Quick Picks 03/31/2004
Too many stories came in too fast at the end of March. Here are some
we would have liked to explore in more detail. Theyre all
interesting and some have amazing facts and quotes.
- DNA vs. Evolution: A paper in the
Royal Society Biology
Proceedings1 warned that pleiotropy, the antagonistic effect of
genes that need to mutate together, inhibits natural selection more than is
usually realized. Sarah P. Otto writes,
Pleiotropy is one of the most commonly observed attributes of genes.
Yet the extent and influence of pleiotropy have been underexplored in population genetics models. ...
Under the assumption that pleiotropic effects are extensive and deleterious, the fraction of alleles that are beneficial overall is severely limited by pleiotropy and rises nearly linearly with the strength of directional selection on the focal trait. Over a broad class of distribution of pleiotropic effects, the mean selective effect of those alleles that are beneficial overall is halved, on average, by pleiotropy.
Thus the simplistic notion that a beneficial mutation will be acted on by natural selection
is severely limited by the effect of pleiotropy.
- Starbirth: In an article in the 19 March issue of
Robert Irion puzzles over why recent surveys of the heavens seem to indicate
star formation was rapid in the early universe yet so slow today:
As findings from these surveys cascade into the literature, they are shaking up notions about the evolution of star birth in the young cosmos. Observers have found that some galaxies matured quickly after the big bang and then flamed out, forming giant blobs of stars that may have barely changed in at least 10 billion years. Another population of galaxies kept evolving, churning out new stars for eons and gradually settling into mature but mildly fertile galaxies such as our Milky Way.
But these claims seem to belie the uncertainty in the minds of modelers.
The following admissions of ignorance are startling, considering the ease with which the
textbooks present the story of starbirth and galaxy evolution:
Current theories of galaxy formation cant explain why concussive waves of star birth swept through some early galaxies but not others--and why some of those fierce stellar fires got snuffed after a few billion years. Startled by their own data, a few observers have implied that modelers of the cosmos need new ideas to describe our universe's combustive childhood (Science, 23 January, p. 460).
Irion doesnt contradict the predicament; he just hopes that new sky surveys will clear up the mess.
Theorists arent yet ready to revise equations on their cluttered whiteboards, but they agree that the surveys illuminate serious flaws. Were starting from a shaky foundation, says cosmologist Carlos Frenk of the University of Durham, U.K. We dont understand how a single star forms, yet we want to understand how 10 billion stars form. Fellow theorist Simon White of the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Garching, Germany,
concurs: The simple recipes in published models do not reproduce the star formation we see. Theorists are now having to grow up.
- Alfred Russell Wallace: Nigel Williams reviews Michael Shermers
bio of the man who independently discovered the law of
Wallace was a colorful but tragic character. He went on some legendary
adventures in Malaysia and elsewhere, and graciously played second
fiddle to Charlie, but was also suckered by spiritualism and the fallacies
of his own beliefs. He was another victim of loss of faith in the
credibility of the Bible during his youth. Janet Browne, in
Charles Darwin: The Power of Place (Princeton, 2002) has many interesting insights into
the Wallace-Darwin relationship, practically accusing Charlie of intrigue to
prevent him getting glory for the discovery of natural selection. Whether either of them
deserved any credit is debatable. In the March-May 2004 issue of
Creation Ex Nihilo magazine, Russell Grigg argues that Charlie knew
about and plagiarized the idea of natural selection from half a dozen predecessors
- Charlie Worship: In the 23 March issue of Current
Biology,4 interviewee Hugo J. Bellen (Baylor College of Medicine) is asked
if he has a scientific hero:
Yes: Charles Darwin. His Origin of Species is in my opinion the most important text in biology that has been published so far. I have read The Origin three times and every time I am in awe at Darwins ability to integrate so many different facts in a simple coherent theory. The principle of natural selection has stood for over 150 years now. Its implications for biology and genetics are far reaching, and the theory still hugely dominates our thinking as biologists.
Follow the chain links on Darwin for differing views about this hero.
- Another Thing You Cant Live Without:
David Carling (Imperial College) provides a quick review of AMPK in the
23 March issue of Current Biology.5 If you dont
know what AMPK is (AMP-activated protein kinase), just be glad you (and
everything else alive) has it:
AMPK has been dubbed the cellular fuel gauge, because it is activated by a drop in the energy status of the cell. If ATP is used up faster than it can be re-synthesized, ATP levels fall and this leads to a rise in AMP. The increase in the AMP:ATP ratio triggers the activation of AMPK and leads to the phosphorylation of a large number of downstream targets. The overall effect of AMPK activation is to switch off energy-using pathways and switch on energy-generating pathways, thus helping to restore the energy balance within the cell. The conservation of AMPK throughout evolution emphasises its importance: homologs have been identified in all eukaryotic species examined to date, including plants.
Other recent articles have focused on this cellular fuel gauge as
a means of controlling appetite and obesity (see, for instance,
Nature April 1, 2004).
When asked Can we live without it, Carlin answers immediately,
Almost certainly not. Mice without it die in embryo, and
it cannot be mutated much: Although a complete loss of AMPK activity is
lethal, subtle changes in AMPK activity can lead to serious clinical consequences.
You dont say. How the first organisms got about without it, he doesnt say.
- Genome Size: Also in
Current Biology,6 Brian Charlesworth and Nick Barton examine the
question of why genome sizes differ so much between organisms, and offer a
Genome sizes vary enormously. This variation in DNA content correlates with effective population size, suggesting that deleterious additions to the genome can accumulate in small populations. On this view, the increased complexity of biological functions associated with large genomes partly reflects evolutionary degeneration.
But judging from the many puzzles, contradictory evidences and lack of
observations mentioned in the article, it doesnt appear that evolutionists
or creationists quite have a handle on this one yet.
- Intron Origins: Another paper in the same issue of
Current Biology7 attempts to put forward a hypothesis
about intron origin and
evolution (see 09/23/2003 headline).
Phylogenetic evidence indicates that these sequences have been targeted by numerous intron insertions during evolution , but little is known about this process. Here, we test the prediction that exon junction sequences were functional splice sites that existed in the coding sequence of genes prior to the insertion of introns.
Again, neither side seems to have scored a touchdown on this question.
What are introns there for? If they evolved, why doesnt the cell
get rid of them, instead of using such complicated machinery to process them?
As to phylogenetic evidence, it is subject to evolutionary presuppositions.
Until we know more, we should not rule out the possibility that introns have a
- Integrating Your Eyes and Ears: Martin S. Banks (psychologist,
Berkeley), explores the interaction of eyes and ears to help us make decisions.
In Current Biology,8, he gives an example of this complex
process we take for granted:
You enter a crowded room and someone calls your name. You turn to see who it is. You now see several people in the general direction the voice came from. Many are talking. Which one called your name? You hear it again and now the sound seems to come from straight ahead or nearly so. There are still a handful of candidates in your field of view, so you look from one to the other. Finally, you see one whose lips move as you hear your name once more. Sound and sight have come together and you identify the speaker as your college roommate. How does this work? That is, how does the brain find the appropriate auditory-visual correspondence to determine that a sound and sight have come from the same source?
He points to a recent study by Alais and Burr that produces an
important and seemingly pervasive rule for the combination of visual
and auditory cues to spatial location. Whatever it is, its
- Thank God for Our Moon:
Lastly, an article in New
Scientist argues that without a moon like earth has, life could not exist.
1Sarah P. Otto, Two steps forward, one step back: the pleiotropic effects of favoured alleles,
Sciences, The Royal Society, Issue: Volume 271, Number 1540, April 07, 2004
Pages: 705 - 714 DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2003.2635 (published online before print).
2Robert Irion, Surveys Scour the Cosmic Deep,
Vol 303, Issue 5665, 1750-1752 , 19 March 2004, [DOI: 10.126/science.303.5665.1750]
3Nigel Williams, In Darwins Shadow,
Biology, Vol 14, R216-R217, 23 March 2004.
4Q&A: Hugo J. Bellen,
Biology, Vol 14, R218, 23 March 2004.
5David Carling, :Magazine: AMPK,
Biology, Vol 14, R220, 23 March 2004.
6Brian Charlesworth and Nick Barton, Genome Size: Does Bigger Mean Worse?
Biology, Vol 14, R233-R235, 23 March 2004.
7Sadusky et al., Exon Junction Sequences as Cryptic Splice Sites:
Implications for Intron Origin,
Biology Vol 14, 505-509, 23 March 2004.
8Martin S. Banks, Neuroscience: What You See and Hear Is What You Get,
BiologyVol 14, R236-R238, 23 March 2004.
Plenty of research material above for the curious. We hope Creation-Evolution
Headlines demonstrates to young people that there are still many scientific puzzles
to solve and will stimulate a few to become scientists. Despite their bluff
and bravado, the Darwin Party clearly doesnt have answers to some of the
most basic questions about stars, life, cells, and genes. Lets roll.
In Defense of Men and Women, Body and Soul 03/31/2004
Next headline on:
Genetics and DNA
Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory
The BBC News
published a male-bashing article by Baroness Susan Greenfield, Director of
The Royal Institution, on March 29. It must have created a stir,
Prof. Steve Jones of University College, London, tried to restore the male ego.
This was apparently a two-part documentary exploring what would happen
If women ruled the world.
Greenfield had alleged that women will outperform men in 20
years, no longer have need of male muscle power, and have lots of
alternative methods for bearing and raising children.
Her dismissal of men was just slightly less than total:
More probably, it is not so much that men could be extinct, as opposed
to our family lives changing dramatically, she said. They
might be useful to keep around as historical curiosities.
Jones responded with an article illustrated with a superman cartoon.
The caption read, Superhero or zero? Professor Jones says men are
indispensable. His point, however, reeks of Darwinian
kryptonite and seems unlikely to make his buddies feel able to leap tall
buildings in a single bound:
In fact the question of males raises not one, but many
biological issues: the origin of sex, of distinct sexes, of why there are
only two sexes rather than dozens.
The best justification Jones seems to come up with for being male is that
men enable the human race to shuffle the genetic cards. Organisms
without both sexes seem to come to an evolutionary dead end, he claims.
So since women cant get rid of the louts, they might as well tolerate
And how is that pastime maintained, given that it is so
expensive? A woman, it seems, could much increase the rate at which she
copies her own genes if she avoided having them diluted by those of a man.
Yes, men are a complicated lot, and theres a lot we do
not know. As we look through the living world, one thing is clear: it
is very hard to get rid of them.
Arecibo SETI Project Draws a Blank
If you can keep your head while all about you are losing
theirs and blaming it on you ...
These BBC articles would make Dr. Dobson hopping mad.
And they should make any red-blooded man or woman upset.
This is really ugly. It illustrates the utter devastation Darwinian thinking
has foisted on our culture. Greenfields comments disparage
the Royal Institution, which was brought to its pinnacle of
prestige by an unselfish, honorable, God-fearing, hard-working man: Michael
Yours is the Earth and everything thats in it,
And - which is more - youll be a Man my son.
Male chauvinism is wrong, but so is female
chauvinism whats bad for the gander is bad for the goose.
Neither of these articles has restored any dignity to men or women.
Darwinism has reduced males and females to gene-propagating commodities.
Carl Sagan expressed the Darwinian view of humanity in black ink:
In a very real sense human beings are machines constructed by the
nucleic acids to arrange for the efficient replication of more nucleic
acids. In a sense our strongest urges, noblest enterprises, most
compelling necessities, and apparent free wills are all an expression of
the information coded in the genetic material: We are, in a way,
temporary ambulatory repositories for our nucleic acids. This does
not deny our humanity. It does not prevent us from pursuing the
good, the true, and the beautiful. But it would be a great mistake
to ignore where we have come from in our attempt to determine where
we are going.
Talk about schizophrenia; he just denied our humanity and then said it
does not deny our humanity. He used his free will to deny that we
have free will. He left the good, the true,
and the beautiful as undefined terms, and reduced our noblest
enterprises to the action of selfish genes. This is the legacy of
Darwinism, of which Sagan was one of the staunchest evangelists.
It leaves humanity as nothing more than gene-replicating machines
accidentally emerging from nothingness and headed nowhere. How
can machines attempt to determine where we are going?
Want to know where we are going if Darwinism is true? To the
grave, where consciousness and intelligence and noble enterprises
are extinguished, returning to the nothingness from which they emerged.
The Cosmic Connection (Dell 1960), p. 6.
Had enough? Good. Forget Sagans cynical
and depressing view, because he contradicted himself. The only way
he could make his point was to cheat: he borrowed words from a Christian
vocabulary (good, true, beautiful, noble, information, free will, etc.).
Thus, he shot his straw man in the foot. If he really believed what he
was saying, he would cry
of vanities, all is vanity in despair. He would
realize that his own noble enterprises, whether writing books, exploring
Mars or appearing on the Johnny Carson show, were all emptiness and striving after wind.
He would just have sex (to help out the selfish genes) and then die.
And forget the BBCs rant against maleness, which would have even robbed
him of the joy of sex. Forget, too,
Jones wimpy comeback. All these ideas are worthless,
built on a foundation of Darwinian shifting sand. Darwinians cannot answer
any of the questions they raised: the origin of sex, of distinct sexes,
of why there are only two sexes rather than dozens, and why sex persists
when it is so expensive (see 04/14/2003
headline, for example). Sex and gender roles are incomprehensible to a
Darwinian, because they have no solid foundation for ultimate meaning.
Heres the first step for restoring your worth as a real man, or a real
woman: keep your head, like Kipling warned. Dont fall for Darwinian
propaganda. Its contradictory, unsupported by evidence, and leads to
despair. You have a soul, brother; you have a soul, sister; and being
a man or woman is all about soul. Souls did not evolve.
To the degree Darwinism degrades humanity, the Bible
restores it, and then some! God Himself took our physical bodies He
had formed by His intelligent design, and breathed into them the breath of life,
and we became
souls. Human beings, both male and female, were
inscribed with the image of God, unlike anything else He had made.
Your purpose is not just to pass on your genes and die. You have worth
as an individual. You are responsible as an individual for what you
do with your life. You, as an individual, will face the judgment of
Physically, God made men and women to need and desire one another.
All higher animals propagate by sexual reproduction, but with humankind,
God instituted the family as a means of passing
on His commandments to future generations, and gave sexual reproduction
a spiritual and emotional meaning beyond mere procreation, as a picture
of love something animals, without Gods image, cannot
He assigned roles to men and women appropriate to our natures.
But spiritually, He made us much more than mere sexual dimorphisms
of an animal species.
Because of His image we bear, we have minds, and language, and the
possibility of meaningful relationships. We can think, reason,
speak, write, communicate, and love.
His two great commandments are for men and women:
God with all our heart, soul,
strength and mind, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.
As His creations made in His image, we are going to live forever.
Eternity will be either with or without our Creator, depending on our response to His
call. By default it will be without Him, because
we have all sinned. But because the Lord loved us, He offered His Son
as a sacrifice to redeem us from our sins. This is the good news of the
Word of God to us: He offers us reconciliation, without penalty, as
a gift. You can receive this gift by turning from your sin and placing
your trust, your empty hands of faith, into his strong hand of salvation.
That can be the start of a new life, a new relationship with your Maker.
Just how great His love to us was only
hinted at in the recent blockbuster movie The Passion of the Christ.
The movie quoted Jesus proverb and promise from
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.
The remembrance of that passion of Christ, and the subsequent glorious
resurrection, is approaching. The contrast between the two world views
the dismal, meaningless, gene-propagating Darwinian world expressed by
Sagan and the BBC articles, and the rich relationship between men, women
and a heavenly Father taught in the Word of God
could hardly be more stark. One leads to death, one to life.
So choose life: wont you repent of your sin, and
receive Him today? Then you can find fulfillment and abundant life
as a man or woman of God.
Homework: Watch The Passion of the Christ, then come home and
read how it was prophesied 700 years before it happened by Isaiah
52-54, esp. ch. 53). Then read Jesus explanation of why He came
and the importance of being born again by believing (trusting) in Him, in
ch. 3. To take your belief to the point of commitment, read the
Apostle Pauls instructions in
10. Then for a real encouragement, and in preparation for Easter,
read what is in store for those who trust in Christ by reading
15, the great resurrection chapter of the Bible.
