Note: bold emphasis added in all quotations unless otherwise indicated.
Rockfish Prefer Oil-Rig Real Estate 06/30/2006
Environmentalists may complain about offshore oil platforms, but the rockfish in the
Santa Barbara channel arent paying attention. According to a study announced
by UC Santa Barbara, rockfish are finding
better living through human chemistry. The platforms provide security and prime nursing
habitat, such that their numbers, once dangerously low, are now resurging.
The artificial reefs are apparently doing more for the fish than their natural ones.
Of course man did not have this in mind when drilling
for oil, but it shows that human activity is not always an environmental curse. Were
part of the ecology, too, and sometimes our animal friends learn to adapt even
profit from our ventures.
Paper View: Why SETI Hears Only a Great Silence
Next headline on:
Enrico Fermi posed a curious question in 1950: Where is everybody?
If life emerges on planets as a consequence of evolution, there should be other intelligent civilizations
out there, and some of them must have colonized other worlds. He thought there must have been plenty of
time for galactic colonizers to achieve technologies far beyond our own by billions of years, and therefore to have
reached every corner of the Galaxy by now, including Earth. Where are they? This
innocuous question, named Fermis Paradox (though others had asked it, too) has troubled
advocates of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) ever since. Though SETI technicians
patiently eavesdrop on more and more stars each year in the half-century since SETI began, the Great Silence seems ominous.
Milan M. Cirkovic and Robert J. Bradbury think they know why. Their ideas,
published in New Astronomy July 2006,1 call for nothing less than a complete
overhaul of SETI thinking:
Hereby, we would like to propose a novel solution, based on the astrophysical properties of our
Galactic environment on large scales, as well as some economic and informational aspects of the
presumed advanced technological civilizations (henceforth ATCs). In doing so, we will
suggest a radically new perspective on the entire SETI endeavor.
Traditional SETI, listening for radio signals from biological
life, is fundamentally flawed, they claim. Think post-biological.
Life will not remain content with the limitations of flesh, they reason. Borrowing from the
speculations of science historian Steven J. Dick, they believe biology will eventually give way
to technology. Advanced technical civilizations will be composed of machines.
They quote Dick:
In sorting priorities, I adopt what I term the central principle of cultural evolution,
which I refer to as the Intelligence Principle: the maintenance, improvement and
perpetuation of knowledge and intelligence is the central driving force of cultural evolution,
and that to the extent intelligence can be improved, it will be improved.
Not whatever can go wrong, will go wrong, in other words. At least until
the universe runs down, the Intelligence
Principle will triumph over Murphys Law.
This is the foundational principle of their proposal. Life will gravitate toward maximum
information processing, subject to the constraints of physical laws.
A natural extension of the Intelligence Principle is what can be called the digital
perspective on astrobiology: After a particular threshold complexity is reached,
the relevant relations between existent entities are characterized by requirements of
computation and information processing. It is related to the emergent
computational concepts not only in biology, but in other fields such as fundamental physics,
cosmology, neuroscience, and social sciences.
Heres a brief synopsis of their scenario. Life emerges on a planet, evolves to
a state of intelligence, then gravitates toward more efficient information processing and
computation, till it transcends the biological and becomes strictly technological.
A machine civilization is
not going to care about communicating with beings like us. Its priority will be to maximize
information processing. To do this, the entities will have to have to migrate from the places
where they first evolved as biological life forms. This is due to simple constraints of
physics. The warmth of a summer sun may be valuable to biological organisms like us, but heat is
an enemy of computation. Galaxies have a galactic temperature gradient: hot at
the center, cooler at the edges. Its at the outskirts of the galaxy, therefore,
where a machine civilization would migrate. That, however, is not where traditional SETI is
looking, and that is the reason for the Great Silence.
In their scenario, we need to drastically modify our search strategy.
Whether artifacts of technology would be
detectable at the edges of the Milky Way or external galaxies, they are not sure.
Perhaps aliens would send inscriptions (see 09/01/2004).
They are quite certain, though, that radio is not on the broadcast schedule:
We conclude that the conventional radio SETI assuming beamed broadcasts from targets
selected exclusively on the basis of the old-fashioned biological paradigm
within the vicinity of our Solar System ... is ill-founded and has minuscule chances of success
on the present hypothesis. It is a clear and testable prediction of the present hypothesis
that the undergoing SETI experiments using this conservative approach will yield only negative results.
(Italics theirs.) How can their prediction indeed be tested? If conventional SETI
does get a radio signal, the prediction might fail; otherwise, how long would they have to wait in silence to
feel vindicated? Traditional SETI researchers would probably argue this point.
But Cirkovic and Bradley also put forth a falsification test: look for evidence of technological artifacts
at the outer fringes of nearby galaxies. That, unfortunately, will probably be very
difficult without more advanced technology. Nonetheless, they are quite adamant that
traditional SETI thinking is parochial. Its oblivious to the physical constraints that
would drive life toward information processing. In a sense the problem has nothing
to do with the universe itself, and everything to do with our ignorance and prejudices,
they state accusingly. In this special sense, the flaws in the currently prevailing
views on SETI are much less excusable.
In their paper, the authors acknowledged the contribution of Guillermo Gonzalez (along with
Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee) to the extension of ideas about
planetary habitable zones to galactic scales: the Galactic Habitable Zone (GHZ).2
They extended this concept further to a Galactic Technological Zone (GTZ), where machines
could optimize their computational power. This zone would be the outer reaches of a spiral
galaxy but not so far out that heavy elements would be lacking. They were also
honest about their assumptions:
There is no meaningful scientific hypothesis for resolving Fermis Paradox or,
indeed, any problem of importance in science without a set of assumptions.
In building of the migrational solution to Fermis puzzle, we have relied on the
following set of assumptions:
The most speculative assumption was #8, they acknowledged, but they reasoned this way: whether a
civilization evolves toward hedonism (like the Romans) or toward accomplishment (like the Greeks),
both would need to maximize their information processing. In either situation, they
rationalized, they will seek the greatest computational capacity and efficiency possible to
support these activities.
These assumptions are naturally of varying validity and importance. Items 1 through 3
are essential methodological guidelines of the entire scientific endeavor.
Although item 1 has recently become controversial with
rare Earth theorists, there is still no compelling reasons for relinquishing it.
Assumption 4 is an empirical fact, and 5 is quite close to it. Assumptions 6 and 7 are
conservative extrapolations of our limited scientific and technological perspective, but in our
view should be retained until the contrary positions can be verified. In particular,
absence of the Galaxy-size astroengineering effects in external galaxies ... strongly supports the assumption 7.
- The Copernican principle continues to hold in astrobiology, i.e. there is
nothing special about the Earth and the Solar System when considerations of life,
intelligent observers or ATCs are made.2
- Laws of physics (as applied to the classical computation theory and astrophysics) are universally valid.
- Naturalistic explanations for the origin of life, intelligence and ATCs are valid.
- The Milky Way galaxy exhibits well-established gradients of both baryonic matter density and
equilibrium radiation field temperature.
- Habitable planets occur naturally only within the GHZ (which evolves in a manner roughly understood),
but ATCs are not in any way limited to this region.
- We assume local influences both of and on ATCs. Thus, we disregard overly speculative
ideas about such concepts as cosmic wormholes or basement universes.
Interstellar travel is feasible, but it is bound to be slow and expensive (for anything
larger than nanomachines) at all epochs.
- Astroengineering on the scales significantly larger than the scale of a typical planetary system
(on the pc-scale and above) will remain difficult and expensive at all epochs and for all ATCs.
- ATCs will tend to maximize the efficiency of information-processing, no matter how heterogeneous
their biological and cultural structures and evolutionary pathways are.
So there you have it. The drive toward the ultimate CPU
governs the fate of life and intelligence. Geeks will someday rule the universe.
1Milan M. Cirkovic and Robert J. Bradbury, Galactic gradients, postbiological
evolution and the apparent failure of SETI,
Volume 11, Issue 8, July 2006, Pages 628-639, doi:10.1016/j.newast.2006.04.003.
2See also the film The Privileged Planet.
In this film Gonzales discusses the GHZ, and Brownlee gives reasons for his rare earth
hypothesis. The film also argues against the assumed Copernican Principle.
Interesting paper. Heavily sci-fi, profoundly speculative,
politically incorrect, and somewhat amusing, perhaps, but thought-provoking. Is it scientific?
Does its presence in a scientific journal indicate it is worthy of more serious consideration
by rational truth-seekers than if it appeared in a theological journal or in Mad Magazine?
After all, they made predictions and provided a falsification criterion. They talked about
baryons and physical laws and thermodynamics. And look they even had equations!
Surely no one could accuse this kind of sober, rigorous analysis as being equivalent to
religion. What do you think?
Ant Pedometer Discovered
Religion is a misleading word in this context. It conjures up images of
candles, robes, icons and prayer wheels. World view is a more appropriate term:
a way of looking at the world, of answering the big questions: who are we? Where did we
come from? Why are we here? Where are we going? Science cannot answer these
questions, yet world-view issues loom big in this article. They have attempted to give
their opinion about the origin and ultimate fate of the universe, dress it in a lab coat and
pass it off as science. Yet by any measure of scientific criteria, they always left
a way out.
Their prediction is hollow, because it would require proving a universal negative.
Their falsification test is hollow, because we could all be dead before anyone finds a way to
detect an unknown kind of technology at intergalactic distances, and even if someone did,
another would find a natural explanation for it. Predictions and falsifiability are not
necessary components of science anyway, according to some philosophers of science.
And equations well, nice, but the ones in the paper describe observable physical properties of temperature
distribution in galaxies and have nothing to do with the social habits of intelligent beings.
Sentient beings are notoriously resistant to obeying equations about what they should do
or will do. In short, the scientific props of this article are distractions from the
fact this is nothing more than a world view paper.
Their entire thesis breaks down on one of their assumptions. It was nice of
them to list their assumptions, but not so nice to glibly claim that the least plausible is
one of essential methodological guidelines of the entire scientific endeavor,
namely, Naturalistic explanations for the origin of life, intelligence and ATCs are valid.
Did you catch it? They just attempted to baptize naturalism in the waters of science as
if we wouldnt notice. (Only Cirkovic has a PhD, but they both attempted to
doctor a philosophy.)
Why should this tactic be allowed for sci-fi speculation, but not for other kinds of
scholarly investigation? After all, theologians can make testable predictions. A
conservative Bible scholar, for instance, could predict that evidence for King David will be found,
even point to the Tel Dan inscription
as confirming evidence. Some preachers argue that the equation nothing times
nobody equals everything. has been falsified. Should sufficiently scholarly sermons be allowed
in scientific journals, then? Not a few theologians are well trained in mathematical physics,
and not a few scientists doubt the assumptions listed by these two speculators.
They should have no privilege in this game. The quality of the reasoning and the support of evidence,
not the scientific trappings and venue, need to carry weight in evaluating world view claims.
Cirkovic and Bradbury may wish to believe that life and intelligence are
emergent properties of matter in motion, but they cannot support this world view with
scientific evidence. In fact, the tide of evidence is overwhelmingly against it
These sci-fi speculators pulled off a shifty sidestep.
They merely assumed that naturalistic explanations for these things are valid,
and then hid behind an arbitrary rule that naturalism is an essential methodological guideline
for the entire scientific endeavor. Oh yeah? It wasnt for many of the greatest
scientists in history (see online book). This claim is only made now by
the Eugenie Scotts and Ken Millers of the world who want to shield their philosophical speculations
from critical scrutiny. Its a tactic not unlike the childhood ploy Kings X
that allows them to evade rules of the game to which the others are bound.
Cirkovic and Bradbury are as free as anyone to speculate, but need
to take their speculations out of New Astronomy and argue them before philosophers and
theologians, not claim special privilege for things that cannot be observed or known indeed,
things that run contrary to what we do know about the propensities of matter in motion.
What they wrote, though, is bound to make the SETI Institute angry. A lot of investment
capital is bound up in traditional SETI strategies. These two warring parties may make
any further comments superfluous; they may end up falsifying each other.
Next headline on:
Origin of Life
Ants have dumbfounded scientists again. It appears they count their steps when they
walk, and keep track how far they have gone. Reporting in Science,1
a trio of German and Swiss scientists tested desert ants by making some walk on specially-designed
stilts and others walk on stumps of cut-off legs. The first overshot their target, and
the second group undershot it by the amount proportional to the change in leg length.
Another amazing fact is that the ants can use their mental pedometers to
reckon how far they are from home, then take a direct route back. That would seem
to require mathematical skill beyond just counting steps. Indeed it does; not only do
the ants have a sophisticated onboard navigation system, but also celestial navigation
The team explained,
Foraging Saharan desert ants, Cataglyphis fortis, use a
mode of dead reckoning known as path integration to monitor their current
position relative to the nest and to find their way home. This enables them to return
on a direct route, rather than retracing the tortuous outbound journey performed when
searching for food items in their flat desert habitat, which is often completely devoid
of landmarks. The path integrator requires two kinds of input information:
about directions steered, as obtained via the ants celestial compass, and
about distance traveled, as gauged by the ants odometer.
See also Live
Geographic and New
Scientist. The team also found that the ants could learn to adapt to their
new circumstances. Regarding the surgical procedures used in the experiment,
the scientists were quick to explain that ants dont feel pain at having their
1Wittlinger, Wehner and Wolf, The Ant Odometer: Stepping on Stilts and Stumps,
30 June 2006: Vol. 312. no. 5782, pp. 1965 - 1967, DOI: 10.1126/science.1126912.
There was no mention of evolution in this paper.
Only in evolutionary theory would someone attempt to say, with a straight face, that
celestial compasses, path integrators and odometers are the result of a blind process
lacking a navigation target.
Doubters Defy Darwin Dogma 06/29/2006
This discovery is all the more reason to get the kids an Uncle Miltons
Ant Farm (03/16/2006). It might stimulate a good science
project, too. If stilts, why not pogo sticks? or how about a treadmill or
moving sidewalk? or a rotating table? Dont let students be cruel to the
little puzzle-solvers, but use it as an opportunity to reverse-engineer the amazing GPS software
embedded in their tiny heads (not referring to the students heads, of course,
but to those of the ants).
Next headline on:
One would think that the near unanimous opinion of international scientific societies
opposing creationism and ID would carry a lot of weight with the public,
but it doesnt. There are indications that a substantial percent of the population
is not impressed with the dogmatic pronouncements that evolution is a fact, and that
anyone who disagrees is a religious nut (see also 04/21/2006).
This seems to be frustrating the daylights out of evolutionists who seem unable to do anything about it.
Some anticreationists may be having second thoughts about the Darwin-in-your-face strategy.
Portraying evolution doubters as backwoods flat-earthers and fundamentalists who want to destroy
science isnt accurate, said pro-evolution science historian Ronald Numbers in a recent
When asked by the PBS interviewer if the evolution war represents another science vs. religion split, he said:
- Go to H*** / H*** No, We Wont Go: One would think the editor of the
prestigious journal Nature would get a little respect by virtue of his position, but when he
tried blogging as an overture to the public, he got an earful for his mouthful. Nature
decided to join the blogosphere in April as part of its initiative for openness, in the
aftermath of recent scientific scandals over peer review (06/13/2006).
One of the first experiments was a
Blog in April about the fish-o-pod Tiktaalik
(04/06/2006). After getting worked up over some creationist
responses to the find, Gee jumped into the fray. He argued that creationists
cannot embrace the science that gave us modern health care and cheap
travel and abjure other parts like evolution. He likened creationists to those wanting to return
to the Dark Ages and live like Bedouins.
Though he claimed to believe in God (as a Jew), Gee ended his tirade against Biblical creationism with:
I object to the cheap, wilful [sic], nasty traduction of my religious faith by a group of people who would
pervert it to further their questionable political ideals. I call on all scientists of faith
to join me in its damnation, and to educate certain in the evolutionary biology community of the
rank and damning illogicality of their position.
Some of the Evolution is a FACT! folk said Hear, hear, but not everyone.
Gee may have felt smug in consigning fundamentalists to the flames, but for some of
his targets, the feeling was mutual.
One signing himself a biochemist called the Tiktaalik missing link claims Pure rubbish
and said The fact that this article is being heralded in media rags is one sign of payola and not
necessarily substance. Another retorted, macroevolution is a fairy-tale for those grown-ups
who personally feel the Judeo-Christian God of the Bible to be unacceptable.
Another commented, Dr. Gee repeats an error so egregious that I cannot resist commenting;
The Scientific advances he mentions from which we all benefit are all the result of impirical [sic] science.
They have absolutely nothing to do with evolution. Another pointed out,
The irony of this find is lost on the authors that a single find of a fossil of a supposed
transitional life form is a major news item. Another advised, If you actually want to
do something about the rise of 6-day creationism, arrogance isnt going to help, indicating
what he thought of Gees decorum. One wonders how often the editor of Nature has had
to leave the comfort zone of academia and face live hecklers.
- Medical Malpractice: A similar blog counterattack came when
Stanford Medicine Magazine made
anticreationism its summer cover story, Darwin Lives. After a series of attack pieces like
Scientists mobilize to fight the forces of intelligent design, the magazine
invited readers, Visit our
evolution blog and tell us what you think.
Despite the magazines portrayal of creationists as nothing more than politically-motivated
religious zealots, many of the uncensored responses were not shy about refusing to be pushed into
that corner. Saying over and over that it is a religion vs. science debate doesnt make it so,
said one. Sure, you can find politicians and creationists to bash, but to be taken seriously,
you must address the critics of Darwin who hold prestigious scientific positions within our universities
and science organizations such as the National Academy of Sciences. Another called the
magazines tactics propaganda. Those supportive of the magazines
assessment were outnumbered nine to five. Many of the anti-evolution responses appeared reasoned and
informed, not the work of religious dogmatists; they argued that the dogmatic Darwinist position
is the real fundamentalism.
- The Great Unconvinced: Curtis Dahlgren had some fun in an op-ed piece for
Renew America, commenting on
the apparent chagrin with which an alumni paper from the University of Wisconsin wrote,
Putting Faith in Science, the subhead of which is, Intelligent design
an alternative theory of life supported by many Christians argues that science alone
cant explain the mysteries of our existence. And most Americans agree.
Why has science been so unconvincing?
Dahlgren accused the accusers of blind faith, retorting, So who is calling whom stupid?
- Poll Homeostasis: Lest one think blog entries do not represent a scientifically-valid
sample, Evolution News
listed polls from 1982 to 2005 that show skepticism of evolution continues to remain at a
very high level in the United States despite the fact that For years Darwinists have been
doing their best to remind the world of the good news that evolution and religion can be compatible.
In another piece, Evolution
News argued that students reject evolution because of the science, not religion. In a third
piece, Evolution News
noted that the pace of scientists willing to sign their Dissent
from Darwin list is accelerating (see also a separate list for doctors).
To me, the struggle in the late 20th Century between creationists and evolutionists does not represent
another battle between science and religion because rarely do creationists display hostility towards
science. If you read their literature, youll rarely come across an anti-scientific notion.
They love science. They love what science can do. They hate the fact that science has been
hijacked by agnostics and atheists to offer such speculative theories as organic evolution. So,
they dont see themselves as being antagonistic to science any more than many of the advocates of
evolution those who see evolution as Gods method of creation view themselves as
hostile to Christianity.
Thats a remarkable admission for someone who had recently signed on with Elliot Sober and other
staunch anticreationists in a call to action against intelligent design.1
1Attie, Sober, Numbers et al., Defending science education against intelligent design:
a call to action,
Journal of Clinical Investigation,
116:1134-1138 (2006). doi:10.1172/JCI28449.
We hope you see that CEH also loves science. When you
compare who wants rational discussion about these important issues and who wants to browbeat their
listeners into submission, the choice is clear.
The Evolution of Immaturity
We also like to keep our sense of humor. Apparently the irony was lost on
poor Ms. Amy Adams who, in her submission to the
Medicine Magazine anticreationist barrage, summarized her thoughts on evolution
as, Evolution in a nutshell.
Next headline on:
Blame evolution for your teens immaturity. The
Channel has published a review of an upcoming paper by Bruce
Charlton, professor of biology at the University of Newcastle upon
Tyne, England. Charlton is a promoter of Evolutionary Psychology, a
developing field of Psychology that attempts to explain all human
characteristics in light of their evolutionary history. In this
paper, Charlton focuses on the observation that in the last fifty years,
people have matured later, and in fact, many have not matured
it seems a growing number of people are retaining the behaviors and
attitudes associated with youth. As a consequence, many older
people simply never achieve mental adulthood, according to a leading
expert on evolutionary psychiatry. Among scientists, the
phenomenon is called psychological neoteny.
Charlton attributes the current trend to our modern environment,
in comparison to our hunter/gatherer ancestors:
the human mind responds to new information over the course of any
individuals lifetime, Charlton argues that past physical environments
were more stable and allowed for a state of psychological maturity. In
hunter-gatherer societies, that
maturity was probably achieved during a
persons late teens or early twenties, he said.Charlton attributes the failure to mature to the pressure of the
educational system, which keeps people in school, at submissive
positions, far beyond the time when they should have been developing
their assertive personalities. The result is adults that display
Charlton explained to Discovery News that
humans have an inherent attraction to physical youth, since it can be a
sign of fertility, health and vitality. In the
however, another force kicked in, due to increasing need for
individuals to change jobs, learn new
skills, move to new places and
make new friends.
contrast, many modern adults fail to attain this maturity, and such
failure is common and indeed characteristic of highly educated and, on
the whole, effective and socially valuable people, he said.
