Creation-Evolution Headlines
 December 2002
One might expect that there would be a healthy debate in intellectual circles over whether the appearance of design in biology is real or illusory.... The reason that debate does not occur is that the intellectual culture of our time enforces a distinction between belief and knowledge, and between faith and reason, which makes it virtually impossible to ask the right questions.
— Phillip E. Johnson, The Right Questions: Truth, Meaning & Public Debate (InterVarsity, 2002), p. 40.
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What Is Life?  Follow the Instructions   12/30/2002
Astrobiologists are looking for life in space, but first they have to know what life is.  Today’s story by Leslie Mullen on
Astrobiology Magazine looks into the intriguing question of how to define life.  Schrodinger in 1944 defined it as that which “avoids decay into the equilibrium.”  More recently, Gerald Joyce of Scripps Institute tried to define it as “a self-sustaining system capable of undergoing Darwinian evolution.”  Benton Clark of the University of Colorado thinks there are flaws in most definitions of life, so he proposes this one: “life reproduces, and life uses energy.  These functions follow a set of instructions embedded within the organism.”  He adds that the instructions do not have to be made of DNA or RNA; they could be in some form we cannot yet imagine.  The concept of instructions differentiates life from chemical reactions, crystals, and wildfires, which can reproduce and use energy:
But Clark says none of these phenomena are “alive” because none of them have the embedded instructions of a genetic code.  We know there are no instructions, because there has not been any mutation over the years.  They follow the rules of physics rather than embedded instructions, and so they behave the same every time.  Mutation, says Clark, is the key to understanding whether or not something has embedded instructions.
The article leaves it as an open question whether Clark’s definition will gain acceptance among astrobiologists.
Clark’s definition hits closer to the heart of life’s distinctive property: the ability to use and process information.  Gerald Joyce tried to incorporate Darwinism into the very definition of life, but Clark points out a problem: “How could you tell if something has undergone Darwinian evolution?  The time scales involved are enormous – scientists would need a complete understanding of an organism’s fossil history before being able to declare that the object is, indeed, alive.”  And as we have shown repeatedly, that history is non-existent, both in the fossil record and the genes.
    Instead of an evolutionary definition of life, Clark has proposed one that essentially presupposes intelligent design.  Genetic instructions – information – are key I.D. concepts.  It doesn’t matter whether the information is encoded in DNA or some other molecule; the ability to process information is universal in living things, and qualifies as a defining characteristic.  There is no natural process that can produce coded instructions that are understood and carried out by another process according to a language convention.  And yet this is exactly what occurs in human societies, and in living cells.  Instructions imply intelligence.
    Would this definition mean robots are alive?  According to Clark’s other two criteria, not unless they use energy and reproduce.  That’s a long way off, so we’ll leave that question to some future philosopher/engineer.  (Even so, it would require a lot of intelligence to produce a robot capable of reproduction.)  Then how about Chris Adami’s digital organisms?  They have instructions and reproduce, but they do not process energy and are therefore not alive (but they too are products of intelligent design).  How about viruses?  Again, they are incapable of utilizing energy without help from a host.  The definition looks solid.  So we concur with the inclusion of instructions in the definition of life; this is a positive step, fitting well with intelligent design concepts and life as we know it.  Combine Clark’s idea with Schrodinger’s inclusion of entropy due to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, and you have a definition of life that essentially excludes naturalism, because natural processes inexorably proceed toward equilibrium, which by definition, is the complete lack of instructions (i.e., specification).  Follow the instructions back far enough, and you always find intelligence.
    (Now, for a refresher on the degree of information found in even the most “primitive” life on earth, read our December 17 headline about molecular motors.)
Next headline on: Origin of Life. • Next headline on: Genes and DNA. • Next headline on: Intelligent Design.
Cell Chaperones: Did Generalists Evolve From Specialists?   12/30/2002
“Chaperones” are barrel-shaped protein machines in the cell whose task is to provide a safe folding place for newly-assembled polypeptides.  One of their remarkable properties is the ability to help fold a wide range of proteins, something like a car wash that fits all models.  Instead of the cell needing to maintain a specialist for each protein, a generalist does the job for most.  In the Dec. 27 issue of
Cell, researchers at Howard Hughes Medical Institute wrote up their experiment on “Directed Evolution of Substrate-Optimized GroEL/S Chaperonins.”  They took a chaperone named GroEL/S and “evolved” it to do a better job at folding one protein named GFS, but found that as it got better at being a specialist, it got worse at being a generalist:
These findings reveal a surprising plasticity of GroEL/S, which can be exploited to aid folding of recombinant proteins.  Our studies also reveal a conflict between specialization and generalization of chaperonins as increased GFP folding comes at the expense of the ability of GroEL/S to fold its natural substrates.
They feel this might help explain the evolution of these general-purpose folding stations: “Our results establish that the structure and reaction cycle of GroEL/S give it great plasticity, allowing the chaperonin to be tailored to increase the efficacy of folding of particular substrates.”  Their champion GFP-folding specialist, however, lost in the all-around: “GFP-optimized chaperonins often led to significant growth defects.”  Eukaryotes have a combination of generalist and specialist chaperones.  The authors feel the conflict between efficiency and adaptability drives the evolution of these molecular machines.  The authors note that proteasomes and nuclear pores are also generalists, but achieve their skill differently; for those structures, specialized “adapter proteins” bind to the substrate and then to the complex, something like tow bars specific to trucks, tractors, sedans and motorcycles first mating to their specific vehicle, allowing them to be all hooked to a common conveyor belt.
What does this paper have to do with evolution, really?  So what if a cell has generalists and specialists?  So does an Olympic team: there are champion discus-throwers, who only are good at that one event, and decathletes.  Does that mean that the discus thrower evolved from the decathlon champ?  Similarly, in a factory you might have a general drill press and a very specialized drill for particular needs.  Only an evolutionist’s imagination connects the two by common ancestry.  In their experiment in “directed evolution” (an oxymoron, since evolution is supposed to be directionless – what they did was only good old-fashioned artificial selection, or optimization, which implies intelligent design), they turned a decathlete into a discus thrower.  But then he could no longer compete in the pole vault or run the 1500.  Their evidence says nothing about common ancestry.  Here they coached a team of skilled athletes, but then imagine them morphing into each other by a blind, purposeless process of evolution.  How about a little applause, instead, for their champion performances?
    The evolutionary talk in this kind of scientific paper is worthless.  It adds nothing to the report, and is pure smoke-blowing, neither describing how these chaperones evolved or how they could evolve.  O, for peer-reviewers like Sergeant Friday who would strip out the interpretive fluff, and insist, “Just the facts, ma’am.”
Next headline on: The Cell. • Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
Stem Cell Debate Continues Into 2003   12/29/2002
An article in the
BBC News indicates that the stem cell debate is far from over.  Not only is the controversy over ethics, but pragmatics; so far, stem cells have failed to deliver on the dramatic promises made about miracle cures.  There are apparently too many sources of error in the many cell divisions they must go through in the lab.  Further, over the past year, adult stem cells have shown more potential than earlier realized, which may allow researchers to bypass the ethical concerns over the use of embryonic stem cells.  If a patient can use his or her own stem cells, it reduces the chance for rejection; but scientists do not yet know whether stem cells from either source will actually work when transplanted.  Another worry has just been reported on Nature Science Update: stem cells share a proliferation protein with cancer cells.  It may be that injecting stem cells into a patient could “run the risk of seeding cancers.”
This is a vital issue for our time.  Like abortion, it engages arguments from science, politics, health and ethics.  It’s one to watch in 2003.
Next headline on: Politics and Ethics. • Next headline on: Health.
How Old Is That Crater?   12/27/2002
About 46 years, in one case, even though it looks older.  Two recent stories on
Space.Com reveal that it’s not always easy to tell the age of a crater.  JPL astronomers have identified the crater that marks the spot where an amateur astronomer observed a meteor impacting the moon in 1956.  Though the crater does appear fresher than surrounding ones, planetary scientist Bonnie Buratti was surprised that “the effects of space weathering – intense solar radiation and meteorites striking the surface – takes place very rapidly on the Moon.”  In the write-up on New Scientist, meteor specialist Peter Brown admits, “We have no absolute criteria” for the age of lunar craters.  “‘Fresh’ could be 20 million years old.”
    Meanwhile, on Mars, another date has to be revised.  Scientists gathered in Australia to evaluate results of infrared measurements by the 2001 Mars Odyssey spacecraft heard that a big crater has been identified as the mother of a host of secondary craters (i.e., formed by the ejecta from the primary impact).  The material presented by Alfred McEwan of University of Arizona indicates:
This has two very interesting consequences.  Firstly, since over 50% of the local small craters are fall-back ejecta from this single event, the surface age of the Athabasca valley is wrong.  Surface ages are based on counting craters and assuming they are the product of the slow random accumulation of individual impacts from space.  If a whole bunch arrive in a single event, then the assumptions are wrong and the surface [is] even younger than we believed previously.
    Another consequence is that the crater and all its secondaries are so fresh looking and unweathered, even when the crater ejecta is fine dusty material, that they must be very young.  Alfred raised a laugh among the scientific audience by noted [sic] that he had checked the photos from the Viking mission some 25 years ago to be sure it hadn’t occurred since then!
Other reports puzzled over the ice caps, canyons, dust and minerals being revealed in a new light by the infrared images.
You can tell the order of events by looking at craters (e.g., if one overlaps another), but you can’t tell when they occurred without making assumptions.  Here we find two assumptions that were wrong.  Yet the second article makes glib assertions about a 3.7 billion year old epoch and a set of craters 500 million years old “or so.”  That “or so” phrase is big enough to accommodate Skinner’s Constant.*
*Skinner’s Constant: that quantity which, when added to, subtracted from, multiplied or divided by the number you got, gives you the number you should have gotten.
Next headline on: Dating Methods. • Next headline on: Solar System.
Human Population Rose From Bottleneck   12/27/2002
Researchers at George Washington University measured parts of the human genome and concluded there was a population bottleneck followed by a recovery in the Paleolithic.  They examined 500,000 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), rapidly-varying parts of DNA, in their analysis:
Distributions of marker density observed at different overlap length scales under a model of recombination and population size change show that the history of the population represented by the public genome sequence is one of collapse followed by a recent phase of mild size recovery.  The inferred times of collapse and recovery are Upper Paleolithic, in agreement with archaeological evidence of the initial modern human colonization of Europe.
The authors warn that the results should be used with caution, since they are inferred by model comparisons based on one data set, using assumed rates of divergence.  Their model of collapse and recovery produced a slightly better fit than other models.
Not too much should be gleaned from this report, since there are many assumptions and sources of error, but it seems consistent with the view that human population was wiped out at the time of the Flood and recovered slowly during the Ice Age that followed, as populations migrated from Babel out of the Fertile Crescent and into Europe and Asia.  At least Bible historians would not have a problem with this thesis (except for their evolution-assumed date of 40,000 years ago), but it would seem evolutionists have a puzzle on why a bottleneck would affect the entire human population.
Next headline on: Early Man. • Next headline on: Genes and DNA.
“That the Creator himself comes to us and becomes our ransom – this is the reason for our rejoicing.”
— Martin Luther
Merry Christmas from Creation-Evolution Headlines

New Ediacara Fossils Exacerbate Cambrian Explosion   12/23/2002
More fossils of the Ediacara biota, assumed to be the earliest multicellular animal fossils, have been found in Newfoundland 2 km lower than earlier discoveries.  Narbonne and Gehling of Queen’s University, Ontario, were surprised by the “unexpectedly large size and complexity“ of the fossils (some up to nearly 2 meters long), which imply “animals appeared very soon after the meltdown of the ‘snowball’ glaciers.”  (Here they are referring to the “snowball earth” hypothesis of a worldwide glaciation, “the most severe ice age Earth has ever known” assumed to have occurred before life arose.)  The fossil find is published in the January issue of
Geology and is summarized on EurekAlert.
    In another paper in the same issue of Geology, British geologist Derek Martin shows that soft tissue can fossilize easily under the right conditions.  His team got eggs to mineralize in three weeks under conditions of anoxia and lowered pH.  The summary on EurekAlert mentions that recently, “fossilized eggs and embryos have been discovered in Precambrian deposits, which may help to shed light on early animal evolution.”  Martin’s experiments “reinforce the opinion that the fossils are eggs and embryos of animals, rather than algal cells, which the fossil material was originally described as.”

