Creation-Evolution Headlines
March 2003
photo strip
Biology is based on chemistry, but chemistry cannot make biology.
— Dr. A. E. Wilder-Smith, organic chemist with three earned doctorates (from a lecture).
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Our Creation Scientist of the Month is a mystery character.  Read and guess who it is! 

See the update on our Oct. 3 headline for a link to Hubble’s dazzling new photos of an exploding star!

Molecular Motors: Plants Have Sewing Machines   03/31/2003
In a discovery that “represents a previously unreported concept and will stimulate further research,” three German biologists have reported that plants have a molecular motor that acts like a sewing machine.  Schleiff, Jeilic and Soll of Munich studied an unusually large GTP-binding protein named Toc159 that was previously thought to be just a passive receptor on the surface of the chloroplast.  Their analysis shows that “Toc159 acts as a GTP-driven motor in a sewing-machine-like mechanism.”
    They explain that “The translocation of proteins across cellular membranes is a key mechanistic problem for every cell.”  Apparently, Toc159 threads its needle by grabbing a precursor protein (preprotein) of the protein needing to get through the membrane.  Then, Toc159 empowered by GTP actually pushes the cargo through the Toc75 channel, which expands to accommodate the thread-like protein.  Once the cargo is through, Toc159 resumes its position.  “Through multiple rounds of preprotein binding and GTP hydrolysis,” the authors explain, “Toc159 will push the polypeptide across the membrane.”  Thus it works in a rocking fashion, sending the threads of protein through pores in the cloth of the chloroplast membrane, with two conformational changes and two expenditures of GTP to GDP for each cycle.  They suspect other examples of this motor mechanism will be found.
Source: “A GTP-driven motor moves proteins across the outer envelope of chloroplasts,” in the
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences online preprints, 3/28/03.