People such as academics, teachers, scientists and many other
professionals are often strikingly immature outside of their strictly
specialist competence in the sense of being unpredictable, unbalanced
in priorities, and tending to overreact. Charlton added that
since modern cultures now favor cognitive flexibility, immature
people tend to thrive and succeed, and have set the tone not only for
contemporary life, but also for the future, when it is possible our
genes may even change as a result of the psychological shift. The
faults of youth are retained along
with the virtues, he believes. These
include short attention span, sensation and novelty-seeking, short
cycles of arbitrary fashion and a sense of cultural shallowness.
Charlton predicts that based on evolutionary selection, this will
become a dominant genetic characteristic over time:
added that since modern cultures now favor cognitive flexibility,
immature people tend to thrive and
succeed, and have set the tone not
only for contemporary life, but also for the future, when it is
possible our genes may even change
as a result of the psychological
The obvious next question one should ask is if this immaturity
has not already become apparent in the departments of Evolutionary Psychology.
Stem Cells Protect Against Defective Copies 06/27/2006
Assuming that all our psychological traits evolved due to
environmental pressures, Charlton feels that if our environment
encourages immaturity for long enough, we will become genetically
disposed to immaturity. This sounds Lamarckian. History shows,
contrariwise, that societies have only been successful at fostering maturity for a limited
period of time. How does he know our society is not simply paralleling the example of
Rome, where maturity rose and fell with its civilization?
Charlton seems to offer conflicting sources for our immaturity problem.
First, he attributes it to the pressure of the
educational system, and uses as an example the immaturity of academics,
teachers, scientists, and many other professionals. If this is true
(and this academics thinking provides anecdotal evidence for it)
then we will be fine, since most people do not pursue advanced
educations. Most people, however, would agree that the problem goes well
beyond academia. It is a symptom of society in general.
Charltons second explanation, that the problem began in the mid 20th
century with the pressure to change jobs, learn new skills, move
to new places and make new friends, seems to contradict his first
Either way, since society has had these same pressures for
thousands of years, why is there any vestige of maturity remaining now?
We should have evolved into children long ago, as soon as we got past
the hunter-gatherer stage. There is no reason evolution should wait until the middle
of the 20th century. We are becoming immature because evolutionary thinking
like this rejected the absolute authority of our Creator over us, leaving us
adrift to pursue our baser instincts and desires, like spoiled children.
This story illustrates how the universal acid of Darwinian thinking is more
pervasive and insidious than a set of armchair speculations by academics.
Charltons type rationalize immature behavior as evolutionary adaptations
rather than moral wrongs. If immaturity leads to reproductive success, it
must be OK; why fight it? But under their own assumptions, it is impossible
to determine who is calling whom immature. For example,
David Brooks of the New York Times is cited at the end of the Discovery Channel
article lamenting the loss of
wisdom and maturity of our predecessors in todays society that blurs the bourgeois world of
capitalism and the bohemian counterculture. Yet what is wisdom in Darwinland if not
reproductive success? Brooks needs to let his hair down and get dirty with the new inhabitants
of the fitness peak. Then history will have to judge the outcome of the war between
the Bohemians and the Visigoths
Next headline on:
The Pasteur Institute (see Louis Pasteur) has found
evidence supporting a controversial theory known as the immortal DNA theory.
According to News-Medical.Net,
researchers at the institute believe that stem cells keep the best copies and allow only defective ones to
differentiate and specialize. If so, this may be another mechanism for minimizing the effects
of mutations. The lead scientist said,
this is an exciting finding, as it seems to defy one of the basic rules of cell biology
and genetics: that genetic material is distributed randomly. It appears that the
cellular machinery distinguishes old from new when it comes to DNA, and it may use this
distinction to protect the body from mutations and cancer. It is also possible
that this mechanism is used to silence gene expression in the stem cell.
According to the press release, the research was published in Nature Cell Biology.
Oh no, this is bad news for us Darwinians. We
need those mutations to advance the tree of life. If the ID people get hold of
this, it will give them another hammer to beat us with. Lets pre-empt it
with a good just-so story. Can somebody come up with one? Anyone?
Evolutionists Find Pegasus in the Gene Epic 06/26/2006
Next headline on:
When you conjure with genes, you never know what might appear. Japanese scientists,
publishing in PNAS,1 tried to find evolution in mammalian retroposons and
found an unexpected relationship.
Scientist explains: You could call it a batty idea, but bats seem to be more closely
related to horses than cows are.
Despite the recent large-scale efforts dedicated to comprehensive phylogenetic
analyses using mitochondrial and nuclear DNA sequences, the trio said, several
relationships among mammalian orders remain controversial. They compared
mammalian orders using L1 retroposons, and thats when the unexpected affinity between
bats and horses jumped out. They even suggested a new name for the super-order that
contains the two: Pegasoferae.
1Nishihara, Hasegawa and Okada, Pegasoferae, an unexpected mammalian clade
revealed by tracking ancient retroposon insertions,
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,
published online before print June 19, 2006, 10.1073/pnas.0603797103.
What a great subplot to add to endless tale.
There must have been some truth to the old Greek myths after all. Centaurs cannot
be far behind.
Plants Use Electrical Sunscreen
More funny than the mythical fantasyland conjured up by the evolutionary molecular
Chaldeans is the seriousness with which they admit that their evolutionary trees remain
controversial despite large-scale efforts to resolve them. We need to look at
fossils from a new point of view, because there must have been a common ancestor of bats,
horses and dogs, one of them said. There must have been, you see;
this is the deductive premise of evolutionary research, which cannot be questioned.
(We agree about the advice to look at fossils from a new point of view.)
So we must keep trying to find the magic spells in the DNA code that bring back
the tree of life and of knowledge of good and evil. We cant keep the horses and
cows together any longer, even though they both eat hay and work weekend gigs as extras in Westerns.
Maybe if we put bat wings on this horse, the idea will fly. But then each new proposal yields
similar interjections of surprise: I think this will be a surprise for many scientists,
one of the researchers remarked; No one expected this.
Next headline on:
Perhaps only a scientist, or a kid, would worry about how a plant doesnt get sunburn,
but it took elaborate scientific work for six months to find the answer.
told about research at the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State that found how plants get rid of excess solar energy.
They use carotenoids, molecules responsible for the yellow color of fruits and vegetables,
like electrical wires to convey excess electrons safely away from their light-harvesting machines:
Carotenoids act as wires to carry away the extra sunlight energy in the form
of unwanted electrons, somehow wicking away the extra electrons across long distances from
locations that could damage plant tissues and photosynthesis.
Its no wonder these wires were not found earlier. They are a
miniscule 2.8 nanometers long and less than a single nanometer thick, or about
10,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair.
Carotenoids are not particularly conductive, but exceed the specifications
required by the plant. The surprise was that
these molecules are able to shuttle the electrons across their surfaces without becoming oxidized themselves.
The new work sheds light on the process of photoprotection, an intricate internal defense mechanism,
... which acts like sunscreen to ward off the suns harmful rays.
See also our 01/24/2005 entry on photoprotection,
one of Natures supreme examples of nanoscale engineering.
Do a word search in this article for anything about evolution.
We got word not found. The research was not motivated by or benefited by evolutionary
speculation. The scientists just wanted to more fully understand how photosynthesis works.
Students use similar motivation in auto shop without assuming car engines evolved from rocks.
Science Reporters Spin Spider Web Data Into Evolutionary Program 06/23/2006
Notice where this research came from: the
Biodesign Research Institute at U of A,
whose starting point is exploring the remarkable structure and function of living systems....
Inspired by nature and powered by collaboration, our bold new approach ensures that discoveries
are rapidly translated into real-world benefits. (We left out the sentence in the middle
that made no sense: From microbes to man, these systems have been honed by thousands of
years of natural selection. At least thousands is down from millions, and the
sentence could be interpreted to mean that the systems were already present.)
Anyway, good research is flowing from another of the popular new interdisciplinary
academic centers seeking to understand and apply biological design
06/25/2005). The Darwin Party has nothing to offer
this new trend in biodesign research and should get out of the way. This is
intelligent design science at work: stimulating and productive.
Next headline on:
A spider was found perfectly preserved in amber (fossil tree sap), complete with its web and
prey. It is identical to modern spiders. Isnt evolution amazing?
If you just experienced a software crash, there must be something wrong with
your BIOS. All the news media ran that program just fine. A patch is available
at Darwins website, but compatibility is not guaranteed on all platforms.
Now, the data input: scientists in Spain reported in Science1
finding a piece of amber with the oldest-known evidence of a web-spinning spider.
They remarked, This elegant, geometric structure is woven with silk fibers that are
renowned for their superior mechanical properties. It was dated as early
Cretaceous (110 million years old), making it the oldest known fossil of a spider
apparently able to spin an orb web. Erik Stokstad in the same issue of Science2
mentioned another find this month by another team of a true orb spinner, also encased in Spanish
amber, dated at 115 million years old (see
Stokstad commented that it is remarkably similar to a
living spider--showing that the basic, and successful, body plan appeared long ago.
One other piece of data provided input for the media-spinning program about this
original worldwide web as Stokstad whimsically dubbed it. A second
team, also writing in Science,3 studied the genetics of spider web silks.
They replayed the exact same opening lines:
The orb web is a spectacular evolutionary innovation that enables spiders to catch flying prey,
they said, This elegant, geometric structure is woven with silk fibers that are renowned for
their superior mechanical properties. Their goal was to resolve a controversy about two
groups of orb-spinners, the deinopoids and the araneoids. Did their web skills evolve from a common ancestor,
or independently, as a spectacular example of convergent evolution? This had been an ongoing
debate, because the two groups of spiders, while producing similar-looking webs,
use different spinnerets, silk types and methods of
construction. The phylogenetic analysis of web-spinning genes by Garb et al.
supported the one-origin theory: Contrary to the view that the orb-web design evolved
multiple times, we found that the distribution and phylogeny of silk proteins support
a single, ancient origin of the orb web at least 136 million years ago. While this
removes the puzzle of convergent evolution, it pushes back the origin of this complex trait
earlier than previously thought. Their conclusion was based on comparison of silk-producing
genes from living representatives of the two groups, but did not include a theory of how the
structural and behavioral differences might have evolved.
Now that you have the data input, look at how the popular media reported the story:
David Grimaldi (American Museum of Natural History), one of the discoverers of the amber specimen,
had this to say about the amount of evolutionary change seen between the 110-million year old
spider and modern spiders: The advanced structure of this fossilised web (from Spain),
along with the type of prey that the web caught, indicates that spiders have been fishing insects
from the air for a very long time.
Post led off with Amber-preserved web shows early spider evolution and mentioned
evolution eight times in its short report.
mentioned three times that the evolution of web-spinning spiders must have influenced
the evolution of flying insects.
Geographic mentioned the surprise that orb-spinners appeared earlier than thought,
back in the time of the dinosaurs, but also brought evolution prominently into the story.
One expert was quoted as saying, amber such as this latest discovery does preserve vital
information on spider evolution. (He also mentioned that 500 extinct spiders have
been found in amber.) Another expert explained that the discovery helps researchers
understand the evolution of both spiders and their prey, such as spiders
influencing the evolution of flying insects for millions of years.
- Associated Press (see Fox News)
focused on the claim that web-spinning evolved only once. It did, however, describe
the exquisite detail in the amber: The amber, found in Spain, preserved 26 strands of silk,
many of them connected to one another. Glue droplets are visible on the web and prey
includes a fly, a mite, a beetle and a wasp.
- BBC News spun their web story
as all evolution, all the time: Ancient web spins evolution story, wrote
Helen Briggs; ....The find, described in Science, sheds light on the early evolution
of spiders and the insects they fed on. Her article included this twist on the word
design: The fossil web appears to have been designed along the same lines
as the round nets woven by modern spiders.
What was observed were modern-looking spiders encased in amber with full web-spinning
capabilities. The phylogenetic study, on the other hand suggests that the great
great ancestors of modern spiders were weaving webs as long ago as 136 million years ago.
1Peñalver, Grimaldi and Delciòs, Early Cretaceous Spider Web with Its Prey,
23 June 2006: Vol. 312. no. 5781, p. 1761, DOI: 10.1126/science.1126628.
2Erik Stokstad, Spider Genes and Fossils Spin Tales of the Original Worldwide Web,
23 June 2006: Vol. 312. no. 5781, p. 1730, DOI: 10.1126/science.312.5781.1730a.
3Garb et al., Silk Genes Support the Single Origin of Orb Webs,
23 June 2006: Vol. 312. no. 5781, p. 1762, DOI: 10.1126/science.1127946.
We know our readers are more perceptive than the average
dupe of mainstream science reporters. Were wondering if anyone saw any
evolution sneak by through all this advanced, elegant, geometric structure evidenced by these
modern-looking spiders and their modern-looking prey. What? You havent
installed the software patch yet? No wonder. Just skip the
EULA* and go for it.
Rubisco Highly Tuned for Fixing Atmospheric Carbon
*Caution: installing this free patch rearranges your
memory stacks and forces compliance between conflicting inputs.
Click on the executable name to download: FrontalLobotomy.exe.
Next headline on:
Rubisco sounds like a brand of cracker or something, but its actually an air cleaner your life depends
on. Its an enzyme that fixes atmospheric carbon for use by photosynthetic microbes and plants.
In doing so, it sweeps the planet of excess carbon dioxide the greenhouse gas implicated in
discussions of global warming making it a politically important molecule as well the most
economically important enzyme on earth.
Rubisco is the most common enzyme in the world, too; every person on earth benefits from his or her own
12 to 25 pounds of these molecular machines, which process 15% of the total pool of atmospheric
carbon per year. For a long time, biochemists thought this
enzyme was slow and inefficient. That view is changing. Rubisco now appears to be
perfectly optimized for its job.
Rubiscos cute name is a handy anagram for the clumsier appellation
ribulose bisphosphate carboxylase. Tcherkez et al. first broke the paradigmatic logjam
about this enzymes purported inefficiency with an article in PNAS,1 titled, Despite slow catalysis
and confused substrate specificity, all ribulose bisphosphate carboxylases may be nearly perfectly optimized.
Howard Griffiths commented this week in Nature2 about this paper and the new findings
about its optimization.
Though his article referred to evolution seven times, and only mentioned design twice, the latter
word seemed the most valuable player.
There are four classes of Rubisco, some more efficient at fixing carbon than others.
Its reputation as a slow enzyme (2-8 catalytic events per second) may be unfair.
Carbon dioxide in gaseous form has to compete for access to the active site against the
much more abundant and lighter oxygen. Griffiths shows
what a difficult job this molecule has to perform; no wonder it leaks somewhat.
But, as he explains, even the leaks are accommodated:
It is curious that Rubisco should fix CO2 at all, as there is 25 times more O2
than CO2 in solution at 25°C, and a 500-fold difference between them in gaseous form.
Yet only 25% of reactions are oxygenase events at this temperature, and carbon intermediates
lost to the carbon fixation reactions by oxygenase action are metabolized and partly
recovered by the so-called photorespiratory pathway. Catalysis begins with activation of
Rubisco by the enzyme Rubisco activase, when first CO2 and then a magnesium ion bind
to the active site. The substrate, ribulose bisphosphate, then reacts with these to form
an enediol intermediate, which engages with either another CO2 or an O2 molecule,
either of which must diffuse down a solvent channel to reach the active site.
This is a harder job than designing a funnel that will pass only tennis balls, when there are 500 times
more ping-pong balls trying to get through.
Not only is Rubisco good at getting the best mileage from a sloppy process, it may actually
turn the inefficiency to advantage. Griffiths started by claiming, evolution has made the best
of a bad job, but ended by saying that the enzymes reputation as intransigent and inefficient
is a lie. Why? It now appears that Rubisco is well adapted to substrate availability
in contrasting habitats. This means its inefficiency is really disguised adaptability.
Experimenters thought they could improve on Rubisco by mutating it.
They found that their slight alterations to the reactivity of the enediol intermediate drastically
favored the less-desirable oxygenase reaction. This only served to underscore the contortions
the molecule must undergo to optimize the carboxylase reaction:
Such observations provided the key to the idea that in the active site the
enediol must be contorted to allow CO2 to attack more readily despite the
availability of O2 molecules. The more the enediol mimics the carboxylate end-product,
Tcherkez et al. conclude, the more difficult it is for the enzyme to free the intermediate
from the active site when the reaction is completed. When the specificity factor and
selectivity for CO2 are high, the impact on associated kinetic properties
is greatest: kcat [i.e., the rate of enzyme catalytic events per second] becomes slower.
Another finding about the inner workings of Rubisco bears on dating methods and climate models.
Scientists have known that Rubisco favors the lighter, faster-moving carbon isotope 12C
over 13C. By measuring the ratio of these stable isotopes in organic deposits, paleoclimatologists
have inferred global carbon dioxide abundances and temperatures (knowing that Rubisco processes the
isotopes differently). That assumption may be dubious:
So, rather than being inefficient, Rubisco has become highly tuned to match
Several other correlates are also explained by this relationship. For instance, Rubisco
discriminates more against 13C than against 12C, the two naturally occurring
stable isotopes in CO2. But when the specificity factor is high, the 13C
reaction intermediate binds more tightly, and so carbon isotope discrimination is higher (that is,
less 13C is incorporated); in consequence, the carbon-isotope signals used to reconstruct past
climates should perhaps now be re-examined. In contrast, higher ambient temperatures
(30-40 °C) reduce the stability of the enediol, and Rubisco oxygenase activity and photorespiration
Those considerations aside, Griffiths is most interested in two things: how this enzyme evolved,
and whether we can improve on it. If we can raise its carboxylation efficiency, we might
be able to increase crop yields. So far, genetic engineers have not succeeded.3
As for the evolution of Rubisco, he
mentions three oddball cases but fails to explain exactly how they became optimized for their
particular circumstances only that they are optimized. Yet their abilities
seem rather remarkable. For instance, though the least efficient forms of Rubisco reside in
microbes living in anaerobic sediments, where oxygen competition is not a problem,
One bacterium can express all three catalytically active forms (I, II and III), and switches
between them depending on environmental conditions. In another real-world case,
some higher plants and photosynthetic microorganisms have developed mechanisms to suppress
oxygenase activity: CO2-concentrating mechanisms are induced either
biophysically or biochemically. In another example, Rubisco has not been
characterized in the so-called CAM plants, which use a form of photosynthesis
(crassulacean acid metabolism) adapted for arid conditions. These plants,
including cacti and several unrelated species scattered throughout the plant kingdom, have
other mechanisms for dealing with their extreme environments. In every
mention of evolution, therefore, Griffiths assumed it rather than explaining it: viz., The systematic
evolution of enzyme kinetic properties seems to have occurred in Rubisco from
different organisms, suggesting that Rubisco is well adapted to substrate availability
in contrasting habitats.
So, can we improve on it? If so, given all the praise for what evolution
accomplished, Griffiths seems oblivious to the implications of his own concluding sentence:
Other research avenues include manipulating the various components of Rubisco and cell-specific
targeting of chimaeric Rubiscos. Potential pitfalls here are that the modified Rubisco
would not only have to be incorporated and assembled by crop plants, but any improved performance
would have to be retained by the plants. Finally, one suggestion is that we should engineer
plants that can express two types of Rubisco each with kinetic properties to take advantage
of the degree of shading within a crop canopy. Such rational design would not only offer
practical opportunities for the future, but also finally give the lie to the idea that Rubisco
is intransigent and inefficient.
What, students, is a synonym for rational design?
1Tcherkez et al., Despite slow catalysis and confused substrate specificity,
all ribulose bisphosphate carboxylases may be nearly perfectly optimized,
Proceedings of the National Academy
of Sciences USA, published online before print April 26, 2006, 10.1073/pnas.0600605103
PNAS | May 9, 2006 | vol. 103 | no. 19 | 7246-7251.
2Howard Griffiths, Plant biology: Designs on Rubisco,
441, 940-941 (22 June 2006) | doi:10.1038/441940a; Published online 21 June 2006.
3If and when they do, the benefit would be tuned for humans and their livestock,
not necessarily for the ecology or atmosphere.
Folks, here you have it again. What Griffiths meant
as a paper praising evolution is really a paper demonstrating intelligent design. We dare
any evolutionist to explain how this highly-tuned enzyme, with the optimized
contortions of its intermediates and its highly conserved (i.e., unevolved)
active site, arose by an unguided
process, especially how a lowly bacterium the simplest of organisms
evolved three forms of it and can switch between them
depending on environmental conditions! And dont say it evolved because
evolution is a fact.
The World Against I.D.
Here again, also, we see how further research
is giving the lie to the idea that something in nature is intransigent and inefficient.
Evolutionists love to showcase examples of inefficiency in nature, to give the impression
that any God or designer would not do such a bungled job. The only bungling is in
the theories of evolutionists who look at optimized, rational design in the face
and cant see a rational designer.
Human rational design applied to improving on natures engineering marvels does not
support evolution, it supports intelligent design. If human intelligence is required to copy
or modify a design, one cannot say that the original design emerged by an unguided,
purposeless, material process. Why is that such a hard concept
for the Darwinists to grasp? Why cant they see the illogic of their position?
As usual, they merely assume evolution can perform any
engineering job necessary, even designing nanomachinery that exceeds our human capabilities.
Notice the snippet about climate models in this story, also.
It goes to show that assumptions about the unobservable past, like foundations under a
house of cards, can shift under new research.
