Creation-Evolution Headlines
October 2003
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Flight is difficult to achieve, hardly the type of thing that one would expect to develop from chance.  Successful flight requires great attention to detail of structure, propulsion, aerodynamic surfaces, structural dynamics, and stability and control.  In 2003 we will reach only the 100th anniversary of flight by humankind.  Do we really think we are so smart and so advanced that we cannot reflect upon and give credit to the Intelligent Designer of earliest flight?
– Malcolm A. Cutchins, aerospace engineer, On the Seventh Day: Forty scientists and academics explain why they believe in God, ed. John F. Ashton (Master Books, 2002) p. 84.
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Evolve or Choke  10/31/2003
Scientists have a new theory on why birds evolved from dinosaurs, according to
EurekAlert: oxygen was low, so they had to evolve bird lungs.  Peter Ward (of Rare Earth fame: see Jan 14 headline), teamed up with U. of Washington paleontologists to surmise that twice in the past, 275 million and 175 million years ago, oxygen levels sank and temperatures rose to make it hard to breathe.  At sea level, it would have felt like high altitude.  This contributed to the Permian extinction, they think, causing the extinction of 90% of living species, and may have contributed to the Triassic-Jurassic extinction, too.
    Part of the motivation for the new idea is the supposition that the extinctions were drawn-out events, not sudden happenings that might have been explainable by an asteroid impact.  Ward hypothesizes that large sauropods had breathing apparatus that was unhindered by the low oxygen levels, whereas mammal-like reptiles and true mammals were “hit particularly hard.”  Those who evolved survived; those who didn’t, choked and croaked:
In addition, Peter Ward, a UW professor of biology and Earth and space sciences, believes the conditions spurred the development [sic] of an unusual breathing system in some dinosaurs, a group called Saurischian dinosaurs that includes the gigantic brontosaurus.  Rather than having a diaphragm to force air in and out of lungs, the Saurischians had lungs attached to a series of thin-walled air sacs that appear to have functioned something like bellows to move air through the body.
    Ward, working with UW biologist Raymond Huey and UW radiologist Kevin Conley, believes that breathing system, still found in today’s birds, made the Saurischian dinosaurs better equipped than mammals to survive the harsh conditions in which oxygen content of air at the Earth’s surface was only about half of today’s 21 percent.
    “The literature always said that the reason birds had sacs was so they could breathe when they fly.  But I don’t know of any brontosaurus that could fly,” Ward said.  “However, when we considered that birds fly at altitudes where oxygen is significantly lower, we finally put it all together with the fact [sic] that the oxygen level at the surface was [sic] only 10 percent to 11 percent at the time the dinosaurs evolved.” [sic]
  (Emphasis added.)
So in other words, “The reason the birds developed these systems is that they arose [sic] from dinosaurs halfway through the Jurassic Period.  They are [sic] how the dinosaurs survived,” Ward said.  The team seems to accept the hypothesis that later, at the Triassic extinction 65 million years ago, an asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs, but spared the birds and mammals.
If you took all the best evidence that evolutionists could muster for their theory that humans evolved from bacteria and filtered it through the rigorous demands of science (i.e., that the evidence must be observable, testable and repeatable), would anything be left?  Look at this magical, mystical tale.  They have no way of knowing what oxygen levels were back when.  They have no way of knowing what caused the extinctions, or of dating them back there in unobservable zillions of past years.  The only thing that is observable is that we have mammals and birds alive today, and dinosaur bones in the rocks.  From this, they weave a fantastical story that low oxygen levels somehow created exquisitely-designed lungs that allow birds to soar above the mountains.  Thank goodness there were not flying brontosaurs.
    Did you catch the miracle word in the story?  birds arose from dinosaurs.  This is like the words emerged and formed.  How this miracle happened is never stated.  Who did the miracle is left unstated also.  Who raised the birds?  Who formed the lungs?  Who caused the new information to emerge against the downward pressures of entropy?  Just believe.  Apparently the birds thought up all this technology themselves without help.
    It is a foolish supposition to presume that stress breeds technology.  Maybe it is an anthropomorphism.  We know that it happens in human societies (necessity is the mother of invention, after all), but invention requires intelligent design.  If you want to talk about repeatable science, do some laboratory work.  There, you will discover that every bird, mammal or lizard subjected to stress doesn’t evolve new technology.  It dies.
Next headline on: Darwinism and evolutionary theory. • Next headline on: Dinosaurs. • Next headline on: Birds. • Next dumb story.
At Last: Evolution Found  10/31/2003
Any article with a title like this has to cause a reader to stand up and take notice: “Scientists find evolution of life.”  Unless it’s just a Halloween prank, that’s how
EurekAlert announced their summary of work by scientists from UC Riverside and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, as published in the Oct. 31 issue of Science.
    Ridgwell, Kennedy and Caldeira “discovered [sic] that the increased stability in modern climate may be due in part to the evolution of marine plankton living in the open ocean with shells and skeletal material made out of calcium carbonate,” the news item states (emphasis added in all quotes).  “They conclude that these marine organisms helped prevent the ice ages of the past few hundred thousand years from turning into a severe global deep freeze.”
    The idea is that without the buffering effect of these shells, “the oceans would suck the greenhouse gas -- carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere -- making the Earth colder, promoting an even deeper ice age.”  This is presumably what happened in the Precambrian, when (as some contend) runaway glaciation produced a “Snowball Earth.”  Once shelled plankton evolved, however, they were able to buffer the planet from such catastrophes.  The report does not specify how these calcium carbonate shells evolved or emerged from precursors that did not have them (see Sept. 22 headline).  Nevertheless, the emergence of shelled plankton might have helped additionally when we humans were first coming along: “The most recent ice ages were mild enough to allow and possibly even promote the evolution of modern humans,” Caldeira said.  “Without these tiny marine organisms, the ice sheets may have grown to cover the earth, like in the snowball glaciations of the ancient past, and our ancestors might not have survived.”
Ahem, we’re waiting.  We see a story, based on a lot of suppositions, but we were expecting an earth-shaking announcement that evidence for the evolution of life has been found.  We have been waiting in line for a long time.  Thank you for the sidewalk entertainment, but please: cough up the evidence promised, or we want our money back.  We might even sue you for bait and switch.
    New Scientist was a little more fair in their reporting, using words like suggest, think and believe in stating the opinions of the researchers.  They also gave another scientist a chance to lob a soft-petal criticism: “It’s an intriguing idea, but it will certainly be contentious,” said David Archer of U. of Chicago.  He points out the limited nature of the paper, noting that plankton’s ability to regulate carbon has been known for a long time.  “What’s new here is the idea that having calcium carbonate deposition in the deep sea makes the system more stable than it would be with only shallow water deposition,” he claims.  Funny that no one sees this as a mark of design or plan.
Next headline on: Geology. • Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
Cave Deposits Reveal Million-Year Record of Evolution  10/30/2003
From deep in a Colorado cave comes a tale of owls, packrats and fossil teeth, recounted in
UC Berkeley News.  Tony Barnosky (paleobiologist at UC Berkeley) and colleagues have been mapping layers of deposits from Porcupine Cave that they claim tell a remarkable evolutionary story covering a million years.
    The story begins with owls swooping down on sagebrush voles (small, gopher-like animals), devouring them, then later coughing up pellets containing fur, bones and teeth.  These pellets are then picked up by packrats and stored in their nests.  Barnosky claims that packrats had been doing this at Porcupine Cave for 400,000 years, leaving a layered record in which changes to bones and teeth can be examined.
    The team has been studying this cave since 1985.  They have examined over 200 teeth from the cave and compared them with 363 modern specimens.  They found slight changes in the teeth of the voles, which they attribute to climate changes assumed to have taken place 800,000 years ago.  Since the time interval represents only “a small part of the typical 1.5-million-year life span of a mammalian species,” however, he admits that all the voles in the deposits represent one species.  Moreover, “the sagebrush vole today is probably the same species as that of 800,000 years ago,” he confesses, although he believes changes in the teeth “clearly” indicate the vole is evolving to adapt to more arid conditions.
    The tooth changes primarily involve triangular patterns on molars that presumably provide more cutting surface area that would not grind down as quickly.  Early voles had four of these molar triangles, whereas modern ones have five, six, or even seven.  He believes he sees a gradation period during which interbreeding was common, leading to a time when more molar triangles gradually predominated.
    The cave deposits do not include any precursors to the sagebrush vole.  “Because fossils of the sagebrush vole are not found before the species appears full blown in Porcupine Cave, Barnosky thinks that the sagebrush vole had only recently evolved,” the article states (emphasis added).
    Barnosky’s team’s paper is published in the Oct. 21 Royal Society Proceedings B and will be the subject of a book to be published next year.  The research was funded in part by the National Science Foundation.
This story is so weak as to be hilarious.  Here it is touted as a “million year record of evolution, but for all that assumed time, what happened?  Slight changes to tiny surface areas on teeth within one species.  Is this all evolutionists can come up with?  If the lifetime of a mammalian species is supposed to be 1.5 million years (pray tell, how is this calibrated?), then there should have been considerably more evolution in this little mammal than adding one or two molar triangles.  It would not be surprising if more variation in teeth were found between living voles than that identified from these fossil deposits.  Where is the evolution?  An unbiased evaluator of this story would expect much, much more evidence than tiny changes in tooth shape.
    This story only makes evolutionary sense to one who is already a dogmatic evolutionist.  The method of dating the deposits is not given.  The story rests not only on that evolutionary assumption, but on another controversial story about climate changes being driven by Milankovich cycles (slight changes in Earth’s orbit).  Barnosky assumes that more molar triangles are better for hot, arid environments.  Has he done his homework and calculated the fitness benefit?  Has he asked the modern voles if they are better off than their deprived ancestors?
    Science reporters seem to think this meager evidence gives a scientist credibility as a soothsayer.  Notice this “expert” testimony, with its political overtones, that is nowhere challenged by the reporter: “It’s likely that speciation takes place over a longer time interval than extinction.  So, climate changes like the global warming we are seeing today are probably happening too fast to cause anything but extinction.”  Better get the students to write their Congresspersons.
    This is a prime example of how evolutionary storytelling consists of tiny gopher-tooth size particles of observable data held together with ample supplies of philosophical mud.  Surely evolutionists can do better than this if they expect the world to accept their molecules-to-man philosophy as being empirically based.
Next headline on: Mammals. • Next headline on: Fossils. • Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
Textbook Publishers Fix Errors About Evolution (Partially)  10/30/2003
It appears that the
Discovery Institute’s campaign to get textbook publishers to clean up their act in presentations of Darwinian evolution have met with partial success (see July 25 headline).  According to their press release 10/30/2003, at least 10 corrections have been made (see their background document), but significant problems still remain.  Now the textbooks contradict each other, and quite a few other factual errors are still in print.
Discovery’s documents make for good reading and are self explanatory.  It is inexcusable for textbook writers to continue to propagate fallacious notions, such as the myth that human embryos have gill slits or that Haeckel’s embryos demonstrate evolutionary ancestry.  Just setting the record straight would go a long way toward bringing creation-evolution confrontations between parents, educators and politicians into the sphere of rational discussion.  It wastes a lot of time having to undo the miseducation and misinformation implanted in people’s heads from their high school biology classes.  If adults of high schoolers, supporters of the NCSE and ACLU, and school board members really understood how much of their faith in Darwinian evolution was built on false and irrelevant claims, they would probably act more rationally at school board meetings.
Next headline on: Schools.
Pterosaurs Had Advanced Aerobatics and Guidance Technologies  10/29/2003
Not clumsy, awkward gliders were they.  Pterosaurs were masters at detecting fish under the water and swooping in efficiently for the catch.  This from detailed computer modeling of the brains and ears of pterosaurs from analysis of their skulls, performed by Witmer et al. of Ohio University published in the Oct. 30 issue of Nature1 (see reports on
EurekAlert, National Geographic News and New Scientist, and News and Views summary in the same issue of Nature by David Unwin2).  The team used X-ray tomography to infer that the flying reptiles had exceptional guidance and control systems that “probably allowed them to perform complex aerobatic manoeuvres while keeping their gaze firmly centred on their prey.” says New ScientistEurekAlert adds, “they found key structures to be specialized and enlarged, a discovery that could revise views of how vision, flight, and the brain itself evolved.”
1Witmer et al., “Neuroanatomy of flying reptiles and implications for flight, posture and behaviour,” Nature 425, 950 - 953 (30 October 2003); doi:10.1038/nature02048.
2David M. Unwin, “Paleontology: Smart-winged pterosaurs,” Nature 425, 910 - 911 (30 October 2003); doi:10.1038/425910b.
What does this have to do with evolution?  EurekAlert, an arm of the National Science Foundation (NSF), feels compelled to throw in an evolutionary mythoid built on futureware.  These scientists found already existing advanced technology in extinct creatures.  No gradual chain of transitions leading up to an animal that could fly, home in on a target, maneuver and dive has been found.  National Geographic dreams that pterosaurs “were the first of only three vertebrates to evolve [sic] flight.  Birds, close cousins [sic] of pterodactyls, are believed to have evolved [sic] from theropod dinosaurs about 150 million years [sic] ago.  Bats are mammals thought to have evolved [sic] from shrew-like creatures about 50 million years [sic] ago.” (Emphasis added.)  It’s time scientists and their toady reporters stop mentally placing these spectacularly designed animals into imaginary evolutionary trees, and just admire their awesome capabilities.  The discovery “could revise views of how vision, flight, and the brain itself evolve,” all right, if and only if “revise” means “overthrow.”
Next headline on: Dinosaurs.
Fruit Helps Prevent Skin Cancer  10/29/2003
According to several studies summarized on
EurekAlert, “Fruits offer powerful protection against skin cancer.”  Citrus fruits, grapes, cherries, mint and pomegranates are some of the fruits mentioned in the studies as sources of effective anticancer agents.
Hmmm...Adam and Eve ate a lot of fruit...hmmm...Adam and Eve did a lot of sunbathing...Hmmm...
Next headline on: Health
Scientists Argue Over Age of Deep Sea Vents  10/28/2003
Both
BBC News and Nature Science Update report that geologists are arguing about the age of rocks around deep sea vents.  The common idea since the 1980s is that they date back billions of years, but newer findings suggest just thousands.  The disputes revolve around greenstones and ironstones and stalactites that the young-age camp says could not have survived for so long.  Some other difficulties of the old age are noted by NSU:
Paul Knauth used de Ronde’s estimated age for the pods [3.5 billion years] to calculate the salinity of the ancient ocean.  He now believes that he was wrong.  “Quite a few people - including me - have been burned by this,” says Knauth, who works at Arizona State University in Tempe.  Other researchers have drawn similar conclusions about the sea’s depth, temperature and chemical makeup.
Knauth said “I was flabbergasted” when shown evidence by Lowe and Byerly, who argue for an age of 100,000 years.  “It’s obvious if you look at these things that they’re very recent,” he said.  The de Ronde party claims hematite could only have originated at temperatures of several hundred degrees (hotter than today’s vents), and that delicate features in South African greenstones, thought to be remnants of early deep sea vents, could not have survived mineral replacement scenarios postulated by the opponents.
    Debate also centers on the contribution by deep sea vents of ocean minerals and salts.  But there seems to be another motivation for keeping the old date: maintaining the role of deep sea vents in the origin of life.  Martin Brasier (U. of Oxford) stated emphatically, “There’s a very strong connection between the signature of life on the early Earth and hydrothermal processes.  This isn’t going to break the paradigm.”
Brasier may be emphatic primarily because chemical evolutionists have been pushed into a corner with fewer and fewer options, since the heyday of Miller and Urey in the 1950s.  With the old primordial soup myth pretty much defunct, and panspermia too far fetched for most scientists, deep sea vents provided promising incubators for life, some believed.  No way are they going to let anyone take these venues away, too.
    It must be admitted that a young date for some vents does not rule out old dates for others.  But it is noteworthy that scientists can disagree by many orders of magnitude on the age of an object.  Old ages are not intuitively obvious from surface characteristics, unless old ages are a priori the default preference in one’s intuition.  Does anyone want to gamble on the validity of the newer guess of 100,000 years?  We observe active deep sea vents today, and apparent remnants of old vents with no dates on them.  It is reasonable to measure growth rates of existing vents, but there is a logical fallacy called extrapolation.  Some geologists seem to forget this.
    NSU does not provide detail about Knauth’s admission that the old date led to incorrect conclusions about the salinity of the ocean.  Presumably this means that if the vents were sources of salt, and if they were 3.5 billion years old, the oceans would have been impossibly salty by now.  If so, this provides implicit corroboration of work by creation scientists (see, for instance, Humphreys and Austin cited by Sarfati) that demonstrates the salinity of the oceans puts an upper limit on their age.  Deep sea springs, incidentally, were mentioned in the Bible long before modern oceanographers discovered them (see Austin article).
Next headline on: Origin of Life. • Next headline on: Dating Methods.
Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week  10/24/2003
Speaking of biotherapy (see next headline), John Church said, “It’s a highly sophisticated natural means of achieving certain ends.  Nature’s been doing research and development on this for 300 million years.  All we’ve got to do is cash in on that fact.”
Source:
National Geographic News.
Next dumb story.

Biotherapy: Pour in the Happy, Hungry Maggots    10/24/2003
If you are not the squeamish type, you might get a Halloween chill out of a
National Geographic News story about maggot medicine.  Maggots are coming back into vogue as doctor’s assistants.  They eat away gangrene and compete with bacteria, leaving wounds clean and free of infection.  John Church, a proponent, says there is an art to it.  “You must have a happy, hungry maggot or you will get no results,” he cautions.  “The environment on the wound must be what they would naturally seek out in nature.”
    Dr. Edgar Maeyens deprecates himself as just the assistant to the real surgeons – the maggots: “I’m just a supporting actor here,” he says.  “The maggots are marvelous.”  They love scavenging dead tissue.  They dive right into the dirty work and leave a clean scene in just 72 hours or less.  There’s truth to the old battlefield remedy after all.  For patients with severe infections, untreatable because of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, maggots provide a promising alternative procedure (if the patient can stand that tingly sensation).

Add this to the column, “Things considered pests, vermin, nasty and ugly today might have originally had beneficial purposes.”  (See also March 14 headline).  Other examples of biotherapeutic agents being studied include leeches and bees.
Next headline on: Health. • Next headline on: Bugs and Crawlers. • Next amazing story.
Baloney Detecting Exercise  10/24/2003
Jack Szostak at
Howard Hughes Medical Institute claims to have a “proof-of-principle that growth and division is possible in a purely physical-chemical system.”  Though he cautions, “We are not claiming that this is how life started,” he does say, “we have demonstrated growth and division without any biochemical machinery.”
    Your assignment is to apply the Baloney Detector to this article.  You are permitted to view the film Unlocking the Mystery of Life, and access the past three years of chain links on Origin of Life for supporting material.
Ready, begin...
Next headline on: Origin of Life.

Cosmology: Greater Wall Discovered    10/24/2003
A Great Wall of galaxy clusters, 80% bigger than the one found by Geller and Huchra in 1989, has been uncovered by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, reports
Nature Science Update.  Back then, the first Great Wall was considered a challenge for big bang theorists, because of the so-called “lumpiness problem” – how could a smooth beginning lead to such large-scale structure?  Since then, they have concluded the observations were within the constraints of the theory.
  This new structure is 1.3 billion light-years long, 600 million light-years longer than the earlier one.  Cosmologists are cautiously optimistic that the new, bigger Sloan Great Wall will not sound the death knell for their theories, even though “its size comes as a surprise to astrophysicists.”