No kidding this sheds light on early animal evolution.  It sheds the light of truth that there was no early animal evolution; animals were already there, fully formed, up to two meters long, and able to lay eggs.  Do you realize how complex an animal has to be to lay eggs?  For a long time, paleontologists thought that the round objects in Precambrian strata were “simple” algal cells (as if cells able to perform photosynthesis are simple), but if Martin is correct, they are complex animal embryos.  He also shows that the old excuse that Precambrian fossils are missing because soft parts do not fossilize well is false.  They can fossilize – quickly and easily.  Deep within the earliest Cambrian layers are complex animals up to two meters long, even lower in the strata than the Ediacara fossils similar to those in the Burgess Shale that dazzled Gould.  This cannot but be disheartening news for those looking for evidence of evolution in the earliest rocks.  The Cambrian explosion reveals a sudden profusion of complex life forms from the very beginning.  The sound of the explosion can no longer be muffled by evolutionary insulation.
Next headline on: GeologyNext headline on: Fossils
Fate of Universe: Splat, Not Bounce   12/23/2002
If the universe ever collapses in on itself, it won’t bounce.  It will never bang outward again to create another beautiful universe, reports
Nature Science Update:
The Universe is not as bouncy as some think, say two physicists.  If a Big Crunch follows the Big Bang, it may get stuck that way for ever.
    A fluid of black holes would bung up space.  There would be nothing to drive another Big Bang, and nowhere else to go.  The Universe would be, you might say, stuffed.
The article refers to the work of Thomas Banks of Rutgers University, New Jersey, and Willy Fischler of the University of Texas at Austin.  Though admittedly speculative, their model suggests that “Space might end up dark, thick and boring.”
Whether Kelvin’s heat death or these guys’ big crunch, the inexorable nature of the second law of thermodynamics dictates that the universe must end not in a bang, but a whimper.  The universe cannot be infinitely old.  Lord Kelvin said, “We have the sober scientific certainty that the heavens and earth shall ‘wax old as doth a garment’ ... Dark indeed would be the prospects of the human race if unilluminated by that light which reveals a ‘new heavens and a new earth’”.
Next headline on: Cosmology.
Will Sea Squirt Genome Bring Peace to Vertebrate Phylogeny Wars?   12/20/2002
Henry Gee, senior editor, in the
Dec. 19 issue of Nature, uncovered an eye-opening quote from a pretty exasperated 19th-century biologist, William Bateson, who was trying to reconcile conflicting theories about the vertebrate family tree (emphasis added):
“Out of the same facts of anatomy and development men of equal ability and repute have brought the most opposite conclusions,” he wrote.  “To take for instance the question of the ancestry of the Chordata, the problem on which I was myself engaged, even if we neglect fanciful suggestions, there remain two wholly incompatible views as to the lines of Vertebrate descent, each well supported and upheld by many.  From the same facts opposite conclusions are drawn.  Facts of the same kind will take us no further.  The issue turns not on the facts but on the assumptions.”  He then proceeded to burn his boats in spectacular fashion: “Surely we can do better than this.  Need we waste more effort in these vain and sophistical disputes?
This was in the 1880s.  Gee notes that Bateson six years later coined the word genetics.  Then he describes another frustrated contemporary of Bateson:
Thomas Hunt Morgan was also leaving old-fashioned evolutionary biology for experimental science, abandoning various worms for the fruitfly, on whose narrow and bristly shoulders rests a century of work on comparative developmental biology.  The work on the genome of Ciona [the sea squirt] can thus trace its lineage to Bateson and Morgan and the very foundations of genetics. ... Welcome back, little squirt.
Gee seems confident that the newly released draft genome of the sea squirt, a tunicate supposedly located near the root of the vertebrate family tree, will supply the long-sought resolution of the controversy that so frustrated Bateson and Morgan.
More vaporware.  He does not say it does, or provide any evidence it will.  In fact, it already contains a conundrum: these sea squirts apparently contain a complex mechanism for synthesizing cellulose – something only plants do – yet they are not plants!  Gee puzzles, “Sea squirts have some interesting physiological quirks, the most bizarre of which is the manufacture of cellulose for their distinctive outer coverings, or ‘tunics’.  Some of the enzymes involved in cellulose metabolism are undoubtedly home-grown, but the report of a cellulose synthase gene, previously found in plants, is unique for animals and might have been an import from nitrogen-fixing bacteria.”  Now we’re really in trouble; we can’t tell if this is a case of convergent evolution (i.e., multiple miracles), or lateral gene transfer.  If the latter, how do we know the whole picture of the evolutionary tree of life isn’t tangled up with cross-limbs?  Or that there is a tree at all?
    What is more interesting in the Bateson quote is that it reveals in hindsight that for 120 years evolutionists have assumed there is a family tree for vertebrates with no evidence to support it (else why is Gee looking to the sea squirt genome for hope?).  The evidence was so lacking even back then that these two prominent biologists abandoned evolutionary theorizing in frustration, and went back to the lab to do real empirical scientific work.  We think that would be good advice for today’s evolutionary biologists, since comparative genomics is still failing to provide clear evidence for common descent.  Often, the trees inferred from the genes differ markedly from those deduced from outward form.  If one cannot trust morphology and phenotype, what does this do to the other historic attempts to build family trees on outward appearance?
    Gee thinks much good came from the historic debate: “But we owe the existence of genetics, genomics and, arguably, a large part of molecular biology to the frustration of two young men unable to coax the secrets of evolution from creatures such as Ciona intestinalis.”  But these advances came out of their abandonment of evolutionary speculating!  Nor have genetics, genomics and molecular biology since been the unequivocal boon to evolutionary theory that Gee implies.  Is there a lesson here?  Abandoning worthless speculation is good for science.  Let Bateson’s lesson echo from history: “Need we waste more effort in these vain and sophistical disputes?”
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory. • Next headline on: Genes and DNA.
Early Earth: Keeping the Methane Blanket, Removing Oxygen   12/20/2002
Multiple puzzles surround the early earth and the origin of life.  Stellar evolution theories suggest the sun was up to 30% dimmer in the past; how could life originate and evolve on a frozen earth (the faint young sun paradox)?  How did the early earth keep oxygen away, which would have been deadly to emerging life-forms?  Some evidence points to the presence of oxygen in the early atmosphere.  But now, an international team of geophysicists publishing in the
Dec. 20 issue of Science has found evidence, in sulfide inclusions in precambrian African diamonds, of a rare type of mass-independent isotopic fractionation that cannot occur in the presence of oxygen.  It requires high-energy ultraviolet light that would have been blocked if oxygen or ozone were present in the Archaen atmosphere.
   In a Perspective write-up on the paper in the same issue, Uwe H. Weichert is confident this solves several problems.  Not only does it provide evidence there was no oxygen (when it would have been undesirable), but another type of mass-dependent isotopic fractionation might have been performed by methane-producing bacteria.  These might have produced enough methane to provide a warming blanket during the faint young sun period.  In the absence of oxygen, the residence time of methane might have been 10,000 years, so a continual supply of methane would have been required.  Weichert claims, “The discovery of mass-independent sulfur isotope effects in sulfide inclusions makes an oxygen-free atmosphere, flooded by UV light, a virtual certainty.”  Still, more evidence is needed for methane, and the relation of oxidation in ocean water to the rise of atmospheric oxygen needs to be better understood.  He hopes the Cassini-Huygens probe (due to land on Saturn’s moon Titan in January, 2005) might provide independent clues on how the chemistry works.
    Similarly, three geophysicists from Penn State propose higher levels of methane in the Proterozoic to keep the earth from freezing.  Their paper is published in the January issue of Geology.
There are a mighty lot of mights in this tale.  These rocks might be the right age, if evolution were true.  Assuming that, the sulfide inclusions might have survived subduction into the mantle where they might have been ejected by volcanoes and discovered by diamond miners.  Methane might have been produced by bacteria, if the sulfate levels in the oceans might have been low enough.  Then there might have been enough methane produced to get the earth warm enough to keep from freezing.  This story is beginning to look like a house of cards in a breeze, but then there’s the earthquake: “an oxygen-free atmosphere, flooded by UV light.”  That, folks, means death to any living thing exposed to it.  How can evolutionists continue to hope against hope?  When does hope become false hope, and cross over the line into fantasy?
Next headline on: Geology.
Researchers Claim to Demonstrate Macroevolution In a Computer Simulation   12/19/2002
In the
Dec. 19 issue of Nature, two evolutionary biologists used the computer program Tierra to study macroevolution.  They created digital organisms (i.e., computer programs that are given an instruction to perform) and made them compete for CPU time.  Their experiment was motivated in part by the lack of ability to study large-scale evolutionary change in nature (emphasis added):
The process of adaptation occurs on two timescales.  In the short term, natural selection merely sorts the variation already present in a population, whereas in the longer term genotypes quite different from any that were initially present evolve through the cumulation of new mutations.  The first process is described by the mathematical theory of population genetics.  However, this theory begins by defining a fixed set of genotypes and cannot provide a satisfactory analysis of the second process because it does not permit any genuinely new type to arise.  The evolutionary outcome of selection acting on novel variation arising over long periods is therefore difficult to predict.
One of the things they wanted to find out is whether you would end up with the same endpoints on different runs with the same starting conditions.  The short answer was, no: evolutionary adaptation appears to be contingent (unpredictable), not governed by necessity (natural law).
This is another worthless computer trick, built on the fallacy of analogy, vastly oversimplifying the real living world.  As we have seen before, they salt the mixture with external information that would not have been present in the real world, and worse, they define fitness in terms of survival, which makes it a tautology.  Despite their bluffing title, “Macroevolution simulated with autonomously replicating computer programs,” they did no such thing.
    This is old news, so far.  What we always find more interesting are the candid admissions of the lack of evidence for real evolution.  The issue in the debate over creation vs evolution is not about microevolution – population dynamics that affect pre-existing traits like finch size and shape or peppered moth coloration – because that is observed and not controversial.  It’s about large-scale change.  What most people think of upon hearing the word evolution is macroevolution.  This is what Darwin claimed it meant: a process of natural selection able to change the first primitive cell to humans (or any other complex life-form), with all the varieties of organisms in between.  These authors fail utterly to demonstrate macroevolution.  They fail to provide a connection between the short timescale process (microevolution) and the long timescale process (macroevolution); they fail to describe any example of a beneficial mutation; they fail to show how mutations could accumulate to build a new complex organ or function; they fail to define fitness in non-tautological terms; and they fail to translate their simplistic computer simulation to the real world.  They rely on the discredited founder effect, and their simulation actually shows devolution, not evolution: the genome size decreased, and the number of instructions executed by the survivors decreased also.  As usual, they merely assume evolution, not prove it.  But in their introduction, quoted above, they reveal the embarrassing fact that real macroevolution cannot be predicted (therefore is not scientific), and that only microevolution has any evidence to back it up (which is not really evolution in the Darwinian sense).
    Most readers of Nature and other journals probably do not have time to read the body of most articles, but undoubtedly scan the titles.  We have shown here and before that many time what the title gives the body takes away.  Are readers getting the impression that evolutionary theory is supported by mounds of evidence, just from looking over hot-air titles?  Based on our experience reporting evolution stories, we propose a new Murphyism: evidence in a scientific paper is inversely proportional to the amount of bluffing in the title.
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory. • Next dumb story.
Why Men Are Less Religious   12/19/2002
It appears that men statistically tend to be less religious than women, and this finding cuts across all ethnic, cultural, and historic lines.  Even in ancient Greece, Rome, China, Argentina, Turkey, South Africa, and 57 countries studied, this tendency is noticeable.  Why is this?  Psychologists from the
University of Washington tried to find out, and concluded it was not due to men having more logical minds, or women having more time to engage in religious activity.  It was not due to women having more nurturing or submissive natures that make religious acceptance and commitment more likely.  No; it is the same trait that makes men more likely to engage in criminal behavior: risk-taking.  Men have an “underdeveloped ability to inhibit their impulses, especially those involving instant gratification and thrills.”  Thus they are more often willing to risk jail or hell for the momentary pleasure and deal with the consequences later.  “Not being religious is similar to any other shortsighted, risky and impulsive behavior that some men – particularly young males – engage in, such as assault, robbery, burglary, murder and rape.”
Jesus Christ said to would-be disciples, who wanted instant gratification of being with a popular leader, “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it— lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’  Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? ” (Luke 14:28-31).  The Bible repeatedly warns men (and women) to count the cost of their choices.  Evolutionists would say that risk-taking and aggressive behavior are just traits that enable males to hunt or find a mate, so there is nothing “immoral” about them.  We’d like to see an evolutionist professor explain to his son why he cannot let his passions run wild, if wildness is what evolution has produced.  Creationists who believe the Bible understand, to the contrary, that irrational and antisocial behaviors are abnormalities in the world: they are the result of sin and rebellion against the Creator.  It takes faith (obedience) and then self-control to overcome these innate tendencies.  (Interestingly, this is the second “politically incorrect” report this month that indicates that male-female differences are innate, not imposed; see also the Dec. 11 headline.)
   It is also a Biblical principle that leadership and protectorship are roles God designed for men.  This implies confidence and some impulsiveness; combine that with short-term thinking and selfish appetites corrupted by sin, and you have the makings of a criminal.  That’s why parents, especially fathers, need to discipline their sons and teach them to think about the consequences of their actions: “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of correction will drive it far from him” (Proverbs 22:15).
    We need to be reminded, of course, that there are always exceptions to broad-brush generalizations; there are risk-taking girls and sensible boys.  Some boys need to learn to take more risks and overcome their fears.  Some girls live like there’s no tomorrow.  Most of the great religious leaders of history have been strong, virile men; nevertheless, the overall trend is clear.  These studies show that women, in general, have a better innate sense for discerning consequences of their actions than their male counterparts; men need remedial training in this area.  This pours cold water on the husband’s rationalization that “church is for women and children; I’m a man, and I can stand on my own two feet without that crutch.”  No; you’re an impulsive sinner, and you don’t look far enough down the road you’re on.
    Risk-taking under control can be a good and powerful thing, stimulating a man to become an entrepreneur and create jobs, or to be proactive in protecting his family, or to explore a new environment.  It must be harnessed by reason and self-control.  Most of all, men – and women – need to look beyond this life to eternity: “For what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world [immediate gratification], and lose his own soul [consequences]?” (Matthew 16:26).
Next headline on: Health. • Next headline on: Bible.
How Can Scientists Keep the Public Trust?  Be Honest   12/18/2002
An op-ed piece in the
Dec. 18 issue of Nature warns its readers not to take lightly the public trust in science, which is at an all-time high despite a year of controversy and misconduct among scientists.  Recalling the erosion of trust in the Catholic church because of scandals and the stock market because of failed promises, the article reminds that trust can rapidly erode if scientists take it for granted, push controversial technologies like stem-cell research or genetically-engineered foods, or engage in misconduct or conflict of interest.  A prominent theme in the editorial is honesty over deceit, disinterest over self-interest, and truth over spin doctoring.  The writer seems to have creationists in mind when s/he says:
