Evolution is now found to be capable of creating just about anything. We might say that evolution is a closed metaphysical system. It not only supplies its own creation story but also supplies its own source of morality. ... Furthermore, having rejected divine creation and its Creator, evolution even becomes its own authority. This story is true for those who believe it, but it cannot be demonstrated by strictly scientific argument, for it requires metaphysical premises.
2001: JAN • FEB • MAR • APR • MAY • JUN • JUL • AUG • SEP • OCT • NOV • DEC 2000: SEP-OCT • NOV-DEC
In the monthly Q&A feature of Current Biology (Jan 2003), Natasha Paul and Gerald Joyce of Scripps Institute explain self-replication for the rest of us: Self-replication is a means by which an individual can duplicate itself. Well, duh, but theres more. A self-replicating entity, whether living or mechanical or virtual (such as in a computer or a mathematical model), must walk a fine line: a delicate balance has to be achieved between strong binding of the components and facile release of the newly-formed products. DNA performs this well with the help of many assistant enzymes. Scientists have created a few primitive self-replicating entities in the lab, primarily by tweaking existing chemicals from living cells, but something usually goes wrong products either become too sticky (thus unable to dissociate and carry on the reaction) or too loose (thus unable to bind for a new cycle). The reader can probably anticipate the next question (emphasis added):
Did life start this way? Self-replication is only part of the story; it also is necessary for the system to adapt in response to a changing environment. This requires a chemical basis for information storage to preserve genetic instructions that have proven advantageous to survival. Although the instructions necessary for survival may evolve in response to environmental pressures, the self-replication process must continue to copy the revised instructions faithfully.Natasha and Joyce are not worried that we will be overrun by artificial nanobots any time soon: Based on current understanding, it will be difficult to build artificial self-replicators that do not suffer from the limitations described above. It is much easier to modify evolving systems from biology than to build one from scratch.
Heres the mile-high hurdle of information again: the need for genetic instructions. Natasha and Joyce give examples of chemical self-replicating systems, but each one was intelligently designed by an organic chemist with a PhD. Weve seen Gerald Joyce tinkering with RNA and other chemicals trying to get them to self-replicate and evolve. His papers usually sound hopeful, but as a chemist, he has to face the realities of experiment. He is painfully aware of the formidable problem of generating information from randomness that is adaptive to a changing environment, and then storing and replicating that information faithfully. No one has ever accomplished that without a massive investment of intelligent design. It can even be considered impossible in principle, based on the laws of logic. As the eminent philosopher Julie Andrews reminded us, Nothing comes from nothing; nothing ever could.Caveman Bones Spark Controversy 01/31/2003
Sound familiar? The fossil of an early human-like creature (hominid) from southern Africa is raising fresh questions about our origins, reports the BBC News on Jan. 31. The unexpected aspect this time is that our human ancestors were less chimp-like than we thought. Pieces of Australopithecus bone chipped out of the rocks of Sterkfontein Caves in South Africa suggest to anthropologist Ron Clarke that this individual was bipedal, but spent a lot of time in the trees. Dr. Clarke goes further, the article says. He argues that the fact the hominid was not a knuckle-walker suggests chimps and humans are not as closely related as we thought. Another consequence of that supposition is that It pushes the last common ancestor of chimps and humans much further back in history. Others are not convinced. Sound familiar?
Whos we, Dr. Clarke? A good many of us never thought such things. Nor do we now, after subjecting your scanty evidence to logic with our distinctively human brains, and recalling all the other controversies about human ancestors we read this past year on Creation-Evolution Headlines. We know better. We know that paleoanthropology is not about scientific facts of history; its just a sophisticated form of chest-pounding.Which Emperor Has No Clothes? 01/31/2003
In the Jan. 31 issue of Science, Kenneth R. Miller of Brown University reviews a new book, Where Darwin Meets the Bible: Creationists and Evolutionists in America. Miller is a prominent anti-creationist spokesman, who appeared in the PBS Evolution TV series and has debated leaders of creation and intelligent design for years. With a few strong reservations, he likes this new book by Larry Witham, a writer for the Washington Times. Witham tries to present a balance of leading characters on both sides of the aisle. What Miller doesnt like is the authors willingness to make it seem the creationist side is on a level playing field:
Eager to build a case for equivalence, Witham overlooks the most essential element of the process of science: the manner in which it tests competing ideas with respect to their explanatory power and their concordance with data. This is the test that design creationism has failed time and time again. Alas, such failures are reported nowhere in this book. Witham, it seems, is unwilling to tell his readers that the emperor has no clothes.Miller cautions his fellow evolutionists not to treat the opposition as a minor peasant uprising that will soon quiet down. He views the Intelligent Design movement as poised to make plenty of trouble for science education in the years ahead (emphasis added):
In an age of genomics, how can this possibly be the case? Who are these guys? is a question I have heard from more than one of my colleagues, who are incredulous at the continuing opposition to Darwin. The answer can be found in Where Darwin Meets the Bible .... His book is a virtual playbill that describes the principal actors in this modern passion play.In his review entitled, The emperors new design, Miller concludes, Those who would prefer to work quietly in their laboratories and field stations while waiting for the recent unpleasantness to blow over are fooling no one but themselves a point this book makes with disturbing clarity (emphasis added).
Its ironic that Miller alludes to the Emperors New Clothes (a fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson), since that is exactly the metaphor creationists have used against Darwinism for a long time: evolutionists parade their theory around like proud king without a thread of evidence. Since were not intimidated by bluffing here, well march right past the hot air about scientists being incredulous about the opposition to Darwinism, and look for at least a loincloth in Millers tailor shop as he attempts to clothe Emperor Darwin (parents may need to shield their childrens eyes).Ancient Deep Lakes Are Evolutionary Playing Field 01/31/2003
Lake Baikal in Siberia is one of just a few that have persisted for over a million years, claims Science writer Erica Goldman in the Jan. 31 issue. Because it is loaded with interesting species of fish, shellfish and flatworms, The creatures in Baikal and other ancient lakes could help researchers unravel fundamental mysteries about why some life forms speciate and others do not, she begins in Puzzling Over the Origin of Species in the Depths of the Oldest Lakes. Researchers have found a remarkable number of species and varieties of cichlid fish, amphipods, flatworms and mollusks in these unique crucibles of evolution, many of which exist nowhere else.
After youve sifted out the interpretation, interesting data remains, but does it support evolution? The scientists resort to hand-waving explanations of sympatric speciation and parallel evolution to explain the varieties, and wax eloquent about how much these lakes are going to teach us about evolution (futureware), but nowhere do they describe by observation any animal that has changed into another type of animal all the examples are variation within kinds, and some are even examples of degradation, not evolution. Colors and shapes and sizes of fish and flatworms can change quite a bit, as they do in orchids, dogs, and pigeons. This is not the kind of evolution that can be extrapolated into Darwins tree of life. In addition, the geologists cannot be so confident about how old these lakes are without assuming evolutionary mechanisms. Evolution really has nothing to contribute to this article, despite its classification under that heading.Believe in Evolution, Or Else 01/30/2003
Dr. Michael Dini, a professor at Texas Tech, refuses to write a letter of recommendation to any of his students who will not answer the following question with a scientific (read, evolutionary) answer: How do you think the human species originated? The Liberty Legal Institute has filed a complaint against the university, calling this open religious bigotry, but Dini justifies his stance by saying, If you cannot truthfully and forthrightly affirm a scientific answer to this question, then you should not seek my recommendation for admittance to further education in the biomedical sciences. The university is standing behind the professor, reports Fox News.
This is probably not an isolated practice. Notice that this professor does not care if you know all about the theory of evolution, or whether you got straight A's, or whether you are the valedictorian and the best biology student he ever had, but whether you believe in the theory of evolution. Just admit honestly that you think God created man, rather than that man arose from an ape-like ancestor, and nothing else matters. To Dini, its not enough to just know about what he calls the most important theory in biology (see bluffing in the Baloney Detector), you have to believe it. But like aspiring medical student Micah Spradling responded, I really dont see how believing in the evolution of humanity has anything to do with patient care or studying science.DNA Damage Repair Team Hears Alarm at a Distance 01/30/2003
DNA, like a ladder, can break, and when both sides break, its serious trouble. Cancer and other lethal diseases can result from these double-stranded breaks, or DSBs, which are the most deadly of DNA failures. Most of the time, fortunately, there is a response system called ATM that knows just what to do. It can repair both sides of a broken DNA molecule, quickly and efficiently; when not possible, ATM knows how to throw the self-destruct switch to kill the cell so it wont become cancerous or otherwise dangerous.
