Creation-Evolution Headlines
May 2009
Darwin quote

“When any single source of funding dominates, science will almost certainly become the handmaiden of politics.  There is no recognition in our leading journals that this is a problem.  Science magazine, for example, keeps a vigilant watch on government science spending, unhesitatingly equating ‘more’ with better.
    Government funding has also promoted the idea that a theory can be regarded as true if it enjoys enough support.... Consensus discourages dissent, however.  It is the enemy of science, just as it is the triumph of politics.  A theory accepted by 99 percent of scientists may be wrong.”
—Tom Bethell, The Politically-Incorrect Guide to Science (Regnery, 2005), Introduction.

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You Can Trust a Scientist – Can’t You?   05/31/2009    
May 31, 2009 — After the flap over the “missing link” Ida last week (05/19/2009), paleontologist Christopher Beard warned about how such stunts damage scientific credibility.  “The only thing we have going for us that Hollywood and politicians don’t is objectivity,” he told Science magazine.1  Can the public trust the objectivity of scientists as a class?  Do they get more credibility points than other groups of professionals?  Do the processes of scientific publication warrant a higher level of trust?
    A study reported on Science Daily may shake that trust.  “In the online, open-access journal PLoS ONE,2 Daniele Fanelli of the University of Edinburgh reports the first meta-analysis of surveys questioning scientists about their misbehaviours” (a meta-analysis is a study of the studies).  “The results suggest that altering or making up data is more frequent than previously estimated and might be particularly high in medical research,” the article began.  It says that the well-publicized cases of fraud “could be just the tip of the iceberg, because fraud and other more subtle forms of misconduct might be relatively frequent.
    Fanelli began her report with these unsettling words:

This pristine image of science is based on the theory that the scientific community is guided by norms including disinterestedness and organized scepticism, which are incompatible with misconduct.  Increasing evidence, however, suggests that known frauds are just the “tip of the iceberg”, and that many cases are never discovered.
She found only 2% who admitted to falsifying research, but many more – 34% – who admitted to other forms of scientific misconduct.  These include distorting data, fabricating data, plagiarism, and “cooking” the data – which Charles Babbage defined in 1830 as: “an art of various forms, the object of which is to give to ordinary observations the appearance and character of those of the highest degree of accuracy.”   Some scientists remove anomalous data points, for instance, based on a gut feeling that they cannot be correct.
    Babbage’s remark reveals that scientific misconduct is nothing new.  The percentages of misconduct Fanelli found, however, show it is a bigger problem than often believed.  She explained why her findings are likely underestimates:
All the above estimates are calculated on the number of frauds that have been discovered and have reached the public domain.  This significantly underestimates the real frequency of misconduct, because data fabrication and falsification are rarely reported by whistleblowers (see Results), and are very hard to detect in the data.  Even when detected, misconduct is hard to prove, because the accused scientists could claim to have committed an innocent mistake.  Distinguishing intentional bias from error is obviously difficult, particularly when the falsification has been subtle, or the original data destroyed.  In many cases, therefore, only researchers know if they or their colleagues have wilfully distorted their data.
Instances of misconduct fall into the categories of fabrication, falsification, and plagiarism.  These, in turn, can affect data collection, test results, and interpretation of findings.  Misconduct can be subtle.  A scientist might intentionally omit publication of results, use a biased methodology, or mislead a reporter.  And these are only aspects of scientific misconduct dealing with intent to deceive.  What would the percentages be if unconscious biases, group pressure, and human fallibility (e.g., 05/04/2009) were factored in?
1.  Ann Gibbons, “Celebrity Fossil Primate: Missing Link or Weak Link?”, 05/19/2009), Science 29 May 2009: 324:5931, pp. 1124-1125, DOI: 10.1126/science.324_1124.
2.  Daniele Fanelli, “How Many Scientists Fabricate and Falsify Research?  A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Survey Data,” Public Library of Science One 4(5): e5738; doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0005738.
Many of us have grown up with an unrealistic image of science.  The scientist is supposed to be the honest, objective, unbiased, sincere seeker of the truth in a white lab coat, using a scientific method (whatever that is) guaranteed to sift the kernel of empirical fact from the chaff of subjectivity.  And even if he or she fails, the scientific community, with its rigorous demands for PhD certification and its peer review process, catches any mistakes before publication.  Don’t be deceived.  Real scientists often wear denim and are as fallible as the rest of us.  The same goals of integrity should apply to any professional endeavor, whether theology, philosophy, political science, economics, art, or car repair.
    Real science is often rewarded according to what works.  It’s not an ultimate source of understanding.  If your model or equation gets you to the moon, great.  If your pill cures a disease, terrific.  Repeatability adds credibility.  Science is probably the best method civilization has devised for finding workable answers to physical questions.  When it comes to understanding the world, or ourselves, or our past, scientists (like other humans) often draw inferences that go far beyond the evidence (e.g., attempting to describe the “evolution of altruism,” 05/13/2009).  Scientists are often chained to paradigms.  Peer pressure and ingrained ideologies prevent them from straying outside the paradigm, or from even asking different questions than their peers consider worthwhile (e.g., 05/27/2009 on human evolution).  Add to that the temptations of money and prestige, and the clear liberal bias of the scientific institutions (05/18/2009, 12/02/2004) and it’s a wonder you can trust anything the scientific community says.
    But even in the most optimistic view of science (and science admittedly does have many practical successes in its win column), the practice of science is dead in the water without character.  Honesty, integrity, love of the truth: these are fundamental requirements for science.  Do you learn those things in science class?  Do you discover them with the scientific method?  Do you envision them as chance inventions of imaginary ape ancestors?  Obviously not.  Those things must be in place before you even begin following the desire to become a scientist.  You learn those things in church – specifically, in a church that teaches its children, teens and parents about a moral Creator who commanded, “Thou shalt not bear false witness.”
    True scientists must have the moral courage to stand alone against all their peers when they discover things that contradict the groupthink of their institutions.  Since the money-grubbing, religion-bashing, atheistic, politically liberal, Darwin-worshipping scientific institutions of today are almost uniformly allied against the Source of truth, do your part to help improve the statistics on scientific integrity.  Do your part to help scientists tune in to that inner voice of conscience.  Take a scientist to church.
Next headline on:  Politics and EthicsBible and Theology
05/30/2009 – Has evolutionary crud been corroding your mental pipelines?  You need an oil change.  Think Biblically has the proven lubricants to get your brain humming again.  With chapters by professors at The Master’s College, this book helps you do what the title says: think Biblically about creation, man’s problem of sin, getting into a relationship to God, and all the academic subjects: philosophy, political science, sexual identity and roles, psychology, music, science, education, history, church and state, economics, literature, and art.  The book is available at Amazon and at Crossway books, where you can read the Table of Contents and an excerpt.
    One thing you will notice when reading these scholarly articles is how much the doctrine of creation is central to each of them, and how evolutionary thinking has been corrosive to the mind and to society.  Dr. John MacArthur makes that very clear in his Introduction and his chapter, “Comprehending Creation.”  The Apostle Paul said what is still true today ((II Timothy 3:16): Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness.  That applies from the individual to all of society.  The one who has trained his mind to think Biblically obtains a comprehensive world view that can make sense of every subject.  Anchored on the Rock of the word of God, the Christian world view withstands the storms of speculation and the vagaries of vagrant human imagination.
Next resource of the week:  05/23/2009.  All resources: Catalog.

Is Theistic Evolution Intelligently Designed?   05/29/2009    
May 29, 2009 — A battle of websites is rising, and New Scientist is gloating.  Francis Collins, former head of the Human Genome Project (and a candidate to lead the National Institutes of Health) has launched a website promoting theistic evolution called Biologos.org.  The intelligent-design think tank Discovery Institute has offered a counter-site called FaithAndEvolution.org.
    Amanda Gefter wrote for New Scientist, “Christians battle each other over evolution.”  Gefter, who subscribes to Stephen Jay Gould’s “NOMA” strategy (non-overlapping magisteria), believes that science and religion must remain separate spheres.  She thinks the latest website battle betrays religious motivations behind the ID group: “The Discovery Institute has now made it crystal clear that they have no interest in reconciling science and religion – instead, they want their brand of religion to replace science.”  She used an analogy: “Watching the intellectual feud between the Discovery Institute and BioLogos is a bit like watching a race in which both competitors are running full speed in the opposite direction of the finish line.  It’s a notable contest, but I don’t see how either is going to come out the winner,” she said.  But even if this analogy were appropriate, presumably the first to go around the globe could still win the race, but it begs the question whether evolution is even in the race.  A more important question is whether the controversy is just between Christians.
    Evolution News and Views denies that their initiative is about replacing religion and science.  Dr. John West of the Discovery Institute explained the two-fold purpose of Faith and Evolution: “Thus, the first goal of FaithandEvolution.Org is to present the scientific information about evolution and intelligent design that is typically left out of the discussion,” he said.  “A second goal is to tackle tough questions that are usually ignored about the consequences of Darwin’s theory for ethics, society, and religion.”  The problem with Biologos is that it caters to Darwinian natural selection without revealing these consequences.
    The Faith and Evolution website was in fact prompted by the need to answer claims in the mainstream media made by Francis Collins that Christianity and evolution are compatible, not to promote Christianity or any other religion.  In fact, David Klinghoffer, who is Jewish, defended the site on Evolution News.  John West said, “It’s ironic that many of the pro-Darwin groups that claim to be promoting ‘dialogue’ about science and religion are really offering only a monologue.  They do their best to exclude those who disagree with them.  But we have nothing to fear from a free and open exchange of ideas.”  John West goes into more detail in a podcast on ID the Future.

Gefter’s smirking attitude fails to take into account the overtly religious arguments by the new atheists that tie Darwinism to unbelief.  The Darwinists routinely discuss the religious (or anti-religious) implications of evolution.  If she thinks ID folk want to replace science with religion, why is she not complaining about Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens who use evolution to justify atheism?  Why is she not complaining about the NCSE, which has a Faith Network Coordinator and printed a curriculum for adult Sunday School classes?  What about the activists who encourage pastors to preach from Darwin on Evolution Sunday?  Gefter specifically lets Dawkins off the hook.  Consistency is apparently not a virtue for Darwinists.  Their beliefs evolve according to the need to combat any threats to their dominance.
Next headline on:  EvolutionIntelligent DesignBible and Theology
  Four years ago: Health fallacies exposed, 05/30/2005; Darwinists excuse prejudice as something hardwired in humans, 05/27/2005; Can the courts define science? 05/27/2005.

Quick Picks   05/28/2009    
May 28, 2009 — Here is an assortment of short stories from the world of science and evolution reporting.

  1. Heads held high:  Two scientists are claiming that the large sauropod dinosaurs held their heads high, not horizontally as depicted in museums and TV shows, according to Science Daily.  This contradicts what Roger Seymour said in March (see 03/29/2009 entry).  The new article did not discuss the physics of pumping blood that high, or how big a heart and lungs would be required.  Maybe there was not much brain up there needing blood.
  2. Fill your own cavities:  Dentists may be able to fill your cavities with materials from your own body, Science Daily reported.  Resins made from bile acids show superior strength and resistance to cracking – and contain no mercury.
  3. Your passengers are there to help:  Human skin, the largest organ of the body, plays host to millions of travelers.  Some parts of the skin are like deserts, but others are like oases and streams, says National Geographic News.  Lest you become paranoid and try to wash them all off, the article went on to say that they help you by producing natural moisturizers that keep your skin smooth and supple.  “We should think about proper sanitation with the skin, but not sterilization” is the lesson here.  “There are good bacteria that really promote healthy skin.”
  4. Lymph node function:  What are your lymph nodes good for?  Science Daily likened them to police stations in your body, where the immune police force goes to get organized.  T cells don’t seem to require them, but B cells do.  “The main achievement of the development of lymph nodes in mammals is a drastic improvement for the production of better antibodies,” the article said.  It offered an evolutionary perspective: “It also suggests that the liver as an immune organ is an evolutionary remnant from the time before lymph nodes developed in higher birds and mammals,” even though it admitted that “T cells ... have not changed their function much during evolution....”
  5. Evolution of Al GorePhysOrg offered the strange hypothesis that humans evolved to care about climate change.  This idea came from Peter Sozou of the University of Warwick.  “Evolution is driven by competition,” he said.  “Caring about the future of your community makes evolutionary sense to the extent that future members of your community are likely to be your relatives.”  He admitted, though, that “there is no direct basis for evolution to select behaviours which benefit the planet as a whole, and therefore no evolutionary basis for directly determining a social discount rate for global welfare.”  How, then, did humans today become concerned about global issues?  It’s just that we have transferred the evolved concern to larger issues now.
        Meanwhile, controversy is brewing over kin selection and group selection.  Nature News reported on one scientist who believes his models rendered a devastating blow to group selection; a proponent of the idea, however, still defends it.
  6. First steps in storytelling:  “The evolution of regulatory systems is still barely understood,” scientists said in a story on EurekAlert, but they think with computer simulations they can get a start on an explanation of the evolution of gene regulation.  “Many questions are still open, and our results will hopefully prompt further investigations.”
  7. Little star with big planet:  Even “tiny” stars can have planets, Space.com reported – and big ones at that.  A little M-dwarf star was found hosting a planet with six times the mass of Jupiter.  A JPL scientist said, “since more than seven out of 10 stars are small like this one, this could mean planets are more common than we thought.”
  8. See seahorses horse aroundNational Geographic proposed a just-so story for the evolution of the seahorse.  An Australian scientist found similar genes between seahorses and their closest relatives, the pygmy pipehorse.  He claims they diverged 25 million years ago in environments where seagrasses made it advantageous to have an upright posture.  The fossil evidence for this is almost non-existent.  The article did not explain why other fish that live among the seagrass still maintain a horizontal posture.
  9. Nice trilobite:  Monsters of the deep swarmed ancient seas: giant trilobites.  National Geographic News showed pictures of trilobites a meter long that apparently hunted in packs.  The fossils were found in Portugal.  Nothing was mentioned about the abrupt appearance of these complex animals at the dawn of the Cambrian.
  10. Bird happy feet:  Hilarious videos of birds dancing to the beat of rock music have been circulating on the net for awhile (see NPR and PhysOrg).  Some of the videos were actually part of a serious science project.  Harvard scientists were surprised to discover “Spontaneous Motor Entrainment to Music in Multiple Vocal Mimicking Species,” Current Biology reported.1  This uncovered a mystery, because “Why humans produce and enjoy music is an evolutionary puzzle.”  Now that the ability to respond to music is found in another branch of animals, the puzzle is even greater.  Why this should be surprising, since birds sing, was not explained.  W. Tecumseh Fitch, though, in the same issue of Current Biology2 said another theory about the evolution of music (that it was unique to humans) “bites the dust.”  He tried to end with a positive spin for evolution:
    What are the implications of these animal findings for research on human music and its evolution?  The first is that we now have animal models to further explore the neural and genetic basis for entrainment.  The second illustrates the fundamental point that evolutionary convergence or ‘analogy’ allows us to test evolutionary hypotheses, such as the vocal mimicry hypothesis.  Homologous traits represent a single evolutionary event, and count statistically as a single datapoint.  In contrast, when different clades evolve the same trait convergently, these constitute statistically independent events, allowing us to test hypotheses about the evolution of human music or language that might otherwise remain ‘just-so-stories’.  At both mechanistic and functional levels, then, the discovery of parrot entrainment provides a rich foundation for further advances in understanding the biology and evolution of human music.
    Unfortunately, while trying to downplay just-so stories, he apparently just began a futuristic sci-fi novel.

1.  Schachner, Brady, Pepperberg and Hauser, “Spontaneous Motor Entrainment to Music in Multiple Vocal Mimicking Species,” Current Biology, Volume 19, Issue 10, 26 May 2009, Pages 831-836, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2009.03.061.
2.  W. Tecumseh Fitch, “Biology of Music: Another One Bites the Dust,” Current Biology, Volume 19, Issue 10, 26 May 2009, Pages R403-R404, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2009.04.004.
Tiny creatures on a small planet around a yellow star have evolved the habit of telling stories about how their planet evolved creatures that care about global warming and music.  (This sentence implodes on a little reflection.)  Keep on your no-Darwin diet and stay healthy in body and mind.
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Frank and Honest? 
“Other researchers think rollouts like this one are just too risky.  ‘On the one hand, I view it as a major task for scientists to translate their work for the public at large,’ says Beard.  “On the other hand, when you make these breathless statements, you have to have the goods to back it up.  Otherwise, we all lose credibility with the public.  The only thing we have going for us that Hollywood and politicians don’t is objectivity.
—Christopher Beard, paleontologist, commenting in article by Ann Gibbons on last week’s media circus over Ida (05/19/2009), Science 29 May 2009: 324:5931, pp. 1124-1125, DOI: 10.1126/science.324_1124.

Hominids, Homonyms, and Homo sapiens   05/27/2009    
May 27, 2009 — How’s the story of human evolution hanging together these days?  There’s no better place to look than the Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences.  In the yearly issue released this month, Ian Tattersall and Jeffrey Schwartz gave a pretty thorough overview of the “Evolution of the Genus Homo.”1  Their account is fraught with controversy, confusion and convoluted ideas from the very first sentence.
    The controversy does not revolve around whether evolution is true.  There is not a hint of idea that anybody anywhere believes that man was created – a belief of the vast majority of Homo sapiens.  This is the story, after all, of the evolution of the genus Homo – assuming from the outset that human beings, with all their unique capabilities, are the end result of a mindless, directionless process of natural selection acting on animal ancestors.  Does the story cohere?  Are scientists in agreement on the big picture?  Is the story supported by the available fossil and archaeological evidence?  Those are good questions for readers to ask, because the scientific community, by and large, assumes the evolutionary perspective without asking such questions.
    The abstract hints that a lot of controversy is about to be revealed.  [Note: kyr = thousands of years, myr = millions of years].