Trust in science could also be diminished by people who exploit scientific uncertainty for political ends, such as by casting doubt on the evidence for global warming or evolution.  A few ‘sceptics’ appearing on TV can confuse a public that expects monolithic truth from science.  All that scientists can do is explain that scientific ‘truth’ keeps changing in the light of new evidence, and provide the bigger picture.
In a day when “advertising and spin are pervasive, and where broadcast news - the main source of information for most people - is increasingly partisan, the public has fewer places to turn to for objective, neutral information.  Science can be of great service to society here.”  That’s why it’s important for scientists to be paragons of honesty.
Let’s get this straight.  Scientists are objective, neutral, unbiased, truthful, disinterested, honest, and always wear a white lab coat.  They do not have political agenda (but of course, doubters in the evidence for global warming or evolution always do).  Is something wrong with this picture?
    Consider first of all the whole idea that truth and honesty are values.  Where did those “evolve” from?  No civilized person would despise the ideal of the dispassionate, disinterested truth-seeker in the science lab, but this ideal presupposes a certain value system and world view.  Why, it almost sounds like altruism, but we have had evolutionists telling us for years that altruism is only an illusion, because natural selection, by definition, must ultimately promote self-interest.  So altruism is really only a game played blindly by a population to pass along the genes of the fittest.  Nature appears to believe this, publishing these ideas frequently rather than the words of a Prophet who might say something antiquated like, “Greater love hath no man, than one lay down his life for his friends.”  This op-ed piece is cheating.  It is borrowing Christian values without believing in Christ, and hiding its own embarrassing values of self-interest under the rug, while preaching against the sin of self-interest.  Isn’t this spin-doctoring of the worst kind?  A Catholic priest preaching holiness while molesting boys is not altogether different.
    Consider also the claim “scientific ‘truth’ keeps changing in the light of new evidence.”  Truth is put in quotes because it isn’t truth if it keeps changing.  If it changes, what is true today could be false tomorrow.  So will they reject evolution if given new evidence that falsifies it?  No way.  They put ‘sceptics’ [British spelling] in quotes also, because a real skeptic is skeptical about everything except evolution.  The intelligent design movement has been trying to get scientists back to following the evidence wherever it leads, but keep running into stiff walls of opposition by those who will refuse to look at the evidence while accusing the doubters of having a “religious agenda.”  We have shown for over two years that evolutionary storytellers continually spin-doctor every evidence, no matter how contradictory, into their unfalsifiable tale, ignore it altogether, argue from silence, or even present known frauds to keep their story from collapsing.  Even this very issue of Nature calls this past summer’s discovery of the Toumai skull a “triumph” even though, as we and others reported, it throws the whole field of paleoanthropology into confusion and controversy.  What is an agenda (in the bad sense) if not a headstrong movement, unstoppable by evidence or reason?  Is this how to keep the public trust?
    Science began as private work done by amateurs who believed in God and sought to understand His wisdom expressed in His creations.  Within that tradition, most of what Nature publishes, when not stepping out of bounds beyond empirical, observational, repeatable experimentation, is good and honorable.  But science is supposed to be, at its heart, a search for truth, not a political party or special interest group.  Today, science is an institution alongside organized religion, politics, and the stock market.  Perhaps the only way to understand this editorial in Darwinian terms is to see the scientific establishment as an utterly selfish institution that can only keep its memes evolving via game theory.  How about a nice game of charades: pretend to uphold traditional values while espousing Darwinism, a “universal acid” that eats through all traditional beliefs, (in the words of Daniel Dennett, one of today’s champion defenders of evolution).  Pretend to espouse Christian values while undermining the very altruism and truthfulness taught and exemplified by Jesus Christ.  It’s not about trust; it’s about winning the game.
Next headline on: Politics and Ethics. • Next headline on: Intelligent Design.
Evolving Life on a Binary Code   12/18/2002
The DNA code uses 4 letters (A, C, T, G) arranged in threes (codons).  Morse Code, a binary code, uses 2 letters (dot, dash) arranged in variable-length “bytes” like •••- for the letter V.  Other binary codes, like ASCII, use fixed-length bytes of 7 bits plus a parity bit.  Could life have used binary code?  Figuring out how life booted up to a full-fledged 4-letter code has been difficult for astrobiologists.  But now, Gerald Joyce and John Reader of
Scripps Research Institute have made an enzyme based on just two chemical letters, demonstrating “Darwinian evolution at its simplest.”  Although no fossil evidence can be found for life not already built on today’s DNA code, they feel this lab demonstration shows that life could have started on a simpler, binary code, and bootstrapped its way up to a more complex code by natural selection.  Their paper is published in the Dec. 18 issue of Nature.
Whenever you see scientists perform magic tricks, always learn how the trick is done.  The trick is to sneak information in while the viewer is distracted by the action and jargon.  They admit this proves nothing about how life originated, because there is no fossil evidence; it only is a story about how it might have, assuming you believe in chemical evolution and have ruled out a Creator from the start.  So did they create life in a test tube or any such thing?  Not any more than crippling a robot and claiming you have created civilization.  They worked down from an already-existing complex enzyme:
In the current study, Reader and Joyce first created a three-base enzyme (A, U, G) and then performed chemical manipulations to convert all the A to D (diaminopurine, a modified form of A) and biochemical manipulations to remove all the G.  They were left with an enzyme based on a two-letter code (D and U).
    Reader and Joyce insist that their study does not prove life started this way.  It does, however, demonstrate that it is possible to have a genetic system of molecules capable of undergoing Darwinian evolution with only two distinct subunits.
If you took some parts off a working robot, it might still work, in a crippled manner.  Would you therefore have demonstrated that the machine could make itself from nothing, or that it could, over time, make itself into something better?  These molecules would never have done by themselves would Reader and Joyce made them do.  All this paper demonstrates is the power of intelligent design to make things happen according to a predetermined goal.  Any other inference is wishful thinking, but watch the newspapers latch onto the wishful thinking more than the facts.
Next headline on: Origin of Life. • Next headline on: Genes and DNA.
Deadly Virus Becomes Healer   12/18/2002
Ebola, the feared virus of the book The Hot Zone and ruthless pathogen of Africa, is being modified to transmit healing genes, say scientists at
Purdue University.  It might allow therapies to be introduced by inhalation instead of injection, to treat patients with cystic fibrosis and other diseases.
Could viruses have had a beneficial function in the original creation?  Could they have introduced needed genetic material for organisms entering a strange environment?  Viruses are genetic transfer tools; they are not evil in themselves, but just do what they are programmed to do.  In this cursed world, the robots have turned on us.  Food for thought, at least.
Next headline on: Health.
Molecular Motors — “Remarkable Machines”   12/17/2002
In a Commentary in the 12/16 online preprints of the
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, John Murray of University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine reviews what is known about molecular motors in the cell, particularly the linear motors (like trains on a track), which for all intents and purposes are true motors that actually move things and perform work that is measurable.  Linear motors move along tracks (actin filaments or microtubules) in discrete steps of predetermined length (8nm for kinesin), and are polarized to move in only one direction; yet there are so many pairs of tracks and cars that the cell has no problem getting cargo to any point desired.  Murray is especially intrigued by how motors like myosin and kinesin combine chemical process with mechanical actions in cycles that involve feedback between them; how do they do it? 
The details are still actively sought, but the overall process goes like this.  One or more of the chemical transitions in the catalytic center causes a specific small movement of neighboring parts of the protein, and this small movement is mechanically amplified into a much larger movement of the core motor domain relative to the “tail.”  Some of the chemical transitions also dramatically change the affinity of the head for the track.  Conversely, binding of the head to the track alters the rates of some specific chemical transitions.  Glossing over all of the uncertain bits, the net result (see Fig. 2) is that the head swivels its way along the track while ATP is hydrolyzed (i.e., in the entertaining but anatomically bizarre terminology of this field, the passive tail is pulled along by a wagging head).
Murray also finds it intriguing that many of the motors have two head domains.  The two heads talk to each other constantly; neither can produce the motion by itself.  In the case of kinesin, scientists are still trying to figure out whether the heads “walk” in a hand-over-hand fashion or move instead like an inchworm.  He describes how “some motors work in groups, organized in ordered arrays of motors and tracks such as the interdigitating myosin and actin filaments of muscle tissue.”  Yet other molecular motors work alone, shuttling their cargo on single tracks like handcars on a monorail.
    The thrust of Murray’s commentary is hope that a new technique might help sort out the interaction of the two heads so scientists can discover how they work.  In passing, he notes some of the performance specifications of these motors:
In addition to processivity, other experimentally accessible parameters of a motor include its maximum velocity (~800 nm/s for kinesin; 5-50,000 nm/s for other motors), maximum force (~6 pN for kinesin; step size X force is limited by the energy of ATP hydrolysis, ~100 pN/nm per molecule, roughly 25 kT), maximum rate of ATP hydrolysis (~20/s per head for kinesin; 0.5-100/s for other motors), and affinity for tracks.
By affinity for tracks, he means that these motors are attracted to the surface of the microtubules on which they zip around by forces of chemistry; like a wall climber with magnetic shoes, a kinesin can go 50-250 steps without falling off.  The velocity measurements mean, in plain English, that these little motors are speed demons.  Using his numbers and assuming a body length of 8nm for kinesin, if translated up to race car size, it would go 100 body-lengths per second; for a 12-foot race car, that’s over 800 mph.  For the 50,000 nm/s motor, could it really be ... 400,000 mph?
Murray only refers to evolution once in his commentary, and that in a purely speculative manner, borrowing the language of intelligent design: “Evidently transport is more expensive than massively redundant manufacturing capability.  Is that why cells evolved so many different kinds of motors (~100 in a typical cell), so that each may be tuned for performance in a small number of highly specialized tasks?  Whatever the reason, biological motors are numerous and diverse.  The few features that motors have in common therefore attract attention from biologists fascinated by these remarkable machines.”  We doubt evolutionists could take much comfort from a statement like that.  Did you catch the subtle personification and teleonomy in his wording?  Yes, once upon a time, the molecules held council, and decided that they needed to evolve not just one highly complex device, but lots of them, so that each may be tuned for highly specialized tasks.  So they rolled dice for awhile, and soon a city was born, its passengers and cargo zipping down automated railway systems at 800 mph in peace and prosperity.
Next headline on: The Cell. • Next headline on: Intelligent Design. • Next amazing story.
Fully Formed Galaxies Found at Farthest Distance Yet   12/16/2002
A new photograph taken by the European Southern Observatory of faint galaxies so distant their light is shifted into the infrared was reported by the
BBC News.  The photograph, taken of a part of the 1995 Hubble Deep Field image, reveals detail even the Hubble Space Telescope could not see.  The report says, “From such observations, astronomers have discovered that galaxies existed already at that epoch which are clearly rather large, and some show spiral structure similar to that seen in very nearby galaxies. This insight is having a profound impact on current attempts to understand the formation and evolution of galaxies.”
In biology, we see a Cambrian Explosion of all the major phyla of animals, fully formed and adapted to their environment, replete with eyes, nervous systems, circulatory systems, articulated limbs and many other complex organs, without precursors.  In cosmology there is a similar phenomenon: fully-formed galaxies with spiral arms as far back as we can see.  Are these two observational facts related?
Next headline on: Cosmology.
Reappearing Genes in Vertebrate Lineage Unexpected   12/16/2002
Another test of vertebrate phylogeny in the genes has produced unexpected results.  Writing in the
Proceedings of the National Academy of Scientists, four researchers from Madrid tested gene duplication as a marker for the evolution of vertebrates, but were confused by what they found (emphasis added):
Gene duplication has been a major mechanism for increasing genomic complexity and variation during evolution.  The evolutionary history of duplicated genes has been poorly studied along the vertebrate lineage.  Here, we attempt to study that history by analyzing the expression of two members of the Snail family, Snail and Slug [genes], in representatives of the major vertebrate groups.  We find a surprising degree of variability in a subset of the expression sites for both genes in different species.  Although some of the changes can be explained by neofunctionalization or subfunctionalization, others imply reciprocal changes in the expression of the two genes and the reappearance of expression in sites lost earlier in evolution.  Because these changes do not fit easily into current models, we need to invoke additional mechanisms acting on enhancer elements to distribute expression domains and functions of duplicated genes unequally during evolution.
Their surprise is palpable as they evaluate their measurements and attempt to explain unexpected results (emphasis added):
  • We have extended these observations to cartilaginous and bony fishes, reptiles, and turtles, and found a much higher degree of variability in domains of expression for this gene pair than expected.
  • The present analysis of Snail/Slug duplicated genes during vertebrate evolution reveals a much higher degree of plasticity and complexity than expected and highlights the risk of using expression or function as phylogenetic characters when studying the evolution of gene families.
In their data, expression of certain genes is lost only to reappear again in later in other lineages.  They puzzle over how a function could disappear and reappear (emphasis added):
In this case, we would need to invoke extremely unlikely events as the reversal of degenerative mutations or de novo creation of tissue-specific regulatory elements to account for the reappearance of these expression domains after their loss at earlier stages in evolution.  Although such events may occur over short time-scales, it has such a low probability in our situation that it could be described as an evolutionary reversal, in the sense prohibited by Dollo’s law on the irreversibility of evolutionary changes.  A possibility we cannot formally rule out is that ancestors of all of the species analyzed retained expression of both genes in pnc and tail bud, and that independent enhancer loss by mutation occurred in each lineage.  In this case, the distribution of expression patterns we observe would not reflect common descent, but random variation.  Once more, this is an extremely unlikely scenario, where in all ancestors both duplicated genes were necessarily expressed at all sites simultaneously.
In conclusion, they explore whether epigenetic factors can explain the data, and suggest the possibility that “rare and not parsimonious events can be observed more than once in the evolution of a single genetic regulatory system.”
The paper is replete with photos of comparative embryos reminiscent of Haeckel’s drawings, but these ones are original and not faked — and they don’t look anywhere near as similar as Haeckel’s.  How many times have we seen Darwinists trying to cram the data into a belief in evolution, when it doesn’t fit?  They put an optimistic spin into their conclusion, that their data do not “conflict” with the current model, “but extend the range of mechanisms that can act on enhancer elements during evolution to distribute expression domains and functions of duplicated genes unequally.”  So much for Occam’s Razor.  Don’t expect a straightforward evolutionary tree to jump out of the genetic information, but there is always a way to make it fit with plenty of creative imagination.
    This paper is reminiscent of the carnival game where the kid hits a peg with a hammer, only to have another peg pop up somewhere else.  When he hits that, a third pops up, ad infinitum.  An astute kid will realize what’s going on and change his assumptions.  A worldview-challenged kid will think “I’ll figure it out some day; maybe a bigger hammer will help.”
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory. • Next headline on: Genes and DNA.
TV Commercials Mischaracterize Evolution As Progress   12/13/2002
Senior editor of
Nature Henry Gee writes in the Dec. 12 issue (emphasis added),
We’ve all seen the commercials.  A line of figures walking from left to right, first a shambling ape on all fours; the second, semi-erect with a vague glimmer of intelligence, and perhaps holding a hand-axe; further along, a tall, proud man, carrying a spear and wearing furs; and finally, a user of the latest car or washing machine.  The caption will speak of advancement and progression, something like “Evolution - the Next Step”.

