Creation-Evolution Headlines
 October 2002
Question: Should biology teachers be allowed to teach the controversy about evolution?
“Teach it more, and teach it critically.  [That] this is the exceptional area that you can’t criticize, this doctrine of Darwinism – it’s a bad precedent.” – Dr. Scott Minnich, microbiology, Univ. of Idaho
“What’s the loss?  What do we risk?  Just what do we risk if some of the profoundly exciting, deeply perplexing, vexing ideas of biology are presented honestly?”

– Dr. David Berlinski, mathematician, Princeton
[Quotes from the film Icons of Evolution.]
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Stanley Miller Adds Poison Gas to Origin-of-Life Simulation   10/31/2002
Stanley Miller, whose decades-old
spark-discharge apparatus is pictured in almost every biology textbook, is back.  As a graduate student under Harold Urey in 1953, he became famous for obtaining a few amino acids under what was assumed at the time to be prebiotic conditions: a mixture of methane, ammonia, hydrogen, and water vapor, subjected to a spark simulating lightning in a primitive atmosphere.  Since then, scientists have considered it unlikely that these gases were present in significant concentrations, believing instead that carbon dioxide from volcanos was the predominant gas in the early atmosphere.  Trouble is, a CO2 atmosphere does not produce the biologically-interesting molecules needed for origin of life theories.  In the Oct. 30 preprints of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Miller and colleagues from the Yokohama National University mixed in some carbon monoxide (CO), the gas that kills people in their garages when they leave the car engine on or try to barbecue indoors.  With a mixture of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen and water irradiated by protons, they obtained seven biologically interesting molecules, including the nucleotides adenine, guanine and uracil.  This brings to fifteen the target molecules obtained by bombarding this mixture with different kinds of energy sources.  The team states, “A CO-dominant atmosphere can give bioorganic compounds with yields comparable to those obtained from a strongly reducing atmosphere.”  They caution, however, conditions on earth would have had to be near freezing to keep uracil stable and generate more complex biomolecules.  Where did the carbon monoxide come from?  “CO-dominant atmospheres could have existed if the production rate of CO from impacts of extraterrestrial materials were high or if the upper mantle had been more reduced than today.”  The paper ends by discussing alternate scenarios for the origin of prebiotic molecules – hydrothermal vents, meteorites, and a CO2-dominated atmosphere – and finds serious problems with each.
Miller has spent his life trying to imagine the impossible, the origin of life without design.  Actually, he is surprisingly open-minded and frank about the problems.  His 1950-era spark-discharge apparatus is essentially irrelevant to the origin of life since it posited an unrealistic atmosphere, yielded only trace amounts of just a few molecules that had to be protected from destruction, and failed to segregate left- and right-handed products.  Sadly, the diagram of his apparatus has taken on a life of its own in our culture, becoming an icon of evolution that is almost ubiquitous in textbooks and TV documentaries.  Astrobiologists today do not consider the 1950s experiment as plausible, but just a “step in the right direction.”  Will carbon monoxide poison save the icon?  All the same problems are still there.  The results are mixtures of left and right, they could not have been present in significant concentrations, they are much simpler than other required molecules, the monomers would not naturally join into polymers, and even if they did join, there is the problem of the origin of information.  Miller’s team had to assume unique initial conditions (freezing temperature, reducing mantle and meteorites) to save the model from being ruled out of court.  It’s out of court anyway, because salts in the oceans would have dismantled the molecules quickly, if ultraviolet radiation did not beat them to the punch.  The products from Miller’s new-and-improved apparatus are so simple compared to a living cell, they are comparable to child’s alphabet blocks compared to an encyclopedia, yet almost every mention of these types of experiment uses the misleading phrase “they obtained the building blocks of life.”  So what if they get trace amounts of uracil?  It’s just going to sit there or degrade.  It couldn’t care whether it might be the start of something big.  Belief in the origin of life without a Designer is a false hope, a case of the blind are leading the blind from one ditch to another.  What is most fun about this paper is the way Miller debunks the other scenarios.  Whether stork meteorites bearing the baby molecules, or hydrothermal vents cooking primordial soup in the black smoker kitchen, they don’t work.  Nothing works.  Miller Time is over; it’s time to get back to work with eyes open to intelligent design.
Next headline on: Origin of Life.
NSF Begins Massive Project to Map Darwin’s Tree of Life   10/30/2002
A long-term project to determine phylogenetic trees is being funded by the National Science Foundation to be done by the Chicago Field Museum and seven other institutions around the world, according to
EurekAlert.  The project may take 15-20 years.  Three subdivisions the Field Museum will be working on are: Early Bird, Spider, and Archosaur.  The first year’s funding for the “Assembling the Tree of Life” (AToL) project amounts to $12 million.
If their phylogenies are anything like those reported here, they have job security.  There are almost infinite conflicting trees you can draw from the data.  There is no single tree, but rather an orchard or lawn, as Jonathan Wells explains about this one of his ten Icons of Evolution.  They always claim it’s for a good cause: “ Phylogenetic information has proven useful in many ways, such as helping scientists focus biological research; track the origin and spread of diseases; develop new medicines and agrochemical products; conserve species; control invasive species biologically; and restore ecosystems.”  But each one of these areas has been doing fine without help from Darwin.  Judging from the track record of phylogenetic studies so far, and the unapproachable task ahead, their theme song must be The Impossible Dream.  We can think of better ways to spend your tax dollars, like fighting cancer and Alzheimer’s Disease.
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
Evolution of Bird Feathers Explained at Last?   10/30/2002
You would think the details of feather evolution have been worked out according to a report on
EurekAlert; that is, unless you read further down.  “USC Scientists Uncover Secrets of Feather Formation” announces the title about a paper published in the Oct 30 Nature Advance Online Publications.  What they did was alter the expression of three genes in a chicken to see what happened.  With one gene suppressed, barbs became small and detached; with another gene suppressed, they joined and became larger.  With a third gene suppressed, the barbs had webby membranes between the barbs.  Cheng-Ming Chuong believes this can shed light on the evolution of feathers, but only slightly:
These results suggest that the barbs form first and later fuse to form a rachis, much like downy feathers are formed before flight feathers when a chicken grows up. Under the general rule of ontogeny repeating phylogeny, downy feather made only of barbs probably appeared before the evolution of feathers with rachides and capable of flight.  However, pinning down the exact moment at which dinosaur scales become chicken feathers is non-realistic.  Just like Rome, feathers are not made in one process.  It took 50 million years for Nature to refine the process, to transform a scale into a flight machine.  There were many, many intermediate stages.  While Darwin’s theory has explained the “why” of evolution, much of the “how” remains to be learned.  Evo-Devo research promises a new level of understanding.
Evo-devo (evolutionary development) is a blending of evolutionary theory with embryology, a recent trend to relate natural selection to the expression of genes and developmental signalling.  Chuong’s disclaimer makes it clear that his experiment, while interesting, is only a small step in explaining how reptile scales could evolve into the highly-specialized, interconnected branching structures that help give birds their aerobatic skills.
There are so many mistakes in this story, it’s hard to know where to begin.
  • False promises.  What the title trumpets, the article fails to provide.
  • Obsolete ideas.  Chuong repeats the worn-out phrase “ontogeny repeats phylogeny,” the long-discredited Biogenetic Law of Ernst Haeckel, the fraud.
  • Just-so story.  He has no basis for knowing that downy feathers evolved before flight feathers; he just made it up.  Both downy and flight feathers are highly specialized, the former providing insulation (try a down sleeping bag and see), and the latter allowing a pelican to swoop down into the water and pull up a fish.
  • Comparing evolution of feathers to the building of Rome.  Rome was built by intelligent design, not evolution.
  • Nature as goddess.  “It took 50 million years for Nature to refine the process” – the old personification fallacy again.  A bumbling goddess she is to take so long.  The God of creation did it in a day.
  • Long ages.  There is no basis for believing it took 50 million years to evolve feathers.  The first bird is all bird, capable of strong flight. 
  • Feathered dinosaurs.  The so-called feathered dinosaurs do not have feathers, only fibrous appendages whose function is not known.
  • Magic.  “to transform a scale into a flight machine” – neat trick!  Scales are very, very different from feathers.  They form from different parts of the skin and do not have any of the incredibly fine details of feathers, including their barbules and hooks that allow them to form firm yet lightweight, aerodynamic surfaces.
  • Hand-waving.  “There were many, many intermediate stages” but there is no evidence for them.  We thought science was about evidence. 
  • Teleology.  If there were many, many intermediates, every one of them would have to provide an advantage to the proto-bird.  Would you want to be covered with stubs of keratin if you couldn’t fly?  Evolutionary theory does not permit any of these intermediates to work ahead toward the goal of fully-formed feathers, because that would be teleology, the spirit Darwin was trying to exorcise from science.
  • False prophet.  “Darwin explained the ‘why’ of evolution...”  No, he didn’t.  There is no why in naturalistic philosophy.
  • Ignorance.  “much of the ‘how’ remains to be learned.”  Here we are, 143 years after Darwin’s book, and we’re still trying to figure out how this “fact” of evolution works?  If you don’t have how, you don’t have a scientific theory.
  • Vaporware.  “Evo-devo promises a new level of understanding.”  Don’t hold your breath.
The bottom line is that this paper explains nothing about the evolution of feathers.  Like every other paper on Darwinism that we report, it just assumes evolution.  This team learned a little about three genes that mess up the formation of feathers on a chicken.  With apologies to Carls Jr fast-food stands, can you find the nuggets (of evolutionary wisdom) on this chicken?
Next headline on: Birds. • Next headline on: Evolutionary Theory.
Fitness for Dummies: Is It Running in Circles?   10/29/2002
The
Oct. 29 issue of Current Biology has a primer on “Fitness” by John Brookfield, in question-and-answer form.  First, since fitness is such a key word in Darwinian evolution theory, he defines the term:
Fitness in evolution - what is it?  Not fitness in the sense of health, but rather an ability to survive and reproduce, as when the Darwinian theory of evolution was characterized as “survival of the fittest”.
He hastens to explain that while straightforward, there are subtle shades of meaning that differ between geneticists and ecologists.  Brookfield hastens to answer the tautology criticism:
What about the old chestnut – if fitness is defined by survival, and then we say the fittest survive, isn’t this all circular?  Not really.  Suppose we have a population where half the offspring survive to adulthood.  An individual with a new advantageous mutation might have a 51% chance of surviving to adulthood.  Its genotype’s relative fitness is 2% higher than that of the other individuals.  But the individual with this new unique genotype will either survive or it will not: an individual cannot have a survivorship of 51%.  Fitness is an average, or an expected, outcome.
He adds the point that fitness can decrease in a population by chance, if, for example, a bad mutation spreads through a population through a series of lucky chance events.  “One thing for sure”, he explains: “if a population’s fitness can go down, it cannot be a circular argument to say it will usually go up.”
Brookfield then addresses the relation of adaptation to fitness:
Is an organism’s fitness the same as its adaptation to its environment?  Evolutionary biologists look for adaptations in the phenotypes (morphologies and behaviors) of organisms.  In population genetic studies of fitness, relative fitnesses of organisms’ genotypes can be compared empirically.

Isn’t it the same with all studies of adaptation?  Not exactly.  When studying a phenotype universally seen in a population of organisms, what does it mean to describe the phenotype as causing high fitness or as being an adaptation?  High fitness relative to what?  In these cases, phenotypes typically have to be compared with a range of imagined possible phenotypes, as in optimization theory.

