Creation-Evolution Headlines
 September 2002
“It is as difficult for me to understand a scientist who does not acknowledge the presence of a superior rationality behind the existence of the universe as it is to comprehend a theologian who would deny the advances of science.”
– Dr. Wernher von Braun, rocket scientist

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September marks the second anniversary of Creation-Evolution Headlines.  More than just daily news, it is a growing database of recent reports related to origins, all classified by topic, now with hundreds of entries.  Are you a regular reader?  Drop us a line and let us know you’re out there.  While you’re at it, tell us what you like or dislike, what topics most interest you, and any suggestions for improving this unique daily news and commentary.  Here’s where to write.  Note: you will not be put on a mailing list; we just like hearing from our readers.
Blondes Are Going Extinct   09/30/2002
The
BBC News reports that some German scientists think blondes are an endangered species, and may go extinct within 200 years, because the gene for blondeness is recessive.  Others are not so sure.  Jonathan Rees at University of Edinburgh, for instance, says, “The only reason blondes would disappear is if having the gene was a disadvantage and I do not think that is the case.”
Wonder what Hitler would have thought of the possible extinction of his blonde Aryan super-race.  At least the females are not in danger, as long as enough boys wish they all could be California girls.  But maybe a new study needs to be done on the effect of dumb blonde jokes on evolution.  Why did the blonde stare at the orange-juice carton?  Because it said “Concentrate.”  How did she burn her ear?  The phone rang while she was ironing.  What do you call 100 blondes standing ear to ear?  A wind tunnel.  See?  This could have major impacts on evolution by sexual selection.  But then again, the Pollacks didn’t go extinct.  But now, MSNBC claims that the report seems to have been a hoax.  Doesn’t matter.  Evolution can explain opposites, the survival of blondes and the extinction of blondes, with equal ease.
Next dumb story.
Archer Fish Beats Baseball Outfielders   09/30/2002
Nature Science Update reports that archer fish are better than baseball players at calculating where their prey will land.  These fish spit narrow jets of water at insects overhead, and then figure out within a tenth of a second where they will fall into the water.  Then, without looking back, they dart in for their snack.  Baseball players, by contrast, are constantly shifting their eyes as they mentally calculate where the ball will come down, and tend to move in a curved path, whereas the fish seem to go straight at the target.
Archer fish also have to take into account the refraction between the water and air.  For a good film sequence on archer fish in action, see the old Moody Science classic video “The Prior Claim” or the more recent Wonders of God’s Creation: Animal Life.
Next headline on: Fish. • Next amazing story.
Buck-Tooth Dino Turned Vegan   09/30/2002
The Sept 21 issue of
Science News claims that a Chinese dinosaur evolved from meat-eating theropods to become a plant eater.  Called Incisivosaurus, the creature had “rodentlike incisors and a hefty overbite.”  Nature Science Update goes absolutely Looney Tunes over this dinosaur’s features.  Vegetarianism is unusual among theropods, but “species can evolve to fill unoccupied ecological niches.  For example, carnivorous mammals’ descendants that now shun meat include honey badgers, bamboo-eating pandas, and termite-slurping aardwolves.”  This find helps clear up a paleontological debate, the article explains, about the place of oviraptors in the evolutionary scheme.  “Several features of Incisivosaurus suggest that Caudipteryx and other oviraptors developed their avian featuers not through inheritance from birds but through convergent evolution.  Via that process, species with different evolutionary origins can develop outwardly similar shapes if they occupy similar ecological niches.”
Convergent evolution is not a process.  It is a made-up phrase that veils a serious problem in evolutionary theory, that unlike organisms that have no common ancestor have similar structures.  It is one more epicycle on a ponderous theory that is collapsing under its own weight of bandages, duct tape and rubber bands trying to hold it together.  The evidence?  Just a series of organisms, all well adapted to their environment, that can be more easily explained by common Designer, not common ancestor.
Next headline on: Dinosaurs.
Georgia County School Board Votes to Teach the Controversy   09/27/2002
The
Cobb County, Georgia School Board voted 7-0 last night to approve a controversial statement about origins teaching:
...the Cobb County School District believes that discussion of disputed views of academic subjects is a necessary element of providing a balanced education, including the study of the origin of the species. ... The purpose of this policy is to foster critical thinking among students, to allow academic freedom consistent with legal requirements, to promote tolerance and acceptance of diversity of opinion, and to ensure a posture of neutrality toward religion.  It is the intent of the Cobb County Board of Education that this policy not be interpreted to restrict the teaching of evolution; to promote or require the teaching of creationism; or to discriminate for or against a particular set of religious beliefs, religion in general, or non-religion.
The policy is controversial only because it has been highly visible as a contest between those like the NCSE and ACLU that want evolution taught without any criticism, and those in the intelligent design movement that believe “teaching the controversy” is healthy practice.  The carefully-worded statement specifically clarifies that this is not intended to promote creationism or decrease teaching of evolution, but only to stimulate critical thinking on controversial issues.  Incredibly, Science Now spun the story with the provocative title, “Creationism Edges Toward the Classroom.”
Evolutionists are so hypocritical.  They claim to believe in critical thinking on everything except evolution, and skepticism on everything except naturalistic philosophy.  What is the harm in this statement?  It is actually so blandly mild (see the Answers in Genesis take on it), so favorable to the status quo, so open to interpretation, that no pro-evolution teacher should feel any pressure to change, and even the most ardent pro-Darwinists should find no cause for alarm.  But they do!  They are adamant that evolutionism must be presented as fact, unquestioned, dogmatically, so much so that teachers who dare to quote even Stephen Jay Gould pointing out problems in Darwinian evolution are threatened with excommunication.  Once the “protestants” recognize the miters on the heads of these bishops, it’s going to be curtains for the Church of Darwin.  But it may take a Thirty Years War, and the counter-reformation is already on the attack.  The enthusiasm with which this vote was met by the majority in the packed auditorium, however, indicates a large groundswell of support for the new reformation of the 21st Century.
Next headline on: Schools. • Next headline on: Intelligent Design.
Io’s Volcanoes Spell Trouble for Long Age Estimates   09/27/2002
Alfred S. McEwen of the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Lab, writing in the
Sept 27 issue of Science, reviews some of the surprises that the Galileo spacecraft found at Io, the innermost moon of Jupiter.  Although its volcanism was well known since the Voyager flybys in 1979, scientists were shocked to measure lava temperatures higher than anything on earth (~1800 oK), suggesting Io has an iron and magnesium rich (ultramafic) crust.  According to current theories of mantle differentiation, however, such denser elements should not be present at the crust in sufficient quantities to account for the observations.  McEwen explains how, over billions of years, it should all be gone:
The idea that Io is an ultramafic world seems at odds with the well-understood process of magmatic differentiation.  If Io has a solid lower mantle capped by a partially molten layer, as believed by most planetary geophysicists, then Io’s crust should be strongly depleted in elements like Mg.  As mantle rocks begin to melt, the first component to melt has a lower density.  It segregates and rises toward the surface after ~10% melting of a given volume of the solid mantle.  If Io’s typical heat flow over geologic time is just 10% of today’s value, then we can expect 1012 km3 of silicate melt over the last 4000 million years--40 times the volume of Io.  There should thus have been sufficient heat to melt 10% of Io’s volume 400 times.  After just four episodes of such partial melting, Io should have formed a low-density crust ~50 km thick (11).  High-temperature, dense mafic or ultramafic lavas could only rise through the thick low-density crust under extraordinary circumstances.
As a possible solution to this dilemma, he points to the model of Keszthelyi that Io’s mantle might be a crystal-rich magma ocean, for which there might be indirect support, but he admits “it is difficult to explain how Io first got into that state.”  Maybe we are misinterpreting sparse data.  He leaves the mystery unresolved.
    A new series of dramatic pictures of Io from the Galileo spacecraft was released December 9, 2002.
