Creation-Evolution Headlines
April 2004
photo strip
“The religious claims of evolution are required to establish the veracity of evolution, not to operate within the paradigm of evolution.  Hence, the religious claims need not be considered when doing evolution research.  The religious claims arise in the apologetic works that argue for evolution; they do not appear in the science journals.
– Cornelius Hunter, Darwin’s Proof (Brazos Press, 2003), p. 141.
AstronomyBirdsBotanyCell BiologyCosmologyDating MethodsDinosaursEarly ManEducationEvolutionFossilsGenetics and DNAGeologyHealthHuman BodyIntelligent DesignMammalsMarine BiologyMarsMediaOrigin of LifePhysicsPolitics and EthicsSolar SystemTheologySETIZoology     Awards:  AmazingDumb       Note: bold emphasis added in all quotations unless otherwise indicated.
2001 2002 2003 2004
Search Creation-Evolution Headlines
 
Lutherans Helped Copernicus   04/30/2004
Every once in awhile, we are confronted to reconsider things we “know” are true, only to find out the truth is closer to the opposite.  The usual spin on Nicolaus Copernicus is that he was a brave scientist who threatened the church with his discovery that the earth orbits the sun, not the sun the earth.  He was too afraid to publish his “heretical” notions till on his deathbed.  Carl Sagan, in the TV series Cosmos, reiterated an urban legend that the views of Copernicus were mocked by the Lutherans.  All these notions are wrong.
    Harvard astronomer-historian Owen Gingerich has devoted much of his life to setting the record straight.  In his previous book, An Annotated Census of Copernicus’ De Revolutionibus (see
08/15/2002 entry), Gingerich published his results of a30-year project in which he located every known copy of the original prints, and meticulously analyzed hundreds of marginal notes made by contemporary readers to show that the book was widely disseminated and discussed throughout Europe.  Now, Gingerich has made his results available in “a more entertaining and accessible form” in a new publication, The Book Nobody Read: Chasing the Revolutions of Nicolaus Copernicus (Walker, New York, 2004).  The book was reviewed in Science1 April 28 by Peter Barker.  (Gingerich took his title from a claim by Arthur Koestler that De Revolutionibus was “the book nobody read,” a claim he shows is false.)  Here are some corrections to the urban legends, from Barker’s review:
  • Copernicus entrusted his manuscript to a young Lutheran mathematician, Georg Joachim Rheticus.
  • The book was published in Nuremburg by a Lutheran printer.
  • A Lutheran cleric added an unsigned preface to the work.
  • The Duke of Prussia was a Lutheran and a patron of the circle that published De Revolutionibus.
  • “Why did an aging Catholic consign his astronomy book, dedicated to the Pope, to a bevy of Protestants?” Barker asks.  “The expertise of Nuremberg printers was certainly a factor.  Perhaps Copernicus also needed the Duke of Prussia to protect him from a local bishop,” he hints, suggesting that Catholic opposition to Copernicus may have been localized.
  • Lutheran mathematicians eagerly acquired the book, studied it, wrote in it, and passed copies to their friends.  Many Lutherans still held to a stationary earth, but largely accepted and appreciated Copernicus’ model.
  • Tycho Brahe, a Lutheran, owned many copies of the book.  A “major surprise” of Gingerich’s research, Barker says, is that Brahe apparently got his geo-heliocentric alternative model from Paul Wittich, a gentleman-traveler.
  • “Ptolemy’s astronomy did not fail because it became overloaded with epicycles,” Barker says.  Actually, “astronomers before and after Copernicus used simple, single-epicycle systems, sometimes augmented by a minor epicycle used by Copernicus himself.”
  • Copernicus’ model was not strictly heliocentric.  “In fact, it is quite difficult to tell what point counts as the center of his system.”  The model was more mathematical than observational.
  • “Another unexpected finding,” Barker states with surprise, “is that in the aftermath of the Galileo affair,” (see Galileo biography at this site), “the Church’s attempt to correct Copernicus’s book was largely ineffective.”
    There is little evidence that books were actually destroyed, a point reinforced by Gingerich’s estimate that the original print run of De revolutionibus was between 400 and 500 books, of which 277 survived to appear in his Census.  And outside Italy, few copies show Church-mandated corrections, even in Catholic countries.
    Barker praises Gingerich’s “astronomical sleuthing” to get at the truth about the epochal book that began to change our perception of our place in the universe.  “His account will interest booklovers and anyone curious about the history of early modern science.”
    1Peter Barker, “A History Recorded in the Margins,” Science Vol 304, Issue 5671, 686, 30 April 2004, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1097380].
    Dr. Gingerich has done a great service to history to bring these corrections of the urban legend to our attention.  A case can surely be made that the opponents of 16th-century scientific advance were not the Lutherans or the Catholics, but the Aristotelians.  Incidentally, the urban legend that Luther called Copernicus a fool is doubtful.  Whatever Luther said or meant was not recorded till years afterward and could have been mistaken in meaning; see an analysis by Donald Kobe on Leadership U.
        Whether De Revolutionibus should have led to our modern Copernican principle is another question.  Up till recently, astronomers extrapolated Copernicus’ model to the ultimate, claiming the earth holds no special place in the cosmic scheme of things.  This view is challenged by a new book that could be just as revolutionary as De Revolutionibus itself: The Privileged Planet by Gonzalez and Richards (see website).  We’ll have to see what marginal notes this one gets on chat rooms around the web, or whether the Church of Darwin succeeds in marginalizing the book.
    Next headline on:  Solar SystemAstronomyCosmologyPolitics, Ethics and History
    Neanderthals Matured Faster   04/29/2004
    The news media are all echoing a story out of Nature April 291 that Neanderthals matured by age 15, as indicated by their teeth.  A News and Views article in the same issue by Jay Kelley2 begins, It is nearly 150 years since the existence of Neanderthals was first recognized, but debate about their relationship to modern humans remains as contentious as ever.”  The find is not necessarily indicative of a major difference between Neanderthals and modern humans, but “ should prove to be a fruitful line of research.”  Sample news media interpretations can be found at
    BBC News and paleoanthropology’s bulldog, National Geographic.
    1Rossi and de Castro, “Surprisingly rapid growth in Neanderthals, ” Nature 428, 936 - 939 (29 April 2004); doi:10.1038/nature02428.
    2Jay Kelley, “Paleoanthropology: Neanderthal teeth lined up,” Nature 428, 904 - 905 (29 April 2004); doi:10.1038/428904b.
    You can’t infer the social evolution of humans from teeth.  Modern humans reach puberty before 15, so why shouldn’t there be variation in tooth maturation rates between varieties of humans?  This study is way too much interpretation on way too little data.  A “fruitful line of research” is code for “a new storytelling plot.”
        Evolutionists grasp at any hint that Neanderthals were a different species than us.  It’s a kind of historical racism.  Harrub and Thompson point out in a thick new book, The Truth About Human Origins (Apologetics Press 2004), p. 133, that at four fossil sites, Neanderthals and modern humans are found buried together.  The only way to build a Darwinian story out of that is to claim that modern humans buried their pet missing links with them.
    Next headline on:  Early ManDumb Ideas
    Italy Waffles on School Darwinism   04/29/2004
    It’s not just an American thing; the politicians and scientists in Italy, also, are polarizing around Darwin.  The education ministry just dropped a requirement to teach evolution in elementary and middle schools as part of a major overhaul of education guidelines.  A news brief in the April 28 issue of Science1 claims that pressure “may” be coming from the “far-right” Alleanza Nationale, part of the ruling coalition government.  Earlier this year, it sponsored an “Anti-evolution week” in which a spokesman called evolution the “hegemony of the Left” in Europe and the “antechamber of Marxism”
        The backlash by “leading scientists” was strong and predictable, reported
    Access Research Network.  Rossella Lorenzi, writing in The Scientist, said that Darwin was back in school the next day, after the minister of education was inundated by letters and emails.  Letizia Moratti alleged that it was “absolutely false” that evolution had been banned from primary and secondary schools; she reassured the press that evolution will be taught starting in primary school.  She even appointed a committee of scientists to provide guidelines for the teaching of evolution.
        One of the pro-evolution scientists is organizing a “Darwin week” in June, “in which universities and natural history museums across Italy will hold seminars on teaching evolution.”  Science points out that the Roman Catholic Church has “no objections” to Darwinism, but quips, “As visitors to the Sistine Chapel can see, Italy has a long history of creationism.”
        Meanwhile, back in cowboy country, the evolution wars are still raging in Darby, Montana (see 02/27/2004 entry).  The “objective origins policy,” that allows for criticisms of Darwinism without offering up alternatives, has divided the community.  According to The Ravalli Republic, it’s coming down to the outcome of the next school board elections.
    1“Darwin in Italy,” Random Samples, Science, Volume 304, Number 5671, Issue of 30 April 2004.
    Interesting that the Italians can connect the dots between Darwin and Marx, but American scientists pretend evolution is religiously neutral.  Also notice that Science treats Darwinism and evolution as synonymous.  Some evolutionists try to wriggle out of that connection and claim that Darwinism only refers to one discredited mechanism of evolution.  Is Darwinism really the hegemony of the Left?  We need a research project to see how many hard line Darwinists are also leftists.  Bets are the correlation would be high.  Most editorials that touch on politics in the elitist science journals usually show a distinctly anti-conservative, liberal-left slant.  Even this article didn’t hesitate to label the anti-evolutionists “far-right” but avoided attributing the label “far-left” to the Darwin Party.  It is instructive to note that Charlie and his fallen angels were all radical leftists of their day.  Just a coincidence, presumably.  Also coincidental that Marxists idolized Charlie and closed churches, turning them into museums of atheism.
        Science puts the usual spin on the controversy.  Creationism is linked with religion on the one hand, but in the same sentence the writer claims the “influential” Roman Catholic church has “no objections” to Darwinism.  Well, which way is it?  Michelangelo was Roman Catholic, and depicted God creating man instantly ex nihilo, not by millions of years of time and slime.  Another spin is claiming that “leading scientists” [read: Big-Science elitists] are leading the protest.  The reader is presumably left to deduce that all scientists accept evolution but only a few “far right” religiously-based politicians are against it.  The power of the Darwin Party is still formidable.  Sadly, the Italian government didn’t have the guts to stand up to their onslaught.  It not only caved in, but even gave them more than they had before: a Darwin-Party committee to oversee the teaching of evolution.  Anyone want to bet they will recommend “teaching the controversy”?
        The news item says, “The government’s rationale, according to an education ministry official, was that students under 14 are far too young to be confronted with such complex material.”  Scientist-protestors countered that physics and mathematics are also difficult, but that doesn’t stop us from teaching those subjects.  Well, then, why do they use that same rationale, that teaching the controversy about Darwin is too complex and difficult for young minds?  A mind that can learn about gravity can just as easily comprehend the fact that Darwinism has major scientific problems.  Italy’s motherly-protection excuse is weak.  We suggest the opposite approach.  Tell the Marxist-Darwinist-Leftists that Italian children are too precocious and perceptive to be fed a diet of evolutionary just-so stories.
        Maybe you thought Marxism went out of style when the Berlin wall fell.  As long as Darwinism is the hegemony of the Left, the Marxists are waiting in the antechamber.  Lest we forget, we should remember what Stalin, the would-be priest who became an atheist after reading Darwin’s abominable volume, did to the “creationists” of his day.  Read this account and you will see why the Italians have good cause for alarm.  It should be required reading during Anti-Evolution Week.
    Next headline on:  Darwinism and Evolutionary TheoryEducationPolitics and Ethics
    Darwin Not Given Enough Credit for Animal Engineering   04/28/2004
    Daniel E. Lieberman (Harvard) was impressed with Steven Vogel’s new book, Comparative Biomechanics: Life’s Physical World (Princeton, 2003), which he reviewed in Nature.1  He considers it a much-needed general textbook on biomechanics, the study of ways living things solve physical problems.  For instance, animals and plants need to generate forces to either move or stay put.  Lieberman praises Vogel’s book as fun to read and filled with tremendous examples:
  • Prairie dogs build their tunnels to ventilate based on the Bernoulli principle.
  • Basilisk lizards are able to run on water.  A human would have to weigh just 4.6 grams to accomplish that feat with our feet.
  • Fleas accelerate at 2000 meters per second, 20 times greater than a Space Shuttle launch.
  • Silk has a tensile strength similar to that of steel.
  • Oak trees generate 500,000 pascals of pressure by evaporation.
    “Nature is a pretty impressive engineer,” Lieberman confesses. 
    The physical world poses many basic challenges, such as gravity, viscosity and pressure gradients, to all living creatures, which in turn have evolved an astonishing array of solutions.  Many of these, such as paddles, valves and hydrostats, are so widespread that we rarely notice them.  Others perform so well that we marvel at their superiority to human-made devices.
    The physical problems solved by living things extend from “how proteins fold to how whales float.”  These things are best studied by engineers, who can employ their talents “deducing and testing the inherent principles and mechanisms by which things fail, work or can be made to work.”  The only criticism Lieberman had was that Vogel didn’t shed enough light on evolution:
    In Vogel’s world, plants and animals receive equal treatment in the context of the physical problems they encounter.  In that sense, the comparative method he uses is based on problems of physics, not evolutionary relationships: tubes are treated as tubes, regardless of what kind of organism they serve.  Regrettably, this perspective leaves little room to explore key problems in evolution.  Vogel mentions only in passing various debates on topics such as constraints, adaptation and the mechanisms by which organisms can or cannot alter in response to changes in their environment.  Of particular note, he sidesteps the issue of optimization and the extent to which natural selection drives organisms towards supposedly better ways to overcome the challenges posed by their particular environments.
    Despite that little shortcoming, he thought the book was destined to become a well-worn classic.
    1Daniel E. Lieberman, “Engineering for Animals,” Nature 428, 893 (29 April 2004); doi:10.1038/428893a.
    Ha!  This is funny.  Please, Mr. Vogel, can’t you give Charlie just a little credit? I’m afraid the creationists and ID people are going to latch onto this book.  Can’t you tell us just a little bitty just-so story about how these masterful engineering feats evolved, so that we can use it in the public schools?
    Vogel, in essence, replied, Natural selection?  I have no need of that hypothesis.
        Congratulations to Dan Lieberman for a well-deserved Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week.
    Next headline on:  Intelligent DesignMammalsTerrestrial ZoologyPlantsAmazing Facts (see also next entry) • Darwinism and Evolutionary TheoryDumb Ideas
    Moose Muzzle: A Nose for News   04/28/2004
    Curious about the enigmatic nose structure of the moose, two researchers picked up moose roadkill and decided to study those large, comical Bullwinkle faces, reports Nature.1  Lincoln Tim writes,
    The moose, Alces alces, is a member of the deer family, but its nasal apparatus is unlike that of any of its relatives.  The apparatus overhangs the mouth, and the nostrils are large and laterally sited .... The muzzle contains a long and complex nasal cavity, with a highly complicated muscle and cartilage system.
    Though the puzzle of the muzzle is not completely solved, the scientists suggested it serves the following functions:
  • Enhances blood and brain cooling.
  • Enhances efficiency of feeding with its mobile and tactile features.
  • Has nostrils that can close while under water.
  • Derives directional information from smell.
    Andrew B. Clifford and Lawrence M. Witmer reported their results in the Journal of Zoology 262, 339-360; 2004.  On May 6,
    MSNBC News reported on this story and included a handsome moose muzzle portrait.
    1Lincoln Tim, “Zoology: Nose of Moose,” Nature 428, 904 (29 April 2004); doi:10.1038/428904a.
    Now you know.  All that and no transitional forms, either.
    Next headline on:  Mammals
    Noah’s Ark Search Planned    04/26/2004
    MSNBC and Fox News report that a search is being planned July 15 to inspect an object that, seen from a satellite, bears some resemblance to remains of Noah’s ark high up the slopes of Mt. Ararat.  The expedition, led by Daniel McGivern, wants to get a closer look and take photographs.  National Geographic took note of the news, adding that the satellite image was taken by Digital Globe, a commercial satellite imaging company.  Although McGivern is 98% certain it is the Ark of Noah, and claims he can even identify wooden beams in the images, another veteran Ark explorer, Rex Geissler, is skeptical.
    The object is too indistinct to draw any conclusions.  Tantalizing as these images are when they appear from time to time, we should always take a default position that they are not Ark-eological till proven otherwise.  Embarrassing retractions have been made before by overzealous explorers; a different box-shaped object in the 1990s looked very different up close.  It is certainly worth checking out claims like this, but it is also highly unlikely a wood ship would survive thousands of years of weathering and landslides even under the best of conditions.  Only extraordinary evidence will be able to substantiate the extraordinary claim.  Better to understate the potential than have to backtrack later.
        Yet a long string of alleged sightings keeps the explorers motivated.  There are many reasons why the search is extremely difficult.  The ice pack only melts for short periods in dry years, the mountain is extremely difficult to climb, and it has long been in a dangerous political zone near the Turkish-Russian-Iranian border.  Armed gunmen roaming the slopes add to the hazard, and many otherwise hopeful searches in past years have waited in vain for permits from capricious local officials, only to be denied at the last minute.  Best wishes to the explorers, but till they bring back unquestionable evidence that would convince skeptics, definitive proof Noah’s Ark has survived on Mt. Ararat is, so far, lacking.  Whether the Ark existed and the Flood occurred are separate inquiries that, while they would be enhanced by this evidence, do not require it.
    Next headline on:  Bible and Theology
    SETI Researcher Analyzes Language Mathematically    04/26/2004
    Space.com had a story April 22 about Dr. Laurance Doyle, who studies non-human communication with information theory.  The article is mostly about his study of whale and dolphin signaling, but mentions how information theory is related to the intelligence of the communicating entities:
    Doyle’s team uses statistical tools from a field known as “information theory” to measure the complexity of different species’ communication systems and thus learn how much information individual animals can transfer between each other.  This allows the scientists to draw inferences about the intelligence of the communicating species, which in turn gives Fi researchers a better understanding of intelligence as an evolutionary adaptation.
    The term Fi comes from the Drake equation, a well-known SETI formula invented by Frank Drake that seeks to calculate how many intelligent civilizations might exist in space wishing to communicate with us.  It stands for the fraction of habitable planets with life that have evolved intelligence – the most speculative factor in a string of speculative factors that comprise the equation.
    Like most evolutionary articles, this evolutionary article merely assumes evolution.  It takes for granted that life and intelligence will evolve, given enough time.  As such, it provides nothing new in the rhetoric of Darwinism.  But it does remind us that communication of information is a hallmark of intelligence.  Animals possess intelligence and communicate information to one another in many ways, but only humans lie (see next entry).  If we know empirically that information is a telltale sign of intelligence, how can it be honest to assert that human intelligence had a non-intelligent source, ultimately from hydrogen?
    Next headline on:  SETIIntelligent Design
    Another Human Distinctive: Lying    04/26/2004
    Here’s another evolutionary conundrum: animals usually don’t tell lies.  Why is lying such a well-documented human trait, but rare in the animal kingdom?  Animals signal their own and their enemies in many complex ways.  It would seem that lying would have evolved as a useful strategy many times in the animal kingdom, yet apparently it has not.  In a book review of Animal Signals by John Maynard Smith and David Harper (Oxford, 2003) published in the April 23 issue of Science,1 Nils Stenseth and Glenn-Peter Sætre describe the puzzle:
    A central problem for evolutionary biologists interested in animal communication is to explain why animal signalers generally are truthful.  A male nightingale advertising for a mate reliably signals properties of his qualities through his beautiful song.  By dressing in screaming black and yellow colors, the wasp reliably warns approaching predators (and us) of her painful sting.  The trivial answer to the honesty problem is that it would not pay animals to respond to a signal unless they by and large benefited.  If wasps never stung, no one would bother to notice their striking colors.  The color pattern would cease to be a signal.  However, the more interesting question--the main theme of John Maynard Smith and David Harper’s Animal Signals--is what keeps signalers from cheating?  What prevents, say, a poor-quality male nightingale from claiming that he is of higher quality than he actually is?
    It’s not that evolutionists never thought about this before.  One explanation, for instance, is called the handicap theory: “signals are reliable because they are costly to produce or have costly consequences.”  Ideas about indices vs. amplifiers and evolving signals vs. equilibrium signals are discussed in the review, along with this puzzler:
    The problem of honest signaling seems especially challenging to our intuition when we consider contests, situations in which the contestants prefer different outcomes.  In their chapter on signaling during contests, Maynard Smith and Harper explore some consequences of the contestantsְ shared interest in avoiding an escalated fight.  They discuss badges of status, minimal-cost signals that indicate need, and aspects such as extended interactions, punishment, and the effects of the divisibility of a resource.
