Creation-Evolution Headlines
December 2007
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“So, in lieu of definitive laboratory tests, by default most biologists work within a Darwinian framework and simply assume what cannot be demonstrated.  Unfortunately, that can lead to the understandable but nonetheless corrosive intellectual habit of forgetting the difference between what is assumed and what demonstrated.  Differences between widely varying kinds of organisms are automatically chalked up to random mutation and natural selection by even the most perceptive scientists, and even the most elegant of biological features is reflexively credited to Darwin’s theory.”

— Michael Behe, The Edge of Evolution (Free Press, 2007), pp. 9-10.
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Science Docudrama Biases Against Religion   12/31/2007    
On New Year’s Eve, the Discovery HD Theater re-ran the 2005 BBC science docudrama Supervolcano, which dramatizes what might happen to civilization if the volcano under Yellowstone were to unleash its pent-up magma with the fury of prehistoric eruptions.
    At three points at least, the program touched on issues of religion and ultimate meaning.

  1. Two victims huddled in a bunker, imprisoned by the rain of volcanic ash, got onto the meaning of it all.  One asked the other if he believed in God.  “God?” the other smirked.  The first responded that he preferred to believe in God’s mercy.  The other man responded sarcastically that he should ask if it was merciful for the 250,000 people who died in the blast.
  2. News announcers periodically made matter-of-fact statements about millions of years and evolution.
  3. Near the end, one of the characters commented that disasters such as this were not only catastrophic agents of death and destruction, but, ironically, agents of life and progress.  The suggestion was that, under threat from the environment, life re-emerges to diversify and evolve, conquering death with new life.
A program whose gurus were scientists thus presented a philosophy or theology that could be described as scientific materialism, based on an imaginary event.
Notice one thing: in real life, the volcano has not erupted.  The BBC used a fictional disaster story as a pretext to present an atheistic worldview, sanctified by science.  A God who would let hundreds of thousands die, and millions more to suffer, cannot really be merciful, can he?  Therefore he must not exist.  Hello... Earth calling BBC... Yellowstone is peaceful and calm today.  Millions of people visit the grand old Park each year.  Quite a few even worship there in the various outdoor amphitheaters, praising God for the beauty of creation.  Can we keep that point in mind?
    “But it could happen, couldn’t it?  Sure, and a nearby star could go supernova and fry us, a meteor could hit the earth, or the sky could fall.  True, the Yellowstone caldera is rising, and the potential is there for a massive eruption.  Until it does, and even if it does, how can the BBC draw any theological conclusions?  Maybe God in his mercy is preventing the Yellowstone volcano from erupting right now.  Try to prove from science this is not the case.  In Christian theology, God watches over his creation.  Nothing happens without his knowledge and control.  But we know that supervolcanoes have erupted in the past, right?  Clearly so, but who is to conclude those events were outside the sovereignty of God?  These are theological issues, not scientific ones.  Creationists might postulate they were associated with the aftermath of the Flood when there were no cities or people around anyway.
    And who is the BBC to tell us about mercy?  If, as the producers of this show seem to believe, the world is a product of blind evolution and dispassionate natural forces, mercy is a meaningless term.  What happens happens.  Nothing is good or bad.  In fact, evolutionists should see it as a good thing; nothing like a catastrophe to provoke the blossoming of new life (as if that is a good thing, in a world where good and evil are undefined terms).  They cannot comment on the attributes of God without assuming what they need to prove.
    A theological position must be informed by actual events, not imaginary ones.  No one is so blind as to not realize that disasters have ravaged civilization as long as man has existed on this planet.  Tsunamis, volcanoes, earthquakes, plagues and wars have caused untold human suffering.  Voltaire was horrified at the Lisbon earthquake of 1755.  Some of the worst disasters have occurred within our lifetimes.  These do not appear targeted at the wicked, but often sweep away everything and everyone.  Want a really, really bad disaster?  How about a world-wide flood that kills everyone except those on an Ark?
    The problem of pain and suffering is as old as Adam.  The authors of the Bible knew all too well about disasters.  It did not stop them from presenting God as wise, merciful and longsuffering.  Theodicy (squaring God’s love with the reality of evil) is a complex issue, but theologians have wrestled with this problem for thousands of years.  Though “seeing through a glass darkly,” as is the predicament of mortals, most have achieved satisfactory answers sufficient to give them courage and confidence in spite of incomplete understanding.  Those interested in pursuing the issue should study the Christian theodicies from antiquity to modern times.  Read, for instance, C. S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain, or Lee Strobel’s book The Case for Faith (to be adapted for film in early 2008).
    The problem of human suffering is not the domain of atheists.  Only believers in the Judeo-Christian God have any grounds for making an argument for God’s mercy or lack of it.  Atheists and scientific materialists lack the moral categories to make moral judgments.  They lack the categories to even make logical judgments.  It takes a Christian worldview to even begin to argue about anything.  To assume truth and the laws of logic you must first assume the existence of intangible realities and moral qualities that are timeless, universal, and absolute.  This point should be settled at the outset when debating an atheist or evolutionist.  Once settled, it becomes an issue of imperfect humans trying to understand how God’s love and the reality of evil can be harmonized.
    We must avoid, also, the error of mischaracterizing God by focusing on His love to the exclusion of His righteousness.  The God of Scripture is wrathful and angry at sin.  The Creator is also the ultimate Judge of the universe.  If He were to let the Yellowstone volcano loose, what could any man say about it?  Shall the clay say to the potter, what are you doing?  God has already decreed that all men shall die; the only question for each individual is when and how.  Those willing to believe His word and trust Him are promised salvation for their souls, not deliverance from earthly disasters.  Sinners on a planet destined for fire should not expect anything but judgment.  The question becomes not why God sends disaster, but why He hasn’t sent it yet.  Seen in this light, the sunny days are all the more cause for thanksgiving that for another day we have not received what we deserve.  Finally, it’s not like He hasn’t told us the end of the story.  It’s not like he didn’t warn us to be always ready.
    The reason for an entry about a TV re-run is to draw attention to how philosophical and theological biases can pervade visual media, even when the subject matter is about something else.  Supervolcano, like a similar one portraying the aftermath of a comet strike, is entertaining for its special effects and human drama.  The virtue of discernment calls us to be aware of overt or subliminal influences that pretend to give knowledge without warrant.   Teach your family how to identify bias cues.  Point them out and discuss them; overcome evil with good.
    Producers have freedom of speech to present their points of view, even atheistic and materialistic ones.  Their customers have the freedom to sublimate such messages into teachable moments.
Next headline on:  MediaTheology
Birdsong Olympic Training   12/29/2007    
The singing of a bird is a complex skill that takes rigorous training like that of a top athlete or musician.  Young male birds learn by imitation from their fathers, then hone their skill over months, till their song becomes crystallized in adulthood.  A paper in Nature by two scientists at UC San Francisco reported on experiments on the neurobiology of birdsong,1 and found that even adult birds can still learn to modify their singing based on feedback from the environment.
    It was thought that once a bird’s learned song was memorized, the stereotype was too strong to change.  The scientists were able to get Bengalese finches to sing off key by putting white noise into their environment.  When the noise was removed, their songs returned to normal.  This shows that the childhood memory of the parental song, as well as their own memory of what constitutes normal, allows them to maintain fidelity to the song pattern, while the neurons have enough plasticity to allow adapting to the environment.  A write-up of the paper in Science Daily also noted the tidbit that young males tend to experiment more when females are not around.
    The scientists believe that their findings can help in rehabilitation efforts with human patients who need to re-learn skills lost in aging or injury.  If you can teach an old bird new tricks, then there’s hope for people.
1.  Tumer and Brainard, “Performance variability enables adaptive plasticity of ‘crystallized’ adult birdsong,” Nature
This interesting paper owed nothing to evolutionary theory.  The paper did not mention evolution at all.  The scientists studied a present-day phenomenon, learned something interesting by observation and experimentation, and produced results that may have practical benefits for people.  That’s the way science should be done.  In 2008, let’s sing a good-bye to Darwin: “Nevermore” by The Raven.
Next headline on:  Birds
Quality Control Ensures Accurate Cell Division   12/28/2007    
Cell division (mitosis) is a very complex process in which every part must be accurately duplicated and sent to the proper destination.  Picture a marching band where each flute player or tuba player is able to clone itself.  The players congregate at the center in two lines, divide, and move apart, forming two marching bands that can each play independently or as part of a parade of bands.  A more realistic picture might require imagining the whole school – library, shop, offices and all – splitting into two identical copies in a matter of hours or minutes.
    How does the cell make sure that each copy is identical?  Accurate copying is essential, or else errors would accumulate and bring the species to an end.  Scientists continue to uncover some of the quality-control policies and procedural tricks that cells follow.
  1. A nine in time saves stitch:  Centrosomes control the orientation of chromosomes before the split.  They create a spindle of microtubules that line the pairs up at the midplane, then pull them apart.  Within the centrosomes are two motors called centrioles, oriented perpendicular to one another, that look for all the world like turbines.  The blades of the turbine are microtubules with spokes, forming a cylinder that looks like a pie with exactly nine slices.  Why nine, and only nine?
        Wallace Marshall (UC San Francisco) reviewed experiments into the mechanical basis for nine-ness in centrioles, and published a report in Current Biology.1  Experiments with mutants show that the number is controlled by the length of the spokes that emanate from each slice.  This sets the overall diameter of the centriole, and thus the number of pie slices that will fit in the cylinder.
        “This study provides an interesting geometrical mechanism by which a length can control a number,” Marshall said.  Why was the research worthwhile?  “Understanding centriole assembly is likely to reveal many more engineering-design principles that cells use to build complex structures.
  2. Herding the chromosomes:  When a chromosome pair lines up on the spindle midplane right before splitting up, it contains a structure at the waistband called a centromere.  This belt of protein contains two attachment points, called kinetochores, used by microtubules to pull them into their respective daughter cells.  Our 03/04/2004 entry used the analogy of cowboys lassoing pairs of cattle and pulling them into separate corrals.  The yoke holding each pair of cows together is the centromere, and the kinetochores are like saddle horns the ropes can latch onto.  Opposing cowboys lasso the horns and start pulling in opposite directions.  When all pairs are lined up and accounted for, a foreman named aurora B kinase breaks the yokes, and the cowboys haul in their herds.
        The geometry of the centromere is essential for keeping this process error-free, a team from New York and Moscow reported in Nature last month.2  Once in awhile, two cowboys on the same side lasso the same pair (this is called syntelic attachment).  Unless corrected, one cell would get both chromosomes and the other would get neither; this “non-disjunction” fault could lead to genetic disorders or cancer.  Scientists had previously thought that detaching one rope (microtubule) would make the saddle horn (kinetochore) automatically spring back into position for a rope from the other side.  It’s apparently not as simple as that.  More quality-control mechanisms are involved.  “Achieving chromosome bi-orientation depends on a complex interplay between mechanisms intrinsic to the centromere and those that act externally,” they said.  After cross-attachment fibers are released, and after the lassos are disconnected, there are intrinsic properties of the centromere that come into play.  “Our findings imply that mechanical properties and the shape of the centromere play an important part in the fidelity of chromosome segregation.”  Unless everything works, the operation usually aborts.  Security engineers might call this an example of the principle of defense in depth.
  3. Pinch me:  Perhaps you’ve watched movies of dividing cells, and noticed how they pinch off from each other, as if someone tied a string around a soft balloon and pulled it tight.  Since no person is around at the cell level to do this task manually, there must be an automatic molecular mechanism that makes it work.  What forms the “contractile ring” and reels it in?
        An article in Science Daily described work by scientists from Yale, Columbia and Lehigh to figure out what happens.  Cells employ the same molecular motors, actin and myosin, that make muscles work.  Actin filaments with attached myosin motors assemble along the inner cell membrane at the dividing plane, and go through a “search, capture, pull and release” operation.  Being blind, molecules “feel” their way to neighboring molecules by putting out filaments in random directions.  A myosin motor on the neighbor captures the actin filament and pulls on it.  Surprisingly, it lets go after about 20 seconds.  Why?  “The assembly involves many episodes of attractions between pairs of nodes proceeding in parallel,” the article explains.  “Eventually the nodes form into a condensed contractile ring around the equator, ready to pinch the mother into two daughters at a later stage.”
        The repeating rounds of “release and capture” appear essential to the assembly process of the contractile ring, they said.  Like pulling on a purse string, the circle tightens till the cells are pinched off and go their separate ways.
        The scientists figured this out by comparing models with observations in an iterative fashion.  The work was done on “simple” yeast cells.  “Future work will involve testing the concepts learned from fission yeast in other cells to learn if the mechanism is universal,” said Thomas Pollard [Yale].  “Since other cells, including human cells, depend on similar proteins for cytokinesis, it is entirely possible that they use the same strategy.”  An abstract of the work appears on Science Express in advance of publication.  The following week it was published in Science.3
  4. Plant protection and bearing walls:  Dividing plant cells have a different problem.  They have cell walls.  What determines the exact point at where the wall between two newly-divided cells will form?  Shrink yourself down to the size of a plant cell in your imagination, and you can see the difficulty.  If you were the foreman of a group of construction workers making a house divide in two, how do you remember where the new wall between them is supposed to go?
        Clive Lloyd and Henrik Buschmann (Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, John Innes Centre, Norwich UK) wrote about this predicament in Current Biology.4  What was mysterious is that a structure of microtubules known to form at the dividing plane apparently disassembles right before cell division.  How does the cell “memorize” the position of the plane where the future cell wall will form?  The trick is somewhat like using a chalk line.  The microtubules attract special proteins that adhere to the exact spot, forming a ring around the perimeter.  The microtubule scaffolding, no longer needed, is then dismantled.  After the chromosomes migrate and cell division completes, a plate of cell-wall proteins grows outward toward the chalk ring.  If you can imagine wallboard that grows into position from the center of the room, attracted to the chalk line, you get the idea.  The result is a neat, flat, parallel wall, subdividing the daughter cells into their own rooms.
        Without these memory proteins, the scientists found, cell walls grew at abnormal positions.  Stay tuned, because this doesn’t explain everything about how plants determine the division plane.  It’s just an intriguing start.  “The search now continues for other components of the division ring and insights into the attractive influence they exert over the leading edge of the cytokinetic apparatus,” they said.
One other recent cell biology paper, not directly about mitosis, is worthy of note.  All proteins in the cell need to fold properly before going into service.  Many of them use a “dressing room” called GroEL-GroES to avoid the hustle and bustle of the cytoplasm (05/05/2003, 06/07/2006).  A team of biochemists from Yale, Howard Hughes, U of Pennsylvania and Scripps, publishing in PNAS,5 asked why one particular protein really needs the dressing room when it can fold outside.
    During the folding process, the amino acid chain seeks its “native” or correct fold.  If it works the first time or two, all is well; if it cannot fold in time, the chain can degenerate into a glob or “aggregate” that is either useless or dangerous and must be destroyed.  The team found that the GroEL “chaperone” is more likely to prevent aggregation if the chain goes down the wrong folding pathway.  In the safe, barrel-shaped chamber of the chaperone, the chain can more easily unfold and try again.  Outside, bad folds are less likely to get another chance.
1.  Wallace F. Marshall, “Centriole Assembly: The Origin of Nine-ness,” Current Biology, Volume 17, Issue 24, 18 December 2007, Pages R1057-R1059.
2.  Loncaronarek et al, “The centromere geometry essential for keeping mitosis error free is controlled by spindle forces,” Nature 450, 745-749 (29 November 2007) | doi:10.1038/nature06344.
3.  Vavylonis et al, “Assembly Mechanism of the Contractile Ring for Cytokinesis by Fission Yeast,” Science, 4 January 2008: Vol. 319. no. 5859, pp. 97-100, DOI: 10.1126/science.1151086.
4.  Clive Lloyd and Henrik Buschmann, “Plant Division: Remembering Where to Build the Wall,” Current Biology, Volume 17, Issue 24, 18 December 2007, Pages R1053-R1055.
5.  Horst, Fenton, Englander, Wuthrich and Horwich, “Folding trajectories of human dihydrofolate reductase inside the GroEL-GroES chaperonin cavity and free in solution,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, published online before print December 19, 2007, 10.1073/pnas.0710042105.
The views of cells you got in high school through a light microscope are about as useful for understanding what really goes on as trying to fathom a city from an airplane.  Only now, in our time, are the techniques improving to the point where we can enter the factories and offices at ground level to really begin to understand.
    Our great joy and mission at Creation-Evolution Headlines is to bring these fascinating discoveries, hidden away in abstruse journals, to the public in a timely, understandable way, so that readers can wonder at the amazing design so clearly apparent at the tiniest basis of life – the cell – and realize how utterly bankrupt is the theory of evolution to explain them.
    As is almost always the case, none of these papers dared to speculate about how these incredible mechanisms might have evolved by a blind, purposeless process of chance.  Darwin’s theory was written for a past era when the cell seemed as simple as a blob of jello.  Wave him and his theory good-bye as we fast-forward into the 21st century era of molecular machinery.  Biology of the future is reserved for those who appreciate and understand “engineering-design principles.”
Next headline on:  Cell BiologyPlantsAmazing FactsIntelligent Design
  Kids need wild places, from 12/11/2002.

Comet Woes Lamented   12/27/2007 posted an article on “The enduring mysteries of comets.”  The mysteries include:

