Creation-Evolution Headlines
 August 2002
“Despite all the millions of evolutionist publications—from journal articles to textbooks to popular magazine stories—which assume and imply that material processes are entirely adequate to accomplish macroevolutionary miracles, there is in reality no rational basis for such belief.”
– Dr. John R. Baumgardner, geophysicist, In Six Days: Why 50 Scientists Choose to Believe in Creation (New Holland, 1999), pp. 213.

Does this claim lack support?  Read on and be the judge.

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Earth Adolescence Cut in Half   08/29/2002
Earth had to grow up in a brief 30 million years, not 60 million, as previously supposed.  That’s the conclusion of two papers in the Aug. 29 issue of Nature that claim, based on relative abundances of radioactive isotopes of hafnium and tungsten in meteorites, that earth and Mars were precocious in their youth.  One paper by an international team entitled
“A short timescale for terrestrial planet formation from Hf-W chronometry of meteorites”, produces findings “contrary to previous results,” and another by German scientists entitled “Rapid accretion and early core formation on asteroids and the terrestrial planets from Hf-W chronometry” adds that the smaller the body, the faster the accretion.  If confirmed, this shorter timescale puts the squeeze also on theories of the moon’s formation.  Already highly improbable, the impact theory would have had to occur in even less time.
A. G. W. Cameron of the University of Arizona, in his News and Views review of the findings, however, is not so sure this is the last word.  He questions the “linchpin” assumption that meteorites represent the oldest bodies in the solar system, that demark its birth.  He reminds his readers of a recent discovery that calcium-aluminum inclusions in meteorites contain daughter products of the very short-lived isotope 7Be (half-life 53 days).  So maybe these inclusions were injected into the sun’s neighborhood by a nearby supernova.  This means the accretion times could be even shorter: “the formation times would be reduced still further.  The core-formation time for Vesta might in fact be only 20-40% of the estimates published here,” he suggests.
If you cannot access the journal papers, see this summary in Nature Science Update or the article on Space.Com.

