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April 2011
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“No theory or viewpoint should ever become sacrosanct because experience tells us that even the most elegant Laws of Nature ultimately succumb to the inexorable progress of scientific thinking and technological innovation.  The present debate over Darwinism will be more productive if it takes place in recognition of the fact that scientific advances are made not by canonizing our predecessors but by creating intellectual and technical opportunities for our successors.
— James A. Shapiro, “A Third Way,” Boston Review, Feb/Mar 1997.
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Embryonic Stem Cell Decision Overturned     04/30/2011      
April 30, 2011 — Judge Lamberth’s decision to block federal funding of embryonic stem cell (ESC) research last fall (09/03/2010) has been overturned by a 2-1 vote in a federal appeals court.  PhysOrg called this a “major victory to President Barack Obama’s administration.”  Theistic evolutionist Francis Collins, head of the NIH, expressed delight at the reversal.  The earlier decision did not “ban” ESC research, but only forbade federal funding for it.  It appears the reversal was due to a technicality about alleged vagueness in the Dickey-Wicker Amendment upon which Lamberth had ruled, but did acknowledge that federal funding cannot be used to destroy human embryos.
    Has there been any progress in ESC research to justify Collins’ enthusiasm?  Medical Xpress posted a report from UC San Francisco where scientists are figuring out how mouse embryonic stem cells form the neocortex of the little rodent brain, but no promise for human health was presented.
    Elsewhere, PhysOrg announced that Stanford is creating the first PhD program in stem cell research in cooperation with the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), but did not mention whether the research would involve human embryos.  The article mentioned that students “can learn both the science and ethics of human stem cell research” but did not elaborate on what those ethics might entail.
    There’s also a legal battle in Europe over whether labs can patent their ESC products (see PhysOrg.  The article stated, “The advocate-general of the European Court of Justice has recommended the prohibition on ethical grounds of patents involving human embryonic stem cells.”
    The real progress in medical treatments continues to be made with adult stem cells.  For instance, induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) might be able to treat immune diseases, Medical Xpress reported.  An article on Science Daily detailed the major innovations in both ESC and iPSC research.
    Treatments using ESCs were mentioned only in future tense: they “hold tremendous promise for regenerative medicine”  Also, “Many in the science community consider the use of stem cells to be key to the future treatment and eradication of a number of diseases,” the article said, but did not mention any actual studies with results.  By contrast, adult stem cells were distinguished by several benefits, including ethics: “iPS cells can be ideal for a personalized approach to drug discovery and for rejection-free transplantation, while they wholly avoid the ethical concerns of embryonic stem cells.
    Ron Prentice at the Family Research Council expressed disappointment at the decision.  “As the dissenting opinion by Justice Henderson noted, the logic for the current decision is a case of ‘linguistic jujitsu’ rather than straightforward interpretation of the law.”  He promoted research on adult stem cells that are already healing diseases and improving lives.  “Federal taxpayer funds should go towards helping patients first, not unethical experiments.”  Focus on the Family called it a “small victory” for the Obama administration in a long battle.

Once again we see money and fame trampling over ethics.  Secular science pays lip service to ethics when it comes to research fraud, but routinely shreds the concerns of ethicists over the use of human embryos for research.  Although the media are usually strongly biased toward the pro-ESC side, we do acknowledge that Peter Aldhous at New Scientist at least included one quote from the Family Research Council.
    If ESCs were so promising for health, private investors would flood research labs with dough.  The only way the ESC-greedy research community can proceed is by taking money from taxpayers, many of whom are appalled by killing embryos.  Such a selfish, ethics-be-damned mentality is pervasive in many other segments of our culture, including politics, law and business.  Can judgment linger forever?
Next headline on:  Cell BiologyHealthPolitics and Ethics
SETI in Reverse     04/29/2011      
April 29, 2011 — The SETI Institute has had to close down its search with the Allen Telescope Array (08/12/2010) due to lack of funds.  But while incoming messages might be missed, outgoing messages are still en route.  The Voyager record is approaching interstellar space.
    PhysOrg, Live Science and the BBC News all told about the budget cuts for SETI.  The news comes at a bad time for SETI hopefuls, since 2011 is the 50th anniversary of the first attempt at contact (11/13/2010); but so far, no outcry has been heard from the public or from the aliens, nor has new funding come to the rescue.
    Bob McDonald, commenting on CBC News, feels SETI is worth a lot more than the tens of millions spent on the royal wedding.  Just two to three million could have been used to keep SETI going.  “That tiny sum pays for a group of very intelligent and highly accomplished people to look for the answer to a fundamental human question, while many times that amount will be spent on security alone for the wedding of two people who have not really accomplished that much.”
    The flipside of SETI, METI (Messaging to Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, 02/06/2011) is something humans can control.  The Voyager message to aliens was spotlighted on PhysOrg with a commemorative video from Science@NASA that summarizes the twin Voyager spacecraft’s historic missions to the outer planets.  They are now at the edge of interstellar space.
    The video ends with the story of the Voyager Record, put together by a team under the direction of Carl Sagan, tasked with encapsulating the sights and sounds of life on earth (09/01/2004; cf. 01/13/2003).  “We couldn’t help but appreciate the enormous responsibility to create a cultural Noah’s Ark with a shelf life of hundreds of millions of years,” said Ann Druyan, team member.  The record could not come within a few light years of nearby stars for at least 40,000 years.  Even then, chances of it being detected and retrieved under the most optimistic circumstances are vanishingly remote.
    Notwithstanding the low odds of interception, the Voyager Record served as a statement of earthlings to earthlings.  The video clip from NASA ends, “What are the odds of a race of primates evolving sentience, developing spaceflight, and sending the sound of barking dogs into the cosmos?  Expect the unexpected indeed.
Good grief; the aliens aren’t going to know anything about phonograph records.  They want it on Blu-Ray.  And a cultural Noah’s Ark is doomed without an Ararat to land on.
    The real irony of the Voyager Record is that it was put together by materialists, but it presupposes intelligent design (09/29/2010, 12/03/2005).  Natural selection did not create the record; humans did, with purpose and intent.  And they expected it to be received by intelligent beings who, with purpose and intent, would follow the directions and figure out how to use 40,000-year-old technology to play an old-fashioned phonograph.  SETI itself depends on the notion of ID.  We want to hear from intelligent beings who communicate on purpose.  Pulsars and natural sounds cannot fulfill that longing.
    So what are the odds of a race of primates evolving sentience, developing spaceflight, and sending the sound of barking dogs into the cosmos?  Pretty low, unless you believe the Stuff Happens Law routinely produces miracles (online book).  The Voyager Record is a lonesome cry for meaning in a senseless universe racing toward a heat death.  But that lonesomeness betrays a spiritual reality that materialism cannot deny (02/02/2011).
Exercise:  Debate the proposition that humans are the lone sentient physical beings in the universe (see the “misanthropic principle,” 02/27/2011, bullet 9).  Do materialism and theology lean toward opposite answers?  What are the grounds for the common assumption that the vastness of space demands life be common?  How solid are those grounds from both perspectives?
Next headline on:  SETISolar SystemIntelligent DesignTheology
  Five years ago, it was becoming apparent that non-coding “junk DNA” has far more complexity than imagined (see 04/27/2006).  Now a new book has come out to demolish the old paradigm: The Myth of Junk DNA by Dr. Jonathan Wells (Discovery Institute Press, 2011), available at Amazon.com.

More Complexity in Simplicity Found     04/28/2011      
April 28, 2011 — Primitive things aren’t.  That seems to be a common thread in some recent stories that found more complexity in simple living things.

  1. Box jellyfish eyes:  Jellyfish are among the simplest of animals, so why do box jellyfish have two dozen eyes but no brain?  Some of these eyes have now been found to detect features above water so that the animal can stay in its mangrove habitat (see New Scientist, Live Science and PhysOrg).
        It is baffling how an animal lacking a central nervous system can receive visual input and respond with coordinated movements.  One marine biologist told New Scientist, “We have an under-appreciation for how sensory systems in simple organisms are used for fairly sophisticated adaptations.”  Another agreed in the Live Science entry: “This shows that the behavioral abilities of simple animals, like jellyfish, may be underestimated.”  See also 05/13/2005 about the box jellyfish eyes, and 11/19/2009 on the lack of an evolutionary explanation for this phenomenon.
  2. Innate immune system:  “Compared to the sophistication of the acquired or adaptive immune system, the innate immune system was considered a rather simple and blunt instrument,” said an article on MedicalXpress.  No longer; Scientists at Max Planck Institute were astonished to find that neutrophils, part of the innate system, are able to spread elaborate networks of DNA-histone filaments to capture intruders.  “When scientists can’t believe their eyes, it is very likely that they are on to something quite extraordinary,” the lengthy article began.
        Neutrophils were found to form NETs (Neutrophil Extracellular Traps) when summoned to an infection site.  “Under the scanning electron microscope, the NETs appear as fine fibers and particles that link the threads to form more complex structures,” the article said.  “This causes the formation of a ball in which the bacteria become engulfed.  The main ingredient of this ball is chromatin.  This mixture of DNA and proteins is normally found in the cell nucleus and contains genetic information.
        The unexpected discovery of complexity in a “simple” system subsequently led to other fruitful leads about how the immune system operates, and how serious diseases ensue when mutations muck up the works.  The adaptive immune system is even more complicated.
  3. Proteasome:  The disposal of protein “trash” in the cell is the job of a complex machine called the proteasome.  What could be more mundane than trash collection?  Even there, sophisticated mechanisms work together.  PhysOrg described a new finding that shows that “two different mechanisms are required to determine which targets to destroy.
        The “recognition tag” and “initiator tag” both have to be aligned properly to enter the machine’s disposal barrel.  “The proteasome can recognize different plugs,” a researcher at Northwestern University said, “but each one has to have the correct specific arrangement of prongs.
Speaking of cell machines, a new video of actin filaments was produced by scientists at Yale and Grenoble, France (see PhysOrg).  “Thread-like actin filaments, strong as commercial plastic, are the muscular workhorses of our cells -- pushing on membranes to move cells to the proper location within tissues and applying pressure within the interior to keep all working parts of the cell where they need to be,” the caption said.  “These filaments do their jobs through a mysterious process of continual splitting and reassembly.”  The video shows the splitting process.
Essay question: which world view expects more simplicity in the lower forms of life?  Which world view is usually wrong?
Next headline on:  Cell BiologyMarine BiologyHuman BodyIntelligent Design
Humans As Guinea Pigs     04/27/2011      
April 27, 2011 — Some scientists like to examine everything except themselves.  Human beings are natural objects, they think; why not apply the scientific method to the study of other human beings?  It’s a perfectly natural inclination; the question is whether the findings have scientific validity, or result in understanding of human nature better than the explanations offered by the humanities department.
  1. Eyeing IQ:  What does an IQ test measure?  For many decades, psychologists have assumed that it measures intelligence.  The assumption has been supported by empirical results: people who do better on IQ tests tend to do better in life.  But are the testers overlooking other variables?
        A new paper in PNAS thinks so.1  A team from four universities believes it measures motivation as well as intelligence.  “Collectively,” Duckworth et al said, “our findings suggest that, under low-stakes research conditions, some individuals try harder than others, and, in this context, test motivation can act as a third-variable confound that inflates estimates of the predictive validity of intelligence for life outcomes.”
        In other words, motivated individuals do better in their careers and on IQ tests because they are motivated by nature.  This does not mean the test has nothing to do with intelligence; it just means that a third factor not usually considered by the test designers and proctors could compromise the validity of the test.  Consider a bright kid who, for some reason, is bored stiff having to take a test he or she considers a waste of time.
        The problem is summarized on Medical Xpress, asking, “What are IQ tests really measuring?”  Other critics of IQ tests over the years have claimed they measure cultural accommodation, or were designed to marginalize certain races.  Regardless of who’s right, no one knows whether a future finding will add a fourth-variable confound, or a fifth, or an n-th.  The BBC News quoted psychologist James Thompson quipping that “life is an IQ test” and “If an IQ test doesn’t motivate someone then that is a good predictor in itself.”  The question now becomes how to design a valid MQ test.
  2. The science of cruelty:  “There is always a certain danger that the simple art of observation may be lost, that clinical description may become perfunctory, and the richness of the human context ignored.”  That quote by Oliver Sachs set the stage for a book review in Nature by Stephanie Preston, who doubts that Simon Baron-Cohen has accomplished what his new book claimed in its title, Zero Degrees of Empathy: A New Theory of Human Cruelty/The Science of Evil: On Empathy and the Origins of Cruelty (Allen Lane/Basic Books 2011).  Nature’s caption summarizes her position: “Malfunctioning brain networks only partly explain why some people act cruelly, finds Stephanie Preston.”
        Preston found some value in Baron-Cohen’s bold analysis of a difficult topic, but argued that his thesis (“Baron-Cohen reconstrues ‘evil’ as the product of a failure to empathize, caused by malfunction in an empathy network within the brain”), along with confusing vocabulary and dubious classification, raises questions about “how his model advances our understanding of human cruelty.”  She was repulsed by “the disturbing examples of cruel behaviour in the book, including the seemingly gratuitous levels of humiliation of victims in genocides and massacres....”  A photo of a disfigured victim from the Rwanda genocide raises questions whether psychologists are able to understand such brutal behavior.
        It would seem other sources “should be used to inform our scientific theories.”  She called for some input from the humanities: “An interdisciplinary framework that combines our neuroscientific knowledge with findings from social and political science may allow us to capture the ‘richness of the human context’ in such a consequential topic.”  She left out theology, ethics, and philosophy, but recognized some limits to naturalistic science.  “Understanding our simultaneous capacity for great compassion and cruelty is no easy feat,” she ended.  “We should take Baron-Cohen’s accessible book as an invitation to leave the comforts of our smaller, more tractable problems in a genuine attempt to address larger social issues.”
        That raises additional questions.  What will be the criterion for success?  Will neuroscientists decide, or social scientists, or political scientists?  Others?  To what degree?  Will this be an ongoing project with no denouement?  Will satisfaction be pragmatic or theoretical?  As with the IQ Test study, could scientists be overlooking critical variables by isolating their search for the roots of cruelty in neural circuits, heredity, or the environment?
Researchers on humans should take caution from the history of psychology.  It wasn’t terribly long ago when charismatic individuals like Mesmer and Freud swept large numbers of elites into the illusion that they had scientifically explained human nature.  Newly introduced vocabulary like animal magnetism, or Freud’s id, ego, superego, and unconscious added to the illusion of scientific validity.
    In New Scientist, Tiffany O’Callaghan interviewed emeritus Harvard psychologist J. Allan Hobson, author of 9 books, who, like many others, had been swept into the euphoria.  Hobson eventually abandoned Freud’s idea that dreaming is unconscious:
I had to ask myself, why do I say it’s an unconscious mental process?  The answer was because I’m still a Freudian, even though I’ve been trying to get over it.  The philosopher Willard Quine once told me I belong to Freudians Anonymous.  It’s true, and it’s not just me: I think everyone is addicted to Freudian misconceptions.  We’ve got to take all of these received ideas more seriously, and then take them apart.
Now he states, “Psychoanalytic theory is popular because it’s easy to understand, but I think it’s wrong.”  This was from somebody who was trained to think “science is our defence against belief.”  Yet somehow Freud pulled a con job on a generation of scientists: “There’s nothing scientific about psychoanalysis, there’s nothing scientific about Sigmund Freud.  He didn’t do a single experiment, he didn’t do any direct observation, he used no controls.  The guy was out to lunch.
    But when Hobson suggests we “take the science of subjectivity seriously,” has he himself come back from lunch?  Science was supposed to be the paragon of objectivity. 
1.  Duckworth et al, “Role of test motivation in intelligence testing,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published online before print April 25, 2011, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1018601108 PNAS April 25, 2011.
2.  Stephanie Preston, “Psychology: the empathy gap,” Nature 472 (28 April 2011), p. 416; doi:10.1038/472416a.
Even if Freud had done experiments, made observations and used controls, he would have been out to lunch.  In fact, all the secular materialist psychologists who think human beings (other than themselves) can be reduced to molecules in motion spend their lifetimes at the Yoda lunch counter, sipping martinis.
    Observations, experiments and controls do not by themselves produce understanding.  They have to be interpreted within a paradigm that involves core assumptions about the nature of reality.  Psychologists who think their “science” is a defense against belief need to cure their Yoda complex and get back on the level playing field with their fellow human beings.  Psychoanalyst, psychoanalyze thyself.
    Only when they listen to their own consciences speaking, when they acknowledge the law of God written on their hearts, when they include the missing factor in human behavior – sin – will they will begin to understand motivation, cruelty, and the other character traits and flaws in human nature.  Science cannot put moral accountability in a test tube.
Next headline on:  Mind and BrainPhilosophy and History of ScienceBible and Theology
Animal Tricks Inspire     04/26/2011      
April 26, 2011 — Here we are in the millennium of science, and we are still trying to figure out how animals do such nifty things.  Some of their nifty tricks we didn’t even know about till researchers took a look.  With high-tech monitoring tools, we might even learn the tricks for our own good.
  1. Owl fowl:  The flapping flight of owls is being studied carefully by German scientists for clues to better aerospace engineering.  Live Science has a picture of their sophisticated monitoring apparatus.  Owls are good for studying flapping flight because they start out sl-OWL-ly.
        The researchers coax their pet barn owls, Happy and Tesla, with food to get them to fly through the apparatus where eight cameras follow their every move.  “In addition to revealing more about bird flight,” the article said, “the information could be applied to small, unmanned aerial vehicles.
        Live Science accompanied the article with a gallery of nine photos of various owl species, including the “Harry Potter owl” (snow owl) with a wing span of 5 feet.
  2. Ant rafts:  Fire ants will drown alone, but in groups, they have an ingenious method to survive floods: join hands and make a living raft.  The abstract of a paper in PNAS dubbed the phenomenon a “self-assembled hydrophobic surface.”  The authors, Mlot, Tovey and Hu [Georgia Tech], explained, “We find that ants can considerably enhance their water repellency by linking their bodies together, a process analogous to the weaving of a waterproof fabric.
        An eye-catching video at Inside Science shows the ants flowing like a living fluid when encountering various novel situations.  To hold onto one another, they have to exert forces 400 times their own weight.  The ant balls are like a “super-organism” that can float for weeks in water.  How do they resist drowning?
    “The ants are so tightly knit together, that air pockets form between the water and the ants, and water cannot penetrate through any part,” said Nathan Mlot, a graduate student at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta and one of the study’s authors.
        The bottom layer of ants rests on top of the water’s surface, and others pile on above them.  Even when they do get submerged, the pockets of air bring them back to the surface quickly – and allow them to breathe.  When they get submerged, the ants flex their muscles in unison to form a tighter weave.
    Speaking of ants, a paper in PLoS One is entitled, “Ants in a Labyrinth: A Statistical Mechanics Approach to the Division of Labour.”  That paper begins,
    Both human and animal societies display a division of labour, in which there may be an unequal distribution of effort between or within particular tasks, according to age or experience, sex, physiology or morphology.  Such specialisation has long been known to improve collective productivity because learning allows individuals that focus on a subset of tasks to perform more efficiently than generalists (note however the exception to the rule provided by Dornhaus, 2008).  Division of labour is most advanced in the societies of insects such as ants, bees, wasps and termites.
    The division of labor promotes homeostasis (dynamic stability) in colonies of ants and other social insects.  The paper did not discuss evolution or the origin of this collective efficiency.
        Although the authors referred to division of labor in human societies, they did not address differences between the phenomenon in insects and humans.  “Division of labour characterises all levels of biological organisation as well as human and artificial social systems,” the paper ended.  “Our spatial fixed-threshold model links this organisational principle with the statistical mechanics approach to complex systems and provides testable hypotheses for future experiments.”
  3. Beetle bling:  In a projection theme reminiscent of the old motivational sermon “Acres of Diamonds” (Russell Conwell), a press release from the Optical Society of America begins:
    Costa Rica was once regarded as the poorest of all the colonies of the Spanish Empire, sadly deficient in the silver and gold so coveted by conquistadors.  As it turns out, all of the glittering gold and silver those explorers could have ever wanted was there all along, in the country’s tropical rainforests—but in the form of two gloriously lustrous species of beetle.
    Accompanying the article are photos of dazzling silver and gold beetles – the shimmering metallic color covering their entire bodies, as if they had been dipped in liquid metal or been fashioned by a skilled jeweler.  The authors surmise that the iridescent color, which can be seen from any direction, allows the insects to blend in with the numerous water droplets in the rainforest.
        So why is an optical society suddenly taking interest in entomology?  “Today, the brilliant gold- (Chrysina aurigans) and silver-colored (Chrysina limbata) beetles have given optics researchers new insights into the way biology can recreate the appearance of some of nature’s most precious metals, which in turn may allow researchers to produce new materials based on the natural properties found in the beetles’ coloring.”  The article then described how the light is produced not by pigment but by light refraction through a complex series of protein tissue interfaces.
        A result of this study might be the production of not real gold, not fool’s gold, but what might be called ID gold: “This potentially could lead to new products or consumer electronics that can perfectly mimic the appearance of precious metals,” the article said.  “Other products could be developed for architectural applications that require coatings with a metallic appearance.”  Wouldn’t Coronado be stunned by the sight of a future city of ID gold, only to learn that it was inspired by the beetles he would have unwittingly stepped on.
  4. Cute lil fish:  Many households only know of cuttlefish through the cuttlebone they put in the parakeet cage.  Actually, cuttlefish (not fish, but cephalopods) are some of the most amazing light-show magicians in the animal world – able to change their appearance from “camo to tuxedo in less than a second” (Science Daily).  “A new study led by Sarah Zylinski of Duke University shows just how good these animals (relatives of octopus and squid) are at this quick change routine.”  (See also 06/06/2007.)
        Dazzling video of cuttlefish changing color in wave-like patterns on their bodies is featured in the third volume of the film series Incredible Creatures that Defy Evolution from Exploration Films.  More footage of cuttlefish doing instant camouflage can be seen in the film God of Wonders from Eternal Productions (GodofWondersVideo.org, available at Go2RPI.com).  The latter shows a male camouflaged on one side, but simultaneously displaying bright color on the other side to attract a female, then switching the colors rapidly when she swims on his other side.
  5. Caterpillar robots:  What child has not been tickled by the movements of a caterpillar on his or her arm?  Scientists have another goal in mind: according to Science Daily, they want to build robots that use the same locomotion method.  Robots don’t have to be tin-man contraptions; they can be soft and silky.  “Caterpillars Inspire New Movements in Soft Robots” is the headline.  “Despite their extreme flexibility and adaptability, current soft-bodied robots are often limited by their slow speed, leading the researchers to turn to terrestrial soft-bodied animals for inspiration.”
        We all know how they crawl, but did you know caterpillars invented the wheel?  “Some caterpillars have the extraordinary ability to rapidly curl themselves into a wheel and propel themselves away from predators,” the article said.  “This highly dynamic process, called ballistic rolling, is one of the fastest wheeling behaviours in nature.”  (That statement would have to exclude cellular motors, like the flagellum or ATP synthase, which are rated at tens of thousands of RPM.)  Within a split second, the caterpillar turns itself into a wheel and rolls rapidly out of harm’s way.
        GoQBot is the latest test model at Tufts University of a robot that imitates ballistic rolling.  It can reshape its linear self into a letter Q in 100 ms and then roll at over a half meter per second.  “Not only did the study provide an insight into the fascinating escape system of a caterpillar, it also put forward a new locomotor strategy which could be used in future robot development.”
        Robots of the crawling kind are being inspired not only by caterpillars, but by snakes and worms, the article said.
  6. Rock eyes:  A dispatch article describing chiton eyes made of rock (see 04/23/2011) is open-source on Current Biology for those wishing to read more about how they work.  “The eyes on the backs of molluscs known as chitons are shadow and motion detectors, the lenses of which are made of birefringent aragonite,” author Michael Land wrote.  “These provide a focus both in and out of water.”  As for how these evolved, he appeared to have more questions than answers.
Most of us are repulsed by cockroaches, but before you stomp on them, spray them or loathe them, take a moment to understand what makes them so successful.  New Scientist posted a description of the cockroach family, noting that only a couple of the 5,000 known species have adapted to living in human dwellings.  New Scientist accompanied the description with a gallery of nine photos of the critters, noting that they are among the fastest-moving insects on earth.  “Their scuttling movements are so distinctive that they have inspired modern six-legged robotic systems.”  Maybe someday a cockroach-inspired robot will invade your kitchen to help with the housework.
The “acres of diamonds” – opportunities for wealth creation and inspiration – truly are all around us in the living world.  Help young people see the potential for design-inspired science to provide exciting careers and improve our lives.  No Darwin Party membership required.  It might even be an encumbrance, like an albatross around the neck.  Study the albatross by design and make a better glider instead.
Next headline on:  BirdsTerrestrial ZoologyMarine BiologyPhysicsBiomimeticsIntelligent DesignAmazing Facts
  Miller Time: take a break for some warmed-over primordial soup (04/22/2005).

