Creation-Evolution Headlines
August 2006
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“Evolution says that the whole universe is made up of nothing but matter and that all things came into existence by chance – therefore, there is no God.  Evolution – taught as fact in our schools and universities – is a mortal and moral danger to the lives and souls of our nation’s young people.  Without God, there are no absolutes, there is no moral standard; and civilization descends into the abyss of despair, hedonism, and violence.  Evolution poisons everything it touches.”
—Dr. D. James Kennedy, Coral Ridge Ministries, monthly letter Aug 2006 promoting a new book and documentary.
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Note: bold emphasis added in all quotations unless otherwise indicated.

Rock Video Illustrates Nihilism of Evolution   08/31/2006    
Senseless sex.  Mass death.  Religious hypocrisy.  Moral equivalence.  Impersonality.  Irresponsibility.  Male aggression, abduction and murder.  Glorification of lust.  Book burning.  Assembly-line babies.  Dehumanization.  Terrorism.  Holocaust.  Armageddon.  It’s all illustrated with raw intensity in the Pearl Jam rock video, Do the Evolution, available on YouTube.com.1  Evolution wipes out humanity, without remorse, in just 3:53 minutes.  Watch it only if you dare.


1Do the Evolution, from the Pearl Jam album Yield (1998).  Background information on the production is presented on Wikipedia, which also lists the lyrics.  The song got a Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance in 1998, and this particular video was nominated for a Grammy for Best Music Video; it is also on the Pearl Jam DVD, Touring Band 2000.  This year, the music video has been uploaded 82 times by subscribers on YouTube, and has been rated five stars and a favorite of all time by many of them.  Researchers may want to study the comments of young people who say “really cool” and “LOVE this vid” and express many of the same antisocial feelings.
WARNING:  This video is filled with intense and disturbing images and screaming rock.  Not suitable for children and definitely jarring to anyone.  Its value is in shocking the remaining sensible and civil adults among us to the reality of what evolutionary nihilism is doing to our world (see 08/23/2006 entry).*
    Entertainers (if that term fits here) can sometimes communicate things with an intensity beyond logic and facts.  The phantasmagoria of horror in this video is clearly shown to be mere acting out of the beast within us, from which we all emerged as bacteria long ago, according to the dominant “scientific” theory of human origins taught as fact in our schools without alternatives.  As a consequence of this world view, bombing millions of people is no different than a little girl stepping on an anthill.  There’s no responsibility, no moral consequences, no worries.  It all makes perfect nonsense when you do the evolution.
    We’d like to see the Richard Dawkinses and E. O. Wilsons of this era comment on this video.  Let them try to disown it and explain to Pearl Jam fans around the world that this is not what gentle old Father Charlie intended when he unleashed his little bombshell book to the world.  Let them explain why this kind of world view is not a logical extension of evolutionary theory.  Any comments, Eugenie Scott?  Ken Miller?  Are you proud of this?  Where is the ADL now?  Where is NOW now?  All you Tolerance people, your silence is deafening.
    Clergymen accustomed to speaking lovey-dovey platitudes to gently smiling seniors and soccer moms should be forced to watch this video before standing in their pulpits this weekend and facing the young people in the pews, who probably consider this number just ordinary fare from the grunge rock rage of the late 1990s, and pretty cool animation: “I’ll do what I want, but irresponsibly / It’s evolution, baby / I’m a thief / I’m a liar / That’s my church; I sing in the choir... I crawled the earth, but now I’m higher / Twenty-ten, watch it go to fire / It’s evolution, baby / It’s evolution, baby / Do the evolution / Come on, come on, come on!”  How about showing that in your church for Evolution Sunday, all you liberal pastors who signed allegiance to Charlie? (see 02/11/2006).  Invite Elie Wiesel to enjoy it with you (02/28/2006, 09/19/2005).
    Pearl Jam, just one band of a whole genre of grunge rock, gets thousands of screaming admirers on its world tours with its brand of sermon preaching hate and meaninglessness.  If this does not send a man of God to his knees, nothing will.
Some may relegate this kind of expression to normal youth rebelliousness and criticism of authority and hypocrisy, combined with shock value for publicity.  Some may think it was just a satire on evolution without really taking it seriously, or was actually a criticism of evolutionism.  That doesn’t seem to be the case from the Wikipedia analysis: “The video begins with the evolution of life, from the smallest cell to the extinction of dinosaurs and reign of homo sapiens,” it says matter-of factly; “The video evolves into depicting human beings in violent yet historically true scenes.”
    In other words, any intended message against violence is swamped by the assumption that evolution shows the true history of the world as one of violence and extinction, one species devouring another, for millions of years.  What humans have done to each other, and might do, is all in character with evolution.  On what basis could or should they do anything else?  Do the evolution, indeed.
    The album was apparently inspired by Ishmael by Daniel Quinn, an evolution-based novel with an overt Malthusian, anti-JudeoChristian message that has a cult following of its own.  It’s remarkable how much of this cult includes an obsessive hatred of Genesis.
    The fans get the message, too.  Consider that the Columbine High School massacre (see Wikipedia) occurred only a few months after this album was released, and one of the young killers wore a T-shirt proclaiming “Natural Selection.”  The Wikipedia article includes a quote from their diary expressing nihilistic rage very similar to that in the Pearl Jam song – again, with NATURAL SELECTION, in all caps, the centerpiece. 
Wake up, people.  This is deadly serious.
Next headline on:  DarwinismMedia
*Recommended material for follow-up research, to show how such horrors are already part of recent world history, listen to the following lecture series from The Teaching Company: Utopia and Terror in the 20th Century, by Dr. Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius (U. of Tennessee).  Every American should listen to the lectures on Hitler, Stalin and Mao (cf. 11/30/2005).
    With videos like Do the Evolution all the rage (literally), no one should expect that the horrors possible from evolutionary thinking are all behind us; some day, unless Darwinism is defeated, the 20th century may only seem like a warm-up practice.
    For a case study in stark contrasts, compare the above lectures with another set from The Teaching Company, American Ideals: Founding a Republic of Virtue (Dr. Daniel N. Robinson, Oxford).  He discusses how the Puritans sought to establish a society of liberty under law, wherein each individual had the opportunity to flourish into a responsible, virtuous citizen.
    Thought experiment: imagine John Adams or Rev. John Witherspoon watching this Pearl Jam video....
Evolution Is Practically Useless, Admits Darwinist    08/30/2006  
Supporters of evolution often tout its many benefits.  They claim it helps research in agriculture, conservation and medicine (e.g., 01/13/2003, 06/25/2003).  A new book by David Mindell, The Evolving World: Evolution in Everyday Life (Harvard, 2006) emphasizes these practical benefits in hopes of making evolution more palatable to a skeptical society.  Jerry Coyne, a staunch evolutionist and anti-creationist, enjoyed the book in his review in Nature,1 but thought that Mindell went overboard on “Selling Darwin” with appeals to pragmatics:
To some extent these excesses are not Mindell’s fault, for, if truth be told, evolution hasn’t yielded many practical or commercial benefits.  Yes, bacteria evolve drug resistance, and yes, we must take countermeasures, but beyond that there is not much to say.  Evolution cannot help us predict what new vaccines to manufacture because microbes evolve unpredictably.  But hasn’t evolution helped guide animal and plant breeding?  Not very much.  Most improvement in crop plants and animals occurred long before we knew anything about evolution, and came about by people following the genetic principle of ‘like begets like’.  Even now, as its practitioners admit, the field of quantitative genetics has been of little value in helping improve varieties.  Future advances will almost certainly come from transgenics, which is not based on evolution at all.
Coyne further describes how the goods and services advertised by Mindell are irrelevant for potential customers, anyway:
One reason why Mindell might fail to sell Darwin to the critics is that his examples all involve microevolution, which most modern creationists (including advocates of intelligent design) accept.  It is macroevolution – the evolutionary transitions between very different kinds of organism – that creationists claim does not occur.  But in any case, few people actually oppose evolution because of its lack of practical use.... they oppose it because they see it as undercutting moral values.
Coyne fails to offer a salve for that wound.  Instead, to explain why macroevolution has not been observed, he presents an analogy .  For critics out to debunk macroevolution because no one has seen a new species appear, he compares the origin of species with the origin of language: “We haven’t seen one language change into another either, but any reasonable creationist (an oxymoron?) must accept the clear historical evidence for linguistic evolution,” he says, adding a jab for effect. “And we have far more fossil species than we have fossil languages” (but see 04/23/2006).  It seems to escape his notice that language is a tool manipulated by intelligent agents, not random mutations.  In any case, his main point is that evolution shines not because of any hyped commercial value, but because of its explanatory power:
In the end, the true value of evolutionary biology is not practical but explanatory.  It answers, in the most exquisitely simple and parsimonious way, the age-old question: “How did we get here?”  It gives us our family history writ large, connecting us with every other species, living or extinct, on Earth.  It shows how everything from frogs to fleas got here via a few easily grasped biological processes.  And that, after all, is quite an accomplishment.
See also Evolution News analysis of this book review, focusing on Coyne’s stereotyping of creationists.  Compare also our 02/10/2006 and 12/21/2005 stories on marketing Darwinism to the masses.
1Jerry Coyne, “Selling Darwin,” Nature 442, 983-984(31 August 2006) | doi:10.1038/442983a; Published online 30 August 2006.
You heard it right here.  We didn’t have to say it.  One of Darwin’s own bulldogs said it for us: evolutionary theory is useless.  Oh, this is rich.  Don’t let anyone tell you that evolution is the key to biology, and without it we would fall behind in science and technology and lose our lead in the world.  He just said that most real progress in biology was done before evolutionary theory arrived, and that modern-day advances owe little or nothing to the Grand Materialist Myth.  Darwin is dead, and except for providing plot lines for storytellers, the theory that took root out of Charlie’s grave bears no fruit (but a lot of poisonous thorns: see 08/27/2006).
    To be sure, many things in science do not have practical value.  Black holes are useless, too, and so is the cosmic microwave background.  It is the Darwin Party itself, however, that has hyped evolution for its value to society.  With this selling point gone, what’s left?  The only thing Coyne believes evolution can advertise now is a substitute theology to answer the big questions.  Instead of an omniscient, omnipotent God, he offers the cult of Tinker Bell and her mutation wand as an explanation for endless forms most beautiful.  Evolution allows us to play connect-the-dot games between frogs and fleas.  It allows us to water down a complex world into simplistic, “easily grasped” generalities.  Such things are priceless, he thinks.  He’s right.  It costs nothing to produce speculation about things that cannot be observed, and nobody should consider such products worth a dime.
    We can get along just fine in life without the Darwin Party catalog.  Thanks to Jerry Coyne for providing inside information on the negative earnings in the Darwin & Co. financial report.  Sell your evolution stock now before the bottom falls out.
Next headline on:  Evolutionary Theory
Meanwhile, Back on the Dinosaur Ranch   08/29/2006    
Sid Perkins went on a dinosaur hunt in Montana this past July, and wrote up his experiences for the cover story of the Aug. 26 issue of Science News.  It was more personal diary than science.  Perkins talked about the teamwork, hard work, and the occasional thrill of finding a fragment of bone that the leader would promptly interpret; e.g., “Murphy estimated that the meat eater had shed the fragment around 150 million years ago.”
    Perkins wanted to describe to readers what goes on in the field in this kind of scientific research.  Captioned photos show the tents at base camp, a campfire sing, and workers swinging pickaxes or delicately examining small pieces of bone.  He described how the precious quarry is plastered and wrapped, how the species are identified, and how the tools of the trade (jackhammers and fine brushes, sketch boards and notebooks) are used.
    Perhaps the only statement of notable scientific consequence appears inconspicuously in the middle of the narrative.  Perkins talks about how, during the winter, the site must be protected from harsh weather and the hooves of grazing cows.  He adds, “We also have to be careful not to damage the crumbly end of the bone that had been exposed to the elements before its discovery.”  Just earlier, a paleontologist estimated the sediments to be 150 million years old.
There is very little difference between this journal and one that could have been written by a participant on a creationist dino dig (07/23/2003, 05/21/2002).  Both groups might have described similar emotions in sharing a sometimes monotonous, sometimes exciting adventure, learning teamwork, and feeling good about contributing to science.  The main differences would be the songs sung around the campfire – undoubtedly “Amazing Grace” at the creationist camp instead of the selection Perkins listed at the evolutionist camp, “Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road” – and the dates.  The evolutionary paleontologists tossed around their millions of years without a qualm or objection.  Perkins saw himself, though, that the delicate, crumbly fragments of bone were easily damaged by footprints and weather.  Eyewitnesses on creationist digs in Montana have been stunned to find vulnerable dinosaur bones all over the surface.
    We live in a world of constant change easily seen within our own lifetimes.  A hurricane or tsunami sweeps away a coastline.  A volcano buries an island or emerges from the sea.  Landslides open a new canyon.  Earthquakes rearrange the terrain.  Glaciers melt back for miles, and worldwide climate trends frighten the pundits.  These changes are the stories we tell our children, and written human records reveal a thousand more examples.  In spite of that, the paleontologists want us to believe that these dinosaur bones, some with soft tissue inside (02/22/2006), remained entombed within this formation for a duration exceeding all human recorded history by 37,000 times, enduring global tectonic changes, mountain building episodes, continental uplifts, climate fluctuations, floods and fire, only to crumble away now in an ordinary winter rainstorm or cow’s footstep.
    You can choose to sing a song about roadkill and trust in theories vulnerable to being trampled underfoot.  Some look at the same data and sing, I once was lost and now am found, was blind but now I see.
Next headline on:  DinosaursFossilsDating Methods
Upset Update: Globular Clusters, Atmospheric Methane Tear Up Textbooks   08/28/2006    
Here are a couple of updates to stories we reported earlier in the category “Everything we thought was wrong.”
  • Globular cluster ages:  Our 10/05/2003 entry reported that beliefs about globular cluster ages were undergoing a radical revision.  You can almost feel the rumblings in a related story on News@Nature; “In a complex Universe, astronomers thought they had at least one simple system to tell them how stars are born.  Turns out they were wrong,” reported Jenny Hogan.  Other statements say that globulars “aren’t as simple as astronomers used to think,” and that “it’s changing our ideas completely,” and that this will require us to “tear up textbooks.”  Moreover, the realization that GCs are not homogeneous collections of ancient stars, but are now seen to contain young blue stars, will have ripple effects.  “If you have problems reproducing star formation in globular clusters, you will have problems with a galaxy,” reported one astronomer.
        To be sure, a new interpretation is emerging that there were two episodes of star birth in most GCs.  Hogan downplays the impact of the revelations, commenting that the new picture “shouldn’t upset long-term calculations of age too much.”  To remind us, though, that shouldn’t has an element of wishful thinking in it, she ends: “But, astronomers add, they haven’t yet had time to work out all the implications.
  • Atmospheric methane sources:  In a 01/12/2006 entry, we reported the surprising finding that plants contribute a third of the methane budget in Earth’s atmosphere.  Nature brought the story up to date in the 08/17/2006 issue (442, 730-731(17 August 2006) | doi:10.1038/442730a).  In “The methane mystery,” the magazine said that this finding has “shaken up atmospheric scientists.”  The January claim, corroborated by another team in March, “rattled many, because textbooks hold that methane is produced from organic matter decaying in oxygen-free environments, not from living plants,” the news item said.  “If true, his finding could account for a substantial fraction of the methane entering the atmosphere – potentially throwing off calculations of how much humans contribute.”  Scrutiny of these announcements has not yielded a consensus to confirm or refute the data.  Analysis is complicated further by another finding in Brazil that suggests some species can emit 4,000 times more methane than others.
        The findings are contentious and may have major ramifications on how atmospheric scientists interpret the human contribution to global warming.  The goal now is to collect better data.  Nature did not land on a particular side of the debate, but quoted one scientist’s advice, “You need to understand the entire greenhouse budget before you can start thinking about mitigating climate change.”
Both these stories came out of the blue.  Both are having major impacts on the way scientists think about subjects over which they used to be confident.  Both are overhauling textbook orthodoxies, and both are illustrations of the fact that nothing in science is immune to revision.
Encore:  Here’s a story from the University of Bristol, UK, about Neandertals.  It begins, “Neandertals were much more like modern humans than had been previously thought, according to a re-examination of finds from one of the most famous palaeolithic sites in Europe....”
Since these are controversial subjects, students should only be taught the standard view.  Teachers do not have time to teach the controversy, and it is not the job of public schools to go beyond the prescribed curriculum.  Students might be confused by hearing differing views.  Despite the credentials of the scientists involved, we can’t be sure they were not politically or religiously motivated.  This is how science is done, and if you are going to play the game of science, you must play by the rules.  Administrators should prohibit teachers from showing these articles to students under the guise of “supplementary material,” even if they come from the scientific journals.  Failure to cease and desist will provide grounds for a lawsuit.  (Commentary inspired by Eugenie Scott and the NCSE thought police.)
Next headline on:  AstronomyGeologyEarly Man
Grass Shack Makes a Comeback    08/28/2006  
Oh, what a feeling: Toyota Roof Garden wants to replace your roof with grass.  Bill Christensen at Live Science says that the car company’s grass tiles include imbedded irrigation piping, provide good thermal insulation and reflect less urban heat to the atmosphere.  The special grass only needs mowing once a year.  Company website (Japanese): Toyota Roof Garden.
Figuring out how to mow the slanted roof may be a drawback, but in designing products for daily living, why not consider biology more often?  After all, nature’s solutions were designed with ecology in mind.
Next headline on:  PlantsBiomimeticsAmazing Stories
Quote: Cell Factory    08/28/2006
From
CalTech Engineering & Science (LXIX:2, August 2006), “Cellular CAT Scans” by Douglas L. Smith, an article about electron cryotomography imaging of cellular components.  Smith does not mention evolution.  His opening paragraph is reminiscent of Darwin’s Black Box:
A cell isn’t merely a bag of enzymes sloshing around in a thick soup of cytoplasm.  According to Assistant Professor of Biology Grant Jensen, it’s more like a multistory factory—a set of interwoven production lines complete with conveyor belts, forklifts, and steel I-beams to hold up the roof.  Or, if you prefer, the world’s most elaborate Rube Goldberg contraption.  The cell’s cogs and camshafts, springs and motors, girders and sheet metal (or, in the Rube Goldberg case, gloved hands on sticks, precariously balanced bathtubs, and spring-loaded mallets) are protein molecules.  Protein machines conduct the cell’s metabolic business; protein motors make muscles contract, amoebas crawl, and paramecia swim.  When a cell is preparing to divide, protein diazo machines make a duplicate set of the genetic blueprints, and then protein winches and cables pull the two copies to opposite ends of the cell.  Shells of interlocking proteins armor-plate viruses, protein trusswork gives cells their shape, and protein stickers on the protein girders tell the cell which end is front.  Jensen’s research group wants to photograph each rod, flywheel, and bearing and work out its mechanical interactions with its fellows, in terms as solid as a cast titanium sprocket.  As Jensen puts it, “Ultimately, of course, we want to understand how things work at an atomic level—a proton goes here and it causes this atom to move over there, which causes that atom to move over here, and the sum of it all is that the cell swims, or eats, or reproduces itself.
Next headline on:  Intelligent Design