So plants have the Singer Model Toc159.  What model do you have?  Stay tuned; cell biologists are continuing to find more molecular machines at work.  They are like a Star Trek crew with flashlights, exploring the factory of an advanced technological civilization, describing what they see in familiar terms.  They’ve already found monorail cars, propellers, motors, fuel cells, electric generators, rheostats, badge readers, shipping and receiving systems, translators, folding equipment, smart bombs, computers, backup tapes, email, and much more.  What will be next, a coffee maker?  With thousands more to examine, you can be sure more molecular machines are at work inside you right now, just waiting to be discovered.
Next headline on: The Cell. • Next headline on: Plants. • Next amazing story.
Cosmologists Worried by Sharp Images   03/31/2003
Why are cosmologists worried by new measurements from the Hubble Space Telescope?  Some quotes from an entry today in
Nature Science Update:
  • Physicists’ notions of the universe could be in trouble.
  • “The theoreticians are very worried,” says Richard Lieu of the University of Alabama in Huntsville, a member of one of the teams.  “There could be quite a bit of missing physics to be found.”
  • “You don’t see anything of the effect predicted,” agrees Roberto Ragazzoni of the Astrophysical Observatory of Arcetri, Italy.
  • “We have to do an awful lot more work,” he [John Barrett of the University of Nottingham, UK] says, to know what we should be looking for.
OK, so what’s the problem?  Pixels of images from distant galaxies in Hubble images are sharp, not smeared.  “The new observations cast doubt on the existence of two physical quantities: the Planck length and the Planck time,” explains John Whitfield for Nature.  “In theory, these are the smallest measurable units of space and time, beyond which both become jerky.”  He also says, “New measurements from the Hubble Space Telescope hint that space is smooth, not grainy.  Without graininess, our current theories predict that the Big Bang was infinitely hot and dense – tough to explain, to say the least.”
Those who like to watch TV programs that glibly show the Big Bang, in elegant simplicity, setting everything neatly asail on the calm, cosmic sea ready to evolve into planets and people, need to see the real astronomers biting their fingernails off.  As NSU quips, they’re “Walking the Planck.”
Update 04/03/2003: A sword fight has broken out on the Planck!  The quantum gravity theorists are fighting back, says Science Now.  Although “the news was a jaw-dropper”, writes Adrian Cho, “others aren’t buying it.”  Jack Ng of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has argued that the effect is a million billion times smaller than predicted in the paper, “leaving the Hubble images unscathed and quantum gravity alive and kicking?”  What will be the outcome of this exciting duel on the high seas?  No matter who wins, the news media need to “teach the controversy.”
Next headline on: Cosmology.
Deep Inside You, Machines Climb Monkey Bars   03/28/2003
“Within every neuron is a vast protein trail system traversed by a small protein engine called Myosin V,” begins a press release from
University of Pennsylvania Health System.  But these trails, made of actin, are more like monorails than country paths.  For a long time, biophysicists have wondered how myosin V moves along the monorail.  How does this little motorcar ride the rail without losing its grip?  They know it has two heads that grip the rail, and a tail that holds the cargo.  Do the heads (actually more like feet) slide along like an inchworm, or move hand-over-hand?  Now at long last, Yale E. Goldman’s team thinks they have solved it.  The tiny molecular motors move hand over hand, much like kids in a playground (Click here for a picture).  Goldman explains: “It turns out that myosin tilts as it steps along the actin track – one head attaches to the track and then the molecule rotates allowing the other head to attach – much like a child on a playground crosses the monkey-bars hand-over-hand.”  How did they see it?  “Using single-molecule fluorescence polarization, we could detect the three-dimensional orientation of myosin V tilting back and forth between two well-defined angles as it teetered along.” 
Congratulations to this team, and to all the hard-working scientists, who are bringing such marvels into our view to enjoy and contemplate.  No kid on monkey bars could outrun the myriads of speedy myosin motors climbing hand-over-hand inside him.  This story should be a reminder that living processes are not chaotic collisions of atoms.  Living things do not submit, like limp rag dolls, to the relentless laws of thermodynamics, as do the molecules in a star or ocean or landslide.  Entropy ultimately wins when the organism dies, but in living cells, genetic instructions build machines that do real work against the flow of entropy, at the cost of enormous expenditures of energy – energy that is captured, channeled, and directed toward function.  Whether a salmon swimming upstream, a gibbon leaping from tree to tree, a whale breaching the surface or a mother cuddling a baby, living things do what they do only because they have an astonishing number of interacting, programmed parts, of which myosin is just one particularly athletic example.
Next headline on: The Cell. • Next amazing story.
Early Man Bones: Geological Deformation, Natural Variation Can Mimic Diversity   03/28/2003
Tim White takes his fellow paleoanthropologists to task in the
March 28 issue of Science.  He tries to rein in the tendency of fossil-hunters to classify every new find as a new species.  He reminds them to remember two important factors that can create a false impression of diversity (emphasis added):
There are two questions to be asked in considering whether the fossil constitutes evidence of early hominid species diversity.  First, are the described morphological differences from the A. anamensis to A. afarensis lineage real, or are they merely artifacts of postmortem fossilization processes?  Second, does the putatively new morphology lie outside the expected range of phenotypic variation of this lineage?  Fortunately, the history of vertebrate paleontology provides a largely unappreciated but critically important perspective on the first question. Modern primate skeletal collections help to address the second.
To illustrate the first factor, he offers a sequence of pictures of pig skulls that any amateur would clearly consider to be separate types.  Yet experts know the skulls are all the same species, but their skulls were distorted by geological processes after burial: they were crushed, extruded, and otherwise modified, sometimes in nonlinear and asymmetric ways.  To illustrate the second factor, he shows two very different looking skulls of modern female chimpanzees.  One is narrow, the other broad; one profile has a pronounced slant, and the other is compressed.  The teeth, brow ridges, skull cap and eye sockets are remarkably different – yet they are both the same species and the same sex.  White points out that “This variation is normal in a single sex of an extant species; even more variation is present in other extant ape species.”  Yet an amateur would almost surely classify these skulls separately.
    Tim White does not make any claim that paleoanthropology has provided a linear evolutionary path from apelike precursor to man.  In this editorial, he just wants to bring some order to the tendency of fossil hunters to emphasize the diversity of every skull.  He attributes to Wilford the observation that “the embrace of ethnic diversity among contemporary academics may be creating a peculiar form of politically correct paleoanthropology.”
    Nature Science Update has issued a news item on the “family feud.”
White does not provide a credible family tree for man, or hint that there even is one.  He just debunks the overblown claims of several recent discoveries, like Kenyanthropus and Toumai.  But his photographs are very revealing.  If there can be this much variation between individuals of a single species, how can any claims be made about any putative human ancestor?  The brow ridges, teeth, skull shape or overall proportions could be the work of geological deformation after burial, or natural variation within the kind.  Why not use the same data and conclude that each individual was either completely ape or completely human?
    White points out that other genera of animals have dozens, or hundreds, of species living side by side:
Is there really a great diversity of hominid lineages waiting to be found and recognized in Africa?  Was this diversity like that in extant Anopheles mosquitoes (about 500 species), Old World fruit bats (173 species), cercopithecid monkeys (94 species), or even African soft-furred rats (8 species)?  Or did just a few demographically expansive and cosmopolitan hominid species expand their ranges and invade new habitats during the Pliocene (5.3 to 1.8 million years ago)?
He leaves these questions unanswered.  Maybe the answer is, “none of the above.”  With all these factors capable of producing false impressions, paleoanthropologists can have a field day storytelling about what puzzle pieces fit together into any imaginable picture.  Some scientific restraint is needed.
    Tim White sounds like a city councilman recommending extra cops be deployed to maintain order in the diversity parade.  He concludes, “Confusing true biological species diversity with analytical mistakes, preservational artifacts, diachronic evolution, or normal biological variation grossly distorts our understanding of human evolution.  Past hominid diversity should be established by the canons of modern biology, not by a populist zeal for diversity.”  The city council can allow the zealots to hold their demonstration, but should not vote based on the noisy and outlandish street antics going on outside.
Next headline on: Early Man.
Comets Fizzle Fast    03/27/2003
The
May 2003 issue of Sky & Telescope has a short news item on short-period comets (comets with orbits taking 20 years or less; 150 are known).  Referring to work by David Hughes published in the Oct. 21, 2002 Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, half of them would evaporate to nothing in 2,600 years, and the other half in an additional 2,300 years.  Hughes reassessed the mass-loss rate by re-plotting the absolute magnitudes of known short-period comets against their last perihelion distance to come up with the numbers.  According to Sky & Telescope, “New ones must be captured at a high rate (mostly by Jupiter’s gravitational influence) to replenish the loss ... especially considering that some will be ejected again to the far outer solar system by further interactions with Jupiter.”  Hughes estimates that would require a new one every 60 years, if the rates of influx and destruction are in equilibrium.
Add this to the finding in January 2001 that the assumed Oort Cloud comet population must be only 10% of previous estimates because of collisions.  As we reported June 2002, comets are still a major puzzle.  Those who believe the solar system is 4.6 billion years old have a burning problem on their hands explaining why comets are still with us.  Like sparklers, they only dazzle for awhile.
Next headline on: Solar System. • Next headline on: Dating Methods.
Fossil Salamanders Show No Evolution   03/27/2003
If the Chinese team that found 200 fossil salamanders in Mongolia have their dates right, there has been little or no evolution for over 160 million years.  Writing in the
March 27 issue of Nature, they say (emphasis added):
Despite its Bathonian [161 million year] age, the new cryptobranchid shows extraordinary morphological similarity to its living relatives.  This similarity underscores the stasis within salamander anatomical evolution.  Indeed, extant cryptobranchid salamanders can be regarded as living fossils whose structures have remained little changed for over 160 million years.  Furthermore, the new material from China reveals that the early diversification of salamanders was well underway by the Middle Jurassic; several extant taxa including hynobiids and cryptobranchids had already appeared by that time.  Notably, this ancient pattern of taxonomic diversification does not correlate to any great disparity in anatomical structure.
This discovery predates the earlier record for this type by 100 million years.  The specimens about 7 inches long and are so well preserved even soft tissue impressions are clear and distinct.  BBC News has a report and picture.
These kinds of reports are becoming so common that predictions of abrupt appearance and stasis should be the norm, not the exception.  The authors provide no evidence of an ancestral form; both types do not show “any great disparity in anatomical structure,” and were clearly fully operational as salamanders when they were buried.  All they can say is that if evolution had split the two groups apart, it had to have happened before the Middle Jurassic.  That’s like saying if Santa Claus really came, he must have done it before 8:00 p.m., because the presents were already under the tree, completely wrapped.  Amazingly, National Geographic titles their article, “China Ash Yields Salamander Evolution Secrets.”  Read their whole write-up with bewilderment that anyone could spin this story into evidence for evolution.
    Evolution is supposed to be this all-encompassing, all-pervasive force of change, yet look ye here: salamanders, nearly indistinguishable from living ones, with no evolution for 160 million years.  The same could be said for horseshoe crabs, coelacanth fish, ginkgo trees, Wollemi pines, tuatara lizards, and a host of other known living fossils.  Either (1) evolution is a myth, or (2) their dating methods are wrong.  Pick any two.
Next headline on: Fossils.
Paleobotanists Try to Unravel Plant Genes   03/27/2003
Researchers at the Plant Genome Mapping Laboratory of the University of Georgia think the flowering plant genome went through three episodes of duplication.  Their paper, “Unravelling angiosperm genome evolution by phylogenetic analysis of chromosomal duplication events,” is published in the
March 27 issue of Nature.  Describing their work in the same issue, Elizabeth Kellogg sees their approach as hopefully shedding light on this complex story.  The team employed a comparative method to try to establish relative timing of events instead of absolute dates for when lineages diverged.
Just more futureware and hope hype.  “So the approach holds the promise of dissecting the dynamic processes by which genes and genomes evolve.”    Here again there is no answer, just another approach they think might be promising.  As Michael Behe remarked recently “That leaves us with biological features that look designed, but only promissory notes for how they can be explained by unintelligent processes.”  Send your local evolutionist a round TUIT so we don’t have to keep waiting by the mailbox.
Next headline on: Plants. • Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory. • Next headline on: Genes and DNA.
Neanderthals Had Manual Dexterity   03/27/2003
Neanderthals had hands and wrists with a full range of motion, claim the authors of a new digital analysis published in
Nature March 27:
As there is no significant difference between Neanderthals and modern humans in the locations of their muscle and ligamentous attachments, there remains no anatomical argument that precludes modern-human-like movement of the thumb and index finger in Neanderthals.
    The demise of the Neanderthals cannot be attributed to any physical inability to use or manufacture Upper-Palaeolithic-like (Chatelperronian) tools, as the anatomical evidence presented here and the archaeological evidence both indicate that they were capable of manufacturing and handling such implements.
“Digital analysis: Manual dexterity in Neanderthals,” was written by a team from Cal State San Bernardino and North Dakota State University, who begin their article saying, “These primitive people may have been as handy with their tools as modern humans are.”
    Nature Science Update reports on this finding, and surmises that their demise was due more to social factors than physiological limitations.  Scientific American has illustrations of the hand and wrist bones, admitting that this study blurs the distinction between Neanderthals and moderns and making their demise harder to explain.  Also, the BBC News, agreeing that Neanderthals were not butterfingered, ham-fisted klutzes, and admitting “the popular image of Neanderthals as clumsy, backward creatures has been dealt another blow,” is not letting the news steal the show on premiere night.  Walking With Cavemen is advertised on the same page, along with illustrations of brutish-looking Neanderthals, ostensibly from the series.
Imagine the anthropologists in Huxley’s day finding out that all the arguments for brutishness of Neanderthals have collapsed.  These individuals were just as smart and handy as we are.  Maybe they lived in hard times, or never developed sophisticated technology due to pagan superstition.  But they were fully human, just as are living “stone-age” tribal peoples.  There is just as much physiological difference between existing groups of Homo sapiens sapiens as between Neanderthal and non-Neanderthal human bones.  It is only evolutionary bias that has classified these our brothers into a different race.  Neanderthals are no longer of any value in evolutionary arguments.  It’s time to drop the label, stop considering them as icons of evolving primates, and start calling them Bob, Sue, Bertha, and Albert – the neighbors.
Next headline on: Early Man.
Dialogue 03/26/2003: David Berlinski, an independent thinker but critic of Darwinism, wrote an essay that sparked a lot of reaction.  Responses to “Has Darwin Met His Match?” – Berlinski’s essay that critiqued the Darwinian establishment but also pointed out shortcomings of Intelligent Design – are printed in their entirety at Commentary.org.  Advocates and opponents of I.D. have their say, and Berlinski responds to each of them.
Interesting reading.  Berlinski is his own man and writes clearly and cogently with wry humor.  The I.D. movement may have its own work to do, although some of the complaints seem as ethereal as arguing that motion is impossible.  Philosophy, it has been said, consists of incomprehensible answers to insoluble problems.  But ask yourself if Darwinians really have anything to crow about these days, or any rightful claim to exclusivity.  As Berlinski says, “I do not believe that Darwinism is a fixed philosophical system.  Like some primordial jelly, the thing is both squishy and constantly in motion.  Terms, claims, and stories multiply unceasingly.”  You will find plenty of examples right here.
Next headline on: Intelligent Design. • Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
Biggest Cosmic Mysteries Listed   03/25/2003
Space.Com has listed the biggest mysteries, myths and hoaxes in astronomy.  We’ll leave the last two categories for the reader’s inquiry, but take a look at the first.  What cosmic mysteries does senior science writer Robert Roy Britt list that pertain to the debate on origins?
  • Life.  “Life remains the greatest mystery of science.  How did it start? Nobody knows.”  Britt considers astrobiologists the most clueless scientists of all, more even than biologists.
  • Sex.  “We don’t know why sex began.  Scientists have long been mystified as to why early life forms switched from asexual reproduction – which avoids all the complications of monogamy, entirely sidesteps partnering, and enjoys the benefits of cloning – to sexual reproduction, with its inherent burden of getting hitched, at least for a time.”
  • Other universes.  No way to know if they’re there.
  • Dark matter.  Without this stuff, whatever it is, galaxies wouldn’t hold together.
  • Dark energy.  “This one makes dark matter seem simple,” moans Britt.  Cosmologists are clueless what dark energy is.
Remember this list when that teacher or educational TV program gives some glib answer about the evolution of life, sex, or the universe.  Every once in awhile, it’s worthwhile to remind our readers that it is not just creationists who are calling naturalistic scientists clueless*.  When investigating the unobservable past, clue requires a Cluegiver.
*This shouldn’t be taken in a derogatory way, because it simply means there are limits to what can be known.  But to persist in going the wrong way when all the clues point the other way is to be willingly clueless.
Next headline on: Cosmology. • Next headline on: Origin of Life. • Next headline on: SETI.
Pasteur to Fly to Mars   03/25/2003
The
European Space Agency is planning an Aurora mission named ExoMars to fly to Mars in 2009, with a payload called Pasteur to search for life.  The ESA is calling for ideas from the scientific community to design experiments to test the “biological environment” of Mars.
