Creation-Evolution Headlines
November 2005
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“There are also warrants for believing that the design feature, the nomic necessity, all of those things that allow one to negotiate space and time... offer ample evidence of design, intention, plan, intelligence.... There are good arguments for assuming that the whole thing has a point, and that that point points ultimately to a divine and providential source.... I choose that one.”
—Dr. Daniel J. Robinson (Oxford), conclusion of 60 lectures on The Great Ideas of Philosophy, The Teaching Company.
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Scientist of the Month: Better late than never – the November Creation Scientist of the Month is finally published in the right hand column.  Click here for a short biography of a medieval prof worth getting to know.  “Dark Ages”?  Hardly.

Mao Tse-Tung Killed 77 Million for Darwin   11/30/2005    
World Net Daily reported that the body count from Mao’s reign of terror in China has been revised upward to 77 million by R. J. Rummel, a Nobel Peace Prize winning political scientist who had earlier estimated it at half that (38 million).  This augments Mao’s Guinness reputation as the worst mass murderer in history.  His intentional killings, including policies that intentionally starved tens of millions of Chinese people, exceeded those of Hitler and Stalin.  Deaths attributed to Mao’s democide (death by government) amount to over twice the total combat deaths in all wars between 1900 to 1987, including World Wars I and II.  Of 174 million killed in 20th-century incidents of democide, 148 million fell victim to Marxist regimes – four times the deaths by combat, estimated at 34.1 million.
    Rummel, who has chronicled 20th century democides, said, “I’m now convinced that Stalin exceeded Hitler in monstrous evil, and Mao beat out Stalin.”  All three dictators were committed to scientific materialism congruent with the Darwinian principles of struggle for existence and survival of the fittest.  According to an article by Answers in Genesis, Mao listed two of his favorite authors as Darwin and Huxley.  In a quote attributed to the Chinese communist leader on Coral Ridge Ministries, Chairman Mao said, “Chinese socialism is founded upon Darwin and the theory of evolution.”  Stalin became an atheist after reading Darwin, and Hitler, though from a different end of the political spectrum, based Mein Kampf on Darwinian principles of struggle and fitness.  Such ideas had become very popular among leading German thinkers in the decades after Darwin’s Origin, as documented in historian Richard Weikart’s book, From Darwin to Hitler (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004).
    Visualize how long it would take to read the names of 77 million people.  At one every five seconds, day and night, it would take over 12 years just to read their names, without even knowing who they were or the nature of their hopes and dreams – dreams that were strangled in prison, brutal work camps, torture or policy-induced famines.  Add another 12 years for those killed under all the other communist leaders, and 3 years 4 months for Nazi deaths – a total of almost 28 years of reading name, after name, after name, day and night.  By contrast, reading the names of the 9/11 victims at this rate would take a little over four hours.
    Some historians have speculated that Charles Darwin’s mysterious illnesses derived at least partly from stress and depression over the possible impact of his radical ideas (see Russell Grigg article).  He once wrote, “It is like confessing to a murder.” (See PBS).

Darwinism was to Nazism and communism like fuel and spark to fire.  Lenin, Stalin, Mao Tse-tung, Pol Pot, Castro, Kim Jong Il and all communist despots past and present have been committed scientific materialists.  They shut down churches and promoted atheism, exalted Darwinism and promoted evolutionary theory as the scientific rationalization for the state and the ethical justification for their brutal policies.  John West on Evolution News reminded readers about Darwin’s own support of eugenics and racism, and accused the American Museum of Natural History of sanitizing this aspect of his life in their multi-million dollar Darwin exhibit (11/21/2005).
    This is a stern reminder why the debate over creation vs. evolution matters.  We are not talking about some minor issue for scientists and egghead philosophers to speculate about.  Ideas have consequences, and as Richard Weikart demonstrated in a lecture worth watching (available from Access Research Network), the same Darwinian principles that motivated Hitler and the communists are alive and well among prominent evolutionary biologists today.  Many university professors and evolutionary biologists are avowed Marxists.  Let them ponder the horrible results of their belief system, and then ponder the warning of Jesus, “every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Therefore by their fruits you will know them.” (from the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7).
Next headline on:  DarwinismPolitics and Ethics
Mexican Footprints 1.3 Million Years Old?  Impossible, Señor   11/30/2005    
Paleoanthropologists have a major conundrum on their hands, or feet.  EurekAlert reported about controversial footprints found in Mexico ash deposits that had been thought to be 44,000 years old.  Even that was too old for many to swallow, but new argon-argon dates show them to be 1.3 million years old – far older than those in Africa, where the first modern humans were supposed to come from.  Either the dates are not trustworthy, or these are not footprints.  No resolution to this anomaly seems satisfactory at the moment.  Pictures and additional information can be found at BBC News, National Geographic News, and News@Nature.  A reader found web pages of the discoverers at MexicanFootprints.com and Bournemouth University, UK.  Renne et al. in Nature1 are taking the view they are not footprints, even though toes and heelprints appear in some of them.
1Renne et al., “Geochronology: Age of Mexican ash with alleged 'footprints', Nature 438, E7-E8 (1 December 2005) | doi:10.1038/nature04425.
This will be a good test of the scientific values of the Darwinists.  They always claim to be skeptical of any finding, never taking anything on “faith” like those religious-right fundies.  OK, Darwinists, you’ve got a problem.  Show us some rationality and objectivity.  We seem to recall that creationists quickly withdrew claims of Paluxy human tracks on the first hint of a problem with the data, and have been very cautious ever since.  In their case, however, the find was not a necessary piece of evidence, just a tantalizing one.  In this case, if humans or advanced hominids were in Mexico over a million years before the famed “out of Africa” story, there is a lot of Darwinian storytelling at risk of unraveling.  Either evolutionists cannot trust their fossil skills, or their dating methods (see 11/05/2005), or both.  What would it take to falsify human evolution?  If nothing – no amount of contrary evidence or logic – could ever dislodge the idea that humans slowly emerged from primitive ancestors, then your critics are going to stick a note on the seat of your pants: “Kick me; I’m a fighting fundamentalist.”
Next headline on:  Early ManFossilsDating Techniques
Darwinism: Struggle for Existence of a Controversial Theory   11/30/2005    
Darwin taught that the struggle for existence in nature produced the survival of the fittest.  A struggle between Darwinism and intelligent design (ID) seems to be producing media red in tooth and claw, as seen by the following recent stories.
  • Define the Opposition Out of Science:  Another University of Kansas professor is offering a class that will maintain that ID is pseudoscience, according to Lawrence Journal-World.  (For the other “ID as mythology” class, see the 11/29/2005 story.)  Anthropology professor John Hoopes will associate ID with belief in alien crop circles, ESP and pyramidology.  Brian Sandefur, an engineer at the university, said this is just an attempt to box ID into inappropriate areas; it’s about chemistry and molecular biology, he argues, so it belongs in science classes.
  • Sue Me, Sue You:  That the pro-evolution ACLU is quick to sue what they perceive as violations of separation of church and state is old news, but evolutionists are on the receiving end of church-state litigation this time.  According to Mercury News, and Associated Press (MSNBC), Larry and Jeanne Caldwell are suing two biologists and an official from the National Science Foundation for using $400,000 in federal funds for a pro-evolution website that promotes religious ideas.  In their suit, they claim that the Understanding Evolution website strays into religion, and is geared “to modify the beliefs of public school science students so they will be more willing to accept evolutionary theory as true.”  Casey Luskin in EvolutionNews diagnosed the AP article as infected with inaccuritis and false facts syndrome.
  • Voodoo Hex:  When the San Diego Union-Tribune called ID “Voodoo Science” the students at the IDEA Center fired back with evidence instead of pins.  So did Evolution News with links aplenty to denounce the ridicule.
  • Dark Ages Ahead:  Lord May of Oxford, in an outgoing address as president of the Royal Society, warned that science faces dangerous times ahead.  He claimed that fundamentalism from East and West is creating a “denial lobby” that is making it harder for scientists to deal with global problems like climate change; according to Lord May, their “response is to retreat from complexity and difficulty by embracing the darkness of fundamentalist unreason.”  The article did not make it clear if he meant by Eastern fundamentalism radical Islam, but there was no such delicate treatment of those on the other side of the globe.  The Western fundamentalists, he said, are the ones promoting creationism and intelligent design.  He claimed these have a “wider agenda which is to replace scientific materialism by something more based on faith.”  He called on scientists to become more active in speaking out against ID and other “threats” to “modern scientific values.”
  • What Controversy?  Russell Jacoby wrote in the LA Times that some controversies are not worth teaching about, like ID.  Tom Magnuson wrote for the Discovery Institute to correct Jacoby’s errors and defend the grand liberal tradition of engaging controversial issues.
  • Spectrum Narrows:  In USA Today, both the liberal Bob Beckelis and the conservative Cal Thomas agreed that ID should get a hearing, but for different reasons.  Interestingly, Beckelis, a liberal Democratic strategist, agreed that ID is a scientific concept and that the way scientists are attacking it as religion is wrong: “Not only are there still gaping holes in the evolutionary chain from single cells to man, the science crowd hasn’t come close to explaining why only man among all living things has a conscience, a moral framework and a free will,” he said, and later added, “...these scientists will say the overwhelming body of evidence supports evolution, and no other theory comes close.  Well, of course it doesn’t because no other theory has been studied seriously.  This crowd has a vested interest in proving Darwin correct, and anything else is dismissed out of hand.”  He thought the ID scientists had a strong case but have been denied a forum.
  • Fights Are Good for Sales:  Like vendors at the gladiatorial arena, merchants are finding a new market for niche products related to the evolution wars, reports KansasCity.com.  Books, videos, Darwin fish, bumper stickers and anything having to do with Darwinism or intelligent design are hot sellers.
Meanwhile, everyone waits to see what Judge Jones will decide in the Dover ID case, probably in early January.
We need an army of Diogenes disciples with updated baloney-detecting lanterns.  Notice how Lord May and his other Darwin Party insiders equate Big Science with materialism, and label anything else than that with the emotionally-charged labels fundamentalism and faith.  “Darkness of fundamentalist unreason”?  How’s that for a classic mudsling.  Come on, Lord May, just show us all that alleged evidence for the arrival of cellular machinery and human rationality by mindless, undirected processes, or else the shoe fits your own foot.  Robert Boyle, your eminent predecessor and founding father of the Royal Society, would be ashamed of you.
    The ones who can only come up with ridicule, fear-mongering and loaded words show themselves to be intellectually unarmed in the dark.  Keep the light on; when there’s enough light for everyone to see Emperor Charlie’s new clothes, he will go running embarrassed into the woods.
Next headline on:  Darwinism and Evolutionary TheoryIntelligent DesignEducation
Ecotherapy: Nature Is Good Medicine   11/29/2005    
The British Medical Journal, according to EurekAlert, says, “Getting close to nature is good for you.”  Ecotherapy is the fancy new buzzword for “restoring health through contact with nature.”  What are the benefits?  Improving quality of life, healing emotional problems, learning practical and social skills and the obvious one: better health through exercise.  Doctors and nature organizations should confer on policies that recognize the “interdependence between healthy people and healthy ecosystems.”
Great idea, but they seem to be lacking a theory to explain it.  Here’s one: meditating on creation brings our hearts closer to the Creator, the Wonderful Counselor and Prince of Peace.  This theory was proposed many places in the Bible.  Read, for example, Psalm 104, Psalm 111, and Psalm 148.  Many pioneers of science tested this theory and found it solid: Johannes Kepler, Robert Boyle, and Antony van Leeuwenhoek, to name a few.  Here’s a practical theory everyone can test.
Next headline on:  Health
Welcome to the Religion Department; I Am Your Evil Atheist Professor   11/29/2005    
The religion professor who organized a class at U of Kansas called “Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design, Creationism and other Religious Mythologies” (see 11/21/2005) was caught red-handed expressing his real intentions.  According to Knight-Ridder stories in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and Macon.com, an email from Paul Mirecki became public in which he had said, “The fundies (fundamentalists) want it all taught in a science class, but this will be a nice slap in their big fat face by teaching it as a religious studies class under the category ‘mythology.’”  His letter to the Society of Open-Minded Atheists and Agnostics, a student organization for which he serves as faculty adviser, and which he referred to as “my fellow damned,” was signed off with, “Doing my part to (tick) off the religious right, Evil Dr. P.”  Mirecki is Chairman of the Religious Studies department.
    The Chancellor had a word with him, after which Mirecki apologized for his “ill-advised email I sent to a small group of students and friends.”  He promised he would teach the class “as a serious academic subject and in an manner that respects all points of view.”  The class has also been renamed to simply “Intelligent Design and Creationism.”
    Legislators got word of this email and were not pleased.  There was discussion of withholding funds from the school.  Quoting the article, Rep. Brenda Landwehr, vice chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, called the e-mail “venomous,” adding, “He’s not sorry he wrote it.  He’s sorry it became public.”
Update 11/30/2005: Mirecki has canceled the class.  KansasCity.com and The Guardian (UK) reported that the furor caused by his email was too much.  Chancellor Hemenway called the attitudes expressed “repugnant and vile,” and said it “misrepresents everything the university is to stand for.”  A state senator called the words “hateful” and felt the University did the right thing by listening to the public’s outrage and canceling the class.  Bob Crowther on Evolution News doubts Mirecki’s sincerity; he has found a track record of similar antireligious statements by Mirecki.
There you have it, folks.  Parents, when you sent your precious sons and daughters to college, with visions of enlightenment, scholarly advancement and the contemplative life, is this what you had in mind?  Were you aware the devil was head of the religion department?  Do you accept his apology for half a second?  Do you believe for a moment this wrist-slap is going to stop his face-slapping intentions?  Better wake up; this is not an isolated case.   This was the university that took up arms against the Kansas school board in their attempt to de-dogmatize Darwin and permit (not mandate) critical discussion of his views, but attitudes like Mirecki’s are rife in today’s radical-leftist academic institutions.
    Now you know why a fair and honest discussion of intelligent design is hard to come by in most universities.  One can only hope enough people are repulsed by this venomous behavior enough to drive the vermin out, open the windows, clean out the garbage, and let in some fresh air and sunshine, to recreate that once-sacred environment for the free exchange of ideas among scholars motivated by a love of the truth.
Next headline on:  Intelligent DesignBible and Theology
Enceladus Eruptions Caught on Camera    11/28/2005  
Enceladus, one of the small icy moons of Saturn, is undergoing eruptive activity right now.  Evidence from previous flybys has now been corroborated visually in stunning images that made the lead stories on NASA, JPL and Cassini.  Amateur enthusiasts were already expressing excitement at the images before the announcement (see Unmanned Spaceflight).  The complete set of raw images is available at the Cassini Raw Image Gallery and a trio of images was published by the Cassini Imaging Team.
    The images show several distinct jets of material being emitted from the limb, as viewed in back lighting.  There might be a dozen or more.  All appear aligned along fractures in the crust.  The material is most likely water ice.  Particles are apparently being ejected with sufficient force to escape straight out; no ballistic umbrella-shaped paths, as with Io’s volcanos, is evident with these eruptions from Enceladus, though it must be remembered that Enceladus, being smaller and less massive, has a much lower escape velocity.  The plumes reinforce long-held suspicions that Enceladus is supplying the material to Saturn’s E ring.
    Eruptive activity was inferred during the March and July encounters from magnetic field, dust particle and ultraviolet sensors (see 08/30/2005 story).  The emissions at the time were found to be localized at the south pole in a field of long, parallel canyons dubbed the “tiger stripes.”  These new visual images line up perfectly with that region.  Now that the plumes are clearly visible, scientists have compared them with limb images from the plume-hunting observations January 16.  Though tantalizing hints of plumes were seen, scientists were cautious to accept them as real, not knowing if they were imaging artifacts.  Since those line up with the new ones, Enceladus has probably been in a continuous state of eruption most of this year, probably far longer.
    Further measurements will be required to determine if the activity is episodic or continuous.  The discovery will spur additional questions about the composition of the particles, their size distribution, the volume ejected over time, the mechanism of ejection, and why it occurs only in the south polar region.  The biggest puzzle of all seems to be why this moon, much smaller than Io and not in any orbital relationship with Saturn or other large body sufficient to cause tidal heating, should be so active.  Intuitively, a body this small should be dead cold.  Any internal heat from the moon’s formation should long ago have dissipated, if this body is as old as commonly believed.  Nor could solar heating explain this, as in the case of Triton’s faint nitrogen geysers, which coincided with the angle of greatest sunlight.  Enceladus receives most of its illumination at the equator, not the poles.  Clearly something interesting is going on down south on this little moon.  Today’s discovery will likely motivate NASA scientists to add more Enceladus encounters to a likely extended mission, after the prime mission ends in July, 2008.
Here is prima facie evidence that Enceladus is young.  The burden of proof is on the moyboys (09/16/2005 commentary) to prove otherwise.  The E ring has been known for over 20 years and is composed of particles so small (micron sized), it must be continuously replenished or it would disappear within decades.  Does this mean that these Enceladus geysers have been erupting continuously for decades, centuries, millennia?  How can it be credible to believe this kind of process can run for millions or billions of years?  Everyone can enjoy the discovery of a new Yellowstone.  Those open-minded to allow for far younger ages of solar system objects have the added entertainment of watching the moyboys scramble with each new eruption.  Maybe the new plume should be called the Fountain of Youth.
Next headline on:  Solar SystemDating MethodsGeology
News from the Solar Neighborhood    11/28/2005  
Here’s a collection of recent items of interest under the sun.  (Don’t miss the big story above, too.)
  • My Rhea Lies Under the Spacecraft:  Cassini added another trophy to its moon collection Saturday, skimming just 300 miles above the surface of Saturn’s large moon Rhea.  (Saturday is named after Saturn, hey).  Rhea is the largest moon after Titan, and one of two (along with Dione) remembered from Voyager days as having wispy or feathery streaks on its leading hemisphere.  Now that Cassini has gotten in for a closer look, scientists found that the streaks are not frost deposits as formerly thought.  Instead, they are regions of sharp cliffs exposing bright water ice.  Rhea also has a prominent fresh-looking rayed crater.  Though made of ice, the surfaces of Saturn’s moons are frozen so hard, the ice has the properties of hard rock.  Impacts produce craters, therefore, very similar to those on our moon, complete with central peaks, rays and ejecta blankets.  The Cassini Imaging Team has put together a gallery of the best raw images; the complete set is available on the Cassini Raw Image Database.
  • Spiral Ring:  Saturn’s F-ring is one long spiral, according to an international team that proposed the new theory in Science (see report on Space.com and click link to the artist’s conception).  If so, this raises lots of new questions.  Prometheus and Pandora, long thought to shepherd the ring particles into the narrow ringlets, may actually act more like attack dogs.  The ring appears tenuous and dynamic.  The spiral structure appears unique, with no clear explanation leaping out of the data about how the spiral is generated and maintained.
  • Japan Mines an Asteroid:  The Falcon (Hayabusa) successfully gathered samples of asteroid Itokawa (see Planetary Society report).  This gives the fledgling Japanese space agency a first, especially if the samples are successfully returned in 2007 at The Outback (not the restaurant, but the real Aussie wasteland, out back and down under).  The asteroid appears to be a rubble pile of loosely-cohering material with few craters.  Though it visited a different type of object – a comet – Stardust will hit the tape first on January 15 when its samples parachute into the Utah desert.  Hopefully it will not make a crater like Genesis did.
  • Mars with Spirit:  The Mars Exploration Rover imaging team released a blockbuster to celebrate Spirit’s first “Martian Year” anniversary in Gusev Crater, complete with special effects.  If you wonder how Spirit was able to take a picture of itself in the distance, well, that’s Hollywood.
  • Next Mars Champ Doing Fine:  The hefty Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, affectionately known as “Mr. O,” is halfway there.  Already, Mars Express seems a hard act to follow, but when MRO goes into orbit next March, its best-ever cameras and instruments are slated to send back more data than all previous missions combined.  Till then, we hear Opportunity, Mars Odyssey, and Mars Global Surveyor hollering, “Hey, don’t forget me!”
These are great days of exploration.  At this time 200 years ago, Lewis and Clark were settling in at Fort Clatsop for a long winter.  At this time 100 years ago, Percival Lowell was squinting eagerly through his Lowell Observatory eyepieces, imagining cities and exotic inhabitants on Mars.  In such a short time, look what their country – their world – has done.  Space exploration did not evolve.  It is a demonstration of the power of intelligent design to order and direct natural materials toward purposeful ends.
Next headline on:  Solar SystemMars
Genes Attack the Trees   11/26/2005    
Evolutionary tree-building (11/14/2005) is a tangled business.  Now that scientists can compare genomes of diverse animals, they can compare the resulting molecular evolutionary trees with traditional ones – those produced by inferring relationships based on outward (morphological) characteristics of living or fossil organisms.  What happens when the trees don’t match?
    Two recent studies, both reported by Science Daily, have demonstrated that molecular-based trees, to be believed, require uprooting long-standing morphologically-based evolutionary trees.
  1. Iguanas Promoted:  A “radical reorganization” of the tree of reptiles was reported by Science Daily based on work by two Penn State biologists.  Iguanas, for instance, had long been placed near the bottom of the tree due to their “primitive” appearance.  Now, the molecular tree graduates them to the top.  The new study compared 19 genomes from all the major reptile lineages.  So many anomalies were found, the researchers had to invent entirely new categories of classification.  In addition, most of the branches appeared to start early and remain relatively unchanged over vast periods of time.  Toxic venom, for example, was thought to be a recent innovation, but now appears rooted at the time of the earliest dinosaurs.  Reptiles with two egg teeth appear to precede those with one egg tooth – a step toward simplicity, not complexity.  These and other findings are inverting a family tree of reptiles accepted by evolutionary biologists for over a century.  One of the team members said, “If this new tree is correct, all the morphological characters that traditionally have been used to identify similarities between species will need to be reevaluated to understand how these traits evolved” (emphasis added in all quotes).
  2. Slow Humans:  Another startling finding reported in Science Daily started with the title, “Early Animals Had Human-Like Genes.”  If humans are the late-comers, why and how did early-Cambrian roundworms produce innovations that would persist unchanged for hundreds of millions of years?  The team compared human and fruit-fly introns with those of a roundworm thought to be 600 million years old, close to the period of the very first multicellular organisms.  Contrary to earlier expectations, introns – those spacers in the DNA cut out by the transcription machinery – were already present in the worms and have persisted all the way to the human line, while other branches, like insects, lost many of them quickly.  To save the evolutionary tree, researchers are speaking of “fast-evolving” and “slow-evolving” branches.  “The worm’s genes are very similar to human genes,” said one.  “That’s a much different picture than we’ve seen from the quickly-evolving species that have been studied so far.”  Another remarked, “Now we have direct evidence that genes were already quite complex in the first animals, and many invertebrates have reduced part of this complexity.”  Not only were the introns the same, but their positions within the genome “have been preserved over the last half a billion years.”
Overall, the picture looks opposite what evolutionary biologists have expected: “this has shown us is that evolution is not always about gain; the loss of complexity can equally be an important player in evolution.”
What’s most amazing about both these stories is not the genes.  It is the psychology of Darwinists.  They can hang on to a theory no matter how much contrary evidence comes to light.  Invented terms like “conserved genes” and “slow-evolving species” mask their desperation.  They are clinging to a dogmatic evolutionary position in spite of evidence that looks like creation: abrupt appearance, stasis, and loss of original complexity.  Simultaneously, they accuse creationists of accepting their view on “faith” while bluffing that “there is no controversy among scientists about evolution.”  Yet how would an impartial jury rule, based on the empirical evidence alone, with no evolutionary presuppositions?
Next headline on:  Darwinism and Evolutionary TheoryGenetics
Eyesight: More Reasons to Be Thankful   11/24/2005    
So much is going on in your body when you look at that sliced turkey and raise it to your salivating mouth, a human mind can only fathom bits and pieces of the story.  Everyone knows the eye is the quintessential example of a complex organ, but Current Biology1 focused on one of the wonders that occurs after the signal leaves the optic nerve.
    Alexander Thiele (U of Newcastle upon Tyne) started by saying that we move our eyes more often than our heart beats.  Our eyes constantly jerk from side to side, without our even noticing.  This means the brain has to constantly stabilize a shaky input.  How does our brain cope with the constantly changing scene?
When you watch a music video you are inundated with a seemingly incoherent and rapid stream of visual scenes, changing on average every 2.3 seconds.  Such a rate of change may appear fast to an old fashioned television consumer, but it is still about seven times slower than the rate of scene change imposed by rapid eye movements on the visual system.  While the former may be tiring, the latter goes seemingly unnoticed.   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
Why does the eye make these constant movements, called saccades?  “Saccades ensure that an attended object is foveated for high acuity processing,” Thiele writes.  But how does the visual center in the brain, like a digital screen made of neurons, give us the impression that our field of view is steady?  There are two possibilities.  The conventional view is that the brain has enough processing overhead to constantly interpret the scene.  Another, newer view is that the neurons compensate for the shifts in a pre-processing step.  Neurons may be synchronized to the eye muscles so that they are prepared for the changes, kind of like a screen synchronized to move in step with a vibrating projector.  Here it is in scientific jargon:
Of particular importance for such adjustments may be neurons in the lateral intraparietal, frontal, and even early visual areas which shift their receptive fields shortly before the occurrence of a saccadic eye movement, causing an internal re-mapping of visual space.  These neurons signal that a saccade will bring an object into their field of view, even if that object has been removed from sight just before or during the saccade.  Such a re-mapping could result in predictive adjustments in early cortical areas that prepare for scene changes, thereby minimizing their negative impact, and maximizing rapid information processing following a saccade.  This requires a substantial amount of trans-saccadic integration.
Experimental tests so far have been unable to determine which method the brain uses.  Either way, it’s amazing; these adjustments are made in fractions of a second.  “Psychophysical studies have shown that human perceptual abilities are exquisite and extraordinarily fast when extracting information during rapid serial visual presentation of natural scenes,” Thiele said.  His only mention of evolution was after noting the “surprising” evidence that our brain can detect and classify images even in the near absence of attention.  “This suggests that the human visual system has evolved to rapidly extract information from highly variable natural scenes....” 
1Alexander Thiele, “Vision: A Brake on the Speed of Sight,” Current Biology, Volume 15, Issue 22, 22 November 2005, Pages R917-R919, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2005.10.057
Just set aside that little piece of evolutionary fat, so you won’t lose your appetite.  As you visually scan that plate full of colorful, fragrant, tasty food, think about this one of all those senses taking in those cues.  You have a high-tech, integrated, super-fast, high-resolution video recording, processing, and display system, and it even has image stabilization.  “The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the Lord has made them both” (Proverbs 20:12).  Give thanks, and enjoy.
Next headline on:  Human BodyAmazing Stories
Must Be Logic in This Circle Somewhere:  “Organisms clearly have evolved, and so we know, a priori, that this must be possible.” – John Brookfield (U of Nottingham), in a book review in Current Biology Volume 15, Issue 22, 22 November 2005, Pages R908-R910.

