Creation-Evolution Headlines
April 2010
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“The image of the fundamental laws of physics zestfully wrestling with the void to bring the universe into being is one that suggests very little improvement over the accounts given by the ancient Norse in which the world is revealed to be balanced on the back of a gigantic ox.
    If this is how explanations come to an end, what of materialism?  The laws of physics are sets of symbols, after all—those now vested with the monstrous power to bring things and urges into creation, and symbols belong to the intelligence-infused aspects of the universe.”
—Dr. David Berlinski, “The End of Materialism,” The Deniable Darwin and Other Essays (Discovery Institute, 2009), p. 159.
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Scientist Sees Evolutionary Sense in Coordinated Complexity     04/30/2010    
April 30, 2010 — An article on PhysOrg tells “A vertebrate story,” and a story it is: the more complex a phenomenon becomes, the more it makes evolutionary sense.
    Portuguese scientists were studying the interaction of Hox genes with the development of the ribs in vertebrates.  You can imagine the control that these genes must have when thinking about the differences between a mouse, with 12 pair of ribs, and a snake, with 200 to 400 pair.  The variety of ribs between a snake and a Tyrannosaurus are staggering, yet are under the control of developmental genes that direct their formation at the right time and place in the embryo.  The genes must be switched on and off in a coordinated fashion for the skeleton to come out right.  It usually does – except when scientists interfere.
    The scientists found that genes for Hox10 are not the only ones involved.  Another class, called Hox6, interacts with Hox10 to regulate the formation of vertebrae.  By deactivating these genes they could get embryos to grow extra ribs in different portions of the spine.  They found that one set of genes promotes rib formation in the thoracic region, while another blocks the activity in the lumbar region.  Then they found that the genes for rib formation do not switch on unless genes that control the formation of both muscles and ribs are also switched on.  Suddenly the picture started looking a lot more complicated.
    One would think this complexity would create additional problems for evolutionary theory.  Moises Mallo, however, waltzed right past the problem and rejoiced in the new insights it provided him.  Here is his prize for Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week: “Our findings reveal a more complicated process than we would have imagined, but one that makes perfect sense, from a functional and evolutionary point of view: it is no good to make ribs without muscle, so, in the embryo, the production of both ribs and their associated muscles is under the control of a single and coordinated mechanism.”

You may now all emit a collective groan.  Make sure it is heard at the Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciencia, where certain people need to be turned right-side up.  Evolutionary sense: how’s that for a prize-winning oxymoron?  David Berlinski put it well: “The unfathomable complexity of living systems, Darwin’s theory affirms, is the result of random variation and natural selection.  Is it indeed?  Of these concepts, the second is hopelessly confused and the first is of no intellectual interest” (Daily Californian, 04/01/2005).  No wonder he began that essay with the line, “Wearing pink tasseled slippers and conical hats covered in polka dots, Darwinian biologists are persuaded that a plot is afoot to make them look silly.”  That’s about all they’re wearing, too.
Next headline on:  Darwin and EvolutionGeneticsDumb Ideas
  Watch the process of evolutionism manufacture in action, from deduction to storybook: see 04/20/2006.