  • Where did earth’s oceans come from?  For a long time, scientists expected comets delivered the water, until measurements showed a discrepancy in the hydrogen/deuterium ratios.  It’s also highly improbable there was enough wet stuff in those assumed delivery vehicles.  No secular scientist knows where the water came from.  Ask how the following answer would score on a high-school science test: “Earth’s oceans are likely a mixture of water from all sorts of places, but the main-belt comets are very likely one of them.
  • Is there a comet reservoir?  The proposed Oort cloud cannot be the source of short-period comets at least.  Another high-school answer to score: “Maybe there are other reservoirs of comets yet to be discovered.
  • Why are they dirty?  Until recently, this was the expectation: “Comets were long thought to be primordial relics, pristine leftovers from the protoplanetary disk that once surrounded the newborn sun.  As such, it was supposed they might hold secrets untouched for billions of years regarding the birth of our solar system.”  Wrong.  Now that we have sampled Halley, Tempel 1 and other comets, we know they have unexpected material like carbonates, silicates and complex molecules that seem to have required high temperatures: “many of them are nearly burned-out hulks, with neither the size, mass, shape nor spin they might have had before entering the solar system.”
  • How long can they bake?  How main-belt comets could have survived for billions of years is another mystery.  “Until their discovery, researchers had largely supposed no comets could have lasted that close to the sun without getting baked away after a few centuries or millennia.” 
  • Where are the interstellar travelers?  Escaping comets from other stars should be coming into our solar system from all angles.  That’s a deduction from calculations that show 90 to 99% of our solar system’s comets get flung outward, never to return.  None coming in from neighboring stars’ Oort clouds have been detected.
Last month in Icarus,1 doubt was cast on whether there really is a comet reservoir out beyond the planets.  Brasser, Duncan and Levison ran simulations of comets in a planetary disk and found that only very large chunks 20km in diameter and up would be flung outward into the hypothetical Oort cloud.  “This implies that the presence of the primordial solar nebula acts as a size-sorting mechanism,” they said, “with large bodies unaffected by the gas drag and ending up in the OC while small bodies remain trapped in the planetary region, in the models studied.”  This is a difficulty on top of the calculation in 2001 that 90% of the material would be destroyed by collisions (01/31/2001, 06/21/2002)
1. Brasser, Duncan and Levison, “Embedded star clusters and the formation of the Oort cloud II. The effect of the primordial solar nebula,” Icarus, Volume 191, Issue 2, 15 November 2007, Pages 413-433.
Other mysteries were not cited in the article, such as why any comets are left after 4.5 billion years.  The solar sparklers have a short lifetime (03/27/2003).  One might ask if a hypothetical reservoir that has never been observed is worthy of scientific respectability.  To what extent is it legitimate in science to rescue a theory from lack of data?
    It’s fun to watch materialists mutter about material matters.  The committee on comet-y objects commits more comedy than comity.
Next headline on:  Solar SystemGeologyPhysics
Why Academia Leans to the Left   12/26/2007    
Why do PhDs in academia tend to be politically liberal?  A paragraph in Science magazine’s feature “Random Samples” on December 21 suggested a reason: conservatives value other goals, like going into business to make money, or choosing to stay home and raise a family.1
    “Why are academics in the United States so politically liberal?  Are conservative students oppressed by a biased professoriate, or are liberals simply smarter?  Neither,” was the conclusion of two scientists in Pennsylvania who surveyed 15,000 college students.
The Woessners found that self-described liberals and conservatives report no difference in grades or in the quality of their education.  Yet liberal college students are twice as likely as conservative ones to pursue Ph.D.s  The main reasons, the authors conclude, are differences in values, goals, and preferences.  Liberals placed higher values on creativity; conservatives were more oriented toward raising families and making money.
The findings apparently held for the hard sciences as well as for social sciences and humanities.
    An accompanying graph shows a steep rise on the “far left” side for those seeking doctorates, while moderates and “far right” individuals could care (somewhat) less.  Another visually-apparent result on the graph is that conservatives and moderates, as seniors, tend to feel the same way about their goals as they did as freshman.  Liberals, however, tend to warm up to a doctoral program as they approach their senior year.
1.  “Random Samples: Left on Campus,” Science, Volume 318, Number 5858, Issue of 21 December 2007.
Surveys and graphs have only limited credibility because of the possibilities of biased sampling and leaving out relevant causes (see Baloney Detector on statistics).  At least Science admitted that liberalism is rampant at the university (see 12/02/2004), and also confessed that liberals (and PhDs) are not necessarily smarter.  (The vulgar translations for the acronyms B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. may be apropos here.)*
    It appears that conservatives are the fittest, working hard to pass on their genes, while liberals are like parasites, advancing primarily by taking over the host (the classroom) and churning out clones to infect other cells.  A university setting is a contrived, unnatural environment where the parasites thrive.  In the open air of true academic freedom, where the parasites would have to compete in the real world, the results might be quite different. 
Next headline on:  EducationPolitics and Ethics
*No offense to those who really apply their years of hard work in study and research to a life of altruistic productivity; blessings upon you.  A PhD can be vital, indeed is a requirement, for productivity in many fields.  We need honest men and women with academic credentials.  But the list of great achievers and intellectual giants who never earned a degree would be long.  The joke just means that earning advanced degrees is no guarantee of credibility, true value to society, or personal quality of life (think Ward Churchill).  On judgment day, academic credentials will count for naught (Jeremiah 9:23-24).
National Geographic Waffles on Gospel of Judas   12/26/2007    
Last year, National Geographic published, in its magazine and on a TV special, a translation of the Gnostic “Gospel of Judas” that suggested Judas was a noble character who was only obeying orders from Jesus (see 04/09/2006).  The interpretation hinged on certain words and phrases in the text: for example, whether the Greek word daimon should be translated “demon” or “spirit.”  Recently, April DeConick (professor of Biblical studies at Rice University) re-translated the Coptic text and criticized National Geographic for botching the interpretation.  Her translation suggests a completely different interpretation – that Judas was, as most accounts of him allege, a villain.  “He emerged as a much more negative Judas,” she found, “a demon Judas as evil as ever.”
    National Geographic News has acknowledged the criticisms and offered some points in defense of its translation.  The verdict is not clear.  Some scholars view words and phrases one way, some another.
    Two points in the article seem salient to the question of whether it was expedient for NG to rush the Judas-as-hero interpretation to the public: (1) The producers took a risk to get the story before the public without a sufficient analysis by multiple scholars: “Our only agenda was to interpret the text, make sense of it, and get it out as quickly as possible.”  (2) The article undermines the usefulness of the Gospel of Judas as historical evidence by admitting, “No scholar of early Christianity seems to believe that the Gospel of Judas provides a historically reliable account of the relationship between Jesus and Judas,” it states.  “Instead, it is seen as the Gnostic interpretation of that relationship.”
    An article in Christian Century gives an inside look at a meeting last month of the Society of Biblical Literature.  “Emotions were taut” as scholars debated the meaning of parts of the Gospel of Judas.  It appears that Elaine Pagels, who had supported the National Geographic interpretation, was on the defensive against colleagues who argued Judas was presented as a negative figure in the apocryphal gospel.  Penned by Sethian Gnostics, The Gospel of Judas probably dates from the 2nd century, long after the canonical gospels were in circulation.
Update  The May-June 2008 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review has an article about the Gospel of Judas.  It alleges that the translators for the show, some of them reputable, did a shoddy job – and they admit it.  National Geographic has announced the publication of a revised translation in response to the scholarly criticism of their 2006 translation.
NG claims they acknowledged many of the alternate readings in the footnotes of their published edition.  How many in the public saw those, compared to the millions who watched the TV special?  The fine-print excuse is no excuse.  They dramatized their Judas-hero fictional drama with seductive ads to make people think they were watching a historical documentary instead of a Gnostic sermon.  Remember?  It was presented as big news that could undermine historic Christianity.  As is so often the case, the truth comes out in the back pages later, long after the headlines have done their damage.
    In short, the article reveals that NG abandoned academic integrity in their rush to get a lurid anti-Christian message to the public, as if the late document had some historical credibility.  Hope you weren’t fooled.  Watch instead the 2007 documentary featuring former atheist skeptic Lee Strobel: The Case for Christ.  In this film, Bible scholars explain why the Gnostic gospels are much later than the canonical gospels.  Because of their late dates and roots in Gnostic cults, they cannot be trusted as reliable historical sources.
    The canonical gospels, by contrast, were written within the generation of the events described, by eyewitnesses or companions of eyewitnesses.  John was written by one of the three “inner circle” disciples of Jesus Christ; it contains lengthy discourses by Jesus, and an eyewitness account of Judas’s betrayal.  Mark, a companion of Peter, wrote the shortest, most action-packed account; it is also the earliest gospel, and apparently was used as a source by Matthew and Luke.  Matthew was written by another of the 12 disciples who traveled with Jesus for three years and knew Judas personally.  Luke, written by a companion of Paul, is highly regarded as a reliable account by a careful researcher, who continued his work in the Acts of the Apostles.  Have you read them?  What better time than right now, between the holidays?  They’re right there online, a click away.  Find out why the word gospel means good news.
Next headline on:  Bible and TheologyMedia
  Three classic “amazing stories” from December 2003: Life runs on waterwheels (12/22/2003), the fruit fly in the flight simulator (12/08/2003), the intracellular railroad (12/04/2003).  Encores: your accelerated eyes (12/30/2003), elaborate quality control in the protein-folding factory (12/20/2003).

Your Body Says: Resolve to Exercise   12/26/2007    
Even moderate exercise can prevent health risks, an article in Science Daily says.  Want to keep the waist trim?  Reduce the bad cholesterol and triglycerides, and increase your HDLs?  Want to lower your risk of diabetes, heart attack and stroke?  Then get out and walk.  You don’t have to become a jogger or gym addict.  Studies at Duke University Medical Center showed that thirty minutes of brisk walking a day, six times a week, can reduce the symptoms of metabolic syndrome, “an increasingly frequent condition linked to obesity and a sedentary lifestyle.”
    Your body wants you to make a New Year’s resolution and keep it.  Get a head start today.  The doctor says what we have all known for a long time: “Some exercise is better than none; more exercise is generally better than less, and no exercise can be disastrous.”  Take some fish oil each day, too, so you won’t forget.  An article on PhysOrg suggests that the omega-3 in fish oil can help stave off Alzheimer’s disease.

The best walking is done in a park or out on a nature trail.  If traffic sounds can’t be avoided, put some Dan Gibson nature recordings into your iPod and feel the pleasure of connecting with your created environment as you improve your health and energy.
Next headline on:  HealthHuman Body
Darwin Claus Becomes Icon of Winter Solstice   12/25/2007    
Evolution News has a picture of Darwin as Santa Claus.  They got the picture from a Winter Solstice card sent among atheists at Winter Solstice luncheons that are springing up around the country.  The caption on the card states, “evolve your beliefs.”
The historic St. Nicholas of Patara, a Christian altruist, would be appalled at his nemesis being used to support neo-paganism.  Pay attention especially to the last paragraphs in the article.  Atheists cannot deny the case for cosmic design, and their empty hearts yearn for a meaning they have abandoned.
    If atheists think they should evolve their beliefs, then their beliefs are self-refuting.  It becomes possible that their beliefs might evolve toward theism – thus denying the validity of atheism.  Beliefs cannot evolve into Christianity by any means.  That requires choice based on an intelligently-designed Master plan (Romans 10:5-13).  You might find this to be the happier choice (see 12/08/2003).
Next headline on:  Darwin and EvolutionBible and Theology
The Bible on a Pin   12/24/2007    
Israeli scientists have reproduced the Old Testament on a chip smaller than a pin head reported PhysOrg.  They’re calling it the world’s tiniest Bible.  A picture of the chip, the size of a grain of sugar, was included in the report on the BBC News.
    The scientists managed their feat, the article explains, by sending focused beams of tiny particles, called gallium ions, onto the surface of the silicon chip.  If you took a picture of the chip you would have to enlarge it more than 7 meters square to be able to read it.  They plan, in fact, to print such a poster next to the nano-Bible within the Faculty of Physics building.
That’s nothing.  God can put 1018 bits in one cubic millimeter of DNA.  If you wrote that amount of information on DVDs, you’d have to stack them more than six times the height of Mt. Everest (08/16/2002).
    Don’t be a pinhead; be sure not to miss the message inscribed in that tiny Bible: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
Next headline on:  BibleIntelligent designAmazing Facts
  Evolution of the Christmas tree, 12/24/2005; radio-active fallout from the Dover trial, 12/23/2005.

What Materialist Science Still Can’t Figure Out   12/21/2007    
Darwin called the origin of flowering plants an “abominable mystery,” but it is not the only one.  The scientific materialism that strives to explain all reality by “natural” causes without resource to a designing intelligence has a long way to go.  Occasionally, major gaps in cosmic evolution and biological evolution become evident in scientific papers and announcements.

