Creation-Evolution Headlines
January 2004
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In an era when natural philosophers were consciously coming to rely on idioms of prediction, experiment, demonstration, and discovery, when accredited truths of nature were established by seeing and believing, Darwin’s approach was doubly unusual.  He was inviting people to believe in a world run by irregular, unpredictable contingencies, as well as asking them to accept his solution for the simple reason that it seemed to work.
– Janet Browne, Charles Darwin: The Power of Place (Princeton University Press, 2002) p. 56.
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Creationist book a best-seller at Grand Canyon: see update.

Proof of Life in Martian Meteorite Alleged – Again    01/30/2004
Some Aussies are trying to scoop the Mars prize, it seems from a headline in the down-under
Daily Telegraph.  While two American rovers are busily sniffing about for evidence of water (as a prerequisite for life) on opposite sides of the surface of Mars, the Australians are saying, “No worries, mate,” they already found Martian life, right here on Earth.  (Initial results of the search for water from Spirit in Gusev Crater, by the way, appear negative; scientists announced today that Mossbauer spectrometer data from the rock “Adirondack” show a strong signature of olivine.  This mineral, characteristic of volcanic basalt lava, could not endure much weathering by water.  Stay tuned.)
    The Martian meteorite story has been a teeter-totter since its flamboyant announcement to the world press in 1996.  Just when everyone had pretty much concluded it was a dead rock (see 03/18/2002), the Australian team of Tony Taylor and J.C. Barry has announced in the Journal of Microscopy1 that they have found “conclusive proof” the magnetite structures in Martian meteorite ALH 84001 were formed by living bacteria.  The story gets stranger.  According to a report in the English edition of the Islamic news service Aljazeera, the credit for the discovery seems to go to Tony’s dog, Tamarind.
    Apparently, the dog, trained to sniff sewage, found in some Queensland mud a type of earthly bacteria that produces structures identical to those in the Martian meteorite.  The structures matched according to 11 criteria they used.  The photo caption says, therefore, “Australian dog: been there, done that.”  There’s another strange twist.
    Since the meteorite is supposed to be 4 billion years old, it predates the assumed date for the origin of life on earth.  That can only mean one thing.  Life on earth came from Mars.
    The bacteria still might be on Mars, but the Aussies suspect it would be deep down where the rovers couldn’t find it.  Aljazeera seems pleased at the American defeat: “Two US-backed rovers are now exploring the red planet and transmitting unprecedented images of the barren landscape, but may achieve little else.”


1A. P. Taylor and J. C. Barry, “Magnetosomal matrix: ultrafine structure may template biomineralization of megnetosomes,” Journal of Microscopy 213:2 (Feb 2004), p. 80, doi:10.1111/j.1365-2828.2004.01287.x.
Evolutionists are funny because they are so serious.  Dog discovers origin of life.  Americans lose spirit over lost opportunity to be first.  Muslims snicker, “G'day, mate.”
Next headline on:  MarsOrigin of LifeDumb Ideas
Georgia to Teach Evolution, but Avoid the E Word    01/30/2004
It’s not “evolution,” it’s “biological changes over time,”  asserts Georgia Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox.  But sometimes good intentions can make both sides of a dispute upset, reports
MSNBC News.  Pro-evolutionists think the state is trying to water down the teaching of evolution, and anti-evolutionists think changing the word does not change the meaning.  Cox explained that the suggestion does not alter textbooks or forbid teachers from using the E word.
    No one seems to like the idea, however.  Former President Jimmy Carter was incensed: “As a Christian, a trained engineer and scientist, and a professor at Emory University, I am embarrassed by Superintendent Kathy Cox’s attempt to censor and distort the education of Georgia’s students.”  A Democratic Congressman thought the move was throwing a bone to the conservatives, but a Republican reacted negatively for different reasons: “It’s stupid.  It’s like teaching gravity without using the word gravity.”
  The suggestion appeared in a draft of a revised science curriculum, to be debated in public hearings and voted on by the Georgia school board in May.
In the cartoon strip Hagar the Horrible, the Viking marauder once warned his shipboard cook, the milktoast born loser Lucky Eddie, that the crew was so sick of fish balls for breakfast, lunch and dinner, that if he didn’t come up with a new recipe he would be tossed overboard.  Later, with a look of triumph, he lifted the cover on his latest concoction.  “What’s that?” the curious crew members inquired disdainfully.  Lucky Eddie proudly announced, “fish cubes!”  (Last frame deleted due to violence.)
    The problem with evolution is not the E word itself.  It’s the content associated with the word.  When Darwin wrote The Origin of Species, the word evolution was not even in vogue; most called it “transformism” or common descent.  The issue is, do we want students to be taught a philosophy (naturalism) as science?  Do we want them hearing one side of a very controversial idea, that humans evolved from bacteria, an idea not only lacking proof but contrary to the best established scientific laws?  Then teach the controversy about the concept of evolution rather than try to remove controversy through euphemism and appeasement.
    The only thing dumber in this story than Cox’s proposal is President Carter’s reaction to it.  If he really were embarrassed by the censorship and distortion going on in Georgia public schools, he would advocate the overthrow of the Darwin Party’s totalitarian regime that forbids debate over evolution.  And if he were a true Christian or scientist or both, he would be incensed at science falsely so called.
Next headline on:  EducationDumb Ideas
For Complex Life, Just Add Oxygen    01/29/2004
When you take in a breath of fresh air, you let in a lively but dangerous molecule that would kill you if it were not that your cells have elaborate controls to utilize its energy for good and avoid its damaging potential.  Oxygen makes forests burn to ashes but also powers your muscles.  Astrobiologists realize that oxygen would have ruled out the origin of life if present on the alleged primitive earth, but now some think that, once life started, oxygen paved the road to pines and peacocks.
   
EurekAlert sums up a presentation published in BioMed Central Evolutionary Biology with the announcement, “Oxygen triggered the evolution of advanced life forms.”  S. Blair Hedges (Penn State), one of the authors, explained: “To build a complex multicellular organism, with all the communication and signalling between cells it entails, you need energy.  With no oxygen or mitochondria, complex organisms couldn’t get enough of this energy to develop.”  His team performed a statistical analysis of the amount of complexity of life forms assumed through evolutionary time.  They admit up front that “the pattern and timing of the rise in complex multicellular life during Earth’s history has not been established.”  In fact, there is a large and serious disconnect in the data sets: “Great disparity persists between the pattern suggested by the fossil record and that estimated by molecular clocks, especially for plants, animals, fungi, and the deepest branches of the eukaryote tree.”  Nevertheless, they pulled together a large set of protein sequence data and applied molecular clock assumptions to it “to place constraints on the increase in complexity through time.”
    They attempted to derive branching times on the tree of life, and counted the diversity of cell types for each group.  They noticed an apparent acceleration in the variety of cell types that seemed to be associated with the initial increase in oxygen levels about 2.3 billion years ago.  “The results suggest that oxygen levels in the environment, and the ability of eukaryotes to extract energy from oxygen, as well as produce oxygen, were key factors in the rise of complex multicellular life.  Mitochondria and organisms with more than 2-3 cell types appeared soon after the initial increase in oxygen levels at 2300 Ma [2300 million years ago].  The addition of plastids at 1500 Ma, allowing eukaryotes to produce oxygen, preceded the major rise in complexity.”  What this means, they believe, is that oxygen triggered the rise of complex life.
1Hedges et al., “A molecular timescale of eukaryote evolution and the rise of complex multicellular life,” BioMed Central Evolutionary Biology, 2004, 4:2 (published 28 January 2004).
This is like correlating the stock market to the sunspot cycle, or worse, to a random number generator.  It’s a circumstantial argument based on begging the question whether evolution is even true.  They admit that the fossil evidence, which should be considered more reliable, flatly contradicts the molecular evidence, which others have already lamented is a broken clock.  Why do mythmakers masquerading as scientists get away with this bogus reasoning?  Why do science news outlet depict their mythical hypotheses as conclusions?  Maybe the solution will come, as with network news, when ratings keep dropping.  At a certain point it won’t matter what lies they tell, because no one will be listening.
Next headline on:  Darwinism and Evolutionary TheoryDumb Ideas
How to Get Engineering Without an Engineer   01/28/2004
The study of complex systems is all the rage these days (see, for example,
08/18/2003 entry).  In the Jan. 28 issue of Nature,1 J. M. Ottino (Northwestern University) mixes up biology with human design in his Concepts essay on “Engineering complex systems.”
    “Complex systems,” he explains, “can be identified by what they do (display organization without a central organizing authority – emergence), and also by how they may or may not be analysed (as decomposing the system and analysing sub-parts do not necessarily give a clue as to the behaviour of the whole).”  In the list of examples he provides, the juxtaposition of human-engineered and biological systems is so subtle as to mask the differences: “Systems that fall within the scope of complex systems include metabolic pathways, ecosystems, the web [e.g., the internet world-wide-web], the US power grid and the propagation of HIV infections.”  He does clarify, however, that “Many examples of complex networks that have greatly impacted our lives – such as highways, electrification and the Internet – derive from engineering.”  Presumably, some do not.  He draws additional contrasts:
The hallmarks of complex systems are adaptation, self-organization and emergenceno one designed the web or the metabolic processes within a cell.  And this is where the conceptual conflict with engineering arises.  Engineering is not about letting systems be.  Engineering is about making things happen, about convergence, optimum design and consistency of operation.  Engineering is about assembling pieces that work in specific ways – that is, designing complicated systems.
Ottino explains that complex and complicated are not one and the same.  Complicated is more like the intelligent design terminology of “irreducibly complex”.  In the tradition of Paley, his illustration is a watch with over 1000 parts working together.  Then he explains,
The pieces in complicated systems can be well understood in isolation, and the whole can be reassembled from its parts.  The components work in unison to accomplish a function.  One key defect can bring the entire system to a halt; complicated systems do not adapt.  Redundancy needs to be built in when system failure is not an option.
Complex systems, on the other hand, do adapt, he claims: the hallmarks are adaptation (ability to change to match changing conditions), self-organization (ability to arrange parts unassisted), and emergence (new properties come to light which were not necessarily predicted, but represent a whole greater than the sum of the parts).  The Web, for instance, has taken on a life of its own that exceeds what its original designers expected.  Engineering went into the design of the parts, but not the whole: “But although engineers may have developed the components, they did not plan their connection.”  Is there a place for engineering in the ongoing adaptation of a complex system?
How can engineers, who have developed many of the most important complex systems, stay connected with their subsequent development?  Complexity and engineering seem at odds – complex systems are about adaptation, whereas engineering is about purpose.  However, it is robustness and failure where both camps merge.
By this, he means that engineers can design robustness into a complex system by designing redundancy and performing risk analysis at the outset, or as the system grows.  Engineers might also be able to leverage self-organization: by steering the properties of molecular subunits, for example, in the rapidly expanding field of nanotechnology.  Still, these examples all involve intelligent foresight.  What about the adaptation in living things?
    Ottino barely touches on biological complex systems, but thinks the environment can optimize adaptation (this is known in the literature as “niche construction”):
But the choice need not be just between designing everything at the outset and letting systems design themselves.  Most design processes are far from linear, with multiple decision points and ideas ‘evolving’ before the final design ‘emerges’.  However, once finished, the design itself does not adapt.  Here, engineers are beginning to get insight from biology.  The emergence of function – the ability of a system to perform a task – can be guided by its environment, without imposing a rigid blueprint.  For example, just like the beaks of Darwin’s finches, a finite-element analysis of a component shape such as an airfoil can evolve plastically through a continuum of possibilities under a set of constraints, so as to optimize the shape for a given function.
Ottino does not elaborate, but presumably he feels that natural selection chooses the optimum design from the continuum of possibilities.
    The essay ends with these vague suggestions, because no laws of self-organization are known, most of the discoveries are in future tense:
Despite significant recent advances in our understanding of complex systems, the field is still in flux, and there is still is a lack of consensus as to where the centre is – for some, it is exclusively cellular automata; for others it is networks.  However, the landscape is bubbling with activity, and now is the time to get involved.  Engineering should be at the centre of these developments, and contribute to the development of new theory and tools.