Southpaw Explanations Out of Left Field     04/30/2010    
April 30, 2010 — All proteins are left handed.  Some humans are left handed.  Can evolution explain that?  Evolutionists are never known to be at a loss for words when asked to explain anything, provided they are allowed liberal use of the word perhaps.
    A new projection theme for the first left-handed amino acids that comprise proteins sounds downright mystical.  Science Daily announced that the “Ancestral Eve Crystal” may explain the origin of life’s left-handedness, “one of the most perplexing mysteries about the origin of life” (see online book).  Under controlled conditions, two Korean scientists publishing in a journal of the American Chemical Society proposed a way that aspartic acid crystals of one hand could have formed easily and on a large scale.  Then, they said, “The aspartic acid crystal would then truly become a single mother crystal: an ancestral Eve for the whole left-handed population.”  Others are not so sure this solves the problem; see Rob Sheldon’s response.
    Some humans are southpaws, too.  How and why did left-handedness evolve?  The preference for one side of the body, once thought unique to humans but now known to apply to fish, birds and mammals, is called lateralization.  Nora Schultz took up the subject of “The evolution of handedness” in New Scientist.  She uncovered some benefits to the asymmetry.  Because one side of the brain focuses on the hand grasping the object or watching the predator and the other side of the brain is free, it apparently helps with multitasking.  As for why a few individuals differ from the right-handed majority, game theory supposedly explains that it throws the predator off guard enough to allow some members of a group to escape.  So far so empirical; but how and why did this evolve?  Is there any proof it did evolve?  She hedged her bets: “Despite such diversity, we can’t rule out the possibility that lateralisation was passed down from a single common ancestor,” she said.  That only suggests that lateralization emerged somehow, without explanation, hundreds of millions of years ago and then persisted for hundreds of millions of years as fish, birds and mammals went their separate ways.  “‘Different individuals or species may be using different cognitive approaches to deal with similar problems and this affects which side of the brain has the upper hand,’ says Giorgio Vallortigara at the University of Trento in Italy.  In that case, the brain organisation underlying lateralisation may still have arisen in early ancestors, even if specific side preferences have shifted over the years.”
    After a little more discussion about trade-offs, Schultz concluded, “Perhaps this can partly explain the existence of left-handers in human societies.”  Other than that, She actually had very little to say about the evolution of handedness – despite the headline, “Southpaws: The evolution of handedness.”

Gotta give Schultz a hand for trying.  What’s the sound of one left hand clapping?  in a vacuum?
    The “ancestral Eve crystal” fable is too silly to dwell on.  At best, they might have discovered a slight enantiomeric excess under highly improbable conditions.  We want to see 100% success (11/19/2004, 08/24/2006).  Anything else spells death (09/26/2002, 12/03/2008).  How many times must this be emphasized?   And since evolutionists cannot invoke natural selection prior to replication, their only recourse is chance and normal chemistry.  Good luck; you’ll need lots of it (online book).
    As for southpaws, any benefits suggested must be so great as to confer survival value on the whole population.  That means the great white shark had to eat almost all the right-handed minnows except for the few, and the lefties, that got away.  The mutant left-handed gladiator that didn’t get killed in the arena is not going to explain the persistence of southpaw pitchers in 2010, especially if he got killed in the next contest before he had kids.  The story sounds Hollywood docudrama till you think about how Darwinian theory has to work in practice, then it sounds like a cartoon.
    Can we please, please, please get some clarity here, evolutionists?  Just because you find a benefit in a trait that is widespread in the animal kingdom, that does not, not, not mean it evolved.  It could just as well mean it was designed, designed, designed.  Making up a story after the fact is easy to do.  Society does not owe job security to evolutionary storytellers (12/22/2003 commentary).
Next headline on:  Darwin and EvolutionHuman BodyOrigin of LifeDumb Ideas
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Quick video on spider silk – how this stronger-than-Kevlar material is being mass produced – with goats (cf. 01/18/2002).  See the flick at Live Science.

Clock Gene Same in Humans and Birds     04/29/2010    
April 29, 2010 — Two genes found in both birds and mammals work in concert to control the body’s response to seasonal changes.  According to Science Daily, this “not only sheds light on how our internal annual body clocks function but also shows a key link between birds and mammals that has been conserved over 300 million years.”
    Mammals, including humans, have a hormone released by the pituitary gland that controls melatonin levels – known to affect the body’s response to light and dark cycles.  When days start getting longer and nights shorter, a second hormone becomes activated.  Scientists at University of Edinburgh have identified the genes behind the hormones and are beginning to understand how they interact.  The first gene may only switch on in the presence of the second gene.  In this way, the second gene regulates, or switches on, the first gene as day length increases.  The hormones, in turn, control multiple bodily responses related to seasonal change, such as “hibernation, fat deposition and reproduction as well as the ability to fight off diseases.”
    The scientists noted that one of the same genes, named EYA3, is present in birds as well as in mammals, and plays a similar role in both.  Given that they inhabit the same planet, this should not be all that surprising.  But the article twice put an evolutionary spin on this observation, claiming that it is “showing a common link that has been conserved [i.e., unevolved] for more than 300 million years.”

