staple for me.  I appreciate the depth of background you bring to a wide variety of subject areas.”
(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.”
(a homeschooling mom in Mississippi)

“Just wanted to say how much I love your website.  You present the truth in a very direct, comprehensive manner, while peeling away the layers of propaganda disguised as 'evidence' for the theory of evolution.”
(a health care worker in Canada)

“I’ve been reading you daily for about a year now.  I’m extremely impressed with how many sources you keep tabs on and I rely on you to keep my finger on the pulse of the controversy now.”
(a web application programmer in Maryland)

“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.”
(a lumber mill employee in Florida)

“I have been reading your website for about the past year or so.  You are [an] excellent resource.  Your information and analysis is spot on, up to date and accurate.  Keep up the good work.”
(an accountant in Illinois)

“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!”
(an engineer in Michigan)

“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)

“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)

“Like your site especially the ‘style’ of your comments.... Keep up the good work.”
(a retired engineer and amateur astronomer in Maryland)

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Scientist of the Month
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Guide to Evolution
 
Featured Creation Scientist for September

Michael Faraday
1791 - 1867

Aldous Huxley was once asked what historical person’s life he would most like to relive.  His answer was Michael Faraday.  Everybody loves Faraday.  It’s hard to find any negative comment about him.  His was a Cinderella story, the embodiment of a Horatio Alger novel, with plenty of human interest that makes for a satisfying plot.  But it’s not just a good story; it was a life that changed the world.  Faraday was a “nobody” who trusted God, applied himself, and succeeded – to his own amazement – beyond his dreams.  He became the world’s greatest experimental physicist.  To this day he is often admired as such, notwithstanding the ultra-tech toys modern chemists and physicists have at their disposal.  The president of the Institution for Electrical Engineers (IEE), for instance, at the unveiling of a Michael Faraday statue in 1989, said, “His discoveries have had an incalculable effect on subsequent scientific and technical development.  He was a true pioneer of scientific discovery.”

Faraday enraptured audiences with his public demonstrations.  He discovered some of the most important laws of physics and chemistry, discoveries which revolutionized the world economy.  But none of this mattered to him as much as one thing: his Christian faith.  He would rather be praying and studying the Bible with his fellow church members than be at an awards ceremony or have audience with royalty.  Steadfast and humble, Faraday remained absolutely committed to Biblical truth from early childhood throughout his long life.  He would have been considered a “fundamentalist” Christian, had the term existed in his day.  Nothing, not even the rising tide of skepticism in Britain leading up to the Darwinian revolution, shook his confidence in the word of God.  And Faraday was not one to ever hear a snicker from skeptics; he was too highly esteemed for that.  His contemporaries would have concurred with the praise Lord Rutherford expressed in 1931, 64 years after his death: “The more we study the work of Faraday with the perspective of time, the more we are impressed by his unrivalled genius as an experimenter and natural philosopher.  When we consider the magnitude and extent of his discoveries and their influence on the progress of science and industry, there is no honor too great to pay to the memory of Michael Faraday—one of the greatest scientific discoverers of all time.”

Start listing the things that run on electric motors – automobiles, fans, clocks, airplanes, pumps, vacuum cleaners, and so much more – and you begin to get a hint of what Faraday’s work brought forth.  Add to the list generators, transformers, electrolysis devices, electromagnets, and many other products of his lab, and Faraday’s importance to the history of science and technology starts to come into focus.  It has been said that the wealth generated by the inventions based on Faraday’s discoveries exceed the value of the British stock exchange.  This is probably an understatement.  Yet Faraday remained a modest, unpretentious soul who never sought financial profit from his work.  He accepted a cottage from the government in his senior years, but rebuffed honors.  When the queen wanted to knight him, he declined, wishing to remain plain old Mr. Faraday to the end.  The glory of Jesus Christ was the only reward he sought.

This series on scientist Christians (too bad we cannot reverse the order of the terms, no thanks to Mary Baker Eddy) has a recurring theme: circumstances are not the sole determiner of success.  There have been some who came from well-to-do families (Boyle, Joule) but others (Newton, Kepler, Carver) seemed to have everything against them.  Teachers should take note that a child from a poverty-stricken family and a bad neighborhood might turn out to be the next Michael Faraday.  “Man looks on the outward appearance,” Samuel reminded Jesse, the father of a ruddy shepherd boy destined to become King David, “but God looks on the heart.”  The most precious gift a poor mother and father can give their children is an example of faith, diligence, and godliness.  The Faraday household had little of this world’s goods, but they had the intangible treasures of God’s Word.  The centrality of worship in their life made them resolutely confident in the sovereignty and grace of God.  Michael gained from his faith a sense of purpose and drive and fortitude to withstand the rigors of life.  He developed values that subjugated worldly passions and promoted honorable work.  And for the benefit of science, his faith provided curiosity about God’s creation and a deep belief in the unity of nature.  As we will see, this belief steered him right toward his most fundamental discoveries.