1J.M. Ottino, “Engineering complex systems,” Nature 427, 399 (29 January 2004); doi:10.1038/427399a.
“No one designed the ... metabolic processes within a cell.”  Interesting.  Could you elaborate, Dr. Ottino?  Tell us how you know this.
    There is a fundamental disconnect in Ottino’s logic.  His comparison of biological with artificial complex systems is largely an argument from analogy built on a priori assumptions that Darwinism is true.  In keeping with the perennial sin of Darwinists, he merely assumes biological complex systems “emerged” (they just love that word) without engineering, and then both categories of systems continue to evolve and adapt without engineering.  But even in his examples of artificial complex systems lacking a central authority – the web and the power grid – intelligent design continues to be essential. 
For instance, the original designers of the internet protocol or small power plants may not have foreseen the ways their networks would grow, and what new emergent properties might arise, but at every step of the “evolution” of the complex systems human engineers are and were involved.  Left to itself, without the input of human intelligence, the power grid would have collapsed with the first solar storm or substation fire.  Human engineers had to fix the problems and retrofit robustness into it.  Similarly, WWW designers probably did not foresee the evils of viruses and spam (sinister examples of intelligent design), but a host of new engineers have responded with anti-virus software and alert mechanisms to help the network adapt.  How much more are all the beneficial emergent functions of the web, such as videoconferencing, web shopping and auctions, guided by human ingenuity?
The adaptation in man-made complex systems has always been guided by intelligent design.  The more the robustness and resiliency, the greater the intelligence, and the more praiseworthy the design.
    In biological complex systems (e.g., metabolic pathways, protein networks, gene regulation) how could resiliency and adaptation exist without prior engineering design?  Ottino cannot just wave the usual magic wand of natural selection.  He needs to do a rigorous analysis.  What mutations in what specific genes could have converged into a wing or a beak where one never existed before?  Without scientific rigor, it is not science; it is just-so storytelling filled with glittering generalities.
    He described beautifully the concept of irreducible complexity in “complicated” systems, but failed to recognize that such systems exist now, fully-formed, in the simplest one-celled organisms.  He cannot invoke self-organizational principles, because he admitted there are no known laws of self-organization.  He cannot commit the post hoc fallacy by claiming, “they exist, therefore they evolved” by natural selection (though he comes just shy of stating this).  And he did not connect the dots with niche construction.  If it were possible for the environment to constrain adaptation, how, or why, would a living organism (e.g., a Darwin finch) care to evolve toward an optimum design?  That would commit the foul of teleology.
    So what remains?  Miracles.  Ottino speaks of “emergence” as a characteristic of complex systems, and glibly assumes that the emergence of new perfectly-adapted functions in living systems will just happen.  No, it won’t.  Appealing to unknown laws in future tense is not science, and does not belong in a scientific journal.  Everything we know points away from the emergence of optimum adaptability unless engineering design is involved.  Think about it: why would a finch evolve a wing or a beak with its perfectly-adapted airfoil design, unless it really was designed by a Designer that understood aerodynamics?  The environment is not going to teach the bird, and the bird couldn’t care less.  Purge your mind of teleology, purge it of orthogenesis (straight-line evolution toward a goal), purge it of wish fulfillment, as a consistent naturalist should do, and it doesn’t make sense.  Darwinism survives only with a schizophrenia we might term “naturalistic vitalism,” which assumes our material universe contains some unexplained, unknown, vital force that makes a finch want to fly.  The resulting perfect airfoil doesn’t need a scientific explanation.  It just “emerges.”  Welcome to the mythology of modern science, where miracles, while overtly denied, covertly come in very handy.
Next headline on:  Darwinism and Evolutionary TheoryIntelligent Design
10 More Questions   01/27/2004
As a follow-up to Jonathan Wells’ popular (or notorious, depending on your point of view)
10 Questions to Ask Your Biology Teacher About Evolution, William Dembski has come up with 10 Questions to Ask Your Biology Teacher About Design.
    Dembski has also recently published a new book, The Design Revolution, “Answering the Toughest Questions About Intelligent Design” (InterVarsity, 2004).
Whatever is good, whatever is true, think on these things.
Next headline on:  Intelligent Design
The New Phrenology Ostracizes Neanderthals    01/27/2004
Scientists contrasted different points on Neanderthal skulls to modern human skulls, and concluded Neanderthals were a separate species.  The
New York Times report by John Noble Wilford says that not all scientists are convinced, however, by the analysis published by Katerina Harvati et al. in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences1 Jan. 26 (online preprints).
    Since parrots have better vocabulary and grammar than monkeys (see Jan. 20 entry), according to the BBC News, maybe scientists should redraw the ancestral tree of humans.
1Harvati, Frost and McNulty, “Neanderthal taxonomy reconsidered: Implications of 3D primate models of intra- and interspecific differences,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.0308085100, published online before print January 26, 2004.
These are such games that anthropologists play.  How much can be known from tiny differences in skull measurements?  How many differences are needed to call something a species, or a race, or a variety?  If you cannot prove they were not interfertile with humans, how can you arbitrarily define them out of the family?
   Don’t we remember the 19th century racists who used such data to outclass blacks and aborigines as separate species from the more “intellectually endowed” Europeans?  Other anthropologists looking at the same data have already concluded that Neanderthals had manual dexterity (see 03/27/2003) and compassion (see 09/11/2001).  They’re an easy target for today’s racists because they’re not here to defend themselves.  Maybe we need a Neanderthal Human Rights Society.
    Just giving bones a name and putting them in a group has propaganda value.  It creates a mental image of separateness, of “us” vs. “them.”  Would an unbiased observer, unfamiliar with the name Neanderthal, looking at a large collection representing all the diversity of human bones, from pygmy to Watusi, from Asian to European, from diseased to healthy, be so quick to create a separate species out of these individuals?  The Neanderthal controversy is an endless storytelling fest that, like a teeter totter, never comes to any firm conclusion, nor is likely to, since we cannot interview Mr. and Mrs. Neanderthal.  Without Darwinian assumptions the controversy would fizzle out.  It’s the Darwinian assumptions that give these storytellers welfare checks when they should be out making tools and hunting meat.
Next headline on:  Early ManDumb Ideas
Early Oxygen Causes Evolutionary Gasps   01/24/2004
The rise of oxygen in the primitive Earth’s atmosphere has been pushed back 100 million more years, according to Sid Perkins writing for the Jan. 24 issue of
Science News.  This is based on studies of sediments in South Africa.  Though estimated at just a millionth of today’s concentrations, the finding comes as a surprise.  “Previous research suggested that the atmosphere before 2.45 billion years ago was almost devoid of oxygen,” according to Heinrich Holland, a Harvard geochemist whose report was presented in the Jan. 8 issue of Nature.1  Perkins says it is impossible to know if that was the first indication oxygen was present.
1Bekker and Holland, “Dating the rise of atmospheric oxygen,” Nature 427(Jan. 8):117-120.
Oxygen is good for people but bad for the origin of life.  Even a tiny amount is poison to an evolving cell.  The more secular geologists push oxygen back into their timeline, the more it will strain the credibility of the claim life arose from chemicals on a primitive earth.
    The point is not that they can know such things as 2.45 billion year dates or concentrations of ancient oxygen by examining present-day minerals.  The point is that their story is inconsistent with reality no matter which way you slice it.  Presuming there was no oxygen at all in an atmosphere of water vapor is unreasonable.  Presuming the earth is that old is unproveable.  Presuming that chemicals could evolve into a living machine is asinine.  Is there a thread of rationality left in this story?  The Midianites are destroying themselves as the Gideonites look on.
Next headline on:  GeologyOrigin of LifeDating Methods
La Brea Tar Pits Trap Scientists   01/24/2004
Sid Perkins of
Science News dropped in at La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, and got stuck, not in tar, but in the sticky evolutionary interpretations of these world-famous fossil deposits.  This fossil bed, right in one of the ritziest parts of Los Angeles (adjacent to the County Art Museum), Perkins whimsically calls “L.A.’s oldest tourist trap” because of the many mammals and birds that once paid a visit, never to exit again.  Even roaches checked in, but they didn’t check out.  Millions of bones have been uncovered at the site, making it one of the richest Pleistocene fossil deposits in the world.
    The standard explanation of the fossils is that herbivores became trapped in the gooey tar.  Carnivores and birds of prey, leaping on the easy meals, became trapped also, and all sank together into the sticky preservative  The tale is not without its mysteries, however:

  • Disarticulation.  The bones are completely jumbled. 
    One of the most conspicuous findings from a census of bones is the near absence of complete skeletons.
  • Carnivore ratios.  A large majority of bones are from carnivores:
    In a result that counters intuition, bones of predators were almost seven times as common in Pit 91 as were those of prey.  Overall, an estimated 80 percent of the mammals were carnivores, and 60 percent of the birds were birds of prey.  That’s a surprise, says [John] Harris [curator of the museum at the site], since the number of herbivores in a stable ecosystem always outnumbers the predators by a wide margin.
        Presumably, Perkins suggests, “Each herbivore entrapment probably triggered a feeding frenzy that resulted in up to a dozen predators being trapped as well.”
  • Skull to limb ratios.  Most of the bones are skulls:
    Of the seven mammal species that the team analyzed from Pit 91, skulls and jawbones were collected most often.  Only half as many limb bones were recovered as would be expected from the number of heads retrieved.
    One possibility is that trapped herbivores, like bison or sloths, became tired and fell on their sides, exposing only one set of ribs and limbs to the meat-eaters.  But the same puzzle exists with the carnivore bones:
    Even carnivores became sitting ducks; the predators’ limb bones don’t show up in the pits in the proportions expected if their carcasses had escaped scavengers.  Dire wolves, an ice age predator larger than today’s gray wolf, appear to have been scavenged less often than the saber-toothed cats.  However, the large numbers of missing bones among any of La Brea’s meat eaters is surprising, says [Blair] Van Valkenburgh [of UCLA].  Modern carnivores rarely feed on other large carnivores, even when carcasses are available, she notes.
  • Isotope Ratios.  Scientists trying to deduce the last meal of victims by measuring isotopes of carbon and nitrogen in the bones found some puzzles:
    The carbon-isotope ratios found in the bones of dire wolves that lived 30,000 and 15,000 years ago have proved mysterious because they can’t be explained by the consumption of herbivores, such as bison, horses, and turkeys, known to be living in the La Brea ecosystem at that time.
        A hypothesis is offered is that the wolves had eaten seafood, perhaps sea lions, at the coast – but that is nine miles away.
  • Clean bones.  The bones show little exposure to the elements:
    Several characteristics of the fossil bones suggest that the remains of trapped animals sank quickly into the tar, the researchers note.  First, 93 percent of the bones show no sign of exposure to the weather.  Almost half of the specimens show little or none of the outer-surface abrasion that indicates, for example, the scouring action of sediments.  Finally, only 2 percent of the bones show any evidence that they had been gnawed or chewed by scavengers.
    This remarkable site, encompassing about 23 acres, has yielded “the remains of more than 650 species, including at least 60 mammal species, 140 types of plants, 120 varieties of insects, and 60 species of snails and other mollusks” during the past century of excavation, and current paleontologists have a huge backlog to inventory.  The fossils include many extinct mammals, such as “dwarf pronghorn antelopes, short-faced bears, ground sloths, and the North American versions of lions and camels,” (as well as mastodons, mammoths and one human skeleton), along with bones of all the current L.A. mammals “with the curious exception of opossums.”  Visitors to the attractive George C. Page Museum can watch scientists and volunteers at work separating the specimens from the matrix using fine brushes and picks – a painstaking, time-consuming process.
    1Sid Perkins, “L.A.’s Oldest Tourist Trap: At Rancho La Brea, death has been the pits for millennia,” Science News, Week of Jan. 24, 2004; Vol. 165, No. 4.
    Perkins ends with an anecdote about 60 cedar waxwings getting stuck in a tar seep last November, indicating that animals still get trapped.  The problem is, cedar waxwings are not birds of prey.  The fossil birds of prey outnumbered non-carnivorous birds 60% to 40%.  In this case, he surely would have mentioned if 90 eagles or vultures had been seen swooping onto the trapped songbirds.  The facts indicate that the present is not the key to the past.
       There’s always a story one can weave to explain away hard facts, but La Brea exemplifies a sticky situation for evolutionists.  In fact, there are even more serious problems at La Brea that Perkins did not mention.  (Thanks to William Weston for the following, from results of his independent research involving many visits to the site for years; you can read parts of his report at the Creation Research Society website.)  Add these pieces to the puzzle:
    1. Hard-packed asphalt.  From the earliest days of discovery, no large pools or lakes of asphalt were ever reported at La Brea.  Only small tar seeps, too small to trap large mammals, were ever seen.  Most of the site consisted of hard pavement-like asphalt that could easily be walked on by a mastodon or bison or camel.  The large lake seen there today was artificially produced later from an asphalt quarry operation that was filled in with water.  (Yet plastic mastodons were later installed as if sinking into the lake, to mislead the public.)  Visitors today can find a couple of small oozing seeps, but no large expanses of tar that presumably trapped millions of prehistoric animals.  Perkins suggests that the asphalt softened during hot seasons, but that does not happen today, and is just a story without observational support.
    2. Narrow pits.  The notion of tar ‘pits’ is a myth.  The ‘pits’ are narrow, funnel-shaped assemblages of fossils embedded in asphalt and sand.  Of the pits excavated, only seven showed dense concentrations of fossils.  None of them is large enough to imagine trapping a huge mammal, yet mammoth and mastodon bones have been found in them.  (Weston shows a cartoon of a mammoth on a high platform trying to dive into one of the funnels and scrunch his body into it.)  They give the impression of being blowholes from oil shale underneath.  Weston describes one of them:
      The seven major fossil-bearing pits were of various sizes.  On average, they were about 15 feet in diameter and tapered down 25 feet to a hole several inches wide. ... One unusual pit was only four feet wide.  Designated as Pit 16, it had vertical sides that went down 21 feet before it tapered three more feet to the typical three-inch-wide chimney.  Somehow numerous animals including dire wolves, saber-tooth cats, coyotes, camels, bison, horses, and even the bulky mastodon had managed to squeeze themselves into a hole not much wider than a bathtub.
    3. Radiocarbon date improbabilities.  Carbon-14 dates in Pit 9 were claimed to indicate 38,000 years old at the bottom and 13,500 years at the top.  For the pit to be a death trap, that means the tar would have had to remain liquefied for about 24,000 years.  Yet crude oil emerging from the ground begins to thicken and harden immediately when exposed to the air, forming a crust.  Sunlight, heat and oxidation all harden tar relatively quickly.  Therefore, “the existence of open pits of tar that could trap animals over a period of thousands of years,” Weston says, “must be regarded as highly improbable.”
    4. More on the carnivore ratios.  Weston’s figures show 85% of the total number of animals as carnivores, and 70% of the birds as being flesh-eating.  “The uncontested leader is the eagle,” he points out.  “It is puzzling why eagles would be so vulnerable to entrapment.  Not only are they quite rare when compared to such teeming populations as pigeons and doves, but they are also larger and more muscular and thus less likely to be victimized.”
    5. Observational ratios.  When modern animals and birds are found to become stuck in tar seeps, they match the expected carnivore to herbivore ratios.  Weston provides a reported example from 1934 with 131 birds of 13 species trapped.  The non-carnivorous birds outnumbered the birds of prey 22 to 1, similar to the expected balance in nature.
    6. Few waterfowl.  Wading birds like ducks and geese would presumably be the most likely to suffer entrapment (picture a whole flock settling down together into an oily lake and, surprise!).  But the largest category of non-predatory birds found was the turkey – a land-roving bird.
    7. Dense packing.  The bones were tightly packed together, and even insect parts, including wings and antennae, were found in the eye sockets of the skulls.  Finding any connected parts of an animal, even an insect, was extremely rare.  “In addition,” Weston writes, “the bones were in an entangled mass, closely pressed together, and interlocked in all possible ways.”  Most showed breakage and grooves or depressions.  Presumably bubbles in the tar agitated the fossils, but again, that is not observed happening today.
    8. Waterlogged wood.  Stumps of water-saturated wood were found in some pits.  Bones were found adjacent to “uprooted stumps or torn branches that were heavy with water.”  An early excavator said, “The disposition of this brush and associated material as well as markings on the brush itself, indicate that this stuff was all washed in.”
    These facts indicate that something is seriously wrong with the entrapment story being fed to the public at the George C. Page Museum at the site.  Taken together, the observations seem to point to a catastrophe of some sort.  Weston has a version: he believes carnivores were concentrated on hilltops as flood waters were rising, and were the last to drown.  Their bones, last to settle to the bottom, were disarticulated and concentrated by currents and washed into depressions where gas and oil seeps had formed from underwater blowholes.
        Whether or not you find this scenario more plausible than the entrapment story, why shouldn’t the public be told all the facts, including the many problems with the standard model?  This case fits the evolutionists’ propaganda strategy we see so often.  They start by assuming evolution and long ages, and then weave a just-so story around the facts that caters to the imaginary idea of long periods of slow, gradual evolution.  Uncomfortable facts are swept under the rug or dismissed with just-so subplots.
        The last exhibit at the Page Museum is especially grievous.  A large wall mural portrays the grand drama of cosmic evolution, starting with a presumed origin of life from random chemicals at the top, down through millions of years of biological evolution, a recorded voice reciting the whole glittering generality to the enraptured visitors.  They look and listen in reverence as more and more complex life emerges, until finally, an astronaut at the end of the imaginary timeline leaps out into the cosmos from which he ultimately sprang.  Now for crying out loud, the La Brea story does not even cover millions of years.  Even assuming the Darwin Party’s own time scale, the Pleistocene epoch represents only the last one tenth of one percent of the geologic column.  Yet this is the mythology with which millions of visitors, including a large percentage of public school children on field trips, is indoctrinated, in spite of the facts.  Is there a righteous cause here?
        P.S.  By the way, word has it that the late benefactor, George C. Page, whose largesse paid for the museum, was a creationist.
    Next headline on:  FossilsMammalsBirdsDarwinism and Evolutionary Theory
    Should Cosmologists Get Worried Yet?    01/23/2004
    The unexpected finding of mature galaxies in the early universe (see
    01/02/2004) has Robert Irion worried, but he seems surprised the theorists are not.  Reporting on last week’s meeting of the American Astronomical Society in the Jan. 23 issue of Science,1 he titles his article, “Early Galaxies Baffle Observers, But Theorists Shrug.”  He begins:
    “It’s not quite time for theorists to panic, but we’re getting there,” said astronomer Roberto Abraham of the University of Toronto, Canada, after announcing his group’s discovery of a startling number of mature galaxies in the young universe.  But although the finding seemed to undermine the standard view of how matter assembled, theorists have respectfully declined to sound the alarm.
    The results from the Gemini Sky Survey seem to contradict the neat “hierarchical model” of galaxy formation, that galaxies gradually built up from small components over billions of years.  He quotes astronomers like Joel Primack (UC Santa Cruz) who are not too worried about it – yet.  He thinks the standard model explains the dark matter haloes of galaxies fairly well.  But the hardest problem in astrophysics, the one they understand least of all, is the stars themselves: “But they fail to explain why the bright lights within the lumps--great waves of star formation that spawned visible galaxies--turned on when and where they did,” Irion points out.
        In a related article, reporting on the same AAS meeting, Irion asks if star formation is an extreme sport.2  Three new findings he heard about, which suggest extremely violent events going on in space, cause him to suggest that “theories of star birth haven’t properly considered the roles of violent, impulsive events.”
    1Robert Irion, “Early Galaxies Baffle Observers, But Theorists Shrug,” Science Volume 303, Number 5657, Issue of 23 Jan 2004, p. 460.
    2Robert Irion, “Star Formation—An Extreme Sport?” Science Volume 303, Number 5657, Issue of 23 Jan 2004, pp. 460-461.
    It’s not a problem.  Everything is under control.  Our model can handle it.  (The last words of a dying paradigm.)
    Next headline on:  AstronomyCosmology
    Minnesota Debates Darwin Teaching    01/22/2004
    Minnesota is next in line in the Darwin wars.  This science framework writing committee has taken the unusual step of submitting two drafts to the legislature, a majority report with the usual Darwin-only rule, and a minority with two improvements, according to Seth Cooper of the
    Discovery Institute:
    The first benchmark improvement proposed by the minority report requires students to be able to distinguish between changes existing within species (microevolution) and the emergence of new species and changes above the species level (macroevolution).  The second would require students to be able to describe “how scientists continue to critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory.”
    As an advocate for “teaching the controversy” about evolution, Cooper believes Minnesota is in a unique position to “improve teaching of evolution and avoid extremes” – i.e., straight Darwinism without the problems vs. religious views of creation.  Teaching the controversy, he believes, is the option most likely to succeed.  The majority (Darwin-only) report ignored the expressed feelings of a majority of citizens who testified at public hearings last year, but the minority report at least understands that there is some controversy.  Cooper explains,
    “The debate over how best to teach evolution has devolved into an either-or argument that threatens science education in our schools,” said Cooper.  “But there is another approach laid out in the minority report --teach the scientific controversy.  Instead of pretending there is no debate over Darwin’s theory we should use it to further educate students about the scientific controversy surrounding evolutionary theory.”
    Cooper points out that the minority report is also in line with the official position of Congress as stated in the conference report of the “No Child Left Behind” Act.  In fact,
    “Last fall, Commissioner [Cheri] Yecke [Education Commissioner] received a letter from Congress stressing that this guidance in the No Child Left Behind Act Conference Report was the official position of Congress on science education.  The letter was signed by Minnesota Congressman John Kline and Congressman John Boehner, chairman of the U.S. House Education and the Workforce Committee.
    The position is summarized: “Congress urged states to present “the full range of scientific views” on controversial topics “such as biological evolution.”
    What’s so wrong with that?  Who could disagree with that?  The Darwin Party, that’s who.  They know that their position can only survive in a vacuum, in which data supporting their position is carefully selected and deceptively presented, without rebuttal.  Since the Darwinian revolution, they have the power, and power corrupts.
        If you are a student, you have power, too.  No matter how hard the NCSE fights, no matter how much the Darwin Party schemes, and no matter how the vote goes, you can always raise your hand.
    Next headline on:  EducationPolitics and EthicsDarwinism and Evolutionary Theory
    Sex and Gender Cannot Be Separated    01/22/2004
    A study of male children born with a rare birth defect called cloacal exstrophy demonstrates that sexual identity is biologically determined, not a result of upbringing.  The report in
    Science Now shows that most of the boys identified themselves as male early on, even though unaware of their condition and “raised as girls” under doctor’s advice.  Mary Beckman ends the article:
    The work is “another nail in the coffin” of the idea that gender identity is determined by the environment in which children grow up, says endocrinologist Daniel Federman of Harvard Medical School in Boston.  He says the finding lends support to current thinking that aspects of gender identity are set up during intrauterine development.
    Her article is called, “Once a male, always a male.”  The study by Reiner and Gearhart is in the 22 January issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.
    To be happiest, be what you were created to be.  Don’t blame God or bad science for your problems.
        There is another identity we all have, male and female, that cannot be extinguished by coercion, environment, or misdirection: we are creatures made in the image of God, and our hearts are not at rest till they find rest in Him.
    Next headline on:  Human BodyHealth.
    Mars’ Gusev Crater May Be Dry    01/22/2004
    Preliminary indications from the spectrometer on Spirit, the rover exploring Gusev Crater on Mars, may dash hopes for those looking for evidence of past water there.  According to the
    NASA-JPL press release, the signature of olivine has been found.  Olivine degrades in water, even at near-freezing temperatures, and it weathers easily.  It is not known if the olivine is present in the soil or in the rock underneath.  Its presence, however, casts doubt on whether the area was ever under water.  The “wet-Marsers” might hold onto hope if perhaps the olivine was blown in from other locations in dust storms, but it is possible the floor of the crater consists of finely ground volcanic dust that was never wet.
        Further corroboration is currently on hold, unfortunately, pending resolution of a serious communication anomaly with Spirit.  This occurred the very day it was scheduled to grind a rock the team named Adirondack for more clues.  The incident occurred just two days before the rover’s twin, Opportunity is scheduled to begin its “six minutes of terror” descent to the opposite side of the planet.  Opportunity’s goal, Meridiani Planum, bears the spectral signature of hematite.  Because hematite forms most readily in the presence of water, this makes Meridiani another prime target in the search for past liquid water on Mars.
        The European Space Agency is celebrating the arrival of Mars Express.  It just returned its first spectacular high-resolution color pictures from orbit, as partial compensation for the loss of Beagle 2.
    Best wishes to the team for the resolution of the problem with Spirit and a happy landing for Opportunity.  If worse comes to the worst for Spirit, at least it got two weeks of spectacular images, including this rear shot of the landing platform.  The landing caught the attention of the whole world.  Hits at the JPL Mars Exploration website surpassed all previous records, with traffic reaching 7 Gb/sec.
        All humans who prefer data over speculation should support these heroic efforts to explore space.  An ounce of data is worth a pound of speculation.  Getting that ounce from the surface of Mars is very, very challenging.  It also makes for a great adventure story on this 200th anniversary of the Lewis and Clark expedition.
    Next headline on:  Mars
    Why You Need Sleep    01/21/2004
    A study in the
    Jan. 22 issue of Nature1 claims that sleep gives you inspiration.  Sleep is not just a waste of a third of your day; it helps consolidate memories, and provides pivotal insights.  “Insight denotes a mental restructuring that leads to a sudden gain of explicit knowledge allowing qualitatively changed behaviour,” the five researchers explain.  Human subjects trained in a new task uncovered a “hidden rule” after sleep, regardless of time of day.  Various aspects of their experiments led the team to conclude that “sleep, by restructuring new memory representations, facilitates extraction of explicit knowledge and insightful behaviour.”
    1Wagner, Gais, Haider, Verleger and Born, “Sleep inspires insight,” Nature 427, 352 - 355 (22 January 2004); doi:10.1038/nature02223.
    Don’t feel guilty about sleep.  Everything has its purpose, even letting your mind wander as your body goes limp in horizontal position once a day.  A lot is going on in that brain.  So now you have new justification for that power nap.  But sleep after the boss’s meeting, not during.  (Same rule applies to the Sunday sermon.)
    Next headline on:  Human Body
    Monkey See, Monkey No Comprendo    01/20/2004
    In 19th century mythology, a
    million monkeys might type the works of Shakespeare by chance, given millions of years.  But monkeys would make lousy computer programmers, because they cannot understand the “if-then” construction.  Comparison studies on humans and monkeys showed that while the monkeys could be trained to recognize when one word is followed by another, they cannot get the rules of recursive grammar into their heads.  Trainers tried to get them to follow a simple rule, such as one to three words spoken by a male trainer are followed by the same pattern of words spoken by a female trainer.  Since human volunteers had no such difficulty, even when previously unfamiliar with the rule, the scientists deduced that recursive logic is a uniquely human trait.  New Scientist discusses the interpretation of David Premack, a renowned primate language expert:
    Mastery of the underlying rule of recursion is the key to human flexibility, Premack believes, allowing humans to think in the abstract, use metaphors and comprehend concepts such as time.  It probably arose as the brain evolved into a more complex organ, but is not located in a single brain region.
    The study by Hauser and Fitch was published in last week’s Science,1 along with commentary by Premack.2
        In their report, MSNBC News tantalized with “How humans got the gift of gab,” but failed to satisfy: “Language is at the very core of what makes us human, though how we evolved this ability has provoked intense debate.”  Somehow, it evolved (they don’t quite know how), but whatever happened, it made all the difference:
    Whatever it is about the brain that allows such linguistic flexibility may also be key to the human imagination, according to Premack.  Unlike other animals, which specialize in various skills, humans are supremely adaptable, able to learn new tasks and develop new technologies.  “Human intelligence and evolution are the only flexible processes on Earth capable of producing endless solutions to the problems confronted by living creatures,” Premack writes.

