Creation-Evolution Headlines
December 2010
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“I also examined the outstanding biodiscoveries of the past century.... I even queried biologists working in areas where one would expect the Darwinian paradigm to have most benefited research, such as the emergence of resistance to antibiotics and pesticides.  Darwin’s theory had provided no discernible guidance, but was brought in, after the breakthroughs, as an interesting narrative gloss.”
—Dr. Philip Skell, National Academy of Sciences member, in The Scientist, 08/29/2005.  Dr. Skell passed away on Nov 21 (see tribute on Evolution News).
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Year-End Closeout     12/31/2010    
Dec 31, 2010 — The sun is rising on 2011, but we need to clear the deck from 2010.  Here are ten 2010 headlines to acknowledge as the ball drops in Times Square, to avoid dropping the ball completely before moving on to 2011.

  1. Cells:  Many cancer cells have an “eat me” tag, said Science Daily.
  2. Early Man:  “Rodents Were Diverse and Abundant in Prehistoric Africa When Our Human Ancestors Evolved,” said Science Daily.  Is that why they left?  (But see 12/29/2010, where Adam was already in Israel.)
  3. Health:  Hire a plant as your therapist, suggests work on “indoor plant intervention” reported by Science Daily.
  4. Fossils:  How did the Komodo Dragon’s ancestor get from Africa to Indonesia?  Do some baloney detecting work on Science Daily’s tale about how the reptile’s “ability to swim may be key to figuring out how more than 30 million years later its ancestors turned up on the other side of the world.”
  5. Evolution:  The arms race is on between maize and smut, says Science Daily.
  6. Bird evolution:  Figure out who has the bird brain in Live Science’s story, “Fossilized Bird Brains May Yield Secret of First Flights.”
  7. Cosmology:  If a star is born and dies into a black hole, is the black hole born?  Untangle the claims on PhysOrg.
  8. Philosophy of science:  Diviners are finding climate change messages in the strangest places: like in broken glass (PhysOrg), floods (National Geographic) and the taste of tea in India (PhysOrg).
  9. Ethics:  “Scientists Peer Into the Future of [Embryonic] Stem Cell Biology,” said Science Daily.  Search on the words ethics and cure.
  10. Intelligent Design:  Evolution News and Views, the blog of the Discovery Institute, reported four recent papers indicating that Intelligent Design is making waves in scientific journals: #1, #2, #3, and #4, all peer-reviewed scientific papers arguing for design over Darwin.
It’s the time of year for historians and prognosticators.  New Scientist looked back at 2010, while Live Science listed its “Science Breakthroughs that 2011 May Bring.”  Stories like these portend a busy year ahead for Creation-Evolution Headlines.
We’re going into 2011 strong with ten years of reporting behind us on a wide variety of subjects.  Resolve to tell your friends about Creation-Evolution Headlines.  The easy-to-remember address is “crev.info” – type that in your browser and read, learn, influence.  Happy News Year!
Next headline on:  Amazing FactsDarwin and EvolutionDumb Ideas
  For the celebration of the 2000th comet discovery by the SOHO spacecraft (see PhysOrg article), it’s worth revisiting the Five Woes of Comet Evolution from the 12/27/2007 entry.  It appears that the comet-y comedy has not yet reached comity.

Plants Outsmart Darwin     12/30/2010    
Dec 30, 2010 — There are wonders in plants that continue to be uncovered with the tools of science.  Two recent papers in PNAS lend support to the feeling that plants are smarter than assumed.

  1. Trash collection:  Humans usually only employ one trash collection service, but plants have two.  Four Chinese investigators found redundant pathways in plant cells for removing misfolded proteins.  Writing in PNAS,1 they characterized endoplasmic reticulum associated degradation (ERAD), “an integral part of the ER quality-control system that removes toxic misfolded proteins via ubiquitin/proteasome-mediated degradation” (see 11/24/2010).  They found two genes that “function redundantly” to ensure this essential process does not fail.  The genes are conserved (unevolved) in yeast, plants, and humans.
  2. Portable generators:  Humans know it is handy to have a power source, like a battery, when you’re away from the power grid.  Plants know that, too.  German scientists found that plants use potassium as a local energy source in their vessels.  Here’s what their abstract said in PNAS about how plants exploit the multi-functional potassium ion.2
    The essential mineral nutrient potassium (K+) is the most important inorganic cation for plants and is recognized as a limiting factor for crop yield and quality.  Nonetheless, it is only partially understood how K+ contributes to plant productivity.  K+ is used as a major active solute to maintain turgor and to drive irreversible and reversible changes in cell volume.  K+ also plays an important role in numerous metabolic processes, for example, by serving as an essential cofactor of enzymes.  Here, we provide evidence for an additional, previously unrecognized role of K+ in plant growth.  By combining diverse experimental approaches with computational cell simulation, we show that K+ circulating in the phloem serves as a decentralized energy storage that can be used to overcome local energy limitations.
    They called this the “potassium battery.”  They described how the model plant Arabidopsistaps this ‘potassium battery,’ which then efficiently assists the plasma membrane H+-ATPase in energizing the transmembrane phloem (re)loading processes.”
Neither paper explained how these systems might have evolved.  The paper on ERAD degradation of misfolded proteins only mentioned that the genes are conserved, and speculated in passing about the functional differences of the ERAD genes in plants vs humans.  Another PNAS paper by Harvard biologists, however, did speculate about misfolded proteins as a source of evolutionary innovation.3  Studying how yeast cells handle misfolded proteins, they recognized that there is a fitness cost involved, as if an oarsman suddenly disabled on a rowing team makes the others have to work harder.  What does this have to do with evolution?  Not much, apparently, and maybe less: it appears to constrain evolution, not advance it:
These results underscore the distinct and evolutionarily relevant molecular threat of protein misfolding, independent of protein function.  Assuming that most misfolded proteins impose similar costs, yeast cells express almost all proteins at steady-state levels sufficient to expose their encoding genes to selection against misfolding, lending credibility to the recent suggestion that such selection imposes a global constraint on molecular evolution.
Selection against misfolding is a form of stabilizing selection – a “running in place” process that tries to maintain the status quo, not the kind of evolution Darwin envisioned.  If most mutations lead to toxic misfolded proteins, plants need to be smart enough to get rid of them quickly and systematically, not tinker with them in random searches for new functions.
    One can look in vain in this paper for any suggestions supporting old Darwinian ideas of progress, tinkering or innovation.  Quite the contrary: “Our study illustrates the value in isolating and quantifying the consequences of protein misfolding to understand their relative contributions to molecular evolution and cell biology,” they said in conclusion.  “The results support hypotheses that assume that misfolded proteins impose a selective cost independent of protein function and a model of protein quality control in which a small interacting set of proteins responds specifically to misfolded proteins in the eukaryotic cytosol.”  In the set of “hypotheses that assume that misfolded proteins impose a selective cost,” is there any reason to exclude intelligent design?
1.  Su, Liu, Xia, Hong, and Li, “Conserved endoplasmic reticulum-associated degradation system to eliminate mutated receptor-like kinases in Arabidopsis,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published online before print December 27, 2010, doi: 10.1073/pas.1013251108.
2.  Gajdanowicz et al, “Potassium (K+) gradients serve as a mobile energy source in plant vascular tissues,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published online before print December 27, 2010, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1009777108.
3.  Geiler-Samerotte et al, “Misfolded proteins impose a dosage-dependent fitness cost and trigger a cytosolic unfolded protein response in yeast,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published online before print December 27, 2010, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1017570108.
These papers have intelligent design shouting and Darwin whimpering.  Respect your garden by acknowledging the design so clearly evident, and honoring the Designer.  Don’t insult your plants by thinking they got where they are by unguided, directionless, chance processes of evolution.  It would be like insulting professionals for a job well done by shrugging your shoulders and saying, “Stuff happens.”
Next headline on:  PlantsCell BiologyDarwin and EvolutionIntelligent DesignAmazing Facts
Adam Found?     12/29/2010    
Dec 29, 2010 — Evidence of modern humans older than any ever discovered has been found in Israel – thus the teasing headline.  The skeleton’s evolutionary discoverers would certainly discount any Biblical tie-in.  Not that Adam was an Israelite, but like some later Biblical prophet, the find seems to be pronouncing doom on modern idolaters from the grave – or, the cave.  The alleged date of 400,000 years for the fossils and artifacts – twice the earlier evolutionary estimate for the oldest modern human – is early enough to topple a Darwin statue face down.
    The fossils found in Qesem Cave in central Israel consisted of modern-looking human teeth and evidences of modern self-awareness and control over nature.  PhysOrg announced, “Israeli archaeologists have discovered human remains dating from 400,000 years ago, challenging conventional wisdom that Homo sapiens originated in Africa, the leader of excavations in Israel said on Tuesday.”  That out-of-Africa theory has been more than conventional wisdom.  It has been downright dogma to paleoanthropologists.  Putting modern humans two to four times farther back than previously thought, and in Israel instead of the Olduvai Gorge or Sterkfontein Cave is upsetting, to say the least.
    Science Daily, calling the discovery “unprecedented,” agrees that “the discoveries made in the Qesem Cave may overturn the theory that modern humans originated on the continent of Africa.”  It remains to be seen what the paleoanthropologists who have devoted lifetimes to African fossils will have to say in response, except that Live Science headlined, “Fish Swam the Sahara, Bolstering Out of Africa Theory”  If you have never envisioned sand fish before, be advised that these were ordinary water-swimming fish who did just fine, because the sand order hadn’t been delivered yet.  As for how fish swimming across this region bolsters the Out of Africa theory, Charles Q. Choi corrected initial visions of fishermen chasing fish north: “Now it turns out the Sahara might not have been quite as impassable [sic] as once thought – not only for humanity, but for fish as well.”  The fish could have been following the humans’ lead, in other words, especially if our ancestors had developed the crawl stroke.  (See PNAS abstract of the paper on which this idea is based.)
    Pushing his own credibility, though, Tel Aviv University Professor Avi Gopher dug up this gem from his evolutionary timeline: “Our cave was used for a period of about 250,000 years – from about 400,000 years ago to about 200,000 years ago.”  To accept this claim means that anatomically and mentally modern humans sat in this cave for 250,000 years, 20 times longer than generous estimates of recorded history, never thinking it might be nice to invent writing and spaceships or visit California.  Somehow, spin doctor Gopher thinks that his bombshell announcement can “enhance our understanding of the evolution of mankind,” the article said.  How will his colleagues massage this data:
Prof. Gopher and Dr. Barkai noted that the findings related to the culture of those who dwelled in the Qesem Cave – including the systematic production of flint blades; the regular use of fire; evidence of hunting, cutting and sharing of animal meat; mining raw materials to produce flint tools from subsurface sources – reinforce the hypothesis that this was, in fact, innovative and pioneering behavior that may correspond with the appearance of modern humans.
    Meanwhile, more and more anthropologists are joining in the effort to tear down the old Neanderthal myth.  “Neanderthals ate their veggies,” PhysOrg announced, proving that Neanderthal mums had not only learned to gather and cook plant material (not just Mammoth beef), but mastered the phrase, “No dessert till you finish your broccoli” early on, to say nothing of the fact that they might have learned this from their predecessors – modern humans.  Maybe they met outside the garden of eatin’ and shared recipes.  (See PNAS abstract for the paper on which this idea is based.)
    Clive Finlayson, anthropologist and director at the Gibraltar Museum, wrote for the BBC News that this means all has changed: “Theories of human ancestry get an overhaul.”  Bouncing off the veggie tale, he said, “So the Neanderthals weren’t stupid apes but humans, and they interbred with our own ancestors.”
    Finlayson was also bouncing off another shocking story that claimed another branch of early people were in Siberia while Neanderthals were in Europe.  Called Denisovans because of the cave that yielded finger bones, DNA and tools, these people supposedly lived prior to 50,000 years ago.  Live Science gave prominence to a shocking adverb in this sentence by putting it first: “Bizarrely, the DNA from these extinct Siberians seems unusually similar to that of Pacific Islanders from tropical Melanesia.”  Since everyone since Gauguin knows that Europeans are interfertile with Tahitians, this can only mean one thing: evolutionary spin doctors will have to work overtime: “there are already hints that suggest that the status quo will prevail and we will find reasons for making these people a little bit less clever than our direct ancestors,” Finlayson jibbed.  Then he jabbed, “The irony is that the scientific community is going to have to come round to the acceptance that the Denisovans and the Neanderthals also belonged to the species which we call Homo sapiens.”  So if our Neanderthal brethren were to join a paleoanthropology conference, who would be calling whom stupid?
    What’s the lesson in this latest series of bombshell discoveries?  Well, for one thing, duh: “So those who claimed that Neanderthals only ate meat, an almost physiological impossibility, have to rethink their argument.”  That’s assuming that their thinking was an argument to begin with.  More pointedly, Finlayson added, bolstering his own particular view about Neanderthal extinction due to environmental perturbation (09/23/2008),
This is a lesson for us [paleoanthropologists] all to learn.  But in spite of the evidence there are those who will resist.  A hallmark, for the archaeologists, of modern humanity has been the Upper Palaeolithic technology.
    In recent years the boundary between this technology and its makers has become increasingly diffuse and I would argue that technology can no longer be used as proxy for human taxa.
That technological boundary, when the inner lights of the cranium allegedly turned on in the first Man the wise, essentially marks (in their view) a transition from evolving by Darwinian means to mastering intelligent design.  Maybe it was a mutation that led to the “appearance” of our kind of biological organism.  Whatever it means, it probably coincided with the evolution of humor.  Finlayson couldn’t resist sticking this jib in the ribs of his fellow anthropology storytellers (in this case, the Denisovan discovery crew), who put forth a hypothesis that the tools they found in the cave had to have been made by later “real” humans: “In other words the Denisovans lived prior to 50,000 years ago and the tools were made between 30,000 and 23,000 years ago by invisible humans.”  Enough to make the cave cookout fire crackle a little louder.

Postscript.  Speaking of Melanesia and the Pacific islands, a recent paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (see abstract) by Wilmshurst, Hunt, Lipo and Anderson presented a new “high precision” chronology using radiocarbon dating that indicates “recent and rapid initial human colonization of East Polynesia,” centuries more recent than previously believed.  They said, “Our empirically based and dramatically shortened chronology for the colonization of East Polynesia resolves longstanding paradoxes and offers a robust explanation for the remarkable uniformity of East Polynesian culture, human biology, and language.”  These islands were not settled by humans till beginning 1025 A.D. – remarkable if modern humans had been on earth for 400,000 years, considering that the DNA of the Denisovans resembles that of Melanesians.  “Models of human colonization, ecological change and historical linguistics for the region,” they said, “now require substantial revision.”  Such revisions might also be in order for theories about human migration in general, considering how quickly humans spread throughout Polynesia once the migrations began.

If you thought any more major revisions to the evolutionary story of early man would only make the rubble bounce, you were right.
    Finlayson should be sticking his jib in his own ribs.  He is still an evolutionist in spite of this devastating series of falsifications to the evolutionary tale.  It’s not just his colleagues who are guilty of manufacturing invisible evidence whenever needed to prop up a myth.  Notice how he accused scientists of sometimes ensuring the status quo prevails against attacks by the evidence, or coming up with “reasons” for portraying certain groups of people as less clever than we are – a kind of historical racism based on social Darwinist ideology.  People fall for this because of the clever ways evolutionists manipulate words and thoughts to lend an aura of “science” to their tall tale telling.  It’s like falling for the seductive “missing link” game without realizing that what’s missing is the chain.
    This latest episode in the parade of paleoanthropology ignorance is brought to you by Creation-Evolution Headlines, to show that evolutionary storytelling is not only misguided and depraved, it’s funny.  This is the 610th entry in the “Dumb Ideas” category, meaning that if you peruse back through them all, you can have a wickedly good time grinning at Man the wise trying to figure out where he came from without help from the history book.
Next headline on:  Early ManFossilsDating MethodsDarwin and EvolutionDumb Ideas
  On the origin of insects: it’s a subject sure to bug a Darwinist (12/27/2006), but the DPF has the fogma spray to mask the problem, if not eliminate it.  See the commentary to see what the DPF stands for.

Christmas Stocking     12/24/2010    
Dec 24, 2010 — Christmas is upon us, and then the new year.  Many interesting news stories have come prancing from the roof with too little time to unwrap them.  We leave them hanging on the mantle, with our astute readers able to pick the fresh oranges from the fruitcakes, the hot picks from the lumps of coal.

