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Cassini to Rewrite Textbooks on Saturn
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
Saturn has already provided Cassinis instruments with a puzzle:
rate appears to be slowing down. According to Cassinis 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
planets magnetic field, which is presumed to originate from deep within the
fluid planets interior.) Jupiters 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 Saturns 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
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.
Babies Walk in the Womb
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 Titans 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 Titans atmosphere
from the evidence it is depleting rapidly (see 10/16/2003
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:
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
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.
Key to Evolution of Culture Suggested
Next headline on:
Politics and Ethics
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 offsprings 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 offsprings learned behavior. This capacity to
approve or disapprove offsprings 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
todays 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 offsprings
learned behavior. Our thesis holds that the simultaneous presence
of both capacities in our hominid ancestors, imitation and
approval/disapproval of offsprings 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 offsprings 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 ones 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
are unable to categorize their offsprings behavior as good or bad when
taking the offsprings 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.
Milky Way Center Bathed in Unexplainably Hot X-Rays 06/25/2004
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. Dont 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. Lets 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: thats 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 wouldnt 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. Dont 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:
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 Ways 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.
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. Its good to discern,
however, attempts to force uncooperative data into preconceived notions about
time scales and evolutionary theories. That fault is endemic in the
Biochemists Mutate Protein, Make a Catalyst
Next headline on:
Stars and Astronomy
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,
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.
Angry Evolutionist Seeks to Revive Peppered Moth Story 06/25/2004
Next headline on:
Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory
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 Kettlewells 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 Kettlewells 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 Kettlewells 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 dont 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 Kettlewells 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:
Its 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 Kettlewells character, most notably writer Judith Hoopers 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 thats 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 doesnt
feel he has enough data to call it proof. Some of his colleagues think its
too labor-intensive a task in light of other worthwhile pursuits. Majerus
himself doesnt 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,
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 Hoopers
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 Kettlewells experiments was like
finding out that Santa Claus was really his dad. Yes, it was damaging to
learn that Kettlewells 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. Kettlewells
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
ID Book Survives Nature Relatively Unscathed 06/24/2004
More significant is what this episode reveals about the lack of
solid evidence for Darwinian evolution. For decades, evolutionists
pointed to Kettlewells 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 todays high school
textbooks, along with other debunked examples like Haeckels embryos
(see 07/25/2003 and 10/30/2003
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, dont
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
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 thats 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
Darwins 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? Lets 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:
Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory
Considering the intemperate disdain intelligent design books usually receive from the
major journals when they are even noticed (see, for example, Natures 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 earths
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 dont 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
1Douglas A. Vakoch, Bright blue dot,
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.
Its 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,
its 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.)
Spiderman No Match for Real Spider 06/24/2004
Gonzalez and Richards build a convincing case for design,
but they tend to accept uncritically current scientific models as facts.
Too much trust in todays 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
11/04/2003 headlines on geology, and
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
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 Sagans
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
headline) hints at a sea change just 23 years after Sagans 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
Next headline on:
Geographic News took the occasion of the upcoming Spiderman sequel to investigate the
superpowers of real spiders. If you were spidy, you could:
Cameron Walker writes, Spiders arent swinging their way through the skyline
or facing up to crazed criminals like Doc Ock, the villain in Spider-Man 2.
But theyve got the wherewithal to survive in a range of environments that gives
them their own extraordinary edge.
- 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
- 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.
According to another spider story posted on
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, Its interesting because it
doesnt make any sense. There doesnt seem to be any advantage to
having a symmetrical web, yet it evolved independently among spiders more than once.
Its 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 dont know what that reason is yet.
Spiders deserve more respect than we give them.
We usually cant step on them fast enough. OK, so you dont 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. Thats
a good thing for a kid to learn.
Cleaners Advertise in the Fish Market 06/22/2004
Next headline on:
The plot of this science project seems made for Disney animation, a fishy version
of Aesops 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 wont come near. The
variables in the experiment were: the parasite load on the client, the clients
hunger level, the cleaners hunger level, and the cleaners skill at
preconflict management strategy. Theres 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 predators gills and
body. The client, apparently appeased by this show of good will, says, OK,
its 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 isnt 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.) Its risky
to do business with ones 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 prisoners
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 thats 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,
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.
