Watch for the Recycle logo to find gems from the back issues!
Raft the Grand Canyon this summer or send someone you love. Time is running out! If you are thinking about this opportunity, please write, even if not ready to commit. The 4-day package deal for Aug 27-30, 2010 includes all supplies, food, lodging and transportation (begins & ends at Las Vegas airport). Sweet deal: you get to fly in a plane and helicopter, spend a day at a working cattle ranch, ride horses, spend 2.5 days on the Colorado River and camp on the beach two nights, run great rapids, hike amazing side canyons, and learn among friends about the worlds greatest geological wonder. Great for singles, couples, father-son, mother-daughter (or any combination) the whole family (minimum age 8). Click here for all the details. Deposit required by January; dont miss the boat!
Scientists Divine Deep Time in Dead Fish
Experimenting on taphonomy (studying the processes under which remains become fossilized) is a worthwhile activity, but the interpretations and assumptions in this article stink worse than the fish heads. Would their experiments help them understand created fish that perished in a great flood? They could not possibly understand all the conditions that might have differed from dying fish in a lab to those who perished in the fossil record. Maybe they need to do some further experiments on what happens to fish who fossilize while giving birth (see National Geographic) or that are preserved in rock instantly while having lunch (see FossilMuseum.net).Jan 30, 2010 Sometimes you just want a concise answer to a specific question without having to search online or browse through a whole bookshelf. The New Answers Book (2006), an update on an older volume from the 1990s, tackles 25 of the most important and common questions on creation, evolution and the Bible. Its a collaborative work by 13 scientists, writers and researchers from Answers in Genesis, edited by Ken Ham, incorporating answers to the most commonly asked questions received by that organization. Seasoned with photographs and illustrations by cartoonist Dan Lietha, this is an accessible paperback covering everything from the existence of God to radiometric dating with chapters on dinosaurs, the Flood, ice ages, what are UFOs, the existence of evil, starlight and time, and all the questions people ask most. The 353-page book, with glossary and index, is available from Answers in Genesis. That link, by the way, lists all the questions in the book and takes you to colorful online articles for instant gratification.
Next resource of the week: 01/23/2010. All resources: Catalog.
Incredible Creatures that Support Evolution?
1. Jonah N. Choiniere, Xing Xu et al, A Basal Alvarezsauroid Theropod from the Early Late Jurassic of Xinjiang, China, 148;Science, 29 January 2010: Vol. 327. no. 5965, pp. 571-574, DOI: 10.1126/science.1182143.
2. Richard Stone, Bird-Dinosaur Link Firmed Up, And in Brilliant Technicolor, Science, 29 January 2010: Vol. 327. no. 5965, p. 508, DOI: 10.1126/science.327.5965.508.
3. Plesiomorphyrefers to generalized similarity prior to a common ancestor see 10/20/2006 for another example.
4. Zhang et al, Nature advance online publication doi:10.1038/nature08740 (2010); see summary on Nature News.
5. David Alexander et al, Model tests of gliding with different hindwing configurations in the four-winged dromaeosaurid Microraptor gui, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences early edition, January 25, 2010, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0911852107.
Evolutionists are fascinating. They are so clever at defending their worldview at all costs. Someone should scientifically study them as a social phenomenon.We reported on 01/30/2003 that 500 fossilized vertebrate fish were found in the early Cambrian. Evolutionists used to taunt creationists who brought up the Cambrian Explosion with the response that vertebrates didnt evolve till much later. This find showed that vertebrate evolution was well advanced by the Early Cambrian and that essentially all the major body plans, including the most advanced chordates (subphylum vertebrata, which includes all tetrapods and humans) appeared abruptly in the Cambrian without the transitional forms Darwin hoped would be found.
Woese Slays Darwin
Just suppose that Darwins ideas were only a part of the story of evolution. Suppose that a process he never wrote about, and never even imagined, has been controlling the evolution of life throughout most of the Earths history. It may sound preposterous, but this is exactly what microbiologist Carl Woese and physicist Nigel Goldenfeld, both at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, believe. Darwins explanation of evolution, they argue, even in its sophisticated modern form, applies only to a recent phase of life on Earth.Woese and Goldenfeld champion horizontal gene transfer as the overriding process that led to the genetic code and established biology as we know it. The Darwinian part is like a footnote, acting on the last episodes of biological history. Subsequent quotes show even more how far and deep this coup goes:
Any replacement paradigm in a scientific revolution needs to explain anomalies better than the old paradigm. On page 2 of the article, Buchanan writes, Darwinian evolution simply cannot explain how such a [genetic] code could arise. But horizontal gene transfer can, say Woese and Goldenfeld. Theres the gauntlet. OK, how? First, they point to the universality of the code. Then, they point to its degeneracy the fact that multiple codons in DNA can translate to the same protein in amino acids, giving the code redundancy, and thus, some tolerance to mutation. Third, they point to the remarkable error tolerance of the code:
In 1991, geneticists David Haig and Lawrence Hurst at the University of Oxford went further, showing that the codes level of error tolerance is truly remarkable. They studied the error tolerance of an enormous number of hypothetical genetic codes, all built from the same base pairs but with codons associated randomly with amino acids. They found that the actual code is around one in a million in terms of how good it is at error mitigation. The actual genetic code, says Goldenfeld, stands out like a sore thumb as being the best possible. That would seem to demand some evolutionary explanation. Yet, until now, no one has found one. The reason, say Woese and Goldenfeld, is that everyone has been thinking in terms of the wrong kind of evolution.So far, it sounds like they have discovered evidence for intelligent design. Its not like followers of the Darwinian paradigm were ignorant of these properties, even if they thought little about them. Woese has challenged them to explain the emergence of an optimal code by Darwinian means, and claims they cant. So what is his new explanation in terms of another naturalistic, evolutionary processes? Here is the key paragraph:
Goldenfeld admits that pinning down the details of that early process remains a difficult task. However the simulations suggest that horizontal gene transfer allowed life in general to acquire a unified genetic machinery, thereby making the sharing of innovations easier. Hence, the researchers now suspect that early evolution may have proceeded through a series of stages before the Darwinian form emerged, with the first stage leading to the emergence of a universal genetic code. It would have acted as an innovation-sharing protocol, says Goldenfeld, greatly enhancing the ability of organisms to share genetic innovations that were beneficial. Following this, a second stage of evolution would have involved rampant horizontal gene transfer, made possible by the shared genetic machinery, and leading to a rapid, exponential rise in the complexity of organisms. This, in turn, would eventually have given way to a third stage of evolution in which genetic transfer became mostly vertical, perhaps because the complexity of organisms reached a threshold requiring a more circumscribed flow of genes to preserve correct function. Woese cant put a date on when the transition to Darwinian evolution happened, but he suspects it occurred at different times in each of the three main branches of the tree of life, with bacteria likely to have changed first.In sum, horizontal gene transfer made the sharing of innovations easier. But where did the innovations come from? The answer: emergence: the emergence of a universal genetic code that just happened to be optimal. Dont ask how; just believe. After all, believing the Darwinian alternative is no longer credible, so what else is there?
If you are reading this explanation in utter disbelief, good. Theres hope for you. Surprised? Not if you have been reading Creation-Evolution Headlines for long. This is another in a long series of articles on evolutionary theory, from within the secular, naturalist camp, that might be titled, Everything you know about Darwinian evolution is wrong, and our only replacement for it is to tell you that miraculous Stuff Happens sometimes. Example: 01/22/2009: For His Birthday, Darwin Loses His Tree.Barefoot Is Better 01/27/2010
Jan 27, 2010 Who do we wear shoes? It seems obvious; we expect that they help us avoid injuries and provide comfort. Maybe we should think of the injuries we are getting by wearing them.