Wonder what Louis Pasteur, the arch-opponent of spontaneous generation, would have thought of his name being used in this way.
Next headline on: Mars. • Next headline on: Origin of Life.
How Plant Wood Evolve if It Could   03/25/2003
Lignin is the molecule that gives sturdiness to cell walls, and is a major component of wood.  Its presence differentiates land plants from the slimy algae of the waters.  Is lignin an invention of early plants evolving onto the land?  An entry on
EurekAlert announced today, “Scientists find evidence for crucial root in the history of plant evolution.”  Apparently, new findings were announced at a national meeting of the American Chemical Society about Asteroxylon, an extinct plant found fossilized in chert, that is thought to be one of the earliest plants to invade the land.  George Cody and his team at the Carnegie Institute of Washington used an advanced analytical technique to preserve the fragile biopolymers in the rock and apparently found that this species already had lignin.  George Cody sets up the question and then explains the findings (emphasis added):
    A critical question is whether Asteroxylon in fact had the capacity to biosynthesize lignin.  If it did, it starts to beg an interesting question: If one of the earliest plants had this capacity, then is it that capacity that allowed plants to colonize the continents?  And that, of course, could have enormous significance, because that was probably one of the many truly defining events in Earth history.
    What we came up with is evidence that really can’t be explained any other way than the fact that this plant, when it lived, had two structural biopolymers in its cell wall.  The differences that you see in the spectra are consistent with a greater amount of lignin being in one region of the cell wall than the other, which is consistent with what we see in modern plants.
The rest of the article talks about the technique they used but says nothing else about the evolution of lignin, other than the opening paragraph, which states: “If ancient plants had not migrated from the shallow seas of early Earth to the barren land of the continents, life as we know it might never have emerged.  And now it appears this massive floral colonization may have been spurred by a single genetic mutation that allowed primitive plants to make lignin, a chemical process that leads to the formation of a cell wall” (emphasis added).
We got all excited about this story because it sounded like a big breakthrough, finally, to explain the evolution of plants.  But then we looked and looked and couldn’t find anything about evolution, anywhere, except a bunch of bluffing about what a big step this would be if plants could evolve lignin.  After setting up the big question, they examine this primitive plant and find lignin already there!  So the very earliest land plant already had it; where, O where, is the evolution?  We feel cheated.  The rest of the article just brags about what a wonderful new technique they have now for getting the biological molecules out of the rock.  That’s fine, but we entered this store to buy some evolution and all they offered us was some lab hardware.  We thought bait and switch was against the law.  If you advertise evidence for evolution, you’d better have the goods in stock.
    “Because lignins are very complex natural polymers with many random couplings, the exact chemical structure is not known,” states The Lignin Institute.  And yet the American Chemical Society wants us to believe that this molecule, and the world of land plants that followed, all derive from a single genetic mutation.  Sanity alert!  This requires some radical lignin therapy.  We suggest taking a nice walk in the woods or curling up in the recliner with a copy of Wildflowers of California by Larry and Donna Ulrich (go to Portfolios/Wildflowers for samples).  Ah, relief!
    See also our Oct. 2001 headline about RG-II, a very complex carbohydrate that gives rigidity to cell walls.  It also has no evolutionary precursors.
Next headline on: Plants. • Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory. • Next dumb story.
Gratefulness in the Test Tube   03/24/2003
Some psychologists discovered what most people already knew: being grateful makes you happier. 
Science Now reports on work by some UC Davis psychologists who tested three groups of subjects: those who made weekly lists of things they were grateful for, those who made lists of hassles, and those who made no list.  To probably no one’s surprise except the psychologists, those who counted their blessings reported “considerably more satisfaction with their lives as a whole.”
Human subjects are just too complex to analyze with the scientific method.  We are not lab rabbits.  Nevertheless, it is kind of funny to see psychologists “confirm” what we all know from common sense and experience.  Focusing on hassles makes you grumpy.  Focusing on blessings makes you happy.  Well, duh.  We didn’t need a psychologist to tell us that.  We just needed to pick up our hymnal and recall Johnson Oatman’s lyrics set to Edwin Excell’s cheerful melody:
When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.
Maybe these scientists should go to church and find out what is making all these people so disgustingly happy.  Hint: it isn’t natural selection.
Next headline on: Health.
How to Tell Aliens About Morality   03/21/2003
“Artists and scientists discuss how to tell ET about morality,” begins a report in
Nature Science Update, with a picture of a young couple enjoying a warm hug.  “Twenty scientists, artists and philosophers will gather in Paris on Sunday and Monday to discuss how best to tell extraterrestrials about altruism,” it says.  The SETI Institute doesn’t plan to actually send a message, but uses this workshop as a way to get participants to envision ways to communicate our humanity, not necessarily our nobility, to aliens.  Perhaps we could send postcards or interactive games.  Psychologist Douglas Vakoch of the SETI Institute thinks “any message should take into account studies of animal and human behaviour showing that apparent self-sacrifice often serves selfish ends.  Good deeds are often done in aid of relatives, in expectation of a future favour, or to gain the benefits of a good reputation.”
We’ve reported some pretty dumb evolution stories before, but this one takes the cake.  Nobody knows if anyone is out there, but we’re going to teach them morality.  But look at the morality: we’re going to tell them that based on evolutionary theory, everyone is really selfish and love is an illusion.  It may take 100,000 years to receive their response to whatever interactive game we want them to play (Prisoner’s Dilemma is the evolutionists’ favorite – “in which the temptation to cheat threatens the benefits of cooperating”), but the same could be done with Monopoly, if they don’t mind long waits between moves.
    If anyone you know claims creationists are crackpots but evolution is scientific, hand them this story.  These guys are reminiscent of the new-age group in Independence Day on top of a skyscraper, welcoming the aliens with gushy smiles and open arms, begging to become one with them.  Yes, aliens, our friends, we want to evolve upward to where you are.  Like Jimmy Carter, we want to join a community of galactic civilizations.  We are selfish.  You are selfish.  Everyone is selfish.  Selfishness makes the world go round.  We love you!  Take us!  (Zap!)
Next headline on: SETI. • Next dumb story.
DNA Repairmen Can Back Each Other Up   03/21/2003
The DNA Damage Response team has many specialized technicians, but now scientists have found some of them can fill in for a fallen comrade.  Amundsen and Smith of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, writing in the
March 21 issue of Cell first set the stage for the story:
Faithful repair of broken or damaged DNA occurs by homologous recombination.  This process requires a series of enzymes, collectively forming a “recombination machine,” that act on broken DNA.  At least three broad classes of activities—helicases, nucleases, and synapsis proteins—constitute parts of this machine and can be provided either by one complex protein or by several separate proteins.
They describe two team members, RecBCD and RecF, that act independently under normal conditions.  “But recent analysis of an E. coli mutant that lacks RecBCD nuclease activity,” they announce, “normally required for that pathway of recombination, provides a striking example of how functional parts from these two recombination machines can be interchanged.”
    Their minireview entitled, “Interchangeable Parts of the Escherichia coli Recombination Machinery,” also describes how the machines work.  They feel this is probably not an isolated example of interchangeable roles: “Perhaps in wild-type cells also, there are situations of altered DNA metabolism not yet recognized in which activities from the two recombination machines interchange to maintain chromosomal integrity.”
    See also our 07/26/2002 and 01/04/2002 headlines on DNA Damage Response.
Why would natural selection maintain interchangeable parts, or keep a specialist trained on a job it normally doesn’t have to do?  These little molecules are incredible.  They’re like paramedics trained on each other’s tasks, so that the CPR operator can do the gauze if the bandage doctor is out of commission at the moment, so that the cell doesn’t bleed to death for lack of technical skill.  Imagine little robots able to find and repair DNA; it’s uncanny.  They know just what to do, and they’re on call 24 x 7.  Amazing.
    In this paper, you can find the words machine or machinery 42 times, repair 17 times, but not one mention of evolution, nor any conjecture on how this complex, redundant, mechanical system emerged.  The logical conclusion is left as an exercise.
Next headline on: The Cell. • Next headline on: Genes and DNA. • Next amazing story.
Insects Evolved Six Legs Multiple Times   03/20/2003
Scientists have always believed the insects evolved from a single common ancestor, but now
Francisco Nardi and an Italian team have thrown a “naked fowl” (plucked chicken) into the works, says Richard Thomas in the March 21 issue of Science.  Nardi claims that hexapods (six-legged critters) are not monophyletic (one common ancestor) but paraphyletic (two or more common ancestors).  He bases his team’s conclusion on mitochondrial DNA sequences from Collembola, a group of wingless arthropods including springtails, assumed to be ancestral to the insects.  “This in turn suggests,” comments Thomas, “that today’s terrestrial hexapods are products of at least two independent invasions of land and that some of the features shared by all hexapods have arisen convergently.”  He warns that many arthropod experts will not be convinced by these data.  “Systematics is a very contentious field, so we can count on criticisms about the small number of species, the single data type, and the method of analysis,” he says.
    For a layman’s level report on this story, see Nature Science Update.
Differences between molecular trees and morphological trees seem to be the exception rather than the rule.  Molecular comparisons have thrown a monkey wrench into the assumed family trees of most groups (see the recent example with mammals).  This all seems like such a waste of time.  Evolutionists are just playing connect-the-dots games, based on evolutionary assumptions, with way too many dots and way too many assumptions.  But this is what evolutionists like: a good wrestling match, where they can argue with each other endlessly without ever having to know the truth.  Prehistory is unknowable by definition, because it is hidden in the unobservable past: unless, of course, a credible Eyewitness told us what really happened.
Next headline on: Bugs. • Next headline on: Genes and DNA.
Ready-Mix Patch Kit Stands Ready To Repair Your Body’s Brick Walls   03/19/2003
You’ve probably used those packets with two compartments that do something when the dividing membrane is broken, allowing the components to mix: instant heat, instant cold, instant glue, or instant light.  Your body has something like that to repair its tissues.  Tissues are the webs of specialized cells that distinguish us multicellular organisms from the rest, and the bulk of tissues are composed of epithelium.  Epithelial cells line up in tightly-knit ranks forming the lining of most organs, the lungs and windpipe, the digestive tract, and the skin.  Because they are subject to injury, these membranes must have a means of repairing themselves quickly.  So they have a kind of ready-mix patch that works only when two components combine.  But the system must work flawlessly, or a disaster can result.
    Keith Mostov and Mirjam Zegers talk about this in the
Mar. 20 issue of Nature, “Cell Biology: Just Mix and Patch,” reporting on work by Paola Vermeer and company in the same issue.  Epithelial cells have two linings.  Consider the respiratory tract as an example.  One lining, the apical side, faces the airway.  The other, the basolateral side, lines the other end and the neighboring cells.  These two linings are segregated by a kind of O-ring seal that makes a tight fit between neighboring cells.  Scientists recently found that the basolateral membrane has one component of the patch, called erbB2, and the apical side has a matching component called heregulin.  Normally kept apart, they can be brought in contact when a breach occurs in the epithelial tissue.  Together, they activate a complex series of steps leading to cell division and presto! the gap is filled in with another snug-fitting cell, and life goes on.  It is essential these active ingredients don’t mix at the wrong time.  Too much cell division and you know what happens — cancer.  Science Now has a news write-up on this story, and its discovery that is “so beautifully simple.”
    A few more Cool Cell Tricks were reported recently:
  • Cells have an exquisite toolkit for dealing with iron.  Three New Zealand scientists writing a Perspective special feature in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences describe a family of proteins called transferrins that clamp around iron and delicately transport this very toxic atom to wherever it’s needed in the cell.  The clamp has a hinge that opens the structure and disgorges the iron when it is safe to do so.  Another protein called hemopexin transports heme by holding it in the center of a four-part structure.
  • Another Special Feature in the same issue talks about nitrogenase, which we discussed Sept. 6, 2002.  Two Harvard chemists attack this puzzling molecule with the zeal of Captain Ahab pursuing Moby Dick (this is actually how they end their article), but in spite of the best efforts of scientists for decades, “Few problems in bioinorganic chemistry have proved as challenging and refractory.”  They speak of techniques this molecule uses that are “biologically and chemically unprecedented,” and marvel like Scotty and Captain Kirk aboard an alien ship trying to figure out a novel dilithium crystal reactor.  Hidden inside the inner sanctum of this molecular machine is a secret method for separating nitrogen atoms at room temperature that is the dream of agricultural chemists, because artificial nitrogen fixation (e.g., fertilizer making) is costly and energy intensive.  “The synthetic problem of nitrogenase, nevertheless, remains unsolved,” but they think we’re getting warmer.
  • Current Biology for March 18 has a quick guide to a very versatile gene called APC (adenomatous polyposis coli), without which we either die or get colon cancer.  It moves all over the cell, in and out of the nucleus, even riding the intracellular railroad.  APC has many jobs.  It’s a potent tumor suppressor, it regulates gene transcription, and it has a role in “maintaining adherens junctions, and also helps to tether mitotic spindles to the cortex and to orient them in the epithelial plane.  In mammalian cells, APC has been implicated in cell migration.  APC also helps safeguard the fidelity of chromosome segregation in mitotic cells.” 
Wow; a multi-talented kid.  It appears to be essential for cell survival, too.  Maybe we should celebrate national APC appreciation day.  But it appears we would quickly run out of days if we gave equal time to nitrogenase, erbB2, hydrogenase, the nuclear pore complex, ATP synthase, etc. etc.
It is so much more fun to see these things as engineering marvels instead of lucky rolls of the die.  You don’t have to worry so much about how Lady Luck could win against impossible odds.  Instead, you can just enjoy the talent show.
Next headline on: The Cell and Biochemistry. • Next amazing story.
Tank-Like Reptile Goes Extinct Twice   03/19/2003
If paleontologists at an Australian museum have a specimen classified correctly and their dating is right, they have an extraordinary tale of resurrection to explain, says
Nature Science Update.  An animal went extinct, then showed up alive and well 115 million years later, then went extinct again.  The animal is a dicynodont (see article for artist reconstruction), a mammal-like reptile that looks like a monster out of Star Wars with the body of a hippo, the beak of a turtle, and the tusks of a walrus.  The curators re-analyzed fragments of a skull in the Brisbane collection of the Queensland Museum.  How the dating was arrived at was not explained. Update 04/01/2003: The April issue of Geology asks, “Has the utility of Dicynodon for Late Permian terrestrial biostratigraphy been overstated?”  Authors Angielczyk and Kurkin lament the uncritical use of these bones to correlate geographically separated beds (emphasis added):
Our analysis includes two species referred to Dicynodon that occur only in Russia and the type species that occurs in southern Africa.  Our results suggest that these three species do not form a clade to the exclusion of all other dicynodonts; the alternative hypothesis of a monophyletic Dicynodon is more weakly supported.  Although preliminary, our analysis challenges the use of Dicynodon for biostratigraphic correlations between Russia and South Africa, and we urge caution in using this taxon to correlate other widely separated basins.  This study also emphasizes that without phylogenetic information, there is no guarantee that named taxa represent biologically real entities, and the uncritical use of named taxa can easily lead to spurious biostratigraphic correlations.
In other words, assuming that similar looking bones belong to the same genus, or that they evolved from a common ancestor, and then using them to tie together a story of global extinction, is not necessarily supported by the evidence.
Geologists and paleontologists come up with stories of world-wide extinctions due to meteorite impacts that make for good TV animations, but are they based on “uncritical use” of evidence?  When the uncritical use of evidence leads to contradictions and absurdities, who is heeding the call to be cautious, so as not go build a story on “spurious biostratigraphic correlations”?
    This is not an isolated case; there are dozens of living fossils of creatures long thought extinct that are doing just fine today.  If this poor dicynodont survived the first extinction, how did it get along on its own 115 million years?  Maybe it died of loneliness.  Funny that the story is flexible, but the dates are not.  You can fit any miracle – even resurrection – into a timeline that is not open to challenge.
Next headline on: Fossils. • Next dumb story.
Walking With Cavemen Announced   03/19/2003
The
BBC News has announced its latest entry into the Walking With series.  After the success of Walking With Dinosaurs and Walking With Prehistoric Beasts, the new Walking With Cavemen begins its four-part debut on March 27.  The series is long on computer graphics, audio-animatronic figures and actors, but short on bones: “But much of it remains pure guesswork.  The fossil evidence is fragmentary; some of the interpretation is very speculative.  Researchers have their pet theories and the arguments among scientists can be very fierce.” 
    A review on The Scotsman calls Walking With Cavemen “further evidence of the increasing infantilisation of popular entertainment”  In other words, “It is still a field of study rife with contention and uncertainty.  Such problematic issues, though, are not going to be the concern of WWC.  Confusion and scanty evidence are not conducive to the linear plotline of mass-market television.  WWC glides over the ambiguities and instead goes for hyperreal reproduction.  Inevitably, the quasi-science on screen is going to be guesswork, but the ‘factual’ documentary is now the stuff of entertainment rather than enlightenment.”
