Creation-Evolution Headlines
October 2009
photo strip

“Does Darwin matter?  Yes, of course it matters.  It matters a great deal.  It matters whether the theory is true because for better or worse we value the truth and struggle to find it; but it would matter far more were we able to say once and for all that the theory is false.  Darwinism involves a way of thought in biology, and were it to go, it would take a great many assumptions along with it.”  —David Berlinski, 09/29/2009 on ENV

AstronomyBiomimeticsBirdsBotanyCell BiologyCosmologyDating MethodsDinosaursEarly ManEducationEvolutionFossilsGenetics and DNAGeologyHealthHuman BodyIntelligent DesignMammalsMarine LifeMediaOrigin of LifePhysicsPolitics and EthicsSETISolar SystemTheologyZoology     Awards:  AmazingDumb       Note: bold emphasis added in all quotations unless otherwise indicated.
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Before this International Year of Astronomy is out, you should read Danny Faulkner’s Universe by Design.  Though it deals with deep subjects like relativity and modern cosmology, it’s light enough for the well-read layman or upper-level student.  Faulkner has a PhD in astronomy from Indiana University and teaches astronomy at the University of South Carolina and is a board member of the Creation Research Society.
    The 8x11 paperback includes many monochrome sketches and diagrams.  It provides interesting highlights of creationist astronomers through history, and brings you up to 21st century thoughts about cosmology, including a thorough discussion of the big bang theory and its problems.  The book includes Q&A at the end of each chapter useful for home schoolers.  For a primer on the terms and concepts you are likely to encounter in astronomy and cosmology, this is an educational and stimulating work.  You can get it at the Northwest Creation Network or at Creation Moments and other leading creation websites.
Next resource of the week:  10/24/2009.  All resources: Catalog.

Can SETI Be Quantified?   10/31/2009    
Oct 31, 2009 — What is the probability of finding intelligent life on other planets?  In 1960, Frank Drake attempted to quantify that question with his famous Drake Equation (see MSNBC and NOVA, which allows you to estimate the probability with an interactive meter).  Trouble is, Stanley Miller and Leslie Orgel of primordial soup fame thought it was meaningless.  In The Origins of Life on Earth (Prentice-Hall, 1974), p. 214, they displayed a table showing conservative and optimistic answers using the equation, ranging over 11 orders of magnitude.  Then they joked, “Also included in the table is space for the reader to put in his own numbers.  These can be considered as reliable as the other two estimates.”
    Alan Boyle wrote in his Cosmic Log today at MSNBC that astrobiologists are trying to come up with a new equation.  This one will be more conservative than Drake’s, because it will not go the distance to speculate on intelligent life – just the probability of habitable planets.  Still, it has SETI implications: “The exercise could help future generations figure out where to look for aliens – or where to settle down.”  Even that question is daunting.  “To be honest, it’s really difficult to find a way forward here,” said Axel Hagermann (The Open University, Britain) at the European Planetary Science Congress this week in Potsdam, Germany.  Whatever they arrive at will probably just specify the necessary conditions, not sufficient ones.  In other words, it will rule out unlikely habitats – not find aliens.  Water, energy and chemicals that allow for complex combinations are usually considered prerequisites.  The hard part is putting numbers to the separate factors and assigning meaning to resultant probabilities.  I.e., If a planet gets a probability of 0.001 for habitability, what does that mean?  The problem is “getting more and more complicated, and more and more interesting,” Hagermann said.
    Here’s what SETI Institute Director Seth Shostak thinks about these exercises.  “It’s a good thing to try to do, and if nothing else, it confronts you with the difficulty of doing it.  Which tells you something.”  The now-elderly Frank Drake also weighed in on the discussion: “Once we learn more, we can start to do this seriously.  Right now, our information is so incomplete that we can’t do a good job of coming up with something like a habitability index.”

Drake told Boyle this statement that wins the coveted SEQTW prize: “Any planet that’s like Earth is going to produce it.  There are so many pathways to the origin of life that it’s going to happen. ... If you knew a system had planets with bodies of water on them, that would be a habitability index of 1.

You can play this game with anything you know nothing about.  Remember how we speculated about the probability of gnomes? (09/17/2008 and 04/21/2008 commentaries).  Does it make the speculation better to invent jargon like “gnomic index”?  If one tries to argue that gnomes are mythical but aliens are not, ask on what basis that is true.  We know nothing about aliens.  SETI researchers often speculate that they could be built on an entirely different chemistry.  They might even be creatures made of pure energy, some of them say.  At least gnomes breathe the same air and drink the same water as we do on this one-and-only known habitat for life.
    Frank Drake has had 50 years to try to start to get ready to begin to commence to do this seriously.  By his own admission, he and all the others have failed to even “come up with something.”  This can only be construed to mean they are not doing it seriously.  What’s the opposite of serious?  Foolish.  Alan Boyle should therefore title his article, “Comic Log.”
Next headline on:  SETIOrigin of LifeDumb Ideas
  A collection of 7 honeybee facts to amaze you: see the 10/27/2006 entry.

No Evolution in 58 Million Years   10/30/2009    
Oct 30, 2009 — “Plant fossils give first real picture of earliest Neotropical rainforests,” announced a press release from University of Florida.  The fossils from Colombia show that “many of the dominant plant families existing in today’s Neotropical rainforests – including legumes, palms, avocado and banana – have maintained their ecological dominance despite major changes in South America’s climate and geological structure.
    The team found 2,000 megafossil specimens from the Paleocene, said to be 58 million years old.  This is only 5 to 8 million years after the extinction of the dinosaurs according to conventional dating.  “The new study provides evidence Neotropical rainforests were warmer and wetter in the late Paleocene than today but were composed of the same plant families that now thrive in rainforests.”  The press release says that the fossil record from neotropical rain forests has been “almost nonexistent” – but now, it is evident that modern plant families existed then.  “We have the fossils to prove this,” one said.  “The foundations of the Neotropical rainforests were there 58 million years ago.”
    The only difference between modern rainforests and the fossil record is more diversity now.  But since identification of species can only be made to the genus level, there may be some subjectivity in that judgment.  An earlier team also found the skeleton of a giant snake at the open coal pit mine – Titanoboa.  “Like Titanoboa, which is clearly related to living boas and anacondas, the ancient forest of northern Colombia had similar families of plants as we see today in that ecosystem.”
    In a related story, Live Science pushed the “oldest known spider web” back another 4 million years (cf. 06/23/2006).  The web material, encased in amber, not only proves that spiders had the web-making equipment as far back as the fossil record shows, but that it has continued with little change for 140 million years according to the consensus dating scheme.

All right, Darwinists: you say evolution is a fact, and fossils are the evidence.  Where is the evolution?  58 million years have gone by in your scheme, and we have the exact same families of plants today.  There isn’t enough difference to concern the most fervent young-earth creationists (notice that ICR celebrated this find as confirming of a young earth and global flood).  Surely if natural selection was acting for such a huge amount of time, we should expect to see some evolution.  Remember, you believe that a cow turned into a whale in less than half that time.  We love fossils and evidence, but give us a reason other than your own bluff to take your storytelling scheme seriously.
Next headline on:  PlantsFossilsTerrestrial ZoologyEvolution
The Nature of Darwin and the Darwin of Nature   10/29/2009    
Oct 29, 2009 — “Even the most ardent fan of Charles Darwin might be feeling weary as his anniversary year draws to a close,” remarked Clive Wynn in another issue of Nature celebrating his bicentennial.1  “Publishers have seemingly explored every corner of Darwin’s life: his youth, his marriage, his attitudes to slavery and religion.”  And now Wynn was introducing another angle in his book review: Darwin’s “puppy love” for dogs.  In a way, Emma Townshend’s entertaining new book Darwin’s Dogs: How Darwin’s Pets Helped Form a World-Changing Theory of Evolution provided Clive Wynn with a little relief from “Darwin Fatigue.”  The Editors are not done celebrating, though.  They just began a 4-part essay series on how Darwin’s ideas were received around the world.
    The new essay series is the latest parade in a year-long celebration of “Darwin200”.  The first essay, “Global Darwin: Eastern enchantment” by Marwa Elshakry (Columbia U) looks at the Asian response.  “Scholars from Calcutta to Tokyo and Beijing constructed their own lineage for the theory of evolution by natural selection,” she said, “tracing it to older and more familiar schools of thought and claiming ownership of what they saw as the precursors to these ideas.”  This became a theme around the world.  Though many criticized the theory, many others took ownership of it readily.  Among Confucians, for instance, the struggle between selfishness and selflessness was seen as an eternal struggle that is part of the cosmic order, and must be kept in balance.  Some Hindus applied it to the whole cosmos: “the world unfolds as a result of a continual cycle between creation and dissolution: consciousness, self or spirit becomes realized in matter and then separated from it, and so on.”
    Even some Muslim theologians joined the Darwin bandwagon: “Muslim writings from the tenth and eleventh centuries referred to a hierarchy of beings, from minerals to flora and fauna, and even argued that apes were lower forms of humans – more evidence for nineteenth-century Muslims that Darwin’s theory was ‘nothing new’.”
    How could such diverse religious traditions find common ground in Darwin?  The reasons are complex and somewhat counter-intuitive.  Elshakry argued that “One of the driving forces behind many of these scholars’ work was a desire to push back against the forces of Western imperialism.”  But wasn’t Darwin a European, you ask?  Actually, envy may have been more weighty a cause than a desire for enlightenment:
In response, defenders of non-Western faiths drew attention to the greater rationality of their creeds to defend themselves against Western charges of backwardness and superstition.  Many were keen to show that their traditions, unlike those of Western Europe, accepted, reinforced or had even anticipated the findings of modern science.  By embracing Darwin’s ideas, they emphasized that Christianity alone was in conflict with science.
She gives an example:
Muhammad Abduh, the Grand Mufti of Egypt, for instance, was worried about the inroads that missionaries had made into the educational system of the Muslim Ottoman lands.  He was also tired of critics pointing to Islam’s supposed inability to accommodate modern pedagogy and science.  In Science and Civilization in Christianity and Islam (1902), Abduh argued that, in contrast to Christianity, Islam was free of the conflict with science that had so violently plagued Christian civilization in Europe.  To stress this difference, he repeatedly wove references to Darwin and evolution into lectures on the exegesis of the Koran.
Politicians also used Darwin to push their reform initiatives.  “Although many used Darwin to highlight the glory of their founding civilizations, they also co-opted his theory to explain their falling behind the Western world in modern times,” she said, and thus they “turned to evolution’s advocates for instruction while pushing key governmental reforms.”  They turned Darwin into a father of “political evolution.”  They warned their countrymen that they needed to catch up with the west, not by revolution, but with change of a “very gradual sort, mimicking the step-by-step slow change of natural selection.”  In Tokyo, one leader also applied this to “ethical evolution” – “Just as through death the samurai was said to become the perfect winner, so the ultimate victor in the struggle for ethics was the martyr dying for the sake of something bigger.”  That’s a twist.
    This rationalizing created its own struggle.  How could religious cultures get past the seeming futility of natural selection?  Elshakry gave a Japanese and a Muslim example of this tension, this desire to embrace the modern-sounding ideas of Darwin, but leave some room for the human soul in a world of meaningless death: “mere survival was not enough to comprise a true ethicsevolutionary or otherwise,” she noted.  “There had to be something beyond life to give life itself a purpose.”  So they found ways to bring the yin and yang together.
    Elshakry ended by noting that the conflicts with Christianity in the west were not so simple as often described.  Many Christians accommodated Darwin’s views, and Darwin himself was not as hostile to religion as some of his modern advocates.  We must avoid simplistic either-or depictions, in other words:
Then, as now, Darwin meant different things to different people.  Globally, he was not so much a revolutionary or a scourge of faiths, as he was a revivifier of traditions.  He straddled worlds between the moderns and the ancients, giving a new lease of life to ancient philosophers, ethical debates and even dynastic loyalties.
This subjectivity was not lost on the Editors of Nature.  In their lead Editorial,3 they acknowledged the cultural lens through which different countries embraced Darwinian ideas.  They even offered a few more examples of their own from England, Russia and Latin America – admitting that both communists and capitalists found opposite ways to justify their economic policies with Darwinism.  Nevertheless, the Editors portrayed the scientists as the only ones understanding what Darwin really meant:
The public reception of scientific ideas depends largely on two factors: people’s ability to grasp factual information and the cultural lens through which that information is filtered.  The former is what scientists tend to focus on when they give popular accounts of issues such as climate change.  The assumption is that if they explain things very, very clearly, everyone will understand.  Unfortunately, this is an uphill battle.  The general public’s average capacity to weigh facts and numbers is notoriously poor — although there is encouraging evidence that probabilistic reasoning can be improved by targeted education early in life....
    The lesson for today’s scientists and policy-makers is simple: they cannot assume that a public presented with ‘the facts’ will come to the same conclusion as themselves.  They must take value systems, cultural backdrops and local knowledge gaps into account and frame their arguments accordingly.  Such approaches will be crucial in facing current global challenges, from recessions to pandemics and climate change.  These issues will be perceived and dealt with differently by different nations — not because they misunderstand, but because their understanding is in part locally dependent.
By implication, the scientists are free of “value systems, cultural backdrops and local knowledge gaps.”  They must patronizingly “frame their arguments” for the unscientific masses.  Elshakry rubber-stamped this depiction of bias-free scientists in her ending paragraph, but showed the solution: to make use of cultural traditions as a vehicle for persuasion:
In an age in which advocates of intelligent design battle to have evolution removed from classrooms, we would do well to recall how Darwin once captured and captivated the world – not by ridding it of the forces of enchantment, faith or even God, but by revitalizing traditions of belief and re-enchanting so many.
This leads to a disturbing possibility.  Are scientists to act as an elite community knowingly “enchanting” the lower class of humanity (i.e., the “unscientific,” including, as she clearly implicates, the advocates of intelligent design) by captivating them with Darwinism framed according to their own traditions?  How exactly she would do this with the likes of a Stephen Meyer or William Dembski, advocates of intelligent design with multiple PhDs in science and philosophy, was not stated.  It would seem unlikely they would fall for such enchantments.
    The Editors ended by encouraging the scientific community to express tolerance for the unscientific masses.  They weren’t about to take science off the pedestal.  They just asked for a little deference from the top.  Surprisingly, they used a Darwin quote that could have yanked a thread to unravel his royal robes. 
Darwin once said: “But then with me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy.”  Researchers and policy-makers would do well to mimic his humility when presenting science, and remember how people’s minds truly work.
Nature said “people’s minds” – but Darwin was talking about his mind.  A lot rides on the judgment whether his animal-evolved brain could produce convictions that “are of any value or at all trustworthy.”
1.  Clive Wynn, “Darwin’s puppy love,” Nature 461, 1210-1211 (29 October 2009) | doi:10.1038/4611210a.
2.  Marwa Elshakry, “Global Darwin: Eastern Enchantment,” Nature 461, 1200-1201 (29 October 2009) | doi:10.1038/4611200a.
3.  Editorial, “Darwin and culture,” Nature 461, 1173-1174 (29 October 2009) | doi:10.1038/4611173b.
This is rich.  The key to understanding these revelations is not to be scared of the Darwin Party thought police, who walk around on stilts above the rest of humanity.  Yes, you have to dodge the nerf bullets about Darwinism being science, the tear gas about everything else being stupid (especially religion, especially Christianity).  You have to overlook their crimes of lying about intelligent design advocates and their motives.  You have to gently take the helmets off the scientists and the priestly robes off the Editors of Nature (they are mortal, you realize), and help them off their stilts, where you can look them in the eye as fellow fallible humans.
    Those are prerequisites.  Then everything comes clear: (1) Darwinism enchanted people rather than enlightening them; (2) It was non-scientific motivations that brought Darwin world-wide fame; (3) many embraced Darwinism because they were led to believe it made them look modern and progressive; (4) scientists are still simplistic positivists speaking in glittering generalities, and (5) the distinct possibility exists that the Darwinist scientists themselves comprise a population enchanted by Charlie, incorporating his ideas according to their political and educational agendas.
    OK.  Now, since they have graciously made a gesture of humble penitence to “remember how people’s minds truly work,” when they present science, let’s help them out.  After all, they pointed to their Dear One himself as an example of humility.  Let’s help them understand the culture of their Western critics – for example, intelligent design advocates.  We only want to help them frame their arguments effectively.  (We hope PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins are listening.)  This will give them their best opportunity to persuade their critics and silence the opposition (short of killing them in the name of survival of the fittest).
    All they have to do is stop something and do something.  They need to stop the angry rhetoric, name-calling, propaganda, and simplistic characterizations of anyone who disagrees with them as a religiously-motivated pseudoscientific nut.  That kind of repentance may be the hardest thing they’ve ever tried.  But assuming they succeed in purging their souls of unjustified hubris, the stage is set to begin a mutually-respectful, intelligent conversation between equals.  Good.  Now, they need to answer a question.  Let’s ask the Editors of Nature, politely, “Thank you for quoting Mr. Darwin at the end of his life about those horrid doubts he was having.  How do you decide if the convictions of your minds – all of your convictions, including the conviction that what you believe about Darwinism is true – if they are indeed developed from the lower animals, are of any value or are trustworthy?”
Expect a long, tense pause.  Nailed ’em.  Be nice, now, and don’t rub it in with that other Darwin quote.
Next headline on:  DarwinIntelligent DesignEducationTheology
  Is Darwin or I.D. the new Halloween spook?  Don’t look at the punch line of the commentary until you read the whole 10/30/2005 entry.

Cambrian Explosion Solved: Elementary, My Dear Darwin   10/28/2009    
Oct 28, 2009 — Two articles announced solutions to the evidential problem that most troubled Darwin – the sudden appearance of complex animals at the base of the Cambrian fossil record.  Both of them involve chemical elements.  The only difference is which element.
    Science Daily announced a “Novel Evolutionary Theory For The Explosion Of Life.”  The article acknowledged that “The Cambrian Explosion is widely regarded as one of the most relevant episodes in the history of life on Earth, when the vast majority of animal phyla first appear in the fossil record.”  The article also acknowledged it to be a bit of a problem: “However, the causes of its origin have been the subject of debate for decades, and the question of what was the trigger for the single cell microorganisms to assemble and organize into multicellular organisms has remained unanswered until now.”  Sitting on the edge of our seats after this build-up, we look into the article for the solution.  An international team looked into the question.  It’s calcium, they announced with chutzpah:

The researchers succeeded to show that the massive and sudden surge in the calcium concentration of the Cambrian seawater -- that is believed to be the result of volcanically active midocean ridges -- not only initiated the buildup of calcified shells, but was also mandatory for the aggregation and stabilisation of multicellular sponge structures.  This allows, on the other hand, to formulate a novel theory where the geologically induced increase of marine calcium might be the key for understanding the Cambrian Explosion of Life.
    This paper constitutes the first research work where single molecule force spectroscopy studies have provided meaningful answers to such a deep evolutionary biology question as the origin of multicellular animals, and might represent a milestone for both disciplines and an example of how multidisciplinarity and collaboration are essential components of excellent contemporary science.
PhysOrg, on the other hand, had another element in mind to explain the “big growth spurts” in the evolutionary history of life.  They had two in mind: the origin of eukaryotes, and the Cambrian explosion.  “Scientists say the main driver of each growth step was a massive increase in the supply of oxygen, which is needed to convert food to the additional energy required for larger, more complex life forms.”  But if you give food to an athlete, does it increase his complexity?  How does that solve the problem?  The article presented the views of David Johnston of Harvard.  Sure enough, he thinks that size matters, and wrote a book called Why Size Matters.  “It is the supreme and universal determinant of what any organism can be and can do.”  Again, it is not clear why size alone creates complexity.
    So if the first eukaryotes started pumping oxygen into the atmosphere 2.35 billion years ago, why did it take so long for the Cambrian growth spurt?  “Fueled by more oxygen, eukaryotes took another enormously significant stride: They started to combine into larger organisms containing multiple cells, organs and tissues.”  This idea should be testable.  People in oxygen tents should be examined to see if new cells, organs and tissues are emerging.
    Johnston also omitted to address the origin of the genetic instructions to build new organs, tissues, and body plans.  Could it be as simple as “just add oxygen”? 
At first, these ancient animals were soft-bodied, like modern jellyfish.  Around 542 million years ago, however, some animals developed shells and skeletons and grew larger.
    This was the famous “Cambrian Explosion” of complex life forms, which led to today’s species, the biggest of them another million times larger than their single-celled ancestors.
    Fish, reptiles, birds, amphibians, plants, mammals and human beings were finally on their way, and the Earth’s largest living thing, the sequoia tree, is 10 million billion times bigger than the first tiny microbe in the sea.
Our question about why with so much oxygen the animals waited almost 2 billion years to burst forth with 20 to 40 new complex body plans in a geological instant, without ancestors, is apparently not included in this edition of the story.
If they believe that solves the problem of the origin of genetic information for building new complex body plans, it’s novel, all right – as in science fiction.  Have you ever in your life seen such empty fluff masquerading as an answer?  If you have watched Darwin’s Dilemma, you understand the magnitude of the problem.  At a memorable moment in the film, Richard Sternberg had just discussed the complexity of development of a body plan with its new genes, proteins, cell types, tissues and organs.  “This is orders of magnitude more complex than anything we have been able to conceive,” he said, pointing back over his shoulder.  “You”ve left the idea of ‘impossible by chance’ a long time ago.”  But like a circus ringmaster doubling as a clown and magician, Johnston swept the elephant in the room away with pure magic.  The eukaryote developed [miracle word] skeletons and body plans.  This led to [miracle phrase] the complex Cambrian animals.  Then human beings were finally on their way [miracle phrase].  While you weren’t thinking, his sleight-of-mind trick produced the zoo on stage.  The crowd gasps in awe.  His magic elixir was: oxygen!
    The other team boos from the stands.  No, they shout.  It was calcium!  They come down to the ring and discuss this with the ringmaster.  After some discussion, they come up with a compromise.  They combine the calcium with the oxygen and get CaO2.  Everyone is happy till they realize calcium peroxide is used to sterilize water.
    Get your money back from this circus.  Don’t be one of P.T. Barnum’s suckers, even if The Dawk hawks it as the Greatest Show on Earth.
Next headline on:  Darwinism and Evolutionary TheoryFossilsDumb Ideas
Materialists: What Do You Know?   10/28/2009    
Oct 28, 2009 — For people who brag about their work, scientists are an odd lot.  At one moment they are touting science as the surest path to knowledge and understanding.  The next moment it seems like they are at square one.  This is particularly true of materialist cosmologies and Darwinian theories for the origin and development of life.  A couple of recent examples might invite the mildly sarcastic greeting, “Good day, Mr. Darwin.  What do you know?”
  1. Nothing about physicsNew Scientist posted an article entitled, “Seven questions that keep physicists up at night.”  Included are: What is everything made of? and What is reality reality?  For those thinking physicists were the most likely among scientists to be in touch with reality, this sounds like a bad dream.  Another question pertains directly to “the rise of life from inert matter” – How does complexity happen? 
  2. Nothing about humanityLive Science posted a Letterman-style list called “Top 10 Mysteries of the First Humans.”  For those thinking evolutionists were just filling in the details, some these questions seem pretty fundamental.  Where do modern humans come from?  Who was the first hominid?  Why did modern humanity expand past Africa about 50,000 years ago?  Is human evolution accelerating?  Why did our closest relatives go extinct?  What happened to our hair?  Why do humans walk on two legs?  Why did we grow large brains? 
Contrasting with this are triumphant sounding headlines that border on the mystical.  “A Solution To Darwin’s ‘Mystery Of The MysteriesEmerges From The Dark Matter Of The Genome,” Science Daily announced – yet the details of the article fail to show a real solution other than suggestive changes in gene regulation and speculative hypotheses.  The team admitted, “Speciation is one of the most fascinating, unsolved problems in biology.”  Isn’t the solution what we are supposedly celebrating next month with the 150th anniversary of the Origin of Species?
    Another article highlighted “‘On the origin of nematodes’ -- A phylogenetic tree of the world’s most numerous group of animals,”  A look inside the article only shows scientists sorting roundworms into groups based on similarities of certain genes.  It doesn’t say anything about how roundworms evolved in the first place.  Remember that decoding the genetic program of one particular roundworm dumbfounded Caltech scientists (06/25/2005).
    Getting back to “the rise of life from inert matter,” PhysOrg assured its readers that Charles Darwin “really did have advanced ideas about the origin of life.”  His main idea, though, was that “science was not advanced enough to deal with the question (hence his reluctance to speak of it in public) and that he would not live to see it resolved,” according to Juli Peretó of the Cavanilles Institute in Valencia, who co-authored a paper with Jeffrey Bada and Antonio Lazcano to debunk a myth that Darwin didn’really think deeply about the question.  It appears their main finding after re-reading Darwin’s letters was that he stuck to his materialistic guns.  Peretó said, “Darwin was convinced of the incredible importance of this issue for his theory and he had an amazingly modern materialist and evolutional vision about the transition of inanimate chemical matter into living matter, despite being very aware of Pasteur’s experiments in opposition to spontaneous generation.”  But then, one might ask, didn’t Darwin himself offer the possibility of a Creator at the end of his famous book?  “It is utterly wrong to think that he was invoking a divine intervention,” Peretó continued, as if proud to exonerate the Great Man from any charges of letting a Divine Foot in the door; “it is also well documented that the mention of the ‘Creator’ in The Origin of the Species was an addition for appearance’s sake that he later regretted.” 
Darwin only regretted his token allowance for a Creator because it was contrary to the goals of his Know-Nothing Party (02/22/2008 commentary).  To actually know anything would require reaching beyond materialism into the realm of concepts, information, and design.  The Know-Nothings prefer to close their eyes, smoke Charlie & Charlie incense, and speculate.  Since their method of doing science has only produced a random walk around square one, we suggest they take the blinders off, sober up, and walk where the evidence leads.
Next headline on:  DarwinCosmologyPhysicsOrigin of LifeEarly ManTheology and Anti-Theology
Trilobites Found in Fool’s Gold: What Does It Mean?   10/27/2009    
Oct 27, 2009 — Trilobites are icons of the Cambrian and Ordovician periods.  When thousands are found in beds over a wide area encased in pyrite, with no sign of decay, what does it mean?  A team publishing their findings in Geology suggests it means rapid burial.1  Here’s the abstract from their paper:
Pyritization of soft tissues is extremely rare.  Pyritized fossils have been discovered at six new localities spanning 54 km of outcrop of the Ordovician Lorraine Group of New York State, suggesting that soft-tissue pyritization is widespread in the Taconic basin.  Notable new taxa with soft-tissue preservation include ostracods and other arthropods.  Such fossils are rare and occur within 4–9-cm-thick mudstones representing single rapid depositional events.  High ratios of reactive iron to total iron and high values of [delta]34S, together with a near-absence of disarticulated and fragmented skeletal material, suggest that organisms in these pyritic horizons were buried rapidly and underwent bacterial sulfate reduction in porewaters rich in highly reactive iron and low in organic carbon.  These conditions facilitated iron sulfide precipitation within and on decaying carcasses.  Such conditions occur repeatedly in some fine-grained distal turbiditic facies of the Taconic foreland basin.  Pyritized soft-bodied fossils await discovery elsewhere in the Lorraine Group.
The Taconic Basin covers a good deal of North America.  The soft-tissue preservation is exquisite; pictures in the publication look like golden ornaments.  They found partially and fully pyritized specimens with few molt indications, indicating that these animals were transported a short distance and buried quickly.  “The trilobites were deposited both dorsal-side up and ventral-side up and are not sorted by size, although there is some indication of current alignment,” they said.  The mudstones also encased brachiopods, cephalopods and a few bivalves.  The geologists speculated that repeated instances of rapid deposition occurred:
The discovery of new beds and localities with soft-tissue pyritization demonstrates that conditions required for exceptional preservation occurred repeatedly in the Taconic foreland basin.  Horizons with pyritized fossils may have escaped discovery due to the low abundance of fossils and their presence within beds rather than on bedding-plane surfaces.  Like the Burgess Shale, the Beecher’s-type taphonomic window is widespread.  Deposition of muddy turbidity currents in dysoxic bottom waters is common, and mudstone facies representing such conditions occur frequently in the Taconic basin, extending from Canada to the southern United States, and possibly elsewhere.
The rare conditions for pyritization of soft-tissues, however, should suggest that these unusual fossil horizons are temporally related. 
1.  Farrell, Martin, Hagadorn, Whiteley and Briggs, “Beyond Beecher’s Trilobite Bed: Widespread pyritization of soft tissues in the Late Ordovician Taconic foreland basin,” Geology, October 2009, v. 37, no. 10, pp. 907-910, doi: 10.1130/G30177A.1.
One must be cautious when reading the findings of uniformitarian geologists to separate the data from the interpretations.  They just said that these pyrite fossil beds, “like the Burgess Shale,” represent a widespread “taphonomic window” – i.e., a wide-area opportunity for fossilization (taphonomy).  But notice: they found very little evidence of decay; the fossils are mostly articulated (not separated into parts); they admit these had to be buried rapidly; they could be continental in extent.  Isn’t it instructive, too, that geologists have not been looking for such things; these “escaped discovery” till now, even though they could be found from Canada to Mexico.  Sounds like they must have been pursuing a fool’s goal.  Never in their wildest dreams would they consider that something global happened to bury these widespread fossils quickly in one event.  That’s because they are high on Charlie & Charlie* Brand Incense.  It slows down their mental metabolism and focuses their dreams on slow and gradual processeszzz operating over millionzzz and millionzzzzzz of yearzzzzzzzzzzzz.  The rest of us can be wide awake to see what these data are telling us.
*Lyell and Darwin
Next headline on:  FossilsMarine BiologyGeologyDating Methods
  Your mother was a volcano: from 10/08/2004.