  1. A bloomin’ mystery:  Darwin was baffled about angiosperms in 1859, and so are today’s biologists – even with genome sequencing, a more complete fossil record and microscopes that are approaching nanometer resolution.  Michael Frohlich and Mark Chase wrote in Nature that “After a dozen years of progress the origin of angiosperms is still a great mystery.1  Less than a dozen years ago, they said, even the most basic questions about angiosperm origins were still disputed.  They surveyed a dozen alternative approaches to answering the question, but put any answer in future tense – even after nearly 148 years of searching.
  2. Beetle blast from the past:  Modern-looking beetles evolved 110 million years earlier than expected, if we can believe scientists from Imperial College, London (see BBC News).  Evolutionists had thought the proliferation of beetles coincided with the rise of flowering plants 140 million years ago.  Now, they claim beetles have been around for at least 250 million years – maybe 300 million.
        There are some 300,000 species of beetles in the world today.  “The reason for this large number of beetle species has been debated for many years and never resolved,” the article stated (cf. 04/26/2002).  Why did they evolve into so many species far before flowering plants are thought to have appeared?  “We don’t have the answer to that,” said one researcher.
  3. Birds and bees:  It’s hard to know whether Tim Clutton-Brock was confirming sexual selection or casting doubt on it.  In a review article in Science,2 he gave material for critics and proponents to both claim victory.  “Research on sexual selection shows that the evolution of secondary sexual characters in males and the distribution of sex differences are more complex than was initially suggested but does not undermine our understanding of the evolutionary mechanisms involved,” he began.  “However, the operation of sexual selection in females has still received relatively little attention.”  That seems surprising, considering it is such an easy topic for biologists to have investigated since Darwin’s day.  Darwin himself paid little attention to secondary sexual characteristics in females, he said.
        The article shows how sexual selection can produce counter-intuitive, even opposite, results: “Recent studies show that both intrasexual competition between females and male choice of mating partners are common, leading to strong sexual selection in females and, in extreme cases, to reversals in the usual pattern of sex differences in behavior and morphology.” He concluded that sexual selection remains a “robust framework” that explains much, but “many important questions about the operation of sexual selection in females and the evolution of sex differences have yet to be answered.”  The long and short of it: “There is still much to be done.
        Last month in Current Biology,3 three scientists at University of Exeter tried to do an experiment to see if attractiveness in males was heritable (Note: the experiments were done on fruit flies, not humans).  It would seem intuitive in a Darwinian sense that attractive males should produce more and fitter offspring.  Did it work?  They reported positive results, but admitted that their results “contrast starkly” with an earlier, similar study.  “For example, a recent hemiclonal investigation found that males with high reproductive success did not produce more attractive sons, which is very different to what we find here,” they said.  It’s hard to know if any significant conclusions could be drawn.  Their ending sentence seems contradictory: “Regardless of the net fitness outcome, however, our finding that sexy fathers sire sexy sons provides much needed evidence for a critical assumption of many models of sexual selection,” they claimed.  But isn’t net fitness outcome what Darwinism is all about?
        Sexual selection is apparently one of those ideas that sounds good in generalities, but bogs down under scientific scrutiny: “our results emphasise the fact that attractiveness is a composite trait that cannot be totally captured by simple measurements of single characters,” they explained.  “That is to say, even if individual traits that are subject to sexual selection are heritable, this need not imply attractiveness in total is heritable and can evolve.”  Perhaps beauty is in the fly of the beholder.
  4. Mammal enamel:  Looking at the teeth of mammals gave Zhe-Xi Luo a non-Darwinian view of their evolutionary history.  The scientist at the Carnegie Institution of Natural History said in Nature,4Classic scenarios of mammalian morphological evolution tend to posit an orderly acquisition of key evolutionary innovations leading to adaptive diversification, but newly discovered fossils show that evolution of such key characters as the middle ear and the tribosphenic teeth is far more labile among Mesozoic mammals.”  Views of progress should be discarded: “Successive diversifications of Mesozoic mammal groups multiplied the opportunities for many dead-end lineages to iteratively evolve developmental homoplasies and convergent ecological specializations, parallel to those in modern mammal groups.
        Luo mentioned evolutionary convergence a dozen times in his review article.  He spoke of “curious cases of convergent adaptations in extinct Mesozoic mammals” that “represent many separate evolutionary experiments,” but merely stating that something represents convergent evolution begs the question of how complex organs could have originated even once by evolution, let alone multiple times.  At one point Luo asked, “are originations of key mammalian characters singular evolutionary events, or iterative convergences despite their complexity?”
  5. Champions are raised, not born:  Are race horse breeders paying high stud fees for nothing?  Nurture may be more important than nature in producing good race horses, reports Science Now.  A team from the University of Edinburgh studied records of 4500 race horse offspring between 1922 to 2003, and found only 10% correlation of champions with their parents.  If genes aren’t correlating with fitness as much the environment (in this case, good trainers), what would this mean to Darwinian theory that expects fitness to ultimately reside in the genes, where they can be passed on?
        One caution about any conclusions drawn from this study is that fitness according to the betting man yelling in the grandstands may not relate to fitness according to the horse.  But then, fitness in evolutionary terms is so vague, it can mean anything (see “Fitness for dummies: is it running in circles?”, 10/29/2002).
  6. Tree Network of life:  Lateral gene transfer scrambles any hope of finding a Darwinian tree of common descent in genetic studies, admitted James McInerney and Davide Pisani in Science.5  “The role of horizontal gene transfer in evolution has raised fierce debate about the relevance of the Tree of Life,” they said.  Yet the Tree of Life, coming from the single illustration in The Origin of Species, is Darwin’s most-famous icon of evolution.  They concluded with a new paradigm, “When eukaryotes are included in our considerations of evolution, the phylogeny of life seems better represented by a network than a tree, making any core genes-based argument in favor of the Tree of Life essentially irrelevant.”  See also the 02/01/2007 entry.
  7. Dark prospects:  Dark energy has been debated for nearly a decade, but Lawrence Krauss (Case Western Reserve University) thinks we may never figure out what it is.  As reported in Physics World, “Even with the many observations planned over the next decade, there is a real chance that we will never understand the true nature of dark energy.
On this last point, Krauss commented on how remarkable it is that we live at a time when we can see the rest of the universe.  In the big picture, had we lived when the universe were much older, dark energy (whatever it is) would have flung all but our local group out of sight:
It therefore seems that we are living in a very special time, namely the only time in the history of the universe that we might actually be able to infer the existence of dark energy itself.  Perhaps, therefore, we should not feel too bad if observations in the coming decades do not allow us to untangle the mystery of the nature and origin of dark energy.  After all, it is often the mysteries themselves that keep scientists going, energizing theorists to continue to speculate about the ultimate nature of reality and motivating observers to seek out new tools to probe it.
This point was argued by Gonzalez and Richards in The Privileged Planet.  If we are living in a special epoch that makes scientific discovery possible, that’s another indication of intelligent design.  Arguing along these lines cost Gonzalez his tenure (see Evolution News).
1.  Michael Frohlich and Mark Chase, “After a dozen years of progress the origin of angiosperms is still a great mystery,” Nature 450, 1184-1189 (20 December 2007) | doi:10.1038/nature06393.
2.  Tim Clutton-Brock, “Sexual Selection in Males and Females,” Science, 21 December 2007: Vol. 318. no. 5858, pp. 1882-1885, DOI: 10.1126/science.1133311.
3.  Michelle L. Taylor, Nina Wedell and David J. Hosken, “The heritability of attractiveness,” Current Biology, Volume 17, Issue 22, 20 November 2007, Pages R959-R960.
4.  Zhe-Xi Luo, “Transformation and diversification in early mammal evolution,” Nature 450, 1011-1019 (13 December 2007) | doi:10.1038/nature06277.
5.  James O. McInerney and Davide Pisani, “Genetics: Paradigm for Life,” Science, 30 November 2007: Vol. 318. no. 5855, pp. 1390-1391, DOI: 10.1126/science.1151657.
This is just a sampling of fundamental questions that have the Darwinists stumped after nearly a century and a half.  It’s clear that their victory speeches are mere bluffing, because the unknowns overpower the knowns, and the knowns are not well known.  How much longer do you want to give the materialistic crowd time to pursue their metaphysical research program?  They‘re like the dog in the manger; can’t eat the hay, but won’t let those with the stomach for it get a bite. 
Next headline on:  MammalsGeneticsDarwin and EvolutionCosmology
How Bambi Gave Rise to Moby Dick   12/20/2007    
The title of this entry, in Kipling Just-So Story format, is only slightly modified from an article from The Guardian, titled, “How Bambi evolved into Moby-Dick.”  This is not a joke; check on the link and see.
    The article is about the latest fossil claimed to be ancestral to whales.  Hans Thewissen (Northeastern Ohio College of Medicine) has spent many years trying to trace an evolutionary path to whales from artiodactyls (even-toed ungulates, a group of mammals including deer, cattle, sheep, goats, giraffes, pigs, and camels).  This was the subject of a chapter in the PBS Evolution series, “Great Transformations,” in 2001 (see review on  Thewissen’s latest candidate missing link is a raccoon-size deer-like fossil animal found in Kashmir; the discovery and analysis was published in Nature.1  The Guardian was ebullient in its certainty that this is the link:
The landmark finding represents a long-sought ‘missing link’ in the 10m-year [10 million year] journey that saw ancient land mammals evolve into modern cetaceans, a group that includes whales, dolphins and porpoises.”
    Scientists have long known that whales are mammals whose ancient ancestors walked on land, but only in the past 15 years have they unearthed fossils that shed light on the creatures’ dramatic evolutionary history.  The latest discovery, named Indohyus, is the first whale ancestor known to have lived on land.
On what basis did Thewissen and his team think this fossil had anything to do with whales?  The teeth are “similar to those of aquatic animals,” and the bones suggest a heavy stance like that of hippos.  The bones around the inner ear look similar to those of cetaceans, the article claims.  That’s about all the data this article mentioned, yet the certainty that this represents the missing link continued:
The evolutionary path of the whale is one of the most extraordinary on record.  In less than 10m years, the whale’s ancestors completely transformed as they shifted from a four-legged life on land to a life in the ocean.
    The first whales, Pakicetidae, emerged around 50m years ago and resembled land mammals rather than the giant marine creatures of today.  These evolved into large, powerful coastal whales, or Ambulocetidae, that had big feet and strong tails.  Later, whales lost their hind limbs and hair and developed powerful tail fins and flippers.
One difficulty is that this fossil “overturns a previous assumption that the ancestors of whales were already carnivores before they left land for a life beneath the waves.”  Being a herbivore, what was it doing in the water?  Thewissen thinks it was acting like the modern mouse deer of Africa, which escapes from eagles by diving under the water for up to four minutes.
    To reinforce the missing-link message of Indohyus, the article stuck it to the creationists:
Fred Spoor, an anthropologist at University College London, said the significance of the latest find was comparable to Archaeopteryx, the first fossils to show a clear transition between dinosaurs and birds.  “For years cetaceans were used by creationists to support their views because for a long time the most primitive whales known had bodies that looked like modern whales, so there seemed to be this enormous gap in evolution.  But since the early 1990s, there’s been a rapid succession of fossils from India and Pakistan that beautifully fill that gap,” he said.
    “The tables are turned now because we have fossils that show that dramatic transition step by step.  Cetaceans are almost the only group that has made such a rapid change from a land environment to an aquatic one.  “Unlike sealions and seals, which still spend some time on land, cetaceans are completely committed to the water now, and it had an enormous effect on their physiology.  They had to change everything.
This last sentence, they had to change everything, makes it sound as if the whales directed their mutations with the goal of becoming aquatic – that is most certainly not what the evolutionists mean.  Such language, however, blurs the way the Darwinian mechanism is supposed to work.  Individual members of Indohyus or cetaceans could not possibly know or care what was happening to them.  Evolution works on the genes in large populations over a long, drawn-out process involving mutations selection pressures without any goal in mind – certainly not in the minds of any individual animals.  No amount of individual striving gets passed on to the offspring – that would be Lamarckism.
    The article ends with the “more work to do” theme, but includes more purpose-driven language on the part of the whales:
Thewissen’s group will next study Indohyus further to learn more about its diet and habitat.  One critical change that occurred when whales took to the water involved its sense of balance and orientation.  In land mammals, this is governed by a vestibulary system in the inner ear, but whales had to adapt to moving in three dimensions, driving the evolution of a more complex system.
    “This fossil completes the picture in terms of the whales’ evolution, but what’s next is to look at these other evolutionary adaptations,” said Thewissen.
So the frame of the puzzle is done, and now it’s just a matter of filling in the middle.  Is that what the original paper said?  In the journals, scientists tend to be more reserved in their announcements than in the popular press.  It’s interesting that for a discovery this “dramatic” there was no review article accompanying the paper.
    The abstract says that Indohyus was a “sister group” to the whales.  This means it was not on the path to whalehood, but both had a common ancestor.  Claims that whale evolution is “documented” and “strongly supported” continue in the paper, but the opening paragraph leads one to suspect that a single fossil species like Indohyus cannot be expected to solve all the problems:
Phylogenetic analyses of molecular data on extant animals strongly support the notion that hippopotamids are the closest relatives of cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises).  In spite of this, it is unlikely that the two groups are closely related when extant and extinct artiodactyls are analysed, for the simple reason that cetaceans originated about 50 million years (Myr) ago in south Asia, whereas the family Hippopotamidae is only 15 Myr old, and the first hippopotamids to be recorded in Asia are only 6 Myr old.  However, analyses of fossil clades have not resolved the issue of cetacean relationsProposed sister groups ranged from the entire artiodactyl order, to the extinct early ungulates mesonychians, to an anthracotheroid clade (which included hippopotamids), to weakly supporting hippopotamids (to the exclusion of anthracotheres.
Indohyus is an Eocene artiodactyl in a group Raoellidae, which previously had no linkage to the whale line.  Thewissen et al are therefore making a radical new hypothesis.  “This has profound implications for the character transformations near the origin of cetaceans and the cladistic definition of Cetacea, and identifies the habitat in which whales originated,” they say.  “Taken together, our findings lead us to propose a new hypothesis for the origin of whales.”
    New hypotheses, however, tend to create as many problems as they solve, because old assumptions get discarded.  Evolutionists have already been claiming for years that the whale evolution story is strongly supported with other fossils.  How can a specimen from a small, extinct deer-like animal wedge its way into an existing story?  It becomes necessary to juggle things around:
To investigate the importance of raoellids in cetacean phylogeny, we excluded raoellids from our initial phylogenetic analysis of artiodactyls plus cetaceans.  Our data set differed from previous analyses by the addition of several archaic anthracotheres, and some corrected scores for pakicetid cetaceans.  This analysis found stronger support for hippopotamid–cetacean sister-group relations than the previous analysis, consistent with molecular studies.  However, the base of the artiodactyl cladogram is poorly resolved (see Supplementary Information for details on phylogenetic runs).
This is how phylogenetic analysis is really done.  Assumptions are made, and some earlier associations get tossed by the wayside in an effort to achieve a desired amount of “consistency.”  So Thewissen and team changed the recipe and got some new flavors:
In a second cladistic analysis (Fig. 2), we added the raoellids Khirtharia and Indohyus as well as several archaic ungulate groups (condylarths) and found that raoellids and cetaceans are sister groups and that they are the basal node in the Cetacea/Artiodactyla clade, consistent with some previous analyses that used different character sets.  Our analysis is the first to show that raoellids are the sister group to cetaceans, resolving the biogeographic conundrum and closing the temporal gap between cetaceans and their sister.  Relations between most artiodactyl families higher in the tree are poorly resolved, and our data lack implications for the relations between these families.  Our analysis strongly argues that raoellids and cetaceans are more closely related to each other than either is to hippopotamids.
This is a human line of argument – not a single, clear, uncontroversial picture emerging inescapably from the data.  Everything is inference: trying to find a pathway through scattered data points, after first assuming a pathway exists.  The reader should not picture a straight line from Indohyus to Blue Whale.  The human researchers are picking their way through a data forest with a goal in mind.  The forest is not leading them on a single yellow brick road.
    Indohyus, for instance, has a thickening around its middle ear that was thought diagnostic of cetaceans.  What does this mean?  The paper presents two possibilities: either Indohyus was similar to whales, or this trait can no longer be thought characteristic of whales.  As with Tiktaalik, the data present mosaics of traits that require human judgment about what goes with what clade, and which clades are closer or farther apart.
    In the paper, the team considered various groupings, but made decisions based on their own preferences: e.g., regarding one alternative tree, they said, “We do not prefer this classification because it causes instability by significantly altering the traditional content of both Artiodactyla and Cetacea.”  The team sought the most “parsimonious” tree of descent – but parsimony is a human value, not a whale value.  Not even all humans will agree what constitutes parsimony.
    The team acknowledged that cetaceans and raoellids possess some synapomorphies (derived traits shared by terminal groups), but then said, “None of these features characterize all modern and extinct cetaceans; the dental characters, for instance, cannot be scored in toothless mysticetes.  In addition, all of these characters are found in some mammals unrelated to cetaceans.”  There are multiple ways to interpret the data, therefore.  The synapomorphies might indicate relationship – or, they could overthrow assumptions about which traits are diagnostic of which clades.  Clearly, this team did not attach any significance to the similarities that didn’t fit a deer-to-whale lineage.  “We attach particular importance to two character complexes that characterize basal cetaceans,” they said, but that assumes what needs to be proved (circular reasoning).
    The team attached great importance to the teeth.  But Indohyus, they said, was a herbivore, and whales are carnivores; how much about relationship can be inferred from teeth of groups with very different dietary habits and behaviors?  What kind of tree would have resulted had they attached particular importance to other traits?  One can imagine other evolutionary paleontologists having their own assumptions, preferences, methodologies, and arriving at very different conclusions. 
    Other traits were mentioned that do not help the story of whale evolution.  The team noticed that the leg bones showed osteoporosis, which they interpreted as meaning that Indohyus was stable in the water – but not a swimmer: “We interpret the limb osteosclerosis of Indohyus to be related to bottom walking and not to slow swimming, because the limbs are gracile and not modified into paddles.”  Other mammals, however, like beaver and otters and sea lions, show more modifications for aquatic lifestyle than this creature, and no one lumps them into a whale phylogeny.  So even if the oxygen or carbon isotopic ratios in the tooth enamel show a probability the creature lived a good part of its time in the water, how much can this tell us about its evolutionary path?  As a matter of fact, the team decided the diet of Indohyus was significantly different than whale diet.
    So here is the long and short about this creature:
Indohyus was a small, stocky artiodactyl, roughly the size of the raccoon Procyon lotor (Fig. 5).  It was not an adept swimmer; instead it waded in shallow water, with its heavy bones providing ballast to keep its feet anchored.  Indohyus may have fed on land, although a specialized aquatic diet is also possible.
Whales do not use their bones as ballast to stay anchored to the bottom.  They do not eat vegetables.  They do not walk on four feet.  By what kind of convoluted reasoning can a raccoon-size deer be considered ancestral to dolphins and blue whales?
    Even if it spent more time in water than the modern mouse deer, many mammals are accustomed to water: moose, bears, water buffalo, and of course otter and beaver – why are they not in the race to become whale ancestor?  The researchers even admitted that “The great evolutionary change that occurred at the origin of cetaceans is thus not the adoption of an aquatic lifestyle.”  They pinned all their inference on diet: “Here we propose that dietary change was the event that defined cetacean origins,” they said – but that is a radically new proposal from what they said before, because Indohyus eats plants, and whales don’t.  By all measures, it seems this new creature is even further removed from whale ancestry than the last candidate.
    Their ending paragraph summarized the just-so story of how Bambi evolved into Moby Dick:
Our working hypothesis for the origin of whales is that raoellid ancestors, although herbivores or omnivores on land, took to fresh water in times of danger.  Aquatic habits were increased in Indohyus (as suggested by osteosclerosis and oxygen isotopes), although it did not necessarily have an aquatic diet (as suggested by carbon isotopes).  Cetaceans originated from an Indohyus-like ancestor and switched to a diet of aquatic prey.  Significant changes in the morphology of the teeth, the oral skeleton and the sense organs made cetaceans different from their ancestors and unique among mammals.
This is, as they themselves said, only a “working hypothesis” at best.  Compare that with the triumphal announcements in the The Register quoted at the beginning of this entry: “The tables are turned now [against the creationists] because we have fossils that show that dramatic transition step by step.”
Update 12/26/2007: Science Now reported on the Thewissen claim, but ended with an alternative: “Another analysis, in press at Cladistics, suggests that an extinct group of carnivorous mammals, called mesonychids, were more closely related to cetaceans.”  Mesonychids looked less like Bambi and more like the Big Bad Wolf.  The only similarity seems to be that they were equidistant from Moby Dick.
1.  Thewissen, Cooper, Clementz, Bajpai and Tiwari, “Whales originated from aquatic artiodactyls in the Eocene epoch of India,” Nature 450, 1190-1194 (20 December 2007) | doi:10.1038/nature06343.
Will evolutionists actually tell lies to push their beliefs?  Yes—you saw it right here.  Fred Spoor told you that Archaeopteryx represents a clear transition between dinosaurs and birds, when he knows full well it appeared too late in his own evolutionary timeline to be a missing link (10/24/2005).  The big lie in the Nature article, and in the popular press, was to portray this fossil discovery as a great victory for evolution, and a step-by-step sequence showing the whole ancestry.  It is no more victory than picking up a spent lottery ticket on the dusty ground and thinking it is a missing link to riches.
    Philosophers of science could have some good banter about the logic of discovery – whether they discovered something true to nature in the data, or imposed their own experiences and preferences on the data.  Clearly, this team decided to pick and choose a few traits from a fossil they preferred over other problematical ones, and from these to weave a whale of a just-so story with which to dupe the public and shoot the creationists.  Well, their shot only hurt as much as a blast of bad breath in the face, that’s all.  You know what to expect from National Geographic, and you got it: “Whales Evolved from Tiny Deerlike Mammals, Study Says.”  The bigger the whopper, the better; have it your way, NG (10/24/2004).  Not to be left behind in the Whopper Olympics, the BBC News trumpeted, “Whale ‘missing link’ discovered.”
    This is the mess of things that Charlie Darwin left in his wake when he allowed the magicians and storytellers into the once noble halls of science (12/22/2003 commentary).  It’s time to clear house and clean up.  Send the whole lot of them back to school to learn some history and philosophy and ethics, and make them sign a commitment to speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  That would solve most of the problems in the contentious creation-evolution debate.
    Bambi to Moby Dick—incredible.  PhD scientists actually believe that?  They want that taught in the schools?  We need a new word that means to laugh and cry at the same time, because this whale of a tale deserves a whopping blubberfest.  Maybe the word howl will do.  Perhaps this is why the humpback whales are howling.
Next headline on:  Marine BiologyMammalsFossilsEvolution
Evolution Goes Forward, Backward and Sideways   12/19/2007    
According to an article by Becky Ham on MSNBC, evolution can make things more complicated or less complicated.  She referred to iconic cartoons that show the progress of evolution from slime to couch potato.  “It’s just a joke, but the idea that life starts simple and gets more complex over time persists even in scientific circles.”  One counter example, though, is the origin of single celled life.  Archaea and bacteria may be stripped-down versions of eukaryotes.  This idea from David Penny (Massey U, NZ) suggests that eukaryotes appeared first.
    Penny said, “We do think there is a tendency to look at evolution as progressive.  We prefer to think of evolution as backwards, sideways, and occasionally forward.”  Penny and his colleagues deny the popular hypothesis that eukaryotic cells emerged from the fusion of earlier, simpler life forms.  “Although the idea seems contrary to our cherished notion that evolution makes organisms more complex,” Becky Ham (no relation to Ken Ham, as far as we know) wrote, “Penny and colleagues say it’s possible.”  Well, then, it follows that in evolution, anything is possible.  Penny’s colleague Chuck Kurland [Lund U, Sweden] provided more examples of simplification that “illustrate the Darwinian view of evolution as a reversible process in the sense that ‘eyes can be acquired and eyes can be lost.’  Genome evolution is a two-way street,” he said.
Visualize a hockey puck on a frictionless surface infinite in all directions, moving about in various ways.  The concepts of forward, backward and sideways lose all meaning.  The same is true in relativistic Darwinland, where an incoming asteroid can cause extinction but also a boom in emergent innovation (see Fox News).  In the overall scheme of things, does it matter which direction is forward or backward?
    For decades, most Darwinists have taught as fact the myth that eukaryotes are a more complex product that emerged from the fusion of simpler, more primitive microbes.  Progressivism is built into such a notion.  Now, if eukaryotes just appeared suddenly, then became stripped down into the other two kingdoms of microbes, then Darwinian miracles of emergence allow for anything.  Why don’t we extend Penny’s theory and conclude that bacteria are stripped-down humans?  (Sorry; that didn’t come out right.  Some people on the beach, though, do resemble amoebas.)
Exercise:  Read the following sentence aloud:
The Story of Evolution
Evolution explains more complexity, and more simplicity.  It explains why flight arose in some birds, but was lost in others.  With evolution, organs and genomes can become more complicated, or more streamlined.  Eyes emerge through evolution, but eyes are also lost by evolution.  Evolution makes the cheetah fast but the sloth slow.  By evolution, dinosaurs grow to skyscraper size, and hummingbirds grow tiny.  With evolution, peacocks grow more flashy and crows more black, giraffes tall and flatworms flat.  Evolution explains predator and prey, loner and herder, light and dark, high and low, fast and slow, profligacy and stinginess, terrorism and altruism, religion and atheism, virtue and selfishness, psychosis and reason, extinction and fecundity, war and peace.  Evolution explains everything.
Now substitute the meaningless word Gribbleflix for Evolution and read it again.  There you have it: the world’s most successful, all-encompassing theory.  Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of Gribbleflix.  Don’t let the anti-Gribbleflix people sneak their dogma into the schools.  Gribbleflix is science.  Gribbleflix is a FACT!
Next headline on:  Darwinism and Evolutionary TheoryCell Biology
  Kelvin Scale:  Lord Kelvin received accolades fit for a Baron on the 100th anniversary of his death in Physics World this week.  The eulogy, notably, failed to mention anything of his strong Christian faith or his battle against the Darwinists.  For that part of his story, you’ll have to read our online book entry.  See also the news story from 07/02/2007, and the article on thermodynamics from 09/23/2007, a subject involving one of Lord Kelvin’s greatest achievements.

Walking Tall: Earth Pushed Hominids Out of Africa   12/19/2007    
Why did humans evolve from stoop-shouldered apemen into tall, proud, big-brained Europeans?  Africa pushed them out.  That seems to be the idea behind a story spreading throughout the popular science media, such as on Science Daily, entitled, “Geologists Say ‘Wall Of Africa’ Allowed Humanity To Emerge.”  The idea is based on circumstantial evidence that, according to evolutionary dating, the African Rift zone was creating mountains and valleys at about the same time hominids were thought by paleoanthropologists to be emerging into manhood.
    According to the Science Daily article, the husband and wife team of Royhan and Nahid Gani claim, “Tectonics [movement of Earth’s crust] was ultimately responsible for the evolution of humankind.”  Why?  Because it dried up the trees and created grasslands.  The apes had to climb down and learn how to walk on two feet, “an energy-efficient way to search larger areas for food in an arid environment.”  The Ganis did not explain why the other mammals didn’t follow the human leader.
    The following quotes by the Ganis were gleaned from reports on Science Daily, and EurekAlert, an PhysOrg, which regurgitated a press release from University of Utah.

