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Stem Cells Promise Regeneration
March 31, 2010 Imagine being able to grow a new limb or jaw. Adult stem cells
may one day make possible something almost unimaginable in hospitals today: the regeneration of new limbs or
organs. Theres growing evidence, too, that mammals once had a regenerative potential that has
Hydras do it. Salamanders do it. Why cant mammals regrow
damaged limbs? Science Daily
reported this month that a gene has been identified in mammals involved in regeneration:
A quest that began over a decade ago with a chance observation has reached a milestone: the identification
of a gene that may regulate regeneration in mammals, the article said.
The absence of this single gene, called p21, confers a healing potential in mice long thought
to have been lost through evolution and reserved for creatures like flatworms, sponges, and some species
of salamander. Why evolution would ever lose something so beneficial was not explained.
But without p21, cells in a mouses damaged tissue began acting like
embryonic stem cells and started differentiating into new tissue without forming a scar.
Scientists at the Wistar Institute found this by accident in 1996. They routinely pierce holes
in the ears of lab mice for identification. They found the ear holes on those with p21 knockout genes
healed without a trace. One researcher said, Much like a newt that has lost a limb, these mice will
replace missing or damaged tissue with healthy tissue that lacks any sign of scarring.
This raises a question of why the p21 gene exists if its absence confers a benefit.
It turns out there is a delicate balance between the cell cycle, regeneration and cell death.
In normal cells, p21 acts like a brake to block cell cycle progression in the event of DNA damage,
preventing the cells from dividing and potentially becoming cancerous, Dr. Ellen Heber-Katz of the
Wistar Institute explained. But this genes role must be considered in context: The down regulation of p21
promotes the induced pluripotent state in mammalian cells, highlighting a correlation between stem cells,
tissue regeneration, and the cell cycle. Because we know that regeneration works in salamanders
and other organisms, it may be possible to steer these processes toward the repair of damaged limbs.
Think of the potential for athletes, soldiers and accident victims.
Scientists at Duke University are making headway in regenerative medicine, too.
Science Daily reported that
they identified a new growth factor that stimulates the expansion and regeneration of hematopoietic
(blood-forming) stem cells in culture and in laboratory animals. The protein they identified that can
stimulate expansion of adult stem cells from umbilical cord blood or bone marrow may also have
application in regeneration. Perhaps more importantly, systemic treatment with pleiotrophin
may have the potential to accelerate recovery of the blood and immune system in patients undergoing chemotherapy
or radiotherapy, Dr. John Chute of Duke University said. So far he has not seen the accelerated
stem cells become malignant.
According to another story reported by
Science Daily, regenerative potential
exists not just in stem cells, but in mature cells, too.
Scientists at Salk Institute for Biological Studies and the Center of Regenerative Medicine in Barcelona are
hot on the tail of zebrafish, trying to figure out how they can regrow heart muscle.
What the results of our study show is that mother nature utilizes other ways besides going all the way
back to pluripotent stem cells to regenerate tissues and organs, one of the Barcelona scientists said.
They found they could chop off 20% of the ventricle of a zebrafish heart and it would grow back, young and
fresh as new. Why cant human hearts do that? Why is our damaged heart tissue replaced
with scar tissue? In trying to find out, the scientists are suggesting that tissue regeneration could
be coaxed with a little push in the right direction:
forced expression of cell cycle regulators can induce cardiomyocyte proliferation in mammals.
The director of the CRMB said, If we could mimic in mammalian cells what happens in zebrafish, perhaps we
could be in a position to understand why regeneration does not occur in humans.
Today, Science Daily
announced an even more dramatic regeneration story: a jaw bone grown from adult stem cells.
A Columbia scientist has become the first to grow a complex, full-size bone from human adult stem cells,
the surprising subtitle declared. Specifically, a tempero-mandibular joint was grown on a scaffold acting
as a template for stem cells from bone marrow. Wouldnt it be wonderful if we could get the patients
own stem cells and grow a new jaw? said Dr. June Wu, a craniofacial surgeon. Currently, pieces of
bone are taken from a patients hip or leg to replace facial injuries. The lab still has to figure
out how to connect the graft to the patients blood supply, but imagine surgeons some day being able to
put a framework in place of a broken joint or bone, injecting it with your own stem cells, and getting it
to grow back just like new.
The hydra genome was sequenced recently. This is an organism that, despite its small
size and apparent simplicity, is a master of regeneration.
said the study of the hydra continues to advance research on regeneration, stem cells and patterning.
Did you know this little organism has about as many genes as a human being? If it can regrow parts,
why couldnt we? Dr. Robert Steele of UC Irvine said, Having the Hydra genome sequenced also enhances
our ability to use it to learn more about the basic biology of stem cells, which are showing great promise for
new treatments for a host of injuries and diseases.
The University of Rochester Medical Center
is looking into how to prepare adult mesenchymal stem cells and keep them ready for use, reported
Science Daily. They want
these amazing regenerative cells to be available in the right condition and at the right time for treatment of knee injuries,
osteoporosis, or whatever: stem cells that create bones, cartilage, muscle and fat. Its part of
a medical bonanza in progress: The work is part of ongoing research around the world aimed at harnessing the
promise of stem cells for human health.
Note that none of these stories talked about embryonic stem cells. Most of the stories about embryonic
stem [ES] cells this month discussed efforts to understand how they grow and differentiate (e.g.,
PhysOrg). Some mentioned promises of
possible treatments in the distant future (e.g., Science
Daily), but none of them mentioned any realistic new treatments for human disease. Another article
on Science Daily worried that human
ES cells may be much more different than mouse ES cells than was previously believed, making tests based on a mouse model
pointless -- and sometimes even misleading. Even with nothing practical to show for it, though,
Science Magazines Insider Blog reported that
Congressional supporters of stem cell research have introduced legislation to codify President Barack Obamas
2009 executive order, which lifted restrictions on the number of human embryonic stem cell lines available to federally funded researchers.
Meanwhile, Science Daily said that amniotic fluid
stem cells can be reprogrammed to pluripotency efficiently, where they have characteristics similar to human embryonic
stem cells that can develop into almost any type of cell in the human body so are ES cells, with ethical clouds
surrounding them, even needed any more?
Lets end this entry with another miracle-cure story from adult stem cell research:
PhysOrg reported this month,
University College London scientists and surgeons have led a revolutionary operation to transplant a new trachea
into a child and use the childs own stem cells to rebuild the airway in the body. The boy is
recovering and breathing on his own. Because the boys own stem cells were used, there is no problem of rejection.
A doctor said, We have shown that stem cell-based treatments can save lives and can be used in the creation of
living structures which draw upon the bodys own natural healing mechanisms for their support. Need more
good news for the encore? The step-wise progression in technique from first patient to the present has
delivered a highly streamlined, rapid process. This means that such treatments potentially can be moved out
of the hands of a tiny number of specialist centres into many hospitals around the world, including those in developing countries.
Update 03/31/2010: No sooner did this entry go to press but
PhysOrg gave news that may make the song Three Blind Mice obsolete:
Gene therapy restores vision in mice, the headline announced. Scientists from Buffalo, Cleveland, and
Oklahoma City made a huge step toward making the blind see, it said. They found that inserting DNA nanoparticles appears hopeful for
curing inherited and acquired vision disorders that cause blindness, like retinitis pigmentosa.
Making the blind see was once called a miracle, said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal.
As we have expanded our understanding of evolution, genetics, and nanotechnology, chances are that miraculous
cures will become as commonplace as those claimed by faith-healers past and present. Aside from begging the question what
the word miracle means (or what an understanding of evolution has to do with it), this treatment involves the returning genetic information where it is needed.
Simultaneously, Nature News announced
good news for burn victims and other people needing help with repairs on the largest organ of the human body: the skin.
The identity of a stem-cell type that gives rise to different epidermal-cell lineages has just been revealed.
Called bulge stem cells, they provide the first evidence that skin stem cells can differentiate into interfollicular epidermis,
sebaceous gland and hair follicle lineages. Harnessing and steering these cells may lead to treatments that
help with the rapid regeneration of the wounded skin.
Did we say bonanza?
Dont read the New
Scientist article about regenerating brain neurons with stem cells, or you may get overstimulated.
Jeff Macklis at MIT is thinking about neurogenesis with adult stem cells as a possible treatment for dementia and other brain disorders.
Caution is in order, of course: the nervous system was built with precision, he said,
and we will have to rebuild it with that precision.
Update 04/01/2010: The father of induced pluripotent stem cells [iPS] was honored again. In its Random Samples
for April 2, Science said that Shinya Yamanaka won the $250,000
March of Dimes prize. Rapidly evolving iPS cell technology not only potentially eliminates the need to destroy human embryos for stem cells;
it also has, in effect, democratized the field by making it possible for any cell biologist to work with pluripotent human stem cells.
These bittersweet stories sweet for the lifesaving treatments coming from adult stem cells, bitter for the
incorrigible attachment of some scientists and politicians to cutting up human embryos for no good reason
are mostly sweet. It appears that many research teams are following the promising leads with adult stem cells.
The interest in embryonic stem cells seems to have dimmed considerably, but we need to keep the addicts in check.
Its no coincidence the staunch proponents of ES research are often far left politically and support
unlimited abortion; sometimes worse (euthanasia, death panels). In a particularly disgusting example, leftist New York Times columnist Paul Krugman
agreed that Death panels would save money. He said of advisory panels making end-of-life decisions on whether
to grant expensive treatments or not, That is actually going to save quite a lot of money (see
World Net Daily). Follow the people who love and respect human life.
The work on adult stem cells illustrates how science should be done: increasing understanding of natural processes for the
purpose of benefiting human life.
Elephants Equipped with 4WD
Switching gears, lets think a little about the original creation. These thoughts are admittedly
speculative, but the possibility of restoring the capability of regeneration in mammals suggests that it used to exist.
Are we to believe the Darwinians ridiculous assertion that this healing potential was lost
through evolution? Why would evolution lose something so precious? The original creation may have included
the ability to recover completely from accidental damage. After all, we do have such mechanisms, such as the blood clotting
cascade, and we see regeneration working in the hydra and amphibians. Automatic healing may have included internal factors (regeneration via stem
cells) and external factors (the Tree of Life, for the healing of the nations,
Rev. 22:1-3). A Biblical creationist could
account for loss of function because of the curse on sin. In fact, much of medicine amounts to trying to regain ground from the
cumulative effects of millennia of decay mutations, sin, and a deteriorating environment. There have also been genetic
bottlenecks (the Flood) that could have squeezed out other health capabilities that may have existed in the first generations of people,
before mutations accumulated and became fixed in the post-Flood remnant. Original healing mechanisms might account for
maintenance of an entropic world, since it is difficult to imagine a universe without a Second Law of Thermodynamics.
With these considerations in mind, it can be seen that
recapturing lost capabilities, like limb and organ regeneration, is a morally good, though temporary, solution. Jesus Christ
went about healing and doing good (even regenerating limbs and organs), knowing that the recipients of his grace would die eventually anyway.
His example shows that, even though death is inevitable, alleviating suffering is worthwhile. What we really need, though,
and what Christ focused on, was spiritual regeneration. That treatment is already tested, working, paid for, and available to all
Get your heart transplant today.
Next headline on:
Politics and Ethics
Bible and Theology
March 30, 2010 An elephant is built like a four-wheel drive vehicle, say
scientists from the Royal Veterinary College in London. Unlike other mammals,
which divide acceleration and braking between the front and rear legs,
power is applied independently to each limb, reported
PhysOrg from a paper
Elephant limbs operate analogously to four-wheel-drive vehicles,
the authors stated unabashedly in their paper. Although the four limbs share qualitatively equivalent
mechanical functions (i.e., their contributions to braking and propulsion
are proportionately similar, not skewed toward one or the
other), elephant locomotor mechanics are dominated by the forelimbs,
which do more work and contribute more power to the CoM [Center of Mass].
The benefits of independent leg control come at the cost of lower
effective mechanical advantage, requiring more energy at higher speeds, the authors
explained. Thats why elephants do not run very fast for very long.
Another study published by the University of Manchester last fall, however, said counterintuitively
that Large, lumbering animals such as elephants move much more efficiently than small, agile ones such as mice
(see PhysOrg). In fact, contrary to man-made vehicles,
bigger animals move three and a half times more efficiently than smaller ones.
This comes from having upright posture and more spring in the step.
The reduced mechanical advantage from four-leg drive needs to be seen in context.
Another study reported by Royal Veterinary team last month in PhysOrg
said that an elephants movements are extremely economical. They compared it
to mice and men:2 Consuming a minimum of
0.8J/kg/m, an elephants cost of transport is 1/3 that of humans and 1/30 that of mice.
They also examined whether elephant locomotion at higher speeds is best described as walking or running.
Its both, depending on the definition. They observed that, running or walking, elephants keep a remarkably even keel.
Watch an elephants shoulder next time you see one at a trot. The scientists measured
this, and found that the elephants centre of mass bounces less than other animals,
reducing the giants cost of transport.
From the baby elephant walk to the bull run, the gait of the elephant appears well
designed for its four ton bulk. None of the papers said anything about how this independent
leg control might have evolved. The PNAS paper, however, made one astonishing admission about evolution.
The authors essentially said that a contradiction to evolutionary expectations was somehow due to evolution anyway:
Functional equivalence of all four limbs is in contradiction to our previous
findings, which assumed some functional similarity between
the limbs of elephants and other mammals. This equivalence
seems to be a unique specialization of elephants that relates
to their unique size, range of habitats, and evolutionary history.
That statement did not include any references to evidence of fossil transitional forms going from
rear-leg to four-leg design.
1. Ren, Miller, Lair and Hutchinson, Integration of biomechanical compliance, leverage,
and power in elephant limbs,
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,
published online March 29, 2010, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0911396107.
2. Recall from the 11/18/2004 entry that
human anatomy is remarkably well adapted for distance running.
That lone reference to evolution was disgusting.
Did you catch that? They used zero evidence to support evolution. (Again.)
If unique traits can be attributed to evolutionary history as much as homologous
traits can, Darwin has rigged a scam. Its the old heads-I-win-tails-you-lose trick.
An elephant was mentioned along with other amazing animals in the 03/24/2005
entry not for its gait, but for its Rich Little talent.
If anything, elephants have devolved. The fossil record shows larger,
more powerful members of the elephant family the wooly mammoths, and several other
robust behemoths no longer with us. We can appreciate the design of the sport
utility vehicles still around, and only wonder at the humvees and tanks of the past.
And just imagine the power of the dinosaurs, like the gigantic Titanosaurs. The Creator knew how to move a lot
of mass around with efficiency and grace; after all, he created the laws of physics, too.
Next headline on:
Comets Are Cracking Up
March 29, 2010 An amateur astronomer observed a comet splitting in two, reported
(PhysOrg), but its not just
the comets that are breaking up. Theories about them have undergone a revolution
at revelations they are not all they were cracked up to be. They used to be pristine
remnants of the formation of the solar system. Analysis of actual cometary material
has changed all that.
Last month, a headline heralded the first dating of comet stuff (see
Beneath the surface, though, the article recognized a paradigm shift:
The NASA Stardust mission to comet Wild 2, which launched in 1999, was designed around the
premise that comets preserve pristine remnants of materials that helped form the solar system.
In 2006, Stardust returned with the first samples from a comet.
The date and location of CAIs, though, is dependent on theories of the formation of the solar
system. Something is clearly wrong. To salvage the theory about where and when high-temperature
materials form, the scientists now have to invoke radial transport of material over
large distances in the early solar nebula. Is that even probable? Could it be
just a theory-rescuing device at work? A scientist at Lawrence Livermore recognized the
problem: These findings also raise key questions regarding the timescale of the
formation of comets and the relationship between Wild 2 and other primitive solar nebula objects.
Those are quotes from the paper in Science Express
posted Feb 25, 2010.1 The paper claimed a date of 1.7 million years for the particle studied.
Is that kind of precision plausible, given the following explanation?
Though the mission was expected to provide a unique glimpse into the early solar system by
returning a mix of solar system condensates, amorphous grains from the interstellar medium and true
stardust (crystalline grains originating in distant stars), the initial results painted a different picture.
Instead, the comet materials consisted of high-temperature materials including calcium-aluminum
rich inclusions (CAIs), the oldest objects formed in the solar nebula. These objects form in
the inner regions of the solar nebula and are common in meteorites.
The presence of CAIs in comet Wild 2 indicates that the formation of the solar system included
mixing over radial distances much greater than has been recognized by scientists in the past.
This observation in turn requires transport of inner solar system
material to the outer reaches of the solar system at distances
exceeding 30 AU and incorporation into cometary bodies
over an extended period of at least several million years.
Outward transport of Coki [the name they gave to the particle] to the Kuiper belt must have
occurred as late as (if not later than) the time over which
chondritic meteorites and the oldest differentiated meteorites
formed [see (30)]. The age constraint derived from Coki
indicates that the transport mechanisms which supplied high-temperature
inner solar system material to the outer reaches
of the solar nebula, whether by lofting above the disk in an X-wind
model (31) or via mixing processes within the solar
nebula [e.g., (32, 33)], operated over a >2 million year
timescale as solids settled to the midplane and the disk
In other words, this particle had to be cooked in the inner solar system, then
fly outward to 30 times the earth-sun distance to get to the assumed comet-forming
region. Giving these implausible stories names like transport mechanisms
and mixing processes seems a cover for ignorance.
recognized the ignorance: How the material in Coki got transported to the outer solar system,
whether by lofting above the solar system disk or mixing processes within it, isnt yet known,
but it likely occurred during a time period of more than two million years, the researchers say.
If one cannot describe how it happened, it seems presumptuous to claim to know when it happened.
Meanwhile, we do know from direct observation that comets dont last forever.
and National Geographic
reported another SOHO observation of a sun-grazing comet making a death plunge into the sun, where it was seen to vaporize and vanish.
Thats the thousandth one. Before SOHO, the article said, only 16 sun-grazers were known.
Scientist reported that Three years ago, the comet 17P/Holmes exploded with a blast comparable
to a small nuclear bomb. And National
Geographic reported in January a strange comet that may have formed from the collision of asteroids.
These observations, combined with the breakup observed by the amateur astronomer, show destructive processes at work
not comet formation processes. The comets we see are cracking, vaporizing, exploding, and fizzling out.
They form only in theory.
National Geographic fell back on the old paradigm: Its believed most comets come from the cold, distant reaches
of the solar system and travel on long, elliptical orbits, which keep the icy bodies far from the sun most of the time.
That must be or else they would be young. The collision was not observed. At the tail end of the article,
scientists admitted they didnt even know what an asteroid collision would look like. Jim Scotti [U of Arizona]
said, We have some ideas, but Im not sure anyone has really sat down and modeled the size and velocity of the debris,
or where all that debris goes and how long it would remain potentially observable. It seems premature, therefore,
to say that a collision formed this particular strange comet.
Another detail came out at the end of the article: scientists were puzzled this comet had any
ice left after billions of years:
For now, scientists can only wait and watch to see if P/2010 A2 (LINEAR) slowly dissipates, like debris from an explosion,
or continues to act like a cometwhich would pose a new round of puzzling questions.
Comet science marches on. Science
Daily reminded us that the same Stardust spacecraft that collected Coki and her friends is honing in
on a rendezvous with Tempel 1, the comet that Deep Impact blasted with a projectile five years ago.
Also, the WISE infrared orbiting telescope got a nice infrared image of a comet,
Geographic. At least now we know not to worry about comets as bad omens (unless they impact the earth).
A rare handful of comet-like bodies are known to orbit in the main asteroid belt.
But if P/2010 A2 (LINEAR) is actually a comet, how did it conserve its water ice so close to the
sun for some 4.5 billion yearsroughly the age of the solar systemonly to begin releasing gases now due to some unseen event?
Thats a long time to bake an object, Scotti said.
Its hard to imagine how an object would maintain a reservoir of volatiles that
it could use to suddenly start producing a tail. But you know, stranger things have happened.
1. Matzel et al, Constraints on the Formation Age of Cometary Material from the NASA Stardust Mission,
Published Online February 25, 2010, Science DOI: 10.1126/science.1184741.
Kids! Now you can give a scientific excuse to dad.
Next time he asks you who broke the window with a baseball, you can just shrug your shoulders
and say some unseen event did it. Tell him you dont know how long it
was potentially observable. If he persists, just say, Its
hard to imagine how an object could do that, but stranger things have happened.
This has the all the authority of the Lunar and Planetary Lab of the University of Arizona behind it.
Try it! For extra fun, claim that the ball came from the Kuiper Belt millions of years ago!
Explaining the Undetectable: Science or Faith?
In most careers, if you were as wrong as astronomers have been about comets, you would
lose your job. What if astronomers jobs depended on the correctness of their predictions
when observations come in? It should be noted that puzzlement is a function of expectations.
Comets themselves are indifferent to what humans think about them. They just exist and go about
their orbital business. The scientists were puzzled because they expected to see cold, pristine
material from the outer reaches of the solar system. They taught that idea for years. They were
wrong. This shows the value of better observations. They can put the lie to evolutionary
theories. More power to Stardust, Deep Impact and other missions that gather data to replace
speculation. Its a little too late now for the false prophets to make up stories after the fact and tell the public, who
pays much of their salaries through federal grants and tuition, that stranger things have happened.
Next headline on:
March 28, 2010 Scientists routinely portray themselves superior to religious people who (in their estimation)
accept things on faith. This ignores the fact that many theories in science walk by faith, too.
Theories frequently posit entities that cannot be detected by any means and may not exist at all,
except as props for the consensus. When a potentially falsifying observation is
made, the theory is often modified to accommodate the difficulty, but is rarely
abandoned. Some recent examples might show how scientists respond by faith when evidence is
lacking. These examples are from astronomy, but the problem is not restricted to that branch of science.
Seeing is believing was the headline of a story in
PhysOrg this week.
It was about the detection of a gamma ray burst that may be the most distant object in the universe.
Based on the stories above, however, it could be argued that for some scientists,
believing is seeing. Having a strong enough faith in ones favorite theory
is enough to generate visions in the minds eye by faith alone.
- Dark matter: Several expensive projects are underway to detect dark matter.
Every once in awhile, a scientist or team publicizes a finding that might suggest an
elusive dark matter particle has passed by. The discovery of these particles is routinely
put in future tense, and is sometimes justified on the grounds that the neutrino was discovered
long after its existence was deemed necessary for theory. One successful theoretical prediction,
though, cannot justify reckless positing of unobserved entities to keep a theory going.
Todays popular cosmologies
require more matter than is detected thus the search for dark matter. Last month,
for instance, PhysOrg reported on a dark matter
conference at UCLA. The substance was all about the detectors, not detections.
Dr. David Cline, a UCLA physics professor, put a positive spin on how
to describe unknowns by promising future treats: Once we know what it
really is, we will break through into a new realm of nature. Its going to be an
entirely new era for science, its going to pose fascinating new questions, its going
to be exciting. All excitement aside, how can he say we will know what it really is
without begging the question that it really, indeed, is?
This week in Science,1
Rafael F. Lang tantalized the reader with the line, After analysis of a year-long detection experiment,
resolution of the dark matter mystery may be near. Yet the same issue of Science
said of the actual report,2
Details of possible, but unlikely, detection events produced by dark matter are reported.
The paper said that analysis of two candidate detection events is not statistically significant evidence
for dark matter. Lang remarked, It is a sobering fact that of all the matter in the universe,
only 17% is made of particles we know. How can a fact be 83% unknown? Doesnt a
fact become a fact when it is known, based on some evidence? Dark matter may turn up some day, but
until it does, how does the offering of tantalizing
press releases differ from a cult that endlessly promises, sans evidence, that the deliverer will arrive any day now?
- The Venus that never was: Modern Venus is much, much different than the Venus of the 1960s.
Before space probes landed and mapped it in radar, it seemed a twin to the earth that may have sported a lush,
tropical environment. Those ideas are laughable now. Venus is so hot, life is unthinkable under its
acidic clouds. But another surprise was the lack of plate tectonics and active geology we observe on Earth.
The surface appears to have been catastrophically reworked all at once.
Everything appears young craters, volcanoes, lava flows. To explain this, planetary scientists have
suggested that 90% of the planets history was erased by recent resurfacing events. An article on
PhysOrg brings this idea up to date. Peter James
(MIT) expected to find mass concentrations (mascons) that are detected for Earth, the moon and Mars, but was
surprised to find none at Venus, the article said. He believes that the absence of mascons is
consistent with the idea that the Venus surface experienced some sort of catastrophic overturning at
least 500 million years ago. Thus the anti-uniformitarian enigma remains. What caused it?
James rightly noted that that would require a mechanism that more thoroughly reworks the crust.
But what sort of mechanism perhaps large-scale volcanic activity periodically creates a
new surface on Venus? Why would such a mechanism kick in 90% of the way down the planets timeline?
Did the pre-catastrophic timeline even exist? Whatever evidence might exist for it is buried under lava.
- Missing light: What would you think of a theory that missed 90% of the data?
Science Daily said that
Many Surveys of Distant Galaxies Miss 90 Percent of Their Targets. Assumptions about
spectra from distant targets have apparently only accounted for 1 in 10 objects that are out there.
New methods with different assumptions about a particular spectral signature of hydrogen have concluded
that The number of missed galaxies is substantial.
But its not as if this finding seals the deal and makes sky surveys more accurate.
The article included a warning about interpreting observations that can be applied more generally: the
answer you get may depend on the methods you choose.
Different observational methods, targeting the light emitted at different wavelengths, will always
lead to a view of the Universe that is only partially complete, the press release from the European
Space Agency noted. The results of this survey issue a stark warning for cosmologists, as the
strong Lyman-alpha signature becomes increasingly relied upon in examining the very first galaxies to form
in the history of the Universe. This stark warning was followed up by a quote that assumed
progress is being made: Now that we know how much light weve been missing, said co-author Miguel Mas-Hesse,
we can start to create far more accurate representations of the cosmos,
understanding better how quickly stars have formed at different times in the life of the Universe.
But can we be so sure, when up till now, their numbers were off by 90%? What other unknowns remain unknown?
- Dynamo revisions: Students learn that magnetic fields are generated by convection
currents inside the spinning liquid cores of planets. That presumes a massive enough body exists
to support a molten core. What happens when you find magnetic fields in bodies thought too small?
Thats exactly what PhysOrg reported, and the
response of scientists is instructive. The article starts confidently with claims stated factually:
The Earths global magnetic field is generated in its metallic core, located nearly 3,000 kilometers
beneath the planets surface. The field has existed on Earth for at least 3.5 billion years and offers
clues about how other planets, stars and celestial bodies may have formed. After some elaboration
about dynamo theory, the article descends into problems:
But scientists understanding of dynamo theory has been complicated by recent discoveries of
magnetized rocks from the moon and ancient meteorites, as well as an active dynamo field on Mercury places
that were thought to have perhaps cooled too quickly or be too small to generate a self-sustaining magnetic field.
It had been thought that smaller bodies couldnt have dynamos because they cool more rapidly and
are therefore more likely to have metallic cores that do not stay in liquid form for very long.
Bring on the theory-rescue devices: its as if scientists respond, Well, what do you know: small
bodies can form a dynamo after all. Isnt that exactly what this sentence says?
Notice the word somehow: According to Weiss, the finding suggests that sustaining a magnetic field
like the one on Earth might not require a large, cooling core that constantly moves liquid and creates
currents, but could also be somehow generated by the cores of smaller bodies like planetesimals
some of which are only 160 kilometers wide. The theory requires it; therefore it exists.
- Yucking it up over a weird supernova: Type Ia supernovae are standard candles for measuring
cosmic distances except when theyre not. A story in PhysOrg
is at once heartwarming and heartburning. The casual reader will enjoy the narrative as scientists show
their human side when trying to understand an anomalous supernova observation:
[Peter] Nugent [Berkeley Nearby Supernova Factory] laughs when he recalls the Caltech response.
Caltech got right back to us with their opinions, all expert and all different: Its a variable
star; Its an active galaxy; Its a core-collapse supernova; Its
a funky nova outburst.
Nugent and team were able to save the phenomena by proposing that two white dwarfs had collided to cause the
unusually bright supernova outburst. Otherwise, theorists would have been faced with explaining a star
more massive than the Chandrasekhar Limit, a theoretical natural barrier to growth. Their elegant
explanation might have saved the phenomena, but every solution breeds new problems. Several tweaks were
necessary to get the idea to work especially how to overcome another natural barrier about age. Notice the confidence
in the ending line, We know better now
But later Avishay Gal-Yam at Caltech (now with Israels Weizmann Institute of Science)
obtained spectra from Palomar after classical supernova features had emerged. He told Nugent he thought
it was a Type Ia after all. And were supposed to be the Ia experts, says Nugent.
The last time I remember anybody trying to blow up a system like that I was in graduate school, and
nobody believed it, Nugent says, referring to modeling such a merger. Back then, everybody thought
it would take more than the age of the universe for two orbiting white dwarfs to get close enough together.
We know better now.
But how do they know better? Only because it happened or if it did happen, there must have
been some way for these white dwarfs to get into orbit in less time than expected, because theory demands it.
The explanation bred another problem. Type Ia supernova are widely used as standard candles
in cosmic measurement. The assumption is that since the Chandrasekhar Limit cannot be breached, the white
dwarfs that accrete matter and then blow up do so with a predictable luminosity. If some Type Ias can
result from mergers, it casts doubt on the assumption of uniform brightness. Astronomers could exclude
the superbright supernovae as a procedural matter, but that answer seems to make any conclusions tainted with
human arbitrariness. How bright is too bright? What other factors could be altering the expected
light output? What other observations are deemed anomalous, on what grounds? Type Ia supernovae were
supposed to be a check against arbitrariness. They were supposed to be standard candles.
The end of the article discussed various ways that astronomers have to pick and choose data based on theoretical
considerations a worrisome aspect made even more worrisome by the cavalier attitude expressed by
Richard Scalzo of Yale in the concluding paragraph:
If we are successful in differentiating between the subclasses of Type Ias,
and can find spectral and physical features that will allow us to tag even less-obvious examples
in a clear-cut way, thats progress. If not, it could cause trouble. Whatever is
not known should make people nervous but excited!