Was Einstein Wrong?     04/25/2011      
April 25, 2011 — Relativity and quantum mechanics are among the weirdest ideas that educated people have taken seriously.  They required suspending belief in the most intuitive concepts we have of time, space, and matter.  But just because they appear to work does not necessarily mean they are true.  In fact, physicists continue to beat on one or the other with alternative theories, though not as yet successfully.
    One example of a challenge was entertained on PhysOrg today.  Amrit Sorli, Dusan Klinar, and Davide Fiscaletti have published a paper in Physics Essays that claims Einstein was wrong about time (this is not the same as saying “it’s about time Einstein was wrong”).  Students of relativity are familiar with Minkowski diagrams that show time as a fourth dimension along with three spatial dimensions.  Sorli et al claim that time is not independent of space; it is a spatial dimension.  Time is measured not by clocks, but by movement of objects in space.  They claim their model solves Zeno’s paradox and has more explanatory power (see PhysOrg and abstract of paper).
    This is not unusual; many papers are submitted to journals and to open-source forums like arXiv.org all the time.  Some of them reach media level, some are forgotten.  Why did this one by Sorli et al gain 15 minutes of fame on PhysOrg?  And why did a premature rumor about the “God particle” being discovered leak from CERN (see PhysOrg), when rigorous checks must be done before a claim like that can even be made tentatively?  To what degree are social factors steering the science?  If a majority of physicists end up accepting the claim, will that make it true with a capital T?
    Verifying relativity and quantum phenomena experimentally is often difficult, yielding ambiguous results.  Even observations are often “theory laden” – which means that theory dictates what is observed – the experimental apparatus used to measure the phenomenon, and the criteria for success, are not always independent of the theory itself.  Observations are sometimes matters of likelihood – statistical or probabilistic, rather than either-or.  Even a definitive observation can have multiple explanations, depending on the assumptions used and the model of space or time employed.  Falsification is not an easy criterion to judge complex theories managed by strong personalities or institutions adept at supplying auxiliary hypotheses to maintain their paradigms.
    Those who assume a theory must be true if it works or makes predictions should disabuse themselves of that notion by considering that in the history of civilization, many notions were very useful and widely accepted, but are now thought to be wrong.  The wave theory of light is one example; absolute space and time are others.  The Egyptians made supreme achievements in architecture with erroneous notions of physics.  Ptolemaic astronomy and Newtonian physics were masterpieces of theoretical insight that stood for centuries.  Pragmatism cannot be equated with realism, nor notoriety with validity.  Even today, our best theories of relativity and quantum mechanics cannot be reconciled, suggesting that our understanding of the physical world remains incomplete.

Physicists sometimes get frustrated with philosophers, thinking they don’t understand the rock-solid reliability of their methods.  But the philosophers are their equals in rebuttal, arguing that scientists make naïve assumptions about verification and explanatory power, or the correspondence of their models (that invoke unobservable realities, like charm quarks) with observable reality.  Perhaps we’re all naïve; some are just more sophisticated in covering up their naïveté than the rest of us.  David Berlinski took cynical glee in exposing the pretensions of cosmologists to thinking they understood the material universe (see The Deniable Darwin and Other Essays, Discovery Institute, 2009).
    The headline, “Was Einstein Wrong?” cannot be answered without metrics more reliable than “what works”.  The point is not to take sides, or to accept the claims of Sorli et al any more than the hundreds of other claims that pile up in journals year in and year out.  Pragmatism offers solace from naïveté, but not escape.  Same for endless model-making and model-challenging.  The only escape from our shadow-cave would be to have someone with ultimate knowledge and wisdom, who was also an eyewitness of the origin of the universe, tell us about reality.  Now Who could that be?
Next headline on:  PhysicsCosmologyPhilosophy of Science
Why Stuff Evolves: Not Having Stuff Would Be Terrible     04/23/2011      
April 23, 2011 — The delicate yet effective choreography of DNA Damage Repair was described by Lawrence Berkeley National Lab in terms of amazement: “Safeguarding genome integrity through extraordinary DNA repair.”  DNA repair is essential for health: “To prevent not only gene mutations but broken chromosomes and chromosomal abnormalities known to cause cancer, infertility, and other diseases in humans, prompt, precise DNA repair is essential.”
    But can something evolve just because it is needed?
Homologous recombination is a complex mechanism with multiple steps, but also with many points of regulation to insure accurate recombination at every stage.  This could be why this method has been favored during evolution.  The machinery that relocalizes the damaged DNA before loading Rad51 might have evolved because the consequences of not having it would be terrible.
That seems an odd way to describe evolution.  If evolution is a chance process with no goal or purpose, it would not care if something emerges or not.  How can a mindless process “favor” a method?  How would a mindless process “know” that the consequences of not having something would be terrible?  How would that motivate a non-mind to produce machinery and complex mechanisms to avoid terrible consequences?
Let’s extend this logic to other areas:
  • The constants of physics became fine-tuned because the consequences without it would be terrible.
  • Earth emerged because the consequences of not having one would be sad.
  • Life emerged because the consequences of not having it would be a lonely universe.
  • Eyes emerged because the consequences of not having them would be blindness.
  • Flowering plants emerged because the consequences of not having all that color would be boring.
  • Mathematics emerged because the consequences of not having it would make science inaccurate.
  • A college education emerged in your brain because the consequences of not having one would be hard on your career.
  • Fire trucks emerged because the consequences of not having them would be disastrous.
  • Missile defense emerged because the consequences of not having it could be catastrophic.
  • The machinery that repairs DNA might have evolved because the consequences of not having it would be terrible.
    The consequences for intelligent researchers who misuse logic in support of evolutionary myths should be terrible.  Instead of Charades, let’s play Truth or Consequences.
    Next headline on:  Cell BiologyGeneticsDarwin and EvolutionDumb Ideas
  • Science Jelly Beans     04/23/2011      
    April 23, 2011 — Time to clear the deck again.  Here’s a collection of sweet and sour news nuggets readers may wish to munch on.
    1. Fossils: big early spider:  An exquisitely preserved spider has been found in Chinese Jurassic strata; see picture on National Geographic News.  This pushes the origin of its genus back 130 million years, according to the article.
    2. Early man: waggle dance:  Is the human mind a collective innovation, like the waggle dance of the honeybee?  John Hoffecker [U of Colorado] got free rein to speculate about the “emergence” of the human brain by evolution in a Science Daily article that spoke of evolution six times and emergence three times, but never tied any genetic mutation to the ability to create stone axes, mechanical clocks, music, and space shuttles.
    3. Solar system: poisonous Pluto:  According to Space.com, Pluto has a “surprisingly high” concentration of poisonous carbon monoxide in its tenuous atmosphere.  Another surprise is that its atmosphere extends not just 60 miles above the surface, but 1,860 miles – one fourth the distance to its large moon Charon.
    4. Extrasolar planets: hot Jupiter shock:  How can giant planets orbiting their stars closer than Mercury avoid being stripped of their atmospheres?  Royal Astronomical Society reported that they create bow shocks that stream deadly ions around them.  “The presence of a magnetic field could greatly reduce the amount of stellar wind the planet is exposed to, effectively acting as a shield and helping the atmosphere survive.”  Incidentally, that’s what protects earth from a deadly fate.  The L word life was brought up at the end of the article.
    5. Plant evolution: plot change:  The ancestors of land plants were not stonewort-like algae after all.  PhysOrg now tells us that the ancestors were actually conjugating green algae [Zygnematales] such as Spirogyra.  Why the change?  According to a multinational research team,
      It seems that Zygnematales have lost oogamy and their ability to produce sperm and egg cells, and instead, possibly due to selection pressure in the absence of free water, use conjugation for reproduction.  Investigation of such a large number of genes has shown that, despite their apparent simplicity, Zygnematales have genetic traces of other complex traits also associated with green land plants.
      Evolutionists must be getting warmer at least; PhysOrg also told its readers, “Researchers pinpoint key events in ancient plant evolution.”  Those clever evolutionists are like magicians: “Researchers from the University of Florida and six other institutions have unlocked some of the key foundations for the evolution of seed and flowering plants.”  Maybe your foundations don’t have locks, but the ones at Down House apparently do.
    6. Dinosaurs: mighty mouths:  Artwork of a giant Brontomerus delivering a sharp kick, sending a predator flying, accompanies an article on Live Science, “How dinosaurs got huge.”  But the article is not about dinosaur kickboxing, really; it’s about what the giants had to eat to get so big.  Apparently their teeth just raked in the vegetation without the need to chew it.  Compare your diet with theirs: 100,000 calories a day just to stay slim.
    7. Marine evolution: divining plankton:  According to PhysOrg, “Plankton fossils tell tale of evolution and extinction.”  According to a Dr Thomas Ezard [University College London], “if we want to understand evolution fully, we need to acknowledge that not all species are one and the same.  The astonishing abundance and diversity of these foraminifera provides crucial clues in awkward parts of evolution’s puzzle.”
    8. Fossils: tooth tales:  In an article about how wear marks on teeth can provide clues to diet, PhysOrg got into all kinds of other subjects: when early man learned to cook, why gorillas prefer fruit with their sharp teeth, 14 hour days in the rainforest removing leeches, and attracting kids who love dinosaurs into careers studying evolution.
    9. Fossil politics: oyster climate change:  According to PhysOrg, oyster reefs provide a record of past climate change millions of years ago.  But according to Live Science, teens get a failing grade for not realizing that humans are responsible for climate change.
    10. Evolutionary theory: new law:  If you thought evolution was a story of upward progress from simplicity to complexity, consider this new evolutionary law stated by Science Daily: “Successful Blueprints Are Recycled by Evolution.”  This is “evolution with a twist,” said a team of evolutionists looking into “the question whether the gene regulatory programs that control this development have been ‘invented’ only once during evolution or whether they might have arisen anew in different species.”  One odd finding from genetics of fruit flies: “Some of the fly species that we looked at are as closely related as humans are to other primates.  Others are as distant as humans and birds.”
    11. Evolution and the human birth canal:  According to a story on Medical Express, “Evolutionary changes that make us uniquely human – such as our large heads and narrow pelvises – may have ‘pushed’ human birth timing earlier and can be used to identify genes associated with preterm birth, a new study suggests.”  It may not be clear to others if they have identified a cause, an effect, or neither.
    12. Marine biology: rock eyes:  Chitons are “primitive” mollusks that have an ingenious sense: the ability to use calcium carbonate crystals as lenses.  Live Science has a picture and description.  “Chitons first appeared on Earth more than 500 million years ago,” the article claimed.  “But according to the fossil record, the oldest chitons with eyes didn’t emerge until the last 25 million years, making their eyes among the most recent to evolve in animals.  The eyes likely evolved so chitons could see and defend against predators, [Daniel] Speiser said.”  It is plausible that these highly successful creatures never saw a predator for 475 million years – 97% of their tenure on earth?
    13. Solar system: fluffy cosmogony:  How to solve the problem that particles don’t stick when they collide?  Answer: make them fluffy, like cotton candy.  That seems to be what Science Daily is suggesting.  “Our study makes us even more convinced than before that the early carbonaceous chondrite rocks were shaped by the turbulent nebula through which they travelled billions of years ago, in much the same way that pebbles in a river are altered when subjected to high turbulence in the water,” someone from Imperial College London said.  “Our research suggests that the turbulence caused these early particles to compact and harden over time to form the first tiny rocks.”
          They appeared to just assume, however, that the rocks would stick together – an idea other studies have contradicted.  But they hedged with the admission, “Our work is another step in the process helping us to see how rocky planets and moons that make up parts of our Solar System came into being.”
    14. Origin of life: cultural entertainment:  One would think that an article in Live Science would defend the idea that life emerged in mica sheets at the ocean floor.  But one would be wrong.  One will learn more about Helen Hansma’s taste in music and how her theory provides entertainment for the masses.  The best advice she ever got: “Do an experiment poorly.”
          Quotable quote: “My Mica Hypothesis for the origin of life is an entertaining and thought-provoking piece of science that interests a wide audience.  It provides new ways to understand how ‘irremediable complexity’ was not necessary for the origin of life and its evolution.”  Is this misquote of Dr. Michael Behe’s phrase “irreducible complexity” part of the entertainment?
    15. Solar system origin: some truthPhysOrg discussed “our unlikely solar system” by claiming that only 15-25% of planetary models end up with solar systems like ours – rocky planets on the inside tracks, and gas giants in stable orbits outside.  “While you might be skeptical about the validity of a model that puts our best known planetary system in the unlikely basket, there may be some truth in this finding.”  Whether models are the same thing as findings sounds like a good question for philosophers of science.
    16. Health: know thyselvesScience Daily depicted our normal flora as cheats that worked out a deal with our immune system.  Quotable quote:
      On a more philosophical level, [Sarkis K.] Mazmanian [Caltech] says, the findings suggest that our concept of “self” should be broadened to include our many trillions of microbial residents.  “These bacteria live inside us for our entire lives, and they’ve evolved to look and act like us, as part of us,” he says.  “As far as our immune system is concerned, the molecules made by gut bacteria should be tolerated similarly to our own molecules.  Except in this case, the bacteria ‘teaches’ us to tolerate them, for both our benefit and theirs.
    As an exercise, readers may want to practice writing their own commentaries on some of the above.
    Real science involves observation and practical application.  Evolutionary theory is a useless appendage, a devil on the shoulder telling the scientist that the intelligent design so clearly evident is really Tinker Bell’s magic.  Evolutionary theory gives MAD scientists* a fun game to play, a charade, a game of pretend, loosening their inhibitions as scientists, helping them feel comfortable that their entertaining myths provide “understanding” of the world.  Or that some day it might.  Hope rings eternal.
    More, more about Darwin,
    More, more about Darwin,
    More of his SHL to see,**
    More of his myth who set us free.
    
    *MAD: Mutual Admiration of Darwin.
    **SHL: Stuff Happens Law (09/22/2009, 09/15/2008 commentaries).
    Next headline on:  FossilsTerrestrial ZoologySolar SystemPlantsDinosaursMarine BiologyCell BiologyPolitics and EthicsEducationPhilosophy of ScienceDarwin and EvolutionIntelligent DesignEarly ManMind and BrainOrigin of LifeHuman BodyHealthAmazing FactsDumb Ideas
      Who helped Copernicus the most to get his heliocentric message heard?  Lutherans.  That’s what a prominent historian of science said; see 04/30/2004.