Evolution is fluid, except when it is conserved.  Evolution is rapid, except when it is slow.  Evolution shows diversity, except when it shows commonality; it shows homology, except when it shows analogy.  See “The Story of Evolution” (12/19/2007 commentary) for even more opposite things evolution explains.  Evolution is even numerically quantifiable.  Through evolution we can observe “rate heterogeneity,” (03/26/2002), a biological version of Skinner’s Constant.*  So you see: Darwin’s theory is at once most elegantly mathematical and versatile.  Is there anything that evolutionary theory cannot explain?

Yes; explanation itself.  Then the rest of the theory implodes.
Next headline on:  BirdsMammalsGeneticsHealthDarwin and EvolutionDumb Ideas
*Skinner’s Constant: That quantity which, when added to, subtracted from, multiplied by or divided by the answer you got, gives you the answer you should have gotten.

Noah’s Ark on Mars     04/28/2010    
April 28, 2010 — We apologize for this improbable headline to draw attention to two stories making the rounds: new claims about Noah’s Ark on Mt. Ararat, and new claims about life on Mars.  Headlines on these topics show up periodically in the news.  What do the subjects have in common?  How do they differ?  Do the most recent instances affirm tradition or break new ground?
    Claims about Noah’s Ark are usually made – though not exclusively – by some Bible-believing Christians (also some Muslims and Jews), while claims about life on Mars are typically made (though again, not exclusively) by some evolutionists.  There is nothing about the Biblical story of Noah that prevents an unbeliever from being interested in claims about a boat on Ararat, and there is nothing that prevents a Christian from accepting the possibility of life on Mars.  Nevertheless, advocates are generally divided along those ideological lines, and critics equally divided along the opposing lines: evolutionists are often boisterous in their ridicule of “Arkeologists” (while some Christians are, too), while Bible-believers often ignore or sneer at claims about life in outer space (while some evolutionists do, too).
    The latest Ark claim burst onto the scene April 25 with a press conference and a website ( showing detailed pictures and video of a wood structure allegedly found inside a cave high on Mt. Ararat in Turkey.  It seemed too good to be true.  Instead of the usual vague shapes of rock that might resemble a ship from some angles, here was unmistakable artificially-manipulated timber shaped into rooms and structures found above timberline.  Unless the eyewitnesses were all liars, it seemed straightforward.  One of them said he was 99.9% sure it was Noah’s Ark.  Some creation organizations snatched up the tantalizing news with cautious optimism; others, having been burned in the past, seemed to adopt a wait-and-see attitude.  CMI put out a short press release with daily updates, but expressed the “need for caution—in both directions....”  The story made Fox News, ABC News and other leading news organizations.  Skeptics like those at the James Randi Foundation were quick to moan “not again!” with dismissive vituperation against what they perceive as Christian gullibility.  Alan Boyle in his Cosmic Log at MSNBC positioned the claim in the tradition of reports that surface occasionally, remarking that “a boatload of skepticism is in order.”  Then on April 27 a letter from Dr. Randall Price surfaced.  He is a Biblical archaeologist and member of a rival search team.  His letter, reproduced at Bible Places Blog, claims that the site is a cleverly-devised hoax.  The timbers were hauled up there from the Black Sea, he claims, by Turks who misled the Chinese into thinking they were the remains of Noah’s boat.  Nevertheless, that claim does not answer all the questions.  Some diehards are questioning Price’s motives, because he lost money on the deal and may not be impartial because he has his own search going on.  They also doubted his first-hand knowledge of details mentioned in the letter.  Subsequent to Price’s hoax allegation, World Net Daily posted a lengthy article sharing some of the diversity of opinions about the claim, and so did the Christian Science Monitor.  The rest of this story is TBD.
Update 12/07/2010: Randall Price was interviewed by CBN and claims he has proof it is a hoax by a disreputable guide who misled the Chinese team.  But he also claims his own team has found a rectangular anomaly under the ice with ground-penetrating radar, and hopes to excavate it next summer.  Video at World of the Bible.