Undoubtedly viewers will be less interested in the misinformation than in seeing how little clothing the actors can get away with.  The facts don’t provide much cover either, considering that “The study of early humans is one of the most hotly contested subjects in science today,” as the BBC admits.  Anyone who has followed the human evolution story for long (follow the chain links on Early Man in these pages) knows that a chimpanzee brawl in the jungle has more rationality and logic to it.  Everything that was taught in schools and textbooks is now wrong, new finds invalidate the old, warring camps question each others’ motives, and nobody even knows how to define a hominid any more.  But none of that matters.  Evolution is less concerned with facts than a good story, especially one that lets naked actors go ape and get physical.  That will help ratings and sell beer.  We’ll worry about the facts later.  The show must go on.
Next headline on: Early Man. • Next headline on: Movies.
Dogma With Disclaimers: National Geographic Urges Calm   03/18/2003
The April 2003 issue of
National Geographic just arrived at households around the world, with a lovely picture of a mother and baby next to the subtitle, “The Rise of Mammals – Mothers of Us All.”  As could be expected, Darwinian evolution forms the drum beat of the nature stories on African chimpanzees, fossils, and the cover story on mammalian evolution.  Yet NG’s typical unqualified endorsement of the standard Darwinian story line does hedge its claims here and there (emphasis added):
  • In Fire and Ice (p. 1), Joel Achenbach gives press to doubters of the leading theory that Cretaceous extinctions were caused by a single meteorite impact.  “But let’s stay calm here,” he retorts, knowing that the magazine’s cover story uses the Yucatan meteorite event as a key element in its story (page 30).  Though the majority still favor the single-impact theory, “The lesson here is that science usually doesn’t deal in absolutes,” he reminds us.  “Rather, we search for explanations that, for the moment, seem better than any alternative.  The big-rock theory isn’t doomed to extinction,” he claims (though he just devoted three paragraphs to critics of the theory, and their reasons the single-impact theory cannot be true); “but you can bet that there are still plenty of surprises ahead in our study of the distant past.”
  • The cover story on The Rise of Mammals, after you make it past the picture of the naked pregnant lady holding a fossil of the alleged earliest mammal ancestor, reads like a newsreel of the unseen past.  The article has the usual NG artwork of evolutionary timelines and homologous arm bones.  Though never doubting Darwinism for a beat, author Rick Gore admits some controversy (emphasis added):
    1. “Just how closely are the world’s mammals related?  New genetic data propel this complex discussion, turning established beliefs upside down. ... Some of these gene-based superorders are at odds with groupings formed from fossil analyses (pages 14-15) and have sparked scientific debates—but also partnerships” (i.e., we might get some medical spinoffs out of it).
    2. A tiny fossil on page 11 claimed to be 195 million years old has “traits that humans now have. ... That’s much earlier than scientists had believed such key innovations emerged.
    3. On pages 14-16, a large chart asks, “Is the Truth in the Bones ... or in the Genes?” and shows the disparity between two competing trees of mammalian evolution.  Seven dotted lines show big differences in lineages of elephants, aardvarks, moles and manatees.  “Many paleontologists angrily reject the DNA findings,” says Gore, “arguing that there must be something wrong with the molecular clocks the geneticists use to date their findings.  The geneticists counter that the paleontologists just haven’t found the right fossils yet.”  He quotes Mark Springer saying, “It’s been a complete upheaval.  We’ve come up with a very different family tree for mammals.
    4. On page 20, the article puzzles over the divergence of placental mammals from marsupials, for which there is very little fossil evidence.  On page 21 it allows a dissenting view that marsupial mammals are just as advanced as placental mammals, if not more so.
    5. On pages 13 and 21, it describes an almost complete reversal from the view that mammals first emerged in the north and migrated south.  Since tri-tipped teeth have been found in the Southern Hemisphere, Gore says, “Some explain the presence of these southern tribosphenic teeth by saying they must have developed independently in both hemispheres.  Others say the innovation was too intricate to have evolved twice and that mammals must have evolved in the south, with subsequent generations moving north.”  Then he quotes Rich Cifelli, “It’s good to remember that the evidence is still slim.  I like to say that anyone who really stands up strongly for either theory is either nuts or thinks too highly of himself.
    6. On pages 21-22, another controversy is revealed: Tom and Pat Rich think they has found a placental mammal fossil in Australia, but others say that cannot be true: placentals “were not supposed to be anywhere near Australia so long ago. ... If the Riches are right, we have to rethink how placentals travelled from Asia to the Southern Hemisphere.”  After stating several radical possibilities, for which there is no evidence, he quotes Tom Rich: “Most radical ideas are wrong.  It’s wise to be wary of them—especially when they are your own.”
    7. “Even more radical” continues the next paragraph on page 22 is Mark Springer’s theory of the placental family tree based on plate tectonics, “Troubling as it is to many paleontologists...”  Though it seems to fit the geologists’ preferred theory, “The fossil record from Africa for this period is almost blank.  Nevertheless, Emmanual Gheerbrant, a researcher for the National Center for Scientific Research in France, speculates that Africa ‘must have been a laboratory for some very peculiar animals.’” 
    8. Springer’s south-first theory is “Contrary to more than a century of northern chauvinism.”  His genetic studies “redefine relationships among placental mammals” and show that major groups “started to diversify much earlier than the fossil record suggests.”  Geneticists postulate that parts of a cell can be “evolving rapidly without changing what would be left behind in the fossil record.”
Notwithstanding these uncomfortable diversions, the rest of the text is vintage NG.  “Once upon a time, a warm-blooded, milk-producing, fur-covered beast was born.  Since then, mammals have conquered every habitat on Earth.  This is their story—our story.”
Nighty-night, children.  Sleep tight.  Don’t let tonight’s bedtime story scare you.  Don’t dream about Mommy as a hairy ape.  Don’t have any nightmares about the lack of transitional forms, the disparity between the fossil record and the genes, the debates over what caused extinctions, how placental mammals got to Australia, how complex and fully-formed traits appeared earlier than expected, and how you can have a laboratory without lab workers and a lab book.  Don’t fret about how sophisticated, multi-component, coordinated innovations appeared without an inventor.  Not to worry about any complete upheavals disturbing your dreams.  Daddy is right here.  He isn’t nuts.  He doesn’t think too highly of himself.  Everything is under control.  Let’s stay calm here....
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory. • Next headline on: Mammals. • Next headline on: Genes and DNA. • Next headline on: Dating Methods.
The Factor Darwin (and Malthus) Didn’t Consider   03/17/2003
Evolution is onward and upward, right?  Competition between individuals leads to the fittest surviving, right?  Not so fast, says Jason B. Wolf of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, writing in the
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  There’s an influence that puts the brakes on this “traditional paradigm”, and that is the influence of indirect genetic effects (IGEs).  Most evolutionary biologists focus on the direct genetic effects (DGEs): i.e., how an organism’s body (phenotype) is the direct result of its genes (genotype).  But that cannot be the whole picture, because social interactions and even the environment can cause phenotypic effects that are heritable.  Thus, they can influence evolution.
    Wolf studied the pupa size of fruit flies as a measure of fitness.  His results supported a model that took IGEs into account, and found that IGEs fight against the effects of DGEs; that is, “competition enforces the negative covariance between IGEs and DGEs.”  He explains:
For example, if we were to select the largest individuals in a generation, they would on average also be the most competitive individuals.  These individuals would have a set of genotypes that, under the current social conditions, make individuals large, and selection would therefore produce a genetic change in the population.  However, the progeny of these individuals would find themselves in a more competitive environment, because they all inherited genes from the most competitive individuals in the previous generation.  Thus, this new generation would not be as large as we would have expected based on the size of their parents, because they are experiencing a different social environment.
    As an analogy, we can view body size evolving on a treadmill, where every step forward is accompanied by movement backward due to the associated negative changes in the environment.  The result is that, depending on the speed of the treadmill, the trait either remains where it started or does not move as far as expected [Dickerson (48) referred to this as “slippage” on the treadmill].  When describing his fundamental theorem of natural selection, Fisher (47) recognized this process as the critical reason why populations do not continue to evolve to higher states of fitness (or character values) despite widespread recurrent directional selection.  However, his intuition that these effects would exist and be potentially important had not been previously demonstrated.
From his experiments watching pupa size evolve with and without indirect genetic effects, he found that IGEs cancel out about half the fitness gains of the direct genetic effects.  This is in addition to the constraint due to antagonistic pleiotropy, where genes on the same chromosome must evolve together or else no net evolution occurs.  But IGEs are expected to put more brakes on selection the more competition increases.  The effect is more severe when the individuals are related.  “The diminished response to selection caused by the antagonistic counterevolution of IGEs,” he summarizes, “and the further diminution expected when interactions are among relatives can be viewed as a constraint on phenotypic evolution.”  How widespread is this braking effect?  He notes in conclusion (emphasis added):
Because interactions between individuals are ubiquitous, the opportunity for phenotypic effects of these interactions, and thus IGEs, is considerable. ... Thus, the data presented here from Drosophila are expected to have significant implications for genetic analysis of a variety of traits in a diversity of taxa.  These data suggest that the traditional paradigm, focused exclusively on direct effects of genes, is inadequate.  To develop an accurate picture of genetic architecture that describes how genetic variation leads to phenotypic variation in a population, information on both direct and indirect effects of genes will be required whenever individuals interact.
In the early 1800’s, Thomas Malthus proposed the principle that fecundity outpaces food supply, so that there is always competition for resources.  Charles Darwin was deeply influenced by this idea.  It contributed to his theory of natural selection: competition leads to the survival of the fittest.  A great deal of intellectual, political and philosophical baggage soon became attached to this assumed law of nature: competition drives the fittest to bigger and better things.  Wolf now seems to be saying that competition actually inhibits increases in fitness from becoming established in a population.  His paper is entitled “Genetic architecture and evolutionary constraint when the environment contains genes.”
Update 04/07/2003:  In a PNAS Commentary on April 7, James M. Cheverud of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis agrees that quantitative genetic kin selection models such as Wolf’s are superior to the traditional kin selection model of group selection developed by W. D. Hamilton in 1964.  (Hamilton was the one who sparked an interest in social evolution, claiming that Darwinian natural selection could explain puzzling traits like altruism.)  Cheverud does not claim sociobiologists have arrived at a comprehensive model, but agrees Wolf’s is probably the best so far.
We hate to be the bearers of bad tidings to evolutionists so often.  It’s getting downright depressing.  Here they had pinned their eternal hopes on the picture of competition driving evolution, and now they find out instead that it puts the brakes on it.  It’s like finding out your ally was a double agent all along.  Now what?  It was tough enough getting evolution to work with enough speed to get a Cambrian explosion, and to get birds from dinosaurs, but now the very selection pressures that are supposed to drive these transformations are seen to be like governors on the engine or brakes applied by the instructor in the passenger seat.  They’ll never get anywhere at this rate.
    We have no reason to believe Jason doubts evolutionary theory, because he published this paper in a very pro-evolutionary, anti-creationist, peer-reviewed journal, and teaches evolution at a state university.  But in the end, he gives no alternative explanation for how this negative effect can be overcome, to allow cells to evolve molecular machines, and plants photosynthesis, and humans bigger brains.  His paper leaves you hanging for the “Yeah, but...” that never comes.  So how does evolution make progress against this “negative covariation”?  “Don’t ask me.  I’m just the inspector to point out the leak, not the plumber to fix it.”
    Let’s try another metaphor to illustrate the problem this paper presents.  The pressure has been increasing on evolutionary theory to drive a more complex race in less time.  Imagine the consternation of the gamblers when they overhear the test report on their prize race car that contains a much-hyped transmission, natural selection, on which they have wagered everything: “Uh oh, the drive gear on this contraption slips and only inches forward, if at all.  But the neutral and reverse gears are working just fine, so at least I can rock back and forth.”
    Maybe it’s time to revive the pre-Darwinian view of Edward Blyth that natural selection is a conservative process.  Instead of generating novel phenotypes and new species, it appears to maintain a dynamic status quo and buffer against major change.  This would fit in with the creationist view that God designed flexibility and adaptability into dynamic systems that were fully operational from the start, not evolving into something better.  When you are on a treadmill, there is a lot of activity, but you get off where you got on. 
    If you are an evolutionist, we’re sorry your theory has been taking such a beating lately (Example 1, Example 2, Example 3, Example 4, Example 5).  Please accept this sympathy card with our sincerest best wishes.
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
Trees Pollute the Air   03/17/2003
The Saint Patrick’s Day greenery may not cleanse the air, but pollute it, says a report in this week’s
Science News (Vol. 163, No. 11): “Fallen Trees?  Scotch pines emit nitrogen oxides into the air,” by Kendall Morgan.  Forest ecologist Pertti Hari of the University of Helsinki measured nitrogen oxides coming from pines in quantities “that may rival those produced worldwide by industry and traffic.  Nitrogen oxides can react with hydrocarbons to yield nitric acid, a primary ingredient in acid rain.”  Pertti feels that these emissions are “evidently an important component of the nitrogen cycle.”  Earlier studies missed the emissions because they tested in unnatural conditions that shielded UV light.  The article says he believes not only pines but all evergreens, and perhaps all plants, might also release the compounds under many natural conditions.
    Aggie Daily at Texas A&M University adds that lightning also contributes nitrogen oxides to the atmosphere, up to 90% of summer levels, in amounts greater than those created by human activities.
This does not mean that we should not be concerned about acid rain and air pollution.  The article mentions the possibility that trees might absorb or emit the compounds depending on the ambient local concentration from other sources, or on the amount of ultraviolet radiation.  What it might mean is that we need to redefine what pollutants are, because according to environmentalist axioms, trees don’t pollute; people do.  Nevertheless, this story is an ironic gotcha against those who mercilessly skewered Ronald Reagan for that remark during his presidency that trees cause air pollution.  It would be fun to hear the gipper comment on this news item in his inimitable style.  Too bad he is too incapacitated to savor the repartee.  Happy St. Patrick’s Day, Mr. President, and to all our readers – oh, and don’t fret about sniffing that fresh pine-scented air this beautiful March afternoon on the threshold of spring.
Next headline on: Politics. • Next headline on: Plants.
Engineers Study Bacteria for Fuel of the Future   03/14/2003
Humans can mass produce hydrogen, at a high price.  To meet President Bush’s challenge to build non-polluting fuel-cell cars, engineers need to find a better way to produce hydrogen than via platinum catalysis, which “requires more energy than it makes as hydrogen, and produces 3 tons of carbon dioxide for each ton of hydrogen,” according to Joe Alper in the
Mar. 14 issue of Science.  “You might as well stick to burning petrol in a car as make hydrogen this way,” adds chemist Chris Pickett.  There is a better way, and tiny bacteria have known about it all along.  Alper says that “For inspiration, [Pickett] and others are turning to the most efficient producers of hydrogen on Earth: bacteria, including the Escherichia coli that live in the human gut.”
    How do they do it?  The catalysts bacteria use, called hydrogenases, are large, complex proteins.  Cheap hydrogen in abundance from water would be ours, if engineers could learn their secrets.  “That has been easier said than done,” Alper cautions, “as few of nature’s catalysts have turned out to be as surprising and confounding to chemists as hydrogenases.”  Scientists have been studying them for over 70 years and only recently are beginning to understand how they work.  Their method is totally different from man’s messy, inefficient way.
    Hydrogenases contain metal atoms (iron and/or nickel) in the core of their active sites.  Electrons and hydrogen atoms are carefully shuttled in and out of the heart of the water-splitting factory via tunnels into which sulfur atoms project.  Scientists were astonished to find that the metal atoms are surrounded by two deadly poisons, carbon monoxide and cyanide.  Yet these two substances are essential to the catalytic activity.  The enzymes are able to twist their metallic bonds in a way that transfers two electrons to a proton, making a metal hydride, which then combines with another proton to make molecular hydrogen.  At least one of the carbon monoxides flip-flops between the two iron atoms during the reaction.  The nickel-iron models of these machines are still poorly understood.  As soon as scientists can mimic the action of these molecular machines and mass-produce synthetic catalysts, we might swear off our dependence on foreign oil forever, and rid our environment of petrochemical pollutants.
    Alper explains how bacteria use their micro-electronic tools: “Present throughout the microbial world, as well as in some green algae, the hydrogenases play a variety of roles in energy metabolism and fermentation, largely in environments where oxygen is scarce, such as the mammalian digestive system and subsurface soil.”
It is so amazing to see some of the biggest evidences of intelligent design in the smallest and most “primitive” organisms.  But it is almost as amazing to see intelligent scientists attribute this to idols like Mother Nature, who is supposedly blind, deaf and dumb: “Over a billion years ago, ancient bacteria evolved [sic] the ability to use iron and nickel to make hydrogen from water and then oxidize it as fuel, incorporating these metals into the enzymes now known as hydrogenases,” Alpers imagines nonchalantly.  Thomas Rauchfuss tops that: “over the few billion years that nature has been refining the hydrogenases, she’s come up with a few clever tricks that we’ve only recently figured out.”  Cough!  Choke!  But it gets even worse.  Consistent evolutionists must imagine that hydrogenase machines ultimately evolved from hydrogen itself, and the hydrogen evolved out of nothing.  Is this useful?  Evolutionary storytelling is like the exhaust fumes coming out of the tailpipe after the real engine of science does the work.
