Creation-Evolution Headlines
March 2006
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“The... very goodness of God should convince all people to believe and trust their Creator.  Although they know that sin has separated them from God and that death is the result of sin, they also know that he has not abandoned them.... Men and women should always have known that there is a God of Creation and that he is also a God of holiness who must punish sin.  But they should also have realized that he is a loving God who will somehow provide salvation.  The God of Creation must also be the God of Redemption.”
—Dr. Henry M. Morris, The Long War Against God (Baker, 1989), p. 281.
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More Hints at Early Origin of Stars, Galaxies   03/31/2006    
Several articles this month showed further evidence for a growing realization in astronomy: stars and galaxies were already mature at the beginning of the universe (see, for instance, 09/21/2005 entry).  Some recent examples:
  • Spitzer ClustersJPL issued a press release stating that the Spitzer Space Telescope, on a “cosmic safari,” found evidence for clusters of galaxies 9 billion years old.  In the standard dating scheme, this was when the universe was a “mere” 4.5 billion years old.
  • Swift GRBs:  Astronomers reported in Nature1 the discovery, by the Swift satellite, of the earliest gamma-ray burst ever found.  The burst “happened 12.8 billion years ago, corresponding to a time when the Universe was just 890 million years old, close to the reionization era,” they said.  “This means that not only did stars form in this short period of time after the Big Bang, but also that enough time had elapsed for them to evolve and collapse into black holes” (emphasis added in all quotes).
  • Ubiquitous Galaxies:  A press release from the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics announced “Ubiquitous galaxies discovered in the Early Universe.”  Observations in far-ultraviolet and near-infrared found galaxies at redshift z=6.7, assumed to be within 5% of the birth of the universe.  Most of them were spirals, not irregulars as theory had predicted.
In the last of a 36-part series of lectures on 20th century science produced by The Teaching Company,2 Dr. Steven L. Goldman of Lehigh University listed this as one of the major challenges facing scientists in the 21st century.  After first discussing the surprise discovery that the universal expansion is accelerating (08/13/2002), he said,
A second area in astrophysics that can be construed as a cloud on the horizon is that recent observations in the years 2002-2003 suggest that – not just suggest, recent observations tell astronomers that when the universe was less than 3 billion years old, there were already galactic clusters [03/12/2003].  Not only were there galaxies... but here we have, astronomers have discovered, a modest galactic cluster (I believe that it has something like 30 some-odd galaxies in it) that goes back to less than 3 billion years after the big bang.  That’s much too much structure to have after only two and a half or 2.7 billion years of expansion.  So that is another problem that astrophysics needs to come to grips with.
    It’s not a small problem, either, because the extent of the structure that we can discover in the universe has implications for whether big bang and inflation are really capable of providing a model of the universe.  So it’s a small – it may seem like a small problem to non-specialists, but within astrophysics it’s a significant challenge.
    And then there’s the question of whether we are in fact reading the microwave background radiation correctly. [03/20/2006]   Because all of this theory is empirically supported by interpreting extremely minute ripples in the microwave background radiation.  And from those ripples, ripples in temperature, temperature inequalities on the order of ten thousandths of a degree Kelvin are – that’s the basis for trying to explain why there is as much structure as there is in the universe.  If we’re misinterpreting the microwave background radiation data, then really we have a whole new picture of the universe that might emerge.  So, that’s one set of clouds that one can anticipate that over the next decade we will potentially be seeing significant modifications in our conceptualization of the universe and its origin, and maybe even of its fate.
Goldman compared these challenges to a couple of mysteries at the beginning of the 20th century that Lord Kelvin described as “small clouds on the horizon” – (1) the inability to explain the blackbody radiation spectrum and (2) the lack of deviations of the speed of light through the ether as found by the Michelson-Morley experiment.  These two small clouds became cloudbursts a few years later when they led directly to quantum theory and relativity – theories that dramatically overhauled our conceptions of space, time and the universe.
1Cusumano et al., “Gamma-ray bursts: Huge explosion in the early Universe,” Nature 440, 164 (9 March 2006) | doi:10.1038/440164a.
2Steven L. Goldman, Lecture 36, “Looking Around and Looking Ahead,” Science in the 20th Century: A Social-Intellectual Survey, The Teaching Company, 2004.
Goldman suggested later in the lecture one possible new conception of the universe that might emerge in the years ahead: that the universe might be viewed as “some kind of information structure.”  Sound like intelligent design?  Sound like instant creation?  He asked, “and how will we understand that philosophically and physically?”  Easy: in the beginning was the Word.  Consider creation: an idea ahead of its time.
Next headline on: AstronomyCosmology
Sacrificial Love Evolved from Colored Beards   03/31/2006    
Scientific jargon is like a foreign language to most lay people, but anyone stumbling across a paper on “altruism through beard chromodynamics” in Nature1 this week must surely wonder what on earth Vincent Jansen and Minus van Baalen were talking about.  Let’s see if their introduction can explain, or if Nature has printed a grown-up version of Dr. Seuss:
The evolution of altruism, a behaviour that benefits others at one’s own fitness expense, poses a darwinian paradox.  The paradox is resolved if many interactions are with related individuals so that the benefits of altruism are reaped by copies of the altruistic gene in other individuals, a mechanism called kin selection.  However, recognition of altruists could provide an alternative route towards the evolution of altruism.  Arguably the simplest recognition system is a conspicuous, heritable tag, such as a green beard.  Despite the fact that such genes have been reported, the ‘green beard effect’ has often been dismissed because it is unlikely that a single gene can code for altruism and a recognizable tag.  Here we model the green beard effect and find that if recognition and altruism are always inherited together, the dynamics are highly unstable, leading to the loss of altruism.  In contrast, if the effect is caused by loosely coupled separate genes, altruism is facilitated through beard chromodynamics in which many beard colours co-occur.  This allows altruism to persist even in weakly structured populations and implies that the green beard effect, in the form of a fluid association of altruistic traits with a recognition tag, can be much more prevalent than hitherto assumed.   (Emphasis added.)
Evolutionists sometimes employ fairy-tale metaphors for effect, such as the “red queen” hypothesis to explain the origin of sex, “prisoner’s dilemma” to explain group dynamics, and the “tinkerer” who cobbles together whatever parts are around to describe evolutionary innovation.  (Perhaps astronomers contribute to the fun with their talk of “red giants” and “white dwarfs.”)
    Ladies might contribute to the scientific research of this particular hypothesis and decide which beard colors belong to the most unselfish men.  The guys could further test the idea by going to the paint store and experimenting with beard chromodynamics (samples).
1Jansen and van Baalen, “Altruism through beard chromodynamics,” Nature Nature 440, 663-666 (30 March 2006) | doi:10.1038/nature04387.
Need we say anything more?  Do you get the picture that evolutionary theorists have gone totally wacko?  Thanks, Jansen and van Baalen; keep up the good work.  Anti-evolutionists appreciate the free ammunition.
    The most egregious dumb idea in this story is not the fairy tale of the “green beard effect.”  It is their belief that altruism might actually evolve by a mutation in a gene.  The second most egregious aspect of this story is that Nature would print such balderdash with a straight fuzzy face.  It’s not even April Fool’s Day yet.  “Beard chromodynamics.”  Sad.  Funny, but sad.
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary TheoryDumb Ideas
Reviewer Stunned by Author’s Handwaving   03/31/2006    
David Nicholls appears to have suffered whiplash from a line in a book he was reviewing in Science,1 Power, Sex, Suicide: Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life by Nick Lane (Oxford, 2006).  Though he liked the book in general, he said this about Lane’s explanation for how the first cell got its power generator:
The author is less convincing when he turns to the origin of life (at least he is not afraid to deal with big topics).  Citing the work of Mike Russell2 and Alan Hall, Lane states that in order to generate a primitive cell from an iron sulphide vesicle “all that the cells need to do to generate ATP is to plug an [proton translocating] ATPase through the membrane.”  Any bioenergeticist who has followed the elucidation of the extraordinary structure and mechanism of the mitochondrial ATP synthase over the past decade will pause at the word “all,” because the ATP synthase—with its spinning rotor massaging the surrounding subunits to generate ATP—is without doubt the most amazingly complex molecular structure in the cell.3   (Emphasis and footnotes added.)
After that, Nicholls had mostly praise for the rest of the book.