Dr. Ed Stone, the Voyager project scientist, has admitted many times that the discovery of active volcanoes on Io was a total surprise.  These small bodies, far from the sun, should long ago have become frozen and dead.  Even the theory of tidal flexing does not appear anywhere near sufficient to account for the amount of activity observed.  That was bad enough, but the high temperature of the lavas, indicating the presence of dense elements, was a further blow to conventional theories.  The only suggestion that makes sense is that Io is much younger than the assumed four billion year age of the solar system.  When other solar system phenomena also defy long ages, like comets and rings and short-lived radionuclides, why must the age parameter be sacrosanct?  Two reasons: a young solar system would defy naturalistic explanations by indicating abrupt appearance, and it would not allow time for evolution (begging the question that four billion years would be enough, anyway).  Take note of the observational evidence.  At even 10% the current heat output, McEwen states, Io would have had time to completely melt 40 times in 4 billion years.  At current heat output rates, that would be 400 times.  With anomalies that large, it’s time for some creative alternatives.
Next headline on: Solar System. • Next headline on: Geology. • Next headline on: Dating Methods.
State of the (Exo)Planet Address   09/26/2002
NASA scientist Jack Lissauer discusses the current status of searches for exoplanets (bodies that orbit other stars) in the the
Sept 26 issue of Nature.  About 100 are now known from indirect measurements of star wobbles.  Most are large and massive, Jupiter size and above, but that is a selection effect due to the difficulty of measuring small perturbations from smaller bodies.  Many have highly elliptical orbits, and the range in size and distance is quite surprising (and discouraging for simplistic theories of planet formation).  Newer technologies, including the 2007 Kepler mission, should not only increase the number, but find (possibly) some planets that remind us of earth, at least in terms of mass, presence of water, and distance from the star.
Planets do not select nutrients, reproduce, or pass on genetic instructions, so we will give the evolutionists all the planets they want and still ask how naturalism can produce complex specified information and molecular machines without intelligent design.  We’re reminded of a somewhat irreverent but thought-provoking cartoon of Frank and Ernest as angels at the creation, standing on a cloud and asking God, “The stars turned out just fine, Sir.  What do you want us to do with the little balls of dirt?”
Next headline on: Solar System.
Shipping Labels Used on Cell’s Cargo   09/26/2002
Bound for New York?  Read the label.  Destined for the trash can?  Read the label.  Just as Federal Express or any other shipping company depends on labels to keep myriads of packages on target to equal myriads of destinations, the cell tags its cargo with molecular labels to keep everything on track.  Nature (Sept. 26) has two articles on this topic that explain how the cell does it.  In
The Making of a Vesicle, Anne Schmidt describes work by Ford et al on a protein tag called epsin that stimulates a membrane to curve around, or “package” a piece of cargo for shipment, such as nutrient uptake or removal of parts from the cell surface. 
In another News and Views article, Keith Wilkinson in “Unchaining the condemned” describes how the cell labels obsolete cargo for the recycle bin.  Apparently, the protein tag called ubiquitin (which is truly ubiquitous in all eukaryotic organisms) tells the proteasome (the recycle bin) that this cargo is ready for dismantling and salvage.  Wilkinson explains:
To carry out their functions properly, the proteins in our cells must be in the right place at the right time, and at the right concentration.  So it’s vital that cells achieve the correct balance between protein synthesis and destruction.  Although we understand much about how proteins are made, it is only in the past ten years that we have come to appreciate the complexity of their degradation.  Like everything else, proteins outlive their usefulness and, whether damaged or just no longer needed, they are often condemned to destruction by the covalent attachment of another protein, called ubiquitin.  When this process fails, it has profound consequences for events such as cell division, gene expression and the development of cancer. 
Wilkinson presents the work of Yao and Cohen that indicates that one ubiquitin tag means sort, and several means recycle.  The rest of the cell must understand the tag to know what to do, and the proteasome (shaped like a narrow tunnel) has to remove the labels before doing its grisly work.
We tend to visualize miniature people when we read such things, but consider that these are blind molecules, operating in the dark, that somehow are able to sense their surroundings and take appropriate action.  The degree of fidelity is astonishing, and the consequences of mistakes are disastrous.  How do they do it?  Believers in God have ever more reasons to worship when confronted with such marvels.  Unbelievers?  Well, to alleviate stress, try not to think about it.
Next headline on: The Cell and Biochemistry. • Next amazing story.
Computer Science Can Help Us Understand Life   09/26/2002
In a Concepts editorial in the
Sept. 26 issue of Nature, two Israeli scientists think that biochemists need computer science to understand life.  Computer science can provide abstractions that can illuminate structures and processes used by the cell:
  • For example, the DNA-as-string abstraction is relevant in capturing the primary sequence of nucleotides without including higher- and lower-order biochemical properties; it allows the application of a battery of string algorithms, including probabilistic analysis using hidden Markov models, as well as enabling the practical development of databases and common repositories...
  • it is understandable, in that a string over the alphabet A, T, C, G is a universal format for discussing and conveying genetic information; and extensible, enabling, for example, the addition of a fifth symbol...
  • Process behaviour is governed by reaction rules specifying the response to an input message based on its content and the state of the process.
  • Using this abstraction opens up new possibilities for understanding molecular systems.  For example, computer science distinguishes between two levels to describe a system’s behaviour: implementation (how the system is built, say the wires in a circuit) and specification (what the system does, say an 'AND' logic gate).  Once biological behaviour is abstracted as computational behaviour, implementation can be related to a real biological system, ...
The authors note the similarity between biological systems and computer networks, noting that both are hierarchical systems built on core components: the internet is a network of computers, and higher organisms are networks of cells.  They point to a significant difference, however:
Of course, biomolecular systems exist independently of our awareness or understanding of them, whereas computer systems exist because we understand, design and build them.  Nevertheless, the abstractions, tools and methods used to specify and study computer systems should illuminate our accumulated knowledge about biomolecular systems.
Thus they leave vague the question of who, if Anyone, “designed and built” the biological systems, but that question seems to have no practical bearing on the fruitfulness of the approach.
This is all intelligent design talk.  Where is the evolution?  Why would Darwinspeak be of any benefit in such an approach?  If we can profit from visualizing living systems as complex networks of adaptable components, if we need to think like computer scientists and network engineers to understand life, so be it.  There may be metaphysical implications to all this, but the core concepts derive from observation, not metaphysics.  Here, Nature published this without qualms, Darwin was quietly ignored, and Eugenie Scott didn’t have a fit.  Religion in the science lab?  No fear.  Get real.
Next headline on: Intelligent Design.
Hoping for a Chance Solution to the Left-Handed Protein Puzzle   09/26/2002
If you’ve studied the issue of the origin of life for long, you know about the mystery of the
left-handed amino acids that make up the proteins of all living things: the “chirality problem.”  Since both hands form equally in nature, why do biological molecules (proteins and DNA) consist of chains with only one hand? Figuring out how that originated is one of the great puzzles of astrobiology.  It seems incredibly unlikely to have been a luck of the draw, but Jay Siegel of UC San Diego, writing in the Sept. 26 issue of Nature, prefers the chance avenue over determinism (the approach that the solution lies in the laws of physics).  Commenting on the recent work of Singleton and Vo in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, he envisions experimenters finding a autocatalytic reactions that could amplify one-handedness in its products, and maybe transfer that homochirality to other compounds.  While admitting that any hypothesis must consider that chirality could degrade (return to equilibrium, 50-50 of both hands), he concludes that “smart money still bets on chance over determinism.” 
Proteins must be 100% pure of one hand, or they won’t work.  By carefully controlling the generations of reagants, Singleton and Vo were able to achieve 71% of one hand over the other, if optically active (i.e., one-handed) impurities were present to seed the autocatalytic reactions.  But they caution:
It is an adage in chemistry that “purity is a matter of degree.”  Thus, it is not clear to us how any macroscopic solution reaction may be carried out in the biosphere in the complete absence of optically active materials.  The results here demonstrate that trace amounts of optically active materials may dominate the outcome of reactions, and this suggests caution in interpreting reactions involving large asymmetric amplifications. ...