There are many DNA repair mechanisms for many kinds of problems, but most are active during cell division, when there is the highest likelihood for error. ATM, by contrast, works in the resting phase. The heart of the system is a pair of giant proteins, normally locked together in a tight embrace that prevents them from forming any promiscuous liaisons with other proteins i.e., their mutual hammerlock keeps them from fraternizing till duty calls. A DSB crisis triggers an alarm; the ATM response separates the repairmen by a process called autophosphorylation, which activates them and puts them to work.
Christopher Bakkenist and Michael Kastan of St. Jude Childrens Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, writing in the Jan. 30 issue of Nature, found, to their amazement, that ATM can detect the signal some distance away from the problem. A double-stranded break occurring deep within chromatin-wrapped bundle of DNA can get help fast, even if the repairmen are not near. How does ATM differentiate a real crisis from the normal frenzied activity of cell division, transcription, and translation? Danish cell biologists Bartek and Lukas are amazed at the sensitivity of this emergency response system (emphasis added):
Finally, the sensitivity, extent and speed of the ATM response are truly astonishing. Doses of irradiation that cause only a few DSBs in a human cell activate the majority of ATM within minutes. And induction of just two DSBs per cell is enough to induce the crucial autophosphorylation of ATM.Much remains to be learned about this paramedic team, but one thing is clear: it keeps us alive. Our genetic blueprint is constantly assaulted by adverse environmental and cellular influences, such as ultraviolet or ionizing radiation and various chemicals, write Bartek and Lukas (emphasis added). Fortunately, these massive attacks on our DNA are largely counterbalanced by promptly deployed, multifaceted surveillance and rescue operations.
Fortunately (evolutionspeak) or should that be providentially (creationspeak)? Notice that ATM is made of giant proteins. The bigger the protein, the less likely it could form by chance, and even a small one is astronomically improbable. Yet without ATM and all the other DNA Damage Response team proteins already present, well-trained and effective, would the first hopeful primitive cell survive out of the starting gate? Dont bet on it.500 Vertebrate Fish Found in Early Cambrian 01/30/2003
Where only one incomplete fossil had been known before, now 500 specimens of early Cambrian agnathan fish of the genus Haikouichthys have been reported in the Jan. 30 issue of Nature. This wealth of new fossils reveals a series of new and unexpected features that imply a major reconsideration of several features of early agnathan evolution, says the team of Chinese and European paleontologists. The fish appear to have had eyes, gills, and olfactory organs, and were swimmers. The authors explain the implications (emphasis added):
The possession of eyes (and probably nasal sacs) is consistent with Haikouichthys being a craniate, indicating that vertebrate evolution was well advanced by the Early Cambrian. Although evidently a jawless fish, its precise phylogenetic position is still speculative because this fish shows a puzzling mixture of characters contrary to some previous expectations.How did this assemblage of fish die? The specimens may have been buried alive, possibly as a result of storm-induced burial.
This cant be good news for evolutionists, even though they try to put a happy face on it, saying the discovery may extend further our knowledge of their earliest evolution. But what evolution? They use to claim no fish were found till the Devonian, as if that somehow muffled the Cambrian explosion a little bit. But now, here you have advanced features in vertebrate fish right in the early Cambrian, and evidence that supports flood burial. Dont tell the creationists.A Picture Is Worth 1,000 Blurs 01/30/2003
Have scientific illustrations gone too far? Julio Ottino of Northwestern University, in an editorial in the Jan. 23 issue of Nature, cautions fellow scientists to be honest in their illustrations. Compared to old issues of scientific journals, there has been an explosion of color figures recently, partly due to new and easily-accessible illustrating technologies. Flashy artwork and image processing can give pure speculation a look of reality. While Ottino supports the use of illustration as a long-standing and essential part of science, giving impetus to the scientists imagination, there is no substitute for raw data and rigorous analysis.
He suggests some guidelines: within reason, A sensible first rule would be that pictures must not be divorced from science and scientific plausibility. You can color molecules but not picture miniature space shuttles flying among red blood cells. Aesthetically, pictures should not be unnecessarily gaudy. Everyday phenomena should not be wantonly extrapolated to micro or mega scales.
Finally, scientists publishing figures as part of their research papers should always ask some general questions. What is the point of the image? Is the objective to teach, to excite or to show how things could be? How can this objective, whatever it might be, be made clear to the viewer? There are many new tools for making beautiful drawings, but if good use is to be made of them, scientists and artists should collaborate closely. Going all-out with computer-generated images without asking questions like those discussed here may be a perfect example of confusing progress with progression.Figures influence people, he says, sometimes unconsciously. Scientists are people, too, and are not immune.
He should have drawn examples from evolutionary biology, such as those Jonathan Wells exposed in his book Icons of Evolution. How much of the success of the theory of evolution derived from graphics, considering that Darwinists have long used visualization to misrepresent, distort, lie, whitewash, distract, and propagandize? In Cosmos, Carl Sagan morphed outline figures from goo to you by way of the zoo, nonchalant about the missing transitional forms that vastly outnumber known living and fossil types. It continues today. The La Brea Tar Pits museum has a mural, not untypical, showing an evolutionary continuum from molecules to an astronaut. NASA Educational Programs illustrate DNA coming out of stellar explosions. A recent educational TV channel used computer graphics to show a scaly dinosaur running along the ground, holding out its arms, sprouting wings and feathers, and taking off into a flying Archaeopteryx all within 10 seconds. Leading scientific journals like Nature have not hesitated to portray, on the cover, artists renditions of feathered dinosaurs and half-ape human ancestors. Though illustrations are attention getting and usually helpful in science, only facts count. Pictures dont lie, but liars use Photoshop.Iridescent Wings and Scales Play Tricks with Light 01/29/2003
Photonic crystals sounds like something out of Star Trek, but butterflies use them to create those shimmering colors that sparkle on the wings, says Physics News Update. Not made out of pigments or minerals, photonic crystals are precisely aligned series of bumps or holes that cause light to refract particular wavelengths. Birds use similar light tricks, says Elisabeth Pennisi in the Jan. 24 issue of Science. They use closely-packed collagen fibers, sometimes in hexagonal arrays, to intensify certain wavelengths by backscattering. These techniques allow birds and butterflies to produce much brighter colors than could be achieved through pigmentation.
Did birds and butterflies really figure out optical nanophysics just to get a mate? How come other birds and moths are dull colored, then? Why would the mate care about iridescent color does a bird or moth have aesthetic values? How could two very diverse groups develop similar technology? Lets hear some detailed analysis instead of the usual vacuous ungod-of-the-gaps generality, natural selection did it.Testosterone Is Not to Blame for Aggression 01/29/2003
Testosterones bad rap about being the agent of aggression in males, leading to risk-taking and criminal tendencies in boys, is misguided, says Science News Vol. 163, No. 3. The bigger factor is the childs relationship to the parents, according to a study of 400 families including 608 children and teens.
Testosterone has a public reputation as the hormone that turns men into boisterous louts at best, and violent criminals at worst.Even girls with low testosterone levels engaged in risky behaviors when relations with parents were poor, notes Alan Booth of Pennsylvania State University. Testosterone, present in much higher levels in boys than in girls, shapes masculine physical features and is commonly thought to promote aggressive behavior. Alan Mazur of Syracuse thinks we need to probe the beneficial effects of the hormone: Under the right social conditions, high testosterone levels may help to produce our leaders. No one has studied this possibility.
Update 03/17/2003: A Penn State study reported on EurekAlert finds that high testosterone is not all bad in marriage, either. Even when the wife has higher than average levels, and the husband has lower than average for men, such a coupling actually produced a marriage where the wife provided better social support for her mate. Dr. Catherine Cohan remarked, Its not necessarily the case that higher testosterone is all bad. Testosterone is related to assertiveness which can be good or bad depending on whether it is manifested as either aggression or being helping and outgoing.
We cant blame everything on chemicals. We have a soul and the power of choice. Hormones can generate pressures and propensities, but the will can say, No. Children are commanded to honor and obey their parents, and fathers are warned not to provoke or discourage their children (Ephesians 6:1-4). These commands, and those ever-popular young mens birthday cards with Rudyard Kiplings poem If, would be senseless if our hormones led us around like cattle with nose rings. A well-balanced family, operating in accord with the Creators guidelines, can tame a beast and prod a sloth. Love, sometimes tough and sometimes tender, is the most powerful agent known to man. You cant scientifically measure love in a testosterone tube.Dino Movie 01/29/2003: Vision Forum now has a movie, Raising the Allosaur, about their May 2002 dinosaur dig co-sponsored by Creation Expeditions. A group of home-schooled kids led by paleontologists discovered the worlds largest intact, articulated allosaur skeleton, complete with skull and most of the teeth so finely preserved that the serrated edges were clearly visible. Other specimens found included a stegosaur and huge sauropod. The Colorado strata had unfossilized organic matter near the allosaurs bones, indicating rapid and recent burial thousands, not millions, of years ago. The professionally-made adventure film is available in VHS and DVD formats. Vision Forums website also has a press release and photo journal of the trip, and is planning two more expeditions in 2003, one in February. One of the goals of Vision Forum is to help parents teach children to exercise God-given dominion through stewardship in creation, bringing the Lordship of Christ into the natural sciences.