1David G. Nicholls, “Cell Biology: Energizing Eukaryotes,” Science, 31 March 2006: Vol. 311. no. 5769, p. 1869, DOI: 10.1126/science.1126251.
2See 12/03/2004 on theories by Michael Russell.
3The amazing structure and function of the universal ATP synthase motor has been discussed many times in these pages.  See, for instance, 01/30/2005 and 12/22/2003, and animation mentioned on April 2002 page.
If a pro-Darwinist convinced evolutionist is this surprised that a colleague would treat the “most amazingly complex molecular structure in the cell” so dismissively, what are the rest of us supposed to think?  This is the perpetual bad habit of evolutionists.  It will prove their downfall.  As the gap between life’s complexity and evolution’s explanations continues to grow, Charlie is going to look more and more like Wiley E. Coyote clinging by fingernails and toenails to both sides of a rapidly-widening canyon.
Next headline on: Cell BiologyOrigin of LifeDumb Ideas
Minimum Genome Doubles   03/31/2006    
How many genes does a bacterium need to live?  Evolutionists interested in the origin of life have been trying to determine the minimal genome for life.  Those estimates may have been way too low, say researchers from the University of Bath.  Though they did not supply a number, they estimate the required number of genes should be twice as high as earlier estimates.  Their conclusions were published in Nature this week.1
1Hurst et al., “Chance and necessity in the evolution of minimal metabolic networks,” Nature 440, 667-670 (30 March 2006) | doi:10.1038/nature04568.
This means Mt. Improbable just got higher, and the evolutionists cannot use their Natural Selection ice axes to climb.  All they have is bare feet to go straight up on ice, now twice as high, with avalanches every few minutes.
    We should actually use analogies that are more realistic.  This is way too generous to the evolutionists (see online book).
Next headline on: GeneticsOrigin of Life
Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week:  Evolution of ABC   03/30/2006    
Four Caltech scientists have tried to explain the shapes of alphabet letters in evolutionary terms, reported EurekAlert:
In a new study forthcoming in the May 2006 issue of The American Naturalist, Mark A. Changizi and his coauthors, Qiang Zhang, Hao Ye, and Shinsuke Shimojo, from the California Institute of Technology explore the hypothesis that human visual signs have been cross-culturally selected to reflect common contours in natural scenes that humans have evolved to be good at seeing.   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
They believe that the contours of letters tend to correlate with contours in nature.  There’s more.  “The researchers also examined motor and visual skills and the shapes that are easiest to see and form,” the article continues.  “They make a strong case [sic] that the shape signature for human visual signs is primarily selected for reading, at the expense of writing.
No hint, now, that these skills might have been designed that way?  As usual, evolution is both the premise and the conclusion.  It is the question and the answer, the approach and the justification, the jot and the tittle, the alpha and omega. 
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary TheoryDumb Ideas
Spiders Rappel Without Getting Dizzy   03/29/2006    
How can spiders drop straight down their dragline silk without going into dizzying spins on the way down?  It’s because spider silk has “shape memory” and a resistance to twisting, due to its unique molecular structure.  Scientists tested three strong threads for shape memory: Kevlar thread, copper thread, and spider silk.  The winner was spider silk; it also retained its flexibility after multiple twists.  The report in Nature1 was summarized by Bjorn Carey on LiveScience.
1Emile et al., “Biopolymers: Shape memory in spider draglines,” Nature 440, 621 (30 March 2006) | doi:10.1038/440621a.
Too bad the Darwinists are in power; they bring science to a halt claiming, “evolution did it.”  (This is called the Darwin-of-the-gaps fallacy.)  Think of how rock climbers and rescue workers could benefit from studying the lowly spider from a design perspective.  If we could just learn a little intelligent design from these lowly organisms, we would advance civilization and bring biology out of the Darkwin Ages.
Next headline on: Terrestrial zoologyAmazing facts
Chicxulub Impact Not a Global Catastrophe   03/29/2006    
In a surprising reversal of stories told for decades, it appears the dinosaurs did not die from the impact of a large meteor near the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico.  According to a press release from the Geological Society of America, the Chicxulub Impact occurred too early – 300,000 years too early – to have killed the dinosaurs and many other species.  Researchers found that spherules in the layers estimated to be from the impact do not line up with the iridium layer that marks the Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T) boundary.  Apparently, no “nuclear winter” occurred, because many sun-loving species like crocodiles and turtles survived just fine.  “Even giant impacts aren’t necessarily global catastrophes,” admitted the press release.  This means the leading contender for the Cretaceous extinction is going extinct itself.
It was such a fun story while it lasted.  It really made for dramatic pseudoscience documentaries on the Discovery Channel and provided animators with a usable motif.  Now, back to the drawing board – or how about this time, as Henry Morris advised, back to Genesis.
Next headline on: GeologyDating MethodsFossils
How Dry I.D.   03/27/2006    
Greg Schirf of Wasatch Brewery is riding the wave of publicity over the intelligent design controversy in Utah.  He came out with a new “intelligently designed” beer: Evolution Amber Ale.  The press release expresses his alarm over the alleged erosion of separation of church and state, but how serious (or sober) he was may be a matter of dispute:
To critics who accuse him of just being up to the same old publicity stunts, the often times contentious brewmeister responds, “Perhaps, but we are really trying to live up to our mission statement, ‘Craft the finest ales and lagers possible.  Achieve a commercial profitability while maintaining the highest level of social responsibility.  And have as much fun as we can legally get away with.’”
Previous stunts included marketing a beer as the Gold Medal winning “unofficial” Amber Ale of the 2002 Winter Olympics.
If this were intelligently designed product, why didn’t they show the fully-evolved primate with a beer belly?  This guy clearly didn’t get his physique drinking Evolution Amber Ale, and if he were fully evolved, he would be sitting in the pose of Rodin’s Thinker, not pumping glass.
    Thinking of that, it would be fun to see the Discovery Institute donate truckloads of this stuff to the NCSE in a goodwill gesture.  While they’re getting stoned, the real thinkers, fully clothed and in their right minds, could be attending school board meetings, campaigning, writing books and forming IDEA clubs – whatever they can do to enhance the Darwin Party’s morning hangover experience.
    Come morning, ID supporters could even offer them free therapy.  They could tell them that the quickest way out of a hangover is more Evolution Amber Ale.  It not only smothers the depression, they can argue, but enhances mutagenesis, providing more raw material for evolution.  This is the way to kill a strife with kindness.
Next headline on: DarwinismIntelligent DesignDumb Stories
Human ‘Missing Link’ Skull Found in Ethiopia   03/26/2006    
Reuters reported that a skull intermediate between Homo erectus and Homo sapiens has been found in Ethiopia (see MSNBC News): “Ethiopian find could fill gap in human origins,” reads the title.  “Skull seen as ‘intermediate’ between modern humans and older ancestors.”  Associated Press (see Fox News) says this fossil is 250,000 to 500,000 years old, but another AP story on Fox News claims there is new evidence from stone tools that humans were in England 700,000 years ago.  “The discovery that early humans could have existed this far north this long ago was startling,” said Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum.
Creationists believe Homo erectus were true humans, so this is no issue about evolution, really.  We’ve seen these kinds of claims so many times before.  Now that it has made its splash in the media, a rival will soon be along to discredit the classification, or the date, or the significance of the find.  If their dates are not all mixed up beyond comprehension, there is no way the Ethiopian find could be a missing link if humans were already in Camelot.
Next headline on: Early ManFossils
Plant Species Divisions Are As Distinct As Those of Animals   03/25/2006    
Plants were thought to speciate differently than animals.  Evolutionary taxonomists presumed that their species barriers were more fuzzy, with hybridization, polyploidy and other mechanisms blurring the lines between species.  Not so, claim three scientists from Indiana University writing in Nature.1  These perceptions may just be artifacts of the plants selected for study:
Many botanists doubt the existence of plant species, viewing them as arbitrary constructs of the human mind, as opposed to discrete, objective entities that represent reproductively independent lineages or ‘units of evolution’  However, the discreteness of plant species and their correspondence with reproductive communities have not been tested quantitatively, allowing zoologists to argue that botanists have been overly influenced by a few ‘botanical horror stories’, such as dandelions, blackberries and oaks.  Here we analyse phenetic and/or crossing relationships in over 400 genera of plants and animals.  We show that although discrete phenotypic clusters exist in most genera (> 80%), the correspondence of taxonomic species to these clusters is poor (< 60%) and no different between plants and animals.... Contrary to conventional wisdom, plant species are more likely than animal species to represent reproductively independent lineages.   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
The authors ended with an interesting statement: “Botanists have been accused of poisoning Darwin’s mind about the nature of species and our results at least partly validate this accusation.”  They refer to Ernst Mayr’s 1982 book The Growth of Biological Thought; Mayr, a devotee of the biological species concept (i.e., a species is a reproductively isolated population), decried the botanists who presented plant species as a mess with no clear dividing lines.  These authors reiterate their finding in their conclusion: “In the majority of sexual plant taxa, discrete entities that correspond to reproductively independent lineages do exist at the species level and a useful classification would reflect this.”
    Science News (Week of March 25, 2006; Vol. 169, No. 12, p. 180) reported on this story, calling it “Reality Botany.”
1Rieseberg, Wood and Baack, “The nature of plant species,” Nature 440, 524-527 (23 March 2006) | doi:10.1038/nature04402.
How much of what scientists think they know about nature might be subjective judgments based on sampling bias?  How much more fallible might be theories based on these judgments?
    Their ending statement about Darwin is cryptic.  Are they saying that the early botanists poisoned Darwin’s mind and should be considered blameworthy for doing so, or are they joining in the poisoning conspiracy?  Probably the former; they seem to be affirming that plant species are just as much “units of evolution” that can have “reproductively independent lineages” despite crossing and apomixis (reproduction without gametes).  Whether distinct species can evolve is a separate question.  In any case, most plant species seem as distinct as animal species, so any problems with animal speciation apply equally well to plant speciation (see 02/28/2006 entry).
Next headline on: PlantsDarwinism and Evolutionary Theory
Non-Coding DNA: Whatcha Calling Junk?   03/24/2006    
The focus on genes continues to blur, as more geneticists look outside the box.  Some 98% of DNA in the nucleus of human cells does not code for genes.  Long dismissed as genetic junk, much of it may turn out to be the hands on the controls.
    A press release from Johns Hopkins Medicine reports “Junk DNA May Not Be So Junky After All.”  It may contain vital control regions that switch the genes on and off.  Researchers found that control regions don’t have to look the same between different species.  They found a case where a control region for a human gene looked very different from one in a zebrafish, but both performed the same function.  This hints that the non-coding regions are filled with enhancers and suppressors that we are only beginning to understand.
Evolutionists baffled, not a simple story of descent, natural phenomena more complex than realized, design scientists vindicated; watch this space.
Next headline on: Genetics and DNA
New Book:  Traipsing Into Evolution   03/23/2006    
The Discovery Institute has published a new book, Traipsing Into Evolution, analyzing the Dover decision.  (Traipsing is defined as walking or traveling about without apparent plan but with or without a purpose.)  An article on Evolution News introduces the contents, and describes the authors: “The book was written by David K. DeWolf, professor of law at Gonzaga University, Dr. John G. West associate professor and chair of the political science department at Seattle Pacific University, Casey Luskin, attorney and program officer for public policy and legal affairs at Discovery Institute, and Dr. Jonathan Witt a senior fellow and writer in residence at Discovery Institute.”  A lengthy response by Michael Behe, lead expert witness for the Dover school board, is also included.
    They felt the book is necessary because news media, scientists and some school boards are assuming that the Dover decision settled the matter.  For instance, in Current Biology this week,1 Paul Katz claimed, “as was recently pointed out by a Federal Judge in Dover, Pennsylvania, the supposed alternatives are based on religious beliefs, not science, and so may not be taught in public school science classes.”  The book argues against that claim, but acknowledges the repercussions of the Dover decision.  “There’s already been a negative chilling effect on open inquiry in places such as Ohio and South Carolina,” Casey Luskin said.  “Judge Jones’ message is clear: give Darwin only praise, or else face the wrath of the judiciary.”  Professor of Law Steven D. Smith (UC San Diego) does not consider Judge Jones the last word.  “The mainstream science establishment and the courts tell us, in censorious tones that sometimes sound a bit desperate, that intelligent design is just a lot of fundamentalist cant.  It’s not,” he said.  “We’ve heard the Darwinist story, and we owe it to ourselves to hear the other side.  Traipsing Into Evolution is that other side.”  See also our 03/10/2006 entry.  The book is available on Amazon.com.
1Paul Katz, “Q&A,” Current Biology, Volume 16, Issue 6, 21 March 2006, Pages R190-R191, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2006.02.033.
Quotable quote from the blurb: “Despite Jones’s protestations to the contrary, his attempts to use the federal bench to declare evolution a sacred cow—unquestionable in schools and fundamentally compatible with all ‘true’ religion—are exposed by these critical authors as a textbook case of good-old-American judicial activism.”  Jones was only one district judge, and his opinion has no bearing outside that district.  But his lengthy diatribe deserves debate and battle.  Judges do not decide what is science and what is not.  How strange that scientists like Paul Katz are leaning on decisions of lawyers and judges.  Science needs to be judged on the evidence.
    The Amazon listing is already attracting highly polarized reviews.  The toilet talk of some pro-Darwinist reviewers can be considered a success for the book, if that’s the best level of scholarship attainable by critics.
Next headline on: Intelligent DesignEducation
Dry-Marsers Score Points   03/23/2006    
Those looking for water on Mars in hopes that life would grow in it had some setbacks this week.  National Geographic and Mars Daily reported on work by Gwendolyn Bart (U of Arizona) who found gullies on the moon similar to those on Mars thought to be formed by water.  Since the moon never had liquid water, this puts some doubt on the Mars-water claims and hints that other processes could have formed the gullies.
    Also, MSNBC reported that Andrew Steele of the Carnegie Institution is claiming a non-biological origin for the carbonates in the Martian meteorite ALH84001 (see Carnegie Institution press release).  Both these negative claims have their critics, however, as shown in the stories on Mars Daily and page two of the National Geographic articles.
    As the hunt for water and life continues, bystanders might instead opt for a thrill ride through the Martian Grand Canyon Valles Marineris posted by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Take the thrill ride, and while enjoying the scenery, notice the utter lack of flowing water, trees, deer, mountain lions, wildflowers and sentient beings taking digital photos from the rim.  No Martian national park can compare with our Grand Canyon.  Percival Lowell would have been so disappointed.
Next headline on: Solar SystemOrigin of Life
Stromatolites Can Form By Non-Biological Processes   03/22/2006    
Exclusive  Stromatolites have been Exhibit A for stories of the rise of life on the early earth.  These column-shaped rocks found in Precambrian strata are usually assumed to be evidence of microbial mats that grew upward as sediment slowly accumulated on top of them.  Scene 1 is usually Shark’s Bay in Australia, where stromatolites form in shallow coastal lagoons.  Scene 2 might be a place like Transvaal Supergroup in South Africa, where fossil stromatolites are assumed to preserve a record of the earliest life on earth.
    Scientists at Caltech decided to investigate the origin of stromatolites.  Dr. John Grotzinger1 gave a presentation at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory on March 21 in which he shared some surprising findings.  When the Opportunity rover on Mars found a structure resembling a stromatolite, he was not ready to jump to the conclusion it was evidence for life.  He and his colleagues decided to take a neutral stance on whether they are biogenic, and find mechanisms that might produce these structures under inorganic conditions.  (A number of Mars rover scientists were present in the audience.)
    The problem with the biogenic theory, he said, is that there is no way to demonstrate it.  Plus, in the classic field cases that compare Shark’s Bay with Transvaal, the cross-sections of these structures are completely different.  Grotzinger and his team used both theory and experiment to show how stromatolites can arise by chemical and geological processes alone.  Crystals growing upward from regularly-spaced starting points, for instance, will eventually interfere and form convex tops.  As sediments become entrained between the fronds of the crystal, new lenses of crystal and sediment will continue to grow upward, resulting in side-by-side columns.  Occasionally, higher fluxes of sediment will flatten the upper surface, and the process can begin again.  This is apparently what happened at the Transvaal site.
    Employing an original mathematical model, Grotzinger showed how stromatolites can originate on a flat surface.  If crystals begin growing upward, any points slightly higher will attract more sediment, while the sides will interfere with nearby crystals.  The growing points will amplify the column height.  There are probably many circumstances where this can happen – life or no life.  In his opinion, the type sections for stromatolites are not microbial mats, but travertine springs or playa lakes.
    By contrast, he showed areas where current microbial mats possessing what would seem ideal conditions for stromatolite growth are not producing stromatolites.  He said a researcher is in a “fool’s paradise” to just observe the morphology of these structures to understand them.  “Don’t start with biology,” he said; “start with the rock.”  Understand its diagenetic history, then reconstruct the primary texture, then evaluate the sediment accretion process, and consider the biological contribution last.
    In the rock record, therefore, do radical changes in morphology of the rock necessarily indicate radical changes in biology?  No; he preferred to call these unusual structures “environmental dipsticks” rather than “evolutionary mileposts.”
1See an earlier publication of this work at:
Grotzinger, J.P., and Knoll, A.H., 1999, Stromatolites in Precambrian carbonates: Evolutionary mileposts or environmental dipsticks?: Annual Reviews of Earth and Planetary Science, v. 27, p. 313-358.
One of the lessons from this talk was how assumptions can subtly influence the scientist’s approach.  Dr. Grotzinger showed conflicting definitions of stromatolites, one that began, “organogenic structures....” – in other words, there was a biological bias built into the very definition of the word.  Interestingly, the NASA Astrobiology Student Focus website says that stromatolites were formerly defined as “laminated organo-sedimentary structures formed by the trapping and binding, and/or precipitation of minerals by microorganisms,” but then does not provide a more neutral definition, and goes on to portray stromatolites as evidences for life.  Biased definitions like these could send a graduate student off in a prejudiced direction to assume they were made biologically, and just as easily influence a TV producer working on a script about the early earth.
    Dr. Grotzinger and his team are to be commended for shaking off this bias and trying to look at the data objectively.  Unfortunately, in other parts of his talk, he accepted other aspects of the geo-biological evolution story without question: the geological column, Milankovich cycles, dating methods, etc.  At least this talk indicated progress away from one evolutionary assumption.  Now, how do we clean up the textbooks, museums and documentaries?
Next headline on: FossilsOrigin of LifeGeology
Planet-Making a Lost Art   03/21/2006    
Exclusive  Solar system theorists are trying to reverse engineer the planets without the recipe.  Planets exist, but they can’t get from a rotating disk of dust and gas to a solar system from their models.  They are at a loss to explain Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and a host of Jupiter-class planets around other stars.
    A press release from Astronomy & Astrophysics explains some of the problems.  Two British astronomers found a show-stopper in their models: any hopeful clumps tend to march in lockstep to their deaths in the center, like lumps of oatmeal washing down the drain before they can solidify.  This is called “Type I migration” – the viscosity of the stellar disk carries material inward like a spiral conveyor belt.  The migration is so rapid (a few thousand years), there is simply not time for a gas giant to form by core accretion.  (If the planet is able to open a gap in the disk, a more benign “Type II” migration still keeps it moving inward, but more slowly.)
    Dr. Alan Boss (Carnegie Institute of Washington) shared some of his “heretical” views at a presentation March 21 to scientists and engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.  He listed many cons outweighing the pros of the core accretion theory.  Core accretion was the leading model dating back to Laplace’s original Nebular Hypothesis, until in the 1990s the problem of migration came to light.  The problem was exacerbated by the discovery of “hot Jupiters” around other stars – gas giants closer to their parent stars than Mercury is to the sun.  Earlier theory prohibited gas giants from forming so close.  Also, many red dwarf stars have been found to have Jupiter-size planets, contrary to predictions.  Gas giants seem to form regardless of the metallicity of the star (i.e., the proportion of elements heavier than hydrogen and helium).  Furthermore, our Saturn appears to have a much larger core than Jupiter, when the reverse should be true.
