Creation-Evolution Headlines
October 2006
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“The truth is Darwinism is not a scientific theory, but a materialistic creation myth masquerading as science.... This is becoming increasingly obvious to the American people, who are not the ignorant backwoods religious dogmatists that Darwinists make them out to be.  Darwinists insult the intelligence of American taxpayers and at the same time depend on them for support.  This is an inherently unstable situation, and it cannot last.” 
—Dr. Jonathan Wells, author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design (Regnery, 2006), in “Why Darwinism is Doomed,” WND Sept. 27, 2006.
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Will Cosmology Emerge from the Dark Ages?   10/31/2006    
To cosmologists, the “dark ages” were not after the fall of Rome, but the time between the release of the microwave background radiation, and the light from the first stars.  In a feature article for the November Scientific American, Abraham Loeb discussed how astronomers hope to shed light on this epoch with new telescopes measuring the spin-flip transitions of cold atomic hydrogen, visible as photons with a wavelength of 21 cm.  A Harvard astronomer and visiting professor at Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, Israel, Loeb began with a Biblical context:
Today’s news is often forgotten a few days later.  But when one opens ancient texts that have appealed to a broad audience over a longer period of time, such as the Bible, what does one often find in the opening chapter?  A discussion of how the constituents of the universe--light, stars, life--were created.  Although humans are often caught up with mundane problems, they are curious about the big picture.  As citizens of the universe we cannot help but wonder how the first sources of light formed, how life came into existence and whether we are alone as intelligent beings in this vast space.  Astronomers in the 21st century are uniquely positioned to answer these big questions.
If this begins like a sermon, it only preaches a message that science provides the most satisfying answers to the big questions.  Loeb spends most of the time discussing what happened after the big bang, where the microwave background came from, why the “dark ages” are interesting, and how space telescopes tuned to the 21-cm wavelength promise to fill large gaps in astronomers’ understanding.  His bio at the end of the article states that he became interested in cosmology because of “ancient philosophical questions.”  The Bible, apparently a poor second to science in his view, at least helped people focus on the big picture.
    At the end of the article, Loeb listed some of the big mysteries of the dark ages the he hopes the new technologies will solve. 
This combined observational and theoretical effort should shed light on various mysteries that now plague the theory of galaxy formation.  One set of questions concerns the massive black holes in the centers of galaxies.  Over the past decade astronomers have realized that almost every galaxy in the present-day universe, including our own Milky Way, hosts a massive black hole.  These holes are believed to be fed with gas in episodic events, triggered by mergers of galaxies.  During these growth spurts, the accreting gas shines much more brightly than the entire rest of the galaxy, producing a quasar.  The Sloan Digital Sky Survey has revealed that quasars with black holes of more than a billion solar masses already existed at a cosmic age of one billion years.  How did such massive black holes come to exist so early?  Why did they stop growing?
    Another set concerns the size distribution of galaxies.  Theorists believe that the ultraviolet radiation produced by dwarf galaxies during the epoch of reionization heated the cosmic gas and suppressed the formation of new low-mass galaxies.  How did this suppression unfold over time?  Which of the dwarf galaxies we find today were already in existence at the beginning?  These are only a few of the many questions whose answers lie in the Dark Ages.
Presumably, this can serve as a microcosm of the state of cosmology.  Incidentally, the big bang theory was saved recently.  That’s what Science Daily reported a few days ago.  A failed prediction about helium-3 in the early universe has now been brought into conformity with theory by a new explanation: stars destroy it before it can be flung into space.
Proud man exalts himself above the word of the Lord and places his own perception, aided albeit by his instruments, as the discoverer of Truth about ultimate things.  One only needs to see the history of human speculation about cosmology, with its many upsets, to get a reality check on the likelihood today’s theories have arrived.  And one only needs to consider the magnitude of the remaining questions to doubt the propriety of confidence.
    Loeb’s tidy picture would require that the universe went from an almost completely homogeneous soup of particles to highly structured arrangement of stars and galaxies and clusters of galaxies in a relatively brief period of time.  Not only that, these stars would have had to age, collapse, and form supermassive black holes at the centers of quasars within 7% of the presumed age of the universe, because that is what we now observe at the farthest extent of our current observational capabilities (09/24/2006).  Hoping that the next generation of space telescopes will fill in the blanks is only hope.  If history is any guide, any answers lurking in the Dark Ages will be outshone by new questions.
    Loeb does well to have us ponder the big picture, something often lost in the nightly news.  And it is certainly honorable to extend our vision as far as we can, and to seek for understanding.  That is a far cry, however, from claiming we already have it.
Next headline on:  CosmologyPhysicsBible and Theology
Biblical Archaeology News    10/31/2006  
Two stories bearing on Bible history were reported recently, one from Turkey, another from Jerusalem.
  1. Garden of Eden?  A place called Gobekli Tepe in Kurdish Turkey is contending for the title of the Garden of Eden, reported The First Post.  Archaeologists found carvings of animals and a temple they claim are much older than Stonehenge; they estimate the date as 10,000 years old.  Carvings include images of scorpions, water birds and river life.  The researchers feel these are images depicting an Edenic life of the hunter-gatherers before they took up the toils of agriculture.
  2. Gems in the Temple Mount rubbleHaaretz published an update on what Gabriel Barkay and crew are finding in the Temple Mount debris tossed over the wall by Muslims building a mosque (04/17/2005).  The artifacts cover a wide range of dates, from neolithic to Byzantine.  Finds include potsherds, jewelry, statuettes, game pieces, remains of mosaics and much more, some of it from the First Temple period (the time of Solomon to the Babylonian captivity).  Students, soldiers and tourists are getting into the project.  The team seems conflicted between the thrill of seeing artifacts come to life from areas inaccessible till now, countered by anger at the “archaeological crime” committed by the Muslims for their illegal excavations on this holiest of sites and their cavalier dumping of the soil over the wall.  For a taste of the responses, see the Talkback at the end of the article.
        The Jews have another reason for concern.  Muslims are planning to build a fifth minaret on the Temple Mount, the first construction in 639 years, and the tallest at 134 feet high.  Todd Bolen commented on the double standard in his Bible Places Blog for 10/13:
    Such a construction is a violation of the principle of status quo of disputed holy sites in Israel, and almost certainly will be built without any archaeological supervision.  It is ironic that if one wants to build a cottage in a remote part of Israel and antiquities are present, then an excavation must take place.  But if one wants to construct on one of the most important sites in the Holy Land, there are no such requirements.
    Update 11/10/2006: Todd Bolen has more pictures and commentary about Barkay’s rubble-sifting project at Bible Places Blog for 11/10.  He mentioned a website,, that documents the situation on the Temple Mount, and said that a newer website is coming with up-to-date information.
Speaking of lack of supervision, the huge underground mosque on the southeast corner of the Temple Mount was constructed in defiance of Jewish interests in the sensitive area.  Some of the debris was tossed over the wall into the Kidron Valley; the rest remains in large, unsifted piles on the Temple Mount itself, east of the Dome of the Rock.
    By contrast, Israeli excavations on the west side of the Temple Mount (outside the Mount itself) have been orderly, respectful, and scientifically sound.  In addition, the Israeli government has created attractive archaeological parks around the digs, inviting tourists to see and learn the history of the sites.  Some of these have been done under threat of violence and riots from Palestinians not wanting any Jews near “their” territory.  For example, see a recent story on Reuters about a new exhibit Israel opened to the public, outside the Temple Mount, that is “drawing fire” from Palestinians.  The article reminds readers that work in this area in 1996 sparked a riot by Palestinians, resulting in the death of 61 Arabs and 15 Israeli soldiers.
    Those curious about The Exodus Decoded and other History Channel attempts to provide natural explanations for Bible miracles might like to read a review by Bryant Wood, archaeologist, at Associates for Biblical Research.
The difference is incredibly stark between the way the Muslims and the Jews treat their history.  It’s plainly obvious to any tourist in the Holy Land.  Israeli national archaeological parks are clean, attractive, educational, and welcoming.  Go anywhere near a Muslim site without their approval only at the risk of death.  Jewish buses must avoid the West Bank for fear of being pelted with rocks or blown up.  Jews who would love to remember their sacred history on the Temple Mount are forbidden, but Muslim kids are free to play soccer, fly frisbees and drop their ice cream wrappers and other trash all over the place.  Many Palestinians make their living selling Biblical trinkets at places like Bethlehem, it is true, and not all Muslims approve of violence, but the Israeli Antiquities Authority has to walk on eggs to avoid riots even for protesting the violation of their most sacred sites.  Where is the United Nations?  Oh—most of them are Muslim or Muslim supporters.
    As to the Garden of Eden claim, get real.  This dig, though interesting, is post-Flood, and post-Babel, made perhaps by tribes without written language settling here to form the beginnings of settlements.  Every country wants some fame, but calling this Eden is illogical, if not a ploy for Turkey’s tourism industry.  It also treats the Biblical account of Eden like a myth, a mere fable portraying the evolution of primitive man to civilization.  It is apparent that whatever people made these structures were already civilized and talented.  Enjoy the pictures, but don’t buy the line.
Next headline on:  Bible and TheologyPolitics and Ethics
Mars Life: Hope Against Hope    10/30/2006  
Good news: the Viking landers (1976) may have been unable to detect life on Mars if it were present.  Bad news: the dust devils on Mars probably would kill anything alive on the surface.  These contrasting stories recently tugged in opposite directions on hopes to find life on the red planet.  A report on PNAS1 questioned the ability of the Viking experiments to detect organic molecules on Mars.  The team, including Martian-meteorite promoter David McKay (08/06/2006), found organics in Antarctica and the Atacama and Libyan deserts that would have been below the detection limit of the Viking instruments.
    Mars, however, is continually swept by the mini-tornados known as dust devils.  The Science News2 Oct. 28 cover shows a picture of a terrestrial “satanic wind” lofting dust high into the air.  On Mars, Sid Perkins writes, the thinner atmosphere allows these vortices to rise much higher and gain enough energy to strip molecules of their electrons.  The reactions blanket the surface with highly-oxidizing compounds, like hydrogen peroxide, that would sterilize microorganisms on the surface, let alone bleach their hair.  Hopes for Martian life are thus reduced significantly:
Highly reactive peroxide would scour organic chemicals from Martian soil, says [Gregory T.] Delory [UC Berkeley].  That process would make the surface of the Red Planet hostile to life.  Furthermore, because the planet lacks an ozone layer, large quantities of ultraviolet radiation reach Mars’ surface.  Deep in the soil, where neither ultraviolet radiation nor peroxide infiltrates, however, life might survive.
The 10-man research team that published these results in Astrobiology last June3 believes the peroxide molecules could survive up to four years in the soil.  Martian dust devils, which are ubiquitous on the red planet, also generate high amounts of static electricity that could pose risks to future human explorers.  See also the 08/02/2006 entry on this topic.
1Navarro-Gonzalez et al, “The limitations on organic detection in Mars-like soils by thermal volatilization-gas chromatography-MS and their implications for the Viking results,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.0604210103, published online before print October 23, 2006.
2Sid Perkins, “Satanic winds: Looking at dust devils on Earth and Mars,” Science News, Week of Oct. 28, 2006; Vol. 170, No. 18, p. 282.
3Atreya et al, “Oxidant Enhancement in Martian Dust Devils and Storms: Implications for Life and Habitability,” Astrobiology, Jun 2006, Vol. 6, No. 3: 439-450.
Delory left intact a tiny bit of hope by saying, “The jury’s still out as to whether there is life on Mars.”  The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.
Next headline on:  Solar SystemOrigin of LifePhysics
Darwinist Anti-Creation Tactics Increase in Fervor   10/27/2006    
The consistent popular support for intelligent design and old-fashioned Biblical creationism is not making hard-core Darwinists any more interested in negotiating or debating.  Quite the contrary; as the following stories show, their opposition borders on mania and tyranny.
  • Toad in the hole:  A blog named Toad in the Hole expresses some of the fervor of certain Darwinists who cannot tolerate the thought of intelligent design in a scientific context.  They are on a campaign to pressure libraries to move copies of Darwin’s Nemesis (an anthology by ID leaders about Phillip Johnson) from the life science section to the religion section. 
  • Canadian intolerance:  For some Darwinists, it’s not enough to force creation and ID out of the public school science classrooms.  The Quebec National Post reported, “The Quebec Ministry of Education has told unlicensed Christian evangelical schools that they must teach Darwin’s theory of evolution and sex education or close their doors....”  Read what Evolution News said about this “winter chill” in Quebec.
  • Dawkins Talkin’:  Richard Dawkins, on a book tour with The God Delusion, is making the rounds to combat religion.  The science journals are mostly praising the book, if not the intensity of his rhetoric.  The famous atheist and scientific rationalist has been also facing some stiff opposition, however; see Resurgence link to a YouTube clip (funny), and listen to this MP3 excerpt of debater David Quinn giving him a run for his money.  Terry Eagleton, English professor at U of Manchester (and no fundamentalist) was quite incensed at Dawkins and said so on the London Review of Books.  In addition, eminent philosopher Thomas Nagel (NYU School of Law) gave him bad press on National Review recently (see ID the Future).
        At an appearance at a local bookstore in Washington D.C., a visitor asked Dawkins whether it was consistent for him to believe in determinism and then take credit for writing his book.  Access Research Network tells how Dawkins hemmed and hawed, and then conceded he had to live as if determinism is false, and society must treat people as if they are responsible for their actions.  He admitted “it is an inconsistency that we sort of have to live with otherwise life would be intolerable.”  Evolution News has links to more stories about how “everyone’s talkin’ about Dawkins’ crusade against religion.”  There’s more Dawkins Talk on William Dembski’s blog Uncommon Descent (Oct 25-26) and on Post-Darwinist.
  • This means war:  When a British ID-friendly group named Truth in Science decided to give out free copies of the film Unlocking the Mystery of Life to secondary schools throughout the UK, some in the media went ballistic.  Evolution News described the “unsupported assertions, editorializing in a manner that even some of the most agenda-driven reporting in the US has yet to do.”
  • Detective mystery:  Who is the “British Centre for Science Education”?  David Anderson of Derbyshire decided to investigate.  He found some surprising clues about this organization which emerged to condemn the Truth in Science campaign, and reported his findings on his blog BCSE Revealed; it reads like a detective mystery.
  • The Polish front:  The deputy education minister of Poland, a member of the conservative League of Polish Families (LPR) that entered the ruling coalition in May, got vocal with anti-Darwin statements recently: “The theory of evolution is a lie” and “It is an error we have legalized as a common truth.”  Immediately, the scientific establishment mobilized to fight this “catastrophe.”  Nature 10/26 reported that “Members of the Polish Academy of Sciences protested against the LPR campaign in an open letter that was published in several Polish newspapers,” hoping that “the quick response will avert damage to Polish science and education.”  Some were worried that “People could easily get the impression that there is a controversy about evolution among scientists.
        Included in the report are charges that the LPR is “ultra-right-wing” (see loaded words) and that the deputy education minister has “openly homophobic, anti-Semitic and nationalistic opinions” and “is also known to favour creationist views” (see association).  It quoted one signer of the letter that said, “However, the point that really requires further discussion is not evolution, but how a minister can say such stupid things” (see ridicule).  Another researcher was “shocked” by the anti-Darwinist statements, saying, “We really did not expect a creationist movement to emerge in Poland.”  (Nature 443, 890-891(26 October 2006) | doi:10.1038/443890c).
  • Keep on schmucking:  The same issue of Nature contains three favorable book reviews of anti-creationist books: (1) a mostly-favorable review by Lawrence M. Krauss of Dawkins” book The God Delusion, (2) a friendly review by Brian Charlesworth of Sean B. Carroll’s new book The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution, and (3) a positive review by Paul Bloom and Izzat Jarudi of Marc D. Hauser’s book Moral Minds: How Nature Designed Our Universal Sense of Right and Wrong which presents “A view of morality as the product of an innate mental faculty – rather like language.”
        When creationism or intelligent design is mentioned at all in these reviews, it is only to dismiss it briefly; Charlesworth, for instance, says “A favourite ploy of creationists is to accept the possibility of small-scale evolutionary change by darwinian means, but to deny that this has any relevance to the evolution of complex structures or new species.”  A large cartoon in Krauss’s review shows a man with a sandwich board proclaiming, “Renounce God and be saved.”
  • Remote slander takes no guts:  Columnist Mike Adams in his Oct 30 entry on describes how he had to give a speech to a hostile audience at the University of Minnesota.  Before he even arrived, he had been lambasted by P.Z. Myers, associate professor of biology at UMM and author of the anti-creationist blog Pharyngula (07/06/2006, 11/21/2005).  How had Myers described Adams?  For starters, “Horowitzian shill, anti-feminist, creationist clown, homophobic bigot, warrior for free speech, professional racist, gun kook, academic-by-accident, beauty contest judge, and just generally contemptible far, far right-wing nutcase.1  Adams told how Myers, though vicious in his attacks online, did not have the courage to ask any questions in person.  After the talk, which went smoothly without incident, Myers continued his web attacks afterwards, including telling lies that were refuted by the videotape.
Journalist Denyse O’Leary takes all this in stride on her blog Post-Darwinist.  She says this proves that the media and the Darwinists themselves are ID’s best friends.  Such outbursts only makes her job as a reporter on ID issues easier.
    A much calmer analysis was given by philosophy professor Douglas Groothuis [Denver Seminary] in The Denver Post 10/29.  Groothuis compared the arguments given by opposite sides in two recent books by ID advocate Jonathan Wells and skeptic Michael Shermer; “Wells’ case is arguably the more thorough, respectful and thought-provoking of the two,” he said, claiming that Shermer’s case depended less on scientific evidence than psychological and theological claims and excluding design by definition.  “In informal logic, this is known as the fallacy of begging the question,” Groothuis explained: “What should be proved is instead presumed.”  Shermer also resorted to emotional attacks, such as making an abrupt assertion, “Creation by intelligent design is absurd.”  To Groothuis, “This premature editorializing sets a sharp tone for the rest of the book.
1Mike Adams’ actual views on such things are freely available on; Adams, PhD in sociology, was formerly an atheist, but is now a well-known Christian conservative and critic of left-wing academic politics; he is on the faculty of U of North Carolina at Wilmington.  It should be noted that Adams is a master of sarcasm and satire, so quotes on issues must not be taken out of context.
The intensity of anti-creationist rhetoric exceeds all bounds of reason.  One cannot imagine these same people being as angry at the Taliban or child molesters as they are against a lot of innocent people who simply feel that whenever Darwinism is taught, students should have the right to know the problems also, and that evidence for design deserves to be discussed.  Remember: first they ignore you, then they fight you, then they become hysterical, then they collapse from brain short-circuits, then you win.  With reaction #3 right on cue, the ID Movement has a bright future.
Next headline on:  DarwinIntelligent DesignEducation
Bees Make Beeline to the Headlines   10/27/2006    
The science journals and media were abuzz with honeybee stories this week.  We counted 18 press releases and half a dozen research papers related to aspects of honeybees, including the publication of the honeybee genome.  Many research labs seem to have gotten into the act of figuring out what makes bees tick.  The major stories are summarized below.
  1. Bee GenesNature published the honeybee genome this week.  This is important not only to entomologists, but to social scientists interested in the unique social structure of these insects, and to ecologists and agriculturalists interested in the economic importance of honeybees as pollinators.  Summaries of the genome report can be found on EurekAlert, Science Daily, CSIRO, National Geographic.  Another EurekAlert story contains links to other research papers.  Surprisingly, bees seem to have fewer protein-coding genes than other insects.
  2. Bee Gems:  A fossil bee in amber claimed to be 100 million years old, 35-45 million years older than the previous record holder, was announced in Science.  Though it was predominantly bee-like in morphology, researchers claim it had some wasp-like characteristics that hinted of a common ancestry.  They’re claiming that the emergence of honeybees corresponded to the explosion of flowering plants.  Reports about this can be found on EurekAlert, Live Science, Science Daily, National Geographic and the BBC News.  The amber-imprisoned insect was in “remarkable condition, showing individual hairs on undamaged portions of its thorax, legs, abdomen and head. The legs and wings are clearly visible,” according to an Oregon State press release.
  3. BeehaviorEurekAlert reported on work at Arizona State attempting to explain the complex foraging behavior of bees from data in the genome.
  4. Bee on timeEurekAlert has a story about researchers at Hebrew University that found a surprise: “Biological clock of honey bee more similar to humans than to insects.”  Dr. Guy Bloch said, “Discovering that molecular characteristics of the biological clock in bees is closer to the biological clock of mammals than that of flies was a big surprise, since previously it had been thought that there is one type of clock that is typical of insects and another typical of mammals.  These results change our understanding of the evolution of circadian clocks.”
  5. Out of Africa:  A press release from UC Irvine and a EurekAlert echo of work from University of Illinois claim that the bee genome shows that bees first emerged in Africa.  This is based on a paper in Nature Oct. 26.
  6. Bee brain chemistry:  U of Illinois scientists are also figuring out the peptides in bee brains, reported EurekAlert.  A second EurekAlert story discussed findings about the chemoreceptors bees use to detect tastes and smells.  Apparently bees beat out fruit flies and mosquitos in smell receptors, but don’t have as much tasting equipment – surprising, considering their life around nectar.  Interesting fact: “There are a million neurons in the brain of a honey bee (Apis mellifera), a brain not much larger than the size of the period at the end of this sentence.”
  7. Pollen nation:  The importance of pollination (principally by honeybees) was discussed in Science Daily and a press release from UC Berkeley.  The second article contains images of how much better fruits develop when pollinated by insects instead of wind or self-pollination.
Scientific papers on these topics could be found this week in Nature, Science, Current Biology and PNAS.
There’s way too much material here to digest; links are provided for those who wish to follow up.  As usual, evolutionary storytelling occurs side-by-side with amazing observational facts about these marvelous insects.
    We may get afraid of the occasional bee that hovers over our picnic plate, but the wealth in our supermarkets depends on them.  Most won’t sting you if you don’t startle them.  Take the time to get to know honeybees.  They really are spectacular creations.  Imagine a million neurons, coded with biological clocks and social instincts and flight software, all packed into a brain as tiny as a period on a sentence.  Evolutionists claim they have changed little in 100 million years, even after coming out of Africa once upon a time and taking over the world and causing an explosion in flowering plant diversity.  Let’s help science once again focus on facts, not fables.
Next headline on:  Terrestrial ZoologyGeneticsAmazing Stories
Big Bad Bird: Ten-Foot “Terror Bird” Found    10/26/2006  
What would a “terror bird” look like?  Imagine a ten-footer, able to disembowel you with a single kick and crush your skull in its jaws.  That’s what scientists from the Dinosaur Institute of the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History described in Nature1 after finding the largest-ever skull of a flightless phorusrhacid (‘terror bird’) in Argentina.  While other phorusrhacids stood 2-3 feet tall, the skull of this one was as big as that of a horse, implying it stood 10 feet tall.  It had a sharp, eagle-like beak and was probably agile and swift.
    Contrary to earlier opinion, taller does not mean fatter and slower, the researchers surmised.  In a classic example of stuffy scientific jargon, they wrote, “We conclude that reconstructions of the skull of gigantic phorusrhacids on the basis of their smaller relatives are unwarranted, and that the long-established correlation between their corpulence and reduced cursorial agility needs to be re-evaluated.”
    See also the National Geographic entry.  Despite saying this discovery was just in time for Halloween, Sean Markey wrote that “much about terror bird behavior remains unknown.”  They are presumed to have been South America’s top predators after dinosaurs went extinct.
1Luis M. Chiappe and Sara Bertelli, “Palaeontology: Skull morphology of giant terror birds,” Nature 443, 929(26 October 2006) | doi:10.1038/443929.
You can’t call it a terror bird without being there to watch it.  Inferences from living ostriches and rheas are probably warranted, but maybe these were big, beautiful, stupid and sweet.  Maybe they would have made good pets.  Don’t put it together with the cat, though.  (Imagine it having a chirp like Here, kitty kitty kitty.)  Best put the bird in the yard and the cat in the cage.
Next headline on:  BirdsFossils
Fossil Lamprey Changed Little in 360 Million Years    10/26/2006  
Lampreys, fish that consist of little more than a mouth with a tube-like body and fin, don’t usually fossilize well because they lack bones and hard cartilage.  A small two-inch fossil lamprey has been found in South Africa and reported in Nature1 (see also National Geographic, Live Science and EurekAlert based on a press release from University of Chicago Hospitals).
    The news reports are calling this a “living fossil” but it’s really more of a “reverse living fossil.”  Most living fossils are live animals found that had been thought long extinct.  This is a dead fossil that shows similarity to living lampreys, with little change for 360 million years according to evolutionary dating: e.g., according to Gess et al in Nature, “lampreys as a whole appear all the more remarkable: ancient specialists that have persisted as such and survived a subsequent 360 million years.”  The conclusion of their paper states:
The discovery of Priscomyzon within a Late Devonian marginal marine estuarine environment pushes the minimum date of lamprey-like fishes back by some 35 million years, and provides a new minimum date for molecular-clock-based estimates of the cyclostome crown node.  The well developed oral disc, annular cartilages and circumoral teeth of Priscomyzon suggests the evolutionary long-term stability of a highly specialized parasitic feeding habit.  Lampreys have long been recognized as highly apomorphic but only now is it possible to appreciate just how ancient these specializations are.  In this particular sense, lampreys might be described as ‘living fossils’, and Priscomyzon adds new phylogenetic perspective to studies using modern agnathans as model systems for deriving insight into primitive vertebrate conditions.
The authors built a new phylogenetic tree including the new species, a member of the cyclostomes (circle-mouths).  Philippe Janvier, however, commenting in Nature2 on this find, was not convinced the fossil helps the tree:
The relationships between living hagfishes, lampreys and jawed vertebrates are hotly debated, because of conflicting distributions of morphological and physiological traits on the one hand, and of DNA and RNA sequence data on the other.  The morphological and physiological aspects suggest that lampreys (but not hagfishes) are the sister group of jawed vertebrates, whereas gene sequences generally suggest that lampreys and hagfishes are sister groups.  Fossils sometimes help to resolve such conflicts, by revealing combinations of traits in an extinct species that better support a particular relationship.  Frustratingly, Priscomyzon does not help in resolving the problem of lamprey relationships, because it provides no new informative combinations of characteristics compared with post-Devonian and extant lampreys.
    Morphology-based evolutionary trees of living and fossil vertebrates have long been prone to change.
Later, Janvier asked, “So, it is not too surprising that lampreys turn up in the Devonian period, 360 Myr ago.  What is surprising is that they are already very similar to modern lampreys.  What, then, did earlier or more primitive lampreys look like?”  All he could do was speculate.
    Another discovery was announced from this geological epoch.  A press release from University of Ohio announced finding organic molecules in 350 million year old fossil crinoids.  That makes these the oldest such molecules found.  The researchers think this provides a new way to trace animal evolution.  See also Science Daily.
1Gess et al, “ Nature 443, 981-984(26 October 2006) | doi:10.1038/nature05150.
2Philippe Janvier, “Palaeontology: Modern look for ancient lamprey,” Nature 443, 921-924(26 October 2006) | doi:10.1038/443921a.
The researchers performed some tree-building magic with their new lamprey to give it the illusion of fitting into an evolutionary ancestry somehow, but clearly finding one so early, so little evolved, was a surprise.  Their unwieldy chart now has to place lampreys 35 million years farther back, where its unique morphology was already well-developed.  Then they have to claim that very little changed for 360 million years.  During that same amount of time, all the varieties of reptiles, birds, mammals, and land plants supposedly emerged: an embarrassment of riches for the fecund process of evolution.  Why did lampreys miss the party?  May as well add to the story; in the absence of fossils, National Geographic speculates, “When the fossilized lamprey lived, there were probably many types of jawless vertebrates.  Except for the lamprey and hagfish, all of them seem to have died out.”
    Interestingly, Janvier pointed out that we cannot assume a parasitic lifestyle just from the morphology.  It may look like this fossil lamprey used its mouth to suck blood, “Yet only 19 living lamprey species (out of 38) feed this way,” he said.  “Other lampreys mainly use their sucker to either secure themselves while at rest or carry stones for nest building.”  This opens the possibility that parasitism was a degenerate behavior for structures that had another purpose.