Embryonic Stem Cells No Longer Needed?    08/25/2006  
Two announcements this week may make harvesting embryonic stem cells obsolete.  First, it’s not necessary to kill an embryo to get a stem cell, reported Associated Press (see Fox News) and Live Science.  While this does not solve all the ethical problems, a White House spokeswoman called it “encouraging to see scientists at least making serious efforts to move away from research that involves the destruction of embryos.”  Robert P. George later claimed in National Review that the hype was a lie.  The technique did involve the destruction of embryos.  He argued, though, that the push for alternative techniques shows that the researchers recognize the need to find ways to address the ethical issues surrounding stem cell technology; this, he said, is a “welcome development.”
    Second, and more significant, Japanese scientists found that adult stem cells can be made pluripotent, like embryonic stem cells, by the addition of a few factors.  A press release on EurekAlert expresses the benefit of this procedure:

“Human embryonic stem cells might be used to treat a host of diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injury, and diabetes,” said Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University in Japan.  “However, there are ethical difficulties regarding the use of human embryos, as well as the problem of tissue rejection following transplantation into patients.”
    Those problems could be circumvented if pluripotent cells could be obtained directly from the patients’ own cells.
Obviously these announcements are too early to know the impact.  “While the findings could have wide applications, stem cell experts caution that the study of embryonic stem cells has much further to go,” the press release said.
The first method still presents ethical problems.  The technique could cause unknown damage to the embryo, and the cell that is taken out, if it could still grow into a human being, does not circumvent the ethical issues.  In fact, pro-life groups are already speaking out against it according to the AP article.  The second technique looks much more promising and is the one to watch.  If adult stem cells can have all the advantages of ES cells, including the holy grail of pluripotency, it pulls out the rug from under all arguments for needing to destroy embryos to get at their pluripotent stem cells.  If scientists continue to push for ES cells then, their true motives will be unmasked.
    An important lesson from these two stories is that pressure from ethicists and concerned citizens is essential for reining in the otherwise out-of-control ambitions of scientists about ES cells.  Science is not ethically neutral.  It cannot operate outside of a social context.  The citizens who fund research and expect to reap the benefits need to monitor the direction science is going and voice their concerns when researchers look like they are about to cross the line.  For instance, read this EurekAlert press release, “Brave new world in life sciences,” about threats to public health and safety from new kinds of research.
Next headline on:  HealthPolitics and Ethics
Early Oxygen Fuels Fire in OOL Camp    08/25/2006  
Live Science reported a new claim about oxygen on the early earth appearing far earlier than usually assumed.  A Penn State astrobiologist is claiming that uniformly high oxygen levels existed on earth 3.8 billion years ago, a billion years before previous estimates.
    Oxygen’s presence on Earth has been typically inferred from sulfur isotope levels in rocks due to the way ultraviolet light processes volcanic gases in the absence of ozone.  Hirosho Ohmoto, director of Penn State’s Astrobiology Research Center, found modern-like sulfur isotope signatures in Australian rocks dated at nearly 3 billion years old.  His team’s findings, publishing in Nature this week,2 suggest not only that oxygen was present far earlier, but casts doubt on the detection technique used to infer its presence: the sulfur isotope signature “was mostly created by non-photochemical reactions during sediment diagenesis, and thus is not linked to atmospheric chemistry.”
    This announcement is producing emotional as well as chemical reactions.  The LiveScience article states,
“There is going to be a howl, even outrage,” over these findings, geologist and isotope geochemist Paul Knauth at Arizona State University told LiveScience.  They will say hot springs could have swamped the rocks Ohmoto and his colleagues looked at with normal sulfur, or that the crystals they analyzed washed in from elsewhere, or that their measurements are inaccurate, he said.  However, Knauth noted Ohmoto and his colleagues did address these points “and make good arguments.”
The problem with oxygen is that it is highly reactive and destructive to prebiotic chemicals.  None of the amino acids or other “building blocks of life” famous from the Miller experiment and similar tests would have formed in the presence of oxygen.  Astrobiologists had assumed that no oxygen was present until the emergence of photosynthetic bacteria, some two billion years after the formation of the earth.
    This finding has implications for other planets, too.  Ohmoto believes that early oxygen could be a common characteristic on planets around other stars.  His paper did not address the impact this finding would have on research into the origin of life [OOL].  He only told LiveScience that the question of when oxygen first appeared on the early earth “is closely linked to those related to the biological evolution on Earth and other planets,” an ambiguous and indirect comment at best.  Reporter Charles Q. Choi seemed to think this was good news.  He titled his article, “Alien life might arise quickly, study suggests,” and began,
Scientists have found that oxygen and the life that generates it might have enriched the Earth far earlier than currently supposed.
    The discovery, sure to be controversial, suggests life could arise earlier than now thought on alien planets, too.

1Ohmoto et al., “Sulphur isotope evidence for an oxic Archaean atmosphere,” Nature 442, 908-911(24 August 2006) | doi:10.1038/nature05044; Received 21 June 2005; Accepted 10 July 2006.
For spinning a disastrous finding into a blessing, Choi wins Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week.  Bringing oxygen into the picture before photosynthesis is like bringing out the rugby team before the grass has sprouted.  The astrobiology gardeners will only get mud if Ohmoto is correct.  Early oxygen will destroy any chances of life starting by chemical evolution (as if that fairy tale had a chance to begin with).  If they respond like Choi and just assume this implies “alien life might arise quickly,” then they must believe a second miracle, that the complexities of photosynthesis also arose quickly.  Watch those miracle words emerged, appeared, and arose.  Words can’t short-circuit reality.  Arose by any other name would smell as cheat.
Next headline on:  Origin of LifeDating Methods
Origin of Left-Handed Proteins Solved?   08/24/2006    
As noted in prior entries here (09/06/2003, 11/19/2004) and in our online book, the origin of left-hand proteins is recognized as one of the most formidable challenges to naturalistic origin-of-life research.  Occasionally researchers develop lab techniques for getting slight excesses of one hand over the other.  Astrobiologists agree, however, that 100% purity in a protein chain is biologically useful (01/28/2005).  When they go looking on other planets, they usually regard pure one-handedness as foolproof evidence for life (07/13/2005).
    This week in PNAS,1 two researchers at Columbia University published a short but striking paper that claimed they may have found a way the early earth separated the two types.  By twice wetting and evaporating one particular kind of amino acid, they were able to separate out the mixture almost completely because of differing solubilities of the two hands (enantiomers).  Their abstract was not without some understated glee about what this could mean:
Solutions with as little as 1% enantiomeric excess (ee) of D- or L-phenylalanine are amplified to 90% ee (a 95/5 ratio) by two successive evaporations to precipitate the racemate [mixture].  Such a process on the prebiotic earth could lead to a mechanism by which meteoritic chiral {alpha}-alkyl amino acids could form solutions with high ee values that were needed for the beginning of biology.
Since some of the amino acids found in meteorites arrive with a slight enantiomeric excess to begin with, they feel this simple evaporative mechanism might amplify the excess to the point where a pure one-handed solution could arise purely by chance and natural law.
    Another problem remains, though.  A homochiral (one-handed) protein is of no use without a homochiral sugar to match with in the genetic code.  They referred to other researchers who have found possible ways this might have happened, though so far with only 10% success at best, and not under plausible prebiotic conditions.
    Nevertheless, they feel they are on the way to finding how the chemical soup separated out these otherwise chemically identical molecules that only differ by their mirror-image configuration:
We propose that such a process could occur and may have occurred under prebiotic conditions.  As a water solution of one of the meteoritic amino acids or of one of the products from it dried, there would be an increased enantiomeric concentration in the solution.  If that solution ran off from the solid racemate, or indeed if subsequent chemistry simply occurred in the solution, the modest ee’s from the meteoritic components or their subsequent products could be amplified in solution to start the processes leading to our observed homochiralities in life today....

