Creation-Evolution Headlines
September 2005
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If the intellect has agreed to contemplate what God has made, it also agrees to do what God has bid.  Should this be attained by all, then there would be nothing further to desire for the human race than that all people in the whole globe should live together in one city and, already in this world far from every strife, have pleasure in one another, as we hope of the future.”
—Johannes Kepler, from a letter expressing his view of science and society.  Max Casper, Kepler (Dover 1993 ed.), p. 376.
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Five years ago this month, Creation-Evolution Headlines began bringing you news and amazing discoveries of science, and explaining how they relate to the creation-evolution controversy.  There are now thousands of stories at your disposal on over two dozen topics, chained together for easy browsing and linked to the original sources.  Most of them come right out of the leading scientific journals.  These five years have been a momentous period, from 9/11 and the war on terror to the publishing of the human genome, the exploration of Mars and Saturn, and much, much more.  Now, with the growing interest in intelligent design, this page can be your daily source for the latest information on important developments around the world.
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Bullahalloo: The Jerusalem Post reported that a Solomon-era clay seal (bulla) has been found in the Arab dump outside Jerusalem – the first inscription from the First Temple period.  (See 04/17/2005 story.)

Far Out: Cassini just took the best-ever pictures of Saturn’s moons Tethys and Hyperion.  The latter is one of the most bizarre-looking moons yet seen around Saturn (see press release, color mosaic and zoom movie).  It has deep, steep-sided craters coated with dark, smooth material at the bottoms.  One crater is almost the size of the moon itself.  For official images with captions, go to JPL’s Planetary Photojournal, click on Saturn, then the moon of your choice.  The first place to find new Cassini images is on the Raw Images gallery.  The Planetary Society usually posts detailed interpretive guides fairly quickly, and some amateurs beat the pros to the punch by creating mosaics and animations on the Unmanned Spaceflight Forum.
Coming Up:  Scientists await close up images of Dione, October 11, and Rhea, November 26.

Spider Blood Survives 20 Million Years – So They Say    09/30/2005  
EurekAlert announced, “Spider blood found in 20 million year old fossil.”  Science Daily repeated the story.  The articles even tell how the spider died (it was climbing a tree and was struck on the head by fast-flowing sap).  The BBC News said, “Spider is ‘20 million years old.’” At least they put quotes around the date, but they quoted Dr. David Penney of the University of Manchester scratching his beard and saying, “It’s amazing to think that a single piece of amber with a single spider in it can open up a window into what was going on 20 million years ago.”  The date comes from the Miocene deposits in which the amber was found in the Dominican Republic.  Those deposits rank at 20 million years according to the evolutionary dating scheme.

How could blood survive decay for 2000 years, let alone 20 million?  Suggested revision for Penney’s thoughts: “It’s amazing to think that a single piece of amber with a single spider in it does not open minds to the realization that 20 million years is implausible fiction.”
    Let’s remind readers of the way evolutionists reason about fossils and dates.  How do you know this spider is 20 million years old?  Answer: it was found in a 20-million-year-old rock.  How do you know the rocks are 20 million years old?  Answer: because, stupid, it has this 20-million-year-old spider in it!
Next headline on:  Terrestrial ZoologyFossilsDating Methods
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Can a Robot Build Itself?    09/30/2005  
The news media got a load of Joseph Jacobson’s toy robots that could make copies of themselves.  Ker Than on LiveScience, for instance, called these “biological” robots:

Inspired by biological systems, scientists have developed miniature robots that can self-assemble using parts that float randomly in their environments.  The robots also know when something is amiss and can correct their own mistakes.   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
(See also MSNBC News).  Calling these things “robots” requires a little stretch of imagination.  They don’t walk or clean the carpet.  They only have two parts.  The parts line up in sequences five parts long.  If extra parts are floating around, new copies of the 5-element sequence will form automatically because of the way they are designed to fit together.
    Jacobson (MIT) made the parts latch onto each other in specific ways.  The work was inspired by DNA, according to Stefan Lovgren in National Geographic, who said the goal was to illustrate the fundamental aspects of biological replication.  Self-assembly had been demonstrated before:
But the new robots mark the first time a mechanical system has been created that can self-replicate from random parts using the same principles as biological systems, which assemble structures from disordered building blocks using error correction.
    “We identified two ingredients about the biological process,” Jacobson said.  “One is that it can make these copies from random parts that are distributed throughout the environment, and second is that it can do so with very high fidelity [accuracy].”
  Jacobsen also said, “The analogy really is that of biology.  Biology is exquisitely good at building highly complex, well-ordered structures from disordered parts.”  The paper was published in Nature.1
    Does this new work bear at all on the question of the origin of this high-fidelity self-replication?  None of the articles speculated about it explicitly, but the paper did state that attempts by robotics experts “have yet to acquire the sophistication of biological systems.”  The authors also noted that without error correction, the yield for replicating an n-bit string becomes exponentially small, the longer the string.2
1Griffith, Goldwater and Jacobson, “Robotics: Self-replication from random parts,” Nature 437, 636 (29 September 2005) | doi: 10.1038/437636a.
2(1 - e)n, where e is the error per input.  For a string of length 5 with two parts, as in this experiment, the yield would be just 3% if e=0.5.  For a string of length 10, the yield drops to .09%.  For a string of length 100, the size of a small protein, the yield is 8 x 10-29, and that is assuming only two kinds of parts.  Since proteins are made up of 20 different kinds of amino acids, the error is correspondingly higher, and the yield much, much lower.
One wonders of anti-ID apostle Ker Than lept onto this story during the week of the Dover trial to show that the problem of the origin of life may not be that bad.  He could show pictures of “self-replicating robots,” just like DNA.  The devil is in the details.
    This experiment supports ID and defeats chemical evolution theory in many important ways.  (1) It illustrates the extreme differences in complexity between Jacobson’s simple 2-part, 5-length strings of nonsense and the luxuriously ordered forms of DNA and proteins.  (2) It shows that intelligent guidance is required to make the parts fit together according to rules.  (3) It overlooks the problem of left- and right-handed forms.  (4) It requires a suitable environment for the parts to come together (here, a frictionless surface with ample spare parts).  (5) The error correction derives from the parts themselves.  In the cell, DNA errors are corrected by multiple proofreading machines.  (5) It makes the yield for lengthier strings of more parts appear hopeless.  (6) It demonstrates that no language convention arises by the attractive forces of components.  Jacobson got strings of GGYYG and YGGYY.  What does that spell?  What function or meaning does it convey?  Nothing.
    In living cells, the DNA is a code that specifies parts that have function.  These codes are translated by machines into another code.  Multiple machines and pathways exist to maintain and correct the DNA language.  Any resemblance, therefore, of these so-called “error-correcting robots” to DNA is as superficial as bits (0 and 1) are to an encyclopedia.  Don’t allow such things to be used as propaganda for evolution when they are really strong arguments for intelligent design.  According to Dembski’s no free lunch principle, any semblance of complex information achieved by this “evolutionary” algorithm was only made possible by the insertion of intelligent design on the front end.  Naturalism can permit no such luxury.
Next headline on:  Intelligent DesignOrigin of Life
Were Dinosaurs Gasping for Air?   09/29/2005    
A news story on CNN claims that “the air contained only about 10 percent oxygen at the time of the dinosaurs.”  It climbed to 23% by 40 million years ago, then dropped to its current level at 21%, said the researchers.  They feel that the rise of oxygen “almost certainly contributed to evolution of large animals.”  Mammals and birds need three to six times the oxygen, they claim.  They arrived at the oxygen levels by measuring carbon isotopes in sedimentary rocks at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.  Their results were published in Science.1  News@Nature, Science Now, MSNBC, and LiveScience all carried the story.
1Falkowski et al., “The Rise of Oxygen over the Past 205 Million Years and the Evolution of Large Placental Mammals,” Science, Vol 309, Issue 5744, 2202-2204 , 30 September 2005, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1116047].
Let’s think this through.  If this theory were correct, 80-ton dinosaurs, fast-running velociraptors, and pterosaurs as large as fighter jets (09/09/2005) were able to live on 10% oxygen, yet mammals could only survive as small rats, and as time went on oxygen levels increased.  So the already big dinosaurs died off and the miniscule mammals grew in size due to the more oxygenated environment?
    According to prior evidence, some mammals were at least medium sized during the time of the dinosaurs (see “This badger ate dinosaurs for breakfast,” 01/12/2005).  The authors note this but simply dismiss it: “Data show a rapid increase from small to medium-sized mammals in the first few million years after the K-T event (Fig. 2).  This size contrast is blurred slightly with the recent discovery of larger Cretaceous mammals, but this trend does not appear to be driven by oxygen.”  Blurred slightly?  It falsifies their basic idea that oxygen drove the development of large placental mammals.  Whatever data they dislike are thus simply discarded as irrelevant.  Many other life forms, such as plants, insects, shellfish and crustaceans, grew to enormous sizes during the supposedly low-oxygen periods.
    Notice how they also placed their trust in the K-T meteor hypothesis: “Whereas a bolide impact at the Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T) boundary and the ensuing extinction of dinosaurs provided ecological opportunity for the radiation of placental mammals,” la te dah, dum de dum dum, etc.  This is more of the opportunistic theory of evolution: if you clear the ground of big dumb dinosaurs, large mammals will evolve, as if by magic, to fill in the space.  Opportunity is thus the necessary and sufficient cause for the emergence of complete revolutions in body organs, body shapes, decorations, behaviors and capabilities, from bat flight to whale sonar, in hundreds of new kinds of animals.  The Darwinian Density: “Well, they’re here, aren’t they?  Since evolution is a fact, they must have evolved.”
    The researchers didn’t seem to notice that the carbon-isotope measurements contradict direct measurements of oxygen from amber.  According to an article on the USGS website, air trapped in prehistoric amber was claimed to have 30% oxygen in it – not 10%.  Were the “300 analyses by USGS scientists of Cretaceous, Tertiary, and recent-age amber from 16 world sites” wrong?  Or did these researchers forget to cross-check their measurements with the amber data?  How about a little classic lab experimentation?  They could grow mice in different amounts of oxygen and see if that affects body size.  Once they find the magic oxygen formula, they could breed elephant shrews into elephants.
    The hypothesis is based on circumstantial evidence, comparing oxygen with the geologic column, which is itself based on evolutionary assumptions.  One would think that a few more requirements beyond oxygen would be necessary for the “success story” of the mammals.  Why the news sources all repeated this wild idea uncritically is a study in itself.
Footnote:  It turns out that National Geographic, bless its evolved heart, did consider other requirements for mammals to flourish.  After indulging in the myth of “mammalian opportunism,” they quoted Robert Asher of the Berlin Museum of Natural History who, though impressed by the “fascinating correlation” of oxygen levels with mammal size and diversification, thought more had to be involved.  Of all the other “causative factors” he could have listed, he mentioned only the one that Darwinists love most, because it intuitively explains the rise of specified complexity without a Designer.  Listen carefully:
But is global oxygen is the magic bullet that explains the evolution of mammals 50 to 40 million years ago?  “My guess,” Asher said, “would be no. ... Like most other issues, there are a number of causative factors involved, including chance.”
Next headline on:  DinosaursMammals
Another Record Distant Galaxy Found   09/29/2005    
The Spitzer Space Telescope found a “positively gigantic” galaxy at a time the universe was supposedly only 800 million years old – just 5% the assumed age of the universe – according to a press release from Jet Propulsion Lab.  For the galaxy to be this big that far back, it must have “bulked up amazingly quickly,” the report says.
This shows more of the trend reported last week (see 09/21/2005).  Notice which camp is always surprised.
Next headline on:  Cosmology
Scientific Institutions Root for Darwin   09/28/2005    
With the Dover trial in the midst of its first week (09/26/2005), the Goliath fans are sounding off, led by their cheerleaders, Nature, Science and other institutions:
  • Nature had two pieces this week, claiming the Dover trial represents Do or Die for Design.  This editorial ended, “Scientific organizations are well aware of this case’s significance, and many have lent public support to the plaintiffs [i.e., the ACLU and the 11 parents suing the school district for allowing alternatives to Darwinism].  A ruling in their favour will be welcomed not just by scientists and teachers but by American parents, whose children need to be protected from an injection of superstition into science teaching.”  (Emphasis added in all quotes; “sic” means “thus in the original”; our usage is intended to point out the assumptions and biases of the source.)
  • Nature writer Geoff Brumfiel titled his report, “School board in court over bid to teach intelligent design.”  Even though the school board did not require teaching intelligent design, but only mentioning that an alternative source was available for the students, Brumfiel focused on the testimony of the pro-Darwinists, Ken Miller, Eugenie Scott and Eric Rothschild.  He reported that when Ken Miller was asked about problems with the origin of life, Miller responded, “I would rather say that Darwin was incomplete, not that Darwin was inadequate.”
  • Science reporter Constance Holden wrote about “Darwin’s (First) Day in Court.”  She also highlighted Brown U professor Kenneth Miller, describing him in terms of a prize fighter: “Even the flagellum got its moment in the spotlight.  Miller tore into a favorite example used by biochemist and ID proponent Michael Behe....”  She made a short reference to the co-option argument; i.e., that the flagellum resembles a simpler molecular syringe, presumed to be a precursor.
  • Kansas University:  Chancellor of KU, Bob Hemenway, wrote a letter to colleagues asking them to hold their ground against the ID movement.  “The United States cannot accept efforts to undermine the teaching of science,” he said, although he hastened to mention that no one is attacking people’s religious beliefs.  Creationism and intelligent design, he said, “are most appropriately taught in religion, philosophy, or sociology class, rather than a science class.”
  • Citizen War Invades Museum  The Lawrence Journal-World reported about growing numbers of patrons entering the Sternberg Museum of Natural History angry about the pro-evolution exhibits.  Pro-ID advocate John Calvert claims there is no organized effort, but the museum director says the following scenario is becoming increasingly common: “A person or group will come in and confront one of the guides with rapid-fire questions for which the person is not qualified to respond” (see 09/22/2005 story).  The museum is counterattacking with more evolutionary displays and pamphlets, but Calvert, who thinks the museum is not educating but rather indoctrinating, predicts a backfire: “These exhibits are not going to work,” he said.  “People are going to wind up laughing at them.”
Hey; great idea.  Laughter may be one of the best medicines for chronic Darwinism.  Give it a try after the pepper spray of rapid-fire questions (be nice, of course—see 09/22/2005 commentary).  Let’s get the museum directors, the docents, the scientists, the lawyers and the reporters all laughing and having a good time.  Hire comedian Brad Stine to come into the dinosaur exhibit and give his wacky impressions of Dr. Noah Tall.  Stroking his goatee, gazing into the air, he could say, “Yes, children, this Diplodocus slowly morphed into your parakeet, over millions and millions of years.”  Somebody could hang a sign on the stuffed cow, “Whale Under Construction.”  Hold a karaoke contest of the Evolution Songs.  Find more ideas on the Darwin Day Top Ten (02/13/2004 commentary).
    Face it; evolution is funny.  It’s the craziest thing you ever heard.  “Hydrogen: a light, odorless, colorless gas, that given enough time, turns into people.”  Wah-hoo!  Hey, this could be just the thing: a positive, constructive strategy to heal the cultural rift in society.  It might even be good therapy for the Darwin Party leaders, who take themselves way too seriously.  Visualize Eugenie Scott and Ken Miller at the mike, hamming it up with Gory, gory evolution, 'tis ruthless marching on while the party is cracking up uncontrollably under the Charlie poster with the caption, “O, my sick stomach; I just looked at my eye in the mirror again.”
    One wonders if Hitler would have gotten anywhere if the crowds packed into his beer hall speeches not to be swayed, but for a rollickin’ good time at Amateur Comedy Hour.  Embarrassed at everyone mocking his antics, he might have slinkered away back to a career in art.
Next headline on:  DarwinismIntelligent DesignEducation
Do Dead Meteorites Tell Tales?   09/28/2005    
Several researchers lately have claimed that meteorites can tell us the history of our solar system.  How can this be?
  1. Messages from Heaven:  Richard Kerr in Science1 reported on work by Strom et al. in the same issue2 that the asteroid belt was the source of the so-called “late heavy bombardment” that is said to have pummeled the early solar system 3.9 billion years ago.  One researcher who had been working on this “problem” for 35 years completely changed his view based on the study.  Strom’s team hypothesized that the gas giants rearranged themselves, and then modeled how impactors might have been flung inward from the asteroid belt as a consequence.  Kerr writes, “Cratering specialists suspect that Strom and his colleagues are on to something, but they say the case remains open.”  Another said they could be right, but “we have to be careful.”
  2. Crystal Balls:  A Purdue University press release says “meteorites offer glimpse of the early Earth.”  Purdue scientists measuring the isotopic ratios in Antarctic meteorites think they can deduce the temperature of their formation.  From this, they believe, they can tell whether they formed at the same time Earth formed, or later.  It’s not like reading a book, exactly; one scientist said, “There are still quite a few unanswered questions about the earliest periods of the Earth’s history, and this study only provides one piece of the puzzle.”
  3. Treasure Chest:  As if to one-up the previous claim, EurekAlert printed a Florida State story that an “unusual meteorite unlocks treasure trove of solar system secrets.”  The Tagish Lake meteorite that fell in Canada in 2000 led a FSU “geochemist to a breakthrough in understanding the origin of the chemical elements that make up our solar system,” the press release claimed.  What did he find?  An unusual ratio of isotopes of osmium.  From this, he believes he can tell what kind of star produced the element, and when.  His hypothesis, however, flies in the face of earlier suggestions that the element came from dust from a nearby star.  No, the leader of the team says: his findings “reveal that the raw materials from which our solar system was built are preserved in a few exceptional meteorites, from which we can now recover the prehistory of our solar system.”