Mystery of the Left-Handed Proteins: Solved? 06/21/2004
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.
how Garrett Hardin, an evolutionist, once presented some
startling questions in a Scientific American publication
entitled, Natures 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:
Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory
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
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,
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.
Stickleback Fish Achieve Stardom in Evolutionary Labs
- Only one amino acid was tested, and a unique one at thatproline.
- They did not state the value of their best enantiomeric excess.
- It is unrealistic to minimize the damaging effects of cross reactions.
Nature would not exclude products that would destroy any progress.
- 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.
- The reaction required specialized ingredients and conditions. For a
feeling of this, the following paragraph from their paper is includednot 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.
The authors make no attempt to describe a plausible environment in which such
specialized conditions would exist on a prebiotic earth.
Any relaxation of the special conditions, and the enantiomeric excess reverses to equilibrium.
The hypothesis is glued together with wiggle words like might, could, may, perhaps, and
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.
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.
Natural selection cannot be invoked unless a system can replicate itself with high
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, Were here, therefore
it happened (without a designer).
These are just a few of the problems with this story. Whats 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 its 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 Chemistry
Origin of Life
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 DNAperhaps just a single genecan control many traits
that affect an organisms 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 Pennisis review, here are the observations that are drawing evolutionists
to the study of sticklebacks:
More research is needed, she concludes:
- 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 platespresumably 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 fishs armor. Its 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 genes regulationand not in the gene itselfcaused 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.
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 dont affect development on a broad scale, so as not to short-circuit an organisms 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.
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, survival. Its 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 Fishs Bony Armor in the Wink of a Gene,
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 doesnt 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 cant be far behind.
Next headline on:
Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory
Writing in the Los Angeles Times June 17 (see reprint at
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:
Bible and Theology
Comet Surface Wild and Crazy
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
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?
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,
Vol 304, Issue 5678, 1764-1769, 18 June 2004 [DOI: 10.1126/science.1097899].
3Sweet Dreams Are Made of These,
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 cant observe? When they talk about
this comet having formed billions of years ago, how can they possibly know that?
Fungi Supply Plant Communities With Underground Nutrient Pipeline 06/17/2004
Brownlees 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 Jupiters 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
Next headline on:
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
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
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.
- 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 dont 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 wastestalents 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
- 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.
Furthermore, in contrast to a
widely held viewsoil microorganisms arent 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,
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.
Can Natural Processes Create a Mind?
So how does evolutionary theory deal with these new realizations?
There are only three references to evolution in this paper:
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.
- 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.
- Fictitious force: One ecologist who studied the relationships between
orchids and truffles remarked that the truffles appear to be evolution drivers.
Sorry, truffles dont qualify for a drivers license.
- 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
Next headline on:
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 brains complexity. Plain 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 arent 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 brains 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 doesnt 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, Its amazing that after a hundred years of modern neuroscience
research, we still dont know the basic information processing functions of a
1H. Clark Barrett, Human Cognition: Dispelling Rumors of a Gene
Vol 304, Issue 5677, 1601-1602, 11 June 2004 [DOI: 10.1126/science.1098610].
Lets get this straight. Barrett just
admitted that Marcus doesnt 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 brains complexity.
I.e., nature built a brain, how we dont know, but my friend Marcus said so.
Mars Rovers Enter New Phase of Exploration
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, shes a prodigy.
One module may suffice to build 60 legs
on a centipede, but more is going on, because those legs dont 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
Next headline on:
Genetics and DNA
Darwin and Evolutionary Theory
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; its 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.
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; its a time to enjoy the
from this vicarious
NASA-Ames Gives Darwin Credit for Antenna Design Project
Next headline on:
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 NASAs Ames Research Center, located in Californias Silicon Valley. Through a process patterned after Darwins survival of the fittest, the strongest designs survive and the less capable do not.
Evolutionary software appears to be more powerful than a speeding engineer:
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.