In this regard, young Michael Faraday was a rich child, even though outwardly his clothes were shabby, his shoes were worn out with holes, and he knew hunger.  His father, a blacksmith, became an invalid and went for extended periods without work.  More than once Michael was given a loaf of bread by his mother and told it needed to last him a week.  The boy had to learn how to work hard and bear responsibility at an early age.  Properly understood and applied, these challenges can build character: Jeremiah said, “It is good for a man to bear the yoke in his youth” (Lam. 3:27).  Faraday was living proof of that.  Rather than turn him into a thief or vagabond, hardships and deprivation instilled in Michael an appreciation for the few good things he had, a desire to succeed, and a deep hunger for knowledge.  That hunger began to be satisfied when he took a job as an apprentice bookbinder at the age of 13.

Prior to his apprenticeship, he had attained only the rudiments of education through Sunday school: reading, writing, and arithmetic.  Though math would never be his strong point, he learned good penmanship, mastered writing and note-taking, and was a voracious reader.  In the print shop, he often read the books that were to be bound.  At first, his boss found him wasting his time on fiction, and urged him instead to read things of real value.  To his credit, Faraday accepted the advice and began reading articles on science.  A book on chemistry attracted his attention so much, he began imitating the experiments.  When he read in Encyclopedia Britannica about the new discoveries being made about electricity, including Volta’s new invention that could supply a constant current, he was so fascinated, he cobbled parts from around the shop, including bottles, rags and clamps, and made his own Voltaic pile, a recently-invented battery; with this and jars he purchased with meager savings, he made his own capacitor and electrostatic generator.

Around this time, Faraday was also strongly influenced by a book written by the English hymnwriter Isaac Watts, author of such famous hymns as O God, Our Help In Ages Past, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, I Sing the Mighty Power of God, Jesus Shall Reign and Joy to the World.  The book was entitled The Improvement of the Mind.  Michael resolved to discipline himself by reading profitable books, taking good notes at important occasions, and observing the habits of influential people.  These helped to fill in deficiencies from his substandard schooling.  Whenever he could, he asked friends and acquaintances to help him with grammar, spelling and punctuation.  He also began attending scientific lectures and formed friendships with other like-minded young men eager to improve their circumstances.

Michael dreamt of becoming a scientist, but felt confined by his poverty and lack of education to a shopkeeper’s vocation.  His mother and family members depended on his income, even more so when his father passed away when he was 19.  By now he was a journeyman bookbinder working for Mr. Riebau, a French businessman.  One day, he was given a stub of paper that was to become the ticket to his dreams: free passes to four scientific lectures at the Royal Institution by one of Britain’s most eminent scientists, Sir Humphry Davy.

The Royal Institution was a showcase of science built in 1799 by Benjamin Thompson (1753-1814), an eccentric but intelligent philanthropist born in Massachusetts, who became Count Rumford in Bavaria before moving to London (later to marry Lavoisier’s widow in France).  He designed the Royal Institution, a combination research laboratory, library and lecture hall, as a showcase of applied science.  It contained one of the largest Voltaic piles of the era.  Well stocked with chemicals, wire and magnets, it was the place to learn physical science in London.  Humphry Davy, famous for inventing the miner’s safety lamp, was an early experimenter with electrolysis and used it to discover six elements: potassium, sodium, calcium, strontium, barium, and magnesium.  Davy was another Christian man of science.  Henry Morris summarized his testimony: “he was a Bible-believing Christian, highly altruistic and generous, though not as spiritually minded and patient as was Faraday.  He was also a poet and, for a while, something of a Christian mystic.  In his declining years, however, he returned to Biblical Christianity and found peace therein.” (Men of Science, Men of God, p. 38).

Sir Davy’s public lectures at the Royal Institution were very popular and brought in revenue from wealthy patrons (since it relied on subscribers).  One can imagine how Faraday, now a young man and well read in chemistry and electricity, would have longed to hear Davy.  He had already been attending Wednesday night meetings of the City Philosophical Society, a group of working men interested in science.  He kept voluminous notes of these meetings, which his boss often showed off to customers.  One customer was so impressed, he gave Michael free tickets to four lectures by Sir Humphry Davy at the Royal Institution.  The year was 1812; Faraday was now 21.  He came early with ample note-taking materials and sat on the front row.

