Creation-Evolution Headlines
December 2003
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Evolutionists add layer upon layer of circuitous explanation to fit nature into their theory.  It sounds scientific because the explanation is purely mechanistic.  There are no religious claims, for example, in the technical research journals, but journal articles do not attempt to prove the theory.  They attempt to explain how evolution must have occurred, assuming that it did occur.
– Cornelius Hunter Darwin’s Proof, (Brazos Press, 2003) p. 12.
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Your Accelerated Eyes   12/30/2003
When a beam of light hits your eye, a chain of events is set off that is really quite amazing.  Kendall J. Blumer (Washington University School of Medicine) describes a little of it in the
Jan. 1 issue of Nature.1  You don’t have to understand the following description; just be glad you don’t have to operate your retina in manual mode:
Light streaming into the eye is detected by specialized neurons (photoreceptors) in the retina.  In response to light, a coordinated series of molecular events — the so-called phototransduction cascade — is triggered in these cells (Fig. 1).  Photons excite pigment-containing proteins called rhodopsins, which then switch on the protein transducin by loading it with the small molecule guanosine triphosphate (GTP).  When bound to GTP, transducin turns on a phosphodiesterase, an enzyme that breaks down cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP — another small molecule).  High concentrations of cGMP open specialized ion channels in the outer cell membrane.  Thus, by reducing the concentration of cGMP, light changes the flow of ions across the membrane of photoreceptive neurons, producing an electrical signal that is necessary for communicating with the brain.   (Emphasis added in quotes.)
Now that’s just to turn the signal on.  When the light stops, it needs to be turned off quickly.  Normally, it would take too long for this process to reverse, but the retina has a standard procedure that takes care of it:
But this presents a problem.  Photoreceptor cells can turn off in less than a second in response to a brief flash of light.  In contrast, the hydrolysis of GTP by transducin requires tens of seconds to complete, making it difficult to understand how such a mechanism could account for the rapid turn-off of photoreceptor cells.  To get around this problem, photoreceptor cells possess a protein called regulator of G-protein signalling 9 (RGS9) that accelerates transducin’s ability to hydrolyse GTP.
Blumer describes what happens when a person has a defect in this accelerator protein.  It can take tens of seconds to adjust to a bright room when walking out of a theater.  It can take tens of seconds to see when driving into a dark tunnel.  And perhaps the worst of all (for Rose Bowl fans): “Moreover, people with this problem also suffer from difficulties in seeing certain moving objects (such as balls thrown during a sporting event).”
    Having one such accelerator protein would be amazing enough, but now – the rest of the story: “RGS9 is one of nearly 30 such RGS proteins, which regulate signalling by hundreds of receptors coupled to transducin-like G proteins in cell networks of the nervous, cardiovascular, sensory and immune systems.”
Kendall J. Blumer, “Vision: the need for speed,” Nature 427, 20 - 21 (01 January 2004); doi:10.1038/427020a.
We need to know things like this to avoid taking our bodies for granted.  This one deserves a little pondering.  Do some simple experiments; see how quickly your eye adjusts to different light levels, and think about all those little protein machines knowing just what to do on cue.
    Poor Charlie.  The eye as he knew it was enough to give him cold shudders.  In 1859, biochemistry was not even a science yet.  Charlie must be approaching absolute zero by now.  A book preceding The Origin of Species by about 2900 years, by a wiser man (Solomon), makes a lot more sense after reading the above description:  “The hearing ear and the seeing eye, The LORD has made them both” (Proverbs 20:12).
Next headline on: Human Body. • Next amazing story.
In the Beginning Was the Bit   12/30/2003
Is intelligent design theory making an inroad into secular science?  One might think so, based on a book review published in the
Jan. 1 issue of Nature,1 entitled, “The bits that make up the Universe.”  Michael A. Nielsen reviews a new book by Hans Christian van Baeyer, Information: The New Language of Science (Weidenfeld & Nicolson: 2003).  Nielsen begins,
What is the Universe made of?  A growing number of scientists suspect that information plays a fundamental role in answering this question.  Some even go as far as to suggest that information-based concepts may eventually fuse with or replace traditional notions such as particles, fields and forces.  The Universe may literally be made of information, they say, an idea neatly encapsulated in physicist John Wheeler’s slogan: “It from bit”.  (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
Nielsen indicates that scientists are asking some mighty big questions:
The book’s most appealing feature is its focus on big questions.  What is information?  What role does information play in fundamental physics?  Where else in science does information play a critical role?  And what common themes link these areas?  Von Baeyer approaches these questions from many angles, giving us a flavour of some of the most interesting answers currently being offered.
Nielsen indicates that the new thinking goes beyond the information theory of Claude Shannon, who defined information only in its ability to be transmitted faithfully without regard to content.  Nielsen has mostly good comments about von Baeyer’s book, calling it “an accessible and engaging overview of the emerging role of information as a fundamental building block in science.”
1Michael A. Nielsen, “The bits that make up the Universe,” Jan. 1 issue of Nature 427, 16 - 17 (01 January 2004); doi:10.1038/427016b.
Well, this is really interesting. The importance of such a paradigm shift after 145 years of Darwinian naturalism cannot be overemphasized.  If more and more scientists are willing to ask these basic questions, and consider the role of information as a fundamental entity in the Universe, then it would appear intelligent design (ID) theory is poised to make great strides in 2004.  (After all, the centrality of information is one of the key points made by ID leaders, as expressed in the film Unlocking the Mystery of Life). 
    This book review is tantalizing, but its questions are not big enough.  Most thoughtful readers who follow Nielsen’s questions will feel impelled to ask the follow-up question, Where does information come from?  To say it always existed would appear tantamount to asserting the existence of God.  It’s hard enough for atheists to claim matter and energy burst forth out of nothing, but to add information to that would be appear unsupportable.
    Secular scientists can be plagiarists when it comes to giving credit to non-evolutionists.  We’ve already seen them take credit for the dam-breach theory of the origin of Grand Canyon (see 07/22/2003 headline), not crediting Dr. Walter Brown and other creation scientists who have been proposing the idea for years.  Creationists have been the leaders of the concept that information is a fundamental entity of the Universe; it has been a common theme expressed by Dr. A. E. Wilder-Smith, Dr. Werner Gitt (author of In the Beginning Was Information), Dr. William Dembski and Dr. Stephen Meyer of Discovery Institute, and others.  We should not let von Baeyer or Nielsen or Nature forget this.  Ultimately, the credit should go clear back to the Apostle John, who stated the fundamental axiom of information theory, In the beginning was the Word*.  Now wouldn’t that be a revolution, to see the Bible referenced in the footnotes of a scientific paper.
*Want to know the identity of the Word?  Keep reading John Chapter 1 – and for that matter, the rest of the book.
Next headline on: Intelligent Design. • Next headline on: The Bible.
Must Life Drink Water?   12/30/2003
Star Trek used to portray aliens made up of different stuff than the carbon and water chemistry which comprises Earth-based life.  For years, most scientists who considered the possibility of life in space, including Carl Sagan and Stanley Miller, admitted, somewhat reluctantly, that the periodic table of the elements admits no practical alternatives to water as the solvent of life.  This question has been reopened at a December conference of physicists, chemists, biochemists and microbiologists sponsored by the Royal Society, reports Philip Ball in the
Jan. 1 issue of Nature.1  Life needs more than just a liquid, any liquid.  Philip Ball reminds the casual observer that though life needs a liquid, liquidity is not enough:
But there is much more to water than that.  It has long been recognized as a profoundly anomalous liquid, with properties that set it apart from all others.  High heat capacity, expansion on freezing, maximum density at 4 °C, high dielectric constant — all of these so-called anomalies, and others, seem critical to its biological role.  They are in fact relatively easy to rationalize on the grounds of water’s hydrogen-bonded structure, which joins the H2O molecules into a fluctuating, three-dimensional network (J. Finney, University College London).  Unlike ‘simple’ liquids, water’s molecular structure is dominated not by the hard core repulsions between molecules but by the directional, attractive interactions of hydrogen bonds.  (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
While not admitting to the viability of any other possibilities, he keeps the door open a tad:
There seems to be no simple molecule that can mimic all of the useful biological functions of water.  One school of thought asserts that it is therefore futile to look for replacements for any one, or even simultaneously for several, of its ‘virtues’: the biological importance of water lies in their synchronous operation in a single molecular system.  But what we really need is a way of asking which, if any, of those functions is generic to life.  Is there, for example, a temperature limit that rules out other tetrahedral liquids such as silica, because of the complications introduced by molecular excited states at high temperatures?  At low temperatures, would slower diffusion rates prevent effective exploitation of thermodynamic equilibria?  In other words, is there a habitable zone not just in physical space but in chemical and thermodynamic space too?

1Philip Ball, “Astrobiology: Water, water, everywhere?” Nature 427, 19 - 20 (01 January 2004); doi:10.1038/427019a.
Asking a question is fine, but calls to mind Ahab’s proverb, “Let not the one who puts on his armor boast like the one who takes it off” (I Kings 20:11).  The last warriors who fought this question gave up, singing, All day I faced the barren waste without replacing water, cool water.  To astrobiologists looking in the cosmic deserts for a different elixir, we say: Keep a-movin' Dan, don’t you listen to him Dan, he’s the devil not a man, and he spreads the burning sand with ammonia.
Next headline on: Physics. • Next headline on: Origin of Life.
Editorial    12/27/2003
A reader tipped us to what
Hugh Hewitt found: a hard-hitting lecture by best-selling author Michael Crichton (click here for entire speech).  Though delivered last January 17 at Caltech, it is too good to miss.  Do scientists get carried away with pseudoscience?  Do the words “science” and “consensus” belong together?  Is public policy made on faulty scientific claims?  Does SETI have any scientific validity, or is it a quasi-scientific religion?  Are computer models scientific?  Does today’s science fit the postmodernist definition of a special interest group seeking raw power?  Is Big Science the new Mother Church?  What are the limits of science, and what constitutes a true skeptic?  These and other questions are given polemical answers by an unlikely preacher to an audience of top scientists. 
Mainstream scientists get a flogging while creationists get off surprisingly well in this lecture, whimsically titled, “Aliens Cause Global Warming.”  Crichton is merciless against Carl Sagan and Paul Ehrlich, but honoring to the likes of Semmelweis and Pasteur and others who fought the “scientific consensus” of their day.  Here’s a blast of Crichton’s thunder:
I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks.  Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled.  Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you’re being had.
    Let’s be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus.  Consensus is the business of politics.  Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world.  In science consensus is irrelevant.  What is relevant is reproducible results.  The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.
    There is no such thing as consensus science.  If it’s consensus, it isn’t science.  If it’s science, it isn’t consensus.  Period.
To Crichton’s examples of policy-driven pseudoscience (SETI, global warming, nuclear winter) we could add Darwinism; the similarities are striking.  The monolith of consensus surrounding Darwinian evolution intimidates all but the boldest “heretics” able to take the heat.
    So ID scientists, take heart, and NCSE lobbyists, come out of your refuge of scoundrels and quake in your boots at this sermon: it does not matter that most scientists believe in evolution.  Be right, or be silent.  Only reproducible results and verifiable references to the real world are relevant.  And if it is impossible to verify what happened in the unobservable past, admit it.  If the origin of life is a scientifically unanswerable question, so be it.*
    For anyone who cares about the corruption of Big Science in our time, this is well worth reading, and filled with some juicy quotations.  Some readers may not consider Jurassic Park to be based on exemplary science, either, but Crichton was on a roll on this occasion.  That’s entertainment.