This is just parameter tweaking to bring anomalous results together.  A stitch in time saves nine planets, if naturalism has to do the fashion designing.  But if one moment they can change dates by 100%, what will they say next year, or next week?  That they were created in six days?  Cameron’s hypothesis sounds very ad hoc, as if trying to rescue current theory from the evidence.  He’s right; it’s not the last word.
Next headline on: Solar System. • Next headline on: Dating Methods.
Darwin Letters Being Sent to Galápagos   08/28/2002
According to the
BBC News, 12 volumes of Charles Darwin’s personal correspondence are being sent to the Charles Darwin Research Station on the Galápagos Islands.  They reveal not only his research interest but aspects of his personal life and Victorian society.  The 15,000 letters to and from the naturalist are expected to fill 30 volumes when completed.
Cambridge has been good at collecting historical documents, but isn’t this an act of symbolism over substance?  Wouldn’t researchers be better served by having them more accessible, not having to fly clear off the coast of Ecuador to look at them?  Or was this instigated by the tourist industry?
Though ideas, not artifacts, are what change society, original source documents play an important role.  For an example, see this analysis by Russell Grigg of the famous monkey-and-typewriter argument Thomas Huxley used in a debate against Samuel Wilberforce.  Did Wilberforce stumble speechless, with no answer?  Did he insult Huxley’s ancestry, as suggested in the PBS Evolution TV series Episode 1?  This is where historical documents are invaluable to set the record straight.
Next headline on: Darwinism.
Geologist Disputes Permian Impact Theory   08/28/2002
P. McAllister Rees of the University of Chicago, publishing in the
September issue of Geology, studied plant diversity in various regions and disputes the popular theory that the Permian extinction was caused by a meteorite.  He says (emphasis added):
The greatest of all mass extinctions occurred around the Permian-Triassic boundary (251 Ma), although there is no consensus regarding the cause(s).  Recent studies have suggested a meteor impact and worldwide die-off of vegetation, on the basis of sparse local observations.  However, new analyses of global Permian and Triassic plant data in a paleogeographic context show that the scale and timing of effects varied markedly between regions.  The patterns are best explained by differences in geography, climate, and fossil preservation not by catastrophic events.  Caution should be exercised when extrapolating local observations to global-scale interpretations.  At the other extreme, global compilations of biotic change through time can be misleading if the effects of geography, climate, and preservation bias are not considered.
Popular accounts of what happened in the unobservable past seem convincing, especially when dressed up in computer animations on TV.  Meteorite blasts are particularly popular right now, especially with news about near misses and movies like Deep Impact.  This geologist reminds us that data must be interpreted, and interpretations are often complex and difficult.  Dating of past events is fraught with assumptions.  Whatever happened shows catastrophism that cannot be explained by slow and gradual uniformitarian processes.  For prior headlines on the Permian extinction, see Aug 01, Sep 01, Mar 02 and Jun 02.  We should remember this lesson when interpreting last week’s claim about an Archaen impact that was supposedly the biggest of all.
Next headline on: Geology.
Geckos Inspire Adhesive   08/27/2002
How do geckos walk upside down on glass?  Imitating gecko feet, researchers have made progress toward creating a flexible new adhesive.  West coast Scientists publishing in the online preprints of the
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences studied gecko feet to try to solve a puzzle that befuddled Aristotle: how do they walk around on walls and ceilings, rough and smooth surfaces, right side up and upside down, with such ease?  This team believes the secret is more and more of less and less, tiny hairs that subdivide so fine that van der Waals chemical forces become predominant.  The amount of surface area is so dramatically increased that these forces give gecko feet “one of the most versatile and effective adhesives known.”  The effect is apparently not due to suction or capillary adhesion, because they achieved similar adhesion on hydrophobic and hydrophilic surfaces, polarized and non-polarized, wet or dry.  They also made artificial setae (the tiny hairs on the gecko’s footpads) and measured similar van der Waals attraction.  This may open the door to manufacturing artificial adhesives that work on the same principle.  Maybe there’s a real Spiderman toy coming for some future Christmas.
The authors feel their observation “suggests a possible design principle underlying the repeated, convergent evolution of dry adhesive microstructures in gecko, anoles, skinks, and insects.” See also this summary of the findings on Science Now, which has a micrograph of the tiny hairs on gecko feet.  Nature Science Update has a report also, including a remarkable color picture of the varieties of footpads on different gecko species.  It says their footpads have ridges with half a million hairs each, and each hair splits into as much as 1000 spatula-shaped ridges, whose fine structure fits close to molecules to create the van der Waals forces.  Interestingly, a gecko cannot cling to Teflon, which does not support van der Waals forces.  On most surfaces, however, the spatula shaped pads detach at a certain angle, rolling up like party favors.
This remarkable adaptation is again attributed without proof to evolution, not just once, but four times.  How can you have a “design principle” in an evolutionary world?  In each case the adaptation is more than necessary for survival.  If evolutionary theory is correct, every individual without the ability had to die.  How many geckos had to perish before the hairs got small enough for van der Waals attraction to become effective?  We’ve reported that ants have a different mechanism that would have had to evolve completely separate with the same result.  Geckos are one of many animals featured on Dr. Jobe Martin’s delightful video series Incredible Creatures that Defy Evolution.
Next headline on: Bugs and Crawlers. • Next amazing story.
Physiologist Analyzes Early Man Claims, Dismisses Them as Farfetched Speculation   08/27/2002
Claims of a human ancestor found in
Ethiopia last year have been discredited by a professor of physiology making a presentation at the annual meeting of the American Physiological Society in San Diego this week.  Dr. Joseph Mastropaolo, author of “An Objective Ancestry Test for Fossil Bones,” compared the bones of Ardipithecus with those of baboon, chimpanzee and human according to an objective test.  If the discoverers’s claims were correct that this fossil represented a missing link in human ancestry, it should have been most dissimilar to the baboon, but Mastropaolo found otherwise:
The research results suggest that the famous AME-VP-1/71 bone had scant similarity to human bone, was dissimilar to baboon bone and was most dissimilar to chimpanzee bone.  The baboon bone was similar to the chimpanzee and dissimilar to human bone.  The chimpanzee was most dissimilar to humans.  Human bone had no similarity to monkey or ape bone.  Accordingly, the objective ancestry analyses for fossil bones assert that the conclusions of Haile-Salassie and Robinson were farfetched speculations.
The July 2001 discovery had made the cover of Time magazine, and according to EurekAlert, “The world's media trumpeted the news of this anthropological find. ... Not so fast, states a leading physiologist and an authority on the study of fossils.  He believes that if length was the only objective measurement made on AME-VP-1/71, then there might be a simple method to yield objective evidence to bridge the gap between the scant subjective determinations and that the far-reaching conclusion about this ‘evolutionary leap.’” His methodology involved detailed comparative measurements of bones of the fossil and living primates.  Surprisingly, the chimpanzee, which is supposed to be man’s closest living ancestor, was more dissimilar than baboon to the human bones.
Notice how Dr. Mastropaolo is described as a leading physiologist and authority on the study of fossils.  He was a distinguished professor emeritus of physiology at Cal State Long Beach.  He is also a creationist: EurekAlert lists him as “Adjunct Professor, Institute for Creation Research.”  Yes, creationists do research.  The surprising thing was that this matter-of-fact announcement appeared on a news page of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, usually a very anti-creationist organization.  Did this one just slip through, or is it a trend?  Should personal beliefs matter, if the scientific work is sound?  Should farfetched claims be trumpeted in the media without analysis?
Next headline on: Early Man. • Next headline on: Fossils.
Mitochondria Challenge Evolutionary Speculations   08/26/2002
The Scotsman reports on a paper in Nature Aug 23 (see also News and Views analysis) that challenges the long-held theory that mitochondria were captured by early eukaryotes and became symbiotic with them.  Evidence of mitochondrial parts have been found in microsporidia, a primitive parasite thought to lack mitochondria.  They appear to be shrunken remnants of the organelles, degenerated perhaps due to the parasite’s energy needs.  Dr. John Lucocq of Dundee University where the discovery was made remarked, “This discovery changes the way we think about how cells evolved.  If these parasites are a sort of living fossil, then this is a bit like a ‘missing link’ human ancestor turning out to be a present day human.”
Another story on the mitochondria in New Scientist reports that contrary to conventional wisdom, mitochondrial DNA can be inherited from both parents.  “Evolutionary biologists often date the divergence of species by the differences in genetic sequences in mitochondrial DNA.  Even if paternal DNA is inherited very rarely, it could invalidate many of their findings,” says the article.
Mitochondria, you recall, are the powerhouses of the cell that store the ATP synthase rotary engines.  When findings seem to confirm evolution, wait for more facts to come to light.  For an example of what Dr. Lucocq was feeling, see our August 1 headline.
Next headline on: The Cell and Biochemistry.
Georgia School Board Votes Unanimously to Study Balanced Approach to Teaching Origins   08/23/2002
New York Times reports that the board of Georgia’s second largest school board voted last night to review a new policy promoting balanced education about origins.  The board members claim they were responding to parents’ wishes, expressed in part by 2000 petitions sent in, objecting to the evolution content in textbooks and wanting alternatives to be heard; according to the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, the vote was unanimous and was not about teaching creationism, but just to review a draft policy that states, “discussion of disputed views of academic subjects is a necessary element of providing a balanced education” (and this includes teaching about the origin of species).  The ACLU has vowed to file a lawsuit opposing the new ruling.
The usual suspects are lining up for the vote on September 26.  The liberal New York Times is already portraying this in the typical Inherit-the-Wind stereotype.  The Supreme Court ruled “equal time” laws unconstitutional, but did not outlaw alternatives to evolution being presented.  That’s what the school board appears to be advocating: objectivity, all sides of controversial issues, and openness to consider alternatives; nothing about religion, Genesis, creation“ism” and other smokescreens.  This meshes with the federal Education Bill passed last December.  Already, however, the Darwin Party is claiming this is just an attempt to sneak religion in the back door, a violation of separation of church and state, and other red-herring cliches.  Maybe what will eventually succeed in breaking the minority-Darwinist stranglehold on science education will be enough informed, concerned parents and students demanding objectivity.
A good video to watch on this subject, that gives Eugenie Scott her say but also presents qualified spokespersons on the other side, is Icons of Evolution, available from Access Research Network.  This film is not just about Jonathan Wells’ book of the same name, but tells the story of a popular biology teacher with a Master’s degree and years of experience and honors who was censored for daring to teach all the facts about evolution.  He was not allowed to even quote evolutionary sources that mentioned problems with evolution (including Stephen Jay Gould and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).  Eventually he was reassigned, and replaced by a gym teacher just out of college.  Is this any way to teach science to our children?
Item: Prior to their latest threat, the ACLU was suing the Cobb County school board for putting disclaimers in biology textbooks stating that evolution is theory, not fact, and should be critically considered.  How can the ACLU object to that?  Isn’t that what science is about?  How does critical thinking hinder students’ civil liberties?  Apparently more and more parents are getting the hint that evolution belongs in political science, not biological science.
Next headline on: Schools. • Next headline on: Intelligent Design.
Evolutionary Algorithm Written – By Creationists   08/23/2002
Frustrated with claims Darwinists make that evolution has been demonstrated in silico (in computers), when they cannot demonstrate it in vivo (in life), a couple of creationists have written their own software.  Published by Les Ey and Don Batten in
TJ, the Technical Journal of Creation Ex Nihilo, their program is called Weasel, “a flexible program for investigating deterministic computer ‘demonstrations’ of evolution.”  The name is taken from Richard Dawkins’s book The Blind Watchmaker, in which he appears to generate a line from Shakespeare “methinks it is like a weasel” from random letters in short order with an “evolutionary” algorithm.  This new program allows the user to vary the parameters such as mutation rate, number of offspring, selection coefficient, and genome size.  The difference in this creationist-written evolutionary algorithm is that it reveals to the user where the information was inserted to make the virtual organisms appear to evolve to more complexity.  If you run it with more realistic parameters, nothing happens.  The program is available for download from the link above.
This is an interesting and important development, because increasingly, evolutionists are escaping into software instead of the real world.  Like magicians, they wow the audience with virtual evolution, not revealing how the trick was done.  For example, see the work of Chris Adami at UCLA or anticreationist Tom Schneider, who allege to have evolved complex information from randomness (see rebuttals on TrueOrigin and in Dembski’s book No Free Lunch, where he finds in Schneider’s code the place where he snuck in the information that would guarantee the results he wanted).
Keeping evolutionist programmers honest is worthwhile and important, but the ultimate test of evolution must be outside the computer room.  In the real world, evolution is not demonstrated in the laboratory, it is not demonstrated in the fossil record, it is not demonstrated in gene sequences, and it is not demonstrated in its most famous icons.  Taking refuge in computers that are willing servants to their masters’ every wish is disingenuous; it is doing science in Fantasyland instead of Adventureland.  If anything, computers demonstrate intelligent design, not evolution.
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory. • Next headline on: Intelligent Design.
Founder of Modern Science Inspired by Bible Prophecy   08/22/2002
In a book review in the
Aug 22 Nature, Alan Stewart reviews John Henry’s new book Knowledge is Power: How Magic, the Government and an Apocalyptic Vision Inspired Francis Bacon to Create Modern Science.  The book claims that Sir Francis Bacon, who according to traditional wisdom “invented modern science,” was motivated by “magic” (read: Christian faith), government (read: knowledge for practical good of mankind) and “apocalyptic vision” (meaning, a literal belief in the prophecy of Daniel 12:4, quoted on the title page of Bacon’s Novum Organum “Many will go to and fro, and knowledge will be increased”) –
Bacon firmly believed that he was living in the era in which the scriptures predicted that knowledge would increase beyond all recognition.  Had not the past decades seen crucial advances in learning, warfare and navigation, in the form (respectively) of the printing press, gunpowder and the magnetic compass, he asked?  Part of his Instauratio Magna was entitled Parasceve, the Greek word for ‘preparation’, but particularly the day of preparation for the Sabbath, the ultimate Sabbath of the Day of Judgement.  “What else can the prophet mean... in speaking about the last times?” Bacon asked rhetorically in his Refutation of Philosophies in 1608.  “Does he not imply that the passing to and fro or perambulation of the round earth and the increase or multiplication of science were destined to the same age and century?”
This attitude was shared by Isaac Newton as well.  Stewart gives the book are mild but mostly favorable recommendation, without disputing the claim that Bacon was intensely motivated to advocate science for Biblical reasons.
Are we seeing in Nature an admission that modern science, that icon of respectability in today’s culture, that embodiment of all that is noble and enlightened in the world, was begun by a Christian, who believed in the literal truth of the Bible?  Yes!  Stewart concurs with Henry’s assessment that modern science began with Bacon; then he says, “Perhaps the most compelling section of the book deals with Bacon’s ‘magic’, by which Henry means religion.  Here he makes a more convincing case than many for the profoundly religious underpinning of Bacon’s philosophical project” (emphasis added).
We shall have more to say about Sir Francis Bacon in our ongoing online book project The World’s Greatest Creation Scientists From Y1K to Y2K.  For now, let this book review in a secular journal settle once for all the question of whether design theory, in particular Christian faith and confidence in the truth of the Bible, is good for science.  You shall know them by their fruits.
Next headline on: Bible.
How Do Leaves Prevent Meltdown During Photosynthesis?   08/22/2002
We all know plants harvest sunlight for energy, but what do they do when the energy is coming in too fast?  Imagine coal lumps on a conveyor belt coming into a furnace.  Unless there is a way to regulate the furnace, too much coal will make it overheat.  Plants, it turns out, have multiple feedback loops and regulatory processes to prevent damage when the photons are coming in too fast.  Scientists at Washington State studied one of these regulatory processes called nonphotochemical quenching (NPQ) and published their results in the
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  Although not completely understood, NPQ involves making the ATP synthase motors in the chloroplast less reactive to the flow of protons coming in.  This requires high sensitivity to the acidity (pH) of the lumen, the light-harvesting portion of the chloroplast, and is regulated early in the process:
“Furthermore, the pH of the lumen appears to be tightly regulated to a narrow range, where the stabilities of luminal components and the effective rate constants for electron transfer are near optimal.  Taken together, these observations indicate that a primary regulatory step governing light energy conversion must occur at light capture, and thus likely involves NPQ, rather than at downstream electron or proton transfer reactions.”
NPQ is also very sensitive to the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.  Taken together, these regulatory controls keep the ATP synthase motors from being overloaded with protons.
We’ve reported on ATP synthase several times, the tiny rotary motors that manufacture energy pellets (ATP) for the cell.  They are powered by proton motive force generated by photosynthesis in plants and by metabolism of food in animals, ultimately from sunlight in both cases.  In another paper in the current issue of Cell entitled “Photosynthesis of ATP–Electrons, Proton Pumps, Rotors, and Poise,” John F. Allen mentions these motors in a review of how electrons are cycled around during photosynthesis.  In addition to praising photosynthesis as the food source for all life, he comments, “Photosynthesis is also responsible for the global redox imbalance now seen as abundant, free oxygen–our planet’s signature of life, unique in the solar system.”  His illustrations of ATP synthase and the other components involved in photosynthesis, though just models, look for all the world like power plants and storage batteries connected by wiring.
Thirty years ago, photosynthesis was a black box.  Scientists knew a little about what went in and what came out, but the inner workings of the chloroplast were mysterious.  With today’s advanced lab capabilities, including imaging at the nanometer and Angstrom level, it turns out to be more amazing than we could have imagined.  Multiple levels of regulation, feedback, automatic adjustment and guidance are involved, run by a host of molecular machines and motors.  These make it possible for a leaf to hold its own between a hot August day under full sunlight and a dark cool night in October.  How many of us, when looking at a tree lifting its leafy branches to the sky, had any idea all this was going on at a scale too small to see through a microscope?
This story also underscores the flaw in a common evolutionary argument.  When confronted by the Second Law of Thermodynamics (the tendency toward disorder), evolutionists usually respond that the Second Law is no problem, because it only applies to closed systems.  The earth, they remind us, is an open system, open to the energy of the sun.  Yes, an open system is necessary, but not sufficient to overcome the inexorable downhill influence of the Second Law.  If an open system were sufficient, we should be able to hold a rock up to the sun and watch it grow and reproduce.  Even a dead plant does not heal and grow in the sunlight.  The energy of sunlight is destructive unless channeled and controlled.  In a living plant leaf, the sunlight is harnessed by an elaborate, automated process of chemical pathways that are tightly regulated, and operated by molecular machines.  These capture the energy and package it into ATP where it can be utilized by other molecular machines.  Today’s article reveals just one part of that complexity – a safety valve that prevents burnout.  Raw energy will not produce growth unless it can be converted into a useful form, and that requires machinery and the programs to control them.  A car will not drive uphill if you pour gasoline on it and light a match, even though that constitutes an open system.  An engine is required, built by intelligent design, to harness the explosive chemical energy of gasoline and convert it to mechanical energy.  Based on what we know about engines, motors, and programs, we are justified in inferring intelligent design when we see programmed energy-conversion factories at work in the cell, especially when they are more complex and elaborate than anything man can produce  In the long run, however, the Second Law always wins out: the plant dies, and the photosynthetic factories grind to a halt and disintegrate.  (Amazingly, even that is a highly complex and regulated process: see our headline on programmed cell death).
Incidentally, last month we likened the gamma subunit of ATP synthase to a camshaft.  The article in Cell states: “The gamma subunit acts as a camshaft, inducing the cycle of conformational changes in each of the alpha and beta dimers in turn.”  Just wanted you to know we are not making this stuff up.
Next headline on: Plants. • Next headline on: The Cell. • Next amazing story.
Chinese Fossil Discovery Pushes Origin of Vertebrate Fish to Early Cambrian   08/21/2002
For over a century, fossil fish were known only from the Ordovician period onwards; the Cambrian (550 to 500 million years ago) was known for a plethora of invertebrates, but no vertebrates or fish.  A few mouth parts and scaly plates found during the 1990s were suggestive of earlier fish.  Then, in 1999, two
controversial fossils found in China indicated the presence of soft-bodied, jawless vertebrate fish in the early Cambrian.  Now, in an August 20 preprint for the Royal Society, researchers report the discovery of a third, more detailed specimen that indicates all three were probably members of the same species.  Named Myllokunmingia fengjiaoa, this fossil makes the origin of vertebrates (a subphylum of Chordates) “at least as old as the early Cambrian,” according to the authors. 
The Cambrian Explosion just got louder.  The fact that all major body plans appear abruptly in the earliest rocks has been a topic of heated debate between creationists and evolutionists.  Creationists have pointed out that all the phyla (except vertebrates) appear abruptly and fully formed, without ancestors, in the Cambrian strata.  Evolutionists, in response, have focused on the question, “How come there are no vertebrates in the Cambrian?” (cf. this pro-evolution essay).  I.e., if God created everything at the beginning, why didn’t the vertebrates appear until millions of years later?  These Chinese fossils essentially silence that comeback.  The problem is actually worse for evolution: for these fully-formed vertebrates to appear in the early Cambrian, the ancestor of vertebrates must be pushed millions of years further back into the Precambrian, where there are no transitional forms for them or for any of the other phyla.  Though “primitive” compared to bony fish, Myllokunmingia represents the last nail in the coffin of evolutionist spin on the Cambrian explosion.  Now it is observed that every animal phylum, including subphylum vertebrata, is represented in the earliest rocks.
Darwin’s “tree of life”, in which all living things branch upwards from a common ancestor, is one of the icons of evolution that Jonathan Wells discusses in his book of that name.  Wells points out that evolution (the theory) predicts a tree, but the Cambrian explosion (the evidence) reveals a lawn, or an orchard.  All the major body types appear without transitional forms; therefore, the fossil evidence is opposite what the theory predicts.  It’s not that the fossil record is incomplete, or that Precambrian animals were too soft-bodied to be fossilized (as some evolutionists have spun the story), because soft parts and microfossils are found in the Precambrian.  Another problem is that the molecular evidence doesn’t even match the fossil evidence.  Neither source of observational data matches Darwin’s hypothetical tree of life.  In short, there’s no getting around the Cambrian explosion.  Sadly, as Wells points out, most biology textbooks gloss over or ignore this major challenge to evolutionary theory.  Students are thus given a distorted picture of the scientific evidence.
William Dembski in his book No Free Lunch refers to the Cambrian explosion in another context.  He uses it as evidence against front-loading or deism, the idea that God set the initial parameters of the universe and just let it evolve on its own.  No combination of chance or natural laws would have produced a sudden explosion of body plans in the fossil record.  The fossil record gives record of an intelligent designer who intervened in the natural order.  Bible-believing Christians recognize this evidence fitting either the abrupt creation of all life at the beginning, or the burial of living things at the time of the Flood.  Either way, the Cambrian explosion, to a Jew or Christian, is not an embarrassment to be explained away; it is a confirmation of what the Word of God reveals about the true history of the earth.
Next headline on: Fossils. • Next headline on: Fish. • Next headline on: Darwinism.
Siberian Bacteria Perform Repair in Deep-Freeze   08/20/2002
Astrobiology Magazine claims that bacteria have been found that apparently are able to perform damage repair, even though they have been in a state of suspended animation in deep freeze for up to tens of thousands of years.  Indirect methods suggest that these bacteria maintain a high ratio of left- to right-handed amino acids; if dead, the ratio would approach 50/50 over time.  Cells need pure 100% left-handed amino acids to function.  Because radiation even within the ice would cause damage to DNA and other essential molecules over time, Gene McDonald at JPL and colleagues feel that a certain amount of repair must be in operation, even in the deep freeze of Siberian permafrost.  This gives them hope that any Martian organisms might have survived billions of years of freezing, even if changes in the environment sent them into hibernation.
The ages are inferred, and the methods are indirect, but this article underscores the fact that living things must maintain constant vigilance against destructive processes.  That bacteria can repair themselves in permafrost is impressive, but belies any explanation of how they gained this ability in the first place.
Next headline on: The Cell. • Next headline on: Mars.
Robot Learns to Fly by “Evolutionary Principles”   08/19/2002
New Scientist tells about Swedish inventors who tried to see if a robot could learn to fly without training, “without any pre-programmed data on what flapping is, or how to do it.”  Within three hours, the device settled on a flapping motion that achieved lift limited only by the strength of its motors: “This tells us that this kind of evolution is capable of coming up with flying motion,” explains Peter Bentley, who works on “evolutionary computing” at University College London.  But “there’s only so much that evolution can do,” he explains: “This thing is never going to fly because the motors will never have the strength to do it.”  Nevertheless, the magazine is optimistic: “Learning how to fly took nature millions of years of trial and error – but a winged robot has cracked it in just a few hours, using the same evolutionary principles.”
Whenever evolution seems to have solved a problem or achieved a design, look for two things: (1) the personification fallacy and (2) information snuck in the back door.  Evolutionists personify nature as a magician, who does tricks with natural selection and evolutionary algorithms.  The perceptive reader of Creation-Evolution Headlines isn’t bamboozled by the show; he wants to know how the trick was done.  In this case, it is so obvious it is silly:
A computer program fed the robot random instructions, at the rate of 20 per second, to test its flapping abilities.  Each instruction told the robot either to do nothing or to move the wings slightly in the various directions.