Breslow and Levine, “Amplification of enantiomeric concentrations under credible prebiotic conditions,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.0605863103, published online before print August 22, 2006. 1
These two apparently hoped their brief paper would start the herald angels of astrobiology sounding their trumpets.  Nothing really new, however, was shown, and the problems are still staggering.  Keeping in mind that molecules do not care anything about forming life, consider just a few of the problems:
  1. It only worked with the alpha-alkyl amino acids (so far, although they said they are testing other kinds).
  2. All the amino acid types would have to conspire to be left- or right-handed.  For the 20 different amino acids in living organisms, this is astronomically improbable.
  3. In realistic prebiotic conditions, nothing is going to prevent the next wave, meteorite or current from mixing the two hands all up again.
  4. The need for repeated evaporations severely limits the physical space where all required ingredients could form and process their blind, random walk through configuration space.
  5. This scenario rules out the deep-sea vent and open-ocean scenarios.  Champions of those views are undoubtedly going to find ways to shoot it down.
  6. Evaporative environments expose the amino acids to ultraviolet radiation that will destroy them all within a few hours anyway.
  7. There is still the problem of getting amino acids to link up into polypeptides.
  8. There is still the problem of getting a nascent polypeptide with a functional sequence.  Remember, only chance arrangements are permitted.
  9. One mis-handed amino acid in a growing chain will still render it useless for biology.  The chance for this happening, even if amino acids did link up somehow, grows with the length of the chain.
  10. Even if, under the most wildly improbable strokes of luck, a pure polypeptide formed, it would be the end of the line without a genetic code that is also homochiral and able to make backup copies.
That’s just a first draft of the possible problems.  The fact remains that amino acids, enantiomeric excess or not, cannot care what happens.  Nobody is cheering them on.  Nobody will give them a gold medal if they purify themselves.  Molecules have no personality, except that, according to the Law of Perversity of Inanimate Objects, they love to frustrate chemistry students and astrobiologists.
    It is a logical fallacy to assume evolution to demonstrate evolution.  You have to be realistic and put yourself at the edge of the primordial soup as a detached observer, unable to assist with your lab equipment and intelligent design.  The molecules are only going to obey the laws of mass action, valence bonding and thermodynamics.  It will be a long, boring, hopeless wait when you realize that you cannot interfere.
    Despite the glee in the subtext of this short paper, there is nothing left but vanity and despair.  The mythical primordial soup did not have a Columbia chemistry lab with PhDs present to help.  Without guidance, molecules just bounce and stick in careless ways.  All these researchers did was illustrate again the power of intelligent design to overcome the innate tendencies of mindless matter to never mind about such matters.
Next headline on:  Origin of Life
Film Under Fire That Links Darwin to Hitler    08/23/2006  
Even before being aired, the documentary Darwin’s Deadly Legacy from Coral Ridge Ministries is taking heat, reported World Net Daily.  The criticisms, coming from Darwinists on Pharyngula and from the Anti-Defamation League, are two-fold: (1) that it trivializes the Holocaust, because “Hitler did not need Darwin to devise his heinous plan to exterminate the Jewish people,” according to ADL Director Abraham Foxman, and (2) that it incorporated footage of Human Genome Project leader Dr. Francis Collins, who did not know his comments would be used in this connection when he was interviewed by Coral Ridge about his latest book.  Collins told the ADL he was “appalled at what Coral Ridge is doing,” and finds the message of the film “misguided and inflammatory.”
    Coral Ridge, led by TV minister Dr. D. James Kennedy, has responded to the attacks with calls for “more history and less hysteria.”  A press release Coral Ridge Ministries responded to the criticisms from the ADL, citing secular experts, like Sir Arthur Keith and evolutionist Niles Eldredge, who have made clear links from evolutionary ideas to social Darwinism and Nazism.  The film, scheduled for broadcast August 26-27, contains interviews by a number of leaders of the Intelligent Design movement, and by historian Richard Weikart (UC Stanislaus), author of From Darwin to Hitler.
Notice how the critics malign D. James Kennedy’s positive, honorable organization of citizens who care deeply about the direction of this country as “Christian supremacists” (an example of name-calling and association) designed to elicit images of the KKK.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Kennedy, a learned and compassionate pastor who teaches the gospel of grace, believes that Christian principles gave this country its freedom and liberty for all people and wants a return to the founding principles of our forefathers.  Kennedy’s campaign to reclaim America is as far from totalitarianism as a 9/11 rescuer is from a terrorist.  Let’s keep the outrage where it belongs, at the materialistic ideologies that gave us the bloodiest century in the history of the world (see next entry).
    Despite the rage at Pharyngula, the Darwinists cannot escape culpability.  It’s not just Kennedy and Coral Ridge who make the claim that Hitler was a convinced Darwinist and believed he was acting out the principle of the survival of the fittest.  Many secular historians have attributed a great deal of the blame for the genocidal totalitarian regimes of the 20th century to the rigorous application of Darwinian beliefs.  Karl Marx felt himself a kindred spirit to Darwin as he formulated his materialistic version of “scientific socialism” to the class struggle in history; at his death, he was extolled as “The Darwin of Politics.”  Lenin, Stalin and Hitler each expressed Darwinian beliefs in their writings (Stalin turned from divinity student to atheist upon reading The Origin of Species).  These regimes rounded up clergymen for their gulags and death camps, and turned churches into museums of atheism.  The blame extends from beginning to end, from international to personal.  One of the Columbine killers, as he dispassionately gunned down his fellow high school students, wore a T-shirt emblazoned with “Natural Selection.”
    If the ADL and today’s evolutionists want to really distance themselves from Hitler’s applied Darwinism, let’s hear two things: (1) a complete and utter repudiation of all social Darwinist and eugenics ideologies, including neo-eugenics (see 10/12/2001, 04/22/2004) and the views of Daniel Dennett and other leading Darwinists who justify killing on evolutionary principles, and (2) a rigorous explanation of how evolutionary theory promotes equal rights, justice, freedom, reason and sanctity of life instead of statism, survival of the fittest, determinism, mass population control and the glorification of death.  Good luck.  Neither the history nor the philosophy of evolutionism permit other than what has already been showcased to the world as the ugly fruit of an undirected, uncaused, purposeless world that values fitness and survival above all else.  This world was envisioned by Charles Darwin and put into practice by his ardent disciples.  Nearly 200 million souls cry from the grave in its aftermath.  The Darwinists want to tiptoe around this fact in their sneakers, but the only shoe that fits is the jackboot.
Next headline on:  DarwinismPolitics and EthicsMedia
Shocking Statistics
38 Million
    killed in battle in all the wars of the 20th Century.
169 Million
    killed by government-sponsored terror in the 20th century, including persecution, genocide and mass murder of their own citizens.*
*Source: Vejas G. Liulevicius, “Defining Utopia and Terror,” Utopia and Terror in the 20th Century (Lecture 1), The Teaching Company.
The 20th century, “Darwin’s Century,” was the bloodiest in history by a long shot.  Political terror machines based on utopian ideologies, enabled by the industrial revolution and new methods of mass communication and control, were mostly inspired by post-Enlightenment scientific secularism (with some exceptions, like Turkey, Rwanda, Iraq – minor players in terms of numbers killed).  The worst culprits by far were communism, Nazism, facism.  The leaders of these campaigns of genocide and mass terror – Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Mao Zedong (11/30/2005), Pol Pot – were convinced Darwinists and believed their regimes were advancing the fitness of the human species.  The horrors of these despotic population experiments can only partially be appreciated by looking at total numbers killed.  Individual accounts by survivors (e.g., this book) need to flesh out the story.  For many of them, most of their lifetimes were spent trying to endure conditions unimaginable to us.  Such atrocities continue in the remaining communist holdouts; compare what happens when Christianity makes a comeback (see Baptist Press News).
Chimp-Human Genes Evolved Much Faster Than Expected   08/22/2006    
It’s been all over the news lately – human DNA shows surprisingly divergent regions from chimpanzee counterparts.  The Houston Chronicle, for instance, summarizes the find:
Searching across the four genomes, the team looked for regions of DNA about 100 letters long that had made the biggest leaps. One, they found, had changed nearly twice as much as any other region, with 18 letters of DNA different between humans and chimps. A similar stretch of chicken DNA, they found, has all but two letters in common with the chimp DNA.
The evolutionary explanation is two-fold: (1) this region of human DNA must have evolved 70 times as fast as other parts, and (2) the lack of evolution between chicken and chimp for this region must mean that “this region of the DNA had been stable for a long time, hundreds of millions of years.”
    See also Medical News Today and Associated Press report on NC Star News.
We just claimed yesterday that “Darwinian evolution is so malleable that it bends itself to every anomaly, and therefore fails” the scientific criteria of testability and verifiability (08/21/2006).  Here’s another example.  Rather than wear sackcloth and ashes and moan and wail over their sins, they spin this story into support for Darwin.  Now they expect to believe that these genes sat there undisturbed for hundreds of millions of years, only to explode into activity after Bonzo’s kid had a mutation, and presto! philosophy.  Gong; next.
Next headline on:  GeneticsEarly ManEvolution
Darwinists Whack I.D. with Reckless Abandon    08/21/2006  
For professionals assumed to be logical, factual, and devoted to reason, scientists and journalists can get pretty emotional, depending on the subject.  One such subject that really rankles some of them is intelligent design.  Here are some recent salvos from the war of the words:
  • Hotz shots:  From the LA Times, Robert Lee Hotz wrote, “In the border war between science and faith, the doctrine of ‘intelligent design’ is a sly subterfuge – a marzipan confection of an idea presented in the shape of something more substantial.”
  • Rat Sass:  From Current Biology 22 Aug 2006, Robert Hendrix wrote, “At the risk of sounding cynical, though, I would venture that most of the people pushing ID do not give a rat’s patootie about having a scientific discussion over evolution or considering what the data might tell us; they’re simply looking for a way to insert their own peculiar religious beliefs into public education.”
  • Me Scientist, You Dogmatist:  John Tyler Bonner wrote in Nature (27 July 2006) a favorable book review of Brockman’s anti-ID anthology (05/09/2006), subtitled, “Destroying the argument that intelligent design has a scientific basis.”  He ended by saying, “Intelligent Thought is a book for scientists; that is, for those who see evolutionary biology as a science.  If you are a creationist you will be unmoved; there is no point in looking at the evidence.”
  • Keep On Whacking:  John Derbyshire, on National Review, responding to an earlier article by George Gilder:
    It’s a wearying business, arguing with Creationists.*  Basically, it is a game of Whack-a-Mole.  They make an argument, you whack it down.  They make a second, you whack it down.  They make a third, you whack it down.  So they make the first argument again.  This is why most biologists just can’t be bothered with Creationism at all, even for the fun of it.  It isn’t actually any fun.  Creationists just chase you round in circles.  It’s boring.....
    *Amongst whom I include Intelligent Design proponents.  The Kitzmiller case demonstrated, to courtroom standards of evidence, that I.D. is a species of Creationism.  That’s good enough for me.
    Casey Luskin and Joe Manzari wrote a three-part response to this article on Evolution News.
Derbyshire apparently assumed Science was the whacker and Creationism was the whackee, but omitted the possibility that mutual whacking was going on, with frustration at the obduracy coming from both sides.  It seems odd, too, that scientists would be in the business of whacking enemies instead of holding rational discussions about the evidence.
    Some reporters attempt to give at least one quote to the other side even if they overwhelm it with counter-quotes and give a Darwinist the last word (example), but in many cases, especially in the science journals like Current Biology, scientists are allowed to state whatever they feel about the issue without fear of rejoinder and without having to back up their claims.
Sign on a bathroom hand dryer: “For a short speech about Intelligent Design by a Darwinist, push button.”  These missives can be sloughed off with a chuckle by sophisticated Visigoths for the amusement of watching Darwin Party heralds who claim to be rational losing their cookies.
    Worthy of more thoughtful response are arguments by some evolutionists who really do try to seriously critique intelligent design without resorting to emotional tirades, especially when they have sufficient historical background about science, theology and history to do so intelligently (see next entry).
Next headline on:  Intelligent DesignEvolutionEducation
Review:  Lehigh Prof Critiques ID Colleague in Science Wars   08/21/2006    
Dr. Steven Goldman (Lehigh University) has produced a series of lectures for The Teaching Company entitled Science Wars: What Scientists Know and How They Know It.  CEH highly recommends this series for its wealth of historical background applied to an intriguing question: what is the nature of truth claims in science?  To what extent do scientific hypotheses and theories, built out of the particulars of our experience, apply to reality as it is, beyond our experience?  Goldman explains that many books on this history of science talk about what scientists know, but almost none talk about how they know what they know.
    In this second of his lecture series for The Teaching Company, after the equally-informative Science in the 20th Century, Goldman does a superb job of developing this fascinating and important problem.  For 12 hours divided into 24 lectures, he brings in many important philosophers, thinkers and scientists from Socrates to the present to show the diversity of opinions on this controversy within science – a dispute that remains unresolved to this day.  Anyone afflicted with logical positivism, objectivism or naive realism will get a reality check from this series that shows how difficult it is to say with certainty that scientific theories are true to an external reality beyond our experience.  They may work; they may predict things; they may give us some control over nature, but to ask if a scientific theory is true with a capital T; i.e., whether it represents a reality beyond experience that is the cause of our experience, yielding knowledge that is timeless, universal, necessary and certain, is an entirely different question.
    A colleague of Michael Behe, Goldman ends by discussing whether intelligent design is a scientific hypothesis.  Though he takes a strong position against it, he refrains from emotional arguments and does try to defend his position with arguments from history and logic.  Our analysis follows.
Let’s see if any of the pillars of his argument are left standing after our critique of his critique.
  • Intelligent Design is a second-generation version of creationism that has already lost several court rulings.  Actually, the controversy goes much further back, to the ancient Greeks at least.  Later, Goldman acknowledges that design arguments are ancient and that asking the question is an intelligent hypothesis (though, he says, not a scientific one) worth discussing, but then defends theistic evolution as a compromise: i.e., God as the ultimate designer, but evolution as the process.  These are incompatible positions (see David Klinghoffer op-ed) despite the ability of many schizophrenics to claim they can have it both ways.  We doubt, also, that Goldman seriously believes that politically-appointed judges should be the arbiters of what constitutes science.
  • Who decides if a hypothesis is scientific, if not the community of scientists who deal in science?  Somebody has to decide, he argues, and who else but the very people doing the research in question?  This ignores the possibility that the entire community can become entrenched in a habit that excludes new ways of thinking and discourages asking new questions.  It also downplays the role of the maverick in science who bucks the establishment and turns out to be right.  Further, it fails to distinguish between the science communities of the past, who were often theologians working independently out of their own resources, and the Big Science establishments of today, whose motives are tainted by the need to keep government funds flowing.  (Elsewhere in the series, Goldman shows he is keenly aware of these issues.  He has a good treatment of Kuhn’s argument that science has a paradigmatic character.  He concludes that, with all its flaws, Kuhn’s critique cannot be entirely dismissed.)
  • I.D. fails the minimum criteria of a scientific hypothesis.  Goldman hastens to explain that there are no ironclad formulas, or methodological rules to decide if a hypothesis is scientific, but argues that, at a minimum, it should include the following:
    1. Explanatory power:  He claims that a legacy of science from the earliest medieval philosophers is that scientific explanations for natural phenomena can only appeal to natural causes.  He argues that I.D. necessarily invokes a supranatural agent, and that this breaks the rules of the game (and only the scientific community can make the rules).  Further, he argues that without access to the Designer to interview, or without the blueprints of the design, pursuing a design explanation is vacuous.  What instruments do we build to detect the signals? he asks.  Radio telescopes?  he asks in an offhand way (though catching himself to remember that radio waves were discovered accidentally).
          In answer, what if intelligent design is true?  What if there really is a Designer, a Creator, or God, that intentionally made the universe, the world and life?  A science committed to natural causes will never find the truth.  We believe that science should at least be a search for the truth about the world.  This cannot exclude a cause from the toolkit of science just because of a philosophical dislike for it.  A science restricted to natural causes when intelligent causes were responsible will degenerate into a false religion or cult, and that is what many in the ID movement believe has happened.
          Goldman should recall his own sermon that science is not just a game, but that it has huge sociological implications: nuclear weapons, stem cells, health and safety, matters of life and death.  Science is much more serious in the 21st century than just making up a game as they go along.  In fact, Goldman’s whole series struggles with the truth claims of science and how they should be understood.  Why, he asks, is Darwinian evolution so threatening if it is just about method?  “Because the evolutionary explanation claims to be true.”  If evolutionists deny they are searching for at least a semblance of truth, and believe instead they are just playing a game, let them set up their own game clubs, like bingo or lotto, and not expect the citizens to pay for it and have it force-taught to their children.
          The most serious flaw in this argument is that it does not address the capacity for Darwinists to trade in just-so stories in order to keep their pet paradigm going.  Busy-ness with all kinds of ecological, geological and biological storytelling does not justify evolutionary theory’s continuance, with its insatiable demand for public funding, when the facts keep stacking up against it (e.g., the Cambrian explosion, the fine-tuning of the universe, the molecular machinery in the cell).  Goldman also fails to recognize the sciences that already invest huge amounts of money on design-theoretic assumptions, such as SETI, cryptography, forensics, archaeology and information theory.  It’s ironic that he mentioned radio waves.  ID supporters have long pointed out that SETI proceeds on the assumption of intelligent design.  SETI presupposes that intelligence is detectable by the methods of science.
    2. Predictive success: while not necessary for a scientific hypothesis, this is at least valuable, Goldman argues; a good hypothesis predicts novel phenomena and makes startling predictions that at least give us confidence in the hypothesis.  Yet throughout the series, Goldman repeatedly pointed out the “fallacy of affirming the consequent” – i.e., just because a prediction comes true, this does not prove a hypothesis.  ID predicts that we will find large amounts of functional information in DNA and proteins, even if we don’t understand the function.  This prediction continues to bear fruit.
    3. Control over nature:  Though there are exceptions to this rule, like black hole theory and the big bang, a scientific hypothesis should produce a research program that gives us some degree of control over nature.  Without access to the design blueprints, Goldman claims, ID does not specify the kind of research a scientist would do, so what good is it?  Since the design scientist would end up doing the same kind of research as the evolutionist, ID is operationally vacuous, he claims.
          Tell this to SETI, then.  Tell it to the FBI searching for patterns in noise.  They are spending an awful lot of money building elaborate detectors and computers on the assumption that intelligent design leaves footprints.  None of these and the other design sciences have the blueprints either, but they know that intelligently-caused patterns are detectable.  ID does have a criterion.  It is complex specified information (CSI), any effect that, as William Dembski argued exhaustively in The Design Inference and No Free Lunch allows us rule out chance as a cause, and infer intelligence as the cause.  As for control over nature, biomimetics (see below) is the most promising avenue today for such control.
    4. Testability and verifiability:  Goldman knows that these are sufficient criteria, but not necessary ones, for scientific hypotheses.  He fails to recognize that Darwinian evolution is so malleable that it bends itself to every anomaly, and therefore fails this test.  ID, by contrast, has an ironclad criterion: CSI.  Dembski granted an extremely generous universal probability bound of 10-150 before excluding chance and natural law and making a design inference.  ID can have false negatives – there may be cases where a designer hid his design from us, as in some modern art – but it does not generate false positives.  When CSI exists, it came from an intelligent cause.  That’s testability.
    5. Suggestive of a research program:  What experiments will a scientist do to research intelligent design? Goldman asks.  He repeats the common canard that ID brings explanation to a halt: “God did it--end of story.”  He says this should at least make us deeply suspicious about the ability of ID to satisfy the rules of scientific hypotheses.  Apply this rule to the Darwinists, then.  When they say “evolution did it,” or disguise that simplistic answer in phrases like “This represents a remarkable case of convergent evolution,” the playing field is level.  Darwinists brought the study of interesting biological phenomena to a halt by explaining away unknown biological phenomena as junk DNA or vestigial organs.
          Goldman recalled Francis Bacon’s measure of good scientific hypotheses, “By their fruits ye shall know them” (three guesses where Bacon got that idea from).  So here is the fruit: design thinking is actually producing some of the most vibrant and cutting-edge research in the world today: biomimetics.  Whole multidisciplinary labs are springing up to mimic nature’s designs.  To do so, these designs must be understood – and science marches along.
  • Irreducible complexity is an argument from ignorance.  Goldman claims that ID cannot merely argue that Darwinian evolution is inadequate because it cannot explain the spontaneous emergence of complex biochemical systems (e.g., Behe’s mousetrap).  Debunking Theory A does not establish Theory B.  This is the “argument from ignorance,” he says, a logical fallacy.  Granted, but it does not follow that Darwinism must be taught as fact without debate, either: that would be the best-in-field fallacy.  Darwinists have an endless capacity to rationalize and tiptoe around the problems.  Refusing to let serious challenges be heard is not healthy for any scientific explanation.  That being understood, irreducible complexity is not merely an argument against Darwinian evolution, anyway.  It is a marker for CSI that allows one to discriminate intelligent causes from non-intelligent causes.
  • Scientists are not convinced irreducible complexity is a challenge to evolutionary theory.  Maybe evolution cannot explain complex systems yet, he says, but the community of biologists does not seem worried about it.  This is a very weak response.  Maybe they should be worried about it.  Geologists weren’t worried about plate tectonics and catastrophic floods for decades, either, till they were forced to follow the evidence.  How the community of scientists feel about something is no measure of its validity or importance.  They’ve had 146 years to explain complex systems by unguided processes and are in worse shape now than in Darwin’s time.  How much longer do they get to filibuster?
  • Self-organizing systems show promise for explaining irreducible complexity.  The new study of self-organizing systems shows that complex systems can emerge spontaneously, Goldman argues; ID needs to make sure self-organization is incapable of producing complex systems before reaching outside of nature to explain them.  Been there, done that.  Why is this a requirement?  Why is it better to follow blind alleys?  For how long should we take a wrong road before giving up?  We already know that intelligent causes are adequate to explain CSI.  The kind of complexity that self-organizing systems exhibit is very different from information, the hallmark of intelligent design.  Spilled ink might produce wave patterns if shaken or subjected to the wind, but it does not produce meaningful text.
  • By analogy, technological systems do form spontaneously without planning.  Goldman argues that nobody followed a master plan that resulted in all the complex systems built around the automobile: the internal combustion engine, gasoline as fuel, highways, carburetors, filling stations--these were all co-opted after the fact without any top-down design.  The system emerged from the bottom-up emergence for self-interested reasons, so why not consider this as a model for how the biochemical world emerged?  (“I’m not saying it’s true,” he adds).  My dear Dr. Goldman, do you fail to realize that your analogy is irrelevant, because human beings are intelligent agents?
  • Criticizing gaps in evolutionary theory misunderstands the nature of scientific theories.  ID focuses its criticisms on “Darwinian” evolution, but a lot has happened since Darwin.  Theories evolve.  Evolution is now woven into a web of correlated theories, which is a key test of a scientific theory.  Geology, ecology, molecular biology, and genetics have all incorporated Darwinism or some variation of evolution, though there is still a controversy whether natural selection is the only force acting.  These are lively controversies, he argues, but none of the combatants have raised intelligent design as the missing ingredient that stymies their progress.
        Again, science is not just a game, and you cannot trust Big Science to set the rules of their game fairly when they have a great deal of self-interest to perpetuate their ideologies and exclude alternatives from consideration.  In the history of science, proponents of one view have failed to see the significance of gaps in their explanations even when face to face with contradictory evidence.  Sometimes they died maintaining their flawed theories.  No historian of science can claim that evolutionary theory is immune from a massive paradigm shift.  Its critics feel it is a monstrous house of cards on a shaky foundation and that the pressures of new discoveries are making it vulnerable to a collapse of historic proportions.
        Goldman had argued forcefully in the earlier lectures that scientists cannot entirely dismiss the sociological and historical nature of their theories.  He illustrated this not only by quotes from the most eminent philosophers of science, but also with specific instances.  Our concepts of the universe, the earth, life and atoms have changed dramatically since 1900.  We have no guarantee there will not be similar radical transformations in the future.  That being understood, he cannot rule out that science is evolving again in the current controversy.  Biology of the future will include intelligent causes in its toolkit, while evolutionary theory may be on the way out.
  • ID may be a legitimate support for believing in a Designer behind nature, but design is not a scientific hypothesis.  Goldman recognizes that the design argument has a long and venerable history.  Everyone knows that nature looks designed, he acknowledges.  So are we to throw out the evidence of our senses, and our common sense, and be forced to invoke uncaused, undesigned forces to explain the most elegant machinery we know?  Who decides?  Calling something a scientific hypothesis does not make it so, nor does the converse make it not so.  Since evolutionary theory fails all of Goldman’s own minimum criteria for scientific hypotheses, and ID does not, he cannot simply dismiss ID as a scientific hypothesis by a flat-out statement of his opinion.
  • Attacking a theory because it threatens one’s religious convictions is not a scientific posture.  OK, so ID threatens materialism and atheism.  Let the Darwinists admit that, and let’s talk about the evidence.  Evolutionists continually attack ID and creation as being religiously motivated.  This rule cuts both ways; Dawkins said that evolution allows one to be an intellectually-fulfilled atheist.  Attacking one’s motives instead of his argument is the ad hominem strategy.  So evolutionists, stop attacking the motives of creationists, and focus on the evidence.
Goldman noted that he only wished only to critique ID, not malign it.  We leave it to the reader to judge if any of the pillars of Goldman’s critique are left standing.  Though cogently argued, none of his points are new.  William Dembski has answered them all, and many more, in his book The Design Revolution, to which the interested reader is referred for more detail.
    At the end of the lecture, Goldman acknowledged that “Imperial Science” misconstrues the debate as much as “Imperial Religion.”  He says that the defensiveness of the scientific community over the attacks by sociology, philosophy and religion “obscures the fundamental fact that we have learned in this course, namely, that no theory – no theory – can have the status of an empirical fact.”  It is a category error to claim that evolutionary theory or any other scientific theory is a fact, “contrary to the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times and various op-ed pieces opposing intelligent design,” he remarks.
    Sounds like we have a legitimate controversy here.  Good; let’s teach it.
Next headline on:  Intelligent DesignEvolution
Team Claims “Hobbit Man” Is Fully Human    08/21/2006  
The bones of Homo floresiensis that caused such a stir two years ago (10/27/2004) are human ancestors of the current population of pygmies living on the island today, not a new species, according to a press release from Penn State.  The individual with the small skull (LB1) suffered from microcephaly and the rest of the characteristics represent normal variation within human populations.  The team of Teuku Jacob and Robert B. Eckhardt, publishing their work in PNAS,1 explained that the misidentification of the skulls came from comparing them with Europeans instead of those from the far east.
    Based on the earlier announcements, some, including Nature editor Henry Gee, had remarked that the discovery of these small-boned humans would represent a challenge to creationist beliefs; but then, it was difficult for evolutionists to explain what hominid group this population descended from and how they got to the Indonesian island of Flores.  One team member summarized their conclusion: “LB1 is not a normal member of a new species, but an abnormal member of our own.”  See also the review of this story on Live Science.  On the other side of the debate, Science Now claims that opponents of this interpretation are lining up, ready to debunk it.