Demolition derbies are exciting, too.
- Living galaxy dinosaur: Imagine finding a living dinosaur in your backyard.
Thats how a story in Science Daily
began last month, but it wasnt about dinosaurs. It was about an apparent galaxy merger that was
too recent for theory. Astronomers have found the astronomical equivalent of prehistoric life in
our intergalactic backyard: a group of small, ancient galaxies that has waited 10 billion years to come together,
the preface claimed. These late bloomers are on their way to building a large elliptical galaxy.
According to their scenario, a collision in the Hickson Compact Group 31 is very improbable.
Why? Because they are dated as far along their evolutionary path. It is an extremely rare local
example of what we think was a quite common event in the distant universe, one astronomer explained.
So why did these galaxies wait so long to interact?
In science, hearing a folksy analogy does not always inspire confidence:
Perhaps... because the system resides in a lower-density region of the universe, the equivalent of a rural village,
Sarah Gallagher [U of Western Ontario] said. Getting together took billions of years longer than it did for
galaxies in denser areas.
- Multiverse tugs: The most egregious example in recent memory of scientists appealing to unobservable entities
is the multiverse hypothesis that universes forever outside our observational horizon may exist ad infinitum.
Geographic News tried to sanctify the notion with a bit of empiricism by claiming proof exists:
New Proof Unknown Structures Tug at Our Universe. What is the proof? Actually,
the only observation concerns some peculiar motions of galaxies that appear to be streaming in the same direction.
Since This mysterious motion cant be explained by current models for distribution of mass in the universe,
the controversial suggestion has been made by some researchers that the clusters are being tugged on
by the gravity of matter outside the known universe.
Not content to stop with that dramatic assertion, National Geographic sauntered into an even bigger unobservable notion:
The find adds to the case that chunks of matter got pushed outside the known universe shortly after the
big bangwhich in turn hints that our universe is part of something larger: a multiverse.
1. Rafael F. Lang, Fishing for the Universe,
26 March 2010: Vol. 327. no. 5973, pp. 1582 - 1583, DOI: 10.1126/science.1187972.
2. CDMS II Collaboration, Dark Matter Search Results from the CDMS II Experiment,
26 March 2010: Vol. 327. no. 5973, pp. 1619-1621, DOI: 10.1126/science.1186112.
These issues are important. Science has taken on the
role of a priestly caste in our culture. We trust their pronouncements as much as ancient
Romans trusted their oracles, on the basis of the assumption that they use methods guaranteed to
generate true knowledge. The assumption is bolstered by the practical benefits science has
brought us. We tend without adequate warrant to extend that assumption to all scientists
and everything they say. We look to them for enlightenment about matters beyond our experience,
assuming that they are trustworthy.
Scientists perform Much Ado About Nothing, 03/12/2004.
Many scientists are trustworthy. Many, hopefully most, have a deep
regard for empirical facts, and maintain their epistemic modesty. But strict empiricists
are rare these days. It is too restrictive on their imaginations. The trust we place
in scientists is based on their presumed empiricism that they walk by sight, not by
faith. As these articles have shown, however (and they are not rare exceptions),
much of what we call science today has become reckless in its propensity to trade in
unobservable reality (if that oxymoron makes any sense).
The popular philosophy of science today is scientific realism the
assumption that scientists have the right to appeal to unobservable reality to explain
observable reality. To a certain extent, this is reasonable. We all commonly
infer unseen entities to explain observations like an unobserved rainstorm when we see
the car and the pavement wet. That kind of common-sense reasoning, though, usually refers
to things that have been observed like previous rainstorms that produced the same
wet pavement and car. We could be wrong, though: a movie companys rainmaking machine
might have passed by. We wouldnt usually say that a water asteroid from the
Oort Cloud did it.
Despite the popularity of scientific realism, many philosophers strongly question the
propriety of scientists to deal in unobservable realities. One of the values of
David Berlinskis book The Deniable Darwin (see Resource of the Week for
03/13/2010) is his deft expose of the pretensions of
scientists. He said of multiverse theory,
A scientific crisis has historically been the excuse to which scientists have appealed for
the exculpation of damaged doctrines.... What we are discovering is that many areas of the
universe are apparently protected from our scrutiny, like sensitive files sealed from view
by powerful encryption codes. However painful, the discovery should hardly be unexpected.
Beyond every act of understanding, there is an abyss. Like Darwins theory of evolution,
Big Bang cosmology has undergone that curious social process in which a scientific theory is
promoted to secular myth. The two theories serve as points of certainty in an intellectual
culture that is otherwise disposed to give the benefit of the doubt to doubt itself.
It is within the mirror of these myths that we have come to see ourselves. But if the promotion
of theory into myth satisfies one human agenda, it violates another. Myths are quite
typically false, and science is concerned with truth. Human beings, it would seem,
may make scientific theories or they may make myths, but with respect to the same aspects
of experience, they cannot quite do both. (from Was There a Big Bang? in The Deniable Darwin, p. 232)
As we have seen some scientists have become so reckless
in their mythmaking, they need to be shamed back to their empirical roots.
They are turning science into a cult. They need to cultivate empiricism, not the occult.
What is the occult, if not appeals to mysterious unseen entities and forces the very things science
was invented to avoid?
No fallible human being deserves your trust just because he or she claims
to be a knower (scientist). If you would not join a cult, dont follow any
scientist blindly. Isnt it ironic that the Good Book is sounding once again more empirical
than modern science? The apostle Paul warned his readers about what is falsely called knowledge (science;
I Timothy 6:20)
and admonished them to not be children tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine
but to test all things; hold fast that which is good
(I Thessalonians 5:21).
Thats solid scientific advice.
Next headline on:
Stars and Astronomy
Biomimetics: Science for Now
March 27, 2010 Do you want science that makes a difference in our lives?
Look at real plants and animals with real solutions to practical problems. Thats where
researchers are making amazing discoveries with practical spinoffs.
Dr. Ortiz was asked how she got into her field: I was always fascinated, since I was a small child,
by nature, biology, evolution, and related fields. Was one of those fields intelligent design?
Probably not, but she feels one of the most important qualities of a scientist is
The ability to see the unexpected in data, to fearlessly explore areas outside of ones comfort zone,
and to draw on and link to bodies of work in other fields, regardless of vocabulary and language barriers.
Follow that advice consistently and you never know where your world view might end up.
- Shellfish materials: Strong, lightweight structures are coming, thanks to
the imitation of oysters and shellfish. PhysOrg
reported that researchers at the University of Helsinki are coming closer to manufacturing nacre-inspired
polymers that are unbreakable, fire resistant, and gas free. Such materials are a dream in
electronics; they can insulate and are strong and flexible. Lightweight, too and they
self-assemble when you get the conditions right.
The press release ended with a quizzical juxtaposition of ideas:
The new material is an example of biomimetics, which aims to mimic the most attractive materials
in the nature, but in simpler terms. The idea is that natures solutions are much more
complex than ours. But then one of the scientists was quoted saying it all just evolved:
The materials scientists are fascinated by the delicacy of natural materials.
The properties have been developed due to the lengthy process of evolution and in some
cases extraordinary properties relevant to technology can be identified.
In addition to nacreous shells, the materials scientists explore for example mimics for silk, jaws, and bones.
- Leaf mimic: Blueprint for 'Artificial Leaf' Mimics Mother Nature
announced Science Daily.
A presentation by Chinese scientists to the American Chemical Society showed how
design of artificial photosynthetic systems based on biological paradigms is
leading toward a working prototype to exploit sustainable energy resources.
This is a long-sought goal: to imitate the energy-efficient harvesting of sunlight achieved by
plants and algae. The scientists actually took a closer look at the leaf for
ideas. Not too surprisingly, the structure of green leaves provides
them an extremely high light-harvesting efficiency. The next step was clear:
The scientists decided to mimic that natural design in the development of a
blueprint for artificial leaf-like structures.
The word design
was as ubiquitous in this article as the word evolution was scarce: e.g., design of novel
artificial solar energy transduction systems based on natural paradigms, particularly
based on exploring and mimicking the structural design. The last sentence was a virtual
manifesto for biomimetics: Nature still has much to teach us, and human ingenuity can
modify the principles of natural systems for enhanced utility.
- Bee nose: We all know about the sniffers of dogs, but did you know honeybees are
their equals? PhysOrg reported about
how the Defense Department is not just imitating bees, but training them for active duty.
Maybe you never heard that In 2010, bee training in the fields of defense and security,
medicine, food, and building industries is big business.
Bees are smaller, cheaper and easier to transport than dogs. Honeybees with diodes on their backs
are now being used to sniff out TNT. Let them find the landmines, the military says, so that
human farmers dont have to find them the ugly way.
- Green materials: As an environmentally-conscious citizen, you would like to
reduce the use of styrofoam cups going into landfills, wouldnt you? Well, thank a seashell
for finding a better use for them,
said Science Daily.
Scientists have made synthetic sea shells from a mixture of chalk and polystyrene cups
and produced a tough new material that could make our homes and offices more durable.
PhysOrg quipped, Strength is shore thing for sea shell scientists.
And where did they get the idea? A team of materials scientists and chemists have taken
inspiration from sea shells found on the beach to create a composite material from dissimilar ingredients.
Thats how sea shells do it: they intersperse mineral crystals with proteins in ways that provide
crack resistance and structural strength. Researchers at University of Manchester are boasting as if they did the hard part:
We have replicated natures addition of proteins using polystyrene, to create a strong
shell-like structure with similar properties to those seen in nature. Shouldnt
the shell or the shell-maker get the design credit?
- Spider silk: Spiders are the masters of materials science
PhysOrg reminded us, and scientists are finally catching up.
Attempts to understand and imitate spider silk have been reported here many times.
Silks are among the toughest materials known, stronger and less brittle, pound for pound, than steel,
the article recapped. Now scientists at MIT have unraveled some of their deepest secrets in research that
could lead the way to the creation of synthetic materials that duplicate, or even exceed, the extraordinary properties of natural silk.
That leads to an interesting philosophical question. If humans create it, is it natural?
What the MIT team found out is that the arrangement of the silk elements makes the
difference. The protein components known as beta sheets are arranged in a structure that
resembles a tall stack of pancakes, but with the crystal structures within each pancake alternating
in their orientation, Markus Buehler, an MIT civil engineering professor, explained
(see picture in the Science Daily article).
This particular geometry of tiny silk nanocrystals allows hydrogen bonds to work cooperatively,
reinforcing adjacent chains against external forces, which leads to the outstanding extensibility
and strength of spider silk. Slight deviations in the length of the beta sheets leads to
breakdown of the silks remarkable strength and flexibility, the team found. Expect good things
from what biomimetics is discovering:
Buehler says the work has implications far beyond just understanding silk. He notes that the
findings could be applied to a broader class of biological materials, such as wood or plant fibers,
and bio-inspired materials, such as novel fibers, yarns and fabrics or tissue replacement materials,
to produce a variety of useful materials out of simple, commonplace elements. For example,
he and his team are looking at the possibility of synthesizing materials that have a similar structure to
silk, but using molecules that have inherently greater strength, such as carbon nanotubes.
The fact that the arrangement of elements is critical to their success is reminiscent of how the
properties of DNA and proteins are critically dependent on the sequence of the building blocks.
Applying this new paradigm that it is arrangement as much or more than material
provides a whole new design pathway for inventors, thanks to the lowly garden spider.
The long-term impact of this research, Buehler says, will be the development of a new material design paradigm
that enables the creation of highly functional materials out of abundant, inexpensive materials.
- Signal in the noise: An article in
PhysOrg sounds at first like a strictly physical
engineering problem of how to amplify signal in a noisy environment using a principle called stochastic
resonance. But at the end of the article, the researchers talk about designing an artificial
neuron that mimics the signal-enhancing capabilities of nerve cells. Artificial neurons are
defined as simple computing, logic gates. Their actions resemble the firing of signals
as they are observed between neurons, the article explains. The team at University of
Wurzburg believes that its devices can be thus used in the future to mimic neuron action
in artificial networks and to serve as sensors for signals usually hidden under the noise.
With neural networks in mind, their plans will imitate neurons even more. In the brain,
actions cascade based in part on the noise of individual spiking neurons, the article
explained. This incredible sensitivity makes the devices an ideal candidate for quantum computing.
Quantum computing has been a design goal for years. Finding ways to maximize signal in a noisy
environment, as neurons do, would allow circuits to keep getting smaller and
more efficient despite increases in thermal noise that accompanies shrinking size.
- Snail armor: Snails seem good for little more than amusing children, annoying gardeners
and making the French say Bon appetit. But theyre good for something else,
reported Live Science:
inspiring a new generation of body armor. The article is an interview with Christine Ortiz, a
materials scientist at MIT, who is studying a snail that lives near hydrothermal vents 2.5 miles deep in the Indian Ocean.
Athletes or soldiers might benefit from what she is learning: Understanding the physical
and mechanical properties of the snail could improve load-bearing and protective materials in
everything from aircraft hulls to sports equipment. Other beneficiaries of snail-inspired materials
could be emergency responders, firefighters, police officers, aircraft designers, commercial designers,
and recipients of prosthetics coming out of regenerative medicine. The interview pointed to a
NSF press release from January about
the fantastic armor of a wonder snail.
Our entries on the imitation of nature are valuable in multiple ways
(see 03/06/2010 and the other 200+ entries on biomimetics over the years).
For one, it is simply fascinating how animals and plants do what they do. Thats why the
Biomimetics and Amazing tags often go together. In addition, these reports provide our
readers a wide-ranging education in biology, physics, engineering, and even philosophy of science.
Think, too, of the teachable moments they provide for parents wanting to inspire their precocious
youngsters with the wonders of nature and the possibilities of science as a career. For another,
unlike some scientific subjects of doubtful utility, biomimetics promises really
cool technologies that are likely to make a big difference in human comfort, safety, security and convenience
all with lower energy costs and less impact on the environment. (We still want the gecko boots,
the lotus windshields and the spider-man gloves). And for a final reason, the sheer entertainment
value of watching evolutionists sit on the sidelines pretending to be relevant to these efforts that
are design-based from start to finish is priceless.
March 27, 2010 For those who like to dig deeper into the science behind Biblical creation,
the Journal of Creation is just the thing. Its published by the lively creation organization from
Australia, Creation Ministries International.
Next headline on:
When the Journal comes in the mail every other month,
youll want to get comfortable in your favorite reading posture, scan the table of contents, browse
the book reviews, see what hot topics and debates are going on, and read the abstracts of the papers
for the ones to dig into. Like the CRS Quarterly (see 09/05/2009
Resource of the Week), the Journal of Creation is a peer-reviewed journal of scholarly research on
all aspects of creation: geology, astronomy, biology, archaeology, and more like history, mathematics, and law.
Contrary to what some Darwinians claim about creation bringing science to a halt, you will quickly find there is actually more
to research and debate about the natural world from a creation worldview than to say Darwin did it. Sections include
Perspectives, Book Reviews, Countering the Critics, Letters to the Editor, and Papers.
Each glossy-paper issue has a color cover and many illustrations and photographs.
Theres plenty to interest the serious devotee of creation science whether or not the reader has a
graduate-level proficiency. Improve your education in origin science; subscribe to the
Journal of Creation. Order it from Creation Ministries International.
Next resource of the week: 03/20/2010.
All resources: Catalog.
How Much Can One Bone Say?
March 26, 2010 Two fossil discoveries are generating a lot of news from a single bone.
The first is a dinosaur hip. The second is a human finger. How much weight can a single
Scientists used to respect evidential modesty. They used to restrict their interpretations to
observable facts, and check each others extrapolations via a culture of peer pressure that discouraged unwarranted
assertions. As Colin Macilwain pointed out last month (02/18/2010),
a weekly routine has grown in science reporting that converts original scientific findings, via a production line of
embargoed press releases from journals and universities, into a steady stream of largely uncritical stories.
- Australian tyrannosaur: The tyrannosaurid dinosaurs had a distinctive hip bone.
This particular trait has been identified in a bone found near Victoria, Australia the first tyrannosaurid
found south of the equator. The animal must have been about 9 feet long making it much smaller than its
North American cousins. Science
Daily said, The find sheds new light on the evolutionary history of this group of dinosaurs,
but it also raises the crucial question of why it was only in the north that tyrannosaurs evolved into
the giant predators like T. rex. National
Geographic showed a picture of the bone and announced Tiny T. Rex Ancestors Achieved World Domination.
The BBC News predicts more will be found in
Africa, South America and India.
Only Live Science
cast any doubt on the claims: its still a hypothesis that will need to be backed up by further research.
Nevertheless, Science Daily was confident that This find has major significance for our knowledge of how this group of dinosaurs evolved.
- Finger pointing: What does a pinky finger bone in Siberia say? A lot, according to the
science media. National
Geographic claims it represents a new kind of human. The BBC
News gave the bone a name right out of Hollywood: X-Woman. Because mitochondrial DNA was extracted from her
40,000 year old cells, X-Woman can now tell her amazing story of having evolved in Africa
and migrating to the far reaches of Asia. This migration, the scientists tell us, was
separate from the other hypothesized migrations of human ancestors and represents a whole new chapter in human evolution.
Science Daily announced,
New Human Species Discovered. One finger yielded a tribe of previously unknown hominins, the headline blared.
PhysOrg called it a new branch on the human family tree, but
did include some doubts about the interpretations. The doubts are drowned out by shouts of overconfidence:
As shown by a detailed analysis of the mitochondrial genome, these hominins shared a common ancestor with
modern humans and Neanderthals about 1.0 million years ago, Science Daily told its readers. In addition,
the age of the fossil suggests that these unknown people in Southern Siberia lived close in time and space with Neanderthals
as well as with modern humans. Some of the reporters are even ready to tell the relationship of X-Woman and
her people to the hobbits of Indonesia all based on a single pinky finger.
You thought it was just the cosmologists who had gone stark raving mad
(03/19/2010). Evolutionists and their lackeys in the news are
completely out of control. If this keeps up, they will lose what little credibility they have left.
The strong evidence for design is being completely ignored, and the tiniest finger bone that gives the
Darwin storytellers something to yack about for the media gets front page coverage, especially if it sheds
light on evolution by one black-light photon aimed at empty space. Its disgraceful.
Who will shame them back to the founding principles of science? Who will hold their feet to the fire of
logical integrity? Who will remind them of the reasonable limits of evidential modesty?
We cant do it alone. Join the Dragnet campaign: tell a scientist, Just the Facts, Please!
Can Morality Be Darwinized?
Next headline on:
March 25, 2010 Theres a cottage industry within the Darwin empire that tries to
explain morality in terms of natural selection. Hardly a week passes without some new
paper trying to explain why humans reward moral behavior and punish immoral behavior.
Some try to do it by finding morality in animals, as if to portray a continuity in moral motions
between bacteria, fish, insects, birds, rats, apes, and Homo sapiens. Others try
to model morality on game theory. How well do these attempts succeed? Can they
explain the outpouring of support for victims of Haiti? Can they explain the soldier
who gives his life for his friends? Can they explain the person facing a firing squad
for having given aid to the persecuted?
In all but the last of these papers, preachers and theologians were assigned a status no different than worker bees in
a hive, fruiting bodies in a slime mold, or yeast cells in dough. What a different interpretation has arisen these
days in the Apostle Pauls proverb, A little leaven leavens the whole lump
- Unselfish molecules: One of the most extreme continuity approaches attributed
unselfishness to molecules. This bases morality back at the origin of life itself:
Unselfish molecules may have helped give birth to the genetic material of life,
announced PhysOrg. When those RNA
strands were struggling to get together, according to Nicholas V. Hud of the Georgia Institute
of Technology, small molecules might have unselfishly acted as molecular midwives
to enable the base pairs to bond. It doesnt appear that Hud was intending
this model as anything beyond a metaphor, but he visualized a rudimentary form of morality right
at the start: a sort of unselfish molecule that was not part of the first
genetic polymers, but was critical to their formation.
- Evolutionary forces: A recent example of the genre is found in
Researchers have long been puzzled by large societies in which strangers routinely
engage in voluntary acts of kindness, respect and mutual benefit even though there is often
an individual cost involved, both articles began, ignoring any input from theology.
While evolutionary forces associated with kinship and reciprocity can explain such
cooperative behavior among other primates, these forces do not easily explain similar behavior
in large, unrelated groups, like those that most humans live in.
Enter the theory of Richard McElreath at UC Davis. He and his team have it
figured out in terms of market forces, religious beliefs and criminal law. Their paper
in Science used the E-word in the title: Markets, Religion, Community Size, and the Evolution
of Fairness and Punishment,1 and extensively throughout.
Norms evolved; and with them, Recent work has also tentatively proposed that certain religious
institutions, beliefs, and rituals may have coevolved with the norms that support large-scale societies
and broad exchange. They spoke of our evolutionary history and Evolutionary
approaches to understanding our evolved psychology expressed in the evolution of
social complexity. evolution here, there, and everywhere.
It should be understood that fairness, norms, religion, trust and
other moral terms were used without reference to absolute standards. They are mere props in a
behavioral model seeking to understand how evolutionary forces produce observed behaviors.
They treated these words as mathematical terms: e.g., Theoretical arguments suggest that punishment (MAO)
should be related more directly to the natural logarithm of CS [community size], because the effectiveness of
reputational systems decays in rough proportion to this variable.
The experiments they talked about were really games: we used three experiments that
were designed to measure individuals propensities for fairness and their willingness to punish unfairness
across 15 populations that vary in their degree of market integration and their participation in world religions,
they said. Our three experiments are the Dictator, Ultimatum, and Third-Party Punishment Games.
Volunteers in these made-up games acted as proxy lab rats for real human populations under evolutionary forces. (The reader should
remember that evolutionary forces are passive like the bumpers in a pinball game.)
The study, funded in part by taxpayer dollars via
the National Science Foundation, found that overt punishment, religious beliefs that can
act as a form of psychological punishment and market integration each were correlated with
fairness in the experiments. It doesnt appear that fairness was given
any non-question-begging definition in their model. Those punished probably thought it was unfair.
And was it fair for the researchers to take taxpayer dollars to treat their fellow human beings as lab rats?
Karla Hoff of the World Bank, commenting on this paper in the same issue of Science,2
saw that same evolutionary forces in her vision: A society is not just a random group of people with a shared territory,
she said. It is a group that shares cognitive frames and social norms. We cannot know for certain
how fairly our ancestors in foraging bands behaved in situations lacking relationship information, but Henrich et al.
bring us a closer understanding by studying people in simple societies that may be very like those of our early ancestors.
- Greenbeard altruism: The prior week in Science,3
Stuart A. West and Andy Gardner of Oxford gave a more traditional Darwinian account of altruism.
They defended Hamiltons theory of inclusive fitness that showed how natural selection could
lead to behaviors that decrease the relative fitness of the actor and also either benefit (altruism) or harm (spite)
other individuals. All they felt they had to do was clean up a few contentious issues:
Here, we show how recent work has resolved three key debates, helping clarify how Hamiltons
theoretical overview links to real-world examples, in organisms ranging from bacteria to humans:
Is the evolution of extreme altruism, represented by the sterile workers of social insects, driven by
genetics or ecology? Does spite really exist in nature? And, can altruism be favored
between individuals who are not close kin but share a greenbeard gene for altruism?
That odd greenbeard term refers to any genetic marker (such as a green beard) that
well, let them explain: Dawkins proposed the hypothetical example of a gene that gives rise to a green
beard while simultaneously prompting individuals with green beards to direct cooperation toward other
green-bearded individuals. One of their diagrams even includes cartoon figures of men, some
with green beards and some without (see Beard Chromodynamics, 03/31/2006).
They dispensed with the problem of falsebeards (cheats)
who might sport the marker without performing the behavior, thus reaping the benefit without paying the cost.
They said altruistic greenbeards have been found in slime molds, yeast, bacteria, and a lizard but
the greenbeard trait is amoral. It could just as well be a marker for spite.
Its clear that West and Gardner are in the continuity camp: i.e., they view human morality as continuous
with animal behavior observed in social insects and microbes. So is morality due to genetics or ecology? Both, they concluded.
Did they miss something in their either-or formulation? Whatever; right
from the opening sentence, their paper started on a Darwinian foot: Darwins (1) theory of natural selection
explains both the process and the purpose of adaptation. That (1) in the quote gave pride of place
to Darwins Origin of Species as first entry in the list of references. They also praised Darwin later
(after discussing Hamiltons and Fishers extensions to selection theory), saying,
inclusive fitness is not simply a concept that relates to interactions between relatives; it is our
modern interpretation of Darwinian fitness, providing a general theory of adaptation.
(See Fitness for Dummies, 10/29/2002).
- Evolving morals: The most recent article in the evolution-morality tale genre was Paul Blooms
Opinion article in todays Nature,4 How do morals
change? Right at the outset, he asked, Where does morality come from? For answers, he
looked to atheist philosopher David Hume (certainly not to Moses or Jesus), noting that Babies as young as
six months judge individuals on the way that they treat others and even one-year-olds engage
in spontaneous altruism. To many psychologists, Bloom says, the fact that a rudimentary moral
sense is universal and emerges early means it is a non-rational (i.e., unreasoned) aspect of our biology.
We rationalize it later; but really, according to some, we have little conscious control
over our sense of right and wrong. Theologians used to refer to this as a conscience.
Bloom thinks this view of morality, in its wholesale rejection of reason,
will be proved wrong. Why? Because it cannot explain why morality evolves, he argued.
We can change our minds about moral standards. We can be persuaded, and persuade others.
He pointed to evolving views of racial minorities and homosexuality as examples. Not even
the contact hypothesis (that our views evolve as our circle of contacts enlarges)
explains this. It doesnt account for how our moral attitudes can change towards those
with whom we never directly associate for example, why some of us give money and even blood
to people with whom we have no contact and little in common. He even found flaws in
the typical Darwinian explanations for morality: There have been attempts to explain such
long-distance charity through mechanisms such as indirect reciprocity and sexual selection, which
suggest that individuals gain reproductive benefit from building a reputation for being good or helpful.
But this begs the question of why such acts are now seen as good when they were not in the past.
What is missing, Bloom argued, is the role of deliberate persuasion in morality.
Stories emerge because people arrive at certain views and strive to convey them to others,
he explained. It is this generative capacity that contemporary psychologists have typically ignored.
He sees humans as natural storytellers, [who] use narrative to influence others, particularly their own children.
But what about his initial question of infants engaging in spontaneous altruism? And how can we be
sure he is not telling us a story himself? Whatever questions might be posed back to Bloom,
he is one of very few evolutionists seeing shortcomings in a strict materialistic or behavioristic account of human morality.
Psychologists have correctly emphasized that moral views make their impact by being translated
into emotion, he ended. A complete theory must explain where these views come from
in the first place. Though he spoke of morals evolving, he offered no Darwinian theory for them.
1. Henrich, Ensminger, McElreath et al, Markets, Religion, Community Size, and the Evolution of Fairness and Punishment,
19 March 2010: Vol. 327. no. 5972, pp. 1480-1484, DOI: 10.1126/science.1182238.
2. Karla Hoff, Fairness in Modern Society,
19 March 2010: Vol. 327. no. 5972, pp. 1467-1468, DOI: 10.1126/science.1188537.
3. Stuart A. West and Randy Gardner, Altruism, Spite, and Greenbeards,
12 March 2010: Vol. 327. no. 5971, pp. 1341-1344, DOI: 10.1126/science.1178332.
4. Paul Bloom, Opinion: How do morals change?,
464, 490 (25 March 2010) | doi:10.1038/464490a.
The Darwinians never include themselves in their models, or
their models would implode. They presume to teach the rest of humanity from some exalted
plane of science. Yet if they were consistent, we would have to conclude their scientific
reasoning is also a behavior determined by natural selection. (Notice that they devised games for their human subjects, but did
not ask what game they themselves were pawns in.) To them, morality is just an effect of an essentially amoral process. Its no different
from what happens in any other organism. In fact, Darwinian reasoning kind of resembles a
slime mold in a sandwich, or a fruit fly larva population in an apple.
Recall the biggest cosmic mysteries of 2003 (03/25/2003). While
youre at it, see
Science hasnt made much progress in 7 years; these things are still just as mysterious today
(at least to some people).
Its ironic that these Darwinians often refer to
yeast behavior in their evolutionary models of altruism, because their views are like
the spreading, corrupting influence often used metaphorically in Scripture of leaven.
Jesus said to his disciples, Beware the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees
referring to their doctrines. Todays disciples need to beware of the leaven
of the Pharces and Sadducers, otherwise known as Darwinists. The other metaphor Jesus used was the gradual
spread of the kingdom of the God through the world, silently like a small bit of leaven in dough
Todays disciples need to beware of the corrupting leaven of Darwinism, while working
to spread their beneficial influence through the world. Its the battle of the leavens.*
*If the Christian leaven won, the Darwinists, on purely theoretical grounds, could not complain. Why? Because evolution
is what evolution does. The defeat of Darwinism would fit their model. The Christians would be the altruists
winning against the cheaters. So why fight it, Darwinists? Stop cheating and let the
good guys win. In fact, join the good guys and help them out, to increase the fitness of the population. Step one: abandon Darwinism.
Next headline on:
Darwin and Evolution
Bible and Theology
Archaeologist Employs Design Detection with Little Evidence
March 24, 2010 There are hundreds of large stone spheres in Costa Rica, some up to 8 feet in
diameter weighing 16 tons. There are no written records or tribal traditions about them.
John Hoopes, an anthropologist at the University of Kansas, has been studying these spheres
for a long time. According to PhysOrg,
hes had to dispel myths about them, that they are related to Stonehenge or Easter Island or
Atlantis, or came from extraterrestrials. Myths are really based on a lot of very
rampant speculation about imaginary ancient civilizations or visits from extraterrestrials,
Nevertheless, he thinks they have special value to humanity and should be protected
with U.N. World Heritage Status. He doesnt know when they were made, or by whom.
They seem to be associated with pottery from pre-Columbian tribes, but no one knows who made them,
when, or why they were made. Tribes living in the area have no oral traditions about them.
Professor Hoopes acknowledged that they could have been made long before the artifacts surrounding them.
He has detected marks on some of them he thinks are from hammer stones. They are very close
to perfect spheres, though they can vary from perfect by about two inches.