1Richard Kerr, “Another Hint of Planetary Marauders,” Science, Vol 309, Issue 5742, 1800, 16 September 2005, [DOI: 10.1126/science.309.5742.1800a].
2Strom et al., “The Origin of Planetary Impactors in the Inner Solar System,” Science, Vol 309, Issue 5742, 1847-1850, 16 September 2005, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1113544].
Several things stand out from stories of this genre.  (1) The new finding contradicts earlier beliefs.  (2) The new finding is put in the context of a vast field of unanswered questions.  (3) Evolution is a given.  (4) The accepted age of the solar system (4.6 billion years) is a given.  (5) Most of the work remains to be done.  (6) The check is in the mail (e.g., from this tiny tidbit of hypothesis, “we can now recover the prehistory of our solar system”).  (7) Once we figure this out for our solar system, we will unlock the keys to other stars and planets, and to the whole universe.  (8) This finding is the greatest thing since primordial soup.
    This is the way evolutionists kid themselves that they are doing science.  They envelop themselves in periodic tables, lab instruments, and equations.  So far so good.  But since the Big Picture of Evolution has already been decided to be fact by decree, every piece of data must be forced into it.
    Working this way requires adding whatever ad hoc elements are needed to keep the story going, as well as ignoring uncomfortable facts.  Dr. Walt Brown, for instance, who has a very different theory for the origin of impactors (see website), said this about Strom’s theory:
Without explaining how asteroids formed in the first place, Kerr and Strom try to explain why asteroids in the main belt were shaken up by moving the giant planets around, and appealing to the extremely weak Yarkovsky effect and planetary resonances.  (The radiometer effect is much stronger, because water molecules are much more massive than photons.)  Showing that the size distribution of MBAs [not accountants, but Main Belt Asteroids] corresponds to the early craters in the inner solar system does not mean that the early impacts came from the asteroid belt.
Each scientist working under evolutionary, naturalistic assumptions is a willing accomplice to this game of self-deception.  Their motive is to contribute a brick for the Temple of Charlie, which produces gratification that one is doing his part to advance the cult.  Whether the cult matches the real history of the universe, well – how could they ever tell?  Of course, you’re only likely to hear the evolutionary side in the media, because they are all part of the cult, too.
Next headline on:  Dating MethodsSolar System
Hobbit Update   09/28/2005    
BBC News posted an article updating the story of Homo florensiensis, the so-called “Hobbit Man” miniature-human fossil (see 10/27/2004).  Opponents of the “missing link” interpretation are becoming more ardent in their claim that the fossils represent diseased modern humans with a condition known as microcephaly.  The discoverers are not convinced.
Wait for this story to play out before jumping to conclusions.  If like most early man claims, it will be debunked in time.  Never be swayed by initial claims.  Wait for “the rest of the story.”
Next headline on:  Early Man
Carl Sagan’s Cosmos Is Back    09/27/2005  
MSNBC News reported that Carl Sagan’s popular 13-part series Cosmos is returning to TV this week, digitally remastered and enhanced with new up-to-date animations.  The 1980 series, which began with its own Agnus Dei invocation “The cosmos is all that is, all that ever was, and all that ever will be,” went far beyond the study of stars and galaxies.  It preached a profoundly atheistic, evolutionary world view of the meaning of life, its origin and destiny, and even cosmopolitics.  Facing the camera in one episode, Sagan stated emphatically (after showing a case of microevolution), “Evolution is a fact, not a theory.  It really happened.”  Stick-figure animations made up for the fossil record by showing smooth transitions from single cell to man.  Religious people, especially Christians, were routinely portrayed in a negative light – except for the Hindus, who got surprisingly good press from the science popularizer who really knew how to put the b in “billions.”
Oh good.  Now we can all laugh again as Sagan shows people, cities, spaceships and everything in the zoo and tells us, with all seriousness, “These are some of the things hydrogen atoms do, given fifteen billion years of cosmic evolution.”  Maybe the series should be renamed Cosmics.
Next headline on:  MediaCosmologyEvolution
Rhetoric Heats Up Over Dover IDea    09/26/2005  
Now that the ACLU’s lawsuit in Dover, Pennsylvania has gone to trial, more and more news media are writing about the controversy over intelligent design.  Many seem to think that the school board is trying to replace Darwinism in high school science classrooms with I.D.; actually, the Dover case does not mandate the teaching of intelligent design at all, but rather requires that administrators read a short statement in class expressing the point that evolution is a theory, not a fact, and that materials showing alternative explanations are available to students who are interested.  No student is forced to read them or use them, and no student is tested on I.D.  Darwinian evolution is still the only explanation for the evolution and development of life taught in the biology curriculum.
    This legal detail has not prevented a flurry of rhetoric over whether ID is scientific, and whether students should be allowed to hear alternatives or not – or even to be told alternatives exist.  In that sense, the controversy should be about whether Darwinism, and the naturalistic philosophy behind it, should be government-protected from scrutiny.  Instead, however, most of the reporting is focused on the scientific merits of intelligent design.  The implicit assumption is that Darwinism is already sound science, no longer in need of critical evaluation.  The mere attempt to arouse doubt about the soundness of Darwinism was enough for the ACLU to pursue its lawsuit.  Since any such doubt is assumed to be “religiously motivated,” the ACLU argues it amounts to an “establishment of religion” and is prohibited on the grounds of “separation of church and state,” even though no church or sect is being promulgated, let alone mentioned.
    Regardless of positions on the lawsuit, both sides are facing the Dover case with trepidation.  A single federal judge – John E. Jones III – may set precedent affecting many other states and school districts.  One side or the other may face difficulty advancing their views depending on the outcome.  With the scientific institutions nearly unanimously lined up on the pro-Darwin side, it looks like a classic David vs. Goliath setup.
  • is posting a strongly anti-ID series by Ker Than:
    • Part 1 claims ID is trying to “drag science into the supernatural.”
    • Part 2 calls ID “the death of science.”  This article was reprinted on MSNBC.
    • Part 3 calls ID “belief posing as theory.”
    • Part 4 looked at the history of court cases that supposedly ruled “creationism” unconstitutional.
  • MSNBC reporter Alex Johnson wrote about the trial.  Discovery Institute thought this article was fair-minded enough to reprint on their pro-ID site.
  • New York Times printed a story with pictures.
  • Wall Street Journal calls the case “Scopes 2005” (but this time, the Darwinists are the ones trying to outlaw their opposition).
  • Fox News, along with other major news sources, reported on the trial.
  • Lou Dobbs had Eugenie Scott of NCSE and Frank Sherwin of ICR face off for a few minutes, but the short time slot did not allow for much more than a few sound bites.
  • last week tried to make the strange case that “intelligent design is blasphemy.”  They appealed to some religious people who think I.D. is blasphemous to science, and some who thought it is blasphemous to Christianity (because it declines to identify the Designer).
  • York Dispatch wrote about the Discovery Institute’s refusal to back Dover.
  • Discovery Institute did not approve of Dover’s policy, but nevertheless denounced the “Orwellian” attempts of the ACLU to stifle scientific inquiry.
  • EvolutionNews, a media-watch blog of the Discovery Institute, has Jonathan Witt on the scene who is providing blow-by-blow coverage.  John West listed media myths to watch out for.
The Discovery Institute has posted a resource page for reporters and interested court watchers.  Most of the media coverage begs the question of whether it is proper for the courts to decide matters of science (see 09/16/2005 entry). 
Saturn’s moon Titan is shrouded in smog that obscures its surface, but scientists have a trick: at certain infrared wavelengths, light travels unhindered through the haze, letting the complex geography be seen clearly.  We’re going to give you some wavelengths to see through the haze of rhetorical smoke that is obscuring the real atmosphere around the intelligent design movement.  The smoke is coming out in billows from certain Darwinistas.  Look at this big lie Ker Than tells, for instance: “Yet no true examples of irreducible complexity have ever been found.”  Are we to just take his word for it?  No elephants have ever been found in his living room, either, despite the smell and the fact he can’t move or see anything, because Big Science ruled that elephants cannot be invoked in explanations.  He follows it up with the old bandwagon gimmick: “The concept is rejected by the majority of the scientific community.”  With this kind of smoke in the air, a well-tuned Baloney Detector is a must for navigating through the media without following the blind into the ditch.  Learn to use well these penetrating wavelengths:
  • Science and religion, not science vs. religion:  If you have been told that science and religion are two non-overlapping domains that have nothing to do with each other, you have been sold a bill of goods, and should demand a refund.  Philosophy of science has a long and varied history.  Up until the Darwinian usurpation, it was primarily religious people who did science.  They were the ones who categorized the fields of inquiry, devised the scientific method, founded the branches of science, and were motivated by their philosophy to do scientific work.  The word scientist did not even exist till William Whewell invented it in the 19th century; it was natural philosophy, restricted to the study of tangible, observable natural phenomena.  Scientists were committed to proof by observation, experimentation, and repeatability.  There was no conflict between the pursuit of knowledge (what science means, by definition) and religion.  This is not controversial.*  Of all religions, in particular, it was the Judeo-Christian worldview that was the patron and best friend of science.  The supposed warfare between science and religion is a myth that was promulgated by anti-religious Darwinists in their efforts to make science a secular replacement for religion.
    *For support from disinterested scholars (which is always encouraged here), check out, for instance, the two Teaching Company college-level lecture series on the history of science, where you will find two reputable secular professors making this point emphatically.  You can also read our online book, or the new book by Rodney Stark, For the Glory of God.  Also, notice this line from John Tresch in Science 09/30/2005 in a book review of Making Modern Science: A Historical Survey by Bowler and Morus: “... the book shows that the history of science itself has a rich and varied history--how, for instance, in the 1870s and 1880s the idea of a longstanding ‘war between science and religion’ was invented to bolster budgets in new research universities....”
  • Limits of science:  Science cannot know everything, because not everything can be tested in the lab.  History, for instance, is a branch of knowledge that deals with non-repeatable events of the past; consequently, the methods of investigation are different – eyewitness testimony, artifacts, journals, textual criticism, and the like.  This limitation becomes extreme when dealing with prehistory.  Without observers, one can only make inferences that are more or less plausible.  The farther back one goes, the more these inferences overlap heavily with assumptions, presuppositions and philosophical preferences.  In the limit (when considering ultimate origins), evolution and theology are indistinguishable; the story of origins becomes the science of one religion against the science of another religion.  Here, “science” loses all hope of testability and repeatability, and reduces to its core values: honesty, integrity, love of truth, submission to laws of logic, carefulness and other traits that are essentially religious values.  To suppose that Darwinists, who presume that honesty is a mere emergent property of matter in motion, are more capable of it than theists is as arrogant as it is self-refuting.
  • Natural, Supernatural and Intelligent Causation:  Much of the smog in the debate comes from the Darwinist straw man habit of calling intelligent design “supernatural” and calling it “giving up on science.”  Penetrate this fog with your light saber and you will see much.  Intelligent design is not based on what we don’t know, but on what we do know.  It is not an appeal to a god-of-the-gaps or theological explanation, but the very approach science uses all the time to discern between intentional and non-intentional effects.  I.D. proponents argue that it is a superior explanation of complex, specified, information-rich phenomena, based on the uniformity of experience, than appeals to chance and blind natural law.
        Not all phenomena have intelligent causes, but ruling them out by definition is an arbitrary and potentially show-stopping limitation on science.  Intelligent causes can be discerned from natural causes through rational analysis of the causal resources available.  But it is an exercise in futility to rule out intelligent causes when an intelligence has, indeed, acted.  When one is trying to make an inference to the best explanation about Mt. Rushmore, for instance, or about an archaeological inscription or stone tool, it is foolish to restrict one’s thinking to natural forces like wind and rain.  The ID takes well-known and fruitful methods of design inference and applies them rigorously to biology – not with theological pronouncements from prophets, but with rigorous mathematical and logical reasoning – the same kind used in forensics, cryptography, archaeology, and even SETI.
        If the Darwinists did not have such a political and emotional stake in defending their religion of naturalism, they would find this perfectly acceptable and reasonable.  In short, ID is not a cop-out answer or escape clause the way the Darwinists portray it: “We can’t figure it out scientifically so God must have done it,” but rather a positive affirmation about something we can know from the uniformity of experience.  Any time we find a language – especially one that can be translated into another language and maintain its meaning – we know that a mind produced it.  To say otherwise in order to maintain one’s philosophical preference is the cop-out.  To promise “the check is in the mail” and “it’s an unsolved problem, but we’ll figure out some day” is the escape clause, and the Darwinists are red-handed guilty.
  • Darwinism, R.I.P.  An assumption clouding up much of the reporting is that Darwinism works, or at least that it works better than any other scientific theory (see best-in-field fallacy).  If you have read Creation-Evolution Headlines for any time, you know that Darwinism is positive anti-knowledge (to borrow Colin Patterson’s phrase).  It cannot explain the origin of life, the development of the embryo, speciation, abrupt appearance of new body plans, anything.  It is a dismal failure, a lame, crippled, half-dead horse at the starting line where the rules prohibit the I.D. Seabiscuit from entry.  There is not a single part of evolutionary theory that is not controversial among evolutionists themselves.  The Darwinian method of science has two parts: (1) declare evolution a fact by fiat, and (2) hunt for corroborating evidence (that is, if you feel up to it; none is really necessary, since by #1, evolution is already a fact).  Darwinism has grown into an unwieldy, just-so storytelling empire built on Charlie’s flimsy heuristic (unguided, purposeless natural selection) that is tautological at its root, and fraught with a history of evil fruit.  Darwinists spend their time connecting distant dots of data with pure fiction.  They think that by extrapolating submillimeter changes in beak size they can explain the vast diversity of life, from whales to magnolias.  It’s time to call the Darwinists to accountability after 146 years of failure and open the field to fresh ideas.
  • Design vs. non-design exhausts the possibilities. mocked anyone who disagrees with Darwinism by posting its “Top 10 Intelligent Designs (or Creation Myths)” with the implication that if alternatives to Darwinism need to be permitted, then we must decide if schools should teach the Norse creation myth, the Egyptian creation myth, the Zoroastrian creation myth, etc., or all the above.  Luring the unwary reader in with nude art was a cheap trick, but they forgot to include the most lurid fable of all – Darwinism.  The display assumes all these creation stories are on a level playing field.  Any reasonable person could rank them in order of plausibility, but that is beside the point.  Even with the historical fact that it was Christian Europe that gave birth to science, not Persia or the Norse or the Egyptians, that is also completely beside the point.  No one in the I.D. movement is asking that a specific religious account of creation be taught as science.  The issue is about design, not the Designer or how he designed – just whether the phenomenon under investigation was, in fact, designed.
        Either life was designed, or it was not.  Those options exhaust the possibilities.  Design can be inferred by the methods of science without making any claims about who did it, or why.  Even the Darwinists like Richard Dawkins admit that life looks designed for a purpose.  Their approach is to explain away the design, and tempt us away from our common sense and logic, to chase a phantom story that in the misty past design just “emerged” (their favorite miracle word) out of disorder.  Should this mythology have sole rights to be heard in science class?  Intelligent causes are known to be the only explanation for certain classes of phenomena capable of scientific investigation.  No one has ever seen a complex information-rich system, like the DNA language and translation factory, complete with error-correcting mechanisms, arise by chance or natural law.  Why should the philosophical naturalists, like snarling Dobermans, keep healthier bloodhounds, with a nose for design, at bay?  Why should science be arbitrarily restricted from unlocking the mystery of life with a key that works?  More ominously, why should philosophical naturalism be established as a de facto religion guised in the sacred name of science?
The Darwinist strategy is to attach the label “scientific” to their beliefs and label their critics “religious.”  In this way, they hope to protect themselves from scrutiny by framing the legitimate controversies about their storytelling empire in terms of religion vs. science.  They arrogate to themselves the euphemism “scientific” and try to pigeonhole anyone who disagrees with their fable with the meaningless and contemptuous label, “people of faith.”  By inference, they assume for themselves the contrasting ribbon, people of reason.
    Since we are immune to bluffing here, after evaluating their rhetoric and performance, we suggest a counter-label to describe the rabid Darwin defenders: People of Froth.  Foaming at the mouth, these merciless warriors emit masses of fearsome-looking, bubbling matter from their lips, making reporters wilt with awe.  But what is froth upon closer inspection, but a mere agglutination of thin, vulnerable membranes enclosing hot air?  Realizing this can inspire the next thing that is needed after confidence in one’s own intellectual weapons: courage.  Fear thou not the course of the wroth; go forth against froth with the force of truth.  Say that five times real fast, then act on it.
Next headline on:  Darwinism and Evolutionary TheoryIntelligent DesignEducation
Is Archaeology Like SETI, or is SETI Like Religion?   09/24/2005    
Archaeologists have their Rosetta Stone, but so far, SETI investigators have no artifacts.  Still, Douglas Vakoch wrote for, archaeologists and anthropologists can teach SETI researchers how to prepare for encountering “exotic cultures with strange languages.”
    Vakoch recounted the interest in this angle at an anthropology conference last year:
One of the best-attended sessions of that meeting consisted of papers from leading scholars who pondered the daunting challenges of reconstructing alien civilizations – at interstellar distances....
    “The approaches we take as archaeologists in our search for peoples from another time and place may well offer some useful analogy to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence,” suggested archaeologist Paul Wason, one of the participants.  “Our work is conducted without the benefit of direct contact with living beings,” he observed, which is akin to SETI’s attempt to detect intelligence around distant stars.
    But how can analogies help us anticipate contact with extraterrestrials?
    For starters, by providing a case study of Homo sapiens encountering an alien intelligence, Wason explained.  “The meeting of Neanderthals and sapiens may be a good example for analogy—for it was a meeting of two different kinds of consciousness,” he added.
    But be forewarned as we start to draw lessons for SETI from such encounters, Wason urged.  The analogy may be humbling.
    “It may be that in such a comparison of us with ETI, ... we are the Neanderthals,” he said.
  (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
Yet how can SETI be compared with anthropology or archaeology, when the latter have bones and artifacts, but SETI has (so far) found nothing?  Vakoch asks if such speculations are premature without first obtaining proof extraterrestrial life exists.  He ends with quotes from psychologist Albert Harrison, who thinks there is value in contemplating such an encounter:
“Planned efforts to communicate beyond Earth should force us to step back and look at the big picture,” said Harrison, a professor at the University of California at Davis.  “Deciding what might be important for another civilization forces us to move beyond our pathologically narrow time span and develop a long term perspective.”
    Even if we never make contact, Harrison observed, we might reap significant benefits by pondering these issues now.
    “Determining what we should say and who should say it could be a useful self-study that fosters self-contemplation and encourages consensus,” Harrison noted.  “These deliberations should encourage us to think about what makes us human, where we are going, and how we conceive of our place in the universe.”
And that’s it for this addition of SETI Thursday on  Since Vakoch ends with that, one might assume an implicit Amen.
Does anyone need further proof that SETI is a religion? (See Michael Crichton’s allegation, 12/27/2003 link).  This psychologist, enamored with dreams and visions of contact with aliens, believes these super-beings will be able to help us answer the big questions of life, questions typically addressed through philosophy or religion.  Not only will they teach us wisdom, but we will learn to bow humbly before their eminence.  Even if they never show up, we can gain wisdom by contemplation of their existence.  Next thing you know, Harrison will have us all repeating some mantra, like seti, seti, seti, to help us meditate.
    Harrison and his fellow believers are converging on Fantasyland from both directions.  From the past, they misinterpret the bones of Neanderthal Man by relegating him to racial inferiority (see 09/23/2005 commentary).  From the future, they expect that beings will have evolved by natural means far beyond us, like gods.  A system that relies on myths and legends, teaches morality (e.g., humility and contemplation), tries to answer the big questions of philosophy, and encourages charitable giving to support the priesthood and infrastructure necessary to support them is indistinguishable from a cult.  SETI has come full circle.  Attempting to replace belief in a Creator God, they have become, to borrow Maxwell’s wordcraft, an enterprise to “curry favour with beings who cannot exist, to compass some petty promotion in nebulous kingdoms of mist.”  (See 08/10/2005 commentary; try re-reading Maxwell’s entire poem with SETI in mind).
Next headline on:  SETIEarly ManTheology
Alternative Gene Splicing May Be Common    09/23/2005  
Scientists at MIT publishing in PNAS1 detected instances of alternative splicing in over 1,000 genes of stem cells.  They also computed possible isoforms of mRNA transcriptions and found 80% of them in the cells.  Not only that, the isoforms (alternatively spliced versions of exons from the same gene) appeared to be functional: “We find that alternative splicing can modify multiple components of signaling pathways important for stem cell function,” they say.  In short, alternative splicing, in which exons from genes are recombined in different ways, expands the information content of the genome:
We also analyze the distribution of splice variants across different classes of genes.  We find that tissue-specific genes have a higher tendency to undergo alternative splicing than ubiquitously expressed genes.  Furthermore, the patterns of alternative splicing are only weakly conserved between orthologous genes in human and mouse.  Our studies reveal extensive modification of the stem cell molecular repertoire by alternative splicing and provide insights into its overall role as a mechanism of generating genomic diversity.   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
They took note that “different mRNA isoforms from a single gene can often encode proteins with distinct, sometimes opposite functions.”  In fact, they point to earlier research that said, “Numerous biological processes ranging from sex determination to apoptosis depend on the alternative splicing of specific genes.”  Later, they said, “alternative splicing was found to extensively affect components of signaling pathways that are functional in stem cells, suggesting an important role of splice variations in self-renewal and differentiation.”  Thus, their work adds to a growing body of research showing that “alternative splicing is a general mechanism to increase the coding capacity and diversity of the genome in metazoans.”
    What regulates how the exons are spliced?  “Previous studies of individual genes have shown that splicing is coupled to transcription by protein-protein interactions between components of the transcription and splicing complexes.”  Their work suggested that tissue-specific genes seem to undergo the most alternative splicing, and ubiquitously-expressed genes less so.  They offered an “evolutionary argument” that tissue-specific genes could afford more experimentation: “ubiquitous transcripts responsible for crucial and general cellular processes have evolved not to be modified, whereas diversification is advantageous for tissue-specific gene products.”  This hypothesis, they felt, was reinforced by the finding that “patterns were conserved for only 20% of the examined orthologous genes in the human and mouse species, despite the general conservation of their exon-intron boundaries.”  This, they feel, could lead to rapid evolution of alternatively spliced exons, and subsequently to functional differences in otherwise analogous cell types between distant species.
1Pritzker et al., “Diversification of stem cell molecular repertoire by alternative splicing,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.0502132102, published online before print September 23, 2005.
These findings add to the growing realization that the genome contains much more embedded information than mere gene count would suggest (see 09/08/2005 entry).  If the introns themselves (02/18/2005, 02/02/2005) transcribe into RNA regulatory elements, then nothing is wasted, and nothing is junk.  If all parts of the system can be shown to produce function, it becomes harder to claim evolution built this tight ship.  These authors’ weak attempt to produce an “evolutionary argument” did not demonstrate that any heritable, functional advantage derived from mistakes in alternative splicing, but only that it could have.  Did they demonstrate an example of a new function arising from a mistake?  No; they just expressed faith that randomness creates the possibility space for order.  This is a doctrine of pantheism (a religion).
    On the other hand, the high degree of conservation found in ubiquitously-expressed genes and at intron-exon boundaries are anti-evolutionary observations.  To argue evolution out of this data is to rely again on slippery homology vs. analogy arguments (see “Homology for Dummies,” 05/05/2004).  Because such arguments depend on embedded evolutionary assumptions, they are inherently circular.  It is just as logical to conclude that a common Designer built the system around two principles: (1) modular construction, wherein commonly-needed functions are coded similarly between different organisms, and (2) robustness, in which regulatory networks can maintain stability in changing environments.  The design inference has the added advantage of an adequate cause for the high degree of information involved.
    Whatever geneticists continue to uncover about the particulars, the system works.  Somehow, a human genome gives rise to a human, and a mouse genome gives rise to a mouse.  Unless mutations disrupt the program, the mouse will have all the parts in the right places.  It will be covered with the right kind of fur, have the right teeth in the right order, have feet and muscles and eyes and a brain and every organ necessary for its little life.  The molecular processes may seem disorganized to us.  We see that one gene can be alternatively spliced into several products, some which can produce opposite functions.  How does the right one get selected at the right time it is needed?  There are wonderful mysteries here that could be illuminated by a scientist looking for intelligent design.  If the DNA is not the master controller of its own transcription, what is?  What controls the spliceosome? (09/17/2004).  Can protein-protein interactions really be responsible for regulating the splicing, or is there another layer of genetic information directing their interplay?  What do all those short non-coding RNAs do?  How can so many competing processes and such a multiplicity of molecules guarantee a working mouse at the end of the assembly line?  We see only glimpses of how the plethora of processes at the molecular level leads invariably to the right result.  There may be more information and more design operating than we can possibly imagine.
Next headline on:  Genetics
More Indications Neandertals Were Like Us    09/23/2005  
Two more hints that Neandertals were only variants of modern humans have surfaced recently.  British and American researchers publishing in PNAS1 studied tooth enamel growth patterns, and found that “Neandertal tooth growth and, by extension, somatic growth, appears to be encompassed within the modern human range of interpopulation variation.”  This finding was summarized on National Geographic News.
    Another study written up by Bruce Bower in Science News2 hints that Neandertals in Europe, based on analysis of artifacts in a French cave, either knew how to make tools and artistic works themselves, or learned how from contemporaneous modern humans.
1Gautelli-Steinberg et al., “ Anterior tooth growth periods in Neandertals were comparable to those of modern humans,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.0503108102, published online before print September 23, 2005.
2Bruce Bowers, “French site sparks Neandertal debate,” Science News, week of Sept. 17, 2005; Vol. 168, No. 12, p. 189.
The time has come to discard the evolutionary stories about Neanderthals being some sort of primitive, less-evolved ancestors of Homo sapiens.  In terms of physique, intellectual capacity and every other measure, they fell within the range of variability of modern humans.  They would probably be indistinguishable from Inuits or other stocky-build populations alive today.  Absence of tools or art could be merely a function of materials used.  Some jungle tribes today, for instance, make spears and blowguns that would rarely survive with their bones.  Assuming the hypothesis that Neandertals learned how to use longer-lasting materials from other people, this does not reflect on their intelligence.  Even modern humans learned how to work with different metals over different times and places.  If Neandertals picked up on new ideas that their slightly-different brethren were doing, this further proves their human nature.  They were capable of plagiarism.
    The fable of “Neanderthal Man” as a beetle-browed, stoop-shouldered, brutish human precursor, slowly evolving into today’s businessman has been known now for decades to be incorrect.  That myth served the propaganda of early Darwinists, but did a lot of damage by promoting the dark art of ranking humans on racial scales.  We owe brother Neandertal an apology.  Let us welcome Homo sapiens neanderthalensis, with a big hug and handshake, as peers in the neighborhood cave.
Next headline on:  Early Man
Evolutionists Finally Figure Out the Eye – Well, Partly   09/22/2005    
As if tackling Darwin’s worst nightmare with gusto, evolutionary biologists published a paper in Current Biology1 about the evolution of the eye – at least the lens.  Though the paper is restricted to a discussion of genes involved in making the crystallin proteins that make up the lens, EurekAlert announced this as “Insight into our sight,” linking this paper to one of evolution’s biggest challenges:
The evolution of complex and physiologically remarkable structures such as the vertebrate eye has long been a focus of intrigue and theorizing by biologists.  In work reported this week in Current Biology, the evolutionary history of a critical eye protein has revealed a previously unrecognized relationship between certain components of vertebrate eyes and those of the more primitive light-sensing systems of invertebrates.  The findings help clarify our conceptual framework for understanding how the vertebrate eye, as we know it, has emerged over evolutionary time....
    Fish, frogs, birds and mammals all experience image-forming vision, thanks to the fact that their eyes all express crystallins and form a lens; however, the vertebrates’ nearest invertebrate relatives, such as sea squirts, have only simple eyes that detect light but are incapable of forming an image.  This has lead to the view that the lens evolved within the vertebrates early in vertebrate evolution, and it raises a long-standing question in evolutionary biology: How could a complex organ with such special physical properties have evolved?
  (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
The upshot of the paper by Shimeld et al. is that sea squirts have a gene that is similar to the one that codes for crystallin in the eyes of vertebrates.  In the sea squirt, it is only expressed in the palps and otoliths, near the ocellus that senses light without forming an image.  Since the same regulatory circuits that control the gene in the sea squirt also controls the gene that builds a lens in vertebrate eyes, the authors conclude that this gene must have been co-opted by the common ancestor of vertebrates to build a crystallin lens.  From the abstract,
The conservation of the regulatory hierarchy controlling beta-crystallin expression between organisms with and without a lens shows that the evolutionary origin of the lens was based on co-option of pre-existing regulatory circuits controlling the expression of a key structural gene in a primitive light-sensing system.
The team took the same regulatory genes that control crystallin production in the sea squirt and transferred them to a frog.  Those regulatory circuits were used by the frog to build its visual system, including the lens.  This was enough for EurekAlert to nearly declare that the problem of eye evolution, if not solved, is well on the way:
This strongly suggests that prior to the evolution of the lens, there was a regulatory link between two tiers of genes: those that would later become responsible for controlling lens development, and those that would help give the lens its special physical properties.  This combination of genes appears to have then been co-opted in an early vertebrate during the evolution of its visual system, giving rise to the lens.
Presumably, after a working lens emerged, the rest was just fine-tuning.
1Shimeld et al., “Urochordate Beta-Crystallin and the Evolutionary Origin of the Vertebrate Eye Lens,” Current Biology, Volume 15, Issue 18, 20 September 2005, pages 1684-1689.
Let us hope the highly-complex DNA-snipping protein emerged simultaneously (08/28/2003) to keep the lens from becoming opaque out of the factory, as well as mechanisms for stacking the crystallin cells and making them interlock, and supplying them with nutrients from the edges without blocking the light, rewiring the brain to receive and process the new sensory data, and a dozen other things that would make expression of raw crystallin useless to the unidentified, mythical “early vertebrate” that first decided to co-opt sea squirt technology.
A programmer wrote in and observed, “I can take code that performs the same or similar function and use it in a completely different program.  Sometimes I have to change things a little to make it work, sometimes virtually no changes are required.  That is economy of effort.”  Reusability does not demonstrate common ancestry without assuming it, nor does it explain the origin of the crystallin protein and the genes that regulate its expression.  He continued, “I can take 2 bicycle fenders, hammer them into one and make it into a motorcycle fender, but that doesn’t explain how the bicycle got to be a bicycle or how it got fenders.”
Co-option is just a fancy word for the Tinker Bell theory of evolution.  Evolution is a tinkerer, they tell us.  She cobs existing parts to build new things.  Aside from the gratuitous personification fallacy this commits, the idea requires that Tinker Bell be blind, dumb and indifferent.  In Darwinese, there is no teleology: Tinker Bell is not trying to invent an image-forming lens.  She flits from sea squirt to sea squirt with her mutation wand, zapping various individuals recklessly and carelessly.  It’s a lottery which sea squirt will find some benefit in the damage instead of dying from the genetic bomb.  Remember, no functional advantage, no natural selection – except the negative kind (Yikes! Eliminate this mutation before it kills us!).
    Can we get real?  One girder hanging over the canyon does not make a bridge (05/22/2002 commentary).  There is no smoothly graded sequence of transitional forms.  Whenever an organism is suggested as a primitive ancestor, as in the case of the box jellyfish (see 05/13/2005 entry), closer inspection shows the organism has eyes perfectly suited for its habitat and lifestyle.  Each visual system is too different from those of other organisms, and too complex to imagine having evolved on its own.  So the follow-up question to the EurekAlert Darwinist propaganda celebration is, where are science reporters exercising freedom of the press, freedom of conscience and critical thinking skills?  Keep reading.
Next headline on:  Darwinism and Evolutionary TheoryMammalsTerrestrial Zoology
Museums Train Docents to Deal with Evolution Skeptics    09/22/2005  
Being a museum docent wasn’t supposed to be this hard.  Many have always led peaceful groups of compliant tourists through the halls of science, telling their near-memorized lines without incident: Sixty million years ago, the dinosaurs were wiped out by a meteor, but their descendants are still with us today.  Anyone know who those might be?  Yes Johnny?  Birds!  That’s correct. Very good!  Now, according to the New York Times, growing numbers of museum visitors are challenging the evolutionary explanations and asking questions that indicate they’re not buying the story.  This has led to a new “cottage industry,” according to Eugenie Scott of the NCSE, of training guides for guides, teaching them how to deal with such situations.
    The training emphasizes non-confrontational yet firm emphasis on the difference between science and faith: to be “polite but firm.”  Docents are warned against challenging visitors’ religious beliefs directly.  Instead, they are told to say things like, “The landscape tells a story based on geological events, based on science,” or “this is a science museum, and we deal with matters of science.”  They are warned against antagonizing Bible-believing Christians who argue that the world is only a few thousand years old; after all, they paid the admission fee and have just as much right to visit the museum as anyone else.  Dr. Scott in her sessions teaches docents not to avoid the word “evolution” or be defensive, but simultaneously not to slam the door in the face of believers.  “Your job is to help them, to explain your point of view, but respect theirs.”  The manuals encourage them to practice with memorized responses.
    Tom Magnuson at Access Research Network found one such docent guide online on the front page of the Paleontological Research Institution, entitled “Evolution and Creationism: A Guide for Museum Docents.”  It explains how to respond to a complaints about natural selection or other evolutionary mechanisms:
The question of whether evolution occurs is separate and different from the question of how evolution occurs.  The evidence is overwhelming that evolution has occurred – that it is a satisfactory explanation for the observations we make about the history, order, and diversity of life....
    Questions or debates about evolutionary mechanism have nothing to do with our confidence in whether evolution occurred.
  (Italics in original, bold added.)
Later in the document, one of the answers seems more firm than polite.  The question is, Is it true there is lots of evidence against evolution? 
No.  Essentially all available data and observations from the natural world support the hypothesis of evolution.  No serious biologist or geologist today doubts whether evolution occurred; debate continues, however, among scientists about the mechanisms by which evolution occurred.
The response to the question on intelligent design is also instructive.  Doesn’t the complexity/design of nature imply an intelligent designer?
Science deals only with material causes of material phenomena.  Nothing we can observe in nature requires a supernatural designer; we therefore defer to material processes to explain what we see in nature.
The document denounces the idea that evolution is a religion.  At the bottom, it refers to the National Center for Science Education, indicating that the NCSE probably provided content or advice for the publication.
    The guide warns against arguing with convinced creationists, saying “you can’t win.”  The docent can try to deflect the question, agree to disagree, claim ignorance, or state that the museum is not the place to discuss “philosophy, religion or politics” but only “science” or “state-of-the-art scientific knowledge.”  If all else fails, the docent can say, “Please excuse me.  I have to go to the restroom.”
    The Times says that the American Museum of Natural History is about to open “the most in-depth exhibition ever” of Darwin and his work.  Already, curators and staff are gearing up to deal with visitors who will challenge the presentations.
This is a golden opportunity for informed visitors.  The Darwin Party has published all their Talking Points, and all that is needed is to formulate good follow-up questions aimed at them.  The Talking Points are so vapid and uninformed, this should be easy.  For instance, look at the way they treat this question: How do you know evolution happened a long time ago?
By examining fossils and comparing them to organisms alive today.  In the Museum exhibits, for example, a short film about Cornell professor Amy McCune shows how she uses fossil fish to study how evolution happened in what is now the Connecticut River Valley around 200 million years ago.  She collects fossils from different layers and compares them to fish alive today and tries to conclude how evolution may have produced the patterns of similarity and difference she observes.
This is a non-answer.  One has to assume evolution and long ages to believe it.  At most, it only demonstrates microevolution, which is not the issue.  The same fossils, layers and comparisons with live fish could be used by a knowledgeable creationist to argue against evolution and long ages and, instead, for a worldwide flood that sent many species into extinction.  The Darwinist answer confirms that evolutionary “science” is merely a storytelling enterprise by ideologues intent on force-fitting fragmentary observations into a preconceived belief system.  The blindness of evolutionists to their own circular reasoning is astounding.  The question was, How do you know evolution happened a long time ago?  The answer was, “Because evolution happened a long time ago.  See these 200-million-year-old fish?”  Surely the Darwinists could do better if better answers were available.
    The talking points provide nothing new (see 09/02/2005 commentary).  Most of them revolve around “science” vs “faith.”  The published guide perpetuates the myth that evolution is a fact of science (even if the mechanism is hotly debated), and anything that doubts naturalistic explanations is ipso facto “religious.”  This is a setup for any logical thinker, because it is another circular argument.  Ask, how can a theory without a mechanism be considered scientific?  How can one call evolution, a hypothesis (their own word) with no agreed-on mechanism, a fact without first assuming it is a fact?  How can one declare what is scientific and what is not with mere definitions?  If I discuss only scientific evidence in rebuttal, how can you assume I have a religious motivation without reading my mind?  How can I know you don’t have an equally philosophical motivation to deny design?  Surely you are not insinuating that a Christian is incapable of reasoning from evidence or caring about the truth, or that materialists are more unbiased, are you?  What if the true answer lies outside natural causes – what if it really was designed?  Wouldn’t that prevent naturalism from ever finding the right answer?  Eventually, the discussion must return to the observable evidence.  That is not where the Darwinians want the discussion to go.  When forced, the museum curator may point to all the exhibits of intelligently-designed organisms on the wall, and say, “See?  There is the evidence, right there.  Look at those peppered moths, for instance.”  Now we can get somewhere.
    In the film The Triumph of Design, Phillip Johnson looks forward to the day when students will respond to the evidence for peppered moths, finch beaks and the other usual Darwinist propaganda fare, with informed follow-up questions like, “Yes, we know about that.  We know the peppered moth story was a fraud, and that it did not really prove anything about macroevolution.  We know about Darwin’s finches, and that the changes to beak size showed no long-term trend; that does not demonstrate macroevolution, either.  Where is the evidence that macroevolution occurred?”  One can sympathize with a teacher’s sudden urge to go to the restroom.
    All this being said, the last thing any reasonable person wants is for a poor, well-meaning docent to end up sobbing in the restroom over an “extremely argumentative or confrontational” visitor.  Want to destroy any chance for progress against Darwinism?  Just be a mean-spirited, dogmatic, unkind, loudmouth disputer trying to make the docent or curator look foolish in front of other people.  For a Christian, who believes in loving one’s neighbor and sharing good news, nothing is uglier, and nothing will backfire faster.  The goal is to encourage discussion, to build bridges to other people – to appeal to their sense of logic and integrity.  Long-shut doors need to be opened so the fresh air and sunshine can come in.  Let the Darwinists be the ones culpable of shutting off discussion.  Let them be the dogmatists.  Let their tactics backfire against the evident congeniality and reasonableness of their opposition.  The firm but gentle pressure of an increasing number of thoughtful, informed visitors will have its healing effect over time.  Many of these docents are volunteers or poorly paid workers just trying to do their job.  (This is true, sometimes for summer hires, or leaders of cave tours who, without any formal training in geology, simply parrot scripts that glibly describe formations as x million years old.)  If such workers are merely repeating what they were told to say, it’s not fair to pin the blame for all of Dogmatic Darwinism on them as individuals.  Yet unwarranted claims should not go unchallenged, either, whether from trained curators or untrained volunteers.  What to do?
    One productive approach might be to speak with the docent alone, before the tour.  Let’s call the docent Linda.  Introduce yourself with a friendly greeting (it must be genuine, not forced), and let her know your point of view.  Reassure her that you are not there to argue; instead, say that both of us know that Darwinism is a controversial subject.  Let Linda know you respect scientific evidence.  Explain that many times evidence can be interpreted in more than one way, and that you just want the scientific evidence to be able to speak for itself as much as possible, and for problems or controversies to be acknowledged.  Ask Linda’s permission to present an alternative explanation for the fossil series, rock layers or whatever.  If she agrees, this takes the pressure off her to talk about it (and possibly misrepresent it) in front of the group.  If you are given the chance, be brief and accurate.  Don’t steal the show.  Hopefully you came prepared with knowledge specific to the display.  If she doesn’t want you to speak, at least she will know that an informed visitor is present, and that awareness may temper her dogmatism.
    Whatever happens, express kindness, appreciation and diplomacy at all times.  Show respect.  Compliment the things that are good about the museum.  Most people are more influenced by the way you say something than what is actually said.  Be real and transparent.  Don’t speak beyond your knowledge, but don’t settle for pat answers, bluffing or evasion, either.  The normal civil manners – waiting one’s turn, not interrupting, not attacking another’s character or motives – these should all be second nature.  If you can communicate an informed, knowledgeable position in a winsome manner, you may find others in the group – maybe even Linda – crowding around you after the tour wanting to hear more, and thanking you for speaking up.  Another unobtrusive way to influence the museum is to write polite but firm statements on response cards about dogmatic exhibits.  Here’s another: infiltrate the ranks.  Sign up to be a museum docent and ask the hard questions to the trainer in the “dealing with creationists” class.  This could neutralize Dogmatic Darwinism before it affects hundreds of visitors.  If the museum retaliates by forbidding non-Darwinists from joining the museum volunteer docent staff and requiring a statement of faith, call the ACLU.  When they decline, well, you have a story for the local newspaper, and perhaps a case for the ADF.  Readers may wish to write in with their own suggestions and experiences.
Next headline on:  DarwinismIntelligent DesignBible
Cosmic Baby Boom Becomes Baby Explosion    09/21/2005  
There has been a trend in deep space astronomy to find more and more mature-looking stars and galaxies farther back in time (04/06/2005, 03/10/2005, 07/08/2005).  That trend just doubled or tripled.  An announcement in Nature1 (see press release by European Southern Observatory), a thousand galaxies were found at distances corresponding to estimated ages of 9 to 12 billion years, just 10% to 30% the presumed age of the universe.  “To our surprise,” one team member stated, this is “two to six times higher” than previous finds.  “These observations will demand a profound reassessment of our theories of the formation and evolution of galaxies in a changing Universe,” he said.  Science Now quoted an astronomer who doubted the counts, but more out of disbelief than counter-evidence.  The survey team remained confident that their numbers, arrived at by a “brute force” technique that avoided “prior assumptions,” are solid.
1LeFevre et al., “A large population of galaxies 9 to 12 billion years back in the history of the Universe,” Nature 437, 519-521 (22 September 2005) | doi: 10.1038/nature03979.
More and more structure earlier and earlier – does this sound like evolution or creation?  Evolutionary biology has a Cambrian explosion.  Evolutionary cosmology has a structure explosion.  Creation has abrupt appearance intelligently guided and designed by an adequate cause.  Explosions?  We have no need of that hypothesis.
Next headline on:  AstronomyCosmologyDating Methods
Can Chemicals Be Fertile?    09/21/2005  
Simon Conway Morris wins Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week for the following entry in Current Biology.1  Ostensibly he was trying to be light-hearted and funny about mass extinctions.  We’ll see if anyone is laughing about whether massive impacts are a blessing or a curse:
Manna from heaven.  So yet more violence, with the Earth subject to cataclysmic destruction?  Indeed yes, but there is a silver, or rather organic, lining.  It appears that Earth’s position, relatively close to the Sun, was highly precarious.  This was because the light elements, essential for life, were swept by solar radiation far beyond our planet, out to the so-called snow-line.  So no oceans, and life is cancelled?  Yet help was on the way, with a delivery system that via asteroids and comets resupplied Earth with both an ocean and a fertile brew of organic molecules.   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)