  • Because of the crustal movement or tectonism in East Africa, the landscape drastically changed over the last 7 million years,” says Royhan Gani (pronounced rye-hawn Go-knee), a research assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering.  “That landscape controlled climate on a local to regional scale.  That climate change spurred human ancestors to evolve from apes.
  • “Although the Wall of Africa started to form around 30 million years ago, recent studies show most of the uplift occurred between 7 million and 2 million years ago, just about when hominins split off from African apes, developed bipedalism and evolved bigger brains.”
  • Nature built this wall, and then humans could evolve, walk tall and think big,” says Royhan Gani.  “Is there any characteristic feature of the wall that drove human evolution?”
        The answer, he believes, is the variable landscape and vegetation resulting from uplift of the Wall of Africa, which created “a topographic barrier to moisture, mostly from the Indian Ocean” and dried the climate.
  • “Clearly, the Wall of Africa grew to be a prominent elevated feature over the last 7 million years, thereby playing a prominent role in East African aridification by wringing moisture out of monsoonal air moving across the region,” the Ganis write.  That period coincides with evolution of human ancestors in the area.
  • Royhan Gani says the earliest undisputed evidence of true bipedalism (as opposed to knuckle-dragging by apes) is 4.1 million years ago in Australopithecus anamensis, but some believe the trait existed as early as 6 million to 7 million years ago.
        The Ganis speculate that the shaping of varied landscapes by tectonic forces -- lake basins, valleys, mountains, grasslands, woodlands -- “could also be responsible, at a later stage, for hominins developing a bigger brain as a way to cope with these extremely variable and changing landscapes” in which they had to find food and survive predators.
The only hint of doubt about this hypothesis is in the last paragraphs from the press release: “For now, Royhan Gani acknowledges the lack of more precise timeframes makes it difficult to link specific tectonic events to the development of upright walking, bigger brains and other key steps in human evolution.  ‘But it all happened within the right time period,’ he says.  ‘Now we need to nail it down.’”
Of course, these Charlietans had to include a little bit of doubt to let their sponsors know this is an important work in progress, so that the funds will keep flowing.
    The secular science reporters echo this nonsense without any critical thinking.  If we don’t expose the fallacies in these ridiculous ideas for the public, who will?  Even ardent evolutionists should be ashamed of the kind of illogic that went into this claim.  Tectonic forces and climate change make apes walk tall and think big.  Right on, dude.  It’s a shame this didn’t happen back in the Cambrian or Ordovician; we might have had written records for more time telling us how meteor impacts created brickmasons, earthquakes created architects, and tsunamis created surfers.
    Evolutionists should be the first in line to award the Ganis with Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week.  Instead, they give any imposters claiming to be scientists license to say any stupid things they want, as long as they swear allegiance to Darwin (e.g., 07/17/2007).  Alan Boyle listed 30 nominations for Weird Science of 2007 on MSNBC, but not one highlighted the silly claims of Darwinists.  The only one that came close was the story about redhead Neanderthals—but that was not questioning evolution.  Why didn’t the evolutionary claims in our 08/10/2007 entry make his list?  Look back through the “Dumb” entries for 2007 in these pages (e.g., 06/14/2007, 04/20/2007, 03/31/2007).  Any one of them would trounce Boyle’s nominations about radiation-proof underwear and glow-in-the-dark kittens.  Much of the evolutionary silliness would insult the intelligence of children (see 11/22/2007, 07/03/2007).  Remember the dandy display of logic from 10/14/2007?  or from 08/20/2007, or from 04/11/2007?  We should stage a contest for Stupidest Evolution Quote of 2007.
    Evolutionists are the funniest comedians on earth, and they don’t even know it.  That’s what makes them so funny.  Save the SEQOTW quotes up for the day the Darwin idol falls.  We’ll have a merry good time.
Next headline on:  Early ManDumb Ideas
Evolution: Demonstrated or Assumed?   12/18/2007    
Michael Behe wrote in The Edge of Evolution that Darwinists tend to forget the difference between what is assumed and what is demonstrated, and fall into the habit of attributing even the most elegant of biological features to evolution without demonstrating how it could be so (see quote, top right of this page).  Some examples are found in recent scientific papers and news reports.
  1. Knowledge is power of assumption:  Patrick Barry wrote for Science News about “energy-converting mitochondria or sunlight-absorbing chloroplasts, which are known to have evolved from ancient, independent-living bacteria that became incorporated into the cells.”
  2. Child’s play:  Since infants prefer Good Samaritans, this trait must have evolved, said Science Daily: “The presence of social evaluation so early in infancy suggests that assessing individuals by the nature of their interactions with others is central to processing the social world, both evolutionarily and developmentally,” the authors of a study proclaimed.
  3. Say it is so:  The author of a new book on vertebrate paleontology called Evolution In Action said this: “All creatures alive today are descended from a population of single-celled organisms that lived some billions of years ago.  Since the first animals appeared, millions of species have been born (the majority of which are now extinct), including our own, Homo sapiens.”  This was quoted authoritatively in Current Biology Dec 18, in a book review with the title, “No bones about it.”
  4. Scuttle fish:  Cuttlefish signalling can be quite elaborate, involving specialized light-emitting organs that display flashing lights in patterns.  Three scientists writing in Current Biology had an easy answer for where this ability came from: “Coleoid cephalopods, including cuttlefish, have a unique neurally controlled system for generating skin patterns, which evolved primarily for visual defence.”
  5. Columbine school:  Scott Hodges and Elena Kramer had a simple explanation for certain structures on columbines (a wildflower group): “What is unique about columbines, compared to their close relatives that have not gone through an adaptive radiation, is that they have evolved nectar spurs.”  The authors used the word evolution 10 times, never once explaining how it acted—only that it did; for instance, “Aquilegia’s flowers are also of particular utility and their features may help us to understand how novel morphological traits evolve....Developmental and genetic studies of these structures will help us understand how novelties evolve.”
  6. Evolution as goddess:  Did you know evolution can plan things and discover efficient ways of engineering codes?  A summary of the paper on RNA Polymerase II (see 12/17/2007, next entry) in Science Daily said this: “It would appear that, over the last 500 million years, other ways to produce highly complex organisms have evolved.  Evolution has simply found more efficient ways to use the genes already there.”
  7. Fly in the eye:  The following quote is notable for its admission that evidence is lacking for evolution, juxtaposed with certainty that it occurred.  David Weisblat, an expert on leeches at UC Berkeley, explained to Current Biology Dec 4 why leech study is important:
    The most compelling scientific justification for studying leech development is its relevance to understanding the evolution of animal body plans.  A priori, changes in animal body plans – morphology – must come about by changes, over the course of many millions of years, in the developmental processes by which they arise.  We now have a decent understanding of how a very few species, chiefly Drosophila, develop, but the ancestral species from which they evolved are by definition extinct, so we cannot make any retrospective comparisons.  Thinking prospectively, waiting to see significant morphological and underlying genomic/developmental changes is an exciting long-term possibility.  Unfortunately, that will require maintaining both human society and natural populations of the species of interest for the millions of years required for significant evolutionary changes to occur, a dicey proposition at best.
Perhaps Jerry Coyne and Hopi Hoekstra explained best why evolutionists can get away with such assertions that assume evolution rather than demonstrate it.  In a recent article in Current Biology (Volume 17, Issue 23, 4 December 2007, pages R1014-R1016), they said, “Evolution is a contingent process, dependent on the vagaries of the environment, history, and whatever mutations happen to appear.  Consequently, there are few strict ‘laws’ of evolution; ours is instead a science of generalizations.
    Maybe evolution is whatever an evolutionist wants it to be.  Even the prior point was not conceded by some scientists at New York University; they said, according to a press release on EurekAlert, that evolution is deterministic, not random.  Whatever evolution is, it sure explains a lot.  Maybe an undefined term like “abracadabra” would do just as well.
Charlietans, these Darwinists.  On the one hand they exclaim that evolution is the most clearly demonstrated scientific fact on Earth that only a fool (like a creationist) would deny.  Ask them for an example, and this is what you get: bald assertions that say little more than “it evolved because it evolved” or, “the way that it evolved is that it emerged millions of years ago, and after it arose, it evolved.”  If you love science, don’t let them get away with it.  Like Michael Jackson, they’re BAD (bald assertions of dogmatism).
    For more Darwin-assuming groaners, see the 08/24/2007 entry, “Evolution Takes Credit.”
Next headline on:  Darwinism and Evolutionary TheoryMarine BiologyPlants
DNA Translation Has Codes Upon Codes   12/17/2007    
The DNA code is protected by another code, and is read with a machine that reads a third code.  This is an emerging picture from ongoing research into DNA transcription, as reported in Science.1
    In the 1950s, scientists were astonished to find a code at the genetic basis of life.  DNA’s four-letter alphabet, arranged into triplet codons, providing 64 combinations that could code for the 20 amino acids and “punctuation” in various ways, seemed simple and elegant (see description in our online book).  Now it seems, remarkable as this mechanism is, it is way too simple.  Other factors must control when and how particular genes are to be transcribed.  Biochemists have also been cataloguing a huge number of post-transcriptional and post-translational modifications that take place, from the moment messenger-RNA is formed to after the protein chain is assembled.  What controls the regulators?
    Additional codes involved in regulating gene expression have been coming to light.  One was the histone code attached to DNA (11/13/2007) which may be as complex and as important as the DNA code itself (04/12/2003).  Now, Science published two papers on another code attached directly to the transcriber, RNA Polymerase II.  This “CTD code” is composed of tandem repeats of seven amino acids forming a tail called the carboxy-terminal domain (CTD).  New work expands the previously-known number of phosphorylation states from four to eight.  Since each of these amino acids can be modified by phosphorylation, patterns emerge that resemble a hexadecimal system.  Because the tandem repeats vary from 17 to 52 sets on a CTD, if each phosphorylation pattern had a functional meaning, there are potentially 852 different CTD patterns – over 900 trillion trillion trillion trillion.
    Such a number is probably degenerate – i.e., vastly greater than the number of states that are actually needed for functional meaning.  Still, the potential is there for a huge array of states that can direct the behavior of RNA Polymerase II.  It also might help explain why the number of genes in the human genome was surprisingly low; perhaps the CTD code provides a way to get more transcripts out of a gene – resulting in many proteins from one gene.  Experiments have shown that some distinct phosphorylation patterns do indeed change the expression of the gene.  Jeffry Corden [Johns Hopkins U] wrote in the review article on the two papers,
The biological role of CTD phosphorylation remains to be fully elucidated, but the emerging picture is that the pattern of CTD phosphorylation changes during RNA synthesis, allowing dynamic modification of the DNA template and processing of the nascent RNA transcript.  The studies by Chapman et al.2 and by Egloff et al.3 provide both the tools to fully document CTD phosphorylation patterns and the best evidence to date that these patterns constitute a code that intersects, at the most fundamental level, with the regulation of different classes of eukaryotic genes.
It appears that both DNA and its transcriber have codes, completely independent from the DNA code, affixed to them.  Are they passwords forming an authentication scheme?  Are they messages telling the machinery what to do?  If so, what sends the messages, and what recognizes them?  How is the password validated?  More work into this fascinating area will surely be needed.  For now, Corden said, “Together, the papers show that CTD phosphorylation is more complicated than previously thought and link, for the first time, expression of specific genes with a distinct CTD phosphorylation pattern.
1.  Jeffry L. Corden, “Seven Ups the Code,” Science, 14 December 2007: Vol. 318. no. 5857, pp. 1735-1736, DOI: 10.1126/science.1152624.
2.  Chapman et al, “Transcribing RNA Polymerase II Is Phosphorylated at CTD Residue Serine-7,” Science, 14 December 2007: Vol. 318. no. 5857, pp. 1780-1782, DOI: 10.1126/science.1145977.
3.  Egloff et al, “Serine-7 of the RNA Polymerase II CTD Is Specifically Required for snRNA Gene Expression,” Science, 14 December 2007: Vol. 318. no. 5857, pp. 1777-1779, DOI: 10.1126/science.1145989.
The situation just keeps getting worse for the evolutionists.  None of the three papers even mentioned evolution.  Who would dare?
    Apparently, Science Daily dared.  Summarizing these papers, it said, “It would appear that, over the last 500 million years, other ways to produce highly complex organisms have evolved.  Evolution has simply found more efficient ways to use the genes already there.”  You may now utter a long, sarcastic groan.
Next headline on:  GeneticsAmazing Facts
  Evolution for Everyone: a method for overcoming student objections to evolution, from 12/21/2005.  Be sure to read the commentary.

Godless: Is Psychiatry Science or Religion?   12/16/2007    
“Ever since Freud described religious faith as an illusion and a neurosis there has been tension and at times hostility between religion and psychiatry,” reported EurekAlert.  “Psychiatrists are less religious on average than other physicians, according to previously published data from the same survey, and non-psychiatrist physicians who are religious are less willing to refer their patients to psychiatrists.”
    This does not mean psychiatrists are hostile toward the religion of their clients.  In fact, they seem more interested in discussing it with clients than other medical doctors.  Many are also changing from linking religion with mental illness, the study says.  Some are even finding religious behaviors beneficial to clients’ mental health.  Medical doctors, by contrast, are far more likely to be religious themselves and view religion as important to their patients, according to an earlier survey by Brandeis University published on EurekAlert 11/14/2007, “A dose of God may help medicine.”
    The statistics about psychiatrists come from a survey published in the December issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.  Farr Curlin, MD, associate professor of medicine at the University of Chicago, thinks the gap between religion and psychiatry is narrowing.  “In aggregate,” he said, “although psychiatrists may not agree with the claims of religion, they often witness its powerful effects on patients’ mental health, both for good and for ill.”

Studies like this border on the meaningless.  To lump Scientology, animism and Christianity into one bin called “religion” almost guarantees that any conclusions will be invalid from the start.  It would be like trying to discuss anything meaningful about politics after lumping Democrats, Republicans, communists, fascists and anarchists into one group.
    Psychiatrists are psychologists with medical degrees.  That gives them one leg up from psychologists, a sorry lot within “science” if there ever was one.  The one who needed his head examined was Freud.  He pulled science down a blind alley as much as Mesmer did.  Psychiatry has value only in so far as it diagnoses purely medical conditions that have a physical basis.  When it tries to explain the “psychological” cause of your problems, and prescribe a drug to cover up the consequences of your sinful behavior, save your money and go to a good church.
    The only take-home lesson from this article is the bias of the pseudoscience of psychiatry against religion based on its Freudian roots – and Freud was a Darwin-loving apostate.  Psychiatrists have since evolved from calling religion a mental illness to calling it an evolved behavior that seems to confer some fitness benefits.  In other words, religion is still superstition in their view, but might be more healthy than they supposed.  How come no preachers or theologians were consulted to give their views on this subject?  While psychiatrists call preachers deluded or mentally ill, the preachers can turn around and call the psychiatrists sinners and spiritual counterfeits who proclaim false teachings as science falsely so called.  Whom can you trust?
    Don’t think for a minute it’s the psychiatrists.  Their anti-religious views cannot possibly be true, because they are self-refuting.  If they wish to restrict all behaviors to physical causes, they must include their own beliefs about psychiatry and religion.  This makes the teachings of psychiatry nothing more than chemical reactions in a physical brain.  Who could say their chemical reactions are like yours or mine?  Who could possibly know that their reactions are more valid than anyone else’s, without reference to some external standard of truth that is universal, timeless and certain?  Their belief system dissolves into the sea of irrationality, and is therefore untrustworthy by definition.  Trust the source that alone is universal, timeless and certain: your Creator.  Only He knows the truth about the creatures He made.  Thank Him that he has provided his sentient beings with an operator’s manual for mental and spiritual health.  Learn it, study it, and when you still need help, go to those who make it their life work to rightly apply the word of truth.
Next headline on:  Theology
Blast Your Way to Evolutionary Progress   12/15/2007    
The cartoony slogan “Evolve or perish” garnered support from a new story about evolution.  Dave Mosher on Live Science shamelessly titled his article “Catastrophic impacts made life flourish,” describing the theory by Birger Schmitz [U of Lund, Sweden] that the Ordovician extinction was caused by a meteor impact.  Out of the wreckage, a plethora of new life emerged, he thinks.  Don’t tell that to students:
“If you push an ecosystem too hard, you’ll destroy it,” he said.  “But for the organisms living on Earth at the time, [the environment] pushed them to adapt and fill new niches.  It’s like at the university: I tell my students all the time that if we don’t push you, you don’t evolve.”
Whoops; too late.  For the equivocation of confusing random mutation and natural selection with purpose-driven, goal-seeking, hopefully-intelligent study, Schmitz easily wins Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week.
Your evolutionary biologists at work.  No further comment necessary. 
Next headline on:  DarwinismDumb Ideas
Geology Sinks in the Mud   12/14/2007    
Question: what is the most abundant sedimentary rock in the world?  Follow-up question: what would happen to the science of geology if the consensus theory of how this most abundant sedimentary rock was deposited turns out to be wrong?  Prepare for a paradigm shift: experiments have shown mistakes in long-held assumptions about mudstone formation.
    Here’s what Macquaker and Bohacs said in Science1 about a paper in the same issue by Schieber, Southand and Thaisen:2 On page 1760 of this issue, Schieber et al. document a mechanism for depositing mud that is at odds with perceived wisdom.”  Later, “These results come at a time when mudstone science is poised for a paradigm shift.”  What they found is that “Mudstones can be deposited under more energetic conditions than widely assumed, requiring a reappraisal of many geologic records.”
    Mudstone is made up of very fine particles, typically just microns in diameter.  Think tiny clay particles in muddy water in the ocean or a lake, slowly settling down in calm water to the bottom.  Over long periods of time, the mud gradually builds up, micron by micron, millimeter by millimeter, leaving very fine strata (laminae).  It compacts and compresses and sometimes dries out.  That’s where mudstone and shale came from.  That’s what they thought.  Schieber and team decided to test these ideas with flume experiments in the laboratory.  Earlier experiments used centrifugal pumps, but these have a tendency to break up the clumps of clay particles, called floccules.  It’s these floccules, however, that turn out to be essential to understanding mud transport and deposition.
    This time, the team used a “racetrack flume” at Indiana University specially devised to eliminate the breakup of floccules.  They discovered that rapidly-moving currents can stratify mud deposits in ways that mimic slow, calm-water settling.  Here is the abstract:
Mudstones make up the majority of the geological record.  However, it is difficult to reconstruct the complex processes of mud deposition in the laboratory, such as the clumping of particles into floccules.  Using flume experiments, we have investigated the bedload transport and deposition of clay floccules and find that this occurs at flow velocities that transport and deposit sand.  Deposition-prone floccules form over a wide range of experimental conditions, which suggests an underlying universal process.  Floccule ripples develop into low-angle foresets and mud beds that appear laminated after postdepositional compaction, but the layers retain signs of floccule ripple bedding that would be detectable in the rock record.  Because mudstones were long thought to record low-energy conditions of offshore and deeper water environments, our results call for reevaluation of published interpretations of ancient mudstone successions and derived paleoceanographic conditions.
One reason the theory has been muddy is that there are 32 variables to take into account.  It’s a fundamentally complex system.  Floccule formation, for instance, relies on variables such as “settling velocity, floccule size, grain-size distribution, ion exchange behavior, and organic content” as well as particle concentration and the intensity of turbulence.  Other variables affecting the outcome include electromagnetic properties, biological material present, chemical composition, and more.  The scientists did the best they could controlling variables.  They tried distilled water, lake water, and salt water, with various types of mud particles.  They watched what happened on all sides of the flume, including looking up from the bottom, and examined the floccules with electron microscopes.
    Previously, geologists thought that mudstone had to be deposited in calm water because currents would disrupt the previously-deposited mud on the seabed or lakebed.  Not so.  These experiments showed that laminated mud can be deposited under currents strong enough to transport sand particles – orders of magnitude larger than mud particles.  Floccules can actually grow up to the size of sand particles.
    A glimpse at the implications of this paradigm shift can be gleaned from these quotes:
  • A century ago, Henry Clifton Sorby, one of the pioneers of geology, pointed to the study of muds as one of the most challenging topics in sedimentary geology.  Today, with our knowledge clearly expanded, muddy sediments are still considered highly complex systems that may require as many as 32 variables and parameters for a satisfactory physicochemical characterization.  More research may clarify interdependencies between a number of these parameters and may allow us to consider a smaller number of variables, but the fundamental complexity of muddy sediments is likely to remain.
  • Mudstones constitute up to two-thirds of the sedimentary record and are arguably the most poorly understood type of sedimentary rocks.  Mudstone successions contain a wealth of sedimentary features that provide information about depositional conditions and sedimentary history, but presently we lack the information that would allow us to link features observed in the rock record to measurable sets of physical variables in modern environments.
  • It appears that irrespective of what drives flocculation in a given experiment, flocculation provides deposition-prone particles without fail over a wide range of experimental conditions.
  • Our observations do not support the notion that muds can only be deposited in quiet environments with only intermittent weak currents.  Instead, bedload transport of flocculated mud and deposition occurs at current velocities that would also transport and deposit sand.  Clay beds can accrete from migrating floccule ripples under swiftly moving currents in the 10 cm/s to 26 cm/s velocity range, a range likely to expand as flows with larger sediment concentrations are explored.
  • Whereas the clay beds formed in our experiments consist of downcurrent-inclined laminae, they appear to be parallel-laminated once fully compacted (Fig. 4A).  Because floccule ripples are spaced 30 to 40 cm apart, ancient sediments of this origin are likely to appear parallel-laminated (Fig. 4C) as well.
  • Detection of ripple-accreted muds in the rock record will require carefully defined, and yet to be developed, criteria.
  • In the course of two decades of detailed studies of shales and mudstones, one of us has seen comparable low-amplitude bedforms (Fig. 4D) in shale units that were deposited in a wide variety of environments.... This suggests that mud accretion from migrating floccule ripples probably occurred throughout geologic history.
  • Many ancient shale units, once examined carefully, may thus reveal that they accumulated in the manner illustrated here, rather than having largely settled from slow-moving or still suspensions.  This, in turn, will most likely necessitate the reevaluation of the sedimentary history of large portions of the geologic record.
As if these issues are not daunting enough, Macquaker and Bohacs added this thought:
The results call for critical reappraisal of all mudstones previously interpreted as having been continuously deposited under still waters.  Such rocks are widely used to infer past climates, ocean conditions, and orbital variations.
In short, a huge tower of interpretation, touching on fields as diverse as climate change, earth history and even solar system dynamics, has been built on a flawed assumption: that mudstones always settled out slowly in calm water.  Now that the assumption is shown to be unfounded, it is not just the geologists who will have to consider a paradigm shift.
    Speaking of mud, Live Science reported the discovery of undersea mud waves in the Arctic, an “unexpected surprise.”  In a quizzical inversion of the above story, scientists thought strong currents were required for such things; “researchers had thought the Arctic was too calm to produce the mud waves,” the article stated.  “Scientists aren’t sure what formed them.”  With apologies to Thomas Kuhn, maybe it was another paradigm shift.
1.  Macquaker and Bohacs, “Geology: On the Accumulation of Mud,” Science, 14 December 2007: Vol. 318. no. 5857, pp. 1734-1735, DOI: 10.1126/science.1151980.
2.  Schieber, Southard and Thaisen, “Accretion of Mudstone Beds from Migrating Floccule Ripples,” Science, 14 December 2007: Vol. 318. no. 5857, pp. 1760-1763, DOI: 10.1126/science.1147001.
A quick conversion shows 25 cm/sec to be a little shy of a foot per second, or about half a mile per hour – a slow current.  But like they said, the speed could be revised upward when fluids with higher concentrations are tested.  Also, currents could be stronger on the surface than the ocean bottom.  Of more consequence is the fact that nearly a century of assumption has undergirded a geological foundation that is more like quivering mud than rock-solid support.
    A quick look at Grand Canyon layers shows that the following (bottom to top) contain shales and mudstones: the Unkar group, the Bass formation, Hakatai Shale, Dox (the thickest formation of all), the Chuar Group, Bright Angel Shale, Supai Group, and Hermit Formation.  These represent thousands of feet of sediments.  Previously thought to have formed in calm, placid seas, it is now possible to look at these anew as having been deposited under currents of water.  Will Flood geologists now be able to say “I told you so” to their uniformitarian rivals?
    The implications of this announcement should send seismic waves throughout geology and earth science.  Geologists have looked to mudstones for clues about depositional history.  Chemists have looked to mudstones for clues about the chemical history of the earth and its oceans.  Oceanographers have looked to mudstones for clues about plankton cycles and patterns.  Atmospheric scientists have looked to mudstones for clues about climate history.  Biologists have looked to fossils in mudstones for clues to evolutionary history.  Physicists have looked to mudstones for clues about geomagnetic history.  Even planetary scientists have looked to mudstones for clues about the orbital history of the Earth.  All of these have assumed that mudstone left a reliable record of slow, quiet deposition under calm water conditions.  Now what?  If their chosen methodology shepherds them not beside the still waters, it cannot restore their soul.
    It may turn out that geologists can save face with further experimentation, or that they could argue that there are narrow limits under which mudstones can form that are not too far removed from the calm-water paradigm.  Remember, however, that mudstones are very complex, with at least 32 parameters to consider.  That’s the known parameters; what about the unknown ones?  To what extent can geologists infer past conditions by “reading” rocks when they don’t know the language?  And how sure can we be now that future experiments won’t upset the current paradigm again, even more radically?
    There are important lessons here about the philosophy of science: particularly, the fundamental difference between the observational sciences and the historical sciences.  Even experiments as carefully controlled as these cannot prove that the Dox Formation or the Bright Angel Shale were laid down under comparable conditions.  Lab experiments are only simulations.  Many parameters cannot be controlled; others are not even known.  Science can say with some confidence that such-and-such a rock is composed of quartz or montmorillite or limestone in the present.  Describing where it came from and how it got there is a completely different kind of investigation.  Why should geology limit itself to observation of present resources and processes?
    In 1825, Granville Penn, a Bible-believing British geologist, wrote that trying to understand the rock record from field observations alone is like trying to understand the history of Rome by studying scattered ruins of the empire without access to Roman historians like Tacitus.  Geology is a compound work, he argued: “it is both physical and historical, for it seeks the historical truth of a physical fact.”  He explained,
It is evident to reason, that certainty concerning a past fact – such as is, the mode by which all material existences were really first formed, or were really afterwards altered – must be historical certainty: the subject, therefore, is no longer a subject for philosophical or scientific induction, but for historical evidence, it demands a voucher competent to establish its truth.  Now, the voucher that could establish the fact respecting the true mode of first formations, must have been a witness of that mode; but, the only witness of the mode of first formations or creations, was the Creator himself.
(cited in Terry Mortenson, The Great Turning Point [Master Books, 2004], p. 64.)  His point is, that rather than restricting themselves to insufficient evidential resources, geologists should be willing to use the same methods of historical evaluation from the available sources that a historian would use in reconstructing the history of a past civilization.  It would be folly for a historian of Rome to ignore Tacitus, Julius Caesar, Livy or Cicero, even if the sources were dubbed biased or incomplete.  The eyewitness accounts of Rome cannot provide exhaustive information, but they provide anchor points for a basic framework of investigation.  Is it not a superior methodology for a historian to avail himself of both the extant written documents and the monuments?
    Similarly, Penn argued, the works of Moses, though not a geological textbook, provide enough intersection points of geological events with human history with which to begin building a geological system.  Geologists in the 1830s abandoned that methodology – not because the data forced them to, but because they made it their choice to study only the monuments.  Well, you see where it has led.  This is just one example (try some others: 11/30/2007, 11/26/2007, 10/03/2007, 09/19/2007, 03/27/2007, 02/19/2007, 01/12/2007 – and that’s just from this year.  The story about volcanoes in 11/13/2006 was instructive, and remember the puzzle of the ultra-pure sandstones of world-wide distribution from 06/27/2003?).  Reading Geology papers is like reading Darwinian evolution papers: a little bit of data, a lot of storytelling, and frequent announcements that everything you know is wrong.
    Try a change of perspective.  In a parallel world outside the mainstream geological institutions, which followed Lyell, Darwin and Huxley wholesale into materialism in the 19th century, there remains today an active body of creation geologists who still work within the framework of the written historical record.  You would be hard-pressed to notice any difference in scientific rigor in their papers.  Often there is active debate about how certain formations are to be interpreted.  Frequently they find the interpretations of the secular geologists to be untenable in light of the observational evidence.  Many of the creation geologists have PhDs, and some are more experienced in field work than their secular counterparts.  They go out to interesting sites all over America, Australia and the world, investigate them carefully, and interpret the same data – only through the lenses of a different worldview (example: 03/05/2006 commentary).  Sound interesting?  Tired of the often-contradictory secular approach?  Here are two journals where you can test the alternative: the Creation Research Society Quarterly and the Journal of Creation.  Both of these general-science technical journals frequently contain interesting and informative articles on geology and earth history.
Next headline on:  GeologyDating Methods
  SETI researcher tries to explain why SETI is not like Intelligent Design: from 12/03/2005.