    Are Earthquakes Increasing?     04/22/2011      
    April 22, 2011 — The recent rash of deadly earthquakes has many people asking: is this unusual?  Have the frequency and intensity of earthquakes been increasing in recent years?  Geologists secular and theistic have weighed in on the question.
        Two reporters at Live Science (Live Science #1 and Live Science #2) took up the issue and quoted geologists who concluded that the long-term pattern is random.  Richard Kerr for Science Magazine News quoted experts on both sides: some who see the trend as unusual, some who see it as random.
        There’s no question that the recent series of megaquakes (Japan, Indonesia, New Zealand, Chile) has been a cluster.  But there have been other clusters of great quakes, notably a series from 1952 to 1964.  We’ve only been measuring earthquake magnitudes for about 100 years, so scientists do not have a long enough record to fully establish the random hypothesis.
        It takes many trials to get reliable statistics.  That’s why Richard Kerr titled his article, “More Megaquakes on the Way?  That Depends on Your Statistics.”  What remains to be seen is whether one great quake can trigger others across the globe.  Some geologists are preparing models to see if future quakes will confirm or disconfirm the random hypothesis as opposed to the trigger hypothesis.
        Steve Austin, a prominent creationist geologist, has also written on the subject (see article on ICR).  He included more long-term data from historical reports and agreed that the perception of increasing numbers of earthquakes in recent years is an illusion: “Since good seismographs went into operation late in the 1890's, no steady trend suggesting increased frequency or intensity has been demonstrated.”  Other factors contribute to the illusion: rapid reporting, larger populations in urban centers, and consequent greater damage and loss of life.
        Noting that Jesus had prophesied “There will be earthquakes in divers places” as the “beginning of birth pangs” of his coming (Matthew 24:7; Mark 13:8), Austin said it is not necessary to interpret the metaphor as an increase in frequency and intensity, but as something erratic and unpredictable: “Global seismic activity is very non-uniform in time; it is like waiting for birth pangs.” 

    Christians need to be good statisticians and not jump to conclusions.  The megaquakes in Japan, Indonesia, and Chile, and others in New Zealand, Haiti and elsewhere in recent years are disturbing, but inconclusive as to whether they are unusual in the long term.  Remember, too, that one moderate earthquake in a densely-populated, unprepared country like Haiti can create far worse damage than several megaquakes in remote regions.  The perception of an apocalyptic rise in earthquakes can be fanned by rapid, eyewitness reports, as seen in Haiti and Japan.
        Perhaps a cluster of great earthquakes will accompany the other signs Jesus described, such as wars and rumors of wars and famines – “See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet,” Jesus said, instructing his disciples not to conclude His coming was imminent; “All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.”  Remember that the beginning of birth pains are infrequent, and that a day to the Lord is as a thousand years.  Wars, famines and earthquakes have been ongoing since His death and resurrection.
        Jesus continued by describing what else would precede His coming: worldwide persecution of His disciples, a great “falling away” of nominal believers, hatred, lawlessness, and false prophets.  But only at the imminent time of His appearing would there be specific signs, like the “abomination of desolation” in the Temple.  And His actual coming would be accompanied by great signs in the heavens – signs so clear as to remove all doubt.  The book of Revelation further describes great earthquakes as part of the judgment leading up to His return.
        Parts of Jesus’ Olivet Discourse shortly before His crucifixion (Matthew 24, Mark 13), in answer to His disciples’ question about signs of the end of the age, are warnings not to try predict the day of His coming, because “no one knows the day or the hour”.  Just like the days of Noah or of Lot, He said, nobody expected the sudden destruction that was imminent.  It is wise to avoid rash conclusions from a few earthquakes, yet also to weigh the sum total of the signs all the Biblical prophets mentioned.  Those who stay awake and faithful will not be completely surprised at that day, like the uniformitarians will be (2 Peter 3).
    Next headline on:  GeologyDating MethodsBible and Theology
    Scientists Invade Religion     04/21/2011      
    April 21, 2011 — Science and religion, those uneasy combatants in turf wars, do not get equal treatment in the media.  The referees in the science news media frequently overlook invasions by science into religious territory, but fail to heed calls of foul by the invaded.
    1. World religion:  Last month in New Scientist, Kate Douglas theorized about what an “ideal religion” would look like if humans could start one from scratch.  She acknowledged that religion is “good for some things” like a sense of community and promotion of happiness, but she accepted the speculations of researchers who treat religion as something that can be classified like plants, focusing on outward ritual activity instead of epistemology.  (The article was posted, after all, on New Scientist.)
          From there, Douglas speculated about how an ideal world religion would promote a blend of physical activities like chanting and dancing “to stimulate the release of endorphins” and “social cohesion”  It could even include few tame myths to keep people coming back.  It would even be polytheistic: “With many gods and great tolerance of idiosyncratic local practices, the new religion will be highly adaptable to the needs of different congregations without losing its unifying identity,” she continued.  “The religion will also emphasise worldly affairs – it would promote the use of contraceptives and small families and be big on environmental issues, philanthropy, pacifism and cooperation.”  She even proposed a name for it: Utopianity.
    2. Free willy nilly:  Theologians have debated free will for centuries; does science have a better position to provide answers?  New Scientist has posted several articles recently about the subject.  In one, MacGregor Campbell promoted the answer from some secular neuroscientists that free will is an illusion.  The short article includes a video beginning with a cartoon of a tea-party patriot SUV waving American flags, whose owner turns out to be a murderer.
          The video states without criticism that “every choice you have ever made was predetermined billions of years ago at the moment of the big bang” accompanied by a cartoon of evolutionary progress.  It continues claiming our brains are lying to us, and that murderers (like said tea party patriot) are not responsible for their actions.  As scientific justification for these radically deterministic views, the narrator says, “Many neuroscientists think that what we call free will is just the result of electrical and chemical signals in the brain, explainable ultimately by the laws of physics.”  (No critics were called on to point out that the narrator was predetermined to say that, or that laws of physics are not composed of matter.)
          The narrator continued, with apparent scientific authority, to opine that belief in free will and moral accountability is a useful fiction, because “a society that doesn’t believe in free will would suck.”  It ended by advertising the April 16 issue of New Scientist, with its cover story, “Free will: the illusion we can’t live without.”
          In a follow-up article on New Scientist that showed the same video, freelance writer Dan Jones again gave the scientific edge to neuroscientists who present the “manifest truth of determinism”.  He made matter-of-fact statements claiming materialism is scientific truth, such as Francis Crick’s remark, “you are nothing but a pack of neurons.”  Jones did acknowledge that when people are taught that free will is an illusion, their ethics, altruism and values plummet.  But he never questioned the materialistic view; he just presented arguments that belief in free will is so ingrained, we will probably not have to worry about an amoral society.
    3. Convert the Muslims:  In another article in New Scientist, Michael Bond interviewed “scientist imam” Usama Hasan, who thinks Muslims need to talk about evolution.  “I want Muslims to question creationism, says the physicist and imam who has had death threats for supporting evolution.”  As could be expected, there were no calls for any scientists to question Darwinism.
    4. Experimental cheating:  Psychologists at the University of Oregon used human guinea pigs to measure the effect of one’s view of God on the propensity to cheat.  The write-up on Medical Express includes a video that tried to correlate cheating on a sample test with the student’s view of God as forgiving and loving or God as vengeful and punishing.
          According to the results, “students who specifically perceived God as punitive, angry and vengeful showed significantly lower levels of cheating.”  Nowhere did the press release question the ethics of this kind of experimentation – or its validity as a scientific investigation.  Should a priest, rabbi or preacher have evaluated the psychologists instead?
    5. Psychological swearing:  Swearing isn’t a sin; it’s good for you.  That was the message of an article on PhysOrg taken from the Los Angeles Times based on experiments at Keele University, England.  The “researchers” found that swearing helped subjects endure pain when their hands were immersed in ice water. 
    The “experimental research” described above begs some epistemic questions on several levels.  Are moral experiments on human guinea pigs ethical?  Do they generate knowledge, or merely reinforce the researcher’s bias?  Are psychological investigations of religion scientific?
        A rare article that questioned the validity of psychological/psychiatric research was posted recently on Medical Express, “Rethinking Psychiatry” by Candace O’Connor.  She started by noting the difference between positions of the American Psychiatric Association today and that of a few decades ago, when “Everywhere, psychiatry departments were dominated by psychoanalysts, who focused on Freudian theory.
        She quoted George E. Murphy, who said, “I remember one meeting, when I told a psychiatry professor about a study I had read showing that no two psychiatrists could agree better than chance on diagnosis,” implying the obvious: “our diagnoses don’t mean anything.”  Since then, instead of relying on Freud like a modern Moses, the field has tried to live up to “evidence-based approach to clinical psychiatry.”  She seemed supportive the latest iteration of the APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), but ended by quoting a psychiatrist eager to keep asking questions: “We want to keep reminding people that we haven’t done enough and to keep asking: ’Where is the next thing coming from?’”  (See 02/17/2010.)
        Admirable as that inside-skeptical spirit may be, it leaves open the possibility, illustrated by the evolution from DSM-II to DSM-V, that the “next thing” may undermine today’s current thing.  By contrast, religions tend to be stable over centuries, an observational fact that may lead to questions about science’s pretensions of epistemic authority.
    The presumption that science can study religion and answer ultimate questions is a kind of religion itself.  Instead of the gamesmanship between the Science Building and the Arts and Humanities Building, academics need to realize they are fallible human beings, not purveyors of absolute truth.
        The secular materialists who honor themselves as “scientists” disqualify themselves, when making claims about free will and the “ideal religion,” by committing the self-refuting fallacy.  If beliefs are determined, so is their belief in determinism.  It cannot make any independent claims to validity or truth.
        The ideal religion proposed by Kate Douglas sounds a lot like the end-times mythology predicted by the Apostle Paul (2 Timothy 3:1-5).  Prediction is supposed to be valued in science.  Here’s a prediction 2,000 years old that was right on.
        Notice also that Paul did not have to keep revising and repudiating his documents like the APA does.  Since the observational evidence for Paul’s validity appears superior to those who have disqualified themselves by shooting their own feet, it seems justified to take seriously Dr. Paul’s advice, “Avoid such people” (2 Timothy 6:5) and “Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called ‘knowledge,’” (I Timothy 6:20-21).
    Next headline on:  Mind and BrainPhilosophy of SciencePolitics and EthicsBible and Theology
    Notable Notes and Quotable Quotes
    “It’s remarkable how nature has solved complex topological puzzles in DNA substrate recognition with such elegant simplicity.” —Lorena Beese, Ph.D., Professor of Biochemistry at Duke University, quoted by Science Daily.

    Your Inner Postal Service     04/20/2011      
    April 20, 2011 — Zip codes – those five- or nine-digit numbers on mail – have an analogue in every one of your cells.  Like a city,1 a cell has information to ship from place to place.2  To make sure that the manufacturing instructions for protein parts arrive at the appropriate assembly site, the shipper puts a molecular tag on a transport vehicle (the postman) that works just like a zip code.  At least that is the way an article in PLoS Biology described the process.
        Richard Robinson is a freelance science writer who wrote in the peer-reviewed, open-access science journal PLoS Biology about “A Two-Step Process Gets mRNA Loaded and Ready to Go.”3  (mRNA refers to the messenger RNA, the edited transcript of DNA, that contains the coded instructions for a protein.)  He used the word “zipcode” five times in his description of recent findings about the process:

    Proteins are the workhorses of the cell, but to get the most work out of them, they need to be in the right place.  In neurons, for example, proteins needed at axons differ from those needed at dendrites, while in budding yeast cells, the daughter cell needs proteins the mother cell does not.  In each case, one strategy for making sure a protein gets where it belongs is to shuttle its messenger RNA to the right spot before translating it.
        The destination for such an mRNA is encoded in a set of so-called “zipcode” elements, which loop out of the RNA string to link up with RNA-binding proteins.  In yeast, these proteins join up with a myosin motor that taxis the complex to the encoded location.
    The players in this process are the messenger RNA (mRNA) with the coded instructions (like blueprints) for a molecular machine, the zipcode elements attached to the mRNA that tell it where it needs to go, and the myosin “taxi” that takes the mRNA to the right factory (ribosome) where the protein parts will be assembled.  But other parts must be involved; who sorts the mail?  Who checks that the zip code is present?
        The rest of Robinson’s synopsis discussed how recent findings show more complexity than previously known (see 06/26/2002, 09/06/2002, 01/01/2005, 01/13/2007).  It was known that proteins called She2p and She3p were involved, but not how they interacted with the zipcode elements on the mRNA.  There is a new level of quality control, he said, that has come to light:
    Based on their results, the authors propose a two-step model of transport complex formation.  Within the nucleus, She2p binds to the mRNA as it is transcribed, and then shuttles it to the cytoplasm.  She2p binds loosely and promiscuously, though, catching up mRNAs both with and without zipcodes.  Once in the cytoplasm, She3p joins on, tightening the grip on mRNAs that contain zipcodes while booting out those without them.  With the myosin motor attached to She3p, the complex motors off to its destination elsewhere in the cell.
        The results in this study indicate that quality control in mRNA transport relies on a reciprocal action: the complex proteins together ensure that only those mRNAs with a destination tag are incorporated into the transport complex, and the mRNA, by binding to each of the proteins in the complex, ensures that all are on board before the journey starts.
    In other words, one protein (She2p) binds to the parcel inside the nucleus and takes it outside, where the other protein (She3p) recognizes its counterpart, checks the zipcode, and joins the transport complex to the myosin taxi.  Studies have shown that without this quality-control mechanism, like when She2p mutated to prevent it joining with the mRNA, “the ability of the RNA–protein complex to reach its destination was impaired.”
        Robinson’s comments referred to a paper by Muller et al in PLoS Biology.4  The authors stated, “We propose that coupling of specific mRNA recognition and assembly of stable transport complexes constitutes a critical quality control step to ensure that only target mRNAs are transported.”  They also used the phrase “zip code” 68 times, but never mentioned evolution once, except obliquely in one figure, to show phylogenetic comparisons of She3p between different species of yeast.
    1.  Michael Denton compared the cell to a city in a memorable chapter of his 1985 book, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, p. 328.  His description began, “To grasp the reality of life as it has been revealed by molecular biology, we must magnify a cell a thousand million times until it is twenty kilometres in diameter and resembles a giant airship large enough to cover a great city like London or New York.  What we would then see would be an object of unparalleled complexity and adaptive design.... a world of supreme technology and bewildering complexity.”
    2.  Ibid., “A huge range of products and raw materials and raw materials would shuttle along all the manifold conduits in a highly ordered fashion to and from all the various assembly plants in the outer regions of the cell.”
    3.  Richard Robinson, “A Two-Step Process Gets mRNA Loaded and Ready to Go,” Public Library of Science: Biology, 9(4): e1001047. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001047.
    4.  Müller M, Gerhard Heym R, Mayer A, Kramer K, Schmid M, et al. (2011), “A Cytoplasmic Complex Mediates Specific mRNA Recognition and Localization in Yeast,” doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1000611.
    The guys who make up stories about life originating from primordial soup don’t think of any of these things.  They get all excited if they find a strand of RNA that can make one simple chemical reaction occur, as if that’s all that is needed.  But give them the best case scenario: a primitive cell filled with the essential molecules of life, but no process for getting the molecules where they are needed.  That includes no quality control, no inspections, no checks and balances, no feedback, no networks.  What will happen?  Entropy.
        We remind our readers that evolutionary theory provided nothing to this scientific discovery.  We also remind them that these complex processes were described not for the most complicated eukaryotes, like giraffes, but ones much more humble: yeast.
    Next headline on:  Cell BiologyIntelligent DesignAmazing Facts
      30 questions to ask before swallowing a scientific claim: 04/02/2010 commentary.

    Biomimetics: Who Is Imitating Whom?     04/19/2011      
    April 19, 2011 — Biomimetics is a cutting-edge branch of applied science that looks for ways to imitate nature to solve engineering problems.  Sometimes, though engineers invent things then find that nature had a similar solution all along.  Other times, there is overlap, with engineers inventing things that affect nature, or nature guiding engineering that is already in progress.  And sometimes nature and the human body merge with solutions from nature for health’s sake.