Though Griffiths was not specific about the degree of alteration climate models might
suffer, this is a point to remember whenever popular science reports glibly claim things like
218.24267 gazillion years ago, the atmosphere went through a period of global warming
followed by a snowball earth.
You may never have heard about this indispensable
enzyme that helps keep you breathing and gives you salad to eat (and, indirectly, meat from
plant-eating animals). Astrobiologists had better pay attention. Mars and Venus
have lots of carbon
dioxide, but no Rubisco. Earth has just enough CO2 to help moderate the
but not too much to cause a catastrophic greenhouse effect; that balance is maintained
in part by this highly-tuned enzyme. Our ability to read
and write and think these thoughts owes to the convergence of numerous
improbable factors, including our planets optimal distance from the sun, a global
magnetic field, a planetary mass that retains the right ingredients but lets others
escape, a transparent atmosphere, a star that produces radiation with just the right
energy range for molecular reactions, and optimally engineered molecular machines in
plants that can harvest that energy. As a result, our lungs have air, our bodies
have food, and our eyes have beauty and variety to enjoy. If this looks like
intelligent design, and if that has philosophical or religious implications, so be it.
Thank God for Rubisco.
Next headline on:
The Inter-Academy Panel (IAP) on International Issues,
a global network of scientific academies, has issued a statement endorsing cosmic and biological
evolution. It urges decision makers, teachers, and parents to educate all children about the methods and
discoveries of science and to foster an understanding of the science of nature.
Though the statement does not specifically mention intelligent design or creation, a
report on BBC News says its release
follows fierce debate about whether so-called intelligent design (ID) should be taught
in biology courses in schools, mainly in the US. It opens with this veiled reference to opposition:
We, the undersigned Academies of Sciences, have learned that in various parts of the world,
within science courses taught in certain public systems of education, scientific evidence, data,
and testable theories about the origins and evolution of life on Earth are being concealed,
denied, or confused with theories not testable by science.
The document lists 68 member societies, including the US National Academy of Sciences.
Next, it calls for evidence-based teaching about at least four subjects
that, while having details still open to question, scientific evidence has never
contradicted (1) The Earth formed 4.5 billion years ago in a universe 11-15 billion
years old, (2) Earths geology and environments have continued to change since its formation,
(3) Life appeared at least 2.5 billion years ago, followed by the evolution
of photosynthetic organisms which transformed the atmosphere, and
4. Since its first appearance on Earth, life has taken many forms, all of which continue to evolve,
in ways which palaeontology and the modern biological and biochemical sciences are
describing and independently confirming with increasing precision. Commonalities in the
structure of the genetic code of all organisms living today, including humans, clearly indicate
their common primordial origin.
The statement affirms a view of science based on observation, formulation of testable hypotheses
leading to theories, and prediction. It says science is an open-ended process subject to
correction and expansion, and that questions of value and purpose are outside its scope.
The BBC has
made the full text available.
One can imagine that in the time of the Reformation, every Catholic academy
across the Latin world would have unanimously risen up to condemn Luther.
The list of signatories would have been
impressive. It must have been a fearful moment for Luther to stand alone against the tidal wave of
illustrious scholars and officials arrayed against him, and say, Here I stand. I can do no
other. God help me.
Media Becoming Ambivalent on How to Spin Evolution
Dont be impressed by the number of signatories to this dogmatic document (that, ironically,
claims science is not dogmatic; if they really believed that, they would recognize the possibility that
evolution is wrong and listen seriously to the claims it has been falsified). A position statement
issued by the upper echelons of management of a scientific society
no more reflects the views of all scientists than a labor unions political endorsement reflects the
rank-and-file workers. How many of them even knew this document was being published?
Most of the scientists in those societies dont even study evolutionary
biology in their day-to-day work, and probably many who accept evolution dont feel that
strongly about it. Probably one or a few activist leaders at a meeting of these academies wrote the statement and pushed it
through for a vote; perhaps it included Yves Quere, co-chair of the Inter Academy Panel on
International Issues, whom the BBC article quoted: So in this
statement we say you cannot teach this to children, it is wrong. Heres a guy with an agenda.
Even if I.D. is a minority view at this time (but not among the public, only among Big
Science organizations), science does not advance by majority vote.
As we saw from the case of Grote Reber (02/06/2003), the Lone Ranger
is sometimes the good guy. There have been many instances in the history of science where a maverick
had to fight long and hard against entrenched ideas sometimes for decades, facing official opposition that
was sometimes strident and personal. Whats important in science is not to be
popular, but to be right. There are notable nonconformists within the scientific societies.
Though pro-ID letters from scientists are routinely censored by most mainstream journals,
Evolution News found
a well-written letter to the Journal of Clinical Investigation that should be held up alongside the
IAP document and any other saber-rattling position papers attacking intelligent design. Read it and see who is
taking the reasonable scientific position on this issue.
The IAP statement, despite its self-righteous condemnation of anything that questions
evolution, is noteworthy for what it does not say. The
BBC article ended with a statement by Steve
Fuller, who promotes teaching the controversy. Fuller thought it was pretty mild and
really doesnt hit on the kinds of issues that would separate either contesting schools within
evolutionary theory or evolution versus intelligent design. It lacks, for instance, any
reference to a naturalistic mechanism including Darwins that could lead from hydrogen
to humans. Once you scrape away the rust of evolutionary assumptions masquerading as evidence,
theres really not much left to argue with: the universe appeared, life appeared, photosynthesis
appeared, geology changes and science should be falsifiable. Remove the E-word here and there, and nothing is
offered to demonstrate all living things arose from a common ancestor by an undirected natural process.
(For a refutation of the argument from similarity, see Icons of Evolution by Jonathan Wells.)
The statement also attacks a
straw man. No ID-friendly school board or organization is advocating
removing the subject of evolution in the public schools, or replacing it with young-earth creationism. Where has
Quere been? The whole controversy is about teaching the controversy and removing the artificial moat that
protects Charlies castle from monitoring by independent inspectors. One would think that
scientific societies, committed to an open-ended process of inquiry and the formulation of falsifiable
theories, would welcome the scrutiny. So what if Darwins ideas are found to be false?
Great; science marches on. So what if intelligent design wins? Great; now we have another
paradigm for trying to make sense of the natural world. Whats the problem? The only
people working to conceal, deny and confuse the issue are the Darwiniacs.
Official denunciations like this suggest an underlying insecurity. There would not
be a need if evolution were so obvious. Instead of engaging their opponents calmly with rational
discussion, they entrench themselves behind their castle walls and talk tough.
Wouldnt it be cool to lob boxes of Ann Coulters Godless over the wall, just for the
fun of watching their pointy heads turn red and explode.
Next headline on:
Anti-evolutionists remain the whipping boys of science, but some reporters, at least,
seem to be waffling on the effectiveness of the torture.
For others, the heat of the battle is apparently wearing them down. Some even seem to be
entertaining treasonous thoughts that the Darwinists are unable or unwilling to provide
the promised reinforcements.
- Chimp off the old block? Richard F. Harris in Current Biology1
surveyed media coverage of a Nature story that human and chimp ancestors might have crossbred.
At first, Harris expected the anti-evolutionists to suffer the most over this seemingly bitter pill:
A recent survey found that half of all Americans believe our species was not a product of evolution, but
instead a direct creation of God (and Brits arent much different). So imagine how hard that half
of the population swallowed after reading the latest reported twist in human evolution. Our relatives,
it seems, were more than just kissin cousins, when it came to the early chimp line.
Harris sampled some of the bawdy lines this story generated in news stories. Later, however,
he admitted the evidence is not all that clear:
Whether its the truth or not remains to be seen. In a paper in Nature, David Reich and colleagues
are careful to say they just suggest a provocative explanation for their surprising genetic results.
Science journalists didnt dig too deeply for other possible explanations. They did, however, seek out
some words of caution....
How an uncertain claim could prove distressing to anti-evolutionists, therefore, was not explained.
Time, however, won Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week for spinning confusion into
certainty and clubbing the anti-evolutionists with it. Quoted by Harris, the magazine announced
In fact, nobody has a good picture of what these early hominids and chimp ancestors looked like.
Its sure to be seized on right away, though, by anti-evolutionists, who will undoubtedly claim that
evolutionary theorists will once again be forced to rewrite the theory in the face of inconvenient facts
and that this proves its not a valid theory. But thats bogus.... A mystery like this poses
no threat to evolution it just makes it more interesting.
- Hands Off Policy: CEH got mentioned on MSNBC
on Alan Boyles Cosmic Log. He took a look at media coverage of the duck missing link
story, including ours (see 06/16/2006) and the load of email he got, and decided
to go on a diet of sorts: This tongue-lashing over missing links is enough to make me
swear off the term from now on even if the researchers themselves use it, or even if other news
outlets apply the term to Gansus or past finds such as the Tiktaalik fish out of water
(see 04/06/2006 story).
- Fear of Godless: Ann Coulter told Fox News she was surprised at the reaction to her new
book Godless: The
Church of Liberalism. The surprise was not that there was a reaction, but the target
of the reaction. Most critics focused on her description of four widows of 9/11 victims,
whom she claimed were profiting from their anti-Bush celebrity. She expected the biggest negative
response would come from the Darwinists. Liberals creation myth is Charles Darwins
theory of evolution, which is about one notch above Scientology in scientific rigor, she had
opened chapter 8; Its a make-believe story, based on a theory that is a tautology, with
no proof in the scientists laboratory or the fossil recordand thats after 150 years
of very determined looking. On that point, the reaction from the scientific community and the mainstream
media was an unexpected silence.
1Richard Harris, A chimp off the old block,
Volume 16, Issue 12, June 2006, pages R435-R436.
Readers can propose their own explanations for the lack of outrage against Coulters
irreverence for Father Charlie (which only intensifies after her opening paragraph).
Either this book is completely off their radar screen (though a New York Times best-seller
and the talk of the talk shows the week of June 12); or, they dont want to dignify the
views of an articulate woman they probably wish to characterize as a dumb blonde; or, they have no answers to her
hard-hitting accusations. It does seem strange to see no response at all from the
Darwin Party against a high-profile columnist whose books are flying off the shelves.
It wasnt long ago that any criticism of Darwin met swift and strident censure.
(Buy the real book, by the way, not the awful things liberals are saying about it.)
A.P. Learning to Report Science Wars More Accurately
If the Darwinists had such a strong case, they could trot it out every time
some upstart calls their bluff. They could produce the Emperors elegant robes,
and the argument would be over, just like displaying the dead body of Jesus on the streets of
Jerusalem would have snuffed out the Christian church on Pentecost afternoon.
That the Darwinists do not produce the goods is a strong indication that they know they cannot.
They used to keep the peasants in line with bluffing, authority and evasion. Now that more
writers, speakers and websites like CEH are challenging their authority and exposing their
Emperors nakedness, their only recourse is diving into their holes and waiting it out, or by
finding a court to hand them everything they want on a silver platter,
as Coulter puts it (p. 200).
Indications that some news sources are toning down their rhetoric (except for incorrigibles like
Time) is an encouraging sign. It probably means that the relentless
public challenges to the Darwinist elitist rule are having
an effect. If so, its only a start. Darwinist dictatorship will assert itself again at the
slightest sign of weakness. (Their only ethic is survival of the fittest, after all.)
There were strident attacks against Darwins book as soon as it was written and for a decade after,
but they were effectively silenced by the shenanigans of Darwins four musketeers (see
01/06/2004 commentary). This is a long-term conflict.
The noble-minded Visigoths (05/09/2006)
who want to defeat the Darwin Partys stranglehold on science must be willing
to stay in the battle for the long term.
If you do write letters to the editor, please do so effectively. Poorly-written missives
with faulty reasoning do more harm than good. Alan Boyle printed some particularly
shoddy examples on his MSNBC column; hopefully these were exceptions. Before saying anything, master the
Baloney Detector, spelling, and grammar. Know the issues, keep
it succinct, stay on point, keep away from questionable arguments and claims, and your arrows
will not miss the mark.
So Time thinks the new claim about human-chimp ancestry poses no threat
to Charlies tale, but just makes it more interesting. Thats about the best
spin that could be put on it. It illustrates our running argument that what Darwinists
care about is not truth but an entertaining plot line. The more twists and turns, the better;
they add suspense.
The show must go on, regardless. Nothing can possibly falsify their open-ended tale, because the preface
and conclusion were agreed on in advance. The story may turn out to be more interesting
than they can stomach. (Perhaps hidden in some chapter in the middle, within some hopelessly
convoluted situation appearing impossible to resolve, a sentence will jump out and say,
Do not finish this book. To continue for the surprise ending, jump to this
other book.) As the Chinese fortune cookie equivocally
wishes, May you live in interesting times.
Next headline on:
The Discovery Institutes media-watchdog blog
watched Associated Press fumble at first, but then
get it right
to show that new science standards adopted by South Carolina do not mandate teaching
intelligent design. The AP story printed in South Carolinas
Channel 10 News included
a comment that certain officials worried the change would open the door to teaching
alternative theories such as intelligent design. It also first contradicted itself
about what the standards said about teaching critical thinking. To clarify what the
standards said and did not say, Casey Luskin listed five points on
why critical analysis of evolution does not require teaching ID.
Another critical analysis debate is going on in Michigan.
reported that microbiologist Ralph
Seelke testified in favor of
that calls for students to be able to use the scientific method to critically evaluate
scientific theories including, but not limited to, the theories of
global warming and evolution, and to be able to formulate arguments for and
against such theories. Seelke argued this is a sound strategy for teaching any subject about
which there is considerable disagreement. There is a term used when we only want
student[s] to learn one side of a story, he said. It is called indoctrination, not education.
With polls continuing to show a majority doubt evolution,
and with more school boards showing boldness enough to stand up against ACLU and
Americans United threats, and with the inherent and obvious reasonableness of allowing controversial
subjects to get a critical analysis, the AP and other mainstream media may be slowly
catching onto the fact that they cannot continue to lie and sell papers. Keep those
well-written and soundly-argued letters to the editor flowing.
Cambrian Explosion Precursors, or Drops in the Bucket? 06/18/2006
Next headline on:
Two recent presentations, one in person and one in print, tried to fill in the gap of
fossils that led to the explosion of diversity in the Cambrian, known as the Cambrian
Explosion (see 04/23/2006
- Darwins Dilemma Solved? Dr. J. William Schopf (UCLA), renowned
discoverer of Precambrian microfossils, triumphantly announced the solution to Darwins
Dilemma at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in a slide presentation to scientists 06/14/2006.
He showed examples of cyanobacteria, stromatolites (see 03/22/2006)
and carbon isotope anomalies. All these, however, showed evidence for microbes, not the
complex body plans that burst on the scene in the Cambrian. Moreover, he showed fossil
cyanobacteria dated as 3.5 billion and 1.5 billion years old alongside modern species that
looked identical; he even speculated that their biochemistry was probably the same.
- Bilateral Split: Fossil embryos with polar lobes characteristic of
bilaterians (animals with two-sided symmetry) were reported in Science this week from Precambrian
deposits in China.1 Though simple microscopic bundles of 3-5 cells, the authors claim,
these fossils imply that lobe formation is
an ancient evolutionary device, and that the general strategy of precocious blastomere
specification still used in most bilaterian groups was extant at least 40 million years
before the Cambrian. Katherine Unger wrote in the same issue2 that
Some scientists are reluctant to give the fossils their unequivocal endorsement.
No adult forms were found; some speculate they could represent an extinct lineage of early bilaterians.
1Jun-Yuan Chen et al., Phosphatized Polar Lobe-Forming Embryos from the
Precambrian of Southwest China, Science 312, 16 June 2006: 1644-1646.
2Katherine Unger, Fossil Embryos Hint at Early Start for Complex Development,
Science 312, 16 June 2006: 1587.
The Schopf talk was egregious for claiming Darwin has been
vindicated. For one thing, he gave no clue how microbes exploded into a plethora of
complex body plans in the Cambrian. For another, he guaranteed he cannot see evidence
against evolution! One of his criteria was, Does it fit with evolution?
This means that no matter what is found, if it doesnt fit with evolution, it must be
mistaken. Darwin in, Darwin out.
How Can They Call This Duck a Missing Link?
Bilaterian embryos are too little, too late. These are just drops in the
bucket, in a bucket too large for Darwin to fill. Read the Paper View article from
04/23/2006 for a detailed account of the problem.
Next headline on:
The news media are abuzz with the phrase Missing Link again. This time,
its about a fossilized duck or loon found in Early Cretaceous strata in China,
announced in Science.1 The article calls it a nearly modern
bird with soft-tissue preservation, including webbed feet, wing feathers and downy feathers. They said it
possesses advanced anatomical features previously known only in Late Cretaceous and
Cenozoic ornithuran birds. Being found in Early Cretaceous strata (assumed 110 million
years old) makes it
the oldest known member of the clade, but the paper does not call it a missing
link. Neither does the summary page This week in Science earlier in
the issue; in fact, the summary states this Early Cretaceous bird has many derived features,
and It was also well adapted for an aquatic-amphibian lifestylethe fossils even
show what appears to be webbing in the feet. This particular species has been known
previously from fragmentary fossils, it says.
Why, then, are the news media all calling this a missing link? See
Fox News, for instance, and
Associated Press on
MSNBC News which states,
Waterfowl fossils fill in a big missing link. It was
not missing, and it is not a link; it is a better-preserved specimen of a known species appearing much earlier than
previously thought. Live
Science did not use the phrase, but said that it might be one of the oldest
ancestors of modern birds, even when the original paper noted that
the wing feathers are asymmetrical and virtually identical to those of volant
[i.e., flying] modern birds.
Geographic News avoided the buzzphrase missing link also, but claimed
The discovery supports the view that key characteristics of modern birds evolved
quickly and early, long before the demise of the dinosaurs. Quoting Jerald
Harris (Dixie State College), a co-author of the paper, It was unexpected to find a
bird this advanced in rocks this old. It tells us that the anatomical features
we use to characterize modern birds evolved [sic] very quickly.
In fact, the specimen
shares many skeletal features with modern birds, including the knobby knees characteristic of
underwater swimmers like loons and grebes. Even the preserved skin of the webbed
feet shows the same microscopic structure seen in aquatic birds today.
There doesnt seem to be anything un-modern about this fossil other than its presumed
place in the evolutionary tree. At the end of the NG article, Julia Clarke
(North Carolina State U) makes the startling claim that there was a wide range of
bird types during the period that preceded the emergence [sic] of truly modern birds.
That would seem to be the opposite of evolutionary expectations.
At the end of their paper, the discoverers noted one other puzzle:
Consequently, contrary to recent hypotheses, adaptation to an aquatic ecology
appears to have played little part in the survival of birds across the K/P boundary.2
1Hai-lu You et al., A Nearly Modern Amphibious Bird from the Early
Cretaceous of Northwestern China,
16 June 2006: Vol. 312. no. 5780, pp. 1640 - 1643, DOI: 10.1126/science.1126377.
2I.e., the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary, assumed 65 million years ago
when some catastrophic event killed off all the dinosaurs (but apparently
not the sparrows and ducks).
This is scandalous. The news media should be
ashamed of themselves. What should have been interpreted as the falsification of
common notions about bird evolution has been twisted into support for evolution.
In an act of contortion astounding in scope, the media expect us to believe three more
impossible things before breakfast: (1) that the anatomical features of modern birds
including webbed feet, oil glands and all the other traits necessary for aquatic life,
evolved quickly; (2) that soft tissues like webbed feet, downy feathers and pelvic
limbs with soft-tissue preservation survived for 110 million years, and
(3) that the cataclysm that spelled doom for dozens of kinds of survival-hardened dinosaurs,
from the powerful carnivores to the pet-sized mini-sauropods (see 06/10/2006)
animals that presumably conquered the world from the arctic to the tropics, outlasting all
kinds of environmental changes somehow left our cute feathered friends unscathed.
New Noahs Ark Claims From Iran 06/15/2006
This is loony. Arent you glad for the internet, and sites like
Creation-Evolution Headlines, that can bring a dose of realism to out-of-control
Darwin-infested science reporting?
Before, the mainstream media and networks fed this sleight-of-mind to the public
unchallenged; well, now the public is calling out the propagandists and demanding
honesty. And welcome, all you at Pandas Thumb; we know youre
Follow-up: Sidestepping at Pandas Thumb: Lets examine how
a PT critic answered the above entry:
.... Creation-Evolution headlines article on this find is particular execrable.
They call Gansus a duck; they claim the find is a known species appearing
much earlier than already thought (Gansus has always been assigned to the Early
Cretaceous), and they mock the idea that birds survived the KT extinction (most of them did not;
the enanthornithines did not, and there was a major genetic bottleneck in the ornithurines).
A shorebird, able to travel to find food, living largely off shoreline detritus and small
shoreline scavengers, likely in the tropics, would be exactly the kind of species one would
expect to survive a major catastrophe.
First of all, brush off the cussword execrable as mere emotional fluff, and examine
the facts. It wasnt just CEH that called this a duck. Every popular article
linked above said it resembled a duck, was duck-like or was just ducky.
LiveScience began, If it looks like a duck and paddles like a duck, it must be a duck, right?
Thats the conclusion of researchers.... So let this critic castigate the other
science reporters, then; the bird had webbed feet and swam, so why quibble about categories?
The original paper said that Gansus used to be thought of as a sandpiper, but
Its anatomy, however, demonstrates that it was more similar to, but not as adept as,
foot-propelled diving birds such as grebes, loons, and diving ducks.
The fossil didnt come with a Linnaean sticker on it. The criticism that we called
it a duck when it isnt is like complaining we
called a vehicle a minivan when it was really a Caravan. Its a Dodge.
