Creation-Evolution Headlines
February 2008
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“There is just no way that I can imagine the universe and the human form coming about by accident.  It all strongly points towards a design, and random chance occurrences do not produce design.  A ‘design’ demands a ‘designer,’ and the only one who transcends the universe and all that it contains is the Being that we call Almighty God.”
—Dr. Henry L. Richter, Jr., The Universe, A Surprising Cosmological Accident (Xulon, 2006), pp. 117-118.  Richter was a manager for Explorer 1, the first successful American satellite 50 years ago (Jan. 31, 1958).
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The Fruits of Two Worldviews   02/29/2008    
Of all the arenas of state-sponsored genocides of the 20th century, the Killing Fields of Cambodia were among the most disturbing.  There, in a massive social engineering project, a radical communist government systematically starved, tortured and murdered nearly two million people with the brutal efficiency of an assembly line operation.  The regime outlawed all religions.  It sought to establish a communist utopia by force, driving everyone into an instant agrarian economy, and eliminating the brightest and most skilled simply because they did not fit the communist ideal.  Simply wearing glasses was enough to be processed – i.e., photographed, catalogued, tortured if necessary, and shot or hacked in the back of the head with a hoe.  Hundreds of thousands were killed by their own countrymen in a cold, calculated operation so dispassionately merciless, Cambodians to this day are almost in denial of what happened.
    The Independent reported that Kang Kek lew, otherwise known as Comrade Duch, was taken to the killing fields as part of his trial.  Duch had overseen Prison S-21 where 20,000 people were photographed, tortured and eliminated.  Now 66 years old, Duch broke down when shown trees where children's heads were smashed and saw a pile of 8,000 skulls of victims.  The article says he “fell to his knees, hands clasped in tearful prayer for the terrible crimes committed three decades ago.”
    Prayer?  Yes; you see, long after the fall of the Khmer Rouge, after some personal tragedies, he started attending a Christian church and became a born-again Christian in 1995.  He became a lay pastor.  When he went to assist the World Vision international relief organization in 1999, he was discovered by a journalist and surrendered to authorities.
    A visit to the killing fields was part of his trial which resumed last July after eight years in detention without being charged.  It was also part of an effort to document the horrors of the regime in order to bring closure to the horrific tragedy that killed nearly a third of the Cambodian population.  Duch is one of five remaining leaders of the Khmer Rouge awaiting trial and sentencing by the UN-backed Cambodia Tribunal. 

Is this entry off-topic?  Perhaps somewhat.  But it is necessary to remember intently and frequently the stakes in the battle of worldviews.  Let’s recite the obligatory disclaimers first: not all atheists are genocidal maniacs, and not all Christians are merciful saints.  Understood.
      That being the case, who can deny that the worst genocidal regimes in history were atheistic, and that most atheists are evolutionists?  Communist philosophy was built on atheism, and evolution was the scientific justification for its views.  Evolution portrayed a world of death and struggle where killing was necessary for the advancement of the race.  The fitness of the State, not the individual, is what mattered to both communists and national socialists (both, despite their differences, subsets of Social Darwinist ideology; see 02/17/2008 and 11/30/2005; also see response to criticism of this linkage by Dr. Richard Weikart on Evolution News).
    Keeping unfit individuals around, in the minds of many Social Darwinists, was sin; advancing the fitness of the State was righteousness.  These were ideas first, then ideologies, then political parties, then dictatorships.  The perpetrators of communist genocides (Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot, and more) sincerely believed they were acting in accordance with the “laws of science” Darwin had delineated.
    Here we see one perpetrator who underwent a radical change of worldview.  Kang Kek lew was no peasant yanked into service.  He had been head of a local college.  He joined the communist party of Cambodia willingly.  As a communist, Comrade Duch dutifully carried out the will of the State.  He even went beyond the call of “duty.”  The Wikipedia entry on him says,
Assisted by his two deputies, Comrade Chan and Comrade Pon, Duch began perfecting his interrogation techniques and the purging of perceived enemies from the Khmer Rouge ranks.  Prisoners at these camps, mostly from the ranks of the Khmer Rouge, were routinely starved and tortured to extract real and made up confessions.  Few prisoners left the camps alive.
Now with a Christian worldview, Duch weeps over his sins.  He prays for the souls of his victims.  As a lay pastor, he tried to teach others the truth.  He joined a Christian relief organization that works around the world to feed the hungry and bring relief to the vulnerable.  Only God knows the depths of his sincerity, but one thing is certain: a Christian worldview of mercy and compassion is polar opposite to the communist worldview that turned intellectuals into cold-blooded mass murderers.
    Does Comrade Duch deserve the ultimate sentence for past crimes now that he has changed?  Whatever the tribunal decides, the blood of his victims is crying from the ground for justice.  The institutions of law enforcement, ordained by God according to the Apostle Paul (Romans 13), must act impartially by the rule of law and must weigh the magnitude of the crimes.  God will take care of justice for the soul.  These matters are not the point of this entry.  Comrade Duch’s story illustrates the stark contrast in the outcomes of worldviews that begin with intellectual questions – the existence of God, purpose in life, the nature of good and evil.
    What begins in the mind can move armies: armies of tanks and bombs, or armies of relief workers.  That’s why Creation-Evolution Headlines matters.  The killing fields in Cambodia, chilling as they were, were not unique.  Each Social-Darwinist utopian regime committed similar atrocities in ways just as cold and calculated.  The body count from 20th-century state-sponsored genocides, far outstripping the number of casualties from war, is exhausting to contemplate (11/30/2005).  A proverb of Jesus, applied to science by Sir Francis Bacon, sums up in seven words what we tried to say in seven paragraphs: “By their fruits you will know them” (Matthew 7:15-20).
Next headline on:  Bible and Theology
  Could clay minerals have helped life get a start?  A chemical evolutionist explains why not, from 02/13/2006.

Movies Worth a Leap Year...:   02/29/2008    
Expelled:  Ben Stein’s documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed is scheduled for release April 18.  See the trailer and other information, both amusing and disturbing, at the film website  The film documents the persecution by the scientific establishment of anyone who dares question the ruling evolutionary paradigm, especially those who embrace Intelligent Design.  ID news sites like Evolution News have already posted several articles and interviews about Ben Stein’s latest crusade for academic freedom.  See Stein’s recent editorial on News Blaze.
The Case for Faith:  The third installment in a trilogy of Lee Strobel films based on his best-selling books is in the works and may be released by fall.  The Case for Faith tackles some of the most difficult questions skeptics ask about Christianity: Is Christ the only way to God? and, How can a loving God allow evil and suffering?  To prepare for this third film, be sure you have already watched The Case for a Creator (10/10/2006) and The Case for Christ (09/16/2007).  The exceptional production quality of La Mirada’s films are only exceeded by the depth of their content.  The Case for Faith will likely raise the bar again.
Next headline on:  MediaIntelligent DesignBible and Theology

Is Cosmology Getting Wimp-y?   02/28/2008    
Physics and astronomy are usually thought of as the “hard” sciences, where empiricism is king.  Read the following excerpts from a story on the BBC News science page with that in mind (suggestion: replace “dark matter” with “mysterious unknown stuff”).

The first stars to appear in the Universe may have been powered by dark matter, according to US scientists....
   when the Universe was still young, there would have been abundant dark matter, made of particles called Wimps: Weakly Interacting Massive Particles.
    These would have fused together and obliterated each other long before nuclear fusion had the chance to start.
    As a result, the first stars would have looked quite different from the ones we see today, and they may have changed the course of the Universe’s evolution – or at least held it up.
    The theory, published in the journal Physical Review Letters, depends on particles that astronomers can’t see, but are certain exist, and physicists have never detected.  But the indirect evidence for their existence is overwhelming.
Let’s take stock so far.  Some kind of mysterious unknown stuff has never been detected, but it determined the fate of the universe and all that it contains.  The mysterious unknown stuff, remember, has never been detected, but it has a name: Wimps.  Even though never detected, scientists are certain there was a lot of the mysterious unknown stuff at the beginning, colliding, fusing and obliterating itself, and forming the first stars, which would have looked quite different from the stars we see, even though they have never been detected, either.
    Now to the indirect evidence that is overwhelming.  The article continues:
Dark matter particles make up more than three-quarters of the mass of the Universe,” says theoretical physicist Katherine Freese from the University of Michigan.
    “In fact, billions of them are passing through each of us every second.
    In the early Universe, there would have been even more.
It seems that this indirect evidence for the mysterious unknown stuff that has never been detected is an artifact of a popular current theory that postulates its existence (06/20/2003, esp. bullet 5).  Our problem is that we cannot detect the billions of Wimps that MUST (Mysterious Unknown STuff) be passing through our bodies every second.
    So let’s turn our most powerful space telescope to the edge of the universe, and learn if it sees what MUST be there:
The nature of the first stars has long puzzled astronomers.  Immediately after the Big Bang, the Universe expanded and cooled, so that for millions of years it was filled with dark, featureless hydrogen and helium – and perhaps Wimps.
    Astronomers can see that there were normal stars 700 million years after the Big Bang – the Hubble Telescope looking to the edges of the Universe, which is like looking back billions of years in time, can see whole galaxies of them.
So far, we have only observed KS (Known Stuff), not Mysterious Unknown STuff.  The article gets even stranger.  Scientists have figured out what MUST have occurred: to get from darkness to light, it MUST have pulled the universe together, causing it to “change course” on a path to stars, planets and life.  Stranger still, the old story about mysterious unknown stuff has been replaced by a new one creating exotic new structures out of exotic unknown ingredients:
It had been thought the hydrogen brought together by these dark matter haloes would collapse to make the first small stars, and would start to make inside themselves the first new elements – carbon, oxygen, silicon and other materials needed by planets and life.
    But the new paper says reactions between the Wimps, colliding and annihilating each other, would have generated enough heat to keep the protostars inflated – like hot air balloons.  And as more Wimps rained down on them the heating would have kept going.
Naturally, “The details of what the stars would have looked like have yet to be worked out,” since they cannot be observed.
    A good deal of effort and money is being expended to try to create some linkage between theory and observation.  For instance, Science Daily described sophisticated new dark matter detectors being readied by Fermilab.  One experiment described in another article on Science Daily failed to detect Wimps, the leading candidate for the mysterious unknown stuff.  Astronomers have been looking for it for years (07/23/2007) but recently, the race to be first to detect it is picking up steam.  Maybe the new Large Hadron Collider coming online this fall at CERN will help discover the mysterious unknown stuff that makes up the universe and determines its fate.
One would almost think we are back in the dark ages, listening to wizards peep and mutter about mysterious vapors and essences and emanations that control our fate.  They haven’t found Wimps yet but are already talking about Super-Wimps (07/02/2003).  If the intellectually-wimpy believers in Wimpy dark matter don’t find it soon, or if new theories gain ground that don’t need it, these searchers are going to look very silly for having said 80% of reality consisted of superfluous nonexistent stuff.
    One would think they would look silly; actually, they will probably relish the Progress Of SciencE (POSE).  Ever since Charlie welcomed fantasy into science, all branches of modern investigation have loosened the restrictions on empiricism.  Now, it is quite fashionable to postulate mysterious unknown stuff if it MUST keep your materialistic story going.  Geology set the stage before Darwin by envisioning vast ages of unobservable prehistory.  Psychology imported mysterious unknown stuff like the Unconscious, the Id, the Ego and Superego, and Archetypes.  Political Science imported it in the form of Utopian visions that would be realized by the Class Struggle and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat over the Bourgeoisie and the mysterious Kulaks (you could be one yourself).  Physical Chemistry imported Charmed Quarks and other exotic things that are almost indistinguishable from the theories that require them.  And evolutionary biology is loaded with mysterious unknown stuff: mystical “selection forces” that cause wondrous organs and complex structures to “emerge” and “arise” and “appear” shedding light on modern man’s dark understanding.  In fact, much of the heritage of Charles Darwin is a vision of getting Known Stuff from Mysterious Unknown Stuff by a long, gradual, unobservable process called Emergence.
    If this all sounds like some ancient mystery religion, you got it.  Mysterious Unknown STuff, also known as snake oil, is rampant in science these days.  We’re long past the modern science era.  Now we are living in the era of what Francis Schaeffer called “modern modern science” – a fantasy cosmos of self-actualizing miracles.  Anything goes – except a miracle Worker.
Next headline on:  AstronomyCosmologyPhysicsDumb Ideas
Why Blood Clots Are Stretchy   02/27/2008    
A team of biophysicists at University of Illinois ran a computation for six months to find out why blood clots are stretchy.  The primary protein in the clot, fibrinogen, can stretch two to three times its resting size.  By studying the force on every atom in the protein, Science Daily said, they produced a force curve that matches the force measured on actual fibrinogen.
    Understanding clotting is important, because “Blood clots can save lives, staunching blood loss after injury, but they can also kill,” the article began.  “Let loose in the bloodstream, a clot can cause a heart attack, stroke or pulmonary embolism.”  It is important for clots to be elastic because “they have a mechanical function to withstand blood pressure.”
Tots learn from their mommies that their scratches will heal, so they don’t need to worry about being scarred for life.  We grew up accepting that as a given.  Imagine, though, having every scratch or cut from our youth a permanent disfigurement or point of blood leakage.  We would be covered head to toe in bandages as adults.  The life of hemophiliacs illustrates the point: when the blood clotting process breaks down, even a small cut is life-threatening.
    Imagine, furthermore, that clots were as hard as bone.  You would have to sit quietly for weeks till the wound was entirely healed, or else risk having changes in blood pressure rip it away from the surrounding tissue.  Instead, fibrinogen is constructed with coiled coils of amino acids to give it both strength and flexibility.  The network of fibers and proteins that form at a wound site involves multiple rounds of signaling, aggregating ingredients in the right order, and applying patches that won’t break off and cause a heart attack or stroke.
    Michael Behe argued in his classic book Darwin’s Black Box that the blood clotting cascade is irreducibly complex.  His argument didn’t take much convincing.  All he had to do was show a flowchart of the 25 or so components that interoperate with feedback and feed-forward procedures to ensure that the flow of blood is stopped quickly and safely.  If any one of these ingredients is missing, the system breaks.  Any question why this article here did not mention evolution?
Next headline on:  Human BodyCell BiologyAmazing Facts
Sea Monsters Were for Real, and Other Wonders Under the Sea   02/26/2008    
National Geographic News published a story about a real sea monster.  A fossil pliosaur nearly 50 feet in length, the largest marine reptile ever found, was discovered in permafrost just 800 miles from the North Pole, on the Arctic island of Spitsbergen in Norway’s Svalbard archipelago.  Scientists estimate it had such strong teeth and muscles it could have bitten a small car in half.
    The article about the huge creature, with a skull nearly 7 feet long and flippers 10 feet long, includes a photo gallery.  Plesiosaurs often had long necks, but pliosaurs had massive heads and short necks.  Page 2 of the article claims that the large concentration of marine reptiles in the area, “one of the richest accumulations of marine reptiles in the world” with 40 known specimens so far, resulted when the large animals “swam in temperate seas and sank to the ocean floor after they died, where their bodies were preserved in soft mud.”
    The Burgess Shale, now high in the Canadian Rockies, once hosted a rich marine biota.  For a century it has been known for the exceptional preservation of its Cambrian fossils.  A new theory reported in Live Science says that an undersea landslide was responsible for burying the animals quickly and suddenly so that even the impressions of soft parts of worms were preserved.  The Cambrian Explosion was mentioned in the article:
Today, the Burgess Shale represents a frozen sliver of life from a time when Earth and its life were completely different.
    “It dates from very early in the history of complex multi-cellular life,” [Jan] Zalasiewicz [U of Leicester] told LiveScience.  “For quite a while, it was the main window we had on the diversity of life at this time.  It’s very significant because one of the great enigmas about Cambrian life is that it seems to have started very suddenly.
    Life existed for 3 billion years before the Cambrian Period, but almost all of it was simple life composed of single cells.
    “Then very suddenly at the beginning of the Cambrian, a whole host of life, all the major groups of animals, appeared,” Zalasiewicz said.  “That is called the Cambrian explosion.  It’s still a mystery as to how and why this great flowering of multi-cellular life took place.”
A different surprise has appeared among the living.  Shrimp-like crustaceans called krill had been thought to inhabit the upper ocean.  What are they doing 3000 meters down under the Antarctic Peninsula?  Sure enough, Science Daily reported, Antarctic krill were found by a deep-diving remotely operated vehicle in the dark depths, actively feeding and spawning as if this is a perfectly normal place to call home.  “The discovery completely changes scientists’ understanding of the major food source for fish, squid, penguins, seals and whales.”
Zalasiewicz said that there were no trees or higher animals when the Burgess Shale was buried by an undersea landslide.  How would he know that?  One would not expect there to be such creatures in that environment.  Separate the interpretation based on worldview from the actual observations.  The observations show that Darwinism could not be true.  The 3-billion-year dates are part of the evolutionary tale.  Just look at the fossils: all the major animal phyla appear suddenly at the beginning of the Cambrian.  “Appear” is the operative word: they were not evolving.  There were not primitive forms of these creatures in the rocks below.  Boom!  There they are, complete with eyes, complex appendages and a functioning ecology.  That is not evolution.  It’s also true of the pliosaurs, plesiosaurs, and ichthyosaurs found at Spitsbergen.  They appear in the record suddenly and fully operational.  Extinct animals were usually larger and more diverse than their counterparts today.  If this is evolution, it is going in reverse.
    Kids, consider marine biology or paleontology as a career.  There are still remarkable discoveries to be made under the sea.  You don’t have to follow the Darwin script or swallow the evolutionary tales to discover amazing things and have an adventurous life.  Imagine making a living finding fossils of sea monsters.  Imagine finding new kinds of life in the depths of the sea.  Wouldn’t that be totally cool?
Next headline on:  Marine LifeFossilsDinosaursAmazing Facts
  Why engineers envy the octopus, from 02/09/2005.

Prevent Drought: Hire a Beaver   02/25/2008    
“Beavers can help ease drought,” say scientists from University of Alberta.  EurekAlert published a press release about a 54-year study that showed beaver kept open water wetlands available.  They seem to even mitigate the effects of global warming.  “Climate models predict the incidence of drought in parts of North America will increase in frequency and length over the next 100 years, and beaver will likely play an important role in maintaining open water and mitigating the impact, [Glynnis] Hood said.”  In fact, maybe it isn’t climate that is driving everything.  “Beaver are helping to keep water in areas that would otherwise be dry.”  Their presence has a dramatic effect on how much open water is available in an area.  See also Science Daily.