The image of the barefoot person is usually of someone poor, deprived, lower-class, hick, unclean, redneck or something else unattractive. Shoes are a big business. Within that business, running shoes have become part status symbol, part science. Those images might change if a study by Daniel Lieberman at Harvard is taken seriously. PhysOrg summarized his paper in Nature in which he analyzed the physics of runners with and without shoes. Barefoot runners, he found, strike the ground differently. Their feet absorb the shock of impact by landing more on the arch and ball of the foot than on the heel. Shod runners tend to be heel-strikers. Most shod runners -- more than 75 percent of Americans -- heel-strike, experiencing a very large and sudden collision force about 1,000 times per mile run, the article explained. That shock travels up into the ankle, shin and legs. People who run barefoot, however, tend to land with a springy step towards the middle or front of the foot. This gives them a more compliant, or springy, leg. The impact of the heel strike is reduced in good running shoes. Still, it could lead to repetitive stress injuries.
Lieberman put his runners into an evolutionary landscape, but could not avoid using design terms:
The differences between shod and unshod running have evolutionary underpinnings. For example, says Lieberman, our early Australopith ancestors had less developed arches in their feet. Homo sapiens, by contrast, has evolved a strong, large arch that we use as a spring when running.Lieberman warned that a runner wanting to switch to barefoot running has to ease into it. It takes a little time to get used to it, but it could be healthy. By landing on the middle or front of the foot, barefoot runners have almost no impact collision, much less than most shod runners generate when they heel-strike. Most people today think barefoot running is dangerous and hurts, but actually you can run barefoot on the worlds hardest surfaces without the slightest discomfort and pain, he said. All you need is a few calluses to avoid roughing up the skin of the foot. Further, it might be less injurious than the way some people run in shoes. He encouraged more research into the health benefits of barefoot running. For those interested in comparing the two modes, Lieberman and his colleagues have set up a barefoot running website.
Most of us are so accustomed to walking in shoes we could not imagine walking around barefoot a good deal of the time, except at the beach or around the pool, but there are a few who prefer it; they amaze the rest of us with how nimbly and painlessly they scamper about on uneven ground, rocks, and all kinds of terrain. You might be inspired by this story to try easing into some barefoot running, or at least kicking off the shoes a little more often around the house, if your family members will let you. You may only regret it when stubbing your toe on a chair. This experiment is also not advised for desert hikers or snow. When you think about it, though, most cultures throughout history have done pretty well without heavy shoes.Convergence: Explanation or Rescue Device? 01/26/2010
Jan 26, 2010 The news media are telling us that bats and dolphins both hit on the same genetic pathway to evolve echolocation even though they are on vastly different evolutionary lineages and use echolocation differently (one in air, one in water). Since it is inconceivable that a putative shrew-like common ancestor of these very different animals already had echolocation, the biologists claim that dolphins and bats followed the same evolutionary pathway, even down to the evolution of a single molecule. Is this an explanation of how they came to have these traits, or a rescuing device intended to save evolutionary theory from the evidence?
Science Daily and New Scientist both echoed the conclusions of two papers in Current Biology.1,2 The papers found that phylogenetic trees based on the cochlear gene Prestin include bottlenose dolphins and microbats together. They claim to have ruled out all other hypotheses (such as horizontal gene transfer, DNA contamination, gene paralogy, long-branch attraction, and biased amino acid frequencies) as unlikely, so convergence must explain the similarities. In short, natural selection converged on the same genetic set of mutations to the Prestin gene because echolocation was adaptive.3 The first paper concluded, Regardless, our findings of adaptive sequence convergence between two highly divergent groups that share a complex phenotype is unprecedented, and suggests sequence convergence may be more common than previously suspected.
But what does convergence mean? Is it a law of nature? Does it convey understanding, or is it a term acting as a placeholder for ignorance? The explanation begs numerous questions. How do they know the extent to which this one protein proves essential for echolocation over other parts of the echolocating organs that are not convergent? If echolocation is such a strong adaptive trait, why did it not evolve in all whales and bats, as well as in beavers, sea lions, and all nocturnal mammals, which could presumably make good use of it? If the answer to that question is contingency, then how does convergence differ from the null hypothesis i.e., the non-explanation, stuff happens?
A review of the two papers in the same issue of Current Biology4 revealed that the convergence explanation is not so straightforward. Gareth Jones (U of Bristol) reminded readers that molecular phylogenies often conflict with morphological phylogenies or with each other. A key question is whether convergent, adaptive evolution dominates phylogenetic signals, or whether neutral evolution overrides any convergence driven by natural selection when making phylogenetic inferences, he said. In reptile mitochondrial genes, although molecular convergence is clearly apparent, the specific selective forces driving such convergence are not obvious. He noted that the prestin modifications might be due to adaptive needs to hear high frequencies, but noted that other animals, like some mice, communicate with high frequencies but do not have the convergent-prestin signature. He also noted that the new phylogenetic tree of bats based on prestin conflicts with other phylogenetic trees based on large-scale genetic analyses of both nuclear and mitochondrial DNA: hence, he said, phylogenetic signals based on functional gene sequences may be misleading when reconstructing the evolutionary history of bats.
The prestin study actually creates additional problems. Jones said it emphasises the necessity of avoiding the use of putative functional genes in estimating evolutionary history. Researchers will have to incorporate more data sets, and consider the effects of neutral drift, when building phylogenetic trees. Finding the signature of natural selection, therefore, will require human selection: careful selection of genetic data that are probably neutral (intron sequences, for example). But how will the researcher select the data sets that produce the inference he wants without circular reasoning? A data set that produces a signature of natural selection might be selected over other data sets that do not. It would not, therefore, be the signature of nature itself. Even so, examples of molecular convergence may be uncommon, Jones said. That means their usefulness for inferring natural selection may be limited, despite the cheerleading of the popular press.
1. Liu, Cotton, Shen, Han, Rossiter and Zhang, Convergent sequence evolution between echolocating bats and dolphins, Current Biology, Volume 20, Issue 2, 26 January 2010, Pages R53-R54, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2009.11.058.
2. Li, Liu, Shi, and Zhang, The hearing gene Prestin unites echolocating bats and whales, Current Biology, Volume 20, Issue 2, 26 January 2010, Pages R55-R56, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2009.11.042.
3. For information about prestin, a remarkable motor enzyme in the inner ear, see the 07/31/2007 entry and its embedded links.
4. Gareth Jones, Molecular Evolution: Gene Convergence in Echolocating Mammals, Current Biology, Volume 20, Issue 2, 26 January 2010, Pages R62-R64, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2009.11.059.
In the land of Jargonwocky, a scientist named Niwrad came up with a theory of everything he called Galumph. With frabjous joy, he investigated all the creatures of the borogoves with his apprentice, Ecallaw. He found that the Jubjub birds had round eyes and the mome raths, though similar, have square eyes. Thats because of Galumph, he explained. The Bandersnatch and Jabberwock, though looking very different, both have round eyes. Galumph triumphs again! Niwrad chortled. But how can that be? burbled Ecallaw with uffish look. They are so very different in other respects. Callooh! Callay! exclaimed Niwrad frumiously. 'Tis only to demonstrate the power of Galumph. The former is a case of Parallel Galumph. This one, a case of Convergent Galumph. Do you see? Galumph explains all. We must away and tell Yelxuh, our mimsy publicist, to announce our scientific triumph to the townspeople! We have slain the mystery of Jabberwock with Galumph. Galumph has wiped the brillig from our slithy toves, and given us Enlightenment!Nothing new under the sun: the Darwinists were spinning yarns eight years ago, too. They told us birds evolved flight out of love (01/29/2002) and that compound eyes evolved and de-evolved multiple times (01/29/2002). Trying to get us to believe that supernovas caused both extinctions and a resurgence of life (01/10/2002) and that evolution can run on fast-forward (01/14/2002) might make some readers wonder if there are bats in the evolutionary belfry (01/23/2002).
Chimps Produce Movie
If it turns out anything like the Monkey Shakespeare experiment (05/12/2003), it should be rated PG, for primate gross. They probably learned from the demolished typewriters that they had to chimp-proof the Chimpcam to avoid excrement from damaging the electronics. If anything suggestive of understanding comes out on the tape, scientific objectivity would look into the possibility of coaching by the zookeepers, and the amount of judicious editing done by intelligent human engineers.Aliens Invade Science News 01/25/2010
Jan 25, 2010 What are aliens doing in science news reports? There is no evidence they even exist. That has not hindered some scientists from speculating. BBC News reporters Pallab Ghosh headlined an entry Astronomers hopeful of detecting extra-terrestrial life, and adorned it with a Hollywood-style alien corpse. The article highlighted the optimism of Lord Rees, the president of the Royal Society and Astronomer Royal of Britain, who thinks we are getting close to discovering alien life. And whatever the discovery shows them to be, It would change our view of ourselves and our place in the cosmos.