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 NASAs Office of
Exploration Systems and its Evolvable
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.
Dinos in the News 06/15/2004
Mr. Lohn and the author of this press release dont 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 Darwins 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.Johnsons 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.
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).
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 Darwins survival of
the fittest the fact that it was patterned at all shows that it was
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
08/26/2003 headlines, for instance).
If evolutionists dont understand their own theory, then the intelligent
design scientists are going to have to continue to teach them all about it.
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 Theory
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
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 Africas
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
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.
Phoebe Shows Her Dark, Icy Face 06/14/2004
Next headline on:
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
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
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
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 Cassinis 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 Titans 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 Saturns magnificent rings.
How Molecular Trucks Build Your Sensors 06/14/2004
Next headline on:
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, theyve found a train of boxcars and a whole
crew of engineers, conductors and brakemen.
Cilia are appendages in the cell membrane that wiggle. Everybodys 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
Darwins 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, its 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 whats
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 ).
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 Dont 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 genes. Sixteen 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,
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 Darwins 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
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.
Science Remembers Reagan
Wouldnt 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:
Genetics and DNA
In commemoration of Ronald Reagan on the day of national memorial service,
Now reproduced four quotes from the former Presidents
policy statements on science.
The leftist editors of the Darwin Party
mouthpiece Science couldnt resist dredging up the oft-ridiculed
quote about trees causing air pollution, which they cited from the leftist-environmentalist
Sierra Clubs magazine. We remind our readers, however, that Reagans
claim was vindicated by scientists (see 03/17/2003 headline).
MRI Overtaking X-Rays
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 Gods blessing on our current president who, understanding
Reagans influence and legacy as expressed in his moving
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
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 todays 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
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
1Eustace and Nelson,
Whole body magnetic resonance imaging,
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.
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.
Talk to Your Dog: Hes Listening
Next headline on:
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 dogs ability does not extend to language syntax, but his ability
has caused some to speculate on the evolution of human language.
The dogs 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 Fischers 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,
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 agents office,
and exclaimed, Id like to show you my talking dog, Frodo.
The agent replied with an Ive-seen-it-all smirk,
Talking dog, eh? Perhaps you could
demonstrate your pets language skills for me. OK,
Frodo, heres our big chance, the owner replied, looking at his
bright-eyed, panting companion. Ready?
Ill 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!
Darwinists Fight Over Niche Construction Theory 06/09/2004
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 doesnt 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 Timmys dialogue, she is just responding to the
offstage trainers 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 doesnt mean they know what
they are saying. Only humans converse in meaningful sentences with
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:
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, www.nicheconstruction.com).
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.
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.
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.
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 Hulls 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
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?
Worm Genes Show Non-Evolutionary Pattern
Each of these internal controversies whether lamarckism,
punctuated equilibria, group selection or niche construction has
questioned the core belief of Darwinists, that Charlies 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 Charlies 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 agesee
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 Darwins
orthodoxy of individual selection. We could add to the list the heresies of
sympatric speciation and
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
Whichever you think is the best storytelling plot, lets
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 Darwins
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:
Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory
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
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,
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
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
yesterdays headline, for instance.)
Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory
How Many Neurons Does It Take to See a Picture? 06/08/2004
Next headline on:
Genetics and DNA
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,
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).
Weeds to Your Health 06/08/2004
Next headline on:
Why traverse the rain forests for miracle drugs,
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
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 shouldnt 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 todays
jaded youth, its a pretty cool discovery that its 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?
Its 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
DNA Folds With Molecular Velcro 06/07/2004
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:
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,
Flash format or as a
(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
The Evolution of Infidelity 06/07/2004
Next headline on:
Genetics and DNA
The 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.
A social psychologist is quoted denying that the behavior is genetically
based, but more likely based on imitation of the parent.
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.
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 Darwins universe:
me, myself, I. So yes, selfishness makes perfect sense in a selfish
universe, because selfishness is the highest good.
Darwinists Continue to Stifle Opposition
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 cant 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? Lets 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, youve 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, its evil. Maybe thats why the British pronounce it
Next headline on:
Genetics and DNA
Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory
Politics and Ethics
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.