    While core accretion is a bottom-up hypothesis, there is an alternative: a top-down approach.  Dr. Boss presented his newer “disk instability” model (the heretical one), not so much to pit it against core accretion (the conventional one), but to pit both models against the observations.  Both leave many problems unsolved.  For instance, while disk instability overcomes some of core accretion’s defects, it adds new problems.  In the model, eddies in the rotating stellar disk collapse quickly into clumps.  It is not clear, however, that a clump will survive and continue to shrink into a planet.  Also, the gas giants need to form closer in than expected, then get kicked outward, to account for Jupiter and Saturn’s radial distances.  This means larger clumps must form to take the low road into the star while ejecting the others to the high road.  This process, however, would spell death for any incipient rocky planets like Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars.
    Disk instability was invented primarily to try to save the timescale, he said.  No one realized how quickly migration would carry a planet in: an upper limit is 10,000 years, when core accretion is assumed to require millions of years.  Modeling planet formation under these constraints is tricky.  Models vary in one parameter by five orders of magnitude.  Boss cited a model that simply ignored Type I migration, and another that artificially set the viscosity very high.  That one got a Jupiter, but no Saturn.  Also, most modelers ignore the situation in most gas nebulas like Orion and Eta Carina, where photoevaporation from high-mass stars blows away the gas in stellar disks quickly.  Boss’s model gets a Jupiter in about 245 years, but that’s only in the computer.  Eventually the models need to account for the highly diverse and anomalous extrasolar planets – currently 150 and counting – being found around other stars, to say nothing of those in our own solar neighborhood.  “Eventually, observers will tell us what the answer is,” he ended.
    Footnote: Dr. Boss mentioned several times that core accretion is only a problem with gas giants; he claimed it worked well with rocky terrestrial planets like Earth.  In the Q&A session, however, he did admit that there is a gap in our understanding of how the initial particles begin to accrete.  Bodies need to reach at least 10 meters before gravitation can pull in more material.  He referred to studies performed in space demonstrate that dust grains moving with slow relative velocities in a vacuum will clump into filaments and irregular clumps he called “dust bunnies,” but after they get to a certain size, they begin to impact one another too fast for further accretion to occur.  At that stage, more material is lost than accreted.  So he confessed there is a question mark between the dust-bunny stage and the 10-meter stage.  Also, he said there are problems in the outer disk.  While accounting for Kuiper Belt objects was theoretically not too difficult, he asked, “Can you really explain the Oort Cloud?”
Alan Boss was fairly frank about the problems and difficulties, but his thinking is enslaved to a larger molecules-to-man world view that assumes everything from the big bang to man can be explained with references to natural causes alone.  The possibility that planets were designed and created is utterly alien to their thinking.  The film and book The Privileged Planet should challenge these modelers with stringent reality checks on the ability of natural processes alone to account for Earth, for the solar system that protects life on our planet, and for the galactic and cosmic systems of which our planet is a part.  Creationists, on the other hand, need to do serious thinking also in the light of the discoveries of extrasolar planets.  Are all planets equally designed, even for stellar systems devoid of life?  If not, did natural processes form them?  If so, how does one differentiate the need for design in our solar system?   Intelligent design theorists argue that it is not necessary to claim everything is designed to make the case against materialism.  To show that some things cannot be explained with reference to natural causes, and that it is possible to discriminate design from chance and natural law, is sufficient to establish ID.  Such questions may forever remain outside the purview of scientific investigation and remain debate topics for philosophers and theologians.  As shown by today’s story, with more anomalies than successes, materialists are in no position to claim the upper hand.  In the meantime, all players can benefit from more observations.
Next headline on: AstronomySolar SystemPhysics
Inflation: Cosmic, Comic, or Cosmetic?   03/20/2006    
The science media seem beside themselves with enthusiasm over some dots and lines.  When scientists analyzing data from the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) told reporters they determined the polarization of certain points in the cosmic microwave background, one could almost hear the yawns.  But when they suggested that this tells us something about what might have happened in the first trillion-trillionth of a second of the birth of the universe, one could hear the laptop keys chattering like old-fashioned ticker tape.  “Proof of Big Bang Seen by Space Probe,” reported National Geographic.  “New Satellite Data on Universe’s First Trillionth Second,” trumpeted a Johns Hopkins press release.  NASA helped translate the data bits into interpretation with a glitzy diagram and title, “Ringside Seat to the Universe’s First Split Second.”  And Science Now explained, “Big Bang Afterglow Points to Inflation.”
    What’s the ruckus about?  Some of the WMAP astronomers believe that the polarization data is consistent with a controversial model of the Big Bang proposed by Alan Guth in 1981.  He claimed that the universe doubled in size a hundred times times in a trillionth of a second, going from the size of a marble to “outta sight” in less than the blink of an eye.  Inflation Theory, despite numerous criticisms, overhauls, deaths and resurrections since it was proposed, has become somewhat mainstream in the last decade.  Science Now explains that the WMAP polarization data merely falsify certain models of inflation, assuming inflation happened.  Brian Greene, a theoretical physicist from Columbia University, said, “This is a powerful step toward winnowing the field of contenders of how inflation took place.”
Is that all?  They woke us up for that?  Good grief.  The only inflation here is exaggeration in the media, taking a data point and making a worldview out of it (cartoon).  Theoretical astrophysics is nearly incomprehensible (cartoon), certainly not enough to produce confident pronouncements (cartoon) that violate all common sense (cartoon).  Whatever happened to scientific objectivity and caution?  Not a word said about all the problems with inflation theory (11/02/2002).  In these days of molecules-to-man hype, hubris is the highest virtue.  Are all science reporters from Texas? (cartoon).
Next headline on: Cosmology
Can Scientific Journals Perpetuate False Ideas?   03/17/2006    
An unusual paper appeared in PNAS this week.1  Four social scientists from Columbia and Yale argued that scientific papers can actually perpetuate false ideas rather than correct them.  The abstract says that an influential paper can generate momentum that becomes merely cited as fact by subsequent authors:
We analyzed a very large set of molecular interactions that had been derived automatically from biological texts.  We found that published statements, regardless of their verity, tend to interfere with interpretation of the subsequent experiments and, therefore, can act as scientific “microparadigms,” similar to dominant scientific theories [Kuhn, T. S. (1996) The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Univ. Chicago Press, Chicago)].  Using statistical tools, we measured the strength of the influence of a single published statement on subsequent interpretations.  We call these measured values the momentums of the published statements and treat separately the majority and minority of conflicting statements about the same molecular event.  Our results indicate that, when building biological models based on published experimental data, we may have to treat the data as highly dependent-ordered sequences of statements (i.e., chains of collective reasoning) rather than unordered and independent experimental observations.  Furthermore, our computations indicate that our data set can be interpreted in two very different ways (two “alternative universes”): one is an “optimists’ universe” with a very low incidence of false results (<5%), and another is a “pessimists’ universe” with an extraordinarily high rate of false results (>90%).  Our computations deem highly unlikely any milder intermediate explanation between these two extremes.   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
In other words, scientists tend to follow bandwagons, and one can either be an optimist that they will get it right most of the time, or a pessimist that they get it wrong most of the time.  Either way, the problem arises partly because scientists do not have the resources to study or replicate every experiment, so they tend to trust what is published as authoritative.  The volume of published material is daunting: “More than 5 million biomedical research and review articles have been published in the last 10 years,” they said.  “Automated analysis and synthesis of the knowledge locked in this literature has emerged as a major challenge in computational biology.”  Although new tools for sifting and collecting this information have been designed, what comes out may not always accelerate knowledge toward the truth, but rather maintain inertia against change.
    The authors examined millions of statements from scientific texts, then formed a mathematical model to study the “large-scale properties of the scientific knowledge-production process” –
We explicitly modeled both the generation of experimental results and the experimenters’ interpretation of their results and found that previously published statements, regardless of whether they are subsequently shown to be true or false, can have a profound effect on interpretations of further experiments and the probability that a scientific community would converge to a correct conclusion.
They discovered “chains of reasoning” that relied on previously-published interpretations.  This counters the commonly-held belief that scientific findings act like independent data points that accumulate toward a more accurate picture.  Scientists, like other people, can follow the lemmings over a cliff:
There is a well established term in economics, “information cascade”, which represents a special form of a collective reasoning chain that degenerates into repetition of the same statement.  Here we suggest a model that can generate a rich spectrum of patterns of published statements, including information cascades.  We then explore patterns that occur in real scientific publications and compare them to this model.
Sure enough, scientists fell into this trap.  They tended to gather around accepted interpretations, though tending to believe their own interpretations most of all: “scientists are often strongly affected by prior publications in interpreting their own experimental data,” they said, “while weighting their own private results... at least 10-fold as high as a single result published by somebody else.”
    The researchers applied probability theory to study how likely a chain of reasoning would lead to a correct result:
An evaluation of the optimum parameters under our model (see Model Box) indicated that the momentums of published statements estimated from real data are too high to maximize the probability of reaching the correct result at the end of a chain.  This finding suggests that the scientific process may not maximize the overall probability that the result published at the end of a chain of reasoning will be correct.
As they noted, the model is more significant than just for teasing academic curiosity: “If the problem of convergence to a false ‘accepted’ scientific result is indeed frequent, it might be important to focus on alleviating it through restructuring the publication process or introducing a means of independent benchmarking of published results.”
1Rzhetsky, Iossifov, Loh and White, “ Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published online before print March 16, 2006, doi 10.1073/pnas.0600591103.
Imagine that: the very methodology invented to uncover truth could suppress it.  This could explain the near uniform acceptance of Darwinism and condemnation of intelligent design (and other maverick ideas) in Big Science.  Could it be that publication sets off a chain reaction that gains momentum and leads to erroneous interpretations?  Could scientists sometimes be just as prone to crowd psychology as the rest of us?  And you thought that the scientific method, peer review and publishing were safeguards against collective error.  The Hwang scandal should have provided a sharp wake-up slap (see 01/09/2006).
    Lest we make this one paper a self-fulfilling prophecy and start a new erroneous information cascade, we grant that such things are difficult to model mathematically with confidence.  Thomas Kuhn’s cynical view of science is not without controversy, and many scientists do work independently and interpret their results carefully.  These authors, though, should be commended for alerting us to the fact that scientists and scientific publications can perpetuate “microparadigms” that could be false.
  There is anecdotal evidence to support this claim in the case of evolution vs. intelligent design.  Those who publish in the journals any statements about I.D. tend to cite the standard ID-bashing texts as references: Pennock, Gross, Forrest etc.  It is unlikely they actually read those books, and even less likely they consider the arguments on both sides.  To them, the experts have spoken, and Judge Jones has ruled, so all is needed is to make a short statement with a footnote to the authorities.
    More anecdotal evidence comes from a scientist active in the ID movement, who shall remain unnamed, who stated that, in his experience, scientists tend to be very fair and self-critical in their own narrow specialties, but on other subjects, are among the most dogmatic, closed-minded people he knows.  Time and again he has seen them follow the leader – to merely ask questions like “what does Richard Dawkins think about it?  Well, then I’m agin it, too!”
    On the flip side, pro-evolution scientific papers often reference authorities carelessly.  An author may refer briefly to Darwin’s finches as evidence for natural selection, for instance, passing a lateral footnote to the Grants, merely assuming that the Grants demonstrated evolution in their work, without actually studying their work critically to see whether the evidence is valid or convincing (08/24/2005, 04/26/2002).  These cases illustrate how scientists can sometimes march in lock-step on certain topics, assuming one another’s authority, instead of contributing their own independent empirical findings toward an objective truth.
  Science is an intensely human enterprise and, therefore, is subject to human foibles like crowd psychology.  Our finiteness and human nature limit our ability to grasp natural realities.  One scientist cannot possibly know everything even in his or her own field.  Imagine mastering five million articles in ten years, just in one area (biomedical research), to say nothing of replicating or verifying each paper’s experimental results.  We’re human; we’re limited; it’s so much easier to cite the popular statements of the leaders and follow the chain-of-reasoning gang.  The more controversial the material (e.g., evolution vs intelligent design), the more it would seem that polarized interpretations are geared to maintain their own momentum.  Applying Newton’s Laws to social science, a body of ideas tends to remain stationary or in uniform linear motion unless acted on by a sufficient force.  And – every action to oppose the momentum has an equal and opposite reaction.
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary TheoryIntelligent DesignPolitics and Ethics
Go to the Ant Farm, Thou Darwinist    03/16/2006  
It’s the 50th anniversary of the Ant Farm, and inventor Milton Levine is still tickled about the impact his toy has had on millions of kids, reported AP on MSNBC.  The charm of Uncle Milton’s Ant Farm was in “creating a whole world that you can see,” a world of creative and industrious ants.  Moms didn’t mind too much as long as the ants stayed confined.
    Serendipitously or not, Philip Ward (UC Davis) published a primer on ants in Current Biology.1  “Ants are one of evolution’s great success stories,” he began, but while his article had a lot to say about ant evolution, the actual evidence he presented seemed equivocal or imaginary.  Some excerpts:
  • Because they are fully social, ants do not tell us a great deal about the transition from solitary to eusocial behavior.... Regardless of the details of this sequence of events, which of course was played out long ago [sic], contemporary ants offer abundant opportunity for comparative studies of colony life after the eusocial threshold has been crossed.
  • The point to emphasize is that since their divergence from a common ancestor [sic] in the Cretaceous, some ant lineages – such as the iconic army ants and leaf-cutting ants – have evolved [sic] quite complex societies while others, such as the ‘primitive’ [sic] bulldog ants of Australia, have remained at a much less advanced level.  The factors responsible for such heterogeneity in the rate of social evolution [sic] have been little explored, and will require a careful analysis of ecological and phylogenetic influences.
  • Ants are treated as a single family, Formicidae, in the order Hymenoptera, a large and diverse group of holometabolous insects.... Apocritan Hymenoptera exhibit a unique reorganization of the body parts in which the middle tagma [a functionally integrated set of body segments] is composed of the thorax plus abdominal segment 1, while the posterior tagma comprises the remaining abdominal segments.  It is unclear how this evolutionary novelty arose, but one apparent consequence is that additional constrictions, involving abdominal segments 24, evolved [sic] in some apocritans, giving them exceptional dexterity of abdominal movement.
  • Ants differ from social bees and wasps in one important respect: the workers of ants are entirely wingless.  This places constraints on their foraging behavior and has probably spurred the evolution of complex chemical communication systems [sic], such as trail and recruitment pheromones, designed for terrestrial (as opposed to aerial) movement.
  • There is little doubt that ants are a monophyletic group.  They share a distinctive suite of morphological features, including geniculate (elbowed) antennae, a prognathous (forward-projecting) head, a characteristic configuration of the foretibial antenna cleaner, modification of the second abdominal segment to form a node-like petiole, and several unique exocrine glands.  Yet the closest living relatives of ants have not been unequivocally identified.  Several other families of aculeate Hymenoptera, in a subgroup known as the Vespoidea, have been touted as possible sister groups of ants including Tiphiidae, Bradynobaenidae and the combination of Vespidae plus Scoliidae.  It is a measure of the incompleteness of our phylogenetic knowledge that none of these alternatives has particularly strong support.  In many respects the summary cladogram published by Fredrik Ronquist in 1999, which depicted most vespoid families emerging out of an unresolved bush, still applies today.
  • The fossil record helps to explain this impasse.  Most families of aculeate wasps appear rather suddenly in the early Cretaceous, suggesting that there was a rapid burst of diversification once the sting had evolved.  Ants make their appearance a little later, about 100 million years ago [sic].
  • A more extensive series of fossil ants has now been documented from the Cretaceous.  The fossils range in age from about 78 to 100 million years, and they include some undoubted crown-group taxa.  Among the more spectacular finds are additional well preserved specimens from New Jersey amber, including representatives of the modern subfamily Formicinae, as well as fossils from Canada, Eurasia, and southern Africa.  This taxonomic diversity and geographic spread indicates that crown-group ants arose some time before this period, perhaps as long ago as 120 million years. [sic]
  • One might expect that the phylogenetic relationships among living representatives of Formicidae have been reasonably well clarified.  In fact many uncertainties persist here too, and this is an area of active investigation and debate.  Morphological studies have been helpful in circumscribing the major lineages (subfamilies) of ants, but the relationships among them have largely eluded confident resolution.
  • Molecular data, in the form of DNA sequences from multiple nuclear genes, are just now being applied to the problem.  Such data confirm the monophyly of nearly all of the subfamilies, but they also reveal a number of novel and unexpected groupings.
  • Another insight to emerge from molecular phylogenetic analyses of ants is that there has been profound morphological convergence in some aspects of worker morphology, to the extent that it misled earlier phylogenetic inferences.  For example, a constriction between abdominal segments 3 and 4, and the formation of a second node-like structure (a postpetiole), has evolved repeatedly [sic] in ants.
  • The new phylogenetic estimates, combined with fossil-calibrated [sic] molecular dating analyses, suggest that the history of ants involves a series of sequential diversifications: evolution of sphecomyrmine and poneroid-like lineages in the early Cretaceous, about 100120 million years ago, followed by a more exuberant diversification of formicoids beginning about 100 million years ago and continuing into the Paleogene.... In short, while the stem lineages of modern ant subfamilies were present before the KT boundary, the ecological dominance and range of diversity that we associate with modern ants did not arise until later in the Tertiary, about 6070 million years after ants first evolved. [sic]
  • Several commentators have argued compellingly that the social behavior of ants is responsible at least in part for their evolutionary success [sic] and ecological dominance.  Eusociality confers marked advantages in terms of resource acquisition, defense against enemies, and buffering of environmental variation.  The division of labor and flexibility of task allocation that are the hallmarks of advanced social insects enable them to meet contingencies and exploit opportunities much more efficiently than solitary insects.
        But this cannot be the entire story.  Even among social insects ants are especially notable for their abundance and diversity, so additional factors must be invoked to explain their particular prominence.
  • One can imagine that if formicoids had not evolved [sic], ants would be perceived as a modest group of tropical wingless wasps (with no vernacular term reserved for them), as opposed to the near-ubiquitous ecological dominants that we know today.  But, then again, maybe another poneroid would have stepped in to fill the void.   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