Nature Cover Exploits Intelligent Design While Inside Attacks It   11/24/2005    
The 11/24 issue of Nature included two very caustic letters attacking intelligent design, yet its cover story highlighted the promising new field of Synthetic Biology.  In one of the leading papers,1 David Sprinzak and Michael B. Elowiz of Caltech (see 06/25/2005 entry) described the synthetic approach in terms reminiscent of William Paley’s old Divine Watchmaker:

By taking apart an old clock, you could probably come up with a pretty good guess at how it works.  But a more concrete understanding of the clock mechanism might be obtained by designing and building one’s own clock out of similar parts.  Contemporary biology presents us with similar reverse-engineering problems.  For example, Drosophila [fruit fly] cells contain a circadian clock that oscillates with a 24-h rhythm and self-synchronizes to the day/night cycle.  Using genetic and biochemical techniques, researchers have isolated genes and proteins involved in interlocked feedback loops of gene expression...that are necessary for clock function.  However, many fundamental questions remain difficult to answer: what sets the period of the oscillation, how does the clock operate reliably in diverse cellular conditions, and what features of its design are responsible for its reliable operation?  To gain insight into such questions one could design and build new clock circuits, using similar genes and proteins, and study their dynamics in the organism.  In fact, several synthetic genetic clocks have now been constructed in bacteria.... These circuits are much simpler than the Drosophila clock.  They fail to operate as reliably, but they provide a proof of principle for a synthetic approach to understanding genetic circuits.   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
Their article is an attempt to show how “synthetic biology can address biological questions at the level of genetic circuits,” and how tools being developed for synthetic biology are being used to “answer fundamental biological questions.”  One topic of great interest is how biological circuits remain stable in the face of noisy and dynamic environments, and how they achieve high-fidelity outputs in a sea of random Brownian motions.
    One such mechanism was elucidated by a team from Yale and Howard Hughes Medical Institute.  Writing in the same issue,2 they found that charged transfer-RNAs (tRNAs) undergo precision changes in shape when entering the active site of the ribosome.  These induced conformational changes, including 90° swings of one of the components, impel the substrate into the inner sanctum of the active site and simultaneously protect it from destruction by water molecules (hydrolysis).  When an incorrectly-charged intruder is present or a “stop-code” element enters, the water molecule is able to get in and destroy the intruder or end the completed translation.
    In another example in the same issue of Nature,3 a team from Stanford, Berkeley and U. of Wisconsin achieved the highest-resolution images yet of RNA Polymerase (RNAP) transcribing DNA.  They found that the motor channels the noisy motion in the interior of the nucleus into a “Brownian ratchet” that takes discrete steps along the DNA track.  These steps are exactly the distance down one base pair.  Interestingly, a clutch mechanism can release the ratchet if the enzyme needs to back up and fix a typo.
    In keeping with the implied-design theme of synthetic biology, a German team titled their article, “Design principles of a bacterial signalling network.”4  The design theme was ubiquitous, while references to evolution were merely assumed and seemed forced: i.e., “Our results suggest that this pathway has evolved to show an optimal chemotactic performance while minimizing the cost of resources associated with high levels of protein expression” (cf. 10/04/2005 story).  Ironically, the article investigated such topics as the regulation of the flagellar motor, a molecular machine the intelligent design movement considers their mascot.
  Another review article in the issue by Drew Endy has the design-friendly title, “Foundations for engineering biology.”5  A word search for evolution turns up some interesting hits.  Consider the mixed metaphors in this sentence: “Furthermore, it is possible that the designs of natural biological systems are not optimized by evolution for the purposes of human understanding and engineering.”  One can envision Dawkins and Behe scrambling for control of the ball on that pass.  Another hit is even more revealing:
Today, four challenges that greatly limit the engineering of biology are (1) an inability to avoid or manage biological complexity, (2) the tedious and unreliable construction and characterization of synthetic biological systems, (3) the apparent spontaneous physical variation of biological system behaviour, and (4) evolution.  In considering how best to address these engineering challenges, one practical starting point is to consider past lessons from when other engineering disciplines emerged from the natural sciences.  Are any past lessons relevant to the engineering of biology today?  For example, could we usefully consider adapting or extending ideas from structural engineering to synthetic biology?6
By evolution, Endy is talking about the ability of engineers to design synthetic biological systems that can reproduce and adapt to change.  That may be the biggest challenge.  “At present, we do not have a practical theory that supports the design of reproducing biological machines,” he says, “despite great progress in understanding how natural biological systems couple and tune error detection and correction during machine replication to organism fitness.”  That sounds again more like design than evolution, especially when he adds, “Once developed, many of these foundational technologies will take the form of ideas or information....”
    But now, back to Sprinzak and Elowitz with their Paley-like similes.  Their article ends comparing the superiority of natural engineering to synthetic attempts: “Even the most optimistic synthetic biologist would expect such circuits to be less functional than their natural counterparts.  However, perhaps at this stage one can learn more by putting together a simple, if inaccurate, pendulum clock than one can by disassembling the finest Swiss timepiece.
    To top it off, Erika Check reported on an exciting competition to “to build functioning devices out of biological parts.”7  Scientists and students from around the world competed at the first “Intercollegiate Genetically Engineered Machine competition” in fun and challenging efforts to make molecular switches, oscillators, transistors and other items as intriguing as “bacterial Etch-a-Sketches, photosensitive t-shirts, thermometers and sensors” from E. coli parts.  One especially notable achievement was a “the world’s first bacterial photography system,” teasing bacteria to respond to light and forming an image with 100 megapixels – per square inch.  They described their achievement in a separate article.8  Another team rewired bacteria to run a relay race.  Great fun was had by all; one geneticist commented, “The competition is essentially stimulating every level, from graduate and undergraduate to senior people.”
    In the midst of all this enthusiasm about reverse-engineering biology and the stampede to imitate nature’s designs, Nature printed two vitriolic letters against intelligent design.  Dr. A. Richard Palmer (U of Alberta) mocked and ridiculed the actions in Kansas9 by elaborating on a hypothetical question, “Is the ID debate proof of an intelligent deceiver?”  And newly-graduated PhD in biology Jason Underwood (UCLA) received a prominent page accusing intelligent design people of bringing science to a halt by giving up on the need for evidence (see Nature Graduate Journal).  Bristling with anger and irony, he wrote about how he felt when the state of his alma mater “voted to change the science curriculum so that it casts doubt on evolution and includes the teaching of ‘intelligent design’.9
    Nature rarely if ever prints any letters from qualified intelligent design spokespersons.  Dembski or Nelson or Meyer might have pointed out that it is precisely the evidence that eliminates chance and natural law, and justifies the design inference only after all natural explanations fail.  They might have explained how complex specified information (such as irreducible complexity) can provide positive evidence of an intelligent cause according to standard scientific practice, with formalized algorithms based on mathematically sound principles.  They might have also countered with a litany of the sweeping evolutionary speculations offered by Darwinists, in the absence of scientific rigor, when confronted by complex biological machines.  As a coup de grace, they might have pointed to this very issue of Nature as an example of the possibilities for fruitful research conducted from a design perspective.  Without opportunity to hear such rebuttals, however, readers may just have to put these two letters alongside all the other articles on synthetic biology, and draw their own conclusions.
1David Sprinzak and Michael B. Elowitz, “Reconstruction of Genetic Circuits,” Nature 438, 443-448 (24 November 2005) | doi:10.1038/nature04335.
2Schmeing et al., “An induced-fit mechanism to promote peptide bond formation and exclude hydrolysis of peptidyl-tRNA,” Nature 438, 520-524 (24 November 2005) | doi:10.1038/nature04152.
3Abbondanzieri et al., “Direct observation of base-pair stepping by RNA polymerase,” Nature 438, 460-465 (24 November 2005) | doi:10.1038/nature04268.
4Kollman et al., “Design principles of a bacterial signalling network,” Nature 438, 504-507 (24 November 2005) | doi:10.1038/nature04228.
5Drew Endy, “Foundations for engineering biology,” Nature 438, 449-453 (24 November 2005) | doi:10.1038/nature04342.
6For historical examples of engineering disciplines emerging from natural science, see our biographies of Faraday or Kelvin.
7Erika Check, “Synthetic biology: Designs on life,” Nature 438, 417-418 (24 November 2005) | doi:10.1038/438417a.
8Levskaya et al., “Synthetic biology: Engineering Escherichia coli to see light,” Nature 438, 441-442 (24 November 2005) | doi:10.1038/nature04405.
9It should be noted that the Kansas school board did not require teaching intelligent design, but specifically excluded it; they only allowed for scientific criticisms of evolution to be heard, and actually increased the teaching of evolution.  They also removed methodological naturalism from the definition of science, as do all other states.  See 11/08/2005
Let’s do a little thought experiment (pardon the oxymoron).  Let’s say a grad student at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich succeeds in remodeling some E. coli such that the colony swarms into a photograph image of whatever shadow falls on them.  Let’s also imagine that she surreptitiously watermarked her invention by encoding her name in the DNA of the new synthetically-engineered species.  Question: How would an independent researcher detect the intelligent design of the student?  Let’s proceed further in our story.  A biologist ignorant of the history of this bacterial species discovers it, and writes it up with a brief Darwinian just-so story about how the bacterium evolved this capability, and how the function might confer fitness.  Another scientist suspects the engineering and writes a paper rigorously defending his reasons for inferring this particular species was modified by an intelligent agent.  Question 2: which paper would Nature publish?
    This entry is extremely important to comprehend.  It basically illustrates that intelligent design is the future of biology.  Oh, they may not use the loaded words “intelligent” and “design” together, but the authors saturated these articles with de facto ID principles.  We might call it Lab-Implied Intelligent Design (LIMPID) or Virtual in vivo Intelligent Design (VIVID).  Enthusiasm will grow when AVID (Ardent Voices for Intelligent Design) stimulate a new generation of Fit, Energetic Researchers Vindicating Intelligent Design (FERVID).  When synthetically engineered biological products hit the market some day, we might call them Canned Intelligent Design (CANDID).  Most will think this is splendID, except for the remaining critics who will be seen for what they are: miserable, ornery, rancid badmouthers of ID (MORBID).  Like slobbering drunks, they have nothing to offer but froth and spit (11/21/2005).  Get them off the tracks before they get hurt by the new bullet train of design-inspired science.
Next headline on:  Cell BiologyIntelligent DesignAmazing Stories
Darwin and History:  “Of the revolutionary thinkers who have done the most to shape the intellectual history of the past century, two—Sigmund Freud and Karl Marx—are in eclipse today, and one—Albert Einstein—has been accepted into the canon of modern thought, even if most people still don’t understand what he was thinking.  Darwin alone remains unassimilated, provocative, even threatening to some....  Could God still be mad after all this time?” (emphasis added).  Source: Newsweek cover story 11/28/2005 by Jerry Adler; see MSNBC reprint.

On the Origin of Hee-Hees by Natural Selection   11/22/2005    
From slime to smile in 200 million years: some Darwinists feel they have explained the evolution of laughter.  In all seriousness, EurekAlert announced, “The first laugh: New study posits evolutionary origins of two distinct types of laughter.”  The story is about a new hypothesis by Matthew Gervais and David Sloan Wilson.  The origin of comedy, they explain, was no laughing matter:

Using empirical evidence from across disciplines, including theory and data from work on mirror neurons, evolutionary psychology, and multilevel selection theory, the researchers detail the evolutionary trajectory of laughter over the last 7 million yearsEvolutionarily elaborated from ape play-panting sometime between 4 million years ago and 2 million years ago, laughter arising from non-serious social incongruity promoted community play during fleeting periods of safety.  Such non-serious social incongruity, it is argued, is the evolutionary precursor to humor as we know it.
    However, neuropsychological and behavioral studies have shown that laughter can be more than just a spontaneous response to such stimuli.  Around 2 million years ago, human ancestors evolved the capacity for willful control over facial motor systems.  As a result, laughter was co-opted for a number of novel functions, including strategically punctuating conversation, and conveying feelings or ideas such as embarrassment and derision.
  (Emphasis added.)
Their work is to be published in the forthcoming Quarterly Review of Biology.  Perhaps their subtitle should be: Or, The Presentation of Funny Faces in the Giggle for Laugh.
What spoilsports the evolutionists are.  They take everything from the most sacred to the most enjoyable and turn it into ancestral ape antics.  Did you know that Darwin himself wrote a book on this in 1872?  (See the somewhat flawed, somewhat balanced Newsweek cover story on Darwin this week).  On the Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals was published 13 years after The Origin.  To a certain degree, this could be a somewhat worthwhile subject to study, but Charlie got some of his suckers to photograph themselves making all kinds of funny faces (see plates).  According to Janet Browne in Charles Darwin: The Power of Place (Princeton, 2002, p. 367), for instance, photographer Oscar Rejlander [see photos]...
struck histrionic attitudes—grief, pleasure, disgust, and so on—and either photographed himself with a timelapse device or got his wife to aid him.  The resulting pictures depended as much on comically exaggerated gesture and body position as on facial expression.  On the back of one picture he scribbled in pencil, “My wife insists upon me sending this for you, that your ladies may see that I can put on a more amiable expression.”  Rejlander’s wife posed for a photograph of a sneer (Darwin thought that sneering evolved from the expression of disgust).  Gamely, she allowed herself to be reproduced thus in Darwin’s volume.   (Emphasis added.)
All in the service of science, of course.  (Who knows; maybe Mrs. Rejlander was expressing her emotions at Darwinism—picture.)  This was all in the post-Origin period when Darwin’s new fan club was trying to evolutionize everything: the evolution of romance, the evolution of music, the evolution of religion, the evolution of grooming, the evolution of nose-picking, etc., doing their best to unite their eminent British fellow-citizens with their monkey past.  Science marches on.
    And so the tradition continues, with Gervais and Wilson looking for the first laugh in mythical serious-minded primates just beginning to discover what to do with their leisure time.  We don’t care who got the first laugh.  We want the last (see next story).
Next headline on:  DarwinismEarly ManDumb Ideas
The Rhetoric of Mockery   11/21/2005    
Some recent stories illustrate that human rhetoric has evolved from sophistry to philosophy – then back again.  (In ancient Greece, sophistry was criticized of being nothing more than the art of making your opponent look foolish.  Socrates, among others, questioned the value of such exercises and tried to elevate rhetoric to higher purposes.)  The rise of Intelligent Design (ID) has given the neo-sophists their latest target.  To some of them, nothing is sacred. 
  1. Party Hardy Against the Bible, Bush, Propriety and Aesthetics:  The New York Daily News Daily Dish depicted a bizarre portrait of the opening gala for the new “Darwin” exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History.  The event seemed more an odd concoction of anti-Bush politics, celebrity low-cut gowns, blasphemous rock, Bible bashing, gay advocacy and Saturday Night Live comedy than support for Darwin’s theory.  One of them even mocked Jesus.  Was this supposed to help attract visitors?
  2. Teach ID?  OK, We’ll Teach ID:  Kansas has acquiesced, and yes, will now teach intelligent design – as mythology.  LiveScience and MSNBC News continued their long series of anti-ID reporting with an A.P. story about professors at the University of Kansas who have added a new course to the Religious Studies Department, entitled, “Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design, Creationism and other Religious Mythologies.”  Paul Mirecki, the department chairman said, “The KU faculty has had enoughCreationism is mythologyIntelligent design is mythology.  It’s not science” (emphasis added in all quotations).  John Calvert, the pro-ID Kansas attorney, is not flustered.  He thinks the tactic will backfire and Mirecki will go down in history as a laughingstock.
  3. Hmmmph:  John Brookfield (U of Nottingham), wrote a book review of The Plausibility of Life by Gerhart and Kirshner in Current Biology (Volume 15, Issue 22, 22 November 2005, Pages R908-R910).  The book, as explained in the 10/31/2005 entry, raises some serious questions about the standard view of Darwinian evolution.  After exploring puzzles about adaptive variation, Brookfield chided the authors for questioning the standard paradigm, and gave his recommendation for how to scientifically deal with critics:
    Depressingly often, the alternative that the authors rule out is not a view of organisms coming from other evolutionary scientists, but a view that exists only in the imaginations of those determined to believe that evolution is impossible without intervention from an intelligent designer.  Some of the tone of the book flows from the authors regrettably living in a social milieu where they are forced to specifically refute claims from advocates of ‘creation science’ and ‘intelligent design’, rather than contemptuously ignoring them as we British tend to do.
  4. Dilbert Fans Turn Against Author:  Scott Adams is not your typical religious nut – quite the opposite.  All this usually irreverent icon-basher did was suggest on his Dilbert Blog recently that Darwin might have feet of clay, and was he in for a surprise.  The mud flew on P.Z. Myers’ Pharyngula blog, with words like idiotic, creepy, worthless, scary, kook, and ridiculous the most printable epithets from his erstwhile cartoon fans.  Myers’ last comment must have stung: “Maybe Adams isn’t a Wally.  He actually sounds more like a pointy-haired boss.”
        Scott Adams clarified his position with “Intelligent Design, Part 2” on Dilbert Blog.  He wasn’t espousing intelligent design, he said, but just exercising the freedom to doubt the Darwinists: “The people who purport to have evidence of evolution do a spectacular job of making themselves non-credible,” he said.  “To me, it’s like hiring a serial cannibal as a babysitter based on the fact that he PROMISES not to eat your kids despite having eaten all the other kids on the block. It might be a fact that he’s telling the truth.  The problem is that he’s not credible.”
  5. No More Mr. Nice Guy; Let’s Kick Some Butt:  According to Jonathan Witt writing for Discovery Institute, some evolutionists are getting downright gladiatorial.  Here’s what P.Z. Myers (U of Minnesota) recommended:
    Our only problem is that we aren’t martial enough, or vigorous enough, or loud enough, or angry enough.  The only appropriate responses should involve some form of righteous fury, much butt-kicking, and the public firing and humiliation of some teachers, many school board members, and vast numbers of sleazy far-right politicians.
    Sounds like the Darwinists are sending in their champion, Gluteus Maximus.  Jonathan may have proved the Survival of the Wittest with this line, however: “Modern evolutionary theory is less a cornerstone and more the busybody aunt – into everyone’s business and, all the while, very much insecure about her place in the home.”
Attempts by evolutionists to ridicule and marginalize their opposition may actually do more to promote it, Jonathan Witt opined.  “When leaders in Colonial America attempted to ban certain books, people rushed out to buy them.  It’s the ‘Banned in Boston’ syndrome,” he said.  “The more the Darwinists try to prohibit discussion of intelligent design, the more they pique the curiosity of students, parents and the general public.”
Do the Darwinists really think this kind of out-of-control behavior is going to help their cause?  We’re all taking notes for the historians.  When the Charlie idol collapses, we’re going to resurrect some of these braggadocio episodes as entertainment, or as lessons to would-be mockers of the 21st century.
    To informed observers, this all resembles one last drinking binge on a sinking ship.  Belshazzar, recall, drank wine out of the sacred golden vessels with a lot of laughter and chutzpah, but not for long.  The handwriting is on the wall again.  Darwinism has been weighed in the balances, and found wanting.
    The Babbleonians may soon see their downfall.  Perhaps their kingdom will be divided among the Mediators and the Perversions.  No matter what comes next, if you want to stand tall through it all, dare to be a Daniel.
Next headline on:  Darwinism and EvolutionIntelligent DesignBible and TheologyPolitics and Ethics
Crystals Envision Crusty Earth   11/20/2005    
Reuters reported that “Tiny zircon crystals dug up from ancient Australian deposits appear to have been formed right after the birth of the planet – a finding that suggests that early on, Earth had a cool crust much like today’s that could have harbored life, scientists said on Thursday.” (see MSNBC News).  This interpretation comes from hafnium dating of the crystals at 4.4 to 4.5 billion years old.  The summary on Science Daily called this “surprising” and said it overturns “a long-held theory that the early planet was either moon-like or dominated by oceans.”  According to the new interpretation, the earth had a cool crust only 100 million years after it formed.  Another study in 2001 suggested that water was present by 4.3 million years.  Some evolutionists seem pleased that the earth appears to have become habitable earlier than expected.
These folks need to read the RATE book (see 11/05/2005 entry).  They built their interpretation on a foundation of sand; their dating method cannot be trusted.  It won’t help the origin-of-life crowd anyway (09/15/2005).
Next headline on:  Dating MethodsGeology
Evolutionists Reduce Human Ideals to Molecules   11/20/2005    
Two recent stories illustrate the attempt by some evolutionary biologists to reduce complex human behaviors to chance events among molecules.
  1. You Are What You Get High On:  Michael Balter in ScienceNow asked, “Did endorphins make us more human?”  Pondering that question is a photo of a chimp and a naked ape (i.e., man) facing opposite one another in the pose of Rodin’s The Thinker.  Balter reported on research by Duke University scientists who found a large difference between apes and humans in the expression of an endorphin-precursor gene.  Endorphins are “opiatelike molecules involved in learning, the experience of pain, and social attachment and bonding.”  Presumably this implies our chimp brethren are less endowed in those areas.  “The team concludes that the pattern is a solid example of natural selection acting on the human lineage after it split from the chimp line from 5 million to 7 million years ago” [emphasis added in all quotations].  Some critics counter that it is “not yet clear what mental or behavioral traits were favored by selection.”  Bruce Lahn (U of Chicago) gave only mild criticism: “It is a bit early to say that these changes were key to what makes us human.  But it seems like a reasonable hypothesis.”  Balter left it at that.
  2. Patriotic GenesEurekAlert announced matter-of-factly, “Genes contribute to patriotism and group loyalty.”  J. Philippe Rushton of the Charles Darwin Research Institute has found a correlation between genetic similarities and group behavior.  At the lowest level, he thinks, this explains kinship behavior between identical twins and family members, but extends all the way up to clans, tribes, races and nationalities.  Rushton, a psychology professor at the University of Western Ontario, believes this is all clear if we look from the gene up.  The article explains: “Human social preferences, like mate choice and ethnic nepotism, are anchored in the evolutionary psychology of altruism.  Adopting a ‘gene’s eye’ point of view allows us to see that people’s favoritism to kin and similar others evolved to help replicate shared genes.”  Rushton’s article in the October issue of Nations and Nationalism was, according to EurekAlert, about “how genes affect group loyalty and patriotism.”
Is there any doubt left about why we need to “teach the controversy” about Darwinian evolution?  Look at what these Darwinists did.  Like dispassionate gods on Mt. Olympus, they reduced everything about you and me to our genes, but exempted themselves.  Pretentiously and arrogantly, they explained some of the deepest ideals of human behavior in terms of chance consequences of molecular happenstance in some dim evolutionary past.  If that were true, their own rationality would be worthless.  It’s hypocritical and logically impossible to proffer rational explanations for why rationality is a phantom.  If rationality is reducible to molecules in motion, it is not rationality at all.
    We don’t need intelligent design moved out of the science class into the philosophy class, we need some philosophy moved into the science class.  We need cogent thinkers and logicians to interrupt Darwinists when they make foolish, self-refuting statements.  We need them to distinguish between observable science and religious or philosophical pronouncements made in the name of science that go far beyond the evidence.  Now read the next entry.
Next headline on:  DarwinismEarly ManGeneticsDumb Ideas
Human Genome Project: A “Worthwhile Failure”   11/20/2005    
The Human Genome Project (HGP) was filled with promise.  Walter Gilbert claimed in 1992 that it would bring about “a change in our philosophical understanding of ourselves... one will be able to pull a CD out of one’s pocket and say, ‘Here’s a human being; it’s me!’”  Why does philosopher-biologist Sahotra Sarkar consider that prospect laughable?
    Michael A. Goldman (Dept. of Biology, San Francisco State) reviewed a book by Sarkar in Science,1 Molecular Models of Life: Philosophical Papers on Molecular Biology (MIT Press, 2005).  Goldman considers Sarkar (U of Texas, Austin), who holds dual appointments in philosophy and integrative biology, “a key thinker in the philosophy of molecular biology”:
One of his contentions is that the concept of information flow in biology is problematic.  Sarkar repeatedly mentions the incompleteness or inadequacy of the central dogma of molecular biology.  Although the idea of a genome as a program that spontaneously unfolds to produce a living organism is clearly too simplistic, that hardly renders the notion of information flow without value.  A computer program, too, is totally dependent on its physical context in hardware and an operating system that can interpret it; its output is only as predictable as its input and can be rendered seemingly unpredictable by a temporary power surge or a scratch across a magnetic disk.  We can recognize different inputs--including chance, environmental influences, and developmental context (e.g., maternal cytoplasmic effects)--in the interpretation of the genetic program, and we can even accept that some lines of that program (introns, intergenic regions) are of unknown function, without forgetting the program’s key role in development.   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
Here is where Goldman touches on Sarkar’s attitude about the Human Genome Project:
Perhaps because of his bleak outlook on the nature of information flow, Sarkar considers the Human Genome Project somewhat of a worthwhile failure.  He notes how controversial the idea was even among geneticists and how tenuous the prospects for a full understanding of human biology and an incredible ability to cure diseases were.  In retrospect, the project’s early proponents may be forgiven their exaggerated promises.  Few geneticists have ever proclaimed that day-to-day human behavior could be explained simply by gene interactions, and many have argued against attempts to connect behavioral traits and genetics.  Nor, as Sarkar points out, did we imagine that there were so few genes, such a complex relation between genes and the protein forms they encode, and so much genetic material of unknown function.  Nonetheless, we must understand that we can gain valuable insights from reading the human genome in all its variety.
Goldman found the book too incohesive to recommend it, except for the last chapter.  That’s where Sarkar surveyed the history of positivism about understanding human biology and behavior in a reductionist sense.  That’s also where he reacted to Gilbert’ prospect of holding “me on a CD” –
“Today the claim seems laughable.  None of the promises of Gilbert’s radical genetic reductionism has been borne out.  Proponents of the HGP promised enormous immediate medical benefits.  Arguably, at least, there have not been any.  Gilbert routinely promised the birth of a new theoretical biology.  Instead, the emphasis now is on informatics....”  On the upside, Sarkar notes that at “the very least, the HGP has killed the facile genetic reductionism of the heyday of developmental genetics.”  His dim view contrasts sharply with Robert Sinsheimer’s recent proclamation that the project “succeeded even beyond our hopes.”
That chapter, Goldman feels, is “an ideal capstone reading for my senior undergraduates and graduate students.”
1Michael A. Goldman, “Philosophy of Science: Genomic Meanings,” Science, 18 November 2005: Vol. 310. no. 5751, p. 1121, DOI: 10.1126/science.1120191.
So two millennia of debate about reductionism and determinism have come to this.  If human biology cannot be reduced to terms of its basic physical components, but rather must be understood as information flow comparable to a computer program, and if that program can only be understood in its context of the hardware and operating system needed to interpret it, well then – it seems like stock in the intelligent design movement is about to skyrocket.  Obtain your intellectual shares now.
Next headline on:  HealthHuman BodyGeneticsIntelligent Design
Out-of-Africa Theory Becomes More Convoluted   11/20/2005    
The old simple story that early modern humans migrated out of Africa 40,000 years ago and took over Europe from brutish Neanderthals just got more complicated.  A new theory mentioned in National Geographic News now proposes that they took a side trip to India first, 70,000 years ago.  After knocking off Heidelberg Man there, they moved west 30,000 years later and took over Europe.  This is the new story line proposed by Michael Petraglia and Hannah James of Cambridge.  Petraglia said, “I realized that, my god, modern humans might have wiped out Homo heidelbergensis in India.  Modern humans may have been responsible for wiping out all sorts of ancestors around the world.”
We’ll award that line Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week.  To interpret stories like this, you have to understand that it is all just a game.  The object is to get mentioned in National Geographic, preferably on the cover, by saying something just controversial enough to draw attention to oneself without ever throwing the whole enterprise of evolutionary paleoanthropology into doubt.
Next headline on:  Early ManDumb Ideas
Eyes on the Prize: Science Sees Gold in Biomimetics   11/19/2005    
A fly eye made the cover of Science this week.1  It’s not that the compound eye is interesting to entomologists; MSNBC News picked up on the real message: “Animal eyes inspire new technology – Researchers learn optics lessons from biology.”  The cover story is about biomimetics, or reverse-engineering nature.  Scientists are looking for ways to imitate the energy-efficient, densely-packed, space-saving technologies exhibited in animal eyes to improve artificial sensors, microscopes and cameras.  The authors of the cover story explained their mission:
Observing systems in nature has inspired humans to create technological tools that allow us to better understand and imitate biologyBiomimetics, in particular, owes much of its current development to advances in materials science and creative optical system designs.  New investigational tools, such as those for microscopic imaging and chemical analyses, have added to our understanding of biological optics.  Biologically inspired optical science has become the emerging topic among researchers and scientists.
From the ten kinds of visual systems featured among living animals, scientists will have to start easy.  They won’t attempt to model the complex retinal eyes of mammals or cephalopods, but will start with the prism-like compound eyes of insects.
    In the article, the eyes of various animals are described, as well as properties of our own human variety.  Lobster eyes might help us build better X-ray telescopes.  Brittlestars might help us focus light with liquids.  Beetles might help us build better infrared sensors.  The possibilities seem endless; improvements in cameras and sensing devices are just some examples of benefits to be gained from searching “nature’s wisdom.”  The authors conclude that the time is ripe for a creative synergy between man and beast:
Imitating nature is a complex endeavor, and a blind biomimetic approach is not the best methodology.  Instead, molecular-level studies of the biological development of natural vision systems are key.  For example, current infrared sensors can distinguish more than what human eyes can see, but they require a sophisticated cooling system to work.  Somehow, insects have this same ability without the limitation of temperature control. This is but one example of how it is primarily nature’s designs that are superior to man-made equivalents.  However, if we are able to decode the designs, then the combination of our creativity in materials and nature’s wisdom is [a] synergistic one with incredible potential.
In another article in the same issue,2 George Mayer (U of Washington) discussed efforts to mimic the rigid composite materials found in molluscs and sponges.  The biological materials are enviable because of their viscoelastic properties, ability to resist the propagation of cracks, and ability to sustain loads without strain.  Mimicking those properties are challenging enough, but living systems have abilities far more interesting.  Mayer ended: “Of immense significance, too, are features that have been observed, but researchers have thus far been unable to replicate in synthetic systems, such as the ability for self-repair and the exceptional tenacity at interfaces.”
1Luke P. Lee and Robert Szema, “Inspirations from Biological Optics for Advanced Photonic Systems,” Science, 18 November 2005: Vol. 310. no. 5751, pp. 1148 - 1150; DOI: 10.1126/science.1115248.
2George Mayer, “Rigid Biological Systems as Models for Synthetic Composites,” Science, 18 November 2005: Vol. 310. no. 5751, pp. 1144 - 1147, DOI: 10.1126/science.1116994.
There was no mention of evolution in thess papers; not even of natural selection, Darwin, or millions of years.  Who needs it?  This is the cutting-edge of science and technology for the 21st century: a design-inspired approach to science that not only will bring exciting new benefits to society but will help us “understand and imitate biology.”  This is exactly the kind of “methodological engineering” that William Dembski predicted in The Design Revolution (IVP, 2004, p. 312) would show that ID has the power to generate fruitful research.
    If you are a tired Darwinist reading this, here is your way out.  Kick the Charlie habit and get in on the leading edge of biomimetics.  No more need for storytelling or fantasizing – just real-world research with “incredible potential” – and it looks incredibly fun, too.  It will push technology to the limit.  Field biologists can still go out and collect species for study, but now with a new vision instead of force-fitting everything into imaginary phylogenetic trees.  Lab technicians can devise new ways to measure and study phenomena.  Profs and grad students can stay gainfully busy.  It’s the cure for overspecialization: think of the new interdisciplinary labs that could be built (10/29/2005).  Dollars and research papers will flow.  The government would love to fund this kind of research.  If you can propose spin-offs for the military, antiterrorism, medicine, or “green” technology, your future is secure.  It will take the pressure off the origins battle.  Politicians, theologians, teachers and the public will love you for it.  It’s a complete win-win situation for science and for humankind, while old worries about Darwinism, like dead autumn leaves, will simply drop off and wither away for historians to sweep up.
Next headline on:  Intelligent DesignBiomimeticsMammalsTerrestrial ZoologyMarine BiologyAmazing Stories
Catholic Astronomer Takes On the Pope, and Other ID Battles   11/19/2005    
Right after Pope Benedict XVI essentially affirmed intelligent design (11/10/2005), his court astronomer rejected it.  The Rev. George Coyne, Jesuit director of the Vatican Observatory, sounded like he was reading the NCSE playbook: “Intelligent design isn’t science even though it pretends to be.... If you want to teach it in schools, intelligent design should be taught when religion or cultural history is taught, not science.”  LiveScience, as could be expected after their series against I.D., gave this story prominence.  Coyne continued arguing that the faithful should abandon the concept of a dictator God or designer God creating a Newtonian “clockwork universe” and instead embrace the concept of God as “encouraging parent” using evolution to achieve his ends – allowing, participating and loving, but not intervening.  Evolution News remarked that the news media, picking up on this story, seems more Catholic than the Pope.  Bruce Chapman explained why it is incorrect to claim Coyne’s view represents the official Vatican position.
    The contest between Darwinian evolution and intelligent design still shows no sign of abating.  Here are some other recent developments:
  • Bio-Advocacy:  The journal BioScience contained two articles and an editorial attacking intelligent design and strategizing ways to defeat it in science classrooms (see 11/01/2005 entry for one of the articles).
  • Cornell Students vs. Their President:  The senior editor of the Cornell Sun responded to the President’s anti-ID speech by reporting about the ID debate on campus, listing faculty members supporting and opposing the new ideas.  Xiaowei Cathy Tang found that it’s not just students, but some “faculty members urged the University and the nation to view I.D. as a valid challenge to some aspects of evolution.”
  • Conservatives for Darwin:  CEH readers wrote in about anti-ID articles in the Washington Post by noted conservative columnists George Will and Charles Krauthammer, who pulled no punches with, “Let’s be clear.  Intelligent design may be interesting as theology, but as science it is a fraud.”  He called it “ridiculous to make evolution the enemy of God.”  He finds it “more elegant, more simple, more brilliant, more economical, more creative, indeed more divine” to picture, in the beginning, “a single double-stranded molecule, pliable and fecund enough to give us mollusks and mice, Newton and Einstein” even if it also produced the Kansas State Board of Education, he ended with a smirk.  Jonathan Witt on EvolutionNews claimed all Krauthammer did was knock down a straw man.
  • Whose Claptrap?:  Tennesseean Tom Bohs wrote a torrid anti-ID editorial for the Jackson Sun, but his litany of ridicule, straw man tactics and ad hominems might backfire for some readers.  Sample: “If you believe the Earth is flat, well, I have a theory of evolution for you: intelligent design.  This is the pseudo-scientific claptrap some Christian fundamentalists are trying to foist off on society and have taught in our public school biology classes.  Don’t fall for the sales pitch.  It isn’t science.”
  • Toe-Dipping in Indiana:  Mary Beth Schneider wrote in the Indianapolis Star about GOP state assemblymen who are testing the waters about intelligent design.  “We were trying to see if this is a hot-button issue for people,” said Bill Friend, Indiana House Majority Leader, and one of 36 Republican legislators who included the issue on a survey.
  • UI no IDThe Tribune reported on over 150 University of Iowa faculty who have signed a statement opposing intelligent design.
  • The Sun Will Come Up, Tomorrow:  In a Malaysia newspaper, Dr. Stefan Tan claimed that Darwinism is dying.  He ended, “As one who believes that the universe is not an accident (the probabilities weigh against it), I believe it is a matter of time before macro-evolution will be nailed down in the coffin by an ever-increasing preponderance of evidences now trickling in.  Some might prefer to wait all night for the sun to rise but do we have that much time before we believe?”
  • Get It Right, Reporters:  Frustrated at repeated misrepresentations in the media about the Kansas science standards, Evolution News listed the definitions of science in the standards of all 50 states.  The New York Times and other newspapers had claimed that Kansas made a dangerous change to its definition of science by robbing it of “natural explanations” for phenomena; Ker Than in LiveScience accused Kansas of bringing “supernatural explanations” into science, while MSNBC News portrayed it as a “subtle” but “brilliant” tactic to “open the door for divine interventions.”  The record shows that, prior to the vote, Kansas had been the only state embedding methodological naturalism into the definition of science.  The new definition actually is closer to the definition in 40 other states, while 9 states did not even specify a definition.
When you look at who acts cool and rational, and who strives for honesty and accuracy in reporting, and who thinks instead of repeating sound bites, there really is no contest.  That the Darwin Party must resort to constant mudslinging and power plays can only mean one thing: they are running scared.
    As to the Vatican astronomer, we’ll have to wait and see how that battle plays out.  Father Coyne fails to see the contradiction in what he said.  Everything characteristic of the Catholic faith involves God’s actual intervention in the affairs of mankind: the Creation, the Fall, the virgin birth, and the resurrection, to name a few.  The Darwinists want unguided, directionless, purposeless evolution; how can that possibly be reconciled with Catholicism without schizophrenia?  It appears that Coyne is more wedded to his scientific reputation than his faith, and more loyal to Pope Charlie (02/13/2004) than to Pope Benedict.  Press coverage of their disparate views may force a confrontation.  Does it matter?  Only to Catholics, and to Darwinists desperately seeking quotes from religious celebrities to shield their naked materialism.
Next headline on:  DarwinismIntelligent DesignTheology
Butterflies Invented LEDs First   11/18/2005    
Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) were a prized invention of physicists, improved greatly in 2001, but now we find butterflies invented them first.  We already knew that butterfly wings achieve their shimmering iridescence by means of photonic crystals (01/29/2003), as do some birds (10/13/2003), but now it appears that the butterflies have even more exotic tricks up their sleeves: they have true LEDs.
    Pete Vukusic of Exeter and Ian Hooper of MIT were startled to see the wings of African swallowtails shine super-bright under ultraviolet light.  They reported in Science this week that the photonic crystals absorb UV and re-radiate it in a blue-green portion of the visible spectrum where the butterfly’s eye is particularly sensitive.  Not only that, the photonic crystals are shaped in a cylindrical way to prevent side-scattering, are spaced for maximum effect, and contain reflective surfaces to focus the light straight out of the tubular shafts.  This makes them “all but identical in design to the LED,” said Vukusic.  Being able to emit powerful light without a semiconductor or power source makes the feat “doubly efficient in a way,” he said.  It’s not just an analogy calling this structure an LED, he explained – that is really how it works.  The researchers feel that their results will help engineers improve manmade devices.  “When you study these things and get a feel for the photonic architecture available, you really start to appreciate the elegance with which nature put some of these things together,” he said.  Sources: BBC News, MSNBC, LiveScience and News@Nature.
There was little mention of evolution in any of the papers, except that the BBC article stated that the butterflies “had been using this method for 30 million years,” and News@Nature mentioned in passing that the system had “evolved to direct the emitted light outwards” without venturing to say how.  All the evolutionists seemed so amazed that a butterfly figured this out.  Even Ker Than, Mr. Dogmatic Darwinist and ID-Basher, didn’t dare speculate about how this precision optical system evolved.  To top that, Nature, that Darwinese foghorn, actually subtitled their piece, “Butterflies shine brighter by design.”  Cowabunga!  Are they beginning to see the light?
    Think about the fact that a butterfly goes through an egg, caterpillar, and chrysalis stage.  In that last stage, all its guts are transformed into precision LEDs, flight software and hardware, vision, incredibly-sensitive olfactory systems and much, much more.
    Kids should get out with their butterfly nets and learn some creation science like they always have.  Only now, they should learn some physics and optical electronics, too.  Sounds like some good Science Fair material here.
Next headline on:  PhysicsTerrestrial ZoologyAmazing Stories
SETI: Search for Educational Targets Inc.   11/18/2005    
SETI may be the laughingstock of Congress, refused funding since William Proxmire gave it his Golden Fleece Award in the 1980s, but privately it is moving apace.  The Science Channel gave it prominence in its weekly report Friday, visiting with pioneering signaler and listener Frank Drake.  It surveyed everything from the first humble attempts to listen and broadcast, to the upcoming hardware and software that will increase the search capability exponentially.
    For SETI Thursday on Space.com, Pamela Harman, SETI Education and Outreach Manager for the SETI Institute, detailed the many ways her organization is teaching the young about SETI and all its ancillary subjects.  In particular, the SETI Institute and its like-minded organizations are teaching teachers how to provide the foundation for SETI thinking, with courses like Understanding and Teaching Evolution, Extreme Life Forms on Earth and Elsewhere, Becoming Human: Hominid Evolution from Voyages Through Time, and Origins: The Questions in Life Science.  “Our astrobiology expertise is of great interest,” she said, “as the perpetual student lament ‘Why does this matter?’ can be answered.”  Her answer recalls Carl Sagan’s famous phrase.  “The response in all disciplines from astronomy and physics, to chemistry and biology is ‘We are star stuff!’”
Speak for yourself, babe.  This oft-repeated line suggests a modification of the old distinction between stuff and junk.  Junk is the stuff natural selection throws away, and stuff is the junk natural selection keeps.
    Aside from the fact that it is hard to envision any teenager getting excited over being told he or she is star stuff – unless they think their talent has finally been recognized – the reductionist, naturalistic philosophy inherent in this epigram betrays profound ignorance of western philosophy going back millennia.  Only recently have materialists gained ascendency in intellectual circles, and atheistic materialism permeates SETI through and through.  Their forefathers are Democritus, Lucretius and Epicurus, with few takers till John Locke and David Hume built their systems on sense experience alone.  Others dabbling with atheistic materialism were shunned or outmaneuvered with trenchant rational arguments by philosophers as varied as Thomas Aquinas, Rene Descartes, Thomas Reid, and Immanuel Kant.  Even most Enlightenment deists did not deny a rational design principle in the universe.  The early Newtonians and proponents of the mechanical philosophy were nearly all Christians to various degrees.  They never would have suggested that “star stuff” gave rise to the rational human soul.
    Without even considering the long history of theological arguments for natural theology, great philosophers have long debunked atheism with finesse.  Thomas Reid and Kant, for example, undermined the empiricist viewpoints of the materialists from first principles.  They argued forcefully that such views are reductionist and self-refuting.  To even speak about observation and empiricism presupposes a rational power that is not reducible to sense experience.  In addition, nothing inherent in the physical mechanisms of the body can account for the operation the mind or grant its rational arguments legitimacy.  The same arguments can be wielded just as effectively today against the modern materialists.  Unfortunately, they rarely get a hearing.  Atheists routinely run amok in the science journals with tall tales about game theory producing human morals, DNA developing into souls, and collections of neurons generating the mind.  The peer review process fails to call them on the carpet for illogic or carelessness, and so they get away with it; why?  Because Darwin’s bulldogs succeeded long ago in gaining control of the scientific institutions and codifying their world view into the very definition of science.
    SETI is part and parcel of a conspiracy to create a culture of materialists.  If it were not so, they would engage their critics and opponents in serious debate.  Instead, just like the astrobiologists and evolutionary psychologists, they shun scrutiny and usurp authority by co-opting the banner of “science” and conflating their materialism with the otherwise worthy goals of scientific research.  To a person, they idolize Father Charlie, because he liberated them from the need for both scientific and philosophical rigor.  Without apologies to Dawkins, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually-foolfilled atheist.
    Now that the Intelligent Design Movement has mounted the first volleys against the Darwinist naturalistic empire, the materialists are resorting to subterfuge instead of honorably engaging their opponents on the intellectual battlefield.  Pamela Harman has revealed that a huge educational program for the recruitment of young minds into philosophical materialism is underway: the Search for Educational Targets to Indoctrinate.  All that is necessary for foolishness to triumph is for good philosophers to think nothing.
Next headline on:  SETIOrigin of LifeEvolutionEducation
A New Way to Make Stars, Or One Old Way Discredited?   11/18/2005    
Several news sources sounded a rather triumphant note that astronomers are figuring out how stars form.  In actuality, the paper by Krumholz, McKee and Klein in Nature1 did more to discredit a competitive theory than to establish their own.  That competitive theory, ironically, is called “competitive accretion” and posits that clumps of material add up as they collapse.  The astronomers claim that this theory, popular since the 1990s especially in Europe, made unrealistic assumptions about initial masses, collapse rates, and turbulence.  Also, the competing model predicts ejected brown dwarfs moving at high speeds, which are not observed.
    For these reasons, the authors feel the competitive accretion model is a “dead theory.”  That leaves the other model standing by default: core accretion.  A press release from Lawrence Livermore Labs about this paper states that much remains to be learned: “Star formation is a very rich problem, involving questions such as how stars like the sun formed, why a very large number of stars are in binary star systems, and how stars 10 to 100 times the mass of the sun form,” McKee said (emphasis added).
    Meanwhile, the Spitzer Space Telescope has been showing itself a worthy competitor to Hubble in photography skill.  A press release from Jet Propulsion Laboratory showed a blazing region in Cassiopeia captioned, “Cosmic Mountains of Creation.”  They claim it is a region of active star formation similar to that in the Eagle Nebula famously imaged by Hubble (but see 05/15/2002 entry).
1Krumholz, McKee and Klein, “The formation of stars by gravitational collapse rather than competitive accretion,” Nature 438, 332-334 (17 November 2005) | doi:10.1038/nature04280.
We haven’t heard from the opponents yet whether they will be able to support their view and shoot holes in the core accretion model.  When you think about it, diffuse gas and dust have a lot to overcome in forming a star.  Gravity and shock waves are the only formative forces.  On the way in, the dust heats up, pushing outward, magnetic fields and turbulence oppose collapse, and increasing pressure, increasing rotation, and angular momentum fight the formation process.  Getting the supermassive stars is hard for both models, and why do so many binaries form?  Many articles glibly speak of “regions of active star formation” with confidence vastly exceeding theoretical and observational understanding.  If scientists would just learn to admit more often what they don’t know and speak a little more humbly, it would be a worthy development.
Next headline on:  Stellar Astronomy
Winter Plant’s Thermostat Keeps It Cozy As a Skunk   11/17/2005    
Skunk cabbage.  Pew.  Do you like the meditative name “Zen plant” better?  Well, meditate on how this amazing plant keeps warm while it emerges through the last snows of winter.  Skunk cabbage is one of two plants known to regulate its body temperature.  Science Now reported on research by Japanese scientists who studied its thermostat. 
First, they tracked the spadix [central stalk] temperatures of two wild populations of skunk cabbage over time and compared them to the air temperature.  After making sure the fluctuations were not just random noise, the team determined that the plant used only two or three pieces of information, or variables, to regulate its internal temperature.  That meant the plant‘s thermostat had to follow a fairly simple rule, perhaps like the oven in your kitchen.  If a high-end oven gets too hot, it turns itself off; it may also track how fast its temperature is rising or falling and the temperature of the kitchen outside, making adjustments accordingly.
The photo caption calls the skunk cabbage “Nature’s Oven” and states, “Skunk cabbage uses a simple mathematical formula to keep itself warm.”  The article admired the research, but said a bigger question remains: finding how these two or three variables work at the molecular level.
Plants are better at math than some scientists.  Even if we uncover the mechanism in detail, it would beg the question of how this ability got there in the first place.  Scientists who don’t want to think about that could at least work on emulating the clean, efficient source of energy derived from sunshine, air and water.
Next headline on:  Plants and BotanyAmazing Stories
Darwin Lovers Unite Against ID   11/17/2005    
Pictures of Darwin looking like a wise guru draped in white hair seem to adorn many articles attacking intelligent design.  With 2009 being the Darwin’s 200th birthday and the 150th anniversary of The Origin, Bruce H. Weber in Nature remarked, “Impending anniversaries and the trial over ‘intelligent design’ make this a good time to revisit Darwin.”  Here are a few examples of recent articles from scientific journals and news sources lifting up the visage of Charles Darwin as a standard against I.D.
  • Darwin on Display:  Ker Than got a private tour of the new “Darwin” exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History and reported his experiences on LiveScience.  “‘Darwin’ will be the most comprehensive exhibit ever mounted on the British naturalist, whose ideas transformed biology and sparked a religious debate that is playing out in courtrooms, statehouses and school board meetings across the United States,” he wrote, filling the article as usual with attacks against ID.  Than’s second article on LiveScience described his preview before the exhibit opens Nov. 19.  A portrait of “the white-bearded sage” is prominently placed at the top of both articles.
  • The Nature of DarwinNature this week highlighted Darwin alongside its news entry, “Day of judgment for intelligent design,”1 that compared the results in Kansas and Dover, Pennsylvania.  Also included in this issue were book reviews of two new anthologies of Darwin’s four major books, and a review of a book about the evolution of human language that begins with a discussion of Darwin’s views on the subject.  There was also a review of an art exhibit in Amsterdam about animals, with the comment, “Charles Darwin changed the way animals were viewed in art.”
  • Implied DarwinScience2 had no Darwin portraits this week, but discussed “teaching evolution” in a news item contrasting Dover and Kansas.  Constance Holden noted that the margin of victory for the slate of 8 Democrats who defeated the Dover incumbents was extremely narrow.  A photo contrasted two billboards, one for the incumbents and one for the challengers, neither of which mentioned the evolution issue.  She quoted a pundit who said, “The bottom line is that nearly half of the community still feel that an alternate perspective to evolution should be presented to high school students.”  The new board members are aware of that, and are apparently not making evolution a frontline issue.  Meanwhile, back in Kansas, board member Steve Abrams faced his critics in what Tom Magnuson called an “absolute must read” – an editorial in Education News explaining why the critics have no case.