Feedback from the movement detector let the program work out which sets of instructions were best at producing lift.  The most successful ones were paired up and “offspring” sets of instructions were generated by swapping instructions randomly between successful pairs.

These next-generation instructions were then sent to the robot and evaluated before breeding a new generation, and the process was repeated.

(Emphasis added.)  So there was an intelligently-selected target (flying), and success was rewarded by intelligent design, programmed via feedback loops, detectors and specified instructions.  The motors and flappers, of course, were provided free of charge.  Left unstated is why Nature would ever want to fly, or why it took nature millions of years to do it if this robot succeeded in only three hours, or how to evolve flight without motors, or how to get the motors to match the flight capabilities of the wings.
A more realistic experiment would be to turn off the computers and leave the lab, and let the robot just sit there and rust.  William Dembski taught us in No Free Lunch that when you find any evolutionary algorithm reaching a target, look for the magician’s assistant who snuck information in the back door.  Skeptics of evolution can have a lot of fun with this new game called find the information.  It’s all over the place in evolutionary stories, when you know what to look for.
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory. • Next headline on: Intelligent Design. • Next dumb story.
Chemists Play Legos With Self-Assembling Molecules   08/19/2002
“Future designer polymers may be assembled like children’s Lego toys using modular polymer scaffolds programmed to attract building blocks of small molecules.”  Thus begins a story about chemists at the Georgia Institute of Technology who have produced chains of building blocks that self-assemble, reported by
EurekAlert, that claims this technique “emulates nature.”  Getting the chains into useful structures, however, requires programming (emphasis added):
Potential chemical interference problems pose the greatest technological hurdle to the new system, [Marcus] Weck notes.  To build up complex structures using self-assembly processes, he must be able to insert new molecules without affecting molecules already part of the structure or disabling other bonding systems.  Natural systems do that well, but synthetic chemical processes often suffer from unintended interactions.

“We have found some very nice systems that have very good properties and will self-assemble and recognize our system very easily,” he said.  “We now have a polymer backbone that has metal coordination sites and hydrogen bonding sites.  That means we can now add two small molecules at a time.  Each small molecule is programmed to fit its place on the backbone, where it self-assembles and give us a new material.”