    1. Using chance by design:  Humans invented computers without help from nature, but inventors are looking over their shoulder at bacteria and viruses for ways to improve them.  Computer chips are getting so small they are approaching the nanotechnology threshold – the size range of DNA molecules.  As size decreases, thermal noise and randomness become bigger issues for inventors.  What is it about viruses and bacteria that allow them to thrive in the noise?
          “By striving for control and perfection in everything from computer chips to commercial jets, scientists and engineers actually exclude a fundamental force that allows nature to outperform even their best efforts,” a press release from Oak Ridge National Laboratory began.  “Although it may appear to defy logic, imperfections and the seemingly [sic] randomness among even the lowly bacteria help keep nature a couple of steps ahead according to Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Peter Cummings and Mike Simpson, co-authors of a paper published in ACS Nano.”
          Through a strategy of “contrarian bets”, bacteria and viruses explore opportunities in the noise to evade man’s strict on-and-off logic.  Human logic requires more and more power to get rid of the noise by brute force, because engineers want their computer chips to be perfectly predictable.  “In contrast to the computer chip, the bacterial cell has imperfect chance-ridden switches, and through these imperfections, the bacteria can do things the computer chip cannot.”
          So maybe it’s time to rethink our designs by imitating the ways of the “lowly bacteria.”  After all, as the headline read, “Nature still sets standard for nanoscience revolution.”
    2. Sea squirt rejection:  Organ rejection is a major problem for transplant operations.  Can the lowly sea squirt help?  Scientists at UC Santa Barbara are asking, because they have noticed that sea squirts colonizing next to one another are able to recognize self or non-self and fuse safely if related.  Researchers think if we could imitate the sea squirt’s method of recognition and manipulate it, we might be able to help more patients accept organs from others.
    3. Ant Facebook:  Ants “friend” each other just like people do with Facebook.  They build social networks that extend out into hubs of connections, using chemical signals instead of texting.  That’s what researchers at Stanford University found out, according to PhysOrg, when studying red harvester ants in the southwestern desert.
          Like people, some ants appear more popular than others.  “On average, each ant had around 40 interactions,” the scientists found.  “However, around 10 percent of the ants made more than 100 contacts with other ants.”  Apparently ants and humans have hit on this strategy independently.  The research can be found on the Royal Society interface.
    4. Catalytic convertersScience Daily reported that researchers at New Jersey Institute of Technology are working to “develop biologically-inspired catalysts.”  Motivated by how heme enzymes do it, they are looking into “the replacement of carbon-hydrogen bonds with a combination of aromatic and aliphatic carbon-fluorine bonds.”
          This ability would help “sweeten” petroleum products “by the transformation of smelly and corrosive thiols into disulfides.”  Work by this team “was of great interest to the fragrance industry.”
    Humans are a part of nature, yet apart of nature in the sense of studying it as an object.  While animals may employ strategies such as mimicry to attract mates or escape predators, only humans study nature with a designer’s mind, looking for designs and seeking to learn the design principles and how they might be applied in radically different ways.
    Anybody see Charlie around?
    Next headline on:  Cell BiologyMarine BiologyTerrestrial ZoologyHealthBiomimeticsIntelligent DesignAmazing Facts
    Upsets in Space     04/18/2011      
    April 18, 2011 — Three different astronomy teams have announced findings that upset long-held beliefs.  What does this portend about the confidence we can have in other theories?
    1. Galaxy growth: direct challenge:  “Galaxies are thought to develop by the gravitational attraction between and merger of smaller ‘sub-galaxies’, a process that standard cosmological ideas suggest should be ongoing,” announced the Royal Astronomical Society.  “But new data from a team of scientists from Liverpool John Moores University directly challenges this idea, suggesting that the growth of some of the most massive objects stopped 7 billion years ago when the Universe was half its present age.”
          How serious is this claim?  “The lack of growth of the most massive galaxies is a major challenge to current models of the formation and evolution of large scale structure in the Universe,” commented Claire Burke, team member.  “Our work suggests that cosmologists appear to lack some of the crucial ingredients they need to understand how galaxies evolved from the distant past to the present day.
    2. Star spin: poking holes:  Researchers at the University of Michigan have poked holes in a “century-old astronomical theory.”  The theory, called the von Zeipel law, “has been used for the better part of a century to predict the difference in surface gravity, brightness and temperature between a rapidly rotating star’s poles and its equator.”
          Doctoral student Xiao Che and other astronomers on the team found that the data from Regulus don’t fit the theory.  “It is surprising to me that von Zeipel’s law has been adopted in astronomy for such a long time with so little solid observational evidence.
    3. Impossible wet comet: shattering paradigms:  “Current thinking suggests that it is impossible to form liquid water inside of a comet,” states a press release from University of Arizona.  But lo and behold, Comet Wild-2 explored by the Stardust spacecraft found minerals that could only have formed in the presence of water.
          This is a shattering find: “For the first time, scientists have found convincing evidence for the presence of liquid water in a comet, shattering the current paradigm that comets never get warm enough to melt the ice that makes up the bulk of their material.”  The press release was echoed on PhysOrg.
    When a paradigm gets shattered in one area of science, there can be ramifications for others, depending on how foundational it was.  The American philosopher Willard Quine noticed that when faced with potentially falsifying data, scientists often absorb the shocks into their “web of belief” without changing the web.
    There are several dynamics at work here.  One is that scientists enjoy finding flaws in earlier beliefs because it makes their research seem important.  They usually limit their hole-poking to small claims that can be absorbed by the web of belief without tearing it.  Another dynamic is that beliefs and “laws” like the von Zeipel law are often taken on faith – yes, even scientists have faith.  Nobody has the time to check out the validity of every claimed law, so they are assumed to be laws of “nature” rather than the sausage-type laws of legislature.
        We see often that long-held beliefs in science are vulnerable to new evidence.  What’s next to go?  Darwinism?  Unlikely.  Darwinism’s web of belief is so paramount to the cultural world view, its supporters are ready with reinforcements any time falsifying evidence comes along.  All the original web is long gone.  It is now a steel framework of belief, protected behind a Berlin Wall with machine-gunners ready to mow down any creationists trying to cross the line.
    Next headline on:  CosmologyAstronomySolar SystemPhilosophy of Science
    Secular Science Analyzes Jesus     04/17/2011      
    April 17, 2011 — In a classic religion-vs-science confrontation, Live Science took on the question, “Jesus Christ the Man: Does the Physical Evidence Hold Up?”  The answer may say more about science than about Jesus.
        To begin with, reporter Natalie Wolchover drew distinctions between scientific evidence and belief – as if evidence requires no belief or assumption or interpretation.  The belief of Christians in Jesus’ life comes from “textual evidence in the Bible” – betraying a bias that textual evidence is less credible than scientific evidence.  Her headline also implies that evidence must be physical.  This rules out logical and textual evidence and eyewitness testimony.  It also begs questions about whether other beliefs accepted by scientists are based on physical evidence alone.
        Wolchover spent a moment on a red herring about Simcha Jacobovici (“The Naked Archaeologist” from the History Channel) and his latest documentary about two crooked nails he claims are tied to the crucifixion.  Many scholars consider this little more than a publicity stunt (see Bible Places blog #1 and #2).  From there, Wolchover debunked various other relic stories, including the lead plates recently announced from Jordan (see Bible Places).  But dubious archaeological claims, frauds and forgeries have little to do with the question of whether Jesus really lived.
        After dispensing with relics, Wolchover turned her science scanner on texts.  The Dead Sea scrolls are not much help, she claimed, because the “Teacher of Righteousness” mentioned in some scrolls could be anybody.
        Regarding the Biblical text, she seemed to indicate that non-canonical gospels have equal bearing with Matthew, Mark, Luke and John on the history of Jesus: “There are still other Gospels,” she said, without naming them, “never canonized but written by near-contemporaries of Jesus all the same.”  She did not mention that the Gospel of Judas (04/09/2006, 12/26/2007) was written much later by Gnostics, and that the Gospel of Thomas and others have long been considered spurious by early church fathers who lived closest in time to the writing of those documents.  Nor did she explore the church fathers’ criteria for authenticity, the social dynamics of heretics and cults who might have reasons to write spurious accounts, nor the science of textual analysis, concerned with the authenticity of texts.
        All the same, she drew a middle ground on the historicity of Jesus, quoting Marcus Borg, a secular scholar at Oregon State: “We do know some things about the historical Jesus – less than some Christians think, but more than some skeptics think.”  That judgment, though, rests on what documents one takes as credible.  Borg did not question the fact that Jesus lived, but from the textual evidence, presented a synopsis of Jesus’ life sanitized of the miraculous.  Acknowledging that “More healing stories are told about Jesus than about any other figure in the Jewish tradition,” he proceeded to the crux of the story: the cross and resurrection:
    He was executed by Roman imperial authority, and his followers experienced him after his death.  It is clear, Borg said, that they had visions of Jesus as they had known him during his historical life.  Only after his death did they declare Jesus to be “lord” or “the son of God.
    To make such claims, Borg (and Wolchover, the reporter) had to rule out of court the eyewitness testimony of Thomas, the doubter, who reached into the wounds of the risen Jesus (John 20:24-27), of John, who said their hands touched Him (I John 1:1-4), and of all the disciples who saw him eat and drink in their presence (Luke 24, John 21), and the 500 who saw him at one time (I Cor 15:1-11), most of whom were still alive when the testimony was written.
        Moreover, to deny the resurrection, they would have to completely discount the life testimony of the Apostle Paul (I Corinthians 15, written at most 25 years after the crucifixion), the fact that Paul had been a hostile witness (I Timothy 1:12-16), yet spread his testimony of the risen Christ throughout the middle east and Europe, finally being martyred without flinching from his testimony.
        They would have to deny that Matthew, Mark, Peter, John (1 John 1:1-10), James and possibly the writer of Hebrews were also eyewitnesses of Jesus and the resurrection, and that the New Testament authors, including Luke (Luke 1:1-4, Acts 1:1-3), Peter (2 Peter 3:16-21), John (I John 4:1-6), Paul (2 Timothy 3) all advocated telling the truth, each of them staunchly opposing myths and fact-free speculations (I Timothy 4:1-4).
        Furthermore, they would have to ignore the fact that all the apostles (except possibly John), who claimed they had seen the resurrected Christ, died martyr’s deaths without recanting.  Plus, they would have to explain the explosive growth of the early church in a time of persecution, when all the enemies of the new faith would have to do to squelch it was produce the body of Jesus and parade it down the streets of Jerusalem.  Furthermore, Wolchover and Borg had to dismiss a priori the possibility of predictive prophecy (Isaiah 53, Luke 24, esp. vv. 25-26).
        No philosopher of science would affirm that the opinions of Borg and Wolchover were dictated to them by the scientific evidence itself.  Clearly a different set of authorities would produce different conclusions.  The question of what constitutes evidence is a philosophical question about science, not a statement by science.  Invariably, one must consider the biases that fallible human beings bring to a question. 
    Easter is approaching; that must mean it’s time for Jesus-debunking articles by secular bigots.  Secularists pick and choose the kinds of evidence they like, draw their conclusions based on that selected evidence, filter it through their materialistic biases, and proclaim to the world that science has shown the resurrection to be a myth, congratulating themselves that they have been neutral “scientists” and not selfish, biased, sinful dogmatists like the rest of the rabble.
        Understand what is behind these writings.  It is vital for Evil Science (that’s “Live” backwards) to debunk Jesus, because He gets in the way of their favorite god, Charlie the Bearded Buddha, who lets them do whatever they want.  Don’t be distracted by the red herrings about relics; that is not what conservative Bible scholars who accept the historicity of Jesus rely on; if anything, they dismiss it as holy junk.
        If you want a more credible testimony, read the writings of the Apostle Paul, who had been dedicated to crushing the early Christians until he saw the risen Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts 9).
        See also the DVD The Case for Christ (available from La Mirada Films), which presents numerous lines of evidence by knowledgeable scholars, narrated by Lee Strobel, formerly a hard-hearted atheist, who had no reason to believe the Bible and every reason to oppose it, till he checked out the evidence for himself.  It all converged on a uniform conclusion that was so powerful, Strobel said it would take more faith to deny it than to accept it.
        Nobody should be gullible.  It’s OK to be a doubting Thomas – for awhile, till presented with undeniable evidence (John 20).  Let this be the year you get the best evidence from the most reliable sources and come to grips with the reality of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28).
    Next headline on:  Bible and TheologyPhilosophy of Science
      Did early man have a soul?  Asked and answered in the 04/08/2009 entry.

    Evolutionary Language Lingo Contradictory     04/16/2011      
    April 16, 2011 — Human language is such a unique feature of our species, it would seem to defy evolutionary explanations.  Can evolutionists take this living phenomenon and fit it into a historical narrative?  A couple of papers in leading journals attempted to do so.  Are their conclusions the only ones that can be drawn from the evidence?
        In Science,1 Quentin D. Atkinson [U of Auckland] argued that language began in southern and central Africa.  He counted phonemes (individual sound elements) in over 500 languages and believes he detected decreasing diversity with distance, supporting his contention that language was born in Africa and spread from there.  The “founder effect” in evolutionary theory asserts that diversity decreases with distance from a center of innovation.  Charting phenomic diversity this way requires dealing with potential mixers like population size and density, cultural stability, migration habits, and other things; Atkinson believes he controlled for these factors and the clinal trend persisted.  Whether he controlled for all possible demographic variables is not clear.
        Atkinson believes his phoneme evidence correlates with genetic and phenotypic evidence of declining diversity with distance from Africa, but he did not explain how language originated; it was just some kind of “innovation,” he suggested.  “Truly modern language, akin to languages spoken today, may thus have been the key cultural innovation that allowed the emergence of these and other hallmarks of behavioral modernity and ultimately led to our colonization of the globe,” he said, without explaining what combination of mutations led to this innovation.
        In a study of a different kind in Nature,2 Dunn, Greenhill, Levinson and Gray feel they have debunked the idea of “language universals” long promoted by Noam Chomsky.  This is the idea the human babies have innate parameters that steer them toward the adoption of a language, and that these universals constrain language diversity.  J. H. Greenberg had also taught that universal biases in human development lead toward common features of language.  Instead, Dunn et al showed that language characteristics are lineage specific, not universal, at least in regard to word order.
        The papers were reported optimistically by Science Daily and the BBC News.  Ferris Jabr in New Scientist used a Genesis meme to quip that “Evolutionary Babel was in southern Africa.”  Jabr did provide some skeptical counterpoint: “Most linguists do not think it’s possible to trace linguistic history past 10,000 years,” Merritt Ruhlen of Stanford University, California was quoted as saying.  “There is a lot of anger and tension surrounding that kind of analysis.
        Even taken at face value, though, the two papers appear at odds.  One suggests a universal common origin of language from a single spreading center; the other suggests independent lineages.  A wider question is whether such historical questions are tractable by science without access to the speaking habits of alleged hominid ancestors who, according to evolutionary thinking, first began tying grunts to thoughts, beliefs and concepts.
        The editors of Nature recognized some distasteful ramifications of the paper by Dunn et al..  Extrapolating the new disjunct theory of language evolution into a wider philosophical issue that affects all of science, they said:

    Since at least the days of Aristotle, a search for universal principles has characterized the scientific enterprise.  In some ways, this quest for commonalities defines science: without it, there is no underlying order and pattern, merely as many explanations as there are things in the world.  Newton’s laws of motion, the oxygen theory of combustion and Darwinian evolution each bind a host of different phenomena into a single explicatory framework....
      This tendency in the natural sciences has long been evident in the social sciences too.  Here, Darwinism seems to offer justification, for if all humans share common origins, it seems reasonable to suppose that cultural diversity could also be traced to more constrained beginnings....
        That, at least, is the hope.  But a comparative study of linguistic traits published online today ... supplies a reality check.....
        “The conclusion?  We should perhaps learn the lesson of Darwinism: a ‘universal’ mechanism of adaptation says little in itself about how a particular feature got to be the way it is, or about how it works.  This truth has dawned on physicists too: universal equations are all very well, but the world actually consists of particular solutions, and these are generally the result of contingent history.  One size does not always fit all.
    It would seem that this “lesson of Darwinism” could undermine Darwinism itself.  If Darwinism cannot explain how a “particular feature got to be the way it is, or about how it works,” what is it explaining at all?  Darwin was attempting to propose a universal cause, a “one size fits all” natural law for biology: the law of natural selection.  If, as the editors said, “the word actually consists of particular solutions” in a “contingent history”, claims to universality have been lost within Darwinism itself – including claims about the evolution of language. 
    1.  Quentin D. Atkinson, “Phonemic Diversity Supports a Serial Founder Effect Model of Language Expansion from Africa,” Science, 15 April 2011: Vol. 332 no. 6027 pp. 346-349, DOI: 10.1126/science.1199295.
    2.  Dunn, Greenhill, Levinson and Gray, “Evolved structure of language shows lineage-specific trends in word-order universals,” Nature published online 13 April 2011, doi:10.1038/nature09923.
    3.  Editorial, “Universal truths,” Nature 472 (14 April 2011), p. 136, doi:10.1038/472136a.
    Notice how Nature’s editors used the phrase “this truth”.  Ask them Pilate’s question, “What is truth?”  Truth is a concept, expressed in language, that is not reducible to particles and forces.  It certainly would not be an expected outcome of an evolutionary process, whose end product is survival.  A good lie that leads to survival would be favored equally with any that happened to correspond with reality.  [Got truth?  Try The Truth Project.]
        Studies like these are unlikely to come up with any conclusions immune to future falsification.  As such, they are just games being played by members of the scientific establishment.  To fortify this charge, remember that evolutionists believe mutations led to the “innovation” or “emergence” of this complex ability (02/18/2009) – an ability rooted in the conceptual realm, a unique ability that separates human beings from animals: language.  The human body is ideally designed to speak (vocal chords, airways, mouth, tongue, ears, brain), and the human mind is able to use the hardware to convey abstract concepts (many with no survival value) in sentences with syntax and semantics.  Evolve that, Charlie (02/21/2008).
        Alfred Russell Wallace denied that the evolutionary theory he “co-discovered” with Darwin could account for language and the other traits that so clearly separate humans from animals:
    The special faculties we have been discussing clearly point to the existence in man of something which he has not derived from his animal progenitors--something which we may best refer to as being of a spiritual essence or nature, capable of progressive development under favourable conditions.  On the hypothesis of this spiritual nature, superadded to the animal nature of man, we are able to understand much that is otherwise mysterious or unintelligible in regard to him, especially the enormous influence of ideas, principles, and beliefs over his whole life and actions.  Thus alone we can understand the constancy of the martyr, the unselfishness of the philanthropist, the devotion of the patriot, the enthusiasm of the artist, and the resolute and persevering search of the scientific worker after nature's secrets.  Thus we may perceive that the love of truth, the delight in beauty, the passion for justice, and the thrill of exultation with which we hear of any act of courageous self-sacrifice, are the workings within us of a higher nature which has not been developed by means of the struggle for material existence.
    Source: Western Kentucky University; see also Michael Flannery, Alfred Russell Wallace, A Rediscovered Life (Discovery Institute, 2011), appendix B, pp. 138-139.
        To fit these beliefs into his belief in common ancestry of humans with lower life forms, Wallace had to interject a creation event into the human line.  Why not save a step and start with creation?  Either way, he has undermined any evolutionary explanation for mankind’s special faculties, including language.  Take that, Charlie.
    Next headline on:  Early ManDarwin and EvolutionPhilosophy of Science
    Who Should Teach Self-Control?     04/15/2011      
    April 15, 2011 — A symposium at Massey University in New Zealand has come up with a profound thought: self-control is a key to a happier life.  Academics have helped themselves to an ancient notion that teaching self-control to children leads to happier outcomes as adults.  Did the world need science to reach this conclusion?
        Self-control is an important virtue in many religions and philosophies, such as Judaism and Stoicism.  But at the symposium, “Head of School Associate Professor Cindy Kiro, a former Children’s Commissioner, says the symposium would bring together some of the most prominent scientists, health researchers, community providers and policy makers in New Zealand to make sure that “science informs policy” on such matters.
        The press release from Massey University said nothing about parents, churches, synagogues or other non-scientific entities having any role in teaching self-control to children.  Rather, “If we can do the right things to promote self-control among children when they are young, we will significantly improve their chances of economic wellbeing, good health and lower participation in crime when they are adults,” according to a professor involved.  The press release was echoed on PhysOrg.
    We need science telling us about obvious things like “self control is valuable” like we need government telling us to be kind to one another.  Teaching self-control belongs at home, but only by parents guided by the Creator’s instruction manual.  Scientists and educators cannot direct knowledge and virtue to good ends.  Just as a well-taught mathematician can be a better swindler, a self-controlled sinner could become a radical terrorist, or a follower of a false religion willing to endure useless acts of self-torture.
        Self-control must be directed to good ends, but who decides the good ends?  It takes self-control to become a champion athlete or skilled musician.  These are best as individual decisions.  Beware the government or scientocracy (see ID the Future) that decides the ends and trains its citizens, like Hitler Youth, to accomplish its political desires.
        Virtuous self-control requires submission to the Creator.  Paul said that self-control is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:23, I Timothy 1:7).  In the last days, he said, people would be without self-control (2 Timothy 3:3).  That is the natural state to which people descend without pressure from outside or inside.
        Can scientists, educators and government bureaucrats lacking the spirit of God produce a self-controlled society?  How can they decide on “the right thing” for children?  What does “right” mean for someone who believes in evolution or scientism?  They have neither the means nor the ends to accomplish such feats among a population of sinners.  Imagine teaching Johnny, “Now today, Johnny, we are going to teach you how to be self-controlled.”  What answer could they give to “Why should I?”  It’s doubtful that an answer like ,“You'll be happier twenty years from now,” will carry much weight to a youngster who, as a self-indulgent brat, cares only about the present.
        To be lasting, self-control must be seen as a responsibility or duty toward our Maker.  It is a virtue that is expected of us, but something for which (in relation to God) we are incapable of producing on our own.  Righteous self-control has to start on the inside.  Let those lacking self-control repent before God for their autonomy and self-indulgence.  Let them submit to Christ for redemption and reconciliation.  Let them receive God’s spirit and be grafted into His life.  Then they will have the resources for learning self-control.
        Churches, don’t outsource the teaching of self-control or any other virtue to scientists.  Bring the scientists inside.  They need it, too.
    Next headline on:  Mind and BrainHealthEducationPolitics and EthicsBible and Theology
    Complexity Appears “Earlier than Thought”     04/14/2011      
    April 14, 2011 — Widely-separate branches of science seem to converge on a common puzzle: complexity goes farther back than scientists expected – evolutionary scientists, that is.
    1. Cosmology:  More evidence has come that galaxies formed very early.  A mature galaxy detected through gravitational lensing was announced by the Hubble Telescope team, with an estimated redshift of 6.027.  In the conventional big bang chronology, that dates it at 950 million years after the big bang.
          Other galaxies have been detected at redshift 10 or more, but this appears to have mature stars, “pushing back the epoch of its formation to about 200 million years after the Big Bang, much further than we had expected,” a NASA spokesperson said in the Hubble press release.  That is about 1.5% of the assumed age of the universe.  “This suggests,” he continued, “that the first galaxies have been around for a lot longer than previously thought.
    2. Biology:  “Complex Life Emerged from Sea Earlier Than Thought,” reported Jennifer Walsh at Live Science.  Although her article assumes evolutionary time, the announcement from Boston College and University of Sheffield, who studied sediments in Scotland lakes, poses a challenge for evolutionists who had assumed the climb onto dry land was much later.
          “Life on Earth began in the oceans, but new fossils are showing that complex algae-like organisms left these salty seas earlier than thought, about 1 billion years ago, and spent more time evolving on land.”  Science Daily titled their report, “Loch Fossils Show Life Harnessed Sun and Sex Early on.”  “This suggests that life on land at this time was more abundant and complex than anticipated,” a co-author of the study said.  “It also opens the intriguing possibility that some of the major events in the early history of life may have taken place on land and not entirely within the marine realm.
    3. Geology:  Belemnites are a type of cephalopod known only from fossils.  They were thought to have gone globally extinct at an alleged “Cretaceous-Paleogene event,” after which time modern cephalopods evolved.  According to an abstract in Geology,1 “In the North Pacific, however, a turnover from belemnites to the modern types of cephalopods about 35 m.y. before the Cretaceous-Paleogene event documents a more complex evolutionary history of cephalopods than previously thought.
    4. Botany:  Recall also, as reported here 04/12/2011 (bullet 5), scientists at Penn State found evidence in their evolutionary scheme that genetic “upheavals” leading to the emergence of flowering plants occurred “nearly 200 million years earlier than the events that other research groups had described” (see PhysOrg).

