Human life is a gift from our Creator and that gift should never be discarded,
devalued or put up for sale.
President George W. Bush, State of the Union Address
Next headline on:
Bible and Theology
Politics and Ethics
A Whale of a SETI Tale 01/31/2006
Disneys Fantasia 2000
had an episode that pictured whales gliding through the air as if in outer space.
Lawrence Doyle of the SETI
Institute connected whales with space in another way. His article discussed
whale language as a sign of intelligence. Appealing to information theory and
entropy, Doyle discussed how scientists deduce the syntax and entropy of whale messages, even
when we cant figure out the meaning. By entropy, he means the number
of choices in a given communication system. For instance, squirrel-monkey
language does not have enough entropy for Shakespeare to be translated into it.
An important measure of entropy is the highest entropic-order at which the
communication systems peaks. In measuring this, we ask how dependent the signals
are on each other. In human speech we have grammar and in human writing we have
spelling (or brush strokes, etc.) that depend on each other. If you made a copy of a
written page, but the toner in the copy machine was low, you would find that you could
nevertheless recover some of the missing words because there are rules of spelling and grammar
superimposed on our language system. It is these rules that allow error recovery
and this works in both vocalization as well as written communication systems (as well as
any others, e.g., chemical signaling units, bee dances, visual facial features, etc.)
(Emphasis added in all quotes.)
Scientists are not yet sure if whale language has the entropy level anywhere near that
of humans. But he argued that observing correlations between language and sociality
of whales can help us, when we find life in space, deduce something about the social structure of the aliens:
And how might this apply to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence? If there is a
relationship between social complexity and vocal complexity, then the measure
of one will be a measurement, to some degree, of the other. If a SETI signal is
received, and is a normal (i.e., un-coded) communication, it will have to obey the rules
of information theory in order to transmit information. Thus, a measure
of the information complexity of such SETI signals could also be a first direct measurement
of the social complexity of an extraterrestrial species, irrespective of the actual
decipherment of the meaning of such a message itself. Exciting prospect indeed!
Until such a signal is detected, however, it remains only a prospect for the space-intelligence prospectors.
Wait a minute. We heard Seth Shostak say last month
that SETI wasnt looking for an information-bearing message, like the proponents
of intelligent design claim, but only for a persistent narrowband whistle in an unusual context
that they could claim was non-natural. Whats all this talk about information
theory? Now the SETI institute is going even beyond the inference to intelligence to an
inference about social complexity. Thats a lot of inference from a persistent
narrowband whistle. Is it not more credible to infer an intelligent cause for a language
with sufficient entropy to generate tens of thousands of precision protein machines, like DNA?
How Circular Reasoning Passes Peer Review
Next headline on:
Evolution is a fact; therefore, evolution is a fact. That kind of logic would
strike most people as either odd or flawed. Yet it is common fare in scientific journals,
where the assumption of evolution is used as proof of evolution.
Darwinists are fond of
comparing evolution to gravity, making it appear such a well-grounded belief, supported by
such an immense weight of evidence (e.g., 01/26/2006), that it is no
longer in need of proof. For instance, in
this month, Harvard evolutionist E. O. Wilson said,
Modern biology has arrived at two major principles that are supported by so much
interlocking evidence as to rank as virtual laws of nature. The first is that
all biological elements and processes are ultimately obedient to the laws of physics and chemistry.
The second principle is that all life has evolved by random mutation and natural selection.
Because evolutionists believe that molecules-to-man evolution is a law of nature, it can be used as an axiom from
which other ideas can be logically deduced. Alternative explanations are simply out of
bounds by definition, even when evolutionary inferences appear stretched.
For example, consider a paper by Geerat J. Vermeij (UC Davis) published this week in PNAS,1
entitled Historical contingency and the purported uniqueness of evolutionary innovations.
Vermeij tackled a vexing problem between evolutionists: whether evolutionary innovations are
unique, rare, one-time occurrences (as argued by the late Stephen J. Gould); or, instead,
somewhat predictable, because environments will constrain evolution to follow replicable pathways.
The abstract states:
Many events in the history of life are thought to be singular, that is, without parallels,
analogs, or homologs in time and space. These claims imply that history is profoundly
contingent in that independent origins of life in the universe will spawn radically different
histories. If, however, most innovations arose more than once on Earth, histories would
be predictable and replicable at the scale of functional roles and directions of adaptive change.
Times of origin of 23 purportedly unique evolutionary innovations are significantly more
ancient than the times of first instantiation of 55 innovations that evolved more than once,
implying that the early phases of lifes history were less replicable than later
phases or that the appearance of singularity results from information loss through time.
Indirect support for information loss comes from the distribution of sizes of clades in
which the same minor, geologically recent innovation has arisen multiple times. For three
repeated molluscan innovations, 28-71% of instantiations are represented by clades of
five or fewer species. Such small clades would be undetectable in the early history
of life. Purportedly unique innovations either arose from the union and integration
of previously independent components or belong to classes of functionally similar
innovations. Claims of singularity are therefore not well supported by the available
evidence. Details of initial conditions, evolutionary pathways, phenotypes, and
timing are contingent, but important ecological, functional, and directional aspects of
the history of life are replicable and predictable.
Clearly Vermeij takes the second of the two positions. Whats interesting about the paper,
though, is that all the support for it comes from evolutionary assumptions. His paper contains
two tables: one of first-time evolutionary innovations, and another of repeated instantiations of
previous innovations that arose by convergent or parallel evolution.
Even the dates for the innovations came from the geological column, a construct devised from evolutionary
assumptions. Evolutionary theory, therefore, not only was assumed in the tables, but also used
to deduce how evolution acted in the past, and will act in the future and throughout the universe.
In creation-evolution debates, when asked to provide examples from the immense
weight of evidence for evolution, debaters on the Darwinian side will typically point to the shapes of finch beaks,
antibiotic resistance in bacteria (01/29/2006), the color of peppered
moths, or other small-scale changes. Even creationists agree that these kinds of variations
occur naturally. The innovations listed in Vermeijs table, by contrast, are large-scale changes
involving complex systems with interrelated parts, including:
the origin of life, the universal genetic code, sexual reproduction, wings, and human language.
Creationists deny that small-scale change can be logically extrapolated into large-scale change,
citing lack of evidence from the fossil record and observed limits to artificial selection.
Scientific journals, however, give no voice to these criticisms, because they already
have taken molecules-to-man evolution to be a fact based on the observed small-scale changes.
Having extrapolated from finch beaks to all of the variety and
complexity of life, the evolutionist feels free to speculate on even larger issues. Vermeij used
his logic to address questions of what life could be expected to look like on other worlds.
Apparently none of the editors or reviewers at the National Academy saw any problem with any of this.
1Geerat J. Vermeij, Historical contingency and the purported uniqueness
of evolutionary innovations,
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA,
Published online before print January 27, 2006; DOI 10.1073/pnas.0508724103.
What this means is that to the degree Darwinian dogma
relies on circular reasoning, it is like a gigantic
house of cards balanced on a toothpick. Effectively dislodge the point holding up the
whole structure, and it could collapse quickly and catastrophically.
How Fossils Form: We Dont Rightly Know 01/30/2006
Phillip Johnson predicted a growing body of scientists and lay people who
would ask the right questions and no longer take bluffing
and evasion for an answer. Learn to look past
the E. O. Wilsons and Lord Martin Reeses of the Darwin Party who stand up flaunting their
science badges, spouting royal hot air about the overwhelming weight of evidence for evolution.
Remember what Schwarz said last week about that evidence? (01/26/2006).
Dont look at the size of the house of cards or how intricately its parts are interlocked.
Look at the flimsy pillar of assumption supporting it. Test that, and stand back.
Next headline on:
Darwinism and Evolutionary theory
Fossils have been such a mainstay of evolutionary theory for at least two centuries,
one would think we have a pretty good picture of the process. An article by
Sid Perkins in Science News1 is revealing: Only in the past decade
or so have people begun to study in detail what happens to organisms after death,
the article states. Thats surprising in a world where death is pervasive.
Some research teams have actually done science projects on
taphonomy, the study of fossilization. They have buried everything from birds to rhinos and exhumed them a few
years later to see what happens. In most cases, much of the animal is gone.
Consider what happens to birds. Perkins shows a picture of Archaeopteryx
and puzzles not why only 10 have been found, but why any have been preserved at all:
Most carcasses that harden into fossils, including those of birds, were deposited in a body of water and then buried by sediment, says David A. Krauss, a paleobiologist at City University of New York. However, the irksome fact that dead birds float conflicts with this observation. In fact, bird carcasses float for quite a while, according to the results of experiments conducted by Krauss and his colleagues. The researchers reported their findings last October at a meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology in Mesa, Ariz.
They did get better results when sand or silt in the water impregnated the feathers, but still,
the remarkable preservation of Archaeopteryx and many of the bones in China is startling
considering the odds.
In their tests, conducted outdoors during the summer, Krauss and his colleagues placed carcasses of doves, swallows, and blackbirds in tanks filled with water. Every one of the dozen birds floated. By the end of the third day, a thick film of bacteria had formed on the carcasses. Soon thereafter, the birds remains became infested with bugs and maggots. Over the next 3 to 4 weeks, the carcasses decayed, lost some feathers, and began to fall apartbut they still floated.
Only after decomposition breached the birds internal air sacs and permitted water to flow into those cavities did the body parts finally sink, says Krauss. At that point, the remains certainly wouldnt have made informative fossils.
(Emphasis added in all quotes.)
Other than bones and teeth, which already contain minerals, most of an animals
carcass is soft tissue which decomposes rapidly. Buried eggs, for instance, are
rapidly consumed by bacteria, yet fossils are known. Rare are the chemical conditions, such as acidity,
which allow for preservation. Scientists are still not sure which conditions can avoid
the usual decompositional processes.
In 1983, a team from U of Wisconsin-Madison buried a white rhino that had
died in a local zoo. They checked how the fossilization was going after about eight
years, and then a few years later. The limbs had detached and much of the flesh on
the legs had disappeared, but surprisingly, some of the muscles from forelimbs and shoulders
looked fresh, like [they] came out of a butchers shop a team member commented.
Most of the skin was missing and a coating of a hard, grainy substance called grave wax
coated the body cavity.
In short, very little is known about fossilization. Plants and animals
have a variety of tissues, so there is no single route to becoming a fossil.
In a sense, fossilization is as much a process of elimination as an active means of preservation,
Perkins stated, referring to how taphonomy needs to take into account what vanishes as much as
what remains. In one memorable line, he said, Most organisms live, die, and disappear
without leaving any hints that they ever existed.
1Sid Perkins, Modern science investigates the initial stages of how fossils form,
Week of Jan. 28, 2006; Vol. 169, No. 4 , p. 56.
No, we are NOT going to say billions of dead things
buried in rock layers laid down by water all over the earth, but think about this; it must require
unusual conditions to get an Archaeopteryx and all the fine detail of preservation
of feathers and soft tissues seen in many famous museum pieces, especially those coming
out of the Liaoning Province of China. Think of the dramatic fossil graveyards around
the world where large mammals, dinosaurs or whales are buried in huge expanses of strata.
ID Kills Darwin with Kindness in Town Hall 01/29/2006
Perkins speaks glibly about this 570-million-year-old
embryo, or that 150 million year old Archaeopteryx, and such, but how can he know?
All this research is relatively new, and shows rapid decay within less than 20 years.
How is it possible to claim what a fossil will look like in millions of years?
Think of how little remains when coroners exhume famous remains like Jesse James to look
for clues in some historical mystery, and yet fossil embryos and jellyfish have been found,
and things as ephemeral as footprints, raindrops and even dinosaur vomit.
This is a good area of research for a budding young scientist who has some decades of
useful career ahead to work. Since so many claims are made based on assumptions of long
ages, it would be useful to know the requirements for
fossilization with actual field testing, and get some numbers on how long various
features can be expected to last even if completely mineralized. We wonder if
Harry Truman has fossilized at Mt. St. Helens under the ash at Spirit Lake.
Probably so; he was a pretty hard cuss already.
Next headline on:
The Darwinists may have gotten the headlines with their lawsuit to stop intelligent design
in a local high school (see 01/19/2006 story), but the townspeople of Frazier
Park, California showed warm
support for ID in person. A town hall advertised in the local paper and sponsored
by one of the area churches packed out the community center with some 250 people eager
to hear more about intelligent design. Most seemed to be from local churches, but
several town officials, reporters and some families of the lawsuit plaintiffs were present.
After the showing of the film
Unlocking the Mystery of Life,
a panel of scientists and teachers supporting ID took questions from the audience. No one
was hostile or confrontational; if anything, the anti-ID people seemed rather timid or
just sat quietly. An independent filmmaker gathered footage for a documentary he
wants to make on the ID controversy in America. A reporter for the local paper
said he came expecting to hear religious arguments for the existence of God, but was surprised
by the quality of the scientific arguments for intelligent design and found them
convincing. His staff also were impressed by how polite and friendly the
pro-ID people were.
One point made clear was that this was an opportunity
for people to learn about ID and to open the door for rational discussion on this issue
in a pleasant, non-confrontational manner.
The pastor who acted as MC did not lead in prayer or create any religious pressure, but broke
the ice by thanking them all for coming, humorously congratulating them for getting their small town
in the national spotlight, and inviting them to share their questions.
Panel members stayed on topic about what ID is. Though religious or philosophical
implications are important on both sides of the debate, the panelists were careful to
stick to the issue of whether design from intelligent causes can be approached scientifically.
Church volunteers brought tables of refreshments and a bookseller had a table full of ID books
and videos for sale; another table contained handouts on ID topics found on the
Discovery Institute website.
Nobody Nose What Dino Crest Was For 01/28/2006
This could be a great idea for your home town. Organize a town hall on intelligent design
and show one of the Illustra Media films.
These quality productions say most of what needs to be said. Have handouts, serve some food,
make some books and videos available for sale, and get some knowledgeable teachers or
scientists to take a few questions. You could well get a big crowd of interested people,
like the little town of Frazier Park did.
The Darwinists may have felt outnumbered on this occasion, but if so, they
were overpowered only by friendly and gracious people. Another producer was overheard to
say that in his experience Christians and pro-ID people tended to be likeable, compared
to pro-Darwinists who tend to be loud, aggressive,
insecure and unlikable, or just hopelessly naive. Every effort
was made to give opponents a sympathetic hearing. The emphasis of the meeting was
to define what intelligent design is, and to learn more about it,
without pressure or confrontation. The film was extremely effective.
Afterwards, you could almost sense that any antagonists would have felt sheepish trying
to contradict the arguments made so effectively. They seemed to have been caught
off guard. The ID they learned about was apparently much more scholarly, well-reasoned and
attractive than what they may have read in the newspapers.
This is what needs to be done
from the grass roots up. One of Phillip Johnsons books is entitled,
Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds.
Lets open some minds, shall we?
Next headline on:
Some duck-billed dinosaurs, like the Lambeosaur, had tall bony crests. No one is
quite sure what these odd appendages were used for. David Evans (U of Toronto) decided
to test the theory that they were for enhancing the sense of smell, reported Bjorn Carey in
Evans created the first brain cast of a Lambeosaur, and it didnt appear to curve
up into the cavity. The other theories are up for grabs. Was it a snorkel?
A brain cooler? A device to attract mates? A weapon to deter predators?
A voice resonator? Look at the picture on
MSNBC and invent your own theory.
Its worthwhile to measure things, and its
fun to speculate, but without recreating Jurassic Park, we are not going to be able
to know for sure. Maybe they were back scratchers, or used for some unknown
dino sporting event. Maybe they were just cute. One reader wrote in suggesting
they were handles for the moms to carry their little darlings; one for each hand (claw?)
and two for the mouth. But then, doesnt that give T. rex a handle,
too? Wait: T. rex has no hands to speak of. Maybe the crest was like a
steering column or joystick for the wild Lambeosaurus-back ride.
Darwin Acid Eats Literature 01/27/2006
Next headline on:
A potent acid has fallen on the bookshelf, eating away the minds and intentions of its characters,
dissolving romances and adventures into a hideous morass of uniform consistency.
Prominent evolutionist Daniel Dennett, author of
Dangerous Idea, wrote that evolution is like a universal acid that
cannot be contained in its scientific vial. It spills over onto every traditional
belief and transforms everything it touches. For an example, look what it does to
literature. John Whitfield, a freelance science writer from London, writing in Nature,1
explored the concept of Literary darwinism2 as a form of Textual
selection. In the article, a cartoon shows a monkey with Darwins
face pondering Homers Iliad. What is literary darwinism?
It is looking at all the characters and actions in literature as outworkings of the
processes of evolution. It is reading literature through the glasses of an evolutionary theory of mind.
It interprets every action of the characters as sexual strategies to pass on ones genes.
When, at the beginning of The Iliad and Western literature
King Agamemnon steals Achilles slave-girl, Briseis, the king tells the worlds
greatest warrior that he is doing so to let you know that I am more powerful than you,
and to teach others not to bandy words with me and openly defy their king.
But literary scholar Jonathan Gottschall believes that the true focus of Homers epic
is not royal authority, but royal genes.
Lest one think this is an idle pastime of a few academic elitists, Whitfield explains
that literary darwinists are on a crusade, an attempt to shake up literary criticism.
They believe they have the scientific approach, founded on an evolutionary theory
of mind, that will bring an objective truth to literary criticism. Approaching texts
with reference only to the subjective and the social, in their opinion, fails to
understand human motives and cognitive biases that have been shaped by evolution.
Gottschall is one of a group of researchers, calling themselves literary darwinists,
devoted to studying literature using the concepts of evolutionary biology and the
empirical, quantitative methods of the sciences. Women in Homer are not a
proxy for status and honour, says Gottschall. At bottom, the men in the
stories are motivated by reproductive concerns. Every homeric raid involves
killing the men and abducting the women. The violent world of the epics, he says,
reflects a society where men fought for scarce mates and chieftains had access
to as many women as slaves and concubines. And he thinks that everything written
since Homer is open to similar analysis.
(Emphasis added in all quotes.)
This sounds like a new variety of social deconstruction, but its promoters
say its not. The problem, say the literary darwinists, is that for the
past few decades the humanities have, in the case of critics deconstructing texts,
denied the need for a theory of human nature, asserting that the study of texts can be
concerned with nothing outside those texts. According to one literary darwinist,
earlier forms of social deconstruction only got parts of the truth but missed the important thing:
Those influenced by freudianism, for example, might read a novel looking for hints
of a childs sexual desire for its parent. A marxist would seek out economic
and class conflicts. [Joseph] Carroll [U of Missouri, St. Louis] has no truck with this:
The theories up to this point have all had a little bit of the truth, but have
also all been fundamentally flawed, he says. None comes to terms
with the fundamental facts of human evolution.
How does literary darwinism work in practice? Whitfield gives a few examples that
illustrate the breadth of the territory eyed by this new crusade:
To the literary darwinists, therefore, everything in the arts and humanities is fair game.
Novels and poems, epic tales and movies, histories and fantasies indeed, everything written about the
human condition are the spoils of war as the scientists invade the humanities,
gathering rich data on the natural history of our species. As they plunder,
texts are robbed of their original meaning and whatever the authors thought they were
saying. Everything must now be reinterpreted according to the Laws of Natural Selection
and Sexual Selection.
- Poetry: One literary darwinist uses ideas from cognitive science in her analysis of the mother-child bond in William Wordsworths Prelude.
- Novels: A darwinian analysis of Jane Austens Pride and Prejudice, he
[Carroll] says, goes beyond the simple idea that women look for fortune in men, to show how such animal concerns are filtered through the vast flexibility of human behaviour, cultural conditions and individual variation.
I dont look at Pride and Prejudice and try to sort out what is biological and
what is cultural, says Carroll. I look at it and examine the way underlying
biological dispositions are organized in a specific cultural ecology.
Nobody in the novel escapes the problems of mate selection, status and forming alliances.
But the characters also integrate these concerns with human qualities, such as intelligence,
character, morals and cultivation. The noble, romantic characters, such as
Elizabeth Bennett and Darcy, integrate successfully, hiding their reproductive issues beneath
their social graces. The more comic characters, such as Elizabeth Bennetts mother,
do not (although in marrying off her daughters, she is quite the evolutionary success).
- Comedy: Romantic comedies play upon the audiences pleasure at
seeing reproductive strategies rewarded.
- Tragedy: Tragedies, like when Medea kills her children, appeal by
invoking recoil from maladaptive acts.
- Folk literature: Gottschall found that the majority of folk tales feature brave
heroes marrying beautiful heroines, with the two living happily ever after.
Like any conquerors, the literary darwinists argue they are improving a bad
situation. They feel they are filling a
void left by a long tradition of literary criticism that has lost its place and is
wandering in a sphere of obscurantism and irrelevance with arguments settled
solely by the one who deploys the sharpest rhetoric and the best memory. In its place,
literary darwinism offers testable, durable knowledge by applying
evolutionary psychology to work out what a story is really about,
not in some ultimate, metaphysical sense, but in the sense of whether a wide range of
people interpret a work in the same way.