    The overarching theme, though, was the surprise of finding a nearly modern lamprey so far back in time; it means that any alleged common ancestor had to be pushed even farther back: “lamprey morphology has been astonishingly stable for 360 Myr,” Janvier said.  Thinking inside the Darwinian box, he said this “proves that lampreys and hagfishes had already diverged by late Devonian times, earlier than previously thought.”
    So there you have Darwinists experiencing the surprise effect of anomalies again, yet with no prospect of thinking outside the box.  (In fact, the same issue of Nature had several tirades against those close-minded, evil creationists.)  Finding organic molecules in fossils 350 million years old does little to jar the evolutionists, nor does finding living fossils virtually unchanged for hundreds of millions of years.  The gumby Darwinists are masters at turning every falsification into confirmation.  The evolution talk is all in future tense, as usual: this “may give us insight” into evolution (yawn).  We’ve been waiting a long time for said insight, and all we keep getting is outdark.  It makes us downright ready to upchuck.
Next headline on:  FossilsMarine Life
Key Reference Rock Formed Five Times Faster than Thought    10/25/2006  
Strata in the Niagara Gorge, used as a reference for Silurian dating, formed much quicker than previously believed – in just 1/5 the time, according to a press release from Ohio State.  Bradley Cramer and his advisor Matthew Saltzmann used high-resolution carbon isotope stratigraphy to re-examine the rocks in the Niagara Gorge.  “Rocks that were originally estimated to have formed as sediments built up over 10 million years’ time actually formed in only 2 million years, they found.”
    A ramification of this study is that dates of other rocks around America and the world could also be in error, because they relied on dates from this region.  A boundary called the Ireviken Excursion is seen in the United States, Canada and Sweden, which geologists believe represents a global event involving the extinction of many marine organisms.  The rocks in the Niagara Gorge, among the first dated by geologists in the 1800s, established a benchmark for other corresponding formations around the world.  Now that the formation time has collapsed from 10 million years to 2 million or less (since “most of the formations originated during the Ireviken event, which lasted for only 1 million years or so”), this new finding will have a ripple effect:
Rock formations there are used as a frame of reference to judge the ages of rocks throughout North America.  So these new results mean that many scientists will have to revise their work.  Estimates of when certain animals went extinct may change.
    “Unfortunately, this means that a lot of people are going to have to re-examine work that they thought was done,” Cramer said.
Cramer, a doctoral student at Ohio State, is next going to examine some pre-Silurian dates with the carbon isotope technique.  Though he believes this technique is more accurate, he commented on the uncertainties in geological dating methods:
“We have this great geological record of climate changes in the past,” Cramer said.  “The problem is, the rate of change that we’re worried about in the modern day is on a very short time scale.  And when we look into the deep past, our ability to know where we are in time isn’t that precise.  If we can get our time constraints down more precisely, we can begin to ask the same sort of questions of the past that we’re asking of the modern era.”
The dating technique relies on ratios of carbon-12 to carbon-13.  Geologists assume that similar anomalous ratios represent global “excursions” away from the norm.
The Niagara Gorge was the site of another episode where the word “unfortunately” is apt.  Creation on the Web retells how Charles Lyell, the father of uniformitarian geology (who had a huge influence on Darwin) fudged the data about the rate of erosion of Niagara Falls.  His estimate of the age of the falls—35,000 years—undermined the faith of many Christians about the Biblical record of the age of the earth.  Only after the damage was done did the facts come out: his estimate was also at least four to five times too slow!  The corrected date puts the age at an upper limit of 7000-9000 years, much more credible in a Biblical timescale, considering that the erosion would have been much more rapid right after the Flood.
    Now, another measurement in the same gorge has been found to be off by a factor of five.  Sure, everything is still stated in terms of millions of years, but bigger questions need to be faced.  Think of the confidence that many other geologists placed in the earlier estimate.  Think of the timelines, tables, and charts published in geology textbooks and scientific papers that counted on the Ireviken Excursion dating to a particular age and rate of formation.  Now, “a lot of people are going to have to re-examine work that they thought was done.”  They need to re-examine at a much deeper level and question another formation: the geological column itself.
    Uniformitarian geologists might respond that this error represents one correction out of a vast body of data and will not have that big an impact on the geological column.  But Cramer’s comments bear deeper reflection: “when we look into the deep past, our ability to know where we are in time isn’t that precise.”  Then he said that “if we can get our time constraints down more precisely, we can begin to ask” the pertinent questions (italics added).  That is a big if.  Geologists apparently counted on this marker from 1800 to 2006, only to find that the formation was laid down at least five times faster than they had estimated.  What confidence can we have in other measurements?  How much can one infer about millions of years when all he has to go on is some carbon isotope ratios?
    The problem is, their methods are married to their assumptions, and those assumptions were raised in Darwinland.  Cramer was only questioning the rate of formation of this particular gorge, not the framework of geological history that assumes it occurred hundreds of millions of years ago when fish were presumably evolving.  A new generation of geologists needs to arise with bigger questions, and fewer assumptions.  For too long, the marriage of geology with evolutionary theory has been a bondage instead of a blessed union.  Calling a rock stratum “Silurian” for convenience based on a type section is harmless taxonomy, but why must Silurian correspond to evolutionary beliefs?  The evolutionary beliefs usually dictate the interpretations.
    For example, as we have seen, no one in secular geology questioned the disconnect between the geo-evolutionary assumption that dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago and the finding of flexible soft tissues in a dinosaur bone (06/03/2005, 03/24/2005).  It’s like a wife exclaiming, “Wow, look at how fresh this bone looks!” only to have the husband put his hand over her mouth and tell the reporters, “What she means is, we have just realized that soft tissue can survive 65 million years, because we all know that dinosaurs went extinct long before humans evolved.  Isn’t that right, honey?” and she nods submissively in agreement.
    Evolution is an abusive spouse.  It beats research into conformity with its own needs and desires.  If geology can get a divorce from evolution, and if geologists can once again start dating outside the Darwin Party concentration camp, a union of new questions and answers might emerge from the minds of liberated researchers, and the offspring could be precocious.  For a good discussion on thinking anew, read The Right Questions by Dr. Phillip E. Johnson.
Next headline on:  GeologyDating Methods
Dinos Not Killed Off by Meteor, but by Worms    10/24/2006  
Confident speculations that a big meteor hitting southern Mexico caused the mass extinction of the dinosaurs appear to be unraveling.  Gerta Keller [Princeton, 09/25/2003], a doubter of the story that has been a leading contender for years with its smoking-gun crater called Chicxulub in the Yucatan, has been getting a receptive hearing among geologists with her claim that the impact was too early, reports Science Daily: “The Chicxulub impact could not have caused the mass extinction,” she is telling a meeting of the Geological Society of America, “because this impact predates the mass extinction and apparently didn’t cause any extinctions.
    If a later impact was responsible, its crater has not been found.  Keller believes a combination of factors – multiple impacts, and global warming due to massive volcanic outbursts – was involved.
    Another competing explanation won’t be quite as photogenic for animators.  A Reuters story (see MSNBC) proposes that gut worms brought the mighty beasts down.
This upset is just the next episode in a long line of speculations about what happened to the dinosaurs.  They thought they finally had it nailed with the big crater in Mexico.  Now that the impact theory is coming under fire, it’s going to be a hard sell with these new scenarios.  Why didn’t the worms afflict the mammals and birds that came through the extinction unscathed?  Why didn’t global warming and volcanism have the same effect on all animal groups?  Dinosaurs, remember, inhabited almost every longitude and latitude on the globe, and were successfully adaptive in a wide variety of climes.
    If they perished in a world-wide flood, however, and the remaining stock were hunted to extinction as pests by humans, this would fit the evidence.  The flood was accompanied by volcanism and, maybe, triggered by meteor impacts.  If this sounds too radical, it’s no more radical than finding soft tissue inside the bones of a T. rex (02/22/2006).  Evolutionists haven’t been able to hold onto an explanation that fits the evidence any better.  The Science Daily article ended,
What the microfossils are saying is that Chicxulub probably aided the demise of the dinosaurs, but so did Deccan trap volcanism’s greenhouse warming effect and finally a second huge impact that finished them off.  So where’s the crater?
    “I wish I knew,” said Keller.  “There is some evidence that it may have hit in India, where a crater of about 500 kilometers in diameter is estimated and named Shiva by paleontologist Sankar Chatterjee from the Museum of Texas Tech University in Lubbock.  The evidence for it, however, is not very compelling at this time.
The confusion about the role of meteors and extinctions is rippling into other news reports.  The Times Online printed a story speculating that a meteor hitting the Irish Sea upset the ecology and gave T. rex the edge.  On the other hand, USC scientists are abandoning the meteor for the earlier Permian extinction, according to EurekAlert.  David Bottjer and Matthew Clapham point to evidence the animals were in decline long before the extinction.  Instead of picturing a sudden, meteoric event, they are simply claiming “the earth got sick.” Microfossils don’t talk.  But we have a record that does talk.  The Biblical flood account works.  Only stubborn naturalistic philosophy and uniformitarian assumptions prevent it from being considered seriously.  For a detailed analysis by a scientist who does take it seriously, search Walt Brown’s site for the sections on dinosaurs.
    A retired high school biology teacher responds:  “Regarding the theory that it was intestinal parasites that killed the dinosaurs and your question as to why other animals were not affected--it is a strong case against global worming.”  This proves that the CEH pun bug is infectious: beware!
Next headline on:  DinosaursGeology Quote: Chuck Norris Joke    10/23/2006  
Alleged Chuck Norris Fact: “There is no theory of evolution.  Just a list of creatures Chuck Norris has allowed to live.”  What does Chuck Norris himself think of this?
It’s funny.  It’s cute.  But here’s what I really think about the theory of evolution: It’s not real.  It is not the way we got here.  In fact, the life you see on this planet is really just a list of creatures God has allowed to live.  We are not creations of random chance.  We are not accidents.  There is a God, a Creator, who made you and me.  We were made in His image, which separates us from all other creatures.
Chuck Norris responded to the “Chuck Norris fact” craze in a World Net Daily op-ed piece Oct 23.  The Hollywood tough guy was finally defeated by a woman.  “I had a huge hole in my heart and was miserable until I met my wife, Gena, who brought me back to the Lord.”
Corrected version: There is no theory of evolution.  Just a list of Darwin Party creatures Chuck Norris has not shared Christ with yet.
Next headline on:  EvolutionTheology
Baby Lucy Makes National Geographic Evolution Cover   10/22/2006    
No regime change is evident at National Geographic since Bill Allen left (see 02/15/2005).  The Nov. 2006 is vintage NG with alleged primitive human ancestors on the cover, this time “Baby Lucy” (see 09/20/2006, 10/02/2006).  Despite many passionate letters to the editor after their in-your-face Darwinist two years ago (see “Was Darwin Wrong?” 10/24/2004), this issue under new editor Chris Johns shows no change of heart or direction.
    The main article dismisses any alternatives to macroevolution in one paragraph, only to promote Darwinian evolution as the only scientific answer to the origin of life, including human life.  The dismissal appeals to majority rule, enthusiasm, and future discoveries.
But nearly 150 years after Darwin first brought this elegant idea to the world’s attention when he published The Origin of Species, the evolution of complex structures can still be hard to accept.  Most of us can envision natural selection tweaking a simple trait—making an animal furrier, for example, or its neck longer.  Yet it’s harder to picture evolution producing a new complex organ, complete with all its precisely interlocking partsCreationists claim that life is so complex that it could not have evolved.  They often cite the virtuoso engineering of the bacterial tail, which resembles a tiny electric motor spinning a shaft, to argue that such complexity must be the direct product of “intelligent design” by a superior being.
    The vast majority of biologists do not share this belief.  Studying how complex structures came to be is one of the most exciting frontiers in evolutionary biology, with clues coming at remarkable speed.
The issue contains a long article on evolution, “A Fin Is a Limb Is a Wing: How Evolution Fashioned Its Masterworks,” by Carl Zimmer.  It discusses embryology, eyes, fruit flies, feathers, homologous limbs and other standard Darwinist fare, ending with “Evolution, ruthless and practical, is equally capable of building the most wonderful structures and tossing them aside when they’re no longer needed.”  Like people?
    Zimmer did return to the flagellum at the end of his article, to deal with “doubters of evolution” one more time.  He promoted an evolutionary explanation by Mark Pallen (U. of Birmingham) that relies on co-option of the Type III Secretion System – but did not cite any intelligent-design sources familiar with this kind of explanation to refute it.  He did, though, grant one tiny concession: “Whether or not that’s the full story, there is plenty of other evidence that natural selection has been at work on the flagellum.”
    The issue ends with a short article on the Dikika skeleton.  For that fossil to make this publication in such a short time after its announcement, it must have been “Hold the presses!” day at NG headquarters in late September.  The senior editor’s article is accompanied by copious artwork and illustrations.  A smiling ape-face squeals, “Found: Earliest Child – 3.3-million-year old bones discovered,” and inside, the 120-point bold all-caps title reads, “Meet the Dikika baby: a three-year-old from the dawn of humanity.  Her discovery holds clues to the origin of childhood.”  Despite the ongoing controversy over the meaning of this skeleton, the article confidently ends, “The Dikika baby”s biography is short, but the evolutionary steps she embodied have had profound and enduring effects.  Although bipedalism and big brains carried a high cost, particularly for the mothers of our lineage, these traits ultimately combined to produce smarter babies who would eventually be able to master technologies, build civilizations, and, yes, explore their own origins.
    Incidentally, the original Lucy fossil is going on tour in America, according to Associated Press.  The tour is generating controversy.
In case you didn’t notice, National Geographic’s understanding of Darwinism and the many philosophical and evidential arguments against it is not much above a high school freshman level.  There are so many problems in their presentation, and so much pure propaganda the way it is presented, the editors ought to be ashamed of themselves.  For instance, they still appeal to Haeckel’s embryo argument—not with Haeckel’s original forged drawings, but with newer ones that do not look at all alike.  But the caption says, “The early embryos of three different vertebrates—a fish, a chicken, and a human—look much the same.”  Any reader is going to look at the drawings and say, “Huh?”
    Where have the editors been?  Don’t they read the literature against Darwinism?  Don’t they know how to deal at a more scholarly level with problems that even biologists inside the Darwin Party acknowledge?  In their simplistic minds, Hox genes under natural selection can create anything and everything, even “Masterworks” of engineering.  They chide creationists for finding it “hard to accept” the evolution of complex structures.  This is classic question begging.  Who says it’s right to accept a flawed theory, full of holes and wishful thinking with the whitewash of artwork substituting for the brick and mortar of evidence?
    You may have noticed the similarity of Carl Zimmer’s title “A fin is a limb is a wing” with the statement by Ingrid Newkirk of PETA (see source), “a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy.”  No they aren’t, and no he isn’t.  Notice how word choice is operative in the propaganda both PETA and NG employ: a human boy is a rat when they want to dispose of a fetus, but an extinct ape’s juvenile offspring is a “baby” when they want to promulgate evolutionary philosophy.  Connect the dots between the philosophies of both of these dehumanizing, desensitizing philosophies.  If you get a picture you don’t like, it’s time to write more letters to the editor.
    Dr. Brad Harrub has investigated the “Lucy’s Baby” evidence on Apologetics Press.
Next headline on:  DarwinismEarly Man
Another Tetrapod Ancestor Claimed   10/20/2006    
Maybe the Aussies want their share of missing link notoriety; an unusual fish with bony fins has been discovered in western Australia, reported in Nature.1  The bigger the splash a missing link makes for reporters, the better.  The story on Science Daily said, “A fossil fish discovered in the West Australian Kimberley has been identified as the missing clue in vertebrate evolution, rewriting a century-old theory on how the first land animals evolved.”  The discoverers named it Gogonasus after the Gogo Station near where it was found.  They claim this little fossil fish, claimed to be over 380 million years old, is “the ultimate ‘Mother’ of all tetrapods.”
    OK, so what is special about this fish, compared to other alleged tetrapod ancestors?  Science Daily wrote,
The fossil skeleton shows the fish’s skull had large holes for breathing through the top of the head but importantly also had muscular front fins with a well-formed humerus, ulna and radius – the same bones are found in the human arm.
Actually, no baseball pitcher could operate with a borrowed Gogonasus arm, but this means that the structure and arrangement of the bones (i.e., one upper-arm bone and two lower-arm bones) was established early on in the fossil record.  Moreover, this “proves that features of land-living tetrapods (four-legged vertebrates) evolved much earlier in their evolutionary history than previously thought,” according to team member Erich Fitzgerald.  They think this fish lived at a pivotal time for all subsequent evolution, “from dinosaurs, to kangaroos, and ultimately, us humans.
    One problem is that, till now, scientists thought tetrapods evolved in the northern hemisphere.  Tiktaalik, you recall, was found in the arctic (04/06/2006).
    The actual paper gets into some messy details that complicate the simple missing-link angle.  “Unexpectedly, Gogonasus shows a mosaic of plesiomorphic and derived tetrapod-like features,” Long et al wrote.  Plesiomorphic invokes the notion of a generalized similarity, where derived hints at an ancestral lineage.  Where do they decide to put it in the tree along with other alleged missing link candidates?
Whereas the braincase and dermal cranial skeleton exhibit generalized morphologies with respect to Eusthenopteron or Panderichthys, taxa that are traditionally considered to be phyletically close to tetrapods, the presence of a deeply invaginated, wide spiracle, advanced internal spiracular architecture and near-horizontal hyomandibula are specialized features that are absent from Eusthenopteron.  Furthermore, the pectoral fin skeleton of Gogonasus shares several features with that of Tiktaalik, the most tetrapod-like fish.  A new phylogenetic analysis places Gogonasus crownward of Eusthenopteron as the sister taxon to the Elpistostegalia.  Aspects of the basic tetrapod limb skeleton and middle ear architecture can now be traced further back within the tetrapodomorph radiation.
Part of the problem is that they want this fish to represent an earlier contender for a tetrapod-wannabee yet it shares some similarities to the later Tiktaalik.  Wherever it fits, there’s going to be some ’splainin’ to do:
The conspicuously large spiracular opening (Fig. 1a-c) is proportionally similar to those recently reconstructed for Panderichthys and Tiktaalik.  The pectoral fin endoskeleton of Gogonasus is described here for the first time (Fig.  2), the new specimen being the only known Devonian fish that shows a complete acid-prepared pectoral limb.  There are some surprising similarities to the recently described pectoral fin in the advanced elpistostegalian Tiktaalik.  As such features could indicate homoplasy between Gogonasus and early tetrapods, we present a revised character analysis to determine whether the new anatomical information supports a more crownward position for Gogonasus in the stem-tetrapod phylogeny.
In other words, they invoke the old Darwinian explanation of convergent evolution (homoplasy) to explain why this early fish would have similar structures to a later one.  For example, in the spiracle, “No previously described tetrapodomorph fish shows such a large spiracular opening, or a downward facing dermal lamina forming a posterior wall to the spiracular chamber, so the condition in Gogonasus is highly unusual,” they wrote.  How to explain it?  “This indicates that spiracular breathing might have evolved independently in some stem tetrapodomorphs.”  Yet spiracular breathing is no simple single-mutation change.  It would have involved multiple adaptations involving soft parts as well as bone—making independent convergence on the same pattern highly improbable.  Another problem is that if this specimen is a perfect intermediate between two other candidates in terms of the angle of the spiracle,2 what’s it doing down under when the other fossils are up yonder?
    Getting into the fin bones, the authors state that various interpretations are possible.  “Such features can be interpreted as either generalized (plesiomorphic) for Gogonasus and elpistostegalians, or shared apomorphies that unite them, and as such would exclude the rhizodontids and tristichopterids from the higher clade.”  Indeed, their phylogenetic diagram (figure 3) shows two very different possible trees.  Nothing in the paper suggests that there is any certainty to their favorite solution.  There are plenty of “may have” and “might have” qualifiers in the text, and even their proposal overturns previous beliefs and raises new questions.3  They can only speculate about what environment any of the creatures lived in, and how different forms arrived at different parts of the globe.
    One other thing.  Whatever happened, happened quickly.  Based on the assumed dates of these bones, and the scatter of different specimens from China to Europe, from the arctic to Australia, “indicates that the initial radiation of tetrapods from elpistostegalian fishes, with evidence currently confined to the northern hemisphere landmass of Euramerica, was probably an extremely rapid global event.
1Long et al, “An exceptional Devonian fish from Australia sheds light on tetrapod origins,” Nature advance online publication 18 October 2006 | doi:10.1038/nature05243; Received 4 June 2006; Accepted 11 September 2006; Published online 18 October 2006.
2Ibid, “The shallower angle of the spiracular chamber margin in Gogonasus (Fig. 1g) is a perfect intermediate morphology between the deeper spiracular chamber of Eusthenopteron (Fig. 1h) and the almost horizontal chamber of Panderichthys (Fig. 1f).  However, in having the entopterygoid located lateral to the ventral opening of the spiracular tract, the condition in Panderichthys is more derived than either Eusthenopteron or Gogonasus.
3e.g., “Our new phylogeny replaces the tristichopterid Eusthenopteron as the typical fish model for the fish-tetrapod transition.  It also raises the question of what environment the immediate stem group of the elpistostegalians inhabited.  The marine environment inhabited by Gogonasus is in accord with the marginal marine environments of some elpistostegalians (Panderichthys, Elpistostege, Tiktaalik) and the tetrapod Tulerpeton.  Such observations support a model in which the first tetrapods, like their immediate piscine sister taxa, were capable of marine dispersal, thus explaining the widespread global distribution achieved shortly after their first appearance in the late Frasnian.
When you read scientific papers, with all their unknowns, all their qualifiers and disclaimers and uncertainties and admissions of doubt and lack of evidence, then read the popular news reports gleaming with confidence and glittering generalities glibly stating how some new fossil proves evolution, it gets really disgusting.  Any Darwin Party advocate holding up a stack of science journals at a school board meeting and claiming they represent mounds of evidence backing up Charlie’s wacko story about humans coming from bacteria is either a charlatan or a dupe of the popular press.
    When you hear a wild, reckless claim like “This is the mother of all tetrapods!” don’t be a sucker.  Read the original source paper like we do.  It has the fine print.  It suggests a revised claim that, unfortunately, makes for a very poor sound bite for reporters: something like:
If we could figure out how these shallow-water inhabitants got from Australia to the arctic, and if we had the soft parts, and if we understood how morphological features could appear and disappear and re-appear within a Darwinian mechanism, and if we could unscramble these mosaics and redistribute them into lineages, and if we had the vaguest idea of what kind of environments the creatures actually lived in, and if we could rule out the possibility (as in Coelacanth) that the observed bones were used for other purposes other than what we expect, and if we could wiggle out of the Lamarckian charge of orthogenesis, and if we could somehow connect these morphological differences to beneficial mutations that natural selection could act on (with no purpose or goal in mind that they might prove advantageous on land, if both the breathing apparatus and the fin bones were to get lucky at the same time), then we might be able to make the claim that our particular fossil fits somewhere in an ancestral relationship to tetrapods, however controversial, that could be a contender in scientific conferences, and could get us some powerpoint slides that won’t be criticized, and might get us some brief popularity at the closing dinner, and maybe even a question from a reporter, or at least avoidance of ridicule, until our rivals find something else the following spring that blows our entire scheme out of the water.
That, discerning students, is how real Darwinism is done.
Next headline on:  FossilsMarine LifeDarwinism
Darwin Goes Online    10/19/2006  
A website featuring the complete published works of Charles Darwin went public today at  This adds to an earlier site featuring all of Darwin’s correspondence, at Cambridge.  Access is free to the public.  Students and researchers will be able to search, compare and cross-check different versions of The Origin of Species and other things.  Nature1 noted that Darwin’s first use of the phrase “survival of the fittest” was in 1868, nine years after the first edition of the Origin, and that was in the first edition of another book, The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication.  A year later the phrase showed up in the 5th edition of the Origin.
    Henry Nicholls quoted John van Whye (historian, U of Cambridge) with an admonition to creationists:
The creationist faithful would do well to take a look, says van Wyhe.  “If people feel so strongly about Darwin, they should actually take the time to read his own words rather than relying only on the interpretations of others.”  Even if this doesn’t convert them to evolution by natural selection, it should expose the popular misconception that Darwin had an anti-Christian agenda, he says.  “This was not what he was about,” says van Wyhe.  “He was simply a scientist trying to explain how the world works.”
Nicholls contrasted Darwin’s attitude with the ”defiantly irreligious Francis Crick who, enraged by the decision of Churchill College, Cambridge, to build a chapel, wrote a letter to the college’s namesake Winston enclosing £10 towards the building of a brothel to go with it.”
    Other scientists and prominent personages have their own online archives, too, including Sir Isaac Newton, Robert Boyle, and Albert Einstein.  Sponsors of the site will be interested not only in providing Darwin’s works for easy access, but also in monitoring how visitors use it.  See also the announcement on the BBC News.
1Henry Nicholls, “A life online,” Nature 443, 746-747 (19 October 2006) | doi:10.1038/443746a; Published online 18 October 2006.
It’s a fair request that creationists consult the actual words of Darwin instead of relying on the interpretations of others, as long as that same request cuts both ways.  Darwinists routinely misquote and misunderstand the points of creationists and those in the intelligent design movement.  Many Darwinists don’t understand Charlie, either—including Mr. van Wyhe who thinks Darwin had no anti-Christian agenda and “was simply a scientist trying to explain how the world works.”  Read Janet Browne’s biography of Darwin for some disturbing details that provide more finesse than a quick either-or judgment on Darwin’s motivation.
    Critics of Darwin should welcome this site.  Now it will be possible to trace the evolution of Darwin’s own ideas, including his loss of faith in the Bible.  For instance, early editions of Voyage of the Beagle are said to indicate he still believed the Bible and creation, and supported Christian missionaries for some time after his voyage, till gradually his faith wore away under the influence of ideas from Lyell and others who cast doubt on the historicity of Scripture.  His mind began to interpret what he had seen in terms of slow, gradual change over long periods of time.  Now that the uniformitarian foundation that caused this slide into apostasy has been undermined, it is well to consider the lesson of building a world view on fallible ideas.
    A digital archive is not the same as a book.  With the advantages come some disadvantages.  One can only hope the administrators of both websites will have high standards of integrity, and will not surreptitiously expunge politically incorrect words or passages from the documents.  Van Wyhe need not fear creationist faithful will avoid taking a look.  When some uncomfortable details come out, the question will become, will the Darwinist faithful take a look?
Next headline on:  DarwinBible and Theology
Have Darwinian Anthropologists Learnt Their Lessons?   10/18/2006    
Chris Stringer, writing for the BBC News, talked about “Piltdown’s lessons for modern science.”  After telling the history of the famous “missing link” fraud, he discussed four “lessons learnt” by one of the most notorious hoaxes in science history.  For one, “we mustn’t let preconceived ideas run away with us.”  For another, “specimens have to pass certain basic tests.”  He added, “Part of the cleverness of the hoax was the way in which it suited preconceived ideas about what early humans should look like.”  Stringer also commented that science thrives on controversy, and claimed science is self-correcting.  Then he expressed confidence in the more recent fossil ape-man finds.
    In another story from the BBC News, an evolutionary economist from the London School of Economics is claiming “Humanity may split into two sub-species in 100,000 years’ time as predicted by HG Wells.”  Oliver Curry thinks humans will divide into a tall, genetically superior upper class, and a short, dimwitted lower class (an illustration fills in the imagination).  Visible splits could be seen in a much shorter time frame.  He speculated, as if this is not already evident, “Social skills, such as communicating and interacting with others, could be lost, along with emotions such as love, sympathy, trust and respect.  People would become less able to care for others, or perform in teams.”  Though racial differences might be ironed out by interbreeding in the short term, Curry thinks the logical outcome of this evolution “would be two sub-species, ‘gracile’ and ‘robust’ humans similar to the Eloi and Morlocks foretold by HG Wells in his 1895 novel The Time Machine.”  Those familiar with the story might remember how the powerful bred the weak for food.  Is this an echo of Darwin’s words?1
At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world.  At the same time the anthropomorphous apes, as Professor Schaaffhausen has remarked, will no doubt be exterminated.  The break between man and his nearest allies will then be wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilised state, as we may hope, even than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as now between the negro or Australian and the gorilla.

1Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man (1882) p.156; see Evolution quotes.
Stringer, a positivist and progressivist, thinks science is self-correcting, and will no longer fall for such a low deed.  We leave it to the reader to judge if the Darwin Party has learnt their lessons, or earnt any credibility or respect among civilized human beings.  Maybe we should let them inhabit their own island and evolve this way if they want to.  The rest of us will read good books and hone our social skills for the common good, choose our soul-mates wisely, and develop the moral character needed to be good citizens and fulfill our Creator-endowed rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of eudaimonia.
Next headline on:  DarwinismEarly ManDumb Ideas
Stupid Evolution Quote of Last Week:  From Nature 10/12/2006 in an article about compound eyes in insects, Kevin Moses [Howard Hughes Medical Institute] ended with this statement, calling into question who is blind:
These experiments suggest that the diptera [flies] may have ‘opened their eyes’ (invented neural superposition) by a single change: reprogramming the expression of Spacemaker [a gene] for novel expression in the ommatidia [the eye segments].  It is not often that we get such a clear glimpse of the blind watchmaker at work.
Next headline on:  Dumb Ideas

The Role of God in Science and Life    10/18/2006  
Big science today may seem to be controlled by atheists, but that’s clearly not the case for many involved in science.  Here are two unrelated stories from unexpected quarters expressing support for belief in God:

  • No God, No Scientific Laws:  Noted philosopher of science Nancy Cartwright has a new paper coming out that argues that one cannot have the concept of scientific laws without God.  The full paper, that begins as follows, is available on her personal website.
    My thesis is summarized in my title, ‘No God, No Laws’: the concept of a law of Nature cannot be made sense of without God.  It is not as dramatic a thesis as it might look, however.  I do not mean to argue that the enterprise of modern science cannot be made sense of without God.  Rather, if you want to make sense of it you had better not think of science as discovering laws of Nature, for there cannot be any of these without God.
    Cartwright, a philosophy professor at LSE and UCSD, won the McArthur prize in 1993.  She has previously argued that science gives us a dappled picture of the world, not a progressive, exact, certain image of reality.
        Speaking of God and philosophy, another philosopher of science, Del Ratzsch, was interviewed by Galilean Library.  He talked about God-of-the-gaps, front-loading, intelligent design, scientific motivations and other issues related to science and theology.  He said he has been influenced by a third philosopher of science, Alvin Plantinga – another who has made a case for God in scientific endeavor.