Darwin Fish Pokes ID in the Eye   12/13/2007    
Some science news outlets are having an eye-poking battle against intelligent design with the latest eye-popping claim about eye evolution.  It seems to have started in Australia on Science Alert, where some exceptionally-preserved placoderm fossils were found:

The palaeobiologist discovered that unlike all living vertebrate animals – which includes everything from the jawless lamprey fish to humans – placoderms had a different arrangement of muscles and nerves supporting the eyeball – evidence of an “intermediate stage” between the evolution of jawless and jawed vertebrates.
    “The vertebrate eye is the best example of structural perfection – as used by proponents of intelligent design to claim that something so complex couldn’t possibly have evolved,” Dr Young said.
The creature already had fully-formed, functioning eyes.  The discoverer was only claiming that a change in the arrangement of muscles and nerves around the eye hinted at a transitional arrangement between jawless fish and modern vertebrates.  The suggestion that a missing link had been found, however, was enough to send other reporters wielding their fingers in battle against ID.  “One in the eye for intelligent design,” jeered Brendan O’Keefe in The Australian.  The Sydney Morning Herald was even more brazen: “‘Eye ancestor’ debunks ID nonsense.”  The Science Alert article was slightly more reserved.  Entitled “Fossil evidence of early eye,” it ended, “This means that we’re able to add one more piece to the puzzle of how the human eye came to be.”
Next to Tinker Bell and Yoda, Popeye is one of the Darwin Party’s favorite characters.  Believing that eyes can just pop into existence with the greatest of ease, they picture Popeye, filled with Darwin spinach, knocking the living daylights out of the ID Brutus, as Olive Oyl (Eugenie Scott) grasps her hands adoringly, saying, “My hero!”
    Problem is, the ID folk aren’t watching the cartoons.  They are grown up.  They live in the real world.  They look ahead.  They watch ID the Future.
Next headline on:  EvolutionIntelligent DesignDumb Ideas
Walking Upright Is Not Just for Pregnant Females   12/13/2007    
Pregnant women have enhanced curvature of the lower spine, which helps them support their babies during pregnancy.  Obviously, this must have evolved that way because emerging apes rising to their feet had different physiological needs.  Most science news reports are echoing this theme from a paper in Nature1 without any qualms about the Lamarckism or teleology of such language.
    For instance, the EurekAlert entry begins, “The transition from apes to humans may have been partially triggered by the need to stand on two legs, in order to safely carry heavier babies.”  Why living apes do not feel this need is not explained, nor how a need triggered the kind of random mutations that would conspire to produce a complex set of adaptations.
    The article on PhysOrg envisions evolution rising to meet that need:
Walking on two feet, which happened early in human evolution, presents a unique challenge during pregnancy because the center of gravity shifts far in front of the hips, destabilizing the upper body and impairing locomotion.  This is not the case for animals that walk predominantly on four legs such as chimpanzees, or even other bipeds.
    To accommodate this shifted center of gravity, women’s spines have evolved to help offset the additional weight in the abdomen during pregnancy, so that the back muscles are not taxed in counter-balancing the destabilizing effects of the baby’s weight.
Very clever of evolution to engineer this solution.  Evolution is never ever in question in such claims.  The only question is how evolution did it:
When human ancestors first became bipedal, they set the human lineage off on a different evolutionary path from other apes, but in so doing created special challenges for pregnant mothers.  One exciting discovery is that the ability of human females to better carry a baby to term while standing on two feet appears to have evolved at least two million years ago.  The researchers studied two hominin fossils that were approximately two million years old, one of which – presumably a female – displayed three lordosis vertebrae and one of which – presumably a male – displayed fewer.
    Early human women lived very strenuous, active lives, and pregnant females were forced to cope with the discomfort of childbearing while foraging for food and escaping from predators,” [Daniel] Lieberman [Harvard] says.  “This evolution of the lower back helped early woman to remain more mobile during pregnancy, which would have been essential to survival, and appears to have been favored by natural selection.
  The original paper speculated that the demands of upright-walking females would have exerted a strong “selection pressure” for this adaptation, but did not even attempt to identify a chain of mutations that could have pulled it off.2  EurekAlert added this just-so story: “...the fall in body hair in primates could have brought on bipedality as a necessary consequence, through the strong selective pressure of safe infant carrying, as infants were no longer able to cling to their mother’s body hairs.”
    Articles with similar claims can be found on National Geographic News and Associated Press.  The rest of the news media tend to echo these announcements with only minor variations.  None ever questions the evolutionary angle; design is always attributed to a Darwinian process.
1.  Whitcombe, Shapiro and Lieberman, “Fetal load and the evolution of lumbar lordosis in bipedal hominins,” Nature 450, 1075-1078 (13 December 2007) | doi:10.1038/nature06342.
2.  Sample: “Given the demands of fetal load and the importance of pregnancy for fitness, one predicts that natural selection has operated on the unique anatomy of the hominin lumbar region to mitigate the biomechanical problems that females confront.”
Evolutionists need to learn to walk upright.  To walk uprightly is to be a person of integrity, balance, poise and righteousness.  There is no way on earth anyone could ever know the things they are claiming.  They see a wonderfully designed adaptation, and cast these pearls before swindling old Charlie.  Here again we see evolutionary scientists and their lackeys in the press crawling all over the floor, paying homage to the Head Pig.  The original paper’s first words, like those of a baby saying da-da, are “As predicted by Darwin...”  Wise king Solomon said, “Folly is joy to him who is destitute of discernment, but a man of understanding walks uprightly” (Proverbs 15:21).  Stand up, man, woman, and take a stand for uprightness of heart and mind. 
Next headline on:  Early ManEvolutionDumb Ideas
Stretching Saturn’s Rings in Time   12/13/2007    
Imagining young rings forming recently has been an embarrassment since Voyager days.  A new paper by ringmaster Larry Esposito (U of Colorado) found a way to stretch them out into billions of years.  The Cassini press release describes clumpy material dividing and re-forming endlessly.  Finding more mass in the B-ring also helped explain the brightness of the rings for longer times: there’s more ice to dilute the incoming pollution.
“We have discovered that the rings probably were not created just yesterday in cosmic time, and in this scenario, it is not just luck that we are seeing planetary rings now,” said Esposito.  “They probably were always around but continually changing, and they will be around for many billions of years.”
It’s doubtful the Cassini crew will wait that long to find out.  This story was picked up by PhysOrg, the BBC News, National Geographic and  On December 17, Astronomy Picture of the Day reported the claim alongside a dazzling picture of the rings.
What did Esposito do, invent a perpetual motion machine?  What did he do with gas drag, sputtering, micrometeoroid impacts, collisional spreading and sunlight pressure?  These factors are not going to care whether fluffy clumps of ice can recycle themselves.  Apparently the ringmaster is also a magician; he made these problems just disappear.  When the paper comes out maybe we can find the secret pockets.  For most viewers, distraction is usually an effective method.
    It’s not that this new model lacks evidential support; there does appear to be clumpiness, and mass estimates have been revised upward by Cassini.  But it only accounts for more time for the B-ring, not the other rings which are more tenuous and even younger – including the rings of Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune.  So the problem did not go away with this announcement, despite the celebrating by the science news yahoos who never heard an old age they didn’t like.
    What’s driving this urge for age?  Simple: Charlie needs the time.  That sets the paradigm throughout science.  The ringmasters have been embarrassed for 23 years since Voyager forced them to consider the rings might be young.  When a phenomenon doesn’t cooperate, it must be forced into conformity; second law of thermodynamics be damned.
Next headline on:  Solar SystemDating Methods
  Why men tend to be less religious than women, from 12/19/2002.

What Mean These Bones?   12/12/2007    
Fossils found in unusual conditions and strange locations tell a silent story.  Humans often cannot resist making up their own versions of the plot.  Consider the following discoveries.  Listen to the stories told about them, and ask: what is the probability the stories are true?  How could we ever know?  Who is qualified to be the chief storyteller?

  1. Glacier-saurus:  Bones from a six-ton sauropod were found 10 years ago at 13,000' elevation near a glacier in Antarctica.  New interpretations about it were reported by EurekAlert and PhysOrg.  The National Geographic article includes an artist’s interpretation of the ecology when it lived.  What put this monster meat in the freezer?
        The evolutionary story is that this dinosaur, named Glacialisaurus hammeri, lived 190 million years ago.  NG quotes a paleontologist saying that the discovery so far south “was probably due to the fact that major connections between the continents still existed at that time, and because climates were more equitable across latitudes than they are today.”  He added that the bones are “important because they help to establish that primitive sauropodomorph dinosaurs were more broadly distributed than previously thought and that they coexisted with their cousins, the true sauropods.”
  2. Armadillo in the sky:  An armor-covered mammal called a glyptodont was found at 14,000 feet in the Andes, reported National Geographic News.  This represents the “oldest glyptodont known from any significant skeletal remains,” said one paleontologist.  How did it get so high in the mountains?  One paleontologist said that when it lived, the mountain wasn’t there.  “For me, the real question is what this tells us about the history of uplift of the Andes mountains and how it impacted this group of animals.”  Some glyptodonts, which look like fat, stiff armadillos, grew to the size of a small car, the article said.
  3. Double-decker dino:  Dinosaur bones sitting in a Chicago museum have been re-interpreted as those of a large carnivorous beast rivalling T. rex.  Found in Niger 10 years ago, Carcharodontosaurus iguidensis was one of the largest meat-eaters that ever lived.  “It was part of a ‘very weird ecosystem’ of huge bipedal carnivorous dinosaurs that inhabited the Saharan Cretaceous landscape,” the article claims.  The BBC News story shows it larger than a double-decker bus.
        Why did this beast grow so large?  A paleontologist explained: “The dinosaur seems to have evolved because these shallow seas divided up the land so it led to different groups of dinosaurs in different places.”  Obviously, “that has implications for how life reacts to high temperatures and high sea levels,” he said.  National Geographic News quoted a paleontologist calling this “evolution in action,” even though humans have only observed static, dead bones.  “The study suggests that the newly described species is evidence for rapid evolution after shallow prehistoric seas inundated North Africa.”  That part of the story was certainly not observed.
        Another speculated, “It may be that these giants arose by allopatric speciation, whereby biological populations are physically isolated by a barrier, in this case a seaway, and evolve in reproductive isolation” (see entry on allopatric speciation from 01/15/2003).  She thought that interpretation holds for living species; “However, that hypothesis can’t be tested with ancient fossils!
  4. Underground forest:  A farmer in Michigan was astonished to find something under his land when the Department of Transportation started digging a pond for him in exchange for fill earth.  Lo and behold, a prehistoric forest came to light.  The report on Science Daily quoted a forester saying, “We find a lot of trees lying on the forest floor, but this was the first time I’ve seen so many trees thousands of years old and so well preserved in the soil.”  Well, gosh darn, whaddya know.  “What could bury a whole forest 15 feet underground?  It had to be a single catastrophic, violent event, and it must have happened a long time ago for 15 feet of soil to build up.
        A professional colleague speculated with him that “the trees were either transported or mowed down by the last glacier to move across the Keweenaw, before Lake Superior covered the peninsula” about 10,000 years ago.  They want to perform radiocarbon dating on the logs, many of which are 20 feet long and 2 feet in diameter.
  5. Mammoth targets:  Rocks from space played asteroids against mammoths 35,000 years ago, claims a report on the BBC News.  Tusks from Alaska and Siberia appear to show scars of meteorite debris.  A researcher explained, “We think that there was probably an impact which exploded in the air that sent these particles flying into the animals.”  Bones of bison from the same period show re-growth, indicating that the smaller mammals survived a “calamitous event” that took down their bigger neighbors.  They’re not sure, though; “Maybe, these were tusks from dead animals that were just exposed on the surface, so when this thing blew up in the atmosphere, it would have peppered them.”  The date could range from 13,000 to 35,000 years ago, they said.
        Previously, scientists attributed the extinction of mammoths to humans or climate change.  Can space impacts really explain this?  It can’t hurt, at least (that is, it can’t hurt the theory, even if it hurt the animals):
    For us the difficulty is that we see patterns but we don’t understand what the underlying process is; so it becomes difficult to ascribe causation,” he [Dr. Ian Barnes from Royal Holloway University of London, UK] explained.
        “Just as in a modern crime scene, it’s very difficult to piece all the evidence together and say precisely what was going on; which event led to any particular outcome.”
        But he added: “Certainly, you can’t imagine it helped the animals having a large meteorite hit the Earth’s atmosphere and pellet them with shot.
  6. Polar warming:  A polar bear jaw has been found in the Arctic, reported the BBC News.  The article claims this jawbone is up to 130,000 years old.  That makes the evolution of polar bears 30,000 years older than previously thought.  Why is this good news?  Well, if “further discoveries can show the iconic Arctic beasts have a deeper evolutionary heritage, then the outlook for the animals may be more positive than some believe,” because they would have survived one interglacial period – i.e., global warming.  Hence, “This is telling us that despite the ongoing warming in the Arctic today, maybe we don’t have to be quite so worried about the polar bear.”
A paleontologist in the last story was honest about the storytelling: “This is just how I interpret it.  But this is science – when you have little data, you have lots of freedom.”  The only question is whether free interpretation can really be called science.
PostScriptNational Geographic News posted an article today about the massive dinosaur pit in Spain (see 11/30/2007, bullet 2).  The consensus is that this graveyard, containing over 8,000 individuals, was caused by a flood.  Evolutionists are also saying this shows that the period when they were assumed to have lived – 70 million years ago – had more biodiversity than thought.  “Having so many dinosaurs together at the same site is a big deal,” one paleontologist commented.  “This group of dinosaurs living in the same place in the same environment hadn’t been established before.”  The pit includes huge titanosaurs, among the largest land animals that ever lived; they are among the most abundant creatures at the site.  Must have been some flood.
The interpretation of these finds is left as an exercise.  That’s a difficult exercise, because fossils don’t come with written documentation.  Science cannot provide definitive answers about one-time, past events.  Paleontologists try to piece together a story from multiple clues, and weave together scenarios that are more or less plausible.  Never forget, however, a point emphasized by philosophers of science: theories are always under-determined by the data.  This means an almost infinite number of theories could be concocted to fit the same set of observations.  It’s especially true for past events that cannot be checked directly.
    So whose interpretation will carry the day?  Aha; now we enter the realm of “political” science.  The reigning Darwin Party wields an iron fist over its totalitarian dictatorship.  Remember: totalitarian means total; it means that it is a crime to even think out of line with the regime.  That is why interpretations outside the Party never get heard.  The paleontologist who claimed he had little data but lots of freedom was putting a positive spin on how much freedom there is inside the Party paradigm.
Next headline on:  FossilsDinosaursMammalsPlants
Could Evolutionary Racism Re-Emerge?   12/11/2007    
It is a tragic matter of record that some of recent history’s most brutal racial genocides were justified on Darwinian principles (see CMI articles about the Herero genocide, the Nazi genocide, and the Aborigine genocide).  The perpetrators acted on what they believed were inexorable laws of nature, that evolution had equipped some races as superior and others as inferior, little more than animals.
    Prior to the atrocities were many writings expressing IQ as a function of skull size, human evolution as a continuum of progress from animal evolution, and survival of the fittest as the highest good (see CMI article on Haeckel).  Add to that the Malthusian idea that the earth’s resources cannot support all who are born, apply it as Darwin did to survival of the fittest, and the intellectual framework for “might makes right” was laid.
    Now, of course, evolutionists typically decry the racist ideas of their predecessors.  Some now portray evolution as a world of cooperation and harmony.  Diversity and inclusion are key words in evolutionary biology and in many a university and corporate office policy statement.  But has anything changed in the underlying doctrines that led to earlier abuses?  Consider these recent examples:
  1. Skull size:  A short piece in the “Random Samples” column of Science,1 “What the Skull Tells,” reported dispassionately on work by an evolutionary psychologist at Edinburgh, Ian Deary, to measure the skulls of historic figures considered to have high IQs.  “Studies have shown that brain, and therefore skull, sizes have modest but significant correlations with IQ,” the article mentioned nonchalantly.
  2. Rapid human evolution:  A claim this week by Henry Harpending, evolutionary anthropologist at the University of Utah, that human evolution is accelerating, reverberated throughout the echo chamber of the popular science press (see PhysOrg, National Geographic News, BBC News complete with the iconic human evolution line of progress diagram, Science Daily accompanied by image of a conquering Viking).  One aspect of his claim was that “Human races are evolving away from each other.”  The National Geographic article quotes him as saying, “We’re evolving away from each other.  We’re getting more and more different.”
        Most of the articles mentioned that Harpending and a co-author got into trouble after a previous study claimed that intelligence evolved more in one group than another.  This time, he stressed, the genetic differences between people groups “cannot be used to justify discrimination.  Rights in the Constitution aren’t predicated on utter equality.  People have rights and should have opportunities whatever their group.”
        This may be a hard sell, however, since the Constitution assumed that natural rights come from God.  In the Declaration of Independence (signed by the same group of authors) they had said it was self-evident that all men are equal and endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights.  The signers understood that the equality spoken of was not genetic or physical.  Equality was based on the spiritual and moral values of equality before God, leading to equal opportunity and equality before the law.  Can these rights come from an evolutionary process that is driving human races apart?
        It was not just creationists finding cause for worry in Harpending’s claims.  The article states that the study “generated fears such research will undermine the principle of human equality and justify racism and discrimination.  Other critics question the quality of the science and argue culture plays a bigger role than genetics.”  These fears came from the scientific community.
  3. Moral equivalence:  It is common in evolutionary literature to ascribe all moral qualities to blind evolutionary processes.  As one example, an article in Science October 26 considered war as the flipside of altruism.2  Holly Arrow wrote that “altruism flourishes only in the company of outgroup hostility (parochialism), with war as both the engine of this coevolutionary process and its legacy.”    Though Ms. Arrow clearly favored keeping the “sharp end of altruism” (war) in its sheath, would-be tyrants may not apply the law of Darwinism so peacefully.  Within this view, it would seem trivial for a dictator to justify war – as some indeed did – as an altruistic act for the good of the fatherland, consistent with the principles of Darwinism.
How long can the memory of Judeo-Christian morality hold out against a steady onslaught of evolutionary claims that people are mere animals, some more evolved than others?  If our ancestors were just like gorillas, as a recent article on PhysOrg announced, what is to stop a racist or tyrant from taking on the role of alpha silverback?
Breaking News 12/11/2007: The truth comes out about Matthew Murray, the gunman who shot up a mission and church in Colorado last weekend.  Apparently he fell under the spell of the same anti-Christian, anarchist rock group KMFDM as did the Finnish murderer last month (11/08/2007).  He also copycatted the Columbine killers who had killed in the name of “natural selection” – see story on World Net Daily.
1.  Random Samples, Science, Volume 318, Number 5855, Issue of 30 November 2007.
2.  Holly Arrow, “The Sharp End of Altruism,” Science, 26 October 2007: Vol. 318. no. 5850, pp. 581-582, DOI: 10.1126/science.1150316.
We repeat: don’t think for a minute that the evils of Darwinian philosophy were exhausted in the extermination camps, gulags and killing fields of the 20th century.  Evolutionary ethics are like demons that must be locked in the abyss lest they once again unleash death upon the world.  Their ambassadors know the language of diplomacy and talk peace – until they gain enough power to overcome the guardians of the keys.
Next headline on:  DarwinismPolitics and Ethics
Accurate Chemical Classifier Mimics Insect Nose   12/10/2007    
Two Germans have built a better chemical classification system by taking their inspiration from insect olfactory organs.  Here’s how they described their achievement in an abstract from PNAS:1
The chemical sense of insects has evolved to encode and classify odorants.  Thus, the neural circuits in their olfactory system are likely to implement an efficient method for coding, processing, and classifying chemical information.  Here, we describe a computational method to process molecular representations and classify molecules.  The three-step approach mimics neurocomputational principles observed in olfactory systems.  In the first step, the original stimulus space is sampled by “virtual receptors,” which are chemotopically arranged by a self-organizing map.  In the second step, the signals from the virtual receptors are decorrelated via correlation-based lateral inhibition.  Finally, in the third step, olfactory scent perception is modeled by a machine learning classifier.  We found that signal decorrelation during the second stage significantly increases the accuracy of odorant classification.  Moreover, our results suggest that the proposed signal transform is capable of dimensionality reduction and is more robust against overdetermined representations than principal component scores.  Our olfaction-inspired method was successfully applied to predicting bioactivities of pharmaceutically active compounds with high accuracy.  It represents a way to efficiently connect chemical structure with biological activity space.
Readers may want to sniff our 06/27/2005 article about the work of Gilles Laurent, whose lab described in detail the exquisite coding method of insect olfaction in Caltech’s periodical Engineering and Science.  Laurent’s work was cited in the references.
    The scientists took advantage of an algorithm in insect olfactory systems that processes inputs through a system of correlation and decorrelation, finding general similarities and discriminating specific differences.  The system maps an almost unlimited number of inputs into the brain, such that “All information necessary to assign a perceptual quality to a chemical stimulus is present there.”  They said that “the application of this framework is not limited to the olfactory domain but can also be efficiently used for virtual screening of a pharmaceutical compound database”; i.e., in machine learning systems.  They did not build such a system yet.  This work only provides a pathway for inventors in the electronic nose world: “The effects of processing in the virtual antennal lobe on those extensions as well as their impact on classification power provide a tantalizing prospect for future research.”
    A little more awe for what a tiny insect antenna accomplishes can be gleaned from the authors’ statement, “The processing scheme we present here provides a simplified model of neural computation in the olfactory system.”  They said, “We tried to keep the simulation overhead as small as possible so that the essence of the processing strategies would stay obvious.
1.  Schmuker and Schneider, “Processing and classification of chemical data inspired by insect olfaction,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.0705683104, published online before print December 10, 2007.
2.  Gilles Laurent, “Olfaction: A Window into the Brain,” Engineering and Science (LXVIII:1/2), [summer] 2005, pp. 43-51 (PDF).
If we can pardon the researchers’ logical blunder in thinking that evolution could be expected to produce an efficient method for anything, this is quite a good example of biomimetics in action.  Biomimetics looks for efficient design and tries to imitate it.  This is design science, not evolution.  These scientists saw an effective algorithm in an insect classification system, and by plagiarizing it, achieved a high degree of accuracy.
    Insects, of course, have no noses; their olfactory sense is located on their antennae.  An insect antenna has to be able to map a huge number of chemical signals to the brain.  The way it does it is clever and mind-boggling.  It is well worth revisiting the Laurent article, if you can disregard the foul odor of evolutionary assumptions here and there.
Next headline on:  Terrestrial ZoologyBiomimetics
  How to define life: follow the instructions, from 12/30/2002.