Professor Hoopes should be fired for not doing his job as a
scientist. Hes bringing science to a stop by assuming intelligent design made the
spheres. If they were designed, who is the designer? And who designed the designer?
Are we supposed to believe an intelligent designer wasted his time making round rocks?
If he doesnt know what they were used for, how can he claim they were designed?
Beetle Pulls 1,141 Times Its Weight
A scientist is supposed to look for natural explanations for natural objects.
These stones are perfectly natural. They are not angelic material. There are plenty
of known natural forces that can make spheres; all you need is a centripetal force applied evenly
over a material. Thats why moons and planets are spherical. The stones could
be concretions, growing outward from a central core by mineralization. They could have been irregular stones
that rolled around in a bowl-shaped valley, then were distributed when the land rose up later.
Natural explanations abound that could be applied to explain these stones without resorting to the
myth of intelligent design. Professor Hoopes designer did a pretty lousy job the spheres are not perfect.
As for the alleged hammer marks, thats another example of Professor Hoopes taking
the easy way out. Even if no one saw the marks being formed, there are plenty of natural forces
woodpeckers, exfoliation, lightning strikes, whatever that should always be considered in scientific
explanations. Havent we learned anything since Darwin conquered Paley? If Hoopes doesnt
have a good enough imagination to come up with a naturalistic story, he doesnt belong in science.
He should be scorned, ridiculed, vilified, marginalized and expelled.
Next headline on:
March 23, 2010 Ever watch those contest shows for the Worlds Strongest Man?
Compared to dung beetles, theyre wimps. Scientists at Queen Mary, University of London
found that the strongest beetle tested could pull an astonishing 1,141 times its own weight
the equivalent of a 70kg person lifting 80 tonnes (the same as six full double-decker buses),
The strength of an individual beetle was found to be a function of diet and
exercise, just as with humans: Even the strongest beetles were reduced to feeble weaklings
when put on a poor diet for a few days. From there, the article descended into a lurid
story of how this super strength is all due to sexual games.
The stuff at the end of the article about beetles battling for sex in tunnels
of dung should be understood in context. For one thing, it is not their dung. Their environment, to them, is
no worse than gardeners handling fertilizer or plants imbibing our exhaled carbon dioxide.
The stuff about sex games is typical evolutionary personification.
It commits the fallacy making dumb insects capable of intrigue and selfish strategies.
None of it explains their amazing feats of strength and complex organs.
Animals and plants need to be understood on their own terms. We do not disparage human
strong men by comparing them to beetles. We do not expect them to lift six full double-decker
buses. Given their environment and genes, their feats are impressive and honorable in a
human context. Be the best you can be with what you were given.
Laetoli Footprints Fully Modern Too Early
Next headline on:
March 22, 2010 Science
Daily has reported a bombshell announcement from the University of Arizona School of
Anthropology: the famous Laetoli footprints in Africa said to be 3.6 million years old are identical to modern human prints.
Based on previous analyses of the skeletons of Australopithecus afarensis, we expected that the
Laetoli footprints would resemble those of someone walking with a bent knee, bent hip gait typical of chimpanzees,
and not the striding gait normally used by modern humans, [David] Raichlen said. But to our surprise,
the Laetoli footprints fall completely within the range of normal human footprints.
They werent quite ready to abandon the human-evolution story, though. Biological
anthropologist Adam Gordon reassured readers that this unexpected detail still can fit the
tale from chimp to man: What is fascinating about this study is that it suggests that,
at a time when our ancestors had an anatomy well-suited to spending a significant amount of time in the trees,
they had already developed a highly efficient, modern human-like mode of bipedalism.
The tree-people just saved up their evolutionary novelty for a couple of million years until the time was right.
The fossil record indicates that our ancestors did not make a full-time commitment to leaving the
trees and walking on the ground until well over a million years after these (Laetoli) prints were made.
The fact that partially tree-dwelling animals, like Lucy, had such a remarkably modern gait is a testament to
the importance of energetic efficiency in moving around on two legs, Gordon said.
That was a very deft sidestep from evolutionary theory to physics.
Maybe it was inherited from that time of full-time commitment. The article tiptoed around the implications:
The fossil footprints at Laetoli preserve a remarkably even depth at the toe and heel, just like those of modern humans,
it said. Right before Gordon did his sidestep, the article teased, If the Laetoli footprints were made by
Lucys species, as most scientists agree to be the case, these experimental results have
interesting implications for the timing of evolutionary events.
Science Daily swallowed Gordons
quasi-Lamarckian explanation and sanctified it as scientific evidence: not just for a bipedal gait, but also
the whole human evolution story: Evidence Indicates Humans Early Tree-Dwelling Ancestors Were Also Bipedal.
There you see it: another apparition of the Precambrian Rabbit (02/18/2010,
02/11/2010). There you
also see an incredibly stupid excuse to dodge the implications, with the science press regurgitating
it without any critical analysis. This stretches evolutionary paleoanthropology to the breaking
point. Now we are supposed to believe that human feet and legs evolved on the body of an ape in the trees.
The ape found it could occasionally walk on the ground just like a man, but didnt commit to it for two million years.
What a waste of anatomy. They could have had marathons and door-to-door salesman long
before we showed up. If you believe their story after this embarrassing revelation (that we already
have known for years, 03/12/2005,
03/02/2009), we have something to sell you: an autographed
copy of Gullibles Travails, signed by the author, Movealong Swiftly. Climb down out of
that Monkey Puzzle Tree and buy yours today! Only $13,199.99 limited time offer!
Order now and well throw in free health care for a trillion dollars, and a luxury cruise
to the Isle of DeBris (return fare extra).
Fossil discoveries that challenged Darwin stories in 2002: 03/31/2002
entry about a living fossil; a pre-Schweitzer story about blood in a dinosaur bone (03/25/2002);
and fossil redwoods in the Arctic (03/22/2002).
Next headline on:
Everything You Know About Evolution Is Wrong (Again)
March 21, 2010 Theres a genre of science news stories characterized by pointing out things
Darwin got wrong. Its not creationists that do this these are secular reporters and
evolutionary biologists. They seem to try to one-up Darwin by proposing new theories that do
evolution better. They usually dont go far enough to jettison Darwin completely, but some
come close. A couple of stories in this genre surfaced recently.
Evolution More Rapid than Darwin Thought announced a story in
Maybe that was a way for a grad student writing his dissertation to attract attention.
Magnus Karlsson, a doctoral candidate at Linnaeus University in Kalmar, studied pygmy grasshoppers
and found that they change color by natural selection, probably due to predation. Thats
a pretty standard peppered-moth kind of conclusion. But the most important part of the
dissertation is that I have shown that evolution sometimes proceeds incredibly rapidly,
he said. This is huge. How huge? Some color variations appear in
one generation. Karlsson has outdone the peppered moths for speed, and Mr. Slow-and-Gradual himself,
Oliver Burkeman went even farther to one-up Darwin. His story in
Guardian is really a bombshell of the genre: Why everything you've been told about evolution is wrong.
The subtitle added, Evolutionary thinking is having a revolution. Its not that evolution itself is wrong,
Burkeman explains, but there is a kind of Lamarckian revival: What if the way you live now affects the life expectancy of your descendants?
the subtitle teased. First, Burkeman ridicules the creationists to get them out of the way, holding up the old
NASA-Joshua internet myth for instant dismissal and using the usual scare quotes around intelligent design.
But then his bombshell comes with the same This is huge line Karlsson used:
Such talk, naturally, is liable to drive evolutionary biologists into a rage, or, in the case of Richard Dawkins,
into even more of a rage than usual. They have a point: nobody wants to provide ammunition to the proponents
of creationism or intelligent design, and its true that few of the studies now coming to public
prominence are all that revolutionary to the experts. But in the culture at large, we may be on the brink of a
major shift in perspective, with enormous implications for how most of us think about how life came to be the
way it is. As the science writer David Shenk puts it in his new book, The Genius in All of Us, This is
big, big stuff – perhaps the most important [discoveries] in the science of heredity since the gene.
That really would be big, but Shenk and Burkeman seem to underestimate the resiliency of Darwin theorists against
potentially falsifying observations. Their proposed Darwin crisis revolves around epigenetics and the definition
of organism. Burkeman also describes the trouble Jerry Fodor is causing with his book What Darwin Got Wrong
In the end, though, Burkeman comes to Darwins rescue by claiming that Charles Darwin never claimed to have the
only mechanism by which evolution acts. Darwin, writing before the discovery of DNA, knew very well
that his work heralded the beginning of a journey to understand the origins and development of life, Burkeman
ended, dismissing millennia of belief in creation.
All we may be discovering now is that we remain closer to the beginning of that journey than weve come to think.
So despite the conflict and setbacks, at the end of this scary novel, the protagonist is saved, and Darwin lives happily ever after.
These stories appear from time to time; theyre kind of like
dummy missiles intended to throw the enemy off track. They pretend that internal squabbles
are about to lead to the collapse of the Darwin Empire. But in the end, theyre never really
trying to chuck Chuck. They may give him a Charlie horse, but never a hammerlock. Watch for
the hoarse of a different calor. Their real caloric is saved up for the common enemy: the creationists.
What is it about those guys that makes them the target of such venom and strange antics? Makes you almost want to get to
Bacterial Flagellum Can Tune Its Swim Speed with Network-Controlled Brakes
Next headline on:
Darwin and Evolution
March 20, 2010 Whats new with flagella? These are the favorite toys of
intelligent design supporters, because they are irreducibly complex molecular machines that
evolutionists rarely attempt to explain by a Darwinian process. More fodder for their
position comes from a paper in Cell1 that finds that bacteria
can fine-tune their swimming velocity by means of a molecular brake under network control: This behaviour
is governed by a molecular motor-brake protein that upon binding of the bacterial second messenger
cyclic dimeric GMP interacts with a specific subunit of the flagellar nano-motor and thereby
curbs motor output. The intracellular concentration of cyclic dimeric GMP is controlled
by a network of signaling proteins at least five of them.
hailing from Switzerland and Germany, said: These experiments demonstrate that bacteria
can modulate flagellar motor output and thus swimming velocity in response to environmental cues.
Noting that E. coli directs its movement in an aqueous environment via phosphorylation-mediated control of motor reversals.
That led them to ask, Why would bacterial cells, in addition to this sophisticated motor control, modulate their swimming speed?
and answered that this mechanism may work best when nutrient supply is low: Switching to a fuel-conserving
locomotion regime is particularly important under low nutrient conditions....one function of the mechanism described
here might be to adjust bacterial velocity to the energy status of the cell. The flagellar system,
therefore, has good brakes as well as reversible gears.
The research team said nothing about evolution. Their paper was summarized by
and PhysOrg from information supplied
by the University of Basel. Science Daily threw in a biomimetic angle:
the discovery of flagellar motor curbing could be exploited for biotechnological applications,
for example to engineer nanopumps in microfluidics or to build cell-based microrobots.
Heres what the paper said about that: The discovery of flagellar motor curbing might have
implications beyond the biology of bacterial locomotion. On the basis of our findings, one could
for example imagine to exploit the flagellar motor to engineer a rotary nanomachine that can be
fine-tuned ad libitum. Driving your machine ad lib; thats cool.
1. Boehm, Kaiser et al, Second Messenger-Mediated Adjustment of Bacterial Swimming Velocity,
How many mousetraps does it take to establish irreducible complexity?
Just one. Here we see mousetraps controlling mousetraps, and other mousetraps signalling
those mousetraps to control the first mousetraps. Its irreducible complexity all the
way down, all the way up, all the way in, and all the way out. Then its biomimetic mousetraps
coming in for inspiration. Darwinian mice should be running scared.
March 20, 2010 We recommended an easy resource last time, so heres one for the postgrads:
The Deniable Darwin and Other Essays by David Berlinski (547 pp, Discovery Institute, 2009).
No pictures in this tome, but those appreciating a well-read, professorial mind with rapier wit will relish the deep thoughts and trenchant
analyses in Berlinskis essays written from 1996 to 2009. The author, a mathematician with
a gift for turning a phrase, explores Darwinism, materialism, cosmology, philosophy, the mind-body problem, laws of nature,
relativity and more with a logic sharpened by mathematical rigor. Youll find one of the best critiques of big-bang cosmology not
written by a creationist here. Berlinski is a non-religious scholar who does not even endorse intelligent design without qualification,
but finds it interesting and worth consideration (enough to be a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute).
Next headline on:
Viewers of Expelled will remember Berlinskis charm and wit. He also appeared in the documentary Icons of Evolution.
His un-creationist standing, combined with scholarly depth, broad experience in academic circles, unflappable brashness
and dazzling command of the English language make him an interrogator the Darwinists cannot easily dismiss.
The title comes from his 1996 essay in Commentary that set off a firestorm of responses from senior
devils, which Berlinski, in his responses reproduced here, committed to their hellholes with alacrity and a yawn. Christians and creationists
will understandably disagree with some of his opinions, but can profit from this unexpected ally in the battle
to overturn the hollow authority of secular naturalism.
Readers will find some challenging solid food for thought here. Some familiarity with
calculus and set theory helps. But along the way, they will be amply rewarded with numerous delectable
appetizers to digest with pleasure: e.g., no conspiracy is required to explain the attachment of
biologists to a doctrine they find sustaining; all that is required is Freuds reminder that those in
the grip of an illusion never recognize their affliction. Order this book from
Next resource of the week: 03/13/2010.
All resources: Catalog.
The Whole Universe Is Crazy
March 19, 2010 Suppose you engaged a mental patient about the origin of the universe.
He tells you that it banged and it whooshed and it crunched. He elaborates and says that
theres lots of universes out there crashing into each other all the time. Yep,
thats how it happened, and thats how we got here. Is sure bout it.
Know how I know? Cuz anything can happen! I got proofthe sun is up. Could that
be any crazier than what Space.com
reported about cosmologists with PhDs believe, in the most prestigious universities of the world?
The Big Bang: Solid Theory, But Mysteries Remain, Clara Moskowitz reported.
She takes us beyond the old simple Big Bang into the world of modern cosmology.
Crazy may be in the eye of the beholder, but here is what her article claimed.
Picture yourself as a rationalist from the 17th century hearing these ideas for the first time:
Whats really alarming is that the article said that theres a 100 per cent consensus about these
beliefs. Watching the battle of the branes, with todays biggest brains arguing for inflation
and multiverses, it might appear the whole world has gone crazy.
And theyre dead sure about these things they can never know. They believe that observations
may help, but cant hurt: not finding the [gravitational] waves wouldnt really
blow a death knell to either theory, since some versions of inflation dont require gravitational waves,
Moskowitz ended. Either way, it should be exciting. Funny farms are exciting places.
- A popular picture of the early universe imagines a single Big Bang, after which space blew up
quickly like a giant bubble. But another theory posits that we live in a universe of 11 dimensions,
where all particles are actually made of tiny vibrating strings. This could create a universe
stuck in a cycle of Big Bangs and Big Crunches, due to repeat on loop. Which scenario is closer
to the truth remains to be seen....
- However, what caused the Big Bang, what happened at that
exact moment, and what came immediately after it, are much more open to debate.
- A dominant idea that connects the dots between the Big Bang and the universe we find today is called inflation.
This is the notion that during the first roughly 10 to the minus 34 seconds (0.0000000000000000000000000000000001 seconds),
the universe underwent exponential expansion, doubling in size at least 90 times.
During this early stage, matter was in a much different state than it is now.
- Inflation is easily the most popular theory in cosmology, said theoretical physicist Neil Turok,
director of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Ontario, Canada. Its a good theory,
but it has some weak points. It cant describe the moment of the Big Bang.
- And inflation has other problems, in some peoples view. Because of quantum fluctuations, different parts
of the universe could inflate at different rates, creating bubble universes that are much larger than other regions.
Our universe may be just one in a multiverse, where different scales and physical laws reign.
- It means everything and anything that can happen, will, [Paul] Steinhardt [Princeton] told SPACE.com.
So basically everything could be a prediction of inflation. This to me is a fundamental
problem and we dont know how to get away from it.
- Others say that while inflation may not be complete yet, its still the most useful thing weve got
to describe the origin of the universe.
- M-theory requires the universe to have 11 dimensions. So far, we can only detect four dimensions
three of space and one of time. But maybe the other seven are hidden, proponents say.
- If you have another brane living in higher dimensions, its extremely likely to move and slam into our own brane,
[Burt] Ovrut [U of Pennsylvania] said.
You have a brane with exactly the structure of our real world, and other branes that are likely to hit us, and all of the
energy of colliding universes would come into play.
When people cease to believe in God, they dont believe in nothing;
they believe in anything (G. K. Chesterton). This is the most useful thing weve got
to describe the origin of the universe, they said. Why? Only because they have
ruled out a Creator. The founders of science (who were Christians, for the most part)
would be appalled at the recklessness of these theories. No evidence required; no possible
way to test them; invented notions presented as evidence; everything becomes a prediction
and nothing qualifies as a potentially falsifying observation. Dont be deceived just because
these guys are good at math. Even some idiot savants have that ability. Weve come
full circle from the Sumerian myths to modern cosmology, where consensus counts more than evidence,
and you can make up a story and foist it on the populace, the crazier the better.
In the beginning, God sure has a welcome sound about it right now.
Ancient monuments older than the pyramids: read about them in the 03/10/2009 entry.
Next headline on:
No Clear Explanation for Saturns Rings After 6 Years of Cassini
March 19, 2010 Those who hoped Cassini would solve the puzzles of Saturns rings
should read the paper today in Science.1 The state-of-the-rings
report, authored by a Whos Who of ring scientists, is filled with questions. Titled
An Evolving View of Saturns Dynamic Rings, the report cannot determine their
origin, their age, or their composition. List the points of doubt after the initial
word understanding in the abstract:
We review our understanding of Saturns rings after nearly 6 years of observations by the Cassini spacecraft.
Saturns rings are composed mostly of water ice but also contain an undetermined reddish contaminant. The rings
exhibit a range of structure across many spatial scales; some of this involves the interplay of the fluid nature
and the self-gravity of innumerable orbiting centimeter- to meter-sized particles, and the effects of several peripheral and embedded
moonlets, but much remains unexplained. A few aspects of ring structure change on time scales as short as days.
It remains unclear whether the vigorous evolutionary processes to which the rings are subject imply a much younger
age than that of the solar system. Processes on view at Saturn have parallels in circumstellar disks.
Note: evolutionary processes refers here not to any Darwinian-like theory,
but only to physical changes over time, such as the grinding down of icy particles or
spreading of the rings.
Its not all bad news; certainly much has been learned from Cassinis
ringside seat and unprecedented views. Scientists have watched the moons Pan, Pandora,
Daphnis, Prometheus and others tug on ring particles. The rings have been photographed
in multiple wavelengths from radio to ultraviolet through seasonal changes. Waves,
spokes and impacts have been observed. Structures large and small have been watched
as they change. The data set is rich but the explanation set is impoverished.
Among the main surprises are the dynamism of the ring particles.
The very short lifetimes of particles in this size range [centimeter size]
to various evolutionary processes suggest that sizes are determined by an active accretion-destruction cycle
and are not primordial; thus, any radial variations indicate ongoing dynamics,
they said. In other words, if the centimeter-sized particles had formed when Saturn is
believed to have formed 4.5 billion years ago, they would be gone long before now unless
some process of accretion and destruction cycles them in and out of that size range.
Ring scientists now believe that self-gravity and inelastic collisions take particles through
repeated cycles of clumping and dispersal. This is very different from the picture
of the rings prior to Cassini.
The particles are moving very fast relative to Saturn on the order of
20 km/sec, but collisions between them are very slow (0.01 to 0.1 cm/sec). Like fluffy cars
gently tapping one another going at the same speed, they damp each others motions,
spread and circularize their orbits. Meanwhile, these small random motions are replenished
by collisions and gravitational encounters with large particles and clumps of particles,
ultimately deriving energy from the overall orbital motion. For practical purposes,
the rings can be treated like a dense gas or fluid with its own viscosity and pressure.
Unlike a gas, though, the ring particles can clump and produce self-gravity wakes
that appear ubiquitous throughout the dense parts of the rings. The rings are also
perturbed by spiral bending waves and density waves caused by gravitational perturbations
from moons orbiting right outside the rings (and some within the rings). These give
the rings a corrugated appearance that was seen clearly at equinox when transverse waves
cast long shadows. Some faint rings have changed appreciably since Voyagers visit,
the authors noted (some of whom have been studying rings since the Voyager flybys in 1981).
Both the D ring and inner C ring display a vertical corrugation that may have been generated
only 25 years ago by a large impact whose imprint is winding up over time. The waves contribute to clumping and spreading of material.
Also, since the particles move otherwise independently at speeds determined by Keplers laws of motion
(faster closer in, slower farther out), there is a Keplerian shear effect from the
faster-revolving inner particles compared to those outside a given radius.
Particularly surprising are dynamical effects that take place in matters of
days or hours. These are especially visible in the F ring, a thin bundle of ringlets outside
the main rings, where streamers of material
get pulled out when the small moon Prometheus passes by. The motions are quasi-periodic
but also have a chaotic component. This means the patterns cannot be explained by simple
shepherding models. Occasionally, more extraordinary events are observed,
the authors said. Within a few days, a ring sectors brightness can double or
triple after a sudden injection of dust. That suggests that incoming material
from micrometeoroids is making the ice dirty. If injections of dust can be observed now,
how much dust would have been added after billions of years? Theres even a moonlet about 5km in
diameter that passes through the F ring on a regular basis. The primary core of the
F ring has an eccentric, inclined orbit that precesses smoothly, maintaining its integrity in
seeming defiance of the large distortions and variations present, and, like Uranuss rings,
avoiding differential precession as well. A few embedded moons 30-1200km
in size have been observed. These may be members of a previously unseen population of
larger bodies that serve as dust sources and that provide the mass needed to stabilize the rings
orbit. One wonders how long these dynamical processes can be sustained in such a tenuous,
chaotic environment: The F ring dramatically documents the difficulty of living near the
edge of the Roche zone, where accretion and disruption are in continual combat.
There are also diffuse, faint rings: the G ring with its dense arc, the E ring (fed by the geysers of Enceladus),
and the newly discovered Phoebe ring (see 10/07/2009).
These are subject to disruptive forces from the solar wind, gravity and collisions.
Two observations suggest the rings are young (at least far younger than the assumed
age of Saturn). Due to exchange of angular momentum, Mimas and the other close-in moons
could not have maintained their presently-observed proximity for billions of years.
The other is the purity of the rings. They are 90 to 95% water ice, with some reddish
impurities of unknown origin despite ongoing pollution from incoming micrometeoroids.
The authors estimate these two factors put limits on ring ages to about 1/10 the age of Saturn.
These short lifetimes are problematic because the generation of the entire ring
through disruption of a Mimas-size (or larger) parent is unlikely on this time scale.
Therefore, they needed to find loopholes in the young-ring arguments.
The resonances with ring moons have been confirmed the puzzle remains. Some flexibility
in their implications for ring age may emerge if ring-moons periodically interact and
perhaps temporarily destroy each other or are held up by much-sought-for, but as-yet-unidentified,
resonances with exterior massive moons. Those two loopholes are appeals to unobserved factors.
How about the problem with impurities? A loophole could be found if the rings are denser than
thought. That would give them the ability to absorb (and hide) some of the incoming pollution from
micrometeoroids. Unfortunately, Firm mass measurements from density waves now blanket
most of the rings, but the murky depths of the B ring may contain considerably more material than previously believed.
Thats another appeal to an unobserved factor. Even if there is considerably more material, it is not
enough to keep the B ring pristine for 4.5 billion years (12/13/2007).
The thinner rings have even less time to stay clean.
Are ring scientists better off than they were before Cassini? Yes and no;
the measurements are better than ever; Yet, much of the rings structurethe
irregular structure covering the B ring; the crisp, symmetrical, banding in the C ring; and
the Cassini division itselfremains unexplained.... Far more needs to be done.
By missions end in 2017 there will be hundreds of times more data than Voyager.
Examination of the flood of data is still in the early stages, they claimed.
Explanations for the origin of Saturns rings, they said in
conclusion, will remain unconvincing until we have understood the powerful dynamical
processes that have formed, and continue to shape, these elegant structures on time scales
reaching from yesterday to billions of years. At least they have job security.
The April issue of the journal Icarus has a special section on Saturns rings and icy satellites.
And late last year, a thick technical book by the Cassini scientists, Saturn from Cassini-Huygens, was published by
Springer Link, with five chapters
about the rings of Saturn. Some of the authors of the paper commented on the rings in a
JPL press release March 18.
Cassini enters its second extended mission this September, hoping to last into 2017.
1. Cuzzi, Burns, Porco, Esposito, Spilker et al, An Evolving View of Saturns Dynamic Rings,
19 March 2010: Vol. 327. no. 5972, pp. 1470-1475, DOI: 10.1126/science.1179118.
Todays secular scientists just love the E-word. The have to
bring up evolution in everything. Most of the problems these authors have with the rings is that
they are married to billions-of-years thinking and cannot even begin to visualize thinking outside that
rigid box. While we are all fascinated by Saturns beautiful rings and see great value in
trying to understand them (and the observational parts of this paper were terrific),
there was a subtext evident that the authors were struggling to
find ways to str-r-r-r-r-etch the rings into the moyboy cartoon (moyboy: millions of years, billions of years).
Many of these problems would evaporate if they thought outside the box. The rings dont just look
young; they are young! Why not? Isnt science supposed to follow the evidence where
it leads? No they dont need evidence any more. They can postulate unobservable
entities: hidden mass in the B-ring, much-sought-for, but as-yet-unidentified,
resonances with exterior massive moons and clumps of ice that hide the pollution on their insides,
where it cannot be observed. Post-Voyager scientists were eager to find embedded moons that would
supply the rings endlessly. Except for a few examples at specific radii, these have not turned up.
The destructive processes that are observed (which they euphemize
as evolutionary processes and dynamical processes) put serious upper limits on the
age of the rings.
Synthetic Evolution Is it Really Intelligent Design?
One would think that these unmet expectations and stark realities would humble the scientists
from stepping out on flimsier limbs, but noone would think incorrectly. One must learn the
character of the Scientist. The Scientist must be perceived as a Knower of the Deep Secrets. The authors, therefore,
did not hesitate to speculate about the origin of planets and stars. Saturn has a disk of orbiting
material; what can that tell us about how planets and galaxies evolved? One would think very little,
but again, we are dealing with Scientists. They love to extrapolate
far beyond their knowledge and beyond their ability to observe, because they see it as their duty to
tell the common folk how the universe, life and ultimate things came to be. Do we see ring particles
accreting into planets? No. Do we see them evolving little people on them? No.
But while theyre speculating, they notice that some of the gaps in the rings have little bitty moons
inside them. Why, this must mean that an accreted planet can clear a gap for itself to avoid the
giant sucking sound at the center (08/21/2009, 05/21/2009).
They can see that other embedded moons in Saturns rings do not have the mass to clear
a gap. This holds the promise of directly observing processes analogous to the
complex evolution of a protoplanet through a circumstellar disk, they clucked.
Does one directly observe an analogy? Thats a bizarre scientific
logic. They directly observe the rings, but nobody could watch the complex evolution of a
protoplanet. It would take too long, for one thing, and there arent any protoplanets in
our solar system just planets. The scale between ring particles and planets differs by orders of magnitude.
If anything, the lack of ring particles clumping into larger and larger objects over time should put a stop to
speculations that protoplanets (imaginary entities) would ever form in their fictional creative circumstellar disks,
where destructive processes are observed not acts of creation. A reasonable scientific conclusion
would be that circumstellar disk particles might also undergo continual processes of clumping and disruption,
and planets would never form. But saying that Saturns ring dynamics have parallels with the processes
active in protoplanetary disks (with emphasis on the suggestive term protoplanet)
is like saying that the processes at work in a Piper cub have parallels with the city-sized UFOs in
Independence Day. Maybe in Hollywood they do. Scientists: Get real. Stay real.
Next headline on:
March 18, 2010 Some Cambridge scientists engineered a four-character genetic code and
made some proteins with it. They guided the process at every step, but claim that they
evolved this code. Is that a fair use of language? This strange admixture of
concepts is found in todays issue of Nature.1 The confusion began
right in the title: Encoding multiple unnatural amino acids via evolution of a quadruplet-decoding ribosome.
Whats notable in this paper was not only the flagrant use of evolve as an active method
that the scientists used to investigate function for the purpose of enhancing protein
synthesis, but also their use of the stem word natural. They spoke of unnatural amino acids
(those not found in wild-type living cells), and described their attempts to achieve of synthetic evolution
of unnatural polymers in cells. They spoke of the inefficiency with which natural ribosomes
decode quadruplet codons but then praised their fidelity with their triplet system:
Natural ribosomes decode triplet codons with high fidelity (error frequencies ranging from 10-2
to 10-4 errors per codon have been reported).
- ...orthogonal pairs have been evolved to incorporate a range of unnatural amino acids...
- Here we synthetically evolve an orthogonal ribosome (ribo-Q1) that efficiently decodes a series of quadruplet codons....
- Because the synthetase–tRNA pairs used have been evolved to incorporate numerous unnatural amino acids it will be
possible to encode more than 200 unnatural amino acid combinations using this approach.
- ....this work provides foundational technologies for the encoded synthesis and synthetic evolution of unnatural polymers in cells.
- Natural ribosomes are very inefficient at, and unevolvable for quadruplet decoding, which would enhance misreading of the proteome.
- ...orthogonal ribosomes ... may, in principle, be evolved to efficiently decode quadruplet codons on the orthogonal message....
- To discover evolved orthogonal ribosomes that enhance quadruplet decoding we first created 11 saturation mutagenesis
libraries in the 16S ribosomal RNA of ribo-X (an orthogonal ribosome previously evolved for efficient amber codon decoding
on an orthogonal message)....
- We used ribo-X as a starting point for library generation because we hoped to discover evolved orthogonal ribosomes
that gain the ability to efficiently decode quadruplet codons while maintaining the ability to efficiently decode
amber codons on the orthogonal mRNA....
- To explicitly compare the fidelity of triplet decoding and quadruplet decoding for the evolved orthogonal
ribosomes and the progenitor ribosome we used two independent methods....