Does this mean that literary darwinism is concerned primarily with
attaining a new social consensus, with political ramifications? It seems so. Whitfield ends, Ultimately, the
theories of human nature that become widely held in a society will influence
how that society believes people respond to their environments, and how they should be
treated. The literary darwinists are not just trying to toss one more opinion into
the ring. They really are on a crusade. Whitfield quotes Gottschall,3 Literary
scholars arent harmless, Gottschall says. When we get it wrong it matters.
1John Whitfield, Literary darwinism: Textual selection,
439, 388-389 (26 January 2006) | doi:10.1038/439388a.
2Notice that Whitfields frequent use of uncapitalized darwinism,
darwinist and darwinian demonstrates that Darwins name has become an
idiomatic parcel of the English language.
3Jonathan Gottschall is co-editor of a series of essays on literary darwinism, entitled,
The Literary Animal: Evolution and the Nature of Narrative (eds Gottschall, J. & Wilson, D. S.,
Northwestern Univ. Press, Evanston, Illinois, 2005). He also has an upcoming book,
The Rape of Troy: Evolution, Violence, and the World of Homer.
Romans, first Corinthians, lend me your ears.
I come to bury Darwin, not to praise him. The evil that men do lives after them, the
good is oft interred with their bones. So let it be with Darwin. The noble
Gottschall hath told you Homer was ambitious: if it were so, it were a grievous fault,
and grievously hath Darwin answered it.... O judgement! thou art fled to brutish beasts,
and men have lost their reason. Bear with me; my heart is in the coffin there with Wordsworth,
and I must pause till it come back to me.
Evolutionary Theory: Verified or Vilified? 01/26/2006
If you have had enough of Darwins acerbic dregs, if you shudder at the
destruction left in his wake, if this reduction of all that is noble and praiseworthy
into sexual actions of mindless selfish genes leaves you horrified (realizing that no land
is exempt, not even Narnia nor Jerusalem), if you have woken up to realize this
is a crusade of titanic proportions, if you understand that Dennetts universal acid
has congealed into The Blob that is on the move, swallowing whole universities and
institutions (12/21/2005), then rise to the occasion.
The darwinists have a vulnerability that neutralizes their acid and turns it into harmless
vapor. If you were perceptive, you caught it in their very words.
Joseph Carroll spoke of the truth. Say those three little words that
make the orcs freeze in their tracks and stab their own chests: What is Truth?
Next headline on:
Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory
Politics and Ethics
Jeffrey Schwartz has reason to be happy that his particular theory of evolution received some support
recently, according to a press release from
of Pittsburgh. But look at the pedestal he is standing on: the ruins of classical
Darwinism and neo-Darwinism. In supporting his own theory, he kicked out the props from
under standard evolutionary theory (emphasis added in all quotes):
With statements like this, that seem to echo those of creationists, what is Schwartz proposing in
the place of standard neo-Darwinism? Its called the Sudden Origins Theory.
That sounds like creationism, too. Its not. It is repackaged evolutionary theory,
just as unguided and naturalistic as the old, but now it puts more
emphasis on the environment as the instigator of adaptive change. Aided by colleague Ian Tattersall,
Schwarz wrote a book on this six years ago,
Sudden Origins: Fossils, Genes, and the Emergence of Species (John Wiley & Sons, 2000), that
the press release summarizes:
- Fossils: The missing links Darwin expected to find have not been found because they dont exist, he claims. The gradualistic theory glosses over gaps in the fossil record, he accuses.
- Gradualism: Gradual change does not occur: evolution is not necessarily gradual but
often sudden, dramatic expressions of change.
- Resistance to change: Why dont cells subtly and constantly change in
small ways over time, as Darwin suggests? Cell biologists know the answer:
Cells dont like to change and dont do so easily.
- Quality Control: Cells in their ordinary states have suites of moleculesvarious
kinds of proteinswhose jobs are to eliminate error that might get introduced and derail
the functioning of their cell. For instance, some proteins work to keep the cell membrane intact.
Other proteins act as chaperones, bringing molecules to their proper locations in the cell, and so on.
In short, with that kind of protection from change, it is very difficult for mutations, of whatever kind,
to gain a foothold.
- Improbability: Mutations may be significant and beneficial (like teeth or limbs)
or, more likely, kill the organism.
- Disequilibrium: This revelation has enormous implications for the notion
that organisms routinely change to adapt to the environment. Actually, Schwartz argues,
it is the environment that knocks them off their equilibrium and as likely ultimately kills
them as changes them. And so they are being rocked by the environment, not adapting to it.
The mechanism, the authors explain, is this: Environmental upheaval causes genes to mutate,
and those altered genes remain in a recessive state, spreading silently through
the population until offspring appear with two copies of the new mutation and change suddenly,
seemingly appearing out of thin air.
Because cells resist change and correct their errors, defeating gradualism, Schwarz and Tattersall looked for other
ways to make mutations stick. The environment became the stressor to knock organisms out
of kilter and plant the germs of creative change into their genes, in a recessive state.
There, the ones that dont kill the organism await the next opportunity to bloom.
These recessive mutations amount to a sort of toolkit for evolution to
tinker with, not knowing what they are good for until a need arises in the environment.
Why is this six-year-old proposal getting press now? Schwarz just co-authored
a paper with Bruno Maresca, appearing in the Jan. 30 New Anatomist Journal, that they
claim supports the new theory, based on some emerging understanding of cell structure
that was left unspecified in the press release.
One implication of Schwarzs theory is that todays organisms are loaded
with mutations from previous environmental stresses. It is too late, therefore, to try to make a quick
fix to the environment. The Sudden Origins theory, buttressed by modern cell biology, he said,
underscores the need to preserve the environmentnot only to enhance life today, but to
protect life generations from now.
So he ends with a flourish, giving a little politically correct
environmentalist spin to help legitimize his rhetoric and distract attention from his crazy idea.
This is rich. Schwartz and Tattersall have just corroborated all the criticisms
creationists bring against neo-Darwinism: mutations are generally harmful, cells are intricately designed
to resist change, and the fossil record, riddled with real gaps, debunks gradualism.
Thank you, Dr. Schwarz, for helping shovel standard evolutionary theory into the dustbin of history.
Darwin Dissed in His Own Homeland
But is his replacement any better? All he has done is transfer the
creative power of evolution from one undirected, natural cause (gradual natural selection) to
another undirected, natural cause (the environment and sudden natural selection). Has he shown that the pool of
recessive mutated genes has any more creative power to generate wings and eyes than the
old gradualism? Has he explained how fully-formed, functioning complex organs,
like teeth or limbs, could burst on the scene, as if from nowhere? This is not
science, this is magic. The new evolutionists have become illusionists, producing
rabbits out of thin air.
With friends like these, Charlie doesnt need enemies. This
press release announces open season
for creationists and intelligent design people and all the critics of evolutionary theory
to brush past the fluff of Sudden Origins evolution and to say, We told you so!
Next headline on:
Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory
One would think Brits would cherish their guru Darwin, but he didnt come out all that
well in a poll, reports BBC News.
More than half the population doesnt believe in the theory of evolution, results showed,
and 39% said either creation or intelligent design best explains their view on the origin and
development of life (about 12% didnt know).
Lord Martin Rees, President of the Royal Society was stunned. It is surprising
that many should still be sceptical of Darwinian evolution, he said.
Darwin proposed his theory nearly 150 years ago, and it is now supported by an
immense weight of evidence.
The editor of the BBC Horizon program that initiated the poll called this
the first introduction to the British publics views on this issue. He also
was surprised; Most people would have expected the public to go for evolution theory,
but it seems there are lots of people who appear to believe in an alternative theory for lifes origins,
he commented. People over 55 were more likely to reject Darwinism.
For a country steeped in Darwinian dogma for over a
century, with only a small minority attending church where religion is nearly moribund,
this is quite a surprising statistic. If Darwin gave the world the best idea anyone
ever had, and is the figurehead of modern biology, why is his claim not so obvious
to all the people? Lord Martin Rees was glad there is no movement
to oppose evolution like in the US, but then why cant Darwins disciples win more converts when
they have complete control of the science curricula and a near monopoly on the
definition of science and truth? Cant the people see the weight of
evidence? Maybe they see through it.
Lawsuit Halts ID in Philosophy Class: Will it Backfire? 01/25/2006
Next headline on:
Picture this: a small community high school nestled in the mountains far north of the big
city of Los Angeles. A gentle, silver-haired schoolteacher who wouldnt hurt a fly, who coaches
soccer, loves teenagers and takes her time-consuming and non-lucrative job, which she
has done for many years, seriously, and is well liked by students.
A trailer outfitted as a classroom next to the agricultural center, with a bed sheet as a
projection screen, a small projector, a whiteboard and some desks. A rooster crowing outside.
13 students from ordinary American families who live in a small mountain town (population 2348) with
no mall, one main street, and two hardware stores. This little classroom ignited a national
legal firestorm that reverberated briefly around the country, and caught the attention of
reporters as far away as Romania and India. What happened? Why did it become the subject
of a documentary in progress? Simply put: one teacher decided to offer an elective class called
Philosophy of Design that included discussions of intelligent design and critical
thinking about evolution.
Though this story began in December, it was in the news all month.
You can read about it on CBS News,
Times, the Tri-Valley
Herald, ABC News, the Tacoma
MSNBC #1 and #2, and
Fox News. They
will tell you that the school was sued by Americans United for Separation of Church and
State on the grounds that the class violated constitutional prohibitions against teaching
creationism in public schools, and that a group of parents joined in the suit, and that
the school acquiesced and agreed to stop the class. Another victory, in other
words, for science over religion. Even the pro-ID Discovery Institute pressured
the school to drop the class, according to
and praised the school when it did so (see
Institute press release).
As usual, there is more to the story, so we visited the school to find
out. Sharon Lemburg, the teacher under fire, is wife of the pastor of the local
Assembly of God church in town. She has taught at Frazier Mountain High School
for years in subjects like special ed, history, and social studies. The school
offers an annual intersession elective program between semesters. Noting that
previous intersession electives included subjects like Mythology and Comparative Religions,
she volunteered to teach a new class on Philosophy of Design in which she
hoped to expose interested students to this high-profile subject that is being debated
in school boards around the country. A reporter had visited her church after the
class had been announced. The sermon was on Proverbs 3:5-6, an oft-quoted and
well-loved passage among all Jews and Christians: Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and
lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct
your paths. After developing a comfortable conversational relationship with
the teacher, the reporter got Lemburg to say that this was the class I felt the Lord
wanted me to teach. That was the sound bite the reporter needed: Teacher claims God
told her to teach class on intelligent design echoed around the world.
Another incident contributed to how the media reported the story.
Lemburg had delivered to the principal a rough outline of the class, for his comments and suggestions.
This version of the outline was never adopted, never voted on, never agreed on, and never formed the basis
of the curriculum, yet found its way on news reports and blogs all over the internet.
It included a predominance of pro-ID resources, books and tapes,
including some from a young-earth creationist perspective. A scientist in town named
Ken Hurst, who works at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and acts as lead mentor for the
schools robotics team, got hold of this initial outline and was incensed. He wrote a strong letter to
the principal, that was subsequently printed in the local paper, explaining his reasons why
the class should be canceled because, in his opinion, intelligent design is masqueraded creationism, a religiously-motivated
belief that is not science. Energized by the Dover case and other rulings about creationism,
he proceeded to organize 11 parents and, with the
willing cooperation of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, obtained a
temporary restraining order and filed a lawsuit to stop the class on the grounds that this
was the camels nose under the tent to undermine science teaching at
the high school. The teacher, the principal, the superintendent and the board of trustees
of the school were named as defendants. Needless to say, these actions created a firestorm of debate
in the small community (with no small number supportive of the class). Letters to the editor
varied from polarized views to others calling for peace and understanding.
What some reporters omitted was that the revised outline was much different:
much more balanced, with recommended resources from both sides, including all eight hours
of the PBS series Evolution.
Nevertheless, the pro-ID Discovery Institute sent a lawyer to the community who strongly urged them to
withdraw the class, because by having introduced young-earth creationist materials it was misrepresenting
what intelligent design means. When he saw the revised outline, however, he praised it highly.
Still, he saw legal vulnerabilities in the case due to the apparent advocacy of creationism in the initial planning,
though the curriculum in its final form was perfectly defensible. The school acquiesced
and agreed to withdraw the class. School District Waves the White Flag,
reported Fox News. The
Costa Times was disappointed, feeling the school board gave in too much. Believing that
a philosophy class (though not a science class) was an appropriate venue for discussing
such issues, they hoped other schools would not follow in the footsteps of El Tejons
educational leaders, because Our society will only become more polarized if the next
generations dont realize that issues have more than one side. Even the
of Truth blog, no friend of ID, thought philosophy was an appropriate venue and that
the lawsuit was overboard.
Evolution News, a blog of
the Discovery Institute focused on media bias on the ID issue, took the media and the
anti-ID PACs to task for hypocrisy. Robert Crowther quoted Barry Lynn, president of
Americans United for Separation of Church and State, having stating earlier that
when it comes to matters of religion and philosophy, they [ID issues] can be discussed objectively
in public schools, but not in biology class. Here was a case of ID in a philosophy
class, and not even that was tolerated. The AUs Legal Director Ayesha Khan gloated that the
decision sends a strong signal to school districts across the country that they cannot
promote creationism or intelligent design as an alternative to evolution whether they do so
in a science class or a humanities class. To Crowther, this represents the
ultimate in censorship. Now, we have Lynn and other Darwinists on a crusade to
make sure that students will never even know that a theory called intelligent design was
ever discussed anywhere, he said.
There are some things you should know in interpreting this story.
Human Evolution: Clear as Mud 01/24/2006
- None of the plaintiffs had students in the class.
- The class was an elective between semesters. No one was required to take it. The students all chose to be there,
when they could have been out snowboarding, playing sports or hanging out with their friends.
- The parents all signed permission slips for their teens to take the class.
- The class had the full support of the principal, the superintendent, and a majority of the board of directors.
- While the final syllabus did contain a number of intelligent design videos and books on the list
of suggested resources, it also included all eight hours of the PBS Evolution series,
a video interview with paleontologist James W. Valentine, a presentation from the University of
California Museum of Paleontology, and the textbook Evolution vs. Creation
by Eugenie Scott (as recommended by Ken Hurst).
- The syllabus listed no resources promoting young-earth creationism, but only asked one
question: How does Intelligent Design differ from Creationism? and how is it similar?
(Lest this item beg the question that young-earth creationism is somehow
evil or unconstitutional, see what ID leader Phillip Johnson said about it on
Touchstone, May 2004).
- Almost all the students are Christians, and none are staunch evolutionists, so they were
not being subjected to unwelcome or forced instruction about creationism or ID. If anything,
their beliefs were subject to challenge by the pro-evolutionary material.
- The final syllabus used in the class states, This class is not meant to guide you into a certain belief,
but to allow you to search, become aware of the differences, and gain a better understanding
of world views on origins. It also specified that Equal and balanced instruction
will be given on all philosophies.
- The students appear unanimously upset at the reaction by those opposed to the class.
One is taking it upon herself to write newspapers around the country expressing her displeasure
with the censorship imposed by evolutionists on this class. She wants to set the record straight
on what was taught.
- The teacher invited a pro-evolution biology PhD from UCLA to teach for a day.
He spent a lot of time talking about the Miller experiment (see 05/02/2003
story). Several of the students said that he dodged their questions.
- Lemburg explained her intentions in a letter published in the local paper.
After explaining what she meant by her statement this is the class
that the Lord wanted me to teach, she wrote on January 8,
My motives were honest and sincere, in that all I desired was to present an educational experience to give
the students an opportunity to hear and study about the philosophers of
design, to be able to critically analyze them and to learn to examine
the opinions or philosophies and to weigh them...to ask who made the statement, what is
their bias, what is their philosophy, what evidence do they bring?
Does this sound like a rabid Christian fundamentalist with an agenda, out to force her narrow religious
beliefs down the throats of unsuspecting high school students? Good grief.
The Darwin Party hypocrites have been telling us for years that ID was OK in philosophy,
social studies, history or religion just not in biology class, but look at what they do
when someone takes them up on it.
This innocent little class in a minor rural town with 13 students and a mild-mannered teacher
wanted to talk about Philosophy of Design and develop critical thinking skills,
and the Darwin dogmatists went paranoid. When will they realize this smells like
the Inquisition? The very people who preach against dogmatism are the most intolerant
of all, worrying about the hidden agenda and the camels nose
under the tent, as if high school students are so stupid, so incapable of reasoning,
that they cannot handle the thought that Darwinism is not the infallible idol its
priests say it is. Teaching ID as philosophy should be completely non-threatening to
evolutionists. The action of this school made perfect sense to
Dembski, who called this a step in the right direction.
Each student in my class will have the opportunity to hear and study
philosophies concerning the origin of life. These ideas represent atheistic,
agnostic, liberal and Christian views. We are looking at the ways these views have shaped and changed
our world views, and I am challenging these students to know what they think and what those
thoughts are based on. To know it because they believe it, not because someone else says
it is so, but to become critical thinkers who can express their own beliefs.
One other thing. The class was not ordered to end immediately.
It was allowed to complete its five-week run. As part of the out-of-court settlement,
the school agreed never again to offer a course that promotes creationism,
creation science or intelligent design. Sounds like an utter defeat for ID and a
complete victory for the Darwinists, but Lemburg
explains that she never intended to promote ID or creationism in the first place.
For all their gloating, the Darwin-Only-Darwin-Only DODOs won a hollow victory here,
and earned a reputation as Inquisitors out to hunt down heretics, as hypocrites saying
one thing then doing another, as dogmatists fearful of exposing their pet theory to scrutiny.
School boards interested in getting this important debate a hearing on their campuses should not be alarmed by
what happened in Frazier Park or Dover, because teaching the controversy is
backed by the full force of the United States Congress and the President. It is
the law of the land. For vital information on why teaching the controversy is
legal and constitutional, get this must-see video by Phillip Johnson
that explains it all: One Nation Under Darwin, available from
Access Research Network.
Next headline on:
Evolutionists speak of our descent from apes with an air of confidence and certainty,
but connecting the dots requires a bit of artistic license. Here are some examples
of how any data, no matter how puzzling, can be made to fit the Darwinian picture.
- Stretchy Clocks: A famous painting by
Dali portrayed clocks
draped over objects as if made of wet clay. A new paper in PNAS1
announced that scientists have figured out why human beings developed much longer
generation times (length of childhood) than the apes: our molecular clocks are
stretchy. Humans have a slow molecular clock, explained Michael
Balter for News@Nature.
By comparing gene differences between humans, gorillas and chimpanzees, the team decided
all three clocks ticked at different rates. Balter summarized, Because the
large difference in generation times between humans and chimps does not match the small
difference between their molecular clocks, modern human generation times must have
evolved recentlyperhaps as early as 1 million years ago, the team calculates.
And lo and behold, the teeth of Homo erectus seem to fit the picture of a shorter childhood.
They must be onto something. Not everyone is convinced; Blair Hedges (U of Pennsylvania)
believes that generation time might only be one factor among many that control the molecular clock,
- Neanderthal Nimrod: Forget the beetle-brained, stoop-shouldered Alley Oop
image of Neanderthal Man. Now were told by
that they were ahead of the game: Neanderthals were just as good at hunting as modern
man (probably better, since hunting is a lost art except in the frozen foods section).
Since the superior skill of modern man was part of the story of the disappearance of
Neanderthals, This study has important implications for debates surrounding behavioral
evolution and the practices that eventually allowed modern humans like ourselves to
displace other closely-related species. Maybe the moderns did better in
Social Studies, the article suggests.
- Neo-Neanderthal: Speaking of Neanderthal Man, a paper in Nature
last November argued that Neanderthals apparently coexisted with moderns in the same cave.2
They used radiocarbon and stratigraphic analysis in a French cave to conclude,
These data strongly support the chronological coexistenceand therefore potential
demographic and cultural interactionsbetween the last Neanderthal and the earliest
anatomically and behaviourally modern human populations in western Europe.
See also a related article on MSNBC.
- Face the Facts: Last month in PNAS,3 a team of
anthropologists kicked out another prop holding up the standard story of where Europeans came
from. A study of 24 facial features of human fossils around Europe found only
a questionable contribution of the Neolithic and the Bronze Age to European craniofacial form.
The surprise is that the Neolithic peoples of Europe and their Bronze Age successors
are not closely related to the modern inhabitants, although the prehistoric/modern
ties are somewhat more apparent in southern Europe. It is a further surprise that
the Epipalaeolithic Natufian of Israel from whom the Neolithic realm was assumed to arise
has a clear link to Sub-Saharan Africa. Basques and Canary Islanders are clearly associated
with modern Europeans. When canonical variates are plotted, neither sample ties in with
Cro-Magnon as was once suggested.