    All this seems to beg the question of why humans are such inveterate liars, if their behavior evolved, too.  The authors provide some “suggestions” –
    In the final chapter, the authors discuss signaling in primates and some other social vertebrates.  Here we find several topics that border on other fields such as psychology and the evolution of language.  The chapter provides some of the book’s most entertaining examples and most thought-provoking suggestions.  These include the evolution, through natural selection, of animal signaling into human language; that is, the transition in our past where genetic change was eclipsed by cultural change and history began.
    With that tantalizing impression, they leave us hanging; the reviewers probably expect us to buy the book to hear the suggestions.  Are they suggesting that cultural change and history do not evolve by natural selection?
    1Nils Chr. Stenseth and Glenn-Peter Sætre, “Behavioral Ecology: Why Animals Don’t Lie,”
    Science, Vol 304, Issue 5670, 519-520, 23 April 2004, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1097384].
    Interesting that they do not mention mimicry, which seems to be a form of deceit: “don’t eat me--I’m a stick!”  But mimicry is not really lying.  The animal can’t help the way it was born.  Anyway, in terms of vocalizations or behavioral traits, it is striking that animals don’t lie to each other like humans do, except in The Far Side comic strips.
        So here again, another phenomenon is found that seems counterintuitive to evolutionary expectations, and Darwinians are left employing just-so stories to explain it.  How many exceptions to the rule are required before the rules must be changed?
        With glittering generalities, evolutionists exercise their fertile imaginations to dream of monkey screeches evolving into Shakespearean soliloquies.  Prove it, we say.  Interestingly, though human beings can be shown to all have a single genetic ancestor (like Adam), their languages cannot.  Dr. Joseph Kickasola, a linguist at Regent University, has shown that all the thousands of human languages and dialects can be reduced to 17 families, but no further.  Could this fact be an echo of Babel?
        The cynic says, “Everybody lies, but it doesn’t matter, because nobody listens.”  What if enough people stop listening to Darwinian just-so stories?  After all, it is a form of deceit to pretend to have an answer when you don’t.  It would be more honest for a naturalistic researcher to say, “I don’t know why humans are liars but animals are not.”  Maybe this and maybe that doesn’t cut it in science.  This is an area where science is limited, but there are other sources of information, such as history and eyewitnesses.
        The One who cannot lie told us about a father of lies, the devil, who was a liar from the beginning, and that it is not surprising that his followers would follow in his ways.  He also commanded us not to bear false witness, and warned that all liars shall have their part in the lake of fire.  If you don’t like to hear such things, don’t ignore the credibility of the source of that information.  Don’t lie to yourself.
        Postscript: Science Now reported a week ago that John Maynard Smith, co-author of the book Animal Signals and one who “revolutionized the way biologists think about behavioral evolution” died on April 19.  This is the fate to which we all are racing.  Are you ready?  Choose carefully whose words you trust.  At the end of your life, it will not matter how entertaining the just-so stories you told or believed.  But you can know the Truth, and the truth can set you free.
    Next headline on:  Darwinism and Evolutionary TheoryEarly Man
    Minimal Cell Modeled in Computer    04/26/2004
    “The basic design rules relating the regulation of cellular function to genomic structure is of broad interest,” begin three Cornell microbiologists writing in PNAS,1 and so they have turned their attention to the smallest theoretical living cell:
    A “minimal cell” is a hypothetical cell possessing the minimum functions required for sustained growth and reproduction in a maximally supportive culture environment.  This organism is considered to live in a rich environment with preformed nutrients and relatively constant temperature and pH.
    The smallest known independently-living organism, Mycoplasma genitalium, has 580 kilobase pairs of DNA.  Most prior estimates for the smallest theoretical cell arrived at 262 genes or more.  Early investigators started by studying proteins and their functions.  These researchers took a different tack:
    We propose a reverse approach.  We ask how we would design a cell to achieve expected functions and, from that design, how we would write the genomic instructions.  This approach follows the typical engineering design approach where desired performance dictates functional design, which is then translated into blueprints.
    By evaluating which genes seem to overlap and sorting out genes that have similar functions, this team got the number of genes down to only 12, accomplishing 11 essential functions.  “It is certainly possible that a smaller set of genes might be found,” they say, “but we believe that the set of functions is minimal.”  This theoretical lower limit does not, of course, mean that such an entity could be found or constructed, or if it were, that it could survive and reproduce; their model only “permits growth from preformed nucleotides precursors and has complete nucleotide pathways.”
    1Castellanos, Wilson and Shuler, “A modular minimal cell model: Purine and pyrimidine transport and metabolism,”
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.0400962101 (published online before print April 16, 2004).
    Their model is little more than a thought experiment.  It imagines “pseudochemical species (or modules) that are aggregates of distinct chemical species that share similar chemistry and metabolic dynamics.”  What they try to do is theorize how simple a cell can be to exist and model it in a computer, not in the real world.  It’s kind of like designing a minimal airplane that could fly around the world without refueling, assuming there is constant temperature and no wind.  When the actual Voyager flew, it involved many engineering and physiological challenges that required even more intelligent design than a simple, heavier airplane.  These authors do not attempt to imagine that their theoretical cell would actually be viable.  It’s only a theoretical organism, a little better fleshed out than the fake computer organisms of Adami and Lenski.
        The authors do not imply that such an entity was a precursor to complex life.  For one thing, their model required pre-existing nucleotides and other ingredients not easy to come by in an organic soup, and assumed unrealistic constant temperature and pH conditions: in essence, they imagined a little garden of Eden for these theoretical cells, not a primitive hostile environment of crashing waves, hot vents, ice ages or meteor impacts.  For another, “This observation reminds us of one of the important challenges for comparative genomics,” they mention in their conclusion: “nonorthologous gene displacements (same function being performed by unrelated or very distantly related nonorthologous proteins).”  While this observation encourages them that “A conserved core of functions with a single, ubiquitous solution certainly exists” (theoretically, in the computer), the fact is that real life has a non-overlapping universal set of 80 genes, and the three kingdoms utilize very different proteins for some similar functions.  This is undoubtedly a reflection of their different habitats and environments.  Are we expected to believe that each of the three kingdoms evolved their own quasi-miraculous solutions to functional requirements independently, on repeated occasions, without brains?
        While the authors consider it “certainly possible” that someone might get the number down below 12 essential genes, they think their set of 11 functions is a rock-bottom minimum.  It won’t help origin-of-life researchers anyway.  Forget getting 12, or 80, or 256 genes: getting just one is out of the question (see our online book).  On Saturday, Dr. Kurt Durston at the Biola ID conference presented his calculations on the information content of a cell.  He said that a minimal cell needs 75,000 bits of information, and showed mathematically that evolutionary selection could not proceed in jumps greater than 90 bits.  Even if it required only one tenth of that, 7500 bits, it’s just not going to happen by chance, even with natural selection’s help.  We agree with the authors: “The basic design rules relating the regulation of cellular function to genomic structure is of broad interest.”
    Next headline on:  Cell BiologyOrigin of LifeGenetics and DNA
    Eugenics Documentary Opens at Holocaust Museum    04/22/2004
    Michael Ollove at the
    Baltimore Sun reports on a new exhibit at the U.S. Holocaust Museum entitled Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race.  The exhibit shows a 1937 Nazi propaganda film that invokes the law of natural selection as support for weeding out the unfit.  Ollove writes,
    The narrator declares that “we humans have sinned terribly against [the] laws of natural selection,” by coddling the genetically impaired and, even worse, by allowing them to reproduce, duplicating their defects in a new legion of offspring.  “We have not only sustained unworthy life,” he decries, “we have allowed it to multiply.”
        The title of the 1937 film is Victims of the Past, a reference to the idea in the disgraced genetic field of eugenics that illness, disability and delinquency were passed without deviation, gene by gene, from one generation to the next.  The film was a piece of Nazi propaganda, required showing in German theaters in support of the nation’s program for the compulsory sterilization of the “genetically unfit” to choke off undesirable human traits - and undesirable human beings.
    Ollove says that eugenics led directly to the holocaust: “Ultimately, the Third Reich arrived at a more comprehensive solution than sterilization, one that it would also choose for other ‘biological’ enemies, including Jews, Gypsies and other ‘inferior’ races: extermination.
       Reviewing the displays, Ollove says “the exhibition stands as a frightening warning of where the corrupted use of science can lead.”  The marriage of eugenics with the Third Reich was “a marriage made in hell,” he says, and “lent Nazi ideology a whiff of scientific authority.”
        Francis Galton, the father of eugenics, was Charles Darwin’s cousin and an admirer of his famous relative’s evolutionary theory.  Janet Browne, in her biography Charles Darwin: The Power of Place (Princeton, 2002) made it clear that racism was a common fault of many British scientists, and was shared not only by Galton, but by Darwin and many of his defenders: Huxley, Haeckel and many others.  Charles Darwin himself believed that the white-skinned Europeans with their superior intelligence would eventually exterminate the “lower” races.
        Who was Hitler to stand in the way of the laws of nature?  The Reich took enthusiastic note of the work of eugenicists.  Ollove writes, “After Hitler took power, the eugenicists achieved an unparalleled primacy, the envy of counterparts elsewhere in the world.  Many were appointed to key positions at scientific institutions and received research funding.  Their critics were silenced, while their views were furthered in state propaganda and official policy.”  Yet Germany was not alone in supporting eugenics.  The United States passed forced sterilization laws even before Germany did, beginning in 1907 (see this book review by the NCPA).
        Ollove next describes the slippery slope that began with euthanizing children, to killing adults, and led to all the horrors with which we have become familiar from newsreels made after the war.  Just a dirty chapter in history, a shocking museum exhibit?  Ollove warns that “the exhibit’s continued relevance is unmistakable as present-day bioethicists wrestle with the policy implications of startling genetic research and the possibilities it presents.”  Already, genetic screening, the desire to breed super-athletes or super-intelligent children, sex selection and the rising costs of health care are creating pressures to weed out the unfit or “undesirable.”
        What is the lesson of this exhibit?  He concludes, “The underlying issue inevitably bears on the question of the worth of individuals, a question for which both German eugenicists and the Nazis believed they had answers.”  Their answers often leaned on the writings of Darwin, Haeckel, and Galton.
        See also a new book by Dr. Richard Weikart (UC Stanislaus), From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany (Palgrave McMillan, 2004).  The author shows in this book that “Hitler built his view of ethics on Darwinian principles.”
    Darwinists hate it when outsiders try to link evolutionary theory with the holocaust.  Their response is usually two-fold: (1) science, and evolutionary theory in particular, has nothing to do with how it is used (after all, benign nuclear physics led to the atomic bomb), and (2) Christians have been guilty of atrocities, too: why, passages in the Bible could be, and were, used to justify anti-Semitism, slavery, and genocide.  Go read Ollove’s entire article.  Then, come back and let’s examine these rebuttals in turn.
        First, can Darwin be exonerated from what others did with his theories?  After all, Charlie was unquestionably a pleasant chap who wouldn’t hurt a fly (he would study it for evidence of natural selection).  He had many friends and admirers.  He loved nature and was basically a kind-hearted gentleman.  It can probably be affirmed without contradiction that he would have been shocked and horrified at what Hitler did.  Nevertheless, look at his ideas and their logical consequences.  He set forth a worldview of competition, struggle, and survival of the fittest; a world that filtered out the “unfit” by ruthless, undirected processes.  No matter how much he tried to restrict the discussion to scientific terminology, others knew exactly what his ideas meant and where they would lead.  Reviewers from day one applied his views to the human race and to politics.  The horrors that could follow from his views was precisely one of the arguments leveled at Darwin by critics in 1859 and 1860.  Darwin’s admirers, on the other hand, immediately used The Origin of Species to attack Christianity and promote liberal socialism.  Haeckel practically worshipped Darwin (and Darwin thought highly of Haeckel in return); Haeckel returned to Germany to promote Darwinism and eugenics, fueling the very fires that culminated in Nazism.
        Janet Browne and other historians have pointed out how Charles Darwin’s views fit neatly into the 19th century political climate of British imperialism.  Herbert Spencer (originator of the term “survival of the fittest”) told Andrew Carnegie that his cutthroat capitalism was a normal and natural outworking of the laws of nature.  Karl Marx felt that Darwinism provided the scientific justification for his communist views.  Whether Nazism, communism, or laissez-faire capitalism, each view that promoted ruthless competition and survival of the fittest used The Origin of Species as a scientific justification.
        Second, is Christianity just as guilty?  Let Joseph Goebbels himself frame the debate.  Ollove quotes him as stating in 1938, “Our starting point is not the individual, and we do not subscribe to the view that one should feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, or clothe the naked.  Our objectives are entirely different: We must have a healthy people in order to prevail in the world.”  Now, pray tell, who taught that we should feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, and clothe the naked?  Who treated each individual as precious in the sight of God?  Who healed the infirm, sought out the poor and needy, and lifted up those who were humble?  The lines could hardly be drawn more boldly than Goebbels drew them: Jesus valued the individual; Hitler, the eugenicists, and ultimately the Darwinians, valued the race.
        Speaking of race, the Bible has the antidote to the false concept that some races are superior to others.  Creation teaches that we are all descended from Adam, a principle reinforced in the New Testament by Paul and Jesus.  There are no races; there is only the human race.  Answers in Genesis is one creationist organization that has recently promoted this Bible doctrine as the cure for racism.  The Bible also denies that some individuals are less fit to live.  The weak, the sick, the lame, the blind, the poor were often the ones to whom Jesus showed the most compassion.
        It cannot be denied that Europeans did some ugly things in the name of Christ (including persecuting other Christians who believed people should follow the teachings of Jesus).  But these actions were opposite both the letter and the spirit of the Bible.  What about, then, the Old Testament commands to exterminate the Canaanites?  We must remember that the rights of life and death belong to God alone.  He who gives life has the sovereignty and authority to destroy it, as He did in the flood, and as He will do at Armageddon.  God takes full responsibility for His judgment.  In some cases, he delegated His judgment to humans.  But Moses and Joshua and the prophets had direct revelation from God on these matters (a luxury not afforded us today, nor to the medieval popes).  These were specific orders from God, to God’s chosen people, at specific times for His specific purposes, and are never mentioned in the Bible as normative for individuals or kings; in fact, the opposite is taught in both Old and New Testaments –care for the alien and sojourner, orphan and widow, and mercy toward all who are weak or afflicted.  Would Hitler or Mao have taught “love your enemies”?  Jesus said that the two greatest commandments were to love God with all your heart and to love your neighbor as yourself.  These are commandments to individuals, not to “the race.”
        The Bible’s position on individual human dignity does not rule out all killing.  God has instituted government to protect the rights of individuals, by means including police protection and national defense.  War can be just.  It can prevent further killing, or destroy those who are about to kill, as in the war against terrorism.  This is a far cry from genocide.  Neither does the Bible rationalize keeping the fit in their weakness, as if it is their fate.  The Biblical values of health, healing, cleanliness and industry should promote medical research into finding cures for genetic diseases and improving health – for individuals, because each person bears the image of God.  Even the benevolent competition of athletic games is spoken of favorably in the New Testament.  Individuals are encouraged to do their best.  This is a far cry from eugenics.
        Crusading popes corrupted the teachings of Jesus, but the eugenicists and the Nazis carried the teachings of Darwin to their logical applications.  Could figures be accurately known, the body count of those killed in the name of Christ to those killed in the name of Darwinism would differ by orders of magnitude.  In the 20th century alone, some 100 million deaths can be traced to communism and Nazism, regimes that banned Bibles and closed churches but exalted Darwinism, promoting survival of the fittest as the governing principle of society.  Most Darwinians are “nicer” these days (e.g., not overtly racist) but their core beliefs have not changed.  Some already support euthanasia and infanticide in the name of natural selection.  Many have no qualms about the ongoing holocaust of abortion.  As we approach difficult 21st-century ethical questions about genetic engineering and cloning and other cutting-edge technologies, respect for the individual must be the pole star in our deliberations (for example, see this Breakpoint commentary by Amy Michelle DeBaerts).
        Given that racism is a perpetual fire in the human heart, from ancient times to the present, which book – the Bible or the Origin of Species – is like water on the flames, and which is like gasoline?  Let history be the judge.  We must never forget.
    Next headline on:  MediaDarwinism and Evolutionary TheoryPolitics and EthicsBible and Theology
    Dinosaur Extinction Theory #481b    04/22/2004
    Let’s try another one.  Temperature imbalances after the asteroid impact 65 million years ago caused cooler global temperatures.  This caused more eggs to hatch male, since in reptiles, egg temperatures can influence the sex of the hatchlings.  So a shortage of females gradually led to the extinction of the dinosaurs.
        Why, then, didn’t crocodiles go extinct? ask critics of this new hypothesis by researchers at Leeds University (see
    BBC News).  They answer: “These animals live at the intersection of aquatic and terrestrial environments, in estuarine waters and river beds, which might have afforded some protection against the more extreme effects of environmental change, hence giving them more time to adapt.
        How did Arctic dinosaurs survive for so long, then? (see 03/29/2004 entry).  Don’t ask.
    This latest attempt was probably in response to the revelation that the dinosaur extinction was 300,000 years after the assumed date of the Yucatan impact (see 09/25/2003 entry).
        Evolutionists raise their stories up the flagpole to see if anyone salutes.  Usually, instead, the only salute is 21 guns shooting it down.  Meanwhile, popular news reports, like this story at MSNBC, get excited any time a science story has the word “sex” in it.
        This tale, like others, fails to explain why most of the extinction was among marine organisms.  According to the BBC article, a critic said, “More than 50% of all species that lived prior to the mass extinction were wiped out.  In fact, the dinosaurs were not among the most numerous of the casualties - the worst hit organisms were those in the oceans.”  What about them?  And what about the marine reptiles?  Why was the extinction selective for some reptiles and not others?  Why isn’t the Bible’s explanation ever considered, when it doesn’t have these problems?
    Next headline on:  DinosaursDumb Ideas
    Can Evolution Create Homologous Structures by Different Paths?    04/22/2004
    Günter Thebien (Friedrich Schuller U, Jena, Germany) is baffled about how two plants arrived at similar structures by different evolutionary pathways.  In the April 22 issue of Nature,1 he asks,
    Structures that occur in closely related organisms and that look the same are usually considered to be homologous – their similarity is taken to arise from their common ancestry.  Common sense suggests that the more complex such structures are, the less likely they are to have evolved independently and the more valuable they should be for studying systematics.  But what if ‘obviously’ identical organs have arisen through two mutually exclusive developmental routes?
    He points to a discovery by Glover et al. (Gene 331, 1-7; 2004) of just such a what-if situation.  Two species in the nightshade family (of which tomatoes are a member) that have almost identical looking “pepperpots” or anther cones in their flowers.  Yet mutation experiments on the genes that develop the structures show that neither could be related to the other by common ancestry, because they develop under different pathways.  “So the most plausible conclusion,” he claims, “is that pepperpots originated twice independently in the lineages that led to tomato and bittersweet.”  If so, this means trouble for systematists:
    Molecular systematic analysis confirms that tomato and bittersweet are closely related, and the traditional view would be that their pepperpot cones are obviously homologous.  But genetic tinkering and mutant analysis show that they probably are not – that they are convergent, having taken different routes to the same end.  Life’s potential to invent complex structures more than once may worry systematists, who depend on reliable characters to reconstruct relationships between organisms.  But it will please anyone who admires nature’s innovative power.