These advertisements reflect the popular view of evolution as a progressive force that drives an inexorable improvement.  But in reality, evolution is based largely on natural selection, a handy term for the interaction between the environment, mutation and superabundance.  Natural selection has neither memory nor foresight; it works only in the here and now.  It is not a force, an entity separate from the materials on which it acts.  Still less can it be personified.

Although one might like to blame the advertising industry for this misrepresentation, a successful copywriter will only hold a mirror up to the zeitgeist, and popular wisdom sees evolution as progressive and directed.  So why, almost a century and a half after Darwin, do we still so readily accept this view of evolution as progressive?

Henry Gee finds the roots of this mentality in nature philosophy, a movement in the 18th century propelled by the teachings of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832).  This most famous nature philosopher melded aesthetics with scientific investigation and produced a vision of mankind as, once again, the center of the universe, the highest end of a progression from primitive to advanced.  Huxley, Haeckel, Rudolph Steiner and others were influenced by the concept of progressive evolution with man as highest product.  Gee admits that this vision inspired Nazism.  Why do the leading advocates of Darwinian evolution keep perpetuating the notion, when they should know better?  Could it be rooted in our own pride? .
An obvious reason is that the progressive view resonates far more strongly with our own vanity and inclinations than with the more abstract and austere concept of evolution by mindless selection.  In less enlightened times, progressive evolution was used to justify racism and Nazism.  We like to think that we have risen above such things, but the copywriters know better - when we see the canonical parade of evolving humans, we identify with and aspire to be the one at the top.

Perhaps a more subtle explanation is that the progressive view is lodged in the minds of senior advocates of darwinian evolution by natural selection.  As the late J. Z. Young wrote: “We shall expect to find in mammals even more devices for correcting the possible effects of external change than are found in other groups ... culminating in man with his astonishing perception of the ‘World’ around him and his powers of altering the whole fabric of the surface of large parts of the earth to suit his needs.”  Perhaps there is a nature philosopher in us all.