Who Explains Whom?   10/26/2009    
Oct 26, 2009 — Picture an evolutionary anthropologist and a Biblical theologian sitting on a park bench having a lively discussion.  The theologian claims the scientist believes in evolution because of pride that came through sin at the Fall.  “Your conscience and innate knowledge of God has been corrupted,” he asserts, “therefore you choose belief systems that rationalize your desire to live autonomously from your Creator.”  The scientist counters that the theologian only believes in God because religion was naturally selected in a primitive ape-like ancestor.  “Deep in prehistory, early hominin populations reinforced beliefs in supernatural beings that provided comfort against natural mysteries,” he claims.  “But now science is shedding light on those mysteries and undermining those primitive beliefs.”  Whose position should have privileged status in a society?  Should the scientist’s explanation automatically be granted epistemic privilege by a culture simply because he is a scientist?  Perhaps some recent examples of evolutionists at work trying to explain human behavior can inform the discussion.

  1. AltruismPhysOrg printed a press release from UC Davis debating which kind of evolution – cultural or genetic – explains the human propensity for altruism (sacrificial charity).  “Why do people willingly to [sic] go to war, give blood, contribute to food banks and make other sacrifices often at considerable risk to themselves and their descendents?  Evolutionary explanations based on both genes and culture have been proposed for this human behavior, which is unique among vertebrates.”  The article went on to argue for social vs. genetic causes, but the statement makes it clear that non-evolutionary explanations were completely off the table for consideration.  The report in Science Daily spoke of an “equation... that describes the conditions for altruism to evolve.”  Sometimes the explanation mixes causes and results in a “gene-culture coevolution of human prosocial propensities.”  Similarly, National Geographic News tried to show chimpanzees expressing a form of altruism, saying “this adds to evidence that chimps are more similar to humans than previously thought.”  Altruism even applies to amoebas, wrote Science Daily: “In Amoeba World, Cheating Doesn’t Pay.”  It becomes clear looking at their explanation that altruism has no external essence, but is a mere manifestation of selection pressures – a “characteristic” that can be observed from ameba to man.  They did not consider the converse hypothesis.  Is it possible that the scientists are imputing human moral characteristics on non-sentient beings and interpreting animal actions in terms of internally-assumed abilities?  If altruism is a physical trait, why is not the act of explanation?  Why aren’t chimpanzees and amoebas writing papers on human behavior?
  2. LeadershipScience Daily reported on a paper from Current Biology called “The Origins and Evolution of Leadership” that puts Darwin in the lead.  The authors “argue that due to ‘a hangover from our evolutionary past’ factors like age, sex, height and weight play a major part in the determining [sic] our choice of leaders.”  Here’s what Dr. Andrew King (Zoological Society of London) had to say:
    Evolution has fashioned principles governing leadership and followership over many millions of years.  We need to ground the complex, even mystical, social phenomenon of leadership in science.  Through empirical observation, theoretical models, neuroscience, experimental psychology, and genetics, we can explore the development and adaptive functions of leadership and followership.  This analysis of data, combined with an evolutionary perspective on leadership, might highlight potential mismatches so we can see how evolved mechanisms of leadership are possibly out of kilter with our relatively novel social environment.
    Dr. King failed to explain how science escapes being an evolved mechanism or gains any power over evolutionary “principles.”  His co-author Dr. Dominic Johnson (University of Edinburgh) thinks it’s about time evolutionary biology tackles this overlooked question, “arguably one of the most important themes in the social sciences.”  He sees overlap between human and animal leadership behaviors that point to evolutionary origins.  He said, “By identifying such origins and examining which aspects are shared with other animals offers us [sic] better ways of understanding, predicting and improving leadership today.”  His evolutionary approach goes beyond explanation, therefore, and advocates social action.1 
  3. Sex and war:  In Science this month,2 Hillard Kaplan, an anthropologist at University of New Mexico, reviewed Sex and War: How Biology Explains Warfare and Terrorism and Offers a Path to a Safer World by Malcolm Potts and Thomas Hayden (BenBella, Dallas, 2008).  The book explores the “phylogenetic origins of human warfare” and describes armed conflict, no matter the players or their causes, in strictly evolutionary terms.  The scope of their explanatory project must be considered when evaluating every conflict from withstanding playground bullies to decisions to liberate Nazi Germany.  Kaplan opened, “They argue that group aggression by males is a fundamental feature of human evolutionary history, whose roots are well developed in our closest living relative, the chimpanzee.”  This would seem to eliminate any rationality for the concept of a “just war,” e.g., an altruistic rescue of an oppressed people (since altruism also falls within the domain of evolutionary explanation).  One can sense the tension between morality and determinism in their explanation:
    The book begins with Potts’s own experiences in 1972, attending to (and providing abortions for) women who had been raped and abused during the war in Bangladesh.  He recounts the cruelty enacted by groups of men, united in an armed struggle for power, on thousands of women.  He then presents the book’s main thesis: such acts of violence are far from isolated incidents and modern aberrations due to extreme conditions—rather they are the norm for our species.  What Potts calls “behavioral propensities to engage in male coalitional violence” are products of a long evolutionary history, in which males who engaged in such behavior produced more genetic descendants than males without such propensities.  He further argues that coalitional violence by groups of males evolved at least as far back as the common ancestor before the chimpanzee-human divergence and is a direct manifestation of sexual selection on male-male competition.  Such behavioral propensities did not evolve in females of either species.
        The term “behavioral propensity” is used throughout the book to highlight the idea that a propensity can be controlled by cultural and social means.  Propensities to form coalitions among males against other males are in some sense genetically programmed into chimpanzee and human psychology, but there are also norms for culturally appropriate behavior as well as social institutions that can serve to counteract those propensities.  In fact, the solution to decreasing violence and warfare in modern times comes from the recognition that our biological heritage has produced very different behavioral propensities in human males and females.
    The book makes the point that the males’ evolutionary propensities to be violent can be restrained by “empowering women to be leaders in cultural, social, and political spheres.”  This seems to beg the question of the origin of morality.  Why would the products of an evolutionary process restrain what the process produced?  The reviewer and the authors differed only on the methods likely to be most effective.  Kaplan said, “We still lack a definitive understanding of group-level violence and its variation in different societies and during different historical periods.  But I agree with Potts that such an understanding will likely require a joint theory of our biology and social history.”  In evolution, though, is there a difference?
PhysOrg also reported on “When Being a Cuckold Makes Evolutionary Sense.”  We’ll leave it as an exercise whether or not “evolutionary sense” is an oxymoron.
1.  Science can say, “The earth appears to be warming.”  Explanation says, “The earth is warming because of human industry.”  Activism says, “Because humans are warming the earth, we need to redistribute the wealth and start a depression.”
2.  Hillard Kaplan, “Anthropology: Sex and War (and Ecology),” Science, 9 October 2009: Vol. 326. no. 5950, pp. 232-233, DOI: 10.1126/science.1176071.
These three examples (plus one) can be considered representative of a long history of evolutionary speculation about why we act the way we do.  A strong underlying assumption is that these evolutionary explanations are somehow better than the old Biblical ones because they fall within the domain of “science,” and only “science” leads to “understanding.”  The gaps don’t matter; though we “still lack a definitive understanding” of this or that aspect of a phenomenon, someday we will, because “science” is in the business of explaining.  Science explains everything.  When you hear about the evolution of war, the evolution of leadership, or the evolution of altruism, you “understand” it.  Now, using your rationality, you can “control” it.
    The inherent tension and contradiction in that mindset should be evident in the above examples.  As we have pointed out numerous times, these scientists are plagiarizing Judeo-Christian presuppositions to engage in the act of explanation.  Rationality refers to concepts that lie outside of naturalism.  Naturalism is impossible.  To explain something, you have to believe that your sensations correspond to external reality.  You have to assume that your explanation contains the possibility it may be true.  How can anyone believe anything, including one’s own brain, that is the product of an unguided process like evolution?  To believe in truth, furthermore, you have to exercise morality – the assumption that truth is good.  None of these things come with the evolutionists’ explanatory toolkit.  If they are there, they were stolen.  In fact, the whole toolkit was stolen.  Using stolen implements, they construct impossible arts and humanities: tales of millions of years of monkey screeching and pounding morphing into Bach (10/17/2009), opera extolling a world without violent males, with moral leaders, with charity for all.  (They forget that Milton wrote the libretto to Paradise Lost, not Darwin.)
    Here again we find that explanation is the domain of theology.  The bigotry of modern science is to exclude the contractors who own the tools.  Theologians have answers to why males tend to be violent, why we share traits with chimpanzees, why we are attracted to strong leaders, and why we care about the suffering of our fellow human beings.  None of these phenomena have escaped the notice of great theistic scholars.  None of them lie outside the domain of Scripture.  In our day, imposters have usurped the role of theology.  Evolutionary scientists presume to engage in explanation using tools they did not and could not manufacture.
    It’s not clear from any philosophy of science if scientists can, or should, try to explain anything, or how they would do so.  Bas van Fraasen rejected explanation as a function of science.  It should be noted that “folk psychology,” the common-sense version we all practice that attributes reasonings and feelings to our fellow human beings as causes of their actions, works just as well, if not better, than any advanced scientific explanation – thus the popularity of Dr. Laura Schlesinger (who, by the way, advises from an Old Testament presuppositional foundation).  We all assume explanation is what scientists do because we were taught simplistic positivism in middle school.  It’s time to graduate to the real world.  Science does best trying to cure cancer, imitate design in nature, predict earthquakes and the weather, explore space, measure, observe, study, classify, organize, falsify, predict, learn, find relationships, derive equations, and inform technology.  Anyone presuming to explain nature without a theological premise is engaging in self-refuting nonsense.  Go re-read those three entries above in that light.  Now it all makes sense.  They engage in counterfeit explanations because they are prideful, irrational sinners, in rebellion against their Creator.
    If scientists really want to understand human nature, if they want to do something about war and brutality, and increase levels of charity, nothing can beat the record of transforming lives by the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ: Example 1: from gang banger to soulwinner; example 2: from proud evolutionary biologist to joyful Christian; example 3 from terrorist to liberator of souls; example 4: from genocide torturer to repentant follower of Christ.  Don’t look to science for results like this.  Open the Operations Manual and get people back on track, one life at a time.
Next headline on:  Darwinism and Evolutionary TheoryBible and Theology
How the Octopus Built Its Own Brain for Better Fishing   10/25/2009    
Oct 25, 2009 — The octopus was glad to see fish evolve, but needed a bigger brain to catch them, so it evolved one of the most complex brains in the animal kingdom.  Is that the gist of this story in the Science blog Origins?  Greg Miller wrote in the style of a children’s storybook:
Cephalopods—octopuses, squid, and their relatives—ruled the seas in the Cambrian era, some 500 million years ago.  But their world changed in a big way with the Cambrian Explosion, a rapid diversification of life on Earth that included the origin of fish.  Suddenly, cephalopods had new opportunities—delicious fish!—and their first serious competition and potential predators.  They had to get smart in a hurry.
    So it’s no wonder then that modern cephalopods have the most complex brains of any invertebrates.  An octopus brain (lower, right) has 50 to 75 lobes and at least as many neurons (about 100 million) as a mouse brain.... And that’s not counting the smaller “brains” in each arm and the still smaller “brains” (ganglia, technically) associated with each sucker.
    All this neural circuitry gives octopuses exquisite control over their bodies, including some nifty tricks for evading predators, and it has even prompted speculation about cephalopod consciousness.
    Although the octopus brain rivals the size and complexity of many vertebrate brains, its architecture differs dramatically.  “Short of martians showing up and offering themselves up to science, cephalopods are the only example outside of vertebrates of how to build a complex, clever brain,” says neuroscientist Cliff Ragsdale of the University of Chicago in Illinois.  For that reason, Ragsdale says, these creatures have much to teach us about brain evolution.
Among the nifty tricks exhibited by octopi is instant camouflage.  As shown in the video God of Wonders (see 10/24/2009 Resource of the Week), an octopus can swim to a rock and blend in with its colors and textures in milliseconds (06/06/2007).  This involves coordination between the eye, brain, and every point on its skin surface.  Some octopi can mimic almost any other marine creature (08/30/2001, 03/24/2005, bullet 2, and 04/20/2006, bullet 1).  Robot designers study octopi to see how they keep from tying their tentacles in knots (11/27/2001) and achieve precise point-to-point control (02/09/2005).

“Origins” is a blog published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science in celebration of the Darwin Bicentennial.

All we have to do is hand the microphone to some Darwinists and they will proceed to wrap the cord around their necks and hang themselves from the rafters.  If you have a better example of Darwinist stupidity in the news, send it in.
    To accept this miracle story, first you have to believe that brainless octopi exploded into existence in the Cambrian seas without ancestors (see 03/19/2009 and watch the film Darwin’s Dilemma).  Then fish exploded onto the scene without ancestors (01/30/2003), and the octopus figured out, without a complex brain, that fish are good to eat.  So it said to itself, “Wow!  Fish taste great, but I need a complex brain to be able to catch them.  Waiter!  One complex brain, well done, on the double!”  Then it thought to itself (without a brain yet) and said, “Wait a second, there; there is no Waiter.  Guess I’ll have to cook up this one myself!  Now where can I buy some neural circuits....”
    Help defeat Darwinism.  How?  Laugh out loud.  Would anyone like to publish a cartoon book of your favorite SEQOTW winners over the last 9 years?  Remember, this stuff is being published by the leading scientific journals in the world.  That makes it even more funny.
Next headline on:  Marine BiologyDarwinism and Evolutionary TheoryDumb Ideas
God of Wonders is a recent video (Eternal Films, 2008) presenting the Christian message of creation.  Going beyond the non-committal stance of mere intelligent design, which leaves the Creator unspecified, this film teaches that the Creator is the God of Scripture, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Beautiful photography, amazing creation facts, and thoughtful interviews are woven into a well-rounded presentation of the gospel.  This is one of the clearest, most uncompromising videos on creation evangelism.  Production quality is quite good; it looks fine in wide-screen format.  The production shows amazing images from all over creation: from the atom and DNA to the galaxies, and a panorama of amazing living things – all of these point inescapably to design, and to a personal Designer who revealed himself to his creation.
    The list of contributors reads like a Who’s Who of Biblical creationists.  The presentation is fervent yet respectful, emphasizing the character of God and his eternal plan.  Also beyond intelligent design, God of Wonders deals with the problem of evil and suffering head-on, showing that the dilemma is solved in Jesus Christ.  The main narrator is conservative theologian John C. Whitcomb.  Watching this respected and beloved teacher give the gospel at the end is a fitting legacy for his lengthy, scholarly career.
    Consider giving this film as a gift to a Darwin-doubter who needs more than a faceless intelligent designer.  Show your friend the “rest of the story” – the personal inference of creation evidence.  See to watch a trailer and order a copy.
Next resource of the week:  10/17/2009.  All resources: Catalog.

Weekend News Nuggets   10/24/2009    
Oct 24, 2009 — Here are a dozen notable news reports from the past week bearing on evolution, design and amazing discoveries.

  1. Red rover, rat roverLive Science posted a cool video about research lab at Northwestern University that is imitating rats’ whiskers to improve robot sensing.  Rat whiskers are very sensitive.  Neurons in the base of the follicle convey a great deal of information to the brain, even in the dark.  The researchers envision this tactile technology on Mars rovers someday.
  2. Spiderman glue:  We’ve heard about efforts to duplicate spider silk, that ideal substance stronger than steel, but what about the glue that coats the silk strands?  PhysOrg and Science Daily reported that scientists in Wyoming are trying to imitate that, too.  Why?  They could help technology “advance toward a new generation of biobased adhesives and glues – ‘green’ glues that replace existing petroleum-based products for a range of uses.”  Spider web glue “is among the world’s strongest biological glues,” the article said.  That’s impressive considering the strength of barnacle adhesion.
        Speaking of spiders, the largest orb-weaving spider was discovered in Madagascar, reported Science Daily.  The picture shows a 1.5-inch big momma with legs 5 inches long sitting in her web over a meter across.  Images of Shelob in Lord of the Rings come to mind.  Another discovery reported by all the science news outlets including Science Daily and National Geographic News was a “surreal” critter that is the first known spider to feed primarily on plant material instead of animal tissue.  This new species that New Scientist called the “Gandhi” of spiders is “the only known vegetarian out of some 40,000 spider species.”  Evolutionists attributed the origin of this herbivorous spider to “co-evolution” and “social evolution.”
  3. The Sting for health:  Imagine skin cream loaded with stinging cells from jellyfish.  Ouch!  It sounds like torture, but actually, it wouldn’t hurt a bit – and could actually heal.  New Scientist reported that a company in Israel is harvesting stinging cells from the marine creatures (like sea anemones and jellyfish) to use as microscopic hypodermic needles.  These natural harpoons, called nematocysts, have more force than the pressure needed to create diamonds inside the earth.  They can penetrate fish scales as well as human skin.
        The NanoCyte company in Israel has patented a way to control the firing of the cells by putting them in a cream.  They replace the toxins in the cells with drugs that can deliver healing medicines to diabetics and others afflicted with disease.  Contact with skin activates the cells and delivers the payload.  Some applications are in Phase II trials.  Some day, your dentist may apply gum numbing medicine to your mouth with a cream instead of a surgical needle, and you may apply anti-itch creams with technologies derived from jellyfish.  The article said, “One square centimetre of cream-coated skin can contain as many as a million tiny needles.”  They promise the process is painless.
  4. Now ear this:  You have two sets of neurons in your inner ear, reported Science Daily.  Type II neurons in the hair cells of the cochlea apparently come into play when the normal neurons are exposed to ear-piercing decibels.  That being the case, they “may play a role in such reflexive withdrawals from potential trauma.”
  5. Hearing on the wing:  A remarkable auditory sense has been found on butterfly wings.  PhysOrg reported that a “remarkable structure” on the wing of the blue morpho butterfly acts like a tympanic membrane – an eardrum.  “The unusual structure and properties of the membrane mean that this butterfly ear may be able to distinguish between low and high pitch sounds,” perhaps to detect and avoid predatory birds.  “The team suggest [sic] that sensitivity to lower pitch sounds may detect the beating of birds’ wings, while higher pitches may tune into birdsong.”
  6. Lotus contemplation:  The water-repellant properties of the lotus leaf (see 09/23/2009) are still being examined for secrets.  PhysOrg posted a 5-second video showing a bead of water bouncing right off a lotus leaf.  Duke University engineers are imitating the lotus “to improve the efficiency of modern engineering systems, such as power plants or electronic equipment, which must be cooled by removing heat through water evaporation and condensation.”
  7. Ida known better:  Ida’s fame may be short-lived (see 05/19/2009).  The monkey fossil that was hailed in a book and TV special as an evolutionary missing link is now being charged by another team as irrelevant and uninformative to human evolution, reported the BBC News.  Of course, the discoverers of Darwinius a.k.a. Ida are not ready to concede.  The new paper claims “this is an extinct side branch of the group leading to lemurs that is not in any way related to apes and monkeys.”  How, then, do they explain the traits in Ida that are monkey-like?  The answer, according to New Scientist: “convergent evolution”
  8. Ardi on grass?  PhysOrg resurrected the theory that human evolution began when apes came down to walk in the African savannah, but did not comment on the claim this month that Ardipithecus showed our ancestors still lived in the forest trees (see 10/02/2009).  New Scientist mentioned Ardi but couched the conflict in a forest of possibilities.  Our ancestors in that time frame “lived either in dense forest or in a mosaic of woodland, shrub and grasses.”  Now every side can win.
  9. Got genes?  Scientists in the Netherlands are wondering how some people get by without 2000 chunks of DNA – about 0.12 percent of the human genome.  New Scientist asked what these means in evolutionary terms.  “Team leader Joris Veltman suggests that the regions his team flagged up may once have been essential but aren’t any more, either because we now need different abilities to survive, or genes have evolved elsewhere in the genome to do the same job, perhaps better.”  That leaves many storytelling possibilities, but it doesn’t explain why evolution left the non-essential genes around in some people.
  10. Tinysaur and other extinct reptiles:  The world’s smallest dinosaur was reported by PhysOrg – a 2-pound midget just 28 inches long.
        Science Daily reported a pterosaur that was named “Darwinopterus” because it is alleged to fill a gap between two groups of pterosaurs (see also National Geographic News that announced “‘Darwin’s Wing’ Fills Evolution Gap” and BBC News that called it a “missing link.”)  That positivist interpretation is not without problems.  Science Daily quoted a team member: “We had always expected a gap-filler with typically intermediate features such as a moderately elongate tail – neither long nor short – but the strange thing about Darwinopterus is that it has a head and neck just like that of advanced pterosaurs, while the rest of the skeleton, including a very long tail, is identical to that of primitive forms”  They invoked a modification of evolutionary theory called “modular evolution” to explain this.  According to this interpretation, “natural selection was acting on and changing entire modules and not, as would normally be expected, just on single features such as the shape of the snout, or the form of a tooth.”  This “controversial idea” requires more study, but might be applied to “many other cases among animals and plants where we know that rapid large scale evolution must have taken place.”  See Live Science for more on this idea that is newly being applied to macroevolution.
        Another strange-looking pterosaur seems to be supporting intelligent design rather than evolution.  At least, PhysOrg reported that Sankar Chatterjee at Texas Tech admires it enough to imitate it.  “At first glance, the 115-million-year-old pterosaur looks like a Cretaceous design disaster,” the article began – “With a tail rudder on its head and a spindly, bat-like body, Tapejara wellnhoferi may appear fit for nothing but extinction.”  A second glance was in order, though: a team of scientists from three universities now says that “the animal’s strange body actually made it a masterpiece of nature’s drawing boards.  Not only could it walk and fly, but also it could sail across the sea.”  The article includes a video of Chatterjee working with models of Tapejara to invent a new spy plane. 
  11. Mummy trees:  “Sensational” was how one researcher described mummified trees in Norway that died in the middle ages but have not decayed for 500 years.  Science Daily said it was found in a moist region where decomposition should occur quickly.  Somehow the tree resin prevented decay by bacteria, insects and the wood’s own natural decomposition.
  12. Stem cell bonanza:  New techniques for creating better stem cells from adult tissue were reported by Science Daily, the BBC News and PhysOrg.  “The new technique, which uses three small drug-like chemicals, is 200 times more efficient and twice as fast as conventional methods for transforming adult human cells into stem cells” known as induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS).  Shing Deng and a team at Scripps sought to imitate “a naturally occurring process in cells” when they hit pay dirt.  The new method is “Efficient, Fast, Safe.”
These are just a taste of fascinating stories coming from science labs around the world.
CEH strongly supports scientific research into things that provide understanding (not just promise it) and lead to inventions that can improve our lives.  The evolutionary storytelling tacked on here and there is useless and dumb.  Science is making great leaps in biomimetics, biochemistry, biophysics, systems biology and genetics – fields that presuppose information and intelligent design.
Next headline on:  MammalsTerrestrial ZoologyBiomimeticsPlantsMarine BiologyHuman BodyFossilsGeneticsHealthDinosaurs and Extinct ReptilesAmazing Facts
  Six years ago, we evaluated a claim that cave debris showed a million-year record of evolution; see the 10/30/2003 entry.