When you get to the last verse, you will see why pursuing the good,
the true, and the beautiful, is indeed a noble enterprise for the redeemed:
whether man or woman, boy or girl.
If you have any questions understanding these things, write here.
Next headline on:
Bible and Theology
Project Phoenix, a 10-year project searching
for evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence, found nothing, reports
the BBC News.
The project used the worlds most powerful radio telescope at Arecibo,
Puerto Rico, to scan 800 nearby stars for signals.
Project manager Peter Backus claims the team has learned a lot about
searching for ETI, but concludes we live in a quiet neighborhood.
No need to feel lonely. There is
someone out there attempting to make contact. Its your
Read the uncoded message in
55. He uses a private wavelength called prayer. You dont
need expensive instruments. You dont need to send coded messages,
and you dont need to wait thousands of years for the answer.
Its the fastest medium of communication in the universe, faster than
light: so fast, in fact, that
the Recipient answers
before the call.
Whoops; Coelacanth Not in the Family Tree 03/30/2004
All Carl Sagan could hope for in Contact was a temporary fellowship of
commiseraters waiting for the heat death of the universe. The living
God offers a fountain of eternal
life. Choose today. Dont hesitate; seek the Lord while
He may be found.
Next headline on:
Sorry; they looked like they were evolving. The ungainly coelacanth, long
thought extinct but then discovered alive and well in the Indian
Ocean in the 1920s, had bony fins that evolutionists presumed were forerunners
of limbs. Now, a report in PNAS1 says lungfish instead
were the distant ancestors of us and our fellow land vertebrates.
The authors, Brinkmann et al.,
considered their work a valiant attempt to solve a big problem:
The colonization of land by tetrapod ancestors is one of the major
questions in the evolution of vertebrates. Despite intense
molecular phylogenetic research on this problem during the last
15 years, there is, until now , no statistically supported answer
to the question of whether coelacanths or lungfish are the closest living
relatives of tetrapods.
They compared the DNA of two genes in three lungfish groups and with
coelacanth, and despite some puzzling results, tipped the ancestry score
to the lungfish based on
high bootstrap values, Bayesian posterior probabilities, and
likelihood ratio tests.
1Brinkmann et al.,
Nuclear protein-coding genes support lungfish and not the coelacanth
as the closest living relatives of land vertebrates,
of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.0400609101,
Published online before print March 22, 2004.
OK, so they get their publication in one
journal before someone shoots it down somewhere else. You can pick
the genes that give you the results you want, if you massage them thoroughly
with heavy doses of imagination while under the influence of Darwin whiskey.
Swamp Gas Found on Mars
What a crazy way to do science. Now anybody with a PhD
and a knowledge of fancy jargon and mathematical hand-waving tricks can
build a fictional account of the unobservable past that can never be proven.
As long as it might be true (provided we can massage away the
protruding bones) its good enough to be published. Should this
be called science, which most people assume has something to do with
discovering truth? Look at this example of what these authors do in
their paper when one of their methods doesnt produce the desired
result. The details dont matter, the medium is the massage:
The ML-based [Maximum-Likelihood] method (QP) shows generally high
support values for all inferred branches, with three exceptions:
(i) the nodes supporting the monophyly of lungfishes, (ii) the
node supporting the sistergroup relationship of tetrapods and
lungfishes, and (iii) the node supporting the monophyly of the
Sarcopterygii (44%). Part of the problem can be explained by the
surprising result that TREE-PUZZLE supports an obviously
monophyletic group of Neoceratodus and the coelacanth
with the highest value of 48% in this region of the tree. It is
known that the TREE-PUZZLE program is rather sensitive to
pronounced differences in evolutionary rates because of the
quartet approach. The African and the South American
lungfishes evolve quite fast , and the Australian lungfish and the
coelacanth sequences evolve comparatively slower. This constellation
of pronounced differences in evolutionary rates may lead
to an artificial grouping of sequences with similar evolutionary
speed (usually the slowly evolving ones). Often a more basal
position of the fast evolving lineages due to long branch attraction
effects will result, because these faster sequences are
pulled toward the faster evolving sequences at the root, i.e.,
outgroup of the tree. This explains why the highest support of QP
among basal Sarcopterygii (48%) seems to favor a clearly
incorrect grouping of Neoceratodus and the coelacanth, again
supporting the notion that QP might not be the most
appropriate method for this phylogenetic problem.
So well just explain away the data that dont fit our preconceived
notions and adjust the imaginary parameters (evolution rates)
till we get a semblance of congruence. Tweak, tweak, tweak.
The rest of the article uses copious wiggle words might,
probably, possibly, support, etc. Molecular phylogeny is just
a game Darwin Party members like to play, because it has no possibility of
a winner (see 07/25/2002 headline).
For more on the winless game of guessing tetrapod
evolution, see 07/30/2002,
Next headline on:
Fish and Marine Biology
Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory
The European Space Agencys
Express orbiter has confirmed earlier detections of
methane in the Martian atmosphere, according to the
Because methane could only exist in the atmosphere for a few hundred
years, there must be a source that replenishes it.
Two sources have been proposed: active volcanos, or living organisms.
The BBC is hopeful it is the latter, titling its article, Methane
on Mars could signal life.
Science Update is more cautious, however, asserting that the low levels
of methane detected rule out the idea of life spread all over the planet.
Instead, it might be leaking from dormant volcanos.
Now is not sure the methane spectra are definitive yet.
They found methane hissing out of crevices
in deep mines on Earth, too (see
04/08/2002 headline), and thought
it was a missing link in the evolution of life. The
same comments apply.
Jaw Mutation Led to Human Brain 03/29/2004
Next headline on:
Origin of Life
The science news outlets like
News seem to all jump on human evolution stories more
than evolution stories about other life forms. Maybe thats because
were only human. This weeks entry concerns a story published
in Nature1 by Stedman et al2
that a muscle protein mutation might
be correlated with a change in brain size among human ancestors.
The idea is that this change reduced the stiffness of the jaw, shrinking the
massive jaw muscles of gorilla-like primates, and therefore allowing brain size
A change in a single muscle protein may have been a key step in the
evolution of modern humans, according to a new theory, echoes
Elizabeth Pennisi in Science3.
1Pete Currie, Human genetics: Muscling in on hominoid
Nature 428, 373 - 374 (25 March 2004); doi:10.1038/428373a.
2Stedman et al.,
26 March 2004.
3Elizabeth Pennisi, The Primate Bite: Brawn Versus Brain?
Vol 303, Issue 5666, 1957 , 26 March 2004, DOI: 10.1126/science.303.5666.1957a.
If you swallow this line, weve got
a resort vacation to sell you on the Isle of DeBris. The reaction of
Ralph Holloway, a physical anthropologist at Columbia University, is more
calm and rational: To suggest that the brain is constrained by chewing muscles is
How Could Polar Dinosaurs Survive Freezing, Darkness?
This tale is a pinhead balanced on a house of cards in a
windstorm. It relies on mythical dating methods and flexible estimates
of mutation rates, all supported by the assumption of evolution. We
are not impressed by one putative mutation that might have made
miracles possible (Stedman sidestepped in the Science
article, Were not suggesting that this mutation alone [buys]
you Homo sapiens, but it could make possible brain growth).
We want to see the catalog of 50,000 or more lucky rolls of the die that
supposedly turned a gorilla-like knuckle-walker into a philosopher.
Pete Currie has the gall to open his report in Nature,
Darwins mouthpiece (see 03/04/2004
commentary), with this distortion:
Ever since Bishop Wilberforce famously ridiculed the possibility that
man was descended from apes, and T. H. Huxley bravely chose primate
ancestry rather than ignorance , the debate over our origins has claimed
a special place in evolutionary theory. With the acceptance by
most of us that we are indeed a product of natural
selection , discussions surrounding the issue have cooled
somewhat. But exactly how natural selection acted to produce
the modern human form has remained hotly contested.
Fact is, no one recorded the actual words spoken in the famous interchange
before the British Association at Oxford in 1860, and many if not most in
the crowd sided with Wilberforce. The debate has become somewhat of
an urban legend, more symbolic than substantial (see Janet Brownes
account, Charles Darwin: The Power of Place, ch. 3).
Most of us? Speak for yourself, Pete. Only a few
elitist Darwin Party members think the intricacies of human soul, spirit
and body can be produced by natural selection. But of course, they
have far more faith and more vivid imaginations. Thats why they
are evolutionists. If you think
this is an unfair tirade against the X Clubbers, look what Currie
himself confesses at the end of his article about not just the fossil record
of human evolution, but of all evolution:
What is the significance of these findings, and do they shed any light
on human origins? Although there is a rough consensus [see
about the individual features that define fossil species within the
genus Homo, the sequence in which individual traits were acquired
during hominid evolution remains controversial.
Furthermore, the definition of which character traits were essential
for the appearance of the modern human form is equally
contentious. The reasons for this are familiar to anyone
who tries to explain morphological transitions over large evolutionary
distances based primarily on the fossil record. Such
explanations hinge on finding so-called transitional
forms, where a particular fossil is so indelibly etched with
the tell-tale signs of what something was, and what it was going to become ,
that an inescapable evolutionary theory simply tumbles out of the dirt.
Not unsurprisingly, such fossils are very rare indeed, and fossils
charting the course of hominid evolution are no exception.
There you have it. He has just admitted that transitional fossils
are rare indeed. so rare that a senior paleontologist at the British
laid it on the line:
there is not one such fossil for which one could make a watertight
argument. Though an evolutionist, Dr. Colin Patterson
continued by criticizing a
bad habit of his brethren: It is easy enough to make up stories
of how one form gave rise to another, and to find reasons why the stages
should be favoured by natural selection. But such stories
are not part of science, for there is no way of putting them to the
Deliberately and connivingly, the Darwin Party injected
just-so storytelling into science
(see 12/22/2003 commentary).
Its time to vote the rascals out.
Next headline on:
Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory
aThe mockers at talk.origins
lambaste creationists for using this old quote, accusing them of taking
it out of context. But read the entire quote, and then
watch them squirm their way around it, trying to make us believe
Patterson really didnt mean what he clearly said.
If they want to dredge up Huxley and Wilberforce in 1860, why not
Patterson in 1981?
As an evolutionist, of course Patterson could afterwards
claim his words were
taken out of context, so as not to embarrass his comrades, but look at the words!
There is no way
to make them mean the opposite, that the fossil record is filled with
transitional forms, or that storytelling has any value in science.
Even the mockers agree that the quote was accurate, at least in the
Revised Quote Book. You can listen to the entire lecture
and read the transcript (available from
Research Network). Patterson was very hard on Darwinism, and
accused it of being positively anti-knowledge.
It was an honest and damaging series of admissions he made in front
of leading pro-Darwin colleagues.
Trying to make Pattersons words concern only systematics
and not evolution is a smokescreen,
an example of sidestepping the issue
with the either-or fallacy.
Systematics is to evolution what accounting is to business; you cannot
separate them into watertight compartments. Pattersons backpedaling
sounds no different than a politician explaining a flipflop to the press.
The entire context is available to anyone who wants to check it out; the
rebuttal is full of bluffing and
Mock.origins can label Carl Wielands response almost comical,
but if words mean things, Wieland was right to claim that Reading the entire address, it would
scarcely matter if it were a girl guides meeting, the comments are valid.
For more on Colin Patterson, see
comments and the ARN Colin
Geographic News has a report about a new exhibit of
dinosaur fossils that have been found in the northern and southern polar regions.
These unusual creatures had to survive not only the cold, but also,
due to the effects of orbital mechanics, six months of darkness each
year. Intrepid explorers in south Australia, northern Canada,
Patagonia, Alaska and Antarctica have braved the elements since the 1980s
to find dinosaur bones in the extreme polar regions. Their discoveries
have changed our conceptions of dinosaur metabolism and the ecosystems
in which they lived. Polar dinosaurs include:
The exhibit at Seattles Burke Museum is called Dinosaur
- Hypsolophodontids: small, speedy, plant-eating dinosaurs that
ran on two feet. They had large eyes, apparently adapted to
low light levels, and bones that grew throughout the year, suggesting
they were warm blooded. The plants on which they fed apparently
did not drop their leaves during the winter.
- A horned dinosaur named Serendipaceratops arthurcclarkei (no
kidding) must have looked like something out of a sci-fi movie.
NG claims this is one of the oldest horned, or frilled, dinosaurs
known, which suggests that horned dinosaurs may have originated in the
southern polar region.
- A sauropod, possibly the largest found in Antarctica, is being
analyzed. It was found at 13,000 feet elevation.
- An allosaurus-like meat eater named
Cryolophosaurus ellioti was 22 feet long.
Throughout the world there are mysteries.
Fossils give silent evidence of a very different world in the past; a world
with polar regions that must have supported lush plant life and rich ecologies
of diverse plants and animals larger than those living today. Large redwood
stumps have also been found in the Arctic circle
(see 03/22/2002 headline),
and there are the legendary frozen mammoths of Siberia.
Mars Salt Water Predicted 03/28/2004
This article suggests that
the climate was warmer then than it is now, but puzzles over the
fact that these dinosaurs must have endured months of darkness and
temperatures that plunged below freezing. For plants to have
supported herbivores and carnivores of this size near the poles,
it would seem there must have been atmospheric conditions that evened out
the lighting and temperature.
As for horned dinosaurs originating near the south pole,
we laugh, ha ha, at this funny joke.
Next headline on:
Planetary scientists have been very excited about the
Exploration Rovers discovery of evidence that
salt water existed on Mars in the past. Not too many seem to be
noticing, however, that this was predicted by a creationist.
Walt Brown predicted in 2001, Soil in erosion channels on Mars
will contain traces of soluble compounds, such as salt from the
subterranean chamber. Soil far from erosion channels will not.
Dr. Brown has also made other
predictions about water on Mars based on his hydroplate theory.
Visualize a salt water sea while looking at this
taken by the Mars rover Opportunity.
Dr. Brown (see
January featured scientist)
has been one of few makers of
scientific models to put his reputation on the line and make predictions.
This is not the only one of dozens he made in his book
In the Beginning that have
been confirmed. If detailed predictions of a model seem to be corresponding to
reality on repeated occasions, it should cause other scientists to take
Animals Are Overengineered for Navigation 03/23/2004
Next headline on:
Animals outshine us in many ways, but one capability that should humble us
is animal navigation. From spiders to mice, from birds to bees, the ability
of animals to find their way around is truly astonishing, and James L. Gould
has raised our awareness of just how astonishing in a short article in
Biology (March 23, 2004).1
He starts by explaining that navigation is more than just
knowing which way you are pointed: Nearly all animals move in an oriented
way, he says, but navigation is something more: the directed
movement toward a goal, as opposed to steering toward or away from, say,
light or gravity. Navigation involves the neural processing of
sensory inputs to determine a direction and perhaps distance.
As an example, he mentions how honeybees have to correct for the angle of the
sun from morning to afternoon. This involves much more than orienting at a
fixed angle. The bee has to use changing sensory information to maintain
its internal map.
Gould mentions four stumbling blocks that prevented early
investigators from appreciating the navigational abilities of animals.
Researchers apparently assumed natural selection was sufficient to
explain it all. He writes, Several trends reflecting favorably on natural
selection and poorly on human imagination characterized early studies of
navigation. The stumbling blocks investigators have had to
get over include:
Lets look at just a few of the believe it or not examples
Gould showcases in the article:
- Spectral Breadth: Early researchers assumed that animals were limited
to our own human senses, but found out they can utilize a shopping list of cues
invisible to us: ultraviolet light, infrared light, magnetic fields,
electric fields, chemical pheromones, ultrasonic sounds and infrasonic sounds.
We were blind to our own blindness, he says, and there is
no reason to assume the list is complete.
- Complexity: Another crippling tendency of early investigators
was what navigation pioneer Donald Griffin called our innate simplicity
filter: the desire to believe that animals do things in the least complex
way possible. Perhaps it was from our own pride of place, but
according to Gould, we should be humbled:
Experience, however, tells us that animals whose lives depend on
accurate navigation are uniformly overengineered. Not only do
they frequently wring more information out of the cues that surround them
than we can, or use more exotic or weaker cues than we find
conceivable, they usually come equipped with alternative strategies
a series of backups between which they switch depending on which
is providing the most reliable information.