(Emphasis added in all quotes.)
So whats my new line? The data treated here support the idea that the Neolithic
moved out of the Near East into the circum-Mediterranean areas and Europe by a process of demic
diffusion but that subsequently the in situ residents of those areas, derived from the
Late Pleistocene inhabitants [sic], absorbed both the agricultural life way and the
people who had brought it. Any questions?
- Cannibal Animal: Mike Balter explored a recent claim on the human evolution
story in ScienceNow:
are we descended from cannibals? Apparently not; an earlier study appears flawed. Thank God
(see our cannibal parable).
- Ethiopia: The Place to Be: Rex Dalton ventured out with paleoanthropologists to
get the view from Afar (Ethiopia, that is), where rival teams of researchers with hominid fever
dodge bullets of political rivals, avoid lions, endure oppressive heat, protect their secret
spots and bounce around on rattletrap
trucks to search for their precious quarry: hominid bones. In his Indiana-Jones
style account in Nature,4 Dalton gave more an impression of a gold rush
than a reliable scientific enterprise, complete with claim jumpers and inflated announcements.
This is where it all began, they are convinced, as Dalton gets on the trail
with a team of devoted experts who just live for the next find.
A few, like Tim White, are trying to be careful. White dislikes what he calls
hominid treasure hunts, where researchers move in for short field visits to
grab hominids and then headlines, Dalton wrote. As for Whites
most recent find, it was a surprise: hominids then the earliest known lived in a wooded
environment, not a savannah as previously thought (see also 09/01/2005
story). Any consensus theory seems Afar way off.
- Egypt U: Science,5 however,
announced last October that Egypt is the place to be. A find in Egypt by Seiffert et al.6
was described by Jaeger and Marivaux as Shaking the Earliest Branches of Anthropoid Primate Evolution.
The paper began, Early anthropoid evolution in Afro-Arabia is poorly documented, with
only a few isolated teeth known from before ~35 million years ago....
- Spanish-American War: Believers in the 40,000-year-old Mexican footprints
are not giving up without a fight, reported BBC
News (see 11/30/2005 story). Dr. Silvia
Gonzalez seems to have a ready answer for every skeptical criticism. That makes some of
her critics even more skeptical.
- Intercontinental Ballistics:
Geographic News last month entertained the novel suggestion that the favored Out of
Africa theory might be wrong. Maybe they evolved from Asia. Interesting;
provocative; possibly persuasive; not convinced those represent some reactions so far.
studied the suggestion also7: We show here that it is time to develop alternatives
to one of palaeoanthropologys most basic paradigms: Out of Africa 1,
wrote Robin Dennell and Wil Roebroeks. The more basic paradigm, of course, is that
mankind did evolve from somewhere. That paradigm is not on trial.
1Elango et al., Variable molecular clocks in hominoids,
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
USA, published online before print January 23, 2006, 10.1073/pnas.0510716103.
2Gravina, Mellars and Ramsey, Radiocarbon dating of interstratified Neanderthal
and early modern human occupations at the Chatelperronian type-site,
438, 51-56 (3 November 2005) | doi: 10.1038/nature04006.
3Brace et al., The questionable contribution of the Neolithic and the
Bronze Age to European craniofacial form,
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
USA, published online before print December 21, 2005, 10.1073/pnas.0509801102.
4Rex Dalton, Ethiopia: Awash with fossils,
439, 14-16 (5 January 2006) | doi:10.1038/439014a.
5Jaeger and Marivaux, Shaking the Earliest Branches of Anthropoid Primate Evolution,
Vol 310, Issue 5746, 244-245 , 14 October 2005, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1118124].
6Seiffert et al., Basal Anthropoids from Egypt and the Antiquity of
Africas Higher Primate Radiation,
Vol 310, Issue 5746, 300-304 , 14 October 2005, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1116569].
7Dennell and Roebroeks, An Asian perspective on early human dispersal from Africa,
438, 1099-1104 (22 December 2005) | doi:10.1038/nature04259.
Anyone who has worked around scientists enough knows
that a community of specialists in a given subject
takes on the character of a club. Scientific conferences have
a certain social structure and networking protocol similar to a small town.
Everyone knows everyone else, and gossip is a favorite pastime. While exciting finds and
new twists on the plot are welcome (though usually greeted somewhat more dispassionately
than at a healing service), there is a certain code that guards against anyone straying
too far out of bounds. You can wear a cowboy hat, but act like a maverick and you are
likely to be shunned more than overtly criticized. For many, that is too much a price to
pay. The respect of ones peers is vital for a scientific career.
Where Did Humans Learn Geometry? 01/22/2006
So here we have the paleoanthropology crowd, roaming around the globe
or wading through rivers of genes for their nuggets, trying to fit them into a huge
crown for Charlie. The crown is much bigger than the specks found so far, so it
will take a long time to complete. To finance these expeditions, the participants need to convince
their home institutions, usually funded with government grants, that it is all worthwhile
because we are getting warmer looking for just the little piece that fits into the niche
we have selected to work on. (The shape and style of the crown, of course, has
already been decided, along with the wearer; only the details of gem placement provide
some artistic license.)
Is this really a search for truth? Could it be a massive
case of self-deception that relishes the process more than certainty?
Might it be that Big Science is in a rut, entrenching a social protocol guaranteed to
keep mavericks in line and preserve paradigmatic presuppositions?
You can see why any outsider looking at this game and deciding that it is all bunk,
all unsupported and contradictory nonsense that does nothing to disprove the belief
of the majority of people on this planet that humans were created, would
not receive a very friendly reception. Its too late to turn back now.
Too much is riding on it. The show must go on. (And keep those funds flowing.)
Next headline on:
In Platos dialogue Meno, Socrates illustrated his view that certain foundations of
knowledge are innate rather than learned.1 He took an untutored slave boy and,
with a series of sketches in the sand, got the boy to deduce the Pythagorean Theorem by his own
reasoning (see Encarta).
In a modern version, Harvard scientists found that basic concepts of geometry
are understood by untutored tribespeople of the Amazon rainforest.
While high school freshmen sometimes struggle with parallelograms and the Pythagorean Theorem,
people deep in the Amazon quickly grasp some basic concepts of geometry.
Their research was published in Science.2 The authors referred to
the Meno story at the end of their paper, feeling they had done Socrates one better
because his slave boy already possessed Greek language and familiarity with lines and shapes,
and their Amazonian tribe did not.
The researchers did not speculate, however, on how this uniquely human capability evolved:
Although these indigenous tribes had never seen a protractor, compass, or
even a ruler, a new study found they understood parallelism and right angles and can use
distance, angles, and other relationships in maps to locate hidden objects.
The finding suggests all humans, regardless of language or schooling, possess
a core set of geometrical intuitions.
(Emphasis added in all quotes.)
Our experiments, in contrast [to Socrates], provide evidence that geometrical knowledge arises in humans independently of instruction, experience with maps or measurement devices, or mastery of a sophisticated geometrical language. This conclusion is consistent with paleoanthropological evidence and with previous demonstrations of a right-hemisphere competence for nonverbal tests of geometry in split-brain patients. Further research is needed to establish to what extent this core knowledge is shared with other animal species and whether it is available even in infancy or is acquired progressively during the first years of life. There is little doubt that geometrical knowledge can be substantially enriched by cultural inventions such as maps, mathematical tools, or the geometrical terms of language. Beneath this fringe of cultural variability, however, the spontaneous understanding of geometrical concepts and maps by this remote human community provides evidence that core geometrical knowledge, like basic arithmetic, is a universal constituent of the human mind.
Constance Holden in Science3 also wrote up this story about possible
cognitive universals but mentioned a couple of skeptics who think interpretation
of the results is difficult. Even so, they seem to point to at least a general
reasoning ability that has only been demonstrated in humans. Cognitive
neuropsychologists are very interested in the study.
1In Socratic philosophy,
Truth (with a capital T) was self-existent, and was intuitively known merely recalled
by humans, not learned by experience. Socrates argued against the world of flux portrayed by
Heraclitus, who taught that a man could never step in the same river twice.
To Socrates and Plato, by contrast, experience could only speak of material objects,
not abstractions or concepts. Material objects may be in a state of flux but Truth
2Dahaene et al., Core Knowledge of Geometry in an Amazonian Indigene
20 January 2006: Vol. 311. no. 5759, pp. 381 - 384, DOI: 10.1126/science.1121739.
3Constance Holden, Hunter-Gatherers Grasp Geometry,
20 January 2006: Vol. 311. no. 5759, p. 317, DOI: 10.1126/science.311.5759.317a
Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, the Stoics and
many other great thinkers in the
classical world probably the majority of the famous philosophers (Democritus and
Lucretius being exceptions) believed in intelligent design. They were
non-evangelical, pagan philosophers to whom the intrinsic order and design of the
universe and life was self-evident. Their concepts of the Designer differed, but
they all pointed to design as coming from an intelligent source.
The Evolution of Spite 01/21/2006
Most of the classical philosophers were also absolutists. They believed
that outside of the mind of man there existed an unchanging truth beyond the mere objects accessible to
the senses. Evolutionists will find little support for relativism and materialism
among the ancients. History does not support their contention that intelligent design is a conspiracy
by evangelical Christians. The burden of proof should be upon the modern sophists
who claim geometry is an artifact of the mindless, materialistic process of natural selection.
So the stone-age indigenous peoples of the rain forest comprehend geometry.
Fascinating. Tell us, Darwinists, how did this evolve? Be sure to include
Next headline on:
Since everything evolves, according to consensus science, why not attitudes like spite?
The BBC News reported about a
University College London study on attitudes of revenge between the sexes. They found
that men seemed to get more satisfaction out of hurting foes than women. This is all
part of an evolutionary explanation for altruistic behavior in humans. According
to lead researcher Dr. Tania Singer, evolution has probably seeded this sense of
justice and moral duty into our brains.
Where a sense of revenge came from seems a puzzle, however, from an evolutionary
viewpoint, because apparently apes dont have it. In another press release from the
Planck Society, chimpanzees exhibit neither altruism nor spite. Researchers
put chimpanzees in a cage with levers that could either deliver a treat equally easily
to another chimpanzee in another room, or to an empty room. The scientists were
surprised that the chimps seemed to have no preference for either choice.
Contrary to initial expectations the chimpanzees behaved neither altruistic nor spiteful,
the press release stated. According to the researchers, both characteristics
therefore seem to be human-specific. Humans give blood and give to charities
for people they dont even know. This kind of altruism has never been
demonstrated in any other animal except for humans and some believe it is one of the
characteristics that makes us human, the article continued. The evolutionary
explanation for this was given as follows:
If altruism and spite are unique to humans and are not present in chimpanzees,
then it is likely [sic] that these characteristics have arisen in the last
6 million years [sic] since humans and chimpanzees shared a common ancestor [sic].
Humans intense regard for each other, either positive or negative, may
have made an important contribution to our ability to cooperate, our sense of fairness,
and the morality that defines todays society.
(Emphasis added in all quotes.)
Presumably this explains the Israeli-Iran controversy, discussions about earmarking on
Congressional bills, and what to do about terrorism.
Only an evolutionist can take negative evidence and
give it a positive spin. Only an evolutionist can take moral evil and turn it
into brain chemistry. Only an evolutionist can speak of morality and altruism
while denying the definitions of the words. Should evolutionists be able to
get away with presenting these ideas as the only permissible scientific explanations
in public schools?
Is Dark Matter Going Out of Style? 01/20/2006
Next headline on:
Human Body and Society
Politics and Ethics
Dark matter has been a staple in cosmological theories for decades. One of the
initial reasons was that galaxy rotation curves could not be explained without it.
Another was that galaxy clusters, to be held together over long ages, needed more
stuff to bind them. Finally, Big Bang cosmologists invoke copious
amounts of dark matter and (more recently) dark energy to make their models work.
What the dark matter is has remained an unanswered question. If it were normal
baryonic matter we would see it, and it would not be dark
(i.e., undetectable by current methods).
On the scale of galaxies, a paper in the Astrophysical Journal has undermined some of
the justification for dark matter. Brownstein and Moffat found a way
to account for galaxy rotation curves without it1 (see also summary on
On the cosmological scale, two other papers show that dark matter and
dark energy are not simple parameters to model. An American-Israeli team writing
in Astrophysical Journal2 put constraints on cosmological simulations
of dark matter halos and showed the picture is complex: the clear separation of the
evolution of an individual halo into series of quiescent and violent phases explains
the inability to fit its entire evolution by simple scaling relations, in agreement
with previous studies, they wrote. A news story in Science3
described some of the ruckus over dark energys role in the cosmos. Specifically,
astronomers are arguing about using gamma-ray bursts as a standard candle
to infer the history of dark energy in cosmological theories. See also the
reprint on EurekAlert
of a report from New Scientist that said,
the result stressed how little we know about dark energy and the need for different approaches.
1J. R. Brownstein and J. W. Moffat, Galaxy Rotation Curves without Nonbaryonic Dark Matter,
Journal 636:721-741, 2006 January 10, 2006.
2Romano-Diaz et al., Constrained Cosmological Simulations of Dark Matter Halos,
Journal 637:L000, 2006 February 1, 2006.
3Robert Irion, Astronomers Push and Pull Over Dark Energys Role in Cosmos,
20 January 2006: Vol. 311. no. 5759, p. 316, DOI: 10.1126/science.311.5759.316.
In the history of science, practitioners sometimes
invoked imponderable substances in their theories. These included
phlogiston, caloric, wound salve, ether, electricity, magnetism, and animal
magnetism. Some of these substances went the way of the dodo, others became
staples of science. So far, it appears that cosmologists are in the dark about
dark matter (put "dark matter" in the search box above and see). It will be
interesting to see how future astronomers look back on this period. Till established,
theories built on dark matter should be treated like
phlogiston theory or The Force. Duct tape is like The Force. It has a dark side,
a light side, and it holds the universe together at least as well as dark matter.
Fish Gill Evolves toward Tetrapod Ear?
Next headline on:
This is another nail in the coffin of the creationist view, in my opinion, said
the curator of Chicagos Field Museum about a paper published in Nature,1
reported the Washington Post yesterday (see MSNBC
News). Brazeau and Ahlberg of Uppsala University in Sweden examined the skull of
Panderichthys, a Devonian lobe-finned fish, and found what they are calling a transitional
form between gills and ears. They found a spiracle (respiratory channel) they are
claiming is intermediate between the gills of the Devonian fish Eusthenopteron and
the middle ear bones of the purported earliest tetrapods like Ichthyostega
and Acanthostega (08/09/2003, 07/03/2002,
The origin of the middle ear in tetrapods has remained elusive,
the researchers said, with little indication of how this transformation took place.
After examining the skull of Panderichthys, they claim that this spiracular region
was radically transformed from earlier lobe-finned fishes, and
represents the earliest stages in the origin of the tetrapod middle ear architecture.
Though the spiracle resembles that of tetrapods, it was still used for respiration in
Panderichthys, they believe, but later developed into a larger middle ear channel in which a bone called
the hyomandibula developed into a stapes (a middle ear bone). This, in turn, was co-opted for use as a
sound-transmitting device. From there, mammalian ears developed.
The news media are taking notice of this transitional form to hammer
creationists. Question: What do you do with half an ear? Answer: You breathe through it,
wrote David Brown for the Washington Post. This answers the creationist claim that
organs like the ear are too complicated to have evolved step by step
and therefore had to have been created in their final form. If the
structure had an intermediate function, it could have had survival value, in other words.
Their conclusion is controversial, as it amounts to a radical reinterpretation of how the
ear developed in land-based animals. If it withstands scientific scrutiny, the
fossil will be a rare example of an organ glimpsed partway along its evolutionary path,
at a point when its function was very different from that of its final form.
(Emphasis added in all quotes.)
Both the Washington Post and LiveScience
indicated that not everyone is ready to jump on the bandwagon, however. Bjorn Carey
in LiveScience pointed out that this differs from previous beliefs that ear evolution began
after the transition to land. Also, since no soft tissues are preserved in either
Panderichthys or the early tetrapods, no one knows how these spiracles were actually
used. David Brown ended with a quote from Michael LaBarbera (U of Chicago), an
expert on the functional anatomy of the extinct animal, who is not convinced the structure
even is a spiracle. He criticized the
theory of Brazeau and Ahlberg as being based on the interpretation of a structure that would be
completely novel and unprecedented in this lineage.
1Brazeau and Ahlberg, Tetrapod-like middle ear architecture in a Devonian fish,
439, 318-321 (19 January 2006) | doi:10.1038/nature04196.
Let us pause for a moment to think like a consistent
evolutionist. This is very hard to do and is rarely accomplished. It
requires purging our minds of certain persistent myths and misconceptions promulgated
by textbooks and TV animators. First, we must disavow orthogenesis. The concept of
straight-line evolution is out; we cannot arrange Eusthenopteron,
Panderichthys and Acanthostega on a straight line and imagine one form
evolving in a direct fashion to the other. No we must picture evolution
branching out in a tree or bush-like pattern, and, therefore, place all these fossils
at different points on different branches. Next, we must disavow Lamarckianism.
There is no inheritance of acquired characteristics. If an early Panderichthys
acquired a spiracle by accident or striving, such a structure would not be inherited
unless the mutation affected the germ line. Third, we must disavow teleology.
None of these creatures were trying to evolve an ear, or even a spiracle.
There was no purpose or goal of achieving a fully functioning tetrapod ear.
Evolution cannot see into the future. Natural selection acts only on present
survival requirements. Finally, we must disavow vitalism. None of these creatures
had any kind of world-soul or vital energy driving them upward by some inexorable path
toward higher degrees of complexity and organization. The fitness landscape is
not a mountain, but a chaos of undulating, dynamic hills and valleys. Ready?
Good, let us proceed.
Soil Provides Library of Antibiotic Resistance 01/19/2006
Now, we consistent evolutionists are ready to give an honest look at the
challenges of those pesky creationists. They say that it is not just the bones
of fossils, but the missing soft parts, that are key to understanding the impossibility
of getting irreducibly-complex organs via natural selection. The mammalian ear,
they say, has a cochlea, an organ of Corti with molecular springs and motors, a tympanic
membrane, some finely-tuned bones that act like levers, and a complex brain to interpret
the electrical signals transduced mechanically from air or liquid to nerve impulses.
They say that there should not be one questionable transition, but thousands of them.
They also say that these alleged transitions must have complete functionality at each
stage, such that they outcompete those lacking the function to the point of remaining the
only survivors in a vast battlefield of death (the cost of selection). They point to
living fossils like Coelacanth that were long thought to represent
transitional forms, only to be found alive and well in the present day (and not using
their lobed fins for anything resembling walking). They
embarrass us with the shortness of time in our scheme for coming up with major new body
plans and organs, and they cast doubt on the dating and timing of the few existing fossils.
They tease us by saying that these branches would have had to be evolutionary dead ends that
went extinct and therefore did not go on to develop functional ears. And they pester us with reminders that new
function requires new genetic information. They criticize this paper as representing
little more than a just-so story unless a detailed series of steps can be elucidated to
show how new information for a spiracle or ear was embedded into the genes and then
translated into proteins and developmental programs. In short, they are not quivering
at this announcement, and have delivered us all these counter challenges.
So now, let us consistent evolutionists, having cleansed our minds of misconceptions,
rise to the occasion and answer them. Who will be first? Isnt there someone?
Isnt there anyone? Goliath, how about you? Pretty please? No fair
hiding in that coffin we built for the creationists.
The ancient biosphere was more diverse and ecologically rich than our modern world.
Many extinct species are found in the record. Undoubtedly these can be arranged and
rearranged into all kinds of imaginary ancestral relationships. Evolutionists have a
bad habit of arranging only the similarities that fit their preconceived imaginary trees
into homologous groupings, and calling other similarities analogous.
Why shouldnt a school kid look at a proboscis monkey, a tapir and an elephant and
use similar reasoning to think this is a transition from nose to trunk? Or a
jellyfish to sea slug to a jelly sandwich? Maybe mudskippers and walking catfish
are evolving into lizards or salamanders, or butterflies into birds, or penguins and
seals into whales. Sea stars have five fingers like a human hand. Octopi
have eight tentacles and spiders have eight legs. Similarities are everywhere; why get
worked up about a select few? Could it be because they reinforce a favorite story?
For more on problems with the fish-to-tetrapod transition in evolutionary
theory, see the review of the evidence by Paul Garner from the
Next headline on:
The evolution of antibiotic resistance is a staple in the creation-evolution
debates, providing evolutionists with a living illustration of evolution taking place right
before our eyes. What if all the information for antibiotic resistance, however, already
exists in a library from which bacteria can find it? That seems to be the implication
of a study by D'Carlo et al. in Science.1 A Canadian biochemical
research team decided to survey the techniques of antibiotic resistance already present in soil
bacteria. They were astonished. Every antimicrobial medicine, including some only
recently developed, had a defensive weapon ready for it:
This study provides an analysis of the antibiotic resistance potential of soil microorganisms.
