Creation-Evolution Headlines
June 2004
photo strip
A philosopher [i.e., scientist] should be a man willing to listen to every suggestion but determined to judge for himself.  He should not be biased by appearances, have no favourite hypothesis, be of no school and in doctrine have no master.  He should not be a respecter of persons, but of things.  Truth should be his primary object.  If to these qualities be added industry, he may indeed hope to walk within the veil of the temple of nature.
— Michael Faraday, cited by John Meurig Thomas, Michael Faraday and the Royal Institution, Institute of Physics Publishing (1991), p. 121.
AstronomyBirdsBotanyCell BiologyCosmologyDating MethodsDinosaursEarly ManEducationEvolutionFossilsGenetics and DNAGeologyHealthHuman BodyIntelligent DesignMammalsMarine BiologyMarsMediaOrigin of LifePhysicsPolitics and EthicsSETISolar SystemTheologyZoology     Awards:  AmazingDumb       Note: bold emphasis added in all quotations unless otherwise indicated.
2001 2002 2003 2004
Search Creation-Evolution Headlines
Thanks to you, readership has doubled in the last year.  Tell your friends our new easy-to-remember URL: takes you instantly to the latest news stories on origins from leading science journals.
Cassini to Rewrite Textbooks on Saturn    06/30/2004
Hundreds of scientists and engineers are waiting with eager anticipation for SOI: Saturn Orbit Insertion, as the schoolbus-sized Cassini spacecraft races for its closest approach to the ringed planet tonight.  Just before closest approach, Cassini will fire its main engine for 96 minutes to slow down the spacecraft and allow Saturn to capture it in orbit (see
guide to SOI and diagram on the Cassini website).
    Right after the burn, for about 75 minutes, Cassini will be flying high over the rings at close range.  The instruments will gather as many measurements and pictures as it can, because it will never again be this close to the rings or to Saturn.  Scientists do not predict that the high-resolution cameras will be able to resolve individual ring particles from this range – the best resolution will be about 50 meters per pixel, and most particles are much smaller than 10 – but it may detect wakes, waves and streams that will provide clues to the dynamic evolution of ring particles over time.  There should be good sample images of all three main rings, C, B, and A, as well as the narrow F ring.  After downloading its data during the night, Cassini will point to Titan for its first of 45 encounters.
    Saturn has already provided Cassini’s instruments with a puzzle: the rotation rate appears to be slowing down.  According to Cassini’s radio and plasma wave detectors, Saturn is rotating about 1% slower than when Voyager made measurements in 1981.  (This is determined by timing radio pulses in the planet’s magnetic field, which is presumed to originate from deep within the fluid planet’s interior.)  Jupiter’s rotation rate has been rock solid for 50 years of measurements, so why Saturn should show this change is without explanation at this time.  The principal investigator for the radio and plasma wave instrument suspects it has something to do with the fact that Saturn’s polar and magnetic field axes are almost perfectly aligned, to within 0.2 degree – a characteristic unique to Saturn.  All other planets with magnetic fields show an offset of 10 degrees or more.  It is that offset that generates the magnetic dynamo, according to favored models; these models, however, cannot account for a field on an axisymmetric body.  How Saturn can have a magnetic field with a negligible offset is a major puzzle Cassini scientists hope to solve.
Update  Stupendous success!  The orbit insertion burn occurred flawlessly.  Cassini followed its trajectory exactly as predicted, and then turned to capture the data and images.  Relieved scientists and engineers expressed their enthusiasm at the performance of the spacecraft.  Now the four-year adventure begins.  Some of the first science results will be posted in the July issue as soon as available.
We hope to be able to bring you findings and analyses that the media will miss or misinterpret.  For instance, the media will always interpret phenomena in terms of the Sacred Parameter A, the “age of the solar system” (4.5 billion years), a figure invariably assumed without question, even when apparently young phenomena are being observed.
    Of special interest will be the rings, not only because of their beauty, but because of their apparent youth.  Most ring scientists believe that the rings had to form relatively recently.  Even if 100 million years were allowed, that would only be 1/50 of the Sacred Parameter.  To hold onto A, they have to invoke ad hoc theories of a comet wandering into the Roche Limit of Saturn and disrupting.  Even so, the forces of plasma drag, sputtering, micrometeorite bombardment, light pressure and collisions would dissipate the rings in short order.  Will embedded moons be found to feed new material into the rings?  Stay tuned.
    Also, we will provide balance to the claims about Titan having “prebiotic chemistry” that might be like the “building blocks of life” or like the “early earth in deep freeze.”  One scientist was even heard suggesting that Titan’s atmosphere may be a natural laboratory for the Miller Experiment (see 05/02/2003 headline).  Such statements assume evolution in spite of the evidence.  Also, it will be interesting to see if long-age believers can rescue Titan’s atmosphere from the evidence it is depleting rapidly (see 10/16/2003 headline).
    Cassini is poised to make major contributions to our understanding of the solar system and its age.  For now, enjoy the ride; it will be high adventure tonight at Saturn!
Next headline on:  Solar SystemPhysics
Babies Walk in the Womb    06/29/2004
New vivid ultrasound imaging technologies reveal a nursery of activity inside the womb, reports the
BBC News.  Click the link to see the amazingly clear pictures.  Unborn babies have been observed stretching, kicking and leaping from 12 weeks, before the mother is aware, and “From 26 weeks, they appear to exhibit a whole range of typical baby behaviour and moods, including scratching, smiling, crying, hiccuping, and sucking,” the article states.  “Until recently it was thought that smiling did not start until six weeks after birth.”
To think that these cute, innocent, vulnerable human beings, with all their emotions and capabilities, are subject to the most brutal executions is heart-rending.  Would not a being able to smile be capable of feeling pain?  This technology may be a powerful method to reduce abortions if we can just get people to watch.  A plain picture is worth a thousand loaded words.
Next headline on:  Human BodyPolitics and Ethics
Key to Evolution of Culture Suggested    06/28/2004
Visualize chimpanzees exercising their antics in the jungle: grooming, screeching at one another, chasing off rivals.  Now shift the scene to human activities in a large city: fans cheering their team at a stadium, an audience applauding a concert, kids screaming on an amusement park roller coaster, a congregation singing hymns at church, students taking notes in a university classroom, a crowd cheering a speech at a political rally.  Darwinians believe a chain of biological events in the genes and in the social interactions of our alleged ape-like ancestors produced capabilities that led to the development of our modern human culture with all its rich and varied accoutrements.  Two Spanish researchers publishing in PNAS1 think they know how.  They have suggested a key event that must have been the turning point in the evolution of culture among early hominids: the capacity of parents to approve or disapprove of their offspring’s behavior.
Cultural transmission in our species works most of the time as a cumulative inheritance system allowing members of a group to incorporate behavioral features not only with a positive biological value but sometimes also with a neutral, or even negative, biological value.  Most of models of dual inheritance theory and gene-culture coevolution suggest that an increase, either qualitative or quantitative, in the efficiency of imitation is the key factor to explain the transformation of primate social learning in a cumulative cultural system of inheritance as it happens during hominization.  We contend that more efficient imitation is necessary but not enough for this transformation to occur and that the key factor enabling such a transformation is that some hominids developed the capacity to approve or disapprove their offspring’s learned behavior.  This capacity to approve or disapprove offspring’s behavior makes learning both less costly and more accurate, and it transformed the hominid culture into a system of cumulative cultural inheritance similar to that of humans, although the system was still prelinguistic in nature.
(By negative biological value, they mean that humans sometimes engage in cultural activities that decrease evolutionary fitness for the individual, even though such behaviors might have adaptive value for the group.)  “It is not clear” in an evolutionary sense, the authors admit, “how cultural transmission has improved human adaptability, especially when other primates with well developed social learning abilities show comparably restricted ranges.”  Their interest in the questions of “what types of changes occurred during the hominization process that transformed typical social learning in primates into a cumulative cultural inheritance system similar to that of humans and what was the adaptive advantage that made these changes possible” formed the basis for their study.
    They feel that imitation theory of Boyd and Richardson is incomplete.  Imitation is a necessary, but not sufficient, ingredient to generate culture, they say, because it does not by itself reward innovative capacity.  Their hypothesis adds another ingredient:
We suggest that the transformation of primitive hominid social learning, which was probably rather similar to that of today’s chimpanzees (i.e., based on indirect social learning mechanisms and rudimentary imitative abilities), into a human cultural transmission system required that our hominid ancestors developed the capacity to approve or disapprove of offspring’s learned behavior.  Our thesis holds that the simultaneous presence of both capacities in our hominid ancestors, imitation and approval/disapproval of offspring’s learned behavior, represented a radical change in the rudimentary cultural transmission of first hominids.  Individuals with both abilities, which we call assessors, generated a cultural inheritance system in a strict sense, because by approval/disapproval, they constrained the behavior that offspring incorporated into their repertoire.
The offspring has a lower cost of learning by profiting from the parents’ experience, without having to evaluate all the alternatives.  This speeds up adaptation of the learned behavior faster than natural selection can work.  The authors provide some differential equations to show that their model works better than the old.  But why is the development of culture rare among animals?  They answer with explanations of why the emergence of assessors is rare: it is costly to the parent, and also requires the development of a complex brain with symbolic memory, reentrant signaling, a mechanism for categorizing behavior and a strong link between the cortical and limbic systems, among other things.
The ability to approve or disapprove of offspring’s learned behavior seems completely absent in primates.  Probably the evolution of this capacity would require the previous development of the capacity to conceptually categorize learned behavior.  The conceptual capacity to categorize is defined as the ability to categorize one’s own and others’ learned behavior in terms of values, i.e., positive or negative, or good or bad.
This, they feel, was the beginning of teaching.  Experiments show that chimpanzee parents are unable to categorize their offspring’s behavior as good or bad when taking the offspring’s interest into account.  Human children are very sensitive to parental approval, “whereas chimpanzee young brought up as human children remain quite wild and troublesome.”  Because human children are sensitive to approval and disapproval, they are authority acceptors, and have a tendency to accept social influence.
    The authors feel their hypothesis holds promise for explaining other defining aspects of human social behavior:
Finally, it is worth emphasizing that the hypothesis above about the evolution of culture could have interesting implications on the evolution of other typical traits of the human species.  For example, we have proposed that conceptual classification of behavior in terms of positive/negative (good/bad) involves, according to its natural origin, a feeling of duty toward those positive behaviors, and this behavioral categorization and the feeling of “must” are the developmental roots of the ethical capacity.  We have also shown that the adaptive advantage that implies the improvement of the assessor cultural transmission could be a key factor in the evolution of language.