Next headline on: Movies. Next headline on: Dinosaurs. Next headline on: Fossils. Next headline on: Schools.
Bugs Breathe, Too 01/28/2003
You would think insects, that can be held in the hand and put under high school microscopes, would be pretty well understood by now. But here, a new mechanism for the basic act of breathing has been discovered. The tracheal tubes are not just static pipes, bringing oxygen in by simple diffusion, as previously believed. They undergo constant compression and expansion cycles to keep the oxygen moving efficiently to the tissues. This requires muscles, nerves, and regulatory controls that reveal even more design than we knew about.DNA After 50 Years Continues to Astound Biologists 01/27/2003
To celebrate the 50th year of Watson and Cricks (and Rosalind Franklins) discovery of the structure of DNA, the Jan. 23 issue of Nature has a special section entitled, The Double Helix 50 Years. It contains 16 articles by scientists and historians, looking backward and forward, on what weve learned so far and what prospects lie ahead.
In short, DNA is far more complex than the simple double helix we all know from pictures, and there is much we still have to learn. A common theme is that DNA is not a simple, static library, but a very dynamic system, constantly in motion, surrounded by a much more dynamic and complicated set of protein translators, protectors, repairers, and regulators. Words like elegant, exquisite, and marvelous festoon the word parade celebrating this miraculous molecule as Helen Pearson calls it in her introductory editorial.
Philip Ball in Portrait of a Molecule describes the incredibly dense packaging process that telescopes 1.8 meters of the DNA ladder into six micrometers of space a packing ratio of 7,000 to one. Somehow in all the commotion of transcription and cell division, it maintains a structured chaos in the nucleus: It is a constantly changing structure, but not randomly: there is method in there somewhere, he says, revealing how much remains to be learned. After dazzling the reader with descriptions of the winding, packing, coiling, and supercoiling processes that DNA undergoes in its dizzying dance, he concludes (emphasis added):
If all of this destroys the pretty illusion created by the iconic model of Watson and Crick, it surely also opens up a much richer panorama. The fundamental mechanism of information transfer in nucleic acids - complementary base pairing - is so elegant that it risks blinding us to the awesome sophistication of the total process. These molecules do not simply wander up to one another and start talking. They must first be designated for that task, and must then file applications at various higher levels before permission is granted, forming a complex regulatory network .... For those who would like to control these processes, and those who seek to mimic them in artificial systems, the message is that the biological mesoscale [i.e., between molecules and organelles], far from being a regime where order and simplicity descend into unpredictable chaos, has its own structures, logic, rules and regulatory mechanisms. This is the next frontier at which we will unfold the continuing story of how DNA works.Bruce Alberts, President of the National Academy of Sciences, in DNA replication and recombination, repeats a theme he has expressed for years, that DNA-protein complexes are best described as interacting molecular machines (a word he uses over a dozen times). He asks how precise these machines have to be (emphasis added):
For the first 30 years after Watson and Cricks discovery, most researchers seemed to hold the view that cell processes could be sloppy. This view was encouraged by knowledge of the tremendous speed of movements at the molecular level ....The simple 2D cartoon models of DNA have to go, Alberts concludes; because most biological subsystems have turned out to be far too complex for their details to be predicted. ... For this reason, we urgently need to rethink the education that we are providing to the next generation of biological scientists (emphasis added).
Arent you glad you get a higher education on Creation-Evolution Headlines? This series of articles is a gold mine of amazing facts about DNA, if you can make it past the evolutionary guano. Like nuggets plucked from the pile, the facts, when rinsed clean, sparkle like jewels. Evolutionary talk is an unworthy setting for such gems. The undigested waste of words on how randomness can make molecular machines is never proved, only assumed. For instance, watch how Alberts weaves his tale like a shaman, providing not one shred of evidence to back it up, committing the fallacy of personification in every line (emphasis added):Mars Is Older or Younger Than Thought 01/27/2003As for all other aspects of cell biochemistry, the DNA replication apparatus has evolved over billions of years through trial and error that is, by random variation followed by natural selection. ... In addition, the structure of each protein was fine-tuned by mutations that altered its amino acid sequence so as to increase its effectiveness. The end results of this unusual engineering process are the replication systems that we observe today in different organisms. The mechanism of DNA replication might therefore be expected to be highly dependent on random past events. But did evolution select for whatever works, with no need for elegance?Then, instead of answering the question, he dives right into the quote about DNA replication not being sloppy, but like an array of precise, ordered, coordinated machines optimized to such an astonishing degree, that the process yields an accuracy of 99.9999% (The replication process is both very rapid and incredibly accurate, achieving a final error rate of about one nucleotide in a billion, he says). He never gets back to the question! He leaves us hanging how aimless mistakes could generate such precision. Read the other articles and you will see similar blind faith in evolution juxtaposed with praise for engineering genius. Its absolutely uncanny. How long can such cognitive dissonance endure? Bruce Alberts, you might recall, led a recent brigade against the Intelligent Design movement, calling on scientists to fight. Yet his own writings about molecular machines, as restocked here, have been providing I.D. advocates some of their best ammunition (i.e., the facts of nature, described honestly).
Studies from Mars Global Surveyor show that the crater count dating technique, assumed for 20 years to reliably indicate the age of a surface, may be wrong. So says Tracy Gregg, a planetary geologist from the University of Buffalo. This has the potential to change everything we thought we knew about the age of different surfaces on Mars, she said (emphasis added). Trouble is, her studies of volcanic influences on Hesperia Planum, a region considered a standard for determining surface ages, do not make it clear whether the region is much older, or much younger, than previously assumed. The BBC News concludes that the methods planetary scientists use to deduce geological ages on Mars may be seriously in error.
This also affects dating of other solar system objects. Estimates of surface dates on moons and planets are based on unobserved, non-repeatable events, so they are unscientific in a strict sense. Inferences can be gained of the order of events, but not their ages. For instance, if a river channel cuts through a crater, the crater is older, but one could not tell if the two events were days or millennia apart without making assumptions. Here we see something that was merely assumed for over 20 years that is now called into question. What next? Solar system dating methods are an example of the First Law of Scientific Progress.Four-Winged Dino Alleged 01/27/2003
Nature Science Update summarizes a report in the Jan. 23 issue about another strange fossil from the Liaoning Province in China, Microraptor gui, that appears to be a creature with feathers on four limbs. Its discoverers are claiming this supports the arboreal, or tree-down hypothesis of the origin of flight (i.e., leaping out of trees), instead of the opposing cursorial, or ground-up hypothesis (i.e., jumping or running from the ground). National Geographic also reported the find, but urges caution in interpreting the fossil evidence, quoting paleontologists who stress there is still much we do not know. The specimens found date younger than Archaeopteryx, the famous extinct flying bird, and have asymmetric feathers like flying birds. The discoverers found one specimen and bought the other five. They claim that M. gui probably could not have walked due to the feathers on the legs, and probably glided from trees. Mark Sappenfield in the Christian Science Monitor suggests other interpretations: Perhaps it came from a completely different ancestor from the one for birds. Perhaps the creature developed its second set of wings after it diverged from the bird line. And perhaps biomechanical studies will show that the raptor couldnt fly after all. A Canadian paleontologist he quotes also is unsure where this animal fits in.
There are many strange, extinct creatures. The evolutionary tale about how this fits into the origin of flight is only inference, since even in their own flawed dating scheme, it is younger than birds that already had flight technology. How much is still unknown about the creatures represented in these fossils? We dont know what they ate, where they lived, how they moved, or where they fit in relation to birds, gliders or dinosaurs. Though the discoverers are confident they ruled out fraud, motivations for fame or to satisfy the lust for missing links cannot be discounted entirely. The Montana chukar hunter is probably unhappy with this counter-evidence to his recent claim to fame. Readers should recall that the same fossil treasure trove in China has underscored the embarrassment of the Cambrian explosion, a gap far greater than that between dinosaurs and birds. If even evolutionists themselves are fighting over the tree-down and ground-up theories, and what this particular fossil means, then the rest of us should refrain from jumping, like an incomplete transitional form, to a conclusion.Do Plants Know Math? 01/21/2003
Biologists and mathematicians at Smith College in Massachusetts have put together an exhibit on the Stunningly Intricate Spiral Patterns Found in Common Flowers and Vegetables. Many plants, from conifers to sunflowers to artichokes, produce spirals that follow mathematical forms like the Fibonacci Sequence or the Golden Angle. SciNews reports that the exhibit, entitled Plant Spirals: Beauty You Can Count On explains that A prominent theme in science today, whether in biology, math or computer science, is the generation of complex patterns through simple rules. Mathematician Chris Gole states, Plants have been succeeding at this throughout their evolution, with great consistency and visual beauty. Pau Atele, another mathematician who helped develop a dynamical systems model to explain the phenomena, remarked, Whether plants know mathematics or not, they are clearly programmed to follow a common set of developmental rules, which would suggest that these patterns confer evolutionary advantage.