1T. Jacob, “Pygmoid Australomelanesian Homo sapiens skeletal remains from Liang Bua, Flores: Population affinities and pathological abnormalities,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.0605563103, published online before print August 23, 2006.
Do you think National Geographic will now retract their infamous racist artwork of a black, primitive-looking miniature ape-man with prey over his shoulder?  That piece of fiction was propagated all over the news.  Let’s hear a retraction, NG.
Next headline on:  FossilsEarly Man
Biblical History News   08/20/2006    
Little by little, the archaeologist’s spade helps shed light on Biblical history – that is, when not hindered by wars and conflicts.  Biblical Archaeology Society published some interesting news on its website and in the Sept-Oct issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.
  • Royal portrait:  The magazine contains a report by renowned Israeli archaeologist Gabriel Barkay of archaeological finds at Ramat Rahel (pp. 34-44).  This site, on a hilltop halfway between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, excavated by rival archaeologists Yohanan Aharoni (1960s) and Yigael Yadin (1970s) yielded remains of a village and palace dating from the First Temple Period (the time of Judah’s kings).  Barkay argues that artifacts date from the time of Hezekiah, though a new excavation under Hebrew University auspices is underway to reassess the evidence.  Its location on a hill with a great view northward to the City of David and Temple Mount would have been desirable for the king.  The town was destroyed by Sennacherib during the Assyrian siege, but apparently rebuilt after the war either by Hezekiah or his son Manasseh.
        Excavations at Ramat Rahel have revealed a complex water system (see Reuters story on MSNBC), a citadel, numerous jug handles inscribed with “Belonging to the king” (a style attributed to Hezekiah’s monarchy), pre-Ionic column capitals and balustrades, and a palace wall with mortarless stones so finely shaped that even today a knife blade cannot fit between them.  Most tantalizing is an image found by early excavators sketched on a piece of pottery, showing a side view of a king seated on a throne.  If Barkay is correct, this may be may be the only picture of a Judahite king ever found: a portrait of King Hezekiah himself.1
  • Wash and see:  Further excavations of the newly-discovered Pool of Siloam (see 08/09/2005, bullet 2) at the south end of the old City of David have revealed the end of an elaborate street and plaza, reports Bib-Arch.  The report includes new photos of the columned street that may have led all the way north to the Temple Mount.  This is the pool where Jesus sent a man born blind to wash and be healed.  It was apparently a much more elaborate project than historians realized.
  • Jordan photojournal:  Herschel Shanks provided an informative photo-journal of his 3-day tour of Jordan this summer on the Bib-Arch website.  His adventures included stops at Jerasa (NT Gerasa), Amman (OT Rabbath-ammon), Machaerus (where John the Baptist was imprisoned) and Edom, where remains of extensive copper mining have recently come to light (02/18/2005).
  • Collateral damage:  The Bib-Arch website has a status report on the effect of the Lebanese-Israeli war on archaeological digs in progress, and damage to some.  Sites listed include Megiddo, Tel Dan, Hippos, Ramat Rahel and others.  Mark Hequet provided a first-hand report of what it was like to be digging under fire.
  • Dig this blog:  Archaeology is one of the sciences where lay people can make a significant contribution.  Bib-Arch advertises expeditions people can join, and maintains a blog by two enthusiastic young archaeologists about what’s happening at various sites.  The pictures show this to be an invigorating pastime for college students.
  • Apathetic outrage:  On a tragic note, destruction of antiquities on the Temple Mount by illegal Muslim building projects continues (see 11/11/2005, bullet 4).  The Bib-Arch report says that since the Palestinian police took over the mount in 1990, “systematic destruction of any vestige of Jewish presence on the Mount was begun.”  Two portions of the old city wall have suffered unsightly damage due to Muslim activity, and new Arab graves encroach aside holy places outside the wall, desecrating them for further Israeli investigation.
        Despite 35 violations of Israeli antiquities law by Muslims on the Temple Mount, including the construction of a new underground mosque that has damaged the wall and sent truckloads of artifact-laden debris over the wall, the Israeli government has done nothing to stop it.  “The IAA (Israel Antiquities Authority) is powerless to interfere because it has been so ordered by the highest levels of government,” the report says.  One can only imagine what would happen if this highly asymmetric political situation were reversed, and Israelis damaged Arab holy sites.  “This is the most important site in Israel, and yet we don’t see the authorities there,” complained archaeologist Eilat Mazar, whose digs on the City of David may have uncovered the palace of Judah’s kings (see 08/09/2005, bullet 3).  “We have to wake up and realize that if we don’t take care of it, the vandalism and illegal construction will continue.”
  • Bible and spade:  Another publication by another organization – Bible and Spade by Associates for Biblical Research – has articles this month about the Magi, Herod the Great, the city of Smyrna in Asia Minor, and extra-biblical evidence for the conquest of Canaan by the Israelites under Joshua.  Founder and archaeologist Bryant Wood is a world expert in pottery identification.  The ABR current weekly article seems off-topic, but not really: how hybridization and polyploidy might explain the diversity of plants since the original creation.
  • What is this thing about snakes?  On a different note, from a different source, Marvin Olasky in World Magazine (Aug 19, pp 30-31) bounced off the latest movie thriller Snakes on a Plane to ask why so many cultures have “Snakes on the brain.”  Peoples as geographically separated as the Sumerians, Canaanites, Greeks, Norse, Mayans, Persians, west Africans, National Geographic editors, Burmese, Lombards, Indians and Chinese have held snakes as central idioms of their religious traditions, sometimes worshiping them as gods and givers of wisdom.  Many of their traditions employ symbols strikingly similar to the Genesis account of the Garden of Eden, with a tree, forbidden fruit, a man and a woman, and a serpent.  Consider this example from Africa:
    What should we make of the Bassari people of west Africa speaking of a great god, Unumbotte, who made Man and made Snake; when Snake proposed the eating of fruit, “Man and his wife took some of the fruit and ate it.  Unumbotte came down from the sky and asked, ‘Who ate the fruit?’  The first couple admitted eating the fruit and said Snake had told them to do so.”
    Olasky rejects the interpretation of the late Joseph Campbell that the serpent icon is merely a Jungian archetype: “...what if the stories all over the world, whether similar to the biblical account or turned upside down into praise of the serpent, suggest that stories about the real Garden of Eden, passed down through the generations and distorted in the process, lingered for millennia?” he asks.