Through planning or trial and error, the scientists can substitute individual units to obtain working chains, similar to a “plug and play” approach.
Self-assembly sounds exciting to an evolutionist, as if scientists have discovered a way nature might have originated life.  But this story is all about intelligent design, not evolution.  Notice how “unintended interactions” are the natural tendency of molecules left to themselves.  It takes guidance and intelligence (notice the word programmed in the quote) not only to get the units to arrange into functional structures, but to avoid pitfalls along the way that would produce sticky globs of goo.  There are far more useless dead ends than useful structures, but without replication, “nature” has no natural selection nor programmer on staff to run the maze; just the blind leading the blind.  Evolutionists tend to focus on the simplicity of the building blocks while avoiding the issue of programmed intelligence designed into the finished product.  Lego blocks, even if magnetized, would never self-assemble into a Kek Powerizer of Galidor, but just give the pieces to an eight-year-old and watch intelligent design at work.
Next headline on: Intelligent Design.
Amazing Facts Dept: the Information Storage Capacity of DNA   08/16/2002
Here’s a cool factoid to impress your friends with this weekend.  On the DVD version of
Unlocking the Mystery of Life, molecular biologist Dr. Dean Kenyon claims that a cubic millimeter of tightly packed DNA can store 1.9 x 1018 bits of information (nearly two quintillion, or two billion billion).  Put your thumb and forefinger as close together as you can without touching, and visualize a cube that height filled with DNA.  We wondered, how many DVDs would it take to store that many bits?  So we ran the numbers.
A standard DVD stores 4.7 gigabytes, which is a little over 40 billion bits.  A DVD is about 1/20" thick.  If you transcribed the information in one cubic millimeter of DNA onto DVDs and started stacking them up, by the time you were finished you would have a stack over 37 miles high.  If you placed six Mt. Everests on top of each other, then three Empire State Buildings on top of that, the stack of DVDs would be taller by more than 200 feet.  That’s the information storage capacity in just one cubic millimeter of DNA.
Next headline on: The Cell and Biochemistry. • Next amazing story.
Good Grief Takes Faith   08/16/2002
According to
EurekAlert, the Center for the Advancement of Health has surveyed 265 bereaved persons, and followed up on 164 of them four months later.  One-third of the participants were classified as “religious copers,” who relied on their religious faith during the grieving process.  The researchers found the religious copers to be in better health, with fewer doctor visits required as a result of coping with the loss of a loved one.  Although they caution that their statistical study does not tell the whole story, and does not abrogate the need for medical attention, the researchers feel that more reliance on religious coping could reduce national health care costs by $800 million a year.
Surveys like this involve many complex factors and should not be relied on too heavily, but it makes sense that hope is healthful, and only religious people usually cling to the hope that they will see their loved one again.  Will they?  Is it a sweet dream, or a fact?  Your answer depends quite a bit on your belief about creation vs. evolution
An evolutionist would see religious faith no different than a drug, the opiate of the masses.  Perhaps religion evolved through an adjustment in the secretions of neurotransmitters in the brain as an adaptation to stress.  But how could such a response arise by natural selection?  Evolution is all about passing on one’s genes.  Most of the subjects in this survey were 62 or older, far beyond their reproductive years.  And how could natural selection invent a God or heaven if those very concepts are utterly foreign to undirected natural forces?  If it were granted that evolution is capable of producing myths that succeed in benefiting physical health, then what is to preclude evolutionary theory being a myth also, and on what basis can you claim anything is true?  Observation and experiment is not an answer, because it takes faith in natural law to interpret an observation, and evolution is not observable anyway.
To a Christian, heaven is a blessed hope.  Now, hope in Biblical terms is not just wishful thinking: it is confidence in the promises of the God who cannot lie.  True hope must be based in the true God, the one who revealed Himself in His Word, and according to His own will.  A survey of Bible passages on this subject shows that one of the primary foundations for a Christian’s hope is the doctrine of creation.  Read this essay that explains, with 48 Scripture references, why creation is the reason for hope in suffering.
If you are facing the loss of a loved one, or are working through the grieving process, we invite you to be take comfort by reading our online book Hope for Those Who Hurt, which tells the story of how one couple trusted God’s promises during severe trials.
Next headline on: Health.
Two Amino Acid Mutations Gave Man Speech   08/15/2002
In a
Letter to Nature Aug. 14, W. Enard et al claim to have found evidence that two substitutions of amino acids in the FOXP2 gene contributed to speech and language ability in humans about 200,000 years ago.  This gene is involved in the ability to make fine facial movements, essential to speech communication.  Mice and apes do not have these mutations, but all people do.  Both Science and Scientific American posted summaries of the story.  EurekAlert has comments by two theologians about the religious implications of the report.
The report is built on evolutionary assumptions, so any interpretations about human evolution are guilty of circular reasoning.  It also commits the fallacy of reductionism by reducing verbal communication to facial muscles.  If humans had bigger brains already, they could have developed writing and sign language or other forms of intelligent communication.  Individuals with defective FOXP2 genes have difficulty making and understanding facial cues, but the converse is not necessarily true, that mutating genes into their current form would create speech.  We have reported frequently right here that inferences about ancestry in the genes are a hopeless muddle, and the evolutionists admit it.  So much debate, doubt, uncertainty and assumption goes into this report, it really signifies nothing.
Sadly, the opinions of the two theologians depend on faith in evolution, denying the word of God.  The first professor basically says that Catholic theology has become deistic, that God front-loaded any design into the starting conditions of the universe, and it has evolved on its own ever since.  For a good refutation of front-loading, see the section “Must all design be front-loaded?” in the final chapter of William Dembski’s latest book No Free Lunch.  Dembski shows that the vast field of contingencies in our observable universe argue against any initial roll of the dice that would have produced humans, speech, the Cambrian explosion, and many other phenomena that could not necessarily result from natural law.  The second professor basically says there is nothing unique about humans.  Neither of them seems interested in defending God’s Word as much as Darwin’s.  These liberal theologians are unwise to attribute credibility to a scientific paper that rests on unproved, unproveable, illogical evolutionary premises.  Instead of building on the shifting sands of human opinion, they should build on the rock of the words of the One who was there — The Word — whose nature is to communicate, and who revealed to us what He did.  He did not reveal this to apes and mice (though He created all things), because only mankind was fashioned in His image, including the ability to communicate intellect, emotions and will.
Next headline on: Early Man. • Next headline on: Human Body. • Next headline on: Bible.
Astronomy Historian Proves Copernicus Was Widely Read   08/15/2002
Arthur Koestler once remarked that Copernicus’ groundbreaking work on heliocentricity was “the book that nobody read.”  Now, however, Owen Gingerich of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics has just published
An Annotated Census of Copernicus’ De Revolutionibus in which he carefully collected and recorded information on every copy that was printed, and photographed marginal notes and comments by contemporary scholars.  The notes reveal that the book did indeed get wide notice, and started a great deal of discussion in Europe.  Adrian Johns in Nature Aug. 15 praises Gingerich’s 30-year “monumental enterprise” as “without parallel in the history of science”:
The result shows that, contrary to Koestler, Copernicus’ book was not particularly rare - its print-run of 400-500 was quite usual for the period - and astronomers, at least, did indeed read it.  The depredations of Catholic censorship, we can now tell, were real in Italy but virtually non-existent everywhere else.  Most interestingly, however, Gingerich’s survey begins to reveal how astronomers read the book - and how their readings coalesced into a copernican consensus.
This “great achievement”, says Johns, brings us as close as we will ever get to understanding the Copernican revolution in the making.
Owen Gingerich, a Christian, delights in debunking historical myths.  He has changed the popular characterization of the Galileo affair and now the Copernican revolution.  Contrary to popular myth, Copernicus was not a secretive rebel hiding from the Catholic censors.  There was Catholic opposition, but it was certainly not unanimous, and interestingly, the Protestants for the most part, like Maestlin and Kepler, eagerly picked up on the new theory.  For more background on the thinking of important players in the period, see our online biographies of Galileo and Kepler.
The Copernican Principle as it now stands, however, is an far beyond anything Copernicus ever proposed, and Copernicus himself would be appalled at what some scientists attribute to him.  His theory placed the sun at the center of the solar system primarily as an aid to calculation.  By implication, the earth appeared to occupy a less “privileged” position among the planets (although that might be disputed by proponents the Anthropic Principle).  Now, however, astronomers know the sun is not the center of the Milky Way galaxy, and the Milky Way is not the center of the Local Group, and the Local Group is not the center of the local supercluster, and the local supercluster does not appear to be the center of anything.  Today’s Copernican Principle, then, states that there is no privileged position in the universe.  Carl Sagan in Cosmos, for instance, often characterized humanity’s position in terms of pitiful cosmic indifference: “As long as there have been humans, we have pondered our place in the cosmos.  Who are we?  Where are we?  We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star, lost in a galaxy, tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people.”
Such thinking is based on the philosophical assumption that our importance is based on our physical size and location.  But in the Christian doctrine of the omnipresence of God, God is not spread out among the stars, leaving us with only a miniscule piece of Him.  On the contrary, all of God is present at every point in space and time.  All of God is with us here as surely as it is at any distant quasar.  Our importance to God, therefore, has nothing to do with our size and location, as it does with what God has done for us.  And consider what He has done for us!  As far back as Old Testament times, people like the shepherd boy David under the night stars wondered “What is man, that Thou art mindful of him?”  Prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah simultaneously taught the infinitude of God (as seen in the heavens) and His loving kindness to His people.  Copernicus did not destroy the significance of man in the cosmic scheme of things; on the contrary, he began a revolution in observational science that made it all the more wondrous.
Next headline on: Cosmology.
Birds Have Thumbs, Dinosaurs Don’t   08/14/2002
Drs. Alan Feduccia and Julie Nowicki at the
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill broke open an ostrich egg and decided birds didn’t come from dinosaurs.  Theropod dinosaurs have three toes, but birds have five toes including one like a thumb.  These scientists dispute the widely-held belief that dinosaurs were the ancestors of birds.  “There are insurmountable problems with that theory.  Beyond what we have just reported, there is the time problem in that superficially bird-like dinosaurs occurred some 25 million to 80 million years after the earliest known bird, which is 150 million years old.”  They claim birds have different teeth and different methods of tooth implantation, and other unique features.  They claim instead that birds and dinosaurs both must have had a more ancient common ancestor, and any similarities must have arisen by convergent evolution.  Whatever comes of the debate, “It is now clear that the origin of birds is a much more complicated question than has been previously thought,” Feduccia says.
It’s not really all that complicated.
Next headline on: Birds. • Next headline on: Dinosaurs. • Next headline on: Darwinism.
See also the Answers in Genesis response posted 8/21.
Another Darwinian Theory Tested and Found Wanting   08/13/2002
“One of the most frequent and persistent criticisms of evolutionary theory is that it generates untestable and unfalsifiable predictions,” begin two Cambridge biologists publishing in the Aug. 12 preprints of the
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  So they tested a controversial theory of evolutionary adaptation, that proposes that female primates are able to control the sex ratios of offspring according to their dominance in the society.  They examined 15 species of non-human primates, and found that no such tendency.  The data are consistent with the “null hypothesis,” that sex ratios are the result of chance.
So they tested a Darwinian hypothesis, and found it wrong.  Wonderful.  Keep up the good work.
Next headline on: Mammals. • Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
Humans Evolved Ability to Detect Cheaters   08/13/2002
The ability to detect cheaters and liars is an evolutionary adaptation, says
Nature Science Update.
Humans evolved cheat detection as a separate mental component, says evolutionary psychologist John Tooby of the University of California, Santa Barbara.  “Our brains have specialized programs like computer programs, specific for various applications,” he says.
The article claims that all primates, from stockbrokers to Amazonian natives to Rhesus monkeys have evolved this skill.
There is nothing about evolutionary theory that could explain any of this any better than creation.  Evolution is just a designer substitute that can work all miracles just because an evolutionist says so.  That even includes blind watchmakers writing specialized security software in our brains.  Well, we just used it and caught them smuggling in information and teleology when it is against the rules.  No cheating.
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory. • Next dumb story.
Physics Is My Shepherd, I Shall Not Want   08/13/2002
A strange story for a science journal appeared August 13 on
Nature Science Update: “Is physics watching over us?  Our universe is so improbable, we must be missing something.”  Miracles and angels are not usually in the scientific vocabulary, but based on a report by Leonard Susskind of Stanford and colleagues, “Disturbing implications of a cosmological constant,” published as a preprint on high-energy physics, it says, “Arranging the cosmos as we think it is arranged, say the team, would have required a miracle.”  The acceleration of the universe and other anthropic parameters that allow life to exist seem extraordinarily unlikely:
So either space is not accelerating for the reasons we think it is, or we have yet to discover some principle of physics, the researchers conclude.  Like a guardian angel, this principle would pick out those few initial states that lead to a Universe like ours, and then guide cosmic evolution so that it really does unfold this way.