- Recalibration: Early studies assumed animals just needed to learn
a trick once (a phenomenon called imprinting, true in some short-lived
animals.) Then they found out that some animals are able to recalibrate
- Cognition: The school of psychology known as
behaviorism, which denies instinct, puts a ceiling on the maximum level
of mental activity subject to legitimate investigation, Gould chides.
As a result of this bias, most researchers deliberately ignored
or denigrated the evidence for cognitive processing in navigating
animals. Not all animals exhibit cognitive intervention,
Gould admits. But he then makes a very unDarwinian countercharge:
However, the obvious abilities of hunting spiders and
honey bees to plan novel routes make it equally clear that
phylogenetic distance to humans is no sure guide to the sophistication
of a species orientation strategies.
He gives an example: One of the problems we inherited
from behaviorism was the assumption that exploratory behavior must be
rewarded. However, many species examine their surroundings voluntarily
and, in fact, do so in detail. (See example on mice below.)
Gould ends by pointing out two of the biggest challenges to researchers
studying animal navigation: (1) the nature of the map sense, and
(2) the issue of recalibration, which is still puzzling.
The interaction of these specific learning programs,
he promises, doubtlessly holds many magnificent secrets.
- Honeybees: Here is an example of switching inputs to get
the most reliable information. A honey bee, for instance, may set
off for a goal using its time-compensated sun compass. When a
cloud covers the sun, it may change to inferring the suns position from
UV patterns in the sky and opt a minute later for a map-like
strategy when it encounters a distinctive landmark. Lastly, it may
ignore all of these cues as it gets close enough to its goal to detect the
odors or visual cues provided by the flowers.
- Mice: Here is an example of the overengineering
Gould spoke of. Many field animals, like mice, have a strong drive to
acquire information about their home range in advance of need, whether or
not (as behaviorism would expect) they get an immediate reward.
Consider mice, he says,
which not only gallop endlessly in
running wheels, but actually prefer difficulty, such as square wheels, or
wheels with barriers that must be jumped. Given a 430 meter long opaque
three-dimensional maze of pipes, mice will work out the shortest path within
three days, and without reward.
Navigation requires determining direction:
This can be achieved in two ways, and mice use both: they can use
another landmark from their mental map and triangulate
the direction of the goal, or they can use a landmark-independent compass
like the earths magnetic field.
--and they never joined the boy scouts. Whats more, mice
can also navigate perfectly well, even if the habitat fails to
provide useful landmarks. They will remember the
direction and length of each leg of their outward
journey and integrate the result when they are ready to return and
set off home, even without a trail of bread crumbs.
- Pigeons: Daytime provides celestial cues. ...once
the relationship between azimuth and time of day is memorized, Gould
says, the animal has a highly accurate compass. Weve
all heard about the navigational feats of homing pigeons. They can
discern ultraviolet (UV) light, which accentuates polarization patterns of scattered
sunlight, for drawing their mental map, and add to it individual data points
like the average of a nights attempts to escape from a cage, or
some other directional measure. The cues help them derive a mean vector,
with direction pointing to the goal, and length representing scatter.
When all the cues line up, theyve got their bearing.
- Migratory birds: Birds who migrate between nesting grounds
and wintering grounds can use sun cues, star cues, magnetic fields and
landmarks to find their way. Not only that, they can recalibrate the
cues for seasonal changes, latitude, and longitude. This requires
To infer the pole point through broken clouds, the animals map
of the sky must be updated. And as the migrants move south
in the fall, new sets of stars in the southern sky appear, while
northern stars slip below the horizon. Clearly, changes in both
season and latitude make relearning the stars essential.
Only fairly recently has this constant updating been demonstrated.
In fact, for unknown reasons, nocturnal migrants calibrate their star
pole to the magnetic pole. Instead of simply taking the pole point as
the true guide, the birds constantly recalibrate the magnetic pole to the
geographic pole, and then the geographic pole to the magnetic pole.
- Latitude: Fish, turtles, lobsters, and birds all determine their latitude
by the angle of the magnetic field. In theory, Gould says,
animals could obtain the same information from the suns noon
elevation, but I know of no case in which this traditional human solution
is used. The critters must know something we dont.
- Longitude: house wrens, pigeons, sharks, salmon, sea turtles and spiny lobsters
have all conquered a navigational problem that bedeviled human
navigators until very recently, the problem of determining longitude.
How do they know distance east from west?
How can house wrens find their way back, unerringly, to the same nest box after
a long flight at a different time of year from when they left?
The apparent answer to this conundrum is provided
by a map sense, Gould answers. The earths magnetic field
provides both a map and a compass just the tools you would need if
released in an unfamiliar area.
- Pigeons again: When homing pigeons circle around
before heading home, they are reading the local map of magnetic
gradients and extrapolating it from the one they learned at home.
How do pigeons detect the earths magnetic field? They actually
have magnetite grains in their heads, in the ethymoid sinus.
Experiments have shown that magnetic anomalies make the birds disoriented.
A sharp pulse of magnetism can severely impair their compass. But
remagnetize the organ by putting it into a magnetic field, and the bird is
back to normal
1James L. Gould, Magazine: Animal Navigation,
BiologyVol 14, R221-R224, 23 March 2004.
Wow. Thank you, Dr. Gould.
This article contains absolutely no hints about how such abilities could have evolved;
in fact, it contains a couple of off-handed swipes at the notion that
natural selection could explain them, or that skill correlates with
phylogenetic distance. This is surprising, considering
that James L. Gould is a member of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary
Biology at Princeton. It could just as well have been written by
Dr. Gary Parker at the Institute for Creation Research. Its
a wonder the editors of Current Biology let this one get by without
the required pinch of incense to Emperor Charlie.
Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week: Cell Networks
Notice that these highly refined and accurate navigational
skills are possessed by a wide variety of animals: mammals (e.g., mice),
insects (e.g., Monarch butterflies -- see 05/23/2003
and 07/09/2002 headlines),
birds (e.g., Pacific golden plovers, which can navigate over open sea to the
Hawaiian islands without having ever seen them), reptiles (e.g., sea turtles),
crustaceans (e.g., lobsters), and fish (e.g., salmon). Skill does not scale with
presumed evolutionary advancement: for instance, the spiny lobster wins
the prize for magnetic mapping (see 01/06/2003
headline). Even bacteria and plants can orient
themselves with respect to environmental cues. Humans were given
ability to build tools that can navigate a spacecraft to Saturn, but we
must surely stand in awe of a God who could put technology
that outperforms NASA into a bird brain. This article goes to show
that the film Incredible
Creatures That Defy Evolution could become an infinite series.
Click your way back through the Amazing chain links for many
Next headline on:
A team of Chinese scientists analyzed protein interactions in yeast cells,
and titled their paper in PNAS1
The yeast cell-cycle network is robustly designed.
They demonstrated that the cell-cycle network is extremely stable
and robust for its function, and able to survive perturbations.
The beginning of the paper expresses the wonder the stimulated their research:
Despite the complex environment in and outside of the cell,
various cellular functions are carried out reliably by the
underlying biomolecular networks. How is the stability of a cell
state achieved? How can a biological pathway take the cell from
one state to another reliably? Evolution must have played a
crucial role in the selection of the architectures of these networks
for them to have such a remarkable property.
After analyzing the stable states, big attractors and checkpoints
in the yeast cell cycle, the scientists remind us that this network is part
of an even bigger marvel:
Note that the network we
studied ... is only a skeleton of a larger cell-cycle network
with many redundant components and interactions....
Thus, we expect the complete network
to be even more stable against perturbations.
And now to the climax. In the closing statement, after claiming several
times that these networks are robustly designed (their term),
they suggest that all this complexity, all this robustness, all this
control and regulation is the product of time, chance and contingency.
In fact, the very robustness might even help evolution make it better:
... Furthermore, our results suggest that not only do biological states
correspond to big fixed points but the biological pathways are also robust.
Functional robustness has been found in other biological networks,
e.g., in the chemotaxis of E. coli (in the response to external
stimuli) and in the gene network setting up the segment
polarity in insects development (with respect to parameter changes)
. It has also been found at the single molecular level, in the
mutational and thermodynamic stability of proteins. In some
sense, biological systems have to be robust to function in complex
(and very noisy) environments.
More robust could also mean more
evolvable, and thus more likely to survive; a robust module is
easier to be modified, adapted, added-on, and combined with
others for new functions and new environments. Indeed,
robustness may provide us with a handle to understand the profound
driving force of evolution.
1Fangting Li, Tao Long, Ying Lu, Qi Ouyang, and Chao Tang,
The yeast cell-cycle network is robustly designed,
the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.0305937101,
published online before print March 22, 2004.
Congratulations to the winners of this weeks Stupid Evolution
Quote of the Week. Bravo. Now call the schizophrenia ward.
More Details of Photosynthesis Coming to Light 03/20/2004
They may actually have a point. In the church, Christians
are more likely to survive, and are easier to be modified, augmented, adapted
and combined with others for new functions and new environments in the body of Christ if they
are more evolvable (malleable) in Gods hand.
can be perfected in weakness, but only by intelligent design.
Next headline on:
Photosynthesis, the light-harvesting capability of plants, was a black box
30 years ago, but more and more details have been elucidated by advanced
probing techniques. In the
March 18 issue of Nature,1, a team of Chinese scientists
determined the X-ray structure of a principal component acts like a light-harvesting
antenna. The structure utilizes special molecules that not only gather
the energy of light, but also get rid of excess energy that could damage the
plant. They write, Four carotenoid-binding sites per monomer have
been observed. The xanthophyll-cycle carotenoid at the monomer-monomer
interface may be involved in the non-radiative dissipation of excessive
energy, one of the photoprotective strategies that have evolved in plants.
1Liu et al.,
Crystal structure of spinach major light-harvesting complex at 2.72 Ň resolution,
Nature 428, 287 - 292 (18 March 2004); doi:10.1038/nature02373.
Nice observation, but another example of the Darwinian bad habit of
assuming what ought to be proved. Plants dont evolve
protective strategies. That requires intelligence.
Do Birds of a Feather Demonstrate Parallel Evolution?
Next headline on:
A puzzling phenomenon emerges from evolutionary considerations of bird
plumage coloration and patterning. Hopi E. Hoekstra and Trevor Price
describe the problem in the March 19 issue of
and provide examples:
The pages of any bird guide reveal a spectacular diversity of colors and
color patterns. Although color patterns vary within species, often
they also distinguish closely related species. Variations in color are
thought to have evolved through the interplay of sexual selection
and natural selection. What is less obvious--because
the birds are on different pages of the guide--is the repeated appearance
of similar color patterns among distantly related species
(parallel evolution). A list of 9672 of the worlds bird
species includes a black-capped chickadee, a black-capped pygmy tyrant,
and a black-capped kingfisher as well as 26 other species whose most
conspicuous feature--at least prominent enough to prefix their common
name--is a black cap. There are 41 black-throated species (in 40
different genera), 8 that are blue-capped, 9 that are orange-breasted, and
29 that are red-billed. There are many such examples of parallel
evolution in birds , but the molecular underpinnings of
similar plumage patterns among distantly related or unrelated species
are still not clear.
Hoekstra and Price take encouragement from a study published in the same
issue of Science by Mundy et al.2 The team
identified a single mutation present in two unrelated birds that affects the
degree of melanism (dark coloration) in their plumage. This can only
be a partial solution, however, because they point out that
More than 100 genes that affect the amount and distribution of melanin
in the pelts of laboratory mice have been identified; presumably a similar
diversity of genes influences melanin production in birds.
However, they take heart that a single amino acid mutation in the one gene
studied correlated perfectly with the color variation in the two species:
one an Arctic skua, the other a snow goose. They conclude
that The repeated implication of this same gene suggests that there
may be a more limited number of genetic mechanisms to produce dark plumage
in natural populations than is suggested by genetic studies of lab mice
at least in this case.
An illustration Hoekstra and Price included shows another
remarkable example of parallel evolution among orioles. Two nearly
identical species are more distantly related, according to molecular
phylogeny, than dissimilar ones. Its as if we were shown two
pairs of identical twins, Moe and Joe, and Cindy and Mindy, and told that
Joe is more closely related to Cindy, and Moe to Mindy, than the other
way around. Within the oriole group, there are many such
examples of similar plumage patterns among different species due to
parallel evolution , the caption reads.
The authors are hopeful that the work of Mundy et al.
will lead to solutions to these puzzles. Field studies of
selection, coupled with characterization of the melanin pathways in each
species, will eventually enable a closer tracing of the roles of
selection and mutation in generating the similarities and differences
between the species, they say. Further down the road,
we should be able to dissect the genetic basis of more complicated
color patterns like those of the orioles.
1Hopi E. Hoekstra and Trevor Price, Parallel Evolution
Is in the Genes,
Vol 303, Issue 5665, 1779-1781 , 19 March 2004, DOI: 10.1126/science.1096413.
2Mundy et al.,
Conserved Genetic Basis of a Quantitative Plumage Trait Involved in Mate Choice,
03/19/2004, 2004 303: 1870-1873.
The Natural Law of the Medes and the Persians in their model is evolution, even
when it contradicts other laws. Evolutionists cling to their mythical
phylogenetic trees like astrologers to horoscopes, but the data suggest a
different paradigm: a sharing and sorting of information
among different species, leading to traits like black caps, wing stripes, crests,
speckles, throat patches, iridescence (see photonic
crystals, 01/29/2003) and much more traits that look designed.
The observations do not support
a common ancestry cosmology, tweaked with epicycles like convergent evolution
and parallel evolution. When you see common design, why not
postulate a common designer?
Butterflies in Amber Stun Discoverers 03/17/2004
The authors freely admit that just to get dark color requires
a complex set of molecular machines:
The melanocortin-1 receptor (MC1R)
resides in the membrane of specialized cells known as melanocytes, which are
the site of melanin synthesis in birds and mammals. Circulating
melanocyte-stimulating hormone (MSH) binds to MC1R, turning on the cells
Are we being asked to believe that up to a hundred
molecular machines that control just the melanin pigment all
evolved in parallel to produce nearly identical species? What about the
hundreds of other genes that produce throat patches, wing bars, and other
plumage patterns and colors? Visualize the exquisite patterns on a peacock,
bird of paradise, crane, red-winged blackbird, parrot, ostrich, ruby-throated hummingbird,
bald eagle, emperor penguin, magpie, rooster or the songbird
in your back yard. These patterns dont just happen; they
all require genetic information. This information is transmitted reliably,
with only rare slight variations, for many generations.
Mundy et al. are confident that they have identified
a rare example where the major molecular genetic determinant of a
quantitative trait has been identified in wild populations, and that
their work on snow geese and Arctic skuas provides strong support for
the notion that, at least in the case of melanism in birds,
evolution is driven by mutation rather than selection on
existing standing genetic variation. Nevertheless, to make
their story work, they have to wave three hands:
This presumably reflects some combination of a high mutability to
functionally novel MC1R alleles, a relative absence of deleterious pleiotropic
effects of these alleles, and the visibility of dominant or codominant
melanic MC1R alleles to natural selection. OK, if you want
to call that science, lets put some quantitative numbers in the
equation and test it, instead of bluffing about some combination of
multiple unknowns. On top of all their other contradictions,
they expect us to swallow their line about
a conserved mechanism of plumage color evolution through many tens of
millions of years of avian history, after they just told us the
gene they studied must have been highly mutable!
The phylogenetic explanation clearly has serious problems,
and this one hyped correlation is trivial. Even if these
evolutionists could establish that orioles diverged from a common ancestor,
they are still orioles: still able to
fly, eat, lay eggs, and do all the things birds are so good at, whether or
not their feather colors are a little darker in one population than another.
Sorting of existing traits has nothing to do with Darwinian evolution in
the sense of producing new genetic information. Something has
sorted and distributed pre-existing complex specified information in bird feathers,
creating beautiful patterns and colorful artwork.
That something could be intelligent design.
Parallel evolution is
just a hand-waving term to describe an observation, not explain it.