1An engraved picture of Israelite king Jehu is well known from the Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser, now in the British Museum.
Now that the cosmologists have acquiesced that the physical evidence of the universe leaves a multiverse fantasyland as their only escape from the conclusion of intelligent design (see 08/11/2006), we can no longer grant the naturalistic scientists the presumptive authority to interpret the universe.  A Designer intelligent enough to choose the constants of physics is more than a force.  It is a Person with all power, all wisdom and all authority in heaven and earth, who intended for our existence.  How could anyone exclude the reasonable corollary that such a Designer would exhibit one of the most fundamental characteristics of personality: the desire to communicate?  And that is what He did: He created a universe to be inhabited (Isaiah 45) and He communicated his nature and salvation to us, in many portions and in many ways (Hebrews 1).
    For those raised on the false hope of Enlightenment rationalism that science could explain the true cause and history of the world, we have come full circle.  It’s time to dust off the age-old claims of the Bible and take them seriously once again.  Consider just the last bullet point above about the worldwide traditions of a serpent and temptation.  How could those evolve from an ape-like ancestry?  Clearly, if these traditions, so closely resembling the Garden of Eden account, are linked in cultural memories to a real event, it was not millions of years ago.
    The pieces of archaeological evidence fit together in a coherent way to support the historicity of the Garden of Eden, Hezekiah, Jesus, Paul and the entire Greatest Story Ever Told.  When occasional findings are interpreted in ways that seem to contradict the Biblical record, wait long enough, and the skeptic’s claims usually evaporate under further analysis (e.g., see 04/12/2003, 02/18/2005).  It’s not only archaeological sites that need careful digging.  Historical records, one’s own conscience, and especially the Bible itself yield treasures when unencumbered by the bankrupt theories of rationalist skepticism.
Next headline on:  Bible and TheologyPolitics and Ethics
Early Large Spiral Galaxy Resembles Milky Way    08/18/2006  
Astronomers using adaptive optics at the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Paranal, Chile took spectra of a galaxy at red-shift 2.38 described as an “early young galaxy” that must have, according to current theory, formed very rapidly, because it looks like the Milky Way.  The observations by Genzel et al., published in Nature,1 were described by Robert C. Kennicutt (editor of Astrophysical Journal) in the same issue of Nature2 this way:
On page 786 of this issue1, Genzel et al. present remarkable observations of what appears to be a newly formed spiral galaxy, observed when the Universe was just a fifth of its current age.  The result is doubly significant: first, it provides the most detailed glimpse so far of the formation of a galaxy similar to our own Milky Way; second, it demonstrates the power of a new generation of high-resolution instruments that use adaptive optics to study the information and evolution of far-off galaxies.
Though Kennicutt claims that our growing catalog of deep-space observations have given rise to “a self-consistent picture of the evolution of galaxies,” he did find it remarkable that such a distant galaxy would look so familiar:
The authors’ observations of BzK-15504 reveal it to be a giant spiral galaxy, with a size and mass similar to that of the Milky Way, but observed just 3 billion years after the Big Bang.  It shows many similarities to present-day spiral galaxies, with rotational properties that, again, are nearly identical to those of the Milky Way.  These similarities are notable because they imply that at least some large disk galaxies were broadly in place even at these early cosmic epochs.
He says that the spectra imply a rapid burst of star formation in this galaxy 50 times greater than that assumed in our own.  The authors of the paper, after stating the “framework” of galaxy evolution, admitted to some anomalies in the picture:
It remains unclear, however, over what timescales galaxies were assembled and when and how bulges and disks—the primary components of present-day galaxies—were formed.  It is also puzzling that the most massive galaxies were more abundant and were forming stars more rapidly at early epochs than expected from models.
Everyone thought large spiral galaxies formed late in the evolution of the cosmos.  Kennicut said, “large spiral galaxies with well-developed disks similar to the Milky Way are conspicuously absent in both observations and models of the early Universe.  These large spirals are expected to form rather late, so one would not expect to find many of them at early times,” he added.  But why there are any galaxies this large and mature at such an early age?  “Both these and other results from the same programme are challenging theorists to account for the existence of such massive and well-formed galaxies at such early cosmic epochs, he added, changing the subject to the promise of adaptive optics to answer that question.
1Genzel et al., “The rapid formation of a large rotating disk galaxy three billion years after the Big Bang,” Nature 442, 786-789(17 August 2006) | doi:10.1038/nature05052; Received 25 April 2006; Accepted 6 July 2006.
2Robert C. Kennicutt, Jr., “Astronomy: Young spirals get older,” Nature 442, 753-754(17 August 2006) | doi:10.1038/442753a; Published online 16 August 2006.
The juxtaposition of cockiness about their models and head-scratching about the particulars is what is puzzling.  To keep the model together, they have to have this galaxy, which is surely representative of billions more, forming stars and evolving so rapidly that it looks mature at one-fifth the assumed age of the universe.  This pattern of early maturity is the Cambrian Explosion of cosmology, also known as the Lumpiness Problem.  The early universe shows much more structure (lumpiness) than expected from a nearly homogeneous expansion of an initially uniform particle soup (uniform, that is, to within one part in a hundred thousandth of a degree temperature of the cosmic background radiation).  Astronomers seem to take their lumps in stride.  Sometimes, however, discretion is the better part of valor.
Next headline on:  AstronomyCosmologyDating Methods
Mars Annually Pops Its Polar Cork    08/17/2006  
A unique geological phenomenon has been found on Mars.  Every year, when the southern polar cap heats up, carbon dioxide gas forms underneath a layer of translucent ice.  This gas levitates large portions of the ice cap until it finds weaknesses, and bursts out at over a hundred miles an hour in spectacular fumaroles (see artist’s rendition at Jet Propulsion Laboratory).  The escaping gas carries fine particles of soil and sand upward, that get splayed outward in fan-shaped deposits hundreds of meters long, all pointing in the direction of the prevailing wind.
    Planetary scientists studying the images from the THEMIS infrared camera aboard the 2001 Mars Odyssey had long been puzzled by the dark spots, fans and spider-shaped markings around the vents till they came up with this model.  The findings were published in Nature this week.1  The authors noted that this model will have an impact on the way polar cap deposits are interpreted:
The erosion and vertical stirring of surface materials under seasonal slab ice may have significantly altered the metre-scale sedimentary structures in the polar-layered deposits in a manner similar to bioturbation on the Earth.  This erosion and redeposition of the surface material on vertical scales of a few metres may have produced sedimentary structures that reflect this modification process, rather than the initial depositional environment.  If so, this process may present major complications to the interpretation of the sedimentary record observed in upcoming Polar Lander observations, and must be considered in relating this record to the climate history of Mars.
What this means is that in this case, layering does not represent a time sequence.  Since every year the same layers are eroded and redeposited, they cannot be used to infer either geological or atmospheric history.
1Kieffer, Christensen and Titus, “CO2 jets formed by sublimation beneath translucent slab ice in Mars’ seasonal south polar ice cap,” Nature 442, 793-796(17 August 2006) | doi:10.1038/nature04945; Received 4 April 2006; Accepted 30 May 2006.
Yellowstone, eat your heart out.  What a sight it must be to look out over the south polar cap and see jets of dirty gas roaring upward hundreds of feet into the atmosphere every few hundred yards.  It might be even more dramatic to see the geysers of Enceladus, discovered last year (see 11/28/2005).
    Imagine if scientists for the upcoming polar lander mission measured these layers carefully, correlated them with other Martian strata, and came up with a detailed model of the climate history of Mars.  They would be wrong, according to this model.  Interpretations of data are not the same as data.  Sometimes, weird processes can be at work to scramble the data, misleading humans that were not present when the formations were made.  These authors mentioned bioturbation on earth, wherein underground organisms, with their burrowing and tunneling, carry fossil material upward or downward from its initial location (see 05/21/2004).
    Many times, scientists can recognize these effects and account for them in their models.  This new Martian process, apparently unique in the solar system, however, was unrecognized till now.  In this case, the effects take place in the present and can be observed.  (One wonders, offhand, whether this process could continue for billions of years.)  On Earth, much of the history cannot be reconstructed except by fallible inference from complicated data.  Peter Sadler said in the aforementioned 2004 article that cryptic signatures of bioturbation or reworking can go unrecognized by scientists, yet have significant effects on deposits – and by extension, on their interpretations.
    Undoubtedly different physical effects take place on Earth deposits used to infer past geological and climate history.  But by definition, one cannot know all the unknowns.  Let this instance be a lesson that new discoveries can blow holes in the best of scientific models.
Next headline on:  GeologySolar SystemDating Methods
Nature Praises Iran President, Criticizes Religious West    08/16/2006  
The lead Editorial in Nature this week,1 “Revival in Iran,” had mostly praise for the repressive regime of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran for his alleged support of “science”:
Perhaps the rise of science relates to the importance that Iran’s government attaches to the development of nuclear technology.  Many regard Iran’s interest in these technologies with extreme suspicionNonetheless, Iran’s embrace of science should be welcomed.
That’s the closest the article got to admitting that Ahmadinejad is seeking to build nuclear weapons; though many may regard it with “extreme” suspicion, apparently the editors of Nature do not.  In fact, they praised his efforts to remove debt at Iranian universities, to prepare for an expansion of student numbers, and to avoid cutting research funds.  Presumably, Ahmadinejad has the noblest of scientific motivations for these initiatives.
    On the other hand, the editors spoke of “the many problems caused by US sanctions.”  The article praised Iran for becoming “the most scientifically productive country in the Middle East apart from Israel” but failed to mention that this same Iranian president seeks to destroy Israel, and denies the Holocaust.
    What is it that Nature admires so much about Iran, and Muslim science in general?  The editorial described a glorious scientific heritage of Islam (but see 12/16/2004 and 11/21/2004).  Most revealing was the following paragraph, which portrayed a liberated East in stark contrast to a repressive West – and notice the specific examples:
One practical advantage for science in Muslim countries is the lack of direct interference of religious doctrine, such as exists in many Christian countries.  There has never, for example, been a debate about darwinian evolution, and human embryonic stem-cell research is constrained by humanistic rather than religious ethics. The Royan Institute in Iran was the first in the Middle East to develop a human embryonic stem-cell line, using spare embryos from its in vitro fertilization programme.
The Editorial ends with a line from medieval Muslim poet-scientist Omar Khayyam, whom they insinuate should have gotten the credit for the triangle named for Pascal (a European Christian).  Criticism of the West in this editorial was, therefore, both overt and subtle, while criticism of the Muslim East and its most dangerous dictator was muted and overcompensated with blessing.  “Whatever its motivation,” the subtitle reads, “Iran’s support for education and science is to be welcomed.”
1Editorial, “Revival in Iran,” Nature 442, 719-720(17 August 2006) | doi:10.1038/442719b; published online 16 August 2006.
But what if its motivation is to wipe out Israel and destroy Europe and America?
    It’s time to awaken Nature from its drunken stupor and dowse the editors with a splash of sobering letters.  If you aren’t fed up enough with the utterly illogical pro-totalitarian, anti-Western, ultra-liberal leadership of the Big Science elitists, go find a breathalyzer.  It’s incredible that Nature could write such a piece, especially now, right after Iran was exposed guilty as a demon for supplying Hezbollah, one of the worst terrorist groups on earth, with thousands of rockets to rain on Israel, along with money and soldiers in its offensive war against the tiny strip of land that actually is, despite its diminutive size and population, the #1 most scientifically productive country in the Middle East.
    The editors did not address their love letter to the many Iranians yearning to breathe free in a modern, civilized country instead of a 7th-century tribal warrior theocracy, but to the Ahmadinejad regime itself, which many believe used the Hezbollah war to distract attention from its nuclear ambitions.  Why not praise the other end of the Axis of Evil in North Korea while you’re at it, guys?
    Many worthy scientists contribute their research results faithfully to this rag, hoping for the prestige and publicity it carries; they are not responsible for what the editorial board thinks.  It would be one thing if Nature were pressuring Iranian scientists to push for democratic reforms in their country, so that Iran could join the community of nations in a spirit of rational diplomacy and scientific openness.  The whole editorial, by contrast, reeks of a blame-the-West attitude, while praising one of the most dangerous and irrational regimes in the world today for – what? – uncontested Darwinism and unrestricted stem cells.  Unbelievable.
    Big Science may be infested with ultra-liberal bias (12/02/2004), but this is too far and over the top.  It’s time to clean house.  Along with Eric Pianka and Ward Churchill and the profs blaming Bush for 9/11, these guys are completely out of touch with reality, and should get an earful from Christian and Jewish scientists and citizens, to say nothing of moderate Muslims (who, incidentally, usually believe in intelligent design), and whichever scientists, educators, politicians have any sense left.  Outrageous positions deserve a broad-based and cogent response.
    This is not the first time Nature (and Science, too, for that matter) have cast America and Israel in a bad light, and have polished the image of the Holocaust-deniers.  But this piece shows their true colors.  If they hate the democratic West and its Judeo-Christian, Darwin-doubting heritage so much, let them move to the Muslim utopias.  Let their women scientists don burqas and enjoy the time-honored traditions, like honor killings.  Let them subject themselves to daily disruption of peace and quiet from minaret loudspeakers blaring wails of men who can’t sing any better than crybabies.  Let them experience for themselves the torture prisons reserved for those who say a word against Allah or the tyrant in power.  Let them watch their little boys trained to hate from their earliest years, and taught to view, as the noblest ideal, the suicide bombing of as many Jews as possible on a bus or in a shopping mall.  Let them witness their science subverted to the goal of destroying the one small democratic safe haven in the Middle East that grants freedom to all scientists. 
    These minor inconveniences would apparently be tolerable to the editors of Nature in exchange for the sheer ecstasy of envisioning a Beulah land with uninhibited Darwinist preaching and unencumbered access to embryonic stem cells (08/13/2006).  If they long for such a promised land, it’s all there waiting for them in Tehran.  Let them kiss the face of Mahmoud, their favored patron of science, who is certainly relishing this vote of confidence from the leading scientific journal in the world.  How did it ever come to this?
Update 09/20/2006: Nature got an earful from readers in three letters to the editor in the Sept. 20 issue.  The president of Tel Aviv university was “horrified” at the editorial.  He quickly reminded Nature of Iran’s abuses of human rights, denial of the Holocaust, and support of terrorism at home and abroad.  A scientist at the National Cancer Institute corrected the editorial’s mischaracterization of Iran as second in scientific productivity in the Middle East; in reality, it is sixth, when weighted for population.  A third letter from Oxford thought the editorial was an April Fool joke.  Speaking of Iran’s nuclear program, he quipped, “Perhaps when the fruit of this programme explodes in London, you will be writing an explanation of the humanistic ethics involved.”
Next headline on:  Politics and EthicsDarwinism
Stellar Habitable Zones: Don’t Forget the Sunscreen   08/15/2006    
Astronomers concerned with the origin of life on earth have long thought about the “habitable zone” (sometimes called continuously habitable zone, or CHZ) of our solar system.  They’ve discussed this aerobee-shaped zone around our sun – or any star – mainly in terms of locations where the temperature would permit water to exist as a liquid.  But stars put out more than heat.  Our sun emits prodigious amounts of ultraviolet radiation that could be hostile to life.  Some stars put out a great deal more UV than does our sun.  What does UV do to the CHZ?
    Three Argentinian astronomers studied this factor and published their calculations in Icarus.1  It was not their intent to question the abiotic origin of life when suitable conditions would be found on a planet.  They came up with criteria for modeling suitable sweet spots where UV might provide a source of energy strong enough to fortify a primordial soup without killing any incipient organisms in the process:
Ultraviolet radiation is known to inhibit photosynthesis, induce DNA destruction and cause damage to a wide variety of proteins and lipids.  In particular, UV radiation between 200 and 300 nm becomes energetically very damaging to most of the terrestrial biological systems.  On the other hand, UV radiation is usually considered one of the most important energy source on the primitive Earth for the synthesis of many biochemical compounds and, therefore, essential for several biogenesis processes.  In this work, we use these properties of the UV radiation to define the boundaries of an ultraviolet habitable zone.  We also analyze the evolution of the UV habitable zone during the main sequence stage of the star.  We apply these criteria to study the UV habitable zone for those extrasolar planetary systems that were observed by the International Ultraviolet Explorer (IUE).  We analyze the possibility that extrasolar planets and moons could be suitable for life, according to the UV constrains [sic] presented in this work and other accepted criteria of habitability (liquid water, orbital stability, etc.).
This kind of modeling required making some assumptions, about which they were forthright in the introduction:
The so-called “Principle of Mediocrity” proposes that our planetary system, life on Earth and our technological civilization are about average and that life and intelligence will develop by the same rules of natural selection wherever the proper conditions and the needed time are given (von Hoerner, 1961 and von Hoerner, 1973).  In other words, the conditions that give place to the origin and evolution of life on Earth are average, in comparison to other worlds in the universe.
    This hypothesis is in the “hard core” (Lakatos, 1974) of all the research programs that search for life in the universe, which during the last fifty years were known within the scientific community as exobiology, bioastronomy, astrobiology, CETI, SETI, etc.
    Using the “Principle of Mediocrity,” we speculated about the existence of Earth-like planets, which must have liquid water on its surface, comparable surface inventories of CO2, H2O, N2 and other biogenic elements, an early history allowing chemical evolution that leads to life, and subsequent climatic stability for at least 4.5 Gyr [i.e., 4.5 billion years] (Lineweaver, 2001 and Owen, 2000).  We also speculated about the possible universal mechanisms for the origin of life, about universal mechanisms of Darwinian natural selection and for the appearance of intelligence and technological civilizations, and about how to detect primitive life and advanced technological civilizations beyond our home planet (Shklovskii and Sagan, 1996 and Lemarchand, 1992).
With these assumptions established, they reviewed the literature on habitable zones.  They agreed that our sun’s lies between Venus and Mars, with Earth in the sweet spot.  Previous work, however, failed to consider that “The ultraviolet radiation emitted by a star can also be important to determine the suitability of extrasolar planets for biological evolution and for the subsequent adaptation of life in exposed habitats.”  It also would have affected Earth’s atmospheric stability and composition.  The trick is to find a formula for the radius from any star where UV is strong enough to generate biologically-interesting compounds, without so strong as to tear them apart or shred a planet’s atmosphere.  This defines the UHZ, the ultraviolet habitable zone, or UV-HZ, as they call it.
    Their calculations for inner and outer boundaries of the UV-HZ considered the work of many other researchers on the effects of UV on molecules and atmospheric dynamics, and the changes in UV output over time from various star types.  They also considered how much UV would reach a planetary surface in the absence of an ozone layer.  As expected, UV considerations narrow down the traditional CHZ, and rule out some known extrasolar systems for the life lottery.  The UV-HZ usually lies closer in for most stars, they found.  What effect does this have?  “In those cases, UV radiation inside the traditional HZ would not be an efficient source for photolysis,” they reason, “and therefore the formation of the macromolecules needed for life would be much more difficult, if not completely impossible.”
    And now, the numbers: “In near the 41% stars of the sample ... there is no coincidence at all between the UV region and the HZ.”  Scratch those as lively places, in other words.  In some others where there is overlap between the UV-HZ and the traditional HZ, it doesn’t last long enough to give life a foothold.  This ups the losers to 59% of stars sampled.  Alas, three others have a giant planet in the way, making any earthlike planet’s orbit unstable.  Some others have giant planets sitting in the sweet spot.  That means only a moon orbiting the gas giant could host a Darwinian game show.  Around a couple of F-type stars, “there is a region in the HZ where complex life would be burnt by UV radiation,” they found.  “In both cases, an atmospheric protection much larger than that of early Earth would be needed to make the traditional HZ suitable for life.”
    This sounds pretty depressing for earlier speculations about the CHZ. 
In this work we present a more restrictive criteria to habitability of an extrasolar Earth-like planet than the traditional liquid water one presented by Kasting et al. (1993), as we analyze the biological conditions to the origin and the development of life once the liquid-water scenery is already satisfied.
    Until an atmospheric protection would be built, a planetary surface would be exposed to larger amounts of UV radiation, which could act as one of the main source in the synthesis of bioproducts and, in a certain wavelength, could be damaging for DNA.
Bottom line: 59% of the 21 stars considered for the study were ruled out by UV considerations: “the traditional HZ would not be habitable following the UV criteria exposed in this work.”  Of the remaining candidates, five had zones of overlap where (if an Earth-size planet orbited therein) a cozy radiation bath would endure for at least 3 Gyr.  A couple of gas giants might also have moons in the safe zone.  All in all, despite the “principle of mediocrity,” Earth looks like a winner.
1Buccino, Lemarchand and Mauas, “Ultraviolet radiation constraints around the circumstellar habitable zones,” Icarus, Volume 183, Issue 2, August 2006, Pages 491-503, doi:10.1016/j.icarus.2006.03.007.
Die-hard naturalists will respond that 5 out of 21 isn’t so bad, considering how many quintillions of stars are out there.  There could still be billions of advanced civilizations.  But notice how all the prior speculation ignored this crucial factor, that narrows the playing field considerably.  How many other factors are being ignored in the hopes of winning the cosmic lottery?  What about the geological composition of the planet, the presence of an adequate moon, a suitable tilt and rotation rate, a magnetic field, ability to avoid other types of radiation and flares, location in the galactic habitable zone, and many other factors?
    If China was a riddle wrapped in an enigma, this is a twiddle wrapped in a dogma.  Remove the dogmatic assumption that chemicals will self-organize and breathe into themselves the breath of life, and the whole story evaporates anyway.  Suppose I started a story with, “assuming a pile of turtles.... ” and then built an elaborate model of earthquakes, tides, and atmospheric dynamics on it, complete with tensor calculus and detailed graphs.  No amount of hand-waving will cover up for crazy assumptions.
    These guys have their history wrong, too.  Their “hard core” hypothesis, the “so-called Principle of Mediocrity,” is mostly empty space in the head.  Copernicus didn’t believe it, and neither did Kepler or Galileo.  These Argentinian scientists need to watch The Privileged Planet or get the book.
    There’s an upside to papers like this.  Realistic investigations into the requirements for life underscore the hopelessness of explaining our planet and its life by chance, without factoring in a Designing intelligence who intended for Earth to be inhabited (e.g., Isaiah 45).  We’ve just learned He has given us enough light to enjoy plants and sunsets without being burnt to a crisp by UV.  That’s all the more reason to sing, “Count your blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.”
Next headline on:  AstronomyPlanetary SciencePhysicsOrigin of LifeDarwinian evolutionSETI
Item: 25 years ago, could you have imagined, in your wildest dreams, that Pravda would ever print an article favorable of Biblical creationism?

Evolution Is Slow, Except When It Is Super-Fast    08/14/2006  
Evolutionary biologists seem comfortable with rates of evolution that vary by eight orders of magnitude or more.  While some animals found at the alleged dawn of multicellular life at the beginning of the Cambrian have changed little in 500 million years, other organisms seem to evolve right before our eyes.  Sara Goudarzi on LiveScience described one recent instance as evolution in a “heartbeat” or a “nanosecond” compared to usual rates of change.  It involves a species of mussels exposed to an invasive crab in New England waters.  The mussels apparently responded to the new predator by growing thicker shells.  The mussels had not seen this crab in North American waters before, but according to James Byers [U of New Hampshire], co-author of a paper in Science,1 “the mussels’ wheels were well-greased to respond” and evolved to fit the new situation.  “That’s our best guess,” he said.


1Freeman and Byers, “Divergent Induced Responses to an Invasive Predator in Marine Mussel Populations,” Science, 11 August 2006: Vol. 313. no. 5788, pp. 831-833, DOI: 10.1126/science.1125485.
This is not really evolution – only variation – because it involves one species of mussel.  It makes sense that only variations able to resist the attack of the crabs will remain, because all the others will be victimized.  This process is not controversial even among the most ardent creationists.  Evolutionists, though with their personifying language, make it seem like the mussels organized their defensive strategy with intelligent planning.  The real value of this story is in pointing out the flexibility of Charlie Gumby.
    Evolution produces fast predators and prey, except when it produces slow ones.  It leads to bigger individuals, except when it prefers smaller ones.  It generates colorful birds and dull ones, birds that can fly faster and farther, and birds that lose flight altogether.  It makes tasty fruit to attract animals and poisonous fruit to repel them.  Males are explained to be both smart or dumb by evolutionary theory; females are choosy but really driven by their hormones.  Altruism is really disguised selfishness, but selfishness leads to the overall good.  Through evolution emerge showy patterns and camouflage, opacity and transparency, attraction and repulsion, loudness and quietness, high body mass and low density, change and stasis, group behavior and solitude, and opposite strategies for survival.  Since evolutionary theory is jack of all trades, it is master of none.  Some would not even honor such a slippery concept with the rank of jack.  Joker, maybe.
Next headline on:  Marine LifeEvolutionary Theory
Crossing the Line for Looks That Could Kill    08/13/2006  
President Bush may have vetoed one stem-cell bill for moral reasons (see Brad Harrub’s report on Apologetics Press), but in other countries where Judeo-Christian values are less prevalent, morality seems a low hurdle in the race to exploit biological resources that promise health, youth, beauty – and money.
    With embryonic stem cell research at the forefront of research priorities, a natural law is showing its effects: the law of unintended consequences.  The methods of obtaining cells for research, and new applications for their ready availability, are already stepping beyond the original intent of saving lives.  Here are signals the brave new world is upon us:
  • Merchandising Human LifeNature August 10 had no less than four articles about the sale of human eggs for embryonic stem cell research.  An Editorial1 began with this chilling opening:
    Clashing perspectives on the ethics of the donation of human eggs for research purposes are likely to complicate international collaboration – whether stem-cell researchers like it or not.
        What price a human egg?  The question provokes a variety of emotions and responses.  Some will argue that an egg has no monetary value when it is just one of those ovulated each month by billions of women and that perishes unfertilized.  Others might contend that the same egg is priceless – because it could, if introduced to the correct sperm, form the seed of a new person.  Others still will find it morally problematic even to pose the question, on the grounds that it treats human cells as merchandise.
        But the question is being asked, nonetheless...
    The Editorial quickly moved on to pragmatic matters about how to obtain the valued eggs without violating donors’ rights.
  • Check Catching:  Erika Check wrote an article in the same issue of Nature2 about how ethicists are trying to reach a consensus on the price of human eggs donated for stem cell research. 
    Stem-cell researchers want eggs so they can work on somatic cell nuclear transfer, or ‘therapeutic cloning’.  They hope to derive embryonic stem cells matched to patients’ DNA, by transferring the nucleus of one of the patient’s cells into a human egg and developing it into an embryo from which cells can be derived.  The technique has great medical potentialbut researchers are far from achieving it, and the main limiting factor in the research is the availability of human eggs to practise on.
    Some feel that female donors who go through the discomfort of donating eggs should be compensated for the pain and effort, especially those from poor countries.  “Others are worried that this will create an undue incentive that will coerce women – especially poorer ones – into giving up their eggs,” Check explains.  “The fact that so little is known about the long-term health risks of the procedure further complicates the picture....”
  • Into the Unknown:  Helen Pearson, in her article in Nature,3 explored why “There is little information on how frequently ovulation stimulation has tragic side effects” on women who donate eggs for research.  Part of the problem is that doctors are reluctant to report such effects “and rarely have to.”  Though deaths are thought to be rare, long-term effects such as ovarian cancer are little understood when fertility drugs or other methods are used to stimulate ovulation.
  • Setting the Price:  Insoo Hyun argued in Nature4 that paying women for egg donations is the best practice, but did consider the downside:
    Another worry is that compensation could have the unintended effect of enticing socio-economically disadvantaged women to volunteer as oocyte providers.  It is unclear whether this concern is mainly about undue inducement, which we have just addressed, or about the exploitation of vulnerable populations.  If the latter, then it is worth noting that, for decades, ethical review bodies have been responsible for scrutinizing researchers’ recruitment strategies to ensure that vulnerable populations are not unjustly enlisted.  Oocyte procurement for stem-cell research should not be held to a lesser standard.
    Hyun did not consider the fallout from this year’ Huang scandal, in which the strong motivation for leadership in stem-cell research induced the researchers to cross ethical boundaries and coerce female team members to donate human eggs.
  • Beauty and the Beast:  Stem cell therapies are already creating a market for “A barbaric kind of beauty,” wrote Andrea Thompson for the Daily Mail.  Some countries with lower ethical standards, like the Netherlands, are enticing women with a “cutting edge nonsurgical treatment” that promises to make them “look ten years younger.”  Thompson begins with the story of a 52-year-old British women who doesn”t have time for ethical questions:
    She doesn’t care if the treatment is expensive, involves babies and is so controversial that it is not allowed to be performed in this country – among her well-heeled friends, this is the ultimate new elixir of youth.
    In Britain, stem cell therapies are limited to “registered institutions using cells from embryos up to 14 days old or aborted foetuses donated to science,” but such limitations do not apply abroad, where whole industries are happy to cater to their “needs.”  And if things go awry, well, no business wants the bad publicity.  The new rage, she describes, is unregulated stem cell treatments abroad with plenty of promises of beauty, with no ethical qualms.
  • Incubators for Baby Parts:  Focus on the Family’s Citizen Link had a short article about how “In an insatiable quest to look young, women are traveling overseas for injections of aborted fetal cells as part of anti-aging treatments.”  But the fetuses are not the only victims: “In countries like Georgia and Ukraine, young girls are being used as incubators for the babies whose cells will be harvested.”  The risky procedures have no clinical trials; “About the 12th week, the baby is aborted and the fetal cells sold to cosmetic clinics.  The girls earn about $200 for their trouble.”
  • WWJD:  Tom Strode on Baptist Press described the opinion of former Democrat congressman Chris Bell, who is campaigning for bringing ES research to Texas.  Bell is appealing to Christ’s compassion on the sick to argue that Jesus would support embryonic stem cell research.  Strode points out, however, that “Embryonic research has yet to treat any diseases in human beings and has been plagued by the development of tumors in lab animals” – unlike adult stem cells, which have a long track record of success without the moral concerns.  “Extracting stem cells from an embryo destroys the tiny human being,” he said.  See related article on LifeNews.
David Miller argued on Apologetics Press that only a return to Biblical ethics will stem the tide of moral abominations that treat human embryos as merchandise.  He argues from the Bible that taking embryonic life is equivalent to something God hates: “hands that shed innocent blood.”  He concludes, “The fact that we even are debating this subject demonstrates the extent to which the nation has strayed from its commitment to and reliance on the God of the Universe—yet another unmistakable manifestation of America’s downward spiral into moral and spiritual depravity.” 
1Editorial, “Safeguards for donors,” Nature 442, 601(10 August 2006) | doi:10.1038/442601a; Published online 9 August 2006.
2Erika Check, “Special Report: Ethicists and biologists ponder the price of eggs,” Nature 442, 606-607(10 August 2006) | doi:10.1038/442606a; Published online 9 August 2006.
3Helen Pearson, “Special Report: Health effects of egg donation may take decades to emerge,” Nature 442, 607-608(10 August 2006) | doi:10.1038/442607a; Published online 9 August 2006.
4Insoo Hyun, “Commentary: Fair payment or undue inducement?”, Nature 442, 629-630(10 August 2006) | doi:10.1038/442629a; Published online 9 August 2006.
Suppose a cosmopolitan rich woman could walk into a prison and go shopping: “Let’s see; I’ll take that one’s skin, this one’s kidneys, and that one’s head on a platter.”  The jailer would quickly expedite the order and dispose of the leftovers in the garbage.  To what degree is this different, if the prisoner is a fetus in the womb?
    Surprisingly few churches are even discussing these issues.  In their quest to portray a non-confrontational, seeker-friendly image to draw in crowds, have many of today’s men of God in the pulpit become dumb dogs who cannot bark?  Where is the Isaiah for 2006?  If you think the current stem-cell atrocities listed here are bad, the day is young in this new age of the godless.  These are only the beginning of sorrows.  The day may come when even the non-religious pray for a Christian revival.
Next headline on:  HealthPolitics and EthicsBible and Theology
National Crisis: USA Ranks Nearly Last in Evolution Belief!    08/11/2006  
Eugenie Scott and colleagues at the National Center for Science Education presented findings of a survey on acceptance of evolution, and found that the USA trails far behind European countries – second from last only to Turkey.  In 20 years, acceptance of evolution dropped from 45 to 40 percent, but firm rejection of evolution also dropped from 48 to 39 percent – while those unsure increased from 7 to 21 percent.
    The primary cause of the low acceptance of evolution in some countries was attributed to fundamentalist religion (particularly, in the USA, that of Christianity and literal belief in Genesis) and the “politicization of science in the name of religion.”  In European countries and Japan, acceptance of evolution scored as high as 78 to 80 percent.
    Mixed in with the survey about evolution acceptance were questions on literacy about genetics, which also found the USA ranking low.  The statistics were published in the August 10 issue of Science.1
    “These results should be troubling for science educators at all levels,” the paper states.  “Basic concepts of evolution should be taught in middle school, high school, and college life sciences courses and the growing number of adults who are uncertain about these ideas suggests that current science instruction is not effective.”
    The news media were quick to pick up on this story.  “Only Turkey ranked lower,” Ker Than quipped in LiveScience (echoed on Fox News).  See also National Geographic News and a press release at Michigan State about Jon Miller’s input to the article.

