Creation-Evolution Headlines
June 2007
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“There are too many missing links, discovery disconnects, anatomical and functional complexities, and unexplained genetic changes, and too overwhelming a number of inexplicable and improbable coincidences, for evolution to be placed among proven scientific theories.  An enormous, rapidly growing, tidal wave of missing links is closing in on Charles Darwin’s beach, yet some of the shoreline residents cannot hear the roar.  Some may always be deaf.”
—Geoffrey Simmons, M.D., Billions of Missing Links (Harvest House, 2007), pp 272-273.
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Cosmic Star Formation: When Elegant Theories Are Wrong   06/30/2007    
An astronomer wrote about “cosmic train wrecks” in Science recently.1  Paolo Coppi (Yale) was speaking about galactic mergers, but he could have just as well been talking about current cosmological models.  Things once thought to be understood are coming in for new scrutiny, now that more powerful telescopes can peer deeper into the veiled hearts of galaxies.  One galaxy in particular, NGC 6240, thought to be the result of a merger, was mapped recently in unprecedented detail. 
    In the middle of a rather straightforward article describing current thinking about what happens when galaxies collide, how stars form, and how black holes behave, he ended one paragraph with a surprise.  It was kind of like the ending word “not” in the slang of young people – e.g., “Astronomers understand star formation – NOT!”

Detailed observations of nearby galaxies, the only kind we could carry out until recently, identified two main modes of star formation: powerful and rapid “starbursts” caused by NGC 6240-like collisions and the much less dramatic but quasi-steady formation seen in the disk of our Galaxy.  Because objects like NGC 6240 are rare today, one might speculate that most stars form “quietly” in disks.  The larger, so-called elliptical galaxies, which do not contain much gas, then come from late-time mergers of smaller disk-dominated galaxies that have turned their gas into stars.  Mergers play a minor role, mainly gravitationally scrambling already-made stars.  While elegant, this story seems wrong.
The problem is that now it appears most star formation appeared early in the history of the universe.  NGC 6240, with two black holes apparently orbiting its center, and no star formation going on today, may be a “common oddball,” – something that should have been rare, but appears to be representative of the state of the early universe.  Coppi called this “very surprising” and something that creates an “intriguing new problem for us” –
Today’s elliptical galaxies are “red and dead” because they contain predominantly old (red) stars and are not forming new ones.  Very surprisingly, some of the elliptical progenitors also appear to be “red and dead”.  Unless we invoke a new mechanism that rapidly and permanently stops star formation, the most massive objects in simulations turn out to be too massive and never sufficiently red and dead.
One solution is to include feedback from the accretion of a supermassive black hole in the models.  There seems to be observational support for actively-accreting black holes in systems like NGC 6240, with regions of active star formation going on.  “This plus the surprising discovery that every nearby elliptical galaxy contains a black hole with a mass proportional to that of the galaxy strongly hints that rapid star formation and rapid black-hole feeding and growth are both inevitable and closely connected consequences of a cosmic train wreck like NGC 6240 where gas is gravitationally squeezed into a very small volume.”  But where does the language of observation get distinguished from theory in such a statement?
    From that point on, Coppi focused on prospects for improved observations.  The Laser Interferometry Space Antenna (LISA), expected to be operational in 2015, might be able to detect the signature of black hole mergers through gravitational waves they emit.  But there is “considerable speculation,” he said, about whether black holes accrete slowly by feeding on their own stars, or form catastrophically through mergers of galaxies.  He’s not even sure LISA would be able to tell.
    In his discussion, Coppi was assuming black holes are real.  Better not tell him about other astronomers who are denying that black holes even exist.  A recent article in ScienceNOW Daily News began,
If new calculations are correct, the universe just got even stranger.  Scientists at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, have constructed mathematical formulas that conclude black holes cannot exist.  The findings--if correct--could revolutionize astrophysics and resolve a paradox that has perplexed physicists for 4 decades.
There’s no doubt that very massive, compact objects exist in the centers of many galaxies.  Asked what to do with these observations, which lead most astronomers to believe the universe is full of black holes, “‘[Lawrence] Krauss replies, ‘How do you know they’re black holes?”  No one has actually seen a black hole, he says, and anything with a tremendous amount of gravity--such as the supermassive remnants of stars--could exert effects similar to those researchers have blamed on black holes.”
    Krauss and colleagues performed detailed calculations taking into account the relativity of time.  They showed that time stops before a singularity forms, meaning “black holes can’t form at all.”  If so, one consequence is that “In essence, physicists have been arguing over a trick question for 40 years.”  Their claim is controversial at this time.  Critics point to other observations which support the “traditional” black hole explanation.  What all might agree on is that the new observations and theories show that the universe is, indeed, getting stranger.
1Paolo Coppi, “Inside a Cosmic Train Wreck,” Science, 29 June 2007: Vol. 316. no. 5833, pp. 1852-1854, DOI: 10.1126/science.1139057.
The point of this entry is not to take a position on controversies about star formation, black holes or galactic mergers, but to illustrate the difference between real objects and scientific objects.  A scientific object is something about which we cannot know directly through experience: a black hole, a quark, the core of the earth, the interior of the sun, a universal common ancestor, a prebiotic soup, etc.  Nobody denies that cars exist, and that if you drive one into a telephone pole, bad things will happen.  But scientific objects can only be inferred indirectly.  Scientists conceive of their objects as useful entities in equations, and elements of their models in theories.  How real are they?  That is an entirely different question.
    Here we have seen astronomers and cosmologists struggling with and arguing over some scientific objects.  There is no question that they “feel” these things are real, and “believe” they are discussing objective reality, but how can they justify those beliefs?  As with Darwinism, new and better observations frequently raise new puzzles and occasionally threaten to overthrow what was formerly thought to be well understood.  As “elegant” as some ideas may seem, that alone does not prove they represent reality.  The universe has no obligation to submit to human measures of elegance.
    It may have been elegant to envision galaxies aging slowly, with star formation occurring at a relaxed rate over billions of years.  It may have been elegant to envision ellipticals as relics of mergers that stripped away their gas and left them as museums of already-formed stars.  Now what?  The new observations led Coppi to admit, “While elegant, this story seems wrong.”  Now he has to tweak his scientific objects.  Now he has to envision a new mechanism that “rapidly and permanently stops star formation,” or has to tweak the models to include feedback from gravitational collapse, or has to keep black holes from colliding.  Then Krauss et al come along and claimed black holes are not real.  At what point can they claim their scientific objects are real objects?
    Dr. Steven Goldman (Lehigh U) produced an interesting 12-hour series for the Teaching Company on this problem: “Science Wars: What Scientists Know and How They Know It.”  We’ve mentioned the applicability of these lectures before to questions we often discuss here.  In excruciating detail, Goldman gives example after example of controversy in all areas of science for over 2,000 years.  Are scientists talking about truth and reality, or are they merely playing games, like members of a fraternity?  Do the scientific objects they talk about represent reality or not?
    Goldman leaves the controversy open.  His only suggestion, offered as a personal opinion in the last lecture, was that we don’t talk about scientific objects as realities, but as actualities – useful entities that allow scientists to make headway in their attempts to understand nature.  Yet it should be clear with a little analysis that this is mere quibbling over definitions.  Unless an actuality corresponds to reality, what is it?  If it isn’t real, or cannot be demonstrated to be real, then what kind of work are scientists doing?  That leads to other serious and troubling questions: should the public pay for it?  If all they are doing is speculating about things they cannot know, then what value does it have over other kinds of inquiry, that we should grant it epistemic authority and millions of dollars in funding?
    Goldman illustrates the point that almost everything scientists thought they knew at the turn of the 20th century is now considered to be wrong.  There is hardly any scientific object, whether the earth, the atom, the universe, mass, time, space, the mind, consciousness, or just about anything else from physics to economics, that is looked at the same way today.  A logical corollary is that we have no confidence in 2007 that we understand scientific objects so well that our ideas will not be overturned a hundred years hence.
    These kinds of questions need to be considered every time scientists talk about the objects of their study as if they are arriving at “the truth” about the universe.  Better data, better equipment, and better observations are essential.  We are not the ones to judge, however, the point at which our data are so good, and our ideas so solid, that no further scrutiny is needed.  The history of scientific revolutions warns us that even Newtonian physics, the epitome of rock-solid science, was vulnerable.  This is not to say that we must doubt everything.  Rocket scientists, after all, do get spaceships to Saturn at the right spot and the right time.  Scientists must be doing something right.  When observations continue to contradict theory for decades, though, and when the scientific objects involved are especially remote and far from experience, there is one law that actually gains credibility:  Murphy’s.
Next headline on:  AstronomyCosmologyPhysics
The Chimp-Human 1% Difference: A Useful Lie   06/29/2007    
Jon Cohen made a remarkable admission in Science this week.1  The popular notion that humans and chimpanzees are genetically 99% similar is a myth, and should be discarded.  Since 1975, textbooks, the media and museums have emphasized this close similarity; but now, Cohen quoted a number of scientists who say the number cannot possibly be that small and probably cannot be quantified.  Since the statistic has outlived its usefulness, it should be discarded.
    The original claim by Allan Wilson in 1975 came from studies of base substitutions when genes were compared side by side.  Other comparisons, however, yield very different results.  Human and chimp genomes differ markedly in:
  • Chunks of missing DNA
  • Extra genes
  • Number of chromosomes and chromosome structure
  • Altered connections in gene networks
  • Indels (insertions and deletions)
  • Gene copy number
  • Coexpressed genes
In this last measure, for instance, a 17.4% difference was found in genes expressed in the cerebral cortex.  Cohen recalled the December 2006 paper from PLoS One where Matthew Hahn found a “whopping 6.4%” difference in gene copy numbers, leading him to say, “gene duplication and loss may have played a greater role than nucleotide substitution in the evolution of uniquely human phenotypes and certainly a greater role than has been widely appreciated.” (see 12/20/2006 entry).
    But even that number is misleading.  Different measures produce such different results, it is probably impossible to come up with a single percent difference that wouldn’t misrepresent the picture.  Scientists are not sure how to prioritize the measures to study, because “it remains a daunting task to link genotype to phenotype.”  Sorting out the differences that matter is “really difficult,” said one geneticist.  A stretch of DNA that appears meaningless may actually be vital for gene regulation.
    What’s most remarkable about this confession is how certain evolutionary biologists are evaluating the claim in hindsight.  In the 1970s, it was considered a “heretical” view that our genomes could be that similar, but Cohen comments, “Subsequent studies bore their conclusion out, and today we take as a given that the two species are genetically 99% the same.”  But “Truth be told,” he begins in the next sentence, the inaccuracy of the statistic was known from the start:
But truth be told, Wilson and King also noted that the 1% difference wasn’t the whole story.  They predicted that there must be profound differences outside genes—they focused on gene regulation—to account for the anatomical and behavioral disparities between our knuckle-dragging cousins and us.  Several recent studies have proven them perspicacious again, raising the question of whether the 1% truism should be retired.
    “For many, many years, the 1% difference served us well because it was underappreciated how similar we were,” says Pascal Gagneux, a zoologist at UC San Diego.  “Now it’s totally clear that it’s more a hindrance for understanding than a help.”
At the end of the article, Cohen quoted Svante Paabo, who said something even more revealing.  After admitting he didn’t think there was any way to calculate a single number, he said, “In the end, it’s a political and social and cultural thing about how we see our differences.
1Jon Cohen, News Focus on Evolutionary Biology, “Relative Differences: The Myth of 1%,” Science, 29 June 2007: Vol. 316. no. 5833, p. 1836, DOI: 10.1126/science.316.5833.1836.
This is a very disturbing article.  We have basically caught the Darwinists in a bald lie that has hoodwinked the world for over 30 years.  Gagneux says, “For many, many years, the 1% difference served us well” – stop right there!  Who is “us”?  Was it the millions of school children and laymen who were lied to?  Was it the majority of people who believe God created mankind, suffering under an onslaught of lies told in the name of science?
    No!  “Us” refers to the members of the Darwin Party, the dogmatists who shamelessly lied to advance their agenda.  They had a strategy to portray humans and chimpanzees as similar as possible, in order to make their myth of common descent seem more plausible.  Now, 32 years later, they have come clean, without any remorse, only because the usefulness of that lie has run out, and needs to be replaced by new lies.  They had a political, social and cultural agenda that, in many cases, worked for 32 years.  “Truth be told,” he said.  Too late.  These guys wouldn’t know Truth if it bit them on the lips.  Truth that evolves, or that is an emergent property of material particles, is not the Truth.
    For other examples of the Useful Lie tactic used by Darwin propagandists, see 05/02/2003, 07/25/2003, 11/19/2004, 03/02/2006, 02/01/2007, 05/31/2007 and many others under the chain links Darwin and Education that have been exposed on this website.  Liars, we bare.  Buyers, beware.
Next headline on:  Early ManGeneticsEvolution
Darwin’s House: A Religious Shrine?   06/28/2007    
Britain withdrew Darwin’s home, Downe House (outside London), from consideration as a UN World Heritage Site, and Nature seemed downright disappointed.1  An article quoted Darwin scholar James Moore saying, “Muslims go to Mecca, Christians go to Jerusalem, Darwinians go to Downe.”  This seems to equate Darwinians with believers in a religion, but Nature quoted this proudly.
    What would be the statement of faith of a Darwinian religion?  The article quoted Randal Keynes, great-great-grandson of Darwin and the one who originally submitted the nomination of Downe House to UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee for consideration.  Keynes felt that the house symbolized the following values: “the understanding of the natural world by observation, hypothesis, experiment, free and wide exchange of information and ideas, theory-building and communication.”
    The British government, worried that the UN would reject the nomination on grounds that the site was neither naturally or architecturally unique, decided to withdraw it before the vote.  Nature called this a “setback” but said the nomination will be back in two years, in 2009 – the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth and 150th anniversary of The Origin of Species.
    On a related note, Richard Lane of the Natural History Museum wrote Nature complaining about their criticism that the Darwin Centre Phase Two was too small.  They can’t expect it to display Darwin’s entire insect and plant collection to the public, he said; buildings cost money.  Some of it will be on display and the rest will be available for researchers.  That will have to do for now.
1Henry Nichols, “Darwin down but not out,” Nature 447, 896 (21 June 2007) | doi:10.1038/447896a.
2Richard Lane, “Darwin Centre will be fit for its range of purposes,” Nature 447, 908 (21 June 2007) | doi:10.1038/447908e.
Look no further if you need evidence that Darwinians worship their little bearded buddha.  They said it (see also 07/18/2006, 02/13/2004 commentary).  They’ve got their Mecca.  All they need now is finch-beak-shaped minarets to remind the faithful to bow toward Downe House six times a day and pray for the destruction of creationism.  They already have their terrorism down to a science (Evolution News #1, #2; book burning, too: #3).
    Let’s see how the Darwin faithful are keeping up to the Statement of Faith.
  1. The understanding of the natural world: if they really understood it, they would see design, stasis and decay, not evolution.  Their method of understanding is to presuppose evolution as a fact and to fit every bit of data into their a priori belief system.
    • by observation:  Have they observed the Cambrian explosion?  fossils out of order from Charlie’s myth?  living fossils?  catastrophism?
    • by hypothesis:  The Darwinians are good at speculating on causes, but hypothesis is only the starting hunch for a scientific quest (see 01/15/2004 commentary), not science itself.
    • by experiment:  Tell us, Darwinites, how you plan to experiment on history.  Tell us how you plan to show us one phylum evolving into another, when they all appeared simultaneously in the earliest layers of the fossil record.  Extrapolating minor changes is a logical fallacy.
          Need we also remind readers that Darwin did not invent experimental science?  The experimental method goes back to 11th century Christian Europe at least, when Hugh of St. Victor, Richard Grosseteste, Roger Bacon and others urged observation and experimentation as a means of glorifying God and obeying the Genesis mandate.  The values that lead to scientific investigation can be traced back to King Solomon – or even Adam.
          What experiments did Darwin do to try to confirm his theory?  None!  He observed a lot of animals and plants that live in the present – barnacles, orchids, pigeons, the plants in his fields – but never experimented on how they might become new species.  He only speculated on how they might evolve over unseen ages of time.
  2. Free and wide exchange of information and ideas:  Great idea.  When do they start? (06/22/2007).  No controversy with creationists and ID people here.
  3. Theory building:  This is meaningless without explaining what is meant by theory.  Only a very loose use of the word would permit Darwin’s “one long argument” to be considered a theory.  Critic David Berlinski said that the evidence adduced in support of Darwin’s theory, like oscillating sizes of finch beaks, does not even rise to the level of anecdote.
  4. Communication:  Another great idea, if only.  The Darwinites are masters at indoctrination (see CMI for one recent analysis of how schools mislead and indoctrinate students with flawed arguments).  Communication implies the communion of ideas between two parties, not the one-way imposition of dogmas onto a target audience.
There’s a word for people who profess one thing and do another.  We don’t care to visit Downe House because of all the hypocrites in the Church Mosque of Darwin.
Next headline on:  DarwinDumb Ideas
Chimp Altruism: Is it All True?   06/27/2007    
Humans are the only inhabitants of earth that are masters of true altruism: helping others with no thought of reward.  Previous experiments had shown that chimpanzees lack this trait.  Given an opportunity to help another chimp get a banana, they showed no pattern of charity.  New experiments by researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, have contradicted the earlier studies, indicating a possible simple altruistic behavior.
    In three experiments, chimps unable to reach a banana did make it possible 80% of the time for a neighbor in an adjacent room to obtain it, even if it was costly to them, and they had to use a newly acquired skill to give access to the food.  For a control, they tried it with human infants and got similar outcomes.  The research was published in PLoS Biology.1.  Acknowledging that their work differed from previous experiments, they said, “These results indicate that chimpanzees share crucial aspects of altruism with humans, suggesting that the roots of human altruism may go deeper than previous experimental evidence suggested.”
    The news media are expressing these results as evidence of ethical behavior in the animal world: “Is it a chimp help chimp world?” asked News@Nature.  “Chimps not so selfish after all,” announced Science Now.  “Research shows chimps can be selfless,” said Charles Q. Choi at LiveScience, adding “Observations may shed light on evolution of altruism.”
    Some of the articles include views by those skeptical of the results.  Choi mentioned that it is not clear chimpanzees in the wild would behave like those in captivity.  News@Nature also brought this up; Joan Silk (UCLA) also wondered if the age of the chimps mattered, or if other factors contributed to the outcome.  But none of the reports questioned whether altruism had evolved, but whether these experiments showed how it evolved.  News@Nature ended by asking whether “Human society... has cultivated a trait that was already present, rather than inventing it anew.”  The authors of the paper, Warneken et al, said, “The evolutionary roots of human altruism may thus go deeper than previously thought, reaching as far back as the last common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees.
    From another angle, Science Now speculated earlier this month that humans are altruistic because it feels good.  Adam Hinterthuer wrote, “You don’t need to donate to charity to feel all warm inside.  Researchers have found that even when money is taken from some people involuntarily, they feel good about the transaction, as long as the funds go to a good cause.”  Does this explain why people succumb to the legal plunder known as paying taxes?  Neuroscientists at the University of Oregon measured a “warm glow” reaction using MRI when 19 female subjects gave (or lost) money that they were told went for a good cause.  Presumably, this shows humans are neurologically wired for warm-glow reactions.  It appears to provide a selfish explanation for giving.  What seems to be lacking is an explanation for how the warm-glow response became attached to altruism via mutations, and passed on to one’s descendents by natural selection.
1 Felix Warneken, Brian Hare, Alicia P. Melis, Daniel Hanus, Michael Tomasello, “Spontaneous Altruism by Chimpanzees and Young Children,” Public Library of Science: Biology 5(7): e184 doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0050184.
So where’s the Monkey Red Cross, or the United Apes Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization?  Why don’t The Monkeys organize a rock concert (03/27/2007) to raise funds for Banana Aid?  The chimp behavior only underscores the gulf between me, thee, and the chimpanzee.
    Animals in captivity often take cues from their human caregivers and respond in ways that are likely to produce rewards.  Your dog probably shows more charity to you than these apes ever would (though Lassie shows never revealed the off-set director with his cues).  Even in the wild, animals often show care and sacrifice (think ants, bees, and March of the Penguins).  These acts, however, are limited to the population, explained as learned adaptations that help pass on the genes of the species.  Mutualistic symbiosis also has “selfish” evolutionary stories.  (Darwinism is built on SELF as the designer god.)
    Evolutionists have felt they have had plausible just-so stories for all behavior but this one: true, self-sacrificing altruism toward strangers.  That’s why the excitement every time an experiment suggests or appears to shed light (Darwinian code for hoping in the dark) on a missing puzzle piece for their scheme.  Did you notice their explanation?  It’s becoming all too familiar.  They pushed the origin of the trait further back into the misty past, suggesting it arose millions of years earlier in a remote, mythical, unspecified common ancestor.  This is how they lock up their documents in the basement.  When we want to see them, they just smile and say, “trust us.”
    Good grief, the neighboring chimps banged on the door so loud the “altruistic” ones probably gave in just to get some peace and quiet.  Let’s see the chimpanzees organize a campaign to rescue an endangered species – like rational humans.
Next headline on:  Early ManMammalsEthics
Giant Fossil Penguins Lived in Warm Waters   06/26/2007    
“Giant prehistoric penguins?  In Peru?” puzzled a reporter on Science Daily.  “It sounds more like something out of Hollywood than science,” but a fossil penguin you could look eye to eye with has been found that far north.  “We tend to think of penguins as being cold-adapted species,” said one of the discoverers,” but not all species live in cold waters.  These fossils “seem to contradict some of what we think we know about the relationship between penguins and climate,” she said.
    This one was surprising not only for its locale and size (1.5m standing height).  It comes from a stratum considered “tens of millions of years earlier than expected and during a period when the earth was much warmer than it is now.”  See also National Geographic and EurekAlert.
Summing up: (1) the fossils are tens of millions of years out of order.  (2) One of the two species was larger than any penguin alive today – as tall as a human.  (3) It had a larger beak: “Both new species had long narrow pointed beaks -- now believed to be an ancestral beak shape for all penguins.”  (3) It was found at an equatorial latitude, indicating a richer biodiversity in the past.  (4) Everyone was surprised by these findings.  Conclusion: another victory for evolutionism.
    Encore:  (5)... “during a period when the earth was much warmer than it is now” (36 million years ago).  Conclusion: we must take drastic measures because humans are responsible for global warming.
Next headline on:  BirdsFossilsEvolution
Could Continents Be Flooded?   06/26/2007    
Picture the tips of the Rocky Mountains sticking out of water.  That’s what would happen if North America did not have enough heat at depth to cause the continent to float on the mantle, reported Science Daily.
A University of Utah study shows how various regions of North America are kept afloat by heat within Earth’s rocky crust, and how much of the continent would sink beneath sea level if not for heat that makes rock buoyant....
    Mile-high Denver’s elevation would be 727 feet below sea level and Salt Lake City, now about 4,220 feet, would sit beneath 1,293 feet of water.  But high-elevation areas of the Rocky Mountains between Salt Lake and Denver would remain dry land.
It goes without saying that all the coastal cities would be submerged under thousands of feet of water – Los Angeles, for instance, would be at minus 3,756 feet.
The Bible says that during the height of the Flood, all the high mountains were covered.  Most likely there were no Rocky Mountains at the time.  As a consequence of tectonic upheavals that brought on the Flood, mountains were pushed up and the ocean basins sank down (see Psalm 104:6-8).
    The geologists mentioned in this article would most likely laugh at the Biblical account.  We should remind them of what geologists David Stevenson (Caltech) admitted about how little we know of what lies below (see 04/02/2004; see also 11/05/2003).  We’ve seen geologists change their stories drastically many times (overview, 11/04/2003).  Even the current paradigm of plate tectonics is not on solid ground (11/14/2002).  Explaining the continents involves balancing contradictory forces and is not well understood (06/27/2002).  An Eyewitness was there and told us what happened.  Why not check out His credibility as you would with any other witness?
    Hikers on mountains feel like they are on terra firma, and they are in the present epoch.  But the heat below and forces under the crust can cause catastrophic change.  On a planet 70% covered with water, people often forget how unusual continents are, and how much water would be available to cover them if God were to level the playing field.
Next headline on:  GeologyBible
  Anthropologist warns that claims about early-man fossils are based on erroneous assumptions, from 02/19/2004.