Next headline on:
Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory
Scientist reports that exquisitely-preserved butterflies have been
found in amber from the Dominican Republic. It was just
incredible, exclaimed a Smithsonian researcher.
Its no different than if you took a modern day butterfly and put it
under a light microscope. But this prompted a puzzle:
the amber is estimated to be up to 25 million years old.
were thought to have diverged from non-insects 40 to 50 million years
ago, but these Caribbean islands had to have drifted from the
mainland up to 50 million years ago, based on current theories of when
the islands separated from Mexico. It is unlikely that the
delicate butterflies could have crossed an ocean. These specimens,
therefore, must have already been present. If so, Butterflies
may be far more ancient creatures than previously believed, the
article states, and therefore, it is possible butterflies may have
even fluttered around the heads of dinosaurs, which were wiped out 65
million years ago.
Update 04/01/2004: Dick Vane-Wright puzzles
over this find in Nature April 1.1
Its discovery raises key issues, he says, about Caribbean biogeography,
behavioural evolution (or lack of it), and the origin of butterflies.
It looks like a living fossil. If so,
an implication is that the basic ecology of Voltinia has not
changed over this huge time span, (i.e., 15-35 million years,
an order of magnitude greater than the lifetime of the average species.
Vane-Wright is sensitive to a common fault among the brethren:
In evolutionary biology we must be alert to mere story-telling,
selecting suitable facts to support whatever view of events we favour,
he cautions; nevertheless, he feels compelled to accept the idea that no evolution
in this species occurred for tens of millions of years. Later, in discussing
favored views about when butterflies diverged, he quips, Here again we
have to beware of story-telling. He also borrows a joke from
a friend: As de Jong has wryly observed: We have no idea when
the butterflies originated, although there is no shortage of wild guesses.
1Dick Vane-Wright, Entomology: Butterflies at that awkward age,
Nature 428, 477 - 480 (01 April 2004); doi:10.1038/428477a.
This is a perfect time to review the correct procedure for reading a
science article. Always separate the data from the interpretation.
The data are five amber nuggets containing the best-preserved fossil
of any butterfly yet found. The species is almost identical
to its closest living relative on the Mexican mainland.
The dates, and the stories about
drifting islands and dinosaur wipeouts at such and such a time with
butterflies fluttering about their heads, is all interpretive fluff.
Brush it away like cobwebs. What remains? Butterflies
have always been butterflies. No transitional form was found.
No date came on the samples. No evolution was demonstrated
only beautiful design. Does this discovery provide
vital clues to the evolution of butterflies?
Does it explain why delicate butterflies, with wings like tissue paper,
survived whatever killed macho, muscular dinosaurs?
We report you decide.
The Evolution of Cultural Diversity 03/17/2004
Dick Vane-Wrights comments would almost make one think
that Creation-Evolution Headlines is having an impact. Scientists
seem more sensitive lately about the charge of just-so storytelling
(see also 04/01/2004 headline).
Next headline on:
Darwinism can explain anything these days, including
everything from war
(see 09/16/2003 headline)
to the Golden Rule
(see 02/22/2004 headline),
so why not culture? All the arts, sciences, and languages are
candidates for naturalistic explanation this week. The self-proclaimed
successors of Adam Smith, Mark Pagel and Ruth Mace, put forward their
conjectures in The cultural wealth of nations in the
18 issue of Nature.1
But first, this
Humans are the virtuosos of cultural diversity. We fish, hunt,
shepherd, forage and cultivate. We practise polygyny, polyandry and
monogamy, pay bride-prices and dowries, and have patrilineal and matrilineal
wealth inheritance. We construct or inhabit all manner of shelters,
speak about 7,000 different languages and eat everything from seeds to
whales. And this is not counting many unique, and sometimes bizarre,
belief systems and behavioural practices.
The mystery, in Darwinian terms, is how all this diversity could arise out of
a relatively uniform genetic code:
If the picture of human cultures is one of variability, the human genetic
landscape is one of homogeneity. All of humanity varies less genetically
than does a typical wild population of chimpanzees. This may
reflect our youthfulness as a species. Anatomically modern Homo
sapiens emerged only about 75,000-100,000 years ago , and
may have suffered a demographic bottleneck in the recent past,
meaning that in evolutionary terms we are all descended from a
not-so-distant common ancestor. Also, of course, we can interbreed
throughout our entire worldwide range. Add the facts that we regularly
trade, migrate across each others territories and wage war against
each other, and a puzzle emerges: where does our extreme cultural
diversity come from, and what maintains it?
They suggest a new approach to solving this puzzle: think of human cultures
like diverse species, evolving by Darwinian means against each other:
The answers can perhaps be found in thinking about human cultures as if
they are collections of distinct biological species, they suggest.
Just as species carry genetic adaptations to their environments,
we believe that cultural adaptations have evolved in response to social life,
and that such adaptations work to maintain cultural identity and coherence.
Carrying the analogy further, cultural borders are like
cell membranes resistant to gene flow. They draw various analogies
between Darwinian biology and Darwinian cultural evolution, such as
phylogenetic trees of languages, the evolution of altruism, biogeography,
horizontal gene transfer, group selection, etc. Then they end on
what they term an unscientific postscript based on the
competing interests of the desire to control resources and the desire
to gain identity with a group
Putting these forces together, we get a picture of humans as a highly
social and group-focused species. None of this is to say that
selfish behaviour has been erased or that all cultures survive
intact. The all-too-common tragedies of the commons, in which
individual over-exploitation of common resources results in their collapse,
remind us of the price of selfishness. But this picture of the
nature of cultures suggests that they are surprisingly robust against outside
influences (although not invincible) and that, at least for large cultures,
worries about cultural swamping are overstated. Nevertheless, our
ancient cultural practices may also be telling us that, in a world in which
mass movements of people from poorer to richer areas will become ever more
common, we must be especially vigilant about our own tendencies to protect
the status quo ante.
1Mark Pagel and Ruth Mace,
The cultural wealth of nations,
Nature 428, 275 - 278 (18 March 2004); doi:10.1038/428275a.
We assume the authors were excepting themselves when mentioning
unique, and sometimes bizarre, belief systems.
These authors have just pulled the foundation of meaning out from under
all human communication, interaction, art, science and government,
but it doesnt seem to bother them at all.
Neanderthals Not Our Cousins, Expert Claims 03/16/2004
Social Darwinism is still around, as you can see. Modern day
Marxists will feel warm fuzzies with this article. When scientists
omit the reality of intelligent design, all they have left is matter
in motion. That matter might be molecules, cells, or people,
but never life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is
not self-evident truth to a Darwinist that humans are endowed by a Creator with
anything. Thus government, culture and language must all be just
artifacts of matter in motion. Human culture obeys the same Darwinian
laws as bacterial culture.
Left without design, their pet theory of evolution has to
fulfill the role of designer. Darwinians are always up to the challenge;
in fact, it is their form of entertainment
(see 02/22/2004 commentary).
The basic Darwinian plot provides an endless, malleable storytelling platform
for explaining anything
(see 01/15/2004 commentary),
and since the Starving Storytellers got on King Charlies welfare
programs and grew obese
(see 12/22/2003 commentary),
they no longer have any motivation for hard scientific work.
One outcome is predictable:
Nature, that megaphone for Darwin (see 03/04/2004
commentary), will be eagerly poised to shout the latest propaganda
to the masses.
Exercise Did you catch the admission that the entire human population
seems to have gone through a demographic bottleneck in the recent past?
And that we all might have descended from a not-so-distant common ancestor?
Can you a describe a historical event that fits this observation?
Extra credit: name the ancestor.
Next headline on:
Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory
The news media are reporting claims that Neanderthals and modern humans
never interbred, based on work from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary
Anthropology. Both EurekAlert
and Nature Science
Update repeat the claim that the institutes study of DNA and bones from four Neanderthals and
five modern humans from scattered locations rules out any interbreeding.
Thats until you read the fine print.
Can such things be known? Listen to the disclaimers in the NSU article:
Privileged Planet Website Opens 03/16/2004
Although the two groups seem to have been genetically separate,
the fossil record is too patchy, and dating methods too unreliable,
to say whether this was because they never met, or because they simply
didnt consider each other an enticing proposition.If these were potentially
interbreeding humans, then forget the racism going on in all this
Neanderthal/modern dichotomizing. All scientists can observe
is that there were a few distinct physical characteristics among the
Neanderthals, such as prominent brows and thicker bones. What can we
know but that early wrestlers and bikers just got together and formed their own
Given the small number of fossils studied, its also possible
that interbreeding did occur, he [David Serre] adds, but that we have not
found the evidence yet.
Such a match-up would have been genetically feasible, says Stringer.
The two groups were closer in genetic terms than other primates that
happily breed today, he says.
There are groups of modern humans even today who prefer to
associate with others like themselves. They can and do form distinctive
populations, like pygmies or Watusi. The Bible
speaks of the sons of Anak and the Nephelim who were giants in their
time. Did the Israelites interbreed with them? Probably not.
Was either group non-human? Of course not.
Dead men tell no tales. Living ones, however, often tell whoppers,
especially those in the Darwin population.
Next headline on:
featuring a new book by Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards, The Privileged
Planet, has opened. The subtitle of the book is How Our Place
in the Cosmos Is Designed for Discovery. The authors take issue with
pessimistic views, such as those of Steven Weinberg and Carl Sagan, that our
planet is pointless or just a lost speck of cosmic dust
in the universe. Au contraire, the authors argue with many
interesting observations: our planet appears to have been intelligently
designed not only for our existence and well-being, but to maximize our
ability to comprehend the creation.
The website also highlights a documentary movie by the same
title due to be released soon by Illustra
Media, producer of the popular documentary Unlocking the Mystery of
Life. The film will feature Robert Jastrow, Paul Davies, Donald
Brownlee, and other prominent astronomers and philosophers. A video clip
of the opening is available on the website.
The book and film are being promoted by
Institute, an intelligent design think tank.
This is not a typical creationist book or film. To the extent it argues
that our universe and earth appear designed for life and discovery,
it makes an old anthropic argument stronger, adding an intriguing original
point that our position makes
science and discovery possible, as if that were the Creators intent.
Dont expect it to argue for a view of special creation by the
Judeo-Christian God, or to argue for a Biblical history or chronology.
It should, however, be a valuable resource to impel
knowledgeable skeptics to consider the evidence for design.
Dr. Gonzalez and Jay Richards have impeccable credentials and know their
Scientific Elitism Trumps Democracy 03/12/2004
Next headline on:
They dont want it, but theyre going to get it. Britons
have expressed outrage and anger over genetically-modified foods, such
as pesticide-resistant maize, reports Jim Giles in
Nature.1 But the government has listened to scientists
who have assured government ministers it is safe. On March 9, they
approved commercial planting of GM maize in the face of widespread
public opposition. Giles says, In Britain, opposition to
agricultural biotechnology has been early and strident.
This decision may set a precedent: Both supporters and enemies believe
this weeks decision will influence debates outside Britain about
transgenic crops. How did such a decision get past the voters?
The case for the crops was boosted by a scientific review, released
last July, which found no reason to rule out carefully managed
cultivation of the plants. The review was discussed at a cabinet
meeting last month. Leaked minutes of the meeting state that
ministers acknowledged public opposition, but thought that
it might eventually be worn down by solid , authoritative
Do the GM crops pose any danger of spreading outside the farm?
Farmers will also be wary of planting genetically modified varieties
before the government has clarified rules governing how they should be kept
separate from nearby conventional crops, the article states.
Regarding another ethical-political issue the use
of embryonic stem cells Science editor Donald Kennedy2
announced that South Koreas recent success in cloning a human embryo
makes this a good time for review of the ethics of the
procedure, which is currently banned from receiving federal funding in the United States
and Germany. Kennedy thinks the global scientific community should
be the arbiter of what makes a practice ethical. He writes,
Plainly, these findings may affect the U.S.
ethical debate. Leon Kass, the chairman of the Presidents
Council of Bioethics, sees them as a downward step on a slippery moral
slope: tomorrow, he predicts, cloned blastocysts
for baby-making. After the recent purge of two pro-stem cell
members, Kass has his commission under control. But science is,
after all, an international activity. The Korean success reminds
us that stem cell research, along with its therapeutic promise, is
under way in countries with various cultural and religious traditions.
Our domestic moral terrain is not readily exportable: U.S. politicians
cant make the rules for everyone, and they dont have a
special claim to the ethical high ground.
This seems to mean: others can do it, others are doing it, and who are
we (including the voters and democratically-elected representatives) to
stand in the way of science? Kennedy ends by quoting Harvard stem-cell
biologist Doug Melton: Look, life is short. I dont want
spend the rest of mine reading about exciting advances in my field that can
only be achieved in another country.
1Jim Giles, Transgenic planting approved despite
scepticism of UK public,
Nature 428, 107 (11 March 2004); doi:10.1038/428107a.
2Donald Kennedy, Stem Cells, Redux,
Volume 303, Number 5664, Issue of 12 Mar 2004, p. 1581.
They could do it; should they? Could
is technology; should is ethics. Not everything possible is
advisable. Scientists are involved in many activities that could
have profound societal effects: tampering with supergerms or nanobots
that, if released accidentally or by terrorists, might evade all our
defenses; producing chimeras, even combining human and non-human characters;
toying with human genes in ways that might
redefine what it means to be an individual. To whom are these
scientists accountable? Does wearing a white lab coat mean someone knows
the difference between could and should? Are scientists subject
to the rule of law as defined by duly-elected representatives?
Does the international scientific community comprise an elite oligarchy,
granted global powers that supersede the rights of voters?
What constitution gave them this authority?
Much Ado About Nothing 03/12/2004
The American founding fathers made government
accountable to the people. The purpose of government was to protect
individual, unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of
happiness. These rights were to be secured through the ballot box
and due process of law. Elected representatives were to be entrusted with
decision-making power only with the consent of the governed.
Here, however, we see political and scientific
elitists making sweeping, dramatic decisions on risky practices riddled with huge
ethical concerns, just because they can, and they think they know what is good for us.
The point of this commentary is not to debate the specific
ethical dilemmas posed by GM crops or therapeutic cloning of embryonic
stem cells. It is not to get embroiled in the emotional arguments
about slippery slopes, countered by utopian promises of better health or
productivity. The point is that the decisions on these highly-charged
ethical issues are being made by elitists who have utter disdain for the
voice of the people.
Giles acknowledged the public outcry but seemed satisfied that if scientists
said its OK, then its OK, even though serious questions remain
unanswered about protecting the environment or human health.
The prior week in both Nature and Science,
editorials expressed outrage that the Bush administration had dismissed
Elizabeth Blackburn from the Presidents Council on Ethics, presumably
because she was so outspoken in her opposition to the administrations
position on stem cell research. The concern seemed to be more about
Big Science getting their consensus opinion represented on the council, not
elected representative had the right to select his advisors. And no
one was asking the obvious question, what do the voters feel about
stem cell research? How much voice and authority should an unelected
council of scientists have to tell the voters the difference between
could and should?
Kennedys editorial makes it clear he is much more interested in
could than should.
The bulk of his argument rests on pragmatism, if not utter selfishness.
Ethics, shmethics: Melton wants a piece of the action.
The Americans dont want the Koreans and other pinnacles of ethical
civilization to get all the Nobel prizes, whether or not such research leads to
designer baby-making down the road. Voters are idiots.
Scientists know what is good for them. (Now read the
03/04/2004 headline again.)
Next headline on:
Politics and Ethics
How much can you say about nothing? Some people can say quite a lot.
One astrobiologist just wrote a large book about it: Lonely Planets:
The Natural Philosophy of Alien Life by David Grinspoon
(Harper Collins, 2003).
Larry R. Nittler reviewed this new book in the
issue of Science.1 Nittler describes how interest
in alien life fell into the scientific sub-basements of
exobiology and radio searches for extraterrestrial intelligence
(SETI) after pictures of Mars in 1965 revealed disappointing
deserts of lifelessness. But thirty years later,
three developments led to a resurgence of interest in alien life:
(1) the discovery
of extrasolar planets (see 07/21/2003
headline), (2) evidence for probable oceans under the ice of
Europa (see 02/11/2002 headline),
and (3) claims of fossil bacteria in a Martian meteorite
(see 03/18/2002 and
NASA launched its Astrobiology Institute in 1998
(see 08/23/2001 headline),
imbuing new respectability into the study of alien life.