Beaver are pests to some, and a cash cow to others.  In the early 1800s, they were coveted as a source of felt for gentlemen’s hats.  That’s what opened the West to exploration and expansion by Americans, Europeans, other nations and individual pioneers, explorers, entrepreneurs and adventurers.  We need to look at beaver in a better light.  They’re lovable, and they’re good for us.  Time to watch the wonderful IMAX file “Beavers” again. 
Next headline on:  MammalsAmazing Facts
Paleofantasy: Brain Evolution Is Mere Storytelling   02/22/2008    
When it comes to explaining the brain, evolutionists are completely in the dark.  That was the surprising message in a presentation to the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science by Harvard evolutionist Richard Lewontin.  James Randerson blogged the presentation in the UK Guardian, beginning, “We know nothing about brain evolution.  Scientists are still completely in the dark about why the human brain evolved to be so big, according to Richard Lewontin.”
    Randerson considers Lewontin “one of science’s superb curmudgeons.”  Along with Stephen Jay Gould, Lewontin has historically argued against pan-selectionism, or the idea that natural selection produced every trait.  Some traits are mere artifacts, they said, like the decorative spandrels on gothic pillars.
    Randerson said Lewontin was on “fantastic curmudgeonly form” at the Boston meeting:
His campaign against pan-selectionism was in evidence.  “Evolution is not the evolution of traits but the evolution of organisms,” he said.
    But he had an even more sobering message, summed up in the title of his talk – “Why we know nothing about the evolution of cognition”.  He systematically dismissed every assumption about the evolution of human thought, reaching the conclusion that scientists are still completely in the dark about how natural selection prompted the massive hike in human brain size in the human line.
What are some of the reasons for Lewontin’s pessimism?  Randerson summarized the main points:
  1. Fossils:  “Despite a handful of hominid fossils stretching back 4m years or so, we can’t be sure that any of them are on the main ancestral line to us.  Many or all of them could have been evolutionary side branches.
  2. Interpretations:  “Worse, the fossils we do have are difficult to interpret.  ‘I don’t have the faintest idea what the cranial capacity [of a fossil hominid] means,’ Lewontin confessed.”
  3. Posture:  Lewontin expressed doubt that we can be sure which hominids walked upright.
  4. Selective forces:  “He is also not convinced that we can use current selective forces to infer what natural selection was doing to our ancestors.
In short, evolutionists cannot be sure about either causes or effects among the artifacts they have to study.  Randerson ended with a sentence that sweeps away decades of research and pictorial storytelling: “All in all, despite thousands of scientific papers and countless National Geographic front covers, we have not made much progress in understanding how our most complicated and mysterious organ came about.”  Quoting Lewontin, “We are in very serious difficulties in trying to reconstruct the evolution of cognition.  I’m not even sure what we mean by the problem.
    How did Science, the organ of the AAAS, report this meeting?1  “Richard Lewontin knows how to grab an audience’s attention,” the news report began.  Then they quoted him grabbing some attention: “We are missing the fossil record of human cognition.  So we make up stories.”  Science reporter Michael Balter titled his article “How Human Intelligence Evolved--Is It Science or ‘Paleofantasy’?
    Balter was quick to point out that others in the meeting disagreed with Lewontin’s pessimism.  Dean Falk (Florida State) pointed to fossil evidence, and Christopher Walsh (Harvard Medical School) cited genetic studies.  Leslie Aiello (Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research) pointed to research that can “get us beyond the paleofantasy that Richard Lewontin is talking about.”  She said there is enough evidence for large shifts at certain points in evolutionary history, such as “the split between the chimpanzee and the human lines about 6 million years ago and the invention of stone tools beginning about 2.5 million years ago.”  Some of these shifts can be correlated with climate change, she argued.  All these appeared to be mere suggestions that may provide insight, though – not collections of definitive evidence that produce sound conclusions.
    Marc Hauser (Harvard psychologist) said things that seemed to reinforce Lewontin’s pessimism.  He argued that the gap between humans and other smart animals is greater than the gap between those animals and worms.  Showing the many ways human cognition is unique, Hauser described the capabilities of smart animals as narrow, “laser-beam intelligence” for focusing on narrow problems, whereas humans have “floodlight intelligence” applicable to a wide range of problems.  Even the tool use by chimpanzees is “whoppingly different” from what humans do, he said.  Balter ended, “He hopes that the manifold human differences summarized in his ‘humaniqueness hypothesis’ will yield clues about how our species evolved.
    For more on Marc Hauser’s views on “humaniqueness,” which emphasizes four cognitive gaps between humans and animals (ability to recombine information, to apply information to novel problems, to use symbolic representations, and to think abstractly), see Science Daily.  Hauser is quoted at the end of the article: “For human beings, these key cognitive abilities may have opened up other avenues of evolution that other animals have not exploited, and this evolution of the brain is the foundation upon which cultural evolution has been built.”  This statement, however, assumes evolution rather than showing what mutations or variations crossed the divide in the first place.  Measuring the width of a canyon is not the same thing as finding a bridge across it.
1.  Michael Balter, News of the Week, “How Human Intelligence Evolved--Is It Science or ‘Paleofantasy’?” Science, 22 February 2008: Vol. 319. no. 5866, p. 1028, DOI: 10.1126/science.319.5866.1028a.
You just saw a series of suicide bombs go off in the Darwin Party headquarters, carried in by Darwinites themselves.  Can evolution recover from the admissions these guys made?  This is not Duane Gish saying these things: they come from Mr. Can’t-Allow-a-Divine-Foot-in-the-Door himself, Richard Lewontin of Harvard, a knowledgeable, committed Darwiniac if there ever was one.  The upshot is that they are a bunch of know-nothings.  Now we have a new label for the Darwin Party: the Know Nothing Party.  Their motto is, “I know nothing but my Darwinism Storybook, my whole Darwinism Storybook, and nothing but my Darwinism Storybook.”  Their favorite amusement park is Paleofantasyland.
    Remember this entry the next time you get a National Geographic cover story of a hominid with a philosopher’s gaze.  Remember it when you are told stories about hominids walking upright, their hands now freed to scratch their chins and think.  Remember it when you are shown a chimpanzee on NOVA performing memory tricks for a banana or smashing bugs with a rock.  Remember it when a stack of erudite scientific papers on human evolution is placed on the witness table at a trial over whether students should be allowed to think critically about evolution in science class.
    You have just heard all you need to know about human evolution – from the Darwiniacs themselves.  The Darwin Party Know-Nothings, daydreaming in Paleofantasyland, have admitted they are just making up stories about the evolution of human cognition.  Their breathtaking ignorance is not limited to their answers.  They don’t even know what they mean by the question.  This is what they want to teach our students: ignorance!  Now, not only will public school students learn nothing; after indoctrination by the Know Nothings, they will know even less.
Next headline on:  Early ManDarwinian EvolutionHuman Body
Evolutionary Theory Can’t Handle Language   02/21/2008    
Did a gene turn on speech?  Five years ago, evolutionary geneticists were claiming that mutations in a gene called Foxp2 were the key to human language (see 08/15/2002, 05/26/2004).  This was based on two observations: chimps do not have these mutations, and people with alterations to Foxp2 have language impediments.  This idea is very unlikely to be right, claims a professor of computational linguistics at MIT, Robert Berwick.  An article in Science Daily discusses his ideas:
“This kind of straightforward connection is just not the way organisms are put together,” he says.  When it comes to something as complex as language, “one would be hard-pressed to come up with an example less amenable to evolutionary study.” And the specific Foxp2 connection is based on a whole chain of events, each of which is speculative, so there’s little chance of the whole story being right.
    “It’s so chaotic, it’s like weather forecasting,” he says.  “The noise overwhelms the signal.
    Rather, language is almost certainly the result of a far more complex and subtle interplay among a variety of factors, Berwick says, and it may never be possible to connect it to specific genetic changes.  “There are some things in science that are very interesting, but that we’re never going to be able to find out about,” he says.  “It’s a sort of romantic view some people have, that anything interesting can be understood.
Even defining language is hard, he said.  Is bird song a kind of language?  Whale song?  “If you can’t define what it is,” he said, “why study it from an evolutionary point of view?”  If anything, Berwick said, Foxp2 is peripheral to the capacity for language – just like a printer is peripheral to a computer system.
    Where does this leave research on the evolution of language?  For himself, Berwick is looking for deeper, internal mechanisms.  He sees some similarity to the rhythm in poetry and the song patterns in birds, for instance.  This is unlikely, however, to do more than show some similarities without revealing causal mechanisms.  The article ends by describing language as essentially a non-verbal function of the mind:
Ultimately, the important thing is to understand that language is, at bottom, something that takes place inside the human mind and is independent of any particular sound, sight or motion.  The same internal mental construction could be expressed through verbal speech, through writing or through sign language without changing its basic nature, Berwick says.  “It’s not about this external thing you hear,” he says.  “It’s about the representation inside your head.
A picture of Berwick in his lab is posted on the original press release at MIT.
Intelligent design theorists and cognitive neuroscientists can have a field day with this!  If language at its core is not a physical representation but a concept in the mind, then it has no basis in evolution.
    ID scientists have been demonstrating for years the common-sense idea that information, a product of intelligence, can be represented in a variety of ways independent of the substrate that conveys it.  The sentence “John loves Mary” can be represented by sand writing, sky writing, electrons (email, TV), sound waves, paper and ink, sign language, knots in rope, and a host of other ways – yet the message is unchanged.
    The “evolution of language,” therefore, would have to be a theory about the evolution of meaningful information.  You cannot get meaning out of meaninglessness, or purpose out of purposelessness.  Did you see Berwick make an irrational leap?  He just said it is unlikely that an evolutionary approach will ever figure out language, but then he went back to studying bird song and poetry for insight.  He isn’t going to figure it out till he adds in the fundamental term missing from all materialistic world views: information.
    Notice how evolutionists deceived the public (again).  They sent the Foxp2 gene up the flagpole for people to salute and sing “Darwin wins again” (example).  Now, five years later, comes the admission that their explanation cannot possibly be right.  Typical.  John may love Mary, but Charlie despises tRuth.
Next headline on:  Early ManEvolutionary TheoryGenetics
  Three unwarranted assumptions paleoanthropologists make about human origins criticized – by an anthropologist, from 02/19/2004.

Florida Wises Up and Teaches Evolution Uncritically   02/20/2008    
The Florida State Board of Education adopted, by a vote of 4 to 3, science standards that require the teaching of evolution as “the fundamental concept underlying all of biology” without critical analysis or alternatives.  Evolution News said that calling evolution a “scientific theory” instead of a scientific fact represented a meaningless compromise with the minority who had argued for insertion of the statement, “Students should learn why some scientists give scientific critiques of standard models of neo-Darwinian evolution or models of the chemical origin of life.”  No proposal for teaching alternatives, such as intelligent design, were even considered.
    Decisions on these highly-charged issues typically produce a torrent of lively commentaries in the news media.  Carl Hiaasen in the Miami Herald had a particularly fun time pointing out that the vote means that Florida’s reputation for flakiness is at stake:

In a move that could endanger Florida’s flaky backwater reputation, the state Board of Education is poised to endorse the teaching of evolution as a science.
This is a dangerous idea -- not the presentation of Darwinism in schools, but the presentation of Florida as a place of progressive scientific thought.
Over the years the Legislature has worked tirelessly to keep our kids academically stuck in the mid-1950s....
By accepting evolution as a proven science, our top educators would be sending a loud message to the rest of the nation: Stop making fun of us....
Certainly that’s [i.e., evolution is] the position of every reputable academic group on the planet, including the National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Science Teachers Association.
But forget the fossil record, OK?  Forget DNA tracing.  Forget the exhaustively documented diversification of species. This battle is about pride and independence; about boldly going against the flow, in defiance of reason and all known facts.
Hiaasen continued his sarcasm against the compromise of calling evolution just a “theory.”  OK, “Let’s start teaching gravity as a ‘theory,’ too,” he smirked.  “And don’t forget the solar system -- what proof do we really have, besides a bunch of fuzzy, fake-looking photos, that Mars really exists?”
    Hiaasen intimated that candidates like Mike Huckabee, a Christian, could help restore Florida’s reputation for flakiness.  “We’ve worked hard to keep ourselves so far behind in education, and we must stay the course.”
    A taste of the acrimony generated on both sides of the evolution-as-theory debate can be seen in quotes listed in an article by World Net Daily
Entertaining op-ed piece.  Kind of like watching Groucho Marx or the Three Stooges calling smart people stupid.  Hiaasen’s skill at sarcasm is only exceeded by his ignorance of the issues.  His intellectual dysentery is the product of feeding on arguments from authority, bandwagon arguments, glittering generalities, non-sequiturs and the rest of the junk Darwin propaganda diet.  By equating Darwin’s mythology with practical science, assuming that teaching evolution will bring in high-paying jobs, and confusing observational science with fability (01/16/2007 commentary), is it any wonder he wins Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week?  The Discovery Institute should hire him for a sideshow, to illustrate the quality of ranting by the DODO heads (Darwin-Only 2x).  Hiaasen is doing more to ensure Florida’s ongoing flakiness than anyone siding with the Minority Report could have done.
Next headline on:  EducationDarwinismDumb Ideas
Dinosaurs of the Month   02/20/2008    
The tools of paleontologists continue to turn up interesting things.  Here are some of the latest dinosaur discoveries reported this month:
  1. Mighty mouth:  An African theropod with massive, shark-like teeth was found in the African Sahara, reported National Geographic News and PhysOrg.  It was named Eocarcharia dinops, or “fierce-eyed dawn shark.”  Another similar individual, presumed to be a scavenger, was named Kryptops palaios, “old hidden face” had a bony horn that covered much of its face.  National Geographic posted a gallery of artist’s reconstructions.
  2. Mighty duck:  In Mexico, giant duck-billed hadrosaur remains were found, reported National Geographic and Science Daily.  These specimens were said to be 35 feet in length.  Till now, dinosaur bones in Mexico have been rare.  Terry Gates (Utah Museum of Natural History) said, “The crested duck-billed dinosaurs are an extraordinary example of vertebrate evolution.”
  3. Sparrowsaur:  In China, the smallest pterosaurs ever found have come to light (see National Geographic and Live Science).  These toothless flying reptiles were only about the size of a sparrow – 10 inches or so (see artist reconstruction).  Like birds, they had curved digits that probably helped them grasp the branches of trees.  Found in the rich fossil beds of China’s Liaoning province, the species was named Nemicolopterus crypticus. by the discoverers who published their findings in PNAS.1
        Alexander Kellner (Museu Nacional/Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro) pieced pterosaurs into a vision of evolutionary progress: “The general idea was at some point we had these very primitive pterosaurs – very low down on the evolutionary tree – that were living on insects.  At some point pterosaurs learned to feed on fish.”  He said the find “opens a new chapter on the evolutionary history of this group of volant [flying] reptiles.”
For a twist on who eats whom, Science Daily reported fossils of a giant frog from Madagascar that may have fed on baby dinosaurs.  They named it Beelzebufo – “the frog from hell.”  The find was published in PNAS,2 where the authors said that it “suggests that the initial radiation of hyloid anurans began earlier than proposed by some recent estimates.”  It was also found on a different continent – Africa – far from South America where such frogs were thought to have evolved.  See also the BBC News and Science Daily for an artist’s rendering of the mean ol’ frog.  The latter article claims that the monster leaped across continents and ate dinosaurs.  Co-discoverer David Krause is quoted, “What’s a ‘South American’ frog doing half-way around the world, in Madagascar?”  There must have been a land bridge – through Calaveras County.
1.  Wang, Kellner, Zhou, Campos, “Discovery of a rare arboreal forest-dwelling flying reptile (Pterosauria, Pterodactyloidea) from China,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, published online on February 11, 2008, 10.1073/pnas.0707728105.
2.  Evans, Jones, Krause, “A giant frog with South American affinities from the Late Cretaceous of Madagascar,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, Published online on February 19, 2008, 10.1073/pnas.0707599105.
Some paleontologists estimate we have only found 27% of the dinosaurs that actually lived (11/22/2004).  This means that new, exotic discoveries can be expected for many years to come.  Exciting as each new unusual form is, one cannot assume that the diversity in the dinosauria exceeds that in other groups, such as insects.  Dinosaurs stand out in our minds because of their size and the fact they are all extinct.  In many groups of plants and animals, the fossil record is richer than the living inventory.
    One should remember also that classification is a very human enterprise.  Paleontologists win honors for naming a species.  This can lead to species bloat – too much splitting of similar specimens into separate species.  With fossils, one cannot know the natural amount of variation that was present due to diet, climate, development, genetic isolation or other factors.  One cannot know which ones were capable of interbreeding.  One also cannot compare the DNA of different dinosaurs (yet).  The count of dinosaur species and genera is a function of the classification scheme used.  Jones may want to name his find Magnificentosaurus jonesii but that doesn’t make it different from Majesticosaurus smithii.  Another factor leading to the impression that new dinosaurs are popping up all over is selective reporting.  “More of the same” doesn’t make news as much as something new and different.
    These finds, nevertheless, should inspire the young to realize there is still much to discover.  Join the treasure hunt.  Replace the old guard paleontologists who can’t kick the smoking habit (i.e., the addicts who exude smokescreens of fogma about millions of years, primitive forms, and new chapters in evolution).  Let the bones do the talking.  They know how to remain silent.  Evolutionists have not yet learned that anything they say can and will be used against them in the court of public opinion (09/30/2007 commentary).
Next headline on:  DinosaursFossilsTerrestrial Zoology
Distant Galaxy Surprises Astronomers   02/19/2008    
Using the Hubble Space Telescope viewing a distant galaxy cluster as a gravitational lens, astronomers detected a new record-holder: a galaxy bright with stars almost as old as the big bang.  The story on Science Daily called this a galaxy, with redshift 7.6, a “strong contender for the galaxy distance record.”
    According to theory, stars did not form till the end of the “dark ages” about 400,000 years after the big bang.  Young galaxies emerging from the fog of particles might have had enough energy to evaporate the fog and bring the first stars to light, the article says.  Still, to see a galaxy so soon after the dark ages was unexpected.  An astronomer from UC Santa Cruz said, “We certainly were surprised to find such a bright young galaxy 13 billion years in the past.”  The current age estimate for the universe is 13.7 billion years.
    The report was also posted on PhysOrg.  See this other PhysOrg article for a gallery of Hubble gravitational-lens images.
The measurements are indirect and highly theory-laden.  The light astronomers measure exists in the present: here at our retinas on earth.  Where it came from, and how long it took to get here, depends on theories and models that cannot be tested directly.  How are you going to recreate a big bang and watch stars form?  Are you going to wait 400,000 years to see if it happens according to your theory?
    As with fossils in evolution, spectra from space are data points that mean nothing till inserted into a paradigm.  Despite the confidence with which the theory was explained in the article, this discovery produces as many problems as it answers.  Astronomers need to explain how diffuse fog became clumpy, and condensed into a hierarchy of unlikely objects: galaxies and stars.  Astronomers appear to have the same problem as the biologists: a kind of cosmic Cambrian explosion.
    The ability to tell stories (fability, 01/16/2007 commentary) about how this all worked out somehow is not the same as knowledge.  The theory might be correct, but how would they know?  A survey of the history of scientific pronouncements that were later overturned is not encouraging.  The most significant data point in the article may, in fact, be the surprised look on their faces.
Next headline on:  AstronomyCosmologyDating Methods
  Poison can be good for you (in tiny doses), from 02/12/2003.  Read about hormesis – a paradigm shift that might explain originally good uses for bad things.