  1. Morality:  You’d never guess that couples that wait for sex till after marriage have more benefits later.  PhysOrg seemed surprised.
  2. Morality:  People lie to manage communications, PhysOrg claims, but then can you trust their reporters?
  3. Anthropology:  A chilling site of child sacrifice has been found at an archaeological site in Peru, reported National Geographic.
  4. Anthropology:  Claiming that “Shopping Differences Between Sexes Show Evolution at Work” seems overboard, even for a Science Daily holiday prank, which the editors apparently took seriously.
  5. Mammals:  National Geographic got all excited about chimpanzees playing with sticks as if they were dolls.  OK, so?
  6. Origin of Life:  National Geographic also got excited about “life ingredients” in a superhot meteorite.  Like what, charcoal?
  7. Evolution:  by heat shock?  You figure out what Science Daily is saying.
  8. Biomimetics:  A prototype solar device has been unveiled which mimics plant life, said BBC News.
  9. Biomimetics:  Make like a trilobite eye and get the thinnest camera ever, New Scientist says.
  10. Solar System:  The reality of Rhea is coming to light from Cassini’s latest flyby, reported JPL, and it’s got the blues and a surprising oxygen and carbon dioxide atmosphere, reported Science.
  11. Solar System:  Speaking of Cassini, dramatic new images of the geysers of Enceladus were also posted by JPL from its 13th flyby on Dec. 20.  If you look quickly, the Cassini website is temporarily decorated for Christmas.
  12. Solar System:  Before leaving the Saturn system, Space.com said Titan’s southern lake is very shallow and virtually flat, holding far less liquid than hoped.  And the best hope for an ice volcano was reported by BBC News.  In its coverage, National Geographic couldn’t resist teasing with the L-word.
  13. Atmospheric Science:  If biting winters are caused by global warming, as PhysOrg claims, when does the warming arrive?
  14. Mind and Brain:  Placebos work, even when you know they are fake.  That was a surprise reported by PhysOrg.
  15. Sociology:  PhysOrg is all worried about how the Muslims are coping with the aftermath of 9/11.  How about the rest of us?
  16. Geology:  Israeli scientists are digging cores in the south end of the Dead Sea looking for evidence of earthquakes and climate change, reported Science Daily.
  17. Health:  For those needing tissue reconstruction, there’s a good source of stem cells: fat.  See PhysOrg.
  18. Health:  Many cancer cells carry an “eat me” signal, said PhysOrg.
  19. Physiology:  There appears to be an optimum temperature for keeping fungi away and yet not running so hot as to have to eat constantly.  That temperature is – sound familiar? – 98.6°F.  Read about it on Science Daily.
  20. Early man:  Science Daily summarized a paper from Science that alleges a previously unknown human relative that interbred with us, but aren’t they making a big deal out of a finger bone?
For a merry Christmas memory, look at this: PhysOrg posted the original broadcast of Apollo 8’s Christmas message from the moon.  It’s worth hearing again.
These are just a few of the recent stories that could have earned in-depth reporting and analysis.  Come back when the calendar turns the page into 2011.  The need for critical thinking about science news has never been greater.  In the meantime, may the message of Christmas send light into a dark, lost world.
Next headline on:  Amazing FactsDumb Ideas
Notable Notes and Quotable Quotes
Expert on ‘Evolution of Morality’ Accused of Mischief: “In August, Harvard University found that Marc Hauser, a leader in the field of animal and human cognition, had committed eight counts of scientific misconduct.  Hauser studies the evolutionary origin of characteristics such as morality, language and mathematical ability, and his work has been profiled in many news outlets, such as The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.
Nature News 12/22/2010.  See also 02/08/2010, 07/03/2007 entries here.

Brain Synapse Machinery Is Finely Tuned     12/23/2010    
Dec 23, 2010 — The New York Times published a brief article on brain facts that is astonishing, when you think about all that goes on in thinking.  Nicholas Wade reported on a new inventory of the proteins involved in the synapses, the key junctions between neurons. 

The research team, led by Seth Grant of the Sanger Institute near Cambridge, England, compiled the first exact inventory of all the protein components of the synaptic information-processing machinery.  No fewer than 1,461 proteins are involved in this biological machinery, they report in the current issue of Nature Neuroscience....
    Each neuron in the human brain makes an average 1,000 or so connections with other neurons.  There are 100 billion neurons, so the brain probably contains 100 trillion synapses, its most critical working part.
    At the side of a synapse that belongs to the transmitting neuron, an electrical signal arrives and releases packets of chemicals.  The chemicals diffuse quickly across the minute gap between the neurons and dock with receptors on the surface of the receiving neuron.
    These receptors feed the signals they receive to a delicate complex of protein-based machines that process and store the information.
    The 1,461 genes that specify these synaptic proteins constitute more than 7 percent of the human genome’s 20,000 protein-coding genes, an indication of the synapse’s complexity and importance.
    Dr. Grant believes that the proteins are probably linked together to form several biological machines that process the information and change the physical properties of the neuron as a way of laying down a memory.
Lest one think there is a lot of leeway in the system for evolution, the article went on to describe what mutations do.  Single mutations in 169 genes, the Sanger team found, cause 269 different human diseases.  “The tolerances of these machines seem to be very fine because almost any mutation in the underlying genes leads to a misshapen protein and, consequently, to disease,” the article said.  Science Daily reported that a single gene deletion leads to the most common form of adult brain cancer.
    See also the 11/19/2010 entry on brain-boggling facts.
Are you thinking that Darwin doesn’t have a prayer explaining this?  Look: machines made of other machines, information processing, fantastic complexity, very fine tolerance.  If you are thinking rightly, you will be thanking the Maker of your designed brain.
    This is the 700th “Amazing Facts” entry in Creation-Evolution Headlines brought to you in over 10 years of reporting.  Putting all of them together would make a sizeable book.  If you appreciate this amazing information made available here for free, consider supporting our site with a year-end donation.  Click the Donate button on the right-hand column.
Next headline on:  Human BodyMind and BrainGenetics and DNACell BiologyIntelligent DesignAmazing Facts
  How apemen learned to give Christmas presents: 12/25/2005.

Soft Tissue Fossil Treasure Trove Found in China     12/22/2010    
Dec 22, 2010 — Live Science announced a major new fossil find in China with some 20,000 fossils.  It was found in a 50-foot thick layer of limestone

The fossils are exceptionally well-preserved, with more than half of them completely intact, including soft tissues.  Apparently they were protected across the ages by mats of microbes that rapidly sealed their bodies off from decay after death....
    Ninety percent of the fossils are bug-like creatures, such as crustaceans, millipedes and horseshoe crabs.  Fish make up 4 percent, including the “living fossil” known as the coelacanth, which is still alive today nearly 250 million years later.  Snails, bivalves (creatures including clams and oysters), squid-like belemnoids, nautilus-like ammonoids and other mollusks make up about 2 percent of the fossils.
Other major fossils found include marine reptiles and “dolphin-bodied ichthyosaurs” (see photo accompanying the article with amazing detail evident).  Reporter Charles Q. Choi did not elaborate on whether the “soft tissues” included original material or, more likely, impressions of anatomical parts in rock.  The site, named the Luoping Site, is in southwest China.
Once again, a fossil graveyard is found, indicating rapid burial and exquisite preservation.  What they didn’t mention about coelacanth is that it is a classic living fossil that was thought to have gone extinct at the end of the Cretaceous (65 million years ago), only to be found in 1938 swimming comfortably off the coast of South Africa.  And that’s not the only case of so-called “Lazarus taxa,” rising from the dead.  Who can really believe that (1) coelacanths never left another fossil for 65 million years, and (2) the soft tissues in these fossils were never disturbed for 250 million years?
    Evolutionists keep the fogma machines (05/14/2007) running to distract the real message of the bones.  They bring in imaginary dinosaur feathers, slowly migrating continents, mass extinctions and hundreds of millions of years.  If we had not been so brainwashed into accepting this weird stretched-out chronology founded by Sir Lyell Lot and his cronies, we would laugh at such notions.  Look past the Darwin promissory notes (06/26/2010, 02/24/2010) and reckless drafts on the bank of time (07/02/2007), and let the collateral earn its own interest.
Next headline on:  FossilsMarine BiologyDinosaurs and Extinct ReptilesDating Methods
Divining Dino Dining     12/21/2010    
Dec 21, 2010 — Some of those big, fierce-looking dinosaurs—cousins to T. rex—could have been vegetarians.  That’s a paradigm-shaking announcement being made by PhysOrg, Science Daily, and Live Science: “Meat-Eating Dinosaurs Not So Carnivorous After All.”  The revision is based on information from the Field Museum of Chicago.
    A similar article on PhysOrg laments that one of Australia’s prized meat-eaters is being “forced to take a walk” – it’s apparently a vegan, too.  Rather than abandon the evolutionary story, the authors are revising parts of it.  Lindsay Zanno put it this way: “Most theropods are clearly adapted to a predatory lifestyle, but somewhere on the line to birds, predatory dinosaurs went soft.”  But later, she admitted, “Its [sic] time to start seeing these animals in a new evolutionary context.”  No other possible context was mentioned.
    Various evolutionary subplots went on from there; the evolution of toothless beaks, etc. – e.g., “Besides losing teeth and evolving beaks, the researchers found that as several lineages of coelurosaur turned to plant eating, they also evolved longer necks, which may have helped the animals to expand their browsing range.”  “The ability to eat plant materials may have played a pivotal role in allowing coelurosaurian dinosaurs to achieve such remarkable species diversity,” Zanno claimed, “but more study is needed to understand what role dietary shifts may play in evolutionary processes.
    Another dinosaur diviner, Patrick O'Conner [Ohio University College], was interviewed by Live Science: “Paleontologist Investigates Ancestors of Crocs and Birds.”  O'Conner divulged a lot about his taste in music and movies, and his travels and sources of inspiration, but little about the evidence that dinosaurs evolved from an ancestor.  When asked what are the most important characteristics for a researcher, he said, “A considerable amount of creativity combined with healthy dose of passion.  An effective researcher is always thinking on his or her toes, whether it is at the lab bench or in the field setting, and it goes without saying that researchers must absolutely love whatever it is they are investigating!”  Those are undoubtedly prime qualities for a traveling, movie-watching musician.
You, too, can have a satisfying career making up stories, looking at divining bones, and watching movies and playing music.  Not only that, everyone will like you and treat everything you say like an oracle from the gods.  Whenever necessary, you can change the story a little to keep your adoring followers (the science reporters) on the edge of their seats with each new twist of the plot.  Why have everybody hate you?  Don’t associate with those despised ID people who insist on evidence.  That’s no fun.  Follow the crowd through the gate that is wide and the way that is broad.
Next headline on:  DinosaursFossilsDarwin and EvolutionPhilosophy of Science
Tip Link
Snowflakes!  Perfect for the winter solstice, a visit to SnowCrystals.com takes you to the website of Caltech physicist Kenneth Libbrecht, who has taken some of the most aesthetically beautiful photos of snowflakes ever.  He also provides a wealth of science behind snowflake formation and shares his photography secrets – even provides science projects that can be done at home.  But just browsing his galleries of snowflake photos is well worth a few minutes of eye candy indulgence.

Evolution As Assumption     12/20/2010    
Dec 20, 2010 — Reasoning requires premises: axioms or truths taken for granted.  Notice the premise of reasoning stated in a recent article on Science Daily: “Because all living organisms inherit their genomes from ancestral genomes, computational biologists at MIT reasoned that they could use modern-day genomes to reconstruct the evolution of ancient microbes.”  They used an evolutionary assumption to reason to an evolutionary result.  Isn’t this circular?
    The article was about trying to put together a picture of life before the Cambrian Explosion.  Their reasoning included “the ways that genes evolve: new gene families can be born and inherited; genes can be swapped or horizontally transferred between organisms; genes can be duplicated in the same genome; and genes can be lost.  Only the first in that quartet, though, can sing of innovation.  The other factors can only process or lose existing information.  How, though, are new gene families “born”?  It’s so improbable for a single gene to be “born” by chance (online book), let alone a whole family of genes, that the notion of chance giving birth to a gene is essentially falsified.  Evolutionists cannot merely assume evolution to think that evolution can solve this problem.
    More circularity is evident when they assumed an evolutionary timeline to determine when genes came into existence:

The scientists traced thousands of genes from 100 modern genomes back to those genes’ first appearance on Earth to create a genomic fossil telling not only when genes came into being but also which ancient microbes possessed those genes.  The work suggests that the collective genome of all life underwent an expansion between 3.3 and 2.8 billion years ago, during which time 27 percent of all presently existing gene families came into being.
The article used other phrases to describe complex things “coming into being,” such as “the birth of modern electron transport,” and, “we can speculate that having access to a much larger energy budget enabled the biosphere to host larger and more complex microbial ecosystems.”
    After assuming evolution to trace evolution, they ended by saying they had proved evolution.  Eric Alm (MIT, Harvard) named the sudden discovery of modern electron transport the Archaen Expansion.  “What is really remarkable about these findings is that they prove that the histories of very ancient events are recorded in the shared DNA of living organisms,” he said.  “And now that we are beginning to understand how to decode that history, I have hope that we can reconstruct some of the earliest events in the evolution of life in great detail.”
What is remarkable is that intelligent people with PhDs can commit such logical sins with impunity.  You can’t assume evolution, then use the assumption of evolution to trace evolution and prove evolution.  Evolution is the issue at issue!  The Cambrian Explosion has falsified evolution.  Dr. Alm cannot turn around and use the assumption of evolution to try to un-falsify it.  What’s even worse, he completely ignored the criticisms, and invoked chance miracles to fill in the evidential gaps.
    When will evolutionists realize that they cannot invoke miracle words like genes “coming into being” and “arising” and “gaining access to a larger energy budget” and becoming “enabled to evolve larger and more complex systems”?  This is what the charlatans do that skeptic James Randi debunks.  They claim that miracle water can be produced with mental electricity, but it only works if you truly believe in it.  Evolutionary explanations are like a Mobius strip – circular, with a twist.
    There was no independent test of evolutionary theory anywhere in this futile exercise of self-fulfilling prophecy.  Evolution was invoked as a divining rod, as if the spirit of a white-bearded wizard told Eric that with this magical device, he could achieve enlightenment.  Whatever enlightenment he gained was the reflection of flashes of imagination inside his own willfully blind mind.
Next headline on:  Darwin and EvolutionGeneticsFossilsPhilosophy of ScienceDumb Ideas
  How come workouts make you stronger, but send your pickup truck to the repair shop?  Read how space physiologists think about that question in the 12/20/2004 entry.

Secular Evolutionists Are a Small Minority     12/19/2010    
Dec 19, 2010 — A new Gallup poll shows that only 16% of Americans subscribe to the view that “Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in the process.”  About 40% believe in Biblical creationism (recent creation within 10,000 years); that percentage climbs to 60% among churchgoers.  Another 38% believe God guided the process of evolution.  These results were summarized by Live Science, republished on MSNBC.
    The Gallup site shows the questions that were asked and how the results have varied over the years.  The Biblical creationist and secular evolutionist numbers have changed since similar polls starting in 1982, while those in the middle ground have varied, but remain right where they were in 1982 (38%).  The number espousing secular evolution has climbed 9%, and the number of Biblical creationists dropped about 7%, but has wobbled between 47% and 40% over the last 12 years, and is only 4% lower than its 1982 value.  Secular evolution remained fairly low for 17 years since 1982 (9-11%), but has seen a slow, steady climb since 1999, from 9 to 16%.
    Biblical recent creationism was highest among Republicans (52%) compared to Democrats and independents (34%).  Secular evolution was lowest among Republicans (8%) and highest among Democrats (20%) and independents (21%).  “Gallup officials wrote that it’s not surprising some 80 percent of Americans hold a view of human origins that involves God,” the article ended, “since most Americans believe in God and about 85 percent identify with a religion.”
    Jeanne Brynner in her Live Science article claimed that “The findings also stand in stark contrast to another announcement Friday, this one by John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy” about scientific integrity.  That document, however, said nothing about evolution or human origins.  One of its opening tenets said, “Scientific progress depends upon honest investigation, open discussion, refined understanding, and a firm commitment to evidence,” principles rarely encountered in evolutionist handling of issues involving creation and intelligent design.
    In addition, the Holdren announcement called for “openness and transparency with the media and the American people,” and was very clear about transparency over scientific uncertainties in particular: “Agencies should communicate scientific and technical findings by including a clear explication of assumptions; accurate contextualization of uncertainties; and a description of the probabilities associated with both optimistic and pessimistic projections, including best-case and worst-case scenarios where appropriate.”  The document further called for scientists working for the executive branch of the Government to be selected based on merit, free of political influence, with protection for whistleblowers in a culture that fosters “free flow of scientific and technological information....”  If these principles were applied in an unbiased way with regards to the question of origins, Republicans and intelligent design proponents would not be such outsiders in today’s lopsided scientific community, where policy makers, journalists and leaders of scientific societies are overwhelmingly pro-evolution members of the Democratic party (see 12/05/2010).