Frank Drake of SETI fame was also given very good press by the BBC News for finding nothing for 50 years. Drake was praised for inventing an equation that, to evaluate, would require knowledge of several factors that are beyond observation or measurement. Reporter Jonathan Amos focused on what our reactions would be if we discovered aliens.
New Scientist went even further and speculated on what aliens will look like. Reporter Stephen Battersby acknowledged there is no evidence for Tentacled monsters, pale skinny humanoids, shimmery beings of pure energy... When it comes to the question of what alien life forms might look like, we are free to let our imagination roam, he said. The science-in-waiting of extraterrestrial anatomy has yet to acquire its first piece of data, so nobody knows what features we will behold if and when humans and aliens come face-to-face. Or face to squirmy something. From there, various astrobiologists and origin-of-life researchers weighed in with their imaginative speculations. Stephen Benner thought life might be built on alien chemistry. Battersby speculated about life in our solar system. In our eyes, the Titanians might seem pretty laid back. At around 93 kelvin, Titans seas are very cold and that makes chemical reactions super slow. Dirk Schulze-Makuch (U of Washington) who said, Things could be very slow-moving and slow-growing. The lifetime of such an organism may be 10,000 years, or perhaps as much as a million.
Battersby switched over to SETI and let his imagination run loose: Even without knowing the details of their chemistry or habitat, it is possible to hazard a few guesses, he said. He used convergent evolution to speculate that aliens might look like us, and even put English words in their mouth.
So if our aliens come from a planet with a range of habitats not too different from those on Earth, they might well have some of the same characteristics. A well-lit world like ours would probably produce beings with eyes so maybe a recognisable face after all. And our cosmic correspondents would presumably need some manipulating organs to fiddle with the nuts and bolts of their technology. They might even have hands, but then again why not a prehensile tail or a trunk instead? Maybe its an antenna, maybe a tentacle, says [Lynn] Rothschild [NASA Ames]. Maybe an octopus would look at us and think How can you expect this organism to develop technology with its two clumsy front limbs?While were speculating, lets not let empiricism get in the way. They might even be machines; or we might find tentacled monsters, pale skinny humanoids, shimmery beings of pure energy.... At least we can take comfort in the probability that the aliens are green that is, environmentalists. The NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) tells us, for good or for ill, Astrobiology Opens Pandoras Box. Pandora has improved her reputation since the movie Avatar. Lisa Kaltenegger from NAIs MIT team discusses exoplanets and science fiction with CNN World, noting that its likely many moons such as Avatars Pandora exist, and were that much closer to finding them with NASAs Kepler mission. Actually, Pandora does exist. Its a little bitty moon inside Saturns F-Ring (see Planetary Photojournal). But since this is an article about Astrobiology, the implication is that where big-world Pandoras of the Avatar kind form, Pandorans environmentally-friendly sentient communicators are sure to emerge. Why? Because evolution is a force throughout the universe. Whether green sentient slime or general electric beings of pure energy, it good things to life.
For more on SETI speculation, see the 10/31/2009 entry.
If this is New Scientist, dont ask what New Rationality is supposed to be. Can you imagine the reaction of these scientists if theologians or historians were to flip out in unsubstantiated imagination like this? This is nothing but Darwinism, with all its silly concoctions like convergent evolution (01/26/2010) projected into space. They call it science-in-waiting. Gnomology could be called that, too (09/01/2009, 09/17/2008, 04/21/2008, and 03/16/2008 commentaries). Lets throw in alchemy, astrology and natural magic. After all, no data are needed, and those sciences actually had more to work with. While the alien hunters are speculating in Fantasyland pretending to be scientists, maybe they could tell us how many aliens made of pure energy could dance on the head of a pin.Jan 23, 2010 Time to explore another stimulating book by Dr. Phillip E. Johnson, the esteemed leader of the intelligent design movement. Any one of his works is a delicious read, but The Right Questions (IVP, 2002) is especially poignant. Its more than a scholarly treatise written for ordinary people. Its a look into his soul. Dr. Johnson suffered a stroke in 2001, and then the 9/11 attacks occurred that same year. These two catastrophes form an emotional backdrop that adds a personal dimension to the discussion announced by the subtitle, Truth, Meaning & Public Debate.
We cant talk about the right questions, the back cover announces, because we havent been allowed to ask them. New questions came to Johnsons mind due to his experiences in rehab thinking about his own mortality, and with watching the aftermath of terror questions that no one seems to be asking. The one who controls the questions often controls the culture. Questions shape the debate and the allowable outcomes. Questions often assume what most needs to be discussed, the flyleaf explains.
Disappointed that certain questions seemed forever off the table in academia and the media, Johnson proposed lists of his own: questions about science, God, morality, education, logic, meaning of life, tolerance, pluralism, truth, liberty, religion, the historical Jesus even questions about the book of Genesis. These are bold and original questions that open up new vistas of discussion and debate and stimulate additional questions. Written with Johnsons inimitable wit and candor, and reinforced by his own fresh experiences with the fragility of life, the questions will certainly stimulate thinking along new lines and make you wonder, Why didnt I think about that question before? A modest size (191 page) book, The Right Questions is available from Access Research Network, Amazon and most other online booksellers.
Next resource of the week: 01/16/2010. All resources: Catalog.
Fermi Paradox Reasserts Itself
Robert Crowther at Evolution News has a suggestion for Davies. Just read Meyers Signature in the Cell about the evidence for intelligent design that booms out of DNA right here on this planet. And if he wants to be less anthropocentric, why not consider angels, demons, or God? Isnt that being far more expansive in our efforts? Expand your personal search into the Gideon Bible in the hotel room drawer.Remember last year when a Darwin historian warned that evolutionists cannot deny some rather disturbing implications of Darwins ideas? Worth reading again; see the 01/15/2009 entry.
Evolutionary Biogeography Requires Imagination
Animals and plants evolved where they lived except when they didnt. The use of these auxiliary hypotheses, like rafting and land bridges, indicates that evolutionary biogeography is so flexible it could explain anything. Therefore it explains nothing, and should not be taken as evidence for Darwins theory. Iguanas walking long distances on bridges? Lemurs floating on logs out to sea? One can see the cartoons coming. One must never think they floated on an ark or something.Dogs for Darwin 01/21/2010
Jan 21, 2010 Dogs are barking for Darwin and proving him right. How? By illustrating survival of the cutest. No kidding; Science Daily shamelessly announced, Survival of the Cutest Proves Darwin Right.
Chris Klingenberg and Abby Drake, who published a study on mammal skull shapes in American Naturalist on dog breeds, said, This study illustrates the power of Darwinian selection with so much variation produced in such a short period of time. The evidence is very strong. Yet the strong evidence was artificial selection a form of intelligent design. Would nature red in tooth and claw ever produce a cute dog? The caption on the photo of cuddly puppies says, Domestic dogs have followed their own evolutionary path, twisting Darwins directive survival of the fittest to their own needs.
The Darwin-licking lapdogs of evolution are completely, totally out of control. They are so inebriated on Dar-wine they have no idea how silly their slobbering love affair with King Charles and his directives (like evolve or perish!) looks to normal people. Are they oblivious to the fact that Biblical creationist Ken Ham uses diagrams of the diversity of dogs to prove that rapid variations can be achieved by intelligent dog breeders? Apparently. Darwin does not need admirers like this. Hes indisposed enough already.Reality or Hubris in Scientific Claims? 01/20/2010
Jan 20, 2010 The amount of trust the public puts in scientific claims stems partly from their incomprehensibility. The claims presented in scientific papers are often so dense and abstruse as to be unapproachable by all but specialists. Undoubtedly many people trust scientists because of their specialized education, their knowledge of mathematics, their special equipment, and their use of the scientific method (however that is defined) that is assumed to lead to reliable knowledge. The popular press tries to condense and explain scientific explanations in plain English, but at the risk of oversimplifying, editorializing, misinterpreting, misconstruing or hyping the evidence. At times, though, claims by scientists seem so beyond experience that it is right to at least ask how can they be empirically justified. Some recent examples might serve to illustrate the problem.