*Scientists have devoured the domains of theology and history as legitimate ways of knowing.  It’s time to reconsider the boundaries.  Crichton seems to have the legacy view of science, the Baconian, empirical view.  Today’s scientists are heavy into modeling and speculation (see Dec. 22 headline).  Eugenie Scott would define post-Darwinian science as “the attempt to explain natural phenomena, referring only to natural causes,” or as Richard Dickerson put it, “Science is fundamentally a game. It is a game with one overriding and defining rule: Rule #1: Let us see how far and to what extent we can explain the behavior of the physical and material universe in terms of purely physical and material causes, without invoking the supernatural” (see Jonathan Sarfati’s response).  This sounds appealing on the surface, but what these revisionists don’t realize is that they have replaced a science that is a search for the truth with a game that embeds naturalistic philosophy into the rules, and into the very definition of science and even concepts of knowing.  Connect the dots: see how such revisionism feeds directly into the problem Crichton addresses.  For proof, see the quote by Lewontin in the Sarfati article linked above.  Thus the modern evolution-only orthodoxy and the creationist/ID heresy.
Next headline on: SETI. • Next headline on: Politics, Ethics, and History.
Line Between Neanderthals and Modern Humans Blurs    12/23/2003
There seems to have been an intergradation between big-boned Neanderthals and modern humans, according to the
BBC News.  “Newly identified remains from Vindija in Croatia, which date to between 42,000 and 28,000 years ago, are more delicate than ‘classic’ Neanderthals,” writes Paul Rincon.  Not only that, stone tools found nearby look like those of modern humans.  Some scientists are wondering whether the two varieties of humans were interbreeding in the area.  See also September 23, May 29 and March 27 headlines about Neanderthals.
There’s a lot of variability in the human gene pool, and isolated groups are likely to have accentuated features.  Nothing about Neanderthals looks boorish or primitive any more, so it’s time to get off this false concept that has twisted anthropology since the 19th century.  We have modern humans more primitive than Neanderthals today, slamming each other in the WWF (don’t dare call these guys ‘delicate’) and ante-Neanderthal music is all the rage in health clubs.  Would that we all had Neanderthal bones and skulls, so we could get more work done.
    The BBC, of course, had to include a shameless plug for their misleading TV series Walking with Cavemen with a photo of a hairy, wild-eyed brute.  It’s the same Victorian wishful thinking (see Dec. 18 headline) that wants to see us superior to our ancestors, king of the hill, when in fact early people probably had better physiques and mental capacities on average than we do now, and fewer genetic diseases, too.  The joke goes back decades that if you put a Neanderthal in a business suit, gave him a haircut and had him walk down the streets of New York, no one would even notice.  They were human, OK?  They were not evolving.  Get over it.
Next headline on: Early Man. • Next dumb story.
Life Runs on Waterwheels    12/22/2003
The cells of every living thing are filled with molecular machines, and one of the most fascinating is a rotary motor called ATP synthase (see
April 2002 back issue, opening paragraph).  This is a true mechanical/electrical motor, found in every living thing from bacteria to elephants and palm trees.  It is really two motors in one; the top part, named F1, is where synthesis of ATP takes place (as described in previous entries on this subject; see Sept. 18 headline, for instance).  The bottom machine, named F0, is like a carousel of 10 to 14 proteins labeled c subunits.  This is the driving engine of this “splendid molecular machine” that spins at up to 6000 rpm.  Somehow, it converts a proton flow into rotation.
    Ever since the rotary nature of this all-important enzyme was established around 1996, scientists have been eager to explain its operation in detail.  According to four Swiss biochemists writing in a Minireview of the December issue of Structure,1 “Energy conversions are central to all life forms,” and this particular motor generates “the universal energy currency of living cells” (ATP).  For these reasons, “The central metabolic role of ATP has stimulated much interest in how it is formed using the energy of oxidations or light.  Research in this area has led to impressive progress, including some of the most spectacular discoveries in the history of biochemistry” (emphasis added in all quotes).  Scientists have made great strides in explaining the F1 part of the machine (see Sept. 18 headline, for instance), but till recently, have been baffled at how the F0 motor generates torque.  Now, these scientists present a model that suggests it spins by a water-induced electric potential – a waterwheel, on a 10-nanometer scale..
    Their model, illustrated with cartoon drawings in the article, is fascinating, but too involved to describe in detail here.  In short, they believe that water channels of different heights in the mitochondrial membrane create an electrical potential difference in the membrane that flows downhill across the stator (labeled with the letter a), a tall housing on the side of the carousel that contains tubes which open and close to prevent proton leakage.  The stator looks something like the apparatus in a gumball machine.  Think of protons as gumballs, channeled through slots that open up and allow them to roll in or out.  Now, add a carousel to your machine that the gumballs have to ride around before dropping into the outlet slot.  Then, imagine an electrical charge on the gumballs.  As the gumball (proton) drops into its seat, it rides the carousel until it approaches the stator.  There, it is repelled by a positively charged entity called Arg227 inside the stator housing, and it falls out.  The empty seat, now negatively charged, is attracted by the potential difference between the water-filled inlet and outlet channels in the membrane.  The empty seat is thus pushed through the stator, generating torque.  Here, a gumball from another channel hops into the empty seat and takes its turn around the carousel.  To summarize, water makes the wheel turn, converting electrical energy into mechanical energy, then into chemical energy in the form of ATP.
    The machinery is reversible.  When the electrical potential reverses, the motor runs the other direction, and instead of the machine generating ATP, it consumes ATP and spits out protons.  When no potential is present, the motor rocks back and forth in “idling mode” within certain angular limits, allowing protons to migrate into the gumball machine or out of it as the appropriate channels open or close.  This can equalize the proton gradient inside and outside the membrane in a controlled manner.  The machine would stay in idling mode if it weren’t for the electrical potential.  The authors believe that “the membrane potential is the crucial driving force to induce the torque required for ATP synthesis.”  Once the F0 carousel gets spinning in high gear, the attached camshaft forces precise conformational changes in the F1 subunits up above, generating three ATP per revolution.  “The capacity of this process is impressive,” the authors write; “the daily turnover of a human has been estimated to be 40 kg [about 88 lb] of ATP on average.”  Several quadrillions of these motors in your body keep your power plant running (see Feb. 5 headline), making you shine at 116 watts. 
    Other scientists had tried to envision models invoking mechanical energy, thinking that the protein gradient in a c subunit induces a conformational change that turns the wheel.  This electrical model, however, seems to not only account for the efficient generation of torque, idling, and reversibility, but also explain why some models of the motor have 14 c subunits (the seats on the carousel) and others have 10 or 11.  The number of c subunits is apparently related to the membrane potential.  A chloroplast ATP-synthase motor, with 14 subunits, runs at peak efficiency with half the potential (60 mV) required to turn a bacterial motor with 10 or 11 c subunits (120 mV).  “To investigate whether this is a general principle and to address the interesting question how the two motors, which operate with a different number of steps, are synchronized, sophisticated biochemical investigations of the enzyme’s performance are required,” they conclude.  Speaking of the performance of these machines, scientists have already determined that these motors approach 100% efficiency.  Impossible at our scale, these tiny motors “cheat” thermodynamics by using random Brownian motion like a ratchet.  Some models of the carousel run on alternate fuel: sodium ions instead of protons (hydrogen ions).
    A paper in PNAS2 last week discovered something interesting about a similar rotary machine, V0V1-ATP synthase or V-ATPase for short (see Feb. 24 headline).  Unlike the F-ATPase model, the two parts of V0V1 can detach and re-attach reversibly.  Iwata et al. studied a subunit that apparently clamps onto the two parts like a socket to hold them together, thereby keeping the central shaft locked into its correct position.  Maybe this model could be viewed as the travelling carnival carousel that can be dismantled and installed on the road.  Apparently V-ATPase motors are needed to maintain acid balance in many parts of the cell.  The scientists describe where they are found: “They reside within intracellular compartments, including endosomes, lysosomes, and secretory vesicles, and within plasma membranes of certain cells including renal intercalated cells, osteoclasts, and macrophages.  Eukaryotic V-ATPases are responsible for various cell functions including the acidification of intracellular compartments, renal acidification, born [sic; bone?] resorption, and tumor metastasis.”3  V-ATPase has a different-looking camshaft and stator; like F-ATPase, it is found in archaea, bacteria and higher organisms.  It does all the ATP synthesis for the kind of bacteria that live in hot springs.
1Peter Dimroth, Christoph von Ballmoos, Thomas Meier, and Georg Kaim, “Minireview: Electrical Power Fuels Rotary ATP Synthase,” Structure Vol 11, 1469-1473, December 2003.
2Iwata et al., “Crystal structure of a central stalk subunit C and reversible association/dissociation of vacuole-type ATPase,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.0305165101, published online Dec. 18, 2003.
3Presumably, due to a failure in the system; the authors do not elaborate.  See this article that suggests increased V-ATPase activity in a tumor is a response aimed at provoking cell death, or apoptosis.
A popular book for young people and adults is called The Way Things Work by David Macaulay.  He describes the inner workings of car engines, computers, the space shuttle, and many kinds of artificial machines.  We need a book like this about cells.  Now that we know a cell is composed of thousands of machines, wouldn’t it be cool to see them visualized in a popular way?  The definitive textbook The Molecular Biology of the Cell is heavy, expensive ($120) and difficult to read, but creationist reviewers who understand it have remarked that it is filled with powerful evidence for design.  We need to get this information before the eyes of the public.  ATP synthase just screams for some high-tech, 3D fly-through computer animation.  This one molecular machine, so small you would have to shrink yourself down a billionfold to even see it, could demolish Darwinism* all by itself.  But then to think that the cell is filled with ten thousands of similar wonders (see yesterday’s headline, for instance, and another article in the same issue of Structure that argues a certain “chaperone machine should be regarded as a molecular motor,” actively employing force to fold a protein), and – well!  Does the word overkill mean anything when raised to the fourth power?
*Consider that this machine is made up of multiple, discrete units, each one a protein, and each protein is made up of hundreds of amino acids in a precise sequence.  The Arg227 described above is an arginine amino acid residue in the 227th position of the stator protein.  It is so critical to the operation of the motor, that if that one amino acid is changed to something else, the motor won’t work at all.  (Scientists find these things out by artificially mutating individual amino acids and watching what happens.)
    The motor itself is irreducibly complex, but even more complex is the DNA code that contains all the genetic blueprints for all the parts, and the molecular machinery that builds the parts and then assembles them together in the right order, in the right place, in the right time.  Think about how each protein must be folded properly by another host of machines that operate under strict quality control (see Dec. 21 headline).  As the coup-de-grace, now realize that every living thing, down to the most primitive bacteria, already have working ATP synthase motors.  Can anyone really believe this all evolved by chance?  The gulf between the simplest living cell and any precursor is not just a canyon; it’s a light-year.  Read our online book, Evolution: Possible or Impossible? if you need a little more convincing.
Next headline on: The Cell and Biochemistry. • Next amazing story.
How Darwinism Produces Job Security    12/22/2003
One thing Darwinism has going for it: it provides endless opportunities to research stories that are nearly impossible to prove.
    A case in point was provided in the
Dec. 18 issue of Nature.1  John R. Hutchinson (Royal Veterinary College, UK), in a News and Views article on bird evolution, reviewed the new angle that flight might have first begun when theropod dinosaurs stretched out their forelimbs to act as stabilizers or spoilers while running up slopes (see 01/16/2003 headline).  Before Montana vertebrate morphologist Ken Dial came up with this hypothesis, two competing ideas for the origin of flight produced a “rather stale dichotomy” according to Hutchinson: the ground-up (cursorial) hypothesis, that running dinosaurs leaped into the air, and the tree-down (arboreal) hypothesis, that tree-dwelling dinosaurs leaped out of trees (see 01/29/2003 headline).
    Hutchinson does not pretend that the problem has been solved by any means; at most, “this work may illuminate the origin of flight in birds.”  But by providing a possible use for a non-flying limb, which might improve over time, it removes an implausible point of the plot: “This is a compelling solution for the evolutionary conundrum, ‘What use is half a wing?’”  Most of the story of the transition from birds to dinosaurs, however, remains difficult, including the evolution of feathers (see 10/30/2003 and 08/21/2001 headlines) and the need for the simultaneous evolution of many other specialized structures such as the avian lung (see 10/31/2003 headline).  But to Hutchinson, this is not a failure of the story, but a bonus: “There are plenty of issues yet to be explored, of course, which is a good thing for many researchers, including Bundle and Dial, who admit as much” (emphasis added in all quotes).  In other words, the new hypothesis, that flight began to evolve when forelimbs were used as spoilers (wing-assisted incline running, or WAIR), opens up a new job market.  Many new experimental tests can now be attempted by researchers.  Hutchinson provides some examples:
  • Physics:  “The relative roles of inertial and aerodynamic forces remain unknown, as do the energetics of WAIR.”
  • Role of the Tail:  “I wonder how much hindlimb function changes between level running and WAIR, or how the third locomotor module, the tail, might influence WAIR.”
  • Role of the Feet:  “If WAIR is so important in the natural history of ground (or other) birds, and if it is vital for birds to generate frictional forces to improve traction, might their feet be specialized accordingly?”
  • WAIR use by living birds:  “Likewise, it is not known how broadly distributed and crucial WAIR is for the thousands of species of extant birds, especially those such as tinamous, kiwis and ostriches that retain many ancestral avian traits (for example, spending a relatively short time in the nest after hatching, or frequenting more terrestrial than arboreal environments), although Bundle and Dial provide some tantalizing speculations.”
  • Form and Function:  “Finally, how closely are specific anatomical features of birds linked to functions integral to WAIR?”
  • Interdisciplinary Research:  “On the wish-list for the future would be the establishment of secure links between form and function for the group — Aves or Neornithes — that includes all extant birds and all descendants of their most recent common ancestor.  If that could be done, then the more difficult historical questions of how WAIR evolved would become tractable because relationships between form and function could be traced across evolutionary lineages.”

    It appears, therefore, that the new hypothesis is no spoiler itself; it is a door of opportunity, a fresh wind taking the story of bird evolution out of the doldrums:

    Without such broader knowledge, it is uncertain how essential WAIR was for any extinct members of the theropod lineage, including the earliest birds.  Regardless, this work will continue to stimulate research on flight and its evolution.  The debate over whether flight originated in tree- or ground-living creatures is centuries old.  The WAIR hypothesis has provided a biologically plausible alternative to that rather stale dichotomy.