Modern Men Are Wimps   10/23/2009    
Oct 23, 2009 — Whatever happened to survival of the fittest?  Our ancestors were much stronger, says the author of a new book on anthropology.  PhysOrg reported on a book by Peter McAllister that says today’s males don’t measure up physically to their counterparts even a century ago, let alone those in the Roman empire and earlier.
    “According to McAllister humans have lost 40 percent of the shafts of the long bones because they are no longer subjected to the kind of muscular loads that were normal before the industrial revolution,” the article said.  “Even our elite athletes are not exposed to anywhere near the challenges and loads that were part of everyday life for pre-industrial people.”  Cro-Magnon men were taller, more fit and had bigger brains than the average man of today.  Neanderthal women could have easily whipped Schwarzenegger in an arm wrestle, he claims.  Records show that even in recorded history men had better overall fitness on average.
    Manthropology: The Science of the Inadequate Modern Male blames our inadequacies on our sedentary lifestyles.  It’s a good thing we are not competing against ancient people in the Olympics.  McAllister says Greek rowers in their trireme ships could outperform today’s world-class rowers.  He wrote of “Roman soldiers who completed the equivalent of one and a half marathons a day, carrying equipment weighing half their body weight, and Australian Aborigines who could throw a spear over 10 meters further than the current javelin world record.”  Even a century ago Rwandan men and Australian natives could have eclipsed modern track and field records.  Today’s champions merely outcompete one another in a bad lot.  “Even our elite athletes are not exposed to anywhere near the challenges and loads that were part of everyday life for pre-industrial people.”
    McAllister claims modern weaknesses are reversible with the right kind of diet and exercise.  The benefits can accrue to individuals as well as populations.

There are still ethnic groups today who show what humans are capable of.  Remember the sherpas in the 06/17/2005 entry? (see also 10/31/2007, bullet 4).  It’s understandably hard to live optimally with today’s hectic urban lifestyles that subject both men and women to mental stress in a sitting position (e.g., sitting in traffic hurrying to get somewhere, working at a computer all day).  Each individual needs to assess their fitness level and improve as opportunity allows.  We suggest vigorous walks in nature, up and down hills, carrying a load when possible.  Whatever McAllister’s book shows (and it is undoubtedly oversimplified), it is not showing that evolutionary progress is occurring.  Read the Old Testament and study ancient civilizations for amazing feats of strength and endurance.  It’s startling to think of the extreme ancient monuments around the world that were built without petroleum and electromagnetic power.
    Darwinian anthropology creates a mindset that we are evolving upward from the apes.  That runs diametrically opposed to the Biblical worldview that says creation was perfect at the beginning, but was cursed and is running downhill.  Old testament people lived for centuries.  It is more credible to think that mutational load over millennia of exposure to cosmic rays and other mutagens is taking its toll.  Scientific and engineering knowledge can accumulate to counter these trends, but that’s intelligent design, not evolution.  We’d better take care of what we have left.
Next headline on:  Early ManHealth
Asian Darwinist Profs Call Creationists Barbarians   10/22/2009    
Oct 22, 2009 — “We have kept the creationist barbarians from the gate,” announced a professor at Hong Kong University triumphantly.  A news article in Science this week described tensions in the city over the teaching of evolution.  The Darwinists won a vote over a change in wording in the science curriculum that would have “opened the door to teaching creationism and intelligent design in secondary schools.”  The door must be shut tight, apparently.  Even the possibility of this happening created a furor.
    Reporter Richard Stone said, “As a year of honoring Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution draws to a close, scientists in Hong Kong are celebrating a partial victory in what is likely to be an ongoing war against proponents of teaching creationism and intelligent design in secondary schools.”  He called the partial victory “bittersweet” because it did not revise the guidelines, nor did it rein in “the few dozen schools in Hong Kong that openly espouse creationism.”
    Stone said that most schools in Hong Kong, though publicly funded, are run independently – and many are affiliated with churches.  The author of the “barbarians” comment, David Dudgeon (faculty board chair at U of HK) complained, “Fundamentalist Christianity percolates through schools, government, and other authorities in Hong Kong, and it informs attitudes towards gays and other social issues.”  What homosexuality had to do with this article was not clear.  Nonetheless, he and Sun Kwok, the science dean, agitated colleagues to begin “raising a ruckus” over proposed revisions to the science curriculum:
Many changes were positive, but one rang alarm bells.  The previous guidance suggested, vaguely but reasonably, that teachers “guide students to review the differences between scientific theories and other nonscientific modes of explanation, e.g. religious, metaphysical or philosophical.”  The new wording seems to put religious beliefs on an equal footing with evolution: “In addition to Darwin’s theory, students are encouraged to explore other explanations for evolution and the origins of life, to help illustrate the dynamic nature of scientific knowledge.
Presumably this qualifier could be taken to give Darwin’s theory pre-eminence by contrast with other explanations, but the Darwinists were incensed still.  In a statement that conflated alternatives to Darwinism with kook theories, Kwok railed against opening the door a crack for “pseudoscience subjects such as intelligent design, astrology, and UFO studies [that] have no place in our science curriculum.”  The newspapers “ate it up” Stone said.  In addition Kwok and colleagues formed a “Concern Group for Hong Kong Science Education” to pressure the school board to lobby for shutting doors to alternatives to Darwinism.
    At this point, Stone did give a few lines of favorable press to the other side:
But many religious leaders rallied behind the Education Bureau—as did some members of the scientific community.  In May, a group of academics and high school teachers called the new guidance “stimulating, balanced, and nonbiased.”  Their statement said that “there is a real legitimate scientific controversy over Darwinian Theory. ... Alternative explanations to Darwinian macro-evolution should thus be explored so long as they are based on rational and empirical grounds.”
    One of the signatories, HKU physicist Chris Beling, argues that intelligent design concepts should be taught in addition to Darwinian theory.  Intelligent design “may or may not be the answer to present problems in biological origins,” he says, “but if the [HKU] science faculty keeps on shouting that Darwinian theory is the answer and drowning out other voices, it is clearly unhealthy for the progress of science and for the promotion of critical thinking amongst students.”
The Education Committee sided with “the Darwinian camp,” Stone said, continuing the battlefield metaphor, after weeks of rancor.  Their decision stated, “Creationism and Intelligent Design are not included in the Biology Curriculum framework nor are they considered as an alternative to Darwin’s theory.
    For Kwok, that was not sufficient punishment.  At the University he and his colleagues are working on foundation courses that “ensure that all students are exposed to the scientific way of thinking.”
    Hong Kong’s secondary schools may be more resistant to change, Stone reported.  He said the Concern Group discovered that “one biology textbook published by Oxford University Press (China) Ltd. and endorsed by the Education Bureau refers to intelligent design ideas and two creationist Web sites.”  This was too much for information technologist Virginia Yue, a founder of the Concern Group.  She said, “We were shocked and appalled by such shameless religious proselytizing under the guise of science.”  They are now mulling their next move.
1.  Richard Stone, “Science in Society: Hong Kong’s Darwin Defenders Declare Victory in Teaching Fracas,” Science, 23 October 2009: Vol. 326. no. 5952, pp. 510-511, DOI: 10.1126/science.326_510b.
If you recall the rancor at the Scopes Trial of 1925, you remember that the Darwinistas (spelling intended) raised a firestorm over the prevention of evolutionary teaching and called for fairness.  That was before the slow revolution that brought on the totalitarian dictatorship the Darwin Party holds over science.  Now, instead of fairness, they scream and rant and express outrage and shock at any hint of suggestion by fair-minded leaders that students should have a chance to question the Darwin idol.  Any dogmatism the creationists in Dayton, Tennessee might have expressed (which has often been exaggerated in popular portrayals contrary to the facts) pales in comparison with the intolerance of these bigots.  Employing simplistic definitions of science, with misunderstanding of philosophy and ignorance of religion (particularly Christianity, which seems always the one targeted for rage), they demand total thought control.
    The Darwin-Only, Darwin-Only (DODO) radicals are satisfied with nothing less than utter domination of anything related to the word science.  Their rhetoric is imbued with the discredited science-vs-religion characterization.  They portray themselves as the wise, and everyone else as “barbarians.”
    Watch out for people who behave like this.  There’s been a long history of similar tactics among radical groups.  Like the democratic socialists, communists or fascists of the 20th century dictatorships, they only preach fairness till by scheming and stealth they steal a majority in the parliament or congress.  Then they attack.  They rip up the constitution and outlaw their opponents.  They master the media for propaganda.  They take over the institutions of education, science, law and government.  They cannot stand debate, because they cannot stand the truth.  It’s; all about power.
Exercise:  Where else do you see this mentality in society today?
Next headline on:  DarwinismIntelligent DesignEducationBible and Theology
Introducing the Maple-Copter   10/21/2009    
Oct 21, 2009 — Plants are not as stationary as one might think.  Parts of them, like seeds, can travel for miles.  One good example is the maple seed.  Its little helicopter seeds can catch an updraft and fly a long distance from the tree.  Now, engineers at University of Maryland have imitated its physics and designed a radio-controlled mono-copter that can sustain stable flight for hours.
    “Winged seeds, or samaras, such as that of the maple tree are considered some of the most efficient passive flyers, and hence have been ogled by many engineers looking to build tiny flying devices,” reported Live Science, which posted a cool video of the robot version in action.  “Since the 1950s, researchers have been trying to create a stable, unmanned aerial vehicle that could mimic a maple seed’s flight,” reporter Jeanna Bryner continued.  “But their attempts have been unsuccessful, typically because of instability.”  The new device, with its wing that looks just like its natural counterpart, can take off from the ground or be dropped from a plane and then fly laterally in controlled flight.  If it loses power, it can spiral down to the ground unharmed.  Maple seeds either drop straight down while spinning, or spin down in large helical patterns.  Placed in the right thermal, the robo-maple could spin on free wind energy for hours.
    This invention could become a cool toy some day (unfortunately, not ready for Christmas this year).  It makes an irritating buzzing noise, though, so parents might want to consider looking for a passive version that can be launched in a slingshot or something.  Because it can carry a small payload, including a video camera or transponder, engineers also envision applications for low-altitude satellites, surveillance, weather or fire monitoring, communications from the battlefield, search and rescue support, aerial mapping, and radio relays.  One thing it can’t do, though, is grow a tree.
    Science Daily shows the device fitting in the palm of a hand.  PhysOrg also reported the story with three more videos.  Some other trees, like elms, ashes and sycamores, sport winged samaras like those on maples.  See the 06/16/2009 entry about the flying efficiency of samara propellers, and the 09/22/2008 entry about seed dispersal. 
Some kid some day is going to freak out the neighbors with fake UFO sightings.  One of the videos described this project as “Inspiration – Imitation – Invention – Evolution” but the evolution was the engineers’ intelligently-guided attempts to refine their imitation of nature.  So it was intelligent design science all the way.  This invention is a great achievement by the young engineers at University of Maryland.  It only took mankind 59 years to figure out how the maple seed does it.  Hopefully this project will create more interest in the design inherent in natural forms.
They fly through the air with the greatest of ease,
Inherent design in the young maple seeds;
Their movements are graceful, to engineers please,
Poor Darwin’s been purloined away.

Next headline on:  PlantsBiomimeticsPhysicsIntelligent Design
  Fitness for dummies: a bluffing evolutionist tried to dismiss the claim that “survival of the fittest” is a tautology, from 10/29/2002.

Cool Cell Tricks   10/20/2009    
Oct 20, 2009 — Every once in awhile it’s fun to look at what biochemists and biophysicists are discovering about the cell.  Since you have several trillion of cells in your body, think about some of these cool cell tricks going on inside of you right now.

  1. Gear up the ribosomeScience Daily reported, “Scientists Visualize Assembly Line Gears In Ribosomes, Cell’s Protein Factory.”  The gear has been a hallmark of engineering since the Greeks.  The gear in this case is elongation factor G, “one of the enzymes that nudges the assembly line to move forward.”  The article describes how this works: “details from the new structure show that EF-G interacts closely with parts of the ribosome, suggesting how it moves the assembly line forward without slipping out of frame.  In addition, it paves the way for studying interactions between the ribosome and other proteins similar to EF-G that fit into the same spot.”
  2. Phoenix cellsScience Daily reported that scientists at the University of Michigan are tantalized to discover how some cells can regenerate after damage.  Zebrafish, for instance, can regrow visual neurons damaged by intense light.  The regenerated cells apparently come from Muller glia.  A researcher looked through 953 genes in a Muller glia cell and found two genes that get switched on in the process.  These genes had been found in other regenerative processes.  “This suggests,” said Pamela Raymond, “that, although we don’t fully understand it yet, there might be a bigger molecular program, involving not just these two genes but a number of cooperating genes that are required for injury-triggered regeneration.”  Some lower animals are better at this than humans.  Cut off a newt’s leg, or a zebrafish fin, and it will grow back.  Imagine if we could learn to do that for human amputees.
  3. Tough cell:  The lowly bacterium Deinococcus radiodurans can withstand radiation that kills most other organisms.  PhysOrg reported on work at Cornell that shows that the cells use nitric oxide (NO) as a signal.  Somehow it plays a key role in triggering recovery after exposure to UV light.  The cell will repair itself but not reproduce if deprived of its NO gene.  Another surprise is that NO affects recovery from UV light, but not from other stressors, “including exposure to oxidative damage that leads to toxic free radicals.”  Clearly there is still a lot to learn about this hardy survivor.  For details, see the paper in PNAS.1 
  4. Stem cell differentiation:  Stem cells, we know, can grow into any cell type in an organism.  Then why are some stem cells left behind?  When they divide, one has to go to work, and the other has to hang back and keep the stem cell pool intact.  Nature reported that “Differences in the age of an organelle – the centriole – inherited at cell division may determine these differing fates.”2  This is also tied into the primary cilium as a key organelle: “This revelation is particularly exciting because it has coincided with the recognition that the primary cilium is a key signalling centre in vertebrate organisms, thereby placing it, and the centrosome, in the thick of important regulatory processes.”  How these things all work together is still being explored, but it appears the “older” centriole gets to keep its stem-cell job while the younger one goes into the differentiated cell.
  5. ATP synthase regulation:  The nanoscopic rotary engines (08/10/2004) that keep your cells humming (08/25/2004) have a problem during cell division.  How do they maintain their lickety-split whirring activity (01/30/2005) while reproducing all their parts?  Rak and Tzagaloff at Columbia University tried to figure that out and published their results in PNAS.3  They began by pointing out another challenge: some of the genes are in the mitochondria, not just in the nucleus.  What controls which genes get expressed?  How does the nucleus signal the organelle when to produce more protein products? 
    The preservation of functional mitochondria and chloroplasts during cell growth and division depends on a large pool of genetic information resident in the nucleus and of a more limited set of genes present in the genomes of the organelles themselves.  The proteins encoded by the chloroplast and mitochondrial genomes interact with partner proteins derived from nuclear genes to form hetero-oligomeric complexes that function, respectively, in photosynthesis and oxidative phosphorylation.  This circumstance has necessitated the evolution of mechanisms for insuring a balanced output of the two spatially separate sets of genes.
    The authors won a SEQOTW prize for that last sentence, unfortunately, but that was their only mention of evolution in the whole paper.  They went on to talk about the complex assembly of ATP synthase with parts from both nuclear and mitochondrial genes.  One finding is that the two parts of the rotary motor are constructed separately and then assembled.  Three enzyme chaperones that are encoded by the mitochondrial genome, Atp6p, Atp8p and Atp9p, appear to be critical to the assembly, but timing is everything: “Interaction of Atp6p with the Atp9p ring is probably a late assembly event as the resultant complex can cause an unregulated proton leak leading to dissipation of the mitochondrial membrane potential.  The incorporation of Atp6p into the complex has, therefore, been inferred to occur at a stage when the structural elements necessary for coupling proton transfer to ATP synthesis or hydrolysis are already in place.”  They went on to show how these three factors go into action only after the motor is assembled – and that the motor itself regulates the translation of the enzymes needed to bring it into action.
  6. Trash recycler:  Cells have a trash compactor called a protease.  It runs on the ATP produced by the machine just described above, ATP synthase.  Gur and Sauer described it in PNAS:4 “AAA+ proteases are ATP-fueled machines that bind protein substrates via a degradation tag, unfold the molecule if necessary, and then translocate the polypeptide into a chamber for proteolysis” (proteolysis means breakdown of the protein into its amino acids so that they can be recycled).  This is kind of like a trash pickup crew.  The protein has to have the right tag.  Then it is picked up and put into a chamber for degradation.  This paper showed that the tag is not just a passive marker; in some cases, it helps regulate the activity of the proteasome.  Different tags can affect the activity of the recycler by a factor of 10 or more.  “These allosteric mechanisms allow Lon [the tag under study] to operate in either a fast or slow proteolysis mode, according to specific physiological needs, and may help maximize degradation of misfolded proteins following stress-induced denaturation.
  7. Trash compactor:  How does the cell get the trash into the bin?  That takes physical work.  Another team at University of Washington investigated the AAA+ protease motor and found it uses a paddle mechanism.  Writing in PNAS,5 Koga et al began, “Hexameric ring-shaped AAA+ molecular motors have a key function of active translocation of a macromolecular chain through the central pore.”  Stuffing a chain into a pore sounds tricky.  The cell does it by grabbing each link and pushing it down.  A particular amino acid (tyrosine #91) performs a paddling motion – “This unidirectional translocation is attributed to paddling motions of Tyr-91s between the open and the closed forms: downward motions of Tyr-91s with gripping the substrate and upward motions with slipping on it,” they said.  “The paddling motions were caused by the difference between the characteristic time scales of the pore-radius change and the up-down displacements of Tyr-91s.”  As the pore cycles between open and closed states using ATP, the Tyr-91s paddles the chain inside like a ratchet.
In closing this list, take note of another Science Daily article.  It announced, “No Such Thing As ‘Junk RNA,’ Say Researchers.”  We’ve heard the concept of junk DNA debunked, but now the same debunking goes for RNA, too.  “Tiny strands of RNA previously dismissed as cellular junk are actually very stable molecules that may play significant roles in cellular processes, according to researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI).”  Since the small molecules called usRNAs they studied were stable and ubiquitous, one of the researchers perked up and said, “These findings suggest that usRNAs are involved in biological processes, and we should investigate them further.”
1.  Patel et al, “Endogenous nitric oxide regulates the recovery of the radiation-resistant bacterium Deinococcus radiodurans from exposure to UV light,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, October 19, 2009, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0907262106.
2.  Tim Stearns, “Stem cells: A fateful age gap,” Nature 461, 891-892 (15 October 2009) | doi:10.1038/461891a.
3.  Rak and Tzagaloff, “F1-dependent translation of mitochondrially encoded Atp6p and Atp8p subunits of yeast ATP synthase,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, October 19, 2009, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0910351106.
4.  Gur and Sauer, “Degrons in protein substrates program the speed and operating efficiency of the AAA+ Lon proteolytic machine,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, October 19, 2009, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0910392106.
5.  Koga, Kameda, Okazaki and Takada, “Paddling mechanism for the substrate translocation by AAA+ motor revealed by multiscale molecular simulations,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, October 14, 2009, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0904756106.
Isn’t this great?  This is how science should be done.  Careful and detailed research, drawing on collective facts gleaned from experiments around the world, are bringing details of a molecular machine world into sharper focus day by day.  These discoveries are as useful to man as they are fascinating.  The more we learn, the more we can find ways to improve our lives.
    Most of these papers say nothing about evolution.  The rare uses of the E-word (like the one in bullet 5 above) are short, stupid, passing references that merely assume some miraculous designing power of chance and natural selection without any elaboration.  The vagueness of the references to evolution stand in sharp contrast to the detailed descriptions of the machines and their parts.
    Molecular machines!  Let that phrase sizzle in your brain.  What 18th or 19th century scientist could have imagined such wonders when the reality of cells was first coming to light?  The history of science might have been completely different had these things been known in 1859.  Nobody would be celebrating the 200th birthday of a storyteller with a vivid imagination.  Dawkins would be a clown; Behe a hero.
    It’s not too late to set history aright.  Spread these facts around.  Get the PNAS goods down where the laymen can see it.  That’s what we do right here at CEH.  Your part can be as simple as giving someone a link to this article.  Given the details in common language, most people will make the right inference to the best explanation.
Next headline on:  Cell BiologyGeneticsIntelligent DesignAmazing Facts
Darwin Debate Strategy: Declare Victory   10/19/2009    
Oct 19, 2009 — The easiest way to win a debate is to simply disallow your opponent, and then declare victory by forfeit.  Is that what supporters of Darwin are doing to their critics?
  1. The winner is: DarwinPhysOrg reported favorably on a book by Mano Singham (Case Western Reserve University) that declares victory against creationism and intelligent design: e.g., “The Dover case, says Singham, also brings the curtain down on the long history of religious groups trying to breach the wall between church and state.”  Neither Singham nor PhysOrg allowed the other side time to rebut this and other claims.  No, despite the fact that the Discovery Institute wrote a detailed rebuttal to this conception of what happened at Dover, and has repeatedly answered such claims on its Evolution News and Views web page, the title states as a matter of fact, “Science wins fight over evolution in schools, says Case Western Reserve University author.”  The article gives him the victory lap at the end, too: “For now the battle between religion and Darwin has been won by science, says Singham.”
  2. Inherit the Wind won’t die:  Despite numerous misrepresentations of the Scopes Trial, the play Inherit the Wind still makes the rounds.  It’s playing in London.  Celeste Biever mushed over the play in New Scientist and reflected on its bittersweet lessons about how science trumps religion, but how sad it is that so many well-meaning people can’t let go of their faith.  In her article Biever recounted an event from the Dover trial that never happened.  She claimed Michael Behe said astrology would count as science and the courtroom erupted in laughter.  Behe has answered this claim with clarification that Biever was misunderstanding his statement and that the laughter was at a different time about a different matter (check Uncommon Descent archives).  Of course, his side of the story was not allowed into the article.
  3. Selective book reviews:  Lawrence D. Hurst reviewed two pro-evolution books for Nature.1  His article shows a photo of Dawkins proudly holding a copy of his book The Greatest Show on Earth.  To Hurst, the only controversy between the pugilistic Richard Dawkins and the gentlemanly Carl Zimmer was which approach is most likely to be effective in smashing creationists over the head.  “So which is the better strategy for explaining the difference between fact and fantasy: that of the quiet American or that of the British Rottweiler?  Zimmer makes the facts palatable but Dawkins reminds us that some people persist in their beliefs even if they are profoundly contradicted by observation and logic,” Hurst declared.  Sounds like he supports the Dawkins approach.
It has been a fairly well-known phenomenon that a faceless army of anti-I.D. editors scours Wikipedia daily to maintain their lies about intelligent design supporters.  This is true for other controversial figures like Rush Limbaugh, too.  Some I.D. scientists have corrected factual errors on pages about themselves, only to find their corrections overwritten almost immediately with the same lies.  Wikipedia maintains no method of accountability for editors and no method for targets of these lies to get them corrected.  Because of this, no one should consider Wikipedia a reliable source for information – particularly on controversial topics like evolution and intelligent design.
1.  Lawrence D. Hurst, “Showcasing the evidence for evolution,” Nature 461, 596 (1 October 2009) | doi:10.1038/461596a.
The Darwinists are not above telling outright lies in pushing their views in the media.  “Our enterprise has established facts and we should have the confidence to say so.  Evolution is one such fact,” says Hurst, conveniently equivocating over the word evolution.  Celeste Biever lies about Behe but calls Darwin “the man who has contributed more than any other to our understanding of where humanity came from” (a majority might give that honor to Jesus Christ).  Singham repeatedly portrays critics of Darwin as violating separation of church and state.  These three examples of Darwin debating tactics (e.g., one-sided presentations) are riddled with simplistic either-or fallacies, glittering generalities, outright lies and half-truths.  In a real debate they could not get away with it.  They do what is typical of leftists and radicals: shut the other side up, and declare victory.  Wasn’t that tactic famously displayed in certain totalitarian dystopias over the last century?  We report both sides and give you original sources so that you can judge for yourself.  In other words, we respect your freedom and the dignity of your individual intellect.
Next headline on:  Darwin and EvolutionIntelligent Design
Science News or Tabloid Journalism?   10/19/2009    
Oct 19, 2009 — Science news outlets have put out some bizarre headlines recently.  Readers can judge whether they should be blessed with the label “science” or belong instead at supermarket checkouts.
  1. Women are evolving fatterNew Scientist and PhysOrg said that natural selection is making women shorter, plumper and more fertile.  “The take-home message is that humans are currently evolving,” said Stephen Stearns of the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in Durham, North Carolina.  “Natural selection is still operating.
  2. Killer algae heading northScience Daily said that toxic algae was a key player in mass extinctions in the past, and may be threatening us in the age of global warming.  “If you go through theories of mass extinctions, there are always some unanswered questions,” one scientist admitted.  Maybe readers can think of some.
  3. Proton rock brings life to earthNew Scientist asked, “Was our oldest ancestor a proton-powered rock?”  Nick Lane’s four-page article investigates a controversial theory for the origin of life.  “The last common ancestor of all life was not a free-living cell at all, but a porous rock riddled with bubbly iron-sulphur membranes that catalysed primordial biochemical reactions,” he said.  Then another miracle happened: “Powered by hydrogen and proton gradients, this natural flow reactor filled up with organic chemicals, giving rise to proto-life that eventually broke out as the first living cellsnot once but twice, giving rise to the bacteria and the archaea.”  Nobody was there, unfortunately, to watch the show.  Lane had to admit, “Many details have yet to be filled in, and it may never be possible to prove beyond any doubt that life evolved by this mechanism.
  4. Aliens inhabit alternate planePhysOrg said that two scientists have calculated the “number of parallel universes.”  An impressive equation enhances the article.  The answer: 10 to the 10 to the 16 universes are out there, even though we’ve never seen them or can see them.  “If that number sounds large, the scientists explain that it would have been even more humongous, except that we observers are limited in our ability to distinguish more universes” otherwise it could be a whopping 10 to the 10 to the 10 to the 7.
  5. Hot rock in India slams dinosaurs kablooey:  Remember the Mexican impact crater that was the cause of the dinosaur demise?  That’s so 1985.  It’s much more hip now to say that a bigger blast in India did the reptiles in.  Science Daily has the scoop.
  6. Mysterious dark force is shuffling dark stuff around that may not existPhysOrg reported on a scientist’s idea that “an unknown force is acting on dark matter,” which, by definition, is also unknown.  A team at U of St. Andrews “believes that the interactions between dark and ordinary matter could be more important and more complex than previously thought, and even speculate that dark matter might not exist and that the anomalous motions of stars in galaxies are due to a modification of gravity on extragalactic scales.”
Today’s science also has its holy relics.  PhysOrg reported on an “evolution axe” going on display at the Natural History Museum in London.  “The axe that revealed the age of mankind” was discovered the same year Darwin published his Origin and was used to support the idea that human history extended farther into the past than the Bible allowed.  “The hand axe display is timely as it coincides with this year’s celebration of Charles Darwin’s 150th anniversary of On the Origin of Species and 200th anniversary of his birth,” the article cheered.  “There are nationwide events taking place as part of a [sic] initiative called Darwin200.”
Any sociologists out there?  Do a little experiment.  Start a hoax in the name of science and see if the news outlets report it.  They don’t seem to have any restrictions on what can be claimed in the name of science.  Just make it look authoritative, like a major university press release, with a little convincing jargon.  Other than that it can be as wacko as you like.  What would be really constructive would be to put on so many hoaxes at once that it would require intelligent design to sort out the true from the false.  Would any of these stories survive?
    The list above is an illustration of the legacy of post-Darwinism.  Darwin ousted the hard-liners and let in the storytellers.  Instead of being homeless on the street with their stories, they get paid to do this.  They are given free Darwin incense to liberate their imaginations.  Nothing needs to be observable, testable or repeatable any more.  The inmates are running the asylum.  They’re stoned, not with opium, but with OPM (other people’s money).  Remember this when they try to define what crazy is.
Next headline on:  MediaOrigin of LifeCosmologyDarwin and Evolution
  Why science cannot validate itself, from 10/16/2008.