    For some fresh air, consider some alternatives from a design perspective.  Dr. Joe Francis, biology professor at The Master’s College, has recently been considering the implications of the fact that many micro-organisms perform vital functions that are absolutely essential to higher organisms.  Hydrogenase is one example.  The bacteria that digest cellulose for herbivores, and the nitrogen-fixing bacteria in plant roots are others.  It is also known that only a small fraction – perhaps 5% or less – of bacteria and viruses are harmful.  (The pathogenicity could be secondary, derived from mutation or recombination or lateral gene transfer, as appears to be the case in some whose genes have been sequenced.)  These micro-organisms give every appearance as having been present from the beginning, with their capabilities already functional, but not just for themselves.  Francis believes we should see the microbial world as a vast support network, originally designed for the good of the entire ecosystem.  Whether from judgment or degeneration, only a small part cause the grief we normally think of when talking about “germs”.  Even biological toxins, in small amounts, can have a beneficial role; many substances in nature act as either promoters or repressors, like gas pedals and brake pedals.  In living cells, also, some enzymes start actions, some stop them.  In this way, a dynamic balance (homeostasis) is maintained and regulated.  This natural regulation could also extend to interactions between organisms.  EurekAlert reported March 17 that scientists at Hebrew University found a fungus that is more effective than chemical pesticides at repressing powdery mildew (another fungus) and mites (an arthropod).  Dr. Francis also illustrated the principle with leaf-cutter ants that farm a fungus inside their nests; he pointed to another fungus outside that keeps it from spreading.
    Evolutionists want us to see a world of selfish organisms all competing for resources and tricking each other into getting what they want.  Is there a better perspective?  “God looked on everything He had made, and behold, it was very good,” says Genesis 1:31.  An initial good creation, followed by sin and judgment, can provide a new paradigm.  Instead of having to weave imaginary tales about how mindless bacteria invented high technology, we can see them as designed to what they do, and do it well, from the very start.  We can see a system of diverse organisms cooperating for the good of the whole in a dynamic interplay of regulatory processes. 
    A parting thought: there are about ten times as many bacteria and microbes in and on your body as your own cells.  Don’t hurry to get out the antibiotics and disinfectants, though; without them, you could not survive.
Next headline on: The Cell. • Next amazing story.
Tree of Life is in National Science Foundation, Not Garden of Eden   03/14/2003
The government is providing evolutionary scientists $150 million to produce the Tree of Life, reports the
Mercury News.  But this is not a living tree in a divine garden, but a conceptual picture of evolutionary ancestry, “assigning every creature, living or extinct, to its proper branch, twig and leaf.  The plan is to trace the family ties between everything from bacteria to whales, from dinosaurs to humans, using the latest tools of biology, genetics and computer science.”  The method?  “To construct the tree of life, scientists use the latest information from DNA sequences, as well as older methods of comparing creatures’ shapes, organs and behavior to determine their relationships.  Like a living fossil, DNA preserves a record of an organism’s ancestry.”  Why and what for?
Scientists say this huge genealogical chart will have practical benefits for medicine, agriculture and the environment, as well as providing a basic understanding of life on our planet.  They say it will be as valuable as the chemists’ familiar periodic table of the elements, only much larger and more complex.
    One of the amazing claims of modern biology is that all life on Earth is descended from one common ancestor, a one-celled microbe that appeared some 4 billion years ago.  As ages passed, this tiny organism multiplied, differentiated and evolved into the enormous array of species that have since populated the Earth.
Examples of practical spinoffs cited include tracing the history of the hanta virus and invasive species of plants, finding another source for Taxol, and performing forensic analysis in criminal cases.  The reporter, Robert S. Boyd, gives no hint of controversy about the grand tale on which this huge project is based:
    Anthropologists say humans and chimpanzees shared a common ancestor 5 million to 7 million years ago.  We primates – humans, apes and monkeys – grew up in the family of mammals, which sprouted from the class of vertebrates, a subdivision of the kingdom of animals.  Animals, in turn, are a twig on the great branch of creatures that shelter their DNA inside the nucleus of each of their cells.
    All these creatures, along with the host of one-celled organisms that lack a nucleus, stem from the root of the tree of life, that ancient microbe that is the grandfather of us all.
Already $17 has been issued to resolve the phylogenetic history of birds from their alleged ancestors, the dinosaurs.  Dozens of research institutions and hundreds of scientists will take part in this 10-year project.
Well, this is surely a boondoggle, because they’re throwing money down the drain after an impossible task.  Two evolutionists involved in this kind of work said that the number of putative trees that can be constructed from the raw data is almost infinite (for only 55 taxa, the number is 3 x 1084 possible trees, more than the number of atoms in the known universe).  They remarked, “One is forced to admit that no future civilization will ever build a computer capable of solving the problem while guaranteeing that the optimal solution has been found.”  So the field is wide open for scientists to converge on a consensus view and claim success, even when no success is justified or justifiable.  Is this taxpayer-funded job security for evolutionists?
    The references to practical applications are irrelevant to the big question, whether a microbe is our granddaddy.  Not even creationists dispute that organisms vary within kinds.  If you can compare genes and find a crook, or see that closely-related plants have a common medicinal drug, fine.  Does that support the “amazing claim” that evolution’s tree of life supersedes the one in Genesis and Revelation?  The spinoffs are a distraction that do not justify the tale.  A pendulum can be used for a clock or a divining rod.  The first is applied science, the second is pseudoscience.  Funding pendula for clocks does not justify funding them for soothsayers.  There are many outstanding geneticists who provide valuable services to medicine, agriculture, criminology, or pure research.  It is a non-sequitur to conclude that funding genetics justifies funding evolutionary storytelling.  Evolutionists have no right to trade on the reputation of legitimate DNA laboratory research.
    Genetic phylogeny is a modern form of divination.  Instead of looking into a liver to predict a nebulous future, evolutionists look into the genes to postdict a nebulous past.  Like diviners, whose tales are vague enough to yield opposite interpretations and provide a safety valve if accused of being false prophets, evolutionists frequently announce unexpected and contradictory results, with baffling puzzles and empty promises.  Like diviners, they are usually ready with an explanation.  Similarly, they cannot be proved wrong, and they wrap themselves in the mystique of a secret art that is inscrutable to the laity.
    Once reporters pull the wool off their eyes and see what these modern day charlatans are up to, and start asking the same hard-hitting questions they would a crystal ball gazer or a Senator proposing a pork-barrel project, science news reporting will enter a new era.  Read Creation-Evolution Headlines and be on the cutting edge.
Next headline on: Genes and DNA. • Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
Tooth Form Follows Tooth Function   03/13/2003
“Very different groups of mammals have teeth of similar shapes,” begins Anne Weil, anatomist at Duke University, in a News and Views piece in the
March 13 issue of Nature.  “One obvious explanation for this is that the greatest efficiency in chewing similar foods is strongly favoured by natural selection.  But other reasons could include the constraints imposed in the process of development, or the historical limitations imposed within mammal lineages, and each of these factors might act against or in concert with the demands of optimizing function.”
    She comments on the work of Alistair R. Evans and Gordon D. Sanson, engineers who published a study recently in the Biological Journal of the Linnaean Society.  They modeled the optimal tools for cutting food into small bits for chewing, from an engineering point of view:
They have carried out a computer-modelling exercise, designing tools to cut tough substances, and find that found that the most efficient tools closely resemble the molars of carnivorous and insectivorous mammals.  They conclude that in many cases developmental and evolutionary factors have not strongly influenced molar shape, and that function is indeed the primary determinant.
Evans and Sanson optimized their model teeth based on six criteria engineers in tool design.  “Not surprisingly, they found that some shapes work better than others,” comments Weil.  “The field of optimal shapes narrowed further when true-to-life criteria were applied: a serial arrangement for the blades, like that of teeth in the jaw, and a degree of lateral as well as vertical movement, as commonly occurs in chewing.”  Their ideal tools closely resembled two-edged and three-edged mammalian teeth: “This notched triangle is a familiar shape to any student of mammalian evolution, because it evolved early and possibly more than once in mammalian history and is present in many living groups, such as opossums and bats.”
    Weil’s article is entitled “Evolutionary biology: Teeth as tools.”
We will enjoy this story much more after we sweep away the evolutionary cobwebs.  What did Evans and Sanson find?  Animals have optimally designed teeth.  Function, not developmental or evolutionary factors, determined tooth shape.  Wonderful; evolutionary theory has again been demonstrated to be irrelevant.  Can’t we just leave it there?  Why must we be told that, in spite of these empirical findings, evolution did indeed produce these optimal designs – and not just once, but multiple times?  Does Weil tell us how evolution did this, or provide any evidence?  No; she ends in a bald, dogmatic statement that teeth just evolved.  On top of that, nature evolved it better than the engineers designed it (emphasis added):
Evans and Sanson’s study did not address the significant role of crushing in chewing.  Their modelling therefore did not produce a ‘tribosphenic’ tooth shape, characterized on the lower molars by a low basin behind the high trigonid (Fig. 1d, e) into which the largest cusp of the upper tooth fits.  Tribo-sphenic molars perform both slicing and crushing functions, and were present in the ancestors of all living mammals.  Although Evans and Sanson focused on cutting alone, the superior efficiency of their protoconoid models, and the evident supremacy of function in determining tooth form, may support the arguments of those who believe that tribospheny evolved [sic] two or even three times within early mammals.
Here is the miracle of emergence again.
Next headline on: Mammals. • Next headline on: Intelligent Design.
Universe Still Has Mysteries   03/12/2003
Two articles in
Astrophysical Journal Letters indicate that there are objects out there that don’t fit neatly into established theories.
  1. A team of Japanese astronomers found evidence for large-scale structure at redshift z=5.  Introducing the fact that “The formation and evolution of the large-scale clustering of galaxies, as seen in the present-day universe, are central issues in cosmology,” they feel their survey with the Subaru telescope indicates “the high mass of halos hosting z=~5 LAEs [Lyman-alpha emitters] found here will imply that dark halos of a given mass host galaxies of a wide range of stellar mass or a wide range of evolutionary stages.”
  2. Geoffrey Burbidge has another galaxy with quasars he believes are associated it, even though they have different redshifts.  (Burbidge, along with Halton Arp and the late Fred Hoyle, form a maverick group of astronomers who do not believe red shifts are reliable distance indicators).
The Japanese team’s large structure at a great distance adds more to the “lumpiness problem” of cosmology.  But if redshifts don’t necessarily prove distance or expansion, as Burbidge et al continue to argue, then all bets are off whether current theories explain the universe; we could be back at square one.  Meanwhile, Nature March 13 continues to push the new buzzphrase “precision cosmology” in its News Feature “Cosmology gets real,” even though author Geoff Brumfiel admits the recent WMAP results leave many questions unanswered.  It’s ironic that he ends with a quip from University of Chicago cosmologist Michael Turner, who says, “We’ve flushed out the basic features of the Universe.  What we need now is a good story.”
Next headline on: Stars. • Next headline on: Cosmology.
Does Islam Nourish Science?   03/13/2003
The conventional wisdom says Islam was the seedbed of science for six centuries while Europe was in the Dark Ages, but if so, why is science so weak in Muslim countries today?  An
Editorial and News Story in the March 13 issue of Nature explore this question.  Last week in Italy, top science officials from Islamic and Western countries met to tackle the question, “Is ‘Muslim culture’ helping the advancement of our society or not?”  Possible reasons for the below-average science grade included lack of democracy and freedom of expression in totalitarian regimes, the rise of Islamic religious schools, poverty, unemployment, and radical Islam with its cycle of violence and hatred of the West.  The Editorial concludes, “Science and education, the freedom to think critically, and contact with Western scientists can help to educate both sides, leading to a reform of Islam that brings to the fore the tolerance and scholarship that was for centuries the mark of the religion’s practice.”
Liberals including those in Big Science seem to be stepping all over themselves these days to extol the virtues of Islam and whitewash its ills.  But the same journal Nature does not hesitate to print attacks on those who believe the Genesis creation account, even when they are outstanding scientists and compassionate citizens, the polar opposites of suicide bombers.  For those unfamiliar with this kind of double standard, it is called “tolerance.”  For a little balance, we suggest reading Marvin Olasky’s analysis of media coverage of Islam in last week’s World Magazine (March 8); also read the other reports on the flattering coverage of Buddhism, Hinduism and other world religions given by the media in contrast to their misrepresentations and palpable disdain for conservative Christians.  The whole issue, including the editorials, is revealing.  Also, see the introduction to our online feature World’s Greatest Creation Scientists, where the differences in world view pertinent to science between Islam and Christianity are discussed, as well the record of achievement by European scientists who were, for the most part, informed by Christian Biblical beliefs, and gave us our modern world.
Next headline on: Politics.
Early Human Tracks Found in Italy   03/12/2003
National Geographic claims that fossil trackways in southern Italy have been confirmed as human, dating from 325,000-385,000 years ago.  That makes these 27 footprints and a few handprints, in a layer of volcanic ash, the oldest prints known of genus Homo.  The famous Laetoli prints in Africa are alleged to from pre-human hominids dating back 3.5 million years.
    The report in the March 13 issue of Nature calls the dating of the tracks “provisional” and describes them as having ball, arch, heel, and toes.  They have enough similarities to human footprints “to support the idea that they are indeed human and fully bipedal,” the Italian geologists say.
Do dead men tell tales?  Perhaps, but living ones can tell whoppers.  NG has these people escaping a volcano and coming from Homo erectus, even though from all appearances, the prints look modern.  Let’s try our own story.  Some kids were playing a dare game and seeing how close they could get to a volcano, darting in and back in a Z pattern, laughing all the way home, where Mom told them to wipe their feet and go do their homework.  A burst of ash covered the prints and hardened them, but a year later they were exposed by erosion.  A scientist happened along and found the tracks.  “These must be from ancient humans,” he exclaimed.  “It appears they were shorter than modern humans, and had just learned to walk upright.”  Later, an artist’s reconstruction of naked ape-like ancestors escaping a volcano appeared in National Geographic.  These kids’ teacher held up the magazine in their school to impress them with the evidence for evolution.
    It should be noted that the Laetoli prints were admitted in National Geographic to be indistinguishable from modern human prints, but their artist drew the “hominids” with ape-like features.  According to their evolutionary dating schemes, the prints were too old have been made by modern humans, in spite of their appearance.
Next headline on: Fossils. • Next headline on: Early Man.
Question Evolution and Get Fired   03/12/2003
Agape Press reports that a professor was asked to resign after giving a presentation to elite students about “Critical Thinking on Evolution.”  At Mississippi University for Women, Dr. Nancy Bryson was dismissed by the Vice President of Academic Affairs on hearsay from a fellow professor who accused her of being unqualified and presenting “religion masquerading as science” when she encouraged students to consider flaws in evolutionary theory, and consider alternatives like intelligent design.  The students, however, were enthusiastically supportive of her talk.  Dr. Bryson is considering legal action against the school.
Update 03/18/2003: The school has flip-flopped and reinstated Bryson, reports the Mississippi newspaper Clarion-Ledger.  University President Claudia Limbert claims Bryson’s removal had nothing to do with her lecture questioning evolution, but she declined to say why Vice President for Academic Affairs Vagn Hansen asked her to resign after the evolution lecture.  Limbert reasserted her “absolute commitment to academic freedom and freedom of speech,” expressing concern that the timing of the dismissal had created a perception that the reason was her criticism of evolution.  A flood of emails had protested Bryson’s removal as division head.
Evolutionists, don’t you realize that strong-arm tactics are going to backfire?  It makes you look like the dictators bringing in the tanks at Tiannenmen Square.  The only way to win in this debate is to present better scientific evidence.  So let’s hear some.*
*Inadmissible: microevolution, circular reasoning and just-so stories, or harangues about how science must by definition be built on naturalistic philosophy.  We mean real observable, repeatable, testable evidence.
Next headline on: Education. • Next headline on: Darwinism. • Next headline on: Intelligent Design.
SETI to Revisit Best Candidates   03/12/2003
Nature Science Update reports that the world’s largest radio dish in Arecibo, Puerto Rico is going to take a closer look at 150 of the strongest signals picked up by SETI@home volunteers.  The project’s chief scientist feels there is about a one in 10,000 chance of finding an alien civilization.
On what basis does he make this calculation?  Merely on evolutionary assumptions.  You cannot build a statistical case on one measurement.  The article quotes Ian Morrison of Jodrell Bank Observatory, UK, as being more cautious: “There’s a serious possibility that we could be the only advanced civilization in the Galaxy.”  There is also the serious possibility that we are the only life of any kind in the universe, unless God created it.  If He did, He did not reveal anything about it, which is His prerogative.
Next headline on: SETI.
Movie Review   03/11/2003:   In Christianity Today, Thomas E. Woodward, founder and director of the C. S. Lewis Society, gives thumbs-up reviews to the two definitive films about the Intelligent Design movement, Icons of Evolution and Unlocking the Mystery of Life.
Next headline on: Movies and Media. • Next headline on: Intelligent Design.