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
Institute claims he misrepresented their position. The Discovery
Institute has issued press releases accusing NPR of
and has documented a pattern of
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
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.
Gene Regulation: When Nonsense Makes Perfect Sense 06/03/2004
Better not tell students about Creation-Evolution Headlines.
It might destroy their childlike faith in Father Charlie.
Next headline on:
Darwin and Evolutionary Theory
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:
its a new kind of gene that regulates other genes (see the Reuters summary on
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
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.
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
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 didnt see any
evolution here; did you?
Neural Darwinism: The Evolution of Truth 06/03/2004
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 DNA
Can evolutionary theory build a bottom-up explanation of higher cognitive
functions? David Papineau (Kings 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.
So is the mind Freuds black box? Cognitive psychologists seem to be in the same boat as the
evolutionists Michael Behe described in Darwins 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.
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 minds 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.
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 doesnt 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 cant we find out about the underlying mechanisms? Changeuxs 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 isnt 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.
Movie Jesus: Fact or Fiction?
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 others 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.
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: were 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.
Next headline on:
Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory
Bible 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 Im not sure about Jesus.
Dont 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 cant 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?
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.
Dead Sea Drying Up
Next headline on:
Bible and Theology
The Dead Sea water level is dropping 3.3 feet per year and may be gone in
50 years, reports
Daily. Israel and Jordan are working on ways to save the
worlds lowest-elevation lake, a landmark of Biblical fame.
California has a dry 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
North Star Is Rapidly Changing
Next headline on:
Bible and Theology
The North Star (Polaris) has brightened by 150% since Ptolemy observed it
2000 years ago, says
the American Astronomical Society (see report on
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.
Cambrian Explosion? Just Add Calcium to Seawater
Next headline on:
Now reports a new recipe for shell evolution that may shed
light on one of paleontologys 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 life.
Other 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,
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.
Modern Cavemen Found
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 data38 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 halitesto help answer
this unresolved issue in Earths 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
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
Notice also the ever-present personification
fallacy that so characterizes Darwinian explanations for things: Science
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 worlds
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. Dont accept a just-so story or mere suggestion.
Dont let them change the subject. Sometimes,
but not always, the preponderance of evidence leads to repentance.
Next headline on:
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.
Academic Freedom Applied Unequally
Next headline on:
Politics and Ethics
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:
Politics and Ethics
Scientist of the Month
Click on Apollos, the trusty|
|Guide to Evolutionary Theory
I would just like to say very good job with the work done here,
very comprehensive. I check your site every day. Its great
to see real science directly on the front lines, toe to toe with the
pseudoscience that's mindlessly spewed from the prestigious
(a biology student in Illinois)
Ive been checking in for a long time but thought Id 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.
Im sure your audience loves your ranting, but if you know as much
about biochemistry, geology, astronomy, and the other fields you
skewer, as you do about ornithology, you are spreading heat, not
(a professor of ornithology at a state university, responding to
the 09/10/2002 headline)
I wanted to let you know I appreciate your headline news style of
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 readers
(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
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Featured Creation Scientist for June
1791 - 1867
Note: This month were trying to complete the biography
of Faraday we began last October.
Aldous Huxley was once asked what historical persons life he would most
like to relive. His answer was Michael Faraday. Everybody loves
Faraday. Its 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 its 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
worlds 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
Faradayone 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 Faradays work brought forth.
Add to the list generators, transformers, electrolysis devices,
electromagnets, and many other products of his lab, and
Faradays 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 Faradays 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 worlds goods, but they
had the intangible treasures of Gods 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 Gods 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 Voltas 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
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 shopkeepers 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 Britains
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 Lavoisiers 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 miners 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 Davys 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
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. Davys
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 Michaels 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!
Davys 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.
Whats 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 Faradays 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 audiences
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 natures 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 childrens
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
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
Faradays laws of electrolysis. Each of these had immense practical
application that were soon exploited by entrepreneurs.