Our Complex Brains: Lessons from Phrenology   06/25/2007    
This is your brain on science: it is too complex for simplistic diagrams.  Back in the 19th century, the “science” of phrenology was in full swing.  Phrenologists divided the brain into more than two dozen regions of “mental faculties” that controlled such things as instincts for eating and sex, sensation of color, language ability, and even moral and intellectual qualities such as love, wisdom, poetry and ability to ponder metaphysics.  Once these regions were mapped out, some practitioners believed they could rate your abilities by feeling the bumps on your head.  These beliefs quickly degenerated into ranking races and groups as intellectually superior or inferior.
    Even into the late 20th century, it was common for textbooks to subdivide the brain into distinct functional regions.  There is observational support for this: we know that sensory organs (eyes, ears) map to localized regions in the brain, and that sensory and mental disorders can be traced to sites of damage or poor development.  In addition, the brain does have a noticeable structure: a stem, a hypothalamus, white matter, gray matter, the cerebral cortex and other recognizable parts.  The left and right hemispheres have different properties – though not to the degree to support popular misconceptions that women are right-brained and men are left-brained, or that artists are right-brained and scientists are left-brained.
    Neuroscience of the brain is a rapidly growing field.  The brain can be approached through multiple paths.  Scientists can strive to understand the workings of individual brain cells, such as the varieties of neurons and glial cells.  Others can monitor brain waves during various activities.  The effects of diet, exercise and sleep can be measured.  Comparative anatomy can compare and contrast brain structure and function in lab rats, cats, monkeys and humans.  And the effects of brain damage can be ascertained.  Our ability to probe the brain’s secrets have become increasingly sophisticated with MRI, fluorescent proteins, genetic engineering and more.
    We have learned much, but there is a vast undiscovered landscape within the brain still to be understood.  Some idea of the status of brain research can be found in a couple of recent papers.  They show one clear lesson: that ideas about localized functional areas are far too simplistic.  Phrenology was wrong.  The entire brain is in constant communication: function cannot be restricted to distinct regions, and we still have the profound mind-body problems about the seat of consciousness and intellect.  Actually, phrenology might have served as a useful heuristic device, an attempt to bring order out of complexity, but it is dismissed as pseudoscientific today.  Here are some of the recent indications that more than we can imagine is going on at the nexus of structure and function.