Will Adult Stem Cells Cure Sickle Cell Anemia?   12/09/2007    
It’s been just weeks since two labs announced success harvesting pluripotent stem cells from skin cells (11/20/2007), and already beneficial applications are in sight.  Science Daily and Live Science reported on initial tests that show the new “induced pluripotent stem cells” offer hope for millions afflicted with sickle-cell anemia.  Though it’s too early to tell if the technique will work on humans, it appears to work in mice.  If these ethically-acceptable cells are able to correct this well-characterized genetic mutation, perhaps miracle treatments for other genetic conditions are waiting in the wings.
    A panel on Fox News reported Saturday that this new stem-cell methodology renders embryonic stem cells obsolete and thus puts the ethical controversy about stem cells behind us.  No one on the panel disagreed.

For an engaging read about the sickle-cell mutation, and how it provides some resistance to malaria, read Michael Behe’s new book, The Edge of Evolution (see description at Access Research Network and Behe’s Amazon blog where he battles his critics.)
    Evolutionists have used malarial resistance via sickle-cell trait as one of their leading examples of natural selection in action.  Dr. Behe does not disagree that it is a prime example of a Darwinian process, but uses it to show that what can be achieved by it is extremely limited.  The evolutionary “arms race” between the malarial parasite and its hosts, he illustrates in detail, does not lead to higher levels of organization.  It is more like trench warfare, in which opposing armies will tolerate huge casualties in order to survive.
Next headline on:  HealthCell Biology (also next entry) • GeneticsPolitics and Ethics
What Keeps Skin Strong? Velcro!   12/08/2007    
Skin would fall to pieces were it not for velcro-like molecules that bind its cells together.  These molecules, called cadherins, make skin strong but also supple.  Their secret was explained by Ashraf Al-Amoudi of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, quoted in Live Science.  “The trick is that each cadherin binds twice: once to a molecule from the juxtaposed cell and once to its next-door neighbor.  The system works a bit like specialized Velcro and establishes very tight contacts between cells.
    Al-Amoudi, Achilleas Frangakis and two others achieved a first: an image of skin cells using cryo-electron tomography.  By taking images at different angles, this technique allows construction of a 3-D image of the subject.  A color-coded reconstruction of a skin cell and its tightly-packed organelles accompanies the article.  A similar report on Science Daily shows an image of how the cadherin molecules interact.
    The original paper in Nature provides more details about how cadherins link up.1  In skin, the proteins are parts of structures called desmosomes, which not only provide adhesion, but “encode instructions to drive tissue morphogenesis [structure formation] and to regulate tissue homeostasis [dynamic equilibrium].”  When seen for the first time via cry-electron tomography, the structure of the desmosomes, previously thought to be rather chaotic, came to light: “Our results indicate that the molecules interact at the midline, forming building blocks of alternate cis [same-side] and trans [alternate-side] dimers [proteins consisting of two domains], and thus resulting in a highly packed regular organization.”  They called this interaction a “zipper-like organization” of the cadherin molecules.  “Despite the quasi-periodicity of the cadherin arrangement, the cadherins retain a significant flexibility without losing their alternating interaction pattern.
    Even more fascinating than the structure is how it is assembled in an orderly sequence:
Even though the images are static, our results support the hypothesis that desmosomal cadherins on the cell surface are first clustered into small groups interacting through specific residues in the EC1 domains to form cis homodimers.  The opposing cell membranes are then brought in close proximity to enable the formation of the trans homodimers, which relies on Trp 2 and the hydrophobic pocket together with residues involved in molecular specificity.  Once the initial recognition is established, more molecules are brought to the contact zone, thus compacting the junction.  This compaction process is regularized by building blocks of alternate cis and trans dimers so that the strength of cell-cell contact is homogeneous.  These processes are repeated to extend the junction and finally form the fully mature desmosome.
The authors made no mention of how this structural arrangement might have evolved.  Cadherins are also used in heart muscle – a tissue that really depends on having reliable yet flexible adhesion.
1.  Al-Amoudi, Diez, Betts and Frangakis, “The molecular architecture of cadherins in native epidermal desmosomes,” Nature 450, 832-837 (6 December 2007) | doi:10.1038/nature05994.
There’s more going on in your outer layer than you can possibly imagine.  The beauty of biological organization is not just skin deep.  Skin deep is only where it starts.  And realize that the skin tissue itself is the easy part; skin is also filled with sensors, communication channels and other wonders that bear witness to wise planning and intelligent organization.  That’s why these scientists, like many others reporting on real lab work, seemed to have no need or use for evolutionary explanations.
Next headline on:  Human BodyAmazing Facts
SETI: Physics Conspires to Keep the Aliens Isolated   12/07/2007    
Where are the aliens?  They’re too far away to get to know.  Don’t look for galactic federations to join any time soon, said SETI Institute Director Seth Shostak at  The harsh realities of the speed of light make fellowship, both in person and via radio signals, too remote to be feasible.
    Shostak noted the fine-tuning of the universe before discussing these problems with interaction. 
For years scientists have wrestled with a puzzling fact: The universe appears to be remarkably suited for life.  Its physical properties are finely tuned to permit our existence.  Stars, planets and the kind of sticky chemistry that produces fish, ferns and folks wouldn’t be possible if some of the cosmic constants were only slightly different.
That led to the principle theme of his essay: “Well, there’s another property of the universe that’s equally noteworthy: It’s set up in a way that keeps everyone isolated.”
Realistic SETI researchers don’t expect to have two-way communication with aliens.  They understand that any message detected will have come from a civilization that has either become extinct or has gone on to bigger and better things than to care about an answer from us.  The dream of SETI is to establish the existence of aliens, not, like Jimmy Carter wrote on the Voyager record, to “join a community of galactic civilizations.”
    It was nice of Seth to admit the fine-tuning of the universe.  He can say that and keep his job, but let an ID person say the same thing and he gets expelled, as in the case of G. Gonzalez (see Evolution News #1 and Fox News).
Next headline on:  SETICosmologyPhysics
  Is there a mouse in your genes?  from 12/06/2002.

Origin of Life: Food for Queazy Thought   12/06/2007    
New theories of the origin of life seem to come and go like fashion trends.  A biochemist at University of California at Santa Barbara (Helen Hansma) put out a new plot line about biomolecules forming between the protective flakes of mica.  This was all Dave Mosher at Live Science (see reprint on MSNBC) needed to tease the reader’s taste buds:

Soup and pizza couldn’t explain the origins of life, so a researcher built a sandwich of an idea instead.
    The new hypothesis describes how flaky layers of the mineral mica could have created the perfect conditions to jump-start the formation of molecules necessary for life....
Mosher should not be blamed for the menu, because these are exactly the metaphors Hansma herself used:
“Mica is like a massive sandwich with millions of layers of mineral sheets, which would be the bread,” Hansma said.  “The nooks and crannies between the bread may have jump-started the formation of life’s chemicals and protected them.  It’s like a giant potluck of chemistry.
    This story was echoed by National Geographic News and
So Helen wins the award, and Mosher is just the assistant cook.  He pointed out that she had to make the pizza and soup seem distasteful first: “To address these shortcomings, Hansma merged the soup and pizza ideas to create her sandwich hypothesis.”  Does that mean he is offering us a wet, cheesy sandwich?
Origin-of-life researchers occasionally raise another plot line up the flagpole to see if anyone salutes.  It’s only a way of distracting the public into thinking progress is being made.  All the old criticisms still apply, and some new ones, also.
    Hansma “cautioned that significant work lies ahead” (job security for storytellers) “before she can make the hypothesis appetizing to other scientists.”  This will take awhile, since many first have to recover from severe indigestion jump-started by the thought of pizza, soup and a giant potluck of chemistry in a mica-bread sandwich.
Next headline on:  Origin of LifeDumb Ideas
Is Making Planets Child’s Play?   12/05/2007    
Dave Mosher says “Making planets is child’s play” (see  He refers not to a human child, but to a star child – that is, a young star, like UX Tau A or LkCa 15.  The Spitzer Space Telescope detected dust disks around these two stars that are “1 million years old, which is 10 times younger than other known planet-forming systems.”
    The Spitzer-JPL press release explains that these “young” disks appear to have gaps where planets are forming.  Here is an overview of what theoretically goes on in the child’s game of making planets:
Such dusty disks are where planets are thought to be born.  Dust grains clump together like snowballs to form larger rocks, and then the bigger rocks collide to form the cores of planets.  When rocks revolve around their central star, they act like cosmic vacuum cleaners, picking up all the gas and dust in their path and creating gaps.
(How snowballs form rocks is left as an exercise.)  The same people who write press releases must not read the scientific papers.  There are major problems with this scenario.  Among the most difficult is getting the small dust grains to clump together, a process called accretion.  Planetary scientist Jeff Cuzzi wrote about this problem in Nature August 30:1
Making planets is tricky, and probably takes several stages.  First, tiny interstellar grains must accrete into mountain-sized objects massive enough to decouple from their cocoon of nebula gas.  These objects probably then combine in collisions, growing ever larger, past asteroid-sized planetesimals and lunar-sized embryos, to full-blown planets.  How the first stage of this process, primary accretion, works is a fundamental unsolved problem of planetary science.
Not exactly child’s play.  The ingredients for planets are speeding around the star at tens of meters per second, or even several times the speed of sound.  They are more likely to collide and disrupt than accrete.  Furthermore, we can’t see inside a dust disk to look at what happens, so explanations have to be inferred from models.  After looking at possible contributions from turbulence or magnetic fields, Cuzzi ended,
The answer could be that some combination of processes, each selecting a different particle size, acts simultaneously or sequentially, possibly in turbulent conditions.  (Of course, the mechanism by which turbulence is maintained remains uncertain.)  Whatever the final answer turns out to be, the results of Johansen and colleagues indicate that future efforts devoted to developing more complex models of the interactions between particles and gas in the protoplanetary nebula will be a good investment.
The child’s play is stumping the PhDs.  A recent paper in Icarus addresses this question specifically.2  Paraskov, Wurm and Krauss considered all the variables: particle size and composition, gas drag, collision velocities and more.  When dust particles are small and moving at low velocities relative to one another, they can stick up to a point, but “typical collision velocities go beyond all these threshold velocities for sticking,” they noted.  “Therefore, for larger particles (>10 cm) it is not possible that they continue to grow by simple hit-and-stick mechanisms.”  Yet particles need to accrete up to mountain size (a kilometer or more in diameter) before gravitation can take over.
    Because of problems with the simple theoretical models, “Different mechanisms to further aid growth of planetesimals have been suggested, especially to overcome unfavorable conditions where the primary collisions lead to erosion rather than growth.”  Obviously, a hopeful preplanetesimal needs to grow faster than it erodes.  Some ideas they evaluated included: (1) secondary accretion of dust from collisions, (2) gas drag accretion as particles slow down in the gas of a spinning disk, (3) electrostatic attraction, (4) formation of porous bodies that can absorb energy of collisions without disrupting (inelastic collision), and (5) gravitational instabilities that form pockets of higher density.  Each model has its shortcomings, they said; the bottom line is that collisional dynamics must be factored into any scenario.
    The team performed drop tower experiments to see what happens to collisional fragments.  “The experiments reported here are intended to give realistic upper limits for fragment velocities,” one of the key parameters for any accretion model.  While accretion seems reasonable up to small particle sizes, maybe up to a centimeter (given low relative velocities), disruption and fragmentation becomes a greater concern for larger particles.  “To decide if planetesimals can grow in collisions or if fragmentation dominates, it is important to know what the typical collisions are,” they said; that is why there is no substitute for actual experimentation to provide an “experimental database,” instead of “ad hoc assumptions” that plague models.
    The team ran experiments in a vacuum, using a Bremen drop tower that provides microgravity for about 5 seconds.  They videotaped the collisions, and measured the mass gained and lost by the target particles.  They tried porous and spherical targets.  They varied the impact velocities from 3.5 to 21.5 m/s.
    So what happened?  “The impacts into highly porous targets generally show a very destructive behavior,” they reported.  “They result in crater formation—an imprint of the projectile—and an extensive erosion of the whole target surface and deeper target layers.”  At 19.5 m/s, the projectile barreled completely through the target.  Dust projectiles fired at compact surfaces were different; they formed pyramid-like structures on the surface.
    In all the experiments, the ejecta that was blasted off was measured.  In most cases, the “accretion efficiency” was negative: more mass was lost than accreted.  Only in the case of a dust projectile hitting a slightly compacted target was a net gain measured; otherwise, “All impacts into highly porous targets resulted in a mass loss of the target,” with more loss at higher velocities.  The single case of mass gain was a contrived and unrealistic scenario.3
    What happens to the ejecta?  It moves slower than the projectile, from 3 to 120 cm/s, in directions depending on the projectile mass and velocity.  They believe it is possible a target can become more porous if hit enough times.  “A growing body might then consist of compact parts but also large pores,” they said.  “This is important as large pores enable a larger gas flow through the body which is beneficial for reaccretion of ejecta by gas flow.”  Experiments with more credible dust projectiles, however, were more difficult to characterize; the impact is spread over a larger area.  The highest accretion efficiency (42%) was found with high-impact projectiles onto compact targets, but the results were difficult to quantify.  They could not comment much about the role of electrostatic charges on outcomes, “an important problem in itself.”
    At the end of the paper, it was time to put the pieces together and see what this means for the growth of planets.  “For most experiments we simulated an extreme case of collisions in the sense that we built the targets as weak as possible by using large granules but retaining dust features, i.e., a small degree of cohesion, by using dust,” they said.  Result?  “We find that these collisions are strongly erosive.”  No matter the speed or mass, “they all show a mass loss of the larger body upon impact if the target is only weakly bound.”  Does that mean the end of the planetesimal hypothesis?  Not so fast:
However, care should be taken in applying these results directly to collisions in protoplanetary disks.  Only a single collision of a weak body with a particle several mm in size at about 10 m/s would be enough to change this body substantially.  The given collisions will therefore not be typical ones.  The consequence of the erosion found in these experiments is not that growth of larger bodies is impossible but that objects of the kind studied cannot grow larger than a few cm without being at least partially compacted.
Trouble is, it is worse for chondrules – highly compact grains characteristic in meteorites called chondrites.  They are already compacted and would be more subject to erosion. 
Further experiments on this are needed but if we speculate that morphologies comparable to our weak dust granule targets would need to be present for aggregates built from indestructible chondrules then growth to larger bodies in a reservoir dominated by sub-mm chondrules is not possible at velocities of a few m/s.  Therefore, if such a distribution of chondrules existed, for all or only certain classes of chondrites, during any phase of protoplanetary evolution, they probably do not grow by mutual collisions.  At some time the chondrules would need to be incorporated into larger objects otherwise, e.g., by being accreted by existing planetesimals.
This, of course, begs the question of how the “existing planetesimals” accreted in the first place.  In their last paragraph, they launched from their experimental data into speculation: maybe a projectile hits a target and knocks off ejecta, some of which is moving slower.  The projectile sometimes causes decompression of the target.  The energy of other projectiles can then be absorbed without launching significant ejecta; meanwhile, the dust of the previous impact might be re-accreted after a collision by gas flow.
    Assuming this convoluted scenario, a permeable body might be able to grow at least within the size range tested.  So in the dusty battlefield of collisions, it is “entirely possible” that a planetesimal could continue to grow, they concluded on a note of victory, however subdued by the obdurate lab results.  This is no mere child’s play, however.  That was clear from their penultimate sentence: “By observing deep impact channels, considering addition of new dust layers, and finding decompaction by collisions, it is very clear that the evolution of the morphology of a growing body is highly complex.
1.  Jeff Cuzzi, “Planets: the first movement,” Nature 448, 1003 (30 August 2007) | doi:10.1038/4481003a.
2.  Paraskov, Wurm and Krauss, “Impacts into weak dust targets under microgravity and the formation of planetesimals,” Icarus, Volume 191, Issue 2, 15 November 2007, Pages 779-789.
3.  “The procedure for building this target is as follows.  The target is initially built in a regular fashion as a highly porous target.  The top is then covered by a plate which becomes the bottom as the target is turned upside down.  The initial bottom becomes the target surface for the impact experiment.  This marginal modification of the target seems sufficient to change the outcome of an impact from mass loss to mass gain for slow dust aggregate projectiles.  As we have only one experiment with this behavior a more detailed study on the effect of porosity for collisions has to be carried out before further conclusions can be drawn.”
We have shown you once again a stark contrast between the bluffing that goes on in the news media and the hard realities of experimental science.  Some may find it sufficient to believe that this all works somehow, because clearly planets exist, even around other stars.  But to think that science understands planet formation by natural processes, and that experimental science proves it, is a bad example of glittering generalities.  A step toward true understanding requires some examination of the nitty gritty details behind such claims.
Next headline on:  Solar SystemPhysicsStars
Evolutionists Explain Living Fossils   12/04/2007    
Here’s an old “evolutionary puzzle” to challenge your local Darwinist: explain living fossils.  Many living animals and plants were known only from the fossil record, thought to have gone extinct many millions of years ago, only to turn up in a local meat market or remote forest.  Science Daily tackled this question in the Nov. 17 issue.1
    Perkins told the story of three famous cases of “Lazarus” species that came forth from the dead: coelacanth, Laotian rock rat, and Wollemi pine.  Sifting away the extraneous facts, what was the kernel of evolutionary explanation for these organisms, some of which supposedly spent up to 93 million years of evolutionary time alive and well, without leaving a trace in the rocks?  Here are the three leading suggestions:
Many scientists contend that the simultaneous reappearance of so many Lazarus taxa indicates that the fossil record from that era can’t be trusted, says [Margaret] Fraiser [U of Michigan–Milwaukee].  Others suggest that the missing creatures simply became so rare that they weren’t captured in the fossil record.  Yet others propose that the creatures survived only in small areas and that their fossils haven’t yet been discovered.
Fraiser and her colleagues put these ideas to the test by surveying fossil counts before and after the Permian extinction.  They concluded that the fossil record is trustworthy.  Richard Twitchett, a paleoecologist from U of Plymouth, concluded, “These Lazarus taxa must have been somewhere, maybe in [rocks] that paleontologists haven’t sampled yet.  Or maybe their fossils have been misidentified or overlooked.”
    Perkins did not discuss a related evolutionary puzzle.  Why did the living forms look identical to the ancient forms after so many tens of millions of years of evolution?
1.  Sid Perkins, “Back from the Dead?  'Resurrections' of long-missing species lead to revelations,” Science News, Week of Nov. 17, 2007; Vol. 172, No. 20, p. 312.
This is not science; it is religion masquerading as science.  They did not even consider the possibility that living fossils falsify long ages and evolutionary theory.  But if they want to play the “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” game, creationists can, too.  If an evolutionist asks you to show you a Precambrian rabbit or Silurian human, show them this story.  Of course, we know what the Darwin Party would do if they did find a Precambrian rabbit: they would say, “Well, what do you know?  We were wrong!  This rock isn’t Precambrian, it’s Pleistocene!” (cf. 09/19/2007).  Have faith, brother, and you will see miracles: Lazarus species rising from the dead.
Next headline on:  FossilsEvolution
  Does Big Science know how to define science? from 12/11/2005.