For Healthy Society, Father Knows Best   02/18/2008    
Science Proves Common Sense Dept.  Swedish scientists have found that “Children Who Have An Active Father Figure Have Fewer Psychological And Behavioral Problems,” according to a report on Science Daily.  In addition, “Children who lived with both a mother and father figure also had less behavioural problems than those who just lived with their mother.”  Dr Anna Sarkadi from the Department of Women’s and Children's Health at Uppsala University, Sweden, explained:

“For example, we found various studies that showed that children who had positively involved father figures were less likely to smoke and get into trouble with the police, achieved better levels of education and developed good friendships with children of both sexes.
    “Long-term benefits included women who had better relationships with partners and a greater sense of mental and physical well-being at the age of 33 if they had a good relationship with their father at 16.”
This backs up the “intuitive assumption” that involvement with a biological father or father figure has a positive influence on children – be it spending time with them talking, sharing in their activities, or playing an active role in their care and development.  They said the father is particularly helpful for kids who are socially or economically disadvantaged.  Public policy makers and employers need to recognize the importance of this role in a man’s life, they said, for the good of society.
Ask: who are the people who typically want to break down traditional marriage, confuse gender roles, and contribute to governmental policies (e.g., the welfare state, taxes that penalize marriage, promotion of alternate lifestyles) that make it harder for kids to have a father and mother at home?  Sorry to insult your intelligence with such a giveaway question.  You guessed it: liberals.  Evolutionists, who are predominantly liberal in their politics, often portray Dad as nothing but a gene donor, a biological entity selfishly seeking to pass on his own genes at any cost, married or not.  Is it any wonder a society immersed in evolutionary thinking is going to have little use for the traditional family?  As a result of sick liberal, progressive policies (see book review), we have inherited a host of societal ills: crime, drugs, antisocial behavior, a sense of hopelessness, suicide.  The kids most in need of a father – economically disadvantaged blacks, for instance – grow up predominantly in fatherless homes.
    Don’t count on this announcement making liberals slap their foreheads like in the V8 commercials and say, “Oh!  I could have had a nuclear family.”  How ironic that this study came out from that ultra-liberal society, Sweden.  Most politicians realize that fatherless homes are a ticking time bomb for societal catastrophe.  Fewer of them connect the effect to the cause: anti-family legislation and social experimentation, rooted in a materialistic, evolutionary philosophy.
    There are bad dads – abusive, alcoholic, selfish – but the exceptions prove the rule.  God designed a family to have one father and one mother.  The kids not only need the different roles of the man and the woman, the parents need the sense of responsibility that having children brings.  It’s all a system to engender health and harmony from the family unit upwards to society.  It almost looks like it was planned that way.  Should anyone be surprised at the horrendous consequences of abandoning the Master plan?
    Support the ministries that are trying to bring governmental, educational and corporate policies back from the abyss of social experimentation, and promulgate environments that encourage two-parent families: Focus on the Family, Family Research Council, Traditional Values Coalition, and others.  Most of all, do all you can to set a good example.
Next headline on:  HealthPolitics and Ethics
Mars Life Hung Out to Dry in Salt   02/18/2008    
Scientists have just about hanged the possibility for life on Mars.  At first, the acid measured by the Spirit and Opportunity rovers made the environment look inhospitable.  “Now, we also appreciate the high salinity of the water when it left behind the minerals Opportunity found,” said Mark Knoll on a JPL press release.  “This tightens the noose on the possibility of life.”
    Dreamers of Martian microbes can now only hope that the two environments studied by the Mars Exploration Rovers are not representative of the whole planet, or that the most ancient environments under the surface may have been less salty.  “Life at the Martian surface would have been very challenging for the last 4 billion years,” said Knoll, a biologist at Harvard and member of the rover science team.
    The press release was followed by another at JPL that potentially habitable planets around other stars may be common, based on infrared measurements of dust disks by the Spitzer Space Telescope (see also National Geographic News).  The “follow the water” policy NASA astrobiologists use to search the most promising habitats for life, however, needs to consider more than just the H2O present.  “Not all water is fit to drink,” Knoll quipped.  Chemical evolutionists know that salt, a necessary nutrient for advanced life, is very detrimental to the formation of membranes and nucleic acids prior to the first cell (04/15/2002, 11/23/2007).  Living organisms can regulate salt by means of specialized channels in their membranes.  Prebiotic structures would have borne the brunt of salt’s damaging effects.  Life could not have started in salty water, most astrobiologists agree.
    This announcement was reported also by National Geographic News.  The stories did not ask whether the early earth had salt, and whether this would have posed a challenge to chemical evolution on our planet.
This is old news; they should have given up long ago.  Reports from the first year of the rovers on Mars (12/03/2004) worried about the high acidity and salinity of the water.  Mars is dead; face it.  So we can rule out one body on the list.  Since evolutionists expect creationists to prove a universal negative, they will have job security for a long time. 
Next headline on:  Solar SystemOrigin of Life
Nazi-Era Scientists Were Willing Colluders   02/17/2008    
A seven-year study of the conduct of the German research funding agency, the DFG, was completed last month.  Historians focused specifically on the Nazi years, 1933-1945.  The report was mentioned by both Nature1 and Science.2
    The upshot is that many German scientists went along with Hitler’s regime without resistance.  Ulrich Herbert, a historian at the University of Freiburg, said, “The transition to National Socialism for most areas of research was not a very dramatic step.  In 1933, Nazis came into leadership positions, but there was no specific Nazi agenda.  Instead, contrary positions and voices were simply eliminated.”  German scientists were not particularly more racist, nationalistic or eugenicist than their American or Scandinavian counterparts, but contrary opinions lost support during the Reich.  “We found that the research community [in Germany] was seized by the same radical patriotism as the rest of society after the First World War,” he said.  Central control was not the only factor.  The same attitudes prevailed at the decentralized universities as at the centrally-controlled Max Planck Society.  Herbert told Nature, “Universities ended up colluding with the regime because the conservative professors who were able to continue working there agreed, like the general population, with most Nazi policies.  There was no organized opposition to the views and no public debate of different positions.”
    The historians did not uncover any shocking new atrocities beyond those already described at the Nuremburg Trials and since, but one thing stood out: the ease with which ordinary professors and scientists signed on to the regime:
But we learnt how exquisitely closely ‘normal’ professors – not just the mad Nazi typesaligned their goals with the policies of the Nazi regime.  Grant applications showed, for example, how many professors took part in developing plans for expansion to the east after Germany won the war (as they assumed).  Plans that would have killed or enslaved more than 30 million people.
Herbert also said that the nationalistic attitudes of the German scientists continued into the 1960s till a new generation emerged.  “It’s good to know the dark side of one’s history,” he said.
1.  “Lessons from the dark side,” Nature 755 (2008) | doi:10.1038/451755a.
2.  Newsmakers, Science, Volume 319, Number 5865, Issue of 15 February 2008.
Does anyone think for a moment that today’s professors and academics in Big Science would not fall in line with another genocidal totalitarian regime, if the inducements were strong enough?  The herd mentality makes it more comfortable to go along to get along.  We already see the shameless ease with which they support experimentation on human embryos, the selfishness with which they demand public money for everything they want to do, and their willingness to lie openly about the evidence for Darwinism.  Many individual scientists are the most honest and noble people you would ever meet, but the record of Big Science is not encouraging.  How many of even the honest ones would risk everything to stand against incipient evil policies?
    Hitler’s regime has become such a byword for evil, we tend to overuse it and get numb to it.  Don’t let that happen.  Watch the documentaries, read the histories, remind yourself regularly just how destructive it was.  Then read up on communism and the other Social Darwinist regimes of the 20th century: ideas that generated unspeakable evil on the world, resulting in 148 million deaths and untold misery for survivors, many of whom would have welcomed death.  This story demonstrates that “normal” intelligent professors, and citizens, went right along with policies that not only killed millions, but would have killed tens of millions more had they not been defeated.
    To prevent a recurrence, it is not sufficient to know the dark side of your nation’s history.  You must know the dark side of your own heart (Romans 3).  Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).  We may not know it exhaustively, but we can know it sufficiently to demand our governments set up safeguards to prevent the success of evil ideas.  Beware especially of ideologies that build their morals on a Darwinian foundation.  The solution to the problem of evil begins one heart at a time (Romans 5).
Next headline on:  Politics and Ethics
  Remembering Dr. Henry M. Morris, Jr., father of modern creationism, from 02/25/2006.

Oldest Bat Fossil: Was It Evolving?   02/16/2008    
A bat fossil surpassing the previous record holder for the oldest by 2 million years made the cover of Nature this week.1  The news media immediately began saying that it provided insight into evolution.  The BBC News announced “Bat fossil solves evolution poser.”  National Geographic called it the icing on the cake, and said that “the fossils represent a breakthrough in the understanding of bat evolution.”  PhysOrg called it a missing link that “demonstrates that the animals evolved the ability to fly before they could echolocate.”
    That last statement gets to the crux of the evolution angle.  It’s not that this specimen was part bat and part something else.  It was fully capable of flight and was easily identified as a bat.  What it appeared to lack (though this point is somewhat questionable) is the ability for echolocation – the bat’s famous sonar navigation system.  Some living bats have echolocation; others do not.  The ones without it typically have a smaller cochlea (the inner ear organ that converts sound waves into nerve impulses).  Since the fossil appeared to have a small cochlea, the researchers inferred that it lacked echolocation; however, size may not be the only valid diagnostic.  We know that miniaturization can be a measure of advanced technology (e.g., iPod over cassette player).  Without the ability to observe this species in action, it would be impossible to prove that it could not echolocate with its compact cochleae.
    The evolutionary question before these scientists and reporters was not whether bats evolved – their minds were already made up on that point.  “There has been a longstanding debate,” though, “about how bats evolved, centering around the development of flight and the development of the sonar system they use to navigate and hunt for prey,” PhysOrg explained.  The majority opinion among evolutionists seems to have been that echolocation came first, then flight.  This fossil seemed to suggest the reverse.
    Echolocation or not, there was never any doubt this was a bat.  It was classified in the bat order Chiroptera, and given the name Onychonycteris.  Even though this bat is similar to modern bats that lack echolocation, it “may have been otherwise equipped for flying at night,” wrote John Speakman (U of Aberdeen) in the same issue of Nature.2  Why, then, did the discoverers call it “primitive”?  Nothing in the paper provided definitive evidence the bat was lacking in “derived” (i.e., advanced, or “highly evolved”) features.  There were only suggestions couched in tentative wording:

The shape of the wings suggests that an undulating gliding-fluttering flight style may be primitive for bats, and the presence of a long calcar indicates that a broad tail membrane evolved early in Chiroptera, probably functioning as an additional airfoil rather than as a prey-capture device.  Limb proportions and retention of claws on all digits indicate that the new bat may have been an agile climber that employed quadrupedal locomotion and under-branch hanging behaviour.
Obviously, the researchers cannot watch a fossil bat fly in a fossilized sky.  A creature capable of being called an “agile climber” as well as a flyer should not be judged primitive on that basis; are not two skills better than one?  Possession of claws seems also a questionable measure of primitiveness.  It would seem more primitive to lack a structure than to have it.
    As for that echolocation question, the discoverers were more hedged in their wording than the science reporters.  After weighing the evidence, they said, “there is no unambiguous evidence that Onychonycteris was capable of laryngeal echolocation.”  Their graph shows that the cochlea of this species is right on the borderline between echolocating and non-echolocating species.  On the other wing, it “was clearly capable of powered flight,” they said.  Speakman concurred: “The bat’s wing morphology is very similar to that of extant species, except that it has claws on its digits,” he said.  “But in all other respects this is clearly a bat capable of powered flight.”  In addition, the authors inferred that it most likely ate insects, as do modern echolocating bats.
    The only basis for claiming this bat was primitive, then, seems to be that it was found in strata assumed to be 52 million years old rather than 50 million years old, and according to evolutionary theory, “Bats are thought to have evolved from terrestrial mammals, and scientists have long pondered whether they took to the air before or after they could echolocate.”  So said National Geographic.  It looked like a bat, and it flew like a bat.  It was labeled primitive simply because evolutionary theory assumes that older means more primitive.
    One other evolutionary question was considered.  Why hasn’t echolocation evolved among ground-dwelling mammals?  An evolutionary answer was at the ready.  Speakman spoke to that, but his answer raised other questions:
However, around the end of the 1980s, evidence accumulated, including work from my own group, that favoured the ‘flight-first’ hypothesis.  One paper showed that, for a bat hanging at rest, echolocation is extremely energetically costly.  This high cost probably explains why no terrestrial mammals have evolved full-blown echolocation systems such as those used by bats.  However, a second paper showed that when a bat takes flight these costs disappear.  This is because of a remarkable coupling of the beating of the wings with the ventilation of the lungs and production of the echolocation pulses.  When a bat hangs stationary and echolocates, it must contract its muscles specifically to generate a forceful expiratory burst, and this is where the large costs come from.  When a bat is flying, it is already contracting these muscles, so in effect echolocation when flying is free (or at least substantially cheaper).
    But what about the problem of bats flying in darkness before they could orient themselves?  A hypothesis I favour is that the earliest ancestors of bats may have been diurnal, and had visual means of orientation – but were perhaps forced to become nocturnal by the appearance of avian predators, shortly after the dinosaurs became extinct around 65 million years ago.  Some then evolved echolocation, whereas others became nocturnal vision specialists.
He did not discuss why flying hawks would represent more a threat than flying reptiles.  He also did not discuss why any other complex organ that involves high cost (i.e., most organs in the body) would have evolved, if cost is such a hurdle to natural selection.
    For decades in his famous debates with evolutionists, Dr. Duane Gish of ICR pointed to fossil bats as an ideal test case for creation vs evolution.  He pointed out the many modifications it would take to make a flying mammal out of a shrew or mouse, and how all these changes should be preserved in the fossil record as transitional forms.  Then he would hold up a picture of the oldest known fossil bat, and say it was “100% bat.”  At the time, he knew about Icaronycteris, the alleged 50-million-year-old species exhibited in the American Museum of Natural History.  He would quote Glenn Jepson from an issue of Science in 1966 saying that nothing related to a bat has ever been found in the fossil record that is any older than Icaronycteris, and it is essentially identical to a modern bat.3
    It is unlikely this new discovery would cause Dr. Gish to change the core of his argument.  In fact, he might claim it makes it stronger: Onychonycteris, found in the same Wyoming Eocene strata but lower than Icarnoycteris, was allegedly two million years earlier – but it, too, was a 100% flight-capable bat.  This only pushes the problem farther back for evolution.  Now, all those specialized adaptations would have had to evolve in less time.  There are still no transitional forms.  Knowing Gish, he might have teased his debate partner by quipping that the evolutionist batting average is zero.
1.  Simmons, Seymor, Habersetzer and Gunnell, “Primitive Early Eocene bat from Wyoming and the evolution of flight and echolocation,” Nature 451, 818-821 (14 February 2008) | doi:10.1038/nature06549.
2.  John Speakman, “Evolutionary biology: A first for bats,” Nature 451, 774-775 (14 February 2008) | doi:10.1038/451774a.
3.  Duane Gish, Evolution: The Fossils Still Say No, ICR 1995 revision, pp. 185-187.
You see what the evolutionists do, don’t you?  You understand the modus operandi of their crimes.  Their M.O. is, simply: “assume evolution”  Evolution is their miracle worker, that appears on cue, like Tinker Bell with her miracle-mutation wand, to produce anything they need.  Since the Darwinian storytellers have usurped the institutions of science, they have no need for proof, demonstration and evidence.  Fossils and other observable things are mere props for their stories.  The basic plot is fixed in stone.  Like a counterfeit tree of life, the Darwinian story of common ancestry via unguided processes over millions of years is guarded against critical analysis by angles with flaming words (puns intended).
    You also just saw (again) the Darwin-drunk news media not only parroting the evolution angle verbatim, but even embellishing it.  The original paper worded its claims with a modicum of doubt, but the BBC News trumpeted, “Bat fossil solves evolution poser.”  But look at the fossil evidence!  The Darwinists should be ashamed.  The oldest known bat in the fossil record is 100% bat and no less advanced than living bats!  How on earth can any sensible scientist claim that this supports Darwinism?  Did any of them tell us how complex capabilities like echolocation or flight could have arisen by chance?  Did they elaborate the dozens, if not thousands, of lucky mutations that would have had to come together blindly to produce a flying mammal from a mouse?  No!  If anything, they uncovered a more astonishing thing – that the flight capabilities of bats are dynamically integrated with their sonar systems.  Did they watch 52 million years go by?  Did they watch the so-called primitive bat change into a more advanced creature?  Did they seriously entertain any of the many, many scientific criticisms that could be leveled against their tale?  No, no, no.
    If this non-stop parade of dogmatism masquerading as science makes you mad, join the campaign to expose the Darwinists.  Don’t let them get away with using this discovery as a prop for their fable.  Don’t let some evolution advocate stack papers like this on the witness stand to claim evolution is scientific.  Understand what is really going on in biology these days.  Keith Wanser stated it succinctly: “There is not one theory of evolution, but a body of opinions, speculations and methods for interpretation of observational facts so that they fit into the philosophy of naturalism.”  That, friends, is not science, and does not deserve the honor of being taught in our schools.
Next headline on:  MammalsFossilsEvolution
Life Is Earth’s Waste Dump   02/15/2008    
Exclusive  Most evolutionists and philosophers recognize the origin of life as one of the most difficult questions to broach from a materialist standpoint.  Dr. Michael Russell, however, made it sound very easy to a large audience gathered in JPL’s auditorium on February 4.  In a talk titled confidently, “How Life Began on our Water World Over 4 Billion Years Ago,” he argued that the emergence of life is a geological issue.  In a classic statement of reductionism, he began, “Metabolism or life is chemistry’s answer to the physics of convection.”  He repeated this theme later in the lecture:
To my mind, metabolism is chemistry’s answer to the physics of convection.  It’s a way of distributing energy back into and lowering the energy levels, generating waste products – generating a little chaos if you like – because the universe is running down, and life just obeys the Second Law of Thermodynamics and is just helping the planet to run down chemically.
For illustration, he had a lava lamp on stage.  The thing never did start convecting despite his prediction.  Presumably, he meant to imply that the people in the auditorium were glorified lava lamps, helping the planet generate waste products and run down chemically.
    Dr. Russell spoke on this topic at JPL three years ago (see 12/03/2004) but now has funding to build a hydrothermal reactor at the lab to test his ideas.  Russell advocates the “metabolism-first” view of life’s origin, as expounded by Robert Shapiro (02/15/2007), a view roundly criticized by Leslie Orgel (01/26/2008) and others who advocate the “genetics-first” view.  Russell believes in the RNA world scenario, but only after a metabolic form of life emerged.  He did not explain where the RNA came from.
    He also swept through the topic of how ATP synthesis emerged.  He agreed ATP is vital, but made it seem as if all earth needed was a proton motive force to get it started – a gloss that startled David Nicholls two years ago (03/31/2006).  Russell also portrayed homochirality as unnecessary at the beginning; one hand just won out after multiple experiments going on at deep-sea vents all over the planet.  He explained this is like having automobiles, some of which are driving on the right side of the road, and some on the left; eventually, to keep order, one side would prevail.  One could imagine human beings coming to such an agreement, but it is unclear how or why mindless molecules would do it.
    Russell confused natural causes with intelligent causes again by personifying geology as an experimenter.  When asked how long he thought it would take for cycles to emerge, he said,
Something like 100 years.  I’m being a bit glib, but think about what 35,000 postdocs could do, 365, 24x7, for 35,000 years.  It’s not going to take long.  It’s got to be quick, because otherwise you’re going to run out of steam, so to speak; you’re going to run out of fuel.
Necessity is the mother of invention, however, for intelligent inventors.  Russell did not explain why a chemical reaction, if depleted of fuel, would find it necessary to solve the problem and keep going – or even recognize a problem existed.  Most chemical reactions when depleted of reagents simply reach equilibrium and stop, shedding no tears about it.
    Whether Russell’s clouding of the distinction between minds and mindlessness was merely pedagogical or fallacious was not clear; he resorted to personification several times.  At another point, he said, “That’s what a planet needs – to make acetate and methane, and eventually oxygen.”  Life, to him, was almost a geological necessity.  He embraced this kind of geological/biological determinism.  He called the metabolic stage of chemical evolution a Lamarckian stage, before the Darwinian stage could ensue with RNA and DNA.
    This lecture was advertised as part of a “Science 101” series for the non-scientist.  Russell used pithy analogies to keep the audience on track.  Prius owners could relate:
The earliest metabolic vehicle is a hybrid.  And now comes the vehicle’s regulator or computer.  Eventually we need the RNA to help guide these reactions so that they don’t just happen chaotically.  So we get to the RNA World.
That’s one giant leap for atomkind, though (see 07/11/2002).  Russell portrayed metabolism as a kind of life that forms first, then gets fancier with computer controls and regulators later.
    Russell preached that we should be concerned less with what life is, but rather by what it does.  When asked for a definition of life, he deflected the question by saying,
The philosopher never asks that question... the philosopher asks of a puzzle, what does it do?  What does life do?  Life takes carbon dioxide and hydrogen, sinks the oxygen into it (it found a way of using the oxygen in photosynthesis) and makes organic molecules.  That’s what life does.  It’s a process.... It’s understanding what it does that matters.
No one asked the follow-up question about what life does: “Does life understand reality in ways that are true, universal, necessary and certain?”  To be consistent, Russell would have to say that scientific explanations also are mere processes that emerged from planetary physics and chemistry.  If so, then maybe scientific explanations are some of the waste products of convection.
It was sad to see an audience of fairly well-educated engineers and scientists take this all in with smiling faces and expressions of rapture.  They laughed at his jokes and gave him hearty applause.  Most of them didn’t seem to notice they were being had by a fast-talking charlatan.  Read our earlier commentary on his previous JPL talk (12/03/2004).
    This lecture was followed a couple of days later by a presentation on a more technical level by a colleague of Russell, Dr. Dieter Braun.  Braun’s goal was to explain how the concentration problem in origin-of-life studies could be solved in geothermal vents.  The concentration problem is how to get enough prebiotic molecules close enough together to interact.  Both Russell and Braun recognized this as a serious problem.  In fact, Russell was emphatic in his talk that the old Miller spark-chamber scenario was unworkable.  The early earth would have had no land, and the ocean surface would have been too turbulent for a thin film of molecules to aggregate, whether delivered by comets or by lightning.  This again illustrates how the genetics-first and metabolism-first parties falsify each other.
    Braun focused only on how thin tubes in hydrothermal vents convect and concentrate molecules – any molecules (in his experiments, he used polystyrene beads).  Like Russell, he glossed over numerous problems along the way.  When faced one-on-one with questions afterward about chirality, harmful cross-reactions, the difficulty of getting essential molecules and keeping unwanted ones out, the origin of ribose for RNA and DNA, the nature of information and information transfer, functional information, probability and other serious matters, all he could do was say he was only trying to show how molecules can be concentrated in a realistic prebiotic environment.  He was lectured that shoving off the miracles for someone else to solve (playing intellectual hot potato) does not necessarily constitute scientific progress.
Next headline on:  Origin of LifeGeologyDumb Ideas
Titan Is Old-Age Problem, Despite News Media Coverage   02/15/2008    
A paper in Geophysical Research Letters1 about Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, reads like a good-news, bad-news joke.  The good news is that Titan appears to have more hydrocarbons than Earth.  The bad news is that it is not enough to save the assumption that Titan is 4.5 billion years old.
    Several science news outlets picked up on the good news part after a press release from Jet Propulsion Lab announced, “Saturn‘s orange moon Titan has hundreds of times more liquid hydrocarbons than all the known oil and natural gas reserves on Earth, according to new data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft.”  Live Science interpreted this to mean, “Titan Has More Oil Than Earth” but only hinted at the age problem.  It’s not really oil as we know it, anyway: it is primarily methane (liquid natural gas, the simplest hydrocarbon CH4) and ethane, the next simplest, plus an assortment of heavier hydrocarbons and nitriles that are solids under Titan conditions.  The large dunes that decorate Titan’s equatorial regions may be partly composed of these solid products of solar photolysis.
    What the science news reporters underplayed was the frustration that planetary scientists are feeling about Titan’s age.  They all believe Titan is as old as Saturn and the rest of the solar system, presumably 4.5 billion years, but Titan’s unusual atmosphere sets severe constraints.  Methane is being eroded at a rapid rate compared to such a timescale.  Scientists estimate that known reserves of methane on Titan would be gone in 100 million years – maybe even 10 million.  So why is there any left?  100 million years sounds like a long time, but is 1/45 the assumed age.  10 million is 1/450th.
    The problem can best be illustrated by quoting what Tobias Owen said in 1999 before Cassini arrived.  (Toby Owen was leader of the team that took the pictures of Titan during the Huygens Probe descent in January, 2005).  In the reputable planetary science textbook The New Solar System (4th ed. Cambridge Press, 1999), written by the world’s leading planetary scientists, he said (p. 280):
Here we have another puzzle: Titan’s methane and hydrogen are constantly being broken apart, with some fragments escaping into space while others form new constituents that condense in the cold atmosphere and precipitate to the surface.  At the present rate of destruction, all of the methane now in the atmosphere will be gone in just a few million years.  This is a tiny period of time compared to the 4.5-billion-year lifetime of the solar system, so there must be a source of methane that replenishes the atmosphere.  Could it be comets?  Volcanoes?  Underground springs?  We simply don’t know.
There’s another problem.  Owen also described what scientists expected to find on the surface under the haze:
One can calculate how much ethane has been produced on Titan over the entire history of the solar system (it is the most abundant byproduct in the photochemical destruction of methane).  The result is that this remarkable moon could be covered by a global ocean of ethane with an average depth of up to several kilometers!
(Ibid., p. 282).  Scientists already knew from earth-based radar observations that this ocean probably did not exist, but were not sure till Cassini began its reconnaissance in 2004 (10/16/2003, 10/28/2004, 12/05/2005).  The Huygens Probe gave them “ground truth” that the surface was dry (01/15/2005, 01/21/2005).  The Cassini Orbiter has now performed 40 flybys of Titan and has mapped about 20% of its surface with radar (next flyby, #41, happens on Feb. 22).  The new paper by Lorenz et al provides the latest reliable status report: is there a source for the methane?  What happened to the ethane ocean?
    The problem is just as severe now as it was in 1999.  To be sure, Cassini did spot some sizable lakes.  A number of dark, flat regions were detected by Cassini radar that are most likely lakes filled with hydrocarbons (water, of course, would be frozen hard as rock at Titan temperatures).  The lakes, however, are restricted to north polar regions (07/24/2006), above 70 degrees latitude; and surprisingly, only a couple of lakes have been found near the south pole so far.  Some of the lakes, several bigger than the Great Lakes or the Caspian Sea, could be 100 meters deep.  Collectively, these lakes could store vast quantities of hydrocarbons (assumed to be primarily liquid methane and ethane), amounting to hundreds of times more than all the natural gas and oil on Earth (assumed to be about 130 billion tonnes).  The scientists gave estimates ranging from 8,000 to 300,000 cubic kilometers of liquid in Titan’s lakes.  Unfortunately, this falls embarrassingly short of Owen’s prediction the whole globe would be submerged in an ocean with an average depth of several kilometers.
    The dunes (03/01/2007, bullet 3), covering 40% of Titan’s equatorial regions, may store some of the hydrocarbons, but it is not clear what they are made of.  The grains might be made primarily of water ice.  Ethane, which should be liquid under surface conditions, is probably not a principal constituent (cf. 10/18/2006).  Assuming they are half ice and half tholins (hydrocarbon-nitrile derivatives), there could be at least 400 times more material than the proven coal reserves on earth.  As astonishing as these numbers are, they still fall short of expectations.  A steady rain of liquid ethane and methane from the atmosphere should have precipitated into deep oceans over 4.5 billion years.  Clearly, it has not.
    Did Cassini find new sources for methane?  Radar images do show some apparent cryovolcanos (06/09/2005).  This means that something appears to erupt from underneath and flow out over the surface in places.  The paucity of impact craters (03/28/2007, bullet 4) also suggests geological activity.  Huygens produced clear images of runoff channels presumed to be drainage from occasional methane cloudbursts.  None of these sources, however, seems adequate to balance the budget and allow withdrawals for billions of years.  If they were, the authors would not have said this:
The total inventory we measure is substantially smaller than the reservoir estimated to be produced throughout the age of the solar system if methane photoloysis were to have occurred continuously at its present rate.  The apparent dearth of material (compared to these model predictions – a summary is given by Lorenz and Lunine [1996], of several hundred meters thickness, or ~107108 km3) may indicate one or more of four things.  First, other undetected organic materials are present, but not morphologically distinct.  It is commonly assumed on the basis of bulk cosmological abundance that Titan’s bedrock is dominated by water ice, but the near-surface may in fact be dominated by organic material.  Furthermore, even at the low latitudes dominated by arid landforms like dunes, the Huygens probe indicated that at least some surface materials are moistened by liquid methane [Lorenz et al., 2006b; Niemann et al., 2005] so some amount of liquid is present (perhaps in very large amounts) beyond the obvious lakeforms.  Second, the photochemical models may not correctly predict the ultimate yields of surface deposits (c.f.  the relative yields of solids and liquids – see next paragraph).  Thirdly, photochemical production may have been interrupted for long periods in Titan’s past if the delivery of methane to the surface was episodic and led to occasional methane depletion.  The identification of cryovolcanic features on the surface [Sotin et al., 2005; Lopes et al., 2007] supports such a picture.  A final more speculative possibility is that some process has destroyed or subducted the deposits, such that they no longer exist at the surface.
Each of the proposed solutions seems ad hoc, invoked only to save the billions-of-years age.  The present is supposed to be the key to the past in typical geological parlance.  Proposing episodes where the observed processes stopped for long periods seems contrived.  Besides, the photochemical destruction of methane is supposed to be irreversible (03/11/2005).  Once ethane rains down, it should stay put and remain liquid.  Cassini found otherwise.  They reiterate the problem:
Finally, the liquid inventory, while extending over a large enough area to permit evaporative fluxes to match photochemical depletion on short timescales [Mitri et al., 2007], is not enough in volume terms to sustain the concentration of this greenhouse gas in the atmosphere on geological timescales.  Put another way, there is an order of magnitude less liquid in the lakes than there is methane in the atmosphere, and photochemical models predict that inventory to be depleted in ~10 Myr [million years].  This makes the present climatic situation somewhat precarious – the observed surface reservoir, even if mostly methane, is unable to buffer the atmospheric methane for long, and unless volcanic resupply matches methane loss at just the right rate, significant climate change is likely in the future and by implication in the past....
In other words, if methane could not have been sustained in the atmosphere for 4.5 billion years, it should have been long gone.  One consequence would be that its greenhouse warming of Titan would also have stopped – leading to a catastrophic condensation of most of the nitrogen to the surface! (01/17/2002).
    If Cassini continues working for several more years, scientists hope to find out if the north polar lakes will migrate to the south as the seasons change and the south pole becomes warmer.  It seems unlikely at this point, though, that vast quantities of the missing liquids will turn up (09/14/2006, 01/09/2007, 11/14/2004).  A positive footnote was sounded by World Net Daily: if oil doesn’t come from dead dinosaurs, maybe Earth has more than we think.
1.  Lorenz et al, “Titan’s inventory of organic surface materials,” Geophysical Research Letters, Vol. 35, L02206, January 29, 2008, doi:10.1029/2007GL032118.
Why do the science reporters ignore the bad news for evolution and long ages?  Here was a falsification of a clear prediction, calculated from the laws of chemistry and physics.  The only rational solution is that Titan is not as old as claimed.  The ethane budget is monstrously short of predictions.  Only trace amounts were found in the atmosphere or on the surface.  The leading planetary scientists who wrote this paper, some of whom have been studying Titan for more than 20 years, are completely baffled and can only offer weird-science explanations that cannot be observed to salvage their long age belief.
    Is this what you hear from the popular science press?  Of course not.  They only mention the fun stuff: “Look at all the gas on Titan – hundreds of times more than earth!” as if we should go fill up our cars there.  And the angle they love most is the L-word Life combined with the E-word Evolution.  Lorenz said, “We are carbon-based life, and understanding how far along the chain of complexity towards life that chemistry can go in an environment like Titan will be important in understanding the origins of life throughout the universe.”  Happy, happy, happy.  Isn’t Fantasyland fun.  Where are you going to get the straight scoop unless you read Creation-Evolution Headlines?  Spread the word: our shortcut address is .
Next headline on:  Solar SystemGeologyDating Methods
Facile Fixes for Fossil Foibles   02/14/2008    
Can biologists see Darwin in the fossils?  Only if they look hard.  Andrew P. Hendry (McGill University) wrote in Nature that Darwin has been there all along; we just weren’t looking right.1
    Hendry argues that our methods of statistically analyzing the fossil record are guaranteed not to see Darwin.  To explain the patterns we see, we shouldn’t use randomness as a null hypothesis.  Positive selection and stabilizing selection should get equal footing.  When we do that, he argues, patterns of Darwinian evolution begin to emerge.
    The example he gave was a sequence of stickleback fish fossils in Nevada that he said go back 21,000 years with 250-year resolution.  When the ancestral sticklebacks invaded freshwater lakes, the story goes, the fish began to lose their characteristic bony armor, because predation was less severe in the new habitat.  Hendry likes this case because it should represent directional evolution.  Using standard statistical methods, however, a team led by Gene Hunt could not eliminate the null hypothesis that the changes were random.  Something must be wrong with our thinking rather than with the fossils.
    But if we start with the presumption that directional selection was acting, aren’t we assuming what needs to be proved?  Hendry deals with this objection, surprisingly, by celebrating the circularity:
Several potential criticisms need to be addressed.  First, Hunt et al. start their analysis at exactly the point in time when each armour trait begins to decrease, which favours a model of initially strong directional selection.  But this choice does not undermine their general conclusion, because the standard methods could not reject randomness even when started at these same times.  Second, the analysis of the stickleback data formally examined only one model of selection – the hybrid directional-stabilizing model they expected beforehand.  The authors are here again stacking the deck for success in confirming selection.  But then this is the point.  Their analysis is akin to a positive control in showing that a new statistical method can infer the correct evolutionary process when that process is almost certain to be acting.
This seems, however, to commit the fallacy of affirming the consequent.  They expect to see positive selection (the new null hypothesis); they see it; therefore, positive selection caused it.
    Does Hendry provide any other examples of the power of this new analytical technique to see Darwin in the fossils?  No.  The rest of the work is in future tense, but we may see him if we discern patterns rightly in what looks like randomness:
The obvious next step is to apply similar thinking to a much larger array of fossil data and evolutionary models.  Doing so will justifiably accelerate the retreat from a ‘one model to rule them all’ vision.  This work will almost certainly generate additional support from fossil sequences for the action of natural selection.  Perhaps more importantly, it will become easier for biologists to accept randomness when random models still receive the most support.  This acceptance, however, needs to be tempered by the realization that selection can certainly generate patterns that look random.  Particularly valuable for all this work will be more fossil data with fine temporal resolution such as that seen in the stickleback samples, because selection can cause noteworthy changes in less than a hundred years.  Ultimately, we might hope for the emergence of general conclusions about the role of natural selection in generating the diversity of life.

1.  Andrew P. Hendry, “Evolutionary biology: Darwin in the fossils,” Nature 451, 779-780 (14 February 2008) | doi:10.1038/451779a.
And here all along you thought the Darwinists already had “general conclusions about the role of natural selection in generating the diversity of life.”  What are they doing now looking for the “emergence” of understanding?  Aren’t they 150 years too late?
    To anyone having their common-sense eyes open, and not brainwashed by Darwiniana, the admissions in this essay are astonishing.  Hendry just admitted that there is no clear evidence for natural selection (Darwin’s grand idea that made him famous and makes his disciples want to force the world to celebrate his birthday) in the fossil record.  The only way to see it is to assume it – circular reasoning.  Hendry tells critics who point this out that “But then this is the point” – we have to assume it or we won’t see it.  You have to concentrate long and hard to divine the Divine Darwin, but he is there, because we have already made up our minds that his blessed image is everywhere.  On top of that, the best case he could produce was a case of loss of structure – fish that have lost their armor.  Would you think that Leonidas is more evolved when he takes his armor off?  Incredible.
    Hendry talked about three kinds of change over time: randomness, stabilizing selection, and directional selection.  Randomness and neutral drift are certainly not going to help Charlie build an eye or a wing.  Stabilizing selection won’t help, either: it only maintains what is there.  This is the kind of selection that produces living fossils and horseshoe crabs that haven’t changed for 445 million years in the evolutionary timescale (see 01/28/2008).  But then, directional selection itself can be up or down.  It was down in the case of these stickleback fish: they lost something they had.  The only kind of directional selection that will help Charlie spin his myth is the kind that would produce an eye or a wing or other new structure by the accumulation of gradual changes caused by random mutations.  If Hendry could have pointed to an example in the fossil record, he surely would have.
    The fact is, Darwinists have known about the lack of evidence for their theory in the fossil record since the book of the bearded Buddha himself.  Darwin devoted nearly a whole chapter in the Origin about it.  He called it perhaps the biggest objection that could be levied against his hypothesis.  He told everyone to just keep looking.  Here we are in 2008 and there are still no examples (but lots of counterexamples).  In any other field of science this would be known as falsification.
    Yet the Darwinists persist.  Nothing stops them from worshiping their Buddha.  They coerce the rest of us to make their cult the state religion in their temples, the public schools.*  Creationists and even non-Darwinian evolutionist skeptics have displayed this little problem with their story for many years, to no avail.  Gish wrote Evolution: the Fossils Say No in 1978.  Many others have said no in the intervening 30 years.  If you won’t listen to a creationist, go back to Richard Owen, a contemporary of Darwin, and follow the bones.  You will find a steady path of secular, non-creationist paleontologists who knew full well, and stated publicly, that one cannot see natural selection in the fossil record: David Raup and Stephen Jay Gould are recent examples.
    When even staunch evolutionists admit this is still a problem after 150 years, why should we put up with the bluff and bluster any more?  You saw what Charlie Marshall, the master of disaster, did with the Cambrian explosion (04/23/2006), and now Hendry has done it here.  They give responses that are circular, irrational and vacuous.  The only transitional forms the Darwinists find in the fossil record are the ones they put there (Piltdown Man, Piltdown Chicken and other hoaxes) or blow out of all proportion (Tiktaalik, Lucy etc.).  The contradictions to molecules-to-man evolution, by contrast, are clear and numerous.
    The only judgment a reasonable person can make about the dogmatic Darwinists who cling to their story and force it on everyone else in spite of the evidence is that they are hardened intellectual criminals.  They should be charged with fraud and drummed out of academia and the science labs.  Replace them with honest researchers who will take an oath to obey the Ninth Commandment, “Thou shalt not bear false witness.”
Next headline on:  FossilsEvolution
*Example from Science this week:
The Florida Board of Education will decide next week whether to approve new science standards that for the first time in the state’s history would require the teaching of evolution.  Nine counties have passed resolutions against the document, saying that evolution is not a proven fact, and two of the eight members of the politically appointed board have spoken out against it.  But scientists say a statewide signature campaign and an endorsement from science curriculum expert Lawrence Lerner of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute in Washington, D.C., which gave the current standards an F in a nationwide assessment, bode well for their cause.  A 19 February vote in favor of the standards would be “a great victory” in keeping creationist ideology out of public schools, says Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education in Oakland, California.
For translation, see Evolution News #1, #2 and #3.  “First time... require the teaching of evolution” – ha!  They have always taught evolution.  What this means is that the Darwin Thought Police not only want to keep creationism out: they want to keep critical examination of the evidence for and against Darwinism out.  Nothing less than pure indoctrination into the cult of Charlie is good enough for the Darwiniacs.  Such a desperate agenda must be energized by powerful evidence, right?  Re-read this entry and hunt for it.
  Father of inflationary cosmology gives triumphant, but fatally flawed, State of the Cosmos address, from 02/21/2005The rest of the story:  the co-author found our commentary and mentioned it in American Scientist: see 11/07/2007.