(Emphasis added).  Gee’s essay entitled “Progressive evolution: Aspirational thinking” is in the Dec 12 issue of Nature.
Gee is correct to criticize this false ideal of progressive evolution, and to point out the fallacy of personification seen so often in evolutionary rhetoric.  This editorial could almost have been written by a preacher, as a rebuke against the Darwinian materialists who are inconsistent with their own assumptions, or against the pride and vanity of the sinful human heart.  The difference is that Henry Gee still believes it.  He believes that all the wonders of the living world came from a mindless, directionless, purposeless, opportunistic process of natural selection – yet he sees in his own psyche a glimmer of that same pride of place.  But why would natural selection evolve pride, if it is not progressive?  And if an impersonal natural process cannot be progressive by definition, why is there a progression from simple to complex, from mindless matter to minds that care about what matters?
    Sometimes evolutionists are the best critics of their own world view.  There’s only one who put nature philosophy and progressive evolution into a more pointed, succinct form: “You shall be as gods....”
Next headline on: Movies. • Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
Sources of Short-Lived Radionuclides in Murchison Meteorite Questioned   12/13/2002
Writing in the
Dec. 13 issue of Science, three physicists puzzle over the distribution of short-lived radioisotopes in the Murchison Meteorite.  Other meteorites contain 26Al and 41Ca along with 10Be, but the Murchison rock only contains the latter, which cannot be a product of stellar nucleosynthesis.  A more recent proposal is that solar radiation produced some of these isotopes, whose half-lives span 100,000 to 1.5 million years, but “Whether energetic particle interactions also produced the other short-lived nuclides that were present in the early solar system has remained a contentious issue.”  The authors recognize that “It is important to resolve this issue in order to understand the origin and early evolution of the solar system.”  They settle on a combo plate, that some came from stars, and some from the sun, but the sun would have had to produce radiation around 2 x 1018 protons per square centimeter with a kinetic energy of 10 megaelectronvolts per atomic mass unit to explain the measurements.  For nearby stars to produce the others, a nearby supernova might have had to point its high-energy jet right at the solar system.
Wow, that sounds like a lot of energy.  We need a physicist to explain why this would not boil the water and burn the primordial soup.  Maybe it would also mix up the radioactive clocks, yielding dates vastly in error.  At any rate, evolutionary explanations for the presence of these (relatively) short-lived isotopes in meteorites is not without problems, such as hand-waving, ad-hoc mechanisms, lack of observations, non-repeatability, contradictions, assumptions, etc. (i.e., the usual).
Next headline on: Solar System. • Next headline on: Dating Methods.
Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week 12/12/2002: Dr. Firouz Naderi, lecturing on Mars Rovers at a public presentation Thursday night at Jet Propulsion Laboratory, taught that life is easy to evolve and that evolution is a simple matter-of-fact mechanism.  No alternatives or problems were even mentioned.  Dr. Naderi is Mars Exploration Program Manager at JPL.  His slides included a sweeping panorama from Big Bang to an image of a human holding a baby.  While showing a modernized view of Darwin’s tree of life, he remarked, “You can see that Dr. Einstein and slime are not that far apart on the family tree.”
This was billed as a lecture about the robotic exploration of Mars, but Dr. Naderi spent over half the time spouting the materialistic hydrogen-to-man Just-So Story of astrobiology.  The silent, receptive audience, like sheep, just took it in.  No one asked a single question about it during the Q&A period.  Californians need to catch up with Ohio.
Next dumb story.
Reputation of 19th-Century Creationist Philip Gosse Repaired, Somewhat   12/12/2002
Have you ever heard of the creationist in the 19th century that suggested that God created fossils in the rocks to give an appearance of prehistory?  If so, was he not presented as a fool with a foolish idea?  Part of that reputation was due to his son Edmund’s presentation of his father as “the tragic victim of his own evangelical beliefs.”  What you probably didn’t know was that Philip Gosse was one of the premiere observational biologists of his century, admired by Darwin and most biologists of the Victorian era, author of best-selling books (including 29 on natural history) and eulogized by the Royal Society in these words: “No man has ever done so much to popularise the study of natural history in England.”  Rebecca Stott, Cambridge historian, reviews Ann Thwaite’s new biography of Gosse, Glimpses of the Wonderful: The Life of Philip Henry Gosse. She gives a remarkably sympathetic view of “God’s Naturalist” as both an excellent observer and passionately devout Christian.
    Gosse lived a “vehement eager life” as his son described it, and seemed driven by the belief that life was short and Christ could return at any moment.  This did not lull him into apathy.  For 60 years, he traveled, observed, published and “was rarely still except in prayer.”  His “charming” personality brought life and vividness to his descriptions of sea creatures and micro-organisms, which he called “glimpses of the wonderful.”  His hypothesis that God placed fossils in the rocks to give an appearance of prehistory seems almost a sidebar, mentioned in one book Omphalos earlier in his life.  Apparently Gosse believed the Bible taught fixity of species, and had a hard time reconciling that with the observations, but he was no fool.  Stott explains (emphasis added):
Histories of nineteenth-century nature observation confirm that the act of seeing and describing is shaped by ideological convictions.  Thwaite’s book gives us a greater insight into the complexity of Victorian ways of seeing nature by showing that Gosse was far from blinded by his conviction that species were fixed and God-created; he could see in the lens of his microscope the increasingly magnified evidence to the contrary.  It is a testimony to his sincerity that he tried to square the circle in Omphalos.  His tragedy was that the circle could no longer be squared.
Stott’s book review appears in the
Dec. 12 issue of Nature
If ideology influences observation, are we immune in 2002?  Is the reigning materialistic philosophy of our day dictating what scientists see in the cell, the cosmos, and the fossil record?  Gosse deserves a better reputation than the buffoon he has been portrayed as by some, as this book review shows.  Still, his mistake was unnecessary.  The Bible does not teach fixity of species; it teaches fixity of kinds, which could be much broader than species.  There is variation, but there are limits; there is mutation, but not transmutation.  With this idea, the Bible and observations agree.  Gosse was an unfortunate dupe of poor definitions of terms that led to a fallacious assumption.  The circle can be squared, if it is a square to begin with, but you can’t get blood out of a turnip.  The Darwinists are in a worse position, trying to squeeze information and design and adaptation out of chance.  Notwithstanding his one faux pas, Philip Gosse stands as another clear example that fervent Christian faith and belief in special creation can be strong motivators to do good science.  For many more and better examples, see our online book-in-progress, The World’s Greatest Creation Scientists from Y1K to Y2K.
Next headline on: Bible.
Alternate Cosmology Refused Hearing   12/12/2002
Creationist physicist Robert Gentry is suing arXiv, a pre-publication site for scientific research ideas, because they won’t publish his paper critical of the Big Bang theory, and revoked his posting rights.  This reported as a news item in the
Dec 12 issue of Nature, which admits Gentry “had papers in nuclear geophysics published in journals, including Science and Nature, during the 1960s and 1970s.”
Nature is quick to insert buzzwords that focus on religion, calling him a “life-long Seventh Day Adventist” in the first sentence, and echoing the plaintiff’s charge that it was rejected for “religious content.”  They also are quick to mention Gentry has only a Master’s degree (his doctoral work was forfeited when he chose to work on radiohaloes, because Georgia Tech felt the implications for the age of the earth might embarrass the school; Gentry subsequently received an honorary doctorate.)  The editorial also fails to mention the high acclaim and peer recognition his work on radiohaloes received (to say nothing of the fact his work cast serious doubt on accepted views of the age of the earth).  Then they end with an offhand reference to other “flaky” ideas the website receives (guilt by association).  No bias here; why, wouldn’t Nature use the same tactics against atheists and materialists?
    Gentry’s theory surely cannot be considered any more “flaky” than what passes for accepted cosmology these days.  In terms of strategy, we feel it unfortunate this is reported as a legal quarrel.  Regardless of the merits of Gentry’s theory, it makes him look like a complaining victim.  One would prefer the free exchange of ideas focuses on his evidence and mathematical analysis, but then again, what can a nonconformist do to get a hearing in the current materialist-dominated scientific establishment?
Next headline on: Cosmology.
Meteorite Globules: Real Estate for Emerging Life?   12/12/2002
A
NASA press release reports on round, hollow, bubble-like hydrocarbon globules found in the Tagish Lake meteorite.  One researcher speculates, “While not of biological origin themselves, these globules would have served very well to protect and nurture primitive organisms on Earth.  They would have been ready-made homes for early life forms.”
No they wouldn’t.  They would be death traps.
Next headline on: Origin of Life. • Next dumb story.
Navy Learning Sonar From Bats, Whales; Other Engineers Studying Butterflies, Starfish   12/12/2002
Nature Had It First Dept:  The navy is taking cues from bats and whales on how to build better sonar, reports
National Geographic News.  Similarly, aeronautics will undergo a revolution if scientists can ever figure out how butterflies do their aerobatic tricks so effortlessly, says Scientific American.  And camera manufacturers are looking to brittlestars, says the BBC News, to learn how they manufacture near-perfect microscopic lenses all over their bodies that are able to focus light 20 times better than the best artificial ones (see also our 8/23/01 headline).  And Ohio State is studying fast-swimming sharks to see how they reduce drag with grooves along their flanks, and how the design of these lateral lines reduce background noise in their ears.  One researcher is also looking at penguins and seals, and thinks their hair might make them more hydrodynamic. 
These stories speak for themselves.  How did these creatures achieve better design engineering, instrumentation, feedback, throughput, maintenance, and performance by a process of undirected, purposeless natural selection?
Next headline on: Mammals. • Next headline on: Fish. • Next headline on: Bugs. • Next amazing story.
Ohio School Board Votes Unanimously for “Teach the Controversy” Approach   12/11/2002
In a unanimous 18-0 vote December 10, the Ohio school board confirmed earlier recommendations to change the state school science standards with two provisions: (1) Change the definition of science from natural causes to explanations that fit evidence; (2) Describe how scientists continue to critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory.  The group advocating these changes,
Science Excellence for All Ohioans, sees this mildly-worded provisions as an important victory, removing Darwinism from the status of dogma and allowing for criticisms of molecules-to-man evolution to be heard.  The only change the board made from the recommendations was the insertion, after the new rule “Describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory” of the clarifying clause: “(The intent of this indicator does not mandate the teaching or testing of intelligent design.)”  A press release was released after the vote by the Discovery Institute, a leading advocate of the changes.
    Both sides are claiming partial victory in this compromise wording.  Opponents of the changes are upset that evolutionary theory was singled out for criticism, but glad that intelligent design was not mandated.  SEAO members feel “the language in the evolutionary theory sections is still problematic in numerous places.  Aspects of evolutionary theory that are in fact controversial are presented as factual, or as the only viable explanation, in a number of benchmarks and indicators.  The language calling for inclusion of evidence both for and against evolution could certainly be more specific.  Also, we would prefer that more explicit protection be given to educators who choose to discuss alternatives to the theory of common descent.”  Overall, however, they commend the Board on the changes.  The NCSE, on the other hand, is claiming victory in that the Board “rejected” intelligent design, and upgraded their definition of evolution from “change through time” to explicit use of the e-word.  They interpret the mandate to criticize evolution to mean discussing the various mechanisms of evolution, not whether evolution occurred.
Are we at the leading edge of a sea change in science education?  Darwinism has long had no contenders, and has been free to indoctrinate students and ridicule opposition with reckless abandon.  This change in the framework is very mild.  It does not bring religion into the classroom (but just watch for the outcry from the usual opponents, like the ACLU).  It keeps science secular.  It does not open the floodgates for pseudoscientific theories to invade the science education.  If you read the language, it is sensible and restrained.  The difference is, students will now have the chance to be exposed to arguments against Darwinism (such as those regularly shown here on Creation-Evolution Headlines from scientific sources themselves) rather than being force-fed a steady diet of evolutionary assumptions and selective evidence.  Once again, Ohio students will be allowed to see science the way it should be seen, as an open-ended search for truth about the natural world, invoking causes that can be checked by experiment.  The Just-So Story method of explaining the world with recourse only to natural causes has to go.  Now, one’s story must be backed up by evidence, and open to criticism by opposing evidence.  Darwinists may not like that, but it’s fair; it is the way the science game is supposed to be played.
    Also important is that teachers are now mandated to provide scientific critiques of evolutionary theory, and students will be tested on it.  As far as the e-word being included more clearly in the standards, great.  Believers in creation or intelligent design do not want evolution to be removed from the curriculum; a student cannot understand the 19th or 20th century without it.  They just want it taught accurately and fairly, not sanitized of the problems.  As Phillip Johnson has said, we want schools to teach more evolution than they will let us.  We agree that the phrase “change through time“ is a misleading equivocation that doesn’t get to the heart of the controversy.  Get the controversy out in the open, and let the students examine all the evidence, for and against.
    One observer feels the turning point in Ohio was the debate with Jonathan Wells and Stephen Meyer defending “teach the controversy” and Ken Miller and Lawrence Krause opposing it.  With this unanimous vote, Ohio did exactly as Stephen Meyer had recommended: don’t mandate teaching intelligent design, but just allow for criticisms of Darwinism to be heard, and extricate naturalistic philosophy from the definition of science.  It’s a small step, but it puts the Darwin Party on a level playing field, where they cannot merely call the shots, but must get back to producing scientific evidence.  The timing of the two films Icons of Evolution and Unlocking the Mystery of Life may have also been instrumental in swaying the board.  Ohio is a populous state and not part of the Bible Belt.  Other states may take their cue from Ohio, and textbook writers are sure to be watching.  This was a significant vote.