One of the “spectacular finds” Ward mentioned was a formicoid ant found in Cretaceous New Jersey amber.2  More were announced in 2005 in New Jersey and Canada.3  For all practical purposes, these ants in amber look entirely modern, so any division into “primitive” or “advanced” seems a judgment call.  Prior to this find, formicoids (those that produce formic acid as a defense) were thought to be much more recent.  This also means that in the evolutionary scheme essentially modern ants evolved in the age of dinosaurs, survived the mass extinction at the end of the Cretaceous, evolved little for 60 million years, then exploded into a diverse and widespread group 40 million years ago.  For the essentially parallel appearance of all the ant groups, see this phylogenetic diagram from the Tree of Life website.  See also our related story on army ants from 05/06/2003.
    In addition to his evolutionary speculations, Ward provided some “gee-whiz” facts about ants sure to fascinate ant farmers.  There are about 20,000 species inhabiting a range of habitats from deserts to tropical rain forests:
They impose a strong ecological footprint in many communities in their varied roles as scavengers, predators, granivores, and herbivores.  In some tropical forests the biomass of ants exceeds that of terrestrial vertebrates by a factor of four, and their soil-turning activities dwarf those of earthworms.  There is a word for ‘ant’ in most languages, reflecting their ubiquity and distinctiveness to humans.  The ecological dominance and conspicuous social behavior of ants have long engaged the attention of natural historians.  In terms of their species diversity, relative abundance, ecological impact and social habits, ants emerge as one of the most prominent groups of arthropods.
Perhaps they also join spiders as arthropodal challenges to evolutionary theory (see 10/21/2005, 05/25/2005, 09/13/2001).  Ants have complex sticky feet 09/27/2001, 06/05/2001) and navigate with intricate software (09/12/2001).  We learned last year that ants are also adept hang gliders (02/09/2005), and just two months ago that they are better teachers than chimpanzees (01/11/2006).  They also teach us humans the value of industry.  An early natural philosopher, Solomon, advised, “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise, which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.” (Proverbs 6:6-8).   See also Aesop.
1Philip S. Ward, “Primer: Ants,” Current Biology, Vol 16, R152-R155, 07 March 2006.
2Grimaldi and Agosti, “A formicine in New Jersey Cretaceous amber (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) and early evolution of the ants,” PNAS, published online before print November 14, 2000, 10.1073/pnas.240452097.  See also our 11/14/2000 entry.
3Engel and Grimaldi, “Primitive New Ants in Cretaceous Amber from Myanmar, New Jersey, and Canada (Hymenoptera: Formicidae),” BioOne, doi: 10.1206/0003-0082(2005)485[0001:PNAICA]2.0.CO;2, American Museum Novitates: No. 3485, pp. 123.  See also a similar find in Geologica Acta, about the oldest known ant: “Although its characters are those of modern ants, it does not fit in any recent ant subfamilies.”
If anyone can find any value whatsoever in Ward’s evolutionary speculations, please write in and explain.  If you subtract the assumption that evolution is a fact, and remove the fictional diagram of millions of years, and erase the supposition that everything evolved from something else by common ancestry, the actual empirical facts speak loud and clear: ants are complex and amazing animals that appeared suddenly on earth and fulfill a variety of important roles in the ecology.  Why does anyone need to be told that they evolved from stinging wasps, evolved their distinctive features several times (05/28/2003), and figured out their complex foraging and navigating skills (the envy of robotics experts) on their own?  How is this speculation helping science?  It serves nothing but to prop up the dead corpse of Charlie at the head of a traditional evolutionary parade.  Worse, it distracts attention from the wonders of nature that should inspire us to observe, study, and think.  Send your local Darwinist a gift and support an industrious entrepreneur: send Uncle Milton’s Ant Farm with a sticky-note saying, “Prov. 6:6-8.”
Next headline on:  Terrestrial ZoologyFossilsEvolution
“This Is a Problem”: Dino-Feather Story Gets Scaly    03/15/2006  
Just when proponents of dinosaur-to-bird evolution were getting agreement on their story, along came Juravenator.  Announced in Nature,1 this new dinosaur fossil from Germany is dated later than the earliest alleged “feathered dinosaur,” but had no feathers.  The finely-preserved specimen, in the same Solnhofen limestone that preserved Archaeopteryx (dated 2-3 million years later), had clear impressions of scales.  Commenting on this find, Xing Xu in the same issue of Nature2 explained why this fossil disturbs the simple line from scales to feathers:
The evolution of biological structures must be studied within an evolutionary framework.  In the case of feathers, a robust theropod phylogeny is the basis for reconstructing the sequence in which feathers evolved [sic].  The distribution of various feather morphologies on the currently accepted phylogeny suggests that simple, filamentous feathers first evolved no later than the earliest stage of coelurosaurian evolution.  More complex feathers with a thick central shaft and rigid symmetrical vanes on either side appeared early in the evolution of the coelurosaurian group Maniraptora; and feathers with aerodynamic features, such as a curved shaft and asymmetrical vanes, appeared within the maniraptors but before the origin of birds.  This inferred sequence of events is supported independently by developmental data.  Gohlich and Chiappe place Juravenator within the Compsognathidae, a group that is ‘basal’ in the coelurosaurian tree (Fig. 1).  So Juravenator should bear filamentous feathers. But it seems to be a scaled animal, at least on the tail and hind legs.
    Why, then, does a member of a feathered dinosaur family [sic] bear scales?  The authors’ answer is straightforward: feather evolution, they say, is more complex than we thought.
  (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
It’s so complex, in fact, that in order to maintain the phylogeny, scientists may have to believe that feathers and scales may have evolved and re-evolved more than once.  Xu continues, “It would not be surprising [sic] if feathers were lost and scaly skin re-evolved in some basal coelurosaurian species, or if feathers evolved several times independently early in coelurosaurian evolution.”  Xu opts for the possibility that the discoverers misclassified Juravenator; perhaps it belongs deeper in the evolutionary tree, before the first feathers appeared.  Keeping a positive outlook, he says that the story of “early feather evolution” has been “enriched” by this find, whatever the explanation.  Since the fossil record is poor to begin with, “Juravenator may complicate the picture, but it makes it more complete and realistic.”
    See also the popular press on this new dinosaur: National Geographic, Live Science and MSNBC News.  Bjorn Carey invoked “convergent evolution” in his LiveScience article, and quoted Chiappe saying that he didn’t have a precise explanation: “We see it as a red flag that says ‘maybe you guys have been interpreting the evolution of feathers in too simple a way.  Maybe things are more complex.”  In the Reuters story published on MSNBC, Gohlich told reporters, “Now we have a little dinosaur that belongs to coelurosaurs that does not show feathers.  This is a problem.”
1Gohlich and Chiappe, “A new carnivorous dinosaur from the Late Jurassic Solnhofen archipelago,” Nature 440, 329-332 (16 March 2006) | doi:10.1038/nature04579; Received 1 September 2005; ; Accepted 10 January 2006.
2Xing Xu, “Palaeontology: Scales, feathers and dinosaurs,” Nature 440, 287-288 (16 March 2006) | doi:10.1038/440287a.
Problem?  What problem?  Scales are scales, and feathers are feathers.  Dinosaurs are dinosaurs, and birds are birds.  Before, evolutionists wanted us to believe that scales, a skin feature, evolved into feathers that are totally different and embedded beneath the skin.  They expected us to believe there was a straight line of descent from gray wrinkles on a dinosaur into the colorful, aerodynamic, exquisitely-designed feathers of acrobatic swifts and high-diving cormorants.  They asked us to believe that birds co-opted what appeared to be “integumentary structures” of doubtful utility on the legs and tails of some dinosaurs and turned them into flying wonders, complete with interlocking hooks and barbules that are lightweight, water-resistant and extremely adaptable (compare doves and penguins).  They expected us to believe that at the same time feathers evolved, dinosaurs transformed all their internal organs and completely redesigned their lungs and most other bodily systems.  One only has a “problem” when one has to keep telling new lies to back up old ones.  Check out the whopper Mark Looy found at Chicago’s Field Museum (see AIG report): the $17 million “Evolving Planet” exhibit triumphantly announces to unsuspecting children, “Birds Are Dinosaurs.”  Maybe some day museums will be realizing that evolutionists are dinosaurs, too (see Tom Weller illustrations).
Next headline on:  BirdsDinosaursFossils
Stardust Finds Burnt Rock in Comet Dust    03/14/2006  
In a surprise upset, scientists analyzing cometary material returned from the Stardust mission found minerals that must have glowed white-hot when they formed.  Comets were long thought to have formed in the outer fringes of the solar nebula or in the Oort Cloud, far from the sun where it’s icy cold and calm.  They were supposed to represent pristine material from the time before planets formed.  Whether this glazed material found in Comet Wild 2 fragments represents later processing as the comet neared the sun, or means that solar nebula material involved a great deal of mixing early on (meaning that no unprocessed material remains), or formed around other stars – or some other possibility – will require additional study.  Sources: BBC News, National Geographic, University of Washington and JPL press releases.  The later states, “Comets, they said, may not be as simple as the clouds of ice, dust and gases they were thought to comprise.  They may be diverse with complex and varied histories.”  The scientists found olivine (common to volcanic lavas), and “exotic, high-temperature minerals rich in calcium, aluminum and titanium.”  According to the BBC article, the two leading theories are (1) that the material was cooked by other stars, or (2) that it was cooked by the sun then blasted to far distances by a so-called “X-wind” process.  But Stardust co-investigator Mike Zolensky admitted, “This raises as many questions as answers.  We can’t answer them all just yet.”
For years—for decades—they have been telling us that comets held the secrets to the early solar system.  Drifting in the dark cold of the outer realms of the sun, comets were supposed to have accreted slowly from the original dust and ice of a molecular cloud.  They only neared the sun when perturbed by a passing star and were flung into the sun’s neighborhood.  This thinking has its origin in Laplace’s Nebular Hypothesis of the late 1700s.  Today’s news is a complete turnaround.  Now we have actual material from a live comet, showing that at least some of the material was so hot it was incandescent.  Some of the material looks like it was born in the fires of a rocky planet.  What Stardust has found will rewrite the textbooks and renders many a TV documentary obsolete.  An ounce of data is worth a ton of speculation.  That’s why the public should support sample-return and onsite-reconnaissance missions like Stardust, regardless of their opinions on origins and ages of things, if for no other reason than the entertainment of watching experts squirm.
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The Darwin Empire Strikes Back   03/14/2006    
It would seem the ID republic is imprisoned on its own ice-world of Hoth, scrambling to escape as the empire has mobilized its machinery against the rebels.  The AAAS, for instance, held its “Evolution on the Front Line” event in St. Louis and has posted its weaponry on its Center for Public Engagement with Science and Technology website, along with portraits of its commanding generals: Eugenie Scott, Ken Miller and the rest.  Another example can be found on the new Defend Science website with its “urgent call by scientists” to crush the rebels.  It singles out red leader George W. Bush as a prime suspect for tie fighter targeting computers:
And that is not all: Here we are in the 21st century, and the head of the government himself, George W. Bush, refuses to acknowledge that evolution is a scientific fact!  THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE.
    The President claims: “On the issue of evolution, the verdict is still out on how God created the earth,” and then sits smugly by while Creationists carry out an assault against evolution in classrooms, museums, libraries, government bookstores, and even IMAX movies and science theaters.
    No, Mr. President, the verdict is NOT out on evolution.  EVOLUTION IS A FACT -- IT IS ONE OF THE MOST WELL-ESTABLISHED AND WELL-DOCUMENTED FACTS IN THE HISTORY OF SCIENCE.  TO DENY AND ATTACK EVOLUTION IS TO DENY AND ATTACK ONE OF THE MOST FUNDAMENTAL FACTS ABOUT ALL OF NATURE AND REALITY AND ONE OF THE MOST CRUCIAL FOUNDATION STONES OF ALL OF MODERN SCIENCE.
  (Bold added; caps in original.)
That should be enough to mobilize the troops.  This sample rhetoric displays that to certain evolutionists the situation is past negotiation or compromise.  The emperor will accept nothing but unconditional surrender.
    William Dembski, one of the most prominent intelligent-design philosophers and advocates, is remarkably calm in the face of these ultimatums.  In an article on Leadership U in 2004, he predicted the backlash and saw it as a sign of progress.  It means we’re at step 2 of the Schopenhauer path: “All truth passes through three stages: First it is ridiculed.  Second, it is violently opposed.  Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”
Conflating Darwinism with all of scientific progress – the old association propaganda tactic.  Don’t follow the hordes of storm trooper lemmings after that one.  Shouting the big lie “evolution is a fact” in all caps is likely to backfire.  Too obvious.  In fact, that whole quote wins Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week, or maybe of the month.  If you can tell a politician is lying when his lips are moving, you can tell a Darwinist is lying when he has to use all caps.
    Unless Darwin’s critics tire of the battle and let the empire sweep the field without a contest, these are bad days for Darwin Vader.  It’s the beginning of the breakup of a long Hothian winter (like a Narnian one).  Dembski explains why we should not take their threats so seriously or become demoralized: “We have this going for us, however, which the evolutionary naturalists don’t, namely, the evidence and arguments are on our side.”
    Read Dembski’s whole article and take heart – and keep the heat on.
Next headline on: Intelligent DesignDarwinism and Evolutionary TheoryEducationDumb Ideas
The Astrobiology Sky Is Falling   03/13/2006    
Rocco Mancinelli (Principal Investigator, SETI Institute) made an impassioned plea on Space.com for continued funding of astrobiology projects, calling threatened funding cuts a “national disaster” if not reversed.  And what is astrobiology?  He defined it as “the study of the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe.”  His reasons for keeping astrobiology a national priority: trying to understand the origin of life, searching for the extent of life beyond the earth, determining whether Mars will be a safe habitat for humans some day, and advancing the human urge to explore.  Funding cuts would leave thousands of scientists on a limb, discourage a whole generation of young scientists, and cause the USA to lose its leadership in the world, he argued.
    For a science born in 1996, its funding record is impressive.  Mancinelli revealed, “NASA essentially developed astrobiology as a whole new interdisciplinary scientific field from scratch.  It now has thousands of researchers, many international affiliates, multiple peer reviewed journals and is growing” (emphasis added).  He continued, “ Even NSF [the National Science Foundation] has been amazed by what NASA’s astrobiology program has accomplished.”  What tangible results other than searching, speculating and writing reports, however, he left unsaid (see 01/28/2005).  Clearly, no one has yet found life in outer space, and what has been found about life is more and more complexity.  Mancinelli also did not specify what kind of space science and engineering would not have gone on without the astrobiology label.  Ironically, the very Mars meteorite that launched astrobiology is now largely believed to be dead (11/15/2003).
The smart money is on intelligent design.  The next generation of bright, enthusiastic researchers knows that nanotechnology, biomimetics, genetic engineering and information-based research is where it’s at (e.g., 11/19/2005, 10/29/2005).  Sorry, astrobiology; hope you enjoyed your little philosophical fling on company time (01/07/2005).  Don’t let us stop you.  You can continue all you want – on your own euro.
Next headline on: Origin of LifeEvolutionary TheorySETI
Misfolded Proteins Cause Cascade of Harmful Effects   03/12/2006    
Understanding how proteins fold is at the leading edge of scientific research.  Proteins begin as linear chains of amino acids (polypeptides), but end as complex shapes with loops, sheets, bumps, ridges and grooves that are essential to their functions.  If you imagine a string of beads, some with electrical charges, magnets, oil droplets or other attraction-repulsion attributes on them, what would happen if you dropped it in water?  It would seem there are a myriad ways it could collapse into a shapeless mass.  How many of those possible shapes would make it a machine?  That’s the kind of problem that protein-folding presents to the researcher.
    Normally, cells help the newly-assembled polypeptides fold properly with the aid of chaperones, the cellular “dressing rooms” where they can prepare for their debut (05/05/2003).  Mistakes happen, however.  A mutation might put a charge on the wrong amino acid, making it fold the wrong way.  Here again, the cell usually deals with these badly-folded masses and destroys them as part of its “quality control” procedures.  Once in awhile, however, misfolded protein machines get out of control, and some, like chain saws run amok, can cause harm.  Here’s an excerpt from an article in Science by Gillian Bates (King’s College London School of Medicine).  Describing recent work on this subject, he explains the consequences:
This work indicates that the chronic expression of a misfolded protein can upset the cellular protein folding homeostasis under physiological conditions.  These results have implications for pathogenic mechanisms in protein conformational diseases.  The human genome harbors a load of polymorphic variants and mutations that might be prevented from exerting deleterious effects by protein folding and clearance quality control mechanisms in the cell.  However, should these mechanisms become overwhelmed, as in a protein conformation disease, mild folding variants might contribute to disease pathogenesis by perturbing an increasing number of cellular pathways.... Therefore, the complexity of pathogenic mechanisms identified for protein conformation diseases could in part result from the imbalance in protein folding homeostasis.   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
In other words, one mistake in one protein can have a cascading effect, causing a multitude of mistakes downstream.  The normal dynamic equilibrium of the cell (homeostasis) turns into a disaster scene, as the quality-control cops become overwhelmed by victims, as in a natural disaster.  Examples of degenerative diseases caused by misfolded proteins mentioned in the article: “Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis—these neurodegenerative disorders are among many inherited diseases that have been linked to genetic mutations that result in the chronic aggregation of a single specific protein.”  Bates did not mention evolution in his article.
1Gillian Bates, “Perspectives: One Misfolded Protein Allows Others to Sneak By,” Science, 10 March 2006: Vol. 311. no. 5766, pp. 1385 - 1386, DOI: 10.1126/science.1125246.
Small perturbations in a highly complex working system can have drastic effects.  Notice how the cell has numerous safeguards to prevent this kind of runaway disaster: mechanisms to prevent misfolding, and procedures to safely capture and dismantle the escapees.  How this system ever arrived at such a high level of complex organization is never described in detail by the evolutionists, but they want us to believe that the escaped convicts are the heroes of the story.  They want us to believe that the mistakes and terror attacks are responsible for all the beauty and complexity of the living world, from peacock’s tails to flight muscles of bees that can flap hundreds of times a second, to the ability of humans to run a marathon.  From all indications, on the contrary, life is in a tenuous balance, and the factors trying to upset that balance are increasing.  The Theory of Devolution would appear to have better empirical support.
    What would happen to science if the Theory of Devolution gained dominance?  Science would go on.  Medical knowledge would advance.  Clever researchers would find ways to reinforce cellular quality control processes and develop means to prevent catastrophes.  Life would be seen as a precious commodity to conserve, with the same earnestness of those who try to rescue endangered species and prevent global warming.  In short, science and medical research would continue to thrive and (we think) sail higher and faster without Darwin’s storytelling baggage that only weighs the Beagle down.  An intelligently designed T shirt asks, “Did Darwin Get It Backwards?”  From all indications, such as the article above, yes: the world is running down, and life is facing an ever-growing genetic burden.  Darwinists are all worked up emotionally about their opponents, claiming that by discrediting evolutionary theory they are going to “destroy science.”  Ask yourself, who is the better sailor: the one trying to patch the leaks on the ship, or the slob leaning back against a barrel and speculating, “don’t worry about those holes, matey; given enough time, they will help make the ship stronger!”
Next headline on: HealthCell Biology
Ararat Anomaly Photo Released   03/11/2006    
To follow up on an old story, a satellite photo of the so-called “Ararat Anomaly” has been released (see 08/23/2001 entry).  The photo taken by the Quickbird 2 satellite shows what is most likely a rock ridge.  Some hunters for Noah’s Ark were eager to see high-resolution photos of this area; others thought whatever it is, it is in the wrong place.  See World Net Daily and Live Science for the picture.
This is probably nothing but a rock ridge.  The most serious ark researchers deny this object has anything to do with the ark.  It will take extraordinary proof to find Noah’s Ark, even if it could have survived at all.  Still, let the search continue.  Better to know than to speculate endlessly.  Publicity and confirmation are not one and the same.  SETI and astrobiology people need to remember that, too.
Next headline on: Bible and Theology