    1Günter Thebien, “Developmental genetics: Bittersweet evolution,”
    Nature 428, 813 (22 April 2004); doi:10.1038/428813b.
    Homology is one of those words that embeds Darwinian assumptions into the terminology.  The Darwin Party’s word games go like this:
  • Homologous structures are similarities that Darwinians believe are related by common ancestry.
  • Analogous structures are similarities that Darwinians believe are not related by common ancestry.  In some unspecified way, they arrived at the same pattern by “convergent evolution.”
    Thus, by waving either hand, the Darwin show can go on.  But when both hands are waving, they might collide.  Thebein’s hand-waving term “convergent evolution” has just collided with the hand-waving Darwinian concept of homology.  Now what?  Nature has thrown the Darwinians a curve; a complex structure that “common sense” says could not have evolved twice independently.  This is where the Darwinians go to Plan C:
  • Homologous-convergent structures prove Nature is tricky.
    Since, to a Darwinian, Nature is a personified goddess tinkering with her creations, she has free will and even a sense of humor, in addition to “innovative power.”  By employing fast-talking equivocation with the science security guards, the Darwinians avoid having their science badges disqualified.  They can remain and enjoy the melodrama, chuckling at the dirty trick “Nature” played on the systematists.  They never catch on that the joke’s on them.
    Next headline on:  PlantsDarwinism and Evolutionary TheoryDumb Ideas
  • How Tall Can a Tree Grow?    04/22/2004
    130 meters (426 ft) seems to be the upper limit on the height of a tree, say researchers from Humboldt State, Northern Arizona University and Pepperdine University, in the April 22 issue of Nature.1  To find this out, they had to establish working stations at the tops of northern California redwoods, the tallest trees on earth (the current record holder is 369.75 feet, the height of a 36-story building).  Ian Woodward calls their in situ measurements of photosynthesis at heights of over 360 ft. a “remarkable achievement.”2  The team shot arrows over the tops of tall northern redwoods, then pulled up ropes and climbed hundreds of feet into the crown branches to take their measurements of water pressure, leaf mass, carbon dioxide exchange, and light environment.  Since the tallest trees, which are estimated to have been growing for 2000 years, have not reached the theoretical limit, they could continue growing for some time.
        Koch et al. determined that the limiting factor is ability to pump water against the competing forces of gravity and friction, which increase with height.  Transpiration through the leaves creates a suction in the woody vessels that pulls the water upward until cavitation occurs, when an embolism forms that collapses the water flow.  They found that the top leaves get smaller and denser at the top, and less photosynthesis occurs, due to the challenge of delivering water hundreds of feet off the ground.  The northern redwoods are efficient drawers of water, Woodward says:
    Tall trees use considerable quantities of water.  For example, a 45-m redwood uses about 600 kg of water each day, a figure that increases substantially with height and size.  It seems surprising, therefore, that the redwoods live in a climate with an annual dry season of 3-4 months.  Offsetting such an apparent drawback, however, is the oceanic influence on local climate, which means that dry-season fog occurs for up to two weeks at a time: fog reduces transpiration, a benefit in the dry season.  Moreover, tall trees actually increase the interception and capture of fog coming in off the sea, to the tune of 34% of the annual incidence of precipitation; in their absence, the precipitation input from fog is halved.
    Woodward finds it interesting that Koch’s team began their research in 1988 on the lowly radish, and now they have continued on the tallest plants in the world.  “Yet that is no real surprise,” he notes: “despite the very different packaging and longevity of the two species, their physiological processes are much the same.”
    See also the BBC News writeup on this research paper.
    1Koch, Sillett, Jennings, and Davis, “The limits to tree height,” Nature 428, 851 - 854 (22 April 2004); doi:10.1038/nature02417.
    2Ian Woodward, “Plant science: Tall storeys,” Nature 428, 807 - 808 (22 April 2004); doi:10.1038/428807a.
    Here is a good example of science as it should be done.  Excellent field work, and no storytelling about evolution.  As remarkable as today’s giant trees are, there were probably even bigger ones in the past.  Yellowstone in Wyoming and Florissant Fossil Beds in Colorado have fossilized Sequoia stumps, and redwood fossils have been found even near the Arctic circle (see 03/22/2002 entry).  Conditions in the past may have been even more conducive to their rapid growth.
        Like Ian, we should all look woodward and marvel at the trees.  Look at a tall tree nearby, whether an oak, a pine, or whatever is prominent in your neck of the woods.  Imagine if it were the only tree on earth.  Would it not be an international tourist attraction?  People would travel the world over to look at this natural marvel.  They would wonder how it could pump water from under the ground all the way up to the highest leaves.  They would admire its beauty.  It would seem almost a miracle.  The fact that trees are so plentiful should not blind us to the reality that trees indeed are some of the most elegant, handsome, remarkable, and complex entities in all of creation.  Why not take the family on a hike or picnic under the shady trees, and use it as a teachable moment?
    Enjoy this gallery of the natural water pumps that enrich our world: by a lake (foxtail pine), in a canyon (cottonwood), outdoor pews (sequoia), blooms in fog (dogwood), giant’s foot (sequoia), forest blanket (lodgepole pine), Yosemite valley (pine, oak), Tehipite valley (pine, oak), redwood saddle (sequoia), mountain majesty (pine), waterfall curtain (cottonwood), giant and dwarves (sequoia).
    Next headline on:  PlantsAmazing Facts
    Does Ethics Emerge From Genes Alone?    04/21/2004
    Gene Robinson wants to get us “beyond nature and nurture” in discussions of behavior.  Robinson, of the Department of Entomology and Neuroscience at the University of Illinois in Urbana, wrote an essay in the April 16 issue of Science1 that suggests it is not “either-or” but “both-and” – both genetics and the environment affect the expression of genes.  Behavior, therefore, is a reflection of the dynamic interplay of both factors as they affect which genes are expressed.  Does this remove the fear of biological determinism?
    When it comes to behavior, the nature-nurture controversy has not disappeared.  The public is leery of attributing behavioral influence to DNA rather than to the environment and free will; worries abound over the ethical implications of biological determinism.  Many social and behavioral scientists are skeptical as well, either because the concept of “DNA as destiny” does not jibe with their understanding of the dynamic nature of behavior or because they consider human behavior to be much more complex than that of animals studied from a genetic perspective.  By contrast, biologists have long accepted that genes, the environment, and interactions between them affect behavioral variation.  Traditionally, behavioral variation has been partitioned using statistical analysis into genetic (G), environmental (E), and G x E components, an approach that began long before the advent of molecular biology.  This retains the flavor of the nature-nurture dichotomy, which influences how research in this field is interpreted.  Fortunately, we can now study genes in enough detail to move beyond the nature-nurture debate.  It is now clear that DNA is both inherited and environmentally responsive.
    Robinson provides three examples of genetic expression in animals (voles, fruit flies and rats) affected by environment.  Thus, he considers a biological explanation of behavior tractable at last: “All behaviors are influenced by the actions of many genes; the three highlighted here exert their effects as part of gene networks that give rise to diverse pathways of physiological activity.”  These animal models illustrate a new framework for explaining behavior, from animals to man:
    Emphasizing the dynamic responsiveness of the genome over different time scales not only provides a framework that includes both mechanistic and evolutionary explanations of behavior at the molecular level, but may also attract more social and behavioral scientists to the quest to understand the relationship between genes and behavior.  In the past, social and behavioral scientists might have dismissed molecular studies of behavior in animal models by pointing to the greater complexity of human behavior.  Yet the examples offered here--pair bonding, foraging, and care of offspring, each involving molecules known to also be present in humans--illustrate complex behaviors performed over days and weeks or even a lifetime.  These behaviors have learned components and are performed in a social context.  The value of animal models can be further enhanced by applying genomics to generate large-scale expression profiles of individuals with different genotypes tested in different environments.  In addition, the application of informatics should enable new literature-based comparative analyses of behaviors across different species.
    These new approaches might provoke multidisciplinary synergy: “Development of new tools marrying the vast literature on behavior with genomics could also spark increasing involvement by social and behavioral scientists in molecular genetic studies of behavior,“ Robinson says.  “This would be a welcome development indeed.”  Biologists need the collaborative input of sociologists, he suggests demurely.  He thinks the cross-disciplinary study of molecular genetics will also “help everyone get past the dilemma of nature versus nurture.”  From there, tackling the intricacies of the human psyche cannot be far behind: “Then we can all focus on both the tremendous opportunities and the challenging ethical concerns related to the study of genes and behavior.”
    1Gene E. Robinson, “Beyond Nature and Nurture,”
    Science, Vol 304, Issue 5669, 397-399, 16 April 2004, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1095766].
    Gene (appropriately named), a genetic determinist, and a Gene E. with words, seems to believe he is thinking outside the box, but he has only rearranged the furniture.  The box is naturalism.  It was naturalism before, and it is naturalism now.  The couch of nature and the sofa of nurture have just been rearranged on both sides of the end table of genetics.  Now, the biologists and social scientists can both pour their coffee from the same pot as they discuss their common bond of naturalistic philosophy.
        Actually, his essay is a veiled attempt to woo the social and behavioral naturalists to the “nature” side of the debate, where he thinks the truth lies.  Robinson provided three examples of genes affecting behavior modulated by environmental cues.  He thereby gently chides the social scientists for their insistence that the human psyche is too complex to be described genetically.  And he hints at the possibility that naturalistic biologists can become the benevolent philosopher-kings for the public: he began, “The public is leery of attributing behavioral influence to DNA rather than to the environment and free will; worries abound over the ethical implications of biological determinism.”  He ended, “we [that is, the naturalistic biologists and the naturalistic behavioral scientists] can all focus on ... the challenging ethical concerns related to the study of genes and behavior.”  Presumably, this means that the enlightened biologists can inform ethical policy if not control it.  In this box, soul and spirit and free will are all outlawed.  Biological determinism is the law.  Naturalists are like the Russian prison guards who believe in freedom of choice: “You have two choices: Gulag and torture, or Siberia and torture.”  (The worst torture comes from guards who sincerely believe they are trying to help you.)  Robinson doesn’t even seem to realize he is in prison himself.  How can his thoughts on behavior, genetics and ethics have any validity if they are ultimately just artifacts of gene expression?
        A thoughtful jury listening to this advocate might well ask, has Robinson proved that human behavior and ethics are traceable to genetic expression?  Three examples with rodents and flies seem a little insufficient to explain Bach, Locke or Jacques Cousteau, or eine kleine Einstein either.  So altering a gene can affect a mouse’s foraging behavior.  Fine.  Take away a man’s food, and the environmental cues will probably stimulate his genes, too, in a way that will urge him to go foraging for something to eat.  Let’s have Gene identify every environmental cue that modulated the expression of every gene in Einstein’s brain while he described general relativity, then he may have a case.  Let’s have him describe genetically the self-evident truths that all men are created equal, and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Without that, he has nothing but philosophical belief based on the fallacy of reductionism.
        Certainly nature and nurture can influence behavior.  Nobody, not even a Methodist, would deny that.  All humans have a human nature, and “mannishness” as Francis Schaeffer termed it, that manifests itself across all cultures and times.  Undoubtedly much of it is genetically determined, shaped by our physical characteristics, and influenced by our environment.  Social experiments can often predict behavioral outcomes.  To reduce everything to genes, however, is not warranted by such observations.  Though we may react similarly to similar stimuli, how does DNA explain Paul?  The human spirit is perhaps the best example in the world of irreducible complexity.
        Robinson’s view is also dangerous.*  One wonders what “challenging ethical concerns” he had in mind, if he believes behavior is ultimately reducible to particles in motion.  According to this view, it should be possible to describe natural laws of behavior.  If so, why not apply these, like the Russians did, to psychopolitics?  Politicians could employ the natural laws to control the populace.  Advertisers could employ the natural laws to separate people from their money.  Torturers could employ the natural laws to extract confessions.  Dictators could raise an army of obedient supermen, like the clones in Star Wars II, to conquer the universe.  One only has to know the rules, and the human pawns would fall in line.  The question then becomes, who gets the power, and ultimately, what forces are governing the behavior of the ones in power?
    Tremendous opportunities, indeed.