  • No God, No Career:  Shuttle astronaut Jack Lousma said his faith led him to his career in space and gave the program success, reported Petoskey News.  Speaking at a church in Michigan, the 70-year-old veteran of 17 years as an astronaut spoke of his faith that began at age 9.
    It was that belief in God that led him to his career with NASA and helped him through his 17 years as an astronaut.
        “I believe my relationship with Jesus Christ and my decision to do so was the best decision I ever made,” Lousma said during the “Dinner with an Astronaut” evening hosted by the Liberty Baptist Church of Alanson.  “At every juncture ... we noted that whenever there was a change it was God directed.  God helped us prosper.”
Cartwright did not argue that one cannot do science without God, and we do not mean to imply she is a believer (which she is not), but rather that it is nonsensical to speak of laws of nature without reference to God.  The word “law” implies an edict that is prescriptive in nature, rather than descriptive.  Maybe scientists and textbook writers not wishing to acknowledge God will have to change their terminology.  It is clear that many scientists in history did not have that decision to make (see online book).  Speaking warmly to his audience after a long and successful career, Jack Lousma held the Bible he had carried with him into space.
Lousma’s testimony recalls Solomon’s wisdom in Proverbs 3:5-6 – “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.”  Maybe that’s why the Darwinists are in such a hopeless muddle of dogmatism on the one hand, and despair on the other: they do not acknowledge God.
    Great Christians scientists have been known to stop and pray for wisdom and guidance in the lab during their work.  They were not asking for miracles, but for Divine guidance and providence, knowing their own limitations, and acknowledging the wisdom of the Maker of Nature.  That’s perfectly natural.
    Are you reading this and missing out on the vast, spiritual dimension of reality?  Are you adrift with a world view lacking purpose and direction?  Faith in God is not antithetical to science: look at Newton, Faraday, Pasteur, von Braun and so many other scientific heroes outlined in our online book.  They believed, like astronaut Lousma, that God directed them into science and gave them success; Newton said, “All my discoveries have been made in answer to prayer.”  Read the wise words of Boyle, Joule and von Braun about science and God.
    If you are not ready for this, do a controlled experiment.  Live like a consistent Darwinist.  Don’t use the phrase scientific law.  Purge your mind of all thoughts of purpose, beauty, direction, goals and morality (if you can do this for more than a few seconds without pain), and imagine a world where everyone felt the same.  Ask yourself: can I live with this belief?
    That’s one half the experiment.  Now try out Proverbs 3:5-6 on yourself.  It must be sincere, though; no scientific fraud gets past the Ultimate Reviewer.
Next headline on:  Bible and Theology
Wanted Dead or Alive: New Mammals    10/18/2006  
Do we know all our fellow mammals?  Further research has uncovered new furry creatures, fur sure.  Furthermore, some are dead and some are alive and well:
  • Weird Tooth:  An “ancient mammal that defies classification” has been given a name, at least.  EurekAlert reported that Horolodectes sunae, found 30 years ago in Alberta, remains a mystery: “the creature mystified the researchers, who could not positively identify it, and exactly where it fits into the evolutionary ladder is still unknownHorolodectes remains an enigma to this day.
  • Dwarf Hoof:  A previously unknown dwarf water buffalo was found by chance in the Philippines, reported EurekAlert.  The Field Museum points to this as a classic case of “island dwarfing,” in which natural selection produces smaller species due to limitations on resources in isolated environments.  See also the New York Times and Science Daily reports.
  • Super Camel:  A fossilized camel, twice as big as today’s models and as big as a giraffe or elephant, was found in Syria, according to the BBC News.  They think this previously-unknown species may have been living 100,000 years ago – maybe even a million.  “It was not known that the dromedary was present in the Middle East more than 10,000 years ago,” said one paleontologist.  This biggie had competition: “It may even have been killed by humans, who were living at the once water-rich site during the same period.”
  • Mighty Mouse:  For a story about a mammal still wearing its fur, BBC News reported a “living fossil” rodent on Cyprus.  Mus cypriacus was thought to have gone extinct an estimated 9-10,000 years ago when humans arrived on the Mediterranean island.  It was thought that every species of mammal in Europe had been identified.  Apparently giant camels couldn’t stand up to human hunters, but humans never did build the ultimate mousetrap.
“Living fossil” is the opposite of “Fossilized liver.”  Are you pretending to be alive, when your soul is dead?  Better to be a living fossil than a fossilized liver.  Live to the fullest while you can, before you become a dead fossil.  Solomon said, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10).  You might want to check out this entry next.
Next headline on:  MammalsFossils
New Titan Ethane Theory Proposed    10/18/2006  
They wonder where the ethane went (see 09/14/2006 and its links).  The case of the missing ethane on Titan has only gotten more puzzling since the Huygens Probe landed last year and found almost none, when oceans a mile deep were anticipated.  In Nature last week,1 D. M. Hunten (U of Arizona) posited a new idea.  It went into smust.  Smust, like smores but not as tasty, is a contraction of the words smog and dust.  Instead of falling as rain, the ethane molecules globbed onto smog particles and slowly descended to the surface, where they piled up instead of liquefying.  That’s where the sand for the dunes (05/04/2006) came from, he thinks.
Titan, has a dense atmosphere of nitrogen with a few per cent of methane.  At visible wavelengths its surface is hidden by dense orange-brown smog, which is produced in the stratosphere by photochemical reactions following the dissociation of methane by solar ultraviolet light.  The most abundant of the products of these reactions is ethane, and enough of it should have been generated over the life of the Solar System to form a satellite-wide ocean one kilometre deep.... Here I explain the mysterious absence or rarity of liquid ethane: it condenses onto the smog particles, instead of into liquid drops, at the cold temperatures in Titan’s atmosphere.  This dusty combination of smog and ethane, forming deposits several kilometres thick on the surface, including the observed dunes and dark areas, could be named ‘smust’.  This satellite-wide deposit replaces the ocean long thought to be an important feature of Titan.
In a note added in proof, Hunten speculated about the ethane cloud at Titan detected by Cassini last month (see 09/14/2006).  The ethane molecules in the cloud amount to only a tiny fraction of the total, he said.  His thoughts did not rely on any tangible evidence; only that “their presence may be compatible with the smust particles discussed here.”
It is entirely reasonable that these few molecules would not reside on the smust particles.  A possible difficulty is that this small amount of ethane vapour would be unable to condense.  On the other hand, if more ethane were available one would expect the cloud particles to grow larger; probably the attachment of most of the ethane to the smust particles is necessary to prevent this.
Another view on the methane that could be the parent of ethane comes from New Scientist.  David Shiga interviewed Cassini scientists in Pasadena who believe there is evidence for volcanic calderas on the large moon.  Some of the radar images have features that resemble liquid-filled calderas with rounded edges, but others feel meteor impacts could be responsible.  Volcanism could belch out methane from the interior, perhaps, but this does not explain where the ethane went.
    The reporter seemed more interested in the idea that volcanism means heat, and heat means liquid.  To an evolutionist, that means life can’t be far away: “What with the methane lakes, perhaps some type of exotic exobiology might not be completely out of the question,” said one.  Shiga took this one suggestion by one scientist as inspiration for the title of his article: “Slushy volcanoes might support life on Titan.... The heat and chemicals associated with these possible volcanoes could provide a niche for life on the frigid moon.”  The bulk of the article was about volcanoes, not life.
1D. M. Hunten, “The sequestration of ethane on Titan in smog particles,” Nature 443, 669-670(12 October 2006) | doi:10.1038/nature05157.
It’s fair to propose an explanation for something, but a little unfair to propose one when it cannot be tested for a long time.  It may be well into the 2030s before another probe returns to Titan, and even then, it may be a blimp-like device incapable of digging several kilometers into the surface to measure the deposits.  What if Hunten’s mechanism works somewhat, and a lander detects these smust particles on the surface, but cannot determine if the layer is only inches deep?  One could not know that there is enough of it to explain the missing billions of years without extremely difficult and costly efforts.  Additionally, it is very difficult to simulate Titan conditions on Earth.  The only lab evidence Hunten mentioned did not support his theory:
It would be desirable to verify in the laboratory the attachment of ethane molecules to smog particles, here deduced from their behaviour on Jupiter.  Such particles, with their fluffy structure, have, however, not been produced in experiments, which instead generate a dense deposit on the walls of the vessel.  It will be a challenge to reproduce this structure along with a realistic composition, and then to expose the particles to ethane molecules.
In other words, this is just an airy, fluffy suggestion on his part.  Even if the particles formed and fell as he suggested, what would keep them from liquefying on the surface after they compacted?  The fact is, Titan was not the oceanic planet that the best scientists predicted.  Speculating after the fact what happened to the missing ethane is not science till verified.  While no one would deny Dr. Hunten his right to speculate based on his own assumptions about the age of Titan, his little story should not be put forth as “the answer” to this huge problem.  Speculation is no substitute for openmindedness that one’s assumptions could be vastly in error.
    As for the relentless suggestions that liquid water or ethane mean the possibility of life, this is so silly it is tiring.  Here’s a better form of entertainment that’s realistic.  For a wild ride down to the surface of Titan aboard Huygens, based on actual photos and measurements, download the animations from the Huygens CD-Rom available from the European Space Agency.  For the download page, click here.
Next headline on:  GeologyPhysicsSolar SystemOrigin of Life
Oxygen YoYos and Wings    10/18/2006  
Molecular oxygen: you can’t live with it, and you can’t live without it.  We breathe it in constantly or else we would turn blue and die within minutes.  Yet we take antioxidants because of the harm that oxygen radicals can wreak in our cells.  Like fire, it is a useful substance, but only when tightly controlled.  In addition, in its O3 form of ozone, it is part of our planetary protection system from harmful ultraviolet rays.  Evolutionists presume there was no oxygen on the early earth.  Indeed, the presence of oxygen would have brought chemical evolution to a halt.  How and when did oxygen enter the geosphere and biosphere safely, and what effects do variations in oxygen have on life?  That was the subject of some recent science news articles.
    EurekAlert reported on a Carnegie Institution study that upsets a previous evolutionary belief about the early earth.  Oxygen did not suddenly appear when organisms “invented” photosynthesis and started giving off oxygen as a “waste product,” but probably increased gradually 300 million years earlier than expected.  Since Archaen organisms could not have survived with oxygen around, the article is entitled, “Learning to live with oxygen on early Earth.”
    James Kasting also reported on this subject in Nature last week.1 
The ancient rise of atmospheric oxygen is of great interest because of its close relationship with evolution, but the geological evidence for this is indirect and subject to interpretation.  The consensus for more than 30 years has been that atmospheric oxygen first reached appreciable levels around 2 billion to 2.4 billion years ago, an occasion known as the great oxidation event (GOE).  But doubters of this event have remained.
After presenting the evidence for an earlier oxygen increase given by Goldblatt et al in the same issue,2 Kasting considered pros and cons of the interpretation of the carbon isotope evidence.  He listed other interpretations, including the “yo-yo atmosphere theory” that oxygen levels fluctuated over time.
But this would still leave some unexplained observations.  For example, the Witwatersrand gold deposits in South Africa contain detrital minerals that were washed down streams between 2.8 billion and 3.0 billion years ago.  In the presence of oxygen, these minerals should have become oxidized and dissolved.  So, either the oxygen levels were never high enough for that, or they repeatedly went up and came back down very quickly.  Or perhaps oxygen concentrations did not increase at all, and the low-MIF anomaly seen in post-GOE rocks was produced by some entirely anoxic mechanism, such as the shielding of solar ultraviolet rays by an organic haze.
Clearly the air is hazy on this issue.  “The jury is still out,” he ends, “but all these contradictory observations are stimulating a lot of creative thinking.  Let us hope that this will lead to a more unified understanding of a fascinating era in Earth’s history.  The ancient atmosphere may have had a more complex evolution than we imagined.”
    Jumping ahead millions of years in the evolutionary scheme, when oxygen was here to stay, the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere could have varied considerably.  What does this do to organisms?  EurekAlert reported another study from the American Physiological Society, that “Giant insects might reign if only there was more oxygen in the air.”  In fact, insects were giants in past eras.  Paleozoic strata show some dragonflies had wing spans of 2.5 feet.  Paleontologists figure that the oxygen had 35% oxygen then, compared to 21% now.  In fact, the size of today’s insects is limited by our relatively low oxygen budget, the researchers estimated.  A bigger bug needs more oxygen, but the size of the tracheae (tubes that let in the air) are limited by the leg joints.  Giantism could arise, because “when the oxygen concentration in the atmosphere is high, the insect needs smaller quantities of air to meet its oxygen demands.”
1James Kasting, “Earth sciences: Ups and downs of ancient oxygen,” Nature 443, 643-645(12 October 2006) | doi:10.1038/443643a; Published online 11 October 2006.
2Goldblatt, Lenton, and Watson, “Bistability of atmospheric oxygen and the Great Oxidation,” Nature 443, 683-686(12 October 2006) | doi:10.1038/nature05169.
What needs a Great Oxidation Event is the air in the Darwin Party Castle.  It is so stuffy in there it’s stifling.  Maybe science would take on giant new wings in a less suffocating environment.
    It is an observational fact, though, that giant insects did once inhabit the earth.  It’s interesting to study what environmental conditions allowed for giantism, not only in insects, but in other organisms, including mammals, and what the hazards might have been: e.g., more wildfire?  Or was the oxygen increase also moderated by higher humidity?  Some of these factors can be tested by observational lab science.  The interpretation of past events, though, and when they occurred, as shown in the first article, is a yo-yo pastime.  “The ancient atmosphere may have had a more complex evolution than we imagined,” Kasting said, using evolution in the equivocal sense of “change over time.”  But when your clock is broken, and your data are contradictory, and your assumptions are circular, maintaining dogmatic allegiance to Darwinism could be called ear-aversable complicity.
Next headline on:  GeologyTerrestrial ZoologyFossils
Self-cleaning Surfaces Take the Lotus Position    10/17/2006  
Photovoltaic cells and microelectromechanical systems have a problem: they collect dirt.  What to do?  Look to the lotus, says a EurekAlert article about research at Georgia Institute of Technology.  Dr. C. P. Wong and team took inspiration from the self-cleaning surfaces of lotus leaves.  “Despite growing in muddy conditions, the leaves and flowers remain clean because their surfaces are composed of micron- and nano-scale structures that –along with a waxy coating –prevent dirt and water from adhering,” the article says.  “Despite their unusual surface properties, the rough surfaces allow photosynthesis to continue in the leaves.”
    Rain just beads up when it hits these amazing leaves, and any dirt gets carried off with the water as it rolls off.  How does it do this?  “The plant’s ability to repel water and dirt results from an unusual combination of a superhydrophobic (water-repelling) surface and a combination of micron-scale hills and valleys and nanometer-scale waxy bumps that create rough surfaces that don’t give water or dirt a chance to adhere.”
    It took awhile to find a material that could mimic these properties and also survive UV radiation in sunlight.  They found a working prototype in “a combination of silicone, fluorocarbons, and inorganics such as titanium dioxide and silicon dioxide.”  While lacking the self-regenerating properties of the lotus leaf, this surface mimics the structural properties that prevent water droplets from adhering.  This could be a real boon for those large insulators on power poles that are difficult to clean, but can short out with dust accumulation.  Another application could save your life some day.  Lotus-imitative materials could be used by doctors to avoid clots from forming on prosthetic devices, such as stents.  Even when rushing to the hospital in the rain, you may not need windshield wipers if you have lotus-like glass installed (see 01/18/2005 and 10/27/2004 entries).
    Dr. Wong commented, “The lotus plant is yet another example of how researchers can learn surprising lessons from what Nature has provided.”
Articles like this typically fail to mention anything about evolution.  This was no exception.  One could argue that research like this is owned and operated, from conception to application, by intelligent design, inc.
Next headline on:  PlantsBiomimeticsAmazing Facts
Precambrian Cell Division Imaged    10/17/2006  
Embryos frozen in stone in the act of cell division were reported in Science.1  According to a press release from Virginia Tech, there are millions of fossilized embryos in the Doushantuo formation in south China, estimated to be 551 million years old, but “later stages of these animals are rare.”  The EurekAlert version of this press release contains images of the embryos.  A press release from Indiana University says some of the embryos have 1000 cells or more.
    With X-ray computed tomography, the researchers were able to get past taphonomic artifacts and image the actual cells.  The embryos show asynchronous cell division, which means that the embryos were differentiating into more complex organisms than bacteria in strata said to be 10 million years prior to the Cambrian explosion.  The original paper in Science puts the find into an evolutionary context: “Asynchronous cell division is common in modern embryos, implying that sophisticated mechanisms for differential cell division timing and embryonic cell lineage differentiation evolved before 551 million years ago.”  None of the larger embryos in the 162-sample set showed differentiation into epithelial tissues, however, an observation they call “striking.”  “Many of these features are compatible with metazoans, but the absence of epithelialization is consistent only with a stem-metazoan affinity for Doushantuo embryos.... Epithelialization, by whatever mechanism of gastrulation, should be underway in modern embryos with >100 cells.”  Thus, they imply these represent pre-animal experiments in cell division.  “The absence of this 3D hallmark of sponge- and higher-grade metazoans may indicate that they did not yet exist... the combined observations suggest that the Doushantuo embryos are probably stem-group metazoans”; i.e., organisms on the way to evolving into full-fledged multicellular animals.
    It’s hard to be sure, though, because specimens in later stages of development are lacking.  Even so, these embryos have characteristics of the embryos of advanced Cambrian animals:
Despite hypotheses that Doushantuo embryos are unusual in comparison to most known metazoans, the patterns of cleavage and cell topology are compatible with a range of animal groups.  For instance, in embryos composed of eight or more cells, the offset arrangement of successive tiers of cells, strong cell cohesion, and a stereoblastic cell topology are comparable to early cleavage embryos of many arthropod groups.  Stereoblastulae are also particularly common among sponges and scyphozoan cnidarians.  Doushantuo embryos composed of many hundreds of cells resemble the purported gastrulae of demosponges, before the development of parenchymella larvae, although at this stage demosponges exhibit evidence of gastrulation, with a differentiated superficial layer of micromeres surrounding a core of macromeres.
If juvenile and adult forms of these organisms appeared in the strata, would they resemble the Cambrian animals?  Or do these embryos represent experiments in cell division that would later explode into the diversity of Cambrian forms?  Take your pick: the Indiana U press release says, “Either these embryos are primitive and don’t have a clear blastocoel, or a blastocoel existed but didn’t survive the preservation process.”  See also a story posted on the UK Telegraph.
1Hagadorn et al, “Cellular and Subcellular Structure of Neoproterozoic Animal Embryos,” Science, 13 October 2006: Vol. 314. no. 5797, pp. 291-294, DOI: 10.1126/science.1133129.
If all the Darwinian assumptions (biological, paleontological and geological) were purged out of this story, you would only have some advanced-looking embryos in a certain layer of Chinese rocks.  They are incapable of interpreting themselves.  The simplest explanation is that complexity exists from the very beginning of the fossil record, whenever that was.
Next headline on:  Cell BiologyFossils
Does Darwin Play Dice?    10/16/2006  
Some recent scientific papers have spoken to the question of how big a role chance plays in Darwinism.  This issue was one of the key points of contention by early critics of Darwin’s theory.  Modern Darwinists argue whether evolution proceeds strictly by chance, or whether the environment constrains evolution to follow certain paths that lead to adaptation.  Those who argue that there is more involved than chance often point to convergence in nature; organisms with different ancestries seem to have converged on nearly identical solutions to problems.  If there is no one guiding evolution, however, it would seem that chance must lie at the root of all change.  Let’s see what some experts say about these issues.
  1. Contingency:  In Current Biology,1 Doug Erwin (Smithsonian Institute) wrote a quick guide to “Evolutionary Contingency.”  Right off the bat, Erwin answered the first question, “What is contingency?” with the response, “Chance, in a word.” 
    For instance, all living sea urchins, sand dollars, heart urchins and other echinoids are descended from one (possibly two) species that survived the great End-Permian mass extinction 252 million years ago.... One can argue that the group with two plates was somehow better adapted, or that they simply survived by chance.  In truth, either possibility is equally likely.  Because we only have a single case, we have no way to choose between the two.
    The answer to the next question had an equally short first sentence.  “How do we know?”  His response: “We don’t!”  He claims that convergence is very common, but it’s hard to test for contingency.  He mentions Stephen Jay Gould as the best-known champion of a contingent view of the history of life on earth.
        Erwin answered the final question, “Are contingency and convergence opposing views of how evolution operates?”
    One hopes not, as both have clearly been important in the history of life.  As is so often the case in evolutionary biology, this is an issue of relative frequency, not absolute possibility.  Chance can limit which groups are around to evolve, where they live, and even the range of future morphological possibilities.  Convergence often reflects limited engineering solutions to particular problems, but does not predict that particular groups are likely to survive over the long-term.  And convergence has little to do with many aspects of evolution where selection, genetic drift and chance are free to come up with the remarkable diversity of butterfly wing patterns, arthropod legs or the colors on seashells.
  2. Convergence:  In a companion piece in the same issue of Current Biology,2 Simon Conway Morris discussed the flip side of evolutionary theory, convergence.  He didn’t explain how different organisms could evolve to similar forms.  He just asserted that they did.
    Consider your eye and that of an octopus.  Both are built based on the camera principle, yet you are closely related to a starfish while the octopus is a near cousin of the oyster.  The common ancestor of you and the octopus lived about 550 million years ago and at most possessed a simple eye-spot.  Regarding the eyes, vertebrates and molluscs have arrived at the same solution, and in doing so have solved equally successfully problems such as how to correct spherical aberration.  Camera-eyes are a brilliant evolutionary invention, and so it is less surprising that they convergently emerged in at least five other groups, including cubozoan jellyfish.
    [See 05/13/2005 on cubozoan jellyfish.]  Morris gives other putative examples of convergent evolution in nature.  He says that while instances are remarkable, convergence as an evolutionary principle is not obvious.  Oddly, he says that evolution should not produce convergence at the molecular level, but “is probably far more common than realized.”  For example, he says carbonic anhydrase evolved five times – but “that is modest when compared to C4 photosynthesis, which has arisen at least 30 times.”
        Simon Conway Morris is such a strong believer in environmental forcing of convergent adaptation, he thinks extraterrestrials will think like us.  But they certainly will not think like creationists.  In answering the last question, “Why does convergence matter?” he said,
    It shows adaptation is real, and not some Darwinian conspiracy.  It insists that organisms are functionally integrated and not a heap of character states.  Paradoxically, the very similarities seen in convergence are some of the best proofs of evolution.  Next time you are cornered by a pair of creationists order them a stiff gin and tonic and then ask him why the position of the retina is opposite in our eye to that of octopus (clue: embryology), and ask her why the bacterial flagellar motor has evolved at least twice.  Then when they are sobering up remind them that the way in which Drosophila reacts to ethanol is remarkably similar in terms of behaviour to the manner in which we get drunkPlease raise a glass to convergence.
    So rather than seeing common design, Morris sees in the remarkable convergence of parts in different lineages an even stronger proof of evolution.  And it matters because it can give you something to argue over with a drunk creationist.

  3. Evolvability:  The evolution of the ability to evolve (see 08/04/2004) is the topic of another article in Current Biology by Sniegowski and Murphy.3  This concept is recent and controversial, they begin:
    Increasing numbers of biologists are invoking ‘evolvability’ to explain the general significance of genomic and developmental phenomena affecting genetic variation.  What exactly is evolvability, and how important is it likely to be for our understanding of evolution?  Definitions of evolvability are almost as numerous as the papers and books that have been written on the subject.  All definitions agree that evolvability has to do with the capacity of populations to evolve – no surprise there.  In actual use, however, evolvability can be a rather slippery concept with a variety of meanings and implications.  The goals of this primer are to try to pin down some of the meanings of evolvability and to explain why evolvability is a controversial subject.
    Whatever it means, though, it does not mean purpose or goal.  That is made clear in a paragraph entitled, “The problem of teleology” –
    The idea that variability has been fine-tuned in order to maximize the evolutionary potential of populations is certainly controversial, although it is not new.  The obvious reason to be suspicious of this idea is that it suggests a teleological view of evolution.  Natural selection cannot adapt a population for future contingencies any more than an effect can precede its cause, so any future utility of the capacity to generate variation can have no influence on the maintenance of that capacity in the present.  As Sydney Brenner supposedly remarked many years ago, it would make no sense for a population in an early geological period to retain a feature that was useless merely because it might “come in handy in the Cretaceous!”
    Clearly, then, evolvability must be an unguided (i.e., chance) process.  The authors explain their ideas on how this capacity might have come about in a contingent world.  Evolvability is a by-product of the random walk of evolution, they say.  Seeming to realize they have wandered into the bypass meadow of speculation, they repent and ask how the evolvability-as-byproduct hypothesis might be testable.  Surprise: it isn’t—
    In fact, it is rather easy to pile up examples of genomic and developmental features that may affect evolvability, and this is a bit troubling: How do we know when it is necessary – rather than just appealing – to invoke evolvability differences in order to explain evolutionary histories?  The problem here is that the evolvability-as-byproduct hypothesis is probably correct in a very broad sense that tells us little we did not already know: because newly arising variation modifies existing organismal blueprints, large differences between taxa imply differences in the kinds and amounts of new variation that can arise....
        Invoking variability as a retrospective explanation for why one clade has diversified or changed more than another does not rule out the possibility that the clades evolved differently for reasons unrelated to variability.  And finding related to distinctive variability mechanisms — for example, mutations of major phenotypic effect caused by transposable elements — provides only anecdotal evidence for the importance of such variability mechanisms in evolution.  As other commentators on evolvability have noted, there is a need for quantitative, testable predictions concerning evolvability rather than retrospective and anecdotal arguments.  Approaches such as computer simulation and long-term experimental evolution may yield some progress in this direction because they allow direct manipulation and assessment of the effects of variability differences on evolution, but even these kinds of approaches may not provide dependable insights into whether and how variability differences have actually affected the evolution of natural populations.
    In fact, their last sentence says that it’s only an interesting – but largely untested – hypothesis.”  This may be a disconcerting conclusion to readers looking for something a little more substantive in modern evolutionary thought.  But that’s not all: they said earlier that in spite of major advances in molecular biology in the last few decades, “our fundamental genetic understanding of natural selection developed before 1950 and has not changed in major ways since then.”  Is evolutionary explanatory power stuck in a rut?  Maybe so, but when working with hypotheses based on chance, don’t expect nice and neat answers.  This, however, is no excuse for storytelling:
    To some, this historical disjunction suggests that evolutionary theory cannot account for the origin and maintenance of mechanisms affecting variability and is overdue for major revision.  It is indeed attractive to suppose that the most important evolutionary feature of organisms – their very capacity to evolve and adapt – is itself an adaptation, but this is probably only true in highly restricted circumstances.  Instead, variability is probably most often a byproduct of the messy and intricate ways in which genomes have evolved.  And the possibility that incidental differences in variability between populations have caused differences in evolvability with profound consequences for evolutionary history remains an interesting — but largely untested — hypothesis.
  4. Creatures of Accident:  In Nature,4 Matthew Wills [U of Bath] reviewed a book by Wallace Arthur whose title clearly indicates that chance is king in Darwin’s theory: Creatures of Accident: The Rise of the Animal Kingdom (Hill & Wang, 2006).  Wills began with a rather dogmatic statement of evolution-as-fact:
    All life on Earth, no matter how complex, shares a common, very simple, ancestorYou and the bacteria in your gut have been evolving away from this starting point for precisely the same length of time.  So how is it that you are capable of perusing a magazine, whereas your gut bacteria look little different from the most ancient prokaryote fossils we know?  The answer, in a nutshell, is development.
    With answers that firm, students may not want to ask further questions, unless they want to think outside the nut shell.  Wills proceeded to speculate about the controversy of whether evolution is progressive, egalitarian, or deterministic.  He leans toward Simon Conway Morris:
    The human brain enables behaviours vastly more elaborate than those of even our closest relatives.  But is this an inevitable corollary of evolution?  Arthur –like Simon Conway Morris in his excellent book Life’s Solution (Cambridge University Press, 2003) – thinks it probably is.
    Presumably, the “development” spoken of in Wills’ nutshell answer is a random process.  The question whether complexity is inevitable from unguided developmental evolution led to an aside about theology.  Wills made a timid appeal for less excoriation of theism by Arthur, (as long as it is humanistic and liberal, like that of prominent evolutionary thinkers like “George Gaylord Simpson, Theodosius Dobzhansky, Stephen Jay Gould and even Charles Darwin from time to time”) but the appeasement was more than drowned out by his vitriol aimed at any and all Darwin doubters: “The subtext and closing chapters [of Arthur’s book] are an attack on fundamentalism of every stripe.  Pleasingly, there is little explicit tilting at the straw men of creationism and intelligent design: atheism and theism are equally irrational in Arthur’s view,” he said, lumping together a wide range of views into the narrowest pigeonhole for easy snuffing.