He dodges getting embroiled in the controversy over whether memes (ideas that evolve) can have fitness, or whether that is a circular argument.
Look carefully at these answers, and read our Baloney Detector entries on equivocation and circular reasoning.  We are assuming that Brookfield’s answers are current and valid representations of what Darwinians believe, being published in Current Biology.  We assume they would receive nods of agreement from Eugenie Scott and Ken Miller.  (If you are an evolutionist reading this, and disagree with Brookfield’s assessment, feel free to write us and clarify what fitness really means.)  Now consider whether he has successfully dispensed with the “old chestnut” that fitness is a circular argument.  Notice how right off the bat, he defines fitness in terms of survival.  How do you know this moose is fit?  Because it survived.  Why did it survive?  Because it is fit.  We seem to be off on the wrong hoof.  Now read and re-read his explanation of why this is not circular, and see if it is clearer than mud.  The percentages are all a smokescreen if fitness has already been defined in terms of survival.  How does the biologist know that a mutation is advantageous unless it causes the bull moose to have a 51% chance (2% higher than his moosemates) of surviving?  But then he says mutations can lower the fitness, and this proves the argument is not circular.  But lower fitness relative to what?  To survival!  Yet if all the individuals in the population have the same survival, they have equal fitness.  Confused?  This is a good sign; it means you are not being swayed by this shell game.
Fitness is such a nebulous term, it can mean anything.  If you’re picturing a bodybuilder in a fitness center when you hear the word fitness, you’ve got it all wrong.  Fitness can be a beer belly, if that gets you the girl.  Fitness can be anything the biologist wants it to be, good, bad or ugly, and if all the population is ugly but cute (like fat elephant seals on the beach), then they’re fit.  To top it off and show how meaningless the word fitness is in evolutionary biology, look at what Brookfield says about adaptation.  How do you know it’s an adaptation if the whole population has the trait, and has a survival ratio?  Adapted relative to what?  High fitness relative to what?  How do the geneticists measure fitness in the genes if they don’t relate to survival, putting them back into the tautology hammerlock?  All he can think of are comparing the observed phenotype to some imagined possible phenotypes.  What are these?  Superman traits, like X-ray vision?  Come on.  If Brookfield thinks he tossed away an old chestnut, the chestnut tree just dropped more on his head.
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory. • Next dumb story.
A Pretty Gene is Like a Melody   10/29/2002
Dave Deamer of UC Santa Cruz thinks DNA is like music, says
Astrobiology Magazine.  With DNA’s four bases A, C, T, and G, “we would have four musical notes that fit nicely into the key of C.... Could there really be a musical message in our genes?” he says.  His London colleague Ross King thinks the same for proteins: “proteins are beautiful and similar to music in structure--neither completely repetitive nor completely random.”  Musical analysis is helping astrobiologists find patterns in the otherwise overwhelming complexity in DNA.  The article explains, “But a larger statistical analysis--akin to musical analysis--is only now beginning to reveal remarkable similarities, which in turn suggest that a kind of concerted evolution, or even common ancestral molecules, might have a role to play in how DNA evolved.”
This made our “dumb” category instead of “amazing,” because while it’s interesting that DNA has similarities to good music, the comparison is superficial and totally inconsistent with evolutionary presuppositions.  Good music does not happen by chance (unless you like to hear John Cage playing 12 radios at random and calling that music).  How on earth these astrobiologists can find musical structure in DNA and then think that will help them imagine how it evolved without a Composer is beyond comprehension.
Next dumb story.
Conference: At Biola University in Los Angeles this past weekend, leaders of the intelligent design movement met for a RAPID conference (Research and Progress in Intelligent Design).  You can read William Dembski’s keynote address on the ISCID website, and also at Access Research Network.
Next headline on: Intelligent Design.

WWII Plane Flies Again After Entombment in Glacier   10/28/2002
Saturday the 26th, thousands in Middlesboro, Kentucky came to watch a very unusual air show, reports
KnoxNews.comGlacier Girl, a World War II P-38 Lightning fighter, had spent 55 years locked in ice after its crew crash landed on a Greenland glacier.  In the intervening years it had sunk over 250 feet into the ice.  Creation magazine tells the story of how a salvage crew succeeded in finding the “Lost Squadron” in 1997, dumbfounded at how deep the aircraft had sunk into solid ice in just a few decades’ time.  Knox News also has stories about the restoration work on the plane, a veteran P-38 pilot’s recollections, and a time line from Glacier Girl’s crash landing to its restoration.

Evolutionary geologists claim that glacial ice layers represent annual depositions, and that their ice cores contain records covering many tens of thousands of years.  How can they explain these planes sinking 70 meters in solid ice in just 55 years?  The Answers in Genesis story contains an Addendum, answering the question of whether metal aircraft would naturally sink into the ice, and explains how they would not; all that ice must have accumulated above the aircraft in just 55 years (see footnote 11 especially).  The story of Glacier Girl seems to provide clear evidence that uniformitarian presuppositions can be very wrong.
Next headline on: Dating Methods. • Next amazing story.
Cambrian Explosion Ignited by Hunters in the Mud   10/25/2002
David Bottjer of USC has a new theory on why all the major animal phyla appear abruptly at the beginning of the Cambrian strata (the
Cambrian Explosion).  Once upon a time, the microbial mats were all peaceful and content, when all of a sudden predatory trilobites and worms came along and started eating everything.  To escape, the prey had to evolve hard shells and defense mechanisms.  The story is explained on EurekAlert.  Bottjer is going to present his story to the Geological Society of America on Monday the 28th.
When did scientists get into the art of tall tale telling?  This one belongs around a campfire in the Rockies.  Worms and trilobites are already very complex creatures, much more complex than microbial mats.  Trilobites have complex, elaborate, functioning eyes.  Did some microbes just sit around one day saying, “You know, life would be so much more fun if we had eyes and mouths and ate our brothers”?  Wagh!  Bridger, that’s a good-un!
Next dumb story.
Fossil Record Is Complete: How Good Is the Good News?   10/25/2002
The fossil record is essentially complete.  Whether that’s good news or not may depend on what bones you were hoping would be found to fill in the gaps.  “Paleontology data better than expected,” announces a story in
EurekAlert:
The quality and completeness of the fossil record and its credibility as a source of information about the history of life have been debated since before Charles Darwin’s time.  Now, as part of the Paleobiology Database project, a systematic examination is being conducted with some good news so far.
Why?  Because even though tough-shelled animals should fossilize more easily, and you would expect to find more of them, a preliminary look at the database shows that “fragile fossils appear just as frequently as durable fossils.”
“That’s good news.  It means that this intuitively obvious bias is not as severe as we expected, and the fossil record may be a more reliable source of information than we believed” [Michael] Kowalewski [of Virginia Tech] says.  “In this project, we are not trying to reconstruct the evolutionary history of biodiversity or assess the magnitude of mass extinctions, but to evaluate whether the fossil record can indeed provide reliable data for such studies,” he emphasizes.
The Paleontology Database project is the largest project to pull together fossil data into a centrally-accessible repository.  About 100 faculty members and students are working on it.
Now there’s a great attitude.  Let’s get the facts straight before we try to tell evolutionary stories about it.  The good news, however, must be bad news for the Darwinists.  Charles Darwin was aware of the major and systematic gaps in the fossil record, but hoped they would be filled in by subsequent discoveries.  Since then, other evolutionists have hoped that the gaps were due to the apparent inability of soft-bodied animals to fossilize as easily as those with tough bones and shells; presumably, this would create a systematic bias in the record toward hard bodies (but look at this example of fossilized jellyfish).  It looks like the fossil record is pretty much complete: gaps, Cambrian explosion and all.  Get used to it.
Next headline on: Fossils.
Fix the Textbooks: Cyanobacteria Weren’t the First   10/25/2002
“Get ready to rewrite those biology textbooks - again,“ begins the article on
EurekAlert based on a story from the Geological Society of America, entitled “Evolution upset: Oxygen-making microbes came last, not first.”  A researcher named Carrine Blank from Washington University found that cyanobacteria are too highly evolved to have been the first critters.  But “If Blank is correct, her revised evolutionary history of the bacteria raises a difficult question: If cyanobacteria came later, where did the Earth’s earliest oxidants come from which produced banded iron formations?”
It’s nice on those rare occasions when reporters do our work for us.  Trouble is, nothing will convince these evolutionists that the whole story is gasping for fresh air.
Astrobiology Magazine has a popular-level feature on this subject.
Next headline on: Origin of Life.
Plants Borrowed Membrane Channels   10/25/2002
All living cells have specialized membrane channels that allow certain molecules in and keep others out; for water, they are called
aquaporins (AQPs); for glycerol, they are called aquaglyceroporins (GLPs). There are also ion channels for chloride or potassium.  The set of channel families are called membrane intrinsic proteins (MIPs).  An international team of researchers has compared the channel proteins from plants, bacteria, and animals, and deduced that plants got their glycerol channels by horizontal gene transfer, with subsequent modification by functional recruitment: 
The molecular phylogeny of MIPs supports that glycerol transporting in plants was acquired by horizontal gene transfer and functional recruitment of bacterial AQPs.  It is likely that these events were triggered by the absence of a GLP homolog in the common ancestor of plants.  We find that plant NIPs and GLPs share convergent or parallel amino replacements needed to transport glycerol and therefore represent a remarkable example of adaptive evolution at the molecular level.
Their paper is published in the Oct. 23 preprints of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The paper is pretty confident about it, but the story is mostly bluff.  The relationship does not jump out of the data; it has to be teased out from preconceived notions.  And, they had to invoke the hand-waving acts of horizontal gene transfer, convergent and parallel evolution to get the story to work.  Their phylogenetic tree-building, as usual, was replete with tweak artistry: “As expected, positional identity was difficult to establish for most sites, and a total of 284 positions were excluded from the analyses because of ambiguity...” etc. etc.  You can pick any story you want out of these exercises.  Clearly, however, the common ancestor of glycerol channels was not evident in plants, so they had to sneak it in sideways with horizontal gene transfer.  Their results are inferred from circumstantial, statistical, fuzzy, disparate pieces of data.  It only holds together with the glue of faith in Darwin.  Consider this example (emphasis added):
However, from an evolutionary perspective and according to the phylogenetic tree, NIPs are members of the AQP clade.  Because the horizontal gene transfer involved an AQP, plant NIPs must have acquired the capacity for glycerol transport at a later time by recruitment or exaptation (acquiring a function different from the one for which the protein was selected originally; ref. 33).  The recruitment of an AQP as glycerol transporter requires convergent or parallel replacements at specific amino acid positions.
Re-read that as a disbeliever in evolutionary common ancestry, and does it make any scientific sense?  Does it sound like a “striking example of adaptive evolution at the molecular level”?  If a story only holds together if you already believe in evolution, it cannot be used as evidence for evolution, because it is guilty of circular reasoning.
Next headline on: Plants. • Next headline on: Genes and DNA. • Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
Human-Ape Differences Grow Wider   10/25/2002
Elisabeth Pennisi writes in the
Oct. 25 issue of Science about two California teams that independently showed that humans and chimpanzees are genetically further apart than previously believed:
For almost 30 years, researchers have asserted that the DNA of humans and chimps is at least 98.5% identical.  Now research reported here last week at the American Society for Human Genetics meeting suggests that the two primate genomes might not be quite as similar after all.  A closer look has uncovered nips and tucks in homologous sections of DNA that weren’t noticed in previous studies.

The results are quite exciting, says Michael Conneally, a human geneticist at Indiana University Medical Center in Indianapolis.  With this research, “we can really find out so much more about evolution,”  he predicts.

See also our Sept. 23 headline on this subject.  Pennisi says that neither team would commit to a new value for the difference, but “both agree that the previously accepted 98.5% mark is too high.”
It will be interesting to see what facts come to light when the chimpanzee genome is sequenced and laid side by side with the human genome.  There are two lessons learned here.  One is Thumb’s Second Postulate, that an easily-understood, workable falsehood is more useful than a highly complex, incomprehensible truth.  Useful to whom?  A propagandist.  We have heard evolutionists for years using this 98.5% figure as proof that humans are almost identical to apes, the implication being we are closely evolved cousins.  How do we undo 30 years of “useful” damage?  The second is that evolutionists will spin any fact to their advantage.  Are humans 98.% similar to chimpanzees?  Well, this proves we are evolved from apes.  Are humans 5%, 10%, or 20% different than chimpanzees? (exact figure to be determined).  Wonderful; now “we can really find out so much more about evolution”.
Next headline on: Mammals. • Next headline on: Early Man. • Next headline on: Genes and DNA.
Are Humans the Target of Evolution?   10/24/2002
Christian de Duve thinks so.  He tries to make the case that conscious beings like humans are the inevitable result of evolution in his book Life Evolving: Molecules, Mind and Meaning, which is reviewed by Eors Szathmary in the
Oct. 24 issue of Nature.  Szathmary gives him enough attention to get his point, but finds it unconvincing.  He thinks de Duve does not prove his case against contingency (i.e., that evolution is a random process that did not have humans in mind).
This is all so unnecessary.  De Duve and other compromisers are operating on the false assumption that Darwinian evolution (common ancestry from molecules to man) is a demonstrated fact.  He needs to read Creation-Evolution Headlines and see how every point of the story is filled with anomalies, storytelling and logical fallacies.  Raised Catholic, de Duve is doing his best to rescue some tiny vestige of Christian values from the wreckage left by the Darwinian juggernaut, but the juggers are naught impressed.  Whimpering appeasers trying to wear two uniforms anger both sides.  The Darwinists may heap more hostility on a Duane Gish or Phillip Johnson, but they respect them more for standing up for what they believe in and drawing the battle lines clearly, rather than pretending that the Darwinian conquerors have any tidbits to share with johnny-come-lately converts.  (See also next book review below.)
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
Ernst Mayr Seeks the Last Word on Darwin   10/24/2002
Ernst Mayr, Harvard zoologist and today’s leading authority on evolutionary theory, has high praise for Janet Browne’s newly released volume 2 of Charles Darwin: The Power of Place, which he reviews in the
Oct. 24 issue of Nature (see also our headline on Edward Larson’s review last month).  Mayr’s opening paragraph underscores his own evaluation of Darwin’s pre-eminent role in modern philosophy:
Apart from the Bible, no book has had a greater impact on the thinking of Western Man than Darwin’s Origin of Species.  This claim is based not merely on Darwin having demonstrated evolution and founded secular science, but also on the fundamental new concepts that he introduced.  Darwin’s refutation of Aristotle’s fourth cause, teleology, was, according to the philosopher Willard Quine, Darwin’s greatest contribution to philosophy.  Darwin firmly introduced history (‘the time factor’) into science.  In biology, he replaced typological by population thinking and gave chance scientific legitimacy, to mention some of his other contributions.  Most major planks in the Weltanschauung of a modern thinker can be traced back to Darwin.  His role is finally understood, after more than a century of misconceptions and misinterpretations.
So is Browne’s biography the last word?  Mayr praises her level of detail and historical accuracy (she studied 14,000 letters and 2,254 contemporary reviews of his work), but thinks a definitive treatment of Darwin’s evolutionary paradigm is still needed:
When evaluating this book we must remember that Browne is a historian and biographer, not an evolutionist.  This is why she does not feel that it is her job to analyse Darwin’s evolutionary paradigm (his five major theories) or to explain the principle of divergence and how it misled Darwin, or why he ultimately failed to solve the problem of the multiplication of species, which had been his major objective when starting to work on his “species book”, or to try to explain numerous other evolutionary problems that he encountered but left without explanation.  For answers to these questions one will have to turn to other books.