Definition of the genus Homo is almost as fraught as the definition of Homo sapiens.  We look at the evidence for “early Homo,” finding little morphological basis for extending our genus to any of the 2.5–1.6-myr-old fossil forms assigned to “early Homo” or Homo habilis/rudolfensis.  We also point to heterogeneity among “early African Homo erectus,” and the lack of apomorphies [traits restricted to a single species] linking these fossils to the Asian Homo erectus group, a cohesive regional clade that shows some internal variation, including brain size increase over time.  The first truly cosmopolitan Homo species is Homo heidelbergensis, known from Africa, Europe, and China following 600 kyr ago.  One species sympatric with it included the >500-kyr-old Sima de los Huesos fossils from Spain, clearly distinct from Homo heidelbergensis and the oldest hominids assignable to the clade additionally containing Homo neanderthalensis.  This clade also shows evidence of brain size expansion with time; but although Homo neanderthalensis had a large brain, it left no unequivocal evidence of the symbolic consciousness that makes our species unique.  Homo sapiens clearly originated in Africa, where it existed as a physical entity before it began (also in that continent) to show the first stirrings of symbolism.  Most likely, the biological underpinnings of symbolic consciousness were exaptively acquired [i.e., co-opted from other bodily changes] in the radical developmental reorganization that gave rise to the highly characteristic osteological structure of Homo sapiens, but lay fallow for tens of thousands of years before being “discovered” by a cultural stimulus, plausibly the invention of language.
The article got bogged down in nomenclature and classification from the get-go.  “To understand where we stand on this matter today requires briefly looking at the long history of hominid taxonomy,” they said.  They began with the man who first put man into a taxonomic scheme: Carolus Linnaeus.  The father of taxonomy put Homo sapiens into the Homo genus with the great apes, but by the 19th century, these were divided into their own separate genera.  Who’s in the Homo clade, and who’s out?  Surprisingly, the history of human-primate taxonomy has undergone repeated reversals by lumpers and splitters (i.e., those who desired large inclusive categories vs. those who preferred tighter organization).  In 1856, Homo neanderthalensis was added to our genus.  Controversies have flared up ever since with each new fossil, debating whether it belongs inside or outside of Homo (whatever is meant by that flexible category).
    A major paradigm about human evolution emerged about the time of the neo-Darwinian synthesis: the lumpers and progressivists carried the day.  Tattersall and Schwartz revealed some inside information about the movers and shakers of this paradigm, and what beliefs moved and shook them:
The prewar superabundance of names ultimately led the ornithologist Ernst Mayr (1950) to propose a radical revision of hominid taxonomy, in which he reduced the entire hominid fossil record to a mere three species.  In Mayr’s view, the three fell into a single time-transgressive lineage, and all were classifiable within the genus Homo: H.transvaalensis (for what we often nowadays call the australopiths—the early bipedal apes), H. sapiens (including the large-brained Neanderthals and their like), and H. erectus (everything in between).  A further motivation for Mayr’s dramatic cleaning up of hominid taxonomy was a theme he had picked up from his fellow evolutionary theoretician, the geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky (1937, 1944).  This was that the hominid ecological niche was simply too “broad” to permit more than one species of the family to exist at any one time: competitive exclusion just would not allow it.  English-speaking paleoanthropologists of the period—whose freewheeling tendency to create a fresh name for almost every new fossil that came along had not been underpinned by any noticeable theoretical framework—rapidly capitulated to Mayr’s onslaught, propelled additionally by their wholesale conversion to the tenets of the Evolutionary Synthesis.  The Synthesis was a reductionist view of the evolutionary process that was then sweeping Anglophone evolutionary biology, and both Mayr and Dobzhansky were principal architects of its central notion that evolutionary change could be ascribed in virtually its totality to slow generation-by-generation change in population gene pools, under the constant supervision of natural selection.
So one year, a plethora of fossils each have their own genus; the next, they are all lumped into a “catch-all” category called Homo erectus, which is defined as everything in between bipedal apes and modern humans.  That paradigm influenced a generation of paleoanthropologists who “capitulated” to the progressive picture of human evolution, but, alas, it was not to last; Louis Leakey “broke the taboo” by naming Homo habilis in 1964, and then came Homo rudolfensis and Homo ergaster.  Some cautiously called their fossil finds “Homo sp.” which means “genus Homo, species uncertain.”  Tattersall and Schwartz are unimpressed by some of these.  “A recent review (Schwartz & Tattersall 2005) has indicated that the australopith resemblances of all of these specimens have quite likely been underestimated; and at best these ‘early Homo’ specimens make up a very motley assortment.”  Paleoanthropologists still disagree over what constitutes the genus Homo.  Tattersall and Schartz take a narrow view, using six criteria outlined by Wood & Collard.  “Effectively, they concluded anything currently known that was more primitive than Homo ergaster ... had to be excluded from Homo for the genus to make morphological and phylogenetic sense.  We accept this conclusion,” they said.  The first entrant they claim for Homo was “Turkana boy,” they said—a fossil “absolutely without precedent” that was the basis for their claim (below) that “our genus was born in a short-term event” with no clear indication why or how.  Strangely, “One might reasonably expect that this radically new physical structure would have been accompanied by changes in lifestyle,” they said, yet “The archaeological evidence available to us does not, however, suggest much change at all.”  Didn’t Turkana Boy and his parents realize the time had come to invent culture?
    Within the article, which invoked the words controversial and debate six times, Tattersall and Schwartz carved out their own opinions.  These include (their words in blue):
  1. None of the bipedal apes before Homo erectus belong in the genus Homo, and there is such a sharp break between them, the change seems almost miraculous: As far as can be told at present, our genus Homo was born in a short-term event, probably involving a modification in gene regulation, that had cascading effects throughout the architecture of the body.
  2. There is no obvious connection between body or brain size and culture or cognition: Despite a significant increase in average hominid brain sizes compared to the bipedal apes, there is no immediate signal in the record of any major cognitive improvement with the advent of the new body form.  Intuitively, this may seem surprising, but in fact, it is a dramatic example of a theme that is found repeatedly throughout the long history of human evolution: that biological and cultural innovations tend not to occur concurrently (Tattersall 1998, 2004).  See the 03/02/2009 entry.
  3. They don’t believe Neanderthals or anyone prior was truly human: “all claimed evidence for symbolic activities among the Neanderthals is highly debatable,” but they only cited references from 1996 and 1999 (cf. 09/23/2008, 08/26/2008, 05/06/2008, 03/18/2008).  They also said, Among the Neanderthals, all claimed instances of early symbolism are strongly disputed (Klein 1999), and for Homo erectus, there are no specific claims of this kind at all (although see Holloway et al. 2004 for a general argument for an early establishment of the basis for modern cognition).”
Having carved out their turf among the controversies, they surveyed the fossil evidence for the early bipedal apes, the broad class of Homo erectus, the Neanderthals, and the truly modern humans.
    Homo erectus is particularly controversial, because it is such a broad classification.  Tattersall and Schwartz find no clear connection between the Asian, European and African specimens lumped into this class.  “In his 1950 review, Ernst Mayr placed all of these forms firmly within the species Homo erectus,” they explained.  “Subsequently, Homo erectus became the standard-issue ‘hominid in the middle,’ expanding to include not only the fossils just mentioned, but others of the same general period....”.  They discussed the arbitrariness of this classification:
Put together, all these fossils (which span almost 2 myr) make a very heterogeneous assortment indeed; and placing them all together in the same species only makes any conceivable sense in the context of the ecumenical view of Homo erectus as the middle stage of the single hypervariable hominid lineage envisioned by Mayr (on the basis of a much slenderer record).  Viewed from the morphological angle, however, the practice of cramming all of this material into a single Old World-wide species is highly questionable.  Indeed, the stuffing process has only been rendered possible by a sort of ratchet effect, in which fossils allocated to Homo erectus almost regardless of their morphology have subsequently been cited as proof of just how variable the species can be.
By “ratchet effect,” they appear to mean something like a self-fulfilling prophecy: i.e., “Let’s put everything from this 2-million-year period into one class that we will call Homo erectus.”  Someone complains, “But this fossil from Singapore is very different from the others.”  The first responds, “That just shows how variable the species Homo erectus can be.”
    After discussing the variations in Homo erectus from Asia, they said the variation in Africa is even worse: “The various African fossils attributed at one time or another to Homo erectus show less morphological homogeneity than we see in eastern Asia, span a very substantial amount of time and space, and fail to exhibit significant morphological similarities with their counterparts in Java and China.”  Do these even belong in the same class, or do they perhaps indicate that upright-walking humans were a diverse lot?  In their effort to distance themselves from Mayr, Tattersall and Schwartz reveal their own bias:
The most recent entrant in this category is a hominid braincase (KNM-ER 42700) from Ileret, dated to 1.55 myr ago, that was attributed to Homo erectus by its describers (Spoor et al.  2007).  However, this braincase is small and lightly built, and possesses none of the major hallmarks that make the Trinil holotype of that species so distinctive.  Instructively, Spoor et al. simultaneously described a penecontemporaneous maxilla, also from East Turkana, as belonging to Homo habilis; and they concluded that multiple species of the genus Homo thus coexisted in the Turkana Basin during the earliest Pleistocene.  Yet allocating the Ileret specimen to Homo erectus could only conceivably make sense in the context of the view that Homo erectus is the middle grade of a single, worldwide, variable, and gradually evolving lineage of Homo through the Pleistocene.  Ironically, this was precisely the construct that these same authors were busy rejecting in adjacent paragraphs—reminding us just how difficult paleoanthropologists are finding it to shake off Mayr’s linear legacy.
What makes sense to one may not make sense to another.  Tattersall and Schwartz continued on, discussing other Homo contenders up to and including the one they felt was the first “cosmopolitan” hominid, Homo heidelbergensis – another group with a “good deal of variation” within that designation.  Trying to make sense of the evidence for tool use and its advancement over time, they mentioned the “disconnect between biological and cultural innovations already noted.”  What does it mean to find evidence of controlled use of fire, carefully shaped spears used as javelins, and even shelters made out of saplings and stones, if these were not human beings with human-like cognitive abilities?  “Clearly, in the heyday of Homo heidelbergensis we encounter evidence of a cognitively much more complex hominid than any known in the earlier record—although, significantly, there is no artifact known in this time frame that can unambiguously be interpreted as a symbolic object.”  Another scientist might respond that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.  How many artifacts from modern hunter-gatherers would remain over the passage of time?
    From their section on Homo erectus, they went on to discuss the “out of Africa” consensus, the Neanderthal phenomenon, and the subsequent domination of modern humans.  Tattersall and Schwartz denied again that Neanderthals were in full possession of the cognitive skills of modern humans: “They were clearly complex beings with a subtle relationship to their environment (and presumably toward each other), but they evidently did not relate to the world around them in the way in which we do.”  They base this on scanty evidence otherwise.  “None of this implies, however, that the Neanderthals were not complex and resourceful beings.”  But were they human beings?  or just animals, as resourceful as squirrels or crows?  To think so raises the question of human nature itself.  What led to the explosion of cognition and culture that has characterized the beings who invented agriculture and civilization?  The question provided another opportunity for a jab at Mayr:
Apart from the advocates of the multiregional hypothesis, who find evidence for the origins of today’s regional groupings of mankind deep in time (e.g., Smith 1984, Wolpoff et al. 1984, Wolpoff & Caspari 1997), there is more or less complete consensus among paleoanthropologists that Homo sapiens originated relatively recently, somewhere in Africa.  And certainly, it is in Africa that we find the first hints not only of hominids with modern anatomy but also (significantly, rather later in time) of hominids showing stirrings of the unique cognitive pattern that makes Homo sapiens so remarkable today.  Today’s single surviving hominid species is strikingly derived in many features that range from its globular cranium and retracted face to its barrel-shaped thorax; but discussion of the origin of this distinctive entity has alas been muddied by a post-Mayr tendency among paleoanthropologists to admit to Homo sapiens virtually any reasonably recent and large-brained hominid, regardless of its morphology.
Who is calling whose views muddied?  It is conceivable that the pendulum of consensus could swing either way again.  Some future day, a writer for Annual Review might bemoan the post-Tattersall tendency to define Homo sapiens too narrowly  It is not clear on what basis Tattersall and Schwartz can make an incontrovertible judgment.
    One thing is clear from the above paragraph: they have disavowed, again, any connection between the anatomy of humans and their cultural abilities – both in time and space.  They just said that the “stirrings” of human cognition appeared significantly later in time once their fully human anatomy had evolved.  What clicked to “turn on” the uniquely human mind?  “Clearly, in Africa, a great deal of innovation was occurring in the genus Homo during the late Pleistocene, and it was out of this ferment that Homo sapiens was born,” they claim, “but the sketchy nature of the fossil record currently at hand makes it possible to glimpse only very dimly the context out of which our species emerged.”  So the human mind, with all its talents, just “emerged”?  How did that happen?  We need only read the next section, “The Emergence of Cognitively Modern Humans.”
Unusual though Homo sapiens may be morphologically, it is undoubtedly our remarkable cognitive qualities that most strikingly demarcate us from all other extant species.  They are certainly what give us our strong subjective sense of being qualitatively different.  And they are all ultimately traceable to our symbolic capacity.  Human beings alone, it seems, mentally dissect the world into a multitude of discrete symbols, and combine and recombine those symbols in their minds to produce hypotheses of alternative possibilities.  When exactly Homo sapiens acquired this unusual ability is the subject of debate (contrast Tattersall 1998, 2004 with McBrearty & Brooks 2000).  How, exactly, this ability was acquired is even more controversial (contrast Deacon 1997 with Wynn & Coolidge 2004).  Symbolic and nonsymbolic cognitive states are clearly separated by a qualitative gulf: The former is not simply an extension of the latter, a little bit more of the same.  How that gulf was bridged in the evolution of Homo sapiens, and what the neural mechanisms are that permitted it, remain unclear.  Still, by looking for evidence of expressly symbolic activities in the archaeological record of early hominid behaviors, it is possible to sketch, at least tentatively, the context in which this astonishing transition took place.
All they can promise is the where and when, not the how, in other words.  They claim evidence for increase in cranial capacity over time among multiple hombres: Homo erectus, Homo neanderthalensis, and Homo sapiens.  “What it was that propelled such independent increase is unknown, and is something that will have to be understood if we are ever to develop a full account of the evolution of human cognition.”  Maybe it was dark matter or dark energy.  Whatever it was, by the end of the trend, human cognition was in evidence – about 100,000 years ago in Africa, they claim, though “The earliest such evidence is highly inferential....” 
We can reasonably take evidence of the kind just quoted that the unique human sensibility had begun to stir in Africa—and possibly beyond—in the period beginning approximately 100–80 kyr ago; and we can be sure that the human creative impulse had bloomed fully by approximately 40 kyr ago, because once in Europe, the Cro-Magnons produced a dazzling record of creativity that included cave paintings, engravings, sculptures, annotated plaques, musical instruments, and much other evidence that they were entirely modern in the cognitive as well as in the physical sense (Marshack 1985, 1991; White 1986, 1989).  But even at 100 kyr, we are well beyond the origin of Homo sapiens as an anatomical entity.
They have just claimed that Homo sapiens spent 60,000 years as virtual zombies in terms of human intellectual and cultural ability.  They had bodies indistinguishable from ours.  What happened 40,000 years ago?  Here, they suggest it was distant latent ability – a proclivity – waiting silently for up to 160,000 years for the right occasion to explode:
Alternatively, though, it is possible to suggest that the potential for symbolic thought was born in Africa, possibly as much as 160–200 kyr ago, in the major developmental reorganization that also gave rise to Homo sapiens as a distinctive anatomical entity (Tattersall 1998, 2004, 2007).  That potential then lay unexpressed until it was discovered through a cultural (nonbiological) innovation, as was suggested by Randy White as early as the 1980s.  Plausibly this behavioral innovation was the invention of language, the ultimate symbol-dependent activity.  Language also has the advantage in this context of being an externalized possession (Tattersall 2007), rather than an internalized one such as theory of mind, another capacity that has been proposed as the essential underpinning of complex human consciousness (see review by Dunbar 1997).
    Within this framework, we can see in expressions such as those of Blombos the initial explorations of a preexisting capacity.  The new proclivity could then have been spread culturally via contact with, rather than replacement of, neighboring populations of Homo sapiens.  It may even be that its possessors discovered their new behavioral potential independently in multiple places.  Whatever the case, the unique human capacity was in full flower by Cro-Magnon times—and the subsequent history of mankind has essentially been one of its ongoing exploitation.
We think of a teen-ager saying “whatever” in a droll voice as an expression of apathy or laziness.  Is this intellectual laziness here, to relegate to “whatever it was” as the best scientific explanation for the remarkable flowering of the human mind?  Whatever.
    Nevertheless, Tattersall and Schwartz congratulated themselves on offering a scientific theory of the origin of the human mind, not by divine creation, but by evolution (if you’ll pardon the dissing of Darwin):
In light of all this, we can see the origin of our unique form of consciousness not in an improbable process of long-term fine-tuning by natural selection, but rather as the result of a routine evolutionary event of exaptation (Gould & Vrba 1982), and its unusual dimensions as a function of emergence, whereby a long accretionary evolutionary history had culminated in a small modification that gave rise to an entirely unanticipated level of complexity (Tattersall 2004, 2007)
In their view, latent abilities are a “function of emergence” (the unexplained appearance of unanticipated properties from pre-existing materials).  These latent abilities sit idle for sometimes hundreds of millions of years, till after a “long accretionary evolutionary history,” some unknown and unanticipated event switches that potential on.  The latent ability is “exapted” (i.e., adapted without foresight) and evolutionary history takes a new turn.  For a stinger, what do they call the best evidence that modern man had finally arrived?  He wiped out all the contenders: “the spread of symbolic Homo sapiens around the Old World was accompanied everywhere by the rapid demise of resident hominid species.  This, as much as cave art that is as powerful as anything ever wrought since, speaks for the emergent and absolutely unprecedented nature of symbolic Homo sapiens.”  Yes, man the genocidal maniac had finally arrived.
    The authors end with a Disclosure Statement: “The authors are not aware of any biases that might be perceived as affecting the objectivity of this review.
1.  Ian Tattersall and Jeffrey H. Schwartz, “Evolution of the Genus Homo,” , Vol. 37: 67-92 (Volume publication date May 2009), (doi:10.1146/annurev.earth.031208.100202).
The authors may not be aware of their biases, but we sure are.  Look, folks: if you for a minute think that this hodgepodge of guesswork, ad-hoc speculation, and dogma masquerading as knowledge deserves to be blessed with the appellation of science, you need a serious deprogramming session.  We don’t have to prove it.  We just have to quote what they said, and allow them to prove their own inanity by their own words.  Look: they appealed to mystical forces, happenstance, chance, luck, lack of evidence and lack of knowledge, debate, controversy, dogma and naturalistic miracles to state their case.  This is no better (except for the prestige of the journal in which it got published) than some late night talk show host telling us space aliens planted the human mind in an ape’s body.  Understand this: fossils are real, skulls are real, cave paintings are real, and continents are real – but they do not interpret themselves.  What did these guys just tell us?  They did not appeal to scientific facts or evidence so much as to a “framework” (a crystal ball, a tool of divination), in which it becomes possible to “glimpse very dimly” the “light” of mystical understanding.
    When the exceptions outnumber the rules, you should be alert that something is seriously wrong.  Let’s reinforce the sense of how much rationality you would have to jettison to accept Tattersall and Schwartz’s belief system.  You have to first distance yourself from other eminent evolutionists, like Ernst Mayr (the ornithologist styling himself an expert on human origins), and all the other paleoanthropologists who disagree with them.  Then you have to look at an assemblage of human fossils from all over the world and make arbitrary judgments about who’s in and who’s out (a kind of historical racism).  Then you have to accept uncritically a dating framework that was set up to glorify Charles Darwin.  Then you have to accept the validity of arguing from silence, as well as tossing out the evidence you don’t like.  Then you have to make arbitrary judgments and distinctions about what kinds of bodies are more primitive or advanced (their euphemism is “derived”).  Then you have to separate in your mind any necessary connection between morphology and intelligence, or brain size and intelligence.  Then you have to call your fellow men and women zombies – your equals or superiors in physical fitness – but who, for unknown reasons, for nearly two million years, though talented enough to make spears and hunt wooly mammoths with team effort (could you do that?) couldn’t figure out that their tongues and throats and brains were designed for language, and their hands for art, and their minds for understanding.  Then you have to accept the premise that chance “proclivities” can lay fallow for millions of years, only to be “discovered” by Charlie the cobbler after Tinker Bell zaps some unspecified gene with her mutation wand, producing a whole cascade of effects that produces an instant Homo sapiens.  Then you have to wait for another 35,000 years for your fully modern, clear thinking, artistically-proficient, music-making brethren to think hard enough to realize that they might save a lot of time and energy by learning how to ride a horse, invent a wheel and plant seeds.  On top of all this, after relegating scientific explanation to “whatever it was” that just “emerged” from some unspecified “proclivity” that also just emerged, and telling us they have no bias, they have the gall to tell us what makes sense.  Jargon or no jargon, skull measurements or no skull measurements, this whole belief system is pathetic.  Calling this science is sick.  It is evidence for the decline of the human mind starting around 1859.
Next headline on:  Early ManEvolutionFossilsDating Methods
Another Crow Species Impresses Scientists with Tool-Making Skills   05/26/2009    
May 26, 2009 — Who would have thought that crows rival chimpanzees in intelligence?  Members of the corvid group, which includes crows and ravens, are amazing researchers with their ability to make tools.
    Previous studies with New Caledonian crows (08/09/2002, 10/07/2007, 02/23/2007) impressed researchers with the birds’ abilities to fashion simple tools out of available materials to reach food.  Now, experiments with common rooks show the same degree of intelligence.  A report on the BBC News includes three video clips where you can watch birds in the lab cleverly figure out how to get inaccessible food by selecting rocks or fashioning a hook out of wire to pull the food out of a tube.  They invoke a skill called metatool use – using two tools in succession to obtain a result.  They also showed the mental flexibility to use alternative tools to achieve the same goal.
    The report says scientists were surprised at the results, because rooks do not seem to need this intelligence to survive.  Christopher Bird said, “We’ve seen this kind of tool use in New Caledonian crows, but the interesting thing about the rooks is that they do not use tools in the wild.”  A question arose why tool-use intelligence evolved in these birds.  The BBC article said, “the finding that rooks can use tools now raises questions about how this special ability might have come about.”  Dr. Nathan Emery [Queen Mary, U of London] asked, “Because they don’t use tools in the wild, the question is why should they have evolved the ability to use tools in the lab and understand the properties of those objects as tools?  Is this a form of general intelligence that has been co-opted for tool use?”
    Science Daily offered a similar idea: “These findings suggest that rooks’ ability to use tools and represent the tools’ useful properties may be a by-product of a sophisticated form of physical intelligence, rather than tool use having evolved as an adaptive specialisation, such as has been proposed for the tool using abilities of New Caledonian crows.”  Are they suggesting a new mechanism for evolution?  How could natural selection, which only acts on the present need, create a general ability for what might be needed in the future?  It also raises the question why other animals in similar ecological niches did not evolve the ability.
Maybe it didn’t evolve.  Darwinists are addicted to after-the-fact storytelling.  They cannot provide any factual sequence of lucky mutations that turns a skull full of mush into a problem-solving computer.  Think of how many simultaneous evolutionary mistakes would be involved in tool use: adaptations to the eyes, the beak, the feet, and the brain computer.
    Evolutionary theory was completely unnecessary for this science project.  For scientists to make up a story out of thin air after the fact that selection pressures caused this ability to evolve is a non-explanation.  It turns the word “evolve” into a miracle word that plugs leaks in understanding with silly putty.  When the yellow silly putty of natural selection doesn’t fool enough people, they try the pink silly putty of co-option.
    Evolutionary explanations are little different than shamanism.  The witch doctor explains to his tribe that the reason it rained is because the gods are angry, or happy, or whatever line is needed to keep the natives supporting the Witch Doctor Academy.  Let’s move our support to IDU (Intelligent Design University), where there is respect for natural law – in this case, that life begets life, and intelligence begets intelligence.
    Two rooks walked into the Crow Bar for some geek talk over lunch.  One said, “I found an iPhone but can’t figure out a way to text my friends.”  The other twittered back, “I use a bent piece of wire.  The only trouble is, we only know one word – caw – and iPhones are so dumb, they don’t allow you to put vocal expression into the message.”  The other replied, “And that makes all the difference in our language.  Oh well, I suppose I can drop it from the top of a building to crack a nut.”  “That’s a pretty heavy object to lift,” the other said, sipping some Old Crow.  “Beak careful.”  In the background, the jukebox droned on,
    You drop sixteen stones, and what do you get?
    Another few grubs and a crappy tool set.
    So labby don’t you film me, ’cause I can’t go,
    I owe my soul to the Darwinist show.

Next headline on:  BirdsAmazing FactsEvolutionary Theory
  Why did a prominent evolutionist call his fellow evolutionists’ explanations for adaptation “absolute nonsense”?  Find out in the 05/31/2004 entry.

World’s Smallest Rotary Engine Highlighted   05/25/2009    
May 25, 2009 — The smallest rotary motor in the world keeps your body humming.  It also keeps bacteria, plants, polar bears, giraffes, salmon, sea urchins and just about everything else humming.  It’s a nano-wonder called ATP synthase.  This molecular motor has been reported many times in these pages, but not recently; what’s new?  The state of our knowledge about ATP synthase was summarized in a paper in Nature by three German scientists.1  Basically, it’s a fascinating machine, but there’s still a lot more to learn.
    It’s not just figurative speech to call ATP synthase a rotary motor.  It actually generates torque (the subject of the paper in Nature).  The authors compared it to a Wankel engine – the kind that powers a Mazda car, and used the word “motor” 30 times in the paper.  They said the first studies of this molecular machine revealed it “resembling a three-chambered molecular Wankel engine, therefore strongly suggested that rotation, rather than alternation, was nature’s choice, and that the synthesis of ATP might be mechanically driven by rotation....”  Synthesis of ATP (thus the name) is its job.  ATP (adenosine triphosphate) is the energy currency for all of life.  The ATP molecule is a nucleotide with extra phosphate groups attached.  It requires energy to attach the phosphate groups; energy is liberated when they are removed.  Most molecular processes in the cell (and in all of life) use that liberated energy that comes from ATP.  Plants use it for photosynthesis; animals use it for respiration.  Quadrillions of these rotary engines in a human body manufacture ATP constantly, day and night, to keep those processes operational.  If they suddenly stopped, you would be dead before you hit the floor.
    ATP synthase has several parts; a rotor, a stator, and a camshaft.  It’s actually two motors in one.  The top half (called F1) is a three-chambered assembly factory that pushes the phosphates onto the nucleotide.  Three pairs of lobes in this stepping motor turns loading ADP and phosphate, assembling them, and releasing ATP molecules.  They are powered underneath by a waterwheel-like rotating motor that runs on proton motive force (see 12/22/2003).  Taking advantage of the ever-present Brownian motion and electrostatic interactions, the protons turn the wheel.  This simultaneously turns a coupled camshaft-like mechanism that protrudes into the top half, which transfers the torque to the ATP-assembling lobes.  The engine can work in either direction, constructing ATP molecules or breaking them down, depending on the concentration gradient. 
    Scientists have been intrigued by the mismatch of gear ratios between the top and bottom halves of the engine.  In some animals, for instance, there are 11 units in the rotating half, but 3 in the top half.  This implies some transfer of elastic energy in the camshaft.  Whatever is happening, it works: scientists say this machine approaches 100% efficiency.  For a taste of the discussion from the paper for those who know physics, they are discussing the match between the energy needed for ATP hydrolysis and the mechanical work done by the motor:

The match implies 100% efficiency for the conversion of the Gibbs free energy of ATP hydrolysis into mechanical work performed on the elastically strained filament.  This is not surprising given the approximate thermodynamic equilibrium of the enzyme (long)-filament construct.  It is more informative to say that there is no slip between ATP hydrolysis in F1 and rotation in FO under the given conditions.2  Rotary slip in FOF1 in chloroplasts and bacteria has been detected, but only under single-site occupancy, that is, at nucleotide concentrations significantly below 100 nM.  The momentary torque can be larger (for example, during a particular power stroke) or smaller (during a kinetic dwell) than its equilibrium average.  This may account for the still puzzling independence of the torque from the ATP concentration in the nanomolar to millimolar range (see ref. 2 for a review).  It is worth mentioning that the other technique for determining the torque from the rate of rotation underestimates its magnitude because it neglects viscous flow coupling between the filament and the enzyme-supporting surface.
The mismatch of gear ratios may actually make the machine more efficient.  “It has also shown that an elastic power transmission is indispensable for a high rate of coupled turnover under load,” they said.  “It increases the rate by several orders of magnitude over that of a rigidly coupled double motor..... The elastic power transmission both increases the ‘kinetic efficiency’ of the coupled motors ... and allows the double motor to function with different gears in different organisms.”
    In conclusion, they noted five questions about ATP synthase that remain to be answered since the true mechanical nature of this rotary engine came to light around 1997 (and won its discoverers the Nobel Prize).  Surrounding those questions were expressions of marvel at the design of this machine:
ATP synthase (FOF1) is a molecular machine that combines the electrical, mechanical and chemical aspects of enzyme function.  These are neatly separated, readily attributed to its different subunits, and reasonably well understood thanks to a wealth of structural and kinetic data.  However, understanding the enzyme fully at a molecular level will require considerable efforts, both experimental and theoretical.  There are five outstanding issues.... Only when we have solved these problems will we come close to a full understanding of this remarkable piece of cellular machinery.
There are other examples of rotary engines in living cells, including the bacterial flagellum (which is an order of magnitude larger), and helicases (the machines that unwind DNA).  There are also two other spinoffs of ATP synthase (if you’ll pardon the pun), built on the same principle, that perform other functions (see 02/24/2003 and 12/22/2003 for information on of them).  Most other cellular machines, like the actins and kinesins, operate in a linear fashion.  “The coupled operation of two rotary motors, one electrical (FO) and one chemical (F1), is unique,” the authors said.  “In FOF1-ATPase there is no fine-tuning of the two stepping motors;3  instead, their coupled operation is smoothed and speeded by elastic power transmission, which accounts for its high kinetic efficiency and robust function..”  Scientists used to believe life was incapable of utilizing the wheel.  Now they know better.  Speaking of elastic power transmission producing high kinetic efficiency and robust function, they mentioned something that should tempt a biophysicist to investigate: “Other nanomotors probably share this feature.”
1.  Junge, Seilaff and Engelbrecht, “Torque generation and elastic power transmission in the rotary FOF1-ATPase,” Nature 459, 364-370 (21 May 2009) | doi:10.1038/nature08145.
2.  F0 refers to the rotating part of the machine that runs on proton motive force.  F1 refers to the top half that synthesizes ATP.
3.  They refer not to design principles but to the non-integer gear ratio between the two parts which, as they explained, actually increases the yield by an order of magnitude.  See also the 08/10/2004 entry: “ATP Synthase: Another Unexpected Case of Fine Tuning”.
We could form a pretty large stack of scientific papers with the following characteristics: (1) they express marvel at the engineering design of living things, and (2) they say absolutely nothing about evolution.  This paper was another prime example.  Somebody should make a project of that and carry the stack to school board meetings where the NCSE is giving their usual spiel that nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.
    The more you know about ATP synthase, the more you will be led to conclude that this is a wondrous device showcasing intelligent design.  It’s mechanically perfect, irreducibly complex, 100% efficient, absolutely necessary for life, and capable of generating awe among scientists who study it.  Notice that it was discovered 138 years after Charlie dreamed up his little myth about how design could invent itself.
Next headline on:  Cell BiologyPhysicsIntelligent DesignAmazing Facts
SETI Invites Alien Talk   05/24/2009    
May 24, 2009 — They may not be saying much to us, but we can think about what to say to them – aliens, that is.  Space.com reported on the latest project from the SETI Institute: invite people all over the world to ponder, “What would you say to an extraterrestrial civilization?”
    The SETI Institute is launching a new website, Earth Speaks, to gather people’s ideas about what we should say to an alien civilization should contact be made.  “By submitting text messages, pictures, and sounds from across the globe,” CEO Thomas Pierson explained, “people from all walks of life will contribute to a dialogue about what humanity might say to intelligent beings on other worlds.”  So far it’s a monologue, but people have been recording all kinds of trivial things that might be included in our first care package – sounds of walking on stairs, rattling of bracelets, the sizzle of grilled chicken.  The website opens with internet tags on a “web cloud” that will grow in size as items become popular.
    A debate rages on how to respond to aliens.  What if they are hostile?  Should we reveal too much about ourselves?  The SETI Institute is not planning to send a message – just get people talking about what they would say.  Perhaps the Institute takes a default position similar to that expressed by SETI father Frank Drake, who once said we might as well try to be friendly.  Indeed, friendship and hope are some of the popular themes on Earth Speaks.  Pierson said, “Through Earth Speaks, the SETI Institute also hopes to foster an open and thoughtful debate about the pros and cons of sending messages to other worlds.”  The report ended:
Earth Speaks is founded on the belief that first impressions matter, especially when there is no quick way to correct them – which could well be the case when your partner in conversation lives trillions of miles away.  Indeed, the initial messages we send to an extraterrestrial civilization could set the tone for a conversation lasting hundreds or thousands of years.  It is only fitting, then, that as we ponder how we would represent humankind to another civilization, the decision should be made by people around the world.
It’s too late to control our first impressions, though.  Episodes of I Love Lucy have probably been leaking out at the speed of light for decades.  Broadcast TV, the Arecibo Message, and the Voyager Records are already out there.  Former president Jimmy Carter wrote to the space inhabitants on the Voyager record that “We hope someday, having solved the problems we face, to join a community of galactic civilizations.”  The aliens, our friends, could be on the way in their flying saucers any time now, carrying a book, How to Serve Man.
Exercise: compare and contrast this program with pagan religion.  There are powerful, unseen cosmic entities all around us.  We don’t know who they are, or how powerful they are, or what they are thinking, but we must offer supplications to them to appease them.  We need to let them know we wish to stay on their good side, lest they destroy us.  Our shamans at the SETI Institute, who consult and peep and mutter, decide what offerings are needed.  The offerings go nowhere but at least make us feel good.
    These are the same people, you recall, who ridicule Christians for communicating with Someone who has communicated – and even visited, bringing a message of love, grace, and salvation.  But this is different.  This is Science.  Now stop complaining.  Go to the website and make your offering.
Next headline on:  SETIDumb Ideas
05/23/2009 – Going on vacation to a national park this summer?  If it’s Grand Canyon or Yellowstone, take along these guidebooks that provide a different view from the usual evolution-over-billions-of-years propaganda.  The Creation Research Society published a Road Guide to Yellowstone Park and Adjacent Areas (2005) that tells many fascinating details about geology and fossils over the vast region.  It gives mile-by-mile highlights to show you what to look for along roads inside and outside the park.  For Grand Canyon, a new book from Canyon Ministries, the True North Series: Your Guide to the Grand Canyon is a must-have for your next trip to the #1 natural wonder of the world.  This profusely-illustrated guidebook conveniently opens flat for easy reading on the road.  Fold-out pages for each park viewpoint increase your enjoyment by pointing out amazing things to look for.  The book not only provides all the vital facts a visitor needs about geology, plants, animals, trails, weather, activities and history of the famous park, but also discusses important evidence you can see with your own eyes, showing why the flood model is vastly superior to the evolutionary model for the origin of the canyon and its remarkable layers.  Arm your family against the onslaught of evolutionary visitor displays at the national parks with these excellent resources.  They not only give a different view; they help promote critical thinking skills.
Next resource of the week:  05/16/2009.  All resources: Catalog.

Who Gets the Blame for This Oil Spill?   05/22/2009    
May 22, 2009 — Who could forget the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989, that leaked 10.8 million gallons of oil into Alaska’s pristine coastal waters?  That mistake cost Exxon a billion dollars in damages for the ecological disaster it caused and sparked one of the biggest cleanup operations in history.  Imagine 80 times as much.  That’s how much oil scientists at UC Santa Barbara and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute say is being leaked naturally along southern California coastlines by oil seeps.  Science Daily and Live Science echoed a press release from UC Santa Barbara about this “spectacular finding”.
    Judging from samples, the scientists estimated that 8 to 80 times as much oil as was spilled by Exxon Valdez has leaked into the ocean in vast plumes from the California coastal shelf near Santa Barbara.  The team, led by an undergraduate chemistry student, wanted to know what happens to the oil.  Mariners notice oil slicks, sometimes 20 miles long, on the surface.  Locals know that some of it shows up as tar balls along the beaches.  Much of it – but not all – is eventually degraded by bacteria.  The rest of it sinks back to the bottom and is deposited in coastal sediments.

Quick; we need to drill this oil to save Santa Barbara from an ecological disaster, then sue Mother Nature Big Oil for damages.  Where do you think all this oil came from?  Now that we know the oil is coming out anyway, do you want to get something out of it, like power for your car, or do you want it all to go to waste, buried in sediments?  And why should bacteria get all the energy from it?
Next headline on:  Geology
  The eyes have it: how your eyes tell your brain to pay attention, from 05/27/2003, and how your retina does photoshop before the brain sees anything, from 05/22/2003.

Building Planets: Can’t Make Them, But Hurry   05/21/2009    
May 21, 2009 — Constructing planets is a delicate business.  Trying to get tiny bits of dust to join up into balls has never been found to work.  It has to work fast, though, because unless the whole planet clears its dust lane, it will be dragged into the star in short order.  It seems you can’t get there from the bottom up, and even if you could, you’d be in trouble.  These and other problems with planet-building were discussed this month in two papers in the Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences.
    One thing we do know: our solar system is nicely decorated with planets, moons, asteroids, comets, meteors and other objects.  And now we realize that planets are also common around other stars.  To most planetary scientists, this lends plausibility to the belief that planets form naturally somehow – whether or not our models can figure them out.  But the very same flood of discoveries about planets from robotic exploration of the solar system and detection of extrasolar planets has brought with it a host of new problems never anticipated by Laplace, Kant and other early theorists about the origin of planets.  Life was so much simpler then.

Making Planets

Let’s start from the dust up.  We know many stars possess spinning disks of dust and gas.  Can we understand how small bodies might form?  There are three problems right off the bat, discussed by Erik Asphaug in “Growth and Evolution of Asteroids” in the Annual Review journal.1  Turbulence, accretion and death spirals render theories of their origins problematic.  More on that shortly.  It must be remembered throughout the discussion that planetologists assume the Earth, and the solar system, is 4.5 billion years old.  That means that any lifetimes numbered in 10s or 100s of millions of years represent tiny fractions of the overall age.
    Asphaug [UC Santa Cruz] spent a lot of time discussing asteroid populations and characteristics.  He even tossed in a little Tolstoy and Yeats to liven up the dry math and technical jargon.  But when it came to the subject matter of building asteroids, he was less sanguine.  Asteroids, he said, form from the top down, by destructive processes, in relatively short times:

Asteroid origin is ceaseless, as most asteroids are born in the process of catastrophic disruption.  Any main-belt asteroid smaller than a few tens of km is unlikely to have survived intact throughout solar system history.  Asteroid evolution is also ongoing: Most small asteroids have been drastically transformed in shape and structure over a few tens of millions of years by subcatastrophic collisions and cratering.  Small asteroids are also prone to dynamical perturbations of various kinds, so their present orbits may be quite different from where they originated.  Their surface textures and colors are also readily modified on short timescales.
Later, he added, “Asteroids represent the halfway point between the solar system’s turbulent beginnings and the quiescent 4 Ga [4 giga-annum or billion years] that have supported life on Earth.”  Don’t look to them as planetary building blocks, in other words.  Meteorites, by contrast, are primordial—they are remnants of the birth of our solar system, he said.  So how did those smaller chunks form?  Watch for any confidence in the following description of the environment of the planetary maternity ward.  It’s like trying to get born in a shooting gallery with the heaters and air conditioners going berserk:
The first stage of planetary accretion is among the most complex studies in astrophysics.  As they accumulate, planetesimals are entrained within a disk that undergoes violent shocks and propagates gravitational waves and eddies.  Magneto-rotational instabilities might lead to high turbulent viscosities, which lead to radial transport and vertical mixing and viscous spreading.  Solid particles settle to the mid-plane, increasing the density so that planetesimals might eventually coagulate.  Electric discharge and impact heating take place sporadically.  Outside this mid-plane the young sun blasts the gas and sweeps away small material.  Drag against the gas disk forces meter-sized boulders to spiral in from the planet-forming region.
    The chemical environment, too, is grossly out of equilibrium.  The disk experiences a wide range of temperatures and pressures and oxidation states, with sharp gradients in time and space.  Where the disk is optically thick, it can remain hot for thousands of years; where it is thin, it can cool in days or even minutes.  Thermodynamic energy is available from solar heating, shock heating (by impacting globules striking the disk, by disk planetesimals colliding with one another, and by shocks in the gas), compression heating (adiabatic work), and radionuclide decay.  This energy is transported radiatively and convectively.
It’s nice that Asphaug acknowledged these environmental hazards, but he so far has not given any reason for hope that bundles of joy will emerge from the wreckage.  In fact, the next thing he talked about was how revolting the results of the Stardust mission were to theorists:
One of the most baffling results from any recent space mission is NASA’s Stardust sample return from periodic comet 81P/Wild 2 (Brownlee et al. 2006; see Figure 3), which includes an abundance of refractory silicates, metal sulfides, and refractory oxides.  These small grains, captured in aerogel during a flyby through the coma, can have formed only in the terrestrial (inner) part of the disk; how did they make it to the ice-rich region where comets form?  It is a revolutionary mission result, telling us that the solar system was exchanging matter across tens of AU during the early stages of primary accretion.
Take a moment from this Revolutionary Etude to focus on that phrase primary accretion: that’s the heart of the matter.  In the primary stage of planet building, the tiny dust grains need to accrete, or stick to one another.  Only when a planetesimal gets up to kilometer size or more in diameter will its self-gravity pull more material in.  Little particles lack the gravitational potential to grow on their own.  They’ve got to link up by other mechanisms while in the shooting gallery, with all that turbulence, wind, heating, cooling, colliding and electrical activity tending to disrupt them.  Can this work?  Let’s jump ahead to Asphaug’s section 3.2.2, “Primary Accretion.”  Here’s where the pebble meets the spiral:
Direct knowledge of the earliest stage now exists from astronomical observations (e.g., Meyer et al. 2008).  As the hot orbiting mixture of dust and gas cools, larger particles condense, leading to lowered opacity and further cooling and coagulation.  The review by Podosek & Cassen (1994) remains highly relevant.  Particles orbiting with any inclination or eccentricity must plow through the disk; the resultant damping settles them to the midplane on a timescale of 100 years at 1 AU (Cuzzi & Weidenschilling 2006).  What happens next in this central sheet is a great unknown, and depends on the effect of turbulence.
    Dust grains coagulate via Brownian motion and chemical or electrical sticking mechanisms (Dominik et al. 2007).  This can lead to sand- to boulder-sized agglomerates.  Brownian motion is an expression of modest turbulence, possibly set up by magneto-rotational instabilities in the plasma and the dusty gas.  However, too great a turbulence disrupts agglomerates faster than they form.  Benz (2000) and Leinhardt et al. (2000) studied collisions involving meter- to kilometer-scale aggregates at 1–10 m/s random velocities, and determined their disruption to be a bottleneck to further growth.  A possible solution is that compactible aggregates damp the energy of collisions and resist subsequent disruption.
    Not only must turbulence be low, but the gas must go away before the growing planetesimals spiral in.... Decoupled solids spiral towards the Sun at an estimated 1 AU [astronomical unit, 93 million miles] per 10–1000 years, so there is not much time!
It’s rare to find exclamation points in scientific journals, so let’s unpack this remarkable description.  He doesn’t say how big these early-stage packages are, but they must be very small, because soon he will say, “The problem of accreting meter-scale planetesimals is far from solved.”  Whatever they are, these hopeful bundles of dust have very little time to escape the giant sucking sound at the center, where the gravity of the star is pulling in every small pebble very rapidly (1000 years is about 20 millionths the assumed age of the solar system).
    His evidence for the alleged “earliest stage” is observational: i.e., the presence of boulder-sized objects inferred (indirectly) from the properties of disks around other stars.  We can only have confidence that material represents planet-assembling stages, however, if we can rule out the possibility the material is not, instead, leftover debris from the disruption of existing planets.  It could be top-down material, in other words, not bottom-up material growing into planets.
    Asphaug failed to describe how dust particles could stick together.  The problem of getting meter-size boulders to accrete, let alone kilometer size, is “far from solved,” he said.  He assumes it did happen on the basis of melt evidence in meteorites: “But we know it occurred rapidly because of the widespread melting of planetesimals caused by the decay of 26Al.”  (Aluminum-26 has a half-life of 740,000 years.)2  Perhaps material puddled up in eddies.  Perhaps it coagulated in local swarms.  Or, maybe it was due to “random effects” (which, in science, amounts to hand-waving).  Whatever happened, “Timing is everything,” he said.  “So is location.”  Nebular hypothesis or not, planets do not just emerge out of the disk without some very special conditions.  From there, Asphaug left primary accretion to wrestle with problems regarding iron-silicate ratios and their relative breakdown rates.  It appears now that meteorites, once thought to be pristine objects from the birth of the solar system, actually formed later.  These and other problems had to be relegated to some maybes and perhapses.  Shhh....don’t ask about chondrules:
The origin of chondrules adds another layer to the mystery, in that these are melt droplets of some kind, quite possibly themselves antecedent to global melting of planetesimals.  Chondrules are melted silicate spherules a few mm in size that are abundant in chondritic meteorites (reviewed by Scott 2007).  Over half the bulk mass of chondritic meteorites consists of chondrules, so they represent a widespread epoch in planet formation that has been attributed to processes as diverse as lightning, impacts, nebular shocks, compaction heating, and volcanic eruptions.  Chondrules cooled through their solidus at rates ranging from 10 to 1000 K/h—much slower than radiative cooling of a mm-sized droplet, which is tens of seconds.  Chondrule cooling appears to require a hot background that disappears over a timescale of hours.
What might have happened in the solar system, when planetesimals were presumably progressing from primary to secondary accretion, to form the mysterious chondrules?  When in doubt, call Lucky Strike: “Although impact origin of chondrules is not currently in favor, we have a lot to learn, and large, late collisions deserve a closer look.”  In logic this is known as special pleading.
    One would hope that by late-stage planet formation, when the planetesimals are big enough to pull in their own material, the rest of the story would proceed smoothly.  Sorry to pile on the difficulties:
In almost all simulations of late-stage planet formation, giant impacts are treated as “sticky ping pong balls” undergoing perfectly inelastic collisions when they hit, forming a larger equal-mass sphere that conserves linear momentum.  This was proven untenable by Agnor et al. (1999), who tracked angular momentum during such a calculation and showed that perfectly inelastic collisions lead to planets with impossibly fast rotation.
Well, that was ten years ago.  Surely they have solved it by now?  Better simulations by Agnor and others have indeed been performed.  But still, half the collisions end up as hit-and-run events that don’t grow planets.  Only low-velocity, head-on collisions have any hope of causing more growth than damage.  Most of the time, collisions break things down: “The prevalence of hit-and-run collisions makes it a late-stage pathway for the origin of exotic igneous asteroids, for volatile flux and iron-silicate intermingling, and for the bulk removal of planetary mantles and the stripping of iron cores.”  The lucky leftovers might have been the planets as we know them.  That, at least, is the hope.  Maybe a little sweet odor will ease the pain:
The overall trend in a collisional accretionary environment is the loss of atmosphere, ocean, crust, and mantle, the preferential accretion of dense materials into growing planets, the shedding off of mantles, and the occasional disruption of single planets into multiples.  This leads to a primary physical and chemical bias, a dichotomy among the accreted and the unaccreted.  If finished planets are the loaves of bread, asteroids are the scraps on the floor of the bakery.
Catastrophic disruption continues to be the trend in the solar system today.  “The prevalence of young dynamical families confirms that today’s NEOs [near-earth objects] are, by and large, discrete samplings of catastrophic disruption events in the main belt that happened thousands to millions of years ago,” he said, winding down his article.  It is “incontrovertible” that the meteors hitting our atmosphere today are “punctuated by recent disruptions.  The sampling of meteorites on Earth, and of small asteroids near Earth, reflects that bias.”  Most of what we see falling from the sky, in other words, is recent material, not pristine remnants from the solar system’s origins.
    We may not understand how planets formed, but we should be glad they did, he said in his conclusion.  “Whether Earths are common depends in no small part upon the behavior of accreting planetesimals,” he said, waxing philosophical.  In his view, we stand on lucky dust.  “Nearly all of the original mass of our main belt was swept up in the chaos of planet formation, so we may be fortunate not to have lost everything from our habitable zone.”  Add water (which had to be added later by another lucky strike) and the lucky dust became lucky mud, from which you and I sprang.  That’s the tale.

Saving Planets

Now, let’s turn to the other paper and see what happens after you have a planet.  A whole new class of problems for planet formation theories has come to light in the last decade.  John Chambers [Carnegie Institute of Science] discussed those in another article in Annual Review.3  In short, planets don’t stay where they were made, assuming they were made by processes Asphaug just described.  Get ready for migration – the conveyor belt that sends planets toward the oven or the freezer:

Gravitational interactions between a planet and its protoplanetary disk change the planet’s orbit, causing the planet to migrate toward or away from its star.  Migration rates are poorly constrained for low-mass bodies but reasonably well understood for giant planets.  In both cases, significant migration will affect the details and efficiency of planet formation.  If the disk is turbulent, density fluctuations will excite orbital eccentricities and cause orbits to undergo a random walk.  Both processes are probably detrimental to planet formation.  Planets that form early in the lifetime of a disk are likely to be lost, whereas late-forming planets will survive and may undergo little migration.  Migration can explain the observed orbits and masses of extrasolar planets if giants form at different times and over a range of distances.  Migration can also explain the existence of planets orbiting close to their star and of resonant pairs of planets.
These explanations that models “can” explain are clearly explanations after the fact, not predictions from previous theories.  So here you have it: today’s models have to reflect the high likelihood that primary accretion, when the dust is plentiful and conditions are optimum, won’t help anyway, because the early world gets the doom.  Migration adds a whole new class of problems that is “probably detrimental to planet formation.”  Theorists were not expecting this grief.  Chambers said that “for a long time migration received little attention from the planetary science community.”  Scientists were “intent on understanding the formation of the Solar System, for which there seems little need to invoke migration.... The discovery of extrasolar planets has changed all this.”  Hot Jupiter, there are giant planets spinning around their stars closer in than Mercury to the sun.  Such things had never been dreamt of.  With only one planetary system to look at (ours), planetologists had convinced themselves that rocky planets form close in, gas giants form far out, and they stay put.  No model can account for Jupiter-size gas giants coagulating so close to the star.  The only explanation available is that they formed far out, then migrated in.  The disk material acts like a spiral conveyor belt – bringing even large planets toward the stellar furnace quickly.  Migration is so rapid and efficient, in fact, it’s a wonder any planets escape the fate of falling into the star.  Planets are now seen as lucky leftovers from this previously-ignored class of dangers.  But then, woe be to any Earth-like planets in a habitable zone with a hot Jupiter nearby.  The gravity of the gas giant would be sure to fling the rocky planet out of bounds – if not swallow it whole.
    Those interested can obtain John Chambers’ paper for the full depressing story.  “In this article, I describe how the standard model of planet formation is being modified to include planetary migration—a transformation that is by no means complete at present....”  Later, he said, “the rapid pace of recent developments has left models of planet formation struggling to keep up.”  Suffice it to say he was not able to rescue primary accretion from the death clutch of the previous article.  Instead, he had to jettison the long-standing core accretion model and consider a radical alternative – disk instability – to get giant planets to form at all, and to form fast enough to get out of the death spiral.  Advice to the revolutionaries: what thou doest, do quickly.
1.  Erik Asphaug, “Growth and Evolution of Asteroids,” Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Vol. 37: 413-448 (Volume publication date May 2009), doi:10.1146/annurev.earth.36.031207.124214.
2.  The short lifetime of aluminum-26 and other short-lived radionuclides causes other problems for solar system theories, and leads to radical speculations: see, for instance, early speculations in Science Frontiers and the Smithsonian.
3.  John E. Chambers, “Planetary Migration: What Does It Mean for Planet Formation?”, Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Vol. 37: 321-344 (Volume publication date May 2009), doi:10.1146/annurev.earth.031208.100122.
Whether planet-building is depressing or fun might depend on your temperament, but it should be obvious that any theory that depends for its acceptance on a long string of lucky accidents falls short of the scientific ideal.  Science is supposed to explain things with reference to natural law.  It’s supposed to make predictions.  It’s supposed to be falsifiable.  It’s supposed to have observational support, not reinvent a theory every time new information throws a monkey wrench into the old theory.  And when getting to the goal line requires a series of miracles or credibility gaps, it’s hard to judge whether this type of mythmaking improves on Aristotelianism (or Babylonianism, for that matter).
    Much of this type of writing appears to be sophisticated storytelling masquerading as scientific explanation.  Some of the constraints are well characterized – viscosity, half-lives, the physics of inelastic collisions and incidence angles.  But these are like the boundaries and obstacles in a pinball game.  Would you be impressed if we proposed a weirdly improbable path the ball took, circling one obstacle, jumping over others, and getting struck by lightning at some point?  Would you like it if we assumed the boundaries were flexible and the obstacles movable?  Would you be impressed if we said we don’t understand how the ball got from A to B, so we will just pick it up and move it to B for now and leave that problem to someone else in the future?  Would you accept our explanation that the ball scored by taking a lucky random walk?  How about if we said the game made itself and plays itself?  Should such ideas be graced with the word science?
    The only observational fact is that Earth hits the jackpot against an improbable odds that only increase with new discoveries.  That lends credibility to the belief that a Master Designer not only built the game, but operated the controls.
Next headline on:  Solar SystemDating MethodsPhysics
Frank and Honest:  Quote from a Nature article on origin-of-life experiments:
“In the end, there is no agreement on how to solve the problem of life’s origin.  William Martin [Heinrich Heine University, Dusseldorf] thinks that research on the topic is “unfalsifiable conjecture” – the best we can hope for is a convincing story.  “Even if you were to make a reactor in the laboratory, and put hydrogen and carbon dioxide and nitrogen in one end, and out pops something like Escherichia coli at the other end, you still couldn’t prove that we and our ancestors arose that way.  You’d just have a narrative that made it more plausible.”
—John Whitfield, Nature News, Nature 459, 316-319 (2009) | doi:10.1038/459316a.  (On plausibility as a scientific value, see 12/22/2003 commentary.)