No example of an advantage actually conferred due to this suggestion is provided. Yet these mathematicians agree the designs are beautiful and programmed. Evolution is not a programmer. Programming implies intelligent design. It is only faith in naturalism that would lead one to conclude that programmed mathematics in plants is a result of unguided, impersonal forces. That being said, once the plants are programmed, there is nothing unnatural about the programs running. The spiral patterns in a sunflower will always be produced by the natural laws running the program. This is not the same kind of specified complexity seen in the genetic code, which cannot be reduced to mathematics or simple rules. It may be that simple rules, like the Fibonacci Sequence, can generate plant spirals, but it is a different order of inquiry into how the mathematical formula got put into the non-mathematical genetic code for these and other living organisms. It is another order of inquiry into why humans should consider these patterns beautiful.Man Came From Aardvarks 01/21/2003
A team of scientists believes humans, dogs, elephants, and all mammals came from an aardvark-like animal, reports The London Times Online. The BBC News says their study, based on gene sequencing, puts elephants in the same group as the elephant shrew and golden mole.
[Gong]. Next.Luck of the Draw or the Rule of Law: Ridding Evolution of Chance 01/20/2003
According to New Scientist, two chemists claim the evolution of life was, to some extent, predestined by the laws of chemistry. Contrary to the popular view of his colleague Richard Dawkins, Oxford chemist Robert Williams believes the Blind Watchmaker is not traversing a random walk. Williams and Jose da Silva, writing in the Journal of Theoretical Biology, outlined a path in which nature forced cells to harness oxygen and fix nitrogen and grow organelles, and use calcium and sodium for signalling.
Harold Morowitz of George Mason University in Virginia is excited about this approach. He sees it as part of a quiet paradigm revolution going on in biology, in which the radical randomness of Darwinism is being replaced by a much more scientific law-regulated emergence of life (emphasis added). Critics, however, question whether these chemical changes are cause or effect. Others feel the determinism needs to be qualified. Williams and da Silva concede that much of evolutions path, including the development of species, is driven by chance events. Williams summarizes their approach (emphasis added): Whatever life throws away will become the thing that forces the next step in its development.
Shall we call this the trash theory of evolution? Its really not much different than Dawkins view; the blind watchmaker is just bumping into things once in awhile as he stumbles around in the dark, not having any particular direction he cares to go. The constraints are negative, not positive, with no creative power to produce wings, eyes, feet, and brains. Its a theory of glittering generalities and wishful thinking that does not begin to address the origin of life, photosynthesis, and much more. Most of all, like chance evolution, it fails to explain the origin of information.Plant Family Tree Continues to Baffle 01/17/2003
Outlining the family histories of plants continues to be a daunting challenge, as shown in the abstracts from the January American Journal of Botany (emphasis added):
Thus the origin of flowering plants continues to be Darwins abominable mystery. There are some factual and useful papers in the same issue, but what do these papers really add to our knowledge? Suggestion to botanists: instead of chasing after wind over family trees that maybe dont exist, how about just telling us what makes plants beautiful and how they work, or improving edible plants that can alleviate famine, or looking for a plant substance that can treat cancer or heart disease? Wont that make you feel better about what you did with your life, rather than pursuing the myths of a dying theory?Bird Wings Evolved From Spoilers 01/16/2003
Dinosaurs running uphill held out their forelimbs to act like stabilizers or spoilers. In time, these became wings. Thats the new theory by Montana vertebrate morphologist Kenneth Dial in the Jan. 17 issue of Science, in a study of chukar partridge chicks funded by the National Science Foundation. Dial thinks his idea broaches a middle ground between two camps that have been arguing about the origin of flight since the 1800s those who think dinosaurs learned flying from the ground up, and those who think they learned it by jumping out of the trees. Elisabeth Pennisi in the same issue summarizes the theory, but quotes one researcher cautioning, I imagine people will continue to argue about the origin of bird flight for a long time.
Simultaneously, the dinosaurs decided to develop hollow bones, a totally different lung system, flight muscles, brain modifications, dietary modifications, new digestive and excretory systems, new behavioral instincts, flight feathers, and everything else that goes along with aeronautical engineering. What is most incredible is how all the lazy news sources parrot this story uncritically, with literally no one asking the hard questions about how flight could evolve with all of these complex subsystems working together. If they present any controversy at all, it is only about which evolutionary tall tale is better than the others. Examples: Scientism American Origin of Bird Flight Explained, Nature Scientism Update, EurekAlot, New Scientism, ABC Snooze, etc. It seems as if only we have the guts to pull the curtains from the wizards of awes and call a dumb story dumb. Want to add your entry to this storytelling contest? Send it in to Science and see if it passes peer review. They dont seem to be too particular these days, as long as you tow the Darwin Party line. You might even get NSF money and 15 minutes of fame. Try this science project: drop lizards out of trees and measure their flapping rates. Just be sure you take good lab notes and draw pretty graphs so that it looks scientific. Videos also make good supplementary material. Just dont show the blood on the ground.Bacterial Cytoskeleton Is a Plastering Artist 01/16/2003
You learned in school that bacteria dont have a cytoskeleton. Wrong. Like eukaryotes and all higher organisms, they have internal cables but they are not made of actin, but a protein named Mbl. The Oxford team that found this out in 2001 (see Science News) has now found out something even more amazing. Using time-lapse photography and fluorescent dyes, they found that the cables are dynamic structures. They assume a helical shape from one end of the bacterium to the other, and rotate against the inside of the cell wall. Carballido-Lopez and Errington et al, writing in the Jan. 14 issue of Developmental Cell, think they know what they might be doing. They might be plastering layers of material on the inner side of the cell wall. As the cables rotate and the material deposited stretches in the opposite direction, the result is a multilayered fabric composed of layers of material, each of which is inserted at an angle to the previous overlying layer ... the resultant meshwork structure should be more resistant to shearing forces than a structure in which the stress bearing fibers are inserted in a highly parallel manner. They are currently testing this model. The fibers, made of peptidoglycan, work their way to the surface and are discarded. The rotating cables inside the organism, therefore, constantly replenish the cell wall from the inside. Cell division is able to operate because the cables are continually remodeled in about 8 minutes on average.
Remember, this is all going on in bacteria, the most primitive organisms. Higher organisms (eukaryotes) were thought to be more advanced because they possess a nucleus, a cytoskeleton, and organelles; but now, we are discovering that bacteria have analogs to each of these things, and they are more elegant than we imagined. Todays story adds to the list: bacterial flagellae, DNA transcription, ATP motors, and all the other wonderful discoveries coming from the biochemistry laboratories. This underscores the growing realization that life at its most basic unit, the single celled organism, is the most complex of all opposite the predictions of Darwinism.Re-Evolution of Insect Wings: Impossible (repeat 2x) 01/16/2003
A paper in Nature Jan. 16 claims that stick insects evolved wings multiple, separate times. Whiting et al show data that seem to indicate wings were lost and then reversed repeatedly: Such a reversal is considered highly unlikely because complex interactions between nerves, muscles, sclerites and wing foils are required to accommodate flight. Here we show that stick insects (order Phasmatodea) diversified as wingless insects and that wings were derived secondarily, perhaps on many occasions. In New Scientist, Whiting describes the reaction to his story: I remember sitting down with entomologists and hearing them say impossible, impossible, impossible, he says. But re-evolution is probably more common than we thought. Science Now doesnt seem to have a problem with the impossible, either. In the report in Science News, Whiting remarks, Its as if a mammalogist found a whale [a former land creature] walking around on legs.