    *This is not to disparage Mr. Robinson – only his ideas.  After all, Charlie was a pretty nice guy in person.  He loved animals and children and acted politely.  But his ideas were used to rationalize genocide, racism, eugenics, and other dark deeds on scientific grounds, that they were logical outworkings of competition and survival of the fittest (Herbert Spencer’s phrase that Darwin embraced in preference to his own term, natural selection).  Ideas have consequences.  Charlie may have been a gentleman, but others knew exactly where his ideas would lead from the day they were published, and some took his ball and ran with it (see 09/22/2002 entry).  If we are going to learn from history, we cannot ignore what biological determinism means to ethics, religion, law, politics, the arts, and culture.  “Worries abound over the ethical implications of biological determinism” – because some of us have a memory, and read history books.  Just the other day, the History Channel showed a clip of Hitler giving one of his impassioned speeches, in which he challenged the Germans to prove themselves the fittest because natural selection was the law of nature.  See also “The Science of Evil” by Michael Ollove posted 4/22 on the Baltimore Sun about how believers in eugenics based their nefarious schemes on the “law” of natural selection.
    Next headline on:  Genetics and DNAPolitics and Ethics
    Can Molecular Clock Relativity Explain the Cambrian Explosion?    04/20/2004
    Evolutionists seem to believe in a general theory of biological relativity: molecular clocks run at different rates depending on the conditions.  Six Dartmouth College researchers set out to estimate the time when the first bilaterally symmetric animals emerged – the ancestor of humans, vertebrates, worms and everything with two halves.  This event must have occurred, they believe, just prior to the Cambrian explosion, a period in the fossil record that “continues to defy explanation” (see
    04/14/2004 entry).  Their solution, published in PNAS,1 depended on running the molecular clock at different rates on different branches of Darwin’s tree of life.  (The “molecular clock” is a dating method that estimates the passage of time by how many genetic changes are observed between two related species, assuming they both diverged from a common ancestor.)
        Their paper begins with the importance of the question: “Accurately dating when the first bilaterally symmetrical animals arose is crucial to our understanding of early animal evolution,” they say.  Yet till now there has been a disconnect between two data sources: “The earliest unequivocally bilaterian fossils are ~555 million years old.  In contrast, molecular-clock analyses calibrated by using the fossil record of vertebrates estimate that vertebrates split from dipterans (Drosophila) [insects with two wings] ~900 million years ago (Ma).”  What happened to 345 million years?  Part of the answer, they claim, is that the molecular clocks ran at different speeds: “comparative genomic analyses suggest that a significant rate difference exists between vertebrates and dipterans, because the percentage difference between the genomes of mosquito and fly is greater than between fish and mouse, even though the vertebrate divergence is almost twice that of the dipteran.”  This is surprising; most would assume a mosquito and fly, both flying insects, would have similar genes, but protein-coding genes between fish and mouse show fewer differences in twice the estimated time.
      The authors suggest two possibilities to explain this conundrum.  Either insects accelerated their rate of molecular evolution, or vertebrates decelerated it.  In this paper, the authors prefer the latter, but they appreciate the magnitude of the difficulties presented by the Cambrian explosion:
    Although the Cambrian explosion is of singular importance to our understanding of the history of life, it continues to defy explanation.  This defiance stems, in part, from our inability to distinguish between two competing hypotheses: whether the Cambrian explosion reflects the rapid appearance of fossils with animals having a deep but cryptic precambrian history, or whether it reflects the true sudden appearance and diversification of animals in the Cambrian.  Because each hypothesis makes a specific prediction of when animals arose in time, one way to distinguish between these two hypotheses is to date animal diversifications by using a molecular clock.  A number of previous clock studies (reviewed in refs. 3 and 4) have suggested that the last common ancestor of bilaterians (LCB) lived well over one billion years ago (5, 6), whereas others suggest that LCB arose ~900 million years ago (Ma) (e.g., refs. 7-10), and still others are more consistent with an origination closer to the Cambrian (11-13).  These deep estimates for the origin of LCB raise the question of how hundreds of millions of years of bilaterian evolution can escape detection, given that LCB and its near relatives should have had the capability of leaving both body and trace fossils.
    That is why these authors reject the presumption that the LCB existed for over 500 million years without leaving a trace of a fossil, when many precambrian strata appear ideally suited for preservation.
        Their preferred late date, however, contradicts the evidence from the molecular clock, which would put the LCB in “deep time” (i.e., over a billion years ago, long before the Cambrian explosion).  But that is where relativity can help:
    Because molecular clocks have several inherent problems, including how the clock is calibrated, how molecular substitution rates are estimated, and how heterogeneity in these rates is detected and corrected, as well as an inherent statistical bias for overestimating dates, a much more recent date for LCB may not yet be refuted.  Of crucial importance for clock accuracy is the calibration of the clock itself, which requires not only accurate paleontological estimates but also rate homogeneity between the calibrated and uncalibrated taxa.  When estimating the origination date for LCB, virtually all analyses use the vertebrate fossil record to calibrate the clock and ask when vertebrates diverged from dipterans.  However, genome-wide sequence comparisons have shown that the average sequence identity of nuclear protein-coding genes between dipterans is lower than that of bony fish, even though the dipteran divergence time, estimated at 235 Ma (19), is only about half as long as the divergence of bony fish at 450 Ma (20).
    The answer must be, they claim, that instead of “rate homogeneity” (a constant clock) there was “rate heterogeneity” (relative clocks) on the different branches of the tree.
        Using various mathematical models for building evolutionary trees and estimating the time between the branches, they test their hypothesis that the vertebrate clock ticked slower.  Various adjustments are made to synchronize the molecular estimates with the fossil record; they admit that “the use of molecular clocks to infer divergence times is fraught with difficulties,” and they must apply many assumptions, none of which question the core assumption that a common ancestor existed.  But even within a Darwinian paradigm, their solution leads to another, more challenging problem: the Cambrian explosion was rapid.  Consequently, all the diverse body plans of all animal phyla had to arise quickly from the alleged, unobserved common ancestor.  Even though they express some confidence that their adjustments to the molecular clock produced congruence with the generally-accepted dates from the fossil record, “Because of this congruence, the Cambrian explosion must reflect, at least in part, the diversification of bilaterian phyla.”  Somehow, without leaving a trace, precambrian ancestors gave rise to a rich diversity of animals in a relatively short time.  What genetic mechanisms could produce such rapid invention of body plans and complex organs, they do not say.  But maybe it was triggered by a “snowball Earth,” melting glaciers, an exposed continental shelf or some other environmental change, though “highly speculative at the moment,” that “may have provided the environmental stimuli necessary for the rapid evolution of disparate bilaterian body plans and ultimately the Cambrian explosion itself.
    1Peterson et al., “Estimating metazoan divergence times with a molecular clock,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 10.1073/pnas.0401670101, published online before print 04/14/2004.
    Oh what a tangled web we weave, when at first we practice being deceived.  It would appear that an unbiased observer might pronounce Darwinism falsified at this revelation.  If it takes multiple tweaks by orders of magnitude to get a model to work, is there not something fundamentally wrong with the presuppositions?  Tweaks of this magnitude resemble the desperate attempts to keep the Ptolemaic model of planetary orbits from crumbling under the barrage of improved observations.
        Evolutionists have known for years that the molecular clock is broken (see 05/31/2002, 03/26/2002 and 10/01/2001 entries, for instance).  Why even give it the time of day?  It amounts to no more than Skinner’s constant: that quantity which when added to, subtracted from, multiplied or divided by the answer you got, gives you the answer you should have gotten.  It’s time to take away this useless widget from the Darwin Party’s playpen and get them to face the data squarely: every animal phylum (and some extinct ones) appears in the Cambrian, without ancestors, even though many precambrian strata have ideal conditions for fossilization.  Think on these things.
        Getting Darwinism to work with the Cambrian explosion is like getting both ends of a seesaw to be up at the same time.  If you give the last common ancestor more time to evolve, you have to explain why no fossils were recorded for hundreds of millions of years.  If you shorten the time for the last common ancestor to evolve, you have to explain how multiple distinct body plans arose almost simultaneously.  The phylogenetic chart in Peterson’s paper is typical; the actual fossils of the phyla are contemporaneous; the relationships back in deep time are inferred.  If one looks at the evidence without the funky kaleidoscopic Darwin Party glasses on, it does not look like evolution.  It looks like creation.
    Next headline on:  FossilsGenetics and DNADarwinism and Evolutionary Theory
    How Birds Calibrate Their Navigating Maps   04/17/2004
    Three researchers tracked birds in the wild and concluded that “night-flying thrushes set their course using a magnetic compass, which they calibrate to the setting sun before takeoff each evening.”  The team of three captured thrushes in Illinois and attached small radio transmitters to them, then followed their flight for up to 1100 kilometers.  By tricking them with false magnetic fields, they were able to steer them off course.  But after next sunset, the birds were back on track, apparently having recalibrated their maps by the position of the sun.  Erik Stokstad, reporting on the research, adds more interesting details:
    This work may explain why birds don’t get lost when they cross the equator.  That had been an enigma because birds can’t tell magnetic north from south.  Instead, they check the inclination of the field lines relative to the ground; the angle becomes steeper near the poles.  A bird using only its magnetic compass would risk getting turned around near the equator, but calibrating it to the sunset would keep it on track.  Of course, the position of the sunset changes with latitude and season, but Wikelski thinks that birds may be able to correct for that through a biological clock that tells them the time of year.”
    This is the first time birds have been monitored for navigation in the wild.  The team must have looked odd chasing birds with “meter-tall antenna mounted on top of a battered 1982 Oldsmobile.”  According to Stokstad, “Many nights, the team was delayed when suspicious police officers pulled over the electronics-laden car.”
    See also:
    National Geographic News.
    1Erik Stokstad, “Songbirds Check Compass Against Sunset to Stay on Course,” Science Vol 304, Issue 5669, 373, 16 April 2004, [DOI: 10.1126/science.304.5669.373a].
    Thus multiple levels of correction and calibration are involved in this mind-boggling ability of little birdbrains to use natural cues to migrate vast distances unerringly, day and night, north and south, east and west.  Congratulations to creative and diligent scientists who risk jail to find out these amazing feats in the animal kingdom for us to enjoy and ponder.
    Next headline on:  BirdsAmazing Facts
    The Spin on a New Planet   04/16/2004
    Planetary scientists are “completely baffled” by a new “mysterious” planetoid named Sedna, discovered March 15.  About 70% the diameter of Pluto, it has no moon like Pluto does, but rotates very slowly - somewhere between 20 and 50 days - which would normally imply the presence of a satellite.  Most small bodies rotate in a few hours.  Co-discoverer Mike Brown of Caltech expressed, “I’m completely baffled at the absence of a moon.  This is outside the realm of expectation and makes Sedna even more interesting.  But I simply don’t know what it means.”
    We don’t know what it means, either, but if scientists can still be completely baffled by observable things, how can we trust evolutionists’ chutzpah about unobservable things that they claim happened billions of years ago?
    Next headline on: 
    Solar System
    Is It Possible to Be Too Clean?   04/16/2004
    Mr. Clean may have a bad immune system.  A story in
    EurekAlert says kids without enough exposure to infectious agents are at greater risk of autoimmune diseases.  “The cleaner everyone is, the less stimulation their immune system gets,” says [Nora] Sarvetnick [of Scripps Research Institute]. “Their immune system tends to be incomplete.”  Stimulation increases the number of T cells in the body, which “act as a buffer against the emergence of self-reactive T cells by shutting down homeostatic expansion,” a reaction to low T-cell count.  Sarvetnick’s hypothesis contrasts with prevailing opinion that views autoimmune diseases as functions of too much stimulation.  Apparently, segments of our immune systems, like soldiers, need things to practice on.  If there is no target, they practice on you.  “This hypothesis could explain a discrepancy in the number of cases of autoimmune disease in developed and developing countries,” the report says.  “Disease rates have been on the rise in developed countries in the last 50 years compared to their developing neighbors, presumably because people in less developed countries are exposed to more pathogens.”
    This could lead to a new paradigm about infectious agents.  Since many are not pathogenic, maybe there are interactions between our cells and the environment that are not all bad.  Maybe instead of looking at every germ as an enemy, we should envision some of the microbes as engaging in “free trade” across our borders.  The problem then becomes regulating the commerce and preventing intrusion by terrorists.
        Microbes in the environment may be signalling our own bodies with information needed to adapt to changing conditions.  They might be providing a service, therefore, unless overwhelming us in swarms; the job of T-cells may be to regulate their numbers.  Pathogens may be formerly harmless agents gone bad or out of control.
        At this point, such thoughts are mostly hypothetical.  Certainly, harmful pathogens are to be avoided like the plague.  But we were created to be able to live outdoors in contact with our environment much of the time.  Cleanliness is still next to godliness, but disinfecting everything and using antibacterial soaps may be going too far.  Unless your kid has known allergies or genetic risk factors, let him or her enjoy pets and explore the wilderness – under your watchful eye.  Protect, but do not overprotect.
    Next headline on:  HealthHuman Body
    Fish Gene Gives Darwinists Hope   04/15/2004
    It doesn’t take much to excite an evolutionary biologist.  A little bit of microevolution that might be a stepping stone to macroevolution is all it takes.  This story almost reads like a Good News - Bad News joke.  The good news is that one gene that regulates the spines on one kind of fish has been found, that might provide a clue how a noticeable change between populations could evolve.  The bad news is expressed in an opening statement by Neil Shubin and Randall Dahn in their summary of a scientific paper published in the April 15 issue of Nature1:
    Darwin’s lament that “Our ignorance of the laws of variation is profound” has described one of the persistent problems in evolutionary biology for the past 145 yearsHow does genetic variation – the raw material of evolutionarise within populations, and how does it evolve to make species anatomically and behaviourally distinct?
    To attempt an answer to these profound questions, Shubin and Dahn refer to a paper by Shapiro et al.2 in the same issue.  Shapiro’s team found a gene in threespine sticklebacks that controls the size of their “stickles” or bony spines that grow out of the pelvic girdle on these fish.  These spines are apparently defensive structures in the sea-going species, but are reduced in size in their freshwater cousins.  Experiments with the gene show that it can reduce the size of these limbs.  That leads to a counter-intuitive principle, according to Shubin and Dahn: “Surprisingly, some of the most significant novelties in the history of life are associated not with the evolution of new structures but with the loss or reduction of primitive ones.”  As examples, they point to snakes and whales, who supposedly lost their legs.  Some animals can jump, fly, or run better without their limbs, they claim.  Similarly, freshwater stickleback fish might do better without their spines, either because there is insufficient calcium in the water to grow them, or predatory invertebrates might find them to be convenient handles.
        The gene the paper identified, Pitx1, is vital; in fact, “Pitx1 mutations in mice are often lethal, because they cause developmental abnormalities of the head, face and some glands.”  This leads to another counter-intuitive principle: “How, then, could alterations in this gene be involved in limb reduction in living populations of stickleback fish?  The answer is that the regulation of Pitx1 – not the protein encoded by the gene – has changed.”  Specifically,
    Shapiro et al. found that the sequence of the protein-coding region of the Pitx1 gene is identical between the different populations of sticklebacks.  But the gene’s expression pattern is altered markedly: the population with complete pelvic loss shows no Pitx1 expression in appendages but retains patterns of gene activity in other areas, such as the thymus, olfactory pits and caudal fins (Fig.2).  This type of localized decrease in the activity of Pitx1 can result in pelvic-fin reduction without affecting other parts of the body.”
    Thus, a small microevolutionary change might lead to macroevolutionary effects: “Regulatory changes affect when and where a gene is active, not the actual product of the gene.  So these types of changes are often involved in non-lethal and rapid morphological change, and are likely to be extraordinarily important components of evolutionary history.”  They do not explain what kind of mutation changed the expression of this gene.  Instead, Shubin and Dahn argue that stratigraphic evidence suggests this change took place in only 10,000 generations.  They reason that “
    Extrapolating these results to other taxonomic groups leads to the conclusion that major morphological change can evolve rapidly through regulatory changes in a small number of genes.”  Furthermore, Shapiro’s paper might demonstrate how parallel evolution could occur, and why “some evolutionary changes occur more readily than others.”  Shubin and Dahn feel this finding might even lead to a general principle of macroevolutionary change.
        Their ending paragraph, however, casts only the faintest glimmer of hope on this 145-year-old problem:
    One of the central mysteries of evolutionary biology has been the relationship between microevolution and macroevolution.  How can an understanding of the evolutionary mechanisms that act in populations today explain the types of variation that distinguish higher taxonomic groups, such as genera, families or even phyla?  Can an understanding of population-level processes explain major evolutionary events such as the Cambrian explosion – the period around 550 million years ago when complex animal life took offPerhaps so.  Shapiro et al. might have discovered a smoking gun – a real example of a type of macroevolutionary change that is produced by genetic differences between populations.
    Other science news outlets quickly picked up on this story.  The BBC News announced that “Scientists have discovered a genetic basis underlying the evolution of fewer limbs in animals,” and claimed that “Limb loss is implicated in a number of big steps in evolution.”  Science Now reported that “researchers have found that a simple change of gene activity could make all the difference--a rare demonstration of how a small genetic change can make a relatively rapid impact on an organism.”
    1Neil H. Shubin and Randall D. Dahn, “Evolutionary biology: Lost and found,” Nature 428, 703 - 704 (15 April 2004); doi:10.1038/428703a.
    2Shapiro et al., “Genetic and developmental basis of evolutionary pelvic reduction in threespine sticklebacks,” Nature 428, 717 - 723 (15 April 2004); doi:10.1038/nature02415.
    We need a new category for stories like this.  Is there a word for gaining an inch and conceding a mile, gaining one small hill but losing the war, spending one’s life savings on a slot machine and winning a dime?  That’s the spirit of this story; it’s a Pyrrhic victory.  Shubin and Dahn talk like they will soon be proud winners of millions of dollars from Nigeria, if they can just round up a little more money.
        Notice the big picture.  Here we are, 145 years after Darwin started a revolution in biology that took over the intellectual world, and they admit right up front that Darwin’s own lament, “Our ignorance of the laws of variation is profound,” is still a “persistent problem” today.  Even after we have sequenced the genomes of dozens of organisms and scoured the world for fossils, and garnered data beyond Charlie’s wildest dreams, evolutionary biologists are still singing the same blues.  Then, after all their hype about what this stickleback tale might mean, they admit that “One of the central mysteries of evolutionary biology has been the relationship between microevolution and macroevolution.”  Do you understand what they are telling us?
        Since Charlie wrote his “abominable volume” in 1859, we have been told that macroevolution is a scientific fact, yet were provided only microevolutionary observations and macroevolutionary tales, with no scientific connection between them.  Evolutionists only assume the two are connected somehow.  What if there is no connection?  What if variation has limits, and the higher taxonomic groups have always been distinct and separate?  He mentions the Cambrian explosion (see next headline), which would lead an unbiased observer to conclude that all the major animal body plans appeared abruptly on the earth without ancestors.  Small variations within groups have undoubtedly occurred since then, but Shubin and Dahn’s incriminating admissions indicate that Darwinians have failed to demonstrate macroevolutionary change, and thus failed to demonstrate common ancestry of all living things.
        Notice how tiny their evidence is.  They’re only talking about stickleback fish, for crying out loud, and for crying even louder, they’re talking about a loss of genetic information, and for screaming hysterically, they are talking about one gene that is identical between two populations, that if mutated, causes death!  How on earth can an evolutionist find any hope in that?  Picture a little boy at a waterfall, who has been convinced by a trickster that water flows upward.  At the base of any waterfall there are droplets that bounce and splash up temporarily.  The boy becomes fixated on those splashes, hoping against hope that his observations will, in time, demonstrate the truth of the theory he has been led to believe.  All the while, the big picture demonstrates the exact opposite.
        Stories like this lead some non-evolutionists to ponder a future day when the culture will look back at 2004, incredulous that intelligent people could believe such things, and will laugh at the flimsy arguments used to support them.  Like Søren Lovtrup wrote in Darwinism: Refutation of a Myth: “Micromutations do occur, but the theory that these alone can account for evolutionary change is either falsified, or else it is an unfalsifiable, hence metaphysical theory.  I suppose that nobody will deny that it is a great misfortune if an entire branch of science becomes addicted to a false theory.  But this is what has happened in biology: ... I believe that one day the Darwinian myth will be ranked the greatest deceit in the history of science.  When this happens many people will pose the question: How did this ever happen?”  (Source: IDEA Club.  Browse their large collection of quotations on Darwinism.)
    Next headline on:  Fish and Marine Biology. • Darwinism and Evolutionary TheoryGenetics and DNADumb Ideas