Scientific explanations today frequently go far, far beyond any empirical data. They make inferences that can scarcely be justified. If the kinds of inferences made by scientists were made by any other scholars, people would call them nuts. Yet scientists get away with it, because they have achieved the kind of presumptive authority that medieval scholars had. The success of science feeds on itself. Like a rich corporation buying up the real estate in the city, science enlarges its territory and takes over. Citizens watch and hope that it means progress.Pigs dont fly One of the most devastating critiques of the new metabolism first approaches to the origin of life was leveled two years ago by Leslie Orgel right before he died (see 01/26/2008). Orgel was a long-time researcher and collaborator with Stanley Miller. But then, Robert Shapiro just a year earlier had leveled a devastating critique of the alternative genetics-first scenario (see 02/15/2007). Two falsifications do not add up to a justification.
Molecular Machines Use Moving Parts
1. Golosov, Warren, Beese and Karplus, The Mechanism of the Translocation Step in DNA Replication by DNA Polymerase I: A Computer Simulation Analysis, Structure, Volume 18, Issue 1, 83-93, 13 January 2010, 10.1016/j.str.2009.10.014.
2. Janice D. Pata and Joachim Jaeger, Molecular Machines and Targeted Molecular Dynamics: DNA in Motion, Structure, Volume 18, Issue 1, 13 January 2010, Pages 4-6, doi:10.1016/j.str.2009.12.003.
3. Santoso et al, Conformational transitions in DNA polymerase I revealed by single-molecule FRET, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, January 12, 2010, vol. 107, no. 2, pp. 715-720, doi:10.1073/pnas.0910909107.
4. Gu and Rice, Three conformational snapshots of the hepatitis C virus NS3 helicase reveal a ratchet translocation mechanism, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, January 12, 2010, vol. 107, no. 2, pp. 521-528, doi:10.1073/pnas.0913380107.
5. Laakso, Lewis, Shuman, and Ostap, Control of myosin-I force sensing by alternative splicing, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, January 12, 2010, vol. 107, no. 2, pp. 698-702, doi:10.1073/pnas.0911426107.
6. Munro, Altman, Tung, Cate, Sanbonmatsu and Blanchard, Spontaneous formation of the unlocked state of the ribosome is a multistep process, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, January 12, 2010, vol. 107, no. 2, pp. 709-714, doi:10.1073/pnas.0908597107.
In the major general journals, papers on biochemistry and biophysics appear to vastly exceed other topics. In the current issue of PNAS, for instance, there are 3 papers on physical sciences, 7 on chemistry (but several overlapping with biochemistry), one on engineering, 1 on environmental science, 1 on geology, 2 on mathematics, 2 on social sciences, 6 on biology, 1 on ecology, 1 on environmental sciences, 2 on evolution, 4 on genetics, 6 on immunology, 6 on medical sciences, 5 on microbiology, 2 on neuroscience, 2 on physiology, 1 on plant biology, 2 on psychology, 1 on sustainability science, but 25 on biochemistry/biophysics/cell biology. This is not atypical. There may be various reasons for this lopsided publishing on cells, but clearly major discoveries are being made as techniques become refined that allow us to see more clearly into the operations of cellular factories. The pattern we see repeatedly here is known as the CEH Law: talk of evolution is inversely proportional to the amount of observational detail. Usually the Darwinspeak is only a casual passing reference without demonstration, like such-and-such evolved to.... (for the fallacy of using evolved as an active verb, see the 01/17/2010 entry). The evidence shouts design! to the rest of us.Stem Cell News: Cancer Cures Coming? 01/18/2010
Jan 18, 2010 Stem cell research has not been as prominent in the popular media lately, but researchers continue to make impressive strides mostly with adult stem cells. Science Daily reported the first success treating leukemia with stem cells from umbilical cord blood. A researcher at the Hutchinson Center said, The real ground-breaking aspect of this research is that we have shown that you can manipulate stem/progenitor cells in the lab with the goal of increasing their numbers. When given to a person, these cells can rapidly give rise to white blood cells and other components of the blood system.
This is but one more dramatic advance in the use of adult stem cells. Whatever happened to the rush for embryonic stem cell therapies? It has largely been trampled by the recent stampede to use adult tissues and induced pluripotent stem cells (06/06/2007, 10/24/2009, bullet 12). Dr. Gregory Brent (UCLA) told an audience Saturday night that embryonic stem cells have yet to produce one treatment, while adult stem cells are currently treating millions (if you include bone marrow transplants a form of adult stem cell therapy). Dr. Brent believes the momentum has clearly shifted away from research on the ethically-questionable embryonic cells toward therapies with adult cells, because thats where real progress is being made (e.g., 02/23/2009, 12/17/2008).
The funding tells a story of shifting priorities, too. The Family Research Council noticed this month that only four of the 14 research grants funded by CIRM, the institute California voters authorized in 2004 to use $3 billion in tax revenues to further stem cell research (see 04/30/2008, bullet 3), deal with embryonic stem cells. Advocates of embryonic stem cell research do not expect any treatments for a long time (10/13/2006).
The Christian Medical and Dental Associations website contains dozens of resources on the ethical issues regarding embryonic stem cells and other beginning-of-life and end-of-life questions.
Do you remember the hysteria in the mid-2000s about embryonic stem cells? Do you remember how anyone opposed to ES research was portrayed as uncaring, unloving and hung-up on outmoded religious scruples? Do you remember how President Bush was savagely attacked by the scientific community for providing a carefully thought out compromise, after he had consulted numerous scientists and ethicists about the issue, because his decision did not give free rein to all the scientists desires for complete freedom to cut up human embryos? (08/11/2004, 07/31/2006). Do you remember the tear-jerking commercials by celebrities suggesting that only embryonic stem cells provided hope for cures to Parkinsons and other crippling diseases? Do you remember the glorious promises of miracle cures right around the corner? Do you remember the guilt trip they all put on voters for raising questions about ES cells, because poor victims would remain without hope, while the Nobel Prizes would go overseas and American scientific prestige would be irreparably damaged? Do you remember how financially-strapped California voters were lured into shelling out $3 billion for what has turned out to be a colossal boondoggle? Do you remember the Gold Rush mentality? Do you remember the Hwang scandal that resulted? (01/09/2006, 02/05/2006). You should.Respect Your Plant: Dont Say it Evolved 01/17/2010
Jan 17, 2010 Consider two propositions: (1) Plants are highly complex, integrated systems that we dont fully understand. (2) They evolved to become highly complex, integrated systems. Thats basically what two scientists claimed in the American Journal of Botany, according to Science Daily reported. But do these two propositions comport with one another?
Mathematical models for the distribution of light within the canopy predict that the photosynthetic rate of the entire canopy is maximized when the specific leaf area is lowest for leaves at the top of the canopy. This research provides new insight into the mechanism by which trees have evolved to obtain light and photosynthesize at the greatest rate.The article did not explain how a blind, unguided process like evolution could produce a complex, highly integrated organism. The E-word evolution was used only in a flippant, passing way: e.g., the title was, New Insight on How Trees Have Evolved to Obtain Light and Photosynthesize at the Greatest Rate. Strictly speaking, it is improper in evolutionary theory to use the phrase evolve to as an action that an organism performs toward a goal. Evolution is a passive result. According to neo-Darwinism, the organisms that won the lottery and got the rare, lucky mutations to produce a complex, integrated system survived; the others all died.