1Geoff Brumfiel, “Day of judgment for intelligent design,” Nature 438, 267 (17 November 2005) | doi:10.1038/438267a.
2Constance Holden, “Teaching Evolution: Antievolutionists Win One in Kansas, Lose Eight Seats in Dover,” Science, 18 November 2005: Vol. 310. no. 5751, p. 1105, DOI: 10.1126/science.310.5751.1105a.
Dear Old Darwin is more than just a historical figure to the Darwin Party.  He is part father figure, part exalted leader, and part god.  The various tribes are gathering in earnest, doing the Ghost of Charlie Dance to drive out the ID invaders.  The invaders, however, are not trying to deprive them of their heritage.  They just want an honest powwow instead of terrorism.
Next headline on:  DarwinismIntelligent DesignEducation
Blurb Face-Off   11/17/2005    
Here is a real announcement for an anti-ID speech in Irvine, California.  In the commentary that follows, we have made a mirror image of it, creating a fictional ad circa 1860 for a speech against Darwinism.  The reader can decide which one best fits the historical, cultural, and political developments related to ideas about origins.
Creationism in Camouflage: The “Intelligent Design” Deception
Dr. Keith Lockitch
Free Public Event
For decades creationists have sought to replace evolution with the Book of Genesis.  But defenders of evolution have consistently prevailed in the schools and the courts of law.  This struggle for intellectual survival has led to the evolution of a new “species” of creationist, better adapted to its inhospitable environment.  The new Creationism goes by the name of “Intelligent Design” and poses a greater danger than old-style Creationism.  In this talk Dr. Lockitch will examine the Intelligent Design movement focusing on its similarities and differences with standard creationism.  By hiding its religious nature in a cloak of pseudo-science, the movement seeks to make itself more palatable to intellectuals and the general public.  And because the collapse of philosophy has left today’s academics—including the most passionate and vocal defenders of evolution—incapable of answering its most fundamental arguments, the doors of our colleges and schools are ominously open to primitive mysticism masquerading as science.
And now, the flipside.
Atheism in Camouflage: The “Natural Selection” Deception
Dr. Key Unlocker
Free Public Event
For decades atheists have sought to replace natural theology with naturalistic stories of evolution.  But defenders of creation have consistently prevailed in the schools and the courts of law.  This struggle for intellectual credibility has led to the creation of a new “kind” of atheist, better skilled at subterfuge.  The new Atheism goes by the name of “Natural Selection” and poses a greater danger than old-style Atheism.  In this talk Dr. Unlocker will examine the Natural Selection movement focusing on its similarities and differences with older varieties of evolutionism.  By hiding its atheistic nature in a cloak of unproved generalizations, the movement seeks to make itself more palatable to intellectuals and the general public.  And because the collapse of strong churches has left today’s academics—including the most passionate and vocal defenders of natural theology—incapable of answering its most fundamental arguments, the doors of our colleges and schools are ominously open to unrestrained speculation masquerading as science.

Does Gene Expression Evolve?    11/17/2005  
“Mutation is the ultimate source of biological diversity because it generates the variation that fuels evolution,” wrote four scientists in Nature November 10.1  Conventionally, theorists have focused on gene mutations for that fuel; what about mutations to gene expression?  That’s what they set out to discover.
    One would think that positive natural selection would drive gene expression.  If nothing else, neutral mutations would be expected to accumulate over time.  Looking at fruit flies and worms, however, they found less than anticipated.  This was a surprise to them, “suggesting that stabilizing selection has a larger role than drift in shaping the evolution of gene expression.”  Stabilizing selection is a conservative effect.  A perturbation in one part of the gene expression network might be counterbalanced by another, such that the overall developmental pattern is unchanged.  This leads to phenotypic stability called canalization.  Though their title and conclusion hyped plasticity, they discovered stability:

In summary, D. melanogaster has a broad mutational capacity for changes in gene expression, in both magnitude and genomic extent, that could potentially provide ample raw material for evolutionary diversification.  However, although they vary among closely related species, gene expression patterns are relatively stable.  In Caenorhabditis elegans, genetic variances of gene expression are likewise much less than the neutral expectation.  The convergence of this observation in two groups of organisms that diverged in the Precambrian and have different reproductive and life-history strategies indicates that stabilizing selection and structural processes, including canalization, physical and developmental constraints, and correlated responses, govern gene expression evolution.   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)

1Scott A. Rifkin, David Houle, Junhyong Kim and Kevin P. White, “A mutation accumulation assay reveals a broad capacity for rapid evolution of gene expression,” Nature 438, 220-223 (10 November 2005) | doi:10.1038/nature04114
Anyone see evolution here?  Stabilizing selection is not the kind Darwin wanted.  It’s like those displays in appliance stores where a beach ball is suspended above a blower.  The ball spins and gyrates, but the higher pressure around the flowing air holds the ball in place.  The evidence suggests that organisms are robust against perturbations in gene expression.  Two similar species of fruitflies and worms maintained very stable patterns of gene expression despite these evolutionists’ claim the creatures diverged in the Precambrian.  That’s a lot of un-evolution for 200 million years.  The rest of the bluff about “mutational capacity” providing “raw material” for evolution was just verbal turbulence flowing past a Darwinian beach ball suspended in mid-air. 
Next headline on:  GeneticsEvolution
News from the Cretaceous   11/16/2005    
Here are some recent stories about extinct reptiles and bird-like creatures from the age of dinosaurs.
  1. T. Rex Smelled Good:  A story in Science1 listed evidence that Tyrannosaurus rex had a large olfactory bulb, giving it a good sense of smell.  Analysis of the visual and auditory parts of the skull suggest that it also excelled at sight and hearing: “new studies show that the tyrant lizard’s sensory apparatus was indeed fit for a king,” wrote Erik Stokstad.  Phillip Currie (U of Alberta) was impressed: “The more we look at T. rex, the more sophisticated it is.”  There was no mention of evolution in the article.
  2. It’s a Bird – It’s a Plane:  After researchers suggested last month that the odd Chinese feathered fossil Microraptor gui flew like a biplane (10/24/2005), a fight broke out in Nature.2  Kevin Padian and Ken Dial gave seven reasons why the evidence does not support the idea, and complained that the researchers should not have claimed it supported the arboreal (tree-down) theory for the origin of flight.  “It is recognized that the arboreal versus cursorial dichotomy of models for the origin of bird flight is not capable of resolution,” they said, “and should have been abandoned long ago.  Rather, the origin of the flight stroke is the central problem in the origin of flight, and so far nothing has been brought to light to indicate that Microraptor has any bearing on this question.”  The Chinese are sticking to their story and deny the debate is dead.  They believe that Microraptor argues against the cursorial (ground-up) theory.  They also said that Microraptor had the same flight capabilities as Archaeopteryx.
  3. Missing Mosasaur Link?  A press release from Southern Methodist University told about a fossil find by an amateur of a mosasaur-like animal with short stubby legs.  LiveScience reprinted the claim that it represents a missing link between limbs and fins.
  4. The Early Turtle Gets the LimbBBC News reported a fossil leg of an “early turtle” claimed to be 120 million years old.  They think the new species was partly adapted to land and partly to sea.
  5. Prairie Dinosaurs:  There wasn’t supposed to be grass when the dinosaurs roamed, but now it’s been found in their droppings, reported LiveScience.  Titanosaur coprolites showed phytoliths that indicate the presence of grasses in their diet.  “This discovery could also cause a major shake-up in dinosaur dioramas around the world,” the article says.  Perhaps vistas of sauropods grazing alongside the buffalo?

1Erik Stokstad, “Tyrannosaurus rex Gets Sensitive,” Science, Vol 310, Issue 5750, 966-967 , 11 November 2005, [DOI: 10.1126/science.310.5750.966].
2Brief Communications Arising, “Origin of flight: Could ‘four-winged’ dinosaurs fly?”, Nature 438, E3-E4 (17 November 2005) | doi:10.1038/nature04355.
In most of these stories, the researchers delved beyond the data into imagination.  Creatures adapted to their many and varied environments do not necessarily imply common ancestry.  If we must assume the mosasaur-like animal was evolving into a sea creature, for instance, does this mean beaver paws are evolving into fins?  Many animal groups have representatives that live on either sea or land, or both.  There are sea snakes, sea turtles, sea lions, sea otters, sea iguanas, sea spiders, sea birds and Sea Peoples (that’s what historians call the ancestors of the Philistines).  Biodiversity does not presuppose Darwinism; it is what Darwinism needs to explain.  None of these stories explain how the highly-adapted, complex structures of the creatures arose in the first place.
    The fun part was the spat between the Chinese and Kevin Padian and Ken Dial (Mr. Aerofoil-Partridge; see 12/22/2003) over whether the lizard flapped its arms on the way up the hill, or on the way down from the tree limb.  Come back when you get it all worked out, guys.  Solve the power stroke, too.
Next headline on:  DinosaursBirdsFossilsMarine LifeTerrestrial Zoology
Scientists Learning How to Harness Cellular Trucks   11/15/2005    
In an article that blurs the line between biology and technology, a press release from the Max Planck Institute (see EurekAlert for English translation) described the amazing performance of the nanoscopic trucks that ride the cell’s microtubule superhighways.  Kinesin and myosin motors, fueled by ATP, usually “sprint” on the trackways for short distances, but working in concert like a relay team, can run marathons for centimeters or even a meter.  This is especially important in neurons, some of which can have axons a meter long – in our spinal cord.  The scientists are learning as much as they can about these molecular motors in order to harness the technology for directed chemical reactions and biomimetic applications. The Energizer Bunny would face stiff competition on this scale: the article comments, “in contrast to human sprinters, molecular motors don’t get tired.” 
There is no mention of evolution in this article.  This “motor-driven active transport” bears the hallmark of intelligent design and coordinated function.  Darwinism is utterly useless for this cutting-edge scientific work that holds promise for spinoff technologies that could greatly improve our lives and understanding of nature’s workings.  Compare that with the next entry below.
Next headline on:  The CellBiomimeticsAmazing Stories
Like, Make a Tree    11/14/2005  
Three Darwinist professors lamented recently in Science1 that few scientists are making like a tree: “‘tree thinking’ remains widely practiced only by professional evolutionary biologists,” they said.  And just what is “tree thinking”?  It is basically thinking like Darwin; i.e., looking at the living world with phylogenetic glasses:
The central claim of the theory of evolution as laid out in 1859 by Charles Darwin in The Origin of Species is that living species, despite their diversity in form and way of life, are the products of descent (with modification) from common ancestors.  To communicate this idea, Darwin developed the metaphor of the ‘tree of life.’  In this comparison, living species trace backward in time to common ancestors in the same way that separate twigs on a tree trace back to the same major branches.   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
What prompted this editorial?  “This is a particular cause for concern at a time when the teaching of evolution is being challenged,” they say.  But there’s a positive side, too: “because evolutionary trees serve not only as tools for biological researchers across disciplines but also as the main framework within which evidence for evolution is evaluated.
    While tree-thinking is useful for everyone, the art of generating trees is best left to the wizards:
At the outset, it is important to clarify that tree thinking does not necessarily entail knowing how phylogenies are inferred by practicing systematists.  Anyone who has looked into phylogenetics from outside the field of evolutionary biology knows that it is complex and rapidly changing, replete with a dense statistical literature, impassioned philosophical debates, and an abundance of highly technical computer programs.  Fortunately, one can interpret trees and use them for organizing knowledge of biodiversity without knowing the details of phylogenetic inference.  The reverse is, however, not true.  One cannot really understand phylogenetics if one is not clear what an evolutionary tree is.
They provide some examples of potential sources of confusion.  “Although closely related species tend to be similar to one another, this is not necessarily the case if the rate of evolution is not uniform:” for instance.  “Crocodiles are more closely related to birds than they are to lizards, even though crocodiles are indisputably more similar in external appearance to lizards.”
    A statement like that would surely shock a novice.  It’s not the outward similarity, they explain, but the phylogenetic inference that counts.  Evolutionary history is not progressive, nor is it uniform.  In addition, we see only the tips of the branches inhabited by living or fossil organisms; occupants of the nodes (common ancestors of the branches) are only inferred, and may not have looked like anything alive today.  “Thus, for all its importance,” they caution, “tree thinking is fraught with challenges.
    But then how can anything fraught with challenges be important or useful?  Let’s revisit their motives for proposing that tree-thinking should extend beyond the cloisters of evolutionary systematics.  Here’s the bottom line:
Tree thinking belongs alongside natural selection as a major theme in evolution training.  Further, trees could be used throughout biological training as an efficient way to present information on the distribution of traits among species.  To this end, what is needed are more resources: computer programs, educational strategies, and accessible presentations of current phylogenetic knowledge.
    Phylogenetic trees are the most direct representation of the principle of common ancestry--the very core of evolutionary theory--and thus they must find a more prominent place in the general public’s understanding of evolution.  As philosopher of science Robert O’Hara stated, “just as beginning students in geography need to be taught how to read maps, so beginning students in biology should be taught how to read trees and to understand what trees communicate.”  Among other benefits, as the concept of tree thinking becomes better understood by those in the sciences, we can hope that a wider segment of society will come to appreciate the overwhelming evidence for common ancestry and the scientific rigor of evolutionary biology.