1Castro and Toro, “The evolution of culture: From primate social learning to human culture,”
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.0400156101, published online June 24, 2004.
Put this one in the basket of quasi-erudite papers that will be laughed at some day when the Darwinian idol collapses.  Despite the equations, it is a collage of elitist, ivory-tower, pseudoscientific speculation with a sprinkling of magic to hold it all together.  Somehow, somewhere, random mutations appeared on cue to provide symbolic memory, reentrant signaling, a mechanism for categorizing behavior and a strong link between the cortical and limbic systems to allow an ape to express approval to its baby.  Maybe a lucky cosmic ray hit Bonzo and the lights went on.  He mated and learned to shriek disapproval at his offspring.  Simultaneously, the kid got hit with another cosmic ray and understood what disapproval meant.  And so a few million years later, Shakespeare emerged.
    Darwinism will fall as soon as enough bright students, armed with baloney detectors, overcome the fear of big words, abstruse-looking equations and the prestige of big-name journals.  This Darwin-saturated hypothesis is utterly foolish on the face of it.  Its only reason for existence is that Darwinians need something to explain their own brains and desires.  They have sold their souls to Charlie, and since all of reality must fit within his unguided, naturalistic world, they need some explanation – no matter how foolish – for the evolution of everything: even ethics, morals and taste in music.  Like Richard Lewontin candidly admitted, “It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated.”  Don’t ever submit to the initiation rites of the Temple of Darwin, because they cause brain damage.
    Since Darwin Party PhDs usually have skill with language and math, they are especially dangerous, because they have perfected the art of couching balderdash in nearly impenetrable jargon that serves to intimidate science reporters and other dupes.  Let’s remember a basic math lesson: equations are only as good as their assumptions and variables.  Suppose we write: “Let a be natural selection and a' be population genetics.  Now let b represent Marxist economic policy, and b' represent the degree of collectivization, and c the hominization rate.  Then letting the population p remain constant for one Milankovitch cycle t, we suggest that the expression
abc - (a'b - cab')-ekt / p
yields a stable economy over the lifetime of a hominid species.”  That was all just made up out of thin air.  Does this confabulation of irrelevancies deserve more respect when dressed up in math symbols?  Then why should anyone give a spit when these authors write nonsense like this:
A simple model of cultural transmission that can be applied to assessor hominids ancestors can illuminate previous ideas better.  Let us define the probability that an individual without capacity of imitation acquires behavior i as hiBi, where hi is the probability that an individual discovers the behavior i, and Bi is the probability that the behavior will be included in his repertoire.  If the individual already knows an alternative (behavior j) to behavior i, the probability that behavior i will be included in his repertoire will be equal to hiBij, where Bij is the probability that he chooses i instead of alternative behavior j.  However, if the individual also has the imitation capacity and there are cultural models in the population, the probability of his including i in his repertoire will be h*i Bij, where h*i is the probability that an individual learns either by individual learning or by imitation behavior i, and equals h*i = hi + (1 - hi)a, where a represents the efficacy of the process of imitation, and (1 - hi)a measures the net effect of this process.  Therefore, an increase in the imitation capacity is expressed as an increase in the value of a.
No amount of skill at manipulating math symbols can rescue bad assumptions.  The whole premise of this simplistic hypothesis (that an accidental ability to express favor/disfavor helped hominids evolve culture, ethics and language, resulting eventually in the Bush-Kerry campaign) is that complex, coordinated skills like the capacity for categorizing and symbolic memory “emerged” from random mutation and natural selection.  When, oh when, will we ever get some Darwinist to prove this instead of assuming it?  The null hypothesis of intelligent design should always be favored before yielding an ounce of credence to such a product of cosmic improbabilities.  A corollary of this premise is that all intangibles, including ethics, arts and language, are mere artifacts of biological determinism.  That is not science: that’s philosophy.
    And now, the bottom line.  Why should we care about what a couple of pseudo-intellectual, ivory-tower professors in Spain write in a technical journal only pointy-headed members of a geek subculture would care to read?  You need look no further than their last sentences: “we have proposed that conceptual classification of behavior in terms of positive/negative (good/bad) involves, according to its natural origin, a feeling of duty toward those positive behaviors, and this behavioral categorization and the feeling of “must” are the developmental roots of the ethical capacity....”  They have just used their weird-science fable to preach moral relativism.  Dressed in pseudoscientific garb, it appears more authoritative than sending a nihilist dressed in a red devil costume into the college classroom hissing, “Do what you want!  There is no God!”
    It wouldn’t matter if these pseudo-intellectuals only spouted their philosophy to other members of the Darwin Party, but they have the audacity to call this science.  (Note that this paper was edited by the anticreationist Francisco Ayala of UC Irvine.)  And they have the power, with all the usurped authority and dignity of science, to stand in college classrooms and declare that God is dead, that Darwinism has displaced religion, and that since morals and ethics evolve like everything else in the universe, any sense of right, duty, principle, honor and integrity your parents taught you are just downstream artifacts of mutations that caused some ape in your past to suddenly be able to express “approval” to its offspring.  Don’t tell this to the Marines.  If duty, honor, country are as arbitrary and meaningless as the Darwin Party would have us believe, then terrorists and mass murdering dictators are not doing anything inherently evil, and we have no duty to stop them.
    Connect the dots.  Darwinism has its primordial-slimy fingers all over politics, foreign policy, and what you should teach your kid.
Next headline on:  Early ManDarwinismDumb Ideas
Milky Way Center Bathed in Unexplainably Hot X-Rays   06/25/2004
Chandra X-Ray Observatory found more heat at the center of the Milky Way than astronomers can explain.  Astronomers observed a tiny angle around the Milky Way’s center for 170 hours.  After subtracting out known sources, a diffuse gas cloud remains that is radiating X-rays at 100 million degrees.  Star counts capable of heating the gas are short by an order of magnitude; “There is no known class of objects that could account for such a large number of high-energy X-ray sources at the Galactic center,” said a co-author of the study released this week.
    Furthermore, what sustains the cloud is a mystery.  Known gravitational sources are insufficient to hold onto this gas, which should have escaped by now.  “The escape time would be about 10,000 years, a small fraction of the 10-billion-year lifetime of the Galaxy,” states the press release.  “ This implies that the gas would have to be continually regenerated and heated.”  But three suggestions for maintaining this gas at such a high temperature all have problems.
    Space.Com added, “A paper will describe the study in the Sept. 20, 2004 issue of the Astrophysical Journal.  Maybe by then somebody will figure out what it means.”
Since this is a work in progress, any judgments on tentative interpretations would be premature.  It’s good to discern, however, attempts to force uncooperative data into preconceived notions about time scales and evolutionary theories.  That fault is endemic in the biological sciences.
Next headline on:  Stars and AstronomyDating Methods
Biochemists Mutate Protein, Make a Catalyst    06/25/2004
“Enzymes are among the most proficient catalysts known,” wrote three Duke University scientists, “and they catalyze a wide variety of reactions in aqueous solutions under ambient conditions with exquisite selectivity and stereospecificity.”  The team set out to rationally design their own enzyme.  Their work is reported in the June 25 issue of Science.1  Building on a non-enzymatic ribose-binding protein, they introduced 18 to 22 mutations at specific points, imitating the active site of triose phosphate isomerase (TIM).  They succeeded in getting a million-fold increase in catalytic activity, and showed their NovoTim invention to be biologically active in E. coli bacteria.  To them, not only does this demonstrate scientists’ ability to understand and imitate “naturally evolved” enzymes, but the “introduction of TIM activity into RBP is therefore equivalent to convergent evolution by computational design.”  Their enzyme was less thermally stable than the wild type, however, and the reaction rate was 220 times lower.
1Dwyer, Looger and Hellinga, “Computational Design of a Biologically Active Enzyme,”
Science, Vol 304, Issue 5679, 1967-1971, 25 June 2004, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1098432].
We hate to have to award these clever inventors the Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week prize, but listen to what they said.  They just called themselves blind, deaf and dumb.  Here they used intelligence, ingenuity, know-how, knowledge, and supervision to design a working enzyme, then said it was equivalent to “convergent evolution,” a blind, purposeless process that has none of those things.  Their work has nothing to do with evolution, convergent, divergent, invergent, subvergent or otherwise.  It was an exercise in reverse engineering.  By emphasizing the specificity of contact points in a simple enzyme that leads to efficient catalysis, their work underscores the necessity of rational design.  How come Charlie keeps getting credit for intelligent design work?  Unfair.
Next headline on:  Cell BiologyDarwinism and Evolutionary TheoryDumb Ideas
Angry Evolutionist Seeks to Revive Peppered Moth Story   06/25/2004
Michael Majerus has had it with creationists who leaped onto his 1998 book and used it for ammunition against Darwinism.  He had confessed that the simplified textbook story of the peppered moth was inaccurate, but he never meant to cast doubt on evolution.  Majerus (U. of Cambridge) is highlighted in a profile in the June 25 issue of Science1 by Fiona Proffitt.  He is determined to get to the truth about the peppered moths.  Proffitt writes, “After a severe drubbing, the famous example of the peppered moth is getting refurbished.”
    Majerus, a researcher in sexual selection and the evolution of melanism (darkening), was among several biologists who began to question the validity of Bernard Kettlewell’s experiments on light and dark forms of Biston betularia that adorn most biology textbooks as “the most famous example of evolution in action.”  When he stated his reservations about the story, he set off a firestorm:
Through his research, Majerus found himself embroiled in the scientific debate over the evolutionary forces behind melanism in the peppered moth.  Experiments by British lepidopterist Bernard Kettlewell in the 1950s claimed to show that bird predation, coupled with pollution, was responsible for a color shift in the moth population.  But problems with Kettlewell’s methodology led some scientists to doubt his conclusions.  Majerus was not the first to point out the flaws, but by doing so, he inadvertently set off a wave of anti-evolutionist attacks.  While acknowledging that Kettlewell made mistakes, Majerus believes Kettlewell was right in his conclusions and has taken it upon himself to prove it.
Majerus is making thousands of moth observations with hundreds of thousands of lab-grown moth pupae to test the peppered moth story with better data and procedures.  To his credit, he is seeking to really develop a feel for the moths and let them tell their own story, rather than impose a preconceived conclusion on them.  Working three years on this project, he is going to “great lengths” to overcome the procedural errors made by Kettlewell:
But doubts emerged over Kettlewell’s methodology in recent decades as researchers failed to replicate some of his results.  His predation experiments were chiefly criticized for their artificiality: He placed the moths on exposed parts of trees in broad daylight, when they don’t normally fly, rather than allowing them to settle naturally; he released them in large numbers, thereby inflating moth densities and possibly creating a magnet for predatory birds; and he used a mixture of lab-reared and wild-caught moths without checking to see whether they behaved the same way.  Majerus summarized these criticisms in a book on the evolution of melanism in 1998 and stated that the simplified textbook story of the peppered moth was inaccurate, while asserting that Kettlewell’s conclusions were qualitatively sound.  Majerus had no idea at the time what a furor his book would cause.
That furor was intensified when Jerry Coyne wrote Nature in 5 November 1998 that “for the time being, we must discard Biston as a well-understood example of natural selection in action, although it is clearly a case of evolution.”2  Anti-evolutionists were quick to capitalize on this admission.  Judith Hooper wrote a “scathing” account in her book Of Moths and Men, and Jonathan Wells listed it as one of 10 discredited
Icons of Evolution in his book.  Quoting Coyne and Majerus, creationists have been celebrating the downfall of this highly-touted example of Darwinism, even though they had long criticized its relevance to Darwinian theory.
    His tedious work on peppered moth ecology has another purpose; ammunition.  Majerus is preparing to do battle.  His defense is to resuscitate the reputation of Kettlewell; his offense is to disarm those who use doubts about peppered moths to question evolution itself.  There is one group he considers particularly dangerous, and he is going to employ his widely-admired communication skill on a lecture circuit:
It’s a talent Majerus hopes to put to good use in defending the reputation of Kettlewell and the peppered moth in a road show, which he aims to take around Britain--and possibly the United States--later this year.  He is motivated by growing concern over attacks on Kettlewell’s character, most notably writer Judith Hooper’s scathing account of the men behind the peppered moth story in her 2002 book Of Moths and Men: The Untold Story of Science and the Peppered Moth, which helped fuel an anti-evolutionist campaign to remove Biston from school textbooks.  “A lot of [the campaign] is pointed at the peppered moth as being the example that Darwinism is debunked,” says Majerus, who wants to make a public stand against teaching creationism and “intelligent design” in biology classes.  “To have people believe the biology of the planet is controlled by a Creator, I think that’s dangerous.”
At this stage in his experiments, he has a hunch Kettlewell was right about bird predation being a driver of changes in peppered moth populations, but doesn’t feel he has enough data to call it proof.  Some of his colleagues think it’s too labor-intensive a task in light of other worthwhile pursuits.  Majerus himself doesn’t want to get stuck working on peppered moths all his life, but is determined to get a definite answer on the bird predation issue before taking his message on the road.
1Fiona Proffitt, “Michael Majerus Profile: In Defense of Darwin and a Former Icon of Evolution,” Science, Vol 304, Issue 5679, 1894-1895, 25 June 2004, [DOI: 10.1126/science.304.5679.1894].
2For a later opinion by Jerry Coyne, including a link to his 1998 article, see his review of Judith Hooper’s book mentioned in the 07/05/2002 headline.
Darwinists, for your own good, give it up.  Peppered moths are not going to help you.  Yes, it was funny when Coyne described hearing the truth about Kettlewell’s experiments was like finding out that Santa Claus was really his dad.  Yes, it was damaging to learn that Kettlewell’s coworkers glued peppered moths to the trunks of trees for some of the famous photographs.  It was Far Side comic book material to find out this most famous example of evolution was based on flawed experiments.  All that aside, even if all the experiments had been done perfectly by scientific saints, and even if bird predation actually did shift the populations of moths according to the rise and fall of industrial soot on tree trunks, so what?  What does it prove?  Both varieties of moths already existed.  Both are members of one species, Biston betularia.  The only change was in relative numbers of pre-existing dark and light moths.  Kettlewell’s blunders are amusing in hindsight, but they have little to do with the real issue: Nothing evolved.  No new structures, organs or abilities emerged.  No genetic information was added.  Evolutionists need far better evidence than this to convince high schoolers that humans have bacteria ancestors.
    More significant is what this episode reveals about the lack of solid evidence for Darwinian evolution.  For decades, evolutionists pointed to Kettlewell’s moths as one of the best, if not the best, examples of natural selection ever found.  One 60s high school biology text called it “one of the best examples of the impact on a species of a change in the environment,” and “a classic example of evolution in action” (Otto and Towle, Modern Biology 1969, pp. 193-194); “Industrial melanism is a demonstration of the importance of natural selection in the process of evolution.”  Despite the recent uproar over Kettlewell, the spiel goes on.  The same spin doctoring, and the same photos, can still be found in today’s high school textbooks, along with other debunked examples like Haeckel’s embryos (see 07/25/2003 and 10/30/2003 headlines).  Not only is it past time for Darwinists to clean up their act, it is incumbent upon them to find better evidence than shifting populations of existing subspecies if they expect anyone to become convinced that natural selection can produce giraffes from slime.
    Advice to the Darwin Party: let the peppered myth have a solemn funeral, admit you made a big mistake, document the lessons learned, and move on to real empirical evidence.  Prove your theory, don’t expect people to just believe it.  Find an animal developing a new organ, like a wing or an eye.  Enumerate all the links in an actual chain of evolution from one organism lacking a complex structure to another having it, including the genetic and developmental pathways and the mutations involved.  Without resorting to just-so stories, provide an example of complex specified information or irreducible complexity arising purely from a purely naturalistic Darwinian mechanism.  Peppered moths are not up to the challenge.  While it is admirable that Majerus is attempting to accumulate definitive data on the little insects and their behaviors, and prove once and for all whether or not birds eat more of them on contrasting backgrounds, peppered moths are a dead issue to evolution.  Like the Sioux proverb advises, the best strategy when riding a dead horse is to dismount.
    Now to an even more serious aspect of this story.  Majerus correctly connects the dots; he knows that the peppered moth tale symbolizes a battle over the soul of science.  Why do the Darwinists cling so tenaciously to any minuscule piece of evidence, no matter how inconsequential, that might be used to bolster the idea that natural selection can account for all of biology?  Why the initial confident rejoicing over Kettlewell, and the anguish over his downfall?  Listen to what Majerus said: “To have people believe the biology of the planet is controlled by a Creator, I think that’s dangerous.”
    Phillip Johnson hit the nail on the head.  He has written repeatedly that the problem in the creation-evolution issue is not over evidence, but rather that evolutionists are committed to a materialist philosophy before the evidence has a chance to speak.  Science, to them, is no longer a search for the truth, a commitment to follow the evidence wherever it leads; it is a naturalistic philosophy that cannot stomach the thought of a Creator.  The issue is not whether this or that flimsy just-so story really supports Darwin’s theory or not.  It is that it must support it, because the alternative, that there really is a God who made the world and the things in it, is philosophically repugnant to them.  Their atheism demands a philosophy of science that can describe an unbroken chain of natural causes in a closed system.  To suggest otherwise is “dangerous” to them because it threatens their chosen world view.
    Thus it is necessary to go to great lengths to prove Kettlewell right.  It is necessary to go on the road and oppose the dangerous creationists.  It is necessary to keep the peppered moths in the textbooks and prevent the students from hearing the problems with the moth myth.  It is necessary to “make a public stand against teaching creationism and ‘intelligent design’ in biology classes.”  The end justifies the means, because to have people believe that the biology of the planet is controlled by a Creator is “dangerous.”
    Is it, really? It would seem that what is dangerous to science is dishonesty, cover-up, lack of scientific rigor, just-so storytelling, extrapolation, and obscurantism.  Is belief that the world is controlled by a Creator detrimental to scientific investigation?  Let’s ask Bacon, Kepler, Newton, Boyle, Maxwell, Pasteur, Carver, von Braun and a few other minor players in the history of science for their opinions.
Next headline on:  Terrestrial ZoologyDarwinism and Evolutionary Theory
ID Book Survives Nature Relatively Unscathed   06/24/2004
Considering the intemperate disdain intelligent design books usually receive from the major journals – when they are even noticed (see, for example, Nature’s review of a book by William Dembski in the
07/11/2002 headline) – a new ID book fared surprisingly well this week.  In Nature1 June 24, Douglas A. Vakoch (SETI Institute) reviewed the new book by Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards, The Privileged Planet (Regnery, 2004).2  This book presents the thesis that earth’s location seems optimized for both habitability and scientific discovery (measurability).  This thesis counters the pessimism of Rare Earth by Ward and Brownlee (see 07/15/2002 headline) by proposing, optimistically, that the earth appears intelligently designed for life.
    Angry rejection of such a notion would seem the normal response of a member of the SETI Institute, dedicated as it is to the proposition that life is common in the universe due to the almighty power of Darwinian evolution.  Maybe Vakoch is just a nice guy, or maybe Nature feels compelled once in awhile to give ID authors a semblance of civility to avoid charges of dogmatism.  Or, maybe it reflects a trend.
    Vakoch straightforwardly summarized the main ideas of the book without ridicule.  His only criticisms were that the criteria for measurability appear subjective, and that we don’t yet have enough data to determine how rare earth is:
So far, Earth is the only planet we know that has the privilege of bearing life that searches for signs of other intelligence – whether in the form of other technological beings transmitting evidence of their existence or through patterns indicating underlying design.  It may be some time, however, before we can accurately judge whether our blue dot is – as planets go – commonplace, unique or somewhere in between.
Vakoch began and ended his review with a reference to the catch-phrase Pale Blue Dot by the champion of SETI, Carl Sagan, whose book of that name emphasized the ordinariness of earth.  Vakoch entitled his review, “Bright blue dot” – without a question mark.
1Douglas A. Vakoch, “Bright blue dot,” Nature 429, 808 - 809 (24 June 2004); doi:10.1038/429808b.
2Note: a documentary film based on the book is nearing completion and should be available by end of July.  Gonzalez and Richards make their case accompanied by an impressive line-up of notable scientists expressing views for and against the privileged status of earth.
It’s refreshing to see a dispassionate, balanced treatment of a book so outside the Darwinian mainstream.  The credentials of the authors cannot be denied, but that has not stopped some reviewers from unleashing venom at anyone daring to publish a science book without the Darwin Party imprimatur guaranteeing absolute and unconditional naturalism (see what Science did to theistic evolutionist Simon Conway Morris, for instance, in the 12/07/2003 headline).  Whether more scientists are beginning to acknowledge the merits of ID arguments or not, it’s too early to tell.  (It should be noted that most anthropic arguments have come from secular scientists without any Christian or creationist proclivities whatsoever, such as Brandon Carter, Paul Dirac, and Stephen Hawking.)
    Gonzalez and Richards build a convincing case for design, but they tend to accept uncritically current scientific models as facts.  Too much trust in today’s conventional wisdom can render books obsolete when paradigm shifts occur.  Also, when some props of “accepted scientific theory” eventually get kicked out from under an argument, it can appear to undermine the whole thesis and diminish the authors’ credibility.  Much is made, for instance, of plate tectonics, stellar evolution, galactic evolution, nucleosynthesis and planetary evolution.  Solid as these theories appear to the establishment today, there have been indications of doubt that could lead to overhaul later (see, for instance, the 04/02/2004, 03/05/2004, 11/25/2003, and 11/04/2003 headlines on geology, and 01/23/2004, 01/01/2004, 10/05/2003, 09/03/2003, and 06/18/2003 headlines on astronomy).  Also, the authors rely without qualification on age estimates that are built on unverifiable assumptions about the unobservable past.
    Nonetheless, Gonzalez and Richards’ collection of evidences may contribute to a worldview shift of major proportions that could already be underway: a reversal of the Copernican Principle.  Richards has argued from history, and Gonzalez from science, that Sagan’s extrapolation of the Copernican Principle (i.e., that the earth has no privileged status) is unwarranted.  In the first place, ancients never believed the earth was the center of the cosmos.  In the second place, the more we study the heavens and the earth, the more we see conditions favorable to our existence that cannot be all due to chance.  That cosmologists are again willing to discuss these things (see 02/28/2004 headline) hints at a sea change just 23 years after Sagan’s Cosmos symbolized the triumph of secularism over theism.
    Christians should not entertain any illusions that such trends will fill their churches with new seekers.  For instance, Peter Ward, co-author of Rare Earth, knows all these things yet remains a staunch, hostile, anti-Christian atheist.  Evidence of design is not enough to save a soul, but it removes a major stumbling block to faith.  That is, however, an important – often indispensable – prerequisite.
Next headline on:  Cosmology. • Intelligent Design. • SETI.
Spiderman No Match for Real Spider   06/24/2004
National Geographic News took the occasion of the upcoming Spiderman sequel to investigate the superpowers of real spiders.  If you were spidy, you could:
  • Jump 50 times your body length.  That would be like a man jumping 300 feet (the world record is 29 feet, 4.5 inches).
  • Walk upside down on smooth surfaces, with 170 people hanging on.  Spiders do this with microscopic hairs that create atomic attraction forces.  Geckos have this ability, too (see 08/27/2002 headline), but spiders are not related to geckos.  One scientist remarked, “From a biological point of view, that was pretty astonishing.”
  • Weave webs out of material like flexible steel, with seven different kinds of thickness and adhesive strength.
  • Create beautiful works of art.  Some garden spiders incorporate spirals and crosses into their wagon-wheel shaped webs.
Cameron Walker writes, “Spiders aren’t swinging their way through the skyline or facing up to crazed criminals like Doc Ock, the villain in Spider-Man 2.  But they’ve got the wherewithal to survive in a range of environments that gives them their own extraordinary edge.”
    According to another spider story posted on National Geographic June 24, scientists are puzzling over why some spiders evolved the ability to spin symmetrical webs.  Another species with this ability was recently found in Peru.  One researcher from the Smithsonian said, “It’s interesting because it doesn’t make any sense.  There doesn’t seem to be any advantage to having a symmetrical web, yet it evolved independently among spiders more than once.  It’s not possible that this is a just random drift in evolution and these spiders are stumbling into the ability to measure things.  It must have evolved for a reason, but we don’t know what that reason is yet.”
Spiders deserve more respect than we give them.  We usually can’t step on them fast enough.  OK, so you don’t want them in the house.  At least live and let live outside, where they do you a lot of good (if you also despise flies).  And once in awhile, from a safe distance, take a good, long look at that miniature package of superpowers.  Nature is usually more entertaining and thought-provoking than a blockbuster movie.  That’s a good thing for a kid to learn.
Next headline on:  Terrestrial ZoologyMediaAmazing Facts
Cleaners Advertise in the Fish Market   06/22/2004
The plot of this science project seems made for Disney animation, a fishy version of Aesop’s parable of
Androcles and the lion.  There are fish that will clean parasites out of the mouths and gills of their predators without getting eaten (see 01/13/2003 headline).  How these “cleaner fish” and their clients developed this risky relationship, a classic example of mutualistic symbiosis in which both parties benefit from the transaction, has long been a puzzle.  Alexandra S. Grutter (U. of Queensland) decided to do a science project on this phenomenon and published her results in the June 22 issue of Current Biology.1  Observing fish species from the Great Barrier Reef under lab conditions, she observed some interesting behavior that she termed “preconflict management strategy.”  It appears that with a bit of Madison-Avenue advertising skill, cleaners know how to clinch a deal in the fish market.
    Negotiations and compromises can result in unequal benefits, as in the fable of the contract between the man that needed a fur coat and the bear that needed a meal.  In the case of cleaner fish, Grutter showed experimentally that the “clients” (predators) normally have no qualms about munching on their little dentists.  They did eat the cleaner fish in certain situations without remorse.  The cleaners also have a natural aversion to swimming right into the mouths of their biggest threats, as seen in the fact that related fish won’t come near.  The variables in the experiment were: the parasite load on the client, the client’s hunger level, the cleaner’s hunger level, and the cleaner’s skill at preconflict management strategy.  There’s nothing like a little entertainment to break the ice.  Cleaner fish have mastered the feel-good commercial: they dance.
    Grutter observed the cleaner fish approach their dangerous clients with “tactile dancing”; they oscillate their tail fins and gently rub against the predator’s gills and body.  The client, apparently appeased by this show of good will, says, “OK, it’s a deal,” opens its mouth, and both get their satisfaction.  The cleaner fish seem to be able to sense when their clients are hungry, and respond by softening them up with more tactile dancing than usual.  (The cartoon becomes more entertaining at this point.)  But there is still a danger to the little serviceman.  Grutter and others have known that client fish will sometimes exhibit “posing” behavior, posturing themselves in a way that suggests readiness for cleaning.  How does the cleaner know it isn’t a trap?  It would seem the perfect ruse for a hungry predator to lie in wait, saving its energy, advertising itself that it just wants cleaning service, only to clamp its jaws shut on the do-gooders.  (See 04/26/2004 story about why animals rarely lie.)  It’s risky to do business with one’s enemies.  Most surprisingly, at the end of the cleaning, the client, now in a strength position, makes no effort to take advantage of the easy, gullible snack.
    How did this mutualism, sometimes termed reciprocal altruism, originate?  Grutter takes issue with the typical game theoretic approach (see 02/10/2004 headline).  Instead, she views her results supporting another approach: “The iterated prisoner’s dilemma has long been used to explain the evolution of cooperation between unrelated individuals, although some of its limitations have been illustrated with the cleaner fish mutualism.  Recently, biological market theory, in which traders exchange goods, services, or both, was proposed as an alternative for understanding cooperation in many systems, including cleaning symbioses.  Client ectoparasites and cleaning services are the main goods traded in the cleaner fish market.”
    It takes a skilled salesperson to convince a difficult, dangerous customer that she has a win-win offer that’s too good to refuse.  A Disney rendition of this story, with a timid yet fast-talking cleaner fish doing its little dance to appease the mean ol’ predator and get it to open up, is not hard to visualize.  And what hey, even tough guys need to see a dentist occasionally.  Maybe they fall for the best dancer.
1Alexandra S. Grutter, “Cleaner Fish Use Tactile Dancing Behavior as a Preconflict Management Strategy,” Current Biology,Vol 14, 1080-1083, 22 June 2004.
Personifying a phenomenon with an analogy does not explain its origin.  Neither game theory nor market theory provide adequate explanations in Darwinian terms for these interesting behaviors.  Fish are not capable of rational thought and market strategy.  If not designed, this behavior must be reducible to genetic and developmental factors.  If the predators always took advantage of the cleaners, there would be none left, and the phenomenon would disappear.  But the present is not the key to the past.  “Obviously, cleaning symbiosis has survival value for both types of species involved,” elaborated Gary Parker, a former evolutionist, in What Is Creation Science? (Master Books, p. 37).  “But does survival value explain the origin of this special relationship?” he asked.  “Of course not.  It makes sense to talk about survival only after a trait or relationship is already in existence.”
    In additional articles by Gary Parker, who used to teach evolution as fact, the conundrum posed by cleaning symbioses is acknowledged by Darwinians to be a problem for their theory.  Parker tells how Garrett Hardin, an evolutionist, once presented some startling questions in a Scientific American publication entitled, “Nature’s Challenges to Evolutionary Theory.”  He asked, “Is the evolutionary framework wrong?”  Taking note of the implication of design in such biological phenomena, he further suggested, “Was Paley right?”  Then, with a preconflict management strategy of his own, he proposed a fair deal that could provide a win-win situation for both sides.  He said, “Think about it.
Next headline on:  Marine BiologyDarwinism and Evolutionary Theory
Mystery of the Left-Handed Proteins: Solved?   06/21/2004
Some molecules come in left- and right-handed forms that are mirror images of each other.  All biological proteins are composed of only left-handed amino acids.  How this could have come about in a primordial soup has long been a puzzle to origin-of-life researchers, since both L (levo, left-handed) and D (dextro, right-handed) forms react indiscriminately.  (That biology is single-handed was first noted in the 1800s by
Louis Pasteur.)  For those familiar with the problem (see online book for background information), a press release from Imperial College, London is sure to draw attention.  Its optimistic title proclaims, “How left-handed amino acids got ahead: a demonstration of the evolution of biological homochirality in the lab.
    It refers to a paper in the German journal Angewandte Chemie1 by Blackmond et al., who begin their paper with a review of research on this mystery.  (Terms are defined in brackets.)
The origin of homochirality [one-handedness] has intrigued scientists ever since the biological importance of L-amino acids and D-sugars was first recognized.  Although a theoretical basis for the evolution of high optical activity [purity of one hand rotates polarized light, thus optical activity] from a minute initial imbalance of enantiomers [each hand is an enantiomer of the other hand] was suggested more than half a century ago, experimental proof of such a concept eluded scientists until a remarkable report by Soai and co-workers in 1995.  The Soai reaction offered the first, and to date the only, example of an asymmetric autocatalytic reaction employing a catalyst with a very low enantiomeric excess and ultimately yielding the catalyst with a very high enantiomeric excess catalyst as product.  While the Soai reaction serves as a mechanistic model for the evolution of homochirality, the dialkylzinc chemistry involved in the reaction is unlikely to have been of importance in an aqueous prebiotic environment.  Therefore speculation has continued concerning the types of transformations that might have been directly responsible for the development of high optical activity in biological systems.  The area of amino acid catalysis may hold significant clues to the evolution of prebiotic chemistry.
The paper presents a three-scheme model describing how, given an initial excess of one hand over the other, the products from a second and a third reaction scheme might act as catalysts, producing more reactants for the first scheme.   Here is their model in a nutshell:
We report herein a proline-mediated reaction exhibiting an accelerating reaction rate and an amplified, temporally increasing enantiomeric excess of the product.  Thus, catalysis with amino acids is implicated in an autoinductive, selectivity-enhancing process, providing the first general chemical strategy for the evolution of biological homochirality from a purely organic origin.
This hypothetical self-perpetuating, autocatalytic system might generate an excess of one hand.  The resulting purified mixture, if sufficiently isolated, might then contain the ingredients for primitive proteins.
    They used proline, the fourth-lightest amino acid, for these experiments.  A textbook describes it: “Proline, a cyclic secondary amino acid, has conformational constraints imposed by the cyclic nature of its pyrrolidine side group, which is unique among the ‘standard’ amino acids.”2
    The authors seemed surprised and delighted that the desired reaction sped up.  It was what they sought: “a process whereby the catalyst is improving over time, as in autocatalytic or autoinductive reactions, in which the reaction product either is itself a catalyst or promotes the formation of a more effective catalyst.”  To them, the non-linear rate increase was the signature of an autocatalytic reaction that amplified the desired product: “Amplification of the enantiomeric excess of the product is a key feature of a chemical rationalization of the evolution of biological homochirality.”  Despite earlier researchers’ linear reaction rate curves, that suggested no autocatalytic reaction, they saw a higher than expected rate increase.  “Rate acceleration and continuous improvement of enantiomeric excess are requisite characteristics for chemical models of the evolution of homochirality from precursors of low optical activity,” they noted.
    Some caveats were mentioned.  Cross-reactions of L- and D- reactants had to be prevented, and the environment had to be kept out of equilibrium, or it would have reverted to the mixed-handed (racemic) mixture: “However,” they speculate, “it is important to note that such erosion of enantiomeric excess is predicted only for a closed system such as that occurring in reaction vials in the laboratory.  In an open system, in which catalyst and product fluxes can exist across the system boundaries, the chemical propagation mechanism described in Scheme 1 would permit enantiomeric excess to continue to rise.  Kinetic amplification of enantiomeric excess as observed in the present studies could be sustained,” provided reaction rates between steps in the process are kept in favorable relation to one another, and enough free proline is available as input.  One other thing: since proline might condense with itself, it is unknown whether oligomers of proline would lead to “enhancement or suppression of the nonlinear effect.”  Other potentially damaging cross-reactions that might limit the effectiveness of the autocatalytic process are mentioned.
    Though limited in scope, these experiments lead the authors to believe their work is relevant to a purely mechanistic model for the origin of homochirality:
The experimental observation of an unexpectedly high, accelerating reaction rate and an amplified, temporally increasing enantiomeric excess of product in the proline-mediated aminoxylation of aldehydes is consistent with a mechanistic model for a selectivity-enhancing autoinductive process as given in Schemes 1-3.  This represents the first example of a purely organic reaction exhibiting characteristics that are key to a chemical rationalization of the evolution of biological homochirality.