  1. PhreNOlogy:  Robert Knight in Science June 15 commented about recent papers that “debunk phrenology.”1  His first paragraph pretty much sums up the verdict:
    Systems neuroscience aims to understand how billions of neurons in the mammalian brain support goal-directed behavior, such as decision making.  Deciphering how individual neurons respond to sensory inputs or motor decisions has focused on delineating the neural basis of these processes in discrete regions of the brain’s cortex, and has provided key insights into the physiological basis of behaviorHowever, evidence from neuropsychological, electrophysiological, and neuroimaging studies in humans has revealed that interactions between widespread neural regions in the brain underlie fluid, organized behavior.  Two papers in this issue, by Womelsdorf et al. on page 1609 and Saalmann et al. on page 1612, and a recent paper in Science by Buschman and Miller, unravel the details of these interactions by assessing the simultaneous activity of neurons in multiple sites of the mammalian brain.  The studies show that network interactions among anatomically discrete brain regions underlie cognitive processing and dispel any phrenological notion that a given innate mental faculty is based solely in just one part of the brain.
    Researchers found multiple regions of the brain responding to the same visual tasks in monkeys.  There appeared to be feedback between widely-separated regions.  Some of these regions communicate at different frequencies of oscillations.  The current picture is one of neural networks involving the entire brain, not just localized regions responding to sensory inputs.
  2. Primer:  Stewart Shipp gave readers of Current Biology a primer on brain structure.2  He began by giving a reason why our gray matter has its odd, wrinkled shape.  It provides efficiency in wiring:
    The grey matter of the cerebral cortex is a convoluted, layered sheet of tissue, 2-3 millimetres thick in man but with a surface area of several hundred square centimetres.  This is not an adaptation to promote gaseous exchange, or heat loss – rather, if the grey matter is compact in at least one dimension, it is outgoing axons that may readily escape it; once outside, they club together and form the cortical white matter.  If grey and white were intermixed, the average separation of neurons would be greater, creating extra neural ‘wiring’.  The speed of cortical computation would suffer accordingly.
        The principle of economic wiring can also be invoked to account for regional specialisation of function across the surface area of the cortex.  Put simply, neurons performing similar roles need to communicate, and do so more efficiently if nearby.
    Thus the reason for regions of function.  Nevertheless, it’s not the whole story: there is also a great deal of cross communication between regions, as well as cross-level communication within regions.
        Shipp described how columns of neurons (perpendicular to the layering) were found to correspond to distinct parts of the body: a patch of skin, for instance, might activate a column of neurons within the motor region.  But there is also communication parallel to the layering across columns, and this is where the simple idea of distinct regions breaks down:
    Moving tangentially through the sheet (parallel with the plane of layering) the discovery was that neighbouring columns have neighbouring receptive fields the ensemble of columns ultimately giving rise to a cortical map of the relevant sensory surface.  In sensory cortex, this engenders the ‘one map, one area’ principle for parcelling the cortical surface into discrete areas, each of which is thought to have some nuance of functional specialisation.  Cortical areas are richly interconnected – with each other and with subcortical structures – and the layering of the cortex reflects the radial organisation of all these input-output relationships.  Indeed, the layered pattern is rather uniform over the expanse of the sheet, as if to serve basic ‘housekeeping’ operations that generalise across cortical applications as diverse as colour vision, speech and music.
    Some regions are well known – the primary motor cortex and the primary visual cortex – but “These variations in cortical architecture have long been treated purely cartographically, betraying a lack of any analytic insight into the way different applications might modulate layer structure and function,” he said, further debunking phrenology.  “This is largely because, as documented below, our appreciation of layers is still rooted rather more securely in anatomical than physiological cortical characteristics.”  The whole picture requires both.
        We know more about the visual cortex because it has received an order of magnitude more study than other regions of the brain.  The emerging picture is more of multiple layers of structure and function, with cross-communication and feedback between all of them.  The brain must be seen as an entire network of interacting systems.  Yes, areas with discrete functions tend to be collocated, but the brain as a system cannot be carved up into chunks.
        This brings us to Shipp’s tongue-in-cheek conclusion: the brain is your fiend.
    The complexities of cortical circuitry are nothing short of fiendish, and the problem of integrating genetic, morphological and physiological details from diverse cortical areas and across diverse species is a worthy challenge to the burgeoning science of neuroinformatics.  Though inconsistencies abound, the fact that some trans-areal, trans-specific generalisations are possible, and justified, is a quite remarkable observation.  Following the strategy of ‘know thine enemy’, it appears that the cortical fiend has some interesting habits, which we can usefully begin to tag with some shorthand, functional labels.
    “Neuroinformatics” – a very suggestive word.
Knight ended his review with a comment about neuroinformatics – one of the most baffling questions of all:
One mystery remains: How is information in oscillatory activity encoded?  The individual spike train rate (the number of times a neuron fires each second) or spiking frequency (the rhythm at which a neuron fires) is not sufficient for coding the vast array of processes that underlie perception, memory, or decision making.  Nevertheless, the three groups have laid the groundwork for deciphering this neural code.
The mind-body problem, therefore, is still with us.  How does the soul, the mind, consciousness, intellect, wisdom, morality, and abstract reasoning correlate with a physical object, the brain?  The problem becomes apparent as you “think about thinking about“ this right now.  Your eyes are receiving light waves.  Those inputs are traveling to your optic nerve, and to the visual cortex of your brain.  Neurotransmitters are being secreted across synapses.  Billions of cells are involved in the process of reading these words.  Yet writer and reader each have a sense of communicating information through space.  You may be across the planet from the one who wrote this.  We sense ourselves reasoning about abstract concepts that cannot be reduced to atoms and molecules.  Information is being conveyed and stored.  Values are being expressed.  That information can cause the reader to command body parts to move in response.  Where is the connection between concept and atom, between mind and molecule?  The mysteries are profound.  They have occupied the minds of the world’s greatest philosophers for thousands of years.  One thing is clear: don’t expect a simplistic model like phrenology to satisfy the requirements for explanation.
1Robert T. Knight, “Neural Networks Debunk Phrenology,” Science, 15 June 2007: Vol. 316. no. 5831, pp. 1578-1579, DOI: 10.1126/science.1144677.
2Stewart Shipp, “Structure and function of the cerebral cortex,” Current Biology, Vol 17, R443-R449, 19 June 2007.
If you were living in the 19th century, would you have been swayed by the claims of the phrenologists?  Would they have influenced you to think they were onto something scientific?  Would you have come in for a sitting for a skilled phrenologist to feel the bumps on your head, and tell you about your abilities?  Well, you would have been misled.  One can only wonder about the mischief done to victims of this simplistic pseudoscience – students influenced toward wrong careers based on the verdict of a phrenologist that he or she was poor at art or wisdom or abstract reasoning; false pride given to fools who were told they were intellectually superior; and worst of all, whole classes of people who were deemed unfit or defective based on their skull features.  The Rwandan genocide can be traced to phrenology.  The Dutch began a racist segregation of two very similar tribes, the Hutus and Tutsis, based on alleged intellectual differences.  Those tensions grew until the genocide of 1994 that killed nearly a million people (see Touchstone Magazine).
    Yet are we immune today?  We still fall for the same old tricks.  Here’s a simple one: the brain of a stegosaurus was proportionally small for its body size, therefore stegos were stupid.  While that probably was true in some sense, do you see the hidden assumption?  The statement assumes that bigger is better.  Sometimes more power and efficiency can occupy a smaller space.  Your small laptop computer is more powerful than a bulky 1970s mainframe.  Maybe the stego had much more efficient and compact neurons than we do, or a better organized neural network.  Who knows; maybe they were actually good at philosophy but didn’t leave any written records.  We jest, but beware the logical traps of begging the question and glittering generalities.  Evolutionary paleoanthropologists are often guilty of this (e.g., 01/27/2004).
    A study of the history of science is valuable as a warning about pitfalls in reasoning that can become part of an accepted cultural mythology, sometimes for decades and centuries.  OK, so phrenology is wrong.  Don’t think that today’s neuroscientists and psychologists have it right.  The myth of progress tempts us to assume that whatever is newer is better.  Yes, we have better tools and a much more precise observational database about the details of the system, but the complexities of the mind and the brain remain vast and seemingly intractable.  Today’s evolutionary neuroscientists are trying to tell us that love, altruism and morality are due to brain mutations in our primitive ancestors.  To what mutations do they attribute that conclusion?
    Shipp advises us to know the enemy and attack the cortical fiend inside us.  In some respects, given what we know of human nature (1, 2, 3), that metaphor might generate some productive heuristics.
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Council of Europe Officially Condemns Creationism and I.D.   06/22/2007    
A lengthy and strident policy document was issued by the Council of Europe denouncing creationism.  The summary statement makes it clear there is no compromise possible, because “religious fundamentalists” are behind it, and that creationism and intelligent design must be firmly and unequivocally opposed.  Evolution, by contrast, is given supreme status as the explanation for everything:
The theory of evolution is being attacked by religious fundamentalists who call for creationist theories to be taught in European schools alongside or even in place of it.  From a scientific view point there is absolutely no doubt that evolution is a central theory for our understanding of the Universe and of life on Earth.
    Creationism in any of its forms, such as “intelligent design”, is not based on facts, does not use any scientific reasoning and its contents are pathetically inadequate for science classes.
    The Assembly calls on education authorities in member States to promote scientific knowledge and the teaching of evolution and to oppose firmly any attempts at teaching creationism as a scientific discipline.
The document issued June 8 contains 18 sections of a Draft Resolution with recommendations, and 105 numbered sections of an Explanatory Memorandum written by one Mr. Guy Lengagne, elaborating on these themes.  Creationism is continually portrayed as a “threat” to education, democracy and human rights, and therefore it must be stopped at all costs.  The warfare motif appears often.  In the Draft Resolution:
1.    The Parliamentary Assembly is worried about the possible ill-effects of the spread of creationist theories within our education systems and about the consequences for our democracies.  If we are not careful, creationism could become a threat to human rights, which are a key concern of the Council of Europe....
12.    The war on the theory of evolution and on its proponents most often originates in forms of religious extremism which are closely allied to extreme right-wing political movements.  The creationist movements possess real political power.  The fact of the matter, and this has been exposed on several occasions, is that the advocates of strict creationism are out to replace democracy by theocracy....
14.    The teaching of all phenomena concerning evolution as a fundamental scientific theory is therefore crucial to the future of our societies and our democracies.  For that reason it must occupy a central position in the curriculum, and especially in the science syllabus.....
Notice also that creationism is linked to political conservatism.  The Explanatory Memorandum adds,
89.    ....The theory of evolution constitutes a body of fundamental knowledge for the future of our democracies and cannot be arbitrarily challenged.....
94.    ....The teaching of evolution by natural selection as a fundamental scientific theory is therefore crucial to the future of our societies and our democracies....
Given the central importance of evolution to the future of democracy, the authors of this document must have been convinced that the evidence is strong and incontrovertible.  To what evidence, therefore, did they turn?  The part that most directly addresses this question is paragraph 12 of the Explanatory Memorandum:
12.    There is a considerable body of scientific evidence concerning evolution.  Scientists have shown that evolution is a fact because of
  • the evidence provided by palaeontological data,
  • the numerous cases of characteristics shared by organisms with a common ancestor,
  • the reality of continental drift,
  • direct observations of genetic changes in populations.
13.    It should be pointed out that the human being is just one of the links in the long chain of evolution.
This list is surprising, because since Darwin’s time and even more so today, paleontology has been one of the weakest sources of evidence for evolution, and today, genetics remains a source of heated controversy and contention – so much so, that creationists and intelligent design proponents have been using both of these as effective hammers against evolutionary theory (e.g., next entry).  Also, continental drift has nothing to do with evolution, and asserting that organisms share characteristics, or that humans are “links in the long chain of evolution,” merely restates what the document is trying to prove.
    The document elaborates on the alleged evidences in the subsequent paragraphs.  The only other evidences cited in favor of evolution are bacterial resistance and the adaptation of organisms to their environments.  Neither of these, however, is doubted by creationists.  Bacterial resistance is due to loss of genetic specificity, they would say, and would argue that the fit of organisms to their environment points to design, not evolution.
    Sections 23-28 deal with the “rules of science” argument.  Excerpts:
24. is the totality of operations that produce objective knowledge.  A statement on the world can only be described as objective if it has been verified by an independent observer.  This verification depends on three factors: scepticism, rationality and logic and, finally, methodological materialism.  These three pillars ensure the objectivity of a scientific result.
25.    Scientific research on the subject of evolution has been no exception.
Yet whenever the leading proponents of intelligent design, many of whom have one or more PhDs in the sciences from prestigious universities, try to practice this skepticism using rational and logical arguments, they are routinely shut out of the debate.  Furthermore, no modern philosopher of science would accept uncritically the claim that science produces objective knowledge, and many would differ with the view that methodological materialism is essential to science.  That was certainly not the case with the founders of science nor with many practicing scientists today.  It is, in fact, what Darwin skeptics point to as a straitjacket that forces conclusions contrary to the evidence.  Methodological materialism becomes indistinguishable in practice from philosophical materialism, they argue, when design is prohibited as a cause.
    The bulk of the document (sections 29-79) details the threat posed by the rise of creationism in Europe, country by country.  The writings of Harun Yahya in Turkey are given particular scorn, but no distinction is made in any creationist material: Christian, old-earth, young-earth, Muslim, scientific, intelligent design.  All creationism is portrayed as equally flawed and equally contemptible.
    Sections 80 to the end claim that creationism is harmful to education.  To the degree creationism is a threat to democracy, human rights, social justice, rationality, scientific progress and every other kind of good, evolution is lifted up as the greatest salve for every ill, the greatest positive force in civilization, the great unifying theory of science and the greatest answer to every question in the Universe.
    In short, “The truth and scientific nature of evolution remain irrefutable today,” states paragraph 89, and introducing creationist ideas would only bring “confusion” into the classroom.  Creationism, which is equated to religious fundamentalism, contributes to “The total rejection of science” which is “definitely one of the most serious threats to human rights and civic rights.” (Resolution, 11).
    So what should be done?  The end of the Draft Resolution makes the following recommendations:
18.    The Parliamentary Assembly therefore urges the member states, and especially their education authorities, to:
18.1.    defend and promote scientific knowledge;
18.2.    strengthen the teaching of the foundations of science, its history, its epistemology and its methods alongside the teaching of objective scientific knowledge;
18.3.    make science more comprehensible, more attractive and closer to the realities of the contemporary world;
18.4.    firmly oppose the teaching of creationism as a scientific discipline on an equal footing with the theory of evolution by natural selection and in general resist presentation of creationist theories in any discipline other than religion;
18.5.    promote the teaching of evolution by natural selection as a fundamental scientific theory in the school curriculum.
Creation groups would heartily endorse the first three points, but would notice a strange disconnect starting at 18.4.
    The resolution concludes by saying, “The Assembly welcomes the fact that, in June 2006, 27 Academies of Science of Council of Europe member states signed a declaration on the teaching of evolution and calls on academies of science that have not yet done so to sign the declaration.”  One would be hard pressed to find any other scientific theory that requires a declaration by political entities for its support.
    What is the Council of Europe?1  Founded in 1949, it “seeks to develop throughout Europe common and democratic principles based on the European Convention on Human Rights and other reference texts on the protection of individuals.”  The COE currently has 48 member states and 5 observer countries, including the United States, Canada, Japan, Mexico and the Vatican.
    A former Soviet dissident writing for the Brussels Journal fears that the European Union in general is headed for a dictatorship.  Calling it a monster that must be destroyed, that is endangering freedoms, he said “What you observe, taken into perspective, is a systematic introduction of ideology which could later be enforced with oppressive measures.”
Update 07/12/2007: The ACLJ reported that its sister organization in Europe defeated the resolution from being adopted on the grounds it violated freedom of expression, free exercise of religion, and academic freedom.  Their document calling for defeat of the proposal was published online.
1The Committee on Culture, Science and Education that voted for the resolution on May 31 included 30 voting members, though an equal or greater number of members were not present to vote.  There was one vote against it and one abstention.  The Explanatory Memorandum of Mr. Lengagne relied heavily on works by Pascal Picq (paleoanthropologist) and Jacques Arnoult, a researcher at the French National Centre for Space Studies and a Dominican monk.  For documentation on the opposition, “a number of articles on creationism as seen by its supporters were found on the internet,” none of which were listed.
The COE’s angry tirade reads like Mein Kampf, a ridiculous rant by a madman who was only a threat when he gained power.  Similarly, this document is easily refuted on every point (mountains of rebuttals in 7 years of these pages), and is almost laughable in its shallowness.  But give the Darwin Party power to enforce these views, and this is easily the kind of policy that could produce persecution.  Talk about human rights: there are some radical Darwinists who feel so strongly about this they would put creationists in zoos (at best) and kill them for thinking unDarwinian thoughts (at worst).  How completely inverted to point to creationists as a threat to human rights and democracy, when we just endured the bloodiest century in the history of man with states dedicated to advancing Charles Darwin’s dangerous idea.  Theocracy?  Try atheocracy.
    Aware of charges like this, paragraph 87 tries to distance evolution from “social Darwinism,” calling the latter an aberration: “Social Darwinism is an ideology that claims to have been inspired by Darwin but it has nothing to do with the Darwinian theory of evolution” (italics theirs).  Darwin “is not responsible for the deviations from his theory after his death,” they shouted: “It is absolutely scandalous to present Darwin as the father of terrorism, and that may sow doubt and bewilderment in the minds of many young and inexperienced individuals.”  They point to the wars that were done in the name of religion.
    Must we repeat?  There is a direct line of reasoning from “survival of the fittest” to social Darwinism, eugenics (Francis Galton = Charlie’s cousin) and the totalitarian regimes Darwin inspired (Stalin read The Origin and became an atheist).  By contrast, there is no way anyone can get religious war and theocracy out of the teachings of Jesus (blessed are the meek, love your neighbor as yourself, pray for those who persecute you, turn the other cheek, greater love has no man than one lay down his life for his friends).  Jesus taught dying to oneself and serving others, submitting oneself to God in meekness and humility.  Past wars in the “name of Jesus” stemmed from corruptions of His teachings by power-hungry leaders of institutions.  (Most of such wars arguably stemmed from political and economic factors primarily, with religious differences as a tacked-on rationalization; e.g., the Thirty Years’ War.)  The totalitarian leaders of communism and nazism, by contrast, looked to Darwin as their hero and the one who provided a “scientific justification” for their actions.
    As an example of the shallowness of the COE document, look at their treatment of “evolutionary psychology” in paragraph 90:
90.    It is important to point out that the theory of evolution has had a profound effect on science in general, philosophy, religion and many other aspects of human society (for example, agriculture).  Evolution has also entered the field of psychology: evolutionist psychology is a field of psychology that aims to explain the mechanisms of human thought on the basis of the theory of biological evolution.  It is based on the fundamental hypothesis that the brain, like all the other organs, is the result of evolution and thus constitutes an adaptation to specific environmental constraints, to which the ancestors of the Hominidae were forced to respond.
It seems to escape the notice of dear Mr. Lengagne that he has just shot his argument in the foot.  We’ve explained this so many times here, this time let’s let Dr. Michael Egnor do it for us: see Evolution News.  Lengagne’s treatment of the Galileo Affair and the Scopes Trial are also pathetically uninformed.
    There is no part of the COE’s arsenal against creationism that has not been disarmed or turned right back against the Darwinist stronghold.  It would make a good term paper or debate topic for a reader to respond to it point by point.  He or she would find plenty of documentation right here in these pages.  While you’re at it, try to find one example among the reputable groups promoting creationism or intelligent design that wants only creationism taught in the schools.  All want both sides to be heard, as long as they are taught accurately and honestly – so did Charlie himself.  As always, it is the liberal progressives, be they stem-cell advocates, abortion advocates, homosexual advocates, open-borders advocates, global warming advocates, tolerance advocates, political correctness advocates and Darwinism advocates, who want to shut off debate and have their views imposed by political declaration or court decision.  They have a miserable track record on free speech.  Conservatives, especially creationists and intelligent design advocates, are asking for a chance to be heard – to debate the issues.  Darwinism is a huge issue.  It needs to be discussed with all the evidence and logic and reason the best minds can muster.
    Using this document as a prime example, ask yourself if there is any group in the world you know of that routinely gets more angry lambaste than creationists.  In these days of political correctness, you can advocate and practice any weird or evil belief you want and usually get away with it: any sexual deviation, pagan sun worship at solstice festivals, parades of shame and flaunting of the most irrational or weird or downright stupid idea or behavior, and people will either look the other way or actually cheer you on.  Not even teachers who have sex with their students or child pornographers are getting this much official condemnation.  But try to pass some evidence against Charlie using reason, logic and evidence, and the hate speech is unbelievable.
    And is this not hate speech?  The Council of Europe and the U.N. appear more forgiving and tolerant of suicide bombers than they are of creationists.  (Notice also how the intelligent design movement has made absolutely no headway in trying to distinguish their views from “creationism.”  To the Darwin Party, there is no difference whatsoever, despite book after book after book explaining why I.D. only is trying to answer the question if design can be inferred using scientific methods.)  To the radical Darwiniacs, any hint of trying to tarnish the reputation of Father Charlie is cause enough to bring on the full wrath of the Western World.
    But the “official ” Western World is not the “real” Western World.  Despite their power and official status, the radical Darwinists are a minority.  Most people don’t buy their line.  A recent poll reported by USA Today showed that 2/3 of Americans still trust creation more than evolution, despite decades of strict indoctrination in the public schools.
    Encouraging as that is, let history quickly remind us that fanatics with power affect the world more than silent majorities.  In each case of the worst 20th century genocidal totalitarian regimes, whether Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot or any of the others, the revolutionaries were usually more motivated, better organized and more ruthless than the majority.  Lenin’s followers called themselves “Bolsheviks” (majority) when they were actually a minority.  The Russian White Army, despite valiant efforts, was no match for the radical revolutionaries with their lies, propaganda, purges, assassinations, publicity stunts, chicanery and subversive tactics.  (For Mr. Lengagne’s education, we would like to point out that Mao was one of the very few genocidal maniacs of the 20th century who did not study in France.)
    A totalitarian regime’s strategy for gaining and holding power is to whip up the masses with hatred and fear of a perceived threat.  We see now the radical Darwinists refusing to debate, refusing to reason, and refusing to listen; instead, they are trying to whip up the nations of the world into a frenzy over a perceived threat from creationists.  If you are the target, you may have thought you were just trying to get somebody to listen to reason and look at some evidence, but no: you are a bogeyman, and bogeymen are fair game.
    As we have said before, do not think for a moment that the evils of radical Darwinism were exhausted by the atrocities of the 20th century.  In the Information Age, where your location can be tracked by GPS and there is no place to hide, where you could be implanted with mind-altering devices and coerced with new scientific tortures, the potential for abuse could make the Stalin era look like a picnic.  If the COE really means what it says that social Darwinism and communism and nazism were perverted deviations and wrong, let them (1) denounce these regimes in the strongest of terms, (2) say “never again ”will they allow such ideas to ever gain sway, and (3) explain exactly why evolutionary psychology, morals and philosophy invariably lead to peace on earth and gentle brotherhood.  It cannot be done.
    Poor Christians and Jews: the hatred comes from all sides.  The radical Muslims hate them for doubting Mohammed.  The radical Darwinists hate them for doubting Darwin.  Such irrational hatred boggles the mind.  That fact alone should cause someone to ponder that something strange is going on.  Could they be doing something right?
    Jesus predicted, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.  If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own.” (John 15:18-19).  He noted, “They hated me without reason.”  If the radical Darwinists and Muslims had a reason for their hatred, Christians should be the ones repenting and confessing their sins.  Since they do not, we can take comfort that Jesus said, shortly before receiving the most brutal treatment man could bring on a person – death on a cross – “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
    So join the Christian Recipients of Hate Society.  You’ll be in good company.  Till that day, recall too that for years Jesus employed reason and evidence in public debate.  Those are also good footsteps to follow.
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Crisis at Both Ends of Darwin’s Tree   06/21/2007    
Two assumptions about evolution – one about the earliest multicellular organisms and one about the rise of mammals – have run into trouble. 
  1. Eukarya sans Mechanista:  “In the absence of direct evidence, science should proceed cautiously with conjecture,” wisely advised Anthony Poole and David Penny in Nature.1  They scorned the researchers who glibly invent fables about how multicellular organisms arose when one engulfed another, saying, “The notion that eukaryotes evolved via a merger of cells from the other two domains – archaea and bacteria – overlooks known processes.”  Maybe that’s why they titled their Concepts essay, “Engulfed by speculation.
        Poole and Penny criticized leading theories about how eukaryotes arose, comparing them with absurd medieval speculations: “The conflicting hypotheses currently on offer show a curious disregard for mechanism,” they asserted.  They agree that engulfing was part of the story – they claim that engulfing is widespread among eukarya, but unknown among archaea and bacteria – but they criticize the way some evolutionists appeal to imagination: “It is the only explanation based on a host capable of engulfing the mitochondrial ancestor by known processes,” they demanded, “rather than by mechanisms founded in unfettered imagination.
        David Tyler on Access Research Network emphasized the damage this article portends for Darwinism.
  2. Mammals sans Clocks:  “Yet again, molecules and fossils are at odds in the dating of a key event in the history of life,” wrote John Whitfield in Nature.2  The molecular clock doesn’t fit the fossil dates at all.  The most complete phylogenetic tree built on the fossil record puts mammals on the rise 65 million years ago, but the DNA studies suggest mammals originated 15 to 35 million years earlier.  “Yawning gaps between molecular and palaeontological approaches to the dating of evolutionary landmarks have appeared ever since molecular approaches based on DNA sequences first became widely used about 15 years ago,” Whitfield lamented.  John Wible added, “I don’t have a good answer as to why there’s this discrepancy.”  Researchers are trying to force two data sets together that don’t want to get married.  The article also mentioned the large discrepancy between the two data sets from the much-earlier Cambrian explosion.
        The latest controversy was spurred by Wible’s discovery, published in the same issue of Nature,3 of a Mongolian mammal he dated at 75 million years old.  He not only found a rare Cretaceous mammal but ventured a phylogenetic tree vastly at odds with molecular studies.  He puts the crown group of mammals late in the Cretaceous, nearer the time of the dinosaur extinction.
        Cifelli and Gordon, in the same issue,4 noted how far-reaching this controversy extends: “The conflicting results of these palaeontological and molecular studies have profound implications for understanding the evolutionary history of mammals, and for understanding the pace and nature of evolution generally.”  They noted Wible’s “eye-popping” and “ground-breaking” analysis, yet how at odds it is with DNA studies.  Paleontologists will have to fill in the gaps with more finds, they said, joking that the discovery of a “Cretaceous giraffe” might send Wible back to the drawing board.  Until then, “The ‘molecules versus morphology’ debate remains both vexing and vibrant.
For more on the mammal problem, see New Scientist.  Also, National Geographic put a positive spin on the problem, favoring Wible’s fossil-centric view that the extinction of dinosaurs paved the way for mammals.

1Anthony Poole and David Penny, “Eukaryote evolution: Engulfed by speculation,” Nature 447, 913 (21 June 2007), doi:10.1038/447913a.
2John Whitfield, “Fossils challenge DNA in the dating game,” Nature 447, 894-895 (21 June 2007), doi:10.1038/447894a.
3Wible et al, “Cretaceous eutherians and Laurasian origin for placental mammals near the K/T boundary,” Nature 47, 1003-1006 (21 June 2007), doi:10.1038/nature05854.
4Richard L. Cifelli and Cynthia L. Gordon, “Evolutionary biology: Re-crowning mammals,” Nature 447, 918-920 (21 June 2007), doi:10.1038/447918a.
This is why you need Creation-Evolution Headlines to give you the spiel from the original sources, instead of swallowing the pre-digested Darwin truth serum from the popular outlets like National Geographic.  Real evolutionists are pulling their hair out.  You rarely see it unless you read the journals, because once they go outside their inner sanctums, they all put on their masks.  These are like the masks seen in Amadeus, with a happy face in front toward fellow evolutionists, and an angry face in back toward creationists.
    When their fights are exposed in all their fury, evolutionists like to say that vexing, vibrant controversy is an essential part of science – and so it should be.  But when it’s all fight and no conclusion for 148 years, except for undying faith in the overall “fact of evolution,” what are outsiders supposed to think?  For proof, wander through the Darwin chain links.  They can’t get the fossils right (05/21/2004), they can’t get the genetics right (06/15/2007, 05/01/2007), they can’t get the dating right (04/25/2007), they can’t get the tree right (02/01/2007), they can’t get the morals right (06/19/2007, 05/22/2007), they can’t get the mind right (07/07/2006, 07/15/2005, 05/17/2007) and they can’t get the philosophy right (04/30/2007, 02/20/2007, 06/03/2004).  They only thing they are good at is hating creationism (06/22/2007).  That debate, more than anything else, remains as vexing and vibrant as ever.
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Amazing Animals on Parade   06/20/2007    
You have to admire animals.  They have tricks humans still need to learn, and possess technologies that engineers are striving to imitate.
  1. Spiders:  Don’t let the black widow scare you; it’s only a picture on Science Daily.  Scientists are amazed at how these animals produce one of the best dragline silks in spiderdom.  It is the strongest and toughest spider silk found so far.  It can absorb enormous amounts of energy.  They are just now teasing out the genes that produce the proteins that produce this ideal material.  If we can learn to copy the secret formula, you may find it on your skin some day.  It could lead to “lightweight super-strong body armor, components of medical devices and high-tech athletic attire.”  That sounds both creepy and cool.
  2. Geckos:  Speaking of spiders, spiderman outfits may soon become a reality.  A team has succeeded in manufacturing “gecko tape” better than the gecko foot itself (for the physics of gecko foot adhesion, see 12/06/2006 and 08/27/2002).  Reporting in PNAS,1 a team at University of Ohio claims their nanotube-based gecko tape is four times stronger than natural gecko feet (cf. 11/06/2006).  It can adhere to almost any surface and just peel off for immediate reuse.  The researchers envision applications in microelectronics, robotics and space applications – to which the imaginative reader can envision products for the shelves of Toys R Us.  They didn’t mention if their tape is self-cleaning like a real gecko foot (01/04/2005).  Now, if they can get the dispenser to eat flies and reproduce itself, they’ll really be onto something.
  3. Starfish, Insects, :  We mammals pride ourselves on our advanced systems, but the so-called lower forms of life are not so low.  A press release from the European Science Foundation remarked that the immune systems of invertebrates are “anything but simple.”  The article gushes about how many surprising advanced technologies they have to resist disease.  Their immune systems are even fine-tuned enough to prevent autoimmune reactions.
  4. Honeybees:  Scientists used to think that the queen bee controlled the hive, like an autocrat, but new findings at University of North Carolina challenge that view and make the situation more complicated.  Somehow, the experienced worker bees arrive at a consensus and signal one another when it is time to move the hive, says a report on Science Daily.  The queen, in fact, is a passive recipient of signals.  The workers tell her when to lay eggs, when to stop, and when to fly.
        Bees are the most-studied insects of all, but these findings are contrary to the received wisdom about beehive social behavior.  How does the hive organize itself and make these important decisions without central leadership?  Scientists are not sure, but know it involves additional signals apart from the familiar waggle dance they use to point to food sources.  These signals include piping (vibrating their wings rapidly in contact) and vibration signals (a kind of grab-and-shake move).  However it works, it produces group cooperation with “remarkable efficiency.”  Maybe we should try these moves in the next business meeting.  If someone isn’t cooperating, grab and shake.
  5. Electric fish:  Loving couples who feel one another’s electricity should get a charge out of this.  Some electric fish in African waters court one another with “electric duets,” reported a press release from Cornell University.  The males “sing” to their mates with specialized electric pulses.  It must be lovely in a fishy way; even, shall we say, stunning?