1David A. Baum, Stacey DeWitt Smith, Samuel S. S. Donovan, ”Evolution: The Tree-Thinking Challenge,” Science, Vol 310, Issue 5750, 979-980 , 11 November 2005, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1117727].
This article is very revealing.  The best way to understand it is to imagine oneself in ancient Babylonia, listening to some wizards of hepatoscopy (divination by reading the liver) lamenting the paucity of awareness of their craft among the astrologers and the general public.  They make a pitch in the Chaldean Journal about how useful hepatoscopy is to the general science of divination.  While admitting that their charts and diagrams are difficult to devise, they nevertheless argue that the charts are useful representations of fundamental insights, and took an awful lot of hard work to produce.  Their recommendation is to print more copies of their liver diagrams and instruct the young in the basic concepts of interpreting livers until the concept of liver-thinking becomes better understood and appreciated.
    Far off?  Not by much.  Look what they admitted: phylogenetic inference from the actual data of biodiversity is “fraught with challenges.”  The field is “complex and rapidly changing.”  It has its own “dense statistical literature” impenetrable to those “outsiders” of the art.  It is an arena of “impassioned philosophical debates.”  One can imagine Babylonian hepatomancers in similar circumstances, adjusting their charts each time the king loses a battle despite their prognostication.  No problem; it’s all part of the “scientific rigor” of The Craft.
    Notice also that tree-thinking is an a priori stance one takes before looking at the data.  It’s a world view: “the main framework within which evidence for evolution is evaluated.”  But what is being evaluated: the evidence, or the framework?  Since everything must fit into The Framework from the outset, no amount of change, debate, challenge or complexity endangers The Framework.  It is the grid through which all data must be sifted, the colored glass through which all wavelengths must be filtered.  This is very different from a geographical map with which they compare it (see analogy in the Baloney Detector).  A map represents visible data that can be corroborated in the present; a phylogenetic tree infers relationships in the unobservable past.  We do not conform the data to the map, but the other way around.  Not so with the Darwin Tree of Life.  Evidence is really secondary, because The Framework is already established.  Branches may shift here or there, but The Tree, as Platonic form, remains sacrosanct.  (You’ll notice that these wizards only bluffed about the “overwhelming evidence” for common ancestry and the “scientific rigor” of evolutionary biology; see 08/11/2003 and 06/13/2003 entries).
    Rightly did Jonathan Wells classify Darwin’s tree of life as an Icon of Evolution.  An icon is a symbol, a representation of an article of faith.  The early icons of Jesus were not evidence for his divinity; they were reminders and representations of what the faithful already believed about him.  Proof of his divinity came not from the icons, but from the historical facts and eyewitness accounts of his miracles and resurrection.  As such, “icon-thinking” and meditation on the artistic representations would have constituted a weak apologetic.  The iconoclasts of early Christendom did not deny the object of the icons, but argued that the icons became idols, mere graven images that distracted one’s attention from the real person of Jesus Christ.  How much more an icon based on false premises and absent evidence will mislead a scientist and obscure honest investigation.  Like the icons of pagan gods adorning ancient temples, it substitutes a fantasy for the real world.
    These three Darwin Party soothsayers want to short-circuit the proof from evidence and train novitiates by having them meditate on the icons.  They want computer programs, educational strategies and accessible representations of the products of their divination; they want to say, “believe, then interpret.”  They want to push this Framework, this faith – indeed, this religion – in the schools, to raise a new crop of devotees and practitioners of The Craft.  Such flagrant advocacy built on such shallow premises deserves a response in kind, from an iconoclast on that level.  We quote the noted philosopher Biff: “Make like a tree, and get outta here.”
Next headline on:  Darwinism and Evolutionary TheoryEducation
Psychotherapy Struggles to Demonstrate Scientific Validity   11/13/2005    
Psychologist, heal thyself.  That may well have been the caption to the cover story of Science News,1 illustrated with an iconic cartoon of the patient on the psychoanalyst’s couch – only this time, psychotherapy itself is the patient.  “Researchers spar over how best to evaluate psychotherapy,” announced Bruce Bower, as he described the attempts of professional “talk psychology” to legitimize itself as science.  What has happened?  A few years ago, it was common for people to converse about their shrink and how their therapy was going.  What’s driving the new scrutiny?  Health insurance dollars, for one thing:
These are the times that try psychotherapists’ souls.  Federal and state mental-health budget cuts have reduced the number of people who can afford one-on-one psychotherapy sessions to address their problems. Managed care companies demand to see proof that various psychological treatments work, and even then, they reimburse the cost of 2 or 3 months of psychotherapy at most....
    Today, the financial survival of any medical treatment or procedure rests on published evidence for its effectiveness.  In that environment, the science of psychotherapy has assumed special urgency.  Psychologists with backgrounds in both research and treatment stand at ground zero of efforts to conduct psychotherapy studies and then integrate the findings into clinical practice.
  (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
How can this be?  The scientific validity of psychotherapy has seemed as solid as that of Darwinism.  Now, both are increasingly being asked to produce the evidence.  The American Psychological Association (APA) recently approved a policy statement on “evidence-based practice in psychology,” Bower reports.  The presumption is that such evidence has been lacking, or is being questioned.  Why?
    Following the money, we find that insurance companies are increasingly restricting their subsidies to about two dozen therapies deemed “empirically supported” according to an 1998 APA study.  Then Bower gives a stunner: only a handful of procedures are even adequately documented, let alone demonstrated effective:
The list of science-backed psychotherapies emphasizes a handful of approaches grounded in concrete procedures that are described in training manuals.  For instance, in cognitive therapy for depression, a therapist assists patients in identifying and correcting faulty beliefs, such as a tendency to regard any setback as confirmation of one’s failure as a person.  Cognitive therapy includes homework assignments, for instance, a patient trying out a challenging new hobby and monitoring negative thoughts as they crop up.
It gets worse.  Even the therapies deemed “empirically supported” are being viewed more and more as subjective, with cause-and-effect inferences difficult to establish.  Bower says that even the definition of “evidence-based practice” is a “sticky issue.”  One psychologist accuses the APA of politicking in favor of psychotherapy practitioners over researchers.  Another calls “evidence-based practice” the most “consequential, incendiary topic in mental health in recent years.”
    Bower spends some time with specific examples of testing therapies to see if they can be legitimized scientifically.  Randomized controlled trials of cognitive therapies were studied to establish the “gold standard” of validity.  But how does one do a controlled experiment on people, when each patient represents a unique combination of symptoms?  Bower describes the examples only to question them: “Not everyone is brimming with optimism for psychotherapies bearing scientific seals of approval,” he says.  There are plenty of insiders willing to cast doubt.  Better not let the insurance companies get wind of this:
Rare comparisons of patients receiving either of two forms of genuine psychotherapy have yielded no clear winners, [Drew] Westen [Emory U] notes.  In head-to-head comparisons, for example, a few months of cognitive therapy for depression works about as well as the same amount of interpersonal therapy does.  The latter form of one-on-one talk therapy, which is also outlined in a training manual, focuses on helping the patient find ways to resolve conflicts with others, to adjust to new roles in life, and to foster better relationships.
    Psychologist Bruce E. Wampold of the University of Wisconsin-Madison has combed through data from psychotherapy studies and concludes that a good working relationship between therapist and patient plays a larger role in sparking psychological progress than any particular treatment technique does.
But if that is true, who needs a professional?  Why could not a good friend, or a clergyman, achieve results just as valid as the psychotherapist?  “The methodological tail is wagging the therapeutic dog,” Westen says.  This means that one cannot control for something as complex as the interpersonal relationship between a therapist and the patient.
    That has not prevented psychologists from trying.  Enrico E. Jones (UC Berkeley) devised a 100-item rating instrument called a Q-test in hopes of providing unbiased observers a way to rate the success of a therapy.  Unfortunately, the ratings of viewers were influenced by their subjective impressions and biases.  One review of Q-test data found that “cognitive therapists usually blended psychodynamic techniques into their treatment, while psychodynamic therapists often examined faulty thinking and irrational beliefs just as cognitive therapists did.”
In a 2002 paper that Ablon calls “a shocker,” clinicians and psychology graduate students rated videotaped sessions of therapists practicing what they considered either cognitive or interpersonal therapy.  The researchers found that, at least in the sessions with depressed patients, both treatments fit the definition of cognitive therapy, suggesting that a single therapy had been compared with itself.  The two sets of therapists were similarly effective....
Many proponents of randomized controlled trials regard Q-set studies as a swamp of correlations that can’t establish what actually helps a patient.  Moreover, many psychoanalysts frown on what they consider to be superficial attempts to measure what they do.
Anything so far to help an insurer determine how to spend the money?  It gets even worser:
Brent D. Slife stood before an audience at the annual APA meeting held in Washington, D.C., in August, and filed the equivalent of a philosophical antitrust suit against psychotherapy researchers.  Slife, a psychologist at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, bemoaned what he called “the almost dogmatic status” of the philosophy of empiricism in guiding examinations of psychotherapy.
Slife thinks that psychotherapy should be evaluated qualitatively instead.  This might help therapies that get slighted by the “evidence-based” craze, like humanistic and existential psychotherapy.  But then, how can it get the coveted label of science?  “If we took Slife’s approach,” a critical colleague said, “we’d quickly get booted out of the health care system.”  Bower ends on that thought:
In the quarrelsome world of psychotherapy studies, there’s one issue that everyone agrees on: Psychotherapists are fighting an uphill battle to procure more than minimal health insurance coverage for their services.  Norcross remarks, “The sad reality is that insurance companies largely respond to financial considerations, not psychotherapy research.”
Update  11/23/2005:  A similar story appeared in New Scientist about psychiatry.  Psychiatrists earn an M.D. and are licensed to dispense drugs, but this article by Liz Else says they face similar credibility breakdowns:
In psychiatry, the cost of erroneous scientific theories can be incalculable.  Get things wrong (or even only half right) and once adopted by the profession it can take years to weed them out.  The result can be millions of shattered lives.
    Some of the world’s leading psychiatrists believe that this is just what has happened in their craft today.  Poor diagnosis, shaky science and drugs with costly side effects all point to the same conclusion: psychiatry is badly in need of a radical overhaul.