1Mathew, Iwamura, and Donna G. Blackmond, “Amplification of Enantiomeric Excess in a Proline-Mediated Reaction,” Angewandte Chemie International Edition Volume 43, Issue 25, Pages 3317-3321, Published Online: June 21, 2004.
2Vogt and Vogt, Biochemistry 2nd ed., John Wiley & Sons (1995), p. 60.
Since evolutionists tend to take an inch and boast a mile, we need to bring out the tape measure to keep speculation in check.  In short, under very controlled, hypothetical conditions, one unique amino acid seemed to undergo chemical amplification of one hand.  Does this explain the 100% purity of biological proteins?  You decide.
  1. Only one amino acid was tested, and a unique one at that—proline.
  2. They did not state the value of their best enantiomeric excess.
  3. It is unrealistic to minimize the damaging effects of cross reactions.  Nature would not exclude products that would destroy any “progress.”
  4. It is also unrealistic to depend on open systems.  All real systems, both open and closed, are subject to the laws of thermodynamics.  All real systems, in time, tend toward equilibrium.
  5. The reaction required specialized ingredients and conditions.  For a feeling of this, the following paragraph from their paper is included—not that you need to understand it, but just for a look at the special care they had to take with ingredients and lab conditions.  Ask yourself how much of these special conditions tailored to proline could be generalized to the set of all amino acids, including those with polar and hydrophilic side chains.
    The key to the effectiveness of this system lies in the fact that the reaction product 3 is multifunctional; it is both an aldehyde and an amine.  Scheme 2 suggests that proline 4 may attack the carbonyl group of the reaction product 3 to form the new catalyst 5.  This reaction is virtually irreversible on the reaction timescale, since product racemization was not observed.  This species 5 is a special amine bearing an alpha-oxygen atom with lone pairs of electrons.  The alpha effect describes the unexpectedly high activity of such a nitrogen nucleophile, thought to be due in part to stabilization of the transition state by the lone pair on the oxygen alpha to the nucleophilic atom.  Thus 5 may be a highly efficient competitor to proline for nucleophilic attack on propionaldehyde, forming a new enamine, 6.  This enamine may be competent to attack PhNO, forming a transition state such as 7 by interaction with the carboxylic acid proton as a Brønsted acid cocatalyst.  This leads to the formation of product 3 and regeneration of the improved catalyst 5.
  6. The authors make no attempt to describe a plausible environment in which such specialized conditions would exist on a prebiotic earth.
  7. Any relaxation of the special conditions, and the enantiomeric excess reverses to equilibrium.
  8. The hypothesis is glued together with wiggle words like might, could, may, perhaps, and clues.
  9. Proteins require 100% pure one-handed amino acids.  Close enough is not good enough; the enantiomeric excess has to be 100%.  The addition of one wrong-handed link in a protein can destroy its function.
  10. What about sugars?  Even if a mechanism were found to amplify one amino acid, the sugars in nucleic acids are 100% right-handed.  No plausible naturalistic mechanism for creating nucleotides has been found, let alone purifying them to all one hand.
  11. Natural selection cannot be invoked unless a system can replicate itself with high fidelity.
  12. Remember, chemicals have no desire to evolve.  They are subject to the laws of mass action, thermodynamics, valency, and all the vagaries of their environment.  In a naturalistic world, with no chemist to care, the chemicals are no “better off” in one state or another.  To merely assume chemicals evolved into a living organism is an argument a posteriori based on naturalistic presuppositions.  Without a plausible demonstration of the entire sequence, it is illogical to assume, “We’re here, therefore it happened” (without a designer).
These are just a few of the problems with this story.  What’s more revealing in the paper than the bombast and hype are the damaging admissions.  They admit this has been a problem for over a hundred years, and that only a theoretical approach was suggested half a century ago.  Then, not until 1995 was there any experimental evidence for slight excess of one hand, but even then, the Soai reaction invoked unrealistic conditions for abiogenesis.  So now these authors claim theirs is the first experimental model to show any hope, subject to all the caveats listed above.  Are you impressed?
    Origin of life by the inch is a cinch; by the yard it’s hard (especially to get a yard full of trees, eventually).  We should go the extra mile for someone out of mercy, but not yield the extra inch for illogical and unsupportable claims.  Unwarranted extrapolation is undeserving of mercy.  Chemical evolution must be prosecuted to the full extent of the natural law.
Next headline on:  Physics and ChemistryOrigin of Life
Stickleback Fish Achieve Stardom in Evolutionary Labs    06/18/2004
According to Elizabeth Pennisi in Science June 18,1 the three-spine stickleback is being studied in 100 labs as a model of evolution.  Over the last century, the little fish has been the subject of some 2000 papers, seven textbooks, and a Nobel prize-winning thesis.  Evolutionists have been attracted to this fish because it appears to evolve quickly; outward changes have been observed in short time scales, especially as populations migrated from marine to freshwater environments.  Some studies have suggested “a provocative idea that a little DNA—perhaps just a single gene—can control many traits that affect an organism’s ability to thrive.”  Maybe this fish, easy to cultivate in the lab and found in a variety of natural environments, can provide evolutionists a genetic basis for rapid speciation:
Since the 1930s, the prevailing view has been that evolution moves in a slow shuffle, advancing in small increments, propelled by numerous, minor genetic changes.  But some have challenged this dogma, notably H. Allen Orr, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Rochester in New York.  In 1992, he and his colleagues argued that just a few genes, perhaps even one, could power long-term change.  Such change could rev up speciation.  Lately, the Orr camp seems to be gaining ground, in part because of studies of sticklebacks, says R. Craig Albertson, an evolutionary biologist at the Forsyth Institute in Boston.  He and others are finding that “simple genetic changes can have profound effects. 
On closer inspection, however, the effects do not appear all that profound, and the genetic bases for them appear to be of questionable value for evolutionary theory.  The marine species and the freshwater species supposedly branched apart 22,000 years ago as retreating glaciers trapped some populations in freshwater lakes.  Yet the primary differences involve lower numbers of body plates and shorter spines on the more recently-evolved freshwater populations, as well as changes in the shape of the jaw and some other bones.  From Pennisi’s review, here are the observations that are drawing evolutionists to the study of sticklebacks:
  • Convergence:  “Although they evolved to look very different from their ancestors, they often came to resemble their counterparts who were evolving in a similar way in lakes that are geographically distant....”
  • Interfertile Variety:  “‘These remarkably divergent populations have created a unique resource,’ in part because freshwater and saltwater populations can interbreed.”
  • War and Peace:  The differences appear to be adaptive:
    Oceangoing sticklebacks are built for battle.  Prominent spines stick out behind their lower fins, and their bodies are covered with as many as 35 plates—presumably to fend off predators.  But spines and plates are reduced or missing in most of their freshwater cousins, probably an adaptation to the new habitat.  It pays to lose the bulky armor, says Michael Bell, an evolutionary biologist at the State University of New York, Stony Brook: Lakes may favor lightness because they typically have places to hide, if fish can dart into them fast enough.  Because fresh water lacks the rich calcium reserves of salt water, bony armor could also be too costly to make.  Whatever the cause, “selection against [these traits] must be incredibly strong” to cause such rapid evolution, says Foster.
  • Loss of Information:
    This selective pressure seems to be targeting the same part of the genome in fish at various geographic locations.  In every population researchers have examined, from Japan to California to Iceland, they are finding the same thing: A gene or set of nearby genes is causing the loss of certain parts of the fish’s armor.  “It’s remarkable,” says Postlethwait, that a single gene could exert such a large effect in so many different groups of sticklebacks.  Along with armor, “a whole suite of bony characters is changing,” he says, including jaw shape and bones associated with protecting the gills.  This is not what researchers had expected to find.  But when they tried a breeding experiment, the same pattern emerged: Small DNA segments affected vast areas of bone and armor.
  • Dominance:  “In one experiment, they crossed marine and freshwater fish and found that the resulting offspring all had a complete set of armor and a fully formed pelvis— suggesting that the DNA, or allele, belonging to the marine fish overrode the effects of the allele of the freshwater cousins.”
  • One for All  “Next, the Oregon researchers tested to see if the altered pelvis and lateral plates of the lake fish were controlled by the same genes in each population.  They expected the opposite: that the gene involved in armor loss would be different in the three groups because each had evolved that trait independently.  But their surprising finding was that the alterations were always in the same gene.” 
  • Speed:  “Bell has found that, from an evolutionary perspective, this gene may change at lightning speeds.  In the most recent issue of Evolution, he and his colleagues report on a case in Alaska where plates disappeared in most fish within a decade.”  The results, Pennisi comments, “ suggested that natural selection had taken its toll on the armored fish in just a few years.”
  • Spinelessness:  A similar one-gene effect has been found with the pelvic spines.  Genes in freshwater populations lacking spines were missing a protein known to be active in the formation of limbs in mice.
  • Expression:  The spineless fish still had the gene for spines.  “ The solution ... is that a change in the gene’s regulation—and not in the gene itself—caused the lake sticklebacks to lose their spines.  Simply changing the way a gene is regulated in one part of the anatomy or at one point in development ‘is one of the ways to make a [change in a] very powerful development control gene without having detrimental effects,’ says Kingsley.”
  • Ignorance
    Researchers have found that other organisms such as birds seem to exhibit the same or similar new traits because of changes in the activity of the same genes, even when the species are unrelated (Science, 19 March, p. 1870).  No one knows exactly why.  It could be that certain genes or bits of regulatory DNA are particularly prone to mutation.  Or perhaps rapid evolutionary responses are channeled into genes that don’t affect development on a broad scale, so as not to short-circuit an organism’s ability to survive.  As a result, “you find the same gene involved more often than you would initially expect,” says Schluter.  He and other stickleback experts are trying to solve this puzzle.
More research is needed, she concludes:
Bell hopes that these studies will lure even more developmental, evolutionary, and genetic biologists to the study of these fish.  Evolution occurs at many levels, involving modifications of DNA sequence, alterations in development, shifts in behavior, changes in community structure, and, ultimately, survivalIt’s important to see how these various levels interact during natural selection.  Adding molecular genetics studies to stickleback science, he predicts, “will allow us to tie up everything in one neat package.”

1Elizabeth Pennisi, “Evolutionary Biology: Changing a Fish’s Bony Armor in the Wink of a Gene,”
Science, Vol 304, Issue 5678, 1736, 18 June 2004 [DOI: 10.1126/science.304.5678.1736].
Sometimes we have to provide enough detail to prove we are not making this stuff up.  If we just summarized this story with an opinion like Evolutionists base their belief in macroevolution on oscillatory changes within one species, someone might question that conclusion.  But here it is, mostly in their own words.  You just read it yourself.  We just highlighted their model organism for evolutionary studies, the one they are proud of and excited about.  They are calling all evolutionists to jump on the bandwagon because of the fantastic evidence it provides that humans came from amoebas.  And the evidence is?  They have demonstrated that some fish lost a few spines and armor plates, and got them right back again when they interbred with their marine relatives.  No speciation occurred.  Most of the evolution was due not to a genetic change, but a change in the expression of a gene.  The genes for loss always mutated the same way in widely-distributed populations.  This is not what neo-Darwinism hoped for.  Random mutation was supposed to provide the raw material for novelty and innovation, not the same mutation over and over in the same gene.  Despite all the hoopla, no novel, innovative feature emerged from all this so-called evolution.
    Surely if there were better evidence for evolution than this, it would be showcased by Science magazine.  The hype in the opening paragraphs attracted our attention, because it seemed that now, finally, we were going to get some solid evidence for real evolutionary change.  But look how trivial the results; all the populations are not only still fish, but three-spine stickleback fish.  They are all still interfertile, indicating no speciation occurred.  How is this story much different from what we already know about blind cave fish?  They are adapted to the darkness, because eyes are not of much use in the dark.  Similarly, the lake sticklebacks might be adapted to their habitat (if their just-so story holds up that armor and spines are less helpful when there are more places to hide).  On the other hand, the difference might only be a non-adaptive effect of lower concentrations of calcium, as in nutrient deficiency diseases in humans.  “Whatever the cause,” pre-existing information was either lost or unexpressed in both cases.  No new structure or function was gained.  How can this possibly be of any good news to someone who wants to explain the whole of biology by evolution?
    The article is enthusiastic about how “powerful” selection must have been, yet sprinkled with wiggle words expressing doubt: probably, maybe, might etc.  As usual, the ignorance is profound and more funding is needed, so that the evolutionary storytelling fest can go on and on and on.  But the actual evidence should make it clear that this evolutionary tale makes no more sense than claiming that a new human species is emerging from a population of scurvy sailors deprived of vitamin C.  It doesn’t take much to get an evolutionist excited.  To a prisoner, even the breeze-blown dust dancing on the floor is entertainment.  Maybe it will evolve into a tornado, and from there, a 747 can’t be far behind.
Next headline on:  Marine BiologyDarwinism and Evolutionary Theory
Editorial  06/18/2004
Writing in the Los Angeles Times June 17 (see reprint at Discovery Institute), David Klinghoffer claimed secularism is just as religious as any other religion, and is an aggressive religion competing for converts.  “There is a secular creation account – evolution through random mutation and natural selection, a just-so story increasingly challenged by scientists,” he wrote, and “There is even a flood story, told in the new movie ‘The Day After Tomorrow,’ wherein a modern-day Noah (played by Dennis Quaid) warns of an impending inundation brought on by global warming.  As in biblical tradition, his neighbors pay no attention and subsequently perish.”
Next headline on:  MediaBible and Theology

Comet Surface Wild and Crazy    06/18/2004
“Completely unexpected,” was the reaction of Donald Brownlee, principal investigator of the Stardust mission, to the photos revealed by the spacecraft that flew into the tail of Comet Wild-2 last January (see
01/02/2004 headline), reports a University of Washington press release.  The comet mission is the cover story in the June 18 issue of Science, with four scientific papers and two reviews.  Photos and information have also been released at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory Stardust website.
    Scientists expected to find a dirty, fluffy snowball of loose material, but found instead a surface unlike anything else in the solar system.  Deep flat-floored pits, craters with steep walls and pinnacles more than three hundred feet high indicate that the comet material is rigid and cohesive enough, despite the low gravity, to hold together under impacts.  Planetary scientists thought that most comets were like rubble piles loosely held together by gravity, easily torn apart by gravitational perturbations.  Maybe some are, but the sharp edges, angular shapes and steep cliffs on Wild-2 make it look brittle and very unlike an asteroid, and different than the previously-visited comets Halley and Borrelly.  Perhaps there is more variety among comets than expected.
    The comet jets on Wild-2 (pronounced vilt-2), also unexpectedly, emerge at high velocity from numerous places around the roughly circular body, rather than being sublimated off the outer surface volatiles.  Some of them appear to be collimated like the jets from a fire hose, suggesting that they emerge from pits deep in the interior.  Stardust was hit with two wallops as high-velocity dust particles from particularly strong jets pummeled its shields at hundreds of kilometers per hour on the way through the dust tail.  The spacecraft succeeded admirably, despite the hazards, in taking pictures and collecting dust particles in its aerogel collector for return to earth.
    Delighted, but perplexed, describes the mood of scientists over the mission so far.  “New in situ observations of a comet are demonstrating once again how little we understand about these dark and mysterious planetesimals,” remarked Harold Weaver in Science.1  Brownlee et al.2 claim that the surface reveals a “juxtaposition of features that are young and old” on an object thought to be a primordial relic of the formation of the solar system.  Hinting that these findings are putting theories in turmoil, an editorial in the same issue3 hopes that the return of the particles in January 2006 will “clear up any nightmares about the origin of the solar system and the dynamics of comets.”