Evolutionists are not really naturalists. They believe in miracles, too. The difference is, their miracles are haphazard and random, and the Bibles are designed for a purpose.100 Microbial Genomes Confuse, Not Clarify, Evolutionary Histories 01/16/2003
In Nature Jan. 16, three UK geneticists wade through the confusion that has arisen from sequencing the genes of 100 species of micro-organisms. Gone are hopes that evolutionary ancestry could be easily read in the DNA (emphasis added):
In the early days of molecular phylogenetics (the mid-1960s to the early 1990s), it was thought that sequencing was the path to enlightenment — more sequences of more genes could only improve the depth and resolution of our knowledge of lifes history. But instead, our 100-genome world is riven by seemingly irreconcilable conflicts; ambiguities and discrepancies are the norm, rather than the exception. Some of modern biologys fundamental tenets — notably the darwinian–mendelian model of parent-to-offspring (vertical) gene flow — have once again, at least for microbes, been thrown into doubt. Lateral (horizontal) gene flow — in which genes are transmitted across, rather than along, branches in family trees — is no longer an explanation of last resort, but a competitive model for the origin of microbial biodiversity.He describes the polarized battles between the verticalists and the lateralists to make sense of the data, and the conflicting family trees each party produces. But these authors (admittedly verticalists) keep faith, in the end, that lateral gene transfer has not undermined descent with modification as the default explanation for microbial biodiversity, nor (as recently suggested by Ford Doolittle) has it thrown microbial classification into disarray. In their conclusion, the truth doesnt really seem to matter (emphasis added):
Fascinating as these conflicts are, the important point is not whether a given tree is right or wrong. Rather, we should use these trees as frameworks upon which to construct and test hypotheses about the rate and mode of microbial evolution, and to improve our analytical methods. Without conflicts, we might all be far more complacent about evolutionary theory. In microbial phylogenomics, the scientific process is alive and well!The article is entitled Microbial phylogenomics: Branching out, by Robert L. Charlebois, Robert G. Beikoi and Mark A. Ragan.
Thus they guarantee themselves job security, an endless cycle of manufacturing mythical trees, and it doesnt matter whether a tree is right or wrong, as long as it maintains an evolutionary framework for interpreting data. When will they ever think outside the box and consider design? This article should be read as a case study in the persistence of belief in spite of the evidence. We need a new default explanation.On the Origin of Species: How Heresy Evolves Into Orthodoxy 01/15/2003
In the Jan. 16 issue of Nature, a News and Views article would lead one to believe a theological battle is at issue. German geneticist Deithard Tautz sets the stage (emphasis added):
Until recently, the overriding credo for explaining how new species are formed has run as follows: first, a population of organisms splits into several subpopulations; once isolated from other members of their own kind, these subpopulations become adapted to local conditions; so, over millions of years, their descendants evolve into new species. This is allopatric speciation, a concept in which spatial separation comes first and genetic divergence follows, and which has dominated biological thinking for many decades. The alternative, sympatric speciation, in which new species are created within a single population, has long been seen as a heresy to the extent that young biologists would risk their careers if they proposed that such a mechanism could occur.And yet that is exactly what Tautz proceeds to advocate. He refers to recent models that produce counter-intuitive predictions. The work of Doebeli and Dieckmann in the same issue, for instance, shows that populations can, in fact, split genetically before splitting geographically. At least the new models, he shows, undermine the force of arguments that allopatric speciation explains the observations. The heretics have found new ways for a population to split in place, such as (1) mate preference, and (2) a process known as disruptive selection, in which majority individuals in a population compete so much against each other that the minority individuals flourish in the fray. He asks (emphasis added):
Is this all only modellers fantasy? As yet there is no direct evidence to confirm the predictions of the model, but there are studies pointing in the right direction.The studies he refers to are island lizard populations that evidence gene flow patterns contrary to the predictions of allopatric speciation. He concludes (emphasis added),
This shows that the common experience that closely related species are usually spatially separated cannot be taken as direct evidence for the prevalence of allopatric speciation. But then, science has a habit of showing that common experience is not always a reliable guide to reality.The article is entitled Evolutionary biology: splitting in space.
Well, well. And you thought the Darwinists had figured out speciation in 1859. Speciation is the easy part; how does Darwinism explain the origin of new complex organs and functions, including molecular motors? So here we are in 2003, and theories of speciation are so disarrayed, the unthinkable is happening: the heretics are dislodging the majority. Things are not what they seem, and common experience is an unreliable guide. Should we retitle this story On the origin of speciousness? Maybe while the heretics-in-power are fighting the heretics-out-of-power, the true believers (who now risk their careers if they proposed such a mechanism as intelligent design) can regain the floor by this new creative process of disruptive selection.Biblical Temple Document Found 01/14/2003
A potentially sensational discovery has been made of a clay tablet that speaks of temple repairs and mentions the Biblical king Joash by name (9th century BC), reports the BBC News. The text, written in ancient Phoenician, tells the priests to bear holy money... to buy quarry stones and timber and copper and labor to carry out the duty with the faith. It adds that the Lord will protect his people with blessing if the work is carried out diligently. This matches the account in II Kings 12. Israeli archaeologists are confident the tablet is genuine; it even contains microscopic gold flecks that indicate it may have been in the Temple itself. Additional Associated Press reports on the find can be found on ABC News and CBS News.
This is a spectacular find, if proven, and a story worth watching. It may also intensify conflicts about the Temple Mount between Arabs and Israelis. For skeptics who have doubted the existence of David and Solomon, their kingdoms and their glory, pieces of evidence like this provide powerful support. Cautious optimism is advised. The BBC says If officially authenticated, the find would be the first piece of physical evidence backing up biblical texts. It is not the first; there are many physical evidences in the Holy Land that support the Biblical narrative as true history. Societies like Associates for Biblical Research and the Biblical Archaeological Society have been publishing examples from onsite digs for decades. The Bible, notwithstanding, does not need to lean on relics. Archaeological corroboration is exciting and illuminating, but the Bible can stand on its own; it is the ultimate archaeological evidence. Hear ye the Word of the Lord.Book 01/14/2003: University of Washington astronomers Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee, whose pessimistic book Rare Earth (2000) proposed that intelligent life was rare in the universe, now have a depressing sequel. In The Life and Death of Planet Earth, they claim the end of the world has begun (but its 7.5 billion years away, they believe). SciNews has an interview with the authors, where Brownlee says, We live in a fabulous place at a fabulous time. Its a healthy thing for people to realize what a treasure this is in space and time, and fully appreciate and protect their environment as much as possible. ABC News also reports on the book. The authors say that even though the sun has some time left, life has very little; if compared to a 24-hour clock, we are at 4:30, and at 5:00, changes in the sun will cause the earth to be uninhabitable, and all life will cease.
Excerpts from The Life and Death of Planet Earth were posted on Astrobiology Net on Feb. 5.
Not to worry; there will be a new heavens and a new earth. Will you be there? Theres plenty of good water, and you cant imagine what the Builder (an experienced Architect) has in store for those invited (free admission to anyone, but you have to drop your baggage, turn around, and ask). So dont despair; its already under construction, even as this old, condemned habitat decays away.Book 01/14/2003: James Perloff has trimmed down his popular 1999 book Tornado In a Junkyard into a handy reference for high school students, The Case Against Darwin. It is reviewed on WorldNetDaily.
The latest issue of Christian
History (a publication of Christianity Today) is called The Christian Face
of the Scientific Revolution.
(Click the link above for a sample by Owen Gingerich about Copernicus). This
(Fall 2002) contains
biographies of Galileo, Kepler, Newton, Harvey, and other Bible-believing scientists,
including an adaptation of our biography of
Antony van Leeuwenhoek that was published
here on CreationSafaris.com last spring.
Genesis Text to Ride Comet Spacecraft 01/13/2003
What a difference from Carl Sagans Voyager record, with its rock 'n' roll and Jimmy Carter sending yearnings to join a community of galactic civilizations. Its reminiscent of that unforgettable Christmas eve in 1968 when the Apollo 8 astronauts read the opening lines of Genesis 1 on the first human mission to orbit the moon. Too bad no one on the comet will be able to read the words, So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them.... Hats off to ESA for its classy symbolic gesture, but even better than sending it out in space, where no one will find it, would be to help mission agencies like Wycliffe Bible Translators send it around the world to those who have never had the chance to read its message of creation and redemption. Nobody on a comet is still wandering in darkness, not knowing where we came from and why we are here, but there are plenty on planet Earth. (Suggestion: send a copy to certain folks at NASA, too.)Fish Settle Where the Dentists Are 01/13/2003
Fish have dentists, too little specialists called cleaner fish that swim right into the mouths of other fish, even fierce predators, and pick off the parasites. And the predators let them, not taking advantage of the easy snack food. This symbiotic relationship has long been an interesting ecological study in mutualism. In the Jan. 8 issue of Current Biology, three Australian marine biologists found that cleaner fish have a big effect on biodiversity in the Great Barrier Reef. Fish like to move to places where the cleaner fish are abundant: Some fish travel long distances to be cleaned, they say. They note that one cleaner fish might have 2297 clients, and a client might stop by the station 144 times a day, getting 1218 parasites removed. As payment, the cleaner fish gets its food with No worries, Mate about becoming a meal.