    1John R. Hutchinson, “Biomechanics: Early birds surmount steep slopes,” Nature 426, 777 - 778 (18 December 2003); doi:10.1038/426777a.
    Caught in the act!  This is an important principle to understand about Darwinism, and why it has become so successful, and why it has taken over the intellectual world.  It no longer matters whether a hypothesis is true or not, but only whether it keeps lazy scientists employed as storytellers.  Evolutionary science has been liberated from repeatability, testability and observability.  The key word is now plausibility, which being translated, means science has become fiction.  After all, any good novel or short story is plausible, isn’t it?  (Since there are no Laws of Plausibility, at least it will be plausible to somebody, especially the storyteller.)
        For Darwinists studying the evolution of birds from dinosaurs, to really do their job rigorously, they would have to identify every beneficial mutation or gene duplication, connect it to an actual functional advantage, and monitor its spread through a population.  They would have to find every transitional fossil, know its date accurately, trace the development of all the flight-related hardware and software in the genes (including feathers, perching feet, hollow bones, avian lungs, specialized organs, modified brain, body size, metabolic rate, specialized muscles and tendons, and behavioral instincts, such as knowing how to take off and land and use thermals), explain how these morphological changes proceed from embryo to adult, and much more.  Clearly, doing all this is impossible.  Moreover, they would need to uncover, by experiment, new natural laws that create increasing levels of complexity and information against the inexorable pressure of entropy.  Even if in some fantasyland they could perform these impossible experiments, they would never know if it matched prehistory without getting into a time machine and watching the whole story unfold.
        This is too hard, so evolutionists changed the rules.  They don’t like doing science the old way, the way Joule and Faraday and Mendel did it.  It’s so much easier to just flop on the sofa and speculate.  When the NSF comes around and wonders how the grant money is being spent, the Darwinist can show the photo album from the last vacation in the Bahamas (see Dec. 03 headline), or show a home-video clip of partridge chicks running up a ramp in the lab, or demonstrate the latest computer games (see May 8 headline) enough to look busy.  And so that Eugenie Scott can brag about all the scientific literature that supports evolution, the Darwinist can have his or her grad student write it up in specialized jargon for Nature or Science or National Geographic, ending with the typical benediction about all the wonderful stories that the latest new twist on the plot opens up.  Look through the Chain Links on “Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory” and check if this is not indeed the situation.
        Calling all Baloney Detectors.  Wake up and smell the coffee.  We’ve been hoodwinked.  All along, Eugenie Scott and the rest of the Darwin Party have been browbeating their critics that they just don’t understand “science” and that to do “science” we must play by “the rules.”  But she didn’t explain that the rules were changed when the Darwin Party came to power.  Old Charlie was clever.  He had a vivid imagination and a gift of gab, and instead of proving his story, he said, “It’s plausible, isn’t it?  Prove me wrong!”  So we took the bait and headed off on an impossible quest, trying to prove a universal negative, instead of calling his bluff and making him prove his story right.  While we were distracted, he rounded up the Starving Storytellers, gave them lab coats and became their patron saint.  They have been in his debt ever since.
        Antievolutionists have been snookered into trying to prove that this or that alleged feathered dinosaur really isn’t an ancestor to birds, or that this or that microevolutionary change cannot be extrapolated endlessly, without realizing that they are trying to beat Hobbes at Calvinball.  As long as the Darwinists are free to make up stories that can never be proved, it’s hopeless to call them on the carpet.  The one who sets the rules controls the game.
        The reason Darwin Party members are so vehement against critics is that their jobs are at stake.  The founding fathers of science declared independence from speculation by framing an unwritten constitution which demanded that scientific results be observable, testable and repeatable.  But later presidents, giving into pressure from special interest groups that found the work too hard, started entitlement programs like the Great Society for Storytellers.  The GSS took over labs, removed the flasks and ammeters, and set up couches surrounding banquet tables filled with “tantalizing speculations” (see Sept. 18 commentary).  Eventually, Big Science became a bloated bureacracy distributing limited grant money to more and more storyteller banquets, while those rugged individualists who still believed in the founding principles of science were being burdened to support the growing welfare state.  Those few who called for fairness were accused of hate speech, and ridiculed as irrational, superstitious obscurantists who simply didn’t understand “science.”
        If people woke up and realized that Darwinists are not pulling their fair share, that real science was subsidizing the Darwinists’ endless quest for a good story, some heads might roll.  Science itself, however, would go on.  The good old science that builds space stations and discovers molecular motors, that explores Mars and digs up dinosaur bones and classifies hummingbirds, would do just fine.  Medicine would still advance, high school science fairs would still be popular, microscopes and telescopes would continue to sell, and discoveries would continue to pour forth.  But if the public demanded accountability, then all the useless, distracting, parasitic welfare programs promoted by the Darwin Party would dry up.  Certain loudmouth bums and welfare queens would be stuck holding up signs saying, Will Tell Stories for Food.
        This should not be taken as a tirade against Darwinists.  We are actually very tolerant of them.  If they want to continue to loaf and watch Charlie’s angles, that’s fine; there are even some creationists who like some episodes.  But teach it in the theater class, not the science class.
    Next headline on: Birds. • Next headline on: Dinosaurs. • Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory. • Next dumb story.
    Elaborate Quality Control Governs the Cell’s Protein-Folding Factory   12/20/2003
    If it weren’t for quality control in our cells, we’d be dead.  That’s the gist of an amazing Insight article in the
    Dec. 18 issue of Nature.1  “Aberrant proteins are extremely harmful to cells,” the authors begin.  How harmful?  Here is a short list of diseases that can result from improperly folded proteins or failures in the quality control systems that direct their formation: Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and other degenerative diseases, scurvy, cystic fibrosis and more.  In fact, serious defects in protein assembly are probably never seen, because they could prevent an organism from getting past the first cell division in the embryo.  The only way a cell can live and grow is with the assistance of a host of traffic controllers, regulators, monitors, ushers, transporters, inspectors, security guards and emergency technicians maintaining the complex processes of protein assembly.  Success must be ensured constantly, 24 x 7, that despite a flurry of activity, must maintain a state of dynamic equilibrium, called homeostasis.
        Each cell in the body is like a city of interrelated factories made up of protein machines and structures operating under strict regulations, built on coded instructions.  One of the most important factories is the protein folding system, which ensures that newly-sequenced proteins coming out of ribosomes are folded into their correct (native) shapes.  Proteins are made up of amino acids, usually hundreds of them, that are first sequentially assembled in ribosomes, based on templates sent from the DNA code.  Then, they are folded into specific, complex three-dimensional shapes that perform numerous and diverse functions in the cell (see 06/13/02 and 05/31/02 headlines.)  Protein folding is assisted by enzymes whimsically called chaperones (see 05/05/03 headline) but is also checked and rechecked by numerous other quality control systems (see 09/09/02 headline).
        In the current paper in Nature, the authors have unveiled more of the complexity in the quality controls governing protein folding.  Some of the folding occurs in networked subway tunnels that run throughout the cell, called the endoplasmic reticulum (ER).  Before getting into the ER, some proteins already begin their folding with assistance from certain chaperones.  The authors explain, “In mammalian cells, proteins are translocated into the ER ... where they start to fold co-translationally [i.e., while they are en route into the ER].  Folding is completed post-translationally, and, generally, individual subunits have folded before assembly and oligomerization [the joining together of multiple chains] take place.  Sequential interactions with distinct chaperones are required for each of these steps.”  (Emphasis added in all quotations.)  The job is completed inside the ER, and the finished protein “tool” is then sent on its way to work.  But that is just the tip of a huge iceberg made up of a multitude of processes – hardware and software – that work together to ensure success.
        In the following examples from the article, entitled “Quality control in the endoplasmic reticulum protein factory,” don’t worry about unfamiliar technical terms.  Just try to keep track of how many different players are involved in the team of factory workers dedicated to one job: folding a single protein.  And keep in mind that each team player is itself a protein, built with the same quality control.  You can almost envision little factory workers, each skilled at their specific tasks, alert and knowing just what to do, but it’s all done with chemicals!  Be patient in these extended quotes, because the awe is in the details. 
    1. Redox regulation:  A sensitive chemical balance is maintained between reducing and oxidizing (redox) conditions along the protein’s pathway through the folding factory.  “The redox gradient between the ER and the cytosol seems to be important for intercompartmental signalling, particularly in the integrated response to oxidative stress, in which adaptive responses emanating from different compartments are coordinated.  And redox reactions with opposite electron fluxes must take place in the ER to mediate formation, isomerization and reduction of disulphides.  The wealth of redox assistants allows these fluxes to be separate, and channels electron transport through specific protein–protein interactions.”
    2. Location specificity:  “Although most folding factors in the ER are ubiquitously expressed throughout the body, some are tissue-type specific or cell-type specific, and probably fulfil a particular synthetic task....  For example, efficient collagen production requires the expression of hsp47, whereas a tissue-specific protein-disulphide-isomerase-like protein, PDIp, is produced in the pancreas and probably permits the massive secretion of digestive enzymes.”
    3. Bridge builders:  Junctions called disulphide bridges are common in protein folds, and these, although weak, are carefully maintained by a host of enzymes called oxidoreductases: “The impressive number of oxidoreductases in the ER suggests that catalysis and regulation of disulphide-bond formation is crucial for folding.  Energywise, in most cases, the contribution of a disulphide bond is hardly more than that of a single hydrogen bond [i.e., quite weak], yet, without disulphide bonds, native conformations are not obtained.  Disulphide bonds cannot force a folding protein into a given conformation: in the sampling of conformations during folding in the ER, native and non-native disulphide cross-links are transiently formed [i.e., correct and incorrect links form and break easily, and must be guided].  Continuous activity of oxidoreductases probably ensures that these covalent links remain flexible until folding is completed.
    4. Correct fold recognition:  Even though a string of amino acids could conceivably fold in large number of ways, like a Rubik’s cube, somehow the chaperones are able to tell a correct (native) fold from an incorrect one.  “Besides providing a unique folding environment, the ER has a crucial quality-control role.  How does it discriminate between native and non-native proteins?  The answer to this question depends primarily on ER chaperones.  When folding or assembly intermediates expose hydrophobic [i.e., water-avoiding] surfaces, unpaired cysteines or immature glycans, ER-resident chaperones or oxidoreductases interact with them, and as a consequence they are retained in the ER or retrieved from the Golgi complex [see 11/12/01 headline].  By forming multimolecular complexes, folding factors in the ER may provide matrices that couple retention to folding and assembly.  Immature proteins may also form aggregates that are excluded from vesicles exiting from the ER” [i.e., such that they are not ejected before they are ready].
    5. Fail-safe inspection:  A protein needs to pass multiple layers of monitoring: “All proteins are subjected to a ‘primary’ quality control that monitors their architectural design through ubiquitous folding sensors (Table 1).  ‘Secondary’ quality-control mechanisms rely instead on cell-specific factors and facilitate export of individual proteins or classes of proteins.... the ER is the main test bench where molecules destined for the extracellular space are scrutinized for their potential toxicity.”
    6. Feedback regulation:  The ER not only does quality control, but sends messages back to the nucleus to regulate the production of more chaperones: “The reasons for having a quality-control system in the ER are easy to understand where protein folding and function are concerned, especially in multicellular organisms where development relies on the fidelity of protein secretion.  Quality control can also regulate the transport or the activity of certain proteins during differentiation or in response to stress or metabolic requirements.
    7. Waste control:  When a protein cannot be folded after repeated attempts, more assistants are on hand to ensure proper dismantling and recycling: “Mutations or unbalanced subunit synthesis make folding or assembly — and hence exit from the ER — impossible.  To maintain homeostasis [dynamic equilibrium], terminally misfolded molecules are ‘retrotranslocated’ or ‘dislocated’ across the ER membrane to be degraded by cytosolic proteasomes” [organelles equipped to break up badly-folded proteins and recycle their parts].
    8. Time limits:  Somehow, the cell knows when a protein has had enough time to shape up or ship out:  “A fascinating problem is how molecules that have not been given the time to fold (and therefore are unfolded) are discriminated from those that have failed to fold after many attempts (misfolded), and must therefore be disposed of.  One way of timing glycoprotein quality control involves the sequential processing of N-glycans and in particular mannose trimming in the ER.  It remains to be seen how substrates are eventually targeted to the retrotranslocation channels, how these are opened, and to what extent proteins must be unfolded to negotiate dislocation.”
    9. Workforce regulation:  Like a company’s human resources department that responds to managers’ calls for more workers, the cell keeps track of how many chaperones are available, and sends out “help wanted” ads to the nucleus.  “To maintain the efficiency of quality-control mechanisms in diverse physiological conditions, living cells have evolved regulatory circuits that monitor the levels of available chaperones.  This is true for both the cytosol and the ER, and compartment-specific responses clearly exist that selectively restore optimal levels of the desired folding factors.”
    10. Emergency squads:  The authors provide two examples of rapid-response traffic control teams: “The accumulation of aberrant proteins in the cytosol triggers the heat-shock response, resulting in de novo synthesis of hsp70 and other cytosolic chaperones.  But if aberrant proteins accumulate in the ER, cells activate a different response, the unfolded protein response (UPR), which leads to the coordinated synthesis of ER-resident chaperones and enzymes.”
    11. Failure consequences:  The authors give an example of what can go wrong when the system gets swamped, starved, or sent defective parts: “Physiologically, ER stress (a condition in which the folding machinery in the ER cannot cope with its protein load) can be caused by synthesis of mutated or orphan proteins, absence of cofactors (an example being scurvy, in which collagen cannot fold because of the lack of vitamin C), or a drastic increase in otherwise normal cargo proteins.”
    12. Unified response to varied inputs:  A variety of signals can lead to the same Unfolded Protein Response (UPR) pathway: “How do the diverse unfolded or misfolded proteins that accumulate in the ER provoke the same pathway?  The unifying concept is that BiP and other primary quality-control factors maintain the stress sensors in the ER in the inactive state, so that chaperone insufficiency triggers UPR whatever the nature of the cargo.
    13. Meltdown regulation:  What happens when the damage is so great, that further operation of the factory would be dangerous?  Three independent controls make sure an orderly shutdown occurs (apoptosis, or cell death: see 04/09/02 headline).  “The mammalian ER sensors, Ire1, PERK and ATF6, guarantee a tripartite response with synergic strategies.  By phosphorylating eIF2alpha, PERK transiently attenuates translation, limiting protein load.  ATF6 drives the transcriptional upregulation of many ER-resident proteins and folding assistants.  Ire1 activates XBP-1, which in turn induces transcription of factors that facilitate ER-associated degradation (ERAD).  The two-step activation of XBP-1 (transcriptionally induced by ATF6 and post-transcriptionally regulated by Ire1) guarantees the proper timing of the UPR [unfolded protein response] attempts to fold proteins precede the decision to degrade them.  If the response fails to clear the ER, apoptosis is induced through several pathways.”  The authors explain that “The UPR is multi-faceted and regulates proteins involved in quality control, ERAD and many aspects of the secretory pathway.”
    14. Balancing act:  The quality control mechanisms walk a tightrope, with serious consequences for falling off:  “Quality control must be a balance between retaining and degrading potentially harmful products and not preventing export of biologically active proteins.  CFTR mutants in cystic fibrosis illustrate an overzealous quality control, where biologically active mutants cannot leave the ER.  In this case, relaxing the quality control could cure the patient.  But disease can also originate from defective degradation.  If the rate of synthesis of a protein exceeds the combined rates of folding and degradation, a fraction of it will accumulate intracellularly.”  Misfolded proteins have to make it across the ER membrane in time, and get degraded by the proteasome in time, or else aggregations (aggresomes) can build up inside or outside the ER.  These are implicated in a number of “ER storage diseases.”
    The authors put this all into perspective: “Over the past few years, much has been learned about how proteins are handled by the ER folding and quality-control machineries, and some of this knowledge has begun to be translated to industry and to the clinic.  Yet, many questions remain....”  They hope that further elucidation of these complex, coordinated systems will allow drug designers to target faulty elements that cause degenerative diseases, or induce apoptosis in tumors to make them self-destruct.  Clearly, though, in spite of the complexity already described, much remains to be learned about cell quality control.
    1Robert Sitia and Ineke Braakman, “Quality control in the endoplasmic reticulum protein factory,” Nature 426, 891 - 894 (18 December 2003); doi:10.1038/nature02262.
    If you endured the heavy reading in the above paragraphs, you were undoubtedly rewarded with a sense of how incomprehensibly amazing and mind-boggling a living cell is.  Think of it: all this activity is going on right now in every cell in your body.  The authors describe it in typical scientific jargon, but sprinkled here and there are hints of their own wonder and fascination at how all this quality control works.  Who could help but to be awe-struck at the choreography and efficiency of so many coordinated parts?  No human enterprise comes close.
        Only twice do the authors mention evolution just in passing, and in both cases, they merely assume it rather than explain it.  The first reference almost argues against it: “A certain degree of freedom from quality control is essential for the evolution of proteins.  However, it comes at a price for multicellular organisms.  Indeed, many proteins that cause systemic amyloidosis [clumping, runaway misfolding] ... can adopt more than one conformation and can undergo uncontrolled aggregation outside of the cells.”  This means that mutations have a hard time getting past the guards, and even when they do, the consequences could be catastrophic.  How then, could evolution ever get a beneficial mutation past the controls, without mucking up the whole works or triggering the cell-death alarm?  Don’t look for an explanation from these authors.  If there was ever a need for more examples of irreducible complexity, this is surely a contender.
        This afternoon, after reading this scientific paper, I was sitting in a fast food restaurant eating a hamburger and looking out the window at a sunset.  I paused for a moment to think about how many tiny miracles of sophisticated, coordinated interaction were going on inside my body to make possible the enjoyment of tasting food and seeing a beautiful sky.  If more people knew just a fraction of this information, and really thought about it with any common sense at all, they would be impelled to acknowledge that an all-wise Creator with superior intelligence must exist.  The beauty and balance of all these systems should move us to fear Him and want to know Him.  A big part of the problem in society is that so few individuals have any vague idea of what is required to allow them to do something as routine as eating a hamburger, talking with a friend, or looking at the colors in the sky.
        Scientific papers are difficult for most people to read, requiring understanding of specialized vocabulary and abstract concepts.  O, that more talented people could translate this information into everyday terms, and visualize it for more to see, that it might rekindle their sense of wonder.  Do you have such talent?  Has this article struck a chord with you?  Would you think and pray about how you might make this kind of worship-inducing information accessible to children and adults alike?  Some possibilities come to mind: radio, print, audio-visual media, film, tracts, church bulletins, classroom teaching, educational games and role playing, computer animations... did you get any ideas while reading?  If this kind of amazing information excites you, how could you make it accessible to those in your sphere of influence?  If you have an inspiration, write in and share it.
        Our perception of our lives and the world around us is often far too simplistic.  Science should be, like James Joule said, a worshipful quest.  He felt the study of nature and nature’s laws was “essentially a holy undertaking,” and of “great importance and absolute necessity in the education of youth.”  He said, “After the knowledge of, and obedience to, the will of God, the next aim must be to know something of His attributes of wisdom, power and goodness as evidenced by His handiwork.... It is evident that an acquaintance with natural laws means no less than an acquaintance with the mind of God therein expressed.”  Let’s hear a hearty Amen.  Take a moment to thank God for quality control that keeps your machinery humming.
    Next headline on: The Cell and Biochemistry. • Next headline on: Genes and DNA. • Next amazing story.
    Tired of Old Gaia?  Try This: New Gaia   12/18/2003
    James Lovelock gets the stage without flying fruit (yet) in the December 18 issue of
    Nature.1  His 1970-ish “living earth” view of evolution, the Gaia hypothesis, in which life and the earth co-evolve together as one big living system, gets a new screening as what might be called neo-Gaia in an unrefuted Concepts piece in the world’s most prestigious science journal.  But he hastens to emphasize, more than once, that Gaia is not in contention with the leading biological paradigm, and explains carefully what Gaia does not mean (emphasis added in all quotes):
    Gaia theory does not contradict darwinism, rather it extends it to include evolutionary biology and evolutionary geology as a single science [sic].  In Gaia theory, organisms change their material environment as well as adapt to it.  Selection favours the improvers, and the expansion of favourable traits extends local improvement and can make it global.  Inevitably there will be extinctions and losers, winners may gain in the short term, but the only long-term beneficiary is life itself.  Its persistence for over three billion years in spite of numerous catastrophes, internal or external, lends support to the theory.  I have never intended the powerful metaphor ‘the living Earth’ more seriously than the metaphor of ‘the selfish gene’.  I have used it, along with my neologism geophysiology, to draw attention to the similarity between Gaian and physiological regulation.
    So if Dawkins can use an anthropomorphic catch-phrase and get away with it, why can’t I, he seems to be saying.  James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis appear to be still smarting from reputations, deserved or not, that they (or their disciples) were imputing divine attributes to mother Earth and empowering the New Age movement.  They’ve learned their lesson, he claims, and modified Gaia according to valid criticisms.  New Gaia has been shown to be “fruitful and makes successful or useful predictions” which he displays in a table, and seems to be making a favorable comeback in some circles.
        In his conclusion, however, he can’t seem to resist romanticizing, and politicizing, his pet theory, in picturesque prose, with Grandmother Nature gently nodding from her wheelchair in the background:
    As the Earth ages, the Sun’s heat ineluctably intensifies; in approximately one billion years the Earth will pass the limit of climatic stability and irreversibly return to inorganic chemistry.  Moreover, as it grows older the Earth system weakens, and before long a large planetesimal impact may throw our planet prematurely into its final hot, dry state.  A few thermophiles in oasis ecosystems might survive, but we could never recapture the abundant life and lush environment we now enjoy.  The Earth system is elderly and we should treat it with respect and care.
        Gaia theory reconciles current thinking in evolutionary biology with that in evolutionary geology  It extends, not contradicts, Darwin’s vision, just as relativity enhances, not denies, Newtonian physics.  The theory is provisional, but provides an intellectual habitat where understanding of the Earth can evolve and grow.  Perhaps its greatest value lies in its metaphor of a living Earth, which reminds us that we are part of it and that human rights are constrained by the needs of our planetary partners.