1Harold A. Weaver, “Not a Rubble Pile?” Science, Vol 304, Issue 5678, 1760-1762, 18 June 2004 [DOI: 10.1126/science.1100581].
2Brownlee et al., “Surface of Young Jupiter Family Comet 81P/Wild 2: View from the Stardust Spacecraft,” Science, Vol 304, Issue 5678, 1764-1769, 18 June 2004 [DOI: 10.1126/science.1097899].
3“Sweet Dreams Are Made of These,” Science, Vol 304, Issue 5678, 1760, 18 June 2004 [DOI: 10.1126/science.304.5678.1760a].
Everyone should be thrilled at the success of this mission of discovery, but it does point out a lesson about scientists.  Since scientists know so little about things they can observe, and since they often find contradictions to their expectations, why should we trust any confident-sounding pronouncements about things they can’t observe?  When they talk about this comet having formed billions of years ago, how can they possibly know that?
    Brownlee’s paper says, “Pinnacles were not anticipated land forms on primitive bodies, and their origin on Wild 2 is a mystery.”  He thinks the jets, pinnacles and impact craters are young, but the rest of the comet is old, only because current theories require the solar system to be 4.6 billion years old, and comets had to form near the beginning.  But then how does he keep the comet from dissipating away completely long ago?  (See 03/27/2003 headline.)  He tells an ad hoc story to get the theory to fit the observations.  He claims Wild-2 may have repeatedly come inside Jupiter’s orbit and back out again.  But then how did the comet escape complete break-up by a collision in the planetary shooting gallery, or avoid getting ejected out of the solar system entirely, during one of those excursions?
    The nightmares may not go away entirely in January 2006.  If history is any guide, the comet dust samples will answer some questions but raise many others.  For a sweet dream, however, imagine yourself standing on the surface of the three-mile wide comet.  The gravity is so low, you could jump and launch yourself into orbit.  Cool.
Next headline on:  Solar SystemDating Methods
Fungi Supply Plant Communities With Underground Nutrient Pipeline   06/17/2004
Dig up a cubic yard of soil, and you may have disturbed 12,000 miles of an extensive network of passageways that supply plant roots with carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus.  This highway is made of fungi.  Their secret lives in the soil rarely see the light of day, but down in their cryptic, dark, subsurface world, they support most of the thriving plant communities above ground, writes Elizabeth Pennisi in the June 11 issue of Science.1  “Once considered pathogens,” she begins, “microscopic fungi that live in soil are shaping plant communities and aiding efforts in environmental restoration.”
    She tells how scientists are beginning to understand that the above-ground and underground biotas form a network of symbiotic relationships.  The thin mycelia (hair-like threads) of fungi, being 1/60th the diameter of roots, are able to wiggle between soil particles and extract minerals; they supply these to the plant roots, which in turn, reward their fungal partners with sugars.  Usually these relationships are beneficial to both parties, although some fungi are parasitic (and some plants become freeloaders on underground welfare).  Most plants, however, depend on their underground partners in a mutually beneficial way.  Long difficult to study because of their “cryptic environment” and fragility, underground fungi called mycorrhizae are providing scientists with a new paradigm about the complex web of plant life.  Pennisi lists some of the new realizations about mycorrhizae:
  • Pioneer infrastructure:  “when the first plants colonized land, mycorrhizal fungi were there,“ helping plants survive a harsh, dry landscape.  “Often the first plants to repopulate polluted or highly disturbed sites are weeds that don’t form mycorrhizae.  Only when mycorrhizal fungi move in ... does diversity blossom.”
  • Cultivation:  “By hindering water loss and erosion, they improve the soil.”
  • Toxic cleanup:  “They also protect against pathogens and dampen harm from toxic wastes—talents that researchers exploit to reduce fertilizer use and remake damaged ecosystems.”  One of her illustrations is captioned, “Mycorrhizal fungi can enable plants such as this rare flower (right) to live in polluted wastelands.”  Another study showed that “when fungi are present, they can modify a heavy metal, such as cadmium, making that toxin unavailable for uptake by the plant.”  In this way, they “sequester toxins and make soils more amenable to diverse growth.”
  • Damage repair:  “They help plants settle into damaged areas, such as those destroyed by fire.”  In fact, “some fungi build up a ‘bank’ of stored spores that become active after fires and help rejuvenate the mycorrhizae network.”
  • Pollution control:  “Mycorrhizae also cause soil particles to clump, enabling them to hold on to nutrients. At waste sites, these clumps keep toxins from becoming airborne and dangerous to people,” noted one soil ecologist.
  • Community lifeblood:  “In addition, new studies are showing that these fungal threads link one plant to another, transferring nutrients not only among fungi but from plant to plant as well, shaping the biological makeup of whole communities.”  All the species in a community are thus tapped into a common pipeline: “The mycelia pipeline can extend well beyond the immediate partners; it also provides for two-way traffic of carbon resources through the tangled maze of plant roots and fungal threads.  In this way, a large oak tree may be feeding not just its fungal partner but also other plants in its neighborhood.”  For new seedlings, this pipeline may actually be a lifeline, letting it get a foothold in the community.
In other words, fungi form an “underground highway” that links plants into a community.  DNA sampling of soil is revealing that these fungi are more diverse and widespread than previously believed.
    Furthermore, “in contrast to a widely held view—soil microorganisms aren’t always harmful.”  The world of mycorrhizal fungi is “cracking wide open,” leading ecologists to envision practical benefits that could be gained from understanding these relationships.  Scientists are finding, for instance, that adding mycorrhizae to strip mines and toxic waste dumps allows plants to become established again, without the need for polluting fertilizers.  Others are working to find the right mycorrhizal mix that will allow endangered species to become reestablished in their native environments.
    The discovery of this “underground highway“ is “changing the way people think about plant ecology.”  Results of recent investigations that portray fungi as pioneers, providers and protectors “are solidifying the idea that the fungi are movers and shakers in the plant world.”
1Elizabeth Pennisi, “The Secret Life of Fungi,”
Science, Vol 304, Issue 5677, 1620-1622, 11 June 2004 [DOI: 10.1126/science.304.5677.1620].
The old Darwinian/Malthusian picture of a dog-eat-dog world, nature red in tooth and claw, each species fighting over limited resources for survival of the fittest, just took a beating with this story.  This complex web of beneficial interactions looks mighty friendly.  You can almost picture the scouts exploring the new territory, the carpenters following behind to build the town and string the telegraph lines and railroad tracks, the sheriff and firefighters setting up headquarters and the settlers moving in to form a thriving, interactive, responsive community — all in the silent world of plants.  Where Darwinists used to see selfish, harmful microorganisms trying to steal from the land plants, they now see pioneers, providers and protectors.
    So how does evolutionary theory deal with these new realizations?  There are only three references to evolution in this paper:
  1. Once upon a time: “Four hundred million years ago, ’when the first plants colonized land, mycorrhizal fungi were there,’ helping newcomers survive in a harsh, dry landscape, [John] Klironomos explains.  Since then, the support system has grown, says Katarzyna Turnau, an ecologist at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland.  ‘Mycorrhizae [gave] the plants the ability to use different areas and to explore new niches,’ making possible the incredible diversity of modern flora.”
        This statement has no explanatory power; it merely assumes evolution.  It fails to answer how the mycorrhizae survived in sterile dirt without the sugars that land plants provide.  It assumes that resources are sufficient to create diversity, which begs the question of how that might occur.
  2. Fictitious force:  One ecologist who studied the relationships between orchids and truffles remarked that the truffles “appear to be evolution drivers.”  Sorry, truffles don’t qualify for a driver’s license.
  3. Job prospecting:  Klironomos says in conclusion, “when it comes to ecology and evolutionary biology, the [mycorrhizal] field is cracking wide open.”  I.e., here is an opening for unemployed storytellers (see 12/22/2003 headline).
In short, evolutionary theory adds nothing to these findings.  On the contrary; evolutionists appear surprised by them, because they ran counter to their expectations.  In light of the sophistication of the observed underground pipeline, its many specialized functions, and its many beneficial effects, it appears instead that the mycorrhizal field is cracking wide open for the intelligent design movement.
Next headline on:  PlantsAmazing Facts
Can Natural Processes Create a Mind?    06/16/2004
No problemo, says H. Clark Barrett (UCLA), getting a mind from mindless matter.  In a review of a book by developmental psychologist Gary Marcus published in Science June 11,1 Barrett was reassured by Marcus’ book that evolutionary theory working within natural law is up to the task: “The strengths of The Birth of the Mind lie in its sophisticated exposition of how genes guide development and its convincing argument that we need not hold out hope for some magical, as yet undiscovered, process to account for the brain’s complexityPlain old natural processes, about which we know much already, will do.
    But how can a brain, composed of billions of neurons and quadrillions of connections, arise from a genome with only tens of thousands of genes?  “Experts have made much of the claim that 30,000 genes aren’t nearly enough to specify the vast number of connections in the brain (the ‘gene shortage’),” he notes.  The answer is in the book:
With clarity and precision, Marcus, a developmental psychologist at New York University, lays to rest the rumors of a gene shortage and also rebuts the argument that minds are too complex to have been designed over evolutionary time by the process of natural selection.  He shows instead that minds are built over the course of individual development by genetically regulated processes that have been molded by natural selection to build brains that are functionally organized in ways that promoted human survival and reproduction in the evolutionary past.
We need to rise above the simplistic view of genes as static libraries of blueprints, he urges.  Instead, we should view genes as “active ‘agents’ that interact in precisely orchestrated ways to build organisms” —
The author shows us how this view allows us to understand the fantastically complex, yet fantastically well-coordinated, generation of the mind.  In cognitive science, it has long been customary to think of the brain as a computer.  Marcus shows that the developmental system that builds the brain can also be thought of as an algorithmic system, one that operates through frequent interactions with its internal and external environments.  He likens the genome to a compressed file, and the cellular machinery with which it interacts to a decompressor.  However, this developmental system is full of ingenious devices not typically found in silicon-based computers, including gradients and switches that allow its operations to be context-sensitive, feedback loops, and self-generated “test patterns” that allow the system to tune itself.  ... As Marcus makes clear, although we are vastly more complex than desktop computers and therefore have potentially many more ways of breaking, the fact that our developmental process is relatively far less prone to crashing while booting up from the zygote has everything to do with natural selection for specific developmental outcomes.
In addition, the modularity of the brain’s functions helps address the puzzle of the gene deficit.  “For example, an animal with 60 legs would not necessarily need 10 times as many genes as a six-legged animal, and although human arms and legs differ considerably, we do not require an entirely distinct set of genes for each type of limb,” he explains.  Further, gene duplication can provide novelty on which natural selection can act.
    Barrett praises Marcus for overcoming “simple-minded debates about the role of genes and evolution in shaping the human mind,” but he does find one weakness in The Birth of the Mind: “If there is a drawback to the book, it is that the author doesn’t show us exactly how a tiny number of genes builds such a complex brain, only that they can.  But he is hardly to blame for this, given that we have a long way to go before we have a complete understanding of brain development.”  That last sentiment is reinforced in a
press release from USC that says, “It’s amazing that after a hundred years of modern neuroscience research, we still don’t know the basic information processing functions of a neuron.”
1H. Clark Barrett, “Human Cognition: Dispelling Rumors of a Gene Shortage,” Science Vol 304, Issue 5677, 1601-1602, 11 June 2004 [DOI: 10.1126/science.1098610].
Let’s get this straight.  Barrett just admitted that Marcus “doesn’t show us exactly how a tiny number of genes builds such a complex brain, only that they can” – i.e., Marcus bluffed his way around a problem by making a bald, unsupported claim.  Barrett lets him off the hook for this by saying we have a long way to go before anyone understands brain development.  But in the very next sentence, he praises Marcus for making a “sophisticated exposition” of the case that “plain old natural processes” are sufficient to “account for the brain’s complexity.”  I.e., nature built a brain, how we don’t know, but my friend Marcus said so.
    Can evolutionists solve their problems by appealing to “compressed files” and modular genetic algorithms?  No; they make them worse.  In the history of computers, modular programming was a quantum leap in intelligent design over the older “spaghetti code.”  File compression was a quantum leap in intelligent design over uncompressed code.  Any junior high kid can write a text file on a computer, but if she can write software that can compress or decompress it, she’s a prodigy.
    One module may suffice to build 60 legs on a centipede, but more is going on, because those legs don’t all grow at the same spot.  Something tells these legs where to form, and coordinates their movements.  The point is, it displays even more intelligent design to use modular programming and compression, to say nothing of “ingenious devices” like “gradients and switches that allow its operations to be context-sensitive, feedback loops, and self-generated ‘test patterns’ that allow the system to tune itself.”  The layers of complexity in the brain have only increased with ongoing discoveries.  These complexities cannot be dismissed by hand-waving appeals to natural selection.  Why Science would print a simplistic explanation from an anthropologist who accuses others of engaging in simple-minded debates is another issue.
    The analogies to computers are irrelevant to evolution.  Computers were built by intelligent design, and the intelligence came from minds that beg the question of their origin.  Barrett and Marcus cannot appeal to intelligent design in computers to establish a naturalistic origin of a much more “fantastically complex, yet fantastically well-coordinated” mind.  They leave us only with a glittering generality, a just-so story, in essence claiming that natural selection acting on developmental processes solely directed at evolving survivable reproducing organisms just happened to produce, serendipitously, entities able to create and execute Rachmaninoff piano concertos and build spacecraft and navigate them to Saturn.  For us to believe that, they are going to have to provide better reasons than mere bluffing.
Next headline on:  Genetics and DNADarwin and Evolutionary TheoryHuman Body
Mars Rovers Enter New Phase of Exploration    06/16/2004
Spirit and Opportunity both still have both spirit and opportunity.  Mission scientists said yesterday that the rovers have reached new locations that provide new targets for scientific research; it’s like starting the missions all over again, they commented.
Spirit has reached the Columbia Hills, where it hopes to climb and explore rock outcrops.  It has also discovered some of the same nodules and layering seen on the other side of the planet, and some unusual cusps called cobra hoods.  Opportunity has made tentative downhill tracks that prove it is safe to enter Endurance Crater.  It sees a geological contact ahead that looks interesting.  Both rovers, with only minor glitches, are fit as a fiddle and ready to move.
Since this is a work in progress, it is premature to draw conclusions; it’s a time to enjoy the postcards from this vicarious adventure.
Next headline on:  Mars
NASA-Ames Gives Darwin Credit for Antenna Design Project    06/16/2004
A press release from
NASA-Ames Research Center claims, “NASA ‘Evolutionary’ Software Automatically Designs Antenna.”  Using artificial intelligence software, their approach converged on the best design.  The article explains:
“The AI software examined millions of potential antenna designs before settling on a final one,” said project lead Jason Lohn, a scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center, located in California’s Silicon Valley.  “Through a process patterned after Darwin’s ‘survival of the fittest,’ the strongest designs survive and the less capable do not.”
    The software started with random antenna designs and through the evolutionary process, refined them.  The computer system took about 10 hours to complete the initial antenna design process.  “We told the computer program what performance the antenna should have, and the computer simulated evolution, keeping the best antenna designs that approached what we asked for.  Eventually, it zeroed in on something that met the desired specifications for the mission,” Lohn said.
Evolutionary software appears to be more powerful than a speeding engineer:
“The software also may invent designs that no human designer would ever think of,” Lohn asserted.  In addition, the software also can plan devices that are smaller, lighter, consume less power, are stronger and more robust among many other things – characteristics that spaceflight requires, according to Lohn.
The Evolutionary Software project is funded by NASA’s Office of Exploration Systems and its Evolvable Systems Group.
Here is a teachable moment.  This story is full of logical flaws; can your kid find them?  Giving Charlie credit for this accomplishment is like giving bin Laden credit for winning the war on terrorism.  Charlie is the problem, not the solution; the success of this project was due not to evolution, but to intelligent design.
    Mr. Lohn and the author of this press release don’t even have a high school C student understanding of evolutionary theory.  Natural selection has no purpose, goal or direction.  There are no requirements.  This antenna project had requirements: “We told the computer program what performance the antenna should have,” the designer said.  The result “met the desired specifications for the mission.”  And this project employed algorithms, which are also hallmarks of intelligent guidance.  So forget the references to an evolutionary process; this was an exercise in artificial selection, not natural selection.  Artificial selection is a manifestation of intelligent design.  Phillip Johnson explained the contrast:
Plant and animal breeders employ intelligence and specialized knowledge to select breeding stock and to protect their charges from natural dangers.  The point of Darwin’s theory, however, was to establish that purposeless natural processes can substitute for intelligent design.  That he made that point by citing the accomplishments of intelligent designers proves only that the receptive audience for his theory was highly uncritical.
    Artificial selection is not basically the same sort of thing as natural selection, but rather is something fundamentally different.  Human breeders produce variations among sheep or pigeons for purposes absent in nature, including sheer delight in seeing how much variation can be achieved.  If the breeders were interested only in having animals capable of surviving in the wild, the extremes of variation would not exist.  When domestic animals return to the wild state, the most highly specialized breeds quickly perish and the survivors revert to the original wild type.  Natural selection is a conservative force that prevents the appearance of the extremes of variation that human breeders like to encourage.

(Darwin on Trial, pp. 17-18).
Johnson’s legal and logical expertise is brought to bear skillfully in his chapter on Natural Selection.  He examines the charge that natural selection is a tautology, a vacuous phrase that conveys no information.  In the case of the antenna, Jason Lohn defined “fitness” with words like strong and robust (see “Fitness for Dummies,” 10/29/2002 headline), but those are human-centric evaluations; does the antenna care whether it is strong or robust?  Real biologists understand that fitness has nothing to do with muscles or speed or anything else that we humans value.  It is only a mechanical measure of success in passing on genes.  Whenever natural selection is described in terms of success at reproduction, however, it reduces to a tautology, which by definition has no explanatory value: an organism is successful because it succeeds; a fit individual is fitter than the unfit; those who leave the most offspring leave the most offspring.  Phillip Johnson deals with the evolutionists’ comebacks to this charge, and demonstrates that, “in practice natural selection continues to be employed in its tautological formulation.”  He provides examples from leading evolutionists.
    So here were two glaring logical flaws in this story: fitness was defined in terms of value to human engineers, and intelligently-supervised results were ascribed to undirected processes.  It takes intelligence to design software that can sift through an enormous number of possibilities and detect the ones that best match the specifications.  Specification is a hallmark of intelligent design.  This story was not “patterned after Darwin’s survival of the fittest” the fact that it was patterned at all shows that it was designed.
    Not only is it illogical, it is plagiaristic to attribute what these engineers accomplished to Darwinian evolution.  The Intelligent Design Movement should get the credit.  If this were the only case, evolutionists might take offense at holding up this article as a bad example, but as we have shown in these pages, prominent evolutionists publishing in reputable journals frequently make this same logical error (see 12/30/2002, 12/13/2001, 12/19/2002, and 08/26/2003 headlines, for instance).  If evolutionists don’t understand their own theory, then the intelligent design scientists are going to have to continue to teach them all about it.
    Now ABC News got into the act.  They claim British scientists are using evolutionary theory to build fitter racing cars.  *Sigh*
Next headline on:  Darwinism and Evolutionary TheoryIntelligent DesignDumb Ideas
Dinos in the News   06/15/2004
Three dinosaur finds were reported in the last month:
  • Sauropod:  A new kind of sauropod was found in the Morrison Formation (Jurassic) in Montana, reported National Geographic News.  This kind of dinosaur was unexpected, and suggests an unknown fauna existed in a state known more for its Cretaceous meat-eaters.  The skull of this sauropod had two unexplained holes similar to those found in a couple of African dinosaurs.
  • Carnivore:  A “wrinkle-faced” abelisaurid dinosaur was found in northern Africa.  This kind of carnivorous dinosaur was previously unknown on the African continent.  Its presence calls into question earlier ideas about the timing of Africa’s presumed split from the supercontinent of Gondwana.  The discoverers feel it moves the event forward from around 120 million years ago to a shorter interval between 95 to 100 million years ago.
  • Pterosaur:  A perfectly-preserved embryo of a pterosaur was found in China inside its fossilized egg, reported Nature Science Update.  It was apparently just about to hatch when something terrible happened.  The fossil, found in the Jehol Biota in Liaoning, China where many other detailed fossils have been discovered (see 02/21/2003 headline), confirms that pterosaurs laid eggs rather than giving birth to live young.  The discoverers, who published their find in Nature1, stated that “Preservation of such delicate tissues with the skeleton and eggshell probably indicates that the embryo was killed and deposited quickly as a result of a natural disaster, such as a volcanic eruption.”
    1Wang and Zhou, “Palaeontology: Pterosaur embryo from the Early Cretaceous,” Nature 429, 621 (10 June 2004); doi:10.1038/429621a.
    There is still much to learn about dinosaurs.  The discoverers each indicated that these territories, on different continents, all have potential for many more discoveries.  In each of these cases, the findings modified previous ideas.  Notice that none of these were transitional forms.  Each was a completely operational animal, fully adapted to its environment (undoubtedly they all had fully operational molecular trucks; see 06/14/2004 headline).  Notice also that none of the fossils were found with names or dates on them.  The bones are facts in the present, but always distinguish between the facts and interpretations about the unseen past.
    Next headline on:  FossilsDinosaurs
    Phoebe Shows Her Dark, Icy Face   06/14/2004
    Planetary scientists are reveling in the sharp new pictures of Phoebe taken last Friday by the
    Cassini Spacecraft.  Phoebe is the outermost moon of Saturn, an oddball since it revolves around Saturn in the “wrong” direction at high inclination.  Nine images have been released to the public so far (click here for the gallery).  The high-resolution images, like this one, are a thousand times better than what Voyager took 23 years ago.
        Phoebe is four times farther out than Iapetus, the next-outermost moon.  Some of the craters are so large, the impacts must have come close to smashing the body apart.  The big one is 62 miles across, almost half the diameter of the moon, and it has slopes leading 12 miles down to the crater floor.
        Phoebe appears to be an ice-rich body with a coating of dark material that may be up to 1600 feet thick.  Preliminary indications suggest it is similar to Kuiper-Belt Objects (KBO) like those seen beyond Neptune, but some scientists are not sure.  More will be known once the density and composition have been determined by infrared, ultraviolet and radio science observations which are still being processed.
    Update 06/25/2004: Project scientists reported the density is 1.59, above that of water ice but below that of rock.  The surface material contains ferrous iron and, surprisingly, carbon dioxide mixed with other unknown material.  Impacts all seem to punch through a dark layer into lighter subsurface material.  Best guesses at this point is that Phoebe is indeed a captured Kuiper Belt Object similar to Pluto or Triton.  If so, it could be exuding volatiles from the surface or below, but so far, ultraviolet measurements have not detected any emissions.  It does not look like the other icy moons of Saturn, nor does it look like an asteroid.  Interdisciplinary scientist Torrence Johnson doubts that Phoebe is the source of the dark material on Iapetus.  For more information on these results released at a press conference at JPL June 23, see the Cassini media resources page.
        Now warmed up after its spectacularly successful flyby of Phoebe, the Cassini spacecraft is in excellent health as it accelerates toward its Saturn orbit insertion June 30 - July 1, a critical maneuver vital to the remainder of the mission.  It will be Cassini’s closest encounter with Saturn and its rings.  First images may be reported shortly after 5:00 a.m. PDT July 1.
    This is just a foretaste of even greater and more spectacular encounters ahead.  Cassini, with its Huygens probe that will parachute to the Titan’s surface on January 14, is poised to be one of the great historical voyages of exploration.  Now, after nearly seven years in flight it is on the verge of reaching its destination: the planet Saturn, with its 31 moons, rings, magnetosphere and mysterious large moon Titan.  Watch for news of the orbit insertion on June 30 and its closest-ever flight over Saturn’s magnificent rings.
    Next headline on:  Solar System
    How Molecular Trucks Build Your Sensors   06/14/2004
    In the film
    Unlocking the Mystery of Life, biochemist Michael Behe, describing the intricacies of cells as we know them today, claimed that there are “little molecular trucks that carry supplies from one end of the cell to the other.”  If that seems an overstatement, you should look at the illustration in Cell June 11 in a Minireview called “Cilia and flagella revealed” by Snell, Pan and Wang.1  They not only describe trucks, they’ve found a train of boxcars and a whole crew of engineers, conductors and brakemen.
        Cilia are appendages in the cell membrane that wiggle.  Everybody’s got them; they are ubiquitous in organisms, from bacteria to humans.  They line our respiratory tract, cleaning debris from our lungs.  They help our senses of smell and eyesight.  They are important for kidney function.  They may look simple, but only recently are scientists beginning to appreciate the complexity inside.  The authors begin:
    Our view of cilia has changed dramatically in the decade since Joel Rosenbaum and his colleagues discovered particles rapidly moving (2-4 micrometers/s) up and down within the flagella of the biflagellated green alga, Chlamydomonas (Kozminski et al., 1993).  Once cell biologists identified the cellular machinery responsible for this intraflagellar transport (IFT), it became clear that IFT is essential for the assembly and maintenance of cilia and flagella in all eukaryotes (Rosenbaum and Witman, 2002).  As we will outline in this brief review, the increased focus on these organelles has revealed that nearly all mammalian cells form a cilium, that the ciliary apparatus (a cilium plus its basal body) is somehow connected with cell proliferation, and that cilia play key (and as yet poorly understood) roles in development and homeostasis.
    Michael Behe in his book Darwin’s Black Box had a whole chapter on how cilia move (see these illustrations).  Recently, however, it has been appreciated that nonmotile cilia can also act as sensory probes.  The authors explain:
    Several properties of cilia recommend them for use as sensory transducers.  They project a cell type-specific distance from the cell body, making them exquisitely designed probes of the external milieu; both their overlying membrane and their cytoplasmic contents are relatively well isolated from the cell body, thereby offering all of the advantages of compartmentalization; the machinery for their assembly makes possible rapid, regulated transport of proteins between the organelles and the cell body; and, the assembly machinery seems exploitable for use directly in signaling pathways.
    Now that we know cilia are vital, it’s what goes on inside the narrow shafts during construction that is truly remarkable.  The authors mentioned IFT, or intraflagellar transport, a class of proteins that operate the transportation system.  During construction of a cilium or flagellum, parts need to be transported to the growing tip, or axoneme.  The IFT particles move up and down the inside walls of the shaft.  They describe how this works.  Watch for the word trucks:
    This flow of materials is driven by the IFT machinery.  Flagellar proteins synthesized in the cell body are carried to the tip of the flagellum (the site of assembly of the axoneme) by IFT particles, which are composed of at least 17 highly conserved proteins that form A and B complexes.  The plus end-directed microtubule motor protein kinesin II is essential for movement of particles and their cargo toward the tip (anterograde transport) of the flagellum, and a cytoplasmic dynein carries IFT particles back to the cell body (retrograde transport).  Thus, IFT particles function as constantly moving molecular trucks on a closed loop.  The tracks they travel on are the microtubule doublets of the ciliary/flagellar axoneme, microtubule motors power them, and the individual structural components (e.g., microtubule subunits, dynein arms, and radial spoke proteins) of the cilium/flagellum are their cargo.
    The construction system they describe next is reminiscent of a gondola at a ski resort, a series of ore carts in a mine shaft, or a conveyor at a rock quarry.  If you can picture architects building a tall structure like the Seattle Space Needle or the Eiffel Tower, imagine the engineers first devising a way to get the raw materials to the growing top.  Suppose they design a double trackway that can be extended in length as the structure grows.  Attached to this track are self-propelled dump trucks that can climb up the tracks, and another set of dump trucks that can climb down.  Each truck can carry a load of cargo.  New trucks are constantly added at the bottom, and old ones upon reaching the base are removed.  A pool of trucks and drivers is always available to traverse this vertical highway.  With this automated system running, workers at the top can take the cargo and build with it, and send waste products down the other side.  This two-way transportation system works not only to build the tower, but to dismantle it.
    Figure 2 presents a model for regulation of assembly, disassembly and for regulation of flagellar length.  In this model, the rate of particle entry and the number of particles per unit length are independent of length, and cargo loading is regulated.  Thus, in a rapidly growing flagellum (in the extreme case), every particle entering carries cargo, and every particle returning to the cell body is empty.  Once the proper length is attained, length control mechanisms engage.  At this steady-state length, the number of IFT particles entering and leaving per unit time is unchanged, but the proportion of cargo-loaded IFT particles that enters the flagella comes to equal the proportion of cargo-loaded IFT particles that leaves the flagellum.  In a disassembling flagellum, the situation is reversed from that of a growing flagellum, and (in the extreme case) every particle that enters the flagellum is empty and every particle that leaves the tip is full.  Thus, by regulating cargo binding to particles at both the base and the tip, and by controlling of assembly and disassembly of axonemal components at the tip (presumably driven by mass action and regulatory proteins), cells specify assembly/growth, steady-state length, or disassembly/resorption.
    The diagram in their figure shows what look like little ore-carts climbing up to the tip and back.  The authors describe next how these tall structures function not only as oars and outboard motors, but as chemical antennae.  Experiments have “called to the attention of cell biologists the under-appreciated but hardly insignificant role of cilia in sensory transduction.”  Here are some of your body parts that depend on these miniature probes that extend out from the cell into the surrounding environment, sensing what’s out there:
    Humans experience the environment through cilia in major sensory organs.  The outer segments of retinal rod cells are modified, nonmotile cilia, replete with photoreceptors for interacting with light; and the odorant receptors in the olfactory epithelium are peppered over the surface of the cilia of olfactory neurons.  Moreover, almost every mammalian cell contains a solitary cilium, called a primary cilium, whose most likely function is in signaling (Pazour and Witman, 2003).  For example, many of the neurons in brain contain primary cilia, some of which express receptors for somatostatin and serotonin (Pazour and Witman, 2003).  Perhaps the most striking example of the importance of primary cilia in homeostasis [i.e., dynamic equilibrium] comes from work on the epithelial cells of the collecting tubules in the kidney.  The primary cilium on each renal tubule cell functions as a flow sensor both in vivo and in MDCK cells in vitro.  Bending the cilium causes a large, transient increase in intracellular calcium concentration and a consequent alteration in potassium conductance (references in Boletta and Germino [2003]).
    Each of these cilia, and many more, are constructed by this molecular transportation system.  How many parts are involved in building a cilium?  If this system were magnified a hundred million times, children might find this the ultimate Lego toy:
    New proteomic and genomic studies may finally provide a platform for discovery of most of the as yet unidentified genes that encode ciliary/flagellar proteins.  A proteomic analysis of the axoneme of human cilia identified over 200 potentially axonemal proteins (Ostrowski et al., 2002).  Several of the proteins were previously identified as being in the axoneme, but many have no homologs or are of unknown function.
    (That would be over 200 different kinds of pieces, kids, and a lot of each.)  From genomic studies, they estimate it would require at least 362 genes to build a motionless cilium, and “more than 400-500 genes that are predicted to be needed for forming and regulating the ciliary apparatus”  One team measured the proteome (set of proteins) required to build the basal body (the bottom foundation of the structure) and flagellum to consist of 688 genes.  “There is no doubt,” they say, “that the FABB [flagellar and basal body] proteome represents an incredibly rich resource.”
        Failure of cilia and flagella to develop properly are implicated in many diseases (see “Don’t mutate this gene, or else” in the 10/01/2003 headline).  Even some human obesity disorders might be traced to ciliary breakdown, as well as hypertension, diabetes and other “seemingly unrelated clinical problems”.
        The authors do not speculate on how such a complex system with so many parts might have evolved, other than to assume that it did: for instance, “Paralogs of other mitotic proteins have also evolved to play roles in cilia.”  They also claim that plants unevolved them: they seem to have lost the 400-500 genes needed for building cilia or flagella, if they ever had them.  The authors examine studies in comparative genomics to determine how many of the cilia/flagella genes are ancestral, going back to the original machinery in the simplest alga or bacterium.  One study compared the IFT genes in several organisms with those in fruit flies:
    Using a large number of genomes provided stringent criteria and identified 187 candidate ancestral ciliary genesSixteen are conserved in all ciliated organisms examined and absent in all nonciliated organisms; 18 are present only in organisms with motile cilia; 103 are common to organisms that utilize only conventional ciliogenesis; and 50 are shared only by organisms that form motile cilia in the ciliary compartment.
    Other studies are cited; 67% of the basal body genes in green algae and 90% of their flagellar and IFT genes were present in the full FABB proteome.  It appears, therefore, that this transportation system evolved early on, if it did, and has not changed much since.
    1William J. Snell, Junmin Pan, and Qian Wang, “Minireview: Cilia and Flagella Revealed: From Flagellar Assembly in Chlamydomonas to Human Obesity Disorders,” Cell, Vol 117, 693-697, 11 June 2004.
    Although this is a headlines service, sometimes we need to give enough detail to show just what the Darwinians are up against in the age of molecular biology.  As Michael Behe said in the film, scientists in Darwin’s day thought the cell was just a blob of protoplasm, not much different than a piece of jello.  Now, here is just one example of hundreds of complex systems in the cell that could drive the point home that a cell is a sophisticated factory of molecular machines running off self-correcting programmed instructions (and that is a simplistic understatement).  These authors admit that the intraflagellar transport system was already functional in green alga and bacteria, with no precursors.  The genes for the most part have changed little or none all the way to humans.  Even taking their most optimistic claim that 18 genes for motile cilia might be ancestral, when you consider that getting just one of them by chance is astronomically improbable in the best of all possible worlds (see online book), an honest evolutionist must surely throw up his hands in utter despair to believe that time and chance could produce such wonders.
        Wouldn’t it be fun to take this knowledge in a time machine back to 1859 and show it to Charlie and his bulldog?  Actually, it would be cruel.  Chuck was already plagued by an upset stomach, and this would be like giving him a gallon of ipecac with free lifetime refills.
    Next headline on:  Cell BiologyGenetics and DNAAmazing Facts
    Science Remembers Reagan    06/11/2004
    In commemoration of Ronald Reagan on the day of national memorial service,
    Science Now reproduced four quotes from the former President’s policy statements on science.
    The leftist editors of the Darwin Party mouthpiece Science couldn’t resist dredging up the oft-ridiculed quote about trees causing air pollution, which they cited from the leftist-environmentalist Sierra Club’s magazine.  We remind our readers, however, that Reagan’s claim was vindicated by scientists (see 03/17/2003 headline).
        The quotes provided by ScienceNow were offered with no praise for all Reagan had done.  They were just reproduced in sterile, colorless starkness as if to fulfill an obligation at best, or get in a subtle jab at worst.  Shame on Science.  Reagan, by hastening the end of the Cold War, did more to liberate science than any world leader.  Ask the scientists that were incarcerated behind the iron curtain whether they appreciate his calling the Soviet Union the evil empire it was.  Ask also the American scientists that were hindered from collaborating with east-bloc counterparts for those Communist-dominated decades if they appreciate the opportunity now to attend science conferences in Moscow freely, and have former enemies as friends.  Ask the scientific institutions that profited from the economic boom of the 1980s.
        NASA TV, to its credit, broadcast all during the week excerpts from historic speeches by Reagan that showed his support for the space program.  Scientists of all stripes should join in celebrating the life of Ronald Reagan, who demonstrated that there is far more to being a man and making a difference in the world than having a technical PhD or being able to manipulate equations.
        The dignified, artistic and unashamedly religious honors being paid to Ronald Reagan today in the National Cathedral derive from a worldview that exalts God as Creator and the individual person as His unique creation for whom He cares.  Atheists must stand in silence at this spectacle, having no hope or joy that can compare to Amazing Grace3, the Sermon on the Mount, the Puritan sermon by John Winthrop, the Battle Hymn of the Republic and the promise of Jesus Christ, “I am the resurrection and the life.”  To the leader who ended every speech with “God bless America,” we say “Thank you, Mr. President.”
        We also ask God’s blessing on our current president who, understanding Reagan’s influence and legacy as expressed in his moving eulogy today, must also show courageous leadership in battling another evil empire – one that again threatens not only science, but life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness of everyone around the world.  The leftist liberals who dominate scientific institutions, who are clueless about what really matters in life,2 should step aside and put their hands over their mouths.  If America is allowed to remain the shining city on a hill, all people, including scientists, will bask in that light.
    2Jared Diamond (UCLA) this week in Nature (June 10), for instance, attributed the differences in the prosperity of nations entirely to geographical factors and natural resources.  He discounted almost entirely the bad ideas, false ideologies and lies – and the dictatorships built on them – that are far more responsible for limiting the ability of people to fulfill their potential.  Was it not the power of great ideas that was celebrated by the world at today’s solemn ceremonies?
    3The hymns heard in the services for Ronald Reagan were on a totally different wavelength from the Darwin Party propaganda channel, which only plays reruns out of the Evolution Songbook.  Imagine the consternation of a Darwinian watching the whole country focused on these majestic hymns: God of Our Fathers; Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me; Softly and Tenderly Jesus Is Calling; Just As I Am; Jesus, Lover of My Soul; Abide With Me; Fairest Lord Jesus, Ruler of All Nature; Battle Hymn of the Republic; Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty; When I Survey the Wondrous Cross; Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me; Faith of Our Fathers; More Love to Thee, O Christ; My Faith Looks Up to Thee and God Bless America.  You can look up the words to these and thousands of other hymns in the Cyber Hymnal.