The theory must survive at all costs.  No observation may be considered valid unless it has been first confirmed by theory.
Next headline on: Cosmology.
Gene Evolution: A Classic Case Revisited    10/24/2003
Evolutionists lately have leaned heavily on gene duplication as a source of functional novelty.  As the story goes, after a gene duplicates, one continues functioning, and the other is free to mutate and evolve.  The evolution of the copy (paralog) might involve neofunctionalization (acquisition of a new function) or subfunctionalization (splitting up of functions, like a semitrailer truck dividing into a smaller truck and a storage bin; see also
12/16/02 headline).  Are there examples in nature?
    A prototypical example has been the Xdh gene that codes for xanthine hydrogenase (XDH).   This enzyme exists in all life forms, but has a paralog Ao in eukaryotes that codes of aldehyde oxygenase (AOX), and another in vertebrates (AOX') that, surprisingly, is more similar to Xdh than to the Ao in invertebrates; additionally, it is lacking in a protochordate assumed to be an ancestor of vertebrates.  This indicates to the authors of a paper by Francisco Ayala and colleagues in PNAS1 that the gene duplicated twice and evolved toward convergent functions.  Other than that “unexpected feature,” all three enzymes share similar sequences and differ only in their electron receptors and substrates.  The authors feel, therefore, that they have demonstrated evidence for positive Darwinian selection (neofunctionalization):
In mammals, XDH interconverts with an oxidase form [xanthine oxidase (XO)], which, like AOX, uses dioxygen as the final electron acceptor.  Interconversion is caused by dislocation of the active-site loop, a stretch of several consecutive amino acid residues (Gln 423-Lys 433, in bovine XDH) that surrounds the FAD cofactor.  AOX and XDH can easily be aligned along their entire lengths.  This, jointly with the fact that Xdh is ubiquitous in the tree of life, whereas Ao is circumscribed to, but pervasive through multicellular eukaryotes, indicates that Ao evolved from a eukaryotic copy of Xdh some time before the origin of multicellularity.
In their analysis, they find that both AOX and AOX', though separately evolved, seemed to converge on similar structural pockets for their substrates.  This argues that positive selection for function was active, not just neutral mutational drift.
1Rodriguez-Trelles, Tarrio, and Ayala, “Convergent neofunctionalization by positive Darwinian selection after ancient recurrent duplications of the xanthine dehydrogenase gene,” Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 10.1073/pnas.1835646100, Published online before print October 23, 2003.
Whenever we see a title hinting that positive Darwinian selection for a new function has been demonstrated, we get excited, because maybe now this theory that has taken over the world will finally exhibit some empirical evidence.  But what have we here?  All they have shown are three enzymes that look similar, but operate on different substrates.  Two of them operate on the same substrate but have slightly different structures.  To make their story work, they have to invoke the miracle of convergent evolution acting on two separate gene duplications.
    One would think it would be a better Darwinian story to see all three of these enzymes arranged in a clear line of descent, but here is what happened, according to their story.  (1) Bacteria already possessed an advanced, complex, molecular machine (XDH), a key enzyme in the catabolism of purines, and the gene that codes for it (Xdh), possessing more than 1330 nucleotide letters.  (No ancestor of this advanced, multipart machine2 is proposed.)  (2) The Xdh gene duplicated, and then rapid positive selection turned it into an aldehyde oxidase, AOX.  AOX lived on in the invertebrates.  (3) A protochordate lost AOX, and evolved into vertebrates.  (4) Sometime before the evolution of ray-finned fishes, Xdh duplicated again, and the second paralog evolved into AOX' by convergent evolution, and lives on in all the vertebrates and mammals.  (5) Once the new function was found, the rapid evolution of both paralogs ceased, perhaps because of the constraints of “purifying selection.”
    If this is the best the evolutionists can come up with, it appears weak indeed.  How many billions of similar episodes of positive selection must have had to occur, simultaneously, for a bacterium to evolve into a fish?  If positive selection is so necessary for so many things, should it not be abundantly obvious everywhere?  Yet they admit that it must be rare:
The chances for a paralog to evolve a new function are small when compared with the fraction of duplicates that become silenced by degenerative mutations.  If duplications eventually become a significant molecular source for evolutionary novelty, it is because they occur at a very high rate: on average, one per gene per 100 million years, estimated from eukaryote genomic surveys, which is comparable to the rate of mutation per nucleotide site in nuclear genomes of vertebrates.
(Emphasis added in all quotes.)  So they admit right in the introduction that only one duplication per gene can be expected each 100 million years, and that degenerative mutations are more likely to silence them.  Is this really a high rate?  No, compared to what is needed, and even then, unless it survives all the error-correcting mechanisms in the cell and finds a way to get propagated in the gametes and spread throughout the population, it’s the end of the line – gotta wait another 100 million for your lucky lottery ticket.  They also admit that of any changes in function that do occur in the paralogous copy, they are more likely to be due to subfunctionalization than neofunctionalization:
Theoretical results suggest that subfunctionalization should be a more common outcome of duplication than neofunctionalization under plausible conditions, specifically when subfunctionalizing mutations greatly outnumber neofunctionalizing mutations and the selective advantage of the neofunctional alleles is small.  However, little is known about the relative importance of each evolutionary outcome from real data.
Review question, class: how much is known from real data about the evolutionary outcomes of gene duplications?
    Another problem.  Even after a gene duplication, finding a new function by positive Darwinian selection is hard to differentiate from the “Dykhuizen-Hartl effect model,” which theorizes that “functional divergence occurs by random fixation of neutral mutations under relaxed purifying selection owing to reduced functional constraints of redundant genes.  These fixed mutations can be complementary loss-of-subfunction mutations or mutations that later induce a change in gene function when the environment or the genetic background is altered.”
    If your eyes have not yet glazed over from all this evolutionary mumbo-jumbo, it basically admits that (1) Theoretical evidence for positive Darwinian selection, the thing that made Charlie famous and turns bacteria into blue whales (given enough time), is hard to discern from other factors, and (2) We don’t have any good examples from real data except maybe for this AOX story.
    One would think evolutionists would be in crisis mode.  They need trillions of examples of positive Darwinian selection, and all they came up with in this paper is one, and it looks pretty weak.  To make the story work, they need two duplications, a loss, and convergence, which is like winning two lottery tickets in a row.
    Try to look at the data objectively, and all one can say is that (1) all organisms have (and use) an enzyme for purine catalysis, (2) invertebrates have (and use) an enzyme for aldehyde oxidation; (3) vertebrates have (and use) a different enzyme for aldehyde oxidation; (4) these three enzymes contain extensive structural and sequence similarities.  Does this prove common ancestry?  You probably have a large flat-headed screwdriver in your garage, and a large Phillips screwdriver as well.  These share extensive sequence similarities, but act on different substrates.  Really gifted craftsmen usually have extensive sets of very similar tools, all of which were skillfully designed.
   All of us have probably heard Perry Mason cases that appeared open and shut at first glance, only to have a surprise ending opposite what was assumed.  Solomon said, “The first to present his case appears just, until another comes and examines him”  The authors of this paper are like lawyers arguing that the defendants, (all living things), are guilty of evolving by positive Darwinian selection.  They have amassed circumstantial evidence on one scenario, involving two or three facts that might be related, but have called no eyewitnesses.  (Prov. 18:17).  They spent all their time presenting technical details on one putative example of positive selection.  The defense attorney tried a different tactic.  He brought out a slide projector.  He showed picture after picture of living things: a peacock, a water strider, a sponge, a bat, a dolphin, a conch shell, a monarch butterfly, a dog, a frog, a froghopper, a giant redwood, a gymnast, and much, much more.  After about a thousand slides, he remarked, “The prosecutors have explained their scenario, based on a hunch about a slight possibility of a hypothesis that two molecules in these organisms might, just might, have presumably arisen by an unguided, purposeless, process called Darwinian selection.  Do you feel his mechanism was plausible enough, and sufficiently productive, to lead to all these?”
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory. • Next headline on: Genes and DNA.

2Ao and Xdh encode two large (generally, ~1,330 codons), structurally complex oxidoreductases (AOX and XDH, respectively) of the xanthine oxidase family of molybdo-flavoenzymes.  AOX and XDH are homodimers with a molecular mass of ~290 kDa, with each monomer acting independently in catalysis.  Each monomer comprises three consecutive domains linked by short interdomains: one ~20-kDa N-terminal domain that contains two distinct iron sulfur redox centers (2FeS), an ~40-kDa flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD)-binding domain, and an ~85-kDa C-terminal molybdo-pterin (Mo-pt)-binding domain, also containing the substrate binding sites.  XDH has long been recognized as the key enzyme in the catabolism of purines, oxidizing hypoxanthine into xanthine, and xanthine into uric acid.”
News from Nature    10/23/2003
The Oct 23 issue of Nature has a number of tidbits of interest:
  • Maxwell:  John Maddox gives a favorable review to Basil Mahon’s new book, The Man Who Changed Everything: The Life of James Clerk Maxwell (Wiley, 2003).  Maddox agrees the 19th-century physicist was “Outstanding in his field,” and that his work was at the foundation of the modern world, but mentions nothing of Maxwell’s Christian faith.
    Read our online biography of Maxwell, one of the greatest scientists in history, a born-again Christian and creationist.
  • Von Braun:  Kristie Macrakis reviews John Cornwell’s book Hitler’s Scientists: Science, War and the Devil’s Pact (Viking, 2003).  In passing, she takes a brief swipe at Wernher von Braun: “His [Cornwell’s] lively account is also a damning indictment: many scientists come across as depraved, amoral nerds who were willing to serve any regime if they got paid for it.  Cornwell unearthed a quotation from Wernher von Braun, designer of the German V-2 ‘flying bomb’ who went on to direct NASA’s Apollo programme, illustrating that ‘he did not care if he worked for Uncle Joe or Uncle Sam: “All I really wanted was an uncle who was rich”.’”
    Context can make all the difference.  We are not given the entire quote here, or anything of where, when, to whom, and under what circumstances it was said.  How many of us have uttered hallway talk, half-jokingly, that if lifted and put into a different context, would be damning?  Both authors assume the worst.  Macrakis unfairly makes a snap judgment that this one quote implies von Braun was a “depraved, amoral nerd” only interested in money.  One reality of the situation is that von Braun’s team needed money, not for selfish indulgence, but for hardware to pursue the dream of space flight; that is why he went to the German army in the first place, because his rocket club had no resources for such an audacious dream.  Was this statement said early on, while von Braun was a “merry heathen” in his youth, before the atrocities of Hitler and Stalin became known?  Was it said under duress to SS officers who suspected von Braun had secret allegiances to the US?  Was von Braun impersonating the feelings of others, as a sarcastic remark?  Was it said at all?  How do we know the statement was not attributed to him by an enemy?  We are not told.  There are many ways quotations can be twisted or distorted to imply the exact opposite of their meanings or the true intentions of a person, or even if accurate, can represent early opinions later repudiated.  Read our biography and see if this dismissive characterization bears any resemblance to the historical record.  If von Braun were less than a man of integrity, would not the fruits of devious motives have surfaced during the subsequent 30 years?  If you wouldn’t want your entire life represented by one sentence lifted out of context, then reserve judgment till you hear the rest of the story.
  • Theistic Evolution:  Richard Lenski reviews Simon Conway Morris’s new book, Life's Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe (Cambridge, 2003).  Morris opposes the views of Stephen Jay Gould on the contingent nature of evolution, and proposes instead that humans were inevitable.  Lenski fails to see the difference, when they both agree contingent circumstances led to making Earth habitable.
    Atheistic evolutionists can tolerate theistic evolutionists, as long as God is a nebulous, distant personage uninvolved in the operation of the world.  What’s the difference?
  • Evolution By Niche Construction:  Laurnet Keller reviews a book by Smee, Laland and Feldman, Niche Construction: The Neglected Process in Evolution (Princeton, 2003).  This sect of Darwinists downplays natural selection, preferring another mechanism instead:
    All living creatures, through both their metabolism and their behaviour, actively change and control the world in which they live.  Organisms choose habitats and resources; they construct nests, holes, burrows, webs or pupal cases; and they modify the chemical environment in which they live.  These alterations, which occur at scales ranging from the extremely local to the global, inevitably modify some of the selection pressures acting on the organisms.  And it is precisely this – the effects of an organism on its own environment – that the authors believe to be the important component that has been neglected by the conventional theory of evolution.
    Keller thinks they go overboard: “But it is unfortunate that the authors attempt to oversell the significance of niche construction.  By advocating a grand, extended evolutionary theory, they distract readers from the more important message of the book, which is that the influence of organisms on their environment can have far-reaching consequences.”
    Poor Charlie is getting hit from all sides, while his fans keep trying to rescue his reputation.  (See Oct. 14 headline.)  Niche construction sounds like either Gaia or a convoluted form of circular reasoning.  Organisms evolve their niches, so that their niches can evolve them.
  • Mountain Building:  Simon Lamb and Paul Davis have a novel new theory of how the Andes rose to such heights: the climate did it.  In the same issue, Nicola Jones considers this surprising hypothesis.  The idea is that long periods of drought reduced the amount of sedimentary deposits that help lubricate the plate boundary.  This made the mountains jerk upward higher than others along the Pacific Rim.  Science Now examines it with the cautious opinion of a Cornell geologist: “it’s hard to get accurate chronologies for climate and mountain uplift and the correlations may not hold up as more data come in.”
    JSS is fair game in any phenomenon you cannot repeat.
  • Human Kindness:  Ernst Fehr and Urs Fischbacher have a Review Article entitled, “The Nature of Human Altruism.”  They admit at the outset, “Some of the most fundamental questions concerning our evolutionary origins, our social relations, and the organization of society are centred around issues of altruism and selfishness.  Experimental evidence indicates that human altruism is a powerful force and is unique in the animal world.”
        Since evolutionists haven’t been able to find the gene for altruism or a Darwinian mechanism that would make human self-sacrifice evolve, they conclude more work must be done: “Current gene-based evolutionary theories cannot explain important patterns of human altruism, pointing towards the importance of both theories of cultural evolution as well as gene-culture co-evolution.”
    Why are they so surprised that “Human societies represent a huge anomaly in the animal world”?  Why the head-scratching that altruism is exhibited by people from hunter-gatherers to nation-states?  Why the puzzlement over the observation that total strangers will often quickly become friends?  “If we randomly pick two human strangers from a modern society,” they say, “and give them the chance to engage in repeated anonymous exchanges in a laboratory experiment, there is a high probability that reciprocally altruistic behaviour will emerge spontaneously.”  Only an evolutionist would be surprised by this, because all they see, ultimately, are chemical reactions.  What they are missing is: it’s all about soul.
  • Advanced Tree-Building:  A team from Howard Hughes Medical Institute believes they have found the skeleton key to molecular phylogeny, and even Nature editor Henry Gee (“Evolution, Ending Incongruence”) is impressed.  In their paper, “Genome-scale approaches to resolving incongruence in molecular phylogenies”, they found that by concatenating 20 or so orthologous genes at random from six species of yeast, the conflicting phylogenetic trees converged onto one neat consensus tree, with 100% bootstrap confidence.  They feel this approach, now that we are getting more genome-wide data sets, will overcome some or all of the conflicts molecular phylogenists have been puzzling over for years.
    We’ll take a wait-and-see on this claim.  First of all, they only examined six related species of yeast from the same genus.  It’s likely even within a creationist model that these all diverged from an original yeast kind, so a clear relationship would be expected.  But they admit in several places that single-gene comparisons lead to radically different trees.  Furthermore, they have no clear explanation for why this would be so, or why the concatenated data set would eliminate the conflicts.  Better take a close look at the software they used, with its evolutionary-based algorithms like “maximum likelihood” (likely to whom?), “maximum parsimony” (who’s paying the bill?) and “majority rule consensus” (did the majority usurp power by underhanded means?).
  • Human Genome:  The Human Genome Project has fully analyzed human chromosome 6.  This chromosome, 166,880,988 base pairs long, comprises 6% of the entire genome.  They identified 1557 genes and 667 so-called pseudogenes.  Chromosome 6 has many genes involved in the immune system and transfer-RNA construction, and “genes directly implicated in cancer, schizophrenia, autoimmunity and many other diseases.”
Next headline on: Human Body. • Next headline on: Genes and DNA. • Next headline on: Politics, Ethics, History. • Next headline on: Geology. • Next headline on: Darwinism.
Ribosome Does Fast Forward Scanning 10/23/2003
Remember cassette players that allowed you to scan ahead to the next song?  Ribosomes in the cell are like tape readers that can translate one message, written in DNA, to another message, written in proteins.  The “tape” that the ribosome reads is a string of messenger RNA, freshly delivered from the DNA code in the nucleus by other molecular machines.  Once the tape is inserted into the ribosome, it reads the message and ties amino acids together to form a protein chain.  If you watched the film
Unlocking the Mystery of Life, you saw a computer animation of the process in slow motion.  Now it appears that the ribosome has a scan function.
    Scientists have known about a puzzling phenomenon that occasionally occurs within the ribosome.  For unknown reasons, the ribosome can disengage its reading head from the tape and fast-forward to another spot, then continue reading and translating at the next open reading frame (ORF).  This is called “translational bypassing.”  They know that this is signalled automatically by codes embedded in the messenger-RNA “tape”: a take-off code and a landing code, among others.  What they didn’t know is whether the reading head continues to scan the code while disengaged.  By analogy with cassette players, is it “fast forward” or “scan”?  Apparently, it’s the latter.
    A team of scientists at the University of Washington figured this out by rigging two landing codes into the tape.  They found that the ribosome always took the first one.  This can only mean that the ribosome is able to scan the message while disengaged and detect the presence of the landing site.  Their paper is published in the Oct. 23 online preprints of PNAS.1     Although it is still unclear why the ribosome would want to jump ahead on the recording, other researchers, like Raymond F. Gesteland, believe it is part of a “bag of tricks” the cell has to regulate gene expression or correct errors.
1Gallant et al., “Evidence that the bypassing ribosome travels through the coding gap,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.2233745100, Published online before print October 23, 2003.
There is so much more to learn about genes, proteins, and the processes that translate and regulate them.  So far, the more we know, the less plausible evolution appears.  Consider what must be true for scanning to occur.  Both the DNA and the ribosome have to understand the coding convention; i.e., which codon means stop, which codon means take-off, and which codon means landing.  There needs to be a clutch mechanism in the ribosome that can disengage the growing peptide chain and stop the influx of loaded transfer RNAs.  There needs to be processive scanning; the ribosome needs to be constantly reading and understanding the message, even when not translating it.  There needs to be a reliable way to re-engage the translation machinery at exactly the right nucleotide, and there needs to be a way to join the translated frames into a seamless product.
    All kinds of possibilities come to mind at what this might mean.  Undoubtedly this is linked to the way the code is spliced in the nucleus.  Perhaps all the shuffling of introns and exons by the spliceosome has the purpose of altering either the message itself, or the way the messenger RNA will be read by the ribosome, or both (see Sep. 3 headline).  The cell apparently has multiple methods of “recoding” a gene on the fly.  Maybe these embedded scan codes can trigger different outputs that head toward different exit doors and are treated differently by post-translational machines.  There might be regulators that can respond to feedback from within the cell, telling the ribosome “we don’t need that subroutine right now; skip over it and continue on the next one.”  If so, the big picture of gene translation is far more complex than at first realized (which was already far more complex than Darwin could have imagined).
    Man-made guidance and control software has to be able to handle contingencies.  The elegance of software is its ability to branch from one routine to another, depending on the input or the environment.  It appears that the cell is a master of routines.  It can rapidly generate the tools and machines it needs to survive, depending on changes in temperature, salinity, acidity, and a host of other dynamic situations.  In the rare instances when errors occur, there are numerous built-in error-correction routines and processes ready to handle them.
    At first, it appeared the ribosome was a simple, sequential-access mechanism like an old-fashioned tape recorder.  The “bag of tricks” that scientists are now exploring reveals a more sophisticated set of pre-programmed, random-access, dynamic routines, with feedback loops, error correction and repair mechanisms that make a modern DVD player look archaic.  Here’s where an intelligent design approach would be better for science.  Evolutionists have a habit of looking at newly-discovered phenomena as cobbled parts from previously thrown-together junk from our evolutionary past, not master-planned, but just “good enough” to get by.  This puts them in an embarrassing position when the reasons become known.  From an ID perspective, a biochemist could assume at the outset there must be a cause for each effect, like translational bypassing, that was programmed for a purpose.  Which scientist, do you think, would be more likely to get the right answer first?
Next headline on: The Cell. • Next headline on: Intelligent Design. • Next amazing story.
More on the Nobel Controversy 10/22/2003
(See
Oct. 10 headline.)
Fonar Corporation, the MRI scanner company founded by Dr. Raymond Damadian, has produced more documentation backing up their claim that the exclusion of Damadian from the 2003 Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology was “A shameful wrong that must be righted” –
  • A second New York Times full-page ad documents the fact that both winners were aware of Damadian’s discovery, and got their ideas from his 1971 paper.
  • The company issued a position paper on the controversy, and formed a “Friends of Raymond Damadian Committee” that is paying all costs for the ads.
  • A series of TV interviews with Dr. Damadian has been made available on Newsday.Com.  In five short video clips, Dr. Damadian calmly and matter-of-factly explains the controversy, the background of MRI discovery, and what could be done to correct the injustice of the Nobel decision.
Cone Snails: Masters of Venom    10/22/2003
Cone snails (genus Conus) are venomous molluscs living in the sea.  With 500 species, they comprise “arguably the most species-rich genus of living marine invertebrates,” say a team of biologists mostly from the University of Utah, writing in a Colloquium for the
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences1.  The beautiful shells of these animals, shaped somewhat like miniature Greek urns with spiral-shaped tops, decorated with elaborate mosaic patterns reminiscent of Moorish art (see this gallery), are prized by collectors and have won them admiring names like glory-of-the-sea and cloth-of-gold.  (For more on shells, see June 26 headline.)
    One wouldn’t think these little gems would be predators, but everythin’ gotta eat.  Depending on the species, cone snails prey on fish, worms, and other molluscs with a unique biological weapon: protein venom.  And what an arsenal they have: among the 500 species, biologists estimate they can produce 50,000 different venom peptides.  (Some can even kill a human – see this website – but some of the molecules also have potential medical uses.)  Most of these are short chains of amino acids less than 100 units long; some as short as 12 to 20.  These short polypeptides are produced, in turn, by enormous numbers of genes:
The analysis carried out on Conus venom peptides suggests that a majority of the estimated ~50,000 peptides are encoded by only ~12 conotoxin gene superfamilies.  These superfamilies have undergone rapid amplification and divergence, accompanying the parallel radiation and diversification of Conus species at a macroevolutionary [sic] level. ... Each major Conus peptide gene superfamily comprises thousands of genes, encoding different peptides.  This leads to the remarkable functional diversity seen among the ~50,000 different peptides.
These peptides “exert a powerful effect on some specific ion channel or receptor target” in their prey.  The sheer number of peptides these animals can manufacture is staggering.  The authors put it in perspective:
It is fair to say that the snails likely have evolved a greater diversity of ion channel-targeted pharmacological agents than even the largest of pharmaceutical companies (this diverse array includes peptides that are being developed for use as human pharmaceuticals).  These venom peptides have allowed different cone snail species to specialize on at least five different phyla of prey and defend themselves against a spectrum of predators that might be even more diverse.
Following this awe-inspiring introduction, the authors delve into the biochemical details of the venoms of just two species, and then make some generalizations about their putative evolution.
    Most proteins and enzymes are longer than 100 amino acid units, probably because they must be that long or longer to fold into functional three-dimensional structures.  The cone snail venom peptides, though much shorter, also need to fold in a precise way.  Their folds are held in place by disulfide bridges connecting cysteine residues.  These cross-links must be formed between the correct cysteine residues: something needs to guide the bridges to the correct attachment points.  This is the role of the PDI family of enzymes (protein disulfide isomerase).  After a venom is produced by the translation machinery in the ribosome, another enzyme (gamma-Glutamyl carboxylase) modifies certain glutamate residues into gamma-carboxyglutamate, which presumably also aids the folding process.  As the peptide is transferred from a reducing environment in the cytosol to an oxidizing environment in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), folding is enhanced by PDI in the presence of doubly-ionized calcium (Ca2+).  The gamma-carboxyglutamate residues, binding to the calcium, may serve as handles for the enzymes, orienting the cysteine residues in such a way that the PDI enzyme can associate them to form the correct disulfide bridges.  (The authors feel what they have observed may help elucidate the more general problem of protein folding.)  The final peptide is not activated until it is ejected from the venom duct, so that the venom does not jeopardize the cone snail itself.
    The authors speculate about the evolutionary relationships between cone shells, insects, humans, and the common ancestors of each.  Because gamma-Glutamyl carboxylase is a “highly conserved” enzyme, involved in everything from human blood clotting to Conus venom, they feel its role in protein folding was the ancestral function: “Such a folding mechanism for proteins may have been more generally important earlier in evolution, but it was probably largely supplanted later by other mechanisms for facilitating folding of larger polypeptides, such as specialized molecular chaperones.”
1Bulaj et al., “Colloquium: Efficient oxidative folding of conotoxins and the radiation of venomous cone snails,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.2335845100, published online before print Oct. 22, 2003.
These scientists did yeoman’s work with PCR and other lab techniques, but that does not qualify them as just-so storytellers.  Watch them launch into Storybook Land (emphasis added):
The role of Gla [gamma-carboxyglutamate] suggested above provides an attractive general mechanism for folding small polypeptides, perhaps even including the primordial [sic] proteins.  Based on structural work on signal recognition particle peptides, it was recently suggested that the first proteins evolved [sic] as membranes formed [sic], when RNA still dominated biochemistry [sic].  Specifically, the first functional polypeptide-like chains in incipient [sic] life forms were created [sic] to deal [sic] with a membrane surrounding the catalytic/informational [sic] RNA.  If this view is correct, then the possibility is raised that gamma-carboxyglutamate, with its capacity both for interacting with membranes and directing folding may have been present in the earliest functional polypeptides [sic], which were presumably much smaller than present-day proteins.  Once a Ca2+-free cytosol evolved [sic], however, a doubly negatively charged amino acid might become a liability [sic] for intracellular protein function, and in most taxa at the present time, gamma-carboxyglutamate is probably largely a relict amino acid in a few secreted proteins.  This modification remains prominent only in those present-day phylogenetic systems [sic] where more specialized uses have evolved [sic] (such as mammalian blood clotting and Conus venom peptides).
Notice how many wiggle words and evolutionary assumptions are embedded in this one paragraph.  They even twist the C word into evolutionary meaning: “life forms were created...” (in their worldview, the creator is time and chance).
    All such talk is pure speculation, not science.  They found no ancestry, no phylogeny, and no transitions.  They connected dots miles apart with inference.  Blood clotting, for example, is a tremendously complex system: so much so, that Michael Behe used it as a prime example of irreducible complexity in his book Darwin’s Black Box.  Chaperones are another hugely complex system (see May 5 headline).  With a wave of the hand, they just assume chaperones came along and took over the protein-folding job at some point in deep time.  They beg the question that the RNA World Scenario has any validity (see 07/11/2002 headline).  So cone shells use gamma-carboxyglutamate for venom peptides, and mammals use it for blood clotting.  Does that indicate a relationship?  Only if evolutionary JSS is in your blood.  (But evolutionary JSS cannot prevent theoretical hemophilia; the facts have a way of leaking out without stopping.)  Evolutionary JSS is the mystical, magical, extrasensory perception (also known as imagination), that visualizes miracles in the foggy past: “...the first proteins evolved as membranes formed [a synonym for their favorite miracle word emerged], when RNA still dominated biochemistry....”  This sentence demonstrates that evolutionism is a form of idolatry.  Evolutionists have deities, too; they are just slower and dumber.
    Evolutionists and creationists have the same facts available for study.  Neither could give a complete, satisfactory, authoritative explanation for why there are so many cone snail species, and so many varieties of venom peptides and the genes that code for them, because no human observer was there when they came into existence.  500 species does not seem excessive in view of the vastness of the sea, and the variety of habitats and niches available to them.  It is not beyond probability that extensive “horizontal” variation has generated much of the variety from a smaller set of original forms.  Even so, no one has observed a cone snail evolving into vertebrate or any other kind of animal.  All the ingredients in the cone snail – the venom ducts, the PDI enzymes, the endoplasmic reticulum, the geometric elegance of the shells, the developmental pathways, the gene superfamilies – are complex entities.  The parts all work, and they all work together.  Cone snails are successful in their habitats because they have what they need, and they need what they have.  That’s really all that science can say about it.  If evolutionists could just get off their hobby horse of connecting distant dots, both camps could agree.  They could both look at cone snails, and remark with astonishment, “Well, what do you know.”
Next headline on: Ocean Life. • Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
Minnesota Evaluates Science Standards    10/21/2003
Minnesota is another state considering changes to its science standards.  The
Discovery Institute praises the first draft of the standards for stating that “Students will be able to explain how scientific innovations and new evidence can challenge accepted theories and models, including cell theory, atomic theory, theory of evolution, plate tectonic theory, germ theory of disease, Big Bang theory.”
    There is room for improvement, however, writes Seth Cooper of the Institute: “benchmarks pertaining to neo-Darwinian evolution remain incomplete by failing to address the scientific controversy that exists surrounding the theory.”  Discovery Institute has supplied a proposal to correct shortcomings, in hopes of bringing the standards in line with the Santorum Amendment.  This is the official policy of Congress on the subject.  It was explained in the journal report as follows: “where topics are taught that may generate controversy (such as biological evolution), the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of scientific views that exist, why such topics may generate controversy, and how scientific discoveries can profoundly affect society.”
This debate is a propaganda magnet in school boards across the country.  It is generating vociferous arguments, often with more heat than light.  It is essential to be informed on the issues.  Cooper praises the Minnesota Commissioner of Education for pointing out that, in the standards, “nowhere does this language mention intelligent design or creationism.  Instead, it simply states the idea that children should understand that there is diversity of opinions and beliefs.”  Even if it mentioned either concept, the standards would remain constitutional, as long as scientific evidences alone, not religious arguments, are presented.
    The usual suspects trot out their favorite canard that this is all about “separation of church and state,” one of the most flexible smokescreens in US political debate.  Intelligent design is a scientific approach that is already commonly used in archaeology, forensics, cryptography and SETI.  Evolution is just as religious as any creation myth because it is not subject to observation or falsification.  Let students hear all the scientific evidence, and no parent, school board, Congressman or scientist will have anything to fear except the downfall of pet dogmas.
    For a timely look at this controversy, be sure to see the film Icons of Evolution.  The DVD version has a helpful section of questions and answers on the legal ramifications of “teaching the controversy” in the science class.  (Basically, there are none.  It’s already constitutional and encouraged by Congress.)
Next headline on: Schools. • Next headline on: Politics.
Guest Commentary 10/20/2003
This entry submitted by a reader demonstrates that our
Baloney Detector is proving helpful.
Re: “Sexual Identity Hard-Wired by Genetics, Study Says,” Reuters News Service
The headline claims to have found that sexuality (i.e. homosexuality or heterosexuality) is hardwired.  But when you actually look at the science all they found is that male and female mice’s brains are different.  One would think that this shocking “discovery” that males and females are physically different (not just in the most obvious ways) would lead to the opposite conclusion.  However, the implication here is that the brains of homosexuals are different from their straight counterparts in the same way as between the sexes.  However this is not what the study found at all, and the very real possibility is that it might well be the exact opposite.  Scientists have been earnestly trying to find some genetic justification for accepting homosexuality as natural, but to claim to have found this link when the facts couldn’t be further from the truth sounds pretty desperate.  In addition, I’m not sure finding some inherent difference would change the moral question any more than discovering why some people have an increased “natural” tendency toward violence, pedophilia, or cannibalism.  There was another story in the past that made a similar claim, but all they found was that lesbian women weren’t as easy to startle...hardly scientific proof of a genetic difference.
Good detection work.  (For a different interpretation, see World Net Daily’s report on this story.)  Whenever you hear an outrageous claim made in the name of science, hack away at the interpretation with an intellectual machete and get to the data (if any), buried in the midst of the thorny thicket of bluffing words, non-sequiturs and other fallacies.  Look at the raw data with a critical eye, then draw your own logical conclusion.
Next headline on: Politics and Ethics.