    1James Lovelock, “Gaia: the living Earth,” Nature 426, 769 - 770 (18 December 2003); doi:10.1038/426769a.
    Well, it’s going to be interesting to see the letters to the editor on this one.  Advice: stay out of the line of fire.  Maybe Nature has had it with Lovelock and Margulis’ incessant whining about how closed-minded establishment scientists are, and acquiesced, “All right already, here’s a forum, give us your best shot,” expecting Lovelock to implode in full public view.  It appears he did.
        What’s funny about Gaia is not just its cute new-age, daisy-holding-hands metaphorical imagery, but the rancor it has generated among its adherents against the reigning Darwin Party.*  Like Simon Conway Morris’s demiurge orchestra-conductor model (see Dec. 7 headline), Gaia is just not mindless enough.  Darwinists hate minds.  They want a blind, aimless, purposeless, impersonal, mechanistic process from eternity to eternity.  Even our minds are supposed to be chemical illusions (see Oct. 3 headline).  Despite Lovelock’s valiant performance, trying to portray Gaia as an act without an actor, he blows it by talking about “the Earth system” being elderly and deserving of our respect.  One does not respect mindless, purposeless, undirected processes.  Darwin Party members in the audience will have a cow when he delivers his soliloquy about his pet theory being an extension to Darwinism comparable to relativity being an extension to Newtonian mechanics.
        Well, Lovelock, you got your fifteen minutes on stage.  Gong.  Next.
    * For fun reading, look at the nasty things Margulis (and other evolutionists who are not deemed naturalistic enough) have said against the Darwin Party, as quoted in Henry Morris’s December commentary, “Willingly Ignorant,” from ICR.  If you think the Big Science establishment is open to unorthodox views, wait’ll you read these seething quotes.
    Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory. • Next dumb story.
    Art Evolution Is Backwards   12/18/2003
    Early art has again been shown to be the work of advanced intellect and culture (see
    Apr. 22 headline and embedded links).  Carved animal figurines found in Germany1 estimated to be 30,000 to 33,000 years old, display a level of craftsmanship not expected among primitive humans.  In the Dec. 18 issue of Nature2, Anthony Sinclair laments that this does not fit the Victorian notions of progressive evolution:
    The study of early art has been plagued by our desire to see this essentially human skill in a progressive evolutionary context: simple artistic expressions should lead to later, more sophisticated creations.  We imagine that the first artists worked with a small range of materials and techniques, and produced a limited range of representations of the world around them.  As new materials and new techniques were developed, we should see this pattern of evolution in the archaeological record.  Yet for many outlets of artistic expression — cave paintings, textiles, ceramics and musical instruments — the evidence increasingly refuses to fit.  Instead of a gradual evolution of skills, the first modern humans in Europe were in fact astonishingly precocious artists.   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
    He describes how the cave paintings in Europe, before they were dated by radiometric means, were arranged into an evolutionary sequence from simple to complex.  Then came the surprise that the superb multicolored animal paintings in Chauvet cave in France were dated to be the oldest (see 10/04/01 headline).  Sinclair points out other examples of textiles, figurines and musical instruments that refuse to fall into evolutionary line.  For instance, among some musical pipes found in France,
    Microscopic examination suggests that they may have been reed-voiced instruments, like a modern oboe, and that the finger holes have been chamfered to increase the pneumatic efficiency of the finger seal: simple whistles they are not.  Such evidence of complexity is used to argue that these cannot be the first musical pipes, even though they are the oldest in the archaeological record.
    So there seems to be a bias among researchers to force their discoveries into evolutionary presuppositions.  Sinclair tries to salvage evolution by saying maybe we haven’t found the primitive precursors yet, but unambiguous finds prior to the dates of these exquisite artifacts “can be counted on the fingers of one hand,” he says.  “The argument in favour of fast-developing artistic skills in modern humans is strong, and certainly one that I find convincing.”  His statements reveal the chagrin of finding out observations do not match predictions, and he cautions researchers that they must face up to the facts:
    The Victorian idea of progressive evolution has been a very persuasive metaphor for explaining change in the archaeological record, particularly over a time of biological change in the human species.  Yet the archaeological evidence is now forcing us to come up with new timescales for cultural change and innovation.  This is a challenge that makes the smallest finds of archaeology as important as the largest.

    1Nicholas J. Conard, “Palaeolithic ivory sculptures from southwestern Germany and the origins of figurative art,” Nature 426, 830 - 832 (18 December 2003); doi:10.1038/nature02186.
    2Anthony Sinclair, “Archaeology: Art of the Ancients,” Nature 426, 774 - 775 (18 December 2003); doi:10.1038/426774a.
    While Sinclair’s candor is laudable, it does not go far enough.  The evolutionary metaphor is beyond salvage.  The observations falsify evolution and instead support the creation paradigm, that man was endowed with intelligence and artistic skill from the beginning.  In the Biblical timeline, for instance, metallurgy, farming, ranching and musical instrument making were already advanced by the seventh generation from Adam (see Gen. 4:16-22).  After the flood and Babel, it is certainly plausible that technology took a huge setback, and as post-flood ice ages ensued, generations of humans dispersed into whatever habitats they could find, including caves.  For a Q&A list on creation anthropology, see Answers in Genesis.
        The fact that some human artifacts are found in caves does not mean the artists were primitive.  Some people like living in or visiting caves (even today).  Besides, it could be a selection effect, either that cave environments preserve artifacts better, or that archaeologists are more wont to explore caves than surface terrain.  The dating methods Sinclair trusts are flawed anyway, being built on evolutionary presuppositions, so his whole predicament is a prison in his own mind.  Our enlightened post-Victorian era must now wake up to the realization that progressive evolution was just a persuasive metaphor, and as scientists should know, metaphors bewitch you (see July 4 headline).
    Next headline on: Early Man. • Next headline on: Dating Methods.
    Darwin Plagiarized Paley?   12/18/2003
    Natural selection didn’t begin with Darwin, William L. Abler (Geologist, Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago) claims in a letter to the editor of
    Nature1 Dec. 18th.  According to Abler, Darwin probably got the idea from a theologian he once admired, only later to ridicule:
    Darwin was educated not as a biologist, but as a country vicar.  Although he may have read Hutton’s book, it is equally likely that Darwin read one of the standard religious works of his day (now perhaps the most ridiculed book in biology), William Paley’s Natural Theology (1803), which presents Paley’s proof of the existence of God, as well as of Divine creation.  (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
    He quotes Paley as stating the principle of natural selection, only to refute it as a possible objection against design: “There is another answer which has the same effect as the resolving of things into chance,” Paley writes in Chapter 5 of Natural Theology.  He explains it as the proposition that
    ...the eye, the animal to which it belongs, every plant, indeed every organized body which we can see, are only so many out of the possible varieties and combinations of being which the lapse of infinite ages has brought into existence; that the present world is the relict of that variety; millions of other bodily forms and other species having perished, being by the defect of their constitution incapable of preservation, or of continuance by generation.2
    Abler thinks even Darwin could not have stated the principle of natural selection better.  He notes that even Stephen Jay Gould also pointed out Paley’s priority, but believes natural selection (by other names) was a common heresy in Darwin’s day.
    William L. Abler, correspondence, “What Darwin Knew,” Nature 426, 759 (18 December 2003); doi:10.1038/426759b.
    William Paley, Archdeacon of Carlisle, Natural Theology, or Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity, Collected from the Appearances of Nature, 1803, ch. 5, pp. 46-48 (click title for online edition).
    Charlie, a plagiarist?  This was interesting, so I looked up Paley’s refutation in his once-honorable, classic treatise that Abler calls “now perhaps the most ridiculed book in biology.”  The venerable theologian offered three rebuttals to the principle now known as natural selection.  (1) His first might be characterized as a straw man argument today; Paley rhetorically asks that if all possible creatures had existed, why do we not see unicorns, centaurs, etc.  Darwinists might reply with their standard common-ancestry claim that natural selection would only build on patterns established early on, rather than from an infinite pool of possible forms.
        (2) The second argument is more interesting and still carries weight today.  It’s the argument from classification.  If nature could produce infinite gradations between forms, why do we find all living things grouped into nested hierarchies of taxa, Paley asks:
    But, moreover, the division of organized substances into animals and vegetables, and the distribution and sub-distribution of each into genera and species, which distribution is not an arbitrary act of the mind, but is founded in the order which prevails in external nature, appear to me to contradict the supposition of the present world being the remains of an indefinite variety of existences; of a variety which rejects all plan.  The hypothesis [i.e., natural selection] teaches, that every possible variety of being hath, at one time or other, found its way into existence (by what cause or what manner is not said), and that those which were badly formed, perished: but how or why those which survived should be cast, into regular classes, the hypothesis does not explain; or rather the hypothesis is inconsistent with this phenomenon.  Ibid.,, p. 48.
    In other words, why are their large gaps between major kinds?  The problem of gaps between living and extinct phyla was clearly understood long before Darwin.  For an elaboration of this “nested hierarchy” objection to common descent, read The Biotic Message by Walter Remine.
        (3) The third rebuttal is an argument from analogy with machines.  Paley says that no man seeing a variety of machines would think that, out of an assortment of all possible machines that might have arisen from a pool of metal, the remaining forms were “what were left from the accident, as best worth preserving....”  Paley sees no difference between this and inferring natural selection instead of design in living things.  Although this argument from analogy might have been rebuffed in the past, with the retort that living things are not like artificial machines, the discovery of molecular machines in the cell gives the point renewed force today (see Dec. 4 headline and embedded links in the commentary).  Biologists know that protein machines are selected from a near-infinite configuration space, being determined by the sequence of amino acids of which they are composed (see 09/06/2001 headline).  Yet we find these machines already functional in the most primitive life forms and highly conserved throughout the living world.  Natural selection cannot be invoked before the machines of replication existed.  It is time, therefore, to resurrect Paley’s third argument against natural selection and speak it into 21st century terms.
        So two out of three objections Paley raised to selection have not been satisfactorily refuted by Darwinists, without first assuming evolution to be true (circular reasoning).  It looks like Paley anticipated Darwin’s case and ably refuted it in advance.  So if Charlie cannot claim priority for the “discovery” of natural selection (according to popular misconception), maybe it is time to distribute the credit and blame where it is due.  Thanks, Dr. Abler, for enabling us to set the record straight.
    Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
    Creator Lord Jesus Praised at 100th Anniversary of Flight    12/17/2003
    When the NASA master of ceremonies told the crowd he was very honored to introduce Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of Billy Graham, to give the invocation at today’s 100th Anniversary of Flight celebration at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, he apparently did not know what he was in for.  Mrs. Lotz gave a forceful, impassioned, politically-incorrect prayer praising the God of all creation, the Lord of the land and the sea, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.  She thanked God not only for the 100th anniversary of flight, but for the upcoming 2003th anniversary of the baby in the manger, Jesus Christ, who went to the cross to die for our sins, that we might have eternal life.
    North Carolinians are justly proud of their famous sons, including Billy Graham, but this prayer must have stunned the crowd at this ostensibly secular celebration.  Mrs. Lotz pulled no punches.  There was no mealy-mouthed reference to some nonsectarian Force, but a distinct, unambiguous statement that Jesus Christ is Lord of creation and our only Savior.  The gospel message was clear and forceful.  No loud ovations were heard from the crowd at the Amen, and the next speaker was introduced without comment.  Such boldness is rare on the American scene today.  Listen to her prayer, if you can find it on replays, where it most likely will be secretly edited out.
        The Wright brothers, by the way, were sons of a minister in the
    United Brethren church, and as boys, professed faith in Christ.  They said their Christian upbringing was influential throughout their lives.  For their remarkable story, readers are encouraged to get a copy of the Mott Media Sowers Series biography by George Ludwig, They Gave Us Wings, for the family to read on this momentous centennial of human powered flight.  Here is also a short biography on the Answers in Genesis website.
        Speaking of creation, the Wright brothers got much of their technological insights from watching birds.  Admiring gulls and eagles hovering in the air, Orville and Wilbur carefully studied their perfect balance between the forces of lift, drag and gravity.
    Next headline on: Birds. • Next headline on: The Bible.
    Photosynthesis Began a Billion Years Earlier Than Thought    12/17/2003
    According to the
    BBC News, some scientists have pushed back the evolution of photosynthesis a billion years earlier than previously believed, to 3.9 billion years ago.  This is based on uranium-thorium ratios of rocks in Greenland that led Danish researchers to conclude that they were deposited under oxidizing conditions.  Others are not sure the data warrant the conclusion.  Dr. Roger Buick, an astrobiologist at University of Washington, is cautious about the claim, but admits, “The biochemistry needed for oxygenic photosynthesis requires lots of bacterial evolution.  If their findings are correct, life was very sophisticated, very early on in Earth history.”  Not only that, but it had to withstand pounding by meteorites that presumably decreased 3.8 billion years ago.  “You would think those sorts of conditions would be pretty hostile to oxygenic photosynthesisers,”  he said.  “But life may be older and more robust than we thought.”  (Emphasis added.)
    You would think that those sorts of conditions would be pretty hostile to astrobiological theory.  But metaphysical naturalism may be older and more robust than we thought.  Do you guys have any vague conception of how complicated photosynthesis is?  And you want to push it back a billion years, making it magically emerge in brainless bacteria in the midst of a meteor terror war?
        Thank you, Roger, for your winning entry in Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week.
    Next headline on: Origin of Life. • Next dumb story.
    Dark Energy Doubted    12/17/2003
    We’ve been told recently that two thirds of the universe consists of a mysterious phenomenon called dark energy.  Now, some scientists at ESA say it doesn’t exist.
        Observations by the
    European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton X-ray Observatory of clusters of galaxies 10 billion light years distant show remarkable differences from nearby clusters in the amount of X-ray energy emitted.  One interpretation is that dark energy is not needed to explain their structure, because they appear too dense, and emit more X-rays than expected by the “concordance model” that posits 70% dark energy.    If confirmed, “we may have to rethink our understanding of the universe.”
    Related stories: 07/07/2003, 05/30/2001.
        Nevertheless (bad timing?), Science magazine Dec. 19 issue) and its editor Don Kennedy, convinced that “the data conclusively prove the existence of dark energy,” awarded the “discovery” of dark energy the journal’s “Breakthrough of the Year.”  (This was probably voted on before the XMM-Newton telescope results were announced.)
    Models are playthings for theorists.  They may or may not correspond to reality.  Beware of popularizers who speak of models as facts.  Cosmological facts obey Dunlap’s Laws of Physics: (1) Fact is solidified opinion.  (2) Facts may weaken under extreme heat and pressure.  (3) Truth is elastic.
    Next headline on: Cosmology.
    Religion Makes Leading Atheistic Evolutionist Sick    12/16/2003
    Richard Dawkins, the Oxford professor best known for promoting Darwinian gradualism and its ability to substitute for God in designing life’s complexities in his books The Blind Watchmaker and Climbing Mount Improbable, has vented more steam against religion on  He calls religion a virus.  He feels evolutionary science can still give people a sense of “transcendent wonder” about the natural world, and make people just as kind and generous as the religious types.  Without religion, he feels there would be less war and less waste of time: “People would concentrate on really worthwhile things, instead of wasting time on religion, astrology, crystal-gazing, fortune-telling, things like that.”  Like a computer virus, religion can only be eradicated, he feels, by education and reason.
    Keep talking, Dr. Dawkins.  You make the case against atheism better than anyone.  While appealing to rationality and science, your case is built on ridicule, the either-or fallacy, loaded words, association and other tricks of miseducation and non-reason.  How can you attribute so much evil to religion, when we have just had Darwin’s century, and the worst mass murders in history built upon atheistic and Darwinistic beliefs?  We should title this story “The blind The Blind Watchmaker maker.”  Please tell us more about the evolution of transcendent wonder.  Sounds fascinating.
    See also 04/23/2003 and 03/18/2002 headlines about Richard Dawkins.
    Next dumb story.
    The Magnetic Sky Is Falling    12/15/2003
    Space.Com reports that the strength of Earth’s magnetic field has dropped 10% over the last 150 years.  At that rate of decline, it could vanish in 1500 to 2000 years.  Scientists gathered recently at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union pondered whether a reversal is occurring, but a Harvard scientist claimed that would be a rare event. 
        If the magnetic field continues to decline, life on Earth is in grave danger in the far future.  Atmospheric ozone would diminish, exposing life to deadly ultraviolet radiation, and high-energy cosmic rays and solar storms would put life at risk of ionizing radiation, leading to cancer, blindness and neurological diseases.
    The strength of the earth’s magnetic field is one of the longest-measured physical properties of our planet.  It shows a steady decline over the past 150 years.  There is much we still do not understand about planetary magnetic fields.  What causes it?  (The leading dynamo theories are beset with complexities that perplex the experts.)  How big did it get in the past?  (Earth still has the strongest field of any rocky planet, by a large factor.)  Will it reverse and go back up to its former strength?  If it did so in the past, how did life survive the periods when it was weakest?  How long does a reversal take?  There is much we do not know, but one thing is clear from the empirical data: in the present epoch, it is dropping at “an alarming rate” (see Nov 6, March 4, and 11/25/2002 headlines).  Those who believe such a dynamic property can be sustained for 4.6 billion years must add secondary assumptions and subplots to their stories.
    Next headline on: Physics. • Next headline on: Dating Methods.
    Phillip Johnson Honored, Still Wedging   12/13/2003
    Phillip E. Johnson, the Berkeley law professor who spearheaded the Intelligent Design movement, has been named “Daniel of the Year” by
    World Magazine (cover story, Dec. 13, 2003, also reproduced on Access Research Network).  Johnson has often used the metaphor of a wedge splitting a log.  Intelligent design, he believes, is the Wedge of Truth that can split the seemingly impregnable log of scientific naturalism and help society again begin to ask The Right Questions about meaning, origins and destiny.
        Johnson has had skill not only in writing books and debating evolutionists, but in motivating other scientists to pursue intelligent design in their work.  Last night at Biola University, Johnson announced “Wedge Two,” his latest initiative to fight the idols of our day.  Naturalism is not a strictly scientific problem, he said; the real issue is cultural.  There is a power structure determining who is allowed to determine what is true or false.  Like the ancient Mandarins, these elitists put the culture into a form of cognitive slavery.  The “eminent materialists” are clinging desperately to their power, but like Napoleon marching against Moscow, may find themselves defeated not by the Russians, but by the weather.  By implication, the evidence, not creationism, is causing the downfall of naturalistic science.  All he is doing is pointing that out.
        If Darwinism becomes sufficiently doubted, Johnson believes the cultural implications could be enormous.  Marriage, for instance, is no longer considered divinely sanctioned, and art is filled with nihilism.  Knowing that Darwinism goes far beyond biology, Johnson called together some cultural leaders at Biola to consider ways to reinvigorate the arts and humanities with design and meaning again, as it once was before 200 years of Enlightenment thinking gradually imposed strict naturalism on culture.  “The first step in a seemingly impossible task,” he said, “is to know you can do it.”
    See also Mark Looy’s editorial about Phillip Johnson at Answers in Genesis.
    In this life, there are few honors higher than being compared to Daniel, the faithful prophet who withstood the idols – and the lions – of his day without compromise.  Establishment scientists have been ruthless in their attacks on Johnson, but as John Perry cleverly writes, Johnson “continues to befriend the lions even as he declaws them intellectually.”  The Darwinists try to dismiss him as a non-scientist, but they cannot withstand the blows of his logic.  A law expert can be better qualified than a scientist to expose flawed arguments and focus on the basic questions of a case.  Perry’s excellent profile in World is highly recommended reading.  Congratulations to the “courtly combatant,” as Perry calls him, whose steadfast opposition to idolatry, never vituperative but eminently convincing – along with his influential leadership – makes him truly the leading edge of the wedge.
        Will we see Babylon fall in our lifetime?  If so, be prepared for Persia, too.
    Next headline on: Intelligent Design.
    Why You Need Heavenly Sunshine for Vitamin D    12/12/2003
    Rickets is on the rise again, along with other diseases caused by vitamin D deficiency, reports Erik Stokstad in the
    Dec. 12 issue of Science1.  Most vitamins we take in the mouth.  Why do we need to stand outside for this one?  He explains:
    Vitamin D is a steroid hormone that helps regulate calcium, an element vital not just for strong bones and teeth, but for nerves and the heart as well.  It’s found in very few foods except for salmon and other fatty fish.  Most vitamin D is made when ultraviolet B (UVB) light hits a precursor molecule in the skin.  As 25(OH)D, it then travels through the blood to the kidneys, which turn it into an active metabolite that regulates calcium levels.  Other tissues make this metabolite locally to maintain cell health.
    Of course, too much sun can lead to sunburn and increased risk of skin cancer, but “Evidence is coming in that higher levels may be desirable,” he says.  Too little sun, as well as too much, can lead to cancer.  Shortage of vitamin D can even lead to diabetes.  Infants and the elderly seem to be especially at risk for vitamin D deficiency.  More studies are needed regarding proper dosage, but for what we know now, Dr. Stokstad prescribes: “While researchers work out the details, most healthy people can probably get enough vitamin D by simply soaking up midday direct sunlight on their face and hands for 10 to 15 minutes three times a week, or longer if they’re darker skinned.”
    1Erik Stokstad, “Nutrition: The Vitamin D Deficit,” Science Volume 302, Number 5652, Issue of 12 Dec 2003, pp. 1886-1888.
    Isn’t it interesting that a precursor protein is just sitting there in the skin waiting for the right wavelength of light from the right kind of star.  Almost makes you think God wanted us to get out of the house once in awhile and explore His awesome creations.  Visit our Photo Gallery for some sources of heavenly sunshine.
    Next headline on: Health.
    Despite New Fossil, Origin of Marsupials Still Puzzles Evolutionists    12/12/2003
    Although the earliest known marsupial has just been found in China1, Richard L. Cifelli and Brian M. Davis, writing in the
    Dec. 12 issue of Science2 consider the phylogenetic trees of marsupial and placental mammals conflicting and puzzling.  Problems include (emphasis added):
  • Switcheroo:  Fossil marsupials are predominately found in North America, but living ones are primarily found in Australia and South America.  “This geographical switch remains unexplained.  The timing of the split between eutherians [placental mammals] and metatherians [marsupials] is also controversial.
  • Known Bones:  “To date, the geological record has yielded few fossils that bear directly on the origin of marsupials.”
  • Good News, Bad News:  This new, exciting, earliest fossil marsupial was found in China, but “The balance of paleontological and morphological data suggests that the last common ancestor of metatherians and eutherians was Laurasian” (i.e., European-North American].
  • Divergence and Convergence:  “Clearly, the relative successes of the two groups differed widely on the two continents.  Yet, the early representatives of both groups seem to have been highly similar ecologically--most were small, insectivorous, and probably nocturnal.  This puzzle remains to be resolved.  It is also commonly known that many marsupials, such as the marsupial wolf, have placental look-alikes, yet very different reproductive systems.
  • DNA Doubts:  “Molecular data have yielded conflicting results for the timing of the metatherian-eutherian split.”  Molecular estimates are usually much older than fossil estimates.
  • The Gap Theory:  “These divergence estimates have implications for the relative timing of most other divergences on the mammalian family tree.  However, they are difficult to reconcile with the (admittedly imperfect) mammalian fossil record.  When the entire tree is considered (top panel), it becomes clear that large gaps in the fossil record (most with durations of more than 30 million years) must be inferred to explain the distribution of each group represented.”
  • Tooth Truth:  Paleontologists attempt to classify the groups based on teeth, but its a difficult job: “But such criteria are not applicable to dentally more primitive fossils.  Furthermore, they are of limited utility when it comes to assessing which biological niches they might have occupied, beyond the suggestion that most early metatherians fed on animal tissues ranging from insects to meat, depending on body size.”
  • Why We Gotta Figure This Out: “The paleontological evidence is important because it provides an independent test for dates based on molecular data.  It also provides some basis for calculating the rates of change of skeletal (and dental) morphology and molecular structure.  Given the far-reaching implications for evolutionary studies, it is crucial that the widely differing estimates of divergence time are reconciled and that the place of origin of both metatherians and eutherians is further elucidated with fossil discoveries.  The many open questions provide fertile ground for future and paleontological studies.”
    1Luo et al., “An Early Cretaceous Tribosphenic Mammal and Metatherian Evolution,” Science Dec. 12, 2003, 10.1126/science.1090718.
    2Richard L. Cifelli and Brian M. Davis, “Enhanced: Marsupial Origins,” Science Dec. 12, 2003, 10.1126/science.1092272.  This article contains a list of links for further study and an annotated bibliography on mammal origins.
    This would be funny if they spent their own money.  For more on evolutionary confusion about mammal origins, see the Dec. 2 headline and the big National Geographic story festival in the March 18 headlineMSNBC News, as usual, is all agog at this wonderful new discovery and what it tells us about evolution.
        Meanwhile, the Europeans are all flustered trying to drum up interest to join the “Assembling the Tree of Life” bandwagon (see 10/30/2002 headline).  A letter to the editor in the same issue of Science by two UK scientists moans that Europe doesn’t seem to see the connection between evolutionary studies and practical benefits:
    Perhaps the best explanation is that AToL is still seen to be about taxonomy, a domain that urgently needs rebranding if it wants to attract funds for big programs such as the Genome Project.   Only when the linkage of the tree of life to conservation, genomics, and DNA-based identification for medicine and ecology is made obvious will the project be put in its proper perspective.  Taxonomic study is fundamental to all areas of science, but as demonstrated by the projects funded by the NSF program, it is only a starting point.  A great deal more needs to be done to move modern evolutionary science to the heart of society’s efforts to understand the living world and make its utilization sustainable and effective.”  (Emphasis added.)
    Notice how they conflate evolutionary study with taxonomy.  Taxonomy is good.  Linnaeus, the father of taxonomy, was a creationist.  Evolutionists keep trying to sneak Darwinist religion into “all areas of science” and “utilization” when, in fact, it is useless.
    Next headline on: Mammals. • Next headline on: Fossils.
    Damadian Gets Consolation Prize    12/11/2003
    Calling Raymond Damadian a “Nobel protestor,”
    Nature Science Update reported that, as predicted, he did not get the Nobel Prize at Wednesday’s ceremony in Stockholm.  The Nobel Committee does not change their decisions.  “But Damadian will not end today empty-handed,” Helen Pearson for NSU reports.  “A Swedish inventors’ group called Idé-Forum, based in Örnsköldsvik, is flying out to New York to present him with a gold medal in the fields of physics and technology at the Melville headquarters of his company Fonar.”
    As if to say, Sorry you didn’t get the Olympic gold; here’s a foil-covered chocolate medallion from your friends.  Pearson repeats the common media compromise myth that “though Damadian’s concept was important,” it was the other guys’ work that was essential to MRI.  Will the revisionists succeed in burying the facts?  Only if we let them.  See also the Dec. 3 and Oct. 10 headlines, and the historical documentation on MRI at Fonar Corporation.  Damadian has remarked that in the old days, when he had to fight international corporations from stealing his patent and convince reporters of the priority of his discovery, he was at the mercy of biased reporters.  Now at least he can use the World Wide Web to get the truth out.
    Next headline on: Politics.
    Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week: Antibody Evolution   12/10/2003
    Dec. 11 issue of Nature1 has an article on antibodies and how scientists are learning to make designer editions of them.  Pete Moore and Julie Clayton write (emphasis added):
    Antibodies not only protect us from infection, they have been exploited for years in the laboratory — in diagnostic tests, to purify proteins and as the workhorses of cell biology to detect, locate and identify cellular proteins.  Designed by evolution to recognize and bind virtually any molecule that could exist, what more could we ask of them?  Quite a lot, it seems.  To meet the demands of today’s researchers and drug developers, antibodies are being cut down to size, tweaked into new shapes, and manufactured in entirely new ways.