As to Gansus always being assigned Early Cretaceous, the original paper
stated, Previously reported, alleged Early Cretaceous ornithurans are either fragmentary, of
debatable age, or have received only limited examination. For instance, the first
known specimen consisted of an isolated partial left pelvic limb. The whole surprise of this
discovery was to find a much more complete and well-preserved fossil of an Early Cretaceous bird with Late Cretaceous features.
The paper states, this taxon possesses advanced anatomical features previously known
only in Late Cretaceous and Cenozoic ornithuran birds. So the point is not
where evolutionists had classified this species in their own incestuous dating scheme, but that it turned
out to have late or modern features much earlier than expected. The
critic strains at a gnat and swallows a camel.
Finally, about the extinctions, well, its nice that this critic was able to
invent a just-so story to patch up an older just-so story. There were shore-scavenging dinosaurs
in the tropics, too, along with swimming dinosaurs. This major catastrophe was shore
selective in what shore creatures it wiped out.
So how well did this critic do in attacking our report? Now consider what
he didnt address namely, the main points. Evolutionists ask us to believe that
a modern-looking aquatic bird, fully capable of swimming and diving, evolved all its advanced features quickly.
After being buried in pristine condition, its soft tissues, feathers and webbed feet survived intact for 110 million years.
Thats what all the science reporters are parroting without asking the obvious questions,
and without considering any alternatives outside the Darwinian orthodoxy.
Its time such nonsense was not foisted on the public as science without a challenge.
Answering blogger blather such as that on Pandas Thumb is not our style, lest we dignify what
David Berlinski described as low-market, semi-literate posts with a characteristic combination of
pustules and gonorrhea that one would otherwise associate with high-school toughs
This was an experiment to see if they could deal with it honestly. If you want
creation-evolution news based on the original scientific sources along with critical analysis of
reports issuing from the mainstream media, you know you can find it here.
We still invite the Thumb-suckers over there at PT to graduate to a higher education.
Next headline on:
Bob Cornuke was interviewed by John Kasich on Fox News Saturday evening, with the first public showing
of videos of an anomalous feature in northern Iran proposed as a candidate for
Noahs Ark. The find has also been announced on
Worldview Network with 18 photographs and a video. Cornuke, a former police investigator
turned hunter for Biblical artifacts (the Ark of the Covenant, the Red Sea crossing, Pauls
shipwreck) had a team of notable Christians with him, including Josh McDowell. Though he did not claim this was
the Ark of Noah, he said the team members were blown away by the findings.
The evidence consists of a 400-foot object of a dark color in surroundings of
lighter rock. The object consists of squared-off beams that look like petrified wood (he claims a sample tested
positive as petrified wood) arranged like planks. It is at 13,120' elevation in the mountains of northern Iran.
He said locals claim it is a resting place of the Ark, and that this location was referred to
by ancient historians Josephus and Nicholas of Damascus. He also claims he was led to this
site by an eyewitness who drew him a map. Cornuke also said the team found an abundance of
seashells and clams in the surrounding rocks over a vast area, indicating that this mountain was
once under the sea.
The time has come for this claim, and its evidence, to be scrutinized critically
yet fairly. Though the pictures are intriguing, the burden of proof will be on the team to associate this
object with the Ark of Noah. Years ago Ferdinand Navarra wrote a book about his
discovery of hand-hewn timbers found under a glacier on Mt. Ararat; he even had film to prove it.
Unfortunately, the artifacts were later discredited as too recent to be
associated with Noahs Ark. Another film made great claims about a boat-shaped structure
below Mt. Ararat, yet few became convinced it is anything more than a strange geological feature.
This reminder is not to put the new claim in the same boat, so to speak, but to show how initially
spectacular photographic evidence does not always match the hoped-for results of scientific tests.
When Evolutionist Rebukes Evolutionist, Watch Out 06/14/2006
A number of hard questions should be asked. There are many
places on the planet where dark rock outcroppings contrast with the surroundings. There are
also many mountains with seashell fossils. Petrified wood is also widespread. In many
places, columnar basaltic lava looks very geometrical and can give the appearance of hand-hewn wood.
How do we know this is not just another spectacular example of an artificial-looking geological formation?
Does this object have the expected dimensions and shape of the vessel described in Genesis 6?
How conclusive is the evidence this petrified wood was tooled? Are there nails or other marks
of artificial construction? Are the sizes and arrangements of the alleged beams consistent
Is there evidence the structure, now filled in, had internal rooms and compartments?
Is there any residual organic matter that can be carbon dated?
What is the history of this region, both geologically and archaeologically?
Are there other marks of ancient habitation here? Even if this structure
proves artificial, could it be something other than a ship, like some later structure that became
petrified? What about all the sightings on the traditional Mt. Araratwere all of them in error?
What petrified the wood, if this was a boatdid it get re-buried? If smothered
by a landslide or other catastrophe, how could it remain recognizable? Why would the timbers
not be dismantled by the descendants of Noah or subsequent generations? How did it get
preserved, only to be discovered now? Perhaps you can think of more questions.
Most claims of this sort turn out to contain a mosaic of pieces of evidence, some more
convincing than others, some even contradictory. Confidence in the conclusion will rest on the
inference to the best explanation
from the preponderance of evidence. It may never be convincing to all honest scholars
under the best of conditions.
We cannot be influenced solely by the pictures or the enthusiasm of the team
membersnor by the complaints of skeptics and rivals. Detailed scientific tests will be required.
Other investigators should visit the site and consider all possible explanations. The team
should be open to sharing information, should be their own best critics, and should not give the appearance
of capitalizing on this finding for personal gain or fame. Now that the initial announcement
is out, its up to the discoverers to prove this is not just an interesting geological formation.
Update 07/05/2006: Tas Walker at Creation
on the Web urges caution. He thinks it is a geological formation, similar to others found around the world.
National Geographic News also gave
prominent press to the claims, but then debunked them with the opinions of geologists.
Next headline on:
Bible and Theology
Faithful are the wounds of a friend, Solomon said. Sometimes comrades need
to rein in their own when they stray too far. Kenneth M. Weiss and Anne V. Buchanan
(Dept. of Anthropology, Penn State) had some stern rebukes for Nicholas Wade, who was just
trying to praise Darwin in his new book Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of
Our Ancestors (Penguin, 2006). Despite the need for a tempered and
timely treatment of an important subject, this book did not get much praise by
Weiss and Buchanan in Nature.1
This book went
way over the top in drawing unwarranted genetic and evolutionary influences on human behavior,
they complained: Wade seemed determined to find simplistic natural selection behind every trait,
and by a lack of attention to issues that are known to inhibit a credible understanding of complex traits,
never mind their evolution. In rebuking Wade, however, they revealed a load of dirty laundry
about evolutionary theory that may prompt quick damage control operations at Darwinism Strategic Command
First, a laundry list of Wades logical errors, hypocrisy, and bad storytelling habits:
Wades explanations commit various well-known errors, such as equating
correlation with causation and
extrapolating from individual traits to group
characteristics. Often his arguments and trait choices are laden with
Western-oriented value judgements....
(This shows that the charge of just-so storytelling in evolutionary theory sometimes comes from
within the camp.) Heres where the review becomes especially damaging. In criticizing
Wades propensity for drawing conclusions on meager evidence, do Weiss and Buchanan spill
too many beans? Imagine the shock of this paragraph on a science teacher intent on
convincing students that the evidence for evolution is overwhelming:
Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence. In The New York Times
on 15 January 2006, Wade warned against journalists being too ready to accept overstated or wrong
claims from the science literature, but in too many places where it makes a difference he has
ignored his own advice. A journalist doesnt create facts, but he does select what to
repeat and how to colour it, and Wade is long on speculating about what is reasonable to assume,
and short on circumspection of his own, or anthropologists, yarn-spinning. Most of
the scenarios he reports have not been rigorously tested, nor is it clear how they could be.
The book has many internal inconsistencies, and one can easily find contrary evidence or readily
construct alternative just so stories that invoke the same genetic scenario and the same
kind of reasoning.
How could this subject be better treated, without denying the importance of genes in human traits?
For a start, evolutionary arguments should be based on sufficiently credible, consistent and compelling
scientific evidence. It is easy to claim that a trait is due to natural selection,
but responsible selection-based arguments should have substantial experimental mechanistic support,
at least for the fact of selection. Thats not the state of most current evidence.
Indeed, after 50 years of investigation, we cant convincingly demonstrate selection for most
of the red-blood-cell diseases, other than sickle-cell anaemia, that are probably coevolving with the strong
selective force of malaria. Other best-case scenarios for human genetic adaptation, such as
adult lactase persistence and skin colour, are also incomplete. Explaining selection is
particularly problematic for behavioural traits because of the powerful role of culture and
facultative ability, which is probably what human evolution really favoured. Human phenotypic
changes can far outpace genetic ones, making it challenging to know whether such traits are even genetic,
much less what they evolved for millennia ago.
One can imagine frantic time-out signals offstage from the Darwin propagandists.
They go unnoticed.
In addition, assertions of genetic causation should be built on what is already known about the
difficulties of explaining complex traits, including behaviour or intelligence, they
continue, unabated. The extensive literature documenting the subtleties of such traits
undermines simplistic evolved for scenarios, but Wade largely ignores it.
Weiss and Buchanan explain why traits, especially behavioral traits, are too complex to attribute to selection:
We are far from understanding either the genetic architecture or the evolution of
complex biological traits, even in the best data from experimental organisms unaffected
by the blur of culture. Gasp; just when this security leak couldnt get any worse
comes the coup de grace:
But why not just enjoy the sport of fanciful speculation, even if the arguments leak like sieves?
Because its not just sport. Positions on genetic determinism often correlate with
social politics, and few of us are neutral or even changeable on the issues.
Wade recognizes that his ideas may not be acceptable to everyone but warns that to falter in scientific
inquiry would be a retreat into darkness. He seems to be warning, appropriately enough,
against benighted political correctness. But we should never become casual about how comparable
slopular science and very similar speculative evolutionary reasoning by leading scientists fed a
venomous kind of darkness not too many decades ago. Wades post-hoc
tales often put him in step with a long march of social darwinists
who, with comfortable detachment from the (currently) dominant culture, insist that we look starkly at life
in the raw and not blink at what we see. But given todays limited understanding of
complex traits, too often what one sees is oneself.
Better keep this book review away from the creationists. They could hardly have said it better.
1Kenneth M. Weiss and Anne V. Buchanan, In your own image,
441, 813-814 (15 June 2006) | doi:10.1038/441813a; Published online 14 June 2006.
Thank you, Kenneth and Anne, for a common-sense, well-reasoned,
historically astute, level-headed, fair-minded, disinterested, impartial, responsible,
thoughtful, straight-shooting, devastating critique of evolutionary theory.
The cheers you are hearing are from your real scientific allies, the creationists.
If enough of your academic comrades read and heed your sermon, the House of Darwin will
collapse from within.
Fanciful speculation? Exaggeration? Unwarranted claims of causation?
Arguments that leak like sieves? Projections of oneself on the world? Post-hoc tales?
Slopular science? Youre right, its not just sport; it is a deadly
game, and Charlie started it.
More Darwinian Assumptions Shot Down 06/14/2006
Next headline on:
Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory
Here are two articles that appear to kick out some once-solid props from evolutionary theory.
Readers are encouraged to get the details from the original papers, listed in the footnotes.
Environmental Impotence: Many evolutionists have claimed that the environment
produces strong selection effects. Indeed, the fitness landscape itself evolves,
carrying with it the constraints driving animals and plants to adapt or perish.
A new paper in PLoS Biology1 casts doubt on this assumption.
Wilson et al. examined environmental effects on wild sheep. The team studied,
for the first time, how variation in environmental quality simultaneously
influences the strength of natural selection and the genetic basis of trait variability.
Unfortunately, the results were opposite than expected: our results show that environmental
heterogeneity induces a negative correlation between these two parameters.
The implications seem damaging for evolutionary theory in general:
Harsh environmental conditions were associated with strong selection for increased birthweight
but low genetic variance, and vice versa. Consequently, the potential for microevolution
in this population is constrained by either a lack of heritable variation (in poor environments)
or by a reduced strength of selection (in good environments). More generally,
environmental dependence of this nature may act to limit rates of evolution, maintain
genetic variance, and favour phenotypic stasis in many natural systems.
Assumptions of environmental constancy are likely to be violated in natural systems,
and failure to acknowledge this may generate highly misleading expectations for
Birds Cant Tell Molecular Time: Evolutionists used to think the molecular
clock was steady. That assumption has taken another blow in Molecular Genetics and
Evolution.2 The authors began, Current understanding of the diversification
of birds is hindered by their incomplete fossil record, and uncertainty in phylogenetic relationships
and phylogenetic rates of molecular evolution. So they decided to study the phylogenetic
rates of molecular evolution. Did it help? We found no support for the hypothesis
that the molecular clock in birds ticks according to a constant rate of substitution per
unit of mass-specific metabolic energy rather than per unit of time, as recently suggested.
Did they offer a solution? Not exactly; but this realization will therefore aid
comparative biology studies that seek to infer the origin and timing of major adaptive
shifts in vertebrates. In other words, the bad news is not just for the birds.
1Wilson et al., Environmental Coupling of Selection and Heritability Limits Evolution,
Library of Science Biology, Volume 4 | Issue 7 | July 2006.
2Pereira and Baker, A Mitogenomics Timescale for Birds Detects Variable
Phylogenetic Rates of Molecular Evolution and Refutes the Standard Molecular Clock,
and Evolution, Advance Access published online on June 14, 2006
Molecular Biology and Evolution, doi:10.1093/molbev/msl038.
We thank some readers for bringing these two papers to our attention.
The closer you examine each evolutionary claim, the weaker it looks. How many
other assumptions underlying the fact of evolution are rotting away?
Foot Facts: Frogs and Flies Fulfill Feet Feats
Next headline on:
How do frogs walk on wet leaves without slipping? Eric Jaffe in Science News1
describes how they have dual-purpose footwear: a mucous film that holds on by wet adhesion, plus microscopic
bumps that protrude above the wet layer to make dry contact. Though a frog foot doesnt appear as
fancy as that of a gecko, Now, researchers have evidence that the tree frogs foot may be surprisingly
The frogs prey has fancy feet, too. Corey Binns explained on
how flies can walk on ceilings. Its not a simple feat:
Walking upside-down requires a careful balance of adhesion and weight, and specialized
trekking tools to combat the constant tug of gravity. The fly does it with
broad footpads loaded with microscopic hairs that increase the surface area of contact,
much like the setae on gecko feet. (The article includes a stunning electron micrograph
of a flys foot). Not only that, the hairs secrete a
glue-like substance made of sugars and oils. To get unstuck, the fly simply
peels the pad away like a sticky note. The combination of the feet hairs
rounded tips, the oily fluid, and a four-feet-on-the-floor rule help the inverted insect
take steps in the right direction, Binns summarized.
1Eric Jaffe, Walking on Water: Tree frogs foot uses dual method to stick,
Week of June 10, 2006; Vol. 169, No. 23 , p. 356.
We could rhapsodize about the design in a frog leg or
fly foot, but you already know the sermon. Instead, we offer, for your afternoon amusement, a fly joke
(theres already a frog joke on the humor page).
OK. Three hungry flies buzzed around
the kitchen at midnight, discovering to their delight a skillet of bologna. After gorging
themselves on this unexpected feast, they stopped short with alarm, hearing footsteps. The
human is going to come after us with a swatter if he finds us here, one shouted.
Stuffed to the gills, they all waddled out to the handle and tried to use it like a runway.
Their flimsy wings could no longer support the added weight, though. One by one, they launched
out, only to collapse in a heap on the floor. The moral of this story is, Dont
fly off the handle when youre full of baloney.
Nature of Peer Review Undergoing Review at Nature
Next headline on:
The science cops are on trial. Peer review, the process that many are led to believe enforces objectivity and validity
in scientific papers, has come under fire lately (see 03/17/2006,
01/09/2006). In response to scandals
and criticisms that the peer review as practiced is no guarantee against fraud,
Nature is stepping out into uncharted waters.
In an Editorial entitled Peer review on trial,1
Nature announced two initiatives that seem revolutionary if they
become the new standard. One is to attach blogs to every item posted on
News @ Nature, such as
on the fish-o-pod, Tiktaalik. On a blog, readers can vociferate for or against
a claim, rather than take the authors word for it in a published paper that is assumed
factual since it passed peer review.
Another change opens the door to the hitherto secretive process of reviewing
papers. The trial run of the new process is accompanied by an online debate on peer review
During the trial, which will last several months, Natures traditional approach to
peer review will continue: typically, we send selected submissions to two or three experts whose
identities are kept confidential. We believe that this approach works well. Meanwhile,
over the next few weeks, the web debate will explore other approaches, as well as the
potential for online techniques to unpack the various functions of conventional journals,
the ethics of peer review, and more
After a period of time, the website will close, and the author(s) will have the opportunity to modify
the paper; Nature will also consider the comments posted before publishing it in the journal.
Our online trial opens up a parallel track of peer review for submitted papers
for authors willing to go down that route. The traditional process will still be applied to
all submissions selected for peer review. But we will also offer to post the submitted
manuscript onto an open website. Anyone can then respond to it by posting online comments,
provided they are willing to sign them.
The editors realize this opens research up to critique by journalists and the public as well.
Nature is calling this a trial, not an experiment; they only want explore, expand, and
test these ideas to see if they take hold. But, they end, our core goal remains as
always: to bring our readers the most stimulating content that our editorial skills can deliver.
1Editorial, Peer review on trial,
441, 668 (8 June 2006) | doi:10.1038/441668a; Published online 7 June 2006.
Notice they said stimulating content, not
reliable content. Science fiction is stimulating, too, and so is alcohol.
Reach Out and Touch Some Robot
Its about time peer review got some review itself, and lost some
of its mystique. Its a relatively recent tradition that many great scientific
discoveries got by without just fine (e.g., Newtons Principia). While scrutiny
by others is wise for any claim (even in theology, the Apostle Paul said that the spirits
of the prophets are subject to the prophets), peer review as practiced in science has created
new problems while trying to solve others.
In the information age, there are newer and better ways to screen out fraud
and guarantee validity than to publish papers in high-profile journals that people are
expected to trust simply because they have been peer reviewed. (Science reporters,
among the worst of the believers, have tended to treat each issue as a message from the gods.)
We want to see the day when Darwinian storytelling is no longer immune from
scrutiny in the public arena, when scientists will be praised for the quality of
their observations rather than their imaginations, and when claims outside the bounds
of evidence are shamed out of science.
Public review will not solve
everything. Scientists risk their life work being stolen by rivals.
But an author knowing his or her ideas will be exposed to knowledgeable critics willing
to tie their names to their criticisms may be forced to act more reserved in their
conclusions. That can be a good thing. No initiative or process is a substitute,
however, for old fashioned honesty, an absolute requirement for credibility in any
line of research.
Next headline on:
Politics and Ethics
The news media were excited to report an advance in materials science last week that could pave
the way for touchy-feely robots (see BBC
News, News @ Nature,
News, for instance). Two scientists produced a thin film with touch resolution comparable
to that of a human finger, an order of magnitude better than previous attempts. The work
was published in Science.1
While this is indisputably a remarkable achievement, few of the popular articles
drew detailed comparisons and contrasts with the capabilities of human skin. Richard
Crowder, in the same issue of Science,2 started his analysis of the paper
with a touch of realism:
Todays state-of-the-art dexterous robotic hands cannot achieve tasks that most
6-year-old children can do without thinking, such as tie a shoelace or build a house of
cards. The improvement of the manipulative capabilities of robotic hands requires
advances in a wide range of technologies, including mechanics, actuators, sensors, and artificial
intelligence. Many robotssuch as NASAs Robonaunthave the dexterity
required to perform some of the tasks that we take for granted, but replication of the full
manipulative capabilities of the human hand is still years away.
Calling the development of tactile sensors one of the most difficult problems in
robotics, went on to describe how difficult it is to measure slippage while gripping
an object. Though he had praise for the touch-sensitive film invented by Maheshwari and Saraf,
he continued to underscore the problems facing robot designers emulating a human hand.
To appreciate the advantages of having a single sensor for both slip and texture, it is
worth considering how it can be integrated into robotic hands that need to restrain and manipulate
a wide range of objects under a wide range of conditions. To achieve a satisfactory grasp,
optimal force control is required. Any movement of a robotic hand may result in the grasped
object slipping and possibly being dropped; hence, the sensors on the hand have to register any slippage
and adjust the applied forces to bring the object back to rest....
In short, he wrote, The problem of defining the required grasp force is crucial and can be
posed as an optimization problem. The new tactile sensory material is thus only
part of a multi-faceted problem that will require mastery of many disciplines.
The next stage in the development of this sensor is to look at its robustness and
performance characteristics over time, Crowder ended. Once these issues are
resolved, the sensor can be integrated into a dexterous hand, hopefully leading to an
improvement in dexterity. Fortunately, robotics designers will have their human sense
of touch to aid them in this endeavor.
1Maheshwari and Saraf, High-Resolution Thin-Film Device to Sense Texture by Touch,
9 June 2006: Vol. 312. no. 5779, pp. 1501 - 1504, DOI: 10.1126/science.1126216.
2Richard Crowder, Toward Robots That Can Sense Texture by Touch,
9 June 2006: Vol. 312. no. 5779, pp. 1478 - 1479, DOI: 10.1126/science.1129110.
Would you want a robotic hand encircling your neck,
with the inventors assurance it will only apply the right force to give you a
gentle massage? What if the software, it turns out, needs a patch?