- ....which is derived from the ... pair, by a series of generally applicable directed evolution steps....
- ...it will be interesting to investigate the enhancement of protein function that may be accessed by
combining the encoding of these cross-links with directed evolution methods.
Another mixing of unguided and designed concepts appears in their use of synthetic.
They spoke of synthetic evolution (their lab work) but also used and altered the natural
molecular machines that bind amino acids to transfer-RNA, the tRNA synthetases. Consider also how the concept
of coding was used: they wished to achieve synthetic genetic code expansion They shifted seamlessly between
the natural genetic code and their expanded, synthesized quadruplet code. With all this mixture
of terms synthesizing and evolving natural and unnatural codes, the reader is left wondering what evolved
on its own, if anything, and what was intelligently designed.
1. Neuman, Wang, Davis, Garcia-Alai, Chin, Encoding multiple unnatural amino acids via evolution of a quadruplet-decoding ribosome,
Nature 464, 441-444 (18 March 2010); doi:10.1038/nature08817.
Answer: everything was intelligently designed, both the natural and unnatural codes and functions.
This paper was one of the best examples in recent memory of Trumans Law: If you
cant convince them, confuse them. Using evolve as a synonym for design is a
clever way to blow smoke using equivocation.
Words mean things. This has nothing to do with evolution in the way Darwin used it, and in the way the
debate rages today. It has everything to do with intelligently designing codes to synthesize
things they would not naturally do (that is, without the intervention of a human mind). These human
designers did not evolve anything, and they did not rule out intelligent design in the natural
systems. If they really wanted to talk about evolution, they should have left the lab and let nature
take its course. Synthetic evolution is as sophoxymoronic (02/02/2008
commentary) as holy atheism.
The Copernican Geological Revolution
Next headline on:
Darwin and Evolution
March 17, 2010 The Copernican Revolution did not just affect astronomy and physics:
it revolutionized geology. So argued Walter Alvarez in Geology this month.1
Geologists usually talk rocks in their rags, but Alvarez (the one who brought impacts into extinction theories)
decided to play historian. With Henrique Leitao, he announced, we argue that the Copernican Revolution
represented not only a revolution in astronomy and physics, but also a radical change in understanding the Earth.
Part of their motivation seems to be to extend the history of their discipline.
Many geologists think of geology as a young science that originated about 1800, they said.
Apparently it would be more prestigious for geologists to sink their roots deeper into intellectual history.
To do that, though, Alvarez and Leitao have to navigate geology through multiple upheavals: the plate tectonics revolution of the late 1900s,
the Darwinian revolution of the late 1800s, the Hutton revolution of the late 1700s and now, the
Copernican revolution of the late 1500s. (Not much happened in the 1600s geologically except for the
foundational work in stratigraphy by Nicholas Steno around 1669.)
The authors acknowledged the revolutions in philosophy and history of science of the 20th century; they mentioned
Kuhn, Laudan, Lakatos, Rudwick, and others. They had to justify the word revolution to make their
case that geology has foundations in Copernicus. This was made somewhat more difficult by the fact that the
word geology was not invented till after Copernicus (1603) and was not widely used till about 1800.
Nevertheless, they felt that the Copernican system led to a new view of the earth: there has never been any
serious reason since then to think that Earth is not a planet. This contrasts sharply with the
earth view of Aristotle and Ptolemy, they argued. The recognition that Earth is not compositionally
different from celestial bodies was important for the founding of geology as a science: it was the
Copernican revolution that gave Earth its personality and its independence and finally made it a worthy object of study.
Alvarez and Leitao tried to recreate the world view of the medieval mind.
Planets were wandering stars, points of light that moved in complicated patterns against the stars, which
were perfect celestial objects embedded in crystalline spheres. The Earth meant different things to different people.
In Medieval Christianity, Earth was a temporary abode for human beings prior to the Day of Judgment, they said;
For philosophers, earth was one of four elements, along with air, fire, and water, which made up the terrestrial globe.
Whatever one thought, nobody believed till Copernicus that the Earth was a planet.
It is difficult today to recapture that alien worldview, but we may imagine that Earth and planet had
as little to do with each other then as, for example, Pangea and B-flat minor do today, they quipped.
Then Copernicus comes, and now Earth is a planet! It was as if we were to learn that Pangea was written in B-flat minor.
(Wasnt that a march by John Phillip Sousa?)
Seeing the earth as a planet orbiting under physical laws of motion opened the way
for using it as a natural laboratory, Alvarez and Leitao said; It is difficult to imagine a more profound change
in the understanding of the Earth, or to envision a serious science of the Earth that does not recognize that Earth is a planet.
They spent most of their conclusion clearing up confusion about the Copernican cliché:
In addition, contrary to what is commonly believed, we now know that in the eyes of its contemporaries, the Copernican Revolution
glorified the Earth, making it an object worthy of study, in contrast to the preceding view, which demeaned the Earth.
Ironically, the Copernican Revolution is almost invariably portrayed today as having demoted the Earth from a position at the
center of the universe, the main concern of God, to being merely one of the planets. Danielson2 (2001)
made a compelling case that this portrayal is the opposite of what really happened, i.e., that before the Copernican Revolution,
Earth was seen not as being at the center, but rather at the bottom, the cesspool where all filth and corruption fell and accumulated.
The revolution changed that view, as can be seen in a quote from Galileo, speaking as his alter ego Salviati, in Dialogue of the Two World Systems:
As for the earth, we seek...to ennoble and perfect it when we strive to make it like the celestial bodies, and, as it were, place it in heaven,
from whence your philosophers have banished it (see Danielson, 2001, p. 1032).
In the acknowledgements, Alvarez credited a 2007 visit of three Portuguese historians of science to Berkeley that triggered this study.
His thesis can be summed up thus, With the advantage of hindsight, we realize that recognizing Earth as a planet was a precondition for
understanding the universe. When that recognition destroyed the Aristotelian view that Earth is fundamentally different from celestial bodies,
the Earth could become a laboratory for studying the universe. The science of geology, therefore, can extend its origins to the
Danielson (2001) showed how historians came to misinterpret this glorification of the Earth as a demotion, an erroneous change of
interpretation embodied in the now almost universal viewpoint that he called the Copernican cliché. It is difficult
to imagine a science of geology developing when Earth was considered an accumulation of filth and corruption. The post-Copernican Earth,
ennobled and perfected, became an object worthy of study by the emerging science of geology.
1. Walter Alvarez and Henrique Leitao, The neglected early history of geology: The Copernican Revolution
as a major advance in understanding the Earth,
v. 38 no. 3, p. 231-234, doi: 10.1130/G30602.1.
2. D. R. Danielson, 2001, The great Copernican cliché, American Journal of Physics, v. 69, p. 1029–1035, doi: 10.1119/1.1379734.
To his credit, Alvarez helped clear up the misinterpretation
of the Copernican revolution being a demotion; this was a point emphasized in The Privileged
Planet, in which Danielson himself appeared to clarify the historical record. It would
have been nice to chastise Carl Sagan a little bit for misconstruing the medieval world view
in Cosmos so badly for his millions of viewers, but at least this article agreed with Danielson.
And Alvarez did not use his article to bash Christians and creationists. Still, there are a number of problems.
A sample of geological consensus woes with one of Earths most famous landmarks: Grand Canyon.
Revisit the 03/05/2008 entry.
For one, he used fairly broad brushes to portray historical views. Any period was likely to have many dissenting
opinions. Its doubtful that nobody ever thought of studying the earth before Copernicus.
Could any traveler climb the mountains or cross the deserts without wondering about them? Many people may have
studied the earth without leaving written records. A good historian of science would probably find many examples
in ancient writings through to the middle ages displaying early geological thinking. Are we to believe, too,
that every Christian before Copernicus held their nose at the Earth as a pit of wretched filth?
Read Psalm 96,
Psalm 104 and
Psalm 148. See if those
hymns of praise to the Creator of the earth are so dismissive. Notice that these were all written
long after Genesis, even though the Hebrew authors knew about the curse and the judgment of God.
They still saw the creation of the natural order as a beautiful, wonderful, source of awe and joy.
111:2 said, Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in them.
That verse alone should have liberated science many centuries before geology was born. It is wrong, therefore
for Alvarez to allege that the Earth was ennobled and perfected by Copernicus. It was
ennobled long ago by the Bible.
A central hold-up to serious study of the earth was that the medieval
church became wedded to Aristotelian and Ptolemaic concepts that were not Biblical.
There is nothing in the Bible about crystalline spheres. There is nothing that rules out the
Earth as a planet. There is nothing that says that all the filth and corruption finds its place
at the center, where Earth is located. Those all came out of pagan Greek philosophy.
Jeremiah taught that the stars were innumerable. There are indications in Job and elsewhere that creation
follows natural laws. Jesus referred to the beauty of birds and wildflowers, and used them
as examples of Gods care for his creation. To the extent Medieval Christianity
was anti-scientific (a dubious proposition to those who know their history), their mistakes cannot
be traced to the Bible. (Note: three statements in the Psalms that the earth shall not be
moved are not talking about geology or physics, but about Gods sovereign rule over the earth;
they have nothing to do with the question of earths physical motion.)
There are also some non-sequiturs in the proposition that nothing
serious could be done in geology before Copernicus. Its not clear that one has to see the
earth as a planet to study it. Any medieval person, or Roman or Egyptian for that matter, could
have picked up rocks, wondered about fossils, and examined other real-life geological phenomena.
Maybe more of them did than we know. Maybe they didnt write down their ideas.
Whatever we think about the stars, we humans all walk on the ground, and curiosity is a normal human
trait. Seeing the connection of the Earth to other celestial bodies might enhance understanding of the Earth,
but not seeing it does not preclude investigation. Consider that comparative planetary geology in our own
day did not really begin in earnest till Mariner 4s flyby of Mars in 1964, long after geology was established as a
science. Geology was not held up till Copernicus arrived.
Two of the most serious flaws in this article are the myth of progress and the assumption
of deep time. During the geological revolution of the late 18th and early 19th centuries],
he said, geologists recognized that Earth has a long, complicated history that is recorded in rocks,
and learned to read that history and to date those rocks using fossils.
Thats an overly simplistic characterization. Actually, the assumption of deep time was a choice,
not a discovery. Geologists did not recognize millions of years. They needed them to back
up anti-Scriptural interpretations. This is clear from the writings of Buffon, Hutton and Lyell,
who wished to liberate science from Moses. Steno was a creationist, but the 18th-century founders of
geology determined a priori that nothing in Scripture could be used in the interpretation of the rocks.
Thus the only potential eyewitness accounts of earth history were ruled out of court. Thats
objective science for you.
Early geologists jumped on that bandwagon and scorned the scriptural geologists
as old fuddy-duddies out of touch with the new fad. They set to work fabricating
an artificial framework for interpreting strata, assigning them the millions of years needed to fulfill
Huttons vision of an ancient planet with no Creator and no Flood. There is nothing written on
the Cambrian layers Sedgwick and Darwin found at Wales that shouts out 550 million years old! (On the
contrary, there is a lot to suggest otherwise.) Darwin became the leader of the band, and now we
have this ossified bandwagon called the Geologic Column that has become the cart pulling the horse in university geology departments today.
What are the chances it corresponds with reality? To answer that, one only need consider the other
major flaw in Alvarezs article, the myth of progress.
Notice the first major subheading: Major Advances in Understanding the Earth.
How much do we understand the earth? Thats a loaded question. We tend to see science as
progressive because of the very clear evidence of technological progress: we have cell phones; our great grandparents
didnt. Nobody questions that kind of progress. But when you ask whether we really understand
a scientific phenomenon, the assumption of progress is naïve. One of the ideas Dr. Stephen Goldman emphasizes
in his Teaching Company lecture series Science Wars (see Resource of the Week for
12/19/2009) is that science has a historical character.
This is not the same as progress; it means that scientific ideas and concepts are relevant to the time periods in
which they are expressed. The earth means something very different today than it did 100 years
ago and 100 years before that. In 1900, he says, Earth was a basically static globe with occasional
volcanoes and earthquakes. Now, geologists believe tectonic plates are moving all over the place and colliding, and
catastrophism is back with a vengeance. You need to ask the follow-up question: how confident can we be
that 100 years from now, geologists would have anywhere near the same theories and concepts of the earth as
we do today, considering the fact that at each time in history, the intelligentsia were confident their concepts
were correct? Our concepts of the universe have changed even more dramatically from what they were in 1900
more so, arguably, than after the Copernican Revolution. We didnt even know about external galaxies before
1923. Each branch of science has a similar story to tell. Physics was pretty much locked up in the late 1800s
except for refining a few decimal places, then boom! relativity and quantum mechanics changed everything.
The basic question is whether our scientific theories provide a view of nature that is True with a capital T
or is at least progressing toward that truth. Notice that truth is not the same thing as explanation, prediction, or control.
Our theories can provide those things, but so did ancient Greek and Egyptian theories that are now known to be incorrect.
Regarding control, the Egyptians built the pyramids with false views of nature. And prediction can be misleading; the fallacy of assuming the
consequent dogs scientific reasoning (theory predicts A, A happens, therefore theory is correct ignores other successful
theories). Explanation can be little
more than storytelling. Geologists today should not be naïve to think that their ability to explain, predict and control nature
with current theories means that their theories are true.
Much of geology deals with phenomena that are not observable (e.g., the core of the earth, earth origins and history).
Even the phenomena accessible to observation produce theories subject to major revisions. The same issue of Geology
this month has a paper about alluvial fan formation that overturns a previous theory that had overturned one before that, and
supports the earlier theory. Is that progress, or rather a swinging pendulum? Some liken scientific progress to the path
of a hunting dog. A bloodhound may wander from left to right, but the resultant vector shows progress as he hones in on the scent. Even so,
how do you know you are on the right trail? Maybe when the dog catches up with the suspect, it will be the wrong culprit,
and the forensic team would have to start over.
The point is that even if you see progress in explanation, prediction or control, it does not mean your
scientific efforts are converging on the Truth. Neither does it mean so if you have thousands of PhDs pursuing the
consensus paradigm, munching croissants at huge AGU conventions, and teaching textbook science to undergrads using calculus.
Geological theories of the earth go far, far beyond what can be verified through observation. In the years between Buffon
and Lyell, a priori decisions were made to disregard Scripture as having any relevance to geology. Suppose
historians decided to build a theory of Rome by deciding in advance to disregard all texts and inscriptions, and only
studying monuments and ruins. Suppose they won over all the universities and journals with this approach.
Imagine them celebrating their Enlightenment, their independence from the slavery to texts. Would they
be likely to make much progress toward the true history of Rome? Consider that none of the following accoutrements to
a paradigm have any necessary connection to its truth:
The number of experts promoting a view (10,000 Frenchman can be wrong)
The tightness of the camaraderie binding supporters of a view together
The prestige of the institutions supporting the view
The reputation of the journals doing the publishing
The number of journal articles published (10,000 lies dont add up to a truth)
The length of time a view has been believed (Ptolemaic astronomy lasted 1500 years)
The dazzle of the charts, graphics and textbooks available
The quality of animations in TV documentaries produced to illustrate the view
The denseness of the jargon used in discussing the view
The cleverness of the classification schemes employed
The chutzpah of its supporters
The political power of its supporters
The ability of its leaders to demonize and marginalize opposition
The incompetence of some of the views detractors (they could still be right)
The ability of its proponents to win court cases
The dignity of the conferences held in support of the view
The views success at explanation, prediction and control
What matters is evidence. Eyewitness testimony is evidence. Rather than ruling out that class of evidence for geology,
the question 18th-19th century geologists should have considered was the reliability of
the only Eyewitness available. Sedgwick and Lyell and others tried to hang on to their Christian God, but they abandoned his Word, leaning on
their own understanding (Prov 3:5-6).
They also dismissed the greatest witness of all Jesus Christ who taught creation and the Flood
By cutting off their authority at the knees, they have been hobbling around on stumps in shifting sand, thinking it was progress.
Not all motion is progress. Some is just commotion.
Next headline on:
Bible and Theology
Search for Intraterrestrial Life Scores Big
March 16, 2010 Single-celled organisms may be tiny, but what they lack in bulk
they make up for in volume and importance. Scientists have been appreciating
more than ever the ubiquitous presence of microbes on our planet and the roles they
play to sustain the biosphere.
that half of the worlds life may lie below the land and sea. Scientists at
UC Santa Cruz are thinking earths habitable zone may extend much
deeper than previously thought: to depths of hundreds or thousands of meters.
Microbes inhabit subsurface aquifers that could contain more water than all the rivers on earth.
The search for ET begins at home, they think: Scientists say research on intraterrestrial life
complements astronomers hunt for extraterrestrial life around other stars and planets,
the article said.
Of course, all life we know on earth uses the same genetic coding and
translation system. But the vast bulk of life on our planet may never see the
sun, and some of it does not even need oxygen. Diving for Microbes, an article in Caltechs
and Science magazine (LXXIII:1, 2010)
discussed work to understand the microbes on the seafloor
that digest methane and support entire ecosystems in the dark. In passing, author
Marcus Y. Woo gave some wow factor information about microbes in general:
Scientists estimate that the planet has 5 x 1030 microorganismsthats
more than a hundred million times the number of stars in the observable universe. Scoop up all these
little critters together, and theyll weigh several hundred billion metric tons, a mass about
a thousand times greater than that of all the people on Earth. The majority of the planets
microbes are believed to live inside Earths crust or just below the seafloor, regions that are
scarcely understood and explored, so many more bug-based ecosystems are likely still undiscovered.
(For more on microbes aiding digestion, see this recent article on PhysOrg.
An article on Science Daily noted that there are more
microbe genes in your gut than human genes for your body; so did the BBC
News, that said your microbe passengers constitute a second genome of yours.)
Often unjustly maligned, microbes are essential for life. They are an
integral part of almost every facet of our planet, [Victoria] Orphan [Assistant Professor of Geobiology, Caltech]
says. No species of archaea are known to cause diseases, and only a small fraction of bacteria do;
most are harmless or even helpful. Bacteria help digestion, and, as
biologists are finding, they play essential roles in our immune systems and overall health....
What scientists are finding, therefore, is not only that we depend on
microbes, which outnumber our own cells 10 to 1 as we live and move, but that they are
essential for the habitability of the entire planet. The methane-eating bacteria on the
seafloor, Orphans team found, play a huge role in earths nitrogen cycle.
They are among the only life forms capable of fixing nitrogen from atmospheric
nitrogen gas and making it available for use by other organisms.
Without these microbes, the planet would run out of biologically available nitrogen
in less than a month, the article said.
Realizations like this are stimulating a flourishing field of geobiology the study of relationships
between life and the earth. One member of the Caltech team commented, If all bacteria and
archaea just stopped functioning, life on Earth would come to an abrupt halt.
Microbes are key players in earths nutrient cycles. Dr. Orphan added, ...every
fifth breath you take, thank a microbe.
Since we depend on microbes so much, why not let them become our teachers?
Another article on PhysOrg reported about
scientists seeking better ways to convert carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide, using sunlight.
They asked, WWND? What would nature do? They dont have a particular microbe
in mind that does this task, but realized that thinking like a microbe might provide a fruitful way to approach the
problem. An Oxford scientist commented, We looked for a way that seems like natures
way of doing it, which is more efficient.
Update 03/19/2010: Scientists at Michigan State found that microbes
are important for promoting biodiversity and cleaning the environment, reported
PhysOrg. Because many of them can live for
long periods in a dormant state, they can hold out in unfavorable conditions and respond to environmental
cues. Microbes are the most abundant and diverse organisms on earth; they carry out essential
ecosystem services, said one of the scientists. Among these services are contaminant degradation,
carbon sequestration and various processes that affect plant productivity.
Are you really an individual? Yes and no; you couldnt
live without your contingent of microbes constantly at your service. We are beginning to see biology
as hierarchies of interrelated systems. Who would have thought that our health depends on microbes
digesting methane seeping out of the deep ocean? Who would have thought that the air we breathe
and the plants we consume owe their existence to hundreds of billions of metric tons of organisms too
small to see? Who would have thought that channels deep under the crust and ocean are thriving
habitats for life? Earths biosphere is a system of systems of systems each of them
showcasing intelligent design at all levels.
Mars Discoveries Change Paradigms
Unfortunately, some of the articles spoiled their otherwise good content with evolutionary
non-sequiturs. They told us that SITI is a first step to SETI
finding intraterrestrial life helps the search for extraterrestrial life. Thats like saying
finding a library in a large city will help locate libraries on Mars. They told us that microbes
were around billions of years before humans arrived an unsupported assertion. They told us
that since microbes can digest methane on Earth, they might be digesting it on Titan. Such statements
serve little more than to restate reigning dogmas. Learn to keep them separate from the observational
facts, and you can still enjoy scientific articles.
Next headline on:
March 15, 2010 Mars is under assault by an armada of orbiters gathering intell from the planet with
photons and radar beams. What kind of information has been seized recently?
JPL is working feverishly to assemble and test its next-generation rover before a scheduled launch in the fall of 2011.
One chief goal of the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), nicknamed Curiosity, will be
to look for evidence of current or past life. Jennifer Eigenbrode, a Goddard scientist highlighted in a MSL
press release, strung
together a series of maybes in her description of the rationale: Maybe life existed back then.
Maybe it has persisted, which is possible given the fact that weve found life in every extreme environment
here on Earth. If life existed on Mars, maybe it adapted very much like life adapted here.
None of MSLs 10 instruments is prepared to look for life directly, however; but SAM [Sample Analysis
at Mars] has a key role of checking for carbon-containing compounds that potentially can be ingredients or markers of life.
- Dry rivers: Remember the networks of river channels that were telltale signs of water?
Remember the hope for life those images generated? Some of those riverbeds could have been lava flows.
Lava, understandably, doesnt have quite the same astrobiological ring to it.
Space.com reported on the
most detailed analysis of the channels by NASA scientist Jacob Bleacher. To understand if life
as we know it ever existed on Mars, we need to understand where water is or was, he said.
Then he compared Mars channels with those on Hawaii. On Mauna Kea, he found most of the features
that were considered to be diagnostic of water-carved channels on Mars. He also noticed evidence
of collapsed lava tubes in some of the Martian channels. He believes his analysis allows making
a strong case that fluid lava can produce channels that look very much like water-generated features.
Its important, therefore, not to jump to conclusions about water on the red planet, he said.
His co-author Andy de Wet believes what they found applies to channels all over the Tharsis Bulge.
While their study does not rule out some liquid water channels, It may also have some implications
for the supposed widespread involvement of water in the geological evolution of Mars.
Geographic shows pictures of the channels.
- Hard water: There is water on Mars if youre talking about the hard kind (ice).
PhysOrg echoed a press release from
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
about findings from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) with its powerful HiRISE camera.
Extensive radar mapping of the middle-latitude region of northern Mars shows that thick masses of
buried ice are quite common beneath protective coverings of rubble. Jeffrey Plaut of JPL
explains its origin: The hypothesis is the whole area was covered with an ice sheet during a different
climate period, and when the climate dried out, these deposits remained only where they had been covered
by a layer of debris protecting the ice from the atmosphere. Nothing was stated about whether
the H2O was ever liquid.
- Mars on the move: Mars is alive in one sense: the dunes are moving. Another press
release from Jet
Propulsion Lab described how scientists are identifying which sand dunes are traveling and which are marching
in place. Some dunes, they claim, have been stationary for 100,000 years or more.
How would they know, since observations go back only a decade or more? Thats only 1/10,000 the
time claimed. The method used depends on crater counts (see 09/25/2007,
Examination of ripples at the edges of craters can show whether the ripples were in place before the
crater was excavated or moved after the crater formed. This gives relative ages; how are
absolute ages estimated? Mars expert Matt Golombek said, Theres enough of a range of crater ages that
we can bracket the age of the most recent migration of the ripples in this area to more than 100,000
years and probably less than 300,000 years ago. This depends on the current accepted scheme for
assigning dates to craters based on their characteristics and densities. To keep the dunes static
for such a long time, in spite of wind and dust, Golombek postulated the stable dunes are made of
heavier particles, like the blueberries (concretions) found by the Opportunity rover:
The blueberries appear to form a [sic] armoring layer that shields the smaller sand grains beneath them from the wind.
It was not clear from the short press release why finer sand would not form on top of the armoring layer,
or why the blueberries would form ripples at all if they are too heavy to be moved by the wind.
In the finer sands of Meridiani Planum, Opportunity has seen resulting changes in its own wheel tracks
revisited several months after the tracks were first cut.
- Mars-o-Phobia: The Mars Express orbiter of the European Space Agency took the highest resolution
photos of Phobos, the larger of the Martian moons named for the Greek god of fear. Scientists fear
that tidal forces will tear this low-density rubble pile apart some day. Researchers suspect the
moon is simply a collection of planetary rubble that coalesced around the Red Planet sometime after its formation,
BBC News article speculated.
Another explanation is that it is a captured asteroid. Its density is so low, some
planetary scientists believe its surface probably hides many large interior voids.
We can play the maybe game, too. Maybe pigs had wings in the past and flew.
Maybe they left no fossils. Maybe they evolved on Neptune and flew here. Maybe doesnt cut it in science, baby.
Lets see your evidence. You cant appeal to life in extreme environments on earth when discussing
fictional life on Mars. Thats called begging the question.
Show us life on Mars, then we can discuss how well adapted it is.
Once again we find ad hoc theorizing to keep Mars old. The dunes move, so they had to cap them
with blueberry armor to keep them as old as the craters tell them they must be. But even then, they cant
keep them older than 300,000 years just 7% the assumed age of Mars. How come there are no craters 300,001
years old or more? The error bars are bigger than the bars. On a body that has global dust storms
and volcanoes, it is a risky business to estimate crater ages. It is risky estimating the moons age by craters and the moon has
no atmosphere (read about some of the problems in crater-count dating in the 09/25/2007 and
Most egregious in planetary science reporting these days is the endless storytelling about life.
The lava-flow theory of the channels will only be a temporary setback. Since the Maybe Game has achieved
legitimacy, they can invent stories ad nauseum without needing any evidence. Maybe a crater hit the ice and
melted it for a few days. Maybe life evolved on the fast track. Maybe it evolved antifreeze before
the heat was all gone. Maybe MSL will find it.
Next headline on:
Zebra pretends to be cleaner fish: a BBC News
article shows a zebra cleaning the teeth of a hippopotamus for 15 minutes without getting beheaded
in the process. The hippo seemed to enjoy the dental care.
Robotic Pothole Crew Keeps Your Genetic Highways in Good Repair
March 14, 2010 What a thought a repair crew of molecular machines roaming the
strands of your DNA, fixing errors 24 x 7. It happens. New techniques are showing
the machines jumping from strand to strand like fleas, stopping at suspicious points, and
fixing errors, reported Science
Daily. Dr. Bennett Van Houten (U of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute) had an earthy way
of illustrating what goes on. How this system works is an important unanswered question
in this field, he said. It has to be able to identify very small mistakes in a 3-dimensional
morass of gene strands. Its akin to spotting potholes on every street all over the country
and getting them fixed before the next rush hour.
A bacterium has about 40 team members on its pothole crew. That allows its
entire genome to be scanned for errors in 20 minutes, the typical doubling time. The machines
were observed jumping and sliding at random, but engaged sometimes in paused motion that
seemed slower and purposeful, the scientists said, as if they were scrutinizing
a pothole (i.e., a structural abnormality or defect) needing repair. These smart machines
can apparently also interact with other damage control teams if they cannot fix the problem on the spot.
Strange story. None of the scientists said anything about evolution. Werent
they supposed to tell us how these smart robots evolved? We were told nothing made sense in
biology except in the light of evolution. Are they going to leave us here in the dark?
Someone, please shed light on evolution before the I.D. bogeymen get here!
Our sun as a star: how does it compare? Read the results of one of the longest continuous
observation programs of any astronomical object in the 03/07/2007
Next headline on:
Fruit Flies: From Darwin to Design
March 13, 2010 The fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster is an icon of evolution.
Since the 1930s these poor little bugs have been mutated endlessly and watched for signs of Darwinian
change. So far, though, only useless mutants, unable to survive in the wild, have been produced.
Recently, scientists seem more enamored with their design. Two recent articles had nothing to say about
evolution but a lot to say about the amazing ways they are put together. They are so well put together,
in fact, that they put humans to shame in some ways not only because they can fly and we cant.
Humans share some of the same genes with fruit flies. Thats leading to some other
scientific design-based scientific research: using Drosophila as a model organism to understand
the structure and function of genes for muscles, so as to produce cures for disabilities like
muscular dystrophy. In the future, insight into such connections may help to detect and
treat muscle diseases individually, Schnorrer said, without a word about Darwin.
- Fly eye: Did you know fruit flies have better color perception than we do?
Science Daily said that
scientists studying phototaxis (attraction to light) in Drosophila found their 8 photoreceptors
produce different responses in behavior. One of the study authors pointed out, This simple
insect can achieve sophisticated color discrimination and detect a broader spectrum of colors than we can,
especially in the UV.
- Fly fountain of youth: Science
Daily reported on work to study how fruit flies overcome aging. Scientists at UC San Diego identified
a protein named Sestrin that serves as a natural inhibitor of aging and age-related pathologies in fruit flies.
The structure and biochemical function of this protein is conserved (i.e., unevolved) between fruit flies
and humans meaning that we may owe the ability to live longer, healthier lives some day to research on these
tiny insects. Experiments that reduced Sestrin in the flies produced stress and deformities.
These pathologies are amazingly similar to the major disorders of overweight, heart failure and muscle loss
that accompany aging in humans.
The pathologies appear to arise by disrupting an important
quality control mechanism called autophagy, the article explained. The team is trying to find out if
proper Sestrin expression will provide the explanation to some of the currently unexplainable degenerative
diseases associated with old age. One researcher hoped for good fruit from these experiments:
Maybe one day we will be able to use Sestrin analogs to prevent much of the tissue failure
associated with aging, as well as treat a number of degenerative diseases, whose incidence goes up with old age,
including sarcopenia and Alzheimers disease.