Lazarus, Come Forth: Living Fossils Rise from the Dead    03/10/2006  
An animal goes extinct.  Millions of years pass.  The animal is found living in some remote jungle.  Scientists call this the “Lazarus effect,” after the man Jesus raised from the dead (see John 11).  Others call these finds “living fossils,” long thought to be extinct but now thriving in isolated ecological niches.  There are many such organisms – plant and animal.  Two showed up in recent news.
    In Science,1 Mary Dawson et al. talked about the new species of rodent found in Borneo (see 12/06/2005).  They identified it as a member of a long-lost group called Diatonyids, thought to have gone extinct 11 million years ago.  Live Science writer Bjorn Carey quoted study co-author Mary Dawson calling this the “coelacanth of rodents” after the well-known living fossil fish (emphasis added in all quotes).  Most other mammals exhibiting the “Lazarus effect” spanned time gaps of 10,000 to just over a million years, she said.  MSNBC, and National Geographic and CNN all noticed the story.  Nobody questioned the 11 million year time gap.
    Another living fossil made the news, this time a beak-headed reptile named the tuatara, once thought to be extinct since the age of dinosaurs.  Bjorn Carey also wrote for Live Science a report on findings that this lizard-like animal from New Zealand already had advanced walking skills.  “Tuataras have been around for 225 million years [sic] and haven’t changed much, the fossil record shows.”  That stunner was followed by another: “Since they can walk and run, both energy-saving mechanisms probably appeared when the first vertebrates moved onto land [sic], said study coauthor Steve Riley of Ohio University.”  The press release from Ohio State claims these lizards cannot survive in temperatures above 77 degrees Fahrenheit.  For more on the tuatara, see the 03/31/2002 and 10/02/2003 entries.
1Mary R. Dawson et al., “Laonastes and the ‘Lazarus Effect’ in Recent Mammals,” Science, 10 March 2006: Vol. 311. no. 5766, pp. 1456 - 1458, DOI: 10.1126/science.1124187.
The first vertebrates to walk and run on land; how do they know this?  Why couldn’t the first vertebrates to walk and run have had two feet?  How do they know that other species that came before this one didn’t vanish?  If these animals can not survive in temperatures above 25 degrees Celsius, how have they survived at all?  In all those 225 million years have there been no droughts and hot spells?  Why have all the other animals, like dinosaurs, died out but this one has flourished?  And where do they get the 225 million years from?  Purely from evolutionary assumptions.
    Evolutionary reasoning goes like this: evolution is a fact, therefore, evolution is a fact.  Because evolution is a fact, all anomalies must be forced into the theory before the gun-toting fundamentalists storm the science lab, otherwise students will be unable to compete in the global economy and the glorious reputation of Charlie (blessed be the name) as the greatest scientist in history will be besmirched (and our funding will be cut).  It is vital to save the appearances, therefore, at all costs.  Here are two more good examples: a rodent virtually unchanged for 11 million years, and a lizard for 225 million, yet both are doing just fine today.  Clearly these animals never went extinct.  In whatever gap existed between the last fossil and the first live sighting, there has been a continuous population of these animals living and reproducing.  Stretching this gap into many millions of years without fossils rapidly becomes incredible.  Imagine, for instance, if only 100 of these rodents lived at a time (very conservative estimate, considering their much broader extent in the past), and each individual lived about 20 years (a very generous estimate).  There would be 500 deaths per century, therefore, and since there are 110,000 centuries in 11 million years, are we to believe that 55,000,000 of these rodents died without a trace?  It becomes even more unimaginable to think that over a billion tuataras died without leaving a fossil, only to show up on some New Zealand islands as if nothing happened.  These problems vanish if the time gaps are reduced to thousands, not millions.
    The raising of Lazarus was a bona fide miracle.  There was a living man, known to have died, who could be seen and touched and conversed with.  The skeptics could not deny it.  Evolutionists, by contrast, are conjuring up images of resurrection from a dead theory.  Both miracles require faith, but the first has one advantage: an adequate cause.  Jesus knew how to apply miracle-working power with intelligent design.  Just as the skeptics in Jerusalem could not deny the raising of Lazarus, so tried to have him killed again, today’s dogmatic Darwinists are attempting to put intelligent design and creation to death, while validating their claims to be the messiahs of science with nothing more than mental magic tricks.
Next headline on:  FossilsMammalsTerrestrial ZoologyEvolution
Deities for Atheists, or Atheism for Dummies?    03/09/2006  
Michael Shermer wrote a book review in Science entitled “Deities for Atheists.”1  The article reviewed George Basalla’s recent book, Civilized Life in the Universe: Scientists on Intelligent Extraterrestrials (Oxford, 2005).  Basalla (historian of science and technology, U of Delaware) contends that SETI is the continuation of an ancient religious quest.  If so, who are the deities?
    Shermer discusses Basalla’s assumptions. 
He proceeds to outline three assumptions that underlie thinking about extraterrestrial intelligence from antiquity to the present: the universe is very large or infinite, there are other inhabited worlds, and these other complex and intelligent beings are vastly superior to us....
    As for the third assumption, if we did make contact with an ETI, they would have to be vastly superior to us (since we just recently mastered radio and spaceflight).  On an evolutionary time scale, an ETI species only slightly ahead of us biologically could be millions of years ahead of us technologically.
  (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
At this point, Shermer announced a new scientific law to add to the collection of Murphyisms.  Imitating Arthur C. Clarke, ’Shermer’s Last Law” posits, “Any sufficiently advanced extra-terrestrial intelligence is indistinguishable from God.”
1Michael Shermer, “Astrobiology: Deities for Atheists,” Science, 3 March 2006: Vol. 311. no. 5765, p. 1244, DOI: 10.1126/science.1126115.
Isn’t it amazing that whenever other inhabited worlds are discussed, the assumption is that they are always “vastly superior to us.”  Suffice it to say that even if we met an advanced extra-terrestrial being it would be quite easy to distinguish it from God.  God doesn’t need a spacecraft for travel.
    Question: what’s an article advancing atheism doing in a scientific journal?  We thought that Darwinism was perfectly compatible with Christianity.  That’s what they always claim, at least.  Though belief in advanced extraterrestrials has spanned the spectrum of religions and philosophies, Shermer, who abandoned his childhood Christianity when he learned about evolution, made it clear that (in his opinion) atheism is the religion of choice for scientists.  He concluded, “If we do make contact with intelligent celestial beings, all of this speculation and conjecture will fall by the wayside in favor of real science.  So in the spirit of scientific inquiry, the search must go on.  Ad astra!”
    So the radio telescope is his cathedral, the stars are his heaven, and his deities are other evolved beings who will perish in the heat death of the universe.  Whosoever will, may succumb.
Next headline on:  TheologySETI
Analysis:  The Dover Decision   03/10/2006    
Dr. Kevin L. Anderson of the Creation Research Society wrote an analysis of Judge Jones’ decision in the Kitzmiller v. Dover School District case.  Since this appeared in a members-only newsletter, Creation Matters, we sought and obtained permission to reproduce it: Click Here.
    A very different view was expressed by David Johns (School of Government, Portland State U) in a letter to Science this week (10 March 2006: Vol. 311. no. 5766, p. 1376):
There is no question that the court decision in the Dover case was a good one.  The opinion written by Judge Jones is rigorous and thorough—and yes, quite elegant.  There is a substantial dark side to this decision, however, that reflects poorly on the scientific community.  How did it come to this court fight?  How, in a country as “developed” as the United States, have the school system, the media, and the scientific community failed so miserably to educate the majority of Americans about the nature of science in general and evolution in particular?  Too often, scientists do not take their public role seriously enough.  If scientists do not respond aggressively to the need to bring the rest of society along and confine themselves to talking to each other, the scientific enterprise [sic] will likely find itself uncomfortably out on a limb.  Should the United States continue to drift closer to the world’s theocracies and away from the preferable if very flawed secular democracies, science and scientists will suffer.
Since Science never prints any letters in favor of intelligent design, and has expressed similar statements in its editorials, this can probably be said to represent the feelings of the editors.  Readers are encouraged to compare and contrast the views (and logic) of Johns and Anderson – and then, consider the analysis of the Dover decision by one of the leading philosophers in the world today, Alvin Plantinga, posted on Science & Theology News this week.
Johns repeats the usual canards and non-sequiturs of the Darwin Party: viz., if students don’t get Sola Darwina crammed down their throats, then they won’t be able to compete in the global economy (see 02/28/2006 entry) and our atheist utopia will degenerate into a society of ignorant AK47-toting fundamentalists.
    Since many other states and school boards are rethinking their positions in the aftermath of the Dover case, it is essential to understand the Dover decision and its many flaws.  In Dr. Anderson’s incisive critique of the decision, he unmasked its inconsistencies and logical fallacies in an easily readable, medium-length article.  Lawyers and educators should take note of the ways Dr. Anderson has argued that the decision can be turned against dogmatic evolutionism itself.  This is an article to pass around.
Next headline on: EducationEvolutionIntelligent Design
Introns Stump Evolutionary Theorists   03/09/2006    
This story is not about Enron and Exxon, but about introns and exons.  The proportions of the scandals they are causing in evolutionary theory, however, may be comparable.
    Introns are spacers between genes.  For several decades now, it has been a puzzle why they are there, and why a complex machine called a spliceosome takes them out and joins the active genetic parts – the exons – together. Only eukaryotes have spliceosomes, though; mitochondria have “group II introns” and some mRNAs may have them.  Their presence and numbers in various groups presents a bewildering array of combinations.  Figuring out a phylogenetic tree for introns has eluded evolutionary geneticists, as has understanding their origin and functions (02/18/2005).  Why do genes come in pieces that have to be reassembled? 
    William Martin and Eugene Koonin said in Nature1 that “The discovery of introns had a broad effect on thoughts about early evolution.”  Some theories have been falsified, and others remain in the running.  Consider the scope of the problems:
A current consensus on introns would be that prokaryotes do indeed have group II introns but that they never had spliceosomes; hence, streamlining in the original sense (that is, loss of spliceosomal introns) never occurred in prokaryotes, although it did occur in some eukaryotes such as yeast or microsporidia.  An expansion of that consensus would be that spliceosomes and spliceosomal introns are universal among eukaryotes, that group II introns originating from the mitochondrion are indeed the most likely precursors of eukaryotic mRNA introns and spliceosomal snRNAs, and that many—conceivably most—eukaryotic introns are as old as eukaryotes themselves.  More recent are the insights that there is virtually no evolutionary grade detectable in the origin of the spliceosome, which apparently was present in its (almost) fully fledged state in the common ancestor of eukaryotic lineages studied so far, and that the suspected source of introns—mitochondria, including their anaerobic forms, hydrogenosomes and mitosomes—was also present in the common ancestor of contemporary eukaryotes (the only ones whose origin or attributes require explanation).
    This suggests that intron origin and spread occurred within a narrow window of evolutionary time: subsequent to the origin of the mitochondrion, but before the diversification of the major eukaryotic lineages.  This, in turn, indicates the existence of a turbulent phase of genome evolution in the wake of mitochondrial origin, during which group II introns invaded the host’s chromosomes, spread as transposable elements into hundreds—perhaps thousands—of positions that have been conserved to the present, and fragmented into both mRNA introns and snRNA constituents of the spliceosome.
This means that a complex molecular machine, the spliceosome (09/17/2004, 09/12/2002), appeared fully formed almost abruptly, and that the intron invasion took place over a short time and has not changed for hundreds of millions of years.  They submitted a new hypothesis:
Here we revisit the possible evolutionary significance of introns in light of mitochondrial ubiquity.  We propose that the spread of group II introns and their mutational decay into spliceosomal introns created a strong selective pressure to exclude ribosomes from the vicinity of the chromosomes—thus breaking the prokaryotic paradigm of co-transcriptional translation and forcing nucleus-cytosol compartmentalization, which allowed translation to occur on properly matured mRNAs only.   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
But this means that the nucleus, nucleolus and other complex structures also had to appear in a very brief period of time.  It means that the engulfed organism that somehow became mitochondria had to transfer its introns rapidly into a genome lacking a nucleus.  It means the nucleus had to evolve quickly to segregate the new mitochondrial genes from the nuclear genes.  A lot had to happen quickly.  “This bipartite cell would not be an immediate success story: it would have nothing but problems instead,” they admitted, but they believed that natural selection would favor the few that worked out a symbiotic relationship with their new invaders.
    This is not the end of the problems.  The group II introns would have had to embed themselves with reverse transcriptase and maturase without activating the host’s defenses, then evolve into spliceosome-dependent introns and remain unchanged forever after.  Then those embedded group II introns would undergo mutational decay, interfering with gene expression.  Will this work without some miracles?
A problem of a much more severe nature arises, however, with the mutational decay of group II introns, resulting in inactivation of the maturase and/or RNA structural elements in at least some of the disseminated copies.  Modern examples from prokaryotes and organelles suggest that splicing with the help of maturase and RNA structural elements provided by intact group II introns in trans could have initially rescued gene expression at such loci, although maturase action in trans is much less effective than in cis.  Thus, the decay of the maturase gene in disseminated introns poses a requirement for invention of a new splicing machinery.  However, as discussed below, the transition to spliceosome-dependent splicing will also impose an unforgiving demand for inventions in addition to the spliceosome.
A spliceosome is not an easy thing to invent; it has five snRNAs and over 200 proteins, making it one of the most complex molecular machines in the cell.  Not only that, they appeared in primitive eukaryotes and have been largely conserved since.  Perhaps the miracles can be made more believable by dividing them into smaller steps:
It seems that the protospliceosome recruited the Sm-domain, possibly to replace the maturase, while retaining group II RNA domains (snRNAs) ancestrally germane to the splicing mechanism.  While the later evolution of the spliceosome entailed diversification with the recruitment of additional proteins—leading to greater efficiency—the simpler, ancestral protospliceosome could, in principle, rescue expression of genes containing degenerate group II introns in a maturase-independent manner, but at the dear cost of speed.
Will a lateral pass from maturase to incipient spliceosome during a long field run lead to a touchdown?  If a stumbling protospliceosome could survive, in spite of vastly decreased translation rate, it might have been able to run the distance with natural selection’s encouragement, they think.  Players would be falling left and right in this “extremely unhealthy situation,” they say, and “the prospects of any descendants emerging from this situation are bleak.”  How could the game go on, then?  “The only recognizable mechanism operating in favour of this clumsy chimaera is weakened purifying selection operating on its exceptionally small initial population.”  Purifying selection means weeding out losers, not adding new champions.  “Finding a solution to the new problem of slow spliceosomes in the presence of fast and abundant ribosomes required an evolutionary novelty.”
    They winnow down the possibilities.  Getting instant spliceosomes smacks too much of an improbable feat.  Getting rid of spliceosomal introns from DNA apparently did not occur.  Their solution?  The invention of the nucleus, where slow spliceosomes could operate without competition from fast ribosomes.
    This adds new miracles, however.  The nucleus has highly complex pores that permit only authenticated molecules into the inner sanctum.  They think, however, that it must have happened, somehow: “Progeny that failed to physically separate mRNA processing from translation would not survive, nor would those that failed to invent pore complexes to allow chromosome-cytosol interaction.”  So pick your miracles: since necessity is the mother of invention, “The invention of the nucleus was mandatory to allow the expression of intron-containing genes in a cell whose ribosomes were faster than its spliceosomes.”
    The near-miraculous arrival of the nucleus is underscored by other feats it performs: “In addition to splicing, eukaryotes possess elaborate mRNA surveillance mechanisms, in particular nonsense-mediated decay (NMD), to assure that only correctly processed mature mRNAs are translated, while aberrant mRNAs and those with premature termination codons are degraded.”  How could this originate?  Again, necessity must have driven the invention: “The initial intron invasion would have precipitated a requirement for mechanisms to identify exon junctions and to discriminate exons (with frame) from introns (without frame), as well as properly from improperly spliced transcripts.  Thus, NMD might be a direct evolutionary consequence of newly arisen genes-in-pieces.”  But then, if it is verified that some translation occurs in the nucleus, that would be “difficult to reconcile with our proposal.”
    They ended with comparing their hypothesis with others.  “Our suggestion for the origin of the nucleus differs from previous views on the topic,” they boasted, “which either posit that the nuclear membrane was beneficial to (not mandatory for) its inventor by protecting chromosomes from shearing at division, or offer no plausible selective mechanism at all.”  At least theirs is simpler and includes some requirements to select for the cells with the best inventors – or the ones with the luckiest miracles.
1Martin and Koonin, “Hypothesis: Introns and the origin of nucleus-cytosol compartmentalization,” Nature 440, 41-45 (2 March 2006) | doi:10.1038/nature04531.
Was any of this storytelling useful?  The shenanigans they pulled, couched in biochemical jargon, can be summarized by two principles in their own imaginations: (1) since the cell needed these superbly-crafted machines, it had to invent them somehow, and (2) since evolution is a fact, it had to happen somehow.  Do you catch any hint of a mechanism for actually inventing a 200-protein supermachine that would actually work?  Did you find any hint that any cell any time had a “protospliceosome” that only worked half-way?  All this was pure fiction built on childlike faith in evolution.
    Presenting a hypothesis in science is fine, but how would they ever test something like this?  They offered a few tests that could discriminate between their just-so story and other just-so stories, but nothing that could explain how a spliceosome, or a nuclear membrane with its elaborate pore complexes, or nonsense-mediated decay could have been invented from scratch just because a cell needed these things.
    Would that evolutionists would get off this storytelling kick and do something useful with their lives.  Let’s find a cure for cancer.  Let’s find better sources of energy, and think of ways to reduce risks of disease and terrorism, and use science to improve our lives and our world.  Stringing together uncooperative data into a fictional account of prehistory will accomplish nothing and is wasting time and money in a world desperately in need of the productive possibilities of true science.
Next headline on: GeneticsCell BiologyEvolutionary Theory
Darwinists Take a Snubbing   03/08/2006    
Darwinism got beat up in the polls again.  World Net Daily reported on a new Zogby poll that showed that “69 percent of Americans believe public school teachers should present both the evidence for and against Darwinian evolution.”  Evolution News had comments about the poll; secular news media seemed to pay no attention.
    An interviewer in France was stunned at the contempt against Darwinists expressed by mathematician David Berlinski, reprinted on Intelligent Design the Future.  Berlinski attributed the power of Darwinism merely to money, power and prestige, not science.  He expressed utter disdain for leading Darwinists like Eugenie Scott, Paul Gross and Richard Dawkins, calling them ideologues.  “Eugenie Scott is a small squirrel-like creature who is often sent out to defend Darwin,” he said.  “Whenever doubts are raised, she withdraws a naturalistic nut from her cache and flaunts it proudly.”  In his wild ride through mathematics, history and philosophy, Berlinski maintained that Darwinism is a mere ideological system.  “The real mark of an ideological system is its presumptuousness,” he said.  “There is nothing it cannot explain by means of a few trite ideas.”  He compared Darwinism to Marxism: a system that explained everything in simplistic terms, was fashionable among intellectuals for awhile, but has had its day and is rapidly fading.
Berlinski’s interview sizzles with contempt and almost goes overboard.  He can get away with it because he is a respected mathematician and not an evangelical Christian.  Most of us had better talk a little sweeter.  He agrees with what we have been saying here, though, that the Darwin Party is mainly an entrenched, power-hungry storytelling society, not a group of truth-seeking scientists.  It’s important to realize that not all the highly-educated, knowledgeable scholars claiming this are “religious fundamentalists.”
Next headline on: Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory
Turkish Family Evolving Into Quadrupeds    03/07/2006  