Spellbound by all Davy presented on stage, Faraday wrote down everything, recopied it neatly at home, and bound it into a book 386 pages long.  Months went by as Faraday continued to dream of becoming a scientist like Davy.  His apprenticeship over, he took a job as a bookbinder across town, but found the business tedious and unsatisfying.  He took a bold step.  He wrote to Davy and asked for a job.  With his request, he enclosed a bound volume of notes he had taken at the lectures.  Davy’s reply was polite, but disappointing; there were no positions available.  In October of that year, Davy was temporarily blinded by an explosion in the laboratory.  Faraday managed to become his secretary for a few days, but when Davy recovered, there were still no positions available.

A carriage pulled in front of Michael’s home one evening with a letter from Davy.  Excitedly, Michael tore it open.  It was a summons to appear at the Royal Institution the next day!  Davy’s assistant had just been dismissed for involvement in a brawl, so now a position was available, and Davy had not forgotten the eager young man.  Davy had discovered many things, but as he later admitted, his greatest discovery was Faraday.

It would require a substantial pay cut to take the job, but Michael enthusiastically accepted.  His position at first was little more than janitor: washing bottles, setting up for lectures, keeping records, repairing things, and assisting the master as needed.  But to have the opportunity to learn at the feet of one of the greatest scientists in England was a science education par excellence for the disadvantaged young man.  Faraday applied himself diligently.  He learned everything he could, keeping detailed notes, studying books in the evening, and working long hours willingly.  In short order, Michael became the equal of any chemist in the world.  What’s more, in 1813, Davy invited him on come along as his personal secretary on a tour of Europe, including Italy, Switzerland, Holland and Germany, for a year and a half.  Faraday had the opportunity to meet some of the most important scientists on the continent, including Volta and Ampere.  It was not always easy; the talkative and snobbish Mrs. Davy had the habit of treating Michael like a servant, but overall, the experience was an invaluable supplement to Faraday’s ongoing education.

Faraday was like a kid in a toy shop at the Royal Institution.  His experiments are legendary.  Encyclopedia Britannica summarizes some of his important discoveries:

Faraday, who became one of the greatest scientists of the 19th century, began his career as a chemist.  He wrote a manual of practical chemistry that reveals the mastery of the technical aspects of his art, discovered a number of new organic compounds, among them benzene, and was the first to liquefy a “permanent” gas (i.e., one that was believed to be incapable of liquefaction).  His major contribution, however, was in the field of electricity and magnetism.  He was the first to produce an electric current from a magnetic field, invented the first electric motor and dynamo, demonstrated the relation between electricity and chemical bonding, discovered the effect of magnetism on light, and discovered and named diamagnetism, the peculiar behaviour of certain substances in strong magnetic fields.  He provided the experimental, and a good deal of the theoretical, foundation upon which James Clerk Maxwell erected classical electromagnetic field theory.

This summary conceals decades of hard work, and many lonely yet adventurous days and nights in the laboratory.  Sometimes Faraday used his tongue as a voltmeter or chemical taster, and explosions were not uncommon.  But he was a stickler for accuracy, kept good records, and published faithfully.  “Work, finish, publish” was his motto, as he constantly strove to explore the frontiers of physical science.

Michael also developed skill in the art of lecturing.  Understanding his responsibility to his audience, he made it a personal project to determine the most effective techniques for holding an audience’s interest and giving them a satisfying and edifying hour in the lecture hall.  Within a decade of his employment by Davy, Faraday had exceeded his master in eminence.  He was now a skilled lecturer, well-known experimentalist, and published scientist, with many major papers to his credit.  He was also a married man, having wed Sarah Barnard, a member of his church, in June, 1821.  By 1824, this self-educated bookbinder was elected to the Royal Society, and the following year succeeded Sir Humphry Davy as Director of the Royal Institution.

The Faradays lived upstairs at the Royal Institution for forty years.  Michael would usually work long hours at his lab in the basement, where Sarah would often bring him dinner.  She never pretended to understand his research (which was fine for Michael, because she could be the “pillow for his mind” after long hours focused on experiments), but the two of them loved each other deeply and faithfully all their lives.  It was their deepest misfortune not to have children of their own, since both were fond of children.  The disappointment was partially assuaged by the presence of two nieces who came to live with them.  Though not opposed to socializing, Michael was most content to be working at experiments in his laboratory; experiments were “beautiful things,” he felt, and they provided the confidence he needed in his investigations of the laws of nature.  So confident was he in nature’s laws, he once performed a risky experiment with himself as the subject.  He built a twelve-foot-square metallic cage and charged it so high with static electricity that lightning-like sparks leaped off the sides.  To prove that the electric field on a conducting surface resides only on the exterior, he went inside the cage to verify the absence of any detectable field in the interior.