1Simon Conway Morris, “Quick Guide: Mass Extinctions,” Current Biology, Volume 15, Issue 18, 20 September 2005, pages R744-R745.
The only redeeming quality in his mythoid is an offhand reference to the fact that our earth occupies an unlikely and privileged position.  Let’s offer simple Simon our Comet Cocktail Blaster and see if he thinks he will remain fertile: a teaspoon of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (07/21/2005), one microgram each of L-glycine and one of D-glycine, carbonated with HCN in ammonia with water ice.  Delivered inside a rock thrown at 120,000 mph.
Next headline on:  Darwinism and Evolutionary TheorySolar SystemDumb Ideas
Big Guys Finish First, Except in Drought    09/21/2005  
Nigel Williams tried to explain in Current Biology1 why “size matters” among marine iguanas in the Galapagos Islands: the vectors of natural and sexual selection don’t always line up.  Females appear to like the big males when times are good, but when drought comes, the smaller dudes do better.
    There’s a difficulty with such investigations.  Even though this habitat was a “rich source of information for Charles Darwin when developing his theory of evolution,” the article admits that “Factors influencing the evolution of complex traits such as body size are notoriously difficult to study but a new review of work on marine iguanas in the Galapagos islands suggests an answer may lie in the interplay of natural and sexual selection” (emphasis added).
1Nigel Williams, “Size matters,” Current Biology, Volume 15, Issue 18, 20 September 2005, Page R742.
Why should Darwin be mentioned in this article, except as a historical embarrassment?  There is no evolution here.  Heap big iguana is still iguana as much as peewee.  Size is not a “complex trait” in the sense of evolving wings or some new organs; it is just a modification of parts already present.  There is no long-term evolutionary trend here, but rather only oscillations around a mean that reflect climate conditions – otherwise we should see iguanas the size of Godzilla by now.  If natural and sexual selection work against each other, then stasis rules, not evolution.  Charlie won’t get anywhere with slippage on the treadmill (see 03/17/2003 entry).
Next headline on:  Terrestrial ZoologyDarwinism and Evolutionary Theory
How Did Blue Stars Get So Close to a Black Hole?   09/20/2005    
Every solution breeds new problems, Murphy’s Law suggests.  Astronomers working with the Hubble Space Telescope feel that pain.  While finding confirming evidence for a supermassive black hole at the center of the Andromeda Galaxy M31, they are perplexed to see a disk of hot blue stars orbiting it too close for comfort.  Estimated to be 200 million years old, the 400+ stars are in a tight orbit a light-year across and careening around the black hole at 2.2 million mph.
    Blue stars are thought to be short-lived and could not have formed so close to the black hole; the extreme tidal forces there should tear the matter apart and prevent collapse into stars.  “Gas that might form stars must spin around the black hole so quickly that star formation looks almost impossible,” said one astronomer, “But the stars are there.”  They said this is like watching a magician pull a rabbit out of a hat.  “You know it happened but you don’t know how it happened.”  Since even younger stars have been found orbiting the presumed black hole at the center of the Milky Way, maybe this “odd activity” is the norm.
Puzzles are good for scientists, and better observations are welcomed like rain in a desert, but scientists also need to learn to think outside the box.  One question never asked is whether these stars really are 200 million years old.
Next headline on:  Stellar AstronomyDating Methods
Validity of Evolutionary Explanations Demonstrated   09/20/2005    
An article in Ethology is claiming much for itself.  It purports to show “New evidence for the validity of evolutionary explanations,” according to EurekAlert.  Researchers are claiming evidence that “Men holding high positions within a hierarchical organisation have more offspring than those in other positions within the same organisation.”  The sample was male university employees.  Apparently this group compensated for unexpected results from other groups:
Although a positive relationship between male status and offspring count has been predicted by evolutionary theory and found in animal species and “traditional” human societies, in modern societies, most studies found no or even a negative relationship.   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
So how to account for the discrepancy?  According to the brief summary, “status may be a more important dimension for subsamples than for representative samples of entire societies.”
    Economists and managers should take note of this finding, the report says.  It suggests that “evolutionary forces may still be at work in modern societies” and “might explain the striving for high and prestigious positions in men.”
There are so many things wrong with this study, Darwinists should silence these researchers so as not to embarrass the Party.  (1) When you have to use subsamples instead of representative samples to get the results your theory predicted, what does that tell you about your theory?  (2) What kind of bizarre sample is university male employees, anyway?  Perhaps it could be compared to the jungle, so we might grant that possibility.  (3) More offspring is not better.  In the university milieu they might all be gay.  (4) Evolution is not a force.  Suggestion: replace o with a, then it works.  (5) Men in high and prestigious positions don’t have time to have kids.  If their fable were true, why is the country being overrun with low-income workers with big families who grow up to repeat the cycle?  (6) Women don’t marry such men to have kids.  They marry them to divorce them and take their money.  (7) Feminists are going to get mad about this sexist idea, because it will appear to give scientific justification for male ambition.  (8) The argument is self-refuting, because if being a scientist is an example of a high and prestigious position, then these scientists did not come up with their fable to discover a truth, but to pass on their genes.
    That should do for starters.  “Evolutionary explanations” is an oxymoron, like vanilla fudge, rock opera or Microsoft Works.  O, for reporters who would not let the Darwinists get away with unadulterated tripe.  Nobody on a school board is going to read Ethology, but the Darwinists hope their little bugle calls on EurekAlert will make everyone salute as a conditioned response.  Sorry, those days are over.  Since the Baloney Detector went online, the prisoners in the Darwinist concentration camps (i.e., high school biology classes) have seen the outside world, and are no longer afraid of the authority figures behind the Bamboozle Curtain.
Next headline on:  Darwinism and Evolutionary TheoryDumb Ideas
Subway System Found in Immune Cells   09/20/2005    
The announcement of a “third form of intercellular communication” hit scientists like TNT: tunneling nanotubules, that is.  Science Now reported that “Scientists have found what appears to be a whole new way for immune cells to communicate with one another: long, narrow tubes that enable them to connect and exchange molecules.”  These subway tunnels between cells pass molecules quickly from cell to cell, including calcium ions that trigger actions in the cell, and possibly antigens.  If so, this “may help explain how immune responses can be initiated so rapidly.”
This system presupposes other systems in place.  If one cell extends a TNT, the other cell has to be prepared to receive it.  When a package arrives, the other cell needs to know what to do with it.  One must also ask how or why, before this system existed, any cell in a community of cells would even venture to send a message outside itself.  Here we have another method of communication (see also 09/14/2005 entry) that allows cells, long thought to be rugged individualists, to be cooperative members of society.
Next headline on:  Cell BiologyHuman BodyAmazing Stories
Rooting for Human Evolution   09/20/2005    
Can you squeeze human blood out of a turnip?  A new story floating around for how humans began their long divergence away from apes in the jungle was that they developed a taste for roots.  EurekAlert reported a story coming out of U of Minnesota: “About five to seven million years ago, when the lineage of humans and chimpanzees split, edible root plants similar to rutabagas and turnips may have been one of the reasons.”  A line of apes found fleshy roots attractive as a supplement to meat and fruits.  They had to move out into the savannah to get more of them.  For evidence, the evolutionists point to larger jaws of early humans needed for chewing the tough roots.
Sorry, chimps were already out there, too (see 09/01/2005 story).  They didn’t evolve into anything like us.  Try again, and this time, let’s see some equations (see 08/22/2005 and 08/19/2005 entries) with the fables.
Next headline on:  Early ManDumb Ideas
Elie Wiesel Gathers Nobel Laureates to Urge Kansas to Nix ID    09/19/2005  
Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel has gathered 38 Nobel prize winners to join him in urging the Kansas school board to reject their new science standards that question evolution (see 08/11/2005).  According to MSNBC News, their document calls evolution an “indispensable” foundation of biology.  The story was reprinted by
Odd.  Biology got along just fine without this indispensable foundation for a long time.  In fact, it could be argued that evolution is only a naturalistic facade on a creationist superstructure.  John Ray, Carl Linnaeus, Leeuwenhoek, Pasteur and many others did just fine biologizing without evolution.  Their Christian faith was their motivation to do excellent scientific work.  Had the Nobel prize existed in their day, they certainly would have been among the most distinguished and honored recipients.  Any such lists of authorities are therefore contrived political statements.
    What Elie Wiesel endured under the Nazis is horrendous, but it did not have to make him lose his faith and go haywire over evolution.  The faith of Corrie ten Boom and other Holocaust survivors was their beacon of hope despite experiencing the darkness of human evil, and gave direction and purpose to their lives.  Wiesel has dedicated his life to helping people never forget what happened there.  Why then, instead, does he not point to the roots of that evil – the evolutionary ethics rooted in Darwinism that Haeckel took to Germany and spread like a dark evangelist?  How ironic that he would exalt the very foundation of two political ideologies – Nazism and communism – that have caused more inhumane treatment and death than the world has even seen.  Over 100 million deaths in less than a century can be traced to the actions of evolution-inspired dictators, and that doesn’t begin to describe the suffering of many millions more who survived their lies, tortures, brutalities, deprivations, midnight arrests, hard labor camps, gulags, and associated nightmares.
    We agree with Wiesel that mankind should never forget, but for even stronger reasons.  Our reasons give moral impetus to the debate over evolution today.  One should not presume that Nazism and communism have exhausted the potential evils inherent in Darwinian thinking.  One only has to think of today’s ethical tensions over stem cells, clones, chimeras, abortion, genetically-engineered humans and other controversies to envision horrors that would make Stalin look like a playground bully (see Apologetics Press for a recent example).  Learning from history is an important start.  That’s why we strongly urge readers to learn twentieth century history, and read accounts of those who survived the brutality of Nazi Germany and endured the unspeakable horrors behind the Iron Curtain.  That such atrocities continue to exist in North Korea, Cuba, China and other communist countries is a stern reminder that there is still much to do to combat this evil at its root.  For a scholarly treatment of the Darwin-based teaching on evolutionary ethics between 1859 and 1932 that fed Hitler’s views on racial policy, read From Darwin to Hitler by historian Richard Weikart.  And since many historians omit the Darwinian assumptions and motivations behind Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin, it’s vital to review Jerry Bergman’s paper on “The Darwinian foundation of communism” and first-person works like Solzhenitzen’s The Gulag Archipelago and Wurmbrand’s Tortured for Christ.  A tree is known by its fruit and is fed by its root.
    The Kansas school board member rightly said, “I don’t think anything should be taught as dogma.”  The debates over evolution and intelligent design cannot be won by appeals to authority.  Nobel laureates are smart people in their specialties, but that does not make them experts on politics, ethics, education and philosophy.  Look at the dumb things two of them said a couple of years ago (see 08/24/2003); some of their remarks demonstrate that they don’t even know that much about biology, let alone history or logic.  Maybe most of us can’t split an atom or learn how reverse transcription works, but anyone can learn common sense.  How ironic that scientists, supposedly committed to observation and verification by experiment, want us to accept their word on evolution as dogma.
Next headline on:  Darwinism and EvolutionIntelligent DesignEducation
Cell Has Automatic Jam-Clearing Proofreading Machinery    09/19/2005  
Findings at Rockefeller University have scientists excited.  DNA copying machines work on a “sliding clamp” that can hold two repair machines at the same time.  One is a low-fidelity repair tool, the other a high-fidelity repair tool.  Usually, the high-fidelity one is active, but when it needs a bigger hammer that is perhaps more effective but less accurate, it automatically switches to the other.  Here’s how the abstract of the paper in Molecular Cell by Indiani, O’Donnell et al.1 describes it in detail:
This report demonstrates that the beta sliding clamp of E. coli binds two different DNA polymerases at the same time.  One is the high-fidelity Pol III chromosomal replicase and the other is Pol IV, a low-fidelity lesion bypass Y family polymerase.  Further, polymerase switching on the primed template junction is regulated in a fashion that limits the action of the low-fidelity Pol IV.  Under conditions that cause Pol III to stall on DNA, Pol IV takes control of the primed template.  After the stall is relieved, Pol III rapidly regains control of the primed template junction from Pol IV and retains it while it is moving, becoming resistant to further Pol IV takeover events.  These polymerase dynamics within the beta toolbelt complex restrict the action of the error-prone Pol IV to only the area on DNA where it is required.   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
The paper says this is like having a “toolbelt” with different tools depending on the need of the project.  Bacteria have five DNA polymerase tools; humans have more.  Pol III is like the perfectionist editor that cuts out the typos, but it can stall.  Pol IV, like the plumber with a big wrench, isn’t as picayunish about the details but knows how to get the operation flowing again.  “The findings by O’Donnell and his colleagues,” the press release explains, “show that, because both polymerases are bound simultaneously to the beta clamp, it can pull either of the polymerases out if its toolbelt as needed.”  This apparently forms an automatic switchover mechanism where Pol III has priority.  A stall either loosens the grip of Pol III, or triggers a change in the sliding clamp that lets Pol IV intervene for the brute-force repair.
    A paper in Cell2 earlier this month described how multiple parts work together to fix mismatched DNA.  Since mismatched bases have serious health consequences, a suite of operations, still poorly understood, checks to detect and correct the error.  The paper by Zhang et al. describes part of the process:
Evidence is provided that efficient repair of a single mismatch requires multiple molecules of MutS-alpha-MutL-alpha complex.  These data suggest a model for human mismatch repair involving coordinated initiation and termination of mismatch-provoked excision.
The cover of the issue humorously highlights the problem with a picture of a guy with unmatched socks.  Mismatch in DNA is no joke, however; it can lead to cancer and genomic instability.
1Indiani et al., “A Sliding-Clamp Toolbelt Binds High- and Low-Fidelity DNA Polymerases Simultaneously,” Molecular Cell, Volume 19, Issue 6, 16 September 2005, pages 805-815.
2Zhang et al., “Reconstitution of 5'-Directed Human Mismatch Repair in a Purified System,” Cell, Volume 122, Issue 5, 9 September 2005, pages 693-705.
How could evolution ever devise a mechanism like an automatic toolbelt?  This is uncanny.  Here is a set of molecules that are programmed to act like a multi-faceted assembly line with a built-in, automatic-switching, multipart repair kit.  Neither the press release nor either paper made any attempt to explain how Tinker Bell and her mutation wand could have produced wonders like these.  Who would dare?
Next headline on:  Cell BiologyGeneticsAmazing Stories
Both Sides Fear Court Ruling on Intelligent Design    09/16/2005  
“The stakes are high,” said Constance Holden in Science,1 and both sides in the Dover, Pennsylvania case would probably agree – with equal trepidation.  The ACLU is representing 11 parents who sued the Dover school board for ruling that intelligent design should be taught as an alternative to Darwinian evolution in their public high schools (05/27/2005).  (This policy was later reduced to having administrators read a one-minute statement to students in their classrooms—01/11/2005.)  The ACLU is arguing that “teaching ID is an unconstitutional establishment of religion,” and is supported by Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the National Center for Science Education.
    Why would the secular scientific establishments fear the outcome, after a long string of successes in the courts?  Holden quotes ACLU lawyer Witold Walczak: “If we prevail, it’s not going to be a knockout punch... if we lose, ... you’re going to see intelligent design taught in schools all across the country.”  To try to prevent a loss that “could be a disaster,” according to Holden, the ACLU has lined up 25 witnesses, including “experts in philosophy, theology, science education, and mathematics as well as two veterans of the ID wars, Brown University biologist Kenneth Miller and paleoanthropologist Kevin Padian of the University of California, Berkeley.”
    ID proponents also have reason for concern.  The leading ID think tank, the Discovery Institute, does not advocate mandating the teaching of intelligent design, and tried to pre-empt the situation by advising the Dover school board against it.  “...they’re worried about a big court defeat,” in the words of a plaintiff counsel quoted by Holden.  Now that the suit has come, it puts them in a difficult position of defending the right for students to hear alternatives but not endorsing the action of the Dover board.  On advice of counsel, Stephen Meyer and William Dembski dropped out of the defense, leaving only Michael Behe and Scott Minnich to testify.  Miller senses the defense strategy is to try to present as small a target as possible.
1Constance Holden, “ID Goes on Trial This Month in Pennsylvania School Case,” Science, Vol 309, Issue 5742, 1796, 16 September 2005, [DOI: 10.1126/science.309.5742.1796].
It is indeed lamentable that a scientific dispute, one that should be aired in the open marketplace of ideas, may come down to the decision of one or a few judges.  Because courts do not generally have the kind of knowledge about these subjects to rule wisely, it becomes almost a matter of luck for either side, depending on which judge winds up on the bench.  Will the court be swayed by the sheer numbers of alleged experts, or by the force of the arguments?  If a judge rules that “ID is not science” will that make it so?  Scientific positions are supposed to be evaluated on the preponderance of evidence, not by majorities of experts or judges.
    Any parents, school board members, public officials, activists or writers interested in giving ID a chance should learn to be very careful in their approach.  Charging out with well-intentioned but misguided enthusiasm can do more harm than good.  The strategy that is likely to succeed in these matters is defensive, not offensive.  No one wants to hear authorities “mandating” anything – certainly not a position on a controversial issue.  What makes sense to courts, politicians, and the public is defending students’ rights against indoctrination.  The Darwinists have had unrestricted power to pour their philosophy into student heads without challenge.  A large majority in the public feels that is wrong.  Science is not supposed to be about indoctrination, but about critical thinking.  That is the strong point of the “teach the controversy” approach to the origins issue.  Progress in that strategy will bring much-needed fresh air into one of the most important issues facing the country.  It is likely to garner the most supporters willing to fight past the Darwinist gestapo to open the doors and windows.  Fresh air has tremendous healing potential.
Food for thought: Based on their actions and proposals, which side is apparently the most confident that an open and fair examination of the evidence will lead to vindication of their views?
Next headline on:  DarwinismIntelligent DesignEducation
Grand Canyon Still an Unsolved Puzzle    09/16/2005  
Arguably the best-known geological landmark on the planet, Grand Canyon has been scrutinized and “geologized” for well over a century, yet remains an enigma, according to the title of a new book by James Lawrence Powell, Grand Canyon: Solving Earth’s Grandest Puzzle (Pi Press, 2005).  The book was reviewed by John C. Schmidt (Utah State) in Science.1  Powell (same surname, interestingly, as the famous John Wesley Powell whose intrepid band of explorers made the first boat trip through the canyon in 1869) is a geologist now directing the National Physical Science Consortium.
    Overall, Schmidt liked the book and its historical glimpses: “While Darwin was developing his explanation of evolution, geologists were debunking the notion that a Great Flood formed Earth’s topography a few thousand years ago” (emphasis added in all quotes).  Yet despite his optimism, Schmidt’s review sounds only a weak overtone of confidence above a fundamental tone of uncertainty regarding geological theories and their volatility.  Some examples:
  • Depending on what guide book we read or what ranger talk we listen to, we might learn that the Colorado River is perhaps 30 million years old...
  • The author moves on to describe the observations of later generations of geologists, including the observations and reasoning that completely revised the early explanations of how the Grand Canyon formed.
  • The evidence is scattered and incompletely preserved, and geologists today are still unclear about details of the Colorado River’s development.  But these gaps are relatively minor—a few million years of missing evidence here or there...
  • He also offers readers a taste of modern speculation and the uncertainties surrounding these generally accepted notions.
  • Until a time machine is invented, we will never know for sure how the Grand Canyon formed.  Nonetheless, we do know that the rocks forming the canyon walls are of immense age and that the cliffs and slopes exposing those rocks are features of the last instants of their history.
Despite these uncertainties, Schmidt took a swipe at those who disagree with these “generally accepted notions.”  He ended,
In telling the Canyon’s story, Powell provides an honest and open description of geological detective work and the rethinking of ideas.  At a time when the National Park Service sells a book describing a creationist explanation of the Grand Canyon’s formation little different than the ideas from which modern geology emerged more than 150 years ago, the book reminds us of the timeless contrast between the methods of modern natural science and the power of myth.