    1Pete Moore and Julie Clayton, “To affinity and beyond,” Nature 426, 725 - 731 (11 December 2003); doi:10.1038/426725a.
    The authors praise the technology of the antibody system, which presumably arose by chance, then say humans, using intelligent design, are making them even better.  Go figure.  Should this quote get the prize, or the one from the end of the entry on Monday? (see Dec. 8 headline).
        Darwinists invariably assume evolution rather than demonstrate it.  They are so blind to their own circular reasoning that to even call them on it produces a quizzical look.  “Designed by evolution,” antibodies protect, detect, and adapt to any molecule that could exist.  What’s so strange about that?
    Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory. • Next dumb story.
    Mars Has Global Warming: Manufacturers At Fault?   12/10/2003
    Mars appears to be coming out of an ice age and into an era of global warming, reports
    Space.Com.  Whether the Kyoto treaty can be extended to the red planet remains to be seen.  Environmentalists are not sure if human influence is to blame; the closest thing to an SUV on Mars is the leftover Pathfinder Rover.
    OK, OK, we won’t press the point.
    Next headline on: Mars. • Next dumb story.
    Hunters Are Interfering With Evolution   12/10/2003
    Evolutionists don’t seem to know what to make of research about how hunters are affecting the evolution of bighorn sheep.  The paper published in the
    Dec. 11 issue of Nature1 was noted by a reviewer in the same issue2, who titled his review, “Undesirable evolutionary consequences of trophy hunting,” yet humans must be considered part of the evolutionary equation, too.  The problem is that ram horns are shrinking as hunters go for the prime males with the largest racks before they can breed.  According to EurekAlert, all seem to agree that alternative strategies in wildlife regulation need to be explored to prevent continued deterioration of the genetic quality of the population.  Hunters, too, are usually concerned about conservation, not wanting their favorite targets to become extinct.
    1David Coltman et al., “Undesirable evolutionary consequences of trophy hunting,” Nature 426, 655 - 658 (11 December 2003); doi:10.1038/nature02177.
    2John Whitfield, “Sheep horns downsized by hunters’ taste for trophies,” Nature 426, 595 (11 December 2003); doi:10.1038/426595a.
    Now, wait a minute.  Humans evolved, too, right?  How can anything be “undesirable” in evolutionary terms?  And we thought that predation was a good thing and made the prey stronger.  Maybe the large horns are a burden and the hunters are improving the sheep’s fitness.  Who are we, as evolved brethren of algae and frogs and bats, to say that bigger sheep are desirable?  That’s speciesism.  If hunters evolved, then everything will work out in the end, and if the sheep go extinct, well, lots of things have gone extinct.
        Don’t believe a word of this.  Just be consistent, that’s the point.  Actually, even 30 years is nowhere long enough, and Alberta nowhere near a big enough region, to make any claims whatsoever about evolution.  Run the whole experiment for a million years over all of North America and maybe we’ll give you a second chance to tell your story.
    Next headline on: Mammals. • Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
    Riddle 12/08/2003
    You’ll never guess which movie documentary was No. 3 in the Top Selections for Science and Math this week, beating out Stephen Hawking’s Universe, on the
    Shop PBS website (that’s Public Broadcasting, the network that aired the 8-hour series Evolution).  Take a wild guess, then click here for the surprise (?) answer.
    Next headline on: Movies.

    Well, Duh  Dept.   12/08/2003
    News flash from the
    University of Warwick!  A psychologist has figured out that the “spiritual meaning of Christmas brings more happiness than materialism.”  The article headline begins, “Religious people are happier than those without spirituality in their life, says psychologist Dr. Stephen Joseph from the University of Warwick, and those who celebrate the original, Christian, meaning of Christmas are, on the whole, happier than those who primarily celebrate the festive season with consumer gifts.”