Despite these controversies and deep problems in evolutionary theory, the public gets a very sanitized view.  The Darwin Exhibit from the American Museum of Natural History, visited by half a million Americans during its New York debut, is now traveling throughout major cities, starting with Philadelphia and then Tokyo.  It fails to present the problems in evolutionary theory, and these controversies in particular (see Evolution News on how the exhibit also whitewashes its legacy of eugenics and Social Darwinism).
    Not all are taking Darwin’s explanations without question, however.  A Japanese writer for the World Peace Herald reported that an increasing number of scholars are questioning Darwinism’s ability to explain the complexity of life.  And Carol Iannone writing for Phi Beta Cons said that more students are questioning a theory based on randomness and contingency.  She recommended, “first tell students that Darwin hypothesized that it all comes from chance, and then give them some of the models showing the probability of certain life substances evolving by chance.”  (See online book.)
1Douglas H. Erwin, “Quick Guide: Evolutionary Contingency,” Current Biology, Volume 16, Issue 19, 10 October 2006, pages R825-R826, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2006.08.076.
2Simon Conway Morris, “Quick Guide: Evolutionary Convergence,” Current Biology, Volume 16, Issue 19, 10 October 2006, pages R826-R827, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2006.08.077.
3Paul D. Sniegowski and Helen A. Murphy, “Primer: Evolvability,” Current Biology, Volume 16, Issue 19, 10 October 2006, Pages R831-R834, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2006.08.080.
4Matthew A. Wills, “Evolution’s highest branches,” Nature 443, 633(12 October 2006) | doi:10.1038/443633a.
These Darwinists, who by their own admission are wandering aimlessly in speculation space, nevertheless get free rein in the science rags to trash creationists without consequence.  But what proof do they have for their beloved dogma?  Only 30 proof – the stiff gin and tonic that Morris offered.  No thanks, we don’t drink (10/07/2006 commentary).  When scientific standards return, and the lazy goofballs in the Darwin Party lounges are kicked out (12/22/2003 commentary), there will be a second scientific revolution.  Led by intelligent design instead of chance, it will make the first revolution seem elementary.
Next headline on:  Darwinism
Gold Can Form in a Geological Instant   10/15/2006    
You can’t say something is old just because it looks old, like gold.  Gold may be a symbol of timelessness and purity – and as an element, it makes an apt symbol – but precious metal deposits have a history in the crust of the Earth.  A surprise announcement in Science1 Oct. 13 by New Zealand geologists showed that large gold deposits can form from volcanoes in just thousands of years – not millions.  Christoph Heinrich [U of Zurich] commented on this paper in the same issue of Science2 and asked, “How fast does gold trickle out of volcanoes?”  The answer depends dramatically on the conditions.
    Although the authors of the paper came up with an estimate of 55,000 years for a large gold deposit in Papua New Guinea, a closer reading of the two papers shows that there are many variables and uncertainties.  There is no reason to rule out the idea that under proper conditions, large gold deposits could form very rapidly – in centuries or less.  Consider these qualifiers and admissions in the two papers.  First, the original paper by Simmons and Brown:
  • The Ladolam hydrothermal system, on Lihir Island, Papua New Guinea, hosts one of the youngest and largest gold deposits in the world.  Several deep (more than 1 kilometer) geothermal wells were drilled beneath the ore bodies to extract water at >275°C and to facilitate open-pit mining.  Using a titanium down-hole sampler, we determined that the deep geothermal brine of magmatic origin contains 15 parts per billion gold.  At the current gold flux of 24 kilograms per year, this deposit could have formed within 55,000 years.  The combination of sustained metal flux and efficient metal precipitation led to the formation of a giant hydrothermal gold deposit in a short period.
  • The origins of giant hydrothermal gold deposits are enigmatic.  This is because the concentrations of precious metals and flow rates of ore-forming fluids are poorly quantified, and the origins of the metals are unclear.
  • The deep geothermal brine contains high gold concentrations [13 to 16 parts per billion (ppb) Au], and these values greatly exceed those measured (0.05 to 0.2 ppb Au) in high-temperature submarine hydrothermal fluids.  Except for Sb and Pb, the proportions of Au, Ag, Cu, Mo, Zn, and As in the deep geothermal brine match those in the ore (Fig. 3), suggesting that these elements were not fractionated during deposition.
  • The Ladolam heat flow (50 to 70 MW) is modest compared with that of well-known geothermal systems such as Wairakei (420 MW) and Waiotapu (540 MW) in New Zealand.  The overall Ladolam gold flux is 24 kg/year, and only 55,000 years would be required to account for all the known gold in the Ladolam ores if we assume constant aqueous gold concentration and fluid flow (50 kg/s), and 100% deposition.
  • Although the Ladolam gold concentrations are lower than a theoretical upper limit of 10,000 ppb, as determined by inclusion fluid analyses and calculations of magmatic hydrothermal solutions, the deep Ladolam brine is capable of forming a giant gold deposit within tens of thousands of years.
  • That gold transport and deposition operated effectively and in concert on a time scale of several tens to possibly several hundreds of thousands of years emphasizes the importance of synchronizing these processes to generate a giant deposit.
But while the 55,000-years figure makes a nice sound bite, Christoph Heinrich speculates that the actual process could have occurred drastically faster and taken orders of magnitude less time.  Notice carefully bullet 5:
  • Direct analyses of the gold concentration in these recent fluids demonstrate an intimate link of ore formation to magmatic processes and indicate that metal enrichment occurred in a geologically short period of time.  The authors imply that gold mineralization may even go on today, while ore is mined from steaming hot ground in a giant open cut...
  • How much fluid is required to form a major ore deposit, and how long does the process take--centuries or millions of years?
  • Simmons and Brown calculate that it took 55,000 years to accumulate the 1600 metric tons of gold now contained in the Ladolam deposit.
        These results open up new questions and will stimulate the ongoing debate about the connection between magmatism, geothermal activity, and ore formation.
  • In light of the geological history of Lihir, these observations are consistent with a story for the formation of the giant Ladolam deposit that is even more spectacular than the one envisaged by Simmons and Brown.  Most of its gold ore is contained in minerals cementing a highly fragmented rock, which was produced by a dramatic event about half-a-million years ago, when the peak of a former volcano built high above the present area of the deposit collapsed and formed the present semicircle of mountains around the deposit (see the first figure).  This sector collapse would have led to sudden decompression of magmatic-hydrothermal fluids beneath the volcano, which originally could have been orders of magnitudes more gold- and sulfur-rich.
  • Could a rush of rapidly expanding fluids have formed the deposit in an even shorter period of time than calculated by Simmons and Brown, just after this dramatic event and maybe even on the time scale of a human life?  And could the extraordinary geothermal waters sampled today be a mere trickle representing the “spent” ore fluid...?
  • Precise radiometric dating of mineral deposition may help to answer these questions, but the interpretation of such data could be challenging.  The rocks have been kept at high temperature to the present day, potentially allowing all isotopic clocks to reset themselves continually.
See also the summary of this paper reported on LiveScience: “A giant gold deposit could form in an eyeblink of geologic time, scientists announced today.”
1Simmons and Brown, “Gold in Magmatic Hydrothermal Solutions and the Rapid Formation of a Giant Ore Deposit,” Science, 13 October 2006: Vol. 314. no. 5797, pp. 288-291, DOI: 10.1126/science.1132866.
2Christoph A. Heinrich, “GEOCHEMISTRY: How Fast Does Gold Trickle Out of Volcanoes?”, Science, 13 October 2006: Vol. 314. no. 5797, pp. 263-264, DOI: 10.1126/science.1134456.
Centuries—or within the span of one human lifetime—not millions of years could have been all the time needed to form massive gold deposits.  This is rapid geology with a vengeance.  All that’s necessary are the right conditions, and it’s gold, gold, GOLD!  Imagine James Marshall watching an event like that near Sutter’s Mill.
    Remember, Simmons and Brown measured 15 ppb of gold in the brine, but there is a theoretical upper limit of 10,000 ppb, and Heinrich thinks that what we are seeing today could be the tail-end trickle of a “spectacular” event.  He claims this volcanic dome collapse was half a million years ago, but what does he know?  Just a little while ago, these guys thought gold deposits required millions of years.  No human observer was there, but one thing is clear from this report: big things can happen much faster than uniformitarian scientists thought possible.
    Don’t miss that last bullet by Heinrich.  Some conditions can also cause “all isotopic clocks to reset themselves continually.”  Remember that when you hear scientists proclaim confident-sounding dates in the millions and billions of years.  They don’t know, and the rocks aren’t telling.
    Conditions before, during and after a worldwide flood would have been extremely non-uniform.  With the fountains of the great deep bursting from many parts of the world, and volcanic activity occurring on unprecedented scales, it’s possible to envision huge upwellings of hot metal-saturated brine rising up at rates never seen before or since.  If that’s how some of these deposits formed, then perhaps God brought some extra blessing out of the devastation of the flood.  For the weary descendents of Noah trying to eke out an existence on a cursed planet, he provided a novel form of recreation: the treasure hunt.
Next headline on:  GeologyDating Methods
Active SETI: If the Mountain Will Not Come to MyHomeET   10/14/2006    
SETI researchers must be getting bored sitting around waiting for a message.  To bide the time, some have come up with a game called “Active SETI” – sending our messages to the aliens.  It’s not that this game hasn’t been played before.  The Pioneer and Voyager spacecraft each carried messages from earthlings, and the Arecibo radio telescope beamed a signal in 1974 to a star cluster.  Besides, our TV programs, since long before Lost in Space, have leaked into interstellar space at the speed of light, at least until cable TV came along.
    Nature discussed Active SETI seriously this week.1  The opening paragraph underscored the split between SETI researchers and normal people: “One of the strengths of the community involved in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence – known as SETI – is its imaginative capacity to take seriously things that most people dismiss out of hand.”  But their sympathies were not with the normal folk, but with the SETI researchers – even if some admonishment was in order.  Though not opposed to sending messages, the editors regarded the risks as serious enough to warrant a meeting of the minds: “It is not obvious that all extraterrestrial civilizations will be benign, or that contact with even a benign one would not have serious repercussions.”  (Think Darth Vader.)
    Next day, Science Magazine included a short news bit about Active SETI in its Random Samples weekly feature.2  If the Editors of Nature are worried about the risks, it’s too late.  A French broadcasting company has already spilled the radio beams.  On Sept. 30, the French Center for National Space Studies beamed up a TV program intended for our ET friends (assuming that they are friends, who only want to serve man).  ARTE, a French-German TV station, produced the show Cosmic Connexion and encouraged viewers to send their own messages along for the ride.  If it’s any consolation to the editors of Nature, the targeted sun-like star could not receive the show till 2051, and then there is the return trip to factor in if any terrorists at the star Errai will be tuning in.
    If some 1970-era taxpayers were offended at Carl Sagan’s Pioneer plaque, which depicted, in etched outlines on a gold-anodized aluminum plate, a naked man and women gesturing peace, well, we’ve come a long way, maybe.  In order to appeal to modern alien tastes (as well as those of neo-Euro onlookers of the Year 2006), the show produced by Cargo Films brought the ambassadors to life as show hosts – dressed only in white paint.  Presumably the communication needed to include body language.  “The Pioneer couple already went into the cosmos,” a co-director rationalized, “so they seemed like the best to send again.”  If no one lives at Errai, though, our ambassadors will have been all dressed up with nowhere to go.