1John C. Schmidt, “The Grand Question,” Science, Vol 309, Issue 5742, 1818-1819, 16 September 2005, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1116363].
The book to which he refers as “myth” is, of course, Tom Vail’s Grand Canyon: A Different View that became the center of controversy when geologists found it in the bookstores and tried to censor it (see 01/08/2004 and 10/14/2005 entries).  This attractive book, filled with beautiful photographs, also contains entries by 15 PhD scientists, many of them geologists, who disagree with the “generally accepted notions.”  With a sweep of the hand, Schmidt dismissed their opinions as “myth” while assuming all the paradigm shifts and uncertainties of modern geology constitute “science” – even though he confessed that, without a time machine, we could never know for sure how the canyon formed.  There are many good reasons, however, for doubting the “immense age” of the canyon walls and the canyon itself.  Here is a short, but not exhaustive, review:
  • Gaps: The gaps are much larger than Schmidt admits; one gap is 10 million, another 60 million, and another 100 million.  Above the Great Unconformity is a gap of over a billion years, with no soil between it and the overlying sedimentary layers.  These gaps give no evidence of large passages of time between the one below and the one above, suggesting the gaps are fictional: no long ages did elapse.  The ages claimed for the layers come not from the onsite observations, but from the a priori belief that they must be fitted into a pre-existing construct, a model constructed and later Darwinized in England: the Geologic Column.
  • Flat contacts: The contacts between many layers are knife-edge thin and straight for hundreds of square miles, with no evidence of erosion between.
  • Flat layers: The “generally accepted notions” expect us to believe that the Colorado Plateau rose and sank above and below sea level repeatedly, yet kept the layers flat and undisturbed, a preposterous notion.
  • Gravity: The Grand Canyon traverses the Kaibab Plateau, a mile higher in elevation than the river upstream.  Clearly, rivers do not flow over mountains.  Something caused the canyon to scour through this region after a catastrophic period of sheet erosion and rapid downcutting.
  • Source of material: secular geologists don’t know where all the sedimentary material came from.  Some have speculated that it was transported somehow over long distances, from as far as Appalachia (09/15/2003).  On the other hand, a flood could have scoured and pulverized great quantities of lime mud and sand, and deposited it rapidly underwater.  The characteristic layers could represent material brought in from different directions as the currents changed.  (This could also imply that the similarities to Appalachian sediments indicate that similar processes were occurring there also).
  • No evolution: Squirrels on the north rim are subspecies of those on the south rim, with smooth gradations of varieties in between (CRS).  They differ mainly in fur color.  If these species were geographically isolated for at least five million years, why did they not evolve further apart?  In that same length of time, evolutionists claim that humans evolved from ape-like ancestors.
  • No evolution II: Investigations of organisms inhabiting the forests of Shiva Temple, a forested butte isolated from the north rim, found no differences between species on the rim, even though they, too, should have been geographically isolated for millions of years.  (CRS.)
  • Downstream: no large river-delta deposits can be found downstream that would be expected if the Colorado River carved the canyon over a long time.
  • Upstream: large basins that could have held enough water to carve the canyon by a dam breach can be discerned upstream.  Also, portions of the canyon (Marble Canyon, inner gorge) are convincing secular geologists that it was carved quickly (see 07/22/2002) entry).
  • Tectonics: faults intersect the canyon all the way from top to bottom at multiple points, but not part way up.  This indicates the layers were deposited rapidly, then faulted together as units.
  • Folding: The layers fold together as if they were still soft and unconsolidated at the time.  Some folds, such as in Carbon Canyon, show more than 90° fold with no evidence of cracking or crumbling.
  • Volcanos: Volcanic dikes and cones poke up through all the layers from bottom to top, but not part way up, casting doubt that millions of years transpired during sedimentation.
  • Fluting: The inner gorge rocks are only fluted at river level, indicating the river has not been cutting downward through the igneous rocks for long.
  • Sheet erosion: Vast quantities of rock above the canyon were swept away by sheet erosion before the canyon itself was carved.  Evidence for this can be seen at Cedar Mountain and other buttes which protrude above the canyon, displaying remnants of the thousands of vertical feet of sediments that had been swept away before the downcutting of the canyon began.
  • Sand Dunes, Not: The Coconino Sandstone, long claimed to be sand dunes turned to rock, are too fine-grained to be aeolian (wind-blown) sands, and cover too a vast an area (much of the Southwest: 100,000 square miles, with a volume 10,000 cubic miles) for this scenario to be plausible.  The crossbedding could have been laid down as sand waves by deep ocean currents.  The fossil trackways could have been made in shallow water and would have had to be buried suddenly to be preserved.  All other layers in the canyon are indisputably water-deposited.  To believe the Coconino was wind-deposited, the entire region would have had to be lifted above sea level without cracking or folding, yet the contact with the water-deposited Hermit Shale below it is flat and smooth.  This indicates that deposition of the Coconino in the Grand Canyon began immediately after the Hermit formation, without 10 million years between them.
  • Monsoons: a type of 3-D crossbedding called hummocky cross-stratification, visible in numerous places in the canyon, gives evidence of gigantic cyclonic storms on scales larger than anything observed today.
  • Sapping: The Redwall shows evidence of sapping (rock fall occasioned by springs weakening the rock above).  The large amphitheater-shaped alcoves characteristic of the Redwall suggest that the layers were still soft and unconsolidated and impregnated with water when they formed.
  • Dam Break Redux: Large lava dams that formed in the lower canyon are known to have backed up the Colorado River into a huge lake since the canyon formed, yet broke and catastrophically drained quickly, perhaps multiple times.  Why not suggest the same mechanism for formation of the canyon itself?  In recent years, this idea – first proposed by creationists – has become popular among secular geologists (05/31/2002).  Why have they not given the creationists credit?
  • Lava Dates: Radioactive dates from the lowest lavas in the canyon (underneath all the sedimentary layers) show up “younger” than those on the top at Vulcan’s Throne, indicating that radioactive dating methods that yield millions of years cannot be trusted.  Another falsification is that different radiometric methods applied within the same formation yield widely divergent dates.  In addition, carbon-14 has been found in coal seams around the Grand Canyon.  Since the half-life of carbon-14 is 5,700 years, none should remain if the coal were really millions of years old, as claimed.
  • (For more detail on these evidences, see Tom Vail’s book, ICR’s Grand Canyon: Monument to Catastrophe, and Walt Brown’s analysis.)
You will notice that this list contains only scientific evidences – no references to the Genesis Flood.  Any similarities with the Flood account have nothing to do with the point that the observational evidences suggest a very different story than the “generally accepted notions” of modern (i.e., secular, Bible-discrediting) geology.  Science is not supposed to consist of “generally accepted notions” (see 12/27/2003 entry), nor indeed “notions” at all, but rather proofs rigorously demonstrated based on observation and experiment.  Based on the observations listed above, it would seem more scientifically justifiable to place upper limits on the age of the canyon and its walls than to extrapolate today’s slow processes recklessly into the past by many orders of magnitude, and to introduce ad hoc scenarios when the story doesn’t fit the observations.
    Schmidt arrogantly applied the word myth to the creationist view, but what is the “power of myth,” if not speculating about unobservable millions of years that left no trace?  If it were not that the creationist interpretation discredits uniformitarianism and hurts the feelings of the moyboys*, most of the other books in the Grand Canyon bookstore would similarly be following the evidence where it leads.
*Moyboys, n. pl.: secular scientists who toss around the phrases “millions of years, billions of years” with reckless abandon, simply because Charlie & Charlie** needed the time.
**Lyell, Darwin.
Next headline on:  GeologyDating Methods
Zoo Wants You in the Cage   09/15/2005    
Visitors to the Zagreb Zoo get to walk through displays detailing the ways in which humans “contribute to the destruction of wildlife and the environment,” and then spend a little time in a cage that was deemed unsuitable for the foxes and martens who were its previous inhabitants.  The zoo calls humans “the most dangerous species on the planet.”  In March of this year Animal Friends Croatia staged a similar stunt to protest the treatment of chickens on commercial farms.  Although they object to all zoos as a form of prison, in April the group gave the Zagreb Zoo a passing grade on its treatment of animals.
The animals in the Zagreb Zoo appear to be safe and well treated, but what about the people?  They are subjected to a series of accusations and then put into a substandard cage as if to say, “You are guilty, and you deserve to be caged.”  They are then free to tour the rest of the zoo, basking in shame for enjoying the experience.  Maybe there should be a dispenser of complimentary Prozac at the front gate.
    The Agence France-Presse press release was accompanied by a file photo only identified as “a lion in his cage at a zoo.”  Pictures from the zoo’s web site and the statement from Animal Friends Croatia indicate that this was a stock photo and was probably not taken anywhere near Zagreb.  AFP was trying to add a little more drama to the story.
    There is no doubt that people have done some very irresponsible things in regard to the environment and the treatment of animals, however Genesis is clear that humans are not merely another species of animal, but distinctively persons, made in the image of God.  If people have done some stupid things in the past, the answer is not to do more stupid things.
Next headline on:  MediaPolitics and EthicsDumb Ideas
How Much Can the Origin of Life Be Simplified?    09/15/2005  
“No problem,” a report from Spain’s Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona seems to say: “Life’s origins were easier than was thought.”  (See also EurekAlert.)  The problem they claim to have solved is described in their press release:
In the primordial soup that produced life on earth, there were organic molecules that combined to produce the first nucleic acid chains, which were the first elements able to self-replicate.  According to one of the more accepted theories, these molecules were ribonucleic acid (RNA) chains, a molecule that is practically identical to DNA and that today has the secondary role in cells of copying information stored in DNA and translating it into proteins.  These proteins have a direct active role in the chemical reactions of the cell.  In the early stages of life, it seems that the first RNA chains would have had the dual role of self-replicating (as is today the case with DNA) and participating actively in the chemical reactions of the cell activity.  Because of their dual role, these cells are called ribozymes (a contraction of the words ribosome and enzyme).  But there is an important obstacle to the theory of ribozymes as the origin of life: they could not be very large in length as they would not be able to correct the replication errors (mutations).  Therefore they were unable to contain enough genes even to develop the most simple organisms.   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
What they refer to is the phenomenon of “error catastrophe.”  If the error rate in replication is too high, any gains in complexity or function are quickly lost in just a few generations.  This brings natural selection, which depends on future generations carrying any beneficial variations, to a halt.  How did the UAB researchers get around this obstacle?
An investigation led by Mauro Santos, from the Department of Genetics and Microbiology at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, alongside two Hungarian scientists, has shown that the error threshold, that is, the maximum number of errors that may occur during the replication process of ribozymes without this affecting its functioning, is higher than was previously calculated.  In practice, this means that the first riboorganisms (protocells in which RNA is responsible for genetic information and metabolic reactions) could have a much bigger genome than was previously thought: they could contain more than 100 different genes, each measuring 70 bases in length (bases are the units that constitute the genes and codify the information), or more than 70 genes, each measuring 100 bases.  It is worth remembering that tRNAs (essential molecules for the synthesis of proteins) are approximately 70 bases long.
    The discovery, published in Nature Genetics, has greatly relaxed the conditions necessary for the first living organisms to develop.  “This quantity of genes would be enough for a simple organism to have enough functional activity”, according to the researchers.
The press release puts 200 genes as the minimum for a bacterium, but claims that a prebiotic RNA replicating organism could have gotten by with “much fewer genes” because it would not have needed the current DNA-to-RNA translation machinery.
In recent origin-of-life literature, three hopeful-sounding claims have been made.  First, atmospheric scientists revised upward the amount of reducing hydrogen and methane – gases essential for natural formation of amino acids – that could have existed on the early earth (06/16/2005).  Second, a natural mechanism for producing a slight excess of same-handed chiral molecules – about 2.5% – was described.  Third, this announcement has relaxed the threshold for error, long thought to be too stringent to expect a minimal genome to survive the error catastrophe.  Taken together, just how positive are these developments for encouraging belief that life could have arisen by chance in a primordial soup?
    It’s time to review the helicopter-in-the-canyon analogy from our 05/22/2002 commentary.  Evolutionists think they are making progress if they can add little bits and pieces to their tall tale that make it sound more plausible.  But the outcome of the story has already been determined in their minds: life did evolve by chance, somehow, somewhere.  Since they will not even entertain any other possibility (i.e., that life was designed by a Creator), then some kind of scenario like this RNA World ribozyme story must have taken place – no matter how many the problems, no matter how wide the canyon between non-life and life (02/06/2005).  Since Pope Charlie ruled the plausibility criterion legal in science (12/22/2003 commentary), no more rigorous proofs were required to consider a claim scientific.  The legalization of storytelling opened up the current welfare state for storytellers.
    Each of these three hopeful suggestions has monstrous problems:
  1. A reducing atmosphere would have been necessary but not sufficient to produce some – but not all – of the so-called “building blocks of life.”  RNA itself, you recall from 08/23/2005, is horrendously difficult to produce, especially in a watery primordial soup.  Beyond that, the concentrations of the ingredients would have been negligibly dilute, and even if that obstacle were overcome, toxins and competing chemicals would quickly overpower the desirable ones.  Furthermore, the lack of an ozone shield would subject the ingredients to destructive radiation that would quickly annihilate them (amino acids, you recall, have a half-life of 8 hours on the Martian surface with even less radiation dosage—see 05/18/2005 and 01/28/2005). 
  2. Chiral molecules must be 100% one-handed to produce useful biomolecules.  Close enough is not good enough, and a 2.5% excess is not even close.
  3. The amount of genetic information necessary to produce a self-replicating entity that could (theoretically) evolve by natural selection is still a sky-high hurdle.  These Spaniards agree that 200 genes was too high, but presume that 70 of length 100 is approachable.  When even one is astronomically improbable – so much so that a success could never be expected in this or multiple universes (see online book), that’s like hoping that we can leap over Alpha Centauri with a pogo stick (but no map) just because we no longer have to leap over Sirius.
These are just three of many problems.  Taken together, they amplify each other’s implausibility to the extent that continuing the discussion is futile.  That’s being gracious about it.
    In totalitarian regimes like those of Hitler and Stalin, it was a standard propaganda technique for the newspapers to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative.  Since the state controlled the media, no dissent was ever heard.  The citizens might be starving, cold, poor, miserable and destitute, but their ignorance was the media’s bliss.  Day after day, the people would hear messages of progress, hope, joy, and success on the radio and in the papers.  Photographs of smiling faces and public works assured the populace that the latest 5-Year Plan was on schedule, and things were looking up.  Atrocities committed by the regime, of course, were shielded from view.  In addition, the propaganda machine had free reign to tell big lies about the opposition.  Party leaders painted the enemy as evil monsters, and described awful conditions in enemy lands, giving the impression that, however bad things appeared, the citizens were living in utopia compared to the rest of the world.*  Since no one could ever get a dissenting letter to the editor printed (and if they tried, they were usually never heard from again), the peasants often just accepted what was told them – unless they had a radio that could hear unjammed broadcasts from free lands, or happened upon an air-drop package from the outside world.  Do you see some parallels with the Darwin Party elitist establishment?  Thank God for the World Wide Web.
Next headline on:  Origin of Life
*This calls for a Russky joke heard on an old comedy album called The Other Family by Larry Foster and Marty Brill (1962).  In one scene, Kruschev is holding a rare press conference.  A reporter asks, “Premiere Kruschev, I have heard about a place the Americans have called Disneyland.  Why can’t we Soviets have a place like Disneyland?”
    The premiere replies, after a long pause, “What is... Disneyland?”  (he pauses again, so reporters can think about the question).  “Incredible – fantastic – beyond our wildest imagination – We have always had such a place.  Siberia!!”
Bacterial Parcel Service Discovered   09/14/2005    
Bacteria send letters and parcels to one another.  Some of them are love letters, some of them are letter bombs.  This amazing packaged system of communication, separate from the mere sending of diffusible chemicals, was described in Nature1 with the title, “Microbiology: Bacterial speech bubbles.”  Stephen C. Winans described what is known about bacterial communication:
Many bacteria socialize using diffusible signals.  But some of these messages are poorly soluble, so how do they move between bacteria?  It seems they can be wrapped up in membrane packages instead.   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
He said that two research studies in the same issue of Nature, one on how bacteria talk to their friends, and another on how they attack their enemies, met in an “unexpected convergence.”  One type of parcel, for instance, is “released in bubble-like ‘vesicles’ that also contain antibacterial agents and probably toxins aimed at host tissue cells as well.”
    Through this form of packaged communication, a community of microbes engages in “quorum sensing” to detect whether it is alone or surrounded by its own kind or other species.  Some genes only turn on when there is a quorum reached.  One of these Winans mentioned is bioluminescence – turning on the lights.
    The parcels can contain chemicals, proteins, toxins and other molecules in a lipid envelope.  The packaging permits delivery of proteins and chemicals that otherwise might be insoluble.  Some bacteria have three separate kinds of signal parcels.  The packages form lipid bubbles around them as they emerge from the bacterial membrane.  These can merge with a friendly neighbor or, depending on the need of the moment, deliver a toxin to an enemy – a package bomb on the scale of bacteria.
    To work, the system requires multiple parts: the contents, the packaging, the delivery method, and the response to received parcels.  Winans did not speculate on how this system might have evolved, other than to say, “Various groups of bacteria use diffusible chemicals to signal to their own kind, and this method of communication seems to have evolved independently several times.
1Stephen C. Winans, “Microbiology: Bacterial speech bubbles,” Nature, 437, 330 (15 September 2005) | doi: 10.1038/437330a.
This is an interesting phenomenon that deserves further investigation by science and medicine.  Since humans are sometimes targets of the toxins delivered by these vesicles, interrupting or targeting the bacterial UPS might lead to cures for disease.  Was this system originally a beneficial delivery service that got co-opted for harm?  It seems unlikely that a mindless bacterium could come up with such a complex system of interacting parts once, let alone several times, by an evolutionary process of trial and error.
    It’s a stunning thought to envision lowly bacteria with a social life and a coordinated, effective package delivery system.  Rather than assuming it arose spontaneously as an opportunistic mechanism for serving the bacterial “self,” perhaps it is best to look at this phenomenon from the vantage point of systems biology (06/15/2005, 06/20/2005).  What role might it play in the bigger picture?
    “Attacking and killing enemies” is a metaphor with metaphysical baggage (see “Metaphors Bewitch You,” 07/04/2003).  Another way of thinking about the “parcel bombs” might be with the give-and-take metaphor of action/reaction, feedback/feedforward, agonist/antagonist – i.e., a sensory mechanism of messages and responses that keeps a larger dynamic system in balance (homeostasis).  Such balancing interactions take place at many levels in biology, from interactions between molecules and proteins within the cell all the way up to interactions between higher organisms.  If too much of one side causes pain and suffering, that does not preclude the possibility that, in balance, the operation had a beneficial role.
    An evolutionist would undoubtedly study this bacterial UPS as a byproduct of selfish genes at work trying to ensure their own survival.  A design theorist could continue investigating it with just as much curiosity and enthusiasm, but without the tunnel vision of Darwinian self-centeredness.  He or she would ask, in the big picture, what role does it play, and has that role gone awry? 
Next headline on:  Cell Biology
Next Generation Microchips Inspired by Nature’s Nanotech   09/14/2005    
An article in ComputerWorld1 reports that Hewlett Packard, IBM, Fujitsu, and Texas Instruments are putting effort into developing nanotechnologies for chip manufacturing based on a principle found in nature: the tendency of matter to fall into predictable patterns as molecules assume low energy states. There aren’t many structures that can be built today, but researchers are finding new ways to manipulate molecules all the time. IBM has been using self-assembly in a capacitor, and HP Labs have self-assembled 10-atom wide conductive wires.
Self-assembly—the tendency of certain structures to fall naturally into patterns—is one of nature’s most common occurrences. On a grand scale, for example, wind direction, temperature and moisture in the air result in predictable types of storms.
Now think smaller—much smaller. Certain molecules combine without guidance in predictable ways.  “Some molecules recognize each other and find natural low-energy states,” says W. Grant McGimpsey, a biology professor and director of the Bioengineering Institute at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts.
  (Emphasis added in all quotes.)

1 Steve Ulfelder,“Molecular Self-Assembly: Nanoscale circuits build themselves, breathing new life into Moore’s Law,” ComputerWorld, pg 28, 5 September, 2005.
Certain molecules in nature recognize each other and combine into predictable patterns as they settle into low-energy states.  This fits very nicely with the Second Law of Thermodynamics and the formation of snowflakes, but is exactly the opposite of what evolutionists claim happened three or four billions of years ago on Earth at the origin of life.  Biological RNA and DNA are not mere crystals or repetitive patterns.  They are highly volatile and energetic, requiring cellular machinery to build and maintain.  Most important, they contain genetic information not derivable from the atoms of which they are composed nor from the laws of physics that describe how their parts interact.  In contrast, “Self-assembled materials form very simple patterns,” said one of the engineers.  Though ordered, these materials do not specify anything.  Though the article spoke of “natural self-assembly,” there was no mention of evolution – good, because evolution and engineering don’t logically mix.  Neo-Darwinian evolution is unguided and purposeless; the engineers here were harnessing natural processes toward intelligently-designed, functional ends.
Next headline on:  Intelligent DesignPhysics and ChemistryOrigin of Life
Who Needs a Big Bang?   09/13/2005    
Noted in passing: there are astronomers who don’t accept the Big Bang theory.  Spaceflight Now had an article denying that the WMAP microwave data supports the big bang.  Also, a small but active Alternative Cosmology Group decries the “unjustified limiting of cosmological funding to work within the Big Bang framework.”  They held their meetings last month.
When the leading model is called ungainly by its own supporters (06/18/2003, 05/15/2003, 05/02/2003, 03/06/2003), and has to invoke three major fudge factors (inflation, dark matter and dark energy) to stay in business (06/20/2003), how long before the theory itself goes bang?  Remember the prominent commentator who said the majority cosmologists are clueless (10/06/2004)?  In science, majorities are not always right (see 02/06/2003 on Grote Reber); but that doesn’t make these particular minorities right, either.  The mavericks are very vocal and confident, though (see 12/06/2004).  It should be an interesting year to see whether the empire strikes back (see “Dork Side of the Farce,” 06/20/2003 commentary).
Next headline on:  Cosmology
Shark Glows in the Dark   09/13/2005    
The “Eye-in-the-Sea” infrared camera (see 08/26/2004) found all kinds of exotic life in the Gulf of Mexico, reported EurekAlert with pictures.  The submersible with its dark-light camera is able to sneak up on organisms without scaring them.  The team from Harbor Branch had to dodge Hurricane Katrina, but scored on its second annual mission with a new gallery of deep-sea marvels, including a crab that can see ultraviolet light, a fluorescent sea anemone and a shark that glows in the dark.
No evolutionary talk, discovering new things – science can be good.  The deep sea organisms didn’t seem to notice the hurricane.
Next headline on:  Marine LifeAmazing Stories
Good Publicity for I.D.:   09/13/2005
Michael Behe got interviewed in the UK newspaper The Guardian and was compared to Galileo for being condemned by the NAS curia.  See reprint on
Discovery Institute.
Next headline on:  Intelligent Design

Mars and Moons Shed Cocoons   09/13/2005    
With so many spacecraft touring our solar system, there’s almost too much news to process.  Here are a few highlights, starting with Mars, then comets, asteroids, a Titanic puzzle, and what Cassini found mini moons ago.