Can the Origin of Life Be Simplified? 06/12/2006
The researchers can be rightly satisfied of their achievement,
but use this story as an occasion to consider the wonder of human touch.
Articles like this one on Apologetics
Press remind us of the exquisite engineering behind this sense that brings such pleasure
and awareness to life. More than a mere force-sensitive material, human skin
is integrated with a powerful processing and feedback apparatus (the central nervous
system) with force actuators (muscles) and automatic temperature controls. In addition, skin
is self-repairing, nourished by a circulating network of nutrients, armed with defenses,
and able to breathe without leaking.
Inventors can make telescopes stronger than eyes, and machines stronger
than muscles, and sensors more precise than nerves. But let no man boast till he
can optimize all capabilities of a human being in a 150-lb package (more or less) and make it all
reproduce itself through a cell the size of a pinhead. Even then, the inventor
will not have breathed into his creation the breath of life to make it a living soul.
He will only have underscored the degree of intelligent design it takes to design and optimize
integrated, multifunctional systems.
We hope robotics science will continue to advance not only toward
the improvement of our lives, but toward illustrating the principle
that integrated, optimized systems do not arise from unguided processes.
Next headline on:
Evolutionists looking for a materialistic explanation for the origin of life know that
there is a huge gap between a sea of chemicals and a self-replicating cell. Over the
years since the Miller experiment (see 05/02/2003
entry), there have been several approaches trying to bridge this gap. One has been
the RNA World hypothesis, that RNA molecules fulfilled the functions of genetic storage
and enzymatic activity (but see problems in 07/11/2002
entry). A different approach rising in popularity these days is the metabolism
This approach, championed by Harold Morowitz, Robert Hazen
and others, looks for self-sustaining chemical cycles that could grow in complexity till
co-opted later by nucleic acids and proteins. Most researchers in the field are
diffident about progress theyre making, but Michael Schirber on
LiveScience shucked aside all modesty in the title of
his article broadcast throughout the news media (see Fox
News, for example), by announcing: How Life Began: New Research Suggests a
Simple Approach. Schirber reduced an enormous
problem to the simplicity of flipping a switch, making it seem as if metabolism-first was
a known fact of history:
Somewhere on Earth, close to 4 billion years ago [sic], a set of molecular reactions flipped a
switch and became life. Scientists try to imagine this animating event [sic]
by simplifying the processes that characterize living things.
Not only that, he said, New research suggests the simplification needs to go further.
But then, after the title had done its comforting work, Schirber spent a whole section debunking the RNA World and
Miller Experiment scenarios. He focused instead on the ideas of Robert Shapiro (New York U) who
favors the metabolism-first approach, and quoted him explaining why other approaches fail:
Shapiro, however, thinks this so-called RNA world is still too complex to be the
origin of life. Information-carrying molecules like RNA are sequences of molecular
bits. The primordial soup [sic] would be full of things that would terminate
these sequences before they grew long enough to be useful, Shapiro says.
Shapiro is usually a good realist for spoiling the optimism of researchers envisioning RNA Worlds
and primordial soups. But he has his own hopeful world in an imaginary landscape, where garbage bags turn
In the very beginning, you couldnt have genetic material that could
copy itself unless you had chemists back then doing it for you, Shapiro told LiveScience.
Instead of complex molecules, life started with small molecules interacting through a closed
cycle of reactions, Shapiro argues in the June issue of the Quarterly Review of Biology.
These reactions would produce compounds that would feed back into the cycle, creating an
ever-growing reaction network
The word genetic is in quotes because thats a pretty loose application of a word
so closely tied to information storage and retrieval.
All the interrelated chemistry might be contained in simple membranes, or what
physicist Freeman Dyson calls garbage bags. These might divide just like cells do
[sic], with each new bag carrying the chemicals to restartor replicatethe original cycle.
In this way, genetic information could be passed down
The article jumps to discussing work by other researchers who found a microbe that runs a simple reaction
cycle via two proteins. One of them leaped to the conclusion that This cycle is where
all evolution emanated from. James Ferry (Penn State) continued triumphantly, It is the father of
all life. Shapiro, wearing his realism hat again, countered skeptically that something had to
create the two proteins. Probability studies show this to be astronomically unlikely (see
online book). He ended with a proverb, We have to let nature instruct us.
Michael Schirber easily wins Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week
with his dazzling, death-defying leap, Somewhere on Earth, close to 4 billion years
ago, a set of molecular reactions flipped a switch and became life. What could
be more simple than flipping a switch? He flipped a switch, all right, but in the OFF direction,
turning the light of honest science into darkness. Ferry wins a close second for his zinger about
a reaction cycle (in a living microbe) being the father of all life.
Domestic Housecat Trees Wild Bear 06/11/2006
Robert Hazen (George Mason U) made a great pitch for Metabolism-First in his
2006 lecture series for
Teaching Company, Origins of Life. Its interesting to hear him
waffle between grandiose optimism and the hard realities of the lab. In the end he has
nothing more than visions and hope to keep him going in the face of repeated honest admissions of
serious and fundamental challenges no matter what approach is used. (In addition, he describes in some detail the
partisanship and bickering between competing groups.) Never do any of the workers in origin-of-life research
entertain the slightest possibility that materialism might be the wrong answer.
They cannot, because they have already convinced themselves philosophically that
science and materialistic philosophy are one and the same.
Unfortunately for them, Metabolism First is another dead end. Why wait for the
capitulation speech? We already know that genetics is essential to life. Metabolic reactions
cannot code for function; they can only run in circles. Planets run in circles,
too, but they are not alive. For a metabolic cycle to grow, adapt, learn (note
Shapiros illegal anthropomorphism), and respond to stimuli, it must store information
and reproduce itself accurately; and (because all life is built on DNA and proteins), it has
to find a way to form these thermodynamically-unfavorable molecules de novo and get
them to co-opt the cycle in some kind of genetic takeover. But Shapiro already knows that
proteins and nucleic acids capable of storing information and functioning as cellular machines are
astronomically improbable. Adding improbabilities to improbabilities does not produce
probabilities, or even possibilities. It produces impossibilities, unless one cheats by
attributing wants, needs and purposes to the inanimate (see personification
Materialistic origin-of-life research has been stumbling backward into the darkness.
Researchers keep themselves entertained not with success in the lab, but with ego, bravado
and hype, which is only whistling in the dark.
Claiming the problem is simple (a big lie) is like shutting ones
eyes in a dark cave. The only way out of the cave is to flip the switch to the ON position.
The switches are everywhere, readily felt on the walls. Yes, Robert, we must let nature teach
us. Only determination to walk in darkness obscures the clear, well-lit view of the vital necessity
of information, and its source: intelligence.
Next headline on:
Origin of Life
Donna Dickey has quite a watchcat. This declawed tabby chased a roaming black bear up
a tree and held it at bay for 15 minutes. When the bear slid down to try to
get away, Jack chased it, hissing and snarling, till the bear escaped up a second tree.
Thats when Donna called her cuddly pet home.
The story is told on CBC News,
Amusing things can happen when domestic and wild animals
find themselves overlapping on the borders of human civilization. Mammals and birds adapting
to their human owners lifestyles exhibit behaviors that seem a curious mix of playfulness
and confusion as their survival-honed instincts discover new situations: thus, the popularity
of TV shows like The Planets Funniest Animals. We should not attribute
human emotions and thoughts to our fellow mammals, into whom the Creator did not breathe
the breath of life to make them become living souls. But
theres something poignant in this little story of Jack that illustrates how
Gods creatures are more than robotic, yet less than sentient and why
we humans find their behaviors so entrancing.
Mini-Dinos Found in Marine Sediments 06/10/2006
Next headline on:
Sauropods were not all the lumbering giants we think of; they could be the size of a
pet dog (images of Deeno in the Flintstones come to mind). This came to light
from recent discoveries announced in Germany (see
BBC News and
of adult sauropods smaller than human height, ranging five to 20 feet long
According to Nicholas Bakalar writing for
Geographic News, the unlikely place of their discovery was quite a surprise.
Co-author of the study Octavio Mateus (New University of Lisbon) described the puzzle of
their location in a quarry loaded with marine sediments.
This was not supposed to happen, he said, because all those layers were
supposed to be marine layers containing only marine animals. We didnt expect
to find dinosaurs, but we did.
To their shame, most of the news reports focused more on
the story line than on the facts of the discovery. They went on about how this species used to be
large like the heavyweight sauropods, but found themselves trapped on an island of diminished
resources so downsized into dwarfs. Only National Geographic (not particularly
partial to hard facts) mentioned the surprise of finding them buried among marine
organisms. Even then, Bakalar did not elaborate. Yet this is an important
detail of the discovery that should not have been understated. These 11 individuals
did not just go to the beach and wait for high tide to come in. They were
apparently caught off guard and overwhelmed suddenly by a watery catastrophe along
with the sea creatures entombed with them. If this were an isolated case, we
might suspect a local misfortune, but is there a pattern emerging? (see
Eukaryote Evolution Proceeded from Complex to Simple 06/09/2006
Next headline on:
As if reprimanding simpletons, three scientists writing in Science1
preached that the old picture of evolution from simple to complex is simplistic.
This is particularly true, they claim, for the story that eukaryotes were born from a
blessed union. Data from many sources, they counter, give no direct
evidence that eukaryotes evolved by genome fusion between archaea and bacteria.
Further down, they remark, Unfortunately, such a model has been tacitly favored by
molecular biologists who appeared to view evolution as an irreversible march from simple
prokaryotes to complex eukaryotes, from unicellular to multicellular.
The old picture harks back to obsolete views of straight-line evolution.
Comparative genomics and proteomics have strengthened the view that modern eukaryote and prokaryote
cells have long followed separate evolutionary trajectories. Because their cells appear simpler,
prokaryotes have traditionally been considered ancestors of eukaryotes. Nevertheless,
comparative genomics has confirmed a lesson from paleontology: Evolution does not proceed monotonically
from the simpler to the more complex. Here, we review recent data from proteomics and genome
sequences suggesting that eukaryotes are a unique primordial lineage....
Out with the old, in with the new. What do they suggest to replace the old picture?
Believe it or not, sequence loss and cellular simplification. Since these are
are common modes of evolution, they argue that the first eukaryote was
already a unique, complex creature. Like a predator or raptor,
it acquired mitochondria by phagocytosis, and diversified from there.
Their view does not prohibit increases in complexity, yet
they seem eager to distance evolutionary theory from visions of progress.
Genome evolution is a two-way street, they say; This bidirectional sense of
reversibility is important as an alternative to the view of evolution as a rigidly monotonic
progression from simple to more complex states, a view with roots in the 18th-century theory of
orthogenesis. They describe several life-forms that have reduced their genomes
and slimmed down to the bare minimum: parasites, symbionts, organelle genomes, and anaerobes.
OK so far; evolution can move either toward complex or simple but how does this explain
eukaryotes (cells with nuclei and compartmentalized organelles)? Here, their explanation appears
forced by the hard realities of the evidence. From the earliest possible ancestor,
eukaryotes were already complex. They had introns (and complex spliceosomes, half of whose
78 proteins are unique to eukaryotes, to handle
them), mitosomes, hydrogenosomes, mitochondria, nuclei, nucleoli, the Golgi apparatus, centrioles,
and an endoplasmic reticulum, along with hundreds of proteins with no orthologs evident in the
genomes of prokaryotes. (Simple Giardia, for example, has 347 eukaryote signature
proteins.) Much of the article describes the unprecedented features of eukaryotes, which constitute
a unique cell type that cannot be deconstructed into
features inherited directly from archaea and bacteria.
This calls for alternatives to
hypotheses that attribute eukaryote origins to genome fusion between archaea and bacteria
(endosymbiosis), which they claim
are surprisingly uninformative about the emergence of the cellular and genomic
signatures of eukaryotes. Recognition of these realities must be the critical starting
point for explaining where eukaryotes came from: i.e., a larger and more complex cell
at the beginning when the three kingdoms bacteria, archaea and eukaryotes diverged.
Their picture can be summarized as follows: (1) the common ancestor was a raptor
or predator on prokaryote mitochondria. (2) Cellular crowding and compartmentalization led
to more efficient molecular interactions. (3) Extensive genome reduction followed.
Darwin, of course, grins in the background; This abbreviated account of genome reduction
illustrates the Darwinian view of evolution as a reversible process in the sense that eyes can be
acquired and eyes can be lost (because of the two-way street of natural selection).
Even Darwin would have agreed that selection gives, and selection takes.
They concur with essential evolutionary doctrine without hesitation: Genomes evolve continuously through the
interplay of unceasing mutation, unremitting competition, and ever-changing environments.
Darwinism is safe, therefore; so now, lets picture the new emerging story for the 21st century:
For the reasons outlined above, we favor the idea that the host that acquired the mitochondrial
endosymbiont [sic] was a unicellular eukaryote predator, a raptor. The emergence [sic]
of unicellular raptors would have had a major ecological impact on the evolution of the gentler descendants
of the common ancestor. These may have responded with several adaptive strategies: They might
outproduce the raptors by rapid growth or hide from raptors by adapting to extreme environments.
Thus, the hypothetical eukaryote raptors may have driven the evolution of their autotrophic,
heterotrophic, and saprotrophic cousins in a reductive mode that put a premium on the relatively
fast-growing, streamlined cell types we call prokaryotes.
One problem. How this complex, predatory cell with most of its unique parts emerged is
anyones guess. So get busy, everyone: This scenario, which is not contradicted
by new data derived from comparative genomics and proteomics, is a suitable starting point [sic] for
1Kurland, Collins and Penny, Genomics and the Irreducible Nature of Eukaryote Cells,
19 May 2006: Vol. 312. no. 5776, pp. 1011 - 1014, DOI: 10.1126/science.1121674.
How many more times can Darwinism survive the onslaught of facts?
Here is another case where (1) everything you know is wrong, (2) the old ideas taught in the days of
the Scopes Trial and as far back as Darwin were too simplistic, (3) the complexity appears to have been
present from the start, and (4) nobody has a clue what happened, and (5) all we have is a suitable
starting point (read: hunch, guess, scenario, plot, tall tale) for starting all over. Once again, also,
it will be harder this time because the new data derived from comparative genomics and proteomics
complicates the picture enormously.
Plant Hula-Hoop Railroads Build Cell Walls 06/09/2006
In place of the old simple story (that was easy to illustrate in textbook cartoons), we have
a new, more violent tale. Predator cells pop into existence somehow, fully equipped; they alter the ecology and force
the prokaryote prey to streamline their genomes and hide. Established at the top of the food chain,
these new eukaryotes begin their long trek toward
Volvox, Tiktaalik and Homo sapiens. Whenever needed, these storytellers can always
invoke the Darwinist Miracle Word emergence to cover their tracks, and call in Tinker Bell to wave
the mutation wand when a major innovation is needed. Thus is worship in the Temple of Charlie
kept going another day, while Big Science mans the fortifications. But for how much longer?
The Visigoths are at the gates (05/09/2006), demanding,
Enough of this! No more excuses. Mr. Darwin, tear down this wall!
Next headline on:
Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory
Solving a long-standing mystery about how plants build cell walls, Stanford scientists
imaged molecular machines traveling along hoop-shaped rings around the inside of the cell.
Publishing in Science, Paradez, Somerville and Ehrhardt proved that cellulose synthase
(CESA), a machine that manufactures cellulose composed of six subunits arranged in rosettes,
rides like a rail car on microtubules that encircle the inside of the plasma membrane.
From there, the machine extrudes the complex molecule to the exterior, building the rigid
Clive Lloyd, commenting on this finding in the same issue of Science,2
seemed happily astonished, not only at the scientific achievement, but at the plants themselves:
In a remarkable series of biological transformations, green plants convert carbon
dioxide into cellulose fibers stronger than steel. These thin threads of polymeric
glucose are wrapped around growing cells, lending structural support to the plant as it
extends further into the environment. The fibers are not simply secreted into the
plant cell wall in a haphazard fashion but are deposited in ordered layers that still
allow the cell to expand. For more than 40 years, it has been known that the alignment of
these cellulose fibers (microfibrils) in the cell wall often coincides with cytoskeletal microtubules
tethered to the cytoplasmic side of the plasma membrane... Despite this coincidence, there has never
been direct proof that microtubules provide a guidance mechanism for the alignment of cellulose
microfibrils. Now, on page 1491 of this issue, Paredez et al. (1) provide that proof.
Lloyd described the cell-encircling hoops as a microtubule railroad providing tracks
for the cellulose-synthesizing machines. Apparently these tubules can reorient themselves,
perhaps in hula-hoop fashion, allowing the machines to stitch cross-hatch patterns of cellulose for
added strength (see 01/16/2003) for analogous process).
1Paradez, Somerville and Ehrhardt, Visualization of Cellulose Synthase Demonstrates
Functional Association with Microtubules,
9 June 2006: Vol. 312. no. 5779, pp. 1491 - 1495, DOI: 10.1126/science.1126551.
2Clive Lloyd, Microtubules Make Tracks for Cellulose,
9 June 2006: Vol. 312. no. 5779, pp. 1482 - 1483, DOI: 10.1126/science.1128903.
Should we not gasp and applaud over how a blade of grass stands
up? Plants dont just happen. A plant could not grow upward against
gravity without a complex, programmed arrangement of tools and parts that build the structure
piece by piece in an ordered fashion. Now, we see that this construction process involves
railroad tracks and rail cars loaded with organic-chemistry wizards.
Update: Crater-Count Dating Squabble Unresolved
The ways the components of the cell wall are manufactured
and assembled are wonders in themselves (see 10/26/2001 for a
glimpse). Did you realize plants contain a substance stronger than steel? And that
they make it starting with just carbon dioxide (a gas) through a remarkable series of
biological transformations? What an amazing creation! (We must add the
obligatory observation that neither of these papers said anything about how these biological
marvels might have evolved.)
Next headline on:
Remember the revelation last year that many craters on Mars used to infer ages may have
been secondary impacts from fallback debris? (see 10/20/2005 entry).
Well, a microsymposium on this subject was held in Houston in March, and Richard Kerr
in Science1 said that 125 planetary scientists deadlocked over how to
apply crater-dating techniques to recent Mars history.
Some are adamant that most craters are secondaries, and that they are difficult
to distinguish from primaries, while others feel their methods produce consistent dating
results. If the former are right, however, then crater counts have little to do
with telling time, Kerr wrote. Inferences about ages of features in geological history built on
these dating methods could be off by orders of magnitude.
Support for the secondary-crater explanation comes from ground level.
It shows that the process occurs even at small scales:
Close-up images from the Mars rover Spirit also suggest that secondaries dominate small craters
on Mars, too. Geologist Matthew Golombek of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California,
a Spirit team member, reported on a survey of impact craters measuring from 10 centimeters to a couple of
hundred meters across. Spirit found that they are all far shallower and less bowllike than primary
craters tend to be. The high speed of impactors falling in from the asteroid belt makes for relatively
deeper craters than those made by slower ejecta blocks of the same size. Almost every crater you see looks like a secondary, said Golombek.
1Richard A. Kerr, Planetary Science: Who Can Read the Martian Clock?,
26 May 2006: Vol. 312. no. 5777, pp. 1132 - 1133, DOI: 10.1126/science.312.5777.1132.
Before this realization came to light, the assumption was
that meteoroids produced a steady rain of impactors on a planet or moon, allowing scientists
to estimate the age of the surface. The concept sounds simple enough,
Kerr said, nostalgically; To decipher the geologic history of other bodies in the
solar system, count craters formed by the slow rain of bombarding rocks.
The more craters on a lava flow, glacial debris, or a flood deposit, the farther back in
time a volcano erupted, ice flowed, or water gushed. Now, we know that
In practice, however, telling geologic time beyond Earth has proved tricky.
A sidebar shows that there is even debate on how the impacts took place, and whether
there was a catastrophic period of bombardment, or a slow decrease in events in the
first million years of the solar system.
Evolutionary Trees Positively Misleading
But wait; about that first million years it is inferred from
studies of the moon, which were dated by crater counts. And the moon is also
dated by extrapolation of dating methods from earth which were largely accepted due to
their allowance of time for Darwinian evolution. What if evolution is not
true? And what if the dating methods on Earth are flawed? Can secular
scientists really know anything about ages in the solar system?
Dont count on it. Assumption is the mother of confusion.
Next headline on:
According to an article in PLoS Genetics,1 there is a fundamental flaw in the
way species trees are inferred from gene trees using molecular genetics that is guaranteed to produce
Because of the stochastic way in which lineages sort during speciation, gene trees
may differ in topology from each other and from species trees. Surprisingly,
assuming that genetic lineages follow a coalescent model of within-species evolution, we find that
for any species tree topology with five or more species, there exist branch lengths for which gene
tree discordance is so common that the most likely gene tree topology to evolve along the branches
of a species tree differs from the species phylogeny. This counterintuitive result
implies that in combining data on multiple loci, the straightforward procedure of using the most
frequently observed gene tree topology as an estimate of the species tree topology can be asymptotically
guaranteed to produce an incorrect estimate.
Their paper proves that the democratic vote procedure of using the most common gene tree
as the estimate of the species tree is statistically inconsistent for phylogenetic inference.
In fact, it is positively misleading, they claim.