Reality TV Meets Noah’s Ark   03/10/2003
In an effort to attract seasoned gamers and viewers submerged in “kitsch low culture” and “mindless cultural fluff,” Stephen Goddard has an epic idea: put a dozen strangers in a boat with animals and let them try to survive for 40 days and 40 nights.  The Ark sets virtual sail on Easter Sunday, according to the
BBC News, and website visitors can vote a volunteer off every fourth day until one is left.  Shipmates get to assume a Biblical role like Jezebel, John the Baptist, Eve, Bathsheba, or Samson.

For anyone who has any respect for the Bible and the holiness of God, this latest dally into pop culture must cause deep groans, even tears.  Promoters think gimmicks like this will popularize theology and make it attractive to jaded, entertainment-intoxicated peasants, but all it is succeeding in doing is making Christians look like the Ship of Fools that Goddard calls his “satirical Christian webzine,” which has already latched onto the Simpsons and produced an Anglican teddy bear.  Why do some Christians feel this urge to jump on every cultural bandwagon in Vanity Fair?  (Usually they’re the last to get on, too.)  When will we understand that people don’t learn the fear of God through circuses, gimmicks, entertainers and trend-hopping, but by contemplation of the truth of God’s Word?
    Anyone attracted to the Bible by a sleazy Arky soap opera is going to be more interested in getting sensual gratification out of reading about Bathsheba and Delilah, not prostrating himself or herself in the presence of the Almighty.  The BBC treats this story like the joke that it is: “The Ark is reality TV meets God online in a flood.  Madness?”  The reason “Bible stories are being pushed to the margins of our culture” is because our culture treats them like cartoons about myths.  The real myth is that evolution has rendered the Bible’s history irrelevant, therefore irreverent.  Unless and until pastors understand that, and bring new Holy Spirit fire into their pulpits to rebuke the idols of our day, Christians will continue to be marginalized by a culture bred on the myth that naturalistic science has no need of the Word of God to explain the universe, earth, man, and destiny.
   “Reality TV” is an oxymoron.  TV addicts wouldn’t know reality if it hit them on the head.  Stop the gimmicks and escape to real reality.  Persuade people that we have a Maker and are accountable to Him.  Apologetics, not entertainment, is the need of the hour;  we need to lift up, not dumb down.  This would be a good time to review Joe Bayly’s classic parable The Gospel Blimp.
Next headline on: The Bible. • Next headline on: Movies and Media. • Next dumb story.
Darwinist Admits Darwinism Can Be a Secular Religion   03/07/2003
Michael Ruse is no friend of creationism or the Intelligent Design movement; he is one of the most ardent critics.  He can at times, however, to his credit, reprimand his evolutionary friends when he thinks they go out of bounds.  In the March 7 issue of Science, he investigates a common creationist accusation: “Is evolution a secular religion?”  His answer is yes and no.  He feels some evolutionists do good lab work, and denies that the theory has anything to do with morals.  “But, if we wish to deny that evolution is more than just a scientific theory,” he concedes, “then creationists do have a point.”
    Ruse is especially critical of attempts by many evolutionists to make moral or political judgments, or to present evolution as progressive.  As a bad example he points to his contemporary Edward O. Wilson, “rightfully regarded as one of the most outstanding professional evolutionary biologists of our time,” who preaches evolution as the triumphant conqueror of traditional religion.  After providing an intriguing historical review of evolution’s promoters, many of whom went out of bounds into moral or political advocacy, he concludes:
So, what does our history tell us?  Three things.  First, if the claim is that all contemporary evolutionism is merely an excuse to promote moral and societal norms, this is simply false.  Today’s professional evolutionism is no more a secular religion than is industrial chemistry.  Second, there is indeed a thriving area of more popular evolutionism, where evolution is used to underpin claims about the nature of the universe, the meaning of it all for us humans, and the way we should behave.  I am not saying that this area is all bad or that it should be stamped out.  I am all in favor of saving the rainforests.  I am saying that this popular evolutionism—often an alternative to religion—exists.  Third, we who cherish science should be careful to distinguish when we are doing science and when we are extrapolating from it, particularly when we are teaching our students.  If it is science that is to be taught, then teach science and nothing more.  Leave the other discussions for a more appropriate time.
Michael Ruse is currently in the Department of Philosophy at Florida State University, Tallahassee.
This is a significant concession from a believer who can pack more anti-creation propaganda into a sentence than anyone we have ever seen (see loaded words in our Baloney Detector, where his propaganda-to-word density approaches 0.99).  Though he denies any link between evolutionary theory and morals, he owns up to an accusation Duane Gish and others have been making for years, that evolution is not presented by many of its leading advocates (such as Julian Huxley) as a science, but as a religion.  Ruse even casts Thomas Huxley as Darwin’s apostle Paul, illustrates (with photos) natural history museums as secular cathedrals, and portrays Erasmus Darwin, Huxley, Haeckel and Spencer as secular crusaders.  (In the process, he pictures poor old Charles Darwin as an also-ran.)  Ruse fails to mention any leading evolutionist by name, living or dead, who could be considered a good model of a scientist who kept to the laboratory without using evolution as a springboard for moral messages about democracy, education, religion, or conservation.
    The analogy about industrial chemistry lacks merit, because chemistry deals with observable, repeatable laboratory work.  Ruse also gives a false either-or impression that evolutionists support rain forest preservation and creationists don’t.  We would also question the validity of most of the “serious empirical work, very professional” that Ruse bluffs about (read our pages for many examples).  Also, despite his assertion that “It is silly to claim that a naturalistic story of origins leads straight to sexual freedom and other supposed ills of modern society,” that’s exactly the message many students get.  What else would logically follow from a belief that everything evolves by natural selection, including morals?  And when is the more “appropriate time” to address the moral implications of Darwinism?  In the sociology or political science class?  But if there is no scientific basis for drawing moral judgments from evolutionary theory, how about in religious studies class, or at the 10:30 service of the First Darwinist Church of Atheism?
    So take notice, evolutionist readers.  Better be consistent.  If you believe evolution is not a religion, then you had better stick to observable, repeatable, laboratory science.  That means you have to stop relying on imagination and wishful thinking about how such-and-such a tooth or bone might shed light on evolution.  You can no longer tell just-so stories about the observations (see next headline).  You must stop speculating about morals and politics*, and telling people how they should live.  You can no longer extrapolate beyond what the data indicate.  These commandments come from one of your leading atheologians.  (If the faithful all did what Cardinal Ruse suggests, Darwinism would quickly lose worshippers, because the scientific part is boring.  Maybe they can pep up their worship services with our evolution hymns.)