Added to his experimental fame,
Michael Faradays 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. Thats a prime illustration of Muirs 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 worlds 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 Lords 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,
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 doesnt 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 Faradays
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 GodI Corinthians 10:31), the
well-known Protestant work ethic (if any would not work, neither
should he eatI Thessalonians 3:10), and the commitment to Truth
(Thou shalt not bear false witnessExodus 20:16) and you have the
qualifications for a good scientist.
Many have noted that Faradays 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 Faradays 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 Gods
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 Faradays energy source. His friend and
successor John Tyndall, though a skeptic, could not help but notice:
I think that a good deal of Faradays 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 Faradays 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.
Faradays 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 Faradays 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 comfortnot 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 Faradays 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 Faradays 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, Faradays 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.
Lyells 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
Its 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 Darwins 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.
Huxleys 1861 topic was On the nature of the earliest stages of the
development animals. Its 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 Faradays 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 didnt 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 Gods 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 Faradays 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
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 Faradays 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 Worlds Greatest
Creation Scientists from Y1K to Y2K.
Copies are also
available from our online store.
A Concise Guide|
You can observe a lot by just watching.
First Law of Scientific Progress
The advance of science can be measured by the rate at which exceptions to previously held laws accumulate.
1. Exceptions always outnumber rules.
2. There are always exceptions to established exceptions.
3. By the time one masters the exceptions, no one recalls the rules to which they apply.
Nature will tell you a direct lie if she can.
So will Darwinists.
Science is true. Dont be misled by facts.
Finagles 2nd Law
No matter what the anticipated result, there
will always be someone eager to (a) misinterpret it, (b) fake it, or (c)
believe it happened according to his own pet theory.
3. Draw your curves, then plot your data.
4. In case of doubt, make it sound convincing.
6. Do not believe in miracles rely on them.
Murphys Law of Research
Enough research will tend to support your theory.
If the facts do not conform to the theory, they must be disposed of.
1. The bigger the theory, the better.
2. The experiments may be considered a success if no more than 50%
of the observed measurements must be discarded to obtain a correspondence
with the theory.
The number of different hypotheses erected to explain a given biological phenomenon
is inversely proportional to the available knowledge.
All great discoveries are made by mistake.
The greater the funding, the longer it takes to make the mistake.
The solution to a problem changes the nature of the problem.
Peters Law of Evolution
Competence always contains the seed of incompetence.
An expert is a person who avoids the small errors while sweeping on to the grand fallacy.
Repetition does not establish validity.
What really matters is the name you succeed in imposing on the facts not the facts themselves.
For every action, there is an equal and opposite criticism.
Thumbs Second Postulate
An easily-understood, workable falsehood is more useful than a complex, incomprehensible truth.
There is nothing so small that it cant be blown out of proportion
Hawkins Theory of Progress
Progress does not consist in replacing a theory that is wrong with one that is right. It consists
in replacing a theory that is wrong with one that is more subtly wrong.
The best theory is not ipso facto a good theory.
Error is often more earnest than truth.
Advice from Paul|
Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle
babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge by
professing it some have strayed concerning the faith.
I Timothy 6:20-21
Song of the True Scientist
O Lord, how manifold are Your works! In wisdom You have made
them all. The earth is full of Your possessions . . . . May the glory of the Lord endure forever. May the
Lord rejoice in His works . . . . I will sing to the Lord s long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my
being. May my meditation be sweet to Him; I will be glad in the Lord. May sinners be
consumed from the earth, and the wicked be no more. Bless the Lord, O my soul! Praise the Lord!
from Psalm 104
Through the creatures Thou hast made
Show the brightness of Thy glory.
Be eternal truth displayed
In their substance transitory.
Till green earth and ocean hoary,
Massy rock and tender blade,
Tell the same unending story:
We are truth in form arrayed.
Teach me thus Thy works to read,
That my faith, new strength accruing
May from world to world proceed,
Wisdoms fruitful search pursuing
Till, thy truth my mind imbuing,
I proclaim the eternal Creed
Oft the glorious theme renewing,
God our Lord is God indeed.
James Clerk Maxwell
One of the greatest physicists
of all time (a creationist).
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