The frequency of high-level resistance seen in the study to antibiotics that have for decades served
as gold-standard treatments, as well as those only recently approved for human use, is
remarkable. No class of antibiotic was spared with respect to bacterial target or
natural or synthetic origin. Although this study does not provide evidence for the direct
transfer of resistance elements from the soil resistome to pathogenic bacteria, it identifies
a previously underappreciated density and concentration of environmental antibiotic resistance.
(Emphasis added in all quotes.)
The authors could not determine whether The presence of antibiotics in the environment
has promoted the acquisition or independent evolution of highly specific resistance
elements in the absence of innate antibiotic production, and are not sure whether todays
resistant pathogens acquired their resistance from soil organisms. They could not rule it
out, however: The soil could thus serve as an underrecognized reservoir for resistance
that has already emerged or has the potential to emerge in clinically important bacteria.
A frightening implication is that no matter what agents we throw at them, bacteria may be able
to check out a defense from this environmental resistome.
Alexander Tomasz commented on this study in the same issue of Science.2
He said that, Actually, the majority of the most effective antibiotic-resistance mechanisms
in human pathogens are acquired, or gained not by evolution but by lateral gene transfer.
The acquired resistance, he says, is superior to that gained by mutations:
The superiority of such acquired mechanisms is illustrated by the contrast
between Staphylococcus aureus strains that have decreased susceptibility to vancomycin
through mutations (so-called VISA strains) as compared to VRSA strains, S. aureus
that acquired a complete vancomycin-resistance gene complex via the transposon Tn1546.
The VISA strains have low-level resistance (the minimal inhibitory concentration
of vancomycin is 6 to 12 g/ml), are often associated with reduced oxacillin resistance,
and show abnormal cell wall synthesis; the multiple transcriptional changes documented by
DNA microarray analysis reflect the complexity of this mechanism. In contrast, in
VRSA strains, the Tn1546-based mechanism produces high-level vancomycin resistance (with
a minimal inhibitory concentration of more than 500 g/ml) that does not interfere with oxacillin
resistance, and cell wall synthesis proceeds with a depsipeptide cell wall precursor
specific to these strains.
Though the transfer mechanism is not known, Clearly, mobilization of a resistance
mechanism must involve packaging into a plasmid, phage, or some transposable element,
he believes. Tomasz called the sheer variety of resistance mechanisms catalogued by
D'Carlo et al. remarkable. It appears that microorganisms might not only make
antibiotic weapons in profusion, but also make a plethora of defenses against them.
1D'Costa et al., Sampling the Antibiotic Resistome,
20 January 2006: Vol. 311. no. 5759, pp. 374 - 377, DOI: 10.1126/science.1120800.
2Alexander Tomasz, Weapons of Microbial Drug Resistance Abound in Soil Flora,
20 January 2006: Vol. 311. no. 5759, pp. 342 - 343, DOI: 10.1126/science.1123982.
Neither of these papers ruled out that the resistance
mechanisms have always been present in the gene pool. If so, then the claim that
bacteria evolve resistance to antibiotics is negated. Bacteria may
simply find access to an existing library of information, a resistome that,
coupled with a packaging and delivery mechanism (plasmids and transposons), confers
the resistance that previously appeared to evolve out of thin air.
Orion Nebula Revealed in Hubble Splendor 01/19/2006
Notice that the resistance conferred by mutations harms the organism.
The case cited by Tomasz reduced the fitness of the organism by weakening its cell wall.
Mutationally-gained resistance is like the illustration Lee Spetner gave: cutting off
a mans arms makes him resistant to handcuffs. In a population of prisoners
being handcuffed, this person would be the fittest, but only in a specific environment
and at the cost of overall fitness. In the wild, he would be at a disadvantage.
Scott Minnich also illustrated this type of bacterial resistance in the film Icons of
Evolution with cultures of bacteria exposed to antibiotics. The kind of
resistance conferred by specialized enzymes able to disable the agent, however,
require specific genetic information that appears designed.
Too little is known at this point, but these articles uncover the
possibility that genetic information that confers antibiotic resistance is already
present in the environmental resistome. If so, this undermines a commonly-used
evidence for evolution.
Next headline on:
The Hubble Space Telescopes new mosaic image of the Orion Nebula (M42) made
Astronomy Picture of the Day.
For those of us who grew up admiring the old
Palomar observatorys photo of it,
the upgrade is worth a thousand words. This is a keeper. The next day,
APOD posted a portion of the
image that looks like a pastel oil painting.
Any commentary would be superfluous. Click on the
image for the full size, and just look.
Can Caves Record Climate History?
Next headline on:
Many geologists and climatologists have assumed that cave formations, forming slowly over
long ages, preserve a record of climate changes. These assumptions have been challenged
by University of Texas researchers who experimented with water dripping from stalactites in
a cave in Barbados. Their work was published in GSA Bulletin.1
Climate history could be inferred if the isotopic signatures of carbon and oxygen
in the stalagmites and stalactites were purely a function of their abundances in the groundwater
feeding the speleothems, and if speleothem growth were also a function of flow rate.
The problem is that these isotopic signatures are not in equilibrium. They change
dynamically, and are sensitive to variations even in the physical morphology of the growing
formation. Mickler et al. found that kinetic factors, such as the shape of a
dripping stalactite, and how long the
water has to flow down its surface before dripping onto the stalagmite below, can produce
large kinetic isotope effects in the measurements. The scientists put glass plates on three stalagmites
within one square meter of each other, but measured very different signatures depending on the size of the
Their measurements cast doubt on models in use to infer climate history.
Although they still believe that speleothem isotope measurements can still be used in such
studies, they cautioned that other non-equilibrium effects must be taken into account:
Speleothem records may be influenced by kinetic isotope effects such that
temperature-controlled equilibrium fractionation models alone cannot adequately explain
the significance of the records. Proper interpretation of these records may require
that the non-equilibrium isotope effects ... be calibrated to physical conditions in the cave,
such as temperature, cave PCO2, drip rates, calcite precipitation rates,
stalactite geometry, and drip water chemistry.
(Emphasis added in all quotes.)
They did not specify how such non-equilibrium kinetic effects might be calibrated.
1Mickler, Stern and Banner, Large kinetic isotope effects in modern speleothems,
Society of America Bulletin, Vol. 118, No. 1, pp. 65–81, doi: 10.1130/B25698.1.
This study points out some important principles of
interpretation in scientific studies, especially those used to infer conditions in the
unobservable past. There are usually more factors influencing a measurement than
many simplistic models assume. Consider, for instance, how the experimental apparatus
itself can alter a measurement. The authors noted that even the shape of their glass
plates differed from the natural situation: Our experiment uses flat glass plates,
which may affect the stable isotope composition of calcite along the growth
layer by forcing the drip water to flow across a flat surface, unlike a natural convex stalagmite,
they said. This likely prolongs the residence time of drip water, relative to a
natural stalagmite, allowing more time for CO2 degassing and calcite precipitation.
Though they discounted the effect of this particular influence, there could well be other
influences they did not consider. After all, previous studies working on this subject
apparently did not take speleothem geometry into account.
How to Squeeze Fossils Into Evolutionary Trees 01/18/2006
Even putting a human being in a cave next to a stalagmite
alters its environment. A body gives off over 100 watts of heat, and alters the
moisture of the atmosphere with his or her breath. When making sensitive measurements
of delicate isotopic ratios on a glass plate, how can they be sure all such influences
have been calibrated, or even considered? In addition, as they mentioned, the measurements are
sensitive even to the geometry of the drip source. Perhaps you can think of other
influences that would be difficult to calibrate and easy to ignore: microbiology in the
soil between the atmosphere and the cave, changes in the source of the water, the
complex arrangement of cracks and channels in the cave roof, the presence of cave biota,
or much more. Consider how in recent decades a major paradigm shift in cave geology
occurred when geologists began to consider the effect of bacteria on cave formation
(05/10/2004). Prior to that,
they were not even thinking about it. They were looking at geological
forces alone, and had overlooked factors that turned out to have a huge effect on
cave excavation processes and speleothem formation rates, leading to whole new ways of thinking about underground
geology. Meanwhile, summer-hire cave tour leaders were still regurgitating the
old paradigm to the tourists.
Regardless of how comfortable these scientists feel in their conclusion that isotopic ratios can
reflect climate history with some degree of reliability, they admitted that the correlation of oxygen and carbon
was only about 55%. Some studies showed no correlation, or even a negative
correlation. How can they know that the anomalous studies were not the more
significant for true understanding? Does the majority rule in science?
None of these questions should suggest that field studies and careful measurement are
not profitable, but before swallowing a simplistic statement in a popular-level book
or TV program about how we know something about prehistory, remember that
even the best estimates are subject to drastic revision by subsequent findings.
Even if scientists could garner accurate measurements of every known parameter
in the present, they cannot, in principle, know the unknowns. In addition,
the further that present processes are extrapolated into the past or future, the more
uncertain they become the more subject to assumptions that cannot be tested.
This is an inherent limitation of the scientific method. Process is not the same
as certainty. When that is admitted, it is a good thing. More often
than not, interpretations are touted as facts, and the assumptions underlying the
interpretations are not disclosed.
For an interesting analysis of factors that call into question consensus
views about cave formation and speleothem dating, order this DVD by Dr. Emil Silvestru,
a specialist in karst geology with years of field experience:
and Cave Formation. It also contains stunning photographs of some incredible
crystalline wonders hidden in the darkness of these underground cathedrals
Next headline on:
Fossils do not come with dates or labels on them. Sometimes it is quite a puzzle
to figure out where they fit in Darwinian ancestral trees. One such example was
published in Nature on January 12 by Chinese scientists who found
an oddball in the famous Liaoning fossil beds.1 They called it a Cretaceous
symmetrodont therian with some monotreme-like postcranial features (monotremes
include the famous duck-billed platypus), and named it Akidolestes cifellii.
There are some technical terms in the paper that require translation:
apomorphy, homoplasy, and plesiomorphy among them (thank goodness for
Dictionary.com). One phrase jumped out of
the otherwise jargon-laden paper: rampant homoplasy. A quick check
shows this word homoplasy to be a synonym for convergent evolution, the
idea that unrelated animals converged on similar body parts.
Within eutriconodontans, lumbar ribs are present in gobiconodontids but not in the
related Jeholodens. Within spalacotheroids, these are present in Akidolestes
but absent in zhangheotheriids. Outside the crown mammals, lumbar ribs are absent
in morganucodontans but variably present in many advanced cynodonts. It is possible
that this rampant homoplasy of the lumbarosacral vertebral ribs is patterned by
developmental genes that are deeply conserved in widely separated mammalian taxa
that lacked a recent common history. However, homoplastic development of the
lumbar ribs is not mutually exclusive of the interpretation that these ribs and related
features also have convergent function to extant monotremes.
(Emphasis added in all quotes.)
Those who wish can insert most of the terms in the above quote into
Dictionary.com or google the various animal group names.
The upshot is that this fossil, and many others in other widely separated
mammal groups, show rampant homoplasy (convergence) of several
post-cranial features (i.e., parts behind the skull, or, in other words,
the rest of the body).
The authors are suggesting here two possible explanations for these similarities:
(1) developmental genes for these structures are deeply conserved (i.e., they
began way, way back in time before these groups split apart), or, (2) somehow the environment
forced their body plans to become similar (convergent function).
The following sentence from the abstract jargonizes these two choices:
These peculiar features may have developed as functional convergence to
locomotory features of monotremes, or the presence of lumbar ribs in this newly discovered
mammal and their absence in its close relatives might be due to evolutionary
developmental homoplasy. The authors confessed some astonishment at their find:
this new mammal revealed some surprisingly
convergent features to monotremes in the lumbar vertebrae, pelvis and hindlimb.
A reading of the paper reveals that they had some confusion deciding where to place this mammal.
It seems to have a mosaic of features from distantly related groups. Isnt that
what happened with Platypus itself? When first discovered, some taxonomists
were convinced this strange animal with a ducks bill and webbed feet, a snakes venom and
a mammals hair was an Aussie hoax. It wasnt.
1Gang Li and Zhe-Xi Luo, A Cretaceous symmetrodont therian with some monotreme-like postcranial features,
439, 195-200 (12 January 2006) | doi:10.1038/nature04168.
Words like homoplasy and convergent
evolution are surreptitious gimmicks evolutionists use to hide their naked
assumptions. When data are not cooperative, when fossils exhibit surprisingly
convergent features, when evolutionary paleontologists dont have the foggiest idea where to hang
their ornaments on the tree, they use such hand-waving terms to pretend their speculations
are scientifically based. Here you see the stretch and squish theory of
evolutionary agility (12/14/2004) in action,
with working magicians manipulating words to keep Darwinism safe from the observations.
Dont be fooled (see Smokescreens in the Baloney
Dust Bunny Lays Planet Eggs 01/17/2006
Next headline on:
Where do planets come from? The Dust Bunny. Thats a line coming from
a press release from the University
of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy. They measured spectra of gas and dust at radio
and infrared wavelengths around a sunlike star, and concluded the dust was collecting.
This suggests that the dust particles are sticking together, much as dust bunnies
form under a bed, said Dr. Jonathan Williams. This is the first, albeit
tiny, step toward forming new solar systems. They had better form fast,
though, because time is short. The release says, They found that the disks
rapidly disappear and concluded that stars have only a few million years to get started
on making planets, a far shorter time than conventional theories require.
Did they watch dust collecting? No it was
an inference based purely on seeing longer wavelengths than expected from the disk
region. Did they watch for millions of years to see what would happen?
Obviously not. Did they see planets forming? No. Did they demolish
conventional theories of star formation? Yes. Did they tell a fairy tale?
ID Film Takes Hollywood 01/15/2006
Next headline on:
Graumans Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard is a top tourist attraction in
Tinseltown. It features dozens of handprints of famous movie and TV stars, from
Lucille Ball and Bill Cosby to Mickey Mouse. This venue of many a blockbuster
and glitzy opening night
seemed hardly a place for naturalistic cosmology to take a thrashing, but Saturday
morning, The Privileged Planet
made Hollywood history. Shown as part of the
Film Festival, an event dedicated to positive-values films, it was a smash.
About 200 people a good turnout for a rainy Saturday morning
attended the screening and gave it a hearty round of applause at the end.
One visitor was overheard during his long, loud clapping telling his neighbor,
That was good. An editor for a DVD Club who had flown in
from Washington DC for the festival was heard to comment that this film was
one of the most powerful and important documentaries ever made.
Feedback was outstanding, the producer said.
Now you can advertise this film as the one shown at
the Smithsonian (06/09/2005)
and on Hollywood Boulevard. The Privileged Planet is a keeper.
The visuals, the original music by Mark Lewis, the narration by
John Rhys Davies, and the content are all
exceptional; it has quality stamped all over it, and the message
is equal to the production excellence. It covers a tremendous amount of interesting
and important scientific, historical and philosophical material in just 60 minutes without
feeling rushed or overly technical. The speakers, mostly PhD scientists with
strong credentials, including Paul Davies, Robert Jastrow and Donald Brownlee (principal
scientist for the just-landed
Stardust mission) are unimpeachable.
This film will make an impression get it and pass it around.
Why Your Brain Has Gray Matter, and Why You Should Use It 01/13/2006
Next headline on:
Vertebrate brains have an outer layer of gray matter over the inner white matter.
Why is this? By borrowing mathematical tools from theoretical physics, a press
release from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
announced, two researchers found out.
Based on no fewer than 62 mathematical equations and expressions, the theory
provides a possible explanation for the structure of various regions including the
cerebral cortex and spinal cord. The theory is based on the idea that maximum
brain function requires a high level of interconnectivity among brain neurons but a
low level of delays in the time it takes for signals to move through the brain.
(Emphasis added in all quotes.)
Their paper was published in PLoS Computational Biology.1
Despite the implicit deduction that the brain appears optimally designed, the authors
looked to the random, unguided processes of evolution to explain how it got that way.
Notice the first word in this next sentence: Assuming that evolution
maximized brain functionality, what is the reason for such segregation? they
asked. Did the claim of evolution ever get past the assumption stage?
Gray matter contains neuron somata, synapses, and local wiring, such as dendrites and
mostly nonmyelinated axons. White matter contains global, and in large brains
mostly myelinated, axons that implement global communication. What is the
evolutionary advantage of such segregation? Networks with the same local and
global connectivity could be wired so that global and local connections are finely
intermixed. Since such design is not observed, and invoking an evolutionary
accident as an explanation has agnostic flavor, we searched for an explanation based
on the optimization approach, which is rooted in the evolutionary theory.
Their use of the term agnostic is not what most people think (i.e., uncertainty about the
existence of God), but a-gnostic, or not knowing. They understood, in other words, that
saying it was a lucky accident is a non-answer. Rather, they assumed that evolutionary
theory provides a pathway through the randomness toward optimization. They stated again
that this was their starting assumption:
We started with the assumption that evolution tinkered with
brain design [sic] to maximize its functionality. Brain functionality
must benefit from higher synaptic connectivity, because synaptic connections are
central for information processing as well as learning and memory,
thought to manifest in synaptic modifications. However, increasing connectivity
requires adding wiring to the network, which comes at a cost.
The cost of wiring is due to metabolic energy required for maintenance
and conduction, guidance mechanisms in development, conduction time delays and
attenuation, and wiring volume.
Sounds like a lot of engineering talk. The scientists assumed, but did not demonstrate
in this paper,2 that natural selection was up to the task of yielding this optimized entity
sometimes called the most complex assemblage of matter in the known universe.
1Quan Wen and Dmitri B. Chlovskii, Segregation of the Brain into Gray and
White Matter: A Design Minimizing Conduction Delays,
Library of Science Computational Biology, Volume 1 | Issue 7 | December 2005.
2Here are the only other mentions of evolution in this paper:
In none of these references to evolution were specific details provided about how the
variations occurred, how they added up, and how they converged on a variety of vertebrate brains,
each composed of billions of neurons that function together as an optimized unit.
- Although wiring volume minimization is an important factor in the evolution of
brain design, [earlier] results remain inconclusive...
- Finally, it is likely that, in the course of evolution, minimization of
conduction delay was accompanied by the increase in connectivity.
- In a neurobiological context this means a combination of high computational power
in local circuits with fast global communication. Thus it is not surprising
that evolution adopted this architecture when the size of the network made all-to-all
- Although we do not know whether competing desiderata of short time delay
and high interconnectivity were crucial factors driving evolution of vertebrate brains,
our theory makes testable predictions. Below, we compare these predictions with known
anatomical facts. (These concerned measurements of cortical thickness and brain
size among various vertebrates.)
- In general, the evolutionary cost is likely to include both the
volume and the time delay.
Brains are mathematically perfect for achieving the
sweet spot between maximized interconnectivity and minimized transmission delays. The
authors reminded us that a human brain contains about 10 billion neurons,
and that each one can contain thousands of connections with other neurons.
The two-layer structure meets the competing requirements to a T. That
part is amazing. Assuming that evolution did it earns this entry the Dumb award
Plants Contribute to Global Warming? 01/12/2006
Here again we are told about
another apparition of the goddess of the Darwin Party, Tinker Bell.
As the legend goes, she flitted aimlessly around the Cambrian swamps about 500 million years ago,
zapping some emerging vertebrates with her mutation wand, killing countless
myriads of them till one emerged lucky enough to have the beginnings of an optimized brain.
As animals evolved, this process was repeated myriads of times more over millions of years,
producing larger and more complex brains. Finally, at the end of the line, computational
biologists emerged who could look back and analyze the whole process with abstract reasoning
and mathematical equations, concluding that evolution had produced an optimized brain.
Let us ask these true believers a simple question. If the brain evolved,
how can you be sure of anything, including the proposition that the brain evolved?
(From experience, we know that posing this type of question to a Darwinist is like
putting a moron in a round room and telling him there is a penny in the corner.)
By assuming evolution at the outset, these
computational evolutionists have provided as much insight into the origin of the
brain as the vain mathematician did in the
assume we have a can opener joke in the
12/17/2005 commentary. Their logic is as
follows: Assume evolution produces optimized structures. An optimized brain would
be structured so as to maximize interconnectivity and minimize delays. The brains
we observe accomplish this by segregating highly-connected neurons in a gray matter
layer and long axons in a white matter layer, thus fulfilling both requirements in an
exquisite product that is the most complex device in the universe, that took us 62 simultaneous
equations to describe. Isnt evolution wonderful?
Undoubtedly this paper will be dutifully added to the growing corpus of
scripture that the Darwin Party can hold up at school board meetings to show that
the peer-reviewed scientific journals are filled with evidence for evolution, and that
nothing in biology would make sense without it. Anyone raising his hand and
saying, but to me, that looks like design would be quickly answered with,
Excuse me, we are talking about science here. If you want to change the
subject to religion, go to church.