Active Moons Challenge Old-Age Beliefs   12/03/2007    
Beyond the asteroid belt, where sunlight is weak, small bodies that should be old and cold seem young and active.  Here are some recent papers and reports about some of the moons around the gas giants showing more signs of vitality than expected for bodies assumed to be billions of years old.

  • Jupiter’s Io: Astronomers at the Keck Observatory in Hawaii detected a big outburst of the Tvashtar volcano on Io.  Reported in Icarus,1a, the eruption lasted over a month from April to June 2006.  The temperature extended over 60 square kilometers and emitted 7.7 trillion watts.  The authors noted the activity at Tvashtar seen by the New Horizons spacecraft in February this year (10/15/2007), but could not say if it was a continuation of the eruption they observed.
        Another paper in Icarus found plumes near Pele.1b  Using the Hubble Space Telescope, a team detected sulfur and sulfur dioxide plumes in February 2003, March 2003 and January 2004.  These plumes showed dramatic variability over a matter of days and weeks.  Additional plumes were detected at other locations.
        Another paper in Icarus recalculated the heat output of Io’s volcanoes downward.2  This somewhat mitigates the problem of explaining the anomalously high temperatures measured, but still shows that, within error, Io’s heat output is right at the edge of what can be explained by theory – 1340K measured, 1300K theoretical.  Even so, getting the hot lava out in a 20-30% liquid crust while keeping the mountains up presents other theoretical problems.  The authors said that it is still possible the lavas are ultramafic (see “Io, Io, It’s Off to Work I Go,” 05/04/2004).  Whether or not the heat output can fit tidal flexing models, “Io has a staggering rate of volcanism,” they said.  “...if the observed heat loss were all provided by mafic lavas, ~500 km3 would have to be erupted each year (Blaney et al., 1995) compared to ~4 km3 per year for the Earth.”
    Note this admission: “if there were no efficient means of recycling the crust into the mantle, we would actually see only relatively low temperature silicate volcanism on Io.”  Models of Io’s interior, therefore, include the recycling assumption: “The fact that eruption temperatures in excess of 1100 °C are observed requires that there be an efficient recycling mechanism and that there is limited differentiation between the crust and mantle.”  This requirement comes from the assumption that Io is 4.5 billion years old.
  • Jupiter’s Europa:  A paper in Icarus about Europa this month,3 though focused primarily on its magnetic interactions with Jupiter, repeated the well-known evidence of the moon’s youthfulness:
    Galileo measurements of Europa’s gravitational field and modeling show Europa to be a differentiated satellite consisting of a metallic core, a silicate mantle and a water ice–liquid outer shell.  The minimum water ice–liquid outer shell thickness is about 80 km for plausible mantle densities (Anderson et al., 1998).  High resolution data obtained with the Solid State Imaging (SSI) system show evidence of a young and thin, cracked and ruptured ice shell (e.g., [Belton et al., 1996] and [Carr et al., 1998]).  The geological observations imply that warm, convecting material existed at shallow depths within the subsurface at the time of its recent geological deformation.
    A dazzling montage of Europa, reprocessed from Galileo images, was posted on Astronomy Picture of the Day for December 2.
  • Saturn’s Titan:  A range of mountains on Saturn’s largest moon Titan was discovered by radar imaging in 2005.  This month in Icarus,4 Cassini scientists analyzed this feature which stands out from the rest of the moon’s mostly gentle terrain.  As with the Appalachians on earth, they said “erosion seems to act fast enough (or mountain-building slow enough) to preclude the formation of abundant features taller than a few hundred meters.”  They estimated the age of the range at 20 to 100 million years old maximum – which would be less than 1/40 the assumed age of the moon.  “This is short for planetary geological timescales, and further corroborates the conclusion from the dearth of impact craters [refs] that the surface overall is less than a billion years old.”  These figures should be understood as upper limits.
  • Saturn’s Enceladus:  The geyser moon of Saturn got another write-up in Icarus this month.5  This time, however, the focus was not on the plumes at the south pole, but on the wrinkles and ridges near the equator.  The ridges appear to be up to 400m high and 3-4 km apart.  This area may lack the tiger stripes and eruptions of the south polar terrain, but has been active recently as well: there are “extensive sets of parallel, north–south trending ridges and troughs occur within the planitiae themselves, and evidence for resurfacing and extensional tectonics abounds.
        Models of fracturing caused by unstable extension (stretching) of the crust are 2 to 3 times too low to account for the observed ridges.  Perhaps some other process amplified the stretching.  Because Jupiter’s moon Ganymede is more massive, the grooves on that moon are even harder to explain, they said.
        The tremendous range of ages of surface features on Enceladus led the scientists to begin their paper with an obvious but astonishing statement: “Saturn’s moon Enceladus is one of the great enigmas of the outer Solar System.”
  • Neptune’s Triton:  One would think the farther out you go from the sun, the colder it gets, and, therefore, the more quiescent.  That is surely not the case at Neptune, which has some of the strongest winds, and for its moon Triton, another aging body sporting a young physique.  “Triton’s geological complexity ranks with Europa and Titan,” said another paper in Icarus this month that claimed the moon Triton has a “negligible surface age.6
        All the impact craters on Triton cluster on the leading hemisphere, suggesting a pummeling from objects in orbit around Neptune.  None of the craters appear to have come from outside the system.  The authors put an upper limit of 50 million years on the heavily cratered leading hemisphere, and 6 million years on the Neptune-facing “cantaloupe terrain” observed by Voyager 2 in 1989.  This would be negligible indeed – about 1/10 of 1% of the assumed age of the solar system.
        The authors considered whether the young-looking terrain was resurfaced because of the cratering or other factors in the past, and ruled them out.  “no matter what, Triton has to have actively resurfaced on a time scale short compared to its age,” they said.  Obviously, “From the perspective of Triton’s thermal history, there is little distinction between a world that remains active for 4.0 billion years and a world that remains active for 4.5 billion years.”  The resurfacing rate on Triton has probably been high for a long time, they judged.  In fact, “Our results push Triton’s surface to even younger, perhaps negligible, ages.  If we accept the hypothesis that most of Triton’s large craters are not heliocentric [i.e., not caused by interlopers from all angles], then the surface may be significantly younger than Europa’s.  The consensus is that Triton’s surface is very young, and therefore is probably geologically active today.
Sources of heating that might keep small bodies active include (1) radioactive heating in the core, (2) tidal flexing, (3) impacts.  It seems unlikely any of these could work non-stop for 4.5 billion years on moons as small as Enceladus; indeed, a paper in the September issue of Icarus said that resonance and tidal heating is insufficient to account for the observed flux; “Therefore, the source of endogenic activity of Enceladus remains unexplained.”7  And if the activity began just recently, why at a time when humans are present to observe it?
1a.  Laver, de Pater and Marchis, “Tvashtar awakening detected in April 2006 with OSIRIS at the W.M. Keck Observatory,” Icarus, Volume 191, Issue 2, 15 November 2007, Pages 749-754.
1b.  Jessup, Spencer and Yelle, “Sulfur volcanism on Io,” Icarus, Volume 192, Issue 1, 1 December 2007, Pages 24-40.
2.  Keszthelyi et al, “New estimates for Io eruption temperatures: Implications for the interior,” Icarus, Volume 192, Issue 2, 15 December 2007, Pages 491-502.
3.  Schilling, Neubauer, Saur, “Time-varying interaction of Europa with the jovian magnetosphere: Constraints on the conductivity of Europa’s subsurface ocean,” Icarus, Volume 192, Issue 1, 1 December 2007, Pages 41-55.
4.  Radebaugh, Lorenz, Kirk, Lunine, Stofan, Lopes, Wall and the Cassini Radar team, “Mountains on Titan observed by Cassini Radar,” Icarus, Volume 192, Issue 1, 1 December 2007, Pages 77-91.
5.  Bland, Beyer and Showman, “Unstable Extension of Enceladus’ Lithosphere,” Icarus, Volume 192, Issue 1, 1 December 2007, Pages 92-105.
6.  Schenk and Zahnle, “On the negligible surface age of Triton,” Icarus, Volume 192, Issue 1, 1 December 2007, Pages 135-149.
7.  Rappaport, Iess, Tortora, Anabtawi, Asmar, Somenzi and Zingoni, “Mass and interior of Enceladus from Cassini data analysis,” Icarus, Volume 190, Issue 1, September 2007, Pages 175-178.
As if this weren’t enough, there is recent evidence that Pluto, Charon and some of the Kuiper Belt objects and minor planets at the farthest reaches of the solar system also show activity on their surfaces.
    CEH is one of very few websites reporting the latest papers from leading scientific journals with a critical analysis of their evolutionary implications.  TV documentaries and textbooks rarely mention these very serious problems with standard theories of the solar system.  You have just seen that the best planetary scientists in the world, constrained within their chosen billions-of-years mindset, have many questions and few answers.  We hope you find this liberating.
Next headline on:  Solar SystemDating MethodsPhysics
Hadrosaur Skin Flick   12/03/2007    
The press is abuzz with the story of a mummified hadrosaur found in North Dakota with skin and fossilized soft parts; see PhysOrg, Science Daily, Associated Press and BBC News.  Since the fully-articulated, uncollapsed, mummified fossil named “Dakota” was discovered in 1999, though, it appears that the announcement is being made now primarily as publicity for a National Geographic documentary airing December 9.
    The exceptionally-preserved specimen has allowed paleontologists to understand more details about the skin patterns, muscle mass and body proportions of hadrosaurs, and to infer something about its running speed.  Of interest beyond these details echoed in all the news media reports, however, is what page two of the National Geographic story said about soft-tissue preservation.  Acknowledging that Mary Schweitzer’s team earlier this year had reported evidence for unfossilized collagen (04/12/2007) in a T. rex bone, the NG article states that the hunt is on for preserved macromolecules in Dakota.  If they have been detected, no one is talking about it till the peer-reviewed paper is published.  One team member admitted, though, that “We have an array of chemical analysis techniques that we’re applying to the organism—and not just to the skin.”  Any future announcement of preserved proteins or nucleic acids may be the biggest story within an already big story.
    See also the 10/15/2002 story about Leonardo, another mummified dinosaur found in Montana.
Evolutionary paleontologists know that creationists are going to beat them over the head with any discovery of preserved soft tissue and biomolecules, so one has to wonder how hesitant they are to reveal what they find.  Hopefully, the excitement of a such a find, and the value of scientific objectivity, will prevent a cover-up.  Such news would deal a severe blow to the belief these specimens are 65+ million years old, and once confidence in millions of years is shattered, the whole evolutionary tree will be undermined with it.
    Think of how long the Darwin Party has been feeding the public the assumption of long ages.  They know the public is going to find it hard to swallow the line that soft tissue and DNA or proteins could lie undisturbed for tens of millions of years.  With so much at stake, and the cult of Darwin vulnerable to a mass exodus, will they tell the whole truth?  It may take creationist expeditions to do original research in this area to get the facts out.  They will need to provide unimpeachable documentation and technical rigor to rule out any claims of contamination.  Let’s wait and see what the peer-reviewed paper says.  Creationists do not stand to lose face if soft tissue is not found, because it is tenuous stuff (even for burials of known age).  But if it is found, it would be much more plausible to believe it has been preserved for thousands of years, not tens of millions.
    National Geographic, as expected, spun the collagen story into an argument for dinosaurs being related to birds.  But what is the common answer to the question “What does it taste like?” when your friend is offered filet of snake, frog legs or unidentified Chinese mystery meat?  Answer: “It tastes like chicken.”  Undoubtedly, hadrosaur tastes like chicken, too.  That doesn’t mean a chicken is a frog, snake, or hadrosaur.  Similarities do not prove common ancestry, but the fact that our shared biochemistry allows us to consume molecules from a variety of animals indicates common design.
Next headline on:  DinosaursFossilsDating Methods
Cell Gatekeepers: Diverse, Complex, Accurate   12/02/2007    
Cargo moves around rapidly and ceaselessly in every cell.  Some moves in and out of the external membrane, and some moves in and out of organelles and the nucleus.  In a system of protected domains surrounded by impermeable membranes, how does the cell control what should pass?  Details of the amazing gatekeeping mechanisms embedded in cell membranes have been coming to light for years now.  Some recent articles have reported the latest findings. 
  1. Protective sleeve:  One method of getting valid cargo through the membrane gate is to wrap it in a protective sleeve that the gate recognizes.  PhysOrg has an illustration from the work of a team at Purdue showing how this works.  What comes to mind is a personal subway capsule that shuttles you to an escalator that transfers you safely into a shopping mall without any intruders getting past.
  2. Electronic gating:  Ions are electrically-charged atoms whose concentration in the cell must be strictly controlled.  Compared to the large molecules of the cell, ions of potassium, chlorine and sodium are tiny.  Special voltage-sensing gates exist just for them.  We reported here on early results from work by Roderick MacKinnon into the structure and function of these ionic gates (see 01/17/2002, 05/29/2002, 05/01/2003, 08/05/2005).
        The November issue of The Scientist describes ongoing discoveries about one of these voltage-gated channels, the Kv potassium channel.  This electronic mechanism contains a pore, a gate and a voltage sensor.  In particular, a key helix protein component called S4 undergoes a conformational change to open the gate for the potassium ion.  People who enjoy exercise may want to reflect that all nerve and muscle activity depends on the proper control of these ions.
  3. Nuclear power plant security:  For those wanting to follow up on news about the nucleus, and how it controls the cargo going in and out (see last month’s entry, 11/13/2007, bullet #2), the crew of your nuclear power plant made the cover of Science this week.  Laura Trinkle-Mulcahy and Angus I. Lamond reviewed the latest work to get high-resolution images of the complex structures and functions of the nuclear membrane, especially the gates of the nuclear pore complex (NPC).1
        Four other articles in the 11/30 issue describe the latest findings about the cell nucleus.  A paper by 3 Vanderbilt University scientists specifically addresses the factors involved in crossing the nuclear envelope through the NPC gates.2  For those wanting more information about the sensing mechanism, their article contained color diagrams of the structures.  The scientists explained how the gates are regulated at multiple levels – a philosophy common in national security and computer security, too.  The “dynamic and diverse” mechanisms control what passes at the gate level, the transport receptor level, and the cargo level.  In computer parlance, this might be analogous to requiring a fingerprint, a secure computer, and secure software before you are allowed to login.
        Another paper in the same issue of Science describes science’s growing realization that the nuclear membrane does far more than let things in and out.3  It is actively involved in cell division, structuring the cytoskeleton, and signaling other processes in the cell.  The nuclear envelope is also connected to the endoplasmic reticulum, a structure essential for post-translational modification of proteins.  The authors did not mention how these elaborate mechanisms might have evolved, except to say twice that they raise “intriguing questions” and “fundamental questions” about “evolutionary relations” between the parts.  The other two papers did not mention evolution at all.
  4. ER: emergency room or endoplasmic reticulum:  Speaking of the endoplasmic reticulum (a kind of subway system within the cell), Nature reported studies about the transport channels in that organelle.4  “A decisive step in the biosynthesis of many proteins is their partial or complete translocation across the eukaryotic endoplasmic reticulum membrane or the prokaryotic plasma membrane,” began Tom Rapoport (Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Harvard).  “Most of these proteins are translocated through a protein-conducting channel that is formed by a conserved, heterotrimeric membrane-protein complex, the Sec61 or SecY complex.”
        Polypeptides are the pre-protein strings of amino acids emerging from ribosomes, where the translation from RNA occurs.  Getting a wobbly chain of molecules through a pore is somewhat akin to threading a needle.  Depending on what the cargo binds to, it may get in by one of several ways: the ribosome may simply attach to and inject the nascent polypeptide into the channel, an ER chaperone might pump it in by a ratcheting mechanism, or a molecular machine running on ATP might push the polypeptide through.  These are all regulated by a host of assisting proteins that keep in touch through signaling mechanisms.  There’s even a plug that closes the channel after the polypeptide is inside.
        Rapoport provided a diagram of the complicated-looking translocation channel, which is made up of three different protein parts.  He called it conserved (unevolved) between all three kingdoms of life, but did not say anything else about evolution – certainly, not anything about how it arose in the first place.
  5. Light sensitive:  Imagine a receptor on a cell membrane that can respond to one photon of light, and send a signal into the interior.  You don’t have to imagine it: it already exists.  Rama Ranganathan in Science described the family of G-protein coupled receptors (GPCR) that “occur in nearly every eukaryotic cell and can sense photons, cations, small molecules, peptides, and proteins.”5  How do they do it?  The structures of these receptors are just beginning to come to light, and basic models are being formulated.  Stay tuned.
Most of the articles above said nothing about how these complex transportation systems might have evolved.  A review in Nature,6 however, proposed that “the plethora of transport factors found in modern eukaryotes may have also evolved by duplication events, keeping pace with the evolutionary duplication and diverging specialization of the FG nucleoporins in the NPC’s [nuclear pore complex’s] modules.”  Noting some similarities in the NPC to clathrin-coated endocytosis, the team of a dozen UK and American scientists suggested that gene duplication was the method of evolution: “the NPC is another example of how a complicated structure can evolve from the duplication, divergence and elaboration of simple ancestral modules,” they claimed.  They also downplayed the complexity of the NPC by pointing out some of the proteins are used in a modular fashion.  A summary and diagram was posted by PhysOrg.
    Their evolutionary explanation, however, was based entirely on circumstantial evidence of similarity, not on a chain of plausible steps for how diverse mechanisms, despite some structural similarities, achieved their high levels of functional accuracy.

1.  Laura Trinkle-Mulcahy and Angus I. Lamond, “Toward a High-Resolution View of Nuclear Dynamics,” Science, 30 November 2007: Vol. 318. no. 5855, pp. 1402-1407, DOI: 10.1126/science.1142033.
2.  Laura J. Terry, Eric B. Shows, Susan R. Wente, “Crossing the Nuclear Envelope: Hierarchical Regulation of Nucleocytoplasmic Transport,” Science, 30 November 2007: Vol. 318. no. 5855, pp. 1412-1416, DOI: 10.1126/science.1142204.
3.  Colin L. Stewart, Kyle J. Roux, Brian Burke, “Blurring the Boundary: The Nuclear Envelope Extends Its Reach,” Science, 30 November 2007: Vol. 318. no. 5855, pp. 1408-1412, DOI: 10.1126/science.1142034.
4.  Tom O. Rapoport, “Protein translocation across the eukaryotic endoplasmic reticulum and bacterial plasma membranes,” Nature 450, 663-669 (29 November 2007) | doi:10.1038/nature06384.
5.  Rama Ranganathan, “Signaling Across the Cell Membrane,” Science, 23 November 2007: Vol. 318. no. 5854, pp. 1253-1254, DOI: 10.1126/science.1151656.
6.  Alber et al, “The molecular architecture of the nuclear pore complex,” Nature 450, 695-701 (29 November 2007) | doi:10.1038/nature06405.
The evolutionary speculations in Nature provided nothing to the real scientific work in these papers.  They did not help determine the structure, function or dynamics of any of the transport mechanisms.  They were mere after-the-fact pipe dreams about how Charlie might be vindicated with a hefty dose of LSD (Let’s Support Darwin).
    Gene duplication is pitifully incapable of explaining how functional information got into either clathrin-coated endocytosis or nuclear pore transport.  A motorcycle and a diesel train have some similarities, too; they both have wheels that rotate and are powered by fuels that have some similarities (hydrocarbons).  So what?  You can duplicate as many motorcycles as you want, for eternity, and will never get a bullet train.  Even if you allow the duplicate motorcycle unlimited free mutations, will that help?  Try breaking things at random on the motorcycle and see if you make progress toward train technology.  Darwinian evolution is blind, remember.  It has no foresight.  It is not trying to work toward traindom.  Unless each mistake provides some advantage for the here and now, the only likely result is that repeated mutations will leave you stranded on the highway bumming a ride.
    Sorry we had to waste time on evolution.  The focus of this story should be on the amazing mechanisms of the cell, and how modern science is slowly pulling back the cover on the package so we can all, with the fascination of kids at Christmas, look inside and see the words LION-EL.*
Next headline on:  Cell BiologyEvolutionAmazing Facts
*Lion, Revelation 5; El, Genesis 33:20, short of Elohim, the Creator God.
  Why are so many scientists political liberals?  Check out the stats on their party affiliations, from 12/02/2004.