Is this a hoax?  The Times Online UK posted a picture of a family in Turkey that walks naturally on all fours, and calls this a “unique insight into human evolution.”  Sean O’Neill at New Scientist is not sure what to think.  A professor Humphrey claims this is an example of “backward evolution,” or a throwback to a long-lost animal behavior.  O’Neill thinks it’s probably not evolution, but an unfortunate genetic accident.  “Also, for our ancestors to switch to bipedalism, many skeletal changes would have been needed,” he said.  “In fact, the ability to run long-distances may have been a more significant point in our evolution, suggest some researchers.” (see 11/18/2004).  Nevertheless, some are calling this a “missing link.”
Suckers.  These are overgrown rug rats, not missing links.  Or else they get dizzy standing up, and thus obey Paul’s Law: you can’t fall off the floor.
Next headline on:  Early ManDumb Stories
In Praise of Fat    03/06/2006  
Well, great balls of fat.  Cells have spherical globs of lipid (fat) molecules that never had gotten much attention nor respect.  They have been called lipid droplets, oil bodies, fat globules and other names suggesting they were just the beer bellies of the cell.  Not any more.  Scientists have been taking a closer look at these globs and are finding them to be dynamic, functional sites of critical metabolic activity.  No longer are they bags of superfluous undesirable molecules: they have been promoted to essential organelles, named adiposomes.
    Mary Beckman introduced two papers in Science with a summary of the new discoveries.1 
Whatever their name, these intracellular blobs of triglycerides or cholesterol esters, encased in a thin phospholipid membrane, are catching the attention of more and more biologists.  It turns out these lively balls of fat have as many potential roles within cells and tissues as they have names.  Pockmarked with proteins with wide-ranging biochemical activities, they shuffle components around the cell, store energy in the form of neutral lipids, and possibly maintain the many membranes of the cell.  The particles could also be involved in lipid diseases, diabetes, cardiovascular trouble, and liver problems.   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
Beckman discussed several recent findings demonstrating what happens when fat regulation by adiposomes is disrupted.  Since there is still much to be learned about adiposomes, Beckman mainly teased the readers with the possibilities that lie ahead.  She quoted one biologist who called the biology of lipid droplets “immense and untapped.”
    A Perspectives paper in the same issue by Stuart Smith introduced new findings about the machines that make fat.2  He summarized a paper by Maier, Jenni and Ban revealing, in unprecedented detail, the structure of mammalian Fatty Acid Synthase (FAS),3 and another by the same authors plus Leibundgut about the comparable FAS machine in fungi.4  The former looks somewhat like a flying saucer; the latter, like a wheel with spokes from the top, or a complex cage from the side.  The diagrams of these machines point out “active sites” and “reaction chambers” where complex molecules are assembled in a specific sequence.  The machines apparently have moving parts.  The conclusion of the mammalian FAS paper hints how everything must be done in order and with the right specifications:
The overall architecture of mammalian FAS has been revealed by x-ray crystallography at intermediate resolution.  The dimeric [two-part] synthase adopts an asymmetric X-shaped conformation with two reaction chambers on each side formed by a full set of enzymatic domains required for fatty acid elongation, which are separated by considerable distances.  Substantial flexibility of the reaction chamber must accompany the handover of reaction intermediates during the FAS cycle, and further conformational transitions are required to explain the presence of alternative inter- and intrasubunit synthetic routes in FAS.  The results presented here provide a new structural basis to further experiments required for a detailed understanding of the complex mechanism of mammalian FAS.
Even for the fungal machine, the authors spoke of the “remarkable architectural principles” it exemplifies.  It’s a whole new world of fat.  Let that go to your understanding, not to your waist.
1Mary Beckman, “Great Balls of Fat,” Science, 3 March 2006: Vol. 311. no. 5765, pp. 1232 - 1234, DOI: 10.1126/science.311.5765.1232.
2Stuart Smith, “Architectural Options for a Fatty Acid Synthase,” Science, 3 March 2006: Vol. 311. no. 5765, pp. 1251 - 1252, DOI: 10.1126/science.1125411.
3Timm Maier, Simon Jenni, Nenad Ban, “Architecture of Mammalian Fatty Acid Synthase at 4.5 Resolution,” Science, 3 March 2006: Vol. 311. no. 5765, pp. 1258 - 1262, DOI: 10.1126/science.1123248.
4Simon Jenni, Marc Leibundgut, Timm Maier, Nenad Ban, “Architecture of a Fungal Fatty Acid Synthase at 5 Resolution,” Science, 3 March 2006: Vol. 311. no. 5765, pp. 1263 - 1267, DOI: 10.1126/science.1123251.
The closer they look, the more wondrous the cell gets.  Who would have thought that blobs of fat would contain machinery with moving parts and reaction chambers?  Who would have imagined their surfaces would be covered with complex proteins that regulate the production inside?  Who would have realized that fat was so important, the cell had complex assembly plants to build it?  Fat is almost a mild cussword in our vocabulary, but it is another class of molecular building blocks we couldn’t live without.  Fats, sugars, proteins and nucleic acids all work together in life, from humans to lowly fungi.  Each class of molecules has immense variety, each is essential, and each is manufactured to spec by precision machinery.  What a wonderful post-Darwinian world.
Next headline on:  Cell BiologyHuman BodyAmazing Facts
Little Colorado Grand Falls Much Younger Than Thought   03/05/2006    
The Little Colorado River makes a dramatic drop over a lava cliff in Arizona after going around a lava flow.  Previous estimates dated the lava at the falls at 150,000 years old (150ka).  Now, a team of geologists publishing in GSA Bulletin1 used multiple methods that dated it at no more than 19,600 years old (19.6ka) – one eighth the earlier age estimate.  Here were some of their reasons for the revision:
The ca. 150 ka age of the Grand Falls flow provided by whole-rock K-Ar analysis in the 1970s is inconsistent with the preservation of centimeter-scale flow-top features on the surface of the flow and the near absence of physical and chemical weathering on the flow downstream of the falls.  The buried Little Colorado River channel and the present-day channel are at nearly the same elevation, indicating that very little, if any, regional downcutting has occurred since emplacement of the flow.   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
Many people might expect radiometric dating of lava to be straightforward, but the authors began by casting doubt on the most widely-used methods: “Dating Quaternary mafic volcanic materials has proven to be challenging in many cases,” they said.  “K-Ar and 40Ar/39Ar are the most common dating methods, but results may be difficult to interpret because so little potassium is present in these rocks and because the rocks may also contain excess Ar from mantle or crustal sources.”
    They employed four independent methods that more or less converged on the approx. 20,000 year figure.  That would seem to settle the matter, but in their discussion, they said: “The question remains of how to decide what relative weight to apportion to each dating technique in trying to accurately define when the lava dam formed.  Each technique includes its own set of assumptions and uncertainties.
    Perhaps eyeball dating should be given more weight.  The authors took notice of how little erosion had occurred in this area.  They estimated downcutting rates, but then said of four lava flows in the area, “These emplacement units lack evidence of physical erosion or chemical weathering, both within the stack of flows and at the basal contact of flows with underlying columnar basalt.  The flows may simply represent overlapping lobes of a single lava flow.”  Speaking of dust on top of the flow, they said, “All features not covered by eolian [wind-blown] sediment appear to represent original or nearly original surfaces of lava that have been little weathered or eroded, if at all, since their formation.”
    Considering that whole cities have been embedded in dust in recorded history, perhaps even 20,000 years is too much.  They ended by discussing possible reasons why the earlier estimate was so much older, and warned of misinterpretation because excess argon may be a bigger problem than previously realized.  Even so, “However common excess Ar may be in lava of the volcanic field, caution is advised in all time-related generalizations about the growth of the field, including interpretation of the 100 m/m.y. rate of regional downcutting calculated from whole-rock K-Ar ages for samples from the two older lava dams along the Little Colorado River.”  Does anybody really know how old this lava flow is?
1Champion et al., “Multiple constraints on the age of a Pleistocene lava dam across the Little Colorado River at Grand Falls, Arizona,” Geological Society of America Bulletin, doi: 10.1130/B25814.1, : Vol. 118, No. 3, pp. 421429.
Unless you subscribe to the Creation Research Society, Institute for Creation Research or the Creation Technical Journal, you may have been completely unaware of the quality of young-earth creation research that has been independently published for decades.  Such research is so completely barred from the usual journals, creation geologists, astronomers and biologists have continually published their own work, with a few exceptions making it into the mainstream.  Many of their papers are just as rigorous and scholarly as those in the secular journals.  They would be indistinguishable except for the rags they’re printed in.
    Recently, Carl Froede and Emmett Williams investigated the same Grand Falls area.  This gives you an opportunity to compare one example of OEE (old-earth evolutionist) and one example of YEC (young-earth creationist) interpretations of the same spot.  Publishing in Creation Research Society Quarterly, Froede and Williams found much more evidence for youthfulness of the area than admitted in the GSA paper.  They found delicate structures, very little erosion of the basalt, and lack of evidence of substantial weathering.  Their common-sense approach based on clear, observable features was supported by photographs and measurements.  They challenged,
The flow appears to be of a recent origin by nature of its excellent preservation.  This is empirical evidence.  Why do uniformitarians force the time issue by adopting inappropriate age-dates?.  Unfortunately, they are forced to interpret and skew data in an attempt to bolster an archaic, unrealistic, and nonscientific model of Earth history.
Note that the Grand Falls lava flow does not appear any older than lava flows known to have been emplaced within historic times.
    One other thing.  How many earth science students were told confidently by evolutionary geologists in the 1970s that this lava flow was 150,000 years old?  Did any of the students question the Biblical chronology based on what is now known to be false?  Should any of today’s students trust the new estimate of 20,000 years, when the authors admit that “caution must be exercised in interpreting” dating methods?  When fallible experts cannot agree, when they keep changing their numbers, when they are forced into their positions by a priori assumptions about the age of the earth, and come up with conclusions that go against common sense, shouldn’t new ideas be given a fair hearing?
Next headline on: Dating MethodsGeology
Spiral Galaxies Wind Up Into Blurs In Short Cosmological Time   03/04/2006    
Cosmic billions of years received another challenge.  Sky and Telescope reported on a announcement by Michael R. Merrifield (University of Nottingham, England), Richard J. Rand and Sharon E. Meidt (University of New Mexico) in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society that they measured the velocity of gases in the spiral galaxy, M77, and found that they behave just as you would expect: gases toward the center of the galaxy are orbiting faster than gases farther out.  “Billions of years” cosmology requires that the spiral structure of galaxies be caused by something other than simple orbital mechanics, otherwise the spirals would blur in a cosmologically short time.
Merrifield and his colleagues derived new formulas and applied them to measurements of M77’s carbon-monoxide-laced gas clouds (carbon monoxide molecules emit finely tuned radio waves, allowing astronomers to precisely measure the positions and line-of-sight velocities of interstellar matter).  Spiral-shaped wave patterns that are just 3,000 light-years (20 arcseconds) from the galaxy’s center whirl around the core three times as often as those 6,000 light-years out, says the team – all but guaranteeing that the galaxy’s bright inner pinwheel is destined to wind itself up into an amorphous disk.  “If this result turns out to apply commonly to other galaxies,” the scientists write, “then intergalactic travelers would be well advised not to use the morphology of spiral structure to identify their homes.”   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
The scientific community is not so easily persuaded:
Bruce G. Elmegreen (IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center) cautions that the composition of M77’s interstellar clouds may differ from place to place, possibly fooling Merrifield and his collaborators into thinking that the innermost parts of the galaxy’s spiral pattern will outrace the outer parts after a few laps around the track.  And while M77’s inferred identity as a quick-change artist doesn’t surprise John Kormendy (University of Texas, Austin), he doubts that M77’s subtle inner spiral can shed much light on the longevity of simple but bold spirals seen in prominently barred galaxies like NGC 1300 and in closely interacting ones like M51.
Merrifield and his colleagues have shown with empirical evidence that spiral galaxies are doing exactly what they look like they are doing: spinning in an ever tightening wind-up that will, in a short time cosmologically, completely erase their spiral structure.  This is anathema to astronomers such as Elmegreen and Kormendy who must at all costs support the 13 billion year old age of the universe.  Elmegreen and Kormendy had no evidence of their own to refute Merrifield, and so resorted to attacking the quality of Merrifield’s data.
    Since the 1930s when this problem first surfaced, astronomers have had to come up with fanciful explanations for how the spiral structures remain in place for billions of years.  Density waves are the current favorite: we are asked to believe that the spiral arms we see are just waves of higher density that propagate through the galaxy in spiral patterns, creating new stars as they progress.  Computer modeling this theory has been challenging.  The models must be creatively tuned to produce the observed spiral structures (see Russell Humphreys’ point #1 for young age on AiG).
This entry was submitted by a reader.
Next headline on: AstronomyCosmologyDating Methods
Curious George Learns Helpfulness; Newspapers Go Bananas   03/03/2006    
Item: Three evolutionists at the Max Planck Institute did experiments with chimps to see if they collaborated on problem-solving.  Writing in Science,1 they said:
We presented chimpanzees with collaboration problems in which they had to decide when to recruit a partner and which potential partner to recruit.  In an initial study, individuals recruited a collaborator only when solving the problem required collaboration.  In a second study, individuals recruited the more effective of two partners on the basis of their experience with each of them on a previous day.  Therefore, recognizing when collaboration is necessary and determining who is the best collaborative partner are skills shared by both chimpanzees and humans, so such skills may have been present in their common ancestor before humans evolved their own complex forms of collaboration.   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
Item: Two other Max Planck researchers2 found an apparent link in infant behavior and monkey behavior:
Human beings routinely help others to achieve their goals, even when the helper receives no immediate benefit and the person helped is a stranger.  Such altruistic behaviors (toward non-kin) are extremely rare evolutionarily, with some theorists even proposing that they are uniquely human.  Here we show that human children as young as 18 months of age (prelinguistic or just-linguistic) quite readily help others to achieve their goals in a variety of different situations.  This requires both an understanding of others’ goals and an altruistic motivation to help.  In addition, we demonstrate similar though less robust skills and motivations in three young chimpanzees.
That was all the news media needed.  The hint that monkeys can help each other made science reporters go ape.  Clearly, more evidence had been found that humans evolved from a furry altruistic ancestor, millions of years ago.  National Geographic touted, “Chimps Can Be Team Players, Selfless Helpers, Studies Show.”  BBC News said, “Altruism ‘built-in’ in humans,” and continued, “Altruism may have evolved six million years ago in the common ancestor of chimps and humans, the study suggests.”  New Scientist claimed, “Chimpanzees show hints of higher human traits” and offered, “The discovery suggests that some of the underpinnings of human sociality may have been present millions of years ago.”  In the same issue of Science,3 Joan Silk (UCLA) waxed melodramatic:
Do you hold the door for shoppers laden with packages?  If you received two copies of the latest issue of Science in the mail, would you give the extra one to a colleague or throw it in the recycling bin?  Do you make donations to charity, serve on departmental committees, recycle bottles, or donate blood?  If you are like most people, you help in these sorts of situations and are motivated by empathy and concern for the welfare of others.  Two reports by Melis et al. on page 1297 and Warneken and Tomasello on page 1301 of this week’s issue contribute to understanding how we came to be such caring and cooperative creatures.
Silk did admit lower down in her review that previous studies produced negative results, but nevertheless left it as an option that this is a step in the right direction.  Hope springs eternal: “These studies will no doubt fuel debate about which best captures the essence of chimpanzee cooperation,” she concluded.  We can hope that the creative approach of the Leipzig research teams will inspire new experiments to address the arguments.”
1Alicia P. Melis, Brian Hare, Michael Tomasello, “Chimpanzees Recruit the Best Collaborators,” Science, 3 March 2006: Vol. 311. no. 5765, pp. 1297 - 1300, DOI: 10.1126/science.1123007.
2Felix Warneken and Michael Tomasello, “Altruistic Helping in Human Infants and Young Chimpanzees,” Science, 3 March 2006: Vol. 311. no. 5765, pp. 1301 - 1303, DOI: 10.1126/science.1121448.
3Joan B. Silk, “Who Are More Helpful, Humans or Chimpanzees?,” Science, 3 March 2006: Vol. 311. no. 5765, pp. 1248 - 1249, DOI: 10.1126/science.1125141.
*Sigh.*  Has it come to this?  What fluff passes for science these days.  There is nothing about evolution here.  There is nothing about millions of years here.  A million here, a few million there, pretty soon, you’re talking about real monkey (business).  Wupi.  Some chimps under lab conditions exhibit a little bit of intelligence enough to assist one another under certain circumstances.  No one would ever think that that was behavior designed into their little brains, now, would they?  Obviously, human evolution is proved and the puzzle of human altruism is solved.  Now we know why people give blood and help disaster victims they have never seen.  Mother Teresa was in a long succession of particles that learned unselfishness.
    It seems to escape the attention of these researchers that many other studies have shown contradictory results (01/21/2006, 10/28/2005).  Even if these new studies could be shown to be superior somehow, they prove nothing about evolution.  It could be argued that ants or bees are more caring, because they will lay down their lives for the hive.
    So please show some altruism and help us out.  Your assignment is to determine which statement in these stories deserves to win Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week.  This is harder than it looks.  Decisions, decisions.
Next headline on: Early ManDarwinism and Evolutionary TheoryDumb Ideas
Anti-ID Media Resorts to Mockery, Misrepresentation   03/02/2006    
Evolution News, a blog of the Discovery Institute ID think tank, was launched in 2004 to try to correct misrepresentation in the media.  It never seems to have a shortage of material (see their 3/2/2006 post).  Even though the Discovery Institute maintains public documents on its website defining what intelligent design is and what it means, many reporters seem to get their information from ID’s most virulent critics without even checking the accuracy of their statements.  They also repeat old arguments and caricatures that the Discovery Institute has repeatedly addressed.  The first rule of journalism ought to be to get the facts straight.  The second ought to be to strive for neutrality and balance.  If it were not for the internet, it seems the public would get a very lopsided and inaccurate view from the media of what ID is, what its proponents believe, and what they are trying to do.
    Out of the steady stream of critical articles about ID, we’ll summarize a few and look at one in more detail (emphasis added in all quotes):
  • UtahDeseret News called evolution a “fact-backed theory,” put ID into a false dichotomy against Darwin’s natural selection, and repeatedly associated ID (but not evolution) with religion.
  • AustraliaThe Scoop spoke of ID “infiltrating” schools, a word with sinister connotations.  It quoted an education official treating ID like bird flu: “He called on federal and state education ministers to withhold public funding until these schools agreed to quarantine science teaching from religious dogma” and the “Intelligent Design myth” promulgated by “fundamentalists” but gave no opportunity for the other side to respond.
  • Florida:  The Sun-Sentinel spoke of groups that wanted to “water down” passages about Darwin and introduce the “controversial idea of intelligent design.”  It said, “Mainstream scientists have discredited the theory as a repackaged form of old-school creationism” being “peddled” by its supporters.  Buried in the article were responses by Discovery Institute, but an evolutionist got the punch line: “...students are really going to waste their time looking for alternative hypotheses to evolution.  There are none.”  This prompted a letter to the editor from John West (reprinted on Evolution News).
  • Pennsylvania:  The Philadelphia Inquirer gave ample space for Judge John E. Jones to answer softball questions about his Dec. decision in the Kitzmiller vs. Dover case; the interview portrayed him as a historical hero.  One question began, “Reading through the opinion, it was hard to evade the impression that you were surprised at the weakness of one side of the case,” to which the judge replied, “The opinion speaks for itself.”  Undoubtedly few will ever hear of Dr. Kevin Anderson’s penetrating critique of the decision in a newsletter called Creation Matters.
  • Nevada:  an AP story in MSNBC News gave a fairly straight report on efforts by Steve Brown’s petition to introduce a constitutional amendment to correct errors about Darwinian evolution in textbooks and school curricula.  The article began, however, with a hypothetical: “A proposed constitutional amendment would require Nevada teachers to instruct students that there are many questions about evolution – a method viewed by critics as an opening to teach intelligent design.”  The bill said nothing about intelligent design.