If we held evolutionists feet to the fire and made them talk consistent with their own assumptions, their belief system would fall apart. They cannot help themselves. All humans have to talk in terms of teleology and design. Its in our DNA. References to evolution are mere genuflections most of them perform to keep out of trouble with the academic thought police. Dropping the E-word at least once per press release is usually sufficient to keep the informers from getting suspicious.Jan 16, 2010 In 1962, a book launched the modern creationist movement. That book was The Genesis Flood by Morris and Whitcomb. Many Christians and non-Christians were awakened from their dogmatic slumbers, and realized with a jolt that secular science does not own geology (cf. 07/18/2009 Resource of the Week). Not only is secular geology filled with problems, the Biblical account of creation and the Flood looks pretty good in light of the evidence. Now, what might be called Son of Genesis Flood has just been published by Dr. Andrew Snelling: Earths Catastrophic Past (ICR, December 2009). This two-volume work is a comprehensive look at earth history and geology from a Biblical viewpoint and it was written by a PhD in geology.
Here are some of the topics covered in this major new work: the Biblical record of the global Genesis Flood; non-geological arguments used against a global Genesis flood; Noah, the ark, and the animals; the framework for a Scriptural geology; and a Biblical geologic model of earth history. Dr. Snelling is a fair-minded, knowledgeable geologist with a lifetime of field experience and understanding of geological issues, and is also a gracious Christian gentleman. He has led numerous trips in the Grand Canyon and in his native Australia. If you have been brainwashed by the secular geologists or the old-earth creationists and feel there is no possible way to fit earth history into a Genesis framework, you owe it to yourself to consider the latest evidence and arguments in this new scholarly work. Order it from Institute for Creation Research one of the organizations that sprouted from the modern creationist revival of the 1960s and remains a leader today.
Next resource of the week: 01/09/2010. All resources: Catalog.
An evolutionist lost his faith when a geology presentation in college challenged his creationist beliefs. Years later, the geology presentation was found to be fundamentally flawed! A formation thought to require eons turns out to have formed catastrophically. But the evolutionist did not recant, even when he learned the truth recently. The damage from that flawed presentation started him down a slippery slope to unbelief. Today he is an anti-creationist professor at a secular university. Read about the case in the 01/12/2007 entry.
Specious Theories Obey the Law of Inertia
Scientists are only human. They cant know everything and keep up with everything. Like most of us, they appeal to commonly-held notions that may be false. Thats why you shouldnt trust them, but examine the evidence.Arctic Tern Maintains World Record Title 01/14/2010
Jan 14, 2010 The arctic tern makes a marathoner look like a wimp. This little bird has been confirmed as the migratory bird with the longest route, flying annually from pole to pole. A team of international scientists obtained the results by using an implanted geolocator on several birds, and tracking their actual path. The story is told by PhysOrg and the BBC News.
Albatrosses, godwits, and sooty shearwaters all undertake epic journeys, the BBC said, But none can quite match the Arctic terns colossal trip. They found that half the birds flew along South America on the way down, and others followed the coast of Africa, but all returned northward the same way.
The team was surprised to find the birds following an S-curve home when flying north. National Geographic reported that this makes their migration twice as long as previously thought. The scientists figured that the S-curve allows the birds to conserve energy when flying over the trackless Atlantic Ocean by riding the prevailing winds. The curvy route, even though thousands of miles longer, is actually more energy efficient.
The round trip is about 70,000 kilometers (43,000 miles). An average arctic tern, weighing only 3.5 ounces, will fly the equivalent of three trips to the moon and back over its lifetime.
Arent you glad there are still some scientists left who stick to empirical observations? (compare next entry). This is amazing. The team is to be congratulating for miniaturizing the electronics to the point of making this kind of difficult observation possible. And just think: they didnt even have to make up any evolutionary story to go with it. The only mention of evolution was Revolution: the devices are revolutionising our understanding of migration patterns, the articles said.What Value Do Evolutionary Explanations Provide? 01/13/2010
Jan 13, 2010 We want value for our science dollars. We know artists are into self-expression, but scientists need to offer more than just artistic prose: they are supposed to be in the knowledge generation business. So we expect to gain one of two things from their scientific explanations. One, we would like to gain practical knowledge that can improve our lives: such as a better understanding of cancer that can motivate more effective treatments. But even if we cannot hope for a practical payoff, we hope to gain understanding of natural phenomena. Black holes may not be practical, for example, but we want to understand what they are and what they do. Most of all, we expect the knowledge gained to be empirical based on observations, with theories that can be tested and verified.
Evolution is often presented as the explanation for many things in science. But how much does evolution pay in terms of practical benefits and understanding? Hearing a person describe a notion out of his or her own mind, which cannot be tested, does neither. Speculation is cheap. If we wanted entertainment, we could go see Avatar or watch a comedy show. Ask what return on investment, if any, is being provided in terms of knowledge by the following scientific explanations.
Is there any doubt that evolution is being employed by the Darwin Thought Collective as an idol? Its a designer substitute. Now they can look design in the face, and attribute it to the beneficent intervention of their little goddess, Tinker Bell. The worst excesses of post-hoc storytelling they might attribute to historic theists pale in comparison to the sleazy slime that passes for scientific explanation in stories like this. What useless speculations these pseudo-scientists produce (for more, see the 12/04/2009 entry). Evolutionists are like Francis Bacons spiders, weaving webs out of their own imaginations, when they should be like honeybees, gathering the pollen of empirical evidence to produce honey sweet to society. They are phony scientists with fake badges trying to look busy for job security (01/31/2006, 10/17/2008, 05/02/2003, 11/02/2007). They are like parasites on the body of knowledge: feeding off the resources of working scientists, but just going along for the ride with their own selfish notions (11/19/1009).Play king of the hill on the fitness landscape. The 01/20/2006 entry for the rules of the game.
To Advance Technology, Make Like Nature
This is where the action is in science and technology: finding exquisite designs in nature and trying to imitate them. You have to feel sad for the Darwinists. Every time they insert the E-word into the story, they only show themselves superfluous.Computer Keeps Enceladus Old 01/11/2010
Jan 11, 2010 Theres a new theory for how Enceladus can be so active but still be 4.5 billion years old. It erupts only every billion years or so. This was explained on PhysOrg. Heat builds up slowly then is released as one catastrophic event around every billion years or so.
The scientists already knew that Enceladus was an enigma. They said, Somehow it seems to be pumping out more energy than it gets, which would violate the laws of thermodynamics. But thats only if it is really as old as claimed. Their conclusion was based on a computer simulation. It showed that The ice sheets would flow like glaciers, the heat causing geysers to pop up all over the active surface.
A press release from Jet Propulsion Laboratory filled in more details of the model. The authors claim that the active periods last 10 million years, and quiet periods last 10 to 200 times longer. For evidence, the authors only appealed to current features of the surface and assumptions of age based on crater counts. Then they modeled what they assume is the strength of the surface ice and core, although those features are not observable, if heat rolls around in the interior. A remaining question, though, is why this activity happens on Enceladus and not the other moons of Saturn. JPL also mentioned that the geysers are actively expelling argon, which only comes from radioactive decay, and that the geysers emit 6 gigawatts, the equivalent of at least a dozen electric power plants. This is at least three times as much heat as an average region of Earth of similar area would produce, despite Enceladus small size.
For more on the Enceladus geysers, see 12/18/2008 bullet 2, 06/19/2008, 03/26/2008, 03/10/2008, 02/09/2008, 08/04/2007 bullet 3, and 03/13/2007. For more on using computer models to simulate prehistory, see 09/08/2008.
Well, isnt that convenient. Starting with the assumption that Enceladus is old, and programming that assumption into a computer, you reach a conclusion that supports your belief system: Enceladus can stay old, yet be active. Their model suggests the active periods have occurred only 1 to 10 percent of the time that Enceladus has existed, the press release said. Did you catch that? The length of time Enceladus has existed (the assumed age of the solar system, 4.5 billion years), was never called into question. The crater count dates are similarly married to assumed 4.5-billion-year age (for problems with crater counts, see 03/25/2008 and embedded links). What would happen if that parameter were not fixed in advance by decree? Why not free it up and follow the evidence where it leads?Neanderthals Admired Beauty 01/10/2010
Jan 10, 2010 This may be the last evidence needed to debunk the image of Neanderthals as dim-witted brutes: they wore make-up. The BBC News reported the discovery of their cosmetics containers: seashells with pigments kept for the purpose of improving their self-image. If that is not a human characteristic, what else is?