The authors did not discuss how this interesting relationship evolved, other than to summarize that coral reef fish diversity is explained by apparently stochastic (i.e., recruitment, perturbation), ecological, and deterministic (i.e., competition, predation) processes, most of whose relative effects are highly controversial... then pass the explanatory task to the references. Maybe they were hesitant to try.Cell Contractors Take Delivery On Demand 01/13/2003
In a Review article in the latest issue of Current Biology, with the Ezekielesque title Periodic Transcription: A Cycle Within a Cycle, Linda L. Breeden discusses how cells optimize the time for transcribing genes into proteins. She opens with a picturesque construction analogy (emphasis added):
If you were building a house, would it be better to take immediate delivery of every component required to complete the project, or to have things delivered as needed during the assembly process? From the point of view of efficient material management and the accuracy of the assembly process, the latter is the logical choice. Things needed continuously would be kept on hand throughout the process. Things needed only once, especially if they are not easily stored, would be delivered just before they are to be used. With a smaller inventory of things on hand, less time would be required to find things, less breakage would occur and fewer mistakes would be made as a result of mis-identifying parts with similar form but different functions.Breeden, who works at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, discusses recent findings that yeast and bacteria, and probably higher organisms, optimize their gene transcription in remarkable ways. The cell cycle refers to cell division; here is the cycle within the cycle (emphasis added):
One remarkable feature shared by all the cell cycle-regulated transcription investigated to date is that each wave of transcription involves transcription factors that are also cell cycle-regulated at the transcript level. ... Some of these cell cycle-regulated transcription factors serve to induce the next wave of cell cycle-regulated transcription. Others serve as feedback regulators to extend, amplify or inhibit another wave of transcription. The result is a continuous cycle of interdependent waves of transcription wherein one wave can affect the timing, composition and/or persistence of an adjacent wave.These strategies serve to control transcript complexity during the cell cycle. Breeden concludes (emphasis added):
Logic dictates that reducing the complexity of transcripts at any given time during the cell duplication process would improve its fidelity and efficiency. ... What is clear is that both bacteria and yeast have invested considerable effort into doing just that. The transcriptional circuitry that has evolved [sic] is a series of consecutive and interdependent waves of transcription driven by transcription factors that are themselves cell cycle regulated. It is a simple, yet flexible strategy, with many opportunities for signaling inputs from external sources. Feedback loops have been incorporated which appear to coordinate critical events, and may buffer the cell cycle when conditions change. There are clearly gaps in our understanding, but there is no doubt that this is a general strategy that underlies the yeast and bacterial cell cycles and there is tantalizing evidence that the same may be true in higher cells as well.She leaves it unexplained how these strategies evolved, other than to note that they appear to be conserved from bacteria upwards. If its conserved, she says, theres usually a good reason.
How did bacteria learn to think logically? How did yeast learn to optimize fidelity and efficiency? Take the useless Darwinspeak out of this article, and you have reason to say, Wow! Thats amazing.Is Darwinian Theory Helping Medicine? 01/13/2003
Nigel Williams in the latest issue of Current Biology thinks evolution has something to offer doctors:
Evolution by natural selection is something most biologists freely talk and argue about but, perhaps surprisingly, it is not on the lips or curricula of most medical students. The teaching of medicine asks little of students to consider the implications of Darwins work. However, while many people believe humans are now beyond the reach of natural selection, a growing group of researchers believe that in some populations and circumstances natural selection has exerted a powerful effect.Williams reports on a meeting last month in London about evolution and disease. He notes with chagrin that the medical establishment has been slow to incorporate Darwinian theory into their education and practice:
But uptake by mainstream medical education has been limited, and many medical schools in the US still pay scant attention, according to research carried out by Nesse. So one of the aims of this meeting was to bolster the achievements within the field.For examples, Williams points to the malaria resistance conferred by sickle-cell anemia, polymorphism and resistance in the HIV virus, and various genetic differences between human populations that affect the efficacy of medicines. Other possibilities for Darwinian insight exist, he says:
Some of the human diseases that evolution may also provide an insight to include diabetes, breast cancer, obesity, hip fracture and depression. All of these are increasing in incidence in western societies. The gap between our ancient hunter-gatherer environments and present-day environments is thought by many to hold a clue to these problems. Pinning down answers is more difficult but many hope an evolutionary approach will help.Williams sees cancer in old people as an effect of natural selection; once the individual reproduces, the need for cancer resistance decreases, and At this stage the repair mechanisms that protect younger people run out. He also speculates whether stem cells are in an evolutionary battle between their potency and susceptibility to cancer. He quotes Weatherill as seeing natural selection in action in Africa, where millions die of AIDS and malaria each year, but even in the developed world the evolutionary approach has something to offer. If understanding Darwinism of the genetic make-up of the population can influence treatment protocols, Medical students and their teachers may then need to sit up and listen.
This sounds like a solution in need of a problem. Is it from the rising influence of creationism, or the negative image of Darwinism as nature red in tooth and claw, that evolutionists are trying a facelift, and trying to come up with selling points to justify their existence? John Herschel and other great scientists of history saw science as a means for improving the human condition. Now, evolutionists want that image, too. They seem to be searching desperately for some eleemosynary benefit or at least practical spinoff that their theory can provide.Molecular Rheostats Control Expression of Genes 01/10/2003
Its not just the console; its the operators, say scientists, that deserve the award for technical excellence. In a Review article in the Jan. 10 issue of Cell, Richard Freiman of Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Robert Tijian of UC Berkeley use adjectives not normally found in dry scientific literature: elaborate, intricate, exquisite, and dramatic. Theyre talking not about genes, but the systems that regulate them. A few examples (emphasis added):
In other words, the dramatic phenotypic differences between a worm and a mammal can at least partially be rationalized by differences in the complexity of the regulatory code and not merely gene content. ... Regulation by modification not only enhances the functional potential of each individual transcription factor but also provides an effective means of greatly amplifying the functional plasticity of the transcriptional machinery required for combinatorial diversity. This quantum increase in the repertoire of regulatory events ultimately provides the rich tapestry of molecular interactions necessary to direct the diverse arrays of gene expression programs that define complex organisms.The transcription factors they describe in this paper (ubiquitination, sumoylation, acetylation and methylation) are in addition to the recently-recognized histone code system (see our November 4 headline about this), and may be even more vital (emphasis added):
While multiple covalent modifications of histone tails have been well characterized and shown to play a global role in gene expression ..., we postulate that modification of nonhistone regulatory proteins (i.e., transcription factors) will play an equally important and perhaps more specific role in directly modulating transcription.One particularly interesting aspect of their paper is that these regulatory programs, by working synergistically or antagonistically, can provide precision control comparable to a skilled audio technicians hand on a mixing board: We propose that potential cascades of modifications serve as molecular rheostats that fine-tune the control of transcription in diverse organisms. So the regulation of gene expression, not merely gene number or content, may be the main factor that produces a navigating lobster, an archery-champion fish, a sonar-operating bat, or a catapulting horse.
Wow! So how did all this complexity evolve? They dont say, other than to assume it did, couching their just-so story in scientific gobbledygook like:Sorry, but may doesnt cut it in science. Show us how Microsoft Windows evolved into Linux or MacOS X by slow, successive, slight, chance modifications, or else you have no case. To follow that comparison, MacOS X is a lot like Unix, and the different intelligent (more or less) designers behind these diverse operating systems borrow each others technology heavily even incorporating whole subsystems that are largely conserved. That does not mean one evolved into the other by purposeless, undirected forces of selection. On the contrary, every piece is integrated to the whole by design, with serious consequences (bugs) when the design specs are not followed. Similarly, in living things, slight modifications often lead to disease and death.For example, the transcription factor TFIID is largely conserved [i.e., unevolved] from yeast to humans; however, the diverse programs [intelligent design lingo] of gene expression regulated by this multiprotein coactivator complex [more intelligent design lingo] in unicellular and multicellular organisms have diverged [i.e., they contain differences, but the word assumes evolution] substantially. Therefore, it is possible [here comes the just-so story] that covalent modification of transcription factors [gobbledygook] , like TFIID, may [imagination] occur in a species-specific manner [no examples or transitional forms provided] , thereby allowing these factors to evolve [with purpose or intent? Illegal procedure] specialized functions [intelligent design lingo] related to their evolutionary [assumption; should be ecological] niche.
Two running themes in Creation-Evolution Headlines are: (1) the more detail in a scientific paper, the less talk about evolution, and (2) evolution is always assumed, never demonstrated. This paper enters the growing list of examples.
When the secrets of DNA were being uncovered in the 1950s and 60s, people were flabbergasted by processes that were considerably more complex than anyone had anticipated. Now that we see that DNA is just a small player in a much bigger field of coordinated activity, like a library in a city, what are we to think? Can Darwinism stand up to these increasing revelations of intelligent design at the fundamental unit of life?