Michael made some of his most important discoveries in the early years of their marriage.  These included the physical foundations of the electric motor, generator and transformer.  Many consider his crowning achievement the discovery of electromagnetic induction, the production of a steady electric current from the mechanical action of a magnet.  (This principle was apparently discovered simultaneously and independently by Joseph Henry in America, another committed Christian, but Faraday published it first.)  This became the foundation of the electric dynamo or generator, a new source of cheap energy that was to outpace the steam engine in the coming years and revolutionize the world energy economy.

Though known primarily as the great experimentalist, Faraday also possessed outstanding theoretical insight.  His concept of an electromagnetic field, the idea that space was permeated with energy that followed lines of force (as demonstrated by the common children’s experiment with iron filings aligned by a magnet on a sheet of paper), was revolutionary in its day.  It provided the fruitful insight that Maxwell later rigorously developed into his four laws of electrodynamics.

Since Faraday lived on a meager salary and the Royal Institution was often strapped for funds, most of his epochal discoveries were made with clever contraptions he devised himself out of inexpensive materials.  Hermann von Helmholtz remarked, “A few wires and some old bits of wood and iron seem to serve him for the greatest discoveries.”  The breadth of fundamental discoveries this math-challenged, poorly-paid, self-taught scientist made continues to astonish historians today.  (For a good review of his work, with illustrations, see John Meurig Thomas, Michael Faraday and the Royal Institution, ch. 4).  His work in chemistry alone would have made him famous; add to that electromagnetism, electrolysis, diamagnetism, paramagnetism, field theory, acoustics, light, and more, and his lifetime record stands unexcelled.  He is the only physicist with two international units named after him: the faraday (a unit of electrical quantity) and the farad (a unit of capacitance).  He is also remembered for the Faraday effect (the influence of magnetism on polarized light) and Faraday’s laws of electrolysis.  Each of these had immense practical application that were soon exploited by entrepreneurs.

Added to his experimental fame, Michael Faraday’s public lectures and stage demonstrations set a high standard that influenced many who followed, and continues at the Royal Institution to this day.  As a popularizer of science, Faraday is emulated but rarely surpassed.  How he managed to design and execute so many Friday Night Lectures at the Royal Institution, each thoroughly planned and rehearsed, illustrated with experiments usually of his own making, is remarkable, considering how busy he was and how little he earned.  One of his most poignant legacies was the annual Christmas Lectures for children.  Adults had to stand in the back as the children got all the front seats for these delightful events.  Faraday could keep the young audience in rapt attention as he made the ordinary seem extraordinary.  His most popular Christmas Lecture series was called The Chemical History of a Candle, which, transcribed into book form, remains a classic today (there have been 70 Japanese editions alone).  Faraday could take a simple household object, a candle, and draw out of it all the diverse wonders of nature.  That’s a prime illustration of Muir’s Law: “Any time we try to isolate something by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”


What turns a poor young man into the world’s greatest experimental scientist?  What separated Michael Faraday from the other poor boys of his neighborhood?  Undoubtedly, his Christian faith was the biggest factor.  His parents grounded him in the Biblical world view.  Historians find it intriguing that Faraday, a scientist, remained so loyal to his church all his life.  The Faradays were “Nonconformists,” in that they rejected the official state church, with its high church liturgy (and social acceptance), preferring instead to meet in small groups to study the Bible and obey the teachings of Jesus Christ.  Puritanism and Methodism are other examples of Nonconformist groups; John Dalton, Joseph Priestly and Joseph Henry were also scientists of nonconformist faith.  The Faraday family belonged to a denomination known as the Sandemanians, a breakaway sect from the Scottish Presbyterian church, founded a century earlier by John Glas.  The name Sandemanian comes from his son-in-law, Robert Sandeman, who became the leader.  The Sandemanian church was basically a “back-to-the-Bible” movement.  Critical of the traditions the high church had added to the Scripture, and the corruption that often ensued, they sought to return to the primitive, apostolic Christianity of the New Testament.  Some distinctives of their worship included a plurality of elders, closed communion, foot washing, reading of Scripture and long prayers.  Members were treated as equals, with no division between clergy and laity.  They frowned on wealth accumulation and other forms of worldliness, and extolled humility, simplicity, and charity.  Their services and fellowship meals took up a good part of each Sunday.  Faithful attendance on the Lord’s Day and at Wednesday night prayer meetings was expected, especially for elders (Faraday lost his eldership for missing church to visit with the queen; only after a period of contrition over his lack of priorities was his position restored.)