  • New YorkEvolution News felt it necessary to spill a lot of ink correcting repeated errors by the New York Times, despite numerous attempts to communicate the facts to them.
  • Virus Attack:  The cover story of Discover Magazine was titled “Unintelligent Design.”  It announced a strange idea that viruses were somehow responsible for the origin of life.  Yet this radical minority view was posed as a triumphal attack against ID: “This is striking news, especially at a moment when the basic facts of origins and evolution seem to have fallen under a shroud,” it says.  “In the discussions of intelligent design, one hears a yearning for an old-fashioned creation story.... Now the viruses appear to present a creation story of their own: a stirring, topsy-turvy, and decidedly unintelligent design wherein life arose more by reckless accident than original intent.”
  • Poison Pens:  The leading science journals routinely censor letters from ID supporters or creationists, but give full rein to evolutionists to speak whatever is on their minds (example: 11/24/2005).  Last week, Science (3 March 2006: Vol. 311. no. 5765, pp. 1240 - 1241) printed a letter from a high school teacher who arrayed scientists against moaning ID supporters: “Many supporters of intelligent design find discomfort in the concept that humans have evolved as a result of ‘mistakes.’  Although it is not an obligation of scientists to address discomfort in concepts, it is an obligation of scientists to present findings in an objective, scientific manner.”  That, by implication, is exactly what evolutionists do (but ID “supporters” do not).  No mention is made of the 500+ scientists on the Discovery Institute list who think Darwinian evolution is inadequate and should be critically examined.
  • The Evolving ID:  Sid Perkins in Science News1 portrayed ID as “evolving” from creationism to intelligent design to “teaching the controversy”.  While he is not the first to use the metaphor of ID evolution, it is a very misleading one, because ID proponents are (hopefully) employing their intelligence toward a purposeful end: challenging what they see as an entrenched dogma.  The metaphor puts ID at a rhetorical disadvantage before its proponents speak a word.  What’s more, Perkins’ reference page listed only staunchly anti-ID sources.  It appears he did not even attempt to do a journalist’s homework and find out what leaders in the ID movement believe.  (Note: this article will be critiqued in more detail in the commentary that follows.)
Ironically, some evolutionists feel the media is biased against them.  Jason Rosenhouse and Glenn Branch wrote in BioScience2 a stern warning about the danger of people being swayed against evolution by the media.  In their list of suggestions to fellow biologists who find themselves on the air, their first recommendation was as follows:
In any encounter between scientists and the media on the subject of creationism, declare first and foremost that the specific scientific assertions of ID proponents are false.
State unambiguously that evolutionary theory is perfectly capable in principle of explaining the formation of complex biological systems, and, indeed, has done so in practice many times.
  (Emphasis theirs.)
In other words, get your sound bite out before anyone else can.  Their other suggestions had to do more with style than substance.  They ended with advice from Thomas Huxley, who said: “I am sharpening up my beak and claws in readiness.”  Others called him Darwin’s bulldog; he seemed to be calling himself Darwin’s vulture.
    Those who want a taste of the pro-ID attitude in spite of all the negative reporting should read Jeffrey C. Long’s letter in North Carolina Conservative.  His metaphor for ID is a bit different than the one used by Sid Perkins.  To Jeffrey Long, it’s not over till it’s over, and the strength of the combatant is more important than the circumstances.
In my favorite scene from Star Wars, Luke Skywalker has been transported to an arid wasteland where he is bound and pushed to the end of a gangplank from which he’ll be cast headlong to a certain horrible death.  When asked if he has any last words, he turns to the hideous giant slug and his janissaries and defiantly yells: “I’m warning you, Jabba -- this is your last chance!”
Incidentally, the Los Angeles Times printed a fairly complimentary article about Dr. Henry Morris, who died last weekend (see 02/25/2006 entry and Scientist of the Month).  ICR’s latest Back to Genesis article, written by Dr. Morris shortly before he died, was critical of intelligent design also – but for totally different reasons: he felt it is not Biblical enough.  Whatever one thinks about ID, perhaps the bottom line is to end one’s race well.  Even Morris’s critics had to admit he was an honorable and gentlemanly combatant.  Maybe Dan Letha’s “After Eden” cartoon honoring Henry Morris (see Answers in Genesis) will even leave some evolutionists – those who grew up in Sunday School only to reject their faith in biology class3 – with a bit of nostalgic longing in their hearts.
1Sid Perkins, “Evolution in Action,” Science News Week of Feb. 25, 2006; Vol. 169, No. 8.
2Jason Rosenhouse and Glenn Branch, “ Media Coverage of ‘Intelligent Design’,” BioScience Volume 56, Number 3, March 2006, pp. 247-252(6).
3Examples: Will Provine, Michael Shermer, many others.  Lee Strobel told a story in The Case for Faith about evangelist Charles Templeton, who lost his faith to evolution at Princeton.  As the elderly Templeton, struggling with the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, bared his soul about his life, he was at first very critical of God, the Bible and Christianity.  But when he thought of Jesus Christ, he softened and said that he felt Jesus was the most perfect man who ever lived.  In a moment of weakness, welling up with tears, he blurted out, “and I... I miss him!”  Templeton died in bitterness and cynicism.  In contrast, Henry Morris, like all Christians, considered meeting Jesus Christ face to face in heaven as his “blessed hope” (Titus 2:12-14).
The reporting on intelligent design is a national travesty.  It represents either extremely sloppy reporting, or intentional misrepresentation by leftists with an agenda to stymie all efforts to bring the Darwin Party to accountability.  The article by Sid Perkins in Science News is a case in point.  The spin had been spun before his sin had begun.  Perkins used only hardline Darwinist sources like Eugenie Scott and Robert Pennock.  He presented no evidence that naturalism is correct or even capable of explaining how hydrogen became brains; he merely assumed it is the established truth of Science.  To these people, ID supporters are not even worth listening to, because the sentence is in: all who doubt molecules-to-man evolution must be fundamentalist creationist flat-earth pseudoscientific wackos trying to stuff religion into science.  Well, with that kind of outlook, the only thing to do is load them onto the trains to Ravensbruck and get it over with.
    The arrogance of the Darwinist empire is atrocious.  Do they ever try to explain the complexity of DNA and molecular machines?  No.  Do they explain the fine-tuning of the universe?  No.  Do they really attempt to explain the abrupt appearance of all life in the fossil record?  No.  Can they figure out the origin of life?  No.  They don’t have to, because they have power.  Their absolute power has corrupted what it usually corrupts, absolutely.  When the peasants rage, they pacify them with another bedtime story.  It’ll work, because criticism is against the law.  All they have to do is fool some of the people all of the time, and muffle the others.
    There is not one facet of the scientific materialist philosophy, worldview and story line that is not under stress from the evidence: not the fossil record, not human evolution, not the origin of life, not the big bang, not the origin of language and the mind, not historical geology, not planetary evolution.  You’ve read it all right here for over five years.  The only place where there is complete confidence in the whole shebang is in the imagination of the Darwinists, who are accustomed to believing six million impossible things before breakfast.
    Rosenhouse and Branch, and Olsen with his Dodo film (see LiveScience), are concerned about style.  They recognize that King Charlie’s PR is taking a beating.  They want to spruce up his image with a better coat of whitewash, not to really examine their hearts and confess their sins, but to find more effective ways to shout Long Live the Usurper.  Style is nice, but nothing matters more than truth.  Telling people hydrogen will evolve into brains is a hard sell.  It just doesn’t make any sense to most people.  Intelligent design has the advantage of being straightforwardly believable and in accord with the evidence.  So here is the battle line: a corrupt Darwin Party drunk on power vs. critics who are determined to let the truth come out.
    Since the Darwinists have wrested power over the journals, the lawmakers, the big-science institutions and the schools, they think they don’t need evidence.  They don’t need to be held accountable.  Since they have power, they can portray their myth as fact and force it on everyone.  It doesn’t matter to them that the Kingdom of Science was predominantly Christian for many centuries, and that many of the greatest scientists of history proclaimed overtly essentially the same position revitalized by today’s intelligent design movement.  The Darwin Party usurped power in Huxley’s day, and are not about to give it up.
    How do you treat bullies?  How do you deal with entrenched, institutionalized corruption?  You keep on.  You force the issue.  You stand up to them, and call bystanders to take note of their injustices.  You call their bluff.  You demand they explain why the rules of logic and evidence do not apply to them.  You force them to face the evidence.  You confront them when they lie and sidestep the real issues.  When they slam one door in your face, you run to the next one.  You keep on keeping on, and you never tolerate bluffing and evasion for an answer.  In short, you don’t acquiesce.  What is required for evil to triumph, class?
    Nor do you act like them, because the goal is not merely a shift in power, but a return to righteousness.  That’s a great word that is rarely heard today.  Be righteous, and expect righteousness.  Acting honorably, demand honor.  Acting honestly, demand honesty.  Acting truthfully, demand nothing less than the truth.  Acting nobly, despise all that is ignoble.  But honesty is not incompatible with wisdom, strategy and tactics.
    Perkins and the others are wrong to portray creationists and ID supporters as evolving ideologues, because Big Science today is corrupt, and things needs to change.  The ID minority is not evolving; it is engaging an important issue by intelligence and design.  You would think people willing to call corrupt authoritarians on the carpet for dishonesty and dogmatism would be praised; maybe someday they will be, by historians looking back on this era.  In the meantime, what do the Goliaths expect the Davids to do?  When Darwinists find lawyers willing to lie and influence judges to make fallacious decisions about scientific matters, when they threaten lawsuits to shut off debate, when they threaten loss of tenure and forbid publication, when they promote falsehoods in the media and pull their power plays to ensure their dominance, should they not anticipate that some critics will not take this behavior lying down?  Of course.  They should expect that the critics will dodge, feint, duck and keep fighting, because some people believe their cause is just.  So here’s our challenge, Darwinists: we realize your fat, blubbery monstrosity of evolutionary theory has lots of minions at his command.  You think you have the freedom fighters surrounded, at the mouth of the Sarlacc, but we’re calling you out.  You cannot defend methodological naturalism as a philosophy of science.  You cannot defend hydrogen becoming brains.  We’re warning you, Charlie: this is your last chance.
Next headline on: Intelligent DesignDarwinism and Evolutionary TheoryMediaEducation
Keeping Icy Moons Warm for Billions of Years   03/01/2006    
Each spacecraft that has explored the outer solar system has yielded surprises.  It is common knowledge that Voyager scientists were blown away by the first views of active moons they expected to be cold and old.  Recent discoveries have only intensified the surprises.  Richard Kerr wrote recently in Science,1
Why is there geology on Saturn’s icy satellites?  Where did these smallish moons get the energy to refresh their impact-battered surfaces with smoothed plains, ridges, and fissures?  These questions have nagged at scientists since the Voyager flybys in the early 1980s, and the Cassini spacecraft’s recent discovery that Saturn’s Enceladus is spouting like an icy geyser has only compounded the problem.   (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
(See 11/28/2005 entry about the discovery of eruptions on Enceladus, and 08/30/2005, 07/14/2005 and 03/04/2005 about its young surface and active south pole.)  The temperature of a body depends primarily on four factors: its nearness to the sun (related to its composition), its mass (related to volume), the amount of tidal flexing imposed on it, and the amount of radioactive heating in its interior.  Trouble is, small bodies short in all four quantities are looking pretty lively.  Several small, icy moons at great distances from the sun show young surfaces and eruptive activity: these include Europa, Triton, and most recently Enceladus.  Io, of course, has a great deal of volcanic activity which is only partly explained by tidal flexing.  Titan is more massive than the other Saturnian moons, but its surface looks very young and active; it may have active cryovolcanos.  And unlike all the other moons, it has a dense atmosphere that is quickly eroding.  While many of the other moons appear quiescent, some, like Ariel, Miranda, Tethys, Iapetus, show evidence of recent surface activity.
    Planetary scientists never question the age of these bodies.  They unanimously assume that they are 4.6 billion years old – the consensus view of the age of our solar system.  (This is sometimes stated as “geologic time”).  Presumably, the planets and moons all formed near the beginning, 4.6 billion years ago, and have been cooling off ever since (but see 09/12/2005).  The small bodies should cool much more rapidly than the planets, because as radius decreases, surface area decreases by the square, but volume by the cube.  The smaller the body, therefore, the greater the surface area for the interior heat to leak out.
    It’s interesting to watch how planetary scientists deal with surprises.  It takes creative modeling to keep a moon active that should have frozen solid billions of years ago.  Here’s what the planetary scientists have been up to:
  • Enceladus: Stoke the Furnace:  Throw some radioactive aluminum-26 into the core furnace; maybe that will help.  Kerr reported that the Cassini team tried this to keep Enceladus warm enough to spout.  Others find this interesting, but are not convinced: “At each stage [of the calculations], there are several knobs you can twiddle,” said Francis Nimmo (UC Santa Cruz).  “There are so many free parameters it’s hard to make a strong statement.”  Why the other nearby moons, such as Mimas (same diameter) are not erupting is a problem, but Enceladus does appear to have higher density and therefore a larger core for storing the hot Al-26.  Nevertheless, the buzz around JPL is that nobody really has a good answer yet.  Enceladus is a problem moon that has scientists scratching their heads.
    Update 03/09/2003: A JPL Press Release says there may even be liquid water erupting, like cold versions of the geysers of Yellowstone.  “We realize that this is a radical conclusion,” said the imaging team lead.  Science Dec. 10 had a special section on Enceladus with a dozen articles from the Cassini team exploring all aspects of the bizarre moon, from images to magnetic fields, from infrared and ultraviolet measurements to in situ particle measurements.  “Finding such active geology on such a tiny moon is a big surprise,” said Joanne Baker in the introductory article.  The only other active bodies in the solar system (Earth, Triton, Io) are larger than Enceladus.  One model was offered to show how pockets of liquid water might form under the surface, but most scientists are saying this is a huge mystery.
  • Iapetus: Slam on the Brakes:  The big midriff bulge on Saturn’s yin-yang moon Iapetus presents a different problem.  Scientists are dealing with this by having it start with a high spin rate with a good dose of aluminum-26 to keep it deformable.  If tidal interactions with Saturn forced it to spin down rapidly, maybe the bulge was able to freeze in place.  For more on Iapetus, see 01/07/2005.
  • Titan: Hide the Goods:  Planetary scientists were surprised, and perhaps disappointed, to find no liquid oceans of methane on the surface of Titan.  The Huygens Probe landed on a dry lake bed, and the Cassini orbiter has failed to detect liquid on the surface.  At current erosion rates, the atmospheric methane would be depleted in 10 to 100 million years – just 2% its assumed age.  Clearly, scientists who want to keep Titan old need a source of methane to replenish the atmosphere.  A new theory was just published in a letter to Nature this week.2  Jonathan Lunine, who has puzzled over Titan for over 20 years, has moved the methane reservoir underground:
    Saturn’s largest satellite, Titan, has a massive nitrogen atmosphere containing up to 5 per cent methane near its surface.  Photochemistry in the stratosphere would remove the present-day atmospheric methane in a few tens of millions of years.  Before the Cassini-Huygens mission arrived at Saturn, widespread liquid methane or mixed hydrocarbon seas hundreds of metres in thickness were proposed as reservoirs from which methane could be resupplied to the atmosphere over geologic time.  Titan fly-by observations and ground-based observations rule out the presence of extensive bodies of liquid hydrocarbons at present, which means that methane must be derived from another source over Titan’s history.  Here we show that episodic outgassing of methane stored as clathrate hydrates within an icy shell above an ammonia-enriched water ocean is the most likely explanation for Titan’s atmospheric methane.  The other possible explanations all fail because they cannot explain the absence of surface liquid reservoirs and/or the low dissipative state of the interior.  On the basis of our models, we predict that future fly-bys should reveal the existence of both a subsurface water ocean and a rocky core, and should detect more cryovolcanic edifices.
    (See also: ESA report and Science Now.  For earlier stories on Titan, see 12/05/2005, 06/09/2005, 05/18/2005, 04/08/2005 and 03/11/2005).  Cassini just made its 13th pass over Titan on Monday, and has many more passes this year, so we shall have to wait and see.  For dramatic images of the most recent flyby, showing sharp boundaries between dark and light areas, see the Cassini Titan-11 flyby page and raw images: here is a good sample.
While modelers have many dials and switches to fiddle with, one factor may be complicating the matter.  Kubo et al. did experiments with a high-pressure form of ice known as Ice II and found that it deforms, or “creeps” much faster than previously thought – by up to two orders of magnitude, depending on the grain size.  Their paper in Science3 was joined by a commentary from Peter Sammonds,4 who agreed that “This realization could change our understanding of the dynamics and evolution of these planetary bodies”  What this implies specifically was not made clear.  Perhaps it means that an icy moon’s interior would reach equilibrium in less time.  You figure it out:
Kubo et al. argue that grain size-sensitive creep of Ice I and Ice II plausibly dominates the evolution and dynamics of the interiors of the medium to large icy moons of the outer solar system.  Ice II is considerably more viscous than Ice I.  The transition from Ice I to Ice II, which occurs at depth, is accompanied by an increase in viscosity of four orders of magnitude.  If grain size-sensitive creep does not operate, then the increase in viscosity would be six orders of magnitude.  So if grain size-sensitive creep is not taken into account as a deformation mechanism, estimates for viscosities of the interiors of the icy moons are off by about two orders of magnitude.  Such a difference would have profound implications for interpreting their evolution and dynamics.
(See also Lawrence Livermore press release.)  Whatever this means, modelers apparently didn’t set the knob right on this parameter before now.
1Richard Kerr, “How Saturn’s Icy Moons Get a (Geologic) Life,” Science, 6 January 2006: Vol. 311. no. 5757, p. 29, DOI: 10.1126/science.311.5757.29.
2Gabriel Tobie, Jonathan Lunine and Christophe Sotin, “Episodic outgassing as the origin of atmospheric methane on Titan,” Nature 440, 61-64 (2 March 2006) | doi:10.1038/nature04497.
3Kubo et al., “Grain Size-Sensitive Creep in Ice II,” Science, 3 March 2006: Vol. 311. no. 5765, pp. 1267 - 1269, DOI: 10.1126/science.1121296.
4Peter Sammonds, “Creep and Flow on the Icy Moons of the Outer Planets,” Science,
No sooner did the word “water” appear in news reports about Enceladus, when reporters started talking about “life.”  The press release twists the evidence for a young Enceladus into evidence for old evolution: “Scientists still have many questions.  Why is Enceladus currently so active?  Are other sites on Enceladus active?  Might this activity have been continuous enough over the moon’s history for life to have had a chance to take hold in the moon’s interior?”  Geological activity is not necessarily related to biological activity.  Enceladus is not a case for OOL, but for YEC.  Who are these spin doctors that write press blurbs like this gem from a Cassini press agent: “A masterpiece of deep time and wrenching gravity, the tortured surface of Saturn’s moon Enceladus and its fascinating ongoing geologic activity tell the story of the ancient and present struggles of one tiny world.”  Get real.
    Does a model correspond to reality?  This is an interesting question in philosophy of science.  Some things are too difficult to observe and explain.  A model can provide a “cartoon” of the problem to help make it manageable (or provide comic relief).  Based on the model, scientists make predictions, or open the model to falsification.  Confidence in the model grows if it passes these tests.  Unfortunately, the more switches, dials and free parameters in the model, the more the model becomes immune to falsification, and the more other models might make similar predictions.  Consequently, it becomes increasingly difficult to know if the model really connects with the real world, or is just a convenient fiction.  What we wonder is why there is a padlock on the rheostat labeled, “age of the solar system.”  Rumor has it the Darwin Party put it there.
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“I wish to thank you for the information you extend every day on your site.  It is truly a blessing!”
(a reader in North Carolina)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“A church member asked me what I thought was the best creation web site.  I told him 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 informative.”
(a reader from Scottsdale, AZ)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
Featured Creation Scientist for March