    1.  Iba et al, “Belemnite extinction and the origin of modern cephalopods 35 m.y. prior to the Cretaceous-Paleogene event,” Geology, v. 39 no. 5 (April 2011), pp. 483-486, doi: 10.1130/G31724.1.
    What this means is not that the evolutionary dating schemes are now more accurate than before, but that empirical evidence is falsifying earlier beliefs about slow, gradual increases in complexity appearing over time.  The data won’t give evolutionists what they want even within their own assumptions; why should the rest of us pay any attention?  What’s a word that means the early appearance of complexity?  Starts with a C, but we can’t utter it, because in academic circles it is offensive and makes scientists feel uncomfortable.
    Next headline on:  CosmologyMarine BiologyCell BiologyFossilsGeologyDating MethodsDarwin and Evolution
      Did you read the parody of “Seance Daily” provided by a reader in the 04/08/2008 entry?  If you need a chuckle, read “Watch for falling amino acids” and its commentary.

    Science Sites Stretch Truth About “Transitional Form”     04/13/2011      
    April 13, 2011 — A tiny piece of cartilage-turned-bone has science news sites jumping for joy about an evolutionary transitional form.  But is it one?  A closer look shows a much more complex picture than the simple evolutionary victory being told in the media.
        “Long-sought fossil mammal with transitional middle ear found,” trumpeted PhysOrg; in close harmony, Science Daily sang about the “Long-Sought Fossil Mammal With Transitional Middle Ear.”  Jennifer Walsh at Live Science was astonished at the “Jaw-Dropping Find: Ancient Mammal’s Ear Bones.”  And New Scientist told its readers, with no shadow of turning, that “The bones of your middle ear were once part of a mammalian ancestor’s jaw.  Now a remarkable Cretaceous fossil provides a snapshot of how this shift took place.”
        What’s all the commotion about?  A well-preserved specimen of Liaconodon, though crushed, was discovered in China.
        Unfortunately, the fossil, while certainly interesting, does not paint so clear a picture of evolution.  In their paper in Nature,1 Meng et al defended their interpretation that the bone represents an evolutionary transitional form, but Ann Weil, commenting in the same issue,2 brought out some problems: namely, convergence of multiple lineages, and possible evolutionary reversals.  Animals living and extinct share some of the features of Liaoconodon but are widely separated on Meng et al’s phylogenetic diagram.  In addition, the ossified Meckel’s cartilage (OMC) is resorbed or retained in development of some animals.
        The confusing palette of traits in fossil and extant animal jaw bones and middle ears defies a simplistic explanation that the complex middle ear bones developed from mutations in ancient jaw bones (see 03/19/2007).  The critical trait scrutinized in Liaoconodon is only a spur of bone attached to the ossicles, which were already advanced structures for hearing in this extinct mammal.  (In living mammals, the ossicles are completely separated from the jaw.)  It’s not clear what a small spur of bone would do to help or hurt hearing anyway.  Ossicles are only transmitters of vibrations; the real hearing is done by the cochlea, auditory nerve and hearing center in the brain. 
        Weil was much more tentative than the news reporters who made it sound all but proven that ears evolved from jaw bones because of this “transitional” form.  She said, “Their attachment in Liaoconodon might support the contention that the ear bones remained tenuously attached to the jaw higher in the evolutionary tree of mammals than some have supposed.”  In other words, Liaoconodon is a high mammal already.  And contention it is, because Weil admitted that “How, when and how many times these ossicles detached from the mandible during the course of mammalian evolution is a topic of some controversy.”
        Whether or not some extinct mammals had bony attachments from their ossicles to the jaw says little about the function of hearing, to say nothing of its evolution.


    1.  Meng et al, “Transitional mammalian middle ear from a new Cretaceous Jehol eutriconodont,” Nature 472 (14 April 2011), pp. 181–185, doi:10.1038/nature09921.
    2.  Anne Weil, “Mammalian evolution: A jaw-dropping ear,” Nature 472 (14 April 2011), pp. 174–176, doi:10.1038/472174a.
    News media are shameless in their promotion of Darwin.  New Scientist genuflected with this ending quote: “‘Charles Darwin predicted animals like this would have existed,’ says Rob Asher of the University of Cambridge.  ‘Palaeontologists have hypothesised [about it] for a long time - now we have a very well-preserved specimen.’”  You can tell a secular science news reporter is lying: when Darwin is found in a sentence.
        This is just another case of the truth-stretching, connect-the-dots, Charlie-worshiping gamesmanship we saw four years ago with Yanoconodon (03/19/2007).  Read that commentary again; it still applies.  Darwinians have much more to worry about than a tiny piece of ossified cartilage in an extinct animal; see 03/24/2011, 03/04/2011, 01/31/2011, 11/29/2010 (note links in commentary), and 270 other chain links on mammals going back 10 years.
    Next headline on:  FossilsMammalsDarwin and Evolution
    Dubious Darwinian Inferences Unquestioned     04/12/2011      
    April 12, 2011 — Science was invented to stop jumping to conclusions.  Leaps of faith from small clues to grand explanations were to be replaced by slow, careful, methodical investigations of raw data until rational inferences could be drawn.  Do the following research examples do justice to that ideal?
    1. Smelly dinobird air space:  The news media are chortling over the latest idea coming from paleontologists: birds inherited their excellent sense of smell from dinosaurs because it gave them evolutionary fitness (see Science Daily).  Aside from the fact that no scientist has ever tested the smelling ability of dinosaurs, the researchers at Ohio State only had olfactory bulb cavities to measure – empty spaces devoid of the brain hardware and software needed to know how good it was.  “Of course the actual brain tissue is long gone from the fossil skulls,” Lawrence Witmer admitted.
          The researchers measured 157 olfactory bulb cavity sizes in birds and dinosaurs, but what inferences can be drawn from volume alone?  Scientists can compare olfactory bulb size in living birds and test their smelling ability; the article said that larger size in birds and mammals tend to correlate with smelling ability.
          That may be, but exceptions are common in biology, and nothing is known about dinosaur olfaction.  Insects arguably have some of the most sensitive smelling organs in the animal kingdom, but their equipment is smaller than the head of a pin.  If brain size is not a clear indicator of intelligence, it would seem olfactory bulb cavity size alone cannot be used as a proxy for smelling ability, particularly among a whole class of extinct reptiles (cf. 10/06/2010).
          Nevertheless, the Ohio State team let their imaginations take flight into the skies of data-challenged inference, drawing a grand scenario of evolution covering millions of unexperienced years, while the press release cheered them on:
      The study revealed details of how birds inherited their sense of smell from dinosaurs.
          “The oldest known bird, Archaeopteryx, inherited its sense of smell from small meat-eating dinosaurs about 150 million years ago,” said François Therrien, curator of dinosaur palaeoecology at the Royal Tyrrell Museum and co-author of the study.  “Later, around 95 million years ago, the ancestor of all modern birds evolved even better olfactory capabilities.
      Witmer speculated about the smelling ability of T. rex and other dinosaurs, but then the press release caught him in a potentially falsifying catch-all hypothesis: “Witmer noted that the ancient beasts most likely exhibited a range of olfactory abilities.
          If so, it would seem no evolutionary inference could be drawn (cf. 12/21/2010).  Witmer drew one anyway: “T. rex had large olfactory bulbs, which probably aided the creature in tracking prey, finding carcasses and possibly even territorial behavior, while a sense of smell was probably less important to dinosaurs such as Triceratops, he said.”  But couldn’t that point be made about birds as well?  Indeed, it can, and they did:
      If early birds had such powerful sniffers, why do birds have a reputation for a poor sense of smell?  Witmer explained that the new study confirms that the most common birds that humans encounter today — the backyard perching birds such as crows and finches, as well as pet parrots – indeed have smaller olfactory bulbs and weaker senses of smell.  It may be no coincidence that the latter are also the cleverest birds, suggesting that their enhanced smarts may have decreased the need for a strong sniffer, he said.
      So far, we have seen a “range of olfactory abilities” in dinosaurs and birds, but the headline promised something else: “Birds Inherited Strong Sense of Smell from Dinosaurs.”  Has anything about that really been discovered in the raw data other than a hodgepodge of varying measurements of empty space where olfactory bulbs once lurked?  Aside from the fact that dinosaur-to-bird evolution remains contentious (09/09/2010), their inferences about bird evolution were held together by a lot of hedging words like probably, might, may, and suggesting, not by empirically justified inferences (for other examples of risky inference, see 01/14/2011 and 10/06/2010).
          Meanwhile, over at Live Science Charles Q. Choi even presented his readers with a cartoony dinosaur proud of his opossum-like prey, sporting some kind of incipient wings.  His inference was even bolder: “The ancestors of modern birds might have survived the mass extinction that wiped out their dinosaur forebears by having a better sense of smell, researchers suggest.
          From the idea that olfactory bulbs grew in early birds then shrank again, he drew this inference: “This improved sense of smell, as well as larger brains overall, might have provided an edge that could explain why modern birds are still around and their dinosaur and archaic bird relatives are not.”
    2. Missing dinobird link:  Cross out the missing in missing link: Science Daily rejoiced to announce, “New Species of Dinosaur Bridges Gap in Dinosaur Family Tree.”  The congratulatory headline was accompanied by a picture (artist drawing, not photo) of a dinosaur found in New Mexico, claimed to be 230 million years old (labeled late Jurassic).
          What was the gap?  “The evolutionary position of these early predatory dinosaurs was contentious because there was a gap in the fossil record between them and later theropod dinosaurs.”  What were the data?  “A team of scientists led by the Smithsonian Institution has discovered a fossilized dinosaur skull and neck vertebrae that not only reveal a new species, but also an evolutionary link between two groups of dinosaurs.”
          Actually, the data stop at the word vertebrae in the prior sentence; the rest is inference.  “Because only the skull and neck of Daemonosaurus were found, the total length of the new species is unknown.”  How much can be inferred from a skull and a few vertebrae?  Possibly that these bones differed enough from those of other known dinosaurs to justify classifying it as a new species (although changes in morphology during development should not be ignored; see 07/14/2010).  But without a traceable pedigree, the story about ancestry has to be inferred:
      Various features of the skull and neck in Daemonosaurus indicate that it was intermediate between the earliest known predatory dinosaurs from South America and more advanced theropod dinosaurs,” said Hans Sues, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and lead author of the team’s findings.  “One such feature is the presence of cavities on some of the neck vertebrae related to the structure of the respiratory system.”
      Once again, a research team used air space as data.  Assuming Dr. Sues gave his best example, it would seem that cavities in vertebral bones could vary substantially within species, let alone between them.  The respiratory system itself, of course, is not available for study.  But many fossils “indicate” something else – mosaics of traits that do not neatly fit into evolutionary sequences; could that not be the case here?
          Charles Q. Choi at Live Science posted an even larger copy of the artist drawing to start off his cheery, uncritical report, but had to admit, “The formative steps of theropod evolution are still poorly understood.
    3. Parroting the scientists:  It is well known that general science news sites like PhysOrg and Science Daily parrot the press releases from universities and research labs, which parrot the opinions of the research scientists themselves.  After all, no institution wants its staff to look bad.  For institutional prestige, their findings need to be portrayed as significant discoveries.
          In this case, CSIRO (the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in Australia) announced, “Tiger-parrots show their true evolutionary stripes.”  The predictable echo from PhysOrg was nearly instantaneous.
          In this story, Dr. Leo Joseph of CSIRO promised enlightenment: “This research on tiger-parrots – and some other enigmatic Australian parrots such as the little-known Night Parrot of inland Australian deserts – sheds light on the bigger picture of parrot evolution for Australia and New Guinea.”  Beaming with pride, he continued, “It has shown for the first time, for example, that tiger-parrots represent a very early branch of the parrot evolutionary tree in Australia and New Guinea.”
          On what basis did he show that?  After all, the data were surprising and confusing: “During our research on these oddball parrots of Australia and New Guinea, we affirmed that the Australian parrots are far from one cohesive group,” Dr. Joseph said.  “They appear, instead, to be made up of about five different main branches of the parrot evolutionary tree.”
          That inference was hedged with a bit of non-evolutionary convergence or conservation: “We have shown that the New Guinea tiger-parrots aren’t rosella-like parrots and that their resemblance in some aspects of their appearance to rosellas probably indicates some plumage characters that have been part of the evolution of parrots of Australia and New Guinea for a long time.”  Conservation, though, is not the kind of evolution Darwin was interested in.
          Even more shocking, he upset an apple cart: “We also showed, because we included so many other parrots, they aren’t even part of the Asian and African assemblage with which they have even more often been associated.”  So he replaced one evolutionary story with another that has even more branches, and tossed in some stasis for good measure.
          It’s not clear this is shedding light or stirring the pot: “The researchers found that the tiger-parrots of New Guinea’s rainforests – named for their striped or barred plumage – are not, as has been widely accepted, closely related either to a group of rosella-like parrots found in Australia and Oceania, nor a similar group found in Asia and Africa.”  Nevertheless, readers were promised that the parrots themselves would “show their true evolutionary stripes.”
    4. Early enzymes:  With an Easter-like flair, Columbia University heralded revelation and resurrection: “Researchers Resurrect Ancient Enzymes to Reveal Conditions of Early Life on Earth.”  This was no mean resurrection: “for the first time [they] reconstructed active enzymes from four-billion-year-old extinct organisms.” the press release said, shedding light all around the tomb: “The results shed new light on how life has adapted to changes in the environment from ancient to modern Earth.”  Let the world rejoice.
          To pull off this miraculous inference, they engaged in “ancestral sequence reconstruction” by comparing gene sequences of living organisms.  They focused on thioredoxin enzymes that are found in all living cells.  A devilish design idea threatened the inference.  They expected to find the resurrected enzyme would be simple, but “Instead we found that enzymes that existed in the Precambrian era up to four billion years ago possessed many of the same chemical mechanisms observed in their modern-day relatives,” even though the organisms back then supposedly predated the buildup of oxygen in earth’s atmosphere.
          Furthermore, the putative Precambrian proteins were seen to be highly resistant to changes in temperature and acidity – more features indicating advanced early function instead of simplicity.  The team was courageous in the face of these difficulties: “By resurrecting proteins, we are able to gather valuable information about the adaptation of extinct forms of life to environmental alterations that cannot be uncovered through fossil record examinations,” they assured the crowd.  PhysOrg and Science Daily blessed the assembly with a firm Amen.
    5. Absolution of flowering plants:  The angiosperms (flowering plants) have acted shamefully by hiding evidence of their evolution from evolutionists since Darwin, who called their sudden appearance an “abominable mystery.”  Scientific bishops at Penn State are ready to forgive them, after their “Study [that] helps to solve Darwin’s mystery about ancient plant evolution” managed to get the penitent petunias to confess their genes.
          And what a confession: “The evolution and diversification of the more than 300,000 living species of flowering plants may have been ‘jump started’ much earlier than previously calculated.”  Apparently they carried on their anti-evolutionary activities a long time – “nearly 200 million years earlier than the events that other research groups had described.”
          The mystery, however, has a strange new twist.  According to their genomic comparisons, some undescribed “upheavals” in the plant genome “produced thousands of new genes that may have helped drive the evolutionary explosion that led to the rich diversity of present-day flowering plants.”  What’s odd is that neo-Darwinists would have stated it the other way around: evolution drove the production of new genes.  The Penn State evolutionists even described this upheaval, whatever caused it, as a series of genetic miracles: “one or more important genetic metamorphoses had occurred in the ancestor of flowering plants,” they said, “and we also knew that these metamorphoses could explain the enormous success of so many species living on the Earth today.”
          Their explanation, however, suggests that the predecessors were not successful.  Conifers and other gymnosperms, had, by any measure, great success already.  Were they able to naturalize their miracles?  Yes; they “examined volumes of molecular evidence,” the press release said, and inferred that said metamorphosis was “a special kind of DNA mutation — called a polyploidy event — that revolutionized the flowering-plant lineage.”
          Such polyploidy mutations are generally lethal in vertebrates, they said, but “Plants, on the other hand, often survive and can sometimes benefit from duplicated genomes.”  The explanation is similar to that of gene duplication, where evolutionists assume that one copy can continue to function while the other finds new things to do, like invent petals, sepals, stamens, veined leaves, and fruit.
          The explanation presumes that Darwin’s tinkerer loves extra copies of things to work on.  A copy of a screwdriver, for instance, might make a nice power saw: “Some of these new genes led to true innovations and have become vital parts of the genetic toolkit for the regulation of flower development,” Claude dePamphilis explained.  This left the dark ages behind.  According to the congratulatory press release, “such polyploidy events probably set in motion a kind of genomic renaissance, and that present-day varieties now are reaping the rewards.”  Science Daily dutifully recorded and broadcast the good news.
          Assured that Father Darwin would be pleased to see so much light shed on his mystery, dePamphilis congratulated himself on his inference that polyploidy is the solution.  “The further we push back the date of when these events happened, the more confidently we can claim that not most, but all flowering plants are the result of large-scale duplications of the genome,” he said, turning to Fred Hoyle’s abominable epithet: “It’s possible that the important polyploidy events we’ve identified were the equivalent of two ‘big bangs’ for flowering plants.
          Hoyle had criticized his rivals’ cosmology as a “big bang” with the explanatory power of an explosion from nothing, so it’s hard to see how dePamphilis can take comfort in the comparison.  The Penn State press release, furthermore, neglected to go into details of how a copy of anything can innovate new things full of functional genetic information.  They apparently left that essay question as an exercise.  It is unclear, though, if the big-bang theory of flowering plant evolution provides understanding on the origin of orchids any more than saying, “stuff happens.”
    Some conclusions are admittedly hard to make in science.  The effectiveness of a new pill, for instance, is complicated by many factors: age, sex, genetic condition, allergies, and much more.  When data are hard to come by, particularly in the historical sciences, inference to the best explanation is commonly used.  It requires, however, a detailed examination of all competing hypotheses, as Stephen Meyer performed in his book Signature in the Cell.
        When contrary inferences are ignored, however, anything goes; the sky is the limit on inferences that can be drawn, because there is nothing to compare them to.  It is a risk in “normal science” as Thomas Kuhn described it that no one will be challenged to think outside the box (the paradigm).  Researchers working on the paradigm form a kind of guild of mutually supportive workers who only seek to confirm or fine-tune the paradigm.  They may even be oblivious to the possibility that other paradigms exist – or they may rule them out because of peer pressure.  They can also be oblivious to other interesting questions that the paradigm does not ask.
        Signs that a paradigm is vacuous and due for a scientific revolution may have to come from outside, among observers not beholden to the paradigm, who are able to point out its flaws.  Any paradigm that assumes its own validity could be ruled circular and immune to falsification.  If so, Karl Popper would have said it is not science.
    Year after year we have pointed out the shenanigans of the Darwin Party.  They turn emptiness into confidence, air space into data, duplicates into toolkits, science into storytelling.  These blind guides, professing wisdom in folly, promising what they cannot deliver, are driven by pantheistic visions of molecules self-organizing into minds.
        There’s ample enough evidence in 10 years of these pages to convict them of pseudoscience, yet they remain in power – so much so that to question their authority is to risk one’s career (see next entry, 04/11/2011).
        If you are sick of their tactics, and have had it with “stuff happens” as scientific explanation, if you are fed up with totalitarian rule by fools masquerading as scholars, and toady reporters incapable of asking hard questions, then join the resistance.  Arm yourself with truth, answers, wisdom, honesty, and courage.  Have a strategy.  Learn to be effective, not boisterous or careless.  Know what you are up against, and count the cost.  Only by driving the Darwin Party from power will there be hope of a scientific revolution that, once again, is dedicated to following the evidence where it leads.
    Next headline on:  DinosaursBirdsFossilsPlantsCell BiologyGeneticsDarwin and EvolutionPhilosophy of ScienceMediaDumb Ideas
    Teacher Protection Inflames Darwinist Outrage     04/11/2011      
    April 11, 2011 — Imagine a bill that protects teachers who wish to present facts – the facts about Darwinism.  Assume that it specifically forbids teaching creationism or intelligent design.  Imagine the bill seeking to increase critical thinking among students about controversial subjects.  Should it be a cause for alarm?
        There’s actually a bill like that in Tennessee, and yet opponents are treating it with the same emotional vitriol with which they attacked laws from decades ago that mandated equal time for creation when evolution is taught.  Even though this bill has nothing to do with teaching creationism, and allows critical thinking on any subject that scientifically controversial, the opponents are up in arms, claiming it will somehow inject religion into science class.  The bill expressly states that it “shall not be construed to promote any religious or non-religious doctrine.”
        The Tennessee state house overwhelmingly voted to approve HR 368, the Teacher Protection Act.  It will next go to the state senate and, if passed, to the governor.  Casey Luskin explained the bill and the vote for Evolution News.
        Science Magazine last week started the media uprising with claims that the bill will embolden creationist teachers.  It quoted Luskin in rebuttal, but also AAAS CEO Alan Leshner claiming “There is virtually no scientific controversy among the overwhelming majority of researchers on the core facts of global warming and evolution.”  The editorial urged AAAS members to speak out against the law.
        Nashville radio station WPLN (National Public Radio) reported on some of the debates, quoting various talking heads and characterizing it as a Republican-vs-Democrat issue.  Anika Smith on Evolution News alleged that “Nashville Public Radio Will Take Your Talking Points Without Even Fact-Checking Them,” explaining, “That is, they’ll take the talking points they already tend to agree with, without questioning or investigating their veracity.”  WPLN noted her allegation and clarified it in a footnote.
        The most vitriolic article against the bill so far was posted by Robert Roy Britt on Live Science.  He decorated his tirade with a photo of a blackboard, the word “Evolution” crossed out and a hand replacing it with “creationism”.  The caption gives a bit of the flavor of what follows: “Creationism and intelligent design are not science, whereas evolution is a solid scientific theory.
        Britt used emotional language and loaded words geared to inflame his readers, claiming that (italics added):
    • ...the advocates of the bill are politicians, not scientists;
    • ...the bill will chip away at the solid theory’s foundations (speaking of evolution);
    • ...the bill is “an effort to interject religion into the teaching of science in public schools”;
    • ...six other states are trying to “weaken evolution’s standing in the classroom”;
    • ...the legislation is often “couched as supporting academic freedom”;
    • ...the NCSE is a defender of the teaching of evolution;
    • ...such bills attempt to “foster the false belief” that evolution is just a theory;
    • ...alternatives to evolution “favor a deity”;
    • ...the law is dangerous to an informed citizenry (according to NCSE);
    ...and that’s just in the first three paragraphs.  Britt went on to equate creationism with intelligent design.  He almost shouted, “Creationism is religion.”  The loaded words and fear-mongering only accelerated from there: intelligent design is sneaky; “It is rooted in religion but couched in pseudoscience with enough scientific-sounding mumbo-jumbo that will confuse a kid into thinking there just might be something to it.
        With a wave to the bandwagon, Britt announced, “Neither has any place in a science curriculum, scientists overwhelmingly agree.”  According to him, the bill is lousy, there is no controversy that needs teaching, and according to his indisputable authority, the NCSE, the bill is “unnecessary, anti-scientific, and very likely unconstitutional.”
        Britt continued by evoking images that the bill might “mutate and spread” – ironic, since that sounds like a kind of evolution.  He ended with an Inherit-the-Wind-style depiction of the Scopes Trial.  It would be hard to pack more alarmism into 900 words than Britt’s article did.  At New American, Joe Wolverton gave a more dispassionate description of the bill and the views of its supporters and critics.
    Keep it up, Robert.  You’re just showing what irrational, intolerant bigots you DODO’s are (Darwin-only, Darwin-only).  Your densely-packed propaganda donates good exercise material for our upcoming generation of baloney detectors.  In fact, we encourage readers to make an exercise of Britt’s tirade, counting the propaganda tactics, logical fallacies and smokescreens, and calculating the P/S density (propaganda to sentence ratio).  Britt left so many questions begging (e.g., Is Darwinism free of religious implications?  Is science determined by majority rule?) that it would take a national soup kitchen to feed them all.
        Britt used to be a somewhat fair-minded science reporter.  Something happened; he is now one of the most comical anti-creationists, to the point of being a caricature of himself.  It’s doubtful that he does his side much good.  Some rational readers are going to read his fact-challenged tirade and wonder what gets him so worked up; what does this character have against critical thinking? (02/15/2011).
        A suggested strategy would be to give Mr. Britt and others like him more cause for emotional backlash, to the point where his willful bigotry comes to the surface in catatonic fits of rage (presumably, we can trust that he will not become violent).  This is not just for the entertainment value of watching someone make a fool of himself; it has an intelligently-designed purpose.  The behavior will likely undermine his effectiveness; yea, rather, will cause observers to flee him as they would a box of fireworks catching fire.
        Find a quiet place away from the wrathful noise of the Darwin Party and consider: teachers can lose their jobs for the mere suggestion that parts of Darwinian theory have problems (e.g., 03/25/2011, 03/11/2011, 02/25/2011, 02/18/2011, etc., etc. – work your way back through the Darwin chain links).  Forget teaching about creation or intelligent design or “religion” in science class; academia has become so intolerant that the mere hint of questioning evolution is grounds for persecution and dismissal.  Have we wandered so far from the open marketplace of ideas that it has come to this?
        Darwinists of the 19th century struggled to get academic freedom for their views; Darwin himself appealed to allowing both sides of a controversy to be heard (see AcademicFreedomDay.org).  But like communists and Nazis and other totalitarians, as soon as they seized power, they snatched the very freedom they so eagerly desired away from their opponents.  You can trust a card-carrying Darwin Party member to be an insufferable, intolerant bigot.  Call them what they are; but don’t be like them.  The only way to fight bigotry is to stand up to it with resolute firmness and courage, boldly speaking the truth with equanimity and without compromise.
    Next headline on:  Darwin and EvolutionIntelligent DesignEducationMedia
    Is This What Darwin Had in Mind?     04/10/2011      
    April 10, 2011 — Evolution is a word loosely used in science these days.  Reporters and scientists talk about “the evolution of” this or that sometimes carelessly, without regard to how the explanation fits old Darwinism or neo-Darwinism.  Has the word evolution become a kind of catch-all hypothesis, for which rigor is no longer necessary?
    1. Survival of the discreetist:  Mark Buchanan on New Scientist coined a term exo-evolution to discuss how aliens evolve: “Aliens who hide, survive” is the idea in a nutshell.  “Has ET evolved to be discreet?” he began.  “An evolutionary tendency for inconspicuous aliens would solve a nagging paradox – and also suggest that we Earthlings should think twice before advertising our own existence.”
          The paradox he mentioned is the Fermi Paradox: the puzzle of why we haven’t found aliens, and they haven’t found us, if the universe is full of them.  “In order to explain the Fermi paradox, [Adrian] Kent [Perimeter Institute, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada] turns to natural selection – and suggests that it may favour quiet aliens.”  From there, the discussion descended into what aliens might want to do.  Evolution as Darwin meant it has no purpose or intention.
    2. Survival of the sprinters:  In another article on New Scientist, Michael Le Page denied that slow and steady evolution (gradualism) wins the evolutionary race.  Darwin might be astonished to hear one of his disciples say, “it’s a sprint – one in which the runners might change direction at any minute.”
          The article told Michael Bell’s observations of stickleback fish that appear to adapt within decades.  They had been “assumed to evolve slowly, over thousands of years,” he said.  “Compared with the gradual process described by Darwin, this is evolution at warp speed.
    3. Instant evolution:  It would be harder to think of evolution any faster than warp speed; but how about instant?  Here’s an easy way to get whiteflies to evolve instantly: just add bacteria.  That was the headline of a press release from the University of Arizona.  Molly Hunter did experiments that showed Rickettsia-infected whiteflies had more offspring.  She assumed this was “instant evolution” on that basis; “In evolution, fitness is the money,” she quipped.  Darwin, Mr. Gradualist himself, would be shocked.
    4. Evolutionary interest:  Can organisms have an evolutionary interest in something?  Darwin assumed that natural selection is random and undirected; Dawkins assumed selfish genes were interested only in their own survival, the organism be damned.  Why, then, did Jiggins and Hurst say this in Science?1  “Being maternally inherited, these microbes have an evolutionary interest only in the production and survival of female hosts; consequently, they have evolved a variety of traits through which they promote the production and survival of daughters.”
          They were talking about a case of horizontal gene transfer in insects: “It has recently become clear, however, that horizontal transfer of traits can play a major role in arthropod evolution.”  Such transfer is contrary to 150 years of speculation about how evolution operates.
    5. Losing sleep over evolution:  Evolution might make you lose sleep.  If you are a cave fish, and lose your eyes, you might be able to get by with less sleep, according to a press release from New York University.  The researchers found behavioral changes in sleep patterns between cave fish and their counterparts on the surface, but did not tie them to any genetic changes, at least yet.  They did not explain whether this made them more fit in some way; if it’s always midnight, does evolution make you burn more midnight oil, and if so, is that good for you or for fish?
    It appears from these and many other stories that evolution is a flexible word.  Any change of any kind, no matter how fast or slow it occurs, and whether it produces any fitness gain or not, can be called evolution.  Explanations that become too loose wind up explaining nothing.
    1.  Francis M. Jiggins and Gregory D. D. Hurst, “Rapid Insect Evolution by Symbiont Transfer,” Science, 8 April 2011: Vol. 332 no. 6026 pp. 185-186, DOI: 10.1126/science.1205386.
      The phrase “the evolution of” now serves the same purpose as “the demon of” has in explanation, as in “the demon of obesity.”  It fits anything and everything the speaker wishes to blame on some unknown quantity operating by an unknown process.
        Darwin might be shocked by these abuses of his theory, but it’s all his fault.  He was the one that introduced storytelling into science.  How is his fiction any better than these?
    Next headline on:  SETIMarine BiologyTerrestrial ZoologyGeneticsDarwin and EvolutionDumb Ideas
      What could be more simple than a jellyfish.  Did you know some box jellyfish have human-like vision?  Look at the 04/01/2007 entry.