The shells contained complex recipes of pigments. There were also painted shells apparently used as jewelry. The team says its find buries the view of Neanderthals as half-wits and shows they were capable of symbolic thinking, the article said. Whats more, according to the dating scheme, this evidence existed 10,000 years before contact with modern humans. Study leader Joao Zilhao [Bristol U, UK] said, The association of these findings with Neanderthals is rock-solid and people have to draw the associations and bury this view of Neanderthals as half-wits.
Chris Stringer of Londons National History Museum agreed that this evidence appears to disprove the Neanderthal = Dimwit equation but it just adds to growing evidence over the last decade. Its very difficult to dislodge the brutish image from popular thinking, he lamented.
PhysOrg reported more on this story, describing the pigments and the shells that were found, and evidence why they could not be attributed to other modern humans. It seems that the final distinction between Neanderthal and modern human behavior has been falsified: This is significant because until now the practice of body ornamentation has been widely accepted by archaeologists as evidence for modern behaviour and symbolic thinking in early modern humans and not Neanderthals. New Scientist commented, Add this to other recent evidence that Neanderthals hunted, painted and perhaps even spoke like anatomically modern humans, and the dumb caveman hypothesis becomes even more untenable.
So why does the BBC News include an artist rendition of a brutish-looking Neanderthal with the article? Talk about perpetuating a myth. They should have posted a Neanderthal version of Paris Hilton in the Cave Beauty Pageant. You can put lipstick on a Neanderthal, but its still a human being.Jan 9, 2010 You can find our articles on several international sites. If you dont speak the following languages, you may know someone who does. Point them to these excellent creation resources:
Dutch: Wetenschap, Wonderen en Waarheid van de Schepper en Zijn Zoon has our articles and Baloney Detector and more, with videos and illustrations. The volunteers working this quality site have a passion for getting creation resources to the Netherlands.
Spain Spanish: Boletin de Sedin does an excellent job of translating our entries and adding illustrations, and contains links to many more resources in Spanish. The translator is a highly regarded leader in creation science on the continent.
Russian: The web director of Origins UA does a beautiful job of bringing together many creation resources in Russian, including selected articles from here.
Hungarian: The Hungarian blog 6nap.com translates occasional articles from here and is poised to present even more resources in the future.
If you are a webmaster and translator of another language not listed here, Creation-Evolution Headlines would like to work with you. Write us if you feel a vision to get this vital material into your native tongue.
Next resource of the week: 12/19/2009. All resources: Catalog.
Based on a fossil reported here in 01/26/2005,
paleontologists can no longer claim that large mammals were missing in the age of dinosaurs.
While on that page, notice from 01/28/2005
that bat evolution theory strikes out, and from
01/26/2005 that there is a lot more
uncertainty in the whale evolution tale than the popular press is telling you.
Bad Math Gets a Pass When Its Naturalistic
Maybe this story explains why their project is named MicroFUN. Since this kind of FUN statistical analysis is now an accepted scientific practice, it seems reasonable for the next Republican presidential candidate to claim victory in the next election when she gets her first vote.Best Look Ever at Lifes Smallest Rotary Motor 01/07/2010
Jan 7, 2010 All cells trade in energy currency called ATP (adenosine triphosphate). The molecular energy pellets are produced in profusion by molecular machines with rotary engines. The engines contain all the standard parts: rotor, stator, energy input, and torque production. They are embedded in the membranes of mitochondria and run on proton motive force. Weve reported many times on these exquisite machines (e.g., 10/20/2009 bullet 5, 05/25/2009). They are the smallest rotary motors in the universe (so far as we know), about 10 by 20 billionths of a meter in size. Now, scientists in Canada have imaged them in more detail than ever before at 1.6 Angstrom resolution. Their findings were reported in PNAS.1
The motors come in two families: F-ATP, or ATP synthase, used to produce ATP by all living things, and V-ATP, used primarily in reverse to acidify vacuoles and other subcellular regions. The engines differ only in minor details. The rotor is on the bottom half, called F0 or V0, and ATP synthesis or degradation takes place in the top half, F1 or V1. Lau and Rubenstein studied the V-ATPase from an archaeal microbe that inhabits hot springs, Thermus thermophilus. They imaged 19,825 motors to increase the average resolution down to 1.6 Angstroms (16 nanometers, or billionths of a meter). As a result, they were able to map out all the parts in better detail than ever, which are shown in photographs and diagrams in the paper.
They were particularly interested in gaining insight on how the motor produces torque. Putting their observations together, they deduced this is what happens: a proton flows up a channel to a negatively-charged glutamic acid (an amino acid link in one of the protein chains) in the 12-sided rotor. This neutralizes the glutamic acid (Glu 63) and makes it turn and release the proton, which is shuttled upward out another channel to the cytoplasm. The Glu63 is then attracted to a neighboring arginine (Arg 735) in the rotor and an arginine in the stator (Arg 563), causing a rotational step. The next proton causes the next unit of the 12-part rotor (the L-ring) to take another clockwise step, and so on. Just like in man-made motors, the offset force causes the rotor to spin.
The stator contains two peripheral stalks, partially embedded in the membrane, and there is a central stalk that applies the torque produced in V0 to the ATP synthesis lobes in V1. These come in 3 pairs that are arranged like orange slices around the stalk. The stator and rotor do not touch, but are positioned precisely to cause an optimal torque:
The peripheral stalks are optimally arranged to counter forces attempting to push them away from or pull them towards V1. Both peripheral stalks pushing away from or pulling toward V1 would exert a force on subunit I perpendicular to a line drawn between the stalks (Fig. 4B). Therefore, from Fig. 4B, it is apparent that the peripheral stalks are optimally arranged to apply a force that is eccentric on the L-ring. It is well known that application of an eccentric force on a rotor will cause it to turn, and this principle powers all man-made motors. An attractive force between the positively charged Arg 563 residue of subunit I and a negatively charged Glu 63 residue of a L-subunit counterclockwise of the contact point (when viewed from V0 to V1), would cause the rotor to turn with a clockwise direction, as expected from the known clockwise rotation direction of the rotor during ATP synthesis. Therefore, this eccentric force could be the basis for torque generation in V0.The authors mentioned nothing about how this machine might have evolved. They only mentioned the E-word in passing, making a brief offhand reference to the belief that the F-ATP and V-ATP motors are evolutionarily related but differ in the details of subunit composition and arrangement.
1. Lau and Rubenstein, Structure of intact Thermus thermophilus V-ATPase by cryo-EM reveals organization of the membrane-bound VO motor, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, January 6, 2010, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0911085107.
If you catch a sense of the wonder in what science has discovered about these motors since the first suggestion in 1993 that they were true rotary engines, you must be feeling goose bumps at each new revelation. These motors power every living thing even the simplest, most primitive microbe depends on these irreducibly-complex motors. They are true motors. This is not just a figure of speech: they rotate and perform work. Their parts are arranged for this purpose. They run on proton motive force, and they generate torque. That torque is applied by a power-takeoff mechanism in the central stalk to manufacturing stations in the top half. Previous reports have shown that these little machines operate at 100% efficiency.Tonight Is a Historic Night
Jan 7, 2010 Go look at Jupiter tonight with binoculars and try to detect its four large moons. Youll be re-living a historic occasion. Four hundred years ago on January 7, 1610, Galileo Galilei turned his telescope to Jupiter and discovered those little stars orbiting the planet. This led to the breakdown of Ptolemaic astronomy and helped usher in the Copernican revolution. See the JPL Blog for a quotation from Galileos notebook on his discovery.