  • Mars Ice Age:  Mars Express may have found evidence for deep ice deposits on Mars around the equator in the past, reports BBC News.  The article also states that, unlike Earth, Mars is subject to changes to its tilt axis of up to 15° due to the lack of a large moon.
  • No Mars Life from Methane:  “Forget microbes or Martians,” begins an article on Science Now.  According to veteran planetary scientist Sushil Atreya, the methane comes from a natural geological process called serpentinization.
  • Mars Gusev Crater Had Water:  A team analyzing Spirit data believes they have chemical evidence that water moved and deposited some of the rocks, according to a U of Washington press release.
  • Mars Missing CarbonatesSky and Telescope proposed a solution to the Martian missing carbonates problem: they never had a chance to form in the first place.  This is one of the “great mysteries” about Mars.  “Thus far, geologists have yet to find more than small amounts of carbonates on the Martian surface,” the article said.
  • Comet Tempel 1, a Gutless Wonder:  “Comet reveals crumbly guts” says News@Nature.  The texture appears to resemble “a loose collection of particles, like a weak sponge held together only by its own gravity.”  Investigator Michael A’Hearn thinks you could dig from one side to the other with your bare hands.  Science News made the Deep Impact mission its cover story for Sept. 10, and it also made prominent press in Science last week.  The presence of carbonates and other minerals on the comet, thought to require formation in liquid water, is also puzzling.  More detail on the spectral analysis can be found at Earth Files by Linda Moulton Howe who interviewed Dr. Carely Lisse of the Deep Impact team.
        Now that Comet Tempel 1 looks soft and crumbly, the mission planners of Rosetta are worried their spacecraft won’t find a solid surface to land on when it encounters another comet in 2011.  New Scientist is asking why in the last four comet encounters, the scientists’ predictions were all wrong.  In “Comet Tails of the Unexpected,” Stuart Clark begins, “We have now had four close encounters with comets, and every one of them has thrown astronomers onto their back foot.”
  • Cowabunga, Hayabusa:  A little-known Japanese spacecraft named Hayabusa has arrived at an asteroid.  The Japanese Institute of Space and Astronautical Science has its first close-up picture of asteroid Itokawa. If successful, it may become the first sample-return mission of an asteroid.  Find links to more images at
  • Cigar Moon:  A planetoid on the outskirts of the solar system is spinning so fast, says Nature Sept. 8, that it is stretched into a cigar shape.  If orbital calculations are correct, its day is under four hours.
  • Spoken For:  Ring scientists have finally detected the elusive spokes in Saturn’s rings, reports the Cassini imaging team.  Their manifestation is apparently a function of solar incidence angle on the rings: the lower the sun angle, the more they appear.  With these facts, scientists are working on new models of spoke formation.
  • New Titan Landscape:  Cassini photographed a new region of Saturn’s moon Titan on Sept. 7.  The JPL press release shows an H-shaped region of contrasting dark and light areas named Fensal and Aztlan.  The dark patches are littered with light-colored “islands” that may be upwellings of water ice surrounded by hydrocarbon precipitates.  Individual images can also be found on the imaging website.
  • Titan Moonsoons:  A suggestion by Dr. Ralph Lorenz that Titan may have rare “monsoons” of liquid methane rain generated a headline on New Scientist.  (For context, see the Planetary Society blog by Emily Lakdawalla, who attended the meetings of the Division of Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society in Cambridge last week, and reported what she heard.)  The idea is that Titan has long periods of dryness punctuated by heavy downpours, similar to American southwest deserts.  Govert Schilling wrote a short report for Science Now, called “Your Outdoor Adventure Guide to Titan.”  It’s a world of cryovolcanos, convective clouds, outgassing and condensing methane, and other strange things.
  • Titan Canyonlands Seen in Radar:  The radar data swath from the latest Titan flyby, feared lost due to a commanding error to the solid state recorder, was partly recovered and released Sept. 16 – and what a beauty.  In three stunning panoramas, scientists detected a methane-lake shoreline, a system of channels most likely scoured by methane rain, and a region of deep canyons up to 650 feet deep and 0.6 miles wide.  Some of the canyons can be traced for 120 miles.  As noticed before on other parts of the moon, there is a dearth of impact craters in all three frames.  See the Cassini press release for the full scoop, images and captions.  Space.Com also has a writeup.
  • Splash of the TitansSouthwest Research Institute thinks that an exotic form of life may inhabit Titan, now that evidence for liquid hydrocarbons has been found.  BBC News reported on Jonathan Lunine’s contention that Titan, like Earth, occupies a “sweet spot” in terms of temperature and mass that drives active geological and atmospheric processes.  Liquid of any sort is all that is needed to get speculations about life flowing (see 07/26/2005 also).
  • Enceladus: Me TooScience Daily reported a claim by Robert Brown about the results from Saturn’s little moon Enceladus, that the “building blocks of life” could have formed in subsurface liquid water.
  • Miller Time Hangover  Back at Earth, Washington U scientists are speculating that there actually was a reducing atmosphere on the early earth, just like Miller and Urey supposed back in 1953 when they generated a few amino acids with their famous spark-discharge apparatus.  They deduced this by complex models about minerals in chondrites that they think made up the infant earth.  Geologists dispute the scenario, they admit, and getting a reducing atmosphere is not the only requirement for resurrecting the Miller scenario (see 08/15/2005, 06/16/2005).
Brown gets Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week for trying to stimulate funding by appeals to the L word:
So you’ve got subsurface liquid water, simple organics and water vapor welling up from below.  Over time – and Enceladus has been around 4.5 billion years, just like Earth and the rest of the solar system – heating a cocktail of simple organics, water and nitrogen could form some of the most basic building blocks of life.  Whether that’s happened at Enceladus is not clear, but Enceladus, much like Jupiter’s moon Europa and the planet Mars, now has to be a place where we eventually search for life.”   (Emphasis added.)
This is known as the JAWS theory of life (just add water, stupid).  We can enjoy the discoveries in the Golden Age of Planetary Science better without the mythoids and the noise of banging crutches on the funding trough (see Berlinski quote).
    Readers who appreciate more substance than the usual newspaper fluff are encouraged to go nugget hunting on the Planetary Society blog, provided one knows how to separate data from opinion.  There are very strange goings on out there (not only at Cambridge, but throughout the solar system).
Next headline on:  MarsSolar SystemOrigin of LifeDumb Ideas
Are Democrats the Guardians of Science?   09/12/2005    
Dan Danbom reviewed Chris Mooney’s The Republican War On Science in the Rocky Mountain News.  According to Danbom, Mooney argues “that the Bush administration ignores, subverts, twists and misrepresents science to conform to its political goals.” The review includes these quotes from the book: politicized fights involving science, it is rare to find liberals entirely innocent of abuses.  But they are almost never as guilty as the right.
Reagan’s self-appointed state board of education had pushed to weaken the teaching of evolution and endorsed creationism.... The Reagan administration’s sympathies with creationism signaled a new development for the Republican Party and conservatism more generally.  From this moment forward, many of the party’s leaders willingly distorted or even denied the bedrock scientific theory of evolution, and encouraged pseudoscientific thinking, to satisfy a traditionalist religious constituency.
Danbom calls The Republican War on Science “a book that is as carefully constructed as a laboratory experiment.”  According to the book, Republicans pick and choose among the scientific data in order to support their pet projects.  He concludes his review with, “Mooney challenges the reader to ask just how important unvarnished science is to us, no matter what our political predilections.”
The book and the review are exercises in hypocrisy.  Mooney argues that Republicans are more guilty of selective science than liberals (notice that Democrats are not specifically named in the article) who support “bedrock scientific theory of evolution.”  Just how important is unvarnished science to someone who thinks evolution rocks?
Next headline on:  DarwinismPolitics and Ethics
Planets Can Form Rapidly    09/12/2005  
Observations by the Spitzer Space Telescope, announced in a JPL press release, “pose a challenge to existing theories of giant planet formation, especially those in which planets build up gradually over millions of years.”  Three young stars show clearings in dust disks surrounding them, suggesting that gas giant planets inhabit the clearings and must have been formed in a million years or less.  Instead of growing slowly like giant redwoods, these new planets must have sprung up quickly like wildflowers, the report describes.  This is an update on the 10/18/2004 findings from Spitzer.  See also Science Daily and
OK, now that we know that planets can form in far less time than textbooks have claimed for centuries, can we finally ditch the mythical age of our solar system?  Can we entertain the notion that many phenomena in our solar system look young, because they actually are?  (See 08/30/2005, 09/06/2005, 06/30/2005, 03/22/2005, 03/11/2005, 06/05/2003 and other chain links on Dating Methods).   The only one who needed the billions of years was Charlie, and he’s dead.
Next headline on:  Dating MethodsPlanetary ScienceStellar Astronomy
Will Hurricane Katrina End Social Darwinism in America?    09/12/2005  
Harold Evans, writing an op-ed piece for the BBC News, thinks the TV images of destruction from Hurricane Katrina will arouse a new wave “compassion in government” (which he interprets as “the responsibility of government to relieve individual suffering”), and spell the end of Social Darwinism (which he interprets as laissez-faire individualism):
My judgment is that the log of Social Darwinism will disappear again under the toxic flood waters of New Orleans.  The corpses floating face down in the muddy overflow from broken Mississippi levees are too shocking a sight for Americans of all classes and parties.  They are too kindly a people.  They will look once again for vigour and compassion in government, even at the price of higher taxes.   (Emphasis added.)
Evans pointed to Herbert Spencer, who coined the term survival of the fittest nine years before “the great man himself” Charles Darwin wrote the Origin, as the founder of Social Darwinism.  Evans claimed that Social Darwinism caught on in America more than in Britain, under the “Yale polemicist” William Graham Sumner.
    How does Harold Evans illustrate the Social Darwinist attitude in America?  Primarily, by presidents of both parties who have expressed reluctance to send federal aid for disaster relief.  His only Democrat example, however, was Grover Cleveland; Republicans Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush he used as illustrations of the Social Darwinist attitude that government should not get involved when nature takes its course.  FDR, who according to Evans, “almost drove a stake through the heart of Social Darwinism” with his rapid-fire government aid programs during the Depression, illustrates to him a compassionate reaction to Hoover, who “was swept away by a riptide of anger and fear like that which may threaten the Republican ascendancy today.”
It’s always welcome to hear Social Darwinism get badmouthed, but Evans, clearly a British liberal seeing government as the solution to everything, makes some historical and logical flaws in his arguments.  He portrays Social Darwinism as a primarily conservative/capitalist phenomenon, when actually it was embraced not only by laissez-faire capitalists like Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller, but just as much – if not more so – by political liberals and materialists in the eugenics movement.  (Laissez-faire capitalism actually had roots in Adam Smith, long before Darwin.)  He also wrongly conflates belief in individual responsibility with Social Darwinism; the two overlap somewhat at a pragmatic level, but are clearly pointed in nearly opposite directions.  Belief in individual responsibility is as old as Moses; it’s a matter of character, not evolution.  Individual responsibility and compassion are Christian virtues.  Christianity and Social Darwinism are polar opposites.  Many Christians and political conservatives who have nothing but the utmost disdain for Social Darwinism do not feel it is solely the government’s job to bail people out of all their mishaps.
    The amount of government aid that is proper, compared to private charity, is hotly debated in both parties.  Social Darwinism enters very little into the discussion nowadays.   Evans thus creates a false dichotomy that one is either a compassionate Democrat who believes government is the primary provider of disaster relief, or a laissez-faire Republican who lets people die in floods.  Isn’t that a switch.  Many conservatives arguing for limited government are the first rushing to help the New Orleans victims, illustrating that compassion and responsibility are not mutually exclusive values.  Evans also commits a non-sequitur that big government equals effective aid.  Some would argue that some of FDR’s well-intentioned reforms caused more and bigger problems than they solved.  The New Deal created lots of activity, motion and emotion, and many touching stories, but the court is still out on whether its policies or World War II actually ended the Depression.  And just who is the government, anyway?  Who pays the bills?  Taxpayers!  Government is not some independent benign Father, dispensing its own largesse with magnanimity and impunity.  When it steers the people’s money toward disaster relief, it is supposed to be acting as a steward, managing the people’s compassion with the consent of the governed.
  Some of the New Deal alphabet agencies, long past their period of usefulness during the Depression, have become eternal bureaucracies.  Drawing on the finite pool of wealth available for disaster relief by a process Frederic Bastiat called “legal plunder” (i.e., taxation), agencies like FEMA do provide relief in the name of Government, but this begs the question whether they do it faster or cheaper than private charities.  Go to any disaster center and you are just as likely (if not more so) to see aid being dispensed by local churches, the Red Cross, World Vision, the Salvation Army, Samaritan’s purse and many other non-governmental groups funded by charitable contributions, not by taxes – and with typically far less overhead than government.  The main contributions of government to disaster relief are mobilizing the armed forces for civil defense, providing protection from disease epidemics, and rebuilding the infrastructure.
For Evans to use Reagan or Bush as exemplars of a Social Darwinist attitude, therefore, is absurd.  A Christian and advocate of intelligent design (08/02/2005), Bush is no more a Social Darwinist than Richard Dawkins is a Pentecostal.  The heirs of Spencer and Sumner are not Republicans, but the overwhelmingly-liberal elitist scientists in the AAAS, NAS and Smithsonian who remain committed to the principles of “the great man himself” to this day.  For consistent Darwinists, disasters have opened up new evolutionary niches for billions of years.  Altruism is just a game to them (03/07/2002, 02/22/2004), with no moral content whatsoever.  If disaster has produced such biodiversity, who are we to get in the way of progress?
    If it weren’t for the historical fact that Social Darwinism produced the likes of Hitler and Stalin, Darwin’s disciples would still be advocating it today, and some are, with the prospect of a New Eugenics (10/12/2001), 10/18/2004, 10/21/2004).  Evans should look not to the Americans but to his British brethren – Spencer, Darwin and Francis Galton (Darwin’s cousin, the father of eugenics) – as the instigators of the worldview that would rob civilization of civility, and passion of compassion.  Social Darwinism has only preceded its intellectual forebear onto the ash heap of history.  Meanwhile, churches all over America, without government pressure or assistance, are rushing into New Orleans and Mississippi with aid (example), and with messages of hope, comfort and salvation (example.  Let’s see the Church of Darwin put its rubber on the road.  What are they going to tell victims: “Tough luck”? 
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Recommended Reading: Whistleblower magazine Aug. 2005 issue: “Censoring God: Why is the science establishment so threatened by the intelligent design movement?”  Contains a dozen articles on this timely issue.

Are Brains Evolving Bigger, or Fatter?    09/09/2005  
Two papers in Science Sept. 9 claimed that human brains may still be evolving.  According to the authors, two genes related to brain size appear to be under “positive selection” in certain people groups.  One team said their variant occurred the same time as the emergence of art, music, religious practices and sophisticated tool use, though such inferences are subjective (see 11/12/2004 entry).  Michael Balter, commenting on these findings in Science,1 said that although the claims are “potentially dramatic,” caution should be exercised in interpreting the results.  Francis Collins of the Human Genome Project, warned in an AP story printed on LiveScience that “is totally unproven and potentially dangerous territory to get into with such sketchy data” because scientists don’t know when the variants arose or even what the genes do.  The BBC News, however, though admitting that the findings were merely a “tantalising prospect,” titled their version of the story, “‘Proof’ Our Brains Are Evolving.”  New Scientist announced cheerfully, “Human brains enjoy ongoing evolution.”

1Michael Balter, “Evolution: Are Human Brains Still Evolving?  Brain Genes Show Signs of Selection,” <Science, Vol 309, Issue 5741, 1662-1663 , 9 September 2005, [DOI: 10.1126/science.309.5741.1662].
Evolutionists are hastening to mention that the variants have nothing to do with “intelligence.”  This is apparently to avoid repeating the sins of the early Darwinists, who sought ways to rank humans on an IQ scale that ensured the Brits would remain on top.  But if the “haves” are better musicians than the “have-nots,” this might lead to ranking by MQ, the music quotient.  The world isn’t ready for a new form of Social Darwinism characterized by a battle of the bands and survival of the hittest.  Some of today’s musicians could use a little genetic engineering to reverse the descent of man, but that’s intelligent design, not evolution. 
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Reader Project: Calculate the Speed of Plant Package Delivery    09/09/2005  
Get out your pencil and hand calculator.  A team of Swedish and French scientists measured the velocity of a message traveling on the intraplant internet (see 08/12/2005, 11/09/2004, 10/04/2004 and 07/13/2001 entries).  Publishing in Science,1 they believe they have witnessed a signaling molecule, in the form of a messenger-RNA (mRNA; see yesterday’s entry) moving through the phloem, from leaf to shoot, telling the tip to begin flowering.  The leaf is sensitive to day length.  When the clock strikes that the days are right for flowering, messenger molecules travel to the tips to initiate the process.  This is one method by which a plant, distributed in space without a central nervous system, can keep synchronized with itself.
    The mRNA moved 6 to 7 mm in an Arabidopsis leaf to the tip in 2 to 5 hours, which they calculated as 1.2 to 3.5 millimeters per hour.
Problem:  Calculate what speed range that would represent in miles per hour if the mRNA were the size of a delivery truck on a freeway.  You need to find out the approximate size of an mRNA molecule and work it out with proportions.  Send your answer here.
1Tao Huang et al., “The mRNA of the Arabidopsis Gene FT Moves from Leaf to Shoot Apex and Induces Flowering,” Science, Vol 309, Issue 5741, 1694-1696, 9 September 2005, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1117768].
Your answer can be reprinted here to help other readers visualize what a human might see if shrunk to the size of an mRNA molecule.  The answer will be simplified somewhat since it will not take into account how many twists and turns the molecule must make on its route, nor the amount of traffic and inspections it encounters, but it should be interesting.  One reader estimated 20-60 mph, one 23-66 mph or up to 68 to 200 mph, another 2000 to 6000 mph, and another, 8181 mph.  Give us your best calculation: write here and tell us how you arrived at it.  Hint: an RNA molecule is about 1 nanometer wide (10-9m).  You need to figure not only the length of an average mRNA, but whether or not it folds into a more compact structure before traveling.
    The reader who seemed to work the hardest on the problem said, “if we use 5 nm as the width of the mRNA folded up on itself, the scaled speed increases dramatically, and would be in the range of 1100 to 3300 mph.”  Additional factors would need to be known, like how compact the mRNA folds, and whether it passively “rides along” in the sap for part of its journey.  Anyway, it was an interesting investigation – thanks to all who wrote in with their calculations.
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“Beautifully Engineered”: Giant Pterosaur Compared to Aircraft    09/09/2005  
Imagine an “aircraft engineer trying to convert a Eurofighter into a jumbo jet while it was still flying.”  That’s how David Martill (U of Portsmouth, UK) described the abilities of a baby pterosaur growing into a large adult, a BBC News story says.  Evidence suggests that pterosaurs were capable of flying soon after hatching.  Some had wingspans up to 60 feet, nearly six times that of the largest living bird, and as big as a medium size commercial aircraft or F14 fighter, according to MSNBC.
    An article in The Scotsman provides further comparisons with aircraft design:
Their enormous sail-like wings, made of a thin hair-covered membrane between their two front limbs, allowed them to use air currents to fly with little effort over huge distances.
    “Their flight membranes could be controlled by adjusting the angle of the forelimbs at the shoulder, the elbow and at the base of the hyper-elongated flight finger,” said Dr Martill.  “In addition it could be controlled by movement of the hind limbs at the hips, the knees and to some degree at the ankle.
    “This gave pterosaurs far more flight control than birds of equivalent size.”
    Analysis of fossils has shown the intricate details of its super-strong but light bone structure.  Dr Martill said they could even be used to help with modern aircraft design.
    “They took bone to new limits in terms of making it thin yet strong,” he said.  “Their skeletons were very lightly constructed and most of their bones were hollow and enclosed an air sac system connected to the lungs.
    “The bone itself was composed of many microscopically thin layers stacked together like a spirally bound plywood tube.
    “Sometimes the bones had cross-sectional shapes that provided added strength, such as D, T and A shapes.”
  (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
Pterosaurs have no evolutionary line to any living creatures in the fossil record, the BBC article states.  The Scotsman article claims that their nearest relatives are crocodiles, but the MSNBC news article notes that they had a “very different shoulder joint” among all the other adaptations for flying.
    Fossils of a variety of forms have been found in such widely-scattered locales as Brazil, North America, Mexico, Romania, and Israel.  Contrary to previous ideas that pictured pterosaurs as mere gliders, Martill thinks they flew rather elegantly: “Their ability to utilise air currents, thermals and ground effects would astonish aeroplane designers.”  They were “beautifully engineered,” he remarked.
Engineering is not the language of Darwinism.  The Darwin Party lacks the training to deal with the facts of biology as observed, and the history of biology as read in the fossil record.  The article states, “Indeed, there is still great debate about where exactly they should be placed in the evolution of life forms on Earth.”  The answer is, of course, they should be taken out of the evolution fairy tale book, and placed into the engineering textbook, where “pterosaurs could inform modern aircraft design.”  Were the references to evolution really useful for anything, other than entertainment?  We would like to see the transitional forms between crocodiles and beautifully engineered aircraft, or watch some crocodile gliding experiments.
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Quote  09/09/2005:
Interviewed in the Dallas Morning Herald Sept. 4, David Berlinski was asked why many scientists strongly oppose intelligent design.  With concentrated wit, Berlinski answered,
For scientists forever banging their crutches against the trough of public funding, any form of criticism represents an alarming turn of events, the more so when it affects their traditional claims to speak with authority on matters of culture, faith and morals.  They are right to be alarmed.  A great many people have come to regard Darwinism as tedious, illiterate, uninformed and tendentious.  Darwin’s theories seem destined to disappear by negative selection, an interesting but rare example of a Darwinian process reaching a sound conclusion.

RNA Research Uncovers a Previously Ignored Universe of Genetic Information    09/08/2005  
A slow revolution is occurring in the study of genetic information.  Until recently, the only interesting items in DNA sequences were the genes – the genetic codes for proteins.  Since these usually represented only a small fraction of an organism’s genome, it was assumed the rest of the material was “junk DNA” – sequences that were either mutated leftovers of real genes (pseudogenes), spacers (introns), nonsense strands, or regions that merely provided structural support for the more important genes.
    Indications that something was wrong with this picture have arisen over the last few years.  For one, geneticists were surprised to count only about 30,000 protein-coding genes in the human genome; more recent counts have dropped the number to 25,000.  How could such a complex organism as a human being arise from such a small library of genetic information?  Another clue was the mismatch between messenger RNAs and proteins.  Messenger RNA (mRNA) is the transcript of the DNA template that carries the genetic information outside the nucleus of eukaryotic cells to a ribosome, where it is translated into the amino acid language of proteins.  Scientists found that many mRNAs never got that far.  Were they simply disassembled and recycled?  A third clue was the discovery of vast quantities of small RNAs in the cell (10/26/2001).  Some were found to apparently regulate the expression of genes; what did the others do?  Additionally, the mystery of introns (09/03/2003), viewed as useless nonsense strands of DNA cut out of genes by spliceosomes (09/17/2004), deepened when some were shown to be remarkably conserved (05/27/2004) between primitive and advanced organisms, suggesting they had a function.  Is it possible scientists have vastly underestimated the amount of information in the cell, like walking into a forest and assuming the only living things there are the trees?  Perhaps a kind of “gene chauvinism” has masked the reality of a much higher order of complexity.
    The cover story of the Sept. 2 issue of Science, “Mapping RNA Form and Function,” explored this question.  Of the 18 articles about RNA and its functional role in the cell, here are a few glimpses of the emerging picture that is putting to rest the old notion – that biological information is comprised only of genes and proteins.