Next headline on: Genes and DNA. Next headline on: Intelligent Design. Next amazing story. Will This Be the Century for Creating Life in a Test Tube? 01/09/2003
Synthetic biology: Act natural is the title of Steven A. Benners Concepts article in the Jan 9 issue of Nature. Benner, a cell biologist at the University of Florida in Gainesville, compares modern biochemistry with the organic chemistry of the last century; in the old days, chemists tweaked existing chemicals by trial and error, like removing parts from a car engine to see what happened a top-down approach. When they started synthesizing organic chemicals from the bottom up, it led to an explosion of knowledge about how biomolecules work. Similarly, the new biochemists who try to construct new molecules that mimic the properties of living ones may learn much more than those who merely take them apart, and may bridge that ultimate gap between inanimate and living matter. Benner visualizes what a synthetic approach may lead to (emphasis added):
To a synthetic biologist, life is a special kind of chemistry, one that combines a frequently encountered property of organic molecules (the ability to undergo spontaneous transformation) with an uncommon property (the ability to direct the synthesis of self-copies), in a way that allows transformed molecular structures themselves to be copied. Any chemical system that combines these properties will be able to undergo darwinian selection, evolving in structure to replicate more efficiently. In a word, life will have been created.He compares the synthetic biologists who work with real molecules to the ones who make computerized digital organisms (emphasis added):
But what chemical structures combine these properties? Computer models that simulate replication and evolution in silico are relatively easy to come by. A computer program can suffer mutations and keep on ticking. But real molecules often change their behaviour dramatically upon even a slight change in structure. Chemists have in hand a modest number of chemical systems that can function as templates for their own synthesis. But those that can suffer mutation and still have children are proving harder to find.Nevertheless, Benner is confident that synthetic biology will become more than just demiurgy (exercise of godlike creative powers over nature); it may have practical and medical benefits. And it will help us understand general principles of genetic, regulatory and metabolic systems: Thus, in this century, synthetic biology should aid the discovery of new, universal ideas about biology, ideas that might have remained undiscovered using simply reductionist analyses. Which is what synthesis did for chemistry in the twentieth century.
Here is more wishful thinking (vaporware) based on the fallacy of analogy, with no evidence other than evolutionary imagination to back it up. Ironically, he twice misuses the term reductionism for analytical chemistry, but commits the reductionist fallacy. He means taking molecules apart, but uses the word that means, according to Merriam-Webster, the attempt to explain all biological processes by the same explanations (as by physical laws) that chemists and physicists use to interpret inanimate matter; also : the theory that complete reductionism is possible i.e., the philosophy of naturalism or materialism. This is a Freudian slip, because he claimed, life is a special kind of chemistry, illustrating not only philosophical reductionism, but the logical fallacy of reductionism, which the dictionary defines as a procedure or theory that reduces complex data or phenomena to simple terms; especially : OVERSIMPLIFICATION. (He also misuses the word deconstruction which refers to postmodernist literary criticism, not analytical chemistry.)Sea Lily Larvae Reveal Ancestry of Chordates; Or Do They? 01/09/2003
Larvae of sea lilies, also called feather stars or stalked crinoids, are hard to come by since they live deep. They are considered to be some of the most ancient animals; their fossil record extends to the early Paleozoic, where they appear in the Cambrian explosion. The evolutionary links to other echinoderms and to early chordates have been hard to establish from the adult forms. It has been hoped that larval forms, which show surprising diversity, could provide missing data for establishing the ancestral history of the chordates (predecessors to the vertebrates).
Recently, Japanese scientists recovered good samples of crinoid larvae in bays near Tokyo, and presented their results in the January 9 issue of Nature. The larvae contain circumferential and longitudinal ciliated bands and pass through several changes in shape before taking on the adult pattern. In a News and Views analysis of the paper by Nakano et al, Thurston Lacalli boasts that Identification of the previously unknown larval forms of the sea lilies, a group of marine invertebrates, is a refreshing reminder of the value of descriptive science in evolutionary studies. ... The main significance of this discovery lies in the rich evolutionary connections of the phylum Echinodermata and the information that such missing larval forms contain. Further down, however, his claims seem less optimistic (emphasis added):
Circumferential doliolaria-type arrangements need to be considered as well as longitudinal ones. Converting the former into a nerve cord would require some rearrangement, but echinoderm larvae are accomplished at manipulating the patterning of epithelia and ciliary bands during development. The evolutionary significance of this ability could be considerable but is not yet at all understood. ...Thus sea cucumbers, considered advanced, have a primitive developmental pattern. Is this case unique? He continues (emphasis added):
The same problem crops up elsewhere among invertebrates, especially in the more primitive groups. The nemertine worms are an example. They are basal protostomes (the other major grouping of animals besides deuterostomes), but their larva is considered to be derived and of little phylogenetic interest because it occurs only in the most advanced members of the phylum. The echinoderm example suggests that this type of reasoning may be fundamentally flawed - that is, that larvae need to be assessed on their own merits, and that phylogenies based on pooled characters (and particularly adult ones) may seriously mislead anyone attempting to deduce the nature and life history of the ancestral members of a given group. In short, there is still a degree of art to the latter exercise that requires keeping an open mind about even well-accepted phylogenies.The discoverers of the larvae feel their data are consistent with an old 1894 hypothesis by Walter Garstang that some of these ciliary bands folded together to become the primordial nerve chord of the chordates. But Lacalli admits, The idea that ciliary bands might convert directly into nerve cord in this way is now less widely accepted, even though they still might be involved.
Here is another example of an article that confidently trumpets evolution in the title and opening paragraphs, only to undermine everything at the end. Did you catch Lacallis admission that evolutionary tree-building is an art (not a science), and that pooling characters might seriously mislead anyone trying to build ancestral trees, not just for this group, but any given group? That the reasoning may be fundamentally flawed? How do these statements square with the alleged rich evolutionary connections he claimed, at the top of his article, these larvae would reveal?Astrobiology Has a Tough Task Finding Life 01/08/2003
With grants from the NSF and NASA, the University of Washington has one of the first graduate programs in astrobiology, the new interdisciplinary science concerned with finding life in outer space and understanding its origin. (This differs from SETI, which looks for signals from intelligent beings; astrobiologists would be happy finding fossil micro-organisms or prebiotic chemicals on planets or meteorites.) Dr. Roger Buick, program faculty member and a paleontologist with expertise in stromatolites (fossil algal mats), believes it will be a tough task finding life on other worlds, because either there might not be any identifiable fossil remains, or the organisms may be too small or primitive to recognize. We have to go from what we know, but we also must have an open mind because we might be surprised by what we find, he said at a presentation in Seattle to the American Astronomical Society. We have to be hypercritical so that were not misled by superficial resemblances to what we know. Astrobiology is going to require a rethinking of how science is done, because it needs input from all disciplines. Buick drives the point home: The bottom line is that we dont know much yet, but its going to be a huge amount of fun finding it out. And everyone has something to contribute.
Everyone except theologians, that is. We have to be hypercritical about everything except the belief in evolution. Buick mistakenly assumes, without a shred of evidence, that The earliest organisms were presumably very simple, both in their structure and their chemistry. We hate to be hypercritical, but anything that can reproduce itself accurately based on embedded instructions is, by definition, not simple.Why Snow Turns Pink, and Why Its Interesting 01/07/2003
Most spring skiers have probably been curious about those patches of pink or watermelon snow that mysteriously appear on the slopes. So did some botanists at St. Marys College of Maryland, so they set up an experiment station at 10,700' in the Rockies and studied it. The pink color comes from the spherical cells of a chlorophytic alga named Chlamydomonas nivales that has a pretty remarkable ability to run its photosynthetic machinery under harsh conditions. High-altitude snow exposes cells to high levels of UV radiation, and the temperature is freezing usually not good for photosynthesis. Somehow these algae thrive under a light intensity triple that endured by a leaf at the top of a forest canopy. Even though most leaves scale back their work under intense light, with processes collectively called photoinhibition, C. nivales seems to go full bore under the glare of full sun on bright snow.
The bright red color is due to a pigment called astaxanthin that appears to be efficient at blocking UV. The algae also possess chemicals called phenolics that appear to prevent UV damage. The cells are not motile, but possess a gluey sheath that clings slightly to snow crystals. They seem to prefer slopes where nutrients in meltwater can flow over the surface of the snowbank, and usually grow in the top 2 cm. The scientists set up a workstation on a patch of pink snow to measure gas exchange rates, and found carbon dioxide uptake to be surprisingly productive. They did a little calculating and figured that, since pink snow is found all over the world, from New Zealand to Europe, it could contribute a small but not insignificant amount to the global carbon cycle, soaking up the greenhouse gas CO2 and releasing oxygen for the skier to breathe. Their report is published in the Jan. 7 online preprints of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The story was picked up Jan. 9 by Science Now (we beat them to it by two days).