The incomprehensibility of our situation even drives Susskind’s team to ponder whether an “unknown agent intervened in the evolution [of the Universe] for reasons of its own”.  But creationists should not rejoice: even a god such as this can’t explain how things got so strange.

And why wouldn’t a Biblical God fill the bill?  The authors think it strange that the universe is accelerating in its expansion; the cosmological constant is positive, moving galaxies apart till they all drift past our horizon and the universe proceeds to darkness.  But then they posit that a heat death might not be the ultimate fate; “Wait long enough, and everything that can happen, will,” they claim, including the possibility that the universe will regroup and start over.  In infinite time and space, there would be no end of universes, some with life-forms that would wonder about the conditions that brought them forth.  “So either there is no cosmological constant after all - in which case, why is the Universe accelerating? - or we’re missing something fundamental.”
The latter.  With apologies to Arthur C. Clarke, any sufficiently advanced naturalistic cosmology is indistinguishable from magic.  It is astounding the lengths to which atheists will go to avoid a Creator, even imagining infinite universes that can never be observed, in far future epochs that would never be experienced by humans.  Why is it so hard for them to accept the clear inference of design, that In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1) ... Who did not create it in vain, but formed it to be inhabited (Isaiah 45:18).  Why go to such mental gymnastics to escape from reason?  Because acceptance of the God sufficient to explain the observables has this obvious built-in deduction: we should know Him and obey Him.  Rejecting that, and embracing the opposite, allows one to be King of Fantasyland (for a little while).
Next headline on: Cosmology. • Next headline on: Physics. • Next dumb story.
Oil Made From Marble   08/13/2002
A group of petrochemical engineers produced propane, butane, hexane, octane and other petroleum hydrocarbons from pure marble and iron oxide and distilled water, under 50kbar of pressure and 1500o C temperature.  These conditions correspond to areas deep within the earth’s mantle.  Their experiment was the capstone of an article in the
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences online preprints (Aug 12) about the thermodynamics of oil production, and the constraints on chemical evolution by the second law of thermodynamics.  They describe how the only naturally-occurring hydrocarbon at atmospheric pressure is methane, CH4, the simplest; all the other hydrocarbon chains require tremendous pressure and heat, more than can exist in earth’s crust.  Accordingly, they dispute that oil can be produced from any biological material: “applying the dictates of thermodynamic-stability theory, disposes of any hypothesis of an origin for hydrocarbon molecules from biological matter, excepting only the lightest, methane.”  They dispute that microorganisms or decaying biological material can produce oil, or that its formation depends on the properties of certain geological strata; instead, it must form below the crust, in the mantle, where temperatures and pressures are adequate to overcome the high chemical potentials of complex hydrocarbons.  In passing, they note that a few biological compounds have similarly high chemical potentials: “Although there exist biotic molecules of unusually high chemical potential such as beta-carotene (C40H56), vitamin D (C38H44O), and some of the pheromone hormones, such compounds are relatively rare by abundance.  They are produced by biological systems only when the producing entity is alive (and at formidable metabolic cost to the producing entity), and the production ceases with the death of the entity.”
If oil is not a “fossil fuel” but is produced in the mantle, perhaps it will not prove to be such a depletable resource.  This raises questions about where oil is likely to be found, and how long it takes to form.  It should be acknowledged that this paper represents a minority view.  Nature Science Update disputes the claim, saying that most geochemists believe the bulk of earth’s oil is of biological origin and that the high temperatures and pressures are not required.  We’ll leave those questions to the specialists to debate, but it should be noticed that thermodynamics must be taken into account in questions of chemical evolution.  The oxygenated (organic) hydrocarbons in living things do not have such high chemical potentials as octane gasoline, but many still require special conditions for their formation.  Notice the unusual nature of beta-carotene and vitamin D which would never form spontaneously by natural processes, but can only be formed by highly-specific enzymes; and when the organism dies, they decay rapidly.
Speaking of methane, the authors throw in a little humor about the “bean-eater’s” reaction: “no biochemical investigation has ever observed a molecule of any hydrocarbon heavier than methane resulting from the decomposition of biological detritus.  After a meal of, e.g., Boston baked beans, one does experience biogenic methane, but not biogenic octane.”  Scientific papers don’t have to be totally deadpan...
Next headline on: Physics. • Next headline on: Fossils. • Next headline on: Geology.
Are You More Complex When Healthy or Sick?   08/12/2002
Is a healthy heart more complex than a diseased heart?  Traditional measures of complexity would pick the latter, because an irregular heartbeat is more difficult to specify, but it seems intuitively obvious that, physiologically speaking, something that is working should register higher than something that is broken.  According to
Physics News Update, scientists at Harvard Medical School have come up with a better way to measure biological complexity, that “suggests that disease and aging can be quantified in terms of information loss.”  Called multi-scale entropy (MSE), their method computes the complexity over a range of timescales, and in their experiments, healthy always wins the complexity gold over unhealthy.  “In the researchers’ view, a biological organism’s complexity is intimately related to its adaptability (e.g., can it survive hostile environments on its own?) and its functionality (e.g., can it do higher math?).  In this view, disease and aging reduce an organism’s complexity, thereby making it less adaptive and more vulnerable to catastrophic events,” the article explains.  The authors elaborate:
MSE is based on the simple observation that complex physical and biologic systems generally exhibit dynamics that are far from the extrema of perfect regularity and complete randomness. ...

This finding is compatible with the unifying concept that physiologic complexity is fundamentally related to the adaptive capacity of the organism, which requires integrative, multiscale functionality.  In contrast, disease states, as well as aging, may be defined by a sustained breakdown of long-range correlations and loss of information.

The full paper by Costa, Goldberger and Peng is published in the Aug 5 Physical Review Letters.  A review of their concept was later published in Nature Sept 18, 2002.
This paper brings more mathematical rigor to intuitive concepts of complexity and information, which are central to intelligent design arguments.  It is important to discern the relationships between information, complexity, entropy, order, and specification. A healthy individual is more complex, more specified, and carries more information, than a diseased one.  The mathematics of information theory should reflect that fact, yet blindly applied, might give counter-intuitive results.  The orderly heartbeat should score higher in complexity than the erratic beat of someone suffering from heart disease, yet according to entropy measures, orderliness is less complex than irregular beats.  The converse is true for written text, where complexity should score lower for repeating sequences, and higher for irregular text like a page of Shakespeare.  With text, complexity should be tied to meaning; high specified complexity conveys more meaning than repetition or randomness.  For physiology, complexity should be tied to adaptability and functionality, as these authors show.  Although the means of measurement differ, both are tied to the concept that information is tied to specified complexity: meaning in the case of text (though its patterns are irregular), and healthy function in the case of physiology (though its patterns are nearly regular).  Both being tied to specified complexity, both are therefore reliable indicators of intelligent design.  It will be interesting to see if I.D. theorists pick up on this paper’s methodology for measuring biological complexity.  For a detailed look at the concept of specified complexity, the reader is referred to Dembski’s book No Free Lunch.
Next headline on: Physics. • Next headline on: Intelligent Design. • Next headline on: Health.
Young T-Rex or New Species?   08/12/2002
Controversy surrounds a small-scale tyrannosaurus-like fossil found in Montana, says
National Geographic News.  Some think it is evidence of a midget meat-eater named Nanotyrannus, but others think it was just a juvenile of its better-known big brother.  The existence of Nanotyrannus has been mysterious because only fragments have been found before now.  It will take a year to excavate the entire skeleton, after which the debate may be resolved.  The Hell’s Creek formation in which it was found was “from a floodplain where gushing waters 65 million years ago dispersed the bones of dead dinosaurs before they could be encapsulated and buried under protective sediments,” the article explains.
The bones show evidence of catastrophic deposition, as do many dinosaur deposits around the world.  It’s too early to resolve the classification debate for this dinosaur, but don’t be confused by the “nano” in the name: 22 feet would be big enough to bite your head off as easily as big T.
Next headline on: Dinosaurs. • Next headline on: Fossils.
Things We Know That Aren’t True Dept.   08/09/2002
Just when we think we understand what’s healthy, some scientist comes along and debunks it.  Three examples this week on EurekAlert: a doctor from
Dartmouth Medical School disputes that drinking eight classes of water a day is good for you.  And a Cornell researcher claims that cooked corn from a can is healthier than corn on the cob.  And University of San Francisco researchers claim that the majority of hand cuts will heal just as well, with less pain, without stitches.
Other debunkings come to mind: reports that sunscreen may do more harm than good, that sugar does not cause hyperactivity in children, and (the best one) that chocolate is good for you.  Reports like this are probably not the last word, but they illustrate that science is always changing its stories, that much of what we think we know may not be true, and that common sense may sometimes be common but not sense.  Before going out on a limb on any health idea, consider the Eden Principle: if it wasn’t needed in the original perfect creation, then it probably isn’t needed now, for most people.  At least the burden of proof is on the one claiming you need megadoses of this or that, or coffee enemas for good health.  Variety and moderation are good advice for most situations.
Next headline on: Health.
Crows Beat Chimps at Tool-Making   08/09/2002
Oxford zoologists report that a common crow “spontaneously bent a piece of straight wire into a hook and successfully used it to lift a bucket containing food from a vertical pipe.”  Their paper is published in the
Aug. 9 Science
Primates are considered the most versatile and complex tool users, but observations of New Caledonian crows (Corvus moneduloides) raise the possibility that these birds may rival nonhuman primates in tool-related cognitive capabilities. ...