Alas, there still is no satisfactory presentation and analysis of Darwin’s whole evolutionary paradigm.  My One Long Argument (1997) has a short treatment of these problems but, by necessity, does not refer to some of the most recent controversies and findings.  To supplement Browne’s superb treatment of Darwin, the man and his period, we now need a deep analysis of his work.  But this requires a real understanding of evolution, and such an understanding is not very common.

Mayr points out that of Darwin’s close friends and promoters, one was a Christian: “In the United States, [Asa] Gray was tireless in spreading the gospel of evolution and, although he remained a Christian, he accepted Darwin’s paradigm more completely than either Lyell or Huxley, who never accepted natural selection or gradual evolution.” 
Here we have a remarkable thing.  We have a revolutionary world view introduced that changes everything in Western civilization, but based on what?  Where is the actual evidence to support such a massive shift in philosophy and our view of ourselves and the world?  Mayr claims that Darwin “demonstrated evolution” but all he demonstrated was artificial selection, and then extrapolated that into nature.  The rest was all conjecture, not demonstration.  His “contribution” was the invention of the just-so story, like how an eye might have evolved gradually from a light-sensitive spot.  He had a few Neanderthal skulls, but those turned out to be fully human.  He had some fossils, but was well aware of the major gaps in the fossil record, including the Cambrian explosion, which has only gotten worse with time.  He had finch beaks, but that is just minor variation between interfertile species.  Nowhere is there a clear-cut case of natural selection having produced a new species, and Mayr makes that clear: “why he ultimately failed to solve the problem of the multiplication of species, which had been his major objective....”  Mayr also admits that he fell into the trap of Lamarckism and promoted a view of heredity that subsequently was discredited.  Darwin did some worthwhile experimentation on plants, but in terms of evidence to support the new Weltanschauung (world view), Darwin was a failure.  And what he didn’t know is more profound than what he did know; Darwin knew nothing of the true basis of heredity or development, DNA, molecular machines, and the mind-boggling complexity of the cell.
Notice how all the other gold medals Mayr drapes around Darwin’s neck are not for scientific achievements, but for philosophical shifts aimed at removing God and design from scientific thought: (1) founding secular science, (2) refutation of teleology, (3) the time factor (i.e., long ages and progression from simple to complex, as opposed to abrupt appearance of complex characteristics as would have occurred at creation), (4) replacement of typological thinking (seeing patterns and archetypes in nature) by population thinking, (5) giving chance scientific legitimacy.  In other words, Darwin pulled off a philosophical coup without evidence, while giving the appearance of explaining the evidence with made-up stories.  And now Mayr tells us that 143 years after the publication of the Origin, after world wars fought on the principle of survival of the fittest, after racist eugenics and cutthroat capitalism and the Scopes Trial and Red October and Auschwitz and the Gulag and the Cambodian killing fields and Tiannenmen Square, that we still lack “a deep analysis of his work” and that “a real understanding of evolution ... is not very common.”  How many more such incidents will occur before we get the last word on Darwin?
Perhaps the most egregious part of the saga is Mayr’s reminder that evolution’s biggest marketer was not Darwin’s Bulldog Thomas Huxley, nor Haeckel nor Lyell nor Hooker, but a nominal “Christian” Asa Gray, who abandoned the gospel of Jesus Christ and instead became “tireless in spreading the gospel of evolution.”  Did Asa Gray realize he was spreading a false gospel, promoting secular science, refuting teleology, giving chance scientific legitimacy, and contributing to the marginalization of the faith he claimed to embrace?  Did he realize this was a philosophical coup, not a scientific advance?  Did he know his Bible?  Did he ever read Galatians?
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
Dogs Dig Bach, Seals Never Forget   10/23/2002
Two mammal stories just for fun today: dogs seem to like classical music (more Bach, less bark), whereas heavy metal makes them go berserk, says
New Scientist.  And a seal named Rio remembered a trick she hadn’t performed for ten years.
Job said, “Ask now the beasts, and they will teach you.”  We may have to change the proverb from “an elephant never forgets” and give seals the honor.  Parents might be able to use the dog story as clout in discussions about their teenagers’ listening habits, or suggest it as a science project (plants can be substituted for dogs with similar results).
Next headline on: Mammals.
Ancient Cell Wiser than Most Computer Users   10/23/2002
The agony of delete strikes many computer users who neglect to back up their data, but an ancient one-celled organism apparently has the wisdom to keep backup copies of its genome.  That’s the implication of a story in the
BBC News about Tetrahymena, a primitive protozoan that has a macronucleus with the working genome and a micronucleus with a master backup copy.  Martin Gorovsky of the University of Rochester has studied this ancient lifeform’s strategy to protect its DNA:
Gorovsky’s team believes that in evolutionarily ancient times, cells had to fight against a variety of assaults just as they must today: viruses attacked cells, injecting their DNA to disrupt normal cell functions; and transposons, bits of nomadic genetic material that insert themselves into the cell’s DNA causing havoc.
To survive, cells evolved a correction system that recognized the invading DNA and either eliminated or silenced it.
The team found that Tetrahymena inspects its DNA against the master copy before passing it on, to ensure the progeny get an uncorrupted copy.  Gorovsky suspects a similar defense mechanism is at work in higher organisms.
Unless the DNA library can be transmitted with high fidelity, the genome of any organism would break down in just a few generations.  Creationists see in this a marvelous example of design, but evolutionists are guilty of violating their own principles when speaking in personal terms as seen above.  It’s a technical foul for an evolutionist to say a cell had to fight, or viruses attacked, or injected their DNA to disrupt, or cells evolved a correction system.  Each of these phrases puts personal intent into brainless one-celled organisms, portraying them as more savvy than human beings.  In all fairness, we recognize the colorful language of journalism.  But try translating the story into the dry, impersonal language of materialism and the theory of evolution breaks down.  Tetrahymena couldn’t care less whether its genome gets passed on accurately or not.  When you remove all sense of value judgments (e.g., it’s “good” to survive), and all sense of purposeful intent (e.g., the organism “evolved” this defense mechanism to protect its DNA), why should anything survive or evolve?  Who cares?  Certainly not the cell or the virus!  Notice also the xenophobia: the virus is the bad guy, and the cell is the good guy.  On what basis do they make this value judgment?  Whatever is, is right.  If the virus wreaks havoc (whatever that means – the word implies values again) then havoc just is.  Creationists do not have this problem, because they believe the Creator purposely intended for organisms to survive, and built these mechanisms into them for that purpose.  Biblical creationists even propose that viruses might originally have had a beneficial role that went wrong at the Fall.  Evolutionists, by contrast, commit their own mortal sin of invoking teleology when speaking in personal terms as in this story.  We must challenge this and call it what it is: inconsistency.  Make them stage their drama without actors but only props, and you will have a really boring performance, where nothing happens onstage but decay, and the props don’t care whether you boo or applaud.
Next headline on: The Cell. • Next headline on: Genes and DNA. • Next headline on: Darwinism.
Fruit Flies and Butterflies: Ho-Hum, More Microevolution   10/22/2002
Two papers in the online preprints of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences October 22 talk a lot about evolution, but the variations studied occur only within species, so only constitute cases of microevolution or horizontal variation.  In both, the technique employed was artificial selection, the implication being that natural selection acts similarly.
Two Swiss scientists taught fruit flies a thing or two in a paper entitled, “Experimental evolution of learning ability in fruit flies.”  They purified 51 generations of fruit flies that had learned to associate quinine with a particular oviposition substrate.  They noticed a marked improvement in conditioned response after 15 generations, and deduced that “these behavioral changes are caused by the evolution of both a higher learning rate and a better memory.”
In a paper entitled, “Modularity, individuality, and evo-devo in butterfly wings” three Netherlands scientists checked whether butterfly-wing eyespots must evolve together (coupling) or can evolve separately.  By artificial selection they were able to get them to evolve separately, thus loosening a constraint on natural selection that some biologists had proposed: the idea that “modules” of genes must evolve together.  For a brief summary, see the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research press release.
These papers are filled with the word evolution, but are just talking about conditioned response and artificial selection.  The fruit flies are still fruit flies, and the butterflies are still butterflies.  Much of evolutionary literature is like this: taking small changes within species, turning observed horizontal variation on end into vertical trends, and extrapolating the data recklessly from hydrogen to Homo sapiens sapiens.  This is how the impression is given that all scientists believe evolution, and that evolution has been demonstrated in the laboratory.  Give ’em an inch and they take a mile.  How do they know the limit is not two inches before it breaks?  Artificial selection can only take a species so far.  Pumpkins can grow big enough to fill a wheelbarrow, but not the Rose Bowl.  Just as there are natural limits to artificial selection, there are natural limits to natural selection.
Evolutionary research papers usually end on the note that we have a lot more to learn, and these two are no exception.  The fruit fly paper ends: “...our approach offers an opportunity to study the genetic bases of quantitative variation for learning ability segregating in natural populations.  It also opens new avenues of research on the ecological consequences and fitness costs of learning.”  The butterfly paper ends, “The general problem of how serially homologous structures acquire individuality through evolutionary time is a fascinating topic for evo-devo research.”  Keep the funding coming, and we may figure out this Darwinism thing someday – on a wing and a prayer.
Next headline on: Bugs. • Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
Bone Crypt of James, Brother of Jesus, Found?   10/21/2002
A brief article in
National Geographic News makes the startling claim that a box once bearing the bones of James, brother of Jesus, has been found.  A 2000-year old ossuary bears the inscription, “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.”  The article states that this is the first archaeological evidence pointing to Jesus as a real person: “Until now, all references to the three men have been found only in manuscripts,”  An expert dates the ossuary at around 63 A.D. 
MSNBC News has more detail on the potentially “earth-shattering” find, cautioning that the three names were commonplace at that time and the reference being to Jesus of Nazareth cannot be proved.  The owner bought it from an Arab antiquities dealer in Jerusalem who claims it was unearthed south of the Mount of Olives 15 years ago.  The significance of its inscription was not known by its owner until Andre Lemaire, a French specialist in ancient inscriptions, examined it last spring.  He is publishing the discovery in the November Biblical Archaeology Review which is characterizing the find as very probably authentic.  New Scientist also gives the story favorable press.  Lemaire is confident that the artifact fits within the time of James’ death by Herod.  Beyond that, it’s difficult to be certain, but certainly plausible, that the references are to the New Testament characters James, Joseph, and Jesus of Nazareth. 
Very intriguing, but whether it proves genuine may never be known.  Is this really the first mention of Jesus in artifacts?  Don’t manuscripts also count as archaeological evidence?  We have thousands of manuscripts of the New Testament.  While this discovery is important, our confidence in the genuineness of the life of Christ comes not from relics, but from words — words from credible eyewitnesses who walked and talked with Jesus and touched him, and recorded through inspiration of the Holy Spirit the very Word of God.  That should be more than sufficient evidence.
Anecdote: the same day, National Geographic News claimed voodoo is a legitimate religion.  Maybe that’s because it’s an evolving one: “A ‘spirit’ religion, voodoo likely evolved from ancient traditions of ancestor worship and animism.”  No manuscripts or archaeological evidence here; only just-so stories and intimidation from authority.  Kind of like Darwinism.
Next headline on: The Bible.
Molecules and Antelope Play Games to Survive?   10/17/2002
In a News and Views section of the
Oct 17 Nature, Michor and Nowak examine the current views on game theory as an evolutionary explanation for altruism.  From von Neumann to Szabo and Hauert, from prisoner’s dilemma to the Red Queen, they discuss various proposals to overcome Darwin’s caveat that “natural selection cannot directly promote altruistic acts where individuals reduce their own competitive ability but increase that of others.”  So why would an antelope, or a molecule, or a human lay down his life for his friends?  Answering that in Darwinian terms is still a work in progress.  In particular, this article examines the latest extension of game theory to the problem of loners, those who don’t play the game; i.e., they get their own pay-off without paying into the company pool :
Those who choose to participate in the public-goods game must forgo the loner’s pay-off.  Equivalently, one could regard the pay-off as the avoidance of a fixed cost for participating in the public-goods game.