    1Fitch and Hauser, “Computational Constraints on Syntactic Processing in a Nonhuman Primate,” Science 01/16/2003, 10.1126/science.1089401.
    2David Premack, “Is Language the Key to Human Intelligence?” Science 01/16/2003, 10.1126/science.1093993.
    That line makes Premack winner of Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week.  The BBC News is runner-up with its very misleading headline, “Monkeys ‘grasp basic grammar’,” which the body of the article debunks.  But hold the presses!  Should we give it instead to National Geographic News for this line attributed to Premack?  “Evolution, being endlessly clever, might produce words that don’t require teaching, but until it does, it is not clear how any species other than humans could evolve language.”
        The whole experiment is pretty suspect.  How can a trainer know what a monkey is thinking just by watching bodily reactions, when their little pea-brains are in a constant state of flux, switching attention to whatever provides instant gratification?  The distance between their comprehension and that of speaking human is enormous, with no intermediates.  Yet article after article just assumes that mindless processes of evolution bridged this gap somehow.
        Don’t you just get sick of it?  The evolutionists blow smoke rings around readers’ necks that strangle by suggestion.  There’s nothing of substance here to choke off debate, but suckers are so awestruck by the wizards that they pass out as if slain in the spirit of Charlie.  It’s all a trick.
        Evolution is an idol, savvy?  Having no eyes, it sees not, and having no ears, it hears not.  Evolution has no power to evolve language or any complex system.  It is not, standing alongside human intelligence, “a flexible process that can produce endless solutions to problems.”  This is playing word games; it’s an unmitigated myth based on association and bluffing.  Natural selection is the opposite of intelligence.  It is the opposite of problem-solving.  It is the opposite of flexibility.  It says “survive or perish” but not “evolve or perish”, because it contains no mechanism for producing beneficial variation.  And you want beneficial variation to come from mutations – mistakes?  Get a life.
        Evolutionists never explain how natural selection could do such a thing as evolving recursive language skill; they merely claim that it did do it.  If you can’t accept it, well obviously, you just don’t have the faith, brother.  Don’t put your faith in an idol that is toppling (10/14/2003).
    Next headline on:  Early ManDumb Ideas
    Editorial   01/20/2004
    In the upcoming cover story of
    World Magazine (Jan. 24), Gene Edward Veith writes on “Considering the heavens.”  Interacting with Space Shuttle astronaut Col Jeffrey Williams, Veith looks to a Christian view of space travel, bringing in the work and ideas of Copernicus, Galileo, Pascal, Dante, Milton, C. S. Lewis and others.  He ends on a positive note, that Biblical faith should encourage the exploration of space.
    Read his essay for the reasons.  Some moderns think the immensity of space argues against a Biblical cosmology, but does it?  He makes an interesting point: materialists would use opposite findings to discredit Christianity.  They say, if we were alone in such a vast universe, how could God care about us?  But then they say, If the universe were filled with life, how could God care about us?  Maybe materialists want to avoid God no matter what the evidence.
        The Bible teaches a vast universe, and stars as numerous as the sand on the seashore.  That’s different from the mythological universes of other ancient peoples.  But to Bible characters, the immensity of space only magnified the character of God.  The heavens declare His glory and should humble us, as taught in two classic Bible passages on cosmology, Psalm 8 and Psalm 19.
    Next headline on:  CosmologyThe Bible.
    How and Why Whiskers Whisk    01/20/2004
    Scientists at Weizmann Institute found some interesting things about whiskers, reports
    EurekAlert.  While working with rats, they noticed that the whiskers are always in motion, twitching and sensing objects around them.  They discovered that two kinds of neurons are involved in sending whisker signals to the brain.  The “whisking” neurons are active all the time, whether or not the whiskers feel any objects.  When an object is touched, “touch” neurons come into play.  Some detect the first touch, some send a signal when touch is lost, and others relay information during the duration of contact.  The report says this indicates that “perception is a dynamic dance in which hands, eyes and whiskers move towards the world to actively seek out sensation.”
    It wouldn’t be surprising if this neurological response is active all over the body, even in human skin.  Skin has tiny vellum hairs all over, even on the palms of the hands.  Consider how your skin is sensitive to the slightest brush, even without touch if static electricity is about.  Probably similar neurons are involved.  All these sensations require specialized neurons and a brain that can process them.
        Wonder how touch sensation differs between women and hairier men.  Wonder what beards are for.  Are they just for looks, or do they have functions related to typical male roles?  They do seem to amplify the touch response.  Do they provide sensory data when crawling through dark caves?  Protection from the cold while hunting mammoths?  Are they wind indicators?  Love handles?  Maybe this will stimulate some experiments to prove they are not just vestigial leftovers of ape ancestry but have a function.  If it’s there, there’s probably a reason for it.  Maybe you shavers should stop depriving yourself of vital sensory information.
        Kids might want to experiment on the pet cat (gently).  Watch how much the cat whiskers twitch in wake and sleep.  Observe different reactions to touch, temperature, prolonged touch, stroking, and release.  Tell the kid that pulling is not allowed, on the cat or Dad.
    Next headline on:  MammalsAmazing Facts
    Live at the Improv: DNA Polymerase   01/20/2004
    When a DNA reader hits an unfamiliar line, it improvises, reports
    EurekAlert:
    Prof. Zvi Livneh and Ph.D. student Ayelet Maor-Shoshani of the Biological Chemistry Department cut a DNA strand — from the bacterium E. coli — and inserted material similar to that which composes crude oil in between both its ends.  As expected, the regular DNA polymerase stopped working when it reached the foreign material.  Yet to the scientists’ amazement, a specialized DNA polymerase jumped in to rescue the stalled replication process, and continued the copying process, inserting nonexistent genetic components into the “printout’ when it encountered the foreign material.  This can be compared to a person who forgets some words in a song and makes up new ones to be able to continue to sing.
    The scientists believe this capability provides resilience against damaged DNA, except in the most extreme cases:
    True, when DNA polymerase improvises a tune, errors (i.e. mutations) may occur in the new cells’ DNA.  Yet Livneh explains that the body cannot feasibly let all cells with damaged DNA die, for there are too many of them.  “Only if the DNA contains a very high level of damage will the cell’s machinery ‘give up’ and let the cell die.”
    The number of coded mechanisms keeping us alive is astonishing.  Given all the things that could go wrong, it makes you wonder how the human race survives for even a few generations, let alone thousands of years.  Molecular machines in the cell are multi-talented and well trained, and now even skilled at improvisation.  Be thankful your gene readers know all that jazz.
    Next headline on:  Genetics and DNAAmazing Facts
    Does Microevolution Add Up?   01/15/2004
    Do numerous small changes add up to big ones, like Darwin thought?  In the
    Jan. 15 issue of Nature,1 New Zealand kiwi David Penny (Allan Wilson Center for Molecular Ecology and Evolution, Massey University) is hopeful that the new chimp genome will prove it so:
    The fundamental issue here is Darwin’s bold claim that “numerous, successive, slight modifications” are sufficient for all of evolution (Fig. 1 [a photo of a group of chimpanzees]).  This can be paraphrased, in later terms, as “microevolution is sufficient to explain macroevolution”.  The historical context is that evolutionary biology can be divided into two phases: first, the acceptance in the 1860s that evolution (macroevolution) had indeed occurred; second, the realization in the mid-1900s that the processes of microevolution (natural selection working through genetics) were necessary for evolution to occur.
    Although the chimp genome is still in a preliminary draft stage, Penny points to some early results by A.G. Clark that suggest there has been some “positive selection” between ape and human genes, compared to the mouse genome:
    Use of the mouse genome as an outgroup allows estimates of the number of synonymous (silent) mutations and non-synonymous (replacement) mutations.  The ratio of the two permits the potential identification of genes that have been under positive selection in humans as opposed to chimpanzees, and vice versa.
    “Not surprisingly,” he then says, ”selective changes occur in both the human and chimpanzee lineages (our common ancestor was neither chimp nor human).”  Like what?  He points to one example Clark found: enzymes for amino acid breakdown appear to have been under positive selection.  What does it mean?
    This is concordant with the generally high proportion of meat (and thus protein) in the human diet, at least in comparison with the more herbivorous chimpanzee and gorilla.  The increased capacity to break down amino acids is not surprising in another respect.  For example, failure to catabolize phenylalanine has several adverse effects, including brain damage.  Overall, the finding lends support to theories that an increased proportion of meat in the diet of early humans was important for an increase in brain size.  Regardless of that, there could also be ethical implications.  If early humans ate meat ‘naturally’, then for example being vegetarian could be considered a personal choice rather than a universal ethical decision.  But all that can be claimed here is that scientific knowledge will be necessary, even if not sufficient, for solving such ethical questions.
    The only other case of possible positive selection are differences in smelling genes between apes and men.  Some genes seem to be under positive selection, while others seem to be becoming inactive as pseudogenes.  This work is an example, he thinks, of how evolutionary comparative genomics can stimulate research:
    These results illustrate how genome-wide information will stimulate new experiments, both at the level of gene expression and with the aim of making physiological comparisons.  What, for instance, is the comparative sensitivity of humans and chimps to a range of olfactory stimuli?  Do humans have an improved receptivity to odours from the increased proportion of meat and/or cooked foods in our diet?  Such tests will allow us to see how genetic differences manifest themselves at the level of the organism, and we can expect a burst of experiments to that end.
    He touches on other questions: how important is neutral selection?  How can one tell differences in the rates of gene expression?  Do differences in gene expression occur more with conserved genes, or with those undergoing positive selection?  Will these studies help nail down mutation rates?  What is the sustainable reproduction rate?  “If the proportion of deleterious and slightly deleterious mutations is significant,” he notes, “then exact replacement reproductive rates might lead to eventual genetic decline.”  (That doesn’t worry him as much as “the planet's ecological sustainability,” a “a much more immediate worry.”)
        These are tastes of the “plenty of food for thought” that he thinks Clark’s initial studies elicit.  The chimp genome project marches along.  Penny concludes,
    The full sequence will be available later this year, and further comparative analyses should lead to a definite answer as to whether there is anything in the human genome that is not accounted for by the normal microevolutionary processes.  Is there a genetic continuum between us and our ancestors and the great apes?  If there is, then we can say that these processes are genetically sufficient to fully account for human uniqueness – and that would be my candidate for the top scientific problem solved in the first decade of the new millennium.