White Blood Cells Walk to Infection on Tiny Legs   05/20/2009    
May 20, 2009 — How do white blood cells know where to go when infection strikes?  The cells have tiny little feet and crawl like millipedes, against the blood stream, if necessary, following signals from the infection site.  When they arrive, more signals tell them where to slip through the cells of the blood vessel to get to the job.  This amazing story was reported by Science Daily based on a press release from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel (see Wiezmann Wonder Wander).  Here’s how they described this phenomenon:

How do white blood cells – immune system ‘soldiers’ – get to the site of infection or injury?  To do so, they must crawl swiftly along the lining of the blood vessel – gripping it tightly to avoid being swept away in the blood flow – all the while searching for temporary ‘road signs’ made of special adhesion molecules that let them know where to cross the blood vessel barrier so they can get to the damaged tissue.
    In research recently published in the journal Immunity, Prof. Ronen Alon and his research student Ziv Shulman of the Weizmann Institute’s Immunology Department show how white blood cells advance along the length of the endothelial cells lining the blood vessels.  Current opinion maintains that immune cells advance like inchworms, but Alon’s new findings show that the rapid movement of the white blood cells is more like that of millipedes.  Rather than sticking front and back, folding and extending to push itself forward, the cell creates numerous tiny ‘legs’ no more than a micron in length – adhesion points, rich in adhesion molecules (named LFA-1) that bind to partner adhesion molecules present on the surface of the blood vessels.  Tens of these legs attach and detach in sequence within seconds – allowing them to move rapidly while keeping a good grip on the vessels’ sides.
The press release went on to say that these legs don’t just walk.  They act as probes as they press into the epithelial tissue lining the vessels.  The force of blood actually forces them to embed their little legs into the tissue as a way to sense the location of the damaged tissue and make their way to it.  “The scientists believe that the tiny legs are trifunctional:,” the article said: “Used for gripping, moving and sensing distress signals from the damaged tissue.”
A reader found an animation of this at Harvard BioVisions.  Click on the media file labeled “Extravasation” and it will show you some of the parts and processes involved.
    It’s uncanny how the actions of these cells lacking a brain, muscles or central nervous system can act so precisely and effectively, they can be compared to multicellular organisms with all those systems.  You can almost visualize these cells like ambulance crew members or soldiers in specially designed vehicles able to cling to attachment points against the flow of traffic.  They seem so well trained and effective, it looks like they do what they do on purpose.  What a concept.
Next headline on:  Cell BiologyAmazing Facts
Tip Link:  Michael Behe wrote a letter to Science to rebut a critic who mocked his view on May 1, but Science refused to print it.  So Behe published it himself.  You can read it on his blog at Amazon.com.

Ho-Hum, Another Human Missing Link   05/19/2009    
May 19, 2009 — Shoppers typically are wary of over-hyped ads, knowing that any claim sounding too good to be true probably is.  What would they think about media reports claiming a new fossil monkey is the “8th wonder of the world”?
    The scientific paper in PLoS ONE1 had hardly been published before the press went ape, as if on cue, at the buzzphrase missing link.  A couple of press releases about the new lemur fossil of a female nicknamed Ida are calm and rational, like the one by Gautum Naik at the Wall Street Journal.  If what he wrote is true, that existing debates will persist in spite of the fossil, then the statements made by other reporters are clearly over the top (sampling below).
    All that was found was a well-preserved fossil in Germany that is 95% lemur, alleged to be 47 million years old.  The only things it lacks from modern lemurs is a specialized tooth for grooming, a specialized claw for grooming, and a wet nose (although “We can’t say whether it had a wet nose or not,” American Paleontological Society president Philip Gingerich confessed).  Other than that, the fossil looks like a modern lemur.  To evolutionists, it bears on debates over whether the common ancestor of all monkeys, apes, and (presumably) us, was a tarsier or a lemur.  It has nothing to do with downstream questions about human evolution from chimpanzee-like apes which, according to the Darwinian story, diverged 41 million years later.  As Naik pointed out, this fossil is neither likely to convince creationists, who deny humans evolved from any lower mammal, nor the evolutionists who believe that a tarsier-like animal was the ancestor of the primates.  Even this UK Guardian article answers the question whether Ida was a missing link with a firm “yes and no.”  It says, “The paper’s scientific reviewers asked that they tone down their original claims that the fossil was on the human evolutionary line,” stating that was the job of the scientific community to sort out.
    One would never know any of this from some of stories in the press.  Science Daily labeled it “extraordinary” and freely made use of the Darwinian buzzwords transitional, primitive, and ancestor.  This fossil is like a “Rosetta Stone” we are told, and “world heritage” in its significance.  It is the “first link to all humans” said one evolutionist.  David Attenborough, who is preparing a TV documentary called Link about this specimen, said, “This little creature is going to show us our connection with all the rest of the mammals.  The link they would have said until now is missing ... it is no longer missing.”
    One might wonder how Attenborough could have a documentary ready to air by May 25 if this is just being announced now.  Well, it was part of a two-year study that was kept top secret by an international team of scientists, who apparently had plenty of time to get the press ready for a blitz of hype.  And hype they did: National Geographic ran the bold headline, “MISSING LINK Photos: New Fossil Links Humans, Lemurs?”  Sky News seemed to run out of superlatives in its coverage.  The fossil is “described by experts as the ’eighth wonder of the world’,” Alex Watts reported; “They say its impact on the world of palaeontology will be ‘somewhat like an asteroid falling down to Earth’.”  Charles Darwin has been vindicated: “Researchers say proof of this transitional species finally confirms Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, and the then radical, outlandish ideas he came up with during his time aboard the Beagle.”  Quoting Attenborough: Darwin “would have been thrilled” to have seen this fossil:

“This little creature is going to show us our connection with the rest of the mammals,” he said.
“This is the one that connects us directly with them.
“Now people can say ‘okay we are primates, show us the link’.
“The link they would have said up to now is missing – well it’s no longer missing.”
Jorn Hurum, Norwegian paleontologist who obtained the fossil, got a big callout quote: “This fossil is really a part of our history; this is part of our evolution, deep, deep back into the aeons of time, 47 million years ago.”  The fossil was admired “like a cherished Van Gogh or Picasso painting.”  Hurum was so in awe of it, “he could not sleep for two days.”  The creature lived when “the first whales, horses, bats and monkeys emerged” and is the “final piece of Darwin’s jigsaw,” Watts wrote.  He ended with the triumph of science over religion: the reaction of the Bishop of Worcester’s wife to Darwin’s theory, “famously” worrying, “Descended from the apes!  My dear, let us hope that it is not true, but if it is, let us pray that it will not become generally known.”  To which Watts added in triumph, “Now, it certainly is.”
    The BBC News, surprisingly, seemed to smell a conspiracy:
But some independent experts, awaiting an opportunity to see the new fossil, are sceptical of the claim.  And they have been critical of the hype surrounding the presentation of Ida.  The fossil was launched amid great fanfare at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, by the city’s mayor.  Although details of the fossil have only just been published in a scientific journal - PLoS One - there is already a TV documentary and book tie-in....
    Independent experts are keen to see the new fossil but somewhat sceptical of any claim that it could be “a missing link”.  Dr Henry Gee, a senior editor at the journal Nature, said the term itself was misleading and that the scientific community would need to evaluate its significance.  “It’s extremely nice to have a new find and it will be well-studied,” he said.  But he added that it was not likely to be in the same league as major discoveries such as “Flores man” or feathered dinosaurs.
Nevertheless, the media frenzy seemed urged on by the discoverers themselves.  The timing seems hardly coincidental.  “They have called her Darwinius masillae,” the BBC News noted, “to celebrate her place of origin and the bicentenary of the birth of Charles Darwin.”  Hurum also told the BBC it was “a dream come true.”  And Chris Beard, American paleontologist, was “awestruck” – not by the fossil, but “by the publicity machine surrounding the new fossil.”
    Live Science also reported the suspicious-looking ballyhoo around this fossil.  “Scientists unveiled the fossil with much pomp and circumstance at the American Museum of Natural History, where even New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg was on hand to extol the discovery,” the report by Clara Moskowitz said.  “....The fossil has been shrouded in secrecy and its unveiling unfolded more like a Hollywood production than a scientific discovery.”  Moskowitz reported superlatives coming from the mouth of Jorn Hurum, team lead, almost as if to mock them: “This is like a holy grail for paleontology,” he said; “This fossil will probably be pictured in all the text books for the next 100 years.” 
When asked if the publicity surrounding the fossil was overdone (the History Channel touts the discovery as “the most important find in 47 million years”), Hurum said he didn’t think so.
    “That’s part of getting science out to the public to get attention,” he said.  “I don’t think that’s so wrong.”
The scientific paper, as expected, is much more reserved in tone.  “We do not interpret Darwinius as anthropoid, but the adapoid primates it represents deserve more careful comparison with higher primates than they have received in the past.”  In fact, the most remarkable thing about the fossil was its exceptional preservation – and its shady past.  The fossil had a checkered history.  It was found by private collectors in 1983 and split into two halves.  One half was doctored up by a Wyoming fossil collector to make it look complete, reported Science Daily.  The other half stood on a German collector’s wall till 2006, then fell into the hands of a private dealer, who presented it to Prof. Hurum at a fossil trade show.  Sky News said Hurum had to raise the equivalent of $1 million US dollars to obtain it – ten times the price of rare fossils.  No one is saying whether he is hyping the fossil to help recoup his investment.
    Robert Crowther, writing for the intelligent-design blog Evolution News and Views seemed to enjoy watching the evolutionists do their May Day dance around their new monkey puzzle tree – which tree is, by the way, another “living” fossil.
Update 05/21/2009: Indications that the media circus is collapsing started appearing on science blogs and science news sites.  The stauchly pro-evolution site Live Science, for instance, had no less than four critical articles: by Robert Roy Britt, Clara Moskowitz, Benjamin Radford and Meredith Small.  At the Smithsonian, Brian Switek criticized the media hype roundly on his blog, as well as the “shoddy scholarship” in the PLoS ONE paper that tried to tie this fossil, exceptional as it is, to the anthropoid line.  All of them decried the fact that the History Channel appears to be treating this fossil as a cash cow to the detriment of scientific integrity.  All of them also criticized use of the term “missing link” – a vacuous and misleading phrase even for evolutionists.
1.  Franzen, Gingerich, Habersetzer, Hurum, Koenigswald, Smith, “Complete Primate Skeleton from the Middle Eocene of Messel in Germany: Morphology and Paleobiology,” Public Library of Science ONE 4(5): e5723. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0005723.
This is the Darwin Party version of a revival meeting or religious ecstasy.  Have you no faith?  Believe – visualize your evolutionary heritage – worship this new holy relic, the holy grail from which Lord Darwin drank.  Rejoice that the great white Father has achieved his apotheosis.  Look through the stained (emphasis on stained) glass window (the Attenborough documentary), which elevates your emotions to the divine.  Declare holy war on the creationists.
    It’s just a lemur, folks.  Don’t lose sleep over it.  Like Crowther said, if this fossil is 95% lemur, and is described as the 8th Wonder of the World, he can one-up that and show you a 100% lemur – alive and well at the zoo.  If Ida known they would call this thing a missing link, Ida said, ID: a better explanation.
Next headline on:  Human EvolutionMammalsFossilsDarwinMediaDumb Ideas
  Dead tissue on a wheat seed turns into a motor that drives the seed into the soil, from 05/11/2007.

Cool Bird Tricks   05/19/2009    
May 19, 2009 — Evidence continues to mount that a lot of capability is packed into a little bird’s brain.  We should use the phrase bird-brain to honor smart animals.

  1. I C U:  Mockingbirds can recognize individual humans.  Disturb a mockingbird nest, and the parents will single you out from a crowd and go into attack mode, researchers at Duke University found.  They observed bird behavior with student subjects at Duke and published their findings in PNAS.1  “These results demonstrate a remarkable ability of a passerine bird to distinguish one human from thousands of others,” they said.  “Also, mockingbirds learned to identify individual humans extraordinarily quickly: after only 2 30-s[econd] exposures of the human at the nest.”  PhysOrg summarized the paper.  It should be noted that this ability is in addition to the mockingbird’s remarkable repertoire of songs.
  2. Native composers:  Zebra finches raised in captivity learn their favorite song without ever hearing it.  Science Daily reported on finches raised in complete isolation from their parents and other members of the species.  The birds seemed to babble and experiment at first.  Their offspring learned the “arrhythmic” song from their tutors, but gradually approached the native song heard in the wild.  “What is remarkable about this result is that even though we started out with an isolated bird that had never heard the wild-type, cultured song, that’s what we ended up with after generations,” commented Partha Mitra [Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory].  “So in a sense, the cultured song was already there in the genome of the bird.  It just took multiple generations for it to be shaped and come about.”
  3. Bobble heads:  Ever wonder why birds bob their heads when they walk?  There’s a reason: it stabilizes their gaze (see 04/12/2005), so that the eyes can remain fixed on a target for the maximum time while the bird moves forward.  A new Quick Guide in Current Biology discussed how well this mechanism works.2  “Stabilization of the head occurs in all three axes of space and for both translation and rotation around these axes,” wrote Barrie J. Frost [Queen’s University, Ontario].  “For a walking pigeon the small amount of motion during the hold or stabilization phase is less than 0.5 mm.”  This ability involves a complex interaction between the retina, neurons, visual cortex, accessory optic system, vestibular balance system, and the flexible muscles of the neck and the gait of the legs.
        The birds with the most remarkable stabilization may live right in your garden.  “Humming birds, hovering in front of a flower while feeding show an amazing ability to keep their head stabilized while their body makes considerably larger movement produced by their wing beats and perturbation by the wind,” he said.  “Kestrels and kingfishers, while hovering in mid-air before diving to catch their prey, also show remarkable stabilization of the head relative to the much larger movements of their bodies.”  Even the heavy flying birds, like geese and swans, do pretty well.  “Films and videos ... show that while there is an upward thrust of their bodies produced with each downward wing-beat their heads maintain a nearly perfect level path.”
  4. Goggle eyes:  The amazing ability of animals to navigate is a source of ongoing study and experimentation.  James L. Gould [Princeton} started his Dispatch in Current Biology3 with the following expression of wonder:
    Of all the wonderful things animals can do, the ability of certain species to judge their location on the planet is perhaps the most astonishing.  A homing pigeon transported in darkness 200 km in a direction it has never before been and released far further from the loft than it had previously ventured, will typically circle and then set off in roughly the correct direction.  A migrating bird, captured near the northern end of its annual journey south and carried in the hold of a plane 5000 km east, sets off southwest toward the goal of its migration, rather than either northwest to its natal area or west for the capture point.  The accuracy of this navigation is startling: pigeons fitted with frosted goggles (which eliminate form vision) return to within a couple of kilometers of their loft.  How is any of this possible?
    The fact is, we don’t fully know.  Is it magnetic fields they sense?  Odors?  Positional cues?  Gould discussed primarily how a popular olfactory hypothesis has been falsified.  Most likely magnetic field gradients are a factor, but work continues to try to understand how any of this is possible.

1.  Levey et al, “Urban mockingbirds quickly learn to identify individual humans,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, published online May 18, 2009, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0811422106.
2.  Barrie J. Frost, “Bird head stabilization,” Current Biology, Volume 19, Issue 8, 28 April 2009, Pages R315-R316, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2009.02.002.
3.  James L. Gould, “Animal Navigation: A Wake-Up Call for Homing,” Current Biology, Volume 19, Issue 8, 28 April 2009, Pages R338-R339, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2009.03.001.
These are all good reasons to become a bird watcher.  Students might like to experiment with the camcorder at the hummingbird feeder or watch pigeons bobbing their heads in the park.  Maybe a home schooling family could raise homing pigeons for a science project.  Don’t pester the mockingbirds, though.  Take an interest in your feathered friends and the other amazing living things around you.  Their abilities are more remarkable than you can imagine.
Next headline on:  BirdsAmazing Facts
Junk-DNA Stock Tumbles   05/18/2009    
May 18, 2009 — Those investing credibility in the concept of “junk DNA” suffered more losses this week.  Repeated hits to the paradigm that portions of non-coding DNA are useless leftovers of evolution make a recovery unlikely.
    In Science,1 researchers from Princeton and Indiana University reported a function for transposons and the genes that act on them, “previously considered selfish DNA or part of the dispensable genome.”  A small eukaryote microbe uses enzymes called transposases extensively during development.  “Through an exaggerated process of genome rearrangement, Oxytricha trifallax destroys 95% of its germline genome during development,” they said, resulting in the elimination of all transposon DNA.  What’s going on?  “We show that transposase gene expression occurs during germline-soma differentiation and that silencing of transposase by RNA interference leads to abnormal DNA rearrangement in the offspring,” they said.  “This study suggests a new important role in Oxytricha for this large portion of genomic DNA that was previously thought of as junk.
Update 05/20/2009: PhysOrg reported on this paper and said, “researchers from Princeton University and Indiana University who have been studying the genome of a pond organism have found that junk DNA may not be so junky after all.  They have discovered that DNA sequences from regions of what had been viewed as the ‘dispensable genome’ are actually performing functions that are central for the organism.”  At the end of the article, PhysOrg said, “The term ‘junk DNA’ was originally coined to refer to a region of DNA that contained no genetic information.  Scientists are beginning to find, however, that much of this so-called junk plays important roles in the regulation of gene activity.  No one yet knows how extensive that role may be.”
    Another press release from Rockefeller University upset a common idea about micro-RNAs, those ubiquitous little snippets of RNA that have been found to play many important roles in the cell.  Some of these microRNAs are highly conserved (i.e., unevolved) between distant life-forms.  The assumption has been that they play similar roles; “The naïve assumption is that if we understand what these microRNAs do in a fish or in the frog, we can extrapolate to humans,” Ali H. Brivanlou, the head of the embryology department, said.  That assumption appears to be flawed.  They found that the counterpart in humans targets different activator proteins.
    The press release wins Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week for the following two quotations, which personify evolution as a bumbling yet personal inventor:
  • “When evolution has lucked into efficient solutions for life’s most fundamental problems, it adopts them as invaluable family heirlooms, passing them down as one species evolves into another.”
  • Although the microRNAs are evolutionarily conserved, their target changes across species,” said Brivanlou.  “These are genetic tools that nature has invented, much like the screwdriver, to build different things for different species.”
    1.  Nowacki et al, “A Functional Role for Transposases in a Large Eukaryotic Genome,” Science, 15 May 2009: Vol. 324. no. 5929, pp. 935-938, DOI: 10.1126/science.1170023.
    Replacing one myth with another is not progress.  Junk DNA is a Darwinian myth that intelligent design theory could have prevented.  Geneticists looking through their Darwin-tinted glasses have misinterpreted the genome, because they expected to find waste and disorder.  An ID geneticist would face the problem differently: we don’t understand what the microRNAs and non-coding DNA segments are doing; therefore, we will discover what they are there for.
        The Darwinists have not learned their lesson.  Instead, they are retreating into their usual Charlie & Tinker Bell fairy tale.  Tinker Bell zaps genes with her mutation wand, and Charlie, the bumbling junkyard engineer, looks for scraps to cobble together into family heirlooms.  This adds the fallacies of naive assumptions [i.e., glittering generalies] and extrapolation to their logical sins.  It takes intelligence to invent a tool and use it for multiple functions.
    Next headline on:  Genetics and DNAEvolutionDumb Ideas
    Tip link:  “It’s too beautiful,” he said – “It was like looking into absolute paradise.”  Those were the impressions of a Hubble-repair astronomer looking down on the Earth from orbit.  Read about his emotional impressions on Space.com.

    Political Science 101   05/18/2009    
    May 18, 2009 — Ideally, science should be non-partisan and stay out of politics.  That ideal is not always met, as the following recent stories illustrate.