Common methods used in phylogenetic studies do not take into account the anomalous gene trees (AGTs)
that result from a flawed assumption: the implicit premise that makes it
sensible to estimate a species tree using a single gene tree or the most common among several gene treeshas
remained unquestioned. They show that discordance can occur between the species tree and the
most likely gene tree and that the data can converge on a wrong answer as the number of genes increases.
This is not just a theoretical problem, they say, and provide an example:
It is noteworthy that our theoretical results apply to knownrather than estimatedgene trees, and
do not consider the effect of mutations on inference of gene trees. This issue is important, as
mutational history is a key factor in determining when an empirical study might actually be misled by AGTs.
As an illustration, in one human-chimp-gorilla study, a substantial fraction of locisix of 45
consideredhad no informative substitutions that could provide support to any particular phylogenetic grouping..
That this many loci would not have any phylogenetic information in the human-chimp-gorilla clade suggests
that for the smaller branch lengths typical of the anomaly zone, the fraction of uninformative loci could be much greater.
Adding more genes to a study does not improve the statistics, nor does including other types of data,
such as genomic inversions or rearrangements. Their best advice is to include samples with multiple
individuals per species. That, however, is unlikely due to the difficulty and expense of sequencing.
Different algorithms for combining data on multiple loci will have different degrees of susceptibility
to the occurrence of AGTs, and a challenge for phylogenetics is to identify those procedures that are
best able to overcome this new obstacle to accurate inference of species trees.
1Degnan and Rosenberg, Discordance of Species Trees with Their Most Likely Gene Trees,
Library of Science: Genetics, Volume 2 | Issue 5 | MAY 2006.
So much for hundreds of papers for the last few decades, with all
their confident claims about the evolutionary ancestry of this or that group. Now what?
Can anything reliable come out of Darwinist attempts to find ancestry in DNA?
Beavers Achieve Environmental Reprieve
Next headline on:
In what might be considered an unexpected convergence between geology and zoology, it has
been found that beaver dams influence large tracts of land both above and below ground.
Impact of beaver dams wider than thought announced a headline on
summarizing studies by scientists in Rocky Mountain National Park.
The dams take water that would otherwise be channeled down narrow passages
and spread it out, raising the water table and sustaining plant and animal life during
the dry season. The construction projects also spread water downstream with the
efficiency of a massive once-every-200-years flood, the article states.
....Additionally, beaver dams built away from natural river channels further redirect
water across the valley, increasing the depth, extent, and duration of small floods.
This suggests that beavers can create and maintain environments suitable for the
formation and persistence of wetlands.
Without the spreading effect of the dams,
small and large floods would largely rush down to the lowlands, leaving mountain valleys dry.
The beaver dams help capture and spread the resources into the sides of the mountain valleys
where it can be stored in the water table. This moderates the peak- and low-water periods,
resulting in enhanced vitality and biodiversity of mountain ecosystems.
See also the 07/16/2005 entry on how beavers are
inspiring human dam builders.
In the fur trade era, these river rats were valued only
for hats, as their pelts produced felt for svelte European dudes.
Now we know that beavers influence is felt in bigger and better ways. Watch the
IMAX film Beavers on DVD at home and marvel at another of Gods adorable creatures
that are useful as well as ornamental as we also should be.
The Universe Is Made Out of... Fudge! 06/07/2006
Next headline on:
[Guest article] According to the July issue of
Astronomy magazine, the Universe is comprised mostly of
fudge or at least fudge factors, anyway. The article by James Trefil from George Mason University
describes the current thinking among astrophysicists as to the eventual fate of the universe.
Since the Big Bang, there has been an expansion:
On one hand, the expansion could reverse, in which case, all the matter in the universe would come together again
the Big Crunch... On the other hand, the expansion could go on forever, leading to a bleak, cold, and empty future
the Big Chill.
There is a happy medium called the flat universe, where we dont Crunch or Chill,
but coast happily outward forever.
There is a quantity of matter in the universe necessary for the happy coasting.
It is called the critical density, and theorists believe that the universe must be at that value in order to
observe what we see today. There is a problem, however: If you count up all the stuff astronomers see
stars, dust clouds, and other kinds of ordinary, or baryonic, matter it totals about
4 percent of the critical density. This is way too little to get to the critical density.
In addition, astronomers note that galaxies rotate strangely. The arms of the galaxies, being further
away, should, over time, separate from the inner regions of the galaxy. Enter fudge factor #1,
The only way for this to happen is for the visible galaxy to be
surrounded by a sphere, or halo, of something else something not visible, something dark.
This stuff is called dark matter.
Even though it is not visible, the author states, We know that over 90 percent of
material in galaxies like the Milky Way is dark matter.... Even when you add this generous fudge
to the universe, the density of the universe comes to about a third of the critical density.
The Big Bang theory predicted that if we were able to measure the velocity of galaxies over time,
it would follow a profile one would expect of an energetic explosion high velocity early, then a slowing
as the energy of the explosion dissipated. The physicists devised a method by which they could observe
more distant stars, where distance equates to farther looks into the past by their reckoning, and see what
earlier velocities were. Unfortunately, there was a bombshell:
Against all expectations, they found the most distant galaxies are receding from Earth more slowly
than nearby ones... The expansion is accelerating!
Enter fudge factor #2: dark energy. In order to make the expansion get faster later,
physicists had to attribute to dark energy the ability to counteract the slowing force of gravity with an
impulsive force that would boost the expansion enough to account for the faster current rates.
The matter equivalent of dark energy (remember E=mc2 ?) fills up the rest of the matter required
to bring the universe to critical density. This dark energy, by the way, is also invisible and unobservable.
Between dark matter and dark energy, these fudge factors fill in gaps of 96 percent of what is
observed in order to get old-age math to work out. This helps physicists feel optimistic that in a few
tens of billions of years, we wont Crunch or Chill.
Evolutionists accuse creationists of inventing a God of the Gaps to cover for their ignorance of
true science. It would appear that the high priests of astrophysics have their own Gods of the Gaps,
namely dark matter and dark energy. What will happen to the universe? It wont be the Big Crunch
or the Big Chill, but the Big Furnace: But the day of the Lord will come like a thief,
in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and
the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.
Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and
godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed
by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for
new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells
(2 Peter 3:10-13).
Protein Dressing Room Has Electronic Walls
Next headline on:
Properly folded proteins are essential to all of life.
When a polypeptide, or chain of amino acids, emerges from the ribosome translation factory on its
way to becoming a protein, it looks
like a useless, shapeless piece of string. It cannot perform its function till folded into a precise,
compact shape particular for its job. Some short polypeptides will spontaneously fold into their native state,
ready for work, but many of the bigger ones need help. Fortunately, the cell provides a private
dressing room called the GroEL-GroES chaperonin that not only gives them privacy, away from the bustle
of colliding molecules in the cytoplasm, but actually helps them get dressed (see also
05/05/2003 entry). This chaperone or helper machine
thus not only gets the actor ready for the stage faster, but prevents misfolding that could clutter the
cell with useless or harmful aggregates of protein.
A team from the
Max Planck Institute, writing in Cell,1 investigated how the internal structure of
this barrel-shaped molecular machine overcomes energy barriers to proper folding and speeds up the
process ten-fold. They found that the inside walls of the GroEL barrel and the inside walls of
the GroES lid contain protrusions that generate electrostatic and hydrophobic forces on the interior
space. When the unfolded protein enters, therefore, it is subjected to gentle pressures that
coax it to fold. These forces are nonspecific enough to work on hundreds of
different substrates that use this general-purpose machine.
Furthermore, they found that the
forces change during the entry of the nascent protein. The interior is not barrel shaped when the
actor approaches the door; the GroES lid, with the help of the energy molecule ATP, guides the protein
in, and then the barrel pops into its shape, providing a safe haven for folding. Moreover, the
electronic walls turn on to provide that gentle nudge to get the polypeptide over its energy barriers
and into the right folding pathway. When the protein has properly completed its folding after
about 10 seconds in the dressing room, the door opens and the protein pops out, ready for action.
How finely tuned is this machine? The authors did some experiments on mutating the
chaperone to make the barrel looser and tighter. They found that volume changes as small as 2-5%
slowed down the folding considerably. The barrel volume needs to be within certain narrow limits,
yet general enough to handle a variety of small, medium and large proteins.
The GroEL/GroES nano-cage allows a single protein molecule to fold in isolation.
This reaction has been compared to spontaneous folding at infinite dilution. However, recent experimental
and theoretical studies indicated that the physical environment of the chaperonin cage can alter the
folding energy landscape, resulting in accelerated folding for some proteins. By
performing an extensive mutational analysis of GroEL, we have identified three structural features of the
chaperonin cage as major contributors to this capacity: (1) geometric confinement exerted on the
folding protein inside the limited volume of the cage; (2) a mildly hydrophobic, interactive surface
at the bottom of the cage; and (3) clusters of negatively charged amino acid residues exposed on the cavity
wall. We suggest that these features in combination provide a physical environment that
has been optimized in evolution [sic] to catalyze the structural annealing of proteins with kinetically
complex folding pathways. Thus, the chaperonin system and its mutant versions may prove as useful tools
in understanding how proteins navigate their energy landscape of folding.
1Tang et al., Structural Features of the GroEL-GroES Nano-Cage Required for
Rapid Folding of Encapsulated Protein,
We didnt need that little senseless phrase optimized
in evolution now, did we? The authors talked nothing else about evolution, or how
natural selection could produce three independent structural features of this one machine that
assists proteins in vital ways. This machine has irreducible complexity written all over it.
As usual, references to evolution provide nothing but a narrative gloss on the actual facts of the
story. The science involved continuing revelations inside the black box, where we see
precision, efficiency, control and design.
Update: Iraq Marshlands Recovering Quicker Than Expected 06/06/2006
In the film Unlocking
the Mystery of Life with its forgivably simplified animations, a nascent protein is
shown floating into a smooth, barrel-shaped chamber with a lid, where it folds on itself from
one end to another. This is helpful to show the general idea, but the actual process is
much more complicated and interesting. For one thing, this all happens much quicker
than shown, in a very crowded environment. For another, protein folding is a complex
affair, wherein several domains of the polypeptide fold sequentially or simultaneously
following an energy landscape (like a pinball
negotiating obstacles) that leads to the completed protein. Some domains fold into
a helix or sheet, or several, which then combine into larger structures. Even then,
after the protein exits the chaperone, there can be subsequent modifications: multiple proteins,
for instance, might be joined into complexes, with metal ions inserted (as in hemoglobin or
chlorophyll), and these proteins usually become part of networks. Add to that now the
exciting discovery that the walls of the chaperone barrel are interactive, coaxing the
proteins to fold properly. At every stage there is coordinated, synchronized,
Think about how these molecules operate in the blind. They do not have
eyes and brains telling them where to go yet they succeed. There is no analog in human technology;
the closest, perhaps, is computer programming, but in life, at scales smaller than most of
us can imagine, nano-factories operate with physical entities moving through space and time.
How fortunate we are to see these marvels unfold. Our ancestors might have
wondered at the mysteries of biological life, but could they in their wildest dreams have
imagined the city-like organization at work at the molecular level?
Next headline on:
How is south-central Iraq doing? Recall that Saddam Hussein nearly obliterated,
intentionally, one of the worlds premier wetlands (05/01/2003,
02/18/2005). His fall from power enabled
scientists to measure the damage and estimate hopes for recovery. The outlook
was pretty bleak at first. Now, after two seasons of above-average rainfall upstream,
fresh water has again been flooding large areas of the marshes.
A team monitoring the recovery provided an update in BioScience.1
Their assessment is guarded optimism: about a third of the vast acreage is recovering
better than expected, but there is a long way to go. Many birds and indigenous species
have been spotted, giving scientists hope of their return from near extinction.
The main problems are lack of landscape connectivity between
the reflooded areas, uncertainties about the sustainability of the freshwater sources, and
doubts that the Marsh Arab culture will become re-established. Many of those forced away
may not return due to other opportunities, fear, uncertainty and other factors: the
young, for instance, are being attracted to other ways of life. It was not exactly the Garden
of Eden lifestyle portrayed in the West, anyway: the paper states that warfare, rivalry
and disease accompanied living in the region.
1Curtis J. Richardson and Najah H. Hussain, Restoring the Garden of Eden:
An Ecological Assessment of the Marshes of Iraq,
Volume 56, Number 6, June 2006, pp. 477-489(13).
Where are the activist environmentalists on this issue?
Have they forgotten that Saddam Hussein intentionally committed two of the worst acts of
environmental terrorism in history, the burning of the Kuwaiti oil fields in the first gulf
war, and the destruction of the Iraqi marshlands in the second? Had not the international
coalition under American leadership intervened in both cases, Saddam would have succeeded without
consequence, and the land might never have recovered.
The dictator who machine-gunned civilians by the tens of thousands and bulldozed their bodies
into mass graves now is getting some due process he denied his victims, while the land he
ravaged has at least some hope of recovery. Environmentalists tend to be predominantly
leftist in ideology. Can they at least give the two President Bushes a little credit
here for taking the initiative, boldly, to do something about it?
Hobbit Man, Neanderthal Man Further Scrutinized
While saving the ecology was not the primary
mission of either military action, it has been a tangible by-product.
As in other lands ravaged by dictators, the return of freedom has provided incalculable environmental hope for
this vital region. Sin cursed the original Garden of Eden and continues to curse the
land wherever evil triumphs. Some day, according to the Bible, only the Creators intervention
will avail to destroy those who destroy the earth
By then, a complete remake will be required by the Creator himself. That does not mean, however, that
we stewards should not work to conserve and fortify what we have now.
Next headline on:
Politics and Ethics
Bible and Theology
The positions of two alleged human ancestors in the family tree is becoming clearer, or murkier, depending
on whom you ask. This illustrates the uncertainty and disparity of opinions in this field.
No firm conclusions here, either, but that has not
stopped Steven Mithen (U. of Reading, UK) from writing a whole book speculating that Neanderthals
were the first musicians (see Reuters story on MSNBC.com).
The storytelling goes on: It was a dark and stormy night, and in a cave in what is now southern France,
Neanderthals were singing, dancing and tapping on stalagmites with their fingernails to pass the time.
- Hobbit workshop: Regarding the diminutive skeletons dubbed Homo floresiensis found
in Indonesia, opinions seems to be condensing around the idea they were true Homo sapiens, not
missing links. Bruce Bower reported in Science
News (162:22:141, June 3), summarizing a paper by Adam Brumm et al. in Nature last week,1 that stone tools found
elsewhere on the island of Flores appear to match those in the Liang Bua cave where H. floresiensis
was discovered. But these artifacts are dated at up to 840,000 years old, whereas the bones of Hobbit Man are
thought to be much more recent (estimated 74,000 to 12,000 years), within the time frame when true
Homo sapiens are believed to have inhabited the island. This raises several questions:
Indeed, it appears hard to know anything at all about this population. Since the
dates of H. floresiensis are too recent to consider them missing links or derivatives of
Homo erectus, a minority of scientists still contend the specimens are examples of modern humans with
microcephalic disorder (see
Science 19 May, 2006).
An article on BBC News
mentions the puzzle of the hundreds of thousands of years alleged between Mata Menge and Liang Bua; We cant guarantee
that this material really is related because of the large time gap, Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum, UK,
- Can we trust the dates? Bower quotes James L. Phillips (Field Museum, Chicago)
calling the idea beyond belief that the tools at the other site are connected culturally
with H. floresiensis. He says, Mata Menge artifacts lay in unstable river sediment
that moved over time, making it impossible to obtain accurate age estimates, Phillips holds.
- Can we measure brain power from bones? The stone toolwork, apparently unique to
Flores, displays humanlike technology. The latest Flores finds show that the diminutive islanders,
with their craniums the size of chimps, possessed enough brainpower to parlay cultural traditions
into effective toolmaking, Bowers writes.
- Can we know the toolmakers? Though 3,626 artifacts have been excavated in the cave
hideout of Hobbit man, I dont think we can rule out Homo sapiens as the [maker] of the Liang Bua tools,
John Shea (State U of New York) said.
- Can we assume cross-cultural connections? According to Bower, Dietrich Stout
(University College, London) remarked that Its hard to know whether a single Stone Age
culture connected residents of Mata Menge to Liang Buas inhabitants or whether separate
hominid populations happened to exploit similar, basic toolmaking techniques.
- Neanderthal genes: European scientists reporting in Current Biology2
sequenced another strand of Neanderthal DNA in hopes of shedding light on whether Neanderthals and modern
humans interbred (see 05/22/2006).
In short, they reported that there is still a distinction between the DNA of the
two groups, but that Neanderthal genetic diversity has been underestimated, and is comparable to
modern human genetic diversity. They could not discern if the diversity was due to cohabitation,
climactic changes, or subdivisions of populations; Thus, more Neandertal sequences than the six
presently available and longer than 100 bp [base-pairs] are needed to fully understand the extent of
the past diversity of Neandertals.
1Adam Brumm et al., Early stone technology on Flores and its implications for Homo floresiensis,
441, 624-628 (1 June 2006) | doi:10.1038/nature04618.
2Orlando et al., Revisiting Neandertal diversity with a 100,000 year old mtDNA sequence,
Volume 16, Issue 11, June 2006, pages R400-R402, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2006.05.019.
The MSNBC story about Neanderthal music continues by asking whether such a cave concert might have
actually happened, or is a figment of Mithens imagination. The answer is: the latter.
Hummingbirds: Small Wonders
In neither story are data definitive enough to draw
conclusions. In the case of Hobbit man, they cannot be sure which tools are associated
with which population, who is related to whom, how old they are, how long they were there, and what their
capabilities were. It seems incredible to expect a simple stone-tool technology to
persist on one island for over 800,000 years without change. And making inferences about intelligence
based on brain size is fraught with fallacies; consider how capable a hummingbird is with a
brain the size of a grain of rice (see next story).
None of these reports contradict the creationist position that humans have always been humans and
had their intellectual and artistic abilities from day one, or shall we say, Day Six.
According to the Bible, Adams great grandchildren were already accomplished farmers, metallurgists and musicians
(see Genesis 4), having invented these
skills from scratch using their God-given abilities, without hundreds of thousands of years of mutations and
natural selection. Do you need a model that fits the evidence? Put this score on your music stand and
play it. (More harmony, less cacophony.)
Next headline on:
Do you enjoy watching the worlds smallest birds, right from your backyard?
Susan Healy and T. Andrew Hurly provided interesting tidbits about them in a Quick Guide to Hummingbirds in
Current Biology this week.1
There are 330 species of these small flyers
noted for their aerobatics and iridescent colors. Typically, they
weigh a few grams. The largest is the size of a starling; the smallest (from Cuba) weighs a mere two
grams, and is nine centimeters long (mostly beak and tail). Flight muscles comprise 25 to 30% of a
hummingbirds body weight; a three gram hummingbird beats its wings an astonishing 50–70 times per second,
the authors exclaim. Yet all this capability grows from an egg the size of a pea.
Some species migrate to the
Canadian Rockies while snow is still on the ground, yet manage to keep their eggs 25° C
warmer than the ambient air. How? They are able to deal with cold temperatures
because their feathers provide some of the best avian insulation, with more feathers per inch of
surface than other small- to medium-sized birds. Furthermore, they can lower their
metabolism to a state of torpor to conserve energy.
Before migrating, they store 72% of their weight in fat, more energy efficient
than carbohydrate. This requires some physiological fine-tuning on the inside:
They have the most metabolically active liver known, with the highest levels of enzymes for
lipid synthesis along with extremely high rates of intestinal glucose transport, which results
in very dilute excreta, invaluable for a nectarivorous animal ingesting large quantities of water
in its food. Quite how they are able to produce highly dilute urine is still not known, but it
appears that their renal morphology and physiology is more like that of nectarivorous bats and
freshwater amphibia than that of non-nectarivorous birds.
Their hovering ability is well known; they can even fly upside down and backwards.
This is made possible by a wing structure unlike that of any other birds, which articulate
their wings from shoulder, elbow and wrist: hummingbirds wings articulate only from
the shoulder. In the ecology, they fulfill important roles as pollinators.
Another hummingbird feat that has come to light recently is their skill at
memory. The article states that they appear to remember where they
have visited hummingbird feeders along the way: the reminder for garden owners to put the feeder
containing sucrose solution out is often a bird hovering around the place the feeder was
hung the previous year (a reminder not to disappoint the little backyard friends).
Secondly, they have been shown to remember information on a more local scale,
avoiding flowers they have recently emptied and returning to flowers they have left still
containing food (see 04/05/2006, bullet 9).
How is this all possible in such a tiny creature? The authors remark,
Although the rufous hummingbird has a brain approximately the size of a grain of rice,
it puts it to rather good use.
1Susan Healy and T. Andrew Hurly, Quick guide: Hummingbirds,
Biology, Volume 16, Issue 11, June 2006, pages R392-R393, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2006.05.015.
Buy a hummingbird feeder and use it as a teaching opportunity
for your family. Hold up a stuffed bird of similar size and weight and ask your kids
how many systems would need to be added to make it fly like a real hummingbird.
Imagine NASA designing a remote sensing, guided hovercraft with a computer the size of a
grain of rice, able to extract energy from sugar water and fly to snowy peaks in Canada.
Then imagine them making it able to reproduce itself through pellets the size of a rice grain.
Moments like these can help teach young people not to take the wonders of nature for granted.
Researcher Denies SETI Is a Religion 06/03/2006
Next headline on:
Apparently irritated by charges that SETI research is like a religion (see,
for instance, the article by novelist Michael Crichton mentioned in our
12/27/2003 entry), David Darling
of the SETI Institute has issued a response. On
his title was direct: Of Faith and Facts: Is SETI a Religion?