1Jon D. Miller, Eugenie C. Scott and Shinjo Okamoto, “Policy Forum: Science Communication: Public Acceptance of Evolution,” Science, 11 August 2006: Vol. 313. no. 5788, pp. 765-766, DOI: 10.1126/science.1126746.
Eugenie took heart in one statistic that showed that more people were now unsure about evolution.  “That 21 percent we can indoctrinate educate,” she said.  Anyone believe she will teach the controversy?
    There are so many problems in polls like these.  The NCSE clearly has an agenda, to start with; it’s their business to scare everybody about creationism behind the ID mask.  Science magazine, of course, always gives free reign to the liberal atheist studies without ever allowing a knowledgeable opponent to counter the claims (though Ker Than, bless his Darwin-loving heart, did give a few words to Bruce Chapman before allowing Nick Matzke to fire the next shot).  Comparing the rejection of evolution to illiteracy about genetics is intended to suggest a correlation (see association in the Baloney Detector); does anyone doubt that it would be just as easy to correlate acceptance of evolution with increased abortion, crime, drug abuse and hopelessness?  How about correlating it with low birth rate, or with geographical latitude? or even with lack of ambition for a scientific career?  Now, wouldn’t that make a nice piece for Science.  The chart begs the question whether acceptance of evolution is bad.  Turn the chart around, and the USA is leading the world in discernment about evolution.
    Notice how the LieScience heading “Politics and the Flat Earth” does its dirty work without need for a brain.  “Only Turkey ranked lower,” Ker Than snickered.  Oh, horrors, yawn.  (The scary thing would be if the USA ranked as high as Holland, where they kill people without their consent.)  Would you have thought that Iceland would be #1?  Is Eugenie proud of that?  Noticeably lacking on Scott’s chart is Iran, North Korea and all the Muslim countries; it was important to make America look bad, so Luxembourg had to be in there to beat out the Americans, and Malta, too.  Naturally, LieScience used the occasion to trot out its favorite graphics, the Top Ten missing links, vestigial organs and creation myths.  Oh well, if they want to celebrate their fascination with straw men, they may as well set up all the scarecrows they have.
    Consigning one’s intellectual opponents to the funny farm is the tactic of those on the chicken farm.  It’s only scary when there is power behind it: rounding up the undesirables, shutting them up into a ghetto, or herding them onto railcars and sending them off who knows where.  Big Science, unfortunately, has power and is routinely exercising it to shut off debate, ridicule, categorize, marginalize and silence any frank discussion of the problems with naturalism and evolution.
    Despite the unfair fight, the Darwin-doubting Visigoths (cartoon) would really like to talk.  “What are you so afraid of?”, they ask.  “Let’s lay the evidence on the table and follow it where it leads” (see next article).  “All these propaganda gimmicks are so unnecessary.  We are reasonable men; let us in, and will restrict our weapons to logic, history and scientific evidence.”  Such an appeal is terrifying to those in the Darwin Party Castle.  It only makes them pull the drawbridges tighter and boil more oil.
    The noble-minded Visigoths, recall, are quite sophisticated, cultured and erudite (05/09/2006).  They quote John Donne, “He drew a circle that shut me out – Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout; But love and I had the wit to win: We drew a circle that took him in.”  This approach usually works well except when the first guy packs heat.
Next headline on:  EducationEvolutionPolitics and EthicsIntelligent DesignBible and Theology
Cosmologists Dragged Kicking and Screaming to the Anthropic Principle    08/11/2006  
Those who view science as a dispassionate, logical pursuit of the truth should savor the emotions in two articles by Tom Siegfried about cosmology in Science this week.1,2  He reported on the passionate rivalry between theoretical physicists who embrace superstring theory as the eventual “theory of everything” and those who oppose it because of its metaphysical implications.
    The critics dislike it because it smacks of the anthropic principle (roughly, that the universe appears tailored for life) and does not allow testable predictions – because most of its adherents postulate an infinite number of possible universes, out of which we inhabit one of the very few that permits life.  That smacks of metaphysics, they argue.  Proponents counter that we must follow the evidence where it leads.  The discovery of a nonzero (but very small) vacuum energy, they point out, allows for life but appears random – i.e., underivable from theory.  Since superstring theory allows for an infinite number of states (i.e., a multiplicity of universes, or multiverse), we can explain our existence by the natural selection of a universe with the vacuum energy and other physical properties (“landscape”) that permitted the formation of galaxies, stars, planets, and observers.  If that leads back to the anthropic principle, so be it.  Surprisingly, superstring theory was supposed to provide the equations that would explain why the universe is the way it is.  Instead, many of its adherents have been pulled kicking and screaming back to the anthropic principle.
    In the first article,1 Siegfried describes the schism that has formed between the two opposing views:
Physicists have long heaped scorn on anyone who tried to explain features of the universe by pointing out that had they been otherwise, life would be impossible.
    This “anthropic principle,” many physicists charged, abandoned the longstanding goal of finding equations that specify all of nature’s properties.  Most preferred the notion that a comprehensive theory would account for everything the universe has to offer.
    Ironically, however, the favored candidate for that approach—superstring theory—may be exacerbating the very problem everybody hoped it would solve.  Far from disposing of anthropic reasoning, string theory has reinvigorated its advocates, leading to a philosophical schism within the physics community.
    The dispute has touched off sharp exchanges both within and outside science journals.
For a taste of the acrimony, here are sample quotes and sentiments of opponents:
  • Burton Richter of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California published a letter in the New York Times Book Review blasting the anthropic approach as sterile and unscientific.  Its proponents “have given up,” he wrote.  “I can’t understand why they don’t take up something else—macramé, for example.
  • Another Nobel laureate, David Gross of the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), compares anthropic thinking to a disease.  “I inoculate myself by emotional intensity against it because it’s very contagious,” he says.
  • So the string landscape has emboldened many supporters and even converted some skeptics into saying the a-word aloud—much to the dismay of its die-hard opponents.
  • Richter recited a blistering indictment of the landscape and its anthropic implications.  “The anthropic principle is an observation, not an explanation,” he declared.  “The landscape, as far as I can see, is pretty empty.... It looks to me that much of what passes for theory these days is more like theological speculation.”
  • Since then [2003, when a paper by Linde et al. supported multiverse theory], the landscape concept has generated a burgeoning bibliography of papers along with relentless antianthropic animosity.
  • Anthropic explanations “are fun parlor games,” says Gross.... “But they’re not science in the usual sense of making predictions that can be tested to better and better precision over the years.”
  • Richter expresses similar sentiments.  “I don’t see any problem with part of the theory community going off into a metaphysical wonderland, but I worry that it may be leading too many of the young theorists into the same thing,” he says.
On the other side of the aisle, the proponents have feelings, too:
  • On the other hand, Stanford University physicist Leonard Susskind believes that anthropic reasoning may be the wave of physics’ future.  Susskind is a leading advocate of a new view of reality called the superstring landscape, in which the known universe is just a tiny habitable corner of a grander reality.
  • Landscape advocates reject such criticisms, contending that opposition to anthropic reasoning is largely emotional.  “There’s no substantive scientific debate,” Susskind says.  “The nature of what is going on is different emotional reactions to some facts and some interpretations of those facts that we’ve discovered.
  • It’s science,” Linde asserted during the Newport Beach panel discussion.  “It’s not science fiction.  It’s not religion.... It’s something where we can really use our knowledge of mathematics and physics and cosmology.”  Far from taking the easy way out, as its opponents sometimes allege, anthropic science is depressingly difficult, he observed.  “It’s complicated.  It’s not an easy job to do, so if you don’t want to do it, then don’t do it.  But don’t say that it’s not science.”
Siegfried writes that some “decry the acrimony” between the parties and seek some “middle ground.”  Clifford Johnson [USC], for instance, thinks “It would be nice if we could explore some of those unpalatable ideas just in case that’s the way that nature chooses to go.”
    Seigfried followed up his first news focus article with a portrait of a reluctant convert.2  Joseph Polchinski [Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California (UC), Santa Barbara] “told cosmologist Sean Carroll a decade ago, if astronomers ever found evidence for a nonzero cosmological constant, he’d give up physics—because that would signal the need to invoke the anthropic principle.”  Carroll would later jokingly ask for his chair, because Polchinski wound up following where he felt his research was leading him—back to the anthropic principle.  In 1997, a nonzero cosmological constant was found.  Shortly thereafter, he and his colleagues found a “shocking result” of their derivations:
String theory itself predicted numerous possible vacuum states with different values for the cosmological constant.  Dismayed by the anthropic implications, Polchinski was reluctant to publish the results, but [Raphael] Bousso [now at UC Berkeley] insisted.  “We totally agreed on the science,” Polchinski says, “but he was the one who really said, ‘Look, we’ve got to publish this.’”....
    “Lenny [Susskind] came along and said, ‘Look, we can’t sweep this under the rug; we have to take this seriously,’” Polchinski says.  “If this is the way things are, science is only going to move forward by thinking about it, not by pretending it’s not there.
So now Polchinski is a reluctant advocate of what he once despised.  He described the “tipping point” that came at a dinner at his institute, when he was asked about the anthropic principle.  “And I said nobody believes that,” Polchinski recalls.  “And when I said that, I knew I was lying.  I knew that the evidence was mounting for the anthropic principle.
1Tom Siegfried, “Theoretical Physics: A ‘Landscape’ Too Far?”, Science, 11 August 2006: Vol. 313. no. 5788, pp. 750-753, DOI: 10.1126/science.313.5788.750.
2Tom Siegfried, “Theoretical Physics: A Reluctant Convert,” Science, 11 August 2006: Vol. 313. no. 5788, pp. 752-753, DOI: 10.1126/science.313.5788.752.
Substitute intelligent design for anthropic principle and you would find an interesting parable about scientific controversy and human emotion.  It’s not an unreasonable substitution, because the anthropic principle is linked to the same metaphysical problem that produces Susskind’s landscape theory: our universe appears finely tuned for our existence.  The string theorists leap into alternate universes to escape the obvious, more reasonable inference that a Designer chose the parameters of physics for life – more reasonable because of Occam’s razor.  It is the ultimate folly to multiply universes just to come out with at least one habitable one.  That would be comparable to positing an infinitude of random books in order to explain the appearance of Hamlet.  Design is by far the more elegant and parsimonious solution.  It also accords with our common experience.  Every time we observe specified complexity, we naturally think a mind produced it: usually, we are right.  How much more so when the design is specified to within 120 orders of magnitude?
    With that in mind, it’s easy to see how leaders in the intelligent design movement could sympathize with Susskind, Linde and Polchinski.  They get many of the same emotional tirades and insults.  If it weren’t that Big Science has taken the path of systematically excluding ID scientists’ input at scientific conferences and the journals, undoubtedly their presence would produce some lively discussion: maybe, even, some reluctant converts.  All that is necessary to make the angels rejoice is respect for the facts of nature and a willingness to follow the evidence where it leads.
    Read also these previous entries on this subject: 01/04/2006, 12/18/2005, and 05/11/2006.
Next headline on:  CosmologyIntelligent Design
Cambrian Embryo Fossils Show Exquisite Detail in New X-Ray Imaging    08/10/2006  
The news media are all showcasing the detailed color-rendered X-ray tomographs of Cambrian worm embryos from China.  Scientists were able to determine that these embryos, alleged to be 500 million years old, are very similar to those of modern, living priapulid worms.  Despite their assumed age, some of the embryos were remarkably well preserved, displaying rows of teeth and other features in the sub-millimeter range.
    It’s really a report about an exciting new non-invasive imaging technology that is able to uncover exquisite detail in biological structures smaller than a grain of sand.  Some news reporters, however, used the announcement to promote evolutionary stories:
  • News@Nature said it has the “potential to help reconstruct the earliest steps in metazoan [animal] evolution.
  • MSNBC news calls it a “3-D vision of life’s dawn” and says the discoveries “could roll back the evolutionary history of arthropods like insects and spiders.”  Actually, these fossil worms have nothing to do with arthropods except in evolutionary models, where they are assumed to precede a “split on the evolutionary tree that separated the unsegmented nematode worms and their segmented cousins from the gigantic arthropod phylum, which includes crustaceans, insects and spiders.” 
  • Science Daily said that the discovery “suggests that arthropod evolutionary history must be pushed further back in time than previously thought.”
  • Ker Than at LiveScience echoed that thought and quoted one of the researchers claiming, “these fossils are the most precious of all because they contain information about the evolutionary changes that have occurred in embryos over the past 500 million years.”
  • National Geographic, bless its heart, did not discuss the discoveries in the context of evolution, but stated without question that they are 500 million years old.
What did the original paper in Nature say?  Donoghue et al.1 spent most of the time discussing their revolutionary imaging technique, called SXRTM, and the details of the embryos they studied.  They only made two brief references to evolution, both of which were tentative and actually problematical for evolutionary theory.  First, they said that structures previously thought to be an outer layer of blastomeres looked more like modern arthropod yolk pyramids, “with the implication that arthropod evolutionary history is thereby pushed back in time.”  In other words, if an innovation appears much earlier in the record than previously believed, its ancestry must be even earlier.  No evidence for such a hypothetical ancestor was presented.  The only other mention of evolution stressed the superiority of SXRTM over light-microscope imaging.  This paragraph is too ambiguous about evolution to provide any support for the theory:
It is clear from this study that scanning electron microscopy and light-microscopy of thin sections are insufficient to reveal fossil embryo structure.  Analyses of internal and external structure in concert by means of SXRTM have allowed us to clarify the nature of diagenetic infills, to decide between opposing interpretations of cleavage modes, and to resolve the anatomy of the later-stage embryos of Pseudooides and Markuelia, helping to constrain their affinity and evolutionary significance.  Perhaps more importantly, it has revealed aspects of the anatomy of these organisms that would never have otherwise been resolved.
That’s it.  The paper did not even mention that these embryos were Cambrian, or make any judgments about how old they were (except in the references).  Only in their quotations to the press did the researchers speculate more openly about where these embryos fit in the evolutionary scheme of things.
1Donoghue et al., “Synchrotron X-ray tomographic microscopy of fossil embryos,” Nature 442, 680-683 (10 August 2006) | doi:10.1038/nature04890; Received 21 February 2006; Accepted 10 May 2006.
What they should have done is lamented the downfall of four props for evolution:
  1. Age:  The presence of exquisitely-preserved soft embryos casts doubt on the claim they are 500 million years old. 
  2. Preservation  The discovery of delicate embryo fossils destroys the excuse that Precambrian ancestors of complex life that burst on the scene in the Cambrian (04/23/2006) were not preserved because they were soft-bodied. 
  3. Abrupt Appearance:  It shows that more advanced arthropod-style embryonic features were already present in these worms at the first appearance of complex multicellular organisms in the record. 
  4. Stasis:  The embryos resemble modern counterparts, indicating that there has been little (if any) evolution during the mythical 500 million years.
  In short, this is not a paper about evolution, it is a set of evidences challenging evolution!
    The deceitful practices of evolutionary reporters about hard evidence are like two things.  (A) They are like junk-science health-pill claims, wherein manufacturers are not allowed to make health claims on the bottle, but in their ads, make wildly-unsupported promises about what the pills will cure.  (B) They are like artisans who pick up the shells creationists lob into the Darwin Party Castle, then melt them down and recast them into idols of Charlie.  Hopefully, enough smart people out there can see what is going on.
    Congratulations to the SXRTM team, anyway.  We hope this great new imaging technique will continue to provide more evidence against evolution for another 500 million seconds.
Next headline on:  FossilsEvolutionary Theory
Birds Excel in Distance, Harmony    08/09/2006  
Bird feats are outstanding.  Two notable cases were announced this week:
  • Air Marathon:  The longest animal migration in the animal kingdom is performed by the sooty shearwater, reported National Geographic News.  They migrate 40,000 miles a year from New Zealand to the North Pacific, in complex figure-eight patterns that touch the coasts of South America, California Alaska, Korea, Japan, New Zealand and almost to Antarctica.  When crossing the equator they can fly 640 miles in a single day.
  • Choral WrensNational Geographic also reported that tropical “Plain-tailed wrens sing what is perhaps the most complex and coordinated birdsong known.”  Groups sing antiphonal renditions of a-b-c-d patterns with 15 variations per phrase.  The males and females alternate the parts.  Researchers found seven birds participating in one of the choruses.  They “are so precise that a casual listener wouldn’t realize there was more than one singer, experts say.” 
See a picture and description of the sooty shearwater at WhatBird.com.  The NG article on wrens includes a sound recording of their complex concerts.
If birds kept natural history guides, would they publish amazing facts about human feats in airline flight and choral music?  If so, they might remark how wasteful and inefficient our jets are, or how dull and slow our singing is.  But they still might be impressed at how hard we try.
Next headline on:  BirdsAmazing Facts
It’s Tough to Get a Date, but Fun to Keep Trying   08/08/2006    
Geochronology is a perverse sort of game.  Like the proverbial clock shop apprentice who went crazy trying to get all the grandfather clocks to tick together, the scientist trying to interpolate earth’s past climate patterns from geochronometers has so many uncooperative variables, he can never hope for anything better than partial conformity to accepted visions of Earth’s history.
    Gideon M. Henderson, writing in the Aug. 4 issue of Science,1 provided some insight into the messy process while advertising cave formations as his chronometer of choice.  Other geochronologists have relied on ice cores, deep sea sediments, and orbital mechanics to draw their timelines and work their models.  In promoting cave formations (speleothems), Henderson inadvertently deprecated the leading alternatives.  Those who thought ice cores and sediment patterns produce accurate pictures of past geoclimatic events may be in for a surprise.  He began:
When you check the weather forecast on TV, you do not expect it to be completely accurate.  But you do expect a degree of certainty about when the forecast is for: It would not be very useful to hear that it will probably be rainy, but with a thousand-year uncertainty about when.  Yet this is the situation faced by those studying past climate.  Records of climate from sediment or ice cores are not time series but depth series, and converting depth to age generally carries a substantial uncertainty.
Later, he again criticized ice core dating methods, often considered the gold standard for ice-age dates, with a good-news bad-news jab:
Drilling into high-latitude and high-altitude ice sheets has revolutionized our understanding of climate, particularly at time scales of millennia and shorter.  Such records have taught us how abruptly climate can change; they have provided unique records of past atmospheric composition; and they will doubtless continue to enlighten us
    But ice cores do have limitations.  They are found far from major human populations, they do not capture variability in major climate systems such as the monsoons or El Niño, and they are difficult to date accurately.
Against this foil, of course, Henderson sold his speleothems as superior geochronometers because they can be radiometrically dated (but compare 01/19/2006 and 01/12/2005, and 10/06/2004 and 09/24/2004 entries).  The prior week, however, Science had no less than four articles on geochronology, and none of them even mentioned cave formations.  Didier Paillard, in his Perspective piece on ice age dating,2 lowered the confidence level even further by detailing the mismatches between commonly trusted geochronometers:
The exposure of Earth’s surface to the Sun’s rays (or insolation) varies on time scales of thousands of years as a result of regular changes in Earth’s orbit around the Sun (eccentricity), in the tilt of Earth’s axis (obliquity), and in the direction of Earth’s axis of rotation (precession).  According to the Milankovitch theory, these insolation changes drive the glacial cycles that have dominated Earth’s climate for the past 3 million years.
    For example, between 3 and 1 million years before present (late Pliocene to early Pleistocene, hereafter LP-EP), the glacial oscillations followed a 41,000-year cycle.  These oscillations correspond to insolation changes driven by obliquity changes.  But during this time, precession-driven changes in insolation on a 23,000-year cycle were much stronger than the obliquity-driven changes.  Why is the glacial record for the LP-EP dominated by obliquity, rather than by the stronger precessional forcing?  How should the Milankovitch theory be adapted to account for this “41,000-year paradox”?
Paillard referred to the two possible solutions published in the same July 28 issue of Science, the details of which can be left to the interested reader.  Neither, however, came out a clear-cut winner.  The solution might be one, or the other, or a combination: but in accepting any of the alternatives, one must discard previously trusted basic principles:
Two different solutions are presented in this issue.  The first involves a rethinking of how the insolation forcing should be defined, whereas the second suggests that the Antarctic ice sheet may play an important role.  The two papers question some basic principles that are often accepted without debate.
Both models, Paillard continued, question one or another “pillar of ice age research” in the attempt to achieve congruity (cp. 02/02/2005 story).  Each may be part of the solution, he hoped, but had to face the mismatches head on:
Still, neither hypothesis can account for the beginning of Northern Hemisphere glaciations around 3 million years ago.  Furthermore, during the past 1 million years, glacial-interglacial oscillations have largely been dominated by a 100,000-year periodicity, yet there is no notable associated 100,000-year insolation forcing.  There is currently no consensus on what drives these late Pleistocene 100,000-year cycles.
Scientists have debated these things since the days of von Humboldt and Lyell in the 19th century, Paillard reminded the reader.  Milankovitch belonged to a group claiming insolation drove glacial cycles, while Tyndall and Arrhenius argued that atmospheric CO2 was responsible.  Things have only gotten messier since then:
The big challenge is to build an ice age theory that can account not only for ice sheet and atmospheric CO2 changes, but also for the start of glaciations about 3 million years ago and for the transition from 41,000-year cycles to much larger 100,000-year oscillations around 1 million years ago.  The atmospheric CO2 concentration was probably very important over the past 1 million years, but was this also the case during the LP-EP?  Alternatively, if one can build a purely insolation-based theory between 3 and 1 million years ago, as suggested by Huybers and Raymo et al., why is this not the case anymore in the past 1 million years?
In an attempt to remain upbeat, Paillard mentioned a possible “conceptual model” that has the ocean alternately storing and burping atmospheric carbon dioxide depending on ice-sheet size and insolation.  That, comparing favorably with “more sophisticated models,” provides “a framework for understanding the likely climatic future of our planet in the context of the climate of the past 3 million years,” he claimed.  Yet it would seem that future extrapolations would be even more prone to error than past extrapolations.
    Paillard failed to mention a more serious issue.  No human observer ever witnessed a full cycle of glacial oscillations or Milankovitch cycles.  Written records only go back some 6,000 years.  The large cycle values mentioned matter-of-factly are extrapolated backward into the past from current measurements by orders of magnitude, or interpolated from the acceptance of the standard evolutionary geologic column (05/13/2004) and estimates of the age of the solar system (06/05/2003).  The degree of confidence one can have in those estimates is left as an exercise (see 03/05/2004, 10/09/2003).
1Gideon M. Henderson, “Perspectives: Climate: Caving In to New Chronologies,” Science, 4 August 2006: Vol. 313. no. 5787, pp. 620-622, DOI: 10.1126/science.1128980.