Oldest Hebrew Text Deciphered
Prof. Galil also notes that the inscription was discovered in a provincial town in Judea. He explains that if there were scribes in the periphery, it can be assumed that those inhabiting the central region and Jerusalem were even more proficient writers. It can now be maintained that it was highly reasonable that during the 10th century BCE, during the reign of King David, there were scribes in Israel who were able to write literary texts and complex historiographies such as the books of Judges and Samuel. He adds that the complexity of the text discovered in Khirbet Qeiyafa, along with the impressive fortifications revealed at the site, refute the claims denying the existence of the Kingdom of Israel at that time.The text of the inscription relates to the care for the disadvantaged in society. The inscription is not drawn verbatim from any Biblical passage, but sounds similar to those that express concern for widows, orphans, and the poor. The English translation is, you shall not do [it], but worship the [Lord]. Judge the sla[ve] and the wid[ow]. Judge the orph[an] [and] the stranger. [Pl]ead for the infant; plead for the po[or and] the widow. Rehabilitate [the poor] at the hands of the king. Protect the po[or and] the slave; [supp]ort the stranger. This expresses a moral tone right out of the Bible. And could the king be King David?
This is very exciting and significant, and lends weight to the conservative view of the historicity of Scripture. There are sure to be lots of links and comments about this discovery. One good source to look for more information as it develops is Bible Places Blog.Keepers from Jan 2004: How to get engineering without an engineer (invoke miracles without God, 01/28/2004). Why the evolutionary explanation for the La Brea Tar Pits fossil collection is wrong (01/24/2004). Can you add up microevolution and get macroevolution? (01/15/2004).
Flying Fossils Found
A big entry in the class of impossible-to-believe claims of evolution is the notion that an animal went extinct in the age of dinosaurs but still is found alive today, hundreds of millions of years later. If this were the only case it would be enough to cause serious doubts about the consensus age of the earth and Darwinian evolution, but there are many living fossils: see article at CMI and partial lists at CreationWiki and NWCreation.net.Tip Link
Should Just-So Stories be a part of science? Surprisingly, David Barash and Judith Eve Lipton defend the scorned practice in The Chronicle of Higher Education, even though they admit that an argument can be made that the scientific imagination doesnt need wings so much as weights. Their article explains the background of Just-So Stories for those unfamiliar with the term. Discussion question: What weights are needed to prevent scientific imagination from flying off into Fantasyland, as so often occurs in evolutionary explanations?
Tiktaalik Demoted to Has-Been
Another bombshell is that this may not be the only grenade to be lobbed into the picture. The discoverers noted with interest that trackways from Glenisla dated late Silurian (418-422 mya), thought to be those of arthropods, may actually be vertebrate tetrapod tracks as well.3 And the new Polish trackways open the door to more finds like it. Obviously the hunt is on, Ahlberg said, for more trackways and body fossils from that period and the locales presumed intertidal environment. Janvier and Clement said,
Niedzwiedzki and colleagues apparently anachronistic Eifelian [397-391 mya] tetrapod trackways will thus shake up thinking about tetrapod origins. They show that the first tetrapods thrived in the sea, trampling the mud of coral-reef lagoons; this is at odds with the long-held view that river deltas and lakes were the necessary environments for the transition from water to land during vertebrate evolution. And in guiding the search for a gradual timing of the fin–limb transition during the Middle Devonian, they are likely to trigger a burst of field investigations into potential tetrapodomorph fish sites of Emsian [497-397 mya] or earlier age.
1. Niedzwiedzki et al, Tetrapod trackways from the early Middle Devonian period of Poland, Nature, 463, 43-48 (7 January 2010) | doi:10.1038/nature08623.
2. Janvier and Clement, Palaeontology: Muddy tetrapod origins, Nature 463, 40-41 (7 January 2010) | doi:10.1038/463040a.
3. Gouramanis, Webb and Warren, Fluviodeltaic sedimentology and ichnology of part of the Silurian Grampians Group, western Victoria, Australian Journal of Earth Sciences, Volume 50, Issue 5 October 2003, pages 811-825, DOI: 10.1111/j.1440-0952.2003.01028.x.
Did you know evolutionists believe in ghosts? Really. Think about this quote from the paper. Commenting on the implications of finding tetrapod tracks 18 million years earlier than expected, they said, This forces us to infer much longer ghost lineages for tetrapods and elpistostegids than the body fossil record suggests (Fig. 5a, b). And what are ghost lineages, you ask? (Ghost lineages are those that must have existed at a particular time, according to the phylogeny, but which are not represented by fossils at that time.) In other words, they see phantoms in their evolutionary minds eye. They see mythical entities that must have existed, simply because their belief system requires them. And you thought that science required evidence.It Takes More than Eyes to See 01/06/2010
Jan 6, 2010 We think of eyes as objects that see, but vision requires a whole system of parts. One of the most important is the brain. Without your thalamus, vision would be a hopeless jumble of jerky signals, reported scientists from the National Eye Institute.
Writing in PNAS,1 Ostendorf, Liebermann and Ploner found that the human thalamus contributes to perceptual stability across a moving visual field. We continuously move our eyes when we inspect a visual scene, they began. Although this leads to a rapid succession of discontinuous and fragmented retinal snapshots, we perceive the world as stable and coherent. Neural mechanisms underlying visual stability may depend on internal monitoring of planned or ongoing eye movements. By distinguishing ongoing from planned eye movements, they were speaking of the continual oscillations the eye muscles perform unconsciously, called saccades, that aid in preventing saturation of the retina. Receiving a combination of self-induced motions and automatic motions would seem to produce a hopeless jumble. The thalamus helps sort it all out.
The researchers studied a patient who had a stroke that affected the right lobe of his thalamus. He had trouble monitoring his eye movements and locating visual stimuli. Combined with research on macaques, this information indicated to the researchers that the human brain draws on transthalamic monitoring signals to bridge the perceptual discontinuities generated by our eye movements.
The patients visual abilities were impaired, but not enough to cause a breakdown of visual stability in his everyday life. Why? The visual system is provided with backup systems for this important function:
Although proprioceptive information about eye position seems to play a negligible role for the maintenance of visual stability, a number of alternative corollary discharge pathways may help to partially compensate for the affected transthalamic pathway. Visual stability plays a fundamental role for any kind of visually guided behavior and should therefore be maintained by robust and redundant mechanisms. This is in keeping with the observation that only large and bilateral brain pathology may occasionally lead to the subjective experience of compromised visual stability.... Temporal contiguity of visual stimuli across saccades and constancy of relative positional information in a visual scene may thus mainly account for visual stability in most everyday situations. Even a distorted and coarse internal monitoring signal might, under these circumstances, convey sufficient temporal and spatial information to complement the evaluation of visual reafferent information.Getting the visual scene right can actually affect our sense of self. They noted in conclusion, Central aspects of our self-conception may build upon the integration of such corollary discharge-transmitting loops and their disturbed functioning might contribute to the symptomatology in devastating diseases such as schizophrenia. The scientists did not attempt to explain how these integrated, coordinated, robust, overlapping systems might have evolved.
1. Ostendorf, Liebermann and Ploner, Human thalamus contributes to perceptual stability across eye movements, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, December 28, 2009, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0910742107.
If you counted up the stories we have reported about integrated biological systems in which every component contributes to exquisite function, and the researchers who studied them avoided the topic of evolution, it would be a substantial list. Even the subset of stories about the human eye would be substantial (three examples: 08/07/2008, 05/12/2005, 08/28/2003).Why did the evolutionist say impossible, impossible, impossible? Read the 01/16/2003 headline to find out.