  1. Parallel universe:  Guy Riddihough, in the introductory article,1 ventured into the “forest of RNA dark matter” and found a wonderland:
    For a long time, RNA has lived in the shadow of its more famous chemical cousin DNA and of the proteins that supposedly took over RNA’s functions in the transition from the ‘RNA world’ [07/11/2002, 08/23/2005] to the modern one.  The shadow cast has been so deep that a whole universe (or so it seems) of RNA—predominantly of the noncoding variety—has remained hidden from view, until recently....
    The discovery that much of the mammalian genome is transcribed, in some places without gaps (so-called transcriptional “forests”), shines a bright light on this embarrassing plenitude: an order of magnitude more transcripts than genes....  Many of these noncoding RNAs ... are conserved across species, yet their functions (if any) are largely unknown....
    (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
    As if that were not enough, he noted that “even the coding and base-paring capacity of RNA can be altered–by RNA editing, in which bases in the RNA are changed on the fly.”  It appears there is much life in the forest than just the trees.
  2. Hidden infrastructure:  Matthew W. Vaughn and Rob Martienssen2 discussed the probability that vast numbers of small RNAs (sRNA) may be essential for regulation of genes.  Some of these micro-RNAs (miRNAs) and small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) have already been identified in gene regulation, but many more remain to be studied.  In one plant, 1.5 million sRNAs composed of 75,000 unique sequences were recently found, suggesting that “many more genes may be under the control of sRNAs than had been previously imagined.”  These noncoding RNAs, usually 20-something bases long, keep a bag of tricks up their sleeves:
    They can direct cleavage of other transcripts and can also promote second-strand synthesis by RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRP), resulting in dsRNAs [double-stranded RNA].  In addition, siRNAs are implicated in recruiting heterochromatic modifications that result in transcriptional silencing.
    The authors mentioned several ways in which these sRNAs had escaped detection due to the methods used.
  3. Pseudo – Not:  Vaughn and Martienssen also noted the relationship of sRNAs to pseudogenes.  Once thought to be mutated relics of true genes because they often contain premature stop codons, pseudogenes might be sources for siRNAs that regulate the true genes they resemble: “they could act transitively on transcripts from paralogous protein-coding genes by promoting cleavage or interfering with translation,” they continued.  “More than half of the pseudogene sRNAs matched sequences elsewhere in the genome, indicating that this may be the case and suggesting a mechanism for coordinated trans-acting regulation of closely related members of gene families.”
  4. What Are They There For?  Now that we know large numbers of small RNAs exist, what do they do?  John S. Mattick3 suggested that they are not “transcriptional noise,” but rather “constitute a critical hidden layer of gene regulation in complex organisms, the understanding of which requires new approaches in functional genomics.”  This will be a big task, he warns.  One study of one such small RNA found it acting as a scaffold for the assembly of protein complexes and for coordinating nuclear traffic, helping localize gene products to their correct subcellular compartments.  This one case reveals “a new dimension of organizational control in cell biology and development,” and “illustrates the magnitude of the task that is in front of us, which may be an equal or greater challenge than that we already face in working out the biochemical function and biological role of all of the known and predicted proteins and their isoforms.”  Since cataloging the human proteome is the next daunting task after deciphering the genome, this statement should put geneticists on notice.
  5. New Glasses Needed:  One assumption guiding previous research was that if a sequence was “evolutionarily conserved” (i.e., largely unchanged from primitive to advanced organisms), this indicated it was probably functional.  Mattick cast doubt on that assumption: “Notably, evolutionary conservation may not be a reliable signature of functional ncRNAs” [non-coding RNAs].  The conserved ones may act on many substrates, he noted, but non-conserved ones may have few and be less restrained to vary.  Many ncRNAs, Mattock thinks, may be “evolving quickly” and escaping detection by methods that look for sequence conservation.
        Here is another indication that “junk DNA” actually represents information we haven’t yet decoded:
    It is also clear that the majority of the genomes of animals is indeed transcribed, which suggests that these genomes are either replete with largely useless transcription or that these noncoding RNA sequences are fulfilling a wide range of unexpected functions in eukaryotic biology.  These sequences include introns (Fig. 1), which account for at least 30% of the human genome but have been largely overlooked because they have been assumed to be simply degraded after splicing.  However, it has been shown that many miRNAs and all known small nucleolar RNAs in animals are sourced from introns (of both protein-coding and noncoding transcripts), and it is simply not known what proportion of the transcribed introns are subsequently processed into smaller functional RNAs.  It is possible, and logically plausible, that these sequences are also a major source of regulatory RNAs in complex organisms.
    That higher animals should run on “complex genetic programming” should “come as no surprise,” he concluded.  It means, though, that “we may have seriously misunderstood the nature of genetic programming in the higher organisms by assuming that most genetic information is expressed as and transacted by proteins.”  Truly we have embarked on a long road.
  6. Mt. Improbable Looms Higher:  Jean-Michel Claverie4 echoed Mattock’s estimation of the task, saying it is “only recently that the sheer scale of the phenomenon” of functional non-coding RNA has been realized.  He pointed to research on the mouse genome that half its “transcriptome” (the corpus of RNA transcribed from DNA) consists of non-coding RNA (ncRNA).  He found a eureka moment: “These results provide a solution to the discrepancy between the number of (protein-coding) genes and the number of transcripts,” he wrote.  Missing them has been an artifact of our methods.  “Noncoding transcripts originating from intergenic regions, introns, or antisense strands have probably been right before our eyes for 8 years without having been discovered!”
  7. Prokaryotes Say Me, Too:  Claverie doubted that the discovery of functional ncRNA is limited to eukaryotes: “The notion that transcription is limited to protein-coding genes is also being challenged in microbial systems.”  He pointed to E. coli which contains many transcripts from intergenic sequences and antisense strands (i.e., transcribed from the opposite strand of DNA).  His ending paragraph should humble Watson and Crick, who thought they had it figured out 50 years ago:
    The intergenic, intronic, and antisense transcribed sequences that were once deemed artifactual are now a testimony to our collective refusal to depart from an oversimplified gene model.  But what if transcription is even more complex?  Could it, for instance, lead to mRNAs generated from two different chromosomes (Fig. 1)?  A year ago, we would have immediately suspected such sequences as further artifacts arising from large-scale cDNA [complementary DNA, a strand that forms a template for mRNA] sequencing programs.  But now?  Perhaps it’s time to go back to the cDNA sequence databases and reevaluate the numerous unexpected objects they contain.  Transcription will never be simple again, but how complex will it get?
  8. The Life and Times of mRNA:  Melissa Moore5 provided a more whimsical view of the actors in the genetic play.  Dismissing the simplistic “short obituary” of RNAs as simply a “central conduits in the flow of information from DNA to protein,” she wrote, “this dry and simplistic description captures nothing of the intricacies, intrigues, and vicissitudes defining the life history of even the most mundane mRNA.  In addition, of course, some mRNAs lead lives that, if not quite meriting an unauthorized biography, certainly have enough twists and turns to warrant a more detailed nucleic acid interest story.”  She offered a prècis for her novel, giving us a glimpse into the frenzy of activity in the life of mRNA:
    We will follow the lives of eukaryotic mRNAs from the point at which they are birthed from the nucleus until they are done in by gangs of exonucleases lying in wait in dark recesses of the cytoplasm.  Along the way, mRNAs may be shuttled to and from or anchored at specific subcellular locations, be temporarily withheld from the translation apparatus, have their 3' ends trimmed and extended, fraternize with like-minded mRNAs encoding proteins of related function, and be scrutinized by the quality-control police.
    It turns out the mRNA is not just a carrier of information, but a “posttranscriptional operon” with many roles in the cell.  For instance, some RNAs bind with proteins to form messenger ribonucleoprotein particles (mRNPs): “Individual mRNP components can be thought of as adaptors that allow mRNAs to interface with the numerous intracellular machineries mediating their subcellular localization, translation, and decay, as well as the various signal transduction systems.”  For a sampler, Moore listed a “cheat sheet” of 11 such mRNPs and their functions.  Her article gave some up-close-and-personal vignettes of some of the players, personifying their birth, baptism (entry into the “transcriptionally active pool”), examination, recruitment, retirement, dispatch and burial.
Space does not permit delving into the other 13 articles that describe such things as RNA’s role in the ribosome, how RNA is recycled, and other interesting topics.6  These samples should suffice to show that the information content of the cell has probably been vastly oversimplified before now.  Remarkably, some researchers are looking at this new universe of RNA regulation and seeing an evolutionary path leading back into the fog of prehistory.  Since the leading origin-of-life theory is the so-called “RNA World” scenario, some are speculating about whether today’s small RNAs are relics of a lost world in which early RNAs shared the roles of genetic storage and catalysis.  Readers are referred to earlier entries on RNA and the origin of life (07/11/2002, 08/23/2005) for further study.
Addendum:  Genes themselves, too, may contain much more information than previously realized.  Several articles recently hinted at how genetic information could vastly outstrip the mere gene count.  One mechanism of compressing information on DNA is alternative splicing: the spliceosome, after removing the introns, apparently can rearrange the exons into multiple products in some cases, something like the way kids take Lego blocks and make a variety of machines out of them.  Another possibility for information storage is the overlooked opposite DNA strand, or “antisense” strand.  Even though it represents a “photographic negative” of the normal strand, some mRNAs can apparently read it and generate additional, different protein products from it.  These and other mechanisms, such as frame-shifted transcription, the histone code, or the ability of mRNAs to join transcripts from different chromosomes, suggest that the information coded in genes is just the tip of a very large info-berg.
1Guy Riddihough, “In the Forests of RNA Dark Matter,” Science, Vol 309, Issue 5740, 1507, 2 September 2005, [DOI: 10.1126/science.309.5740.1507].
2Vaughn and Martienssen, “It’s a Small RNA World, After All,” Science, Vol 309, Issue 5740, 1525-1526, 2 September 2005, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1117805].
3John S. Mattick, “The Functional Genomics of Noncoding RNA,” Science, Vol 309, Issue 5740, 1527-1528, 2 September 2005, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1117806].
4Jean-Michel Claverie, “Fewer Genes, More Noncoding RNA,” Science, Vol 309, Issue 5740, 1529-1530 , 2 September 2005, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1116800].
5Melissa J. Moore, “From Birth to Death: The Complex Lives of Eukaryotic mRNAs,” Science, Vol 309, Issue 5740, 1514-1518, 2 September 2005, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1111443].
6For popular reports on these subjects, see EurekAlert #1, EurekAlert #2, EurekAlert #3 (the “software of life”), and a press release from U of Delaware.
Which theory – intelligent design or Darwinism – would have predicted this complexity?  Is there any hint of an evolutionary sequence leading up to this highly-coordinated, quality-controlled, information-rich system?  (Recall from the 08/23/2005 entry that RNA does not form readily in water, and is highly unstable; its presence in the cell is only made possible by stringent programmed operations with quality control.)  The gap between a mythical “RNA World” and the living world of real functioning RNA in the cell could never have been wider.  As the cloud cover lifts, the summit of Mt. Improbable stretches higher into the sky.
    Darwinism had enough trouble explaining the 4-letter (G,C,A,T) triplet-codon genetic code.  Simple Watson-Crick base pairing and the old one-gene one-enzyme principle, the so-called “Central Dogma” of genetics was taught as The Big Picture till we knew better.  Now that junk DNA is out (07/15/2005), the whole cellular information flowchart appears as complex as that of a well-run city, where each employee has a role.  Each information-rich molecule is born, lives an active life and is retired, as Moore personified it.  It’s time for the Darwin Party to let go of the steering wheel and let the Intelligent Design community drive science out of the naturalistic rut it’s in.  Knowing how to read the signs of intelligent causation, they can help get science back onto the freeway of enriched understanding (see 06/25/2005 entry and commentary).
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Comet Theories Vanish in Puff of Powder    09/07/2005  
They were supposed to be dirty snowballs, those comets, pristine relics from the primordial solar system.  They were supposed to be blasting volatile ices from their interiors as they approached the sun.  What are they doing with aromatic hydrocarbons, olivine, iron, clays and carbonates?  When the Deep Impact probe hit its target July 4, it made a big impression not only on Comet Tempel 1 but on Earth scientists wondering at the bright plume of powdery material that came out.  A JPL press release announced the “rather surprising” deduction that the comet “has a very fluffy structure that is weaker than a bank of powder snow.”  Since the low-density, fluffy surface cannot conduct heat to the interior efficiently, the coma must not be produced from volatiles deep inside.  Also, some of the materials detected, such as clays, were thought to require water for their formation.
    Nevertheless, though these findings are shaking the conventional wisdom about comets, some news sources are spinning the angle about hydrocarbons to suggest a link with the origin of life.  BBC News, for instance, said this might support the idea of panspermia, that comets delivered life’s ingredients to our planet.  “Some experts,” it claims, “say such molecules could have kick-started life on Earth” (emphasis added).  Another JPL press release highlighting cooperative observations by Deep Impact and the Spitzer Space Telescope tried to describe the “primordial soup” from which comets form.  Then New Scientist titled its report, “Deep Impact collision ejected the stuff of life.”
For goodness’ sake, comets have nothing to do with life.  They are not storks delivering little replicating biomolecules to the Earth, unless you consider “aromatic hydrocarbons, found in barbecue pits and automobile exhaust” the kind of ingredients you find promising.  Using the L word (life) is a distraction from the very real problems planetary scientists now face explaining the origin of comets.
    “How did clay and carbonates form in frozen comets?” is one such problem asked by Dr. Carey Lisse (Johns Hopkins U).  “We don’t know, but their presence may imply that the primordial solar system was thoroughly mixed together, allowing material formed near the Sun where water is liquid, and frozen material from out by Uranus and Neptune, to be included in the same body.”  That suggestion represents a big change in what was taught as fact about comets just a few years ago.  It’s an act of desperation to need distant materials to mix in the same body for a model of comet formation to work.  The gap between “don’t know” and “may imply” is about 30 AU, or 2.8 billion miles.  It’s a little presumptuous to use Deep Impact’s puzzling data to be talking about how life formed (see 08/23/2005) entry), wouldn’t you say?
    The BBC wins Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week for its entries, “Some experts say such molecules could have kick-started life on Earth” and “Under the ‘pan-spermia’ idea, comets pounded the early Earth billions of years ago, bringing organic molecules that reacted with the Sun’s light and heat, creating a rich chemical soup within which life began.”  If you like your soup diluted to a few parts per quintillion, you might as well just be drinking water; shall we call this the homeopathic theory of the origin of life?  And if life can be kick-started, it’s a machine, not a chance assemblage of molecules.  Kick implies a kicker.  Start implies a program.
Next headline on:  Solar SystemOrigin of LifeDumb Ideas
Controversy is the Fuel of Science, So Teach the Controversy, Educator Says    09/07/2005  
The Albuquerque Journal published a response from Rebecca Keller after admitting misrepresenting her position.  She did not claim that intelligent design science is looking toward transcendent beings, but rather is asking scientists to become willing to consider design inferences when the data point in that direction.  She clarified the intent of the new science standards that include “teach the controversy” provisions, and explained why evolution is controversial.
It is understandable that people are concerned about the metaphysical implications; if there is design then there must be a designer.
    But the basic trouble, and the underlying reason this controversy never ends, is that evolution is a creation story; it has huge metaphysical implications no matter how it is taught.  How is it less religious or less controversial to teach evolution as it is now, pretending that we somehow know that there is no design?
  (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
The only way to deal with a controversial subject such as evolution is to encourage discussion about the issues.  She formulates some sample questions:
If we are going to teach students about biological origins we need to help them understand all the issues behind origins science, including evolution.  Why is it controversial?  What worldview assumptions are behind it?  Do we really know that life was generated only by random processes of mutation and natural selection?  What evidence supports it, what evidence is against it?
    Keller, a science textbook writer for Gravitas Publications of Albuquerque, has a PhD in chemistry of U of New Mexico.  She defended intelligent design as a scientific approach to judging evidence, but explained that both evolution and ID have philosophical or religious implications.  Since Darwinian evolution today is often presented without the possibility of criticism or dialog, she argues, it amounts to a secular religion, and the public recognizes it.  Science should welcome controversy:
Not only should students learn that reasonable people disagree about the meaning and interpretation of data, they should learn that scientists disagree, too.  In fact, disagreeing about how data should be interpreted is what scientists do.  That is science.  The history of science illustrates that disagreements in science are the very thing that fuels scientific discovery.
    Evolution as a secular creation story is already being preached from the classroom pulpit.  Teaching the controversy helps keep religion, of any flavor, out of the classroom.
On that basis, Keller defends the Rio Rancho school district science policy.  She portrays the New Mexico case as representative of what is being proposed around the country.
This is another example of a cogent, well-written letter.  Maybe people who agree with her should ask the ACLU to prohibit the Darwin-only dogma on the grounds of separation of church and state.
    Keller makes a good case for the religious equivalence of the opposing views, but a subtext evident in the argument “religion, of any flavor” must be kept “out of the classroom” is that religion is inferior to science and incapable of contributing to debates about the merits of scientific claims.  Perhaps some good follow-up questions would explore the ability of evolutionary theory to make scientific truth claims about ultimate origins, and the ability of theology to prescribe the limits of science – or whether it is even possible for an investigator to be unbiased in such matters.
Next headline on:  Intelligent DesignEducation
Bird Brains: No Evolutionary Pattern in Size    09/07/2005  
A scientist went looking for evolutionary patterns in bird brain size, but his chart shows data all over the map.  Fahad Sultan (U of Tuebingen, Germany) measured brains in a wide variety of birds, and published his results in Current Biology.1
How does brain size and design influence the survival chances of a species?  A large brain may contribute to an individual’s success irrespective of its detailed composition.  I have studied the size and shape of cerebella in birds and looked for links between the bird’s cerebellar design, brain size and behavior.  My results indicate that the cerebellum in large-brained birds does not scale uniformly, but occurs in two designs.  Crows, parrots and woodpeckers show an enlargement of the cerebellar trigeminal and visual parts, while owls show an enlargement of vestibular and tail somatosensory cerebellar regions, likely related to their specialization as nocturnal raptors.  The enlargement of specific cerebellar regions in crows, parrots and woodpeckers may be related to their repertoire of visually guided goal-directed beak behavior.  This specialization may lead to an increased active exploration and perception of the physical world, much as primates use of their hands to explore their environment.  The parallel specialization seen in some birds and primates may point to the influence of a similar neuronal machine in shaping selection during phylogeny.   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
He measured the cerebellum (a “a highly conserved part of the brain present in most vertebrates”) in birds as diverse as turkeys, owls, robins, buzzards, flamingos, crows, woodpeckers, swifts, gulls, and lovebirds, and plotted them against body size to “relate them to functional or phylogenetic differences.”  One look at his chart, though, shows no clear pattern, although similar birds cluster together in different parts of the chart.  But there are some wide differences that seem unexpected: pheasants and turkeys, for instance, fall in different quadrants, as do phalaropes and gulls.  The only statistically significant groupings he could point to were the owls vs. the crows, parrots and woodpeckers, which he attributed to functional differences in their lifestyles.  Did he find any evolutionary mechanism that would have led to these differences?
One unexpected observation was that in excellent flyers only the buzzard scores positively, and that several birds with excellent flying capabilities like the swift and falcon score negatively in the principal plane (Figure 1).  This implies that well-developed motor skills per se do not require a large cerebellum, contradicting the common idea that cerebellar size increase in birds is mainly linked to their flying capabilities.
    What could be the behavioral denominator common to crows, parrots and woodpeckers that is not developed in owls?  All of these birds also have large brains; however, their cerebellar designs differ arguing against a simple co-enlargement model.  The enlargement of specific visual and beak-related cerebellar parts in crows, parrots and woodpeckers fits well with their marked adeptness in using their beaks and/or tongues to manipulate and explore external objects.  Their skills are even comparable to those of primates in using their hands.  The tight temporal coupling between motor command, expected sensory consequences and resulting afferents during visually guided hand and beak usage may be the reason why these animals need large cerebella.  The comparative analysis of the birds cerebella reveals that some brains may have enlarged to solve similar problems by similar means during phylogeny.  Furthermore it shows that large brains have a specific architecture with dedicated building blocks.