    1. The intellectual presidentNew Scientist published a commentary, “Hail to the intellectual president,” by Chris Mooney, author of The Republican War on Science.  Opening line: “If you liked George W. Bush, it wasn’t because of his brain.”  Ronald Reagan, John McCain and Sarah Palin were other targets labeled anti-intellectual in the article, along with McCarthy and Eisenhower.  Obama, by contrast, is “the intellectual president,” in his opinion.  “With the coming of Barack Obama to the presidency, the phrase ‘sea change’ is not too strong,” Mooney wrote.  “If Obama’s message about the importance of science makes its way through even this medium, he will have changed America more than we can possibly calculate,” he said in conclusion.  “The goal must be nothing less than to break the cycle – to make intellectualism a permanent value of American culture.  A two-term presidency would help.”  New Scientist did not offer any Republican a chance for rebuttal, but The New Atlantis did; Yuval Levin wrote a lengthy essay in December 2008 about the uneasy and often contradictory historical relationships between secular progressives and science, and how those tensions play out today.
    2. Pay the policy piper:  The May 15 issue of Science included a news item on the 2010 budget by Dan Charles, Jocelyn Kaiser, Eli Kintisch, and Erik Stokstad.1 
      Science lobbyists have cheered President Barack Obama’s arrival at the helm of the U.S. ship of state for a host of reasons.  One is the impressive scientific credentials of the new Administration’s initial appointments.  The list generally begins with Steven Chu, a physics Nobelist, and includes science adviser John Holdren, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration head Jane Lubchenco, and the co-chairs of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, medicine Nobelist Harold Varmus and genomics wizard Eric Lander.  Another is Obama’s repeated promise to “restore science to its rightful place.”  That’s code for reversing the regulatory policies of the Bush years that seemed to ignore or distort the scientific analyses on which they were supposed to be based.  And just last month, Obama received an ovation from the members of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) by calling for 3% of the country’s economy to be devoted to research, an unprecedented level of public and private spending on science.
      The authors offered their advice on how the President can navigate treacherous waters and remain on the good side of the scientific community.  Since the policies they promoted are federally funded, nobody asked whether this represents a conflict of interest.
    3. Rebuttal:  Louis E. Thompson, an MIT alumnus, wrote a rebuttal to a Science’s March 20 essay by Kurt Gottfried and Harold Varmus that “The Enlightenment Returns” with the election of President Obama.  In his letter to the editor in the May 15 issue of Science,2 Thompson wrote “Politics Still in Play.”  He disagreed with their assessment that the Obama policy on science ensures “that scientific data is never distorted or concealed to serve a political agenda.”  He pointed to two recent examples of political expedience and earmarks that benefit politicians.  Thompson allowed that some parts of the Enlightenment may have returned, but “Political convenience remains,” he said.
    The flip side of “political” science is that ignoring the political element in a research story can sometimes distort the conclusions.  In Science May 15,3 26 researchers analyzed the cholera crisis in Africa, particularly in Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The article focused on remediation techniques of cholera epidemics, especially vaccination.  They disputed the strategy that vaccination is ineffective when an outbreak has already occurred: “this dogma is based on a single analysis that assumed that outbreaks are self-limited and short-lived, in contrast to cholera in Zimbabwe, which has been raging since mid-2008.”  The article said nothing, though, about the dictatorial regime of Robert Mugabe, whose policies that have wrecked the economy and destroyed access to health services and clean water are arguably the biggest factors in why the outbreak of this largely controllable disease occurred in the first place.
    1.  Dan Charles, Jocelyn Kaiser, Eli Kintisch, Erik Stokstad, “The 2010 Budget: Navigating Treacherous Waters,” Science, 15 May 2009: Vol. 324. no. 5929, pp. 864-866, DOI: 10.1126/science.324_864b.
    2.  Louis E. Thompson, letters to the Editor, “Politics Still in Play,” Science, 15 May 2009: Vol. 324. no. 5929, p. 880, DOI: 10.1126/science.324_880a.
    3.  Bhattacharya et al, “Public Health: The Cholera Crisis in Africa,” Science, 15 May 2009: Vol. 324. no. 5929, p. 885, DOI: 10.1126/science.1173890.
    Though there are blessed exceptions among many individual hard-working scientists who try to remain unbiased, we need to recognize that the scientific institutions are partisan political activists, just like labor unions.  Money, the mother’s milk of politics, has corrupted their objectivity.  Want to stop cholera and hunger?  Spread democracy and Judeo-Christian moral values.  Support Christian organizations like World Vision and Samaritan’s Purse that dig wells and teach indigenous peoples about clean water and productive farming techniques.  Influence leaders of democratic countries to oust the evil dictators like Robert Mugabe and Kim Jong Il, who live in ridiculous opulence while reducing their people to starvation and disease, and their otherwise-productive land and people to ruin and despair.
    Next headline on:  Politics and Ethics
      60% of doctors prescribe less Darwin in your mental diet; see the 05/05/2006 entry.

    Can Humans Scientifically Analyze One Another?   05/17/2009    
    May 17, 2009 — Imagine an alien landing on Earth and trying to figure out two groups of people.  One group wields spears and arrows and decides that those who interfere with their traditions are enemies to be killed.  Another lives in penthouses and universities and explains the behavior of the other group as evolved tendencies from their animal past.  Would the alien necessarily agree that the latter group was more honorable?  The following two stories may enlighten the question.
        Anthropologist Meredith Small wrote in Live Science about hunter-gatherer tribes in New Guinea and South America.  She seemed to echo the evolutionary view of researchers who denied that the warrior culture granted reproductive success: “Waorani warriors did worse in terms of reproductive success and their killing was for naught, in evolutionary terms,” they found.  Small noted that revenge seems to work and fail: “In one group, the Yanomamo, the killings resulted in times of peace and love and more babies, and in the other, the Waorani, endless revenge was leading to the end.  That gave her a morality lesson to end on.  Since evolution has produced tribal cultures that are successful within their own realms, who are white people to judge?  “Maybe people should be left on their own to live or die, to kill or be killed, left to live under their own rules and moral structures, regardless of how we judge them.”
        Sometimes evolutionizing one’s fellow sentient earthlings can backfire.  Michael Balter reported in Science that popular evolutionary science author Jared Diamond is finding that out.1  Diamond recorded conversations with New Guinea tribespeople and wrote a piece for New Yorker magazine that explained their vengeance culture in evolutionary terms, “to draw an overall lesson about the human need for vengeance.”  Apparently, his subjects took offense at that characterization.  Some of them are not so primitive as he portrayed them; some have good-paying jobs and internet access.  Diamond found himself slapped with a lawsuit by a couple of these New Guinea tribesmen (see Balter’s Blog for a summary).  They are asking $10 million in damages.  In addition, Diamond has been investigated by Rhonda Roland Shearer, an artist and the widow of evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould, whose website StinkyJournalism.org criticizes Diamond for bad anthropology and bad journalism.


    1.  Michael Balter, “Science and the Media: ‘Vengeance’ Bites Back at Jared Diamond,” Science, 15 May 2009: Vol. 324. no. 5929, pp. 872-874, DOI: 10.1126/science.324_872.
    It’s not “Coming of Age in Samoa” anymore.  Anthropologists can no longer evolutionize their fellow human beings with impunity.  The internet has changed things.  Evolutionists are now accountable to the people they label as primitive, less-evolved members of the human race.
        In an evolutionary context, like Small writes, who is to say one culture is better than another?  Why not live and let die?  If she really believes that, she has no grounds to fight terrorism.  Notice that it’s Christian missionaries who bring medicine, healing, and peace to these people.  They believe that we are all of one blood, corrupted by sin, and in need of a Savior.  Choose which analysis you think produces good fruit.
        It would be a shame if Jared Diamond loses his freedom to write candidly.  He has provided three of the best examples of evolutionary propaganda in our Baloney Detector.  Search on his name there and enjoy.
    Next headline on:  Darwinian EvolutionEarly ManMediaBible and Theology
    05/16/2009 – Illustra’s masterpiece The Privileged Planet is a must for your film library.  The DVD is both beautiful and informative and was shown at the Smithsonian in 2005 (see 06/09/2005).  It also provides one of the most unique new perspectives on man’s place in the universe—a thought-provoking answer to Carl Sagan’s pessimistic view that we inhabit a humdrum planet in a mediocre galaxy.  Stunning original animations of Earth and the Milky Way dress the film up into a visual treat.  Even views of secular scientists, interviewed for the film, add to the case for design.  Don’t miss the Q&A section of the bonus features, where the late distinguished astronomer Robert Jastrow made a stunning admission about the limitations of his own materialist world view.  You can order the film from the Illustra Media web site.  You can watch segments of the entire film online on Illustra’s channel at YouTube, but for its full beauty, it should be watched on a high-def TV. 
    Next resource of the week:  05/09/2009.  All resources: Catalog.

    Key Step in Origin of Life Declared   05/15/2009    
    May 15, 2009 — The popular “RNA World” scenario for the origin of life has long suffered from a big hurdle: the implausibility of getting the key components of RNA building blocks, called nucleotides, from joining together.  Each nucleotide requires a ribose sugar, a pyrimidine base, and a phosphate group.  Now, a team publishing in Nature tried a new approach and got it to work.1  Long-time origin of life researcher Jack Szostak calls it “one of the great advances in prebiotic chemistry.”2  New Scientist announced the success with the headline, “Molecule of life emerges from laboratory slime.”
        OK, what really happened?  Powner et al bypassed the usual approach of trying to synthesize ribose and pyrimidine separately and then getting them to link up spontaneously – a seemingly insurmountable hurdle (see, for instance, 11/05/2004).  Instead, they introduced phosphate early and found that the two building blocks could grow up together from a compound called 2-aminooxazole through a series of “plausible intermediates” (that is, chemicals that might form naturally).  Then, they found that a gentle bath of UV radiation preserved the desired products while destroying the zoo of cross-reactions that normally cloud the astrobiologist’s flasks with tarry gunk.
        Szostak [Howard Hughes Medical Institute] said that researchers had been about to give up on RNA because its parts fail to link up naturally.  “The idea that a molecule as complex as RNA could have assembled spontaneously has therefore been viewed with increasing scepticism,” he wrote for Nature’s review of the paper.  “This has led to a search for alternative, simpler genetic polymers that might have preceded RNA in the early history of life.”

    But Powner et al. revive the prospects of the 'RNA first' model by exploring a pathway for pyrimidine ribonucleotide synthesis in which the sugar and nucleobase emerge from a common precursor (Fig. 1b).  In this pathway, the complete ribonucleotide structure forms without using free sugar and nucleobase molecules as intermediates.  This central insight, combined with a series of additional innovations, provides a remarkably efficient solution to the problem of prebiotic ribonucleotide synthesis.
    Bad luck with tarry gunk by previous researchers led them to keep the synthesis of ribose and pyrimidine separate, else they got a nasty surprise: a “chemical combinatorial explosion: the synthesis of millions of different organic compounds, of which the desired biological precursor molecules would be a vanishingly small fraction.”  Many of these competed for resources and linked onto the desired molecules.  Powner’s group found that phosphate and UV prevent the gumming up of the works.  The UV light acts like a cleaner but doesn’t harm the RNA reactants.
        How realistic is this for the early earth?  The authors’ diagram includes 13 reaction steps and as many required molecules.  Szostak realizes it is only a start:
    Of course, much remains to be done.  We must now try to determine how the various starting materials could have accumulated in a relatively pure and concentrated form in local environments on early Earth.  Furthermore, although Powner and colleagues’ synthetic sequence yields the pyrimidine ribonucleotides, it cannot explain how purine ribonucleotides (which incorporate guanine and adenine) might have formed.  But it is precisely because this work opens up so many new directions for research that it will stand for years as one of the great advances in prebiotic chemistry.
    Additional questions remain: how did the nucleotide sugars become one-handed?  How did they link together into chains?  What was the origin of the genetic code?  But at least one huge hurdle has been surmounted, it seems.  Surprisingly, Astrobiology Magazine said nothing about this (yet).  New Scientist was one of the few mentioning it.  That article quoted another origin-of-life researcher saying, “It’s a great leap forward that demonstrates how prebiotic RNA molecules may have assembled spontaneously from simple and presumably relatively abundant constituents.”
    1.  Powner, Gerland and Sutherland, “Synthesis of activated pyrimidine ribonucleotides in prebiotically plausible conditions,” Nature 459, 239-242 (14 May 2009) | doi:10.1038/nature08013.
    2.  Jack W. Szostak, “Origins of life: Systems chemistry on early Earth,” Nature 459, 171-172 (14 May 2009) | doi:10.1038/459171a.
    We do try to be charitable to the evolutionists.  We let their own Darwin Party colleagues congratulate each other before turning the lights on.  Cornelius Hunter, an intelligent-design scientist with a PhD in biochemistry, was also charitable on his blog Darwin’s God, but had to state that abiogenesis is one of the “silliest of all the icons of evolution.”  He said that “The bad news for evolutionists is that this finding does nothing to mitigate enormous problems with the whole idea of abiogenesis,” even though this finding “does improve the picture slightly”.  Some of the big problems that remain are chirality (the handedness of the molecules), the implausibility of believing the required molecules could have been concentrated in their pure form, and the ordering of the building blocks into a meaningful sequence (the “configurational entropy” problem described in detail in The Mystery of Life’s Origin by Thaxton, Bradley and Olsen).
        In addition, the usual criticisms can be brought to bear about the experimental approach: investigator interference, and the fine-tuning of conditions for a predetermined goal.  Is this not really a lesson on intelligent design?  “Prebiotic” molecules could not have cared less about forming life, because molecules cannot care at all.  Another criticism is that “plausibility” is a subjective criterion.  However plausible this sequence appears to the authors, it flies in the face of approaches by others who seek the origin of life at deep sea vents or deep in the earth (e.g., Michael Russell, 12/03/2004).  Those researchers are likely to find this paper highly implausible.
        More importantly, the building blocks are not the main issue.  Give the evolutionists an ocean full of nucleotides and proteins, and they will still not have life.  This can be shown by a simple experiment.  In The Case for a Creator, Jonathan Wells describes an experiment a high school student could do.  Take a living cell in a test tube, poke it, and let the ingredients all leak out.  Now, you have a confined space with all the ingredients for life present – because they were once part of a living cell.  The situation is far more ideal than the primordial soup the Darwinist chefs keep trying to cook up.  In the test tube, the ingredients are all one-handed and in the proportions required.  But does anyone believe for a minute that these building blocks will spontaneously reassemble into another living cell?  Dr. A. E. Wilder-Smith described another simple home experiment.  A sardine can has all the ingredients for life, because the sardines were once alive.  If anyone suspected that life would spontaneously re-emerge from the building blocks in a sardine can, he argued, the whole food industry would be cast into a panic.  The FDA and the USDA all depend on abiogenesis not being true.  If you had to worry that unknown life-forms would spontaneously evolve under perfect conditions in canned goods, even if only once in a million times, you could not trust the cans on your shelf.  But insert the information for life into that same sardine can, like one cell of E. coli, and the can will nearly burst with life in a matter of hours.  Thank God spontaneous generation is false (as Pasteur proved).
        But can’t the evolutionists argue that their “scientific approach” is slowly eroding the gaps in our knowledge?  Isn’t intelligent design a “god-of-the-gaps” argument that brings science to a halt?  Isn’t it better to keep chipping away at the unknowns by the scientific method?  If you are unable to answer this question, you need to do some homework.  First, review the arguments of two giants of origin-of-life research whose arguments falsified each other, Robert Shapiro (02/15/2007) and Leslie Orgel (01/26/2008).  Then see whether any (if any) of the problems in the RNA World scenario outlined by Gerald Joyce in the 07/11/2002 entry are solved by this announcement (#6, perhaps?).  Then read a couple of penetrating articles by creationist writers about filling gaps with stories: one about terms as place-holders for ignorance on BreakPoint by Regis Nicoll, and one on God-of-the-gaps on Creation.com by Lael Weinberger (don’t miss some of the best material in the footnotes).  Sorry for the homework assignment, but no good teacher does all the thinking for the student.
    Next headline on:  Origin of Life

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    cartoon      Subject: BEST-IN-FIELD FALLACY
    by Brett Miller!
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    Cuttlefish Inspire Reflective Screens   05/14/2009    
    May 14, 2009 — “Cuttlefish are masters of disguise, able to change their skin color in less than a second to hide from predators or draw in prey for the kill,” begins an article on MSNBC News.  A team at MIT, fascinated with the physics of this capability, tried to imitate it.  They found they could electrically control the spacing of layers of material in an artificial screen and reflect a huge range of colors.  The tuning of the material is “fantastic,” said one researcher, offering a wide variety of potential applications, such as “Electronic ink applications, pressure sensors and advertising billboards,” the article said.
        For prior entries about cuttlefish, see 02/09/2005, 12/15/2006, 06/06/2007, and 12/18/2007.

    Better living through biomimetics – the saga continues.  The cuttlefish actually has a superior design.  The human engineers are only imitating the basic physics of reflectivity of surfaces.  The cuttlefish has exquisite control of its reflecting elements, plus built-in maintenance, plus reproduction, plus feedback response from the environment.  If humans keep trying, they might approach the capabilities of the animals.  (Notice, however, that the animals are not attempting to mimic the science or philosophy of the humans, even if your dog is named Plato.)
    Next headline on:  Marine BiologyBiomimeticsAmazing Facts
    Darwinizing Morality   05/13/2009    
    May 13, 2009 — Darwinists continue to try to lay claim to morality (cf. 01/20/2008, 05/02/2008, 03/12/2009)  If Darwinism is to succeed as a comprehensive world view, it must explain this innate sense we all have that certain actions (e.g., torturing babies, slavery, genocide) are morally wrong.  Without a God telling man “Thou shalt not”, how can all humans converge on a moral standard?  One way Darwinists attempt to explain morality is to find continuity between apparent moral behaviors of lower animals and humans.  Another way is to analyze reactions in the brain when humans are thinking moral thoughts and explain it in terms of physical activity in the neurons.  The most common way is to explain morality as an artifact of survival strategies that can be expressed in game theory.  Here are some recent attempts that surfaced in the scientific literature.
    1. Law of the hyena:  The continuity approach was shown on New Scientist, where Deborah Blum reviewed a new book by Marc Bekoff and Jessica Pierce, Wild Justice: The moral lives of animals (Ms Blum is a professor of science journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison).
      Their definition of morality is a strongly Darwinian one.  They see moral actions as dictated by the behavioural code of social species, the communal operating instructions that bond a group safely together, the “social glue” of survival.  They believe such codes are necessarily species-specific and warn against, for instance, judging wolf morals by the standards of monkeys, dolphins or humans....
          Bekoff and Pierce have a larger goal than simply telling nice animal stories or even describing a kind of biological morality.  They also hope to persuade readers that humans aren’t so different from our fellow voyagers on planet Earth.  These moral behaviours, they argue, are evidence of a kind of evolutionary continuity between humans and other species.  This, they acknowledge, may be an even harder sell than the notion of a cooperative hyena.  “Many people are uncomfortable with the idea of ascribing morality to animals because it seems to threaten the uniqueness of humans,” they write.
      More research is needed on this “provocative thesis,” Ms Blum said.  It seems to leave some questions begging, though: how can “moral behaviors” be described as moral at all without some standard of morality?  If such descriptions are mere anthropomorphisms, how is our morality to be judged?  And if animals were proven to exhibit some kind of “morality,” why should Darwinism be the only explanation for it, or the best one?  Blum ended by watching a hyena at the zoo and wondering which one is the moral animal.  Wesley J. Smith posted a response on his blog Secondhand Smoke.
    2. Cruel joke:  Another book review, this time in Science,1 deals with the subject of human cruelty.  Prashanth Ak reviewed Kathleen Taylor’s new book Cruelty: Human Evil and the Human Brain (Oxford, 2009).  This book takes the neurological approach to morality.  The author said at one point, “To get a deeper view of cruelty, therefore, means plunging our attention into a sea of neurons, the soggy, fatty mass from which cruelty is born.”  She did not give much hope for finding the roots of cruelty in the brain: “[f]uzzy blobs rather than tidy packets is certainly what our understanding of neuroscience, with its emphasis on probability, suggests we should expect.”  Ak was not particularly impressed with her imprecision.  He did, however, praise the book as an overview: “Addressing cruelty from multiple perspectives, including moral and evolutionary ones, the book does accord a complex subject its due.”  He felt the book only provides an introduction to a subject that begs for more research. 
      Before delving into the neuroscientific basis of cruelty (or anything else, for that matter) and its mechanisms, one wants to have a clear, rigorous intellectual framework that will allow the formulation of precise, experimentally tractable questions.  No such framework currently exists for cruelty.  As political scientist Judith Shklar pointed out in her classic essay “Putting Cruelty First”, philosophers have generally avoided the topic—as, surprisingly, have political theorists.  In general, academic (especially American) discourse, which holds dear enlightenment notions of an inexorable march to perfection, has not focused on the darker recesses of the human condition, other than to treat them as (regrettable) anomalies.  The typical approach has been to pathologize problematic behaviors, removing them from the ambit of normalcy.  Surprisingly few citations to cruelty occur in scholarly literature; many that do are with reference to sadism.  In older anthropology literature, cruelty was often discussed in connection with “savages,” who were supposed to possess an abundance of it.
      Ak did not end with any suggestions for a better framework.  He just hopes this book “will encourage fresh thought on an issue that continues to be central to human existence.”  For an earlier book review by Prashanth Ak, see the 05/02/2008 entry, bullet 6, “Can’t Darwinize the Golden Rule.”
    3. This is your brain on compassion:  Another neurological approach to morality was exhibited in a paper in PNAS,2 “Neural correlates of admiration and compassion.”  It is not clear whether the authors intended to say that compassion is merely a brain phenomenon.  They did state, “the evidence from neural activity patterns and neural time courses in our experiment suggests a differentiation in the processing of these emotional feelings, in keeping with the complex sociocultural context with which they are associated, building from those related to physical pain and skill to those that transcend immediate involvement of the body to engage the psychological and moral dimensions of a situation.”  There was a passing statement that could be interpreted as a Darwinian reference: “feelings of admiration and compassion recruit the brain’s ancient bioregulatory structures....”  Mostly, they just seemed interested in which parts of the brain lit up using functional MRI when their subjects (“Thirteen right-handed, native English-speaking Americans”) were stimulated with stories that evoked admiration or compassion.
    4. Food fight:  The last paper examined in this entry contained a combination of game theory and continuity.  Jean-Jacques Hublin wrote a commentary for PNAS entitled, “The prehistory of compassion.”3  This excerpt shows the twin explanatory references:
      From an evolutionary perspective, the forms of altruism observed in animals in general and in non-human primates, in particular, have been primarily interpreted as either support to kin (helping those who carry the same genes) or support to those able to reciprocate the favor (helping oneself indirectly).  This is in contrast to the trivial observation of humans helping others, even when the helper receives no immediate benefit and the person being helped is a stranger.  However, claims have been made that the level of altruism displayed by chimpanzees could be much higher than what was once thought.
      Hublin referred to observations of chimpanzees appearing to show compassion to other chimpanzees in distress.  “However,” he noted, “this incipient altruism seen in chimpanzees seems to disintegrate in competitive situations or when food sharing is involved.”  He speculated on why the human race is different: “Because the increase in meat consumption is considered to be a major evolutionary change in early Homo, these hominins had to strengthen a behavior likely preexisting.”  Anthropomorphisms aside, he also suggested that the extended childhood of early man may have also strengthened the incipient compassion seen in chimps: “In the course of our evolution, this was made possible only by having the support of group members other than the mother.”  This begs the question of whether extended childhood was the cause or the effect of the behavior – if either.  Whatever he meant to say, he ended with an appeal to evolutionary continuity:
      Finally, the divide between apes and early humans might not be as large as one tends to think.  Rather than considering ancient human altruism as proof of the moral values of our predecessors, one should instead see it as merely part of the spectrum of adaptations that have made humans such a prolific and successful species.
      But were early humans successful because they were compassionate, or were they compassionate because they were successful?  And what is the source of the light that produced the spectrum?  He didn’t say.

    1.  Prashanth Ak, “Human inhumanity,” Science,8 May 2009: Vol. 324. no. 5928, p. 726, DOI: 10.1126/science.1173430.
    2.  Immordino-Yang, McColl, Damasio and Damasio, “Neural correlates of admiration and compassion,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, published online April 20, 2009, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0810363106.
    3.  Jean-Jacques Hublin, “The prehistory of compassion,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, published online April 20, 2009, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0902614106.
    None of these articles comes close to being as sophisticated as Stephen Pinker’s essay last year (01/20/2008) in terms of knowledge of the deep philosophical issues involved, and that essay collapsed into a self-refuting singularity.  These authors did little more than wallow in their own Darwinian vomit.  One should feel compassion for them (Mark 4:34).
    Next headline on:  Early ManMammalsDarwinismPolitics and Ethics
      The bunchberry dogwood – ho, hum; just another plant.  Wait – it wins the world record for catapult speed: accelerating zero to 24,000 meters per second per second in 0.3 second!  Wow – really?  Yes; read about it in the 05/11/2005 entry.