Our finding, in a species so distantly related to humans and lacking symbolic language, raises numerous questions about the kinds of understanding of “folk physics” and causality available to nonhumans, the conditions for these abilities to evolve, and their associated neural adaptations.  Comparisons between New Caledonian crows and their relatives, as well as between other cognitively exceptional birds and their relatives, offer a unique natural experiment to examine hypotheses about the ecological and neural preconditions for complex cognition to evolve.

The female crow in the experiment had no prior training: “...she had no model to imitate and, to our knowledge, no opportunity for hook-making to emerge by chance shaping or reinforcement of randomly generated behavior.”
The BBC picked up on this unusual story, saying the crow puts our closest cousins to shame.  This bird demonstrated a higher level of understanding than chimpanzees, which have never shown skill at tool-making or understanding of basic physical laws.  See also National Geographic’s report.
So maybe people evolved from crows instead of apes.  Tool-making has been such a big consideration for the evolution of intelligence; maybe we should build on a new paradigm, and put crows between chimps and plants and people.   The authors conclude, “It is not yet known if New Caledonian crows are also exceptional in cognitively demanding tasks not involving tools.”  Let’s see if they can comprehend evolutionary paleoanthropology.
Next headline on: Birds. • Next amazing story.
Why Did Man Take So Long to Learn Farming?   08/08/2002
Jared Diamond of UCLA, writing in the
August 8 issue of Nature tackles the question of why agriculture took so long to catch on among early man.  The earliest evidence of plant and animal domestication is a tiny fraction of the assumed age of modern humans:
The human lineage diverged from that of chimpanzees around 6,000,000 years ago.  For the next 99.8% of our separate history, there was no agriculture, until it emerged independently in up to nine areas on four continents in the short span of 6,000 years between 8500 and 2500 BC.  All of those nearly-simultaneous independent origins seem to be too much of a coincidence.  What triggered agriculture repeatedly then, and why had it never arisen during the previous 6,000,000 years?
He first trims the problem down to just 55,000 to 80,000 years, the origin of “behaviourally modern” humans (even though anatomically modern humans emerged up to a million years ago, according to evolutionists).  Only these were capable of learning farming, he claims.  He considers several possible reasons why farming came to the fore only in the last 15% of the era of Homo sapiens sapiens:
  1. Improvements in hunting skills that reduced game animal populations.
  2. Improvements in ability to store and process wild foods.
  3. Increasing competition between human societies.
  4. Gradual rise in population.
Against this backdrop, he says, changing climate at the end of the Pleistocene might have triggered the development of agriculture.  He admits, however, that “Most of the links in this speculative hypothesis are in obvious need of testing.”
Evolutionists think they have done their job by just weaving a just-so story that might be remotely plausible.  But is it?  In this tall tale, you have physically and mentally and behaviorally modern human beings subsisting as hunter-gatherers for at least 50,000 years, almost ten times the total span of recorded human history, never once holding counsel in their caves with the thought that, “You know, Wilma, we could make our lives a lot easier by just putting seeds in the ground and building corrals around the wooly mammoths.”  The same question could be asked about why it took so long for people to figure out how to ride a horse.  These humans were smart enough to produce the most beautiful cave paintings, but too dumb to do what comes naturally to the most primitive people today.
In addition, Jared Diamond (whose purpose in life is to evolutionize all of reality and mock creationism, even stooping to foolish non-sequiturs to do it), merely assumes the dates of human evolution.  We have shown repeatedly from the scientific journals that attempts to date human evolution comprise a miserable record of contradiction and controversy and improbability, in the words of the staunchest evolutionists themselves.  Follow the Early Man Chain Links and see.
The evidence points to sudden and rapid appearance of all these things: art, agriculture, architecture, writing, language, ritual, government, economics and technology.  The earliest clay tablets are accounting records, indicating that banking and trade and arithmetic and language were already well established.  Biblical anthropology puts all these capabilities right at the beginning of mankind, and has no need for hypothetical periods of tens or hundreds of thousands of years (for which there is no record).  Based on the evidence, which interpretation makes more sense?
Next headline on: Early Man.
Black Holes Set Limits on Changing Constants   08/08/2002
August 8 issue of Nature contains speculation by an Australian team led by Paul C. W. Davies about the implications of changing physical constants, such as the fine structure constant and the speed of light.  Earlier observations by John Webb indicated the possibility that either c (speed of light) or e (electron charge) had varied over cosmic time.  Davies believes that a change in e would violate the second law of thermodynamics.  It would also reduce the event horizons of black holes to nothing, creating “naked singularities” which would violate the principle of cosmic censorship.  So a change in c is preferred.  He talked to MSNBC about the meaning of this possibility: “When one of the cornerstones of physics collapses, it’s not obvious what you hang onto and what you discard,” Davies said.  “If what we’re seeing is the beginnings of a paradigm shift in physics like what happened 100 years ago with the theory of relativity and quantum theory, it is very hard to know what sort of reasoning to bring to bear.”  There may be startling implications for the way cosmologists view the universe, he says.
The BBC has a summary report on this item.  Other physicists deny the claim and feel it is meaningless, such as this preprint on arXiv by M. J. Duff.
The observations on which these speculations are based are too weak to form any conclusions at this point.  Some creationists (and non-creationists) have speculated about whether the speed of light was greater in the past, but their arguments have been based primarily on statistical inferences from historical measurements of c, and have not been widely embraced by all creationists.  Unfortunately, MSNBC in its sidebar on “the speed of light debate” gives one-sided publicity to the most vituperative anti-creationist website of all,, which should be renamed mock.incorrigible.  Carl Wieland of Answers in Genesis has responded to this story, delving into its background and lessons learned.
Next headline on: Physics. • Next headline on: Dating Methods.
Hox Genes: Who Directs the Directors?    08/07/2002
Evolutionary biologists have been looking at Hox genes in recent years as potential sources of evolutionary innovation, because sometimes their expression during development can cause dramatic changes in the adult organism, such as fruit flies with four wings instead of two, or with differing numbers of body segments.  But in the August 6 edition of
Current Biology, Lohman and McGinnis argue that it’s “all a matter of context.”  Depending on when the genes are expressed, influences can be dramatic or subtle.  More confusing is just what influences the Hox genes themselves.  Two studies in the current issue seem to indicate something directs the directors:
Thus, it seems that specific effects of Ubx depend on local context and precise timing - on local fine-grain reading of patterning information from other transcription factors and signaling molecules, which modify bristle development by acting combinatorially on still unknown bristle cell-lineage target genes. ...

A common thread linking these two studies is that morphological and transcriptional responses to Hox genes can be highly local, sometimes only in a single cell, allowing one Hox gene to control a cavalcade of different traits within one segment and between different segments, depending on the information present.  Another important lesson ... is that, during development, Hox genes act at all levels in the developmental hierarchy. 

But no matter the level of expression, they say, “context is still crucial: loss of Ubx in the haltere does not generate a leg, but a wing.”  I.e., the organism only generates the part related to its location.  The picture is thus more complicated than the simple hypothesis that Hox genes are like master control switches that, if mutated, might give rise to new body plans.
The PBS Evolution series made a big deal out of Hox genes, seeing them as a potential source of innovation in body plans that could lead to “great transformations” quickly.  But these papers speak of the genes being controlled by information from “other transcription factors and signalling molecules.”  So who is directing whom?  The occasions where mutated Hox genes create additional segments or wings may look dramatic, but the results are useless or deleterious to the organism.  They cannot create fully functioning segments, but only chimeras or freaks that have reduced fitness.  Four-winged fruit flies do not fly faster or better; they fly worse or not at all.  The logic of natural selection is very demanding; unless a change selects toward a functional advantage, most likely natural selection will eliminate it.  Eliminating things is what natural selection is good at.  Creating useful things is another matter.  These papers reveal that Hox genes are parts of integrated feedback loops.  They are dependent on context, timing and the control of other factors.  Viewing them as quick and easy sources of useful innovation is a simplistic tale unsupported by the evidence.
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
Can We Live Without SMCs?  No!   08/07/2002
That’s what
Current Biology says in its Aug 6 issue in a feature entitled “Quick Guide to SMC Proteins.”  OK, I give up.  What are SMCs, and why do I need them?
What are SMCs?  The Structural Maintenance of Chromosomes (SMC) proteins are a family of chromosomal ATPases highly conserved among the three phyla of life. ...

What do SMCs look like?  The SMC proteins are large polypeptides, each spanning 1000-1500 amino acids.  They form dimers in which two anti-parallel coiled-coil arms are connected by a flexible hinge. ...  The distal end of each arm constitutes an ATP-binding domain.