1Ge, Sethi, Ci, Ajayan, Dhinojwala, “Carbon nanotube-based synthetic gecko tapes,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.0703505104, published online before print June 19, 2007.
Mention of evolution is usually rare in such stories.  When brought up, it’s usually in the form of bald assertions of dogmatism (b.a.d.), like, “scientists showed that invertebrates have evolved elaborate ways to fight disease.”  Such statements neither motivated the research nor explained it after the observations.  Just brush off such fluff and get to the amazing facts.
Next headline on:  BiomimeticsTerrestrial ZoologyMarine BiologyAmazing Facts
  More amazing animals: dog does calculus, from 05/20/2003; sea shell does nanoengineering, from 06/26/2003; butterfly uses GPS, from 05/23/2003; fruit fly ears produce shock and awe in scientists, from 05/07/2003.

The Evolution of Pride: Psychology Trumps the Bible?   06/19/2007    
“The Bible got it wrong,” announced a subtitle on Science Daily: pride doesn’t come before a fall (Proverbs 16:18).  A proud look and haughty eyes may be the first two of the Bible’s seven deadly sins (Proverbs 6:16-19), but psychologist Jessica Tracy (U of British Columbia) begs to differ.  She says pride can be a good thing, as long as it is not excessive.  It evolved as a normal, healthy part of human expression.
    Tracy, “whose research is among the first to explore the different facets of this emotion,” tried to distinguish between healthy self-esteem and arrogant hubris.  And where did pride come from?  “What particularly fascinates Tracy is how this emotion has evolved through time and continues to shape human social dynamics,” the article stated.  “For example, the darker side of pride may have evolved out of the age-old human desire for status.”
    To test her theory, she interviewed natives in the rural African village of Burkina Faso, and observed their responses to pictures of body expressions Westerners associate with pride.  They all immediately recognized a proud look.  “We saw that recognition of the pride expression does cut across cultures,” she said, working with UC David psychologist Richard Robins.
    An article about their research on EurekAlert adds to the explanation of the source of pride:

Tracy and Robins argue that the primitive precursors of pride probably motivated our ancestors to act in altruistic and communitarian ways, for the good of the tribe, and the physical display of pride both reinforced such behavior and signaled to the group that this person was worthy of respect.  So individual pride, at least the good kind, contributed in important ways to the survival of the community.
Tracy claims that the “dark side of pride” comes from trying to short-cut the good side.  When someone tries to gain respect without earning it, they turn pride askew: “Social cheaters puffed themselves up because deep down they did not have what it took to succeed in their world.”
These articles qualify as “dumb” on several levels.  First, they quibble about definitions.  Even the Bible distinguishes between a feeling of confidence, joy or hope that is warranted (such as confidence in God’s promises) and selfish arrogance.  So no, the Bible did not get it wrong.  Tracy and Robins acknowledge that pride is not always good.  Hubris and selfish arrogance can be harmful.
    This leads to the second flaw: she stole worldview presuppositions from Christians to make value judgments.  Evolutionary theory cannot say that anything is beneficial (even survival), or that anything is “dark” or “puffed up” or “hubristic,” because she has no standard by which to judge such things.  Evolution is what evolution does.  There is no basis on which she could claim that a prideful tribe that crushes and decimates a group of peaceful neighbors is doing a bad thing.  Her inability to restrain value judgments is a tip-off that her God-given conscience is speaking.
    To be consistent, she can only say that pride “is”.  There exists a set of biochemical processes, characterized by people who puff out their chests and force their way on others, that we call by a group of five letters, p-r-i-d-e, a word totally devoid of moral content.  Christians, by contrast do have such a standard: the character of God and His commandments.  We forbid Tracy to plagiarize the Bible.  It’s unconscionable that she should do so, then turn around and say her source got it wrong.
    Last, Tracy’s work contributes nothing.  As so often is the case in evolutionary literature, her explanation is mere storytelling.  She invented a Star Wars myth about alleged primitive people, some of whom were tempted to the Dark Side of Pride.  The tribespeople in Africa she interviewed are – guess what? – 21st century moderns.  They exist in the present, not tens of thousands of years ago in an evolutionary galaxy far, far away.  To associate them with primitives is de facto racism.  The villagers of Burkina Faso, who are every bit as modernly human as the professors at the university, should be incensed.
    Could Tracy and Robins possibly know what primitive humans (even if there were such beings) were doing when some genetic mutation invented pride?  Does her model actually contribute anything to understanding of human character?  Is it not an imaginary fable?  Does it not work to rationalize one of the deepest character flaws in the human soul, the cause of so much evil in the world?
    Evolutionary psychology is a deceptive, self-refuting, phony religion set in opposition to the Bible.  In their vain attempts to psychologize and evolutionize pride (and everything else), its practitioners exhibit the worst kind of hubris themselves: an appearance of scientific knowledge with no foundation.  The cultists cannot make bricks for their temples.  They rely on thieving from those who have the raw materials and the means of production.
    Instead of wasting government money on psychological fluff that does no one any good, Tracy needs to quit her cult and go get a real job.  Everything she needs to know about pride was written in the Word of God from the beginning.  Someone take this poor, confused lady by the hand and invite her to church – preferably, one of the Christian mission churches in the village.  Wouldn’t that be an appropriate education in humility.
Next headline on:  Early ManBible and TheologyPolitics and EthicsDumb Ideas
Why Your Eyes Jitter   06/18/2007    
The coach’s advice “Keep your eye on the ball” is impossible, because your eyes are constantly in motion with tiny jerks called fixational eye movements or saccades.  Why do the eyes move all the time?  Some scientists at Boston University decided to find out.  Reporting in Nature,1 they found that saccades help you discriminate fine details in the visual field.  Rucci et al said,
Our eyes are constantly in motion.  Even during visual fixation, small eye movements continually jitter the location of gaze.  It is known that visual percepts tend to fade when retinal image motion is eliminated in the laboratory.  However, it has long been debated whether, during natural viewing, fixational eye movements have functions in addition to preventing the visual scene from fading.  In this study, we analysed the influence in humans of fixational eye movements on the discrimination of gratings masked by noise that has a power spectrum similar to that of natural images.  Using a new method of retinal image stabilization, we selectively eliminated the motion of the retinal image that normally occurs during the intersaccadic intervals of visual fixation.  Here we show that fixational eye movements improve discrimination of high spatial frequency stimuli, but not of low spatial frequency stimuli.  This improvement originates from the temporal modulations introduced by fixational eye movements in the visual input to the retina, which emphasize the high spatial frequency harmonics of the stimulus.  In a natural visual world dominated by low spatial frequencies, fixational eye movements appear to constitute an effective sampling strategy by which the visual system enhances the processing of spatial detail.
The brain compensates for these movements so that we are not aware of them (03/29/2002, 11/24/2005, 11/10/2006).  This was known, but the reason for the saccades was only suggestive till now.  Using new methods, the Boston University team found that subjects with the stabilized vision lost more than 16% of their ability to discriminate fine details in the high-frequency gratings, but showed no change with low-frequency gratings.  This result was unexpected:
Thus, fixational eye movements improved discrimination of the orientation of a high-frequency grating masked by low-frequency noise but did not help with a low-frequency grating masked by high-frequency noise.  This result is surprising because it contradicts traditional views of the influence of fixational eye movements on vision.  Indeed, the pronounced reduction in contrast sensitivity at low spatial frequencies measured by previous experiments with prolonged retinal stabilization predicts a more significant drop in performance with low-frequency than with high-frequency gratings.
Nevertheless, their experiments were robust: the saccades helped most in distinguishing fine detail.  The researchers found, furthermore, that the eye movement also helped distinguish detail in very low contrast scenes.
    For a controlled experiment, they kept one axis stable and the other in natural motion.  As expected, image discrimination was improved on the moving axis.
These results are consistent with the informational content of the modulations of luminance introduced by fixational eye movements.  These modulations only convey information about the pattern of noise during motion parallel to the grating, but provide maximal information about the grating when motion occurs on the axis orthogonal to the grating.
    The authors provided some differential equations that described how the motions of the eye provide more information from the visual field.  In conclusion, they said:
Our results show that vision is impaired at high spatial frequencies in the absence of fixational eye movements.  This finding is consistent with the spatial frequency dependence of the temporal modulations resulting from fixational eye movements.  Neurons in the early visual system are sensitive to these input modulations.  As with the stimuli of experiment one, natural visual environments possess substantial power at low spatial frequencies.  Our results indicate that sampling visual information by means of a jittering fixation is an effective strategy for analysing natural scenes, facilitating the processing of spatial detail in the face of otherwise overwhelming low-frequency power.
As indicated, they figured that there must be a function for the phenomenon.  This approach motivated them to experiment and find the answer.  It was not possible to determine this function with earlier technologies, they said.
    Science Now weighed in on this story, commenting that these findings “mark an important step toward settling a 50-year-old controversy.”  The article said we still have known surprisingly little about saccades.  This new work shows that “the eye’s jitters help the brain pick out fine details, the kind involved in locating a single tree in a forest or a berry in a bush.”  This ability is shared with other mammals: “Most animals with sharp central vision, such as humans, monkeys, and cats, make microscopic eye adjustments when they fix their gaze.”  Saccades have also been observed in the eyes of birds.2
1Rucci, Iovin, Poletti and Santini, “Miniature eye movements enhance fine spatial detail,” Nature 447, 852-855 (14 June 2007) | doi:10.1038/nature05866.
2See Journal of Neuroscience where researchers described saccades in the eyes of two species of predatory birds possessing binocular vision.  The authors did not comment on whether this represents a case of “convergent evolution.”
There was no mention of evolution in this paper.  We do not know their feelings about evolution, but these authors have demonstrated in deed that assuming design leads to productive science.  They saw a phenomenon; they assumed there was a reason for it.  Now we know more about the eye than we did: and it’s a wonderful thing.  There is more information and functional design behind these strange eye movements than we imagined.
    Their results make sense in hindsight, too (if you’ll pardon the expression).  Continuous eye motion allows the neurons and the brain to take numerous snapshots from slightly different angles, so as to glean the maximum amount of information from the visual field.  For widely spaced details, this does not add much information, but it adds a lot in low contrast and high-detail situations.  Think about that the next time you are reading fine print in low light, like the small black lettering on black plastic that manufacturers are fond of embossing on the backs of TV sets to frustrate consumers when they need to plug in the cable in dim light.  Your eyes are subconsciously helping you out.  This could have been vital for our primitive ancestors.  How could they have plugged in the cable before the flashlight was invented?
    Compare this finding with the one about birds that bobble their heads when they walk (04/12/2004).  When you see something in nature you don’t understand, try the approach that there must be a reason for it.  Science is supposed to be an organized method for finding out the reasons for things.  Now, ask yourself the meta-question: what is the reason for reason?
Next headline on:  Human BodyAmazing Facts
  How to get metamorphic rocks in 10 years – not millions (from 06/30/2005).

More Reasons to Enjoy Creation Outdoors   06/17/2007    
Evidence keeps mounting that exercise is good for almost every body.  It can prevent and alleviate many ailments.  But isn’t that only natural?

  • Low back pain:  Laziness increases the risk of back pain, reported EurekAlert on work from Australia.  Staying in bed shrinks muscles needed to support the back.  So does prolonged inactivity at a desk job.  Conclusion?  “If you sit around too much long-term, such as a desk job with no sport in your spare time, the muscles can slowly change in a bad way, giving you a bigger risk of hurting your back.”  Sporting suggestion: go take a hike.
  • Diabetes:  Exercise does twice as much good as diet and medicine for diabetics, says a report from U of Missouri-Columbia.  A change of lifestyle to include exercise brings strong benefits: “In studies that focused on exercise only, blood glucose improved twice as much as in studies that focused on exercise, diet and medication adherence.”  See also Science Daily.
  • High blood pressure:  “Obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and inactivity: they’re not just your father’s problems any more,” said a press release from University of new Hampshire.  College students had their diets and lifestyle habits measured and found that they were worse off than they thought.  Many admitted they get less than 30 minutes of activity a day.  Some students were shocked to find out how unfit they were, while researchers warned that “if they continue on this trajectory, are going to be much more of a health burden at age 50 than their parents are.”
  • Thirst and Water Intoxication:  Now that you have decided to exercise more, you need to hydrate the body properly.  Remember when they told us to drink more water?  Too much can be as bad as too little.  Instead, advises Georgetown Medical Center, let thirst be your guide.
  • Better Little than None:  Now, some good news.  Science Daily reported dramatic health benefits after just one exercise session, even for diabetics and the obese.  Doctors at University of Michigan found that the improved metabolism from exercise can forestall a primary symptom of type 2 diabetes.
The hazards of inactivity are worrisome, and the benefits of exercise are manifold.  Exercise improves the organs, the mind, the attitude, the longevity, and even social and spiritual health.  The body was made for activity.  As much as you can, give it what it needs.  Benefits will begin almost immediately no matter how out of shape you have become.  Schedule time for it, and start today.
The epidemic of obesity these days is a crying shame.  A walk around any shopping mall or public place reveals a high percentage of people who are overweight – some morbidly so.  These people (except for the very few who cannot help it), should realize that they are advertising their irresponsibility, like someone walking around with a sandwich board reading, “I lack self control.”  (This is NOT to say that skinniness is a virtue – it can often be just as unhealthy and dangerous.)  We all have a normal weight for our body type that we should strive to maintain.
    If you find yourself weighing more than you should (let’s face it, that’s a lot of us), don’t beat yourself up and get depressed about it, and don’t spend money on fad diets, books and programs.  Just make some adjustments to your lifestyle habits little by little.  Remember two things: (1) you need to pour fewer calories down the gullet, and (2) you need to burn more calories through exercise.  Build these simple reminders into your daily routine as a way of life, and give it time to work.
Calories and diet: You can still eat things you enjoy, but try these tips.  Eat smaller portions.  Eat slower; savor each bite.  Mom, bless her heart, was wrong: you don’t have to finish your plate.  Eat what you need of the burger or fries and throw the rest out.  Don’t do what the fast-food joints tempt, either: don’t supersize; downsize.  Get the double whopper instead of the Texas triple, or the whopper junior instead of the regular.  Put less salt and sauce on the meat.  Put less butter on the potato, less salad dressing on the salad.  Never gorge yourself at a meal.  Balance out the things you enjoy with healthy fruits, vegetables and lean meats.  In time, you will learn to like the healthy stuff, and the rich food will begin to seem unnatural.  Gradual lifestyle changes will be more likely to stick.  A registered dietician should be consulted for hard cases.
Exercise is the more effective of the two factors, because it not only burns the calories, it helps your body handle the energy budget more efficiently, and is self-reinforcing: the more you exercise, the better you feel, and the more you want to exercise.  Throughout history some very strong and fit individuals have gotten by with a far less optimum diet than we have available today, because they lived active, vigorous lives; think of soldiers from ancient times who performed mighty feats of strength and endurance.  A good diet, therefore, is not enough alone, and exercise can compensate for some dietary deficiencies.
    Like a savings account, the accrued interest of a regular exercise program will grow.  Think of it as an investment.  We all have plenty of excuses – too busy, too tired, too overcommitted – but exercise will give you more strength and joy for all your other work, and will allow you to get more done in less time – and a longer life to achieve more.  In other words, you can’t afford not to exercise.
    Even the infirm or disabled can often do something.  Under a doctor’s supervision, squeeze a ball, bend your forearms with small weights, do deep breathing and abdominal isostatic exercises, bicycle your legs in bed, but try to take your body to a higher level than it is right now.  Think you have problems?  Look at Nick Vujicic, born without arms and legs, who swims and dresses himself and operates his own business, typing with his one working toe (watch the amazing video clip on the site).  Look what Bob Wieland did after losing his legs in Vietnam.  Take whatever faculties you have left and maximize them.  If your body isn’t working, use your mind.  (Actually, as long as you are alive, there are far more body parts that are working just fine than are disabled – like trillions of cells.)
    The able-bodied commuter with a desk job has many options.  Park and walk farther.  Take stairs instead of the elevator.  Stretch at the desk.  Take breaks to walk around.  Get out of the cubicle and go outside once in awhile.  “Light is sweet, and it pleases the eye to see the sun,” said an otherwise-cynical elderly king (Ecclesiastes 11:7).  If you still think you don’t have time, try multitasking.  Listen to sermons, books on tape or training programs in your MP3 player while you walk.
    For those in the southern California area, a new book by Steve Sears can motivate you to get the exercise you need without the boredom of treadmills and gyms.  God, Growth and Great Adventure tells you where to go, what to take, how to prepare, and what to see on dozens of great hikes in the mountains and deserts of California.  With this book (or one like it for your locale) and a Bible in hand, get out and enjoy the world God made – it will do your heart, soul and spirit a world of good.  Check our photo gallery for more inspiration.
    What does all this have to do with creation and evolution?  Read this, point 1, and also this.
Next headline on:  Human BodyHealth
Saturn’s Moons Are Bustin’ Out All Over   06/16/2007    
Add Tethys and Dione to the party blowers around Saturn.  Cassini found that these two moons are active, like Enceladus and Titan, though on a lesser scale.  Cassini scientists discovered the effects of outbound particles from these moons by studying the plasma fields with the Cassini plasma spectrometer (CAPS) instrument.  The results suggest surface activity, possibly even volcanic, on the two icy bodies that lie between Enceladus and Rhea.
    The story, based on a paper in Nature,1 was picked up by, MSNBC and Science Daily.