2Didier Paillard, “What Drives the Ice Age Cycle?” Science, 28 July 2006: Vol. 313. no. 5786, pp. 455-456, DOI: 10.1126/science.1131297.
If you have been led to believe that ice-core dating, Milankovitch cycles and deep sea sediments provide reliable records of Earth’s prehistory, this entry should hit you with a proverbial two by four.  The records don’t match up naturally.  Scientists attempt to force a match with “sophisticated” and “conceptual” models that provide the best of bad solutions (see best-in-field fallacy).  Taking the A.S.S. (age of the solar system) as an unalterable boundary condition (because a younger Earth would utterly preclude Darwinian evolution), they find themselves in a bind.  Their faith forces them to believe there is a solution, but the data don’t fit.  No problem; the goal of life now is to keep the detective game going, not to really know the truth about reality past.
    Each rigger has his role in the endless game.  The Darwinist astronomy wizards prophesy the date when the earth cooled 4.5 billion years ago, the Darwinist origin-of-life wizards prophesy the date life appeared 3 billion years ago, the Darwinist geochemist wizards prophesy when life began to produce oxygen two billion years ago, and the Darwinist paleoanthropologist wizards prophesy when Homo habilis appeared and what kind of clothes he was wearing 3 million years ago.  In between these posts of straw, they string their tabernacle to Charlie, hoping they can keep the whole structure from falling down with enough researchers pushing and pulling where needed.
    We just thought you should know how the process works.  Because the Darwinists are master riggers, everything makes sense, the wizards and priests remain employed, textbooks have nice graphics, students memorize the currently accepted dates, Charlie gets the glory, and nobody asks questions.
Next headline on:  Dating MethodsGeologySolar System
Can Evolution Run in Reverse?    08/07/2006  
Evolutionists in Utah are claiming to have run the evolutionary tape in reverse, says the BBC News: “US researchers have taken a mouse back in time some 500 million years by reversing the process of evolution.”  How can this be? 
By engineering its genetic blueprint, they have rebuilt a gene that was present in primitive animals.
    The ancient gene later mutated and split, giving rise to a pair of genes that play a key role in brain development in modern mammals.
But isn’t engineering a form of intelligent design?  Not if the engineer is Mother Nature, according to Petr Tvrdik, who wins Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week for this concoction of personification and mixed metaphors: “It illuminates the mechanisms and processes that evolution uses, and tells us more about how Mother Nature engineers life.”
No commentary necessary.  The baloney smell tells all.  A question, though: do the BBC science editors lack noses?  Without a sneeze, they held up another fetid chunk from a co-researcher at the end of their report and in a prominent callout box: “It gives a real example of how evolution works because we can reverse it.”  Phew.
Next headline on:  Evolutionary TheoryMammalsDumb Ideas
Ten Years Later: Mars Rock Was a Useful Lie    08/06/2006  
Almost nobody believes any more that the Martian meteorite ALH84001 contained evidence of life, but the iconic rock launched the science of astrobiology (see 04/17/2006).  So said Matt Crenson for AP (see Space.com and Chron.com) on the tenth anniversary of the highly-publicized NASA announcement that purported to show bacteria-like fossils, magnetites and PAHs thought to be biogenic in origin.
    Like the Miller Experiment (see 05/02/2003), the Martian meteorite has long since been discredited by most scientists.  It did, however, spark the public imagination.  Capitalizing on the wave of enthusiasm, the government provided research opportunities for hundreds of scientists who expect the funding to keep flowing long after the original claim has fizzled (see 03/13/2006).  Ironically, the chief proponent of the Mars-life theory, David McKay, had a prominent critic just down the hall: Gordon McKay (his brother).
Our title is not suggesting that McKay and his team intentionally lied; they apparently truly believed their interpretation and still do.  In retrospect, however, their story appears way overblown.  It should have been subjected to far more scrutiny and criticism from the start.  Instead, former NASA administrator Dan Goldin used the claim for a flamboyant press conference, portraying it as the discovery of the century, aiming for the imagination of the gullible public.  The co-conspiratorial press obliged and fanned the flames, Congress signed on, and Astrobiology was born.  There has been nothing to show for all these hopes but pessimism (see 08/02/2006 entry) for a decade, just like there has been nothing to show after 50 years for the Origin-of-Life (OOL) craze ignited by the Miller Experiment (e.g., 12/17/2005).
    We see now that, though the magic rock did not contain life, it did have mystical powers to woo congresspersons with visions of Charlie on other worlds, and to separate taxpayers from their money.  This is not the only useful-lie trick in the Darwin magician’s bag.  If the Sirens of SETI ever find their persistent narrowband whistle (12/03/2005), grab your wallet quick.
Next headline on:  Solar SystemOrigin of Life
Human Heads Are Shrinking    08/05/2006  
There’s no correlation between brain size and intelligence, and if anything, brains today have gotten smaller since the days of our Pleistocene ancestors.  That’s the gist of a report on ABC News Australia based on research at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research: “The genes that are thought to have helped humans evolve big brains don’t appear to play any role in how intelligent we are, according to a DNA study.”
Paleoanthropologists for decades – yea verily, for over a century – have made brain size the gold standard of evolutionary progress and fitness in humans.  Haeckel and Broca and other early researchers used brain size and head shape to rank humans on intelligence scales, promoting ugly racist eugenics programs.  Cranial capacity is still the primary metric for ranking supposed ancestors with modern man; Carl Sagan spoke glibly about evolution producing upright-walking apes with bigger brains, able to use tools, fire and language, on the upward march to modernity.  This find undercuts all of that.  It weighs in also on position of Homo floresiensis in the family tree.  Without brain size as a measure of evolutionary fitness, what else will the Leakeys and Johansons and Whites of the world do now?
    Bigger is not always better.  Most of us would rather have a more compact cell phone or iPod with more features and memory.  Don’t let simplistic assumptions lead your logic astray.
Next headline on:  Human BodyEarly Man
How Useful Is Evolutionary Theory to Biology?    08/04/2006  
A favorite quote by evolutionists is the line by Theodosius Dobzhansky, “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.”  Why, then, do so many biological papers fail to mention evolution at all?  Indeed, many employ design language, sometimes with a sense of awe.  Here are more recent examples in which the E word was missing (or inconsequential) in the glare of amazement over complex design:
  • Charged with pain:  Wounds generate electric fields that guide repair crews to the site.  Science Now got a charge out of this: “Talk about healing energy,” reporter Laura Blackburn challenged the faith healers.  “Every wound, from the tiniest scratch to the nastiest gash, generates an electric field that pulls in cells that help repair the damage.”
  • Rotary switch:  A team publishing in PNAS1 discussed the ID Movement’s favorite biological toy, the bacterial flagellum.  They considered the switching mechanism that allows the propeller to go into reverse.  Their paper sounds like something out of Popular Mechanics: “Structure of FliM provides insight into assembly of the switch complex in the bacterial flagella motor.”
  • Checkpoint, no Charlie:  M. Andrew Hoyt appreciates even more the way the cell uses checkpoints to make sure division occurs without error.  In Science2 he examined a new answer to how the cell switches this control on and off:
    Paradoxically, the mechanism responsible for separation of the chromosomes at anaphase itself creates chromosome attachments that the checkpoint would normally recognize in metaphase as improper.  Yet, the cell cycle proceeds naturally unimpeded; these improper chromosome attachments fail to activate the cycle-blocking activity of the spindle checkpoint after anaphase onset.  From a clever series of experiments reported on page 680 of this issue by Palframan et al., we now know why.  In anaphase cells, the actions of the spindle checkpoint are extinguished by the very same protein complex that previously was the target of its anaphase-inhibitory activity.
    Hoyt did also speak of “conserved” (i.e., unevolved) proteins of the spindle checkpoint, but had no other references to evolution.
  • Stretchy Clots:  Another paper in Science3 examined the properties of fibrin, one of the principle ingredients in blood clots, and found that they have “extraordinary extensibility and elasticity.”
    Blood clots perform an essential mechanical task, yet the mechanical behavior of fibrin fibers, which form the structural framework of a clot, is largely unknown.  By using combined atomic force-fluorescence microscopy, we determined the elastic limit and extensibility of individual fibers.  Fibrin fibers can be strained 180% (2.8-fold extension) without sustaining permanent lengthening, and they can be strained up to 525% (average 330%) before rupturing.  This is the largest extensibility observed for protein fibers.  The data imply that fibrin monomers must be able to undergo sizeable, reversible structural changes and that deformations in clots can be accommodated by individual fiber stretching.
    Readers of the primary intelligent design book Darwin’s Black Box might remember the blood clotting system as one example Michael Behe used of irreducible complexity.
When evolution is mentioned in papers dealing with complex, interacting systems in biology, the references often seem imprecise and incidental to the work that went into the research, as if tacked on as an afterthought.  For instance, R. John Ellis, writing in Nature July 27,4 described the details of the protein-folding chaperone complex, Gro-EL and Gro-ES.  After describing in some detail the specifications of these versatile molecular machines, noting that “both the size and surface charge of the cage are optimized to speed up the folding of several different types of chain,” he referred to evolution on only two places, both speculative, and both personifying natural selection as the wizard of technology:
The size and surface properties of the cage represent an evolutionary compromise that helps the bacterial cell to produce functional proteins fast enough to survive in a competitive microbial world.....
It is a testament to the ingenuity of natural selection that the chaperonin cage not only combats aggregation caused by crowding outside the cage but also uses crowding to accelerate protein folding inside the cage.  Nanoengineers trying to improve the yield of therapeutic proteins could profit from studying the tricks of the chaperonin nanocage.
Go figure.
1Park et al., “Structure of FliM provides insight into assembly of the switch complex in the bacterial flagella motor,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.0602811103, published online before print August 1, 2006.
2Palframan et al., “Anaphase Inactivation of the Spindle Checkpoint,” Science, 4 August 2006: Vol. 313. no. 5787, pp. 680 - 684, DOI: 10.1126/science.1127205.
3Liu et al., “Fibrin Fibers Have Extraordinary Extensibility and Elasticity,” Science, August 2006: Vol. 313. no. 5787, p. 634, DOI: 10.1126/science.1127317.
4R. John Ellis, “Protein folding: Inside the cage,” Nature 442, 360-362(27 July 2006) | doi:10.1038/442360a; Published online 26 July 2006.
Evolution is a vacuous, religious faith that is doing nothing to advance our knowledge of the living world.  We’re going to keep showcasing examples like this to put the evidence behind that claim (see more in the 02/28/2006 entry).  The real work of science lies in examining the complexity of living things to find out how they work, why they work, and what we can learn from them.  Scientists and the public have been hoodwinked by the Darwin Party.  Charlie is the uninvited self-made guru standing on a soapbox on the sidelines, giving his useless spiel to gullible spectators, like the elderly vet the family learns to tolerate, who takes every opportunity to retell the story how he won the war single-handed.  The real work of science is being done by researchers who, intentionally or not, proceed as if intelligent design is true.  Does this mean that, despite Darwin Party claims, the scientific literature is replete with ID research?  Go: figure.
Next headline on:  EvolutionIntelligent DesignCell Biology
Team Returns Pseudogene to Junkpile to Counter ID Claim    08/03/2006  
An earlier claim that a pseudogene has a function (see 05/01/2003 story) has been debunked by a team of scientists reporting in PNAS.1  Their reanalysis of the claim made in 2003 “invalidates the data upon which the pseudogene trans-regulation model is based and therefore strongly supports the view that mammalian pseudogenes are evolutionary relics.”  The end of their paper triumphantly announces that “our work reestablishes the evolutionary paradigm supported by overwhelming evidence that mammalian pseudogenes are indeed inactive gene relics.”
    A press release by some of the researchers from Children’s Hospital at Pittsburgh took glee at this apparent slap in the face to intelligent design. 
This finding, discovered in a mouse model, was hailed by proponents of “Intelligent Design” (ID).  According to the Intelligent Design Network, the premise of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause rather than an undirected process such as natural selection.  ID is thus a disagreement with the core scientific basis of evolutionary theory.
    However, researchers at Children’s and the Wadsworth Center in New York, including first author Todd A. Gray, PhD, have found scientific evidence that contradicts this finding.  The pseudogene in question ... is an inactive copy of a gene, an evolutionary relic as previously believed.
Some leaders in the ID movement found this press release ironic.  Evolutionists have claimed that ID is not scientific because it is not testable or falsifiable.  Why, then, are evolutionists claiming that this study refutes intelligent design?
1Todd A. Gray et al., “The putatively functional Mkrn1-p1 pseudogene is neither expressed nor imprinted, nor does it regulate its source gene in trans,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.0602216103, published online before print August 1, 2006.
Finding one flaw in one claim (which did not originate with ID anyway) does not falsify ID, and there are many other cases where researchers have found treasure in the junk.  Use the search box above with keywords “junk DNA” to find many more examples, such as 05/04/2006 (bullet six), 03/24/2006 and 04/13/2004.  Finding something broken does not mean it never had a function, and finding something thought to be useless that really does have a function means we have much to learn.  Darwinists should not bring science to a halt by assuming, “evolution did it.”
Next headline on:  GeneticsIntelligent DesignEvolution
Bacteria Rule the World – Benevolently    08/02/2006  
We should love bacteria, not annihilate them.  Bacteria are our friends, according to Dianne K. Newman of Caltech:1
As a microbiologist, I’m appalled when I go to buy soap or dishwashing detergent, because these days it’s hard to find anything that doesn’t say ‘antibacterial’ on it.... It’s a commonly held fallacy that all bacteria are germs, but it’s been estimated that out of more than 30 million microbial species, only 70 are known to be pathogens.  That’s a trivial number.  The vast majority are actually doing remarkable things, both for the quality of our life and for the quality of the planet.
We couldn’t annihilate them, anyway, if we wanted to.  They are the most widespread and hardiest organisms on earth.  Maybe you heard on the news today that there are more bacteria on your cell phone than on a toilet seat.  Better to get used to it; they’re everywhere.
    The realization that bacteria rule the world began when Leeuwenhoek found more organisms on his teeth than men in a kingdom.  Newman continues:
Leeuwenhoek underestimated.  Not only do they exceed the number of men and women in a kingdom, they go far beyond that.  We have anywhere from 5 million to 50 million bacteria per square inch on our teeth, and over 700 microbial species living in our mouths.  Most of them are aiding us in our digestion—as are the 300 billion bacteria living in each gram of our colon.  The palms of our hands have between 5,000 and 50,000 organisms per square inch, although that’s nothing compared to the skin of our groin and armpit areas, which as at least 5 million per square inch.
    The grand total per person is about 70 trillion (70 x 1012), so we’re really walking vats of bacteria.  There are 10 times the number of microbial cells in an adult body than there are human cells, and the gut microbiome alone is estimated to contain more than a hundred times the number of genes that we have in our own genome—so there’s a remarkable amount of metabolic diversity living within us.  We shouldn’t be alarmed by this, however, because most of these bacteria are our friends.
If you are sufficiently grossed out by the revelation that you are a zoo, consider that the animals in a zoo represent just a tiny fraction of life on earth:
As well as living on and within animals, microbes live in plants, oceans, rivers, lakes, aquatic sediments, soils, subsoils, and air.  The total number of microbes on the planet has been estimated at 5 x 1030, which is an enormous number.  If they were all lined up end to end in a chain, it would stretch to the sun and back 200 x 1012 times.
A related article on BBC News noted the remarkable diversity of microbes.  “One litre of seawater can contain more than 20,000 different types of bacteria,” the article begins, suggesting that microbial diversity is much greater than imagined.
    Most of Dianne Newman’s delightful article is concerned with her Caltech team’s research into the amazing metabolic properties of certain bacteria that can live on rust as well as oxygen.  She talks about bacteria that can generate light, orient by magnetic fields, and help larger organisms in numerous ways.  Her colorful prose, unfortunately, is marred here and there by evolutionary stories that qualify for Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week:
  • They invented oxygenic photosynthesis...
  • Over the course of time, these types of cyanobacteria became engulfed by other organisms that then evolved into plants...
  • ...the chloroplast, is nothing more than an ancient cyanobacterium.
  • Moreover, we can only breathe this oxygen because our mitochondria—the little organelles in our cells that produce energy—are vestigial microorganisms descended from another ancient bacterium.
  • Microbes are very, very old.  They’ve been on our planet for at least 3.8 billion years, appearing just 800 million years after the planet formed.  for the first 1.6 billion years or so of their existence, they had the place to themselves, and it was only after the oxygenation of the air and oceans by the cyanobacteria that the forerunners of plants and animals came along.
  • The reason we find microbes almost everywhere we look is because, over the billions of years of Earth’s history they’ve been around, they’ve figured out how to be fantastic chemists.
Perhaps this is one of the reasons that Kansas school board member Connie Morris, who was just voted out of office (see yesterday’s entry), often described evolution as “a nice bedtime story.”
1Dianne K. Newman, “Bacteria Are Beautiful,” Caltech Engineering & Science (LXIX:2), Aug. 2006, pp. 8-15.
The parts of this article about observable, repeatable, testable science are great.  Newman is an engaging writer, and her team is doing important research into the metabolic workings of anaerobic bacteria.  This research might lead to rust-removing bioproducts and other blessings for mankind.  But how could she possibly know what happened 3.8 billion years ago?  The beneficial research owes nothing to the Darwinian bedtime story.  For treating evolutionary dogma as fact, we regret having to award SEQOTW to the author of an otherwise informative and delightful article.
    By the way, none of the criticism of antibacterial soap should be taken to mean that cleanliness and sanitation are unworthy goals.  It doesn’t take many of the 70 terrorist gangs to cause serious harm.  Everything in moderation.  Think about how few of the millions of microbial species are harmful to us.  If most are beneficial, it would almost suggest that something went wrong with the delinquent types.
Next headline on:  Cell BiologyHuman BodyHealthMarine BiologyAmazing FactsDumb Ideas
More Reasons You Wouldn’t Want to Live on Mars    08/02/2006  
Electric charges in dust devils on Mars may generate toxic chemicals, says a report on Space.com (see also later story posted on National Geographic News).  According to two recent reports in Astrobiology journal, “Small dust devils and planet-wide storms – combined with static electricity – may lead to the formation of hydrogen peroxide and other corrosive chemicals that fall to the Martian surface as a sort of toxic snow....”  If this is the case, any nascent organisms trying to get a foothold on Mars would have been ripped apart by the highly oxidizing soil.  This may also explain the unusual results of the experiments that found highly reactive soil by the Viking landers 30 years ago last month (see story on La Canada Online).
It stinks on Mars, too, remember?  And there is no protection from cosmic radiation and solar storms (12/08/2003), because there is no global magnetic field.  Recently, scientists determined that the atmosphere is so thin, no one would be able to hear you scream – even if you got a peep out before collapsing from lack of oxygen and the fierce cold.  Science sure has a way of spoiling a lot of great science fiction stories.  Better appreciate the privileged planet you have.
Next headline on:  Origin of LifeSolar System
Kansas Evolution Battle Heats Up Again    08/01/2006  
Update 08/02/2006: According to a news report on Live Science, conservatives have lost their majority in the primary election for seats on the state school board.  Details are reported by the Lawrence Journal-World.  The winners are gloating that this is a great day for Kansas, said Science Now, but ended by noting that the issue will not be going away.  For reaction from the pro-standards side, see Evolution News and article by David Klinghoffer in National Review.
    The Kansas state science standards approved last November and again in February specifically exclude intelligent design from being taught and allow no mention of supernatural explanations in the science classroom.  They only allow for scientific criticisms of evolution to be included whenever evolutionary theory is taught.  It wouldn’t appear this is something worth a war, but the pro-evolutionists and anti-evolutionists are in battle again, trying to win votes on the state school board in Tuesday’s primary (see MSNBC News).
    In one arena, there is the battle of the websites.  The pro-evolution group Kansas Citizens for Science, which Casey Luskin of the Discovery Institute calls the “Kansas Citizens for Misrepresenting the Kansas Science Standards” maintains its list of links, FAQs and articles, and on the pro-standards side, the Discovery Institute has launched a website and radio commercial campaign called Stand Up for Science urging citizens to sign a petition in support of the standards.
    In the lecture arena, Kansas University is sponsoring a lecture series this fall to “dialogue” about the issues.  According to the Lawrence Journal-World, John Calvert, leader of the Intelligent Design Network, considers the panel one-sided, with Michael Behe the only pro-ID representative.  Calvert considers the series little more than propaganda.  The article states, “Calvert prefers debates and one-on-one discussions, which he says bring focus to specific issues and enable audiences to see all sides of an issue.”
    In the political arena, evolution’s backers are staging a counterattack, according to the New York Times.  The issue of how to teach evolution has become a wedge dividing the citizens scheduled to vote in a primary election for the school board tomorrow (Tues. Aug 2).  Democrats and “moderate Republicans” are seeking to unseat the 6-4 conservative majority that approved the standards.  Dr. Steve Abrams, leader of the majority, denies that the opposition candidates, like Harry McDonald, who is out knocking on doors to get votes, are moderates.  Jonathan Witt on Evolution News considers this an example of Newspeak.  If the conservative majority loses its hold, however, the “moderates” and liberals will dominate the school board once again, and one of the first things on their agenda will most likely be to reverse the new science standards.  Peter Slevin said as much in the Washington Post August 1.  The arguments on both sides may be over the heads of many Kansans who may vote whichever way will get the state out of the political cartoons.
We have come to a place in this country where misinformation is rampant, and where Darwinism has become such a sacred cow that to even give the slightest hint or suggestion that his theory might have some weaknesses is to invite a firestorm of anti-religious rhetoric.  Listen to the radio spots.  Is there something wrong with wanting students to hear both sides of a controversial theory?  How can anyone possibly object to that?  What drives the pro-evolution forces into such a panic when their sacred cow gets a USDA inspection?  Does any scientist act this way over other honest investigation of strengths and weaknesses of other theories, like quantum mechanics or dark matter?  As Jonathan Witt wrote for World Net Daily, what are Darwinists so afraid of?
    The reason for the panic is that Darwinism is much more than a hypothesis about how species change over time.  It is a complete worldview package.  With its built-in relativism and purposelessness, it makes man the master of individual life and society.  Liberals love this, and they loathe the alternative.  What they don’t realize is that by embracing the assumptions of unguided evolutionism, they have undercut the very foundations for reason, logic, and science altogether.  Promoting Darwinism with logic and reason is like getting high on drugs stolen from an intelligently designed pharmaceutical lab.  Logic and reason were not meant to support a selfish habit that denies the existence of reason.  It feels great on the trip, till the withdrawal hits and reality sets in.  And you know how paranoid and irrational addicts can be.
    Now that the Kansas seesaw has tilted back again to the “moderates” (read: radical Darwin maniacs), it will be fun to watch them having to tell us why evolutionism is so fragile it is the only scientific theory that must be protected from the light.
Next headline on:  EducationDarwin and EvolutionIntelligent Design