Fast Protein Fine-Tunes the Ear   02/13/2008    
Remember prestin?  It’s a motor protein in the inner ear, discovered in 2001 (03/27/2001), that acts so fast – within millionths of a second – its discoverers named it after the word “presto!” (02/21/2002).  Scientists have been studying its role as a volume adjuster (07/31/2007) that allows it to amplify sound 10,000-fold (09/19/2002) .  New evidence suggests that prestin also fine-tunes the pitch across the audible range.  A paper on this appeared this week in Current Biology.1
    The human ear responds to volume differences over 12 orders of magnitude – a phenomenal dynamic range, allowing us to hear the faintest whisper of a breeze to the roar of a jet engine.  If the cochlea had the same sensitivity throughout the dynamic range, the result would be literally deafening.  The cochlea has, therefore, both fast-adaptation and slow-adaptation mechanisms to quench overpowering sounds.  An analogy might be to a sound system that instantly cuts off ear-piercing feedback then adjusts the volume level by a slider.  Prestin has been implicated in fast-adaptation.  It stiffens the outer hair cells to prevent loud sounds from blowing them over, but loosens them to respond to gentle vibrations.
    The authors began their abstract, “The remarkable power amplifier of the cochlea boosts low-level and compresses high-level vibrations of the basilar membrane.”  This means your ears have a high-tech device, familiar to audio technicians, called a compressor-limiter.  You’re not hearing what is really “out there” in its raw form.  Your ear is protecting your brain by delivering processed sound.  It automatically turns up the volume on the soft sounds, and turns it down on the loud sounds.
    The authors of this paper agreed that prestin is the prime contender for the power amplifier, but then found something even more amazing: prestin tunes the pitch, too.  They found to their surprise that mice with prestin knocked out were just as sensitive in the high-frequency range – but heard sounds a half-octave too low.  There appears to be a trade-off between volume sensitivity and pitch accuracy that prestin, somehow, solves.  To do this, the motor protein must be able to parse the frequency spectrum of the sound wave.  Here it is in their technical jargon:

We propose that the absence of prestin from OHCs [outer hair cells in the cochlea], and consequent reduction in stiffness of the cochlea partition, changes the passive impedance of the BM [basilar membrane] at high frequencies, including the CF [characteristic frequency].  We conclude that prestin influences the cochlear partition’s dynamic properties that permit transmission of its vibrations into neural excitation.  Prestin is crucial for defining sharp and sensitive cochlear frequency tuning by reducing the sensitivity of the low-frequency tail of the tuning curve, although this necessitates a cochlear amplifier to determine the narrowly tuned tip.

1.  Lagarde, Drexl, Lukashkin, Zuo and Russell, “Prestin’s Role in Cochlear Frequency Tuning and Transmission of Mechanical Responses to Neural Excitation,”
Whatever is going on inside your head, when it works, it works extremely well.  The mechanisms at work to provide such exquisite sensitivity to the tiniest of air vibrations are still being figured out.  This paper shows that the initial models of how prestin works are too simple.  Their experiments on mice with and without prestin “provides further indication that neural tuning is not a direct consequence of BM [basilar membrane] tuning but depends on complex interaction between the various elements of the cochlear partition,” including prestin and the arrangement of the hair cell bundles.
    Everything works as a functional unit.  Did you hear anything about evolution?  We hope not, because they never used the E-word once in their entire paper.  Their language was the lingo of auditory engineering: microphones, characteristic frequencies, amplifiers, compressor-limiters, thresholds, dynamic range and frequency response.  Ask a sound technician if he operates by random mutation and natural selection.  You are likely to get an earful.
Next headline on:  Human BodyPhysicsAmazing Facts
Migrating Birds Measure Longitude   02/13/2008    
Migrating birds are able to get back on course, even when released 1000 km east of their normal migration path.  This shows that long-distance migrating birds are capable of true bicoordinate navigation: the ability to make course corrections both in latitude and longitude.  The results of experiments, published in Current Biology,1 left the researchers baffled: how do they do it?
    Measuring latitude is easy: just judge the height of the sun in the sky.  Longitude (east-west orientation), however, is much more challenging because it requires accurate timekeeping.  The difficulties sailors throughout history had in determining longitude has been described in Dava Sobel’s historical novel Longitude.  Somehow, a team of Russian and German scientists found, birds know the trick.  A flock of migrating Eurasian reed warblers was flown 1000 km to the east of their usual take-off point.  They found their way to their normal nesting ground by shifting their bearing northwest instead of the usual northeast.  “This finding is surprising and presents a new intellectual challenge to bird migration researchers, namely, which cues enable birds to determine their east-west position,” they said.
    However it is accomplished, the skill must be learned, because a previous study by Princeton scientists showed that juvenile birds did not correct for longitude when flown off course (see 11/05/2007).  Still, it is unclear how the birds in this new study pulled it off.  Do they read the stars?  Do they gauge the earth’s magnetic field?  Did they measure their jet lag?  “To show what cues the birds use to determine their east-west location,” they said, “will be a big challenge for researchers in this field in the years to come.
1.  Chernetsov, Kishkinev and Mouritzen, “A Long-Distance Avian Migrant Compensates for Longitudinal Displacement during Spring Migration,” Current Biology, Volume 18, Issue 3, 12 February 2008, Pages 188-190.
Many wonderful and intriguing science projects remain to be performed.  These scientists did not mention evolution and had no need of it.  They saw an amazing phenomenon in present-day, observable nature and sought to understand the design behind it.
Next headline on:  BirdsAmazing Facts
Happy Darwin Day!
What’s your favorite Darwin Day game?  Send in your suggestions.  Examples: pin the peppered moth on the tree, king of the Malthusian hill, just-so storytelling around the campfire, 4-legged Tiktaalik race with flippers on, Social Darwinism Dance, monkey charades, working puzzles with 95% of the pieces missing and only visions of a tree to guide you, Cambrian explosion pinata, sexual selection dating game, experiencing your inner fish (swimming), Dead Dover Dead Dover let Behe come over, sync the molecular clocks, Prisoner’s Dilemma, green beard contest, Red Queen treadmill racing, Escape from Virtue Island, Lava Lamp OOL watching, Evo-Devo Demolition Derby, monkey-typewriter Shakespeare race, etc.  Add to our growing list!
Reader submissions:  Fun with plaster • The Dawkins optical illusion game • Find the missing link • Simon says evolution is a fact • Pin the Tail on the Human • Pull the wings off a Fly • Match the Embryos • Remove the vestigial organ • Duck, duck, finch • Bearded man’s bluff • Who’s your daddy? • Primordial soup tasting • Straw-man campfire & weenie roast • Fictionary • Guess my age • Fitness race • Guess a number between 1 and 10150 • Darwin’s proof shell game • Make a Big Bang (bring your own singularity or gong, whichever is easier) Bell the evolutionist (so you can hear them coming) • Make the sound of one-handed amino acids clapping (No racemization allowed) • Create a tree of life by spraying its branches with invisibility paint • Prune a tree of life leaving only the stump and tips of the branches • Try to get stuffed for zero dollars on No Free Lunches • Change an origami cow into an origami whale without scissors • Co-opt a molecular pump into a molecular motor • Show how a cement truck could have evolved from a tire pump in 4 easy steps or less • Spell ‘Junk DNA’ without using intelligent design • Find the edge of evolution using common sense • Are we having fun yet?  add yours!

Animals from Junk by Chance   02/12/2008    
How to build an animal: throw junk DNA at it.  That seems to be the latest idea on where higher animals came from.  A press release from University of Bristol posted on Science Daily and EurekAlert announced, “‘Junk DNA’ Can Explain Origin And Complexity Of Vertebrates, Study Suggests.”
    The basic idea, coming from scientists at Dartmouth College and University of Bristol, is that a proliferation of micro-RNAs appeared in early vertebrates like lampreys that was “unparalleled in evolutionary history.”  The scientists compared genomes of living fish (sharks and lampreys) and invertebrates like the sea squirt.
    Because micro-RNAs are implicated in higher organisms, the circumstantial evidence convinced them of a correlation: “Most of these new genes are required for the growth of organs that are unique to vertebrates, such as the liver, pancreas and brain,” said Philip Donoghue of Bristol.  “Therefore, the origin of vertebrates and the origin of these genes is no coincidence.
    Dr. Kevin Peterson of Dartmouth put the discovery into a larger context: “This study not only points the way to understanding the evolutionary origin of our own lineage, but it also helps us to understand how our own genome was assembled in deep time.”

There you have it: the Darwin Party buzzwords necessary to make the eyes glaze over: deep time, understanding, evolutionary origin, zzzz.  While you were sleeping you didn’t see the magic tricks.  They threw junk at a sea squirt and poof!  A pancreas emerged!  then a liver!  then a brain!
    So happy Darwin Day.  Stop thinking so hard.  Join the party.  Have some fun.  Get involved in this game – blind man’s bluff.
Next headline on:  EvolutionMarine BiologyGenetics
  Darwin Day 2009 plans began 4 years ago; see 02/13/2004.

Defending Darwin Day   02/11/2008    
Tomorrow is the 199th birthday of Charles Darwin.  The rising anticipation of a big 200th celebration next year prompts a question: why is this man worthy of such hullabaloo more than other scientists?  Why the efforts to make Darwin Day an annual event of international scope?  Kevin Padian undertook to justify all this attention in an essay in Nature,1 entitled, “Darwin’s enduring legacy.”

Perhaps no individual has had such a sweeping influence on so many facets of social and intellectual life as Charles Darwin, born on 12 February 1809.  Of the other two of the great nineteenth-century triumvirate of European thinkers, Marx’s ideas have been distorted beyond recognition in their political execution, and Freud’s approach to the psyche no longer merits scientific recognition.  Neither man had Darwin’s impact on the structure of empirical knowledge.2
Considering how high Marx and Freud rose before their fall into the dustbin of intellectual history, Padian needs to make the case that Darwin is not only the “last man standing” among the triumvirate but deserves to remain as Grand Marshall in an endless parade of scientific thinkers.  “His contributions can scarcely be reduced to a simple list,” Padian disclaims, “but the following ten topics hint at the magnitude of the man’s legacy.”  Each of the items on Padian’s list will be evaluated in the commentary.  They are: (1) Natural selection, (2) One tree of life, (3) Genealogical classification, (4) Selective extinction, (5) Deep time, (6) Biogeographical distributions, (7) Sexual selection, (8) Coevolution, (9) Economy of nature, and (10) Gradual change.
    At the end of the essay, Padian dismissed Darwin’s critics: “It is dismaying, then, to note the rise of anti-evolutionism in recent decades,” he said.  “This is a direct result of the rise of religious fundamentalism, whose proponents feel it necessary to reject modern science on the basis of highly questionable (from mainstream historical and theological viewpoints) readings of sacred texts.”  Padian did not deal with the many non-“fundamentalist” critics of Darwinism, including the 600 scientists with PhDs who signed the Dissent from Darwin statement.  He used a label that is primarily employed these days in a derogatory manner.
    Noting Darwin’s influences not only on science but literature and the humanities, Padian ended with praise for the liberating vision Darwin ushered in for all mankind:
Humans are animals, one species of many on the planet, bound by common ancestry to all other species, part of an ages-old dance of reproduction, accommodation, survival and alteration.
    It is for this vision, one that liberates humans from the conceit of special creation, that Darwin was honoured by interment in Westminster Abbey.  And it is for his innumerable scientific insights, most still as valid and stimulating as the day he coined them, that we look forward to celebrating him next year.
Kevin Padian also appeared in a Darwin Day press release posted on PhysOrg.  The automatic ads, though, included a plug for Ben Stein’s upcoming movie Expelled which documents Darwinian attacks on intelligent design proponents and has a blog entry criticizing Darwin Day, as do Evolution News and Breakpoint.
1.  Kevin Padian, “Darwin’s enduring legacy,” Nature 451, 632-634 (7 February 2008) | doi:10.1038/451632a.
2.  Notice how Padian called it the structure of empirical knowledge, not empirical knowledge itself.  This implies a paradigm shift in philosophy of science – a change in what constitutes ”empirical” knowledge.  Philosopher J. P. Moreland termed Darwin’s revolution a third-order theory change.  It was not simply a change of one theory with another, or a change of one value with another (e.g., elegance over utility).  Darwin’s theory change was a revolution in what constitutes science itself.
Don’t be mesmerized by the rhetoric.  It is to be expected that the Archbishop of Can’tbury Charlie’s Corpse, Kevin Padian, rector of Bestmonster Abbey and former head of the Darwin Party KGB (i.e., the NCSE), would exude great swelling words of vanity for his bearded Buddha.  Did you notice how much of his sermon was religious in nature?  If you expected a scientific defense of Darwinism, you got a mostly anticreationist, humanistic, antitheological rant.  It was necessary to portray Darwin in bold either-or strokes: either stand with Darwin in the parade, or you are condemned as a fundamentalist heretic.  Try that on David Berlinski.
    For Padian’s pitches to count, he has to send them through the science batter box or walk out.  This is Nature after all, reputed to be a “science” journal.  Logically, he also needs to defend several propositions, not just assume them: namely, that the points are germane to Darwinism and nothing else, that Darwin alone dreamed them up, and that they are so supremely important that they are worthy of granting Darwin an international holiday above and beyond the birthdays of all the other greatest philosophers and scientists in history, none of whom, including Einstein, Newton or Maxwell, have anything like Darwin Day.  Good luck, comrade Kevin:
  1. Natural selection: Darwin was co-inventor of this notion, so why no Wallace Day?  Actually, neither discovered it.  Hints of natural selection can be found in Edward Blyth (10/10/2002) and William Paley (12/18/2003) and others as far back as the Greeks.  Even young-earth creationists accept natural selection to a degree (CMI), so big deal.
        Padian admits the flawed associations with Malthus and Spencer, and admits N.S. was rejected till the neo-Darwinian synthesis of the 1930s brought it back with a vengeance.  There exists a staunch minority of biologists who do not consider N.S. the be-all and end-all of evolutionary theory (e.g., 02/16/2005).  Besides, who wins a birthday party for inventing a tautology?  If fitness equates to survival, N.S. is a vacuous idea. 
  2. One tree of life:  Well, of all things.  Look at Padian give good press to Haeckel – a racist hoaxster who “developed enthusiastically” the tree icon.  Then, he assumes that the tree of life was vindicated by “the discovery of genetic structure more than a century after the Origin was published.”  That is, only if one ignores recent findings and sweeps countless difficulties under the rug (02/01/2007, 10/08/2007).  The single tree of life is not a conclusion from inductive reasoning from observation, but rather a paradigm into which all observations must be fitted.  Neither was Darwin the inventor of this ancient notion that goes back to Democritus at least and is part and parcel of some pagan religions.  You know, like Darwinism.
  3. Genealogical classification: Darwin should not have expected taxonomic divisions.  His theory predicts smooth transitions between forms from top to bottom, from simple to complex.  Besides, the ability to arrange assorted items into a taxonomic scheme has no necessary correlation with natural divisions that are “out there” in the world.  Taxonomy is a human enterprise.  Taxonomists try to arrange parts (whether tools, occupations, atoms, or whatever) into compartments that are useful to them.  For Padian to claim that a genealogy-based scheme is somehow better than any philosophical, theological or pragmatic scheme, because it fits his preconceived notion of universal common ancestry, begs the question that evolution is empirical.  Say it is useful to promote materialist religion, but don’t claim it carves nature at its joints.
  4. Selective extinction: Padian knocks down a straw man of the “great chain of being” then explains how selective extinction rescued Darwinism from the evidence: “the living world [i.e., the observations] is a patchwork of possible forms, with most transitional stages and features removed.”  And you thought science was supposed to be about what you could see.
  5. Deep time: Darwin did not invent deep time.  Aristotle believed in an eternal universe.  Enlightenment anti-Christians before Darwin thought in terms of misty depths of prehistory: Comte du Buffon, Hutton, Lamarck and others.  Why should Charlie get credit for begging the question?  Darwin needed deep time, so he assumed it.  Look at this marvelous example of chicanery:
    True, Lord Kelvin’s calculated limits on solar duration nonplussed many supporters of Deep Time, but Darwin was not cowed by physics, because he knew the rocks.  Deep Time was absolutely necessary to his theory, in a way that it had not been for any biological theory before.  It was no longer possible to accept that Earth was 6,000 years old, as some Biblical scholars estimated.
    Stand in amazement at this admission.  Mr. Darwin was not cowed by physics.  Well, he should have been!  Lord Kelvin had him pinned and he refused to cry uncle (07/02/2007).  What kind of scientific attitude is that?  Deep Time was an escape, a hidden fortune where he could make reckless drafts on the bank of time.
        Darwin “knew the rocks,” we are told.  Ever see a rock with a date on it?  Rock ages are interpreted, students, not discovered.  Rocks were dubbed ancient, and it was no longer possible to accept a young earth, for one reason alone: “Deep Time was absolutely necessary to his theory.”  It does not follow that the Earth needed Deep Time.  By force of propaganda and group-think, Darwin and his musketeers rode a wave of Victorian materialist progressivism and rising dissatisfaction with organized religion (some of it deserved), redefined science and took over the institutions of learning.  Since then, the Darwin Thought Police have enforced their totalitarian doctrines.  That is why it is no longer possible to think outside the paradigm.
  6. Biogeographical distributions: For Padian to score with this pitch, he needs to prove that nobody else with any other theory could accommodate the observations.  He simply asserts that “Only evolutionary adaptation and dispersal could account for such patterns” and that “the distributions of plants and animals are not serendipitous patterns or whims of a Creator.”  This is a collection of hot air balloons wrapped in a straw man pinata.  Maybe he should read the Creation Research Society Quarterly.  The claim that plate tectonics confirmed Darwin’s theory is like the claim that Marx predicted Al Qaeda.  Padian should read up on the philosophy of science, particularly in regard to scientific justification.
  7. Sexual selection: This idea is somewhat original to Darwin, but is not without controversy (05/17/2004).  Furthermore, since it concerns microevolutionary change, it is not germane to his philosophy of universal common ancestry.
  8. Coevolution: Padian discusses long-tongued moths that pollinate orchids with long corollas (11/11/2007 commentary, bullet 13), parasites and symbiosis and “many other associations that can only reasonably be explained by co-evolution through diversification over millions of years.”  We don’t need Padian to lecture us on what is reasonable.
        How does Padian know that microevolutionary changes required millions of years?  How does he know that these observations fit Darwin, the whole Darwin, and nothing but the Darwin?  He needs more research on scientific justification of theories.  Claiming that co-evolution confirms evolution is like claiming that theories of the unconscious confirm psychoanalysis or horoscopes prove astrology.
  9. Economy of nature: Did Darwin invent ecology?  Certainly not.  Great thinkers and scientists from Greeks to medieval scholars were not blind to the interactions of plants and animals.  Calling Darwin the father of ecology is like calling Freud the father of dream theory – as if he were the only one who dreamt about it.  All Darwin did was change the vision: “What had been, for earlier authors, the divinely ordained balance of nature became the autocatalytic war of nature.”  If you want to believe that, worship in the mosque of Darwin, but don’t call it science.
  10. Gradual change: Padian spends a lot of time defending Darwin here in a most unusual way: he tries to prove that gradual doesn’t really mean gradual.  Darwin can still be reconciled with punctuated equilibria (or punk eq, you know, the punk who goes around making gradualists squeal “Eek!”).  But in Charlie’s own blessed words, he said, “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.”  Aside from the fact that Charlie’s rhetorical ploy put the onus on his critics to prove a universal negative and opened the door for endless just-so stories by his disciples (12/22/2003), it is clear that by gradual, King Charles meant really gradual.
Displaying his collection of non-sequiturs and big lies and half-truths and glittering generalities and irrelevant details on the table, Padian ends by acknowledging that there have been other great scientists, but Darwin is so precious and special we should all bow down and worship:
But Darwin moved intellectual thought from a paradigm of untestable wonder at special creation to an ability to examine the workings of that natural world, however ultimately formed, in terms of natural mechanisms and historical patterns.  He rooted the classification of species within a single branching tree, and so gave systematics a biological, rather than purely philosophical, rationale.  He framed most of the important questions that still define our understanding of evolution, from natural selection to sexual selection, and founded the main principles of the sciences of biogeography and ecology.  His work is still actively read and discussed today, inspiring new students and scientists all over the world.  Few authors can claim so much.
That paragraph is so corrupted with incestuous illogic and irrelevant appropriation of concepts not unique to Darwinism, only a gullible nitwit would be convinced that Charlie deserves Darwin Day.  This reads like Party propaganda defending reasons why Lenin’s corpse is displayed in public so that the peasants can file by it in reverence, while the Party troops parade alongside the big guns with the subliminal message “Don’t stray out of line.”  This list could not stand up to critical scrutiny from scientists or philosophers not already pledged to DODO (Darwin Only, Darwin Only).
    Darwin may have been a polite English gentleman, but he was a loser who deserves to buried alongside his buddies Freud and Marx.  His ideas have inhibited real science for 149 years with endless quests for the ultimate just-so story, and have energized proponents of eugenics, abortion, racism and social Darwinism.  His disciples today have no conscience about playing God with human embryos.  Science doesn’t need him, medicine doesn’t need him, and politics doesn’t need him.  Let the dead bury their dead.  Shed some tears on Darwin Day for all the harm he and his followers caused (11/30/2005).  Then, for goodness’ sake, let’s get on into the 21st century – the century of intelligent design.
Next headline on:  Darwinism
Something is Cooking Under Enceladus   02/09/2008    
Planetary scientists have been puzzling over Enceladus, a small moon of Saturn, since geysers were discovered erupting from its south pole three years ago.  Some models suggested that eruptions could occur without liquid water, but others were not sure.
    Opinion now seems to be shifting back to the necessity of a wet interior, according to a press release from JPL.  The Cosmic Dust Analyzer instrument (CDA) aboard Cassini measured ice grains that seem to require a hot interior (see paper in Nature1).  “The large number of ice particles observed spewing from the geysers and the steady rate at which these particles are produced require high temperatures, close to the melting point of ice, possibly resulting in an internal lake,” the article says.
    The observed velocity of the particles, also, requires sufficient energy for them to be launched so far and so fast.  The ice-vapor mixture jets out of the south-polar cracks at supersonic jet speeds: 500 meters per second, or 1,100 miles per hour.  For the larger particles to remain accelerated to escape velocity as they ricochet off the walls, vapor must re-accelerate them on the way out, scientists figure.  Only about 10% of the particles actually escape to feed the E-ring.  Much of the rest falls back onto Enceladus, coating it with fresh ice and making it the brightest object in the solar system.
    The influence of this little moon on the whole Saturn system is astonishing.  Not only do the geysers create the vast E-ring, a torus of micron-size particles extending from the G-ring to the orbit of Rhea, the ionized gas also creates a drag on the magnetosphere and distorts our measurements of Saturn’s rotation.  Another JPL press release this week announced another surprise: Enceladus is feeding the main rings, too.
This is the latest surprising phenomenon associated with the ice geysers of Enceladus to be discovered or confirmed by Cassini scientists.  Earlier, the geysers were found to be responsible for the content of the E-ringNext, the whole magnetic environment of Saturn was found to be weighed down by the material spewing from Enceladus, which becomes plasma -- a gas of electrically charged particles.  Now, Cassini scientists confirm that the plasma, which creates a donut-shaped cloud around Saturn, is being snatched by Saturn’s A-ring, which acts like a giant sponge where the plasma is absorbed.
How long has this been going on?  How long could it go on?  Neither press release discussed these questions.
    The Cassini team and planetary scientists around the world are looking ahead eagerly for the closest flyby ever of Enceladus next month.  On March 10, Cassini will speed by this moon just 100 miles above the surface at closest approach, and then perform a daring maneuver: flying through the outer edge of the plume.  This will allow Cassini’s instruments to actually “taste” the plume material.  If successful, Cassini will try even closer encounters with the plume in future passes.  Come back here on March 10-11 for the latest news on this long-awaited, nail-biting, closest encounter ever.
1.  Schmidt, Brilliantov, Spahn, and Kempf, “Slow dust in Enceladus’ plume from condensation and wall collisions in tiger stripe fractures,” Nature 451, 685-688 (7 February 2008) | doi:10.1038/nature06491.
How can this little moon, no bigger across than the British Isles, put out so much energy?  How long can it pump out so much material?  Why is it still so hot inside?  The scientists never think to question the assumed age of the Saturn system (4.5 billion years), but then struggle to deal with what they cannot deny: the observations.
    Most of the time, the press releases talk matter-of-factly about the assumed billions of years.  They get strangely silent about time issues, though, as more detail is presented about Enceladus and Titan.
    This is similar to how evolutionary biologists behave.  Evolutionary theory thrives on glittering generalities.  The more detail about the intricacy of the cell, DNA and other high-tech wonders in biology, the quieter the Darwin-talk gets.
Next headline on:  Solar SystemDating Methods
Did Birds Evolve Aeronautical Engineering?   02/08/2008    
Two news stories on birds may not seem to flock together.  One is about their supreme aeronautical engineering.  The other ponders when they evolved.
    A story on EurekAlert and Science Daily describes how engineers are eyeing birds, bats and insects for design ideas.  The appeal is clear from the following comparisons:
A Blackbird jet flying nearly 2,000 miles per hour covers 32 body lengths per second.  But a common pigeon flying at 50 miles per hour covers 75.  The roll rate of the aerobatic A-4 Skyhawk plane is about 720 degrees per second.  The roll rate of a barn swallow exceeds 5,000 degrees per second.
    Select military aircraft can withstand gravitational forces of 8-10 G.  Many birds routinely experience positive G-forces greater than 10 G and up to 14 G.
It seems audacious, therefore, that humans name their aircraft after birds.  In many ways, a blackbird is top gun over a Blackbird, and a skyhawk rolls circles around a Skyhawk.  No barnstormer could match a barn swallow for daring.  Human aircraft may reach higher speeds and carry heavier masses, but in terms of flight control, they seem stuck at the dodo stage.
    Wei Shyy, an aeronautical engineer, admires animal flyers.  “They’re not only lighter, but also have much more adaptive structures as well as capabilities of integrating aerodynamics with wing and body shapes, which change all the time.” He added, “Natural flyers have outstanding capabilities to remain airborne through wind gusts, rain, and snow.”  That’s why he is studying the possibilities of using flapping wings for aircraft.  Imitating the ability of natural wings to deform quickly might allow pilots to “delay stall, enhance stability and increase thrust.”  The unsteady pace of flapping flight gives the animal the ability to adapt quickly to wind gusts and changing conditions.  The engineer marvelled at a dragonfly’s ability to stay on course in the wind, considering how light it is.  He didn’t even mention that these flyers can all reproduce themselves and use environmentally friendly fuel.
    Meanwhile, in a different thought collective, evolutionary biologists are puzzling over the timing of bird evolution.  Live Science, PhysOrg and Science Daily say that the consensus used to be that modern birds evolved from dinosaurs late in the Cretaceous.  Now, however, researchers at three universities have announced a fight on the date.  Their reanalysis “offers the strongest molecular evidence yet for an ancient origin of modern birds, suggesting that they arose more than 100 million years ago, not 60 million years ago, as fossils suggest.”  In other words, the fossil record and the inferences from molecular evolution have yielded “conflicting results.”  They explained the difference by appealing to the paucity of the fossil record and the realization that the molecular clock is unreliable.  Joseph Brown explained the problem, “different lineages can ‘tick’ at different rates, so applying a single rate to an entire tree could lead to very suspect results.”  This was described as the “rock-clock gap.”
Did the evolutionary fluff give you as much a thrill as the engineering article?  Engineers are forward-thinking scientists.  They use evidence that is observable, testable and repeatable.  They are continuing the practice of the Wright brothers who were inspired by birds over a hundred years ago – and look where that science has led mankind.  We have just seen that even now, after a century of human aeronautical engineering that has taken us from awkward contraptions to the edge of space, our bird, bat and insect neighbors still have wonderful secrets to share.  Isn’t design science of much more value, inspiration and usefulness than a silly story about some lizard that held out its arms 100 million years ago (01/25/2008) and, strictly by chance, mastered pitch, yaw and roll?  Let’s get science back from flights of fancy to a wing and a prayer.
Next headline on:  BirdsPhysicsBiomimeticsEvolutionAmazing Facts
Indebted to Darwin   02/07/2008    
Britain’s Food Standards Agency is concerned about diminishing fish stocks and is asking citizens to consume less, reported The Telegraph.  This can only mean one thing, thinks Ulf Dieckmann (International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria): it’s come time to pay the piper.  Who is the piper, you ask?  Answer: Charles Darwin.
Dr Dieckmann said: “It was thought that these changes would only occur over millennia.  But it is becoming clear that significant evolution can take place within 20 years if the forces driving it are strong – and in fisheries they have been.”
    Dr Dieckmann said that evolution caused by over-fishing took a longer [sic] to recover from than it did to cause: if the Barents Sea was closed to fishermen, it would take 250 years for cod to return to spawning at 10 years old.
    “This is a Darwinian debt that will have to be paid back by future generations,” he added.
    Dr Dieckmann said evolution caused by commercial fisheries had played an overlooked part in the collapse of the Northern cod off Newfoundland in 1992, the most disastrous crash yet of a major commercial fish species.
    He said that from 1985 a downward trend in the size of spawning cod was detectable off [sic] and should have led to “a more precautionary approach” in setting catch quotas.
Greenpeace is involved in this campaign, too, the article says.  The row has provoked a backlash by fisherman who are blasting the “Madness of Greenpeace.”  Either Dr. Dieckmann was calling the fisherman blind and random, or the changes (actually a trend toward extinction, not evolution) were caused by their presumably intelligent and purposeful actions.  The concept of a “Darwinian debt” also seems fishy.  Does it apply only to humans?  Or do fish also have to pay Darwin for what they overconsume, and so on down the food chain?
    Rotate the globe over to Croatia.  Scientists there are gearing up for the big Darwin Day celebrations a year from now.  In a letter to Nature,1 Jasmina Muzini (ornithologist at the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts) wrote that his country has felt left behind.  Not to worry: he and his colleagues have started to make sure Darwin gets a big ovation in 2009.
Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species and The Descent of Man have at last been translated into Croatian, thanks to the work of the renowned science and theology translator Josip Balabanic.  Other European countries –including Denmark, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Russia and Sweden – had access to Darwin’s works in their mother tongue during his lifetime.  But it was not until this year that Croatian students of biology could read them in their own language.
    Religious education was introduced in elementary schools during the early years of Croatian independence, and ethics and the major world religions are now studied in high school.  At the same time, the importance of evolution for modern biology and medicine is publicly acknowledged by science academies and societies – in the spirit of your Editorial ‘Spread the word’ (Nature 451, 108; doi:10.1038/451108b 2008).
    Croatia aspires to join the group of countries in which education and science occupy prime positions in national strategies, and recognizing the influence of Darwin’s writings is an important step in that direction.  Celebrations of the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth on 12 February next year, possibly at the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, will have particular significance for Croatians.