1Fahad Sultan, “Why some bird brains are larger than others,” Current Biology, Volume 15, Issue 17, 6 September 2005, pages R649-R650, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2005.08.043.
Sultan uses the word phylogeny three times in this short article.  Anyone see any phylogeny here?  His only observational, scientific data are: (1) cerebellum size and structure, (2) body size, (3) functional abilities of birds for flying and beak manipulation.  The data points are all over the map.  While there are clusterings of similar bird types in some quadrants, nothing in the data suggests any kind of evolutionary trend.  Again, evolutionary biology fails at mathematical formalism (see 08/19/2005 entry).  (This exercise in futility harks back to Broca’s detailed measurements of skull size as a way of ranking humans.)  The point is not that Sultan’s measurements are worthless or uninteresting, but only that they are useless for propping up evolutionary theory.
    Add this to the growing list of Rudyard Darwin’s Just-So Stories: “Why some bird brains are larger than others.”  The short answer is, they evolved that way because they needed to.  Since a woodpecker has to have quick information (“tight temporal coupling between motor command, expected sensory consequences and resulting afferents during visually guided ... beak usage” – how’s that for jargon), well wouldn’t you know it, this may be the reason why they need large cerebella.  Their need is evolution’s command: “some brains may have enlarged to solve similar problems by similar means during phylogeny.”  So off Charlie sends Tinker Bell with her mutation wand and a cheerful response for poor, slow-witted Woody, One big, specialized brain, coming right up!
    It must have worked, because Woody didn’t die of starvation during however many millions of years she took to get it right.  Or, maybe Woody found a way to revive vestigial genes (01/16/2003) from some ancient ancestor: Lignosaurus, the woodpecking dinosaur.
Next headline on:  BirdsEvolution
Floored of the Rings: Cassini Baffles Scientists at Saturn    09/06/2005  
For the past few months (02/28/2005), the Cassini spacecraft has had a ringside seat at Saturn, with high inclination orbits that have provided the best viewing angles since orbit insertion last year (07/01/2004).  Cassini scored, as it soared around and around the horde of ring particles, and poured its stored data toward waiting scientists at Earth.  They weren’t bored.  News about the rings has just been announced by the American Astronomical Society Planetary Sciences Division at their meetings at Cambridge.  The findings underscored a growing feeling that cannot be ignored: the rings are youthful and active.
  • D is for Detached:  The D ring (picture) shows dramatic changes since the Voyagers flew by in 1981.  Parts have detached and migrated 125 miles toward Saturn (picture).  It has also grown noticeably dimmer.  See: MSNBC News.
  • B is for Bumpy:  Particles in the main B and A rings show a fluffy, airy appearance rather than being hard like ice cubes.  This was determined from infrared thermal comparisons between lit and unlit sides of the rings, which showed a 15° K difference (diagram).  Such a sharp thermal gradient implies that the particles spin slowly enough to cool off when in shadow – an unexpected result considering the density of particles and high probability of collisions.  See: BBC News and News@Nature.
  • A is for Animated:  Ultraviolet measurements of the A ring revealed clumps of material continually forming and reforming (pictureEurekAlert.
  • F is for Flimsy:  The thin F-ring outside the main rings may be unstable or ephemeral, claim Cassini scientists.  They found an unexpected spiral band wrapping around the planet (picture).  This spiral forms by a different mechanism than the density waves and bending waves observed in the main rings (picture).  It is apparently caused by small embedded moonlets (picture) that pass through the dense parts of the F-ring and pull material out, which follow spiral paths back to their resonant positions.  It is unusual for a moonlet to be able to exist at this radial distance, near the Roche limit of Saturn, where tidal forces are strong enough to tear bodies apart.  See: New Scientist and Science Daily.
  • G is for Gossamer:  The F and G rings contain particles the size of dust or smoke.  The tenuous G ring, just outside the F ring, was found to contain a partial ring, or ring arc (picture), similar to those found at Neptune.  See: EurekAlert.
  • E is for Enceladus-Fed:  It now appears fairly certain that at least some of the E-ring particles are being supplied from eruptions at the south pole of Enceladus (08/30/2005).  See: Cassini press release.
The Cassini and Cassini Imaging websites are good sources for the latest images.  See the Cassini multimedia page for latest press images and images by category. As the MSNBC article highlighted, scientists are “baffled” by many of these findings.  They show Saturn’s rings to be highly dynamic, ephemeral structures that are undergoing rapid changes.
By scientific consensus now, Saturn’s rings are young.  If so, how could they survive for anywhere near the assumed age of the solar system?  Why should we be “lucky” enough to see them now, when humans just happen to be around to observe them?  These findings have not dimmed such questions that were asked back in 1981, when Voyager 1 and 2 first provided glimpses into the dynamic processes at work.  Rather, they have put these philosophical issues under the spotlight.  If this were the only example of an apparently young phenomenon in a hoary old solar system, it would be one thing, but... keep reading.
Next headline on:  Solar SystemDating Methods
Mars Joins Active Volcano Club    09/06/2005  
Mars may join Earth and Jupiter’s moon Io in having active hot-lava volcanos, says a report on BBC News.  A field of smooth volcanic cones near the north pole show no sign of impact craters or wind-blown features, suggesting they could have erupted recently.  If so, Mars could still be geologically active.
At half the radius and one-fourth the volume of Earth, Mars should have cooled much faster over assumed geologic time.  Mars also lacks tectonic plates.  Yet both Mars, and possibly Venus, show evidence of recent volcanic activity that could be ongoing now.  Where is the evidence for billions of years of slow cooling?  These are not isolated cases.  Cryovolcanic activity has been observed on Enceladus and Titan, and is either extant or recent on Triton, Europa and Ganymede.  Many of the other moons, like Iapetus, Tethys, Miranda and Ariel display youthful surface features.  Earth, of course, has a highly dynamic surface.  The solar system looks much too lively to be an elderly 4.5 billion years old.
Next headline on:  MarsGeology
Men Aren’t Going Extinct – Yet   09/03/2005    
Not long ago, evolutionary biologists were predicting the demise of manhood (see 11/01/2001, 03/31/2004).  The idea was that the Y chromosome, with no redundant copy (unlike the female’s two X chromosomes, and all others) appeared to be shriveling up and mutating itself out of existence.  Now that the chimpanzee genome has been published (see 09/01/2005 story), one of the many surprises that has come to light is that the human Y chromosome appears to have kept its store of genetic information better than the chimp’s.  Coupled with the discovery that the male chromosome protects itself with palindromes 06/18/2003), men seem to have a bright future ahead.  That the Y chromosome of humans, having emerged later than that of apes, should be in better condition than that of chimpanzees seems an evolutionary conundrum.
Sources: MSNBC News, EurekAlert, Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
Another evolutionary speculation has been shot down.  Keep up the good work.
Next headline on:  Early ManHealthGeneticsEvolution
How Proteins Build Teeth Like Glass on a Mattress    09/02/2005  
Here’s something to chew on.  Tooth enamel is hard, like crystal, but is bound to dentin underneath, which is pliable, like a mattress.  Your teeth can last a lifetime only because the ceramic-like enamel is cemented to a foundation of softer dentin, and because both of these materials are built to the right hardness specs so that the glass on the mattress doesn’t shatter or come loose.  The construction of teeth is assisted by an unusual pair of proteins that are coded by a single gene, reports EurekAlert on work by USC dental researchers.
    The gene for dentin sialophosphoprotein is expressed into a single protein, which is subsequently split into two: dentin sialoprotein (DSP) and dentin phosphoprotein (DPP).  DSP goes to work in dentin to help build the very important interface with enamel; DPP makes sure it is the right hardness.  The two proteins work in a coordinated way to ensure the tooth is not too brittle or too chalky.  “The fine balance between DSP and DPP highlights the delicacy of the critical dentin-enamel junction,” the article states.  “Dental researchers sometimes liken dentin and enamel to a bed mattress and a glass plate, respectively, [Michael] Paine [lead author] said, with the difference that the supple dentin-enamel junction prevents the enamel from shattering over an individual’s lifetime of chewing and grinding.”  (Emphasis added.)
Something as simple as a tooth is really a marvel when you consider how it is put together.  It’s amazing to find a dual-purpose gene, for one thing.  The cellular transcription machinery has to know that this particular protein needs to be cleaved into two parts at the right time, and at the right point in the chain.  Then, these paired proteins must work together in a delicate, choreographed balance, like a brickmason and inspector, to be sure the critical junction between dentin and enamel comes out just right without breaking, like glass on a mattress.  How could that evolve?
    When you think of how long teeth can last with good care (barring disease or trauma), they are truly wonders of engineering.  Not only that, their shapes are just right for their functions (incisors, bicuspids, molars), and the uppers and lowers fit together.  In a very real sense, your mouth contains a set of high-tech grinding tools.  On top of everything else, they’re pretty.  Smile! the photographers say, asking us to pronounce whiskey or some other word to get the teeth to show for the camera; those “thirty white horses on a red hill,” as Bilbo’s riddle described them in The Hobbit.  Clean, white, straight teeth are more handsome than stallions, more dazzling than a string of pearls.  Made of the hardest substance in biology, they are arguably the most important and valuable crystals in the world.  What would you rather have: a set of diamonds, or a set of good teeth?
    Evolutionists usually only talk about teeth in the coarsest sense – how they evolved from one animal to another, or how they might suggest some mythical transitional form.  You almost never hear them attempting to explain the details – such as how this important gene and the two coordinated proteins it produces came into existence by chance.*  Bad philosophy leads to truth decay.  It’s time for sensible people to help floss away the accumulated plaque of evolutionary speculation that does nothing but cause flapping gums and intellectual halitosis.
    Many Darwinists are also ingrates.  They like to complain about wisdom teeth, calling them vestigial or poorly designed,* but rarely do they express thanks for the ability to chew that delicious steak or salad on the plate in front of them.  To whom would they give thanks, anyway?  That’s why Paul wrote that God’s wrath is against those who see His wisdom and power in the things that are made, yet are not thankful (Romans 1:21).
    If you are celebrating Labor Day with a barbecue or special meal, take a moment to thank God for your teeth.  Another way to express gratitude is to take good care of your tools and jewelry.
Next headline on:  Human BodyAmazing Stories
*Dr. Jerry Bergman wrote a paper on the problems with tooth evolution in the Creation Research Society Quarterly June 2005 issue.  Perhaps it will show up online in the selected articles section sometime soon; if so, it is well worth reading.  Bergman is also co-author of the book Vestigial Organs Are Fully Functional, which discusses the function and design of wisdom teeth.  It may be that many of our problems with them are due to poor diet, lack of breast feeding or accumulated mutations among certain people groups.  Why would evolution produce a smaller, more crowded jaw, anyway?  What survival advantage is that?  When wisdom teeth erupt properly, they work well and are helpful.
Is “Intelligent Design” the New Cussword?    09/02/2005  
The phrase “intelligent design” is being bandied about everywhere.  Pro-Darwin scientists generally put it in quote marks with palpable derision; it has practically sunk to the level of the older cussword, “creationism.”  Yet a groundswell of support for I.D. continues not only in America but in other countries.  Here are recent events, attacks and counterattacks about evolution, intelligent design and education:
  • Aussie Glossy:  The transcript of an Australian Broadcasting Corporation story aired Aug. 30 featured proponents and opponents of the proposal to permit intelligent design as an alternative to Darwinian evolution in public schools down under.  The report was interspersed with scenes from the ID film Unlocking the Mystery of Life.
  • Rusher Flusher:  William Rusher, writing Aug. 31 in Human Events, thinks the label “evolutionism” is too nice.  He thinks “accidentalism” would be more appropriate.  He finds irony in Darwinists referring to the Scopes Trial, when this time it is they who are forbidding the competition to be taught.
  • The Case Against I.D.:  Karl Lembke in Opinion Editorials defends the position that Darwinism (as he carefully defines it) is scientific, and intelligent design is not.  He insists that methodological naturalism is a rule of science and claims evolution is falsifiable.
  • Albuquerque Quirk:  The school board is trying to come to a consensus on how to teach science now that more and more students and parents are asking questions and complaining about the Darwin-only policy.  Rick Cole, New Mexico Science Teacher of the Year in 2001, who elevated his high school’s science fair from non-existent to award-winning status, taught intelligent design alongside evolution for 11 years.  He used the controversy to help his students learn to think critically about the two positions, until a single phone call from an atheist brought down an order from the department chairmen for him to stop.
  • Big Guns:  Big-time Darwin defenders Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne came out swinging in The Guardian, intent on stuffing intelligent design into the science trash can once and for all.  Claiming that there is “no evidence” in favor of intelligent design, but “massive” evidence for evolution, they say, “The weight of the evidence has become so heavy that opposition to the fact of evolution is laughable to all who are acquainted with even a fraction of the published data.  Evolution is a fact: as much a fact as plate tectonics or the heliocentric solar system.”
        Amidst this bluster, however, they did admit in some depth that there are deep and serious debates between evolutionists that are “genuinely challenging” – such as neutral vs. adaptive selection, group selection, punctuated equilibrium, cladism, evo-devo, the Cambrian explosion, mass extinctions, interspecies competition, the relative roles of natural and sexual selection, the evolution of sex, evolutionary psychology and Darwinian medicine – yet they argue that I.D. is “not an argument of the same character as these controversies” because it is “religious,” not “scientific.”
        David Berlinski, as usual, was quite amused by all this.  He wrote to Evolution News inviting people to read Coyne and Dawkins’ diatribe, “endeavoring not to laugh, chortle, snicker, hoot or whistle,” which he claimed could not be done.  He was gratified to see them finally admitting that “Darwinian theories are simply riddled with problems for which Darwinian theories have no answers,” as critics have been saying for years.  “The list of problems that Coyne and Dawkins have produced could be extended far into the night,” Berlinski says, “but it’s a good beginning.  That they use the deficiencies of Darwinian theory to argue against ID is an added pleasure.”
  • Spectator Sport:  Paul Johnson in The Spectator wrote a correspondingly vicious attack against the evolutionists, especially Richard Dawkins, who he called the “ayatollah of atheism.”  He senses a “groundswell of discontent at this intellectual totalitarianism” and predicts its collapse: “The likelihood that Darwin’s eventual debacle will be sensational and brutal is increased by the arrogance of his acolytes, by their insistence on the unchallengeable truth of the theory of natural selection – which to them is not a hypothesis but a demonstrated fact, and its critics mere flat-earthers – and by their success in occupying the commanding heights in the university science departments and the scientific journals, denying a hearing to anyone who disagrees with them.”  Case in point: Iowa State, where Discovery Institute says the “thought cops” and “inquisitors” are leading a crusade against astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez (08/30/2005).
  • Red Blog:  Homunculus is trying to get a debate going on ID on the blog.  Rob Crowther on EvolutionNews was glad he got the definitions right, but suspects he will be “inundated by rabid Darwinists irked by such an insightful post.”
  • Don’t Teach the Controversy:  John Derbyshire on National Review votes against teaching the controversy over Darwinism.  To him, Darwinism is accepted science and ID is not.  Plenty of good scientists are religious people, he agrees, and so are some Darwinists.
  • Ho-Hum, Old Stuff:  Alan Cutler reviewed Before Darwin: Reconciling God and Nature by Keith Thomson (Yale, 2005) in Science1 and treated the design-vs-naturalism debate like it’s as hoary as the hills.  He pointed out that the question in Robert Boyle’s time was not whether science and God could be reconciled; “It was whether science and atheism could be reconciled, and the answer seemed to be a definitive no.”  By popular consent now, though, Darwin settled the question once and for all; “According to Thomson, it was principally Darwin’s theory that, by removing the necessity of a designer, doomed natural theology.”  Interestingly, Cutler cut down natural theology not as much for its scientific arguments as for its theology.  In his opinion, William Paley’s divine watchmaker is little more than a “compassionless technocrat” –
    Natural theologians had long been criticized for emphasizing God the Creator over God the Redeemer.  Paley’s book nowhere mentions Jesus.  When Darwin grieved over the death of his beloved daughter at the age of ten, Paley’s watchmaker God was cold comfort at best.  It was this, as much as any intellectual argument, that undermined Darwin’s Christian faith.  Natural theology’s theology was ultimately as unsatisfying as its science.   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
    (See 09/01/2005 commentary.)  When Thomson devoted a mere few pages to the current intelligent design controversy, Cutler dismissively remarked, “This is enough.  The answers to their arguments are basically the same as the answers to Paley’s.”
  • Dumb design:  In a short piece on the evolutionary water-to-land transition, Science Now used the phrase “intelligent design” as a Darwinian counterthrust.  Robert Carroll described the awkward stance of presumed primitive tetrapod Ichthyostega: “It’s not a very intelligent design,” he chuckled.  (For more on Ichthyostega and the evolution of tetrapods, see “Evolution of the Darwin Fish,” 08/09/2003.)
  • Friendship Evo-evangelismScience editor2 Don Kennedy liked the movie March of the Penguins (08/19/2005) so much, he thinks it could provide a teachable moment for Darwinist evangelists to use on the ignorant: “By all means see March of the Penguins.  Better still, you can accomplish a good work by inviting an advocate for ‘intelligent design’ to accompany you.  After the show, buy him or her a beer, and ask for an explanation of just what the Designer had in mind here.”  If that advocate were Paul Nelson, undoubtedly he would have a counter-question ready in response, as he hands Kennedy a Diet Coke.

1Alan Cutler, “Science and Religion: 200 Years of Accommodation,” Science, Vol 309, Issue 5740, 1493-1494 , 2 September 2005, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1116362].
2Donald Kennedy, “Emperors on the Ice,” Science, Vol 309, Issue 5740, 1494 , 2 September 2005, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1118709].
OK, we’re going to do the Darwin Party a favor, and list all their talking points as bullets.  Readers are invited to print these out alongside our Baloney Detector and exercise their critical thinking skills:
  • Evolution is a fact.
  • Evolution is science.
  • Creationism is religion.
  • Intelligent design is just creationism in disguise.
  • ID refers to the supernatural, which is disallowed in science.
  • Evolution is comparable to the law of gravity.
  • Intelligent Design is comparable to alchemy and belief in a flat earth.
  • Evolution is supported by massive amounts of evidence.
  • ID has no evidence.
  • Science must be naturalistic by definition.
  • ID only finds fault with evolution and has no answers of its own.
  • Evolution promotes fruitful research.
  • ID brings science to a halt by saying God did it.
  • ID is just another “god-of-the-gaps” non-answer.
  • Evolution employs natural laws, not miracles.
  • Evolution has been highly successful in explaining living things.
  • Evolution helps us understand medicine.
  • Evolutionists will solve their problems given enough time (and funding).
  • Nothing in biology makes sense apart from evolution.
  • ID advocates are religiously motivated.
  • The principle of “separation of church and state” precludes ID being taught.
  • ID is unconstitutional, and the Supreme Court said so.
  • ID can be taught in religion, history and sociology classes, but not in science class.
  • “Teaching the controversy” is just as dangerous as teaching creationism.
  • There is no controversy over evolution among scientists.
  • Evolutionists are motivated only by love of the truth.
  • Teaching ID would require teaching every culture’s creation myth equally.
  • Allowing alternatives to evolution is like allowing Holocaust-deniers to have equal time in history class.
  • Evolution is falsifiable.
  • ID is not falsifiable.
  • Evolution does not need to explain the origin of life.
  • Evolution does not need to explain the origin of the universe.
  • ID needs to answer the question, “who designed the Designer?”
  • ID is a “disingenuous euphemism” (Dawkins) for religious advocacy.
  • Educators and politicians must not give in to the pressure from the ID zealots.
Parents and teachers may wish to print this list in one column, and the types of propaganda tactics, logical fallacies and smokescreens from the Baloney Detector in another column, and have students draw lines connecting them (multiple lines per item are permitted).  Or, they can make a game of the exercise, like a Scavenger Hunt – the student who reads Dawkins’ article and finds the most big lies wins.  Suggested prize: [root] beer.
Next headline on:  EducationEvolutionIntelligent Design
Chimpanzee Fossil Upsets Early Man Speciation Theory   09/01/2005    
Paleontologists need no longer lament the complete dearth of chimpanzee fossils.  Nature announced the discovery of the first fossil chimpanzee teeth.  The location, however – the Great Rift Valley in Africa – was unexpected.  The discoverers, Sally McBrearty and Nina G. Jablonski,1 explain:
There are thousands of fossils of hominins, but no fossil chimpanzee has yet been reported.  The chimpanzee (Pan) is the closest living relative to humans.  Chimpanzee populations today are confined to wooded West and central Africa, whereas most hominin fossil sites occur in the semi-arid East African Rift Valley.  This situation has fuelled speculation regarding causes for the divergence of the human and chimpanzee lineages five to eight million years ago.  Some investigators have invoked a shift from wooded to savannah vegetation in East Africa, driven by climate change, to explain the apparent separation between chimpanzee and human ancestral populations and the origin of the unique hominin locomotor adaptation, bipedalism.  The Rift Valley itself functions as an obstacle to chimpanzee occupation in some scenariosHere we report the first fossil chimpanzee.  These fossils, from the Kapthurin Formation, Kenya, show that representatives of Pan were present in the East African Rift Valley during the Middle Pleistocene, where they were contemporary with an extinct species of Homo.  Habitats suitable for both hominins and chimpanzees were clearly present there during this period, and the Rift Valley did not present an impenetrable barrier to chimpanzee occupation.   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
The teeth, estimated by radiometric methods to be around 500,000 years old, were found within 1 kilometer of a hominid fossil site.  This should not be surprising, since scientists believe chimpanzees ranged over a much wider area than the past; their restricted habitats today are due partly to pressure from human occupation.  The area where the three chimp teeth were found has revealed fossils of many other large and small mammals, including monkeys.  The authors explain what this means to evolutionary theory:
This evidence shows that in the past chimpanzees occupied regions in which the only hominoid inhabitants were thought to have been members of the human lineage.  Now that chimpanzees are known to form a component of the Middle Pleistocene fauna in the Rift Valley, it is quite possible that they remain to be recognized in other portions of the fossil record there, and that chimpanzees and hominins have been sympatric since the time of their divergence.
By sympatric, they mean that the lineages diverged in proximity, without being geographically isolated (allopatric).  Sympatric speciation was until recently viewed as heretical (see 01/15/2003 entry); now, paleoanthropologists will have to come up with new ideas for why humans diverged from the great apes, given that they apparently shared the same habitat.  See also News@Nature, BBC News, and MSNBC News.
1McBrearty and Jablonski, “First fossil chimpanzee,” Nature 437, 105-108 (1 September 2005) | doi: 10.1038/nature04008.
Part of the reason none have been found in this area before is that paleoanthropologists were not looking for them.  McBrearty said that now we know they are there, researchers “will start looking for them,” implying that the favorite story of human divergence through migration to the grasslands blinded their eyes to the possible presence of chimpanzee fossils in the Great Rift Valley.  Since this was the hotbed of hominid bones that made the Leakeys famous, hunters wanted missing links, not existing species of chimpanzees.
    This announcement will not frustrate Darwinists very much.  They actually enjoy new twists to the plot of their favorite story.  Maybe some will say the Homo neighbors brought the chimp back from a hunt in the jungle and had it for dinner, spitting out the teeth.  Most likely this will give a temporary boost to the internecine heresy of sympatric speciation, but it will be harder to come up with a reason why Pan and Homo diverged so much if they lived in the same vicinity.  Maybe it will also revive the simplistic Larry King question, “If we evolved from apes, why are there still apes?”  The answer is, of course, that some of them had a choice.
    Sharp minds will notice that there is no evolutionary evidence here.  The Homo fossils were described in the BBC piece as “probably” an advanced form of Homo erectus, whatever that vague category means (see 07/03/2004 entry).  They “looked like people and were a fairly sophisticated culture with various stone tools and lived in the same environment as humans.”  If they looked like people and and acted like people, why even differentiate them from people?  There are Homo sapiens sapiens today that share that same habitat and match that same description right now.  People come in a variety of sizes and shapes, but are all one species of people.  What’s evolution got to do with it?
Next headline on:  FossilsEarly ManEvolution
Chimpanzee Genome Published: Is There a Monkey in Your Genes?    09/01/2005  
Nature’s cover story September 1 is about the publication of the chimpanzee genome.  Evolutionists are digging through the data for evidence of human common ancestry.  Have they found it?  The results, as usual, are mixed: MSNBC News states the situation concisely: “Genome comparison reveals many similarities – and crucial differences.”  Here is the gist of seven articles and papers about the chimpanzee genome from Nature, with additional references to popular reports:
  1. Introduction:  Chris Gunter and Ritu Dhand, “The Chimpanzee Genome,” Nature 437, 47 (1 September 2005) | doi: 10.1038/436047a.
    “Comparing the genetic code of humans and chimps will allow us to comb through each gene or regulatory region to find single changes that might have made a difference in evolution,” they say, but remind us that the oft-quoted 96%-similar-gene figure between chimps and humans must be seen in context: “At a conservative estimate we share about 88% of our genes with rodents and 60% with chickens.  Applying a more liberal definition of similarity, up to 80% of the sea-squirt’s genes are found in humans in some form.  So it’s no surprise that we are still asking, ‘What makes us human?’”

  2. Overview:  Wen-Hsiung Li and Matthew A. Saunders, “The chimpanzee and us,” Nature 437, 50-51 (1 September 2005) | doi: 10.1038/437050a.
    After summarizing statistical similarities and differences in genes of chimps and humans, this article hastens to remind readers that a clear picture of evolution does not jump out of the mass of data.
    The question of what genetic changes make us human is far more complex.  Although the two genomes are very similar, there are about 35 million nucleotide differences, 5 million indels and many chromosomal rearrangements to take into account.  Most of these changes will have no significant biological effect, so identification of the genomic differences underlying such characteristics of ‘humanness’ as large cranial capacity, bipedalism and advanced brain development remains a daunting task.   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
  3. Chimp Culture:  Andrew Whiten, “The second inheritance system of chimpanzees and humans,” Nature 437, 52-55 (1 September 2005) | doi: 10.1038/nature04023.
    A primate psychologist in Scotland, Andrew Whiten presents an overview of a study parallel the genome project, the attempt to understand chimpanzee culture and social inheritance.  He highlights a key difference:
    Ape culture may be particularly complex among non-human animals, yet it clearly falls far short of human culture.  An influential contemporary view is that the key difference lies in the human capacity for cumulative culture, whereby the achievements of successive generations have built on previous developments to create complex structures such as languages and technologies.  Chimpanzees have accumulated many traditions, but each remains sufficiently simple that there is little scope for it to have developed significant complexity compared to its original form.  Hints of cumulation exist, such as the refinement of using prop stones to stabilize stone anvils during nut-cracking, but these remain primitive and fleeting by human standards.  One possible explanation that has been offered for this human-chimpanzee difference lies in the social learning mechanisms available to each species, an issue that new genetic approaches based on the complete chimpanzee genome sequence may help to unravel.
    Actual studies of chimp social behavior are relatively recent.  Whatever the differences, Whiten seems to never doubt they are matters of degree, not kind.

  4. Chimp Psychology:  Marc Hauser, “Our chimpanzee mind,” Nature 437, 60-63 (1 September 2005) | doi: 10.1038/nature03917.
    Marc Hauser (evolutionary psychologist, Harvard) is quick to justify his “preposterous” title, imagining the rage of Bishop Wilberforce at the suggestion humans have a developed chimpanzee mind.  He means to say that the entire animal kingdom shares mental relatedness:
    ....the bottom line at present is that for each psychological capacity explored, some other animal shares this ability with chimpanzees.  The reason why chimpanzees may be uniquely placed to enlighten human origins is due both to their phylogenetic proximity to humans as well as the extent to which they have accumulated a suite of psychological abilities in the service of solving social and ecological problems that were largely shared with those faced by our hominid hunter-gatherers.
    Based on observations of chimps, Hauser thinks humans share two things with chimpanzee mental powers: “folk mathematics” and “folk psychology.”  In his conclusion, he says, “At the genetic level, the publication of the chimpanzee genome will lead to increased capacity to pinpoint homologies.  However, we are woefully ignorant about how genes build brains, and how the electrical activity of the brain builds thoughts and emotions”, although the situation is more promising than it was five years ago, “owing to the convergence of three disciplines: comparative genomics, animal psychology and developmental neuropsychology.”  The gap between genomics and psychology is shrinking, he is thinking.

  5. Brain Evolution:  Robert Sean Hill and Christopher A. Walsh, “Molecular insights into human brain evolution,” Nature 437, 64-67 (1 September 2005) | doi: 10.1038/nature04103.
    Noting that the human brain is twice the size of the chimp brain, Hill and Walsh attempt to explain the difference by evolutionary mechanisms.  The addition of whole new genes lacks support, but there appears to be evidence for changes in gene regulation or coding sequence.  Most studies focus on what goes wrong when a gene is mutated.  Anomalies in the FOXP2 gene, for instance, cause language disabilities in humans, and chimps and other animals exhibit sequence differences in that gene.  This, they feel, is evidence for positive selection toward language capability.  They admit, however, that “linkage of studies of gene function in humans with evolutionary analysis is just beginning,” and much work remains to be done.