Nittler explains, however, why astrobiology
is essentially the science of nothing:
Given the current surge in scientific attention to alien life, it is easy
to think that recent developments constitute a revolution of
sorts. However, our actual knowledge of alien life
remains the same as it has been for centuries and can be summarized
by a single word: nothing. Nonetheless, in Lonely Planets
David Grinspoon provides a masterful synthesis of the history, science,
philosophy, and even theological implications of extraterrestrial life.
So what can be said about nothing to fill 460 pages? Grinspoon divided
the nothingness into three sections: history, science, and belief.
In the history section, he examined beliefs about alien life from
to the present. Nittlers review points out that pessimism about
alien life has been rare. Up until the 1960s, for instance,
most people believed the dark patches on Mars were signs of vegetation.
In the science section, Grinspoon weaves a tale of
cosmic evolution from the Big Bang through the formation of the solar
system and the evolution of life on Earth, Nittler says
(see 07/15/2002 headline for more on
The author strenuously argues against the Rare Earth
hypothesis of Peter Ward and Robert Brownlee (see
01/14/2003 headlines), preferring to trust
in the adaptability of life to different environments and especially
the role life has played in shaping Earths unusual characteristics.
As to this role, and its meaning for the definition of life,
Grinspoon uses the Gaia hypothesis (that Earth can in some sense be
considered a super-organism of interconnected biogeochemical
feedback mechanisms) and complexity theory to argue for a more
generous definition of habitable worlds. He holds that a key
characteristic of living worlds should be chemical
disequilibrium, with large flows of energy and/or matter. By these
criteria , he suggests, we should also be searching for cloud
creatures on Venus and sulfur-based critters on the
volcanic Jovian moon Io.
(For more on Gaia, see 12/18/2003
The third section of the book deals with beliefs about aliens, from
UFOs to SETI to politics. There is the ubiquitous Drake equation,
speculation about the future of human evolution, and much more.
Given that most evolutionists dismiss claims of UFO abductions and conspiracy
theories, Grinspoon is surprisingly open-minded about the nothing we
know. But the reviewer detects a little hypocrisy:
His emphasis continues to be on keeping an open mind. SETI
assumes that aliens would continuously broadcast radio transmissions for
thousands of years. Anti-UFO skeptics argue that UFOs are not alien
spacecraft, because aliens just wouldnt act that way.
But both assumptions are based on preconceived notions of alien
behavior , about which we actually know nothing. (Grinspoon
falls into his own trap as well, dismissing popular ideas about UFOs
basically because they are so B-movie.)
Grinspoon doesnt think humans are intelligent yet. He seems
to measure intelligence in global terms, and so does Nittler. Here is
where politics enters the discussion about nothing, where it is difficult
for either of them to know where rational discussion ends and
wild speculation begins:
The book becomes increasingly personal in the final chapters as Grinspoon
delves deeper into more speculative ideas regarding spirituality
and the nature of intelligence. He muses that humans are not yet
truly intelligent and that to become so will require much better
collective behavior as a species. He seems overly pessimistic
in his assessment of our likelihood of becoming such a species, based
on our propensity for perpetrating violence on one another.
I would argue that such developments as the global eradication of certain
diseases and the advent of international courts to try war criminals
paint a more optimistic picture than the examples he gives of
SETI@home and world music. The author closes with even wilder
speculation regarding species immortality and machine civilizations.
Nittler sees the author as a product of the 70s, considering Isaac Asimov
and Carl Sagan were family friends of the Grinspoons.
This background clearly colors his thinking about his subject,
Nittler says, and his optimism about the existence of alien life
sometimes comes off as wishful thinking informed by too many Star Trek
episodes. But overall, he compliments the book for its
writing style, and the fact that Grinspoon tries to be clear about where
the science leaves off and the
intellectually squishy natural philosophy begins.
In the end, Nittler concludes on a happy note, Lonely
Planets is an entertaining and thought-provoking book about
a great deal more than nothing.
1Narry R. Nittler, Astrobiology:
Looking for Life in Far Distant Places,
Volume 303, Number 5664, Issue of 12 Mar 2004, p. 1614.
We didnt say the book was about
nothing: he did. We didnt say the book contained wild
speculation: he did. We didnt say the author was selectively
open-minded: he did. We didnt call it a tale of
cosmic evolution: he did. We didnt use the phrases
intellectually squishy and wishful thinking to
describe Grinspoons ideas: he did. Cloud creatures on Venus,
sulfur critters on volcanic Io, machine civilizations, international courts as
a measure of intelligence... good grief.
Yet Nittler calls this
book a masterful synthesis of ideas on well, nothing.
Major Cave with Fossils Found in Arizona 03/11/2004
That makes Nittler a co-conspirator, an accessory to the crime of allowing
stupid ideas to get good press in Americas premiere science journal.
If a creationist made claims on this level, they wouldnt get past the
National Enquirer. The code of silence in the Darwin Party requires
that none of the brethren are to be publicly humiliated. Even if lightly
tapped with padded gloves, they must be praised as defenders of the
tale of cosmic evolution.
Dont be fooled by the
talk about spirituality and theological implications
of finding alien life. We know what they mean, and its not
asking what must I do to be
(see 03/11/2004 headline).
Both men unfairly attack Kepler (see our
online biography). Nittler lets him
get away with libel: Grinspoon reminds us
that Johannes Kepler was a philosopher/freak who walked
the fine line between genius and delusion. Speak for
yourselves. Both of you would do well to read the life and writings
of the father of planetary science, and learn to respect his integrity
and intelligence. His wildest speculations were
tame compared to these.
Next headline on:
Origin of Life
Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory
Central has announced a major cave discovery east of Tucson.
The cave, named La Tetera, was discovered eight years ago but was kept
secret till today. The first human exploration only began New Years
Day 2002. The cave, located within Colossal Cave State
Park, is said to rival or exceed Kartchner Caverns in the size and beauty
of its formations. One large chamber has a floor covered in delicate
crystal, with huge multicolored domes reaching to the ceiling.
State officials intend to keep the cavern available to
only; it will probably never be open to the public.
Much of the cave still remains to be explored; about 2000
feet of passageways have been mapped so far. It appears in pristine
condition, moist and growing in fact, vapor rising from an orifice
gave it the name La Tetera, Spanish for teakettle.
Unlike Kartchner, La Tetera Cave contains many bones of
animals said to have gone extinct 10,000 years ago, including
prehistoric horses, camels, rattlesnakes and other animals.
The article states, Experts estimate that La Tetera is about 10
million years old - compared with less than 1 million years of age for
Discoveries like this make exciting news. Only the underground
environment provides opportunities for 21st century explorers to discover
virgin territory. Click the photo gallery link in the article
to view beautiful pictures of the interior of this cave.
What other magnificent caves on this vast
planet remain to be discovered?
The Evolution of Omnipotence
What is uncalled for in such reports is the obligatory reference to millions
of years. If you read the scientific report on nearby Kartchner
Caverns (available in the bookstore), you find that the dating methods are
compromises of conflicting measurements based on prior assumptions.
Think about it;
if there had been 9,990,000 years available for animals to stumble into this
cave, wouldnt it be totally filled with bones?
The long ages that tour guides and reports typically
spout are usually stated in a glib, matter-of-fact way, without
revealing the many assumptions that go into the estimates, or the many
evidences around the world that contradict the dates.
Ball park figures for cave dates are usually established
beforehand from uniformitarian and Darwinian assumptions, so that they fit
into the evolution-based geologic column (but see the
Furthermore, the dating methods commit the fallacy of
extrapolation of current processes
far beyond what is justifiable. Check out the following three articles, two by Ph.D.
geologists, that explain how cave and speleothem formation do not require such
vast periods of time: Snelling,
Next time on a cave tour, politely ask the guide how he or she knows the cave
is x million years old. Unless trained in anti-creationist tactics,
the guide will usually stutter and stammer, admitting that he/she is just repeating what
the script says. Then, for fun, show the guide
Here is a great new DVD to expand your mind about cave formation
and geology in general, by a world-class caver and PhD geologist, Dr. Emil
and Cave Formation. It contains stunning photographs and just as
stunning facts, by someone who knows caves better inside and out than most
people. Just as good is another DVD by Dr. Silvestru entitled,
& Ages: Do They Hide Millions of Years?
Next headline on:
With a headline like New Theory: Universe Created by
Intelligent Being, one might think that
Geographic News has gone creationist and rediscovered Genesis 1.
The opposite would be true. The article by John Roach explores the
radical thinking of a lawyer/scientist named James Gardner, who has just
published a book, Biocosm: The New Scientific Theory of Evolution:
Intelligent Life Is the Architect of the Universe. It is the
ultimate statement, not of creation, but of evolution.
Basically, Gardner believes that intelligent life inevitably evolves to the point
of being omnipotent, at which time it will learn how to create a new universe.
He calls intelligent life the reproductive organ of the cosmos.
Intelligence gets passed on to the next universe like a DNA code, ensuring
the daughter universe is fine-tuned for life. This explains the
Anthropic Principle (see 02/28/04
headline), the observation that our universe is life-friendly.
As to ultimate origins, he postulates a closed time-like curve wherein
the universe serves as its own mother.
But the all-powerful, intelligent creator Gardner imagines
was no benevolent, self-existent Person, Someone who might love His creatures
enough to become incarnate with them
and die for their sins.
On the contrary; Gardners creator is selfish. He calls
his cosmology the selfish biocosm theory, an extension to the
nth degree of Dawkins selfish gene concept that
there are entities that use organisms for their own propagation.
Gardner makes it clear his inspiration was Charles Darwin.
doesnt seem to have any qualms about this radical new theory; in fact,
he gives it pretty good press. He says, Though Gardner admits
the theory is speculative and out-there in the literal and figurative
senses, it is grounded enough in serious research to at least tickle the
fancy of some of the worlds most respected scientists.
Despite the title and the subject matter, Roach makes no mention
that any reputable scientist (or lawyer) could believe in an omnipotent,
eternal, self-existent Creator in the traditional sense, or that such belief
might be grounded in enough serious research to be taken seriously by
any scientist. He suggests, instead, that Gardners
theory might some day be testable, though as yet there is no evidence for it.
Are there Mormons on the board of
National Geographic? They would love this cosmology.
Its not new; Barrow and Tipler propounded it in their books, such as
The Anthropic Cosmological Principle. Actually, it is as old
as the serpent who told Eve, You shall be as gods, knowing good
Evolution Battle Heats Up in Ohio 03/10/2004
Pay no attention to the details of this selfish
biocosm story, because despite what Roach claims, it is not
based on serious research. No human could ever observe
or measure prior universes and ultimate realities. What is notable
in this foolish article is the effort unbelievers will expend in running
from the obvious. Does this syllogism make any sense?
Major premise: design implies intelligence. Minor premise: our
universe shows exquisite design. Conclusion: It must have evolved.
Also notable is the common practice of marginalizing
people of faith by ignoring them. This article sidesteps centuries
of profound intellectual thought about the existence of a transcendent,
infinite, eternal God, as if no scientist or philosopher of any merit,
from any culture, had anything worthwhile to say about the subject.
radical fringe lawyer who moonlights as a scientist gets
the spotlight in one of the most popular magazines in the world.
This tactic parallels those on network news programs that grant friendly interviews
to Gavin Newsom to make him appear mainstream, or American history books that
spend pages on Marilyn Monroe but ignore George Washington. We dont
mind NG mentioning this guys beliefs, but it should have been followed
up by hard-hitting questions or rebuttals by reputable opponents,
or else relegated to the funny pages.
Ol Charlie probably had no premonition of the exaggerations
his disciples would commit. Evolutionist radicals
have out-Darwinized the Mosstah (see 02/04/2004
headline), and made his guesswork into a full-fledged religion
(see 02/13/2004 commentary).
When the light of evidence shines at them, they run further back
into the darkness, bragging about how enlightened they are.
Next headline on:
Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory
has reported that the Ohio school board voted 13-5 in favor of an
optional set of lessons called Critical Analysis of Evolution.
The usual opponents are lining up on both sides; some scientific organizations
are claiming it is a religious effort cloaked as science, but
others consider it a victory for students and for academic freedom.
What are the Darwinians afraid of?
This is only an optional lesson. There is no test on it.
A students grade does not depend on it. The Darwinians get
478 pages out of 500 to tell their side of the story.
Come on, Darwin Party loyalists, give us your best shot.
We regularly debate the best Darwinian arguments from the best Darwinian
mouthpiece journals right here on
Creation-Evolution Headlines. Were not afraid to
examine the evidence; why are you? You assume students are smart
enough to understand Darwinian doctrines in high school, so why do you
assume they are not smart enough to judge evidence?
Hubble Deep Field Surpassed: Ultra Deep Field 03/09/2004
Check out this analogy by
Stephen Weeks (U. of Akron biologist), trying to explain why only Darwinians
should teach Darwinism: If someones an expert and theyre
telling you they need a brain tumor removed in a certain way, thats
weighted more than your mechanics opinion. Try one of our
Analogies are fun. Make up one of your own depicting this controversy,
and send it here.
- Instead of hearing news of the Iraq war only from Al-Jazeera, students
should also have the opportunity to watch Fox News.
- Before submitting to a risky brain tumor operation, one should get
opinions from several independent experts and also read the medical literature.
- Before buying a used car from a used car salesman, check Consumer Reports.
- Members of the jury, listen carefully to both the prosecutor and the
defense attorney before making up your minds. Dont be swayed by
the personality or prestige of the attorneys; base your decision solely
on the law and on the evidence.
Next headline on:
Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory
- If a drunk really wants to know if he has a drinking problem, should he
only solicit his buddys opinion down at the yall come back saloon
-or- should he also seek the professional opinions of licensed counselors,
trained to detect alcohol-related disorders? [from a reader in Texas]
- If a person wants to know how all the microscopic motors and machines
work in a cell maybe they should start with a diagnostic test from the
mechanic. [from a reader in Arizona]
If you remember the awe of seeing the first Hubble Deep Field image in
1995, check out the new HUDF:
Ultra Deep Field (see also
Scientist report). The field of view, just one-tenth the size of
the full moon, is a composite of 800 images taken for 11.3 days.
The 1995 image dazzled beholders with its 1600 galaxies.
This new image contains at least 10,000.
Some images are so evocative,
any attempt at description would spoil the moment. Just stare
at this one for awhile. It would be odd not to be awed, nor
to consider the power of God.
Chameleon Tongue Beats Jet Aircraft 03/08/2004
Next headline on:
Did you know a chameleons tongue is so fast as it shoots out toward its prey,
it reaches 50 Gs five times faster than a fighter jet can
Now describes how the chameleon does it. Scientists only
recently found out the secret with high-speed photography and careful
examination of the tongue structure, done by Jurriaan de Groot of Leiden University
and Johan van Leeuwen (Wageningen University, the Netherlands).
They had to shoot at 500 frames a second to see the action.
The tongue has an accelerator muscle,
which by itself is not strong enough to achieve the high speed.
The tongue is bound, though, to 10 newly-discovered sheaths,
tied to the tongue bone, that literally catapult the tongue outwards.
These sheaths contain a spirally-wound protein that
store energy like a stretched rubber band. As the tongue
accelerates, the sheaths release their energy, then telescope outward to
allow the tongue to reach its maximum extent twice the chameleons
body length. Facing a predator so armed, the fastest fly doesnt
stand a chance.
No series of gradual transitional forms was
suggested in the article. And forget it; theres no way this
creature could have evolved from a fast-talking salesman.
Rethinking the Geological Layers 03/05/2004
Next headline on:
One of the most formative ideas in Darwins intellectual journey
was the concept of gradualism, the principle of
small agencies and their cumulative effects. This idea
became a dominant motif in his philosophy of life. Describing how the
of gradualism permeated his last book (on earthworms) shortly before his death,
Janet Browne, in her acclaimed biography of Darwin, describes how the idea grew:
He [Darwin] believed that the natural world
was the result of constantly repeated small and accumulative actions,
a lesson he had first learned when reading Lyells Principles
of Geology on board the Beagle and had put to work ever since.