... However, any complete theory on the origin of biological homochirality also requires a mechanism for asymmetric amplification, a mechanism for maintenance of optical activity despite decomposition and racemization [i.e., randomizing tendencies], a mechanism for dispersal of optical activity from localized areas, and a mechanism by which one enantiomer [one of the two hands] can take over in areas where the opposite enantiomer is in excess.

Thus the mystery involves multiple levels of improbability.  They foresee a possible path to a solution through autocatalytic amplification of chance excesses of one hand, but have not yet demonstrated it: “We are currently exploring this hypothesis in both mathematical and experimental models.”  So at this time, the solution to the homochirality problem in prebiotic synthesis remains elusive.
Scientists may one day discover a solution, unlikely as it seems now.  But it’s important to recognize the difference between this mystery and the mystery of the origin of biological information.  Getting molecules of all one hand, when both are equally likely, is a mystery, but it involves little in the way of information.  The source of the coded genetic instructions in DNA, on the other hand (if you will pardon the expression), is a different ball game.  There, genes are able to enforce the one-hand rule, build proteins of only one hand, recognize the opposite hand and either reject it or fix it.  That is a greater mystery, seemingly unapproachable by either chance or determinism.  Intelligent design, however, is abundantly capable as a cause, and the best inference from common sense and experience.
Next headline on: Origin of Life.
The Bacterium from Mars Alleged   09/25/2002
Some Russian scientists feel Deinococcus radiodurans must have evolved on Mars to get its remarkable resistance to radiation.  The bacterium can withstand thousands of times the radiation that would kill a human.  “Pavlov does not believe that there has been enough time for this resistance to evolve,” says the report in
New Scientist.  Others disagree with the Martian origin idea, but have no clue why this bacterium would evolve such resistance.  Anatoli Pavlov theorizes that repeated doses, hundreds of millions of years apart, would have been required to evolve this ability on earth, but on Mars it could have happened in a few hundred thousand years.
So why didn’t everything else on earth exposed to such high radiation evolve this ability?  Did the bacterium first evolve here, then hitch a ride to Mars and work up its resistance, then come back home?  If it evolved there, why does it have similar DNA-protein biochemistry?  It’s fun being a scientist.  You can say anything you want and the reporters will give you good press.
Next headline on: Mars. • Next dumb story.
Scientists Fold a Small Protein   09/25/2002
According to
Nature Science Update, scientists were able to calculate the fold of a small protein of 20 peptides just from knowing its amino acid sequence.  The synthetic protein folds into a tight structure like real proteins; “most short chains remain loose and floppy,” the report states.  The team used computer simulation to predict the fold that actually occurred, measured by nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy.  The difficulty in predicting the fold grows exponentially, however, with length of the sequence, and most proteins are hundreds of amino acids long.  The precise fold of a protein is essential to its function.  Understanding and predicting protein folding from just the amino acid sequence is one of the most formidable challenges facing biochemists.  On a related subject, a paper in the Sep. 25 preprints of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences discusses some of the many diseases that occur when proteins do not fold correctly.
See our February 27 headline on this subject to appreciate the difficulty of understanding protein folding.  As we reported May 20 also, there does not appear to be only one possible shape a sequence can form.  Proteins in the cell are assisted by chaperones, molecular machines that take the newly-sequenced chain from the ribosome and help it fold into the one and only unique shape that will make it work.  Without that unique shape, it is useless or even dangerous, often involved in serious diseases.  How amino acid chains fold properly is an amazing and mysterious subject.  What these scientists did with a short 20-link chain is interesting, but vastly simpler than what cells do constantly in milliseconds.  It is like solving a 2x2 Rubik’s cube compared to a 6x6.
Next headline on: The Cell and Biochemistry.
New Darwin Centre Set to Open in London   09/24/2002
The
BBC News has a feature and pictures about the new Darwin Centre, the “biggest single development ever undertaken” at London’s historic Natural History Museum.  Phase One is set to open to the public at the end of September.  22 million specimens of animals will be housed at the new center, including some Darwin collected on the Beagle.  Phase Two (slated to open in 2007) will include six million plants and 28 million insects.  The facility will not only allow much better and spacious conditions for storage and analysis of the specimens, but will allow the public to watch scientists at work.  “Darwin would approve,” the article states, and quotes Professor Steve Jones of University College: “Biology is a science, however disparate, and a science first recognised by Charles Darwin.  And this centre is a monument to that fact.”
Darwin was not the first.  How about John Ray, Carolus Linnaeus, and others who, as Christians and creationists, took pleasure and delight in observing and classifying living things?  Darwin’s observing and collecting were fine, but he is best known not as a naturalist (collector) but a naturalist (materialist) who started the ball rolling that developed into today’s materialistic science establishment.  Now that the very evidences he depended on for his theory of natural selection have been debunked, and the fossil record has failed to show his slow and gradual changes, and our understanding of the complexity of life has exploded beyond anything he could have imagined, the honor accorded to Darwin is not appropriate for this facility.  It should be a monument to creative intelligent design — the antithesis of what Darwin stood for.  At least Cornwall beat them to it with the Eden Project last year.
Next headline on: Darwin.
Whoops, We Were Wrong: Human-Ape Difference Just Tripled   09/23/2002
How many times have you heard that human and chimpanzee DNA differs by only 2% or even 1.5%?  That estimate, it turns out, was based on measuring the temperature at which matching DNA of two species comes apart. 
New Scientist now reports that the developer of that technique, Roy Britten of Caltech, had second thoughts about the oft-quoted figure, and checked it out with new methods, now that the chimpanzee genome has been published.  Comparing insertions and deletions yields a figure three times bigger, over 5% difference, and that only after comparing about three hundredths of a percent of the genome.  Moreover, it is still a long way off before we will understand what other epigenetic factors make us different, such as gene expression.  The campus newsletter At Caltech has a more detailed explanation of Britten’s announcement.  His official paper is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, at the conclusion of which he states, “One interesting observation is that the sequence divergence between chimp and human is quite large, in excess of 20% for a few regions.  Some of the larger gaps are broken by regions within them that align with appropriate segments of the other species’ DNA sequence but only have distant similarity.  These observations suggest that complex processes, presumably involving repeated sequences and possible conversion events, may occur that will require detailed study to understand.”
Update 10/22/2002: Science Now reports that two independent teams have found more differences: “For almost 30 years, researchers had assumed that the DNA of humans and chimps is at about 98.5% identical.  Now a closer look has revealed previously undiscovered nips and tucks in equivalent sections of DNA. ... Together, these insertions and deletions suggest that the genomes are not quite as similar as researchers had thought.”
Statistics can be so misleading.  It is to be expected that we are going to share a lot in common with other primates, if we can all eat bananas.  Even the current figure is only statistical, and measures only one parameter.  By other measures there is a gulf much bigger than 5%.  Besides, it’s highly unlikely the human soul is coded in DNA.  Though we act like beasts much of the time, there is a nonmaterial part of us that makes us build spacecraft, write and perform symphonies, weep over evil, blush with guilt, and sense the need to worship God.  That difference is 100%.
Next headline on: Human Body. • Next headline on: Mammals.
Inching Closer to the Island of Dr. Moreau   09/23/2002
Just when you thought terrorism gave us enough to worry about, now we need to watch out for the mad scientists who want to mix human and animal genes.  Wesley J. Smith of the
Discovery Institute, writing for National Review, discusses the dangers of “The Transhumanists” — those who are thinking ahead to the possibility of implanting animal genes into humans and vice versa.  Since transgenic experimentation is already being done between animals, what is to stop scientists from doing human experiments, whether for eugenics or less idealistic motives?  It is already being discussed, and advocated, by some.  Smith recommends that the government act quickly to ban the implantation of animal genes into human embryos.  But given Washington’s record of waffling on human cloning, the prospects do not look promising.
The humanist novelist H.G. Wells (who rebelled against his Christian upbringing while learning about Darwinism in college), wrote a novel called The Island of Dr. Moreau, in which he portrayed a megalomaniac scientist who had engineered chimeras that were part human, part animal, to do his every bidding.  Now that we are on the threshold of transgenic engineering, unless our leaders realize the ethical risks and act decisively, it will be too late once the catwoman is out of the bag.  Do humans have any dignity left, or is that just a relic of an outworn religious belief that we were created in the image of God, distinct from the animals?  Smith quotes these chilling words of bioethicist Gregory Pence:
Pence writes, “In some ultimate sense, humans are both nothing more, and as wonderful as, compassionate monkeys.”  By “weakening the ethical boundary between non-human and human animals,” he asserts that it will be easier to “do to humans some of the things we think quite sane to do to animals,” beginning with cloning and moving from there to genetic modification.
Compassionate monkeys.  What will this do to our founding principle that all men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights?  Do compassionate monkeys have human rights?  If a future chimeric human has only 80% human genes, will he or she get only 80% of the rights of others?  It all starts so noble, trying to improve the quality of life of people with genetic diseases, but where does it stop?  Where is the line that cannot be crossed, if we are just compassionate monkeys?  What is compassion, anyway, if we are just animals?  It is only an illusion.  We’ve seen the bitter fruits of communism and Naziism coming from Darwin’s tree of death, but there are other fruits in the bud, slowly ripening to portend horrors we can only imagine.
Next headline on: Politics and Ethics.
Political Science: Anti-Design Pressure Applied Against a Georgia School Board   09/20/2002
Conservative News Service reports that National Academy of Sciences president Bruce Alberts is asking members to lobby the Cobb County, Georgia school district and protest the placement of disclaimer stickers in science textbooks that warn students that evolution is just a theory and should be looked at with an open mind.  The ACLU, also, is suing the school district to remove the stickers. Meanwhile, the county school board is scheduling a vote Sept. 26 on a policy that includes the statement, “the Cobb County School District believes that discussion of disputed views of academic subjects is a necessary element of providing a balanced education, including the study of the origin of the species.”
As we have seen repeatedly in these school board cases, the scientific establishment has all the trappings of a giant political action committee or powerful union.  Why do they want to shield students from the damaging evidence against evolution that we present repeatedly here in Creation-Evolution Headlines, including evidence that is printed almost weekly in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, one of our primary sources?  Bruce Alberts himself said in 1998 that the biology of the future involves studying molecular machines like design engineers (see our January 9 headline and commentary).  It’s hypocritical for them to turn around and keep design language out of the science classroom.
Biology can be kept clear of sectarian religion by just talking about the observable, testable concepts of information and design.  It is a huge lie, the opposite of the truth, for Robert Boston to claim that the proposed policy is “just a dumbing down of the academic curriculum ... it replaces science curriculum with a religious curriculum, which is inappropriate in public education.“  That’s the unfortunate situation right now!  Kids are being dumbed down by not allowing them to think critically and hear all the facts.  They are being indoctrinated already into a religious philosophy — naturalism — which is inappropriate in public education.  Clearly, no one is asking for religious teachings to be taught or given preference in a science class.  But neutrality and objectivity are not the same thing as philosophical naturalism; being non-sectarian or impartial does not mean you have to claim, against the evidence, that only particles exist.