Dr. Henry M. Morris, Jr.
1918 - 2006

The man considered the “father of the modern creationist movement,” a prolific author, scientist and founder of the Institute for Creation Research (ICR), died Feb. 25, 2006 at age 87 after a series a small strokes.  His funeral was scheduled for Thursday, March 2, in San Diego.

Dr. Henry Morris (PhD, hydraulic engineering, Rice University) and Dr. John Whitcomb awakened a slumbering church in 1961 with The Genesis Flood, a book that many have claimed marked the beginning of the modern creationist movement.  The book presented convincing scientific evidence against long ages and for a global watery cataclysm.  In 1970, Morris left Virginia Tech where he was head of the department of civil engineering, to pursue his creation activities full time.  With Dr. Duane Gish, a biochemist from UC Berkeley, Morris formed the Institute for Creation Research.  The fledgling work, begun on a shoestring, soon grew into the leading creationist research institute in the world and added a museum and graduate school.  Morris and Gish debated hundreds of scientists on college campuses across America and around the world.  His 50+ books, unabashedly Christian and literally Biblical but also very astute about science and the history of evolutionary thought, have had an enormous impact on generations of readers.

Gentle and soft-spoken in person but impregnable with a pen, Dr. Henry Morris was still writing things up to his final few days.  The breadth and depth of subjects he wrote about is remarkable.  His mind stayed sharp mind through age 87.  The work at ICR continues under the leadership of his son John Morris, a PhD in geological engineering.  The institute has begun several new research projects including one in genetics, after the recent conclusion of its 8-year RATE project, an interdisciplinary analysis of radioactive dating by 11 scientists.

In 2002, ICR hosted a large, well-attended conference at Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa called “Passing the Torch of Creation,” where Morris received a standing ovation after being introduced to speak at one of his last public appearances.  He will be missed by all who loved him and his work; indeed, even his pro-Darwinist enemies will probably pay their respects.  While denouncing his beliefs, they never could deny his personal character, integrity and influence.  His many books, along with audio and video recordings, and not least the institution he founded, will ensure that Dr. Henry M. Morris, Jr. will remain near to the creation movement he revived.

Dr. Morris demonstrated how one man, committed to God and his word, can make a difference.  Almost every creationist leader today is indebted to his life and works.  In the 1960s there were very few books on creation.  Evolution dominated the textbooks and most churches, intimidated by science, preferred to avoid the issue.  Henry Morris’s first small paperback, The Bible and Modern Science, began to change things.  Then The Genesis Flood electrified a new generation of college-educated Christians.  Liberal churches had long since given in to Darwinism completely, and many Bible-believing churches had capitulated to long ages and uniformitarianism.  Assuming that science had proved deep time, they merely tried to accommodate it with compromises like the gap theory or progressive creation.

Morris and Whitcomb demonstrated that it was possible to look at the fossil record and the geological strata in a new way that corroborated the Bible record of a world-wide flood.  Not only that, they showed how the scientific evidence was superior to that of the evolutionists.  A new army of creation scientists launched into further investigations that continue to the present day.  New organizations, like the Bible-Science Association and the Creation Research Society, were formed and numerous spin-off clubs and societies have kept the creation movement growing in strength and extent around the world.  Almost all of them can trace some ancestry back to ICR.

Henry Morris never boasted about himself but always sought to honor Jesus Christ and remain faithful to God's word.  He was aware to the last of the crucial nature of this intellectual battle.  The battle has become more heated than ever.  Having passed the torch on to a new generation, he didn’t leave the field, but continued to challenge and encourage others to the end.  Dr. Morris has been the Moses of modern creationism.  His personal endurance, patience and integrity, and the wisdom of his books, need to inspire a new generation of Joshuas and Calebs to be strong and very courageous, and to take back the land, for good science and the glory of God.


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

A Concise Guide
to Understanding
Evolutionary Theory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Souder’s Law
Repetition does not establish validity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advice from Paul

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

I Timothy 6:20-21

Song of the True Scientist

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

from Psalm 104

Maxwell’s Motivation

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

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

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

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