1Burch et al, “Tethys and Dione as sources of outward-flowing plasma in Saturn’s magnetosphere,” Nature 447, 833-835 (14 June 2007) | doi:10.1038/nature05906.
This compounds the mystery of why these icy moons, so distant from the sun (and assumed to be so very, very old), should be active today when we can observe them up close.  Cassini has been worth every penny just to see the surprised look on the scientists’ faces.
    Stay tuned for the super-closeup flyby of Iapetus (03/01/2006, 01/07/2005) on September 10.  More wonders are sure to be in the wings of the rings.
Next headline on:  Solar SystemGeologyPhysics
Plants’ International Travel Upsets Evolutionary Idea   06/16/2007    
They may be rooted in soil, but plants really get around.  Some of them make it around the world.  One example has upset a long-believed evolutionary idea.
    First of all, plants have a social life.  National Geographic published a story about how plants socialize and communicate.  “Plants have family values, too, it seems, with new research suggesting they can recognize close relatives in order to work together.”
    Sometimes, another National Geographic article explained, they decide to go on vacation.  Using up their “frequent flora” miles, they can take to the winds and set down roots in distant lands.  Long distance travel by plants was assumed to be rare and random, but genetic studies of nine arctic species indicated they had traveled up to 1000 km from their starting place.
    One such international travel escapade amounts to a conspiracy.  Kapok plants crossed an ocean to undermine Darwin, according to a story in Science Daily.  The trail of intrigue led from South America to Africa: “the kapok tree now is upsetting an idea that biologists have clung to for decades: the notion that African and South American rainforests are similar because the continents were connected 96 million years ago.”  To pull off this scheme, the kapok seeds found ways to cross the ocean.
Another seed that enjoys ocean cruises is the mangrove.  The Moody film Journey of Life details how the long seed pods of this plant glide like submarines across the salty sea.  Upon reaching shallow water, one end becomes waterlogged and sinks, planting the pod upright in the sandy soil, ready to start a new mangrove forest.  The coconut is another world cruiser.
    We should not feel sorry for plants, stuck as they are in one place.  They move and socialize and travel more than we imagine.  Would that science reporters would appreciate the design in plants instead of spinning their reports around the latest scare fads, like global warming.  Mars and Venus have global warming but nothing like kapok trees, mangroves and coconuts.
Next headline on:  PlantsEvolutionAmazing Facts
Could Germ Toxicity Be an Environmental Effect?   06/15/2007    
Listeria becomes nasty when starved of oxygen, reported EurekAlert.  “Limiting oxygen produces bacteria up to 100 times more invasive than similar bacteria grown with ample oxygen supplies.”
Could this imply that a world with different atmospheric or soil conditions could have been less prone to disease?  Could the bacteria we fear most have been placid or even beneficial in such an environment?
    One instance doesn’t make the case, but this surprising finding is food for thought.  Pasteurize before consuming.
Next headline on:  HealthCell Biology
Genome Complexity Unveiled: No Junk, Only Function   06/15/2007    
Any remaining doubts that the idea of “junk DNA” has itself been junked should vanish under the latest findings about genome complexity.  A number of recent news stories have revealed astonishing levels of regulation and organization in the non-coding regions of DNA.  It turns out that genes are not the only interesting things in the code.  A wealth of functions were uncovered in the non-coding regions formerly assumed to be useless.
  1. Function Junk-tionNature1 published results from a consortium named ENCODE (Encyclopedia of DNA Elements).  Its pilot phase consisted of 35 groups examining 30mb of the human genome (about 1%) in unprecedented detail.  See EurekAlert for a summary of the consortium’s findings.
        Team members found, first of all, that most of the “junk” sections are “pervasively transcribed” despite lacking genes.  Surprisingly, some distant portions are linked into one transcript.  Second, they found a lot of overlap in the transcribed areas; some non-gene transcripts overlap those of genes.  Third, the structure of chromatin (protein around which DNA is wrapped) has been shown to interact with the ways DNA is transcribed and regulated.  Finally, only a few genes appear constrained by natural selection; many others vary widely between mammals.
        These initial results are starting to revolutionize our picture of the “functional landscape of the human genome,” the paper said.  They will undoubtedly reverberate through speculations about genome evolution as well.  For instance, the presence of wide variation in the non-coding transcripts between mammals suggested to the authors that a vast pool of neutral segments (of no immediate benefit to the organism) exists.  “This pool may serve as a ‘warehouse’ for natural selection,” they speculated, “potentially acting as the source of lineage-specific elements and functionally conserved but non-orthologous elements between species.” 
  2. Comments One:  This interpretation, however, is disputed by others, Erika Check reported in a separate news article summarizing the results.2.  Her analysis agrees with the sense of wonder over all the new-found complexity.  She mentioned one geneticist who feels we have been “vastly underestimating how much of the genome is functional.” 
  3. Comments Two:  And that’s with just 1% of it analyzed in this detail.  John Greally, in another news report in the same issue,3, reminded his readers: “So although the glimpse we are provided by the ENCODE consortium into the ordered complexity of 1% of the human genome is tantalizing, the insights only confirm the challenges that lie ahead.”  He expressed the reversal in attitudes about these Cinderellas of the genome:
    We should have guessed that this was merely prima-donna behaviour on the part of narcissist genes when the sequencing of the human genome revealed that they comprise only a small percentage of the DNA.  And our confidence should have been shaken when some sequences located far from any genes were found to be strikingly conserved, indicating that they have some important function.  Now, on page 799 of this issue,1 the ENCODE Project Consortium shows through the analysis of 1% of the human genome that the humble, unpretentious non-gene sequences have essential regulatory roles (Fig. 1).
        We are increasingly being forced to pay attention to our non-gene DNA sequences.
  4. Comments Three:  Elizabeth Pennisi also commented on ENCODE’s findings in Science.4  She said it’s forcing us to rethink what it means to be a gene.  If genes only make up 2% of the genome, why is 80% of the DNA expressed?  This is upsetting our gene-centric perspective.  She quoted Francis Collins of the Human Genome Project, who appeared optimistic that “we’re beginning to understand the ground rules by which the genome functions.”  That implies we are not far beyond square one.  He said the gene concept is not going out of fashion; “It’s just that we have to be more thoughtful about it.”
  5. Drosophila phenomena:  An article from Berkeley Lab indicated that fruit fly heterochromatin (large regions of chromosomes devoid of genes) is “far from junk” as earlier thought.  “Not so long ago, the difficult-to-sequence, highly repetitive, gene-poor DNA found in regions of chromosomes known as heterochromatin was called ‘junk.’  Like dark matter in the universe, the true nature of heterochromatin was unknown.”  It appears now that heterochromatin is essential for numerous functions, such as neutralizing transposons.  Some of it also codes for genes that were missed because they are separated by large, repetitive introns.  These and other functions were uncovered when the team decided to question the “junk DNA” paradigm: “We set out to see if there was any information in that junk,” one team member said.
  6. Genetic Clockwork:  Of all things, a clock mechanism has been discovered for regulating genes.  Dr. Bert O’Malley at Baylor College of Medicine (see EurekAlert) found that 25,000 genes follow a clock controlled by master switches that turn gene expression on and off.  Ubiquitin molecules are added each time a gene is expressed.  When the number reaches five, the protein transcribed is destroyed.  This prevents too much of a good thing.
        Dave Scot wrote about this from an I.D. perspective on Uncommon Descent.  He likened the mechanism to a shift register in digital electronic devices.
  7. Teeming with Significant Life:  Another article appeared on Science Daily about the ENCODE results.  It says that the human genetic deserts, once thought to be junk regions without function, are “teeming with significant life.”  Professor Alexandre Reymond said, “Our work has shown that the human genome is far more complex than anyone could have imagined, even ten years ago. Understanding these complexities is essential to the development of effective and safe genetic medicine in the future.”
Several other Intelligent Design commentators have given non-Darwinian interpretations of these findings.  See Evolution News and Uncommon Descent for examples.
1The ENCODE Project Consortium, “Identification and analysis of functional elements in 1% of the human genome by the ENCODE pilot project,” Nature 447, 799-816 (14 June 2007); doi:10.1038/nature05874.
2Erika Check, “Genome project turns up evolutionary surprises,” Nature 447, 760-761 (14 June 2007); doi:10.1038/447760a.
3John M. Greally, “Genomics: Encyclopaedia of humble DNA,” Nature 447, 782-783 (14 June 2007); doi:10.1038/447782a.
4Elizabeth Pennisi, “DNA Study Forces Rethink of What It Means to Be a Gene,” Science, 15 June 2007: Vol. 316. no. 5831, pp. 1556-1557, DOI: 10.1126/science.316.5831.1556.
Let us all, therefore, with solemnity and humility, lay to rest the dead theory of junk DNA.  “We should have guessed,” Greally said.  Indeed.  If they had just listened to creationists and intelligent design people saying for years that it isn’t junk, that there must be a reason for it, then the Darwinists wouldn’t have held back good science for so long.  Now it would be honorable if they would give credit to the ones who were headed in the right direction from the beginning.
Next headline on:  GeneticsEvolutionIntelligent Design
The Evolution of Vomit   06/14/2007    
Upchucking “could have an adaptive value in evolution,” wrote Dan Jones in Nature1 in a news feature about moral psychology.  Why are we disgusted at certain things, like maggots and rotting food?  Evolution, he asserted without a burp, throwing in disgusting things like OPM and OPI (other people’s morals and other people’s ideologies) —
Evolution suggests that the human moral faculty – the psychological systems that make judgements about right and wrong, what’s permissible and what isn’t – was cobbled together from pre-existing brain systems over millions of years of biological and cultural evolution.  Along the way, it latched onto disgust as a useful tool.  “The experimental data point to the possibility that our disgust system might have been adapted by evolution to allow us to reject or disapprove of abstract concepts such as ideologies and political views that are deeply influenced by culture, as well social groups associated with ‘disgusting’ concepts,” says [Jorge] Moll [a Brazilian cognitive neuroscientist].
Jones also referred to the work of Jonathan Haidt (05/22/2007) and others who attributed all emotions, morals and values to cultural evolution of our apelike ancestors.  His piece was copiously illustrated with images of people expressing disgust, and even one of a man vomiting.  The first image was from Darwin’s post-Origin book, On the Expression of Emotion in Men and Animals (cf. 11/22/2005 commentary), in which Darwin tried to show evolutionary roots of facial expressions with photographs of people crying, laughing, looking afraid and showing disgust.
1Dan Jones, “Moral psychology: The depths of disgust,” Nature 447, 768-771 (14 June 2007) | doi:10.1038/447768a.
Oh barf, we already awarded Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week to Leslie Mullen (06/11/2007).  Nothing could be more disgusting than to see an evolutionist evolutionizing disgust.  Why?  Because it is self-refuting.  Jones claimed (with the support of other evolutionists) that our value judgments, morals and ideologies are evolutionary artifacts of natural and social evolution.  If so, they have no basis in truth, and truth itself becomes an evolutionary artifact.
    Yet throughout the article, Jones hinted that propaganda (e.g., Hitler comparing Jews to rats to co-opt the disgust response), racial prejudice, sexual stereotyping, religious persecution, and aversion to stem cell research are not good things.  By what standard could he make such judgments?  According to his own presuppositions, his disgust response is an evolutionary artifact just as much as Hitler’s was about Jews.  Moral relativism is inescapable in this view (re-read 05/22/2007 commentary on why this is self-refuting).
    This article also gets the Dumb award for its Tinker Bell Theology (01/13/2006, 09/22/2005 commentaries).  Our moral sense was “cobbled together from pre-existing brain systems over millions of years of biological and cultural evolution,” he says (maybe this can win Stupid Evolution Quote of Next Week).  With one swoop, he just tossed out the Bible, Shakespeare and every great work on moral philosophy.  We don’t need to read and think deeply about moral issues any more, use logical arguments about the nature of right and wrong, or good or evil, because Charlie’s little fairy renders all such reasonings obsolete.  Tinker Bell zapped some brain cells with mutations, such that old parts came together in new ways for natural selection to work on.  Presto: morality.
    The arrogance of these people.  Disgusting.  It’s enough to make you want to up Chuck.
Next headline on:  DarwinPolitics and EthicsDumb Ideas
Travel Tip:  Want to have a fantastic educational vacation next year, and learn a great deal about creation and the flood while you’re enjoying a wonder of the world?  Click here for a tempting look.

Huge Forest Fossilized Suddenly   06/14/2007    
Nature1 had some interesting comments about the fossil forest found in a coal mine a few months ago (see 04/23/2007).  Kirk Johnson of the Denver Museum of Natural History said that a vast area (over 3.8 square miles) must have been inundated quickly for this fossil graveyard to be preserved.

Rapid burial can result from various mechanisms.  In the case of the Illinois forest, which grew in a coastal mire, local tectonic subsidence dropped the forest floor to sea level quickly enough for the plants to be preserved in place.  The rate of this type of subsidence is difficult to measure, but DiMichele et al. argue that it must have occurred within two months to provide the quality of preservation seen in the mine.
Rapid burial is required, because “Dispersed plant parts are rapidly recycled by soil organisms and reduced to their organic constituents within months,” he said.  “Well-preserved palaeobotanical remains are therefore direct evidence of rapid burial below the level of destructive processes occurring in soils.”
    What mechanism could suddenly plunge 3.8 square miles of forest under the sea?  Johnson proposed that an earthquake did it: “local tectonic subsidence dropped the forest floor to sea level quickly enough for the plants to be preserved in place.”
    Other known fossil forests were buried by volcanic ash.  In those cases, radiometric dating can be used, he said.  The rest of the article dealt with attempts by geochronologists and plant biologists to calibrate the geologic column.  Johnson claimed it is becoming possible to pinpoint rapid events within their geological period.  In that context, he said, in conclusion: “Just because something happened a long time ago does not mean it took a long time to happen.
    A paper on the Pennsylvanian-era fossil forest (located in Illinois) was published in the May issue of Geology.2  See also two popular news reports replicated with a picture here, and reports on National Geographic and BBC News.
1Kirk R. Johnson, “Paleobotany: Forests frozen in time,” Nature 447, 786-787 (14 June 2007) | doi:10.1038/447786a.
2DiMichele et al, “Ecological gradients within a Pennsylvanian mire forest,” Geology, May 2007, pp. 415418, DOI: 10.1130/G23472A.1.
Two months; that’s about right.  Can any uniformitarian point to a place on earth where nearly 4 square miles of forest sunk intact into an ocean in two months or less?  If not, let’s try a new maxim: “The past is the key to the present.”  It’s interesting that any kind of exotic catastrophe is OK to geologists and evolutionary paleontologists these days – as long it was not a global flood.  The worldwide instance of bizarre fossil graveyards (e.g., 02/02/2004) should re-open old questions long abandoned by the disciples of Lawyer Lyell (see 05/22/2003).
    This amazing fossilized forest provides an opportunity for creationists to do independent research.  Perhaps the fossil bed is even larger than 3.8 square miles.  Someone should try to access the raw data, or even observe the site directly, to learn more about an intact ecology that was rapidly submerged, and to study the means of inundation.  Access to uncontaminated samples to look for evidence of remnant carbon-14 would also be interesting.  That’s the kind of evidence an evolutionary geologist would not even pursue because he or she already “knows” the forest is 300 million years old and all carbon-14 would have long ago decayed.  Let’s ask some original questions.
Next headline on:  PlantsFossilsGeologyDating Methods
Imaginary Dinosaur Feathers Found – Again!   06/13/2007    
Last year, we reported that imaginary feathers had been found on a dinosaur fossil (see 02/08/2006).  Now, more imaginary feathers have turned up.  This turkey was big, too: the dinosaur plumed in the imaginary feathers stood almost 12 feet tall.  Everyone’s talking about it: Fox News, MSNBC News and Science News among others.  National Geographic called it “birdlike” and most of the other articles are fluttering with bird references.  But again, we’re confused: where are the feathers?
    Despite the artist’s conception of the creature abundantly outfitted with colorful arm plumage, all the articles admit that no feathers were found on the bones of this new giant, Gigantoraptor elrianensis.  Instead, they say that the creature “likely” had feathers.  They are also calling attention to the beak-like mouth and slender legs of the animal as evidence for ancestry to birds.  National Geographic said it resembled a mammoth-sized ostrich.  News@Nature said that, though it is “thought” to have had feathers, “There are no clear signs as to whether it was feathered.”  The claim is based solely on its supposed affinity with “other dinosaurs known to have been feathered”  (but cf. 05/23/2007).
    There’s a problem with the story, however.  This species, comparable in height to T. rex, is 35 times taller and 300 times heavier than Caudipteryx, a fossil that had distinct feather impressions.  “That puts the Gigantoraptor’s existence at odds with prevailing theories that dinosaurs became smaller as they evolved into birds and that bigger dinosaurs had less birdlike characteristics,” the AP report stated.
    Tracing the ancestry of birds from dinosaurs just got “more complicated than we imagined.”  So said Xu Xing, co-author of a paper that announced the find in Nature.1  “It was an unexpected finding,” Xu said, because paleontologists had expected oviraptors to get smaller and more birdlike over time.  Mark Norell, curator of the American Museum of Natural History, said “It’s one of the last groups of dinosaurs that we would expect to be that big.
    What did the original paper in Nature say?  It argued that Caudipteryx and Protarcheopteryx (two small, “feathered dinosaurs”) are in the family tree of the giant raptor.  But the new fossil complicates the picture of bird evolution, they admitted in the final discussion:
Gigantoraptor is an exception to some general patterns seen during the gigantism of non-avian theropods.  Contrary to the evolutionary trend of size decrease in coelurosaurian evolution, which plays a key part in the origin of birds, most non-avian coelurosaurian subgroups display a trend of size increase and their large-sized members tend to reverse to more primitive conditions in many bird-like characters.  The discovery of Gigantoraptor complicates this pattern, however.  Although much larger than its close relatives, Gigantoraptor has proportionally the longest forelimb among oviraptorosaurs, a manus resembling basal eumaniraptorans, bird-like hind limbs, and many other advanced features.  These features are close to the conditions in birds but absent in other smaller oviraptorosaurs, indicating an unusual pattern for the Oviraptorosauria among the non-avian coelurosaurian subgroups.
The feathers on Gigantoraptor, meanwhile, remained imaginary.  They said the animal “might have at least retained arm feathers or their homologues from its ancestors, if not other types of feathers, given that the primary function of arm feathers is not to insulate the individual and their development is probably not related to size.”  But their reference to the two feathered critters was dated 1998.  In 2000, Science News listed among its biggest stories of the year the possibility that Caudipteryx was a flightless bird, not a dinosaur.
    These problems, however, are no reason not to celebrate the discovery of imaginary feathers.  Fox News and MSNBC both published an AP story about an exhibit on feathered dinosaurs beginning to make the rounds of American museums, starting in Miami.  “It tells the story of bird evolution,” chirped a believer.  Answers in Genesis, however, voiced a raucous squawk on the whole idea.  (See also the 10/10/2005, 10/24/2005 and 10/12/2005 critiques that birds evolved from dinosaurs.)
1Xing Xu et al, “A gigantic bird-like dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous of China,” Nature 447, 844-847 (14 June 2007) | doi:10.1038/nature05849.
This is more fodder to store up for the day when the whole Darwinian house of cards collapses.  We will need to show students of the future how strong beliefs blinded the eyes of certain scientists and made them imagine a vain thing (see 01/17/2007 commentary).
    For a different take on what happened to birds and dinosaurs, consider this other news item.  Astrobiology Magazine pondered why so many dinosaur fossils, including all specimens of Archaeopteryx, show the creatures had died with heads tilted backward, apparently gasping in agony.  Kevin Padian and Cynthia Fox are not satisfied with the usual explanation that the bones came into this position drifting in water before burial.  Padian also noted many of these specimens show evidence of rapid burial because they are exquisitely preserved.
    Though Padian and Faux favor the alternative idea that some poison or environmental factor choked the animals, another possibility fits the evidence perfectly well.
Next headline on:  DinosaursBirdsEvolution
Why Do Some Fruit Bats Have Color Vision?   06/12/2007    
One would think bats don’t need color, since most fly at night.  That’s what scientists thought, reported Max Planck Institute, until color-vision cones were found in some species.  Some species have two cone types, giving them bichromatic vision, and some have only one, making them effectively color blind.
    Bats come in two orders: big and small.  We usually think of the small microbats that live in caves and use echolocation, but the megabats, or flying foxes, do not use sonar.  They fly at twilight or during the day.  Both orders are amply supplied with the light-sensitive rods.
    The scientists found that some megabats have green and blue cones, but three species have only green cones.  They surmised that these species, roosting in darker quarters of caves and trees and flying only in twilight, lost the use of their blue cones.  One commented, “A loss of blue cones is a rare event in evolution, it has been found in only a few mammals.”  Otherwise, the retinas of bats are normal for mammals, not an ”evolutionary quirk,” another commented.
    This story was also reported in Science Daily.
Loss of function is not evolution.  Natural selection is able to remove useless organs, but no one has observed it evolve a new organ.  That would require the acquisition of new genetic instructions.  Think of the difficulty of adding a new blue cone, for instance, where one did not exist before.  Having all the parts of a blue cone come together by chance would be just the first improbability.  The brain would have to understand the signal, and the bat would have to know how to differentiate and use the new color.  Fruit bats are not blind as a bat, the title said – but some evolutionists are.
Next headline on:  MammalsEvolutionary Theory.
Ma Lizards Dress Their Young   06/12/2007    
Leapin’ lizards: the side-blotched lizards of the American southwest are able to dress their kids in the latest scale fashions.  A press release from UC Santa Cruz shows that hormones from mom can dramatically affect the pattern and coloration of offspring.  The scientists observing this phenomenon think it has something to do with matching their looks to the need of the moment: aggression, camouflage, or social acceptance with siblings.  Apparently these lizards know how to dress for success. 
If the parents actually have this kind of control over the outward looks of the young, then developmental factors may have more to do with variation than mutation and natural selection.  What’s Darwin got to do with it?  Very little, apparently.  The researchers said nothing about it, even though one was listed as an evolutionary biologist.  If these lizards can vary their appearance substantially in one generation, they should have evolved into birds by now.  But no one is claiming they have been anything other than side-blotched lizards since antiquity.
Next headline on:  Terrestrial ZoologyEvolutionary Theory
Invent Animals: Just Add Phosphorus   06/11/2007    
“Phosphate does a body good,” announced Leslie Mullen in an article for Astrobiology Magazine, a NASA website.  So good, in fact, it builds whole new body plans.  Her story suggests that the Cambrian explosion was due to a rise in phosphate in the oceans.
    In the Cambrian explosion, virtually all the animal phyla appeared in the geological blink of an eye.  Without blinking her eye, Mullen asked, “The rock record shows that phosphorus, once scarce, became abundant around the same time as the Cambrian explosion.  Could phosphorus be the key to unlocking the mystery behind the Ediacaran extinction and the sudden emergence of animal life on Earth?”
    The invention of complex body plans found in Cambrian fossils was attributed to an unknown process named emergence:
  • Was the extinction of one kind of life related to the emergence of another?  If so, what role did the environment play in tipping the scales?
  • Could phosphorus be the key to unlocking the mystery behind the Ediacaran extinction and the sudden emergence of animal life on Earth?
  • The emergence of hard parts in animals by phosphate deposition could account for the “explosion” of fossils in the Cambrian rock record, since hard parts are better preserved over long time scales than soft body parts.
Mullen’s article focused on the opinion of Jim Elser (Arizona State), who investigated Cambrian rocks for their phosphate content.  But she was careful to air the views of a skeptic: Bruce Runnegar of UCLA.  He thinks the secret ingredient was oxygen.  “I would put more money on oxygen rather than phosphate as an intrinsic trigger of the Cambrian explosion,” he said Runnegar.  “Phosphate may have been a follower rather than a leader.”
    Controversy may continue far into the future, Mullen acknowledged.  How do you solve a puzzle with an infinite number of pieces?
The cause of the Cambrian explosion and the mass extinction that preceded it is made complicated by the seemingly infinite pieces that make up the whole puzzle.  Figuring out how the different environmental elements may have interacted is difficult, in part, because the world back then was such a different place than the one we now experience.  Whether phosphate is a key piece in that puzzle, merely a contributing factor, or simply a side effect of other events remains a mystery.  What is certain is that the development of such biomineralization made nature the bloody battlefield of tooth and claw versus protective body armor that continues to this day.
For assuming that environmental causes alone produced the eyes of trilobites, the vertebrae of fish, and all the other organs of dozens of phyla; for attributing this complexity to the addition of certain atoms; and for regurgitating the Malthusian (06/05/2007) iconic imagery of red teeth and bloody claws; Mullen wins Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week.
NASA’s Astrobiology program: your tax dollars berserk.
Next headline on:  Darwinian evolutionFossilsDumb Ideas
MRI Inventor Honored   06/11/2007    
Dr. Raymond V. Damadian, inventor of the MRI scanner, received the 2007 National Inventor of the Year Award in Washington DC, according to a press release from the Intellectual Property Owners Education Foundation.
    Damadian, head of FONAR Corporation, which he founded in 1978, received the 2007 award for inventing the Upright MRI, a scanner that “allows physicians to image patients in various weight-bearing positions in order to view tissues or analyze the spine, joints, or bones for fractures under the strain of normal use rather than in a prone position.”  Despite Philips Corporation commercials now airing on TV, FONAR advertises theirs as the only true “Open MRI” system.  The “tunnel MRI” devices require the patient to lie on a bed.  Open MRI allows for much more flexibility in positioning of the target tissue, and much more comfort for the patient.  In a press release from the company May 17, Damadian explained why this is like going from the gas lamp era to the age of electric lights.
    For years, Dr. Damadian had to defend his original MRI patent against large international corporations – and he eventually won.  Yet in 2003, the Nobel Price for the MRI was given to two rivals who built on his discovery.
    The award article tells how he is now working on an operating room MRI that will allow surgeons to see diseased tissue in real time as they operate.  The first such device has been installed at Oxford University in England.
You recall that suspicions loomed large in 2003 that Damadian was denied the Nobel Prize because of his creationist views (02/09/2004).  It’s good to see his epochal work continue to get recognized.  46 years from now, when the Nobel Committee’s 2003 records are opened, the truth may come out about their anti-creationist bias.  By then, the Nobel Prize itself may be a relic of the 20th century.  Historians, though, will continue to honor Damadian as the man who pioneered inventions that have helped millions.
Next headline on:  Politics and Ethics
  College-level books are in awe of the complexity of the cell, so why do high school students get simplistic Darwinism in their textbooks?  From 06/17/2002.

