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.
Mars • Stars • Solar System • Cosmos • Dating • Geology • Early Man • Darwin • Dinosaurs • Birds • Bugs • Fish • Mammals • Plants • Fossils • Amazing • Dumb • Politics and Ethics • School • Intelligent Design • Bible • Physics • Movies • Human Body • Health • The Cell • Genes and DNA • Origin of Life • SETI
2001: JAN • FEB • MAR • APR • MAY • JUN • JUL • AUG • SEP • OCT • NOV • DEC
2000: SEP-OCT • NOV-DEC
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. Todays 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 Clarks definition will gain acceptance among astrobiologists.
Clarks definition hits closer to the heart of lifes 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 organisms 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.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 evolutionists 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?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. Its one to watch in 2003.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 its 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.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 cant 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 Skinners Constant.*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.That the Creator himself comes to us and becomes our ransom this is the reason for our rejoicing.
Merry Christmas from Creation-Evolution Headlines
New Ediacara Fossils Exacerbate Cambrian Explosion 12/23/2002
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.Fate of Universe: Splat, Not Bounce 12/23/2002
If the universe ever collapses in on itself, it wont 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.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 Kelvins 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.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 were really in trouble; we cant 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 isnt tangled up with cross-limbs? Or that there is a tree at all?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 Saturns 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 theres 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?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.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. Wed 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.)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. Thats why its important for scientists to be paragons of honesty.
Lets 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?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 todays 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:Deadly Virus Becomes Healer 12/18/2002In 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).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.
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.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 Murrays 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, thats 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.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?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):
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 Dollos 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 Haeckels drawings, but these ones are original and not faked and they dont look anywhere near as similar as Haeckels. How many times have we seen Darwinists trying to cram the data into a belief in evolution, when it doesnt 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 Occams Razor. Dont 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.TV Commercials Mischaracterize Evolution As Progress 12/13/2002
Senior editor of Nature Henry Gee writes in the Dec. 12 issue (emphasis added),
Weve 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.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.(Emphasis added). Gees 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?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).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 Darwins 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.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 Edmunds presentation of his father as the tragic victim of his own evangelical beliefs. What you probably didnt 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 Thwaites new biography of Gosse, Glimpses of the Wonderful: The Life of Philip Henry Gosse. She gives a remarkably sympathetic view of Gods 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. Thwaites 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.Stotts 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 cant 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 Worlds Greatest Creation Scientists from Y1K to Y2K.Alternate Cosmology Refused Hearing 12/12/2002
Creationist physicist Robert Gentry is suing arXiv, a pre-publication site for scientific research ideas, because they wont 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 plaintiffs charge that it was rejected for religious content. They also are quick to mention Gentry has only a Masters 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, wouldnt Nature use the same tactics against atheists and materialists?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 wouldnt. They would be death traps.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?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, ones story must be backed up by evidence, and open to criticism by opposing evidence. Darwinists may not like that, but its fair; it is the way the science game is supposed to be played.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 didnt 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.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 isnt 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 its 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.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 Earths 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 cant 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 cant 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 dont have to worry about tripod machines coming to blast us with heat rays, like our grandparents did.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?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 ones 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.Quebec Has Worlds Oldest Rocks? 12/05/2002
CNN claims via Reuters that a place on Hudson Bay has the worlds 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.
Lets get this straight. There is a great mystery, they admit, and The scientists said the story of the planets 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? Doesnt any reporter out there have a little skepticism on how scientists know these things? Doesnt 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 werent 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. Doesnt it seem a little presumptuous to pontificate with certainty about things even a few dime-widths before, let alone the first ten feet?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 Societys 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 alphabet. Further 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 improbable. Here 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 others damage. Noise might actually increase the visibility of deleterious mutations to negative selection, improving the overall fitness of the population. So noise isnt 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 Sasakis theory is like believing that since bloodletting reduces the bacterial count in the patients bloodstream, increasing the bleeding would therefore increase the patients fitness. Martin and Russells 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.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. Rices 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 Ohtas 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. Wolfs 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 Rices 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?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 theyll be explaining art, music, sports and the International Space Station by Darwinian logic (Hows that for an oxymoron?). A theory that explains everything explains nothing.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 students 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 cant form quickly, co-author Thomas R. Quinn of the University of Washington notes, it probably wont form at all. Maybe, just maybe, it was created.