    More Youth on Titan     04/09/2011      
    April 09, 2011 — Hopes that Saturn’s giant moon Titan might have volcanoes just dropped.  A new paper in Icarus1 concludes Titan gets its geology from the outside, not the inside.  If confirmed, it implies all the surface features were created by wind, impacts and weather – not by active geology.  The hopeful cryovolcano announced last year (Sotra Facula, see 12/24/2010, bullet 12) was disputed by Moore and Pappalardo, authors of the new paper.  Titan may be a geologically dead world.
        Titan’s atmosphere, however, remains a subject of intense interest.  Scientists were eager to visit Titan via Cassini because of its thick atmosphere of nitrogen and methane.  Because precipitation of methane and its byproducts was considered inevitable, astrobiologists were eager to find liquid as possible abodes for life.  Some proposed a global ocean several kilometers deep.  When the Huygens Probe landed in January 2005 with a thud on a moist but mostly dry lake bed, those hopes evaporated.
        Planetary scientists have also had an age conundrum with Titan.  They know that the methane in the atmosphere is destroyed and converted to other compounds in a one-way process.  This puts strong upper limits on the age of the atmosphere – far less than the 4.5-billion-year age assumed for the solar system.  They had hoped that a reservoir of methane under the surface would be found to erupt in cryovolcanos to replenish the atmosphere.  The new paper casts doubt on that solution; see the Cassini press release for a summary of the findings, and also PhysOrg, Science Daily.
        Instead of volcanoes, another possible large crater has been found.  The “ghost crater” reported by New Scientist is disputed by others.  The surprising dearth of volcanoes leads many planetary scientists to say they are quickly erased by erosion.  If it weren’t for the atmosphere, scientists expect Titan would look like Callisto, a dead moon orbiting Jupiter.
        Another paper in press in Icarus analyzed Titan’s equatorial sand dunes.2  The longitudinal dunes, covering about 12.5% of the surface, were a surprise when discovered, because scientists were expecting large lakes or even a global ocean.  They had also doubted that the winds were strong enough at the surface to move particles around.  Dunes also exist on Mars, Venus, and of course, Earth, but on Titan, the average 300-foot-high dunes are nearly 3 km apart, getting farther apart at higher latitudes.  Unlike the silica sands on Earth, the particles in Titan’s dunes are thought to be composed of hydrocarbon dust and ice precipitated out of the atmosphere.  All together, they constitute the largest known reservoir of organics on Titan, because the combined area of dunes is about as large as the United States (Titan’s diameter is also about that size).
        The dunes also impinge on theories of Titan’s age.  For one, they are among Titan’s most youthful features; for another, they indicate a lack of persistent liquid on Titan’s equator, even though liquid ethane should have been raining onto the surface throughout Titan’s history.  The presence of dunes implies that much of Titan is arid.  If spread out evenly over the globe, the particles in this largest reservoir of organics (larger than all the observed lakes combined) would doubtless fail to cover Titan with the predicted accumulation of hydrocarbons that must have been produced in the assumed 4.5-billion-year age of the moon.  “The dune distribution places constraints on Titan’s meteorology and geology,” the authors said.