    Thank you, Dr. Joseph, for telling us this profound scientific discovery.  Now tell the organizers of the Darwin Party Holiday Party, who really have nothing left but materialism (in both senses of the word).  Maybe they can start on the road to recovery by ripping off the Darwin additions to the fish symbol, and decorating their halls with Christmas trees instead of phylogenetic trees.
        Speaking of the “holiday party” concept as a symbol of the de-Christianizing of Christmas rampant in our day, here’s a campaign that prominent Jewish spokesperson Dennis Prager suggests: get your company to rename its “holiday party” back to “Christmas party” like it used to be.  (Yes, that’s right; a Jew supports Christmas parties.)  Now you can add another good reason to Prager’s invincible logic: it’s for your co-workers’ psychological health.
    Next headline on: The Bible.
    Aircraft Industry Looks to the Bombardier Beetle   12/08/2003
    The bombardier beetle, a favorite illustration used by many creationists to argue against the ability of natural selection to build irreducibly complex systems (see
    Incredible Creatures that Defy Evolution, for instance), is being seriously studied by the aircraft industry, reports EurekAlert.  A three-year project at Leeds University will study the bug for ideas on how aircraft designers can reignite an engine at high altitude at cold temperatures.  Professor of thermodynamics Andy McIntosh explains: “The bombardier beetle’s defence mechanism represents a very effective natural form of combustion.  Copying such natural mechanisms is part of the growing field of biomimetics where scientists learn much from intricate design features already in nature.  Understanding this beetle better could lead to significant advances in combustion research” (emphasis added).
    At least this article doesn’t attribute the “intricate design” to evolution.  Silence is golden.  That’s a form of progress.
    Next headline on: Bugs and Crawlers.
    Keeping Planetary Rings Going for Eons   12/08/2003
    It’s common knowledge that planetary rings, like those at Saturn, don’t last forever (see
    02/12/2002 headline), so scientists either have to find a way to keep them going, or admit that we live in a special period in the lifetime of the solar system to see them now.  That latter option is “philosophically unappealing” to most ring experts, like Larry Esposito of the University of Colorado, principal investigator for the Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrometer (UVIS) on the Saturn-bound Cassini spacecraft.
        Esposito and colleague Joshua Colwell have been thinking of ways to stretch out the admittedly short lifetime of rings (“a few hundred million years” as an upper limit, “the blink of an eye compared to the planets”), says EurekAlert.  They have a new theory: recycling.  They know that ring particles tend to degrade into a cascade of smaller and smaller particles, until as dust they get blown away.  But what if they might re-accrete?  Then “the lifetime of the ring system may be longer than we initially thought.”  He admits, “Without this recycling, the rings and moons are soon gone,” but their computer models show it might prolong the rings for billions of years.  Otherwise, their existence is a puzzle: “The question naturally arises why rings still exist, to be photographed in such glory by visiting human spacecraft that have arrived lately on the scene.”  For another review of this hypothesis, see Nature Science Update.
        The Cassini Imaging Team recently released a beautiful new picture of Saturn from 69 million miles away taken November 9, as the bus-sized spacecraft continues to close in on the ringed planet at over 36,000 mph.  The Cassini Portal website now has a countdown timer, ticking off the seconds till the big day of “Saturn Orbit Insertion” (SOI) on July 1, 2004.
    Well, good luck with this model.  Even with the overtime, sooner or later you’ve got to end the game.  Much of the dust gets swept into the planet by gas drag, and those particles are not coming back.  Other dust is knocked out of the ring plane and out of orbit entirely by the impact of incoming micrometeoroids (which may be frequent, as shown by the near-continual phenomena of the spokes).  It is clear that much of the lost material is never coming back.  Rings are not forever.
        Cassini’s high approach over the ring plane next July 1 should provide some spectacular new data that may either support or weaken the new computer models.  Until then, this hypothesis appears to be little more than ad hoc fudging to get away from “philosophically unappealing” observations.
    Next headline on: Solar System. • Next headline on: Dating Methods.
    If You Like Cancer, You Can Live on Mars   12/08/2003
    The optimistic title, “Humans could survive Mars visit,” belies the bad news in the body of the article on
    BBC News.  The article reports on findings announced at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union, based on data from the Mars Odyssey spacecraft instrument, Mars Radiation Environment Experiment (MARIE), which, unfortunately, stopped working after October’s record solar flares (See Nov. 6 headline).  It gathered enough data before its demise to characterize the risks of radiation to humans on Mars.  Though the hazards are twice those experienced on the space station, scientists feel they are survivable enough to allow for limited manned exploration of the red planet.
    This might be rephrased as an old-fashioned bad-news, good-news joke.
    Bad news: Mars has no protective magnetic field, so is bombarded by deadly radiation.  If you go, you would be at high risk of cancer, cataracts, nervous system damage, and other unknown health problems.
    Good news: You could live underground.
    Next headline on: Mars.
    The Fruit Fly in the Flight Simulator    12/08/2003
    The simplest things can be the most extraordinary.  If you like finding amazing wonders in everyday things, you’ll be fascinated to read about the common fly in the cover story of Caltech’s magazine
    E&S (Engineering and Science).1  Michael Dickinson, a zoologist turned engineer, has described his Caltech team’s work trying to reverse-engineer the flight systems of the common fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster.
        Part of the fascination of this article is the team’s cleverness in experiments.  Dickinson and his students have built elaborate flight simulators for the tiny insects.  Imagine taking a fly, not much bigger than a large speck of dust, and putting it into a custom arena in which the scenery is computer controlled, and every response of the fly’s wings and muscles can be measured.  Imagine fastening a tiny fly with a tether and monitoring its every movement.  (This is reminiscent of the monarch butterfly flight simulator – see 07/09/2002 headline – only more elaborate.)  Dickinson’s team measured the “swatting reflex,” to see how the fly changes its angle when a large unknown object approaches.  They studied flight motion with high-speed cameras, and even built "RoboFly", a computer-controlled set of wings fed the exact motions of a real fly, to study the aerodynamic forces on the wings.  Next, they are taking on the ambitious project of building a housefly-sized robotic insect that might be able to hover like the real thing.
        All this pales in comparison, however, to the profuse praise Dickinson lavishes on the engineering capabilities of the real live insect.  Listen to what he says, and you will take his concluding statement to heart, “I hope you will think before you swat.”  Here are some samples from his 10-page, illustrated article (emphasis added):
  • CPU:  Describing the fly’s ability to adjust flight processing in less than 30 milliseconds, “This is extraordinarily fast processing, and illustrates why the flight system of flies represents the gold standard for flying machines.” (p. 12)
  • Brain:  “Insects have quite sophisticated visual systems, and approximately two-thirds of their brain (about 200,000 neurons) is dedicated specifically to processing visual information.”
  • Eyes:  “Fruit fly’s eyes... have excellent temporal resolution and can resolve flashing lights at frequencies up to 10 times faster than our own eyes can.  This means if you take a fly on a date to the movies it will think you brought it to a slide show.”
  • Systems-level analysis of fly mechanics:  “Here things get rather humbling, because it’s the mechanical component of this biological system that we, as engineers, are the furthest away from being able to replicate.”
  • Materials science:  “Flies don’t have an internal skeleton consisting of individual bones or cartilage.  Instead, they’re surrounded by an external skeleton, the cuticle—a single, topologically continuous sheet composed of proteins, lipids, and the polysaccharide chitin.  During development, complex interactions of genes and signalling molecules spatially regulate the composition, density, and orientation of protein and chitin molecules.  Temporal regulation of protein synthesis and deposition allows the construction of elaborate, layered cuticles with the toughness of composite materials.  The result of such precise spatial and temporal regulation is a complex, continuous exoskeleton separated into functional zones.;  for instance, limbs consist of tough, rigid tubes of ‘molecular plywood’ connected by complex joints made of hard junctures separated by rubbery membranes.”
  • Joints and Hinges:  “Perhaps the most elaborate example of an arthropod joint, indeed one of the most complex skeletal structures known, is the wing hinge of insects–the morphological centerpiece of flight behavior.”  (He describes how the parts function.)  “Although the material properties of the elements within the hinge are indeed remarkable (resilin is one of the most resilient substances known), it is as much the structural complexity as the material properties that endows the origami-like wing hinge with its astonishing properties.
  • Flight mechanics:  “By controlling the mechanics of the wing hinge, the steering muscles act as a tiny transmission system that can make the wing beat differently from one stroke to the next.  Electrophysiological studies indicate this is a phase-control system.”  He describes how the steering muscles can actually alter the stiffness of the wing in flight.  “The fly uses the steering muscles as phase-control springs to alter the way the large strains produced by the power muscles are transformed into wing motion.”
  • Timing:  “During each wingbeat, sensory cells on the wings and halteres send timing signals into the brain that are used to tune the firing of the muscles.”  Considering the speed at which their wings beat, this is certainly a rapid-response system.
  • Gyroscopes:  “The information coming from the haltere,” (a drumstick-shaped organ behind each wing) “is particularly important because it is essential in stabilizing reflexes.  Beating antiphase to the wings, the halteres function as gyroscopes during flight.”  (He describes how these organs respond to Coriolis forces with appropriate compensatory reflexes.)  “The animal detects these rotations with its halteres and responds with compensatory changes in wing stroke.  These reflexes are extraordinarily robust.... The halteres are essential elements of the fly’s control system.  Cut them off, and a fly rapidly corkscrews to the ground.”
  • Computation:  “Because of the complexity of fly aerodynamics, understanding wing motion does not necessarily translate into an understanding of flight forces.  It is a common myth that an engineer once proved a bumblebee couldn’t fly, and while the true story is really much kinder to the engineer, it underscores the difficulties of studying fly aerodynamics.  At present, even brute-force mathematical computations on supercomputers cannot accurately predict the forces created by a flapping wing.

    Wow.  All this in a tiny fly!  Wrapping up this amazing journey into miniaturized ultrasophisticated engineering, Dickinson puts his work into perspective:

    In the end, it’s just a fly.  Is such an insignificant organism really worth all this effort?  The natural world is filled with complex things, like immune cells, the human brain, and ecosystems.  Although we’re made great progress in deconstructing life into its constituent parts such as genes and proteins, we have a ways to go before we have a deeper understanding of how elemental components function collectively to create rich behavior.  The integrative approach that we are using to study fly flight is an attempt to move beyond reductionism and gain a formal understanding of the workings of a complex entity.  The fly seems a reasonable place to start, and if successful, I hope such work will stimulate similar attempts throughout biology.  The lessons learned along the way may provide useful insight for engineers and biologists alike.  Even if you don’t buy such grand visions, I hope you will at least think before you swat.

    1Michael H. Dickinson, “Come Fly With Me,” Engineering and Science, Volume LXVI, No. 3, 2003 (Caltech), pp. 10-19.
    Thank you, Dr. Dickinson, for a wonderful glimpse into one of nature’s miniature engineering marvels.  We feel like we were sitting behind you on the fly’s back, soaring on a thrill ride, like your first picture humorously illustrates.  Thank you, also for reminding us that the world is filled with wonders like this, from bacteria to blue whales.  Wow.  Who would have suspected such wonders exist in a tiny fly?  Certainly not Charles Darwin.  Which reminds us, we were about to award you Story of the Month for this outstanding article, but you included this one statement which acts like the proverbial fly in the soup: “The information coming from the haltere, a hindwing modified by evolution and resembling a very small chicken drumstick, is particularly important because it is essential in stabilizing reflexes.”  Since even the FDA tolerates a certain threshold of vermin residue in food, we can overlook this one tiny slip in an otherwise excellent piece of design-based scientific research and writing.
    Next headline on: Bugs and Crawling Things. • Next amazing story.
    Evolutionary Theorizing: Only Atheists Need Apply   12/07/2003
    Simon Conway Morris is a thorough-going evolutionist and anticreationist.  You would think that would make the editors of Science happy, but on Dec. 5 they printed a scathing review by Douglas E. Irwin1 of his recent book Life’s Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe.  Though Morris accepts the full story of Darwinian common ancestry, he retains enough of a veiled deistic perspective to propose that humans, instead of being the product of completely blind, directionless, purposeless natural causes, were somehow predetermined from the start.  For this, he gets almost the same boot as the worst idiot enemies of science--the creationists:
    Many biologists, particularly those who have valiantly fought battles against creationists and other know-nothings, may fling this book across the room, convinced that Conway Morris is providing aid and comfort to the enemy.  The author’s position is, however, considerably more nuanced, as he attempts--though not particularly successfully--to chart a path simultaneously opposing creationism, Stephen Jay Gould, and Richard Dawkins.  Indeed part of the sport of the book lies in watching him attempt such implausible intellectual gymnastics.   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
    Harsh words, indeed.  Irwin ridicules this view as “The Goldilocks Hypothesis.”  Simon Conway Morris leans heavily on the ubiquity of convergence in the natural world to make his point, and also discusses the anthropic principle as evidence for some kind of purpose for our existence.  Irwin is not amused:
    Evolution will not fall nor creationists triumph because another evolutionary biologist has proclaimed that he finds natural theology personally appealing as a way of understanding the complexity of the world.  The ubiquity of convergence does raise real issues for evolutionary biology, but that is hardly a novel observation.  Life's Solution remains an artfully constructed retrospective fallacy: that we are here is so improbable that our presence must signify a purposeful universe.  Perhaps, although I doubt it, and with n = 1 the evidence is insufficient to make any judgment.  Life is wonderful, whether we understand it in a metaphysical sense or not.  Ultimately, all our presence may signify is that we are here--for the moment.