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“Just wanted to say that I am thrilled to have found your website!  Although I regularly visit numerous creation/evolution sites, I’ve found that many of them do not stay current with relative information.  I love the almost daily updates to your ‘headlines’ section.  I’ve 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 can’t wait for the next update.  That’s 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.  I’ll 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 we’ve 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 clear thinking!
(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 that’s been going on. Now, I’m 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 they’ve 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)

“I’m a small town newspaper editor in southwest Wyoming.  We’re pretty isolated, and finding your site was a great as finding a gold mine.  I read it daily, and if there’s nothing new, I re-read everything.  I follow links.  I read the Scientist of the Month.  It’s the best site I’ve 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 life’s education has been a lie!!!’  I’ve 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...I’ve 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, I’ve found it.  2. You have balanced fun with this topic.  This is hugely valuable!  Smug Christianity is ugly, and I don’t 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.  That’s 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 science.’”
(a project manager in New Jersey)

“I’ve 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 system 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 you’re 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.  It’s incredible – I don’t know how you do it.  I can’t 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 Darwin’s 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 07/10/2005 commentary)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hey Friends, Check out this site: 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 daily—archives go back five years.”
(a reader who found us in Georgia)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
Featured Creation Scientist for August

Robert Boyle
1627 - 1691

In this roster of great scientists who were Christians and creationists, occasionally one stands out as worthy of a gold medal.  The requirements are stringent.  The person needs to have performed exceptional scientific work, that produced some fundamental discovery, or advanced the scientific enterprise in a highly significant way; perhaps to be known as the father of a branch of science or the discoverer of a fundamental law of nature.

Simultaneously, the person needs to have been a devout Christian whose personal life and character was befitting the honor (this eliminates Newton).  Yet some who fulfilled both these qualifications did little to relate their Christian faith to their scientific work; they were Sunday Christians and weekday secular scientists.

The third qualification involves advancing philosophical understanding of the relationship between science and Biblical Christianity, or actively combatting unbelief and skepticism.  All these requirements were met with room to spare in the next honoree of this series, Robert Boyle.  He not only can be considered a pillar of modern science – and one of its most eminent practitioners – but he also left the world a profound legacy of rich literature explaining the Christian foundation for science.  The title of one of his many books was The Christian Virtuoso (i.e., Bible-believing scientist), and to historians, he was one of the best examples.

Like most in this series, Boyle’s life and adventures make for a good story, but let’s consider first some of the impacts he made on the practice of science: (1) An emphasis on experiment instead of reason. (2) Publication of experimental results. (3) Popularization of scientific discoveries. (4) Collaboration of scientists in professional societies. (5) Mathematical formulations of laws.  (6) Putting all claims about nature, no matter the reputation of the authority, to the test of experiment.

Of course, no one works in a vacuum (no pun intended, as we will see); Boyle was not the only one to advance these ideals.  He was influenced by Bacon, Galileo and Kepler before him, and there were contemporaries who also practiced one or more of these principles.  But among his peers, Boyle was an eminent leader in all of them.  He took the initiative where others stuck to old habits, and he led by example.  He is the considered the father of chemistry and a law was named in his honor.  The world’s first and oldest professional scientific society with the longest record of continuous publication is due largely to Robert Boyle and the colleagues he attracted with his energy, drive, and enthusiasm for science.  That enthusiasm came directly out of his Christian faith.  To Boyle, love of God came first, and everything else second.  Science was a means to a higher end: loving God with all one’s heart, soul, strength, and mind.....
Click here to continue the story.


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

A Concise Guide
to Understanding
Evolutionary Theory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Souder’s Law
Repetition does not establish validity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advice from Paul

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

I Timothy 6:20-21

Song of the True Scientist

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

from Psalm 104

Maxwell’s Motivation

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

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

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

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