How could such worship habits, seemingly so devoid of scientific interest, influence the lab work of a young scientist?  This topic is explored by Jack Meadows in a sidebar of his chapter on Faraday in The Great Scientists, entitled “Nonconformist Religion and Science” (p. 135).  “The growth of modern science overlapped the dramatic religious changes of the Reformation,” he begins.  Though he admits the connection between these developments is sometimes obscure, he points out some features of Nonconformism that contributed to scientific endeavor and produced some of the greatest scientists from the ranks of Nonconformists.  For one thing, Nonconformists were social outcasts to one degree or another; though often tolerated, they had been been through severe waves of persecution at times (one only has to remember the Pilgrims leaving all to sail to the New World primarily for religious freedom; later, Robert Sandeman also immigrated to America because of religious pressure in England).  This kind of treatment harked back to the Reformation itself, a nonconformist tradition of the first order; yet when some Protestant churches became the new establishment, new reformers often felt compelled to break away.  In so doing, they suffered some of the same reproaches endured by the early Reformers (Here is where you can use that longest word in the English language, antidisestablishmentarianism).  This much is attributable to human social weakness (the “us vs. them” mentality), but often the outcast group, now on the defensive, becomes the more eager to delineate their positions, and the more motivated for change – attitudes that sometimes can reap positive results in other areas. 

Secondly, as outcasts, they were rugged individualists.  Nonconformists were often subject to legal restrictions.  They were prevented from attending the state schools and universities, intertwined as those institutions were with the state church.  One result of this was a fresh infusion of new attitudes and nontraditional methods in education.  Nonconformists developed “dissenting academies,” whose “curriculum was much wider than in traditional schools and universities,” Meadows explains; “in particular, it contained a significant science component.... The dissenting academies became an important seedbed of science.”

But why would religious people concerned about imitating the early church care about science?  This is where Meadows draws the most pertinent connection: “Many of the Nonconformist sects continued to hold a favorable view of science and technology, and the industrial revolution in England in the 18th century owed a great deal to them.”  He doesn’t mention it explicitly, but this favorable view of science could only have been derived from a commitment to the Biblical doctrine of creation.  A conviction that God created a world of order, beauty and purpose, operating under His natural law, gives impetus to scientific endeavor; for that reason, “It is not surprising that a person of Faraday’s Nonconformist background should develop an interest in science.”  Add to that belief the promotion of excellence (whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God—I Corinthians 10:31), the well-known “Protestant work ethic” (if any would not work, neither should he eat—I Thessalonians 3:10), and the commitment to Truth (Thou shalt not bear false witness—Exodus 20:16) and you have the qualifications for a good scientist.

Many have noted that Faraday’s conviction that the forces of nature were unified, a belief that stemmed from his Biblical belief that they all derived from one Creator, strongly influenced his lab work.  It directly motivated his experiments on electromagnetic induction and other attempts to relate electricity, magnetism, chemical energy, motion and even gravity (though he failed in the latter; some are still seeking that unification today).  Although the unity of the forces of nature is not a uniquely Christian doctrine (it was also shared by some ancient Greeks and by modern cosmologists), in Faraday’s case it provided a clear instance where belief in creation led directly to outstanding scientific accomplishment.  His confidence in the Biblical worldview is also seen in his writings about the conservation of force: “To admit, indeed, that force may be destructible or can altogether disappear, would be to admit that matter could be uncreated....” (Thomas, pp. 101-102).

Moreover, because Faraday loved God, he loved God’s creation.  John Meurig Thomas writes, “the beauty of nature, especially the hills of Devonshire, the vales of South Wales, all the Alpine landscapes and the seascapes of Brighton or the Isle of Wight, could move him to lyrical ecstasy.  And in contemplating waterfalls, the rainbow or lightning, his responses were often Wordsworthian, though never expressed in verse” (Thomas, p. 118).  No wonder he viewed the pursuit of scientific discovery as a holy calling, the understanding of nature as a gift of God.  Christian faith was Faraday’s energy source.  His friend and successor John Tyndall, though a skeptic, could not help but notice: “I think that a good deal of Faraday’s week-day strength and persistency might be referred to his Sunday Exercises.  He drinks from a fount on Sunday which refreshes his soul for the week.”

That persistency nearly drove him to exhaustion at one point.  Faraday was strong and athletic, but the long hours and stress caught up with him, producing a period of “mental muddiness,” as he called it.  His friends insisted he take an extended rest.  Would that we all had the energy of the “resting” Michael Faraday.  Mulfinger writes, “His body was still strong, and when he took a rest in Switzerland when he was fifty, he took daily walks of thirty miles.  His wife worried about him only on the day he walked forty-five miles.”