    Early Man IQ: Et Tu, Brute?   05/12/2009    
    May 12, 2009 — Anthropologists are receiving a jolt about the intelligence of early man.  Long before the cave paintings showed our forebears exercising art appreciation, new findings suggest they were gifted individuals, not brutes.
        The first report was about manufactured beads dated older than 82,000 years.  Science Daily said, “The shells are currently at the centre of a debate concerning the origins of modern behaviour in early humans.”  For one thing, it’s too early for common ideas that humans did not have “a sophisticated symbolic material culture” that long ago.  Another surprise is that these shell beads, found in Morocco, are nearly the same as those found in South Africa dated 72,000 years old.  The research team said that “the most striking aspect of the Taforalt discoveries is that identical shell types should appear in two such geographically distant regions.”  Indeed some of the beads found at four sites may be older than 110,000 years.  The research team leader explained, “These new finds are exciting because they show that bead manufacturing probably arose independently in different cultures and confirms a long suspected pattern that humans with modern symbolic behaviour were present from a very early stage at both ends of the continent, probably as early as 110,000 years ago.”
        Another hint of “unknown smarts” in ancient man was announced in National Geographic based on a paper in PNAS1.  Researchers studying stone axes noticed that the red ochre around the shaft was not just a decorative feature; it was a kind of superglue.  A mixture of red ochre and gum acacia actually bound the axe to the shaft firmly.  The problem is that this gives the shaft to anthropological theories that humans were too unsophisticated to make such things.  Glue manufacture required harvesting and testing remote ingredients for the best effect.  “It was mentally taxing work that would have required humans to account for differences in the chemistry of gum harvested from different trees and in the iron content of ochre from different sites,”  the article said.  How could they know about pH and iron content?  Success must have required a significant amount of goal-directed experimentation.  “The finding also suggests the intelligence of Stone Age humans was more akin to that of modern humans than previously thought,” a team member said.  “Their technology was a lot more competent than we have given them credit for.”
    Update 06/10/2009:  Thomas Wynn (U Colorado) tried to explain where the human mind came from and why anatomically modern humans were smart enough to invent a glue to haft their spears supposedly 70,000 years ago:

    One [implication] that has held central stage in paleoanthropology for two decades is the problem of modernity.  When and how did the modern mind evolve?  Most of the focus in this debate has been on the role language [sic] and symbolism but, as Wadley et al. make clear, there is more to modern cognition than language and the use of symbols.  Indeed, language has proven to be a particularly intractable topic for archaeologists, a point made cogently by Botha.  By focusing on activities that tax reasoning ability and are also visible archaeologically, such as hafting, archaeologists are in a better position to contribute to an understanding of the evolution of the modern mind.  In the current example, Wadley et al. have been able to demonstrate that some elements of modern cognition were in place by 70,000 years ago.
    Meanwhile, debate still rages about the “Hobbit” bones of miniature people from Ling Bua cave in Indonesia (see 10/24/2004, 10/25/2005, and 08/21/2006).  Papers in Nature last week suggested that the tiny people underwent “island dwarfism” by living too long on the isle.  Another paper said the foot bones show primitive features.  Some are suggesting these were early versions of Homo erectus that migrated out of Africa ahead of the rest, and developed independently on their isolated island  The skeletons, however, are dated at 18,000 years old – much younger than their axe-gluing, shell-button-manufacturing kin.  Robert Eckhardt, an evolutionary biologist at University of Pennsylvania, isn’t buying the argument that it represents a new species of human.  “In science, poor hypotheses identify themselves by needing ad hoc revision after revision,” he remarked.  “This is what is happening with increasing visibility in the [descriptions] of ‘Homo floresiensis.’”  For an intelligent design perspective on these skeletons, see an article by Robert Deyes on ARN.
    1.  Wadley, Hodgskiss and Grant, “Implications for complex cognition from the hafting of tools with compound adhesives in the Middle Stone Age, South Africa,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, published online May 11, 2009, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0900957106.
    2.  Commentary by Thomas Wynn, “Hafted spears and the archaology of mind,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences June 8, 2009, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0904369106.
    Evolutionary anthropologists throw their dating schemes around with reckless abandon.  Step back from the dogma and look at the big picture.  They would have you believe that human societies, smart enough to invent superglue and share bead technologies across a continent (unless you buy their line that this represents convergent evolution) were too dumb to invent cities and agriculture for some 100,000 years – an order of magnitude greater than all recorded human history, in which time humans built Sumer and Rome and New York and the Hubble Space Telescope.  Once the ridiculousness of their picture sinks in, you see the evolutionary scenario for what it is: a made-up story concocted to keep the Darwinian picture of the emergence of man from apes the dominant religion among scientists.  All their head-scratching and controversy and “ad hoc revision after revision” looks comical in that light. 
    Next headline on:  Early ManDating MethodsFossils
    Survival of the Slowest   05/11/2009    
    May 11, 2009 — Without stopping to think, the BBC News claimed that evolution is slowing snails down.  “Natural selection is favouring snails with reduced metabolic rates, researchers in Chile have discovered.”  Why would evolution do such a thing?  Isn’t the proverbial slowest of beasts already at risk of predators?  Not necessarily.  Look on the positive side: “Snails with lower metabolisms are at an advantage because they have more energy to spend on other activities such as growth or reproduction, the researchers say in the journal Evolution.”  Don’t tell that to your spouse.  The authors were not sure whether the decreased metabolism really made the snails crawl slower, but they figured that “nature is selecting for snails that are more energy efficient,” the article said.  It didn’t say whether the snails are turning green.
    All we need to do is repeat the prose from the 12/19/2007 commentary:
    The Story of Evolution
    Evolution explains more complexity, and more simplicity.  It explains why flight arose in some birds, but was lost in others.  With evolution, organs and genomes can become more complicated, or more streamlined.  Eyes emerge through evolution, but eyes are also lost by evolution.  Evolution makes the cheetah fast but the sloth slow.  By evolution, dinosaurs grow to skyscraper size, and hummingbirds grow tiny.  With evolution, peacocks grow more flashy and crows more black, giraffes tall and flatworms flat.  Evolution explains predator and prey, loner and herder, light and dark, high and low, fast and slow, profligacy and stinginess, terrorism and altruism, religion and atheism, virtue and selfishness, psychosis and reason, extinction and fecundity, war and peace.  Evolution explains everything.
    Now you understand why nothing in biology makes sense except in the “light” of evolution.  By stating at the outset that “whatever happens, evolution did it,” evolution can’t be falsified.  It’s a completely vacuous theory that is true by definition.  It explains opposite things.  It can’t possibly be wrong, if you can mold enough skulls full of mush to accept the premise.  The only hard part is making up the just-so story to explain the de jure fact.  We think people should go for de facto facts.
    Next headline on:  Terrestrial ZoologyEvolutionDumb Ideas
    05/09/2009 – If you like books that stretch your mind and make you think, try No Free Lunch by William Dembski (Rowman and Littlefield, 2002), available from Access Research Network.  The follow-up to his scholarly work The Design Inference, No Free Lunch is very valuable for putting to rest once and for all the idea that you can get design out of an evolutionary mechanism.  The logic (and a little math) is a bit heavy for the layman, but Dembski intersperses the heavy lifting with some light-hearted illustrations to make the principles clear.  For instance, he proves that no evolutionary algorithm is superior to blind search.  It’s like using a treasure map that requires a stack of treasure maps to find the treasure – each of them requiring additional stacks of maps, ad infinitum, that must be searched randomly.  (The moment someone tells you which map is the right one, information has been inserted into the system by intelligent design.)  You’d be better off digging on the island by chance.  In this and other ways, Dembski skillfully dismantles the idea that complex specified information can be purchased without intelligence.  The book adds an in-depth analysis of the concept of irreducible complexity, and a fourth law of thermodynamics applying to information theory.  If someone asks what you are reading, you can just say it’s about the NFL.  The title of the book comes from the No Free Lunch Theorems, discussed in the text, which prove that you can’t get information from non-information (that is, unless you cheat).  Evolutionists cheat at their own game all the time, as the next story illustrates.
    Next resource of the week:  04/25/2009.  All resources: Catalog.

    Using “Evolutionary Algorithms” by Intelligent Design   05/08/2009    
    May 8, 2009 — Evolution can’t be all bad if scientists can use it to optimize your car.  Science Daily said that scientists in Germany are “simulating evolution” to come up with ways to optimize difficult problems.  Using “Evolutionary Algorithms”, they can discover solutions for engineering problems like water resource management and the design of brakes, airbags and air conditioning systems in automobiles.  The simulated evolution program searches through a large number of random possibilities to make numerous successive slight improvements.
        “The algorithms are called ‘evolutionary’ because the characteristics of evolution – mutation, recombination and selection – form the basis of their search for promising solutions,” the article claimed.  Solutions that show promise are mutated and further selected.
        Conferences on Evolutionary Algorithms are held each year and the interest in them is spreading into other disciplines.  “The Evolutionary Algorithms are therefore a collective term for the various branches of research which have gradually developed: evolution strategies, evolutionary programming, genetic algorithms and genetic programming.”

    Every once in awhile we need to give a refresher course about these reports, to show why the terminology is ludicrous.  This has nothing to do with evolution and everything to do with intelligent design.  Calling these “evolutionary algorithms” is like calling Eugenie Scott a creationist.  Evolutionary Algorithm is an oxymoron – if it is evolutionary, it is not an algorithm, and if it is an algorithm, it is not evolutionary.  Why?  Because the essence of evolution, as Charles Darwin conceived it, has nothing to do with intelligent selection.  Evolution is mindless, purposeless, and without a goal.  These scientists, by contrast, have clear goals in mind.  They are consciously and purposefully selecting the products of randomness to get better designs – intelligent designs.  They may not know what the computer program will produce, but they sure well programmed the computer, and put in the criteria for success.  Employing randomness in a program does nothing to make it evolutionary.  The hallmark of intelligence is having a desired end and pulling it out of the soup of randomness.  This is something evolution cannot do – unless one is a pantheist or animist, attributing the properties of a Universal Soul to nature.  Undoubtedly, the NCSE would decry that.  They can barely tolerate theistic evolutionists – the well-meaning but misguided Christians who try to put God in the role of the engineer who uses evolutionary algorithms for his purposes (e.g., man).
        Remember – if it has purpose in it, it is not evolution.  We must avoid equivocation.  To discuss evolution with clarity it is essential to understand the terms and not mix metaphors.  Charlie leapt from artificial selection (intelligent design) to natural selection (materialism) only as a pedagogical aid.  He did not intend for natural selection to have a mind like the goal-directed farmer or breeder uses.  To think evolution, think mindless.  Notice that sentence itself is a one-way algorithm.  You can think mindless, but the mindless cannot think.
        For a definitive, in-depth treatment on why evolutionary algorithms cannot be mixed with evolution, see the book No Free Lunch in the Resource of the Week entry above.
    Next headline on:  DarwinismIntelligent Design
      Another commonly-accepted Darwinian principle was tested and found wanting.  This was the concept of “evolutionary trade-offs.”  Read about an experiment that falsified the principle in the 05/11/2004 entry.

    High School Biology Teachers Have Clout   05/08/2009    
    May 8, 2009 — Two professors at Minnesota State surveyed a thousand students on the impact of their high school biology teachers when it comes to the subject of evolution or creation:

    Students whose high school biology class included creationism (with or without evolution) were more likely to accept creationist views as entering college students.  Similarly, students exposed to evolutionism but not creationism were more likely to accept evolution in college.  For example, 72 to 78 percent of students exposed to evolution only agreed that it is scientifically valid while 57 to 59 percent of students who were exposed to creationism agreed that it can be validated.
    The researchers were surprised that the same trend held for both biology majors and non-majors.  The press release reproduced by Science Daily consistently used the suffix “-ism” on the word creationism but did not use it on the word evolution.  It claimed, without documentation, that “more than 25 percent of biology teachers do not know it is unconstitutional to teach creationism.”  It also said that “There are usually no consequences for teachers who do not cover evolution or who teach creationism.”
    No consequences?  For goodness’ sake, those teachers should be awarded the Medal of Freedom.
        Do you see why the DODO heads (Darwin-Only, Darwin-Only) are so adamant that student eyes must be completely shielded from any challenges to Charlie in biology class?  It’s because they know that evolution-ISM can’t stand in a fair fight with CREATION.  Nothing in evolution makes sense except in the darkness of dogma.
    Next headline on:  EducationEvolutionIntelligent Design
    Evolution Does What Comes Physically   05/07/2009    
    May 7, 2009 — Two scientists believe they have unified biology and physics into one law that both animals and falling rocks obey.  They call it the “constructal law.”  This “universal principle of evolution” explains the “universal design principles” that make fish swim and birds fly – the “physics of evolution.”  Even if evolution does not predict what animals will look like, James Marden (Penn State) and Adrian Bejan feel that the constructal law guarantees the same patterns will emerge: for instance, animals will evolve as weight-lifters against the fluids that surround them.  The story was reported in Science Daily.
        “This is an exciting development for physicists, but it should also resonate with biologists,” Bejan said.  “The idea that organic evolution is analogous to the way form evolves in inanimate flow systems is a novel concept that has the potential to unite perspectives and approaches across disparate disciplines.  We suggest that the constructal law provides a powerful tool for examining and understanding variation in both the animate and inanimate compartments of nature.”  Bejan thinks of his idea as a universal law governing all nature.  “When thinking of evolution and Darwin, most people think of animals or trees.  That’s too bad, because design features are everywhere in nature.  The constructal law can be seen as a universal principle of evolution, which applies in many fields, from physics to economics.”
    Pebbles tumble downstream, but salmon swim upstream.  The constructal law is refuted.  Science Daily published this article without any howls of laughter.  The credibility of Science Daily is refuted.
    Next headline on:  Darwin and EvolutionDumb Ideas
    State of the Moon Titan Addressed   05/06/2009    
    May 06, 2009 — Each May, a series of articles on major topics of geological interest, written by leading experts in the field, is published in the Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences.  This year’s issue includes a treatise on Titan, the large moon of Saturn, written by the two titans of Titan science, Jonathan Lunine and Ralph Lorentz.  Lunine, a Cassini interdisciplinary scientist, has been studying Titan for over two decades, well before the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft revolutionized our understanding of the cold, haze-shrouded, Mercury-sized moon.  Lorentz is the author of Titan Unveiled, an account of the Cassini-Huygens mission through 2006, interspersed with snippets of his own personal experiences in the investigation of Titan.  This article, then, should provide a reliable overview of current thinking of how Titan came to be the strange world it is.
        The article is entitled, “Rivers, Lakes, Dunes, and Rain: Crustal Processes in Titan’s Methane Cycle,”1  Since methane is the key to understanding both the atmosphere and crust of Titan, that is the focus of the article.  Two problems have been known for over a decade.  One is that the atmospheric methane, being under erosional bombardment from the solar wind, should be long gone if Titan is 4.5 billion years old.  The second is that the breakdown of atmospheric methane should lead to the accumulation of liquid ethane on the surface.  In the 1980s, some scientists estimated a global ocean of liquid methane and ethane might cover the surface hundreds of meters thick – perhaps even a mile or more deep.  When the Huygens Probe landed in 2005, it found a moist lakebed.  Radar imaging discovered sand dunes of ice particles covering the equatorial latitudes.  Some lakes in the northern latitudes were found, but no global ocean.  Now that Cassini has made over 50 flybys of Titan in 5 years, how do scientists explain this?  A flavor of the answer can be found in the abstract: “The long-term evolution of the methane cycle may have involved episodic resupply of methane to the surface or gradual depletion of a larger surface reservoir of methane, but in either case, removal of large amounts of ethane from the surface remains an unresolved problem.”
        After providing a brief history of Titan exploration, they said, “the lifetime of Titan’s atmospheric methane was straightforwardly calculated to be a few percent of the age of the solar system.”  To them, this “implied that methane must be supplied externally to the atmosphere, from space, from Titan’s surface, or from its interior.”  External supply is out; there aren’t that many impactors with methane likely to hit Titan.  Once it was confirmed there was no surface reservoir, the only place left was under the crust.  Now, though, we know that much of the surface is covered in sand dunes.  There are few craters.  Vertical relief is low in most places (on the order of a hundred meters).  Some places show long, sinuous channels with tributaries, suggestive of rivers, which could be drainage channels from infrequent cloudbursts of liquid methane.  The Huygens probe detected some of these channels on its way down.  Some channels could be outflows from cryovolcanic domes.  Methane, therefore, plays a role in the atmosphere and crust, but not to the extent of early predictions.  A few methane clouds have been seen above the haze layer to move about within days or hours.  Models predict infrequent but powerful outbursts of methane precipitation: one study “showed that tens of centimeters of rain could fall within a few hours, a result confirmed by subsequent modeling”; studies of updrafts in convective plumes showed that while such plumes were little less energetic than those on Earth, the overall flux limitation due to the weak insolation meant that such convection (and by implication, rainfall) had to be rare.”  The average rainfall is estimated at 1 cm per year, though local areas could experience rare, torrential downpours.
        The dunes were another surprise.  “Pre-Cassini expectations were that dunes on Titan were unlikely (Lorenz et al. 1995), an expectation that has been proven wrong (Lorenz et al. 2006a),” the paper said.  The winds were expected to be too gentle to create dunes.  Also, “it was not obvious what processes on such a stagnant world could generate sand-sized particles.”  But there they were, running longitudinally around the equator, dodging obstacles and standing 100 to 150 meters high.  This was all a complete surprise to find that 20% of Titan’s surface is covered in sand dunes.  They expected an ocean, but found “absence of a global ocean on Titan, in place of which are the dunes.”  The surface winds proved stronger than expected (1 m/s instead of 1 cm/s).  Prevailing winds blow east to west.  Dunes are rare outside of the tropics (+/- 30° latitude).  The interdune areas are completely free of sand.  The dune particles apparently contain hydrocarbons, not just water ice.  Scientists wonder how the sand was produced.  It might have precipitated out of the haze, or it might have formed in cycles of wetting and drying in the lakes.  If the latter, the particles had to be lofted into the atmosphere and deposited in the tropics.  Maybe the particles came from impacts or from river channels.  Those sources, however, appear too low to account for 200,000 to 800,000 cubic kilometers of material – larger than all the lake liquid inventory.  Did Titan have more methane at earlier times?
    Finally, whereas some observed features can be explained with models of present-day rainstorm precipitation, it is not clear that all can.  There is evidence at the Huygens site of larger-scale features, and radar imagery is revealing progressively larger areas of heavily dissected terrain (badlands).  Cloud models by Hueso & Sanchez-Lavega (2006) indicate that a relative humidity of 80% is required for spontaneous development of convectively driven methane rainstorms on Titan, about twice the present-day relative humidity.  If these models are correct, they imply that the features seen at the Huygens site were formed in a substantially wetter climate than that observed today (Griffith et al. 2008).  The source of the additional methane—if it still exists—remains unidentified.
    Some changes may be seasonal.  That’s one thing the Cassini team wants to observe if the spacecraft, now at equinox in the Saturn system, can remain operational till the next solstice (2017).  By then, sunshine will be reaching the north pole.  Maybe the lakes will migrate with the seasons.  Even so, with about 35% of Titan’s surface mapped in radar to date, it appears that only 0.6% of the surface is covered in liquid.  Most of it is in patchy lakes in northern latitudes.  The depth of the lakes is unknown.  If moderately deep (20 m), they could hold two orders of magnitude more hydrocarbons than all the known gas and oil seeps on earth.  Still, that impressive quantity of methane is too low – 1/30 to 1/3 – the amount needed to humidify the atmosphere and produce the rain that has apparently carved the dendritic channels.  Lorentz and Lunine offer two possibilities: the lakes are much deeper than expected, or there are underground reservoirs of methane.  Or, perhaps, the global ocean existed in the past.  If so, we are seeing the waning stages of a drying world.
        But where is the missing ethane?  Although ethane mixes well with methane in its liquid form, it does not vaporize as easily: “the vapor pressure of ethane is more than three orders of magnitude lower than that of methane at the surface temperature of 94 K” (the surface temperature), they said.  “This means that, while ethane mechanically behaves as a fluid identically with methane, and is fully mixed with it, it does not participate in the gaseous phase of the hydrological cycle through evaporation and condensation on the same timescales and with the same mass flux as methane.”  If it has been condensing and dropping to the surface for 4.5 billion years, where did it go?  Lunine’s own prediction was at stake when he noted the “absence of the hundred of meters equivalent depth of ethane expected from methane photolysis over the age of the solar system (Lunine et al. 1983).”  No ocean was found.  The Huygens probe landed on damp sand.  Methane vapor was detected, and rounded cobbles found scattered around on the surface of the landing site in a dry lakebed indicated they had tumbled down the dendritic channels photographed on descent.  Still, it was a much dryer surface than expected.  The probe had been built ready to float on an ocean of liquid ethane and methane.  It even carried an instrument to measure its depth.  It seems the authors’ only escape for the missing ethane was to bury it underground.  The surface ice might be porous, they said; the lakes might be connected by underground aquifers where the ethane escaped out of sight. 
    Another unresolved question is the ultimate source of the methane and the disposition of the ethane.  If methane has been photolyzed without major interruptions over the age of the solar system, hundreds of meters equivalent depth of ethane should have been produced during this time.  Disposal of the ethane during volcanic (Mousis & Schmitt 2008) and impact events might explain its relative absence on the surface.  Alternatively, it is possible that much less ethane actually survives to the surface from the stratosphere than is predicted by photochemical models (Atreya et al.  2006), because its vapor pressure is high enough that condensation into aerosols in the lower atmosphere is avoided, or it is incorporated somehow into other organic aerosols (Hunten 2006), or both.  In either case, the surface ought still to be buried under hundreds of meters of solid or solid + liquid debris globally averaged, and the dune fields covering 20% of the surface do not appear to be either extensive enough or deep enough to account for all this material.  Alternatively, material may have been pushed into the subsurface crust, or deeper, as noted above for the ethane.
    The authors even referred to other papers that suggested ad hoc scenarios.  “Methane itself might have been manufactured in the deep interior by reaction of carbon dioxide, water, and rock (Atreya et al. 2006)” – but this lacks a transport mechanism to the surface – “or brought into Titan and stored in the deep interior from the beginning, expelled during discrete events in Titan’s history (Tobie et al. 2006) or continuously (Fortes et al. 2007).”  Maybe the ocean was there but is gone.  “Alternatively, the amount of surface methane may never have been sufficient for global coverage, confined instead at most to low points such as the floors of craters and other closed basins.”  If that were true, it should be possible to study the topography and crater floors in finer detail and see if that is true.  At present, however, these suggestions all lack observational basis.  It appears they were engineered to keep Titan old.
    1.  Lunine and Lorentz, “Rivers, Lakes, Dunes, and Rain: Crustal Processes in Titan's Methane Cycle,” Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Vol. 37: 299-320 (Volume publication date May 2009) (doi:10.1146/annurev.earth.031208.100142).
    We’ve reported these mysteries about Titan for years (insert Titan in the search bar above and see).  This paper is important because it shows that the leading Titan experts have still not been able to come up with credible answers to their falsified predictions despite 5 years of unprecedented data.  Recall the observational facts: no global ocean.  Very little surface ethane.  No plausible supply of methane, which is currently insufficient to account for a perpetual methane cycle.  Indications that methane is being depleted.  Dunes covering 20% of a relatively dry world.  Few impact craters.  Surface flows, indicating remnant heat sufficient to cause surface activity today.  An atmospheric methane abundance only sufficient to last a hundred million years at most (a few percent the assumed age of the solar system).
        All these puzzles can be solved by abandoning the evolutionists’ obsessive-compulsive fetish with that 4.5 billion year age figure.  That would instantly remove the need for all those ad hoc rescuing devices.  Titan would make sense as a young world after all.  If it didn’t cause Charlie D. gastric pains to consider this option, it would certainly be in the direction the evidence is leading.  Aren’t scientists supposed to do that?
    Next headline on:  Solar SystemDating Methods
      In 2003, some researchers decided to actually test the famous “thought experiment” of monkeys typing on typewriters to generate Shakespeare by chance.  Look what happened in the 05/12/2003 entry.