    Slowing Down the Cambrian Explosion    04/14/2004
    “Although the cause of the Cambrian radiation is unknown,” states a story in
    Science Now, maybe it wasn’t as rapid as previously thought.  Bruce Lieberman (U. of Kansas) is toying with the idea that trilobites, those icons of the Cambrian era, radiated into various ecological niches 65 million years earlier than the ~520 million year age generally accepted.  If so, they would have had more time to evolve.
        Lieberman compared physical features from 100 species of trilobites to determine their degree of relatedness.  Then he teamed up with a geologist, Joseph Meert (U. of Florida), to infer from magnetic field orientations how long ago the southern supercontinent must have begun drifting toward the equator.  Then he related the trilobite species to the continental fragments, and concluded that the continental breakup began 580 million years ago and was more gradual.  “The analysis suggests that trilobites were already well-diversified by the time most researchers thought the Cambrian radiation began,” author Betsy Matson says.
    This study was not motivated by a desire to know the truth about the unseen past, but to preserve evolutionary theory from one of its most damaging counter-evidences: the Cambrian explosion.
        As Matson explains, “The traditional view of the Cambrian explosion is that life underwent an extraordinary, rapid diversification that resulted in the nearly simultaneous appearance of the ancestors for most major types of animals.”  Simultaneous appearance is not evolution.  Rapid diversification is not Darwinian gradualism.  No wonder the Darwin Party reacts to the Cambrian fossil evidence in either of two ways: (1) sweep the problem under the rug, or (2) stretch out the explosion into slow motion.  Problem is, an explosion is hard to hide, and a slow-motion explosion is still an explosion.
        Lieberman relies on evolutionary assumptions to validate his evolutionary assumptions.  (This, students, is called circular reasoning.)  Lieberman assumes evolution occurred, and then uses that belief to teach us about how it occurred in spite of a critical piece of evidence that says it did not occur.  Matson says, “Although the cause of the Cambrian radiation is unknown, many scientists suspect that the breakup of a southern supercontinent called Pannotia could have isolated populations and created new ecological niches that spurred rapid evolution.”  Translated, this means that Darwin Party storytellers have a favorite plot that goes like this: the probability of a frog turning into a prince is low, but if you isolate groups of frogs, it happens faster.  Giving the miracle a name like adaptive radiation does not make it empirical science (see 12/03/2003 entry).
        You can draw any curve through two data points if the error bars are big enough.  The error bars for adaptive radiation and for continental breakup and drift are huge.  Lieberman merely assumed that rapid evolution would occur if he could get the “primitive” trilobite ancestors geographically isolated.  By working with a Darwin Party co-conspirator to tweak the continental breakup dates, he got the continents to slow down by 500% to give his miracle more time.  This is how the Darwinians can keep their story going despite any contrary evidence.  No matter what, the show must go on.
    Next headline on:  FossilsGeologyDarwinism and Evolutionary Theory
    Fake Darwinism Created by Intelligent Design    04/13/2004
    Scientists have created enzymes with enhanced ability to select between left- and right-handed molecules, using an “evolutionary” process, claims Manfred Reetz in a Perspective article in PNAS:1
    A fundamentally new approach to asymmetric catalysis in organic chemistry is described based on the in vitro evolution of enantioselective enzymes.  It comprises the appropriate combination of gene mutagenesis and expression coupled with an efficient high-throughput screening system for evaluating enantioselectivity (enantiomeric excess assay).  Several such cycles lead to a “Darwinistic” process, which is independent of any knowledge concerning the structure or the mechanism of the enzyme being evolved.  The challenge is to choose the optimal mutagenesis methods to navigate efficiently in protein sequence space.  As a first example, the combination of error-prone mutagenesis, saturation mutagenesis, and DNA-shuffling led to a dramatic enhancement of enantioselectivity of a lipase acting as a catalyst in the kinetic resolution of a chiral ester.  Mutations at positions remote from the catalytically active center were identified, a surprising finding, which was explained on the basis of a novel relay mechanism.  The scope and limitations of the method are discussed, including the prospect of directed evolution of stereoselective hybrid catalysts composed of robust protein hosts in which transition metal centers have been implanted.
    Basically, researchers built enzymes top-down instead of bottom-up.  Instead of the old “rational design” method, trying to construct an active site to perform the function needed, they started with the function they wanted, and iteratively selected any “mutants” that came closest to doing the job, without stipulating how they did it.  The “surprising finding” he spoke of was that a distant mutation, far from the active site, actually improved the performance of the enzyme.
    1Manfred T. Reetz, “Controlling the enantioselectivity of enzymes by directed evolution: Practical and theoretical ramifications,”
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.0306866101, published online before print April 12, 2004.
    He put “Darwinistic” in quotes, because it was not really Darwinistic, it was Designistic.  The scientists played the role of designer by carefully selecting the results and directing the outcome.  This paper, like others before it, gives two false impressions: (1) that Darwinism achieved the high specificity of proteins in the past, and (2) that Darwinian theory is a boon to science in the present.  This is nothing but name-dropping.  Charlie had nothing to do with it.
        If this were Darwinism, there would be no “directed evolution” (an oxymoron), because there would be no direction.  Here, the scientists had a goal: they wanted enantioselective enzymes.  Their “mutation and selection” process was results-driven by artificial selection, a form of intelligent design.  Yet Reetz illogically claims, without any evidence or support (only belief), “Enzymes are products of evolution, and might therefore be expected to function with high enantioselectivity only with natural substrates under physiological conditions.”  Then, in the very next breath, he falsifies this evolutionary prediction: “However, it is well known that this is not the case, because a surprisingly large number of unnatural compounds are converted with high enantioselectivity, even in organic solvents.”  So does this convert him to ID theory?  No, he just waltzes into the problem at hand: “Nevertheless, the problem of substrate specificity persists.  In such cases several approaches to enhance enzyme stereoselectivity have been described, including site-specific mutagenesis based on theoretical considerations...” la te da, blah blah, and so on, and so forth, so we’ll design an enzyme with a creative method and give Charlie the glory.
        The difference between this method and the traditional bottom-up approach Reetz calls “rational design” can be compared to the difference between engineering and management.  The engineer knows the physical laws and properties of the widget he is designing, and organizes the parts specifically toward the solution.  The manager just says, “Build me a widget that flies.”  An upper manager might devise a contest between engineers to see who can come up with the best design.  All the manager cares about is the results: will it fly?  He weeds out the losers and rewards the winners.  The winner gets more resources to refine the design until an optimal design is produced.  Even if the engineer uses trial and error and chance, given enough trials a working prototype will emerge as long as intelligence is directing the process toward a goal.  In a similar way, these researchers did not need to know all the details of the structure of the enzyme they wanted to create; they just mutated ingredients and selected the few that worked, then iterated the process until the best design was filtered out of the pile.  They managed the process rather than engineering it.  Only Dilbert would nominate his manager for a Darwin award.
        Another thing.  The “surprising” discovery Reetz made also argues against Darwinism.  His team found that a remote amino acid, far from the active site, was essential to the function.  He was so surprised by this he called it a paradigm-shifting finding: “This observation leads to a change in paradigm, because all previous attempts to influence enantioselectivity of an enzyme by using site-specific mutagenesis had focused on amino acid substitutions near the active center.  Such protein engineering was designed to “carve” an appropriate chiral pocket at the active center, in line with Fischer’s “lock-and-key” hypothesis or modified versions such as Koshland’s induced fit.  Later, he adds, “... our studies show that the long-standing dogma regarding the necessity of amino acid substitutions exclusively at the active site to influence enantioselectivity no longer holds.”  What this means is that an enzyme is designed all the way through, not just at the active site.  The “lock and key” fit of an enzyme to its substrate is amazing enough, but to think that distant amino acids actually affect the workings of the molecular machine calls into question the belief that proteins can be mutated at will, as long as they are far from the active site.  This underscores the improbability of getting all the amino acids in the right order, as described in our online book, Evolution: Possible or Impossible?
        Let’s give credit where credit is due.  This experiment is all about design.  Calling this “Darwinistic” is like calling Boeing a manufacturer of tornados in junkyards.
    Next headline on:  Darwinism and Evolutionary TheoryIntelligent Design
    Mars Rovers Continue to Surprise Scientists   04/12/2004
    The
    Mars Exploration Rovers are still going strong, with many sols ahead for RATting rocks and rolling the plains [RAT, v., to use the Rock Abrasion Tool; sol, n., a Martian day].  The navigators are happy to be back on Earth time, and are poised for more thrilling discoveries as they enter the extended mission phase with no hardware or software problems.  But the science results are already puzzling to planetary scientists.
        Richard Kerr reported in the April 9 issue of Science on a gathering of more than 1000 researchers at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference at Houston last week.  Mars exploration was the centerpiece of the show.1  Scientists were amazed to find a kind of desert varnish on many of the rocks examined by rover Spirit, indicating a possible moistening of the surface that must have occurred relatively recently and did not require much time.  (Desert varnish, a process that coats rock walls, is still poorly understood on earth.)  As announced weeks ago, the Meridiani site being explored by Opportunity seems to have been soaking in water in the past.  But another surprise, this one disappointing to some, is that Spirit did not find the expected evidence of lake deposits in Gusev Crater.2  In fact, the area appears quite dry; the presence of olivine in some of the rocks rules out any soaking of the rocks scoured by Spirit.  If a river ever flowed down the channel and flooded this crater, the deposits were evidently later buried in dry volcanic debris.
        Evidence for past liquid water on Mars still seems contradictory; there seems to be a dichotomy in the data between evidence for warm and wet vs. cold and dry.  A surprising image came from the European orbiter Mars Express3: alluvial fans in “a small area that appears to have been scoured by torrential rainstorms during the planet’s latter days of extreme cold and ice.”  It looks like a postcard from the Mojave desert in California, with “gullies on steroids,” Kerr writes.  “The problem is, Mars is not the Mojave Desert, not now and presumably not in the past few billion years since Mars entered its extremely cold and dry later years.”
        Spirit is now headed on an epic two-month rocky roll to the Columbia Hills, where scientists hope to find more clues to Mars’ past.  Opportunity is on a vast, crusty plain of soil with very few rocks to examine, but lots of room to rove.  The MER Website is loaded with interesting facts, anecdotes, pictures and animations, including a jazzy time-lapse composite of Spirit’s 90 sols of travel and scientific investigation compressed into 90 seconds, demonstrating how much work the rovers have already accomplished.  Watching it makes you feel like you’re along for a thrill ride.
    Update 04/15/2004: A news item in the Apr. 15 issue of Nature4 emphasizes the implications of finding sulfates instead of carbonates in the rocks at Meridiani.  It means that any liquid ocean would have had sulfuric acid (at least 0.1%) that prevented the precipitation of CO2 into the rocks.  (The source of the sulfur might have been sulfur dioxide, SO2, from volcanos.)  “Once the abundance of SO2 dropped below the critical level to suppress carbonate formation,” Jeffrey M. Moore writes, “the atmosphere would have rapidly collapsed to near its present size, leaving carbonates very little time to form as layered marine deposits.”  The “blueberries” of hematite, he thinks, formed at the boiling point of water (that is, at the atmospheric pressure at earth sea level).  For pictures of the blueberries, see the MER Opportunity Press Release Images from March 18 and March 26.
    1Richard Kerr, “Mars Rock Crud Gets in the Way,” Science, Vol 304, Issue 5668, 196-197, 9 April 2004, [DOI: 10.1126/science.304.5668.196b].
    2Richard Kerr, “Spirit Coming Up Dry at Gusev,” Science, Vol 304, Issue 5668, 197, 9 April 2004, [DOI: 10.1126/science.304.5668.197].
    3Richard Kerr, “'Mind-Boggling' Martian Gullies Raise Climate Conundrum,” Science, Vol 304, Issue 5668, 196, 9 April 2004, [DOI: 10.1126/science.304.5668.196a].
    4Jeffrey M. Moore, “Mars: Blueberry fields for ever,” Nature 428, 711 - 712 (15 April 2004); doi:10.1038/428711a.
    It’s too early to draw conclusions.  The science papers will follow in about a year or two.  For now, let’s enjoy this rare Opportunity to share in the Spirit of discovery.
        Geologists looking for vast ages in the data cannot resist weaving their tales already, though.  Jeffrey Moore takes a little data and stretches it into millions of years: “The data from the Thermal Emission Spectrometer also hint that the sulphates formed before much of the present-day surface of the ancient southern highlands was carved out.  The specular haematite deposits at Terra Meridiani probably formed at a temperature of about 100 °C, converted from goethite.  This conversion temperature implies that the blueberries on the lake beds of Terra Meridiani were once buried to a depth of more than a kilometre [was he there?]  There they might have lain for aeons, before the rock layers above were eroded away, revealing a field of blueberries that are too large to be transported or destroyed by the wind.  The blueberry fields may have existed on the martian surface for millions of years.”  Then again, they may have not.  Hop into your time machine and get us some observations.
    Next headline on:  MarsGeology
    Quartz Hydration Dating Method Announced    04/12/2004
    A press release from
    University of California, Irvine announced that Jonathon Ericson of UCI’s department of Environmental Health has “created a new method for determining the approximate age of many artifacts between 50,000 to 100,000 years old – a period for which other dating methods are less effective.”
        The method depends on measuring the hydration layer that forms when a quartz crystal is cracked or fractured.  “According to Ericson, quartz hydration can date objects that are between 100 and 1 million years old to within 20 to 35 percent of the object’s age.”
    It can date objects, that is, provided you are willing to extrapolate known rates by three orders of magnitude into the unseen past.  They never tell you the assumptions that go into these methods.  The error limits give a false sense of accuracy.  How come no one ever calls these claims on the carpet for committing the fallacy of extrapolation?  Here’s why: the figures agree with their evolutionary assumptions.
        Gauging how fast a hydration layer will form in a quartz crack and then extrapolating that measurement back to a million years, without knowing all possible geological, atmospheric and other physical conditions that might affect the rate, is unwarranted.  Take three curves a mile long: an exponential, a logarithmic, and a damped oscillator.  If all you could measure were a few millimeters, and if you didn’t know all sources of possible error, it would be a fallacy to claim you had established a linear relationship.  Any good mathematical physics teacher would give you an F for assuming such a thing.
        What’s more interesting about this article is what Ericson admits about the other dating methods: “Other dating methods are poor performers for this period or have questionable accuracy, and the most familiar dating methods are not effective at all.  Radiocarbon dating is good for dating organic material up to around 50,000 years old, and potassium argon dating is good for dating mineral samples that are between 100,000 and 4.3 billion years old.”  Interesting.  On what grounds can processes in the unseen past be judged “poor performers?”  Because they don’t give the “desired” results.
        Evolutionists get away with extrapolation because they need the deep time the dating methods claim to provide, and the dating methods depend on evolutionary theory to decide if their methods are “poor performers” or not.  Dating methods and evolutionary theory are like two trapeze artists clinging to each other, each one thinking the other guy is attached to the bar.
    Next headline on:  Dating Methods
    Federal Judge Rules Evolution Must Be Taught As Fact, Not Theory    04/09/2004
    It sounds like open-mindedness is illegal in Georgia, on the face of it.  Federal judge Clarence Cooper is allowing a lawsuit against the Cobb County school district to go to trial.  Their crime has been to insert warning labels in biology textbooks that state, simply,
    This textbook contains material on evolution.  Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things.  This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered.
    Six parents sued the school board over these stickers, which they claim advance a religious agenda.  The judge agreed with their claim that the labels did not have “a secular purpose” and therefore were an unconstitutional violation of separation of church and state.  According to the Associated Press story published on
    MSNBC News, “he noted that while the disclaimer has no biblical reference, it encourages students to consider alternatives other than evolution.”  He thought, therefore, that the labels could have the effect of “advancing or inhibiting religion.”
        Presumably, alternatives probably would have included creationism, and while “The theory of evolution, accepted by most scientists, says evidence shows current species of life evolved over time from earlier forms and that natural selection determines which species survive,” the presumed alternative of “Creationism credits the origin of species to God.”  If so, the article claims, “In 1987, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled creationism was a religious belief that could not be taught in public schools along with evolution.”
        On a related subject, John West of the Discovery Institute rebuked a recent CNN story for distorting the truth.  According to World Net Daily, CNN claimed nine states were considering punishing teachers who failed to consider alternatives to evolution.  The shoe is on the other foot, West responded: “This sort of shoddy journalism is inexcusable.  CNN manufactured a controversy that doesn’t in fact exist.  There is no movement in America to fire teachers who won’t teach ‘alternatives to evolution.’  The teachers who are really facing threats to their academic freedom today are those who want to present scientific criticisms of evolutionary theory.”
    How false and dumb do news stories have to get before people can’t take it any more and make their voices heard?  As seen in the Associated Press story about the textbook warning labels, the usual lies and misrepresentations from the Darwin Party have now been superseded by actual mind control.  Students must not develop critical thinking skills.  Open minds must be closed.  The thought police will now tell them what they must believe.  But CNN has the audacity to assert that opening the door to alternatives to evolution restricts teachers’ rights.
        Judge Cooper based his decision not on the facts, nor on what the label actually said, but on (1) the assumed motive of the school board, and (2) the assumed effect on students.  As for (1), the judge felt he could read between the lines and discern the motives of the school board: “Aha!  I know what you’re trying to do.  You say you want students to keep an open mind, but what you really want to do is push the Biblical teaching of creationism!  Well, we’re not content to keep you off first base; we’re going to bend the rules so you can’t have a turn at bat!”  The danger of this legal approach should be self-evident.  If the thought police can now arrest you for what they think you might do, instead of for what you have done, then the Bill of Rights is out the window.
        Some will retort that school board members are elected representatives of the state and speak for the government.  So what?  Does that trump their rights?  Does that make them slaves to the Darwin Party?  Government is of the people and by the people.  Are not school board members allowed to think, debate issues and make decisions?  If the voters don’t like their decisions, they can vote them out of office.  Why does the Darwin Party use the end run tactic of going to the courts to get their way?  One would think that scientists were interested in debating evidence, if “most scientists” believe “evidence shows” bacteria evolved into humans.  OK, may we talk about that evidence?  “No!  We’re going to find a judge who will outlaw criticism of our view!”
        As for (2) the presumed effect on students – the fear that they might actually develop critical thinking skills and consider alternatives instead of swallowing the dogma that evolution is a fact – it is inconceivable that any science teacher worth his or her salt should fear open-mindedness.  Most science teachers want students to think and not just parrot answers.  Most science teachers would love it if their students actually understood something, and could discuss it intelligently, instead of just believing the textbook or the teacher’s word.  Even pro-evolution teachers should realize that discussion and debate about evolution is healthy.  The warning labels could be a great teachable moment for both sides.  What is there to fear?  That a student might think for a change?  Come on, Darwin Party apologists; you are making yourselves look like thought police.  If the only way you can get students to believe your view is to prevent students from even knowing there might be alternatives, then your view is not worth learning.
        The Associated Press repeated a common lie about the 1987 Supreme Court decision, that creationism could not be taught along with evolution.  The decision only outlawed state laws that mandate equal time.  It specifically allowed for any scientific theory of origins to be taught in the science classroom, including creation or intelligent design, as long as it was not required to be given equal time.
        It is a strange thing, yet all too common, to see the very people who preach free thought oppose it, and the ones who want to question everything shut off debate.  Then they rant and rave over rumors, which turn out to be false, that their opponents might restrict free thought.  There’s a word for this: hypocrisy.
    Next headline on:  EducationDarwinism and Evolutionary TheoryDumb Ideas
    Sober Up About Alleged Alcohol Benefits   04/07/2004
    The Brits are not about to take an axe to the pubs, but Nature this week published two sober warnings about the dangers of alcohol abuse.  They warn that the oft-claimed benefits of drinking in moderation apply only to a few groups (primarily the elderly), and are drowned in the known health risks.  “We pay too much attention to the health benefits of alcohol and neglect the devastating effects of excessive consumption,” says one editorial,1 and Helen Pearson calls it “the demon drink” in her News Feature2  (see also
    Nature Science Update).  She begins, “Alcohol and tobacco are the terrible twins of public health.  Both increase the risk of cancer and other life-threatening diseases.  Both are promoted aggressively by a powerful industry.  And both can be horribly addictive.”  Alcohol purveyors stress the benefits, but don’t tell you about “its numerous evils.  Even small amounts of alcohol increase the risk of injury and boost the chances of developing about 60 diseases, including several cancers, liver cirrhosis and neuropsychological disorders.”