Faraday lived through the Darwinian revolution, but it never troubled him.  Thomas writes, “Serene in the security of his religious conviction, he was untroubled by the apparent conflict between science and religious beliefs” (apparent being the key word).  Faraday was no easy believer; gullibility was definitely not part of his character, as judged by his zeal for accuracy in all his measurements and his reluctance to state a conclusion before proved by experiment.  He angrily scorned the naivete of the spiritualists, for instance.  Speaking of the table-turning craze in his time (a fad that even captivated the co-“discoverer” of natural selection, Alfred Russell Wallace) Faraday scolded with rare impatience, “What a weak, credulous, incredulous, unbelieving, superstitious, bold, frightened, what a ridiculous world ours is, as far as concerns the mind of man.  How full of inconsistencies, contradictions, and absurdities it is” (Thomas, p. 127).  Yet his confidence in the Word of God was unshakeable.  When asked if he had any speculations about the afterlife, a reporter must have been startled by his abrupt and firm response: “Speculations?  I have none.  I am resting on certainties.”  Quoting I Timothy 1:12 with the apostolic conviction of St. Paul, he continued, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.”

That persuasion carried him into his old age.  Michael suffered from memory loss that began in his twenties and gradually became severe in his later adulthood.  It was not incoherence or mental incompetence, but simple forgetfulness, perhaps brought on by exposure to mercury or other lab chemicals.  One benefit for historians is that his condition forced him to write everything down; Faraday left a monumental legacy of letters and documents that provide glimpses into his character, written with an elegance and expressiveness that has a “hypnotic quality” according to Thomas, and “continues to reward the historian of science, kindle the hearts of the young and to strike sparks in the mind of aspiring and mature scientists alike” (Thomas, p. 95; see Faraday’s Writings, ch. 5).  Thomas brags on not only the style, but the content, the “elegant simplicity of his arguments” written in a magical way that “elicits admiration and conveys information in equal measure.”  This is all the more remarkable considering the meagerness of his early education.  Thomas provides some extended quotes to show off this legacy of literature, which includes 450 original papers and 2000 letters.  Faraday’s humility and faith shine in his words: “There is no hunger after popular applause, no jealousy of the work of others .... His versatility, originality, intellectual energy and sheer stamina leave us in awe.  There is also the wonder with which, as a natural philosopher, he is imbued as he contemplates the world and the forces and mechanisms that hold it together” (Thomas, pp. 96-97).  His tactful, self-effacing, thoughtful wordsmithing could calm a disputatious opponent, gently express righteous indignation, graciously decline a favor or humbly accept an honor.  In a book review in Nature (29 May 1997, pp. 469-470) celebrating a new publication of The Correspondence of Michael Faraday, Thomas said, “The letters of Faraday are remarkable not only for their vivacity and freshness but for their elevated tone and excellent composition – they are true specimens of the lost art of letter-writing.”  In his biography, Thomas was especially struck by Faraday’s gift at introducing a subject; due to space, one example must suffice:
The science of electricity is that state in which every part of it requires experimental investigations; not merely for the discovery of new effects, but what is just now of far more importance, the development of the means by which the old effects are produced, and the consequence more accurate determination of the first principles of action of the most extraordinary and universal power in nature:— and to those philosophers who pursue the inquiry zealously yet cautiously, combining experiment with analogy, suspicious of their preconceived notions, paying more respect to a fact than a theory, not too hasty to generalize, and above all things, willing at every step to cross-examine their own opinions, both by reasoning and experiment, no branch of knowledge can afford so fine and ready a field for discovery as this.  Such is most abundantly shown to be the case by the progress which electricity has made in the last thirty years: Chemistry and Magnetism have successively acknowledged its over-ruling influence; and it is probable that every effect depending upon the power of inorganic matter, and perhaps most of those related to vegetable and animal life, will ultimately be found subordinate to it.

In this prediction and many others, his insight proved correct.  As he aged, his body remained strong, but his memory continued to fail.  Faraday continued lecturing till age 70, but only with difficulty.  He accepted his lot with equanimity and grace.  He wrote to a friend, “I am, I hope, very thankful that in the withdrawal of the power and things of this life,—the good hope is left with me, which makes the contemplation of death a comfort—not a fear.  Such peace is alone in the gift of God, and as it is He who gives it, why shall we be afraid?  His unspeakable gift in His beloved Son is the ground of no doubtful hope; and there is the rest for those who like you and me are drawing near the latter end of our terms here below” (quoted in Mulfinger, p. 94).  Upon his retirement from the Royal Institution, the queen awarded him and his wife a house in Hampton Court near the palace, in appreciation for his many contributions to science.  He shrugged off knighthood and requested only his name be written on his tombstone.  One thing he never forgot as the mental fog crept in was his love for the Lord and confidence of His good promises.  He spent the remaining nine years of his life at Hampton Court, quietly fading away, looking forward to heaven, which he entered on August 26, 1867.  The world below basks in the light of discoveries made by plain old Michael Faraday.