Scientists themselves frequently use adjectives like elegant, exquisite, complex and amazing when describing the designs found in living things.  Design terminology is perfectly appropriate and natural when teaching biology; there is nothing unscientific about it.  Claiming that the design is only apparent and can be explained by undirected, impersonal natural forces is a philosophical judgment akin to a mystery religion, where things are not what they seem, cannot be observed, and must be taken on faith.
So it’s not the disclaimers that are dumbing down the kids.  Rather, it is refusing to tell them that some of their textbook illustrations are fraudulent, that they must just swallow the Darwinian tale uncritically, or that they must be shielded from facts that are problematic for evolution such as the Cambrian explosion.  Why would the NAS and the ACLU, then, call evil good, and good evil?  The only explanation is that they are afraid that the case for evolution is evaporating, and the only way to maintain their naturalistic stranglehold is to use force and intimidation.  If so, that’s a good sign.  Give students a little information, and they’ll see through the line they are being fed and rebel.  If not, then prove it: call off the ACLU enforcers, and let’s have rational debates on the evidence, like good scientists.
Next headline on: Schools. • Next headline on: Intelligent Design.
Big Bang Bolstered, Yet Preposterous   09/20/2002
According to the
BBC News, a prediction of the big bang has been confirmed by observations made at the South Pole.  The prediction was that the cosmic microwave background would be polarized, and 5500 hours of radio telescope time have detected the polarization.  Though relieved and excited about the potential new information this measurement will bring, astronomers like Dr. Carlson of Chicago University are disturbed by the implications.  “...the new observations are pointing to an ever-more puzzling Universe: a Universe whose birth was dominated by mysterious dark matter and dark energy.  ‘We’re stuck with a preposterous Universe,‘ he says.”
This measurement does not confirm any particular theory unless all other possibilities have been ruled out.  Always remember Finagle’s Second Law: “No matter what the anticipated result, there will always be someone eager to (a) misinterpret it, (b) fake it, or (c) believe it happened according to his own pet theory.”  Cosmological measurements are on the bleeding edge of the possible, and their interpretations are invariably clouded by assumptions.  They keep saying that every new measurement bolsters the big bang theory, but look at the implications.  Now they have these giant fudge factors of dark matter and dark energy they don’t know what to do with.  Which side of the eyepiece has the preposterous matter?
Next headline on: Cosmology.
What’s In a Name?   09/20/2002
The Discovery Institute’s Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture has just shortened its name to the
Center for Science and Culture.  Mark Edwards, the Director of Media and Public Relations, says it was changed because the the old name was simply too long.  The Sept 20 issue of Science magazine, however, sees this as “Design’s evolving image.”  They note that the image of Michelangelo’s fresco “The Creation of Man” in their logo was changed to a Hubble photograph.  The magazine gives the last word to Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education: “There is still a superfluous word in the center’s name: ‘Science.’”
Well then let’s have her remove the words “science” and “education” from her organization’s name, because the NCSE is concerned with neither, but only keeping creation out of science classrooms and harrassing teachers who teach the controversy about Darwinism.  Scott believes it’s OK to teach falsehoods like Haeckel’s embryos in school textbooks, and it’s necessary to indoctrinate students and shield them from contrary evidence instead of teaching them to think critically, as she herself admits in so many words on camera in the film Icons of EvolutionScience magazine should be ashamed for printing her hypocritical, vacuous vituperation.  Watch the film, go to the CSC website, and answer the substance of the arguments, please.
Runner-up for dumb entry of the week: New Scientist claims that right-wing governments increase the rate of suicides in a country.  Now there’s a non-sequitur wrapped in a glittering generality, seasoned with selective reporting.
Next dumb story.
Motors in Your Ear Amplify Sound 10,000-Fold   09/19/2002
What limits the hearing range in the ear?  Apparently not the eardrum or bones of the middle ear, but the cochlea in the inner ear.  That’s the finding of scientists writing in the We reported in February about
prestin, the speedy molecular motor that is involved in controlling the volume of sound on the hair cells of the cochlea.  Now, scientists writing in the Sept. 19 issue of Nature have confirmed that prestin is the primary agent in the control of sound amplification, or at least that no other mechanism is necessary to explain the observations.  In their research paper entitled, “Prestin is required for electromotility of the outer hair cell and for the cochlear amplifier,” they explain that this little molecular motor, that affects the stiffness of outer hair cells responding to sound waves, provides a 40-60 decibel increase in sensitivity of the ear: a factor of one to ten thousand.  By knocking out the prestin motor in mice, the scientists observed a 10,000-fold reduction in hearing sensitivity. 
The hearing ability of mammals is an exquisitely tuned series of mechanical and electrical systems.  Prestin itself is an electromechanical transducer.  Along with the other mechanisms, it allows us to tolerate the differences in volume between a jet take-off and the purring of a cat.  See also our March 2001 headline on this subject.
Next headline on: Human Body.
Committed Religious Teens Are Healthier, Less Trouble   09/18/2002
Researchers at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill surveyed 2,478 high school seniors and found that the most committed to religious practices were the best behaved in society, reports
EurekAlert.  They were less delinquent, less in trouble with the law, less likely to use drugs or engage in other risky behaviors, more likely to exercise and eat right, and more likely to be involved in volunteering, sports and community services.  But there was little benefit with mild or inconsistent attachment to religion; only those really committed, to whom their religion was very important to them, showed the benefit.  This research is consistent with earlier smaller scale studies, but “The new work, released in a report today (Sept. 18), is among the most comprehensive looks yet on the link between religion and positive and negative adolescent behavior.”
Solomon said, “When wisdom enters your heart, And knowledge is pleasant to your soul, Discretion will preserve you; Understanding will keep you, To deliver you from the way of evil, From the man who speaks perverse things, From those who leave the paths of uprightness To walk in the ways of darkness; Who rejoice in doing evil, And delight in the perversity of the wicked ... So you may walk in the way of goodness, And keep to the paths of righteousness” (Prov 2:10-14,20).  Isn’t it a handy thing that religion evolved.
Next headline on: Health.
Primordial Soup Cannot Tolerate Salt   09/17/2002
In what appears to be a devastating blow to beliefs that life first appeared in the oceans, scientists at UC Santa Cruz, publishing in the journal
Astrobiology Vol 2. No. 2 (2002) have experimented with what salt does to RNA and membranes.  They found that sea salt destroys fatty-acid membranes and prevents RNA from forming chains (polymerizing), even at concentrations seven times weaker than in today’s oceans.  The ingredients of sea salt are very effective at dismembering membranes and preventing RNA units (monomers) from forming polymers any longer than two links (dimers).  Noting the “exceptional properties of contemporary cellular membrane structures,” they emphasize that without some kind of osmotic control, primitive vesicles would have collapsed in the presence of divalent cations such as are present in sea salt.  Even if early oceans were far less salty, the prebiotic compounds would have needed to be concentrated.  But as they logically point out, “Concentrating mechanisms often have a drawback in that they are not selective.  That is, not only monomers but also any ionic solute present will be concentrated,” including the damaging salts.
Considering their study a “crucial piece of information” for origin of life studies, they conclude that the origin of life in the oceans would not be possible, and that a very protected environment of fresh water on the continents would have been necessary for emergent life to evolve far enough to protect itself from the damaging effects of sea salt: “In this very protected environment, simple protocellular entities could thrive until the evolutionary appearance of a primitive metabolic machinery and active salt transport systems in membranes allowed them to overcome the disruptive impact of more saline environments.”  The paper is entitled, “Influence of Ionic Inorganic Solutes on Self-Assembly and Polymerization Processes Related to Early Forms of Life: Implications for a Prebiotic Aqueous Medium,” by Monnard, Apel, Kanavarioti and Deamer.
It is almost funny to read this paper while imagining the scriptwriters at the Discovery Channel or National Geographic hearing the bad news.  All hopes for a naturalistic origin of life are being dashed so hard, it seems like a succession of disaster stories comparable to Pharoah’s ten plagues.  Here in the journal Astrobiology, the palace for the study of the evolution of life in the universe, Pharoah is still waiting for Ra to come to the rescue, and these magicians have just told him all the firstborn have died.  How long will you harden your heart?  Know that the Lord is God.  Let the people go – to the promised land of intelligent design.
Next headline on: Origin of Life.
Ohio School Board Vote Hangs in the Balance   09/17/2002
Despite widespread public support for teaching intelligent design, or at least criticisms of Darwinism, in Ohio schools, the school board appears to be rushing the evolution-only draft science standards for vote Oct 15 without modification.  The group advocating intelligent design,
Science Excellence for All Ohioans (SEAO), reported today that at the last board meeting on the 10th, though the science standards were not on the agenda, board members listened to an hour of public testimony about them.  Three evolutionists spoke, followed by ten advocates of the “teach the controversy” approach – those who favor allowing evidence against Darwinism and/or for intelligent design.  SEAO fears that the board is ignoring the will of the majority of Ohioans who have expressed support of the latter.  Unless the board changes its direction, it will approve the draft standards that retain an evolution-only stance, even though the standards were slightly modified to add the word “theory” to evolution and omit discussion of the origin of the universe and the origin of life (changes that have angered the evolutionists).  SEAO is troubled by the suggestion to relegate “teach the controversy” to social studies: “This move appears to be an attempt to divert attention from the real issue.  The question is not whether intelligent design belongs in the social studies standards; the real issue is whether evolution will be taught objectively and without bias in the science classroom.  The teach-the-controversy approach must be implemented in the science standards, not social studies.”  SEAO calls this battle between the public and the school board and their Darwin-only advisers The Ohio Firestorm.
In the public forum, Jody Sjogren made a surprise announcement about new curricular materials that will be available within a month to support the teach-the-controversy proposal.  We think we know what materials she is talking about and will announce them here as soon as they become available.
Next headline on: Schools. • Next headline on: Intelligent Design.
Endosymbionts Mutate Twice as Fast   09/17/2002
Endosymbionts are organelles alleged to have once been free-living organisms.  A Penn State biochemist and his colleagues compared their genomes with their presumed closest relatives and found, on average, twice as many amino acid substitutions.  The results are published in the
Sept 16 online preprints of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  They puzzled over the phenomenon; how could deleterious mutations accumulate without destroying function? 
If the proportion of slightly deleterious mutations is greater than that of slightly advantageous mutations, as is often assumed, the gene would again eventually deteriorate in long-term evolution.  One hypothesis to prevent this situation is to assume that a large-effect advantageous mutation occasionally occurs and rescues the gradual deterioration of gene function.  However, this hypothesis is unrealistic, because it is unclear how a single mutation can nullify the effects of many deleterious mutations at the molecular level.