Wilson Duo Resurrects Darwin’s Taboo   12/01/2007    
Group selection (sociobiology) has long been a taboo subject, but now its time has come.  This is what an article on EurekAlert claims.  E. O. Wilson and David Sloan Wilson are on a new campaign to promote group selection.
    The two Wilsons called for a new consensus on sociobiology in The Quarterly Review of Biology, 136 years after Darwin suggested in 1871 that morality might evolve in groups (The Descent of Man).  A little historical background tells what happened next:

Wilson and Wilson trace much of the confusion in the field to the 1960’s, when most evolutionists rejected “for the good of the group” thinking and insisted that all adaptations must be explained in terms of individual self-interest.  In an even more reductionistic move, genes were called “the fundamental unit of selection,” as if this was an argument against group selection.  Scientific dogma became entrenched in popular culture with the publication of Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene (1976).  Although evidence in favor of group selection began accumulating almost immediately after its rejection, its taboo status prevented a systematic re-evaluation of the field until now.
The upshot is that Charles Darwin wins again:
Based on current theory and evidence, Wilson and Wilson show that natural selection is unequivocally a multilevel process, as Darwin originally envisioned, and that adaptations can evolve at all levels of the biological hierarchy, from genes to ecosystems.  They conclude with a rallying cry that paraphrases Rabbi Hillel: “Selfishness beats altruism within groups.  Altruistic groups beat selfish groups.  Everything else is commentary,” Wilson and Wilson free sociobiology to once again pursue all lines of inquiry within its discipline.
Of course, altruism is merely a phantom artifact in this view; it is really self-interest that is behind group interest.  To them, this operates at all levels – from bacteria to Constitutional Conventions.
    The entry did not provide any responses from evolutionists who reject group selection (e.g.,“survival of the fictitious,” 08/26/2004; non-Darwinian mechanisms 07/23/2004; George C. Williams 05/31/2004).
OK, George, get the posse and round up these mavericks.  They’re getting out of line again (05/31/2004).
    Ever since Darwin welcomed imagination and storytelling into science, it has caused a bit of consternation among his disciples.  Sometimes Father Charlie would just make a suggestion here or there without really developing it.  This has allowed all the competing cults to find quotes from The Mosstuh to justify their versions of Darwinism, as if they alone are the faithful ones.
    E. O. Wilson, the former fundamentalist kid turned creation-hating atheist (see New Scientist), loves selfishness so much, he wants to promote it throughout the entire hierarchy of existence.  David Sloan Wilson, the publicist, will be sure to spread this new gospel of selfishness in “Evolution for Everyone” (05/31/2007, 11/01/2005).  Selfishness for Everyone!  Preach it, brother!  If Wilson & Wilson get their way, this will be the rallying cry for Darwin Day 2008.  Greater hate hath no man, than a man exalt himself over his friend.
    Since we now know that the Wilson Boys promote selfishness as the highest good, we can ignore everything they say, can’t we?  After all, they don’t care about what is good, true or beautiful.  They’re just in it for themselves.
Next headline on:  Darwin and Evolution
Flowering Plants Do Big Bang in Darwin’s Face   12/01/2007    
There’s a big bang in botany.  The flowering plants, reported Science Daily, “evolved very quickly into five groups.
    The claim is based on the investigation of plant genes by scientists in Florida.  Their work “showed that a stunning diversification of flowering plants they are referring to as the ‘Big Bang’ took place in the comparatively short period of less than 5 million years -- and resulted in all five major lineages of flowering plants that exist today.
    In both the fossil record and the genes, the picture is one of abrupt appearance followed by stasis, without any recognizable cause:
“Flowering plants today comprise around 400,000 species,” said Pam Soltis.  “So to think that the burst that give [sic] rise to almost all of these plants occurred in less than 5 million years is pretty amazing -- especially when you consider that flowering plants as a group have been around for at least 130 million years.”
   Robert Jansen, professor of integrative biology at The University of Texas at Austin, said the two papers set the stage for all future comparative studies of flowering plants.
    “If you are interested in understanding the evolution of flowering plants, you can’t do that unless you understand their relationships,” he said.
    Botanists predating Darwin have long recognized that flowering plants, which comprise at least 60 percent of all green plant species, diversified abruptly shortly after they appeared.
    “The details, and especially the cause of, this diversification -- Darwin’s “abominable mystery” -- has been a hot topic in botany ever since.
    “One of the reasons why it’s been hard to understand evolutionary relationships among the major groups of flowering plants is because they diversified over such a short time frame,” Jansen said.
The scientists cross-checked their phylogenetic tree built by comparative genomics against the fossil record, and sure enough, the emergence was rapid.  The cause of this rapid diversification was called “mysterious.”  Twice the article referred to the fact that Darwin called the abrupt appearance of flowering plants an “abominable mystery.”  Two papers from the work were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Boring.  Same cop-out for 160 years.  They see creation, and call it evolution.  The only mystery here is why they get away with it.
Next headline on:  PlantsGeneticsDarwin and Evolution

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(an IT business owner in California)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Just wanted to say that I am thrilled to have found your website!  Although I regularly visit numerous creation/evolution sites, I’ve found that many of them do not stay current with relative information.  I love the almost daily updates to your ‘headlines’ section.  I’ve since made it my browser home page, and have recommended it to several of my friends.  Absolutely great site!”
(a network engineer in Florida)

“After I heard about Creation-Evolution Headlines, it soon became my favorite Evolution resource site on the web.  I visit several times a day cause I can’t wait for the next update.  That’s pathetic, I know ... but not nearly as pathetic as Evolution, something you make completely obvious with your snappy, intelligent commentary on scientific current events.  It should be a textbook for science classrooms around the country.  You rock!”
(an editor in Tennessee)

“One of the highlights of my day is checking your latest CreationSafaris creation-evolution news listing!  Thanks so much for your great work -- and your wonderful humor.”
(a pastor in Virginia)

“Thanks!!!  Your material is absolutely awesome.  I’ll be using it in our Adult Sunday School class.”
(a pastor in Wisconsin)

“Love your site & read it daily.”
(a family physician in Texas)

“I set it [] up as my homepage.  That way I am less likely to miss some really interesting events.... I really appreciate what you are doing with Creation-Evolution Headlines.  I tell everybody I think might be interested, to check it out.”
(a systems analyst in Tennessee)

“I would like to thank you for your service from which I stand to benefit a lot.”
(a Swiss astrophysicist)

“I enjoy very much reading your materials.”
(a law professor in Portugal)

“Thanks for your time and thanks for all the work on the site.  It has been a valuable resource for me.”
(a medical student in Kansas)

“Creation-Evolution Headlines is a terrific resource.  The articles are always current and the commentary is right on the mark.”
(a molecular biologist in Illinois)

Creation-Evolution Headlines is my favorite ‘anti-evolution’ website.  With almost giddy anticipation, I check it several times a week for the latest postings.  May God bless you and empower you to keep up this FANTASTIC work!”
(a financial analyst in New York)

“I read your pages on a daily basis and I would like to let you know that your hard work has been a great help in increasing my knowledge and growing in my faith.  Besides the huge variety of scientific disciplines covered, I also enormously enjoy your great sense of humor and your creativity in wording your thoughts, which make reading your website even more enjoyable.”
(a software developer in Illinois)

“THANK YOU for all the work you do to make this wonderful resource!  After being regular readers for a long time, this year we’ve incorporated your site into our home education for our four teenagers.  The Baloney Detector is part of their Logic and Reasoning Skills course, and the Daily Headlines and Scientists of the Month features are a big part of our curriculum for an elective called ‘Science Discovery Past and Present’.  What a wonderful goldmine for equipping future leaders and researchers with the tools of clear thinking!
(a home school teacher in California)

“What can I say – I LOVE YOU! – I READ YOU ALMOST EVERY DAY I copy and send out to various folks.  I love your sense of humor, including your politics and of course your faith.  I appreciate and use your knowledge – What can I say – THANK YOU – THANK YOU – THANK YOU – SO MUCH.”
(a biology major, former evolutionist, now father of college students)

“I came across your site while browsing through creation & science links.  I love the work you do!”
(an attorney in Florida)

“Love your commentary and up to date reporting.  Best site for evolution/design info.”
(a graphic designer in Oregon)

“I am an ardent reader of your site.  I applaud your efforts and pass on your website to all I talk to.  I have recently given your web site info to all my grandchildren to have them present it to their science teachers.... Your Supporter and fan..God bless you all...”
(a health services manager in Florida)

“Why your readership keeps doubling: I came across your website at a time when I was just getting to know what creation science is all about.  A friend of mine was telling me about what he had been finding out. I was highly skeptical and sought to read as many pro/con articles as I could find and vowed to be open-minded toward his seemingly crazy claims. At first I had no idea of the magnitude of research and information that’s been going on. Now, I’m simply overwhelmed by the sophistication and availability of scientific research and information on what I now know to be the truth about creation.
    Your website was one of dozens that I found in my search.  Now, there are only a handful of sites I check every day.  Yours is at the top of my list... I find your news page to be the most insightful and well-written of the creation news blogs out there.  The quick wit, baloney detector, in-depth scientific knowledge you bring to the table and the superb writing style on your site has kept me interested in the day-to-day happenings of what is clearly a growing movement.  Your site ... has given me a place to point them toward to find out more and realize that they’ve been missing a huge volume of information when it comes to the creation-evolution issue.
    Another thing I really like about this site is the links to articles in science journals and news references.  That helps me get a better picture of what you’re talking about.... Keep it up and I promise to send as many people as will listen to this website and others.”
(an Air Force Academy graduate stationed in New Mexico)

“I’m a small town newspaper editor in southwest Wyoming.  We’re pretty isolated, and finding your site was a great as finding a gold mine.  I read it daily, and if there’s nothing new, I re-read everything.  I follow links.  I read the Scientist of the Month.  It’s the best site I’ve run across.  Our local school board is all Darwinist and determined to remain that way.”
(a newspaper editor in Wyoming)

“ have been reading your page for about 2 years or so.... I read it every day.  I well educated, with a BA in Applied Physics from Harvard and an MBA in Finance from Wharton.”
(a reader in Delaware)

“ I came across your website by accident about 4 months ago and look at it every day.... About 8 months ago I was reading a letter to the editor of the Seattle Times that was written by a staunch ‘anti-Creationist’ and it sparked my interest enough to research the topic and within a week I was yelling, ‘my whole life’s education has been a lie!!!’  I’ve put more study into Biblical Creation in the last 8 months than any other topic in my life.  Past that, through resources like your website...I’ve been able to convince my father (professional mathematician and amateur geologist), my best friend (mechanical engineer and fellow USAF Academy Grad/Creation Science nutcase), my pastor (he was the hardest to crack), and many others to realize the Truth of Creation.... Resources like your website help the rest of us at the ‘grassroots level’ drum up interest in the subject.  And regardless of what the major media says: Creationism is spreading like wildfire, so please keep your website going to help fan the flames.”
(an Air Force Academy graduate and officer)

“I love your site!  I **really** enjoy reading it for several specific reasons: 1.It uses the latest (as in this month!) research as a launch pad for opinion; for years I have searched for this from a creation science viewpoint, and now, I’ve found it.  2. You have balanced fun with this topic.  This is hugely valuable!  Smug Christianity is ugly, and I don’t perceive that attitude in your comments.  3. I enjoy the expansive breadth of scientific news that you cover.  4. I am not a trained scientist but I know evolutionary bologna/(boloney) when I see it; you help me to see it.  I really appreciate this.
(a computer technology salesman in Virginia)

“I love your site.  That’s why I was more than happy to mention it in the local paper.... I mentioned your site as the place where..... ‘Every Darwin-cheering news article is reviewed on that site from an ID perspective.  Then the huge holes of the evolution theory are exposed, and the bad science is shredded to bits, using real science.’”
(a project manager in New Jersey)

“I’ve been reading your site almost daily for about three years.  I have never been more convinced of the truthfulness of Scripture and the faithfulness of God.”
(a system administrator and homeschooling father in Colorado)

“I use the internet a lot to catch up on news back home and also to read up on the creation-evolution controversy, one of my favourite topics.  Your site is always my first port of call for the latest news and views and I really appreciate the work you put into keeping it up to date and all the helpful links you provide.  You are a beacon of light for anyone who wants to hear frank, honest conclusions instead of the usual diluted garbage we are spoon-fed by the media.... Keep up the good work and know that you’re changing lives.
(a teacher in Spain)

“I am grateful to you for your site and look forward to reading new stories.... I particularly value it for being up to date with what is going on.”
(from the Isle of Wight, UK)

“[Creation-Evolution Headlines] is the place to go for late-breaking news [on origins]; it has the most information and the quickest turnaround.  It’s incredible – I don’t know how you do it.  I can’t believe all the articles you find.  God bless you!”
(a radio producer in Riverside, CA)

“Just thought I let you know how much I enjoy reading your ‘Headlines’ section.  I really appreciate how you are keeping your ear to the ground in so many different areas.  It seems that there is almost no scientific discipline that has been unaffected by Darwin’s Folly.”
(a programmer in aerospace from Gardena, CA)

“I enjoy reading the comments on news articles on your site very much.  It is incredible how much refuse is being published in several scientific fields regarding evolution.  It is good to notice that the efforts of true scientists have an increasing influence at schools, but also in the media.... May God bless your efforts and open the eyes of the blinded evolutionists and the general public that are being deceived by pseudo-scientists.... I enjoy the site very much and I highly respect the work you and the team are doing to spread the truth.”
(an ebusiness manager in the Netherlands)

“I discovered your site through a link at certain website... It has greatly helped me being updated with the latest development in science and with critical comments from you.  I also love your baloney detector and in fact have translated some part of the baloney detector into our language (Indonesian).  I plan to translate them all for my friends so as to empower them.”
(a staff member of a bilateral agency in West Timor, Indonesia)

“...absolutely brilliant and inspiring.”
(a documentary film producer, remarking on the 07/10/2005 commentary)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hey Friends, Check out this site:  This is a fantastic resource for the whole family.... a fantastic reference library with summaries, commentaries and great links that are added to daily—archives go back five years.”
(a reader who found us in Georgia)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Featured Creation Philosopher for December

Justin Martyr
100 - 165

We rightfully pay an additional measure of respect to the words of those who die for what they believe.  This month we celebrate a man who faced execution without flinching, because he was convinced of what he had come to believe and teach in his adult life.  The man was Justin Martyr, a second-century Christian apologist.

Though “science” as we know it did not exist in his day, did his ideas suggest a foundation for a workable philosophy of science better than that of the Greeks or Romans among whom he lived?  That will be the subject of a research challenge we will explain in a minute.

Justin was trained in Greek philosophy before he became a Christian.  Like the writer of Hebrews, he defended Christianity as something better than the teachings of the Jews and the Greeks.  Justin’s education and training in philosophy made him uniquely gifted at providing persuasive arguments to the elite of Roman society about why they should drop their misconceptions about this new, persecuted sect and listen to what Christians were saying: here was something better than anything they had ever known.  Christ, the Logos of God, was the root of all meaning and purpose in life.  This became Justin’s core belief, coming right out of his own discontent with the leading philosophies of his day.  He knew them all; he took Christ.

Rather than provide a biography here about Justin Martyr (hereafter JM), we would like to propose a research project for a bright, motivated individual – whether high school or post-graduate fellow – to defend the following proposition: the arguments of Justin Martyr in defense of Christianity provide a better foundation for a philosophy of science than Greek and Roman philosophy.  This would make a great research paper!  Here are some teasers to get you going:

  • JM defended the Biblical doctrine of creation as essential to making sense of the world.  An eternal universe would have no purpose or direction.

  • JM argued that the Greek philosophers got their best ideas from Moses. (!)

  • Following in the footsteps of the epistle of John, chapter 1 (“In the beginning was the Logos”) JM took the familiar Greek theme of the Logos (intrinsic to Platonism and Stoicism) and applied it to the person of Jesus Christ.

  • This idea of Logos (information, communication, intelligence) as a fundamental reality continues to provide inspiration for non-materialistic philosophies of science, such as in the intelligent design movement, and particularly in the writings of Phillip E. Johnson and (earlier) Dr. A. E. Wilder-Smith.  Johnson contrasts the materialism of “In the beginning were the particles” with the design paradigm, “In the beginning was the Word.”

    Justin’s ministry was carried out at a critical time in the history of ideas: right after the apostles, during a time of intellectual ferment about what the New Testament meant, and before corruptions and heresies became entrenched.  The Gnostics had to be confronted, who were claiming secret, mystical knowledge.  The Romans were hostile to Christians for refusing to honor the national gods.  False rumors about Christians were rampant.  To become a Christian during this period was a serious and dangerous decision that was not taken lightly.  The cost could be torture and death.

    Because of this, Justin’s writing came right at a time when Christian thinkers were keen to provide reasons for embracing the views of Jesus of Nazareth – reasons that made sense to a culture that extolled Greek philosophy as the highest tradition of human wisdom.  Justin obeyed I Peter 3:15-16, which enjoined Christians to always be ready to provide a reasoned defense of the hope that was in them.

    While much of Justin’s work was in defense of Christianity itself, there are many subtexts that bear on the fundamental questions of philosophy: ontology (what exists) and epistemology (how we know).  These, by any philosopher’s measure, are essential issues that will determine how one will approach the study of nature.

    The extant writings of Justin Martyr are published online at Christian Classics Ethereal Library.  Some skillful internet searching will turn up additional publications that can help a researcher make progress on this project, such as this summary at Leadership U, although studying JM’s own writings will provide the best source.*  Imagine what science might have achieved centuries earlier had it taken seriously the ideas of this second-century Christian apologist.  Could a Justinian system of ideas about nature have accelerated the rise of science?  Take our challenge and tell us what you find: send your ideas to Feedback.

    At his trial, the elderly Justin stood bravely before Rusticus, the Roman prefect who gave him and other condemned Christians one last chance to honor the gods of Rome.  Justin said, “I have endeavoured to learn all doctrines; but I have acquiesced at last in the true doctrines, those namely of the Christians, even though they do not please those who hold false opinions.”  Angrily calling him a wretched man, Rusticus demanded to know what those doctrines were.  With certain death imminent, Justin stood firm:

    That according to which we worship the God of the Christians, whom we reckon to be one from the beginning, the maker and fashioner of the whole creation, visible and invisible; and the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who had also been preached beforehand by the prophets as about to be present with the race of men, the herald of salvation and teacher of good disciples.  And I, being a man, think that what I can say is insignificant in comparison with His boundless divinity, acknowledging a certain prophetic power.  That is, that a prophetic inspiration is required to speak worthily of Christ.  since it was prophesied concerning Him of whom now I say that He is the Son of God.  For I know that of old the prophets foretold His appearance among men.

    Justin and each of the condemned answered “Are you a Christian?” forthrightly and confidently in the affirmative.  Each refused to offer sacrifice to the gods, even when warned that they would be mercilessly punished.  “Do what you will,” they answered, “for we are Christians, and do not sacrifice to idols.”  Following this, they were taken out to be scourged, then beheaded.  Faithful friends secretly took the bodies of these brave martyrs to give them a proper burial, and commended these who “perfected their testimony in the confession of the Saviour.”

    Knowing this background, let’s take the words of Justin seriously, in the understanding that this brave man died for what he believed, and had become convinced of, in full knowledge of the best wisdom his culture had to offer.  Take our research challenge: are the teachings of Justin Martyr good soil for the sprouting of a vigorous philosophy of science?

    *Some writers accuse Justin Martyr of certain questionable or even heretical beliefs, but to be understood, he should be read in his historical context.  Even today, apologists will build bridges with concepts familiar to their listeners.  Justin did not accept the Greek conception of the Logos any more than John the Apostle did, but used a familiar term to reveal the person of Jesus Christ in a way that was understandable to them.  Do not merely accept, therefore, some modern writer’s judgment about what Justin believed without reading his own writings and determining if, in context, it is what he really meant.

    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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