    1David Penny, “Evolutionary biology: Our relative genetics,” Nature 427, 208 (15 January 2004); doi:10.1038/427208a.
    Ahem.  Why are you asking this question?  Here we are, 150 years after Darwin remade the scientific world, and you still don’t know whether numerous, successive slight modifications could make a man out of an ape?
        Notice the wild, unconstrained, bluffing imagination of David Penny.  He takes a few genes that seem to differ in their ability to break down some amino acids, and suddenly we have scientific information on (1) diet, (2) evolution of the brain, and (3) ethics.  Incredible.  In any other field of inquiry, such unjustified extrapolation from meager data would be scorned.  But since Penny is an evolutionary biologist, he gets away with it and his tall tale gets published in all seriousness in Nature, the most esteemed scientific journal in the world.  Why?
        It’s important to know something about the Darwinian Revolution.  What happened in 1859 was not just the announcement of a new scientific theory.  It was a fundamental change in the way science is done.  Prior to Darwin, scientists (mostly theists and creationists) believed strongly in proof.  “Nothing on mere authority” was the motto of the Royal Society.  Scientists were careful to distinguish between speculations and facts that were demonstrable through experiment.
        But with Darwin, the standards were lowered.  It became permissible to just speculate about a natural phenomenon (see quotation at top right of this page).  Proof was no longer required: Darwin elevated the esteem of the hypothesis in science.
        Despite the outrage of many scientists of the period, Darwin’s admirers, including John Stuart Mill, Karl Marx and Herbert Spencer, recognized the essence of what Darwin had done: he had opened up a new framework for storytelling.  They freely admitted that Darwin had not proved his case.  Darwin himself understood that his theory lacked an explanation for variation, for inheritance, or for speciation, and that he had not actually demonstrated any transformations.  Most of the alleged evidence that was adduced in The Origin in support of his hypothesis of natural selection was (1) circumstantial, (2) based on analogy with domestic breeding, or (3) negative theological argument (i.e., “a Designer would not have done it this way”) – an example of the either-or fallacy.  But none of this lack of scientific proof mattered, because Darwin had changed the rules of science to incorporate mere speculation.  Notice what John Stuart Mill said:
    Mr. Darwin’s remarkable speculation on the origin of species is another unimpeachable example of a legitimate hypothesis. . . . It is unreasonable to accuse Mr. Darwin (as has been done) of violating the rules of induction.  The rules of induction are concerned with the condition of proof.  Mr. Darwin has never pretended that his doctrine was proved.  He was not bound by the rules of induction but by those of hypothesis.  And these last have seldom been more completely fulfilled.  He has opened a path of inquiry full of promise, the results of which none can foresee.  (cited in Janet Browne, Charles Darwin: The Power of Place [Princeton, 2002], p. 186.)
    Some of those results we see with hindsight: eugenics, communism, and Nazism.  Wake up, people!  Don’t you see what has happened?  The rules of science were changed!  Proof was out.  Hypothesis (read: speculation, imagination) was in. 
        Let’s get something straight.  Hypothesis is not science.  Hypothesis comes before science.  A hypothesis is merely the hunch, the guess, the heuristic device a scientist uses to begin his experiments that, hopefully, will prove or disprove the hypothesis.  Yes, it takes a good hypothesis to produce good science; Faraday might not have achieved such success without the hunch that the forces of electricity and magnetism were related.  But the hypothesis is not blessed as science until it is proven.  What Darwin did was to create the open-ended hypothesis that no longer required proof.  As emphatically and clearly stated above by John Stuart Mill (the economist whose theories found support in Darwin’s view of a competitive, dog-eat-dog world), Darwin had opened a path of inquiry.  The means was now the end.
        Darwin’s hypothesis freed up writers’ block for lots of storytellers in other fields.  Economists like Mill and Marx (for different reasons) were attracted to the image of cutthroat competition.  Politicians found justification for colonialism and expansion of the British Empire.  Racists liked the idea of survival of the fittest (themselves being, of course, the fittest).  It gave artists new themes for sweeping dramatic landscapes.  It gave poets like Tennyson and Browning new themes for probing the human condition.   Composers, psychologists, industrialists, comedians, novelists, journalists, cartoonists and the man on the street all began to look at the world with this new framework.  It didn’t matter whether the framework was supported on a solid foundation of fact.  The play was the thing.
        The problem with Darwin’s anti-Baconian New Atlantis was that hypotheses and speculations can be infinitely varied, endless yarns that, unless nailed down with factual proof, are no better than dreams and myths.  They may be dressed in scientific terms, but can be 180 degrees wrong.  Science was supposed to be a reliable methodology for obtaining truth about the natural world.  It was supposed to require not just a hypothesis, but a large accumulation of facts that actually supported the hypothesis, not just might support it.  But Darwinism brought in grand, sweeping glittering generalities incapable of proof.  It is also the reason most Darwinian stories in the journals are futureware: empty promises that the proof is out there, still waiting to be discovered, someday over the rainbow, once we find water on Mars, or once the chimp genome is finished, or whatever.  When the promised data are not helpful, no matter; just push the envelope a little farther out, and the story goes on.
        Now clearly, Darwin’s redefinition of science did spawn a lot of experimentation.  Darwin himself was almost obsessive-compulsive in his observations of orchids, barnacles and pigeons, as Janet Browne describes in her highly-acclaimed biography (recommended reading).  But most of this was a hunt for tidbits of data that might lend support to his hypothesis of natural selection.  None of it was proof.  Nothing he found demonstrated great transformations between any plants or animals: it just might have.  He was an advocate looking for support, no better than a cultist trying to proof-text his heresy with snippets of Bible verses that might be consistent with his preconceived hunch, whether or not the context justifies it.
        For instance, when Darwin eagerly sought evidence that honeybees had varied (Browne, p. 203), the evidence was negligible.  Did this falsify his hypothesis?  No way.  “In desperation,” Browne writes, “Darwin turned the question on its head: if there were no physical differences, perhaps there might be variations in behaviour?” (Ibid.)  Darwin set the example of having a hypothesis that was so flexible and imaginative, no amount of negative evidence could ever falsify it.  He opened the scientific world to storytellers, providing them welfare and job security (see 12/22/2003).
        That is why David Penny can write nonsense and get it published in a scientific journal.  That is why after 150 years, Darwin’s “path of inquiry” is still asking fundamental questions you thought Darwin had already answered.  This explains why Eugenie Scott, Michael Ruse and all the other Darwin Party advocates can bluff about the “rules of science” that guarantee perpetuation of Darwinism and exclude alternatives, no matter how much evidence contradicts it.  That is why most debaters against creationists focus so much time on either (1) circumstantial evidence, (2) analogies, and (3) negative theological arguments, instead of trying to prove Darwin’s hypothesis that numerous slight, successive modifications have indeed added up to major changes, from bacteria to man.  And that is why Darwin Party members are gainfully employed in their endless quest for tiny pieces of data that might be consistent with what has become the reigning mythology of our time.  Evolutionism itself evolves.  Like an animal presumably varying without purpose or design, evolutionary storytelling proceeds by mutation and selection (selective evidence, that is), wandering aimlessly in storyland.
        Unless the scientific community raises its standards and gets back to the requirement that a hypothesis is not science till proven, then this welfare state of storytellers will persist.  The public has been hoodwinked.  The charlatans have become the shamans.
    Next headline on:  Genetics and DNADarwinism and Evolutionary TheoryDumb Ideas
    Exercise:  Are there other hypotheses masquerading as science these days?  Characterize the following and others that come to mind as either supportable science or hypothetical storytelling: astrobiology, plate tectonics, the big bang theory, global warming, stellar evolution, dark matter, radiometric dating, sexual selection, game theory of altruism, phylogenetics, etc.  Support your answers.
    Fossil Worm: Does It Help Solve Cambrian Explosion Puzzle?   01/14/2004
    A soft embryo of a Cambrian worm, exquisitely preserved, makes Graham Budd (U. of Uppsala, Sweden) ask some hard questions about it and other recently-discovered embryo fossils in the
    Jan. 15 issue of Nature:1
    These fossils raise several questions, to say the least.  First, how could they possibly be preserved?  Second, why are they concentrated in a period (600-500 million years ago) that is already unfairly overstocked with exceptionally preserved fossils, such as those of the Burgess Shale in the Canadian Rockies?  Third, do they tell us anything about animal evolution?
    He spends most of his article on the third question, but seems to end up with more questions than answers about the “miraculous preservation of these embryos.”
    The BBC News has a report and pictures of the embryos.
    Ask yourself how soft tissues could be exquisitely mineralized and preserved for 600 million years, when many later fossils have been reworked by storms, glaciers, moving continents and asteroid impacts.  More interesting than the data that seem to fit the reigning myth are the anomalies that do not.  This find does nothing to help evolutionists in their Cambrian explosion predicament (08/21/2002).  Graham Budd has been pushed by the disconnect between his expectations and the facts to the ultimate no-no in science: invoking miracles.
    Next headline on:  Fossils
    Centromere Shows More Gems in “Junk DNA”    01/12/2004
    A biochemist at
    University of Wisconsin-Madison and a colleague sequenced a hard-to-sequence part of the rice genome, the centromere, and found four genes in it.  Previously, it was thought to be a vast wasteland of repetitive, non-coding DNA.  The scientist, Jiming Jiang, thinks his work provides a “window to evolution” of the centromere, according to writer Terry Devitt: “The evolutionary progression of the centromeres, Jiang suggests, may be analogous to how temperate forests evolve from more diverse ecosystems to climax forests where a single species of tree dominates.  In the rice centromere, it may be that evolution has not yet purged active genes to be replaced by the long and repetitive blocks of DNA that mark the centromeres of most organisms.”
    Where’s the evolution?  If you start with genes and end up with more junk, you’re going downhill.  He should be celebrating that junk DNA is not junk after all.  Only a committed Darwin Party member could make an evolutionary spin out of this data.  Just the facts, ham.
    Next headline on:  Genetics and DNA
    Your Bacteria Ancestors    01/12/2004
    Dr. Peter Antonelli thinks he has mathematically proven that all multicellular organisms, including plants and animals and human beings, came from two ancient bacteria that met and formed a stable, consistent relationship.  His boast is explained on a
    University of Alberta press release.  He thinks most biologists don’t comprehend his mathematical models yet, but EurekAlert thinks it all adds up.  Next, Antonelli is working on a unified mathematical model of ecological evolution.
    Antonelli seems to be a member of the Margulis sect of the Darwin Party.  The Woese sect will probably respond with their champion.  Numbers will crunch, but will the truth come out?  Don’t count on it.  Math could also distinguish which of any two mythologies are more likely.  We have a mathematical model that trumps all evolutionary myths with a sober reality check: click here.
    Next headline on:  Darwinism and Evolutionary TheoryDumb Ideas
    How Enzymes Work – But Don’t Ask Where They Came From: Just Believe    01/12/2004
    Enzymes are protein machines in the cell that speed up reactions that normally would proceed very slowly or not at all.  Four biochemists publishing in the
    Jan. 9 issue of Science1 describe the exquisite power of these biological catalysts: “Enzyme catalysis, which can produce rate accelerations as large as a factor of 1019, involves molecular recognition at the highest level of development.”  That figure represents a speed increase of 10 quintillion (see also 05/06/2003 entry).  After a brief review of efforts to understand enzymes, they remark that “An overview of our present understanding of enzyme catalysis is particularly timely because of the increasing number of articles that propose a variety of origins for enzyme catalysis,” of which they list the names of some proposals.  Their paper offers a framework that incorporates these proposals.
        They used rate theory and computer simulations to characterize some of the methods enzymes use to perform their specific reactions.  Their table lists sixteen different mechanisms used by sample enzymes from plants and animals.  Here is an example for tyrosine-tRNA synthetase:
    Enzyme-transition state and enzyme-intermediate complementarity help to stabilize the transition state of tyrosine activation and to shift the chemical equilibrium by seven orders of magnitude in the direction of the intermediate.  Loop motions induced by the chemical process are essential in creating these interactions and permitting access to the active site.   (For more on the tRNA-synthetase family of enzymes, see 07/21/2003 and 06/09/2003 entries.)
    After providing detailed mathematical analyses of these mechanisms, they conclude, “Evolutionary selection makes possible the development of enzymes that use a wide range of molecular mechanisms to facilitate reactions.  Although, in principle, such rate enhancements could arise from lowering the quasithermodynamic free energy of activation or increasing the generalized transmission coefficient, the present analysis shows that the former plays the dominant role.”  They feel that modern transition state theory is adequate to describe these processes.
    1Garcia-Viloca, Gao, Karplus, and Truhlar, “How Enzymes Work: Analysis by Modern Rate Theory and Computer Simulations,” Science 09 Jan 2004, 10.1126/science.1088172.
    It takes great faith to be an evolutionist.  In fact, their faith is so great, evolutionists could co-opt Jesus’ phrase to his disciples to admonish the average Christian: “O ye of little faith.”  Here, these scientists have just described protein machines so efficient and so accurate, they can speed up reactions by a factor of 10 quintillion.  They have described precise hand-and-glove fit of these protein machines, knowing that proteins are made up of long chains of amino acids whose sequence is critical to function.  They have described some that actually bend and twist as part of the mechanism, and listed numerous diverse ways they can work.  But then they attribute all this complexity and specificity to chance and unguided natural processes, saying “Evolutionary selection” makes it all possible.
        We had hoped they would help explain how these mechanisms arose from a random pool of chemicals.  After all, they had said in the introduction that an overview of enzyme catalysis was timely because of all the interest about its origins.  But you can search this paper for any explanation, and all you get are assumptions that natural selection did it somehow.  For instance: (1) “Studies of enzymes show that natural selection has developed many ways for lowering the quasithermodynamic activation free energy,” and (2) “Evolutionary selection makes possible the development of enzymes that use a wide range of molecular mechanisms to facilitate reactions.”
        It appears, therefore, that genuine faith in natural selection requires no theory or explanation.  It is an article of doctrine in which they can place implicit, child-like trust.  This is another example of the ubiquitous credulity of evolutionists.  These scientists are obviously smart people as evidenced by their skill at math and chemistry, but they show the most insipid easy-believism when bowing down to worship their idol in the Temple of Charlie, chanting “natural selection, natural selection the omnipotent, who alone works wonders.”  Talk about checking your brain at the door.
    Suggested reading: Evolution: Possible or Impossible?, portions of which are available online here.
    Next headline on:  Cell Biology and BiochemistryDarwinism and Evolutionary Theory
    Did Borax Evolve Into 20-Mule Teams?    01/09/2004
    You’re dating yourself if you remember the old TV western Death Valley Days, and its commercials about 20-Mule Team Borax.  (Mule teams actually did pull loads of borax from Death Valley to Mojave, quite a feat in those days, but that’s
    another story.)  In modern times, though, borax has made science news as a possible ingredient in the chemical evolution of life, according to a paper in the Jan. 9 issue of Science1 (see also summary on EurekAlert, “UF study suggests life on Earth sprang from borax minerals”).
        Chemical evolutionists have faced many problems, one serious one being the origin of sugars needed for RNA and DNA.  According to the most popular “RNA World” hypothesis for the origin of life (see 07/11/2002 headline), RNA was a molecule that, as the story goes, possessed both primitive coding and enzymatic functions, and was able to evolve by natural selection.  But the 'R' in RNA is ribose, a sugar that is doggedly hard to explain by natural processes.  It is unstable and tends to degrade quickly into sticky, tarry substances.  EurekAlert reminds us that Stanley Miller, of spark-discharge experiment fame, gave up on this problem in 1995, lamenting that “The first genetic material could not have contained ribose or other sugars because of their instability.”
        Scientists at the University of Florida found that some of the minerals in borax can stabilize ribose, at least for awhile.  So they speculate that borax was an ingredient in the chemical evolution of life.  Steven Benner, one of the scientists on the team, a member of NASA’s Astrobiology Institute, is cautiously optimistic:
    “We are not claiming that this is how life started,” Benner stressed.  “We are saying that we have demonstrated a recipe to make a key part of life without any biochemical machinery.  The more recipes of this type that can be found, the more clues we have about how life could have actually gotten started on the primitive Earth.” (EurekAlert, emphasis added)
    So presumably once life got going, natural selection developed it all the way to humans, who could hitch mules to carry loads of the stuff that helped them get where they are today.
    1Ricardo, Carrigan, Olcott and Benner, “Borate Minerals Stabilize Ribose,” Science 09 January 2004, 10.1126/science.1092464.
    Need we remind anyone that recipes are written by intelligent design?  These scientists did not use chance and mutations in their experiments.  They applied mind to make matter do what it would not do naturally.
        If I told you a tall tale, that was so implausibly funny it would make you laugh yourself sick at the campfire, would you believe my story if I added one little observation that might make it slightly more plausible?  Let’s say I told you the story of why fire engines are red:
    A fire engine has eight wheels and four crew.  Four plus eight is twelve.  Twelve inches make a foot.  Most rulers are a foot long.  Peter the Great was a ruler.  He was also Russian.  Red is the symbolic color of Russia.  Therefore fire engines are red, because they’re always rushin’ all around.
    Now suppose that one flaw of my story was that the color red had not been clearly identified as a national color in pre-Soviet Russia, but I found an old painting of Peter the Great that showed a prominent red ruby in his crown.  Are you now convinced of my story?  If not, would you at least acknowledge that I am making progress?
        This is why chemical evolution tall tales are so lame.  Evolutionists are already convinced life arose from chemicals in some unknown way, without any intelligent guidance, and they feel no need to prove their case.  This is, of course, circular reasoning, or assuming what needs to be proved.  But since NASA is fond of giving away our tax money to storytellers who can explain away an intelligent Creator, there will always be volunteers.  Astrobiologists (a.k.a. Bio-alchemists) feel that they can justify their expense reports if they can add one tiny little experimental detail that might, just might, in some way, support the Darwin Party’s official Origins myth.
        Here is how Benner et al. clothe their naked materialism in scientific jargon: “Because neither borate minerals nor interstellar organics are excluded from the early Earth, we also cannot exclude the availability of ribose formed prebiotically at the time when life emerged on Earth” (italics added).  Well, we cannot exclude the possibility of the proverbial tornado in a junkyard causing the emergence of the proverbial 747 either, can we?  There’s that magic word “emerged” again.  It’s a stealthy propaganda trick.  It pulls the wool over unsuspecting readers’ eyes, by embedding within it the assumption that chemical evolution succeeded somehow, against astronomical odds.
        Our readers are encouraged to count the number of implausible elements in the “RNA World” scenario as reported in the 07/11/2002 entry.  If there are two dozen show-stoppers preventing the curtain from rising, dreaming up a possible way to remove one (temporarily, under special conditions) does not make the show go on, especially when there is not even a script or actors yet.
    Next headline on:  Origin of LifeDumb Ideas
    Book    01/07/2004
    The
    Discovery Institute in Seattle has published a new book, Darwinism, Design and Public Education, by John Angus Campbell and Stephen C. Meyer, encouraging schools to teach both sides of the controversy over Darwinism vs Intelligent Design.
    The Darwin Party’s spin doctoring that students should be protected from the controversy over Darwinism is unpopular and unsupportable, and should be exposed for what it is: political and religious bias.  If it were about science, well then, science thrives on controversy.  Science is about pitting evidence against evidence and logic against logic.  Wouldn’t that be a healthy science lesson?  Read this testimony and see what you think.
    Next headline on:  Intelligent DesignDarwinism and Evolutionary TheoryEducation
    “Accepted Science” or Censorship by National Park Service?    01/08/2004
    What’s a national park bookstore vendor to do?  A beautiful new book of photographs and quotations on Grand Canyon, entitled
    Grand Canyon: A Different View by veteran river rafting captain Tom Vail, went on sale in the national park bookstore.  One would think it would not stand out too much along with hundreds of other items on varying subjects and viewpoints.  Yet this one book has come under fire, because it presents a Biblical creationist view of the canyon, reports CNN.
        If the national park removes the book, it might be accused of censorship, but if it keeps it, the scientific establishment is offended by its interpretation that the canyon is only thousands, not millions, of years old.  CNN quotes a spokesman for “Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility” who claims the park is approving a religious book.  He claims, “The overall concern is that the top managers of the park service are implementing a conservative agenda that is at odds with their duties as custodians of the nation’s heritage,” he says, which is odd, since the book makes no conservative political statements, but only scientific claims.  But can such a book be dismissed on religious grounds?
        Still smarting from the recent flap over Bible verse plaques at the canyon (07/14/2003), the National Park Service has found a way to censor the book without getting into the quagmire of religious discrimination.  It will recommend the Grand Canyon bookstore not restock the book, says CNN, because “the book makes claims that fall outside accepted science — which maintains the canyon is millions of years old.”  National Park Service spokesman David Barna thinks this provides a way to remove the offending book without a political or religious fight: “To me, this is a decision you can make that has nothing to do with religion.”
    Update 01/14/2004:  World Net Daily has an article on this story, and so does Nature Jan 15, 2004.1  WND says that the National Park Service has been swamped by emails about it.  Apparently the book had been unanimously approved by a panel.  Nature, as expected, quotes the American Geological Society calling it a “narrow religious view,” even though numerous PhDs contributed to the book, including several with doctorates in geology.  Apparently the flap originated with Wilfred Elders (U of Calif., Riverside), and unnamed others, who got seven geological organizations to complain to the NPS (click here for the statement by the American Geological Society).
        As a partial compromise, the book has been moved from the science section to the inspirational section of the store.  But the author and his allies complain that it discusses scientific evidence, by scientists.  Now it’s a neck and neck battle over the email campaigns: NCSE encouraging its members to complain, vs AIG, calling on readers to stop the book ban.  Tom Vail, for his part, probably never expected such notoriety.  On the bright side, he’s getting a lot of publicity: radio interviews, the CNN story and major newspapers, and lots of hits on his website Canyon Ministries.  The Alliance Defense Fund may take up his defense.  The Nature editorial is cautious, knowing that censorship can backfire.  Rex Dalton writes,
    Vail says that an alternative to evolutionary science should be offered to members of the public visiting the canyon.  “Who is to say whose material should be or shouldn’t be in the bookstore?” he asks.  That’s the tricky question that the NPS review will seek to answer, as it weighs issues such as the display of sound science, the right to free speech and the avoidance of censorship charges.
    Update 01/30/2004:  The author has verified a rumor that sales of his book at the canyon stores are really cookin’.  So many have asked for the book that the park concessioner is planning to order more. 
    1Rex Dalton, “National park’s sale of creationist book draws geologists’ ire,” Nature 427, 186 (15 January 2004); doi:10.1038/427186b.
    This would be a good time to reread Michael Crichton’s tirade against “consensus science” (see 12/27/2003 entry).  The upshot of this decision is: only atheists, particularly members of the Darwin Party, are allowed to speak for science.  “Millions of years” is now the new standard of “accepted science,” even though secular geologists have been coming around lately that the creationist claims of a young canyon are correct, at least in part (07/22/2002).
        Tom Vail is a creationist and Bible-believing Christian, yes, but he quotes other creationists who have PhDs in geology who present scientific evidence that the Grand Canyon is not as old as claimed.  Having led numerous raft trips down the Colorado River, Vail knows the canyon like the back of his hand.  He can personally vouch for all the scientific claims made.  Anyone with an open mind who looks at the evidence would surely realize that there are major, serious problems with the “accepted science” view, and the youthful canyon view deserves a fair hearing, whether or not one ties it to a Biblical flood (12/24/2002).
        One shouldn’t have to subscribe to politically-correct ideology or swear allegiance to “accepted science” to be able to present scientific evidence to support a viewpoint.  One should only make the case that it’s correct.  Ironically, it is the creationists who argue for letting both sides of the controversy be heard.  The evolutionists want to censor any opposition, then grin for the cameras and say, “Controversy?  What controversy?  I don’t know of any controversy, do you Dr. Joe?  There’s no controversy here; why, we all agree.  The consensus of scientists is unanimous.”  Why not let the public see all the evidence and decide?  Nobody at Grand Canyon is shoving the books into visitors’ backpacks.  They can pick it up, look it through, and decide whether it is good or bad, without big brother deciding what kind of politically correct science is best for them.
        The National Park Service is so hypocritical.  On the one hand, they fill our parks with exhibits that promote the “consensus science” approach, with its millions of years of slow and gradual evolution.  But on the other hand, they have become evangelists for the most anti-intellectual, anti-scientific religion of all: Indian animism (10/10/2000).  Hey Mr. Barna: if you are going to allow Native American superstition to have a prominent pulpit in the national parks, why not also allow Bible believers, who respect scientific evidence and logic, to make their case?  Either do that or toss out all the Indian myths, and for that matter, any mythology that makes claims about unobservable prehistoric events.  The myths that cloak themselves in the term “accepted science” are the most pernicious of all.
        Visit Grand Canyon before the book is banned.  Just the photographs in Vail’s book are worth the price, and who knows, your mind might be opened up a little, if you were raised under Darwin Party teachers.
        Don’t you just love the PAC titles: “Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.”  Being translated, this probably means, the Government Payroll Lobby Group United Against Bush, Conservatives, the Religious Right, the Iraq War and Free Speech, Who Believe Establishment Science and the United Nations Are the Pathways to All Knowledge and World Peace.
    Next headline on:  GeologyBible and TheologyPolitics
    How Do Plants Know When to Bloom?   01/07/2004
    Scientists like to use big words to impress the rest of us, so they have a term for how a plant decides when to bloom: vernalization.  But making up a word for a phenomenon is not the same as explaining it.
        Everybody observes that plants seem to just “know” that spring is here, when they put forth their glorious blossoming colors, but think about it: how can a plant, without eyes or a brain or a calendar, judge when it is safe to send out flowers?  Through all the vagaries of weather they have an uncanny sense of timing.  It’s especially puzzling how winter annuals do this, and biennials, which only bloom in the second year.  How can a plant have a memory, and sense the seasons?  What goes on in the genes, at the molecular level?  How can the memory be preserved through multiple cell divisions?
        This was the subject of two scientific papers in the the Jan. 8 issue of Nature,1,2 and an analysis by Christopher Surridge.3  The process is very complex and still mysterious in many respects.  It involves quite a few genes and proteins, particularly histones which are part of the chromatin that wraps DNA, and additional signaling molecules like acetyl and methyl groups.  Biochemists have found that, in many cellular processes, there are starters and stoppers: genes and proteins that initiate or suppress an action, and other genes and proteins that stop or re-enable them.  For instance, a molecule might clamp onto a gene, making it impossible for the translation machinery to read it, and another molecule will remove the suppressor, allowing the gene to be read and transcribed into a protein.  The complex dance of activators and repressors and signalling molecules can be triggered by the external environment and by other activities inside the cell.
        If you can keep this all straight, vernalization goes something like this: a gene named FLC prevents flowering, and is normally expressed during the off-season.  A cold snap induces the VIN3 protein to remove acetyl groups from the histones on the chromatin near this gene, signalling two other molecules (vernalization proteins VRN1 and VRN2) that this gene is silenced.  Their job is to keep it that way, so that suppression of flowering is itself suppressed.  The FLD gene, which promotes flowering, is then expressed.  Somehow, FLD tells the molecules at the apical meristem (see
    11/20/2003 entry), to send out the buds.  Surridge explains, “Silencing is an effective means of controlling long-term gene expression, as it persists even after cells divide.  In animals, switching silencing on or off is a well-known way to control development.  It seems that plants share this system, using it to preserve the memory of winter’s passing.”
        How does cold cause these reactions?  What is known so far is just part of a more involved process.  One of the papers2 admits, “How cold results in low FLC RNA and whether any post-transcriptional regulation occurs that feeds back to cause reduced transcription is unknown at present.”  The other paper1 says, “The additional components that interact with VIN3, and VRN1 and VRN2, to repress FLC during and after vernalization are not known.”  Undoubtedly there are other environmental cues that affect vernalization, such as length of daylight and nutrient availability.
        A popular-level account from Reuters on these results can be found on MSNBC.com.
    1Sibum Sung and Richard M. Amasino, “Vernalization in Arabidopsis thaliana is mediated by the PHD finger protein VIN3,” Nature 427, 159 - 164 (08 January 2004); doi:10.1038/nature02195.
    2Ruth Bastow et al., “Vernalization requires epigenetic silencing of FLC by histone methylation,” Nature 427, 164 - 167 (08 January 2004); doi:10.1038/nature02269.
    3Christopher Surridge, “Plant development: The flowers that bloom in the spring,” Nature 427, 112 (08 January 2004); doi:10.1038/427112a.
    We hope this makes your gardening more thought-provoking.  Inside a cell, there’s a flurry of activity.  If one gene were expressed freely, it would never stop.  Suppressors turn them off until they are needed, then other molecules remove the suppressors.  Cues from the environment and signals from other genes can trigger switches in the genes in the right sequence.  How could the cell, without a brain, “know” how to handle these signals, if it were not preprogrammed?  The cell responds to feedback from the environment, monitors protein levels, and can branch to different pathways depending on conditions.  Everything acts as if programmed with loops, switches, and conditional procedures designed in advance.  The proof of the programming is in the results: a crocus emerges out of the last snow, showing forth its delicate beauty, unafraid of the clouds, knowing that sunny days filled with pollinators are just ahead.  This is so amazing it should make us stand in awe of the Almighty Programmer.
    Next headline on:  PlantsCell BiologyGenetics and DNAAmazing Facts
    New Autobiography of Darwin Published   01/06/2004
    “The Darwin industry as busy as ever with the recent completion of a major biography and renewed scrutiny of his substantial correspondence,” writes Nigel Williams in the
    Jan. 6 issue of Current Biology.  “But a new edition of his autobiography compiled by his son is a welcome addition.”  The work seems to talk about his childhood influences, how he got aboard the Beagle against his father’s wishes, and how he thought his greatest contribution in life was “adding a little bit to Natural Science.”  His father was apparently exasperated in the youthful Charles’s shiftlessness.  He told him once, “You care nothing but for shooting, dogs and rat catching, and you will be a disgrace to yourself and all your family.”  As a last resort he steered him toward theology, which Charles halfway liked: “I had scruples about declaring my belief in all the dogmas of the Church of England; though otherwise I liked the thought of being a country clergyman,” he admitted.  Darwin’s only college degree was in theology (10/14/2002).
    1Nigel Williams, “Remembrance of things past,” Current Biology, Vol 14, R4-R5, 6 January 2004.
    Charlie is the evolutionists’ little idol, and it’s surprising why this should be so, considering he had no science degrees and was not that admirable a person.  The biography Nigel Williams refers to must be the highly-acclaimed work by Janet Browne, Charles Darwin: The Power of Place (Princeton, 2002; see quote at top right of this page).  The Charlie Browne describes is a bit of a wishy-washy blockhead.  He seems to be standing cross-eyed with his hands over his stomach most of the time, ailed by gastric pains caused by worry over what people would think of his book.  Considering the strident opposition of leading scientists of the day, (Agassiz, Owen, Sedgwick, John Herschel and many others), his ideas wouldn’t have gotten anywhere if it weren’t for the political savvy of his “Four Musketeers,” as Browne calls them (Huxley, Lyell, Hooker and Asa Gray), who took his ball and ran with it (see 10/24/2002).
        In fact, Darwin was often startled and anguished about how everyone did take his ball and run with it.  He was trying hard to avoid talk about apes as human ancestors, to avoid the subject of the origin of the first life, and to avoid offending theologians directly.  But all his politically-leftist, antireligious, radical disciples understood exactly what his theory meant, and declared war on religion, with The Origin of Species, to Charlie’s horror, as their banner.
        Creationists can look to founding fathers much more accomplished, who did far more to advance science than weave just-so stories: men like Kepler, Newton, Boyle, Faraday, Maxwell and many others (see our online book in progress)  Read also Browne’s account of Charlie; it’s an eye-opening look into the life and times of the gray-bearded idol who made it possible for a modern scientist to be an intellectually-foolfilled atheist.
    Next headline on:  Darwin and Evolutionary Theory
    How Long Can DNA Survive?   01/06/2004
    An international team of scientists takes issue with recent claims that ancient DNA has been found in ice, amber, salt or rock many millions of years old (see
    05/23/2002 entry, for instance).  They think such cases are due to contamination and have not been independently replicated.  They gathered samples in Siberian and Antarctic permafrost under ideal conditions for preservation, and found that DNA would become unrecognizable after millions of years due to increasing numbers of interstrand crosslinks.  Their report, published in the Jan. 6 issue of Current Biology,1 puts an upper limit at 400,000 years on the durability of DNA.
        Unexpectedly, they found that non-spore-forming gram-positive Actinobacteria seems to survive the longest.  This was surprising, because endospores were assumed to be the hardiest of all cell types.  An endospore has no DNA-repair activity, so maybe that’s the reason.  They offer some other possibilities:
    The mechanism behind the superior persistence of DNA from the non-spore-forming-GP Actinobacteria is currently unknown.  Slow but continuous metabolic activity and DNA repair at subzero temperatures is one possibility.  Adaptations connected to dormancy might be another explanation.  Finally, the DNA could simply originate from dead bacteria, whose DNA for some reason, e.g., structural features, survived better.