So now you know about another one of natures little mysteries: why patches of snow turn pink. Its good to see old-fashioned empirical work being done by scientists in the field, making their own equipment out of wood, plexiglas and off-the-shelf instruments, and writing their report with no need to mention evolution. Bet it was cold up there; they remarked, our site was quite windy.And the Award for Navigation Goes to: Mr. Spiny Lobster 01/06/2003
Caribbean spiny lobsters are the best navigators, using the earths magnetic field to know where they are, even when moved to unfamiliar territory. This amazing discovery is reported on National Geographic News. Scientists were surprised an animal with such a simple nervous system could be so skilled at true navigation. All the other contestants birds and salmon, for instance are vertebrates. Larry C. Boles of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill told National Geographic, I think that a big issue is the general thought that invertebrates, because of their relatively simple nervous systems, might not have the necessary mental capacity to do this kind of thing. The lobsters apparently maintain magnetic maps that help them know their location. Boles and colleague Kenneth G. Lohmann covered the lobsters eyes with rubber caps and tested them in tanks lined with magnets; they reported their observations in the January 2 issue of Nature. They do not know exactly how lobsters are able to use magnetic maps: Precisely how they do so remains to be determined.
This is just one of many examples in the living world of so-called simple or primitive organisms performing feats superior to human technology. Follow the amazing chain links for many other examples, from mammals to birds to fish to insects to single cells.Australian Casts Wet Blanket on Mars Water Hopes 01/06/2003
Dr. Nick Hoffman of the University of Melbourne, Australia has identified a fluid flow on Mars as not due to water, but to sublimating carbon dioxide. The press release on the universitys website says, NASA is desperate to find signs of liquid water on Mars so they have a target for the next generation of Mars landers and rovers to go and search for life, but their search could prove fruitless if Hoffmans analysis of the images is correct. Hoffman studied gullies on the side of a crater from images taken by the Mars Global Surveyor. He said, The consequences of this for life on Mars are shattering. If similar mechanisms are responsible for all the recent gullies on Mars then the near surface life NASA is so desperately searching for may not exist. He claims scientists at the American Geophysical Union meeting last month disputed his claim and tried to find alternative explanations, but could not. A paper on his findings is published in the journal Astrobiology.
This is probably not the last word; whether Hoffmans proposed mechanism could carve the river channels as well as the crater gullies will no doubt be debated for some time. Whats interesting is his observation that NASA is desperate to find water on Mars, because this keeps the hope of finding life and much of NASAs origins philosophy alive. But this is a needless concern. Mars is an interesting place whether or not microorganisms exist there. After all, people go to Yellowstone to see the geysers, not the bacteria in the hot springs. Also, Lewis and Clark were most concerned about exploring passages through the West; collecting specimens of plants and animals was only an incidental task. Mars has plenty of interesting geology that make its exploration tantalizing. The evolutionary hope of finding life does not have to drive the rovers.Duplicate Genes: Fodder for Evolution, or Mechanism for Robustness? 01/02/2003
Genome sequences reveal a fairly large number of duplicate genes which show varying degrees of sequence similarity to one another. Susumo Ohno suggested 30 years ago that these might provide raw material for evolution; as useless copies, generated by chance during cell division, they might accumulate mutations that could be acted on by natural selection. Now, a paper by Zhenglong Gu et al in the Jan. 2 issue of Nature suggests instead that the duplicates provide robustness for the genome, allowing backup copies that can compensate for a DNA failure. In a News and Views analysis of the paper, Axel Meyer considers this a falsification of Ohnos hypothesis, and wonders where raw material for evolution can now be found (emphasis added):
All of this suggests that gene duplication provides a means of preserving function; even when two copies of a gene have diverged widely, they can still substitute for each other functionally to some degree. This, together with the fact that many genes and gene networks are similar in evolutionarily diverse species, hints that maybe Ohno was wrong after all. Are duplicated genes the stuff of developmental stability and of conservation of function rather than evolutionary innovation? If so, how did the diversity of life around us appear?He suggests some sources, like novel gene-regulatory sequences, but notes that evolutionary theory did not predict this (emphasis added):
The discovery of many duplicated genes and parts of genomes has been an unexpected but interesting by-product of genome-sequencing projects. ...(For more on pseudogenes, see our Dec. 6 headline). As usual, more needs to be learned about the evolution of gene networks ... before this question can be answered.
In recent years we have seen evolutionists glibly assume that duplicate genes are fodder for evolution. If, instead, the duplicates have a function protecting the integrity of the genome this removes another evolutionary mechanism (Oh-no), along with sexual selection, natural selection, kin selection, etc. etc. Will anything be left of Darwinian theory at this rate?Horses Catapult Their Bodies Down the Racetrack 01/02/2003
Fast runners must be able to protract their limbs quickly in order to prepare for the next stance phase, begin a team of UK scientists writing in the Jan. 2 issue of Nature. This is particularly challenging for large animals as their limbs are long and their muscles contract slowly and have a low power output. So how do they run? Energy bursts from a horses elastic biceps muscles provide power for a flat-out gallop by a type of catapult action (emphasis added)
The legs of large cursorial animals function like pogo sticks, storing and returning energy during running gaits. This is a spring-mass system, so energy storage and return occupy similar periods of time. In a catapult, energy is stored slowly with a large force but is released quickly to accelerate a small mass. This mechanism, however, requires a more sophisticated lever, or cam system, to exert sufficient force on the spring and then release it. Such a system exists in the horse - the forward movement of the trunk and the orientation of the ground-reaction force (GRF) during stance stretches the biceps muscle while the carpus is locked in extension; in late stance, the carpus buckles and releases the leg.The authors calculated that this gives horse leg muscles an astonishing power output of 4,400 watts 100 times the force of non-elastic muscle. See a summary of this story with an illustration on Science Now.
A galloping horse is a wonderful sight. A million design features must be coordinated to make that possible. See also our December 2001 headline about their leg tendons, once thought to be vestigial, that act as shock absorbers for the horses pogo-stick muscles.Orphans in the Genes: An Evolutionary Puzzle Is Growing 01/02/2003
Now that about 60 microbial genomes have been sequenced, a puzzle that was first brushed off as due to insufficient sampling is refusing to go away, and is getting worse. Thats the conclusion of two geneticists at Ben Gurion University, writing in the Jan. 2 issue of Structure. First, they explain what they mean by orphans (emphasis added):
The genomes of most newly sequenced organisms contain a significant fraction of ORFs (open reading frames) that match no other sequence in the databases. We refer to these singleton ORFs as sequence ORFans. Because little can be learned about ORFans by homology, the origin and functions of ORFans remain a mystery. However, in this era of full genome sequencing, it seems that ORFans have been underemphasized.They explain the significance of ORFans to evolutionary theory in a series of unanswered questions (emphasis added):
If proteins in different organisms have descended from common ancestral proteins by duplication and adaptive variation, why is it that so many today show no similarity to each other? Why is it that we do not find today any of the necessary intermediate sequences that must have given rise to these ORFans? Do most ORFans correspond to rapidly diverging proteins? If so, how rapidly do they diverge, and what are the forces involved in their rapid evolution? Is their rate of change constant or did the rapid changes occur only at specific times? Do these rapidly evolving ORFans correspond to nonessential proteins or to species determinants?It was thought that the numbers of ORFans would drop as more genomes were sequenced, because perhaps more data would provide more matches. With that hope, Siew and Fischer performed a detailed survey of the microbial genomes and graphed the trends. They found that 20% to 30% of sequences fall into the ORFan category. Even though each new genome reclassifies some ORFans as non-ORFans, the number of new ORFans grows faster than solutions. They predict 25,000 ORFans will remain when the 100th genome is sequenced. The authors examine possible explanations for the existence of these sequences of genetic material that are unique to each species. No appeals to sampling error or insufficient data appear to work; the phenomenon is real, and the problem is growing (emphasis added):
We conclude that the increasing number of ORFans suggests that our knowledge of natures sequence diversity continues to grow, that ORFans may entail an intrinsic phenomenon in evolution, and that a global view of the protein world needs to consider the ORFan sequence families in addition to the large sequence families containing proteins conserved [i.e., unevolved] in numerous organisms.Their goal was not to explain the origin or function of ORFans, but to characterize the extent of the problem. Since each new published sequence is adding more ORFans than finding matches for them within known gene families, Consequently, they note, the total number of ORFans is growing.
Possible reactions by evolutionists to this paper: (1) Ben Gurion University? Isnt that in Israel? Isnt that where the book of Genesis comes from? Thats it: we can ignore this paper because these authors clearly must have a religious motivation. (2) Yikes! Dont tell this to the creationists!