Homo erectus Was Fully Human    10/20/2003
Sometimes a scientific quest leads to adventure.  The cover story of
Science News1 for the week of Oct. 18 tells the seafaring tale of Robert G. Bednarik, who set out to prove that Asian populations of Homo erectus were the first sailors.  The reason?  Stone tools dated at 800,000 years (too old for Homo sapiens, but within the assumed age of H. erectus) have been found on Indonesian islands that presumably had no land bridges during the last million years.  He finds the usual explanation for this a stretch (emphasis added in all quotes):

If hardy teams of H. erectus reached Flores [an island off Bali] by sea, their mode of transportation remains unknown.  Some scientists suspect that small numbers of Stone Age folk accidentally [sic!] drifted as far as Flores after climbing onto thick mats of vegetation that sometimes form near the Southeast Asian coast.
    That speculation doesn’t float, contends Bednarik.  Only a craft propelled by its occupants could negotiate the treacherous straits separating one Indonesian island from the next.
So Bednarik and crew built a bamboo craft with stone tools and set out to sea.  The harrowing voyage, through tropical storms and 16-foot waves, was successful.  After paddling furiously 12 hours, and fixing broken masts and sails with their stone tools, they reached a nearby island, fatigued and dizzy, but alive.
    Bednarik is director of the International Institute of Replicative Archaeology in South Caulfield, Australia.  He has been bucking the current to show not only that Homo erectus was capable of building boats and navigating the open sea, but also possessed a culture, whose art and tools imply communication with spoken language and symbolic thought.  “Bednarik has no qualms about paddling against the academic mainstream,” Bruce Bowers reports.  “Over the past 30 years, he’s become a self-taught authority on Stone Age rock art.  He’s written hundreds of scientific articles and now edits three journals, all without having attended a university or earned an academic degree.”  Bowers compares him to Thor Heyerdahl, who upset the mainstream in 1947 with his theories of Polynesian island-hopping sailors.
    Some scientists are entertaining the possibility that Bednarik is right.  Others are skeptical and cling to the old story.  To these, Bednarik taunts, “Armchair archaeologists, who think that sea crossings are a piece of cake, really ought to try doing this on drifting vegetation.”  His next project is to sail to Sardinia from Greece, and across the Strait of Gibraltar, on cane rafts.  For more information, see the First Mariners Project website.
    On a related subject, the BBC News explores the controversy over artwork found in Italy alleged to be from H. erectus.  Mainstream scientists cannot believe pre-humans living 150,000 or more years ago were capable of art, and attribute the face-like structures to geological processes.  Then there is a figurine in Morocco claimed to be 400,000 years old.
1Bruce Bowers, “Erectus Ahoy: Prehistoric seafaring floats into view,” Science News Week of Oct. 18, 2003; Vol. 164, No. 16.
What a great story on courage to challenge the mainstream.  Both sides are still corrupted by the fallacious dating of alleged human ancestors, but at least Bednarik got out there and did some real experiments, even to the point of putting his life in danger.  Talk is cheap because the supply exceeds the demand.  Science is supposed to be about observation and experimentation, not mere talk.  It’s easy to spin a tall tale about floating on a mat of vegetation, but go try it sometime in 16-foot waves!
    Courage notwithstanding, Bednarik is enough of an evolutionist to spin his own just-so story to explain away the evidence:
He suspects that genetic and cultural evolution played out slowly [sic] among human ancestors over the past 2 million years [sic].  Groups that moved across Africa and Asia interbred to some extent and passed cultural innovations back and forth.  In this continental melting pot, a hazy biological boundary separated H. erectus from H. sapiens.  About 1 million years ago [sic], Stone Age Asians probably [sic] congregated near coasts, and their fishing rafts were eventually adapted for sea travel.  Remains of these shore inhabitants would have [sic] since become submerged and so are unavailable to archaeologists.
The story goes on, but at least Bednarik’s version flies in the face of the “out of Africa” myth popular among mainstream evolutionists.
  But think about it: if these individuals could speak in verbal language, with symbolic thoughts, and build boats and sail them, they were not primitive – they were human beings.  Only an evolutionary mindset puts these individuals into an ancestral lineage with apes:
Some scientists, however, don’t think any part of Bednarik’s theory holds water.  Stone Age folk 800,000 years ago didn’t make long-range plans, talk to one another, or form cultural groups, so they couldn’t have organized efforts to build rafts and row to islands, contends archaeologist Iain Davidson of the University of New England in Australia.
And why not?  Because they were too stupid, too unevolved, to have been capable of such technology.  That is an assumption, a belief: not a proof.  Where, Dr. Davidson, is your empirical evidence?  Bednarik at least has artwork and tools found on remote islands.  Implements can be relatively primitive without being sub-human.  To this day, naked Indians in the Amazon jungles subsist in grass huts with blow-gun darts, yet they are fully human, with language, culture and all the capabilities for abstract conceptual understanding.  If stones were the only thing available to make tools, you would have made stone tools, too.  Some people like the simple life.
    Once again, the actual fossils in the assumed ape-man ancestry fit either of two categories: clearly ape or clearly human.  It happened with Neanderthal and now it is happening with Homo erectus.
    Do you need a degree to impact the world of science?  It can help, but look at this example of an outsider.  Sometimes college credentials only steer otherwise bright minds into the mainstream.  It takes independence, critical thinking and courage to fight the current.  Those skills are not necessarily taught in the university.  Sometimes they are untaught!  As long as you do exemplary work that cannot be refuted, you can shake up the world of ivory tower eggheads.  Now if we can just get them to admit their dating methods also don’t float, we’ll be making real progress.  Meanwhile, shake hands with Brother Erectus.
Next headline on: Early Man.
Quick Cure for Some Genetic Diseases Planned    10/17/2003
Certain forms of muscular dystrophy and cystic fibrosis may soon be curable with a pill, says
New Scientist.  The pill helps the protein-building machinery read through the “stop code” in a defective gene so that an essential protein can be made.  Experimental tests with the drug, named PTC124, may begin on humans next year.
If it works, this will be wonderful news for many who suffer from these diseases.  The mechanism of the cure points out the specificity of the genetic code.  When the stop code is correctly located, the ribosome knows when the protein ends, and all is well.  If a premature stop code has been inserted in the gene by a mutation, protein construction is aborted, and the incomplete polypeptide is destined for destruction.  The new drug has a way to latch onto the stop code and prevent it from being interpreted as such.  It’s like putting a cover over a stop sign, or commenting out an extraneous EXIT directive in a computer script.
    Notice how damaging single mutations like this can be (see Oct. 1 headline on pleiotropic effects).  Sufferers of these genetic diseases are not surviving as the fittest.  They are not evolving into something more complex.  Complex life is sustainable only because a sophisticated factory of machines work against equilibrium to produce interacting, functional networks (see Sep. 29 headline).
    Throughout the uncountable zillions of copies of genes made daily throughout the living world, most mistakes are caught and corrected.  Occasionally, one slips through.  The results can be devastating.  Why mistakes are allowed to exist is a question for philosophers and theologians, but it is exciting to see that scientists, discerning the inner workings of the genetic code, are finding ways to bypass the errors and provide new hope for millions affected by them.
    Actually, every human is suffering under the mutational load accumulated through thousands of years of inheritance.  It is very probable that the first humans were much more fit (i.e., possessing error-free genomes).  Only presumption believes evolution is improving our fitness.  The evidence indicates we are devolving, because many harmful mutations are known, but there are no unequivocal examples of helpful mutations.
    By exercising good design science, we can apply our intelligence to help repair what errors our genetic mechanisms occasionally let slip, but we should be not proud: compared to the built-in manufacturing and proofreading processes in the cell, our techniques amount to little more than sticking a finger in a dike.
Next headline on: Genes and DNA. • Next headline on: Health.
Editorial  10/16/2003
Raymond Damadian’s campaign against the Nobel Committee (see
Oct. 10 headline) got prominent attention in the 10/16 issue of Nature.  See the update.
    Today, Science acknowledged the priority of Damadian but sided with the Nobel decision.  This is odd, considering Damadian’s paper was published in Science before Lauterbur’s was published in Nature.  Gretchen Vogel, author of the news article, quotes an MRI “expert” who claims Damadian’s idea “did not lead to today’s MRI.”  Yet the Fonar website lists a number of other expert witnesses, including the Supreme Court, who claim otherwise.
    For an undisclosed reason, “Damadian did not respond to Science’s requests for comment.”  Important people are often too busy to meet a publishing deadline.  Enough documentation, going back 30 years, is available to anyone who wishes to examine it.  One would certainly assume Damadian’s original 1971 paper in their own journal would suffice.
See also 10/22/03 update.

Titan’s Oceans and Other Saturnian Mysteries Await Cassini’s Probing Eyes    10/16/2003
Exclusive  Planetary scientists gathered at JPL for a quarterly meeting continued their planning for the upcoming arrival of
Project Cassini/Huygens at Saturn.  Thursday morning’s session included a pre-press announcement that lakes may have been discovered on Titan.  Steven J. Ostro displayed data collected from the Arecibo radio telescope, published later in the day in Science1.  Radar echoes from the surface of the distant atmosphere-shrouded moon give strong evidence of specular reflection at certain longitudes which could only come from very smooth surfaces, similar to the glint of sunlight, reflected off the oceans at visible wavelengths, seen from Earth orbit by Shuttle astronauts.
    If the interpretation fits, Titan may be the only other body in our solar system with a liquid surface.  Water, of course, would be frozen solid; instead, Titan may have lakes or oceans of liquid methane, ethane or nitrogen some 10 to 200 km wide.  (See also, in the same issue of Science2, Ralph Lorenz' commentary on the Arecibo findings.)
    Cassini’s ride-along partner, the Huygens Probe, will separate from the Cassini orbiter next year for a parachuted descent to Titan’s surface on January 14, 2005.  Jean-Pierre Lebreton, project scientist for Huygens, expressed excitement that the probe may land with a splash.