The answer was a forthright NO to people like George Basalla (U of Delaware, emeritus)
who claimed in his new book Civilized Life in the Universe (Oxford, 2006) that
in the absence of any positive evidence, SETI relies more on a kind of religious zeal than anything
else. Basalla attempts to draw stark distinctions:
Religions are characterized by two factors: worshipin other words, some system of
devotion directed toward one or more omniscient and supranatural beingsand
faith in the absence of material evidence. SETI qualifies as a
religion on neither of these counts. Unless Im very much mistaken no SETI
researcher offers prayers to the subject of his or her quest (although it would be
fascinating to know what spiritual traditions might have grown up among the civilizations of
other stars). And any faith thats involved in SETI is only the kind of
non-religious faith that any scientist adheres tofaith in the scientific method,
the equipment she uses, the all-important peer review process, and so on.
As Ive mentioned, we already have material evidence for intelligence in the universe:
it consists of the brains youre using right now to assimilate these thoughts.
Unlike a religion which relies on pure faith that a god exists, we dont
need faith that intelligence and technology exist.
Other intelligences that we already know about, Darling said, include dolphins and great apes.
Darling draws a parallel between the hunch that other scientists had 40 years ago that extrasolar
planets exist, not confirmed till recently:
If we were to follow Basallas line of reasoning, the search for extrasolar planets also
qualifies as a kind of religion. Shouldnt we simply have given up after four decades of
looking? Surely thats enough time to have found something if it really existed?
Isnt continuing beyond that a sign of misplaced faith and over-optimism? Fortunately
the quest did go on and were now reaping the rewardsnew planets by the bucket-load.
He admits, though, that SETI has not detected anything, so the comparison is only in the spirit
of the early researches, and its confidence in the physical theories that expected to find
extrasolar planets. SETI researchers know their limitations, he says, in
the spirit of Murphys Ultimate Law: By definition, when investigating the unknown,
you do not know what you will find. We are ... like Columbus sailing into
uncharted waters, Darling ends. We dont know what well find.
But, he adds with positivist flair, the quest is extraordinary, exciting, abundantly
worthwhile, and true to the methodology and spirit of science.
Give this to J. P. Moreland; he will have a field day with the
faulty analogies, false dichotomies
and straw-man arguments, to say nothing of Darlings
junior-high philosophy of science.
Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week: Handy Dandy Modus Operandi 06/02/2006
Science in our culture is like the celebrity everyone wants his or her picture
taken with, wants to name-drop and pretend is a close friend. But does hanging around
with scientists, using scientific equipment and engaging in peer review qualify as science?
Darling and the other SETI Institute darlings like to shmooze with the scientists in the
green room, but they cannot publish
a peer-reviewed paper about aliens because they dont have any. They might get
peers to review an article about the detection limits of this or that instrument, but such documentation
could not support the belief that extraterrestrials exist, any more than describing the
physical characteristics of a fine-mesh net establishes its ability to capture ghosts.
The reference to peer review also begs
the question whether peer review qualifies something as scientific, or grants
credibility (see 02/05/2006). Even theologians
and historians engage in peer review of a sort but dont call their work science or faith.
Darling commits a blatant association fallacy
by comparing apes and dolphins and human brains to alien intelligences. We know about apes,
dolphins and our fellow humans whose brains are all DNA-and-protein based
but not anything demonstrable about alien intelligence,
other than an endless chain of speculations tickling the imaginations of science fiction writers, cartoonists
and Discovery Channel animators. Darlings bravado leans on the bruised reed of
materialistic evolution. He presumes Earth intelligence evolved, then
transfers that assumption to outer space ignoring the possibility that brains, dolphins and
apes were created.
He unjustifiably extrapolates their presence here as evidence they could have evolved out there.
Theres nothing wrong with looking, but
the existence of alien intelligence cannot even begin to be discussed scientifically till there are
data in hand. Even then, however, detection of unknown
intelligence will not prove it is natural or arose naturalistically
(see 05/11/2006, is the universe natural?).
If he wants to shore up the scientific respectability of SETI, lets see some boundary
conditions, a null hypothesis, criteria for success and failure, and willingness to consider
alternative hypotheses including creation.
Most egregious is Darlings depiction of religion, a classic
either-or fallacy. He paints religion in the starkest
of terms: mind-numbed devotees, going through worship rituals and prayers, exercising blind
faith in things contrary to evidence. Apparently he has not debated the likes of
Gary Habermas or Josh McDowell, who accept Christianity precisely because of the facts,
and certainly have more hard data in support of their faith (read: confidence) than
has the SETI Institute. What confidence, by contrast, can SETI researchers have in their compass,
the Drake Equation? Its a series of unknown factors that can yield any number from a hundred
million alien civilizations to zero. Informed guesses dont count, either, argued
Michael Crichton: If you need to state how many planets with life choose to communicate,
there is simply no way to make an informed guess. Its simply prejudice.
Darling, Shostak, Tarter and the rest of the SETI gang are free to look and
believe, pray their Drake Equation rosaries and worship the Spirit of Charlie, who brings forth intelligence from
particles. As long as there are people willing to put money in their offering baskets
and build their dish-shaped cathedrals, hey its a free country. But like Crichton
warned, even if SETI research has some heuristic value, that does not relieve us of the obligation to
see the Drake equation clearly for what it ispure speculation in quasi-scientific trappings.
Next headline on:
Charles G. Gross and Asif A. Ghazanfar win the prize for this gem in Science1
from a book review of The Sensory Hand by Vernon B. Mountcastle (Harvard, 2006):
In one of the first systematic attempts to describe the differences between primates and
other mammals, Thomas Huxley argued that the former are distinguished by virtue of their
adaptation to arboreal life. Central to this arboreal life is the grasping hand.
Indeed, the primate hand is so fundamental to how we define ourselves that some,
including Friedrich Engels, have claimed that hand use (particularly with tools) was the
driving force that gave rise to our sophisticated cognitive abilities.
Though this idea is an overstatement, our hands do represent a masterpiece of Darwinian
evolution; its elegant design is on a par with the eyes and ears.
1Charles G. Gross and Asif A. Ghazanfar,
Neuroscience: A Mostly Sure-Footed Account of the Hand,
2 June 2006: Vol. 312. no. 5778, p. 1314, DOI: 10.1126/science.1125179.
Well, since eyes and ears evolved, obviously, hands must have, too. In fact, natural selection
not only invented the hand, but used it as a driving force for more natural selection.
Now that just drives it out of the park, doesnt it? Darwinian evolution makes hands that
make Darwinian evolution make brains. Who needs artists and
engineers any more? Darwinian evolution, the masterpiece maker, the masterpiece-maker maker,
renders all other makers obsolete. It even makes masterpiece critics who know what
elegant design means.
Asteroid Sticks Together While Theories Disintegrate 06/01/2006
The reviewers must be communist sympathizers, because they ended with another quote by Engels,
a guy on the dustbin of history known more for his radical economics than knowledge of anatomy:
Man alone has succeeded in impressing his stamp on nature ... and he has accomplished this
primarily and essentially by means of the hand ... step by step, with the development [i.e.,
evolution] of the hand went that of the brain. They add, Mountcastles book
shows us how we are beginning to understand this process.
You cant know youve
understood a process at the beginning, but only at the end. Their masterpiece of
Darwinian evolution statement shows that they understand little, if anything, about
the origin of masterpieces. Their choice of guru (Engels) shows that they understand
even less about economics and logic.
Next headline on:
[Guest article] In an story entitled Rubbly Itokawa revealed as impossible asteroid,
New Scientist Space reported on findings gathered from the recent visit of Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa to the asteroid Itokawa
(see 11/28/2005 bullet). There seems to be no end of problems for
scientists trying to fit the solar system into billions of years. Now they must deal with evidence that
shows that asteroid Itokawa must be very young. The articles frankness about the severity of the
problem is astonishing:
What they found was completely unexpected. Five years ago, we thought that we would see a big chunk
of monolithic rock, [we thought] that something so small doesnt have the ability to hold onto any pieces,
says Erik Asphaug, a planetary scientist at the University of California in Santa Cruz, US, who is not involved
with the mission. Everything we suspected about it turned out to be wrong.
Astronomers assumed that small asteroids would have to be very solid, like a single giant boulder, or else
their weak gravity would have caused them to be quickly disintegrated by collisions with other rocks in space.
It turns out that Itokawa is about as solid as a sponge. And to make it worse, collisions with small rocks,
not big enough to break the asteroid apart, should, after billions of years, have caused it to pack into a
more solid mass. That compaction apparently never occurred:
Measurements of the asteroids gravity field also suggest it coalesced from the debris of a previous
collision. Hayabusa scientists used the data combined with measurements of the space rocks size
to estimate its density. It appears to be 40% porous, or filled with empty space.
That is astonishing, says Asphaug, adding that a handful of sand has a porosity of 20%.
Its very hard to get porosities greater than that. Youve got to start balancing things
delicately, like you were building a house of cards, he says. The only way to do it is to gently
pack the stuff together. But that raises another mystery, he says, since repeated impacts with other
space rocks over millions of years should have made Itokawa denser. Every time you have an impact,
youre going to tamp it down, he says.
The article mentions no proposed solution to the mystery.
Some day it may begin to dawn on scientists that they are starting with wrong assumptions about time.
A loose collection of dust and rock just a few thousand years old would probably look just like what they found.
That explanation, however, is ruled out from the start because it conflicts with their preconceived ideas of
the time required for evolution. Is this objective science?
Next headline on:
Scientist of the Month
Click on Apollos, the trusty|
|Guide to Evolutionary Theory
I first learned of your web site on March 29.... Your site has far exceeded my expectations and is
consulted daily for the latest. I join with other readers in praising your time and energy spent to educate,
illuminate, expose errors.... The links are a great help in understanding the news items.
The archival structure is marvelous.... Your site brings back dignity to Science conducted as it
should be. Best regards for your continuing work and influence. Lives are being changed and
sustained every day.
(a manufacturing quality engineer in Mississippi)
I wrote you over three years ago letting you know how much I enjoyed your Creation-Evolution headlines,
as well as your Creation Safaris site. I stated then that I read your headlines and commentary every day,
and that is still true! My interest in many sites has come and gone over the years, but your site is
still at the top of my list! I am so thankful that you take the time to read and analyze some of the
scientific journals out there; which I dont have the time to read myself. Your commentary is very,
very much appreciated.
(a hike leader and nature-lover in Ontario, Canada)
I found it rather amusing to have a bologna detector on your
website. Granted, it is amusing to watch you take a few things out of
context, smugly smart off about them, and declare victory. It is
perhaps not so amusing to read the column down the rightthe parents
and people who not only believe these beliefs but wish to push it on
others, including their children.
(a reader in Washington)
Editors comment: CEH is not
responsible for what beliefs parents push on their childrenmany children
seem to rebel against them anywaybut many of the readers who responded positively below,
whom this reader condemned as pushers,
are highly educated technical people and scientists. Who is pushing their ideas on
others, including children? Certainly not CEH, where readers have to take the initiative
to come here. The concern should be over public schools, where no alternatives not
even honest criticisms to the state
religion of Darwinism are tolerated. This readers letter spoke in generalities,
like evolution has mountains upon mountains of evidence while
creation has a molehill of speculation, but the only instance he gave of a CEH
story taking things out of context was the
missing link story. Check the original sources; you decide.
...just wanted to say how much I admire your site and your writing.
Youre very insightful and have quite a broad range of knowledge.
Anyway, just wanted to say that I am a big fan!
(a PhD biochemist at a major university)
I love your site and syndicate your content on my church website....
The stories you highlight show the irrelevancy
of evolutionary theory and that evolutionists have perpetual foot and
mouth disease; doing a great job of discrediting themselves. Keep up
the good work.
(a database administrator and CEH junkie in California)
I cant tell you how much I enjoy your article reviews on your
websiteits a HUGE asset!
(a lawyer in Washington)
Really, really, really a fantastic site. Your wit makes a razor appear dull!...
A million thanks for your site.
(a small business owner in Oregon and father of children who love your site too.)
Thank God for ... Creation
Evolution Headlines. This site is right at the cutting edge in the debate
over bio-origins and is crucial in working to undermine the
deceived mindset of naturalism. The arguments presented are unassailable
(all articles having first been thoroughly baloney detected) and the
narrative always lands just on the right side of the laymans comprehension
limits... Very highly recommended to all, especially, of course, to those who
have never thought to question the fact of evolution.
(a business owner in Somerset, UK)
I continue to note the difference between the dismal derogations of the darwinite devotees, opposed to the openness and
humor of rigorous, follow-the-evidence scientists on the Truth side. Keep up the great work.
(a math/science teacher with M.A. in anthropology)
Your material is clearly among the best I have ever read on evolution problems!
I hope a book is in the works!
(a biology prof in Ohio)
I have enjoyed reading the sardonic apologetics on the Creation/Evolution Headlines section
of your web site. Keep up the good work!
(an IT business owner in California)
Your commentaries ... are always delightful.
(president of a Canadian creation group)
Im pleased to see... your amazing work on the Headlines.
(secretary of a creation society in the UK)
We appreciate all you do at crev.info.
(a publisher of creation and ID materials)
I was grateful for creationsafaris.com for help with baloney detecting. I had read about
the fish-o-pod and wanted to see what you thought. Your comments were helpful and encouraged me
that my own baloney detecting skill are improving. I also enjoyed reading your reaction
to the article on evolution teachers doing battle with students.... I will ask my girls to read your
comments on the proper way to question their teachers.
(a home-schooling mom)
I just want to express how dissapointed [sic] I am in your website. Instead of being objective, the
website is entirely one sided, favoring creationism over evolution, as if the two are contradictory....
Did man and simien [sic] evovlve [sic] at random from a common ancestor? Or did God guide this evolution?
I dont know. But all things, including the laws of nature, originate from God....
To deny evolution is to deny Gods creation. To embrace evolution is to not only embrace his creation,
but to better appreciate it.
(a student in Saginaw, Michigan)
I immensely enjoy reading the Creation-Evolution Headlines. The way you use words
exposes the bankruptcy of the evolutionary worldview.
(a student at Northern Michigan U)
...standing O for crev.info.
(a database programmer in California)
Just wanted to say that I am thrilled to have found your website! Although I
regularly visit numerous creation/evolution sites, Ive found that many of them do
not stay current with relative information. I love the almost daily updates to
your headlines section. Ive since made it my browser home page, and have
recommended it to several of my friends. Absolutely great site!
(a network engineer in Florida)
After I heard about Creation-Evolution Headlines,
it soon became my favorite Evolution resource site on the web. I visit several times a
day cause I cant wait for the next update. Thats pathetic, I know ...
but not nearly as pathetic as Evolution, something you make completely obvious with your snappy,
intelligent commentary on scientific current events. It should be a textbook for science
classrooms around the country. You rock!
(an editor in Tennessee)
One of the highlights of my day is checking your latest CreationSafaris creation-evolution news listing!
Thanks so much for your great work -- and your wonderful humor.
(a pastor in Virginia)
Thanks!!! Your material is absolutely awesome. Ill be using it in our Adult Sunday School class.
(a pastor in Wisconsin)
Love your site & read it daily.
(a family physician in Texas)
I set it [crev.info] up as my homepage. That way I am less likely to miss some really interesting events....
I really appreciate what you are doing with Creation-Evolution Headlines. I
tell everybody I think might be interested, to check it out.
(a systems analyst in Tennessee)
I would like to thank you for your service from which I stand to benefit a lot.
(a Swiss astrophysicist)
I enjoy very much reading your materials.
(a law professor in Portugal)
Thanks for your time and thanks for all the work on the site.
It has been a valuable resource for me.
(a medical student in Kansas)
I wanted to tell you that the Creation Evolution headlines website is a great resource
and that I read it mostly everyday (and when I don't I catch up the next day). I really
appreciate the work and the effort that you do.
(a grad student in experimental particle physics)
Creation-Evolution Headlines is a terrific resource. The articles are
always current and the commentary is right on the mark.
(a molecular biologist in Illinois)
Creation-Evolution Headlines is my favorite
anti-evolution website. With almost giddy anticipation, I check
it several times a week for the latest postings. May God bless you and
empower you to keep up this FANTASTIC work!
(a financial analyst in New York)
I just completed reading each entry from each month. I found your site about
6 months ago and as soon as I understood the format, I just started at the very first entry
and started reading.... Your work has blessed my education and determination to bold in
showing the unscientific nature of evolution in general and Darwinism in particular.
(a doctor in Oklahoma)
I read your pages on a daily basis and I would like to let you know
that your hard work has been a great help in increasing my knowledge
and growing in my faith. Besides the huge variety of scientific
disciplines covered, I also enormously enjoy your great sense of humor
and your creativity in wording your thoughts, which make reading your
website even more enjoyable.
(a software developer in Illinois)
THANK YOU for all the work you do to make this wonderful resource! After
being regular readers for a long time, this year weve incorporated your
site into our home education for our four teenagers. The Baloney Detector
is part of their Logic and Reasoning Skills course, and the Daily Headlines
and Scientists of the Month features are a big part of our curriculum for an
elective called Science Discovery Past and Present. What a wonderful
goldmine for equipping future leaders and researchers with the tools of
(a home school teacher in California)
What can I say I LOVE YOU!
I READ YOU ALMOST EVERY DAY I copy and send out to various folks.
I love your sense of humor, including your politics and of course your faith.
I appreciate and use your knowledge What can I say THANK YOU
THANK YOU THANK YOU SO MUCH.
(a biology major, former evolutionist, now father of college students)
I came across your site while browsing through creation & science links. I love the work you do!
(an attorney in Florida)
Love your commentary and up to date reporting. Best site for evolution/design info.
(a graphic designer in Oregon)
I am an ardent reader of your site. I applaud your efforts and pass on
your website to all I talk to. I have recently given your web site info
to all my grandchildren to have them present it to their science
teachers.... Your Supporter and fan..God bless you all...
(a health services manager in Florida)
Why your readership keeps doubling: I came across your website at a time when I was just getting to know what creation science is all about. A friend of mine was telling me about what he had been finding out. I was highly skeptical and sought to read as many pro/con articles as I could find and vowed to be open-minded toward his seemingly crazy claims. At first I had no idea of the magnitude of research and information thats been going on. Now, Im simply overwhelmed by the sophistication and availability of scientific research and information on what I now know to be the truth about creation.
Your website was one of dozens that I found in my search. Now, there are only a handful of sites I check every day. Yours is at the top of my list... I find your news page to be the most insightful and well-written of the creation news blogs out there. The quick wit, baloney detector, in-depth scientific knowledge you bring to the table and the superb writing style on your site has kept me interested in the day-to-day happenings of what is clearly a growing movement. Your site ... has given me a place to point them toward to find out more and realize that theyve been missing a huge volume of information when it comes to the creation-evolution issue.
Another thing I really like about this site is the links to articles in science journals and news references. That helps me get a better picture of what you're talking about.... Keep it up and I promise to send as many people as will listen to this website and others.
(an Air Force Academy graduate stationed in New Mexico)
Im a small town newspaper editor in southwest Wyoming. Were pretty
isolated, and finding your site was a great as finding a gold mine. I read
it daily, and if theres nothing new, I re-read everything. I follow links.
I read the Scientist of the Month. Its the best site Ive run across. Our
local school board is all Darwinist and determined to remain that way.
(a newspaper editor in Wyoming)
Congratulations on your 5th anniversary. I have been reading your page for about 2 years or so....
I read it every day. I ...am well educated, with a BA in Applied Physics
from Harvard and an MBA in Finance from Wharton.
(a reader in Delaware)
I came across your website by accident about 4 months ago and look at it every day....
About 8 months ago I was reading a letter to the editor of the Seattle Times that was written
by a staunch anti-Creationist and it sparked my interest enough to research the
topic and within a week I was yelling, my whole lifes education has been a lie!!!
Ive put more study into Biblical Creation in the last 8 months than any other topic in my life.
Past that, through resources like your website...Ive been able to convince my father (professional mathematician and amateur geologist), my best friend (mechanical engineer and fellow USAF Academy Grad/Creation Science nutcase), my pastor (he was the hardest to crack), and many others to realize the Truth of Creation.... Resources like your website help the rest of us at the grassroots level drum up interest in the subject. And regardless of what the major media says: Creationism is spreading like wildfire, so please keep your website going to help fan the flames.
(an Air Force Academy graduate and officer)
I love your site! I **really** enjoy reading it for several specific reasons: 1.It uses the latest (as in this month!) research as a launch pad for opinion; for years I have searched for this from a creation science viewpoint, and now, Ive found it. 2. You have balanced fun with this topic. This is hugely valuable! Smug Christianity is ugly, and I dont perceive that attitude in your comments. 3. I enjoy the expansive breadth of scientific news that you cover. 4. I am not a trained scientist but I know evolutionary bologna/(boloney) when I see it; you help me to see it. I really appreciate this.
(a computer technology salesman in Virginia)
I love your site. Thats why I was more than happy to
mention it in the local paper.... I mentioned your site as the place
where..... Every Darwin-cheering news article is
reviewed on that site from an ID perspective. Then
the huge holes of the evolution theory are exposed,
and the bad science is shredded to bits, using real
(a project manager in New Jersey)
Ive been reading your site almost daily for about three years. I have
never been more convinced of the truthfulness of Scripture and the faithfulness of God.
(a systems administrator and homeschooling father in Colorado)
I use the internet a lot to catch up on news back
home and also to read up on the creation-evolution controversy, one of my favourite topics.