In addition, definitely deleterious mutations are likely to occur quite often in any gene.  Therefore, unless all deleterious mutations are eliminated by purifying selection, most genes would become nonfunctional.  Once the occurrence of deleterious mutation is balanced by purifying selection, amino acid substitutions are expected to occur following the neutral model of evolution irrespective of population size.  Definitely advantageous mutations, which may occur occasionally, would increase the rate of protein evolution, but as long as protein function remains the same, their contribution is expected to be small.

Since the protein products retain their functions, it appears that the net effect is neutral, whether the mutations themselves are neutral or whether the good ones compensate for the bad, “because they do not change the gene function in long-term evolution (no adaptation).”  Either way, the authors can only suggest a working hypothesis that the differences are caused by a higher mutation rate in the endosymbionts.  “It would be interesting to test this hypothesis with experiments,” they conclude.
This paper is listed under the topic Evolution, but does anyone see evolution here?  Not a single advantageous mutation or adaptive change has been cited.  Most of the talk is about downward change, or level change at best.  The paper begs the question that organelles like mitochondria were once free-living organisms, a topic of controversy among biologists.  Even so, the results were a surprise, and you see the authors puzzling over why the mutation rate would be higher among these subjects.  The bottom line is that no Darwinian selection toward better fitness was demonstrated, despite the bluffing title “Acceleration of genomic evolution caused by enhanced mutation rate in endocellular symbionts.”  What they did show was just deterioration, randomization and degradation, the way of all the earth.
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
On the Evolution of Fruit Fly Color   09/16/2002
The
Sept 17 issue of Current Biology has another paper on the fruit fly Drosophila, one of the most-studied critters in all science.  This one tries to explain how color evolved in different populations of the tiny flies, which vary in the amount of black and yellow pigment between species.  The scientists from Howard Hughes Medical Institute, in their paper “Evolution of yellow Gene Regulation and Pigmentation in Drosophila,” explain the problem:
Changes in developmental gene expression are central to phenotypic evolution, but the genetic mechanisms underlying these changes are not well understood. ... A major challenge of biology is understanding the genetic basis of evolutionary change.  Genetic analyses of model organisms have identified a number of “candidate” genes that may have contributed to the evolution of phenotypic differences between species.  Mutations in these genes produce phenotypes that resemble those of other species, and this has prompted hypotheses that similar genetic changes may have given rise to existing interspecific differences ... The specific genetic changes responsible for particular differences in gene expression remain largely unknown.
The researchers swapped genes for yellow color between species to see what happened, and realized that much more was involved than mutations on a single gene.  They found that not just the genes, but how they are expressed, both on the DNA and protein side, are involved.  In addition, there are promoters and enhancers and modifiers that affect coloration, as well as additive effects of mutations and epistatic effects (how genes work together).  So mutation of the gene for yellow color was a factor, “but evolutionary changes in other genes were also required.” 
The results are largely inferential and circumstantial, leaving many questions unanswered, such as how can multiple mutations work together to achieve a coordinated result.  It also appears that variation is tightly regulated and controlled, not random.  The idea of a point mutation providing a benefit and spreading through a population to form a new species is being seen these days as overly simplistic.  Gene expression and regulation are just as important.  The authors point to studies of the “classic evolutionary case of the industrial melanization of the peppered moths” that found that introducing the gene for dark color into light-colored moths does not by itself make them dark; there are suppressors that can control whether or not the gene is expressed.  The important thing to notice is that after decades of study on Drosophila, evolutionists still do not understand how color evolves, and that’s the easy part.  When simple variation in the expression of genes for pigment presents such a challenge, how can they claim that the fruit fly itself evolved, with its wings, compound eyes, nervous system, mouth parts, digestive system, articulated limbs, and so much else?  How many billions of lucky accidents had to work together to produce flying machines that can hover, dart, and fly backwards?
Next headline on: Bugs. • Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
Original Neandertals Rediscovered   09/13/2002
A multi-disciplinary team has sifted through the soil of Neander Valley, named after
Joachim Neander (1650-1680), “a teacher, poet, and composer of hymns who often visited the area,” and found “over 60 human skeletal fragments, along with a large series of Paleolithic artifacts and faunal material.”  They carbon-dated the remains at 40,000 years old and wrote up their description in the Sept 12 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  The original Neandertal skeletons had been found in 1856, three years before Darwin published the Origin of Species, but the cave had been destroyed and the site forgotten by 1900.  These authors report finding and excavating the original site over the last few years, and finding bones that matched the original Neandertal Man.  They also did mitochondrial DNA analysis on fragments and determined that at least three individuals were represented.  Nature Science Update posted a summary of the find.
Neandertal man made a bigger hubbub in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  Now, it can be claimed they were fully human, contemporaneous with and not ancestors of modern man.  Neandertals were interfertile with modern humans, cared for one another, and had good brains and hunting skills.  Human paleoanthropology is in such a state of disarray these days that Neandertal Man is a little more than a footnote on debates over much bigger questions.  Take the radiocarbon dates with a grain of salt, too; they are subject to unverifiable assumptions about the equilibrium levels of atmospheric carbon-14 in the unobservable past.
Next headline on: Early Man.
Darwin Bounced the Ball, Others Took It and Ran   09/13/2002
In the
Sept. 13 issue of Science, Edward J. Larson gives high marks to Janet Browne’s new biography of Charles Darwin, The Power of Place (vol. 2).  In this second volume, she tackles the complexities of Darwin’s later years.  Most are familiar with the youthful Darwin, The Voyage of the Beagle and The Origin of Species, but Larson feels the writings of his mature years are more revealing and relevant to today’s issues in biology.  Apparently Darwin “worked compulsively tying up the fraying ends of his evolutionary theory, particularly the causes of variation and the processes of inheritance.”  Browne presents a Darwin of many irreconcilable faces, “a lion on the world stage of science,” yet petty and withdrawn around his estate.  Larson describes his later writings (emphasis added):
In them, Darwin’s fertile mind bore into such critical issues as the evolution of human morality and consciousness, the impact of inbreeding (cousin marriages were a particular concern) [Ed. note: Charles Darwin had married his cousin Emma, a Christian], the accumulated effect of small agency, and the power of sexual selection.  Along the way, Darwin gradually lost what was left of his spiritual beliefs and, in his own gentle way, adopted the materialism of Huxley and Ernst Haeckel.  His thinking on such matters remains highly relevant.  For example, Darwin’s 1869 Descent of Man should be required reading for anyone interested in evolutionary psychology.  Browne’s biography gives vital context to Darwin’s later work, detailing his brilliance as well as his biases and integrating the scientific with the social.  Her Darwin is knee-deep in Victorian sexism, racism, and classism, and he sinks deeper with age.
While Darwin battled his illness and wavered between various obsessions, the debate he had started about origins took on a life of its own.  Interestingly, though the Origin avoided the origin of life and the evolution of man, those two issues became the most vigorously debated in Victorian society.  Larson writes:
These two issues (humans and life) soon became the focus of the scientific and popular debate over origins, with Darwin only reluctantly joining it.  Wallace, Huxley, Haeckel, and Charles Lyell (among others) featured prominently in the widening debate.  Browne follows the trail of this debate where it leads, even when Darwin is temporarily left behind.  She ceases only when Darwin dies at age 73, with the debate still raging.  As long and dense as The Power of Place is, I wanted it to continue following the disputes, Darwin or no Darwin.  By this point in Browne’s biography (as in his life), the country squire of Downe had become secondary to the debate that he launched a quarter century earlier.
Thus Darwin’s defenders took the ball and ran with it, driving the game into wider circles beyond just “the origin of species” until it became a full-fledged materialistic philosophy of everything.
How ironic that the very evidences Darwin most drew on (artificial selection, variation among pigeons and finches, etc.) are irrelevant to major transformations, his own theory of heredity–pangenesis–was soon debunked, and his beliefs about human evolution were racist.  Haeckel, also an extreme racist, put forth his fraudulent drawings of embryos to lend an air of scientific respectability to Darwin’s theory — a fraud not fully denounced till 1997!  Darwinism was a wild extrapolation beyond the evidence.  Darwin hoped that more evidence would be forthcoming.  The fossil record (as he himself admitted) was full of gaps that argued against his theory, and organs of extreme perfection (like the eye) defied detailed explanations by natural selection.  Nothing has changed.  Worse, Darwin and his defenders knew nothing about molecular machines at the foundation of life, the cell, present in all their irreducible complexity in the very simplest and humblest of organisms.  Yet here we are, 143 years later, with the materialist philosophy dominating the scientific establishment with a vengeance that censors all nonconformists.  The blood of 100 million people, meanwhile, testifies to the horror of running a world according to the principle of “survival of the fittest.”  What a sobering lesson on the power of ideas that go far beyond the evidence.
Next headline on: Darwinism.
Genetic Code is Even Parity   09/12/2002
Did you ever learn about even and odd parity in computer class?  If so, you know that parity bits are often added to computer codes to reduce errors.  If the receiving end reads a byte that is odd when it is supposed to be even, it knows there has been an error.  Dónall Mac Dónaill, a chemist at Trinity College Dublin, thinks that DNA uses this technique in the genetic code.  He asked why, of all the possible nucleotides, DNA only uses A, C, T, and G.  Examining the molecules, he noticed that these four seem to have “even parity.”  This makes them very unlikely to pair with the wrong base.  An Oxford computational chemist thinks this is a potentially fruitful concept: “It is a novel idea which should provoke others to explore aspects of informatics in the genetic code,” says Graham Richards.  The story is summarized on
Science Now, and also on Mac Dónaill’s website, and Nature Science Update explained the idea on their site on Sept. 18, emphasizing that “The consequences of wrongly read or copied information can be disastrous.  Malfunctioning genes can cause diseases and defects.” 
Bill Gates once said that DNA was like software, only more complex than anything we have been able to produce.  In the film Unlocking the Mystery of Life, Stephen Meyer remarks that this is a very instructive observation, because we know that Bill Gates does not hire wind and erosion to design his software; he employs software engineers.  Codes with error-correction like parity built in are hallmarks of intelligent design.  There is no instance anywhere of a code being produced without intelligence.  On what basis, other than faith, can Graham Richards say the following?  “Instinctively, one feels that the DNA code should have evolved systems to minimize errors.  Mac Dónaill’s work shows how this could have been achieved.”  Similarly, Nature Science Update attributes this wonder to natural selection.
Next headline on: The Cell. • Next headline on: Intelligent Design.
The Spliceosome: The Most Complex Cellular Machine Yet   09/12/2002
A molecular machine with 4 RNAs and 145 proteins: that’s the spliceosome, writes a team of Harvard biochemists in
September 12 Nature.  Its job?  “The precise excision of introns from pre-messenger RNA is performed by the spliceosome, a macromolecular machine containing five small nuclear RNAs and numerous proteins.”  Why higher organisms have so many introns (non-coding regions of DNA) and smaller exons (coding regions), and how the exons are joined, is on the cutting edge of DNA research.  Formerly considered “junk DNA,” the introns seem to play an essential role in gene expression.  They also may provide flexibility for coding regions to join in multiple ways, extending the information content of the DNA.  In any event, the splicing of exons together correctly has little tolerance for error, and the spliceosome helps ensure that an accurate messenger RNA gets built before being sent to the ribosome, where the protein product will be assembled.  “...we identify 145 distinct spliceosomal proteins,” they announce, “making the spliceosome the most complex cellular machine so far characterized.”  Furthermore, the authors find that this machinery is highly conserved (unevolved) between yeast and metazoans [multicellular organisms], including humans:
The potentially greater complexity of the human spliceosome is not unexpected in light of the vastly greater complexity of splicing in metazoans compared to yeast.  Indeed, most metazoan pre-mRNAs contain multiple introns, the introns are typically thousands of nucleotides, and the splicing signals are weakly conserved.  Superimposed on this complexity is the high frequency of alternative splicing, which is in turn further complicated owing to regulation.  Thus, many of the metazoan-specific proteins may play roles in the accurate recognition and joining of exons.
Another paper by German biochemists in the same issue of Nature announces a newly-found role of a chaperone protein named L23.  This protein sits at the exit tunnel of the ribosome and forms a docking station for other chaperone proteins, which then grab the emerging polypeptide and fold it properly into its unique shape to become a functioning protein.
In the following week’s issue of Nature (Sept 19), Canadian scientists found evidence of introns and splicing machinery in a primitive eukaryote, adding more evidence that spliceosomal introns “are likely to have arisen very early in eukaryotic evolution.”
Here we see another complex molecular machine, composed of nearly 150 coordinated parts, that operates with skill and precision.  “Spliceosomes undergo multiple assembly stages and conformational changes during the splicing reaction,” say the authors, indicating that these machines have many moving parts.  They conclude with an acknowledgement that the cell is a veritable factory of complex machinery:
The observation that the spliceosome is associated with numerous proteins that function in coupling splicing to other steps in gene expression provides compelling evidence for the emerging concept of an extensively coupled network of gene expression machines.
Here again we notice in this paper, that the more that biological complexity is described, the less speculation one can find about how all this complexity evolved.  Nobody seems to want to touch that question with a ten-foot polypeptide.
Next headline on: The Cell and Biochemistry. • Next amazing story.
President Bush Points to Creator As Source of Human Value   09/11/2002
In his special address from Ellis Island on the first anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, President George W. Bush reminded Americans that our belief in the “Giver of life” separates our values from those of the terrorists, who treat people as “expendable in the pursuit of power”:
The attack on our nation was also attack on the ideals that make us a nation. Our deepest national conviction is that every life is precious, because every life is the gift of a Creator who intended us to live in liberty and equality.  More than anything else, this separates us from the enemy we fight.  We value every life; our enemies value none – not even the innocent, not even their own.  And we seek the freedom and opportunity that give meaning and value to life.
Text and video of President Bush’s remarks can be read at the
White House website.
By implication, this means philosophies opposed to creation devalue human life.  But what about Islamic extremists, who believe Allah created man, and yet showed utter disregard for human life in the terrorist attacks?  The difference is that the God of Scripture is both righteous and loving.  He teaches us to love our enemies, pray for those who persecute us, and do good to all men.  Jesus set the example of laying down His life for mankind.  He also taught that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.  Islam, by contrast, has sought to conquer by the sword, and its extreme adherents chant death to all who will not submit to their dogma.  It also generates selfishness like that of hijacker Mohammed Atta, who according to WorldNetDaily appeared to be lusting after his promised 70 virgins as he packed his suitcase for the plane he was to fly into the World Trade Center.  Christianity teaches us to deny our selfish lusts and work for the good of others.  So it is not just belief in a Creator per se that makes the difference in valuing human life; it is knowing the true Creator, who is holy and righteous, loving and merciful, and who created us in His image.  To discern the followers of the true Creator, Jesus made it clear, “You shall know them by their fruits.”  The fruit of terrorism, produced by an evil tree, is forever etched in our minds.
Other differences between the God of Islam and the God of the Bible were pointed out Sept. 6 on Chuck Colson’s Breakpoint.
As for atheists and materialists, it goes almost without saying that denial of creation provides no foundation for valuing human life; if no purpose or direction produced humankind, we are no more worthy than snail darters or mosquitos.  The fruit of that tree produced communism and Naziism and the slaughter of 100 million human lives.  We applaud President Bush for making the point that creation is the foundation for human dignity, and also for supplying Biblical allusions throughout his speech, ending with, “And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness will not overcome it” (John 1:5).
Next headline on: Politics. • Next headline on: Bible.
Remembering 9/11: Download and print our patriotic poster, showing an American flag with Mt. Whitney, tallest peak in the 48 states.