If Brynner and Holdren really believed in integrity, they would have to become creationists, because integrity that evolves is not integrity – what counts for integrity today could morph into dishonesty tomorrow if it produces more offspring.  Must be consistent.  (Actually, evolutionists feel no need to be consistent, either, except when appearing to be consistent or honest aids their cause.  That’s why you have to watch these guys.)  As could be expected, Brynner regurgitated Live Science’s standard creation-mocking links at the bottom of her article.  While Biblical creationists can be encouraged at their strong showing in spite decades of merciless, one-sided indoctrination, there is cause for alarm at the slow rise of secularism with its roots in Darwinism.  The Battle for the Beginning still rages (02/17/2002). 
    The middle group, whom we could call compromisers, actually includes quite a few Bible-believing creationists, too – including proponents of the day-age theory, gap theory, progressive creation, and other schemes that subscribe to the rest of the Bible after Genesis 11, including the fundamental doctrines of the deity of Christ, God’s sovereignty to work miracles, and Christ’s second coming – and hold to a literal creation of Adam and Eve.  Members of these subgroups are just uncomfortable with trying to put Genesis 1-11 in 10,000 years or less.
    The compromise category also includes theistic evolutionists, who accept gradual natural selection after a fashion, but believe either that all the variations were front-loaded to produce humans, or that God superintended the variations to work out His plan for the arrival of humans.  Many of these also are Christians with sincere faith, misguided and inconsistent as we would think them to be.  And even the “secular evolution” group could include some proponents of intelligent design, though not ones ready to concede the designer is God (notice the way the Gallup question was worded: “but God guided the process”).  Evolution News commented on the ambiguities of the categories.
    One should beware of the assumptions in the word religious.  The impression is given of a dichotomy between those with “religiosity” (whatever that big tent zoo includes) and the secular purists, devoted only to evidence and reason.  Don’t be fooled.  That’s a category error.  The “secular evolutionists” are just as religious as anyone in the species Homo religiosens, even if they don’t hold hymnals in a church.  They are just as religious as other pantheists, like the animists who envisioned spirits in the trees and animals, only our modern academic pantheists are better at math and more sophisticated in their ignorance.  It’s impossible to be truly secular, because either one steals from the smorgasbord of Christian assumptions (02/09/2009) about the nature of reality and the preconditions for intelligibility (03/18/2009), or ends up ascribing creative powers to material stuff and imbuing it with all the attributes of God (05/20/2002).
    No, the faithful in the Church of Darwin can best be described as pantheists and polytheists, meditating on their own scriptures (The Origin of Species, The Descent of Man), chanting their mantras Ummmm, Stufffff Happpppennnnzzz (09/22/2009), singing their favorite hymns (It’s a Long Way from Amphioxus [10/06/2005] and others), encouraging one another (Onward EugenieScott Soldiers), and bowing at the shrines of their idols in the Evolutionary Pantheon – Emperor Charlie (the Bearded Buddha), Sir Lyell Lot, and Tinker Bell – those all-wise spirits empowered (given enough time) to call out the life-potential in stuff and make life “emerge” from particles.
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Mummified Trees Found in Arctic     12/18/2010    
Dec 18, 2010 — Like Narnian children finding a zoo of lifeless stone statues in the White Witch’s wintry realm, scientists have come across frozen trees, leaves and seed pods deep in the Canadian arctic.  “The dry, frigid site is now surrounded by glaciers and is completely treeless,” said National Geographic News.  What deep magic left this mummified forest “exquisitely preserved”?  The scientific wizards say it was a landslide, up to 10 million years ago.
    Other frozen forests have been known (03/22/2002), but this one on Ellesmere Island is the farthest north found so far.  Science Daily said the find is the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.  Researchers at Ohio State “also suspect that many more mummified forests could emerge across North America as Arctic ice continues to melt,” Science Daily said.  “As the wood is exposed and begins to rot, it could release significant amounts of methane and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere – and actually boost global warming.”
    While that reporter was fascinated by whatever “Clues to Future Warming Impact” might be gained, perhaps more astonishing is how wood that could rot today remained frozen for 2-8 million years – the age range claimed in the article.  For him to worry about global warming, he must be talking about a lot of wood: “Walking through the area, they’re everywhere,” said Joel Barker, an environmental scientist at Ohio State University and leader of study of the mummified forest.  “You’d have trouble not tripping over them.”  The article described the forest as similar to those covering a wide area: “The mummified forest seems to resemble modern forests growing hundreds of miles to the south, suggesting the forest must have grown during a time when the Arctic was much warmer.”
    The National Geographic story led off with a photo of a cross-section of a log that looks like it would burn in a fireplace.  “The mummified trees were likely preserved so long because they were buried quickly by landslides and thus protected from air and water, which hastens decomposition.”  But can it protect them for millions of years?  How many landslides must be invoked to cover enough rotting mummified trees to raise concerns about greenhouse gases?  Even so, no living material lasts forever in its original state, unless replaced by minerals, as in petrification and fossilization.  This is real wood.
    “When we started pulling leaves out of the soil, that was surreal, to know that it’s millions of years old and that you can hold it in your hand,” one of the researchers announced to the American Geophysical Union last week.  A colleague familiar with fossil forests called this find “extraordinary,” speaking of “Finding wood that is millions of years old in such good condition—almost as if you just picked it up from the forest floor....”
The millions of years exist only in their imagination.  So tenacious are these moyboys* in their faith, they cannot see the trees for the forest, or the forest for the trees, because the fogma** is so thick.  These trees are not that old.  Neither are the dinosaur bones with blood vessels intact (04/09/2009).  Why do they tell such tales?
    They must keep the tale going, because they live in a fantasyland, the world of Blarneya, where it is always winter and never Christmas.  They like it that way, because they serve the White Beard, who rules Blarneya with an iron fist.  The Chronicles of Blarneya stretch backward and forward billions of years, they teach the children, turning their minds to stone.  They fear global warming because it will portend the day the lyin’ will be revealed.
*See definition in the 03/31/2007 commentary.
**See definition in the 05/14/2007 commentary.
Next headline on:  PlantsFossilsDating MethodsGeologyAmazing Facts
Loopy Cosmology Goes Abstract     12/17/2010    
Dec 17, 2010 — A physicist from Warsaw standing by a Picasso painting finds convergence with his thinking about the origin of the universe.  The caption on Science Daily reads, “The lines in the painting are fairly similar to graphs showing the evolution of quantum states of the gravitational field in loop quantum gravity.”  The cosmologist is Prof. Jerzy Lewandowski, and the painting is Picasso’s The Kitchen.  What kind of cosmological stew has Lewandowski cooked up?
    The article is just one in a recent trend to reach outside reality in order to try to understand reality:
What was the Big Bang and what happened before it?  Scientists from the Faculty of Physics, University of Warsaw have attempted to answer the question.  Within the framework of loop quantum gravity they have put forward a new theoretical model, which might prove useful for validating hypotheses about events prior to the Big Bang.  This achievement is one of the few models describing the full Einstein’s theory and not merely its greatly simplified version.
Some red flags pop up immediately in this paragraph.  The Big Bang was supposed to represent the beginning of spacetime itself.  By definition, nothing happened “before” it.  And if a “theoretical model...might prove useful for validating hypotheses,” at what point does this become a scientific activity?
    The article goes on to boast about how Lewandowski and others are trying to unify relativity with quantum gravity, a long-standing wish by cosmologists who have not been able to figure out how these “mutually exclusive” theories, both validated by experiment, can be simultaneously true.  To get there, Lewandowski had to invoke a theoretical fabric of quantum threads so small 1066 would fit in a square centimeter.  Obviously such entities will not be amenable to observation any time soon.
    Lewandowski explained that he still keeps the flow of time beginning at the Big Bang: “It is worthy of note that time is nonexistent at the beginning of the model,” he said.  “Nothing happens.  Action and dynamics appear as the interrelation between the fields when we begin to pose questions about how one object relates to another.”  This, however, begs the question of how the fields emerged, and whether relationships can hold outside of time.  While he is figuring this out, he admitted there is still a long way to go.  “We are curious ourselves to find out what will happen,” he said.
    Lewandowski is not the only one claiming to have insight into hidden things.  PhysOrg proudly reported, “Scientists find first evidence that many universes exist.”  One Big Bang is seeming so 1999.  “Perhaps this was the beginning of everything, but lately a few scientists have been wondering if something could have come before that, setting up the initial conditions for the birth of our universe.”  Don’t think for a minute that they are admitting the possibility of God.  They are looking at circular patterns in the cosmic microwave background (CMB) and calling them “bruises” in our universe from bumps by other universes.  Again, though, “The researchers emphasize that more work is needed to confirm this claim,” the article admitted.  Readers might recall that Roger Penrose last month offered a proposal to detect a multiverse (see 11/28/2010 and PhysOrg; see also “Multiverse Explanations Are Fashionable, If Not Justifiable,” 02/22/2010).
    Whatever “happened” before, if such a concept has any meaning, what happened after is surprising.  Space.com continued another theme prominent within the last decade: the grand finale came first.  “Whopping Celestial Baby Boom Revealed in Early Universe” trumpeted the headline.  Observations by the Herschel Space Telescope show an “astonishing” scale and rate of star formation in the early universe (cf. 01/08/2002, 09/21/2005, 04/02/2009; but balance with 08/26/2009).  “The new glimpse of such a productive early universe – seen as it looked 3 billion years after the Big Bang – may change the way scientists think about star formation.”
    Maybe they should think outside the materialistic box.  One of the leading astronomers of the 20th century died last week – Dr. Allan Sandage.  He became a theist and a Christian late in life.  Nature claimed in its obituary, “In mid-career, Allan became deeply concerned about the meaning of life.  He studied the Bible and spoke in public about science and religion as ‘two separate closets in the same house’.  In the end he highly valued Christian philosophy, but did not find faith.”  This claim by Gustav A. Tammann is contradicted by Sandage’s own words, found in an article at Leadership University, where he said, “If the world must simply be understood by a materialistic reductionalist nihilism, it would make no sense at all.  For this, Romans 1:19-21 seems profound.  And the deeper any scientist pushes his work, the more profound it does indeed become.”  In addition, an obituary in The Telegraph UK quotes him saying in 1983, “I could not live a life full of cynicism.  I chose to believe, and a peace of mind came over me.”
The equations, models and schemes of a blind man can be all self-consistent in his own imagination, without having any connection to reality (07/29/2010, 06/17/2010).  “Materialistic reductionalist nihilism” is a trap that leads to a dead end (10/05/2010).  It cannot satisfy.  It leads to a comedy of absurdities (03/19/2010).  Embrace the only world view that is not only consistent but connects with reality.  Start with that profound passage Sandage recommended (Romans 1:19-21) and continue reading from there.
Next headline on:  CosmologyStars and AstronomyPhysicsPhilosophy of ScienceBible and Theology
  Amazing cell wonders worth thinking about again: how life runs on waterwheels (12/22/2003), and 14 factors providing quality control for protein folding (12/20/2003).

Plant Wonders Are in the Details     12/16/2010    
Dec 16, 2010 — When you step on a weed growing out of a crack in the sidewalk, do you have any idea what kind of amazing machinery you stepped on?  Maybe a closer look will help.

  1. Communications and switching systems:  When a seed sprouts, it needs to first grow upward in the dark while trying to protect itself.  Then when it reaches the air and light, it needs to spread out leaves and collect sunlight.  Science Daily talked about work at Carnegie Institute on the chemical signals taking place at these critical junctures, saying that “Many components are involved in this developmental switch....”  One of them, a hormone called brassinosteroid, works antagonistically to sunlight in the soil-to-air transition, but only in the presence of another regulator called GATA2.  “The Carnegie team’s new research identifies a protein called GATA2 as a missing link in this communications system,” the article said, not using “missing link” in an evolutionary sense, but in a signal-transduction sense.  “This protein tells developing seedlings which type of growth to pursue” by switching certain genes on and off.  “....It also serves as a communications junction between internal plant systems that are turned on by light and those that are turned on by brassinosteroids.”
  2. Wallbuilders:  Cell walls keep seedlings and large trees standing upright with a molecule called lignin – a complex molecule that requires multiple steps, like a recipe, to make (10/26/2001, 05/30/2008, bullet 2).  But lignin cannot be assembled in the kitchen of the cytoplasm.  It has to be assembled in the cell wall.  That means that the ingredients, called precursors, which are manufactured inside the cell, have to migrate outward through the cell membrane to the construction site.  Some of them are temporarily stored in vacuoles (organelles that store substances), requiring additional transport through vacuolar membranes.
        It wasn’t clear if the precursors just float to their destinations by diffusion.  Scientists at Brookhaven National Labs found out that, instead, energy-driven molecular machines called transporters ferry the precursors to the construction sites.  PhysOrg reported on a paper in PNAS1 that described how these transporters actively take the materials where they belong, spending ATP energy like fuel.  “The range of assays revealed that pure monolignols move across the cellular membrane while monolignol glucosides move preferentially into vacuoles,” the article said.  “But most importantly, very little of either precursor would move across either type of membrane without the addition of ATP, the molecular ‘currency’ for energy in cells.”  The paper described how the transporters are very selective in their actions: “In the presence of ATP, the inverted plasma membrane vesicles preferentially take up monolignol aglycones, whereas the vacuolar vesicles are more specific for glucoconjugates, suggesting that the different ATP-binding cassette-like transporters recognize different chemical forms in conveying them to distinct sites....”
  3. Upward mobility:  Did you ever think about what is required to pump sap from the roots to the tops of trees?  Scientists at the University of Madrid are some of many who have.  Students probably remember the terms xylem and phloem; the former transporting water, the latter, nutrients.  Science Daily described “The objective: to discover the keys to the movement of sap in order to apply these advances to new hydraulic systems or to suction pumps.
        “The main conclusion of this study is that the sap in the trunks of trees is in a pressurized situation,” the article said.  “It demonstrates, then, that when the pressure is positive in the conduits of the xylem as well as in those of the floem [sic], the model expands in the radial direction.  However, when the pressure is negative in the xylem and positive in the floem [sic], which is what is believed to occur during the day, the model contracts in the radial direction.”  What can they learn from this information?  Better ways to extract water or pump it against gravity, for a couple of things.  One of the professors remarked, “Currently – the expert points out – there is no water suction pump capable of raising water more than ten meters at normal atmospheric pressure, but a sequoia tree can raise water to a height of 100 meters, which I think means that anything we can learn from plants is going to be of great interest to people working in this field.”
        Scientists at Princeton are also hot on this trail.  Publishing in PNAS,2 they first said, “Plant vascular networks are central to botanical form, function, and diversity.”  Then they described how transporting material requires tradeoffs between hydraulic safety and efficiency.  They developed a model that made “predictions for sap flow, the taper of the radii of xylem conduits from trunk to terminal twig, and how the frequency of xylem conduits varies with conduit radius,” and compared their model with various trees like, oak, maple and pine.  Somehow these trees know how to taper the radius of their vessels from bottom to top for maximum efficiency.
        The authors spoke of “evolutionary drivers” in their paper, but really were talking about design requirements – i.e., “(i) space-filling geometries to maximize carbon uptake by leaves and sap flow through conduits; (ii) increasing hydraulic conductance and resource supply to leaves; (iii) protection against embolism and associated decreases in vascular conductance; (iv) enforcement of biomechanical constraints uniformly across a plant; and (v) independence of terminal twig size, flow rate, and internal architecture with plant size.”  Nowhere did they describe a plausible sequence of mutations that might produce the necessary structures; they merely assumed that “selection” would somehow fulfill the requirements.
Speaking of plant evolution, another article on PhysOrg summarized another paper in PNAS3 that tried to trace flowering plants to a common ancestor that had cones.  That paper opened with, “The origin and rapid diversification of the angiosperms (Darwin’s ‘Abominable Mystery’) has engaged generations of researchers,” adding in the Introduction, “The evolutionary origin of flowering plants, or angiosperms, remains one of the greatest unsolved biological mysteries.
    So did they solve the mystery?  If the summary on PhysOrg is any indication, they only assumed evolution by couching it in terms of emergence: “New research published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences provides new insights into their genetic origin, an evolutionary innovation that quickly gave rise to many diverse flowering plants more than 130 million years ago.”  The co-leader of the team used similar circumlocutions: “Water lilies and avocado flowers are essentially ‘genetic fossils’ still carrying genetic instructions that would have allowed the transformation of gymnosperm cones into flowers,” said Doug Soltis.  “We show how the first flowering plants evolved from pre-existing genetic programs found in gymnosperm cones and then developed into the diversity of flowering plants we see today,” Soltis continued, hiding the actual evolutionary process in passive voice verbs.  “A genetic program in the gymnosperm cone was modified to make the first flower.”
    His explanation also begs the question of how the cone-bearing plant produced the genetic program for flowers in the first place – and why it was not used for that purpose during the prior millions of years in the evolutionary timeline.  In the end, the article filed the answer away in the Stuff Happens folder: “Somehow a genetic change took place allowing a male cone to produce female organs as well—and, perhaps more importantly, allowed it to produce showy petal-like organs that enticed new interactions with pollination agents such as bees.”  But does “allowing” something provide necessary and sufficient conditions for its accomplishment?  If that were true, building permits would by themselves build buildings.
1.  Miao and Liu, “ATP-binding cassette-like transporters are involved in the transport of lignin precursors across plasma and vacuolar membranes,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published online before print December 13, 2010, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1007747108 PNAS December 13, 2010.
2.  Savage et al, “Hydraulic trade-offs and space filling enable better predictions of vascular structure and function in plants,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published online before print December 13, 2010, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1012194108.
3.  Chanderbali et al, “Conservation and canalization of gene expression during angiosperm diversification accompany the origin and evolution of the flower,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published online before print December 13, 2010, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1013395108.
A new law of nature, the DAM law, is hereby described.  Any article or paper on the evolution of flowering plants will be accompanied by the phrase, “Darwin’s Abominable Mystery” (DAM).  This is a time-invariant law describing the predicament of not only Darwin, but his disciples down to the present.  For evidence, see entries over the last decade like 11/08/2000, 04/03/2001, 01/30/2002, 05/03/2002, 06/07/2002, 01/17/2003, 03/15/2007, 12/21/2007, 04/28/2008, 09/15/2009, 12/04/2009 bullet 4, and 09/22/2010.
    Darwinists are MAD about the DAM law, too; showing the law is commutative: the Mystery’s Abominable Darwin.  Notice that the DAM Law does not assert that the plants themselves are abominable.  No; they are wonderful.  They are incredibly well designed.  The mystery of their origins is only abominable when the premise, Darwinism, is the seed plot of abomination, watered by the toxic rhetoric of things “arising” and “developing” apart from design.  In such explanatory gardens, nothing grows – no mystery there. 
Next headline on:  PlantsCell BiologyGeneticsBiomimeticsAmazing FactsDarwin and EvolutionDumb Ideas
Evolutionists Endorse Sin     12/15/2010    
Dec 15, 2010 — Crime pays in Darwinism, apparently.  Some biologists find good in what most of us find evil.  After all, in Darwinism, evil is only an illusion.
  1. Corruption:  Victims of corruption may have a different outlook on what Science Daily told its readers:
    Francisco Úbeda, an evolutionary biology professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and Edgar Duéñez of Harvard University found that power and corruption may play a role in maintaining overall societal cooperation.
        A report of their research is published in the journal Evolution.
  2. Gossip:  In evolution, gossip is no longer a sin.  In the wake of WikiLeaks, Live Science asked, “Is Gossip Good?”  The answer is found in Darwinian theory:
    Some researchers have argued that the tendency toward jawing about our neighbors is rooted in our evolutionary past.  In his book “Grooming, Gossip, and the Evolution of Language,” (Harvard University Press, 1998), Oxford anthropologist Robin Dunbar argues that gossip and language evolved as primate groups got too large to bond by grooming.  In other words, instead of picking lice off each other, humans buy “US Weekly.”
When evolution is left out of the research, sometimes the findings coincide with traditional values.  Science Daily reported on an economist who found a shocking thing: money doesn’t buy happiness.  “Across a worldwide sample of 37 countries, rich and poor, ex-Communist and capitalist, Richard Easterlin and his co-authors shows strikingly consistent results: over the long term, a sense of well-being within a country does not go up with income.”  But did we need science to tell us that?
Darwinism is not just superfluous; it is downright evil.  By turning good and evil into amoral illusions, and by making people pawns of a mythical evolutionary past, evolutionists open the door to a flood of vices.  Some of Darwin’s contemporaries understood the danger his theory posed.  Adam Sedgwick, his geology professor, wrote:
There is a moral or metaphysical part of nature as well as a physical.  A man who denies this is deep in the mire of folly.  ’Tis the crown and glory of organic science that it does through final cause, link material and moral; and yet does not allow us to mingle them in our first conception of laws, and our classification of such laws, whether we consider one side of nature or the other.  You have ignored this link; and, if I do not mistake your meaning, you have done your best in one or two pregnant cases to break it.  Were it possible (which, thank God, it is not) to break it, humanity, in my mind, would suffer a damage that might brutalize it, and sink the human race into a lower grade of degradation than any into which it has fallen since its written records tell us of its history.
Two world wars and a host of secular totalitarian dictatorships in the 20th century are the result.  See What Hath Darwin Wrought? as described in the 09/27/2010.  After all the social wreckage they have caused, Darwinists remain unrepentant, as the above articles show, still committed to preaching amoral ideas from the mire of folly.
Next headline on:  Politics and EthicsDarwin and EvolutionDumb Ideas
Design Science Scores     12/15/2010    
Dec 15, 2010 — A team of scientists at Leeds University (UK) led by well-known design scientist Andy McIntosh has won an award for innovative design inspired by nature.  “The team’s work has received the outstanding contribution to innovation and technology title at the Times Higher Education awards in London,” reported the BBC News.
    By studying and imitating the Bombardier Beetle (a long-standing creationist icon), McIntosh and team built an environmentally-friendly sprayer that uses heating and flash evaporation “to propel a variety of liquids up to 4m (13ft).”  The team worked on this project for five years from concept to prototype.  The device “may lead to improvements in the automotive and health industries.... it could inspire new types of nebulisers, needle-free injections, fire extinguishers and powerful fuel injection systems.” 
    To what does McIntosh owe his award-winning success?  “Nobody had studied the beetle from a physics and engineering perspective as we did, and we didn’t appreciate how much we would learn from it.”
Compare this story with the one above it.  You shall know them by their fruits.
Next headline on:  Intelligent DesignTerrestrial ZoologyPhysicsBiomimetics
  Eight years ago, an astrobiologist came up with a surprisingly ID-friendly definition of life.  To find out what it was, follow the instructions: click this 12/30/2002 link.