1Bruce Bower, “Researchers spar over how best to evaluate psychotherapy,” Science News, Week of Nov. 5, 2005; Vol. 168, No. 19 , p. 299.
For those who didn’t already know that psychotherapy is a sickman fraud, this should be a real eye-opener.  Put up or shut up, the insurance companies rightfully ask: let’s see some evidence that psychotherapy actually works before we dole out millions of dollars for it.  What do they reply?  “Well, it’s just too complicated to measure.  You can’t treat it like uniform circular motion or gravity; but trust us, it’s scientific, and we know what we are doing.”  Anybody who trusts a psychotherapist should get his head examined.  You’d be better off seeing a real head-shrinker.  You could save a lot of money by employing the Lucy in Peanuts fame, at her “Psychological Help: 5 Cents” booth.  It appears her standard reply, “Snap out of it!” would prove as successful as anything the psychological charlatans come up with.  It might even be less harmful.  How many psychotherapists have irreparably damaged patients by “helping” them with their sex problems?  If the truth were told, they would, in fact, be booted out of the health care system.
    It’s no secret that Sigmund Freud was a worshiper of Darwin.  Psychology has always followed the tradition of building on the Darwinist foundation, treating the human mind as a concourse of molecules molded by natural selection.  Psychotherapy is a secular religion masquerading as science, intended to replace the pastor of the local church.  Here we see that after all these years the Charlietans have nothing to show for it.  Don’t waste your time; they are wells without water, clouds without rain.*
    Need healing?  There is hope for those who hurt.  The secret is to follow the Manufacturer’s Manual.  No one could ever figure out the complexities of the human mind but the one who made it.  Need evidence-based healing?  “Come unto me, all you who are weak and heavy laden,” said the Good Shepherd, “and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly of heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-30).  There are millions who will vouch for that.  When God’s spirit takes control of a mind, a host of therapeutic agents are included: faith, hope, love, confidence, unselfishness, forgiveness, peace, thanksgiving, joy, and self-control.  See our list of Bible verses on the subject.  For some “evidence-based” illustrations of the power of God to change lives and heal sorrows, watch this film.
Next headline on:  Evolutionary TheoryPolitics and Ethics
*There are physical conditions that can cause mental illness or depression due to physiological causes, like hormone imbalances (ask any pregnant woman), but these are not psychological problems (psyche, Gr.: the soul).  Special help and medication is legitimate for these medical conditions; the services of a careful psychiatrist with an M.D. might be essential.  If the problem has no physical symptoms or genetic causes, however, watch out.
    None of this commentary should demean the seriousness of emotional problems.  Some problems are caused by circumstances beyond one’s control, some by sin, and some by the sins of others.  Dealing with the effects of abuse or trauma can be a huge challenge.  Spiritual problems, such as anger or guilt, can dramatically influence the body and the mind.  The question is, who is more qualified to help with these – a Darwinist secularist mortal who can’t possibly grasp all the intricacies of the mind, or the mind’s Creator?  Spiritual problems cannot be addressed by a reductionist practitioner who denies the existence of soul or spirit.  Many secular therapy fads have come and gone; some of these have been far worse than the disease.  In the final score, as the above article shows, none – even the most popular – has any uncontested claim to validity.
    Don’t trust your mind to the cult of psychotherapy.  Go to a godly Biblical counselor who knows and trusts the Word of God, and he can refer you if medical assistance is needed.  Avoid religio-pop-psych like Norman Vincent Peale and other purveyors of fuzzy theology; get the real thing from the source.  Peale is appalling, but Paul is appealing.  The National Association of Nouthetic Counselors is one resource committed to Biblical integrity, and there are others; but the Wonderful Counselor himself is just a prayer away, free of charge.
Bible History News    11/11/2005  
Three stories of interest to historians of the Holy Land were reported recently:
  1. A Is for Aleph:  A stone abecedary, or alphabet tablet, has been unearthed in the hill country south of Jerusalem.  It is dated to the 10th century BC, the time of David and Solomon.  See MSNBC News for a summary.  The New York Times says this indication of early writing will undoubtedly fire up the squabble over the minimalist interpretation of archaeology, which assumes David and Solomon were minor tribal chieftains rather than the glorious kings as described in the Bible.  An alphabet from this time period would indicate that literacy was already well established.  Scholars say the script is early Hebrew.  See also a report in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
        In addition, according to Biblical Archaeology Review, proof of writing from this period would also weigh in on debates over whether the Bible was passed on by oral tradition or through written records.  Unlike Egypt, Palestine has a paucity of stone inscriptions.  Perhaps official records were inscribed on less durable media; in King Josiah’s day, the priests rejoiced to find a lost scroll of the Law of Moses, and by Jeremiah’s time (6th century BC), King Jehoiakim cut up the prophet’s writings and burned them in the fire (Jeremiah 36).  Few such ancient combustible manuscripts could be expected to survive the repeated conflagrations the Holy Land has suffered, but the Jewish scribes were masters at preserving their sacred texts, as evidenced by the Dead Sea Scrolls.
  2. The Early Church:  A mosaic floor of a church dating from the third century was uncovered by surprise by prisoners working for the Israeli Antiquities Authority in an Israeli high-security prison at Megiddo, reported MSNBC, National Geographic News and the Biblical Archaeological Society.  Dating from a period when Christians were persecuted, this marks one of the earliest known Christian churches.  The mosaic clearly shows the fish symbol and some inscriptions, one crediting a Roman official for funding the mosaic.  Another clearly establishes the belief of the worshipers in the deity of Christ.  It says, “The God-loving Aketous has offered this table to the God Jesus Christ as a memorial.”
  3. Goliath Found:  Sling my stones!  An inscription similar to the name Goliath was discovered on pottery dating from the period of the Philistine giant David made famous (by killing him), according to MSNBC News.  A definitive link to the giant cannot be established, but it shows the etymological equivalents of the name existed at the time Goliath lived.  It was, moreover, discovered at the site believed to be his hometown – Gath.  The Jerusalem Post has a picture, and explains that the inscription contains two names that are “remarkably similar” to Goliath.
  4. Destroying History:  Tragically, the Muslims are destroying Jewish history in Jerusalem and getting away with it.  Ryan Jones reported in Jerusalem NewsWire that Temple Mount destruction continues, as Muslims perform illegal construction work to turn the sacred site into a mega-mosque and remove all traces of Jewish history where their famed Temple once stood.  “To date, 12,000 tons of earth and debris rich in Jewish artifacts has been removed from the Mount and dumped unceremoniously at garbage dumps outside Jerusalem’s Old City,” Jones writes.  “Several historical treasures have been reclaimed from the dump sites.  Untold others have been lost, possibly forever.”  The Jewish authorities are fearful of intervening because of Muslim threats of violence if they try.  See earlier entries from 08/23/2004 and 04/17/2005.
  5. Tourist Trap:  Should the north shore of the Sea of Galilee become a theme park?  The Christian Science Monitor has mixed feelings about it.  Evangelicals are working with Israeli authorities on plans for a “sprawling Holy Land Christian Center” to accommodate the flood of pilgrims to the lands where Jesus walked.  They want to prevent kitsch and commercialism from distracting from the seriousness of the subject.  Facilities of the proposed “Galilee World Heritage Park” might include a large auditorium, amphitheater, a garden of Bible plants, and quiet sites for prayer and reflection.
One of the backers of the Galilee Park is televangelist Pat Robertson who, incidentally, just warned Pennsylvania voters that God might judge them with a natural disaster for voting against intelligent design (see 11/09/2005 story).  MSNBC News, as could be expected, had fun with that suggestion. Update 01/12/2006: Pat Robertson was cut out of the deal by the Israeli government due to statements he made on the air in January 2006 suggesting that Prime Minister Sharon’s stroke was punishment from God for dividing “His land.”  See Pilot Online.
Pat Robertson’s indiscretions aside, the archaeological findings listed here are tremendously interesting and important.  They coincide with dates and times mentioned in the Old Testament and gird up confidence in the historicity of the Bible.  That is the ongoing record of Biblical archaeology.
    How the Muslims can get away with their illegal and unconscionable actions on the Temple Mount in the most important religious site on earth is unbelievable.  Where is the outrage by all the liberals, who are quick to condemn America any time there is destruction of artifacts in Iraq, even if not the military’s fault?  Where is the United Nations, with their protection of World Heritage Sites?  Why aren’t they bringing international pressure to bear against these criminals?  Where are the academics?  To see how asymmetric today’s virtue of “tolerance” is, just imagine world reaction if Jews destroyed Islamic holy sites.  Remember the violence and death sparked by just a rumor that American soldiers had desecrated a copy of the Koran?  Appeasement as a policy has a bad history.  Dads used to teach their kids the correct way to deal with bullies.
    As to a theme park on the Sea of Galilee, bad idea.  Galilee is too important historically for attempts at gilding the lily.  The best experience for modern day pilgrims is to see it like Jesus and his disciples saw it, unvarnished with 21st century theatrics.  Despite their claims that this will not become a Disneyland, just wait.  You can visualize it already, can’t you?  Contemporary music concerts blaring out from the amphitheater over the waves where Jesus commanded, Peace: be still.  Vendors are sure to follow the dollar and line the tourist avenues with Jesus trinkets, souvenir fishnet stockings and boat rides where you can try your skill at walking on water.  Ugh!  Let’s bomb this idea (figuratively) before the Palestinians do (literally).
Next headline on:  Bible and Theology
Sea Monsters Were For Real    11/11/2005  
A large fossil crocodile-like sea monster with a bullet-shaped snout has been reported in Science.1  See MSNBC News for a summary.  For an artistic rendering of what Dakosaurus andiniensis might have looked like, see National Geographic News, which states that the discovery will be the December cover story of their magazine.  Dubbed “Godzilla” by its discoverers, it would have looked pretty scary to seafaring sailors, but according to the evolutionary scheme of things, of course, the two would never have met.  The creature died out 135 million years ago on the evolutionary timeline.  So, then, what did ancient mariners see at sea?
1News reports said this discovery was to be reported in the Nov. 11 issue of Science, but it does not appear in the Table of Contents.  Perhaps publication was delayed.
We get excited about the big finds, but the fossil record is full of extinct creatures of all sizes and shapes.  Our world is species-poor compared to the diversity of creatures that have inhabited this planet’s lands and seas, as revealed in the fossil record.  Was this a missing link?  Apparently not; one researcher said, “This [animal] forms a very distinct lineage that appears early on in the evolutionary history of crocodiles—invading the sea and showing outstanding adaptation to the marine environment.” (Emphasis added in all quotes.)  He also said that it represents “the most drastic evolutionary change in the history of marine crocodiles.”  They are not even quite sure how to classify the creature.  There appear to be more questions than answers: NG News said, “The researchers don’t yet know what events triggered the relatively sudden emergence of Dakosaurus, nor do they know what caused it to go extinct.”  Like ichthyosaurs, then, the creature appeared suddenly in the record, flourished for a time, and just as suddenly vanished (see 04/20/2005 story).  What a world.
Next headline on:  Marine LifeFossilsAmazing Facts
Pope Affirms Intelligent Design    11/10/2005  
Just when pro-Darwinists were parlaying one bishop against another on the Catholic position on evolution (see the UK Times Online for an op-ed piece with some historical context), the Pope made it clear: he expects the faithful to embrace intelligent design.  The Discovery Institute was pleased that Pope Benedict XVI used the phrase “intelligent project” in his attack on atheism and directionless evolution; Evolution News soon updated the story to indicate that the Pope’s statement was even stronger than first reported.  The phrase should be translated, “intelligent plan,” and included a direct statement opposing atheism and directionless materialism.
The Pope does not speak for all Christians, of course, and his comments could still be construed as permitting belief in theistic evolution.  Still, this speech must be a blow for Darwinists hoping to soften religious opposition to evolution in general.  They know the Pope commands the allegiance of many millions of Catholics.  They had been able to twist Pope John Paul’s ambiguous statement that evolution was “more than a hypothesis” into ammo for their cause.  Pope Benedict’s more distinct words are sure to stir up even more controversy and opposition to atheism and unguided evolution.  Key to the Darwinist interpretation of evolution is that it is uncaused, unguided, and directionless.  The Pope not only defied this belief, but actually used the phrase “intelligent plan” which is synonymous with ID.  What will Sr. Lazcano do with that? (see 11/04/2005 story).
Next headline on:  DarwinismIntelligent DesignBible and Theology
March of the Little Penguins Down Darwin Lane?    11/10/2005  
Penguins are on people’s minds since the movie, but there are other species of the handsome-yet-funny waddlers besides the reigning emperors.  The news media are saying one species demonstrates evolution – another word on the public mind these days.  MSNBC News talked about “Penguin evolution,” and Science Now proclaimed “Evolution on Ice.”  Actually, it’s only microevolution they are talking about, both articles admit.  A study of Adelie penguins revealed small-scale genetic changes between colonies.  They believe these are related to population dynamics as icebergs shifted around, an Antarctic version of the social mixer or (are you ready?) party icebreaker.  Formal dress, of course.
Notice this excerpt from the MSNBC article: “One surprising finding was that there wasn’t much genetic variation between different penguin colonies.”  And their point is?  The article was filled with evolution lingo, but they found less variation than expected – either a blending of genetic traits, or convergence.  What’s more, the study only traced DNA back to 6,000 years.  Isn’t that interesting.
    These studies could have been done by creationists.  Even the most ardent Biblical creationists allow for significant genetic variability within kinds.  Studies like this can be useful; they can help untangle the history of shifting populations of the same species.  We do that with human population genetics – tracing, for example, the migration patterns of Asiatics into the New World via the Bering Strait.  But this new penguin study cannot offer any substantive support for Darwin’s prime thesis, that penguins had bacteria ancestors.  None of the actual data show penguins evolving from pre-penguins.
    Microevolution is not macroevolution.  It’s misleading that both terms include the word evolution, because they do not necessarily have anything to do with each other, except in the imagination of Darwinists.  (Notice that the MSNBC article referred to the old peppered myth as a “classic example” of microevolution.)  Darwinists are convinced that micro can be extrapolated to macro, given enough time, and that horizontal variations can add up to vertical gains in information and function, given no fossil evidence.  Their a priori commitment to Darwinist thinking determines how the data will be interpreted.
    There seem to be more attempts by pro-Darwin science reporters to get the E word before the public eye, hoping to procure for embattled Darwinian theory an air of scientific legitimacy it struggles to obtain and maintain.  Don’t let them get away with trying to use this study as evidence for evolution, or as propaganda against the ID movement.  The subjects were Adelie penguins all through the timeline – no macroevolution occurred, only sorting of existing traits.
    Penguins should be viewed, like all other living things, as testimonies to intelligent design.  The design is evident at all levels, from the molecular, to the cellular, up through the tissues and organs and systems, all the way up to the complete bird and its interaction with other animals and with its environment (see 10/27/2005 story).  Microvariation, yes; macroevolution, no.
Next headline on:  BirdsGeneticsEvolution
Dover School Board Members Ousted    11/09/2005  
Eight school board members in Dover, Pennsylvania, who had backed the intelligent-design policy that led to the ACLU lawsuit, lost their seats in Tuesday’s election.  A slate of Democrats who opposed the policy will take their place December 5.  The campaign against the Republicans who lost was spearheaded by a group named Citizens Actively Reviewing Educational Strategies (CARES).  See reports at: MSNBC News, LiveScience, PhillyBurbs, News@Nature and Science Now.  This result in Dover contrasts with the decision in Kansas by the state school board to allow criticisms of Darwinism in the science standards.
Beware the spin in stories like these.  ScienceNow called this result a “victory” in Dover but a “setback” in Kansas – it clearly depends on which side of the battle one is on.  LieScience continued its biased reporting by saying “Pennsylvania voters reject ‘intelligent design.’”  Good grief; not all Pennsylvania voters did, just those in Dover.  And whether they rejected ID is not clear; the majority clearly was upset at the tactics of the board, but it is a non-sequitur to assume the voters rejected ID itself.  Remember that the controversial policy only asked for a short statement to be read in the science classrooms that Darwinism is not a fact, and that alternatives exist, and resources are available if a student is interested – that’s it!  No teacher had to teach ID, no student had to look at the materials, and there would be no test questions about it.  But that was enough to give the ACLU fits and arouse the attention of the country over its lawsuit.
    Before assuming that the Dover area voters “rejected” ID, one must remember that even the pro-ID Discovery Institute did not approve of the board’s actions and refused to participate in the defense.  So we need to ask some pertinent questions in order to interpret the election results.  How many of the voters agreed with the Discovery Institute and felt the board had engaged in an unwise strategy?  How many were simply embarrassed by all the media attention over the trial?  How many were concerned primarily about the cost of defense against the lawsuit?  How many voted on emotion instead of facts? (look what happened in California).  How many can’t even spell ID, let alone explain what Darwinism teaches, but were influenced by fast-talking CARES reps?  Which side outspent the other, and which was more successful getting out the vote?
    The PhillyBurbs article, closer to the action, said that the newly-elected board members are not planning to act rashly, or quickly overturn the policy.  Everyone has a wait-and-see attitude to see how Judge John E. Jones rules on the case.  There could well be an appeal regardless of who wins.  Maybe the new board will favor a more Kansas-style strategy, or will teach ID in history or social studies, or will just move on to other priorities.  It doesn’t appear the winners are going to the opposite extreme and calling this a great victory for Darwinism, to be celebrated with a Tinker Bell Parade and fireworks for Darwin Day.  One thing is clear; intelligent design vs. Darwinism is in the consciousness of people around the country, and the world.  That’s why it is more important than ever to separate the facts from the spin.
Next headline on:  EducationDarwinismIntelligent DesignPolitics and Ethics
Kansas Removes Darwinism from Protected Status   11/08/2005    
It’s official; the Kansas school board has accepted new science standards that permit criticisms of Darwinism, reported Evolution News.  This makes Kansas the fifth state to allow both evidences for and against Darwinism to be taught, and brings their definition of science in line with the majority of other states.
    News reactions were not far behind; MSNBC news was perhaps the mildest, even though they incorrectly defined intelligent design with reference to a “higher power.”  USA Today said that evolution defenders weighed in their voices before the vote with an email campaign calling the standards “backward.”  The new standards still teach only Darwinism, however – intelligent design is expressly denied – but the fact that evidences against evolution would be permitted was enough to anger opponents of the decision; EurekAlert posted a response by AAAS president Alan Leshner, for instance, that claimed the decision will hurt the economy and undermine science education.  BBC News actually lied about the ruling, calling it an “intelligent design policy” and claiming that teachers have been “ordered” to tell pupils that the “universe is so complex that it may have been created by a higher power.”  The standards contain no such statement or obligation; on the contrary, the standards explicitly disclaim the teaching of intelligent design.  Nevertheless, even though students will be learning more about Darwinism than ever before, the BBC titled their article, “Evolution suffers science setback” accompanied by a picture of Charles Darwin that made him look saddened by the decision.  LiveScience proclaimed, “Kansas School Board Votes Against Science.”
    Science1 magazine last week hoped that a move to prohibit use of copyrighted material in the standards might delay adoption till a time-consuming rewrite with substitute language could be completed (the NAS and Natl. Science Teachers Assn. are denying the school board permission to use any of their materials).  If this delays adoption of the standards for a year, five seats on the board will be up for election in November 2006 – and four of those are held by conservatives.
    In Pennsylvania, testimony wrapped up last Friday in the Dover trial.  The L.A. Times gave pretty good press about Michael Behe’s testimony; at least Jonathan Witt thought so on Evolution News.  The controversy draws in lots of opinions from all quarters.  Owen Gingerich criticized both sides on Science and Theology News; MSNBC posted a large photo of Darwin’s great-great-grandson in the Harrisburg audience, probably more for anecdotal than substantive value; French Catholic Cardinal Paul Poupard warned against fundamentalism in attempting to smooth relations with the Darwinists, according to Associated Press; E. O. Wilson coined the phrase “intelligent evolution” in his article praising the legacy of Charles Darwin in Harvard Magazine (though EvolutionNews insisted he got the definition of I.D. wrong again); and Casey Luskin, reporting in Evolution News about the cross-examination of biochemist Scott Minnich on the witness stand in Dover, overheard a listener on the plaintiff side admitting, “the witness is smarter than the lawyer.”
1Yudhijit Bhattacharjee, “Groups Wield Copyright Power to Delay Kansas Standards,” Science, Vol 310, Issue 5749, 754, 4 November 2005, [DOI: 10.1126/science.310.5749.754a].
Everybody seems to be claiming the other side is generating more heat than light.  Don’t they know that heat is a form of light?  That’s basic physics, and so is Newton’s 3.5th Law: every action has an equal and opposite criticism.  Heat feels good on a freezing day.  It’s about time things thawed out a little since the wicked witch Tinker Bell (09/22/2005) turned the animals to stone and made it always winter and never Christmas.  Fear not the warming rays, but rather the bluster and howls of rhetorical witchery that blankets the landscape with lies and hate.  At the end of the long Darwinian ice age, seeing the sun again finally, with both heat and light, is making the world come alive.
Next headline on:  DarwinEducation
Stupid Evolution Quotes of the Week    11/07/2005  
Two articles in the popular press tried to make the case that monkeys have humanlike characteristics.  Maybe they proved the converse, at least for some humans.
  1. Does this add up?  Reporting on experiments suggesting monkeys have the rudiments of math skills, at least in the ability to compare sizes of things, MSNBC News writer Bjorn Carey wanted to emphasize how similar they are to us.  He said, “This finding is the most recent in a series of discoveries that indicate our primate cousins display humanlike characteristics.  Monkeys like to gamble and enjoy looking at other monkeys’ bottoms.  Chimpanzees have been found to crack under social pressures.”
  2. On the Origin of Humor by Sexual Selection, or the Preservation of Favored Jokes in the Struggle for a Wife:  Science Now laughed with, but not at, a study that showed differences in the way men and women respond to humor.  There must be a Darwinian angle in here somewhere:  “There are a variety of ways to interpret the findings, says neuroscientist Gregory Berns of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, one of the more politically incorrect being that women are more easily entertained than men.  Another is that women find humor more important in behavior than men do, consistent with ideas that humor evolved differently between the sexes as a mating strategy--men act the comics and women respond by laughing at them. Er, with them.”  But ScienceNow left us hanging without a punch line for the title, “Y Did the Chromosome Cross the Road?”
  3. Are humans still evolving?  Reporting on a comparative genomics study between humans and chimpanzees, Ker Than on Live Science started by praising the power of natural selection:  “The evolutionary process that Charles Darwin discovered almost 150 years ago, responsible for transforming dinosaurs into birds and allowing the walking ancestors of whales to take to the seas, is still quietly at work in humans today.”  In the next paragraph he called DNA the “software of life.”
While supporting natural selection, Ker Than managed to include his usual dig against the creationists: “The validity of Darwin’s natural selection has been attacked lately by a small but vocal group who argue that it cannot explain all the complexity seen in nature.  They advocate a concept called ‘intelligent design,’ in which a higher being is responsible for the variety of life.  Scientists dismiss intelligent design as cloaked creationism and say that there are no significant problems with the widely accepted theory of evolution.”  (Emphasis added in quotes.)
So if you are a gambling butt-gazer with a nervous breakdown, you can take comfort in the fact that macaques empathize with you.  Supposedly if the macaques keep up such antics they will become philosophers in due time.  Didn’t Kipling say that to be a man requires keeping your head while all around you are losing theirs?  Macaque antics reveal no special human propensities.  Parrots and dolphins exhibit better intellectual skills than monkeys, but no Darwinist considers either of them our “closest living relative.”  Why not turn the idea around, and say that any man who dwells on derriere jokes is devolving into a macaque, or any human who swims is devolving into a whale?  After all, Michael Ruse has forcefully warned against embedding any ideas of progress into Darwinian theory.
    Ker Than has been a malicious demagogue against intelligent design throughout the Dover trial, worse than Antonio Lazcano (see 11/04/2005 entry).  These two quotes show that nothing he says about Darwinism or ID can be trusted.  In promoting Darwinism, he erred with his definition of natural selection: “Darwin’s natural selection is the process by which nature rewards those individuals better adapted to their environments with survival and reproductive success.”  In addition to slipping an embedded personification fallacy about rewards into his definition, he blindly slipped into the tautology trap: if fitness is defined in terms of reproductive success, it loses all independent meaning: the fit survive because the survivors are fit.
    In attacking ID, Ker Than linked it to belief in a “higher being”.  ID makes no claims about the nature or source of the designing intelligence, but only that the effects of intelligent causes are detectable.  But then he also borrowed ID vocabulary in defining DNA as software, which always has an intelligent cause.  He also erred historically in giving Charlie credit for “discovering” natural selection.  If he can’t even define the most basic terms right or keep his concepts consistent, how can his opinions be worth anything?  Such reporting is better suited to a job at LieScience.com.
Next headline on:  DarwinismDumb Ideas
ICR Challenges Validity of Radiometric Dating   11/05/2005    
2200 people packed out the facilities of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, California Saturday.  Their frequent applause was not for contemporary musicians or a preacher, but for scientists.  Ten miles from their headquarters, the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) had rented the large auditorium for the formal presentation of the results of its eight-year research project on Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth (RATE).
    The seven scientists summarized evidence now documented in a technical book, a popular summary and a documentary film.  The research included both field and theoretical work, including the gathering of samples from rock samples around the world for radiometric dating.  The team members, all Bible believing Christians committed to a Biblical young-earth chronology, followed accepted lab protocols and had their samples evaluated by state-of-the-art equipment at world-class facilities.  Among the many results, four primary geophysical findings and one textual analysis stood out:
  1. Helium residuals:  Radiogenic helium from zircons, extracted from granitic cores three miles deep at high temperatures, was still present in the biotite.  Conventional wisdom would have expected all the “slippery” helium atoms to have escaped long ago.  The team made predictions about how the helium measurements would fit a young-earth model and a uniformitarian model.  They calibrated the escape rate as a function of temperature and graphed their results; the data lined up exactly on the young-earth prediction of 6,000 years plus or minus 2,000 years.
  2. Radiohalo signatures:  The team followed up on earlier work by Robert Gentry on radiohalos, the spherical scars in granites resulting from alpha-particle ejections from the decay of uranium.  Polonium halos adjacent to uranium halos were ubiquitous.  Because of their extremely short half-lives, they would have had to have formed within months, minutes or even milliseconds (in the case of Po-214).  The researchers took this to mean that to have migrated from the zircons, the polonium halos would have to be same age as the fully-developed uranium halos, yet the uranium halos appear to show millions of years’ worth of decay if measured at present rates.
  3. Discordant isochrons:  Igneous rock samples from multiple sites in the Grand Canyon, judged ideal for radiometric dating, were sent to leading test labs and cross-checked by four independent isochron methods with multiple data points and good statistics.  The tests were double-blind; ICR had no control over the analysis, and the lab had no knowledge of the expected ages.  If the methods were reliable, all the dates should have been the same, but even though ages in the billion-year range were obtained, all the techniques differed radically from each other, some by 200% or 300% for the same rock.
  4. Carbon-14;  Samples from coal beds in multiple locales yielded measurable amounts of carbon-14.  According to conventional wisdom, it would be “unthinkable” for any radiocarbon to be present, because it would be undetectable in just 100,000 years, but the coal beds are assumed to be hundreds of millions of years old.  The team also found intact carbon-14 in diamonds, thought to have formed over a billion years ago.
  5. Genesis 1:  A statistical analysis of the verbs in the Hebrew text of Genesis 1 showed that it falls solidly in the genre of narrative, not poetry.  The meaning of “day” in the six-day creation account, therefore, cannot be properly interpreted in a poetical or allegorical sense.  This means that the writer intended the word day to mean ordinary days, not long ages.
The scientists were frank about difficulties with their findings.  They acknowledged that fission-track counts and radiohalo density give evidence that millions of years’ worth of radioactive decay products had been generated, if measured at today’s rates.  To reconcile the above findings with the abundance of decay products, they hypothesized the decay rates had been accelerated in the past.  This suggestion, however, produces other problems.  Large amounts of heat and dangerous levels of radiation for organisms on the earth would have resulted from accelerated nuclear decay.  It is also uncertain why accelerated decay would have been associated with the Genesis Flood, which is when they believe some of it occurred.  They acknowledged that they have only tentative hypotheses to explain these unsolved problems at this point.  Nevertheless, the hard data indicate that radiometric dating methods are unreliable at least, and support a Genesis young-earth chronology at best.
    While acknowledging the need for continued research and sampling, ICR hoped their findings would call into question an important icon of evolutionary geology – the belief in deep time – and would bolster confidence in the plain reading of the Biblical record of earth history.
    The team gave some indication that their results can stand up to scrutiny.  Some of this material was presented in poster sessions at the AGU convention a couple of years ago, where thousands of geophysicists were gathered.  Hundreds of scientists saw the work and many lingered to discuss it.  ICR said that very few were hostile; most were quite eager to learn about the work and figure out what it meant, especially the younger scientists.
    The film Thousands, Not Billions, the laymen’s paperback of the same title, and the technical book are now available on the ICR website.
This is very much a work in progress.  While interesting and important, these findings still need to withstand the critics.  Radiometric dating is one of the pillars of evolution.  It provides the deep time needed for naturalistic accounts of the formation of the earth and the evolution of life.  Hard-core Darwinists will not yield any ground on this stronghold without a fight, and neither will old-earth creationists or theistic evolutionists.  But even young-earth creationists should give it a thorough shake-and-bake test.  All the hard questions should be asked by the friends of ICR first.  The findings are mostly a collection of anomalies rather than a coherent theory that accounts for all the observations.  The admitted problems with accelerated nuclear decay – heat dissipation and abundance of decay products – seem serious; the burden of proof will be on ICR to maintain what will look to critics like an ad hoc suggestion.
    It’s important to note that long-agers have their own formidable problems.  They should examine their own vulnerabilities before doing battle with ICR.  These carefully-performed isochron measurements, cross-checked by four independent methods, reveal that the validity of radiometric dating can no longer be assumed.  Discordant results of this magnitude, indeed, call the entire procedure, including its assumptions and theoretical underpinnings, into question.  The fission-track analysis, in addition, makes it hard to believe that the samples could have remained below the annealing temperature for hundreds of millions of years, throughout multiple episodes of plate tectonics, volcanism and impacts.  The radiogenic helium from deep-earth cores should have escaped long ago.  Let the uniformitarians deal with these, while ICR gives more attention to their own difficulties.
    Nevertheless, ICR is to be commended for the rigor of their sampling and analysis.  They have thrown down a serious challenge to believers in deep time.  Icons are for religion, not science, and radiometric dating has been immune from challenge for too long.  Many do not realize that radiometric dating is one of the few techniques that produces millions and billions of years; many others produce much younger ages.  Long touted as an impregnable bastion against the young-earth interpretation, radiometric dating is now under siege.