    What’s lively on Mars?  News about Martian microbes tends to come around more frequently than Noah’s Ark reports.  This month has been no exception.  In a way kind of mirroring the Chinese Ark story, there was a short-lived headline that NASA had new evidence of life on Mars posted by The Sun, a British tabloid, which NASA quickly denied as “positively false” according to Clara Moskowitz on  More serious sources kept hope alive, though.  New Scientist updated notions with optimism: “Life on Mars, if it ever existed, may be easier to find than previously thought,” an article said, announcing that common Mars rocks can preserve life after all.  “New research on terrestrial rocks suggests that a type of rock common on Mars can preserve fossilised microbial life, rather than erasing evidence of it as previously thought.”  But that’s only a possibility, not a discovery.  The possibilities for unique Martian life were dimmed somewhat by PhysOrg’s report from the American Society for Microbiology that “Earth microbes may contaminate the search for life on Mars.”  This is another in the “too late” category: our landers may have already contaminated the Red Planet with our own germs.  (In a sense, then, if Earth were destroyed, Mars could be a kind of Ark preserving at least some organisms; but that’s hardly a justification for the tabloid headline to this entry.)  James Urquhard announced a headline on New Scientist sure to give fodder to cartoonists: “Look for Mars life with laughing gas.”  Scientists at the University of Georgia think that nitrous oxide could provide an atmospheric biomarker for future missions hunting Martians: “This could be an easy way to ‘sniff’ around the surface of Mars looking for pockets of sub-surface brine that might be hotspots for extreme microbial life.”  It goes without saying that the relatively new science of “astrobiology” has ambitions beyond Mars.  Europa, Titan, and Enceladus are all hot targets, and the sky’s the limit: millions of dollars have been spent on missions like Kepler, the Space Interferometry Mission, Terrestrial Planet Finder and other stepping stones to the discovery of life among the stars.  And then there’s SETI: privately funded, but just as eager to find an unseen, hoped-for reality.
    Two hunting parties: Arkeologists and Astrobiologists.  Both get excited over each tantalizing hint of success.  Both have outspoken critics.  Both have yet to find definitive proof of their reason for being.  Both are convinced that proof would clobber their critics with the superiority of their theological or philosophical views.  One can only wonder what would happen if Noah’s Ark and life on Mars were found simultaneously.  At least it would be a good day for sociologists.