1.  Correspondence, Nature 451, 627 (7 February 2008) | doi:10.1038/451627c.
You didn’t realize you owe a debt to Darwin.  Are you behind in your payments?  Better not go into default.  His collection agency is red in tooth and claw.
    If people accelerate evolution, such that things happen in 20 years that they used to think required thousands of years, great; let’s accelerate evolution on fruit flies and see if we can get them to evolve into mammals.  On second thought....
    The Croatian suck-up to Charlie is so obsequious, you’d think they be embarrassed, but no: they are proud of their shame.  Cub Scouts have Webelos, which stands for “We’ll be loyal scouts.”  The Croatians have announced a new order for young wannabees in the Darwin Party axis of evil: the Webelodos, which stands for “We’ll be loyal Darwinist operatives.”  The motto of the Webelodos is DODO! DODO! (translation: see 02/15/2006, 02/17/2006 and 02/24/2006).  OK; whatever.
Next headline on:  Marine BiologyEvolutionDumb Ideas
  A model train set inside your body: read 02/25/2003.

Of All the Nerve: Functional Intron Discovered   02/06/2008    
An intron vital to the production of nerve cells has been discovered, reported Science Daily.  It acts as a “gatekeeper” to guide the messenger RNA for local control of gene expression in dendrites, the spindly arms of neurons.  The discovery was made by a research team at University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
    “The group surmises that the intron may control how many mRNAs are brought to the dendrite and translated into functional channel proteins,” the article says.  “The correct number of channels is just as important for electrical impulses as having a properly formed channel.
    Introns had long been assumed to be junk that the spliceosome cuts out of a transcribed messenger RNA.  The team found that knocking out the intron in this case, however, produced abnormal electrical properties in the nerve cells.  “This is the first evidence that an intron-containing RNA outside of the nucleus serves a critical cellular function,” said James Eberwine, senior author.
    Eberwine also added this comment: “Just because the intron is not in the final channel protein doesn’t mean that it doesn't have an important purpose.”  In fact, the article says, they may have hit on a general mechanism for the regulation of RNAs.
    The treasures being found in “junk DNA” are good for business.  A company named Rosetta Genomics is hoping to cash in on the new discoveries to be made about micro-RNAs (miRNA).  Noting the steep rise in articles about treasure in junk DNA, reporter Ohad Hammer said, “Rosetta Genomics’ impressive pipeline, unparalleled discovery capabilities and intellectual property make it one of the most exciting biotech companies out there.”
    Those interested in more technical detail about introns and alternative splicing may find revealing new ideas about intron function in a paper published by a team of European scientists in Nature last month,1 “Translational control of intron splicing in eukaryotes.”  The abstract says, for example, “In multicellular eukaryotes, long introns are recognized through exon definition and most genes produce multiple mRNA variants through alternative splicing.”

1.  Jaillon et al, Translational control of intron splicing in eukaryotes,” Nature 451, 359-362 (17 January 2008) | doi:10.1038/nature06495.
They also serve who only stand and wait –John Milton.  These introns should not have been assumed to be junk, even if all they did was stand and wait.  Apparently they are doing much more than that.
    For background on the mystery of introns, see 05/27/2004 commentary, 09/03/2002 and 09/12/2002 entries and 09/12/2003 update.
Next headline on:  Genetics
Are Long-Term Climate Models Trustworthy?   02/05/2008    
Everything from global warming policy to evolutionary history depends on long-term climate models.  Textbooks make it seem like earth keeps reliable recordings that allow scientists to simply read off the record of years, decades, centuries, millennia and millions of years objectively.  It’s not that simple, wrote Maureen E. Raymo and Peter Huybers in Nature last month.1  There’s an embarrassing amount of interpretation required.
    “Much progress has been made towards understanding what caused the waxing and the waning of the great ice sheets,” they began optimistically, “but a complete theory of the ice ages is still elusive.”  They recounted the history of theorizing about earth history, from Agassiz to Milankovitch and beyond.  Milankovitch, for instance, presented evidence that periodic orbital variations coincided with ice ages.  Scientists became convinced that earth history was decipherable with “proxy climate records” such varying ratios of oxygen isotopes, thickness of ice layers and sediments, and others.
    One serious question that arises, though, is how far back it is legitimate to extrapolate cycles that are only observable within short periods:
The climate physics and chemistry that are best understood are mainly attuned to processes that occur at daily to interannual timescales.  Are the important factors that regulate climate over centennial and longer timescales known?  When a climate model is stepped forward, by minutes or days at a time, for hundreds or thousands of years, are the final results realistic?  Climate scientists still do not understand how the subtle shifts in insolation at the top of the atmosphere are converted into massive changes in the ice volume on the ground.
It seems reckless, therefore, to speak with confidence about patterns covering vast epochs of time.  Even assuming the long-term cycles carry valid information, the trouble is, the clocks don’t always agree.  Getting the clocks to tick together is an exercise in frustration.  Here’s an example:
To tackle these problems, some researchers have turned to a time when glaciation seems to have been relatively straightforward.  The glacial cycles of the late Pliocene to early Pleistocene (~13 million years ago) were more regular than those of the late Pleistocene, typically lasting about 41,000 years (Fig. 1a), which matches the period of change in Earth’s tilt (Fig. 1b).  But how is the lack of variability with respect to precession explained?  Precession, which occurs mainly at 23,000-year and 19,000-year intervals, is the orbital component that most influences summer insolation intensity (Fig. 1c).  Indeed, precession is clearly observed in the ice-volume and sea-level records for the past 700,000 years.  The few computer models that have been used to study the climate history of the late Pliocene to early Pleistocene also show a strong precession signal in the modelled ice volume.  Are these climate models missing a fundamental piece of climate or ice-sheet physics, or are the assumptions about ice-volume proxies, such as delta-18 O[xygen], flawedBoth are possibilities.
The authors discussed several of the modern approaches to tweak parameters and data sets to arrive at some measure of conformity.  The end result leaves a question whether the model is being massaged to fit the data, or vice versa.  What are they really measuring?  What do they really know?  Their final paragraph leaves more questions than answers.
.... It could be that the East and West Antarctic ice sheets have had a far more dynamic history than has been thought.
    It is widely accepted that variations in Earth’s orbit affect glaciation, but a better and more detailed understanding of this process is needed.  How can the 41,000-year glacial cycles of the early Pleistocene be explained, let alone the ~100,000-year glacial cycles of the late Pleistocene?  How do the subtle changes in insolation relate to the massive changes in climate known as glacial cycles?  And what are proxy climate records actually measuring?  The field now faces these important questions, which are made all the more pressing as the fate of Earth’s climate is inexorably tied to the vestige of Northern Hemisphere glaciation that sits atop Greenland, and to its uncertain counterpart to the south.
Similar quandaries about earth science were expressed by Caltech geologist David J. Stevenson in a supplemental article in the same issue of Nature.2  A search on the number of times he uses the word “However” is illuminating.  Some examples:
  • The remarkable growth in the study and understanding of Earth has happened in parallel with a spectacular era of planetary exploration, relevant astronomical discoveries and computational and theoretical advances, all of which help us to place Earth and its interior in a perspective that integrates the Earth sciences with extraterrestrial studies and basic sciences such as condensed-matter physics.  However, progress on the biggest challenges in understanding the deep Earth continues to rely mainly on looking down rather than looking up.
  • Almost a billion bodies 10 km in diameter would be needed to make an Earth.  However, it is not thought likely that planetesimals were the actual building blocks of Earth.  A dense swarm of such bodies in nearly circular low-inclination orbits is gravitationally unstable on a short timescale.
  • The picture [of the origin of the moon by an impact, followed by transfer of material between Earth and the disk] was originally motivated by a desire to understand the remarkable similarity of Earth and Moon oxygen isotopes but also finds support in tungsten and possibly silicon isotopic evidence.  However, we do not yet have a fully integrated model of lunar formation that is dynamically satisfactory as well as chemically acceptable.
  • We understand why Earth’s mantle convects: there is no alternative mechanism for eliminating heat.  However, we do not understand why Earth has plate tectonics.
In a third paper in the Nature supplement on geology,3 Phillip A. Allen (Imperial College, London) made the following comment: “We are right to be suspicious of oversimplistic interpretation of the ‘structure’ found in the large number of time-series records that geology throws up,” he said.  The possible allusion to barfing may be intentional.  In his paper about sediment routing systems, he also made the following two statements that cast doubt on the ability of present-day scientists to be sure of anything about the past.
  • Ideally, we would know all of the physical and chemical processes governing the sediment-routing system.  This would be enormously gratifying in trying to understand how sediment-routing systems function generically, but we would immediately run into a fundamental problem: the long result of time.  Time transforms sediment-routing systems into geology, and like history, selectively samples from the events that actually happened to create a narrative of what is recorded.  Progress in understanding modern sediment-routing systems now leaves us poised to answer the important question: how do we simultaneously use the modern to generate the time-integrated ancient, and ‘invert’ the ancient to reveal the forcing mechanisms for change in the past?
  • Let us take the example of the effects of cyclic glaciation, a mode of response to cyclic climate changes that Earth has experienced in the past few million years (see page 284).  To build a numerical landscape-evolution model for times of glaciation we would need to know the sliding velocity of ice by solution of a chosen ice-dynamics equation, a proportionality constant in the ice-erosion equation that depends on the underlying rock type, a rheological law relating ice deformation to local stress, a model for ice accumulation and ablation, and knowledge of the temperature at the base of the ice.  This might work theoretically by making a large number of assumptions, but the resulting model would be impossible to use in a simulation of Quaternary landscapes.  Why?  Because the necessary parameter values to inform a long-term landscape model are not currently available, and perhaps never will be.  This humbling realization does not denigrate the efforts of modellers working at the human timescale, but instead prompts us to think afresh about what is required for success with upscaled [i.e., extrapolated] models.
        It is not immediately obvious that the factors controlling a long-term response may be different from those controlling local processes.
  • Allen hoped that interdisciplinary conversations might help shed light on Earth history, but that last sentence sounds like a repudiation of Lyell’s long-esteemed principle of uniformitarianism, “the present is the key to the past.”
    1.  Maureen E. Raymo and Peter Huybers, “Unlocking the mysteries of the ice ages,” Nature 451, 284-285 (17 January 2008) | doi:10.1038/nature06589; Published online 16 January 2008.
    2.  David J. Stevenson, “A planetary perspective on the deep Earth,” Nature 261-265 (17 January 2008) | doi:10.1038/nature06582.
    3.  Phillip A. Allen, “From landscapes into geological history,” Nature 451, 274-276 (17 January 2008) | doi:10.1038/nature06586.
    The textbooks don’t tell you how much of natural history is more art than science.  What are the proxy records actually measuring?  How do the orbital explanations translate to actual changes on earth’s surface?  In short, how do they know what they say they know?  It’s nice when the insiders raise the questions.
        Remember, correlation is not the same thing as causation.  Theories are always underdetermined by the data.  There could be very different causes for the observed effects.  These authors maintained a spirit of progressivism in spite of the serious questions they asked.  Earth has no obligation to abide by the current consensus.  For a shocker, read what global warming skeptic Alexander Cockburn thinks of consensus and “scientific” peer review.
        TV documentaries and textbooks often dress up the currently-favored models with glitzy visuals that convey an air of certainty.  Years later, a scientific revolution overturns the paradigm and tosses the old theory out.  So much for the visuals.
        When you watch documentaries, view museum displays or read popular science reports presenting confident-sounding dates of ice ages, etc., remember this little glimpse into the drafting room these insiders gave us.  You’re not watching reality in those programs.  You are watching paradigms.  Like glaciers, paradigms shift, melt, advance, retreat, and sometimes go slip-slidin’ away.
    Next headline on:  GeologyDating MethodsSolar SystemPhysics
    SETI Signals Could Be Loaded with Information   02/04/2008    
    Unusual properties of electromagnetic waves allow for a higher carrying capacity of information than thought.  SETI researcher Seth Shostak reported on that Swedish researchers have found a possible “subspace channel” in the orbital angular momentum of narrowband radio waves that might allow the encoding of information.  This information would be impervious to the jumbling across space that hampers wide-band communications.
        SETI has typically considered narrow-band waves incapable of coding more than very simple, short messages.  “While such monotonic messages may seem to be elementary and devoid of much information,” he said, “they could be laden with additional, hidden complexity.”  (For another example of hidden signal in the art world, see this story by Science Daily).  If researchers can decode this kind of steganography (information hidden in plain sight), SETI signals could be loaded with information – a galactic wi-fi, as Shostak dubbed it.  “A simple signal may only be a cipher for a more complex message, and there may be more things in heaven and earth than even Maxwell had dreamt of,” Shostak said, referring to the electromagnetic wave theory proposed by James Clerk Maxwell in 1861.
        Speaking of radio waves, Beatle fans got NASA to go along with an anniversary celebration of sorts.  At 4:00 p.m. on February 4, the Deep Space Network beamed the song “Across the Universe” written by John Lennon 40 years ago to the day (also the 50th anniversary of the founding of NASA).  A JPL Press release accompanied the occasion.  One fan even created a special website for it; even Wikipedia was quickly updated.  A proud Paul McCartney said, “Send my love to the aliens” and Lennon’s widow Yoko Ono said, “I see that this is the beginning of the new age in which we will communicate with billions of planets across the universe.”
    Good; beam it into space where no one has to listen to it.  The mishmash of meaning in Lennon’s meandering lyrics is incoherent and anti-rational.  The song has nothing to do with astronomy.  It pushes Transcendental Meditation while repeating, over and over, “Nothing’s gonna change my world.”  Is this the kind of scientific attitude NASA really wants to promulgate?  What does it mean?  We no longer have to worry about global warming?  The Beatles don’t understand the second law of thermodynamics?  Saying something 12 times doesn’t make it so.
        NASA should be teaching kids physics and engineering instead of encouraging them to follow the 60's countercultural slogan, “tune in, turn on, drop out.”  The space program of the future needs sober-minded, bright students who have higher values than sex, drugs and rock-n-roll, and who believe smarter things than to chant meaningless mantras given by a charlatan guru like the Maharishi.  (Sorry, we wrote this before hearing he had just died.  There is no pleasure in the death of the wicked.)
        As for SETI in the other direction, it is interesting that Shostak (an ardent evolutionist and critic of intelligent design) acknowledges the information-bearing capacity of electromagnetic signals from unknown minds.  A natural EM wave contains no purposeful communication.  If a carrier signal is present, information can be impressed on it through amplitude modulation (AM) or frequency modulation (FM), or now by orbital angular momentum modulation.  In any case, the information is detectable if one has the key.  Without the key it looks like gibberish.  Shostak’s article exposes the lie of his December 2005 article that claimed all they were looking for is a persistent narrowband whistle.  Despite his objections, his new article has intelligent design written all over it.
        Read up on the life of James Clerk Maxwell, a towering giant among scientists, and a fervent Christian.
    Next headline on:  SETIIntelligent DesignPhysics
      Biologists may be deluding themselves about the power of natural selection – so says an evolutionary biologist, from 02/16/2005.