How the Peacock Got Its Tail: A Tormented Just So Story   09/10/2002
“How did the peacock get his tail?  It sounds like a Just So story, but it’s a question that has tormented zoologists for more than a century.”  Thus begins Sanjida O’Connell writing in
The Independent (London), echoed also on National Geographic News.  After reviewing the history of tormented zoologists’ stories since Darwin, she zeroes in on the recent theory of French ornithologist Anders Moller, who explains the tail thus: peacocks are “walking billboards advertising their health and status.”  Moller related tail ornamentation to production of immune cells.  Presumably, the peahen knows how to read the billboard that the better the tail, the better the male’s immune system, and the better the chance her chicks will survive.  “Although there are still many unanswered questions,” concludes O’Connell, “scientists are moving closer to finding out how the peacock got his tail.”
Note: “Just-So story” is a reference to Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories for children, in which he tells comical tales about how the camel got his hump, how the leopard got his spots, and other fabricated answers to common kids’ questions, based on imagination, not fact. 

We thought up some of these “unanswered questions”: why doesn’t the male evaluate the female’s immune system – doesn’t he care as much about passing on his genes as the hen does?  Does a peabrained peahen know what an immune system is?  Why should more immune cells correlate with a bigger, more colorful tail?  Why don’t all birds evolve more ornamentation?  Why haven’t evolutionists figured this out after 150 years?  If this isn’t a Just-So story, what is it?  What is the best way to end the torment?
Next headline on: Birds. • Next dumb story.
Natural Selection: Neutral or Directional?   09/10/2002
Three scientists at Indiana University believe they have demonstrated statistically that natural selection is directional for phenotypes.  Writing in the Sept. 10
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they examined 572 traits from 86 studies using a new quantitative trait loci (QTL) sign test.  Instead of seeing neutral or antagonistic selection, they saw directional selection strongest for life history traits, less strongly for physiological and morphological traits, and weakest for developmental traits.
Here is another paper trying to defend Darwinism; does it succeed?  If Darwinian evolution were totally wrong, these data could still be explained by some other theory, but no other theory is even on the table for discussion.  Only evolutionary explanations are considered, whether neutral selection or directional selection.  What’s most interesting, however, are the damaging admissions in their opening paragraph about the lack of evidence for evolution in both living and fossil organisms (emphasis added):
It is often lamented that studies of present-day populations provide only the briefest snapshot of evolution and tell us little about the evolutionary forces that have shaped a particular trait or organism in the past.  Although ancestral phenotypes can be reconstructed with phylogenetic methods or directly determined from fossils, neither approach reveals the evolutionary processes that created these phenotypes.  Even if these historical data could help, there is considerable uncertainty associated with the reconstruction of ancestral character states, and a fossil record is missing for most taxa and incomplete for others.  As a result, a direct link between the action of microevolutionary forces detected in studies of contemporary populations and patterns of speciation and macroevolution has been difficult to make, yet this is a central problem in evolutionary biology
They proceed to make their case for directional evolution, but their results conflict with those of other evolutionists.  For instance, developmental traits (the latest Big Hope for rapid evolutionary change) show very weak selection by this QTL method.  Selection for life history traits show up strongest, but for morphology (outward appearance), only moderately.  Their results conflict with currently popular theories of neutral selection (that divergence is random, not necessarily adaptive); isn’t natural selection supposed to be directionless by definition?  They acknowledge several possible flaws or weaknesses in the method, such as not gauging the magnitude of an individual QTL, and possible bias in the choice of traits to measure.  At best, their results are only implied, and have no explanatory value regarding how adaptive traits would arise in the first place.  Despite the confident-sounding title of their paper, “Directional selection is the primary cause of phenotypic diversification,” their concluding sentence seems more like a statement of faith than scientific proof:“These latter considerations reinforce our earlier conclusions that Darwinian selection largely accounts for the astonishing diversity of phenotypes we see.”  This could be translated, “We think we have found statistics to prop up our a priori assumptions that the wonders of creation, from eagle’s eye to baby’s cry, are explainable by impersonal natural forces.”
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
We’re Evolving Fatter   09/09/2002
Andrew Prentice told the British Association that humans are facing one of their biggest challenges yet: the evolution of obesity, reports the
BBC News.  The question is, since evolution is such a slow process, will humans survive obesity-related diseases until evolution accommodates fatness into the human profile?
Fat chance.  Try self-control: just say “no” to the refrigerator, and to evolutionary storytelling.  (Self-denial and discernment are two very unDarwinian traits.)
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory. • Next dumb story.
Life Lands Much Earlier   09/09/2002
According to A. R. Prave writing in the
September issue of Geology, the first bacteria colonized the land over a billion years ago, hundreds of millions of years earlier than previously thought.  He found wrinkly rock in Scotland that led him to this conclusion.  A picture of the rock and summary of his hypothesis can be found on the BBC News.
The storytelling of evolutionists is quite entertaining: “A billion years ago the Earth was undergoing a series of cataclysmic changes.  The composition of the atmosphere was fluctuating wildly.  Climatic conditions went from extreme to extreme.  Primitive life had already taken hold on the Earth and consisted of single-celled organisms like bacteria and was confined to the vast seas that even then covered most of the globe...”  Is this the BBC eyewitness news, or did we get Monty Python by mistake?
Next headline on: Geology. • Next headline on: Fossils.
The Big Crunch Is Back   09/09/2002
The universe might collapse in a final big crunch after all, thinks Stanford cosmologist Andrei Linde, resurrecting an idea that had fallen into disfavor. 
New Scientist reports that Linde feels dark energy might reverse in 10 billion years, even though now it appears to be accelerating the universe outward.  Martin Rees of Cambridge is not convinced: “Since we have no idea what the dark energy is, such scenarios cannot be ruled out,” he says.  “But ultra-long-range forecasts are all exceedingly speculative.”
Linde is the cosmologist who gave us chaotic inflation, with alternate universes bubbling off in all directions forever.  How convenient that he cannot see them, or will not be around to see if his big crunch prophecy will be fulfilled.  It seems dark matter was not enough fun for the cosmologists; now they have dark energy to play with, too.  Since matter and energy are equivalent according to E=mc2, this means you can transform one ghost into another.
Next headline on: Cosmology. • Next dumb story.
More Complex Than Anyone Ever Dreamed: Cell Quality Control   09/09/2002
According to
NewsWise, biochemists like Lynne Maquat at the European Molecular Biology Organization are looking into tinkering with the cell’s quality control system to see if certain error-correcting mechanisms can be switched off.  This might provde a means of testing new drugs or treating genetic diseases.  In discussing the work, the article uses superlatives to describe how the cell usually corrects mistakes (emphasis added):
...mistakes, which are eliminated by dogmatic quality control. ... mRNA molecules are like messengers in a factory, taking a blueprint and then heading to the floor and gathering a team to get the job done.  Sometimes, though, the mRNA doesn’t quite get the message right.  One common error happens when an mRNA molecule harbors a “stop” or “nonsense” signal before a protein has been completely made.   Enter the body’s quality-control system. ... nonsense-mediated decay targets what scientists call a “pioneer round of translation,” during which the body actually produces a kind of rough draft of a protein before giving the go-ahead to the mRNA molecule to begin mass production. ... mRNA puts together an extensive tool kit of molecular machinery to evaluate whether it should pass muster as a legitimate template for proteins. ...
The identification of such “tool kits,” groups of molecules working together to achieve a task, keeps hundreds of lab groups like Maquat’s around the world constantly busy.  Far from the simple and bland “DNA to RNA to protein” sequence of events that many people learn in high school, nearly every cell in the body embodies an incredibly complex construction site where tens of thousands of proteins work in tandem, snipping and cleaving molecules, removing “introns” and splicing together “exons” in various combinations, recruiting molecules to the site, and ferrying molecules over to ribosomes for assembly into proteins. ... “There’s an incredible amount of activity in a small space,” says Maquat, who is secretary/treasurer of the RNA Society and who organized a meeting this summer on the topic of mRNA decay for the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.   “A single gene can result in many different proteins depending on how its encoded precursor mRNA is processed; we now know that more than half of human genes can make more than one protein.  But with this wonderful flexibility often comes mistakes.  The situation is turning out to be more complex than anyone ever dreamed.  The degree of RNA processing that the cell undertakes is truly amazing.”  The idea of trying to bypass the body’s mRNA surveillance system is formidable.  Maquat notes that the system is necessary for survival, and that without it, bad mRNA would create even more instances of disease. 
Though a formidable prospect, she and her team hope that by allowing some mRNAs to sneak past the quality control guards, some genetic diseases might be treatable, and the process might open up “new vistas for pharmaceutical companies.”
The statements above speak for themselves.  How did this tightly-integrated error-correcting system originate?  Surely any thinking person would have cold shudders trying to believe that undirected, purposeless natural causes could produce “dogmatic quality control” and coordinated function of tens of thousands of complex parts.  Trying to imagine tiny molecules holding an inspection to determine whether a rough draft will pass muster, or sending a protein to the recycling plant if it has just one typo, is astonishing.  It’s hard to conceive of such things even being possible: molecules have no eyes or brains, and work most often in the dark.  Yet here we are, reaping the benefits moment by moment of the cell’s quality control superheroes.
Next headline on: The Cell and Biochemistry. • Next amazing story.
PhDs Take On Scientific American   09/06/2002
Dr. Bert Thompson (microbiology) and Dr. Brad Harrub (neurobiology/anatomy) have provided a detailed rebuttal to John Rennie’s “Fifteen Answers to Creationist Nonsense” article printed in the
June 17 Scientific American.  The rebuttal is provided in full on the Apologetics Press website.  Also available is a full response to the July 29 U.S. News and World Report cover story on evolution, also on Apologetics Press.
Fairness demands a full discussion of both sides.  Scientific American allowed no rebuttal, and U.S. News had just a biased acknowledgement that critics of Darwinism exist.  We encourage readers to be familiar with the arguments on both sides; that’s why we always provide the links to the original sources.
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory. • Next headline on: Intelligent Design.
Photo 09/06/2002: Click Here for the Hubble Space Telescope’s latest press release about a stunningly beautiful and theory-challenging ring galaxy named Hoag’s Object.
Next headline on: Stars.