Origin of Life Made Simple: Stochastic Innovation Answers I.D.   06/08/2007    
A press release from UC San Francisco teases,

Before life emerged on earth, either a primitive kind of metabolism or an RNA-like duplicating machinery must have set the stage – so experts believe.  But what preceded these pre-life steps?
    A pair of UCSF scientists has developed a model explaining how simple chemical and physical processes may have laid the foundation for life.  Like all useful models, theirs can be tested, and they describe how this can be done.  Their model is based on simple, well-known chemical and physical laws.
Stochastic innovation can be considered a euphemism for “chance invention.”  A stochastic process is one where chance and natural law interact.  Justin Bradford and Ken Dill came up with a model that they believe bridges the gap between primordial ingredients and working machinery – at least conceptually.  Their model was published in PNAS June 4.1  The press release gives the upshot, which focuses on the interactions between simple chemical catalysts, such as the surfaces of clay minerals:
The basic idea is that simple principles of chemical interactions allow for a kind of natural selection on a micro scale: enzymes can cooperate and compete with each other in simple ways, leading to arrangements that can become stable, or “locked in,” says Ken Dill, PhD, senior author of the paper and professor of pharmaceutical chemistry at UCSF.
But is it really possible to extend natural selection to an abiotic environment?2  The press release compares this chemical selection to natural selection in living things: neurons, ant communication, and Darwin’s theory in general.  “Like these more obvious processes, the chemical interactions in the model involve competition, cooperation, innovation and a preference for consistency, they say.”  Yet these examples are all under the control of a genetic code.  And teleological terms like competition, cooperation, innovation and preferences can hardly be ascribed to molecules.
    Thus far, this would be an argument from analogy – a logical fallacy.  The authors attempted to bring this back to reality:
In its simplest form, the model shows how two catalysts in a solution, A and B, each acting to catalyze a different reaction, could end up forming what the scientists call a complex, AB.  The deciding factor is the relative concentration of their desired partners.  The process could go like this: Catalyst A produces a chemical that catalyst B uses.  Now, since B normally seeks out this chemical, sometimes B will be attracted to A — if its desired chemical is not otherwise available nearby.  As a result, A and B will come into proximity, forming a complex.
    The word “complex” is key because it shows how simple chemical interactions, with few players, and following basic chemical laws, can lead to a novel combination of molecules of greater complexity.
This is an improvement, but they still described molecules as players desiring one another and hoping to improve.  Did the journal paper, where higher standards of accuracy are expected, do any better?  A quick look shows them starting with the same analogies and teleological language:
There are several examples of what might be called “stochastic innovation,” whereby a biological, physical, or sociological system: (i) searches among viable options, then (ii) selects one or more of those options that is “best” by some metric, then (iii) locks in that selection for the future.  In biology, the best-known example is Darwinian evolution, where variation is the term that describes the search step, and natural selection is the term that describes steps (i) and (ii).
They proceeded to apply this reasoning to neurons and ant colonies and humans: “Human beings, businesses, and social organizations evolve through decision-making: they search among the options available to them, make self-serving choices, then remember and act on those decisions in the future.”  It is still unclear, however, how molecules can do these things.
    At some point, the authors are going to have to restrict their vocabulary to the non-teleological, impersonal language of chemical laws and chance:
Our interest here is in whether stochastic innovation might also be achievable in chemistry and biochemistry.  Can chemical and biochemical reactions be chained together in complex and innovative ways, driven only by simple physicochemical search and selection processes?  If so, it may be useful, not only as a tool in chemistry and biochemistry, but also for giving insights into the processes of chemical organization that may have occurred during prebiotic evolution.
This is where the rubber must meet the road.  Surprisingly, as they were putting on their gloves to announce their model, they made some embarrassing admissions about their predecessors:
Our goal is not to explain some existing body of data, because we know of none that pertains.  Rather, our goal here is to propose a type of organizing principle that has not been explored before, as far as we know, but that is based on well established physicochemical principles and that can be tested by experiments.  Our initial motivation for this work was to understand some puzzles of prebiotic chemistry, where, it could be argued, the field is just as limited by a lack of specific testable models at the moment as it is by a lack of experiments.
Leaving that little revelation behind, let’s examine the nuts and bolts of their model.  They laid down a few assumptions and boundary conditions, and spoke of conceptual catalysts A and B that interact according to simple rules.  (A and B are imaginary molecules in a computer, not real chemicals off the shelf).  Out of their ground rules, the following phenomena emerge: cooperation, competition, consistency, and innovation – or so they claim.
    As an example of competition, they introduced a super-A player that does a better job of catalyzing.  The result?  The rich get richer: “Within our simple chemical model system, this competition resembles Darwinian selection, except that our metric of ‘success’ is AB complex formation, whereas the metric of success in biological systems is survival.3
    But is this really an escape from teleology?  So far it appears that these “AB complexes” are little more than gunk, if they have no function or goal.  They would merely accumulate by chemical laws of mass action and osmosis till some limiting factor brings the state to equilibrium.
    “Our model shows that consistency has value, exhibiting ‘tortoise and hare’ behavior,” they boasted, but who would be there to ascribe values?  What judge would be watching the race and deciding the winner?  What crowd in the stands would be cheering on their champion?  Their analogical language continued, showing that the tortoise wins, just like in the fable: “Thus, sustained consistency is more effective for complex formation than high-activity-burst behavior.”
    Next, they added more catalytic pairs to the model, and got what they called “functional hierarchies.”  They said, “Thus, multiple catalysts can be driven together, potentially into a variety of topological arrangements, including metabolic chains, networks, and cycles.”  Somehow, metabolism got snuck into the picture.  Metabolism presupposes the harnessing of energy for function.
    Then, the authors threw in another surprise: they claimed their model dispenses with a famous intelligent design argument:
These results bear on an idea that has been called “irreducible complexity.”  It has been argued that complex biological and prebiotic chemical systems could not have arisen by simple physicochemical processes, because there would have been no selective advantage for each of the putative incremental changes along the way.  In that view, what good is half an eye?  An organism would not be served by anything less than a full eye, so intermediate structures would not have imparted enough value to survive natural selection.  In that view, “irreducible” refers to a system that would fail to function if any one component is removed, and irreducible complexity refers to the idea that such systems require design and could not be developed by stochastic innovation.  The counterargument, seen in computer simulations, for example, has been that stochastic innovation works differently: evolution doesn’t “know” the final end-goal in advance, but finds it through a random search in indirect, incremental steps.
Sure enough, the first reference is to Michael Behe’s book, Darwin’s Black Box, and the counterargument refers to Lenski and Adami’s digital organisms (see 07/04/2004 entry).  But in that case, ID critics charged the evolutionists with investigator interference by imposing their mental powers and decisions on the players (see ISCID).  These two authors are now claiming that an irreducible system has emerged “by blind physicochemical forces.”
    The ending discussion asserted that this model has another beneficial by-product: it explains gaps in the fossil record.  They explained:
In short, the intermediate states are unstable.  The steps are downhill.  One evolutionary step leads to the next, quickly followed by the next, and so on, without pausing.  In the evolutionary metaphor, half an eye never appears as a stable state because such a state is quickly driven by even stronger evolutionary forces to form a complete eye, maybe for a different purpose than the half-eye.  Such two-state transitions are also common in protein folding, for example, where the denatured state is followed in time by a partly structured state that is immediately followed by an even more structured state, etc., until the molecule becomes fully folded into the native structure.  At the earliest stages of folding, the protein does not know that it is headed toward the native state; it is just seeking a situation that is marginally better than its previous state.
Unpacking that paragraph, we find more personification and teleology again: we have steps leading to states that have purpose and are better than previous states.  We have proteins that are seeking to go uphill in incremental steps.4
    Winding up, the authors explained why their model supports the view of a growing minority of origin-of-life researchers, that metabolism preceded genetics (06/12/2006).  Metabolic chains and cycles of reactions emerge in their computer model without a genetic code.  “Of course,” they conceded, “an important virtue of ultimately having a genetic system is that it provides much longer term ‘memory’ for the ‘lock-in’ step (step 3 in the Introduction) than does nongenetic propagation, where memory is merely provided by a ratio of off-rates to resource fluctuation times.”  Yet virtue seems limited to moral agents, not chemicals.
    They explained that search, selection, and lock-in are the only mechanistic processes required.  Search occurs through chemical attraction, selection occurs through the formation of AB complexes, and lock-in occurs when the complexes are robust against depletion disasters.  This, they claimed, is the virtue of their model: it supplies a mechanistic answer to the intelligent design critics:
A key distinction between stochastic innovation, explored here, and design-based innovation, in which a complex system is engineered and constructed by a designer, is that stochastic innovation involves no implicit “goals” and no guidance toward a particular purpose.  The Darwinian paradigm shows how increasing complexity and order can arise from processes that do not involve guidance through intelligence or design.
They even offered a way to test their model: measure if AB complexes are more concentrated when the common resource is depleted.  It was not clear, however, if anything would happen at all if an intelligent lab worker were not present.  They assumed a tester would select the catalysts and control the concentrations.
    The final paragraphs discussed weaknesses of previous self-organization models.  Theirs, they boasted, requires no genetics, no designer, and only the laws of thermodynamics and chemical attraction.  Yet the conclusion relies heavily on the word function:
A well known process in chemistry is the binding and association of molecules, driven by thermodynamic forces.  Here, we consider whether catalyst molecules might be driven to associate with each other, through typical binding forces, but based on their molecular functions.  Functional driving forces are well-known in biology, through the principles of evolution, but are not yet much studied in chemistry.  We propose a model for how different Michaelis-Menten enzymes or catalysts might tend to associate, driven by the production or depletion of common resources.  The agents do not associate if the common resource is plentiful.  We call this the shielding principle.  In this way, agents organize adaptively, and complexity can form from simpler systems.  In our model, “function dictates structure,” a reversal of the paradigm in which “structure dictates function.”
The unanswered question is, can function exist without biology?  If chemical function is meaningless, then they have assumed a biological concept that they needed to prove.
1Justin A. Bradford and Ken A. Dill, “Stochastic innovation as a mechanism by which catalysts might self-assemble into chemical reaction networks,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.0703522104, June 12, 2007, vol. 104, no. 24, pp. 10098-10103.
2See online book, esp. page 90.
3Recall that if evolutionary success is measured in terms of survival, the result is a tautology: the fittest survive because the survivors are the fittest by definition. p See 10/29/2002 entry.
4In the protein analogy, the authors are ignoring the fact that protein folding is assisted by chaperones, and is under the control of the genetic code.  If not folded correctly within the time allowed, the protein is taken to the recycling bin (proteasome).
If you took the time to labor through their tortured thought processes, you found the same old dirty tricks the Darwin Party uses every time: personification, begging the question, analogy, glittering generalities and bluffing.  It was seasoned with the usual wishful-thinking words might, may, perhaps, coulda-woulda-shoulda.  Michael Behe could make quick confetti of this paper were he provided a chance to respond.  He just released a new book, by the way: The Edge of Evolution (Free Press, 2007).  You know it must be good: the Darwinists quickly trashed it the day it went into print.
    We took the time to explore this paper because it was important.  It was a direct attempt to defend Darwinism from three of the most damaging attacks: irreducible complexity, gaps, and the failures of chemical evolution (e.g., 02/15/2007).  Were you impressed?
    Like the evolution-via-computer charlatans, these guys only got their lab hands dirty with a keyboard.  Chemicals are less forgiving.  So let’s call their bluff and ask them to perform their proposed test with real molecules.  Ask them to throw some unselected chemicals off the shelf into a tub with some blocks of clay, sit back two billion years and watch what happens.  No interference allowed.  The chemicals must find their own “function” without half an eye to see it, and without any intelligent lab assistant to tell them what this handy word “function” means.
Next headline on:  Origin of LifeIntelligent DesignDarwinian Evolution
Video Clip:  The Rich Little Bird   06/07/2007    
A popular video clip has been circulating around the internet for over a year.  It shows an Australian lyre bird imitating other birds and man-made sounds.  Click here to watch the 3.5 minute performance.  Narrated by David Attenborough, it was voted the #1 most popular Attenborough moment from the naturalist’s TV shows.
Speaks for itself.  Incredible and fun.  Thankfully, David omitted any of his incessant Darwin-talk in the narration.  Maybe he couldn’t think of anything to say that would sound sensible.
    Teachers should use this clip as an example of animal intelligence.  Think of all the brain power and vocal hardware required for the bird to perform these feats.  This is no hoax or sound-editing trick.  Even Rich Little would be amazed.
    For extra fun, visit Fred Newman’s website on MouthSounds and consider the breadth of audio capabilities inherent in the human vocal apparatus (for a hilarious sampler, watch “A Rumination” on his videos page).  Wouldn’t it be a racket to stage a contest between Fred and the lyre bird?
Encore:  Now to really freak out, watch the talking cats.
Next headline on:  BirdsMediaAmazing Facts
Did Sponges Invent Nerves?   06/06/2007    
Scientists didn’t expect to find working neurons in a sea sponge, among the simplest of multicellular organisms.  Sponges lack internal organs and a nervous system.  Yet there they were, according to Science Daily, with synapses and apparent means of communication across them.
    “This pushes back the origins of these genetic components of the nervous system to at or before the first animals — much earlier than scientists had previously suspected,” said Todd Oakley of UC Santa Barbara.  It represents a gap of 600 million years from the time sea sponges are assumed to have arrived and the arrival of the first animal with a rudimentary nervous system.
    The article quotes Ken Kocik, also of UCSB, using this surprise finding to elucidate evolutionary theory: “We found this mysterious unknown structure in the sponge, and it is clear that evolution was able to take this entire structure, and, with small modifications, direct its use toward a new functionEvolution can take these ‘off the shelf’ components and put them together in new and interesting ways.
    Yet this is not the way classical Darwinism works.  David Berlinski, a Darwin critic, in an earlier article, insisted that the law of natural selection must be strictly enforced to be Darwinian at all.
A mechanism that requires a discerning human agent cannot be Darwinian.  The Darwinian mechanism neither anticipates nor remembers.  It gives no direction and makes no choices.  What is unacceptable in evolutionary theory, what is strictly forbidden, is the appearance of a force with the power to survey time, a force that conserves a force or a property because it will be useful.  Such a force is no longer Darwinian.  How would a blind force know such a thing?  And by what means could future usefulness be transmitted to the present?
    If life is, as evolutionary biologists so often say, a matter merely of blind thrusting and throbbing, any definition of natural selection must plainly meet what I have elsewhere called a rule against deferred success.
    It is a rule that cannot be violated with impunity; if evolutionary theory is to retain its intellectual integrity, it cannot be violated at all.  But the rule is widely violated, the violations so frequent as to amount to a formal fallacy.
Source: ARN.
We must force the Darwinists to use consistent language.  Occasionally they engage in poetic license and personify evolution, thinking (in their minds) that since evolution is a “fact” of history, it appears in hindsight as if there were goals had been foreseen by bacteria and sponges, as if they saw through the years that their experiments would someday yield nerves, muscles and brains.  If pressed, the Darwinist storytellers might argue that they don’t really mean the teleological language.  They could probably recite the blind Darwinian mechanism more accurately if they had to.
    All fine and good; so tell them they have to.  We’re onto the semantic tricks they play.  The teleological talk is outlawed within their world view.  Force them to restate the claim in consistent Darwinian terms.  That’s fair, isn’t it?  Sure.  Then just sit back and watch the whole story unravel as they hum and haw and try to say it correctly.  Be ready with the ruler to slap their knuckles with each infraction.
“Evolution can take these components [SLAP] er, something happened that was able to put them together [SLAP] I mean, rather, that parts that had proved useful to sponges [SLAP] ouch!  All right already!  A mutation occurred....”
Evolutionists foul out whenever an umpire is present.  Why?  Because fouls are the only plays in their game book.
Next headline on:  Marine BiologyDarwinian Evolution
New Bio:  Read the new short biographical sketch of William Whewell, our Featured Creation Scientist of the Month.  William Who?  Find out who, and why some ideas this first “scientist” raised are still being debated.