Afterword: Lessons Learned
Undoubtedly you have been encouraged by Faraday’s story.  Not an ounce of guile or inconsistency mars his memory.  We can, however, with the benefit of hindsight, speculate on some things that might have been.  One area of particular interest to the historian of science is the fact that Faraday’s life spanned the Darwinian revolution, the rapid rise of evolutionism and materialism that in twelve short years (1859-1871) turned the science of the natural philosophers, mostly Christians, into the science of the skeptics like Huxley and Haeckel.  Even John Tyndall, Faraday’s admirer and successor, was part and parcel of the revolution.  Faraday personally knew almost all the great scientists of his day; why did the Darwinian revolution occur on his watch?  Why did his Christian testimony have so little influence on those who were sowing the seeds of skepticism, atheism, methodological naturalism, and higher criticism all around him?

For one thing, Faraday was 69 when Darwin published On the Origin of Species; by then, his memory was severely impaired.  Nevertheless, movements have roots, and throughout the late 18th and early 19th centuries, seeds of doubt that were to undermine Biblical faith were already growing.  Lyell’s geological theories had cast doubt on Biblical chronology.  Pre-Darwinian evolutionary tracts and books, like Robert Chambers’ Vestiges, were gaining a widespread hearing.  Though Faraday was undoubtedly aware of such skeptical movements, it is difficult to find any account of Faraday speaking out against them, even though his outburst over spiritualism shows that he was capable of having strong opinions.  It’s troubling to read in an appendix of Thomas’ biography of Faraday, that as Director of the Royal Institution, he personally invited a mixed bag of scientists to give lectures: Christians, like Maxwell, Kelvin, Stokes and Whewell, but also skeptics, like Tyndall, Lyell and even Darwin’s bulldog, Thomas Huxley.  Huxley spoke four times at the Institution from 1852 to 1861, two years after The Origin was published, a year when England was ablaze with controversy over evolution.  Huxley’s 1861 topic was “On the nature of the earliest stages of the development animals.”  It’s not hard to imagine what Huxley, the most avid popularizer of Darwin in Britain, had to say about that.  In 1855, Faraday wrote a letter to Tyndall that is a model of conciliation and peacemaking; but within 20 years, this same Tyndall would announce before the British Association the triumph of scientific naturalism.  Just a few years after Faraday’s retirement, his Royal Institution became another mouthpiece of the Darwinians.  In all fairness, the Royal Institution was a non-religious body, and Faraday had a responsibility to allow leading scientists to speak; inviting a speaker does not imply endorsement.  Yet the silence is puzzling.  Why didn’t Faraday speak up, write essays, lecture on science and the Bible, or do more to prevent the war over science and the nature of reality that he should have seen coming?

Without having Faraday here to defend himself, it would be unfair to judge his apparent inaction as real; he may have done and said more than history recorded.  All we can do is argue from the silence, make inferences from rare quotations, and analyze cultural and political trends of the day.  We have the benefit of hindsight to see the evil fruit these skeptical trends produced – eugenics, Marxism, Nazism, social Darwinism and higher criticism.  To Faraday, they were philosophical issues bantied about in a culture that still survived by inertia on Christian presuppositions.  Michael Faraday strived to live peaceably, a good and noble personal goal, but there is a time and place to oppose evil.  Faraday had the gifts and the credibility to help define the issues and influence the direction of science.  He certainly advanced the secular part of it, and his personal character was impeccable, but the dichotomy between his church life and scientific life seems almost schizophrenic.  It is regrettable, knowing what followed, that he did not speak and write more on the Christian philosophy of science and the relation of Biblical faith to scientific endeavor, or to respond to the increasing arguments favoring naturalistic evolutionism when it was most needed.  He underlined I Timothy 6:20-21 and Romans 1:20 in the privacy of his study, but did he spread the message?