In this game, defectors dominate cooperators, as they do in a game without loners; but loners dominate defectors, because in a world of defectors, the public-goods game yields nothing, and loners avoid the cost of participating.  Cooperators, on the other hand, dominate loners, because the public-goods game pays in the absence of defectors.  The circle is closed.
To what kinds of living systems does this theory apply? 
At the dawn of life on Earth (or elsewhere), replicating molecules had to cooperate to take the first step towards increasing complexity and stability of molecular and later cellular ecosystems.  Multicellularity requires cooperation among cells.  Cooperation is common in animal societies, but it is often confined to interactions among related individuals.  Large-scale cooperation among unrelated individuals seems to be a particularly human trait.  Of course, cooperation is always threatened by defection; oscillations between ‘war and peace’ have been a recurring theme in the cooperation literature.  The new work shows that it is optional, rather than compulsory, interactions that promote cooperation.
The authors describe various computer simulations where models of these games can be played.
If any reader can explain why this is not a blatant case of the personification fallacy, please write us.  If the evolutionists do not really mean that antelope and molecules and cells are consciously choosing to play along or not in various games, why do they speak in these terms without explaining what they really mean?  Otherwise, they should stop playing games and go do some real empirical scientific work.
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory. • Next headline on: Intelligent Design.
Ohio School Board Votes Unanimously to “Teach the Controversy”   10/17/2002
Yesterday by a vote of 17-0, the Ohio State Board of Education voted in favor of an intent to adopt new science standards which include the following two changes: (1) changing the wording of the definition of science from “Recognize that scientific knowledge is limited to natural explanations for natural phenomena based on evidence from our senses or technological extensions” to “Recognize that science is a systematic method of continuing investigation, based on observation, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, and theory building, which leads to more adequate explanations of natural phenomena.” (2) Adding this statement to 10th grade life science: “Describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory.”  The group that has been advocating the “teach the controversy” approach,
Science Excellence for All Ohioans, is pleased with these modest changes, but feels that the “language in the evolutionary theory sections is still problematic in numerous places.”  The vote just indicated intent to adopt the standards; after additional hearings, the final vote is slated for December.
More news sources: Cleveland Plain Dealer, Columbus Dispatch, Associated Press.  See also Answers in Genesis on the spin doctoring going on in the media.  Mark Hartwig’s Weekly Wedge Update for Oct. 23 discusses the decision and has links to additional resources.  Dr. Paul Nelson commented that Darwinists don’t seem to know quite how to spin this story.  On the one hand, they were calling it disastrous to science, but after the decision they were saying it’s not a big deal.
Spin doctoring is for politicians, not scientists.  It’s hard to see how anybody could oppose these changes.  They are in line with Congressional guidelines and U.S. Supreme Court decisions.  They only state what teachers are already allowed to do. They do not bring religion into the science classroom.  They do not decrease the teaching of evolution, nor mandate any teaching of creation.  Why the fuss, then?  They open the door for controversial aspects of evolution to be presented honestly, for students to hear that there are alternatives, and they remove the naturalistic philosophy built into the definition of science.  This puts the ACLU, the NCSE, and the NAS on the warpath.  Science Now, for instance, continues to lie about and distort the story, invoking the science vs. creationism stereotype.  (Notice how their report contains artwork of one of Jonathan Wells’ icons of evolution: the monkey-to-man sequence.)
Science should be a search for truth about nature, with the freedom to follow the evidence wherever it leads.  Evolutionary theory should not be propped up with outdated, distorted, or fallacious arguments.  And when the primary spokesmen for Darwinian evolution admit there are serious problems and controversies in Darwinism (as we regularly document here in Creation-Evolution Headlines), why shouldn’t students know this?  The majority of citizens whose tax money pays for public schools favor the “teach the controversy” approach.  It is reasonable, fair, and desirable for students to be allowed to hear all the evidence and weigh it, thereby developing skill in critical thinking.  The opposite is indoctrination.  David Berlinski (mathematician, Princeton), who is neither Christian nor creationist, has words for those who think evolution should be protected from criticism: “The idea that the high school has to be a kind of large locker room where only the coach’s pep talk is considered reasonable– that should be repugnant.  That’s not really how we want our educational establishment to be run, is it?  Let’s give high school students the benefit of the doubt.”
Science Now was earlier adamantly opposed to any change, but now is downplaying the impact; they brag about evolution now being explicitly taught, while claiming that the board “threw a small bone to the other side” by adding the “vague assertion” that teachers should teach the controversy.  They end by boasting about a poll of scientists, contrary to the Darwin Party’s usual tack of arguing that polls don’t matter in science.  It’s important to remember that scientists can be very knowledgeable about their narrow specialty, yet abysmally ignorant of and dogmatic about issues outside their field.  A JPL scientist once told this editor that from his experience in academia, scientists tended to be the most closed-minded and authoritarian people he knew.  You could discuss their specialty with reason and logic, but outside of that, they trusted whatever the authorities said; in evolution, the word of a Stephen Jay Gould or Richard Dawkins was gospel; if you differed, they would not listen.  It does not follow that a scientist in the ivory towers of a university is an expert in all areas of science, especially something as broad as evolution.  This poll of 500 scientists claims they are not aware of any evidence for intelligent design or that challenges evolutionary principles.  This result is akin to liberal journalists claiming they don’t know anyone who is a Republican.  They mix among their peers so much of the time, they have a distorted view of the outside world, as if all America is like Hahvahd.  Jonathan Wells recalls a Bill Cosby TV interview in which he is asked by a white man, “How come there are not more well-educated, middle-class blacks?  You’re the only one I know.”  Cosby replied, “You really should get out more.”
Next headline on: Schools.
Announcing: The Protein Big Bang Theory   10/16/2002
A paper in the Oct 16 online preprints of the
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has an intriguing title: “Expanding protein universe and its origin from the biological Big Bang.”  Three biochemists from Harvard, University of North Carolina School of Medicine and Boston University attempted to demonstrate a “possible origin of all proteins from a single or a few precursor folds a scenario akin to that of the origin of the universe from the Big Bang.”  A striking characteristic of biological proteins is that many have similar folds even with unlike sequences of amino acids; these are called “orphans” because they are nonhomologous: i.e., they appear to have no common ancestors.  To explain this, previous investigators imagined that there might be some kind of designability principle that made evolving proteins converge on these special folds.  This team set out to show that biological proteins could have diverged instead from simple random precursors; in other words, divergent evolution rather than convergent evolution produced the protein domain.  To do this, they graphed all known protein folds on what they call a “protein domain universe graph” (PDUG), tweaked in such a way as to make it scale-free.  (An example of a scale-free network is the world-wide web.)  After differentiating it from random networks, they deduced that it could have grown by divergent evolution, as proteins evolved through recombination, duplication and mutation, such that folds were preserved even as the sequences were shuffled:
It is quite suggestive that the origin of the observed scale-free character of the PDUG lies in the evolutionary dynamics of protein fold genesis as a result of divergent evolution from one or a few precursor domains.  To this end, we develop a minimalistic model that aims to explain the scale-free PDUG.  Specifically, we assume, as do several other models, that new proteins evolve as a result of an increase in the gene population primarily by means of duplication with subsequent divergence of sequences by mutations, as well as more dramatic changes such as deletions of certain parts sequences and even possible reshuffling of some structural elements (foldons).
Their analysis yielded a striking number of orphans, as expected, giving them confidence in their analysis.  They caution, however, that the picture is oversimplified:
The divergent evolution model presented here is a schematic one, as it does not consider many structural and functional details, and its assumptions about the geometry of protein domain space in which structural diffusion of proteins occurs may be simplistic.  However, its success in explaining qualitative and quantitative features of PDUG supports the view that all proteins might have evolved from a few precursors.
They conclude by also cautioning that their graphical analysis was just an algorithm selected to “spy” on nature, not that nature used any algorithm to create the protein domain.  They chose the algorithm and set the threshold values to attempt to discern natural processes from random ones.
This is the old fallacy of arranging the tools in your garage in hierarchical order and claiming this demonstrates they had a common ancestor.  Despite the math and the graphs, their concepts are vague and superficial.  They admit that the number of possible sequences of amino acids is huge compared to those that have function: “the underlying assumption of equilibrium in sequence space [i.e., assumed by those who suspect a hypothetical designability principle, that proteins somehow converge on specially favorable folds] is difficult to justify if one considers the sheer size of sequence space.”  In other words, it is an observational fact that proteins are not random sequences, but are functional machines with specific shapes that work.  In mathematical terms structure space << sequence space.  These authors speak nothing of how structure evolved; they only speak in glittering generalities about scale-free networks and possible divergence from precursors.  They pull information out of the magic hat by invoking duplication and reshuffling.  Dumbest of all is their silly analogy with the Big Bang theory.  Proteins have nothing to do with exploding hydrogen.  If we wanted to have fun with their comparison, we could point out that, like cosmological Big Bang theory, the protein Big Bang also has a lumpiness problem, an entropy problem, an ignition problem, and an origin problem.
Enough joking around; time for a reality check.  Proteins are highly complex, specified molecular machines.  Their speed and accuracy of function in catalyzing reactions and arranging themselves into assembly lines with quality control and feedback is astounding. Like Dean Kenyon exclaims awe-struck in the film Unlocking the Mystery of Life, after the computer-animated sequence of DNA and proteins in action, “This is absolutely mind-boggling to perceive at this scale of size such a finely-tuned apparatus that bears the hallmark of intelligent design and manufacture.”  All attempts to explain this observational fact by convergent or divergent evolution are just bluffing and wishful thinking, plausible only to those who have sold their minds in advance to naturalistic philosophy.
Next headline on: The Cell and Biochemistry. • Next headline on: Genes and DNA. • Next dumb story.
Cell Beats Computer: 100 Trillion Times Faster at Folding a Simple Protein   10/15/2002
Researchers at
Los Alamos National Lab modeled the folding of a “simple” protein of 18,000 atoms on their computers, reports EurekAlert.  It took 6 months on 82 parallel processors, which amounts to 34 years of CPU time.  The cell folds this particular protein in about 10 microseconds (millionths of a second), which is 100 trillion times as fast.  That’s proportional to one second vs. 3.4 million years.  The computer algorithm the scientists designed “relies on exhaustive sampling of protein configurations and utilizes massively parallel computing combined with molecular dynamics and a random-sampling Monte Carlo simulation of the thermodynamics.”  It is expected that the processing time would grow exponentially with the increasing length of the protein chain, but cells routinely fold their proteins within milliseconds to microseconds.  University of Florida reports a record holder: a short 20 amino acid protein that folds within 4 microseconds.  Biophysicist Stephen Hagen asks, “What is it that’s special about these molecules that enables them to solve a very difficult computational problem spontaneously in such a short amount of time?”
Update 10/21/2002: Nature Science Update reports that a scientific team predicted a protein fold successfully by using spare time on 200,000 home PCs in a distributed project called Folding@home.  This amounted to about to 2,000 years of computer time.  The article states, “Trying to anticipate how the many atoms within a protein interact as it crumples up is a mind-bending problem – involving near a billion steps.  Like entering a maze, the molecular backbone can start looping up in a numerous different ways, yet most paths lead to dead ends.”  Somehow the real protein avoids the pitfalls and finds shortcuts through the maze, achieving its correct shape in five milliseconds.