  6. Chimp Genome: The Chimpanzee Sequencing and Analysis Consortium, “Initial sequence of the chimpanzee genome and comparison with the human genome,” Nature 437, 69-87 (1 September 2005) | doi: 10.1038/nature04072.
    Here is the bulk of the genome report.  They start with Darwin:
    More than a century ago Darwin and Huxley posited that humans share recent common ancestors with the African great apes.  Modern molecular studies have spectacularly confirmed this prediction and have refined the relationships, showing that the common chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) and bonobo (Pan paniscus or pygmy chimpanzee) are our closest living evolutionary relatives.  Chimpanzees are thus especially suited to teach us about ourselves, both in terms of their similarities and differences with human.  For example, Goodall’s pioneering studies on the common chimpanzee revealed startling behavioural similarities such as tool use and group aggression.  By contrast, other features are obviously specific to humans, including habitual bipedality, a greatly enlarged brain and complex language.  Important similarities and differences have also been noted for the incidence and severity of several major human diseases.
    The report highlights similarities but also large and surprising differences (summarized in #2, above).  Many of the differences occur in non-gene-coding regions.  Some sequence differences appear too great to have arisen by mutations since the time humans are said to have diverged from chimpanzees, considering that most mutations would be deleterious or, at best, neutral; in fact, it appears that mutation rates would have had to vary widely from gene to gene.  They indicate evidence for “selective sweeps” in the human lineage, in which all humans share mutations that have become “fixed”.  In short, “Our results confirm many earlier observations, but notably challenge some previous claims based on more limited data.”
        Their ending discussion asks the same question posed in the introduction, and reminds us that not all differences between species can be explained by genetic sequence differences:
    The hardest such question is: what makes us human?  The challenge lies in the fact that most evolutionary change is due to neutral driftAdaptive changes comprise only a small minority of the total genetic variation between two species.  As a result, the extent of phenotypic variation between organisms is not strictly related to the degree of sequence variation.  For example, gross phenotypic variation between human and chimpanzee is much greater than between the mouse species Mus musculus and Mus spretus, although the sequence difference in the two cases is similar.  On the other hand, dogs show considerable phenotypic variation despite having little overall sequence variation (0.15%).  Genomic comparison markedly narrows the search for the functionally important differences between species, but specific biological insights will be needed to sift the still-large list of candidates to separate adaptive changes from neutral background.
  7. Comparison Study:  Ze Cheng et al., “A genome-wide comparison of recent chimpanzee and human segmental duplications,” Nature 437, 88-93 (1 September 2005) | doi: 10.1038/nature04000.
    A third of apparent segmental duplications in the human genome (defined by more than 94% sequence identity) are not found in the chimp genome.  This team compared the two genomes, and figured that this required a duplication rate of 4 to 5 million bases per million years since humans and chimps parted evolutionary ways.  Most of the changes, surprisingly, deal with chromosome structure.  No clear picture emerges for how or why these differences arose: “It is unknown whether slow rates of deletion, high rates of duplication or gene conversion are largely responsible for the evolutionary maintenance of these duplicates.”  A surprising conclusion is that “when compared to single-base-pair differences, which account for 1.2% genetic difference, base per base, large segmental duplication events have had a greater impact (2.7%) in altering the genomic landscape of these two species.”
It’s interesting to notice how the news media differ on the emphasis given to these stories.  Some, like the BBC News focus on parts of the two genomes that are “99% identical,” while minimizing the “few differences.”  Others, like MSNBC, mention “many similarities – and crucial differences” up front.  One EurekAlert entry emphasizes right in the title the “big differences” in segmental duplications.  Another EurekAlert piece gives examples of the “dramatic genome alterations during primate evolution.”  National Geographic, though, shamelessly emphasized the similarities, practically venerating Darwin while putting humans in the chimp cage (08/29/2005) with this quote from a primate scientist at Emory University: “Darwin wasn’t just provocative in saying that we descend from the apes—he didn’t go far enough.  We are apes in every way, from our long arms and tailless bodies to our habits and temperament.”  And that, many would say, qualifies for Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week.
Data are gems.  The critique that follows is in no way a criticism of the valiant effort to sequence the chimp genome, the human genome, or any other genome.  Like dreams, speculations inhabit the sleep of data darkness.  Data make a good alarm clock to jolt visionaries out of their slumbers and remind them it’s time to go to work.
    You can see how the same data can motivate vastly different interpretations, depending on one’s world view.  The evolutionists are grasping at the similarities, while the creationists are emphasizing the differences.  One thing stands out of these reports: the data are so complex and convoluted, anyone can spin the story almost any way they want.  Yes, there are phenomenal similarities, but there are also profound differences.  There are so many differences, in fact, that it stretches credulity to believe that millions upon millions of base pair substitutions and segmental duplications could have occurred in the time assumed by evolutionists that humans and chimps went their separate ways (see Alan Grey’s blog thoughts on this).  Clearly there is no clear discernible evolutionary trail linking the two as evolutionists had hoped.  That being the case, keep in mind several key points before going data mining:
  • Epigenetics:  Genes cannot be telling the whole story.  There’s a lot more going on to make us human than just DNA.  If two mice species that look similar have just as much genetic difference (4%) as humans and chimps, and if dogs, from great danes to chihuahuas, have far less genetic difference (0.15%), then clearly phenotypic difference (outward appearance) is not a linear function of genotypic distance.  Mining just the genome for explanations is an exercise in reductionism.
  • Inconsequential Differences:  Why should genes differ so widely that are only concerned with chromosome structure?  Why should there be so many segmented duplication differences, and “neutral” differences?  Evolutionists wanted to find clear evidence of positive selection leading to upright posture, language and culture.  Although such studies are just beginning, they only have a paltry few to suggest so far, and those are ambiguous.  They admit that the picture looks far more complex than expected.
  • Phenotypic Revolutions:  Humans exhibit several profound anatomical differences shared by no other primate: upright posture, ability to do long-distance running (11/18/2004), naked skin with thermoregulatory function, prolonged maturation, vocal apparatus suited for language, a very large brain relative to body size, and much more.  Could this much interrelated change occur by undirected, accidental mutations over a few “short” millions of years?  Consider just all the bodily adaptations for endurance running mentioned in the highly-informative and interesting 11/18/2004 story.  It would seem that mutations to multiple systems would have had to conspire together for the end result of producing a marathon runner – but where is the evidence for strong positive selection in the DNA?  This underscores the point that genomics cannot provide a full answer.
  • Social Revolutions:  Despite the antics about chimpanzee culture and mind, there is really no comparison with humans.  Take a luxury cruise, enter a national research laboratory, go to the symphony, fly a supersonic jet, run an advanced software program, carry on a discussion about algebra, read a philosophy book – then watch chimps screech and groom and break nuts with a rock.  Impressed?  Can such profound differences be accounted for by segmented duplications, ALU repeats and base substitutions alone?
These points challenge the Darwinian story, but creationists have a challenge, too, to explain the similarities. Some evolutionists are convinced this is a crippling blow to creationism, and establishes evolution as the only explanation (despite their own challenges).  Really?  Let’s attempt a creationist explanation of the similarities between the human and chimpanzee genomes, because clearly the vast majority of the DNA is essentially identical.  First off, lest we overplay these similarities, remember that both human and chimp genomes share many commonalities with mice and even with sea squirts, worms and chickens.  The whole living world is built on the same genetic code and basic toolkit.  But why would a Creator make things similar, especially humans, who were supposedly created to be the stewards of the earth?
    A good first reply to a “why?” question is to ask: “why not?”  A wise king doesn’t send a complete foreigner as ambassador, but chooses one from among their own.  The Old Testament prophets, too, were men, not angels or aliens in spaceships.  Even the Lord God incarnate was born of a woman, laid in a manger as a human baby.  He grew up to live, eat, sleep, and speak as fully man though, according to Hebrews 1:1-2, he was an exact representation of God’s divine nature.  It is a non-sequitur to assume that humans, in order to serve a special God-given role in the world, must be completely genetically distinct from other living organisms in their embassy.
    Human beings, in the image of God, have to inhabit the same biosphere with chimps.  We are creatures as much as they are.  We breathe the same air, require the same bodily functions, eat much of the same food (e.g., bananas), have the same senses and share the same world.  Evolutionists often knock down a straw man by insisting that a divine Creator would have created every species separately and distinct from each other one.  Why so?  If a protozoan needs a peptidyl transferase enzyme, why should the human analog be utterly and completely different, designed de novo from scratch out of other materials?  Why would it not be a good design feature to provide redundancy of basic functions and parts, like subroutines and modules of a complex software suite, mixed and matched for a variety of environments and purposes?  Homology does not prove common ancestry without first assuming it does – a circular argument, as Jonathan Wells demonstrates in his book Icons of Evolution (see “Homology for Dummies,” 05/05/2004).  The nested hierarchy of animal forms, resulting in similarities and differences between groups at all levels, can be employed as an argument for design.  In his thought-provoking book The Biotic Message, Walter ReMine argues that there is enough commonality to falsify polytheism, but enough difference to falsify evolution.
    Look at the new data for a moment through Biblical creation glasses.  This is nearly impossible for Darwinists, and for those steeped in Darwinian education, it requires a painful removal of many ingrained assumptions.  In the beginning, God created a perfect world, filled with animals and plants made to reproduce after their kind.  This does not imply fixity of species, because God would have programmed in variability for robustness against perturbations (see 03/14/2005, 01/26/2005 and 09/22/2004 entries).  Nor does it predict a lack of similarity, because everything came from a common designer.  The creation of man by the hand of God from the dust of the ground does not imply utter and complete distinction from chimpanzees – because it’s not the raw materials that made Adam and Eve distinct, but the genetic program – the intelligent design – that organized the material into the human form.  This program evidently shared many if not most of the “subroutines” and modules God previously used in apes, mice and sea squirts.
    Then, God breathed into the man’s nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.  This is fodder for theologians, not biologists, but most certainly included the spiritual, social, emotional, moral, lingual and intellectual faculties that so distinguish humans from all other animals: we alone were made in the image of God.  We are, as Wernher von Braun worded it, souls cast in animal bodies.  Our physical, material nature had much in common with the animal world, but the human pair alone walked and talked with God in the original “very good” creation.  But that’s not the whole story.
    The world was cursed when man sinned.  The fall is critical to the creation explanation.  Darwin lost his faith in Christianity primarily from two things: (1) Lyell’s persuasion that the earth was millions of years old, too old for Genesis, and (2) the problem of evil.  Natural theology was strong in the early 1800s.  Powerful as its arguments were, it had no answer to the suffering and evil we see in the world around us.  Darwinists gleefully knock down the straw god of the beneficent artificer deity by pointing to evil and suffering, when the Bible presents a God of wrath who judges sin and punishes disobedience – but then offers salvation to the rebels through his own grace.  Only the Biblical picture of creation, fall and redemption gives a logically self-consistent picture of why the world is both beautiful and ugly, both sublime and painful.  (The Darwinians solve the problem by denying the existence of evil – “whatever is, is right” – but our consciences know better.)  There’s still more to the creation explanation.
    A world-wide Flood happened.  The antediluvian world, cursed and decaying, endured possibly thousands of years of human violence and genetic decay.  Humans and many other animals could have varied substantially and, while living in the same times and places, experienced the same genetic pressures and changes.  Then, only 8 human representatives and 2 of each animal survived the Deluge aboard the Ark.  This would have resulted in genetic sweeps and bottlenecks and, again, subjected the animals to similar gene-altering pressures.  After the Flood, a vastly different environment opened up to the survivors.  They have undergone additional variation and genomic pressures ever since.  The varieties of finches, hummingbirds, dogs, cats and human “races” did not require millions of years, only thousands.  These changes are (1) conservative, to maintain the species, and (2) horizontal, not adding new genetic information but just shuffling what was already present (more or less melanin, more or less fur, longer or shorter beaks on birds, accentuated markings on insect wings, etc.).  Since dispersal was not uniform, the differences between created kinds (not species, but groups able to vary within limits) led to the biogeographical differences seen today, including those on the Galápagos Islands that so impressed Darwin.
    Whether you find this account plausible depends on many presuppositions you trust.  It does have two forensic advantages over the evolution just-so storytelling method, though: (1) sufficient causal agency (intelligence) for the spectacular complexity observed in the genomes (10/27/2004, 06/14/2005), and (2) an eyewitness testimony (by the Creator himself).  In challenging Darwinists, we cannot stress that first point enough (they ignore the second one, but cannot ignore the first).  Evolutionists play marbles with diamonds when playing their storytelling games with genes and DNA.  The human and chimp genomes, and all others, are incredibly, stupendously complex, such that we should humbly stand in awe of these evidences of intelligent design.  Remember the complexity of a nose (06/27/2005), or a tiny roundworm (06/25/2005) or fruit fly? (12/08/2003).  If even Richard Dawkins is stupefied by the wonders around him (09/12/2004), it would seem that building on a foundation of intelligent design at least, if not (better) trusting the Word of the designer, is the best starting point for interpreting any vast library of information.
    See Apologetics Press for an initial creationist response to announcements about the chimp genome by Dr. Brad Harrub, co-author of The Truth About Human Origins (2003, 526pp).
Next headline on:  MammalsHuman BodyEarly ManGeneticsEvolution

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“I enjoy reading the comments on news articles on your site very much.  It is incredible how much refuse is being published in several scientific fields regarding evolution.  It is good to notice that the efforts of true scientists have an increasing influence at schools, but also in the media.... May God bless your efforts and open the eyes of the blinded evolutionists and the general public that are being deceived by pseudo-scientists.... I enjoy the site very much and I highly respect the work you and the team are doing to spread the truth.”
(an ebusiness manager in the Netherlands)

“I discovered your site through a link at certain website... It has greatly helped me being updated with the latest development in science and with critical comments from you.  I also love your baloney detector and in fact have translated some part of the baloney detector into our language (Indonesian).  I plan to translate them all for my friends so as to empower them.”
(a staff member of a bilateral agency in West Timor, Indonesia)

“...absolutely brilliant and inspiring.”
(a documentary film producer, remarking on the 07/10/2005 commentary)

“I found your site several months ago and within weeks had gone through your entire archives....  I check in several times a day for further information and am always excited to read the new articles.  Your insight into the difference between what is actually known versus what is reported has given me the confidence to stand up for what I believe.  I always felt there was more to the story, and your articles have given me the tools to read through the hype....  You are an invaluable help and I commend your efforts.  Keep up the great work.”
(a sound technician in Alberta)

“I discovered your site (through a link from a blog) a few weeks ago and I can’t stop reading it....  I also enjoy your insightful and humorous commentary at the end of each story.  If the evolutionists’ blindness wasn’t so sad, I would laugh harder.
  I have a masters degree in mechanical engineering from a leading University.  When I read the descriptions, see the pictures, and watch the movies of the inner workings of the cell, I’m absolutely amazed....  Thanks for bringing these amazing stories daily.  Keep up the good work.
(an engineer in Virginia)

“I stumbled across your site several months ago and have been reading it practically daily.  I enjoy the inter-links to previous material as well as the links to the quoted research.  I've been in head-to-head debate with a materialist for over a year now.  Evolution is just one of those debates.  Your site is among others that have been a real help in expanding my understanding.”
(a software engineer in Pennsylvania)

“I was in the April 28, 2005 issue of Nature [see 04/27/2005 story] regarding the rise of intelligent design in the universities.  It was through your website that I began my journey out of the crisis of faith which was mentioned in that article.  It was an honor to see you all highlighting the article in Nature.  Thank you for all you have done!
(Salvador Cordova, George Mason University)

“I shudder to think of the many ways in which you mislead readers, encouraging them to build a faith based on misunderstanding and ignorance.  Why don’t you allow people to have a faith that is grounded in a fuller understanding of the world?... Your website is a sham.”
(a co-author of the paper reviewed in the 12/03/2003 entry who did not appreciate the unflattering commentary.  This led to a cordial interchange, but he could not divorce his reasoning from the science vs. faith dichotomy, and resulted in an impasse over definitions – but, at least, a more mutually respectful dialogue.  He never did explain how his paper supported Darwinian macroevolution.  He just claimed evolution is a fact.)

“I absolutely love creation-evolution news.  As a Finnish university student very interested in science, I frequent your site to find out about all the new science stuff that’s been happening — you have such a knack for finding all this information!  I have been able to stump evolutionists with knowledge gleaned from your site many times.”
(a student in Finland)

“I love your site and read it almost every day.  I use it for my science class and 5th grade Sunday School class.  I also challenge Middle Schoolers and High Schoolers to get on the site to check out articles against the baloney they are taught in school.”
(a teacher in Los Gatos, CA)

“I have spent quite a few hours at Creation Evolution Headlines in the past week or so going over every article in the archives.  I thank you for such an informative and enjoyable site.  I will be visiting often and will share this link with others.”
[Later] “ I am back to May 2004 in the archives.  I figured I should be farther back, but there is a ton of information to digest.”
(a computer game designer in Colorado)

“The IDEA Center also highly recommends visiting Creation-Evolution Headlines... the most expansive and clearly written origins news website on the internet!”
(endorsement on Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness Center)

“Hey Friends, Check out this site:  This is a fantastic resource for the whole family.... a fantastic reference library with summaries, commentaries and great links that are added to daily—archives go back five years.”
(a reader who found us in Georgia)

“I just wanted to drop you a note telling you that at, I’ve added a link to your excellent Creation-Evolution news site.”
(a radio announcer)

“I cannot understand why anyone would invest so much time and effort to a website of sophistry and casuistry.  Why twist Christian apology into an illogic pretzel to placate your intellect?  Isn’t it easier to admit that your faith has no basis -- hence, ‘faith’.  It would be extricate [sic] yourself from intellectual dishonesty -- and from bearing false witness.”
Sincerely, Rev. [name withheld] (an ex-Catholic, “apostate Christian” Natural/Scientific pantheist)

“Just wanted to let you folks know that we are consistent readers and truly appreciate the job you are doing.  God bless you all this coming New Year.”
(from two prominent creation researchers/writers in Oregon)

“Thanks so much for your site!  It is brain candy!”
(a reader in North Carolina)

“I Love your site – probably a little too much.  I enjoy the commentary and the links to the original articles.”
(a civil engineer in New York)

“I’ve had your Creation/Evolution Headlines site on my favourites list for 18 months now, and I can truthfully say that it’s one of the best on the Internet, and I check in several times a week.  The constant stream of new information on such a variety of science issues should impress anyone, but the rigorous and humourous way that every thought is taken captive is inspiring.  I’m pleased that some Christians, and indeed, some webmasters, are devoting themselves to producing real content that leaves the reader in a better state than when they found him.”
(a community safety manager in England)

“I really appreciate the effort that you are making to provide the public with information about the problems with the General Theory of Evolution.  It gives me ammunition when I discuss evolution in my classroom.  I am tired of the evolutionary dogma.  I wish that more people would stand up against such ridiculous beliefs.”
(a science teacher in Alabama)

“If you choose to hold an opinion that flies in the face of every piece of evidence collected so far, you cannot be suprised [sic] when people dismiss your views.”
(a “former Christian” software distributor, location not disclosed)

“...the Creation Headlines is the best.  Visiting your site... is a standard part of my startup procedures every morning.”
(a retired Air Force Chaplain)

“I LOVE your site and respect the time and work you put into it.  I read the latest just about EVERY night before bed and send selection[s] out to others and tell others about it.  I thank you very much and keep up the good work (and humor).”
(a USF grad in biology)

“Answering your invitation for thoughts on your site is not difficult because of the excellent commentary I find.  Because of the breadth and depth of erudition apparent in the commentaries, I hope I’m not being presumptuous in suspecting the existence of contributions from a ‘Truth Underground’ comprised of dissident college faculty, teachers, scientists, and engineers.  If that’s not the case, then it is surely a potential only waiting to be realized.  Regardless, I remain in awe of the care taken in decomposing the evolutionary cant that bombards us from the specialist as well as popular press.”
(a mathematician/physicist in Arizona)

“I’m from Quebec, Canada.  I have studied in ‘pure sciences’ and after in actuarial mathematics.  I’m visiting this site 3-4 times in a week.  I’m learning a lot and this site gives me the opportunity to realize that this is a good time to be a creationist!”
(a French Canadian reader)

“I LOVE your Creation Safari site, and the Baloney Detector material.  OUTSTANDING JOB!!!!”
(a reader in the Air Force)

“You have a unique position in the Origins community.  Congratulations on the best current affairs news source on the origins net.  You may be able to write fast but your logic is fun to work through.”
(a pediatrician in California)

“Visit your site almost daily and find it very informative, educational and inspiring.”
(a reader in western Canada)

“I wish to thank you for the information you extend every day on your site.  It is truly a blessing!”
(a reader in North Carolina)

“I really appreciate your efforts in posting to this website.  I find it an incredibly useful way to keep up with recent research (I also check science news daily) and also to research particular topics.”
(an IT consultant from Brisbane, Australia)

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

“I’ve been checking in for a long time but thought I’d leave you a note, this time.  Your writing on these complex topics is insightful, informative with just the right amount of humor.  I appreciate the hard work that goes into monitoring the research from so many sources and then writing intelligently about them.”
(an investment banker in California)

“Keep up the great work.  You are giving a whole army of Christians plenty of ammunition to come out of the closet (everyone else has).  Most of us are not scientists, but most of the people we talk to are not scientists either, just ordinary people who have been fed baloney for years and years.”
(a reader in Arizona)

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

“I wholeheartedly agree with you when you say that ‘science’ is not hostile towards ‘religion’.  It is the dogmatically religious that are unwaveringly hostile towards any kind of science which threatens their dearly-held precepts.  ‘Science’ (real, open-minded science) is not interested in theological navel-gazing.”
Note: Please supply your name and location when writing in.  Anonymous attacks only make one look foolish and cowardly, and will not normally be printed.  This one was shown to display a bad example.

“I appreciate reading your site every day.  It is a great way to keep up on not just the new research being done, but to also keep abreast of the evolving debate about evolution (Pun intended).... I find it an incredibly useful way to keep up with recent research (I also check science news daily) and also to research particular topics.”
(an IT consultant in Brisbane, Australia)

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

“....when you claim great uncertainty for issues that are fairly well resolved you damage your already questionable credibility.  I’m sure your audience loves your ranting, but if you know as much about biochemistry, geology, astronomy, and the other fields you skewer, as you do about ornithology, you are spreading heat, not light.”
(a professor of ornithology at a state university, responding to the 09/10/2002 headline)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Thanks for your web page and work.  I try to drop by at least once a week and read what you have.  I’m a Christian that is interested in science (I’m a mechanical engineer) and I find you topics interesting and helpful.  I enjoy your lessons and insights on Baloney Detection.”
(a year later):
“I read your site 2 to 3 times a week; which I’ve probably done for a couple of years.  I enjoy it for the interesting content, the logical arguments, what I can learn about biology/science, and your pointed commentary.”
(a production designer in Kentucky)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Thank you so much for the interesting science links and comments on your creation evolution headlines page ... it is very informative.”
(a reader from Scottsdale, AZ)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Featured Creation Scientist for September

Johannes Kepler
1571 - 1630

By anyone’s measure, Johannes Kepler ranks as a gold medalist in the history of science.  This great German mathematician and astronomer (contemporary with the King James Bible and the Pilgrims) discovered fundamental laws of nature that have stood the test of time and are still widely used today.  He advanced mathematics in science to new heights, including the first use of logarithms for astronomy and the foundation for integral calculus.  He made useful inventions.  He was a major force in moving science away from its subservience to authority and onto an empirical foundation, and from superstition to mathematical law.  He helped mankind understand how the universe works.  When the great Isaac Newton expressed that his ability to see farther than others was due to “standing on the shoulders of giants,” he most certainly had Kepler in mind.  Yet this humble, devout Christian, from a poor, uneducated home, had a life filled with difficulty.  In spite of it, he stands as a consummate example of a Christian doing excellent science from theological motives; Kepler pursued science as a mission from God.  In his words, he was merely “thinking God’s thoughts after Him.”  Anyone who thinks Christianity is inimical to science should take a close look at the life of this giant of science – and Christian faith.

Kepler is considered the Father of Celestial Mechanics.  The story of how he worked for eight years trying to figure out the orbit of Mars and the other planets from the observations of Tycho Brahe is legendary.  Kepler was a perfectionist; “close enough” was not good enough.  He started by assuming the common belief that the orbits of the planets were perfect circles.  Moreover, he had a tempting hypothesis that the ratios of the orbital distances matched the proportions of the regular solids, but it did not quite work.  It was Kepler’s genius and integrity that forced him to abandon his pet theory and discover the truth.  After many years of work, and thousands of pages of tedious calculations, he fit the data to the formula for an ellipse, and finally, everything fell into place.  This illustrates how in science frequently a fundamental truth lays lurking in the minute details that do not fit the expectations.  To an honest scientist, the data must drive the conclusions, and Kepler’s discovery ranks as a seminal point in the history of science.  With this finding, he overcame 1500 years of error based on the thinking of Ptolemy, Aristotle and even Copernicus that the heavenly orbits must be perfect circles.

From his discovery, Kepler derived his famous Three Laws of Planetary Motion.  These were the first truly scientific laws, based as they were on empirical data and not authority or Aristotelian logic.  Kepler established precise mathematical relationships describing orbital motion: (1) the orbits of the planets are ellipses, with the sun at one focus, (2) the motion of a body is not constant, but speeds up closer to the sun (a line connecting the sun and the planet sweeps out equal areas in equal times), and (3) the farther away a planet is, the slower it moves (the square of the period is proportional to the cube of the semimajor axis).  Newton later explained these relationships in his theory of universal gravitation, but Kepler’s Laws are just as accurate today as when he first formulated them, and even more useful than he could have imagined!  Even today, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory navigates spacecraft around the solar system using Kepler’s Laws, and astronomers routinely speak of Keplerian orbits not only for the solar system but for stars orbiting galaxies, and for galaxies orbiting clusters and superclusters.  The whole universe obeys Kepler’s Laws, or as he would have preferred to say, obeys God’s laws that he merely uncovered: he said, “Since we astronomers are priests of the highest God in regard to the book of nature, it befits us to be thoughtful, not of the glory of our minds, but rather, above all else, of the glory of God.”

These discoveries would be enough to guarantee Kepler membership in the science hall of fame, but there’s much more.  Not only was he the Father of Celestial Mechanics, Kepler is also considered the Father of Modern Optics.  He advanced the understanding of reflection and refraction and human vision, and produced improvements in eyeglasses for both nearsightedness and farsightedness, and for the telescopes that his colleague Galileo (with whom he corresponded) had first turned toward the heavens.  He invented the pinhole camera and designed a gear-driven calculating machine.  He investigated weather phenomena and also made other fundamental discoveries about the heavens, such as the rotation of the sun, and the fact that ocean tides are caused primarily by the moon (for which Galileo derided him, but Kepler was proved right).  He predicted that trigonometric parallax might be used to measure the distances to the stars.  Though the telescopes of his day were too crude to detect the parallax shift, he was right again, and the recent Hipparcos satellite used this principle to refine our measurements to thousands of stars.  Kepler’s “firsts” make an impressive list of accomplishments.

One would think a man must be the son of a privileged family to rise to such heights, but nothing could be farther from the truth for this, and other, great Christians in science like Newton, Carver and Faraday.  Kepler was from a poor, uneducated family.  He was often ill, and lived with no advantages that would have predicted his success.  His mother was a flighty woman given to superstition, and his father was a roaming mercenary, frequently off to the battlefield to fight for the highest bidder.  At age six, Kepler saw the Great Comet of 1577 which in those days people assumed were bad omens, but Kepler was fascinated.  Later, his father bought and operated a low-class inn, and young Johannes was required to do hard labor to help the struggling family business.  When given a chance to go to school, Kepler’s genius coupled with diligence advanced him quickly.  Devout by nature, he decided he would serve God as a clergyman.  He studied for two years in a seminary at the University of Tubingen, receiving training in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, mathematics and the usual Greek philosophy, but there also became acquainted with the newer ideas of Copernicus and those who doubted that the Greeks were the last word in knowledge.  It was only when he was pressured to accept a position as a mathematics instructor 500 miles away in Graz that he reluctantly postponed his goal to become a Lutheran minister.  Later, he was chosen by the great but eccentric Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe to figure out the problem of the orbit of Mars, and the rest is history.

In spite of his successes, Kepler’s life was filled with hardship, poverty, political turmoil, false accusations and difficult work.  He had to defend his mother who was falsely accused of being a witch.  He was forced to move on several occasions due to war or pestilence.  He was not paid near what he was worth.  He probably never thought of himself as famous.  Yet he had an inner joy that would make his imagination soar when he thought of the heavens and how everything worked according to the Creator’s mathematical plan.  He imagined space travel and speculated about earthlike planets around distant stars.  He wrote 80 books, including the first science fiction story, The Dream (about an imaginary flight to the moon), and of course more technical treatises such as the consummate compilation of Tycho’s data using logarithms, The Rudolphine Tables; this work did much to advance the heliocentric theory.  His signature work, expressing his philosophy of science, is Harmony of the World in which he saw the heavenly bodies making a kind of celestial “music of the spheres” as the outworking of the mind of God, perfect in geometric harmony.  It expressed his belief that the world of nature, the world of man and world of God all fit together into a harmonious system that could be explored by science.

Kepler had once believed that becoming a clergyman was the only way to serve God and proclaim His truth, but he found that astronomy and mathematics were also a ministry, a way to open windows to the mind of God.  Deeply spiritual all his life, he said, “Let also my name perish if only the name of God the Father is elevated.”  On November 15, 1630, as he lay dying, he was asked on what did he pin his hope of salvation.  Confidently and resolutely, he testified: “Only and alone on the services of Jesus Christ.  In Him is all refuge, all solace and welfare.”

Craters on the moon and Mars are named in Kepler’s honor, and NASA’s Kepler spacecraft will be launched in 2008 to search for earth-size habitable planets around other stars.

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

A Concise Guide
to Understanding
Evolutionary Theory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Souder’s Law
Repetition does not establish validity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advice from Paul

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

I Timothy 6:20-21

Song of the True Scientist

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

from Psalm 104

Maxwell’s Motivation

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

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

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

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