    1Editorial, “Some sobering thoughts,” Nature 428, 587 (08 April 2004); doi:10.1038/428587b.
    2Helen Pearson, “Public health: The demon drink,” Nature 428, 598 - 600 (08 April 2004); doi:10.1038/428598a.
    In ancient times, without refrigeration, some fermentation was unavoidable; still, sober-minded people knew the dangers of undiluted wine and condemned drunkenness (see Proverbs 23:29-35).  Today, with refrigeration, pasteurization, and so many safe options available to us, why take unnecessary risks?  At least don’t claim you do it for your health.  It’s a preference, and not a wise one.  Some things, while legal, may not be wise; they can take over (see I Cor. 6:12).  Keep your head.  The good book commends sober-mindedness.  You’ll need that to read these pages.
    Next headline on:  Health
    Science Reporters Stretch the Truth on Limb Evolution Claim    04/05/2004
    Item: some fragments of bone were found from a road cut in Pennsylvania.  Conclusion: Darwinian evolution from slime to humans has been demonstrated again.  Sound far fetched?  Not if you are a science reporter for a typical news organization; this is common practice.
        The bone this time is a humerus of a presumed “early” tetrapod, described by Neil Shubin and team (University of Chicago) in the Apr. 2 issue of Science.1  Their diagram shows a few scattered fragments of bone, not a whole skeleton.
        That’s the data; now the interpretation.  According to the authors, the fragments of bone from this late Devonian creature represent a “novel mix of primitive and derived characters,” that “provides the basis for new interpretations of structural and functional stages in the origin of the tetrapod limb.”  Since only a few bone fragments were found, their identification of the fossil is “based on the presence of multiple shared derived features” compared with other assumed early tetrapods.  The shape of the bone, they think, indicates it supported bigger muscles.  It might have been, therefore, evolving into something that could support the body of the animal underwater and perhaps was used for a kind of hopping locomotion.  Admitting that “Many of the changes seen in these Devonian taxa are also seen in modern fish,” they “argue that this function represents the intermediate condition between primitive steering and braking functions in fins.”
        Jennifer Clack, a veteran tetrapod-evolution researcher (see
    08/09/2003 entry), writing in the same issue of Science,2 agrees with the interpretation and thinks that Shubin’s conclusions “reveal how even fragmentary finds can be used to draw inferences about the nature and sequence of changes that must have taken place during the evolution of terrestrial locomotion by tetrapods.”  In other words, no one saw this creature walking on its fins; inferences were drawn based on what they envision must have happened sometime in the evolution from fish to four-footed walker.  Even though Clack admits this bone “hints at a wide diversity of tetrapods existing in close proximity” in Pennsylvania where it was found, she illustrated her article with the new bone arranged into a hypothetical progression from fin to foot.
        Here are examples of how this interpretation was reported in the media:
    • Astrobiology Magazine pictured a contemplative chimpanzee pondering its origins, and began, “The Darwinian picture of the first fish venturing out of a muddy pond to become a lizard, has always had a certain simplistic appeal, but recent findings suggest this transitional puzzle has new fossil evidence.  A 365-million year old humerus bone hints at a fish that tried to prop itself up underwater, long before its offspring could have appeared as eventual amphibians.”  Charles Darwin, in pictures and quotes, is featured in the story, along with an illustration of limbs reverting back to fins in the evolution of whales.
    • MSNBC News carried the story with the title, “How did fins evolve into feet?  Fossils document gradual change in the bones of ancient fish”.  The first paragraph is even more daring, connecting the story to us humans: “There is something fishy going on in your arms and legs – and it’s a good thing.  With the discovery of the world’s oldest known arm bone, scientists conclude that many of the physical features we associate with life on land, including the bone structures and muscles necessary for walking and doing pushups, have their evolutionary roots in fish.”
    • New Scientist claimed that this “Primitive fossil arm performed push-ups” and “has revealed important insights into how animals colonised the land.”
    • National Geographic gave Shubin’s team uncontested coverage, even though among the positive affirmations, they quoted one of the researchers as “unable to discern whether the humerus belongs to Hynerpeton, Densignathus, or an entirely new tetrapod species.”
    • BBC News reported the story in slightly more tentative language, “Fossil may be earliest arm bone,” though offering no alternative to an evolutionary interpretation.  When they wrote, “It suggests the earliest limbed animals were fish navigating shallow rivers, but its place in the evolutionary tree is the subject of some controversy,” the controversy they speak of is not whether evolution from fins to feet occurred, but where this particular fossil fits in the scheme: they end with another scientist mentioning that this bone “isn’t like any of the later humeri that you encounter in the later Carboniferous.”
    • Nature Science Update claimed “Strong-arm tactics drove creatures from the pond,” and stated, “The discovery of an ancient arm bone has helped scientists understand what happened as water-dwelling creatures evolved into land animals.”  The end of the article admits that “Details are sketchy, however.  We do not know, for example, how developed these creatures became underwater before crawling ashore, but the new find should add to the current picture.”
    These articles can probably be considered representative of how the interpretation of one bone in a scientific journal was reported in the popular media.
    1Shubin et al., “The Early Evolution of the Tetrapod Humerus,” Science, Vol 304, Issue 5667, 90-93, 2 April 2004, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1094295].
    2Jennifer Clack, “Enhanced: From Fins to Fingers,” Science, Vol 304, Issue 5667, 57-58, 2 April 2004, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1096415].
    If this article doesn’t make you mad, you have been hoodwinked as a victim of bad high school science teaching.  These reporters have taken an inch of data and stretched it into a light-year in both directions, fitting it into an all-encompassing myth of their own making, without considering alternative explanations or even coming close to supporting their case.  No muscles were found, no dates were stamped on the bones, no creatures were seen doing push-ups, and no transition from fins to feet was observed.  In fact, this bone brings as many puzzles into the evolutionary tale as “insights” (oh, how they love to claim that such and such a discovery “may provide insight into evolution”).  Where is any science reporter wise and bold enough to stand up and call this kind of grandstanding unjustifiable, misleading and worthless?
        Darwinists have commandeered the news media by installing gutless lackeys as reporters who dare not question the fanciful interpretations of the Darwin Party.  As a result, they can weave their tall tales with reckless abandon.  If this were a court of law, the opposing attorney would cry “Objection!”, and demand proof.  If a politician made a claim on such flimsy evidence, the reporters would hammer him with hard-hitting follow-up questions and turn his reputation into a laughingstock.  If it were a logic class, the teacher would use it as an illustration of a of logical fallacy of extrapolation while the students would respond to the claimed evidence by rolling their eyes and rotating their fingers around their ears.  But no; the Darwin Party is a totalitarian regime, suppressing freedom of the press, freedom of speech and freedom of thought.  Only the official party line can be debated.  That’s why Creation-Evolution Headlines, the alternative media, exists.  Spread the word.
        For a more detailed response to prior claims by Clack and Shubin, be sure to read our 08/09/2003 entry.  You won’t get it in the mainstream media.
    Next headline on:  Marine BiologyDarwinism and Evolutionary TheoryDumb Ideas
    Underground Rodents Have Better Eyes Than Darwin Predicted    04/06/2004
    European scientists looked into the eyes of African mole-rats, expecting to find retinas that had deteriorated due to disuse in the underground, lightless environment.  What they found were several surprises that “call for a revision of our current views on the visual system of subterranean mammals,” reports a
    Max Planck Society press release.
        The eyes look smaller on the outside, but that belies their internal complexity.  The scientists “discovered that in contrast to previous assumptions, the eyes of subterranean African mole-rats have a rather well-structured retina with an unusually high proportion of cone photoreceptors,” says the report.  Since cones are the photoreceptors for daylight vision, “their usefulness in the lightless world of mole-rats is puzzling.”  Also puzzling was that 90% of the cones are sensitive to blue light, whereas in most mammals 90% are sensitive to green.  “The density of rods, the photoreceptors for low-light night vision,” furthermore, “is much lower in the mole-rats than in nocturnal surface-dwelling rodents.”  These findings were the opposite of what was expected:
    The retinae were anatomically well-developed and showed no obvious deficits.  To the contrary, the researchers found an unusually high proportion of 10% cones among the photoreceptors.  Surface-dwelling nocturnal rodents like rat and mouse have only 1 - 3% cones, which is not surprising as cones do not operate in moonlight or starlight.  Even most diurnal mammals have no more than 5 - 20% cones.  Why should the mole-rats, living in constant darkness, invest so highly in the cones that only work in daylight?  The dominant majority of photoreceptors in all nocturnal and most diurnal mammals are the rods, which are used for vision at low light levels (night vision).  Here the mole-rats are less well equipped.  Their rod density is only one quarter of that of, for example, mice.  Why are the mole-rats so sparing with their light-sensitive rods?
    The press release offers no new hypothesis to explain these observations.  It just admits the assumptions were wrong, and it’s back to the drawing board:
    In summary, the photoreceptors of African mole-rats show stark deviations from the common mammalian pattern.  But none of these peculiarities fit the concept of a general regression of the retina in adaptation to a lightless living environment.  Evolutionary biology would predict that obsolete structures are removed because they are metabolically too expensive.  Hence these photoreceptor features should be interpreted as specializations for particular visual needs. 
    It’s going to take more work to sort this out, they say.  “At present we know too little about the visual challenges and capabilities of these animals,” they admit.  But one thing they do know: “Certainly, the hypothesis of a general, convergent reduction of the eyes in subterranean mammals is up for re-examination.”
    So another evolutionary assumption has been falsified by observations.  Nice work.  Since Charlie is taking a stoning as a false prophet, how about giving the intelligent design community a shot at making and testing hypotheses?
    Next headline on:  MammalsDarwinism and Evolutionary Theory
    Sea Genes Multiply    04/04/2004
    A potential paradigm-shifting discovery has been made in the doldrums of the Sargasso Sea: there are many more genes in plankton than expected.  Craig Venter’s Celera team sampled the genetic content of microbes off the Bermuda coast, and in 1500 liters of surface seawater, found 1.5 million new genes.  Falkowski and de Vargas, writing about this in the April 2 issue of Science,1 appear quite surprised:
    Our evolutionary heritage is imprinted in the genes of microbes that live in the oceans, yet that genomic information is barely understood, let alone written in biological textbooks. ... Such an enormous number of new genes from so few samples obtained in one of the world’s most nutrient-impoverished bodies of water poses significant challenges to the emerging field of marine molecular microbial ecology and evolutionary biology.
    The “shotgun sequencing” approach of Celera, superior to the older PCR (polymerase chain reaction) method for detecting new genes, has unveiled a previously hidden superabundance of biodiversity among ocean microorganisms.  Genomes range from 20 Mb (megabases, or base pairs of DNA) to over 2000 Mb.  Some dinoflagellates, of which there are some 2000 varieties, have genomes comparable in size to humans.
        Falkowski and de Vargas repeat the usual evolutionary scenario, that “The diversity of microbes in the world’s oceans is the outcome of over 3.8 billion years of evolution.”  They discuss the “metabolic experimentation and innovation” that led to photosynthesis.  To them, this biodiversity reflects what happened after photosynthesis took over: “This accommodation has been manifested over the past ~2 billion years as biological adaptations that strive to protect nature’s investment in the old, anaerobic biological machinery.  On a macroscopic scale, these adaptations include the evolution of secondary metabolic pathways, behaviors, morphologies, diversification, and species redundancy that ensures the survival of geochemically critical biological processes.”  Nevertheless, they acknowledge ignorance: “Arguably, nowhere on Earth is this microbial diversity--poorly understood as it is--more apparent than in the contemporary oceans.”  And they admit that this latest genetic survey of the oceans raises many questions about ecology, and about evolution itself:
    The huge panoply of new functional genes unveiled by this first shotgun sequencing of the oceans begs fundamental questions in marine microbial ecology.  For example, what ecological and evolutionary processes maintain such high microbial diversity in the oceans?  How many new functional components are there?  Have we been missing major players, or is the apparent diversity the expression of an extreme redundancy?  What is the tempo of evolution in marine microbes?  Is their diversity the outcome of Darwinian selection through vertical inheritance, or is it due to nearly neutral modes of evolution in which the hundreds of millions of viral and bacteriophage particles in any milliliter of seawater act as major agents of horizontal gene transfer and genome scrambling?
        This list of questions merely suggests that the approach described by Venter et al.  is neither a beginning nor an end to understanding marine microbial ecology.  Rather, it is a clear signpost on a longer journey that will occupy a broad spectrum of the scientific community for decades.
    Obviously, they remind us, “Most marine microbes are not preserved in the fossil record; hence, their evolutionary pathways can best be inferred from genetically heritable molecules.”  And this will “require substantial investments in new technologies.”  But “These efforts are critical to understanding how life evolved.”
        The work of Venter’s team is published in the same issue of Science.2  The abstract states, “These data are estimated to derive from at least 1800 genomic species based on sequence relatedness, including 148 previously unknown bacterial phylotypes.  We have identified over 1.2 million previously unknown genes represented in these samples, including more than 782 new rhodopsin-like photoreceptors.  Variation in species present and stoichiometry suggests substantial oceanic microbial diversity.”
    1Paul G. Falkowski and Colomban de Vargas, “Shotgun Sequencing in the Sea: A Blast from the Past?”
    Science, Vol 304, Issue 5667, 58-60, 2 April 2004, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1097146].
    2J. Craig Venter et al., “Environmental Genome Shotgun Sequencing of the Sargasso Sea,” Science, Vol 304, Issue 5667, 66-74, 2 April 2004, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1093857].
    These surprising data are too preliminary for anyone to understand them satisfactorily.  They rely on techniques involving some guesswork and statistics, such as comparing similar sequences and identifying unique species out of billions of base pairs.  Still, the results so far appear to contradict evolutionary assumptions.  In a strictly Darwinian world, the fittest survive and the weak go extinct.  Yet in the oceans, where the generation rates are the fastest and the opportunities for competition over resources are plenteous, there is a superabundance of biodiversity.  Why would organisms “strive to protect nature’s investment in the old, anaerobic biological machinery,” if photosynthesis is superior?  Can the impersonal strive?  What is machinery, if not made by intelligent design?  And if horizontal gene transfer has been the rule, or neutral evolution widespread, “scrambling”' the genomes of these organisms, how could any phylogenetic tree be constructed?  How could a scientist have any confidence that a phylogenetic tree even reflects natural history at all?  Falkowski and de Vargas would not be asking the questions if they knew how “evolutionary processes” (how’s that for an oxymoron) could “maintain such high microbial biodiversity,” or why such “extreme redundancy” should exist in a “nutrient-impoverished” environment, where Malthus and Darwin would have expected only the fittest to survive.  They see no clear “Darwinian selection through vertical inheritance” jumping out of the published data.  An outside observer might claim Darwin’s predictions have been falsified.
        This is not to assert that creationists have a ready answer to explain why there would be so many rhodopsin-like photoreceptors, or why a dinoflagellate would have a genome comparable in size to a human.  We have already seen that the genome is only part of a more complex picture of gene regulation and development (e.g., see 05/23/2003 entry).  A creationist could argue the truism that each organism, by its very persistence, possesses what it needs to survive, and that this fits a creation paradigm as well as (if not better than) an evolutionary one.  Overall, however, the emerging picture of oceanic biodiversity does not appear to represent what an evolutionist would expect.  The basal life forms, prokarya and bacteria, already possess complex machinery and a diversity of functions beyond what seems needed for mere survival.  Superabundance of genetic information points to a commensurate cause: a superabundance of intelligent design.
    Next headline on:  Genetics and DNAMarine Biology
    Articles   04/03/2004
    The cover story of
    World Magazine for April 3 is a series of prophetic articles for the Year 2025, called “Darwin’s Meltdown: Intelligent Design scientists ... ponder a future free from the dogma of evolution.”  Looking back on how and why Darwinism declined into the “dustbin of discarded ideologies”, four intelligent design leaders, Phillip E. Johnson, Jonathan Wells, Jeffrey M. Schwartz and William Dembski place themselves 21 years into the future and look back on what happened since 1859, 1925, 1990, 2000, 2004 and beyond.
    Get the magazine just for the artwork: a forlorn-looking Darwin and his pet fish sinking into an ooze of Campbell’s primordial soup.  (The articles are entertaining and enlightening, too.)  These articles could backfire if they make readers complacent, causing them to think the demise of Darwinism is already a done deal.  Right now, the Darwin Party is still a totalitarian regime giving little indication of relinquishing the power it usurped in Huxley’s era (see 01/15/2004 entry).  For the prophecies to come true, remember what Doc said in Back to the Future III: “Your future hasn’t been written yet ... Your future is what you make it.  So make it a good one!”
    Next headline on:  Darwinism and Evolutionary TheoryIntelligent Design
    How Little We Know What Lies Below    04/02/2004
    Those cutaway views of the earth, with its core, mantle and crust, make nice diagrams in textbooks.  But without a Hollywood-style probe and time machine to the center of the earth, how do we know what’s down there, and how it got that way?  We know surprisingly little, admits David Stevenson (geologist, Caltech) writing in the April 1 issue of Nature.1  He poses a series of unanswered questions:
    The basic divisions of Earth’s internal structure (crust, mantle and core) have been known for a long time.  But the evolutionary path that gave us this structure, and that provides the dynamics of plate tectonics, volcanism and magnetic-field generation, remains poorly understood.  Why do we have plate tectonics?  What is the nature and extent of melting deep within Earth?  How does the core manage to keep generating such a richly complex magnetic field?
    These questions were addressed at a recent workshop on earth’s deep interior.  From Stevenson’s viewpoint as a participant, “it is evident that we need a better knowledge of the processes that govern deep-Earth history, and the material parameters that control those processes, before any kind of ‘standard model’ can be constructed.”
        One parameter that cannot be violated in modelmaking is the First Law of Thermodynamics, the principle that energy cannot be created or destroyed (a scientific law with no known exceptions).  Yet the earth has been losing heat through its crust; that heat must come from somewhere.  Geologists invoke heating caused by radioactive decay to arrive at estimates of earth’s steady-state heat output over geologic time.  [Radioactivity supposedly overcame
    Lord Kelvin’s argument from thermodynamics that the earth could not be as old as evolutionists claim; see 02/02/2004 commentary.]  But Stevenson admits there are not enough radioactive sources known, and little is also understood about the viscosity of the mantle, despite the simple models:
    Models of this kind are easy to construct and boringly monotonic.  Furthermore, they cannot explain the widely accepted factor-of-two ratio for current Earth heat output to current radiogenic heat production.  Our planet was more eventful than these simple models allow.  Whereas Earth scientists have no desire to repeal the first law of thermodynamics, they are willing to challenge almost everything else.  Recently, major disagreements have emerged in attempts to understand the energy budget of Earth’s core, and there are still many uncertainties over how to incorporate the effects of plates, water, melting and layering into our picture of mantle circulation.
    One topic on which there is “publication activity ... but no consensus” is earth’s magnetic field.  Presumably, electrical currents in the fluid mantle keep it running, and the inner core is one of the “main contributors to the energy budget available to the dynamo,” but there are problems sustaining this dynamo for 4.5 billion years (see 12/15/2003 entry):
    Standard evolutionary models have difficulty explaining how the inner core has existed for more than the past billion years or so, yet Earth’s magnetic field has existed throughout most of geological time.  There is no direct evidence on the age of the inner core, and the dynamo may operate without an inner core.  Still, it would be surprising if it were a recent feature of Earth’s structure.  This is one of several reasons why some scientists wonder whether there is an additional energy source in the core.
    Stevenson suggests some additional radioactive elements that might supply the missing energy to power the dynamo, but each candidate is not without problems, such as how you get the elements to separate from their ores during core formation.  Maybe it was a non-radioactive energy source, like gravity.
        Plate tectonics is another puzzle often oversimplified but still poorly understood.  Even if they get convection models to work in the present, can those processes be extrapolated back billions of years?
    It is an unfortunate feature of simple models of convection that they can mimic many of the characteristics of plate tectonics, but cannot explain some essential features of plates.  The danger of these simple pictures is that they may not provide an adequate predictive framework for how plate tectonics evolves through geological time.  Some models suggest possible solutions, but the lack of agreement between these various approaches means that we are not close to a final resolution.
    The lack of agreement has led to “provocative ideas” on these subjects.  Stevenson is hopeful that models that incorporate water and carbon dioxide in the mantle and core might help, but at this time they have a “poorly understood effect on melting in the mantle.”  We need more information and new ideas, he concludes, as he meekly suggests one preliminary line of inquiry:
    It seems likely that we will not understand the origin of Earth’s magnetic field until we know how the mantle controls heat flow in the core.  But we cannot understand the mantle side until we have a better understanding of plate tectonics.  This may in turn depend on understanding Earth’s water cycle.  Could it be that magnetism, like life, depends on water?