Peering Into a Tiny Machine on Which the World Depends   09/06/2002
Sometimes it’s the little things that count.  World food supply, ecology, biodiversity are big things, but they depend heavily on a tiny molecular machine called nitrogenase.  This machine is worth its weight in gold and is the envy of chemical and structural engineers, but it makes its home in the lowliest of organisms, little bacteria that live around the roots of plants.  Its job?  To break apart the triple bonds of atmospheric nitrogen molecules and make them available as ammonia to plants, which use this valuable fertilizer to produce proteins for the entire food chain.  Molecular nitrogen (N2), though plentiful in the atmosphere (78%) is useless until “fixed” by breaking it apart and combining it with hydrogen as ammonia (NH3).  Given plenty of water, nitrogen is the usually the limiting factor in agricultural food production.  About half the world’s ammonia is produced by these tiny machines.  A little is fixed naturally by lightning, indicating the high energy required.  The rest, manufactured by man in the expensive Haber-Bosch process, consumes an estimated 1% of the world’s annual energy output.  Those triple bonds are tough nuts to crack!  How do the nitrogen-fixing bacteria do it so efficiently, at ambient temperature and pressure?  Whoever figures this out and imitates the process will enrich the world’s food supply and save trillions of dollars.
Scientists have been sharpening the focus more and more on this tiny protein machine, nitrogenase.  They knew that precisely placed metal ions (iron, molybdenum) form a critical structure in the heart of the enzyme.  They knew other proteins spend ATP to donate electrons to the nitrogen.  Now, writing in the
Sept. 6 issue of Science, a team of American scientists has sharpened the focus down to 1.16 angstrom resolution.  One surprise was that they detected another atom, possibly atomic nitrogen, deep in the heart of the active site.  How it gets there, and what role it plays, is still a mystery, but this is another important piece of the puzzle.  In the same issue of Science, Barry Smith summarizes the work and concludes, “Once again, nitrogenase has surprised us.”

Nitrogenase is a large and complex enzyme, composed of several subunits, whose function depends on the precise placement of specific metal atoms and electron donors.  It’s exciting to see a biological secret nearing solution, but amazing to ponder how a simple bacterium, living underground by the roots of plants, figured out how to do what man with all his technology cannot do without great cost and difficulty.  Next time you down a salad or burger or steak, realize that it was made possible by a sophisticated molecular machine operating humbly in one of nature’s “simplest” organisms.  See also David Demick’s engaging look at this “molecular sledgehammer” in the March-May issue of Creation magazine.
Next headline on: The Cell and Biochemistry. • Next headline on: Plants. • Next amazing story.
Elegant, Intricate, Remarkable Describe Cell Channels   09/05/2002
Gary Yellen of Harvard, in a review article in the
Sept 5 Nature waxes prosaic while describing the voltage-regulated channels in cell membranes: with words like “remarkable” and “elegant” he describes the ongoing research into the gatekeepers of the cell:
The remarkable optimizations of these channels for permitting rapid and selective ion flow across the hostile barrier of the cell membrane are now mostly apparent, as is the basic repertoire of conformational changes used to gate this flow.  We now see the outlines of two general approaches used by intracellular sensor domains to manipulate the channel gates, and some tantalizing details of the transmembrane voltage sensor itself.
The potassium channel is capable of passing millions of potassium ions per second through its “selectivity filter” while keeping out sodium ions, smaller and with the same charge.  How it does this is on the leading edge of research.  Apparently several mechanisms are involved.  The channel is able to mimic the arrangement of water molecules that naturally assemble around the ions, and guide them through the channel single file.  Also, parts of the channel rapidly flex open and closed in response to the ions or to voltage sensors.  A delicate balance of electric charge is required to attract the ions yet prevent them from sticking in the channel.  Several ions at a time can be passing through, each validated by the selectivity filter.  All this is regulated by voltage sensors, still poorly understood.  Cell signalling and nerve impulse transmission rely on the quick and accurate electrical transduction performed by these tiny gatekeepers.  An additional wonder is how the channels cooperate with each other, so that an electrical impulse lasting just a few milliseconds can be transmitted at a speed of several meters per second from your toe to your brain.  “Electricity plays an unavoidable role in biology,” Yellen opens his article, as he describes how animal cells “have made the management and production of electrical signals into a high art.” 
As usual, the higher the praise of the intricate designs in the cell, the less talk about evolution.  There is no mention anywhere in this paper about how this “intricate machinery” might have evolved without intelligent design.  See also our earlier reports about the potassium channel, the sodium channels and the water channels.
Next headline on: The Cell. • Next amazing story.
The Spin on Asteroid Spin   09/05/2002
Why do Koronis asteroids have a similar spin rate and tilt?  This puzzle is examined by Stephen M. Slivan of MIT in the
Sept 5 Nature.  He calls it a “new challenge in understanding asteroid collisional processes.”  It is thought that all 200 members of the Koronis family formed from the same breakup of a larger body, but current models would yield random spin orientations:
It is difficult to understand how preferred spin vector obliquities and rotation rates could exist in the context of formation by catastrophic fragmentation and disruption of a parent body, followed by at least 109 yr of collisional evolution in the main belt.  Current models of family formation predict that the memory of spin of the original unshattered parent body is lost, and existing models of spin angular momentum suggest that collisional evolution randomizes asteroid spin vectors regardless of their initial orientations, although the absolute timescale is uncertain.
He considers two possible explanations, secondary fragmenting and thermal or non-thermal dynamical spin stabilization, but neither seem to explain the observations.  He leaves it as an unsolved mystery, wondering if other asteroid families show similar spin clustering.  A summary of the paper is provided by Space.Com which quotes Slivan as saying the finding “hits you in the face.”
Perhaps a logical explanation will be found, but it does seem far-fetched to believe these small bodies would maintain their spin rates and obliquities for billions of years in a pinball field of gravitational influences.  Again we see that the age is the untouchable parameter.  It’s better to leave a mystery unsolved than to question tradition.
Next headline on: Solar System. • Next headline on: Dating Methods.
Darwinists Debate the Evolution of Presbyterians   09/03/2002
How does evolution explain group behavior, like religion?  That’s the subject of a
book review in Science (08/30) by Michael Ruse, one of today’s leading evolutionary philosophers.  Ruse examines David Sloan Wilson’s new book Darwin’s Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society with both praise and disdain.  First, he acknowledges a rift between Darwinists regarding the explanation for altruistic behavior.  Why do some individuals sacrifice their genes for the group, producing, for example, nonreproductive castes in ant and bee colonies?  In human society, how did natural selection produce religion?  The mainstream camp of Darwinists (Richard Dawkins, Michael Ruse, et al) explain these by individual selection, i.e., that somehow these social constructs benefit the individual.  Their rivals, the group selectionists or sociobiologists (W. D. Hamilton, John Maynard Smith, David S. Wilson et al), on the other hand, see some sort of group selection at work.  Wilson’s new book is a promotion of the latter view, and he uses, of all things, John Calvin’s 16th-century Geneva theocracy as a case study.  Ruse, though respectful of Wilson’s presentation, is not impressed:
I want hard figures on birth patterns before and after Calvin, and I want to know who had kids and who did not.  I want these figures correlated with religious practice and belief. Then and only then will I start to feel comfortable.