    Next headline on:  Politics and Ethics
    MRI Overtaking X-Rays    06/11/2004
    British Medical Journal 12 June cover story1 says that recent advances in magnetic resonance imaging may soon make MRI supersede X-ray as the preferred technology for whole body imaging.  MRI avoids the damage caused by X-rays and provides more contrast and detail, especially in the detection of cancer.  MRI is also replacing traditional autopsy techniques.  See the summary on EurekAlert.
    1Eustace and Nelson, “Whole body magnetic resonance imaging,” British Medical Journal 2004;328:1387-1388 (12 June), doi:10.1136/bmj.328.7453.1387.
    The article mentions Raymond Damadian and references his seminal 1971 paper.  Damadian was slighted by the Nobel committee last year (see 10/10/2003 headline) but won the Ben Franklin Medal and Bower Award this year to add to his lifetime honors for inventing this life-saving technology.  Answers in Genesis found a quote by evolutionist Michael Ruse, in which he speculates that the main reason the Nobel committee bypassed Damadian was because of his creationism.  That is scandalous.  Though an ardent anti-creationist, Ruse sympathized with the outrage over the unjust decision, stating, “I cringe at the thought that Raymond Damadian was refused his just honor because of his religious beliefs.”
    Next headline on:  Health
    Talk to Your Dog: He’s Listening    06/10/2004
    Science Now and Nature Science Update both describe a border collie named Rico that can identify 200 objects by name.  The dog exhibits the same “fast-mapping” skill of a three-year-old child learning to associate sounds with objects.  The owner calls out “dinosaur” and the dog picks up the blue dinosaur toy.  He calls “doll” and the dog correctly picks up the red doll, and any other object in the vocabulary, with 90% accuracy.  Rico can even learn new objects after just one exposure, and remember them weeks later.  The dog’s ability does not extend to language syntax, but his ability has caused some to speculate on the evolution of human language.  NSU says,
    The dog’s magnificent memory shows that canines share some aspects of the language skill that evolved in humans, says Julia Fischer from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, who reports her findings in Science.1
        But canines’ ability to comprehend speech can only have manifested itself after they were domesticated, some 15,000 years ago, and human speech is thought to have evolved 100,000 to 200,000 years ago.  So Fischer’s findings suggest that the ability to match novel words and items has evolved twice, first in humans and then in dogs.