There are a huge number of wrong folds a particular chain of amino acids can make, but only one or a few that will work.  How the cell does this so accurately and so rapidly is one of the most intriguing branches of biology right now.  Scientists know that misfolded proteins are implicated in many diseases; usually the cell destroys them.  Only an elaborate system of quality control keeps these dynamic chains in their correct shapes.  A typical cell has over 100,000 proteins at work at any one time, all correctly folded, that are continually being programmed in the nucleus via DNA, assembled in the ribosomes, folded by chaperones, and then dismantled and recycled in the proteasomes.  The computer model in the story is an important step in mastering the protein-folding “Olympic event”, but it primarily underscores the excellence of the software the Creator built into the cell.
Next headline on: The Cell. • Next amazing story.
Mummified Dinosaur Found in Montana   10/15/2002
According to
National Geographic News, a mummified dinosaur carcass has been found in Montana, so complete that even its skin, muscles, and the last meal in its stomach have been preserved.  Almost a complete specimen of brachylophosaurus, it is said to be the fourth dinosaur ever found in a mummified condition; the other three were found in the early 1900s.  Local museum curator Nate Murphy told National Geographic, “To find one with so much external detail available, it’s like going from a horse and buggy to a steam combustion engine.  It will advance our science a quantum leap.”  Soft tissues are only found in 1/10 of 1% of dinosaur fossils.  This fossil was first discovered in summer 2000, but announced just last weekend at the annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology in Oklahoma.  It has been dubbed Leonardo because of nearby graffiti signed by a man named Leonard in 1917.
The remarkably preserved soft tissues covering 90% of the fossil include muscle, nail material, a beak, and skin that, when the animal was alive, was “almost as soft as your earlobe.”  The stomach contents were so well preserved, they could detect Leonardo’s last meal: a salad of ferns, conifers, and magnolias, seasoned with pollen from 40 different plants.  This information could provide a significant reality check on the movies.  Murphy continued, “Paleontology is not an exact science.  All we have are bones, and from there we develop theories about what the animals looked like, how they moved, and what they ate.  A specimen like Leonardo will take a lot of guess work out and really tell us if Steven Spielberg’s getting it right.”
Update 10/21/2002: Science Now came out with a report on this extremely rare find that is “wowing paleontologists.”  The article includes a picture of the duck-billed hadrosaur fossil in its skin. 
How could these delicate features be preserved unharmed for 65 million years?  Just one million years is a long, long, long, long time for continents to shift, mountains to rise and fall, and catastrophes to scar the earth.  Should not this fossil be taken to challenge current theories about the age of dinosaurs?  Carl Wieland reported in Creation magazine that many dinosaur fossils still contain the original bone material.  Imagine the paradigm shift if evidence becomes overpowering that dinosaurs lived in the relatively recent past.  Doesn’t this fossil cry out for a re-evaluation of the assumptions?  Now all we need is a good living dinosaur to be found.  Don’t laugh; recently pine trees from the age of dinosaurs were found in Australia, alive and well, and many other living fossils extend back farther than that in the assumed evolutionary time scale.
Next headline on: Dinosaurs. • Next headline on: Fossils. • Next headline on: Dating Methods. • Next amazing story.
SETI@Home Faces Funding Crisis   10/15/2002
According to
Silicon.Com, SETI@home is running out of money.  The project to search radio signals with the help of four million volunteer home PCs may have to call it quits unless a new sponsor comes to the aid.  All development on SETI@home II, which was to add southern hemisphere data from an Australian radio telescope, has ceased.  The SETI@home website does not appear to be trumpeting the bad news.
When you are investigating the unknown, you do not know what you will find, but money is always hard to find, especially for investigating the unknown.
Next headline on: Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence.
The Evolution of Folly, or Vice Versa?   10/14/2002
The entire
Oct 10 issue of Neuron is devoted to “Reward and Decision.”  In their analysis, Jonathan Cohen and Kenneth Blum discuss how the diverse areas of neurology, psychology, economics and evolutionary biology are all attempting to converge on models that explain the empirical facts regarding choice.  But while neurology and psychology are swimming in data but lacking models, the other fields have models but are weak empirical data.  Some models appear to predict behavior, but there is no consensus on why animals and people often make suboptimal choices (emphasis added):
This special issue of Neuron addresses two of the most basic and interesting questions about the neural bases of human behavior: how reward is processed in the brain, and how this influences our behavior.  Indeed, perhaps the most general observations that can be made about our behavior (or that of just about any organism) are that (1) its primary and ultimate goal is to seek reward (and avoid punishment), and (2) we are not always so good at doing this. As elementary and self-evident as are these observations, a closer consideration of each raises profound questions about the nature of human behavior and how it is guided by reward.  First, how do we evaluate and compare the diverse forms of reward-satisfying a biological need, pursuing a form of leisure, living longer, or helping another-that are available to us?  From an evolutionary perspective, these might all be viewed as mere stepping stones to the ultimate reward: ensuring the future of our genetic lineage.  However, from another perspective, that of the individual going about her daily life, the more proximal forms of reward are of paramount importance.  They must be assessed and compared to one another–in implicit calculations if not within the full view of consciousness–so that she can decide, in a timely manner, what to do next.  How are these calculations carried out, across vastly different domains of information, in the face of a staggering array of behavioral possibilities, so frequently, and so quickly?  The second observation is equally perplexing.  Why are we so often bad at doing this?  Despite millions of years of evolution and its culmination in the truly glorious (though at times equally nefarious) capabilities of the human brain, isn’t it remarkable that the behavior of even reasonably intelligent individuals can be as idiosyncratic, seemingly irrational, and sometimes patently counterproductive as it often appears to be?
They offer some possible explanations: “One is that the job is tough and evolution is not perfect.”  Another is that evolution molded our behavior for an environment different than that which we live today.  A third, “it is also possible that evolution did the best with the cards it was dealt, but that the hand itself was not perfect.”
Here we see the personification fallacy again, clear as day.  This is a frequent sin in evolutionary literature.  Here also we see high praise for the design in nature, the “truly glorious” capabilities of the human brain, with just the assumption that it evolved (see begging the question).  There is also an impermissible word used (nefarious), a foul because evolutionists do not believe in moral evil.  Worst of all is the blatant reductionism that sees all human activity, no matter how sublime, as nothing more than desire to gain reward and avoid punishment.  How do you, gentle reader, feel about the ultimate reward described above – not heaven, seeing your Creator face to face and hearing him say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant,” and sharing joyful relationships with righteous beings forever – but passing on your genes?  Is that what makes you work so hard, and do all you do?  So what if another generation of evolutionary pawns gets to proclaim the mantra, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”  Whoop de do.
In the concluding review essay by Paul Glimcher of New York University, “Decisions, Decisions, Decisions: Choosing a Biological Science of Choice,” the relationship between ultimate and proximal causes is explored.  He examines economic models like game theory and tries to relate them to the actual nerve impulses measured by neurologists when a rat pushes a lever.  He discusses how groups of individuals, like ducks, can form Nash equilibria even when individual behavior is stochastic.  Considering the progress that the diverse fields of economics and evolutionary biology and neurology are making, he concludes that, “Using the evolutionary and economic framework of behavioral ecology, it is beginning to appear that the ultimate causes of behavior can be examined and in much the same way that Horace Barlow used information theory to describe efficient sensory encoding” (emphasis added.  Barlow had described the brain’s filtering of constant sensory data as an optimization technique in terms of information theory.)
There is a lot of material in this issue, much more than can be quoted to adequately convey the thinking of the authors, but one aspect is notable: there is no doubt in their minds whatsoever that human behavior must be understood in solely evolutionary terms.  Ethics, religion, revelation, love, responsibility – all these are out.  They have no need of these hypotheses.  They might have a case if they were successful, but where is the success?  They can point to nerve impulses on a sheet of graph paper here, and monkeys that know which button to press there, and some economic models that give rough predictions of group behavior over yonder.  The rest is mostly questions and a maze of variables too vast to even approach.  Evolutionary behaviorism is a perpetual research program with no ultimate answers.
Worse, it shoots itself in the foot.  If evolutionary biology can explain all behavior in terms of selection for rewards and against punishment, and these are the result of uncaused, unplanned, unguided, purposeless forces of selection, how do they know their own answers are true?  Maybe they are the result of a selfish game to get the reward of more grant money, or avoid the punishment of getting fired under the “publish or perish” rule.  And why are they so baffled by the stupid choices people make?  People used to speak of sin and responsibility and wisdom and discernment, but now those are impermissible in the toolbox of causes.  Now, a gambler is a just a helpless pawn of selective pressures that acted on his apelike ancestors.  The adulterer is actually doing a good thing by carrying on the affair; like what was claimed about birds in a recent study, cheating might be an evolutionary strategy to minimize the effects of inbreeding.  Good and evil have been replaced by selective pressures.  Scientists like this would go to church not to hear the message, but to analyze the forces of natural selection that produced that organism up there on the platform who is imploring sinners to repent, or calling for volunteers to go to the mission field and help those living in superstitious darkness.  OK, let’s turn that reasoning around.  So what selective pressures led them to become scientists?  If their own explanations are mere manifestations of game theory or selection, how can they claim they are more valid than the preacher’s?  If they retort that science has a track record of finding truth about nature, where is the track record here?  It is all profound mysteries, a vast complexity of variables, oversimplified models, conflicting theories, disconnected disciplines, and empty promises.  It’s vaporware masquerading as empirical science, with no delivery date requirement.  It’s reductionist nonsense, “nefarious” because it absolves people of responsibility for their actions.
One of the last ideas Stephen Jay Gould had before he died was a compromise plan for science and religion called “non-overlapping magisteria.”  Basically, he said to religious people, we’ll give you the arts and humanities if you will leave the natural world to the scientists.”  This is a lot like Joe saying to Mike, “You can have the toys, but I get to keep the weapons.”  What happens?  Pretty soon, Joe is holding a gun to Mike’s head and saying, “Hand over the toys.”  Materialistic science will never be content with just rat mazes and encephalograms.  They want to arrogate unto themselves the title of High Priests of Knowledge.  They want to seize every field of inquiry into their eternal research project, and convince everyone that all other players are disqualified, especially preachers of the Word of God.  Let’s see how they feel about ethics and morals when their spouse cheats or blows the life savings at Las Vegas, or a vandal sprays the house with profane graffiti.  No righteous indignation allowed.
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory. • Next dumb story.
Edinburgh to Honor Dropout: Charles Darwin   10/14/2002
The
BBC News reports that the city of Edinburgh is going to erect a plaque at the rear entrance to the Royal Museum, and hold a half-day event celebrating the famed originator of the modern theory of evolution.  Darwin attended Edinburgh University for a short time at age 16, but dropped out.  He later attended Cambridge, where he studied for the clergy of the Church of England, and received his only degree – in theology.  The article refers to him as one of the most important scientific thinkers of the 19th century, and concludes, “There was strong resistance to Darwinian thinking but nowadays the theory of evolution is at the centre of mainstream science.”
A more fitting memorial would be a plaque mentioning the unmarked graves of 100 million people who perished under totalitarian regimes built on the principle of survival of the fittest.  Yes, Darwin did not personally advocate or foment these regimes, and would probably have opposed them.  But it is a fact that Hitler, Stalin, Marx, Ingels, Lenin, and Chairman Mao all saw Darwinian evolution as the basis in natural science for their views.  Marx said this explicitly.  Stalin, while a seminary student for the Russian Orthodox Church, read the Origin of Species and became an atheist.  Darwin’s work laid the foundation of a philosophy of atheism and materialism which persists to this day in the scientific bureaucracies that idolize him while jettisoning the scientific philosophies Kepler and Pasteur based on design.  Darwin did nothing to stop those even in his day that took his ball and ran with it.  He himself, as a recent biographer portrays, was knee-deep in Victorian sexism, racism, and classism that progressed through his later years.  The originator of idea may not be totally responsible for those that abuse it, but ideas have consequences.
The City of Edinburgh would do well to honor another of its famous sons that had much more to do with the practical scientific advances of our modern world: James Clerk Maxwell.

Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
Discouragement and Hope Confront Solar System Theorists   10/11/2002
“Researchers were foundering in a sea of meteorite data,” begins the article by Richard Kerr in the
Oct. 11 issue of Science, “but new findings offer a renewed prospect of understanding how the solar system came to be.”
John Wood was discouraged.  For more than 40 years he had been studying meteorites, in hopes that the first rocks formed in the solar system would reveal when and how they and other planetary bodies came to be.  Now a leading figure in his field, Wood was beginning to suspect that the evidence might not be there.  And in a plenary lecture at the annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, he stunned his colleagues by saying so.
After 200 years of studying meteorites, “we still don’t understand what they are trying to tell us,” Wood lamented (Science, 31 August 2001, p. 1581).  “I personally wonder whether we ever will.”
That was two years ago.  Since then, however, in “a recent flurry of papers,” Wood and others are finding some cause for hope.  The problem has been that meteorites contain calcium-aluminum inclusions (CAIs) that contain burned-out remnants of short-lived isotopes like beryllium-10 and beryllium-7, along with chondrules that (according to current models) must have formed millions of years later:
“There’s a big puzzle how you can possibly store CAIs for millions of years waiting for chondrules to form,” says [Frank] Shu [Taiwanese astrophysicist].  Marble-sized bits of rock orbiting in the gas of the solar nebula would have been dragged into the sun within tens of thousands of years, he notes, not millions.
So what is the hope?  First, as we reported August 29, a team of astrophysicists concluded that the earth formed much more rapidly as previously believed, in 30 million years, down from earlier estimates of 100 million.  This new date revision, it is believed, can help constrain models of planetary accretion.
The new date has its drawbacks, [Alexander] Halliday [of Zurich, Switzerland] notes.  For one thing, the work also reduces the date of the moon’s formation from 60 million years after the solar nebula formed to 30 million years.  The later origin had neatly matched the age of the moon’s oldest rocks, which were presumed to have quickly frozen out of the ocean of magma covering the new moon.  The revised age of the moon creates a 30-million-year gap, forcing scientists to explain either why moon rocks took so long to form or where the first ones went.  “That’s a bit of a surprise,” says Halliday, one to be sorted out with more chemical and isotopic analyses.
On other fronts, efforts are being made to explain chondrules.  The discovery of beryllium-7 in CAIs (half-life 53.28 days), is “fantastically exciting,” says Donald Burnett of Caltech, but also “upsets the apple cart.”  This discovery and other features of chondrules are almost requiring blasts of radiation from the sun that could have melted and molded the materials together.  This has resurrected versions of Frank Shu’s 1996 “X-wind” model of nebular processing:
In his scenario, the young sun blasted the nearest nebular material with heat and radiation and then blew the resulting blobs of molten rock up and out over the nebular disk in the magnetically driven wind typical of newborn stars.  Falling back onto the disk, the droplets became chondrules, which formed the building blocks of both chondrites and terrestrial planets.
Yet chondrules appear to have required heating for up to 2100 K for several minutes and cooling for hours to create their characteristic minerals.  The X-wind picture is incomplete, think most other theorists, so another mechanism has come into vogue recently.  Two independent teams have proposed that “shocked and heated gas in the solar nebula could have kept the chondrules hot for a few hours before they radiated away all the heat.  Shock is now the leading proposed mechanism for chondrule formation.  Now theorists are gearing up to explain where the shock waves came from, which is still an open question.”
Wood has reason to still be discouraged.  The news can hardly seem that hopeful, because each solution is breeding new problems.  If the earth accreted in short order, then it puts the formation of the moon (already an unlikely happenstance) into a much narrower window of time.  Added to this are new ad hoc mechanisms (X-winds and shock waves) that require finding a cause.  If you are a regular reader, you know that these are not the only difficulties with the nebular/planetesimal hypothesis for the origin of the solar system.  See the recent headlines about Uranus and Neptune, Io’s volcanoes, the nanodiamond deficit, and comets, along with many other such stories in our Solar System chain links.  These are all in addition to the biggest puzzle: our finely-crafted planet earth itself, with its radiation shields, water oceans, and numerous other “anthropic” features that make it perfectly suited for life.
Naturalistic theorists think they have done their job if they can finagle some story, any story, that is remotely plausible after a few beers, like speculating on how Paley’s watch in the woods came together by an earthquake, a landslide, a tidal wave and a meteor impact in a carefully-timed sequence.  Materialistic scientists are like prisoners locked in a dungeon of their own making, cheering one another up with false hopes that they might be able to bore a hole through the walls with their fingernails.  It would never occur to them in 30 million years to just reach over and use the key.
Next headline on: Solar System. • Next headline on: Dating Methods.
New Biography of Alfred Russell Wallace Reviewed   10/10/2002
Professional skeptic
Michael Shermer has released a new biography of Darwin’s rival and co-“discoverer” of natural selection, entitled In Darwin’s Shadow: The Life and Science of Alfred Russell Wallace.  James Mallett of University College London reviews it in the Oct 10 issue of Nature and finds it mostly good, but the kind of story one can spin various ways.  Most disconcerting to Wallace historians was that this scientist could delve into spiritualism, and worse, disbelieve that natural selection could explain all the wonders of life, believing instead that an overriding intelligence was watching over human evolution.  This apparently gave Darwin sneezing fits: “You write like a metamorphosed (in retrograde direction) naturalist.  And you, the author of the best paper that ever appeared in the Anthropological Review!  Eheu!  Eheu!  Eheu! - Your miserable friend, C. Darwin.”
Wallace was no Christian, certainly, and is a paradoxical figure for sure, but the Darwinian materialists cannot tolerate any suggestion that natural selection is anything less than the creator of all living wonders.  That is why Darwin is the historical champion of evolutionary theory, not Wallace, who almost beat Charlie to the punch.  “Pseudoscience” is their label for anything beyond material causes, including God, used to explain any biological phenomenon.  From molecular motors to hummingbird wings, from exploding seed pods to human gymnasts, natural selection is the catch-all, do-all wonder worker.  It is the biggest materialist panacea in history.  And what is the evidence for this alleged “mechanism” and “engine” that drives molecules to evolve into men, and monkeys into PresbyteriansFinch beaks, peppered moths and other trivial variations.  (Mallett exaggerates, “Darwin’s viewpoints on these topics are completely vindicated: for example, the idea that peacock tails evolved by female choice is strongly supported by experiment” – he needs to read our Sept. 9 headline on this).  Natural selection is a vacuous concept that cannot explain a hill of beans.  (Beans require thousands of molecular motors and a huge coded DNA library of complex specified information, and they depend on tiny molecular machine in bacteria to get their nitrogen.)  Too much ink is wasted on whether Darwin or Wallace should get more credit for this bloated idea.  Too little credit is given to Edward Blyth, the creationist who thought it up earlier, 24 years before Darwin’s OriginBlyth saw natural selection not as a creative force, but a conservative mechanism the all-wise Creator built into living things for their survival in changing environments.  That can be supported by observations; evolving whales from amoebas is another (just-so) story.
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
Toumaï Skull Fires Controversy   10/09/2002
It’s just a gorilla skull.  No!  It’s a human ancestor – you’re just jealous!  So goes the tussle over Toumaï, the skull announced by
Michel Brunet in July, says Nature Science Update.  Critics argue that it’s just a female gorilla skull in bad shape, but defenders retort that their criticism “is a thinly disguised attack on someone else’s fossils and a thinly disguised advert for their own.” Milford Wolpoff’s critical analysis guised in technical jargon is in the Oct 10 issue of Nature, where also Brunet prints his rebuttal.  Maybe the upcoming reconstruction will help, sighs the news report.  National Geographic is not taking sides.
This is more fun than watching cavemen beat each other over the head with clubs.
Next headline on: Early Man.
SETI Discovers Aliens! (In the Movies)   10/09/2002
Unsuccessful so far at finding life in space, SETI researchers have pointed their instruments at Hollywood, and hit pay dirt. 
Nature Science Update reports that they are calibrating their new Rio Scale, which is supposed to help weed out hoaxes from true signals from extra-terrestrial intelligences.  The movies Contact and Independence Day scored 10 on a scale of 10.
False alarm.  Call back when they get out of the theater and back to their consoles.  You can’t blame them for getting bored, though, just sitting there year after year.
Next headline on: SETI. • Next headline on: Movies. • Next dumb story.
From Gills to Lungs, Wings and Looms   10/08/2002
What can you get from gills?  In the latest issue of
Current Biology, some German and Greek scientists think you can get lots of things: insect wings, lungs, and spider web spinning equipment.  They investigated the expression of two genes between horseshoe crabs and spiders and concluded that “Combined with morphological and palaeontological evidence, these observations suggest that fundamentally different new organs (wings, air-breathing organs, and spinnerets) evolved from the same ancestral structure (gills) in parallel instances of terrestrialization.”  Although they admit that “Understanding morphological changes that occurred in the distant past poses a major challenge for evolutionary biology,” and that “similarities in expression patterns can sometimes be misleading for determining homologies,” they feel their molecular comparison matches other lines of evidence: “Looking for congruence among independent types of data (morphological, palaeontological, or molecular) and phylogeny is the only way to overcome this problem and trace the origin of morphological innovations such as wings, book lungs, and spinnerets after hundreds of million years of evolution.  Our observations are congruent with data from comparative anatomy, palaeontology, and phylogeny, and this gives us confidence in arguing for the common origin of these structures.”  Science Now has a summary of the idea.
Did you catch the circular reasoning here?  Nowhere do these authors supply any evidence for how a gill could turn into a complex spinning device that can generate one of the most ideal materials known to science, spider silk, or how any of these other complex structures – wings and lungs – could arise from a long progression of mistakes (mutations).  All they do is look for similarities in what they think are independent lines of evidence, which in fact are related by a common assumption: evolution.  There’s a joke about a man named Joe who got drunk Monday night on gin and soda, drunk again Tuesday on ale and soda, and drunk Wednesday on vodka and soda.  The obvious conclusion is that soda caused Joe’s drunkenness.  These evolutionists see soda in the fossil record, comparative anatomy (homologous organs) and molecular phylogeny, but missed the point: every one of their lines of evidence is contaminated with the alcohol of Darwinism.  From the starting base, they have already assumed that these organisms (trilobites, horseshoe crabs, spiders and insects) all have a common ancestor, then they use that assumption of common ancestry to demonstrate common ancestry.  Comparative anatomy is built on the assumption of evolution (homologous organs arose from a common ancestor, and then are used to demonstrate common ancestry).  Molecular phylogeny is built on the assumption of evolution (conserved genes have a common ancestor, so if you find conserved genes they demonstrate common ancestry).  The fossil record might be able to demonstrate actual descent from a common ancestor, if there were plentiful transitional forms, but all these authors point to are horseshoe crabs – living fossils, unevolved for supposedly 500 million years!  Thus every one of the so-called independent lines of evidence invoked by these authors already assume Darwinian common descent to be true, so they are reasoning in a circle.  They’re drunk on Darwinism while singing “How dry I am.”
Next headline on: Bugs. • Next headline on: Genes and DNA. • Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
Natural Selection Just Got Tougher: Sex Doesn’t Help   10/07/2002
Is sex a benefit for evolution?  Scientists knew that selection could be limited by linkage between genes, and some thought that sex would remove this hindrance.  Now, two Univ. of Rochester scientists publishing in the Oct. 7 preprints of the
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, in a study of fruit flies, concluded that sex does not remove the obstacle of linked genes:
Population genetic theory shows that the efficacy of natural selection is limited by linkage—selection at one site interferes with selection at linked sites.  Such interference slows adaptation in asexual genomes and may explain the evolutionary advantage of sex.  Here, we test for two signatures of constraint caused by linkage in a sexual genome, by using sequence data from 255 Drosophila melanogaster and Drosophila simulans loci.  We find that (i) the rate of protein adaptation is reduced in regions of low recombination, and (ii) evolution at strongly selected amino acid sites interferes with optimal codon usage at weakly selected, tightly linked synonymous sites.  Together these findings suggest that linkage limits the rate and degree of adaptation even in recombining genomes.
The paper is entitled, “Linkage limits the power of natural selection in Drosophila,” by Andrea J. Betancourt and Daven C. Presgraves.
Another serious blow for Darwinism.  The title says it limits selection in fruit flies, but fruit flies have been Exhibit A of evolution since the 1930s.  Hardly any other species has been studied for evolutionary mechanisms in such detail.  We have lots of weird mutants: flies with wrinkled wings, flies without wings, flies with duplicate wings, flies with red eyes or black eyes, flies with legs growing where the antennae are supposed to be.  None has ever arisen with a clear evolutionary advantage.  Now, the very power of natural selection has been called into question.  Are school teachers going to be able to quote P.N.A.S. in science classes, or is that off limits now?  (Darwinism must be presented as impregnable in school; biology teacher Roger DeHart was dismissed from teaching biology for quoting Stephen Jay Gould and scientific journals that were critical of the power of natural selection.)
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
Does Science Lie?   10/07/2002
The Oct 4 issue of the journal
Science contains a news item on the Cobb County, Georgia school board vote that reportedly “opens the door to creationism” (it does not; it simply allows teaching the controversy about evolution).  Author Constance Holden claims, “The Supreme Court ruled in 1987 that creationism has no place in science classes;” yet that ruling only forbade state-mandated equal-time provisions.  The Supreme Court decision specifically said, “Teaching a variety of scientific theories about the origins of human-kind to school children might be validly done with the clear secular intent of enhancing the effectiveness of science instruction.”  According to Wendell Bird, who argued the case before the court on behalf of the state of Louisiana, “The majority opinion leaves open at least two alternatives to indoctrination in evolution and censorship of scientific alternatives: (1) the right of teachers to teach ‘a variety of scientific theories’ and to bring Scopes-type lawsuits if punished or prohibited, and (2) the right of schools, school districts, and perhaps legislatures to encourage or require teaching of ‘all scientific theories . . . about origins.’”  As long as aspects of creationism, intelligent design or problems with Darwinism are presented scientifically and not religiously, therefore, they do not violate either the spirit or the letter of the Supreme Court decision; it is only that states cannot pass laws mandating equal time for creation and evolution.  If the Supreme Court had meant that creationism has no place in science instruction, the “No child left behind” Education Bill passed by the Congress last December would have been declared unconstitutional. For some balance on what happened in Georgia, read Mark Hartwig’s commentary on the Cobb County decision.
Even the pro-evolution website National Center for Science Education states that the Supreme Court only struck down laws that mandated “balanced treatment” of creation and evolution, or prohibited evolution teaching – it does not follow that creation has no place in the science classroom (see non-sequitur in the Baloney Detector).  Holden’s claim is no more logical than concluding, if the court had struck down a law mandating equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats in the Senate, that therefore Republicans are illegal.  This highly-biased report in Science has no place in a journal that is supposed to be an open-ended search for truth.  Science editors are welcome to their opinion of the Supreme Court decision, but they should not lie about what it said.
Next headline on: Schools.
Flower Signalling: Is it Come on In, or Get Lost?   10/04/2002
Flowers are speaking out of both sides of their mouth, says Kathryn Brown in a News Focus item in the
Oct 4 issue of Science.  Are they trying to sweet-talk bugs into their interiors for pollination, or keep thieves out?  Traditional Darwinists have long assumed the former, but a new generation of biologists is considering the possibility that mixed motives may contribute to floral evolution:
“Compromise,” as Galen puts it, is fast becoming the new buzzword as researchers uncover the details of floral evolution.  Many scientists have long explained flower fashions rather simply: From richly red bee balm to the cornflower’s spiky crown, popular theory has gone, each flower has evolved the right color and shape to attract effective pollinators.  The yucca plant, for instance, turns its flowers upward at dusk, to be pollinated exclusively by the yucca moth, which rolls up its heavy pollen like a snowball.