    Still, it is a sad commentary on America that a little over 100 years after McGuffey Readers, which contained overt references to Biblical and Christian morals, were widely used in public schools, now school boards must hear months of debate on why students should be allowed to hear even mild criticisms of establishment atheism that wants its myth unassailable that amoral hydrogen, left to itself, becomes people.  (How far have we strayed?  Wishing someone a Merry Christmas is becoming viewed as a hate crime in some schools.  WorldNetDaily reported today about a California teacher who was ordered not to use the C-word.)  Maybe this vote in Ohio is the little cloud like a man’s hand after years of drought.  It won’t be — unless parents and students and open-minded scientists keep pressing the issue.
In the meantime, we wish you a ... whatever.
Next headline on: Education. • Next headline on: Intelligent Design.
Kids Need Wild Places   12/11/2002
A survey of teens in three states compared the skills and attitudes of those who had grown up with wild places to explore, and those who had only known urban settings.  According to the
University of Florida report, “The teenagers who played in nature a lot as children reported higher preferences for pictures and activities tied to outdoor recreation, rural settings and outdoor education.  They also reported less fear of unfamiliar wild territory and greater interest in pursuing careers tied to the outdoors and the natural environment, such as park rangers.”  The researchers cite other surveys that exposure to wild areas increases teens’ navigational skills and cognitive abilities, and reduces fear of the unknown.  They think city planners should preserve unstructured wild areas for play rather than just create basketball courts and baseball fields.
We have the perfect solution: Creation Safaris.  Getting kids and adults out into the natural world has many healthy benefits.  When God created people, he didn’t put them in a city sliced up by rectangular streets and alleys and hemmed in by concrete and steel buildings; he put them in a garden, surrounded by color and beauty.  The garden was large and unstructured, providing a wide variety of stimuli to challenge them physically and mentally.  Cities came later, when morally corrupted people needed to build high walls to keep themselves protected from each other.  While cities today are more associations of goods and services for convenience and the economy, they often deprive us of those basic stimuli that keep our minds and bodies at their peak.  We have anecdotal experience that inner-city teens, who might be kings of their turf in town, become subdued and humbled when taken to the forest on a campout.  Maybe that would be good rehabilitation.
    Early American youth were commonly taught hunting and exploring skills.  Theodore Roosevelt was a strong advocate of challenging youth, both boys and girls, with physical activity in the great outdoors.  One of his favorite games he played with his kids was to have them all walk a straight path through the woods and overcome any obstacle along the way.  That’s a much better preparation for life than watching television.  If you are a parent or leader of youth, consider alternatives to the usual urban recreation (bowling, concerts, shows, etc.), and instead, take them out hiking or camping.  Outdoor recreation in wild areas provides a 360-degree, surround-sound theater of teachable moments.  It’s healthful, and more than that, it’s a partial return to our roots as created beings in a world of wonders designed by an all-wise Creator.  Sure, it’s not the Garden of Eden any more (because of sin), but wouldn’t it be healthier to get young people’s focus off of technopop and celebrity idolatry?  To turn off the junk music CD, and learn to identify a bird song?  To put away the video game and learn how to track an animal?  To stop munching junk food and pick a wild berry?  To quit staring mindlessly at the TV set and, instead, go climb a rock?  Escape to reality: go take a hike.
Next headline on: Health.
Boys Will Be Monkeys   12/11/2002
Even male monkeys like boy toys, and female monkeys go for girl toys, say researchers at Texas A&M University, reports
EurekAlert.  The propensity for boys and girls to migrate toward characteristic male-female preferences in play must go back before the time humans diverged from other primates, believes psychologist Gerianne Alexander who performed experiments with vervet monkeys.  She observed that male monkeys liked things that move, like a ball and a car, whereas female monkeys spent more time with a doll or a pot.  The implication is that what makes a “girl toy” and what makes a “boy toy” isn’t just human society or stereotypes but rather something innate that draws boys and girls to different types of toys, she explains.
What this means, obviously, is that the girl monkey should cook and watch the baby while the boys cruise the town and play ball.  Of course not, but it’s surprising to see a woman researcher come to a conclusion that is not politically correct these days.  Despite common-sense observation that boys and girls are different, feminists and postmodernists have been trying to convince us that gender roles are mere societal norms imposed on children by those in power.  But James Dobson has noted that if you take toy guns away from a boy, he will chew his peanut butter sandwich into the shape of a gun to play with.  This study makes some headway in dismantling the myth that gender differences are social conventions rather than innate characteristics, but that is not the point.  Alexander makes this a case for evolution – she finds monkey business in our ancestry.
    Let’s grant that male vervet monkeys like to play with balls and cars, and that perhaps “the motion capabilities of the object could be related to the navigating abilities that are useful for hunting, locating food or finding a mate.”  Let us also accept that the female preferences involve object color, “relating to their roles as nurturers. ... A preference for red or pink - the color of the doll and pot - has been proposed to elicit female behaviors toward infants that enhance infant survival, such as contact.”  Assume all this is true; does it prove anything about evolution?  Why would not a Creator or Designer put male-female differences and preferences in monkeys as well as people?  Evolutionists cannot explain how these preferences originated, nor can they use this observation to argue that humans and monkeys have a common ancestor.  If the roles were reversed in monkeys, they would undoubtedly have a naturalistic just-so story available to explain that as well.  It is only the presumption of evolution, not the experimental facts, that make this story have anything to do with evolution.
    Evolutionary ideas that put monkey in our ancestry destroy all authority for morals.  Tell a little boy that he is just an evolved monkey and he will act like one.  Try to get him to stop and behave like a civilized young man, and he will ask that simple, childish question that stumps the consistent evolutionist: Why?
Next dumb story.
Mars Water Short-Lived   12/10/2002
Two Mars news items have been making the rounds.  A sample newspaper report on
NewsDay.com explains that the Dry-Marsers seem to be winning over the Wet-Marsers.  From a report in Science last week, meteor impacts might have melted the ice briefly, but water would not have remained liquid long enough to form oceans or rivers.  Recent surveys by the Mars 2001 Odyssey spacecraft show massive amounts of water ice locked in the soil, but climatologists know that liquid water cannot exist in the low temperature and atmospheric pressure.  The river channels and gullies might be relics of brief episodes of melting after giant impacts.
    In another life-on-Mars story, Nature Science Update reports on a discovery of “tiny creatures living off radiation in ancient pockets of water several kilometres beneath the Earth’s surface. ...   The microbes seem to have been isolated for hundreds of millions of years.  Similar conditions might exist beneath the surface of Mars.”
Seem to have and might only make sense with evolutionary assumptions.  They can’t know how old these microbes are, and the adaptability of a life-form to an extreme environment does not have anything to say about its origin, or whether extremophiles will be found on Mars.  The Mars water issue has been a ping-pong game between believers and doubters for quite awhile, so this latest salvo is probably not the last word.  Believers point to the river channels, but climatologists can’t see how the ancient Mars atmosphere would have been different enough to permit surface water to remain for long.  If Mars could not sustain liquid water for long periods, believers are going to have increasing trouble expecting they will find life there.  At least we don’t have to worry about tripod machines coming to blast us with heat rays, like our grandparents did.
Next headline on: Mars.
Astrobiologists Speculate on How Long It Takes to Evolve a Brain   12/09/2002
The current issue of the online
Astrobiology Magazine contains the musings of the best-known astrobiologists about the probability of finding sentient beings in the cosmos:
We expect aliens to be a whole lot smarter than us. Not only will they possess the wisdom of the ages, but they will travel at warp speed, have the ability to transform (or destroy) entire planets, and their civilizations will span across galaxies. Until we find alien life, however, we can only guess at how many intelligent civilizations may be out there.
Despite pessimists like Ward and Brownlee, Frank Drake and Chris McKay are more optimistic.  Their calculations yield millions of intelligent civilizations.
For amusement, read this fairy tale about meteor impacts that generate complexity, matador pirouettes that daintily tiptoe around the bull of the Cambrian Explosion, and population statistics built on one data point.  Do they realize how stupid this all will sound in 20 years?
Next headline on: Origin of Life. • Next dumb story.
Is There a Mouse In Your Genes?   12/06/2002
The cover story in
Nature (Dec. 5) concerns the recently-sequenced mouse genome.  Scientists are understandably interested in comparing it to the human genome for shedding light on the efficacy of lab testing on mice for human benefit, but also for teasing out details of vertebrate evolutionary history.  Cancer researcher Mark Boguski in an overview article asks, “Finally, what might the mouse genome teach us about mammalian biology and evolution?”  He cautions that the current work is very preliminary and much more comparative work will be required before a picture emerges: “We must take care not to over-generalize from small sample sizes.”
    The flagship article of this issue of Nature is a lengthy analysis by the Mouse Genome Sequencing Consortium, the international group that provided the draft sequence.  It includes extensive comparison with the human genome.  As expected, there is a good deal of similarity (since mice and men are vertebrates and mammals, have lungs and livers and eat grain).  Though about 14% smaller, the mouse genome has a similar number of genes as do humans (about 30,000).  Approximately 80% of the mouse genes have human orthologs (counterparts that are nearly equal), which show a great deal of synteny (matches to the same chromosome).  Nevertheless, there were surprises and mysteries; for instance, “The mammalian genome appears to be evolving in a non-uniform manner, with various measures of divergence showing substantial variation across the genome” with others showing a high degree of conservation.  Also, there appears to have been much more transposon activity than expected, and increases in G+C content in some areas but decreases in others.  About 40% of the nucleotide sequences can be aligned between the two, with humans having longer introns on average.  Though 99% of mouse genes had a human homologue (functional equivalent), the 1% that did not may not yet have been identified.  The researchers also found several hundred pseudogenes, thought to be inactivated copies of true genes, in common between the two.
    Although the team was optimistic that many observations seemed to match predictions based on common ancestry, they cautioned: “It should be emphasized that the human and mouse gene catalogues, although increasingly complete, remain imperfect.  Both genome sequences are still incomplete.  Some authentic genes are missing, fragmented or otherwise incorrectly described, and some predicted genes are pseudogenes or are otherwise spurious.”  BBC News has a short article on the subject.
This work is interesting and significant, but many important cautions are in order before jumping to conclusions.  The data sets are so large that it is certainly possible to find patterns according to one’s preconceptions, and overlook the problems.  Also, not every human or mouse was sequenced – just a very small subset of representatives.  Finally, there is a great deal we still do not understand about genes, proteins, gene expression and lateral gene transfer.  More and more developmental biologists are suspecting that epigenetic factors are as important, or even more so, than the DNA code in determining phenotype.  There is much to learn before claiming anything about evolutionary phylogeny in the genes; in our May 31 headline, a reporter said that preliminary analysis of the mouse genome was complicating the work of evolutionary biologists, and three days earlier, we reported that the mammal family tree was a conflicting tangle. In the Washington Post (quoted on Access Research Network Dec. 4), Justin Gillis observes that the so-called “junk DNA” contains essential information, and might multiply the actual amount of genetic information stored in the DNA code.
    There are other possibilities than common ancestry for similarities.  Consider, for instance, the phenomenon of pseudogenes.  The assumption of “junk DNA” is embedded in the very term, but some biochemists are beginning to doubt that these are just leftover remnants of once-active true genes (see this analysis by Pierre Jerlstrom for other possible explanations).  Remember how glia cells in the brain were once presumed to be nothing more than scaffolding for the more important neurons?  Now their reputation is on the rise as they show evidence of actually controlling brain activity by regulating the blood flow to the neurons.  Similarly, pseudogenes might be found to function as either backup copies of genes, or regulators of gene expression, or something else we cannot yet imagine.  Some evolutionists, like Ken Miller, have argued confidently that finding the same “junk” pseudogenes in two different organisms proves they had a common ancestor, because the “mistakes” were introduced before their lineages diverged; i.e., a Creator would not make the same mistake twice.  But other explanations are possible, even if pseudogenes eventually prove to have no function.  There is much to learn about lateral gene transfer and transposition, for instance.  Not all mutations in pseudogenes appear to be random; two different organisms might gain the same mutation in a pseudogene by the same retrovirus or other process, apart from any common ancestry.
    For Biblical creationists, here’s a possibility that takes into account the large span of time between creation and the Flood, and the fact there would have been a genetic bottleneck during the Flood year.  Much degradation of the human gene pool could have occurred during the antediluvian centuries or millennia.  Out of all the population, mutations and all, only two lineages of land animals and humans survived the cataclysm.  What if a mouse bit Noah’s mother, for instance, and a virus in the bloodstream did the same retrotransposition on an orthologous gene that it did on the mouse?  Every human and mouse coming off the ark could have inherited the same genetic signature on that particular pseudogene.  The point is to show that there are other possible explanations for mice and men having the same alleged “mistakes” in their genetic code; it is surely premature for evolutionists to claim this as evidence for common ancestry, when (1) so much remains to be learned, and (2) evolutionists themselves are struggling their own surprises, which are legion.  Many secondary assumptions (like neutral evolution, convergent evolution, and rate heterogeneity) have to be imposed on the data to get their evolutionary story to work.  We reported scientists admitting July 25 that building evolutionary trees from the genes is a mathematically impossible task.