    1Kaminski, Call and Fischer, “Word Learning in a Domestic Dog: Evidence for ‘Fast-Mapping’,” Science Vol 304, Issue 5677, 1682-1683, 11 June 2004, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1097859].
    OK, we have to tell the customary talking dog joke.  A dog owner took his mutt into a Hollywood talent agent’s office, and exclaimed, “I’d like to show you my talking dog, Frodo.”  The agent replied with an “I’ve-seen-it-all” smirk, “Talking dog, eh?  Perhaps you could demonstrate your pet’s language skills for me.”  “OK, Frodo, here’s our big chance,” the owner replied, looking at his bright-eyed, panting companion.  “Ready?  I’ll ask a question, and you answer it for the gentleman.  What is on top of a house?”  “Roof!” came the eager response.  “What does sandpaper feel like?”  “Ruff!” barked the dog.  “Who was the greatest baseball player of all time?”  Without any hesitation, the dog answered, “Ruth!”
        “Will you get outta here?” the agent responded, showing them both the door.  Forlorn, the man walked his dog back to the car.  “Too bad, Frodo, I thought you were terrific.”  “Maybe I shoulda said Lou Gehrig,” the dog replied.
        Rico is a good dog because God gave these animals intelligence.  Dogs are bright, multi-talented, and a lot of fun.  This story has nothing to do with evolution.  As smart as Rico is, he doesn’t understand syntax and semantics.  He just associates a sound with an object, and knows that if he fetches it for the master, he will get a dog biscuit.  If the owner said, “Darwinism,” the dog would tilt its head quizzically, unless he learned to associate it with an object and knew it meant to run and fetch the stuffed monkey.
        As much as we would like to think Lassie understands Timmy’s dialogue, she is just responding to the offstage trainer’s cues.  Dogs are not evolving upward into philosophers.  Memory, vocabulary, conditioned response, and association are common talents of animals: as they say, “an elephant never forgets,” and even crows have a remarkable set of calls to signal one another.  There are parrots who can say whole sentences and even sing opera.  That doesn’t mean they know what they are saying.  Only humans converse in meaningful sentences with abstract reasoning.
        Enjoy this article for the wonder of design in animals and the joy of pets.  Watching evolutionists revert to Darwinian storytelling every time they see a wonder of nature is as disgusting as watching a dog return to its own vomit.
    Next headline on:  Mammals
    Darwinists Fight Over Niche Construction Theory   06/09/2004
    According to the
    Sacramento Bee last week, Roseville teachers who rejected the “Quality Science Education Policy” (see 06/04/2004 headline) did so because “there are no scientifically valid arguments against the theory of evolution.”  They must not be reading Nature.
        In the current June 10 issue,1 three scientists say there has long been “vigorous debate” about basic evolutionary theory.  Laland, Odling-Smee and Feldman do not dispute whether evolution occurred, but their “niche construction” approach has touched off “strong and polarized responses” from evolutionists.  Though they consider this “fuss” a comparatively mild “spat” compared to earlier rows over lamarckism, punctuated equilibria and group selection, the theory of niche construction was heretical enough for Darwinist champion Richard Dawkins to term it “pernicious.”  (For more on niche construction, see 10/23/2003 headline fourth item, 03/17/2003 headline, or see its promoters’ website,  The basic idea behind niche construction is that adaptation is a two-way street:
    At the heart of the controversy lies the nature of causality in evolution.  Adaptation is conventionally seen as a process by which natural selection shapes organisms to fit pre-established environmental ‘templates’.  The causal arrow points in one direction only: it is environments, the source of selection, that determine the features of living creatures.
        Yet it is also obvious that organisms bring about changes in environments.  Numerous animals manufacture nests, burrows, holes, webs and pupal cases.  Plants change the levels of atmospheric gases and modify nutrient cycles.  Fungi decompose organic matter, and bacteria engage in decomposition and nutrient fixation.  The standard view of evolution does not deny this, but treats niche construction as no more than the product of selection.
        Conversely, from the niche-construction perspective, evolution is based on networks of causation and feedback.  Organisms drive environmental change and organism-modified environments subsequently select organisms.  The argument that niche construction does not play a causal role in evolution because it is partly a product of natural selection, makes no more sense than would the counter-proposal that natural selection can be disregarded because it is partly a product of niche construction.
    It is this robbing of natural selection of some of its power that seems to anger the conventional Darwinists.  Yet the niche constructionists provide a couple of examples that show how the modified environment must be taken into account when deciding how natural selection operates:
  • “When a beaver builds a dam it not only affects the propagation of dam-building genes, but it must also transform the selection acting on a host of other beaver traits.”
  • “Contemporary earthworms are adapting to a soil environment largely constructed by their ancestors.”
    First proposed in the 1980s by Richard Lewontin, niche construction was at first largely ignored.  Now, these authors feel it is “a fact of life.”  It is not just man that adapts himself, as Theodosius Dobzhansky used to claim.  All organisms modify the environment that selects their traits; this is a ubiquitous process, and can no longer be disputed.
        It seems intuitively obvious.  Why the controversy, then?  Perhaps because niche construction “changes the evolutionary dynamic” and can actually put the brakes on natural selection:
    Niche construction can create new equilibria, affect the stability of others, generate unusual phenomena, such as momentum effects (where populations continue to evolve in the same direction after selection has stopped or reversed) and inertia effects (a delayed evolutionary response to selection), as well as opposite and catastrophic responses to selection.
    Such realizations might raise a host of new questions.  Nevertheless, the authors are optimistic, and suggest some fruitful lines of research.  A number of evolutionists are jumping on this bandwagon.  This “alternative panorama” may prove to be a “fleeting fad”; but if not, David Hull’s ominous prophecy may be fulfilled: “the result should be a massive reorientation of evolutionary theory.”
    1Kevin N. Laland, John Odling-Smee, and Marcus W. Feldman, “Causing a commotion: Niche construction: do the changes that organisms make to their habitats transform evolution and influence natural selection?” Nature 429, 609 (10 June 2004); doi:10.1038/429609a.
    To be fair before discussing this “spat” among evolutionists, it must be clarified that the parties on both sides are committed naturalists who affirm that unguided, unplanned, purposeless natural processes created humpback whales and hippo sunscreen out of bacteria.  All the combatants would have risen up in holy horror at Roseville to protest the insertion of any doubts about evolution into the biology curriculum.  That being understood, think about this controversy.  What damage does niche construction do to evolutionary theory?  Why would Dawkins call the reasoning “pernicious”?  What do the ongoing intramural battles tell us about the “fact” of evolution?
        Each of these internal controversies – whether lamarckism, punctuated equilibria, group selection or niche construction – has questioned the core belief of Darwinists, that Charlie’s mechanism, a simple process so intuitively obvious it elevated bacteria-to-man evolution to the status of accepted truth, is perfectly capable of explaining everything.  Remember, it was the discovery of a plausible mechanism of evolution that made Charlie famous.  Apparently, quite a few evolutionists do not consider it all that plausible.  The fundamentalist Darwinists insist Charlie’s original dogma must be kept sacrosanct (see 05/31/2004 headline).  Yet ever since Darwin, heretical views have threatened the integrity of the myth.  Lamarckism is pretty much dead, falsified by experiment (even though Darwin himself became more Lamarckian in his old age—see February 2004 bio of Kelvin).  The radical view called punctuated equilibria arose because the fossil record, with its systematic gaps, did not support Darwinian gradualism.  Group selection was a sect that cast doubt on Darwin’s orthodoxy of individual selection.  We could add to the list the heresies of sympatric speciation and neo-Gaia.  Now, the cult of niche construction tends to complicate Dawkins’ life by telling him that the vectors of natural selection and the environment interact in complex ways, often opposing each other (see 03/17/2003 headline).
        Whichever you think is the best storytelling plot, let’s ask some serious questions about this article and its relevance to the heated arguments occurring at school board meetings all around America, both in big cities and small towns, about the teaching of evolution.  Do you feel that any of the Darwin Party storytellers has a real, defensible, comprehensive account of how bacteria evolved into humans?  If so, why is it controversial to other evolutionists?  Why are the controversies heated enough for them to call each other names and question each others’ motives?  Has any of them provided a detailed account, with all the transitions that would be required, to explain the emergence of a single complex organ?  (See 08/20/2003 headline.)  Have the newly-acquired genomes of dozens of different organisms fulfilled what Darwinists predicted?  (See 06/09/2004 and 01/02/2003 headlines.)  Has the fossil record filled in the gaps that Darwin himself acknowledged were a major problem for his theory?  (See 06/02/2004 headline.)  Is there any reason why the eyes and ears of high school students should be shielded from these controversies and failings of Darwin’s theory?  Do these controversies have anything to do with Christianity or any other religion?  If not, why is the mantra “separation of church and state” invoked to subvert proposals for honest discussion about problems with evolutionary theory?  Can you think of any other reason, other than a sincere desire to educate students honestly, that the ACLU, the National Center for Science Education, and other Darwinist front groups are so adamant that no scientific criticisms of Darwinism are permissible in the schools?  If you engaged in these mental exercises, you just committed the very crime the Darwin-only side is trying to prevent.  You utilized critical thinking skills.
    Next headline on:  EducationDarwinism and Evolutionary Theory
    Worm Genes Show Non-Evolutionary Pattern    06/09/2004
    Biologists at New York University compared genes of roundworms to look for evidence of evolutionary ancestry.  What they found was not what they expected.  They found more genetic variation between outwardly-similar worms than between mice and men.  Their results were published online in PNAS June 7.1
        The roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans is a model lab organism for genetic studies.  Kiontke et al. compared it with 7 other worms of the same genus and four other related species.  They first devised a family tree of the worms, based on commonly-accepted phylogenetic techniques.  Despite the fact that only subtle morphological differences exist between most of the species, they found major differences in intron counts (with intron loss apparently much more frequent than intron gain).  They also deduced that a specialized form of hermaphroditism (ability to self-fertilize) evolved separately in two species, C. elegans and C. briggsae, by convergent evolution.  Summarizing all the differences they found, they stated with obvious surprise that “despite the lack of marked morphological diversity, more genetic disparity is present within this one genus than has occurred within all vertebrates.”
        The amount of genetic diversity between these worms is all the more surprising considering the impact one change can sometimes have.  In another paper published in PNAS the same day,2 a team of scientists studied a genetic disease called progeria that makes children die of old age at 13.  The disease is caused by a single point mutation in one spot, the lamin A gene, that is important in maintaining the structure of the nucleus.
        Why the worms show so much genetic diversity despite little outward visible difference was puzzling to the biologists.  They postulated it might be due to stabilizing selection (influences that, despite genetic changes, produce results analogous to treading water or running in place).  Alternatively, “developmental constraints may limit the ‘evolvability’ of Caenorhabditis,” they suggested.  Or maybe the worms’ molecular clock ticks at much higher rates than in higher organisms, although they dispute the idea.
        They leave it as an unsolved puzzle how similar-looking worms could show more genetic diversity than vertebrates (including mice, rats, hamsters, zebrafish and humans).  “It had been noted previously that the genetic distance between humans and chimpanzees seemed too small to account for their substantial organismal differences.  However,” they observe, “the situation is strikingly reversed in Caenorhabditis.”
    1Kiontke et al., “Caenorhabditis phylogeny predicts convergence of hermaphroditism and extensive intron loss,”
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.0403094101, published online before print June 7, 2004.
    2Goldman et al., “Accumulation of mutant lamin A causes progressive changes in nuclear architecture in Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.0402943101, published online before print June 7, 2004.
    Molecular phylogenetics is not providing the evidence of common ancestry for which evolutionists had hoped.  Since it looks like an exercise in futility, can we move on to better things now? (see yesterday’s headline, for instance.)
    Next headline on:  Genetics and DNADarwinism and Evolutionary Theory
    How Many Neurons Does It Take to See a Picture?   06/08/2004
    Israeli scientists publishing in Current Biology1 attempted to determine how many neurons participate in the representation of a single image.  At least a million was their conservative answer: probably more like 30 or 300 million or more.  They made careful measurements of neural activity when subjects were shown a face or a house.  In the brain, there are about 60,000 neurons per cubic millimeter, each joined to hundreds of neighboring neurons in complex ways.
    1Levy, Hassan and Malach, “One Picture Is Worth At Least a Million Neurons,”
    Current Biology, Vol 14, 996-1001, 8 June 2004.
    Remember that their answer was a minimum; they seemed overly cautious to err on the conservative side.  And this was for simple, stationary images.  Undoubtedly many more neurons are firing constantly in our usually complex, moving field of view.  Each eye has about 120 megapixel resolution (see 07/13/2001 headline), and complex image processing takes place in the eye before the neurons receive the data (see 05/22/2003 headline).
    Next headline on:  Human BodyAmazing Facts
    Weeds to Your Health   06/08/2004
    Why traverse the rain forests for miracle drugs,
    EurekAlert asks, when the weeds we yank out of our gardens may hold promise for curing a host of common health woes.  John Richard Stepp (University of Florida) claims that fast-growing, herbaceous field plants are more likely to hold useful substances than those deep in jungles.  Indigenous Americans tended to gather more medicinal plants from the fields than the forests.  Though weeds constitute only 3% of plant species, they make up a third of the plants used in pharmaceuticals, he discovered.
        Stepp also worked among indigenous peoples and found they had considerable knowledge about their native plants.  In Chiapas, he found that “Mayan residents use weeds for all sorts of day-to-day illnesses, such as common colds, upset stomachs, skin rashes, and aches and sprains.”  He talked with 4- and 5-year old Mayan children who could name 100 local plants.  “An American kid might be able to name 100 Pokemon characters, but if you ask him the names of three plants, he would probably have a real hard time,” he remarked.
        Stepp and other botanists feel there is a veritable living pharmacy right outside the door and along trailsides.  This overlooked treasury is readily available, costs nothing, and is often more effective than synthetic drugs.  But heed their caution: “Americans may be able to get similar benefits from weeds as do people in developing countries, although he warns that people shouldn’t experiment on their own.”
    How many native plants in your neighborhood can you name, and how many do you know how to use?  Teaching your children about local native plants is much more profitable than letting them waste time watching Pokemon or whatever the latest fad on TV.  For today’s jaded youth, it’s a pretty cool discovery that it’s possible to reach down and pick a wild plant to eat, use another as a natural sunscreen or insect repellant, and find one to make soap or rope.  You must exercise great caution, however, since there are poisons and irritants to avoid (remember the joke about poison ivy?  It’s an “all-natural herb that does wonders to your skin.”)  Find a knowledgeable teacher, preferably part Indian guide and part PhD botanist, and use a reliable book on wild plants.  Be extra wary of mushrooms, since even experts can confuse edible ones with poisonous look-alikes.  But you never know; learning how to use wild plants could save your life some day.  Camps, recreation centers and parks should incorporate plant lore into their activities.
        The study of native plants also provides an opportunity for research labs to apply good scientific method, employing carefully controlled experiments, to make discoveries for the benefit of mankind – like science used to be done.  It requires no Darwinian storytelling, either, weed reckon.
    Next headline on:  PlantsHealth
    DNA Folds With Molecular Velcro   06/07/2004
    Many have heard how the inventor of Velcro got the idea from plant seeds that stick to clothing, but now Carlos Bustamente and team of
    Howard Hughes Medical Institute have found a velcro-like principle operating at a scale millions of times smaller.  Small proteins called condensins are involved in the elaborate folding that DNA undergoes as it is wrapped into chromosomes.  The team developed an ingenious method of gently pulling on DNA strands compacted with condensin.  Bustamente relates, “when we began to pull it apart carefully, we saw it extend in a sawtooth pattern of force, like the click-click-click of Velcro unzipping.”  When they relaxed the force, it collapsed back, then repeated the same pattern when pulled apart again.  “That perfect reproducibility strongly suggested to Bustamante and his colleagues that they were seeing a condensed structure with a well defined organization,” the press release explains.  Surprisingly, this reversible reaction did not require the expenditure of ATP.
    This is just one of the clever design features in the cell that allows over six feet of fragile DNA to be folded and compacted into a nucleus a few millionths of an inch wide.  For a simplified view of how this all works, see the PBS “Journey Into DNA,” available in Flash format or as a web page.  (The condensin comes into play in the frames where DNA forms tight loops.)  Even more amazing is that this tight packing still allows the translation machinery to find the right gene, gain access, and do its work.  For a glimpse of this additional complexity, see the 06/13/2002 and 03/08/2002 headlines.
    Next headline on:  Cell BiologyGenetics and DNAAmazing Facts
    The Evolution of Infidelity   06/07/2004
    BBC News placed a sultry photo of a likely-undressed man and woman about to kiss alongside the headline of a story, “Genes may be to blame for infidelity.”  They report on the speculation by Tim Spector (Twin Research Unit, St. Thomas Hospital) that “if one of a pair of twins had a history of infidelity, the chances her sister would also stray were about 55%” instead of the estimated 23% of women who supposedly are not faithful (how this statistic was ascertained was not disclosed).
    He stressed that genes alone did not determine whether somebody was likely to be unfaithful – much was down to social factors.
        But he said it made good sense in evolutionary terms to get a good mix of genes – and for women to chose a better option if one came along.
        However, he stopped short of concluding that there is an infidelity gene.     He said: “There is unlikely to be a single gene for anything like this.  But there are likely to be genes that participate in it, a number of genes working together, it might be things like risk taking or those associated with personality.”
    A social psychologist is quoted denying that the behavior is genetically based, but more likely based on imitation of the parent.
    Notice the moral schizophrenia in this story even if you accept the premise.  Alongside the strictly naturalistic explanation for immorality are the words infidelity and unfaithfulness, and the word good, all words loaded with moral connotations.  But if unfaithfulness evolved as a sexual selection strategy, if it “makes good sense in evolutionary terms,” who is to call it unfaithful?  It is certainly faithful to the only one who matters in Darwin’s universe: me, myself, I.  So yes, selfishness makes perfect sense in a selfish universe, because selfishness is the highest good.
        Do you see, dear reader, how destructive evolutionary thinking can be in the most intimate matters of the heart?  This article essentially encourages the cheater, saying, “You can’t help it; you are doing just what your genes lead you to do.  In fact, what you are doing makes perfect evolutionary sense and is actually a good thing for #1.” 
    Notice that fellow evolutionists rarely condemn this kind of nonsense.  If they disagree with it, they usually just replace one evolutionary just-so story with another.  None dare call it immoral, even when it involves crime (see 07/18/2003 headline about the evolution of rape).  Michael Ruse once rationalized the genocide in Nazi Germany in evolutionary terms, refusing to call it evil, but instead claiming that such societies are usually “unstable.”  That means that, conceivably, if it were stable, it would make perfect evolutionary sense.  Democracy, on the contrary, is not stable either; “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”  So is the Bill of Rights doomed to failure, because it counters the evolutionary pressure of natural selection?  Is that why so many Darwinians in elite universities are Marxists?  Let’s conduct a survey of how many evolutionists cheat on their spouses, to make sure they are not just promoting Darwinism as a pseudoscientific rationalization for their behavior.
        So, Mr. Spector, you’ve told us a nice little story about how cheating makes perfect evolutionary sense.  Now tell us about the evolution of broken homes, devastated children and heartbroken spouses.  This evolutionary tale is not just dumb, it’s evil.  Maybe that’s why the British pronounce it evil-you-tion.
    Next headline on:  Genetics and DNADarwinism and Evolutionary TheoryPolitics and EthicsDumb Ideas
    Darwinists Continue to Stifle Opposition    06/04/2004
    Sacramento ABC News reported that the Roseville school district voted 3 to 2 against the “Quality Science Education Policy” after months of debate.  The policy would have provided supplementary materials critical of Darwinian evolution.  Even a compromise position considered Tuesday night was rejected.  The proposal had been submitted by a parent who felt students should know about scientific objections to evolution.
        World Net Daily reported that NPR, at the last minute before airing an episode of Science Friday about evolution teaching, canceled an appearance of a teacher critical of evolution.  The guest, Roger DeHart, had been a respected biology teacher for 27 years before being reassigned by his Burlington, Washington high school for the controversy caused by providing his students scientific criticisms of Darwinism from secular journals.  DeHart was told he would not be on the program just hours before it aired.  As a result, the pro-evolution teacher was free to present his views on the NPR program without opposition, even though Discovery Institute claims he misrepresented their position.  The Discovery Institute has issued press releases accusing NPR of misinformation and censorship, and has documented a pattern of factual errors in their reporting about the teaching of evolution.
    The campaign of obfuscation, marginalization, and misrepresentation continues.  Although the ACLU was not mentioned in the Roseville news report, we have seen in the recent Los Angeles County Seal controversy that merely the threat of a lawsuit has been sufficient to stifle fair and honest debate on the real issues.  The only way the Darwin Party can survive is to prevent their critics from getting a hearing, because their critics have an unfair advantage, as Lee Strobel says: they have the truth on their side.
        Better not tell students about Creation-Evolution Headlines.  It might destroy their childlike faith in Father Charlie.
    Next headline on:  Darwin and Evolutionary TheoryEducation
    Gene Regulation: When Nonsense Makes Perfect Sense   06/03/2004
    Nature June 31 reports on another use for “junk DNA.”  A portion of previously-considered “nonsense” genetic code, which does not produce a protein as does a gene, nevertheless has an important role: it regulates the expression of the neighboring gene.  This opens a whole new realm of function for portions of our genetic material that were thought to be useless leftovers of evolution: it’s a new kind of gene that regulates other genes (see the Reuters summary on
    MSNBC News).
        Molecular biologists have been intrigued by the fact that the DNA translation machinery seems busier than required to produce proteins: “Why is there such a heavy traffic of RNA polymerases, the enzymes that copy DNA into RNA, and the production of large quantities of apparently non-coding and non-functional RNAs?” the reporters say.  The new work by Martens et al. reported in the same issue shows that “RNA polymerases are evidently doing more than we thought.”  The resulting “nonsense” RNAs produced by reading non-coding segments act as regulators, controlling the amount of protein that is expressed by the true genes by a process of “transcriptional interference.”  What was considered nonsense, therefore, actually makes perfect sense on a higher level:
    Taken together, these studies highlight the importance of intergenic transcription in regulating gene activity, even in the relatively densely packed genome of yeast.  It seems that RNA polymerases are not only required for the production of particular RNA species, but by travelling along DNA they can also control the occupancy of regulatory sites by transcription factors.  Widespread transcription of intergenic sequences has also been described in the human genome.  Surprisingly, many of these non-coding transcripts seem to be regulated in a manner that is intimately connected to the transcription of protein-coding genes.  So the high proportion of non-coding regions in the genomes of higher organisms is probably not due to the accumulation of nonsense DNA, but rather represents the evolution of ever more complicated gene-regulatory systems.
    EurekAlert puts this finding into perspective:
    If so, the findings would carry an important message for the post-human genome era-namely, that researchers’ attempts to turn the masses of data churned out by the Human Genome Project into an understanding of what actually happens in the human body may be even more complex than they anticipated.  One of the main challenges for that effort is to figure out how and when genes are turned on and off during normal development and disease.  Rather than look only at how genes are regulated by proteins, they would have to turn their attention to a new, and possibly more-difficult-to-detect form of control.  And given that junk DNA makes up 95 percent of chromosomes, the mechanism could be fairly common.
    The article gives the bottom line to one of the researchers, Fred Winston of Harvard Medical School: “Every time we thought we understood everything going on here, we have been wrong.  There are additional layers of complexity.”
    1Sabine Schmitt and Renato Paro, “Gene regulation: A reason for reading nonsense,” Nature 429, 510 - 511 (03 June 2004); doi:10.1038/429510a.
    You are witnessing the collapse of an evolutionary myth, the myth of “junk DNA” and “nonsense” genetic code.  We have been chronicling the demise of this mischaracterization for years (see 05/10/2004 headline and work your way back).  No less than Nobel laureate David Baltimore and co-discoverer of DNA structure James Watson propounded this myth (see 08/24/2004 headline).  Though scientists have not yet found a function for all the non-gene segments, every time they look deeper into the genetic code, they see less nonsense and more design.  Evolutionists used to call the vast expanses of non-gene-coding DNA the “gene desert” and supposed it to be the accumulated junk from our evolutionary past.  (As we have pointed out before, this assumption effectively shut down scientific research on these “uninteresting” regions for a long time; an intelligent design approach would have, instead, inquired about their functions – see 10/16/2003 headline).  The “Central Dogma” was that only genes were important, they coded for proteins, and that was that.  Now, the non-gene segments appear to have a coded function of their own, producing RNA molecules that have a key role to play in an even more complex choreography of functional parts working together in a sophisticated ballet.  How then, can they say this “represents the evolution of ever more complicated gene-regulatory systems”?  I didn’t see any evolution here; did you?
        Their ending sentence thus qualifies them as winners of Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week, i.e., a claim in support of evolution, based on findings that point to the opposite conclusion.
    Next headline on:  Genetics and DNAIntelligent Design
    Neural Darwinism: The Evolution of Truth   06/03/2004
    Can evolutionary theory build a bottom-up explanation of higher cognitive functions?  David Papineau (King’s College) doubts it.  In his review of The Physiology of Truth: Neuroscience and Human Knowledge by Jean-Pierre Changeux (transl. Malcolm DeBevoise, Belknap Press: 2004), published in the June 3 issue of Nature,1 he gives the author high marks, but concedes that this neurophysiologist with outstanding credentials falls into the usual trap:
    Can neurophysiology cast any light on the human condition?  Books that set themselves this ambition, and there are plenty, are invariably disappointing.  The problem is not that we lack information at the neuronal level – a great deal is known about cell receptors, neurotransmitters, re-entrant connections and so on.  Rather, the difficulty lies in relating this microscopic knowledge to higher human faculties such as thought, emotion and consciousness.
        To get round this, popular-science books by the likes of Francis Crick, Joseph LeDoux or Antonio Damasio typically have the following trajectory.  We start with a few chapters on the neuronal nitty-gritty.  But then the gears surreptitiously change, and we switch to speculation about the mind’s higher powers.  However, any serious theorizing at this level tends to be ‘boxological’, rather than physiological — we are given flowcharts connecting posited brain modules, but there is no bottom-up, cell-level account of how these modules might work.
        Perhaps this is unsurprising, given the kind of evidence that is currently available about the large-scale operations of the mind.  In recent years, functional-imaging data have been added to findings from studies of brain lesions.  But even these new data are at too gross a scale: it is like trying to figure out how a computer works by noting when different bits get hot and what goes wrong when certain parts are broken.  With luck, this might give us some idea of where certain operations are located, but it is not going to tell us about the mechanisms that make them possible.
    So is the mind Freud’s black box?  Cognitive psychologists seem to be in the same boat as the evolutionists Michael Behe described in Darwin’s Black Box.  They can watch the inputs and outputs, but have no idea how to get from one to the other; they end up with vague, handwaving, “boxological” explanations.  That does not prevent Changeux from proposing a “neural darwinism,” a tentative mechanism based on “selective favouring of some spontaneously formed synaptic connections over others during development.”  Papineau is unconvinced this makes any progress. 
    Changeux has plenty to say about neural darwinism, and touches on functionalism [the belief no molecular mechanisms can explain higher cognitive functions] in passing, but he doesn’t quite spell out the connection between them.  Still, his book presents a more satisfying picture of the brain than most of its competitors in this crowded market.  On standard accounts, it can simply seem frustrating that we never get any bottom-up explanations of higher cognitive functions.  If the structure of the brain is laid down by a definite genetic plan, then why can’t we find out about the underlying mechanisms? Changeux’s book fails to identify any such mechanisms too, but at least he gives us some insight into why the search for them may be doomed to permanent frustration.