1Campbell, Black, Carter and Ostro, “Radar Evidence for Liquid Surfaces on Titan,” Science Vol. 302, Issue 5644, 431-434, October 17, 2003, 10.1126/science.1088969.
2Ralph Lorenz, “The Glitter of Distant Seas,” Science Vol. 302, Issue 5644, 403-404, October 17, 2003, 10.1126/science.1090464.
Earth-based instruments have done just about all they can do at this point to determine the nature of Titan’s mysterious surface.  It is one of the most bizarre locales in the solar system.  No other moon has a substantial atmosphere.  Titan has 10 times the nitrogen density of Earth, and 1.5 times the atmospheric pressure.  The Huygens probe will descend for over an hour through the atmosphere and then measure the surface with multiple instruments for about 30 minutes.  It is prepared to survive in solid or liquid.  The Cassini orbiter will supplement the adventurous Huygens mission by making over 44 near encounters with Titan, mapping the entire globe with visible, infrared, and radar instruments.
    Titan poses a severe challenge to scientists who believe it formed 4.6 billion years ago.  As discussed before here (see 01/17/2003 headline), its thick atmosphere should have long ago eroded away and collapsed.  Also, as reported this year (see April 25 headline), the thick deposits of hydrocarbons that should have accumulated for billions of years appear to be missing.  To maintain the long ages, planetary scientists have to hypothesize either that the atmosphere formed recently, or that there is a mechanism for recycling the methane “space blanket” that sustains the atmosphere.  Others suggest that outgassing replenishes the atmosphere and subduction removes the precipitated deposits.  It would be exceptional, however, if this small moon, so cold and far from the sun, had any such mechanisms; would these not also suggest the moon could not be as old as claimed?
    Titan is not the only Saturnian indicator of youth.  The rings, also, are considered young (geologically speaking) by all planetary scientists.  The Saturn system, in fact, is filled with puzzles.  Just before the dawn of the “approach science” phase, which begins in January, anticipation is growing at what might be discovered.  This reporter took the opportunity to chat with several Cassini scientists and ask them what they consider to be the biggest mysteries at Saturn.  They readily responded as if enjoying the question.  Saturn’s high winds, its magnetic field, the detail in the rings, the fresh-looking surface of Enceladus, and Titan’s atmosphere were quickly listed.  How do the ring spokes form?  Are they clouds of fine dust caused by impacting meteoroids?  If so, this is another evidence the rings are being eroded rapidly.  Are there embedded moons that can resupply the ring material?
    Saturn’s magnetic field is a puzzle.  Why is the magnetic field aligned with the rotational axis?  A German scientist working with the magnetometer team readily admitted that Saturn does not fit the convection-dynamo theory.  He said that the models prove there must be some deviation between the two axes for the dynamo model to work.  He also admitted that most of the magnetic fields in the solar system are still very puzzling, such as those at Ganymede (which should have none), Mercury (which should have none), Uranus (which is highly inclined and off center), and Neptune (ditto).
    An investigator working with the ultraviolet spectrometer, when asked if he wanted to make any predictions, wisely responded that we are going to Saturn in exploratory mode: i.e., we are just going to see what is there.  On that everyone can agree; nothing helps a model like data.  (Too bad evolutionary biologists have different rules, including Finagle’s).
    Like early explorers, Cassini is going to bring us unprecedented observations.  How appropriate on the 200th anniversary of Lewis and Clark to be exploring new terra incognita.  A whole generation has grown up since Pioneer 11 saw Saturn briefly in 1979, and the Voyagers in 1980 and 1981.  They passed through this wilderness, but Cassini is setting up camp and building a fort.  The nominal mission lasts into 2008, but an extended mission is likely.  The flood of new and better data is sure to astound scientists for years.  If history is any guide, the number of puzzles solved will be surpassed by new ones.  So good luck, Cassini!  All of us back on Earth are vicariously on board with you for the ride of a lifetime.
    Any news of interest will be reported here on Creation-Evolution Headlines as soon as available.
Next headline on: Solar System. • Next headline on: Dating Methods. • Next headline on: Physics. • Next headline on: Geology.
Life Found in the Genome Desert    10/16/2003
Southwestern deserts are often filled with living things, if you look closely enough.  Similarly, the “deserts” in the human genome, only sparsely populated with protein-coding genes, are turning up some surprising functions.  Four California-based geneticists published a paper in
Science Oct. 17 that found long-range enhancers in these regions:
Approximately 25% of the genome consists of gene-poor regions greater than 500 kb [kilobases], termed gene deserts.  These segments have been minimally explored, and their functional significance remains elusive.  One category of functional sequences postulated to lie in gene deserts is gene regulatory elements that have the ability to modulate gene expression over very long distances.
They found evidence that this is true, and scientists had better pay attention:
The demonstration that several of the enhancers characterized in this study reside in gene deserts highlights that these regions can indeed serve as reservoirs for sequence elements containing important functions.  Moreover, our observations have implications for studies aiming to decipher the regulatory architecture of the human genome, as well as those exploring the functional impact of sequence variation.  The size of genomic regions believed to be functionally linked to a particular gene may need to be expanded to take into account the possibility of essential regulatory sequences acting over near-megabase distances.
(Emphasis added in all quotes.)
1Nobrega, Ovcharenko, Afzal, and Rubin, “Scanning Human Gene Deserts for Long-Range Enhancers,” Science 23 June 2003; accepted 8 September 2003, 10.1126/science.1088328.
A man walked into a desert at high noon, saw nothing but sand, and concluded, “There’s no life here.”  Was he being a good scientist?  Notice how geneticists have focused their gaze primarily on genes, and considered these gene-poor deserts uninteresting.  There may be much more than meets the eye.  At night, a desert can come alive with owls, coyotes, beetles, and moths; by day, a snake or lizard might be just over the next dune.  It would seem a scientist who believes in intelligent design would be more motivated to ask, Wonder what that region is there for?, while an evolutionist might conclude, That’s just leftover junk from our animal past.  A Nobel prize winning biologist recently said as much (see Aug. 24 headline).
Next headline on: Genes and DNA. • Next headline on: Intelligent Design.
Convection Can Copy DNA    10/15/2003
Nature Science Update talks about a new method that uses convection to speed up copying of DNA strands.  It still uses the older PCR (polymerase chain reaction) method, which uses a DNA-copying enzyme (DNA polymerase).  The convection current does away with the need for alternating hot and cold cycles.  Though the intent of the invention was to assist lab workers, the researchers took a moment to speculate about convection’s possible role in the origin of life: “The researchers suggest that convection in natural systems on the early Earth - for example, near undersea volcanic vents - might have helped to drive the replication of primitive information-carrying molecules akin to DNA.”
Our baloney alert just went off.  This was a complex process using an already-available complex enzyme.  It has nothing whatever to do with the origin of life.  What are “primitive information-carrying molecules,” for crying out loud?  Information is not information if there is no function.  “To be or not to be” is not information if there is not a human who understands “that is the question.”
    All we get from evolutionists are wiggle words.  Here they use both suggest and might in one sentence.  Suggest to whom?  Only to one already a believer in evolution.  In science, one cannot use hunch words indefinitely without proof.  A hypothesis is OK if it leads to a demonstration of fact.  If not, it is nothing more than a pure guess that must be judged wrong until proved right.  Evolutionists should not be allowed to pretend chemical evolution is scientific when it is merely a collection of maybe, might, perhaps, suggested, inferred hunches beset by a host of intractable problems.
Next headline on: Origin of Life. • Next dumb story.
“Living Fossil” Frog Found    10/15/2003
An unusual amphibian dubbed “the coelacanth of frogs” has been found in India.  Scientists have placed this “one-in-a-century” discovery in its own family, according to S. Blair Hedges in
Nature1 Oct. 16 (see also National Geographic News).  The specimen, found and described by Biju and Bissuyt in the same issue of Nature,2 comes from a line they estimate to have diverged from the Neobatrachia (advanced frogs) some 130 million years ago.
1S. Blair Hedges, “Biogeography: The coelacanth of frogs,” Nature 425, 669 - 670 (16 October 2003); doi:10.1038/425669a.
2S. D. Biju and Franky Bossuyt, “New frog family from India reveals an ancient biogeographical link with the Seychelles,” Nature 425, 711 - 714 (16 October 2003); doi:10.1038/nature02019.
Finding a new organism is always exciting, but right away, the evolutionists run from Adventureland to Fantasyland via Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, tell their Mad Hatter tale, and lead the news media in the chorus, It’s a small, small Darwinian world.  To impress the tourists, they pull out their bag of story-building tricks, like Bayesian inference (which being translated, means “Darwin in, garbage out”), heuristic maximum parsimony, bootstrapping, likelihood models, molecular clocks, phylograms and such.  They run their bells-and-whistles software programs like Modeltest and MrBayes, all built on evolutionary assumptions.  Then they pour this contaminated mixture with the frog into the blender, mix well, and hand you a green evolutionary story to swallow.
    Let us all understand that all they found was a living frog.  It sits on the lab counter, doing just fine, and isn’t evolving from or to anything else.  Their story has a number of problems, which Hedges (though he accepts it) is kind enough to point out (emphasis added):
  • What we don’t know about biodiversity:  “This discovery also draws attention to our incomplete knowledge of biological diversity, even at the higher taxonomic levels.
  • Differences between the geological clock and the molecular clock: “If it diverged from the Seychellean frogs (sooglossids) as early as molecular clocks indicate, 130 million years ago, continental breakup would not directly explain its origin – India did not split from the Seychelles until 65 million years later.” 
  • Land bridges to the rescue: “But why does the current biota reflect such isolation while the late Mesozoic fossils of India indicate past land connections ('biotic bridges')?  Perhaps those bridges were more like chains of islands that allowed some – but not all – groups to disperse, as occurred in the past history of plant and animal interchange between North and South America.”  Did these bridges have turnstiles to allow some organisms to pass, but not others?  Sounds pretty ad hoc.  Were the frogs strong enough to leap from island to island?
  • Madagascar doesn’t fit the story: “Nonetheless, it is unclear why India’s Mesozoic partner Madagascar lacks some major groups of vertebrates, such as caecilians and representatives of the new frog family, when evolutionary analyses indicate that they should have been there in the past.”

So they can partially explain the frog’s evolution if and only if they are allowed to tweak the molecular clock, get continents to break apart on cue, get selective land bridges to appear, and get more funding to fill in the blanks.  Don’t trust any storyteller who feeds you the line that this family of frogs took a 130 million year ride.  Hedges concludes, “Clearly, there is a need for more fossil collections and investigation of living faunas, and for refined molecular clocks, to better understand how continental drift influenced India’s biota” – if at all.
    In short, nothing in the data that supports the story; the story is just colorful wrapping paper around the data.  Frogs, however, have a way of hopping out of their wrappings.  This is a good time to read our frog joke.
Next headline on: Fossils.
Is Darwin’s Theory Going Out of Style?    10/14/2003
Darwin was famous for his theory of natural selection (NS) as the primary mechanism for evolution, but NS seems to have been artificially unselected in a paper by American and Chinese scientists published online 10/13/2003 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences1.  Their paper is still evolutionary, but portrays the Darwinists as the opposing team –
A key question in the evolution of biological complexity is, how have integrated biological systems evolved?  Darwinists proposed natural selection as the driving force of evolution. However, the striking similarities between biological and nonbiological complexities have led to the argument that a set of universal (or ahistorical) rules account for the formation of all complexities.  The yeast protein interaction network is an example of a complex biological system and contributes to the complexity at the cellular level. By analyzing the growth pattern and reconstructing the evolutionary path of the yeast protein interaction network, we can address whether or not network growth is contingent on evolutionary history, which is the key disagreement between the Darwinian view and the universality view.   (Emphasis added in all quotes, and embedded references deleted.)
Their paper examines yeast networks and finds correlations between like proteins.  In the conclusion, the authors again position themselves opposite the Darwinists on the game court:
The key disagreement between the Darwinian view and the universality view on the evolution of biological complexity is the role of historical contingency.  Undoubtedly, efforts to search for universal rules benefit our understanding on biological complexity.  However, by using the yeast protein interaction network as an example, we observed a correlation between network evolution and the universal tree of life.  This observation strongly argues that network evolution is not ahistorical, but is, in essence, a string of historical events.

1Qin, Lu et al., “Evolution of the Yeast Protein Interaction Network,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.2235584100, published online Oct. 13, 2003.
Poor Charlie is having a hard time.  He’s becoming the new Rodney Dangerfield.  The evolutionists think they have something better now: universal self-organizing principles – things just spontaneously self-organize into complex systems.  Take aim, all creationist hunters: there’s a sittin’ duck fer ya.
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
Would Darwin Have Agreed with Mendel, or Vice Versa?    10/14/2003
“It is one of the great ‘What-if?’ questions in the history of biology.  What if Gregor Mendel and Charles Darwin had met?” asks Nigel Williams in the Oct. 14 issue of Current Biology.1  “What might have been the outcome for nineteenth century biology if both had grasped the significance of each other’s work?”  All we can do is speculate.  Mendel apparently came within 20 miles of Darwin’s house when he visited London for the Great Exhibition of 1851 (eight years before publication of the Origin of Species), but Darwin was indisposed with family matters at the time.  They probably never met.  Williams thinks it unlikely, even if they had, that either man would have had a favorable meeting of minds:
But others believe Mendel and Darwin were on different intellectual tracks.  “Once Gregor Mendel is placed back into the intellectual landscape that he would himself recognize, it’s clear that he would always seen The Origin of Species [sic] as a challenge to his own worldview.  For his part, Darwin was also being guided by long-since outdated forms of scientific thought.  His lifelong commitment to theories of blending heredity would always have precluded his taking Mendel’s results seriously.  Seldom can two important scientific thinkers have written at such hopelessly crossed purposes,” says science historian John Waller in a recent book, Fabulous Science.   (Emphasis added.)
“Blending heredity” refers to an outdated view that the maternal and paternal lines blended like a fluid to produce a unique offspring.  Darwin’s critics pointed out that, “If inheritance was a matter of blending, however, every variant would effectively be blended out in just a generation or two.”  Mendel’s discoveries showed that traits, even if recessive and hidden in the phenotype, remained distinct.  A recently-found letter from Darwin to Wallace shows that he was considering non-blending ideas of heredity, even though he is mostly remembered for his now-discredited theory of pangenesis, a semi-Lamarckian view that acquired traits from all over the body worked their way via “pangenes” into the gametes.
    Williams points out that the story of Darwin having an unopened copy of Mendel’s paper on his shelves appears to be an urban legend.  Apparently the two never crossed paths in person or in correspondence.  All we can ask, therefore, is “what if?”
1Nigel Williams, “Speaking Volumes,” Current Biology Vol 13, R789-R790, 14 October 2003.
The Darwinian Revolution was well on its way before Mendel’s seminal paper on dominant and recessive traits in garden peas was “discovered” by neo-Darwinists, even though the monk of Brno had sent copies to leading scientists of his day.  Mendel believed his experimental work argued for the persistence of traits.  Being Catholic, he almost certainly opposed the Darwinian belief that all organisms had descended with modification from simpler ancestors.
    Whether blending or non-blending inheritance, either paradigm spelled trouble for Darwinism.  As stated above, blending of new traits would have diluted them to oblivion in short order.  But Mendelian persistence of traits is descent without modification.  It would take the neo-Darwinists a major rethinking in the 1930s to incorporate Mendel’s laws into evolutionary theory.  The result?  Mutations are the source of genetic variation.  That’s right, folks: shoot bullets at the car and it might evolve into a Porsche.  That story lasted for awhile, but now it seems to be falling out of favor.  The new tall tale is that gene duplication provides the raw material.  Or maybe self-organizing networks.  Give ’em time; they’ll think of something to scale the brick wall Mendel erected in their path.
Next headline on: Genes and DNA. • Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
Two Faces on Cloning    10/14/2003
Human cloning: a resounding No!  Therapeutic cloning: why not?  That is the opinion of many scientific institutions, says Nigel Williams in Current Biology 10/14/2003.1 
More than 60 of the world’s leading science academies have called for a UN ban on the reproductive cloning of humans, to prevent the exploitation of vulnerable people.  But they also urged that any such ban should not extend to cloning human tissue for the treatment of diseases.
Cloning of animals is known to lead to malformed individuals, spontaneous abortions, fetal disorders and often death.  For these reasons, it is considered by many scientists to be unethical to experiment on humans.  But that reasoning does not extend further back to embryonic stages, because as Lord May, President of the Royal Society, believes, “At that point this thing, often called an early embryo, is far less complex in any biological sense than the average potato.”
    Lord May admitted that “Opinions on the ethics of therapeutic cloning in different countries are divided.”  But he feels the controversy over therapeutic cloning can be distinguished from the majority opinion against human cloning.  “It would be a tragedy if we allowed disagreements on therapeutic cloning to jeopardize a convention that could ensure that human reproductive cloning is outlawed across the globe and protect vulnerable people from unscrupulous individuals.”
    Therapeutic cloning is proceeding apace in some countries.  But of the situation in the United States, Williams writes, with a tone of despair, “In the US, despite some breakthroughs, research on human-derived stem cells has been handicapped by the President’s decision two years ago to allow work only on stem cell lines developed earlier.  Scientists have testified before Congress that research is still all but paralysed in this area because of the government’s decision.”

1Nigel Williams, “Top scientists back human cloning ban,” Current Biology Vol 13, R785-R786, 14 October 2003.
Is it permissible for a scientist to lie to push an agenda?  Lord May just said you were far less complex in any biological sense than an average potato when you were a ball of cells in your mother’s womb.  Any high school biology student should know how blatantly false that is.  When you were a ball of cells, you had at least 30,000 genes and 3 billion DNA letters coding for a brain, a heart, a central nervous system, complex digestion and much, much more.  An average potato, even if living, had different information that, although complex also, is no match for a human brain.  Unless you are Mr. Potato Head, your zygote was far more complex than any prize russet brown.  Doesn’t the genetic information in the DNA qualify for the description, “in any biological sense”?
And pray tell, where is the magic point along the continuum of embryonic development when a human embryo passes instantaneously from no rights to full human rights?  At what point would all scientists agree they can no longer cut it up and play with it, but must respect it and give it due process of law?  There is only one point where the full complement of DNA that codes for a human crosses a clear line of demarcation from non-person to individual, and that is the moment of conception (see 07/08/2002 headline).  That is launch.  Everything after that is flight operations.
    The duplicity of scientists on moral issues like this is inexplicable.  Look at the concern they have over “vulnerable people” that need to be protected from “unscrupulous individuals.”  Yet look at the cavalier disregard for the rights of the most vulnerable of all.  On what moral grounds, rooted in Darwinian survival of the fittest, do they have any feelings whatsoever for the vulnerable?  At least be consistent.
    For more on the ethics of therapeutic cloning, check out our satire on Cannibal Rights in the Aug. 28 headline.
Next headline on: Politics and Ethics.
Ape-Human Brain Differences: More Than Genes    10/13/2003
“It’s not just the words you say, it’s how you say them.”  Not just a common marriage complaint, it’s true of genes.  To that could be added, it’s how often you say them, and it’s the words you left unsaid, that make all the difference.
    Humans are often compared with apes, and we are usually told there is just a very slight difference, maybe 3-5%, in our genetic makeup.  That’s not the whole story of why humans don’t swing in trees (except for junior boys) and why monkeys don’t write Shakespearian plays (see
May 12 headline), according to neurologists writing in PNAS October 13.1  (See also summary of paper on EurekAlert.)  They studied 169 genes between chimpanzees and humans, and found that 90% of the brain-related genes were more expressed in humans.  Expression of genes for heart and liver functions, however, were nearly identical.  They summarize (emphasis added):
Surprisingly, most differences between the brains of humans and non-human primates involved up-regulation, with ~90% of the genes being more highly expressed in humans.  By contrast, in the comparison of human and chimpanzee heart and liver, the numbers of up- and down-regulated genes were nearly identical.  Our results indicate that the human brain displays a distinctive pattern of gene expression relative to non-human primates, with higher expression levels for many genes belonging to a wide variety of functional classes.  The increased expression of these genes could provide the basis for extensive modifications of cerebral physiology and function in humans and suggests that the human brain is characterized by elevated levels of neuronal activity.
Another interesting sidelight of the study is how humans survive to old age, since “combination of long lifespan and high neural activity makes humans particularly vulnerable to neurodegenerative disease.”  Just like the faster and more often a car is driven, the more potential for accident, high-octane genes are subject to failures: “Activity-related damage accumulates with age and has the potential to cause catastrophic breakdown late in life.  By understanding how humans protect their brains from activity-related damage, we hope to better understand why those mechanisms fail,” says Mario Caceres, quoted in the EurekAlert article.
1Caceres, Lachuer et al., “ Elevated gene expression levels distinguish human from non-human primate brains,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.2135499100, published online 10/13/2003.
Sounds like the claim about the small genetic differences between humans and apes is a good example of a half truth (see 09/25/2002 headline).  More and more evidence is showing that something is controlling the expression of genes (see 07/06/2001 headline).  By intuition, anything controlling the genes must be more complex than the genes themselves.  If so, this means the whole Central Dogma of genetics (genes are the master controllers, and drive protein production) is also a half truth, as is the reductionist statement above, “the human brain [as opposed to the ape brain] is characterized by elevated levels of neuronal activity.”
    These scientists start off with typical Darwinspeak: “The origin of humans was accompanied by the emergence [there’s their favorite miracle word again] of new behavioral and cognitive functions, including language and specialized forms of abstract representation.  However, the neural foundations of these human capabilities are poorly understood....”  *Sigh*  Use your brains; that’s what they were created for.
Next headline on: Early Man. • Next headline on: Genes and DNA.
How Peacock Feathers Shimmer and Shine    10/13/2003
Photonic crystals are not exotic power sources on sci-fi starships.  Peacocks, butterflies and other animals use photonic crystals every waking day.  They use them to impress their mates with brilliant, dazzling colors.
    What’s a photonic crystal?  It is a regular array of finely-spaced layers that plays tricks with photons, units of light.  When photons hit these arrays, they reflect in ways that reinforce certain wavelengths into brighter hues than could be obtained with pigments.  A team of Chinese scientists tell all about it in a paper in PNAS published online 10/13/2003.1  They have electron micrographs of the barbules within peacock feathers.  Here’s how they summarize it, after lots of equations and graphs:
Our experiment and simulations reveal that the coloration in peacock feathers takes advantage of the partial photonic bandgap of the 2D photonic-crystal structure in the cortex.  The strategies for color production in peacock feathers are very ingenious and rather simple, i.e., by means of the variation of the lattice constant or the number of periods.  Varying the lattice constant shifts the midgap frequency of the partial photonic bandgap.  The number of periods controls the production of additional colors, eventually leading to the additive, mixed coloration.  Diversified colors can be produced by means of these strategies.  (Emphasis added.)
The crystals are composed of melanin rods (the same protein that colors human skin), connected by keratin bridges (the protein in fingernails).  Even though they call this “rather simple,” (in terms of the orderly geometric spacing), they admit at the outset, “Although the structural colors of avian feathers have been studied for a long time, many questions remain to be answered.  In particular, the precise physical mechanism that produces the diversified colors in peacock tail feathers has not been established.”  They hope their paper brings us a little closer to understanding how the peacock achieves its dazzling displays of color.
    For a popular-level summary of the paper, see this article in
National Geographic News.  It mentions that the first suggestion peacocks used tiny, layered structures to produce their colors dates back to Sir Isaac Newton.
1Jian Zi et al., “Coloration Strategies in Peacock Feathers,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.2133313100, published online 10/13/2003.
They left us hanging.  They didn’t give us any good stories about how this evolved.  What good is a scientific paper if Charlie is not vindicated?  Evolutionists must plant their flag here before the Intelligent Design scoundrels claim the territory.
    Too late, Columbus.  National Geographic just claimed it in the name of King Charlie.  Here is an excerpt from their Conquest Speech (emphasis added):
Charles Darwin was one of the first scientists to argue that female peacocks prefer [sic] the males with the boldest and most attractive [sic] ornaments, and subsequent work has shown [sic] that brightly decorated males enjoy [sic] greater mating success [sic].  Studies have also shown [sic] that the quality of ornamentation in peacocks is an accurate [sic] reflection of the state of the immune system, so females are picking [sic] those males genetically predisposed for tip-top health.
    Discovering so-called photonic crystals in peacock feathers could allow scientists to adapt the structures for industrial and commercial applications, said [Andrew] Parker [U. of Oxford].  These crystals could be used to channel light in telecommunications equipment, or to create new tiny computer chips.  We can take advantage of “millions of years of evolutionary trial and error,” for new technologies, he said.
For the fallacies in the above claims, see the 09/10/2003 headline.  “Millions of years of trial and error” – that has a certain rhythm to it.  Let’s make it a mantra and have the schoolchildren all sing it together:
Millions of years of trial and error
Millions of years of trial and error
Photonic crystals and colorful tails
From millions of years of trial and error.
“But teacher, Who is trying, and Who is deciding what’s an error?”  Shut up and sing.
Next headline on: Birds.• Next headline on: Physics. • Next amazing story.
See also a related headline on butterfly photonic crystals, Jan 29.
Take Your Pick: See or Sniff    10/13/2003
A new theory reported in
Science News1 tries to explain why we and our presumed monkey ancestors have such good color vision.  Humans can see about 2.3 million hues, more than our pet dogs and cats.  The old hypothesis was that monkeys evolved better color vision to see colorful fruit.  (This idea, proposed by Grant Allen in 1879, has fallen out of favor because it is known to have inconsistencies with observations.)  A new hypothesis is that our ancestors evolved improved color vision, including better discrimination of red from green, to detect the more nutritious reddish parts of leaves.
    Part of the reason for the new hypothesis is that some New World monkeys eat mainly leaves, not fruit.  “It was a huge discovery that howler monkeys had independently evolved [sic] the same kind of color vision that monkeys from Africa and Southeast Asia had,” says Nathaniel Dominy of Yale.  “Why would the only monkey in South America to evolve trichromatic vision [sic] be the one that eats the least amount of fruit?  It didn’t make a lot of sense.”  (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
    Dominy and his colleague, Peter Lucas (U. of Hong Kong), also believe that primates began to lose acuteness in the sense of smell around the same time.  “Maybe there's a trade-off,” speculates Dominy, according to the article.  “As your visual system improves, maybe your olfactory system declines.”  John Travis, author of the Science News article, generalizes the speculation:
The lesson of these recent studies may be that whatever evolution gives [sic] to an animal, it can also take away.  Indeed, scientists have noted that red-green color blindness is much more prevalent in people than in chimpanzees and other Old World primates.  Perhaps because people now turn to the local market for their food instead of foraging among the foliage, they no longer need to see red.
Travis points out that not everyone agrees with the new speculation:
Other scientists aren’t certain anyone will ever know whether primates first used their improved color vision to pick out fruits or leaves or to do something no one has yet guessed.  “I think it’s one of these fruitless debates,” jokes James Bowmaker of University College London, who studies the evolution of vision [sic].  “There’s no argument that having the red-green color vision we have does enable us to do these tasks, but whether that’s why it evolved [sic] is another question.  And you will never answer that one, of course.  You can’t go back 35 million years ago and ask a primate.”