    A common straw-man argument against creation is that God would have made every species unique, and not used the same DNA, proteins, or limb structure in very different animals.  But this is a negative theological argument, not an evidence for evolution.  To claim this is to assume knowledge of what God would do.  (For a detailed treatment of this theme, see the recent book Darwin’s God by Cornelius Hunter).  Why not use the same genetic code, the same limb structure, and the same proteins for creatures that inhabit the same planet and eat the same food?  How do we know a Designer did not create the basic plans, organs, biochemistry and structure of animals and then delegate some of the fine details of outward shape and color to teams of angels? (not that we advocate this idea, but just to demonstrate various non-evolutionary possibilities).  There is enough similarity and enough diversity in the living world to both support and confuse any theory.  While unity of life is clearly apparent in a general sense, the large and systematic gaps between phyla argue against common ancestry.  Walter Remine, in his book The Biotic Message, argues that the Creator made life enough alike and enough different to send a message, to refute any possibility of naturalistic explanation.  Too much diversity, and people might conclude polytheism; too much unity, and people might conclude evolution.  There is enough of both to keep the creation-evolution controversy alive for the foreseeable future, but surely the complexity of life and the second law of thermodynamics will continue to speak loud and clear that “it didn’t just happen.”
    So what does this human-mouse genome comparison mean?  Not much.  Evolutionists looking for evidence in the genes only have the tips of a few branches, and are inferring the rest of the tree based on the assumption of common ancestry.  The same data can be fit into in a picture of nested hierarchies of distinct kinds of organisms originating from a common Designer.  Follow the chain links on Darwinism to find many recent examples of molecular evidence that contradict evolutionary expectations.  When you look at a mouse, and a mouse looks at you, any kinship is only in the eye of the beholder.
Next headline on: Human Body. • Next headline on: Mammals. • Next headline on: Genes and DNA. • Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
Quebec Has World’s Oldest Rocks?   12/05/2002
CNN claims via Reuters that a place on Hudson Bay has the world’s oldest rocks, at 3.825 billion years.  This beats the previous record of 3.80 from a spot in Greenland.  The University of Quebec said, “This is a capital period of our evolution that however remains a great mystery, since geological traces that are preserved are not much available before 3.6 billion years.”  The report does not say how they arrived at the figure.
Let’s get this straight.  There is a great mystery, they admit, and “The scientists said the story of the planet’s first billion years was still largely unknown, with little information available on a period that saw the formation of the moon and the first traces of life, such as bacteria in the ocean.”  So even though knowledge of early earth history is largely indiscernible, they can boldly pronounce the dates of rocks up to four significant figures?  Doesn’t any reporter out there have a little skepticism on how scientists know these things?  Doesn’t it seem a little incongruous to say, “We have almost no knowledge of this era, and it is a huge mystery, but this rock is 3.825 billion years old when life was evolving.”  If they weren’t there to see it evolving, how do they “know” it evolved at all?  They probably used radioactive dating on these rocks, but did they tell the reporters the error bars and the assumptions used?  We have only been measuring radioactive decay for 100 years.  Represent that time span by the width of a dime, and 3.825 billion years would be stack of dimes 30 miles high.  Doesn’t it seem a little presumptuous to pontificate with certainty about things even a few dime-widths before, let alone the first ten feet?
    In one of the episodes of Cosmos back in the 1980s, Carl Sagan described the history of the universe compressed into a calendar year, and pointed with professorial authority at the Big Bang on January 1, the birth of galaxies and the Milky Way and our solar system at such and such dates further along the year, then ended with his clincher: to show how insignificant man was, he described how all of human history would fit into the last ten seconds of December 31.  Undoubtedly many viewers were impressed with this astonishing “fact,” but we would like to see more people ask the logical follow-up questions:  Dr. Sagan, if all recorded history fits into that tiny square at the end, how can you speak with any confidence about anything prior, when there were no observers?  Isn’t that a little brash?  Is it possible that different assumptions could lead to vastly different conclusions?  How can anyone know these things?  Are you willing to tell the public you could be wrong about the whole cosmic calendar analogy?
    Rocks do not come with dates stamped on them.  Question authority (when the authority is questionable).
Next headline on: Dating Methods. • Next headline on: Geology.
New Origin of Life Theory — Sans Primordial Soup – Turns Traditional View Upside Down   12/04/2002
In a press release, the
Royal Society proclaimed a revolutionary new theory for the origin of life that “is set to cause a storm in the science world and has implications for the existence of life on other planets.”  According to William Martin and Michael Russell, life did not begin in a warm little pond or primordial soup, but was incubated in iron sulfide rocks at the bottom of the sea.  They believe this improves the odds that life will be found on other planets.  Their hypothesis is to be published in the Jan. 2003 issue of Philosophical Transactions - Biological Sciences.
    In the Dec. 2002 issue of the Royal Society’s Biological Proceedings, Krakauer and Sasaki introduce an unusual speculation about the origin of life.  They argue, surprisingly, that randomness actually helped life develop.  In their abstract, they have turned all the usual drawbacks into benefits (emphasis added):
The origin of stable self-replicating molecules represents a fundamental obstacle to the origin of life.  The low fidelity of primordial replicators places restrictions on the quantity of information encoded in a primitive nucleic acid alphabetFurther difficulties for the origin of life are the role of drift in small primordial populations, reducing the rate of fixation of superior replicators, and the hostile conditions increasing developmental noise.  Thus, mutation, noise and drift are three different stochastic effects that are assumed to make the evolution of life improbableHere we show, to the contrary, how noise present in hostile early environments can increase the probability of faithful replication, by amplifying selection in finite populations.  Noise has negative consequences in infinite populations, whereas in finite populations, we observe a synergistic interaction among noise sources.  Hence, two factors formerly considered inimical to the origin of life - developmental noise and drift in small populations - can in combination give rise to conditions favourable to robust replication.
So how do they achieve this magic trick, getting evolution out of noise?  They first assume the existence of replicators, then explain that different kinds of noise might compete against each other’s damage.  Noise might actually increase the visibility of deleterious mutations to negative selection, improving the overall fitness of the population.  So noise isn’t all bad; “By including more levels of selection in the model, thereby partially decoupling the fate of cells from those of individuals, we expect more diverse forms of noise to enter, constructively, into the evolutionary process” (emphasis added).
Evolutionists are such magicians.  They turn the terrorists into construction workers, cause water to flow uphill, and get symphonies out of static.  Pit two kinds of static against each other and what do you get?  Music!  If astrobiologists were not so desperate to find a way to get life from nonlife, and if they were not so convinced that naturalistic philosophy has to be able to explain the existence of cells and human beings, these ideas would be considered dumb beyond belief.  Krakauer and Sasaki’s theory is like believing that since bloodletting reduces the bacterial count in the patient’s bloodstream, increasing the bleeding would therefore increase the patient’s fitness.  Martin and Russell’s theory, on the other hand, shows just how unworkable the old primordial-soup theories have become.  Both theories assume almost magical properties for natural selection, as if evolution is a Prometheus struggling against his chains, sooner or later to burst forth in power and productivity.  If you can filter out that personification fallacy while reading, the most interesting thing that remains is the recounting of all the chains binding their competitors’ dead heroes, and the vultures picking over the decaying flesh.  “Professor Martin and Dr Russell,” for instance, “have long had problems with the existing hypotheses of cell evolution and their theory turns traditional views upside down.”  Are they, therefore, any closer to understanding how life originated?  Not any more than running forward on a train rolling downhill.
    Internet science news sources are the new Mars Hill, which Luke described as a place where “all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing.”  New may rhyme with true, but does not necessarily correlate with it.  (In sales, “new” just means the price went up.  “Improved” means the price went way up.)  You can expect this new and improved theory to become the talk of the town for awhile, as it was quickly swept up by Nature Science Update and the BBC News for example, until it is ether discounted or becomes the next traditional view waiting to get turned upside down by the whatever new story comes to top it.  Then there are the spoilsports like the Apostle Paul who don’t know how to play the game.  This “babbler” spouts strange talk about a God who created the world and everything in it, and calls us to repent.  Later, say the Athenian mockers.
Next headline on: Origin of Life. • Next dumb story.
Darwinian Natural Selection: Theory, or Practice?   12/04/2002
“In theory, there should be no difference between theory and practice.  In practice, there is,” quipped Yogi Berra.  The theory of Darwinian natural selection is the focus of two entries in the Dec. 3 online preprints of the
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  How does theory match up with practice?
    In a commentary, Jason B. Wolf gives high praise to Sean H. Rice’s model of phenotypic evolution.  As we reported last month, Rice produced a generalized mathematical model that can take any number of factors and determine a phenotypic landscape that suggests how a population might shift position under various fitness pressures.  The model, incorporating multivariate tensor analysis, can accommodate multiple dimensions and takes into account linear and quadratic effects.  “To model evolution on the landscape,“ he says, “a description of the relationship between phenotypes and fitness is required.”  Fitness, however, is left undefined and no specific examples are given.
    In a research paper, Tomoko Ohta of the National Institute of Genetics in Japan considers the status of “nearly-neutral” evolutionary theory.  This is the idea that genetic variation is most often neutral (neither advantageous nor deleterious), and that natural selection has only a weak influence on morphological change, compared to genetic drift.  In Ohta’s view, “the magnitude of drift is very important” and “selection pressure seems to be inseparable from the force of drift.”  In his view, natural selection can only play a role if a new chain of gene expression patterns emerges, in which many advantageous mutant substitutions occur simultaneously (emphasis added):
How such a chain originates is a very difficult problem, i.e., a module of interacting gene loci would have been constantly tested by natural selection under various genetic and external factors.  On very rare occasions, while wandering via mutation and drift under available transcription factors, a module might find its place in a larger gene regulation network.  Then positive selection may work on the regulatory elements of the module loci.
Ohta provides no examples of how this might have been observed in nature.  But the efficacy of neutral or nearly-neutral selection in the evolution of new features is itself in doubt.  He begins, “Although the neutral and the nearly neutral theories have now been recognized as realistic models to apply to evolutionary changes of genes and proteins, their significance for morphological evolution is still unsettled.”  Though slightly advantageous and slightly deleterious mutations have been deemed important to theory, he cautions that “the significance of such weakly selected mutations for morphological evolution needs to be reconsidered.”  His paper does not set out to solve the problem, but just to evaluate the status of the nearly-neutral theory and “expand the concept of near-neutrality.”
Neither of these papers address how natural selection could build an eye, or a brain, or a cochlea, or a liver, or any other complex functioning organ made up of multiple interacting parts.  Instead, they waltz around in speculation space.  Wolf’s paper has a futuristic-sounding title, “The geometry of phenotypical evolution in developmental hyperspace,” but unless he can tie it to the real world, the Rice model he gloats over is only a speculative tool – a GIGO machine – that could just as easily be used to predict the influence of the planets on human personality, depending on what fitness function you give it.  After contrasting the “population genetics tradition” with the “quantitative genetics tradition,” Wolf admits that “no ‘unifying theory’ of phenotypic evolution has emerged.”  He does not say Rice’s model is the long-awaited solution, but just that it could or might be, provided a relationship could be found between phenotypes and fitness (whatever that is).  So here we are in 2002, still waiting for a model of evolution that matches theory with practice?
    From the outset, Ohta’s paper seems downright depressing to an evolutionist.  Not only does he provide no examples of how evolution could produce anything new or improved, he discounts the role of the very thing that made Darwin famous – natural selection.  He relegates it to a minor role (compared to genetic drift) that might only produce directional effects under rare circumstances.  Is evolution, therefore, theory or practice?  The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
Economy Evolves Like Biology   12/03/2002
Researchers at
Brown University are trying to use biological evolution theory to explain the economy.  They trace the evolutionary phases from human hunter-gatherer societies through the Industrial Revolution in terms of natural selection and survival of the fittest.  One states, “This pioneering paper is a breakthrough in its use of population dynamics in long-term historical change and in applying Darwinian logic to the history of mankind.”
(*sigh*) This is intelligent design, not evolution.  Evolution relies on unguided, unintelligent causes of chance and natural law.  You cannot use a biological theory to explain the economy.  If they get away with this, next they’ll be explaining art, music, sports and the International Space Station by “Darwinian logic” (How’s that for an oxymoron?).  A theory that explains everything explains nothing.
Next dumb story.
Jupiter Formed in a Few Hundred Years?   12/02/2002
How long does it take a giant planet to form?  Millions of years?  That may be the student’s impression, but Lucio Mayer at the University of Washington thinks a few hundred years might be enough.  Writing in the current issue of
Science, Mayer and colleagues note that radiation pressure will cause a protoplanetary disk to fragment and evaporate in just a few spins of the parent star.  The gas giants must form quickly before the gas dissipates.  They propose a runaway condensation hypothesis that would form gas giants in as little as a few hundred years.  Scientific American has a summary of the model, and the Jan. 25 issue of Science News describes the difficulties with standard theories that motivated the need for speed.
How often we are led to assume that physical processes are slow and gradual, requiring millions of years.  This is because of decades of indoctrination into uniformitarianism.  Scientists do not know whose model is correct, because each naturalistic model is loaded with problems.  This article just goes to show that belief in long ages could be mistaken by many orders of magnitude.  This new model seems to be motivated by the realization that millions of years are the problem, not the solution: radiation drives away the raw material for planetary formation in short order.  “If a gas giant planet can’t form quickly,” co-author Thomas R. Quinn of the University of Washington notes, “it probably won’t form at all.”  Maybe, just maybe, it was created.
Next headline on: Solar System. • Next headline on: Dating Methods.
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(Joel)