- Fly time: Oregon State is studying the fruit fly biological clock, reported
Science Daily, in hopes of helping
humans find the key to better health and a longer life. A properly-functioning biological clock is important in
preventing damage from oxidative stress. The article noted that the genes for the fruit fly clock are
essentially the same as in humans, having been conserved [unevolved] through many millions of years of evolution.
Obviously some other things have not been so conserved. Most of us dont resemble them much.
- Fly power: Bodybuilders, be humble before the fruit fly: on your scale, they could
bench press triple your personal best for more reps, too. PhysOrg
noted that the muscles in these tiny insects are among the strongest in the animal kingdom (ounce for
ounce, that is). Frank Schnorrer of the Max Planck Institute said of their flight muscles, They are able to produce
100 watt per kilogram muscle mass and that over a long period of time. Bodybuilders and Tour de France
riders can only dream about such a performance. They steadily manage about 30 watt per kilogram muscle mass.
About 2000 genes in the fruit fly genome of 12,000 genes are involved in the production of
these flight muscles. Schnorrer remarked, It is fascinating how the genetic programme of an
organism is able to produce such different cell types out of identical precursor cells.
Live Science posted a
video last month showing how the fruit flys supercharged muscles ramp up during flight.
When you approach a scientific problem with design in mind, you have
different goals and methods than a Darwinian does. You attack the problem assuming there is a good
design that needs to be understood. Then, you have a goal of improving human life by applying
what is understood to real problems we face.
March 13, 2010 Heres a book that illustrates how creation science can be applied to a specific topic.
The Cave Book explores the creation underground (literally). Part of the Wonders of Creation series by
Master Books, this was written by a renowned speleologist (cave scientist), Dr. Emil Silvestru. The 80-page
book is filled with interesting information and pictures. Speleology brings together a host of subjects
in geology, biology and history that can be addressed from a creation perspective: cave men like Neanderthals,
cave mythology, bats and cave-adapted animals, karst topography, mineral formations, human artifacts, dating methods. While
intended as an educational book for middle school students and precocious juniors, it can be enjoyed by adults as
well. Dr. Silvestrus expertise is clearly evident on each page. He also entices the reader with
the sport and science of cave exploration. Having this book will also entice you to get the other books
in the series: books on archaeology, astronomy, fossils, weather, geology and oceanography. They can
be ordered from Master
Books or on sale sometimes from Amazon.com (search on Wonders of Creation Series).
One of the most amazing stories we ever reported on this subject was
by Michael Dickinson of Caltech back on 12/08/2003.
We urge you to revisit that entry now to be convinced once for all that design-based science is vastly
superior to zapping creatures in the vain hope of finding something to offer Charlie. Thinking about
all that power and design in a tiny little fly is enough to turn a child into an enthusiastic scientist
the kind that would sign a growing list.
Next headline on:
Next resource of the week: 03/06/2010.
All resources: Catalog.
Man Will Never Fly (to the Stars)
March 13, 2010 Its risky to say never in science. The
Man Will Never Fly Society had a short life.
However, an article on Space.com
makes it seem a safe bet that, Star Trek notwithstanding, warp-speed flights to the stars are out of the question
for humans. Warp speed will kill you, the article announced; why? Because interstellar
hydrogen atoms would become lethal weapons, delivering a deadly radiation blast to ship and crew.
The ships electronics would fry and the crew would be killed instantly. The last thing Kirk might
have told Scotty was, Jump to warp speed.
Dont think that Shields up would have helped. If the Enterprise didnt have
shields a kilometer thick (making warp speed all the more impractical), they would not have done any good.
William Edelstein (Johns Hopkins U) explained these problems to a meeting of the American Physical Society last month.
The demise of the Trekkie dream is not the only ramification, he said. The physical barriers to
near-light speed also suggest that aliens would have been physically unable to drop in for a visit
if they are made of atoms. Getting between stars is a huge problem unless we think of something really,
really different, Edelstein said. Im not saying that we know everything and that its
impossible. Im saying its kind of impossible based on what we know right now.
Trekkies might still take hope in lessons from history where yesterdays impossibilities, like flying, became
todays everyday experience.
It is a safe bet that star travel is not going to happen in your lifetime.
And if the UFO people are wrong, aliens have not figured out a solution, either (or they do not exist, or have
quarantined us). This might be the answer to the Fermi Paradox where are they? They cant
get here. Reality has a way of spoiling a good fantasy.
Whos In Control: Your Brain or You?
limitations. Youre stuck here, physically (not a bad place though, no?). In your minds eye,
you can travel to the outer limits at the speed of thought. Star Trek is real in the movie
theaters. Those movies did not just happen. They were made by the combined efforts of dozens of creative
minds with feet on the earth. Star Trek demonstrates that anything creative requires intelligent design. It reminds us
that our aspirations outpace our physical bodies. It can be a stepping stone to the realization that we
had better quit fantasizing and get busy fulfilling those aspirations by reading and following the Operations Manual
of the ultimate intelligent designer, who planted those aspirations within us. Joining his enterprise is the only
hope of star travel some day.
Next headline on:
March 12, 2010 Do you have a self that controls your brain, or is thought a secretion of
the brain, as Darwin claimed? Do you use your brain, or does your brain operate you?
Who is in charge? These are deep philosophical questions with a long history, that some people
prefer to avoid, as in the common joke:
What is matter? Never mind.
What is mind? No matter.
The answer is probably not an either-or proposition, because we know
that physical changes in the brain, whether by drugs and injury, can have profound affects on the
self if there is one. But there is also ample evidence that people can affect their
physical brains through choice and will just as a person can order her arm to rise against
the pull of gravity. Some recent findings suggest that opinions of neuroscientists (for a long
time those most tending to physicalism) seem to be shifting back to belief in the existence of a determinative self.
Advocates of intelligent design are most often philosophical dualists those who accept a mental (or spiritual) reality in addition to a
physical reality. It appears these studies and others like them are giving them fodder for their case.
Denyse OLeary, co-author of The Spiritual Brain, discussed some of these findings in a podcast for
ID the Future. For more news
about the brain, see the 02/21/2010 entry.
- Memory flexibility: Rats have brains, too, and while humans may not appreciate
being compared to them, we might learn some things from the physical aspects of a rat brain.
For one thing, how the brain stores memory is a lot more complicated than the old computer storage model.
Science Daily reported
on work at University of Minnesota
that shows that the phenomenon of memory replay is much more [sic] complex, cognitive process that
may help an animal maintain its internal representation of the world, or its cognitive map.
The hippocampus has long been known to be involved in memory recall.
Rather than just playing back a memory verbatim, the hippocampus provides flexible playback.
It gives animals the ability to plan novel paths within their environment, said A. David
Redish of the U of Minnesota Medical School. This replay process may be an animals
way of learning how the world is interconnected, so it can plan new routes or paths.
That almost sounds like the rat is in the drivers seat, not its brain. The article
spoke plainly about the rats decision-making process. The brain was
not just playing back a tape recording: The rats were not just reviewing recent experience to
move it to long-term memory, Science Daily said. This is important because brain
cognition and the human decision-making process are poorly understood.
Someone might argue that computers have a decision-making process, too. Yesbut those
processes were programmed by intelligent design. To claim that animals are capable of decision
making while being physical products of evolution would beg the question about physicalism.
- Multisensory perception: If physicalists want to say humans are only animals, they cant
say they are less equipped. PhysOrg posted an
interesting story that said psychologists are finding amazing perceptual abilities in humans thought to
be mastered by animals alone. The article begins with examples:
Blind mountain bikers use echolocation to hear rocks in the trail.
A connoisseur sniffs out the worlds most expensive cup of coffee.
An artist whose sight disappeared as a young man paints and chooses his colors by touch.
Rosenblum has amassed many examples of people who have compensated for the loss of one sense by developing
heightened sensitivity from the other senses, both singly and in combination. Brain-imaging and
other tools have enabled researchers in the last decade to discover that the human brain is capable of
changing its structure and organization a process called neuroplasticity - as it is
influenced by experience. Dont be down on yourself. You are highly skilled,
Rosenblum says: We all have an onboard sonar system and a type of absolute pitch; and we all can
perceive speech from seeing and even touching faces, he said. Those abilities can be brought
to sharpness by practice.
New research in perceptual psychology and brain science is revealing that our senses pick up
information about the world that we thought was only available to other species, Lawrence Rosenblum, professor
of psychology at the University of California, Riverside, writes in a new book, See What Im Saying:
The Extraordinary Powers of Our Five Senses (Norton, 2010), published this month.
- Forget to remember? Science
Daily delved into the question of why we can remember some things instantly when exposed to a triggering
sense, like a smell, but cant remember other things when we try. Science still does not fully understand why
this happens. Experiments by Kristina Kompus, a Swedish scientist seem to suggest that the instant recall and the slow search-and-retrieval
mechanisms are controlled by different regions of the brain. Her studies also reveal that our long-term memory
is more flexible that was previously believed. There is not just one single neurological signaling path for
reliving old memories but rather several paths that are anatomically separate.
- Hormone assist: PhysOrg
added more thought to the story about testosterone (see 12/09/2009).
Subjects involved in a trading game were actually more rational and fair when they did not know
they were given testosterone.
Since women given the hormone without knowledge behaved differently than those who knew,
the effects of hormones are more complex than previously thought.
This raises questions about the uniqueness of the human mind. How could such an experiment
be done on animals? How would they know what they were given? How would they have certain
expectations that a hormone would produce a certain kind of behavior?
The authors of an article in Nature noted, biology seems to exert less control over
human behavior [than in other animals].
- Self-controlled rehab: A man in Texas has had difficulties in work because of
several traumatic brain injuries, like concussions from falling off a horse when he was young.
He felt discouraged about his prospects for work and living a normal life,
PhysOrg said, till he realized at age 42
that he was not a prisoner of his brain injuries. He heard about brain plasticity
the concept that the brain can heal and learn at all ages. He realized that abilities
he thought were gone could be re-learned. It was a relief, he said.
It helped me regain my self-esteem and self-confidence. It gave me hope.
The article then noted, Neuroplasticity, or the brains ability to adapt and change through life,
is gaining increased traction in medical circles. The author of a book on the subject,
Dr. Norman Doidge, calls this the most important change in our understanding of the brain in
four hundred years.
For the longest time our best and brightest neuroscientists thought of the brain as like a machine,
with parts, each performing a single mental function in a single location, he wrote in an e-mail
from the University of Toronto (he also teaches at Columbia University). We thought its circuits
were genetically hardwired, and formed, and finalized in childhood.
A doctor told of a patient who suffered a massive stroke. In five weeks he went from coma
to paralysis to walking out of the hospital. The brain has the amazing ability to reorganize
itself by forming new connections between brain cells, he said.
This meant that doctors assumed they could do little to help those with mental limitations
or brain damage, he says -- because machines dont grow new parts. The new thinking changes that:
It means that many disorders that we thought cant be treated have to be revisited.
Dr. Sandra Chapman is founder of the Center for Brain Health at the University of Texas.
She remarked, Our brain is one of the most modifiable parts of our whole body. Think about that.
It means that intentional thought for the brain might just be as important as exercise for the body. She advises taking a
neck-up checkup to find areas needing improvement: such as learning how to focus,
learning how to reason, learning how to create. These skills can be improved with targeted exercises.
For those of us getting older (100% of humans), it also means we dont have to look ahead to hopeless
decline, but can actually maintain or improve mental skills as we age. People in their 80s and 90s can do
incredible things, Chapman said. They may do them a little bit slower, but they can do them
at a much deeper level.
The article said Its possible that the connections that the brain makes may
become even more profound with age. If so, do they just result in more profound secretions
of the brain, or do they provide a self with better tools?
- The scientific brain: Some experiments done at the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research
seem to show that humans are hard-wired to think scientifically. Our brains are comfortable with predictable
outcomes, but strain at unpredictable ones. PhysOrg
said, This suggests that the brains main job, alike [sic] that of a scientist, is to generate hypotheses
about what is going on in the outside world. Do we all have a little scientist in our head?
At present the idea of the scientific brain is rapidly spreading through the neuroscience community
and provides a novel approach to resolving how the most complex organ of the human body works, the
- Control your cortex: Scientists can observe brain waves that predict how someone will feel
days after a marital spat. But do the brain waves determine this, or are the waves a product of the spouses
control? Science Daily reported
on work at Harvard reported in Biological Psychiatry that seemed to show that brain activity
specifically in the region called the lateral prefrontal cortex is a far better indicator than common
wisdom about not going to bed angry of how someone will feel in the days following a fight with his or her partner.
The more neural activity seen in the lateral prefrontal cortex, the more forgiving the partner was likely to be.
But what does that mean?
Dr. Christine Hooker also found that those who had more activity in the lateral prefrontal
cortex and greater emotional regulation after a fight displayed more cognitive control in laboratory tests,
indicating a link between emotion regulation and broader cognitive control skills. So while
the brain waves might serve as a predictor of those most vulnerable to emotional stress after a fight,
it doesnt mean the subject is a victim of her or his brain waves. It could mean the opposite that
the moral traits a person has learned can be observed in brain waves, just like the choices one makes in a diet
are visible in the waistline. Scientists believe that what we are looking at in the scanner has
relevance to daily life, but obviously we dont live our lives in a scanner,
noted Hooker. Relevance is a commutative property. She could have said, Our daily lives have
relevance to what we see in the scanner.
- Train your brain: According to Science
Daily, we can choose to remodel our brains. Researchers at the University of Goldsmiths London observed
neuroplastic changes as a result of brainwave training. They demonstrated that half an
hour of voluntary control of brain rhythms is sufficient to induce a lasting shift in cortical excitability
and intracortical function. The article continued, Remarkably, these after-effects are comparable
in magnitude to those observed following interventions with artificial forms of brain stimulation involving
magnetic or electrical pulses. It means that painful and risky physical interventions (drugs, electric shock, etc.)
could be replaced with a more natural way to modulate cerebral plasticity through inner control
of ones own brain activity. The finding has important implications for future non-pharmacological
therapies of the brain and calls for a serious re-examination and stronger backing of research on neurofeedback,
the article said. Inner control; is that the same thing as self control?
Its nice to see secular neuroscientists entertaining thoughts again
about the actual existence of a self that can control the body. But theres a shortcut to
tipping the debate in favor of dualism. Ask them, when they are thinking about the question, who is
doing the thinking? To be consistent in their physicalism, they would have to deny their own
selves. This would be a self-refuting position that would
give the dualist interlocutor opportunity to call the debate. Like Dr. Greg Bahnsen used to taunt his
opponent, merely showing up at the debate proved his point.
Great balls of fat: read about why fat is not all bad, but actually essential and good for you (in moderation, of course):
03/06/2006. The way fat is made and maintained is even more amazing.
Each of the stories above makes
sense in the light of creation, and only in the light of creation (the top-down approach that assumes
intelligent design), on two grounds: (1) the alternative is self-refuting, and (2) our uniform experience
shows that decision-making entities (robots, software) are products of a mind. It may not answer
all the mysteries we have about the mind-body problem (e.g., what happens to the self when an aging person shows
dementia, the differences between animal and human mental states, the interactions of soul and brain,
what happens during sleep, why do we recall things when not concentrating on them, etc.),
but it is a self-consistent framework in which to provide useful employment to the little scientist in your head.
Otherwise, whats the point of the sign over the businessmans desk? THINK.
Next headline on:
Bible and Theology
Science Proves the Morally Obvious
March 11, 2010 When scientists find that virtue brings reward and vice bring trouble,
are they doing a better job than preachers and parents? Hold that thought while reading some of the
things scientists have been telling us lately about ourselves.
On the other hand, scientists sometimes announce counter-intuitive findings that make moral judgments.
For instance, Live
Science told its readers that some looting in Chile after the earthquake might have been caused not by loose morals but
by survival instincts. Taking food could be excusable given the circumstances, the article
said, and if people do take non-necessities, such as TVs, theyre probably not thinking about right
and wrong since these uncertain situations can lead to a breakdown of social norms. Was that
a reference to situational ethics? The article noted that most people act altruistically in the aftermath of disasters.
Daniel Kruger at the University of Michigan commented, If we were absolutely selfish when disasters like this strike, I would be
surprised if we survived as a species.
- R-Rated Movies Increase Likelihood of Underage Children Trying Alcohol.
Thank Science Daily for that
bit of advice that emanated from Dartmouth University. A study published in Prevention Science
showed that R-rated movies not only contain scenes of alcohol use that prompt adolescents to drink,
they also jack up the sensation seeking tendency, which makes adolescents more prone to engage in all sorts of risky behaviors.
- Kids Taught Self-Control Behave Better at School. Parents might not have known that
without help from an article on Live
Science about a study conducted by University of Rochester Medical Center. Children taught skills
to monitor and control their anger and other emotions improved their classroom behavior and
had significantly fewer school disciplinary referrals and suspensions, according to new research.
- Video-game ownership may interfere with young boys academic functioning, said
PhysOrg. Parents may be relieved to have
the authority of science to back up their orders to go to the bedroom and do the homework.
Whether it was ethical to experiment with 6- to 9-year olds for four months to find this out was
not stated. It could be an issue, though, because the boys who received the video-game system
at the beginning of the study had significantly lower reading and writing scores four months later
compared with the boys receiving the video-game system later on. What permanent setbacks
and bad habits were created in the minds of the little boy lab rats? These findings suggest that video games
may be displacing after-school academic activities and may impede reading and writing development in
young boys, the article continued. The authors note that when children have problems
with language at this young age, they tend to have a tougher time acquiring advanced reading and
writing skills later on. Maybe they justified this experiment on the grounds that sacrificing
a few boys for the sake of scientific knowledge of possible practical benefit to the public was morally acceptable.
- New Research Looks at Beliefs About Gods Influence in Everyday Life, wrote
Science Daily, noting the
truly astonishing finding that Most Americans believe God is concerned with their personal well-being
and is directly involved in their personal affairs, according to new research out of the University of Toronto.
My, where have the scientists been? Apparently not in church nor in logic class.
Many of us might assume that people of higher social class standing tend to reject beliefs
about divine intervention, explained Scott Schieman (U of Toronto). However, my findings
indicate that while this is true among those less committed to religious life, it is not the case for
people who are more committed to religious participation and rituals. Maybe he expected that
more of the religious were participating in spite of their beliefs. On one thing he was clear, though:
the job of interpreting this phenomenon belongs to scientists: Given the frequency of God talk in American culture,
especially in some areas of political discourse, this is an increasingly important area for researchers
to document, describe, and interpret.
- Happiness Is Experiences, Not Stuff, explained
Eight studies converged on that finding that was published in the Journal of Personality and
Social Psychology. The researchers based their conclusions on questionnaires that asked
participants things like visualizing a vacation deal, or how satisfied they felt with a purchase they made. Its not
clear if there was some sort of satisfactionometer instrument used, or what the metric units were.
- Modern man found to be generally monogamous, moderately polygamous, announced
PhysOrg, accompanied by the iconic image of
man emerging from the apes. This study was done not by observing human behavior but by
discerning patterns in the genes. The author did not make any value judgments about monogamy, however.
- Students Perceptions of Earths Age Influence Acceptance of Human Evolution,
a story on Science Daily
announced, before going off into a discussion of polls and the law. The authors of a survey
published in Evolution apparently didnt catch the logic that without belief in deep time,
belief in evolution is unlikely. The lead author used the survey to give an NCSE-style application:
The role of the Earths age is a key variable that we can use to improve education about evolution,
which is important because it is the unifying principle of biology, said Sehoya Cotner (U of Minnesota),
noting with horror that about one in four high school biology teachers in the upper Midwest are
giving students the impression that creationism is a viable explanation for the origins of life on Earth
something she denounced as just not acceptable. The Constitution prohibits teaching
creationism in schools, she added, something readers might have trouble finding in the Constitution,
which does not mention teaching or creationism. It might also be hard to defend that statement
since the Declaration of Independence, written by the same group of founding fathers, had said all men are created
equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.
More and more, scientists are inserting themselves into the moral dimensions of human life.
Not only do they scrutinize and analyze our moral instincts, they also play preacher and give us advice.
Live Science, for instance
wrote about How to Grow Old Gracefully. Much of the advice is common sense, or advice you
would hear from a doctor. But Rachael Rettner also noted that Churchgoing and a generally sunny
outlook on life have also been linked to longer, healthier lives. (It is left as an exercise whether
following that path would promote the belief in evolution that Cotner said is important.)
What is notable is that the scientific researchers seem to expect that their opinions on
these matters should carry more weight than those of religious leaders and other scholars or experts. Do religious leaders, theologians
and non-scientists have any voice left in answering the third of the three great philosophical questions,
(1) Ontology: What exists?; (2) Epistemology: How do we know what we know?; (3) Ethics: How should we live our lives?
Not that long ago people wanting a moral compass would seek the Scriptures and
talk to a trusted pastor, priest or rabbi. Many still do, but the cultural elite act as if those opinions
are of no value, and we must look to scientists for answers. They treat the religious as lab rats
like the little boys with video games. What if the tables were turned? What if the scientists had to
sit in church and hear a preacher say, Thus saith the Lord? And why shouldnt they?
They need to repent. They are breaking the Ten Commandments.
Divining Violent gods as Natural Cosmic Creators
A logical truth overlooked by researchers is that scientists have absolutely
nothing to say about ethics without input from a theological world view. If naturalism is their world view,
ethics reduces to Stuff Happens. There are no gridlines, guidelines or goals. They do not have the functional operators
in their toolkit for h(S), this stuff Should happen, or h(!S), this stuff Should not happen.
Should is not in their vocabulary. Only a theological perspective can say should. Indeed, only a theological
perspective makes the three philosophical questions meaningful and approachable. Consequently, we just caught several
scientists (in the stories above) plagiarizing Judeo-Christian assumptions about right and wrong that is,
using their principles without attribution, as if they were their own. Thou shalt not steal.
Thou shalt not bear false witness.*
Exercise: List some other Commandments the scientists might be breaking by pretending to exercise secular, naturalistic
authority on moral matters. You can find some suggestions in the introduction to our online book,
The Worlds Greatest Creation Scientists.
*Steal=h(!S)=0; BFW=h(!S)=0; source=Ex 20.
Next headline on:
Politics and Ethics
Bible and Theology
March 10, 2010 Ancient stargazers imagined the violent actions of gods in the heavens
giving rise to the stars, earth and man. Todays secular astronomers engage in a
similar kind of lore. While not naming their gods after mythical heroes, they describe
them as forces of nature whose violent clashes give rise to order and design. Sometimes they
even personify these forces. Maybe the only thing that has changed since Greek times is
the sophistication of the observations.
- Modern Asteria: A cosmic war of titanic proportions is occurring in the heavens,
but out of the struggle comes spiral jewelry fit for Asteria, goddess of the stars.
As she gives birth, she in rage rips open the wombs of her rivals, preventing them from bearing sons
and daughters, but some of the barren escape. So the oracles have determined.
A press release from University
of Durham would not be altered much by replacing Asteria with galaxy, sons and daughters by suns and debris,
and oracles by theorists. Astronomers using the Gemini Observatorys Near-Infrared Integral Field Spectrometer said of
the galaxy with its violent outflows:
The explosions scattered the gas needed to form new stars by helping it escape the gravitational pull
of the galaxy called SMM J1237+6203, effectively regulating its growth, the scientists added....
One wonders, upon reading this tale, whether the explosions helped the gas escape on purpose,
and whether there was a plan to regulate the growth of the galaxy. Whatever it was, it was effective,
we were just told.
Effectively the galaxy is regulating its growth by preventing
new stars from being born. Theorists had predicted that huge outflows of energy were
behind this activity, but its only now that we have seen it in action.
We believe that similar huge outflows are likely to have stopped the growth of other galaxies
in the early Universe by blowing away the materials needed for star formation.
Perhaps the modern myth is an improvement in its explanatory power. They believe the huge surge of energy
was caused by either the outflow of debris from the galaxys black hole or from powerful winds
generated by dying stars called supernovae. This is known as a disjunctive theory: kind of like your
shrink saying you are neurotic either because your mother didnt breast-feed you or because space aliens are sending energy
pulses into your head. There might be a black hole in this galaxy, or there might be supernovae, but those were
not observed. Even so, both are violent, destructive phenomena not intuitively known for creative acts like star birth
(which was also not observed).
The outflows are so violent, in fact, its not even sure that supernovae are up to explaining them.
According to their findings the
galaxy exploded in a series of blasts trillions of times more powerful than any caused by an atomic bomb.
The blasts happened every second for millions of years, the scientists said. For one thing, its hard to
imagine anything creative coming out of that kind of violence. But for another, that would seem to require so many
supernovae going off for so long, the problem shifts from whether any stars formed as a result to how the stars formed that
exploded as supernovae in the first place. The reader can pick a preferred oracle and explanation.
- Modern Atreus: There were rare cases of cannibals among the gods, but in modern cosmology
cannibalism is the preferred heavenly vice. Our own Milky Way is a cannibal, we were told by
How do we know? The Missing Link told us, according to PhysOrg.
Cannibalism may be the mark of the uncivilized, but in astronomy, the vice is nice.
A leading theory claims that the large spiral galaxies we love so much, including our own, grew by cannibalizing
the midgets. Trouble was, astronomers had no evidence for this bottom-up approach to
galaxy-building. (It also leaves unanswered what the midget galaxies ate for growth and health.)
But now, the presses are rolling with gladness, now that the Missing Link has spoken.
That missing link is a metal-poor star found in a nearby dwarf galaxy; it was announced last week
in Nature.1 One might think that a large galaxy would need quite a few candidates
to grow into the range of 100 billion stars, but astronomers were relieved for small progress. They had been looking
for a metal-poor star for years, and frankly, were getting a little worried. The paucity of metal-poor stars in
dwarf galaxies suggested, scientifically speaking, that their theory might be proven wrong.
But rather than letting that happen, they rejoiced to find one small red star with 1/4000 the metals2 of our sun
and one-fifth the metallicity of any star measured in a dwarf galaxy before.
The idea is that the dwarf galaxies, being the first to form, had to form before metals were produced by supernovae.
Only after the cannibal party was over would mature galaxies have lots of metals in their systems; who knows, maybe
they ate the forks, too.
Finding this star was like finding a needle in a stack of needles, one astronomer said. Why that should be, he did not say;
it would seem the theory would predict metal-poor stars would predominate in dwarf galaxies. Be that as it may,
heres how the paper put a happy spin on the change of fortune:
Current cosmological models indicate that the Milky Ways stellar halo was assembled from many smaller systems.
On the basis of the apparent absence of the most metal-poor stars in present-day dwarf galaxies, recent studies claimed that the true
Galactic building blocks must have been vastly different from the surviving dwarfs. The discovery of an extremely iron-poor star
(S1020549) in the Sculptor dwarf galaxy based on a medium-resolution spectrum cast some doubt on this conclusion.
Some doubt is right. The astronomers said later in their paper, we cannot rule out the possibility that
some metal-poor stars in the halo came from more massive systems than the ones considered here. They also recognized
it was a poor showing: future discoveries of extremely metal-poor stars in these galaxies would be required to
demonstrate the feasibility of this picture, they said a picture that includes the popular Cold Dark Matter model of the Universe.
Can the discovery of this one metal-poor star resurrect the cannibal theory? Can it account for the enthusiasm in the popular press?
But were enough dwarf galaxies accreted to account for all of the metal-poor halo stars? The surviving ultra-faint dwarfs are the least luminous and most dark-matter-dominated galaxies, and they possess very few stars despite containing some extremely metal-poor stars. It is thus unclear whether the accretion of even large numbers of analogues to such systems can provide enough stellar mass to account for the entire population of low-metallicity field stars. On the other hand, massive satellites like the progenitors of the Magellanic Clouds are thought to have provided the vast majority of the inner halo. Galaxies, like Sculptor, with stellar masses in between massive gas-rich objects (early versions of todays Magellanic Clouds) and less luminous systems (appearing today as ultra-faint dwarfs), hence appear to be more natural candidates for providing the metal-poor stellar content of the outer halo.
Bosh with this pessimism, Science
Daily thought, as it announced gleefully, First of Missing Primitive Stars Found.
- Modern Bacchus: Some astronomers believe they can peek into the food fights of the star gods.
PhysOrg reported on work at the Harvard-Smithsonian
Center for Astrophysics about the birth of large stars, to see whether it involves cannibalism or not.
Readers might be surprised to learn that the process of star formation for giant stars is poorly understood.
There were fears that large stars would blow away their food due to ionizing radiation and star formation would stop. It turns out,
the astronomers simulated on computers, that small stars capture some of the outflowing material, resulting in riotous feasts
of big and small stars. They called this fragmentation-induced starvation. The obese giants can prevent
their own demise by sharing some of their food with the midgets. The article says
that it appears to offer realistic answers to many of the outstanding puzzles of massive star formation in clusters.
- Modern Medea: Medea took her revenge by sending Glauce a dress and golden coronet, covered in poison,
the Greeks taught. Modern mythmakers love poison. Whenever they find it, they believe that life cannot be far behind.
PhysOrg announced that the orbiting Herschel Telescope discovered
carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, methanol, dimethyl ether, hydrogen cyanide, sulfur oxide and sulfur dioxide in the Orion Nebula.
Conclusion? Herschel Finds Possible Life-Enabling Molecules in Space. William
Herschel and John Herschel were not consulted on this announcement, because they might have objected to
having their names associated with a naturalistic myth.
Science Daily bested it with this title:
Precursors of Life-Enabling Organic Molecules in Orion Nebula Unveiled by Herschel Space Observatory.
Later, that article called these poisons the direct precursors to life-enabling molecules.
Warning: do not try these molecules on yourself to see if they are life-enabling.
One of the Herschel astronomers was enamored not only with the poisons but with the violence in the cloud.
The high spectral resolution of HIFI shows the breath-taking rechness [sic] of molecular species, which are present,
despite of the hostile environment, in the stellar nurseries and sites for planet formation, he said.
To some astronomers, poisonous violence is what to look for when you want to witness a baby boom of stars, planets and life.
- Modern Nemesis: Death and destruction is raining down on Earth from the jealous god Nemesis.