1John Travis, “Visionary Research: Scientists delve into the evolution of color vision in primates,” Science News Week of Oct. 11, 2003; Vol. 164, No. 15.
That doesn’t keep them from dreaming about it.  The only data points they have are loss of function (not gain) of trichromatic vision in certain species.  The rest of the story is a mythoid, built on the assumption that evolution is true.  The interpretation smells like selective vision.
    Notice the intellectual atrocities committed by the evolutionists here: (1) independent invention of trichromatic vision (the miracle of convergent evolution), (2) the non-sequitur about tradeoffs between vision and smell, and its attendant personification fallacy that what evolution giveth she also taketh away, and (3) the weird suggestion that supermarkets cause color blindness.*  That’s both hands waving, and one leg, too.  Any more and they’ll fall over.

Supermarkets still sell red and green lettuce, don’t they?
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory. • Next headline on: Mammals. • Next dumb story.
The Lone Creationist Rides Again    10/13/2003
Agape Press has an unusual story about one man’s unusual approach to getting fairness back into the science class.  Pastor Jeff Smith of North Carolina is hopping onto his Tennessee walking horse to embark on a 400-mile Creation Quest, a “Journey for Academic Freedom” from Concord, NC to Washington, DC.  He will be speaking and preaching along the way.  His message?  “The time has come for us to repeal the prohibition against the idea that God created the heavens and the earth.  Let the children hear both sides of the debate and trust them to come to their own conclusions.  The ‘Darwin Only’ approach is not education, it is indoctrination.  For the sake of academic freedom this policy must be changed.”
Interesting, and everybody likes the image of a cowboy riding off into the sunset, but we’re not convinced this is the most effective way to get the point across.  The problem is, most of the public already agrees with him.  It’s the elites who will view this as a goofy sideshow or anachronistic B Western.  But then, if the elitist outlaws get wind of the multitudes joining up with Sheriff Smith’s posse, and how much ammo they have, they might decide the better part of valor is to hole up in some mountain hideout and lay low.
    Pastor Smith does have one thing going for his campaign.  A horse is a good visual aid against evolution.  See Jan. 2 headline, for instance, or this one from 12/20/2001.  Do evolutionists know how the horse evolved?  Neigh.  (See 01/19/2001 headline, and discussion of the horse series by Jonathan Wells.)
Next headline on: Schools.
Sleep Helps Memory    10/13/2003
You remember things better after a good night’s sleep, says
Science News.  Experiments performed on college students by neurobiologists at McGill University showed that the group that had sleep after learning a task performed better.  According to Karim Nader, who reviewed two papers in Nature1, this demonstrates that memory is not static, but gets stored and restored.
    In the first paper, Fenn et al.2 found that “
Recognition performance immediately after training showed a significant improvement that subsequently degraded over the span of a day‘s retention interval, but completely recovered following sleep.  Thus, sleep facilitates the recovery and subsequent retention of material learned opportunistically at any time throughout the day.  Performance recovery indicates that representations and mappings associated with generalization are refined and stabilized during sleep.
In the second paper, Walker et al.3 showed that “waking reactivation can turn a previously consolidated memory back into a labile state requiring subsequent reconsolidation.”
1Karim Nader, “Neuroscience: Re-recording human memories,” Nature 425, 571 - 572 (09 October 2003); doi:10.1038/425571a.
2Fenn et al., “Consolidation during sleep of perceptual learning of spoken language,” Nature 425, 614 - 616 (09 October 2003); doi:10.1038/nature01951.
3Walker et al., “Dissociable stages of human memory consolidation and reconsolidation,” Nature 425, 616 - 620 (09 October 2003); doi:10.1038/nature01930.
Advanced computer networks no longer store backups on magnetic tape in one location.  Instead, they use Storage Area Networks (SAN), composed of pooled resources of tapes and disk.  These are managed by sophisticated software that can store and move backup images dynamically.  A snapshot image can be made quickly, and moved off to permanent storage at a later time (like at night while the computers are “sleeping”).   Also, the SAN manager can move archives in and out of permanent storage, and relocate images according to availability of resources.  If the brain has something akin to SAN, it makes human memory all the more amazing.
    Have you ever had a mental block regarding something you knew you knew, like a person’s name, but could not recall it on the spot for anything?  Then you changed the subject and worked on something else, and presto! the answer came back to mind.  This seems uncannily like a restore request was sent to a backup manager to retrieve a long-lost image.
    It would be interesting to see the algorithms for human memory storage.  It would also be interesting to calculate the storage capacity of human memory in terabytes, considering the fact that almost every sense perception is stored for a lifetime.  Scientists are only beginning to glimpse some of these wonders in a vague way, but it is surely going to turn out more amazing than we can imagine.  Just think: while you sleep, the graveyard shift is hard at work consolidating your day’s images onto permanent storage.
    So sleep is not a waste of time; it has an important function.  Tell your boss you need a nap to remember what he said.
Next headline on: Health. • Next headline on: Human Body. • Next amazing story.
Nobel Prize Committee Accused of Rewriting History    10/10/2003
When Paul Lauterbur and Peter Mansfield got the Nobel Prize for Medicine last week for their work on MRI scanning technology, Dr. Raymond Damadian was shocked.  It was he who had first envisioned whole-body MRI scanners in 1969.  It was his paper, written in 1970, published in Science in 1971, that demonstrated that water molecules in living tissues responded to nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), and affirmed that this held promise for biological diagnosis.  It was he who proved this with experiments on laboratory animals, and later on humans.  It was he who had produced the first working MRI scanner (now in the Smithsonian).  It is he who holds the patent on MRI, a patent hard-won against technology thieves over the years that resulted in his vindication by the Supreme Court in 1997.  He has the National Medal of Technology for his work on MRI, is enrolled in the Inventor's Hall of Fame for his invention of MRI, and is the president of a company
Fonar Corporation, that builds MRI scanners.  It is his company that remains on the cutting edge of MRI advancements.  No one has devoted more of his life to MRI technology; his name is almost synonymous with MRI.
    None of this seemed to matter to the Nobel committee.  They gave the prize, with all its historical prestige, to two men who merely made technical improvements based on Damadian’s foundational discovery.  Without Damadian’s pioneering lead, they might never have considered the possibilities of MRI.  (See this timeline of MRI for credit discovery and invention, and also this background of the dispute over credit for MRI in Opinion Journal, written over a year before the Nobel announcement.)
    Damadian’s company and supporters took an unusual step.  With the support of colleagues at the State University of New York School of Medicine, where much of his research was done, and with quotes from colleagues and authors of books about MRI, they took out full page ads in the New York Times and Washington Post.  The ad accuses the Nobel committee of revising history.  Their evil was intentional, the ad claims, because the rules clearly allow for three people to be named for the prize, so there is no excuse for excluding Damadian.  It is also contrary to the purpose of the prize as stated in Alfred Nobel’s will, that it should be awarded for the “most important discovery [not procedure or refinement] within the domain of physiology or medicine.”  Damadian feels the committee has robbed him of 33 years of his identity, and has been effectively written him out of the history he helped make.  The decision is “a shameful wrong that must be righted,”  the ad proclaims in bold type.  The committee showed “inexcusable disregard for the truth,” it says, making a decision that is “simply outrageous.”  Now that the committee has “disgraced itself,” the ad calls for readers to join their voice with “the many distinguished physicians, scientists and authors who are expressing their outrage at this decision,” and to urge them to include Damadian in the 2003 Nobel Prize for Medicine.  The Nobel committee claims the award was correctly chosen, however, and the decision cannot be appealed.
Update  10/16/2003: Nature took notice of this unusual reaction in two articles, neither of which was critical of Damadian.  In the lead Editorial1, the magazine confesses it may have biased the opinion of Lauterbur:
Nature, while proud of its content over the years, has a confession to make about this year's medicine Nobels.  Not so long ago, presciently pleased with having published Lauterbur's work, we celebrated it along with other Nature greats in a promotional campaign.  Lauterbur politely wrote in to point out that we had published it only after he had appealed against a rejection.
In addition, the esteemed journal flagellates itself somewhat for its spotted history of recognizing true groundbreaking scientists:
Nevertheless – a final moral – rejected authors who are convinced of the ground-breaking value of their controversial conclusions should persist.  A final rejection on the grounds of questionable significance may mean that one journal has closed its door on you, but that is no reason to be cowed into silence.  Remember, as you seek a different home for your work, that you are in wonderful company.
That company includes important papers on photosynthesis, Cerenkov radiation, the Krebs Cycle, and Stephen Hawking’s black hole radiation, all rejected by Nature for one reason or another.
    The other Nature News Item2 by Helen Pearson describes the “sensational” protest by Damadian’s company.  Without taking sides, Pearson warns that “Whatever the outcome of Damadian’s complaint, observers say that such arguments could diminish the esteem in which the Nobel prizes are held.”
Sources: Reuters, posted on Reuters as reproduced on Yahoo News, MSNBC News, and Fonar Corporation.
See also updates to this story on Oct 16 and Oct 22.
1Editorial, “Coping with peer rejection,” Nature, 425, 645 (16 October 2003); doi:10.1038/425645a.
2Helen Pearson, “Physician launches public protest over medical Nobel,” Nature, 425, 648 (16 October 2003); doi:10.1038/425648b.
This is clearly an egregious injustice by the Nobel committee.  Damadian is the “Dr. MRI” if there ever was one, yet the praise in the media for the technology was going to others – his name was not even mentioned in most news reports after the announcement, as they gushed about how wonderful MRI has been for millions of patients.
    Steven Pincock at The-Scientist.com, who seemed to lean in favor of the decision, agreed that Damadian was a pioneer and key player, holds the patent, and build the first scanner.  So why not at least let him share in the prize?  The other two only built on what Damadian had done.  The best comment Nature could make for the other side was, “MRI experts agree that Damadian's concept was important, but say that without Lauterbur and Mansfield's contributions the MRI technique would not be where it is today.  The pair showed how to use a graded magnetic field, which varies from strong to weak across an object, to rapidly take its image.”  But this begs the question whether the other two would have even taken notice of MRI, had not Damadian first demonstrated the fact that cancerous and healthy tissues can be distinguished by NMR signals.  That was the breakthrough.  That is why Damadian should get the credit, or at least share the credit.  Once Damadian’s paper had been written, a technology race was on.  Lauterbur and Mansfield both succeeded in obtaining clearer images than Damadian’s first one, but it was only a matter of time before Damadian also refined the technique himself.  Clearly, the priority for pioneering the idea and applying it to medicine goes to Damadian, and documents show that Lauterbur acknowledged Damadian’s priority at the time.  No one has done more since then to advance MRI technology.  Should Damadian not at least be up on stage with Lauterbur in Sweden at the award ceremony this December, instead of being totally ignored?  This fiasco is like crediting Curtiss with inventing the airplane and snubbing the Wright Brothers.
    Dr. Eugene Feigelson, dean of the school of medicine on Long Island where Damadian is on staff and where most of his work was done, whose institution was indirectly snubbed by the selection, said graciously, “this is not in any way meant to take anything away” from the two winners.  But he was “perplexed, disappointed and angry” at the “incomprehensible exclusion of Professor Damadian,” from the prize.  Others have expressed similar outrage.  The co-author of a book on the history of MRI expressed “deep disappointment in learning of the Nobel committee’s failure to recognize the real pioneer of MRI.”  An NIH doctor called it “Egg on the Nobel for Medicine’s face.”  Dr. David Stark, co-author of Magnetic Resonance Imaging, “the definitive MRI textbook,” is eager to set the record straight.  He told Damadian, “I expect to spend the rest of my life telling the true story on your behalf.”
    This further fuels the debate whether the Nobel Prize has credibility any more.  Any institution that would award a “Peace” Prize to Yasser Arafat, one of the worst murderers and terrorists in history, already has proven itself incompetent to judge.  The Nobel Prize committee may control a fortune in the estate of the late Alfred Nobel (who must be rolling over in his grave right now), but it is accountable to no one as it considers itself the arbiter of scientific achievement for the history books.  Maybe it’s better Damadian not be associated with them, despite the prestige the Nobel Prize still holds among many.  Raymond Damadian, by the way, is a devout Christian, a patriotic American, and a young earth creationist.  One can only wonder if his “political incorrectness” had anything to do with the decision.
    The Opinion Journal article admits that Lauterbur is considered an insider among research scientists, whereas Damadian is “the outsider, the M.D., who dared to profit from his discovery.”  Is there a touch of bias toward academia and against corporate America?  Damadian is an academic, too, but not just an ivory-tower researcher like Lauterbur.  He built a company that put the technology to actual use helping people.  There appears to be no sound reason for why Damadian should not be considered the father of MRI scanning.  He should get the gold, and maybe Lauterbur the silver and Mansfield the bronze.  It would not be surprising if the NAS delayed dealing with “the Damadian problem” (as one insider termed it) as if to ask, “How can we rewrite history and steal the glory for one of our boys, without getting sued?”  Damadian is too much a defender of the truth to let them get away with it in silence.
    Take a moment to read our short biography of Dr. Raymond Damadian in our online book-in-progress, The World’s Greatest Creation Scientists.  He is one of the most gracious, considerate, intelligent, and dignified individuals you would ever hope to meet.  Not every great actor got an Oscar, and not every great athlete got an Olympic gold.  Damadian will probably not get an ovation in Sweden, nor get his due of the $1.3 million dollar prize, but those things are only transitory.  For his faithfulness to Jesus Christ, his reward is in heaven, and his earthly honor is reflected in the healthful lives of, as Dr. Stark said, “millions of patients who benefit daily” from his epochal scientific discovery.
Next headline on: Politics and Ethics. • Next headline on: Health.
Rocks in the Head are Good for Balance    10/10/2003
Next time someone says you have rocks in your head, it might be a compliment, depending on where and how big.  You have rocks in your inner ears that keep you from falling over.  No kidding.  Fish, birds, and mammals have tiny crystals of calcite, called otoliths, that are a key ingredient in the sense of balance.  This means that we all have tiny chunks of limestone in our heads.
  • How They Work:  Because rocks have inertia, they resist motion when moving forward, and they fall in a gravitational field.  The otoliths rest against tiny hair cells in a part of the inner ear called the utricle (in mammals, just below the semicircular canals).  When you move or turn over, the hair cells sense the shearing motion of the otoliths, and report the information to the brain.  This sense works in conjunction with the eyes to help you know which way is up, how fast you are moving, and which direction you are turning.  A good explanation, with illustrations, can be found on the website of a clinical otolaryngologist,
  • Dr. Timothy C. Hain.
  • What They Look Like:  Otoliths are microscopic.  Fish have one large oblong otolith resting on a bed of hair cells in the macula (the gravity-sensing organ), whereas mammals have many smaller, irregular ones, called otoconia, surrounded by hair cells.  Sometimes referred to as “ear dust,” the otoconia are too small, 30 microns or shorter, to be seen without a microscope.  They are made up of calcium carbonate in a protein matrix.  They form early in the embryo and are maintained throughout life.  Some of the vertigo that ails seniors is due to shortage or accumulation of otoconia.  Normally, debris is thought to be reabsorbed and new otoconia regenerated, but there is much still to be discovered about this sensory mechanism.  In fish, the otoliths are also part of their sense of sound.
  • What’s New:  Scientists just found an enzyme essential for proper otolith development.  In the Oct. 10 issue of Science1, Sollner et al. found a gene they named Starmaker that when mutated, causes zebrafish to produce irregular stones with sharp edges instead of the smooth, oblong otoliths produced in normal development.  This is partly because it switches the biomineralization process to produce aragonite instead of calcite, a different crystal form of calcium carbonate.  (Some animals, like amphibians, actually use aragonite in their otoliths.)
        Donna Fekete, in a review of this paper in the same issue,2 has illustrations of these little rocks in the utricle and describes how they work.  She says that the discovery may lead to improved medical treatments for vertigo and more: “In humans, mutations of a related protein have been linked to congenital deafness and defects in tooth mineralization,”  she notes.  In other words, the proteins that guide otolith development are also essential for hearing, and are involved in producing the other gemstones in our head – tooth enamel.

    1Christian Sollner et al., “Control of Crystal Size and Lattice Formation by Starmaker in Otolith Biomineralization,” Science Magazine 25 June 2003; 10.1126/science.1088443.
    2Donna M. Fekete, “Rocks That Roll Zebrafish,” Science Magazine 25 June 2003; 10.1126/science.1091171.
    Did you know this?  Did you know that you have limestone in your ears?  Did you know it is essential for you to stand and walk?  This is amazing stuff.  Consider that it is not just dust collected from a cave or wherever, but it is carefully manufactured by proteins and enzymes, that are in turn directed by the DNA code.  The result are beautiful hexagonal crystals of calcium carbonate: little gems in your head.  They reside in a fluid in your inner ear, enmeshed in a forest of hair cells that can sense every move they make.  Then there are the lovely crystals in your teeth – that’s another amazing story, for another time.
        Everywhere they look, scientists find complex systems of interrelated parts.  Slight mutations often cause complete loss of function, sometimes in several apparently unrelated systems.  Without these rocks in your head, you would wobble dizzily like a drunken sailor and have a hard time just standing up.  When they work, as they usually do, they work very, very well.
        The rocks are actually the simplest part of the system.  The sensory apparatus that reports each movement, and the brain software that continually monitors and interprets the signals and sends the necessary messages to the appropriate muscles for rapid response, is mind boggling in sophistication.  How could such things evolve without intelligent design?  Get real!  Whether it’s in a fish darting in the water, or an eagle dive-bombing on its prey, or a cheetah in pursuit of a gazelle, the hardware and software to accomplish such things surely overwhelms any man-made imitations, and yet we get all excited when Sony builds a robot that can walk upstairs (slowly) without falling over (sometimes).  It’s time to give credit where credit is due.
        Think about these tiny gemstones the next time you watch the Olympics, and see a champion gymnast do a complex routine on the balance beam.  When she nails that double-twisting dismount, stand up and cheer – not just for her, but for the Creator who thought of a good use for rocks in the head.
    Next headline on: Human Body. • Next amazing story.
    Photo 10/08/2003
    The Hubble Heritage Team has released a stunning high-res picture of the
    Sombrero Galaxy M104.  For medium size, click on the "print layout" box; for full resolution in all its glory, click on the "Full resolution JPEG" box.  The picture is also highlighted on Astronomy Picture of the Day.  Composed for the Heritage team’s fifth anniversary, the photo is a composite of six images taken last May by the HST's newest Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS).  The detail in the dust lanes is remarkable, and it shows many of the 2000 globular clusters orbiting this galaxy.  See our Oct. 5 headline on globular clusters.
    Next headline on: Stars and astronomy.