But today, a growing number of scientists are looking for more subtle evolutionary forces—from nectar thieves and herbivores to environmental demands and developmental changes—that might also sculpt floral traits.  “We’re taking a more pluralistic view,” says evolutionary ecologist Sharon Strauss of the University of California, Davis.  And they’re raising some eyebrows in the process.

“But traditionalists aren’t prepared to surrender the pollinators’ primacy,” says Browne.  Nevertheless, the revisionists claim that we don’t have enough data to support the pollinator paradigm, and more forces must be involved in the natural selection of floral displays.
Like design?  Speaking of humble lilies of the field, Jesus claimed that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these (Matt. 6:29).  Darwinism, however, finds no beauty in flowers.  It seeks to reduce everything to selfish utilitarianism: the flower only wants to pass on its genes, so it will do any selfish trick in the book to lure in the good bugs and make the bad bugs miserable.  So that, children, is how we got roses and petunias and orchids and snapdragons and azaleas.  This is the reductionist legacy of naturalistic evolutionism: it robs nature of beauty.  But function and aesthetics are not mutually exclusive; a bridge can be ornate, yet permit passage of traffic.  A Christian alternative viewpoint would not deny that flowers are functional, that as reproductive organs they must attract pollinators and repel intruders.  Instead, it would say that in the process of making an interconnected world of living things, the Creator expressed beauty out of His goodness.  Flowers have, what Francis Schaeffer termed, useless beauty.  But this is not a scientific approach, an evolutionist will complain.  Well, given (1) that the fossil record makes the evolution of flowering plants an “abominable mystery” (in Darwin’s words, and still true today), and (2) that (as this article reveals) evolutionists have no convincing case that natural selection could produce roses and petunias and azaleas, we ask, is naturalism a scientific approach?  Abrupt appearance, beauty – these are the observations that Darwinism cannot explain.
Next headline on: Bugs. • Next headline on: Plants. • Next headline on: Darwinism.
Mystery Star Challenges Stellar Evolution   10/03/2002
Astronomy Picture of the Day, a service of Goddard Space Flight Center, has a picture October 3 of an unusual star named V838 Monocerotis that flared up in January of this year.  The caption states: “the erupting star transformed itself over a period of months from a small under-luminous star a little hotter than the Sun, to a highly-luminous, cool supergiant star undergoing rapid and complex brightness changes.  The transformation defies the conventional understanding of stellar life cycles.”
Update 03/27/2003: The Hubble Space Telescope Science Institute released a dazzling set of four images of the light echo of this eruption progressing outward.
Any undergraduate astronomy student knows that the stellar life cycle mapped on the color-luminosity diagram is one of the best-understood processes in astrophysics, or at least it is often presented that way.  Where does this star fit on the diagram?  We are told that stars take millions of years to evolve from one stage to another, but here is one that went from a small sunlike star to a supergiant within months.  This one is called a “totally new addition to the astronomical zoo.”  But how different is it, really, from other main sequence stars?  Maybe stars can “evolve” quicker than earlier believed.  Stellar evolution is, of course, not evolution in the sense of increasing in complexity or information.  It is the working out of physics and chemistry under gravity, better termed “stellar aging.”  We are not seeing creative processes here, but destructive processes, as the star’s matter and energy is being flung outward into space.
Next headline on: Stars.
Quasar Not Linked to Nearby Galaxy   10/03/2002
The Hubble Space Telescope has just released a new image of
Markarian 205, considered Exhibit A in a long-standing debate about redshifts.  For many years, Halton Arp and a minority of other astronomers have contended that the quasar and the galaxy are connected by a bridge of material, and this proves they must be physically associated, even though they have very different redshifts.  Thus, the redshift value cannot be taken as a measure of distance.  Markarian 205 was the showcase example, though Arp had many others in his collection of photographs.  The new Hubble image appears to clearly show that there is no bridge at all, and the two objects are unrelated.  The Hubble team claims it is just a chance alignment.
Update 10/10/2002: Govert Schilling in Science Now reports that the believers are not giving up.  Arp is accusing the Space Telescope Science Institute of deliberately misleading the public, and one of his former students released an enhanced version of the image with the bridge still present.
Whether the Hubble image settles the debate remains to be seen, but there is no indication of a bridge in the photograph.  Nevertheless, readers should be aware that a good deal of image processing goes into images that are released to the public.  Anyone who has worked with digital images knows how easily they can be manipulated.  It is now a matter of ethics and trust to believe images posted on the Internet.  Images released by reliable sources should not be dismissed out of hand, of course; one should just be aware and read the fine print.  What’s more important than this one disputed image is the statistical nature of the evidence.  Are there too many alignments of discordant-redshift objects to be accounted for by chance?  One weakness of the minority view was that it lacked a coherent physical mechanism that could produce redshifts apart from the expansion of the universe.  Arp’s suggestion that quasars were ejected from galactic nuclei seems implausible to many.  It will be interesting to see if he makes a better case, but for now, this new photograph appears to strengthen the case that redshifts are cosmological; i.e., that they are a function of universal expansion and therefore indicators of distance.  Some creationists had used the older photographs to question the redshift evidence for the big bang theory.  Redshifts, however, do not bear on the question of whether the universe was created or not.  The naturalistic big bang theory still has its lumpiness problem and other severe headaches, cosmological redshifts notwithstanding.
Next headline on: Cosmology.
The Peppered Myth Lives On, But Not on Tree Trunks 10/03/02
See the 10/02 update to our July 5 headline about Judith Hooper’s expose of the peppered moth myth and the furor it is causing.  Hear Jonathan Wells explain why some students, misled by the fraud, want their tuition money back.

Your Immune System: How the Assassins Recognize the Terrorists   10/03/2002
Killer T cells, like roving assassins in a search and destroy mission, look for viral terrorists and obliterate them in their hideouts.  But first they have to recognize who is friend or foe, and in auto-immune diseases or tissue rejection, sometimes mistakes are made.  How the cell flags its contents, and how the T cell detects it and responds, is a complex and mysterious process.  Scientists are nearing completion of understanding the general picture from start to finish.  One question that remained was how a system that is highly conserved from mice to men could produce a unique “scent” at the cell surface, so individual that your immune system can sense the difference between “you” and “foreign.”  An important piece of the puzzle has recently been identified and reported in the
Oct 3 Nature by U.C. Berkeley biochemists.  But to understand it, we have to back up and create some word pictures, or else get bogged down in abstruse jargon.  Pardon us in advance for the silly analogies and mixed metaphors; the reality is really quite amazing.
Killer T cells recognize body cells infected with a virus because each cell has a sophisticated system of wearing its innards on the outside.  An individual cell can have about 10,000 flags on its surface, composed of pieces of every protein found in the interior.  These flags, like sausages always nine amino-acid links long, are mounted on flagpoles, or rather meatpoles, called MHCs.  How do they get there?  Well, as proteins inside outlive their usefulness and are tagged for recycling, a barrel-shaped meat cleaver called a proteasome chops them into sausages up to 15 units long.  Sent back into the cell, most are quickly seized upon by roving dogs (aminopeptidases), but some manage to make it into the subway (endoplasmic reticulum) through special mechanical gates made just for them (TAP, for “transporters associated with antigen processing”).  There, another cleaving machine starts dismantling them one link at a time.  Crowded nearby are MHCs looking for the unique nine-unit pieces that fit them just right.  When no match is found, the chopper keeps cutting the links all the way down for recycling.  But if an MHC finds a nine-unit sausage that matches perfectly, it mounts it and ferries it to another special porthole on the cell surface, where it plants it to wave in the breeze.  A killer T cell, roving about with a nose that makes a bloodhound look like a man with a bad cold, sniffs all these pieces of meat and is able to detect foreign meat (viral protein scraps) that are not “USDA approved” so to speak.  If it finds one, the penalty is severe: the whole cell is targeted for incineration.  But it’s a small price to pay for health of the body.  This is a nonstop state of war and the stakes are high.  Any cell that harbors terrorists must be destroyed.  Besides, there are trillions more cells that can take their place.
What these scientists found was the chopper (aminopeptidase) in the subway that trims the sausages down.  They named it ERAAP, and found that it does not need to be concerned with fitting each nine-link sausage to the appropriate meatpole (MHC); it just chops away, one link at a time, and if an appropriate meatpole is nearby to grab it, fine.  If not, it chops it all the way down and the individual links (amino acids) are made available for recycling into new proteins.  In his News and Views perspective on this discovery, Hans-Georg Rammensee calls this “Survival of the Fitters” – “the way ERAAP works is a fine example of how nature uses the survival-of-the-fittest principle, even inside the cell, to solve a complex task in an economical way.”

Thus he ruined a good story with a bad punch line.  Equivocation is the fallacy of shifting definitions of terms in mid thought.  “Survival of the fittest,” as it is usually understood, has no application to the complex, purposeful system pictured here.  He’s playing with words, making a pun, to make this seem relevant to evolutionary theory.  Darwinism is, by definition, a trial and error, purposeless, directionless process, but here in the immune system you have a long series of processes directed to a goal.  Like a Rube Goldberg machine, if any elements are missing or don’t work, the system breaks down.  It’s actually a wonderful recycling and signalling system, as if spies constantly roam the recycling bin for information that might be useful to the FBI outside.  Aren’t you glad that your security forces on the outside have these allies on the inside that let them know if all’s well, or if a Trojan horse has breached the city walls and invaders are within?  The fact that the viruses’ own proteins are subject to this same signalling system lets the killer T cells know what is really going on inside, and take the appropriate countermeasures when necessary.
Next headline on: The Cell. • Next amazing story.
Do Enzymes Evolve From Nonenzymes?   10/02/2002
A paper in the
Oct. 2 issue of Structure compared enzymes with nonenzyme homologs to see if either had evolved into the other.  In “Sequence and Structural Differences between Enzyme and Nonenzyme Homologs,” three UK women biochemists have no doubts that evolution has shaped enzymes into their repertoire of functions: “Ancestral genes have been duplicated, mutated, and combined through evolution to generate the multitude of functions necessary for life.”  Yet deep in the paper, it is clear that most of their findings show that most homologs appear to have lost enzymatic function: “The examples presented suggest that the evolution of a nonenzyme from a catalytic precursor is more common than the reverse scenario, that is, the design of a catalytic function on an ancient nonenzyme domain.”  They found 12 examples of enzymes losing catalytic function, and five of nonenzymes gaining it; but “In all five ‘nonenzyme to enzyme’ examples ... nature appears to have exploited the specific binding properties of the catalytically inactive precursor.”
This means that the trend is downward, not evolutionarily upward, despite their optimism that “The wealth of biological data now available has revealed the prolific evolutionary adaptation of old proteins for new functions.”  OK, show us.  Where is the evolution of new function?  They talk about enzymes that have lost their activity, but give no watertight cases of any new functions being gained by nonenzymes.  The only examples look like regaining of previous function that was inactivated somehow, like unchaining Prometheus.
The paper is full of the word evolution but it’s really about degradation.  It is also filled with the assumption that proteins with similar folds are homologous (meaning: derived from common ancestors), even when they have low sequence similarity.  Thus they are guilty of circular reasoning.  They believe homology derives from common ancestry, then use the homology as evidence for common ancestry.  The trend of all things is toward disorder.  We’re waiting for someone to show a plausible sequence of steps that can buck the trend, and go from random sequence to working enzyme that performs a new and useful function.  Take us from iron ore to a working vise, for instance, through a sequence of small intermediate steps where each one has an advantage that can be acted on by natural selection.  (But don’t get us started on natural selection.)  Oh, and by the way, get your own ore.
Next headline on: The Cell. • Next headline on: Genes and DNA.
Flight to Mars: It’s a Battlefield Out There   10/01/2002
Space@NASA has feature about space medicine: what doctors and physiologists have to take into account before sending astronauts to Mars.  Long periods of weightlessness, medical emergencies and disorientation can be tough to deal with millions of miles from home.  One of the toughest is shielding the human body from damaging radiation that can fly right through the spaceship and rip into tissues, causing disease and death over long periods of exposure.  “Without some kind of ‘countermeasures’ to protect you,” says the story, “your muscles will shrivel, your bones could weaken, your genes might be damaged and confused.  When you arrive, you might find it hard to even get out of your spaceship without stumbling and hurting yourself.”  The article discusses some of the countermeasures that scientists are studying, but much work remains to be done.  To provide an adequate radiation shield, for instance, would require a wall two meters thick filled with hydrogen.
Speaking of Mars, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory today released its first data archive of images from the 2001 Mars Odyssey spacecraft that went into orbit less than a year ago.  A few days later, On October 7, they released a set of 18,812 more images from the immensely successful Mars Global Surveyor.  The feature image is a high-resolution view of a crater with gullies that appear to have been formed by liquid water.
Earth’s magnetic field and atmosphere work together to shield us landlubbers from the rifle range outside our bubble.  To see how this works, recall our May 10 headline on earth’s storm windows.  Mars does not have these protections.  Movies of astronauts prancing around on Mars are not realistic in light of these risks.  Man may go to Mars someday, but the project will mainly underscore how blessed we are on the home planet.
Next headline on: Health. • Next headline on: Mars.
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Featured Creation Scientist for October