    1.  Jeffrey M. Moore and Robert T. Pappalardo, “Titan: An Exogenic World?”, Icarus April 2011, doi:10.1016/j.icarus.2011.01.019.
    2.  LeGall, Janssen et al., “Cassini SAR, radiometry, scatterometry and altimetry observations of Titan’s dune fields,” Icarus (article in press), doi:10.1016/j.icarus.2011.03.026.
    We are still discovering facts about Titan, so definitive conclusions are premature; however, enough is known to falsify many assumptions and predictions made by those who refuse to budge from their A.S.S. (age of the solar system, 4.5 billion years; see 02/19/2011).  They were wrong about a global ocean; they were wrong about huge lakes of liquid ethane; they were dumbfounded to find sand dunes; and now it appears they were wrong about active geology.
        The upper limits on age appear to be growing stronger with time.  The puzzlement on their faces, and the silence about defending the consensus age, are tell-tale signs that their fascination with discovery is tempered by panic over looming destruction of favored beliefs about the age of the solar system (02/15/2008).  Titan may be the old-agers’ Titanic.
    Next headline on:  Solar SystemGeologyDating Methods
    Researchers Violate Separation of Science and State     04/08/2011      
    April 08, 2011 — What are the limits of science?  Many of us envision men and women in white lab coats holding test tubes, studying readouts on instruments, or hacking rocks with picks.  A look at headlines from science news sites, though, shows some scientists inserting their opinions in areas traditionally led by scholars in the humanities – and doing so as if their opinions carry the presumed authority of science.
    1. Abortion policyPhysOrg, normally concerned with science news, reprinted an AP story about “abortion foes’ tactics” on their site.  The article portrayed crisis pregnancy centers as somehow devious in their attempts to help women find alternatives to abortion, even though New York City’s abortion rate is 41% – the highest in the nation, double the national rate.
          Reporter Cristian Salazar disparaged the “small number of pregnancy service organizations accused by abortion rights groups and city officials of misleading women about their reproductive health options and disguising themselves as medical clinics,” as if abortion clinics could not be similarly accused.  Salazar also mentioned Margaret Sanger having “opened a family planning clinic in Brooklyn in 1916” without any mention of her racist eugenics policies.
    2. Wisdom science:  To whom do you go for wisdom?  A pastor, priest, or rabbi?  A holy book?  A trusted friend or academic?  Never fear; science is here – science in the form of psychology.  “What the world needs now?  More wisdom,” is the headline of a press release from Concordia University reprinted by PhysOrg.  While the headline is true, is science the one to tell anyone how to get it?  Isn’t science concerned with natural laws and material processes?
          Dolores Pushkar defined wisdom as “something that benefits society as a whole as well as the self.”  Yet that definition might well be disputed; perhaps it is wise to sometimes stand alone against a whole society bent on evil, as did Bonhoeffer against the Nazi society at the cost of his own life.  Paul wrote of a “hidden wisdom” that God performed in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, a move that at the time seemed futile in Roman society.  Does Pushkar, as a scientist, have more wisdom than King Solomon on wisdom?  “No single definition of wisdom exists,” the press release admitted.
          To be sure, the article described how the psychology department was engaging the philosophy department in research on wisdom, and was funded by sources in the Social Sciences and Humanities.  Interdepartmental initiatives can be seen as wise moves; science can bring observational and statistical data to bear on questions about wisdom.  Yet the press release frequently discussed research being done by Pushkar’s team.  At some level, it implies that moral qualities like wisdom are amenable to scientific analysis.
    3. Government spending:  Live Science – the website name tells what it’s about.  Why, then, did Chad Brooks write the following un-scientific headline: “Don’t Like How Tax Dollars Are Spent?  Get Used to It.
          It’s part of a series the website whimsically calls “$ci-Fi: The Science of Personal Finance,” described as “an ongoing LiveScience series that explores the science of personal finance to help you navigate everyday life.”  Again, science seems to be inserting itself into the wisdom business.  Can science, though, provide anything more than raw data and statistics?  Whose job is it to tell individuals how to live their lives?  Does a science site have any more presumptive authority than a financial adviser or a research staffer in a senatorial office?
          The article provided data about government spending, and made the inductive claim that things are not likely to change soon.  Moreover, the article heavily quoted Scott Lilly, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a radically liberal think tank funded by multibillionaire George Soros.  So not only is it unclear how science can do any better job of analyzing government spending, or helping individuals navigate everyday life, it here risked soiling its objectivity with accusations of partisanship.
    4. Right-to-workPhysOrg published another “scientific” finding that leans to the left.  “Right-to-work laws not only hurt labor unions financially, they also may jeopardize worker safety,” according to “research” by Roland Zullo that conveniently plays into the liberal desires of union bosses to deny freedom of choice to workers.
          Whether science should be concerned if labor unions are hurt financially seems a moot point.  Zullo was quick to paint the unions in a favorable light; “Unions appear to have a positive role in reducing construction industry and occupation fatalities, but only in states without right-to-work laws,” he claimed.  At least one reader wrote an angry comment about this article, focusing on the rights of individuals to work without being forced to join a labor union.
    5. Girl scout cookies  What can science say about Girl Scout cookies?  Science Daily apparently thought the presumptive authority of science can judge that traditional Boy Scout and Girl Scout activities are guilty of gender stereotyping.  Looking under the hood shows that Science Daily reprinted, under its banner of science, a press release from Sociologists for Women in Science, an organization that supports “feminist sociological research, activism and scholars.”
          One might think that the standards of scientific objectivity would provide equal time for scholarly views from conservative organizations (perhaps Focus on the Family or the Family Research Council), but a Google search finds not a single mention of these prominent organizations in Science Daily’s listings, but three from the feminist Sociologists for Women in Science and nine from the ultra-liberal Center for American Progress.
    6. The science of sinUpdate 04/11/2011: in perhaps the most blatant act of usurpation by scientists of the humanities, McMaster University researchers decided they would find “scientific solutions to sin.”  Is their solution theological?  Do they have a new method of salvation?  Are they suggesting moral teachings, or offering psychological counseling?  No; their working assumption is that all sin has molecular underpinnings.
          Their solution, therefore, was to look in the chemical cabinet for antidotes to human moral deficiencies.  “Most people are familiar with the seven deadly sins – pride, envy, gluttony, lust, wrath, greed and sloth – but could there be molecular solutions for this daily struggle between good and evil?” (assuming science has the taxonomic tools for such distinctions).  Groups of students were told to get out of the theological box and into the scientific box: “By getting students to think outside the box, the aim was to come up with the best molecule and design for a drug, or remedy, that counteracts sin.”
          Looming questions rise when political ramifications of this research are considered.  Who will control the medicine chest?  Who will prescribe, and who will partake?  The researchers apparently didn’t ask whether there is a drug to combat scientific hubris.
    Paul Feyerabend, a post-Kuhnian firebrand in philosophy of science, thought that science was a threat to democracy.  The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy described his concern:
    The separation of church and state should therefore be supplemented by the separation of science and state, in order for us to achieve the humanity we are capable of.  Setting up the ideal of a free society as “a society in which all traditions have equal rights and equal access to the centres of power” (SFS, p. 9), Feyerabend argues that science is a threat to democracy.  To defend society against science we should place science under democratic control and be intensely sceptical about scientific “experts”, consulting them only if they are controlled democratically by juries of laypeople.
    Law professor Phillip E. Johnson found another Feyerabend quote to end his article on the pretensions of science for world conquest: “Scientists are not content with running their own playpens in accordance with what they regard as the rules of the scientific method, they want to universalize those rules, they want them to become part of society at large, and they use every means at their disposal—argument, propaganda, pressure tactics, intimidation, lobbying—to achieve their aims” (Objections Sustained, Inter-Varsity Press, 1998, p. 66).  Feyerabend is widely regarded as extreme in his views, but readers can judge for themselves (as “juries of laypeople”) to what extent his fears have become realized.
    All the so-called “secular” science news sites and institutions are uniformly leftist in their politics.  They are the same ones that give uncritical acceptance of Darwinism.  That’s why they are secular; they adore the secular religion Darwin founded, and science is their primary tool for spreading their intolerant bigotry around the world.  Let the reader beware.
        Science does not have to be that way; clearly it was not before the Darwinian revolution.  But that’s what it has become.  Many individual scientists are not that way, just as many hard-working Americans in labor unions hold views far more conservative than the union leaders, whose views are also uniformly leftist – often radically so, and just as bent on world conquest.
        One cannot get genuine science out of science news or scientific papers these days without first a severe acid wash.  By that, we mean not applying acid to the news, but applying heavy doses of pure water instead, to wash out Darwin’s universal acid that corrodes everything it touches.  Another technique is to apply Darwin Acid to Darwinism itself, which causes an implosion, leaving a vacuum that intelligence rushes in to fill.
    Next headline on:  Politics and EthicsDarwin and EvolutionMediaPhilosophy of Science
    Adult Stem Cell Advances Continue     04/07/2011      
    April 07, 2011 — The momentum for stem cell therapy is still on the side of adult stem cells (ASC), not embryonic stem cell (ESC) research.  Here are some recent findings:
    1. Blood vessel repair:  A press release from King’s College London says, “Scientists from King’s College London have uncovered the first genetic evidence that shows cells found on the surface of blood vessels can act as stem cells to assist in both organ growth and tissue repair.”  Leader of the study Paul Sharpe said, “This is the first time perivascular cells have been shown to differentiate into specialised cells during a natural tissue repair process.  In addition to the obvious significance for understanding the cellular mechanisms of tissue repair, it also has wider implications for areas of regenerative medicine/dentistry directed towards stimulating natural repair following tissue damage or disease.”
    2. Heart bypass aid:  Your own stem cells may stop heart damage.  “In a new research study under way at the Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center, surgeons are adding a patient’s own stem cells to the heart during cardiac bypass surgery,” a press release from The Methodist Hospital System said.  “The goal of this research study is to determine whether the stem cell infusion will generate new blood vessels and improve heart function more than what is seen through bypass surgery alone.”
    3. Genetic defect correction:  At University of Wisconsin, scientists are learning that genes from a patient with genetic defects can be cultured, repaired, and induced into pluripotent stem cells that can be re-injected for tissue repair without risk of causing cancer.  The press release from Morgridge Institute for Research at the university said that the research “moved gene therapy one step closer to clinical reality by determining that the process of correcting a genetic defect does not substantially increase the number of potentially cancer-causing mutations in induced pluripotent stem cells.”
    4. Skin repair:  Another press release from King’s College London gives hope for burn victims.  Researchers have found that bone marrow stem cells “that can transform into skin cells to repair damaged skin tissue” during skin grafts.  “It was already known that bone marrow may play a role in skin wound healing, but until now it was not known which specific bone marrow cells this involves, how the process is triggered, and how the key cells are recruited to the affected skin area.”  They identified a marrow protein named HMGB1 “that can mobilise the cells from bone marrow and direct them to where they are needed.”  This story was featured in “News in a nutshell” on The Scientist.
    5. Plentiful supply:  The efficiency of reprogramming cells into stem cells just got better.  University of Pennsylvania posted a news report that describes how micro-RNAs (miRNA) can do the job without the usual reprogramming factors.  A team headed found that “a specific group of miRNAs can indeed reprogram mouse and human adult cells into an iPSC state by themselves, and can do so very rapidly and efficiently.”  A video clip showing by Dr. Edward E. Morrissey explaining how the new process is more efficient by two orders of magnitude.
    Stories about embryonic stem cells generating eyeballs are circulating on the net (see PhysOrg, Science Daily and New Scientist).  Actually, just a rudimentary eye cup has been observed to form from ES cells in mice.  These eye cups show differentiation in to several times of retinal tissues.  The work was published in Nature.1
        Either way, the work at RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe, Japan is not necessarily concerned with farming human ESCs for regenerative repair, but only learning how stem cells in an embryo form the body’s tissues in three dimensions.  Commenting on this research in the same issue,1 Ali and Sowden said in “Regenerative medicine: DIY eye” that this research “could offer the prospect of disease modelling and drug testing using induced pluripotent stem cells generated from patients' tissues.”

    1.  Eiraku, Takata et al, “Self-organizing optic-cup morphogenesis in three-dimensional culture,” Nature 472, (07 April 2011), pp. 51–56, doi:10.1038/nature09941.
    2.  Robin R. Ali and Jane C. Sowden, “Regenerative medicine: DIY eye,” Nature 472 (07 April 2011), pp. 42–43, doi:10.1038/472042a.
    Does anyone see any need to tamper with human embryos?  The tangible results are coming from work with adult stem cells.  If scientists want to play with mouse embryos, fine; but where is the gold rush that was promised with ESCs?  What happened after all those tear-jerking commercials that disabled people were all going to die without embryonic stem cells, and warnings from scientific institutions that other countries would leave American science in the dust if we didn’t relax restrictions on ESC research?
        Meanwhile, work with adult stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells, without the ethical issues, has been leaping forward with actual results.  The only applications for embryonic stem cell research so far have been fraud, greed, hype and quackery (QuackResearch.org).  Even leading scientific journals have been guilty (01/09/2006).  Let this be a lesson in political science.
    Next headline on:  Cell BiologyHealthPolitics and Ethics
      Did you know that isolated DNA bases fall apart quickly?  How, then, could life ever have gotten started?  The 04/11/2006 entry showed origin-of-life theories getting improbabler and improbabler (new word; don’t be an improbabbler; see online book).

    Does Observing Flight Explain Its Evolution?     04/06/2011      
    April 06, 2011 — In various research labs, evolutionists are studying the origin of flight.  Recent articles, though, only show them observing animals or fossils that already fly or flew.  Does this provide any insight into how flight might have originated by a purposeless material process?

    1. Birds:  With a quote from Charles Darwin decorating the heading, PhysOrg announced a book Living dinosaurs: The evolutionary history of modern birds by Gareth Dyke and Gary Kaiser (Wiley, May 2011).  Darwin speculated on a straightforward evolutionary path from dinosaurs to birds via Archaeopteryx, a new fossil discovered in his day.  “Yet in the centuries [sic] following this discovery the rise of modern birds remains greatly debated,” the article began, with rise signifying an evolutionary rise.
          So what do Dyke and Kaiser offer to win the debate?  The article said they “set out to unite ornithologists and paleontologists to form a modern understanding of the evolution of birds at the beginning of the 21st century.”  They don’t believe birds evolved beginning in Y2K, of course; they just wanted to get the debating wingless humans to join hands.
          But first, they had to sweep away the simplistic march of progress imagined by Darwin and Huxley.  “After slumbering for more than a century avian paleontology has been awakened by startling new discoveries on almost every continent,” co-author Gary Kaiser said, undoubtedly thinking of discarded ideas that Archaeopteryx represented a transitional form.  “Old controversies have been swept away and replaced by new and more difficult questions, such as how did birds learn to fly and how did they survive the great extinction that ended the Mesozoic Era?”
          This replacement of old controversies with newer, more difficult ones indicates that not much progress has been made in the last 150 years of Darwinian theory.  The authors are still trying to figure out the most basic question: how did birds learn to fly?  Any answers are in future tense: “Answers to these questions may help us understand how the different kinds of living birds are related to one another and how they evolved into their current niches,”  PhysOrg just reproduced this press release verbatim from Wiley publishers.
    2. Flies:  What about insect flight?  PhysOrg in a separate article announced cheerfully, “History of flies takes flight.”  The headline suggested that an explanation of the origin of flight in flies would be forthcoming.  Unfortunately, again, a team of 25 international scientists led by Simon Fraser University only had flying flies to exhibit.  They used “genomic sequencing and morphological information to plug gaps in the 250-million-year history of Diptera” (true flies).
          By definition, though diptera (two wings) already had wings, and presumably already flew.  Did the article provide information on the origin of fly flight?  A look at the body of the article finds discussion of fly radiation, fly survival and fly extinction, but nothing about how the first non-flying insects evolved wings, muscles, and brains that allow these tiny acrobats to dazzle Caltech engineers (12/08/2003, 11/20/2006).
          The work was all “part of a large-scale effort to place all living organisms into a comprehensive tree of life,” the article said.  Strange that they left out the most important limb of all: the one leading to flight.
    3. Have wings, may fly:  Scientists at the University of Illinois discovered the oldest known flying insect.  In PNAS,1 they announced the following.  Look for any explanation of how flight evolved:
      Insects were the first animals to evolve powered flight and did so perhaps 90 million years before the first flight among vertebrates.  However, the earliest fossil record of flying insect lineages (Pterygota) is poor, with scant indirect evidence from the Devonian and a nearly complete dearth of material from the Early Carboniferous.  By the Late Carboniferous a diversity of flying lineages is known, mostly from isolated wings but without true insights into the paleoethology of these taxa.  Here, we report evidence of a full-body impression of a flying insect from the Late Carboniferous Wamsutta Formation of Massachusetts, representing the oldest trace fossil of Pterygota.  Through ethological and morphological analysis, the trace fossil provides evidence that its maker was a flying insect and probably was representative of a stem-group lineage of mayflies....
      But mayflies not only may fly, they do fly.  Where did their ancestors learn how to get from desire to accomplishment?  National Geographic News posted a photo of the fossil imprint.
    Each of these articles spoke confidently about the evolution of flight, but as evidence, only showcased flying things.  Wouldn’t arguing that flight evolved require showing a sequence of animals progressing from flightless to flying? 
    1.  Knecht, Engel, and Benner, “Late Carboniferous paleoichnology reveals the oldest full-body impression of a flying insect,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published online before print April 4, 2011, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1015948108 PNAS April 4, 2011.
    What a scam artist this Darwin was.  His science doesn’t fly.  Don’t invest in his company’s promissory notes; they’re already 150 years old and not backed by any collateral.  But oh, did Charlie know how to hire fast-talking hot air salesmen.  Put your stock in biomimetics.  Those are the guys who know design when they see it (03/15/2011, 02/20/2011).
    Next headline on:  BirdsTerrestrial ZoologyFossilsDarwin and Evolution
    Poison Comets Brought Life to Earth     04/05/2011      
    April 05, 2011 — You don’t drink formaldehyde; you stick dead things in it.  Why on earth would some evolutionists claim that “Poison could have set the stage for the origins of life?”  That’s exactly a headline on Science Daily and PhysOrg, with Live Science chiming in that the poisonous chemical has been “linked” to the origin of life on earth.
        The story begins with speculation that formaldehyde may have made up some of the “fabric” of the early bodies of the solar system – asteroids and comets.  The only observational evidence in the story is that formaldehyde is found in interstellar space by its spectrum, and that researchers at the Carnegie Institution were able to create one organic solid similar to one in a certain kind of meteorite starting with it.  This mineral was also similar to material found in Comet Wild-2, samples of which were analyzed by the Stardust spacecraft.
        From there, the researchers leapt to the idea that the carbon in the formaldehyde that made up these minerals got to earth.  George Cody at Carnegie was excited about this wild idea.  “We may owe our existence on this planet to interstellar formaldehyde,” he said.  “And what’s ironic about it is that formaldehyde is poisonous to life on Earth.”  So even though it’s a long conceptual leap from formaldehyde to comets to carbon on earth to life, Cody felt he had done his fellow carbon units a favor: “Establishing the likely origin of the principal source of organic carbon in primitive solar system bodies is extremely satisfying.”
    Update 04/06/2011: Ker Than wrote an independent article about this for National Geographic News, entitled, “Space Poison Helped Start Life on Earth?  Formaldehyde on asteroids may have delivered planet’s carbon.”  His article showcased a dead frog preserved in formalin (dissolved formaldehyde), and explained that formaldehyde is poisonous because it interferes with many metabolic reactions.  Like the other reporters, though, he offered no critique of Cody’s theory.
        Meanwhile, at University of Oxford, Don Fraser has been divining clays as possible maternity wards for incipient life.  PhysOrg reprinted a press release from the university with a cast of characters including Darwin, Huxley, Pasteur, Oparin, Miller, ISIS and NIMROD to see if clays could have solved the problem of getting one-handed molecules together.  Scenes shift from warm little ponds to labs with spark-discharge tubes, primeval soup kitchens to hospitals with thalidomide babies, all with the climax of taking “our understanding of the origin of life a step further.”
        ISIS is a neutron source near Oxford, and NIMROD is an instrument for analyzing clays.  The Oxford team believes they are “We are thus building an increasingly detailed picture of the steps that lead to the origin of life.
        Paul Davies lacks the confidence of these teams.  Denyse O'Leary at Uncommon Descent found a video on YouTube of the famous astrobiologist and author acknowledging that evolutionists have no idea how life began.
    It is tragic to watch smart people deceive themselves and to become fools while professing to be wise.  ISIS, NIMROD – the techniques of divination change, but somehow the stories stay the same.  Ironically, the room in which Davies was speaking was decorated with Christmas trees – symbol of another story in which life was brought to earth not by poison, but by a Person.
    Next headline on:  Origin of LifeSolar SystemDumb Ideas
    Seeing Is Believing, or v.v.     04/04/2011      
    April 04, 2011 — What you see is not what is out there in the world – not exactly, at least.  Scientists have shown that your brain is tweaking the light coming in from your eyes and making predictions about what you expect to see.
        The “blind spot” experiment is well known to students.  That’s where it can be shown that your brain “fills in” the blind spot of each eyeball (where the optic nerve leaves the retina, with no photoreceptors) with imagery from the surrounding field.  A brick wall pattern, for instance, continues seamlessly into the blind spot even though your eye actually receives no light from that part of the retina.
        Researchers at the University of Glasgow performed four experiments on participants, and monitored brain activity with functional MRI, to see what parts of the visual field were doing when shielded from visual input.  Their findings were published in PNAS.1  It appears that the context influences what we “see.”  The primary visual cortex (V1) uses context and memory to prepare the image presented to the mind.
    We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and pattern-classification methods to show that the cortical representation of a nonstimulated quarter-field carries information that can discriminate the surrounding visual context.  We show further that the activity patterns in these regions are significantly related to those observed with feed-forward stimulation and that these effects are driven primarily by V1.
    The way PhysOrg put it, “What our eyes can’t see, the brain fills in.”  And it fills it in from prior experience: “The results show that our brains do not rely solely on what is shown to the eyes in order to ‘see’.  Instead the brain constructs a complex prediction” of what it expects to see.
        One neuroscientist called this “predictive coding.”  Dr. Lars Muckli from U of Glasgow explained how this is helpful: “If you are driving a car and a pedestrian is suddenly obscured – say by a pillar box or your rear view mirror – your brain still knows where they are and where they will reappear in your line of vision.  Without that ability, we would be lost in everyday life.
        For more on image processing done by the eye and brain, see 05/22/2003, 12/30/2003, 05/12/2005, 07/27/2006 and 03/31/2008.
    1.  Smith and Muckli, “Nonstimulated early visual areas carry information about surrounding context,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, published online before print November 1, 2010, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1000233107 (open access).  Note: the paper was published Nov 1, 2010, but PhysOrg reported on it April 4, 2011.
    Unfortunately, Dr. Muckli tossed in this Darwin stinkincense bomb: “The brain’s main function is to minimise surprise – that is what it has evolved to do.”  Were you surprised?  That not only violates logic, it violates Darwin’s own principle of Stuff Happens.  Things don’t evolve to do anything in Darwinland; they just evolve.  Implying a purpose for anything invokes teleology – something Darwin and his disciples wanted to eliminate.  Enough of that distraction.
        Findings like these bear on important philosophical questions about the relationship of our senses to external reality.  Philosophers have long wondered to what extent we can trust our senses.  There is a long chain of causal phenomena interceding between the photons emitted by an object and our perception of that object by the mind.  Here we see that our brains are manipulating reality for us in ways that can be tricked by experience or novelty.
        Those who say they only believe what they can see should realize they cannot see the whole electromagnetic spectrum, for one thing, and the narrow range of visible light they can see is being transformed by their brains.  The only worldview that provides grounds for trusting our senses comes from the Bible.  Our eyes and brains were created by a Creator who loves honesty and truth, and has equipped his creatures with sufficient equipment to have reasonable, though not exhaustive, access to external reality.  Otherwise we would be “lost in everyday life” and unable to respond to him by perceiving his works.  Even so, we need to train our equipment to discern the truth, and not deceive ourselves.
    Next headline on:  Human BodyMind and BrainAmazing Facts
      Like our Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week entries?  There were so many six years ago we let the readers pick from a long list (04/06/2006).