    Geologists Call for a Time Out    10/09/2003
    No more blind dates for geologists, says Tom Clarke in a Nature news item October 9.1  “Earth scientists have decided it is time to talk time,” he says.  “At a meeting in Washington DC last week, experts [sic] in mass extinctions, ancient climate and the art of dating rocks got together to work out plans for a more accurate and complete geological timescale.”
        Why is the current scale considered inaccurate?  Partly, “because the most accurate techniques for dating are work-intensive and require more skill and money than most labs can spare.  So researchers often simply estimate rock ages by comparing the fossils found in one stripe of rock to another of known [sic] age.”  He goes on:

    What’s more, many historically important layers of rock were dated before the more accurate [sic] techniques were invented.  Until recently, for example, the Cambrian explosion, from which most animal species emerged [sic], was thought to have occurred some 575 million years ago over an unknown period of time.  But the use of highly accurate [sic] uranium–lead isotope measurements allowed Bowring’s lab to show that it actually [sic] began 544 million years ago and lasted just a few million years (Science 261, 1293–1298; 1993).  Such information is crucial for palaeontologists – determining exactly [sic] when extinction events began and ended can help to establish whether they were caused by a single catastrophic event or a slow change in the environment.   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
    For these reasons, “The researchers plan to establish an international network of laboratories that would use agreed standard procedures for dating rocks, and to which all Earth scientists would send samples of agreed quality from important sites.  Over time, that would establish a database of reproducibly accurate dates for everything recorded in the Earth’s rocks, from the evolution of ancient life [sic] to rapid climate-change events.”  The team wants the US government to fund three new labs for $6 million, with an operating cost of $5 million per year.
        On Oct. 16,
    Science2 also discussed the issue of inaccurate and conflicting dates.  “The general sparseness of reliable ages was the primary complaint at the workshop,” reported Richard A. Kerr.  The focus of both articles was entirely on radiometric dating.  Kerr claims some dates differ by only 1%, and that they want to improve these by an order of magnitude.  They depend on “the ash layers all-important to radiometric dating.”  (This points out the fact that may not be familiar to readers that fossils are not dated directly by radiometric methods.  Geochronologists take their samples from nearby igneous material.)
    1Tom Clarke, “Geologists seek to put an end to blind dates,” Nature 425, 550 - 551 (09 October 2003); doi:10.1038/425550b.
    2Richard A. Kerr, “A Call for Telling Better Time Over the Eons,” Science Volume 302, Number 5644, Issue of 17 Oct 2003, p. 375.
    Did you catch the damaging admissions in Clarke’s brief report?  (1) Paleontologists often rely on index fossils, not radiometric dating methods.  But the index fossil method is built on the assumption of evolution.  This admits the oft-cited criticism that evolutionary dates are built on circular reasoning.  (2) Many dates presented in the standard geological time scale are built on methods even evolutionists consider inaccurate.  (3) Even using their own methods, the Cambrian explosion was shorter than expected.  This puts the squeeze tighter on evolutionists who understand what a problem it is for Darwinian evolution theory.
        It sounds like this meeting was fallout from the riots over the latest asteroid-impact dates (see Sept. 25 headline).  They realize they need to get their stories straight or they might provide ammunition to the creationists.
        You can imagine what the “agreed standard procedures” might be: (a) All dates must yield millions of years.  (b) No methods that yield much younger dates will be permitted (see Sept. 25 headline).  (c) Any dates not fitting the expected evolutionary time scale must be tossed out.  Then the geologists can smile, shake hands, and present a unified front at school board meetings, as they point to their sanitized data, and say, “This fossil is 4.78132 million years old, and all scientists agree.”
    Next headline on: Geology. • Next headline on: Dating Methods. • Next headline on: Fossils.
    Universe Shaped Like a Soccer Ball    10/09/2003
    Just when you thought modern cosmology could not get any stranger, a serious paper in Nature1 now claims the universe might have the topology of a dodecahedron, similar to a soccer ball.  George F.R. Ellis (mathematician at U. of Cape Town), in a News and Views summary in the same issue2, explains how Luminet et al. arrived at their conclusions based on a mathematical analysis of patterns in the data from the WMAP spacecraft.  If true, it means the universe is closed and finite.  Other astronomers, according to
    EurekAlert, claim to have evidence to the contrary.
    Update 05/18/2004: Science Now printed a counter-claim that the “soccer ball” universe is out of bounds.
    1Jean-Pierre Luminet et al., “Dodecahedral space topology as an explanation for weak wide-angle temperature correlations in the cosmic microwave background,” Nature 425, 593 - 595 (09 October 2003); doi:10.1038/nature01944.
    2George F.R. Ellis, “Cosmology: the shape of the Universe,” Nature 425, 566 - 567 (09 October 2003); doi:10.1038/425566a.
    The proposal does not mean the whole universe is shaped like a dodecahedron.  A dodecahedron would be the three-dimensional projection of four-dimensional spacetime.  One consequence is that the “universe is actually relatively small, with a hall-of-mirrors illusion tricking us into thinking that space stretches on forever,” according to EurekAlert.
       Sounds weird, but if true, it would rule out an infinite universe and also Andre Linde’s variation on inflation theory called “chaotic inflation.”  This idea tried to rescue an eternal universe from the implications of the big bang theory that spacetime had a beginning in the finite past, by postulating that our universe was merely one spherical bubble inside an infinite number of bubbles inflating at random for eternity.  (Not that Linde’s Hindu background influenced his cosmology, or anything.)
        At this time, however, it looks like the cosmologists are arguing between themselves too much to see who, if anyone, has a stronger case.  What’s notable is that the universe could be far stranger and counterintuitive than currently imagined by secular astronomers, and that cosmologists keep changing their stories.  Are their ramblings any more to be trusted than, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth”?
    Next headline on: Cosmology.
    A Self-Regulating Recycling System Found in the Cell   10/07/2003
    Cells are not watertight sacks; they import and export things.  But they are not leaky sacks either: everything coming and going is authenticated by sophisticated mechanisms.  Small packages, like water molecules or individual proteins, have specially-designed channels embedded in the cell membrane that check their credentials and make them run an electronic gauntlet (see
    03/12/02 headline, for instance).2  Larger packages, however, have a surprising method of making their entrance: they dive in and get wrapped in geodesic spheres.  The cell membrane neatly reseals itself around the point of entry, which occurs only where specialized receptors allow it.  This is called endocytosis (for cargo on the way in) and exocytosis (on the way out).
        The geodesic spheres are made up of a three-armed protein called clathrin.  The clathrin molecules envelop the cargo, forming a crystalline polyhedron around it.  (You absolutely have to see this cool animation by Allison Bruce of Harvard, showing clathrin forming a spherical vesicle; incredible.)  Once the cargo in its crystalline cage has been safely ferried to its destination, the clathrin molecules disassemble and are available for re-use.  (This process, and much more, is beautifully illustrated in the award-winning animated short film Voyage Inside the Cell).  Exocytosis is the process in reverse, when the cell needs to export cargo to the outside: for example, when a nerve cell needs to send neurotransmitters to another neuron.  A host of helper enzymes are involved in making both processes work. 
        “Clathrin-mediated endocytosis is one of the primary mechanisms by which eukaryotic cells internalize nutrients, antigens, and growth factors and recycle receptors and vesicles,” begin a team of Pennsylvania scientists in a paper in the Oct. 3 issue of Cell.1  But it should be obvious that the amount of cargo coming in must balance that going out, or else the cell will burst or shrivel.  “A tight balance between synaptic vesicle exocytosis and endocytosis is fundamental to maintaining synaptic structure and function,” they write, speaking especially of neurons that execute these processes continuously in the central nervous system and the brain.  How can the cell maintain this balance?
        These scientists discovered an automatic regulatory process that ensures the materials are recycled properly.  A protein called endophilin, a key regulator of the endocytosis process, has two states: open and closed.  In the open state, it attaches to the interior side of voltage-gated calcium channels (these are membrane turnstiles that allow only doubly-ionized calcium to pass through).  Here, it somehow recruits other protein machines needed for the endocytosis operation.  When the calcium concentration reaches 1 micromolar, the endophilin switches into the closed position.  Then, it detaches from the calcium gate, “which would presumably allow the liberated endophilin and dynamin [another helper enzyme] to become actively involved in endocytosis immediately after SV [synaptic vesicle] exocytosis.”  A similar self-regulating system had been known for exocytosis, but this is the first time a mechanism has been found to regulate endocytosis: “By coupling tightly to both the exocytotic and endocytic machineries,” they conclude, “voltage-gated Ca2+ channels are thus uniquely positioned to coordinate the SV recycling process.”  Their model, however, is just a rough picture of a much more elaborate process scientists are just beginning to understand.
    1Yuan Chen et al., “Formation of an endophilin-Ca2+ Channel Complex Is Critical for Clathrin-Mediated Synaptic Vesicle Endocytosis,” Cell Vol 115, 37-48, 3 October 2003.
    2Two American scientists just received the Nobel Prize in chemistry October 8 for their work that revealed the structure and function of the water and ion channels in the cell membrane.  See story in FoxNews.
    What can you say but “Wow!”  Cell operations are so amazing.  The authors use the word machinery 14 times, and not once use the word evolution or give any clue how all these parts “emerged” from any simpler cell.
        All the parts of this system have to be present and functioning: the voltage-gated calcium channels (voltage-gated: imagine that!), the endophilin and dynamin and other helper enzymes, the clathrin, and much more.  Mechanisms must ensure that only authenticated cargo is allowed in, and that the breach is resealed rapidly without leakage.  The helpers have to be recruited to the spot ahead of time, so they are ready for the operation.  The endophilin enzyme has to have the right shape to open and close when the concentration of calcium is just right.  The ingredients must be recycled and kept in balance.
        Each component is a complex system in itself.  Each protein is a large molecule of precisely-sequenced amino acids.  This is a system of complex systems.  How could such a smooth, efficient, functional system evolve?  A mutation in just one component can break the whole process: in fact, that’s how they learned about it, by artificially mutating a component, which drastically impaired the operation.
        Pause and wonder: you can read and think about this right now because endocytosis and exocytosis is going on in your brain millions of times a second.
    Next headline on: The Cell. • Next amazing story.
    Mitochondrial Ribosome Structure Casts Doubts on Endosymbiont Theory    10/07/2003
    Have you heard the story that early cells swallowed other ones and made them their slaves?  That is supposedly where mitochondria came from, but an article in the
    Oct. 3 issue of Cell reports that there are some big differences between the mitochondrial ribosomes of eukaryotes and those of bacteria, the presumed captives.
        Manjuli Sharma et al.1 determined the structure of the eukaryotic mitochondrial ribosome (mitoribosome) for the first time.  These ribosomes (sites of protein synthesis) differ from those in the cytosol, because they produce 13 specialized proteins dedicated primarily to the production of ATP. 
    According to several genomic analyses, mitochondria are believed to have arisen from an early endosymbiotic event between a eubacterium and its host cell .... Therefore, it has generally been expected that the mitoribosome will display greater structural and functional similarities to a bacterial ribosome than to a eukaryotic cytoplasmic ribosome.  (Emphasis added in all quotes).
    They found, “However, the RNA and protein composition of the mitoribosome differs significantly from that of bacterial ribosomes.”  Whereas the small subunit has 950 nucleotides and 29 proteins, the bacterial counterpart has 1542 and 21, respectively.  The large subunit has 1560 nucleotides and 48 proteins, but the bacterial counterpart has 120 + 2904 nucleotides in two units, and 33 proteins.  “Thus, the protein-to-RNA ratio is completely reversed in the mitoribosome (69% protein and 31% RNA) relative to bacterial ribosomes (33% protein and 67% RNA),” they note.  Even among the roughly half of the proteins in the eukaryotic mitoribosome that have homologs in bacteria, they are usually significantly larger.  And the whole ribosome, though larger, is more porous than the bacterial one.
        The rest of the paper describes the functional units of the mitoribosome.  They found exquisite entrance tunnels for the transfer RNA and messenger RNA, and precision exit tunnels for the nascent polypeptides.  They feel their analysis “provides new insights into the structural and functional evolution of the mitoribosome.”  But the paper also describes large differences between the mitoribosomes and the ribosomes in the rest of the cell:
    Furthermore, unlike cytoplasmic ribosomes, the mitochondrial ribosome possesses intersubunit bridges composed largely of proteins; it has a gatelike structure at its mRNA entrance, perhaps involved in recruiting unique mitochondrial mRNAs; and it has a polypeptide exit tunnel that allows access to the solvent before the exit site, suggesting a unique nascent-polypeptide exit mechanism.
    It appears, therefore, that these three classes of ribosomes are quite different from each other.  This is probably due to the different jobs they have to do, as expressed in the title of their paper: the component proteins of the mitoribosome suggest they have “an expanded functional role” over their counterparts.
    1Sharma et al., “Structure of the Mammalian Mitochondrial Ribosome Reveals an Expanded Functional Role for Its Component Proteins,” Cell Vol 115, 97-108, 3 October 2003.
    This paper assumes evolution in contradiction to the data.  They found no intermediates, and no support that this complex molecular machine evolved from bacteria.  They provide no plausible mechanism by which significantly different proteins, in significantly different amounts, could produce a significantly different structure in stepwise fashion without breaking the machinery in the process.  Yet to get all these differences at once would be a miracle.
        The structure they examined doesn’t match the glittering generality that this precision device happened once upon a time when a eukaryotic cell decided to invite a bacterium inside for lunch.  Even though their mitochondria have similar functions, their structures are completely different.
        If we stuck to the observational facts, we would no sooner assume one evolved from another as we would assume a Ferrari evolved from a Volkswagen.  Like cars, that have finely machined parts that fit together, these different models of ribosomes are composed of hundreds of parts arranged in very specific shapes (which are dependent on the precise sequences of their building blocks), and these shapes all have a critical role in the overall function: reading a DNA transcript (on messenger RNA), and producing a protein.
        These authors assume evolution but demonstrate the opposite.  “Distinct topological differences in the mRNA entry and polypeptide exit sites, as compared to the corresponding regions in cytoplasmic ribosomes, suggest mechanistic divergence of protein synthesis on the mitoribosome,” they say, implying common ancestry, and elsewhere they are even more explicit: “These observations indicate that during the evolution of the mitoribosome, proteins took over some of the functions of rRNAs, including much of their participation in the intersubunit communication.”  Good grief, now we have proteins committing job theft.  Most of the paper is good scientific observation with some nifty stereo pictures of the molecular machines.  The evolutionary storytelling adds nothing but subtracts much.
    Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory. • Next headline on: The Cell and Biochemistry.
    Lower Your Blood Pressure: Love Your Enemies    10/07/2003
    The
    Campaign for Forgiveness has conducted a study that claims forgiveness lowers blood pressure, according to EurekAlert.  The investigation included “two items assessing forgiveness of oneself and others and one item assessing feeling forgiven by God.”  Additional studies by the campaign show that forgiveness reduces back pain and depression, and improves the rehab rate of those with spinal cord injuries.  These results are to be presented at a Conference on Forgiveness October 24-25 in Atlanta.
    This entry implies no endorsement about the Campaign for Forgiveness, which looks like some kind of touchy-feely organization latching onto a half truth for possible political application.  There is a distinction between how we conduct our personal relationships and how we argue positions on foreign policy or national security.
        Be that as it may, it’s hard for science to measure such things, and it’s unnecessary.  Just open your Bible, where the Manufacturer’s Operations Manual already has a lot to say about forgiveness.  If you allow your enemy to make you resentful, angry and stressful, leading to high blood pressure and a risk of heart attack, then he has won.  He has transferred his weapons into your own body, and made you self-destruct.  By harboring an unforgiving spirit, you have become your own worst enemy.  So love your enemies, as Jesus taught, for a healthy heart if for no other reason.  (It’s the best offense, too; it drives them crazy).
        Once again, psychology offers nothing new.  Did these psychologists never hear the Lord’s Prayer?  “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  Unlike pop psychology, this gives us both the reason and the motivation to forgive sincerely.  For optimum physical and spiritual health, receive the forgiveness of God yourself first.  (This presupposes we understand the extent of our guilt and need of forgiveness.)  Only then can you truly pass it on to others.
    Next headline on: Health. • Next headline on: Human Body. • Next headline on: The Bible.
    Cold Plants Brought Forth Abundant Life    10/07/2003
    According to a story in
    Nature Science Update, plants led the way to an explosion of new life-forms on land and sea, known as the Cambrian Explosion.  “German researchers are proposing a controversial theory that the plants cooled Earth, making it conducive to complex life,” explains John Whitfield, writing for Nature’s news service.
        The idea is a new twist on the Gaia hypothesis that living things influence the global environment,” Whitfield says.  This is contrary to a prevailing view that rising temperatures, not coolness, ignited the “biological Big Bang,” a geologically short period of time in which all the major body plans appeared abruptly on the scene.
        The idea is that plants absorbed some of the then-higher levels of carbon dioxide, reducing the greenhouse effect, and lowering temperatures, and that this somehow stimulated evolution.  Not everyone is convinced, however:
    It’s also unclear whether there was a slump in temperatures, and whether such a drop would have favoured complex life.  Says palaeontologist Robert Riding of Cardiff University, UK: “Nobody knows what’s right or wrong, but it sounds odd to me”.
    Others hold to a Snowball Earth scenario, wherein the planet completely froze over 500 million and 800 million years ago, and that the explosion occurred after the thaw.  Others credit the rise of atmospheric oxygen.  “Everyone agrees that the Cambrian explosion was waiting to happen once the right conditions came along,” the article quotes Riding as saying.  “People argue over what those conditions were.”
        David Whitehouse covered this story in the BBC News 10/13/2003, and admits the Cambrian explosion is one of the “most significant and least understood periods in the history of life on earth,” and that “what actually caused the Cambrian Explosion is unknown.”
    Well, these alternative scenarios should all be testable in the laboratory.  A high school student could make this a science project.  Just put cultures of bacteria into different environments at different temperatures and differing concentrations of carbon dioxide and oxygen, and see which is the first to evolve into jellyfish, brachiopods, trilobites, arthropods, flatworms, roundworms and chordates.  After all, an explosion of evolution is “just waiting to happen once the right conditions came along,” so let’s give Mother Nature all the possible right conditions and let ’er loose.  Why hold her back?
        How convenient for the storytellers that nobody can go back in a time machine to see what really happened.  All we do know is that in the lowest rock layers in which multicellular fossils are found, all the major body plans and phyla of animals appear abruptly, fully formed, already functioning in a rich ecological environment.  How could these things be the product of slow, gradual evolution from bacteria?  It’s the opposite of what evolution would predict.  This is the issue with the Cambrian explosion – it’s a problem for evolutionists, not for creationists.
        For a good laugh, read the BBC news story.  They admit they have no data, it’s a huge mystery, the cause is unknown, but nobody sees this as a problem!  In fact, David Whitehouse ends on a note of optimism: “Dr von Bloh says that it will be of great interest when we find other Earth-like worlds circling other stars to see if they have had their own Cambrian explosions yet.  The timing of such events has implications for the search for intelligent life in space, he says.”  So they cannot explain the Earth under our feet, but they are already speculating about similar evolutionary events on other planets we cannot see!
        Shouldn’t students be told the truth about the Cambrian explosion, that it is contrary to the predictions of Darwinism, and remains a major problem for evolutionary theory after 145 years of speculation?  Evolutionists must concoct a story for the Cambrian explosion, or else they would have to admit life was created.  Isn’t it amazing that any weird, wild, crazy alternative, even Gaia, gets a hearing in Evolutionland, as long as it is naturalistic.  Isn’t it amazing that Nature prints this stuff.  Isn’t it amazing that intelligent people believe it.
    Next headline on: Plants. • Next headline on: Fossils. • Next dumb story.
    Globular Cluster Age, Origin Beliefs Undergo Radical Revision   10/05/2003
    “Globular clusters are the oldest objects in the universe, composed of slowly dying old giant stars.”  Wrong, expresses an article in the November 2003 Issue of Astronomy. In “Great Balls of Fire,” by Marcia Bartusiak, there have been major revisions of this picture that has been textbook fact for decades.  She begins by quoting William Harris describing the old orthodoxy: “At the time I was a graduate student in 1970, globular clusters were thought to be a routine area of study.  The clusters were considered among the oldest objects in the universe – all the same from one to the other.  Some were bigger, some smaller.  It was not a terribly active field.”  That has all changed over the last two decades, she writes.  At least some of them are now considered very young (maybe even forming today), they display more variety, and there is more mystery about their origins than previously assumed.
        These spherical arrangements of up to a million stars, found around most galaxy types and constituting usually only one percent or less of the galaxy’s total mass, were long described in textbooks as having formed early after the Big Bang, and nearly as old as the universe itself.  In fact, for years, there was a puzzle in that age estimates based on stellar evolution theory made them older than the then-accepted age of the universe (which is impossible, by definition).  “It was an irreconcilable age difference,” she says.  Help arrived in 1999 with the announcement that the universe appeared to be accelerating due to some mysterious “dark energy.”  This allowed the age of the universe to stretch into an acceptable range to encompass the clusters.  But the age reconciliation problem was only one aspect of a growing revision about the “globs” as they are affectionately known.  Some other problems:
    Bartusiak ends with a description of what it might be like if Earth were located in a globular: “it would have a bustling community of 100,000 or more stars closer than Alpha Centauri [our nearest neighbor], lighting up Earth’s sky during both day and night.  Near-misses between stars would be commonplace.”
        So globular cluster study has awakened from drowsiness.  The final quote says, “The field has opened up in ways that no one had imagined.”
        In the previous article of the same issue, another astronomical topic is in similar intellectual ferment.  Michael Turner (U. of Chicago) writes about modern cosmology in “Absurd Universe” (Astronomy Nov. 2003, pp. 44-47).  Though he accepts the majority interpretation of the WMAP data (see
    May 2 headline), that ordinary visible matter only makes up 0.5% of the mass of the universe, the rest being dark matter (see June 20 headline), he admits this seems absurd: “So here we are in our absurd universe,” he concludes.  Bigger telescopes and observations will “help us make sense of this amazing universe in which we find ourselves.”  (See also March 6 headline).
    Update: see 08/28/2006 headline.
    What strikes you about the globular cluster article is that heresy is becoming orthodoxy.  Ideas that were radical two decades ago are now seriously entertained.  Here are some examples (emphasis added):
    • In the 1970s, brothers Alar and Juri Toomre... carried out computer simulations suggesting elliptical galaxies arose from the merger of disk galaxies – a highly radical notion at the time.
    • Francois Schweizer of the Carnegie Observatories believes many of the metal-rich clusters surrounding ellipticals could be fairly new, an idea that provoked gasps among astronomers when he first made the suggestion twenty years ago.
    • But in 1986, when Schweizer attended an astronomy conference in Santa Cruz, California, generating ellipticals from mergers was still considered heresy.... “People at this meeting thought I was nuts,” recalls Schweizer.  “I had never worked on globular clusters, so I knew the suggestion might ruin my career.”  At the time, globular clusters were deemed ancient by definition.
    So here we have another “accepted truth” that was unquestioned for decades, common knowledge in textbooks, spouted matter-of-factly by astronomy professors, swallowed meekly by students, that is all out the window again.  It would be a good example of science being a “self-correcting process” except that current theories seem to raise more questions than answers.  How can a galaxy contain old clusters if newer ones were formed through violent mergers?  How can a planet form around a metal-poor star and orbit a millisecond pulsar?  How can globs survive for so long in the presence of dynamical evolution?  How could they have formed late without enough material available?
        Imagination comes to the rescue, producing stories more or less plausible, and some of them may be true.  The point is that scientific truth can be very plastic.  The weather vane of accepted truth can turn and point in the opposite direction if stronger winds of evidence arrive.  To be sure, much of the revision is due to bigger and better instruments providing better data than ever before.  But this story should be a lesson to always keep a skeptical eye on scientific claims.  Today’s heresy might become tomorrow’s orthodoxy, and today’s truth might become tomorrow’s myth.
    Next headline on: Stars. • Next headline on: Cosmology. • Next headline on: Dating Methods.
    Kuiper Belt Objects Pose Puzzles    10/05/2003
    The November issue of Sky and Telescope (pp. 30-36) contains a good review of what astronomers know and believe about the Kuiper Belt, a zone of minor planets beyond Neptune.  In “The 3rd Zone: Exploring the Kuiper Belt,” S. Alan Stern (Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, CO) reviews the history of discovery of these objects and describes “a decade of discoveries and surprises.”  Some of the puzzles:
    “Kuiper Belt science is still in its infancy,” Stern notes.  Helpful data is expected from the recently-launched Space Infrared Telescope Facility (SIRTF).  “If there is anything to count on,” he concludes, “it is that the Kuiper Belt will continue to surprise.”
    This was a pretty fair article, up-front about the problems and not dogmatic about theories.  It is also nicely illustrated by Michael Carroll.  Everyone should welcome new data.  It’s especially interesting when it overturns previously-taught dogmas.  There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in cosmogonical philosophy.
    Next headline on: Solar System.
    Sexual Selection Study Wins Ig Nobel Prize   10/03/2003
    The un-prestigious Ig Nobel Prize for interdisciplinary science was won by Swedish scientists this year.  (The Ig Nobel prizes, the flip side of the more famous Nobel prizes, are like the Doo-Dah version of the Rose Parade.  They are “awarded” to scientific studies that cannot, or should not, be reproduced.)
        The winning paper demonstrated that chickens prefer beautiful humans.  Chickens trained to peck at pictures of faces always seemed to pick the hunky men and the long-haired, rosy-lipped women.  What does this prove? 
    Nature Science Update tries to explain with a straight face: “This suggests that man and chicken share similar wiring, explains co-author Magnus Enquist of Stockholm University.  It could be one in the eye, he suggests, for the evolutionary theory that we chose ‘fit’ mates to share their genes with our offspring.”  (This is a reference to Darwin’s theory of sexual selection.)
        Winners in other categories included a paper that claimed taxi drivers have bigger brains, a study of which surfaces are best for dragging sheep to be sheared, and an investigation into why a particular Japanese statue did not attract pigeons.  The authors of Murphy’s Law were also posthumously honored.  For full listing of winners, see the BBC News.
    Congratulations to the Swedish team for giving proper credit to evolutionary theory.  Someone let the judges know about Creation-Evolution Headlines – they can find lots of candidates under the “Dumb” category for next year’s entries.  Follow the Chain Links and see which one you think would be a winner.  Here’s a recent contender (see also the next one below it.)  For some unexplained reason, our statistics suggest a relationship between the Dumb category and the entries under “Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.”
    Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory. • Next dumb story.
    I Think, Therefore I Am Chemicals   10/03/2003
    The Darwinian Revolution was part of a drive to naturalize biology; that is, to explain biology, including the origin of species, strictly in terms of natural law and chance, without divine intervention.1 Much rode on the coattails of that effort: evolutionary psychology, evolutionary sociology, evolutionary ecology, and evolutionary politics.  Perhaps the crux of the debate is the human mind.  Is there a naturalistic causal chain leading from hydrogen to the mind?  Are all of our deepest emotions, dreams, aspirations, values, logical arguments, thought processes, preferences, assumptions, intuitions, hopes, plans, core values, and sincerely held beliefs traceable to the chemical reactions in our neurons, plus nothing?
        Thomas Metzinger thinks so, and his book Being No One is given favorable press by Franz Mechsner (Max Planck Institute for Psychological Research) and Albert Newen (Philosophy Department, University of Bonn) in the
    Oct. 3 issue of Science.2  Their book review, entitled “Thoughts Without a Thinker,” states the issue beginning with Descartes’ foundational premise:
    When the 17th-century philosopher Rene Descartes made his famous statement “I think, therefore I am,” he was certain that this intuition could not possibly be doubted.  If there are thoughts, there must be someone who thinks.  Descartes identified the thinker with “himself,” and himself with the immortal soul.  Unsatisfied with the Cartesian framework, scientists try to explain human self-consciousness as a natural phenomenon.  This “naturalization project” is guided by the complex question: How may conscious selfhood (subjective experience and autonomous agency) emerge from causal chains of events in a physical world?  In Being No One, the German philosopher Thomas Metzinger addresses this challenge and proposes a framework of how self-consciousness might be naturalized.  In a bold, thorough, and thought-provoking synthesis, he combines a huge body of neuroscientific and psychological research data with philosophical considerations and fine-grained phenomenological reflections on real-life experiences.
        Metzinger, a professor at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany, maintains that there are actually no autonomous selves in the material world.  The perception that one is the source of thoughts and actions is an illusion, emerging from physical processes in neuronal networks where no self can be identified.  To put it provocatively, there are experiences, but no one who experiences; there are thoughts, but no thinker; actions, but no actor. Based on this premise, naturalization of self-consciousness means explaining the detailed representational, functional, and computational structure of the selfhood illusion.  One must consider its evolutionary advantage, how it emerges from neuronal processes, and how it is related to the puzzling philosophical riddles in connection with consciousness, such as the mind-body problem.
    The reviewers delve briefly into Metzinger’s framework, and discuss one of his most important observational supports: the mental patients with “Cotard’s syndrome, in which patients experience themselves as being nonexistent, obviously contradicting Descartes’s claim that the mere presence of thoughts leads to the conviction of existence.”
        They believe Metzinger has hit on a successful trail toward naturalism of the soul:
    The theory of subjectivity Metzinger presents in Being No One seems very promising in that it offers a conceptual framework for explaining many empirical phenomena related to human self-consciousness.  His basic strategy is to show that everything of interest regarding self-consciousness can be reduced to phenomenal representations.  Under the presupposition that phenomenal representations emerge from neuronal processes, this means that naturalization of self-consciousness is indeed possible.  Metzinger’s interdisciplinary approach opens a new path toward a scientific theory of consciousness and self-consciousness.