If that didn’t help, what they are saying is that this family of proteins look like tweezers that can grab DNA and keep it under control during critical processes in the cell.  The article then describes how these molecular machines work and what they do.  They are important in holding sister chromatids together and separating them during cell division.  Some are also “implicated in DNA repair and checkpoint responses.”  They are also essential for the proper separation of chromosomes during gamete formation during meiotic cell division.  So how do these miniature grappling hooks do all this?
How do SMCs work?  That is the million-dollar question in the field.  Of particular interest is to understand how the two-armed structure - which is approximately 100 nm long when it’s open! - captures DNA, and how these interactions are modulated by ATP binding and hydrolysis.  Condensin is able to introduce positive supercoils into DNA by using the energy of ATP hydrolysis.  Further studies are required to understand the functional diversity of the SMCs.

Can we live without SMCs?  No!  Loss of any single SMC protein in budding yeast is lethal.  Given their fundamental role in maintaining genomic stability, it is of future interest to determine whether loss or mutation of SMCs is associated with tumour formation or developmental disorders in mammals.”

The short article by Gillespie and Hirano (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories, NY) contains a diagram of what two sample SMC proteins look like.  The SMC “superfamily” work in complexes with other molecules to accomplish these vital tasks.
The journal Science, Aug. 9 says you can’t live without ORC, either.  It’s “a multi-talented, cell division protein“ complex.
Here we see proteins that are “highly conserved” (unevolved) between all three major kingdoms – archaea, bacteria and eukaryotes (including yeast, roundworms and people).  They are made up of at least 1,000 amino acids, all left-handed.  Dr. James Coppedge calculated the probability of getting a chain of 445 amino acids (the average length of a protein) all left-handed as one chance in 10123, and the probability of getting a useful protein by chance in the entire history of the earth under ideal circumstances generous toward evolution as one in 10161.  This already exceeds the universal probability bound of 10150 calculated by William Dembski as demarking the point at which chance can be ruled out for any event in the universe at any time.  But it gets worse for evolution.  The calculation was for one protein; if you must get the minimal set for a living thing, calculated by Morowitz at 239 proteins, the chance is one in 10119850.
How do evolutionists respond?  They imagine some hypothetical replicating molecule, unknown to science, that might have evolved by natural selection into complex molecules in a stepwise fashion.  But unless they can demonstrate a series of small steps to climb Mt. Improbable (as Richard Dawkins calls the challenge of evolving complex, information-rich, functional biological structures), this is wishful thinking, indistinguishable from fairy tales.  The mountain is not a series of small steps, but a sheer cliff with slippery vertical walls.  And why would a mindless molecule even want to go climb uphill against its natural inclinations?
The discoveries in biochemistry are making evolution increasingly untenable.  Here we see highly complex molecules, made up of building blocks (amino acids) arranged in precise sequences to build functioning machines.  The complexity is mind-boggling, and it exists all the way down in the very simplest single-celled life forms, with no precursors.  Without these machines, the cell dies – the article was emphatic that loss of SMCs is lethal; did you notice the exclamation point?  Anyone that can believe these molecular machines evolved by chance has an ulterior motive for ignoring the obvious.
Next headline on: The Cell and Biochemistry. • Next amazing story.
100,001 Galaxies Revealed in New ESO Photograph   08/07/2002
European Southern Observatory (ESO) has released a remarkable series of images of showing galaxy NGC 300 and the deep sky background.  In the background can be detected no less than 100,000 individual galaxies of all types.  The images are a treasure trove for a variety of astronomical investigations.
The extraordinary has become commonplace in our time.  Remember the Hubble Deep Field with its 1500 galaxies in a narrow slice of space?  This ESO photograph opens a wider slice to show that there’s glory all around.  The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah rightly compared the number of stars to the number of grains of sand on the seashore, and said, accurately, contrary to the myths of his day, that the host of heaven cannot be numbered.
Next headline on: Stars. • Next headline on: Cosmology. • Next amazing story.
College Survival Kit Offered   08/06/2002
On BreakPoint for August 5,
Chuck Colson listed examples of verbal abuse that Christians and conservatives often get from liberal professors.  He offered a “College Survival Kit” to help students stand their ground against attacks that are not based on reason or evidence, but logical fallacies and intimidation.
Chuck’s comments add a few entries to our own Baloney Detector.  Learning how to stand up to fallacious arguments is good advice for everyone.
Colson’s daily broadcast often addresses the issue of creation and evolution.  Last week he had commentaries about the latest fossil ape-man skull (see our headline also) and about the peppered moth myth, which we reported on July 5.  Click the following link for a list of recent BreakPoint commentaries.
Next headline on: Schools.
Puzzling Fossils in California and Argentina   08/05/2002
The July 27 issue of
Science News contained two fossil stories that yielded surprises.  “It’s the opposite of what I thought” exclaimed a researcher about a finding at the famous Rancho La Brea tar pits, one of the richest deposits of Pleistocene fossils in the world (right in the middle of Los Angeles’s ritzy Wilshire district).  Paleontologists expected the food to get scarcer as time went on, but the earlier dire wolves seem to show more tooth wear, indicating lack of meat caused them to bite into bones to get nourishment (pp. 51-52).
In Argentina (p. 62), an unknown creature left unwebbed, birdlike tracks.  The problem: the rocks are supposed to be 212 million years old, 60 million years before birds evolved, yet the tracks show birdlike characteristics: “In one of the fossil-bearing sediment layers, Melchor and his colleagues found several hundred tracks carpeting an area of about 2 square meters.  The tracks were randomly oriented, as if the creatures that left them had skittered back and forth in search of food. ... Variety in the size of tracks suggests that several different animals trod the transient mudflat.”  The paper was published in the June 27 issue of Nature, where the author repeatedly calls them bird-like, and unlike theropod (early dinosaurs) tracks: “In particular, the Late Triassic theropodan record is sparse and no theropod shows evidence of an avian-like reversed hallux.  Consequently, these bird-like footprints can only be attributed to an unknown group of theropods showing some avian characters.”
Anomalies should cause paleontologists to question their core assumptions about ages of rocks and evolution of creatures, but the assumptions seem to survive all assaults that the observations throw at them.  There are a number of serious problems with the standard interpretation of the La Brea fossils (that animals fell into the tar while coming to drink).  For an interesting look at some of these problems, read this recent analysis by William Weston, part 1 of an upcoming series.  A striking observation is the preponderance of carnivores over prey, the preponderance of land birds over shore birds, and the utter lack of soft tissues from mammals, when even insect wings and antennae were preserved.
In the Argentinian case, the photo shows prints that look just like tracks left by modern shore birds.  They must have been made quickly, within a week, the article says.  But according to evolution, these could not have been from birds, because birds didn’t evolve yet.  The solution?  “If the creatures weren’t birds or their ancestors, says Melchor, they certainly represent a new group of dinosaurs that had some avian characteristics.”  This brings to mind a Peanuts cartoon.  Lucy shows Charlie Brown a large dark object on the sidewalk surrounded by bugs, that she explains is the queen bug, who just sits there while all the other bugs do all the work.  Upon closer inspection, Charlie Brown reveals that it is not a bug, but a jelly bean.  “Well I’ll be, you’re right, Charlie Brown,” Lucy says.  “I wonder how a jelly bean ever got to be queen?”
Next headline on: Fossils.
Believers Claim More Evidence for Life in Martian Meteorite   08/05/2002
It just won’t die; the Martian meteorite ALH 84001 is in the news again.  A new paper in the August
Applied and Environmental Microbiology by a team of nine scientists studying the rock for three years claims that the magnetites resemble those produced by earth bacteria.  The press release is available for those without a subscription to the journal.  This story was mentioned on Today@NASA.
They’ve got to keep this rock alive, because they think it helps keep the Mars space program going.  We should explore Mars because it is there and it is an interesting place that might help us understand our planet better, not because of far-out hopes it might prop up belief in naturalistic origin of life.  Follow the Mars chain links for contrary opinions about the Martian meteorite..
Next headline on: Mars. • Next headline on: Origin of Life.
Is the Nucleus an Engulfed Organism?    08/02/2002
Hyman Hartman is one of the few to theorize, according to
Astrobiology Magazine, that long ago a primitive microorganism engulfed another which became its nucleus, and that’s how the Kingdom of the Eukaryotes got started.  But the story gets a little more complicated, because three separate organisms had to be part of the cell-eat-cell food fight to get the hypothesis to work, and it’s not clear who engulfed whom.  Confusion also reigns regarding the role of lateral gene transfer in the history of the eukaryotes (organisms with nuclei in their cells).  Jere Lipps at UC Berkeley studied the phylogeny of all the eukaryotes and found that it wasn’t a tree, but a branching bush:  “When Lipps adjusted a tree showing the emergence of eukaryotes to remove long-branch attraction artifacts, the ‘tree’ turned into a bush with a long stem.  Instead of many groups branching off sequentially, followed by a final crown group, the new diagram looks more like a single ‘star burst,’ Lipps says, with all eukaryotes emerging in a geologically short period of time.”  The article also refers to the work of Carl Woese who recently published a paper suggesting that the doctrine of common descent is all wrong, and that lateral gene transfer is a larger force in evolution than previously thought.
Anyone see evolution at all here?  The hypothesis of the nucleus as an endosymbiont has many problems, as we reported last November.  A branching bush is not an evolutionary picture.  The same data can be rearranged into a scattergram of highly adapted organisms, each with similarities, but no common ancestral root.  Lipps says that all the hypothesizing about eukaryote evolution is “extremely tentative” at this stage.  Extreme tentativity is indistinguishable from imagination.
Next headline on: Origin of Life.
National Geographic Puzzles Over Russian Homo Fossils   08/01/2002
The cover of the August 2002
National Geographic features the face of of Dmanisi Man, but with a puzzled look trying to understand the subtitle, “The First Pioneer?  A new find shakes the human family tree.”  In spite of the colorful reconstructions for which NG is famous, the conclusion is less than confident this time:
Maybe, suggests Milford Wolpoff of the University of Michigan, we should scrap the idea of Homo erectus entirely and simply say that everything after Homo habilis is Homo sapiens.  The remarkable variability of the specimens found at Dmanisi may support this radical revision of Homo’s genealogy. ...
The Dmanisi team has found parts of as many as six individuals in the same layers of rock. ... If they’re the same species, then the size differences need to be explained some other way [i.e., than evolutionary ancestry].  Perhaps the big mandible belonged to an old male, and like gorillas today Dmanisi males were much larger than females.  Or perhaps our ancestors were as variable in size as humans are today.  Why not?  After all, Shaquille O’Neal and Danny DeVito are members of the same species.  Is it possible that the scientists who have given new species names to every early Homo find with significant differences have made our family tree more complicated than it really is?
Several alternate timelines are suggested for where to fit these bones, but the real one is left as an open question.  “The 1.75-million-year-old skull from the republic of Georgia might have belonged to one of the first humans to leave Africa.  And it doesn’t look anything like scientists thought it would,” says the caption on the Contents page.  “Along with other fossils and tools found at the site, this skull reopens so many questions about our ancestry that one scientist muttered: ‘They ought to put it back in the ground.’”
Yes!  Good questions!  NG is coming around to the creationist position, slowly but surely: we have ape bones, and we have people bones, with no gradation between.  The variability among humans is great enough that if our bones were collected years from now, they could be arranged into a phony evolutionary timeline that would prove nothing.  Just wait until they report on Toumaï.
Next headline on: Early Man.
Why Do Spiral Galaxies Spiral?  Nobody Knows   08/01/2002
The cover of September 2002 Sky and Telescope purports to answer the question, “How Spiral Galaxies Get Their Shapes,” but the text of the article leaves the reader puzzled.  None of the theories in vogue works, at least completely.  For a long time, astronomers have known about the “wind-up problem” that if the spirals were as old as assumed, the spirals would be so tightly wound that no spiral arms would be discernible.  Do the spiral arms form from the outside in, or from the inside out?  Are they transient, or long lived?  Do they form from events within the galaxy, or because of interactions with neighboring galaxies?  Debates rage, and nobody claims victory: “The proponents of these theories also admit that the other side might be right — in some cases.”  The textbook favorite, the density-wave theory of Lin and Shu, is incomplete and fails to explain all the observations.  And then there’s the dreaded
NGC 4622, which appears to spin backwards (arms leading instead of trailing); if confirmed, all bets are off.  Some theorists sound more confident than others, but no clear leader is in sight.  “Shu predicts that spiral research may lead into uncharted scientific territory,” maybe even generating their structure out of nothing, he speculates. 
Again, nature is shown to be more complex than the textbook illustrations and TV computer graphics.  Maybe these things are not as old as required to save the Big Bang theory and give evolution the time it desperately needs.  Given the playing field, are we at least open to new players?
Next headline on: Stars. • Next headline on: Dating Methods.
Viruses Made Men Out of Monkeys   08/01/2002
A substantial part of the human genome appears to be made out of transposable elements from viruses.  Scientists at the
University of Georgia believe humans got a load of these at the time they diverged from apes 6 million years ago, and they have contributed to making humans what they are today.  These “retroviral transposons” create a “molecular arms race” and a military-industrial complex in the cell that can spin off new technologies for new functions; “The result is an internal drive mechanism to increase biological complexity.”  The researchers picture this as a giant game: “ is increasingly clear that organisms need the viral elements and that their apparent continual backdoor assaults on normal genes may, in truth, be more like a vast, sophisticated chess game on an enormously complex board.”
Well, isn’t this a stretch.  Tiny viruses, which are not even alive, are champion chess players, and snuck information into our genes that turned us into Bachs and Einsteins.  This theory commits the personification fallacy, is highly speculative, and depends on circular arguments about ape-human ancestry and date of divergence.  Worse, it magically creates information out of nothing.  Blind and dumb viruses bring in new capabilities to the human genome, and then the human genome gets smarter trying to stop them or adapt to them or make them work even better.  This is a violation of the No Free Lunch Theorems (see next headline on Darwinism for explanation).
Next headline on: Early Man. • Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
Click on Apollos, the trusty