1Editorial, “Ambassador for Earth: Is it time for SETI to reach out to the stars?”, Nature 443, 606(12 October 2006) | doi:10.1038/443606a.
2Random Samples, “Galactic Broadcasting,” Science, Volume 314, Number 5797, Issue of 13 October 2006.
The secularists never hesitate to ridicule, mercilessly, any Christian or creationist who shows the slightest hint of beliefs they consider foolish.  No comment.
Except, begging your pardon, that there was once a certain Emperor in similar attire (01/31/2003).
Next headline on:  SETIDumb Ideas
Stem Cells: Hurry Up and Wait   10/13/2006    
When will embryonic stem cells produce cures for Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, paralysis and other maladies these wonder-cells were promised to bring?  Be prepared to wait.  If predictions of leading proponents are accurate, and if California is to be a world leader in stem cell research and clinical trials, even Christopher Reeve would have died long before any lab could have provided hope.  Constance Holden wrote in Science this week:1
Last week, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) unveiled a draft of its “strategic plan” for the next 10 years.  The 149-page blueprint offers timelines for initiatives from basic research to public outreach and warns that no therapies using human embryonic stem (ES) cells are likely for at least a decade.
In Current Biology,2 Michael Gross reported on the hope vs hype in stem cell technologies.  Companies are promising therapies to families of desperate patients without proper disclosure, without adequate testing, and without proper precautions against contamination.  Legal loopholes in international trade tempt companies to engage in the lucrative business.  Ethical infractions have occurred both in the ES stem cell trade and in those from umbilical cord blood.
    Gross blurred the distinction between embryonic (ES) cells and those from cord blood and adult tissues.  For all the faults of some adult stem cell vendors, adult stem cells do not cross ethical barriers many consider crucial to the argument.  Gross agreed that verifiable cures are years away, though he ended with a story of a company named Geron in Menlo Park ready to undergo clinical trials next year for a spinal cord treatment.  He did not mention if the treatment uses adult or embryonic stem cells.  The Geron website shows them involved in embryonic stem cell research.
    Michael Foust criticized the broken promises of stem cell advocates in his article for Baptist Press.  He quoted C. Ben Mitchell, Director of the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity in suburban Chicago.  “The embryonic stem cell hype has been running far ahead of the research from the beginning,” Dr. Mitchell said.  “The cheerleaders for embryonic stem cell research have created the unrest among Californians themselves.  They have created expectations that may never be met.”
    Californians will have to fork over the money anyway.  Constance Holden noted that there is “hot competition for the first round of 45 grants: UCSF alone may submit as many as 41 applications.”  Labs should be eager to spend money for which there is no performance clause.  Foust wrote, “The fact that the institute is not promising cures within 10 years doesn’t sit well with many Californians who had hoped to see cures in the short-term.”  That’s just for the Californians who are paying attention enough to know about the CIRM plan – or who even remember what they voted for two years ago.
1Constance Holden, “California Stem-Cell Institute Unveils 10-Year Plan,” Science, 13 October 2006: Vol. 314. no. 5797, p. 237, DOI: 10.1126/science.314.5797.237b.
2Michael Gross, “Stem cell selling,” Current Biology, Volume 16, Issue 19, 10 October 2006, pages R818-R819, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2006.09.008.
Californians, already burdened by bonded indebtedness to the gills of their grandchildren, nevertheless voted in Nov. 2004 to fund $3 billion in bonds for stem cell research.  They were probably thinking on shorter time scales.  The ads in favor of Proposition 71 promised miracle cures and played on the heartstrings of voters, using stories of the afflicted as if stem cells were just within the reach of a chain of dollar bills.  What did you expect?  Scientists whose evolutionary ethics that see no problem with killing a human embryo shouldn’t have any qualms about lying to voters, too.  Whatever works: that’s natural election.
Next headline on:  Politics and EthicsHealth
Science Potpourri    10/13/2006  
Interesting articles from recent issues of Science have piled up in the queue.  These might have made separate entries in CEH if time and space were unlimited.
  • Deep Impact:  The team of the Deep Impact mission to a comet published spectral results in the July 13 issue.  “Emission signatures due to amorphous and crystalline silicates, amorphous carbon, carbonates, phyllosilicates, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, water gas and ice, and sulfides were found” in the plume of dust flung out by the probe.
  • Keep on rovin’:  Steve Squyres and the Mars Exploration Rover team celebrated two years at Meridiani Planum by Opportunity in a paper on scientific results in the Sept 8 issue.  They argued that “ancient Meridiani once had abundant acidic groundwater, arid and oxidizing surface conditions, and occasional liquid flow on the surface.”  In the Sept 29 issue, Squyres and two colleagues discussed “Merging views on Mars,” about how data from orbiters and rovers is coming together to provide comprehensive models of Mars history.  They speculated, “Both the roughly neutral pH suggested by phyllosilicates and the lower pH suggested by sulfates could have produced habitable surface environments; the former may have been more suitable for the origin of life.”  Yet evidence for surface water appears local, not global.
  • Plume gloom:  A major paradigm shift has been occurring in geology over the theory of mantle plumes and hotspots, and Science has had several stories on the controversy: On Sept 1, a Perspectives article discussed discrepancies with plume theory in its classic case, the Hawaiian seamount bend.  Also in the Sept 1 issue, another Perspectives piece asked if a chain of offshore Japanese volcanoes is “Another nail in the plume coffin?”  Three weeks later in the Sept 22 issue, Richard Kerr asked if plumes are phantom or real: “Seismologists probing the planet’s depths are generating tantalizing images, but whereas some researchers see signs of plumes feeding volcanic hot spots, others see noise.”
  • Radiocarbonization:  Those interested in the assumptions behind radiocarbon dating should check Michael Balter’s article in the Sept 15 issue, “Radiocarbon dating’s final frontier.”  He talks about the “heroic and contentious effort” to calibrate the method to 50,000 years, but unveils how coming up with a “calibration curve” is a controversial matter.  Here’s a sample about Paul Mellars (U of Cambridge) that may raise eyebrows on how the sausage is made:
    Mellars insists that archaeologists can’t wait for a final calibration curve.  “Are we all really expected to keep studies of modern human origins on hold for the next 5 years, until they decide they’ve finally got the calibration act together?” he asks.  The working group, he argues, “has hijacked the term ‘calibration’ to mean an absolutely agreed, rubber stamped, legalistic, signed, sealed, and delivered curve.”  And even when the experts agree on a curve, Mellars says, it will not be “final and absolute” but “simply the best estimate from the data at the time.”
  • Ocean motion:  Richard Kerr discussed a surprising discovery Sept 22 that plankton are a major factor in stirring the ocean.  This “preposterous” conclusion is supported by measurements of how krill descend into the depths during the day and ascent at night to feed.  The sheer numbers of these swimmers are a major factor in agitating ocean waters, and could be affecting global climate as well.  On Oct. 13, a press release about this was published from Florida State University.
  • Asteroid puzzles:  Robert Clayton gave a summary of asteroid science in the Sept 22 issue.  One puzzle is interpreting oxygen isotope differences in terms of accretion history.  “An additional unsolved problem in planet formation is the possibility of large oxygen isotope differences between the Sun and the inner planets.”  Greenwood et al. discussed this in more detail, also in the Sept 22 issue.  They had to postulate that “intense asteroidal deformation accompanied planetary accretion in the early Solar System” was responsible for the stony-iron meteorites.
        In the Oct 6 issue, Richard Kerr asked, “Has lazy mixing spoiled the primordial stew?”  Drawing on the studies of isotopic composition in meteorites, he warned that new findings “indicate that the notion of permanent layering in Earth’s depths may rest on shaky assumptions about the chemistry of the early solar system.”
  • Lab goof?  Elisabeth Pennisi explored whether a previous claim that plants can recover their grandparent’s genomes was due to contamination in the lab, in the Sept 29 issue.  One lab can’t reproduce the other’s and vice versa.  The jury is still out, she concludes.
  • Ribosome in focus:  Scientists continue to resolve more detail in the DNA-translating factory, the ribosome.  The Sept 7 issue had a paper on the structure of the 70S ribosome complexed with mRNA and tRNA, including details of the roles of metal ions and proteins in the intersubunit bridges.  The authors didn’t explain how these could have evolved, other than to say, twice, that they “had evolved” to do this or that function.
  • Brainy ideas:  The Oct. 6 issue featured computational neuroscience, with no less than a dozen articles and book reviews on the subject.  Evolutionary neurologists strive to reduce everything, even human altruism and the moral sense, to the connections of neurons and the actions of neurotransmitters in the synapses.  Peter Stern and John Travis gave an overview of the field in Of Bytes and Brains.
        When these articles mentioned evolution at all, most of them merely assumed it, such as this selection from Greg Miller’s An enterprising approach to brain science, which can be considered representative: “This memory-prediction framework has evolved to take advantage of the spatial and temporal structure in our surroundings, Hawkins says, which helps explain why brains easily do certain tasks that give computers fits.”  If you need more examples, here are the only three mentions of evolution in Ingrid Wickelgren’s piece, Vision’s grand theorist:
    1. [Eero] Simoncelli’s analyses have already solved several longstanding mysteries in visual science: for example, how the brain assembles a moving picture of the world and why humans drive too quickly in the fog.  He’s also helped explain how evolution may have sculpted the brain to respond ideally to the visual environment on Earth.
    2. Next, Simoncelli wanted to link his image analysis to the human visual system.  He hypothesized that evolution may have forced the brain to encode the visual world in the most efficient, mathematically optimal way.  Using that concept, Simoncelli and his colleagues reported in 2001 that the nonlinear responses of neurons, such as those in the primary visual cortex at the back of the brain, are well-matched to the statistical properties of the visual environment on Earth, that is, the mathematical patterns of lightness and darkness that recur in visual scenes.
    3. The result may help explain how evolution nudged certain visual neurons to be acutely sensitive to object edges and contours, for example.
    Readers will note some candidates for Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week that got overlooked.
  • Moral evolution:  In the Oct 6 issue, Michael Waldmann reviewed Moral Minds: How Nature Designed Our Universal Sense of Right and Wrong by Marc D. Hauser (Prentice-Hall, 2006) – an odd title mixing metaphors of naturalism and design.  As could be expected, morality is discussed in purely naturalistic terms of natural selection and neuroscience, ignoring centuries of theological and philosophical input on such a sensitive subject so close to the human heart.  This is true even though Waldmann praises Hauser at one point, “Although Hauser is not shy about his theoretical preferences, he presents alternative theories in a fair manner.”  The only alternatives mentioned by the author or reviewer, however, are those based on evolutionary assumptions.
It’s painful to leave these articles behind without more detailed analysis, but after all, this is a “Headlines” website.  Readers interested in these topics are encouraged to go to the original sources for further study. 
Keep the Baloney Detector handy, though.  As the quotes from “Brainy ideas” bullet indicate, evolutionists perennially assume that blind processes of chance can produce exquisitely engineered products.  Once the Darwin Party is forced to back up these claims instead of asserting them unchallenged, the gig will be up, and design science will be back in vogue.
    When Darwinism finally falls into the dustbin of history, a fresh new way of looking at the world will open up in art, science, literature, history and every other field of study.  Some of these ideas were investigated in a new book by Benjamin Wiker and Jonathan Witt, A Meaningful World: How the Arts & Sciences Reveal the Genius of Nature.  This book is getting rave reviews by leaders in the intelligent design community.  For instance, Michael Behe said, “A Meaningful World is simply the best book I’ve seen on the purposeful design of nature... the authors portray the depth, elegance, clarity and pure cleverness of a universe designed to nurture the intelligent life that one day would discover that design.  A Meaningful World recovers lost purpose not only for science, but for all scholarly disciplines.”  Chuck Colson in his BreakPoint commentary spoke highly of it and included links for further information.
Next headline on:  Solar SystemGeologyDating MethodsMarine LifeEvolutionCell BiologyHuman BodyTheology
Glory Be Behind Saturn    10/12/2006  
Don’t look at this picture till you’re ready.  Switch off the phone, turn off the radio, rub your eyes, and sit down.  Ready?  Click Here.
    This is a view of Saturn we could never see from Earth.  It’s the backside of the planet, with the sun shining through the rings.  According to a JPL press release, “This marvelous panoramic view was created by combining a total of 165 images taken by the Cassini wide-angle camera over nearly three hours on Sept. 15, 2006.”  Another version with enhanced brightness and color is available also: click here for Saturn in all its backlit glory.  This was Astronomy Picture of the Day for Oct. 16.
    Look carefully in the outermost broad E-ring on the left foreground, and you can see the tiny moon Enceladus (click here for close-up) with its geysers sputtering along, feeding the short-lived E-ring with new material (11/28/2005, 03/01/2006, 07/11/2006).  Now look at the picture again.  See that tiny white speck on the left side, outside the bright main rings, but just inside the fainter G-ring?  That’s the Earth – that’s us – from almost a billion miles away.  Click here for a close-up.  A member of a planetary discussion group has labeled the features in this image on Unmanned Spaceflight.
    The Division of Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society has been meeting all week in Pasadena, and scientific announcements are being made daily.  One of the most interesting concerns Saturn’s rings.  Scientists are baffled by color differences that cannot yet be explained.  A JPL press release states:
“We expected to see things we haven’t seen before, but we are really, really puzzled by these new images of Saturn’s main ring system,” said Dr.  Phil Nicholson, of Cornell, Cassini visual and infrared spectrometer team member.  “The rings appear very different, with none of their usual calling card of water-ice features.  There are hints that other material besides ice might finally be detected within the rings.”
    “The main rings show a neutral color, while the C ring is reddish, and the D and E rings are quite blue,” added Nicholson.  “We don’t quite understand if these variations are due to differences in particle size or composition, but it’s nice to be surprised every once in a while.
The colors he mentioned can be seen in a labeled version of the montage, and are even more apparent in this infrared image.  One reason for the puzzlement is that the images indicate the rings are dynamic, evolving, ephemeral phenomena.  This means that what we are seeing today could not last for billions of years.  New rings discovered in the backlit image seem associated with small embedded moons, indicating that the moonlets are producing the rings (see picture).  How does this occur?
Saturn’s smallest moons have weak gravity and cannot retain any loose material on their surfaces.  When these moons are struck by rapidly moving interplanetary meteoroids, this loose material is blasted off their surfaces and into Saturn orbit, creating diffuse rings along the moons’ orbital paths.  Collisions among several moonlets, or clumps of boulder-sized rubble, might also lead to debris trails.  For instance, Saturn’s G ring seems not to have any single moon large enough to see; it might have formed from a recent breakup of a moon.
Evidence for impactors also comes from the innermost D-ring of Saturn, another tenuous ring of fine material.  Another JPL press release tells the detective story of a modern-day collision.  A low-oblique Cassini image indicates a wavy, “corrugated” spiral with crests about 30 km apart (see illustration and line-of-sight diagram).  In a Hubble 1995 photo, the crests were about 60 km apart.  This indicates that the spiral has been winding up tighter over the last 11 years.  Extrapolating backward, the scientists think a comet or meteoroid may have struck the ring back in 1984, producing waves like ripples in a pond.  The waves wind up over time because of their orbits around Saturn – the inner parts moving faster than the outer parts.
    More on the new Saturn ring discoveries can be found at the Cassini imaging team and Planetary Society websites.  The DPS meeting announcements are also producing lively discussions on Unmanned Spaceflight.  All three montage images can be found on JPL’s Planetary Photojournal.  Another recent Cassini picture of Saturn shows cloud features like a string of pearls in Saturn’s upper latitudes.  The spacecraft also found new ringlets within the Cassini Division, a gap in the main rings that was once thought to be devoid of material.
Cassini’s findings confirm predictions made over several decades now that Saturn’s rings are being rapidly eroded by collisions.  We now have even more evidence that impactors, from comet-size to molecule-size, are wearing away Saturn’s rings.  The E-ring would be gone in mere decades or centuries if Enceladus were not constantly replenishing with new micron-size material.  The color differences between the rings also show that whatever non-ice material has been added has not had time to become thoroughly mixed.  And it would be surprising to think that this new D-ring impact was a one-time phenomenon we just happened to be lucky to witness.
    It may be impossible to say from data alone that the rings are mere thousands of years old or less, but they certainly cannot be billions of years old.  That should raise some eyebrows by several inches among scientists who accept the standard A.S.S. (age of the solar system) as being 4.5 billion years old.  Upper limits at ring ages are often put at 10 or 100 million years.  That may sound like a lot (it’s an upper limit, remember), but even 100 million years is 1/45 the standard age.  What was Saturn doing the other 44 parts?  No materialist wants to believe that humans were somehow lucky to emerge right at the time when Saturn’s rings were at the height of their glory.  Yet no secular scientist dares question the A.S.S., because concluding a recent formation of Saturn and the rings would collapse the time available for evolution.  There is nothing about the Saturn system that needs billions of years.  A scientist should follow the evidence where it leads, whether or not it agrees with prevailing orthodoxy.
    Those of us living in 2006 should take time to value the privileges we have in this age of discovery.  Pictures like this are hard to come by.  It took over 3 billion dollars, and hundreds of scientists and technicians, to build the Cassini spacecraft.  This complex machine had to fly for seven years before even getting to Saturn, and has orbited over two more years before getting into position last month to look back toward home and take this unprecedented shot.  In 1609, when Galileo Galilei first turned a crude telescope to the sky and beheld new and wonderful things – including the rings of Saturn for the first time – his response was to worship the Creator.  He said, “I render infinite thanks to God for being so kind as to make me alone the first observer of marvels kept hidden in obscurity for all previous centuries.”  What is your response as you look at this rare vantage point on creation?
Next headline on:  Solar SystemDating MethodsAmazing Facts
Nature Potpourri    10/11/2006  
Articles of interest from Nature have been piling up in the CEH queues.  Perhaps a brief mention is better than nothing, before they fall into archive oblivion.
  • Carbon 14:  In the Sept 14 issue, there was a give & take between critics of a carbon-14-dated study and the author.  The critics pointed out, “We appreciate that Mellars’ review was restricted to radiocarbon dating, principally of bone, but it is recommended practice that multiple methods and materials should be investigated to avoid any possible pitfalls that might be associated with a single technique or sample type.”  They decried the need for “much-needed rigour to radiocarbon chronologies.”
  • Bossa Supernova:  Also in the Sept 14 issue, David Branch reported a “champagne supernova” in a star not known to go boom.  “Thermonuclear supernovae were thought to occur only when white-dwarf stars of a certain mass explode,” he said.  “The discovery of a supernova that is way over the mass limit might require a reworking of the model.”  See also the press release from Berkeley Lab.
  • Twinkle, huge star:  Showing that the best proof of a theory in science is existence, an international team said in the Sept 28 issue (pp 427-429), “Theory predicts and observations confirm that low-mass stars (like the Sun) in their early life grow by accreting gas from the surrounding material.  But for stars approx ~10 times more massive than the Sun (approx > 10 solar masses), the powerful stellar radiation is expected to inhibit accretion and thus limit the growth of their mass.  Clearly, stars with masses >10 solar masses exist, so there must be a way for them to form.”  They presented a theory based on non-spherical accretion.
  • Political science:  Environmental activists are another thorn in Big Science’s side.  In the Oct 5 issue, an Editorial began, “Not everyone’s opinion is equally valuable.”  Eco-terrorists who blow up science labs are just the most outspoken of a larger base of support.  Nature advocated dialog with these folks: “signs of paternalism or scepticism about emotional arguments will quickly alienate a section of public opinion whose views, although logically fuzzy, are very firmly held.”  They didn’t say what to do about critics of Big Science whose views are logically sound and very firmly held.
  • Hanging by a string:  The Oct 5 issue had several articles for and against string theory.  The Editors were for it, George Ellis was against it, and Geoff Brumfiel reported the war of words in several new books like Not Even Wrong and The Trouble with Physics: The Rise of String Theory, the Fall of a Science, and What Comes Next.  Ellis reviewed the latter and began, “String theorists are setting a worrying trend by downplaying the need for experimental evidence.”
  • History of science and art:  The Oct 5 issue mentioned an exhibition of the science and art of Leonardo da Vinci touring Europe.
  • Geo-lithium:  How sure are we of the science under our feet?  The Oct 5 issue had a news item beginning, “Lithium isotopes provide a fingerprint of recycled material in Earth’s upper mantle.  But this fingerprint is different from what had been expected.  So do we need to reassess our ideas about how the upper mantle evolves?”
  • Kryptonite-proof superbacteria:  The Oct 5 issue investigated how the tiny germ Deinococcus radiodurans can withstand radiation hundreds of times greater than that required to kill ‘normal’ bacteria.  The secret is in its super-fast and efficient DNA repair mechanisms.  See the Scientific American write-up on this germ.
  • Useful junk:  Two French scientists in the Oct 5 issue (pp 521-524) think junk DNA is an “evolutionary force.”  They said, “Transposable elements were long dismissed as useless, but they are emerging as major players in evolution.  Their interactions with the genome and the environment affect how genes are translated into physical traits.”  It seems odd that a major player in evolution would elude discovery this late in the game.  “But it is an open question whether the variation in genome size is indirectly associated with host population size, or whether it is directly promoted by environmental stress or by the novel environmental conditions that populations encounter when they invade a new habitat,” they said.  “The answer will bear on our understanding of, for example, how ancestral humans adapted after they migrated out of Africa.”  Seems a tall order for junk DNA to explain.
  • Give and take:  Co-evolution was the theme of two articles in the Oct. 5 issue, one by Gavin Sherlock commenting on another paper by Jensen et al.  They considered cell division, discussing the odd observation that while the genes are highly conserved (unevolved) throughout the living world, the expression of these genes is not.  This adds greatly to the complexity of theorizing how the cell cycle evolved, because now the genes and their regulators had to co-evolve; in fact, Jensen et al say, “Our current results raise the intriguing possibility that all three levels of regulation have co-evolved.”  In addition, they discuss the remarkable phenomenon called “just-in-time assembly” in which certain protein complexes only go into action when key proteins are expressed only at the point in the cycle when they are needed.
        “It is tempting to speculate on the driving force that leads to the co-evolution,” they said in this paper that, while admiring the complexity observable today, was heavy on speculation about how it got that way.  “Together, our results provide a first global view of the evolutionary dynamics of the transcriptional and post-translational regulation of a large and complex biological system,” they said in conclusion.  But how much can be inferred about evolution?  Not much: “They clearly indicate that although the same general underlying principles, namely just-in-time assembly and multi-layer regulation of functional modules, are widely conserved in eukaryotes, the detailed regulation of individual genes and proteins varies greatly and thus generally cannot be inferred from distantly related organisms.”
  • Zygote to adult:  A book review of Eric Davidson’s The Regulatory Genome by Michael Karin in the Oct. 5 issue dealt with a related problem: “All living organisms deploy similar evolutionarily conserved mechanisms to generate energy, replicate their genomes, use genetic information and synthesize basic building-blocks for their cells,” he began.  “Yet the myriad shapes and forms of both plants and animals are overwhelming in their variety and extremes.  What is even more amazing is that most plants and animals start their life as a single diploid cell (a zygote) created by the union of a sperm and an egg.  How these simple cells give rise to such complex creatures with diverse body shapes is a major preoccupation of developmental biologists.”
  • TRON revisited:  Can life live in a computer?  A German team in the Oct 5 issue investigated biological models in silico.  They recognized that this is not a field for initiatives, and that some traditional biologists are skeptical, they said, “Suspicion towards simulations should dissipate as the limitations and advantages of their application are better appreciated, opening the door to their permanent adoption in everyday research.”  Surprisingly, at the end, “By discovering design principles, identifying biological modules, and quantitatively understanding how they operate through experiments and simulations, we hope to elucidate biological function,” they said.
Readers interested in these subjects may wish to pursue the original sources.
This illustrates how the reporting here has to be selective just due to constraints of time and space.  Every week, scores of sources and articles from the scientific journals and science news outlets are perused for consideration.  For every article that gets mentioned, dozens more have to be passed over.  We hope you appreciate getting at least a daily digest of interesting and important happenings in a wide variety of subjects related to origins.
Next headline on:  EvolutionAstronomyGeneticsGeologyDating MethodsPolitics
Early Hunters Evolved Into Marathoners    10/11/2006  
Why are humans so good at endurance running?  According to Dan Lieberman of Harvard, “our body shape evolved to allow our ancestors to run long distances, and reach animal carcasses before other scavengers.”  He figured that “chasing animals until they collapse from exhaustion yields more meat per hunt than hunting with spears or a bow and arrow.”  Lieberman did not explain why the prey didn’t follow suit, or why other predators didn’t pick up on this winning strategy.
    See the 11/18/2004 entry for details on the anatomical specializations humans have for endurance running compared to other mammals.  Everything from the shoulder girdle, neck angle, buttocks, feet, thermal regulation system and balance organs are involved in this distinctively human capability.  If humans evolved from non-endurance-running knuckle-walkers in six million years, how many functional mutations per generation would that have required?
Evolution is not a science, it’s a game for public amusement.  Anyone can play.  You don’t even have to be a scientist.  The rules are simple:
  1. Assume evolution.
  2. Observe a fact.
  3. Make up a story to fit the fact into the assumption.
Once you master these rules, you will understand the vast majority of evolutionary research.  In the scientific journals there are lots of big words to make it look smarter, but really, this is the gist of the game.  Now you know why so many lazy scientists choose to go into this line of work (see 12/22/2003 commentary).  It’s just a grown-up version of our old childhood game of make-believe.
    Make-believe has two meanings.  The first means pretending things that don’t have to be true – just entertaining, for the sheer fun of imagining things.  The second meaning is more sinister.  It’s imposing a belief, by force, onto the imaginations of others, such as in public schools, where no alternatives to the evolutionary stories are ever allowed, in order to make students believe whether they want to or not, if they want to get a passing grade.
    Play the game in school if you have to to get by.  Nobody, though, can make you believe something ridiculous.
Next headline on:  Early ManEvolutionDumb Ideas
More Scientists Claim “Hobbit Man” Was Fully Human    10/11/2006  
It was not a primitive form of Homo erectus that shrunk to a small stature because of being isolated on an island: it was one of us.  That’s what more scientists are saying about Homo floresiensis, the small-skulled pygmy skeletons found in Liang Bua cave on the island of Flores in Indonesia (10/27/2004)  The new announcements can be found in reports on New Scientist, EurekAlert #1, and EurekAlert #2, “Compelling evidence demonstrates that ‘Hobbit’ fossil does not represent a new species of hominid.”
    Robert D. Martin (Field Museum, Chicago) and James Phillips (U of Illinois) argue that the stone tools were made by modern humans, the body proportions do not represent island dwarfism, and “the skull is most likely that of a small-bodied modern human who suffered from a genetic condition known as microcephaly, which is characterized by a small head.”  These conclusions agree with those made in August by another team (see 08/21/2006).
    Martin called for better science next time sensational claims are made.  “There has been too much media hype and not enough sound scientific evaluation surrounding this discovery, Dr. Martin concluded.  ‘Science needs more balance and less acrimony as we continue to unravel this discovery.’”
OK, National Geographic; where’s that apology for the racist artwork?  It’s still on your website.  You’re losing your credibility.
Next headline on:  Early Man
Archer Fish Shoot Efficiently    10/10/2006  
Archer fish, the sharpshooters of the underwater world, have another trick in their blowguns: energy efficiency.  Three German scientists were curious how they knew how hard to shoot at targets of differing mass.  Publishing in Current Biology,1 the team first determined that the prey’s ability to cling to its leaf or stem is proportional to its body mass.  Without a calculator, the predatory fish seem to figure out how hard to shoot:
Hence, the maximum adhesive forces an archerfish’s shot must overcome in order to actually dislodge prey increase linearly with prey’s size.... Archerfish force-scaling closely matches this prediction, ensuring a reasonable safety margin: for any given size of prey, the fish apply about ten times the forces the adhesive organs of prey of that size could maximally sustain.
Prior to this study, scientists thought the fish had a one-size-fits-all water bullet.  By weighing the mass of water spit out, the scientists determined that the fish don’t waste big bullets on smaller targets.  Also, they hit hard enough to win on the first shot: “Moreover, because the first shot hits prey unprepared in an average posture, the fish needed not to adjust to the probably much larger forces some prey might exert by clawing to the substrate.”  In non-scientese, this means the bug or lizard is going to grab on harder if the fish fails to dislodge it on the first shot.
    The scientists attempted an evolutionary explanation for this prey-matching marksmanship.  Since spitting is costly in energy terms, “Fitting with the costs of shooting, archerfish use the most economic way of tuning their shots,” they said.  The fish seem to know that kinetic energy varies with 1/2 m v2, so the fish vary the mass instead of the velocity: “As the kinetic energy of their shot varies with the square of speed but only linearly with mass, this simple trick enables archerfish to scale their forces in the least costly way and to double force transfer at doubled instead of quadrupled energetic costs.”
    But wait a minute; how does all this physics talk count as an evolutionary explanation?  After all, their article was entitled, “Archerfish shots are evolutionarily matched to prey adhesion.”  They explain: “The evolutionary pressures for adjusting the shots at all, instead of firing an all-or-none shot of sufficient maximum force, became evident when we analyzed the mass, speed and kinetic energy of the shots.”  In other words, all they needed to observe was an “evolutionary pressure” related to the phenomenon.  Natural selection, in their view, did the math.
    See also the summaries of this paper on EurekAlert and Live Science, and our 09/07/2004 entry about the archer fish’s optical wizardry.
1Schlegel, Schmid and Schuster, “Archerfish shots are evolutionarily matched to prey adhesion,” Current Biology, Volume 16, Issue 19, 10 October 2006, pages R836-R837, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2006.08.082.
We have a different math based on observation and intelligent design.  The vacuousness of the evolutionary explanation is proportional to the cube of the observed adaptation.  We also have a natural law to back this up (see Darwin’s Law with Bloch’s Extension, right sidebar).
Next headline on:  Marine LifePhysicsEvolutionAmazing Facts
Lee Strobel’s The Case for a Creator Debuts on Film    10/10/2006  
A film version of Lee Strobel’s book The Case for a Creator has been released by Illustra Media.  The book, third in a series of best-sellers by Lee Strobel (The Case for Christ, The Case for Faith) describes Strobel’s own journey from atheism to Christianity and how Darwinian had evolution played a big part in his youthful rejection of religion.  Strobel interviews various scientists and theologians who explain the evidence for intelligent design from the cosmic to the atomic, from galaxies to cells.
    Incorporating footage from Illustra’s highly-successful ID films Unlocking the Mystery of Life and The Privileged Planet along with new interviews, animations and subject matter (such as the fossil record) The Case for a Creator packages a wide variety of creation evidences into a one-hour package centered around Strobel’s spiritual quest.  One reviewer wrote, “This DVD is excellent.  It is just as high quality, if not more so, than the other Illustra productions.  It basically smashes Unlocking, Icons, and Privileged Planet into one disc.  It’s a wonderful resource.”  Access Research Network says, “As with previous Illustra Media documentaries, this one is chock full of stunning graphics, amazing animations, and a theater-worthy soundtrack.”
    The DVD also contains bonus features with lists of additional resources.  Of special interest is a series of frequently-asked questions, answered in short interviews by by the scientists and theologians seen in the main film.  Click here for the producer’s film page.
This DVD makes a convenient witnessing tool.  The prior three films mentioned above are all still excellent and go into more detail in their respective subjects.  But for people not willing to watch three hours of video, The Case for a Creator brings most of the best arguments together into a single, attractively-produced hour-long package.
    Though some of the animations will look familiar, the film includes new animations of ATP synthase and other molecular machines, an enhanced look at the universe-generator from The Privileged Planet, a dramatic visualization of the precision of the gravitational constant, and more.  Viewers will get a kick out of the “monkey-typewriter” segment.  The story line revolving around a true testimony of a skeptic investigating the case for a Creator may make this film resonate with more viewers than one strictly about science.  Anything Illustra produces carries with it a reputation of production quality and content credibility unsurpassed in the field of creation/ID graphical media.  Get a quantity of these DVDs and start handing them out.
Next headline on:  Intelligent DesignMedia
Intelligent Design Detected on Mars    10/09/2006  
Astronomy Picture of the Day used design detection reasoning to infer the presence of intelligent agents at work on another world.  “An unusual spot has been found on Mars that scientists believe is not natural in origin,” the caption says of a photo taken from orbit by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.  “The spot appears mobile and is now hypothesized to be a robot created by an intelligent species alien to Mars.”  But how does this differ from the face on Mars? (see 09/21/2006) entry).
    Another story about design detection occurred on our home planet.  Seismologists needed to figure out if a disturbance in North Korea this past Monday was from a natural earthquake, or from a suspected nuclear bomb test.  Casey Luskin on Evolution News talked about how principles of intelligent design were employed in this exercise over a matter of international concern; see also the BBC News.
Whoever wrote the APOD entry didn’t appear to realize that he or she was bringing science to a halt.  Eugenie Scott would have a fit.  Science cannot refer to entities that are “not natural.”  A scientific explanation would require finding a natural explanation for this “unusual spot,” instead of giving up and saying a designer did it.  Those are the rules, and when doing science, one must play by the rules.  Perhaps the object just oozed up out of the sand over millions of years.  The principle of emergence: now that’s science!  (see 02/25/2003 commentary).
    Teachers can use illustrations like this to explore the question of when design reasoning is appropriate and when it is not (see 09/21/2006 commentary).  What would aliens landing on Mars think of this object?  Would they be correct in assuming the object could not have formed out of the natural materials in the environment, but must have been the work of intelligent designers?  How about finding the NEAR spacecraft on the asteroid Eros?  For a trickier case, how about the crater on Comet Tempel 1 formed by the Deep Impact mission, or the crater in Utah formed by the Genesis solar wind collector?  Think and grow righteous.
Next headline on:  Intelligent DesignSolar System
Punc Eq Happens    10/08/2006  
A controversial study in Science found evidence for punctuated equilibria.1 
A long-standing debate in evolutionary biology concerns whether species diverge gradually through time or by punctuational episodes at the time of speciation.  We found that approximately 22% of substitutional changes at the DNA level can be attributed to punctuational evolution, and the remainder accumulates from background gradual divergence.  Punctuational effects occur at more than twice the rate in plants and fungi than in animals, but the proportion of total divergence attributable to punctuational change does not vary among these groups.  Punctuational changes cause departures from a clock-like tempo of evolution, suggesting that they should be accounted for in deriving dates from phylogenies.  Punctuational episodes of evolution may play a larger role in promoting evolutionary divergence than has previously been appreciated.
Mark Pagel et al. studied 122 lineages for molecular changes and found more than could be explained by natural selection.  They believe genetic drift sped up in certain lineages, then settled down after speciation.  Some groups, they said, evolve gradually, but others, like the ginger family, went through bursts of accelerated genetic change.  Elisabeth Pennisi wrote about this paper in Science Now
For some biologists, “punctuated equilibrium” is a radical idea.  The term was coined in the 1970s to describe an uneven pace of evolution in the fossil record.  But because it posits that evolution happens in bursts, punctuated equilibrium goes against the notion that evolution inches forward in tiny steps guided by natural selection.  Now evolutionary biologists have shown that evolution in the genome also has fast and slow speeds, and that natural selection isn’t always governing genetic change.
She points out that the paper “is causing a stir,” but that some critics are not sure Pagel et al. accounted for factors that could have skewed their results.
1Mark Pagel, Chris Venditti, Andrew Meade, “Large Punctuational Contribution of Speciation to Evolutionary Divergence at the Molecular Level,” Science, 6 October 2006: Vol. 314. no. 5796, pp. 119-121, DOI: 10.1126/science.1129647.
The analysis by Pagel’s team assumes evolution from start to finish, from initial conditions to conclusions, from variables to constants.  So despite the mathematical wizardry, no sound conclusions can be expected from such an incestuous reasoning process.  What’s interesting about the paper is that the war started by Gould and Eldredge in the 1970s about the pace of evolution is not over.  Both fossils and genes fail to show the gradual change Darwin expected.  Evolutionists are still having to scramble to force-fit the observations into their imaginary picture of the world.
Next headline on:  DarwinismGenetics
Biological Nanomachines Inspire Nanotechnology   10/07/2006    
Nano, nano; we’re hearing that morkish prefix a lot these days.  It means 10-9 of something: most often, of meters (see powers of ten).  A nanometer is a billionth of a meter.  This gets down into the range of protein molecules and small cellular components.  A DNA molecule, for instance, is about 20 nanometers across; an ATP synthase rotary motor is about 8 x 12 nanometers, and a bacterial flagellum about 10 times larger.  Now that imaging technology is reaching into realms of just a few nanometers, scientists are keen to understand nature’s engineering in hopes of doing their own.
    The premiere issue of Nature Nanotechnology made its debut this month.1  It contains a centerpiece review article by Wesley R. Browne and Ben L. Feringa entitled, “Making molecular machines work.”2  Though the article focuses on human progress and potential in the world of nanotechnology, it contains numerous ecstasies about biological machines unmade by human hands:
  • Consider a world composed of nanometre-sized factories and self-repairing molecular machines where complex and responsive processes operate under exquisite control; where translational and rotational movement is directed with precision; a nano-world fuelled by chemical and light energy.  What images come to mind?  The fantastical universes described in the science fiction of Asimov and his contemporaries?  To a scientist, perhaps the ‘simple’ cell springs more easily to mind with its intricate arrangement of organelles and enzymatic systems fuelled by solar energy (as in photosynthetic systems) or by the chemical energy stored in the molecular bonds of nucleotide triphosphates (for example, ATP).
  • Biological motors convert chemical energy to effect stepwise linear or rotary motion, and are essential in controlling and performing a wide variety of biological functions.  Linear motor proteins are central to many biological processes including muscle contraction, intracellular transport and signal transduction, and ATP synthase, a genuine molecular rotary motor, is involved in the synthesis and hydrolysis of ATP.  Other fascinating examples include membrane translocation proteins, the flagella motor that enables bacterial movement and proteins that can entrap and release guests through chemomechanical motion.
  • Whereas nature is capable of maintaining and repairing damaged molecular systems, such complex repair mechanisms are beyond the capabilities of current nanotechnology.
  • In designing motors at the molecular level, random thermal brownian motion must therefore be taken into consideration.  Indeed, nature uses the concept of the brownian ratchet to excellent effect in the action of linear and rotary protein motors.  In contrast to ordinary motors, in which energy input induces motion, biological motors use energy to restrain brownian motion selectively.  In a brownian ratchet system the random-molecular-level motion is harnessed to achieve net directional movement, and crucially the resulting biased change in the system is not reversed but progresses in a linear or rotary fashion.
  • Biosystems frequently rely on ATP as their energy source, however very few examples of artificial motors that use exothermic chemical reactions to power unidirectional rotary motion have been reported to date.
  • That biological motors perform work and are engaged in well-defined mechanical tasks such as muscle contraction or the transport of objects is apparent in all living systems.
It is clear that the biological machines are inspiring the human drive toward exploiting the possibilities of mimicking, if not duplicating, what already exists in nature.  They say in conclusion,
The exquisite solutions nature has found to control molecular motion, evident in the fascinating biological linear and rotary motors, has served as a major source of inspiration for scientists to conceptualize, design and build – using a bottom-up approach – entirely synthetic molecular machines.  The desire, ultimately, to construct and control molecular machines, fuels one of the great endeavours of contemporary science....
....As complexity increases in these dynamic nanosystems, mastery of structure, function and communication across the traditional scientific boundaries will prove essential and indeed will serve to stimulate many areas of the synthetic, analytical and physical sciences.  In view of the wide range of functions that biological motors play in nature and the role that macroscopic motors and machines play in daily life, the current limitation to the development and application of synthetic molecular machines and motors is perhaps only the imagination of the nanomotorists themselves.