Hugh of St. Victor
1096 - 1141

Our millennium of creation scientists begins with a teacher of monks, Hugh, from the abbey of St. Victor outside Paris.  He gained notoriety for barring flower arranging in the monastery, rebuking it as a waste of time for those devoted to higher contemplations.  It was this incident that gave us the phrase, “Hugh, and only Hugh, can prevent florist friars.”  (Not really, but a little pause for levity before 1000 years of science doesn’t hurt.)  Actually, he probably enjoyed flowers as a reflection of the wisdom of the Creator.  Hugh of St. Victor is an amazing character for a time known by some as the Dark Ages.  A remarkably clear thinker and learned man, he had no time for superstition and magic, but instead advocated knowledge and investigation of the natural world.  He had remarkable scientific insight for someone living six centuries before the rise of modern science, and he built his philosophy squarely on the understanding of the Bible, especially Genesis.

Reaching back a thousand years, we are not looking for a fully fleshed out scientific philosophy, but for distinctive beliefs that would eventually set it in motion.  Important among these are the doctrine of God, the philosophy of nature, and the role of man.  Scientists today avoid thoughts of God, yet depend on the theology and philosophy of the early pre-scientists who changed the way people view God, the world, and man: instead of capricious acts of warring gods, intelligent design by a wise Creator; instead of magic, law; instead of superstition, creative investigation by minds made in the image of God.  Scholastic philosophers of the middle ages had many faults and were wrong about many things, but they laid foundations that could hold up a skyscraper of science.  As we shall see, modern science today is an atheistic facade on a theistic superstructure.  Not only the foundation but much of the interior that holds up the structure was built largely by creationists, and they were building on the Word of God.

If you have read the Introduction, you know we intend to present real historical characters with wrinkles and all.  Including someone in our hall of fame does not mean we advocate everything the person believed and taught.  Hugh was clearly medieval, scholastic and Catholic in a time flooded with false notions about nature.  Also, he was undoubtedly influenced by the Arabic and Greek teachings that had come into Europe via the Moors in Spain.  Of all civilizations, the Arabs and Greeks had come closest to a scientific natural philosophy.  We owe much to their contributions.  But in both civilizations, science never became self sustaining, and eventually faded.  Meanwhile, the Catholic church had corrupted Biblical views of God, man, and the world; mindless obedience, asceticism and reliance on authority were rife.  The influx of Greek manuscripts (especially Aristotle) via the Arabs, and their advances in mathematics and medicine, seemed to be a wake up call to medieval scholars.  Aristotle, though cogent and comprehensive, had a mix of good logic and nonsense, and often based his views on ideas contrary to the Bible.  European Christian philosophers needed to re-evaluate their core beliefs, and some looked deeper into the Bible for answers.  While impressed with Aristotle’s logic, had they embraced it uncritically, it would have proved a dead end – and it nearly was, taking centuries to dethrone Aristotle as the default expert on everything.  Those who knew their Bible, and trusted its authority, were the ones who saved science from this fate*.  Hugh of St. Victor exemplified these who built natural philosophy on the Scriptures.  In time, this would provide a much more fertile soil for science.

Dan Graves in Scientists of Faith says, “His assumption was simple: because the Bible is God’s reliable word, Christians need not fear scientific inquiry.  All truth, when fully understood, will support all other truth.  But to make sense of the world’s obscurities, we must start from that which is plain” (Graves, p. 18, emphasis added).  “All nature expresses God,” Hugh said, and “Nature is a book written by the hand of God.”  Such statements would be common later, but they reveal a profound difference in world view from the animist or pantheist: nature is a thing, an object other than God; and as a material object made by a transcendent Creator, it can and should be studied to gain wisdom.  They also reveal a profound difference from the Greeks and Arabs whose theologies diminished the role of God as Lawgiver and sustainer of the world.  Greek gods were as mischievous as humans; why trust them?  Arabs had their Koran, but as rambling, unclassified oracles of dubious origin (written down long after Mohammed had died), rarely intersecting with verifiable natural phenomena or historical events, the Koran and the Bible are poles apart.  The Bible was written by 40 authors over many centuries, and contains thousands of names of people and places and events that can be cross-checked against other sources.  Only in the Bible is there the balance of law and grace, the consistent standard of righteousness, the appeal to think and reason, the frequent exaltation of creation as the work of an omniscient God, and the consistent linear timeline from creation to consummation.  No other sacred book in the world compares with it.  This was the rock on which Hugh of St. Victor and his successors started building their science.  It worked.  The storms came, and the winds blew, but the structure stands.  It is not the structure alone, but the rock-solid foundation, that kept it upright.

Born in what is now Germany, Hugh of St. Victor lived and taught at the abbey of St. Victor near Paris for many years.  In theology, he was Augustinian.  He was an esteemed scholastic philosopher and his writings were widespread throughout Europe.  He believed in interpreting the Scriptures literally: not slavishly, but wherever the context permitted it.  “Biblical literalism” is often a term of derision today, the assumed antithesis of scientific thinking, but Hugh’s hermeneutic (method of interpreting Scripture) was actually an stimulus for science.  Dan Graves explains his reasoning:

In order to fully understand its literal meaning, one must study the sciences that shed light on such things.  Whether one wishes to reconstruct the design of Noah’s ark, date Easter, calculate chronologies, or understand Biblical weights and measures, sciences are needed.  Curiosity then is a natural expression of reason, revealing the image of God that the Creator breathed into humanity at its creation.

Investigating the natural world and making discoveries, therefore, are to be thought of as worthy ambitions.  Hugh saw work and technology as virtuous also, based on Paul’s epistles (e.g., Eph 4:28), contrary to Greeks who considered manual labor beneath their dignity.  He himself worked with mirrors, geometry, and classification of the sciences.  One of his best-known works is the Didascalicon or teacher’s manual.  In this “remarkably comprehensive early encyclopedia” (according to Encyclopedia Britannica), Hugh acknowledges Greek science but sees the Bible as superior.  He specifically denounces the logical errors of Epicurus and other ancients, who relied on reason alone, advocating mathematics instead for precision and logical validity.

Hugh of St. Victor held to a literal six-day creation account in Genesis and interpreted the Creation account as an archetype of the divine wisdom to which man can aspire.  Jerome Taylor explains that Hugh specifically contradicted some of his contemporaries (like William of Conches) who tried to compromise Genesis with Greek philosophy, feeling that “the ancients were but laborers upon an inferior truth, while to Christians, to the sons of Life, was reserved the consummation of truth.”  Instead of allegorizing Genesis like others, Hugh insisted that “the chaos [of Gen. 1:2] literally existed and that its ordering in an equally literal six-day period is a mystery, a ‘sacrament,’ through which the Creator determined to teach the rational creature that it must rise from the disorder of its initial and untaught existence to an intellectual and moral beauty of form conferred by the divine Wisdom.”  Hugh saw in the pursuit of science a portion of man’s recovery from the Fall; once redeemed by grace, science was a part of man’s recovery of the wisdom of God.**

In these concepts, we see the liberating of man from asceticism and authoritarianism, and the motivation to search for truth about the world.  He said, “the intention of all human actions is resolved in a common objective: either to restore in us the likeness of the divine image or to take thought for the necessity of this life, which, the more easily it can suffer harm from those things which work to its disadvantage, the more does it require to be cherished and conserved” (p. 54).  He goes on to explain how science breeds both understanding and remedy for harms, that these are wise and just, and thereby noble outworkings of the divine image.  Hugh commends logic and learning and disciplined thinking.  He repudiates magic (including fortunetelling, divination and astrology) as “the mistress of every form of iniquity and malice, lying about the truth...” – this does not sound like the Dark Ages, does it?  The Didascalicon is obsessed with classifying things and pursuing knowledge, wisdom and virtue.  Though antiquated in some respects, it contains core concepts that are like fertilizer and rain to scientific enterprise, compared to the deserts of authority and superstition in 1000 A.D.

One of his best-known quotations is: “Learn everything; you will see afterwards that nothing is superfluous.  A skimpy knowledge is not a pleasing thing” (p. 137).  It must be recognized that he is speaking here of Bible study; he is arguing that one should not skip over the Old Testament historical narratives: “Some things are to be known for their own sakes,” he explains, like the ethical principles of the New Testament, but other passages, like the detailed genealogies of I Chronicles, “although for their own sakes they do not seem worthy of our labor, nevertheless, because without them the former class of things cannot be known with complete clarity, must by no means be carelessly skipped.”  Then he says the “Learn everything” line.  While it would be wrong to take the thought out of context, we do see Hugh’s passion for knowledge and clarity of thinking, a passion that extends to all forms of learning.  What a contrast to the surrounding civilizations!

Where does Hugh of St. Victor stand in the headwaters of scientific thought?  Encyclopedia Britannica states, “Hugh’s somewhat innovative style of exegesis [including literal interpretation of Genesis] made an important contribution to the development of natural theology: he based his arguments for God’s existence on external and internal experience and added a teleological proof originating from the facts of experience. ... Unlike some of his contemporaries, Hugh upheld secular learning by promoting knowledge as an introduction to contemplative life.”

In closing, let Hugh of St. Victor speak for himself from nine centuries ago:

Now there are two things which restore the divine likeness in man, namely the contemplation of truth and the practice of virtue.  For man resembles God in being wise and just — though, to be sure, man is but changeably so while God stands changelessly both wise and just.  Of those actions which minister to the necessity of this life, there are three types: first, those which take care of the feeding of nature; second, those which fortify against harms which might possibly come from without; and third, those which provide remedy for harms already besieging us.  When, moreover, we strive after the restoration of our nature, we perform a divine action, but when we provide the necessaries required by our infirm part, a human action.  The former type, since it derives from above, we may not unfittingly call “understanding” (intelligentia); the latter, since it derives from below and requires, as it were, a certain practical counsel, “knowledge” (scientia).


*Dan Graves looks even earlier.  He describes John Philoponus, an Alexandrian Christian scholar (late sixth century), an early critic of Aristotle, as exemplifying these same principles of Christian natural philosophy.  It is unlikely he was alone in his views.  And according to Graves (Scientists of Faith, pp. 15-17), Philoponus knew prominent early Muslims in Alexandria, and may have influenced their science with his insistence on the transcendence of God (as opposed to pantheism) and natural law (as opposed to constant intervention by God). Perhaps the Islamic scientists were indebted to Christian thought more than is commonly assumed.

**Jerome Taylor, in his introduction to the Didascalicon, claims that Hugh believed in “the spiritual perfectability of man—a concern which dominates the whole of his theology” (p. 13), but this appears to be a distortion.  In Book Six, Hugh clearly expresses the need for repentance and grace (p. 139).  The pursuit of wisdom, knowledge and virtue is wholly in accord with New Testament teaching for the redeemed.  The apostle Paul pressed toward the mark for the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:14).  Perfection may be unattainable, but that does not devalue the pursuit of it.  In the words of a locker room poster, “Reach for the stars.  If you don’t make it, you’ll land pretty high anyway.”

For more information on 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).