His interpretation of South American geology had been based on Lyells
vision of little-and-often, and his theory of coral reefs too,
each polyp building on the skeletons of other polyps, every individual
contributing its remains to the growing reef. Most notably, he had
applied the idea of gradual accumulative change to the origin of species,
believing that the preservation of a constant process of minor
adaptations in individuals would lead to the transformation of
living beings. His work on barnacles, plants, and pigeons all
supported the point. No one, not even Lyell himself, or any
of Darwins closest friends and supporters, accepted as ardently
as Darwin that the book of nature was about the accumulative powers of
It was the record of the rocks that led to Lyells uniformitarian
principle, and from there, Darwin extended it to all of nature.
But do the rocks actually record a process of slow and gradual accumulation?
In this months journal Geology, an earth
scientist from the Netherlands makes a startling proposal: the record in the
rocks is fractal, not necessarily gradual. In fractals, a pattern
on a small scale can look the same on large scales. In other words,
he seems to be saying, a large stratigraphic record might not be the gradual
accumulation of small layers, but a fractal pattern on a large scale that
could represent a rapid accumulation of a large quantity of material.
Wolfgang Schlager2 first debunks the conventional wisdom as being
only, well, conventional but not necessarily wise:
Orders of stratigraphic sequences are being
used loosely and with widely varying definitions, he says.
The orders seem to be subdivisions of convenience rather than an indication
of natural structure. He proposes that rock layers may not
indicate so much about time as about quantity of material. He calls it a well-known
fact that sediment architecture is largely scale invariant over
a wide range of scales in time and space.
Schlager criticizes the conventional method that
defines orders of strata by duration, even though the practice is
almost universally followed. Thus, he seems to be proposing
a radical reinterpretation of the record:
This essay presents a critique of the concept of orders in sequence
stratigraphy and argues that the succession of sequences is fractal rather
than a hierarchy of orders. The argument rests on four components:
(1) The duration of the presumed orders varies widely, even within one
publication. (2) Exposure surfaces and flooding surfaces as unit
boundaries are both common in a wide range of temporal scales.
(3) Extensive studies on sea-level fluctuations and sedimentation rates
have shown that the principal trends of both are fractal. (4) Limited
data on shelf edges that prograde and step up and down in response to sea
level indicate that these traces, too, are fractal.
He provides examples of discordant measurements when geologists assume the rocks represent
categories in time. The confusion
does not seem to dissipate with more examples, he says: Moreover, the
values do not seem to converge with time and improving data.
But if the size of the deposit is a fractal rather than a measure of the
passage of time, it could mean that giant deposits could have been laid
down in short order, provided enough material were available:
Sedimentation and erosion, the processes that are ultimately responsible
for the sediment record, operate in the same fashion over a wide range of
scales. It is characteristic of hydrodynamics that flow properties
are largely determined by dimensionless ratios, and few characteristic
scales enter in the analysis. Depositional patterns have been found
to be scale invariant over a wide range of time and space.
Schlagel points to examples covering a wide range of presumed depositional
times, and strata that represent energy-dissipation patterns that are
scale-invariant over the range of centimeters to hundreds of kilometers.
His model allows for slow and gradual deposition as well as fast
and catastrophic, of course, but he suggests it is not always easy to tell:
In many sequence data sets, the impression of a hierarchy of
cycles is very strong. The model does not imply that this
impression is false. It is characteristic of fractals that the
same pattern is repeated at finer and finer scales. Consequently,
any snapshot of the fractal taken at a certain resolution will show a
superposition of coarser and finer patterns. The crucial
difference to an ordered hierarchy of cycles [which he disputes]
is their lack of characteristic scales. The fractal model
proposed here predicts that the sequence record, like many other natural
time series, has the characteristics of noise with variable persistence
and thus variable predictability.
He seems to be saying it will be harder to claim that a large depositional
unit would have necessarily been a function of long ages. Its
just a proposal at this point, he admits: The model is meant as a
conceptual framework to steer future data analysis and to
provide a basis for statistical characterization of sequences.
He only speculates about the origin of the fractal patterns.
Nevertheless, this new way of looking at the rock record might cause
rethinking of Lyells assumption that huge layers necessarily
represent huge passages of time:
Stratigraphic sequences are essentially shaped by the interplay of rates
of change in accommodation and rates of sediment supply.... As both
rates show fractal properties, it is not surprising that the resulting
sequence record inherits this attribute. At a more fundamental level,
it may be the complexity of depositional systems and their tendency to evolve
toward conditions of self-organized criticality that give rise to fractal
features in sequence stratigraphy.
The fact that Schlagers proposal was published in the worlds leading
geology journal indicates that other geologists are taking it seriously.
1Janet Browne, Charles Darwin: The Power of Place (Princeton,
2002), p. 490.
2 Wolfgang Schlager, Fractal nature of stratigraphic sequences,
Vol. 32, No. 3 (March, 2004), pp. 185-188, doi: 10.1130/G20253.1.
Although this is a technical subject for mathematically-inclined geologists,
it seems to represent a daring break from conventional wisdom. Some
creationist geologists have already demonstrated with experiments that
layered deposits can be laid down rapidly in horizontal fashion, forming
what look like fractal patterns, in one stage (see the work of
Guy Berthault, for example).
Similarly, fine-grained laminations have been found in thick deposits at
Mt. St. Helens, where the rates
of deposition were known (e.g., one day!). The old thinking was that
each layer represented a long passage of time. Now, we have observed
examples that this is not necessarily true.
The Paleoanthropologist Mantra:
We Need More Fossils! 03/05/2004
Schlager is clearly not proposing a young-age geology;
his article assumes millions of years for some deposits.
Nevertheless, his model
seems to reinforce the notion that a pattern in the rock layers, no matter
how thick, could be a function of rate of change in accommodation
and rates of sediment supply, not necessarily a long, gradual
passage of time. In simple, creationist-geology
terms, were the layers of Grand Canyon laid down by a little water over a
long time, or a lot of water over a little time?
Look at the philosophical baggage that Lyells
vision of gradualism generated. It appeared intuitively
obvious to him, and then to Darwin, that the rock layers must have required
many millions of years for their formation. Darwins philosophical
voyage from Christianity to agnosticism floated on this belief,
which subsequently flavored all his investigations and writings.
Now we see geologists questioning the basic assumption. The
Titanic had a lot of baggage, too. When the hull was breached,
it no longer mattered how ornate the furnishings.
Next headline on:
Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory
Everyone join in and chant the mantra of all paleontologists:
We need more fossils! If you are a seeker of bones that might
give clues of human ancestry, repeating this phrase might relieve stress.
In quotes above is the concluding line of an editorial
by David R. Begun in the March 5 issue of
1 reviewing the latest human fossil claim coming from Africa, as
reported in the same issue.2 (see also
American). The booty consisted of six fragments
of teeth from Ethiopia, found by the team of Haile-Selassie (see
07/17/2001 claim and
08/27/2002 rebuttal), Suwa, and
White (see 03/21/2002 and
The discoverers claim their teeth show that earlier specimens,
thought to represent diverse taxa, might be just variations within
a single genus. Apparently, David Begun has not begun to be convinced.
Begun thinks that some of the other recent fossils,
Ardipithecus, Orrorin, and Sahelanthropus offer evidence of
striking diversity. But on what objective criteria?
He seems to offer more questions than answers: words like may,
unclear, and far from established pepper his article.
It is tempting to see evidence of anagenesis (unilinear evolution)
in the late Miocene hominin record in part because continuity is
suggested by claims for some evidence of bipedalism in
all known taxa. The evidence from Orrorin is ambiguous
... whereas that from Sahelanthropus is indirect,
based only on the position of the foramen magnum. The region
is severely distorted in the only cranial specimen of
Sahelanthropus, and even the describers recognize the
uncertainty. A. kadabba is interpreted as a biped
on the basis of a single toe bone, a foot proximal phalanx, with
a dorsally oriented proximal joint surface, as in more recent hominins.
However, the same joint configuration occurs in the definitely
nonbipedal late Miocene hominid Sivapithecus, and the length and
curvature of this bone closely resembles those of a chimpanzee or
bonobo. In addition, the specimen is 400,000 to 600,000 years
younger than the rest of the A. kadabba sample, 800,000 years
older than A. ramidus, and from a locality that is geographically
much closer to Aramis than to Asa Koma. It may or may not be from
a biped, and if it is, which biped?
And so it goes. (The Orrorin fossil was announced in Science in
2001; see 02/23/2001 headline).
In the final paragraph, Begun gives his opinion on
the problem and the solution:
Another issue is the canine/premolar complex....
Why the different interpretations? Evidence is scarce and
fragmentary, and uncertainty predominates. Interpretations rely
especially heavily on past experience to make sense of incomplete
evidence. Haile-Selassie and colleagues interpret diversity
in fossil hominids in terms of variability and gradual evolutionary
change in an evolving lineage. Others see cladistic
diversity as opposed to ancestor-descendant relations....
Ancestor-descendant relations must exist , but adaptive
radiation and cladogenesis also must exist , or organic
diversity would be the same today as it was at the beginning of biological
evolution. Rather than a single lineage, the late Miocene
hominin fossil record may sample an adaptive radiation , from
a source either in Eurasia or yet undiscovered in Africa,
the first of several radiations during the course of human
evolution.... Regardless, the level of uncertainty in
the available direct evidence at this time renders irreconcilable
differences of opinion inevitable. The solution is
in the mantra of all paleontologists: We need more fossils!
1David R. Begun, Anthropology: The Earliest Hominins:
Is Less More?
Volume 303, Number 5663, Issue of 5 Mar 2004, pp. 1478-1480.
2Yohannes Haile-Selassie, Gen Suwa, and Tim White,
Late Miocene Teeth from Middle Awash, Ethiopia, and Early Hominid Dental Evolution,
27 October 2003; accepted 13 January 2004, 10.1126/science.1092978.
Combined with last months
article by Leslea Hlusko
(see 02/19/2004 headline),
this has to be one of the most damaging admissions on the subject
of human evolution, among dozens of damaging admissions on the subject of human
evolution, we have been publishing in Creation-Evolution Headlines
for four years. If you can wade past the jargon, the whole tale
is one of debate, uncertainty, lack of evidence, controversy, contradiction,
dispute, wishful thinking, implausibility, and storytelling, all held together
by the glue of faith.
Sugar-Dried Blood: Just Add Water 03/04/2004
For example, pay special attention to the sentence above
where Begun believes that evidence for both descent and diversity must
exist, or organic diversity would be the same today as it was at
the beginning of biological evolution. Aha! Did you
catch that? He just said, in effect, if there werent any
evolution, there wouldnt be any evolution! He wants it both
ways: evidence of diversity, but also evidence of descent, and he has
neither. As an
admission of blind faith in contradiction to the evidence, one would
be hard pressed to find a better example. Without the evidence
of evolution in the fossils, in other words, they would have to admit
that nothing has changed--the creationists would be right! Gasp!
Anything but that!
These blind guides have just made it crystal clear that
after 140 years of trying to prove Darwin right, there just is not any fossil
evidence for the descent of man. What story did you
grow up with? Java Man? Peking Man? Heidelberg Man?
Those stories are all out the window, and all the new bones are up
for grabs for anyones interpretation. The creation story, that
man has always been man and ape has always been ape, certainly has nothing
to fear from the fossil record. Darwin, the latecomer in the origins
debate, has the burden of proof.
Much of the futile searching for fragmentary evidence
to prop up Charlie would stop if evolutionary paleoanthropologists really took
to heart two articles, reported here recently, that portray the hunt to be
vanity of vanities, a chasing after wind. Leslea Hlusko last month
(02/19/2004 headline) questioned the
basic presuppositions of human evolution, showing how visible variations
between bones tell nothing about genetics and development or descent.
And Tim White (a member of the team publishing this weeks paper)
reminded his colleagues a year ago that natural variation and deformation
can mimic diversity (03/28/2003 headline).
Both these realizations fog up any real evidence of human
ancestry. No matter how many bones they dig up, these two
articles emphasize the problem we have emphasized all along: anyone can
make up any story they want with the evidence, based on their own bias.
The confusion that reigns today, after decades of changing stories,
shows the folly of trusting false assumptions. As Hlusko rebuked,
the answer is not We need more fossils! What we need
is repentance from the sin of storytelling and calling it
Next headline on:
A discovery might save lives on the battlefield, or any other place where
blood platelets are hard to come by. A simple sugar named trehalose
can replace water in platelets and perhaps red blood cells. This
could provide an alternative to freeze-drying, making blood platelets
(necessary for clotting) available with a shelf-life of months or years.
The story is reported in the March 4 issue of
Trehalose, a sugar found in yeast and shrimp that renders
them impervious to dehydration, is naturally non-toxic to cells.
Its properties are almost miraculous, says
author Geoff Brumfiel, based on studies by John Crowe and others.
Whereas freezing a cell risks damage when the water crystallizes,
trehalose displaces water and neatly fits in and around proteins and membranes,
protecting them from damage. Though some technical hurdles remain,
a DARPA team using trehalose has succeeded
in extending the shelf-life of platelets to two years, an impressive
Whether the sugar can dehydrate cells with nuclei
will be more of a challenge. Still, this has to be good news for
the army. Brumfield described the logistical problem they currently
face: The US military is one of the most bloodthirsty organizations
on Earth. The troops hold regular blood drives to keep a required
70,000 units on hand at all times; and a veritable small army is needed
to transport this blood to remote battle zones in Iraq or Afghanistan.
It goes without saying that this discovery could also help the Red Cross in
your home town.
Cell biology: Just add water,
Nature 428, 14 - 15 (04 March 2004); doi:10.1038/428014a.
Scientists did not design this sugar from scratch. They found it,
already working as a dehydrating agent, in yeast and shrimp.
Nature already has the best designs. Evolutionists often admit this.
They just dont admit they were designed.
How to Prevent Youthful Violence
Next headline on:
posted a finding by
of Washington sociologists that
Family discipline, religious attendance, attachment to school cut
levels of later violence among aggressive children.
Do we really need scientists to tell us the obvious?
Everyone seems to know this except secular researchers.
can tell the University of Washington all they need to know.
Cellular Cowboys: How the Cell Rounds Up Chromosomes Before Dividing
Next headline on:
Two cancer researchers from UC San Diego describe mitosis (cell division)
in the Mar.
4 issue of Nature.1 Pulling together the latest
findings about this elaborate and important process, they begin by describing
the puzzle that the cell needs to solve:
At the beginning of mitosis, the process of cell division, chromosomes
are organized randomly like jigsaw puzzle pieces spread out on the
floor. Their constituent two sister chromatids, each of
which contains one of the two identical DNA molecules produced by
replication, must be oriented such that they will be pulled in opposite
directions into the two newly forming cells. Like a jigsaw, the
solution for correctly orienting all chromosomes comes partly through
trial and error. Mechanisms must exist to eliminate wrong
configurations while selecting the right ones.
In the article, they describe how cables (microtubules) connect to handles
(kinetochores) on the chromosomes and start pulling them in opposite
directions. Another enzyme dissolves
the molecular glue in the centrosomes that hold the
sister chromatids together, so that the opposite poles of the spindle can
pull them apart into the daughter cells.
highly-conserved enzyme (i.e., identical in yeast and vertebrates),
named Aurora B kinase, somehow finds chromosomes that lack an attachment to
the other pole of the spindle, and fixes them. Apparently this enzyme is
able to identify chromosomes that are incorrectly lassoed to the same pole (syntelic
attachment) and therefore are not under tension. Only when there is
tension on each chromosome, pulling the sister chromatids toward opposite
poles, will the process continue. Finding out how Aurora B
identifies and corrects them is an obvious next step, the authors say.
Ian M. Cheeseman and Arshad Desai, Cell division: Feeling tense
Nature 428, 32 - 33 (04 March 2004); doi:10.1038/428032b.
First of all, think of how many parts are involved in this process.
Then realize that without high fidelity duplication and segregation during
cell division, an organism would be subject to cancer, genetic disease or
death. Furthermore, any alleged evolution would quickly come to a grinding halt,
because natural selection is highly dependent on accurate replication for
selected traits to be preserved.