1Nature Nanotechnology, Vol. 1, No. 1, October 2006.
2Wesley R. Browne and Ben L. Feringa, “Making molecular machines work,” Nature Nanotechnology, 1, pp25-35 (2006), doi:10.1038/nnano.2006.45.
These superlatives call for an explanation: how did nature achieve this level of technology, a level our best scientists can only view with awe as they attempt to catch up, using their brightest intelligence applied to design?  Here is the simplistic, hand-waving explanation.  In what should have been a paper permeated with unadulterated intelligent design, both human and biological, they slipped into the old Darwinian bad habit.  Get ready with your baloney breathalyzer.
Understanding and harnessing such phenomenal biological systems provides a strong incentive to design active nanostructures that can operate as molecular machines, and although our current efforts to control motion at the molecular level may appear awkward compared with these natural systems, it should not be forgotten that nature has had a 4.5 billion year head start.
This is bad breath caused by Dar-wine.  No matter the object under consideration, from a nanoscopic rotary motor with near perfect efficiency to a narwhal’s antenna or a butterfly’s photonic crystals, Darwin-drunk researchers continue to ascribe these wonders to blind, aimless, materialistic processes.  If nature’s advantage were merely a head start, then Nature Nanotechnology would do better to tell its researchers to close their labs, put on blindfolds, and wander aimlessly about, bumping into each other, till something interesting happens.
    As we wag our heads at the inebriation of scientists believing such things, let’s not forget what they said about biological machines.  Those machines really do exist.  They’re keeping you functioning.  They’re enabling your brain to think.  So think.  Don’t try to drink and think, lest your breath stink and your common sense shrink.
Next headline on:  Cell BiologyAmazing FactsIntelligent Design
Sea Monster Fossils Found in Arctic   10/06/2006    
The BBC News reported the discovery of over two dozen plesiosaurs, pliosaurs and ichthyosaurs (see 04/20/2005) north of Norway.  Skeletons of the large marine reptiles, completely assembled, were found buried in fine-grained sedimentary layers of black shale.  “Everything we’re finding is articulated,” said Jorn Harald Hurum, co-director of the dig.  “It’s not single bones here and there, and bits and pieces – these are complete skeletons.”  The preservation was remarkable also in how fresh they looked, “like roadkill,” a bleached white against the black of the shale.  “Something happened with the chemistry that’s really good for bone preservation,” Dr. Hurum said.
    Plesiosaurs and ichthyosaurs lived in the age of dinosaurs and went extinct at the same time.  Hurum “was taken aback by the sheer density of fossil remains in one area,” the article said.  Hurum told the BBC, “You can’t walk for more than 100m without finding a skeleton.  That’s amazing anywhere in the world.”  Another said, “These sites are very unusual.  To find that many individuals is a remarkable thing – that’s a bonanza.”  One of the specimens they nicknamed the Monster may be 26 feet in length.
The article speculates that these large creatures calmly died and sank to the bottom of the sea, where they were slowly buried.  Would not bacteria and predators have devoured any trace of them?  And even if the bones remained, would they not have disarticulated and spread apart?  They must have been buried suddenly at the same time.  Like so many other fossil graveyards, this area tells a silent tale of catastrophe.
Next headline on:  FossilsMarine LifeDinosaurs
More Reasons Why DNA Is Perfect for Coding   10/05/2006    
Scientists at Vanderbilt University may have been trying to explain chemical evolution, but hit on another reason DNA is the ideal molecule for carrying genetic information (see also Science Daily).  They tweaked the sugar molecule on the DNA backbone and got an unwieldy, haphazard, writhing ribbon of a molecule, unsuitable for bonding genetic code or compacting into chromosomes.  It wasn’t even close to DNA.  “Just how nature arrived at this molecule and its sister molecule, RNA, remains one of the greatest – and potentially unsolvablescientific mysteries,” the article says. 
    Martin Egli and team coaxed DNA to incorporate six-carbon sugars instead of the less-common five-carbon sugars (deoxyribose in DNA, and ribose in RNA).  What they got is called homo-DNA.  Though first synthesized in 1992, homo-DNA had not been studied in structural detail till now.  Despite being thermodynamically more favorable for spontaneous formation, homo-DNA is too bulky, and too careless in its base pairing, to be useful as a genetic molecule.  Furthermore, it cannot pair with other molecules like RNA – essential for transcription and translation.
These researchers did worthwhile work helping us understand why DNA is so good, seemingly “the work of an accomplished sculptor” as well as programmer.  “The new insights provided by this structure lie at the heart of the most fundamental of scientific inquiries – the origin of life on Earth,” they said.  That’s a worthy question to think about, even if an “unsolveable” mystery from a materialist standpoint.  But the press release easily wins Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week for these groaners:
  • DNA’s simple and elegant structure – the “twisted ladder,” with sugar-phosphate chains making up the “rails” and oxygen- and nitrogen-containing chemical “rungs” tenuously uniting the two halves – seems to be the work of an accomplished sculptor.
        Yet the graceful, sinuous profile of the DNA double helix is the result of random chemical reactions in a simmering, primordial stew.
  • “These molecules are the result of evolution,” said Egli, professor of Biochemistry.  “Somehow they have been shaped and optimized for a particular purpose.”
  • “Homo-DNA is just one alternative system.  There are hundreds of sugars, as many as you can think of.  It will be almost impossible to look at all of them,” Egli said.
        “But the big red herring of this work could be that nature never went through these other sugars.  Maybe it just hit on gold (these five-carbon sugars) very early and took off from there.
This shows that even misguided evolutionary scientists, though hopeless gamblers, are not completely out of touch with reality.  Like the blindfolded, they occasionally bump into it and bang their heads.  Nobody is forcing them to wear the blindfolds.
Next headline on:  Origin of Life and Chemical EvolutionGeneticsDumb Ideas
New Media Challenges Darwinism   10/04/2006    
Websites and resources challenging Darwinian dominance are springing up all over the place.  Uncensored by scientific societies, they may be having more of an effect than evolutionary biologists wish to consider.  Many are aimed at students and young adults.
  • Overwhelming Evidence is an ID website aimed at high school students.  It has blogs, forums and opportunities to get involved.
  • Salvo Magazine is a new magazine devoted to cultural and scientific issues related to origins and the meaning of life.  It’s snazzy interface and cutting-edge, no-holds-barred approach is aimed at the tastes of knowledgeable young adults.
  • Darwinism and ID has a wacky website featuring the new book by Jonathan Wells, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design.
  • Blogs like GlobeLens and this example from Brazil are too numerous to mention in this day of personal publishing.
  • Life’s Story volume II, from Exploration Films, is due for release in mid-October.
  • Lee Strobel’s best seller The Case for a Creator is expected to come out in a film version soon.
Randy Olson’s zany attempt at a balanced film, Flock of Dodos, is still making its rounds, according to its October newsletter.  But with the most-touted reviews coming from radical pro-Darwin groups like Pharyngula, it’s not clear whether any Darwin critics are watching the “latest droppings from the ‘Flock of Dodos’ circus” or dodging them.
The hardened Old Guard of the Darwin Party has shown itself incorrigible too long.  Welcome to a new generation of critical thinkers who don’t have to be force-fed the Darwin Brand Snake Oil, but know what’s good for them and can read the bottles for themselves.
Next headline on:  MediaDarwinismIntelligent Design
Japanese Man Sets Memory Record   10/04/2006    
Item: a Japanese man, Akira Haraguchi (age 60), quoted pi to 100,000 decimal places, reported Live Science.  It took 16 hours to say the digits from memory.  This broke his personal best of 83,431 set in 1995, and the Guinness record of 42,195, also set in 1995.
Incredible feats like this hint at the innate capabilities of the human body and brain that only occasionally surface in world records.  Can someone explain what the Darwinian adaptive value is of being able to quote 100,000 decimal places of pi from memory?  Mr. Haraguchi is already past the normal reproductive and hunting years.  Will this help him inspire the tribe to get a bigger mammoth or something?
Next headline on:  Human BodyAmazing Facts
ID Draws Crowds, to Evolutionists’ Dismay    10/04/2006  
Reactions in the news and evolution-centered scientific societies to the rise of intelligent design is mixed.  Some ignore it, printing Darwinism-as-fact articles as usual.  Others seek harmony and understanding.  Still others rise up in holy horror, demanding organized counter-reformation.  One thing Darwinists cannot do is deny that a widespread, international sea change in thinking about origins is underway and shows no sign of abating.
  • Florida sunshine  Over 3600 Floridians attended an event on “Darwin or Design” at the Sun Dome Sept. 29, reported Evolution News and the St. Petersburg Times.  The event was sponsored by Physicians and Surgeons for Scientific Integrity and sponsored four leading ID speakers.  (See Doctors Doubting Darwin for the position of the sponsoring organization.)
  • Baylor upset:  Dr. Francis Beckwith, who agrees there is nothing unconstitutional about teaching I.D. in public schools, gained tenure at Baylor after a long, drawn-out battle, reported Evolution news and World Magazine (10/07/2006 issue).
  • Conn jobConn College in Connecticut is hosting skeptic Michael Shermer Oct. 10 to discuss evolution vs. intelligent design.
  • Cato Plato:  Shermer takes on Jonathan Wells on Oct. 12 at the Cato Institute in Washington, DC.  The title is “Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design.”
  • Museum dust:  Associated press writer Deepti Hajeli (see Yahoo News) showed that museum curators are becoming cynical at the incorrigible creationist beliefs of many visitors: “I haven’t been surprised by the public’s reaction since our first survey, when I saw that 35 percent of the adult population thought that humans lived at the same time as dinosaurs.”
  • Old dinos, really?  The Dallas Morning News reported on ICR’s latest RATE conference, in which evidence for a young earth and problems with radiometric dating were shared before an audience of 700.
  • Be fair:  In the Detroit News, Scott Bahr argued that evolutionary theory relies on faith, too.  Those who decry faith in the classroom, he said, fail to see the irony in their position.  Even evolution requires ID to be valid: “The scientific method assumes an ordered universe that obeys natural absolute laws.”  For this and other reasons, “an intellectually honest discussion of origins belongs in the classroom.”
  • Kentucky freed education:  The outgoing education commissioner in Kentucky, Gene Wilhoit, warned the Board of Education that they should not choose a proponent of intelligent design, reported WHAS Channel 11 and the Courier-Journal of Louisville.
  • Space perspective:  In an editorial for the Space Foundation, CEO Elliot Pulham, an evolutionist, said that space exploration to justify itself needs to understand the enduring value of humans.  Pulham included a line combining of The Privileged Planet with Gaia: “we have only understood the preciousness and rarity of Mother Earth since we have been able to view her from space and since we have been able to peer deeply into the universe and understand how very rare this home planet is.”
  • Let there be light:  Strongly pro-evolution magazine Scientific American had an editorial asking for at least a little more respect for religion, even if certain religious tenets (e.g., the Bible’s) have been contradicted by science, it claims.  “Cosmology, geology and evolutionary biology flatly contradict the literal truths of creation myths from around the world,” The Editors wrote, “Yet the overthrow of religion is not a part of the scientific agenda.  Scientific research deals in what is measurable and definable; it cannot begin to study what might lie beyond the physical realm or to offer a comprehensive moral philosophy.”
  • British revolution:  “Outrage and alarm” by the media and scientific societies was the response to the “Truth in Science” initiative last month, in which “Schools up and down the country were sent two DVDs with a study guide helping teachers to utilise these materials in biology lessons.”  The BBC News, TSL Education and described some of the angry responses.  A writer for Biblical Creation had fun with the irony of what he called “grotesque behavior” by the opposition to freedom of thought.  “If the Government has any sense, it will not do anything to reinforce the grip that materialistic dogma has over many minds within the science community,” David Tyler wrote.  “We do not want to see any moves towards instituting ‘thought police’ to protect Darwinism from critical scrutiny, because that is self-evidently anti-science.”
  • Jesuit agendaLoyola University is offering forums for and against intelligent design Nov. 6-7.
  • Darwin’s ghost:  Peter James Causton had a lot to say about the moral influence of Darwinism in Commonweal magazine.  He compared the Darwinian and Christian responses to the problem of suffering.
  • Talk back:  The editors of Time Magazine may continue to present cover stories like, “What makes us human?  not much,” that assume evolution and attribute our humanness to mere natural causes, but more readers are not taking it without a response.  Catholic priest Jonathan Morris on Fox News accused Time of making a “wild, pseudo-scientific (and very common) conclusion about the nature of evolution and of man.”
  • The man Darwinists love to hate, but cannot:  Phillip E. Johnson, the founder-figurehead of the intelligent design movement, was featured on today’s BreakPoint commentary by Chuck Colson.  A book of Johnson’s writings was compiled this year, called Darwin’s Nemesis.  Johnson is in good health these days and still active in speaking.
For the most part, mainline scientific journals are still ignoring ID if not treating it with disdain in editorials and book reviews.  That may change, however (see 10/03 story).  ID researchers are finding more and more ID scientists willing to come out of the closet, and are collecting lists of ID-friendly scientific research papers.  And the international audience is still craving popular-level books and DVDs that are providing alternatives to Darwinism (see previous story, above).
So many words out there.  Let your senses tell you what a thousand philosophers can’t ignore: the exquisite design in nature didn’t just happen. 
Next headline on:  Intelligent DesignDarwinian EvolutionEducation
Whiskers Inspire Technology    10/04/2006  
The latest gadget on robots or Mars rovers could be whiskers.  These tactile sensors provide ways to see in 3D, says a report on National Geographic News.  Information about latitude, longitude and elevation can be gleaned from whiskers.  Rodents continually rotate their whiskers to gather information, but seals and sea lions let the ocean currents flow around them.
    Joseph H. Solomon and Mitra J. Hartmann, engineers at Northwestern University, devised robotic whiskers and tested their sensitivity.  Writing in the Oct. 5 issue of Nature, they said,
Several species of terrestrial and marine mammals with whiskers (vibrissae) use them to sense and navigate in their environment – for example, rats use their whiskers to discern the features of objects, and seals rely on theirs to track the hydrodynamic trails of their prey.  Here we show that the bending moment – sometimes referred to as torque – at the whisker base can be used to generate three-dimensional spatial representations of the environment, and we use this principle to construct robotic whisker arrays that extract precise information about object shape and fluid flow.
They believe this knowledge could help improve robotic engineering.  “Our results on biomimetically engineered whiskers may find application in land-based robots and autonomous underwater vehicles, in which a capability for tactile perception could broaden and enhance performance.”  Sean Markey began his National Geographic article with a speculation about a future generation of Mars explorers: “Armed with high-resolution cameras and infrared sensors, the Mars rovers have been collecting data from the red planet in unprecedented detail.... But, some researchers say, the robotic space explorers could boost their performance if they added another powerful tool to their arsenal: whiskers.”  See also the writeup on LiveScience.
1Joseph H. Solomon and Mitra J. Hartmann, “Biomechanics: Robotic whiskers used to sense features,” Nature 443, 525(5 October 2006), doi:10.1038/443525a.
It’s clear that the interpretation of whisker movements must come from the base, since the protein fiber that makes up a whisker contains no nerve endings.  This means an elaborate sensory apparatus must inhabit the tiny follicle of each whisker.
    Car drivers used to install curb whiskers to sense the car position during parallel parking, but the transduced information was useful not to the car, but to the driver, who through auditory input could respond accordingly.  Imagine what it would take to engineer a car to parallel park itself based on one curb whisker’s tactile response.  Sensors would have to be mounted orthogonally at the base, and computer software would have to be written, complete with feedback to the steering and brakes.
    In the mammal body, whether of a rat, cat, seal or otter, sensing the conical movements of a whisker must require multiple nerve endings in each hair follicle.  The timing and strength of each nerve response must be coordinated with brain software to draw the 3D image, and the reaction time must be nearly instantaneous to do the animal any good.  This is all complicated by the large number of individual whiskers (nearly 20 per side on the face of this Weddell seal).  All this technology can fit on the tiny head of a mouse or weasel, allowing the animal to gain a continuous image of its dark surroundings.
    Based on the observed performance, design-theoretic researchers could probably expect to find even more engineering behind this one tactile sense.  Undoubtedly similar responses occur in hair follicles since we are aware of temperature and touch with those smaller antennae also – another reason not to shave, men, especially if you like cave exploring or crawling under the house.
Next headline on:  MammalsIntelligent DesignBiomimeticsAmazing Facts
Peer Review Goes Public   10/03/2006    
A scientific revolution for the internet age is taking place: peer review is coming out of its secrecy into public light.  Tired of the dominance of big-name journals and their editorial policies, independent-minded researchers are taking their publications to the web.  The revolution is explained by AP reporter Alicia Chang (see Yahoo News), and by the editors of The New Atlantis.
    The new methods of bringing scientific research to visibility has problems of its own.  It’s too early to say if it will succeed.  But with scandals in its closet and complaints of plagiarism, favoritism and stifling of non-traditional ideas, traditional peer review has come under growing criticism.  The freedom of the internet is making open-access sites like arXiv and PLoS a growth industry, while the big-name journals are having to crack open their inner sanctums with blogs, open-access articles and other internet-savvy innovations.
This is a trend to watch.  We don’t know yet if the problems will outweigh the benefits.  It might become comparable to how cable and the web ended the dominance of the mainline news broadcast networks.  Did you know that peer review is a relatively recent phenomenon?  Though early modern scientists stressed the need for sharing and verifying experimental results, peer review as practiced today did not become common till after World War II.  Now, it has too often hindered the very quality it set out to establish.  Authors fear giving away their life work to rivals who might wind up on the review committees.  Journals tend to look for ground-breaking and sensational works, downplaying ordinary but important work.  And worst of all, ideas outside the mainstream are often silently dropped from view.
    Competition is good for ideas; Darwinism has for too long been a stifling orthodoxy.  There will be problems.  Mavericks might get carried away in this new wild west.  Readers might consider an online paper authoritative without sufficient warrant.  The potential benefits look strong, though.  This might stimulate more student interest in science, and the new freedom may lead to more bold exploration of new promising leads (like intelligent design).  Wikis and blogs will permit rapid validation and falsification, and lively debate among scholars.  With the new “multitude of counselors” there may be more safety than the few secret reviewers of the past provided.  Welcome to Web 2.0; hang on.
Next headline on:  Politics and Ethics
Untie This One:  MIT identified an enzyme with the “most complicated knot ever observed in a protein,” crossing itself five times.  The protein, ubiquitin hydrolase, has the same knot in yeast and in humans, suggesting that the protein has remained “highly preserved throughout evolution.”
Next headline on:  Cell Biology