Plenty of Time for Evolution?     12/14/2010    
Dec 14, 2010 — A mathematician and a biologist have calculated that there’s “plenty of time for evolution.”  Why?  Evolution has a spy: natural selection.  Darwin’s spy vastly decreases the amount of time that “doubters” have argued it would take to create a complex organism like a butterfly.  Will their argument fly?
    The short paper by Herbert Wilf and Warren Ewens was published in PNAS with the simple title, “There’s Plenty of Time for Evolution.1  The gist of their argument is that evolution, contrary to the ideas of critics who envision everything having to evolve sequentially, works like a parallel processor: “Evolution is an ‘in parallel’ process, with beneficial mutations at one gene locus being retained after they become fixed in a population while beneficial mutations at other loci become fixed,” they said.  “In fact this statement is essentially the principle of natural selection.”  They used some equations to show that their model drastically reduces the time required for the evolution of complex systems,2 without referring to any biological cases in particular.  Their model, however, assumes that every beneficial mutation will become fixed during the random mutational search.
    PhysOrg accepted their claims uncritically, even saying in the headline, “New mathematics research proves there’s plenty of time for evolution,” and that “the idea that evolution would require ‘too much time’ to be true is proved false.”  Proof is a strong word.  For support, PhysOrg quoted Wilf comparing evolution to a hacker.  If a hacker tries to guess a complex password, it would take a very long time to do a random search.  But if a spy tells the hacker every time a correct character is found, the time plummets dramatically.  The article tries to clinch the argument:

But what does hacking have to do with the evolution of species?
    Simple, Wilf said.  In the case of evolution, the hacker is evolution itself.  The password is the string of codons that describes, for example, a butterfly.  And the spy is natural selection.
So far we seem to have nothing but a restatement of Darwin’s thesis, or worse, that a butterfly evolves because it evolves.  It also sounds reminiscent of Richard Dawkins’ computer algorithm that converges on “Methinks it is like a weasel,” given that each correct letter mutated in a random string sticks when it is correct.  But who verifies the correctness of each letter?  Who is the spy assisting the hacker?
    Buried in the model is the assumption that each mutation has survival value.  Wilf explained in the PhysOrg article:
“If, when we guess the full string of letters [for a new species], one of the letters is correct – for instance, one that describes correctly the eyes of a butterfly – then that letter has survival value,” he said.
    “It will not be discarded as future mutations take place because the intermediate creatures are seeing very well, and they will live and reproduce.  So although it seems at first glance that the process of random mutations will take a very long time to produce a higher organism, thanks to the spying of natural selection, the process can go very rapidly.
    “In the paper, these ideas are precisely quantified, according to this model, and the extent of the speedup is found.  It is enormous, and shows that there is indeed plenty of time for evolution.
But before Wilf and Ewens can write Q.E.D., a number of questions arise.  Who is watching, and who watches the watchers?  Darwin was trying to rid biology of guiding intelligences that could steer any process toward a goal by design.  The main problem with Dawkins’ analogy was that a target sequence had been preselected by an intelligent agent, and some invisible watcher was verifying the correct letters (in his computer, the algorithm comparing the string with the target sequence).  Evolution has no target sequence; nothing in evolution moves toward the arrival of the butterfly.  Evolution has no comparison algorithm.  Survival cannot be the algorithm; there’s nothing inherent in survival requiring a complex organ to emerge.  Fitness cannot be the algorithm; there is no independent measure of fitness in evolutionary theory outside of survival, which reduces “survival of the fittest” to a tautology – the fitness of the fittest, the survival of the survivors (see “Fitness for dummies,” 10/29/2002).  Additionally, measures of fitness are often based on bad statistics (03/30/2009, 09/05/2008).
    In addition, no single mutation entails any foresight to a distant result.  Wilf and Ewens envisioned beneficial mutations, even if as rare as one in 10,000, having independent, additive benefits to an organism.  This ignores cases where no benefit is conferred till multiple genetic modifications are in place (irreducible complexity), and also fails to account for the damaging effects of pleiotropy – benefits in one gene causing disasters in another (e.g., 06/30/2009) – and epigenetics (07/27/2009, 01/27/2009).  Another challenge is posed by indirect genetic effects that produce “slippage on the treadmill” when fitter offspring facing fitter brethren and enemies (see 03/17/2003).  Arguments from analogy are also fraught with pitfalls (cf. 05/04/2010).  Genomes are “infinitely more complex” than passwords (04/05/2010), containing codes upon codes (04/18/2010, 05/06/2010), and may be fractal in their overall architecture (10/13/2009).  Even a single cell has “staggering complexity” (02/02/2010, 12/29/2009).
    Wilf and Ewens’ paper only included two references and did not answer the criticisms of earlier efforts to overcome the time problem.  See also the 11/14/2010, 09/30/2010, 09/28/2010, 03/08/2010, and 04/02/2008 entries.
1.  Herbert S. Wilf and Warren J. Ewens, “There’s plenty of time for evolution,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published online before print December 13, 2010, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1016207107.
2.  For an unknown word of L letters, drawing from an alphabet of K letters, the sequential model would require KL trials to guess the word.  They argue that parallel processing reduces the trials to approximately KlogL.
This paper might have attracted attention in 1860, when Darwin’s X-Men were on a roll (03/04/2004), but not after a century and a half of thought about natural selection and multiple revolutions in genetics.  These guys seem oblivious to all the counterarguments made against similar notions in the past.  Where have they been?  What is most instructive is that such an easily-refuted idea was published by the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, and was offered as “proof” of Charlie Daddy’s story by the popular press.  If this is the best they can offer after so much time, spilled ink and spilled blood, take heart.  Darwin’s totalitarian regime is nearing intellectual collapse.
Next headline on:  Darwin and EvolutionGenetics and DNADumb Ideas
Strange Beasts Walked the Earth     12/13/2010    
Dec 13, 2010 — Narnia is a fantasy world of talking beasts and chimeric monsters, as seen in the release of Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the third movie in the series, great for an adventurous escape to a different world (see Narnia.com).  While fauns and minotaurs may be mythical, some of the extinct beasts found as fossils in Earth strata seem more suited to that world than ours.
  1. Fin dragon:  The fin-backed reptilian Dimetrodon is not new, but the most complete skeleton of one was found in a sinkhole in north Texas, reported Live Science.  The site has more bones of this species than any other location in the world. 
  2. Horse dragon:  “A shield-toothed horse-dragon may sound like a mythical creature, but the newly described dinosaur once roamed the U.S. West, a new study says.”  That was the opening line of an article on National Geographic News about Hippodraco, a scientific name that translates to horse dragon.  Then there’s Iguanacolossus (colossal iguana) found nearby: a member of the iguanodon family with members found worldwide.
        Hippodraco is shaking up the family tree of this group of dinosaurs, for reasons explained in the article.  Scientists claim its skull bones are more primitive than members of the group found in Europe, but “Even so, any visible differences between living iguanodont species would have been subtle.... regardless of their locations, the creatures all looked pretty much the same,” the article admitted.
  3. Koreaceratops:  Every kid’s favorite dinosaur, triceratops, had cousins in Korea.  Live Science reported on a “mini triceratops” that is the first horned dinosaur found in South Korea.  The animal would have been about 6 feet long, weighing 100 pounds, the discoverers estimate. 
  4. Crocodile cat.  After awhile, crocodiles looked different than their ancestors, reported PhysOrg and the BBC News.  This is based on odd shaped fossils found in Madagascar and elsewhere, one looking squat like a cat.  “Recently discovered ancient ancestors include small cat-like specimens, giant ‘supercrocs’ and a pug-nosed vegetarian species,” the BBC said, although how they decided it was vegetarian was not due to direct evidence, but inference about the overall body shape – a risky business if comparing human vegetarians to meat-eaters by body shape alone is any guide. 
The crocodile articles claimed that a diverse group of prehistoric reptiles gave rise to a diverse group of later reptiles: e.g., “contrary to popular belief, scientists now suggest that the basic body structure of crocodiles, alligators and ghariels evolved from a diverse group of prehistoric reptiles with different body shapes.”  Both articles claim the finds disprove that crocodiles are “living fossils.”  The BBC article emphasized the point in its headline: “Crocs dispel ‘living fossil’ myth.”  The phrase living fossil, however, usually describes fossils of plants and animals that look very similar to living species with long time gaps between their disappearance in the fossil record and the present (e.g., the tuatara, Wollemi pine and coelacanth), not of fossils that have a long history in the record without significant change.  Either way, it is not clear that evolution was found; just diversity, since each creature was well equipped with teeth, vision, locomotion, digestion, and the basic body plan characteristic of all crocodylians.
Scientists do not watch creatures evolving.  They look at present-day bones, and make inferences according to a paradigm they feel comfortable working in.  But feeling comfortable is no guide to the truth.  Think of how many different ways a group of disinterested people could arrange furniture into evolutionary relationships, if they were given starting assumptions about which ones evolved first and had an elaborate tree showing the ancestry of branching relationships and common ancestors, and a time scale allowing millions of years.  In fact, parents or teachers should try that as an experiment to show how much assumption plays a role in scientific explanation.
    The outward shape (morphology) of an animal is the least informative part of the evolutionary tale.  Getting all that structure and function in the first place is the challenge.  Each creature was exquisitely suited to its habitat and equipped with amazing structures that provided all the functions of life.  Dimetrodon, for instance, had a mouth full of razor-sharp teeth.  Do you realize how many design specifications are required to get teeth to develop, grow, and work in the real world, so that an animal can eat?  Moreover, the teeth, jaw, brain, and senses all have to work together for capturing food, and then the mouth has to pass the material on to elaborate digestive systems to make use of it (see 10/14/2008).
    In piecing together their tale, evolutionary paleontologists cannot escape paradigm bias in taxonomy, dating, and relationships (e.g., 05/19/2010, bullet 5; 03/05/2010; 02/09/2010, 12/11/2009).  Many dinosaur fossils thought to represent different species have recently been shown to be the same species in different life stages (09/17/2008, 07/14/2010).  When trying to understand relationships of extinct animals, the situation is even more fraught with potential for misinterpretation.  If they were asking the right questions, like where did all this complexity come from, they would not focus so much on connect-the-dot games, but would come face to face with the question of design.
Next headline on:  Dinosaurs and Extinct ReptilesTerrestrial ZoologyFossilsDarwin and Evolution
  Darwin was wrong about geology. Too. 12/02/2009.

Sunday Potluck     12/12/2010    
Dec 12, 2010 — Here’s a list of quick headlines with minimal comment for mental snacking.  Then it will be time to clear the kitchen for another week of more deep-fried reporting.