Science Journal Editors Face Accountability
To visualize what goes on in mitosis, think of the following
analogy. (Analogies, though never precise,
and inadequate as proofs, can help make complex processes approachable.) Lets head
out West and picture a team of cowboys who need to split a herd of cattle for market.
The cattle in our hypothetical herd all have identical twins that are yoked
together. They are wandering aimlessly in a corral, and two teams of
cowboys are standing at opposite ends of the corral with lassos in hand.
On cue, the corral fence (the nuclear membrane) drops. The cowboys
immediately go into action, lassoing every cow in sight.
Their goal is to split the herd into identical halves.
To accomplish this, each team has to catch one of each pair: Bob, on the north team, lassos
one of the twins, and Joe, on the south team, lassos the other. As soon
as a cow is caught, the cowboy starts pulling. Sometimes,
however, two guys on the same team catch both twins. Thats when
wrangler Chuck (Aurora B kinase) rides through the herd, looking at ropes
that arent taut, indicating pairs
hitched to the same team. Chuck removes one of the ropes and lets the
other team lasso the twin. As the ropers keep applying tension, the boss
makes sure all the pairs are lined up, each with one rope pulling a cow
north and another rope pulling its twin south. Then another wrangler
breaks the yokes, and the cowboys wind in their ropes, pulling their half
of the herd into the new north and south corrals.
The difference in cells is that they dont have sentient
cowboys with eyes and ears doing the work by using their brains and roping skills.
Instead, cables called microtubules extend outward blindly at random from the
spindle poles, looking for attachment points on the kinetochores
at the middle of the chromosomes. Tension is applied by molecular
motors (see 02/25/2003 headline), like winches,
that pull the chromatids into the daughter cells. How can a cell make sure one and
only one cable gets attached to each chromatid? This is awesome.
Consider also that all the machinery, all the ropes, all the winches,
all the corrals, all the procedures and everything else is produced by the
DNA in the chromosomes, as if the cattle were the master controller and
supplier for the cowboys!
For photomicrographs of mitosis, see the illustrations
at the Florida
State University and the
of Maryland websites.
Mitosis is a coordinated team project that is done exactly right by the cell
every time it divides. Mistakes by cowboys might mean a lawsuit or
the loss of business, but in the cell, a mistake can mean death.
The process is amazing enough as described, but then the authors throw in
the rest of the story to boggle Darwinian minds beyond all hope of
recovery. What they
described was for yeast a primitive form of life.
What happens in vertebrates, like us humans? Get ready:
In contrast to budding yeast, kinetochores of other eukaryotes bind
multiple microtubules (about 20 in humans). These
larger kinetochores must coordinate all these microtubules and
also deal with incorrect attachments in which microtubules from
opposite spindle poles connect to a single kinetochore (termed
merotely). Another study, in this months
Nature Cell Biology, found that Aurora B does not merely
detach syntelic kinetochores from microtubules in vertebrates
it orchestrates the coordinated disassembly of all the microtubules
that are bound to each kinetochore, so that the syntelically
oriented chromosomes move towards the spindle poles before they
Isnt evolution wonderful. It blindly found a way to solve
multi-dimensional jigsaw puzzles correctly every time, and hung onto its
invention for millions of years. It started a successful cattle
ranching business, employing blind cowboys. Its advertisement
boasts, Satisfying customers since 2 billion years B.C.
Would you trust such hype?
Although sister kinetochore geometry seems to be dispensable in budding
yeasts with their single-microtubule-connected kinetochores, it could
contribute to reducing merotely, as implied by the conservation
of this aspect of chromosome architecture throughout eukaryotic
evolution. Tackling the extra dimension that the
multiplicity of microtubule-binding sites at kinetochores introduces
will undoubtedly be another brain-teaser and a particularly
important one, too, because the loss of a single chromosome
can be lethal, and aberrant numbers of chromosomes can
contribute to birth defects and cancer.
One last thought. Remember the
02/13/2003 headline last year?
It reported that meiosis (cell division for sexual reproduction)
is even much more complex than mitosis, but there was no
evidence it had evolved from the simpler process of mitosis.
These are bad days to work for Charlie on the Lazy E Ranch.
Better quit the outfit while you can and join up with
Next headline on:
Genetics and DNA
This quote by a journal editor comes from a news item in the
4 issue of Nature:1
Like everybody else, we are much more interested in other peoples accountability than we are in our own, explains Richard Smith, editor of the British Medical Journal (BMJ), who helped to draft the new code. Editors are perhaps some of the most unaccountable people in the world.
The new code he speaks of is a draft of an ethical code of conduct for
scientific publishing, which can be found on the website of the
Committee on Publication
Ethics. The editor of Nature is considering
the guidelines; other journals claim they already have independent review
boards. The article gives some examples
of recent ethical violations by journal editors. See also
Update (03/04/2004) for samples of misconduct; Jim Giles writes,
They lie, they cheat and they steal. Judging by the cases
described by a group of medical journal editors, scientists are no
different from the rest of us.
1Jim Giles, Medical editors urged to accept ethical code,
Nature 428, 5 (04 March 2004); doi:10.1038/428005a.
You thought that peer review kept science journals honest, and that
science was a self-correcting process in which peer review kept bias
out of the journals, didnt you? How come after centuries of
science publishing, here in 2004 they are admitting that editors are
some of the most unaccountable people in the world?
Opportunity Finds Evidence of Past Water on Mars
Some of the proposed guidelines, if followed honestly,
would put the Darwin Party out of business:
COPE says that These guidelines are intended to be advisory rather
than prescriptive, and to evolve over time. So who or what is going
to hold the editor of Nature accountable? Sales records?
Guidelines might evolve by intelligent design, but if ethics evolve,
they are not ethics.
- The discussion section of a paper should mention any issues of bias
which have been considered, and explain how they have been dealt with in
the design and interpretation of the study.
Duties of Editors:
- Studies that challenge previous work published in the journal
should be given an especially sympathetic hearing.
How come Darwinians can speculate freely beyond the evidence, but rebuttals
from ID scientists are systematically excluded?
(see 05/13/2003 headline, for example).
How come pro-Darwin book reviews are published, but only negative reviews
are published of intelligent design books, if at all?
- Studies reporting negative results should not be excluded.
OK, lets publish some of the many dates that conflict with
the standard geological column.
- All original studies should be peer reviewed before publication,
taking into full account possible bias due to related or conflicting
Does philosophical materialism count as bias?
- Authors approached by the media should give as balanced an
account of their work as possible, ensuring that they point out where
evidence ends and speculation begins.
This one guideline alone would put the Darwinian just-so storytelling
enterprise out of business.
Speaking of bias, did you know that the journal Nature was
originally formed to be a propaganda outlet for the Darwinians?
Look at what Janet Browne wrote in Charles Darwin: The
Power of Place (Princeton, 2002):
The Reader [a first-attempt Darwin mouthpiece] was to expire
in 1867. Not long afterwards, Norman Lockyear, one of its editors,
put up the idea of founding a periodical which they would call
Nature, to be owned and published by Alexander Macmillan, a
journal that would provide cultivated readers with an accessible forum
for reading about advances in scientific knowledge. Lockyear
brought Nature into existence in November 1869, fronted by
an introduction by Huxley (as if written by the maddest English
scholar, said Darwin indulgently). To command the
periodical market was a shrewd tactic in any contested
cultural arena but one as yet little exploited in science,
and while Lockyear was never a member of the X Club [a group of radical
antireligious naturalists and Darwin-supporters, founded by Huxley]
he displayed similar strong, progressive liberal opinions.
Far more than any other science journal of the period, Nature
was conceived, born and raised to serve polemic purpose. In
the first year of its existence, there were six or seven articles
urging Darwins scheme, two of which were written by
Darwin himself. Darwin became a lifelong subscriber, claiming
he got a kind of satisfaction in reading articles he
could not understand.
These and many other tidbits from Brownes book reveal that the
Darwinian revolution was largely a propaganda
coup. It would have been more honest for Nature to have been named
[Otto] Zacharias also asked if he could use Darwins name on a
new journal he wished to start in Germany, called Darwinia....
Such journals, as they all recognized, played a fundamental role
in distributing evolutionary ideas. The story of
Natures conception in 1869 was prime evidence of the
value of having a tightly-controlled, well-distributed mouthpiece....
One of the first journals to take up Darwins views in Germany
had been the weekly magazine Ausland (Abroad),
a heady mix of biology and society, pumped up with a stream of
articles from Haeckel and other evolutionists. During the
Franco-Prussian War, the editor, Friedrich von Hellwald, claimed
Darwinism as proof that warfare between nations was a natural law,
a standard view of the time that did not prevent his journals
expiry a few years afterwards.
Next headline on:
Politics and Ethics
Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory
Liquid water once drenched the surface of Mars at Meridiani Planum and made it
a suitable habitat for life, according to Ed Weiler at a NASA briefing
today. Four pieces of evidence from the
Mars Exploration Rover named Opportunity
led principal scientist
Stephen Squyres to this conclusion: (1) the spherules appear to be
concretions grown within a water-saturated rock; (2) the rock is permeated
with tabular holes that seem to be gaps left by dissolved-away crystals;
(3) the X-ray spectrometer and mini-TES saw a strong signature of sulfur
in ground-away rock, indicating the presence of sulfate salts; (4) the
Mossbauer spectrometer found an abundance (10%) of iron sulfate hydrate
named jerusite that only forms in the presence of water.
Combined, these evidences make it
hard to avoid the conclusion that water existed for some
period of time in this environment (how long, Squyres admitted, is impossible
to say from these data). Whether the rock outcrops were laid down in
water remains to be determined. Scientists will be investigating
preliminary hints at crossbedding in the bedrock, which would indicate
a sedimentary process. High concentration of magnesium
sulfate, like dehydrated Epson salt, were found, indicating that the salts
out of solution. The salts appear similar to
what would remain if a salty body like the Dead Sea evaporated.
Squyres said this could have been a habitable environment for
life, but cautioned this doesnt mean life existed on Mars.
It might be a good place to look, though: the crystal evidence suggests evidence
for past life might have been trapped in the rocks. It might take a sample
return mission to tell. Fossils would be very rare and unlikely to
be found, but the isotopic fractionation signature of sulfur could provide a
chemical tracer for life. Squyres admitted there is no way to date
Dont just look for water. Look for information
(see 12/30/2002 headline).
Fiber-Optic Sponge Makes Deep-Sea Lamps
Note: organisms in salty environments on Earth can survive because
of specialized adaptations to deal with the salts, which normally would be
harmful. One would not expect life, especially lipid membranes, to
evolve in a salty environment
(see 09/17/2002 headline).
Finding evidence of past water is a geologically fascinating
discovery, interesting in its own right. It is disgusting, however,
to watch the press assume that water equals life. They did it at
Europa, and you can just hear it coming on all the popular news outlets
and TV shows. Water is the simplest and easiest molecule to get.
In its solid and vapor forms, it is abundant in the solar system (whole moons
of Saturn are made of ice). What sets life apart from rock, dirt,
sand and water is the way the material is organized into instruction-directed
molecular machines, filled with information. Given the periodic table
and the laws of physics, one can derive the existence of water.
Information codes machinery these are
the hallmarks of intelligent design.
Next headline on:
Origin of Life
Last year, it was announced that a deep-sea sponge named the
Venus Flower Basket
possessed glass strands similar to
08/20/2003 headline). Now,
a five-member team from Bell Labs has performed the first detailed optical
analysis of the fibers. They indeed found these structures to be
remarkably similar to commercial silica optical fibers and are capable
of forming an effective fiberoptical network. Their findings
are published in PNAS.1
The sponges fiber optics, though, are superior to man-made
ones in four respects:
The authors are not sure how the sponge uses its technology. Typically,
this species inhabits deep waters near hydrothermal vents, where the only
light is from bioluminescent organisms or chemoluminescence. They offer
a suggestion that it might act as an underwater lamp for symbiotic
organisms: Our results suggest that if such sources exist within or in close
association to the basalia of E. aspergillum, their light might be
efficiently used and distributed by the sponge. Such a fiberoptical
lamp might potentially act as an attractant for larval or
juvenile stages of these organisms and symbiotic shrimp to the
- Focus: Other interesting design elements include
terminal lens-like extensions located proximally and barb-like spines located
along the spicule shaft. The presence of these lens structures at the end
of the biofibers improves the light-collecting efficiency [that]
offers an effective fiber-optical network with selected illumination points
along the length of the crown-like fibrous network surrounding the cylindrical
- Cool: Second, the formation of the biosilica fibers
occurs at ambient temperatures and pressures. Man-made
glass fibers are made at high temperatures. Their complex structure
and composition are encoded in the organism and are controlled by
specialized organic molecules and cells. The low-temperature
formation of silica in organisms, as an alternative to the high-temperature
technological process, is a subject of extensive
- Dope: The low-temperature synthesis brings about an extremely
important feature: the ability to effectively dope the structure
with impurities that increase the refractive index of silica. Our
elemental analysis showed, for example, the presence of sodium
ions in the entire fiber, particularly in the core. Sodium ions (and
many other additives) are not commercially viable optical fiber
dopants because of manufacturing challenges, including devitrification
at high processing temperatures. In the case of these
spicules, however, the presence of sodium ions results in the
increase of the refractive index to values approaching and even
exceeding that of vitreous silica.
- No Stress: Another advantage of the low-temperature synthesis is evidenced
in the lack of the polarization dependence on the
refractive index. Birefringence in commercially prepared fibers
often occurs as a result of the residual thermal stresses in the
fibers upon their cooling. Ambient condition formation of
the spicules in biological environments prevents the development
of any residual thermal stress.
Their final paragraph sums up the wonder of this creatures
amazing manufacturing ability:
In conclusion, we have demonstrated an example of natures
ability to evolve highly effective and sophisticated optical systems,
comparable and in some aspects superior to man-made
analogs. High fracture toughness arising from their composite
structure, the presence of index-raising dopants, the degree of
silica condensation, and the absence of residual stress in these
fibers suggest an advantage of the protein-controlled, ambient
temperature synthesis favored in nature. Whether these optical
properties are biologically relevant or not, the mechanisms of the
formation of silica spicules in E. aspergillum are inspiring to
materials scientists and engineers. We believe, therefore, that
this system represents a new route to improved, silica-based
optical fibers, constructed by using a bottom-up approach.
1Aizenberg et al., Biological glass fibers:
Correlation between optical and structural properties,
of the National Academy of Sciences USA, www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.0307843101
(published online before print on 03/01/2004).
Mother Nature, being blind, would not
make a lamp. Lets object when scientists use the word evolve
as a synonym for engineer. Nature cannot evolve
a highly effective and sophisticated optical system.
Highly effective and sophisticated systems are products of engineering.
Engineering requires intelligence and purpose.
This sponge, first named by creationist Richard Owen in 1841,
is a natural wonder. Another wonder is how Darwinists think
Nature Inc. can get any manufacturing done, with their pointy-haired boss (chance)
managing a crew of blind, deaf and dumb Dilberts (natural selection).
The competition, Intelligent Design Unlimited, puts out a catalog that is
a work of art.
Next headline on:
Fish and Marine Biology
Scientist of the Month
Click on Apollos, the trusty|
|Guide to Evolutionary Theory
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note, this time. Your writing on these complex topics is insightful,
informative with just the right amount of humor. I appreciate the hard
work that goes into monitoring the research from so many sources and then
writing intelligently about them.
(an investment banker in California)
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plenty of ammunition to come out of the closet (everyone else has).
Most of us are not scientists, but most of the people we talk to are not
scientists either, just ordinary people who have been fed baloney
for years and years.
(a reader in Arizona)
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You guys really ARE making a difference!
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hostile towards 'religion'. It is the dogmatically religious that are
unwaveringly hostile towards any kind of science which threatens their
dearly-held precepts. 'Science' (real, open-minded science) is not
interested in theological navel-gazing.
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Im sure your audience loves your ranting, but if you know as much
about biochemistry, geology, astronomy, and the other fields you
skewer, as you do about ornithology, you are spreading heat, not
(a professor of ornithology at a state university, responding to
the 09/10/2002 headline)
I wanted to let you know I appreciate your headline news style of
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You have a knack of extracting the gist of a technical paper,
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The information is properly documented, and coming from
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and enjoy your commentary immensely.† I consider your web site to be the
most valuable, timely and relevant creation-oriented site on the internet.