Space.com said that Sols
alter ego, an unseen star nicknamed Nemesis, may be perturbing comets from an unseen Oort Cloud onto the planet at 26 million
year intervals. The article explained that observations are not required:
While theres little doubt about the destructive power of cosmic impacts, there is no evidence that comets have
periodically caused mass extinctions on our planet. The theory of periodic extinctions itself is still debated, with
many insisting that more proof is needed. Even if the scientific consensus is that extinction events dont
occur in a predictable cycle, there are now other reasons to suspect a dark companion to the Sun.
The existence of odd minor planets with weird orbits may be the footprint of Nemesis. The destructive
star may have come from the tribe of the Red Dwarfs. The article, with a section entitled Finding Dwarfs in the Dark,
ended with an occult suggestion: Even if Nemesis is not found, the WISE telescope will help shed light
on the darkest corners of the solar system.
1. Frebel, Kirby and Simon, Linking dwarf galaxies to halo building blocks with the most metal-poor star in Sculptor,
464, 72-75 (4 March 2010) | doi:10.1038/nature08772.
2. By metals, astronomers mean any and all elements heavier than hydrogen and helium. Metallicity
is the ratio of heavy elements to hydrogen and helium. Presumably, metallicity increases with age, as more supernovae
seed the cosmic clouds with elements forged in the interiors of stars. The first stars (not observed) would have
been made entirely of hydrogen and helium.
It takes many years of training to become a modern scientific
priest. The math and science is admittedly difficult. Not everyone can survive the
ordeal. Once inducted into the order,
though, the priest earns free rein to add to the cultural mythology. The press adores the priests
and never questions their wisdom. Once in a while they have to employ the hard math they learned,
but only for the observational parts. The interpretive activity is liberated
from that requirement all it takes is a good imagination. Some linkage to observation
helps, on occasion, to keep the peasants from suspecting they are speaking beyond their knowledge.
This Tree of Life Is Real
Willard van Orman Quine famously said in 1951 that scientific theories and the Greek gods are
in the same business providing categories to organize experience. Though he later moderated
that position, the comparison may be more apt than he realized. Both the Greek gods and their
modern counterparts described above are not transcendent Creators, but rather elements of the
cosmos that emerged from the void with special powers. Both priestly orders assumed a philosophy
of naturalism: a bottom-up assumption about the way the cosmos came to be. Neither were dependent
on empirical evidence (though it helped if the Delphic Oracle got the prediction right occasionally).
Both ascribed personality to natural forces. Both used the
myths to teach the peasants how to understand the mysterious forces around them. And both provided
power and prestige to the priestly class.
Next headline on:
Origin of Life
March 9, 2010 Imagine a tree that can provide both nutritious food
and clean water. Moringa oleifera is such a tree. It grows in Africa and
Asia and is being looked at as a life-giving plant that can reduce bacterial contamination
of water by 90 to 99.99% by filtering water with its seeds.
Daily has a picture of the trees leaves. A billion people across Asia,
Africa, and Latin America are estimated to rely on untreated surface water sources for their
daily water needs, the article said, based on information from John Wiley & Sons
Corporate Citizenship Initiative. Of these, some two million are thought to die
from diseases caught from contaminated water every year, with the majority of these deaths
occurring among children under five years of age. Michael Lea, a researcher at
Clearinghouse, a Canadian organization dedicated to investigating and implementing low-cost
water purification technologies, just published
a low-cost water purification technique using seeds from the Moringa tree at
By low cost he means no cost. The trees already live where they are needed.
Moringa tree seeds, when crushed into powder, can be used as a water-soluble extract
in suspension, resulting in an effective natural clarification agent for highly turbid and
untreated pathogenic surface water, the article explained. As well as improving
drinkability, this technique reduces water turbidity (cloudiness) making the result
aesthetically as well as microbiologically more acceptable for human consumption.
But thats not all. Lea said, Not only is [the tree] drought resistant,
it also yields cooking and lighting oil, soil fertilizer, as well as highly nutritious food in
the form of its pods, leaves, seeds and flowers. He calls it one of the
worlds most useful trees. Lea is trying to
make the procedure widely available, because children have been dying in third world countries
when a solution has been growing right around them.
Lea counted other benefits, like income from cultivating the trees.
He envisions the possibility that thousands of 21st century families could find themselves
liberated from what should now be universally seen as 19th century causes of death and disease.
This is an amazing prospect, and one in which a huge amount of human potential could be released,
he said. This is particularly mind-boggling when you think it might all come down
to one incredibly useful tree.
What a great story. Its a modern-day Acres of
Diamonds tale that hopefully will make a real difference in the health and happiness of
people suffering from unnecessary diseases in poor countries. Theres wealth all
around them right there in trees that many probably took for granted. Killmers
poem Trees is rustling in the background
of this article. Visions of Eden (Genesis
2), or of the heavenly Jerusalem with trees lining the river of life bearing
fruit for the healing of the nations (Revelation
22:2), come to mind. Only God can make a tree of life He did, and He will.
Go figure: Five years ago, a secular scientist made an amazing statement, equivalent to intelligent design is the future of biology
(03/14/2005). But that same month, the president of the National Academy of Sciences gave a
call to arms, calling all scientists to defend Darwinism from the threat of intelligent design (03/24/2005).
Moringa is undoubtedly not the only case of an undiscovered renewable resource that can benefit man.
If you are a young person interested in science, let this kind of story be your inspiration.
Dont follow the crowd after Darwins fake tree of life. Thats a deadly
tree that produces Darwincense, a habit-forming drug that gives cheap highs while frying your brain.
Instead, seek to understand the world around you so that you can make it a better place and help your
Update 03/11/2010: A reader suggested a tie-in to a Biblical event: check it out in
Next headline on:
Be sure to watch the fun irreducibly complex car commercial we mentioned (03/01/2005);
now its available on YouTube. And to reinforce the take-home ID lesson that complex
things dont just happen, watch The Making of Honda Cog.
What Good Is Natural Selection without Progress?
March 8, 2010 Three papers recently claim to have seen natural selection.
None of them, however, identified a functional advantage that would have tied changes to novel benefits that could improve a species.
It is clear that to evolve a bacterium into a human would require enormous gains in functional information
encoded in genetic information. Neither of these articles contained observational evidence that the
mutations or variations that were alleged to have been preserved by natural selection created any gains
in fitness, function, or information.
- Yeast: New Type of Genetic Variation Could Strengthen Natural Selection,
trumpeted a headline in Science
Daily. It was about a study of two varieties of one species of yeast one in Japan, one in
Portugal. Scientists compared the genomes of the two isoforms of the same species and found one form
had a particular functional gene network, the other did not. Remarkably, they said in their paper in Nature,1
these polymorphisms have been maintained for nearly the entire history of the species, despite more recent gene flow genome-wide....
This striking example of a balanced unlinked gene network polymorphism introduces a remarkable type of intraspecific variation that may be
widespread.. The word Remarkably is even in the title of their paper:
Remarkably ancient balanced polymorphisms in a multi-locus gene network.
Remarkable as that may be, the authors did not identify the origin of any new function, organ, or genetic information.
The paper said, The numerous cases of long-term balancing selection, complex genetic interactions,
and theoretical considerations all hint that BuGNPs [balanced unlinked gene network polymorphisms]
might be important for explaining the evolution of complex traits, but we know of no other definitive examples of
balancing selection acting to preserve alternative states of a multi-locus gene network within a single species.
So not only was this a case of preservation rather than progress, it was all taking place within a single species.
No origin of species was claimed for this New Type of Genetic Variation [that] Could Strengthen Natural Selection.
Even more surprising is that neither the paper nor the press release tied the alleged natural selection to actual fitness or survival.2
The press release from Vanderbilt University, nevertheless,
was almost breathless in its excitement about The Force: The unexpected discovery of a new type of genetic variation suggests that natural selection
the force that drives evolution is both more powerful and more complex than scientists have thought.
As noted before, though, if natural selection is a force, it is only the force of a bumper in a pinball game
(07/14/2009, 08/09/2009 commentaries).
not the flipper operated by a game player trying to get somewhere.
- Primates: Another study claimed remarkable powers for natural selection in primates.
PhysOrg began an article with standard boilerplate about natural
selection, followed by questions:
During evolution, living species have adapted to environmental constraints according to the mechanism of natural selection;
when a mutation that aids the survival (and reproduction) of an individual appears in the genome, it then spreads
throughout the rest of the species until, after several hundreds or even thousands of generations, it is carried by all individuals.
But does this selection, which occurs on a specific gene in the genome of a species, also occur on the same gene
in neighboring species? On which set of genes has natural selection acted specifically in each species?
A team in France set out to compare genomes of humans, gorillas, chimpanzees and macaques to answer
these questions. Surprisingly, they never again addressed the topics of fitness and survival
assumed in the boilerplate description of natural selection. They could not have cared less if
the mutations they compared had anything to do with fitness, progress, or new genetic information.
All they tried to do was find out if the same genes showed the same differences in different species
of primates. Heres the closest they got: An example that has been confirmed by this study
is the well-known case of the lactase gene that can metabolize lactose during adulthood (a clear advantage
with the development of agriculture and animal husbandry). The researchers have also identified
a group of genes involved in some neurological functions and in the development of muscles and skeleton.
But the case of lactose tolerance is moot; some have argued that intolerance is the norm, and adult lactose
tolerance is due to a loss of function. Humans did not evolve into agriculturalists and ranchers by mutations and natural selection.
It presumably took intelligent design for people to plant the first crops and raise cattle. And regarding development of muscles and skeleton, it would
be hard to argue that humans are more fit than monkeys and macaques who swing in the trees with ease.
So what gains did natural selection make? The authors did not identify any new
function, organ, or information linked to the gene differences. Any linkage to fitness was put
in future tense: Using a larger number of primate genomes, the study now needs to determine the
extent of this phenomenon in terms of genes and biological functions, the article ended.
By including other vertebrate species in the study, it will also be possible to determine whether
we share adaptive events with rodents, birds or fish, as some isolated observations appear to suggest.
- Fish: Science Daily
was almost giddy as it announced today, Stickleback Genomes Shining Bright Light on Evolution.
Its not just shedding the usual flashlight on evolution; theyve upped the ante. Now a discovery is shedding a
bright light on evolution. The eyes of scientists are wide open and filled with light.
They said, Twenty billion pieces of DNA in 100 small fish have opened the eyes of biologists studying evolution.
After combining new technologies, researchers now know many of the genomic regions that allowed an ocean-dwelling
fish to adapt to fresh water in several independently evolved populations. But again, this study
showed no new genetic information or fitness just fluctuating amounts of body armor and minor changes
to the shapes of existing structures, coloration and behavior in stickleback fish. These are changes any young-earth creationist
would yawn at. Salmon and other species are already known to prosper in both salt and fresh waters.
Can we find genomic regions that were altered due to natural selection? one
scientist asked. Where would they look? Well, they certainly did not look for an increase in fitness,
whatever that means, or a new organ or function. In fact, fitness and survival were not
even mentioned in the article, and natural selection was only mentioned one time as a question,
seen in the quote above. The article suggested that genes may be evolving; one scientist pined,
We hope to learn something about these fish while they are still evolving, literally, from an ocean
population to a freshwater one. The team did not show that anything new has emerged by natural selection.
They only showed adaptation of existing genes, structures and functions to a change in environment.
Stickleback fish apparently come preprogrammed with the ability to thrive in a variety of habitats.
If this is a bright light on evolution, it didnt reveal much.
1. Hittinger et al, Remarkably ancient balanced polymorphisms in a multi-locus gene network,
Nature 464, 54-58 (4 March 2010) | doi:10.1038/nature08791.
2. The paper spoke of fitness only in a theoretical sense: Therefore, keeping co-adapted interacting alleles or gene complexes together is probably
crucial to optimal fitness, or, it is conceivable that functional GAL80 (and perhaps other functional GAL genes) could also
confer slight conditional fitness costs by other unknown means in the Japanese population. The authors only speculated on
why the two populations differed. Persistence of the polymorphisms alone was taken as evidence of natural selection even for the isoform
that was non-functional. The non-functional polymorphism did not
seem to the researchers to be a temporary condition on the way to being selected out. Instead, they said, the striking localized peaks of
extreme sequence divergence between populations are best explained by strong balancing selection on the GAL genes, which suggests that
non-functional alleles are fitter in some genetic backgrounds and/or environmental conditions. When fitness is linked to survival,
however, it becomes a tautology: survivors are the fittest, and the fittest are the survivors.
You have just witnessed how the Darwinists pretend to be scientists
by acting busy, talking jargon and making promises. Busy work, talk, and promises are cheap. To demonstrate the prowess
of natural selection, they would need to demonstrate actual progress a new complex organ, a new wing
or eye or ability that never existed before, arising without any intervention, solely by the power of natural
selection. Instead, they busy themselves with comparing little
genetic changes between organisms that are already fit. They use divination techniques to tell
the peasants what differences, like the folds in a liver or the motions of the pendulum, indicate that
the Spirit of Charlie has been at work. Its pure poppycock. Even a poppy and a cock
are more fit than these scientists. They ought to get on a fitness treadmill and do something
useful with their energy (but watch out for the slippage on the treadmill: 03/17/2003).
Life Crams Stuff on the Long Road
Natural selection, the phrase that made Darwin famous, is a
glittering generality wrapped in a
personification pretending not to be a
tautology, survival of the fittest.
That phrase launched a thousand ships in the 20th century and led to unspeakable horrors
by ruthless dictators who thought it was their scientific duty to eliminate the unfit. But who is fit?
Fitness is a meaningless term that means anything that survives, whether it has
good genes or not (see Fitness for Dummies, 10/29/2002).
Thats why Hitler had to conclude Germans were not the
fittest since they lost the war, despite all that propaganda, the health campaigns and the Holocaust he perpetrated
in the name of fitness. That this shaky foundation for the Battle Hymn of the Repulsive persists into 2010 is enough to make one
really, really angry.
Now the fit will be survivors and survivors will be fit,
And survivors will survive to prove the fitness of the fit,
Oh, this natural selection, its so simple, isnt it?
Tis ruthless marching on.
Next headline on:
Darwin and Evolution
March 7, 2010 This quote from UC Berkeley
wins Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week:
In the long evolutionary road from bacteria to humans, a major milestone occurred some
1.5 billion years ago when microbes started building closets for all their stuff, storing DNA
inside a nucleus, for example, or cramming all the energy machinery inside mitochondria.
Any questions? Science
Daily repeated it without laughing.
The occasion for the comment is research on a microbe that can switch between an
amoeba-like form and a flagellated form. Naegleria gruberi, when stressed, can switch
on genes that grow two flagella. A Berkeley bioinformaticist commented that
It is a very rare process to go from amoeba to flagellate like this.
It has two completely different modes of motility.
The flagellum is a poster child of intelligent design. It would seem the ability
to switch between two completely different modes of motility is even more complex.
Nevertheless, to these scientists, this germ is shedding light on the set of perhaps 4,000 genes that may
have been part of the first, most primitive eukaryotes and will shed light on how cells move,
how they signal one another and how they metabolize nutrients. Presumably, discoveries about this
living microbe will help in understanding the evolution of more complicated organisms
hundreds of millions of years ago. It can help scientists understand
the origins of these parallel systems during the evolution of eukaryotes.
Wow, theres light and understanding all over the place. According to one
team member, By comparing diverse organisms like Naegleria from all over the family tree of
eukaryotes we can begin to understand where we come from. Apparently we are to
understand this: we are amoebas, just a few million years down the long evolutionary road,
but we have learned one thing: how to cram our machinery in closets.
It is said that the difference between stuff and junk is that junk is the stuff you throw away,
but stuff is the junk you keep. How many of you cram your irreducibly complex machinery
in a closet when moving down the road and keep it there for 1.5 billion years? How many of
you like to mix metaphors while doing it?
March 6, 2010 Need an easy reference on creation astronomy? Try Taking Back Astronomy by
Dr. Jason Lisle (Master Books, 2007). A thin hardback loaded with beautiful photos, this book has the strong advantage
of an author with a PhD in astrophysics. The heavens declare creation and science confirms it,
the subtitle says. While not intended as a deep treatise on Biblical astronomy, this introductory work is sufficient
for most lay readers interested in space and how the facts of astronomy fit with the Bible. Dr. Lisle has the
right stuff to lay out the philosophical as well as scientific positions. He provides accessible
arguments about the age of the universe, world views, Biblical soteriology in light of the size of the
universe, laws of nature, SETI, starlight and time, and the big bang to complement the easy material about the size and beauty
of celestial objects. The book, which doubles as a coffee-table photo gallery for casual browsing, conveniently
puts in depth sections separate from overviews. The 115-page work includes 50 astrophotos
(some rarely seen), endnotes, glossary and an index.
The long evolutionary road from bacteria to humans... (sigh).
What can you say to such people. Where do you start. Is it even worth trying.
They dont call it UC Berserkeley for nothing. Prevention is the only intervention
with hope in such cases. Reach the inmates before they get into the asylum.
Next headline on:
Darwin and Evolution
Next resource of the week: 02/20/2010.
All resources: Catalog.
Natural Wonders Can Be Useful
March 6, 2010 To find great ideas, look to nature. Many plants and animals
are as useful as they are ornamental. They can show the way to solve problems of great interest to humans.
In each of these stories, evolution was either ignored or mentioned only in passing. This indicates that the
heavy lifting in the scientific research is being done without it. Instead, the impetus of the research is drawn from
attention to biological design.
- Mussel power: Want an abrasion-resistant, highly-extensible coating?
PhysOrg reported that mussels are
providing inspiration to materials scientists. They build a byssus, or network of
threads, that attaches to hard surfaces and absorbs the energy of crashing waves.
A cuticle on the outer surfaces of these stretchy, flexible fibers is a biological polymer,
which exhibits epoxy-like hardness, while straining up to 100% without cracking.
The cuticles success depends on its careful tailoring of protein-metal chemistry and
organization of cross-links at the submicron level.
All human inventors need to do is study and copy what the mussel has achieved.
Nature has evolved an elegant solution to a problem that engineers are still struggling with;
namely, how to combine the properties of abrasion resistance and high extensibility in the same material,
said Peter Fratzl, director of the biomaterials department at the Max Planck Institute for Colloids and Interfaces.
Conceivably, this same strategy could be applied in engineered polymers and composites.
has a close-up picture of the mussel fibers.
- Insect glue: The caddis fly is well known to fishermen. They are accustomed to hunting
for the tube-shaped larva shelters, made of grains of sand and rock. The larva glues those grains
together with silk made of a wet adhesive that is attracting the attention of inventors.
Science Daily reported on
research into the characteristics of this glue. It could be extremely useful to invent a glue
that works when wet. Imagine trying to put on a bandage in a shower. Surgeons often
have to attach sutures to wet biological tissue.
Scientists have found that the caddis fly can work its magic with glass beads replacing sand.
The silk, they found, resembles tape more than anything else. It fastens the beads together
from the inside. They are studying this mechanism for the purpose of trying to copy it,
the article said. The material properties of the silk that allow it to work underwater have something to do with the way electrical
charges are arranged on the molecules.
The article ended by speculating about how these abilities evolved.
The ability to make underwater adhesives has been identified in four phyla members of
which include caddis flies, sandcastle worms, mussels and sea cucumbers. What does that
mean? To Russell Stewart (U of Utah) it can only mean one thing: They came to this
underwater adhesion solution completely independently, he said. The
press release added, showing that it
repeatedly evolved because of its value in helping the creatures live and thrive,
- Sea squirt lab rat: Science
Daily said that hope for those suffering from Alzheimers disease may come from the lowly sea squirt.
Scientists have found that they produce the tangles and plaques characteristic of Alzheimers quickly.
This makes them suitable as a model organism on which new drugs can be tested in a shorter time.
The article said, for whatever it means, as long ago as Darwin, it has been recognized that sea squirts may be our closest
invertebrate relatives; in their immature, tadpole form, they resemble proper vertebrates, and they share about 80%
of their genes with us. But does this imply we are 80% sea squirt, or 60% banana?
- Bee silk for aviation: Science
Daily reported on progress to imitate bee silk. Maybe you didnt realize that bees make silk.
Maybe you also didnt realize that silk is useful. Indeed they do, and indeed it is: Possible
practical uses for these silks would be tough, lightweight textiles, high-strength applications such as advanced
composites for use in aviation and marine environments, and medical applications such as sutures, artificial tendons and ligaments.
A team in Australia is working on recombining the ingredients by producing them with the genes of other
organisms, so that silk fibers can be hand-drawn without the need for the bees silk-producing glands.
Those glands are probably as hard to work with as bees knees.
- Pitcher plant medicine: Some day, your cabinet may not just have pitchers, but medicines
inspired by the pitcher plant. Researchers at Tel Aviv University are producing anti-fungal drugs,
said Science Daily, based on
the carnivorous plants technology. Pitcher plants need more than just the ability to digest animal
products to gain carbon and nitrogen from poor soils; Carnivorous plants also possess a highly developed
set of compounds and secondary metabolites to aid in their survival. Its in those compounds,
produced in special glands by the plant,
where anti-fungal medicines are waiting to be discovered.
The plant has to protect itself from fungi that
would steal its meal. To avoid sharing precious food resources with other micro-organisms such as fungi,
the carnivorous plant has developed a host of agents that act as natural anti-fungal agents, said
Prof. Aviah Zilberstein of the university. Some of these compounds, if isolated for medicine,
may avoid the evolution of new resistant infective strains. Secondary infections from fungi
are a serious problem in hospitals. There is a lot of room for developing compounds from nature into
new drugs, Zilberstein said. The one we are working on is not toxic to humans.
Now we hope to show how this very natural product can be further developed as a means to overcome some basic problems
in hospitals all over the world. The article noted that drinking pitcher plant liquid as an elixir
has been documented in the folk medicine of India.
- Green fertilizer: Nitrogen is a tough nut to crack. The triple bonds of N2 gas
usually require high amounts of energy, like lightning or the Haber process, to pull apart so that ammonia and
other compounds can be produced (this is called fixing nitrogen). Somehow, nitrogenase enzymes in
bacteria that live in nodules attached to the roots of some plants do it with ease at room temperature.
It sounds simple, but it is a complicated and poorly understood process, the article said.
For thousands of years, farmers have known that legumes (including peas, beans, alfalfa and clover)
can increase productivity of fallow ground when alternated with other crops. Thats a major reason George
Washington Carver urged southern farmers, whose fields were being depleted
by cotton and boll weevil infestations, to grow peanuts. Until recently, no one understood why legumes were so effective in boosting
the productivity of the soil.
reported on a discovery at Stanford that helps explain their potential. The finding might reduce fertilizer use and help the environment.
We have discovered a new biological process, by which leguminous plants control behavior of symbiotic bacteria,
said Stanford molecular biologist Sharon Long. These plants have a specialized protein processing system
that generates specific protein signals. The scientists have identified the gene responsible for the
signal. If scientists can generate that signal in other plants, perhaps through genetic engineering or selective breeding,
they might trigger more nitrogen fixation in crops without fertilizer. World farmlands could remain more productive as population grows
while simultaneously reducing pollution by nitrous oxide (a highly potent greenhouse gas) and other fertilizer byproducts.
When you deal with a natural soil, you are dealing with a lot of complexity.
Everything we learn about what makes symbiosis work gives us a tool to understand why, sometimes, symbiosis fails,
said Long. Plant breeders who are trying to help develop better-adapted plants can now analyze traits such as this.
Weve given them a new tool a tool that was there all along, but needs a little prying and coaxing.
- Energy the way plants make it: Theres no more effective solar power plant than a plant, so why not
plan to imitate plants? PhysOrg said thats just what
scientists in France are trying to do. Photosynthesis may become the next new source of electrical energy.
The team has found a way to convert the chemical energy from photosynthesis into electrical energy in biofuel cells.
They thus propose a new strategy to convert solar energy into electrical energy in an environmentally-friendly and renewable manner.
This kind of biomimetics actually employs a real plant in this case, a cactus. By implanting
special enzyme-modified electrodes sensitive to the products of photosynthesis, the French scientists were able to
generate 9 watts per square centimeter. They could see more juice when the light was turned up. They envision
not only more efficient solar cells, but medical applications. Similar biofuel electrodes in human skin,
sensitive to glucose and oxygen in biological fluids, could power implanted medical devices autonomously, without batteries
or external power sources.
Biomimetics could well be a major player in the downfall of Darwinism.
For one thing, evolutionary theory has very little to do with biomimetics, if anything. Saying stupid things
like, This organism figured this out 150 million years ago, or, Four phyla came up with this
elegant solution independently, contributes only entertainment, not substance. For another,
biomimetics is a completely positive enterprise. Scientists dont have to get bogged down in philosophical
debates about origins. They can get funding, work constructively, increase understanding of nature,
and come up with Nobel-prize-quality discoveries that will help the world all without Darwin.
Here is a positive alternative to evolution that relies on intelligent design assumptions.
The wealth that can be generated is enormous. Darwin will be left in the dust as the world stampedes to biomimetic technology.
Think Michael Behes famous illustration as we repeat, If you can build a better mousetrap,
the world will beat a path to your door.
A geologist began a major rethink of the geological layers They may have less to do with time,
and more to do with sediment supply. Read about his radical thoughts in the
Next headline on:
Dinosaur Evolution Is Relative
March 5, 2010 The science news media are all reporting that the oldest
known dinosaur relative has been found. The artist reconstructions of
Asilisaurus kongwe, found in middle Triassic layers in Tanzania, make the
creature look quite dinosaurian; at least it was dog-sized and walked on thick legs
under its body like its famous brethren did. Its early date (230 million years,
by evolutionary reckoning) creates a conundrum for evolution. It pushes the
common ancestor of dinosaurs and pterosaurs (if there was one) farther back in time,
to 245 million years ago.
The fossil presents another problem for evolution.
Until now, paleontologists have generally believed that the closest relatives of
dinosaurs possibly looked a little smaller in size, walked on two legs and were carnivorous,
However, a research team including Randall Irmis, curator of paleontology at the
Utah Museum of Natural History and assistant professor in the Department of Geology and
Geophysics at the University of Utah has made a recent discovery to dispel this hypothesis.
That discovery was a herbivorous, four-legged silesaur a sister group of contemporaries
to the dinosaurs that looked very different from what was expected. One of
the authors of a paper in Nature said, The crazy thing about this new dinosaur
discovery is that it is so very different from what we all were expecting, especially the
fact that it is herbivorous and walked on four legs.
also echoed the press release from the University
of Utah. National
Geographic announced, Dinosaurs Ten Million Years Older Than Thought.
The evolutionary story that was expected was that herbivory evolved late
in the silesaur lineage. Finding a herbivorous silesaur 10-15 million years earlier means
that its carnivorous ancestor had to be earlier, too. But even that story is murky.
Are vegetarians better adapted? Although difficult to prove, its possible that
this shift conferred an evolutionary advantage. But then, herbivory arose
in three groups: silesaurs, and both major groups of dinosaurs. The researchers conclude
that the ability to shift diets may have lead [sic] to the evolutionary success of these groups.
Why do paleontologists think so? These shifts all occurred in less than 10 million years,
a relatively short time by geological standards, so we think that the lineage leading to silesaurs
and dinosaurs might have had a greater flexibility in diet, and that this could be a reason for
their success. It sounds like he just said that fast evolution is evidence for
Science put it this way: The analysis provides a window into dinosaur evolution,
particularly how the animals acquired plant-eating abilities. Somehow,
evidence that the animal ate plants told them how they got the ability to eat plants, even
though National Geographic admitted, What emerged looked nothing like what paleontologists had imagined.
Evolution was not very evident in the fossil bed where Asilisaurus kongwe
was found, however. Also found were crocodiles. So much for dinosaur-like body plans
evolving from crocs. The presence of these animals together at the same time and place
suggests that the diversification of the relatives of crocodilians and dinosaurs was rapid,
and happened earlier than previously suggested. Somehow, we are told,
this sheds light on a group of animals that later came to dominate terrestrial ecosystems
for 185 million years. Irmis was apparently not
shamed by this blow to expectations. Quite the contrary: he said, Its very exciting
because the more we learn about the Triassic Period, the more we learn about the origin of
the dinosaurs and other groups. Christian Sidor, a co-author of the paper, was less
sanguine: Its making the picture a little bit murkier, because we have a possible herbivore and
quadruped very close to the dinosaur lineage. Christopher Brochou made hey out of both sides
of the truck: Hey, its part of a larger, growing realization that the earliest archosaurs were far more diverse than we ever thought,
he said, but hey: its also an elegant fulfillment of a prediction that
dinosaur ancestors would include members that were both crocodile-like and bird-like.
Picturing the common ancestor of those is left as an exercise.
Live Science noted that the research was funded by the National Geographic Society,
Evolving Earth Foundation, Grainger Foundation, and the National Science Foundation.
To be a good evolutionary paleontologist these days, you have to
mold your brain contrary to its natural tendencies. You have to get rid of shame,
reproach and despair. You have to think positive: no matter what happens, no matter
what turns up, it glorifies Darwin and sheds light on evolution. It must. It may
look like abrupt appearance. It may look like a falsification of
common ancestry. But if you have trained your mind to think Darwinly long enough,
you learn to say that looks are deceiving. What it really means is that evolution is very flexible.
It can happen in the blink of an eye, leaving no trace. Then, animals that burst onto the evolutionary
tableau can persist with little change
for hundreds of millions of years. See?
Atheism in a Test Tube
Imagination is the caulk that holds these
disparate bits of fact together, so they can be force-fitted into a mosaic of King Charles that the
public can worship. Shedding light on evolution does not mean shedding light on
the facts as facts, but onto the mosaic into which they have been placed. Thats
why nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution. King Charles
makes sense. Creationism is nonsense by definition. Practice this long
enough and you get used to it. Floodlights on the mosaic; aint it grand?
Next headline on:
Darwin and Evolution
March 4, 2010 Conflicting views on atheism by scientists show that deducing
the intellectual status of atheism is not an exact science. Are such questions even
approachable by the scientific method? What conclusions could be drawn?
Geographic reported Kanazawas theory that liberals and atheists are smarter (02/27/2010)
without much criticism. Reporter Maggie Koerth-Baker only said that a new study suggests
that liberals, atheists [are] more highly evolved and more inclined to nontraditional values,
but the blaring headline and opening bold summary left little doubt about the correct way to approach the question:
Your apelike ancestors probably arent top of mind when you enter the polling booth,
she began. But a new study suggests that human evolution may have a big influence on
whether youre liberal or conservativenot to mention how smart you are, whether
you believe in God, or whether youve got a cheatin heart (see
02/27/2010 for critique of Kanazawas thesis).