    1Douglas H. Irwin, “The Goldilocks Hypothesis,”
    Science Volume 302, Number 5651, Issue of 5 Dec 2003, pp. 1682-1683.
    The Charlie parley is getting snarly.  Join the club, Simon.  Sit here with Henry, the other Dr. Morris, and let him nurse your wounds.  I hope this teaches you a lesson.  The evolutionary science establishment has no tolerance for compromise.  You might as well become a young-earth creationist and you would get more respect.  As it is, you are acting like the proverbial pacifist wearing the Union jacket and the Confederate trousers.  You’re getting blasted from both sides.  At least the creationists try to be civil and fight like gentlemen.
        To his credit, Irwin admits to the problems of convergence and complexity.  He can mildly tolerate a position of ignorance, that our lack of understanding of convergence and anthropic parameters might mean we cannot understand the world and have to leave it at this: “We’re here because we’re here.”  (This could also mean, “We’re here because we’re not all there.”)  But even this concession is consistent with pure atheism.  What is not tolerable is any hint of purpose or direction to the evolutionary process.  Utter a peep on that and you are a “know-nothing” at best, and “the enemy” that must be destroyed.
        Eugenie Scott, director of the NCSE (the “keep creation out of the schools” lobby group), has stressed in her public debates with Phillip Johnson and other intelligent-design or creationist spokesmen that evolutionists are not at all hostile to religion.  If you want to believe there is meaning and purpose to life, that is fine and wonderful.  Science has no problem with religious faith.  Why, even many evolutionists have their own religious beliefs, which is OK on their own time (just not in the science lab).  She has been so emphatic on this point, she makes it seem like her opposition just doesn’t understand how nice evolutionists really are.  In debate at least, she narrows her point to the “rules of science,” argument, that one must only study natural causes when doing science (methodological naturalism).  Though there may be atheists who are evolutionists, she denies that metaphysical naturalism is a necessary part of Darwinian theory.
        If that were true, why is that any time anyone, even a convinced evolutionist like Simon Conway Morris, tries to present even the slightest hint of design or purpose, he gets blasted?  Look what they did to William Dembski (see 07/11/2002 headline), whose book No Free Lunch used only scientific and mathematical arguments to support the validity of design detection.  Phillip Johnson has been one of the key debaters to see through the fraud of Scott’s false dichotomy of methodological vs. metaphysical naturalism.  He shows that there is no difference in practice, because if you exclude intelligent causes from the outset, what is there for a Designer to do?  If a Designer is not allowed to influence natural causes in any real sense, how can he be gainfully employed?  Theistic evolutionists are kidding themselves.  The Darwinists do not want God even to start the big bang, let alone direct anything, at any time, in any way.  Johnson has also exposed the doubletalk of Darwinists who pretend that evolutionism has no impact on religious belief (see commentary from 01/14/2002 headline).
        The only way you can satisfy the Darwin Party is to agree 100% with metaphysical naturalism: that nature is all there is, and that humans are the product of blind, purposeless forces that did not have them in mind.  Can you name any book review in a science journal that has an ounce of toleration for anything other than 100% conformity to the reigning philosophy of pure atheism?  Astronomer Owen Gingerich gets to speak his mind on occasion (see Feb. 12 headline), but usually only when talking about history, when people didn’t know better.  Try to find a biologist in a science journal admitting to any kind of purpose or intelligence behind the process of evolution, and it will be a long search.  Eugenie Scott is sending those who believe her disclaimer on a snipe hunt just to get them out of the way.
        If nothing else, this kind of article should reveal the real agenda of the Darwin Party.  It’s not about science.  It’s about allegiance.
    Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory. • Next headline on: Intelligent Design.
    New Record-Setting Living Fossil Flabbergasts Scientists   12/05/2003
    A remarkably-detailed fossil ostracode, a type of crustacean, has been announced in the
    Dec. 5 issue of Science1 that is blowing the socks off its discoverers.  Erik Stokstad in a review of the discovery in the same issue2 explains its significance in the evolutionary picture of prehistory:
    Over the past half-billion years, evolution has dished up an almost endless variety of novelties: lungs, legs, eyes, wings, scales, feathers, fur.  So when paleontologists find a creature that doesn’t change, they take note.   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
    Two things about this fossil are exceptional.  (1) It has a “jaw-dropping” amount of detail, such that even small fragile parts and soft tissues were perfectly preserved.  (2) It is indistinguishable from modern ostracodes:
    What’s most amazing, ostracode experts say, is how eerily similar the soft-tissue anatomy is to that of modern relatives.  “I was flabbergasted,” says Koen Martens, a zoologist at the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. 
    This fossil, found near Herefordshire, U.K., was found in Silurian deposits estimated to be 425 million years old.  That means that its modern counterparts are living fossils, virtually unchanged for all that time:
    Some ostracode specialists are stunned.  “This is a demonstration of unbelievable stability,” says Tom Cronin of the U.S. Geological Survey in Reston, Virginia.  Whereas ostracodes diversified into some 33,000 living and extinct species, “these guys have just been plodding along totally unfazed.
    This fossil, named Colymbosathon, is also upsetting those who look for evolution in the genes:
    Finding a modern cylindroleberid in the Silurian clashes with molecular data, which suggest that the group and related families originated relatively recently, says evolutionary biologist Todd Oakley of the University of California, Santa Barbara.  There’s no conflict for zoologist Anne Cohen, a research associate at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, who thinks Colymbosathon actually belongs to a long-extinct family.  In any case, the new fossil indicates that a basic ostracode body plan was already present in the Silurian.  It could also help sort out evolutionary relationships of fossil ostracodes.
    David Horne (Queen Mary College, London) predicts more “long-lost evolutionary blueprints” may emerge from these deposits.  “The probability that they will find similarly preserved representatives of other ostracode lineages, and of other arthropods, is both high and extremely exciting.”
    1Siveter et al., “An Ostracode Crustacean with Soft Parts from the Lower Silurian,” Science Dec. 5, 2003.
    2Erik Stokstad, “Invertebrate Paleontology: Gutsy Fossil Sets Record for Staying the Course,” Science Volume 302, Number 5651, Issue of 5 Dec 2003, p. 1645.
    This is just one more of many remarkable, astounding, flabbergasting examples of living fossils.  “Unbelievable stability” is not a prediction of Darwinism.  The Darwinian world is supposed to be a fluid world, filled with diversification, radiation, and innovation.  During the imaginary 425 million years, the continents moved all over the world, animals crawled onto the land and became geckos and crocodiles and birds and caribou.  Mountains rose and valleys sank, and glaciers repeatedly advanced and retreated over much of the planet.  Some animals moved back into the oceans and became whales, porpoises, manatees and sea lions in just a small fraction of this much time, and humans emerged from grunting chimpanzees, invented language and abstract thought, and conquered space.  Is it reasonable to assume that in this slow whirlwind of continuous dynamical change, these ostracodes just reproduced themselves over and over millions of times without any change whatsoever?
        Darwinists are caught in a crossfire of antagonistic evidence.  Only a well-armored Darwinist could be excited about incoming bombshells like this.  Only by wearing Kevlar-lined lead helmets around their brains can they keep the bullets from penetrating and the insides from exploding.
    Next headline on: Fossils. • Next headline on: Dating Methods.
    Intracellular Railroad Has Park-and-Ride System   12/04/2003
    Cells are like miniaturized cities, with elaborate transportation systems ferrying their cargo to and fro (see
    Feb. 25 headline).  Just like a city may have railroads, busses, cars and monorails, the cell has multiple kinds of transport motors: dyneins, kinesins, and myosins.  Scientists have learned that most of the roadways are like one-way monorails: actin filaments and microtubules, upon which the vehicles travel in one direction.  But what if a passenger needs to jump from one system to another? ' No problem; the cell has mastered the art of ridesharing with its own park-and-ride system.
        In the Dec. 2 issue of Current Biology1, this is described by Marcus Maniak in a Dispatch entitled “A park-and-ride system for melanosomes.”  Melanosomes are organelles (somes) that carry melanin, the pigment chemical that allows some organisms, including fish and amphibians, to change their skin color to match their surroundings.  For this to work, the melanosomes need to hitch rides either to the exterior of the cell or the interior.  He pulls together several recent findings to describe how this all works:
    Together these findings suggested how melanosomes might move on actin filaments and showed that this type of motility is required for the even distribution of melanosomes within the cell.  From these main observations, it became clear that, during aggregation, a cytoplasmic dynein motor carries melanosomes on the radially arranged microtubules towards the cell center (Figure 1B), while during dispersion a kinesin transports the granules to the periphery (Figure 1C), where they engage via a myosin V molecule with short actin filaments to be distributed further (Figure 1D).  This switching of transport systems is a kind of miniature edition of modern urban traffic, where millions of workers leave the city centers in the evening on trains and board their cars at park-and-ride stations to complete their daily journey within the green peripheral belt.  (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
    As if that were not amazing enough, it appears that the drivers “talk” to each other with a communication system:
    Although the work of Rodionov et al. has moved the field a large step further, there are obviously several issues that remain to be investigated.  Exciting new findings addressing the coupling of motor molecules to the melanosome surface in other experimental animals open the possibility to speculate how the motors may talk to each other on a molecular level.  At least for Xenopus there is now clear evidence that both dynein and kinesin couple to melanosomes via the dynactin complex.  Moreover, both motors compete for the same protein component; this could allow one motor to gain access to the microtubule while the other is prevented from engaging successfully.
    He describes how this “tug-of-war” competition is actually a kind of way for the motors to negotiate the right-of-way.  Additional factors that attach to the vehicles or trackways may assist in making sure the rules of the road are obeyed.  “Thus,” he concludes, “further exciting results are on the way to complete the picture of how melanosomes switch from one transport system to the other.”
    1Marcus Maniak, “Dispatch: Organelle Transport: A Park-and-Ride System for Melanosomes,” Current Biology Vol 13, R917-R919, 2 December 2003.
    Maniak uses the word motor 22 times in his article, which is replete with other urban metaphors: transport system (see 09/26/2002 headline), etc.  Moreover, there is no mention of evolution, Darwin, or of any mechanism that might explain how this elaborate, coordinated, interconnected system could have originated.  Surprised?
        Every muscle move you make, every breath you take, every beat of your heart, and every one of your senses are dependent on molecular machines.  The study of biological motors and molecular machines is the “biology of the future” that Bruce Alberts, President of the National Academy of Sciences and editor of Molecular Biology of the Cell has stated more than once (see 01/09/2002 headline).  It was also a biology the likes of which Charles Darwin and his followers could not have imagined.  Had Darwin seen into the future at what Year 2003 biologists would be detecting in life’s fundamental unit, the cell, and even in the simplest micro-organisms, he well could have developed cold shudders (see 01/29/2002 headline) severe enough to have frozen his evolutionary speculations to death.
    Next headline on: The Cell. • Next amazing story.
    If a Meteor Roasted the Dinosaurs, Where’s the Charcoal?   12/04/2003
    A majority of scientists continue to believe that a falling asteroid felled the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, but problems remain.  London geologists went looking for evidence of charcoal at the Cretaceous-Tertiary layers, when the assumed impact occurred, assuming that the force of impact would have ignited a worldwide conflagration (thus the extinction of the big beasts).  But they found none, reports
    Nature Science Update.  How can you have a barbecue without charcoal?  Maybe, instead, the impact sent voluminous dust into the atmosphere, blocking sunlight and lowering the planet’s temperature drastically.  “In other words,“ the article speculates, “the dinosaurs might have frozen, not roasted.”
    Other anomalies are calling this popular speculation into question (see June 2 headline, for instance).  If this theory for dinosaur extinction goes, scientists will be back at square one.  Explaining why certain species disappeared suddenly while others did just fine is no easy task, especially when you can’t rent the video to see what really happened.
    Next headline on: Geology. • Next headline on: Dinosaurs.
    Got That?  The Complex Story of African Mammal Evolution    12/03/2003
    The article by Jean-Jacques Jaeger in the
    Dec. 4 issue of Nature1 is pretty upbeat about the evolutionary history of African mammals, but takes a bit of untangling to follow.
        He begins confidently, “For some 40 million years, the Afro-Arabian landmass existed in splendid isolation.  A newly described fossil fauna from the end of that time provides a window on the evolution of the continent’s large mammals.”  (He refers to a fossil group named the Chilga biota, found in the Ethiopian highlands by Kappelman et al., described in the same issue.2)  Let’s take a look out said window and see how evolution has unfolded:
    During most of the Cenozoic era, from the Cretaceous–Tertiary boundary 65 million years ago until roughly 24 million years ago, Afro-Arabia was an island continent drifting steadily northwards towards Eurasia.  Fossil mammals documenting this period are scarce and belong almost exclusively to endemic forms restricted to Afro-Arabia, such as proboscideans, hyraxes and elephant-shrews.  But by around 24 million years ago, a permanent land bridge had formed between the two landmasses.  A burst of faunal interchange followed: many Eurasian mammals, such as rhinos and ruminants, dispersed into Africa, and some Afro-Arabian mammals, such as elephants, migrated in the opposite direction.  (Emphasis added in all quotations.)
    That forms the plot line, but there are problems.  The Chilga specimens he describes seem to fit the story, but there are puzzles among the bones:
    Among the proboscideans recorded are primitive forms such as Palaeomastodon and Phiomia (also known from older deposits in Egypt).  But there are also representatives of modern families, for example taxa such as Gomphotherium, the earliest proboscidean on the branch leading to extant elephants.  Another surprise is the oldest occurrence of deinotheres, peculiar proboscideans with downward-curved lower tusks, which were previously recorded only from rocks younger than 24 million years old.  The new species of deinothere displays molars that are more ‘bunodont’ in form (that is, made of several distinct cusplets arranged in transverse crests) than its descendant, whose molars display plain transverse crests.  This discovery seems to rule out the possibility that deinotheres are derived from an ancestor bearing plain, transverse-crested molars, as was formerly supposed, and provides new evidence about proboscidean evolution.
    Jaeger bemoans the scarcity of the fossil record for this period, but claims, “Nonetheless, considerable information has been inferred from the evidence we do have.”  He talks about how systematists have grouped the African fauna into a superorder Afrotheria based on fossil and molecular evidence.  Though “African mammalian faunas are dominated by these endemic forms,” a few other groups did get over to the big island somehow, including our alleged remote ancestors, the catarrhine primates, fathers of hominoids.  These “newcomers” went through “rapid evolution” on the landmass, he claims.
        Even though the Chilga fossils are supposed to pre-date the land bridge, Jaeger says, “The Chilga mammals also yield insights into the dynamics of the faunal interchange between Afro-Arabia and Eurasia.”  How is that possible?  By seeing what pre-existed before the interchange, he feels it is possible to document that “the ensuing ecological competition ended with winners and losers.”  I.e., some animals were destined to fall in numbers, others to multiply and diversify.
        The Chilga fossils do leave a few research items for paleontologists:
    Finally, the discoveries of Kappelman et al. highlight two other palaeobiological issues.  First, on northern continents glaciation caused a significant cooling around 33 million years ago, which resulted in numerous extinctions among mammalian communities.  From these new data, however, it seems that large Afro-Arabian herbivores were not affected, either at that time or later, implying that the climatic changes were less severe on southern continents.  Second, the fossil record of the Afro-Arabian continent is not only scanty but also largely concentrated on the northern edge.  This has led to the proposal that other groups of mammals existed in Afro-Arabia during its period of isolation, but that they were restricted to more southern latitudes.  However, the Chilga mammal community is rather like that found at Fayum in Egypt, which is some five million years older, providing hints that there was little provinciality among Afro-Arabian mammals at that time.  As yet, though, we have unveiled only a few of the secrets of mammal evolution on the Afro-Arabian continent.  Many more surprising discoveries are to be expected.
    Got that?
    1Jean-Jacques Jaeger, “Mammalian evolution: Isolationist tendencies,” Nature 426, 509 - 511 (04 December 2003); doi:10.1038/426509a.
    2Kappelman et al., “Oligocene mammals from Ethiopia and faunal exchange between Afro-Arabia and Eurasia,” Nature 426, 549 - 552 (04 December 2003); doi:10.1038/nature02102.
    Our policy before commenting on a paper is to approach it with an open mind as much as possible, and give the author the benefit of the doubt.  We give the author or authors their day in court, and begin with the premise innocent till proven guilty.  But we also want to see hard data that support any conclusions, and the conclusions must survive the Baloney Detector to be granted any credibility or respect.  Bluffing is a big turn-off.
        With that in mind, not much survived in this paper.  Jaeger sounds very confident that evolutionists are very well on the way to understanding mammal evolution; it’s just a matter of time, cleaning up a few remaining puzzles.  His position is typical of evolutionists.  The story only makes sense to someone already convinced evolution is true.  The puzzles outnumber the confirmations, but since non-evolutionary alternatives are disallowed from the outset, no amount of negative data can ever falsify their claim that all animals have bacteria ancestors.
        How Jaeger can keep from biting his fingernails at the sheer number of puzzles is the real puzzle.  With your critical, open-minded eye, consider his confessions of these non-evolutionary observations:
  • The fossil record is scanty.
  • Known fossils are restricted to isolated locales on the northern periphery of Africa.
  • “Modern” representatives are mixed in with alleged “primitive” specimens, even though the Afrotheria were supposedly isolated from Europe and Asia for millions of years and had plenty of time and space to evolve all they wanted.
  • The teeth of the deinotheres evolved from complex to simple, not the other way around.
  • Some critters managed to get to Africa, while others remained isolated.  Was there some kind of discriminatory ferry system operating?
  • After the land bridge formed, there were winners and losers, but no way to predict according to evolutionary theory who would win or lose.
  • A long global ice age seemed to have no effect on the Afrotheria.
  • There was little provinciality among African mammals (i.e., geographic isolation; the animals were free to roam widely), yet fossils are rare in the interior.
        Anyone see evolution here?  From just a few bones, at a few locations on the northern edge of the huge continent of Africa, Jaeger proceeds to weave a magical mystery tale out of thin air (and hot, spinning air at that).  He daydreams about floating continents, selective weather, selective migrations, selective fossilizations, selective winners and losers, and land bridges that both increase and decrease the evolutionary adaptations of immigrants.  Almost every observation is counter to what was previously believed.  Nowhere does the reader see any hard evidence of transitional forms.  The only solid evidence points to are dead things; remnants of advanced, complex, large, healthy, well-adapted mammals.  The dates are part of the myth; they are made up, based on methods that depend for their validity on evolutionary assumptions and wild extrapolations into the unobservable past.
        In a courtroom, the attorneys have the opportunity to give an opening statement.  These are usually overconfident claims that the facts of the case are going to prove their side.  But then, witnesses have to submit to cross-examination on matters of fact, and the attorneys are prevented from spin doctoring, asking leading questions, or going beyond the evidence.  Unfortunately, the news media often take the opening statement of the Darwinist lawyer at face value and parrot it uncritically to their readers.  Here at Creation-Evolution Headlines, we feel our readers deserve to watch a fair trial.  Jaeger is charged with five counts: doctoring evidence, manufacturing just-so stories, refusing to consider nonevolutionary alternatives, making inferences beyond what scientific caution would allow, and assuming what needs to be proved.  We have swept away the storytelling elements and stared at the evidence, and have reached our conclusion.  Guilty, your honor.
        For more examples of evolutionary storytelling contrary to hard evidence, see these other recent headlines on supposed mammal evolution: 12/12/03 on marsupials, 11/17/03 on Smithsonian’s Mammal Hall, 10/30/03 on cave packrats, 10/13/03 on monkey color vision, 07/16/03 on development, 11/22/02 on dogs, 11/01/03 on placentas, 06/04/02 on tooth evolution, and especially 03/18/03, National Geographic’s embarrassing April 2003 cover story on “the rise of mammals,” and the PNAS hall of shame from 05/28/02.  For that matter, how about the next headline below?
    Next headline on: Mammals. • Next headline on: Fossils. • Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
  • Fossil Fingers Fuddle Phylogeny    12/03/2003
    Another fossil complicates the evolutionists’ picture of tetrapod origins (see
    Aug 9 headline).  Chinese paleontologists have reported1 a new marine reptile from Triassic strata (242 million years old, more or less).  Unexpectedly, it has extra digits (a condition called polydactyly) just like the putative ancestors of tetrapods from the earlier Devonian strata (370-354 million years old, more or less).  What does this mean in evolutionary terms?
    We have discovered that a preaxial form of polydactyly, in which extra digits are positioned anterior to the first digit, has unexpectedly re-emerged in a marine reptile from the Early Triassic period about 242 million years ago — the overall morphology of both the manus and pes closely resemble those of the earliest tetrapods [sic].  Until now, no post-Devonian tetrapod has been found with a comparative type of polydactyly, so the new amniote provides a striking example of convergent evolution.   (Emphasis added.)