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Guide to Evolutionary Theory
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Featured Creation Scientist for August

John Napier
1550 - 1617

Our summer of mathematicians continues!

Who was the first prominent scientist from the British Isles?  Who, in the early 17th century, stands in the line of pioneers of calculating machines?  Who doubled the productivity of early scientists?  Who according to David Hume was one of the greatest men Scotland ever produced, yet would have argued against Hume’s skepticism?  A man who studied the Bible seriously, and fervently defended Biblical Christianity against error.  A man whose most famous discovery would have profound impact on the sciences, yet considered his Christian faith primary and his mathematics secondary.  A man most students never heard of, John Napier.

John Napier (the most common, but probably inaccurate, spelling of his name) was born of a wealthy landowner in Scotland.  The year he entered St. Andrew’s University at age 13, his mother died.  At the university, and later in studies in Europe, he learned higher mathematics and classical literature, but he first became passionately interested in theology at St. Andrews.  After his marriage in 1572, he and his bride moved into a castle on the Merchiston estate when it was completed in 1574.  His cleverness as an inventor became apparent as he managed his estates.  He found ways to increase productivity of the soil using scientific approaches to fertilization.  His wife died in their seventh anniversary year; a few years later he remarried.  He had two sons, one from each marriage.

Napier was born the year when the Scottish Reformation commenced, 1550.  During Napier’s lifetime, disputes between Protestants and Catholics threatened to split the country in two.  The controversy was not merely intellectual, because the Catholic Church had made an alliance with the Spanish in 1593 to invade Britain with the goal of conquest.  Napier, fiercely committed to Scriptural authority, determined to defend Scotland from the errors of papistry.  On three occasions he accompanied deputations to make their case before the king.  On his own initiative, he also wrote a commentary on Revelation called A Plaine Discourse on the Whole Revelation of St. John in which he interpreted the harlot that sits on seven hills (Rev. 17:9) as Rome, the seat of the Catholic pope.  A sense of his zeal can be gained from his preface, where he explains his response to a sermon on the Apocalypse:

... I was so mooved in admiration, against the blindnes of Papists, that could not most evidently see their seven hilled citie Rome, painted out there so lively by Saint John, as the mother of all spiritual whoredome, that not onely bursted I out in continual reasoning against my said familiar, but also from thenceforth, I determined with my selfe (by the assistance of Gods spirit) to employ my studie and diligence to search out the remanent mysteries of that holy Book: as to this houre (praised be the Lorde) I have bin doing at al such times as conveniently I might have occasion.

He wrote humbly as one who did not feel adequate to convey such important truths, yet was compelled by the urgency to “prevent the rising againe of Antichristian darknes within this Iland, then to prolong the time in painting of language.”  His commentary, which took years of study, was widely published in the British Isles and on the continent, and has been called, for Scotland, “the first published original work relating to theological interpretation, and is quite without a predecessor in its own field.”

Napier is best known as the inventor of logarithms in 1614.  His discovery has been called second only to Newton’s Principia in importance to the foundational history of British science.  Logarithms (a term coined by Napier) provided a shortcut to calculation, replacing tedious multiplications and divisions with simpler additions and subtractions.  It was not an accidental discovery.  Napier set his mind to find a way to make the mathematician’s life easier, because the effort required for long calculations made the work tedious and error prone.  His work was original and detailed, without precedent or anticipation by previous writers.  The publication consisted of a 57 page treatise in Latin, with 90 additional pages of tables.  His first approach was not to any base, but this was later improved with the help of an admiring mathematician from London, Henry Briggs, who made the four-day journey with the express purpose of meeting the esteemed Scot.  Briggs understood the potential value of Napierís discovery.  Together, they improved upon the concept, setting logarithms to the familiar base 10, the “common logs” as still used today, although “natural logarithms” are often set to the base e in the sciences (see Euler).

Logarithms were to become extremely valuable for the advance of planetary science by Kepler and later astronomers.  Laplace said that “by shortening the labors, they doubled the life of the astronomer.”  Kepler’s biographer Max Caspar claims that another mathematician on the continent, Jost Burgi, a friend to Kepler, could have scooped the fame for this invention in Germany but published six years too late, so the rightful priority goes to Napier, who had independently developed the method out of his own gifted mind.  One encyclopedia remarks, “The more one considers the condition of science at the time, and the state of the country in which the discovery took place, the more wonderful does the invention of logarithms appear.” Napier lived in an era of tumult and superstition, but appears to have been a man of good sense and reason.  The same encyclopedia elaborates, “Considering the time in which he lived, Napier is singularly free from superstition: his [Plaine Discourse] relates to a method of interpretation to a later age ... and none of his writings contain allusions to astrology or magic.”  Although he probably accepted some aspects of astrology (as did practically everyone in his era) some biographies suggest Napier did practical jokes playing upon the superstitions of his neighbors, hinting of his disdain for pseudoscience.

Three years after the publication of his logarithms, Napier invented another aid to calculation that puts him in the timeline of calculating machines and computers.  He constructed rods of ivory with integers on them, constructed in such an ingenious way that, laid side by side, one could quickly adduce sums, quotients, products, and square and cube roots.  Later dubbed “Napier’s Bones” by others, these devices again revealed the creative mind that preferred theology as his first love and mathematics just a sidelight.  Other achievements in mathematics included decimal notation for fractions and the concept of negative numbers.  But this inventor also put his ingenuity to practical matters of warfare, for the defense of his homeland in light of the perilous times.  He conceived of a shielded chariot that would protect its drivers while allowing artillery to be fired in all directions, a mirror that could burn a ship from a distance, and a device that could sail underwater.  So it could be claimed that Napier was the visionary father of the tank, the death ray, and the submarine.

John Napier was the first major contributor to science from the British Isles.  The encyclopedia states, “There is no British author of the time except Napier whose name can be placed in the same rank as those of Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, Kepler, Galileo, or Stevinus,” all from the continent.  The story of the inventor of logarithms reminds us again that Christian faith, and zealous commitment to the defense of the Word of God, is no impediment to scientific progress.  On the contrary, science was born, grew and flourished among Christian stalwarts like John Napier.

For more information on John Napier and other great Christians in science, see our online book:
The World’s Greatest Creation Scientists from Y1K to Y2K.
Copies are also available from our online store.

A Concise Guide
to Understanding
Evolutionary Theory

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

First Law of Scientific Progress
The advance of science can be measured by the rate at which exceptions to previously held laws accumulate.
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 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.
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.
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).