    Gravity: A Theory in Crisis   05/05/2009    
    May 5, 2009 — Note: This is **not** a joke.  How could gravity be a theory in crisis?  Isn’t gravity one of the best-understood facts of nature?  Don’t we all avoid jumping off cliffs because of the law of gravity?  Gravity is doing just fine, thank you.  It’s our theory of gravity, and the cosmology built on it, that is in crisis – according to a report on PhysOrg today: “Study plunges standard Theory of Cosmology into Crisis.”
        Problems began in the late 1990s when cosmologists found unexpected brightness readings from distant supernovae.  They appeared fainter than expected.  Astronomy magazines were awash in reports that some type of mysterious energy was accelerating the expansion of the universe.  Since no one could observe this energy, it was called “dark” or mysterious.  To this day, no one has figured out what it is (see 05/01/2009, bullet 9), even though most astronomers have been claiming that dark matter and dark energy constitute 95% of the stuff of the universe (09/20/2002, 05/10/2004)
        Hiding most of the universe in mysterious unknown stuff has been wearing thin on cosmologists.  It’s not even a solution: the PhysOrg article said, “Even if it does exist, dark matter would be unable to reconcile all the current discrepancies between actual measurements and predictions based on theoretical models.”  The situation appears ripe for a paradigm change.  “Hence the number of physicists questioning the existence of dark matter has been increasing for some time now.”  Are there any other contenders?
        A leading alternative would have shocked 19th century physicists.  It’s called “Modified Newtonian Dynamics” (MOND) – suggesting that even the triumph of the great Isaac Newton was not forever. 

    Competing theories of gravitation have already been developed which are independent of this construction [of dark energy].  Their only problem is that they conflict with Newton’s theory of gravitation.
        “Maybe Newton was indeed wrong”, declares Professor Dr. Pavel Kroupa of Bonn University’s Argelander-Institut für Astronomie (AIfA).  “Although his theory does, in fact, describe the everyday effects of gravity on Earth, things we can see and measure, it is conceivable that we have completely failed to comprehend the actual physics underlying the force of gravity”....
        It would not be the first time that Newton’s theory of gravitation had to be modified over the past hundred years.  This became necessary in three special cases: when high velocities are involved (through the Special Theory of Relativity), in the proximity of large masses (through the theory of General Relativity), and on sub-atomic scales (through quantum mechanics).
    A new report in The Astrophysical Journal is making a convincing case for MOND.  “This is a problematical hypothesis that has nevertheless gained increasing ground in recent years, especially in Europe,” PhysOrg reported.  Some of the problems are that distant satellite galaxies under MOND cannot contain any dark matter (06/30/2001), but are moving too fast to explain with classical (Newtonian) physics. 
    Or one must assume that some basic fundamental principles of physics have hitherto been incorrectly understood.  “The only solution would be to reject Newton’s classical theory of gravitation”, says Pavel Kroupa.  “We probably live in a non-Newton universe.  If this is true, then our observations could be explained without dark matter”.  Such approaches are finding support amongst other research teams in Europe, too.
    In support of Newton, it could be argued that his law of gravity is being modified, not abandoned.  As with relativity, classical mechanics works for our everyday experience.  It’s only at the extremes of the very small and the very large where adjustments are needed.  Still, relativity in the early 1900s and now MOND in the early 2000s are pointing out fundamental shortcomings in a theory that was considered throughout the Enlightenment as the epitome of scientific achievement – a law that scientists and philosophers for centuries trusted to explain all the motions of the universe.
    Darwinists often parrot one of their favorite sound bites, “evolution is a fact, like gravity.”  The fact is, Evolution is attacked, like gravity.  The main difference is that undermining theories of gravitation does not threaten the naturalistic worldview that underlies Darwinism.  Therefore, Darwin-doubters are attacked, with gravity [gravity, n., importance, significance, as, the gravity of an offense].
        But is it any less grave an offense to fool the public by appealing to mysterious unknown stuff – dark matter and dark energy – for over a decade? (see 02/28/2008 and article on ICR).  Ponder the substance of scientific appeals to imponderable substances.  Cosmologists have been invoking these imponderable or occult (mysterious, unknown) substances with alacrity in their cosmological models.  Think of everything built on top of these assumptions – the standard model of the Big Bang, for one.
        Another imponderable substance may be the “force” of natural selection.  Calling a metaphor a force is a farce.  Metaphors bewitch you (07/04/2003).  So do farces, which only have a dark side.  Duct tape is better.  It has both a light side and a dark side, and it binds the universe together.  Enough of this.  Now get some gravitas [gravitas, n.: seriousness or sobriety], and may the Source be with you.
    Next headline on:  PhysicsCosmology

    New Visualization
    Detector
    cartoon      Subject: VISUALIZATION
    by Brett Miller!
    Click the icon and enjoy!

    Scientific Data Can Mislead   05/04/2009    
    May 4, 2009 — Some recent stories should remind scientists that data do not exist in a philosophical vacuum.  Sometimes empirical measurements can be downright misleading.

    1. Pillars of creation:  The famous Hubble photo of the Eagle Nebula’s “pillars of creation” seemed to have a straightforward explanation: nearby stars were eroding the pillars with blasts of radiation.  Scientists have been studying the photo more carefully.  Some are coming up with a radically different interpretation, reported Space.com, that turns the previous explanation upside down.  The pillars were pushed into place.  Both explanations involve radiation pressure from nearby stars, but an Irish astronomer said, “There is, as yet, no clear consensus in the literature regarding the formation of the pillars”.
    2. X-rays deceiveNature last week began a news article with “X-ray astronomy: When appearances are deceptive.”1  For years, astronomers have tried to explain an X-ray glow around the Milky Way.  Exotic explanations like supermassive black holes had been put forth.  Now, a new map has resolved the glow into discrete sources.  This means the X-rays are probably coming from point sources like ordinary stars.  “With blurry vision, one can imagine strange and wonderful things that later turn out to be erroneous,” Shull said.  He likened this story to the fabled canals on Mars that evaporated when spacecraft dropped by to visit.
    3. Brain chaff:  Functional MRI (fMRI) is a powerful tool for discerning detail in the brain.  Trouble is, neuroscientists have not been doing very well at sifting the wheat from the chaff in the data.  In fact, Nature reported, “Nearly half of the neuroimaging studies published in prestige journals in 2008 contain unintentionally biased data that could distort their scientific conclusions.”2 
    4. Green fluorescent protein:  A workhorse of molecular biology has been green fluorescent protein (GFP), a molecule that glows.  GFP allows scientists to follow molecular interactions in the cell by inserting the gene for GFP in biochemical pathways.  Is it really a neutral probe, though?  Nature News reported that a Russian team found by accident that GFP donates electrons to nearby molecules, potentially altering their function.  The researcher said, “It is quite unexpected that GFP can interact with external molecules and donate electrons.”
    A book review in Nature last week reviewed historical examples of models and data that misled scientists.3  Andrew F. Read reviewed Pavlov’s Dogs and Schroedinger’s Cat: Scenes From the Living Laboratory by Rom Harré.3  In this book, philosopher Rom Harré recounted the use of animals as instruments in the history of science (think of Galvani using frog legs to test electricity).  “As a lucid illustration of the messy, chaotic and glorious professional world we scientists have always inhabited,” Read commented, “this book is great.”  Stories are amusing and shocking.  Harré tells “one of the most gripping and succinct summaries of the Lysenko fiasco in Soviet genetics” that Read has ever read. 
    Yet the book is more thought-provoking than a simple storytelling exercise.  It is organized not as a history, nor by scientific subject, but by the principles of the philosophy of science.  Chapters are devoted to organisms as detecting and measuring devices, and as tools for exploration, for testing hypotheses and for modelling reality.  This organization generates an easily digested introduction to many of the key concepts of the philosophy of science.  It demonstrates vividly that there is no single way of doing science; philosophers of science are hard pressed to describe what is going on, let alone prescribe what we ought to be doing.
    The only frustration Read felt was that last phrase.  Harré left the reader hanging: what should scientists be doing?  He didn’t take up the pressing moral questions.  He said, “Only when we have a clear idea of what has been done by whom and for what purpose can we take up the pressing moral questions that must arise,“ but then later “dodged the bullet” himself by saying, “I leave the working out of moral arguments to others more qualified than I am to reach just and ethically sound conclusions.”  Read wondered who better than Harré would be qualified to address that question.
    1.  Michael Shull, “X-ray astronomy: When appearances are deceptive,” Nature 458, 1119-1121 (30 April 2009) | doi:10.1038/4581119a.
    2.  Alison Abbott, “Brain imaging skewed; Double dipping of data magnifies errors in functional MRI scans,” Nature Published online 27 April 2009 | Nature | doi:10.1038/4581087a.
    3.  Andrew F. Read, “Tales of top models,” Nature 458, 1113-1114 (30 April 2009) | doi:10.1038/4581113a.
    With varying degrees of justification, Pavlov, Schroedinger, Lysenko, Galvani, Mesmer and others truly believed their scientific measurements and models were uncovering truths about nature – lifting a corner of the veil to discover realities beyond common-sense experience.  Once in awhile we are reminded that science is a messy project of fallible minds utilizing fallible senses to operate fallible instruments in the “messy, chaotic and glorious professional world ... scientists have always inhabited.”  If it is messy for the hard sciences using real-time observation, how much more for the shadowy pasts of biological history and cosmology?
        The history of science is a fascinating tale when told honestly (without the triumphalist March of Progress metaphor).  There were arguably more false starts and reversals than successes.  Some of the greatest successes (e.g., Newtonian gravity) proved vulnerable to further investigation centuries later.  We laugh at the alchemists spending centuries in a vain quest to turn base metals into gold, but in their own day, they were the “scientists” – the educated scholars, seeking understanding.  Surely such foibles are not happening any more today, are they?  Are they?
        Read’s cautionary advice is worth repeating.  The book he reviewed provided only an easily digested introduction to many of the “key concepts of the philosophy of science.  It demonstrates vividly that there is no single way of doing science; philosophers of science are hard pressed to describe what is going on, let alone prescribe what we ought to be doing.”  Scientists today could use more humility.  They should not stand so high and mighty above scholars in other fields.  In some ways scientists are like drunkards stumbling around, once in awhile knocking their heads against the lamp posts of reality (see First Law of Scientific Progress and Young’s Law in the right sidebar).  The quote by Daniel Robinson at the end of the 12/11/2005 commentary bears repeating.
    Next headline on:  StarsPhysicsCell Biology
    Who Needs Embryonic Stem Cells?   05/03/2009    
    May 3, 2009 — Cells can be “reprogrammed” to act just like embryonic stem cells, a Nature stem cell blog called The Niche reported.  This eliminates the need to use viruses or inserted DNA to induce the cells to become pluripotent.  The resulting cells are “morphologically indistinguishable” from embryonic stem cells, the article said.
        The prior week, Nature News reported that work is going “fast and furious” on induced pluripotent stem cells, in which adult cells can be made like embryonic stem cells without the need to create and destroy human embryos.  Martin Pera wrote for Nature last week that these induced stem cells from adult tissue are safer than embryonic cells: “New techniques circumvent a roadblock to the production of embryonic-stem-cell-like lines from adult tissue.  Such reprogrammed cell lines should be much safer to use for therapy.1  Science Daily reported on Canadian researchers who produced a large number of laboratory stem cells from a small number of blood cells obtained from bone marrow.
        Another discovery may remove the need to use stem cells from any source.  Science Daily reported that a Stanford team succeeded in turning skin cells into muscle cells, and vice versa, bypassing the need for stem cells.
        Despite these advances, some researchers continue to press for more funding and freedom to tinker with human embryos.  The FASEB journal editor thought the Stanford study would “complement” the use of embryonic stem cells.  And Nature News seemed delighted that Japan is cutting the red tape for scientists to work on ES cells.  By only getting permission from their local institution, Japanese scientists will now be able to do almost any experiment on human embryos – including cloning.  Starting this month, “the ministry will also free up the previously forbidden creation of cloned human embryos, although only for basic research into serious diseases.”
        In the United States, scientists continue to be “smitten” with President Obama’s relaxed policies on stem cells, increased funding, policies on global warming, and trust in scientific institutions.  Jeff Mervis wrote for Science May 1, “Obama Courts a Smitten Audience at the National Academy.”2  NAS President Ralph Cicerone expressed the mood of the meeting by saying, “the speech was inspiring and credible.  We are extremely lucky to have him in the White House.”  The biggest applause line was not about the new Apollo-benchmark funding levels, but his promise that “under this Administration, the days of science taking a back seat to ideology are over.
        Meanwhile, the President is working to reverse former President Bush’s environmental policies, reported PhysOrg.  Neither Nature nor Science seems to have any criticism of Obama.  President Bush, since the day he took office, was routinely railed in these journals for allegedly mixing ideology with science.  Bush had sought the guidance of leading scientists and ethicists when formulating his policy on stem cells.  When Obama swept those restrictions aside with the stroke of an executive-order pen, “the big question became how far scientists could go,” reported PhysOrg.
    1.  Martin F. Pera, “Stem cells: Low-risk reprogramming,” Nature 458, 715-716 (9 April 2009) | doi:10.1038/458715a.
    2.  Jeff Mervis, “Obama Courts a Smitten Audience at the National Academy,” Science, 1 May 2009: Vol. 324. no. 5927, pp. 576-577, DOI: 10.1126/science.324_576a.
    How to spot a liberal: look for someone in a dream world who thinks everybody else is dreaming but them.  Liberals think they have no ideology; only conservatives do.  Liberals believe they have no religious motivation; only conservatives do.  Liberals think they uphold scientific integrity but call conservatives ideologues.  Liberals think of themselves as children of the Enlightenment but consign conservatives to the Dark Ages.  Liberals are positivists; conservatives are constitutionalists.  Liberals equate science with its institutions; conservatives equate science with evidence.  Liberals look for the scientific consensus; conservatives look for the one who can prove his case with facts.  Liberals believe science should rule the state; conservatives believe science should serve the people.  Conservatives believe in the power of the vote; liberals look to the power of judges or presidents that can hand them what they want by decree.  Conservatives want open debate to air both sides of each question; liberals think letting the public hear only their side is “fair” – they try to shut up conservatives by calling opposing views “politically incorrect” or “religiously motivated.”  Liberals praise tolerance but are intolerant of conservatives.  Liberals denounce hate, but scream vile epithets at conservatives.  Liberals impose uniformity of thought but praise diversity as the highest good.  Liberals started the Free Speech movement but now enforce speech codes on campus.  Liberals exalt their favorite atheists but consider themselves non-religious.  Liberals worship idols (like life-emergent molecules and Charles Darwin) but call their religion “secular.”  Now apply this picture to the creation-evolution issue and everything becomes clear.
    Next headline on:  HealthCell BiologyPolitics and Ethics
      Three interesting stories were reported the day Stephen Jay Gould died (05/20/2002); life didn’t start out hot (05/20/2002), mountain-climbing proteins argue against evolutionary contingency (05/20/2002), and viewing the universe as life-programming computer (05/20/2002).

    Weekend Round-up   05/01/2009    
    May 01, 2009 — Here’s a backlog of assorted news stories worth noting before moving on to the big stories for the new month of May.

    1. No-brainer snake tale:  A prof at UC Davis has a new spin on the story of the woman and the serpent.  It’s an unGenesis just-so story that claims snakes drove primate evolution.  How?  Our ancestors had to be wary of being bitten, so they invented bigger eyes that could focus, so that they could avoid stepping on snakes.  That required bigger brains, and the rest is history.  Read this tale on PhysOrg, which makes the snake the hero of the story.  It wins by saying, “or: Snakes ... may well have given bipedal hominins, already equipped with a non-human primate communication system, the evolutionary nudge to point to communicate for social good, a critical step toward the evolution of language, and all that followed.”  Why mice did not develop language and all that followed to avoid being bitten is left as an exercise.
    2. Evolving molecules.  Studying evolution by observing finches at the Galapagos is hard work, so Sarah Voytek found an easier way.  She lets molecules evolve in a test tube in the comfort of her lab at Scripps Institute.  Really.  She gets molecules to evolve by natural selection, competing for resources, just like Darwin’s finches.  How this contrived situation with fake “food” being supplied by the investigator to non-living material could say anything about the origin of species is not quite clear, but Gerald Joyce, her advisor, was pleased.  Read about it on Science Daily.
    3. Grounded pterosaursNational Geographic news found a Japanese scientist who thinks giant pterosaurs couldn’t fly, because the takeoff and flapping muscles required would have defied the laws of physics.  Why these giant beasts went to the trouble to evolve useless wings was left unexplained.
    4. Evolution inaction:  Robert Roy Britt is using the current swine flu epidemic to plug Darwin and punch Darwin doubters.  Swine flu is evolution in action, he said on Live Science.  He even got a Darwinist to agree: “Yes, this is definitely evolution.”  If this bolsters Darwin’s Origin of Species, Britt didn’t seem to notice that we still call it influenza after all these years.  Terry Trainor at Talk About Origins considers Britt’s article another case of misrepresenting creationism.
    5. Thank a comet:  Prof. Bar-Nun thinks comets contain the key ingredients for life, according to a story in Science Daily.  A pinch of argon, a dash of xenon, under the full moon, and he has solved an other-worldly puzzle.  “The story started between 4.6 and 3.8 billion years ago, when both the moon and the Earth were bombarded by a flux of asteroids and comets.”  It’s simple: comets slammed into earth bearing their life-giving cargo, “which eventually were dissolved in the ocean and started the long process leading to the emergence of life on Earth,” he said.  They became more complex over time, and here we are.  We got our ingredients by special delivery, Bar None.
    6. A messenger from Mercury:  The May 1 issue of Science had a special series of articles on Mercury, presenting the latest ideas from the first two flybys of the MESSENGER spacecraft.  Science Daily summarized one of the papers about Mercury’s crust.  Planetary scientists now believe that, because of all the smooth plains covering 40% of the surface, Mercury experienced much more volcanism than the moon early in its history.  See also the Astronomy Picture of the Day for May 4.
    7. Nothing to show for a decade of work:  SETI@Home is celebrating its tenth anniversary.  This distributed-processing search for intelligent alien signals utilizes spare CPU cycles from a million users’ PCs.  The article on PhysOrg had good news and bad news.  Bad news: no signal has been found.  Good news: the technology for finding nothing is getting better.
    8. Dino-mite:  Most dinosaur hunters use fine brushes and instruments to extract their prey.  Researchers at Dinosaur National Park, however, are having a blast.  Science Daily said that sometimes more force is required to extract the precious bones, so they called in some dynamite experts.  “Without their talents, scientifically important fossils would have remained locked underground in their stony mausoleum,” the article explained.  But will it take more work to reassemble thousands of bits of debris?
          The bones will apparently survive intact; after all, Science Daily also reported that some dinosaurs apparently survived a planet-extinction blast from the past.  This is kind of a twist on the creationist claim that dinosaurs survived the Flood.  In the evolutionary scenario, “we already know that flying theropod dinosaurs (more generally referred to as birds) and crocodiles survived, so the possibility of pockets of survivors of other types of dinosaur is not quite as far fetched as it might sound.”  Now you have a choice of far-fetched beliefs.  Of course, believing that humans and dinosaurs co-existed “still belongs firmly in the realms of pure fantasy,” the article said.  You can trust Science Daily, can’t you? (see bullets 2, 5).
    9. Powers of darkness:  What is dark energy? asked Clara Moskowitz on Space.com.  The upshot: we don’t know, because it’s dark.  What we do know is that it shook up a lot of astronomers and made some of them believe in alternate universes, which they also cannot see.  Maybe it’s something sci-fi, like anti-gravity.  If the expansion slows, it might let multiverse proponents argue that our universe must be pushing against another.  “Maybe that’s why our universe is so peculiar,” ended Moskowitz, invoking a very apropos word for the occasion.
    10. Galaxy youngsters:  Some galaxies are “oddly young,” Clara Moskowitz reported in another article on Space.com.  John Salzer, astronomer who conducted the survey, was dumbfounded.  “It’s just hard for me to fathom, and hard for models to account for, an increase by a factor of 30,” he told Space.com.  (Astronomers think stars and galaxies are young if they have low abundances of metals, or elements heavier than hydrogen and helium.)  The team detected the 2,400 young galaxies using the Kitt Peak National Observatory International Spectroscopic Survey (KISS), which also stands for, “Keep it simple, stupid.”
    11. Brain music:  You might be able to download your own brain soundtracks and play them on your iPod, reported Science Daily.  Maybe they will help your mood.  You can listen to a sample played back on a piano.  Not quite Bach or Mozart, but it’s kind of cool, like mellow jazz.  You might not want to hear the tracks from the angry driver behind you.
    12. The automated railway in your nerves:  Scientists at USC found a kind of sorting mechanism regulating the direction of motorized trucks that deliver cargo to the plus and minus ends of your nerves, said Science Daily.  “Proteins go everywhere in the cell and do all sorts of work, but a fundamental question has eluded biologists,” the article began: “How do the proteins know where to go?”  The trucks that haul them are little motors called myosin and kinesin.  The kinesins tend to be attracted toward the axons, but the myosins pick out the ones with dendritic protein cargo, which need to go the other way, and carry them back to the dendrites.  This way, the axonal proteins always go to the axon, and the dendritic proteins always go to the dendrites.  Don Arnold called this process inefficient yet effective, leaving the reader wondering how he could make vehicles without eyes or brains do a better job.
          Scientists at UC Davis, meanwhile, are modeling “how cells change gears,” says another article on Science Daily.  They think cell regulatory processes are “resilient and redundant,” just like any well-engineered system should be.
    13. Nice lice:  What could be more disgusting than lice?  Science Daily said the little pests might help calibrate the human immune system.  The best that can be said about this is that maybe the bugs are not all bad.  Professor Jan Bradley put an evolutionary spin on it: “It is possible that the immune dysfunctions we see today are the result of immune systems moulded by evolution for a set of challenges completely different to those encountered in modern times.”  Tell that to the lice-infected people in Africa where they tell us humans evolved.
    14. Nice spice:  “How plants protect us from disease” is the title of another article on Science Daily about plant products in everyday food that help us fight inflammation.  The phytochemicals from red wine, green tea, garlic, curcumin and cinnamon have curative powers.  “He who controls the Spice controls the universe” from Dune comes to mind.
    Encore: Speaking of health, here’s a word of encouragement for the elderly.  Science Daily reported that “Physical Activity Improves Life Expectancy And Decreases Need Of Care Among Older People.”  Like our sponsoring domain says, Creation Safaris has something for every body.
    This gives you a taste of the variety of material reported on Creation-Evolution Headlines usually in more depth.  We’ve offered you a tray of science hors douvres to sample and taste.  Many should not be swallowed, though.
    Next headline on:  Early ManDarwin and EvolutionDumb IdeasDinosaursOrigin of LifeSETICosmologyCell BiologyHuman BodyIntelligent DesignPlantsTerrestrial Zoology