    David Papineau, “Mind the gap,”
    Nature Nature 429, 505 - 506 (03 June 2004); doi:10.1038/429505a.
    If truth evolves, it isn’t the truth.  As usual, Darwinists want to explain everything, even the intangibles, in terms of unguided materialistic processes.  But in the area of the mind, have they even begun?  Papineau says no, despite the crowded market of contenders; they all reveal it to be an exercise in “permanent frustration.”  The result is simplistic just-so stories, as unsatisfying as “presto, Changeux.”
        We know the mind influences the body, and the body influences the mind, but neither can be reduced to the other.  Consider what a conundrum it must be to a materialist to realize that though our individual brains are composed of quadrillions of neurons, which all join together in unique ways during development – making each of us one-of-a-kind in the universe – we still can hold conversations and understand quite a bit about each other.  Scientists can peer review each other’s papers and judge the merits of their arguments.  That indicates that the capacities for relationships and logical thinking were designed into us from the beginning.  It also points to an intangible nature expressed through, but not reducible to, our bodies.  We also have a sense of self, a conscience, and a hunger for ultimate meaning.  None of these can be reduced to molecules.
        The Bible teaches that we are more than matter in motion.  To a dichotomist, we have a body and soul.  To a trichotomist, we have a body, soul and spirit.  Either way, we are not just a body.  According to the Bible, the spirit of Jesus Christ existed eternally from the beginning (John 1).  He inhabited a physical body for a time, but His spirit remained alive while his body was dead (I Peter 3:18-22), and then returned into His body during His resurrection.  This means our soul and/or spirit can endure apart from the atoms and molecules of our bodies.  Even if the whole world melted in a nuclear holocaust, our natures would live on (II Peter 3:8-13).  What a profound thought: we’re going to live somewhere forever.  It makes good sense, therefore, to learn how to live.  We will all be doing it, one place or the other, for a long time.
    Suggested reading: Ecclesiastes 12, I John 5.
    Next headline on:  Human BodyDarwinism and Evolutionary TheoryBible and Theology
    Do you have questions about God, eternity, and Jesus Christ?  Check out the new DVD (next headline).  It has reasonable answers to important questions, no matter where you are on your spiritual journey, such as:
  • I question whether or not God exists.
  • I believe spiritual truth is relative, and decided by each person.
  • I believe in God, but I’m not sure about Jesus.
  • Don’t all religious lead to the same place?
  • Can anyone know whether the Bible is true?
  • What happens after I die?
    These are only entry points into a wealth of interesting answers to 50 questions on facts and faith, science and philosophy, religion and Jesus Christ.  If you can’t get the DVD, Bibles are cheap and plentiful; there might even be one in your hotel room drawer.  If you like true-life stories, check out the amazing turnaround of Lee Strobel, a former hard-core atheist.  You owe it to yourself to become informed rather than trusting intuition, tradition, or fate.  Make it your own systematic research project, like Strobel did.  Is anything you are doing right now more important than getting trustworthy answers to these questions?
  • Movie  Jesus: Fact or Fiction?    06/02/2004
    At a large rally at Biola University June 1, the
    Jesus Film Project, in collaboration with the university, announced a new DVD entitled Jesus: Fact or Fiction?.  Each household at the rally received a free copy.  Half of the DVD contains the full length Jesus film, a project that has been translated into more languages (857) and seen by more viewers (5.7 billion) than any other movie.  The other half is a “Journey” of faith, exploring frequently-asked questions about Christianity, God, science, the Bible, and philosophy, answered by 18 scholars, including Ravi Zacharias, Craig Hazen, Paul Maier, and others.  It includes answers to scientific questions about evolution and design by William Dembski, Lee Strobel and more.  Also embedded are true-life stories of Christians from a variety of walks of life explaining their own journeys of faith.  Speakers at the event, a kick-off for a summer lecture series, included Craig Hazen, Frank Pastore, John Mark Reynolds, Lee Strobel, J.P. Moreland and others.
    This is a nicely-packaged, interactive, well-designed, low-key and attractive tool for discussing the important questions about God, origins, faith, the problem of pain, forgiveness, and eternity in a non-threatening way.  The answers to questions are excellent.  A better line-up of credible scholars could hardly be gathered.  The interactive layout keeps you wanting to find out more.  Watch it and you will be ordering dozens, if not hundreds, to hand out to neighbors, friends and work associates.
    Next headline on:  Bible and TheologyMedia
    Dead Sea Drying Up    06/02/2004
    The Dead Sea water level is dropping 3.3 feet per year and may be gone in 50 years, reports
    World Net Daily.  Israel and Jordan are working on ways to save the world’s lowest-elevation lake, a landmark of Biblical fame.
    California has a dry lake, Owens Lake, that became a huge source of toxic pollution when the water was diverted.  Wind now blows toxic dust over large areas of the west.  A similar thing could happen with the Dead Sea unless the governments succeed in limiting their diversion of waters from the Jordan River valley.  This will be a hard call in a thirsty land.  It would be a shame to lose this remarkable body of water.  For more on the geology of the Dead Sea area, see 05/03/2004 headline.
    Next headline on:  GeologyBible and Theology
    North Star Is Rapidly Changing    06/02/2004
    The North Star (Polaris) has brightened by 150% since Ptolemy observed it 2000 years ago, says the American Astronomical Society (see report on
    Science Now).  If the differences from those in ancient times are real, “these changes are 100 times larger than predicted by current theories of stellar evolution.”  Polaris is also a pulsating Cepheid variable, but its pulses have been erratic lately.  One astronomer surmises, “Polaris may be experiencing a rare and rapidly changing period in its evolution.”
    Finding the North Star is a required skill for any northern-hemisphere camper.  It is also a conversation starter on how much science can know about processes that supposedly take billions of years.
    Next headline on:  Astronomy
    Cambrian Explosion?  Just Add Calcium to Seawater    06/02/2004
    Science Now reports a new “recipe for shell evolution” that may shed light on one of paleontology’s biggest puzzles, the Cambrian explosion:
    About 530 million years ago, Earth experienced a renaissance of animal evolution, as the ancestors of all modern-day creatures began to experiment with skeletons and shells.  Scientists have long puzzled over what prompted the sudden explosion of diversity in the Early Cambrian period.  Now, geochemists have found the first direct evidence that a surge in calcium in the oceans may have played a role.
    By examining trapped seawater residues from samples of Proterozoic and early Cambrian rocks, a trio of geochemists found three times as much calcium in the later, Cambrian rocks.  To Katie Greene, author of the news item, the timing of the rise in calcium with possible tectonic activity and the Cambrian explosion “seem to support the idea that early life began innovating with shells and skeletons to deal with a potentially toxic rise in calcium in the oceans.”  So is the Cambrian explosion solved?  Tempting, but not conclusive:
    The idea that the chemistry of seawater may have had an impact on the evolution of life is exciting, says Robert Goldstein, a geologist at the University of Kansas in Lawrence.  It looks like calcium in the ocean may have been an important player, he says, although more work is needed to show whether it is a cause or effect of the explosion of lifeOther environmental changes may also have been important.
    The three geochemists, publishing in the June issue of Geology1, think that this rise in seawater calcium concentration “may have spurred evolutionary changes in marine biota.”
    1Brennan, Lowenstein and Horita, “Seawater chemistry and the advent of biocalcification,” Geology Vol. 32, No. 6, pp. 473–476, doi: 10.1130/G20251.1.
    Mark Twain said it so well, “There is something fascinating about science.  One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.”  A better example could hardly be found.  In the Cambrian explosion, all the major phyla, including arthropods, vertebrates, molluscs, clams and everything else, supposedly “emerged” onto the scene in a geological blink of an eye.  These creatures “invented” compound eyes and geometrical shells and joints and numerous complex organs and structures, to say nothing of the DNA and cellular information to code for these things, without leaving a trace of ancestors in the fossil record.  And they expect us to believe all this phenomenal “innovation” occurred because some deep sea vents spewed out toxic amounts of calcium?  Get a life.
        Scientists can be very good at taking measurements and operating high-tech lab equipment.  These skills do not necessarily correlate with objectivity or good sense.  Anyone who holds scientists in awe because of some supposed aura of wisdom that surrounds them should look no further than what happened here.  The most prestigious geological journal in the world, and the most prestigious American scientific organization, have just printed utter balderdash.  Look at the opening paragraph by Brenner et al. and ask yourself is there is one shred of meaningful explanation for an observed phenomenon, the abrupt appearance of all the major body plans, a fact that effectively falsifies evolution:
    One of the most dramatic and confounding events in evolutionary and geologic history was the sudden onset of biomineralization in the Early Cambrian during the ’Cambrian explosion” (Knoll and Carroll, 1999 ; Conway-Morris, 2000 ) (Fig. 1).  Explanations for this event include (1) a response to increased predation (Stanley, 1976 ), (2) detoxification (Simkiss, 1977 , 1989) due to increased seawater [Ca2+] (Kempe and Kazmierczak, 1994 ), and (3) increased atmospheric oxygen concentration (Cloud, 1976 ).  Here we present new data—38 analyses of evaporated seawater in fluid inclusions from terminal Proterozoic (ca. 544 Ma, 24 analyses) and Early Cambrian (Toyonian, ca. 515 Ma, 14 analyses) marine halites—to help answer this unresolved issue in Earth’s history.  These analyses indicate that the major ion composition of seawater changed between 544 Ma and 515 Ma, highlighted by a large increase in [Ca2+].  This increase in the seawater [Ca2+] may have created a chemical environment favorable for the initial development of calcium carbonate and calcium phosphate hard parts, which have dominated marine biota ever since.
    What an absolute groaner.  They admit up front that the Cambrian explosion was dramatic, confounding, and unresolved (to a Darwinist).  Of course, it is exactly what a creationist would have predicted.  But instead of repenting of their sin of unbelief and their wanton disregard of the preponderance of the evidence, they present a fantastical tale, without any semblance of a scientific cause-and-effect explanation, expecting us to swallow the myth that adding calcium to seawater is enough to generate trilobite eyes and conch shells and thousands of other exquisitely-engineered functional structures.  This is equivalent to claiming that an influx of iron meteorites explains tanks and submarines.  Why should anyone take a Darwinist seriously who trusts in such fairy tales?  It is their prior commitment to naturalism, not the evidence, that forces them to such absurdities.
        Notice also the ever-present personification fallacy that so characterizes Darwinian explanations for things: Science Now says,
    Why evolve shells?  The most obvious reason would be to avoid being eaten.”  Another idea, which might explain why hard parts first appeared in the Early Cambrian, is that rising levels of atmospheric oxygen enabled animals to build more complicated bodies.  And other scientists suggested in the 1970s that marine creatures may have started building shells to purge their bodies of a sudden pulse of calcium in the environment in the Early Cambrian.  But direct evidence of a change in ocean chemistry was lacking.
    These Darwinists envision the ancestors of these animals (which happen to be missing from the precambrian) as little pioneers deciding how to use the natural resources in a new environment.   (It should be easy to demonstrate; just put some bacteria into an aquarium, and triple the calcium or oxygen, or put in some predators, and see what they come up with.)  Look for other examples in the quotes above: calcium is a player, creatures began to experiment, animals had a renaissance, etc. etc.  This amounts to a kind of naturalistic vitalism or pantheism.  The whole world’s a stage, and all the organisms merely players.  To keep the play going, and the Darwin Party stage hands gainfully employed, Goldstein adds the standard fine print to the contract, “more work is needed.”
        Unless the Darwin Party has the intellectual honesty to face up to the evidence, the silly melodrama will never end.  Students, gently but persistently hold up the evidence of the Cambrian explosion before your teachers or professors and ask them to explain it.  Don’t accept a just-so story or mere suggestion.  Don’t let them change the subject.  Sometimes, but not always, the preponderance of evidence leads to repentance.
    Next headline on:  FossilsDarwinian EvolutionGeologyDumb Ideas
    Modern Cavemen Found    06/01/2004
    National Geographic News has a remarkable true story about some families that lived underground in the darkness and dampness of a cave for nearly two years in recent times.  And now, the rest of the story: they were Jews hiding out from the Nazis.
    This incredible story of survival in the midst of danger points out that living in a cave does not necessarily mean someone is primitive.  Anyone would choose to be a caveman if the motivation were strong enough.  Maybe they would even pass the time by creating artwork on the walls.
    Next headline on:  Early ManPolitics and Ethics
    Academic Freedom Applied Unequally    06/01/2004
    In the June
    ICR Impact article, Dr. Jerry Bergman tells a tale of two professors.  One, a philosophy professor, has full academic freedom to dismantle the religious faith of his students (one of his converts was Michael Shermer, now editor of Skeptic Magazine).  The other, a Christian anatomy professor, was forbidden by the courts to even allude to anything of his beliefs, even with disclaimers, lest it “engender anxiety” in his students.
    Anybody who thinks universities stand for academic freedom, or who thinks people of faith are the biased ones, or who has a naive interpretation of “separation of church and state,” should read this shocking article.  It describes viewpoint discrimination contrary to the law, and shows how one religious position (atheism) is given preferential treatment while another (Christian faith) is suppressed to extreme and absurd lengths.
        This article should be required reading for pastors and youth ministers.  Thomas Jefferson, the supposed author of the doctrine of “separation of church and state,” would be appalled; this condition of tyranny would be cause enough to start another American revolution.  Any skeptic reading this should similarly be appalled that atheism, to survive, has to be shielded from other viewpoints in what used to be the “open marketplace of ideas.”
    Students: Is this the situation on your campus?  Write in if you have a story to tell.
    Next headline on:  EducationPolitics and Ethics

  • Scientist of the Month

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

    “I would just like to say very good job with the work done here, very comprehensive.  I check your site every day.  It’s great to see real science directly on the front lines, toe to toe with the pseudoscience that's mindlessly spewed from the ‘prestigious’ science journals.”
    (a biology student in Illinois)

    “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.”
    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 headline)

    “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”
    (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.”

    “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

    “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 June

    Michael Faraday
    1791 - 1867

    Note: This month we’re trying to complete the biography of Faraday we began last October.

    Aldous Huxley was once asked what historical person’s life he would most like to relive.  His answer was Michael Faraday.  Everybody loves Faraday.  It’s hard to find any negative comment about him.  His was a Cinderella story, the embodiment of a Horatio Alger novel, with plenty of human interest that makes for a satisfying plot.  But it’s not just a good story; it was a life that changed the world.  Faraday was a “nobody” who trusted God, applied himself, and succeeded – to his own amazement – beyond his dreams.  He became the world’s greatest experimental physicist.  To this day he is often admired as such, notwithstanding the ultra-tech toys modern chemists and physicists have at their possession.  The president of the Institution for Electrical Engineers (IEE), for instance, at the unveiling of a Michael Faraday statue in 1989, said, “His discoveries have had an incalculable effect on subsequent scientific and technical development.  He was a true pioneer of scientific discovery.”

    Faraday enraptured audiences with his public demonstrations.  He discovered some of the most important laws of physics and chemistry, discoveries which revolutionized the world economy.  But none of this mattered to him as much as one thing: his Christian faith.  He would rather be praying and studying the Bible with his fellow church members than be at an awards ceremony or have audience with royalty.  Steadfast and humble, Faraday remained absolutely committed to Biblical truth from early childhood throughout his long life.  He would have been considered a “fundamentalist” Christian, had the term existed in his day.  Nothing, not even the rising tide of skepticism in Britain leading up to the Darwinian revolution, shook his confidence in the word of God.  And Faraday was not one to ever hear a snicker from skeptics; he was too highly esteemed for that.  His contemporaries would have concurred with the praise Lord Rutherford expressed in 1931, 64 years after his death: “The more we study the work of Faraday with the perspective of time, the more we are impressed by his unrivalled genius as an experimenter and natural philosopher.  When we consider the magnitude and extent of his discoveries and their influence on the progress of science and industry, there is no honor too great to pay to the memory of Michael Faraday—one of the greatest scientific discoverers of all time.”

    Start listing the things that run on electric motors – automobiles, fans, clocks, airplanes, pumps, vacuum cleaners, and so much more – and you begin to get a hint of what Faraday’s work brought forth.  Add to the list generators, transformers, electrolysis devices, electromagnets, and many other products of his lab, and Faraday’s importance to the history of science and technology starts to come into focus.  It has been said that the wealth generated by the inventions based on Faraday’s discoveries exceed the value of the British stock exchange.  This is probably an understatement.  Yet Faraday remained a modest, unpretentious soul who never sought financial profit from his work.  He accepted a cottage from the government in his senior years, but rebuffed honors.  When the queen wanted to knight him, he declined, wishing to remain plain old Mr. Faraday to the end.  The glory of Jesus Christ was the only reward he sought.

    This series on scientist Christians (too bad we cannot reverse the order of the terms, no thanks to Mary Baker Eddy) has a recurring theme: circumstances are not the sole determiner of success.  There have been some who came from well-to-do families (Boyle, Joule) but others (Newton, Kepler, Carver) seemed to have everything against them.  Teachers should take note that a child from a poverty-stricken family and a bad neighborhood might turn out to be the next Michael Faraday.  “Man looks on the outward appearance,” Samuel reminded Jesse, the father of a ruddy shepherd boy destined to become King David, “but God looks on the heart.”  The most precious gift a poor mother and father can give their children is an example of faith, diligence, and godliness.  The Faraday household had little of this world’s goods, but they had the intangible treasures of God’s Word.  The centrality of worship in their life made them resolutely confident in the sovereignty and grace of God.  Michael gained from his faith a sense of purpose and drive and fortitude to withstand the rigors of life.  He developed values that subjugated worldly passions and promoted honorable work.  And for the benefit of science, his faith provided curiosity about God’s creation and a deep belief in the unity of nature.  As we will see, this belief steered him right toward his most fundamental discoveries.

    In this regard, young Michael Faraday was a rich child, even though outwardly his clothes were shabby, his shoes were worn out with holes, and he knew hunger.  His father, a blacksmith, became an invalid and went for extended periods without work.  More than once Michael was given a loaf of bread by his mother and told it needed to last him a week.  The boy had to learn how to work hard and bear responsibility at an early age.  Properly understood and applied, these challenges can build character: Jeremiah said, “It is good for a man to bear the yoke in his youth” (Lam. 3:27).  Faraday was living proof of that.  Rather than turn him into a thief or vagabond, hardships and deprivation instilled in Michael an appreciation for the few good things he had, a desire to succeed, and a deep hunger for knowledge.  That hunger began to be satisfied when he took a job as an apprentice bookbinder at the age of 13.

    Prior to his apprenticeship, he had attained only the rudiments of education through Sunday school: reading, writing, and arithmetic.  Though math would never be his strong point, he learned good penmanship, mastered writing and note-taking, and was a voracious reader.  In the print shop, he often read the books that were to be bound.  At first, his boss found him wasting his time on fiction, and urged him instead to read things of real value.  To his credit, Faraday accepted the advice and began reading articles on science.  A book on chemistry attracted his attention so much, he began imitating the experiments.  When he read in Encyclopedia Britannica about the new discoveries being made about electricity, including Volta’s new invention that could supply a constant current, he was so fascinated, he cobbled parts from around the shop, including bottles, rags and clamps, and made his own Voltaic pile, a recently-invented battery; with this and jars he purchased with meager savings, he made his own capacitor and electrostatic generator.

    Around this time, Faraday was also strongly influenced by a book written by the English hymnwriter Isaac Watts, author of such famous hymns as O God, Our Help In Ages Past, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, I Sing the Mighty Power of God, Jesus Shall Reign and Joy to the World.  The book was entitled The Improvement of the Mind.  Michael resolved to discipline himself by reading profitable books, taking good notes at important occasions, and observing the habits of influential people.  These helped to fill in deficiencies from his substandard schooling.  Whenever he could, he asked friends and acquaintances to help him with grammar, spelling and punctuation.  He also began attending scientific lectures and formed friendships with other like-minded young men eager to improve their circumstances.

    Michael dreamt of becoming a scientist, but felt confined by his poverty and lack of education to a shopkeeper’s vocation.  His mother and family members depended on his income, even more so when his father passed away when he was 19.  By now he was a journeyman bookbinder working for Mr. Riebau, a French businessman.  One day, he was given a stub of paper that was to become the ticket to his dreams: free passes to four scientific lectures at the Royal Institution by one of Britain’s most eminent scientists, Sir Humphry Davy.

    The Royal Institution was a showcase of science built in 1799 by Benjamin Thompson (1753-1814), an eccentric but intelligent philanthropist born in Massachusetts, who became Count Rumford in Bavaria before moving to London (later to marry Lavoisier’s widow in France).  He designed the Royal Institution, a combination research laboratory, library and lecture hall, as a showcase of applied science.  It contained one of the largest Voltaic piles of the era.  Well stocked with chemicals, wire and magnets, it was the place to learn physical science in London.  Humphry Davy, famous for inventing the miner’s safety lamp, was an early experimenter with electrolysis and used it to discover six elements: potassium, sodium, calcium, strontium, barium, and magnesium.  Davy was another Christian man of science.  Henry Morris summarized his testimony: “he was a Bible-believing Christian, highly altruistic and generous, though not as spiritually minded and patient as was Faraday.  He was also a poet and, for a while, something of a Christian mystic.  In his declining years, however, he returned to Biblical Christianity and found peace therein.” (Men of Science, Men of God, p. 38).

    Sir Davy’s public lectures at the Royal Institution were very popular and brought in revenue from wealthy patrons (since it relied on subscribers).  One can imagine how Faraday, now a young man and well read in chemistry and electricity, would have longed to hear Davy.  He had already been attending Wednesday night meetings of the City Philosophical Society, a group of working men interested in science.  He kept voluminous notes of these meetings, which his boss often showed off to customers.  One customer was so impressed, he gave Michael free tickets to four lectures by Sir Humphry Davy at the Royal Institution.  The year was 1812; Faraday was now 21.  He came early with ample note-taking materials and sat on the front row.

    Spellbound by all Davy presented on stage, Faraday wrote down everything, recopied it neatly at home, and bound it into a book 386 pages long.  Months went by as Faraday continued to dream of becoming a scientist like Davy.  His apprenticeship over, he took a job as a bookbinder across town, but found the business tedious and unsatisfying.  He took a bold step.  He wrote to Davy and asked for a job.  With his request, he enclosed a bound volume of notes he had taken at the lectures.  Davy’s reply was polite, but disappointing; there were no positions available.  In October of that year, Davy was temporarily blinded by an explosion in the laboratory.  Faraday managed to become his secretary for a few days, but when Davy recovered, there were still no positions available.

    A carriage pulled in front of Michael’s home one evening with a letter from Davy.  Excitedly, Michael tore it open.  It was a summons to appear at the Royal Institution the next day!  Davy’s assistant had just been dismissed for involvement in a brawl, so now a position was available, and Davy had not forgotten the eager young man.  Davy had discovered many things, but as he later admitted, his greatest discovery was Faraday.

    It would require a substantial pay cut to take the job, but Michael enthusiastically accepted.  His position at first was little more than janitor: washing bottles, setting up for lectures, keeping records, repairing things, and assisting the master as needed.  But to have the opportunity to learn at the feet of one of the greatest scientists in England was a science education par excellence for the disadvantaged young man.  Faraday applied himself diligently.  He learned everything he could, keeping detailed notes, studying books in the evening, and working long hours willingly.  In short order, Michael became the equal of any chemist in the world.  What’s more, in 1813, Davy invited him on come along as his personal secretary on a tour of Europe, including Italy, Switzerland, Holland and Germany, for a year and a half.  Faraday had the opportunity to meet some of the most important scientists on the continent, including Volta and Ampere.  It was not always easy; the talkative and snobbish Mrs. Davy had the habit of treating Michael like a servant, but overall, the experience was an invaluable supplement to Faraday’s ongoing education.

    Faraday was like a kid in a toy shop at the Royal Institution.  His experiments are legendary.  Encyclopedia Britannica summarizes some of his important discoveries:

    Faraday, who became one of the greatest scientists of the 19th century, began his career as a chemist.  He wrote a manual of practical chemistry that reveals the mastery of the technical aspects of his art, discovered a number of new organic compounds, among them benzene, and was the first to liquefy a “permanent” gas (i.e., one that was believed to be incapable of liquefaction).  His major contribution, however, was in the field of electricity and magnetism.  He was the first to produce an electric current from a magnetic field, invented the first electric motor and dynamo, demonstrated the relation between electricity and chemical bonding, discovered the effect of magnetism on light, and discovered and named diamagnetism, the peculiar behaviour of certain substances in strong magnetic fields.  He provided the experimental, and a good deal of the theoretical, foundation upon which James Clerk Maxwell erected classical electromagnetic field theory.

    This summary conceals decades of hard work, and many lonely yet adventurous days and nights in the laboratory.  Sometimes Faraday used his tongue as a voltmeter or chemical taster, and explosions were not uncommon.  But he was a stickler for accuracy, kept good records, and published faithfully.  “Work, finish, publish” was his motto, as he constantly strove to explore the frontiers of physical science.

    Michael also developed skill in the art of lecturing.  Understanding his responsibility to his audience, he made it a personal project to determine the most effective techniques for holding an audience’s interest and giving them a satisfying and edifying hour in the lecture hall.  Within a decade of his employment by Davy, Faraday had exceeded his master in eminence.  He was now a skilled lecturer, well-known experimentalist, and published scientist, with many major papers to his credit.  He was also a married man, having wed Sarah Barnard, a member of his church, in June, 1821.  By 1824, this self-educated bookbinder was elected to the Royal Society, and the following year succeeded Sir Humphry Davy as Director of the Royal Institution.

    The Faradays lived upstairs at the Royal Institution for forty years.  Michael would usually work long hours at his lab in the basement, where Sarah would often bring him dinner.  She never pretended to understand his research (which was fine for Michael, because she could be the “pillow for his mind” after long hours focused on experiments), but the two of them loved each other deeply and faithfully all their lives.  It was their deepest misfortune not to have children of their own, since both were fond of children.  The disappointment was partially assuaged by the presence of two nieces who came to live with them.  Though not opposed to socializing, Michael was most content to be working at experiments in his laboratory; experiments were “beautiful things,” he felt, and they provided the confidence he needed in his investigations of the laws of nature.  So confident was he in nature’s laws, he once performed a risky experiment with himself as the subject.  He built a twelve-foot-square metallic cage and charged it so high with static electricity that lightning-like sparks leaped off the sides.  To prove that the electric field on a conducting surface resides only on the exterior, he went inside the cage to verify the absence of any detectable field in the interior.