Assumption is the mother of all myths. Perhaps you have heard
the etymology of the word ASSUME: making an ASS (donkey) out of U and ME.
Having gray matter is one thing. Using it is another.
Next headline on:
If anyone needs a reminder that scientists still have a lot to learn, consider this major
discovery of something right under their noses that caught them completely off guard.
Up to a third of methane in the atmosphere comes from plants. This is not only a
baffling puzzle about how or why plants would create such a reducing molecule in an oxic environment,
but the finding will have a major impact on how scientists calculate the greenhouse-gas budget
a data point that feeds right into political negotiations over what to do about global warming.
It will also ripple back through models of earth history and climate.
(After carbon dioxide, methane is the major greenhouse gas in the atmosphere; previously,
scientists thought most of it was coming from microbial activity in wetlands or cow farts in scientific
terms, the eructations of ruminant animals.)
The astonishment of two news reports in Nature was palpable.
Atmospheric expert David C. Lowe1 called this startling, because it is the first case of
non-bacterial agents producing methane, and the amount is large: up to 30% of the annual
total of methane entering earths atmosphere. Methane has been a target for
emission control under the Kyoto protocols, but is it possible that by planting forests in some
wetland countries will make the problem worse? They had recommended drier rice farming
than flooding rice paddies with water. Lowe asks, could the rice plants themselves
be as significant a source of methane as the flooded paddy fields?
in Munich was similarly stunned.2 This finding will send scientists and politicians
back to the drawing board, he said: The newly revealed methane emissions have taken plant
physiologists by surprise, because far more energy is required to create methane than, say,
carbon dioxide in an oxygenated environment. A sidebar asked, How could
we have missed this? and has them wondering what else might have been overlooked if it is true.
It could be very important, and may not be the last surprise. It does not change the
fact that atmospheric methane has doubled over the past 200 years, and does not remove the
need to understand the human impact on atmospheric change, but It means we
neglected a big driving force for the climate, remarked Martin Heimann, director of
the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena, Germany, who was most surprised by
the large amount of methane detected.
The discovery was made by Keppler et al. and announced in Nature.3
They said, We suggest that this newly identified source may have important implications
for the global methane budget and may call for a reconsideration of the role of natural
methane sources in past climate change. See also the summary on
Update 01/19/2006: The authors issued a clarification in a
Planck Society press release that their findings were not intended to suggest that plants
cause global warming, or that reforestation efforts would be harmful. Emissions from
plants thus contribute to the natural greenhouse effect and not to the recent temperature
increase known as global warming, they said. Even if land use practices
have altered plant methane emissions, which we did not demonstrate, this would also count as an
anthropogenic source, and the plants themselves cannot be deemed responsible.
The authors were apparently chagrined over widespread misinterpretation of their
findings in the news media; The blame is not with the plants, the press release
1David C. Lowe, Global change: A green source of surprise,
439, 148-149 (12 January 2006) | doi:10.1038/439148a.
2Quirin Schiermeier, Methane finding baffles scientists,
3Keppler et al., Methane emissions from terrestrial plants under aerobic conditions,
439, 187-191 (12 January 2006) | doi:10.1038/nature04420.
CEH does not generally take positions on political
issues like global warming, but two lessons stand out from this surprising discovery:
Observing Animals for Fun and Profit 01/11/2006
(1) Plants must have some yet-to-be-discovered remarkable mechanism for producing an
unlikely molecule in oxidizing conditions. Heres a chance for an ID-friendly
researcher to find out how and why plants accomplish this feat. Think of the
possibilities for ID science: can plants teach us an efficient way to produce natural
gas? Could this bring our energy bills down?
(2) There may be a lot more going on in this old world than the experts, who influence
the politicians, could ever realize. When they speak glibly about what the climate
was doing umpteen gazillion years ago, take note of this startling finding that was
right under their noses, right here in the present.
Next headline on:
Politics and Ethics
Whether scientists watch Animal Planet for inspiration or not, they often are
fixated on the wonders in the animal kingdom and want to understand and imitate them.
Here are some recent examples:
- Waddle of the Penguins: Max Kurz at U
of Houston enjoys watching cuddly penguins like most of us, but wonders how they
waddle without falling down. If he can figure out how they keep their balance
as they bob from side to side when walking, he thinks he may be able to help the
elderly and disabled.
- Antlers in a Rut How can male elk and other members of the deer family
grow such huge bony structures every year? Joanna Price of the Royal Veterinary
College wants to know, reported BBC
News. The antlers apparently grow from stem cells. If they can do it,
maybe humans can learn the secret of regenerating body parts.
- Go to the Ant, Thou Student: Well, what do you know: ants have teachers
and students. An article in UK
News Telegraph summarized a paper in Nature1 by two biologists at
University of Bristol who found that ants
can do tandem teaching that is, the teacher will stop until the student
signals that he got the lesson. This is better pedagogy than in the ape world, where
the teaching is always one-way.
The scientists were stunned at this example of
teaching. They wrote that, to our knowledge,
this is the first in a non-human animal, that involves bidirectional feedback
between teacher and pupil. Reporter Roger Highfield threw in a rather
quizzical line at this unevolutionary finding: dullards and dunces will be encouraged
by the discovery that it is the value of what is being taught and the teaching style,
rather than brain size, that has most influenced the evolution of teaching2
(emphasis added). Teacher, could you repeat that?
1Nigel Franks and Tom Richardson, Teaching in tandem-running ants,
439, 153 (12 January 2006) | doi:10.1038/439153a.
2Highfield took this from the authors introduction to their paper:
This behaviour indicates that it could be the value of information, rather than
the constraint of brain size, that has influenced the evolution of teaching.
This was the only mention of evolution in the paper.
Were going to just keep racking up cases of
wonders in the animal kingdom, and evolutionists utter cluelessness about
explaining them, till students everywhere get the lesson.
Step Aside, Creationists: Darwinists Figured Out How Bees Fly 01/10/2006
Next headline on:
With an air of triumph, LiveScience
announced that Caltech scientists have won one against ID:
Proponents of intelligent design, which holds that a supreme being [sic]
rather than evolution is responsible for lifes complexities, have long criticized
science [sic] for not being able to explain some natural phenomena, such as how bees fly.
Exactly who has said that bee flight is inexplicable to science was not named.
Reporter Sara Goudarzi spoke of bee flight mechanisms as more exotic than thought,
and that they work like racing cars even that engineers might learn
how to design hovering aircraft by observing them. So how does this relate to a
putdown of intelligent design?
Now scientists have put this perplexing mystery to rest.
(Emphasis added in all quotes.)
... They are also pleased that a simple thing like bee flight can no longer be
used as an example of science failing to explain a common phenomenon.
This story was picked up verbatim by Fox
News and MSNBC, complete with the
pretty picture of a bee hovering at a flower.
The research revolved around fairly mundane lab work, observing bees with high-speed cameras
and robotic sensors, in different
concentrations of oxygen and with varying payloads to analyze their aerodynamic principles.
They mainly discovered that the insects use principles different than those of airplanes
There was no mention of how these flight mechanisms evolved. It was even subtitled,
Robotic wings mimic insects rapid beat and could inspire new designs.
Presumably this would involve the work of intelligent engineers.
Proponents of intelligent design, or ID, have tried in
recent years [sic] to promote the idea of a supreme being [sic] by discounting
science [sic] because it cant explain everything in nature.
People in the ID community [who?]
have said that we dont even know how bees fly, [Douglas] Altshuler
[Caltech] said. We were finally able to put this one to rest.
We do have the tools to understand bee flight and we can use science to
understand the world around us.
Update 01/13/2006: The author was contacted about this
paper and a copy was received for review. The paper said nothing about creationism or
intelligent design. Apparently he made some off-the-cuff remark at the end of the
interview about ID proponents claiming science could not explain how bees fly, and the
reporter made that the title and theme of her article.
This article is very perplexing. Who were they
talking about? Steve Meyer, did you ever say that? Paul Nelson?
William Dembski? Did you ever define intelligent design that way, as an argument
from ignorance? Phillip Johnson? Jonathan Wells? Michael Behe?
President Bush? Pope Benedict? Any of you
creationists ever say that science could never understand how bees fly? Duane Gish?
Henry Morris? Isaac Newton?
Peer Review: Can You Trust a Scientific Journal Paper? 01/09/2006
We dont get it. We have no idea what these guys are talking
about. Everyone in the ID community we know respects and loves observational,
testable, repeatable science. No problem. What we would really like to
hear, dear LieScience reporter, is how these racing-car hovering flight mechanisms that
are the envy of engineers originated.
So here goes Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week:
Proponents of intelligent design, or ID, have tried in recent years to promote the idea
of a supreme being by discounting science because it cant explain everything in nature.
If LieScience doesnt understand how they won this award, they need to study up on
Straw Man in the Baloney Detector.
Next headline on:
Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory
Science magazine has egg on its face deviled, poached, and scrambled
everything but sunny side up. Last May, it printed one of the biggest breakthrough
stories of the year in stem cell research: Korean scientist Woo Suk Hwang, a professor at the
Seoul National University and President of the World Stem Cell Hub, a man called the
pride of Korea and a national treasure, had cloned human stem cells
The story began to unravel when rumors of fraud emerged in December; last week,
Science admitted the paper was hopelessly flawed, and it all came crashing down
this week. Its all over the news now (see Fox
News, News@Nature and,
of course, Science):
Hwangs last hopeful claims about his human stem cell clones
have been demolished all of it was fakery, fraud and lies.
Hwang had already stepped down from both positions and has been forever disgraced.
Not only that; News@Nature called this a huge setback for therapeutic
cloning, saying that the field is now left with no evidence that it is possible in humans
How could such a huge fraud make its way past the rigors of peer review into
one of the most prestigious scientific journals in the world? The editors of Science
sheepishly tried to answer that question last week as they officially retracted the paper.
While it is not uncommon for scientists to retract findings after further research, or to
question the validity of others findings, there was a lot more than just ignorance or
honest disputation in the Hwang case. In the magazines News of the Week section,
Chong and Normile wrote like investigative reporters on a spy case, How Young Korean
Researchers Helped Unearth a Scandal.1 Jennifer Couzin followed up
with chapter two, ... And How the Problems Eluded Peer Reviewers and Editors.2
She quoted another journal editor who explained, Peer review doesnt necessarily say
that a paper is right. It says its worth publishing
(emphasis added in all quotes). Yet shouldnt a journals standards exceed
those of the New York Times? A big factor that seduced the reviewers was their eagerness
to be first to publish a sensational, high-profile paper. Yet isnt
a scientific journal supposed to have better practices than a tabloid?
The buck stops at the top. Science chief editor Donald Kennedy had to accept
responsibility on behalf of the journal, and explain what went wrong. In his
Editorial Expression of Concern,3 Kennedy warned readers not to
trust the Hwang results (this was before the full extent of the fraud had become known).
In Couzins article, he defended the policy of aggressively seeking out high-profile
firsts to publish, but said that changes would be put in place to try to
prevent future fiascos. Peer review cannot detect [fraud] if it is artfully
done, he cautioned, but the practice of requiring every author to describe their contribution
to the paper, though administratively complex, might help, because If the paper
is wrong and has to be retracted, then everyone takes the fall. Presumably
peer pressure would augment peer review. He did not promise, however, that this new
policy would be put into effect, and confessed it wouldnt be foolproof anyway,
because perpetrators could still be dishonest about their contributions.
Several uncomfortable findings about peer review came out of the investigation.
All the peer reviewers gave enthusiastic reviews, even though a more careful eye should have seen
that the only thing cloned were not stem cells, but faked photos, rotated and cropped to look real.
In the rush to get the paper out, Science also failed another scientific principle: waiting to
see the results replicated elsewhere. The images used by Hwang were never scrutinized carefully.
The journal rushed the submitted paper to its Board of Reviewing Editors (two people) and gave them only 48 hours
to decide whether to send it out for review. In addition, Couzin found out that these first reviewers
dont even look at the data: they are looking for a mixture of novelty, originality and
trendiness. Shouldnt a scientific journal have better standards than Rolling Stone?
The actual reviewers (3) were given only a week, and admitted they werent all that careful.
you look at the data and do not assume its fraud, one said.
Was this an isolated case, a rare slip-up in one journal? Consider a test of
the peer review process. Couzin wrote,
Although the flaws in the Hwang paper were especially difficult for reviewers to catch, the
peer-review system is far from foolproof, its supporters concede. In 1997,
editors at the British Medical Journal (BMJ) described a study in which they inserted
eight errors into a short paper and asked researchers to identify the mistakes.
Of the 221 who responded, the median number spotted was two, says
Richard Smith, who edited BMJ from 1991 until 2004. Nobody spotted more than five,
and 16% didnt find any.
Science did not commit to requiring authors in the future to detail their individual
contributions to a research paper (Nature doesnt require this, either).
Nor were the editors specific about what they were going to do to clean house:
In the aftermath of the Hwang case, editors at Science will be having a lot of
conversations about how we can improve the evaluation of manuscripts,
says Kennedy. One thing unlikely to change is the aim of high-profile journals to
publish, and publicize, firsts. You want the exciting results, and
sometimes the avant-garde exciting results dont have the same amount of supporting
data as something thats been repeated over and over and over again, says
Katrina Kelner, Sciences deputy managing editor for life sciences.
In weighing whether to publish papers such as these, its always a judgment call, she says.
But maybe thats the issue: whose judgment, and by what standards?
Couzin ended with a rejoinder that most scientists do not accept things as dogma until the results
are replicated, despite the hype of exciting first pronouncements.
A culture that wanted to see things reproduced before making a big deal out of them
would probably be a healthier culture. From the tone of these
articles, though, it doesnt sound like reducing fat
and doing more exercise are high on the New Years Resolution list.
1Sei Chong and Dennis Normile, How Young Korean Researchers Helped Unearth a Scandal...,
Science, 6 January 2006:
Vol. 311. no. 5757, pp. 22 - 25, DOI: 10.1126/science.311.5757.22.
2Jennifer Couzin, ... And How the Problems Eluded Peer Reviewers and Editors,
Science, 6 January 2006:
Vol. 311. no. 5757, pp. 23 - 24, DOI: 10.1126/science.311.5757.23.
3Donald Kennedy, Editorial Expression of Concern,
6 January 2006: Vol. 311. no. 5757, p. 36, DOI: 10.1126/science.311.5757.36b.
We dont wish to be overly critical of peer review nor draw
exaggerated conclusions from this one case. Peer reviewers, editors and scientists are all
only human, and are like most of us: trying to work on many things simultaneously under time pressure,
subject to mood swings and emotions, loathe to become bogged down in petty details,
easily distracted, desirous of recognition and usually trusting of their peers.
In general, there is safety in numbers. Independent eyes can catch errors in reasoning
and constructively criticize unwarranted claims.
Supporters of the peer review status quo can also claim that this fraud was eventually uncovered.
See? Science is a self-correcting process (echoes of positivism). A few flaws get through, but at worst,
peer review is like American government: awful, but better than any of the alternatives.
Darwin Hits Home: Adultery Rationalized 01/08/2006
OK, granted, but look how the Darwin defenders use peer review as a selling
point. For one thing, they trumpet all the thousands of papers on evolution, as if the
more buckets of sand, the more solid the foundation. For another, they chide supporters
of intelligent design for their shortage of peer-reviewed publications. Third, they
rank the journals by prestige: Science and Nature win more points than the lower-profile
journals (remember how Stephen Meyers peer-reviewed ID article was disparaged for being
published in a low-impact journal? 09/08/2004).
Clearly, many evolutionists treat peer review like a gold standard of scientific validation,
an imprimatur of officiality and a badge of membership into elite scientific circles.
So now that we see how the sausage is made the push to be first with
sensational stories, the time deadlines, the lack of rigor, the assumptions about data
being honest, and the ease with which mistakes get through how much stress should
be put on peer review? Are the more prestigious journals better at it?
Is it the only standard?
Peer review can be a safeguard, but is no guarantee. In almost each interview in
Current Biology, a working scientist is asked about peer review. The answer usually expresses problems
with it and with the whole way scientific information is validated. They get angry that
it can spill the beans of hard-bought original work to rivals. They doubt that
the best findings get the prominence they deserve, or that the papers that get published are
really all that significant (remember the publish or perish syndrome?)
Authors squeeze in their names as contributors when maybe all they did was run the software
application and record the numbers in a lab book. Among all the verbiage and charts
and references and impressive equations, how much is really significant? Can really
fundamental work never get noticed, because it never gets past the Board of Reviewers who
are looking for novelty, originality, and trendiness? How about truth?
A lot of Darwinian papers look novel and trendy, but like the tiresome papers on game theory
or digital evolution, seem to have little or nothing to
do with the real world. They amount to little more than trendy, original, novel
twists on the art of just-so storytelling.
Recall also that peer review as a touchstone of the modern scientific
method is a recent tradition (see Wikipedia).
Though its roots date from the Royal Society in the 1700s, its implementation only became routine after
World War II. Throughout history, even up to the present day, many of the most important
discoveries have been announced in books with NO peer review. Copernicus, Newton, Boyle,
Maxwell, and many others proposed the most earth-shaking scientific theories in book form
out of their own creative genius. Darwin himself wrote The Origin
of Species single-handed, with no PhD. Peer review these days often shuts out
alternative viewpoints, like intelligent design,
at the front door (12/21/2001). It is often rigged to
perpetuate reigning paradigms and hinder original-thinking mavericks (02/06/2003).
One can still publish original work without asking some distant editors owing allegiance more
to Darwin than to Diogenes to cast judgment on it. Whats important in science is
for an idea to be correct, not for it to pass the muster of a few other fallible humans, or
to garner prized real estate in a prestigious rag.
ID proponents may not have many peer-reviewed papers in journals yet, but they have published a great deal of
original, scholarly research in groundbreaking books, such as Dembskis
The Design Inference
(Cambridge University Press, 1998). Read good books
and do more than just peer. Review.
Next headline on:
Politics and Ethics
PS: This huge embarrassment to Science began just one week after they
had announced Evolution in Action as Breakthrough of the Year (see
12/22/2005). Trendy! Novel! Original?
Today began an article with a steamy picture of a man and a woman embracing. As could
be expected, they are not married; reporter Sharon Jayson began, Some men cheat on their
partners. So do some women. Now researchers say it is more than a wandering eye
that might cause a woman to stray. And what is that extra touch? Why,
its the selfish genes.
The article reported, without question or controversy, on results by UCLA
and UNM scientists who claim that women feel more lusty for non-
(excuse me, partners, that is) during ovulation, compared to how the guys feel about the chicks
(i.e., ready for one and all, all the time, but jealous when their main partners eyes wander).
This conclusion was based on two studies of college men and women. They were asked how they felt
at different times of the month about sex objects outside of their steady relationships:
Something biologically wakes up around high fertility and says, Is
your romantic partner the best sexual partner for you, given that youre
likely to conceive? says Martie Haselton, assistant professor of communication and
psychology at UCLAs Center for Behavior, Evolution, and Culture.
Jayson wrote that this does not necessarily mean women have to cheat in the middle
of the month, but just that they experience changes that are biologically predictable.
And so far, this only relates to college students. Further study would be needed
to say whether the findings apply to married couples or those in longer-term relationships,
she said. Undoubtedly, this would also make biological sense to someone whose career
is in a Center for Behavior, Evolution, and Culture.
Along those evolutionary lines, men more than women desire a variety of
sexual partners because genes carrying that trait were passed along in men, Haselton says.
(Emphasis added in all quotes.)
Pastors, this one is for you. Notice two things about
this putrid article. The obvious one is that this is another
rationalization for cheating (they call it that, too!) on ones partner
(whoever or whatever that is; we wouldnt want to use the old words husband or
wife for fear of offending someone with some other, more liberated relationship), based on
flawed reasoning, shoddy technique, and baseless interpretations of weak data, leading to
purely amoral ends, justifying immorality, all flowing straight out of Darwinian evolutionary
dogmatism. Nothing new, in other words.
Bet on the Winning Dodo: Darwinism or Intelligent Design 01/07/2006
The second thing, even more alarming, is that you, as a pastor, have nothing to contribute
to this discussion. You see, our culture has decided that any stupid thing a scientist
says about reality, even culture and the most intimate of human relationships, is sacrosanct
and not open to question (except perhaps between competing Darwinian views).
Make any claim in the name of Darwin and science and you will have an eager
lapdog reporter panting at your knees, waiting to retrieve your stick and run with it.
The evolutionary tale will be dutifully recorded in the growing materialistic scripture
known as the scientific journal. By contrast,
when was the last time they came to your church and took notes from your sermon? (except, perhaps,
with intent to file a lawsuit on the grounds of separation of church and reality.)