The article did critique Kanazawas measure of IQ a little, but did not question the science
underlying the notion that intelligence evolved by a Darwinian process:
For instance, other researchers have advanced the theory that intelligence arose as
a way of competing for sex, she said. If thats the case, Kanazawas
conclusions only make sense if, say, being liberal or atheist also makes you more sexually
attractive. Then the article invited readers to Take a Darwin quiz
on the National
Geographic website. It doesnt measure your sexual prowess, intelligence, or fitness,
though; just your knowledge of Darwin trivia.
Scientist presented a less privileged view of atheism. Where do atheists come from?, asked
Lois Lee and Stephen Bullivant. They started by echoing what seems to be a truism in
academia: where Reason reigns, God retires. It seems intuitive. Isnt
that why atheists predominate at Oxford? Of course, things are never quite that simple,
they quickly countered. In fact, surveys show that postgraduates tend to be less atheistic.
Evidence from elsewhere, they said, shows there is no straightforward relationship between atheism
and education. They produced statistics to show this. One surprise is that
more degree-holders are religious than atheists. It appears that
Enlightenment assumptions about the decline of religion as the population becomes more educated
will no longer do at least, not without considerable qualification.
So where do atheists come from? They discussed a collective
blind spot in research: atheism itself. Atheists have put religious people in
a test tube without jumping in themselves.
What we need now is a scientific study not of the theistic, but the atheistic mind.
We need to discover why some people do not get the supernatural agency many cognitive
scientists argue comes automatically to our brains. Is this capacity non-existent
in the non-religious, or is it rerouted, undermined or overwritten and under what conditions?
Since nobody has asked such questions, Lee and Bullivant announced that they have
set up a Non-religion and Secularity Research Network in 2008.
The first problem was getting the vocabulary right: the words atheistic, non-theistic,
non-religious, unbelieving and godless do not mean the same things.
What has turned up in the test tube?
Psychologically, we need to know how the self functions without theistic belief, and
how our emotional resources might be altered by its absence. Anthropologically, we need to
understand how people without religion make sense of their lives, how they find meaning, and how
non-theistic systems of thought are embedded in, and shape, the different cultures in which they
are present. Sociologically, we need to know how these alternative meaning-making systems
are shared between societies, how they unite or divide us, and whether non-religious groups
contain pro-social elements commonly associated with religion itself.
Interesting findings have, however, begun to emerge; some providing insight into the relationship
between education and atheism. Voas, also a keynote speaker at the Wolfson conference,
says one reason why a greater number of religious people are degree-holders may be that
better educated people have typically reflected on religion and have the self-confidence to
come down decisively, on one side or the other. The issue is not which idea
atheism or theism is more stupid than the other, but that education helps us either to
work out or simply to communicate our beliefs, no matter what they are.
Their article, surprisingly, said nothing about evolution. It did not try to
describe atheism or theism in terms of selection pressures on primitive ancestors.
And their conclusions had something nice to say to both sides: The believers may take heart from the
fact that the most comprehensive studies no longer suggest the unreligious are cleverer or
more lettered than them, they said. But the non-believers might also comfort
themselves that they are no longer outside the mainstream.
Sociology is a peculiar science. Sociologists
think they can scientifically analyze populations of people from some neutral platform.
But some uber-sociologist could decide to analyze the sociologist population from another platform.
An uber-uber-sociologist could do that to the uber-sociologist, and so on. This infinite regress
is a consequence of the Yoda Complex mixed with scientism. Only God has an unbiased platform;
therefore only deductions from his view of the world are solid and rational. In other words,
a theist can put an atheist in a test tube, but not vice versa
Cold Castles: Bad Climate for Imperial Science
It seems lost on the Darwinian-style atheists that their
position is self-refuting. They cannot deny
that the majority believe in God. This must mean the majority are more fit. It follows that they,
as non-cooperators, are the mutants. Mutations are predominantly deleterious.
As atheists, therefore, unless they can defend their atheism mutation as beneficial according to
some neutral standard which Darwinism cannot supply, they reduce the health and fitness of the population.
Why? Because the population has to expend energy to punish the non-cooperators. This is not a moral
judgment, but a strict application of the evolutionary game theory they themselves employ. Yet if the atheists
decided to cooperate to become more fit, they would have to believe in God, and their belief in evolution
would implode. Maintaining non-cooperative status in spite of its irrationality is known as Enlightenment.
Maybe its why Richard Dawkins is content to remain an intellectually fool-filled atheist.
Next headline on:
Bible and Theology
Darwin and Evolution
March 4, 2010 To some people, the world would be a better place if ruled by
scientists. They could be like a benevolent oligarchy, employing the knowledge
gained by the scientific method for the good of the people. A recent editorial
might shake that belief.
In Nature News
this week,1 Daniel Sarewitz
had some sobering thoughts for scientists who think their views should direct national policy.
The context was the Climategate scandal (02/06/2010). He used the incident to call attention to
inherent weaknesses in the ability of science to rule the people.
Science has been called on to do something beyond its purview: not just
improve peoples understanding of the world, but compel people to act in a particular way.
For nearly twenty years, researchers, policy-makers and activists have claimed that climate science requires
a global policy agenda of top-down, United-Nations-sponsored international agreements; targets
and timetables for emissions reductions; and the creation of carbon markets....
Science is the handmaiden of politics, not its queen. That appears to be what Sarewitz is saying.
Because scientific understanding of complex issues is always incomplete, it will never be
able to overwhelm the opposition by the sheer weight of evidence. Whatever party
wins can use science to support their policies. The picture of science Sarewitz
just painted is hugely deflating to the presumptive authority and epistemic privilege normally granted to
scientists by the public, but the scientists did it to themselves: the public legitimacy of climate science
[is] under assault from recent revelations. Along with it, distrust of political science
is growing: To those who already distrust climate science because it is used to justify action that
they deem ideologically repugnant, such revelations make it look as though the science is systematically,
if not congenitally, biased in one direction.
The idea that a mounting weight of scientific evidence would gradually overwhelm
ideological opposition to the climate policy regime is not just false but backwards.
Science is much more pliable and permissive than deeply held beliefs about how the world should work.
Scientific understanding of the complex, coupled ocean–atmosphere–society system is always incomplete,
and gives the competing sides plenty of support for their pre-existing political preferences as well as
plenty to hide behind in claiming that those preferences are supported by science. Science can
decisively support policy only after fundamental political differences have been resolved.
The crucial point here is that no amount of reform of the IPCC, or rooting out of bad science or of
scientists behaving badly will begin to correct the flaws in the dominant approach to climate policy.
Rehabilitation of climate policy is a matter not of getting the science right, but of getting the politics right.
The Climategate scandal created a poisoned political climate,
Sarewitz said, that deepened the divide between conservatives, who typically distrust
international governance regimes and the United Nations in particular and
hate government programmes that demand major wealth transfers, and
liberals, who have an equally naïve and idealized version of how the vaunted scientific consensus
on anthropogenic warming demanded action consistent with their ideological preferences.
Liberals counted on science to deliver progressively greater certainty about
the reality and consequences of climate change, an approach embodied in former US vice-president
Al Gores movie An Inconvenient Truth. The unraveling of that
certainty in recent months has made climate rhetoric take on an increasingly
insistent and hysterical tone like comparing future catastrophes to the Holocaust.
That must change. Science is incapable of offering such certainty, Sarewitz argued.
He noted how quickly the IPCC incorporated outlandish claims about Himalayan glacier retreat
into their report, but then said, One can hardly imagine that equally bad data tending in
the other direction for example, saying that the glaciers were not retreating would have
made it into the report. Thus, he undercut the assumed objectivity of science.
Sarewitz appears to favor the liberal position on climate science; he ended
by saying that the imperfect science we already have will turn out to be plenty good enough to support action.
Even so, he had some advice for conservatives and liberals.
With the public legitimacy of climate science under assault, political progress in the
United States may now depend on the willingness of thoughtful conservatives to chart a better way forward,
he said. But liberals and moderates must meanwhile abandon the claim that the science supports
only their way of doing things.
Sarewitz spoke half the time about climate science and half about science
in general, suggesting he felt the lessons from Climategate can be generalized:
Science carried out in the context of divisive politics cannot but be influenced by that politics,
as the CRU e-mails so starkly showed. It appears, therefore, that his themes in the editorial can be
generalized to four lessons for science and politics: (1) Science does not belong to one
political persuasion. (2) Science is pliable to deeply-held world views and can be
used to support either position.
(3) Because the conclusions of science on complex issues are always uncertain,
science cannot convince an opposition on the weight of evidence.
(4) Politics should lead science, not the other way around.
1. Daniel Sarewitz, World view: Curing climate backlash,
464, 28 (2010); doi:10.1038/464028a.
Darwinians may get upset if we apply these lessons
to the creation-evolution controversy, but consider the similarities. Typically,
the very same people who have staunchly asserted that the science supporting AGW is
unassailable say the same thing about evolution. The same people are typically
leftists and atheists. The same people assume the science is on their side.
And the same people have a propensity to want to impose their
one-party rule on all the people using science as a weapon.
Michael Ruse admitted that Darwinism can sometimes be presented as a secular religion
in the 03/07/2003 entry.
So lets apply the Sarewitz themes to the question of whether
schools should be DODO (Darwin-Only, Darwin-Only): (1) Science does not belong to
the Darwin Party. There is plenty of evidence debunking Darwinism and supporting
intelligent design. Students should have a right to hear this evidence.
(2) Because science is pliable, the cases of
the Darwin Party bending the rules of science, cherry-picking the data, and
forcing evidence to an atheistic, secularist, progressivist political agenda
should be exposed. Those who oppose their views should be given the chance to
criticize this behavior in public.
(3) The Darwin Party has failed to convince their opposition for 150 years.
If anything, the opposition is stronger today than it ever has been.
The opposition should be allowed, therefore, to debate Darwinists in the arenas
where it counts: the journals, the universities, the courts, and the school boards.
Scientific institutions should end their one-party rule and accept outspoken critics of Darwinism
into their membership. Journals should print papers and editorials critical of Darwinism.
(4) Because politics should lead science, it is perfectly acceptable for a
conservative school board to end the DODO rules and order teachers to teach the controversy.
Indeed, that is the only way to prevent one side from co-opting science for a political agenda.
Read Daniel Sarewitz article with this in mind and see if there is any reason
Darwinism should be treated differently in the public square than climate science.
If what he said is correct (and he arguably did not go far enough), Imperial Science
has no legitimacy. It must give way to democracy.* For more on the connections
between Darwinism and climate change, see this Jay Richards blog.
Next headline on:
Politics and Ethics
*No, Eugenie, this does not mean anarchy. It does not mean the man on the street gets
equal time to propound his personal theory of everything. Reason, logic, evidence and
knowledge will still matter more than ever. What it means is the end of one-party rule
and persecution of those who buck the consensus. Finally!
No longer will the Darwin Party have presumptive authority in matters of origins. They will
have to end their smoking parties in cushy lounges where everyone agrees with them because
all their opponents have been systematically expelled. They will
have to get used to debating PhDs who are their intellectual peers or superiors.
The will have to get used to producing evidence for evolution instead of assuming it.
As John Stuart Mill believed about the public marketplace of ideas, good ideas will push
out the bad without the need for political thought police enforcing uniform belief.
Isnt this how science was supposed to operate anyway?
Ida Not a Human Ancestor
March 3, 2010 If Ida known then what I know now: the media-frenzied presentation
of Ida (Darwinius masillae) as a distant relative of human beings last year has been debunked.
Many lines of evidence indicate that Darwinius has nothing at all to do with human evolution,
said Chris Kirk (U of Texas) in an article on Science
Daily. Researchers publishing their analysis in the Journal of Human Evolution accused the
presentation of ignoring decades of research and an enormous body of literature on the
evolution of strepsirrhines, a primate group that includes lemurs and lorises.
Idas discoverer claimed it had characteristics suggesting a linkage to haplorhines
However, Kirk, Williams and their colleagues point out
that short snouts and deep jaws are known to have evolved multiple times among primates,
including several times within the lemur/loris lineage, the article claimed.
They further argue that Darwinius lacks most of the key anatomical features that
could demonstrate a close evolutionary relationship with living haplorhines
(apes, monkeys, humans, and tarsiers).
The announcement about Ida included a book, a History Channel documentary,
and an exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History. Mayor Michael Bloomberg
unveiled the specimen at a news conference in New York city. The lead author of
the new paper remarked, Just because its a complete and well-preserved fossil
doesnt mean its going to overthrow all our ideas. For more on Ida, see the
Its nice when scientists criticize overblown
claims of other scientists, but does it help to have one lie displace another?
Ida has nothing at all to do with human evolution, but it also has nothing at all to do with
evolution. A well-designed mammal lived, and it died. Some variations
existed between existing kinds of primates. Thats all a strict empiricist
should say about it. Did you notice the fudging the new team had to make about
convergent evolution? They said certain traits are known to have evolved multiple times among primates,
including several times within the lemur/loris lineage. Known?
Would they swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?
The truth may not get you a book or History Channel documentary, but it has one
major benefit over the alternative: its true.
Flight Design: Flies and Birds Get it Wright
Next headline on:
Darwin and Evolution
March 3, 2010 Parse the following sentence for logical consistency:
Just as the Wright brothers implemented controls to achieve stable
airplane flight, flying insects have evolved behavioral strategies
that ensure recovery from flight disturbances. That is the first sentence
from a paper in PNAS yesterday about the stabilizers in fly wings.1
Ristroph et al just compared design principles employed purposefully by inventors
to the trial-and-error process of evolution.
The authors studied how fruit flies recover from disturbances.
They made them stumble while flying, and watched how they responded. Their abstract
continued the invention motif all the way up to modern times: Thus, like early man-made aircraft
and modern fighter jets, the fruit fly employs an automatic stabilization
scheme that reacts to short time-scale disturbances. It only
takes them 60 milliseconds to recover to within 2 degrees of their original heading.
They do this because they are equipped with a pair of small vibrating
organs called halteres that act as gyroscopic sensors. More aerodynamic
engineering lingo ensues forthwith: These findings suggest
that these insects drive their corrective response using an autostabilizing
feedback loop in which the sensed angular velocity
serves as the input to the flight controller. The word control
was one of the most prominent in the paper, used 27 times. Later, their transition from
biology to human engineering was seamless:
Flight control principles uncovered in this model organism
may also apply more broadly, and this work provides a template
for future studies aimed at determining if other animals employ
flight autostabilization. The control strategies across different animals
are likely to share common features, because the physics of
body rotation is similar across many animals during flapping-wing
flight. Additionally, animals that lack halteres may use functionally
equivalent mechanosensory structures such as antennae. Finally, the
control architecture of the fruit fly offers a blueprint
for stabilization of highly maneuverable flapping-wing flying
For fixed-wing machines, the need to overcome instabilities
spurred the invention of autostabilizing systems by 1912, only
9 years after the Wright brothers first manually controlled airplane
flight. The development of such automatic steering
systems also led to the first formal description of proportional–
integral–derivative control schemes and advanced gyroscopic
sensor technology. The fruit flys autostabilization response
is well-modeled by a simple PD scheme that receives input
from gyroscopic halteres, and, like airplanes, uses fine
adjustment of wing orientation to generate corrective torques.
Roughly 350 million years after insects took flight, man converged
to this solution for the problem of flight control and joined
animals in the skies.
Want to see what animal flight technology has achieved? Look no further than
the aptly-named swift. The common swift (Apus apus) is the speed champ in the category of sustained
level flight. The BBC
News reported that swifts have been measured faster than peregrine falcons in level
flight, though the falcon, employing gravity, sets the record in freefall dives.
A swift was recently measured going 69.3 mph, the highest confirmed speed achieved by a
bird in level flight, said Swedish researchers publishing in the Journal of
Avian Biology. This is nearly triple their normal fast flying rate of 22-26 mph. Apparently
males do it to show off in screaming parties when flocks of swifts come
together in jubilant displays of prowess.
Dr. Per Henningsson said, It is remarkable that a bird that otherwise
appears to be finely tuned to perform at a narrow range of flight speeds at
the same time is able to fly more than twice as fast when it needs to.
The reporter added, That means the birds need to be able to radically alter their aerodynamic performance,
by altering their wing profile and physiology, depending on whether they are flying normally or in a screaming party.
The article includes a short video of swifts in flight. They go by in a blink of an eye,
so a slow-motion sequence follows the real-time blip. Reporter Jody Bourton called
them supercharged swifts.
1. Ristroph et al, Discovering the flight autostabilizer of fruit
flies by inducing aerial stumbles,
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,
online March 1, 2010, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1000615107.
The fruit fly experimenters only slipped on the E-word
banana once, but then they got back up and talked design engineering the rest of the time.
But the cognitive dissonance of hearing them use evolution in the same sentence
as the Wright brothers, engineering and flight control principles was jarring.
Maybe they did it on purpose. It could have been to raise awareness of the
logical inconsistency. Or it could have been to ensure their intelligent-design
paper got past the censors. Hopefully that was the case; otherwise, it betrays
endemic mental illness in the halls of academia.
Origin of Life: Claiming Something for Almost Nothing
Next time you see a fruit fly or gnat, watch it for a while.
Think about how much technology is built into that tiny, tiny body. It does
things that our best aerospace engineers would like to imitate. Become aware,
also, of the birds in your area. Watch some swifts in flight if you can.
You might just want to join their screaming party. Flap your arms long enough,
and you might be able to join them in a few million years. Actually, probably
not. For more on swifts, see
the 04/29/2007, and
Next headline on:
March 2, 2010 Getting life to emerge from nonliving chemicals is either a cinch
or the most impossible thing in the universe, depending on whom you ask. Lets
look at a couple of recent papers that suggest the origin of life was no big deal.
A press release from the
University of Colorado
advertised a paper by Michael Yarus and team in PNAS.1 The team,
funded by a $415,610 grant from the National Institutes of Health, concocted
a Tiny RNA Molecule With Big Implications for the Origin of Life. Its the smallest
ribozyme yet, with only five nucleotides, and it is able to catalyze a key reaction that would be needed
to synthesize proteins. Tom Blumenthal, a colleague working with Yarus, said,
Nobody expected an RNA molecule this small and simple to be able to do such a complicated thing as that.
By implication, this ribozyme could have been a stepping stone on the way to larger and more complex molecules of life.
Yarus has been a strong proponent of the RNA World hypothesis. The teams findings argue
that RNA enzymes (ribozymes) did not have to be as complex at first to have a function.
He said, If there exists that kind of mini-catalyst, a sister to the one we describe,
the world of the replicators would also jump a long step closer and we could really feel we were closing in on the
first things on Earth that could undergo Darwinian evolution. He refers to the fact that Darwinian
evolution by natural selection cannot be invoked till there is a replicator a system able to duplicate
its parts accurately. Yarus admitted, the tiny replicator has not been found, and that its existence
will be decided by experiments not yet done, perhaps not yet imagined.
But does this work support a naturalistic origin of life? A key question is
whether the molecule would form under plausible prebiotic conditions. Heres how the paper
described their work in the lab to get this molecule:
RNA was synthesized by Dharmacon.
GUGGC = 5-GUGGC-30 ; GCCU 5P-GCCU-3 ; 5OH-GCCU = 5-GCCU-3 ;
GCCU20dU = 5-GCC-2-dU; GCC = 5-GCC-3 ; dGdCdCrU = 5-dGdCdCU-3 .
RNA GCC3dU was prepared by first synthesizing 5-O-(4,4-
Dimethoxytrityl)3-deoxyuridine as follows: 3-deoxyuridine (MP Biomedicals;
991 mg, 0.434 mmol) was dissolved in 5 mL anhydrous pyridine and pyridine
was then removed under vacuum while stirring. Solid was then redissolved in
2 mL pyridine. Dimethoxytrityl chloride (170 mg, 0.499 mmol) was dissolved
in 12 mL pyridine and slowly added to 3-deoxyuridine solution. Solution was
stirred at room temperature for 4 h. All solutions were sequestered from exposure
to air throughout.
Even more purification and isolation steps under controlled conditions, using multiple
solvents at various temperatures, were needed to prevent cross-reactions.
It is doubtful such complex lab procedures have analogues in nature.
They started with pre-existing ribose, furthermore, and did not state whether it was one-handed.
The putative ribozyme function only consisted of one step of a complex multi-step reaction
in living organisms: The small ribozyme initially trans-phenylalanylates
a partially complementary 4-nt RNA selectively at its terminal
2-ribose hydroxyl using PheAMP, the natural form for activated
Reaction was then quenched by addition of 5 mL methanol, and solvent
was removed by rotary evaporation. Remaining solvent evaporated overnight
in a vacuum chamber. Product was then dissolved in 1 mL acetonitrile
and purified through a silica column (acetonitrile elution). Final product
fractions (confirmed through TLC, 1.1 hexane:acetonitrile) were pooled
and rotary evaporated. Yield was 71%.
Dimethoxytrityl-protected 30dU was then sent to Dharmacon for immobilization
of 30-dU on glass and synthesis of 5-GCC-3-dU.
PheAMP, PheUMP, and MetAMP were synthesized by the method of Berg
(25) with modifications and purification as described in ref. 6. Yield was as
follows: PheAMP 85%, PheUMP 67%, and MetAMP 36%.
The teams interpretation of the significance of their work
relies heavily on imagination: The ultimate importance of these observations may lie partly
in the unknown number of other reactions that can be accelerated
by comparably small RNAs. They simply assumed that a geochemical
source would be able to produce a suite of other five-nucleotide ribozymes,
including theirs. On one hand, with
this few ribonucleotides to dispose in space, there may not be
other similar nucleotide structures that are both stable and capable
of catalysis, they concluded. But then they relied on future
work and imagination: On the other hand, for obvious reasons, it will be
extraordinarily important to look for other tiny RNA active centers,
now knowing they can exist. Finally, another reason they worked on the
RNA-World hypothesis is that they recognized that it is implausible that primitive
peptides were synthesized using already-formed protein catalysts....
It must be remembered, too, that these chemical reactions, even if they could occur
naturally, have no forward-looking capacity. They have no desire or power to
direct their work toward the goal of producing life. Because natural selection
is out of the question before accurate self-replication, any success will be strictly
due to chance.
A prerequisite for RNA is sugar. How did they arise?
Another recent paper in Science might be called the rock candy theory for the
origin of life.2 The authors argue that sugars might form naturally
in the formose reaction and be stabilized in silicates.
They called this a bottom-up synthesis of sugar silicates.
Recognizing that previous work on the formose reaction produced mixtures that were
complex and unstable, they argued that Silicate selects for sugars with a specific stereochemistry
and sequesters them from rapid decomposition. Given the abundance of silicate minerals,
these observations suggest that formose-like reactions may provide a feasible pathway for
the abiotic formation of biologically important sugars, such as ribose.
For a summary of this paper, see Royal
Society of Chemistry (RSC) press release. The research was supported by the National
Science Foundation, Dow Corning Corp. and Schlumberger Ltd.
The formose reaction is a possible process whereby sugars form abiotically,
they said. This reaction converts formaldehyde (HCHO; C1) to a variety of sugars,
in the presence of strong bases, organic bases, or minerals. Problem is, it
generates a plethora of unstable sugars, of which the key sugar, ribose, is present in a very small proportion.
And, An additional drawback is that the products from the formose mechanism are racemic [mixed-handed],
whereas sugars under terrestrial biological conditions are homochiral (one-handed).
Their work showed that some of these limitations can be overcome with silicates.
A look through the paper, however, shows complex lab procedures
that are hard to justify in nature. They claimed that This bottom-up synthesis of
sugar silicates is a plausible prebiotic process, but noted that the sugars
oligomerize very slowly and uncomplexed higher sugars decompose rapidly under alkaline conditions.
The RSC article states, though, that high alkaline conditions are required for the scenario,
and that most of the silicates formed in weathering processes are consumed by other reactions.
To delay the decomposition, the sugars have to be complexed quickly on silicates or clays. But they did not say how
complexing the sugars with silicates might prevent, rather than accelerate, downstream biogenetic reactions.
So in their best-case scenario, some sugars might form in the formose reaction, and be sequestered
in silicate complexes. Ribose (essential for RNA) would constitute a tiny fraction of product
At some point, something would have had to take the correct sugars out of the silicate cabinet and
use them to assemble RNA while preventing damaging cross-reactions occurring with other
compounds. Even then, the problem of sequencing the nucleotides the key
question has not been addressed. Where did the genetic code come from?
One ribozyme is not a code. Unless and until all the ingredients for a self-replicating
system are accounted for, none of these suggestive steps constitute progress toward the origin of life.
1. Turk, Chumachenko and Yarus, Multiple translational products from a five-nucleotide ribozyme,
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
February 22, 2010, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0912895107.
2. Lambert, Gurusamy-Thangavelu and Ma, The Silicate-Mediated Formose Reaction: Bottom-Up Synthesis of Sugar Silicates,
19 February 2010: Vol. 327. no. 5968, pp. 984-986, DOI: 10.1126/science.1182669.
Origin-of-life research suffers from a glaring flaw:
lack of critical analysis. Papers and press releases like this should immediately
be subjected to unbiased criticism: Those are not plausible prebiotic conditions!
or How would nature sequester the desired compounds from damaging cross-reactions
without the techniques you used? Many more questions should be asked. Instead, because
secular science has a vested interest in making the origin of life
sound simple on the way to Darwinism, the journals allow these views to be aired uncontested.
It presents a false impression that science is making progress toward an answer in little,
cumulative steps. Institutions like the University of Colorado also have a
vested interest in making their professors look good in the media.
Eight years ago this month, before online video came of age, the film Unlocking the Mystery of Life
premiered in Los Angeles to a standing ovation (see 03/11/2002).
Translated and distributed around the world, it has been one of the key media tools for popularizing intelligent design.
Now you can watch it online at YouTube
along with other great Illustra films produced since then.
If Big Science
would do its job, the creationists and intelligent design community would not have
to be cast in the role of spoil sports, showing why these ideas wont work.
They wont work anyway, but other insiders, not just the expelled, should be saying so.
After all, much of the work was paid for with taxpayer dollars. Where are the
THE ROCK CANDY THEORY OF THE ORIGIN OF LIFENext headline on:
Origin of Life
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains, science takes a holiday;
Your funding comes around once a week and its Darwin Day every day.
You never have to clean your lab or put formose away;
Theres a little white lie you can wink your eye,
Notions jump so high they can touch the sky
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains.
Swinging at Saturns Moons: Keep Your Eye on the Ball
March 1, 2010 Cassini flew by Saturns moon Rhea March 2
at just 100 km. Dr. Paul Schenk, one of the planetary scientists, said on his blog
Stereo Moons, it should be axiomatic by now
that the closer you look at a planetary object the more surprises you see.
Keep your eye on the ball.
One surprise from 2008 Cassini scientists want to check more closely is evidence for a ring around
Rhea (03/10/2008). Schenk, whose talents include generating 3-D flyovers of surfaces from image data,
posted a ringside seat flyover of Rhea Feb. 25 on YouTube
from the 2008 flyby. It has a striking characteristic that may provide more smoking-gun
evidence for a ring: bluish patches along the equator. Schenk believes these are
marks of impacts of low-orbiting ring particles on the surface. The discussion going on at
a blog frequented by planetary scientists and knowledgeable amateurs, doubted that the
streaks could be ancient, because they would have been erased by now. The images of Rhea arrived at the
Imaging Team website the next day.
Unmanned Spaceflight prosumers
started stitching and processing the images immediately. It will take time to analyze the data
from the radar, optical and remote sensing cameras, and particles-and-fields instruments.
Gushin geysers; Enceladus is bustin out all over its tiger
Science Daily and
were among the news feeds highlighting amazing views of the plumes emanating from the small
moon of Saturn (see Imaging Team gallery).
The images, taken last Nov. 21, were released Feb. 23 with enhanced measurements of heat taken
by the composite infrared spectrometer (CIRS). The photos show that the plumes vary with
time. The jets can erupt along the whole lengths of the stripes. A new detailed
map of one of the stripes illustrates the link between the geologically youthful surface fractures
and the anomalously warm temperatures that have been recorded in the south polar region.
Eleven more flybys of this moon are scheduled for the seven-year second extended mission.
Titan continues to astonish planetary scientists. Two papers appeared
in last months Icarus on this giant gas-shrouded moon. The one with the most
extensive list of authors evaluated what is known about Titans geologic processes.1
The paucity of impact craters implies that Titans surface is geologically young, having a crater retention age between 0.2 and 1 Gyr
(200,000 to 1 billion years), the paper claimed. But There is also no evidence of impact craters superposing any cryovolcanic feature,
which implies the volcano candidates are relatively young also. The dunes and channels are among
the youngest features on Titan. In conclusion, The majority of Titans surface is young, that is,
less than a billion years, even assuming that all the crateriform structures discussed are due to impact.
What would cause global resurfacing activity for 80% of the assumed lifetime of this moon was left unexplained.
It is not yet clear what the role of cryovolcanism has been on crater obliteration, as so far cryovolcanic
processes are not seen to be as widespread as erosional processes. The mountains appear the oldest,
but are only relatively older unmodified by dunes, channel erosion, and craters. It is clear, however,
that the patches of hummocky and mountainous terrain are scattered all over the surface and that nowhere do they
appear uneroded or stratigraphically younger than another local terrain type. And the volcanoes are
young, too: Cryovolcanism may be a relatively young process or possibly ongoing...,
the article said: The large flow fields mapped so far do not show any evidence of fluvial erosion, perhaps implying that they are quite young.
To keep this big moon as old as the assumed age of the solar system (4.5 billion years), the authors had to suggest
episodic activity. Despite the belief in long ages, young was a frequent word in this paper.
The conclusion stated, Titans surface is overall very young, given the small number of impact craters
and the clear evidence of lacustrine, fluvial, and aeolian processes on the surface. And Titan is
still active: It is likely that both aeolian deposition and fluvial activity are still ongoing. In
addition, it is possible that some cryovolcanism may still be happening on the surface.