    In an ideal engagement, neither side will attack the others’ motives or qualifications, but will respect the empirical data and test the interpretations from all angles.  This can turn a battle into a parley, a debate into a scientific conference.  There are mysteries in the RATE results that will require rigorous and critical study with the highest standards of integrity.  ICR has set a new pace of empirical honesty and constructive engagement.  Some fundamental new insights into the nature and behavior of radioactive decay – perhaps even with practical applications – may lurk in the data.  It remains to be seen how all this will play out, but even if there is a deadlock, all parties may have to concede that no human can know with certainty what happened in the pre-observational past, without faith.  Even that would be progress.
Next headline on:  Dating MethodsPhysicsGeologyMediaBible
A Just-So Story Digest    11/05/2005  
For your weekend reading entertainment, here is a collection of recent science stories that rely more on imagination than evidence, in the tradition of Kipling’s Just-So Stories for children.
  • How the Brown Dwarf Sowed Planet Seeds:  Apai et al. in Science found magic crystals, hidden by the six brown dwarfs, that turn into planets over time.  “These results indicate that the onset of planet formation extends to disks around brown dwarfs,” they said, “suggesting that planet formation is a robust process occurring in most young circumstellar disks.”  Now in paperback at JPL.
  • The Ancient Tunnel that Led to Life:  Scientists found a secret passageway into the ribosome where all of life’s proteins are made.  ScienceDaily said, “In developing the project, the team identified a corridor inside the ribosome that the transfer RNA must pass through for the decoding to occur, and it appears to be constructed almost entirely of universal bases, implying that it is evolutionarily ancient.”
  • How the Animals Learned Fairness:  Nowak and Sigmund continued their long-running Game Theory Tales with the next sequel, published in Nature, on the “Evolution of direct reciprocity.”  Their attention-grabbing intro asked, “How can natural selection promote unselfish behaviour?”  It’s all in how you play the game called, “I help you and somebody else helps me,” they say.  The rest is human history: “The evolution of cooperation by indirect reciprocity leads to reputation building, morality judgement and complex social interactions with ever-increasing cognitive demands.”
  • How the Shark Kept Warm During Workouts:  A cold-water shark with tuna-like muscles?  How could this be?  They belong to different evolutionary families.  The Knight of Convergent Evolution to the rescue: Bernal et al. writing in Nature 10/27 found that salmon sharks and tunas both independently discovered the secret to keeping their body temperatures elevated enough in cold water to power their strong muscles.
  • How the Molecule Developed a Sweet Tooth:  Michael Yarus wrote a story about how an ancient RNA molecule learned the secret of the aldol reaction, essential for sugar metabolism.  “Could this be similar to an ancestral catalyst that existed billions of years ago?” he asked in Nature 11/03.  Watch for the next exciting episode.
  • How the First Stars Lit Up the Sky:  We can’t see them, but they must have been there, because there is a faint infrared echo of the first stars in the universe.  Kashlinsky et al. followed the invisible light and the reporters told the world the glad tidings of their success (BBC, Space.com).
  • How the Early Peoples Learned to Share:  “The question of the coexistence and potential interaction between the last Neanderthal and the earliest intrusive populations of anatomically modern humans in Europe has recently emerged as a topic of lively debate in the archaeological and anthropological literature,” said scientists in Nature.  In the darkness of the cave, radiocarbon light revealed a surprising mystery: “The implication is clear that the site shows either a directly interstratified sequence of Neanderthal and anatomically modern human occupations, or at least a very close contact and interaction between these two populations within this particular region of France.”
  • How the Frog Women Decoded the Music:  New species of frogs arose in less than 8,000 years in Australia, which is lightning-fast, said the storyteller in UC Berkeley News.  The frog women learned to distinguish calls in the dark and split into various tribes by “reinforcement,” an evolutionary mechanism that “has been controversial since the time of Charles Darwin” and was considered “too complicated” and “unnecessary,” according to critics.  But ah, the frog women have free will, and free will is unpredictable.  “Because the frogs in the isolated contact area had a distinctively different call, and because they were effectively isolated from surrounding populations by mating preference, Hoskin and colleagues concluded that female choice led to this new species.”  It’s “kinda cool,” said one storyteller.  “It gives us a mechanism for very rapid speciation.”
  • How the Stem Cells Lost Their Pedigree:  “Forgotten by evolution?” asked the Max Planck Society about stem cells.  Assigned to the slavish work of repairing organs, adult stem cells seemed destined for drudgery.  But scientists may have found their long-lost royal blood: “at least some adult stem cells could be the mere remnants of former embryonal differentiation processes, or, in other words, ‘footprints’ of evolution,” reported the short story.
  • How the Play-Dough Gave Birth:  The womb of the earth mother lay deep in the ocean depths, with a placenta of clay.  Billions of years ago, this protective layer brought forth molecules destined for fins, wings, brains and philosophers.  Read this fascinating tale in News@Nature.
Nighty-nite, children.  No questions, now; just close your eyes, and sweet dreams.  Good-night, sleep tight, and don’t let the Creationist Monsters bite.
Next headline on:  Darwinism and EvolutionDumb Ideas
Evolution Thriving in Mexico; Creationismo No Comprendo    11/04/2005  
Mexicans, religious or not, have no problem with Darwinism, and cannot understand their American neighbors who get so uptight about it.  That’s the gist of an article by Antonio Lazcano, a Mexican biology professor and origin-of-life researcher, who was given lengthy press in Science1 this week under the heading “Global Voices of Science.”
I am always amused when I am asked by my American colleagues about the problems and pressures they imagine I face in Mexico because of my interest in life’s beginnings.  However, pressure to include creationism in public pedagogical and research settings has been primarily a phenomenon in the United States.  Only twice during my 30 years of teaching about evolutionary biology and research into the origins of life, have I encountered religious-based opposition to my work.  In both cases, it came from evangelical zealots from the United States preaching in Mexico.  One of the little recognized U.S. imports into Mexico is a small flow of creationists, who, through religion, are trying to impose their fundamentalist beliefs and hinder the teaching of Darwinian evolution in all levels of schooling.   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
Now that you know how Dr. Lazcano feels about non-Darwinists, his “Love Affair with Darwin” (subtitle 1) is understandable.  The rest of the editorial falls into place.  Getting the praise is primordial soup, Aleksandr Oparin, Huxley, and separation of church and state.  Getting condemnation is fundamentalism, America, intelligent design, creationism, and President Bush.  Lazcano and his fellow Mexicans are incredulous at the American phenomenon of creationism.  Even his staunchly Catholic students “found hilarious the idea of teaching creationism based on biblical literalism.”  But creationism is not just silly, it is dangerous.
Scientists from other countries could take a certain solace in the fact that the creationist movement appears to be largely confined to the United States.  I find it extremely encouraging that Mexican students, for the most part, are not driven by gaps in the scientific view of life to search for religious explanations or to vitiate evolutionary theory by advocating intelligent design.  Our teachers and pupils alike generally view the framework of intelligent design as a thinly disguised attempt to introduce religious preconceptions into the classroom.  Even so, it would be unwise to simply sit back and watch with incredulity as our American colleagues struggle against intelligent design creationists and other fundamentalisms.  There are, in fact, manifold indications that the creationism movement has been flexing its muscles and looking to proselytize far and wide.  Its potential threat to science education in Mexico and other Latin American countries should not be underestimated.
Speaking of gaps, does Lazcano have anything to say about arguably the biggest gap of all, life’s origin, since he is a specialist in that area, and the author of a book on it?  Un problemo, sí, but alto, creationistas:
Since we can never know in full detail how the origin of life took place, it is not surprising that it is becoming a target for intelligent design creationists.  The geological and chemical evidence required to understand life’s beginnings remains insufficient and difficult to understand.  For creationists, that evidentiary gap provides an opportunity to erect a framework of controversy and endless discussion around the study of prebiotic evolution and the origin of life, which they assume are best explained by an intelligent cause rather than by an undirected process like natural selection.
    It is true that there is a huge gap in the current descriptions of the evolutionary transition between the prebiotic synthesis of biochemical compounds and the last common ancestor of all extant living beings
[02/29/2004]  Even the unanticipated discovery in 1982--by the research teams directed by Thomas Cech and Sidney Altman--of catalytic RNA molecules (ribozymes), which can be loosely described as nucleic acids that simultaneously have characteristics of DNA and enzymes, has not closed this gap.  Instead, that and related discoveries have led to a more precise definition of what should be understood as the origin of life.  The origin of protein synthesis is still not understood, but the surprising conservation of widely distributed polypeptide sequences related to RNA metabolism has led my group and others to suggest that these sequences provide insights into an RNA/protein world that may have resulted from the interaction of ribozymes with amino acids, and that very likely preceded our familiar DNA/RNA/protein world.  Our understanding of the origin and early stages of biological evolution still has major unsolved problems, but they are recognized by the scientific community as intellectual challenges, and not as requiring metaphysical explanations, as proponents of creationism would have it.
A photo in the article shows an elementary school in a small Mexican town, where “children celebrate Darwin’s birthday (12 February) with a ceremony and display of murals on his life and theory.”
1Antonio Lazcano, “Teaching Evolution in Mexico: Preaching to the Choir,” Science, Vol 310, Issue 5749, 787-789, 4 November 2005, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1115180].
Anyone who has been watching the intelligent design controversy against evolution must surely wag his head over this adult tantrum.  It’s articles like this that reinforce Phillip Johnson’s observation that certain Darwinists are so incorrigible, society will likely have to wait till they retire and die off before a rational discussion can be had.  But that will never happen as long as Lazcano’s type take impressionable elementary school children, who cannot discern their left hand from their right, and indoctrinate them early into the Church of Darwin with celebrations of Darwin Day (02/13/2004) and worship of a Padre Carlos Darwinez they don’t even know.  Maybe a little more free trade and removing of export controls is in order.
    Lazcano is a hopeless demagogue, like Barbara Forrest, who cannot be trusted, because the search for truth is not their motive.  They are at war; any lie is fair game if it advances the cause.  Their arsenal includes the tactical weapon B.A.D. (Bluffing Assertion Dogma), which communicates, “anything I say is true because I said it with feeling.”  They also use the M.A.D. bomb (Most Accept Darwin) and fuel their propaganda firebombs by drawing the starkest black-and-white distinctions: science vs. “creationism and other fundamentalisms,” so that the little children envision their alleged enemies as bomb-vested terrorists disguising their shifty eyes with smiling Phillip Johnson masks.
    This is really S.A.D. (silly antiquated Darwinism).  And so, we ask, what warrants this unquestioning allegiance to the cause, this eternal Love Affair with Darwin?  Tell us about your specialty, Señor Lazcano, the origin of life.  Here, we are told that yes, there are major gaps, even in the favored RNA World scenario, BUT don’t you think for a moment of exploiting that little vulnerability in the wall of our Jericho with your ID trumpets.  Sooner or later we will find a brick that won’t fall down flat at the slightest shout of “intelligent design.”
    The shame of this bluff, wroth, fluff and froth by a modern Darwin Bulldog is only exceeded by Science having printed it.  No opportunity for debate or rebuttal, just a temper tantrum by a man who cannot even use his own field to prop up his idol.  Instead of blushing over his paucity of scientific evidence, he is determined to shove his idolatry and intolerance down the throats of poor Mexican children.  Undoubtedly the editors were shouting “Hear, hear!” as they read this, gleefully giving it prominence in their liberal-leftist propaganda rag (speaking of the editorial positions, not the legitimate research papers by practicing scientists).
    Notice the arrogance.  Lazcano and his cheering buddies have basically set themselves up as the intellectual superiors of generations of the world’s greatest thinkers.  As one example, consider the quote at the top right of this page.  Dr. Daniel J. Robinson is a scholar par excellence at Oxford, a professor’s professor, a man who could run intellectual marathons around Lazcano.  Conversant in several languages, he is able to ad lib on the intricacies of Stoicism, the mind-body problem, Cicero, David Hume, scholasticism, the history and philosophy of science, psychology, ancient literature, Turing machines, Greek philosophy – practically any subject from the Babylonians to E. O. Wilson.  Robinson ended 30 hours of profoundly deep and enlightened lecturing with that quote.  After surveying the grand sweep of intellectual history from ancient times to the present, when all was said and done, he found the evidence for intelligent design convincing.  His winsome manner allowed for all good arguments to be heard, but from his own broad base of knowledge and experience, he chose that one – the conclusion that a benevolent, provident, all-wise, all-knowing Creator, yes indeed “God, really?  Yeah; really,” designed this world for a purpose.  Lazcano and Science have just called Dr. Robinson a know-nothing.  They have consigned all others who have doubts about Padre Carlos, anyone who thinks the arguments for design have merit, from David Berlinski to President Bush, from Antony Flew to Scott Minnich, no matter how much expertise, experience and knowledge, to the party of dangerous enemies who must be stopped before they corrupt the childlike faith of students.  They have consigned millennia of great thinkers, scientists and educators to oblivion, now that Messiah Carlos has come and brought the great enlightenment.
    Sorry, Antonio, we tried to help.  May you someday rest in peace.
Next headline on:  DarwinismIntelligent DesignPolitics and EthicsEducation
Living Wonders at a Glance    11/04/2005  
Here is an assortment of recently-reported biological marvels at the cellular level.  Researchers into creation and evolution explanations may wish to delve into these more deeply.
  1. Clock Conductor:  The brain is a “time machine,” reports EurekAlert on research at Duke University about the human biological clock.  Each structure in the brain has a resonant frequency of oscillations, like the ticking of a clock.  How do they get coordinated?  Think of the tune-up at the beginning of a concert, says Catalin Buhusi of Duke: “It’s like a conductor who listens to the orchestra, which is composed of individual musicians.  Then, with the beat of his baton, the conductor synchronizes the orchestra so that listeners hear a coordinated sound.”
  2. Molecular Scissors:  MicroRNAs (miRNA) have been implicated in recent years with the regulation of genes (09/08/2005), including silencing genes that need to be slowed down or stopped.  EurekAlert reported on work by Wistar Institute that detected a “molecular scissors”action involving three independent parts: “The two enzymes in the complex are like two scissors working together in a concerted fashion, connected and coordinated by the third member of the complex,” said Ramin Shiekhattar.  The activity apparently occurs without any expenditure of ATP energy.
  3. Nerve Code:  Scientists at Howard Hughes Medical Institute were surprised at an unexpected discovery: neuron development follows a code – “an organized relationship between Hox proteins, their chromosomal organization, and the differentiation and connectivity of motor neuron pools.”  The discovery of a combinatorial code, which governs three levels of motor neuron organization, “shows how the nervous system can generate the huge diversity of neurons necessary for a complex task like locomotion.”  Song and Pfaff of the Salk Institute reported on this surprising find in Cell, titling their article, “Hox Genes: The Instructors Working at Motor Pools.”
  4. Sprinting Motor:  Like a sprinter crouching at the block before sprinting, kinesin stores up energy before its 7.8 nanometer leaps, reported Fisher and Kim in PNAS last month.  And like a strong sprinter, it’s not a pushover: “sideways lurching is not supported.”
  5. Give Me Iron, or Give Me Death:  Taylor et al., writing in PNAS, studied the structure of a yeast enzyme named Fet3p essential to oxidizing both iron and copper.  The regulation of these metal ions is essential; Taylor et al. said, “Loss of the Fe(II) oxidation catalyzed by these proteins results in a spectrum of pathological states, including death.”
  6. Gecko Rain Dance:  Geckos have a billion spatula-shaped structures at the ends of the hairs on their feet that allow them to “adhere to nearly all surface topographies.”  Huber et al. in PNAS explored the capillary action on a single spatula and found that “humidity contributes significantly to gecko adhesion on a nanoscopic level.”  They were interested in learning about gecko feet “for the development of artificial biomimetic attachment systems.”
  7. Packaging into the Cell:  Some cargoes get wrapped in membrane and are delivered right through the cell exterior; this is called clathrin-mediated endocytosis.  Kaksonen, Toret and Drubin at UC Berkeley found that “four protein modules that cooperate to drive coat formation, membrane invagination, actin-meshwork assembly, and vesicle scission during clathrin/actin-mediated endocytosis.”  The clathrin itself (an interesting three-pronged protein that forms geodesic structures around the vesicle) “facilitates the initiation of endocytic-site assembly but is not needed for membrane invagination or vesicle formation.”  The work was reported in Cell; see also EurekAlert summary.
  8. Not Just a Recycle Bin:  The proteasome is getting more respect.  This “large multiprotein complex” is critical to the degradation of proteins tagged for recycling.  Baker and Grant reported in Cell that the proteasome was found involved in gene activation, adding to a “growing body of evidence indicating that the proteasome has nonproteolytic functions.”
  9. Sharper Image:  Peter Moore in Science was glad about the “ribosomal coup” performed by Schuwirth et al. in the same issue, who imaged the bacterial ribosome at 3.5 angstrom resolution.  This molecular machine, the protein assembly factory, has moving parts.  Moore said, “The two subunits of the ribosome not only communicate during protein synthesis, they also engage in coordinated, relative motions.”
  10. Bacterial Centipedes:  Did you know that bacteria can walk?  They project little feet called pili that adhere to surfaces; as the bacteria retract them, they pull the bacteria along in a crawling motion.  Researchers at UC Berkeley reporting in Science found a signaling molecule that they watched traveling from one end of the bacterium to the other when the organism needed to change directions.  They figured that this enzyme, FrzS, constituted a chemosensory system that hops onto the intracellular highway and orchestrates the formation of the pili.
  11. Mr. Peabody Gains Respect:  Little specks called P-bodies near the nucleus never had so much limelight.  Jean Marx, writing in Science, told how scientists used to think they were just trash cans for used messenger RNAs (mRNA), a dead-end job.  Now, it appears that these “tiny speckles at the heart of the cell’s machinery” are active, critical players in the regulation of protein synthesis.  They act like routers, holding onto mRNA transcripts while deciding which get used or recycled.  Are they important?  When they go awry, cancer and autoimmune diseases can result.
  12. Bees Under the Floodlights:  Humans can distinguish red, yellow and other colors under different lighting conditions, an ability called color constancy.  Bees have this talent, too.  To prove that weird lighting in a natural setting doesn’t throw them off, two London scientists put bumblebees in a specially-lit chamber.  All the flowers had black backgrounds, and four colored lights could alter the ambience.  They found that “bees can generate color-constant behavior by encoding empirically significant contrast relationships between statistically dependent, but visually distinct, stimulus elements of scenes” – spoken like a scientist, but the bees get the applause.
These 12 brief glimpses at recent science literature hint at the stream of discoveries being made that uncover more and more complexity and coordinated design.  Most of these papers don’t even mention evolution; none of them try to account for the origin of the complex structures they studied.  On the contrary, if the reports had been written by members of the intelligent design movement, no one would be able to tell the difference.  Both groups would express astonishment – but for different reasons.
Next headline on:  Cell BiologyTerrestrial ZoologyHuman BodyBiomimeticsAmazing Stories
Dover Darwin Defenders Provide After-Game Impressions    11/03/2005  
Like a TV commentator with the MVPs in the locker room after a big game, Geoff Brumfiel in Nature1 interviewed two pro-evolution witnesses who testified in the Dover trial.  Brumfiel asked Ken Miller and Kevin Padian what it was like, what they had to do to get ready, how the lawyers treated them, and what they learned from the experience.  Neither had any problems with the opposing lawyers or the judge, but Miller (Brown U) and Padian (NCSE) both told why they thought it was important to testify at this particular trial in Pennsylvania.
Padian:  It’s an opportunity when it really counts.  One person can’t be everywhere around the country talking to every school board and every parent group.  But this is a case where, ultimately, these decisions are going to clarify things in a formal setting.
Miller:  It is the right thing to do.  The battle in Dover is just one example of local battles for scientific education all over the country.  If people in the scientific community turn their backs on people in the front lines, then ultimately the cause of science in public education is doomed.
(Bold added in all quotations.)
Nature2 also provided sample quotes from Miller’s and Padian’s testimonies in the courtroom.  These are discussed in the commentary that follows.
1Geoff Brumfiel, “Expert witness: the scientists who testified against intelligent design,” Nature 438, 11 (3 November 2005) | doi: 10.1038/438011a.
2Box 1, Nature 438, 11 (3 November 2005) | doi: 10.1038/438011a.
This entry should clear up any lingering doubts whether Nature is a Darwin propaganda outlet.  Not only did they ignore the testimony of the other side completely, they treated these hard-core Darwin defenders like the home team.  Like a slobbering toady, Brumfiel sat at their knees for news, accepting anything they said as gospel truth but asking no hard questions.  So much for fair and balanced reporting in the journals.  Let’s examine their sample quotes from the Dover testimony:
Miller:  If you invoke a non-natural cause, a spirit force or something like that in your research and I decide to test it, I have no way to test it.  I can’t order that from a biological supply house, I can’t grow it in my laboratory.  And that means that your explanations in that respect, even if they were correct, were not something I could test or replicate, and therefore they really wouldn’t be part of science.
Great.  I’d like to order some Convergent Evolution, a few pieces of Sexual Selection, some Game Theory and a few stocking stuffers of Just-So Stories for my kids in science class.  Clever, Ken, but we’re up to your chicanery.  Intelligence is not always non-natural.  You are intelligent, aren’t you?  When a scientist publishes fraudulent work or falsifies evidence, does this mean we have to explain his actions in terms of physical laws and chemical reactions, or parts we can order from Carolina Biological Supply House?  Does your criterion mean we can no longer look for murderers as suspects when we find a body on the sidewalk, or lost tribes to explain archaeological artifacts?  What about the stone tools Morwood found in that Indonesian cave?  Did they just emerge from the cave floor by erosion?  Scientists test intelligent causes all the time.  SETI is built on the assumption that intelligent causes can be distinguished from “natural” causes.  Unless you are prepared to scratch archaeology, cryptology, intellectual property law, anthropology, paleoanthropology, criminology, sociology and SETI off the list of legitimate scientific investigations, better loosen up.  ID revolves around the concept of information.  Information is just as real as physics and chemistry, and yes, you can buy information, and sell it, too.  You can even grow information – isn’t that what we call teaching, or the process of science itself?  It didn’t escape our notice that you said even if [design explanations] were correct... they wouldn’t be part of science.  Well, then, kiss the search for truth good-bye as you wander forever in Darwin Storybookland.
Padian:  We’ll be the first people to admit that science doesn’t know everything and can’t know everything.  But on the other hand, we would like a fair and accurate representation of what we do know.
And your point is? 
Padian:  It worries me that students would be told that they have to make a conclusion in advance of all the evidence that you can’t get from A to B, essentially, by natural means.
Your Honor, allow me to display Exhibit A, the Explanatory Filter described by William Dembski, PhD mathematician and author of The Design Inference.  Mr. Padian, where on the diagram is the design inference made?  Right, at the very bottom, after the chance and natural law explanations have been exhausted.  In other words, a design inference is a last resort – not a first resort.  No scientist is asked to make a design conclusion in advance, as you allege.  The ID strategy is very similar to existing scientific endeavors in that regard: explanations should first examine whether chance and natural law can account for the phenomenon under investigation.  They should be rigorous and exhaustive and not jump to design conclusions prematurely.  The criterion of specified complexity is an objective, mathematical measure for eliminating chance by small probabilities before making a design inference.  This eliminates the God-of-the-gaps problem that anti-ID people bring up so often.  Trouble is, you want to short-circuit this last step in the flowchart and create an infinite loop.  If no chance or natural-law explanation is found, you want to go to top and start over, then over, then over again, ad infinitum.
    Your Honor, allow me to display Exhibit B [a quote by Richard Lewontin in the Baloney Detector].  This statement proves that Mr. Padian and his Darwinist colleagues are the ones requiring a conclusion in advance.  By ruling out the design inference, they want scientists to go round and round on the merry-go-round that will never find the answer even if, as his partner Miller said, the design explanation is correct.  As we know from over a century of Darwinian attempts at explanations, this spins off an endless train of speculative scenarios that become more improbable with the revising (see 10/26/2005 example) as the evidence for biological design mounts (see next story, for instance).
    Readers of Nature will never hear this kind of cross-examination from the Darwin Party mouthpiece journals.  Thankfully, there are other sources that don’t mind getting the story from both teams.  You’re reading one of them.
Next headline on:  Darwinism and EvolutionIntelligent DesignEducation
Bacterial Flagellum Visualized    11/02/2005  
Tom Magnuson at Access Research Network found this link that came out last year but is too good to pass up: another visualization of the bacterial flagellum, the “poster child of the ID movement,” by Japanese researchers on NanoNet, the Nanotechnology Researchers Network Center of Japan.  The 02/05/2004 NanoNet Bulletin features the bacterial flagellum with still images from a stunning movie they made, A Rotary Nanomachine, downloadable from the site.  The movie contains crisp animations of the flagellar motor at work and features amazing facts about how the propeller is assembled, molecule by molecule, at the growing tip.  The film (34 minutes, 36mb) also tells the story of how challenging it was for the team to image the nanometer-scale parts of the system.
    Another issue, 09/16/2004 NanoNet Bulletin tells how professor Masasuke Yoshido first visualized the rotation of another biomolecular rotary motor, ATP synthase.  The entire website is concerned with nanotechnology, and many of the articles blur the distinction between biological and artificial machines.
This film makes a terrific follow-up to Unlocking the Mystery of Life for those interested in additional technical details of how the flagellum works.  The animations are superb.  Nobody would be able to look at this system and say it wasn’t designed – it looks for all the world like finely-crafted machinery.  The researchers are in awe of the precision of the parts and the efficiency of the motor.  Is it any wonder that there is no mention of evolution?  On the contrary, the word design is key: “Looking at the shape of the flagellar basal body,” said Keiici Namba, the interviewee, “it is obviously designed to rotate.”
    Dr. Namba also said something that shows how biological design can stimulate a Darwin-free research program: “Looking at a picture of the flagellar motor on the wall every day,” he said in Asianized English, “I feel up towards revealing the mystery by any means.”  How it works – and what we can learn from the design – those ideas borrow nothing from Darwinian theory, and sound remarkably similar to the motivations of Robert Boyle, James Joule and many other creation scientists throughout history.  None of the People of Froth (the Anti-ID crowd) could claim that these Japanese researchers had a religious motivation for making this film or for doing their cutting-edge research.  School boards can show this film as proof that design-based science is powerful and productive.  The end of science?  Bringing science to a halt?  Taking us back to the Dark Ages?  Bosh—this is the future of active, fruitful, motivating research that will inspire young scientists and bring the best technology to bear on understanding biological realities (see 10/29/2005 story).
    Intelligent design is not so much about making additions to science, but rather some blessed subtractions: removing the useless fluff of Darwinian speculation and storytelling (12/22/2003) that produces nothing but vaporware on back order.  Throughout history (see online book), the design perspective has mastered the machinery of science that produces the goods.
Next headline on:  MediaCell BiologyIntelligent DesignAmazing Stories
Educator Suggests Inoculation Technique Against Creationism    11/01/2005  
Give them some ID, then swamp it with counter-arguments.  That’s the new method of “educational intervention” that Stephen Verhey of Central Washington University has found most effective in overcoming college student objections to evolution, reported EurekAlert.  Verhey tested 103 students with prior exposure to creationism.  He assigned the book Icons of Evolution by Jonathan Wells, followed by three works by prominent evolutionists, including The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins, a point-by-point refutation of Wells’s book and a book discussing the evolution of sex.  The teacher then facilitated a discussion about the nature of science.  Most of the two-thirds of students who reported “some change in their beliefs” were found to have become at least a little more sympathetic to evolution after the exercise. 
Verhey’s study was inspired by an influential theory of cognitive development advanced in 1970 by William G. Perry.  Perry’s theory holds that students pass through distinct modes of thinking.  Verhey’s intervention was designed to support students as they progressed toward a more sophisticated cognitive mode by engaging them at the level of their initial understanding--including their initial ideas about creationism.  Although alternative explanations are possible, Verhey maintains that his results suggest engaging prior learning “was an effective approach to evolution education.”   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
Verhey published his results in the November issue of BioScience, a journal of the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS).  His method contrasts strongly with the official position of the AIBS which calls intelligent design and creationism “fundamentally unscientific” and feels teaching it is wrong.  “Prominent evolution educator” Craig E. Nelson opposes this method in high school, but grants that doing so in college will “help future teachers and other leaders understand why there is no contest scientifically between creationism and evolution.”
Good grief; now the Darwin Party wants to treat creationism like a disease.  They’re looking at students like lab rats and studying their cognitive development, as if creationism is just a developmental abnormality.  Presumably creationism is a bug some students pick up in their youth, like chicken pox.  Since cold turkey doesn’t appear to work, maybe injecting them with a weakened form of the disease, followed by antibiotics, will cure them and help them get on with a “more sophisticated cognitive mode” that appreciates the truth of evolution.
    For this therapy to work, the experimental conditions must be carefully controlled.  Jonathan Wells must not be given a chance to rebut the rebuttals, for instance (see ARN).  The Darwinist doctor must be careful not to give more toxin than the student can handle.  As long as the Darwinist facilitator always gives Charlie the last word, and reassures the class with the MAD strategy (Most Accept Darwin), this new method might help contain the growing pandemic.  Hopefully the virus will not mutate and start spreading from birdbrains to humans.
    These are methods the communists made famous.  To them, religious people who did not accept their atheism and political philosophy were mentally ill, and needed treatment.  There was no open marketplace of ideas; just analysis of the best psychological means to achieve conformity.
    The anti-evolutionists believe in a more benign approach toward their opponents.  They don’t want to put them in cages and experiment on them; they want to talk.  They want all the evidence out there on the table for rational discussion and evaluation.  They want to remind their opponents of a reasonable strategy suggested by their own Pope Charles, who said, “A fair* result can only be obtained by balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question.”
Next headline on:  Darwinism and EvolutionIntelligent DesignEducation
*This presents a conundrum to anti-evolutionists.  Darwin’s extreme disciples have gone far beyond the Mosstuh and now feel that fairness itself evolved.  They believe that fairness, altruism, and all forms of moral behavior are artifacts of social evolution.  They actually invoke Game Theory to explain the origin of moral motions.  As such, fairness cannot have intrinsic validity.  How does one have a fair intellectual discussion with people of this persuasion?
    Answer: catch them in their own trap.  Tell a Darwinist he has become his own nemesis: a social constructivist, where everything is about power (in their parlance, fitness).  The only way to deal with such people, after knocking on their head while saying, “Hello; anybody home?”, is to point out the self-refuting nature of their position, and remind them that it undermines their very claim that evolution is science.  No coherent ontology can be built on the self-refuting premise, “I think, therefore thinking evolved.”  Ponder, instead, a living fossil – Paley ontology.
Quote 11/01/2005:  “... the walls of Darwinian orthodoxy, once supposed to be impregnable, are now sprouting very serious holes all over the place.  I am very minded to suggest to you that our real problem is less how do we make our case and more what do we do with the victory once it has been officially ratified?  To tell you the truth, I would have never in a million years expected the Other Side to have crumbled quite so quickly and quite so completely.  It’s now time to think of a post-Darwinian world -- in every sense -- and to make our plans for it.” – David Berlinski on Evolution News, commenting on an article attacking Darwinist pretensions in The New Criterion by John Silber, former president of Boston University (warning: dogmatic theistic evolutionist).