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Featured Creation Scientist for December

William Herschel
1738 - 1822

The father of stellar astronomy and the pride of the English in the late 18th to early 19th centuries was neither English nor a scientist originally, but a German-born immigrant musician, and a Jewish Christian.  Friedrich Wilhelm Herschel (called William Herschel in his adopted country) was a pioneer of the heavens, taking Galileo’s early attempts at sky surveying to grand lengths.  Patrick Moore considers Herschel the greatest observer who ever lived.  Though just an amateur at first, he built the largest telescopes of his era, and in the process of spending countless hours on cold nights perched on a ladder at the eyepiece of his instruments, he discovered binary stars, nebulae, comets, and the planet Uranus – the first man to discover a planet since antiquity.  He proved that the laws that govern our earth and moon are the same throughout the heavens.  He brought into focus the understanding that the earth and sun are but specks among thousands of similar suns.  He launched modern astronomy’s project to understand the nature of the nebulae, the distribution of stars in the galaxy and our place in it.  He discovered invisible infrared light.  In addition to his scientific observations, William Herschel became a leading natural philosopher and a friend of kings and intellectuals, yet he was described as a man of devout, yet simple Christian faith.

To the Herschel legend we must quickly add his sister Caroline and his son John William, who both rose to his level of greatness.  William’s father was a bandmaster in the Hanoverian guard.  Each of his children became talented musicians; William gained proficiency on the oboe.  Troubles with the Seven Years War in Germany made him leave for England, where he landed with scarcely one coin in his pocket.  His musical skills kept him gainfully employed as a church organist and oboist.  Seven years after arriving, he began to take up seriously a hobby he had always enjoyed, astronomy.  The telescopes of his day were not powerful enough for him.  He learned how to grind mirrors, and spent all his spare time (when not playing music) perfecting the art.  Patrick Moore says that one of his first attempts at making a 5" objective succeeded after two hundred failures.

By 1774, his brother and sister also arrived in England.  Caroline stayed with William and became his assistant.  William’s observing career was launched in earnest with a look at the Orion Nebula, and he continued for 37 years, making bigger and better telescopes along the way until his home (Observatory House in Slough) boasted a 40-foot reflector, with a mirror weighing over a ton, the tube slung within a giant wooden scaffold.  Caroline, short and unmarried, was her brother’s biggest helper.  Even after William married at age 50, she remained near at hand, keeping his records and doing some significant observing herself.  She discovered six comets (a big interest in those days), and was eventually honored by royalty, famous in her own right to the age of 98.  Caroline, however, thought little of her own fame.  Like a humble moon, she was content to bask in the “reflected glory” of her famous brother.

Uranus was discovered accidentally while William scanned the skies.  The fame of being the first human to discover a new planet around the sun resulted in King George III granting him a permanent salary as royal astronomer, enough to let him abandon his musical career and do astronomical work full time.  He wanted to name the new planet in the king’s honor, but other astronomers voted to stick to the naming convention of mythological gods, so the name Uranus was chosen.  Uranus is a strange planet, hard to explain by naturalistic theories, because of its energy, composition, and inclination; tipped at 98 degrees, it circles the sun with its retinue of moons like a bull’s eye.  Stranger still, discoveries by the Voyager spacecraft in 1986 showed its magnetic field to be highly tilted and off-center.  No one has been able to explain why.  One of its moons, Miranda, has some of the strangest terrain ever seen, including a cliff so high that in the weak gravity of that world, someone stumbling over the edge would be in free-fall for eight minutes.  Speaking of moons, Herschel also discovered two more moons of Saturn (Mimas and Enceladus).  How awe-struck and fascinated would be his expression today to see what spacecraft have revealed close-up on these objects that, to him, were mere faint points of light twinkling in the eyepiece of his telescopes, as he gazed in the cold, still night air.

One of Herschel’s main goals was to sample the sky systematically and map the distribution of stars, to gain a picture of where the sun stood in relation to the Milky Way.  Due to assumptions later shown to be flawed, his map put the earth at the center of a somewhat flattened, oblong shape.  It was an important start, nonetheless.  Herschel was a diligent observer, ever willing to sacrifice his hypotheses on the altar of new evidence.  At first he thought binary stars were chance alignments, but later observations proved they were in orbit around each other.  He thought the nebulae were composed of stars made faint by distance, but later realized some were composed of dust or gas.  Herschel gave us the unfortunate term “planetary nebulae” because these objects at first appeared to him as disks like planets; they have nothing to do with planets and exist far beyond our solar system.  The Hubble Space Telescope has revealed many of these as brilliant, colorful stellar explosions with intricate hourglass and spiral structures.  Some show evidence of repeated incidents of mass loss.  In all, Herschel catalogued over 90,000 stars, far more than any of his predecessors, and he increased the number of known nebulae from 103 to 2500.  Most mysterious were the non-planetary nebulae.  Herschel considered Immanuel Kant’s idea that these might be distant and distinct stellar associations — galaxies like our own Milky Way, but the proof would have to wait for 202 years after Herschel’s death.  Another contribution was calibrating of the old stellar magnitude scale of Hipparchus; he realized that a difference of five magnitudes corresponded to a change in brightness of 100.  Herschel submitted 90 volumes to the Royal Society during his productive life.  Patrick Moore says, “More than any other man, he put stellar astronomy on a really firm footing. ... He was knighted in 1816, he received every honor that the scientific world could bestow, and he became the first President of the newly-formed Astronomical Society of London (now the Royal Astronomical Society).  He presented his last scientific paper when he was eighty years old, and he was active almost to the date of his death on August 25, 1822.”  He is buried under the tower of the old Anglican church in Slough, England.

Though sources I’ve checked agree William Herschel was sincerely religious, none are detailed enough to indicate if he was really a “born-again” Christian.  His family attended church regularly, but musician that he was, William could have been more performer than believer.  Was he just a Sunday Christian, and secular astronomer the rest of the week?  N. S. Dodge wrote in 1871 of the family’s sincere Christian faith, but Dan Graves (Scientists of Faith, p. 115) called him “a nominal Christian, at best.”  Herschel had some strange ideas: he believed the other planets, the moon, and even the sun were inhabited (but so did many others in his day).  Some of his writings seem to assume long ages and the insignificance of man in a universe populated not only by myriads of stars but perhaps other civilizations.  He speaks of the Author and Creator of the heavens, but not of the Scriptures or Jesus Christ.  Herschel dined with Hume and LaPlace, the skeptics, but as a dignitary in frequent touch with the intellectuals of the day and polite society, this cannot be taken to assume agreement with them.  in some of his diary entries, it appears they conversed about music or the fine cuisine rather than philosophy or theology.  In The Scientific Papers of Sir William Herschel published by the Royal Society in 1912, he relates an incident where the First Consul and La Place were having an argument over naturalistic philosophy.  Herschel writes in his diary,

The difference was occasioned by an exclamation of the First Consul’s, who asked in a tone of exclamation or admiration (when we were speaking of the extent of the sidereal heavens) ‘and who is the author of all this.’  M. de La Place wished to shew that a chain of natural causes would account for the construction and preservation of the wonderful system; this the First Consul rather opposed.  Much may be said on the subject; by joining the arguments of both we shall be led to ‘Nature and Nature’s God.’

Compromise?  Theistic evolution?  Wishy-washy belief in God, or signs of a true believer?  Hard to say, because he changes the subject in his diary after leaving us hanging with “much may be said.”  At another point, the Royal Society editor leaves a tantalizing footnote about missing letters by Herschel:

These letters, which extend to some 400 pages, are still extant but have not been at our disposal.  We are informed that Herschel in them interweaves his philosophy and even his musical studies with references of an earnest kind to the Creator as a beneficent Deity, expressing his gratitude and addressing him in a prayerful spirit.

Again, this could be said of a unitarian or deist, but hints at something more.  In a philosophical essay on Liberty and Necessity, he comes out opposing the necessitarians (those that believe natural law necessarily leads to the order we observe).  This would be consistent with one who believes God intervenes in human affairs.

Several Christian biographical essays have echoed Henry Morris’ attribution to Herschel of the line, “An undevout astronomer must be mad” (Men of Science, Men of God, p. 30).  Unfortunately, I have not been able to corroborate this quotation.  The slightly different line “An undevout astronomer is mad” is part of a poem entitled “Night thoughts“ by Edward Young, whose life was earlier but overlapped with Herschel’s.  Perhaps the poem was inspired by the life of Herschel, or a statement by him.  It would not be unrealistic to assume that the statement reflected Herschel’s own feelings about his work.  It seems clear that Herschel was devout, prayerful, humble, gracious, kind, and moral – good, but not enough to indicate a true believer in the gospel of Jesus Christ.  The sources I have checked do not provide enough evidence to call William Herschel more than a nominal Christian.  Scientists in this period of the so-called “Enlightenment” were enamoured with natural laws.  They were taking Newton’s emphasis on laws to new extremes, and knowingly or not, tended to distance God from immanent action in the affairs of the world.  Where Herschel fits in this trend is not clear.  But even if he falls short of an example of a thoroughly Biblical Christian, he clearly does exemplify one who believed in a divine Creator and Author of the laws of nature, to whom we owe our worship and admiration.  As such, he was at least continuing in the tradition of empirical science motivated by the Christian world view.

Observatory House was pulled down in 1960, but the tube of his 40-foot telescope was kept at the Greenwich Observatory as a monument to the years of painstaking observation of the skies by a man starstruck by the wondrous majesty and order of Creation.  In the summer of 1986, the Voyager 2 spacecraft made a historic flyby of the planet Uranus.  The St. Laurence Anglican Church in Slough, England, where Herschel is buried, was recently restored after years of damage and neglect, and in February 2001, was adorned with a new stained-glass Herschel Window commemorating his astronomical discoveries.  Another nearby window quotes Psalm 8, “When I consider the heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained, what is man, that Thou art mindful of him?”


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

A Concise Guide
to Understanding
Evolutionary Theory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Souder’s Law
Repetition does not establish validity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advice from Paul

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

I Timothy 6:20-21

Song of the True Scientist

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

from Psalm 104

Maxwell’s Motivation

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

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

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