    Wu, Li, Zhou, and Dong, “Palaeontology: A polydactylous amniote from the Triassic period,” Nature 426, 516 (04 December 2003); doi:10.1038/426516a.
    Is there nothing in the world that will shake up a Darwinist enough to get him to question his assumptions?  We are told to believe that millions of years ago, the first four-legged creatures had more toes than we do (an independent, honest observer might suppose that to be an example of devolution, not evolution).  Then 112 million years go by, with all the animals happily swimming and crawling with five digits per foot, and all of a sudden, a marine reptile, by the miraculous process known as “convergent evolution” emerges with extra toes again.  Evolution is so wonderful.  It can explain anything.
        How do they know they didn’t just find the reptile version of the giant of Gath?
    Next headline on: Fossils. • Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
    Adaptive Radiation: A Darwinian Mechanism Inherits the Wind    12/03/2003
    Another Darwinian assumption needs to be re-examined.  Adaptive radiation, the belief that a species isolated on an island will diverge into many species, has been hit by a hurricane.
        Calsbeek and Smith, writing in the
    Dec. 4 issue of Nature1, studied lizards on the Bahamas after Hurricane Floyd devastated the islands.  “Islands are considered to be natural laboratories in which to examine evolution because of the implicit assumption that limited gene flow allows tests of evolutionary processes in isolated replicates,” they begin:  “Here we show that this well-accepted idea requires re-examination.”  Why?  Gene flow is not limited after all.  Apparently, ocean currents and hurricanes are very successful at spreading the critters around from island to island (gene flow, this is called).  And high gene flow counteracts adaptive radiation by homogenizing the gene pool: “After severe storms, islands may be recolonized by over-water dispersal of lizards from neighbouring islands.  High levels of gene flow may homogenize genes responsible for divergence, and are widely viewed as a constraining force on evolution.
        These islands have been a textbook case for adaptive radiation theories, because the number of Anolis lizard species is high: up to 140 species.  The authors write, “The adaptive radiation of Caribbean anoles is believed to be driven by ecologically based natural selection arising from variation in habitat use.” Some of these lizards climb the broad trunks of trees and have long legs, whereas some perch on twigs, with short legs.  These microevolutionary changes appear to be adaptive, because they would seem to help the critters run faster after food or avoid prey, or keep their balance in their preferred habitat. 
        The scientists found that the gene flow correlated with prevailing ocean currents.  Moreover, the repopulation of the islands was very rapid: “Although no islands were reported to have received immigrants as a result of hurricane transport, subsequent recolonization of islands over the next 17 months was rapid and indicated over-water dispersal of adult lizards from neighbouring islands,“ they write with a bit of surprise.  Although they have found a constraint on adaptive radiation in this classic case, they are confident that island studies are good for evolutionary theory.  They conclude:
    Studies on islands have revealed many of the fundamental mechanisms of evolution, particularly the paramount influence of geographical isolation to diversification.  Here, we add an important caveat to these studies, showing that prevailing ocean currents may influence gene flow and adaptive divergence in a terrestrial vertebrate.  The adaptive radiation of anoles in the Caribbean is thought to have arisen by ecologically based natural selection related to habitat use.  However, the level of gene flow between populations will impose an upper limit on the ability of natural selection to drive adaptive divergence.  We have provided evidence that weather-related abiotic phenomena might have important effects on the evolution and adaptive radiation of lizard populations.   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)

    1Ryan Calsbeek and Thomas B. Smith, “Ocean currents mediate evolution in island lizards,” Nature 426, 552 - 555 (04 December 2003); doi:10.1038/nature02143.
    You better believe it might have important effects on evolution.  It stops it.
        First of all, notice that this is another tale about microevolution, so it doesn’t discriminate between creationists and evolutionists.  But is there anything in this story that props up Charlie?  Lizard populations in the Bahamas and surrounding islands were supposed to be a textbook case for adaptive radiation theory, and now look.  They found that the islands were rapidly repopulated – within months – after Hurricane Floyd swept through, with the same species that existed before.  But then, how can they rule out the possibility that some survived the storm?  Did they check under every rock and in the tops of every tree?  This looks like a bad science paper every way you cut it.  That’s why we call evolutionists lazy, and accuse them of appearing to do science while vacationing in the Bahamas.
        Adaptive radiation is only supposed to work if the gene pool gets cut off from the surroundings.  They might be able to cling to that hope, but one of their best examples has just suffered “an important caveat” which, being interpreted, means, “Yeah, BUT...”  It’s the unwelcome lab assistant tapping the evolutionist lecturer on the arm during his praise-for-Darwin speech, whispering in his ear, “Professor, we found a flaw in your data....”  He stumbles for a moment, but continues unabated, “Moreover, ladies and gentlemen, evolution is a fact, supported by countless examples of thorough scientific research.”
    Next headline on: Crawlers, Bugs, Lizards Etc.. • Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory.
    Editorial: The Cult of the Prize    12/03/2003
    In a letter to the editor in the Dec. 4 issue of
    Nature1, historian Robert Marc Friedman (U. of Oslo) asks, “Is science losing out in the race for recognition?”  The race for honors, he feels, is diminishing science:
    Raymond Damadian’s public dispute (see “Physician launches public protest over medical Nobel” Nature 425, 648; 2003) should make us ask whether science is best served by a culture obsessed with rankings and winning prizes.  The history of the Nobel Prize makes it clear that the medallion is etched with human frailties.
    Friedman alleges that the Nobel Prize does not necessarily correlate with achievement.  It is a decision made by one Swedish committee whose “predilections and interests necessarily enter into their deliberations” and influence their judgments.  As an example, “Academy physicists had no intention of recognizing Einstein’s theories of relativity,” he claims, quoting them, “‘even if the whole world demands it.’”
        He also points out that the decisions are very difficult to make, when often many individuals are deserving but only a few can be chosen.  Consequently, “There are no grounds for assuming that the laureates constitute a unique population of the very best in science.”  Furthermore, he continues, “Let us not forget that some important branches of science are not addressed by Nobel’s testament.  Some of the greatest intellectual triumphs of the past century have not been celebrated in Stockholm.”
        Friedman calls the annual Nobel frenzy “the cult of the prize” and claims the media, who whipped up frenzy about it from the start, are largely responsible.  “Leaders of national scientific communities willingly climbed on the bandwagon,” he adds, “and over time the number of parties with a stake in maintaining the cult of the prize has grown.”
    Damadian’s campaign to have a share in the prize for his work on developing magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a product of a scientific culture based on competition for personal and institutional aggrandizement.  Whatever Alfred Nobel might have meant when he set up prizes for those whose work conferred “the greatest benefit on mankind”, he did not have in mind the promotion of narrow professional interests, nor institutional and national boosterism.
    He rhetorically asks, in conclusion, “Should racing to discovery define the soul of science?  Its heritage is far richer than the quest for prizes might suggest.”
    1Robert Marc Friedman, “Is science losing out in the race for recognition?”, Nature 426, 495 (04 December 2003); doi:10.1038/426495a.
    Be that as it may, Damadian knew that in our culture, the Nobel Prize constitutes a quasi-official roster of the greatest discoverers in science.  Textbook writers, historians, and teachers are wont to take the 2003 Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine as the authoritative statement on who discovered MRI.  For a man whose entire adult life has been consumed with medical MRI, and whose initial discovery in the lab made it all possible, it was understandable for him to try to head off at the pass the revisionism he sees coming.  We can all pitch in by writing letters, as one of our readers did, to papers and magazines that forget the facts.  He told Science News,
    “Nobel prizes go to scientists harnessing odd phenomena” (SN: 10/11/03, p. 229: didn’t include even a hint about the controversy about the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.  Many people believe that Raymond Damadian should have gotten at least a share in the prize.  Damadian saw and demonstrated the potential for using MRI as a medical-scanning technique when others found the idea laughable.
        Friedman does not excuse or endorse Damadian’s media campaign, but rightly points out that we need to get our attention off prizes.  Not every great athlete wins Olympic gold, nor every great author a Pulitzer.  In science, especially, prizes should not be the metric for esteem.  We don’t remember Newton for awards won, or Kelvin for honorary doctorates.  We remember them for what they accomplished: uncovering nature’s laws.  If scientists become motivated to win prizes instead of explore the workings of nature, we will all suffer.
        We can begin by individually paying less attention to prizes.  I have learned that a PhD still needs to earn my respect, not claim it by pointing to the numbers of letters after his name.  After all, do we not regularly read of PhDs making the most ridiculous statements right here in these pages?  Don’t tell me how many college classes you took and how many plaques you have on your wall (maybe your dad had more money to send you to an ivy-league school); show me by your deeds and the wisdom of your words that you deserve my respect.  Some PhDs are clueless; some unlettered men are peerless.  (Faraday and Joule come to mind.)  If you have a degree, consider it a ticket to do great things, not a scepter to make people bow down to you, or a laurel to let wither on the shelf.
        The other two winners of this year’s prize may get plaques on their walls, and some dough, but those are quickly forgotten.  If we let achievement measure greatness, then Damadian’s prize will also be mounted where it belongs.  It will be inscribed every day in detailed anatomical images, posted on hospital walls around the world, that will guide surgeons to accurately diagnose and operate on their patients.  Because of this near-magical technology he invented, that can see below the skin without a knife, his prize will be written in smiling faces of millions whose lives have been spared.  That’s a prize that’s priceless.
    For background on the Damadian controversy, see the Oct. 10 headline.
    Next headline on: Politics and Ethics.
    Dinosaur Family Tracks Discovered    12/02/2003
    A set of dinosaur tracks of different sizes pointing in the same direction has been found on the Isle of Skye, reports the
    BBC News.  It seems to indicate one adult and 10 juveniles, all of the same species, were moving together.  To Neil Clark, curator of the Glasgow Museum, these tracks tell a story – not only that a mom hatched her young, but that they continued their family ties for some time: “It’s extremely rare to find evidence of post-hatching parental care in dinosaurs,” he said.  “To my knowledge, there are no other examples of ornithopod prints showing juveniles and adults moving as a group like this.  There is certainly evidence of juvenile ornithischian dinosaurs with adults from the same geological horizon, but not with such a clear relationship.”
    Observation: tracks of various sizes moving in one direction.  Conclusion: this was a loving family of dinosaurs, with loyal children gently following their tender mother up the beach.  Are such stories justified by the evidence?  Why not try my version: “Run, kids!  The water’s rising!”
    Next headline on: Dinosaurs. • Next headline on: Fossils. • Next dumb story.
    Vega Has a Neptune?   12/01/2003
    BBC News and EurekAlert are pretty excited about a discovery at Vega, the sapphire-blue star that hangs overhead in summertime (from the Northern Hemisphere; Aussies see it at the horizon).  Astronomers think they see a clump of material that might be at the distance from the star similar to Neptune’s distance from the sun.  It might take 300 years for the clump to orbit.
    Try not to get too excited, astronomers.  There is not much data to go on.  The articles are talking 95% model, 5% data.  This little clump is not going to save your theories (see 05/30/2003 headline).  EurekAlert exclaims that Vega has “a planetary system around it which is more like our own Solar System than any other so far discovered.”  Hold your horses.  Vega is not the kind of star you would want to live around unless you like getting cooked well done.  There is a need in modern science for judicious restraint.  Scientists need to learn to subdue the news reporters who are watering at the mouth for juicy manna from the gods.  Tell them if they went to Vega’s clump they would make a fine burnt offering.
    Next headline on: Stars. • Next headline on: Solar System.
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    Featured Creation Scientist for December

    Gregor Mendel
    1822 - 1884

    The story of Gregor Mendel is aggravating.  It makes you wonder what might have been, had this Austrian monk encountered Charles Darwin, and had his discoveries become known to the disciples (and opponents) of Darwinism early on (see 10/14/2003 headline).  Though the two men may have come within 20 miles of each other one day, historians are fairly certain that Darwin was unaware of Mendel, though Mendel knew of Darwin.  Mendel believed that the laws of genetics he deduced just seven years after Darwin’s Origin of Species was published posed a serious challenge to the theory of “transformism” (that one species can be transformed into another).  It is also aggravating, in retrospect, to see how Mendel’s discoveries were treated once they did become known.  “Ignored” is the word most often used in history books to describe the early reception of his paper.  As we shall see, nearly 72 years went by before it was no longer possible to ignore Mendel’s findings.  By then (the 1930s), Darwinism had triumphed in the Scopes Trial, had a full head of steam and was unstoppable.  It just became a matter of fudging Darwinism enough to massage Mendelian genetics into it.  These days, the neo-Darwinists tend to claim Mendel as their own, but the evidence shows that the creationist monk would have been offended by any such association.  Nigel Williams, writing in the October 14, 2003 issue of Current Biology, stated that “Once Gregor Mendel is placed back into the intellectual landscape that he would himself recognize,” it was clear that he would have “seen The Origin of Species as a challenge to his own worldview.”

    Gregor Mendel, a Catholic creationist, believed he had demonstrated that species are resistant to change, because characters are inherited without alteration throughout generations.  This was a novel idea to breeders of the day.  No one knew just how characteristics were inherited.  Common experience showed that children resembled their parents, but how did the various traits get sorted out in the union of sperm and egg?  Why were some crosses of plants or livestock sterile, and others fertile?  Darwin toyed with an hypothesis he called pangenesis, which assumed that traits from all over the body somehow flow into the gametes. A common misconception of the time was that traits were blended in the offspring, rather than remaining discrete units (by analogy, compare mixing two fluids versus mixing two jars of colored marbles). Darwin’s theory demanded that variations be heritable, and that traits be fluid enough to evolve so that they could be acted on by natural selection.  If the traits remain unchanged, like the colored marbles, how could new variation arise?  Each generation would just get a different ratio of static, unchanging characteristics.

    Working in the gardens of the Monastery of St. Thomas in Brunn, Austria, Gregor Mendel demonstrated exemplary scientific technique.  His work is often cited as a textbook example of the experimental method.  It required patience, attention to detail, careful record keeping, and interpretive insight.  In a project spanning ten years, Mendel crossed 28,000 plants of the common garden pea, Pisum, and charted the inheritance of seven selected traits:
    Click here for the whole story.

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    The World’s Greatest Creation Scientists from Y1K to Y2K.
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    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.
    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.
    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.
    The greater the funding, the longer it takes to make the mistake.

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

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

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

    Souder’s Law
    Repetition does not establish validity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Advice from Paul

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

    I Timothy 6:20-21

    Song of the True Scientist

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

    from Psalm 104

    Maxwell’s Motivation

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

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

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

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