    1David Stevenson, “Earth science: Inside history in depth,” Nature 428, 476 - 477 (01 April 2004); doi:10.1038/428476a.
    This article may come as a shock to those who took high school physical science and were accustomed to boring, confident-sounding textbook drawings and films about the earth and how things work.  (Geologists working the surface of the earth have their own problems, too: see 10/09/2003 entry).  Notice how little is known.  The origin of the earth’s magnetic field, vital to life as we know it and dropping in strength rapidly, has them still at square one.  Plate tectonics, after 50 years the dominant paradigm, is still poorly understood (especially in terms of operation over long ages).  The size, chemical makeup and viscosity of the core and mantle are matters of conjecture by armchair scientists trying to get their models to work.  And if you were told the earth’s heat comes from radioactive decay, thus rendering Lord Kelvin’s upper limit on the age of the earth obsolete, were you aware that estimates are off by a factor of two?
        Stevenson jokingly teeters on the edge of “repealing the first law of thermodynamics,” which he knows, of course, would be absurd.  But there is another boundary no secular geologist would dare cross, even if they are willing to challenge everything else, and that is the assumed old age of the earth.  Even if there is no way to explain the rapidly-depleting magnetic field, even if plates cannot be kept moving that long, and even if there is more heat coming out of the crust than known sources permit, that is one parameter not open to question, because it would not allow enough time for Darwinian evolution from molecules to man.  And if evolution did not occur, the alternative is unthinkable.  (Also, no geologist would risk the scorn, ridicule and ostracism associated with being labeled a young-earther.)
    Next headline on:  GeologyPhysicsDating Methods
    Evolutionary Cul-de-Sacs: Ferns Debunk Another Evolutionary Principle    04/02/2004
    “The principle of the evolutionary cul-de-sac is commonly invoked to explain the apparent lingering existence of once-diverse groups of organisms,” writes Torsten Eriksson in the April 1 issue of Nature.1  “Maybe that principle itself has had its day.”
        The case in point are ferns, which long had been thought to have been pushed into an evolutionary dead end by flowering plants (angiosperms).  Eriksson’s comments are in response to a research paper on fern diversity in the same issue by Schneider et al.2:
    Some biological concepts keep popping up, even when they have been shown, time and again, not to be generally true.  One well-known example is the ‘biological species concept’, the idea that only those organisms that can cross and produce fertile offspring belong to the same species.  This can't generally be true for many reasons, the most obvious perhaps being that some organisms are not even sexual (such as bacteria and dandelions) and yet have species.
        Schneider et al. (page 553 of this issue) touch on another of these favourite concepts, the ‘evolutionary cul-de-sac”. This is a common explanation for why some groups that show great diversity in the fossil record still exist but are greatly diminished in diversity, remaining largely unchanged – and supposedly unable to change.  The new findings tell us that ferns, at least, do not belong in this category.  Schneider et al. conclude that ferns (Fig. 1) have attained their current diversity much more recently than had been thought, and they probably did so as a response to the diversification of flowering plants.
    So rather than getting pushed aside, ferns actually flourished within the ecosystem invaded by the “newer” flowering plants.  Schneider’s international team based their conclusions on molecular data and a re-evaluation of the fossil record, because “a full understanding of trends in fern diversification and evolution using only palaeobotanical evidence is hindered by the poor taxonomic resolution of the fern fossil record in the Cretaceous.”
        So instead of being squeezed out by competition, Eriksson imagines that the rapidly-diversifying angiosperms caused ferns to undergo “an evolutionary reawakening”, making “a variety of habitats that could be explored by opportunistic organisms.”  This seems the opposite of earlier Darwinian and Malthusian assumptions.  “Perhaps the whole idea of the evolutionary cul-de-sac is basically flawed,” he concludes.
    1Torsten Eriksson, “Evolutionary biology: Ferns reawakened,”
    Nature 428, 480 - 481 (01 April 2004); doi:10.1038/428480a.
    2Schneider et al., “Ferns diversified in the shadow of angiosperms,” Nature 428, 553 - 557 (01 April 2004); doi:10.1038/nature02361.
    So another evolutionary principle has been debunked by evolutionists.  Wonderful.  Keep up the good work.
    Next headline on:  PlantsDarwinism and Evolutionary Theory
    The Evolution of Suicide Terrorism    04/02/2004
    In a letter to the editor of Science April 2,1 Hector N. Qirko (anthropologist, U. of Tennessee) has come up with a Darwinian model to explain suicide bombers.  His ideas build on an earlier model by Scott Atran (CNRS-Institut Jean Nicod, Paris, and Institute for Social Research, U. of Michigan) in a previous issue.2  Qirko elaborates on the model, invoking kin selection, nonkin altruism, inclusive fitness and other Darwinian buzzwords:
    Kin recognition is a necessary component of inclusive fitness calculations related to altruistic behavior in many species, and kin are often identified by means of evolved cues that are open to manipulation.  As recognizing kin has been an important problem in hominid evolution, cognitive adaptations to address that problem have evolved.  Relevant literature suggests that cues most applicable to human behavior are close physical association (particularly during development), phenotypic similarity, and the use of kin terms and other symbolic kin referents.  Thus, institutions desiring to maintain and reinforce nonkin altruistic behavior among their members should attempt to manipulate predispositions associated with these cues.
    It’s only a start, he admits, but he congratulates Atran for delving into this area of evolutionary psychology: “And while what motivates particular individuals to commit suicide terrorism may be impossible to ascertain, how institutions maintain and reinforce a willingness to do so can be more clearly understood.  Atran is to be commended for his exploration of this question in evolutionary psychological terms.”
    1Hector N. Qirko, “‘Fictive Kin’ and Suicide Terrorism,“
    Science Vol 304, Issue 5667, 49-51, 2 April 2004., [DOI: 10.1126/science.304.5667.49].
    2Scott Atran, “Genesis of Suicide Terrorism,” Science Vol 299, Issue 5612, 1534-1539, 7 March 2003, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1078854].
    These guys are dead serious.  They look at suicide terrorism as just another behavior that evolved by natural selection.  They think they are doing us a favor by helping us “understand” how this phenomenon evolved, presumably so we can deal with it in a compassionate and understanding way.  So how would this view influence foreign policy?  If it is evolved behavior, isn’t it also an evolved behavior to fight back?  Neither side can claim to be right; we’re back to the law of the jungle.  Neither can these evolutionary psychologists exempt their behavior from natural selection.  Writing papers in Science, therefore, has no ultimate meaning.
        We bring these examples to your attention to show how utterly wacko certain university professors have become under the influence of Dar-wine.  Don’t blame the bomber, or the one who sent him, when he blows up dozens or hundreds of innocent people in a bus or building.  Personal responsibility is a myth.  Evil does not exist.  The teachings of the Quran and Islamic leaders are only incidental and should not be criticized; the bomber is only doing what Charlie said natural law made him do.
        Somebody send this story to Dennis Prager.  It should make for a lively discussion on his radio talk show.
    Next headline on:  Darwinism and Evolutionary TheoryDumb Ideas
    Evolutionists Violate Church-State Separation   04/02/2004
    John G. West thinks he has the NCSE in a hammerlock.  The evolution-only advocacy group, headed by Eugenie Scott, has used religious arguments to promote evolution on their new “Understanding Evolution” website (see
    02/29/2004 entry).  West, an associate director of the Discovery Institute, writing for National Review, claims they are violating their own principle of separation of church and state.
        If creationism cannot be allowed in the science classroom for religious reasons, then why should evolution be advocated for religious reasons?  “One wonders whether those at the NCSE appreciate the irony of their situation,” West chuckles.  He caught them in the act:
    This effort to use religion to endorse evolution is part of a larger public-relations strategy devised by the NCSE to defuse skepticism of neo-Darwinism.  On its own website, the group advises inviting ministers to testify in favor of evolution before school boards, and it has created a Sunday-school curriculum to promote evolution in the churches.  The NCSE even has a “Faith Network Director” who claims that “Darwin’s theory of evolution... has, for those open to the possibilities, expanded our notions of God.”
    Strange talk for an avowed atheist like Scott, unless it is pure strategy and tactics.  But the Discovery Institute wants to see it backfire.  “It’s clearly a violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.  What business is it of the government to tell people what their religious beliefs about evolution should be?  And what does this have to do with teaching science?”
        Click here for an example of religious arguments used by the Understanding Evolution website.  See also the World Net Daily report.
    This is funny, but it would be even more entertaining if the ACLU took on the NCSE.  Don’t hold your breath.  For those two bosom-buddy groups, it’s not about science or logic.  It’s war: Worldview War I.
    See also this month’s quote at top right of this page.
    Next headline on:  Darwinism and Evolutionary TheoryEducationPolitics and Ethics
    Validating a Just-So Story: How the Lizard Got Its Horns   04/01/2004
    As if smarting from criticisms that evolutionists trade in stories instead of evidence, Utah State biologists Kevin Young and Edmund Brodie, Jr and son decided to test an instance of natural selection.  Their subject was the horned lizard of the southwestern United States, the misnamed “horny toad” kids like to catch. 
    Many descriptions of evolutionary adaptations are criticized as “just-so stories” that are based more on intuition than on direct tests of adaptive hypotheses.  The elaborate crowns of horns possessed by many species of horned lizards (genus Phrynosoma) are classic examples of intuitively adaptive features that lack direct tests of function.  The bony horns that give horned lizards their name are presumed to function as a defense against predators (Fig. 1B).  Here we present data from the wild showing that natural selection by loggerhead shrikes favors longer horns (fig. S1) in the flat-tailed horned lizard (Phrynosoma mcalli).
    So, replete with charts, photographs, equations and scientific names, the trio have pulled off a rare achievement: connecting the selective agent (a loggerhead shrike) to the selected effect (the length of the lizard’s horns).  They showed that lizards with longer horns don’t get attacked by the predatory bird.  Their concluding statement, however, seems to disparage prior work:
    Modern methods for analyzing natural selection have increased our understanding of which traits experience selection.  These methods, however, typically cannot identify agents of selection or reveal the functional relations that result in natural selection.  Even most classic data sets demonstrating selection in the wild, including Bumpus’s sparrows and Lande and Arnold’s pentatomid bugs, did not reveal the agents responsible for the observed patterns of survival.  Our results present a rare opportunity to link the statistical form of selection to an identifiable agent, in this case predation by shrikes.  Our study does not show that other agents and forms of selection do not play a role in the evolution of horn size, but clearly illustrates that defense against shrike predation is one factor driving the radical elongation of horns in some species of horned lizards.
    Their paper was published in the April 2 issue of Science.1  Though not a just-so story in their opinion, they whimsically gave their paper a Kipling-esque title: “How the Horned Lizard Got Its Horns.”
        The summary in
    Science Now adds that the horns on the living lizards were less than a millimeter longer, on average, than those of the dead ones.
    1Kevin V. Young,1 Edmund D. Brodie, Jr.,1 Edmund D. Brodie, III, “How the Horned Lizard Got Its Horns,” Science, Vol 304, Issue 5667, 65, 2 April 2004, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1094790] (published online April 1).
    Well, very nice.  I’m sure father and son and buddy had fun out there in the desert and learned a lot.  This is certainly better empirical research than the typical Darwin Party fare, weaving tales out of pure imagination.  Too bad it’s irrelevant.
        Like the study on peppered mice (see 04/18/2003 entry), this research really doesn’t do much to help prop up Charlie.  Creationists freely admit that existing traits can be emphasized by predation or diet, including finch beaks and fur color.  Even Answers in Genesis has no problem with natural selection at this level.  This paper does nothing to explain how the lucky lizard got horns in the first place, or a head, or running legs, or breathing lungs, circulating blood, seeing eyes, hearing ears, sexual organs, or factories of molecular machines in every cell of its body.
        Researchers who think these kinds of microevolutionary studies support Darwinism commit the fallacy of extrapolation.  They think that if they just add up a large number of little stories about microevolution, they will all add up to macroevolution, and prove that humans had bacteria ancestors.  But like a pendulum on a clock, a lot of little movements do not necessarily add up to vast distances.
        Furthermore, this admirable field work, which must have required a lot of time and effort, raises as many questions as it attempts to answer: why aren’t all the horns long enough on all the lizards by now to prevent all shrike attacks?  Have they connected the acquired characteristics to the gametes and to developmental pathways, to prevent accusations of Lamarckism?  Are the genes for horns subject to pleiotropy or balancing selection?  Do the longer horns cause disadvantages to the lizards?  What other defense mechanisms are at work, like camouflage, better eyesight, faster legs or bad taste?  Perhaps you can think of more.
       The point is, there is just some circumstantial evidence here, with plenty of wiggle room for just-so storytelling, and the relationship, which is probably valid, does nothing to explain the origin of the lizard and the origin of the bird.  The mere sorting of existing information is not what Charlie set out to explain.  The big just-so story is still that.  Swabbing the deck doesn’t make the ship float.
        Science Now contains a Freudian slip that reveals the bad storytelling habit of Darwinians: “Any armchair Darwinist could tell you the lizards’ horns probably evolved to protect it from predators.”  Telling a story with your arms on the recliner was supposed to go out with Aristotle.  Get out there and prove it.
    Next headline on:  Terrestrial ZoologyDarwinism and Evolutionary Theory