    Beat the Crowds: Go Outdoors   02/04/2008    
    Fewer people are feeling close to nature, said a report on PhysOrg.  According to a study done by Oliver Pergams (U of Illinois) and Patricia Zaradic (Environmental Leadership Program, Pennsylvania), a decline in visitation at national parks corresponds to an increase in sedentary activities like playing video games, surfing the Internet and watching movies.  They see a fundamental shift away from nature and toward “videophilia” – an unhealthy trend, being associated with obesity, lack of socialization, attention disorders and poor academic performance.
        Statistics they gathered showed declines over the past 70 years in outdoor activity.  For instance, in the decade from 1981 to 1991, there was a drop of up to 1.3 percent per year in outdoor activities such as backpacking, fishing, hiking, hunting, and visits to national and state parks and forests.  Since then, the typical drop has been 18-25 percent, the article states.
        The researchers are worried about another consequence: less interest in conservation.  “We don’t see how future generations, with less exploration of nature, will be as interested in conservation as past generations,” they said.

    There was never a better time to Escape to Reality than now.  While everyone else is having a mythical second life, get out into creation – you’ll have it all to yourself!
        One thing the states and the federal government could do is to lower fees.  Camping used to be a very economical activity.  For many years, park entrance fees were either $5 or even zero.  Now, it is typical to pay $20 or more, with more restrictions on where you can go and what you can do.  Campground fees used to be in the $3 to $5 range per night; now they are typically $17 to $20 and up.  National forests and wilderness areas also put steep fees and quotas on backpackers.  Fishing licenses and hunting tags are astronomical.  It becomes unattractive for would-be woodsmen to pay a high annual fee for just one or two expeditions into the wild.  America has become the land of the fee and the home of depraved video addicts.
        The high prices for recreation would not be necessary if governments would cut back on wasteful socialist programs and pork-barrel projects.  They would probably find that lower fees at parks would also attract visitors and actually increase revenues.  Governments need to realize that the land belongs to the people, not to the Capitol.  The power to tax is the power to destroy.  Taxes and fees drive away participation.  In recent years, governments have even charged fees (badly named “adventure passes”) for merely parking your car in a national forest so you can take a walk in the woods.  What on earth do they think they are doing?  If they are concerned about declining visitation to nature reserves and lack of interest in conservation, who is to blame?  The main critics of the adventure pass laws were the backpackers, hikers and fishermen who were most likely to appreciate and conserve the land.
        In their defense, park management districts are having to deal with increased litter, carelessness with fire, crime in the parks, the cost of rescues due to carelessness, and litigation from sue-happy campers.  This hurts everyone.  It becomes easier for the parks to prohibit everybody from doing anything.  In one national park, for instance, a popular swimming hole on a creek is now off limits.  The trail to it was covered, and the rangers refuse to tell anyone where it is.  Why?  Too many careless people would go over there and fool around, get hurt, require a rescue, and sue the park.  No wonder park rangers often feel they are trapped in a no-win situation.
        One solution might be for the government to certify hikers according to knowledge and ability.  The one-size-fits-all policy, essentially “if an obese elderly person in a wheelchair can’t do it, then nobody can do it,” is very frustrating to eager, fit, knowledgeable outdoorspeople.  Private conservation groups could offer courses that the government could approve, allowing the park visitor to earn a passport-like identification that would allow additional access to park resources.  Certificates could be stratified according to risk level, from beginner to advanced: day hiker to ice climbers or cave explorers.  The courses could include conservation ethics, survival skills, filing of trip plans and affidavits of personal responsibility.  This would filter out the careless but allow the knowledgeable to enjoy the freedom all Americans once took for granted.  Undoubtedly it would attract young people to learn the skills needed to get to the highest level – like the appeal to become an Eagle Scout.  The outdoors would again hear the songs of human beings in their native habitat: rational beings who love the outdoors and know how to interact with the environment without harming it.
        These are very real issues with no simple solutions.  A certification program would bring its own share of problems, for sure.  Regardless, it is still worthwhile to get into the wilderness and experience nature close up.  Camping out is still cheaper than a hotel.  Freedom is precious: use it or lose it.  So is health.  Start at your skill level and challenge yourself.  There is no substitute for a real experience in the created world: sleeping under the stars, hiking through a forest, hopping rocks along a wild stream, watching a bird or deer in its natural habitat.  These are experiences no HDTV can match.  Your body will thank you.
    Next headline on:  HealthPolitics and Ethics
    Overheard: a profile article in Science about Shinya Yamanaka, the Japanese scientist who found a way to create induced pluripotent stem cells without human embryos:
    “A medical doctor who trained to be an orthopedic surgeon, Yamanaka, 45, switched to research to explore new medical treatments.  He was inspired to search for alternatives to using human embryos to create stem cells when a peek at an embryo under a microscope at a friend’s fertility clinic reminded him of his two daughters as infants.
    Science 1 February 2008: Vol. 319. no. 5863, p. 562, DOI: 10.1126/science.319.5863.562.

    Did Murder Evolve?   02/03/2008    
    Is it appropriate for scientists to speculate on the evolution of murder?  Nature had no problem with it.  They allowed Dan Jones, a freelance writer in Brighton, UK, to publish a lengthy article on how murder and warfare evolved.  No other explanations for these scourges were mentioned except to dismiss them.  Nature has apparently incorporated political science, ethics, theology and criminology as subdomains of evolutionary biology.  “What can evolution say about why humans kill?” the article begins, ending not only with the evolution of murder and war, but claims that evolution has even provided humans with a moral sense to mitigate them.
        Dan Jones began by setting up an opposing voice to knock down:

    “It is scientifically incorrect to say that we have inherited a tendency to make war from our animal ancestors ... that war or any other violent behaviour is genetically programmed into our human nature ... [and] that humans have a ‘violent brain’.”
        These are the ringing words of the ‘Seville Statement on Violence’, fashioned by 20 leading natural and social scientists in 1986 as part of the United Nations International Year of Peace, and later adopted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).  It was written to counter the pessimistic view that violence and war are inevitable features of human life.
        The decades since have not been kind to these cherished beliefs.  A growing number of psychologists, neuroscientists and anthropologists have accumulated evidence that understanding many aspects of antisocial behaviour, including violence and murder, requires the study of brains, genes and evolution, as well as the societies those factors have wrought.
    Jones’s opening shows that 21 years ago, scientists – even those who accepted evolution from animal ancestors – considered it inappropriate to discuss the evolution of war.  By arguing against “these cherished beliefs” that were written to counter a pessimistic view, is Jones now promoting pessimism?
        Not necessarily.  He came up with a quasi-optimistic update to the old Darwinian idea that violence is programmed into humans from their evolutionary past.  It reads like a kind of bad-news, good-news joke: yes, we are programmed for violence, but we are not as bad as chimpanzees.  The implication is that since humans emerged from the apes, evolution appears to have modified its trajectory.  Now, humans have evolved to cooperate.  In this view, the proverbial angels and devils that sit on our shoulders have also evolved.
    At the same time, though, historians, archaeologists and criminologists have started to argue that in most places life was more violent – and more likely to end in murder – in the past than it is today.  The time span of this apparent decline in violence has been too short for appeals to natural selection to be convincing.  If humans have evolved to kill, then it seems that they have also evolved to live without killing, given the right circumstances.
    Jones described how Martin Daly and Margo Wilson of McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, published a book Homicide with this thesis just two years after the Seville Statement.  It was the rise of “evolutionary psychology.”  They contradicted the Seville Statement by arguing that humans are programmed with violent proclivities, but then let Darwinism off the hook somewhat by claiming that “killing was, by and large, not something that evolution had selected for.”  What evolution was selecting for was higher status and reproductive success.  Killing and death were just by-products of these goals.
        Jones presented this as today’s majority view among evolutionary psychologists before delving into alternative views – all based on evolution.  Some feel natural selection did select for murder, because in some contexts the benefits outweigh the costs: “Homicide can be such a beneficial solution to adaptive problems in certain, specific contexts that it would be surprising if selection had not fashioned mechanisms to produce lethal aggression,” said David Buss [U of Texas] and Joshua Duntley [Richard Stockton College], authors of a controversial “homicide adaptation theory.”
        The body of Jones’s article explored various attempts to explain, within evolutionary thinking, why men are more prone to commit murder than women, or how the prefrontal cortex might be organized to promote or preclude violent outbursts.  Adrian Raine and Lori LaCasse of USC, for instance, proposed that “Put crudely, murderers don’t have the prefrontal resources to regulate that unbridled emotional output.”  Does this make murder an artifact of neural arrangements?  Jones elaborated, “Just as evolution has shaped men’s bodies to be, on average, larger than women’s, it has also distributed the resources needed to regulate emotion and aggression unevenly between the sexes.
        The discussion proceeded to an even more bizarre concept: the evolution of morality.  Evolution has apparently produced neurons that get bent out of shape when moral codes are violated:
    In an intriguing turn, Raine and his USC colleague Yaling Yang have recently pointed to a link between homicidal behaviour and the capacity to follow moral guidelines.  Over the past six years, brain-imaging studies aimed at understanding moral judgements have illustrated the crucial role of the emotional feeling that comes with violating moral codes.  Parts of the prefrontal cortex and amygdala that are abnormal in violent individuals and murderers are activated when making moral judgements.  Raine and Yang have proposed that these systems serve as the engine that translates moral feelings into behavioural inhibition – an engine that has blown a gasket in the antisocial, violent and murderous.
    Jones did not define morality, but clearly the moral codes he described are not really moral codes (in the sense of universal standards of right and wrong); they could only be societal norms that passed the natural selection filter, at least for the time being.  Normally, moral codes, whatever they are, produce inhibitions in individuals, he said.  This is a strictly behavioral definition devoid of meaning.  Clearly, rationality or human nature in the classical sense could not be involved.  An engine that can blow a gasket is merely a machine.
        At this point Jones made a shocking statement: in evolutionary terms, war is a good thing:
    Men are not just more likely to kill other people than women are, they are also more likely to do so in groups – and for some researchers it is in these realms that killing offers real evolutionary value.  The murder of one person by another may be almost accidental, an unlooked for by-product of aggression.  The murder of members of one group by those of another could be an adaptive behaviour that evolution has encouraged.
    For support, Jones described chimpanzee studies that show the apes engaging in ruthless warfare and carnage.  He then compared the monkey antics with human violence, but backpedaled slightly to avoid describing a straight-line connection: “Moving from studies of chimpanzee coalitional violence and comparisons with small-scale tribal conflicts to understanding modern warfare is, however, far from straightforward.”  Chimpanzees fight more within groups than between them, he claimed.  One researcher cited said that chimps display 200 times more violent behavior than humans.  Another was quoted explaining how humans learned that in-group cooperation was a good strategy.  Either way, it’s still all just evolution: “altruism and war co-evolve, promoting conflict between groups and greater harmony within them.”  For reasons he did not defend, he merely suggested that evolution selects soldiers over hoodlums:
    In cultures and societies with a recent history of warfare, children tend to be socialized to tolerate pain and to react aggressively, which prepares them for the possibility of becoming a soldier (arguably something that evolution would favour) or a potentially deadly brawler (probably something it wouldn’t).
    But could a blind process tell the difference?  He did not argue his probabilities.
        Jones mitigated his pessimistic evolutionary determinism with assertions of the existence of free will:
    None of this means that a tendency to kill is set in stone; if anything, it shows that humans have evolved to be much less of a risk to each other within groups than they would be if they were as bellicose as chimps.  And there is evidence that this risk is reducing further in studies of death rates from both inter-group homicide and intra-group warfare, both of which seem to have plummeted over the millennia.
    Has Jones not counted up the death tolls from the World Wars?  As if to forestall the accusation, he quoted Steven Pinker: “if the wars of the twentieth century had killed the same proportion of the population that die in the wars of a typical tribal society, there would have been two billion deaths, not 100 million.”  How either of them could know such a thing was not explained.  Instead, statistics were garnered to illustrate historical trends downward in death tolls from wars.  The implication is that humans are evolving toward a culture of comity and amity.
        But isn’t a few centuries “too short a time for evolution to have shaped human nature much”?  And couldn’t the falling mortality be due to improvements in policing and medical care?  Aren’t people using rationality to decide that war is counterproductive?  It was time to rescue Darwin again:
    A part of the answer that is consistent with an evolutionary approach is a long-term reduction in inequalities of life circumstances and prospects – the inequalities that Daly and Watson see as driving the conflict that leads to killing as a by-product.  “In places such as Sweden where every cabbie drives a Mercedes,” says Daly, “people don't bother to kill so often.”  Better provisioning of life’s necessities has also powered the decline, agrees Duntley.  When contested resources are made more plentiful, he says, conflict over resources decreases and homicide rates drop.
    But for all its optimism, this idea sounds deterministic as well.  Humans are just pawns of evolutionary and environmental pressures, he argued.  When resources are plentiful, they don’t fight.  Yet exceptions to this principle abound.  There is no shortage of cases where criminals have attacked wantonly (e.g., Willy Horton) or nations fought ruthlessly (e.g., Napoleon), when resources were plentiful.  Jones did not deal with the exceptions.
        What about the morality in all this?  Ah, that evolved, too.  Dan Jones ended,
    The evidence suggests that humans may indeed have what the Seville Statement called a ‘violent brain’, in as much as evolution may favour those who go to war.  But evolution has also furnished us with a moral sense.  The complexities of the relationship between morals and violence may prove a fruitful field for future research, in as much as they can be disentangled from the social and historical factors that clearly hold great sway over the ultimate levels of violence.  Evolution is not destiny; but understanding it could help maintain the hard-to-discern progress of peace.
    Nature decorated this article with photos of a boxer punching out his opponent, and a Napoleon-like figure on horseback leading his finely-dressed army into battle.  No longer are these to be seen as images of rational beings who make choices based on morals and reasons.  If Dan Jones and the evolutionists he quotes are right, they are pawns of evolutionary forces that play out on a game board of evolutionary-derived neurological propensities for aggression on one side and cooperation on the other.  Presumably the evolutionary psychologist’s own rationality is exempt from the game.
    1.  Dan Jones, “Human behaviour: Killer instincts,” Nature 451, 512-515 (2008) | doi:10.1038/451512a; also published at News@Nature.
    At the risk of sounding redundant, the views in this paper are dumb and evil.  Dumb, because they are self-refuting and nothing but presupposition-driven conjectures.  Evil, because the fruit of such thinking puts no limits on selfish aggression.  If moral absolutes and rationality do not exist – if we are the evolutionary pawns of amoral forces – who is to abide by any claims of a “moral sense”?  Morality becomes anything one says it is.  Don’t fall for the made-up disclaimer that natural selection has lately favored cooperation.  Give a dictator this doctrine and he will define his own morality to include genocide.  If he were to succeed, his success would guarantee it was moral, because the only ones left to pass on their genes would be those he allowed to survive.
        To the Darwin Party priestly class, the rest of humanity are their pets and lab rats.  They speak flowery words of peace and morality, but they are conquerors at heart.  They say they just want to “understand” human nature, but they envision themselves as disembodied rationalities above the game that traps the rest of us.  They would presume to create the environmental conditions under which humans would be precluded from acting out their evolutionary propensities for violence, and could be manipulated for useful purposes – useful, that is, for their own utopian visions.
        Once again, Dan Jones and the other Yodas he quoted presume to sit in some ethereal oligarchy looking down on an evolved world from an intellectual platform of privilege with no pillars.  The arrogant plunderers arrogate to themselves the intellectual resources of the rest of the university.  Like modern-day Gnostics possessing higher wisdom unavailable to us boxers and soldiers, they would sit in exalted privilege above the rabble, doling out Mercedes to the cabbies to keep them compliant.  (Incorrigible non-cooperators like Christians, philosophers and theologians can be put in zoos, prisons, or otherwise disposed of so as not to jeopardize the regime.)
        What do you do with people who believe things that are dumb and evil?  For one thing, you don’t put them in positions of power, and you don’t give them control of the classroom.  Their arguments cannot withstand a moment’s reflection.  Using their own assumptions, the propositions in this article reduce to glorified chimpanzee screams as their proponents jump up and down on each other’s soulless chests.  They can’t help themselves.  Evolution made them this way.  Their arguments, therefore, carry no intellectual weight, and are self-refuting.  Remember, distinguished scholars, what happens to self-refuting propositions?  They are necessarily false.  They are not true, they cannot be true, and no amount of research or discovery or reflection will ever make them true.  They’re D.O.A., dead, finished.
        Consider that the most distinguished scientific journal in the world just gave pride of place to a self-refuting article!  The situation is desperate.  The evil dumb are threatening war against Mansoul.  For its own survival, civilization must expose through rational means that the Darwinists are their own suicidal maniacs.  By murdering mind and morality, they have demonstrated that they cannot win the game of survival of the intellectually and morally fittest.
    Next headline on:  DarwinismPolitics and Ethics
      Puzzling over Mercury’s magnetic field: a look at Mercury before MESSENGER, from 02/13/2004.  Then see latest news posted by APL, and The Planetary Society