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    “I have read many of your creation articles and have enjoyed and appreciated your website.  I feel you are an outstanding witness for the Lord.... you are making a big difference, and you have a wonderful grasp of the issues.”
    (a PhD geneticist, author and inventor)

    “Thank you for your great creation section on your website.  I come visit it every day, and I enjoy reading those news bits with your funny (but oh so true) commentaries.”
    (a computer worker in France)

    “I have been reading Creation Evolution Headlines for many years now with ever increasing astonishment.... I pray that God will bless your work for it has been a tremendous blessing for me and I thank you.”
    (a retired surveyor in N.S.W. Australia)

    “I totally enjoy the polemic and passionate style of CEH... simply refreshes the heart which its wonderful venting of righteous anger against all the BS we’re flooded with on a daily basis.  The baloney detector is just unbelievably great.  Thank you so much for your continued effort, keep up the good work.”
    (an “embedded Linux hacker” in Switzerland)

    “I love to read about science and intelligent design, I love your articles.... I will be reading your articles for the rest of my life.”
    (an IT engineer and 3D animator in South Africa)

    “I discovered your site about a year ago and found it to be very informative, but about two months back I decided to go back to the 2001 entries and read through the headlines of each month.... What a treasure house of information!  ....you have been very balanced and thoughtful in your analysis, with no embarrassing predictions, or pronouncements or unwarranted statements, but a very straightforward and sometimes humorous analysis of the news relating to origins.”
    (a database engineer in New York)

    “I discovered your site several months ago.... I found your articles very informative and well written, so I subscribed to the RSS feed.  I just want to thank you for making these articles available and to encourage you to keep up the good work!”
    (a software engineer in Texas)

    “Your piece on ‘Turing Test Stands’ (09/14/2008) was so enlightening.  Thanks so much.  And your piece on ‘Cosmology at the Outer Limits” (06/30/2008) was another marvel of revelation.  But most of all your ‘footnotes’ at the end are the most awe-inspiring.  I refer to ‘Come to the light’ and Psalm 139 and many others.  Thanks so much for keeping us grounded in the TRUTH amidst the sea of scientific discoveries and controversy.  It’s so heartwarming and soul saving to read the accounts of the inspired writers testifying to the Master of the Universe.  Thanks again.”
    (a retired electrical engineer in Mississippi)

    “I teach a college level course on the issue of evolution and creation.  I am very grateful for your well-reasoned reports and analyses of the issues that confront us each day.  In light of all the animosity that evolutionists express toward Intelligent Design or Creationism, it is good to see that we on the other side can maintain our civility even while correcting and informing a hostile audience.  Keep up the good work and do not compromise your high standards.  I rely on you for alerting me to whatever happens to be the news of the day.”
    (a faculty member at a Bible college in Missouri)

    “Congratulations on reaching 8 years of absolute success with crev.info.... Your knowledge and grasp of the issues are indeed matched by your character and desire for truth, and it shows on every web page you write.... I hope your work extends to the ends of the world, and is appreciated by all who read it.”
    (a computer programmer from Southern California)

    “Your website is one of the best, especially for news.... Keep up the great work.”
    (a science writer in Texas)

    “I appreciate the work you’ve been doing with the Creation-Evolution Headlines website.”
    (an aerospace engineer for NASA)

    “I appreciate your site tremendously.... I refer many people to your content frequently, both personally and via my little blog.... Thanks again for one of the most valuable websites anywhere.”
    (a retired biology teacher in New Jersey, whose blog features beautiful plant and insect photographs)

    “I don’t remember exactly when I started reading your site but it was probably in the last year.  It’s now a staple for me.  I appreciate the depth of background you bring to a wide variety of subject areas.”
    (a software development team leader in Texas)

    “I want to express my appreciation for what you are doing.  I came across your website almost a year ago.... your blog [sic; news service] is one that I regularly read.  When it comes to beneficial anti-evolutionist material, your blog has been the most helpful for me.”
    (a Bible scholar and professor in Michigan)

    “I enjoyed reading your site.  I completely disagree with you on just about every point, but you do an excellent job of organizing information.”
    (a software engineer in Virginia.  His criticisms led to an engaging dialogue.  He left off at one point, saying, “You have given me much to think about.”)

    “I have learned so much since discovering your site about 3 years ago.  I am a homeschooling mother of five and my children and I are just in wonder over some the discoveries in science that have been explored on creation-evolution headlines.  The baloney detector will become a part of my curriculum during the next school year.  EVERYONE I know needs to be well versed on the types of deceptive practices used by those opposed to truth, whether it be in science, politics, or whatever the subject.”
    (a homeschooling mom in Mississippi)

    “Just wanted to say how much I love your website.  You present the truth in a very direct, comprehensive manner, while peeling away the layers of propaganda disguised as 'evidence' for the theory of evolution.”
    (a health care worker in Canada)

    “I’ve been reading you daily for about a year now.  I’m extremely impressed with how many sources you keep tabs on and I rely on you to keep my finger on the pulse of the controversy now.”
    (a web application programmer in Maryland)

    “I would like to express my appreciation for your work exposing the Darwinist assumptions and speculation masquerading as science.... When I discovered your site through a link... I knew that I had struck gold! ....Your site has helped me to understand how the Darwinists use propaganda techniques to confuse the public.  I never would have had so much insight otherwise... I check your site almost daily to keep informed of new developments.”
    (a lumber mill employee in Florida)

    “I have been reading your website for about the past year or so.  You are [an] excellent resource.  Your information and analysis is spot on, up to date and accurate.  Keep up the good work.”
    (an accountant in Illinois)

    “This website redefines debunking.  Thanks for wading through the obfuscation that passes for evolution science to expose the sartorial deficiencies of Emperor Charles and his minions.  Simply the best site of its kind, an amazing resource.  Keep up the great work!”
    (an engineer in Michigan)

    “I have been a fan of your daily news items for about two years, when a friend pointed me to it.  I now visit every day (or almost every day)... A quick kudo: You are amazing, incredible, thorough, indispensable, and I could list another ten superlatives.  Again, I just don’t know how you manage to comb so widely, in so many technical journals, to come up with all this great ‘news from science’ info.”
    (a PhD professor of scientific rhetoric in Florida and author of two books, who added that he was “awe-struck” by this site)

    More feedback

     
    Featured Creation Scientist for May

    William Kirby
    1759 - 1850

    William Kirby is considered the Father of Entomology, the study of insects.  From 1815 to 1826, with William Spence, he authored a four-volume encyclopedia of insects that is considered the foundational text on the subject.  He helped found the Entomological Society of London in 1833, and had his own extensive collection of insects.

    Kirby freely spoke of the wisdom of the Creator expressed in the morphology, physiology and variety in the insect world.  He wrote the seventh Bridgewater Treatise – one of a set of books commissioned to show how the findings of science support the Christian view of an all-wise Creator.  For quotes by Kirby and more information on his life, accomplishments and teachings, we invite you to read a short biography by Christine Dao on William Kirby at ICR from her series Men of Science, Men of God.


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

    A Concise Guide
    to Understanding
    Evolutionary Theory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Souder’s Law
    Repetition does not establish validity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Advice from Paul

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

    I Timothy 6:20-21

    Song of the True Scientist

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

    from Psalm 104

    Maxwell’s Motivation

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

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

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

    More Feedback
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    “Like your site especially the ‘style’ of your comments.... Keep up the good work.”
    (a retired engineer and amateur astronomer in Maryland)

    “I really enjoy your website, the first I visit every day.  I have a quote by Mark Twain which seems to me to describe the Darwinian philosophy of science perfectly.  ‘There is something fascinating about science.  One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.’  Working as I do in the Environmental field (I am a geologist doing groundwater contamination project management for a state agency) I see that kind of science a lot.  Keep up the good work!!”
    (a hydrogeologist in Alabama)

    “I visit your website regularly and I commend you on your work.  I applaud your effort to pull actual science from the mass of propaganda for Evolution you report on (at least on those rare occasions when there actually is any science in the propaganda).  I also must say that I'm amazed at your capacity to continually plow through the propaganda day after day and provide cutting and amusing commentary....  I can only hope that youthful surfers will stop by your website for a fair and interesting critique of the dogma they have to imbibe in school.”
    (a technical writer living in Jerusalem)

    “I have enjoyed your site for several years now.  Thanks for all the hard work you obviously put into this.  I appreciate your insights, especially the biological oriented ones in which I'm far behind the nomenclature curve.  It would be impossible for me to understand what's going on without some interpretation.  Thanks again.”
    (a manufacturing engineer in Vermont)

    “Love your site and your enormous amount of intellectualism and candor regarding the evolution debate.  Yours is one site I look forward to on a daily basis.  Thank you for being a voice for the rest of us.”
    (a graphic designer in Wisconsin)

    “For sound, thoughtful commentary on creation-evolution hot topics go to Creation-Evolution Headlines.
    (Access Research Network 12/28/2007).

    ”Your website is simply the best (and I’d dare say one of the most important) web sites on the entire WWW.”
    (an IT specialist at an Alabama university)

    “I’ve been reading the articles on this website for over a year, and I’m guilty of not showing any appreciation.  You provide a great service.  It’s one of the most informative and up-to-date resources on creation available anywhere.  Thank you so much.  Please keep up the great work.”
    (a senior research scientist in Georgia)

    “Just a note to thank you for your site.  I am a regular visitor and I use your site to rebut evolutionary "just so" stories often seen in our local media.  I know what you do is a lot of work but you make a difference and are appreciated.”
    (a veterinarian in Minnesota)

    “This is one of the best sites I have ever visited.  Thanks.  I have passed it on to several others... I am a retired grandmother. I have been studying the creation/evolution question for about 50 yrs.... Thanks for the info and enjoyable site.”
    (a retiree in Florida)

    “It is refreshing to know that there are valuable resources such as Creation-Evolution Headlines that can keep us updated on the latest scientific news that affect our view of the world, and more importantly to help us decipher through the rhetoric so carelessly disseminated by evolutionary scientists.  I find it ‘Intellectually Satisfying’ to know that I don’t have to park my brain at the door to be a ‘believer’ or at the very least, to not believe in Macroevolution.”
    (a loan specialist in California)

    “I have greatly benefitted from your efforts.  I very much look forward to your latest posts.”
    (an attorney in California)

    “I must say your website provides an invaluable arsenal in this war for souls that is being fought.  Your commentaries move me to laughter or sadness.  I have been viewing your information for about 6 months and find it one of the best on the web.  It is certainly effective against the nonsense published on Talkorigins.org.  It great to see work that glorifies God and His creation.”
    (a commercial manager in Australia)

    “Visiting daily your site and really do love it.”
    (a retiree from Finland who studied math and computer science)

    “I am agnostic but I can never deny that organic life (except human) is doing a wonderful job at functioning at optimum capacity.  Thank you for this ... site!”
    (an evolutionary theorist from Australia)

    “During the year I have looked at your site, I have gone through your archives and found them to be very helpful and informative.  I am so impressed that I forward link to members of my congregation who I believe are interested in a higher level discussion of creationist issues than they will find at [a leading origins website].”
    (a minister in Virginia)

    “I attended a public school in KS where evolution was taught.  I have rejected evolution but have not always known the answers to some of the questions.... A friend told me about your site and I like it, I have it on my favorites, and I check it every day.”
    (an auto technician in Missouri)

    “Thanks for a great site!  It has brilliant insights into the world of science and of the evolutionary dogma.  One of the best sites I know of on the internet!”
    (a programmer in Iceland)

    “The site you run – creation-evolution headlines is extremely useful to me.  I get so tired of what passes for science – Darwinism in particular – and I find your site a refreshing antidote to the usual junk.... it is clear that your thinking and logic and willingness to look at the evidence for what the evidence says is much greater than what I read in what are now called science journals.  Please keep up the good work.  I appreciate what you are doing more than I can communicate in this e-mail.”
    (a teacher in California)

    “Although we are often in disagreement, I have the greatest respect and admiration for your writing.”
    (an octogenarian agnostic in Palm Springs)

    “your website is absolutely superb and unique.  No other site out there provides an informed & insightful ‘running critique’ of the current goings-on in the scientific establishment.  Thanks for keeping us informed.”
    (a mechanical designer in Indiana)

    “I have been a fan of your site for some time now.  I enjoy reading the ‘No Spin’ of what is being discussed.... keep up the good work, the world needs to be shown just how little the ‘scientist’ [sic] do know in regards to origins.”
    (a network engineer in South Carolina)

    “I am a young man and it is encouraging to find a scientific ‘journal’ on the side of creationism and intelligent design.... Thank you for your very encouraging website.”
    (a web designer and author in Maryland)

    “GREAT site.  Your ability to expose the clothesless emperor in clear language is indispensable to us non-science types who have a hard time seeing through the jargon and the hype.  Your tireless efforts result in encouragement and are a great service to the faith community.  Please keep it up!”
    (a medical writer in Connecticut)

    “I really love your site and check it everyday.  I also recommend it to everyone I can, because there is no better website for current information about ID.”
    (a product designer in Utah)

    “Your site is a fantastic resource.  By far, it is the most current, relevant and most frequently updated site keeping track of science news from a creationist perspective.  One by one, articles challenging currently-held aspects of evolution do not amount to much.  But when browsing the archives, it’s apparent you’ve caught bucketfulls of science articles and news items that devastate evolution.  The links and references are wonderful tools for storming the gates of evolutionary paradise and ripping down their strongholds.  The commentary is the icing on the cake.  Thanks for all your hard work, and by all means, keep it up!”
    (a business student in Kentucky)

    “Thanks for your awesome work; it stimulates my mind and encourages my faith.”
    (a family physician in Texas)

    “I wanted to personally thank you for your outstanding website.  I am intensely interested in any science news having to do with creation, especially regarding astronomy.  Thanks again for your GREAT website!”
    (an amateur astronomer in San Diego)

    “What an absolutely brilliant website you have.  It’s hard to express how uplifting it is for me to stumble across something of such high quality.”
    (a pharmacologist in Michigan)

    “I want to make a brief commendation in passing of the outstanding job you did in rebutting the ‘thinking’ on the article: “Evolution of Electrical Engineering” ...  What a rebuttal to end all rebuttals, unanswerable, inspiring, and so noteworthy that was.  Thanks for the effort and research you put into it.  I wish this answer could be posted in every church, synagogue, secondary school, and college/university..., and needless to say scientific laboratories.”
    (a reader in Florida)

    “You provide a great service with your thorough coverage of news stories relating to the creation-evolution controversy.”
    (an elder of a Christian church in Salt Lake City)

    “I really enjoy your website and have made it my home page so I can check on your latest articles.  I am amazed at the diversity of topics you address.  I tell everyone I can about your site and encourage them to check it frequently.”
    (a business owner in Salt Lake City)

    “I’ve been a regular reader of CEH for about nine month now, and I look forward to each new posting.... I enjoy the information CEH gleans from current events in science and hope you keep the service going.”
    (a mechanical engineer in Utah)

    “It took six years of constant study of evolution to overcome the indoctrination found in public schools of my youth.  I now rely on your site; it helps me to see the work of God where I could not see it before and to find miracles where there was only mystery.  Your site is a daily devotional that I go to once a day and recommend to everyone.  I am still susceptible to the wiles of fake science and I need the fellowship of your site; such information is rarely found in a church.
        Now my eyes see the stars God made and the life He designed and I feel the rumblings of joy as promised.  When I feel down or worried my solution is to praise God the Creator Of All That Is, and my concerns drain away while peace and joy fill the void.  This is something I could not do when I did not know (know: a clear and accurate perception of truth) God as Creator.  I could go on and on about the difference knowing our Creator has made, but I believe you understand.
        I tell everyone that gives me an opening about your site.  God is working through you.  Please don’t stop telling us how to see the lies or leading us in celebrating the truth.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.”
    (a renowned artist in Wyoming)

    “I discovered your site a few months ago and it has become essential reading – via RSS to Bloglines.”
    (a cartographer and GIS analyst in New Zealand)

    “I love your site, and frequently visit to read both explanations of news reports, and your humor about Bonny Saint Charlie.”
    (a nuclear safety engineer in Washington)

    “Your site is wonderful.”
    (a senior staff scientist, retired, from Arizona)

    “I’ve told many people about your site.  It’s a tremendous service to science news junkies – not to mention students of both Christianity and Science.  Kudos!”
    (a meteorology research scientist in Alabama)

    “...let me thank you for your Creation-Evolution Headlines.  I’ve been an avid reader of it since I first ‘discovered’ your website about five years ago.  May I also express my admiration for the speed with which your articles appear—often within 24 hours of a particular news announcement or journal article being published.”
    (a plant physiologist and prominent creation writer in Australia)

    “How do you guys do it--reviewing so much relevant material every day and writing incisive, thoughtful analyses?!”
    (a retired high school biology teacher in New Jersey)

    “Your site is one of the best out there!  I really love reading your articles on creation evolution headlines and visit this section almost daily.”
    (a webmaster in the Netherlands)

    “Keep it up!  I’ve been hitting your site daily (or more...).  I sure hope you get a mountain of encouraging email, you deserve it.”
    (a small business owner in Oregon)

    “Great work!  May your tribe increase!!!”
    (a former Marxist, now ID speaker in Brazil)

    “You are the best.  Thank you.... The work you do is very important.  Please don’t ever give up.  God bless the whole team.”
    (an engineer and computer consultant in Virginia)

    “I really appreciate your work in this topic, so you should never stop doing what you do, ’cause you have a lot of readers out there, even in small countries in Europe, like Slovenia is... I use crev.info for all my signatures on Internet forums etc., it really is fantastic site, the best site!  You see, we(your pleased readers) exist all over the world, so you must be doing great work!  Well i hope you have understand my bad english.”
    (a biology student in Slovenia)

    “Thanks for your time, effort, expertise, and humor.  As a public school biology teacher I peruse your site constantly for new information that will challenge evolutionary belief and share much of what I learn with my students.  Your site is pounding a huge dent in evolution’s supposed solid exterior.  Keep it up.”
    (a biology teacher in the eastern USA)

    “Several years ago, I became aware of your Creation-Evolution Headlines web site.  For several years now, it has been one of my favorite internet sites.  I many times check your website first, before going on to check the secular news and other creation web sites.
        I continue to be impressed with your writing and research skills, your humor, and your technical and scientific knowledge and understanding.  Your ability to cut through the inconsequentials and zero in on the principle issues is one of the characteristics that is a valuable asset....
        I commend you for the completeness and thoroughness with which you provide coverage of the issues.  You obviously spend a great deal of time on this work.  It is apparent in ever so many ways.
        Also, your background topics of logic and propaganda techniques have been useful as classroom aides, helping others to learn to use their baloney detectors.
        Through the years, I have directed many to your site.  For their sake and mine, I hope you will be able to continue providing this very important, very much needed, educational, humorous, thought provoking work.”
    (an engineer in Missouri)

    “I am so glad I found your site.  I love reading short blurbs about recent discoveries, etc, and your commentary often highlights that the discovery can be ‘interpreted’ in two differing ways, and usually with the pro-God/Design viewpoint making more sense.  It’s such a refreshing difference from the usual media spin.  Often you’ll have a story up along with comment before the masses even know about the story yet.”
    (a system administrator in Texas, who calls CEH the “UnSpin Zone”)

    “You are indeed the ‘Rush Limbaugh’ Truth Detector of science falsely so-called.  Keep up the excellent work.”
    (a safety director in Michigan)

    “I know of no better way to stay informed with current scientific research than to read your site everyday, which in turn has helped me understand many of the concepts not in my area (particle physics) and which I hear about in school or in the media.  Also, I just love the commentaries and the baloney detecting!!”
    (a grad student in particle physics)

    “I thank you for your ministry.  May God bless you!  You are doing great job effectively exposing pagan lie of evolution.  Among all known to me creation ministries [well-known organizations listed] Creationsafaris stands unique thanks to qualitative survey and analysis of scientific publications and news.  I became permanent reader ever since discovered your site half a year ago.  Moreover your ministry is effective tool for intensive and deep education for cristians.”
    (a webmaster in Ukraine, seeking permission to translate CEH articles into Russian to reach countries across the former Soviet Union)

    “The scholarship of the editors is unquestionable.  The objectivity of the editors is admirable in face of all the unfounded claims of evolutionists and Darwinists.  The amount of new data available each day on the site is phenomenal (I can’t wait to see the next new article each time I log on).  Most importantly, the TRUTH is always and forever the primary goal of the people who run this website.  Thank you so very much for 6 years of consistent dedication to the TRUTH.”
    (11 months earlier): “I just completed reading each entry from each month.  I found your site about 6 months ago and as soon as I understood the format, I just started at the very first entry and started reading.... Your work has blessed my education and determination to bold in showing the ‘unscientific’ nature of evolution in general and Darwinism in particular.”
    (a medical doctor in Oklahoma)

    “Thanks for the showing courage in marching against a popular unproven unscientific belief system.  I don’t think I missed 1 article in the past couple of years.”
    (a manufacturing engineer in Australia)

    “I do not know and cannot imagine how much time you must spend to read, research and compile your analysis of current findings in almost every area of science.  But I do know I thank you for it.”
    (a practice administrator in Maryland)

    “Since finding your insightful comments some 18 or more months ago, I’ve visited your site daily.... You so very adeptly and adroitly undress the emperor daily; so much so one wonders if he might not soon catch cold and fall ill off his throne! .... To you I wish much continued success and many more years of fun and frolicking undoing the damage taxpayers are forced to fund through unending story spinning by ideologically biased scientists.”
    (an investment advisor in Missouri)

    “I really like your articles.  You do a fabulous job of cutting through the double-talk and exposing the real issues.  Thank you for your hard work and diligence.”
    (an engineer in Texas)

    “I love your site.  Found it about maybe two years ago and I read it every day.  I love the closing comments in green.  You have a real knack for exposing the toothless claims of the evolutionists.  Your comments are very helpful for many us who don’t know enough to respond to their claims.  Thanks for your good work and keep it up.”
    (a missionary in Japan)

    “I just thought I’d write and tell you how much I appreciate your headline list and commentary.  It’s inspired a lot of thought and consideration.  I check your listings every day!”
    (a computer programmer in Tulsa)

    “Just wanted to thank you for your creation/evolution news ... an outstanding educational resource.“
    (director of a consulting company in Australia)

    “Your insights ... been some of the most helpful – not surprising considering the caliber of your most-excellent website!  I’m serious, ..., your website has to be the best creation website out there....”
    (a biologist and science writer in southern California)

    “I first learned of your web site on March 29.... Your site has far exceeded my expectations and is consulted daily for the latest.  I join with other readers in praising your time and energy spent to educate, illuminate, expose errors.... The links are a great help in understanding the news items.  The archival structure is marvelous....  Your site brings back dignity to Science conducted as it should be.  Best regards for your continuing work and influence.  Lives are being changed and sustained every day.”
    (a manufacturing quality engineer in Mississippi)

    “I wrote you over three years ago letting you know how much I enjoyed your Creation-Evolution headlines, as well as your Creation Safaris site.  I stated then that I read your headlines and commentary every day, and that is still true!  My interest in many sites has come and gone over the years, but your site is still at the top of my list!  I am so thankful that you take the time to read and analyze some of the scientific journals out there; which I don’t have the time to read myself.  Your commentary is very, very much appreciated.”
    (a hike leader and nature-lover in Ontario, Canada)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “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 ...am well educated, with a BA in Applied Physics from Harvard and an MBA in Finance from Wharton.”
    (a reader in Delaware)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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