Science Awards Young Darwinist   10/19/2009    
Oct 19, 2009 — A young PhD has been awarded grand prize in an essay contest by Science Magazine for studying a complex system and deciding it evolved one way or another.1  Richard Benton won the Eppendorf Grand Prize for Essays on Science and Society, beating out two others who studied neurons but failed to give pre-eminence to evolutionary theory.2  The winner is a member of a group who “studies the genetic, neural, and evolutionary basis of chemosensation in the fruit fly, Drosophila.”
    In his prize-winning essay, entitled “Evolution and Revolution in Odor Detection,”3 Benton maintained a running theme of evolution from the title onward.  “Molecular neuroscientists have a tendency to seek evolutionarily conserved mechanisms underlying the construction and function of animal brains,” he began.  He critiqued that approach briefly only to point out another insight into evolution it might miss: “a focus on commonalities overlooks the fact that different animal nervous systems have evolved to operate in distinct ecological contexts.”
    Benton studies the fruit fly nose because “Animal olfactory systems display enormous evolutionary capacity, as species acquire and discard olfactory receptor genes, neurons, and behaviors in an everchanging landscape of external chemical stimuli.”  Evolution is all-encompassing in his vision.  “These modifications often reflect the fact that most relevant odors for a species are themselves derived from evolving organisms such as plant food sources, animal predators, and potential mates.”  Heraclitus, who said you can never step in the same river twice, must be listening from the grave with interest.
    With the theme of evolution thoroughly ensconced in the first paragraph, Benton went on to describe his own research seeking out the “codes” in olfactory signalling, particularly in the fruit fly.  He noted three common features between insect and mammalian noses: single-function neurons, axons that converge into a glomerulus, and “that odors are recognized by specific combinations of ORs [olfactory receptors] to create a spatial ‘code’ of glomerular activation.”  The word code did not connote to Benton any sense of intelligent design or functional purpose.  On the contrary, he began his research “Justified by this apparent conservation in olfactory system organization across 500 million years of evolution....”
    But then, lo and behold, he found a stench in the evolutionary conservation story.  He expected to find the same seven G protein-coupled receptors in fruit flies that are found in vertebrates.  “However, upon bioinformatic reexamination of insect OR sequences, we noted that these receptors exhibited no significant similarity to vertebrate ORs or other GPCRs and, unexpectedly, were predicted to have an inverted membrane topology.”  This “provocative” result (that a model organism used “receptors that were unique to insects” had to be explained in an evolutionary way.  He punned that they “decided to fly in the face of this insect-specificity by designing a bioinformatics screen to identify additional factors acting in peripheral odor detection.”  What they found was a different transmembrane protein that seems to perform a similar function to the one in mammals, and also for pathogen recognition in the immune response.  “Molecular homologies have also been noted in pheromone and immune detection in mammals; a future challenge is to understand the evolutionary basis of such connections.”  So whether traits are homologous or analogous, evolution wins.
    Benton’s team also found a new family of olfactory receptors – “a previously unappreciated ‘second nose’ in insects.”  The receptors in this new family “are present across animals, plants, and prokaryotes, which hints that these receptors may represent an ancient mechanism for sensing both intercellular and external chemical cues.”  In his final paragraph of this grand prize essay, Benton noted that olfactory systems have a “common design” and “logic” across diverse animal phyla.  Whether the toolkit for a nose was present in the common ancestor, or whether these similar mechanisms arose by convergent evolution, the only explanation had to be an evolutionary one:

Our studies of the biology of Drosophila odor detection have revealed molecular surprises that invite reconsideration of the basis of the striking similarities in olfactory system organization and function across species.  Was there a primitive olfactory system in the common ancestor of insects and vertebrates, in which subsequent drastic divergence of the odor-detecting receptors was uncoupled from the maintenance of neuroanatomical and physiological logic?  Or, does the common design of olfactory systems across different phyla reflect convergent evolution, indicative of the essential properties of a sensory system responsible for detecting innumerable chemical stimuli?  Distinguishing these possibilities is not trivial, but either would yield insight into the mechanisms by which at least this part of the nervous system arose and evolved.
By inserting the phrase “yield insight” Benton fulfilled the unwritten rule that an evolutionary paper must end with a promise that future evolution-based research will “shed light on evolution.”
1.  Eppendorf Winner: 2009 Grand Prize Winner, Science, 16 October 2009: Vol. 326. no. 5951, p. 383, DOI: 10.1126/science.326_383.
2.  The other two finalist essays are published at Science Features.  One of them mentioned evolution only once.  It was concerned with how dendrites and axons grow during development.  Quoting Buckminster Fuller, the author was impressed by the “elegant and exquisitely exact mathematical coordinate system [nature uses to] formulate and mass-produce all the botanical and zoological phenomena.”  The other entry did not mention evolution at all.  Instead, it began by appreciating “just how complicated this circuitry must be” to allow simple movements like walking down the street.
3.  Richard Benton, “Evolution and Revolution in Odor Detection,” Science, 16 October 2009: Vol. 326. no. 5951, pp. 382-383, DOI: 10.1126/science.1181998.
It appears that the priests of the Temple of Charlie need male cult prostitutes as well as female ones (cf. 12/11/2006).  Is it any wonder scientists can look design in the face, and sniff it in the snout, and still come up with Darwinian miracle stories that such-and-such a code or engineering system “arose”?  Look at the clear evidence of divination training in his article.  He looks into the genes and the molecules for visions of common ancestors.  If the common ancestor interpretation looks weak, he conjures up the vision of convergent evolution.  Because both homologous and analogous designs have been swallowed by the Darwin Blob Corporation, design explanations can’t get out.  It’s impossible to falsify their beliefs because no matter what you show them, they perform a hostile takeover of the data and dedicate it to their idol.  All the property around the Temple has been bought out by the monopoly – even the competition and the media.  The populace is promised that the Temple Industries, Inc. will “yield insight” and provide understanding about how everything “arose and evolved.”  Each year a new crop of inductees learns the Temple secrets and code words and gets job security for life.  It’s a racket and a cult.  Don’t drink the kool-aid.
Next headline on:  EducationEvolutionary Theory
Intelligent Design 101 (Kregel, 2008) is a recent book providing a solid introduction to I.D. from various perspectives, by some of its leading proponents (though not Meyer, Nelson, or Wells).  Subtitled “Leading Experts Explain the Key Issues,” this 275-page paperback sports an introduction by William Dembski, I.D.'s leading theorist, and a lead chapter by Phillip Johnson, father of the Intelligent Design Movement.  These are followed by chapters on philosophy of science by J. P. Moreland (Biola), design detection in nature by Casey Luskin (Discovery Institute), an update on irreducible complexity by Michael Behe (Lehigh U), purpose in nature as evidenced by the “privileged planet hypothesis” by Jay Richards (Acton Institute), bioethics and cultural implications by Eddie Colanter (Newport Institute for Ethics, Law and Public Policy), and Darwinism and the law by H. Wayne House (Trinity Law School).  The book has 37 pages of notes, author and subject indices, and 21 photos and illustrations.  The book can be ordered from Access Research Network.
    Of special interest is an Appendix by Casey Luskin and Logan Gage (Discovery Institute) rebutting the view of Francis Collins (NIH, Human Genome Project) that genetic evidence shows common ancestry between apes and humans.  The chapter on “Intelligent design and the nature of science” by J. P. Moreland is worth the price of the book.  Moreland brings some much-needed clarity to what we mean by “science.”  Since the Darwinian response to I.D. is to claim it is not scientific, understanding the principles Moreland describes is essential for carrying on an informed discussion.  This is not to diminish any of the other chapters; for instance, House’s review of U.S. legal decisions on creation and evolution is important to know, and Colanter’s look into the implications of evolutionary theory is sobering.  Of course, anything Phillip Johnson or Mike Behe writes is worth imbibing with delight.
    For a scholarly, nuanced, thoughtful introduction into intelligent design from multiple angles by reputable authors, this book is a good choice.  Knowing public-school freshman these days, though, they might have titled it Intelligent Design 401.
Next resource of the week:  10/10/2009.  All resources: Catalog.

Beethoven: It All Began With a Thump   10/17/2009    
Oct 17, 2009 — Macaques (small monkeys) shake branches and sometimes thump on logs.  Ode to Joy could not be far behind.  Maybe concert music began as a threatening display or show of strength (think gorilla chest-beating).  This is not a joke (at least, intentionally).  Charles Q. Choi wrote for Live Science in all seriousness, “When monkeys drum, they activate brain networks linked with communication, new findings that suggest a common origin of primate vocal and nonvocal communication systems and shed light on the origins of language and music.
    Choi reported on work at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics to determine if ape drumming activates the brain centers related to human speech and music.  Here’s what Christoph Kayser thinks:

Monkeys respond to drumming sounds as they would to vocalizations.  Hence, drumming originated as a form of expression or communication, possibly in an ancestral species common to apes and old-world monkeys, early during primate evolution.... Humans convey information not only using speech, but also using other sounds that range in diversity from loud hand-clapping as applause, to the discrete knocking on a door before entering, to drumming that forms an important part of music.
Monkey drumming activates some of the same portions of the temporal lobe that responds to screeching.  In human brains, the temporal lobe is “key to processing meaning in both speech and vision.”  That can only mean one thing, said Choi: since humans and macaques are “thought to have had a common ancestor about 25 million years ago,” then obviously, “The discovery of drumming in rhesus macaques offers a way to examine what brain regions were linked with nonvocal communication, such as music in humans.”  These ideas made it into the prestigious National Academy of Sciences.
There’s that favorite phrase of the Darwinians: that incessant, insufferable empty promise that such-and-such a non-sequitur may “shed light” on evolution.  It’s futile to squint and hope.  Evolution is a black hole that swallows all the light shed into it.  That’s why the light is “shed” (i.e., wasted).
    We’re going to have so much fun when the Darwin idol falls re-reading the stupid things they said.  To celebrate this SEQOTW winner, go watch Ringo and the cave people invent music on YouTube.  Even funnier is that the Darwinists think it’s what really happened.  Be sure to sober up afterwards by listening to some Bach, Beethoven or Brahms.  Then ponder the degeneration of human gifts into mindless drumming and storytelling.
Next headline on:  EvolutionMammalsEarly ManDumb Ideas
Everything You Know About Natural Selection Is Wrong   10/16/2009    
Oct 16, 2009 — It’s called “a fresh theoretical framework” but it undermines the popular conception of natural selection.  It’s called a “dense and deep work on the foundations of evolutionary biology” but it criticizes as simplistic and false the ideas of Richard Dawkins, one of the most outspoken proponents of natural selection as “the greatest show on earth.”  It produces a new scheme for how natural selection works, but raises more questions than it answers.  What is it?  It’s a new book by Harvard philosopher Peter Godfrey-Smith, Darwinian Populations and Natural Selection (Oxford, 2009), reviewed mostly positively by Jay Odenbaugh in Science.1
    Odenbaugh is in the philosophy department of Lewis and Clark College, Oregon.  Get ready to jettison your “classical” concepts of fitness, selection and reproductive success.  Unload your simplistic ideas of gene selection, individual selection and group selection.  Prepare to see Richard Dawkins demoted from his status as a leading spokesman for modern Darwinism.  In his first paragraph, Odenbaugh clears the deck to get ready for the “fresh” ideas of Godfrey-Smith:
Peter Godfrey-Smith’s Darwinian Populations and Natural Selection is a dense and deep work on the foundations of evolutionary biology.  Evolutionary biologists tell us that evolution by natural selection occurs when a few ingredients are present—specifically, when there is variation with respect to a trait, those variants differ in the numbers of offspring produced, and this variation is heritable to some degree.  Unfortunately, as Godfrey-Smith argues, this recipe is far too simple, and even more complicated versions such as the replicator approach offered by Richard Dawkins suffer serious flaws.  This “classical recipe,” for example, ignores the fact that for some organisms numbers of offspring don’t necessarily determine reproductive success (“fitness”) whereas rates of population growth, age structure, or variation in expected numbers of offspring do.  Likewise, natural selection and patterns of heredity can “cancel” each other out, leaving no evolutionary change.  The concept of Dawkins’s replicators—those entities that interact with like entities and of which copies are made—presupposes that there can be no reproduction without replication, which is false when we have continuously varying traits evolving by natural selection.  Thus, our standard models for understanding what evolution by natural selection is are just too simple.
Wow.  If you have survived that devastating paragraph, you realize that Godfrey-Smith had better replace all the simplistic notions with some profound and testable alternatives quickly before the creationists latch onto what Odenbaugh just admitted.  Unfortunately, Godfrey-Smith replaces it with a scheme that is more ethereal than empirical.  He envisions three parameters, H (reliability of inheritance), C (relation of traits to fitness), and S (dependence of reproductive differences on intrinsic traits).  Then he graphs them in “population space.”  Odenbaugh tries to give this scheme respect: “Godfrey-Smith then uses this spatial framework (along with others concerning reproduction) to understand controversies concerning the nature of random genetic drift, levels of selection, major transitions in evolution (such as the appearance of multicellular organisms), and cultural evolution.”  Then he starts the clock: “Let’s consider what light Godfrey-Smith’s framework shines on some of these topics.”  OK; we have just been promised light on the Cambrian explosion, the units of selection (genes, individuals, or groups), and whether natural selection produced the university itself (cultural evolution).
    Odenbaugh delves into some examples to illustrate the new framework (e.g., a twin struck by lightning can’t reproduce, whether or not the other twin is less fit).  He explains Godfrey-Smith’s view that neutral drift is not a “force” or label for ignorance; “rather it concerns where one is in the space of Darwinian populations” (got that?).  Regarding units of selection, we hear more that Godfrey-Smith rejects group selection than offers a plausible replacement: “For example, in cases where selection occurs in neighborhoods, there are no causally cohesive groups for selection to operate on.”  Well, then, what does natural selection operate on?  If Godfrey-Smith has an answer, Odenbaugh did not reveal it.
    Let’s see if the book has an answer for the controversy of where great transformations and innovations come from (the classic case being the Cambrian explosion).  “With regard to evolutionary transitions, he notes that often the formation of new biological individuals involves marginal Darwinian populations moving to paradigmatic ones and the parts of such populations (that is, the lower-level entities) moving from paradigmatic ones to marginal ones—a process he terms ‘de-Darwinizing.’”  The casual reader might have to re-read that sentence a few times.  Did he just say that members of a population move, by some unexplained force, into a new paradigm?  Like from a sponge into a trilobite or something?  And that others move out of the paradigm into the margins?  It is difficult to see how any of this wording explains the origin of complex biological information such as eyes, wings, and new body plans.  And how appropriate is it to introduce a new concept like “de-Darwinizing” right now, right at the pending 150th anniversary of Darwin’s book on natural selection, what E. O. Wilson calls “the greatest idea anyone ever had”?
    The next paragraph involves debating distinctions about reproducers – whether they can be described as collective, simple, or “scaffolded” (i.e., parts of reproducing entities that get reproduced, such as a gene in a mammal giving birth).  Here’s where Dawkins gets another sucker punch:
These distinctions are skillfully employed.  For example, contrary to Richard Dawkins, many instances of genic selection are instances of scaffolded reproduction of genes by cells, and evolutionary models are ultimately representing selection of organisms via their genetic properties.  Often (though not always), when we treat genes as evolutionary units we imbue evolutionary biology with an “agential” framework involving agents, goals, strategies, and purposes that can corrupt the foundations of evolutionary biology.
So we certainly must have none of that.  No teleology allowed.  Dawkins’s “selfish genes” have just been criticized as imbued with the concept of agency or strategy or purpose.  Dawkins is corrupting the foundations of evolutionary biology, Odenbaugh and Godfrey-Smith said.  One can only imagine his reaction at such a charge from fellow evolutionists.
    The last paragraph of the book review arrives.  The Cat in the Hat had better show up in the nick of time to clean up this mess.  No; now, philosopher Odenbaugh turns on philosopher Godfrey-Smith and accuses him of hypocrisy and obfuscation:
Darwinian Populations and Natural Selection raises difficult questions as well.  Godfrey-Smith and others have argued that there is a role in evolutionary biology for “functional” notions.  For example, they hold that it makes sense to claim that the heart in humans has the function of circulating blood.  However, given the author’s criticism of the “agential” framework and the teleology behind it, is this new work compatible with the old?  In addition, although spatial frameworks or state spaces can be exceedingly useful for understanding evolutionary processes, one can ask if they also conceal much of importance.  Their use is critically dependent on which dimensions are included (and which omitted) and on whether one can “score” those dimensions in plausible ways.  Sometimes one wonders whether too much is being omitted and worries that variables like S cannot be scored in any object sense.
Not to leave any bad feelings, he finds something to praise: “Nevertheless, Godfrey-Smith’s book fruitfully forces us to think in new ways about evolution and natural selection.
1.  Jay Odenbaugh,“Evolution: A Fresh Theoretical Framework,” Science, 16 October 2009: Vol. 326. no. 5951, pp. 368 - 369, DOI: 10.1126/science.1176940.
Folks, you have just watched the undoing of Darwinism and natural selection.  Pray tell, what remains after this gentle demolition derby?  Everything you have been taught about natural selection is wrong.  Is there any concept left on which you can hang your hat and say, “this is natural selection in action”?  No; now you have to worry whether the reproducer was simple, collective, or scaffolded.  Now you have to worry whether selection acts on the gene, the individual, the group, or the population.  Now you need to draw meaningless graphs of arbitrary parameters that might omit key concepts, without knowing how to score them objectively.  You need to be able to talk out both sides of your mouth: demonizing teleology on one side, using “functional notions” on the other.  All the while, you need to keep the Great Cover-Up covered up.  You need to hide the elephant in the room, the “emergence” of specified complexity (such as entirely new body plans in the Cambrian explosion) in rhetorical blankets like “marginal Darwinian populations moving to paradigmatic ones.”
    This brief book review has all but destroyed the basis for the big Darwin party next month: the 150th anniversary of the Origin.  Oh, the party will go on.  Speeches will extol The Great Man and his Greatest Show on Earth (watch Colbert tweak Dawkins over that line on Uncommon Descent).  Bells will ring and partygoers will get lubricated with copious quantities of free Dar-wine.  The pagan festival (see 10/10/2009) will be loud and long and full of hoopla.  Party goers will be like drunken celebrants in the gondola of a hot-air balloon, unaware it has lost its flame and is on its way down.  They will revel in their luxury Pullman cars, oblivious to the fact the engine has died and the train is rolling down the wrong track into a desert in the dark of night.  Let the fireworks play, leaving burnt pieces of debris; let the brambles crackle in the fire, leaving ashes.  In the morning will come time to face reality – with a major hangover and a lot to regret.
Next headline on:  Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory
  Muslim illegal trench exposes artifacts from first Jewish temple, from 10/23/2007.

Freud’s Out; Who’s Next?   10/15/2009    
Oct 15, 2009 — Remember Sigmund Freud?  He was the cat’s meow in psychology as the 19th century merged into the 20th.  He was extolled by all the scientists of his day as one of the great modern thinkers (along with Marx and Darwin).  His impact on modern thought was immeasurable.  He gave us new words like id, ego and superego and concepts like “the unconscious” that are still with us today.  Countless people have tried to find hidden meanings in their dreams and have worried about Oedipus complexes and anal retentiveness and penis envy based on his “insights.”  They spent millions of dollars lying on couches with their shrink, undergoing “psychoanalysis,” to treat any number of mental illnesses – some of them, like hysteria, undoubtedly brought on by the power of suggestion upon hearing descriptions of the illnesses themselves.
    My, what would people have thought in 1909 if a time traveler brought back this quote from Nature a hundred years later:1 

Anyone reading Sigmund Freud’s original works might well be seduced by the beauty of his prose, the elegance of his arguments and the acuity of his intuition.  But those with a grounding in science will also be shocked by the abandon with which he elaborated his theories on the basis of essentially no empirical evidence.  This is one of the main reasons why Freudian-style psychoanalysis has long since fallen out of fashion: its huge expense – treatment can stretch over years – is not balanced by evidence of efficacy.
The purpose of Nature’s editorial was to rein in today’s decadent practice of psychology with this lesson from the past.  “If clinical psychology in the United States wants to remain viable and relevant in today’s health systems, it needs to publicly embrace science.”  Has cognitive neuroscience learned the lessons of the past?  Apparently not: “There is a moral imperative to turn the craft of psychology – in danger of falling, Freud-like, out of fashion – into a robust and valued science informed by the best available research and economic evidence.2  The editors did not identify the grounds of morals, robust science, or values. 
1.  Editorial, Nature 461, 847 (15 October 2009) | doi:10.1038/461847a.
2.  One of the suggestions in the editorial was to set up a government agency like the UK’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) responsible for determining the efficacy of treatments before authorizing funds, even though the editors realize that it “represents the epitome of big-government intrusion into individual freedom of choice....”
Could Darwin fall?  Could he be the big has-been of 2020?  Certainly.  Look at the lesser gods of the triumvirate, Marx and Freud.  Except for a few holdouts in academia, their vast intellectual empires have “fallen out of fashion”.  Oh, there are still totalitarian dictatorships in China, Vietnam, Cuba, and North Korea that outwardly hold onto the Marx image, but nobody really believes that stuff about dialectical materialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat any more (right, Van Jones?).  The philosophical and empirical bases for Marxism and Freudianism (if there ever were any) have collapsed and crumbled.  These days, anyone who thinks Marx was brilliant should tour the Gulags and the killing fields and watch replays of the Berlin Wall coming down.  Anyone who thinks Freud was brilliant should get his head examined.
    Sad to say, even worse ideas flowed in the wake of Marx and Freud.  Psychology has been a comedy (and tragedy) of self-refuting and contradictory ideas – some bordering on the criminal, like electroshock and lobotomy, others just weird or dumb, like making vulnerable people undress in group therapy sessions and be subjected to ridicule.  Now we see that Freud’s psychological theories and treatments were all made-up, arbitrary, evidence-free fads.  He was a con artist: Sick-man Fraud the Magnificent.  He was a man who swept women off their feet with the “beauty of his prose,” and who seduced a world with the “elegance of his arguments.”  Sounds like the Origin of Species.
    The impending fall of Darwin (10/16/2009) will not automatically bring a world of intellectual peace and integrity.  The senior devil will see to that.  The vacuum left by the fall of bad ideas must be quickly filled by good ideas.  Be prepared with good news founded on solid ground.  A lot of disillusioned people are going to need counseling.
Next headline on:  Politics and EthicsPhilosophy, Psychology and Theology
Notable Notes and Quotable Quotes
About the Nobel Prize winning effort to decipher the structure of the ribosome (10/10/2009): “Since then, the three groups and others have begun to combine these atomic snapshots, and others like them, into a jerky movie of the atomic dance ribosomes perform to translate genetic information into proteins.  Structural biologists have captured dances of complex molecules before.  The ribosome’s dance, however, is more like a grand ballet, with dozens of ribosomal proteins and subunits pirouetting with every step while other key biomolecules leap in, carrying other dancers needed to complete the act.”  Robert F. Service, “Honors to Researchers Who Probed Atomic Structure of Ribosomes,” Science 16 October 2009: Vol. 326. no. 5951, pp. 346-347, DOI: 10.1126/science.326_346.