The paper made a passing reference to the methaneethane problem (01/17/2002,
12/18/2008): the observed lake inventory is
inconsistent with photolysis throughout Titans history. To keep the methane budget from being
depleted over 4.5 billion years, they said it seems likely that there has been episodic
injection, by cryovolcanism, of methane from the interior into the atmosphere,
Although there is no direct evidence of such events..... The other Titan paper in Icarus
investigated the longevity of methane in proposed eruptive events.2 Their model
of outgassing would be sufficient to maintain the presence of methane in Titans atmosphere
the paper claimed, but for far less than the amount of time needed: for several tens of thousands of
years after a large cryovolcanic event.
If Saturn were alone in having active moons, it might be considered an anomaly.
But Jupiter has Io, the most volcanically active body in the solar system, and Europa, a smooth moon with
lines and cracks that remaining active or being periodically active as Europas decoupled icy shell
rotates with respect to its interior, according to Patterson and Head in Icarus.3
They noted that some of the cracks appear relatively young although they did not speculate on
absolute ages of features. Then, two planets out from Saturn, there is Triton. Another Icarus
paper said,4 Triton is a spectacularly dynamic world with a
geologically young surface despite being the coldest moon in the solar system.
Observations over the last decade show seasonal variations in volatiles from ices in different geological
regimes. That seems to be happening on Pluto, too. The
BBC News reported observations
of seasonal changes on the surface of this body, formerly called a planet but now looking more
like Triton, Sedna and other Trans-Neptunian Objects. If volatile ices are moving about on
these small worlds, some of it must be escaping to space. Maybe thats why
called Pluto still a big mystery 80 years after its discovery.
1. Lopes et al, Distribution and interplay of geologic processes on Titan from Cassini radar data,
Icarus, Volume 205, Issue 2, February 2010, Pages 540-558.
2. Choukroun, Grasset, Tobie and Sotin, Stability of methane clathrate hydrates under pressure: Influence on outgassing processes of methane on Titan,
Icarus, Volume 205, Issue 2, February 2010, Pages 581-593.
3. Patterson and Head, Segmented lineaments on Europa: Implications for the formation of ridge complexes and bright bands,
Icarus, Volume 205, Issue 2, February 2010, Pages 528-539.
4. Grundy, Young, Stansberry, Buie, Olken and Young, Near-infrared spectral monitoring of Triton with IRTF/SpeX II: Spatial distribution and evolution of ices,
Icarus, Volume 205, Issue 2, February 2010, Pages 594-604.
If these bodies are not really as old as claimed, one would
expect the old-age consensus to encounter frequent anomalies. Since the surprise density exceeds the prediction
of consensus planetary science, it should lead rational planetologists to re-open the
assumption of billions of years. Why do they never go down that path?
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(a database engineer in New York)
I discovered your site several months ago.... I found your articles very
informative and well written, so I subscribed to the RSS feed. I just want to
thank you for making these articles available and to encourage you to keep up the good work!
(a software engineer in Texas)
Your piece on Turing Test Stands (09/14/2008)
was so enlightening. Thanks so much. And your piece on Cosmology
at the Outer Limits (06/30/2008) was
another marvel of revelation. But most of all your footnotes at
the end are the most awe-inspiring. I refer to Come to the light
and Psalm 139 and many others. Thanks so much for keeping us grounded in the
TRUTH amidst the sea of scientific discoveries and controversy. Its so
heartwarming and soul saving to read the accounts of the inspired writers testifying
to the Master of the Universe. Thanks again.
(a retired electrical engineer in Mississippi)
I teach a college level course on the issue of evolution and creation.
I am very grateful for your well-reasoned reports and analyses of the issues that
confront us each day. In light of all the animosity that evolutionists
express toward Intelligent Design or Creationism, it is good to see that we on
the other side can maintain our civility even while correcting and informing a
hostile audience. Keep up the good work and do not compromise your high
standards. I rely on you for alerting me to whatever happens to be the news
of the day.
(a faculty member at a Bible college in Missouri)
Congratulations on reaching 8 years of absolute success with crev.info....
Your knowledge and grasp of the issues are indeed matched by your character and desire for truth,
and it shows on every web page you write.... I hope your work extends to the ends of the world,
and is appreciated by all who read it.
(a computer programmer from Southern California)
Your website is one of the best, especially for news.... Keep up the great work.
(a science writer in Texas)
I appreciate the work youve been doing with the
Creation-Evolution Headlines website.
(an aerospace engineer for NASA)
I appreciate your site tremendously.... I refer many people to your content
frequently, both personally and via my little blog....
Thanks again for one of the most valuable websites anywhere.
(a retired biology teacher in New Jersey, whose blog features beautiful plant
and insect photographs)
I dont remember exactly when I started reading your site but it was probably
in the last year. Its now a staple for me. I appreciate the depth
of background you bring to a wide variety of subject areas.
(a software development team leader in Texas)
I want to express my appreciation for what you are doing. I came across
your website almost a year ago.... your blog [sic; news service] is one that I regularly
read. When it comes to beneficial anti-evolutionist material, your blog
has been the most helpful for me.
(a Bible scholar and professor in Michigan)
I enjoyed reading your site. I completely disagree with you on just
about every point, but you do an excellent job of organizing information.
(a software engineer in Virginia. His criticisms led to an engaging dialogue.
He left off at one point, saying, You have given me much to think about.)
I have learned so much since discovering your site about 3 years ago.
I am a homeschooling mother of five and my children and I are just in wonder over
some the discoveries in science that have been explored on creation-evolution headlines.
The baloney detector will become a part of my curriculum during the next school year.
EVERYONE I know needs to be well versed on the types of deceptive practices used by
those opposed to truth, whether it be in science, politics, or whatever the subject.
(a homeschooling mom in Mississippi)
Just wanted to say how much I love your website. You present the truth
in a very direct, comprehensive manner, while peeling away the layers of propaganda
disguised as 'evidence' for the theory of evolution.
(a health care worker in Canada)
Ive been reading you daily for about a year now. Im extremely
impressed with how many sources you keep tabs on and I rely on you to keep my finger
on the pulse of the controversy now.
(a web application programmer in Maryland)
I would like to express my appreciation for your work exposing the Darwinist
assumptions and speculation masquerading as science.... When I discovered your site
through a link... I knew that I had struck gold! ....Your site has helped me to
understand how the Darwinists use propaganda techniques to confuse the public.
I never would have had so much insight otherwise... I check your site almost daily to
keep informed of new developments.
(a lumber mill employee in Florida)
I have been reading your website for about the past year or so.
You are [an] excellent resource. Your information and analysis is spot on, up to
date and accurate. Keep up the good work.
(an accountant in Illinois)
This website redefines debunking. Thanks for wading through the obfuscation
that passes for evolution science to expose the sartorial deficiencies of
Emperor Charles and his minions. Simply the best site of its kind, an
amazing resource. Keep up the great work!
(an engineer in Michigan)
I have been a fan of your daily news items for about two years, when a friend pointed
me to it. I now visit every day (or almost every day)... A quick kudo: You are
amazing, incredible, thorough, indispensable, and I could list another ten
superlatives. Again, I just dont know how you manage to comb so widely, in so many
technical journals, to come up with all this great news from science info.
(a PhD professor of scientific rhetoric in Florida and author of two books, who added that he was
awe-struck by this site)
Featured Creation Scientist for January
Sir David Brewster
1781 - 1868
The man who invented the kaleidoscope and was a leading physicist
in Britain and one of the founders of the British Association for the Advancement
of Science was a born-again Christian and opponent of Darwinism.
David Brewster, a
gentleman scientist, born 10 years before Michael Faraday, resembled his famous younger
contemporary in many ways. He was considered the greatest living experimental
physicist in his time, yet was largely self-taught and born of humble means.
He learned science as a teen from James Veitch, an ordinary plowman who had taught
himself astronomy, mathematics and philosophy and had garnered a notable following
from his inventions. For decades, Brewster designed his experiments using
simple throwaway items like bottles and pieces of wire.
Also like Faraday,
Brewster never was financially secure till well into his senior years, despite numerous
inventions that could have made him a wealthy man. He eschewed personal glory,
seeking instead to find what was interesting in each person he met. It was not
scientific education and science degrees that made David Brewster one of the great scientists of the days
before Darwin (and like Darwin, Brewsters only degrees were in theology). It was
hands-on experience, enthusiasm, diligence and love for Gods creation. An observer
once watched Brewster in the lab every few minutes leaning back with his hands stretched upward
exclaiming, Good God! Good God! How marvellous are Thy works!
The kaleidoscope, one of Brewsters clever optical inventions, became a huge fad.
Hundreds of thousands of these beautiful forms for seeing (from the meaning of
the name) were sold all over Europe. Sadly, Brewster never got much income from these curiosities,
though he needed the money for his wife and four children. Patent laws at the time
were insufficient to guard against piracy. Brewster watched helplessly as others
profited enormously from his stolen (and poorly imitated) invention. Kaleidoscopes remain
popular to this day; who can resist the geometric patterns formed from the reflection of random
bits of glass? Other contributions to optical home entertainment that sprung from Brewsters
creative genius included improvements to photography and stereoscopes. He also wrote about
optical illusions and was fascinated with the optical properties of soap bubbles.
Brewsters work in optics had much more scientific value than as mere toys, though.
For instance, he is considered the father of optical mineralogy. This discipline allows specialists to identify
minerals by their properties with light. He even invented a new tool, the lithoscope, for this purpose.
Another of his inventions probably has saved countless lives at sea. He invented the dioptric system for
lighthousesan advancement that produced a much more focused, planar beam that could be seen at much
greater distances. These lenses were adopted widely, such that his successor at St. Andrews
University remarked, Every lighthouse that burns round the shores of the British empire is a shining
witness to the usefulness of Brewsters life. (The Fresnel lens, developed independently
in France, operates on similar principles). Brewster discovered fundamental properties
about polarization, double refraction, color, emission and absorption lines in spectra,
photography, and the structure of the eye. He considered the eye the pinnacle
of Gods natural creation. He wrote,
Although every part of the human frame has
been fashioned by the same Divine hand and exhibits the most marvellous and beneficent
adaptions for the use of men, the human eye stands pre-eminent above them all as the light
of the body and the organ by which we become acquainted with the minutest and the nearest,
the largest and most remote of the Creators work.
Sir David Brewster published over 1,000 articles, including 314 scientific
papers. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society and received most of its
medals. Though his only earned degree was in theology, he received many honorary degrees
for his scientific work. Of these he mostly valued an honorary MD German scientists
had awarded him for his work to find a cure for cataracts. Sir David Brewster was knighted
by the king at age 50, having done his most significant work in his thirties. At age 56,
he was elected president of St. Andrews University in Scotland,
where he served for 21 years.
Concerned over the decline of science in Britain, he helped found the British Association for
the Advancement of Science in 1831. In 1851, he was elected president.
By the late 19th century the British Association had turned into a pro-Darwin force, but not in its
early years. Brewster resisted the rise of Darwinism and encouraged others to
take a strong stand against it. In fact, in 1851 he had found an object that should have falsified
the belief in millions of years gaining popularity at the time: a nail embedded in
a rock freshly taken out of a quarry. Clearly, this human artifact could not be more
than thousands of years old, he argued; but the scientific world ignored it, and embraced
the long-age evolutionary views of Lyell and Darwin.
Brewster remained stalwart against the Darwinian tide. When challenged about his religious faith,
Brewster proudly showed a list of 717 scientists who had signed
a statement affirming the priority of Gods Word over the changing opinions of
science. This document urged students not to be hasty to trust in the word of man over Scripture
when contradictions were alleged. It was impossible for Gods created world
and His revealed Word to disagree, the document stated, and priority should be given to
Gods word over the fallible and ever-changing opinions of man.
Brewsters contributions to a Christian philosophy of science, and to church history,
are no less significant than his scientific discoveries. As an early editor of the
fledgling Encyclopedia of Edinburgh, he wrote 40 of its articles himself. As a pre-teen,
he followed his fathers wishes to study for the ministry. Entering the University
of Edinburgh at 12, he completed his masters degree at 19. He was not cut out to
be a preacher, though, and he knew it; he was too shy as a speaker. Nevertheless, he
had many Christian associates and friends.
One episode contributed incidentally yet significantly to the Scottish Free Church movement.
While editing the encyclopedia, Brewster asked his friend and colleague Thomas
Chalmers, a mathematician, to write the article on Christianity. It was through researching this article
that Chalmers awakened to the truths of the gospel. Chalmers became a historic leader of the
Scottish Presbyterian Church, and later, a leader in the Free Church movement. This was no easy
break. It meant giving up centuries of encrusted traditions and foregoing the financial gain and prestige
of their positions in the established church. Counting the cost, 470 men, a third of the pastors
of the Scottish Presbyterian Church, bravely and willingly
signed their names in 1843 to a document committing
their lives to follow Christ and the purity of the Scriptures. Brewster joined them (he was now 62
years old. It nearly cost him his position at St. Andrews. The public rallied to his support,
so he was able to remain another 15 years.
Though Brewster believed in God and the Scriptures all his life, his faith did not become
personal and real to him till his senior years. Most of what he believed had been a collection
of intellectual convictions. Only after the death of his wife after 40 years of marriage
did he struggle to understand
the meaning of Christs death on the cross for him personally. This point should be noted
by creationists and by those in the intelligent design movement. Just knowing there is a Creator is not
the same as knowing the Creator personally. Facts are not enough. Each person must take
the step beyond the evidence to trust in the Person to whom the evidence points.
Brewster was intellectually convinced of the truth of the Bible and the divinity of Christ, he had a contentious and argumentative
streak. The work of the Holy Spirit was not evident in his life. After diligent study of
the Scriptures in his sorrow over his bereavement, he understood that he needed to trust the death and
resurrection of Christ alone for his salvation: not his science, not his fame, not his intellectual
knowledge. As each pilgrim must do to enter the door of salvation, he confessed his sin personally
and gave his life unreservedly and
completely to Christ. Only then did real evidence of regeneration begin. He grew less opinionated
and more gracious, more peaceful and contented. The last years of his life were characterized by
dynamic and confident faith and infectious love for Jesus Christ, his personal Lord and Savior.
One conviction remained constant throughout his 86-year life: the harmony of science and Scripture as means to
know God. Brewster denied there were contradictions between the two. When confronted with
alleged contradictions, he argued for the deficiency of science, not the Bible; any discrepancy was due
to imperfect understanding or faulty interpretation, not the trustworthiness of Gods Word.
On his deathbed, he lamented the growing skepticism among men of science. Few received the truth
of Jesus, he said. But why? It was the pride of intellectstraining
to be wise above what is written; it forgets its own limits, and steps out of its province.
How little the wisest of mortals knewof anything! How preposterous for worms to
think of fathoming the counsels of the Almighty! Looking ahead to his earthly end,
he said, I shall see Jesus, who created all things; Jesus, who made the worlds! His
family heard him express his innermost feelings, filled with joy and confidence:
I have had the Light for many years, and oh! how bright it is! I feel so safe, so
David Brewsters epitaph is fitting for a man who had spent so many years studying light, vision, and optics.
Quoting Psalm 27:1, it reads simply, THE LORD IS MY LIGHT.
Credit: This short biography is adapted primarily from the excellent chapter on the life of David Brewster
by George Mulfinger and his daughter Julia Mulfinger Orozco, in Christian Men of Science
(Ambassador Emerald, 2001), ch. 3, pp. 49-68. Incidentally, Brewster was also a historian of
science. He wrote works on the lives of Brahe, Kepler and Newton.
If you are enjoying this series, you can
learn more about great Christians in science by reading
our online book-in-progress:
The Worlds Greatest
Creation Scientists from Y1K to Y2K.
A Concise Guide|
You can observe a lot by just watching.
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.
Nature will tell you a direct lie if she can.
So will Darwinists.
Science is true. Dont be misled by facts.
Finagles 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.
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.
Murphys Law of Research
Enough research will tend to support your theory.
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.
The number of different hypotheses erected to explain a given biological phenomenon
is inversely proportional to the available knowledge.
All great discoveries are made by mistake.
The greater the funding, the longer it takes to make the mistake.
The solution to a problem changes the nature of the problem.
Peters Law of Evolution
Competence always contains the seed of incompetence.
An expert is a person who avoids the small errors while sweeping on to the grand fallacy.
Repetition does not establish validity.
What really matters is the name you succeed in imposing on the facts not the facts themselves.
For every action, there is an equal and opposite criticism.
Thumbs Second Postulate
An easily-understood, workable falsehood is more useful than a complex, incomprehensible truth.
There is nothing so small that it cant 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.
The best theory is not ipso facto a good theory.
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
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,
Wisdoms 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).
Like your site especially the style of your comments.... Keep up the good work.
(a retired engineer and amateur astronomer in Maryland)
I really enjoy your website, the first I visit every day. I have a
quote by Mark Twain which seems to me to describe the Darwinian philosophy of
science perfectly. There is something fascinating about science.
One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment
of fact. Working as I do in the Environmental field (I am a geologist
doing groundwater contamination project management for a state agency) I see that
kind of science a lot. Keep up the good work!!
(a hydrogeologist in Alabama)
I visit your website regularly and I commend you on your work. I
applaud your effort to pull actual science from the mass of propaganda for Evolution
you report on (at least on those rare occasions when there actually is any science
in the propaganda). I also must say that I'm amazed at your capacity to
continually plow through the propaganda day after day and provide cutting and
amusing commentary.... I can only hope that youthful surfers will stop by
your website for a fair and interesting critique of the dogma they have to
imbibe in school.
(a technical writer living in Jerusalem)
I have enjoyed your site for several years now. Thanks for all the
hard work you obviously put into this. I appreciate your insights, especially
the biological oriented ones in which I'm far behind the nomenclature curve.
It would be impossible for me to understand what's going on without some
interpretation. Thanks again.
(a manufacturing engineer in Vermont)
Love your site and your enormous amount of intellectualism and candor
regarding the evolution debate. Yours is one site I look forward to on
a daily basis. Thank you for being a voice for the rest of us.
(a graphic designer in Wisconsin)
For sound, thoughtful commentary on creation-evolution hot topics go to
(Access Research Network
Your website is simply the best (and Id dare say one of the most important) web sites on the entire WWW.
(an IT specialist at an Alabama university)
Ive been reading the articles on this website for over a year, and
Im guilty of not showing any appreciation. You provide a great service.
Its one of the most informative and up-to-date resources on creation available
anywhere. Thank you so much. Please keep up the great work.
(a senior research scientist in Georgia)
Just a note to thank you for your site. I am a regular visitor and I use your site
to rebut evolutionary "just so" stories often seen in our local media.
I know what you do is a lot of work but you make a difference and are appreciated.
(a veterinarian in Minnesota)
This is one of the best sites I have ever visited. Thanks.
I have passed it on to several others... I am a retired grandmother.
I have been studying the creation/evolution question for about 50 yrs....
Thanks for the info and enjoyable site.
(a retiree in Florida)
It is refreshing to know that there are valuable resources such as Creation-Evolution
Headlines that can keep us updated on the latest scientific news that affect our view of
the world, and more importantly to help us decipher through the rhetoric so carelessly
disseminated by evolutionary scientists. I find it Intellectually Satisfying
to know that I dont have to park my brain at the door to be a believer
or at the very least, to not believe in Macroevolution.
(a loan specialist in California)
I have greatly benefitted from your efforts. I very much look forward
to your latest posts.
(an attorney in California)
I must say your website provides an invaluable arsenal in this war for souls
that is being fought. Your commentaries move me to laughter or sadness.
I have been viewing your information for about 6 months and find it one of the best
on the web. It is certainly effective against the nonsense published on
Talkorigins.org. It great to see work that glorifies God and His creation.
(a commercial manager in Australia)
Visiting daily your site and really do love it.
(a retiree from Finland who studied math and computer science)
I am agnostic but I can never deny that organic life (except human) is doing a wonderful
job at functioning at optimum capacity. Thank you for this ... site!
(an evolutionary theorist from Australia)
During the year I have looked at your site, I have gone through your archives and
found them to be very helpful and informative. I am so impressed that I forward link
to members of my congregation who I believe are interested in a higher level discussion
of creationist issues than they will find at [a leading origins website].
(a minister in Virginia)
I attended a public school in KS where evolution was taught. I have
rejected evolution but have not always known the answers to some of the
questions.... A friend told me about your site
and I like it, I have it on my favorites, and I check it every day.
(an auto technician in Missouri)
Thanks for a great site! It has brilliant insights into the world of
science and of the evolutionary dogma. One of the best sites I know of on
(a programmer in Iceland)
The site you run creation-evolution headlines is
extremely useful to me. I get so tired of what passes
for science Darwinism in particular and I find your
site a refreshing antidote to the usual junk.... it is clear that your thinking and logic
and willingness to look at the evidence for what the
evidence says is much greater than what I read in what
are now called science journals.
Please keep up the good work. I appreciate what you
are doing more than I can communicate in this e-mail.
(a teacher in California)
Although we are often in disagreement, I have the greatest respect and admiration for your writing.
(an octogenarian agnostic in Palm Springs)
your website is absolutely superb and unique. No other site out
there provides an informed & insightful running critique of the current
goings-on in the scientific establishment. Thanks for keeping us informed.
(a mechanical designer in Indiana)
I have been a fan of your site for some time now. I enjoy reading the No Spin of what
is being discussed.... keep up the good work, the world needs to be shown just how little the scientist
[sic] do know in regards to origins.
(a network engineer in South Carolina)
I am a young man and it is encouraging to find a scientific journal
on the side of creationism and intelligent design....
Thank you for your very encouraging website.
(a web designer and author in Maryland)
GREAT site. Your ability to expose the clothesless emperor in clear language is indispensable to
us non-science types who have a hard time seeing through the jargon and the hype. Your tireless efforts
result in encouragement and are a great service to the faith community. Please keep it up!
(a medical writer in Connecticut)
I really love your site and check it everyday. I also recommend it to everyone I can, because there is
no better website for current information about ID.
(a product designer in Utah)
Your site is a fantastic resource. By far, it is the most current, relevant and most frequently
updated site keeping track of science news from a creationist perspective. One by one, articles
challenging currently-held aspects of evolution do not amount to much. But when browsing the archives,
its apparent youve caught bucketfulls of science articles and news items that devastate
evolution. The links and references are wonderful tools for storming the gates of evolutionary paradise
and ripping down their strongholds. The commentary is the icing on the cake. Thanks for all your
hard work, and by all means, keep it up!
(a business student in Kentucky)
Thanks for your awesome work; it stimulates my mind and encourages my faith.
(a family physician in Texas)
I wanted to personally thank you for your outstanding website. I am intensely interested in any
science news having to do with creation, especially regarding astronomy. Thanks again for your GREAT
(an amateur astronomer in San Diego)
What an absolutely brilliant website you have. Its 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)
Ive 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 dont 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
(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)
Ive told many people about your site. Its a tremendous service to
science news junkies not to mention students of both Christianity and
(a meteorology research scientist in Alabama)
...let me thank you for your Creation-Evolution Headlines. Ive 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 appearoften 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,
(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! Ive 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 dont ever give up. God bless the whole team.
(an engineer and computer consultant in Virginia)
I really appreciate your work in this topic, so you should never stop doing what you do,
cause you have a lot of readers out there, even in small countries in Europe, like Slovenia
is... I use crev.info for all my signatures on Internet forums etc., it really is fantastic site,
the best site! You see, we(your pleased readers) exist all over the world, so you must be
doing great work! Well i hope you have understand my bad english.
(a biology student in Slovenia)
Thanks for your time, effort, expertise, and humor. As a public school biology teacher I
peruse your site constantly for new information that will challenge evolutionary belief and share much
of what I learn with my students. Your site is pounding a huge dent in evolutions 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. Its such a refreshing difference
from the usual media spin. Often youll 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 cant 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 dont 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, Ive
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 dont know
enough to respond to their claims. Thanks for your good work and keep it
(a missionary in Japan)
I just thought Id write and
tell you how much I appreciate your headline list and commentary. Its
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
(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! Im 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 dont 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.
Youre 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 cant tell you how much I enjoy your article reviews on your
websiteits 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 laymans 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)
Im pleased to see... your amazing work on the Headlines.
(secretary of a creation society in the UK)
We appreciate all you do at crev.info.
(a publisher of creation and ID materials)
I was grateful for creationsafaris.com for help with baloney detecting. I had read about
the fish-o-pod and wanted to see what you thought. Your comments were helpful and encouraged me
that my own baloney detecting skill are improving. I also enjoyed reading your reaction
to the article on evolution teachers doing battle with students.... I will ask my girls to read your
comments on the proper way to question their teachers.
(a home-schooling mom)
I just want to express how dissapointed [sic] I am in your website. Instead of being objective, the
website is entirely one sided, favoring creationism over evolution, as if the two are contradictory....
Did man and simien [sic] evovlve [sic] at random from a common ancestor? Or did God guide this evolution?
I dont know. But all things, including the laws of nature, originate from God....
To deny evolution is to deny Gods creation. To embrace evolution is to not only embrace his creation,
but to better appreciate it.
(a student in Saginaw, Michigan)
I immensely enjoy reading the Creation-Evolution Headlines. The way you use words
exposes the bankruptcy of the evolutionary worldview.
(a student at Northern Michigan U)
...standing O for crev.info.
(a database programmer in California)
Just wanted to say that I am thrilled to have found your website! Although I
regularly visit numerous creation/evolution sites, Ive found that many of them do
not stay current with relative information. I love the almost daily updates to
your headlines section. Ive 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 cant wait for the next update. Thats 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. Ill be using it in our Adult Sunday School class.
(a pastor in Wisconsin)
Love your site & read it daily.
(a family physician in Texas)
I set it [crev.info] up as my homepage. That way I am less likely to miss some really interesting events....
I really appreciate what you are doing with Creation-Evolution Headlines. I
tell everybody I think might be interested, to check it out.
(a systems analyst in Tennessee)
I would like to thank you for your service from which I stand to benefit a lot.
(a Swiss astrophysicist)
I enjoy very much reading your materials.
(a law professor in Portugal)
Thanks for your time and thanks for all the work on the site.
It has been a valuable resource for me.
(a medical student in Kansas)
Creation-Evolution Headlines is a terrific resource. The articles are
always current and the commentary is right on the mark.
(a molecular biologist in Illinois)
Creation-Evolution Headlines is my favorite
anti-evolution website. With almost giddy anticipation, I check
it several times a week for the latest postings. May God bless you and
empower you to keep up this FANTASTIC work!
(a financial analyst in New York)
I read your pages on a daily basis and I would like to let you know
that your hard work has been a great help in increasing my knowledge
and growing in my faith. Besides the huge variety of scientific
disciplines covered, I also enormously enjoy your great sense of humor
and your creativity in wording your thoughts, which make reading your
website even more enjoyable.
(a software developer in Illinois)
THANK YOU for all the work you do to make this wonderful resource! After
being regular readers for a long time, this year weve 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
(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 thats been going on. Now, Im 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 theyve 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 youre 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)
Im a small town newspaper editor in southwest Wyoming. Were pretty
isolated, and finding your site was a great as finding a gold mine. I read
it daily, and if theres nothing new, I re-read everything. I follow links.
I read the Scientist of the Month. Its the best site Ive run across. Our
local school board is all Darwinist and determined to remain that way.
(a newspaper editor in Wyoming)
have been reading your page for about 2 years or so....
I read it every day. I ...am well educated, with a BA in Applied Physics
from Harvard and an MBA in Finance from Wharton.
(a reader in Delaware)
I came across your website by accident about 4 months ago and look at it every day....
About 8 months ago I was reading a letter to the editor of the Seattle Times that was written
by a staunch anti-Creationist and it sparked my interest enough to research the
topic and within a week I was yelling, my whole lifes education has been a lie!!!
Ive 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...Ive 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, Ive found it. 2. You have balanced fun with this topic. This is hugely valuable! Smug Christianity is ugly, and I dont 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. Thats 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
(a project manager in New Jersey)
Ive 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 youre 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.
Its incredible I dont know how you do it.
I cant 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 Darwins 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
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 cant stop reading it....
I also enjoy your insightful and humorous commentary at the end of each story. If the evolutionists
blindness wasnt 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, Im 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. Ive 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 dont 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 thats 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
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
dailyarchives go back five years.
(a reader who found us in Georgia)
I just wanted to drop you a note telling you that at www.BornAgainRadio.com,
Ive 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?
Isnt 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)
Ive had your Creation/Evolution Headlines site on my favourites list for
18 months now, and I can truthfully say that its 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. Im 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
(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 Im not being presumptuous in suspecting
the existence of contributions from a Truth Underground comprised of
dissident college faculty, teachers, scientists, and engineers. If thats
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)
Im from Quebec, Canada. I have studied in pure sciences and after in actuarial mathematics.
Im visiting this site 3-4 times in a week. Im 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.
(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. Its great
to see real science directly on the front lines, toe to toe with the
pseudoscience that's mindlessly spewed from the prestigious
(a biology student in Illinois)
Ive been checking in for a long time but thought Id 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.
Im 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
(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 readers
(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. Im a
Christian that is interested in science (Im 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 Ive 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)
Ive 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 dont 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
(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)
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 its 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
(a medical doctor)
A church member asked me what I thought was the best creation web site.
I told him CreationSafaris.com.
(a PhD geologist)
I love your site... I check it every day for interesting
information. It was hard at first to believe in Genesis fully, but
now I feel more confident about the mistakes of humankind and that all
their reasoning amounts to nothing in light of a living God.
(a college grad)
Thank you so much for the interesting science links and comments
on your creation evolution headlines page ... it is very
(a reader from Scottsdale, AZ)
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 seevery
much. I really appreciate a decent, calm and scholarly approach to the
whole issue... Thanks ... for this fabulous
It is refreshing to read your comments. You have a knack to get to the heart of
(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
I believe this is one of the best sites on the Internet.
I really like your side-bar of truisms.
Yogi [Berra] is absolutely correct. If I were a man of wealth, I would
support you financially.
(a registered nurse in Alabama, who found
us on TruthCast.com.)
WOW. Unbelievable.... My question is, do you sleep? ... Im 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. Ill 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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