  • Scientist of the Month

    Click on Apollos, the trusty
    Guide to Evolutionary Theory
    Feedback
    Write Us!

    “I’ve been checking in for a long time but thought I’d leave you a 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)

    “Keep up the great work.  You are giving a whole army of Christians 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)

    “Keep up the outstanding work!  You guys really ARE making a difference!”
    (a reader in Texas)

    “I wholeheartedly agree with you when you say that 'science' is not 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.”
    (anonymous)
    Note: Please supply your name and location when writing in.  Anonymous attacks only make one look foolish and cowardly, and will not normally be printed.  This one was shown to display a bad example.

    “I appreciate reading your site every day.  It is a great way to keep up on not just the new research being done, but to also keep abreast of the evolving debate about evolution (Pun intended).”
    (a reader, location unknown)

    “I love your website.”
    (a student at a state university who used CEH when writing for the campus newsletter)

    “....when you claim great uncertainty for issues that are fairly well resolved you damage your already questionable credibility.  I’m 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 light.”
    (a professor of ornithology at a state university, responding to the 09/10/2002 entry)

    “I wanted to let you know I appreciate your headline news style of exposing the follies of evolutionism.... Your style gives us constant, up-to-date reminders that over and over again, the Bible creation account is vindicated and the evolutionary fables are refuted.”
    (a reader, location unknown)

    “You have a knack of extracting the gist of a technical paper, and digesting it into understandable terms.”
    (a nuclear physicist from Lawrence Livermore Labs who worked on the Manhattan Project)

    >“After spending MORE time than I really had available going thru your MANY references I want to let you know how much I appreciate the effort you have put forth.
    The information is properly documented, and coming from recognized scientific sources is doubly valuable.  Your explanatory comments and sidebar quotations also add GREATLY to your overall effectiveness as they 1) provide an immediate interpretive starting point and 2) maintaining the reader’s interest.”
    (a reader in Michigan)

    “I am a huge fan of the site, and check daily for updates.”
    (reader location and occupation unknown)

    “I just wanted to take a minute to personally thank-you and let you know that you guys are providing an invaluable service!  We check your Web site weekly (if not daily) to make sure we have the latest information in the creation/evolution controversy.  Please know that your diligence and perseverance to teach the Truth have not gone unnoticed.  Keep up the great work!”
    (a PhD scientist involved in origins research)

    “You've got a very useful and informative Web site going.  The many readers who visit your site regularly realize that it requires considerable effort to maintain the quality level and to keep the reviews current.... I hope you can continue your excellent Web pages.  I have recommended them highly to others.”
    (a reader, location and occupation unknown)

    “As an apprentice apologist, I can always find an article that will spark a ‘spirited’ debate.  Keep ’em coming!  The Truth will prevail.”
    (a reader, location and occupation unknown)

    “Your website is fantastic. PLEASE keep it going.”
    (a reader, location and occupation unknown)

    “Thanks for your web page and work.  I try to drop by at least once a week and read what you have.  I’m a Christian that is interested in science (I’m a mechanical engineer) and I find you topics interesting and helpful.  I enjoy your lessons and insights on Baloney Detection.”
    (a reader in Kentucky)

    “I look up CREV headlines every day.  It is a wonderful source of information and encouragement to me.... Your gift of discerning the fallacies in evolutionists interpretation of scientific evidence is very helpful and educational for me.  Please keep it up.  Your website is the best I know of.”
    (a Presbyterian minister in New South Wales, Australia)

    “I’ve written to you before, but just wanted to say again how much I appreciate your site and all the work you put into it.  I check it almost every day and often share the contents (and web address) with lists on which I participate.  I don’t know how you do all that you do, but I am grateful for your energy and knowledge.
    (a prominent creationist author)

    “I am new to your site, but I love it!  Thanks for updating it with such cool information.”
    (a home schooler)

    “I love your site.... Visit every day hoping for another of your brilliant demolitions of the foolish just-so stories of those who think themselves wise.”
    (a reader from Southern California)

    >“I love to read your website and am disappointed when there is nothing new to read.  Thanks for all your hard work.”
    (a missionary in Japan)

    “I visit your site daily for the latest news from science journals and other media, and enjoy your commentary immensely.  I consider your web site to be the most valuable, timely and relevant creation-oriented site on the internet.”
    (a reader from Ontario, Canada)

    “Keep up the good work!  I thoroughly enjoy your site.”
    (a reader in Texas)

    “Thanks for keeping this fantastic web site going.  It is very informative and up-to-date with current news including incisive insight.”
    (a reader in North Carolina)

    “Great site!  For all the Baloney Detector is impressive and a great tool in debunking wishful thinking theories.”
    (a reader in the Netherlands)

    “Just wanted to let you know, your work is having quite an impact.  For example, major postings on your site are being circulated among the Intelligent Design members....”
    (a PhD organic chemist)

    “It’s like ‘opening a can of worms’ ... I love to click all the related links and read your comments and the links to other websites, but this usually makes me late for something else.  But it’s ALWAYS well worth it!!”
    (a leader of a creation group)

    “I am a regular visitor to your website ... I am impressed by the range of scientific disciplines your articles address.  I appreciate your insightful dissection of the often unwarranted conclusions evolutionists infer from the data... Being a medical doctor, I particularly relish the technical detail you frequently include in the discussion living systems and processes.  Your website continually reinforces my conviction that if an unbiased observer seeks a reason for the existence of life then Intelligent Design will be the unavoidable conclusion.”
    (a medical doctor)

    “A church member asked me what I thought was the best creation web site.  I told him CreationSafaris.com.”
    (a PhD geologist)

    “I love your site... I check it every day for interesting information.  It was hard at first to believe in Genesis fully, but now I feel more confident about the mistakes of humankind and that all their reasoning amounts to nothing in light of a living God.”
    (a college grad)

    “Thank you so much for the interesting science links and comments on your creation evolution headlines page . . . it is very informative.”
    (Joel)

    “I still visit your site almost every day, and really enjoy it. Great job!!!  (I also recommend it to many, many students.)
    (an educational consultant)

    “I like what I see–very much. I really appreciate a decent, calm and scholarly approach to the whole issue . . . . Thanks . . . for this fabulous endeavor–it’s superb!”

    “It is refreshing to read your comments.  You have a knack to get to the heart of the matter.”
    (a reader in the Air Force).

    “Love your website.  It has well thought out structure and will help many through these complex issues.  I especially love the Baloney Detector.”
    (a scientist).

    “I believe this is one of the best sites on the Internet.  I really like your side-bar of ‘truisms.’  Yogi [Berra] is absolutely correct.  If I were a man of wealth, I would support you financially.”
    (a registered nurse in Alabama, who found us on TruthCast.com.)

    “WOW.  Unbelievable . . . .My question is, do you sleep?  . . . I’m utterly impressed by your page which represents untold amounts of time and energy as well as your faith.”
    (a mountain man in Alaska).

    “Just wanted to say that I recently ran across your web site featuring science headlines and your commentary and find it to be A++++, superb, a 10, a homerun – I run out of superlatives to describe it! . . . . You can be sure I will visit your site often – daily when possible – to gain the latest information to use in my speaking engagements.  I’ll also do my part to help publicize your site among college students.  Keep up the good work.  Your material is appreciated and used.”
    (a college campus minister)

     
    Featured Creation Scientist for April

    Blaise Pascal
    1623-1662

    Blaise Pascal was one of those students classmates hate; the kind that keeps the average so high, everybody looks dumb by comparison and has to struggle to get C’s.  This genius did not offend too many classmates, however, because he was home-schooled.  And although his father did not feel mathematics was a proper subject till age 15, young Blaise took interest at 12, and when his father relented, math became his best subject – one of many best subjects. Pascal went on to excel at just about everything he tried: physics, hydrostatics, hydrodynamics, mathematics, statistics, invention, logic, debate, philosophy, and prose.  We speak of “pascals” of pressure, Pascal’s Principle, and a computer language named Pascal.  Computer scientists remember the Pascaline, an early mechanical calculator he invented, and mathematicians speak of Pascal’s triangle.  Literary historians call Pascal the Father of French Prose, and theologians debate Pascal’s Wager while evangelists use it to reason with sinners about the gospel.  Few, however, know much about the personal life of this scientific and mathematical genius.  He knew pain, he knew conflict, and he knew Jesus Christ with a depth and sensitivity few experience.  And he accomplished all his discoveries without reaching his 40th birthday.

    Blaise Pascal was the youngest of three children, the only boy.  His mother died when he was three years old.  His father, Etienne, a tax collector, took to schooling the children himself.  At age 19, Blaise started working on a mechanical calculator to help his father with his work.  The Pascaline was the second such invention (the first, by Schickard, was 18 years prior).  Pascal’s invention consisted of toothed wheels which engaged each other in such a way that rotating the first 10 steps would increment the next by one, and so on.  It was not successful because the French currency was not a decimal system, and the calculator could only add, not subtract.  Nevertheless, it was a clever piece of work for a young man who went on to greater things.

    Pascal grew in reputation as a mathematician so that in his prime he corresponded with other notable scientists and philosophers: Fermat, Descartes, Christopher Wren, Leibniz, Huygens, and others.  He worked on conic sections, projective geometry, probability, binomial coefficients, cycloids, and many other puzzles of the day, sometimes challenging his famous colleagues with difficult problems which he, of course, solved on his own.

    In physics, Pascal also excelled in both theory and experiment.  At age 30, he had completed a Treatise on the Equilibrium of Liquids, the first systematic theory of hydrostatics.  In it he formulated his famous law of pressure, that states that the pressure is uniform in all directions on all surfaces at a given depth.  This principle is foundational to many applications today: submarines, scuba gear, and a host of pneumatic devices.  By applying the principle, Pascal invented the syringe and the hydraulic press.  Blaise Pascal’s perceptive mind enabled him to explain the rising liquid in a barometer not as “nature abhorring a vacuum,” but as the pressure of the air outside on the liquid reservoir.  He argued against Descartes (who did not believe a vacuum could exist) and other Aristotelians of his day.  Observing that barometric pressure dropped with altitude, he reasoned that a vacuum existed above the atmosphere.  James Kiefer writes, “In presenting his results, he taunts his enemies the Jesuits with getting their methods backward, accusing them of relying on ancient authority (Aristotle) in physics, while ignoring ancient authority (the Scriptures and the Fathers, especially Augustine) in religion.

    Pascal’s controversies with the Jesuits had begun in his early twenties.  Two brothers from a religious movement, while caring for Pascal’s father, had a profound influence on Blaise.  He took great interest in a movement called Jansenism that was a kind of “back to the Bible” movement within Catholicism, that stressed salvation was the free gift of God by grace through faith.  Pascal became one of their chief apologists, and in writing his Provincial Letters, also showed himself to be an exceptional logician and writer.  His wit, irony, perception, knowledge, and a logic honed by mathematics, made his writing sparkle with enthusiasm and force.  Kiefer writes, “He taught his countrymen how to write work that could be read with pleasure.” And indeed it can!  We encourage our readers to find out by sampling his work.  Pascal is a good source of pithy quotes, proverbs, witty sayings, and thoughtful paragraphs.

    His best-known work was not even titled or completed.  In his thirties, he was apparently working on an “Apology [Defense] of the Christian Religion,” but, unfortunately, at his death there was only found a stack of unorganized papers that was published as Pensées (Thoughts).  Nevertheless, enough was written to give believers and unbelievers alike a great deal of food for thought: on the nature of man, sin, suffering, unbelief, philosophy, false religion, Jesus Christ, the Scriptures, heaven and hell, and much more.  The entire work is available online and highly recommended reading.

    Much has been made of “Pascal’s Wager,” a philosophical challege usually unfairly oversimplified as follows: If you choose Christianity and it is false, you lose nothing.  If you reject Christianity and it is true, you lose everything.  Skeptics (and many Christians) feel this is a weak argument to become a Christian.  It is, but it is not what Pascal meant.  James Kiefer explains that the Wager is an educated choice, not a flip of the coin.  Having decided that the evidence for Christianity is strong, and having decided that union with Christ is a worthy goal in life, it is the best bet to train for it like an athlete would train for the highest prize, even though the athlete cannot be sure he will win or the contest will even occur.  Kiefer says, “Obviously, if Christ is an illusion, then nothing will move me closer to Him, and it does not matter what I do.  But if He is not an illusion, then obviously seeking to love Him, trust Him, and obey Him is more likely to get me into a right relation with Him than the opposite strategy.  And so it will be the one I take.”  Understanding this, the Wager is not a blind hope that I’ll find myself on the right side after I die; it is a positive choice that will order my life and give me peace, joy, and purpose in the present.  To avoid misrepresenting Pascal’s Wager, we encourage readers to read the argument in his own inimitable words in the Pensées.  When used properly, it’s still a powerful argument for accepting Christ.

    Pascal’s last writings are all the more poignant when we remember he wrote much of them while suffering intensely.  A contemporary wrote, “He lived most of his adult life in great pain.  He had always been in delicate health, suffering even in his youth from migraine ...”  Pascal died at age 39 in intense pain from stomach cancer.  After his death, a servant found a surprise in the lining of Pascal’s coat.

    At age 31, Pascal had a spiritual experience that was so overpowering, he wrote it down so that he would never forget it.  Somehow, after a sweet hour of prayer or worship service – he never mentioned what it was to anyone – he felt so close to God, so overjoyed with His grace and salvation, so convinced of the urgency of trusting Him, that he took hasty notes of his feelings and sewed them into the lining of his coat, to be near his heart forever.  Here are those words.  Consider the brilliant scientist and mathematician, the logical thinker and debater, the inventor and writer and genius that got this close to the heart of God:

    Memorial

    In the year of grace, 1654, On Monday, 23rd of November, Feast of St Clement, Pope and Martyr, and others in the Martyrology, Vigil of St Chrysogonus, Martyr, and others, From about half past ten in the evening until about half past twelve,

    Fire!

    God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, (Ex 3:6; Mt 22:32) not of the philosophers and scholars.

    Certitude. Certitude. Feeling. Joy.
    Peace. God of Jesus Christ.
    “Thy God and my God.” (Jn 20:17)
    Forgetfulness of the world and of everything, except God.
    He is to be found only in the ways taught in the Gospel.
    Greatness of the Human Soul.
    “Righteous Father, the world hath not known Thee, but I have known Thee.” (Jn 17:25)
    Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy.
    I have separated myself from Him.  “They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters.” (Jr 2:13)  “My God, wilt Thou leave me?” (Mt 27:46)
    Let me not be separated from Him eternally.  “This is the eternal life, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and the one whom Thou hast sent, Jesus Christ.” (Jn 17:3)  Jesus Christ.

    Jesus Christ

    I have separated myself from Him:
    I have fled from Him,
    denied Him,
    crucified Him.
    Let me never be separated from Him.
    We keep hold of Him only by the ways taught in the Gospel.
    Renunciation, total and sweet.
    Total submission to Jesus Christ and to my director.
    Eternally in joy for a day’s training on earth.
    “I will not forget thy words.” (Ps 119:16) Amen.

    Blaise Pascal took the wager, and won.



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

    A Concise Guide
    to Understanding
    Evolutionary Theory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Souder’s Law
    Repetition does not establish validity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Advice from Paul

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

    I Timothy 6:20-21

    Song of the True Scientist

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

    from Psalm 104

    Maxwell’s Motivation

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

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

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

    Disclaimer: Creation-Evolution Headlines includes links to many external sites, but takes no responsibility for the accuracy or legitimacy of their content.  Inclusion of an external link is strictly for the reader’s convenience, and does not necessarily constitute endorsement of the material or its authors, owners, or sponsors.