Metabolism-First Origin of Life Wont Work
A basic property of life is its capacity to experience Darwinian evolution. The replicator concept is at the core of genetics-first theories of the origin of life, which suggest that self-replicating oligonucleotides or their similar ancestors may have been the first living systems and may have led to the evolution of an RNA world. But problems with the nonenzymatic synthesis of biopolymers and the origin of template replication have spurred the alternative metabolism-first scenario, where self-reproducing and evolving proto-metabolic networks are assumed to have predated self-replicating genes. Recent theoretical work shows that compositional genomes (i.e., the counts of different molecular species in an assembly) are able to propagate compositional information and can provide a setup on which natural selection acts. Accordingly, if we stick to the notion of replicator as an entity that passes on its structure largely intact in successive replications, those macromolecular aggregates could be dubbed ensemble replicators (composomes) and quite different from the more familiar genes and memes.As they said, perhaps one could generalize the notion of a replicator up to a system or network of molecules instead of requiring a genetic code. Trouble is, accurate replication is required or the system breaks down:
In sharp contrast with template-dependent replication dynamics, we demonstrate here that replication of compositional information is so inaccurate that fitter compositional genomes cannot be maintained by selection and, therefore, the system lacks evolvability (i.e., it cannot substantially depart from the asymptotic steady-state solution already built-in in the dynamical equations). We conclude that this fundamental limitation of ensemble replicators cautions against metabolism-first theories of the origin of life, although ancient metabolic systems could have provided a stable habitat within which polymer replicators later evolved.That last phrase tries to be courteous to the metabolism-first believers by giving them some role as stage hands in the play. But these authors already stated in the first quote that the genetics-first scenario is plagued with problems of its own among them, problems with the nonenzymatic synthesis of biopolymers and the origin of template replication. They cant get the required molecules to form on their own, and then there is the nasty problem of the origin of a genetic code that can copy itself. The first paragraph in the paper elaborates:
Both schools acknowledge that a critical requirement for primitive evolvable systems (in the Darwinian sense) is to solve the problems of information storage and reliable information transmission. Disagreement starts, however, in the way information was first stored. All present life is based on digitally encoded information in polynucleotide strings, but difficulties with the de novo appearance of oligonucleotides and clear-cut routes to an RNA world (but see ref. 6), wherein RNA molecules had the dual role of catalysts and information storage systems, have provided continuous fuel for objections to the genetics-first scenario.But having demonstrated in their paper the inadequacy of metabolism-first story, viz: We now feel compelled to abandon compositional inheritance as a jumping board toward real units of evolution, they could offer no hope on the other hand that the genetics-first scenario was more fit. All they could supply was faith: We do not know how the transition to digitally encoded information has happened in the originally inanimate world; that is, we do not know where the RNA world might have come from, but there are strong reasons to believe that it had existed. Why? Because the metabolism-first scenario cannot work: Template-free systems like composomes could only have had the limited role of accumulating prebiotic material and increasing environmental patchiness. There needs to be a storage mechanism for genetic information, and that requires at least RNA. Storage-based inheritance, not merely attractor-based inheritance, is the minimum requirement for Darwinian evolution: The essence of nucleic acids from the point of view of inheritance is exactly that they can store a lot of information at roughly equal energy/stability levels, exactly the property one requires from storage.
Later in the paper, they disparaged the habit of applying Darwinian terms, like selection values, to prebiotic molecules. Such terms are devoid of meaning in a chemical context, they said. The unfortunate usage of words with clear Darwinian connotationssuch as adaptation, fitness landscape, and coevolutionin the realm of pre-Darwinian systems cannot be overemphasized.
Update 01/08/2010: Three days after our report, Science Daily reported about this paper, based on a press release from Free University of Barcelona. Aside from getting the name of NASA wrong, they defined life as self-sustaining chemical system capable of Darwinian evolution. Even within that questionable definition, the metabolism-first scenario will not work, the article said: the basic property of life as a system capable of undergoing Darwinian evolution began when genetic information was finally stored and transmitted such as occurs in nucleotide polymers (RNA and DNA). Since subsequent Darwinian evolution has nothing necessarily to do with the origin of genetic information, the statement lends more support to a definition of life made by astrobiologist Benton Clark (see 12/30/2002): life reproduces, and life uses energy. These functions follow a set of instructions embedded within the organism.
1. Vasos, Szathmary and Santos, Lack of evolvability in self-sustaining autocatalytic networks: A constraint on the metabolism-first path to the origin of life, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, January 4, 2010, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0912628107.
We could have told them this. They are just restating with additional rigor a common-sense principle, that you cant get inheritance without accurate information storage and retrieval. The threshold to avoid error catastrophe is too demanding. Anyway, its nice to have their side prove it with eigenvalues and equations. And it was nice for them to chastise their brethren for misapplying Darwinian terms to chemicals: The unfortunate usage of words with clear Darwinian connotationssuch as adaptation, fitness landscape, and coevolutionin the realm of pre-Darwinian systems cannot be overemphasized.Evolutionists Caught in the Act of Exaggerating 01/04/2010
Jan 4, 2010 A headline on Science Daily and PhysOrg announced breathlessly, Evolution caught in the act: Scientists measure how quickly genomes change. Its really just a press release from Max Planck Institute about mutation rates. The opening line, though suggested that mistakes are a gold mine for creative Darwinian power: Mutations are the raw material of evolution.
The press release went on to glorify Darwin: Charles Darwin already recognized that evolution depends on heritable differences between individuals: those who are better adapted to the environment have better chances to pass on their genes to the next generation, the article explained up front in classic Darwinese. A species can only evolve if the genome changes through new mutations, with the best new variants surviving the sieve of selection, it continued in neo-Darwinese.
Experiments were done on the lab plant Arabidopsis thalliana. Did the scientists find any beneficial mutations that might help this little herb graduate into something bigger and better, say, an orchid? No. In fact, they found that it was a degenerate sibling of a more-fit cousin that can live for years instead of months. The only suggested benefit they mentioned was possible resistance to pesticides. That kind of improvement, however, might turn out to be a loss of fitness overall just as a man can become resistant to handcuffs by cutting off his hands.
Of some concern is the mutation rate they measured. A large population of Arabidopsis plants can expect to have a mutation at every point in its genome. If you apply our findings to humans, then each of us will have on the order of 60 new mutations that were not present in our parents. Michael Lynch tried to spin this as a benefit for Darwinism: Everything that is genetically possible is being tested in a very short period. The press release ended on a note of novelty: the finding represents a very different view than perhaps the one we are all most familiar with: that evolution reveals itself only after thousands, if not millions of years.
Did anyone see evolution here? Did anyone see this little mustard plant growing into something bigger, stronger, or substantially different because of all the mistakes nature throws at it? Most of the mutants probably died. The others are probably straining under mutational load (04/09/2007, 12/14/2006, 10/17/2007 bullet 4).DNA Repair Requires Teamwork 01/03/2010
Jan 3, 2010 As if the genetic code itself wast incredible enough, researchers have been finding systems that repair it. There are numerous pathways the cell can embark on to fix DNA errors. Two key players were recently described in more detail in the journal Science.1
A damaged genetic code is worse than a book with typos. Broken or mismatched DNA strands can lead to serious diseases and even death. It is essential that DNA damage be recognized and repaired quickly. Science Daily reported results by a team at Rockefeller University and Harvard Medical School that found two essential proteins that act like molecular tailors that can snip out an error and sew it back up with the correct molecules. These proteins, FANC1 and FANCD2, repair inter-strand crosslinks, one of the most lethal types of DNA damage. This problem occurs when the two strands of the double helix are linked together, blocking replication and transcription. Each of your cells is likely to get 10 alarm calls a day for inter-strand crosslinks.
What do the proteins do to fix it? They link together and join other members of the repair pathway. The scientists found that FANC1 and FANCD2 are intimately involved in the excision and insertion steps.
This one repair operation requires 13 protein parts. If any one of the 13 proteins in this pathway is damaged, the result is Fanconi anemia, a blood disorder that leads to bone marrow failure and leukemia, among other cancers, as well as many physiological defects, the article said. The original paper put it, Our results show that multiple steps of the essential S-phase ICL repair mechanism fail when the Fanconi anemia pathway is compromised. Neither the paper nor the press release said anything about how this tightly-integrated system might have evolved.
1. Knipscheer et al, The Fanconi Anemia Pathway Promotes Replication-Dependent DNA Interstrand Cross-Link Repair, Science, 18 December 2009: Vol. 326. no. 5960, pp. 1698-1701, DOI: 10.1126/science.1182372.
Darwinism is like a perpetual bad economy with 100% unemployment. If Darwin & Co. cannot hire one professional, how are they going to hire 13 professionals and train them to do skilled work as a team? Even if they could afford to pay them, they couldnt teach them how to do it. The teachers dont have any goals or lesson plans, and they only speak gibberish.Some reasons to distrust the cosmic radionuclide dating method, from 01/11/2002.
What was your favorite story of 2009?
Top Nominees for