What’s in a Name?  Sima Fossils Confuse Human Evolution Story   10/14/2009    
Oct 14, 2009 — “A hush fell over the room....”  Ian Tattersall had just astonished paleoanthropologists gathered for a meeting on human origins in Gibraltar.  The group was puzzling over a treasure trove of hominin bones found in the mid-1990s at Sima de los Huesos in Spain.  What should they be called?
    The co-discoverer, Juan Luis Arsuaga, had assigned them to Homo heidelbergensis because preliminary dates put them in the 350,000 year old range.  Now, however, new uranium-series dating tests by James Bischoff (U.S. Geological Survey) said they were 530,000 years old – as old or older than the classic H. heidelbergensis fossils found elsewhere in Europe, “fossils that the Sima skulls don’t much resemble,” according to a report on the meeting by Michael Balter in Science.1  Here’s where the hush in the room revealed the fact that classification of bones into species and ancestors is an arbitrary process made by modern humans, not by the bones themselves:

Tattersall concludes that two or more hominin lineages must have existed side by side in Europe for several hundred thousand years before H. sapiens arrived from Africa.  One line led to the Neandertals and may have included the Sima fossils; another, rightly called H. heidelbergensis, went extinct while the Neandertals lived on until at least 30,000 years ago.
    Tattersall then looked at Arsuaga, who was sitting in the audience waiting to speak next: “My central plea is to the colleagues who assigned the Sima de los Huesos fossils to H. heidelbergensis.  They are clearly not Neandertals, but not being a Neandertal does not make them H. heidelbergensis.  They need another name.
    A hush fell over the room as Tattersall sat down and Arsuaga got up to speak.  To nearly everyone’s surprise, Arsuaga agreed that the Sima de los Huesos skulls looked nothing like other H. heidelbergensis specimens.  Nor, he said, do 13 other skulls his team had recently excavated there.  “We have always said that we put the Sima hominins under the H. heidelbergensis umbrella for convenience, for practical reasons,” Arsuaga said....
Yet Jean-Jacques Hublin (not present) argued that the Sima fossils contain some Neanderthal features.  His theory is that Neanderthal traits accumulated over time (the “accretion” model).  He sees no need to rename the Sima group.  Balter said his solution is “to scrap the species name H. heidelbergensis and lump all of these fossils, including those from Sima, together as H. neanderthalensis.”  That would certainly make the Neanderthals a morphologically diverse group covering a long span of time.  And what would come of all the textbooks and decades of stories about Heidelberg Man?
    Chris Stringer, “whose early research led to the recognition of H. heidelbergensis as a formal species,” had a little spat with Bischoff at the meeting.  A lot is riding on the 530,000 year date, he argued; “it would be evident that an early form of Neandertal was [in Europe] alongside of H. heidelbergensis.”  Bischoff defended the date as a “conservative” estimate.  The fossils could be even older, he said, but not younger.
    Tattersall seemed to recognize that a lot is at stake in what the scientists decide to call these groups:
“But Tattersall insists that names do matter, even if more of them are required to classify the fossil record.  “Species have an independent existence in nature,” he says.  “They are the basic actors in the evolutionary play, and if you don’t know who the cast is, you will never understand the plot.
More troubles come from this controversy.  According to the standard story, modern humans emerged from Africa 50,000 years ago and displaced the earlier hominins living there.  But there are complications.  In the Levant (Israel-Lebanon), “modern humans apparently lived alongside Neandertals between about 130,000 and 75,000 years ago, as part of what some scientists have called a ‘failed dispersal.’”  The story can tolerate one exception, perhaps.  “In recent years, however, some researchers have seen evidence for earlier dispersals, especially into southern Asia.”  These toolmakers have been called Homo sapiens.  “But not everyone was ready to jump on the early-dispersal bandwagon.”
    It’s clear from Balter’s report that the human evolution story involves much controversy and many arbitrary distinctions.  On one point, though, they are all agreed:
Charles Darwin was the man who did more than anyone else to crystallize the idea that life had changed over time and that, by implication, humankind had extinct relatives who could be found in the fossil record,” Ian Tattersall, a paleoanthropologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, told attendees of the meeting in one of many talks that began by paying homage to the great man.
According to Balter, “the nearly 100 scientists who gathered here last month to ponder the latest research on Neandertals and other ancient humans were happy to embrace him as their intellectual godfather.”
1.  Michael Balter, “New Work May Complicate History Of Neandertals and H. sapiens,” Science, 9 October 2009: Vol. 326. no. 5950, pp. 224-225, DOI: 10.1126/science.326_224.
Notice the priorities here.  Worship Darwin first as Godfather, then struggle with the contrary evidence.  The talks began by “paying homage to the great man” who overturned the tables of the lab assistants and welcomed the Starving Storytellers into the sacred temple of science (12/22/2003 commentary).  The corrupt Storytellers, now fat and sassy, have usurped the noble institutions of science and ousted those who had committed themselves to the principle that science concerned things that were observable, testable and repeatable.  The usurpers may appear to struggle a bit with each other over details of the plot and characters, but the outcome is all determined in advance: Emperor Charles must be worshipped by all.  Bones are mere props in the “the evolutionary play” as Tattersall rightly called it.
    So now you have learned their dark secret.  Heidelberg Man and Neanderthal Man were all made-up names to give the illusion that humans have come up from the apes in Africa so that Darwin might be glorified.  Tattersall admitted, “if you don’t know who the cast is, you will never understand the plot.”  His truism needs to be turned against him.  It’s clear that he and his audience know neither (05/27/2009).
    Look at the illustration of the Sima people in the article.  They look as modern as any native tribe living today.  The differences between their skeletons, brains and proportions and ours pale in comparison to the similarities.  There is no reason in a creation context to deny that such variability between people groups was possible in a much shorter time.  There is more variation between a chihuahua and a St. Bernard (members of one species) than between these “hominins” as the evolutionists call them, and creationists believe all the vast array dog types are descended from one dog pair.  Since we have just seen the evolutionists act recklessly cavalier about species designations (with Hublin willing to lump a huge assortment under one species), there is no further reason to deny calling them all Homo sapiens – human beings (see more of Hublin’s fiction in the 05/13/2009 entry, bullet 4).
    To accept the Darwinian cultural myth, you have to sacrifice your own brain.  You have to believe hugely implausible fictions.  You are required to believe that people with bodies and brains comparable or superior to ours lived on this planet for 100 times all recorded human history and accomplished nothing but grunts and hunts.  They could make excellent superglues for attaching their axes to handles (05/12/2009), and they could use fire for technology (08/14/2009), but could not talk to each other, or build farms and cities, or invent the wheel, or ride horses for half a million years.  Then all of a sudden, bang!  Some mutation occurs, and language is born!  (Believe it or not, that is what Tattersall teaches: see 09/24/2009).  Another 40,000 years passes, with modern humans talking over the campfire.  Then bang!  Agriculture is born, and civilization, with clay tablets discussing trade and commerce.  What miracle story from pagan religion surpasses this in craziness?
    The gang of 100 in Gibraltar may call themselves scientists, but they are false scientists, and false prophets of a false religion.  Why do we listen to them?  The only reason left is for entertainment.
Next headline on:  DarwinEarly ManDating MethodsDumb Ideas
DNA Organization Is Fractal   10/13/2009    
Oct 13, 2009 — How would you pack spaghetti in a basketball (07/28/2004) such that you could get to any strand quickly?  You might try the “fractal globule” method.  You form little knots, or globules, on each strand.  These become like beads on a string.  Now you fold the beads into globules, and then fold those into higher-level globules.  A simple operation makes any spot in super-globule accessible without having to untie any knots.  The globule-of-globules-of-globules ordering of the material recalls those beautiful fractal patterns in geometry that keep repeating a design all the way down.
    A paper in Science suggested that this is how DNA is organized in the nucleus.1  DNA appears to be folded into “fractal globules” possessing a hierarchical organization.  Lieberman-Aiden et al explained:
Various authors have proposed that chromosomal regions can be modeled as an “equilibrium globule”: a compact, densely knotted configuration originally used to describe a polymer in a poor solvent at equilibrium.... Grosberg et al. proposed an alternative model, theorizing that polymers, including interphase DNA, can self-organize into a long-lived, nonequilibrium conformation that they described as a “fractal globule”.  This highly compact state is formed by an unentangled polymer when it crumples into a series of small globules in a "beads-on-a-string" configuration.  These beads serve as monomers in subsequent rounds of spontaneous crumpling until only a single globule-of-globules-of-globules remains.  The resulting structure resembles a Peano curve, a continuous fractal trajectory that densely fills 3D space without crossing itself.  Fractal globules are an attractive structure for chromatin segments because they lack knots and would facilitate unfolding and refolding, for example, during gene activation, gene repression, or the cell cycle.  In a fractal globule, contiguous regions of the genome tend to form spatial sectors whose size corresponds to the length of the original region (Fig. 4C).  In contrast, an equilibrium globule is highly knotted and lacks such sectors; instead, linear and spatial positions are largely decorrelated after, at most, a few megabases (Fig. 4C).  The fractal globule has not previously been observed.
At resolutions currently available, it was not possible to prove that DNA is organized in fractal globules: “We conclude that, at the scale of several megabases, the data are consistent with a fractal globule model for chromatin organization,” they said, adding: “Of course, we cannot rule out the possibility that other forms of regular organization might lead to similar findings.”  Measurements so far, however, are consistent with the fractal model and inconsistent with the equilibrium-globule model.  Their computational methods “confirm the presence of chromosome territories and the spatial proximity of small, gene-rich chromosomes,” they said.  This points to “an additional level of genome organization that is characterized by the spatial segregation of open and closed chromatin to form two genome-wide compartments.”  This is what is consistent with the “fractal globule, a knot-free, polymer conformation that enables maximally dense packing while preserving the ability to easily fold and unfold any genomic locus.”
1.  Lieberman-Aiden et al, “Comprehensive Mapping of Long-Range Interactions Reveals Folding Principles of the Human Genome,” Science, 9 October 2009: Vol. 326. no. 5950, pp. 289-293, DOI: 10.1126/science.1181369.
This is amazing and wonderful to consider.  Not only does DNA contain a vast library of genetic instructions, it is organized in a way that maximizes both packing and accessibility.  There are molecular machines that “know” how to pack DNA this way, but they themselves were coded in DNA.  The whole system is mechanized, optimized and integrated in levels we are only beginning to understand.  There was no mention of evolution in this paper (obviously).
Next headline on:  Cell BiologyGeneticsAmazing Facts
  Gold rush: a geologist determined that large gold deposits could form very rapidly – even within a human lifetime (10/25/2006).  Another geologist reckoned that strata in the Niagara Gorge, a key indicator for geological dating, formed 5 times faster than thought (10/25/2006).

Fossil Said to Enlighten Evolution of the Ear   10/13/2009    
Oct 13, 2009 — Did mammal ear bones evolve?  If so, it was not a straightforward Darwinian progression.  Authors of a paper in Science who announced a new Cretaceous mammal fossil from China had to invoke convoluted explanations to keep the evolution story intact.
    Science Daily shows an artist’s conception of Maotherium, a chipmunk-sized mammal said to have lived 123 million years ago.  The original paper by Ji et al claimed that this fossil “sheds light on the evolution of the definitive mammalian middle ear (DMME).”1  The reader can judge whether a convoluted story of evolution, loss and re-evolution constitutes enlightenment.  Their chart shows a phylogenetic tree of mammals.  Some of the groups have middle ear bones detached from the mandible (the DMME), while others have it attached via Meckel’s cartilage – a slender strip of cartilage that is dissolved in true mammals during embryonic development.  Maotherium and a couple of other oddballs have a partially-ossified Meckel’s cartilage.  These are mixed up in the timeline.  The platypus lacks the cartilage, for instance, but subsequent mammal groups retain it.  There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason for the back-and-forth differences in the fossils.  We do see occasional modern mice and humans that show a partially ossified cartilage that failed to dissolve away during development.
    To explain the data from this and other mammal fossils in evolutionary terms, the authors had to invoke embryonic development, convergent evolution and regulatory network mutations.  They offered a choice: either (1) the common ancestor of mammals already had the DMME and subsequent members lost it, or (2) the common ancestor lacked the DMME and up to three subsequent groups evolved it independently.  They preferred option 1, but the scientists are not sure what this means.  “This can be a new evolutionary feature,” suggested an article in PhysOrg.  “Or, it can be interpreted as having a ‘secondarily [sic] reversal to the ancestral condition,’ meaning that the adaptation is the caused [sic] by changes in development.”  Sounds like opposite interpretations are possible: evolution up, or evolution down.
    Thomas Martin and Irina Ruf (U of Bonn) commented on this paper in the same issue of Science.2  Surprisingly, they began with Haeckel’s old biogenetic law (recapitulation theory) – and even referenced his 1866 book:

During their development, embryos of many species repeat evolutionary stages of their ancestors (1) [this is the Haeckel reference].  For example, in human embryos gill pouches are formed during early developmental stages.  Developmental heterochrony—that is, the differing timing of developmental processes during embryonic growth—can lead to a premature fixation of ancestral character states and the retention of embryonic patterns in the adult.  This process is believed to be an important driving force for evolution (2, 3).  One of the key innovations in mammalian history is the evolution of the mammalian ear, leading to the most efficient hearing among vertebrates.  On page 278 of this issue, Ji et al. (4) use an analysis of the Early Cretaceous mammal Maotherium to show how heterochrony routed the evolution of the definitive mammalian middle ear (DMME).
This paragraph reveals several things.  First, Haeckel’s discredited biogenetic law, like a vestigial organ, still appears in the body of evolutionary literature.  Second, the discredited belief that human embryos have gill slits is still around.  Third, the idea that “fixation of ancestral character states” could paradoxically be called “a driving force for evolution” was not explained; presumably fixation is the opposite of force.  And fourth, calling the mammalian ear a “key innovation” assumes evolution as a cause without demonstrating or explaining it.  This line of thinking “sheds light on evolution” according to Ji et al.  Martin and Ruf took the enlightenment to even higher levels in their last paragraph:
The approach of Ji et al. exemplifies recent studies that have combined paleontology and developmental biology to gain deep insight into evolutionary processes.  These studies have shown that mammalian evolution was much more complex than had been thought a few years ago.  Developmental processes played a central role in evolutionary changes in mammals, as recently shown for patterns of rodent teeth.  The middle ear and mandible of Maotherium demonstrate that besides orderly evolution from primitive to derived characters, reversals to more primitive conditions are also to be expected.  In the case of the DMME, the labile phase with multiple reversals appears to have ended with the evolution of the coiled cochlea in the inner ear of more derived ancestors of therian mammals (marsupials and placentals).
There’s a good dictionary word: labile.  It means, simply, “changeable.”  Simplifying this paragraph, the two profs have told us that looking into bones and embryos brought “deep insight.”  The key insights are (1) evolution is a lot more complex than thought, and (2) evolution goes forward, backward and sideways (12/19/2007) – not (as Darwin thought) from primitive to advanced.  We also learn from this paragraph not to look for evolution in genetic mutations, but in embryonic development and regulatory networks.  There, we are told, happenstance can freeze ancestral states in the adult (assuming the embryo was retracing its evolutionary history, as Haeckel taught).  We were told that multiple reversals can occur while evolution is in its “labile” (changeable) phase.  Somehow, the unexplained appearance of a “coiled cochlea,” one of the most complex and remarkable organs in the mammalian body, put an end to the lability.
    Did the popular reports pick up on these explanatory novelties that differ from classical Darwinian stories?  Not a bit.  The Science Daily article continued the enlightenment theme: “This new remarkably well preserved fossil ... offers an important insight into how the mammalian middle ear evolved.”  The study “sheds light on how complex structures can arise in evolution because of changes in developmental pathways.”  The article briefly described the amazing clarity and efficiency of the mammalian ear, but then quickly returned to evolution: “To evolutionary biologists, an understanding of how the sophisticated and highly sensitive mammalian ear evolved may illuminate how a new and complex structure transforms through evolution.”  How that new and complex structure “arose” was not explained.  One can have faith in evolution, however, by looking at the bones through an imaginary time tunnel.  “The unusual middle ear structure ... is actually the manifestation of developmental gene mutations in the deep times of Mesozoic mammal evolution.”  Deep times or not, a mutation is a chance occurrence without cause or foresight.  These scientists, therefore, just explained “middle ear structure” by chance – i.e., stuff happens.
    No matter the convoluted back-and-forth route it took, and the belief in the chance emergence of functional complexity, evolution survived in these articles as source of enlightenment.  PhysOrg in its write-up repeated the line that this fossil “sheds light” on evolution.  It “illuminates” evolution.  It “elucidates” evolution.  And with illumination, they believe, comes understanding.
1.  Ji, Luo, Zhang, Yuan and Xu, “Evolutionary Development of the Middle Ear in Mesozoic Therian Mammals,” Science, 9 October 2009: Vol. 326. no. 5950, pp. 278-281, DOI: 10.1126/science.1178501.
2.  Martin and Ruf, “Paleontology: On the Mammalian Ear,” Science, 9 October 2009: Vol. 326. no. 5950, pp. 243-244, DOI: 10.1126/science.1181131.
Today’s gnostics and diviners are the evolutionary biologists.  They use fossils and embryos as divination tools to gain secret knowledge and enlightenment.  They know their gill slits and ancestral cartilages better than any Babylonian knew the folds in a cow liver.  They bluff their superiority by showing they can toss around heavy words from the inner sanctum like heterochrony, homoplasy, labile, and impenetrable jargon thickets (to the layman) like “The trechnotherian clade of living therians and spalacotheroids is one of 20 or so Mesozoic mammaliaform clades.”  Once the thicket is cleared, though, one finds a group of fallible humans believing a mystery religion full of miracles.  The exquisite middle ear bones arose.  The coiled cochlea emerged.  The highly efficient system of hearing evolved.  Maybe it didn’t evolve from simple to complex along a straightforward route like Darwin thought, but it evolved.  Stuff happens!  Complex systems emerge from the darkness!  “It evolved” is the password to illumination, to membership in the Darwin Illuminati.*
*Pronunciation: ill, loo, mean, naughty.
Next headline on:  MammalsFossilsEvolutionDumb Ideas
How to Name a Protoplanet   10/12/2009    
Oct 12, 2009 — Pallas has long been classified as an asteroid, but all of a sudden in the news media, everyone is calling it a protoplanet.  How did it get promoted?
    The picture being painted of asteroid 2 Pallas is that of a planetary building block that failed in its attempt to grow into another real planet. called it a “planet wannabee.”  BBC News called it a “Peter Pan rock” that wouldn’t grow up.  And PhysOrg announced confidently, “Study of first high-resolution images of Pallas confirms asteroid is actually a protoplanet.”  That was the occasion; Hubble Space Telescope pictures of Pallas have been organized into a 3-D representation that shows the object is almost spherical.  Spectral data show hydrated minerals that might indicate the presence of water ice in its past.
    On a related topic, New Scientist reported that studies of another asteroid, 24 Themis, reveal the possibility of water ice – a surprise, because the ice should be evaporating at rate of a meter a year.  Looking for a way to explain that, scientists think it may be leftover ice from a parent body that broke up.  The article turned that bad news into good news: a collision suggests that Earth might have received its ocean water from a stray ice-endowed asteroid or comet.
    The BBC article explained the thinking behind the “Peter Pan” designation for Pallas.  “Theory holds that planets grow from aggregations of the dust and rock found circling new-born stars.  Collisions between clumps of material produce progressively bigger objects.
Question.  Why must our minds be forced into the bottom-up picture when interpreting images of space objects?  While it is true that objects of a certain mass can attract other objects and continue to grow, it is not true, despite the BBC claim, that dust and rock will aggregate into protoplanets.  And collisions are more likely to disrupt and fragment bodies than make them grow (think, for example of the recent discovery of the Phoebe Ring around Saturn: 10/07/2009, and what New Scientist admitted about Themis).  Why is it that the news media force these thought patterns on their readers with suggestive headlines and one-sided presentations?  Did they interview Pallas and ask it, “Tell us, why did you decide to stay an adolescent, and not grow up into an adult planet?”
    Let’s think out of the box.  Think top-down.  There was a set of original planets, moons and bodies operating as a well-crafted system.  Since then, they have been perturbing each other, with collisions forming numerous craters.  Some collisions were violent enough to disrupt bodies into asteroids.  Others have been colliding and eroding to form planetary rings.  The top-down view has an advantage: it fits one of the best-known laws of science: the second law of thermodynamics.
    With this view, we can change the terminology in the news reports.  Pallas is no longer to be seen as a planet wannabee.  It’s a casualty of the battlefield.  It isn’t a building block, but wreckage.  It’s not a protoplanet; it’s a post-planet.  It isn’t Peter Pan; it’s the Born Loser.
Next headline on:  Solar SystemDumb Ideas
Conservationists Moan Lack of Hikers   10/11/2009    
Oct 11, 2009 — When hiking and backpacking were popular in the 1970s, the number of environmentalists and conservationists rose accordingly.  Since then, many content themselves to watch TV and remain city-bound.  The internet exacerbated the problem.  Science Daily said, “a recent fall-off in strenuous outdoor endeavors portends a coming decline in the ranks of conservation backers.”
    They’re not talking about simple tourists.  The Nature Conservancy found that “only people who engage in vigorous outdoor sports, like hiking and backpacking, tend later to become supporters of mainline conservation groups, while those who only go sightseeing or fishing do not.”  Their survey, however, only focused on those who supported the liberal environmental activist groups.
    Oliver Pergams (U of Illinois) predicted “tough times ahead” for conservation.  “If you never get out into nature, you’re not going to care about it when you get older,” Pergams said.  “The kids are where it’s at, and we’re losing our kids to other influences -- they don’t go outside.”  See also 02/04/2008.
CEH is a strong supporter of outdoor strenuous activity as advocated by our sister ministry Creation Safaris, and of conservation ethics – which does not equate with “environmentalism” as interpreted by liberals.  Conservatives and Christians should be among the greatest conservationists because they believe in a good Creator.  The Creator is the owner and master of the world.  We are mere stewards.
    One thing these researchers could do is get the Forest Service and National Park Service to loosen up the tight restrictions on getting into the wilderness.  It’s scandalous how difficult it is to get wilderness permits these days.  Stringent quotas are inflicted, party sizes are limited, and those who want to go often have to apply way in advance, fill out forms, pay fees, play the lottery and go through red tape – just for the privilege of enjoying nature.  Then they get out on the trail only to find vast stretches of wilderness with hardly anyone else around.  Government officials need to understand that they don’t own the earth.  Sensible regulation is fine, but not taxing the citizens for something that belongs to them.
    With these hassles, no wonder more people would rather stay home.  Park fees have risen dramatically since the 1970s (from $5 to $20 and higher).  Campground fees are also comparable to what motel fees used to be.  It’s environmental-activist groups that are often behind efforts to close the wilderness.  They view human presence as some kind of disease.  This is self-refuting on two levels; it denies humans are part of nature, and backfires on the environmental movement, like this article said.
    Christian/creationist doctrine has the answer.  Rather than seeing nature as an evolved thing, with no purpose or reason, let’s teach people that nature is a fantastically-complex, interwoven system that was created for a purpose.  Human beings are part of that purpose.  We should stand in awe of the Creator and respect the work of his hands.  He made it for us to use and enjoy and protect.  The Judeo-Christian world view contains the seed of a sustainable conservation ethic.  It doesn’t shoot itself in the foot like the liberal environmental movement must do if it tries to be logically consistent.
    If you would like some inspiration to see what hiking and backpacking can do for your soul, here is a photo gallery to reveal just a taste of what is out there, waiting to be appreciated.  These photos were all taken in one 6-day Creation Safari.  Who could look at beauty like this and want to leave trash or damage any of it?  You can click on any picture for a description; use the back arrow to return.  Click the link for a two-minute escape to reality.
Next headline on:  Politics and EthicsHealthBible and Theology
  Compare how creationists and evolutionists experienced their separate river rafting adventures in the Grand Canyon.  Read the 10/06/2005 report.