Pastors have no voice in this culture. In colonial days, pastors were esteemed as
pillars of the community. Pulpits stirred the heart and
soul of the young republic, and government leaders looked to the men of God for
inspiration and guidance. Now, virtually no one in the media or elite institutions of
power in this country takes a pastors view on marriage and adultery seriously,
even if he is a scholar of the Bible, history, theology and philosophy with multiple degrees and fluent in Greek and Hebrew,
because, you see, he represents religion, something for the weak and backward who
dont yet understand science (i.e., molecules to man evolution).
If you think thats disturbing, read Janet Folgers wake-up article in the
cover story of Whistleblower
magazine (Dec. 2005). It may not even be safe very long for you to say what you think about these
matters from your own pulpit, to your own congregation, on your own property. While
the public schools do reverse evangelism on your young people with unopposed license (see
Agape News), the powers of
government influenced by special interest groups and activist judges
may soon rule it intolerable for you and your church to engage in evangelistic activities
(i.e., hate speech) in the community, and may make it illegal for you to spread your message outside
the walls of your church building or jail cell. Now read
Next headline on:
Politics and Ethics
A new film about the creation-evolution controversy is coming out, titled
Flock of Dodos. Randy Olson,
a marine biologist with a PhD in evolutionary ecology and another degree in filmmaking,
decided to put this documentary together to help scientists realize that they are
behind the curve on marketing their ideas. According to the Kansas paper
Journal-World, Olson claims his purpose is not to take sides, but to highlight
the importance of public relations. The film is slated for upcoming
preview screenings at Harvard University and other prestigious venues.
Flock of dodos. Wonderful. Such a
scholarly, uplifting title. With an evolutionary ecologist running the show,
any doubt who will be labeled as the real dodos? Do you think the word dodo
will stand for Darwin Only! Darwin Only to an evolutionary ecologist
who will be showing off his work at Harvard?
Darwin Wars Continue Unabated
There is a slight chance he will warn his fellow
Darwinists they might go extinct without better marketing, but more likely, the blurb sets the
odds: Filmmaker and evolutionary ecologist Dr. Randy Olson tries to figure
out who exactly is the flock of dodos. Compare this attitude with the
respectful, evidence-focused comportment of films like
Unlocking the Mystery of Life
and The Privileged Planet.
The Darwinist strategy is, when you cant block,
Next headline on:
Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory
The Dover decision did not end the fervent discussion about Darwinism and intelligent
design. There are too many articles to mention separately, so here is a sampler:
The controversy over intelligent design, creation, evolution and education extends from the grass roots of small
town school boards and churches all the way up to international scientific institutions and
- Dover Board Rescinds Policy: As expected, the new Dover school board
quickly put an end to the policy that required reading a statement that alternatives to
evolutionary theory exist, including (but not limited to) intelligent design.
and MSNBC News.
- Jews News: The Miami
New Times reported about a lively debate before an audience of 300 Jewish scientists and intellectuals in Miami
about how Jews should respond to the ID debate. Opinions at the Sixth Miami International
Conference on Torah and Science ranged everywhere from calling Darwinism
irrational to saying embracing ID would be a disaster.
- Great IDEA?: Sarah Price Brown reported on
BeliefNet about the
rising interest in forming ID clubs on campuses, and how the
IDEA Center is assisting. There are about
30 IDEA clubs at last count, including ones at Cornell, UCSD and George Mason University.
- Basking Sharks II: The
Wichita Eagle reported that the lawyers who defeated the ID initiative in Dover, Eric Rothschild
and Stephen Harvey, are scheduled to speak at the University of Kansas later this month.
They want to leverage their experience for others involved in the debate.
The losing side, though, is not going away any time soon there is too much
momentum across the country, said Richard Thompson, President of
the Thomas More Law Center that defended the school board. He criticized the Dover decision:
The judge specifically ordered the school board never to denigrate or disparage the theory
of evolution, he remarked, which now makes that theory sacrosanct and violates one of the major principles of
America -- that no official, high or petty, should establish dogma or orthodoxy in a method of thinking.
Source: Agape Press.
- Domino: Both Nature
and Science expressed triumph over the
Dover decision, claiming it affirmed unequivocally that ID is not science, and that this decision is
likely to affect other cases.
- Just the Facts: Robert Crowther on
criticized the habit of major media to editorialize. Instead of reporting the facts, they are
intent on telling us what it means. Crowther says they go even further, trying to
tell people how to think about what it means and that, according to Crowther, in their
usual biased and inaccurate manner.
- Danger Signs: R. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary,
CrossWalk.com used the title of Daniel
Dennetts book Darwins Dangerous Idea to warn that there is no middle ground
in this debate.
- Science by Court Order: Robert Robb in the
criticized the Dover decision by Judge Jones, saying it is not the provenance of the courts to
determine what is science.
- Is ID Testable? Jay Richards and Jonathan Witt made the case on
News that intelligent design is empirically testable and makes predictions.
- Freedom! D. Eric Schansberg argued for the
Acton Institute that
the solution to the ID-Darwin acrimony in schools is to give parents freedom of choice.
Lord John Acton (1834-1902) was the British historian famous for the phrase,
Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Schansberg tied this thought to the education monopoly.
- Separation of Church and Science? According to
Agape Press, some professors
at Samford University, a Southern Baptist school in Alabama, are protesting the appearance of
an ID proponent with degrees from Cambridge and Oxford, Dr. John Lennox, who has 60 peer-reviewed
publications to his name. The grounds of the protest? Go figure separation
of church and state.
- Lawyer Pub: Albert Alschuler continued his blog about the Dover decision
on the University
of Chicago Law School site, and got a variety of reactions.
- Outdoor Evangelist: Biblical creationist Peter DeRosa got good press in Floridas
Contra Costa Times.
The fossil hunter and his dinosaur-digging team reject the lightweight Christianity
that remains nebulous about the designer. They are not ashamed to declare the Bible as the true
Word of God, and Jesus Christ the Lord as the Creator. But DeRosa also holds his own answering
tough questions about scientific evidence, and while polishing in his lab the allosaurus his team found
explains why the evidence contradicts evolution and supports the Genesis creation account.
With so many opinions flying left and right, it is more
important than ever to keep informed, know how to use your
baloney detector, and understand the key issues. Here, you
get the sources where the proponents can explain their views in their own words.
Dont expect the major media to get it right, especially when discussing ID. Go to the
Discovery Institute and
Access Research Network and get the story straight
from the sources rather than letting reporters explain what it means for
These Feet Were Made for Walking (and Running) 01/05/2006
Pay particular attention to which side wants open debate and which wants to shut it down.
Notice who wants the scientific evidence to speak for itself, and who threatens lawsuits or
relies on judges to issue orders from the bench. Notice which side speaks with reason and
scholarly logic, and which resorts to mockery. Such observations contain an
important message, sometimes more important than the actual arguments used.
Next headline on:
Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory
We usually walk or run. When walking, we roll from heel to arch to toe and rock our arms
back and forth. When running, we bounce up and down slightly while pumping our
arms. Did you know that many other gaits are possible? Why do we use only two?
A team of specialists in bio-robotics at Cornell decided to
apply a mathematical model to human foot travel. Like true scientists, they
asked questions about the obvious:
Why do people not walk or even run with a smooth level gait, like a waiter holding two
cups brim-full of boiling coffee? Why do people select walking and running from
the other possibilities? We address such questions by modelling a person as
a machine describable with the equations of newtonian mechanics. The basic
approximations are: first, that humans have compact bodies and light legs; second, that
gait choice is based on energy optimization; and third, that energy cost is proportional
to muscle work. We use a simplification of previous models, perhaps the simplest
mechanical model that is capable of exhibiting a broad range of gaits that includes
walking and running. Although the model is a mechanical abstraction that is not
physically realizable, it is subject to the laws of physics. Because of its simplicity,
the model is amenable to interpretation. It can also be studied with exhaustive
and accurate simulation experiments, far beyond what is possible with human subjects.
(Emphasis added in all quotes.)
So, putting the model in the computer and cranking out the equations, they discovered
that these two gaits are the most energy efficient for beings our size and shape.
Their only mention of evolution referred to the fact that, in their model, running
did not require elastic spring energy: human ancestors could have started to run
before the modern human long Achilles tendon was fully evolved. Their
derivations were published in Nature.1
1Srinivasan and Ruina, Computer optimization of a minimal biped model
discovers walking and running,
439, 72-75 (5 January 2006) | doi:10.1038/nature04113.
That statement merely assumes evolution, again
the mortal sin of Darwinists. Before the Achilles tendon was fully evolved,
right. Since evolution is already a fact to these dogmatists, it must make perfect
sense. After all, running in circles in a big enough squirrel cage provides
the illusion of making progress down a straight track.
Health Depends on Robust Cell Machinery
Human bodies can be treated like physical objects and described according
to physical laws. Drop yours out a window and you will accelerate at thirty-two feet
per second squared till reaching terminal velocity. The crater you formed can be
measured, and the force you generated on impact can be calculated. The mechanics of running can
be described, quantified, and modeled (see 11/18/2004).
This is all wonderful and useful, but says nothing about how humans, and these mechanical
abilities, arose. Nor does it say how we should use them.
Newton needed to look elsewhere for those laws:
do not run
Next headline on:
When we think of health, we typically visualize the big things: firm muscles, energy,
lack of a protruding stomach and the like. Cell biology, though, is showing us
how our health depends on the proper functioning of countless myriads of molecular
machines. Here are some recent samples from the science journals:
- Heroic Underdogs in the Brain: Neurons always got the glory in neurology
studies, but now it appears that structural cells called astrocytes deserve more respect.
A summary of work at U. of Rochester posted on
says that these housekeeping cells actually perform critical functions in
regulating blood flow. They play a direct role in controlling blood flow in the brain,
a crucial process that allows parts of the brain to burst into activity when needed.
When they malfunction, they might contribute directly to degenerative maladies like Alzheimers disease.
See also LiveScience.
- The Vital Destroyer: When cancer spreads, hope shrinks. Friends and
family of cancer victims know the agony of metastasis. At least in some kinds of cancers,
metastasis may be traced to failure of a protein named caspase-8 that acts like a curfew cop.
Normally, reported EurekAlert
about work by St. Judes Research Hospital,
caspase-8 patrols the surfaces of tissues looking for vagrant cells that have dislodged from their
normal locations and are wandering into unsafe territory. When it finds them, it turns on their built-in
self-destruct program, called apoptosis. When the cops are out sick, the vagrants get out and
cause trouble. The paper was published in Nature.1
- Your Third Eye: A rare type of eye cell can see. Rods and cones, we know,
do most of the real-time visualization, but scientists at
found intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells, or ipRGCs, that respond to
light and are hardwired to the brain. They are pretty sure these slower-acting light sensors
are responsible for setting our biological clock and controlling the iris muscles, regulating how
much light enters the eye. These cells operate like a light meter on a camera, said
researcher David Berson. They tell the brain to constrict the pupil based on the amount
of light registered over time. There are about 2,000 of these cells in the eye,
compared to millions of rods and cones.
- Dont Bang the Eardrums: Our ears can tolerate many orders of magnitude in
volume, but there are limits. Researchers at
Ohio State found that
years of repeated exposure to loud noise increases the risk of developing a non-cancerous
tumor that could cause hearing loss. Please pass this warning along to your
local fitness center.
- Watergate Scandal: Point mutations to our water gates, the water-regulating channels in
cell membranes, can let the wrong substances in, reported Breitz et al. in
PNAS.2 These elaborate channels made of protein, called aquaporins, depend on a precise
amino-acid structure to authenticate water but keep other similar-size molecules out; they can even keep out
tiny protons. The team inserted mistakes here and there and found that contraband like urea or
glycerol could sneak in. One amazing factoid they mentioned is that a single red blood cell has
as many as 200,000 aquaporins. For more on membrane channels, see
12/20/2001. A reader found detailed powerpoint presentations
and animations at the University
of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign website, and more at the University
- Gutfull Wonders The stomach is a lively place. Lots of
organisms live there; hope you dont mind. A team from Stanford and NYU decided to start
surveying these one-celled companions, because The microbiota of the human stomach ...
remain largely unknown. Their preliminary results, published in PNAS,3
began, A diverse community of 128 phylotypes was identified, featuring diversity at this site greater
than previously described. Ten percent of them were previously unknown, and they come from
at least five separate phyla. Surprisingly, the population in the stomach differs from that in
the mouth and esophagus, and different people have different assortments. There are some known
bad bugs like Helicobacter pylori that form ulcers, but most of them must be OK or even helpful,
since we usually feel good after a big meal: The gastric microbiota may play important, as-yet-undiscovered
roles in human health and disease, they said.
- Clamp Champs: You have sliding clamps in your cells. Really.
Current Biology4 talked about these wonderful machines that twist DNA during
the copy process:
DNA sliding clamps were first characterized as DNA polymerase processivity factors: without their
presence, cell division would be inconceivably slow; replication of long stretches of DNA would be
hopelessly inefficient because DNA polymerases tend to fall off the DNA after elongating a
strand by just a handful of bases. By tethering the polymerase to the DNA, such
processivity factors enable the polymerase to add thousands of bases in a few seconds without
detaching from the DNA.
(Emphasis added in all quotes.)
They work kind of like magic Chinese linking rings. Somehow they melt around the DNA strand without
harming it. This allows all the other machinery to get a grip during that heavy-duty copying cycle.
Good thing we dont have to wait so long for the copy operation or we might never grow up.
- DNA Gyrations During Packaging: Nature printed articles on two other DNA motors
that deserve special notice: one is an acrobatic gyrase that generates negative supercoils
in DNA (thats important for packing and safety during cell division).5 In their
words, Negative DNA supercoiling is essential in vivo to compact the genome, to relieve
torsional strain during replication, and to promote local melting for vital processes such as transcript
initiation by RNA polymerase. The little motor runs on the cells special fuel pellets, ATP.
The scientists put beads on it and watched it spin around. They found it was quite sensitive to tension.
- More DNA Acrobatics: Another team publishing in Nature6 studied motors called
DNA helicases, which are involved in nearly all aspects of DNA and RNA metabolism.
Utilizing special techniques, they watched this incredibly tiny molecular motor and discovered that
it might move like an inchworm (thats scientific lingo). It also runs on ATP in a
precise range of stresses. Without the helicase machinery, DNA unfolding would be very, very slow.
This particular helicase, named NS3, is just one of many helicases involved in many essential cellular functions.
1Stupack et al., Potentiation of neuroblastoma metastasis by loss of caspase-8,
439, 95-99 (5 January 2006) | doi:10.1038/nature04323.
2Breitz et al., Point mutations in the aromatic/arginine region in
aquaporin 1 allow passage of urea, glycerol, ammonia, and protons,
Proceedings of the National
Academy of Sciences USA, published online before print January 3, 2006, 10.1073/pnas.0507225103.
3Bik et al., Molecular analysis of the bacterial microbiota in the human stomach,
Proceedings of the National Academy
of Sciences USA, published online before print January 4, 2006, 10.1073/pnas.0506655103.
4Barsky and Venclovas, DNA Sliding Clamps: Just the Right Twist to Load onto DNA,
Volume 15, Issue 24, 24 December 2005, pages R989-R992.
5Gore et al., Mechanochemical analysis of DNA gyrase using rotor bead tracking,
439, 100-104 (5 January 2006) | doi:10.1038/nature04319.
6Dumont et al., RNA translocation and unwinding mechanism of HCV NS3 helicase and its coordination by ATP,
439, 105-108 (5 January 2006) | doi:10.1038/nature04331.
Most of these articles mentioned little or nothing about evolution.
Here is legitimate science in action: seeking understanding, observing phenomena in real time,
learning things so as to benefit human health. Was Darwinism valuable in the slightest?
These articles are mere glimpses into the new world of molecular machines for which evolutionary theory
was completely unprepared. Most of these machines are parts of complexes with other machines,
and they all must meet precise specs or they wont work and not working often means
serious impairment or death. How could such elaborate factories emerge by mindless, undirected
processes of evolution?
Cosmologists Cant Escape Conclusion of Design 01/04/2006
Darwinists are either scrambling to patch up their theory with new just-so stories,
or else going schizophrenic by not even attempting to explain these machines on one side of their head
while stating evolution is a fact, like gravity on the other. Any thinking person
examining evidence like this
will quickly tire of the maybe this, maybe that habit of the Darwin Party: perhaps
in some warm little pond, the first life needed a way to pack DNA, so it invented gyrase.
Yeah, right. Preach it, brother.
Charlie was plagued by stomach aches most of his life. Had he knowledge of
such small wonders, his groans might have been heard round the world. Those not infected
with Gastroenteritis darwini can avoid infection by clicking back through
five years of Chain Links on Cell Biology and Amazing Stories. Doing so has the
added benefit of inducing a state of euphoria, also known as intelligent worship.
Next headline on:
Geoff Brumfiel of Nature1 decided to investigate the growing fracas over
the anthropic principle (see 12/18/2005 entry); i.e.,
that our universe appears to be more than a coincidence. In a piece called Our
universe: Outrageous fortune, he looked at the views of Leonard Susskind and his
For two decades now, theorists in the think-big field of cosmology have been stymied by a
mathematical quirk in their equations. If the number controlling the growth of the
Universe since the Big Bang is just slightly too high, the Universe expands so rapidly that
protons and neutrons never come close enough to bond into atoms. If it is just ever-so-slightly
too small, it never expands enough, and everything remains too hot for even a single
nucleus to form. Similar problems afflict the observed masses of elementary particles
and the strengths of fundamental forces.
Brumfiel found that a majority of cosmologists have come around to this view kicking and
screaming. Before, most were violently opposed to the anthropic principle, but
their inability to explain the fine-tuned values of physics has led them, like Susskind,
to imagine a large number of universes, perhaps 10500, in which all the constants are
random. We just happen to live in the lucky one that permits atoms, stars, and life.
Stephen Weinberg admitted to being a reluctant convert to the idea.
Another part of their reluctance has stemmed from the Intelligent Design movement:
In other words, if you believe the equations of the worlds leading cosmologists,
the probability that the Universe would turn out this way by chance are infinitesimal
one in a very large number. Its like youre throwing darts, and
the bullseye is just one part in 10120 of the dart board, says Leonard Susskind, a string
theorist based at Stanford University in California. Its just stupid.
(Emphasis added in all quotes.)
Because other universes would be causally separated from our own, it seems
impossible to tell whether our cosmos is the only one, or one of many. Most scientists
find this disturbing. Talk of a Universe fine-tuned for life has already attracted
supporters of intelligent design, who claim that an intelligent force shaped evolution [sic].
If theres no way to tell whether the values of scientific constants are a coincidence,
the movements followers argue, then why not also consider them evidence of Gods handiwork?
Why not, indeed? Brumfiels subtitles include the phrases One in a zillion,
Strings attached, and Ignorance is bliss.
One critic of taking the multiverse
way out is David Gross, a Nobel-prize winning theorist. He has a problem with Susskinds
landscape of universes being
impossible to disprove. He also finds the idea
disturbing on another level: its dependence on random chance. That eliminates any hope
for a model or pattern on which a scientific principle could be built. The power of
the [anthropic] principle is strongest where you have ignorance, he quipped.
Like Gross, Lisa Randall of Harvard feels more work needs to be done before taking such
radical leaps of faith. Gross added, People in string theory are very
frustrated, as am I, by our inability to be more predictive after all these years,
he said, but thats no excuse for using such bizarre science, he cautioned.
It is a dangerous business.
Brumfiel ended with that, but not with any solution on the horizon.
Earlier in the article he had put a callout quote from Susskind: It would be very
foolish to throw away the right answer on the basis that it doesnt conform
to some criteria for what is or isnt science. That sounds strikingly similar
to what proponents of Intelligent Design have been saying for years.
1Geoff Brumfiel, Our Universe: Outrageous fortune,
439, 10-12 (5 January 2006) | doi:10.1038/439010a.
In the popular ID film
Unlocking the Mystery of Life,
Dr. Paul A. Nelson pointed to the arbitrariness of rules that say one cannot use intelligent
causes in science. Science should be a search for truth about
the world, he said. We shouldnt throw out a kind of cause in advance
by saying I dont like that idea, but instead, should bring to bear all the
causes that could explain a phenomenon. If the evidence is shouting design, then
why not investigate intelligent causes? Yes, it would be very foolish to throw away
the right answer when thats where the evidence leads.
Minimal Cell More Complex Than Expected 01/03/2006
Next headline on:
Craig Venters lab has been working on an interesting project in theoretical biology:
what is the minimum set of genes needed for life? They have taken one of the simplest
organisms, Mycoplasma genitalium, and knocked out genes to see which ones are
essential and which are nonessential for viability. (This is part of the top down
approach to understanding the origin of life; the bottom up approach, by contrast,
tries to build life from scratch). Their latest results, published in PNAS,1
showed a larger number of essential genes 347 than their earlier prediction in 1999.
Thats 79% of the organisms inventory.