  1. Magician fools scientists:  Skeptic/magician James Randi tricked a group of scientists, then warned them to doubt their own infallibility (except when it comes to atheism); see Live Science.
  2. Louisiana bows to Darwin:  Despite misleading headline, school board blocked challenges to evolution (see Fox News).
  3. Lucky strike:  New theory for earth’s mineral wealth: meteor bombs from outer space brought it (New Scientist and National Geographic).  How else could it have gotten here?
  4. Evolution of the scientific method:  Chart on The Scientist makes development of scientific method look progressive, ignores many pitfalls along the way and conflicts still with us.
  5. Cell wonders:  Details of microbes’ extraordinary maintenance and repair system revealed (Science Daily).
  6. Ratatouille:  With human brain cells implanted, will rats cook better? (New Scientist).
  7. Leftist slant:  Headline on legal efforts to restrict late-term abortions focuses on “abortion rights foes” and those who want to “outlaw” abortion (PhysOrg).
  8. Say what?  Our brains are wired so we can better hear ourselves speak (Science Daily).
  9. Death and taxes:  It’s state government tax dollars, not private investment capital, that is funding most embryonic stem cell research (PhysOrg).
  10. Whale of a mouthful:  Foraging strategies of blue whales are super efficient (PhysOrg).
  11. Ant social justice:  Leaf-cutter ants take care of their elderly and disabled via job swapping (PhysOrg).
  12. Evolve or perish:  Powdery mildew is at an evolutionary dead end, claimed PhysOrg
  13. The eyes have it:  U of Nebraska researchers say you can tell liberals by their eye movements, because they don’t see eye to eye with conservatives (Science Daily).  Cause, effect, or shifty-eyed science?
  14. Climate exit gate:  “Ice-Age Reptile Extinctions Provide a Glimpse of Likely Responses to Human-Caused Climate Change,” reported Science Daily.  Whose fault was that?
  15. Brain glue:  Molecule helps stitch brain cells together and affects how we learn (PhysOrg).
  16. Hairy riddle:  What do you call a fly that can’t fly?  A walk? asked New Scientist about a weird hairy fly (er, walk) found in Kenya.
  17. Theory breakdown:  Four exoplanets dance in a way that defies theories of planet formation, reported Live Science.  Story on New Scientist includes video animation.
  18. Nice birdieNew Scientist and the BBC News claimed giant storks had hobbits for breakfast.  Either that, or a successful hunt could feed a family of five for a month.  Or the figure is exaggerated.  (So much for the island dwarfism hypothesis.)
  19. Something from nothingScience Daily said it is theoretically possible to get matter and antimatter from nothing.  But if it is really nothing, that’s something.  Until they do, it’s nothing.
  20. Evolution of multitasking:  Early man invented the list of things to do all at once, according to Science Daily.  Not clear who Monica Smith of UCLA interviewed or observed to find this out.
Scientists investigate just about everything.  They should mind their own business.  Question is, is their business everything?
Get your Baloney Detector on and read, laugh, frown, gasp, groan, weep, or cheer commensurate with the subject and its interpretation.  Otherwise you might just cheer for everything, including the evil, or succumb to the verbal manipulation of scientists and reporters.  The more you practice discernment, the less you will need to rely on our commentaries, which you shouldn’t be doing anyway.
Next headline on:  Philosophy of ScienceAmazing FactsDumb Ideas
Best Qualified Candidate Expelled Over Views on Evolution, Design     12/11/2010    
Dec 11, 2010 — For daring to question evolution, an astronomer who was the best qualified candidate to become director of a new observatory lost out.  “No one denies that astronomer Martin Gaskell was the leading candidate for the founding director of a new observatory at the University of Kentucky in 2007 – until his writings on evolution came to light,” a report on Courier-Journal reported.  Martin Gaskell is suing the University, claiming that his views on evolution, religion and intelligent design cost him the position.
    “UK, in a legal brief, acknowledged that concerns over Gaskell’s views on evolution played a role in the decision to chose another candidate,” the article said.  The strategy seems now to paint him in a bad light: “But it argued that this was a valid scientific concern, and that there were other factors, including a poor review from a previous supervisor and UK faculty views that he was a poor listener.”
    Gaskell’s lawsuit, however, claims that “UK officials repeatedly referred to his religion in their discussions and e-mails” as the real reason.  One astronomy professor, for instance, “feared embarrassing headlines about Kentucky’s flagship university hiring a ‘creationist’ in a state already home to the controversial Creation Museum.”  Three biology professors and a geology professor also hammered that theme, that hiring Gaskell would be a “disaster” and an embarrassment to the university, even though Gaskell disagrees with the young-earth position of the Creation Museum.  Some of his views, which resemble those of old-earth astronomer Hugh Ross, are published on his personal webpage.
    Gaskell’s academic opponents worried about his denial of evolution, and his support for intelligent design.  “UK biologists said in their e-mails that evidence for evolution was so overwhelming that Gaskell had no scientific basis to raise questions about it.”  They also pointed to the Dover case to argue that intelligent design is not science, though that regional ruling did not apply to the state of Kentucky.  Since concern over his views on evolution and intelligent design appears to constitute the bulk of their objections over his hiring, their concerns about Gaskell’s social skills appears to be a distraction, a red herring expressed after the lawsuit was filed.  According to the article, “a federal judge says Gaskell has a right to a jury trial over his allegation that he lost the job because he is a Christian and ‘potentially evangelical.’”  The case is being represented by the American Center for Law and Justice.
    Gaskell’s academic page is posted on the University of Texas website.  He is also a classical composer in his spare time, when not doing astrophysics.
The pattern is the same everywhere.  If you have watched Ben Stein’s documentary Expelled, you’ve seen how the Darwin funDOmentalists (Darwin-Only) refuse to debate the evidence, but instead retreat to character assassination, association, glittering generalities, fear-mongering, and sidestepping and subversion to keep out anyone who dares to defy the Darwin Party Line.
    It’s going on in the case of the American Freedom Alliance right now, where the California Museum of Science broke a contract rather than allow two pro-I.D. groups access to the facilities, lest it tarnish their pure-Darwin image.  Evolution News broke the story about how internal emails showed that despite their public statements, the real issue was preventing intelligent design from getting any publicity by the museum.
    In this story, Gaskell lost a prestigious job even thought he was the best qualified, because of worry that he could be “potentially evangelical” – an unlawful prior restraint on free speech.  Would the opposite situation have concerned his colleagues, if a staunch atheist were to be judged “potentially evangelical” about his theological position?  (Of course not; such a candidate would probably be honored by academia and the media.)
    Even the “potential” exposure was enough to expel this man, without any evidence he had actually tried to influence anyone at the university or observatory about his views.  This can only mean one thing: the Darwin Party, whose hardcore stance on secular evolution represents a small fraction of American opinion, is running scared.  The DODOs cannot afford to give a platform to anyone who might potentially expose to the public the existence of alternative views other than 100% materialism.  They will destroy careers to keep ideological purity in their ranks.
    This tactic cannot work forever, because it is self-refuting; it violates academia’s own ostensible commitment to the Enlightenment ideals of reason and tolerance (and, ironically, it also fights Darwinian fitness itself – by imposing goal-directed behavior against whatever unguided “mutation” supposedly led to the accidental emergence of religion/creationism in early man’s rise from the apes, that was somehow preserved by natural selection; see 10/26/2008 and 05/27/2008).
    If Darwinists’ beliefs are so fragile that they worry exposure to alternative viewpoints is intolerable, then their beliefs are not worth believing.  And if they think that the public must be protected from such exposure, they disparage the intelligence of their fellow Homo sapiens.   No scientist should fear openness about the evidence.  Bring it on.
Next headline on:  AstronomyDarwin and EvolutionIntelligent DesignEducationPhilosophy of ScienceBible and Theology
Latest Animal Winners in the Inspiration Contest     12/10/2010    
Dec 10, 2010 — Scientists want to copy animal skills.  The new science of biomimetics is on a roll (11/30/2010), looking to living things for design inspiration.  Here are a few of the latest organisms giving inventors and engineers goose bumps.
  1. Bird gloss:  Ravens have what scientists at the University of Akron in Ohio want: glossy materials.  Nevermore shall ravens be despised members of the bird order; according to PhysOrg, their feathers have thin layers that cause light interference, producing a sheen that glistens even though the surface is rough.  That could be useful to inventors needing a glossy look for materials that cannot be polished.
  2. Honeybee aerobatics:  By imitating the optical flow of honeybee eyes, researchers at the University of Queensland are inventing plane navigation systems that can perform complex maneuvers, PhysOrg reported.
  3. Fly navigation:  With help from the Air Force, Caltech scientists, similarly, are studying fly vision to learn better flight attitude control.  It would be enough to improve flight stabilization and navigation from our tiny winged neighbors; “However, with a tiny brain they are able to perform a variety of tasks such as finding food and mates despite changing light levels, wind gusts, wing damage, and so on.
  4. Bird-o-soar:  Soaring is better than flapping, reported PhysOrg.  Researchers at Hebrew University of Jerusalem are equipping birds with transmitters to learn more about their flight efficiency.  They are finding that small birds benefit from gliding as much as large birds.
  5. Bacterial biofuel:  A subset of biomimetics is employing organisms directly.  Science Daily said that scientists at Concordia University are trying to engineer Lactobacillus lactis, the organism that helps make cheese from milk, into a workhorse “to transform plant material into biofuels or other chemicals.”
  6. Bacterial sensors:  Scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution are recruiting bacteria to test water quality.  According to Science Daily, their “revolutionary Swimming Behavioral Spectrophotometer (SBS) ... employs one-celled protozoa to detect toxins in water sources.”  The contraption, which monitors the swimming ability of the germs as indicators of water quality, could some day monitor all the drinking water in the world, with instantaneous feedback and continuous response.  The Department of Defense is very interested. 
  7. Butterfly medic:  “Butterfly-Inspired Patch May Alert Soldiers to Brain Injury” reads a headline on Live Science, describing how “A color-changing patch modeled after the iridescent wings of butterflies could give soldiers a heads-up on the severity of injuries sustained on the battlefield,” thanks to work at the University of Pennsylvania.
  8. Silk drop control:  Remember how spider webs collect dew by causing water droplets to bead up due to the nature of the proteins in the silk? (see 02/04/2010).  Nature reported that Chinese scientists are trying to imitate this trick with synthetic silks.
  9. Earthworm biohazard sensors:  Why build electronic sensors to detect hazmat (hazardous materials), when earthworms can be hired to do it?  Science Daily reported that researchers in Venezuela and Argentina are studying the “viability of using earthworms to process hazardous material containing high concentrations of heavy metal for the bioremediation of old industrial sites, landfill and other potentially hazardous areas.”  This offers an “alternative to complex and costly industrial cleanup methods, the team suggests.”
  10. Neuron computersLive Science reported how researchers at Boston University are bringing the world closer to silicon-free computers that use memristors, which “behave like neurons in many ways,” toward new digital brains.
  11. Bacterial computers:  Imagine being able to program bacteria to act as logic circuits for organic computers.  That’s what researchers at the University of California at San Francisco are counting on, according to Science Daily.
  12. Ant computers:  How do ants solve puzzles so well?  They can always find the shortest route to a target, even when a barrier is put in the way.  Scientists at the University of Sydney are curious, so they have built mazes to learn how the “humble ant is capable of solving difficult mathematical problems.”  The headline reads, “Next generation of algorithms inspired by problem-solving ants.”  Supercomputer programmers who humble themselves like the ant might learn how to adapt to changing conditions and barriers, both by exploratory behavior and signals left in the path, such as the pheromone molecules that help ants remember previous trials without backtracking.  One team member commented, “Even simple mass-recruiting ants have much more complex and labile problem solving skills than we ever thought.
  13. Viral batteries:  “Viruses have a bad rep--and rightly so,” began an article on PhysOrg, but researchers at the University of Maryland are “turning the tables, harnessing and exploiting the ‘self-renewing’ and ‘self-assembling’properties of viruses for a higher purpose: to build a new generation of small, powerful and highly efficient batteries and fuel cells.”
  14. Starfish medical breakthrough:  Watch a video at BBC News to learn how asthma, hay fever and arthritis may get new effective treatments, thanks to starfish.  Imitating the slimy goo on starfish surfaces could help reduce inflammation on blood vessels, researchers at King’s College London said.  “The starfish have effectively done a lot of the hard work for us.
        This is just one example of promises from sea creatures.  The article said that scientists envision an “underwater pharmacy” of useful medical products coming from organisms as diverse as sea cucumbers and seaweed.  “Some of the most widespread, widely used medicines come from nature,” said David Hughes, an ecologist from the Scottish Association for Marine Science.  “Penicillin is a mould that grows on bread, aspirin comes from willow trees, so it’s not too surprising turning to nature to find useful drugs.  But we’ve only very recently begun to look to the sea for a useful source of medicines.”  The huge diversity of life in the oceans that cover nearly 3/4 of the earth’s surface promises a vast research area for years to come.
  15. Bones and cones:  From the spiral cones of molluscs to the bones and teeth of vertebrates, biominerals form a variety of lightweight yet tough materials.  Science Daily discussed how researchers at the Ohio Supercomputer Center are studying “nature’s ability to form complex structures, such as bones, teeth and mollusk shells, from peptides.”  This could lead to breakthroughs in “bone replacement, sensing systems, efficient energy generation and treatment of diseases.
Very few of these articles mentioned evolution.  Of those that did, evolution was a side dish, not the entree.  In the raven feather article (bullet 1 above), for instance, the suggestion was made that the peculiar feather structure “may represent an evolutionarily intermediate step between matte and iridescent colors,” and in the starfish story (bullet 14), Clive Page at King’s College London injected purpose and design into a Darwinian answer by saying, “The starfish is effectively providing us with something that is giving is different leads: it has had billions of years in evolution to come up with molecules that do specific things.”
Go biomimetics!  The biomimicry revolution is making science fun again.  Reporters and scientists who are tired of Darwin, this is a way for you to get out of the kingdom of the DODOs (Darwin only, Darwin only) without jeopardizing your career.  Just study the living subject and apply it to real world problems.  Storytelling about “billions of years in evolution” is superfluous and will not be missed.
    Parents and teachers: consider inspiring your precocious students’ next science project with biomimetics.  It could be a first-prize winner and open up a young person’s mind to an exciting, productive career that could improve human life and health without harming the environment.
Next headline on:  BiomimeticsBirdsTerrestrial ZoologyMarine BiologyCell BiologyPhysicsIntelligent DesignAmazing Facts
  Darwin Stars at the Galaxy, by Universal Pictures.  No, it’s not a Hollywood release, it’s Darwinism applied to cosmology.  See 12/07/2006 for explanation.

SETI Ignorance Gets Stronger     12/09/2010    
Dec 09, 2010 — “Science is not about blind faith” begins a video posted on MSNBC about SETI.  Part of an article by AP reporter Seth Borenstein, “Evidence for E.T. is mounting daily, but not proven,” the video explains Frank Drake’s famous equation that tries to quantify the probability for extraterrestrial intelligence (09/29/2010, 11/24/2008).  Though Drake confidently asserts the probability that 50,000 advanced communicating civilizations exist in the Milky Way, Borenstein’s subtitle asserts, “So far, first signs of life elsewhere are more likely to be closer to slime mold.”
    Confidence exudes like a strong perfume from both the video and the article.  “Lately, a handful of new discoveries make it seem more likely that we are not alone – that there is life somewhere else in the universe,” Borenstein began, diving immediately into Wolf-Simon’s claim that some microbes can imbibe arsenic as a substitute for phosphate in their proteins and DNA (12/02/2010).  Then Carl Pilcher, director of NASA’s Astrobiology Institute, was given the microphone to say, “The evidence is just getting stronger and stronger” that “There’s got to be life out there.”  After a brief caveat that “Since much of this research is new, scientists are still debating how solid the conclusions are,” Borenstein reassures the reader that even if something simple, like slime mold, is detected first, “It can evolve from there.
    Borenstein’s confidence is based on the premise that the search for E.T. is based on “Some science, some pure guesswork.”  Since every non-scientist has access to guesswork, to what science does he refer?  Admitting that the Drake Equation includes guesswork factors, “such as the likelihood of the evolution of intelligence and how long civilizations last,” Borenstein strips it down to two factors: “How many places out there can support life?  And how hard is it for life to take root?”  Bolstered by Wolf-Simon’s arsenic microbes, he beamed, “That means the probability for alien life is higher than ever before, agree 10 scientists interviewed by The Associated Press.”  He said additionally, “nothing topped last week’s news of a lake bacterium that scientists could train to thrive on arsenic instead of phosphorous.”
    Perhaps Borenstein celebrated too soon.  Live Science said, “Many skeptical scientists not involved with the study have raised questions about its methods and findings.”  Later, Karl Tate on Live Science included the arsenic claim as #10 in his list of top ten “Kerfuffles” – “The debate over arsenic-based life is just the latest example of science -- blown out of proportion or just plain misunderstood -- exploding across the news media.”  (Others included Martian bacteria and overhyped human ancestors).  And Nature News said that the announcement got a “toxic response” from other scientists, who called it “premature at best” and complained about the way it was publicized.  Steve Benner, an origin of life researcher, “used the analogy of a steel chain with a tinfoil link to illustrate that the arsenate ion said to replace phosphate in the bacterium’s DNA forms bonds that are orders of magnitude less stable.”  Not only that, the NASA Astrobiology team failed to show that the microbes actually incorporated arsenic into their molecules.  Some scientists were upset that NASA’s teaser to the press had them thinking life had been discovered beyond Earth; indeed, even Fox News reporters were expecting an announcement that life had been discovered on Titan.
    Did Borenstein have any other science, less dubious, to amass in favor of his contention that the evidence for E.T. is getting stronger and stronger?  Indeed he did.  Calling on SETI Institute senior astronomer Seth Shostak, who “ticks off the astronomical findings about planet abundance and Earthbound discoveries about life’s hardiness,” he agrees that these points “have gone in the direction of encouraging life out there and they didn’t have to,” – so much so, that denying the existence of extraterrestrial life, Shostak alleged, is tantamount to believing in miracles (i.e., that life only exists on earth).  Time out for a brief reality check:

Astronomers, however, do believe in proof.  They don’t have proof of life yet.  There’s no green alien or even a bacterium that scientists can point to and say it’s alive and alien.  Even that arsenic-munching microbe discovered in Mono Lake in California isn’t truly alien.  It was manipulated in the lab.
With that brief time out over, Chris McKay assured readers that, “There are real things we can point to and show that being optimistic about life elsewhere is not silly.”  He called on the red dwarfs to sing in agreement – red dwarf stars may not be the anti-life districts once thought; “That didn’t just open up billions of new worlds, but many, many times that,” Borenstein chimed.  The giants chimed in, too: “scientists now believe that as many as half the stars in our galaxy have planets that are two to 10 times the size of Earth — ‘super Earths’ which might sustain life.”  With a recent estimate that the universe may contain six times as many stars as thought, the chorus just keeps getting louder.
    Of course, 300 sextillion lifeless locations would still be lifeless.  “The other half of the equation is: How likely is life?” Borenstein continued, calling briefly on Donald Brownlee to debunk the notion that intelligent life is common, but agreeing that microbial life could be.  “By making life more likely in extreme places, it increases the number of planets that are potential homes for life,” astrobiologists agree – even though all those extreme places studied are right here on Earth.  But does a potential habitat rise to the level of scientific evidence?  Never mind; potential is enough: Mars, Europa, Titan, Enceladus – places where no life has been found – put dollars on the bet that aliens inhabit the universe, so much so that “Shostak puts his money behind his optimism,” Borenstein ended.  Apparently Shostak bets a cup of coffee at his lectures that scientists will find proof of alien life by 2026.  “The odds, he figures, have never been more in his favor.
Got odds?  We do.  Read our online book, especially chapters 6-7.  How convenient to bet a cup of coffee when he won’t have to pay up for 16 years, by which time he may well need embalming fluid instead, if there’s a difference.
    Let’s unpack this reasoning about odds in this SETI coffee klatch.  “The odds, he figures, have never been more in his favor.”  What are the odds when your sample size is one?  You have one example, and you want to extrapolate the odds to 100 billion planets in the galaxy.  This is like winning the world’s biggest lottery on your first draw the only time you play, and thinking the odds are great of winning many more times because there are a lot of convenience stores where you can play the game.  But even that is overly gracious to this gratuitous line of thinking that depends on fortuitous causes (11/14/2010).
    Statisticians like to think about urns with colored marbles, so let’s say you are walking on your terrace, and discover an iPhone, not yet aware of its purpose or function; also on the terrace you find an urn with marbles in it, but you know nothing about what kind of marbles are inside.  You reach in and pull out an orange marble, then a red one, a pink one, another orange one, and a white one (these represent Venus, Mars, Europa, Titan, and Enceladus), along with a lot of black marbles.  Because your iPhone contains some of the same colors that are in the marbles, you concoct a theory that iPhones evolve out of marbles.  Then you look off into the distance and see many more urns you think must have marbles, too – billions of them.  You get all excited, thinking that the odds of finding more iPhones must be astronomical.
    In your ecstasy, you produce an equation you call the Flake Equation, and calculate your odds: N is the number of iPhones that must exist in all the urns.  R(u) is the rate of formation of urns, f(m) is the fraction of those urns with marbles, n(i) is the number of urns large enough to contain iPhones, f(c) is the number of urns where circuits begin evolving from the marble material; f(i) is the number of marbles that evolve into iPhones (after all, once the process starts, “It can evolve from there”), f(c) is the number of iPhones capable of calling you up, and L is the lifetime of the average iPhone battery.  According to your calculations there could be 50,000 iPhones out there – even though the only one you have ever seen is in your hand.  So great is your faith, you organize a Search for Extra-Terracetrial iPhones, and try to find rich suckers to fund it, assuring them that it is not silly to be optimistic.  (A quote from David Berlinski comes to mind: “Wearing pink tasseled slippers and conical hats covered in polka dots, Darwinian biologists are persuaded that a plot is afoot to make them look silly.”)
    Even if there is an iPhone out there that calls you up some day, it would not support your theory that the device evolved out of the marbles, even if it calls itself a Droid Evo.  It would validate the view that both devices were intelligently designed.  But in our day, such reasoning is disallowed a priori, because it’s not “science.”  Thus, science has devolved into absurdity, where sophisticated ignorance is glorified, because intelligent causes have been excluded from the very definition of science.  The cult of Darwin has given birth to the cult of SETI (11/13/2010), where marbles evolve into iPhones, and molecules evolve into minds.
Next headline on:  AstronomySETIOrigin of LifeDarwin and EvolutionMediaPhilosophy of ScienceDumb Ideas
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The ancient Greek eclipse-predicting computer, the Antikythera Device, has been brought to life in Lego blocks.  Go to Live Science for two fun video clips revealing the intelligent design that went into the original device and its modern copy.

Are You Too Clean?     12/08/2010    
Dec 08, 2010 — You shower, you put on clean clothes, you wash your hands with antibacterial soap, you keep the house spic and span, you work in a clean office – and you set yourself up for disease and depression.  That’s what some scientists are proposing with the “hygiene hypothesis.”  By depriving yourself of access to your bacterial helpers, you’re living unnaturally.
    Dr. Charles Raison of Emory University explained the Hygiene Hypothesis in a short video interview on PhysOrg.  Earlier studies had implicated allergies and other problems with over-cleanliness, but now he is conducting experiments with the hunch that genetic dispositions to depression are also linked to deprivation of “ancient relationships with microorganisms in soil, food and the gut” that our ancestors had that helped keep inflammation at bay.
    Science Daily reported on studies at Michigan University that suggested antibacterial soaps can make you sick.  Triclosan and BPA could “play a role in changing the micro-organisms to which we are exposed in such a way that our immune system development in childhood is affected.”  One of the researchers remarked, “It is possible that a person can be too clean for their own good.”
    In another article on PhysOrg, Professor Mark Viney at the University of Bristol has conducted experiments with mice to show that the immune system is boosted by life in the wild.  And if you can handle the yuck factor of a story on Science Daily, New York University researchers are studying a new treatment for inflammatory bowel disease: “worm therapy.”  These articles suggest that we need to reduce our hesitancy to the elements and ecology of the out-of-doors a little, and while not rolling in the mud with pigs, understand that we have a living environment that can do us good.  For more on the hygiene hypothesis, see 01/13/2010 bullet 3, 03/09/2008, 04/11/2007, and 08/02/2006.
    On a different but somewhat related subject, why are African nations so far behind in food production?  Don’t they have more exposure to the outdoors and their fellow creatures?  Some westerners can only think of malaria, ebola, guinea worms, lion attacks, starvation and other horrific trials the inhabitants of the African continent face in their struggle to survive.  But the BBC News reviewed a new book called The New Harvest, by Harvard University professor Calestous Juma, that points the blame on something else: the lack of political will.  There would be no need for those endless appeals to feed the starving children; Africa could feed itself in a generation, Juma says, and even export food to other countries.  With modern equipment, better roads, crop improvements and other factors, African agriculture could grow like it has in the west, rather than fall, like it has 10% since 1960.  What is “needed above all else was the political will at the highest level.”

“Political will” is a euphemism for “getting rid of tyrannical, selfish dictators.”  Africa has tremendous natural resources, but is held in its grip of poverty by lack of benevolent leadership based on Judeo-Christian principles.  Get rid of the Mugabe types and the continent could prosper every bit as much as other countries.
    Do you get outdoors enough?  Take more walks outside.  Enjoy the trees, plants, animals more – they are your fellow creatures.  Evolutionists explain that we evolved with them, and that’s why we need them; but creationists can better explain that God gave us the ecology we need to be healthy.  While it has run amok since the original creation due to judgment on sin, the creation still exhibits God’s sustenance and providence (e.g., Psalm 104).  There are still roles for our bacterial travelers, both inside and outside, to give us healthy balance, buffer against stress, and keep our immune systems well trained in the recognition of good and bad agents.  We could not even digest our food without their help.
    Think of how many people for millennia worked closely with the earth, camped out of doors, and got more exercise.  We neglect those things at risk of loss of not only good health but good attitudes.  Looking at our world as a purposeful creation enhances the experience of connection with nature.
Next headline on:  HealthHuman BodyPolitics and Ethics
News from Saturn     12/07/2010    
Dec 07, 2010 — Amazing discoveries continue to pour in from Cassini, now within its second extended mission since arriving at Saturn in 2004.  The spacecraft is back to nominal operations after a 3-week safing event caused by a single-bit error in the onboard computer (JPL).  The recovery came just in time for another major flyby of Enceladus.
  1. Enceladus eruptions:  The geysers of Enceladus continue to erupt out the south pole.  The parallel cracks, dubbed “tiger stripes,” from which the eruptions occur, are longer and more complex than originally thought.  This comes from new data taken November 30 during the 12th flyby at 45,000 altitude at closest approach – the last good look at the south pole in sunlight.  This was E12: the twelfth targeted encounter with Enceladus.  JPL and the Cassini Imaging Team released images of the bright jets shooting gas and dust outward at supersonic speeds.  Particles reaching escape velocity create the E-ring around Saturn; others fall back onto the moon and brighten its surface.
        Live Science reminded its readers that the heat energy per unit area coming out of this small icy moon, “once thought to be cold and geologically dead,” is five times that in Yellowstone.  That’s heat, of course, not temperature, since the Composite Infrared Spectrometer (CIRS) measured highest temperatures of 190 Kelvin (-120° F), cold enough to be intolerable to humans.  Live Science remarked, “While that sounds cold, it is actually quite warm for this icy moon around Saturn.”  Temperatures at other regions of Enceladus are typically around 80 Kelvin (-315° F) and as low as 33 K (-400° F) at the north pole.  Yellowstone obviously has scalding hot temperatures localized to its geysers and hot springs, but overall, Enceladus’ geysers emit more heat energy per unit area – an astonishing discovery for a small icy moon separated from significant external heat sources.
        Earlier flybys had measured temperatures of 170K.  Scientists are trying to understand if the new high of 190K represents increased activity along the fissure observed in the greatest detail, named Damascus Sulcus.  More likely, it results from the higher resolution possible on this flyby by the CIRS instrument, allowing it to focus in on the inner regions of the channel.  The observations also revealed forks at the end of two cracks where heat emission continues past the main channel, and an isolated warm spot not associated with a tiger stripe (see JPL story and image).  Space.com, PhysOrg and Science Daily all reported the story.
  2. Hyperion pox:  The geometry of the Enceladus flyby allowed Cassini to make another non-targeted flyby of Hyperion from about 72,000km.  Since the pock-marked potato-shaped moon has a chaotic rotation, engineers cannot predict what side will face the camera.  The best image was posted by JPL and SpaceRef; on YouTube, someone colorized 61 of the images and made them into a video sequence.
  3. Saturn hex:  Atmospheric scientists have modeled in the lab how the mysterious hexagon at Saturn’s north pole might remain stable as a standing wave; see abstract on Icarus.1  The shape was first observed 30 years ago by the Voyagers and continues unabated to this day.  “Why the jet stream takes the characteristic six-sided shape and how it is stably maintained across multiple Saturnian seasons are yet to be explained,” they said.  They came up with a model and simulation that partly fits the observations; “However, our results also show that a vortex street model of the Hexagon cannot reproduce the observed propagation speed unless the zonal jet’s speed is modified beyond the uncertainties in the observed zonal wind speed, which suggests that a vortex street model of the Hexagon and the observed zonal wind profile may not be mutually compatible.”  It remains a work in progress.
  4. Rhea gas:  Last month Cassini scientists were surprised to find a tenuous atmosphere at Rhea composed of oxygen and carbon dioxide.  Though 5 trillion times less dense than Earth’s atmosphere, it is 100 times more dense than the exospheres of Mercury and Earth’s moon, according to Science Daily.  Scientists believe the oxygen comes from bombardment of the surface by Saturn’s magnetic field, causing decomposition of surface ice; “The source of the carbon dioxide is less certain.”  “The new results suggest that active, complex chemistry involving oxygen may be quite common throughout the solar system and even our universe,” said lead author Ben Teolis of Southwest Research Institute; but it’s not quite clear how he connected the dots with his next statement: “Such chemistry could be a prerequisite for life.”  Rhea is not exactly a lively place, as he well knows: “All evidence from Cassini indicates that Rhea is too cold and devoid of the liquid water necessary for life as we know it.”  Life as we don’t know it is purely imaginary at this point.
  5. Dione donut:  The Cassini site released a photo of Dione from its Oct. 17 non-targeted flyby, showing off the donut-shaped crater Erelus with a central peak 75 miles across.  Cassini keeps a public diary of its activities on the Significant Events page.
One of the coolest educational tools ever produced by JPL, Eyes on the Solar System was recently released by NASA.  Take the Getting Started tutorials first; then, you can command your own tour of the solar system from any angle, and watch the planets and moons in motion at any speed.  Current spacecraft are included, too; you can ride along with Cassini, EPOXI, MESSENGER, Rosetta, DAWN, Stardust, all the Earth orbiters, and even Voyagers 1 and 2, and see the action from their vantage points.  The looks of the planets and moons and the orbits of spacecraft are all informed by actual photographs of the objects and orbital tour plans, allowing you to watch both past and future encounters.  “Eyes” is the brainchild of JPL animator Kevin Hussey, a pioneer of scientific visualization, and his team, who also produced a similarly dazzling tool Eyes on the Earth 3D.  Watch the Demonstration video to see all the things one can learn about our home planet.
1.  Morales-Juberias, Sayanagi, Dowling and Ingersoll, “Emergence of Polar-Jet Polygons from Jet Instabilities in a Saturn Model,” Icarus, article in press.
Warning: Eyes on the Solar System and Eyes on the Earth 3D can be addicting!  Get your kids off the blood-and-gun video games and introduce them to these real-world visualization tools.  Reality can be so much more interesting than fiction.  These websites have the potential to inspire the next generation of space navigators, planetary scientists and aeronautical engineers, and are fascinating interactive adventures for everyone.
    None of the Enceladus articles talked about how this little moon could be putting out so much energy for 4.5 billion years.  That’s because they don’t have a clue.  The geysers remain exciting, but not as wildly improbable, without the Law of the Misdeeds and Perversions, which cannot be altered, known as the A.S.S. (age of the solar system).
Next headline on:  Solar SystemGeologyDating MethodsEducation
  Does Big Science know what science is?  Good question.  Look for answers in the 12/11/2005 entry.

News on the Mind     12/06/2010    
Dec 06, 2010 — Here are a dozen recent stories dealing with brains, the mind, perception, motivation and other aspects of psychology and neuroscience.

  1. Nature and nurturePhysOrg claims that scientists at SMU have resolved the nature vs nurture debate with a hybrid approach.  Whether it satisfies critics remains to be seen.  Perhaps they are still thinking inside the box by overlooking factors outside those two.
  2. Profit motive:  A Caltech neuroscientist wrote in PNAS that removing financial incentives demotivates the brain.1  He commented on a paper by Murayama et al. that indicates that “extrinsic incentives (e.g., pay) can undermine intrinsic incentives (e.g., fun).”  He cautioned, “Increased incentives should be applied carefully, because removing them might damage or destroy a preexisting intrinsic incentive.”
  3. Aspire to be Neanderthal:  My, how anthropology has changed its view of Neanderthal Man.  “They were technologically savvy, creative and cultured,” began an article on New Scientist.  “So maybe it’s time we accepted that Neanderthals were people just like us.”
  4. Believing is seeingScience Daily reported on work by the Wellcome Trust that indicates our perception of the world is a function of the size of our visual cortex.  Since the size of that part of the brain can differ by a factor of three from one individual to the next, we may each see the world differently to some extent.  An optical illusion accompanies the article.  “Optical illusions mystify and inspire our imagination, but in truth they show us that how we see the world is not necessarily physically accurate, but rather depends a lot on our brains.”
  5. False witness:  Americans exaggerate about church attendance, an article on PhysOrg claims.  A U of Michigan researcher said, “In the U.S., and to a lesser extent in Canada, the gap between what we say and what we do is substantial, and has been so for the last several decades.”  Some people may claim church attendance more as a statement of identity and self-concept than behavior.
  6. Walk for life:  Taking walks may stave off Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline, radiologists said in Science Daily.
  7. Color me blue:  Matt Crump, a cognitive psychologist at Vanderbilt, was interviewed by Live Science.  He talked about his work on learning, attention, memory, and learning to play the blues.
  8. Easy cheatingScience Daily talked about game experiments by U of Toronto psychologists that made it easy to cheat, and headlined, “Why Do People Behave Badly?  Maybe It’s Just Too Easy.”  The article made no mention of conscience.
  9. Rapid aural convergence coding:  “Coding” is a word becoming more frequent in papers about sense perception.  Researchers at the University of Wisconsin analyzed how rapidly listeners can correlate acoustic inputs.  The abstract in PNAS stated,2 
    Natural sounds are complex, typically changing along multiple acoustic dimensions that covary in accord with physical laws governing sound-producing sources.  We report that, after passive exposure to novel complex sounds, highly correlated features initially collapse onto a single perceptual dimension, capturing covariance at the expense of unitary stimulus dimensions.  Discriminability of sounds respecting the correlation is maintained, but is temporarily lost for sounds orthogonal or oblique to experienced covariation.  Following extended experience, perception of variance not captured by the correlation is restored, but weighted only in proportion to total experienced covariance....  Predictions from the principal components analysis model also match evolving listener performance in two discrimination tasks absent passive listening.  These demonstrations of adaptation to correlated attributes provide direct behavioral evidence for efficient coding.
  10. Hunting for nature:  Why do hunters hunt?  At least in Wisconsin, connecting to nature is one top motivation, reported PhysOrg.
  11. The speaking brain:  Language cannot be isolated to just one region of the brain.  Researchers found “rich connections throughout the brain that have not traditionally been associated with language, but are now found to tie together key areas important for understanding language,” said Science Daily about work by the Society for Neuroscience.  “The results revealed a far more extensive network for language functions than current models would predict.
  12. Spider eyes:  They’re not just for magical potions any more.  Elizabeth Jakob at the University of Massachusetts is tracking the eye movements of spiders to learn about how their brains process sensory information.  According to Science Daily, she shows videos to jumping spiders and monitors their eye movements.  “It’s like having a window into a spider’s brain,” she said.
        “Densely packed with photoreceptors, the retina gives the spider high-resolution vision rivaling that of primates,” the article said – only jumping spiders have eight eyes, each equipped with muscles that allow them to focus on objects like aiming a flashlight beam.  Their vision is very effective, too: “they need to quickly sift all sorts of visual information and decide whether they are seeing a threat, a potential mate or a delicious treat,” the article continued; “This sorting through incoming stimuli is the same problem other animals face, including humans.”  They do all this with a brain that could fit on the head of a pin.