*In the same issue of Science, a Paris sociologist makes the astounding claim that suicide terrorism is a concept foreign to Islam; instead, suicide bombers get their inspiration from the Catholic Inquisition.  Why is a science journal giving this revisionist a pulpit?  Call foul.  Cardinal Ruse, excommunicate this heretic.
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
Thai Teeth Tell Tall Tales   03/06/2003
Did you know humans and chimps are now classed in the same group, called hominoids?  Recently an international team found some hominoid teeth in a coal mine in Thailand, and believe they came from an ancestor of orang-utans.  Publishing their results in the
March 6 issue of Nature, they believe the creature was a new species intermediate between African and Asian apes, and feel it must have learned to swing from trees independently of the African hominoids.  The BBC News develops the story even further, supposing the creature had some fruit for lunch, then while drinking out of a lake was eaten by a crocodile.  The teeth then sank into the peat at the bottom of the lake and were embedded in coal.
Have evolutionists forgotten the lesson of Nebraska Man?  One cannot spin these kind of yarns from teeth.  Teeth do not come with dates and video recordings of how they got where they are.  It was wishful thinking and evolutionary dogmatism that caused Henry Fairfield Osborn and other evolutionists to construct an imaginary Nebraska ape-man family and ecology out of a pig’s tooth.  Here they are in 2003 again, telling us all about land bridges and migration routes and tree gymnastics, all from a few teeth in Thailand.  The science reporter at the BBC should be embarrassed at his gullibility.  Where is hard-hitting investigative reporting when it comes to what scientists claim?  He should read the book review by John Galloway a few pages up in the same issue of Nature, which ends: “The take-home message is that science is not some intellectual and moral sovereign state.  It is a human activity replete with self-deception and promotion, lies, the abuse of power, political manipulation, you name it.  On reflection, how could it really be otherwise?”
    We support good science here at Creation-Evolution Headlines, science that is based on solid evidence, and theories that are built on facts that are observable, testable and repeatable.  If the evolutionists want to publish just-so stories that can never be observed or repeated, they should get out of the scientific journals.  We have the perfect venue for them: a journal with a long-standing reputation, with a loyal clientele of avid readers who will appreciate and enjoy all they have to share.  Click here to subscribe.
Next headline on: Early Man. • Next dumb story.
Microwave Map Supports Ungainly Cosmology   03/06/2003
Sean Carroll of the Enrico Fermi Institute is pretty jazzed about the new
Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe data.  Writing for News and Views in the March 6 issue of Nature, he believes the map essentially fills in the final pieces of the modern cosmology puzzle.  But “It’s a good bet that the fun is only beginning,” he concludes, as cosmologists turn to figure out the nature of dark matter, dark energy, inflation, the smoothness of the beginning, and why matter predominates over antimatter.
Pause, dear reader, in stunned disbelief, at the following quote, published here in the most prestigious scientific journal in the world:
Perhaps the most significant aspect of the WMAP results is not the discovery of an unexpected feature of the Universe, but the confirmation of the generally accepted cosmological model that has been constructed over the past several years.  In this model, the Universe is spatially flat and 14 billion years old, with an energy density consisting of 30% matter and 70% dark energy (a smoothly distributed component that varies slowly, if at all, as the Universe expands).  The matter comes mostly in the form of dark matter, which is believed to be made of a type of particle that is as yet undetected; only 4% of the total energy density of the Universe is ordinary matter (such as stars, planets, gas and dust).  Although this model is consistent with a wide variety of observations, it is clearly problematic from various points of view. As ordinary matter and dark matter presumably originate through very different mechanisms, why is their abundance so similar (within an order of magnitude)?  Worse still, why is the total abundance of matter comparable to that of dark energy if they are changing rapidly with respect to each other as the Universe expands?  Furthermore, the leading candidate for dark energy is vacuum energy, or the cosmological constant, for which theoretical estimates disagree with observations by 120 orders of magnitude.
    But, as ungainly as this model appears, the WMAP results confirm it spectacularly.
There’s a joke about a movie director who was filming the biggest World War II battle scene ever staged.  His thousands of parachutists, infantrymen, fighter pilots and tank drivers were all poised as he called out, “Action!”  Bombs and guns and charging soldiers were everywhere in the chaotic melee, with hundreds of paratroopers falling out of the sky, planes dive-bombing and tanks firing; the scene was dramatic.  It was a multimillion dollar, one-of-a-kind shot.  “Cut!” he yelled as the action ended.  He called to his first cameraman.  “Did you get that?”  “Sorry,” was the forlorn reply, “My camera jammed right before the action started.”  He inquired of his second cameraman.  “Sorry, chief, my batteries were dead.”  Each successive hard-luck answer increased the director’s anxiety.  His last hope was Bob, up on the tower.  “Bob!  How did you do?”  Bob’s cheerful reply came a few moments later over the intercom, “We’re ready when you are!”
    This author is playing the part of Bob.  He is cheerful and positive about a disaster scene.  He is busy reading the script of how things are supposed to be, but missing the way things are.  He doesn’t have a clue what dark matter is (or even if it exists), what dark energy is (or even if it exists), why matter vastly outnumbers antimatter, what inflation is, or how mature stars and galaxies could form in a cosmic instant after a smooth beginning.  To top all that, the predictions don’t fit the observations by 120 orders of magnitude (120 powers of ten), so far off the mark it isn’t even funny.  But to him, the fun is just beginning.  He looks up cheerfully from his WMAP and shouts, “We’re ready to explain the universe by naturalistic processes when you are!”
Update  03/07/2003: Several cosmologists (Bridle, Steinhardt, Ostriker, Lahav) writing in the March 6 issue of Science, while optimistic about WMAP, caution that “there is plenty of room for surprises.  Only 5 years ago, breakthroughs in technology and astronomical technique led to the discovery that the expansion of the universe is accelerating.  The future holds promise of even greater technological advances that will uncover further cosmological surprises.”  Those surprises might be bigger than they think.
Next headline on: Cosmology. • Next dumb story.
How Clocks Evolved and Set Themselves   03/05/2003
All animals and plants have built-in clocks that control their circadian (day-night) rhythms, but where are they located, and what makes them work?  Recently, scientists have been moving away from the idea that the circadian clock is a negative feedback loop governed by external cues, and toward the model of a molecular network determined by expression of specialized genes.  A number of clock genes have been identified, and they appear to comprise a network in association with certain localized neurons.  In the
March issue of Current Biology, Till Roenneberg and Martha Merrow of the University of Munich’s Institute for Medical Psychology survey current knowledge of biological clocks.  “Thus, underlying circadian behaviour is a molecular machinery that is present in practically all body cells,” they begin, “and the daily temporal structure of behaviour appears to be the product of a hierarchical amalgam of brain and peripheral clocks.”  Parts of the clocks run without any external environmental cues, but light is the predominant cue that sets the clock. 
    Within their article “The Network of Time: Understanding the Molecular Circadian System,” the authors attempt to address how this complex system of many parts could have evolved.  Here are the pertinent sentences (emphasis added):
  • Understanding the coupling and interactions of this network will help us to understand the evolution of the circadian system...
  • It is the regular alternation between night and day that has shaped the evolution of the circadian clock.  Thus, the clock’s ability to oscillate without a zeitgeber [external environmental cue] is a reflection of how the system has evolved to work optimally when it is synchronised to the environment.
  • How extensive is the network necessary to produce a circadian rhythm?  And what was the function of these loops before a circadian system evolved?
  • Complex networks of feedbacks must have existed even in the earliest cellular organisms.  We have recently modelled the possibility that the circadian molecular machinery evolved from a network of many coupled feedback loops.  Circadian biologists distinguish between driven and self-sustained rhythms.  While the former are exogenously evoked and cease in constant conditions, the latter continue.  Modelling complex feedback networks suggests, however, that even non-circadian network systems are not simply driven by regular stimuli.  Chaotic responses are prevented in the model by making the input pathway sensitive to both the external environment and the endogenous state of the system, similar to what is found in most circadian systems....  This derivable network still does not behave like a circadian clock, but it can easily be turned into such a mechanism by changing the coupling strength between the network components.
Once scientists figure out the molecular clock, they might be able to help frequent flyers and astronauts, or the teenager at breakfast whose “bodily presence is a mere travesty of the physiological state called ‘awake’.”
Uh, excuse me, but I’m still waiting.  You said you were going to help me understand how biological clocks evolved.  You said that complex networks of feedbacks must have already existed in the earliest cellular organisms.  Where did those come from?  How did an early bacterium prevent chaotic responses by making the input pathways sensitive to external and internal stimuli, and why would they want to?  How did they figure out how to adjust the coupling strength between the components?  You basically just say they did, but how?  All you’re telling me about the origin of the biological clocks is that they evolved because they evolved.  That’s like saying a man is deaf because he can’t hear, or astrology is true because it predicted I would meet somebody today.  Can you please elaborate on your model?
    These days it is not polite to smoke indoors.  If evolutionists want to publish smoke and hot air, we kindly suggest that, rather than pollute the scientific journals, they take their unpleasant habit outside.
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
Take Cover!  Earth’s Magnetic Shield Collapsing   03/04/2003
An unusual paper in the
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences claims the sky is falling, sort of.  J. Marvin Herndon thinks the helium emerging from the crust is not primordial (produced at the time of earth’s formation) but generated by nuclear fission in a gigantic natural reactor in the earth’s core.  He cites evidence from Iceland and Hawaii that this reaction may be grinding to a halt, and the implications for life are grim: 
As the georeactor dies, the geomagnetic field that it presumably powers after a time will begin to collapse.  But unlike previous geomagnetic collapses, that have restarted and re-energized the field, a time will come when the actinide fuel of the georeactor is too diminished to initiate self-sustaining neutron-induced chain reactions; the georeactor will die and sometime thereafter the geomagnetic field will die and will not restart.  At some point in time after the georeactor dies, there will be no geomagnetic field and life on Earth will never be the same. 
Unfortunately, he cannot predict when this will occur: “The challenge now is to determine precisely the time of georeactor demise.  Within the present level of uncertainty, one cannot say whether that time will come in the next century, in the next millennium, in a million years, or in a billion years.  But one thing is certain: georeactor demise will occur.”
We’ll leave it to others to evaluate Herndon’s claims and warnings, but even if correct or partly correct, it does not explain the lack of helium in the earth’s atmosphere over long ages (see ICR for explanation).  Meanwhile, just be glad our planet has a magnetic field (or shall we say shield) because it acts like a storm window to protect us from constant bombardment by high-energy particles above the atmosphere.  The Northern Lights are a reminder of the barrage of atomic bullets up there that can’t get to us because of our shield.  Mars has no such protection.
Next headline on: Geology. • Next headline on: Physics.
Gatekeepers of the Cell Nucleus Revealed   03/04/2003
Five thousand gates control access in and out of the cell nucleus: the Nuclear Pore Complexes (NPCs).  In the
March 4 issue of Current Biology, two Canadian biochemists survey what is known about them.  On a molecular scale, they are huge assemblages with many parts, made up of 30 different types of proteins (see the illustration, which looks like a flying saucer with a cylinder inside a basket going through the interior).  But these are not just holes in the nucleus; they are departments of homeland security.  Squads of other proteins scan the visitors and badge them if authorized so that they can run the gauntlet.  And that’s not all.  Now evidence is growing that the NPC, through its power to control what enters and exits the nucleus, is a regulator of gene expression.  The authors say that eukaryotes (that’s us and other multicellular organisms) have the “Cadillac” model NPC composed of 125 million atomic mass units; single-cell organisms like yeast, with 50 million, have the “sportier” version.
If you have seen the film Unlocking the Mystery of Life, you watched an animation of a messenger RNA molecule passing through the Nuclear Pore Complex.  As with most animations, it is simplified for human perception.  Our minds would boggle beyond remedy if we could see the parts operating in real time in all their complexity.  A large number of pieces of cargo are authenticated and allowed to pass through every second, the article explains.  And some of the parts are recruited for other tasks during cell division, during which all these complex parts have to be dismantled, duplicated, and reassembled.  “Our understanding of how the NPC influences nuclear physiology is just beginning to blossom,” authors Wozniak and Lusk conclude.  As usual, the more detail is provided, the less talk about evolution (zero, in this article).
Next headline on: The Cell. • Next amazing story.
Did Morals Evolve From Biology?   03/04/2003
Morality evolved by natural selection, according to three members of the Center for Evolutionary Psychology at University of California, Santa Barbara.  Writing in the
Biological Proceedings of the Royal Society, Lieberman, Tooby and Cosmides studied human attitudes about incest and came up with a theory based on kin selection on how the moral attitudes of people could be derived from Darwinian survival of the fittest.  In “Does morality have a biological basis?  An empirical test of the factors governing moral sentiments relating to incest,” they conclude, “These results cannot be easily reconciled with Freudian approaches, which implicate parent offspring dynamics, not sibling co-residence, as the key variable creating incestuous wishes, their repression and their projection into cultural forms.  More significantly, the evolutionarily predicted inter-individual variations in moral attitude cannot be easily accounted for by cultural determinist theories that posit that moral attitudes in individuals are immaculately conceived from ambient cultural attitudes, through a general learning capacity.  Social science theories claiming that morality is free of biological regulation require revision.  If the mind is not a blank slate, then theories of culture will have to accommodate this fact.”
This is Darwinism run amok and totally out of control.  It is also self-defeating, because any moral feelings they might have about science and truth would also have a biological basis and no intrinsic validity.  Somebody needs to reprimand evolutionary psychologists who take a biological theory that has trouble explaining finch beaks and extrapolate it recklessly into the origin of truth and morals.  Don’t let them out of the university; these guys are dangerous.  It would be bad enough if they only shot their own feet; they’re taking aim at the very existence of right and wrong.  Robert Boyle and the Christian founders of the Royal Society would be appalled.
    They’re right about one thing; the mind is not a blank slate.
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
Scientist Slams the Politics of Peer Review   03/04/2003
Does peer review guarantee good science?  Robert Insall of the University of Birmingham in the UK has serious concerns about what has become of the venerable practice.  Interviewed in the
March 3 issue of Current Biology, he is asked:
Do you have any strong views on journals and the peer review system?
I think nobody is addressing the real problem, which is that your value as a scientist is now being determined by the name of the journals you publish in.  Not the contents of the paper, quality of the research or thought, or even the amount of influence the work ends up having, just the impact factor.  The electronic revolution could enable scientists to be freer in the form they publish in and the way they discuss their work. You would think this would lead to a broadening of the way scientific results were communicated, discussed and evaluated.  Instead, the ever-expanding amount of literature seems to make the legitimacy of the big journals more important than ever.  Very sad, really.  Give people all the freedom in the world and they use it to build a better straitjacket.