This comparison and contrast is not meant to depict the two camps as equal and opposite, nor the implications of each belief system as equally credible and equally ridiculous, or any such thing.  For goodness’ sake, look at the asymmetry in funding!  Astrobiology gets millions of dollars from the federal government and is supported by the major universities, whereas Ark researchers struggle with private donations on a thankless and difficult search in a remote, politically-dangerous part of the world.  Ark research is tangible and potentially falsifiable.  The mountain is finite.  Disproving astrobiology would amount to disproving a universal negative.  The Flood may be ridiculous to certain anti-Christian rationalist skeptics (you know, the ones with the Enlightenment baseball caps who act skeptical of everything but their own skepticism – about that, they are certain).  These people love to yuck it up over the credulous Christians falling for the latest Noah’s Ark hoax.  Out come the clippings of Jammal and all the rest to parade before the press again.  They never seem to recognize their own credulity when it comes to the Mars meteorite and every whiff of methane or laughing gas that is detected that might suggest the remotest possibility, against astronomical odds, that life could have “emerged” there by unintelligent causes.  Recently one of their heroes, Stephen Hawking, proposed that life might exist in the interior of stars (see Rob Sheldon blog).  Did any of them blush at that?  Let them tell us on what scientific observations such a preposterous suggestion could possibly be based.  It’s beyond the credibility of even science fiction.  It sounds like something a drunk Smogarian would say after staring at a lava lamp.  Let them laugh at Christians who believe in the Flood account all they want; they are laughing in the face of Jesus Christ, who mentioned the story of Noah as if it were a fact of history (Matthew 24:38-39).  And they had better not forget that millions of smart Christians and scientists in the intelligent design community, find evolutionists’ astrobiological beliefs even more ridiculous.  Life by chance?  in primordial soup?  You’ve got to be kidding.  So Dykstra’s Law holds: everybody is somebody else’s weirdo.  Understood?  Come, let us reason together.  (Just remember that by reasoning you are partaking of Judeo-Christian assumptions, so park your naturalism at the door if you want in.)
    First, what would extraterrestrial life imply?  This has been discussed for centuries by Christians and skeptics alike.  It is not a new question.  No Christian philosopher is biting his fingernails worrying about the day when life on Mars or some exoplanet is found, as if it will disprove the Bible or make theology irrelevant.  One cannot say extraterrestrial life will prove the naturalistic origin of life without begging the question.  It could have been created.  There is a very rich history of discussion about this very question we cannot possibly do justice to here; suffice it to say there is a diversity of opinions about the implications of extraterrestrial life, because the Bible is silent about the question.  It would be an interesting discovery; it would not be a damaging discovery for Christianity.  The absence of life anywhere but on Earth, however, would be very difficult for naturalists to explain.  It would make life unique to Earth.  Their only appeal would be the Stuff Happens Law: the anti-scientific cop-out.
    As for the possibility of finding the Ark, even for those who accept the Biblical story there are reasons to doubt it was preserved.  For one thing, the Bible is vague about the location: all it says is that the Ark came to rest in the mountains of Ararat (plural).  One has to ascertain if the original language refers to the same region, let alone the same mountain.  Would the Ark have come to rest near the summit of such a peak?  The modern Mt. Ararat has also been subject to violent earthquakes and landslides.  Its extreme environment makes it hard to believe a wooden structure would survive for thousands of years.  The descendents of Noah might have needed to strip it for materials in the first years after the Flood.  Why should anything remain?
    Nevertheless, persistent eyewitness reports, some of them credible by reasonable standards, and a long history of written reports from antiquity, have not let hopes die.  They keep hardy individuals willing to invest and climb and search in hopes of locating the biggest archaeological artifact of all time.  One cannot blame them for trying.  What’s the harm?  The harm is only when there are hoaxes and frauds, but many of the searchers are honest men and women who really want to follow the evidence and know the truth.  The self-seeking frauds are usually found out in due time.  They give the honest ones a bad name.  A certain level of enthusiasm and readiness to hope the latest claim is real is to be expected; it keeps hope alive in a difficult and often thankless enterprise.  If rationalist skeptics are going to laugh out loud at Arkeologists, they need to laugh out loud at themselves every time they jump to conclusions about life in outer space.
    Regarding this latest claim by the Chinese, the story is still developing; for now, we are going to treat it as “interesting, worth investigating further, but probably not Ark-related till proven otherwise.”  The pictures were certainly eye-popping.  If these really were taken at 14,000 feet up that mountain, something large and artificial got there somehow, and if the timbers were trucked up there from the Black Sea by hoaxsters like Randall Price claims, that’s quite a trick.  It could have been done with enough money and motivation.  The Chinese team appears too credulous, too eager to link this with Noah, and not careful enough with their documentation and scientific measurements.  There are too many questions.  The burden of proof is high.  We do not need another fraud or disappointment paraded in the news.  Without an independent investigation done rigorously, and with claims of fraud coming from a plausible (albeit not disinterested) source, no one should trust the claims at this time.
    We’re all believers in something.  We all need a healthy skepticism, too.  The Apostle Paul gave advice skeptics and believers alike should be able to agree on, whether looking for life on Mars or a boat on a mountain: “Test all things; hold fast what is good” (I Thessalonians 5:21).

Footnote to Christians:  Would proof of Noah’s Ark convince skeptics?  Consider that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, out in the open, in front of multiple eyewitnesses, after Lazarus had been dead and in the tomb for four days.  Evidence doesn’t get much better than that.  His highly-educated enemies could not deny it – and did not try to.  What was their response?  When they saw throngs of people following Jesus because of what he had done, their rational, calm, reasoned, enlightened response in view of overpowering physical evidence was not only to plot to kill Jesus, but to kill Lazarus, too (John 11-12:9).  This was after they had already interrogated the man born blind Jesus had healed, and his parents, but refused to believe.  Evidence separated the truth-seekers from the pseudo-truth-seekers.
    What is the value of evidence for Christians?  Some have responded to this latest Noah’s Ark story that they don’t need archaeological evidence like Noah’s Ark; they believe the Bible by faith.  OK, well, define faith.  That sentiment is a half-truth.  Faith had better be based on something or else it is an irrational leap in the dark, not faith.  The Bible portrays faith as a leap out of darkness into the light.  True faith should step in the direction the evidence is pointing.  After all, the Bible itself is archaeological evidence – an inscription from the past.  On what basis do you believe it?  Hopefully, because you know it can be corroborated by both internal and external evidence, in addition to its impact on your own heart.  The discovery of Noah’s Ark would be one particularly powerful instance of many correspondences of the Biblical record to extra-biblical history, but no one item like Noah’s Ark should be treated like a prop on which one’s faith depends.  It is the preponderance of evidence from multiple, independent avenues that gives a Christian confidence to trust God’s word.  One can hope that real truth-seekers would also be impressed by such a discovery were it to be confirmed, and would be moved to trust in God also.  Regarding the pseudo-truth-seekers: well, without repentance, no amount of evidence will change a stubborn, rebellious heart (2 Peter 3).  You will know them by their fruits.
Next headline on:  Origin of LifeBible and Theology