    Willerslev et al., “Long-term persistence of bacterial DNA,” Current Biology, Vol 14, R9-R10, 6 January 2004.
    Do any of those possibilities sound plausible to you?  Actually, DNA probably degrades much faster than they estimate.  There’s no way they could verify the 400,000 year figure; it’s a pure guess, based on certain assumptions.  At most, it is just an upper limit.  If DNA could survive the onslaughts of nature for so long, it would speak of designed mechanisms to fight the degrading pressure of entropy.
    Next headline on:  Genetics and DNADating Methods
    Discussions Increase About Science and Religion    01/05/2004
    Cary McMullen, writing for the
    Lakeland Ledger (Florida), has listed some recent developments indicating that more and more scientists and theologians are becoming interested in the relationship between science and religion.  His list spans a spectrum from atheistic opinions of Stephen Weinberg to neo-orthodox views of Fuller Seminary, with a variety of voices and views in between: the United Methodist Church, John Polkinghorne, the Templeton Foundation, bioethics, spirituality and health, Consilience, and the Intelligent Design movement, which McMullen calls “one of the more controversial approaches to science and religion.”  He also reviews the history of thought on science and religion, polls of scientists, and whether there is any overlap between the two domains.
    Few are the representatives on the list who regard the Word of God as authoritative.  Most of the opinions expressed are just that: opinions.  Liberal scholars and scientists have lots of opinions, but are there any, especially among those calling themselves Christians, willing to affirm that the Word of God is the final authority, even over science?  Without that anchor, the fogginess of talk about “spirituality” could leave people in the dark as much as any materialistic religion.
        It is simplistic to treat science and religion as separate realms (this was Stephen Jay Gould’s final campaign), because the Bible, and most religions for that matter, deal with natural phenomena, and science frequently makes philosophical and religious assumptions about origins and destiny.  The battle in the 18th century was really not about natural selection or evolution specifically, but about whether philosophical naturalism had sole authority to explicate the creation myths of the culture.
        For naturalism to usurp science, it had to invade the unseen past and future with imagination instead of observation.  The strategy that enabled Darwin’s defenders to take over a scientific enterprise that had largely been under theological dominion was to elevate naturalistic storytellers to the ranks of scientists.  This was illustrated in the contest between Richard Owen and Thomas Huxley in the 1860s.  Science used to be about proving things and demonstrating things.  One of Richard Owen’s first criticisms of Charles Darwin’s book was about this very point.  As a leading scientist in Britain in 1859 and a very religious man, Owen was not interested in what Charlie believed or thought had happened in the history of life, but what he could prove.  With the help of agenda-driven insurgents like Huxley, Lyell, Hooker and Asa Gray, (Janet Browne dubs them the “Four Musketeers”*), Charlie’s Just-So Storytelling Club gained the ascendancy, and science has been stuck supporting a welfare state ever since (12/22/2003).  Huxley, out of a personal anger at God for allowing the death of his son, was on a personal crusade to rid all science of consideration of God, and even startled Darwin with his brashness telling everyone, even working men, that they were evolved monkeys.  Huxley worked like a political revolutionary, not an impartial scientist.  He had an agenda.  He wanted empire: unsatisfied with natural phenomena that were testable, observable and repeatable, he worked fervently on a hostile takeover of the origins and destiny business.
        Think beyond the collapse of the Darwinian regime, which appears inevitable.  Will it be replaced by something better?  Probably not, as long as humans refuse to acknowledge the authority of their Creator.  That’s been the basic human sin since Eden.  If the scientific just-so storytellers ever get shamed out of science, what we don’t need, any more than another brand of cigarettes, is another group of storytellers from the religious side.  Liberal theologians and spiritual leaders have lots of opinions, but who cares what they believe or think is true, if they cannot prove it?
        This leads directly to the question, what is the source of ultimate authority?  We learned it is not Aristotle, but neither is it any other mortal, including a scientist.  If science returns to its empirical roots and gets out of the spheres of origins, destiny and ultimate meaning, that question may well prove to be the intellectual battle of the 21st century.  Unfortunately, Bible believers may find it more difficult to debate liberal theologians than materialistic scientists on this point.  At least materialistic scientists claimed to respect objective truth and logic.  But liberal theologians tend to become hypnotized on spirituality or their own imaginations rather submitting to the authority of the Word of God.  Getting them to prove their opinions, rather than tell religious just-so stories, will be like trying to nail jello to the wall.  Creationists might get nostalgic for the good old days.
    Suggested reading:  Jer. 9:23-24, Rom. 3:4, and I Cor. 1:18-2:16.
    *Janet Browne, Charles Darwin: The Power of Place (Princeton, 2002, ch. 4).
    Next headline on:  Bible and TheologyIntelligent DesignDarwinism and Evolutionary Theory
    Mars Rover Lands    01/03/2004
    From the scene of news at Jet Propulsion Laboratory
    At 8:35 p.m. Pacific Time Saturday, January 3, signal was lost as a large set of air bags bounced on the surface of Mars.  After several nail-biting minutes, signal was reacquired by two Earth stations, indicating that the
    Mars Exploration Rover “Spirit” had survived the heat of re-entry and 30 bounces on the surface – some as high as a four-story building – and was alive and well.  The spirit of the crowds at JPL went from tense silence to back-slapping, hand-clapping celebration.  Luckily, the spacecraft landed base-petal down, a one-in-four chance, providing good opportunity for pictures and data.
        The joy of the successful landing was surpassed less than three hours later, at 11:33 p.m., when engineering data and the first pictures beamed up to Mars Odyssey and relayed to Earth arrived at mission control.  The rover was not only healthy; it was in super shape.  “It’s not supposed to work this well – we were caught off guard” – “far exceeded expectations” – and “this is incredible!” are just samples of the exuberance in the control room as needle-sharp images of the rover and its surroundings, all the way to the horizon, arrived in rapid-fire succession on the screens.
        Some very interesting news over the next few weeks should now be forthcoming from Gusev Crater, a location on Mars that looks like it was once a large lake 100 miles across after a canyon from the south cut through the crater wall and drained into it.  It may help settle once for all whether standing water ever existed on Mars for any significant period of time.  Even with Mars Global Surveyor and 2001 Mars Odyssey having orbited for years now, scientists have debated over conflicting evidence.
        JPL is now ‘two for two’ (see next headline) in what may be the biggest year yet for planetary science.  The twin rover “Opportunity” lands in three weeks, on January 24.  Cassini is fast approaching Saturn for the July 1 start of its five-year orbital tour, which Science said yesterday may provide “the most spectacular news” of the year for plantary science.  The number of current missions and upcoming missions makes 2004 a golden age of discovery in space.
    The landing of rover Spirit tonight was a phenomenal achievement by many talented and hard-working people.  It is no less exciting than great journeys of exploration from history, such as the Lewis and Clark expedition (celebrating its 200th anniversary this year).  Getting new data from a new terra incognita on another world takes our mind for a moment off war and terrorism, evil and folly.  All who gave the world this moment of wonder deserve international kudos.
        What you probably won’t hear on the news, amid all the storytelling about the possibility of life on Mars (just because there might have been water), are the Christian testimonies.  A fair number of the scientists and engineers on the Mars project teams at JPL, some in high places, are Christians and creationists.  Most just quietly go about their work contributing to the excellent success of these missions.  As you listen to the news, keep in mind that the official spokespeople may not represent the views of everyone on the team.
        Watch for the latest Mars headlines, now that we are on the surface.  Congratulations also to the European orbiter Mars Express, and best wishes for recovery of the lost British lander Beagle 2.  (We don’t think they will find any finches, though.)
    Next headline on:  Solar SystemMars
    Stardust Mission Successfully Flies Through Comet Cloud    01/02/2004
    In the first of what is hoped will be a series of spectacular space missions in 2004, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory flew the
    Stardust spacecraft today on a wild ride right into the dusty coma of comet Wild-2 (pronounced Vilt-2).  Though the dust storm would have killed an astronaut at that range, the craft emerged on the other side unscathed, with possibly millions of dust particles embedded in its aerogel collector.  The first sample return mission since Apollo 17 in 1972, Stardust will parachute its capsule loaded with the precious cargo into the Utah desert in January, 2006.  During the encounter today, the mass spectrometer also worked well, and so did the camera.  About six dozen images were snapped of the comet’s nucleus from about 250 km (150 mi).
        Elated by their picture-perfect enounter, the spacecraft team proudly displayed two detailed images of the nucleus at the press conference this afternoon, just 3 hours from the time they were taken.  They expect additional images still being processed may be even better.  The photos reveal a rough surface mottled by pits, with about five jets visible.  The pits, rather than being impact craters, may be sinkholes from collapse of underlying volatiles.  If this comet is like Halley and Borrelly visited earlier by Giotto and Deep Space 1, respectively, the surface is probably as black as asphalt, but data will have to be analyzed to nail down the actual reflectivity.  Principal investigator Donald Brownlee (Univ. of Washington) said that the jetting of volatiles and dust only comes from a few percent of the surface.
        Project Manager Tom Duxbury explained that the spacecraft was named Stardust because comet dust is assumed to be pristine material from our star, the Sun, left over from its formation (although this assumption has been questioned recently: see 08/12/2003 entry).  Brownlee, co-author of Rare Earth (12/19/2000), a book that asserts intelligent life is rare in the universe, stressed that photographs and actual physical samples that can be examined in the lab are worth much more than mere ideas.  These first images were surprising, and more surprises are anticipated once the samples are returned to Earth.  Nevertheless, he reiterated the evolutionary theme Carl Sagan made famous, that humans, like comets, are also made of star dust.
        Upcoming comet rendezvous missions include the European Space Agency Rosetta, launching (after previous delays) in February (01/13/2003), and NASA’s Deep Impact, launching in December.
    As expressed in similar headlines in the past, we congratulate those who succeed in risky missions to gather data, and we can hardly wait to see what the particles in the collector show, but the public should be “taught the controversy” when there is one.  If not all scientists agree that comets are made of pristine material, that should be mentioned, rather than making matter-of-fact statements to the press that comet material has been unprocessed for 4.6 billion years.
        The phrase “we are made of starstuff” is a misleading half-truth.  Yes, our bodies have carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and other elements found in stars, but we know what Sagan and Brownlee mean.  They want us to believe that stardust aggregated into the Earth, and from the atoms on Earth, life arose and evolved upward into human beings by unguided, purposeless, undirected natural processes.  Such myths should be distinguished from science.  They would not get smiling nods at press conferences if scientists were expected to use disclaimers when preaching naturalistic philosophy: “According to my atheistic, naturalistic opinion, and according to the teachings of my tradition’s creation myth, we are all made of stardust.  Won’t you please join me in singing my favorite hymn, Godless Philosophy.” 
    Next headline on:  Solar System
    Instant Galaxies?    01/02/2004
    The
    Hubble Space Telescope, with its Advanced Camera for Surveys, has taken a peek at the most distant galaxy clusters ever seen.  The astronomers found “embryonic” galaxies in a “proto-cluster” of galaxies, named TN J1338-1942, that they estimate formed a mere 1.5 billion years after the Big Bang.  This find has been reported in the Jan. 1 issue of Nature.1
        The same astronomers had earlier found a cluster named RDCS 1252 that, by 5 billion years after the Big Bang, looked already mature.  The Hubble ACS was used to image the two clusters to study their evolution.
      One of the astronomers, John Blakeslee (Johns Hopkins University) remarked, according to the Hubble press release, “Until recently people didn’t think that clusters existed when the universe was only about 5 billion years old.”  Another co-author of the paper, George Miley (Leiden University, Netherlands) added, “until recently astronomers thought it was almost impossible to find clusters that existed 8 billion years ago.”  The new finding pushes the date of early galaxy and cluster formation even further back, to less than 10% the assumed age of the universe.
        The newly-discovered cluster RDCS 1252, is virtually indistinguishable from later galaxy clusters.  The Hubble press release states:
    “The cluster RDCS 1252 looks like a present-day cluster,” said Marc Postman of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md., and co-author of both research papers.  “In fact, if you were to put it next to a present-day cluster, you wouldn’t know which is which.”
    The proto-cluster TN J1338 has a dominant galaxy that appears to be “producing spectacular radio-emitting jets, fueled by a supermassive black hole deep within the galaxy's nucleus.”  The cluster RD1252 may have thousands of member galaxies, of which only a few are detectable at visible wavelengths.
    Miley et al., “A large population of 'Lyman-break' galaxies in a protocluster at redshift z=4.1,” Nature 427, 47 - 50 (01 January 2004); doi:10.1038/nature02125.
    Observations such as these are on the bleeding edge of the possible, so one must be cautious interpreting the results.  Sweeping aside the embedded assumptions about ages and evolutionary histories, there is nothing in these latest images to encourage old gradualistic cosmologies, and much to discourage them.  The lumpiness problem in cosmology (i.e., too much structure too soon) has been a theoretical challenge for decades.  Here is the lumpiness problem intensified.  Not long after the origin of the universe, whenever that was, galaxies seem to be already mature enough to have black holes, heavy elements and grandchildren.  This latest finding is another in a continuing trend of observations that show almost instantaneous structure from an assumed smooth beginning.
        Hear the astronomers’ admissions.  No one thought it was even possible to have so much structure so early.  Not long ago, even an 8 billion year old cluster would have been thought impossible, and now 1.5 billion?  How far can you stretch a theory before it breaks?
        A similar situation is found in the fossil record, and in the observed complexity of the most “primitive” life on Earth.  What is the common denominator in these three predicaments?  Naturalistic philosophy: the belief that our universe is just unguided matter in motion.  It’s not working.  The Cambrian explosion in paleontology, the discovery of advanced molecular machines in bacteria, and the discovery of mature stars in the early universe were not predicted by evolutionary philosophers, and effectively falsify their assumptions.
    Next headline on:  CosmologyDating Methods
    Chinese Puzzle: New Primate Fossil Raises Eyebrows   01/01/2004
    A new fossil primate skull from China, alleged to be 55 million years old, provides “much-needed substantial evidence of early primates in Asia,” says Robert Martin (Field Museum, Chicago), reporting in the
    Jan. 1 issue of Nature.1  But “interpretation of the creature’s eye size and activity pattern,” he says, “will spark debate.”  (This is code for, “This find throws a monkey wrench into previous theories.”)
        Martin admits immediately that “The first fossil evidence for ‘primates of modern aspect’ – the euprimates – appears abruptly in the northern continents at the beginning of the Eocene, about 55 million years ago.”  He also points to a chart that depicts “the widely accepted view that there is a basic dichotomy in the primate evolutionary tree – one lineage leading to modern lemurs and lorises (strepsirrhines), the other to tarsiers, monkeys, apes and humans (haplorhines).”
        This new fossil, named Teilhardina asiatica, a kind of tarsier on the haplorhine side of the tree, casts into doubt the classification of the American genera with the Belgian and Chinese individuals.  It also creates a biogeography puzzle.  It was formerly assumed that European primates could have only reached Asia by crossing North America and then the Bering Strait, because a transcontinental marine barrier assumed to exist 55 million years ago would have prevented them migrating in the Eastern direction.  But if the American primates are not related, was there a way around the barrier after all?
        Martin takes issue with the discoverers’ interpretation that eye socket size relative to skull size indicates the animals were nocturnal.  “Biologically, one cannot assume that early primates (particularly if unusually small in size) showed the same functional patterns as modern primates – which themselves are very variable,” he states.  He gives some examples of features in modern animals that show skull size and eye socket size do not necessarily correlate to behavior habits.  His remarks are summarized on the publicly-available AAAS website EurekAlert.
        The primate evolution chart in Martin’s article is striking in its lack of connections.  Six lineages are shown without any obvious family relationships: lemurs and lorises (the strepsirrhines), lemuroids and tarsioids farther back in time, and then tarsiers and higher primates (the haplorhines).  The bottoms of these separate lineages are all dashed lines leading to inferred relationships unsupported by fossil evidence, with question marks at the bottom.
    1Robert D. Martin, “Palaeontology: Chinese lantern for early primates,” Nature 427, 22 - 23 (01 January 2004); doi:10.1038/427022a.
    This sounds strikingly similar to the tale about mammal evolution in Africa (12/03/2003).  The criticisms there similarly apply here.
    Next headline on:  MammalsFossilsDarwinism and Evolutionary Theory
    Globular Cluster Origins: Where Do We Go From Here?   01/01/2004
    The simple explanation of globular clusters as bundles of ancient stars seems to be in a state of crisis, though the authors of a paper in the
    Jan. 1 issue of Nature1 try to keep a stiff upper lip.  They begin, “Nearly a century after the true nature of galaxies as distant ‘island universes’ was established, their origin and evolution remain great unsolved problems of modern astrophysics.
        For one thing, how could globulars survive all the tumult?  “Recent advances in our understanding of the globular cluster systems of the Milky Way and other galaxies point to a complex picture of galaxy genesis driven by cannibalism, collisions, bursts of star formation and other tumultuous events.”  It appears now that they cannot assume that the high metallicity (content of atoms heavier than helium) in cluster stars is an indication of old age.
        Current thinking is a debate between competing models dealing with uncooperative observations.  After showing strengths and weaknesses of contenders, they ask, “Where do we go from here?”  Much work remains to be done, they admit.  Although they offer some promising areas of research, it may be that the origin and evolution of each galaxy may be unique:
    Detailed spectroscopic and photometric observations of the most massive galaxies in dense environments show that their globular cluster populations are generally old and coeval to within a couple of billion years.  But the age distribution of globular clusters remains an open question, as several recent studies have found a wider spread of globular cluster ages in some galaxies, including the presence of some intermediate-age metal-rich clusters.  The findings to date suggest a complex picture of globular cluster formation in galaxies, with the formation histories of no two galaxies being exactly alike.
    Not to end on a minor chord, they triumphantly promise that the quest for understanding galactic evolution marches on:
    These are exciting times in the study of extragalactic globular cluster systems.  Disentangling the myriad processes that may have contributed to the formation of nearby galaxies is a formidable challenge, but the potential reward is spectacular: a glimpse into the evolutionary histories of individual galaxies.
    See also the Oct. 5 entry on globular clusters.
    Michael J. West et al., “Reconstructing galaxy histories from globular clusters” (review article), Nature 427, 31 - 35 (01 January 2004); doi:10.1038/nature02235.
    We don’t know where we are, we don’t know how we got here, the territory is far more complex and formidable than we thought, and we don’t know where to go from here, but at least we can imagine how nice it would be to find our way some day.  How much do you trust this bunch?
    Next headline on:  AstronomyCosmologyDating Methods