    1For a recent discussion of the naturalization project, see Cornelius Hunter, Darwin’s God (Brazos Press, 2002) and the sequel, Darwin’s Proof (Brazos Press, 2003).
    2“Neuroscience: Thoughts Without a Thinker,” a review by F. Mechsner and A. Newen of Being No One by Thomas Metzinger, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA (2003), 713 pp. ISBN 0-262-13417-9, in Science Magazine, Volume 302, Number 5642, Issue of 3 Oct 2003, p. 61.
    A conceptual framework is not a fact, and a strategy is not a truth.  Neither of these three evolutionists has established anything close to the wide-sweeping conclusion they claim.  On what empirical evidence do they make such bold philosophical judgments?  Some mental patients claim they have no self.  How do we know they are not good actors, and the psychologists are just suckers for what they are being told by the patients?  Have they ruled out all other possibilities?  And if minds don’t exist, how can they apply their minds to get into the mind of someone else and know anything?  They just shot themselves in the foot with the self-referential fallacy: if thoughts are illusions emerging from chemicals, they have no ultimate validity; therefore the claim that thoughts are illusions from chemicals is invalid.
        They also committed the either-or fallacy about the “mind-body problem.”  To say there is either all mind or all body is a false dichotomy.  Both are real.  The mind can harm the body, and the body the mind.  There are complex interrelationships between the two that we cannot fully understand.  That does not mean that one or the other is an illusion, or that one has to explain everything about the other in its own terms.
        Notice how, again, they trot out the favorite evolutionary miracle word “emergence” and flash it over the place.  Who needs scientific causality when uncanny entities like thoughts can just emerge from non-thoughts, when selves can emerge from non-selves, when acts can emerge without actors, when souls can emerge from neural synapses, when pneuma can emerge from sarx?
        Notice their hunger and thirst for mammon.  The desire to naturalize all of reality is clearly shown to be a passion, not a science.  Early science was motivated by desire to seek the mind of God; post-Darwin science is motivated by a desire to undermine all mind.  It is a reductionist mission, promoted with all the zeal of an evangelist, to expunge the I term, information, from all equations, and leave only T (time), E (energy), and M (matter).  It is a project filled with presuppositions, assumptions, beliefs, axioms, philosophical puzzles, and doctrines.  It is not science.  It is religion.
        They talk about illusion.  Who is being deceived here?  They are deluded into thinking they have arrived at a coherent, naturalistic system.  For to believe that mind, self, and consciousness are ultimately definable in toto by matter in motion, they must endow T + M + E with all the attributes traditionally ascribed to deity: omniscience, omnipotence, wisdom, and autonomous self-existence.  This is not naturalism: it is pantheism.  Science Magazine offers no platform for a rational alternative or rebuttal; it has become the pulpit for the most radical of the philosophical materialists, and the pseudo-scientific mouthpiece of the Church of Pantheism.  (Notice also that this is the only religion permitted in the science classroom, and is defended against all engagements by zealots of the NCSE, ACLU, PAW, and Big Science.  This is to ensure that young impressionable minds, which are mere illusions, will not be disturbed as the Doctrine of Emergence is inculcated into them, with the thought, which is a mere illusion, that there might be alternatives.)
        Theistic evolutionists should take note.  This review makes abundantly clear that Metzinger-type evolutionists have no room for you.  They will not stand for any personal Deity, no matter how remote from the operations of nature.  There is no soul in their theology.  And if there is no soul, there is no relationship, there is no Logos, there is no communication, and there is no salvation.  Ye are dead in your sins, and of all evolutionists most miserable.  Understand your plight, and choose you this day whom you will serve.
        Pastors should take note.  Believers of all stripes should take note.  Thinkers should take note.  Human beings who have hearts thumping in their chests should take note.  This book review should amplify the red alarm, in case you haven’t already heard it blaring since 1859.  Darwinism, predicated on the religious belief it is possible to naturalize all of reality, seeks to usurp all other belief systems.  It instigates the worst totalitarianism in history, for its core beliefs deny the existence of free will itself.  Its laws lead to the end of reason, the destruction of the soul, and the dissolution of self-consciousness into a frothing sea of illusions.  It is none other than the abolition of man.
    Their hope is dashed on nothing less
    Than nature's blood and randomness.
    They dare not trust Descartes' frame,
    but wholly lean on Darwin's claim.
    No solid rock in Darwinland,
    All logic ground is sinking sand,
    All reasoning is thinking bland.
    Next headline on: Human Body. • Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Philosophy.
    Looking for Evolution in the Genes   10/02/2003
    Let’s check in on the October issue of
    Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution1 and see how the Darwinists are doing figuring out the evolutionary history of various organisms.  (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
    • Lizards: Jennifer Hay et al. examine the line of Tuatara, a beak-headed lizard isolated in New Zealand that is an example of a “living fossil” from the age of dinosaurs. 
      Tuatara (two species of Sphenodon) are the last representatives of a branch of an ancient reptilian lineage, Sphenodontia, that have been isolated on the New Zealand landmass for 82 million years [sic].  We present analyses of geographic variation in allozymes, mitochondrial DNA, nuclear DNA sequences, and one-way albumin immunological comparisons.  These all confirm a surprisingly low level of genetic diversity within Sphenodon for such an ancient lineage.
      They propose a population bottleneck during the Pliocene.  But the data sets are conflicting, some showing much divergence, others showing little divergence:
      All data sets reveal clear genetic differentiation between the northern populations and those in Cook Strait, but offer conflicting views of the history and taxonomic relationships of the Cook Strait population on North Brother Island, currently recognised as Sphenodon guntheri.  Allozymes show this population to be the most divergent of all tuatara populations, but preliminary mitochondrial DNA data indicate few differences between S. guntheri and Cook Strait Sphenodon punctatus.  Interpretation of the trees is confounded by the lack of a suitable outgroup.  As in other cases of conflicting nuclear and mitochondrial data sets, the different data sets likely reveal different aspects of the animals’ evolutionary history [sic], and introgression is not uncommon between species pairs.
      Update 10/08/2003:   National Geographic News reported a major fossil find of Sphenodonts in South America.  There were many fossil specimens, including the largest Sphenodonts ever found (3 feet long), mixed in with dinosaur bones.  They all appeared to have been buried by flood waters.

    • Fish:  Oris I. Sanjur (Smithsonian) et al. examine the phylogeny of the European chub, Squalius, based on mitochondrial cytochrome b.  Because the lines are not monophyletic (one clear ancestral line), they have to invoke multiple episodes of colonization:
      The Iberian Squalius species do not constitutes [sic] a monophyletic group.  Our data indicate that the Iberian Peninsula was colonized at least twice by two different monophyletic lineages, a meridional group and a Central Europe group.  The amount of species diversity found in the Iberian Peninsula and the phylogenetic relationships among these species, together with their geographic distribution, suggest that the Central Europe lineage colonized the Iberian Peninsula at a latter time.
    • Corals:  Armando Sanchez et al. (U. of Buffalo) studied this group, because “Gorgonian octocorals lack corroborated hypotheses of phylogeny.”  They studied insertions and deletions (indels) in mitochondrial and nuclear RNA.  Was there a clear line of evolution?
      Gorgonian corals, branching colonies with a gorgonin-containing flexible multilayered axis (Holaxonia and Calcaxonia), do not form a monophyletic group.  These corroborated results from maternally inherited (16S) and biparentally inherited (18S) genes support [sic] a hypothesis of independent evolution of branching in the two octocoral clades.
      The title of their paper invokes convergent evolution, the idea that the two clades arrived at similar structures independently.