Color-Blind Cephalopods Perform Colorful Camouflage Tricks   06/06/2007    
Roger Hanlon has studied octopi, squid and cuttlefish for decades.  He stands in awe of their ability to camouflage themselves.  In a Primer article for Current Biology,1 he detailed some of their sleight-of-skin magic tricks.
    His article has frames from a movie clip that show an octopus changing its skin from plain to mottled in milliseconds, then to almost pure white in two seconds.  It’s not just the color that changes.  Cephalopods also have the ability to change the texture of their skin from smooth to dimpled.  They can also change the pattern from plain to mottled to what Hanlon calls “disruptive” – bold patterns that would include stripes and “light and dark patches of varying shapes, scales and orientations, and some patches [that] are usually of high contrast.”
    For such mechanisms to work, the octopus or cuttlefish has to have (1) eyes that can sense what kind of background they’re against, (2) brains that can process the information and send the appropriate signals to the skin, and (3) skin cells tied to neurons that can respond quickly and draw from a large suite of possible patterns.  These cells include chromatophores (color cells), iridophores (reflecting cells) and papillae (skin cells that produce bumps).  Putting it all together,

Rapidity of visual change is accomplished by direct neural control of chromatophore organs, which are cytoelastic sacs of pigment with radial muscles attached around the periphery.  Each muscle is innervated by motoneurons that originate in the lower motor centers of the brain, and they travel without any synapse to each chromatophore organ.  Third, camouflage benefits from both optical and physical three-dimensional effects, the latter being due chiefly to the changeable skin papillae.  Note in Figure 2 how the three-dimensionality of the skin is also under fine motor control.  Curiously, although papillae expression is regulated by visual input, neither this nor the biomechanics of how the papillae operate as a muscular hydrostat in the skin has been studied in any detail.
So here is a field of study ripe for investigation by biophysicists, neurologists, optical specialists, and specialists in a variety of fields.  New techniques with underwater computers and spectrometers have just begun, he said.  Hanlon’s team has performed experiments for five years with cuttlefish.  They put them against all kinds of background patterns and watched how their camouflage systems responded.  Surprisingly, it appears they are color blind!  Yet “Their color matches to natural visual backgrounds appear to be excellent,” he said.  How do they do it?  Stay tuned: “we continue to search for mechanisms that help them achieve color-blind camouflage.”
    One of the most intriguing effects the octopus can achieve is the ability to send hidden messages.  Hanlon explains:
Other features of the cephalopod dynamic camouflage system have yet to be studied in detail.  The skin, for example, is a marvelous example of rapid, highly coordinated optical malleability: pigmentary and structural coloration are combined in many ways to achieve vastly different appearances, both from close-up and distant viewing.  The directional structural reflectors known as iridophores (which in most animals are passive reflectors) are not only under active control by cephalopods, but they produce polarized signals that pass unaffected through the overlying pigmented chromatophores.  This raises the possibility that a dynamically camouflaged cephalopod could be simultaneously sending a ‘hidden’ signal to a conspecific, because cephalopods can perceive polarized light while most of their predators cannot, while remaining well camouflaged using pigmented chromatophores.
(cf. 12/15/2006).  If true, this indicates that cephalopods already mastered another human trick: hiding in plain sight.  Cryptologists have considered it a challenging puzzle to communicate a secret message in the presence of an adversary, like two jailmates communicating a secret to one another while an active warden is watching them.  Called steganography, the art of concealing a message in plain sight is a lively subject in computer technology.  You can find software programs that will hide or detect secret messages embedded in pictures or sound files, for instance.  Here, it appears that octopi, squid and cuttlefish have known this trick all along.
    Lastly, an octopus can alter its whole shape to mimic something else.  Camouflage works well when you are hovering still, but what about when you need to move about for foraging or finding a mate?  Hanlon shows a picture of an octopus shaping its body like a flounder.  It not only imitates the overall shape, but mimics the fins, the behavior and speed of the fish.
    The “mimic octopus” of Indonesia has even more tricks up its sleeve.  It can look like a lionfish or sea snake, among other things (see and picture of it looking somewhat like a rabbit).  Some of these tricks are illustrated in motion in the film series Incredible Creatures that Defy Evolution.  One episode also shows the cuttlefish with rapid-fire lighting effects that can hypnotize its prey.2 
1Roger Hanlon, “Primer: Cephalopod dynamic camouflage,” Current Biology, Volume 17, Issue 11, 5 June 2007, Pages R400-R404, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2007.03.034.
2For the record, Roger Hanlon is an evolutionist with no connection to these films.
Sadly, we now have to switch from the Amazing Facts thought pattern to the Dumb Ideas thought pattern.  Roger’s excellent article was marred by repeated references to evolution having accomplished these things.  Nowhere did he explain how a blind process could achieve them, just that they did.  Notice how he puts have evolved in past tense as a matter of assumed fact, right alongside incredible wonders of design:
  • Cephalopods have evolved a different life history tactic: with their keen vision and sophisticated skin – with direct neural control for rapid change and fine-tuned optical diversity – they move where they wish and can adapt their body pattern for appropriate camouflage against a staggering array of visual backgrounds....
  • How many camouflage patterns are there, and how many visual tricks have evolved to deceive visual predators?
  • While evolution has produced body colorations and patterns of bewildering diversity, we may be observing a trend in which certain effective pattern types are conserved across phyla and ecological habitat.
  • We do not yet understand the type of mimicry involved (for example, Batesian or Mullerian), the evolution of this form of camouflage, or the visual stimulation that may evoke it.
  • Future studies on fish vision would help us understand not only the anatomical organization of cephalopod pigments and structural reflectors, but the details of the whole-animal patterns that have evolved in response to the wide array of predator visual systems.
The worst example is right at the end of the article.  Evolutionists are the worst offenders at question-begging among educated people.  Read the following paragraph and ask yourself how any intelligent person could say such a thing, linking art, science, high technology and system-wide complexity to Darwin’s theory of blind chance – unless he had been brainwashed aforethought that miracles are possible in Charlie’s web of belief:
The subtle ways in which edges, shadows, outlines, patterns, colors, contrast and papillae are used by animals for camouflage or communication also seem to have much in common with art, photography, landscape architecture and related fields, because light and dimensionality are being manipulated in similar fashion.  When watching the video from Figure 1, the aphorism “truth is stranger than fiction” comes to mind, especially when compared to the ‘invisibility cloaks’ that have recently received so much attention in the popular media.  The speed and fluidity with which cephalopods simultaneously maintain predator awareness, search for prey, and coordinate a camouflage body pattern with each microhabitat offers insight into how a complex biological organism works as an intact system.  There are great challenges yet to confront in understanding the sensory and behavioral interactions between visual predators and prey, and it is humbling yet intriguing to think that such an ancient lineage as the mollusks has evolved such a sophisticated system with which to test camouflage.
Thus an otherwise stimulating paragraph was deflated by those two little words, “has evolved.”  For extreme intellectual schizophrenia and the worst case of begging the question in recent memory, this paragraph easily wins Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week.
Next headline on:  Marine BiologyEvolutionAmazing FactsDumb Ideas
No More Need for Embryonic Stem Cells?   06/06/2007    
Harvesting human eggs and creating embryos for embryonic stem cells may soon become a thing of the past.  Nature Science Update reported that four teams have verified that normal skin cells in mice can be reprogrammed to act identically to embryonic stem cells.
    The technique, called “induced pluripotent stem cell” (iPS), holds promise to end the ethically-questionable practice of cloning human embryos then killing them for their stem cells.  “If researchers succeed, it will make it relatively easy to produce cells that seem indistinguishable from embryonic stem cells, and that are genetically matched to individual patients,” wrote David Cyranoski.
    This new practice not only overcomes the ethical questions: it is easier to do, and matches the cells to the patient.  Neither eggs nor embryos are necessary.  “There’s no trick, no magic,” commented Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University, who pioneered the technique.  Another researcher was so impressed, he commented, “It’s unbelievable, just amazing.”  He compared the accomplishment to the cloning of Dolly the sheep: “It’s that type of accomplishment.”
    What remains is to test the technique with human cells.  It also remains to be seen if the cells can be transplanted back into the patient for therapeutic purposes.  At least for now, biologists may have a safer and ethically favorable alternative for studying stem cells in the lab.  The Washington Post printed a follow-up story on June 7 with reaction from ethicists, religious leaders and pro-ES stem cell advocates.  The announcement coincided with Congress’s second vote to approve funding for embryonic stem cell research, reported Focus on the Family, expected to be vetoed again by the President.  The news line at Family Research Council reminded its readers that scientists had recently used adult stem cells to manufacture insulin – an important step in finding a cure for diabetes (see Bioresearch Online).
    Already, it appears proponents of ES research are defending their turf.  In Science the same week, Constance Holden ended her report, “Hochedlinger and others hasten to point out that research needs to progress on all fronts because all systems ‘have their limitations.’”
Keep an eye on this story and on the pro-ES advocates.  The article quoted one who said that research on embryonic stem cells remains “absolutely essential.”  Why?  It is still too early to tell, but if all barriers are removed for use of iPS instead of ES, the reaction of the embryonic stem cell advocates will be instructive.  Will the Hollywood celebrities still seek air time for tear-jerking commercials, when no law will be required to overcome ethical barriers that no longer exist?  Will the $3 billion California stem cell institute switch to the newer, safer, ethical iPS?  Will Big Science lobbyists cease their rhetoric about how ethical objections to ES will leave America scientifically behind the rest of the world?  Stay tuned.
Next headline on:  Cell BiologyPolitics and Ethics
The Malthus Effect on Politics and Economics   06/05/2007    
In 1798, Thomas Malthus published an essay that had a profound impact on Charles Darwin and others.  He said that population growth vastly outstrips the resources for their survival.  This created a mindset of imminent crisis that lent itself to radical political schemes as well Darwin’s idea of survival of the fittest.  Was Malthus right?  A brief criticism appeared this month in an unexpected place: a geology journal article talking about oil futures.
    In a brief paper in GSA Today,1 Eric S. Cheney (U of Washington) and Marianne W. Hawkes argued that the world is not on the verge of an oil crisis.  To begin their argument, they looked at history, and singled out Malthus2 as a culprit whose ideas have been discredited:
The concept that resources are essentially finite may have originated with Thomas Malthus.  He concluded in 1798 that the exponential growth of Earth’s human population was unsustainable because agricultural production could only increase arithmetically.  Since then, mechanized farming, irrigation, refrigeration, chemical fertilizers (from petroleum and other mineral deposits), hybrid grains, genetic modification, and improved transportation systems have blossomed.  Now, famine is only caused by political events and by the inability to deliver emergency supplies following natural disasters.
From there, the authors critiqued a dire prediction of M. K. Hubbert in 1956 that oil production had peaked and the world was faced with a precipitous, unsustainable decline.  Scientists and activists frequently refer to “Hubbert’s Peak” to lobby for drastic political action.
    Cheney and Hawkes showed that numerous factors since Hubbert’s prediction have changed the picture.  Oil and gas production will not peak and fall off, but hit a plateau with a long, slow decline and prices rising gradually far into the future.  “The scenario presented here,” they sang, “places us among the optimists.”
    Drawing parallels with what happened to food production, they argued that political and economic factors are the main drivers of oil production, not the abundance of the resources themselves.  “Nationally owned companies currently control 90% of the world’s production of oil and gas,” they said.  “These companies tend to be secretive and under-capitalized.”  And just as Thomas Malthus saw doom before major advances in agriculture took place, Hubbert announced his doomsday prediction before major new reserves were discovered, before plate tectonics theory opened up new search strategies, before improved recovery technologies were invented, and before alternative energy sources became economically viable.
    In conclusion, they argued that the problem with oil is not availability but politics.  “Static or gradually declining production would be fairly easy to manage if oil and politics did not mix,” they said.  “Crises will recur due to aggressive or unstable exporting nations and to counterproductive legislation and foreign policies of some of the major consuming nations.”
1Eric S. Cheney and Marianne W. Hawkes, “The future of hydrocarbons: Hubbert’s peak or a plateau?,” GSA Today Volume 17, Issue 6 (June 2007), pp. 69-70.
2Malthus was not the first to have a pessimistic view of global economics.  The mercantile system of 16th-18th centuries was built on the principle that wealth could not be generated – only distributed.  This tended to keep peasants in their place and nobles careful to hang onto their assets.  Capitalism represented a radical change of view: the power of the individual to create wealth through hard work and creativity.  These ideas were fed by the Protestant Reformation’s emphasis on individual responsibility and the intrinsic value of work.
This entry is partially off topic, as our focus is creation vs. evolution, not the eco-politics of oil production.  We are also not here to argue the merits of the case made by these two, or to suggest that complacency about the future of oil is an acceptable posture.  Conservation is still virtuous and necessary.  Note, however, that these ideas were printed in a publication of the Geological Society of America, a very pro-Darwinist organization, and one of the authors is from the University of Washington, not known for its political conservatism or skepticism of evolutionary theory.
    The tie-in to Malthus, however, is important, since the Malthusian principle had a profound impact on Darwin.  It was arguably the key insight Darwin claimed led to his theory of natural selection.  The rest of the story – social Darwinism, Marxism and today’s oil-crisis mentality – shows the power of an idea to affect the lives of billions of people.  “Now, famines are only caused by political events” is an understatement.  The worst famines in the history of the world were attributable to Stalin and Mao, whose ideologies were built squarely on Darwin, whose main idea was built on Malthus.  Another horrific famine in modern times is the fault of North Korea’s communist leader, Kim Jong Il, who lives in opulent luxury building nuclear weapons and entertaining himself with fine wines and the world’s largest collection of Daffy Duck cartoons, while his people scrape bark off trees to keep from starving.  Solomon stated a principle almost 3,000 years ago that is the antithesis of Malthus: “Abundant food is in the fallow ground of the poor, but it is swept away by injustice” (Proverbs 13:23).
    Malthus came up with not so much an empirical discovery as a mental picture of the way the world worked.  Yes, he could point to some empirical facts that seemed to support his concept that population vastly outstrips resources, but it was a naive generality that ignored (or did not know about) important mitigating factors – chiefly, the power of human creativity to solve problems.  Today’s scientific farming technologies can produce bumper crops out of desert sand.  And Malthus knew nothing about genetic engineering.
    Even in the natural world, we have seen that there are natural feedback mechanisms that can moderate the production of offspring so that it is not exponentially out of control (e.g., 05/28/2007).  Recall from 03/17/2003 how Jason Wolf showed that indirect genetic effects can also act as governors on the engine of change, or slippage on the treadmill.  The vision of “nature red in tooth and claw” has changed dramatically since 1798 and 1859.  Many evolutionists today envision a friendlier world of cooperation, symbiosis and sustainable ecosystems.  Malthus, clearly, was not the last word.
    The lessons here are many.  Ideas have consequences.  Complex problems have simple, easy-to-understand wrong answers.  Intuitively obvious principles can represent false visions of the world.  And scientific or political ideologies built on them can be disastrous.  Before jumping on any political or economic bandwagon, remember the lesson of Malthus and his ideological offspring.  They did grow exponentially – and led to an economic and political world Soviet-red in tooth and claw.
Next headline on:  Politics and EthicsGeologyDarwinism
How Old Are Sand Dunes?   06/04/2007    
The Namib Desert has some of the largest sand dunes in the world.  How old are they?  Three scientists from the University of London decided to find out.  They took cores out of some dunes in Namibia and analyzed the sand, using multiple high-tech methods.  Their conclusion, just published in Geology: the dunes are much younger than previously thought – only about 5,700 years old.1  That means this huge field of dunes, some over 380 meters high, could have formed from the base up within recorded history.
    Previously, geologists were convinced that these dunes were far older:
It has been argued that large linear dunes are relics of a cooler, drier, and windier climate during the Last Glacial Maximum, a hypothesis supported by luminescence dating of linear dunes in many areas (Lancaster, 2007) and by the considerable inertia of large dunes, which require thousands of years to respond to changes in wind regime (Warren and Allison, 1998).  In addition, the large number of endemic species within the Namib Sand Sea has been given as evidence for a long and continuous period of hyperarid conditions within Namibia (Ward et al., 1983) and therefore potentially very old dunes.  These ideas gave rise to the hypothesis that, although the linear dunes of the Namib Sand Sea are currently active, they should have some older, Pleistocene core.
The Pleistocene epoch dates at 1.8 million to 11,5000 years in the standard geologic column.  The Last Glacial Maximum is thought to be 20,000 years ago.
    The team used ground-penetrating radar on a study dune 70m high and 600m wide, and surveyed a 4km area.  They also used a drilling rig to dig out a core, and dated it with optically stimulated luminescence (this gives an indication of the last time sand grains were exposed to sunlight).  They identified three domains within the core, which they said indicates three phases of dune construction with pauses in between.  The first hiatus lasted 2,830 years, they said, due to a prolonged period of increased rainfall.  In their revised model, the last hiatus was very short, occurring between 100 and 50 years ago.  It was due to “reworking of the western flank of the dune by superimposed transverse dunes migrating north along the dune flank within the past 50 yr.”  What does all this mean?
    Our studies show that large, complex, linear dunes in the northern Namib Sand Sea are younger than expected and are Holocene in age.  The relative youth of the dune indicates complete turnover of sand during the Holocene, leaving no relic of older Pleistocene dunes, if indeed they existed in this area.  It is possible that there are older dune deposits preserved within the Namib Sand Sea farther to the south, but we have no evidence for this.
    The lack of a preserved late Pleistocene core to the dune shows that large linear dunes can be entirely reworked during the Holocene in hyper-arid environments such as the Namib Desert. 
(The Holocene is charted from 11,500 years ago to the present.)  In their introduction, they stated that “Linear dunes are the most widespread type of desert sand dune, but they are rarely recognized in the geologic record.”  This study of a classic sand dune in the present, therefore, has further implications for interpreting the past as seen in the rocks:
Our studies therefore provide firm evidence for lateral migration of linear dunes and indicate that the deposits of many dunes preserved in the rock record previously interpreted to be transverse to the mean transport direction may in fact be those of dunes of linear form that combine the deposits of flow-parallel and flow-transverse elements.  This has important implications for interpretation of ancient eolian sandstones, past wind regimes, and resulting paleoclimatic and paleogeographic reconstructions.
It’s timely this study of the Namib dunes came out just when planetary scientists are trying to figure out the dunes on Saturn’s moon Titan (cf. 05/04/2006).  A new set of scientific papers about Titan was just reported in a series of press releases from Jet Propulsion Lab (see also Science Daily).  The series of articles announces the latest results from ongoing analysis of data from the Cassini and Huygens spacecraft by the European Space Agency and NASA.  The article on Titan’s surface says, “Most of Titan’s dunes are giants, each one stretching for up to 100 kilometres in length across the dark plains and separated by 10 kilometres.”  Instead of silica sand, these dunes are made up of “sugar-size hydrocarbon grains between 100 and 300 microns in diameter.”  Still, the dynamics of dune formation should share some commonalities on the two worlds, once the factors of grain size, wind speed and gravity are taken into account.  Perhaps the vast dune fields on Titan were formed in short order as well compared to the billions of years the moon is assumed to have existed.
1Bristow, Duller and Lancaster, “Age and dynamics of linear dunes in the Namib Desert,” Geology, June 2007, pp. 555-558, DOI: 10.1130/G23369A.1.
Let’s add this interesting discovery to our growing list of geological processes being revised drastically downward in age (e.g., 05/07/2007, 01/12/2007).  The questions they are not asking are as interesting as the ones they are answering.  We can think of three: (1) Why are there so few linear sand dunes in the rock record?  (cf. 06/27/2003, 07/11/2001).  (2) Will geologists now be willing to drastically revise downward the formation times for alleged fossilized dunes, like the Coconino Sandstone?  (3) If a wetter period lasted almost 3000 years between earlier stages of Namib dune formation, long before civilization began using oil and gas, how can we be sure humans today are causing significant climate change?  Try your hand.  What other questions does this paper raise in your perceptive, logical mind?  Tip: you can include Titan.
Next headline on:  GeologyDating MethodsSolar System.
  Why the first life could not form in hot springs or deep-sea vents, from 06/14/2002.