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informative and up-to-date with current news including incisive
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great tool in debunking wishful thinking theories.
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For example, major postings on your site are being circulated among the
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reinforces my conviction that if an unbiased observer seeks a reason for the
existence of life then Intelligent Design will be the unavoidable
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I told him CreationSafaris.com.
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your site among college students.† Keep up the good work.† Your
material is appreciated and used.
(a college campus minister)
Featured Creation Scientist for March
Antony van Leeuwenhoek
1632 - 1723
This month we are reprinting one of our biographies from Nov. 2001, which
subsequently was discovered and printed (with permission) by Christian History (Issue 76, Fall 2002).
Then SIRS, a large educational online resource company that provides news and
articles for public schools, found it and asked permission to use it in their
Renaissance database. We hope you enjoy reading this interesting and
important story about an amazing Christian who transformed science by making
fundamental discoveries in his own home.
Its not often that a layman untrained in science makes a fundamental discovery, starts a new branch of science,
and alters the course of human history. Nor is it often that a layman shows exemplary scientific technique that becomes a
model for scientists to come. Antony van Leeuwenhoek was such a person. Extremely inventive, careful, and precise,
unfettered by false notions of the day, Leeuwenhoek was driven by an insatiable curiosity that captivated him at age 40 and kept
him going to his dying day at age 91. It started when he read a copy of Robert Hookes new illustrated book
Micrographia, which contained drawings of insects, cork, textiles and other things revealed under a microscope at magnifications about
20-30x. Leeuwenhoek took to grinding his own lenses and making his own microscopes. Perfecting a technique that
raised the power to over 200x, he opened up a whole new world never before seen by man: the world of microorganisms.
Born in Delft, Holland, Antony did not have any inclinations or opportunities to become a scientist. He would also know
hardship and grief. His father, a basket maker, died when he was five or six. His mother was the daughter of a beer
brewer. She remarried a painter and bailiff, but he died when Antony was 16. He was educated by an uncle, and
never went to a university, never learned Latin (the scientific language of the day) or any other language other than his native
Dutch. By age 16, he was apprenticed to a textile merchant, and he became a drapery shopkeeper before he was 22.
He married Barbara de Mey, the daughter of a silk merchant about that time. The Leeuwenhoeks had five children, four of whom died
Antony became a chamberlain in 1660, later a surveyor and an inspector of the measures for wine. Through his
appointments and possibly some inheritance, he attained a comfortable income with time to pursue what would later become his
famous hobby. His wife died in 1666 when he was 34; five years later, he married Cornelia Swalmius, the daughter of another
cloth merchant who was also a Calvinist minister. Her influence may somehow have stimulated Antonys investigations
into science, since these began within two years after their marriage. This second marriage lasted 23 years till her death in 1694;
Antony was cared for by his last daughter till his death in 1723, thus carrying on his scientific work for an additional 29 years after becoming a widower
a second time.
Leeuwenhoek did not invent the microscope (compound magnifying lenses were known 40 years before he was born), but he took it
to new levels of power. He was probably acquainted with magnifying lenses used to investigate the textiles in his trade.
His only trip to London (between marriages, in 1668) introduced him to the unseen natural world under the magnifying lens shown in Robert
Hookes popular new book, Micrographia. We can only surmise what sparked his interest in microscopy that
was in full bloom five years later; this book? His second wife or her intellectual friends? His own curiosity about nature? Somehow, he
began grinding his own magnifying glasses, and perfecting a way to mount them and hold specimens in position for viewing.
Crude by todays standards, they were nevertheless far superior to those used by Hooke, Swammerdam, Malphighi and others,
and were unsurpassed until the 19th century. (The electron microscope would have to wait 250 years.)
The compound microscopes of his day suffered from chromatic aberration and were not useful much above 20x. Leeuwenhoek
made tiny lenses not much bigger than a pinhead in his simple microscopes, but aided with excellent eyesight, he achieved magnifications
as high as 270x and 1.4 micron resolution. He was now in position to peer into a world never before seen by human eyes.
Other scientists of the day were content to magnify well-known objects like leaves and textiles. Leeuwenhoek wanted to
see the invisible. By 1673, when he was finding exciting things with his microscope, a friend put him in touch with the
Royal Society of London. Antony sent them drawings (made by a friend) of bee stings and mouthparts, a louse and a fungus.
The eminent British scientists were at first skeptical of the claims by this untrained layman who only spoke Dutch. When in
1676 he described finding microorganisms in water that were so small that ten thousand of these living creatures could scarce
equal the bulk of a coarse sand grain, the surprised Royal Society requested corroboration from
other eyewitnesses, especially since Robert Hooke himself could not repeat them (until later, with a more powerful microscope).
Several friends, including a pastor, and a notary public, sent affidavits that they also saw these things through Antonys microscope.
As Leeuwenhoeks observations were found to be true and accurate, his reputation grew, and by 1680 this untrained layman
was elected a fellow of the Royal Society. Though he would never revisit London or attend a meeting, the Dutch cloth
merchant kept up a lively relationship with the British scientists
for fifty years, sending them hundreds of letters with attached samples, some of which survive to this day in the Royal Society archives,
along with a few of his hand-made microscopes; though out of hundreds he manufactured, only nine survive.
Leeuwenhoeks letters sparkle with the excitement of discovery. Part of the fun of reading them is catching his
infectious joy; where words like astonished, wonderful, odd, perfect, marvelous, inconceivable are frequent as he describes his wee
animalcules and their motions. Describing protozoa and bacteria in a drop of fresh water,
he writes, The motion of most of them in the water was so swift, and so various, upwards, downwards, and roundabout, that
I admit I could not but wonder at it. I judge that some of these little creatures were above a thousand times smaller than the
smallest ones which I have hitherto seen on the rind of cheese, wheaten flour, mold and the like . . . . Some of these are
so exceedingly small that millions of millions might be contained in a single drop of water. I was much surprised at this
wonderful spectacle, having never seen any living creature comparable to those for smallness; nor could I indeed imagine that
nature had afforded instances of so exceedingly minute animal proportions. His vocabulary must have seemed
a bit undignified to the British scientists at times describing the plaque between his teeth, he wrote, I then most
always saw, with great wonder, that in the said matter there were many little living animalcules, very prettily a-moving, the biggest
sort...had a very strong and swift motion, and shot through the water (or spittle) like a pike does through the water. The
second sort...oft-times spun round like a top. but Antonys intense curiosity and amazement at what he was seeing
provided the energy and patience to hold his little two-inch microscopes, illuminated by a nearby candle-flame, up to his eyes
repeatedly for five decades.
Of his motivation, he himself wrote, ...my work, which Ive done for a long time, was not pursued in order to gain the praise
I now enjoy, but chiefly from a craving after knowledge, which I notice resides in me more than in most other men.
Dobell, a translator of many of his letters, describes him thus: Our Leeuwenhoek was manifestly a man of great and
singular candour, honesty, and sincerity. He was religiously plain and straightforward in all he did, and therefore
sometimes almost immodestly frank in describing his observations. It never occurred to him that Truth could appear
indecent. His letters, accordingly, are full of outspoken thoughts which more scientific writers would hesitate
to put on paper: and to the modern reader this is, indeed, one of his particular charmsfor he is far more childlike and
innocent and modern than any present-day writer. (Dobell, p. 73).
investigated almost anything and everything that could be held up to his lens, exemplifying technical skill, persistence, curiosity, insight
and penchant for accuracy that would become a model for others working in experimental biology. He was the first to observe bacteria,
rotifers and protists like Vorticella and Volvox. He observed blood cells and was the
first to see the whiplike action of sperm cells. He also labored passionately to dispel myths. Working independently, untied to the
common misconceptions by scientists of his day, he used good empirical methods to find the truth. One year, for instance, when
people found objects that looked like burnt paper with mysterious writing on them and attributed them to messages from heaven,
Antony proved they were merely dried sheets of algae. In his proof, he did a model forensic analysis, even reproducing the
processes that led to the phenomenon. More importantly, Leeuwenhoek refuted the doctrine of spontaneous
generation that was popular in his day, the idea that living things emerge spontaneously from inanimate mattereels
from dew, shellfish from sand, maggots from meat, and weevils from wheat. He observed the complete life cycle of ants, fleas,
mussels, eels, and various insects, proving that all organisms had parents. It would take another 150 years for the false
notion of spontaneous generation to be dealt its final death blow under Louis Pasteur (although a new form of the doctrine arose in
the twentieth century, of necessity under Darwinian philosophy, under the name chemical evolution).
Antony van Leeuwenhoek became somewhat of a celebrity in his old age. Visitors to his little shop wanting to see
microscopic wonders included Peter the Great, King James II, and Frederick II of Prussia. His relationship with the Royal Society also brought
him into contact with other leading scientists of the day. He had no regard for fame or
position, though, and would rebuff royalty if he was too busy, or if they had not made an appointment. Truly his passion
was for the wonders of nature that God had allowed him to investigate. There are indications he was also interested in
navigation, astronomy, mathematics, and other natural sciences. He said, Man has always to be busy with his
thoughts if anything is to be accomplished.
It is difficult to find much detail about Leeuwenhoeks church attendance or spiritual life in most biographical sources, which tend
to focus on his experimental achievements, but it is clear that faith in God and a love for creation were the key influences behind his
scientific work. He was born into the Dutch Reformed tradition,
which had a high view of Scripture and salvation in Jesus Christ, and a firm doctrine of creation,
Of his religion, Richard Westfall of Indiana University writes, He was baptized and buried in Calvinist churches, and his
second wife was the daughter of a Calvinist minister. This tradition, furthermore, understood and encouraged mans
role in the investigation of Gods handiwork in nature. A. Schierbeek, the Editor-in-Chief of the collected letters of Leeuwenhoek,
explains that he was part of the New Philosophy of scientists like Robert Boyle, who regarded the study of nature as a work to the
glory of God and the benefit of Man. The newly-formed Royal Society was made up largely of Puritans with
similar convictions, from which we can infer Leeuwenhoek shared with them a common bond of belief, since he took great pride in his relationship with
the Royal Society, mentioning it on his title pages and even on his tombstone. Schierbeek observes, His works are full of
his admiration of creation and the Creator, a theme which is frequently found in writings of this period; in becoming better acquainted with
creation, men wanted to get nearer the Creator, a conviction which is found among many of the early members of the Royal Society.
(Schierbeek, p. 200). Thus we see again that Christianity was the driving force during the rise of modern science.
Of Leeuwenhoeks personal faith, Schierbeek says, To this we must add his deep
religious assurance, his complete faith in the All-wise Creator, a never-flagging admiration for the perfection of the most
minute, hidden mysteries of the work of His hands and the conviction that his researches would surely help to make His Omnipotence
more universally known. Without ever lapsing into high-flown phrases he repeatedly gave evidence of his religious faith:
Let us lay the hand on our mouth, and reflect that the All-wise hath deemed this needful for the reproduction of all that
hath received movement and growth, and so, the why and the wherefore we can but guess after. (Schierbeek, p. 31).
It is clear, too, from his stand against non-Christian superstitions such as the doctrine of spontaneous
generation, that he held to a Biblical doctrine of creation. He believed it foolish to think his little animalcules could have formed by chance, and he worked
diligently to prove that all things reproduce after their kind, as the book of Genesis teaches. For example, after working for
weeks observing the propagation of insects, Leeuwenhoek stated confidently, . . . This must
appear wonderful, and be a confirmation of the principle, that all living creatures deduce their origin from those which were formed
at the Beginning. (Schierbeek, p. 137). After another remarkable series of experiments on rotifers in 1702 he concluded:
The preceding kinds of experiments I have repeated many times with the same success, and in particular with some of the sediment
which had been kept in my study for about five months. . . From all these observations, we discern most plainly
the incomprehensible perfection, the exact order, and the inscrutable providential care with which the most wise Creator and Lord of
the Universe had formed the bodies of these animalcules, which are so minute as to escape our sight, to the end that different species
of them may be preserved in existence. And this most wonderful disposition of nature with regard to these animalcules for the
preservation of their species; which at the same time strikes us with astonishment, must surely convince all of the absurdity of those
old opinions, that living creatures can be produced from corruption of putrefaction. [Schierbeek, p. 171]
From Leeuwenhoeks writings we frequently sense the awe and wonder that can only emanate from a man who has a joyful, personal
relationship with God the Creator. Dan Graves, in Scientists of Faith (Kregel, 1996), writes, He often referred with reverence
to the wonders God designed in making creatures small and great. His virtues were perseverance, simplicity, and
stubbornness. He loved truth above any theory, even his own. He asked of his challengers only that they prove
their points as he proved his. Schierbeek says, Leeuwenhoek was driven by a passionate desire to penetrate
more deeply into the mysteries of creation. To him, as to many others of his time, a watch was a greater specimen of
craftsmanship than a clock in a tower; this opinion is reflected in his biological views. The microscope gave him the
opportunity to study and admire the small organisms, the animalcules, and whenever he was able he expressed
his admiration of the beautiful things he saw. (Schierbeek, p. 196).
Leeuwenhoek died shortly after dictating his latest observations to the Royal Society. Clearly his long and full life was
filled with the enthusiasm of scientific inquiry. Microscopy has come a long way since then; scientists now use electron
microscopes which, at 100,000x, are hundreds of times more powerful, investigating wonders even more amazing than those
Leeuwenhoek saw: DNA, molecular motors, and the machinery of the cell. A vast horizon of creation under the
microscope still remains largely unexplored. Do you have the Leeuwenhoek spirit? We hope his story will encourage
others to see the scientific investigation of nature as a source of joy, and a means of glorifying God. Dan Graves said,
Antonie van Leeuwenhoeks life glorified God in many ways, but perhaps most by
showing us that there is far more under the sun than we had first suspected.
A. Schierbeek, PhD, Editor-in-Chief of the Collected Letters of A. v. Leeuwenhoek, Formerly Lecturer in the History of Biology
in the University of Leyden, Measuring the Invisible World: The Life and Works of Antoni van Leeuwenhoek F R S,
Abelard-Schuman (London and New York, 1959), QH 31 L55 S3, LC 59-13233 . This book (223 pp.) contains excerpts of
Leeuwenhoeks letters and focuses on his priority in several new branches of science, but makes several important
references to his spiritual life and motivation.
Clifford Dobell, F R S, Protistologist to the Medical Research Council, London, Antony van Leeuwenhoek and His
Little Animals, Staples Press Ltd (Cavendish Place, London, 1932), QH 31L55 D6. This large book (435 pp.) contains
new translations of many of Leeuwenhoeks letters, but focuses on his observations. The author gives excessive
details about Leeuwenhoeks name, city, portraits and other matters, but seems to de-emphasize references to his faith or spiritual life.
For online resources, check the right-hand sidebar, Learn more about
Antony van Leeuwenhoek, at our online
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|
You can observe a lot by just watching.
– Yogi Berra
First Law of Scientific Progress
The advance of science can be measured by the rate at which exceptions to previously held laws accumulate.
1. Exceptions always outnumber rules.
2. There are always exceptions to established exceptions.
3. By the time one masters the exceptions, no one recalls the rules to which they apply.
Nature will tell you a direct lie if she can.
So will Darwinists.
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.
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.
If the facts do not conform to the theory, they must be disposed of.
1. The bigger the theory, the better.
2. The experiments may be considered a success if no more than 50%
of the observed measurements must be discarded to obtain a correspondence
with the theory.
The number of different hypotheses erected to explain a given biological phenomenon
is inversely proportional to the available knowledge.
All great discoveries are made by mistake.
The greater the funding, the longer it takes to make the mistake.
The solution to a problem changes the nature of the problem.
Peter’s Law of Evolution
Competence always contains the seed of incompetence.
An expert is a person who avoids the small errors while sweeping on to the grand fallacy.
Repetition does not establish validity.
What really matters is the name you succeed in imposing on the facts – not the facts themselves.
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.
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.
The best theory is not ipso facto a good theory.
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
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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