    • Algae:  A Japanese team, Nozaki et al., studied green algae and think they found a basal phylogeny.  But they noticed the flagella of some went clockwise and others went counter clockwise:
      Since the phylogenetic relationships [sic] of the green plants (green algae and land plants) have been extensively studied using 18S ribosomal RNA sequences, change in the arrangement of basal bodies in flagellate cells is considered to be one of the major evolutionary events in the green plants.  However, the phylogenetic relationships between biflagellate and quadriflagellate species within the Volvocales remain uncertain.  This study examined the phylogeny of three genera of quadriflagellate Volvocales (Carteria, Pseudocarteria, and Hafniomonas) using concatenated sequences from three chloroplast genes.  Using these multigene sequences, all three quadriflagellate genera were basal to other members (biflagellates) of the CW (clockwise) group (the Volvocales and their relatives, the Chlorophyceae) and formed three robust clades.  Since the flagellar apparatuses of these three quadriflagellate lineages are diverse, including counter clockwise (CCW) and CW orientation of the basal bodies, the CW orientation of the basal bodies might have evolved [sic] from the CCW orientation in the ancestral quadriflagellate volvocalean algae, giving rise to the biflagellates, major members of the CW group.
    • Birds: Ben Warren et al. studied Indian Ocean sunbirds and think they found evidence for multiple colonizations in the past.  Netherlands scientists, Thomassen et al., examined the swift family.  Some swifts use a form of echolocation in caves and some do not.  Thankfully, these appeared to form separate groups, but there were also surprises:
      Due to a lack of distinctive morphological characters, swift taxonomy and phylogeny has always been an area of disagreement.  To shed more light [sic] on this subject, we reconstructed swift(let) phylogeny based on 1143 bp of mitochondrial cytochrome-b DNA sequence.  Although this is not the first attempt to reconstruct swift phylogeny using molecular data, our results show higher support for many of the branches due to our much longer sequences.  However, placement of Hydrochous is still unexpected.  Implementation of more conservative genetic regions and sampling of more taxa could solve this problem.  Most importantly, the Collocaliini resolve as a monophyletic group.  The internal structure of the group shows that non-echolocating Collocalia and echolocating Aerodramus form two distinct clades.  This is in congruence with earlier classifications based on morphological characters, but in contrast with more recent classifications.
    These are from the first seven of 16 papers in the October issue.
    1Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, Elsevier Inc., Volume 29, Issue 1, Pages 1-184.
    Had enough?  It goes on and on.  Each paper finds surprises and unexpected results, but the data always support (more or less) evolution, because that is the title of the journal: not Molecular Phylogeny and Creation, but Molecular Phylogeny and Evolution.  Evolution is a given.  The data must fit, or they won’t get published.  Can you imagine any scientist concluding, Our data do not support any common ancestry; they indicate these groups had separate origins?  No way.  Make it fit, or get out.
        And they have very flexible ways of making the data fit.  There’s convergent evolution, parallel evolution, stasis, punctuated equilibria, maximum-parsimony tree building, Bayesian inference (a glorified GIGO process), and all kinds of other tricks to get uncooperative data into the Big Picture.  Here are examples from the other papers in this issue:
    • Lice: “Each hypothesis is supported morphologically and/or embryologically, and this problem has not yet been resolved. ... A high diversity of 12S rDNA secondary structure was also observed in wide range of Phthiraptera and Liposcelididae, but these structures seem to have evolved independently in different clades.
    • Grasshoppers: “Phylogenetic analysis indicates a direction of dispersal: South America -> North America -> Eurasia, that is opposite to what was previously believed.
    • Passerine birds (including most garden-variety birds): “The African rockfowl and rockjumper are found to constitute the deepest branch within Passerida, but relationships among the other taxa are poorly resolved--only four major clades receive statistical support. ... Monophyly of their Sylvioidea could not be corroborated--these taxa falls either into a clade with wrens, gnatcatchers, and nuthatches, or one with, e.g., warblers, bulbuls, babblers, and white-eyes.  The tits, penduline tits, and waxwings belong to Passerida but have no close relatives among the taxa studied herein.”
    • Macaques: “From phylogenetic tree reconstructions including further macaque species, we detected a paraphyletic origin of Mentawai macaques with the Siberut population more closely related to Macaca nemestrina from Sumatra, than it is to populations from the Southern islands.”
    • Fish: “Our findings support the utility of mtDNA control region sequences for phylogenetic studies within the ‘agassii species complex’ and confirmed the monophyly of this particular lineage, excluding O. luteus.  However, the monophyly of further morphologically defined lineages within the ‘agassii complex’ appears doubtful.  No support was found for the utility of these data sets for inferring phylogenetic relationships between more distantly related taxa originating from Lake Titicaca.
    • Leaf beetles: “The establishment of ancestry among the subtribes of the Luperini refutes the monophyly of cucurbitacin feeding and cucurbit specialization, with the New World Diabroticina being paraphyletic to the Old World Aulacophorina and cosmopolitan Luperina.  These data unambiguously support the convergent evolution of cucurbitacin feeding in rootworms and are inconsistent with the ancestral host hypothesis.
    • Sea bass: “Serranus was found to be paraphyletic.  Centropristis, formerly considered the sister taxon to Paralabrax, was not closely related in these analyses.  Cratinus agassizii, a monotypic genus from the eastern Pacific, was found to be the sister taxon to Paralabrax.  There is greater resolution for intergeneric and subfamily relations than interspecific relationships.
    These examples reveal that “Molecular Phylogeny and Evolution” is a game played by scientists who have nothing better to do than prop up Charlie.
        It must be stressed that both creationists and evolutionists have no conflict over variation and ancestry within certain limits.  You have more similarities within your family tree than with people from other nationalities.  Different kinds of swifts, macaques, sea bass, root rot fungi or grasshoppers can be expected to show family trees within their kinds.  But Molecular Phylogeny and Evolution gamers are convinced there are no limits to this variation, and that every complex system, including swift echolocation, fish eyes, grasshopper legs, coral houses, beetle mouth parts, sparrow wings and human gymnasts are all products of slime plus time.  The only way they can argue this is by stuffing uncooperative data into predetermined beliefs via convoluted, hand-waving stories.  These extended quotes and examples should prove this charge beyond reasonable doubt.
    Next headline on: Genes and DNA. • Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
    Biggest Fish and Oldest Shark Found Fossilized   10/01/2003
    National Geographic News reports the biggest fish story to date: a 72-footer twice as long as the living record holder, the whale shark, Also reported by National Geographic News is the world’s oldest shark fossil, tagged at 409 million years, 15 million longer than the previous record.
    From all appearances and descriptions, these were both fully formed fish, not transitional forms evolving from something else.  Every time these discoveries are made they seem to push evolutionists into having to believe these complex creatures formed earlier and faster than previously thought.  But where is any evolution?  If anything, it appears there has been devolution from the bigger and more diverse biota of the past.
        Wonder if this kind of big fish could have swallowed a man.  Particularly one on the way to Tarshish.
    Next headline on: Fish and Ocean Dwellers. • Next headline on: Fossils.
    Don’t Mutate This Gene, Or Else   10/01/2003
    Hit the power grid, and you shut down hospitals, businesses and homes.  When traffic controllers go on strike, trucks pile up on the highways, and merchants, from florists to toolmakers, cannot get their goods.   A whole city or economy can grind to a halt from one failure in a key component.  Similarly, mutations to certain genes can have what are called pleiotropic effects, causing harm to very different organs and functions scattered all over the body.  In the Sept. 30 issue of
    Current Biology1, three New York geneticists describe the failures that ensue from a mutation in one protein in the IFT family: “kidney cysts, photoreceptor degeneration, skeletal abnormalities, and spermatogenesis defects. ... A targeted Tg737 knockout [to a particular IFT protein] is embryonic lethal, with early embryonic defects that include randomized left/right asymmetry, a consequence of missing cilia on the embryonic ventral node.”  IFT proteins might also be essential for coordinating signals from cilia to other parts of the cell.
        Like most scientific papers, this one is focused on just one narrow aspect of one protein in one organism, the fruit fly.  As background information, however, they describe what IFT does and how it works.  IFT stands for intraflagellar transport.  It is a family of proteins involved in building the insides of flagella and cilia.  (These are the whip-like appendages common in most living things, from the outboard motors on bacteria, to the sweepers lining your respiratory tract, to the paddling tails on sperm cells).  If you could shrink yourself down to a few microns and watch, here’s what you might see going on inside the shaft of a cilium or flagellum under construction (emphasis added):
    The eukaryotic cilium or flagellum is a distinct subcellular compartment, with its own characteristic microtubular cytoskeleton, the axoneme, and a membrane that, though continuous with the plasma membrane, can localize distinct sets of proteins.  This distinction is maintained by a specific mechanism of intraflagellar transport (IFT).  IFT was first observed in the single-celled alga Chlamydomonas as a bidirectional movement of uniformly sized particles along the flagellum, in the space between the axoneme and the flagellar membrane.  Biochemical characterization of the particles revealed over 16 constituent proteins associated in A and B subcomplexes.  Particle movement toward the plus ends of the axonemal microtubules at the tip of the flagellum is driven by kinesin II, and mutants lacking kinesin II subunits or complex B proteins do not extend cilia beyond the transition zone of the basal body.  In mutants that express a temperature-sensitive kinesin, flagella shrink after a shift to the restrictive temperature, and this shrinkage indicates that IFT is needed to maintain and regulate flagellar length.  IFT particles and kinesin are returned to the cell body by a nonaxonemal dynein, and mutants with defects in this process typically have swollen cilia that accumulate IFT particles.  Some IFT proteins are concentrated in the cytoplasm close to the basal bodies as well as in the cilia proper, and the transition fibers that connect the basal body to the cell membrane are a possible site for the docking and exchange of IFT particles, motors, and cargo.
    In other words, there is a specialized molecular highway down the shaft of a flagellum, between the membranes, with little molecular trucks (dynein and kinesin) that transport cargo (the protein particles) to and from the tips of the growing end.  Intraflagellar transport might be termed the Transportation Department for these organelles.  Since everything from eyes, sperm, and lungs depend on cilia or flagella, you can imagine what happens when a mutation shuts down the highway department and brings construction of these essential organelles to a halt.
        A related paper in the same issue2 discusses what happens when another one of the IFT proteins, Kinesin II-mediated anterograde intraflagellar transport, mutates and prevents the kinesin truck from moving down the highway.  It makes their cilia sluggish and uncoordinated, and causes auditory defects.
        An analysis by George Witman (U. of Mass. Medical School) of these papers was published in the subsequent (Oct. 14) issue of Current Biology.3
    1Han, Kwok and Kernan, “Intraflagellar Transport Is Required in Drosophila to Differentiate Sensory Cilia but Not Sperm,” Current Biology Vol 13, 1679-1686, 30 September 2003, pp. 1679-1686.
    2Sarpal et al., “Drosophila KAP Interacts with the Kinesin II Motor Subunit KLP64D to Assemble Chordotonal Sensory Cilia, but Not Sperm Tails,” Current Biology Vol 13, 1687-1696, 30 September 2003, pp. 1679-1686.
    3George B. Witman, “Cell Motility: Deaf Drosophila keep the beat,” Current Biology Vol 13, R796-R798, 14 October 2003.
    The authors do not attempt to explain how this system evolved, other than to note that these proteins are highly conserved.  Their paper focuses on one IFT gene in one species, the fruit fly, and the conclusion is that while fruit fly cilia depend on the particular IFT under consideration, their sperm do not.  Surprisingly, fruit fly sperm tails are extremely long, longer than the fly itself, and they are able to grow by other means than IFT, possibly by external supply of components from the cytoplasm.
        Still, think about the problem of pleiotropy for evolution.  It is simplistic to expect one mutation to have only one effect.  As shown here, a mutation, even if beneficial for one part (by some stretch of the imagination), is likely to damage another part, or many other parts.  Shutting down the trucking industry might reduce our dependence on foreign oil, but how will the mail get delivered?  How will freight get to manufacturers, and finished products get to retailers?
        In a commonly-cited evolutionary example, a mutation can provide some resistance to malaria, but at the cost of rendering its host vulnerable to a deadly disease: sickle-cell anemia.  Is this all that evolution can hope for?  How can evolutionists really believe that such mistakes led to the high degree of specialization and interrelationship observed in living cells?  Surprisingly, they turn the argument around.  They say that pleiotropy is their ally.  An accident in a gene might lead to major changes all at once.  This is like believing a cosmic ray hit a reptile egg and a bird hatched out.
        Life, whether in a fruit fly, nematode, alga, or human, involves tightly-knit, coordinated parts.  Every week, it seems, biochemists find some gene or protein that is absolutely essential.  Any mistake either causes major problems, or the organism does not even survive to birth.  Moreover, organisms have complex emergency teams that fight against mutations.  If terrorism doesn’t build a city, don’t expect pleiotropic mutations to evolve life.
    Next headline on: The Cell. • Next headline on: Genes and DNA.
    Impacts Don’t Ignite Volcanoes   10/01/2003
    In the October issue of
    Geology1, Ivanov and Melosh argue that meteorite impacts don’t start volcanos erupting.  They just scratch the surface and cause local melting.  Even a 12 mile wide asteroid whacking the earth at 32,000 miles an hour, making a 200 mile wide crater, cannot get the mantle lava to erupt.  The results of their numerical simulation show that “the crater collapses almost flat, and the pressure field returns almost to the initial lithostat.”  Therefore, their models “suggest that impacts cannot be the common initiator of large igneous provinces any time in post–heavy bombardment Earth history.”  (That’s almost all the time Earth has had solid ground.)
    1B.A. Ivanov and H.J. Melosh, “Impacts do not initiate volcanic eruptions: Eruptions close to the crater,” Geology Vol. 31, No. 10, pp. 869–872, DOI: 10.1130/G19669.1.
    Catastrophists of both evolutionist and creationist stripe have invoked meteorite impacts as possible instigators of large-scale volcanism leading to extinctions.  Some have even hypothesized that meteors triggered Noah’s flood.  Subjective ideas do not always stand up to analysis (not that this paper is the final word, either).  When you cannot repeat the past or play back a video tape, it’s hard to know for sure.
        The observable fact remains that there exist huge expanses of volcanic deposits around the world that defy uniformitarian explanations.  Today’s active volcanism looks like small sparklers in comparison to the epic fireworks shows of the past.  As remarkable as Earth’s lava fields are, they pale in comparison to the activity going on right now on the most volcanically active body in the solar system, a little moon in the cold of space near Jupiter, named Io (see 09/27/2003 headline).
    Next headline on: Geology.
    Whoops, These Old Rocks Are Really Quite Young   10/01/2003
    A classic example of ancient rock, long assumed to have contained organic compounds from the earliest life-forms, has been reinterpreted as dating from opposite extreme of the geologic time scale.  In the October issue of
    Geology1, Donald R. Lowe (Stanford) and Gary R. Byerly (Louisiana State) looked at some South African ironstone pods that “have been interpreted as deposits of Archean seafloor hydrothermal vents and have provided what are arguably key observations about surface environments on early Earth.”  Up till now, these deposits “yielded what are putatively the oldest-known complex organic compounds and have been used to estimate Archean surface temperature, ocean depth and volume, and seawater composition and to deduce relationships between hydrothermal activity and seafloor sedimentation.”
        But Lowe and Byerly wondered why the beds were so undeformed if they were really three billion years old, especially in the vicinity of deformed rocks of much younger age.  They also wondered how the material they were made of, a thermally unstable hydrated form of iron oxide, could have survived intact for so long.  In addition, they found cavities filled with dripstone that seem to have formed around the same time.  This formation begged for reinterpretation.
        Lowe and Byerly have a new story.  They argue that these rocks are in fact Quaternary deposits “formed as spring and shallow subsurface deposits of young (Quaternary) groundwater and/or low-temperature hydrothermal systems.”  (The Quaternary Period is the most recent in the geologic column, estimated to be 10,000 to 1.8 million years old, whereas Archean rocks are assumed to be the very oldest, up to 3.5 billion years old.)  The ironstone may contain some rare remnant veins of Archean quartz, but otherwise, “The presence of a well-preserved modern iron oxide spring terrace confirms that these are deposits of young subaerial springs and contain no record of Archean life or environments.”
    1Donald R. Lowe and Gary R. Byerly, “Ironstone pods in the Archean Barberton greenstone belt, South Africa: Earth's oldest seafloor hydrothermal vents reinterpreted as Quaternary subaerial springs,” Geology Vol. 31, No. 10, pp. 909–912, DOI: 10.1130/G19664.1.
    Notice that this deposit had been considered Earth’s oldest seafloor by earlier storytellers.  Notice how it was used as a foundation for other tall tales about the ancient ocean, including its depth, temperature and chemistry.  And notice the new date differs by three orders of magnitude or more, undermining the whole pyramid of stories built on top of one faulty assumption.  Anyone think geological dating is an exact science?  Anyone think the new story and its date estimates are the final truth?
        Remember this article next time you read a confident national park sign explaining how such and such a formation was formed by oopty-oop processes 4.28523 kajillion years ago.
    Next headline on: Geology. • Next headline on: Dating Methods.
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    Featured Creation Scientist for October

    Michael Faraday
    1791 - 1867

    For October, we’re happy to present (finally) one of the greatest in the roll call of the world’s greatest creation scientists, Michael Faraday.  This month’s biography has the makings of a good movie.  Who doesn’t enjoy hearing about someone rising out of poverty to achieve fame and success, making the world a better place, without it going to his head?  Stay tuned.

    Recently a scientist was asked what historical person’s life he would most like to relive.  The answer was Michael Faraday.  His was a Cinderella story, the embodiment of a Horatio Alger novel, with plenty of human interest that makes for a satisfying plot.  But it’s not just a good story; it was a life that changed the world.  Faraday was a “nobody” who trusted God, applied himself, and succeeded.  He became the world’s greatest experimental physicist; to this day he is often admired as such, notwithstanding the ultra-tech toys modern chemists and physicists have at their possession.  The president of the Institution for Electrical Engineers (IEE), for instance, at the unveiling of a Michael Faraday statue in 1989, said, “His discoveries have had an incalculable effect on subsequent scientific and technical development.  He was a true pioneer of scientific discovery.”

    Faraday dazzled audiences with his public demonstrations.  He discovered some of the most important laws of physics and chemistry, discoveries which revolutionized the world economy.  But none of this mattered to him as much as one thing: his Christian faith.  He would rather be praying and studying the Bible with his fellow church members than be at an awards ceremony or have audience with royalty.  Steadfast and humble, Faraday remained absolutely committed to Biblical truth from early childhood throughout his long life.  He would have been considered a “fundamentalist” Christian, had the term existed in his day.  But nothing, not even the rising tide of skepticism in Britain leading up to the Darwinian revolution, shook his confidence in the word of God.  And Faraday was not one to hear a snicker uttered by fellow scientists; he was too highly respected for that.  His contemporaries would have agreed with what Lord Rutherford said of him in 1931, “The more we study the work of Faraday with the perspective of time, the more we are impressed by his unrivalled genius as an experimenter and natural philosopher.  When we consider the magnitude and extent of his discoveries and their influence on the progress of science and industry, there is no honor too great to pay to the memory of Michael Faraday–one of the greatest scientific discoverers of all time.”

    Start listing the things that run on electric motors – automobiles, fans, clocks, airplanes, pumps, vacuum cleaners, and so much more – and you begin to get a hint of what Faraday’s work brought forth.  Add to the list generators, transformers, electrolysis, electromagnets, and many other products of his lab, and Faraday’s importance to the history of science and technology starts to come into focus.  It has been said that the wealth generated by the inventions based on Faraday’s discoveries exceed the value of the British stock exchange.  This is probably an understatement.  Yet Faraday remained a modest, unpretentious soul who never sought financial profit from his work.  He accepted a cottage from the government in his senior years, but rebuffed honors.  When the queen wanted to knight him, he declined, wishing to remain plain old Mr.  Faraday to the end.  The glory of Jesus Christ was the only reward he sought.

    This series on scientist Christians (too bad we cannot reverse the order of the terms, no thanks to Mary Baker Eddy) has a recurring theme: circumstances are not the sole determiner of success.  There have been some who came from well-to-do families (Boyle, Joule) but others (Newton, Kepler, Carver) seemed to have everything against them.  Teachers should take note that a child from a poverty-stricken family and a bad neighborhood might turn out to be the next Michael Faraday.  “Man looks on the outward appearance,” Samuel reminded Jesse, the father of a ruddy shepherd boy destined to become King David, “but God looks on the heart.”  The most precious gift a poor mother and father can give their children is an example of faith, diligence, and godliness.  The Faraday household had little of this world’s goods, but they had these intangible treasures.  The centrality of worship in their life made them resolutely confident in the sovereignty and grace of God.  Michael gained from his faith a sense of purpose and drive and fortitude to withstand the rigors of life.  He developed values that subjugated worldly passions and promoted honorable work.  And for the benefit of science, his faith provided curiosity about God’s creation and a deep belief in the unity of nature.  As we will see, this belief steered him right toward his most fundamental discoveries.

    In this regard, young Michael Faraday was a rich child, even though outwardly his clothes were shabby, his shoes were worn out with holes, and he knew hunger.  His father, a blacksmith, had health problems and went for extended periods without work.  More than once Michael was given a loaf of bread by his mother and told it needed to last him a week.  The boy had to learn how to work hard and bear responsibility at an early age.  Properly understood and applied, these challenges can build character.  Jeremiah said, “It is good for a man to bear the yoke in his youth” (Lam. 3:27).  Faraday was living proof of that.  Rather than turn him into a thief or vagabond, hardships and deprivation instilled in Michael an appreciation for the few good things he had, a desire to succeed, and a deep hunger for knowledge.  That hunger began to be satisfied when he took a job as an apprentice bookbinder at the age of 13.

    Prior to his apprenticeship, he had attained only the rudiments of education through Sunday school: reading, writing, and arithmetic.  Though math would never be his strong point, he learned good penmanship, mastered writing and note-taking, and was a voracious reader.  In the print shop, he often read the books that were to be bound.  He was especially drawn to articles on science.  When he read in Encyclopedia Britannica about the new discoveries being made about electricity, including Volta’s new battery device that could supply a constant current, he was so fascinated, he cobbled parts from around the shop, including bottles, rags and clamps, made his own Voltaic pile, and used it to do simple experiments.  Faraday was also strongly influenced by a book by the English hymnwriter Isaac Watts on The Improvement of the Mind.  Michael resolved to discipline himself by taking reading profitable books, taking good notes at important occasions, and observing the habits of influential people.  These helped to fill in deficiencies from his substandard schooling.  Whenever he could, he asked friends and acquaintances to help him with grammar, spelling and punctuation.

    Michael dreamed of being a scientist, but felt trapped.  It seemed at times he would never be able to leave the working world he was in.  His mother and family members depended on his income, even more so when his father passed away when Michael was only 19.  By now he was a journeyman bookbinder working for a French businessman.  One day, he was given a stub of paper that was to become the ticket to his dreams: free tickets to a series of scientific lectures at the Royal Institution by the one of Britain’s most eminent scientists, Sir Humphry Davy.

    The Royal Institution was a showcase of science built in 1799 by Count Rumford (Benjamin Thompson).  It was a combination laboratory, library and lecture hall.  It contained one of the largest Voltaic piles of the era.  Well stocked with chemicals, wire and magnets, it was the place to learn physical science.  Humphry Davy, famous for inventing the miner’s safety lamp, was an early experimenter with electrolysis and used it to discover six elements: potassium, sodium, calcium, strontium, barium, and magnesium.  He was another Christian man of science.  Henry Morris summarizes his testimony: “he was a Bible-believing Christian, highly altruistic and generous, though not as spiritually minded and patient as was Faraday.  He was also a poet and, for a while, something of a Christian mystic.  In his declining years, however, he returned to Biblical Christianity and found peace therein.” (Men of Science, Men of God, p. 38).

    Sir Davy’s public lectures at the Royal Institution were very popular and brought in a good source of funding (since it relied on subscribers).  One can imagine how Faraday, now a young man and well read in chemistry and electricity, would have dreamed of hearing Davy.  He had already been attending Wednesday night meetings of the City Philosophical Society, a group of working men interested in science.  He kept voluminous notes, which his boss often showed off to customers.  One customer was so impressed, he gave Michael free tickets to four lectures by Sir Humphry Davy.  The year was 1812, and Faraday was now 21.  He came early with ample note-taking materials and sat on the front row.

    Spellbound by all Davy presented on stage, Faraday wrote down everything, recopied it neatly at home, and bound it into a book 386 pages long.  Months went by as Faraday continued to dream of becoming a scientist like Davy.  His apprenticeship over, he took a job as a bookbinder across town, but was bored with business.  He took a bold step.  He wrote to Humphry Davy and asked for a job.  With his request, he enclosed a bound volume of notes he had taken at the lectures.  Davy’s reply was polite, but disappointing; there were no positions available.  In October of that year, Davy was temporarily blinded by an explosion in the laboratory.  Faraday managed to become his secretary for a few days, but when Davy recovered, there were still no positions available.

    A carriage pulled in front of Michael’s home one evening with a letter from Davy.  Excitedly, Michael tore it open.  It was a summons to appear at the Royal Institution the next day!  Davy’s assistant had just been dismissed for involvement in a brawl, so now a position was available, and Davy had not forgotten the eager young man.  Davy had discovered many things, but as he later admitted, his greatest discovery was Faraday.

    It was a substantial pay cut to take the job, but Michael enthusiastically accepted.  His position was little more than a janitor: washing bottles, setting up for lectures, keeping records, repairing things, and assisting the master as needed.  But it was a science education par excellence, learning at the feet of one of the greatest scientists in England.  Faraday applied himself diligently.  He learned everything he could, keeping detailed notes, and working long hours willingly.  Soon he was the equal of any chemist in the world.  What’s more, in 1813, Davy invited him on come along as his personal secretary on a tour of Europe, including Italy, Switzerland, Holland and Germany, for a year and a half.  Faraday had the opportunity to personally meet some of the most important scientists on the continent, including Alessandro Volta.  It was not always easy; the talkative and snobbish Mrs. Davy had the habit of treating Michael like a servant, but overall, the experience was a powerful supplement to Faraday’s ongoing education.

    Faraday was like a kid in a toy shop at the Royal Institution.  His experiments are legendary.  Many have written on his lifetime discoveries, which are best summarized by Encyclopedia Brittanica:

    Faraday, who became one of the greatest scientists of the 19th century, began his career as a chemist.  He wrote a manual of practical chemistry that reveals the mastery of the technical aspects of his art, discovered a number of new organic compounds, among them benzene, and was the first to liquefy a “permanent” gas (i.e., one that was believed to be incapable of liquefaction).  His major contribution, however, was in the field of electricity and magnetism.  He was the first to produce an electric current from a magnetic field, invented the first electric motor and dynamo, demonstrated the relation between electricity and chemical bonding, discovered the effect of magnetism on light, and discovered and named diamagnetism, the peculiar behaviour of certain substances in strong magnetic fields.  He provided the experimental, and a good deal of the theoretical, foundation upon which James Clerk Maxwell erected classical eletromagnetic field theory.

    This summary conceals years of hard work, and many lonely yet adventurous days and nights in the laboratory.  Sometimes Faraday used his tongue as a voltmeter or chemical taster, and explosions were not uncommon.  But he was a stickler for accuracy, kept good records, and published faithfully.  He also learned and mastered the art of lecturing and became famous for his stage demonstrations.  Within a decade of his employment by Davy, Faraday exceeded his master in eminence.  By 1824, he was appointed the Institute’s Director.  He was now a skilled lecturer, well-known experimentalist, Fellow of the Royal Society, and published scientist, with many major papers to his credit.  He was also a married man, having wed Sarah Barnard, a member of his church, in June, 1821.

    Come back soon for the rest of the story, including Faraday’s unusual church and the influence of his faith on his science!


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    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).

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