Did Walking Evolve in the Trees?   06/04/2007    
The news media are all echoing a report from Science1 that orangutan behavior in trees tells us something about the evolution of human bipedalism (see National Geographic, Fox News, and MSNBC News).  If this new view gains acceptance, it means the old iconic image of man emerging upright from a stooped-over ape posture (05/03/2007) is wrong.  A new icon will have to show a descent from the trees.  Paul O’Higgins and Sarah Elton said in scientese, “This raises the possibility that preadaptations for hominin bipedalism arose in arboreal settings rather than in terrestrial environments.”
    The original paper by Thorpe, Holder and Crompton says, “Orangutans react to branch flexibility like humans running on springy tracks, by increasing knee and hip extension, whereas all other primates do the reverse.  Human bipedalism is thus less an innovation than an exploitation of a locomotor behavior retained from the common great ape ancestor.”2  But is it fair to make an inference about humans from observations of living orangutans?  That is the question.
    O’Higgins and Elton noted that this “reopens the debate” about the origins of our own “peculiar” habit of walking on two feet.  “To date,” they confessed, “there is no consensus about the adaptive scenario that could have led to the adoption of terrestrial bipedalism.”  They listed four competing theories.  “A similar lack of agreement is also evident in discussions about the locomotor behavior of the hominin ancestor.”  While admitting that Thorpe et al have “invigorated the debate” by presenting a “plausible and elegant argument” for the tree-down theory, they said, it also causes new problems: “We must now question whether morphologies that indicate bipedalism can be used to identify hominins at the base of their radiation.”  Not only that, “This then raises the issue of whether we can unequivocally identify any traits that are truly diagnostic of early hominins.”
    The MSNBC report mentioned another cause for doubt.  “Why would chimps lose that bipedal ability while whatever became human retained it, asked Will Harcourt-Smith of the American Museum of Natural History in New York.”  He favors a view that our ancestor was multi-talented: “Another view of this might be that actually, our ancestor was rather good at doing a number of things.”  Orangutans are able to “stand straight-legged, like a person” when manipulating their stance to reach food high overhead.  The Associated Press story includes this quizzical statement: “Evolution requires a reason for such a special skill.

1Paul O’Higgins and Sarah Elton, “Anthropology: Walking on Trees,” Science, 1 June 2007: Vol. 316. no. 5829, pp. 1292-1294, DOI: 10.1126/science.1143571.
2Thorpe, Holder and Crompton, “Origin of Human Bipedalism As an Adaptation for Locomotion on Flexible Branches,” Science, 1 June 2007: Vol. 316. no. 5829, pp. 1328-1331, DOI: 10.1126/science.1140799.
Who is Evolution?  Why does she require a reason?  We have just unmasked the idolatry of evolutionists again.  They cannot make any tale fit without invoking their goddess, a mythical person who works miracles with a goal in mind.
    You never hear them talking about all the anatomical adjustments that would be required to have an ape walk upright like a man, and how these adjustments would have taken place by chance mutations.  Arched feet, reshaped skeleton, a new neck and head, readjusted internal organs, changes to musculature (including buttocks and shoulder girdle), adjustments to skin and hair and thermoregulation, new brain software – how many other major changes would have to occur simultaneously to make human bipedal motion possible?  And people can run!  Recall the impressive list of anatomical specializations required for endurance running (re-read 11/18/2004).
    Do you know of any functional activity with requirements that operates by an unguided process?  We must call foul when evolutionists reason from requirements to Darwinian theory.  We must hold them to Darwin’s own requirements that evolution must proceed without guidance or direction.  No long-term goals can be envisioned, and no personalities can direct the process.  To this we add that assuming evolution did it anyway is a bad case of begging the question.
    Let’s ask the Darwinists why the orangutans haven’t caught onto our superior means of locomotion if it is so good.  And let’s further ask why the orangutans are not observing humans and publishing papers about how primitive humans evolved into tree climbers like themselves.  Better yet, let’s have these researchers role-play the orangutans in trees, barefoot and wearing minimal clothing, so we can sneak some video of them onto YouTube.
Next headline on:  MammalsEarly ManEvolutionDumb Ideas
Origin of Multicellularity: Back to the Drawing Board   06/01/2007    
Micro-RNAs have been found in green algae.  So?  What’s the big deal?  If you read the statements in Nature,1 it sounds like evolutionary biologists consider it a big, bad deal:
  • The discovery, made independently by two labs, dismantles the popular theory that the regulatory role of microRNAs in gene expression is tied to the evolution of multicellularity.
  • The finding is as startling as the discovery ten years ago that the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans has 19,000 genes, just 1,000 short of the human count...
  • “People were shocked that the complexity of the genomes in these simpler creatures was similar to our own,” he [Gregory Hannon, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory] says.  Now it seems that the RNA in simple unicellular organisms could be as complex as that in higher creatures.
  • This [lack of microRNA in algae], combined with the fact that RNA sequences differ between plants and animals, helped give rise to the idea that microRNAs evolved independently in plant and animal lineages as parts of complex regulatory mechanisms associated with multicellularity.  Now it seems that these molecules may predate that evolutionary development.
  • “It shows how basing conclusions on studies of just one or two model organisms can really lead you astray in terms of how you think about evolutionary processes,” says Jim Umen from the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California.
  • Nobody knows why such a simple organism needs microRNAs, nor how or when they first appeared.
One thing was not under dispute, however: evolution.  “Whatever their role, their presence indicates that microRNAs could be much more ancient than previously thought; they might have persisted for more than a billion years.
1Lucy Odling-Smee, “Complex set of RNAs found in simple green algae: Single-celled organisms aren’t as basic as they seem,” Nature 447, 518 (31 May 2007) | doi:10.1038/447518b.
See it again?  The incorrigibility of Darwinists (e.g., 05/10/2007 commentary).  No amount of contrary evidence has the power to release the vice-like grip of evolutionary thinking on their minds.  To shield the audience from these embarrassments, they just turn up the fogma machines (05/14/2007 commentary) and the show goes on.
Next headline on:  EvolutionGenetics

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“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.”
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“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!”
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“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!”
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(a biology major, former evolutionist, now father of college students)

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(an attorney in Florida)

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(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)

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(a newspaper editor in Wyoming)

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(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 June

William Whewell
1794 - 1866

What is a “scientist”?  Why not ask the man who invented the word?  William Whewell (pronounced Hyool) coined the term scientist as a replacement for natural philosopher in 1833.  He himself was a scientist and a philosopher – and a theologian.  He had, furthermore, a most interesting interaction with Charles Darwin.

For centuries, most natural philosophers had been theologians, professors and amateurs.  By the 1830s, science was coming of age.  A new class of career professionals involved in the study of nature was arising.  A new title describing these full-time investigators of natural science was desired, and Whewell’s word scientist stuck.  He proved a clever wordsmith whenever fellow “scientists” needed a new term to describe something they were investigating.  For chemists like Michael Faraday, he coined the words ion, anion, and cation; for physicists, the title physicist; and for geologists, the term catastrophism – which he defended against the views of Charles Lyell, which he called uniformitarianism.  A respectful critic of Lyell, Whewell pointed out the lack of evidence for his geological and evolutionary views.

William Whewell earned the title Second Wrangler in the formidable math tripo exams at Cambridge.  He remained a leading Cambridge don in the decades that followed.  A founding member of the British Association for the Advancement of Science and a member of the Royal Society, Whewell was in the inner circle of the leading scientists of the day and was well respected by them.  Though twice married, he left no descendents when he died after falling from his horse in 1866.

As a scientist, William Whewell had wide-ranging interests.  He published work on the tides, named the geological strata Eocene, Miocene, and Pliocene, was a professor of mineralogy, and invented the anemometer – a device for measuring wind speed.  He also dabbled in mechanics, economics, architecture, history, poetry and astronomy – this was surely a period when a scientist could still be a generalist!  When not doing science himself, he was closely involved with those working in the lab.  He stimulated Faraday to perform key experiments.

Whewell is more remembered today, however, for his philosophy of science.  His two leading works on this important subject were History of the Inductive Sciences (1837) and The Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences, Founded Upon Their History (1840, revised up to 1860).  He saw himself as a renovator of Francis Bacon’s method of induction.  In this, he gave induction a new meaning: it is not mere reasoning from objective facts that could be performed by a machine.  Instead, human creativity and presuppositions join with the observations in leaps of insight that make scientific discoveries a mix of objectivity and creativity.  For instance, elliptical orbits did not “jump out” of Tycho’s observations; the genius of Kepler was to creatively impose this as a solution to bring order out of the observations.  This view has implications about the objectivity of science.  In an age when the aura of “progress” was permeating British society, and when scientific knowledge was usually assumed to correspond directly to external reality, Whewell put forward some surprisingly modern ideas that would cast doubt on these assumptions.

Whewell argued that science was a historical activity by the human mind.  Its “truths,” therefore, could change over time.  He cast doubt on the strict correspondence theory of scientific truth.  Instead, he argued that scientific results are tentative and are judged by their utility, not their inherent objectivity.  In this, his views differed sharply from those of the astronomer John Herschel who, like Bacon, envisioned science as a march of progress toward the light of truth.  Whewell argued that the subjective human dimension of science can never be divorced from the objective, because everyone operates with presuppositions.  He called these fundamental ideas and argued they are supplied by the mind itself – not received from experience.  (These differed, however, from the “intuitions” of Immanuel Kant.)

As a consequence, scientific explanation is “idea-laden” – not purely objective.  Though confirmation of a hypothesis can be strengthened by a “consilience of inductions” from many angles, it is impossible to remove the human term from the equation.  For a summary of these views, see the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Whewell.  Of note for our purposes is this excerpt: “we are able to have knowledge of the world because the Fundamental Ideas which are used to organize our sciences resemble the ideas used by God in his creation of the physical world.  The fact that this is so is no coincidence: God has created our minds such that they contain these same ideas.”  Our ideas, therefore, are mere shadows of those in the mind of God.  The late philosopher Greg Bahnsen has further argued that a scientist needs Christian presuppositions to do science.  Without the core presuppositions of Christianity, science, rationality, and logic are impossible.

Regarding the issue of objectivity, therefore, Whewell is an important thinker in the long debate about the “knowledge problem” in science: i.e., is scientific knowledge true with a capital T (something that is universal, timeless, necessary, and certain), or is it just useful?  To what extent are our scientific musings reflections of what is “out there” in the world, and to what extent are they constructions of our own minds?  Is science discovery, or is it sophistry?  Though as old as ancient Greece, this debate has been waged through the centuries.  It flared up in the 20th century with increased intensity – and remains unresolved.(1)

Most schoolchildren learn a simplified Baconian science of induction: gather lots of observations, make generalizations, formulate a hypothesis, and test it with experiments.  This sounds so intuitively obvious few pause to question the assumptions involved.  It may be adequate to get a middle school student through a science project, but a lot has happened since Bacon (and this short description of Baconian method does injustice to Francis Bacon’s own views about science).  It is far from clear that such a method of science will lead to objective facts about the real world.  Huge issues have been raised between rationalists (who think science is an activity of the mind), empiricists (who think scientific reasoning is limited to sense impressions), and others who doubt the validity of induction, deduction, or the reliability of our senses at all.

Those interested in investigating these deep and critical issues in philosophy of science should listen to two college-level lecture series from The Teaching Company, Science Wars: What Scientists Know and How They Know It by Steven L. Goldman (Lehigh University), and Philosophy of Science by Jeffrey Kasser (North Carolina State University).  Both of them mention William Whewell in this regard.  Goldman points out that Whewell emphasized the creative nature of scientific reasoning and discounted the ability of the scientist to separate his reasoning from his ideology.  In this, his views differed sharply from those of John Herschel and John Stuart Mill, who both debated against Whewell’s views, because they “call into question the objectivity, and the ultimate rationality, of scientific reasoning, theories, and knowledge claims” (Goldman).

Whewell was ahead of his time with these ideas.  For most of the 19th century and early 20th century, objectivism and progressivism reigned supreme.  Debates over these issues erupted in a major way after World War II when logical positivism, an extreme belief in scientific objectivity, collapsed.  By the 1950s, its own adherents recognized that logical positivism is inherently self-refuting and logically untenable.  Then when Thomas Kuhn published his work The Structure of Scientific Revolutions in 1960, all hell broke loose.  Charges and counter-charges flew between scientists and philosophers.  A plethora of books and articles were published.  Paul Feyerabend and others were almost reckless in their critiques of scientific reasoning.

In the 1990s, the social constructivists tossed even more fundamental challenges against the objectivity of science.  Some contended that science was a mere human tradition no different in principle from the rites of savages.  Much of this debate has cooled off for the time being.  “Big Science” has pretty much dominated the debate with a view of scientific objectivity that is more enforced than warranted.  The mainstream journals and scientific societies make it sound self-evident that scientific explanations, if not perfect, are the “best we have” for explaining the world (see best-in-field fallacy).  The wounds of the science wars, however, are still smarting.  Knowledgeable scientists realize they can no longer simply assume neutrality, objectivity, and correspondence with reality.

The ghost of Whewell is still with us, in other words.  He warned scientists to be cautious about their truth claims and to be cognizant of their presuppositions.  There is more of a social and historical element to scientific reasoning than most people realize.

Whewell was an Anglican clergyman almost all his life.  One of his books argued against the existence of extraterrestrial life, contrary to popular assumptions at the time.  He also authored one of the eight Bridgewater Treatises that were commissioned to demonstrate how scientific evidence supported natural theology.  His work, Astronomy and General Physics Considered with Reference to Natural Theology, was published in 1833.  Like many of the earlier natural theologians, he argued that the study of the laws of nature gives us confidence in the existence, wisdom and goodness of the divine Law-giver.

Charles Darwin cited a quote from this work in the frontispiece of The Origin of Species in an attempt to add credibility to his theory of natural selection.  He quoted Whewell saying, “But with regard to the material world, we can at least go so far as this—we can perceive that events are brought about not by insulated interpositions of Divine power, exerted in each particular case, but by the establishment of general laws.”  In Janet Browne’s extensive biography of Darwin, she claims that this quote was “audaciously taken out of context... suggesting that God worked through general scientific laws rather than through direct intervention” (Charles Darwin: The Power of Place, p. 80).  The clear inference is that Whewell would never have condoned what Darwin was implying.(2)

In fact, on page 107, Browne refers to a contemporary anecdote that Whewell refused to allow The Origin in the Trinity College library.  She mentioned this in a section about all the sharply critical reviews of Darwin’s book that were circulating by “men who were highly regarded in their own fields.”  The story of how Darwin’s book went from initial notoriety to calm acceptance within 10 years is an important lesson in history of science – a study that confirms Whewell’s own views about the historical and social nature of scientific reasoning.

Whewell, of course, was well aware of the trends in thought during the Darwinian revolution.  In 1836 he had invited Darwin to be Secretary of the Geological Society.  Browne mentions that he was reading Lyell’s latest work on evolution and geology nearly 30 years later in 1864.  (Unfortunately, she does not discuss his response).  Whewell clearly investigated opposing views and did not hide himself from controversies that were raging.  He was also a consummate gentlemen (3).  No fanatic, he was learned, reasonable and cautious.  But he was not a reductionist like Darwin.  Whewell criticized the view that nature could be reduced to particles in motion acted on by impersonal laws.  He believed that 18th century materialism was a failure, unable to account for man’s moral sense – whether or not man’s physical nature is similar to that of the animals.  And he criticized views of “transformism” (evolutionary common ancestry) and uniformitarianism based on the evidence.

It is not clear to what extent Whewell defended the Bible, other than that he was an Anglican priest (which implies very little).  Much of his writing seems to focus on the undefined Artificer of the natural theologian.  Though we might wish in hindsight that he and other British scientific theists had been more adamant in their criticisms of Darwin and defense of the Scriptures, they could not have foreseen the damage that would be done in Darwin’s name in the 20th century.  From Whewell’s writings, it does appear certain he would have opposed the unquestioned dogmatism that characterizes much of Darwinian science today.  He would strongly dispute the “warfare hypothesis” between science and religion.  And he would recommend science as a means to glorify God and stimulate appreciation of His handiwork.

(1) Consider, as a simple example, Newton’s ideas about space.  Newton did not “discover” that “absolute space” is uniform and unaffected by objects within it.  These were stipulations of his theory.  It would be impossible to observe that space behaves this way, and as it turns out, Einstein came up with a very contrary view, that space is affected by matter.  Newton also stipulated concepts like gravity, mass, and inertia without explaining (or empirically discovering) what these were.  Later physicists used the same words to mean different things.  To what extent are our concepts observed rather than assumed by definition?  Saying that they produce useful formulas is not a proof of scientific objectivity: it is utilitarianism.

(2) What Whewell said about natural law applies in general.  Whewell was not addressing special creation or the miracles in the Bible.  Even the Bible itself (Genesis 8:22, Job 38:33, Ecclesiastes 3:1) speaks of the uniformity of natural processes – that’s why miracles, when they occur, are so extraordinary and generate astonishment.  No reputable Bible-believing creationist has claimed that nature requires ongoing intervention by God.  They recognize He operates primarily through the natural laws He set up at the Creation.  It was a non-sequitur, therefore, for Darwin to take Whewell’s statement and use it as support for an undirected, natural process leading from bacteria to man.

(3) Notice, for instance, Whewell’s gracious tone (despite disagreement) in an 1860 letter to Darwin after receiving a copy of The Origin: “I have to thank you for a copy of your book on the ‘Origin of Species’.  You will easily believe that it has interested me very much, and probably you will not be surprised to be told that I cannot, yet at least, become a convert to your doctrines.  But there is so much of thought and of fact in what you have written that it is not to be contradicted without careful selection of the ground and manner of the dissent, which I have not now time for.  I must therefore content myself with thanking you for your kindness.”  (Emphasis added).  Unfortunately, the Darwin Correspondence Project lists no subsequent letters between Darwin and Whewell.

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).

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