But let me not end on a negative note, because I feel a bit mean criticizing an evolutionary biologist for going outside his own field to matters of church history.  So let me repeat that I applaud the approach taken by Wilson, and I urge you to read Darwin’s Cathedral.  I think Wilson’s answers are wrong, but much more important is the fact that his questions are right.

Ruse entitled his review, “Can Selection Explain the Presbyterians?”
All non-atheists should take note.  The evolutionists want to explain everything in human society in terms of natural selection, even religion.  That is not news, but several noteworthy observations can be made from this book review.  The major one is that there is no accepted evolutionary explanation for altruism; the fact that there are two warring camps across a wide rift that has been continuing for decades demonstrates that.  Another is that Darwinians tread lightly when criticizing “the brethren.”  Ruse sounds like he secretly thinks Wilson’s explanation is ridiculous, but dare not publicly call him a fool for fear of providing ammunition to the creationists.  Finally, notice the patronizing disdain for religion that underlies even Ruse’s call for respect for it (emphasis added):
... a distinctive and admirable feature of the book is that Wilson does not (as so many evolutionary biologists are wont to do) prejudge the worth of religion before he starts.  He finds it a notable feature of human societies and, as such, demanding respect if not agreement or support.
That’s respect looking down from an ivory tower, no more reverent than admiring an ant colony.  There is no respect for the ideas contained in John Calvin’s Institutes or for the teachings of Jesus Christ; instead, the Darwinists, like disembodied aliens spying mankind from suspended platforms, seek to interpret the organisms below in terms of natural selection – whether men or ants, whether wasps or WASPs (white Anglo-Saxon Protestants).  The hypocrisy here is that they never do that to themselves!  They never interpret their own controversies in terms of selection, because that would undermine the very credibility of Darwinism itself.  If evolutionary theory is the product of natural selection, they have no way of knowing that natural selection – or theories, debates, or ideas – even exist.
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
Evolution Produces a Radio Receiver   09/03/2002
“Radio emerges from the electronic soup” claims a report in
New Scientist last week.  Two researchers at the University of Sussex applied an “automated design program that used an evolutionary process” and out popped a radio.  Actually, it cheated; it borrowed signals coming from a nearby computer as the oscillator, but in doing so, acted like a radio receiver.
This is intelligent design, not evolution.  The programmers supplied all the information and guidance necessary.  “Treating each switch as analogous to a gene allowed new circuits to evolve.  Those that oscillated best were allowed to survive to a next generation.  These ‘fittest’ candidates were then mated by mixing their genes together, or mutated by making random changes to them.”  So success at oscillation was the criterion to define fitness.  No such programmer or criterion is permissible in evolutionary theory, which is supposed to be unguided, impersonal, aimless, and pointless.  You can steer outcomes through a maze of random mutations if you have a goal and reward success.  This experiment has nothing to do with biological evolution, and everything to do with intelligent design.  But the design here was not very intelligent: the reputed radio only blindly picked up signals from elsewhere and ferried them as output.  Garbage in, garbage out.
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory. • Next headline on: Intelligent Design.
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Featured Creation Scientist for September

Wernher von Braun
1912 - 1977

“It’s not exactly rocket science, you know.”  The cliche implies that rocket science is the epitome of something that is difficult, obscure, abstruse, and understandable only by the brainiest of the smart.  Names that are qualify for the title “father of rocket science” include Tsiolkovsky, Goddard, and von Braun.  But Konstantin Tsiolkovsky was mostly a visionary and chalkboard theorist, and Robert Goddard only targeted the upper atmosphere for his projects; he was also secretive and suspicious of others to a fault.  Of the three, and any others that could be listed, Wernher von Braun has the prestige of actually taking mankind from the simple beginnings of rocketry all the way to the moon and the planets.  His name is almost synonymous with rocket science.  He is an icon of the space age.  As we will see, he should be remembered for much more than that.

Von Braun is important in this series because he recent enough to be in the living memory of many, and we have a great deal of documentation, photographs and motion pictures of him.  Even young people (that is, anyone under 40) who did not live through the glory days of Apollo are all familiar with three of von Braun’s last great projects he took from vision to reality: the Space Shuttle, orbiting space stations and interplanetary travel.  Unquestionably, he had a great deal of help.  One does not do rocket science alone!  At the height of the Apollo program, some 600,000 employees were involved in tasks from machining parts to managing large flight operations centers.  Yet by wide consensus and by results achieved, Wernher von Braun was a giant among giants: highly regarded by his peers, respected by all who worked with him, a celebrity to the public, showered with honors, and unquestionably personally responsible for much of the success of the space program.  Few have ever personally taken a dream of epic proportions to reality.  The peaceful exploration of space!  It was the stuff of dreams dreams by Kepler, Jules Verne, science fiction novels and countless childhood imaginations, yet today it is almost too commonplace.  Von Braun dreamed, but made it happen.  He was the right man with the right stuff at the right time.

What kind of person was he?  Many great scientists are quirkish or aloof in their personal lives, but we’re going to reveal a lesser-known side of von Braun, a spiritual side that kept him humble, grateful, unselfish, and strong.  We’ll see a remarkably well-rounded individual, a family man who loved swimming and travel and popularizing science for children; a man who loved life, had charisma and energy and dignity and integrity, handled huge projects yet kept a winning smile and a sense of humor even in the most stressful of project deadlines.  We’ll see an model of leadership that success-bound corporate heads would do well to emulate.  Maybe you didn’t know (incidentally) that he was also a Christian and creationist.  But first, a review of his record.

Von Braun was the “can do” mover and shaker that rescued America’s prestige from the embarrassment of Sputnik (1957) and drove the moon mission against a host of naysayers, leading to that unforgettable moment when the whole world held its breath: “Houston: Tranquillity Base here the Eagle has landed.”  In hindsight, many feel that Russia beat the U.S. to orbit and put the first man in space largely because the top brass had snubbed von Braun, whose team was eager and ready, and gave the job to the Navy.  Those first awful images of exploding and stray rockets, broadcast to America’s horror on international TV, are now folklore for captions to illustrate Murphy’s Law.  But once President Kennedy put von Braun in the driver’s seat, his string of spectacular successes left the Russians in the dust.  On January 31, 1958, von Braun’s Redstone rocket successfully lifted America’s first satellite, Explorer 1, into orbit.  The historic photo of Pickering, Van Allen and von Braun holding a model of Explorer 1 overhead in a victory salute at a Washington D.C. press conference symbolized the turning of the tide.  Von Braun was already thinking ahead.  He told Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, “We have an excellent chance of beating the Soviets to the first landing of a crew on the moon.”  Largely because of von Braun’s confidence, President Kennedy in 1961 challenged the country to make it to the moon before the decade was out.  And we did, on time!  A year later, with the launch of Mariner 2 to Venus in 1962 and Mariner 4 to Mars in 1964, his childhood dream of interplanetary exploration became reality.  Von Braun saw the progress of flight from crossing the Atlantic to crossing the ocean of space.  In the year he died, Voyagers 1 and 2, launched on rockets built by his technology, began their epic voyages to the outer solar system.

The prestige America gained through the space program, and its political advantage in a dangerous world dominated by communism, to say nothing of all the spinoff benefits to science and technology, are benefits we all gained largely to von Braun’s vision of space flight.  His impact on science, the economy and politics are symbolized by the two final missions launched on his Saturn V rockets: Skylab (1973), the first orbiting space station, that took science and technology to new heights and unfamiliar environments, and Apollo-Soyuz (1975), in which American astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts joined hands in earth orbit.  His work even transformed mankind’s own view of itself.  Who could ever forget the first image of our planet from the moon, when Apollo 8, a risky mission launched on a brand new rocket called Saturn V (the most complex machine ever built, yet launched flawlessly every time) enabled a world at war to see home as just a pale blue gem in the blackness of space, devoid of political boundaries, fragile and beautiful and alone?  Yes, there were many giants in the space program, but Frederick C. Durant summarized von Braun’s special place in history by saying, “Future historians may well note this century (or millennium) as significant in that mankind took its first tentative steps into space.  In accomplishing these steps to the moon and beyond, Wernher von Braun was an eminent leader.  He not only had a dream, but he made his dream come true for all of us.” 

Come back soon for more on the story of America’s greatest rocket scientist!

For more information on Wernher von Braun 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.
Corollaries:
1. Exceptions always outnumber rules.
2. There are always exceptions to established exceptions.
3. By the time one masters the exceptions, no one recalls the rules to which they apply.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Souder’s Law
Repetition does not establish validity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advice from Paul

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

I Timothy 6:20-21

Song of the True Scientist

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

from Psalm 104

Maxwell’s Motivation

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

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

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