    Michael made some of his most important discoveries in the early years of their marriage.  These included the physical foundations of the electric motor, generator and transformer.  Many consider his crowning achievement the discovery of electromagnetic induction, the production of a steady electric current from the mechanical action of a magnet.  (This principle was apparently discovered simultaneously and independently by Joseph Henry in America, another committed Christian, but Faraday published it first.)  This became the foundation of the electric dynamo or generator, a new source of cheap energy that was to outpace the steam engine in the coming years and revolutionize the world energy economy.

    Though known primarily as the great experimentalist, Faraday also possessed outstanding theoretical insight.  His concept of an electromagnetic field, the idea that space was permeated with energy that followed lines of force (as demonstrated by the common children’s experiment with iron filings aligned by a magnet on a sheet of paper), was revolutionary in its day.  It provided the fruitful insight that Maxwell later rigorously developed into his four laws of electrodynamics.

    Since Faraday lived on a meager salary and the Royal Institution was often strapped for funds, most of his epochal discoveries were made with clever contraptions he devised himself out of inexpensive materials.  Hermann von Helmholtz remarked, “A few wires and some old bits of wood and iron seem to serve him for the greatest discoveries.”  The breadth of fundamental discoveries this math-challenged, poorly-paid, self-taught scientist made continues to astonish historians today.  (For a good review of his work, with illustrations, see John Meurig Thomas, Michael Faraday and the Royal Institution, ch. 4).  His work in chemistry alone would have made him famous; add to that electromagnetism, electrolysis, diamagnetism, paramagnetism, field theory, acoustics, light, and more, and his lifetime record stands unexcelled.  He is the only physicist with two international units named after him: the faraday (a unit of electrical quantity) and the farad (a unit of capacitance).  He is also remembered for the Faraday effect (the influence of magnetism on polarized light) and Faraday’s laws of electrolysis.  Each of these had immense practical application that were soon exploited by entrepreneurs.

    Added to his experimental fame, Michael Faraday’s public lectures and stage demonstrations set a high standard that influenced many who followed, and continues at the Royal Institution to this day.  As a popularizer of science, Faraday is emulated but rarely surpassed.  How he managed to design and execute so many Friday Night Lectures at the Royal Institution, each thoroughly planned and rehearsed, illustrated with experiments usually of his own making, is remarkable, considering how busy he was and how little he earned.  One of his most poignant legacies was the annual Christmas Lectures for children.  Adults had to stand in the back as the children got all the front seats for these delightful events.  Faraday could keep the young audience in rapt attention as he made the ordinary seem extraordinary.  His most popular Christmas Lecture series was called The Chemical History of a Candle, which, transcribed into book form, remains a classic today (there have been 70 Japanese editions alone).  Faraday could take a simple household object, a candle, and draw out of it all the diverse wonders of nature.  That’s a prime illustration of Muir’s Law: “Any time we try to isolate something by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”

    What turns a poor young man into the world’s greatest experimental scientist?  What separated Michael Faraday from the other poor boys of his neighborhood?  Undoubtedly, his Christian faith was the biggest factor.  His parents grounded him in the Biblical world view.  Historians find it intriguing that Faraday, a scientist, remained so loyal to his church all his life.  The Faradays were “Nonconformists,” in that they rejected the official state church, with its high church liturgy (and social acceptance), preferring instead to meet in small groups to study the Bible and obey the teachings of Jesus Christ.  Puritanism and Methodism are other examples of Nonconformist groups; John Dalton, Joseph Priestly and Joseph Henry were also scientists of nonconformist faith.  The Faraday family belonged to a denomination known as the Sandemanians, a breakaway sect from the Scottish Presbyterian church, founded a century earlier by John Glas.  The name Sandemanian comes from his son-in-law, Robert Sandeman, who became the leader.  The Sandemanian church was basically a “back-to-the-Bible” movement.  Critical of the traditions the high church had added to the Scripture, and the corruption that often ensued, they sought to return to the primitive, apostolic Christianity of the New Testament.  Some distinctives of their worship included a plurality of elders, closed communion, foot washing, reading of Scripture and long prayers.  Members were treated as equals, with no division between clergy and laity.  They frowned on wealth accumulation and other forms of worldliness, and extolled humility, simplicity, and charity.  Their services and fellowship meals took up a good part of each Sunday.  Faithful attendance on the Lord’s Day and at Wednesday night prayer meetings was expected, especially for elders (Faraday lost his eldership for missing church to visit with the queen; only after a period of contrition over his lack of priorities was his position restored.)

    How could such worship habits, seemingly so devoid of scientific interest, influence the lab work of a young scientist?  This topic is explored by Jack Meadows in a sidebar of his chapter on Faraday in The Great Scientists, entitled “Nonconformist Religion and Science” (p. 135).  “The growth of modern science overlapped the dramatic religious changes of the Reformation,” he begins.  Though he admits the connection between these developments is sometimes obscure, he points out some features of Nonconformism that contributed to scientific endeavor and produced some of the greatest scientists from the ranks of Nonconformists.  For one thing, Nonconformists were social outcasts to one degree or another; though often tolerated, they had been been through severe waves of persecution at times (one only has to remember the Pilgrims leaving all to sail to the New World primarily for religious freedom; later, Robert Sandeman also immigrated to America because of religious pressure in England).  This kind of treatment harked back to the Reformation itself, a nonconformist tradition of the first order; yet when some Protestant churches became the new establishment, new reformers often felt compelled to break away.  In so doing, they suffered some of the same reproaches endured by the early Reformers (Here is where you can use that longest word in the English language, antidisestablishmentarianism).  This much is attributable to human social weakness (the “us vs. them” mentality), but often the outcast group, now on the defensive, becomes the more eager to delineate their positions, and the more motivated for change – attitudes that sometimes can reap positive results in other areas. 

    Secondly, as outcasts, they were rugged individualists.  Nonconformists were often subject to legal restrictions.  They were prevented from attending the state schools and universities, intertwined as those institutions were with the state church.  One result of this was a fresh infusion of new attitudes and nontraditional methods in education.  Nonconformists developed “dissenting academies,” whose “curriculum was much wider than in traditional schools and universities,” Meadows explains; “in particular, it contained a significant science component.... The dissenting academies became an important seedbed of science.”

    But why would religious people concerned about imitating the early church care about science?  This is where Meadows draws the most pertinent connection: “Many of the Nonconformist sects continued to hold a favorable view of science and technology, and the industrial revolution in England in the 18th century owed a great deal to them.”  He doesn’t mention it explicitly, but this favorable view of science could only have been derived from a commitment to the Biblical doctrine of creation.  A conviction that God created a world of order, beauty and purpose, operating under His natural law, gives impetus to scientific endeavor; for that reason, “It is not surprising that a person of Faraday’s Nonconformist background should develop an interest in science.”  Add to that belief the promotion of excellence (whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God—I Corinthians 10:31), the well-known “Protestant work ethic” (if any would not work, neither should he eat—I Thessalonians 3:10), and the commitment to Truth (Thou shalt not bear false witness—Exodus 20:16) and you have the qualifications for a good scientist.

    Many have noted that Faraday’s conviction that the forces of nature were unified, a belief that stemmed from his Biblical belief that they all derived from one Creator, strongly influenced his lab work.  It directly motivated his experiments on electromagnetic induction and other attempts to relate electricity, magnetism, chemical energy, motion and even gravity (though he failed in the latter; some are still seeking that unification today).  Although the unity of the forces of nature is not a uniquely Christian doctrine (it was also shared by some ancient Greeks and by modern cosmologists), in Faraday’s case it provided a clear instance where belief in creation led directly to outstanding scientific accomplishment.  His confidence in the Biblical worldview is also seen in his writings about the conservation of force: “To admit, indeed, that force may be destructible or can altogether disappear, would be to admit that matter could be uncreated....” (Thomas, pp. 101-102).

    Moreover, because Faraday loved God, he loved God’s creation.  John Meurig Thomas writes, “the beauty of nature, especially the hills of Devonshire, the vales of South Wales, all the Alpine landscapes and the seascapes of Brighton or the Isle of Wight, could move him to lyrical ecstasy.  And in contemplating waterfalls, the rainbow or lightning, his responses were often Wordsworthian, though never expressed in verse” (Thomas, p. 118).  No wonder he viewed the pursuit of scientific discovery as a holy calling, the understanding of nature as a gift of God.  Christian faith was Faraday’s energy source.  His friend and successor John Tyndall, though a skeptic, could not help but notice: “I think that a good deal of Faraday’s week-day strength and persistency might be referred to his Sunday Exercises.  He drinks from a found on Sunday which refreshes his soul for the week.”

    That persistency nearly drove him to exhaustion at one point.  Faraday was strong and athletic, but the long hours and stress caught up with him, producing a period of “mental muddiness,” as he called it.  His friends insisted he take an extended rest.  Would that we all had the energy of the “resting” Michael Faraday.  Mulfinger writes, “His body was still strong, and when he took a rest in Switzerland when he was fifty, he took daily walks of thirty miles.  His wife worried about him only on the day he walked forty-five miles.”

    Faraday lived through the Darwinian revolution, but it never troubled him.  Thomas writes, “Serene in the security of his religious conviction, he was untroubled by the apparent conflict between science and religious beliefs” (apparent being the key word).  Faraday was no easy believer; gullibility was definitely not part of his character, as judged by his zeal for accuracy in all his measurements and his reluctance to state a conclusion before proved by experiment.  He angrily scorned the naivete of the spiritualists, for instance.  Speaking of the table-turning craze in his time (a fad that even captivated the co-“discoverer” of natural selection, Alfred Russell Wallace) Faraday scolded with rare impatience, “What a weak, credulous, incredulous, unbelieving, superstitious, bold, frightened, what a ridiculous world ours is, as far as concerns the mind of man.  How full of inconsistencies, contradictions, and absurdities it is” (Thomas, p. 127).  Yet his confidence in the Word of God was unshakeable.  When asked if he had any speculations about the afterlife, a reporter must have been startled by his abrupt and firm response: “Speculations?  I have none.  I am resting on certainties.”  Quoting I Timothy 1:12 with the apostolic conviction of St. Paul, he continued, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.”

    That persuasion carried him into his old age.  Michael suffered from memory loss that began in his twenties and gradually became severe in his later adulthood.  It was not incoherence or mental incompetence, but simple forgetfulness, perhaps brought on by exposure to mercury or other lab chemicals.  One benefit for historians is that his condition forced him to write everything down; Faraday left a monumental legacy of letters and documents that provide glimpses into his character, written with an elegance and expressiveness that has a “hypnotic quality” according to Thomas, and “continues to reward the historian of science, kindle the hearts of the young and to strike sparks in the mind of aspiring and mature scientists alike” (Thomas, p. 95; see Faraday’s Writings, ch. 5).  Thomas brags on not only the style, but the content, the “elegant simplicity of his arguments” written in a magical way that “elicits admiration and conveys information in equal measure.”  This is all the more remarkable considering the meagerness of his early education.  Thomas provides some extended quotes to show off this legacy of literature, which includes 450 original papers and 2000 letters.  Faraday’s humility and faith shine in his words: “There is no hunger after popular applause, no jealousy of the work of others .... His versatility, originality, intellectual energy and sheer stamina leave us in awe.  There is also the wonder with which, as a natural philosopher, he is imbued as he contemplates the world and the forces and mechanisms that hold it together” (Thomas, pp. 96-97).  His tactful, self-effacing, thoughtful wordsmithing could calm a disputatious opponent, gently express righteous indignation, graciously decline a favor or humbly accept an honor.  In a book review in Nature (29 May 1997, pp. 469-470) celebrating a new publication of The Correspondence of Michael Faraday, Thomas said, “The letters of Faraday are remarkable not only for their vivacity and freshness but for their elevated tone and excellent composition – they are true specimens of the lost art of letter-writing.”  In his biography, Thomas was especially struck by Faraday’s gift at introducing a subject; due to space, one example must suffice:
    The science of electricity is that state in which every part of it requires experimental investigations; not merely for the discovery of new effects, but what is just now of far more importance, the development of the means by which the old effects are produced, and the consequence more accurate determination of the first principles of action of the most extraordinary and universal power in nature:— and to those philosophers who pursue the inquiry zealously yet cautiously, combining experiment with analogy, suspicious of their preconceived notions, paying more respect to a fact than a theory, not too hasty to generalize, and above all things, willing at every step to cross-examine their own opinions, both by reasoning and experiment, no branch of knowledge can afford so fine and ready a field for discovery as this.  Such is most abundantly shown to be the case by the progress which electricity has made in the last thirty years: Chemistry and Magnetism have successively acknowledged its over-ruling influence; and it is probable that every effect depending upon the power of inorganic matter, and perhaps most of those related to vegetable and animal life, will ultimately be found subordinate to it.

    In this prediction and many others, his insight proved correct.  As he aged, his body remained strong, but his memory continued to fail.  Faraday continued lecturing till age 70, but only with difficulty.  He accepted his lot with equanimity and grace.  He wrote to a friend, “I am, I hope, very thankful that in the withdrawal of the power and things of this life,—the good hope is left with me, which makes the contemplation of death a comfort—not a fear.  Such peace is alone in the gift of God, and as it is He who gives it, why shall we be afraid?  His unspeakable gift in His beloved Son is the ground of no doubtful hope; and there is the rest for those who like you and me are drawing near the latter end of our terms here below” (quoted in Mulfinger, p. 94).  Upon his retirement from the Royal Institution, the queen awarded him and his wife a house in Hampton Court near the palace, in appreciation for his many contributions to science.  He shrugged off knighthood and requested only his name be written on his tombstone.  One thing he never forgot as the mental fog crept in was his love for the Lord and confidence of His good promises.  He spent the remaining nine years of his life at Hampton Court, quietly fading away, looking forward to heaven, which he entered on August 26, 1867.  The world below basks in the light of discoveries made by plain old Michael Faraday.

    Afterword: Lessons Learned
    Undoubtedly you have been encouraged by Faraday’s story.  Not an ounce of guile or inconsistency mars his memory.  We can, however, with the benefit of hindsight, speculate on some things that might have been.  One area of particular interest to the historian of science is the fact that Faraday’s life spanned the Darwinian revolution, the rapid rise of evolutionism and materialism that in twelve short years (1859-1871) turned the science of the natural philosophers, mostly Christians, into the science of the skeptics like Huxley and Haeckel.  Even John Tyndall, Faraday’s admirer and successor, was part and parcel of the revolution.  Faraday personally knew almost all the great scientists of his day; why did the Darwinian revolution occur on his watch?  Why did his Christian testimony have so little influence on those who were sowing the seeds of skepticism, atheism, methodological naturalism, and higher criticism all around him?

    For one thing, Faraday was 69 when Darwin published On the Origin of Species; by then, his memory was severely impaired.  Nevertheless, movements have roots, and throughout the late 18th and early 19th centuries, seeds of doubt that were to undermine Biblical faith were already growing.  Lyell’s geological theories had cast doubt on Biblical chronology.  Pre-Darwinian evolutionary tracts and books, like Robert Chambers’ Vestiges, were gaining a widespread hearing.  Though Faraday was undoubtedly aware of such skeptical movements, it is difficult to find any account of Faraday speaking out against them, even though his outburst over spiritualism shows that he was capable of having strong opinions.  It’s troubling to read in an appendix of Thomas’ biography of Faraday, that as Director of the Royal Institution, he personally invited a mixed bag of scientists to give lectures: Christians, like Maxwell, Kelvin, Stokes and Whewell, but also skeptics, like Tyndall, Lyell and even Darwin’s bulldog, Thomas Huxley.  Huxley spoke four times at the Institution from 1852 to 1861, two years after The Origin was published, a year when England was ablaze with controversy over evolution.  Huxley’s 1861 topic was “On the nature of the earliest stages of the development animals.”  It’s not hard to imagine what Huxley, the most avid popularizer of Darwin in Britain, had to say about that.  In 1855, Faraday wrote a letter to Tyndall that is a model of conciliation and peacemaking; but within 20 years, this same Tyndall would announce before the British Association the triumph of scientific naturalism.  Just a few years after Faraday’s retirement, his Royal Institution became another mouthpiece of the Darwinians.  In all fairness, the Royal Institution was a non-religious body, and Faraday had a responsibility to allow leading scientists to speak; inviting a speaker does not imply endorsement.  Yet the silence is puzzling.  Why didn’t Faraday speak up, write essays, lecture on science and the Bible, or do more to prevent the war over science and the nature of reality that he should have seen coming?

    Without having Faraday here to defend himself, it would be unfair to judge his apparent inaction as real; he may have done and said more than history recorded.  All we can do is argue from the silence, make inferences from rare quotations, and analyze cultural and political trends of the day.  We have the benefit of hindsight to see the evil fruit these skeptical trends produced – eugenics, Marxism, Nazism, social Darwinism and higher criticism.  To Faraday, they were philosophical issues bantied about in a culture that still survived by inertia on Christian presuppositions.  Michael Faraday strived to live peaceably, a good and noble personal goal, but there is a time and place to oppose evil.  Faraday had the gifts and the credibility to help define the issues and influence the direction of science.  He certainly advanced the secular part of it, and his personal character was impeccable, but the dichotomy between his church life and scientific life seems almost schizophrenic.  It is regrettable, knowing what followed, that he did not speak and write more on the Christian philosophy of science and the relation of Biblical faith to scientific endeavor, or to respond to the increasing arguments favoring naturalistic evolutionism when it was most needed.  He underlined I Timothy 6:20-21 and Romans 1:20 in the privacy of his study, but did he spread the message?

    Another factor was the growing acceptance of methodological naturalism that can be traced to Sir Francis Bacon: the assumption that it is possible, even desirable, to approach science secularly, to discover truth through the pure accumulation of empirical facts and making inductive conclusions from the facts.  Presumably, this does not imply metaphysical naturalism, that nature is all there is.  Ultimately, however, the naturalistic method of science led to scientism, logical positivism and to the complete takeover of all branches of knowledge, even history and the arts, by secularists and materialists.  The Christian natural philosophers did not predict this outcome; they thought God was glorified in our discovering the laws of nature that He had set up.  This is a half truth— of course the discovery of God’s natural laws honors His wisdom, but the emphasis on natural law, and the de-emphasis on His sovereignty and free will, gradually had the effect of removing the possibility of God intervening in any way in His world.  Nature became the clock that God wound up at the beginning and left to run down on its own.  Ultra-Newtonianism pictured a predictable, clockwork universe that could be described by equations, provided we knew all the variables.  That such a view of nature is naive and simplistic is acknowledged by most moderns, but if we transport ourselves to Faraday’s world, we can understand the obsession to uncover natural laws –a worthy, though incomplete, goal.  John Herschel, William Whewell and others who promoted methodological naturalism were Christians who believed in an all-wise Creator, but their assumption nature could be approached inductively without metaphysical presuppositions denies the Lordship of Christ in all areas of life.  Methodological naturalism works to a point, as when measuring charge, force, temperature and other observable, repeatable causes and effects, but what are the limits?  By not defining the limits of science, the natural philosophers opened the door for the secularists to consider all fields open to secular inquiry, even psychology and origins.  The intelligent design movement is the latest skirmish in the battle of worldviews.  The secularists think that the universe can be described fully in terms of particles acting under chance and necessity or a combination of the two.  The design scientists add another fundamental entity: information.  Information is the fingerprint of designing intelligence that cannot be reduced to natural law.  If information is detectable and conserved, trying to reduce the universe and life to equations about particles is doomed to failure.  William Dembski has diagrammed an “Explanatory Filter” that ensures that chance and necessity are given appropriate consideration as causes, and that information (from an intelligent designer) is the explanation of last resort.  This approach addresses the concerns of earlier philosophers over “God of the gaps” explanations, without reducing science to the art of just-so storytelling in vain attempts to force evidences of design into the molds of chance and necessity.

    In part also – and here is a lesson for modern Christians – the Sandemanian church may carry some blame for allowing the Darwinian revolution to succeed without a fight.  They so emphasized separation from the world, it appears they failed to be the “salt of the earth” and “light of the world” Jesus admonished.  Their members tended to marry within the group.  Their beliefs forbade them to fellowship with other groups of Christians, and frowned on getting involved in political or social issues.  Their faith seemed to be a personal thing, shared fervently on Sunday and Wednesday nights, but producing little impact on their community the rest of the week.  Undoubtedly they expected believers to work honestly and diligently in their careers (as Michael Faraday exemplified), but evangelism did not seem to be a high priority.  Consequently, they never became a large or influential movement.  This may be an incomplete evaluation of a long-defunct denomination, but why are references to God, the Bible, Jesus Christ, creation, or any other Biblical theme so rare in Faraday’s scientific writings?  Is not the author of Scripture the author of nature?  Faraday would certainly have believed it, and his personal faith is vibrant in his letters, but it appears he said little about this to his colleagues.  His scientific letters and lecture notes, though imbued with Christian presuppositions, seem as secular as any.  To what extent was Faraday influenced by his closed-door, uninvolved church?  A famous evangelist warned, “It takes evangelistic unction to make orthodoxy function.”  The Sandemanian movement stressed orthodoxy, but lacked the unction to share their faith, and so petered out.  The movement would be almost totally forgotten were it not for their famous member, Michael Faraday.  Churches today need to get their salt out of the shaker.  Its savor must flavor every part of life, including science.  Salt stings, but bad things happen when it is the missing ingredient.

    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.
    1. Exceptions always outnumber rules.
    2. There are always exceptions to established exceptions.
    3. By the time one masters the exceptions, no one recalls the rules to which they apply.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Souder’s Law
    Repetition does not establish validity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Advice from Paul

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

    I Timothy 6:20-21

    Song of the True Scientist

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

    from Psalm 104

    Maxwell’s Motivation

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

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

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

    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.