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    Featured Creation Scientist for January

    Dr. Walter T. Brown
    b. 1937

    Here’s a short introduction to an influential living creationist you should get to know.  His story is best told in the recent book published by Julia Mulfinger Orozco, Christian Men of Science (Ambassador Emerald International, 2001), but here is a glimpse of a remarkable man with world-shattering ideas.
        Dr. Walter T. Brown, Jr. got his PhD from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) while in the military.  He had a long and distinguished career in the Air Force, including teaching mathematics at the Air Force Academy and teaching science and technology at the Air War College.  He also taught physics at Auburn University.
        Like many Christians, Dr. Brown received Christ as a teenager, but accepted evolution simply because it permeated secular society.  He assumed, like many, that evolution was merely God’s way of creating.  Later, he became interested in the claims that Noah’s Ark might still exist, and that peaked his interest in the flood.  As he realized that the scientific evidence for the flood was overwhelming, he also realized that the flood explained most of what he had earlier thought supported evolution.  That began his interest in creation science.
        In 1980, he decided to go full time into creation research and teaching.  After a time serving as director of the Midwest Center for the Institute for Creation Research (ICR), he founded his own non-profit organization, the Center for Scientific Creation (CSC).  Though certainly a believer in Biblical teachings about creation, his focus is on scientific arguments for creation and the world-wide flood.  Dr. Brown has an aptitude for research and writing and a breadth of scientific understanding that is exceptional, whether discussing geology, biology or astronomy.  Having taught mathematics at the Air Force Academy, he also brings superior mathematical skill into his research and writing.
        Two significant fruits came out of his new ministry.  One was his popular “In the Beginning” seminars, held around the country.  The 7-hour seminar was sometimes followed by a debate whenever the local sponsors could find a qualified evolutionist.  These seminars were almost always well attended and highly rated, often ending with long and lively question-answer sessions.  His military background gave him a flair for quality, punctuality and dignity in the running of each day’s program.
        Dr. Brown travelled around the United States and Canada giving seminars for nearly 20 years, until he decided it would be more fruitful (and easier on his family) to devote more time to research and writing.  His research included trips into the Grand Canyon to investigate aspects of his flood model.  One expedition nearly cost him his life.  He became stranded in a side canyon, suffering from dehydration, with only treacherous ways to get out.  Fortunately (or we should say providentially), he did make it out – thanks to courage, determination, a piece of rope and answers to prayer.
        Walt Brown’s magnificent book In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood is the second major fruit of his ministry.  It is one of the finest comprehensive books on creation science in print, in both in content and in presentation.  The content of Dr. Brown’s treatise is remarkable for its breadth and depth.  He has 135 categories of evidence, all footnoted and personally researched, that support creation and oppose evolution.  The book also has numerous interesting topics explored in depth, and answers to common questions.  Dr. Brown is gifted at making his case, giving fair and balanced treatment to all possible explanations for a phenomenon (such as frozen mammoths or the origin of comets) and explaining why the creation model is superior.  He is also careful to mention both strengths and weaknesses of his own ideas, admitting frankly when there is a problem that needs more research.  The book is also handsomely laid out; it’s the kind of book that once you start leafing through it, you can’t set it down.  Loaded with color illustrations and charts, it just draws you in and keeps you wanting to learn more.
        A highlight of the book, and the most popular talk in his seminars, is his original “hydroplate theory” of the flood.  When he was an evolutionist, one of the hindrances to Dr. Brown’s acceptance of the Genesis record of a global flood were the questions: Where did the water come from?  Where did it go?.  For years, Dr. Brown applied all his investigative and mathematical skills to this question.  The result was a stunning model that not only answers the two questions, but explains 25 geological mysteries around the world, such as submarine canyons, salt domes, mid-oceanic ridges, the fit of the continents, the Grand Canyon, frozen mammoths and much more.  Not all creationists accept his model in all respects, but Dr. Brown has this going for it: it is faithful to the Biblical record, and it includes predictions that allow his model to be falsifiable.  Some of his predictions made in the 1980s have since been confirmed.  He is also honest enough to admit arguments that later prove unsupportable.  Want to learn more?  His entire book is available online at his content-rich website, CreationScience.com.  In about 2007, the 8th edition will be published with even more new material.  Dr. Brown was also the first to propose the then-radical proposal, now accepted (at least in part) by other creationists, that the Grand Canyon was formed from a dam breach in a huge post-flood lake.  Even secular geologists have recently been seriously entertaining similar ideas.  This is a remarkable shift in thinking for this natural wonder, long considered an icon of millions of years of slow, gradual processes.
        At a creation symposium in Anaheim, California in 1979, Dr. Brown was among hundreds of participants listening to dozens of prominent creationists presenting their research papers.  At this time, when he was formulating plans for his seminars, he saw a multimedia presentation that impressed him greatly.  It was entitled How Big Is God?  It was an audio-visual journey from Earth to the farthest ends of the universe, presented using three projectors showing over 700 color slides, all computer-synchronized with narration and music.  David Coppedge (chief bwana of Creation Safaris, sponsor of this website) had just produced this show, and it subsequently went on the road for 25 years and was seen by over 300 audiences.  Dr. Brown felt this show could provide an inspirational punch his seminars needed, so he worked with David to get a copy of it.  He always used it as the “Grand Finale” for his seminars.  It was often voted the second most popular presentation after his lecture on the hydroplate theory.
        Dr. Brown has had a standing offer, in his seminars and in his book, for a written, strictly scientific debate with a qualified evolutionist on the scientific case for creation vs. evolution.  He feels that a written debate would have advantages over the usual live debate format, because it could be more easily disseminated and studied, and each side would have time to research their statements and rebuttals in more depth.  For over 20 years no one has taken him up on it.  That’s understandable.  Any evolutionist looking over his book In the Beginning, would likely be terrified.  Read it and you will see why.  This is a book that, after having mastered it yourself, you would want to stockpile to use as gifts for educated and skeptical friends.
        Dr. Brown is an exemplary family man with a lovely wife, Peggy, who supports him in all his research activities.  In person, he is a warm and generous, unpretentious Christian gentleman, a great conversationalist and able to make you feel like you are the important person.  Just don’t get into a debate with him – unless you love truth.  Dr. Brown is a military strategist who knows how to disarm weapons of falsehood, gently and effectively.

    For more about Dr. Brown and his ministry, be sure to drop in at CreationScience.com.


    If you are enjoying this series, learn more about great Christians in science by reading our online book-in-progress:
    The World’s Greatest Creation Scientists from Y1K to Y2K.
    Copies are also available from our online store.

    A Concise Guide
    to Understanding
    Evolutionary Theory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Souder’s Law
    Repetition does not establish validity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Advice from Paul

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

    I Timothy 6:20-21

    Song of the True Scientist

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

    from Psalm 104

    Maxwell’s Motivation

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

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

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

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