Darwinists Celebrate Raunchy Pagan Festival   10/10/2009    
Oct 10, 2009 — The “Burning Man Festival” is an annual event in a remote Nevada desert that draws the weird and wild into an orgy of self-expression.  About 50,000 free thinkers arrive with body paint and outlandish costumes or minimal clothing – often none at all.  Sexual activity, drug use and alcohol consumption is open and uninhibited.  The festival ends with the burning of a huge metal structure in the form of a man (thus the name).  The rite can mean anything one wants it to mean, or nothing at all.  The crowd cleans up after itself and goes home, counting the days till the next annual orgy.  One would think respectable scientists would distance themselves from this theater of the absurd.  This year, however, four Darwinists welcomed it and joined in, and Nature gave them good press, calling it “a creative celebration of evolution.”1
    As a matter of fact, “Evolution” was the theme of this year’s Burning Man Festival.  Ruben Valas and his three colleagues spoke in glowing terms of the unrestrained self-expression.  They envisioned symbols of evolution everywhere:

Fittingly for the 2009 iteration of this social experiment, this year’s theme was ‘Evolution’.  In the 23 years that Burning Man has been replicating, certain behaviours have been selected for by the inhabitants: radical inclusion and tolerance, self-reliance coupled with extreme altruism, a gift economy and a leave-no-trace environmental ethic.  Add intense creativity, conscious participation, ingenuity and a propensity for hedonism, and the outcome is an unparalleled celebration of the human spirit.
But what does the Burning Man rite have to do with evolutionary theory?  Using a slew of evolutionary buzzwords, they tried to explain:
This year, the 12-metre human shape hovered over a thorny forest – a tangled bank – atop a giant double helix.  The DNA molecule provided a powerful artistic meme, representing both life’s capacity to evolve through genetics, and perhaps something that needs to be overcome through non-genetic evolutionary paths.  Viewed from a different angle, the man seemed to float above a field of sea lilies, placing this celebration of human consciousness in an ancient evolutionary context.
    The most striking image at this year’s Burning Man, expressed in various ways across the city, was the famous “ascent of man” progression from great ape through to modern human, with the Burning Man icon representing the next step.
Other evolutionary icons were constructed throughout the festival site.  One can find whatever connections to a world view that one wants.  Here, the very symbol intelligent design scientists embrace, the DNA code and information, became an evolutionary meme.  How a burning human form represents the next step in evolution was not explained.
    Not all the festival was sex and drugs and alcohol.  Some came to learn.  Here’s where the four scientists showed their altruism by imparting wisdom to the unwashed and unclothed:
We created a zone at Burning Man that explored atavismsreappearances of past events in new contexts – in human social evolution.  At our Atavism Camp we created ‘The Spandrel’, a shade structure built with materials salvaged from the ‘boneyard’ at the University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Marine Lab: leftover materials from past experiments, now reborn for a new purpose.  At a symposium entitled ‘Evolution and Society’, we asked how society has interpreted evolution and whether, despite its shadowy past, its principles can guide us to a much-needed behavioural shift towards sustainability.
They did not explain how an unguided process could lead to purpose and guidance, or why they should position themselves as guides in some way.  Nor did they explain why a behavioural shift would be needed, if evolution gave humans and animals their attributes which presumably represent fitness.  Instead, they seemed caught up in the euphoria of hope and change that is evolution:
In the rampant transfer of culture at Burning Man, on a par with endosymbiotic events, we see hope.  Evolution is evoked here on many levels: the adaptation and thriving of the individual in this extreme environment, the various camps as interactive and artistic spaces, the city as it alters over the seven days and from year to year, exhibiting emergent properties of altruism, shared community and free expression.  ‘Burners’ become extremophiles.  With resources scarce in the desert, intense sharing is the most efficient practice, suggesting that humans may yet realize a sustainable evolutionary trajectory.
It is clear they were viewing their fellow humans as no more significant than bacteria in hot springs or animals in the wild.  That being the case, the burning down of man’s image seems portentous.
    Nature included this report in their ongoing series, Darwin 200, celebrating the Darwin Bicentennial.
1.  Hodin, Bishop, Sharpe and Valas, “A creative celebration of evolution,” Nature 461, 733 (8 October 2009) | doi:10.1038/461733a.
Are you surprised that evolutionary scientists will ridicule and repudiate Judeo-Christian tradition in the most scurrilous terms, then turn right around and embrace raw paganism?  You shouldn’t be.  They are fulfilling what Paul said happens when men forget God and reject His word (II Timothy 3).  He warned that “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and imposters will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” (v. 12).  Deceiving and being deceived.  That just about sums it up.  As GK Chesterton said, “When people stop believing in God, they don't believe in nothing -- they believe in anything.”
Next headline on:  Darwin and Evolution
The Biotic Message by Walter ReMine is an unusual book by an unusual author.  A former magician, ReMine understands the art of deception.  He looked into modern evolutionary theory and found illusions and tricks everywhere: in the philosophy of naturalism, origin of life studies, the meaning of natural selection, Darwinian “scenarios”, population genetics, the neutral theory of evolution, systematics (taxonomy and cladistics), the fossil record, punctuated equilibria, hierarchy theory, convergent evolution, embryology, vestigial organs, molecular evolution, alleged fossil sequences, and even cosmology.  Of particular note is his rediscovery of the little-known but never-explained Haldane’s Dilemma (mutations can never lead to major changes), and his treatment of the “shell game” Darwinists play by switching between five different meanings of natural selection.
    This dense and detailed book takes time to wade through, but provides a thorough education into the lingo and ideas of evolutionary theory.  More important, it leaves the reader with plenty of evidence to see evolution as a super-illusion composed of numerous sub-illusions.  Maybe it should be called ev-illusion instead.  But ReMine doesn’t just criticize: he offers a design alternative.  Writing in 1993 before the Intelligent Design Movement gained steam, ReMine devised a “testable alternative to Darwinism” he called “message theory” – a way to detect a message the Creator left embedded in his works: that life was designed by one Designer.
    To learn more about this book and order a copy, go to Saint Paul Science where you can find chapter summaries, reviews, updates, debates, a biography, and other resources.  The home page shows strong endorsements by notable creation and I.D. leaders, including Phillip Johnson, Michael Behe, David Noebel and John Mark Reynolds.  You can also read a review by Don Batten on True Origin; he said, “ReMine understands evolutionary theory better than most evolutionists.”
Next resource of the week:  10/03/2009.  All resources: Catalog.

Chemistry Nobel Celebrates Cell Complexity   10/10/2009    
Oct 10, 2009 — A discovery rivalling the elucidation of the genetic code is the structure of the ribosome – the “molecular machine” that translates the DNA code into proteins.  Untangling the complexity of this multi-part system won three scientists the Nobel Prize for Chemistry (see BBC News).  The winners are Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, Thomas Steitz and Ada Yonath.
    Science Daily included a photo model of the ribosome and described its action:

Inside every cell in all organisms, there are DNA molecules.  They contain the blueprints for how a human being, a plant or a bacterium, looks and functions.  But the DNA molecule is passive.  If there was nothing else, there would be no life.
    The blueprints become transformed into living matter through the work of ribosomes.  Based upon the information in DNA, ribosomes make proteins: oxygen-transporting haemoglobin, antibodies of the immune system, hormones such as insulin, the collagen of the skin, or enzymes that break down sugar.  There are tens of thousands of proteins in the body and they all have different forms and functions.  They build and control life at the chemical level.
    An understanding of the ribosome’s innermost workings is important for a scientific understanding of life.
Some factoids gleaned from the reports: the ribosome contains “hundreds of thousands of atoms.”  New Scientist said that the ribosome includes a “fact-checker” which “explains why nature produces so few faulty proteins.”  Ramakrishnan said, “we knew this was a large molecular machine that translated genetic code to make proteins, but we didn’t know how it worked.”  It took many years of X-ray crystallography and other delicate techniques to determine the structure.  “We still don’t know exactly how it works, but we have made a tremendous amount of progress as a direct result of knowing what it looks like,” he added.
    PhysOrg, echoing an AP story, brought Darwin into the picture – albeit briefly.  “Their work builds on Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution and, more directly, on the work done by James Watson, Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins, who won the 1962 Nobel Prize in medicine for mapping DNA’s double helix, the citation said.”  The article did not elaborate on the Darwin connection.  It appears to be a missing link.
    PhysOrg also reported on an important link in the chain from code to protein that is coming to light: how the transcription process begins.  It’s another complex process still being explored.  Scientists in Munich have found one more step in the initiation process.  Patrick Cramer had this to say: “The findings led us to propose a model of the whole complicated process of transcription initiation, an operation that is of crucial importance in all organisms, because it determines which genes are expressed, and when.”  The process from gene to protein “must be carried out with great precision” and involves “the use of complicated assemblies made up of many different proteins, often referred to as molecular machines.”
    Speaking of gene expression, an article last month on Science Daily revealed an even higher level of complexity: “protein regulators are themselves regulated.”  Helge Grosshans (Friedrich Miescher Institute) explained what he found: “What was formerly conceived of as a direct, straightforward pathway is gradually turning out to be a dense network of regulatory mechanisms: genes are not simply translated into proteins via mRNA.  MicroRNAs control the translation of mRNAs into proteins, and proteins in turn regulate the microRNAs at various levels.
Throwing Darwin’s name into this story was like tossing a fly into perfume.  Get it out as fast as you can.  Darwin had nothing to do with this; to him, a cell was a nearly featureless blob of protoplasm.  No way could he have envisioned any of this complex machinery.  If he had known about it, he might have become a creationist.
    While these scientists are certainly deserving of recognition, the one to praise is the Creator of these amazing systems of information-guided machines.  They are just the latest in a long sequence of scientists who have gradually lifted the veil on the factory only to marvel at what they found.  For a stimulating read, pick up a copy of Stephen Meyer’s Signature in the Cell (see 06/27/2009 Resource of the Week).  You’ll not only learn the fascinating story of how these systems were discovered and how they work; you’ll be convinced forever that modern biochemistry leaves Darwinism defunct in the wastebin of discredited myths.  No attempt to resurrect Charlie’s corpse can succeed with what we have learned.  Let the dead bury their dead.  Follow the living Lord.
Next headline on:  Cell BiologyIntelligent DesignAmazing Facts
How to Copy a Butterfly Wing   10/09/2009    
Oct 9, 2009 — Here’s what you have to do to copy a butterfly wing without destroying it: create compounds using Germanium, Selenium and Stibium.  Combine thermal evaporation and substrate rotation in a low pressure chamber.  Immerse in an aqueous orthophosphoric acid solution to dissolve the chitin.  If you are lucky, you can copy the delicate nanostructure of a butterfly wing without destroying it.
    Why would anyone want to go to all that trouble?  Science Daily explained: “the structures resulting from replicating the biotemplate of butterfly wings could be used to make various optically active structures, such as optical diffusers or coverings that maximise solar cell light absorption, or other types of devices.”  Butterfly wings, and other biological structures like beetle shells and compound eyes of flies, bees and wasps make use of an optical principle called photonic crystals.  They create repeating patterns at the scale of billionths of a meter that refract light in ways that intensify some colors and cancel others depending on the viewing angle.  “Scientists have focused on these biostructures to develop devices with light emitting properties,” the article said.  Their work was published in the journal Bioinspiration & Biomimetics.  See 09/06/2008 for an article last year about this subject.
    Looking forward to other applications of this technique, the article continued: “The compound eyes of certain insects are sound candidates for a large number of applications as they provide great angular vision.”  Think of the possibilities: “miniature cameras and optical sensors based on these organs would make it possible for them to be installed in small spaces in cars, mobile telephones and displays, apart from having uses in areas such as medicine (the development of endoscopes) and security (surveillance).”  On second thought, that last application creates new worries.  It’s not the butterfly’s fault.
    When these researchers can copy a butterfly wing and make it fly, and migrate 1000 miles, and reproduce itself, they’ll really start catching up to nature.  Those who fail can try something simpler: studying bug splat on car windshields.  According to Science Daily, it contains “a treasure trove of genomic diversity.”  You probably didn’t consider, when wiping it off, that it contains the code for building photonic crystals, compound eyes, wings and a lot of other miniature marvels scientists are drooling to imitate.
No mention of evolution in this article, as usual; just intelligent designers getting bio-inspired to bio-imitate intelligent bio-design.  Did you know our prized LEDs are just cheap imitations of what butterflies possessed since creation (see 11/18/2005)?  Let’s hope these biomimetics researchers “really start to appreciate the elegance with which nature put some of these things together” and then, realizing it is illogical to personify nature, give credit to the Great Physicist. 
Next headline on:  BiomimeticsPhysicsTerrestrial ZoologyIntelligent DesignAmazing Facts
  How are radioactive dates determined?  An inside look at the fudging that goes on to get a date: 10/06/2004.

Cosmology: Truth or Style?   10/08/2009    
Oct 8, 2009 — If you follow cosmology, you’re familiar with WMAP, Type-1a supernovae, gravitational lensing, inflation and a host of technical terms.  They seem authoritative because they rely on respectable laws like gravity and general relativity.  In an article in Nature today, however, Richard Massey pictured the whole enterprise as a matter of fashion, not fact.
    In “Dark is the new black,”1 Massey unloaded a philosophical Pandora box in his attempt to explain why gravitational lensing is the hot new thing in cosmology (as opposed to measuring supernovas and acoustic oscillations):

As scientific fashions come and go, the rivalry between the three houses might be more at home on the catwalks of Paris or Milan.  The techniques are at different stages of the same product cycle.  Initial hype draws a flurry of excitement, but when systematic physical flaws show up, sober reflection brings a sheepish look back at the design.  Some methods may be consigned to a dusty drawer.  But the stitch or two of alterations by Schmidt and colleagues has ensured that gravitational lensing will still be on the hot list next season.
Most laymen would have thought science is about searching for truth, not fashion.  Massey had just poked holes in lensing techniques – thus the need for “alterations.”  Prior to that, he poked holes in the fashion of the 1990s – type-1a supernovae.  Remember the hype before the Hubble Space Telescope was launched?  Reporters were assuring the public that the increased accuracy of supernova measurements was going to tell us the age and size of the universe to unprecedented precision.  In hindsight, that was all a fad:
Initial enthusiasm for using supernovae as cosmic distance indicators, and thus as a probe of the Universe’s expansion, garnered vast allocations of time on ground- and space-based telescopes, and triggered the first plans for a dedicated, all-sky successor to the Hubble Space Telescope.  Unfortunately, the explosions were later found to depend on the stars' environment and ingredients, which evolve over cosmic time.  Such effects can be parameterized only to a certain precision, and the technique is falling out of fashion.
There’s that word fashion again.  What confidence can people have that the latest fashion Massey described will not become tomorrow’s joke? – Oh, that’s so 2009.
    Nothing in Massey’s article offered confidence that cosmologists are converging on a correct answer.  For instance, speaking of acoustic oscillations, he said, “Larger ground-based telescopes are currently setting out to measure this effect, but seeds of doubt are already emerging about how faithfully real galaxies trace the original ripples.”  With supernovae out, and ripples in doubt, that left only gravitational lenses in style – provided they get the needed alterations.
    In light of the uncertainties that plagued his article, it would seem astonishing he could begin his article on a triumphal tone.  The reader can gauge whether he was just being satirical here; otherwise, it is well deserving of Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week:
Since the Big Bang, the Universe’s initial expansion has been gradually slowed by the gravitational pull from the mass it contains.  Most of this mass is in the form of invisible and mysterious dark matter.  Today, however, the Universe seems to be re-accelerating under the influence of even weirder stuff dubbed dark energy.  For astronomy funding purposes, ‘dark’ is the new black.  Almost nothing is understood about either dark matter or dark energy – but both are many times more common than visible matter, and their tug of war will shape the fate of the entire cosmos.
If no reliable technique for measuring these parameters has remained “in fashion” for long, a critic might rightly question the factualness of the statements in the first and second sentences.  And if observation is the key ingredient of any science, that critic might also wonder why dark, mysterious unknown stuff (02/28/2008), about which almost nothing is understood, could even become fashionable in the first place in a science lab.
1.  Richard Massey, “Cosmology: Dark is the new black,” Nature 461, 740-741 (8 October 2009) | doi:10.1038/461740a.
The prophet Berman warned us about these false teachers back in 2004 (10/06/2004) and in 2007 (09/29/2007).  What other profession parades its ignorance like this?  What you just learned from Massey’s spilling of the beans is that dark is the new fashion “for astronomy funding purposes.”  Yes, you guys, you ought to take up truck driving (11/07/2007).  Learn the value of real work for honest money, and the need to watch where you’re going.
Next headline on:  CosmologyDumb Ideas
Giant Backward Ring Found Around Saturn   10/07/2009    
Oct 7, 2009 — Saturn has a newly-discovered ring to add to its decor – the largest of all.  It’s so big, it makes Saturn look like a speck in the middle of it.  The ring, located at the orbit of the small outer moon Phoebe, is inclined 27 degrees and revolves backwards around Saturn.  This was announced today by Jet Propulsion Laboratory based on an advance-release paper in Nature.1  The story was picked up by New Scientist, National Geographic, Science Daily and other popular news sources.
    The ring is very wide, but very sparse.  It was discovered by the Spitzer Space Telescope.  It would not be visible in normal light; that’s why the Cassini spacecraft did not observe it.  “The particles are so far apart that if you were to stand in the ring, you wouldn’t even know it,” said co-discoverer Anne Verbiscer.  The very cold “heat” emitted by the dust particles was detected by Spitzer’s infrared camera (see image).  A diagram shows the extent of the ring and its effects on neighboring moons.
    The team believes this dust ring could explain the dark side of Iapetus.  The Phoebe ring is formed by collisions.  Particles large enough to escape immediate ejection by the solar wind slowly spiral in toward Saturn.  Some hit Iapetus like bugs on a windshield.  Without knowing the particle size distribution precisely, the team could not know for sure how long it would take to coat the leading hemisphere of Iapetus with dark material.  They did some calculations:
Assuming (1) that Iapetus intercepts all this material and (2) that the ring population is currently near its long-term average, the accumulation rate is about 40 [micrometers per] Myr-1Over the age of the Solar System,2 deposition at this rate would bury the leading side of Iapetus to a depth of 20 cm.  The population of distant satellites, however, was probably much higher in the past, leading to more collisions, more debris and a cumulative thickness of material deposited on Iapetus that is probably measured in metres.
Photographs of Iapetus by Cassini showed a bright surface under the dark material that was easily excavated by small impacts.  The team believes smaller amounts of the material hit Hyperion (the next moon in) and even Titan.
    According to the paper in Nature, dust motes smaller than 3.5 micrometers will strike Saturn or its rings within 15 years, while those smaller than 1.5 micrometers will be rapidly ejected from the Saturnian system.  Larger particles 40 micrometers and up will begin to precess and form a torus around Saturn within a few thousand years at the orbit of Phoebe comparable to the one seen today.  Dust particles smaller than a centimeter will absorb sunlight and re-radiate it asymmetrically (the Poynting-Robertson effect), causing them to lose energy and spiral into Saturn in about 100,000 years (or less, depending on mutual collisions).  To maintain the ring, the researchers used a working average of 10 micrometers for particle sizes and estimated enough ring material to fill a 1 km diameter crater on Phoebe.  That is probably a lower limit.  Phoebe was seen by Cassini to be pockmarked with craters, some more like 60 km in diameter.
    The scientists compared Phoebe’s new ring with the gossamer rings around the inner moons of Jupiter, Thebe and Amalthea.  The Phoebe ring probably contains thousands of times more mass of material, they estimated.  It is also unique in that it is inclined to the orbit of Saturn and most likely shares Phoebe’s retrograde orbit.  “Although these exotic properties as well as its sheer size make the Phoebe ring unique among known planetary rings,” they said, “similar structures should also adorn the other gas giant planets.”
1.  Verbiscer, Skrutskie and Hamilton, “Saturn's largest ring,” Nature advance online publication 7 October 2009 | doi:10.1038/nature08515.
2.  Assumed to be 4.5 billion years (4.5 x 109 yr or 4.5Gyr).
This would make a good research project for someone not enslaved by the received wisdom on the age of the solar system.  Can this ring be sustained for 4.5 billion years?  Some uncertainties make it hard to constrain a definitive answer: the particle size distribution and impact rate among them.  Still, it should be possible to make a case for whether or not the Phoebe ring is a transient phenomenon we are “lucky” to observe now, or is sustainable in steady state for billions of years.  One must consider sources (factors that add material) and sinks (factors that remove material).
    The mass of dark material on Iapetus can provide additional information.  It should be possible to estimate the amount of dark material that would accumulate on Iapetus over 4.5 billion years given the ring mass as it is now.  Unfortunately, not knowing the particle size distribution allows for large differences in the answer.  Small particles are eliminated quickly.  Presumably, centimeter size particles and larger ones could orbit in the ring much longer before spiraling in.  One would also have to estimate the rate of collisions within the ring.  These would fragment the particles and eliminate them more rapidly.  It might be possible to work out upper and lower limits for the accumulated deposits with reasonable assumptions.  It would seem that much more material would have accumulated over billions of years than is observed now on Iapetus.
    Another source of information may come in 2014 when the James Webb Space Telescope is launched.  Its infrared cameras could follow up on Spitzer’s observations to determine if there is any short-term variability in the ring.  With the data currently available, and given other age-shattering discoveries in the Saturn system thus far (e.g., 03/26/2008, 02/02/2009) would anyone like to predict that the Phoebe ring is unsustainable for billions of years without ample application of theory-rescuing devices? (e.g., 02/06/2006, 12/13/2007).
Next headline on:  Solar SystemDating MethodsPhysics
Dino Clawprints in the Sandstones of Time   10/06/2009    
Oct 6, 2009 — Some of the largest dinosaur tracks ever found have been uncovered in France.  The BBC News has a picture of tracks nearly 5 feet across made by sauropods that weighed 30 tonnes.  Tracks of ornithischian dinosaurs in South Africa are being analyzed for clues to dinosaur behavior, reported Science Daily.  The team believes that tracks are sometimes more useful than skeletons.  They can provide information about locomotion, stance, behavior and direction.
    Speaking of skeletons, a “bizarre” tyrannosaurid was discovered in Mongolia.  Science Daily reported that the meat-eater had similarities to its giant relative but was more gracile and long-snouted.  “A new wrench has been thrown into the family tree of the tyrannosaurs,” the article said, because this species “shared the same environment with larger, predatory relatives.”  It also means that “there is a lot more anatomical and ecological variety in tyrannosaurs than we previously thought.”  Some news reports like New Scientist call it a “ballerina” of the dinosaur family.  The animal, named Alioramus, had pneumatized bones like other tyrannosaurs.  Mark Norell said, “This fossil reveals an entirely new body type among tyrannosaurs, a group we thought we understood pretty well.
    The South Africa footprint article and the Alioramus articles mention bird evolution.  New Scientist stated matter-of-factly, “Alioramus had air sacs running through the vertebrae in its neck and spine which it used for ultra-efficient breathingModern birds – descendants of the order of dinosaurs to which tyrannosaurs belong – are similarly designed.”  That article failed to say that the order of dinosaurs was the saurischian (lizard-hipped) group, not the ornithischian (bird-hipped) group.  It also neglected to mention a recent article that said the moving hips of dinosaurs would have been incompatible with the one-way breathing of birds (see 06/09/2009).  The trackway article hinted at the theory that dinosaurs learned flight by holding out their arms running up slopes (see 12/22/2003) – a cursorial hypothesis that runs counter to the latest feathered-dinosaur stories (see 10/01/2009).  The reporter also speculated, “But because their lineage is believed to have given rise to birds, the possibility that their gripping claws played a key role is interesting to consider,” because it would be necessary to grip the ground of an incline while running.
Update 10/09/2009: National Geographic News raised the possibility that “a third of dinosaur species never existed.”  Members of a species may undergo dramatic morphological changes during maturation.  These could be misinterpreted by paleontologists as separate species.
The bones and tracks are real, but the stories are fake.  Round up the storytellers and help them learn science.  The scientific method does not include making up stories of chance miracles and playing games of connect the dots.  If they want to do real science, they should run up slopes in crampons with their arms outstretched and see if flight evolves.
Next headline on:  FossilsDinosaursBirdsEvolution
  Geologists call for a time out: the 10/09/2003 entry revealed some machinations of geologists in their theory construction that should cause perceptive readers to wonder about the reliability of the confident-sounding dates they assign to geological eras.

Philosophy Puts Brakes on Simplistic Science   10/05/2009    
Oct 5, 2009 — Three stories touching on philosophy of science were reported recently.  They show that simplistic ideas, and even terms deployed, can be misleading.  That’s why philosophers still have a role in curbing the pretensions of scientists, and clarifying scientific issues and terms lest policy-makers and the public get wrong ideas.