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Featured Creation Scientist for November

Hugh of St. Victor
c. 1096 - 1141

Our millennium of creation scientists begins with a teacher named Hugh, from the abbey school of St. Victor outside Paris.  He gained notoriety for barring flower arranging in the monastery, rebuking it as a waste of time for those devoted to higher contemplations.  It was this incident that gave us the phrase, “Hugh, and only Hugh, can prevent florist friars.”  (Not really, but a little pause for levity before 1000 years of science doesn’t hurt.)  Actually, he probably appreciated flowers as an illustration of the wisdom of the Creator.

Hugh of St. Victor illustrates that medieval Europe should not be labeled with that disparaging anachronism, “the Dark Ages.”  A remarkably clear thinker and learned man, he had no time for superstition and magic, but instead advocated knowledge and investigation of the natural world.  He had remarkable scientific insight for someone living six centuries before the rise of modern science, and he built his philosophy squarely on the foundation of the Bible, especially Genesis.

Reaching back a thousand years, we are not looking for a fully fleshed out scientific philosophy, but for distinctive beliefs that would eventually set it in motion.  Important among these are the doctrine of God, the philosophy of nature, and the role of man.  Scientists today avoid thoughts of God, yet depend on the theology and philosophy of the early natural philosophers who changed the way people view God, the world, and man: instead of capricious acts of warring gods, intelligent design by a wise Creator; instead of magic, law; instead of superstition, creative investigation by minds made in the image of God.  Scholastic philosophers of the middle ages had many faults and were wrong about many things, but they laid foundations that could hold up a skyscraper of science.  As we shall see, modern science today is an atheistic facade on a theistic superstructure.  Not only the foundation but much of the interior that holds up the structure was built largely by creationists, and they were building on the Word of God.

If you have read the Introduction, you know we intend to present real historical characters with wrinkles and all.  Including someone in this hall of fame does not imply advocating everything the person believed and taught.  Hugh was clearly medieval in a time flooded with false notions about Scripture and nature.  He was undoubtedly influenced by classical texts available to him.  Of all civilizations to this time, the Arabs and Greeks had come closest to a true scientific understanding of the world.  Europe owed much to their contributions.  But in both civilizations, science never became self sustaining, and eventually faded.  Meanwhile, the Catholic church had corrupted Biblical views of God, man, and the world.  The pursuit of knowledge as encouraged in the Proverbs of Solomon had been replaced by mindless obedience, asceticism and reliance on authority.  The influx of Greek manuscripts (especially Aristotle) via the Arabs, and their advances in mathematics and medicine, seemed to be a wake up call to medieval scholars.  Aristotle’s system, though cogent and comprehensive, was a mix of good logic and nonsense.  His man-centered views were often contrary to the Bible.  European Christian philosophers needed to re-evaluate their core beliefs, and some looked deeper into the Bible for answers.  While impressed with Aristotle’s system, had they embraced it uncritically, it would have proved a dead end – and it nearly was, taking centuries to dethrone Aristotle as the default expert on everything.  Those who knew the Bible, and trusted its authority, were the ones who saved science from this fate*.  Hugh of St. Victor exemplified these who built natural philosophy on the Scriptures.  In time, this view would provide a more fertile soil for science than classical philosophy.

Dan Graves in Scientists of Faith says, “His assumption was simple: because the Bible is God’s reliable word, Christians need not fear scientific inquiry.  All truth, when fully understood, will support all other truth.  But to make sense of the world’s obscurities, we must start from that which is plain” (Graves, p. 18, emphasis added).  “All nature expresses God,” Hugh said, and “Nature is a book written by the hand of God.”  Such statements would be common later, but they reveal a profound difference in world view from the animist or pantheist: nature is a thing, an object other than God.  As a material system made by a transcendent Creator, it can and should be studied as a means to gain wisdom.  They also reveal a profound difference from the Greeks and Arabs whose theologies diminished the role of God as Lawgiver and sustainer of the world.  Greek gods were as mischievous as humans; why trust them?  The Allah of the Muslims was sovereign to the point of capriciousness; his actions were unpredictable.  Arabs had their Koran, but this collection of rambling, unclassified oracles of dubious origin (written down long after Mohammed had died), rarely intersected with verifiable natural phenomena or historical events.  The Koran and the Bible are poles apart.  The Bible was written by 40 authors over many centuries, and contains thousands of names of people and places and events that can be cross-checked against other sources.  Only in the Bible is there the balance of law and grace, the consistent standard of righteousness, the appeal to think and reason, the frequent exaltation of creation as the work of an omniscient God, and the consistent linear timeline from creation to consummation.  No other sacred book in the world compares with it.  This was the rock on which Hugh of St. Victor and his successors started building their science.  It worked.  The storms came, and the winds blew, but the structure stands.  It is not the structure alone, but the rock-solid foundation, that keeps it upright.

Born in what is now Germany, Hugh was one of the masters of the abbey of St. Victor near Paris for many years.  His writings were widespread throughout Europe.  In theology, he was Augustinian; some historians classify him as Platonist in philosophy, living at the time right before Aristotle’s works were reintroduced to the West.  But labels do not tell all.  Though undoubtedly familiar with Plato (the Timmaeus was the only Platonic work available at the time), Hugh was also an original and critical thinker, as were many medieval scholars.  He believed in interpreting the Scriptures literally: not slavishly, but wherever the context permitted it.  “Biblical literalism” is often a term of derision today, the assumed antithesis of scientific thinking, but Hugh’s hermeneutic (method of interpreting Scripture) was actually a stimulus for science.  Dan Graves explains his reasoning:

In order to fully understand its literal meaning, one must study the sciences that shed light on such things.  Whether one wishes to reconstruct the design of Noah’s ark, date Easter, calculate chronologies, or understand Biblical weights and measures, sciences are needed.  Curiosity then is a natural expression of reason, revealing the image of God that the Creator breathed into humanity at its creation.

Investigating the natural world and making discoveries, therefore, are to be thought of as worthy – even essential – ambitions.  Hugh also saw work and technology as virtuous, based on Paul’s admonitions (e.g., Ephesians 4:28), contrary to Greek scholars who considered manual labor beneath their dignity.  He himself worked with mirrors, geometry, and classification of the sciences.  One of his best-known works is the Didascalicon or teacher’s manual.  It discusses what is to be taught, and why.  In this “remarkably comprehensive early encyclopedia” (according to Encyclopedia Britannica), Hugh acknowledged Greek science but saw the Bible as superior.  He specifically denounced the logical errors of Epicurus and other classical philosophers who relied on reason alone.  Instead, Hugh advocated mathematics for logical validity and precision.

Hugh of St. Victor held to a literal six-day interpretation of the Creation account in Genesis and viewed it as an archetype of the divine wisdom to which man can aspire.  Jerome Taylor explains that Hugh specifically contradicted some of his contemporaries (like William of Conches) who tried to compromise Genesis with Greek philosophy, feeling that “the ancients were but laborers upon an inferior truth, while to Christians, to the sons of Life, was reserved the consummation of truth.”  Instead of allegorizing Genesis like others, Hugh insisted that “the chaos [of Gen. 1:2] literally existed and that its ordering in an equally literal six-day period is a mystery, a ‘sacrament,’ through which the Creator determined to teach the rational creature that it must rise from the disorder of its initial and untaught existence to an intellectual and moral beauty of form conferred by the divine Wisdom.”  This allegorical meaning extends from, but does not replace, the literal meaning and historical actuality of the Creation account.

Another original contribution by Hugh of St. Victor that fostered the development of science was the idea that learning has redemptive value.  In the Didascalicon, he listed three consequences of the Fall: it damaged man’s relationship to God, his understanding of the world, and his body.  Hugh taught that learning could ameliorate some of the consequences of the Fall in each of these areas.  For the relationship to God, after one is redeemed through the sacrificial atonement of Christ, a person can grow closer to God through the study of theology.  For the loss of natural knowledge that Adam had enjoyed, fallen man could regain some of it through the study of nature and the liberal arts.  For redeeming the body, one could regain some control through the “mechanical arts” such as medicine.  Here, Hugh originated a list of mechanical arts to complement the seven liberal arts.  Each of these Hugh derived directly from the Genesis accounts of Creation and the Fall.  (1) Fabric-making is needed because man is naked and not endowed with fur like other animals.  (2) Armaments are necessary because man does not have the large teeth or claws of animals.  (3) Commerce helps reconcile nations who have become alienated through selfish ambitions; it calms wars, strengthens peace, and turns the private good of the individual into the benefit of the many.  (4) Agriculture helps compensate for the “sweat of the brow” that Adam had to endure after the expulsion from Eden.  (5) Hunting formalizes the skills needed to obtain food.  (6) Medicine overcomes the loss of original perfection of the body.  And lastly, (7) Theatrics, if virtuous, can provide relaxation and refreshment to the mind.  Notice that Hugh’s method strove to build a system of inquiry directly on Scripture, specifically Genesis.  Whether his list was complete or useful to modern teachers is not the point; Hugh fostered the systematic pursuit of useful knowledge from the study of nature.  Most important, he taught that the pursuit of natural knowledge was a priority for the Christian.  It was a way for human beings to partially recover from the effects of the Fall.  Once redeemed by grace through faith in Christ, the man of God can embark on a path leading back to the wisdom of God.**

In these concepts, we see the liberating of the Christian life from asceticism and authoritarianism – two corruptions of New Testament teaching that plagued the church after Constantine.  Hugh of St. Victor encouraged his students to search for truth about the world.  He said, “the intention of all human actions is resolved in a common objective: either to restore in us the likeness of the divine image or to take thought for the necessity of this life, which, the more easily it can suffer harm from those things which work to its disadvantage, the more does it require to be cherished and conserved” (p. 54).  He went on to explain how science breeds both understanding and remedy for harms, that these are wise and just, and thereby noble outworkings of the divine image.  Hugh commended logic and disciplined thinking.  He repudiated magic (including fortunetelling, divination and astrology) as “the mistress of every form of iniquity and malice, lying about the truth...”  This does not sound like the Dark Ages, does it?  The Didascalicon is obsessed with classifying things and pursuing knowledge, wisdom and virtue.  Though antiquated in many respects, it contains core concepts that are like fertilizer and rain for deserts of authority and superstition.  It helped cultivate a soil in which the fruitful vine of science could grow.

One of his best-known quotations is: “Learn everything; you will see afterwards that nothing is superfluous.  A skimpy knowledge is not a pleasing thing” (p. 137).  It must be recognized that he was speaking here of Bible study; he was arguing that one should not skip over the historical narratives: “Some things are to be known for their own sakes,” he explained, like the ethical principles of the New Testament, but other passages, like the detailed genealogies of I Chronicles, “although for their own sakes they do not seem worthy of our labor, nevertheless, because without them the former class of things cannot be known with complete clarity, must by no means be carelessly skipped.”  Then he stated the “Learn everything” line.  While it would be invalid to lift his proverb out of context, we do see Hugh’s passion for knowledge and clarity of thinking, a passion that extended to all scholarly endeavor.  What a contrast to the surrounding civilizations!

Where does Hugh of St. Victor stand in the headwaters of scientific thought?  Encyclopedia Britannica states, “Hugh’s somewhat innovative style of exegesis [including literal interpretation of Genesis] made an important contribution to the development of natural theology: he based his arguments for God’s existence on external and internal experience and added a teleological proof originating from the facts of experience. ... Unlike some of his contemporaries, Hugh upheld secular learning by promoting knowledge as an introduction to contemplative life.”

In closing, let Hugh of St. Victor speak for himself from ten centuries ago:

Now there are two things which restore the divine likeness in man, namely the contemplation of truth and the practice of virtue.  For man resembles God in being wise and just — though, to be sure, man is but changeably so while God stands changelessly both wise and just.  Of those actions which minister to the necessity of this life, there are three types: first, those which take care of the feeding of nature; second, those which fortify against harms which might possibly come from without; and third, those which provide remedy for harms already besieging us.  When, moreover, we strive after the restoration of our nature, we perform a divine action, but when we provide the necessaries required by our infirm part, a human action.  The former type, since it derives from above, we may not unfittingly call “understanding” (intelligentia); the latter, since it derives from below and requires, as it were, a certain practical counsel, “knowledge” (scientia).


*Dan Graves looks even earlier.  He describes John Philoponus, an Alexandrian Christian scholar (late sixth century), an early critic of Aristotle, as exemplifying these same principles of Christian natural philosophy.  It is unlikely he was alone in his views.  And according to Graves (Scientists of Faith, pp. 15-17), Philoponus knew prominent early Muslims in Alexandria, and may have influenced their science with his insistence on the transcendence of God (as opposed to pantheism) and natural law (as opposed to constant intervention by God). Perhaps the Islamic scientists were indebted to Christian thought more than is commonly assumed.

**Jerome Taylor, in his introduction to the Didascalicon, claims that Hugh believed in “the spiritual perfectability of man—a concern which dominates the whole of his theology” (p. 13), but this appears to be a distortion.  In Book Six, Hugh clearly expressed the need for repentance and grace (p. 139).  The pursuit of wisdom, knowledge and virtue is wholly in accord with New Testament teaching for the redeemed.  The apostle Paul pressed toward the mark for the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:14).  Perfection may be unattainable, but that does not devalue the pursuit of it.  In the words of a locker room poster, “Reach for the stars.  If you don’t make it, you’ll land pretty high anyway.”


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

A Concise Guide
to Understanding
Evolutionary Theory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Souder’s Law
Repetition does not establish validity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advice from Paul

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

I Timothy 6:20-21

Song of the True Scientist

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

from Psalm 104

Maxwell’s Motivation

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

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

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

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