This is a significantly greater number of essential genes than the 265-350
predicted in our previous study of M. genitalium, or in the
gene knockoutdisruption study that identified 279 essential
genes in Bacillus subtilis, which is a more conventional bacterium
from the same Firmicutes taxon as M. genitalium. Similarly,
our finding of 387 essential protein-coding genes greatly exceeds
theoretical projections of how many genes comprise a minimal
genome such as Mushegian and Koonins 256 genes shared by
both H. influenzae and M. genitalium, and the 206-gene core
of a minimal bacterial gene set proposed by Gil et al. One
of the surprises about the essential gene set is its inclusion of 110
hypothetical proteins and proteins of unknown function. Some
of these genes likely encode enzymes with activities reported in
M. genitalium, such as transaldolase, but for which no gene
has yet been annotated.
(Emphasis added in all quotes.)
Since this organism, an obligate human parasite, is apparently
stripped down to bare essentials, it is likely that all its 482 protein-coding
genes are in some way necessary for effective growth, they said. The team
hopes this information will lead to building synthetic free-living cells.
1Glass, Venter et al., Essential genes of a minimal bacterium,
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA,
Published online before print January 3, 2006, 10.1073/pnas.0510013103.
Wow thats a lot of genes, for a lot of
proteins and cellular functions. The authors charts of gene networks look like complex flowcharts
designed by an engineer. Since getting one protein by chance is so improbable it
would never happen in countless universes (see online book),
expecting to get 387 is overkill on evolutionary theories, kind of like H-bombing a city a googolplex
number of times. After awhile, it becomes ridiculous to expect to find any survivors.
Whats also interesting are the
100 or so nonessential genes. How could these evolve? If they do not have
survival value, why would nature select them? Darwinisms
criterion of survival value appears to be too reductionist
to explain many aspects of life that, while not essential, add some seasoning to life.
Next headline on:
Origin of Life
Scientist of the Month
Click on Apollos, the trusty|
|Guide to Evolutionary Theory
Just wanted to say that I am thrilled to have found your website! Although I
regularly visit numerous creation/evolution sites, Ive found that many of them do
not stay current with relative information. I love the almost daily updates to
your headlines section. Ive since made it my browser home page, and have
recommended it to several of my friends. Absolutely great site!
(a network engineer in Florida)
After I heard about Creation-Evolution Headlines,
it soon became my favorite Evolution resource site on the web. I visit several times a
day cause I cant wait for the next update. Thats pathetic, I know ...
but not nearly as pathetic as Evolution, something you make completely obvious with your snappy,
intelligent commentary on scientific current events. It should be a textbook for science
classrooms around the country. You rock!
(an editor in Tennessee)
One of the highlights of my day is checking your latest CreationSafaris creation-evolution news listing!
Thanks so much for your great work -- and your wonderful humor.
(a pastor in Virginia)
Thanks!!! Your material is absolutely awesome. Ill be using it in our Adult Sunday School class.
(a pastor in Wisconsin)
Love your site & read it daily.
(a family physician in Texas)
I set it [crev.info] up as my homepage. That way I am less likely to miss some really interesting events....
I really appreciate what you are doing with Creation-Evolution Headlines. I
tell everybody I think might be interested, to check it out.
(a systems analyst in Tennessee)
I would like to thank you for your service from which I stand to benefit a lot.
(a Swiss astrophysicist)
I enjoy very much reading your materials.
(a law professor in Portugal)
Thanks for your time and thanks for all the work on the site.
It has been a valuable resource for me.
(a medical student in Kansas)
I wanted to tell you that the Creation Evolution headlines website is a great resource
and that I read it mostly everyday (and when I don't I catch up the next day). I really
appreciate the work and the effort that you do.
(a grad student in experimental particle physics)
Creation-Evolution Headlines is a terrific resource. The articles are
always current and the commentary is right on the mark.
(a molecular biologist in Illinois)
Creation-Evolution Headlines is my favorite
anti-evolution website. With almost giddy anticipation, I check
it several times a week for the latest postings. May God bless you and
empower you to keep up this FANTASTIC work!
(a financial analyst in New York)
I just completed reading each entry from each month. I found your site about
6 months ago and as soon as I understood the format, I just started at the very first entry
and started reading.... Your work has blessed my education and determination to bold in
showing the unscientific nature of evolution in general and Darwinism in particular.
(a doctor in Oklahoma)
I read your pages on a daily basis and I would like to let you know
that your hard work has been a great help in increasing my knowledge
and growing in my faith. Besides the huge variety of scientific
disciplines covered, I also enormously enjoy your great sense of humor
and your creativity in wording your thoughts, which make reading your
website even more enjoyable.
(a software developer in Illinois)
THANK YOU for all the work you do to make this wonderful resource! After
being regular readers for a long time, this year weve incorporated your
site into our home education for our four teenagers. The Baloney Detector
is part of their Logic and Reasoning Skills course, and the Daily Headlines
and Scientists of the Month features are a big part of our curriculum for an
elective called Science Discovery Past and Present. What a wonderful
goldmine for equipping future leaders and researchers with the tools of
(a home school teacher in California)
What can I say I LOVE YOU!
I READ YOU ALMOST EVERY DAY I copy and send out to various folks.
I love your sense of humor, including your politics and of course your faith.
I appreciate and use your knowledge What can I say THANK YOU
THANK YOU THANK YOU SO MUCH.
(a biology major, former evolutionist, now father of college students)
I came across your site while browsing through creation & science links. I love the work you do!
(an attorney in Florida)
Love your commentary and up to date reporting. Best site for evolution/design info.
(a graphic designer in Oregon)
I am an ardent reader of your site. I applaud your efforts and pass on
your website to all I talk to. I have recently given your web site info
to all my grandchildren to have them present it to their science
teachers.... Your Supporter and fan..God bless you all...
(a health services manager in Florida)
Why your readership keeps doubling: I came across your website at a time when I was just getting to know what creation science is all about. A friend of mine was telling me about what he had been finding out. I was highly skeptical and sought to read as many pro/con articles as I could find and vowed to be open-minded toward his seemingly crazy claims. At first I had no idea of the magnitude of research and information thats been going on. Now, Im simply overwhelmed by the sophistication and availability of scientific research and information on what I now know to be the truth about creation.
Your website was one of dozens that I found in my search. Now, there are only a handful of sites I check every day. Yours is at the top of my list... I find your news page to be the most insightful and well-written of the creation news blogs out there. The quick wit, baloney detector, in-depth scientific knowledge you bring to the table and the superb writing style on your site has kept me interested in the day-to-day happenings of what is clearly a growing movement. Your site ... has given me a place to point them toward to find out more and realize that theyve been missing a huge volume of information when it comes to the creation-evolution issue.
Another thing I really like about this site is the links to articles in science journals and news references. That helps me get a better picture of what you’re talking about.... Keep it up and I promise to send as many people as will listen to this website and others.
(an Air Force Academy graduate stationed in New Mexico)
Im a small town newspaper editor in southwest Wyoming. Were pretty
isolated, and finding your site was a great as finding a gold mine. I read
it daily, and if theres nothing new, I re-read everything. I follow links.
I read the Scientist of the Month. Its the best site Ive run across. Our
local school board is all Darwinist and determined to remain that way.
(a newspaper editor in Wyoming)
Congratulations on your 5th anniversary. I have been reading your page for about 2 years or so....
I read it every day. I ...am well educated, with a BA in Applied Physics
from Harvard and an MBA in Finance from Wharton.
(a reader in Delaware)
I came across your website by accident about 4 months ago and look at it every day....
About 8 months ago I was reading a letter to the editor of the Seattle Times that was written
by a staunch anti-Creationist and it sparked my interest enough to research the
topic and within a week I was yelling, my whole lifes education has been a lie!!!
Ive put more study into Biblical Creation in the last 8 months than any other topic in my life.
Past that, through resources like your website...Ive been able to convince my father (professional mathematician and amateur geologist), my best friend (mechanical engineer and fellow USAF Academy Grad/Creation Science nutcase), my pastor (he was the hardest to crack), and many others to realize the Truth of Creation.... Resources like your website help the rest of us at the grassroots level drum up interest in the subject. And regardless of what the major media says: Creationism is spreading like wildfire, so please keep your website going to help fan the flames.
(an Air Force Academy graduate and officer)
I love your site! I **really** enjoy reading it for several specific reasons: 1.It uses the latest (as in this month!) research as a launch pad for opinion; for years I have searched for this from a creation science viewpoint, and now, Ive found it. 2. You have balanced fun with this topic. This is hugely valuable! Smug Christianity is ugly, and I dont perceive that attitude in your comments. 3. I enjoy the expansive breadth of scientific news that you cover. 4. I am not a trained scientist but I know evolutionary bologna/(boloney) when I see it; you help me to see it. I really appreciate this.
(a computer technology salesman in Virginia)
I love your site. Thats why I was more than happy to
mention it in the local paper.... I mentioned your site as the place
where..... Every Darwin-cheering news article is
reviewed on that site from an ID perspective. Then
the huge holes of the evolution theory are exposed,
and the bad science is shredded to bits, using real
(a project manager in New Jersey)
Ive been reading your site almost daily for about three years. I have
never been more convinced of the truthfulness of Scripture and the faithfulness of God.
(a systems administrator and homeschooling father in Colorado)
I use the internet a lot to catch up on news back
home and also to read up on the creation-evolution controversy, one of my favourite topics.
Your site is always my first port of call for the latest news and views and I really appreciate
the work you put into keeping it up to date and all the helpful links you provide. You are a
beacon of light for anyone who wants to hear frank, honest conclusions instead of the usual diluted
garbage we are spoon-fed by the media.... Keep up the good work and know that youre changing lives.
(a teacher in Spain)
I am grateful to you for your site and look forward to reading new
stories.... I particularly value it for being up to date with what is going on.
(from the Isle of Wight, UK)
[Creation-Evolution Headlines] is the place to go for late-breaking
news [on origins]; it has the most information and the quickest turnaround.
Its incredible I dont know how you do it.
I cant believe all the articles you find. God bless you!
(a radio producer in Riverside, CA)
Just thought I let you know how much I enjoy
reading your Headlines section. I really appreciate
how you are keeping your ear to the ground in so
many different areas. It seems that there is almost
no scientific discipline that has been unaffected
by Darwins Folly.
(a programmer in aerospace from Gardena, CA)
I enjoy reading the comments on news articles on your site very much. It is incredible
how much refuse is being published in several scientific fields regarding evolution.
It is good to notice that the efforts of true scientists have an increasing influence at schools,
but also in the media.... May God bless your efforts and open the eyes of the blinded evolutionists
and the general public that are being deceived by pseudo-scientists.... I enjoy the site very much
and I highly respect the work you and the team are doing to spread the truth.
(an ebusiness manager in the Netherlands)
I discovered your site through a link at certain website...
It has greatly helped me being updated with the latest development in science and with
critical comments from you. I also love your baloney detector
and in fact have translated some part of the baloney detector into our language (Indonesian).
I plan to translate them all for my friends so as to empower them.
(a staff member of a bilateral agency in West Timor, Indonesia)
...absolutely brilliant and inspiring.
(a documentary film producer, remarking on the
I found your site several months ago and within weeks
had gone through your entire archives.... I check in several times a day for further
information and am always excited to read the new
articles. Your insight into the difference between
what is actually known versus what is reported has
given me the confidence to stand up for what I
believe. I always felt there was more to the story,
and your articles have given me the tools to read
through the hype....
You are an invaluable help and I commend your efforts.
Keep up the great work.
(a sound technician in Alberta)
I discovered your site (through a link from a blog) a few weeks ago and I cant stop reading it....
I also enjoy your insightful and humorous commentary at the end of each story. If the evolutionists
blindness wasnt so sad, I would laugh harder.
I have a masters degree in mechanical engineering from a leading University. When I read the descriptions, see the pictures, and watch the movies of the inner workings of the cell, Im absolutely amazed.... Thanks for bringing these amazing stories daily. Keep up the good work.
(an engineer in Virginia)
I stumbled across your site several months ago and have
been reading it practically daily. I enjoy the inter-links
to previous material as well as the links to the quoted
research. I've been in head-to-head debate with a
materialist for over a year now. Evolution is just one of
those debates. Your site is among others that have been a
real help in expanding my understanding.
(a software engineer in Pennsylvania)
I was in the April 28, 2005 issue of Nature [see 04/27/2005
story] regarding the rise of intelligent design in the universities. It was through your website
that I began my journey out of the crisis of faith which was mentioned in that article. It was an honor to see you all highlighting the article in Nature. Thank you for all you have done!
(Salvador Cordova, George Mason University)
I shudder to think of the many ways in which you mislead readers, encouraging them to build a faith based on misunderstanding and ignorance. Why dont you allow people to have a faith that is grounded in a fuller understanding of the world?...
Your website is a sham.
(a co-author of the paper reviewed in the 12/03/2003
entry who did not appreciate the unflattering commentary. This led to a cordial
interchange, but he could not divorce his reasoning from the science vs. faith dichotomy,
and resulted in an impasse over definitions but, at least, a more mutually respectful dialogue.
He never did explain how his paper supported Darwinian macroevolution. He just claimed
evolution is a fact.)
I absolutely love creation-evolution news. As a Finnish university student very
interested in science, I frequent your site to find out about all the new science
stuff thats been happening you have such a knack for finding all this
information! I have been able to stump evolutionists with knowledge gleaned from
your site many times.
(a student in Finland)
I love your site and read it almost every day. I use it for my science class and
5th grade Sunday School class. I also challenge Middle Schoolers and High Schoolers to
get on the site to check out articles against the baloney they are taught in school.
(a teacher in Los Gatos, CA)
I have spent quite a few hours at Creation Evolution Headlines in the past week
or so going over every article in the archives. I thank you for such an informative
and enjoyable site. I will be visiting often and will share this link with others.
[Later] I am back to May 2004 in the archives. I figured I should be farther
back, but there is a ton of information to digest.
(a computer game designer in Colorado)
The IDEA Center also highly recommends visiting Creation-Evolution Headlines...
the most expansive and clearly written origins news website on the internet!
(endorsement on Intelligent Design and Evolution
Check out this site: www.creationsafaris.com.
This is a fantastic resource for the whole family.... a fantastic reference library with summaries,
commentaries and great links that are added to
dailyarchives go back five years.
(a reader who found us in Georgia)
I just wanted to drop you a note telling you that at www.BornAgainRadio.com,
Ive added a link to your excellent Creation-Evolution news site.
(a radio announcer)
I cannot understand
why anyone would invest so much time and effort to a website of sophistry and casuistry.
Why twist Christian apology into an illogic pretzel to placate your intellect?
Isnt it easier to admit that your faith has no basis -- hence, faith.
It would be extricate [sic] yourself from intellectual dishonesty -- and
from bearing false witness.
Sincerely, Rev. [name withheld] (an ex-Catholic, apostate Christian Natural/Scientific pantheist)
Just wanted to let you folks know that we are consistent readers and truly appreciate
the job you are doing. God bless you all this coming New Year.
(from two prominent creation researchers/writers in Oregon)
Thanks so much for your site! It is brain candy!
(a reader in North Carolina)
I Love your site probably a little too much. I enjoy the commentary
and the links to the original articles.
(a civil engineer in New York)
Ive had your Creation/Evolution Headlines site on my favourites list for
18 months now, and I can truthfully say that its one of the best on the Internet,
and I check in several times a week. The constant stream of new information on
such a variety of science issues should impress anyone, but the rigorous and
humourous way that every thought is taken captive is inspiring. Im pleased
that some Christians, and indeed, some webmasters, are devoting themselves to
producing real content that leaves the reader in a better state than when they found him.
(a community safety manager in England)
I really appreciate the effort that you are making to provide the public with
information about the problems with the General Theory of Evolution. It gives me
ammunition when I discuss evolution in my classroom. I am tired of the evolutionary
dogma. I wish that more people would stand up against such ridiculous beliefs.
(a science teacher in Alabama)
If you choose to hold an opinion that flies in the face of every piece of evidence
collected so far, you cannot be suprised [sic] when people dismiss your views.
(a former Christian software distributor, location not disclosed)
...the Creation Headlines is the best. Visiting your site...
is a standard part of my startup procedures every morning.
(a retired Air Force Chaplain)
I LOVE your site and respect the time and work you put into it. I read
the latest just about EVERY night before bed and send selection[s] out to others and
tell others about it. I thank you very much and keep up the good work (and
(a USF grad in biology)
Answering your invitation for thoughts on your site is not difficult because
of the excellent commentary I find. Because of the breadth and depth of erudition
apparent in the commentaries, I hope Im not being presumptuous in suspecting
the existence of contributions from a Truth Underground comprised of
dissident college faculty, teachers, scientists, and engineers. If thats
not the case, then it is surely a potential only waiting to be realized. Regardless,
I remain in awe of the care taken in decomposing the evolutionary cant that bombards
us from the specialist as well as popular press.
(a mathematician/physicist in Arizona)
Im from Quebec, Canada. I have studied in pure sciences and after in actuarial mathematics.
Im visiting this site 3-4 times in a week. Im learning a lot and this site gives me the opportunity to realize that this is a good time to be a creationist!
(a French Canadian reader)
I LOVE your Creation Safari site, and the Baloney Detector material.
(a reader in the Air Force)
You have a unique position in the Origins community.
Congratulations on the best current affairs news source on the origins net.
You may be able to write fast but your logic is fun to work through.
(a pediatrician in California)
Visit your site almost daily and find it very informative, educational and inspiring.
(a reader in western Canada)
I wish to thank you for the information you extend every day on your site.
It is truly a blessing!
(a reader in North Carolina)
I really appreciate your efforts in posting to this website. I find
it an incredibly useful way to keep up with recent research (I also check science
news daily) and also to research particular topics.
(an IT consultant from Brisbane, Australia)
I would just like to say very good job with the work done here,
very comprehensive. I check your site every day. Its great
to see real science directly on the front lines, toe to toe with the
pseudoscience that's mindlessly spewed from the prestigious
(a biology student in Illinois)
Ive been checking in for a long time but thought Id leave you a
note, this time. Your writing on these complex topics is insightful,
informative with just the right amount of humor. I appreciate the hard
work that goes into monitoring the research from so many sources and then
writing intelligently about them.
(an investment banker in California)
Keep up the great work. You are giving a whole army of Christians
plenty of ammunition to come out of the closet (everyone else has).
Most of us are not scientists, but most of the people we talk to are not
scientists either, just ordinary people who have been fed baloney
for years and years.
(a reader in Arizona)
Keep up the outstanding work!
You guys really ARE making a difference!
(a reader in Texas)
I wholeheartedly agree with you when you say that science is not
hostile towards religion. It is the dogmatically religious that are
unwaveringly hostile towards any kind of science which threatens their
dearly-held precepts. Science (real, open-minded science) is not
interested in theological navel-gazing.
Note: Please supply your name and location when writing in. Anonymous attacks
only make one look foolish and cowardly, and will not normally be printed.
This one was shown to display a bad example.
I appreciate reading your site every day. It is a great way to keep
up on not just the new research being done, but to also keep abreast of the
evolving debate about evolution (Pun intended).... I find it an incredibly useful
way to keep up with recent research (I also check science news daily) and also
to research particular topics.
(an IT consultant in Brisbane, Australia)
I love your website.
(a student at a state university who used CEH when
writing for the campus newsletter)
....when you claim great uncertainty for issues that are fairly
well resolved you damage your already questionable credibility.
Im sure your audience loves your ranting, but if you know as much
about biochemistry, geology, astronomy, and the other fields you
skewer, as you do about ornithology, you are spreading heat, not
(a professor of ornithology at a state university, responding to
the 09/10/2002 headline)
I wanted to let you know I appreciate your headline news style of
exposing the follies of evolutionism.... Your style gives us constant,
up-to-date reminders that over and over again, the Bible creation account
is vindicated and the evolutionary fables are refuted.
(a reader, location unknown)
You have a knack of extracting the gist of a technical paper,
and digesting it into understandable terms.
(a nuclear physicist from Lawrence Livermore Labs who worked
on the Manhattan Project)
After spending MORE time than I really had available going thru
your MANY references I want to let you know how much I appreciate
the effort you have put forth.
The information is properly documented, and coming from
recognized scientific sources is doubly valuable. Your
explanatory comments and sidebar quotations also add GREATLY
to your overall effectiveness as they 1) provide an immediate
interpretive starting point and 2) maintaining the readers
(a reader in Michigan)
I am a huge fan of the site, and check daily for updates.
(reader location and occupation unknown)
I just wanted to take a minute to personally thank-you and let
you know that you guys are providing an invaluable service!
We check your Web site weekly (if not daily) to make sure we have
the latest information in the creation/evolution controversy.
Please know that your diligence and perseverance to teach the
Truth have not gone unnoticed. Keep up the great work!
(a PhD scientist involved in origins research)
You've got a very useful and informative Web site going.
The many readers who visit your site regularly realize that it
requires considerable effort to maintain the quality level and
to keep the reviews current.... I hope you can continue your
excellent Web pages. I have recommended them highly to others.