Another factor was the growing acceptance of methodological naturalism that can be traced to Sir Francis Bacon: the assumption that it is possible, even desirable, to approach science secularly, to discover truth through the pure accumulation of empirical facts and making inductive conclusions from the facts.  Presumably, this does not imply metaphysical naturalism, that nature is all there is.  Ultimately, however, the naturalistic method of science led to scientism, logical positivism and to the complete takeover of all branches of knowledge, even history and the arts, by secularists and materialists.  The Christian natural philosophers did not predict this outcome; they thought God was glorified in our discovering the laws of nature that He had set up.  This is a half truth— of course the discovery of God’s natural laws honors His wisdom, but the emphasis on natural law, and the de-emphasis on His sovereignty and free will, gradually had the effect of removing the possibility of God intervening in any way in His world.  Nature became the clock that God wound up at the beginning and left to run down on its own.  Ultra-Newtonianism pictured a predictable, clockwork universe that could be described by equations, provided we knew all the variables.  That such a view of nature is naive and simplistic is acknowledged by most moderns, but if we transport ourselves to Faraday’s world, we can understand the obsession to uncover natural laws –a worthy, though incomplete, goal.  John Herschel, William Whewell and others who promoted methodological naturalism were Christians who believed in an all-wise Creator, but their assumption nature could be approached inductively without metaphysical presuppositions denies the Lordship of Christ in all areas of life.  Methodological naturalism works to a point, as when measuring charge, force, temperature and other observable, repeatable causes and effects, but what are the limits?  By not defining the limits of science, the natural philosophers opened the door for the secularists to consider all fields open to secular inquiry, even psychology and origins.  The intelligent design movement is the latest skirmish in the battle of worldviews.  The secularists think that the universe can be described fully in terms of particles acting under chance and necessity or a combination of the two.  The design scientists add another fundamental entity: information.  Information is the fingerprint of designing intelligence that cannot be reduced to natural law.  If information is detectable and conserved, trying to reduce the universe and life to equations about particles is doomed to failure.  William Dembski has diagrammed an “Explanatory Filter” that ensures that chance and necessity are given appropriate consideration as causes, and that information (from an intelligent designer) is the explanation of last resort.  This approach addresses the concerns of earlier philosophers over “God of the gaps” explanations, without reducing science to the art of just-so storytelling in vain attempts to force evidences of design into the molds of chance and necessity.

In part also – and here is a lesson for modern Christians – the Sandemanian church may carry some blame for allowing the Darwinian revolution to succeed without a fight.  They so emphasized separation from the world, it appears they failed to be the “salt of the earth” and “light of the world” Jesus admonished.  Their members tended to marry within the group.  Their beliefs forbade them to fellowship with other groups of Christians, and frowned on getting involved in political or social issues.  Their faith seemed to be a personal thing, shared fervently on Sunday and Wednesday nights, but producing little impact on their community the rest of the week.  Undoubtedly they expected believers to work honestly and diligently in their careers (as Michael Faraday exemplified), but evangelism did not seem to be a high priority.  Consequently, they never became a large or influential movement.  This may be an incomplete evaluation of a long-defunct denomination, but why are references to God, the Bible, Jesus Christ, creation, or any other Biblical theme so rare in Faraday’s scientific writings?  Is not the author of Scripture the author of nature?  Faraday would certainly have believed it, and his personal faith is vibrant in his letters, but it appears he said little about this to his colleagues.  His scientific letters and lecture notes, though imbued with Christian presuppositions, seem as secular as any.  To what extent was Faraday influenced by his closed-door, uninvolved church?  A famous evangelist warned, “It takes evangelistic unction to make orthodoxy function.”  The Sandemanian movement stressed orthodoxy, but lacked the unction to share their faith, and so petered out.  The movement would be almost totally forgotten were it not for their famous member, Michael Faraday.  Churches today need to get their salt out of the shaker.  Its savor must flavor every part of life, including science.  Salt stings, but bad things happen when it is the missing ingredient.


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The World’s Greatest Creation Scientists from Y1K to Y2K.
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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 really enjoy your website, the first I visit every day.  I have a quote by Mark Twain which seems to me to describe the Darwinian philosophy of science perfectly.  ‘There is something fascinating about science.  One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.’  Working as I do in the Environmental field (I am a geologist doing groundwater contamination project management for a state agency) I see that kind of science a lot.  Keep up the good work!!”
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“[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!”
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  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.
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(a software engineer in Pennsylvania)

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(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.”
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“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)

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(a reader who found us in Georgia)

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Sincerely, Rev. [name withheld] (an ex-Catholic, “apostate Christian” Natural/Scientific pantheist)

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(from two prominent creation researchers/writers in Oregon)

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(a reader in North Carolina)

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“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)

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(a science teacher in Alabama)

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(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)

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(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.”
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(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.”
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(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)

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(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)

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(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):
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(a Presbyterian minister in New South Wales, Australia)

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(a prominent creationist author)

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(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)

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