Your site is always my first port of call for the latest news and views and I really appreciate
the work you put into keeping it up to date and all the helpful links you provide. You are a
beacon of light for anyone who wants to hear frank, honest conclusions instead of the usual diluted
garbage we are spoon-fed by the media.... Keep up the good work and know that youre changing lives.
(a teacher in Spain)
I am grateful to you for your site and look forward to reading new
stories.... I particularly value it for being up to date with what is going on.
(from the Isle of Wight, UK)
[Creation-Evolution Headlines] is the place to go for late-breaking
news [on origins]; it has the most information and the quickest turnaround.
Its incredible I dont know how you do it.
I cant believe all the articles you find. God bless you!
(a radio producer in Riverside, CA)
Just thought I let you know how much I enjoy
reading your Headlines section. I really appreciate
how you are keeping your ear to the ground in so
many different areas. It seems that there is almost
no scientific discipline that has been unaffected
by Darwins Folly.
(a programmer in aerospace from Gardena, CA)
I enjoy reading the comments on news articles on your site very much. It is incredible
how much refuse is being published in several scientific fields regarding evolution.
It is good to notice that the efforts of true scientists have an increasing influence at schools,
but also in the media.... May God bless your efforts and open the eyes of the blinded evolutionists
and the general public that are being deceived by pseudo-scientists.... I enjoy the site very much
and I highly respect the work you and the team are doing to spread the truth.
(an ebusiness manager in the Netherlands)
I discovered your site through a link at certain website...
It has greatly helped me being updated with the latest development in science and with
critical comments from you. I also love your baloney detector
and in fact have translated some part of the baloney detector into our language (Indonesian).
I plan to translate them all for my friends so as to empower them.
(a staff member of a bilateral agency in West Timor, Indonesia)
...absolutely brilliant and inspiring.
(a documentary film producer, remarking on the
I found your site several months ago and within weeks
had gone through your entire archives.... I check in several times a day for further
information and am always excited to read the new
articles. Your insight into the difference between
what is actually known versus what is reported has
given me the confidence to stand up for what I
believe. I always felt there was more to the story,
and your articles have given me the tools to read
through the hype....
You are an invaluable help and I commend your efforts.
Keep up the great work.
(a sound technician in Alberta)
I discovered your site (through a link from a blog) a few weeks ago and I cant stop reading it....
I also enjoy your insightful and humorous commentary at the end of each story. If the evolutionists
blindness wasnt so sad, I would laugh harder.
I have a masters degree in mechanical engineering from a leading University. When I read the descriptions, see the pictures, and watch the movies of the inner workings of the cell, Im absolutely amazed.... Thanks for bringing these amazing stories daily. Keep up the good work.
(an engineer in Virginia)
I stumbled across your site several months ago and have
been reading it practically daily. I enjoy the inter-links
to previous material as well as the links to the quoted
research. I've been in head-to-head debate with a
materialist for over a year now. Evolution is just one of
those debates. Your site is among others that have been a
real help in expanding my understanding.
(a software engineer in Pennsylvania)
I was in the April 28, 2005 issue of Nature [see 04/27/2005
story] regarding the rise of intelligent design in the universities. It was through your website
that I began my journey out of the crisis of faith which was mentioned in that article. It was an honor to see you all highlighting the article in Nature. Thank you for all you have done!
(Salvador Cordova, George Mason University)
I shudder to think of the many ways in which you mislead readers, encouraging them to build a faith based on misunderstanding and ignorance. Why dont you allow people to have a faith that is grounded in a fuller understanding of the world?...
Your website is a sham.
(a co-author of the paper reviewed in the 12/03/2003
entry who did not appreciate the unflattering commentary. This led to a cordial
interchange, but he could not divorce his reasoning from the science vs. faith dichotomy,
and resulted in an impasse over definitions but, at least, a more mutually respectful dialogue.
He never did explain how his paper supported Darwinian macroevolution. He just claimed
evolution is a fact.)
I absolutely love creation-evolution news. As a Finnish university student very
interested in science, I frequent your site to find out about all the new science
stuff thats been happening you have such a knack for finding all this
information! I have been able to stump evolutionists with knowledge gleaned from
your site many times.
(a student in Finland)
I love your site and read it almost every day. I use it for my science class and
5th grade Sunday School class. I also challenge Middle Schoolers and High Schoolers to
get on the site to check out articles against the baloney they are taught in school.
(a teacher in Los Gatos, CA)
I have spent quite a few hours at Creation Evolution Headlines in the past week
or so going over every article in the archives. I thank you for such an informative
and enjoyable site. I will be visiting often and will share this link with others.
[Later] I am back to May 2004 in the archives. I figured I should be farther
back, but there is a ton of information to digest.
(a computer game designer in Colorado)
The IDEA Center also highly recommends visiting Creation-Evolution Headlines...
the most expansive and clearly written origins news website on the internet!
(endorsement on Intelligent Design and Evolution
Check out this site: www.creationsafaris.com.
This is a fantastic resource for the whole family.... a fantastic reference library with summaries,
commentaries and great links that are added to
dailyarchives go back five years.
(a reader who found us in Georgia)
I just wanted to drop you a note telling you that at www.BornAgainRadio.com,
Ive added a link to your excellent Creation-Evolution news site.
(a radio announcer)
I cannot understand
why anyone would invest so much time and effort to a website of sophistry and casuistry.
Why twist Christian apology into an illogic pretzel to placate your intellect?
Isnt it easier to admit that your faith has no basis -- hence, faith.
It would be extricate [sic] yourself from intellectual dishonesty -- and
from bearing false witness.
Sincerely, Rev. [name withheld] (an ex-Catholic, apostate Christian Natural/Scientific pantheist)
Just wanted to let you folks know that we are consistent readers and truly appreciate
the job you are doing. God bless you all this coming New Year.
(from two prominent creation researchers/writers in Oregon)
Thanks so much for your site! It is brain candy!
(a reader in North Carolina)
I Love your site probably a little too much. I enjoy the commentary
and the links to the original articles.
(a civil engineer in New York)
Ive had your Creation/Evolution Headlines site on my favourites list for
18 months now, and I can truthfully say that its one of the best on the Internet,
and I check in several times a week. The constant stream of new information on
such a variety of science issues should impress anyone, but the rigorous and
humourous way that every thought is taken captive is inspiring. Im pleased
that some Christians, and indeed, some webmasters, are devoting themselves to
producing real content that leaves the reader in a better state than when they found him.
(a community safety manager in England)
I really appreciate the effort that you are making to provide the public with
information about the problems with the General Theory of Evolution. It gives me
ammunition when I discuss evolution in my classroom. I am tired of the evolutionary
dogma. I wish that more people would stand up against such ridiculous beliefs.
(a science teacher in Alabama)
If you choose to hold an opinion that flies in the face of every piece of evidence
collected so far, you cannot be suprised [sic] when people dismiss your views.
(a former Christian software distributor, location not disclosed)
...the Creation Headlines is the best. Visiting your site...
is a standard part of my startup procedures every morning.
(a retired Air Force Chaplain)
I LOVE your site and respect the time and work you put into it. I read
the latest just about EVERY night before bed and send selection[s] out to others and
tell others about it. I thank you very much and keep up the good work (and
(a USF grad in biology)
Answering your invitation for thoughts on your site is not difficult because
of the excellent commentary I find. Because of the breadth and depth of erudition
apparent in the commentaries, I hope Im not being presumptuous in suspecting
the existence of contributions from a Truth Underground comprised of
dissident college faculty, teachers, scientists, and engineers. If thats
not the case, then it is surely a potential only waiting to be realized. Regardless,
I remain in awe of the care taken in decomposing the evolutionary cant that bombards
us from the specialist as well as popular press.
(a mathematician/physicist in Arizona)
Im from Quebec, Canada. I have studied in pure sciences and after in actuarial mathematics.
Im visiting this site 3-4 times in a week. Im learning a lot and this site gives me the opportunity to realize that this is a good time to be a creationist!
(a French Canadian reader)
I LOVE your Creation Safari site, and the Baloney Detector material.
(a reader in the Air Force)
You have a unique position in the Origins community.
Congratulations on the best current affairs news source on the origins net.
You may be able to write fast but your logic is fun to work through.
(a pediatrician in California)
Visit your site almost daily and find it very informative, educational and inspiring.
(a reader in western Canada)
I wish to thank you for the information you extend every day on your site.
It is truly a blessing!
(a reader in North Carolina)
I really appreciate your efforts in posting to this website. I find
it an incredibly useful way to keep up with recent research (I also check science
news daily) and also to research particular topics.
(an IT consultant from Brisbane, Australia)
I would just like to say very good job with the work done here,
very comprehensive. I check your site every day. Its great
to see real science directly on the front lines, toe to toe with the
pseudoscience that's mindlessly spewed from the prestigious
(a biology student in Illinois)
Ive been checking in for a long time but thought Id leave you a
note, this time. Your writing on these complex topics is insightful,
informative with just the right amount of humor. I appreciate the hard
work that goes into monitoring the research from so many sources and then
writing intelligently about them.
(an investment banker in California)
Keep up the great work. You are giving a whole army of Christians
plenty of ammunition to come out of the closet (everyone else has).
Most of us are not scientists, but most of the people we talk to are not
scientists either, just ordinary people who have been fed baloney
for years and years.
(a reader in Arizona)
Keep up the outstanding work!
You guys really ARE making a difference!
(a reader in Texas)
I wholeheartedly agree with you when you say that science is not
hostile towards religion. It is the dogmatically religious that are
unwaveringly hostile towards any kind of science which threatens their
dearly-held precepts. Science (real, open-minded science) is not
interested in theological navel-gazing.
Note: Please supply your name and location when writing in. Anonymous attacks
only make one look foolish and cowardly, and will not normally be printed.
This one was shown to display a bad example.
I appreciate reading your site every day. It is a great way to keep
up on not just the new research being done, but to also keep abreast of the
evolving debate about evolution (Pun intended).... I find it an incredibly useful
way to keep up with recent research (I also check science news daily) and also
to research particular topics.
(an IT consultant in Brisbane, Australia)
I love your website.
(a student at a state university who used CEH when
writing for the campus newsletter)
....when you claim great uncertainty for issues that are fairly
well resolved you damage your already questionable credibility.
Im sure your audience loves your ranting, but if you know as much
about biochemistry, geology, astronomy, and the other fields you
skewer, as you do about ornithology, you are spreading heat, not
(a professor of ornithology at a state university, responding to
the 09/10/2002 headline)
I wanted to let you know I appreciate your headline news style of
exposing the follies of evolutionism.... Your style gives us constant,
up-to-date reminders that over and over again, the Bible creation account
is vindicated and the evolutionary fables are refuted.
(a reader, location unknown)
You have a knack of extracting the gist of a technical paper,
and digesting it into understandable terms.
(a nuclear physicist from Lawrence Livermore Labs who worked
on the Manhattan Project)
After spending MORE time than I really had available going thru
your MANY references I want to let you know how much I appreciate
the effort you have put forth.
The information is properly documented, and coming from
recognized scientific sources is doubly valuable. Your
explanatory comments and sidebar quotations also add GREATLY
to your overall effectiveness as they 1) provide an immediate
interpretive starting point and 2) maintaining the readers
(a reader in Michigan)
I am a huge fan of the site, and check daily for updates.
(reader location and occupation unknown)
I just wanted to take a minute to personally thank-you and let
you know that you guys are providing an invaluable service!
We check your Web site weekly (if not daily) to make sure we have
the latest information in the creation/evolution controversy.
Please know that your diligence and perseverance to teach the
Truth have not gone unnoticed. Keep up the great work!
(a PhD scientist involved in origins research)
You've got a very useful and informative Web site going.
The many readers who visit your site regularly realize that it
requires considerable effort to maintain the quality level and
to keep the reviews current.... I hope you can continue your
excellent Web pages. I have recommended them highly to others.
(a reader, location and occupation unknown)
As an apprentice apologist, I can always find an article
that will spark a spirited debate. Keep em
coming! The Truth will prevail.
(a reader, location and occupation unknown)
Thanks for your web page and work. I try to drop by
at least once a week and read what you have. Im a
Christian that is interested in science (Im a mechanical
engineer) and I find you topics interesting and helpful.
I enjoy your lessons and insights on Baloney Detection.
(a year later):
I read your site 2 to 3 times a week; which Ive probably done for a couple
of years. I enjoy it for the interesting content, the logical arguments, what I can
learn about biology/science, and your pointed commentary.
(a production designer in Kentucky)
I look up CREV headlines every day. It is a wonderful
source of information and encouragement to me.... Your gift of
discerning the fallacies in evolutionists interpretation of
scientific evidence is very helpful and educational for me.
Please keep it up. Your website is the best I know of.
(a Presbyterian minister in New South Wales, Australia)
Ive written to you before, but just wanted to say again
how much I appreciate your site and all the work you put into it.
I check it almost every day and often share the contents
(and web address) with lists on which I participate.
I dont know how you do all that you do, but I am grateful
for your energy and knowledge.
(a prominent creationist author)
I am new to your site, but I love it! Thanks for updating
it with such cool information.
(a home schooler)
I love your site.... Visit every day hoping for another of your
brilliant demolitions of the foolish just-so stories of those
who think themselves wise.
(a reader from Southern California)
I love to read your website and am disappointed when there is
nothing new to read. Thanks for all your hard work.
(a missionary in Japan)
I visit your site daily for the latest news from science journals and other media,
and enjoy your commentary immensely. I consider your web site to be the
most valuable, timely and relevant creation-oriented site on the internet.
(a reader from Ontario, Canada)
Keep up the good work! I thoroughly enjoy your site.
(a reader in Texas)
Thanks for keeping this fantastic web site going. It is very
informative and up-to-date with current news including incisive
(a reader in North Carolina)
Great site! For all the Baloney Detector is impressive and a
great tool in debunking wishful thinking theories.
(a reader in the Netherlands)
Just wanted to let you know, your work is having quite an impact.
For example, major postings on your site are being circulated among the
Intelligent Design members....
(a PhD organic chemist)
opening a can of worms ... I love to click all the related links and
read your comments and the links to other websites, but this usually makes me late
for something else. But its ALWAYS well worth it!!
(a leader of a creation group)
I am a regular visitor to your website ... I am impressed
by the range of scientific disciplines your articles address.
I appreciate your insightful dissection of the often unwarranted conclusions
evolutionists infer from the data... Being a medical
doctor, I particularly relish the technical detail you frequently include in
the discussion living systems and processes. Your website continually
reinforces my conviction that if an unbiased observer seeks a reason for the
existence of life then Intelligent Design will be the unavoidable
(a medical doctor)
A church member asked me what I thought was the best creation web site.
I told him CreationSafaris.com.
(a PhD geologist)
I love your site... I check it every day for interesting
information. It was hard at first to believe in Genesis fully, but
now I feel more confident about the mistakes of humankind and that all
their reasoning amounts to nothing in light of a living God.
(a college grad)
Thank you so much for the interesting science links and comments
on your creation evolution headlines page ... it is very
(a reader from Scottsdale, AZ)
visit your site almost every day, and really enjoy it. Great job!!!
(I also recommend it to many, many students.)
(an educational consultant)
I like what I seevery
much. I really appreciate a decent, calm and scholarly approach to the
whole issue... Thanks ... for this fabulous
It is refreshing to read your comments. You have a knack to get to the heart of
(a reader in the Air Force).
Love your website. It has well thought out structure and will help many
through these complex issues. I especially love the
I believe this is one of the best sites on the Internet.
I really like your side-bar of truisms.
Yogi [Berra] is absolutely correct. If I were a man of wealth, I would
support you financially.
(a registered nurse in Alabama, who found
us on TruthCast.com.)
WOW. Unbelievable.... My question is, do you sleep? ... Im utterly
impressed by your page which represents untold amounts of time and energy
as well as your faith.
(a mountain man in Alaska).
wanted to say that I recently ran across your web site featuring science
headlines and your commentary and find it to be A++++, superb, a 10, a homerun
I run out of superlatives to describe it! ... You can be sure I will
visit your site often daily when possible to gain the latest information
to use in my speaking engagements. Ill also do my part to help publicize
your site among college students. Keep up the good work. Your
material is appreciated and used.
(a college campus minister)
Featured Creation Scientist for June
George W. Carver
1864 - 1943
You have to be someone to get a National Monument named after you, and George Washington Carver
was someone not in his own estimation, but by universal acclaim. His own estimation
of himself was summed up in his words, Without my Savior, I am nothing.
He sought his Creator for guidance in all things, and gave God the credit for all his discoveries.
Rightly does a National Monument deserve to be named for him, because his story is an inspiration to all
Americans. It is one of overcoming odds and serving ones fellow man, achieving
greatness by good works, and devoting oneself to serving others. It is a great American success
story for which black Americans, and all Americans, can justly find inspiration.
For an example of doing science the Genesis way, it would be hard to find a better example than George
Washington Carver. God told Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth,
and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and the fowl of the air and over
every living thing that moves on the earth (Genesis 1:28). Liberal environmentalists
hate this verse because they misunderstand it. It does not mean to run roughshod over the
land, exploiting it for selfish purposes. It means to manage it as stewards of the
Creator, for He alone is the one who owns the cattle on a thousand hills ... for the earth and its
fullness are mine (Psalm 50:10-12), and the earth is the Lords, and those who
dwell therein (Psalm 24:1). Carver knew that It is He who has made us, and not
we ourselves; we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture (Psalm 100:3).
Since He is the Creator and Owner, we are mere stewards, accountable to Him. Now it goes
without saying that a good steward has to know the state of affairs of what he is managing.
So what does the Genesis Mandate mean? It means, in effect, do science.
Science was the very first occupational career the Creator gave to the only beings He had made in His image,
endowed with personality, intellect, will, and emotions. Science (the understanding of the world)
and environmental stewardship (the responsible management of it) are what dominion is all
about. Implicit in this view is that the world is a vast puzzle to solve, an endless store of natural
wonders to explore. It was in this spirit that Carver humbly asked, Mr. Creator, why did
you make the peanut? then went to discover over 300 uses for it. But we get ahead of
Carvers story is all the more remarkable because of the obstacles he had to overcome.
He was born practically a non-person in Civil War times, the nameless son of poor slave parents on a
Missouri farm around 1864....
Click here to continue.
If you are enjoying this series, you can
learn more about great Christians in science by reading
our online book-in-progress:
The Worlds Greatest
Creation Scientists from Y1K to Y2K.
Copies are also
available from our online store.
A Concise Guide|
You can observe a lot by just watching.
First Law of Scientific Progress
The advance of science can be measured by the rate at which exceptions to previously held laws accumulate.
1. Exceptions always outnumber rules.
2. There are always exceptions to established exceptions.
3. By the time one masters the exceptions, no one recalls the rules to which they apply.
Nature will tell you a direct lie if she can.
So will Darwinists.
Science is true. Dont be misled by facts.
Finagles 2nd Law
No matter what the anticipated result, there
will always be someone eager to (a) misinterpret it, (b) fake it, or (c)
believe it happened according to his own pet theory.
3. Draw your curves, then plot your data.
4. In case of doubt, make it sound convincing.
6. Do not believe in miracles rely on them.
Murphys Law of Research
Enough research will tend to support your theory.
If the facts do not conform to the theory, they must be disposed of.
1. The bigger the theory, the better.
2. The experiments may be considered a success if no more than 50%
of the observed measurements must be discarded to obtain a correspondence
with the theory.
The number of different hypotheses erected to explain a given biological phenomenon
is inversely proportional to the available knowledge.
All great discoveries are made by mistake.
The greater the funding, the longer it takes to make the mistake.
The solution to a problem changes the nature of the problem.
Peters Law of Evolution
Competence always contains the seed of incompetence.
An expert is a person who avoids the small errors while sweeping on to the grand fallacy.
Repetition does not establish validity.
What really matters is the name you succeed in imposing on the facts not the facts themselves.
For every action, there is an equal and opposite criticism.
Thumbs Second Postulate
An easily-understood, workable falsehood is more useful than a complex, incomprehensible truth.
There is nothing so small that it cant be blown out of proportion
Hawkins Theory of Progress
Progress does not consist in replacing a theory that is wrong with one that is right. It consists
in replacing a theory that is wrong with one that is more subtly wrong.
The best theory is not ipso facto a good theory.
Error is often more earnest than truth.
Advice from Paul|
Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle
babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge by
professing it some have strayed concerning the faith.
I Timothy 6:20-21
Song of the True Scientist
O Lord, how manifold are Your works! In wisdom You have made
them all. The earth is full of Your possessions . . . . May the glory of the Lord endure forever. May the
Lord rejoice in His works . . . . I will sing to the Lord s long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my
being. May my meditation be sweet to Him; I will be glad in the Lord. May sinners be
consumed from the earth, and the wicked be no more. Bless the Lord, O my soul! Praise the Lord!
from Psalm 104
Through the creatures Thou hast made
Show the brightness of Thy glory.
Be eternal truth displayed
In their substance transitory.
Till green earth and ocean hoary,
Massy rock and tender blade,
Tell the same unending story:
We are truth in form arrayed.
Teach me thus Thy works to read,
That my faith, new strength accruing
May from world to world proceed,
Wisdoms fruitful search pursuing
Till, thy truth my mind imbuing,
I proclaim the eternal Creed
Oft the glorious theme renewing,
God our Lord is God indeed.
James Clerk Maxwell
One of the greatest physicists
of all time (a creationist).
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