  1. Are all invasive species bad?:  We are taught to think that “alien” animals or plants introduced into another country pose a threat.  Often they do, but Mark Davis at New Scientist reminded readers that the honeybee was introduced into the Americas.  He said, “you may be surprised to learn that only a few per cent of introduced species are harmful.”  The really bad cases, like the brown tree snake in Guam that killed off most native birds, and the rabbit in Australia, tend to make the most news and noise, but “many people cling to the idea that non-native species are uniformly undesirable,” he said.  The “paradigm” of “invasive species” is changing: 
    Scientific disciplines are often guided at their outset by a few simple ideas.  However, as the field matures, participants typically recognise the complexity of their subject and the need for a more nuanced approach.  This is what is happening in invasion biology.
        Philosophers, social scientists and some invasion biologists have challenged the choice of language used to describe non-native species and have argued that conclusions about them sometimes rest more on prejudice than science.  Others have criticised the preference for native species as scientifically unsound, arguing that invasive species do not represent a separate category, evolutionarily, biogeographically or ecologically.  Others have pointed out flaws in the claim that non-native species are the second-greatest extinction threat after habitiat [sic] destruction.  In fact, with the exception of insular environments such as islands and lakes, there are very few examples of extinctions being caused by non-native species.
    Davis was quick to point out that these ideas do not minimize the need to carefully monitor invasive species.  “Make no mistake,” he clarified; “some introduced species have caused great harm.”  If a snake on a plane made it to Hawaii, for instance, many native birds would be severely threatened.  To Davis, though, this does not justify “message enhancement” (exaggeration) as a scare tactic.  Calling species “alien” or “invasive” or “exotic” fails to recognize the global nature of the ecology.  “As long as the harm is real,” he said, “it should not be necessary for us to overgeneralise, exaggerate, use incendiary language or misrepresent data in order to attract attention.”
  2. Do stem cells exist?  Amateur philosophers of science may perk up at a story in Science Daily that asked, “Is ‘stem cell’ concept holding back biology?”  The problem, according to Arthur Lander publishing in BioMed Central, is that “after 45 years, we are unable to place the notion of ‘stemness’ on a purely molecular footing.”  It doesn’t mean scientists can’t or won’t, “But it does give one cause to wonder whether something we are doing needs to change, either in the question we are asking or the way we are approaching it.”
        Perhaps “stemness” is a property of biological systems, not individual cells, Lander suggested.  Surprisingly, he referred to the standard philosophical story about phlogiston as an example of how scientific concepts can mislead research.  Don’t tell this story to California voters.  The bankrupt government is still wondering where to get the $3 billion voters approved for stem cell research after a hyped initiative promised all kinds of miracle cures.  The upside of phlogiston theory is that it did eventually lead scientists to a correct understanding of oxygen.  Maybe a systems approach to stemness “will continue to light the path toward understanding,” Lander hoped.
  3. Is there a scientific method?:  Gary J. Nabel of NIH wrote a Perspective piece called “The Coordinates of Truth” in Science.1 
    The scientific method has driven conceptual inquiry for centuries and still forms the basis of scientific investigation.  Yet, the hypothesis-based research paradigm itself has received scant attention recently.  Here, I propose an alternative model for this paradigm, based on decision, information, and game theory.  Analysis of biomedical research efforts with this model may provide a framework for predicting their likely contributions to knowledge, assessing their impact on human health, and managing research priorities.
    But what is the scientific method?
    The scientific method provides a rationale upon which scientific principles are developed, tested, and validated or rejected.  For any natural phenomenon, there is a fundamental solution or truth that explains its basis.  This solution exists in nature, regardless of whether the observer formulates the best hypothesis to explain it.  It may thus be viewed as a set of coordinates in a multidimensional space: the coordinates of truth (see the first figure, panel A).  By proposing hypotheses and testing their statistical validity, the hypothesis-driven experiment allows testing and validation of a scientific principle.
    Nabel seems to be helping himself to the correspondence theory of truth and to the concept of truth itself.  He also seems to suggest that all scientists and philosophers are in agreement about the scientific method.  He did mention the “paradigm shift” terminology of Thomas Kuhn and talked about anomalies and falsification, but the tone of his article was progressive – as if following the scientific method necessarily guides science to the truth.
        Nabel contrasted hypothesis generation with hypothesis testing.  “Hypothesis generation can create an organized body of knowledge from which insight can emerge,” he said.  This seems to confuse data with knowledge and interpretation with insight.  He gave examples such as the Human Genome Project and the CERN Large Hadron Collider.  Such projects are not testing a hypothesis so much as gathering data from which hypotheses can be generated.  The other approach is to start with a hypothesis and run experiments to test it.  He suggested both approaches are valid in science but need to be balanced against each other.  It may be surprising to readers that the “scientific method” does not factor much in peer review or funding decisions:
    These considerations have implications for scientific funding.  For example, the investigator-initiated grants at the National Institutes of Health allow investigators to propose and test any hypothesis as long as the rationale is justified to a set of peers.  The process begins with the vision of the individual scientist and ends with a judgment of its scientific merit.  Recently, changes have been proposed for rating these proposals, stressing their impact, but the evaluation remains largely subjective.  The meaning of “impact” is ill defined, and there is no systematic way to assign value.  In this and many other systems for awarding grants, the scientific community does not take full advantage of the scientific method to prioritize its research portfolio.  For example, formal evaluation of hypotheses is not an inherent part of the review.  Also, there have been few criteria by which to judge and prioritize grants for hypothesis-generating research.
    Subjective human opinion, therefore, plays a big role in what is valued in science.  “The value of hypothesis-generating efforts should be analyzed critically for the pertinence of the methodology to the question, the overall significance of the problem, and the likelihood of generating a viable and high-impact hypothesis,” he said.  But if each of those criteria are all subjective, whose pet project ends up with the money?  Nabel did not get down to answering that question.  He just ended optimistically, “A modern and rigorous view of the hypothesis-driven research paradigm can similarly help to consolidate a foundation that fundamentally transforms biology and medicine.”  It would seem this article begs more questions than it answers.

1.  Gary J. Nabel, “Philosophy of Science: The Coordinates of Truth,” Science, 2 October 2009: Vol. 326. no. 5949, pp. 53-54, DOI: 10.1126/science.1177637.
Everyone does philosophy, but not everyone does it well.  So said Greg Bahnsen, a Christian philosopher of science and theologian.  Even saying “I don’t have a philosophy” is a statement of philosophy.  Scientists are often better at exposing flaws in others’ research than in thinking consistently and logically themselves.  That’s why philosophers of science, who ask the questions that scientists don’t ask, and who strive for clarity and consistency, are often considered gadflies and troublemakers by the science department.  When billions of dollars of research funds are at stake, though, the importance of clarifying the terms, values, and logical coherence of scientific claims must be examined critically.  With limited resources it also becomes important to identify which scientific questions are worth investigating.
    One of the best skills you can develop to see through the pretensions of triumphalist science is the ability to detect question-begging arguments.  “Begging the question” is the logical fallacy of arguing for a conclusion that has already been assumed in the premise.  An example would be claiming evolution is a fact because the Origin of Species says so, or claiming materialism is true because scientists only work with particles and forces.  It amounts to “helping oneself” to concepts without paying the price.  Gary Nabel talked about the “coordinates of truth” in his article without defining truth.  Moreover, he assumed that truth is “out there” in the world, and that we can “discover” it by the “scientific method.”  That begs all kinds of questions.  If he were among a group of Christians, he could probably get away with it.  Materialists, though, would be hard pressed to explain these concepts emerging from fundamental particles and forces.  Postmodernists, also, would be quick to ask, “whose truth?”  Because most readers of Science are positivists or scientific realists, who believe the public should fund their projects, he can probably get away with his simplistic views in that forum.  He would face a barrage of questions in the philosophy, theology and political science departments.
    The stem-cell and invasive-species articles remind us that simplistic answers to complex questions can be misleading.  Take the current political hubbub about human-caused global warming.  Much of the discussion revolves around “average global temperature.”  Is there such a thing?  How would you go about measuring it?  At every point on earth, temperatures fluctuate from hour to hour, day to day, year to year, decade to decade.  Do we measure temperature at the south pole, or Death Valley, or Rio de Janeiro?  OK, you say, we take thousands of measurements all over the globe.  But humans cannot possibly have thermometers at every point on the earth’s surface.  Selection effects loom large in the discussion.  How many points are enough?  Are some points given more weight than others?  Do we take the measurements at ground level, or at 10 feet or 100 feet off the ground?  Do we use the arithmetic average, or the median, or the mode?  Do we clip off anomalous measurements?  How many significant figures do we use?  What statistical methods and error analyses are being performed on the raw data?  Do we use a mercury thermometer, an alcohol thermometer, a thermocouple, a bimetallic strip, or a laser thermometer?  If we choose one, or combine them, are they responding to the same external reality?  What’s the effect of humidity and wind on the measurements?  What uncontrolled influences, like the amount of pavement below the thermometer or proximity to urban pollution, could be altering the readings?  Have all the thermometers been calibrated to each other?  Have all the humans who take and record the measurements received the proper training?  Are any of them liars, incompetents, or members of groups with a political agenda?  What does the term “temperature” signify, anyway?  What is its relation to theories about climate change?
    Here we have taken a simple example, “the temperature of the earth,” and asked just a few questions that have turned it into a philosophical mess.  A scientist might respond that a single station, like the Antarctica thermometer, has been the same instrument used for decades and it shows a clear trend of warming.  Even so, many of the same questions could be asked – and additional ones, too.  There’s no way to eliminate all subjectivity that goes into measurement and interpretation.  The only way to provide protection for taxpayers who end up funding research and paying for political decisions made on scientific consensus is vibrant, active debate.  That debate has to include researchers outside the paradigm.  History shows that consensus science is no guarantee of truth.  Before you get stuck with the bill foisted on you by gullible politicians swallowing consensus science, learn to ask tough questions – and demand answers that don’t beg the question.  Now hear this.
Next headline on:  Politics and Ethics
Weekend Roundup   10/04/2009    
Oct 4, 2009 — Here are 20 short stories worth mentioning that have been piling up on our docket.  A photo story was added for an encore.
  1. Outboard motor observersPhysOrg reported on students at University of Illinois who are devising better ways to watch bacterial flagella at work.  Physics prof Ido Golding gave two reasons this is interesting.  “First, the elaborate mechanics of bacterial swimming ‘tell you a lot about biomechanics,’ he said.  And second, ‘it serves as a paradigm for the way living cells process information from their environment.’”
  2. Plant oil:  The Agricultural Research Services is looking at soybean, corn, canola, camelina, crambe and pennycress to produce high-quality “biobased additives” from plants instead of petroleum.  You might find some of these products in next-generation greases, engine oils, and hydraulic, transmission and drilling fluids.  Why?  Not only are they biodegradable, they “meet all the standard criteria for a top-notch, antifriction, antiwear additive—namely, impressive viscosity and liquidity, high flashpoint, and stability despite temperature extremes.”  The engineers see no downside to the plant-based technology.  See Science Daily for details.
  3. Corny plywood:  Leftover corn germ shouldn’t all be tossed out or fed to the pigs after the oil is extracted.  Why?  It can reinforce plywood.  Science Daily reported about “corn glue” that is being tested by the Agricultural Research Service.  Perhaps you didn’t realize that “The conventional extender for most plywood glues is industrial-grade wheat flour,” the article said.  The corn extract so far is performing just as well.  The plant-based material could cut manufacturing costs.
  4. Power plant:  Ted Betley of Harvard wants to learn another lesson from plants: power production.  “Why leave it to nature?” PhysOrg reported about his efforts to reproduce photosynthesis artificially – “understanding nature’s intimate photosynthetic secrets” that may become useful on an industrial scale.  “Can we at least take some of those simple [natural] design principles and try to make an artificial system that allows us some of those same types of reaction sequences?” Betley asked.  “Up to this point, this is something chemists aren’t good at.”  It will be a daunting task to understand the “enormously complex molecular manipulations that nature has engineered in photosynthesis,” the article said.  For now he’s trying to understand the role of manganese in the plant’s reaction center.
  5. Cheetahs for the disabledNational Geographic published an interesting story about how studies of cheetah legs may lead to better prosthetic devices for the disabled.  Professor Alan Wilson (Royal Veterinary College) “hopes that by seeing this sort of research in action more people will be enthused and attracted into science.”
  6. Whale boat:  Inspired by the self-cleaning skin of whales, the U.S. Department of Defense is supporting research into boats that will exude a slimy skin that prevents barnacles from attaching.  New Scientist reported that hulls of ships with the technology will also glide through the water with less drag.
  7. Artificial insect:  Learning more about locust flight may help engineers build flying machines that can perfect the “ultimate surveillance machine: an artificial insect,” reported New Scientist.  High-speed flash photography of locusts in a wind tunnel is helping researchers at Oxford figure out the proper wing shape and beat pattern.  Kids might profit from the research, too.  “Imagine sitting in your living room doing aerial combat with radio-controlled dragonflies,” one of the team said.  Meanwhile, Cornell researchers are finding out that flapping wings are more efficient than fixed wings, according to PhysOrg.
  8. Think like a fish:  Some cute robots adorn a story reported by the BBC News.  Nissan is developing robots that “think like fish.”  Have you ever wondered how fish in schools that dart about keep from crashing into one another?  That’s what engineers would like to figure out.  It might help produce cars with automatic collision avoidance systems.  A principal engineer said, “We, in a motorised world, have a lot to learn from the behaviour of a school of fish in terms of each fish’s degree of freedom and safety.”  According to the BBC, this is the second time Nissan has modeled robots on the animal kingdom.  Last year it was bumblebees that gave them ideas for the BR23C robot.
  9. Dimmer switch:  Electric fish have a dimmer switch.  Within 2 to 3 minutes, the fish can adjust their sodium channel activity downward.  This can conserve the energy required to produce electric jolts for stunning prey, or avoid signaling predators that may be lurking about.  Live Science, said, “The machinery is there to make this dramatic remodeling of the cell, and it does so within minutes from the time that some sort of stimulus is introduced in the environment.”
  10. Amber alert:  Time to rewrite the textbooks (again) about the origin of flowering plants.  PhysOrg reported that new findings about the chemistry of amber (fossilized resin) contradict the evolutionary story.  Sargent Bray, a PhD candidate at Macquarie University, found that “ambers contained in coal deposits which predated the occurrence of flowering plants by hundreds of millions of years contained chemicals most similar to what is seen in ambers produced by modern flowering plants.”  Bray added, “The chemistry was totally unexpected because flowering plants are not established in the fossil record until the Cretaceous period – around 125 million years ago,” yet the coal deposits, from the Carboniferous period, are assumed to be 300-350 million years old.  Somehow this did not falsify the geological column or evolution.  “Rather, the amber’s chemical signature provides us with a clue as to the early evolution of flowering plants, he said.”  How could that be?  Bray explained the anomaly by claiming that the biology of flowering plants must have been starting 125 million years earlier than previously thought.
  11. Titan your molecular models:  Xibin Gu and Seol Kim at the University of Hawaii are trying to figure out Titan’s weird atmospheric chemistry, Science Daily reported.  So far they think they’ve got triacetylene down.  “The study demonstrated for the first time that a sensible combination of laboratory simulation experiments with theory and modeling studies can shed light on decade old unsolved problems crucial to understand the origin and chemical evolution of the solar system,” the article said.  “The researchers hope to unravel next the mystery of the missing ethane lakes on Titan – postulated to exist for half a century, but not detected conclusively within the framework of the Cassini-Huygens mission.”
  12. Follow the Messenger:  The MESSENGER spacecraft made its third of three passes by Mercury, but unfortunately suffered a glitch near closest approach that put it into safe mode. showed a good picture of the surface that made it down before the trouble.  The spacecraft reaches its final orbit of the inner planet in March 2011.
  13. Turtle navigation:  Susie, the first green sea turtle fitted with a transmitter, is delighting scientists and school children tracking her path through the seas.  PhysOrg reported on work by marine biologists at the University of Exeter who are managing the project.  “Suzie’s trip so far has been amazing” they said as they watched her travel in a straight shot 820 km from the Caicos Islands to the British Virgin Islands. 
  14. Dragon navigation:  Where did Komodo dragons come from?  The new answer is Australia, Science Daily announced that “Komodo Dragons Most Likely Evolved in Australia, Dispersed to Indonesia.”  This is based on fossil varanids that are “virtually identical” to the Komodo dragon.  But where is the evolution?  The article did not say how such monsters evolved.  In fact, the record is “dispelling the long-held scientific hypothesis that it evolved from a smaller ancestor in isolation on the Indonesian islands.”  Moreover, “It was previously thought that the Komodo Dragon evolved its large size as a response to insular island processes, lack of carnivore competition, or as a specialist hunter of pygmy elephants called Stegodon.”  If it came from identical creatures in Australia, that’s not evolution – that’s just migration.  In addition, “Comparisons between fossils and living Komodo dragons on Flores show that the lizard’s body size has remained relatively stable since then” – a period of major change in the ecology of the islands.  It sounds like the evolutionists answered neither how the Komodo evolved, or how it got to Indonesia from Australia.
  15. Algae of the fittest:  Scientists are wondering why algae did so well after the extinction event that took out the dinosaurs.  PhysOrg reported on MIT scientists puzzled on how microscopic algae could bounce back so quickly – in 100 years or less – after the reputed Cretaceous-Tertiary Event.  The article suggests several possible scenarios.  “Dinosaur-killing Space Rock Barely Rattled Algae” was the headline on Live Science about Michael Schirber’s report in Astrobiology Magazine.  He said, “The fossil record is not very clear on this issue, which is why some scientists are looking for other biological clues.”
  16. Dino Hatches the EggPhysOrg reported on hundreds of dinosaur egg nests that have been uncovered in India.  The nests are believed to have been trapped under the enormous volcanic ash eruptions that formed the Deccan Traps.  All the eggs were unhatched and infertile.  How big is a dinosaur egg?  Answer: depends on the species.  These were about 5-8 inches in diameter.  The nests were about four feet across.  Meanwhile, National Geographic is speculating that the mighty T. rex was brought down to extinction by pigeon parasites.
  17. Furry flyers:  A pterosaur found in inner Mongolia appears to have been covered in fuzzy, hair-like fibers.  New Scientist said “Children’s dinosaur books will have to be rewritten – or at least redrawnyet again.”
  18. Color tricks:  Are objects really the color they seem to us, or is color a property of our eyes and brains?  That question was explored in an article in Science Daily.  Researchers at the University of Chicago are finding that our biology has a lot to do with it.  A caption explains, “The brain’s neural mechanisms keep straight which color belongs to what object, so one doesn’t mistakenly see a blue flamingo in a pink lake.  But what happens when a color loses the object to which it is linked?  Research shows for the first time, that instead of disappearing along with the lost object, the color latches onto a region of some other object in view.”  The brain has to take into account numerous projects of an object that are stored in different neurons, in a process called “neural gluing,” so that we perceive a unified object.  The brain can get into a “musical chairs” problem where the brain perceives two colors, like red and green, for instance, but only sees one object.  A “surprising result” of experiments is that “the ‘disembodied red,’ which originated from the unseen horizontal pattern in one eye, glued itself to parts of the consciously seen vertical pattern from the other eye.”  This all seems automatic to us, but Steven Shevell said the brain has a complex task to do.  “Every basketball has a color.  Every shirt has a color, but the brain must link each object's color to its shape” – and that’s in high speed motion if his example reminds you of watching a basketball game.
  19. Dark times for dark matter:  “Galaxy study hints at cracks in dark matter theories,” announced New Scientist.  An analysis of 28 galaxies contradicts standard thinking about dark matter.  Readers may want to find out what prompted an astronomer at University of St Andrews to exclaim, “There is absolutely no rule in physics that explains these results.”
  20. Hand me a cometAstrobiology Magazine is entertaining a theory that comets helped give life a hand – the one-handed amino acids that make up all proteins, that is.  The hypothesis only leads to a very slight excess of one hand over the other.  The article contained the obligatory image of the Miller spark-discharge apparatus.  But it did acknowledge that the famous experiment appears to be irrelevant: “Since that pioneering work, researchers have come to believe that Earth’s early atmosphere was in fact more oxidative, containing mostly nitrogen and carbon dioxide.”  That’s behind the desire to get amino acids in by special delivery in comets which could also bring water to the otherwise dry early earth.  The article put any discoveries of short chains of one-handed amino acids in future tense.
Picture Highlight: the new Herschel Space Telescope, is seeing first light and creating dramatic images of gas clouds in the Milky Way.  The telescope is “revealing intense, unexpected activity,” the press release from the European Space Agency said.  “The dark, cool region is dotted with stellar factories, like pearls on a cosmic string.”  Click the link for the gem of a picture; see also the BBC News story.
One lesson that stands out from this diverse list of scientific research projects is that most scientists, in their actual work, study design in nature.  Projects like monitoring sea turtles in their migration, experimenting on the eye, observing bacterial flagella, and developing better lubricants from plants owe nothing to Darwinism.  When evolution is mentioned, it usually revolves around some group of evolutionary biologists scratching their heads, trying to fit some unexpected data into their world view (e.g., the amber story, the Komodo dragon story, the algae bounce-back story).  Let’s save the Darwinists scalp damage by excusing them from the lab and making them take up something useful, like construction (using plywood with corn glue).
Next headline on:  BiomimeticsCell BiologyPhysicsPlantsTerrestrial ZoologyEvolutionSolar SystemMarine BiologyDinosaursFossilsAstronomyHuman BodyOrigin of LifeIntelligent DesignAmazing Facts
Incredible Creatures That Defy Evolution is a delightful trio of films by Dr. Jobe Martin produced by Exploration Films.  Perfect for the family and Christian school, these interesting and fun films showcase a zoo full of amazing animals – big and small, familiar and unfamiliar.  It’s also the story of an evolutionist who was challenged by the evidence to consider creation.  Dr. Martin, who was personal dentist to President Lyndon Johnson, followed the evidence and became a creationist and devout Bible-believing Christian.  His own personal enthusiasm for the wonders of the animal world shows through each episode.  The short-module arrangement makes the films convenient for teachers.  They’re fun to watch over and over
    Who wouldn’t be interested in learning more about elephants and giraffes and penguins and hummingbirds and lions?  From the dog and the horse to birds and insects you probably never heard of, their stories are told by Dr. Martin and field host David Hames with great photography and amazing facts.  Dr. Martin has uncovered some facts that are little known even by experts.  The evidence speaks for itself: these animals could never have evolved by chance and natural selection; they were designed.  The films go beyond mere intelligent design.  They present the God of the Bible as Creator, and also share Martin’s own testimony of the power of the gospel in his own life.  Your life will be happier if Dr. Martin’s effervescent love and enthusiasm for creation rubs off on you.  Browse the science catalog at Exploration Films for books, study guides and other resources available to accompany the films.
Next resource of the week:  09/26/2009.  All resources: Catalog.

Step Aside Lucy; It’s Ardi Time   10/02/2009    
Oct 2, 2009 — A new fossil human ancestor has taken center stage.  Those who love Lucy, the australopithecine made famous by Donald Johanson (and numerous TV specials), are in for a surprise.  Lucy is a has been.  Her replacement is not Desi Arnaz, but is designated Ardi, short for Ardipithecus ramidus – the new leading lady in the family tree.  Actually, she has been around for years since her discovery in Ethiopia in 1992.  It has taken Tim White and crew 15 years to piece together the bones that were in extremely bad condition.  But now, Ardi has made her debut and is stealing the limelight.
    The special issue of Science published this week had no less than 16 articles on this one fossil – an exceptional amount of coverage for any topic.  In the lead Editorial,1 Bruce Alberts proclaimed, “Darwin was certainly right” to predict that science would solve the mystery of human origins.  Popular science reporters, by habit, are going ape with “Read all about it!” headlines announcing the latest saga of human evolution.2  But wait – wasn’t Lucy the last word back in the 1970s?
    A completely new paradigm is emerging alongside the unveiling of Ardi.  The scoop is this: Lucy had nothing to do with our family tree after all.  She and her kinds were on a separate branch that did not lead to us.  In fact, all chimpanzees and great apes are now on different branches.  There goes a lot of storytelling.  The century and a half since Darwin commonly portrayed humans as higher up the family tree on a continuous lineage with chimpanzees our nearest living relatives.  Not any more.  Now we are to see all the great apes as highly-evolved (“derived”) mammals on separate branches from a more distant common ancestor that was probably more like small monkeys.  Getting tossed out with the housecleaning are some other popular notions: that humans came down out of the trees to hunt in the savannah (Ardi appears to have inhabited a woodland), and that hominids remained on the ground (it appears Ardi still had the feet for tree grasping).
    Most important, the new paradigm changes the mechanism of evolution itself.  In classical neo-Darwinism, traits evolve in a stepwise fashion through mutations and natural selection (the “referential model”).  Some evolutionists are now moving toward a more nuanced view called “adaptive suites.”  These are groups of traits that emerge together and evolve together as a package.  C. Owen Lovejoy (Kent State U) explained this idea in his Science article “Reexamining Human Origins in Light of Ardipithecus ramidus.”3  (Since reporting on all 16 articles about Ardi would be excessive, we will focus on this one article that surveys the broad issues.)  Before proposing his adaptive suite model, Lovejoy described how wrong all his predecessors had been:

An essential goal of human evolutionary studies is to account for human uniqueness, most notably our bipedality, marked demographic success, unusual reproductive physiology, and unparalleled cerebral and technological abilities.  During the past several decades, it has been routinely argued that these hominid characters have evolved by simple modifications of homologs shared with our nearest living relatives, the chimpanzee and bonobo.  This method is termed referential modeling.  A central tenet has been the presumption (sometimes clearly stated but more often simply sub rosa) that Gorilla and Pan are so unusual and so similar to each other that they cannot have evolved in parallel; therefore, the earliest hominids must have also resembled these African apes.  Without a true early hominid fossil record, the de facto null hypothesis has been that Australopithecus was largely a bipedal manifestation of an African ape (especially the chimpanzee).  Such proxy-based scenarios have been elevated to common wisdom by genomic comparisons, progressively establishing the phylogenetic relationships of Gorilla, Pan, and Homo.
Out with the old referential model, in with the new adaptive suites model:
An alternative to referential modeling is the adaptive suite, an extrapolation from optimization theory.  Adaptive suites are semiformal, largely inductive algorithms that causally interrelate fundamental characters that may have contributed to an organism’s total adaptive pattern.  One for the horned lizard (Phyrnosoma platyrhinos) of the southwestern U.S. serves as an excellent example (Fig. 1).  For this species, the interrelation between a dietary concentration on ants and its impact on body form imply, at first counterintuitively, that elevation of clutch size and intensification of "r" strategy (maximize the number of offspring by minimizing paternal care) are the ultimate consequences of this specialization.
So when we look at upright human bodies with all their specializations, we are to see them as suites of adaptations that evolved together out of some initial lifestyle change.  In the case of the horned lizard, some normal-looking lizard ancestor took on a taste for ants.  That made it consume more of its new prey because of the large amounts of chitin that had to be digested.  This, in turn, changed its body plan and made it more fat and sluggish.  Now it had to evolve armor (spines and horns) and camouflage for protection from predators.  So from one lifestyle change, a whole suite of adaptations evolved together.
    What, then, was the stimulus that made some unknown monkey begin its path to humanity?  Lovejoy looked at Ardi for clues.  The discoverers claim three traits stand out: (1) less sexual dimorphism (body size differences between males and females), although this is speculative; (2) reduced canine teeth; and (3) evidence Ardi walked upright (though this is disputed).  To him, this means the common ancestor changed its reproductive habits.  Sparing our readers the lurid details Lovejoy discussed about genitalia shapes and sizes, promiscuous behaviors and Darwinian concepts like “sperm competition” and “ovulatory crypsis”) he deduced that Ardipithecus had a suite of adaptations that would emerge in full flower in the human race – monogamy, straight teeth and upright stance.  Maybe it began as a sex-for-food deal.  This required explaining away some of the peculiar characteristics of male genitalia, but whatever: the adaptive suite is now the preferred explanatory model.  Along with the human adaptive suite came big brains, tool use, fire, language, spear-throwing, food hauling, hugging, and eventually, abstract mathematics and music.
    Lovejoy concluded that Lucy was an unfortunate detour in our understanding of where we came from:
Even as its fossil record proliferated, however, Australopithecus [Lucy and her friends] continued to provide only an incomplete understanding of hominid origins.  Paradoxically, in light of Ardipithecus, we can now see that Australopithecus was too derived—its locomotion too sophisticated, and its invasion of new habitats too advanced—not to almost entirely obscure earlier hominid evolutionary dynamics.
    Now, in light of Ar. ramidus, there are no longer any a priori reasons to suppose that acquisition of our unique reproductive anatomy and behavior are unconnected with other human specializations....
    When viewed holistically, as any adaptive suite requires, the early hominid characters that were probably interwoven by selection to eventually generate cognition now seem every bit as biologically ordinary as those that have also affected the evolution of lizards, frogs, voles, monkeys, and chimpanzees.  Comparing ourselves to our closest kin, it is somewhat sobering that the hominid path led to cognition, whereas that leading to Pan, our closest living relatives, did not, despite the near-synonymy of our genomes.
By closest living relatives, Lovejoy means close on different branches.  The old picture that they were closer down the same branch.  One notices that Lovejoy still employed the word “selection.”  That’s right; he is not abandoning Darwin.  “As Darwin argued, the ultimate source of any explication of human acumen must be natural selection,” he explained.  “The adaptive suite proposed here provides at least one evolutionary map by which cognition could have emerged without reliance on any special mammalian trait.”  Ostensibly this means that now evolutionists do not have to explain cognition by the sudden emergence by mutation of just one the “neural substrate” (big brain; see 09/24/2009).  Now they can employ the word “emergence” to an interwoven suite of adaptive traits that makes us human.
    The popular media are all echoing this line that chimpanzees are no longer on our branch of the family tree.  The image of Lucy’s famous skeleton has been supplanted by artwork from J.H. Matternes showing a hairy, upright female with Mona-Lisa-like cheeky smile.  Surely Johanson is not taking this sitting down, is he?  According to the U.C. Chronicle of Higher Education, he conceded that this fossil is “terribly important for all of our thinking” about human origins (emphasis on terribly), but “will undoubtedly generate widespread debate” in days to come.  The Chronicle added that the debate will include “the question of whether Ardi is actually a human ancestor.
    One point not emphasized in the popular reports is the fragmentary condition of the bones.  Casey Luskin of the Discovery Institute, writing for Evolution News and Views uncovered statements that the specimen was “crushed nearly to smithereens.”  The substrate was chalky and squished, resembling an “Irish stew” that would turn to dust at the slightest touch.  This included the critical pelvic bones necessary to establish whether the creature walked upright.  Six years ago, Tim White himself had cautioned fellow scientists that geological deformation of fossil fragments can produce misleading impressions of species diversity (03/28/2003).  Now it’s clear he was working on these badly-damaged Ardipithecus fragments at the time he said that (see, for example, 04/19/2006 and especially the 10/29/2002 and 09/23/2004 fights).
    In a second article for Evolution News, Luskin commented on the game-changing nature of this find.  Actually, Luskin pointed out, it’s another episode out of an old playbook – claiming that the new find “overturns the prevailing views on human evolution.”
    Perceptive readers may also take note of the fact that White dates Ardi at 4.4 million years BP (before present), while Johanson’s Lucy was found not far away and dated at 3.2 million years BP.  Some questions not being asked are (1) which way was evolution going for 1.2 million years between Ardi and Lucy, (2) how much did the landscape change geologically in that time, and (3) is it possible these species were contemporaneous.  Only Biblical creationists seem to be asking the other overlooked question: how can they prove those dates without assuming evolution?  For some creationist responses to Ardipithecus in particular and human evolution in general, see articles 1, 2, and 3 on CMI.
1.  Bruce Alberts, “Understanding Human Origins,” Science, 2 October 2009: Vol. 326. no. 5949, p. 17 DOI: 10.1126/science.1182387.
2.  A short list of popular reports: National Geographic News, Science Daily, Live Science, PhysOrg and the BBC News.
3.  C. Owen Lovejoy, “Reexamining Human Origins in Light of Ardipithecus ramidus.” Science, 2 October 2009: Vol. 326. no. 5949, pp. 74, 74e1-74e8, DOI: 10.1126/science.1175834.
OK, so Tim White is getting his 15 minutes of fame (see 04/27/2006).  If you have been following the Early Man stories in CEH for any length of time, you know the rivalries that exist between the fossil hunters.  Every year or so, as if on cue, the news media go berserk with euphoria over the latest human ancestor fossil, essentially declaring EYKIW (everything you know is wrong).  Rewrite the textbooks; all the stuff taught up till now has been overturned and revised by this latest fossil.  There’s the Leakey group, the Haile-Selassie Group, the Johanson group, the Spaniards, the Georgians and others, all competing for the spotlight.  With a successful media blitz comes speaking tours, book deals and fame.  The competition is especially effective when you can give a cute name to your fossil – Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Ardi, or Ida.  (Speaking of Ida, that attempt at EYKIW last May flopped badly – see 05/19/2009.  Even the shameless overboard paleoanthropology crowd thought that was a little too shameless and overboard.)
    If you enjoy comedy, read through the 271 Early Man stories we have published here over the last 9 years.  You see the playbook played out over and over again.  The latest contender promises that the new find “sheds light on evolution” and is helping us “understand our origins.”  Each time, numerous miracles are required to get humans their cognition and “unparalleled cerebral and technological abilities” (e.g., 03/29/2004).
    This time they are trying to forestall criticism with the sheer volume of words being written.  It’s like launching a hundred decoy missiles to get the enemy to waste all their interceptors.  You can go read all those papers if you wish, but there’s no sense in taking any of it seriously, because as we have pointed out repeatedly, it’s self-refuting nonsense to begin with.  If Tim White’s brain is a product of some ancient sex-for-food game played by Ardi’s genes, without her cognitive choice in the matter, then we have no way of knowing that Tim White’s brain is a product of some ancient sex-for-food game played out by Ardi’s genes.  Get it?  It undermines his whole reasoning apparatus.  We can’t believe a word he said.  His scenario crumbles to dust like Ardi’s bones.  If he really wants to reason, if he cares about finding the truth, then he has to abandon Darwinism and become a creationist.  Then he will have the causal resources to employ reason, logic, evidence and rhetoric – not until.
    What is most sad about all this is the deception to our young people.  How many of you were taught one of these tales in school?  Maybe it was Java Man (if you are getting into your senior years), or one of Louis Leakey’s National Geographic cover stories (if you are middle-aged), or Orrorin, Kenyanthropus, Toumai, Lucy or any number of other more recent tales.  The artwork is so deceiving.  Tim White cannot possibly know what that creature looked like in the condition those bones were in (don’t forget his statements from 2003).  Artists take the fragments and emphasize some traits and de-emphasize others to communicate the desired message, that this fossil has something to do with our origins.  The hair, the soft tissues, and the facial expressions are all imaginary.  National Geographic has been one of the worst offenders over the years.  The charts these people make up, placing each fossil into an artificial timeline and connecting dots between them, are just as bad.  Don’t trust any of it (e.g., 03/05/2004).   Would you follow one of these blind guides up ten floors of a house of cards so he can show you a steel girder he claims is holding up a ceiling, or a light fixture that is shedding light on a dark closet?  Their superstructure of paper, no matter how elaborate their origami, lacks substance.  What’s more, it sits on quicksand in a windstorm.  Get out of the away.
    It is alarming to look at old textbooks and NG mags and see how much revision there has been.  Paleoanthropology is not converging on a progressive, steadily-improving story coming into sharper focus.  It’s stanza after stanza of the EYKIW dirge.  Playing a dirge with a hip-hop rhythm doesn’t help.
Next headline on:  Early ManFossilsDating MethodsDarwin and Evolution
  Cell beats computer: A living cell folded a simple protein 100 trillion times faster than a computer program (10/15/2002).  The cell outsmarts most computer users in other ways, too (10/23/2002).

Anchiornis: Foot Feathers Confuse Bird Evolution Story   10/01/2009    
Oct 1, 2009 — The paper on Anchiornis huxleyii was published in Nature,1 along with a News article about it in the same issue by Lawrence Witmer.2  In addition, popular reports were printed by the BBC News, Live Science and Science Daily.
    The popular reports are focusing on Xing Xu’s claim that this fossil removes the last argument that birds could not have evolved from dinosaurs because this fossil gets rid of the “temporal paradox” – the fact that the alleged “feathered dinosaurs” were all younger in the fossil record than Archaeopteryx, the earliest known bird.  Anchiornis has been assigned to strata dated 1 to 10 million years earlier than Archaeopteryx, effectively removing that objection.
    Other than that, this fossil is confusing.  It has long feathers on all four legs – even on the hind feet.  The feathers get shorter closer to the body.  Scientists can’t figure out if the feathers allowed the creature to fly or glide.  If not, what function did they perform?    The animal had elongated hind legs.  It seems that foot feathers would have interfered with flying and with walking on the ground.  Some modern birds have feathered feet but not long, pennaceous feathers.  Based on this new discovery, and on the previous fossils Microraptor gui (11/16/2005, 03/27/2007), and Pedopenna (feather-foot; see New Scientist 19 Feb 2005), evolutionary biologists are trying to piece together a story of feathers first evolving on the extremities and then moving inward toward the body.  That begs the question of what the feathers evolved for in the first place.  The authors try to explain,

Extensive feathering of the pes [foot] is also seen in some modern birds, and serves an insulating or protective function.  In most cases the feathers are not organized into a coherent planar surface as in Microraptor, Pedopenna and Anchiornis, which indicates that the pedal feathers of these fossil taxa may have differed from those of extant birds in having an aerodynamic function.  This would imply that a four-winged condition played a role in the origin of avian flight, as suggested by previous studies, although this conclusion is not universally accepted.  However, the significant differences noted above between the large pedal feathers of Anchiornis and those of Microraptor suggest that these feathers might have been less aerodynamically effective in Anchiornis than in Microraptor.
It would seem that going from four wings to two wings represents devolution, not evolution, unless two wings are shown to be more efficient for flying.  Even so, the sudden emergence of a four-winged animal would seem improbable for natural selection.  Anchiornis adds to the puzzle by causing doubt that the feathers were aerodynamically effective.  Yet distal feathers don’t seem to provide much of an insulating or protective function.  Why would natural selection produce structures as complex as feathers for no purpose?  Witmer explained,
More to the point, it now looks as if we’ll have to accept that avian evolution indeed went through – at the risk of overstatement – a four-wing stage, only to eventually lose the long foot feathers.  What this means for the evolution of the avian flight stroke is now an open question.  Likewise, we’ll need to seriously consider how these otherwise seemingly very adept and agile runners (Anchiornis has extremely long and slender hindlimbs) could manage with long feathers on their feet.

What does Anchiornis mean for evolutionary history?  “The presence of a troodontid in the earliest Late Jurassic indicates that all groups of derived theropods had originated by this time,” the paper said.  The common ancestor of these groups (Troodontidae, Dromaeosauridae and Avialae) therefore remains to be discovered earlier in the fossil record.  Witmer took it as a plug for evolutionary theory that similarities in early representatives of these groups (e.g., the foot feathers) shows that paleontologists are converging on the common ancestor.  “It’s getting hard to tell members of one group from another,” he said.  “On the bright side, in this year of Darwin, that fact provides a comforting affirmation of the evolutionary prediction that species in different groups will become increasingly similar as we approach their common origin.”
1.  Hu, Hou, Zhang and Xu, “A pre-Archaeopteryx troodontid theropod from China with long feathers on the metatarsus,” Nature 461, 640-643 (1 October 2009) | doi:10.1038/nature08322.
2.  Lawrence M. Witmer, “Palaeontology: Feathered dinosaurs in a tangle,” Nature 461, 601-602 (1 October 2009) | doi:10.1038/461601a; Published online 30 September 2009.
This is an opportunity to compare hype with fact.  The news media and the discoverers are all chirping that they have an example of bird evolution here.  A transitional form between dinosaurs and birds has been found, and now the naysayers need to bow at the feet of the Charlie idol and admit they were wrong.  It should be noticed that the Darwinists did not predict finding a dino-chicken with long feathers on its feet.  What is this thing?  Look at the predictions they had made.  The ancestor of birds either learned to fly from the ground up (cursorial) or the tree down (arboreal).  The cursorial hypothesis appears down and out if this animal had anything to do with it.  Witmer just wondered how this animal could manage to run with feathers on its feet.  Put some long feathers on your feet and see if it helps your takeoff.  The arboreal hypothesis might still be a contender, but it is not clear this creature was capable of gliding, let alone flying.  If both front and hind limbs functioned as gliding surfaces, that is arguably more complex than having two of them.  Now the animal needs brain software to control four limbs while controlling its fall.  Evolutionists know they cannot invoke foresight.  They know they cannot personify Tweetie Rex saying to itself, “I taught I taw a Puddy Tat.  I tink I will invent feathers to fly away.”  Feathers are complicated things.  It doesn’t appear they functioned for flight or for insulation on this crazy fossil.  Unless the evolutionists have a clear step-by-step function for each nub on the path the featherhood, they have no case (see 09/06/2007 for the convoluted tale).
    There remains no clear picture of the evolution of flight – particularly of powered flight and all the systems required to support it.  There are only an assortment of odd, extinct creatures that paleontologists try to sort into man-made categories.  Remember that it’s not just the taxonomic categories that assume evolution; it’s the geological categories and the dating methods.  Evolutionary paleontology has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Since the outcome is never in doubt, every find becomes part of the ever more complex story of evolution.  They insulate their story from falsification by contorting any and all data to fit the story somehow.  It is not science.
    All right then, what are creationists saying?  Creationists do not accept the dating scheme, the millions of years, the creative power of natural selection, or the phylogenetic stories.  The strata diagram in the paper shows alternating bands of andesite, shale, siltstone, agglomerate and tuff.  To accept the column, one has to believe that only one kind of material was deposited for many tens or thousands of years (longer than all human history), then another kind for more thousands of years, then another, then a repeat of the first type of material, over and over.  Alternative mechanisms could allow for these layers to be deposited rapidly.  The time interval between Anchiornis and Archaeopteryx and the other creatures could therefore be so small as to make them contemporaneous.  These are questions evolutionists never ask because they are married to the Geologic Column.  The whole Darwin story would collapse if it were called into question.  Evolutionists need to get off the Lyellian bandwagon and recognize the paradigm-shaking powers of catastrophism.  It could rewrite the history of the Liaoning deposits.
    Anchiornis, then, represents another species that went extinct among a majority of past species that went extinct.  It was not evolving into something better.  If anything, it was evolving downward.  Combine this with what we know about the Cambrian Explosion, the young material in dinosaur soft tissue, and the capacities for rapid geological change in catastrophes, and it is the Darwinists who need to explain themselves, not their critics.  Hint: every time you find a Darwinist begging the question in his or her story, stop them right there.  Say, “Excuse me, I do not accept that assumption.  What do you mean there were ten million years between those two strata?  Prove it.  Were you there?  I do not accept your line that this was a transitional form on the way to birds.  Don’t you realize that taxonomists classified the maniraptorans and troodontids based on evolutionary assumptions that dinosaurs and birds are related by common ancestry?  I do not accept those assumptions, therefore I do not accept the classification scheme and the story built on it.”  Make them explain their story from first principles using observations and testable data.  Then ask the hard questions: “Do you realize how many beneficial mutations would be required to make a feather out of a scale or piece of fuzz?  How can you possibly believe it happened?  Don’t you know that birds have exquisitely designed bones and wings and respiratory systems for powered flight?  Have you seen a hummingbird or eagle?  You expect me to believe that some dinosaur fell out of tree and gave rise to the cormorant and falcon?  How is that even remotely imaginable, given the complexity of DNA codes and proteins and biochemical systems?  A few oddball species interpreted within your scheme are not convincing.  There should be thousands upon thousands of transitions showing every step along the way if your story were true.  Why don’t you admit with anti-creationist Stephen Jay Gould that the presence of systematic gaps in the fossil record is the trade secret of paleontology?  Come back when you can trade in facts, not dredge up isolated oddballs to force-fit into an increasingly implausible tale.”
Next headline on:  DinosaursBirdsFossilsDarwin and Evolution

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“I just found your website a day or so ago and am totally addicted.  You don’t know what that says, considering I’m only now – within the last few days, as a matter of fact – a ‘recovering’ old-earther ... Talk about going down internet ‘rabbit trails.’  I could go deeper and deeper into each ‘headline’ you post and never get anything else done...
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(a scientist and university professor in Iceland, where 95% of the people believe in evolution)

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“I have been reading your website for several years now.  Working in an environment where most people believe that there are only two absolutes, evolution and relativism, it has been wonderful to be able to get the facts and the explanations of the bluffs and false logic that blows around.  I have posted your website in many places on my website, because you seem to have the ability to cut through the baloney and get to the truth--a rare quality in this century.  Thank you for all that you do.”
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“...this is one of the websites (I have like 4 or 5 on my favorites), and this is there.  It’s a remarkable clearinghouse of information; it’s very well written, it’s to the point... a broad range of topics.  I have been alerted to more interesting pieces of information on [this] website than any other website I can think of.”
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“I would assume that you, or anyone affiliated with your website is simply not qualified to answer any questions regarding that subject [evolution], because I can almost single-handedly refute all of your arguments with solid scientific arguments.... Also, just so you know, the modern theory of evolution does not refute the existence of a god, and it in no way says that humans are not special.  Think about that before you go trying to discredit one of the most important and revolutionary scientific ideas of human history.  It is very disrespectful to the people who have spent their entire lives trying to reveal some kind of truth in this otherwise crazy world.”
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“I just wanted to write in to express my personal view that everyone at Creation Evolution Headlines is doing an excellent job!  I have confidences that in the future, Creation Evolution Headline will continue in doing such a great job!
    Anyone who has interest at where science, as a whole, is at in our current times, does not have to look very hard to see that science is on the verge of a new awakening....
    It’s not uncommon to find articles that are supplemented with assumptions and vagueness.  A view point the would rather keep knowledge in the dark ages.  But when I read over the postings on CEH, I find a view point that looks past the grayness.  The whole team at CEH helps cut through the assumptions of weary influences.
    CEH helps illuminate the true picture that is shining in today’s science.  A bright clear picture, full of intriguing details, independence and fascinating complexities.
    I know that Creation Evolution Headlines has a growing and informative future before them.  I’m so glad to be along for the ride!!”
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(a pathologist in Missouri)

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(a PhD geneticist, author and inventor)

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(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)

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(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)

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“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.”
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(an accountant in Illinois)

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Featured Creation Scientist for October

Henrietta Swan Leavitt
1868 - 1921

To continue the International Year of Astronomy, let’s look at one of the most famous astronomers of the 20th century: a woman.

Today, there are many women scientists, but until the twentieth century, whether from prejudice, tradition, or the needs of homemaking, women had rarely entered the almost exclusively male domains of science and technology.  Henrietta Swan Leavitt is a glorious exception, and with her, a whole group of lady astronomers who, under Dr. Edward C. Pickering of Harvard, made it their mission to survey the stars.  Pickering hired local women, who were willing to work for less money, to do the tedious work of measuring stars from thousands of photographic plates.  Annie Jump Cannon, one of “Pickering’s harem” as it was later crudely dubbed, would become famous for her star classification scheme OBAFGKM (memorialized by the guys for its mnemonic “O Be A Fine Girl, Kiss Me”).  Henrietta Swan Leavitt, however, would always be most famous of the group: she helped us measure the universe.

Deaf, and reserved in manner but charmingly sweet, Henrietta Leavitt had a brilliant mind and a capacity for detail that helped her discover an astronomical law destined to put her in the history books.  This law become the essential tool Edwin Hubble would later use to determine the distance to the “nebulae” (clouds) – unknown fuzzy objects found in all directions of the sky.  Leavitt was the daughter of a congregational minister.  She graduated from what was later named Radcliffe College, and in 1892, joined the Harvard College Observatory as a volunteer research assistant.

Soon after the twentieth century began, she rose to the head of a department measuring stellar magnitudes (brightnesses).  For the next several years, she performed very tedious work, searching thousands of plates taken from an observatory in Peru, for a special class of pulsating stars called Cepheid variables.  For reasons unknown at the time, Cepheids were known to vary regularly in brightness.  Some pulsated rapidly, in a few hours or days, and some took months, but they could be depended on like clockwork.  By 1908 she had compiled a list of well over a thousand Cepheids in a nebular patch of the southern sky called the Small Magellanic Cloud.  Her careful observations uncovered an important relationship: the longer the period, the brighter the star.

Great advances in science are often made by individuals who not only observe something interesting, but get that flash of insight that allows them to interpret the meaning of the observation.  To understand the significance of her find, we need to recall the concept of the universe in Leavitt’s day.  The Herschels and other notable astronomers had catalogued thousands of stars, but were frustrated by a common fact, that you cannot tell the distance of a star by its brightness alone.  It might be a very bright star very far away, or a very dim star close up.

If you had a “standard candle” or light source of known brightness, you could use it as a distance measuring tool.  Think of a row of uniform street lights vanishing in the distance along a city street.  If every lamp is the same, you can use the apparent brightness of a lamp, i.e., how bright it looks to your eye or film, and compare it to the lamp’s absolute brightness, or how bright it would look from a known, standard distance, to measure how far away it is.

The relationship Leavitt observed is a little more complicated, but similar.  If you know that fast-blinking lamps are intrinsically dimmer than slow-blinking lamps, they will have a relationship that allows you to infer how far away one is by measuring its apparent brightness or magnitude, and comparing that to its blinking rate, or period, which is linked to its absolute magnitude.  A simple mathematical equation then gives you the distance.

Before Leavitt, no standard candle was known.  Other than the few nearby stars that could be measured using triangulation, no stars hinted at a reliable method that could tell for sure how far they were, and by extrapolation, how far the universe extended.  Astronomers took part in the “Great Debate” – was everything inside the Milky Way, or were some objects beyond it?  Just how big was the Milky Way?

Leavitt used a fair assumption that the stars in the Small Magellanic Cloud were all, within reason, the same distance from us.  This meant she could compare each star’s absolute magnitude, or luminosity, as if she were to see a variety of lamps of different brightnesses from the same distance d (where d was still to be determined).  She found 16 Cepheids on the plates that appeared often enough to measure their periods.  Plotting the periods of these stars on a graph against their apparent luminosities, she saw that they all fell on a line: she had found a Period-Luminosity Relation.  If astronomers could determine the distance to one Cepheid, they could calibrate the relationship and use it as a measuring stick.  They would have their long-sought standard candle.

Henrietta Leavitt published her results, enthusiastic about the possibilities of the relationship for measuring objects in space.  But Pickering assigned her to other duties that he felt were more appropriate as women’s work than making fundamental discoveries.  Other astronomers like Hertzprung and Shapley became intrigued by Leavitt’s paper, however, and found ways to calibrate her standard candle.  It took several iterations and error corrections, but by the 1920s, using Cepheids with the Period-Luminosity Relation had become an increasingly accepted method of measurement, and astronomers were finally getting a grasp on the distances to the stars.

Leavitt did not live to see the epochal day in October, 1923, when Edwin Hubble, working at the new 100" telescope on Mt. Wilson near Los Angeles, the largest in the world at the time, excitedly wrote "VAR!" on a plate taken of the Andromeda Nebula.  He had found a Cepheid variable star within it.  This Cepheid was to bring powerful new evidence into the long-standing debate about the nature of these spiral nebulae: were they clouds of dust or gas within the Milky Way, or star systems far beyond it?  Hubble noted that this Cepheid was much dimmer than most.  

Applying Henrietta Leavitt’s Period-Luminosity Relation, he calculated that the Andromeda Nebula must be extremely distant; it was in fact another galaxy like our own, far beyond the Milky Way – an “island universe” in the vastness of empty space.  As the implications of this discovery began to sink in, and objections to it withered and disappeared, the age of galactic astronomy was born.  By 1935, the cosmos had multiplied in size a hundred billionfold – an unprecedented revolution in our understanding of the heavens, unlikely to ever be surpassed.  Armed with Leavitt’s standard candle, Hubble and other astronomers revealed to our telescopes a universe of unfathomably immense proportions.

The glory of this discovery was due largely to this wonderful lady scientist, Henrietta Swan Leavitt, who was nominated for a Nobel Prize posthumously in 1925.  What kind of person was she?  Solon I. Bailey eulogized her in these words:

    Miss Leavitt inherited, in a somewhat chastened form, the stern virtues of her puritan ancestors.  She took life seriously.  Her sense of duty, justice and loyalty was strong.  For light amusements she appeared to care little.  She was a devoted member of her intimate family circle, unselfishly considerate in her friendships, steadfastly loyal to her principles, and deeply conscientious and sincere in her attachment to her religion and church.  She had the happy faculty of appreciating all that was worthy and lovable in others, and was possessed of a nature so full of sunshine that, to her, all of life became beautiful and full of meaning.

This moving description makes it clear that Miss Leavitt exemplified the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22): love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.  Christians, creationists, women, and the disabled – all can justly look to Dr. Henrietta Swan Leavitt as a role model of an overcomer, an achiever, and an exemplary Christian.

There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.
– I Corinthians 15:41

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

A Concise Guide
to Understanding
Evolutionary Theory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Souder’s Law
Repetition does not establish validity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advice from Paul

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

I Timothy 6:20-21

Song of the True Scientist

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

from Psalm 104

Maxwell’s Motivation

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

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

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

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“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 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”
(a publisher of creation and ID materials)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hey Friends, Check out this site: 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, I’ve added a link to your excellent Creation-Evolution news site.”
(a radio announcer)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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