    Assuming Reality: Can Crater Dating Be Tested?     04/03/2011      
    April 03, 2011 — Two astronomers in Paris have come up with a new crater chronology for the moon and offered it as a way to date other objects in the inner solar system.  Their paper in Icarus,1 however, assumes so many unobservable things, the reader may wonder if it talks about the true history of the moon or some alternate reality in the imagination.  Here are some instances of assume in their paper (readers may wish to just scan the blue text to get a feel for the assumptions):

    1. The measured size-frequency distributions of lunar craters are reconciled with the observed population of near-Earth objects under the assumption that craters smaller than a few kilometers in diameter form in a porous megaregolith.
    2. The total predicted size-frequency distribution for any given time is obtained by multiplying the production function, assumed independent of age, by a time-variable constant.
    3. ...the crater chronology method assumes that craters accumulate uniformly on the surface of the planetary body...
    4. Under the assumption of a steady state distribution of impactors, the distribution of craters on ~ 3 Ga old surfaces2 should be consistent with the present astronomically inferred cratering rates.
    5. Wiesel (1971) used a simplified asteroid population, and Bandermann and Singer (1973) used analytical formulations based on strongly simplifying assumptions in order to calculate impact locations on a planet.
    6. This formulation assumes that no correlations exist between the size of the object and its orbit, which is consistent 15 with the observations of Stuart and Binzel (2004) for diameters ranging from 16 ~10 m to ~10 km.
    7. This model assumes that the NEO population is in steady-state, continuously replenished by the influx coming from source regions associated with the main asteroid belt or the transneptunian disk.
    8. Various assumptions have led to all these estimates.  Among them, the assumed impact velocity and bolide density are only of moderate influence.
    9. Consequently, we simply fit a 10th-order polynomial to the entire dataset, assuming each data is error free, and that the average combination of all estimates gives a good picture of the impactor population.
    10. The size-frequency distribution of impactors is here assumed to be the same for all bodies in the inner solar system.
    11. ....the assumptions under which an encounter is considered to occur can be summarized as follows:
      1. An encounter between the target (Moon or planet) and impactor occurs at the geometrical point of crossing of the two orbits (the mutual node)....
      2. The relative encounter velocity does not account for the acceleration generated by the mass of the target....
      3. The impactor, as seen by the target, is treated as if it were approaching from an infinite distance, under only the gravitational influence of the target....
    12. For simplicity and without altering the results, it is assumed that the lunar orbit is circular about the Earth and possess a zero inclination with respect to the ecliptic.
    13. A major difference between our approach and previous investigations (Shoemaker and Wolfe, 1982; Zahnle et al., 1998, 2001) is that the argument of pericenter of the hyperbolic orbits is not assumed to precess uniformly within the Earth-Moon system, but is explicitly given by the encounter geometry.
    14. It is assumed that only the vertical component of the impact velocity, whose value is obtained from the impact angle, contributes to the crater size (Pierazzo et al., 1997), though other relations could be easily incorporated into this analysis.
    15. An increase of the transient crater diameter by wall slumping and rim formation is under the assumption of a constant impact flux over the last ~3 Ga.
    16. ...we assume in calculating dp that the density of the porous material is 2500 kg m-3...
    17. We note that given the simplicity of our crater-scaling procedure in the transition zone, the correspondance [sic] between T and the actual megaregolith thickness should not be expected to be exact.
    18. By the use of a porous regime dictated by the properties of a megaregolith, our model production function reproduces the measured crater distributions in shape and in the absolute number of craters formed over the past 3 Ga, under the assumption of a constant impact flux.  We caution that our simple formulation of the porous / non-porous transition does not account for the temporal evolution of the megaregolith and that the inferred megaregolith thicknesses are only qualitative estimates.
    19. For illustrative purpose, Rc is shown for the inner planets in figure 3 by assuming that craters with diameters less than 10 km form in a porous soil on both the planet and Moon, while craters with greater sizes form in solid rocks (except for the Earth and Venus where only the non-porous regime is used).
    20. These calculations assume that the lunar obliquity stayed equal to its present value in the past.
    21. ...we leave the implications for the contribution of secondary craters to further investigations.
    22. These authors used Öpik equations (Shoemaker and Wolfe, 1982) for hyperbolic orbits that were assumed to precess uniformly inside the planet-moon system.  We nevertheless point out that Zahnle et al. (2001) applied equation (20) to the moons of Jupiter, where this approximation might be valid.
    23. We further assume that the lunar obliquity was equal to its present value (nearly zero) for the entire time between 3.9 Ga and the present.
    24. The “vertical component” scaling appears to be the safest assumption for a single target body, though the impact angle dependence of the average crater efficiency may vary from planet to planet....
    25. Recently, Marchi et al. (2009) proposed a revised crater chronology.  The main differences with our approach (excluding the assumption of spatially uniform cratering rates in the latter) are the following:
      1. We use the orbital distribution of near-Earth objects of Bottke et al. (2002), modified for Mars, which is assumed to be in steady state and independent of bolide size....
      2. We assume that the size frequency distribution of objects impacting the planets is the same for all planets and that the probability of an object impacting a planet is independent of size....
      3. When converting transient crater diameters to final crater diameters, we use a multiplicative factor of 1.56 as suggested by Melosh (1989, 253 pp.) and Melosh (1998), whereas Marchi et al. (2009) assume that the transient crater diameter is equivalent to the final simple crater diameter for their preferred impact scaling law that is based on the equations in Holsapple and Housen (2007).
      4. Both studies treat the case of impact crater scaling in the porous megaregolith differently....
    26. It is difficult to quantify how each of these differences affect the final crater size-frequency distribution on a planetary object, and hence the derived ages of a surface.  Nonetheless, we note that the different bolide size-frequency distributions and the different crater scaling laws could be significant.
    27. Öpik probabilities assume that the argument of pericenter [omega] takes any value between 0 and 2 [pi] with an equal probability.
    28. Equations (A.27) and (A.29) come from the assumption that the projectile and Moon follow straight lines trajectories in the vicinity of the node, and are demonstrated in Öpik.
    29. Other assumed functional dependencies on the incidence angle can easily be used in place of equation (A.62).
    Le Feuvre and Wieczorek admitted in the abstract that “Our model may be inaccurate for periods prior to 3.5 Ga because of a different impactor population, or for craters smaller than a few kilometers on Mars and Mercury, due to the presence of subsurface ice and to the abundance of large secondaries, respectively.”  Nevertheless, they felt that their new revised chronology is better than earlier ones.  “Standard parameter values allow for the first time to naturally reproduce both the size distribution and absolute number of lunar craters up to 3.5 Ga ago, and give self-consistent estimates of the planetary cratering rates relative to the Moon.”
        While simplifying assumptions are commonly employed in lab work, they can usually be tested by experiment.  These assumptions involve an unobserved history of the solar system that cannot be observed, repeated, or tested.  The authors also did not state to what degree their parameters might have been chosen to reproduce a crater history that was also assumed.
    1.  Mathieu Le Feuvre and Mark A. Wieczorek, “Nonuniform cratering of the Moon and a revised crater chronology of the inner solar system,” Icarus (article in press, accepted manuscript), March 31, 2011, DOI:10.1016/j.icarus.2011.03.010.
    2.  Ga = giga-annum, billions of years.
    We do not expect readers to wade through all the quotes above (feel free if that is your favorite form of self-flagellation).  It is the visual impact of the sheer number of assumptions that go into crater count dating that makes a powerful point: does their model have anything to do with reality?
        This is not to deprive Mssrs. Le Feuvre and Wieczorek of the convenience of some of their beloved assumptions.  Perhaps it really is only the vertical component of velocity that matters for an impact, and if it makes the math easier, fine.  But many of their assumptions seem naïve if not audacious.  How could they possibly know that the incoming impact rate has been in steady state for three billion years?  The impact rate could be episodic.  A few heavy episodes in short order could completely invalidate their model.  Further, they appeared to gloss over the big issue of secondary craters (03/22/2005, 10/20/2005, 06/08/2006, 09/25/2007, 01/17/2008, 03/25/2008), leaving that little difficulty to “further investigation.”  Well, guess what.  As the links above show (q.v.), that one difficulty alone could completely confound their imaginary chronology.
        Notice, too, that these authors invalidated other crater chronologies that were state-of-the-art for previous generations of scientists.  One could hardly get better than Gene Shoemaker in the 1990s, whose views they “revised” (overturned).  At least he got out there and did experiments firing rifles at rocks to see what happened.  They also showed how their assumptions differed from the assumptions of Marchi et al.  Well, whose assumptions are better, when nobody was there to watch?  Take your pick.
        The distinct possibility arises from these considerations that Le Feuvre and Wieczorek, bless their hearts, have done nothing but manipulate numbers to create an imaginary history that doesn’t match reality.  If so, why should anybody believe a word they said?  It reduces to an exercise in impressing their colleagues with mathematics and prose in a closed mutual admiration society that has nothing to say to people who want science to talk about reality that is really real.
        If they want to claim that their exercise was worthwhile because it is the best that can be done under the circumstances, they commit the best-in-field fallacy.  How do they know that ten years from now, some young upstarts from another university won’t refer to this paper as a misguided piece of balderdash?
        Popper explained that it is easier to falsify a hypothesis than to confirm it, but that was for observable, testable things, like the effect of Einstein’s relativity on starlight during a solar eclipse.  Observations will never be able to confirm this paper’s model about an unobservable history.  It may, however, be possible to falsify their model by arguing that their assumptions are unrealistic.  It is more likely, therefore, that this model will be falsified in the future than supported.
        You may or may not agree that scientific papers about unknowables, like this one, are worthwhile exercises.  After all, we can observe craters in the present, and they got there somehow at some time.  Let us all, however, take their caution seriously: “It is difficult to quantify how each of these differences affect the final crater size-frequency distribution on a planetary object, and hence the derived ages of a surface.”  Difficult, yes, in the sense of impossible.  There are some things that science can never know.  For some of those, other sources of information are required.
    Next headline on:  Solar SystemPhysicsDating MethodsPhilosophy of Science
    Imagining Worlds: Is It Science?     04/02/2011      
    April 02, 2011 — An entry on Space.com is almost pure speculation with no observation.  Does it belong on a science news site?
        Reporter Clara Moskowitz gave Viorel Badescu [Polytechnic University of Bucharest, Romania] free rein to imagine life on free-floating planets (FFPs) – bodies wandering free in space after being abandoned, like wayward children, from their parent stars.  “The search for alien life usually focuses on planets around other stars,” she began.  “But a lesser-known possibility is that life has sprung up on planets that somehow were ejected from their original solar systems and became free-floating in the universe, as well as on small bodies called sub-brown dwarfs [SBDs], which are stars so small and dim they are not really stars at all, but function more like planets.”
        First of all, do such bodies exist?  Badescu admitted they are “extremely hard to detect.”  Moreover, “Present day technology does not allow a systematic search for habitable FFPs and SBDs,” but that did not stop him from imagining that “Sub-brown dwarfs weighing between 1 and 13 Jupiter masses may be about as common as stars, Badescu said.”  So far, we have imaginary planets; now, we need to imagine life on them.  What are the conditions for life, and can we imagine them existing on these imaginary habitable planets?
    • Heat:  Without a star to warm them, FFPs would presumably be hopelessly frozen to death.  No problem; thanks to internal radioactive decay, “One may expect a rather stable heat release for long periods of time, exceeding two or three times the present age of the solar system,” Badescu surmised, not having observed even one present age of the solar system.
    • Atmosphere:  The imaginary planets also have imaginary atmospheres.  “Though meager, this heat could be trapped on the object by an optically thick atmosphere.”
    • Solvent:  Needless to say, FFPs would probably not be warm with lush oceanic baths of water for microbes.  But even though all life we know about relies on water, one can imagine any other liquid doing the job: “In particular, Badescu found that ethane – a compound of carbon and hydrogen – could function well as a solvent for alien life.
          One of the two instances of observation in the article is found in this sentence: “Synthesis of observational data makes it possible to conceive chemical reactions that might support life involving non-carbon compounds, occurring in solvents other than water, Badescu wrote in his paper.”  The observations were not about actually making chemical reactions work that might support life – but only data that “makes it possible to conceive” of reactions that “might” do so.
          Speaking of ethane, no life has been observed on the only world we know about that has some liquid ethane – Titan.  And no origin-of-life researcher has ever come up with a theory of how ethane would work in alien life-forms.  Despite those difficulties, “Badescu said that some sub-brown dwarfs might have lakes or oceans of liquid ethane that could prove quite homey to alien microbes.”
    • Polar solvent:  Problem: ethane is not a polar molecule, like water.  It’s the “polar properties of water [that] enable certain kinds of molecules to dissolve easily in water, while others remain stable.”  That would not be the case with ethane.  “However, the challenge is not insurmountable,” according to Badescu’s fertile imagination: “– a completely different type of molecule could be used to code life’s blueprint on a FFP or SBD.”  He did not offer any candidate molecules.
    • Genetic code:  So what would convey the genetic information required by alien cells swimming in ethane on imaginary worlds?  After all, “small changes in molecular structure may create large changes in molecular behavior” with a non-polar molecule, and “That is not acceptable in an encoding biopolymer that must support Darwinian evolution, in which case, the molecule’s physical properties must remain relatively constant when the informational content changes.”  Again, though, his way out was simply to assert that “the challenge is not insurmountable”.
    After surmounting all these difficulties with leaps of imagination, Badescu gave his grand finale: “it might be conceivable that FFPs and SBDs are the most common sites of life in the universe.”  Well, then, we should search for them: “the existing observation programs” [there’s the other instance of the word observation] “of young star forming regions should be supplemented with activities related to FFP and SBD identification and characterization.”  It might be worthwhile; we might just find imaginary life some imaginary day.  But even before that, since it might be conceivable that imaginary life is common on imaginary worlds, we would first have to find out if it is even possible to conceive of such things; it might be, or it might not be.
        The article was decorated with imaginary images of imaginary landscapes.  Speaking of imaginary landscapes, that was the title of musical compositions by John Cage that experimented with “chance music” as a kind of divination – i.e., “imitating nature in its manner of operation” (Wikipedia).  In Imaginary Landscape No. 4, 12 operators twiddled the knobs of 12 radios at random.  One never knows; it might produce imaginary music.  To be more like Badescu’s speculation, though, one must imagine the radios and the operators, too.
    Reread the 01/17/2007 commentary.
    Exercise:  Write a fairy tale with this much imagination and see if you can get Space.com or one of the other secular science news sites to publish it without any criticism whatsoever.  If Badescu can do it, it would be discriminatory not to let you do it.  Be sure to portray it as a scientific quest.
    Extra credit:  make a case for funding your search for your imaginary whatever.  Be careful not to specify a timeline, dollar limit, or any criteria for success.
    Next headline on:  StarsSolar SystemOrigin of LifeMediaDumb Ideas
    Plants Generate Their Own Sunscreen     04/01/2011      
    April 01, 2011 — Ultraviolet radiation hits plants as well as humans, but plants can’t reach for a tube of sunscreen.  Too much exposure can damage them; what do they do?  They have a sensor that turns on production of their own brand of sunscreen and spreads it on their skin automatically.
        UV-B rays are the most damaging rays in sunlight.  In Science this week,1 researchers at the University of Glasgow explained how plants have a protein named UVR8 that normally comes in pairs.  UV-B rays break up the pairs; as single molecules now, UVR8 proteins link up with others named COP1.  This combination signals the nucleus to ramp up production of sunscreen.  The abstract said in jargon,
    Absorption of UV-B induces instant monomerization of the photoreceptor and interaction with COP1, the central regulator of light signaling.  Thereby this signaling cascade controlled by UVR8 mediates UV-B photomorphogenic responses securing plant acclimation and thus promotes survival in sunlight.”
    Professor Gareth Jenkins explained for University of Glasgow News, “When a plant detects UV-B light this light stimulates the synthesis of sunscreen compounds that are deposited in the outer tissues and absorb UV-B, minimizing any harmful transmittance to cells below.”  So it’s not just having UVR8 able to absorb the harmful photons – it’s also a matter of having them link up with other proteins and switch on genes – then having the gene products arrive at the proper destination to give protection quickly.
        Scientists knew plants were able to protect themselves, but didn’t know what photoreceptor was sensitive to UV-B light.  “UVR8 is always present throughout a plant so it can respond immediately to sunlight,” the press release said.
    1.  Rizzini...Jenkins, Ulm et al, “Perception of UV-B by the Arabidopsis UVR8 Protein,” Science, 1 April 2011: Vol. 332 no. 6025 pp. 103-106, DOI: 10.1126/science.1200660.
    April 1 makes fools of some of us, but plants don’t fool around.  Especially foolish were the brain offerings given to Charlie in the articles.  The press release lit this stick of stinkincense: “plants rarely show signs of damage because they have evolved a way of protecting themselves from the sun’s harmful rays by making their own sunscreen and depositing it in the outer tissues of leaves.”  Would that evolutionists would evolve a way of evolving away evolutionary folly.
        The paper in Science was no better: “Several families of plant photoreceptors have evolved that monitor light ranging from ultraviolet-B (UV-B) to the near infrared and allow optimal adaptation to light.”  Their last sentence lubricated the Darwinian imagination: “This raises the intriguing possibility that, together with the development of an ozone layer in the stratosphere of Earth, the evolution of terrestrial plants may be coincident with the acquisition of the UV-induced responses mediated by the UVR8 UV-B photoreceptor.”  Anything’s possible; pigs could evolve wings and fly coincident with the acquisition of big bad wolves in the neighborhood.  That’s intriguing to imagine, too.
        How long must we put up with this foolishness?  It’s happening 365x24x7, not just on April Fool’s Day.  Turn off the black light and let the sun shine in, under the ozone of critical thinking.
    Next headline on:  PlantsGeneticsAmazing Facts
      As an example of how amoral the Darwinists can be, remember the entry in 04/02/2004 that tried to explain the evolution of suicide terrorism?  It was NOT an April fool joke.

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    (a software engineer in Texas)

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “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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    Who’s On

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


    Dmitri Mendeleev
    1834 - 1907

    Every science student is familiar with the Periodic Table of the Elements.  It is one of the great “patterns” in nature discovered by careful, painstaking work in chemistry by many scientists over many years.  The one who is most famous for putting the pieces together in a systematic way is our scientist of the month, Dmitri Mendeleev.

    The following quote is taken from Pioneer Explorers of Intelligent Design: Scientists Who Made a Difference by Dr. Donald DeYoung (BMH Books, 2006), p. 67.

    One of 17 children, Mendeleev was told by his mother to “patiently search divine and scientific truth.”  He firmly believed in Scripture, especially Proverbs 25:2 which says, “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing, but the honor of kings to search out a matter.”  Mendeleev thus saw chemistry as a royal and godly pursuit.  He was led to seek out the underlying order to the atomic elements based on their weights and other properties.  In Mendeleev’s funeral procession in St. Petersburg, Russia, his appreciative students carried a large banner displaying the periodic table of the elements.

    Coming from a religious family, Mendeleev naturally viewed the world as an orderly system amenable to scientific investigation.  It is said he first got the idea of the periodic table in a dream, and the next day began working out the pattern.  As he was building the table, his belief that the pattern he saw emerging would continue led him to take the intellectual leap of leaving spots blank in the table, in faith believing that elements would be discovered to fill the blank spots.  He predicted the existence of gallium, germanium and scandium, for instance, and even was able to predict some their properties by interpolating from other known elements in similar positions on the table.

    The story of the discovery of the periodic table is told in detail in A Meaningful World by Benjamin Wiker and Jonathan Witt (IVP Academic, 2006).  They use it as one of many illustrations from history of how the arts and sciences reveal the underlying genius and meaning in nature.

    After Dmitri’s death, element 101 was named Mendelevium in his honor.  A crater on the moon also bears his name.


    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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      I have a masters degree in mechanical engineering from a leading University.  When I read the descriptions, see the pictures, and watch the movies of the inner workings of the cell, I’m absolutely amazed....  Thanks for bringing these amazing stories daily.  Keep up the good work.
    (an engineer in Virginia)

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

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    (Salvador Cordova, George Mason University)

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

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    (a community safety manager in England)

    “I really appreciate the effort that you are making to provide the public with information about the problems with the General Theory of Evolution.  It gives me ammunition when I discuss evolution in my classroom.  I am tired of the evolutionary dogma.  I wish that more people would stand up against such ridiculous beliefs.”
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    “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.”
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    “Keep up the outstanding work!  You guys really ARE making a difference!”
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    “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.”
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    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.”
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    (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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    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.”
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    (reader location and occupation unknown)

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

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    (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.”
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    (a prominent creationist author)

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    “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)

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    (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).

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    (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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