And the biggest future challenges to the scientific community?
This leads on from the previous question.  Publishing has become far too political.  Any graduate student now knows that big names get better papers than little fish, and that the best journals accept some papers because they’re fashionable, rather than great advances.  That tends to make people cynical.  Politics and cynicism are extremely unhealthy in a field like science, which really ought to be concentrating on understanding the truth.  If the people who fund science thought they were funding a rat-race, not progress, they’d pull their money out in a moment.  Science fraud is the same – even if it’s not truly prevalent, the perception that it’s happening is disastrous.

So I would say the biggest challenges will be, firstly, to make sure that scientists are judged by the quality of their science, probably by finding something broader than impact factors as a measure.  Secondly, we need to make sure the public perception of science is honest and positive.  The two probably go hand in hand.

Insall, born into “a family of architects, musicians and historians,” became a scientist, specializing in cell movement and chemotaxis.
No comment; Insall’s words speak for themselves.
    Current Biology seems to be into morals these days.  In the same issue, Eve Marder wrote an editorial called “The Emperor’s New Clothes” about “the difficulties in challenging received wisdom or sloppy science.”  (See our related story from January 31).  “In Anderson’s story,” she writes, “the emperor and courtiers were silent because they feared being revealed as stupid or incompetent.  Scientists often do not challenge data with which they might not agree, or conclusions that are perhaps overblown or overstated for these and other reasons.”  No indication of her feelings about current evolutionary theory were provided, but the whole essay could have been written by a critic of Darwinism.  Her conclusion also needs no comment:
As a young child I also read science books and autobiographies of the great men and women of science.  In those tales scientists forged forward in search of truth despite great adversity.  Today the practice of good science rarely involves great acts of courage, but instead requires multiple small acts of personal courage, among them the strength to speak one’s mind even when tact suggests silence.  It requires the willingness to be wrong publicly.  Above all it demands that we remember that the purpose of science is the pursuit of truth, even if that pursuit becomes uncomfortable for ourselves or others.
Next headline on: Politics and Ethics.
How Black Cats Evolved   03/04/2003
It’s not Halloween, but some Maryland scientists studied why some cats are black and reported their genetic investigation in the
March 3 cover story in Current Biology.  Apparently melanism (black coloration) is recessive in domestic cats but dominant in jaguars; in some species it is frequent but never predominant.  They identified two genes that cause melanism in some species but not others.  They feel there must be at least “at least four independent genetic origins for melanism in the cat family.  The inferred multiple origins and independent historical elevation in population frequency of felid melanistic mutations suggest the occurrence of adaptive evolution of this visible phenotype in a group of related free-ranging species.”
And your point is?  This is supposed to be a paper about why black cats evolved.  You read the paper and there are observations about which species have this or that gene, but no theory as to why black color is adaptive.  They say, “To date, little is known about the molecular or adaptive basis of coat color variation in free-ranging mammals, and so far no study has addressed this issue in multiple polymorphic species from the same family.”  So did they come to the rescue and find a reason for natural selection to select melanism?  See if you can find one in their conclusion:
The elevation of independent gene variants in parallel Felidae lineages raises the possibility of an adaptive advantage of melanistic mutants under certain ecological circumstances.  An interesting example is the jaguarundi, whose “wild-type” dark coloration is here shown to be a derived condition, having replaced the ancestral reddish form throughout its continental range.  The prospect of directly inspecting gene variants that specify phenotypic variation potentially subject to natural selection will allow the direct study of such traits in free-ranging populations.  These and other applications of such integrated genetic approaches will hopefully enhance our understanding of species survival, diversification, and adaptive evolution over space and time.
You can hunt through this jargon jungle without ever finding the promised nugget of evolutionary wisdom; it’s just empty promises and futureware.  So some cats are black.  They’re still 100% cats, aren’t they?  What’s Darwin got to do with it?  Some sheep are black, too.
    Scientific papers on evolution so often deal with little microevolutionary changes here or there that are of either no consequence or might conceivably possibly be adaptive if we could ever figure out why.  Color variation is not controversial for creationists or evolutionists.  People have color variations, too, but are all of one species – it’s just a matter of amount of one pigment.  In cats, it would seem melanism involves a loss of information, degenerating from the rich patterning found on a jaguar’s coat to none at all.  Show us a new organ or function arising where it did not exist before, by a plausible sequence of changes, each one naturally selected, or else don’t call it evolution.
    So is this paper an example of Dobzhansky’s oft-quoted principle that “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution?”  Without the empty rhetoric about evolution and adaptation, it could have been written by a young-earth creationist.  It’s scientifically legitimate to study the genes of color variations in animals, but to promise insight into “adaptive evolution” and fail to deliver is bait and switch.  “Step right up for fresh new insights into natural selection and its ability to create a new adaptation!  Whoops... Maybe we’ll get around to it someday.  In the meantime, would you settle for this mutation?”
Next headline on: Mammals. • Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
Early Galaxies Give Cosmologists Lumps   03/03/2003
When the universe was only 2 billion years old there were already mature galaxies with old stars, reports the cover story of
Science News (March 1, Vol 163, No. 9).  It claims galaxies were undergoing a rapid burst of star formation just 800 million years after the big bang, less than 6% the currently accepted estimate for the age of the universe, 13.7 billion years.  Even just 200 million years after the big bang, there were enough stars to ionize all the hydrogen in the universe.  These recent findings about distant galaxies and quasars have led astronomers to the conclusion that galaxies and stars were already mature when the universe was very young, millions of years sooner than previously believed.  These evidences mean that “astronomers may have to revise the accepted view of galaxy formation.”
    In another cosmology story, the BBC News reports a surprise from the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP); the newly-published, detailed map of the cosmic microwave background shows unexpected structure along the quadrupole and octupole components. 
“We are convinced that it is a real effect,” Dr. [Max] Tegmark [University of Pennsylvania] said.  “It is telling us something about the shape of space on the largest scales.  We did not expect this and we cannot yet explain it.”
    It may mean that the CMB is clumpier in some directions than others.  Some theories of the structure of the Universe predict this but observational evidence to support it would be a major discovery.
These observations add to a growing conundrum called the “lumpiness problem”: how did structure arise from a nearly featureless beginning?  It also indicates that the early universe was already mature.  Science News says, “A flurry of new reports suggests that a surprising number of galaxies grew up in a hurry, appearing old and massive even when the universe was very young.” 
Cosmological measurements are always on the bleeding edge of the possible, so caution is advised in interpretation.  The WMAP scientists had to attempt to find and filter out other sources of microwave interference; did they get them all?  Nevertheless, these two stories illustrate how cosmologists are always changing their stories, because nature contains too many surprises to fit into neat theories.  Having so much structure only 800 million years after the big bang (assuming their assumptions for the sake of argument) should spell the demise of naturalistic cosmologies, just like the Cambrian explosion should spell the demise of naturalistic biology, if we let the evidence speak for itself.
Next headline on: Stars. • Next headline on: Cosmology.
Iraq War Threatens Antiquities   03/03/2003
The
BBC News is concerned that important archaeological artifacts may be at risk from the impending war in Iraq.  Included among these are the curious “Baghdad batteries” sitting in a Baghdad museum.  These strange pots containing copper cylinders and iron bars are presumed to have been batteries, because “they do work” based on experiments with replicas.  Found in 1938, they are assumed to date either from Parthian era (250-225 BC) or Sassanian period (225-640 AD).  Other antiquities could also be threatened by war.  Iraq sits right in the “Fertile Crescent” that was the cradle of civilization.  It was the setting for many ancient kings, cities, and events mentioned in the Bible.
That ancient peoples could make batteries indicates they had intelligence and technology that is not often appreciated by moderns.  The discoverer, Wilhelm Konig, believed them to have been batteries, “though this was hard to explain, and did not sit comfortably with the religious ideology of the time.”  Part of that ideology is the belief ancient people were backward and primitive.  Other artifacts even older, from other parts of the world, show this attitude to be a type of modern chauvinism.  They also argue that people were smart from the start, not evolving out of millions of years of brutish imbecility.
    We can only hope that Iraq’s priceless antiquities do not suffer the fate its modern Nebuchadnezzar deserves.
Next headline on: Politics. • Next headline on: The Bible.
Biography  03/01/2003   This month’s “Rock Star” in the geology journal GSA Today is James Dwight Dana (1813-1895), a devout Christian whose “influence was pervasive and extends even to us today,” according to biographer James H. Natland:
Dana held no strictly uniformitarian view of Earth history.  A devout Christian, Dana had a New Englander’s properly Protestant view of the direction of Earth history.  At one scale, he saw this in the progressive volcanism, erosion, and subsidence of linear volcanic chains.  At another, the continents themselves have grown, and life itself has changed form in many ways; always, in Dana’s view, becoming more complex, accordingly as the area of land increased and global climate became more rigorous.  This was plan, not chance.  The paleontologist in Dana saw this, from a very nineteenth century phrenological perspective, in the growth and shape of the skulls of vertebrates.  Thus a benevolent creator, whom Dana termed the “Power Above Nature,” prepared Earth for the benefit of His children, who are at the present end point of history.  Such sentiments pervade Dana’s writing, as one might expect from a man who led Bible studies, played the piano for his church choir, and prayed with his family over meals.
Natland notes that “To many of his contemporaries, James Dwight Dana was the foremost American geologist of the nineteenth century.”  Recognizing the breadth and depth of his observations, Natland remarks that “One’s system of beliefs often contributes to scientific hypothesis.”
Can we apply that principle to the present day?  Is it possible that naturalistic philosophy is contributing to the current geological paradigms, determining what they choose to observe and how they view the history of the world?  James Dwight Dana was an admirable character in many ways, but compromised his Biblical faith with the growing scientific mood of the day that earth was many millions of years old.  His acceptance of the belief that species had transmuted over time, with man as the goal, not only is irreconcilable with Scripture, but contradicts the Darwinian doctrine of unguided, purposeless evolution.  His legacy is thus viewed as a mixed bag by both creationists and evolutionists.
Next headline on: Geology.
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Featured Creation Scientist for March

Who Is He?

Better late than never; we have an exciting mystery person for our Creation Scientist of the Month!

This month’s great scientist is a character from ancient history, predating even the Greeks by a long shot.  Yet in many ways, he exceeded them all.  He was a veritable philosopher-king, a many-talented individual with a reputation that is legendary to this day.  He was a mineralogist, taxonomist, botanist, zoologist, ornithologist, ichthyologist, and entomologist.  His writings even convey an understanding of thermodynamics and the hydrologic cycle – principles that are not always intuitively obvious – long before they were rediscovered in the 19th century.  And though a religious man (at times), he was one of the earliest practitioners of what is known today as methodological naturalism (at least until he got older and wiser).

Although records of his scientific work are scanty, they are intriguing.  They provide a glimpse into what must have been a profound analytical mind.  His photographic memory was phenomenal.  He seems to have taken special interest in gymnosperms and angiosperms; we know that he was an expert on Cedrus libani and Origanum syriacum, but probably hundreds more between these extremes; he cultivated many varieties of plants in his own experimental arboreta.  In fact, he was sufficiently wealthy to employ a small army of lab assistants, not only in his gardens, but his ranches and zoos.  He was particularly fond of Equus, collecting an extensive assortment of specimens.  Exotic mammals and birds imported from distant lands were a special hobby in which he delighted.

We know that this scientist published a great deal; unfortunately, only tantalizing fragments and short biographical references remain.  But in his day, his reputation spread far and wide; fellow scientists and intellectuals travelled great distances to converse with and learn from him.  We can easily imagine that he had a large retinue of students and disciples.

This scientist was one of the first to approach the study of natural phenomena mechanistically.  You might say he was a “naturalist naturalist,” using two diverse meanings of the word side by side: he loved nature, but approached his systematic study and classification of phenomena without reference to spiritual or miraculous elements.  In other words, though he was a theist, not a philosophical naturalist, he practiced methodological naturalism in his scientific approach.  Apparently this served him well, for a time.  It provided him a great deal of satisfaction and motivation to classify things, describe them, and learn about them.  He also sought to understand their underlying causes and build theories: he said, “I applied my heart to know, To search and seek out wisdom and the reason of things.”  He apparently felt no need for what we would call today creationism or intelligent design thinking, except in a general sense (he was not an atheist, after all).  Yet in his later years, his thinking underwent a dramatic reversal.

Over time, this scientist began to despair of ever really achieving a unified theory or even believing that getting a substantial grasp on science was even possible.  He lost interest in the particulars and became more concerned with general principles; less stamp-collecting and more philosophy, in other words.

One of his fundamental conclusions sounds remarkably like Godel’s Theorem, i.e., that it is impossible to establish the validity of system without reference to external axioms.  Contemplation of this principle, and his increasing dissatisfaction with collecting and publishing the minutiae, gradually opened his mind to his own inadequacy, and the absolute requirement to build on the foundation of divine revelation.  He became a creationist.

Have you figured out who we are talking about?  His name is Solomon.  King Solomon, richest man of his day and wisest man who ever lived (with a wisdom given him by God), is often overlooked as a scientist.  But I Kings 4 says he “spoke of trees, from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop that springs out of the wall; he spoke also of animals, of birds, of creeping things, and of fish.”  From the context, these are clearly the meagerest of samples.  Kings and dignitaries from around the world came to hear the wisdom and knowledge of Solomon.  In his book Ecclesiastes, the summation of his old-age philosophical musings, he recalls some of his earlier efforts in horticulture, ranching, engineering and architecture.  The Proverbs of Solomon are frequently peppered with animal and plant allusions that provide glimpses into his natural knowledge, which must have been encyclopedic.  He enjoyed the exotic gifts foreign dignitaries would bring, including apes and peacocks.  Living in peacetime with unlimited wealth, he was almost single-handedly responsible for the greatest scientific renaissance the world had ever seen.

The theistic (Hebrew) world view that permitted Solomon to view the work as a great machine or puzzle to be solved also permitted Solomon to get wrapped up in his own efforts.  That is why he seemed to approach his science – and all his works – as “under the sun” – a grievous task given by God to mankind, devoid of meaning, purpose, and value when approached without reference to the Creator.  “Under the sun” is analogous to methodological naturalism: the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, forgetting the Creator, trying to figure it all out by human effort.  Solomon eventually realized it cannot be done.  Thus his famous phrase, “Vanity of vanities: all is vanity.”

Solomon never lost his love for nature, but realized that there is more to it than meets the eye.  There is a spiritual element to man that resists naturalistic explanation, and that there are purposes we can never know in and of ourselves.  He said, “He [God] has made everything beautiful in its time.  Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end” (Eccl. 3:11).  For the logical positivist who thinks there is no limit to scientific inquiry, he speaks from experience: “When I applied my heart to know wisdom and to see the business that is done on earth, even though one sees no sleep day or night, then I saw all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun.  For though a man labors to discover it, yet he will not find it; moreover, though a wise man attempts to know it, he will not be able to find it” (Eccl. 8:16-17).  Today’s scientists would do well to avoid trying to hoe that row again, unless they think they can reach infinity.

So after years of self-centered searching for knowledge, Solomon came to his senses and rearranged his priorities.  He decided that “much study is a weariness of the flesh, and of the making of many books there is no end.”  He called his final anthropic principle “the whole duty of man” (Eccl. 12):  “Fear God, and keep His commandments.” In other words, realize that natural revelation without special revelation is pointless and ultimately dissatisfying.  For aspiring scientists young enough to avoid his mistake, he has sober advice: “Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth.”


For more information on great Christians in science, see our online book:
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A Concise Guide
to Understanding
Evolutionary Theory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Souder’s Law
Repetition does not establish validity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advice from Paul

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

I Timothy 6:20-21

Song of the True Scientist

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

from Psalm 104

Maxwell’s Motivation

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

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

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