Should Elephants and Lions Be Reintroduced to North America?    10/02/2006  
Believe it or not, some scientists think large mammals that existed in North America in prehistoric times should be brought back.  This is called “rewilding,” in hopes of healing some of the ecological disruption caused when early humans “played a significant role in their demise 13,000 years ago.”  A dozen scientists provided a detailed proposal for the restoration of North American megafauna, reported EurekAlert

Starting with giant tortoises and wild horses, then moving toward lions and elephants, the authors provide a number of case studies for “Pleistocene Rewilding” and argue such introductions would contribute biological, economic, and cultural benefits to North America.  The authors acknowledge that there are substantial risks and challenges; the risks of inaction may be even greater, however, including the continued global loss of megafauna.
Those risks and challenges were recently highlighted in a news story on Fox News.  In Kenya last Monday, a British tourist was trampled by an elephant on his honeymoon.  (That was the man’s honeymoon, incidentally, not the elephant’s.)
Let’s think this through in evolutionary terms.  After all, evolutionists must be consistent.  Since evolution is what evolution does, the early human inhabitants of North America merely showed their fitness after the emergence of evolutionary innovations such as spears and knives.  Since many species have gone extinct, why should we weep over the loss of a few more?  And what would be the impact on today’s native megafauna (mountain lions, bison, bears) with the introduction of new, larger competitors?
    If the insinuation in this story is that our forebears did something bad by killing them off, and therefore we need to perform penance to rectify past mistakes, then the argument switches to moral philosophy.  Since there are no morals in Darwinism, this is really a synonym for theology.  Let the evolutionists repent and be converted, then we could have an interesting discussion on stewardship of the environment – but not until.  After all, evolutionists must be consistent.
    But then, why must evolutionists be consistent?  Consistency is a virtue, and there are no virtues in Darwinism.  In their world view, they could play any intellectual game to get what they desire.  The only acceptable compromise in a pluralistic society would be to give them their own territory for their experiments.  Put the Darwinists in the same pen with the lions and elephants, and let them play survival of the fittest to their heart’s content.
Next headline on:  MammalsEarly Man
Was Baby Lucy Someone Else’s Kid?    10/02/2006  
Jeffrey Schwartz (U of Pittsburgh) thinks the “child” skeleton nicknamed “Lucy’s baby” celebrated in the news media last month (09/20/2006) was probably not the same species as Lucy.  In fact, he’s not sure if anyone knows what species the skeleton found in Hadar, Ethiopia is.  According to a press release on EurekAlert, without exposed teeth surfaces for comparison, “one cannot tell whether the Dikika child really is the first specimen of Ethiopian A. afarensis or, if not, whether it compares favorably with one of the hominids from Hadar or it represents a different taxon altogether.”  The doubt over taxons underscores the difficulty of drawing distinctions when the only material to work with is bone (05/24/2004).
    One problem with classifying this juvenile individual with Lucy is that all the previous Australopithecus afarensis specimens were from Laetoli, Tanzania, thousands of kilometers to the south.  Did they actually extend all over Africa, or were the Ethiopian specimens a distinct population?  Schwartz, co-author of a four-volume work on the human fossil record, said that all the Laetoli fossils differ in detail from those in Hadar.  “This means, of course, that no Hadar specimen is A. afarensis.”
It’s kind of fun watching the Planet of the Apes actors fight each other (e.g., 12/21/2004, 09/23/2004).  You saw this latest dispute coming, of course.  After awhile, each new episode looks like a rerun (for the plot line, see 06/11/2003 commentary).  We know it’s all fiction anyway (see 12/30/2004, 11/19/2004, 02/19/2004).
Next headline on:  Early Man
Evolutionary Anthropologists Seek to Study Christianity    10/02/2006  
According to a press release on EurekAlert, “Anthropologists have almost no track record of studying Christianity, a religion they have generally treated as not exotic enough to be of interest.”  This omission needs to be rectified, says Joel Robbins (UC San Diego): “Anthropologists, who are specialists in the study of religion outside the West, ought to be in the forefront of studying global Christianity and its impact,” he said.
    Robbins noted the difference in outlook between anthropologists and Christians.  Anthropologists stress continuity and change over time, whereas Christians focus on radical discontinuities, such as the birth and second coming of Jesus, and the individual experience of conversion.  “One does not evolve into a convert,” he said.
That’s right; conversion is a miraculous transformation begun by repentance from sin and faith in the miraculous resurrection of Messiah.  These are inexplicable by an evolutionary process.  Did you notice that the anthropologist’s innate bias at looking for continuity and evolution will color his or her perception of the subject?  Explain Paul by evolution, Dr. Robbins.  Tell you what; we’ll let you analyze C.S. Lewis as an anthropological subject, if you will let him analyze you back as a theological subject (a kind of thing he did, at length, in his writings).  Beware, though; he could undermine your operational presuppositions by showing them to be theologically based.  It could be an interesting contest: the survival of the wittest.
Next headline on:  EvolutionTheology
Supernova 80% Younger Than Thought    10/01/2006  
The age of a supernova remnant has dropped from 10,000 years to less than 2,000 years.  According to a news item on, the object RCW 86 in Centaurus has been linked to sightings by the Chinese in 185 AD, making it the oldest supernova recorded by man, taking place 1821 years ago.
    But astronomers thought this supernova remnant was 10,000 years old.  How could the earlier age estimates be so far off?  The article explains:
The new age estimate matches the supernova spotted in 185 AD.  But this calculation means the remnant is 8,000 years younger than previously thought.  The astronomers said the difference can be attributed to the irregular shape of the remnant’s expanding bubble.  Stellar wind from the progenitor star pushed some of the remnant’s gases in a certain direction, forming a dense pile.  “The idea for RCW 86 is that in some regions the shock has hit this piled-up material.  In those regions the shock will start moving slower,” [Jacco] Vink [U of Utrecht] said.  And in other regions, the shock wave is much speedier.
X-ray measurements from the Chandra X-ray Observatory were used in making the new age determination based on outflow speeds of the gas.  The new estimate was about 2,000 years, within the range of the event in 185 AD.
One of the captions in the article was “Shell Shocked,” but it was not clear if this referred to the supernova remnant or to the astronomers finding out how wrong they had been.  In this case, we had an observation to calibrate a dating method, and the result was drastically lower than predicted from theory.  There are many other things in space and time that cannot be so calibrated.  The parameter to watch in dating methods is the observation-to-assumption ratio.
Next headline on:  Stellar AstronomyDating Methods

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“...just wanted to say how much I admire your site and your writing.  You’re very insightful and have quite a broad range of knowledge.  Anyway, just wanted to say that I am a big fan!”
(a PhD biochemist at a major university)

“I love your site and syndicate your content on my church website.... The stories you highlight show the irrelevancy of evolutionary theory and that evolutionists have perpetual ‘foot and mouth’ disease; doing a great job of discrediting themselves.  Keep up the good work.”
(a database administrator and CEH “junkie” in California)

“I can’t tell you how much I enjoy your article reviews on your website—it’s a HUGE asset!”
(a lawyer in Washington)

“Really, really, really a fantastic site.  Your wit makes a razor appear dull!... A million thanks for your site.”
(a small business owner in Oregon “and father of children who love your site too.”)

“Thank God for ... Creation Evolution Headlines.  This site is right at the cutting edge in the debate over bio-origins and is crucial in working to undermine the deceived mindset of naturalism.  The arguments presented are unassailable (all articles having first been thoroughly ‘baloney detected’) and the narrative always lands just on the right side of the layman’s comprehension limits... Very highly recommended to all, especially, of course, to those who have never thought to question the ‘fact’ of evolution.”
(a business owner in Somerset, UK)

“I continue to note the difference between the dismal derogations of the darwinite devotees, opposed to the openness and humor of rigorous, follow-the-evidence scientists on the Truth side.  Keep up the great work.”
(a math/science teacher with M.A. in anthropology)

“Your material is clearly among the best I have ever read on evolution problems!  I hope a book is in the works!”
(a biology prof in Ohio)

“I have enjoyed reading the sardonic apologetics on the Creation/Evolution Headlines section of your web site.  Keep up the good work!”
(an IT business owner in California)

“Your commentaries ... are always delightful.”
(president of a Canadian creation group)

“I’m pleased to see... your amazing work on the ‘Headlines’.”
(secretary of a creation society in the UK)

“We appreciate all you do at”
(a publisher of creation and ID materials)

“I was grateful for for help with baloney detecting.  I had read about the fish-o-pod and wanted to see what you thought.  Your comments were helpful and encouraged me that my own ‘baloney detecting’ skill are improving.  I also enjoyed reading your reaction to the article on evolution teachers doing battle with students.... I will ask my girls to read your comments on the proper way to question their teachers.”
(a home-schooling mom)

“I just want to express how dissapointed [sic] I am in your website.  Instead of being objective, the website is entirely one sided, favoring creationism over evolution, as if the two are contradictory.... Did man and simien [sic] evovlve [sic] at random from a common ancestor?  Or did God guide this evolution?  I don’t know.  But all things, including the laws of nature, originate from God.... To deny evolution is to deny God’s creation.  To embrace evolution is to not only embrace his creation, but to better appreciate it.”
(a student in Saginaw, Michigan)

“I immensely enjoy reading the Creation-Evolution Headlines.  The way you use words exposes the bankruptcy of the evolutionary worldview.”
(a student at Northern Michigan U)

“...standing O for”
(a database programmer in California)

“Just wanted to say that I am thrilled to have found your website!  Although I regularly visit numerous creation/evolution sites, 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 [] 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)

“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 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 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:  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, 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.”
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 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”
(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

“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 October
John Philoponus

John who?  This creation scientist has a story that needs to be heard.  In fact, we’re making this a research project this month.  John Philoponus is almost unknown in the history of science.  That needs to change, and maybe you could be the one to help.

Let’s hear some teasers about this very interesting sixth-century Alexandrian professor (who was a scholar, a fervent Christian and creationist), because his place in history is remarkable.  One of the best short summaries of his life is an article by Dan Graves online at, adapted from Graves’s excellent book Scientists of Faith.

If Graves is right, John Philoponus was a man ahead of his time – way ahead.  For instance:

  • He anticipated Galileo’s theory of inertia by a thousand years (and Galileo spoke highly of him).
  • He tried to stop the burning of the Library of Alexandria (often blamed on Christians).
  • He may have influenced early Muslim thinking about science (for which Islam got credit).
  • He was an ardent critic of Aristotle on key points, long before Aristotelianism was rejected.

    From a list of Christians in science on Revolution against Evolution, this statement can be found: One of the giants on whose shoulders Newton stood was the theologian *John Philoponus* (fl. 6th cent AD).  Philoponus suggested (on creationist grounds) that the stars are made of the same essential matter as the earth and emit light because they burn.  The different colors of stars are owing to differences of composition, he said, drawing his analogy from the differences in colors we see when we burn various substances on earth.  He attributed to impetus the movement of celestial bodies (Aristotle said angels moved the planets) and argued for void (vacuum) between the stars.  He was the first to suggest dropping balls of unequal weight from a tower.  Galileo read and praised Philoponus.

    If this sounds intriguing, help us find out if these claims have support in the literature.  Apparently, scholars have only recently revived the writings this early learned Christian professor who lived in the liveliest intellectual center of his day, Alexandria.  They are beginning to recognize his importance in the history of ideas.

    Portions of his writings have been translated on the internet.  They clearly dispute the notion that all post-Roman and medieval scholars were slavish devotees of Aristotle.  More importantly, it appears that the key to John Philoponus’s insight was his Biblical doctrine of creation.

    Read the following links and do some internet searching for more.  Here are some sources to begin your search:

  • Wikipedia.
  • Short bio on ScienceWorld.
  • Original text from a treatise on the astrolabe (also often credited to the Muslims).
  • Original text from a treatise on Aristotle’s physics, criticizing the philosopher’s view of imparted motion.
  • Book review of a biography of Philoponus by John E. McKenna.
  • References to Philoponus by Muslims (who may have called him Yahyah al-Nahwi) on the National Library of Medicine site.
  • Another book review of a book by Lettinck and Urmson (on the Bryn Mawr site about Philoponus’ critique of Aristotle’s physics.
  • Brief explanation of John Philoponus and his Christian influence on science on a New Zealand Christianity and Science site.
  • A paper by Christopher Kaiser posted by the American Scientific Affiliation mentioning Philoponus.
  • The article by Dan Graves includes a list of nine reference works.

    CEH takes no responsibility for the accuracy of these links, and does not necessarily endorse the views expressed, but offers them as starters for someone to follow up on this exciting lead.

    Was science delayed for a thousand years by ignoring the work of this early Christian thinker?   Could this man have prevented the long dominance of wrong Aristotelian views if more had listened to him?  Did a creationist lay some of the important philosophical foundations for the emergence of a scientific view of the world?  This is too good to pass up.  If you find out something interesting about John Philoponus, write us at the Feedback address.

    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.
    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.
    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.
    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).

    Disclaimer: Creation-Evolution Headlines includes links to many external sites, but takes no responsibility for the accuracy or legitimacy of their content.  Inclusion of an external link is strictly for the reader’s convenience, and does not necessarily constitute endorsement of the material or its authors, owners, or sponsors.