(a reader, location and occupation unknown)
As an apprentice apologist, I can always find an article
that will spark a spirited debate. Keep em
coming! The Truth will prevail.
(a reader, location and occupation unknown)
Thanks for your web page and work. I try to drop by
at least once a week and read what you have. Im a
Christian that is interested in science (Im a mechanical
engineer) and I find you topics interesting and helpful.
I enjoy your lessons and insights on Baloney Detection.
(a year later):
I read your site 2 to 3 times a week; which Ive probably done for a couple
of years. I enjoy it for the interesting content, the logical arguments, what I can
learn about biology/science, and your pointed commentary.
(a production designer in Kentucky)
I look up CREV headlines every day. It is a wonderful
source of information and encouragement to me.... Your gift of
discerning the fallacies in evolutionists interpretation of
scientific evidence is very helpful and educational for me.
Please keep it up. Your website is the best I know of.
(a Presbyterian minister in New South Wales, Australia)
Ive written to you before, but just wanted to say again
how much I appreciate your site and all the work you put into it.
I check it almost every day and often share the contents
(and web address) with lists on which I participate.
I dont know how you do all that you do, but I am grateful
for your energy and knowledge.
(a prominent creationist author)
I am new to your site, but I love it! Thanks for updating
it with such cool information.
(a home schooler)
I love your site.... Visit every day hoping for another of your
brilliant demolitions of the foolish just-so stories of those
who think themselves wise.
(a reader from Southern California)
I love to read your website and am disappointed when there is
nothing new to read. Thanks for all your hard work.
(a missionary in Japan)
I visit your site daily for the latest news from science journals and other media,
and enjoy your commentary immensely. I consider your web site to be the
most valuable, timely and relevant creation-oriented site on the internet.
(a reader from Ontario, Canada)
Keep up the good work! I thoroughly enjoy your site.
(a reader in Texas)
Thanks for keeping this fantastic web site going. It is very
informative and up-to-date with current news including incisive
(a reader in North Carolina)
Great site! For all the Baloney Detector is impressive and a
great tool in debunking wishful thinking theories.
(a reader in the Netherlands)
Just wanted to let you know, your work is having quite an impact.
For example, major postings on your site are being circulated among the
Intelligent Design members....
(a PhD organic chemist)
opening a can of worms ... I love to click all the related links and
read your comments and the links to other websites, but this usually makes me late
for something else. But its ALWAYS well worth it!!
(a leader of a creation group)
I am a regular visitor to your website ... I am impressed
by the range of scientific disciplines your articles address.
I appreciate your insightful dissection of the often unwarranted conclusions
evolutionists infer from the data... Being a medical
doctor, I particularly relish the technical detail you frequently include in
the discussion living systems and processes. Your website continually
reinforces my conviction that if an unbiased observer seeks a reason for the
existence of life then Intelligent Design will be the unavoidable
(a medical doctor)
A church member asked me what I thought was the best creation web site.
I told him CreationSafaris.com.
(a PhD geologist)
I love your site... I check it every day for interesting
information. It was hard at first to believe in Genesis fully, but
now I feel more confident about the mistakes of humankind and that all
their reasoning amounts to nothing in light of a living God.
(a college grad)
Thank you so much for the interesting science links and comments
on your creation evolution headlines page ... it is very
(a reader from Scottsdale, AZ)
visit your site almost every day, and really enjoy it. Great job!!!
(I also recommend it to many, many students.)
(an educational consultant)
I like what I seevery
much. I really appreciate a decent, calm and scholarly approach to the
whole issue... Thanks ... for this fabulous
It is refreshing to read your comments. You have a knack to get to the heart of
(a reader in the Air Force).
Love your website. It has well thought out structure and will help many
through these complex issues. I especially love the
I believe this is one of the best sites on the Internet.
I really like your side-bar of truisms.
Yogi [Berra] is absolutely correct. If I were a man of wealth, I would
support you financially.
(a registered nurse in Alabama, who found
us on TruthCast.com.)
WOW. Unbelievable.... My question is, do you sleep? ... Im utterly
impressed by your page which represents untold amounts of time and energy
as well as your faith.
(a mountain man in Alaska).
wanted to say that I recently ran across your web site featuring science
headlines and your commentary and find it to be A++++, superb, a 10, a homerun
I run out of superlatives to describe it! ... You can be sure I will
visit your site often daily when possible to gain the latest information
to use in my speaking engagements. Ill also do my part to help publicize
your site among college students. Keep up the good work. Your
material is appreciated and used.
(a college campus minister)
Featured Creation Scientist for January
1792 - 1871
William Herschel married at age 50 and had one son.
John Frederick William Herschel in many respects surpassed his father.
Though he did not make as many fundamental discoveries, he extended his famous
fathers astronomical work enormously, and achieved excellence in other
fields as well. Also, his Christian faith appeared to be deeper and more
sincere. John Herschel became the most eminent scientist in Britain
during the first half of the 19th century, and a highly respected philosopher
of science. In his senior years, he witnessed the rise of Darwinism.
Though he opposed evolutionary theory, some of his scientific philosophy may
have lent unwitting support to it, as we shall see.
It was a hard act to follow, growing up at Observatory House in the shadow of his
father William. An only child with few playmates, John found himself more often
in the company of his fathers scientific friends. Aunt Caroline
loved him and provided a balance to the boys intellectual upbringing;
the two remained close into her old age. It is a credit to his father that
he was able to inspire his son to continue the work rather than rebel against it.
This apparently was never forced upon him; William desired his son to enter a
ministry in the Anglican Church, and John felt the freedom to consider law and
other career paths. Nevertheless, growing up around telescopes, young John
learned early how to grind and polish mirrors, and to observe like a good scientist.
The lure of the stars gained a response; John also was destined to spend a good part
of his life peering through the eyepiece of homemade telescopes, trying to
understand the workings of the cosmos. (Romantic as this sounds,
it is hard work. At age 30, he spoke of the sacrifice in time,
health and strength involved, including difficulties such as at
one period had almost compelled me to abandon it in despair.)
Johns genius showed up early; at
Cambridge, he was Senior Wrangler (top of the class) in the
math exams, the most rigorous in the world. Soon after, at age 21, he
was elected member of the Royal Society, the youngest to date to achieve that
honor. With the resulting association with the most eminent scientists of
the day, John Herschel formed close friendships with many of them, including
Charles Babbage, who became a lifelong friend. The two founded the
Analytical Society of London and toured Europe together, where John met
many more leading scientists. He could have taken a government salary,
but decided to extend the cataloguing of
of astronomical objects begun by his father. This would require a
vantage point from the southern skies. In 1834, with his wife
Margaret Stewart, he sailed to Cape Town, South Africa
For five years, John Herschel scanned the southern skies,
cataloguing 1200 double stars, and observing nebulae, the
Magellanic Clouds (sister galaxies of the Milky Way, visible only from
the southern hemisphere), Halleys Comet during its 1837 apparition,
star clusters, moons of Saturn, sunspots
and much more. In all, his lifetime observations yielded an astonishing
catalogue of 70,000 celestial objects, all presented neatly to the
Royal Society and the Royal Astronomical Society. A personal
friend, N.S. Dodge, in an 1871 eulogy, stated that His motives for his long
expatriation had not been money, nor pleasure, nor health, nor fame, but
increase and diffusion of knowledge among men.
John was a good theorist of astronomy as well as observer.
Important principles came out of these observations.
He debunked a popular response to Olbers Paradox (the question of
why the night sky is mostly dark, if space is infinitely filled with stars).
Some had suggested that the background starlight was simply being absorbed by
dust or gas; Herschel correctly noted
that the dust would heat up and re-radiate the light, maintaining the paradox.
(A more lasting answer had to wait till the 20th century, when relativity
and the expansion of the universe led astronomers to acknowledge that
the universe is not infinitely old.)
In addition, Herschel noted that most nebulae were composed of faint stars.
He wrote of the physical insignificance of man, inhabiting a tiny dot of
a planet among an innumerable host of stars. He said that we
have here attained a point in science where the human intellect is compelled
to acknowledge its weakness, and to feel that no conception the wildest
imagination can form will bear the least comparison with the intrinsic
greatness of the subject. The Copernican Principle
was well along by Herschels time.
Perhaps his most far-reaching
conclusion from his observations was the universality of physical laws.
From studying the orbits of binary stars, he deduced that the laws of physics
operated the same throughout the universe as they did for our own solar system.
This memorable conclusion, the Duke of Sussex wrote, was
justly entitled, by the generality of its character, to be considered
as forming an epoch in the history of astronomy, and presenting one of the most
magnificent examples of the simplicity and universality of those fundamental laws
of nature by which their great Author has shown that he is the same today and
forever, here and everywhere.
Johns diary of the South Africa years reveals that he and his wife
attended church services regularly. One entry, however, seems to
indicate he disdained scientists who tried to build their scientific
understanding from the pages of Scripture. John Herschel
believed that the Baconian ideal demanded a purely inductive science from
observation and experience, regardless of his religious feelings.
Notwithstanding, his Christian commitment was strong.
As with most believers,
there was a process of spiritual growth, particularly due to the
example of his wife. Dan Graves writes,
Like his father
before him, John Herschel had been a nominal Christian at best.
But following his marriage, he underwent a genuine conversion experience.
Margaret was the daughter of a Scottish Presbyterian. Her piety and
quiet life elevated John from a Christianity verging on pantheistic-deism
to a total and clear acknowledgement of Christ as Lord and Savior.
(Scientists of Faith, p. 115.)
Graves says that his conversion
fired him with a deeper moral sensitivity to his fellow man; he
worked for educational reform in South Africa, stating his belief that
schools should fit them for a higher state of existence, by teaching
them those which connect them with their Maker and Redeemer.
This reveals that Herschel believed in Christ as Savior, and accepted the
doctrine of Divine creation. In a
memoir of a visit with the Herschels in 1857, Maria Mitchell
described them as representatives of three generations of
sound Protestants, in days when and in places where Protestantism
was a reproach. She took note of their faithful attendance at
a simple church.
John published at least ninety papers in the Philosophical Transactions
of the Royal Society, many of them of great significance. In addition,
he was president of the Royal Astronomical
Society for six years, and presided over the British Association.
Herschel had many other interests besides astronomy, including chemistry,
geology, philosophy, poetry and mathematics, any of which could have
gained him fame had he been the type to seek it. His knowledge of
chemistry was so advanced, for instance, that he duplicated Daguerres
discovery in photography one week after hearing about it, with only the
scantiest details of Daguerres process (Graves, p. 115).
He even improved on it, finding additional chemical agents, such that
his photographs are among the earliest we possess (Ibid.),
and was the first to try applying it to astronomy, thus beginning a
timeline on a fruitful field that led eventually to Hubbles
photograph plates and, in our day, to the Hubble Space Telescope and
digital imaging. One could only imagine William and John Herschels
astonishment at todays images of objects that, to them, were faint
points of light that required the utmost in patience and concentration
to discern. To see the surface of Saturns moons from a spaceship,
or to resolve stars in the faintest nebulae, must have been unimaginable,
to say nothing of detecting bizarre objects like quasars, black holes, gravitational lenses, radio
galaxies, gamma-ray bursts, pulsars, and so much more that is commonplace
John Herschel was a humble, truth-loving man of integrity.
N. S. Dodges lengthy eulogy of Sir John William Herschel is
almost embarrassingly gushy in its praise of Herschel, not only for his achievements,
but for his personal character. He waxes eloquent about Johns
unselfishness and dignity, his willingness to alter any cherished
belief if required by the evidence, his moral sensibility, his thoroughness,
his conscientious dealing, with indefatigable industry that characterized
his life. He calls him the Homer of science because he
was its highest poet. Of Herschels integrity, Dodge
He was in the utmost degree a well-bred man, not from
gentle birth and careful training, not from scholarly pursuits and
polite society, not from association with persons of rank and intimacy
with men of taste and thought, not even from his loving nature and noble
aspirationsnot from all these together, so much as from the lofty
ideal he cherished from boyhood to old age of perfect manhood. ...
the air and manner, and bearing of well-bred man never left him.
He received criticisms upon his own speculations with the same
equanimity that he pointed out the errors of his opponents.
His action in discussion was never violent, nor his voice loud.
He readily acknowledged a fault, and still more readily apologized for
a wrong. ...
Sir John Herschels life-long contemplation of the infinite in number
and magnitude, exalting and hallowing his mind, was exhibited in its
effects upon his character. The truths he had learned from the stars
were converted into principles of action. Lofty thoughts promoted
noble deeds. Surely, he himself had said ...
if the worst of men were transported to Paradise for only half an
hour amongst the company of the great and good, he would come back
Charles Darwin was strongly attracted to John Herschels philosophy
of science. Herschel had written an influential book,
A Preliminary Discourse On the Study of Natural Philosophy,
in which he advocated an inductive, religiously-neutral, bias-free Baconian ideal
type of scientific investigation. He taught that one should attempt
to rid his mind of all presuppositions, and follow the evidence wherever
it led. So Darwin was quite mortified when the eminent scientist
he so respected reacted negatively to his book, On the Origin of Species,
calling Darwins idea of natural selection The law of
Yet Darwins so called law triumphed. It could
be argued that John Herschel had handed his enemies the rope to hang his
Christian faith, because he, like Bacon, had assumed the unbiblical
postulate of Thomas Aquinas, that only the spirit of man was fallen, not the
intellect. Accordingly, Aquinas thought that natural revelation
could be a means to finding God (or ultimate truth), apart from
Scripture and the convicting and converting work of the Holy Spirit.
This incomplete view of the Fall gave secularists a free reign to discover
their own truth apart from divine revelation not only reproducible facts
about the operation of nature, but its origin and destiny.
Baconian science slowly evolved into scientism, logical positivism,
and naturalism. Secularists extrapolated methodological naturalism,
in which the scientist attempts to discover laws through experiment,
into a full-fledged philosophical naturalism, in which God had no place in nature.
The two naturalisms became indistinguishable.
God, spirit, faith and purpose were relegated to inner experience,
until they became purely mystical and personal, unverifiable by history
or science or logic or any objective means. Secularists
took great glee in capturing the flag of science and taking
religious belief hostage, relegating any appeal to faith or divine
revelation to the wastebasket of superstition and fantasy.
This, of course, is a wholly unwarranted position, and an extrapolation
far beyond what both Bacon and Herschel believed. Both sincerely believed
in God as the Creator, and Jesus Christ as His incarnate, resurrected Son.
Their reaction to the authority of Aristotle or any other teacher should not have
been used as a rationalization for rejecting the authority of God and His Word.
Not every field of knowledge is open to the scientific method: history, for instance,
and the arts. Yet secularists arrogated to themselves a presumed unbiased inquiry into
all fields of knowledge, till it became a substitute religion, unaware that
their own position was as metaphysical as any faith.
Though there are signs of change, we are still living today with the legacy of
that unwarranted extrapolation of Herschels principles.
Phillip Johnson has characterized our secular society as having its own creation myth, and
like any creation myth, it has a priesthood the secular scientific establishment
that has sole custody of that myth. Evolutionary theory today goes far
beyond anything that can be observed or tested. Cornelius Hunter
describes the situation today: Evolution is now found to be capable of
creating just about anything. We might say
that evolution is a closed metaphysical system. It not only supplies its own
creation story but also supplies its own source of morality. ... Furthermore,
having rejected divine creation and its Creator, evolution even becomes its own
authority. This story is true for those who believe it, but it cannot
be demonstrated by strictly scientific argument, for it requires
metaphysical premises (Darwins God, p. 155.
Methodological naturalism is reasonable to a point, as a tentative or default position when
examining observable, repeatable phenomena subject to testing.
It is like William Dembskis Explanatory Filter, in which the flowchart
first attempts to rule out natural law and chance as causes before inferring
design. But methodological naturalism today has become an iron-clad rule
that eliminates design from the field of causes at the outset.
It is an arbitrary rule that can prevent a scientist from ever discovering the
truth, when in fact design was the cause. It has led to a modern science
that is stuck with hand-waving and just-so stories to explain
the origin of the universe, planets, life, and eternal destiny phenomena
that are not testable nor repeatable. Having ruled out the validity of
revelation or purpose, evolutionists are hostage to a closed metaphysical system that
excludes intelligent design by fiat, not by reason, logic, or evidence.
The hypocrisy of this position is revealed by the fact that scientists routinely
invoke intelligent causes in certain fields, such as forensic science,
archaeology, and SETI; yet when design is clearly apparent in natural
phenomena, the rules of naturalism prevent a design inference.
How would John Herschel have reacted to todays reign of naturalism?
He probably would be appalled. He never saw his scientific work as
justifying atheism. On the contrary, he wrote, with years of experience
as one of the most eminent practitioners of the scientific method, All human
discoveries seem to be made only for the purpose of confirming more and more strongly the
truths come from on high and contained in the sacred writings.
N. S. Dodge concluded his 16-page eulogy of
Herschels whole life, like the lives of Newton and Faraday, confutes the
assertion, and ought to remove the suspicion, that a profound study of
nature is unfavorable to a sincere acceptance of the Christian faith.
Surrounded by an affectionate family, of which he was long spared to be
the pride, the guide, and the life, John Herschel died, as he had lived,
in the unostentatious exercise of a devout, yet simple, faith.
Herschel was buried in Westminster
Abbey not far from Sir Isaac Newton. In an ironic twist of fate, he was soon to have
a strange bedfellow: interred next to him a few years later was an admirer who used some
of his philosophical ideas against Christianity: Charles Darwin.
If you are enjoying this series, you can
learn more about great Christians in science by reading
our online book-in-progress:
The Worlds Greatest
Creation Scientists from Y1K to Y2K.
Copies are also
available from our online store.
A Concise Guide|
You can observe a lot by just watching.
First Law of Scientific Progress
The advance of science can be measured by the rate at which exceptions to previously held laws accumulate.
1. Exceptions always outnumber rules.
2. There are always exceptions to established exceptions.
3. By the time one masters the exceptions, no one recalls the rules to which they apply.
Nature will tell you a direct lie if she can.
So will Darwinists.
Science is true. Dont be misled by facts.
Finagles 2nd Law
No matter what the anticipated result, there
will always be someone eager to (a) misinterpret it, (b) fake it, or (c)
believe it happened according to his own pet theory.
3. Draw your curves, then plot your data.
4. In case of doubt, make it sound convincing.
6. Do not believe in miracles rely on them.
Murphys Law of Research
Enough research will tend to support your theory.
If the facts do not conform to the theory, they must be disposed of.
1. The bigger the theory, the better.
2. The experiments may be considered a success if no more than 50%
of the observed measurements must be discarded to obtain a correspondence
with the theory.
The number of different hypotheses erected to explain a given biological phenomenon
is inversely proportional to the available knowledge.
All great discoveries are made by mistake.
The greater the funding, the longer it takes to make the mistake.
The solution to a problem changes the nature of the problem.
Peters Law of Evolution
Competence always contains the seed of incompetence.
An expert is a person who avoids the small errors while sweeping on to the grand fallacy.
Repetition does not establish validity.
What really matters is the name you succeed in imposing on the facts not the facts themselves.
For every action, there is an equal and opposite criticism.
Thumbs Second Postulate
An easily-understood, workable falsehood is more useful than a complex, incomprehensible truth.
There is nothing so small that it cant be blown out of proportion
Hawkins Theory of Progress
Progress does not consist in replacing a theory that is wrong with one that is right. It consists
in replacing a theory that is wrong with one that is more subtly wrong.
The best theory is not ipso facto a good theory.
Error is often more earnest than truth.
Advice from Paul|
Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle
babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge by
professing it some have strayed concerning the faith.
I Timothy 6:20-21
Song of the True Scientist
O Lord, how manifold are Your works! In wisdom You have made
them all. The earth is full of Your possessions . . . . May the glory of the Lord endure forever. May the
Lord rejoice in His works . . . . I will sing to the Lord s long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my
being. May my meditation be sweet to Him; I will be glad in the Lord. May sinners be
consumed from the earth, and the wicked be no more. Bless the Lord, O my soul! Praise the Lord!
from Psalm 104
Through the creatures Thou hast made
Show the brightness of Thy glory.
Be eternal truth displayed
In their substance transitory.
Till green earth and ocean hoary,
Massy rock and tender blade,
Tell the same unending story:
We are truth in form arrayed.
Teach me thus Thy works to read,
That my faith, new strength accruing
May from world to world proceed,
Wisdoms fruitful search pursuing
Till, thy truth my mind imbuing,
I proclaim the eternal Creed
Oft the glorious theme renewing,
God our Lord is God indeed.
James Clerk Maxwell
One of the greatest physicists
of all time (a creationist).
Disclaimer: Creation-Evolution Headlines includes links
to many external sites, but takes no responsibility for the
accuracy or legitimacy of their content. Inclusion of an
external link is strictly for the readers convenience,
and does not necessarily constitute endorsement of
the material or its authors, owners, or sponsors.|