    Did Darwinism Build the Nuclear Pore Complex?   02/02/2008    
    After nine years of work, three universities including a team at Rockefeller University completed a beautiful new model of the nuclear pore complex.  The story is told by Science Daily.
        The article attributed the origin of this exquisite gatekeeper of the nucleus to evolution: “their findings provide a glimpse into how the nucleus itself first evolved,” the article says.  How can this be?  The article claims that eukaryotic cells split off from the prokaryotes “when they developed a nucleus and other specialized organelles that allowed them to compartmentalize different aspects of cellular metabolism.”
        This language suggests some kind of plan or intention – certainly not what neo-Darwinian theory allows.  Nevertheless, Michael Rout of Rockefeller continued the language of planning and purpose as he described himself visualizing an evolutionary progress from earlier structures: “We think that once the cells gained this coating complex, they ran with it and started to duplicate it and specialize it.”
        As for a mechanism that could generate complexity from simplicity, Rout invoked a kind of copying and tinkering algorithm: “Evolution is a process of duplication and divergence,” he said.  Because the nuclear pore complex contains multiple copies of similar structures arranged like a wheel, he thinks this is evidence they must have formed by gene duplication, even though wheels are usually built by intelligent agents:

    He and his colleagues saw clear evidence of this when they color-coded the proteins in the pore.  One method of color coding revealed alternating stripes, like spokes on a wheel: For every protein, there was another one that looked quite similar.  Color coding a different way showed the same pattern in the pore’s outer and inner rings, one of which appears to be a slightly modified duplication of the other.  These are evidence of duplication events, Rout says, showing that the evolution of the complicated nuclear pore was a more straightforward affair than previously thought.  “It’s made of many different variations of a theme of just one unit.”
    In music, “Theme and Variations” pieces are usually ascribed to intelligent composers.  Strangely, as Rout continued describing the nuclear pore complex, his language shifted.  He began talking less about unguided processes, and more about engineering and detective work:
    The nuclear pore is the communication device that the nucleus uses to communicate with the rest of the cell.  And if you don’t understand how that works, you don’t understand a key part of how the cell works.  And if you don’t understand that, you can’t completely understand how cancers work or how a single cell turns into a human being, or how a single grain of wheat turns into a whole crop.  You have to see the cell as a machine and understand all of its parts.
    No attempt was made in the article to reconcile the apparently contradictory forms of description.
    We need a new word to describe evolutionary biologists who talk like intelligent fools.  Everything they observe requires intelligent design and looks like intelligent design, but they glibly describe them as coming about from stupid, blind processes.  Somebody provide us a one-word concoction that encapsulates the apostle Paul’s description, “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.”  Wait: there is such a word – “sophomore.”  (Apologies to all second-year students.)  How about sophoxymoroniac?  Perfect.
    Sophoxymoroniac, definition: a sophomoric (wise-fool) scientist with a mania for speaking in oxymorons (wise-foolish statements), like evolutionary design and Darwinian rationality.
        Now, we can expand our code language when describing Darwinists: you know, those sophoxymoroniacs with the fability to howl ev-illusionary mythoids in fogma.  (To decode the message, see commentaries from 05/14/2007, 05/29/2003, 07/27/2007, 12/20/2007, 01/16/2007, 05/14/2007.)
        Believing that blind duplication can produce machinery as elaborate as a nuclear pore complex (06/02/2003, 08/06/2004, 11/13/2007, 12/02/2007, bullet 2) is like believing that swirling snowflakes can produce a living snowman without a kid and a fairy godmother.  For a detailed response to the claim that gene duplication can produce new complex designs, see Jerry Bergman’s article “Does gene duplication provide the engine for evolution?” on CMI, and read Michael Behe’s latest book The Edge of Evolution – drastic measures, we know, but shock treatment is the only known cure for sophoxymoronia.
    Next headline on:  Cell BiologyEvolutionDumb Ideas
    Deep Sea Hydrocarbons Don’t Require Life   02/01/2008    
    Remember the “Lost City” deep sea vents that were discovered by surprise in 2000 (12/13/2000)?  It appears that they are producing large quantities of hydrocarbons (methane, alkanes, ethene, acetylene, propene, propyne) without the help of living organisms (cf. 08/13/2002).  A team of scientists deduced that abiogenic reactions like the Fischer-Tropsch process and others may be responsible for the production of these molecules previously thought to require microbes or fossils, although some suspected that non-biological processes could be responsible.  The paper is published in Science.1

    1.  Proskurowski et al, “Abiogenic Hydrocarbon Production at Lost City Hydrothermal Field,” Science, 1 February 2008: Vol. 319. no. 5863, pp. 604-607, DOI: 10.1126/science.1151194.
    Possible implications of this study include non-fossil-fuel production of oil and natural gas, with resulting economic considerations, and changes in assumptions about dating methods.  Geologists and earth scientists may wish to pursue these leads.  For leads, look at what World Net Daily reported on the story.
    Next headline on:  GeologyDating Methods
    Nose Code Rockets Smell Discrimination   02/01/2008    
    You have a code in your nose.  Scientists working on fruit fly olfactory systems have found that a mapping mechanism between components maximizes the fly’s ability to discriminate smells.  The coding system provides a non-linear response that appears finely tuned to maximize the information content of odor inputs.
        The components of this system (antennal lobe, olfactory bulb, glomeruli, projection neurons, Kenyon cells) were described in more detail in our 06/27/2005 entry.  Why is the input information passed through several stages that combine, sort and distribute their respective inputs?  It turns out that a kind of computational algorithm is being performed on the input that translates a highly-variable chemical code into a discrete neural code.  This is analogous to analog-to-digital conversion.  In the process, one part can average away uncorrelated variability, but amplify correlated signals.  The outputs are amplified in a non-linear fashion, providing the maximum discrimination between input smells, some of which might be very similar.  The system also allows the teasing out of information from very weak inputs.
        Baranidharan Ramana and Mark Stopfer, writing in Current Biology,1 commented on a recent study by Bhandawat et al. who “used the relatively simple olfactory system of the fruitfly Drosophila to show how noisy, variable peripheral signals are transformed by early neural circuits into consistent, efficient and distinguishable odor representations.  In their review, they described how the coding is finely balanced:
    ...Bhandawat et al. found that the responses of projection neurons were highly correlated with each other, as were responses within groups of ORNs [olfactory receptor neurons].  The existence of inhibitory and excitatory local neurons in the antennal lobe suggests that both competitive and associative interactions are possible.  Purely inhibitory interactions between projection neurons would tend to decorrelate their responses; in an extreme case – a fully connected network – such interactions would lead to a ‘winner-take-all’ competition, resulting in a coding capacity greatly reduced to the number of available output channels.  Purely excitatory interactions, on the other hand, would decrease the independence of channels to lower than what is available in their inputs.  Thus, the results of Bhandawat et al. suggest that the network connectivity of the antennal lobe is delicately balanced to optimize its coding capacity.
    By optimizing its coding capacity, they mean that the system is sensitive, consistent, efficient, and reliable – despite the “chaotic structures of odor plumes” that are the inputs.  They said that the system also includes a “‘high-pass’ filtering function [that] may allow flies to alter behaviors rapidly when stimulated by odors.”  In addition, the time variability of the input signals gives the system additional real-time information.
        What’s the usefulness of studying a fruit fly antenna?  In short, the elegant solution seen here can inspire human engineers faced with similar information-processing problems:
    The work by Bhandawat et al. provides insights into the logic behind olfactory circuit design.  It will be interesting to analyze how these results generalize to a larger set of odorants, and to other species.  It will also be interesting to see whether these peripheral circuits play a role in insulating the neural signal-processing engine from the constant changes in the population of ORNs that occur throughout the lifetime of the animal.  These fundamental olfactory processing principles are not only important for understanding how the brain interprets odor signals, but are also necessary for engineering solutions inspired by biological computations for addressing high dimensional and non-linear problems.
    The authors noted that the coding system found in the fruit fly is similar to that used by many animals.  This prompted an evolutionary speculation: “This peripheral reorganization scheme is remarkably similar across species and phyla, suggesting a design optimized over evolutionary time to solve a common information processing problem.
    1.  Baranidharan Ramana and Mark Stopfer, “Olfactory Coding: Non-Linear Amplification Separates Smells,” Current Biology, Volume 18, Issue 1, 8 January 2008, pages R29-R32; doi:10.1016/j.cub.2007.10.063.
    Scratch that last lame, useless, dull, insipid, witless remark about evolutionary time optimizing design.  Can anyone conceive of how many lucky mutations would be required for this multi-part system to evolve?  The inputs are correlated and decorrelated, converged and distributed, filtered and amplified through a remarkable series of stages that results in a non-linear fashion to gain the maximum amount of information from the input.  If any one of these stages failed, the whole system wouldn’t work.  This is more elaborate than the famous Honda Accord commercial in which a rolling lug nut as input moved a half-ton automobile as output by passing through a finely-tuned chain reaction of alternating strong and weak energetic events.
        Don’t accept balderdash about miracles in evolutionary time brought about by random, mindless mutations that yield optimized designs by accident.  This story was about intelligent design from start to finish.  It should make us stand in awe of creation while we employ our creativity to imitate and apply the engineering for the improvement of human life.  That is the fragrance of science.
    Next headline on:  Cell BiologyIntelligent DesignAmazing FactsBiomimetics

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    “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 Scientist for February

    Joseph Lister
    1827 - 1912

    Imagine making a discovery so important that a whole branch of science dates its calendar by it.  That is what happened with our scientist of the month: Joseph Lister’s discovery of antisepsis has led some to divide the history of medicine into the eras “before Lister” and “after Lister.”  His work did more to save lives in the hospital than any other in history.  Surprisingly, it took nearly a generation for his discovery to become accepted.  He faced strong opposition from doctors and surgeons who didn’t believe him and weren’t about to change their ways.  In the end, however, because of Lister’s perseverance in teaching what he knew was right, and from the dramatic success of those who followed his procedures, his ideas finally took hold, and at his death, he was a world-wide hero.

    Born in a devout Quaker household, young Joseph learned about science at an early age.  His father, Joseph Jackson Lister, a renowned amateur scientist himself, found a solution to the problem of chromatic aberration in microscope lenses.  This discovery brought a major improvement to microscopy which had been around since Leeuwenhoek first made crude hand-held devices in the late 17th century.  Leeuwenhoek had been the first to discover bacteria under the microscope.  Astonishingly, it took two centuries for doctors and scientists to make a connection between the tiny creatures and disease.

    Joseph Jr. quickly became an expert at the microscope.  He studied at University College, London because Quakers and non-conformists were not allowed in Cambridge or Oxford.  By 1850, at age 23, he was a doctor, with degrees in medicine and surgery.  Three years later, he became the assistant of the great medical teacher Professor James Syme at Edinburgh, Scotland.  Syme was very impressed and desired to groom Joseph to become his successor.  The relationship was strengthened when Joseph became attracted to his daughter Agnes; the two married in 1856.  Lister joined his wife in the Anglican church.  Agnes took great interest in all of Lister’s work.  On their three-month honeymoon touring the continent, what did they do but visit all the major hospitals of France and Germany!  Though she bore no children, Agnes remained his most loyal and dedicated companion.  She helped with Joseph’s home laboratory.  She ran experiments, kept records and provided ample love and encouragement.

    A visit to a hospital operating room in the mid-19th century was almost a death sentence.  Disease and infection were so rampant, chances of survival were slim.  Hospitals were dark, stinking places filled with the screams of patients.  The great killer was infection.  No one knew what caused it.  Bacteria were known, but were dismissed as passive microbes with no effect.  Most surgeons suspected oxidation to be the culprit.  They would hurry through their surgeries in hopes of keeping exposure to the air to a minimum.  In hindsight, it is shocking to consider how unsanitary the conditions were.  Surgeons would use the same blood-stained apron in surgery after surgery, and only washed their hands afterwards.  If a surgeon dropped a scalpel on the floor, or on his dirty boot, he would just pick it up and continue operating.  It’s no wonder that death rates for amputations ranged from 24% in America to 80% in Germany.  A compound fracture or amputation of one finger could often result in 50-50 odds of dying.

    Progress in sanitation was slow.  Florence Nightingale found that cleanliness, fresh air and large, ventilated rooms aided survival, but the reasons were unclear.  Ignaz Semmelweis promoted hand-washing in 1847 – another piece of advice that was soundly rejected by surgeons for a long time.  As with most surgeons, Joseph Lister grieved over the high death rate of patients.  What could be done?  Lister’s familiarity with the microscope, and his respect for the scientific method learned in his youth, combined with his Christian compassion and humility, set him up for a great turning point.  Louis Pasteur believed that “fortune favors the prepared mind.”  Lister was about to illustrate this proverb.

    One day around 1865 a colleague, a chemist, related to Lister how he had started catching up on his reading.  He had found a ten-year-old paper by a relatively unknown French chemist (Louis Pasteur) that sounded interesting.  Pasteur had found that rod-shaped bacteria caused fermentation in wine.  He found that by heating the wine enough to kill the bacteria but not the yeast (a process that became known as pasteurization), wine could be kept from spoiling for long periods.  Lister soon suspected that bacteria might be the cause of infection.  He studied wounds with his microscopes, and sure enough, found rod-shaped bacteria (bacilli) present.  What to do?  He couldn’t heat his patients!  But then he heard another report how sewers in France had been making the cows sick, but when the townspeople sprayed the sewage pits with carbolic acid, the smell was reduced and the cows remained healthy.  That was it!  He would try carbolic acid as a way to fight infection.

    Soon he had a patient, a young man with a minor compound fracture.  Lister used a sprayer he had invented to spray dilute solutions of carbolic acid on the wound and dressings.  The results were dramatic.  No infection set in, and the young man recovered completely.  Encouraged by his results, Lister devised a set of procedures for spraying the wound, the surgical instruments and the operating room with carbolic acid.  He would apply dressings with carbolic acid and replace them regularly.  As he kept records, the death rate plummeted.  Lister knew he had made a life-saving discovery and was motivated to spread the word.  He published two major papers, in 1867 and 1870, that demonstrated the life-saving properties of what he named antisepsis.

    One would think the world would be waiting for such news.  The exact opposite happened.  The medical community scoffed at Lister’s wild ideas.  They did not believe him that bacteria caused infection.  His elaborate rituals with carbolic acid were way out of the norm – too radical, too inconvenient, too crazy.  For one thing, the stuff smelled awful, it made the surgeon’s hands look like red meat, and took too much time to go through all the procedures for something that, to them, made no sense.

    Lister persisted.  For years, no amount of teaching and demonstrating his techniques could overcome the professional inertia of the proud surgical community.  Medical students from the continent, and younger students, were more accepting, but those in London and around the British Isles treated Lister’s doctrine with contempt.  In America it was even worse.  Debates raged about the new procedure; few believed it.  Lister kept on with the fervor of an evangelist.

    Only after the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871), with its thousands of deaths from amputations, did French and German doctors flock to Lister’s lecture hall.  So few of his own fellow Englishman attended, the college translated the “no smoking” signs into French and German.  His new converts took the practice of antisepsis to the continent.  As could be expected, survival rates skyrocketed.  The success of Lister’s techniques could no longer be avoided once Robert Koch experimentally proved a connection between bacteria and disease in 1882.  Even so, most of the older doctors had to die off before a new generation rose to accept and use the new practices.

    Some converts to Lister’s antisepsis theory, particularly in Germany, advanced the methods of fighting infection.  Inventive scientists found other disease-fighting chemicals.  In 1879, an enterprizing inventor named his germ-fighting solution Listerine in Lister’s honor.  And if anti-sepsis (fighting disease germs) was good, why not a-sepsis (preventing germs) in the first place?  New aseptic techniques were tried: sterilizing everything, wearing clean garments, washing hands.  By the late 1980s and into the 1990s it became routine to enter the operating room with sterilized clothing and instruments.  Rigorous hand-washing was performed before contact with the patient.  Surgical gloves and steam sterilization were invented.  Cleanliness in medicine was very practically next to godliness.  As for Lister, he cared not who got the credit, or whether doctors preferred antisepsis or asepsis – he was just glad that thousands of lives were now being saved.  Thanks to the germ theory of disease and the practices advanced by Joseph Lister, the dirty operating rooms of centuries past were replaced with the bastions of cleanliness we know today.

    Lister became one of the most beloved scientists and doctors in history.  He was knighted by the queen.  He was elected President of the Royal Society.  A food-borne pathogen Listeria was named after him.  His 80th birthday in 1907 was celebrated around the world.  Some wanted him to be buried in Westminster Abbey, but Lister refused the honor.  Upon his death at age 84, he was interred next to his beloved wife Agnes who had preceded him in death by 19 years.

    Joseph Lister was a tall, handsome, unpretentious man loved by all his patients and colleagues.  He cared for people and treated all his fellows with respect and congeniality.  He loved the truth and contended for it with perseverance despite opposition.  These virtues were the products of his beliefs.  A fervent Christian all his life, he confessed, “I am a believer in the fundamental doctrines of Christianity.”

    Let no modernist say, therefore, that Christian fundamentalism is a hindrance to good science.  Millions are living and science is thriving due to the faith in action of a great scientist and compassionate doctor who, it can rightly be said, ushered in the age of modern surgery “after Lister.”

    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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