1.  Colin F. Camerer, “Removing financial incentives demotivates the brain,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published online before print November 29, 2010, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1016108107.
2.  Stilp, Rogers and Kluender, “Rapid efficient coding of correlated complex acoustic properties,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published online before print November 22, 2010, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1009020107.
We can use our brains to study the brain, just as we can study the eye using the eye, or think about thinking.  But to think about where thinking came from, we need to think outside the materialistic box.  Then, the brain, the eye, and the senses make sense, and are seen for the designed wonders they are.
Next headline on:  MammalsTerrestrial ZoologyEarly ManMind and BrainIntelligent Design
Lean to the Left: Science Reporters Oblivious to Conservatism     12/05/2010    
Dec 05, 2010 — Take any issue, and there will often be a liberal view and a conservative view.  Why is it, then, that science reporting is almost always liberal?  It’s not just that left-leaning slants on science issues predominate; the reporters and institutions often seem utterly oblivious to the idea that other positions, like conservative views, even exist.  Even when they are acknowledged, they are almost routinely disparaged.  Some recent examples illustrate the lopsided coverage. 
  1. WikiLeaks:  Most conservatives feel that WikiLeaks poses a real threat to national security, and that the perpetrator, Julian Assange, should be prosecuted.  Yet PhysOrg cast the story that as a freedom of speech issue – the leftist view.  “WikiLeaks fights to stay online amid attacks” was the headline of a story that gave prominent quotes to Assange claiming history is on his side, that he is just trying to make the world a better place.  Does this article even belong on a science-reporting website?  PhysOrg did post another A.P. story that at least quoted some conservatives, but it tended to air only the most inflammatory statements, like those of a Canadian advisor who said, “I think Assange should be assassinated, actually.”
        Live Science cast the story as a matter of old fashioned innocent gossip, no different than Facebook.  Ignoring entirely the issue that WikiLeaks plays into the hands of terrorists, the reporter even called on an evolutionist to tell us it’s just part of our ape ancestry: “Oxford anthropologist Robin Dunbar argues that gossip and language evolved as primate groups got too large to bond by grooming.”
  2. Rich vs poor:  Conservatives do not have a problem with wealth per se, provided the money has been earned honestly.  The rich, after all, pay the bulk of taxes, provide jobs, and are often benefactors.  Leftists are for redistribution of wealth.  PhysOrg reported that the rich in Canada are getting richer.  While the trend may be a matter of statistical analysis, the subtext of the article was that this is bad; letting rich keep their money involves an “inequality gap”.
  3. Minimum wage:  Conservatives argue that minimum wage laws hurt the people they are designed to help, by forcing businesses to close their doors to entry-level job applicants.  PhysOrg took the leftist position that “Minimum wage hikes don’t eliminate jobs.”  Either political party could certainly amass its own statistics and expertise to make its case, but the article did not even acknowledge that a conservative view exists.  It portrayed the liberal position as a scientific finding, leading to some heated comments by readers.
  4. DREAM Act:  Conservatives find the DREAM Act, now being debated in Congress, as an abomination, not only because it rewards people who broke the law, but will stimulate even more illegal immigration, and actually gives them something that U.S. citizens cannot have: lower rates on college tuition.  Yet again, PhysOrg gave the leftist arguments only, arguing on quasi-scientific grounds that the act would benefit the economy.
  5. Funding scrutiny:  Conservatives agree that taxpayers should be protected from careless funding of frivolous projects, scientific or otherwise – especially in a time of economic crisis when the national debt is at a historic high many fear is unsustainable.  When Live Science reported about Republican majority leader Eric Cantor’s reasonable request for scrutiny of NSF grants, however, the reporting staff focused on explaining why one apparently wasteful project (a $3/4 million grant to study soccer players) was not really wasteful, but had spinoffs that might help society more broadly.  Cantor was only asking for self-scrutiny at this point, but the undertone of the article is that Republicans pose a threat to science and must be monitored carefully.  Did that same moral imperative apply when liberals were driving the country to the brink of economic collapse with irresponsible spending?
  6. Climate:  Many conservatives are fearful, if not outraged, by U.N. proposals at international climate talks (currently at Cancun) that they feel can destroy economies, send society back to third world status, and hurt most of all the poor who need economic opportunity the most.  Many of them also feel “global warming” is based on dubious science (02/06/2010) and provides a cover for socialist plans to redistribute wealth.  When PhysOrg went to report on the talks, however, it focused on a specific case of dubious science: “Cancun’s eroding white sand beaches are providing a note of urgency to the climate talks being held just south of this seaside resort famed for its postcard-perfect vistas,” implying that political action on global warming (now euphemised as “climate change”) must be taken now – the left’s view.  But needless to say, it would be very difficult to prove that the beaches of Cancun are eroding because of man-made global warming, especially when the UK is currently suffering under a “Narnia-like winter” as seen in images from the TERRA satellite.
  7. Food bill:  Many conservatives were outraged at the lame duck Congress passing a food bill that gives enormous new powers to the Environmental Protection Agency, an unelected body possessing already near-dictatorial powers over business.  Yet PhysOrg presented the “bill to boost food safety” as a wonderful, progressive thing – all good, except for some compromises that had to be made to placate doubters who worried about the impacts on farmers and businesses in their home states.  Live Science went even further in its advocacy, calling the bill a “significant achievement,” announcing with its headline, “Senate Finally Passes Food Safety Bill.”  Totally ignored were any conservative arguments that private enterprise and a free market possess inherent powers of self-regulation without having to further erode the liberties of taxpayers.  Whether the conservatives or liberals are right is not the issue here.  The point is that the media, once again, rather than debating the bill with any pretense of balance, acted in advocacy of one political position on a “science” website.
  8. Ending racism:  Without doubt, concerns of racism loom large on liberal agendas, whereas many conservatives feel that government victimization by race actually does more harm than good.  In a nearly shameless reference to Obama’s political slogan, PhysOrg gave good press to academics at Georgia State and the Association for Psychological Science with the headline, “Motivation to end racism relies on ‘yes we can’ approach.”
        The merits of their arguments are, again, beside the point; certainly, empowering the disadvantaged in any culture with positive motivation is worthwhile, regardless of their race, and no respectable conservative has anything but contempt for racism.  But it is almost inconceivable that academics and science reporters would, for a minute, give positive press to the views of prominent black conservatives on the issue of how to deal with racism.  The list would include such luminaries as Thomas Sowell, Clarence Thomas, J. C. Watts, Condi Rice, Walter Williams, Alan Keyes, Michael Steele, Bill Cosby, Ward Connerly, even Martin Luther King’s daughter, Dr. Alveda C. King, and others, whose views, though nuanced, informed, and varied, are routinely excluded from “science” articles.
  9. Health care:  Conservatives were outraged last year when a nationalized health care bill, in spite of a blockade by every Republican in congress, overcame near-certain defeat through political shenanigans, backroom deals, broken promises and outright lies, finally getting pushed over the goal line against the wishes of a majority of Americans, like a foul play of a cheating football team getting awarded a touchdown by a corrupt referee.
        Conservatives before and since that date have stood vociferously for private control of health care.  As could be expected, though, once again, PhysOrg gave favorable press to a Canadian Medical Association press release that promoted expanded use of publicly funded health care.  Only arguments in support of public funding were stated; nothing of the conservative arguments against it were even noted in this “science” article.
  10. Right to life:  Conservatives are more often than not the lone stalwarts for the right to life, opposing abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, human cloning and experimentation, and embryonic stem cell research.  This is an odd situation, since liberals traditionally portray themselves as voices for the disadvantaged and helpless – and what humans are more helpless, and need a voice more, than those in the womb, infants, and the elderly?  Yet Science Daily spoke about a new “Reliable Culture of Human Embryonic Stem Cells” positively in terms only of their potential (not actual) provision for medical breakthroughs, ignoring the deep ethical concerns of many about the use of human embryos for research or treatment, whether or not the treatments ever fulfill a decade of unkept promises (11/18/2010, 09/26/2010, 09/03/2010, 01/18/2010).
News sources like PhysOrg, Live Science, and Science Daily often simply republish the press releases of academic institutions, which are known to be predominantly leftist (12/02/2004).  But they do have teams of reporters who could, if they chose to, evaluate both sides of an issue fairly, critique the claims made, and present conservative counter-arguments.  As these examples show, they almost never do (see “Institutional Science as a Leftist Cabal,” 10/14/2010).
Update: Slate Magazine acknowledged that scientists who are Democrats vastly outnumber Republican scientists.  “That’s a problem,” Daniel Sarewitz explained; “A democratic society needs Republican scientists,” he said, for reasons such as to “cultivate more informed, creative, and challenging debates about the policy implications of scientific knowledge” and to “keep difficult problems like climate change from getting prematurely straitjacketed by ideology.”  See one Evolution News and Views take on this, where David Klinghoffer says, “Slate sees the light.”
Readers are challenged to submit exceptions to the rule to our Feedback line.  Show us a “science” article from a mainstream academic source that advocates a conservative position on any of the issues in the list above.  We predict readers will have trouble finding even examples that give a balanced treatment of both sides.  Unless the response is overwhelming, any exceptions found will prove the rule.  It has been our experience at Creation-Evolution Headlines that science reporting presents a perennial onslaught against conservative values.
    Science wasn’t supposed to be like this.  It was supposed to restrict itself to natural phenomena, to controlled experiments on observable, repeatable processes governed by natural laws, seeking to follow the evidence and be most critical of its own claims.  How did science journalism ever get so deeply embedded in politics, ethics, economics, and global advocacy?  The scientific data do not entail leftist politics; often, leftist political positions are maintained in spite of the data (02/27/2010).  Think about the now-discredited work by Margaret Mead, Sigmund Freud, and Alfred Kinsey, whose left-supporting “science” claims were made on the basis of flawed data samples and agenda-driven methods (many more shameful examples exposed in Ann Coulter’s book Godless: The Church of Liberalism, 08/15/2009). 
    The ideological left has co-opted science for its political agenda, which now threatens to become a global agenda.  Science does not even belong in many of these fields (08/25/2010, 05/13/2010).  While many individual scientists are honorable citizens, focused on their narrow fields, seeking understanding about this or that molecule or organism or star, the scientific societies (06/25/2010) who presume to speak for them, and the majority of mainstream science journalists who convey the mystique of science to the general public, have stolen science’s presumed authority to promote a secularist, leftist, materialistic, evolutionary world view, to the point where many in the public are oblivious to the ideology, so thick is the fogma in which it is enveloped.  (For definition of fogma, see the 05/14/2007 commentary.)

Exercise:  You can have a voice!  Many science sites allow comments.  If time permits, become a regular commentator on left-leaning science sites, and provide some balance to the reporting.  Be sure to be well-informed, winsome, and persuasive.  Often readers are attracted to the comments – and reporters may learn to fear the adverse publicity of one-sided reporting.  Rule #1: Don't be a blowhard, or you will be blown off as a crank.  Let the blowhards be on the other side, exposing the weaknesses of their arguments – and resist the temptation to get dragged into the mud with them.  Command the respect of your readers, and you can make a difference.  This is the age of instant interactive media.  Let’s raise an army of skilled responders to biased science reporters.  They don’t have to get away with it like they did in the newspaper/magazine/radio era.  Play fair, but let them know, it’s a new ball game now.
Next headline on:  Politics and EthicsPhilosophy of ScienceMedia

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Eye-catching animations of ATP Synthase, the rotary energy machine in all cells, follow a good description of the machine by Brian Thomas at CMI.

Cells Manage Stress and Death     12/04/2010    
Dec 04, 2010 — Like soldiers in a foreign land, cells sometimes find themselves in unexpected situations.  Key equipment breaks down, or the environment puts stress on their resources.  Without the ability to adapt, they could perish – and in worst-case scenarios they must, like a squadron under ambush with no way out.  In such cases, like spies carrying cyanide vials, cells commit orderly suicide for the good of the organism.  Two papers in Science describe how cells do it.
    DNA damage is like an emergency in the field.  Fortunately, cells have elaborate procedures for dealing with it, like a flowchart, where remaining resources adapt and fix the damage.  Israeli scientists Friedman and Schuldiner,1 summarizing a paper in the same issue of Science,2 described the “DNA Damage Road Map.”  Bandyopadhyay et al had “discovered widespread changes in genetic interaction among yeast kinases, phosphatases, and transcription factors as the cell responds to DNA damage.”  The technique they used was like turning still pictures into a movie: “Differential interactions uncover many gene functions that go undetected in static conditions.”  Notably, “The data also reveal that protein complexes are generally stable in response to perturbation, but the functional relations between these complexes are substantially reorganized.”
    Friedman and Schuldiner described how the team had put yeast cells under stress by adding methyl methanesulfonate, a DNA-damaging agent, and watched how they behaved differently from those in a stable environment.  The genetic networks reorganized themselves to handle the situation; “A bird’s-eye view of the dE-MAP reveals that protein complexes tended to remain stable across the two conditions,” they said.  “The relationships between these complexes, however, were reprogrammed to assist the cell in dealing with stress.”  For instance, a transcription factor affected “cell cycle checkpoints (which ensure the fidelity of cell division).”  Being able to see networks respond in sequence represents a new frontier in biochemistry, they said.  What’s more, “There are hundreds of such stories in the data.”
    Sometimes, when the stress is too great, death is the only option.  Every day in your body, millions of cells die due to stress, injury, infection, or “the natural cell turnover process that is essential to optimal tissue functioning.  That’s what Seamus J. Martin said in another Perspective piece in Science,3 describing how Ren et al, in the same issue,4 helped to resolve how cells execute the orderly process of cell suicide, called apoptosis.  “A cell must commit suicide at the appropriate time, otherwise malfunctioning or damaged cells could accumulate and lead to tumor development and other pathological conditions,” Martin said.  “Thus, sensors are needed to monitor the integrity of cellular functions and relay this information to the cell death machinery.”
    What Ren et al found is a “battery of sensors” that “detect cellular stress or damage through transcriptional or posttranslational mechanisms,” Martin said.  He described what happens when the suicide alarm sounds:

Upon activation, Bh3-only proteins provoke permeabilization of the mitochondrial outer membrane, allowing release of cytochrome c to the cytosol.  This efflux triggers assembly of the apoptosome, a structure that sets in motion a proteolytic cascade that coordinates cell death through destruction of hundreds of proteins (see the figure).  Because of their ability to unlock this cellular poison cabinet, Bh3-only proteins have come under intensive scrutiny.  How do these proteins provoke cytochrome c efflux?
    Bax and Bak, proteins that either reside in or insert into mitochondrial membranes, constitute the pore or channel that permeabilizes mitochondria.  Loss of Bax and Bak renders cells resistant to permeabilization (and subsequent apoptosis) caused by Bh3-only proteins.  Upon activation, Bh3-only proteins promote oligomerization of Bax and Bak within the mitochondrial outer membrane.  Thus, opening of the resultant channel effectively constitutes the decision to commit cellular suicide.
In other words, the sensors open the gates to prisoners who call the cellular council to assemble a death machine, which holds the keys to a poison cabinet.  During the process, a debate between pro-survival agents and death agents act like guards at the mitochondrial membrane checking one another’s credentials.  “Thus, Bh3-only proteins and prosurvival Bcl-2 proteins represent opposing forces in the struggle to control the channel, the outcome of which dictates whether a cell will live or die.”  A checking of codes in a nuclear weapons activation process comes to mind.  “Because of the deadly consequences of mitochondrial outer membrane permeabilization, this major checkpoint on the road to cell death is heavily policed,” Martin said.  When death is the only option remaining, it occurs in an orderly, systematic manner that leaves the rest of the organism at less risk.
    For more on apoptosis (programmed cell death), see 04/09/2002, 06/27/2003, 01/05/2006, 07/25/2006, 03/17/2007 and 08/14/2007.
1.  Nir Friedman and Maya Schuldiner, “Genetics: The DNA Damage Road Map,” Science, 3 December 2010: Vol. 330 no. 6009 pp. 1327-1328, DOI: 10.1126/science.1199862.
2.  Bandyopadhyay et al, “Rewiring of Genetic Networks in Response to DNA Damage,” Science, 3 December 2010: Vol. 330 no. 6009 pp. 1385-1389, DOI: 10.1126/science.1195618.
3.  Seamus J. Martin, “Cell Biology: Opening the Cellular Poison Cabinet,” Science, 3 December 2010: Vol. 330 no. 6009 pp. 1330-1331, DOI: 10.1126/science.1199461.
4.  Ren et al, “BID, BIM, and PUMA Are Essential for Activation of the BAX- and BAK-Dependent Cell Death Program,” Science, 3 December 2010: Vol. 330 no. 6009 pp. 1390-1393, DOI: 10.1126/science.1190217.
Did you have any idea of the drama occurring inside your body millions of times a day?  Your cells are constantly struggling against real foes: genetic mistakes, toxins, environmental stress, injury, infection, and overcrowding.  Fortunately, there are elaborate policies and procedures, with police and programs, knowing how to handle each situation.  None of these papers said anything about evolution.  No wonder; this all sounds so much like intelligent design, it brings to mind images of cellular governments with documented foreign policy and homeland security systems.  And the first paper was talking about yeast cells!
    How on earth can anyone continue holding on to a doctrine like Darwinism that was concocted by a guru (02/15/2004 commentary) who knew nothing of what was happening in the little globs of protoplasm mischaracterized by the scientists of his day?  Martin talked about information being conveyed by these cellular agents, leading to decisions.  The other papers talked about whole networks of information adapting to change by adjusting their interactions – including assessing the extent of damage, accelerating or repressing gene translation, and striving to maintain stability in response to stress.  Only two things on earth we know of do that kind of thing: human minds, and robotic systems programmed by human minds.  But human minds did not program the cell.  What does that imply?  Think, now, those of you who consider yourselves heirs of the Age of Reason.
Next headline on:  Cell BiologyIntelligent DesignAmazing Facts
  Introducing the Stretch & Squish Theory of Evolution: see the 12/14/2004 entry.

Science Done by Humans Is Mushy     12/03/2010    
Dec 03, 2010 — Discoveries in science must be mediated by flawed agents: human beings.  Though the most hardened scientific realists maintain strong beliefs in external reality, the perceived reality is mediated by senses, then interpreted by minds that are not omniscient.  Those are some of the reasons that science keeps changing, as illustrated by some recent examples:

  1. Endangered what?  Scientists can have profound economic impacts on people when they help government agencies decide that certain species are endangered and need protection.  PhysOrg told about species of coral that might be designated for protection.  Then it asked, “But are all the ‘species’ on this list really species?”  It turns out that classifying corals, and deciding which kinds interbreed, is not always so clear.  “Surprisingly, researchers found that colony shape, color, and growth form can vary wildly, and may be misleading as to their species identity.”
  2. Nova novelty:  Some novae (exploding stars) can be witnessed by the naked eye.  Astronomers thought they had them pretty well figured out, but now a new instrument on a satellite is revealing flickers, pauses and flares not predicted by theory, reported PhysOrg.  One phenomenon called a pre-maximum halt was confirmed by the new observations.  “The reality of this halt as found in all three of the fast-declining novae observed is a challenge to detailed models of the nova outburst,” an astronomer said.
  3. Perfuming the myth:  For over a half century, we’ve been told that, like insects, humans give off faint odors called pheromones that induce responses like sexual attraction.  Problem is, it’s a myth, says Richard Doty (Penn State School of Medicine).  PhysOrg told about his research that culminated in a book, The Great Pheromone Myth.  Mammals don’t have them, he claims – which has “reignited the debate over the science of these supposed smells.”  But that’s not the only problem: “Even the definition of the word is controversial.”
  4. Climate science clashes with politics:  Reporters have descended upon Cancun, Mexico, at the intersection of cloudy science and nationalism.  Live Science said that the climate talks hit snags early on.  The tenor of the talks seems far less confident about the science than before the Climategate scandal hit last year.  Nature News agreed that it is a climate of confusion.  This may be one of the best examples in recent times of a clash between scientists and politicians over how much confidence can be put in human-mediated conclusions about external reality, when the economic stakes are potentially crippling either way – whether the scientific consensus is right and nothing is done, or the consensus is wrong and too much is done.  The world awaits the outcome of decisions by fallible people.
When blogger Richard Thaler at The Edge invited fellow scientists to respond to his latest edgy question, “The flat earth and geocentric world are examples of wrong scientific beliefs that were held for long periods.  Can you name your favorite example and for extra credit why it was believed to be true?” he got quite a reaction.  According to Live Science, he got some fascinating responses.  65 notable names in science responded with their favorite examples.
    Our headline reads, “Science done by humans is mushy.”  Who else is going to do science?  What does that imply?
Isn’t it pretentious that several of the evolutionists in the responses picked on creation and intelligent design as examples of debunked science?  What they should have done is recognize that their own faith in evolution could be tomorrow’s debris in the dustbin.  Thaler, co-author of leftist utopian Cass Sunstein’s book Nudge, which tries to program human beings according to leftist ideology, is even more pretentious, presuming that he, a mere mortal, has the insight and understanding to look down on members of his own species as sheep that can be manipulated.  There is no more scary prospect to a civilization than an oligarchy of the self-appointed wise.  For the survival of humanity, teach humility to your local scientist!
    See also last month’s related entry on 11/02/2010, “People Doing Science, Sometimes Badly.”
Next headline on:  Marine BiologyStarsMammalsPolitics and EthicsPhilosophy of Science
NASA Finds Life on Earth; or,
Arsenic and Old Lake
    12/02/2010    

Dec 02, 2010 — A NASA teaser about an announcement coming Dec 2 that will “will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life” had watchers on edge.  PhysOrg said, “Speculation that life has been discovered beyond Earth exploded on the Internet after NASA announced plans for a briefing involving scientists who study unusual life forms.”  It wasn’t to be.  The scientists announced the discovery of microbes in Mono Lake, California.
    Felisa Wolf-Simon and team announced in Science Express1 that they had coaxed a microbe in the salty lake to take up arsenic instead of phosphate, an interesting result that, while not as sexy as extraterrestrial life, was “still ‘phenomenal’” according to Space.com.  Henry Bortman at Space.com said the find is “potentially opening up a new pathway for life on Earth and other planets.”  Science Daily tried to keep the hype going by stating that it “has changed the fundamental knowledge about what comprises all known life on Earth.”  Some articles buried the experimental side of the story by pretending the scientists “discovered” microbes using arsenic: i.e., “Arsenic may be deadly to us, but now a microbe that can live and grow entirely off the poison has been discovered” (Live Science).  Olivier Dessibourg used imagination to say on New Scientist, “We could be witnessing the first signs of a ‘shadow biosphere’ – a parallel form of life on Earth with a different biochemistry to all others,” but reporter David Shiga, also on New Scientist, called it “The ET discovery that wasn’t.
    Now that we know what it wasn’t, what was it?  Elisabeth Pennisi explained in Science,2 “Meet GFAJ-1, a bacterial strain that researchers say can replace the phosphorus in its key biomolecules, including DNA, with the legendary poison arsenic.”  Arsenic and phosphorus are very similar in chemical properties; phosphate, however, is more stable than arsenate and is used by living systems.  Arsenic’s similarity to phosphorus is a main reason why it is toxic to life; it gets incorporated into proteins and DNA as a substitute, but causes breakdowns in metabolic processes.
    The original paper in Science1 described how Wolf-Simon and her team isolated a microbe from Mono Lake waters and gradually reduced the phosphate available, while feeding the culture arsenate.  After numerous rounds, some microbes continue to survive.  The team checked thoroughly that the arsenate ions were being used in the cells’ DNA and proteins.  Perhaps because the microbes are short-lived, some were able to avoid death.  The authors acknowledged, however, that “it grew considerably better when provided with P” [phosphorus].  They were also unsure how it survived: “As for P. How arsenic insinuates itself into the structure of biomolecules is unclear, and the mechanisms by which such molecules operate are unknown.”  The paper did not even say anything about astrobiology, the origin of life, or even evolution after the initial teaser in the abstract.
    So despite the build-up of anticipation, these astrobiologists only had an experiment in artificial selection to announce.  An extant life-form on our own planet could learn how to tolerate a toxin with a lot of loving care.  It’s not even news; Wolf-Simon has been studying this for a long time (see Astrobiology Magazine), and the paper was submitted September 1.  Whether her poison-tolerant microbe could survive in the wild was also highly doubtful.
Update 12/04/2010: What does the microbe’s acronym GFAJ-1 stand for?  Live Science revealed it: it stands for “Give Felise a Job.”
1.  Wolf-Simon et al, “A Bacterium That Can Grow by Using Arsenic Instead of Phosphorus,” Science Express www.sciencexpress.org / 2 December 2010 / Page 1 / 10.1126/science.1197258.
2.  Elisabeth Pennisi, “Biochemistry: What Poison?  Bacterium Uses Arsenic to Build DNA and Other Molecules,” Science 3 December 2010: Vol. 330 no. 6009 p. 1302, DOI: 10.1126/science.330.6009.1302.
It didn’t help Astrobiology’s cause to call Wolf-Simon.  Calling Wolf-Simon too often can make the public distrust scientism.  This is not astrobiology; it’s intelligent design.  Artificial selection is intelligent design.  It may be a nefarious kind of I.D. – like giving poison to prisoners and seeing which ones die last.  It doesn’t prove that the survivors will go out and live on the poison in the real world.  While interesting that arsenic got incorporated into the actual biomolecules of the microbes, the authors admitted up front:
Arsenic (As) is a chemical analog of phosphorus (P), which lies directly below P on the periodic table.  Arsenic possesses a similar atomic radius, as well as near identical electronegativity to P.  The most common form of P in biology is phosphate (PO4 3-), which behaves similarly to arsenate (AsO43-) over the range of biologically relevant pH and redox gradients.
This means that arsenic can be a stand-in for phosphorus – almost:
The physico-chemical similarity between AsO43- and PO4 3- contributes to the biological toxicity of AsO43- because metabolic pathways intended for PO4 3- cannot distinguish between the two molecules and arsenate may be incorporated into some early steps in the pathways [(6) and refs therein].  However, it is thought that downstream metabolic processes are generally not compatible with As-incorporating molecules because of differences in the reactivities of P- and As-compounds.  These downstream biochemical pathways may require the more chemically stable P-based metabolites; the lifetimes of more easily hydrolyzed As-bearing analogs are thought to be too short.
In you or me, the consequences would surely be fatal; but in microbes, whose lifetimes are short anyway, it is not all that surprising that some could survive.  So this was a worthwhile and interesting experiment to find that they could, but it really has little to do with astrobiology or evolution.
    If arsenic were such a good substitute, some cells would surely use it.  Since it isn’t, the experiment should have provided a lesson on the narrow tolerances of life, not what the reporters are imagining: that “Deadly arsenic breathes life into organisms” (PhysOrg) or that “Life as we know it could be much more flexible than we generally assume or can imagine” as Felisa Wolf-Simon told New Scientist.  Let’s not cry wolf or play Simple Simon with the media, OK?
    Rob Sheldon on Uncommon Descent and Casey Luskin on Evolution News had additional comments on the story, claiming it is really bad news for Darwinists.  Sheldon continued his take on The Procrustean with additional atomic details about the differences between phosphorus and arsenic.
Next headline on:  Cell BiologyOrigin of LifeDarwin and EvolutionMedia
Speleology Without Evolution     12/01/2010    
Dec 01, 2010 — “Steven Taylor, a macro-invertebrate biologist with the Illinois Natural History Survey at the University of Illinois, has spent more than two decades plumbing the mysteries of cave life,” an article said on PhysOrg, based on a press release from the University of Illinois.  The article describes his adventures in tight, dark spots in numerous caves, studying the bizarre creatures of the dark that live in these ecological “islands” cut off from the outside world.  The article did not mention evolution once.
See?  Good science can be done without Darwin.  Whether Taylor believes in evolution or not is beside the point; the guy was observing, cataloging, and studying the effects of the above-ground environment on the creatures below ground.  He was adding to our knowledge and understanding.  Evolution had nothing to do with it (see quote, top right of this page).
    Caves are fascinating environments that can provide interesting insight into ecology and natural variation and genetic drift (e.g., loss of vision in cave fish; see 04/09/2010, 01/08/2008), without any requirement to believe cave creatures are evolving upward in complexity.  In fact, there are good reasons to doubt Darwin when studying caves (e.g., 10/18/2004, 02/16/2007).  For a creationist view of cave formation and cave ecology, be sure to get The Cave Book by Dr. Emil Silvestru, a geologist who has spent much of his life studying caves (see Resource of the Week for 03/13/2010).
Next headline on:  GeologyTerrestrial Zoology
  Park & ride inside of you?  Really?  Really: see 12/04/2003.

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“Thank you very much for your well presented and highly instructive blog” [news service].
(a French IT migration analyst working in London)

“Please keep up the great work -- your website is simply amazing!  Don’t know how you do it.  But it just eviscerates every evolutionary argument they weakly lob up there -- kind of like serving up a juicy fastball to Hank Aaron in his prime!”
(a creation group leader in California)

“I just want to thank you for your outstanding job.  I am a regular reader of yours and even though language barrier and lack of deeper scientific insight play its role I still draw much from your articles and always look forward to them.”
(a financial manager and apologetics student in Prague, Czech Republic)

“You guys are doing a great job! ... I really appreciate the breadth of coverage and depth of analysis that you provide on this site.”
(a pathologist in Missouri)

“I have read many of your creation articles and have enjoyed and appreciated your website.  I feel you are an outstanding witness for the Lord.... you are making a big difference, and you have a wonderful grasp of the issues.”
(a PhD geneticist, author and inventor)

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

“I have been reading Creation Evolution Headlines for many years now with ever increasing astonishment.... I pray that God will bless your work for it has been a tremendous blessing for me and I thank you.”
(a retired surveyor in N.S.W. Australia)

“I totally enjoy the polemic and passionate style of CEH... simply refreshes the heart which its wonderful venting of righteous anger against all the BS we’re flooded with on a daily basis.  The baloney detector is just unbelievably great.  Thank you so much for your continued effort, keep up the good work.”
(an “embedded Linux hacker” in Switzerland)

“I love to read about science and intelligent design, I love your articles.... I will be reading your articles for the rest of my life.”
(an IT engineer and 3D animator in South Africa)

“I discovered your site about a year ago and found it to be very informative, but about two months back I decided to go back to the 2001 entries and read through the headlines of each month.... What a treasure house of information!  ....you have been very balanced and thoughtful in your analysis, with no embarrassing predictions, or pronouncements or unwarranted statements, but a very straightforward and sometimes humorous analysis of the news relating to origins.”
(a database engineer in New York)

“I discovered your site several months ago.... I found your articles very informative and well written, so I subscribed to the RSS feed.  I just want to thank you for making these articles available and to encourage you to keep up the good work!”
(a software engineer in Texas)

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

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

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

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

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

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

“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 December

Matthew Fontaine Maury
1806 - 1873

Matthew Maury, the “Pathfinder of the Seas,” was an influential 19th century oceanographer and geographer who made many important contributions that helped navigators chart wind and ocean currents.  It is said that he was inspired to discover ocean currents from Psalm 8:8, which mentions the “paths of the seas.”
    This month we’re going to leverage the efforts of other biographers.  There are some easily accessible treatments of Maury’s life story you can find at Apologetics Press, Answers in Genesis and ICR.  Take a moment to learn how Scripture inspired science in a period when others were turning toward the fad of evolution.
    For those who doubt the Biblical tie-in, check the website of Steve Rudd who did some detailed background investigation.


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

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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(a sound technician in Alberta)

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

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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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(endorsement on Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness Center)

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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 French Canadian reader)

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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)

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

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

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

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

“Thanks for your web page and work.  I try to drop by at least once a week and read what you have.  I’m a Christian that is interested in science (I’m a mechanical engineer) and I find you topics interesting and helpful.  I enjoy your lessons and insights on Baloney Detection.”
(a year later):
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“I look up CREV headlines every day.  It is a wonderful source of information and encouragement to me.... Your gift of discerning the fallacies in evolutionists interpretation of scientific evidence is very helpful and educational for me.  Please keep it up.  Your website is the best I know of.”
(a Presbyterian minister in New South Wales, Australia)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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