  Five years ago, on 04/27/2005, we reported on Nature’s cover story about the rise of intelligent design groups on college campuses.  Featured on the cover was a personable young man named Salvador Cordova, who was active in the founding of an ID club at George Mason University.  It turned out that Creation-Evolution Headlines had been very influential in triggering Salvador’s interest in intelligent design.  He wrote our Feedback line a very appreciative letter after reading our entry, and has since become an influential person in the I.D. movement, writing for Uncommon Descent and other blogs, and engaging evolutionists one-on-one in dialogue about design.

New Theory on Evolution of Bat Flight     04/27/2010    
April 27, 2010 — How did bats evolve the ability to fly?  Evolution helped them out by providing them with higher energy.  After all, “Flight is among the most energy-consuming activities” in the animal kingdom, said a team of Chinese and Canadian scientists reporting in PNAS,1 so it’s obvious that evolution must have provided the genes to get the job done.  So they looked at the genes of bats compared to other mammals, and sure enough, they found evidence of natural selection at work.  “Both mitochondrial and nuclear-encoded OXPHOS [oxidative phosphorylation, a process of metabolism] genes display evidence of adaptive evolution along the common ancestral branch of bats, supporting our hypothesis that genes involved in energy metabolism were targets of natural selection and allowed adaptation to the huge change in energy demand that were required during the origin of flight.
    The team looked into the mitochondrial genes and nuclear genes of the two bats whose draft genomes have been published, and compared the genes for metabolism with several other mammals.  They came up with statistics that indicated a 25% signature of “positive selection” in the mitochondrial genes and close to 5% for the nuclear genes (they claimed that “Positive selection and gene duplication are two major mechanisms of adaptive evolution”).  They acknowledged, though, that identifying positive selection is tricky business:2 

Typically, positive selection will act on only a few sites and for a short period of evolutionary time; thus the signal for positive selection usually is swamped by the continuous negative selection that occurs on most sites in a gene sequence.  Even after a short period of positive selection, this is commonly followed by a long period of purifying selection, which would obscure the selective processes. These processes explain why it has been so difficult to detect positive selection in mtDNA, despite extensive studies.
Nevertheless, they defended several independent tests, such as branch-site models, to try to weed out and distinguish other signals, and thus support their identification of positive selection.
    Now surely, they must realize there has to be more to it than that, right?  Well, but of course.  Their paper ends with this paragraph:
Bats are unique in being the only mammals capable of powered flapping flight.  As in birds, bat flight is a highly energetically expensive form of locomotion.  However, it is also a very efficient mode of transport and assists flyers in feeding and breeding as well as avoidance of predators.  The evolution of flight in bats was a major factor leading to the success of this amazing group of mammals, although the evolution of this ability has required complex changes in the anatomy of these animals.  In addition to other important factors, such as changes in bone density and development of the wings, bat flight also requires a significantly higher metabolic rate, a rate well above the maximum capable by other similar-sized terrestrial mammals during exercise.  Aerobic metabolism by mitochondria plays a vital role as the energy production centers of cells The OXPHOS pathway of mitochondria has adaptively evolved to meet the demands of changing environmental and physiological conditions.  Because the mitochondrial respiratory chain has a dual genetic foundation (mitochondria and nuclear genomes), here we examined both genomes to obtain insights into the evolution of flight by mammals.  Both mitochondrial genes and nuclear-encoded OXPHOS genes showed greater evidence for adaptive evolution; this result supports our hypothesis that energy metabolism genes were targets of natural selection that included a balancing cytonuclear coevolutionary constraint, which allowed adaptive changes in energy demands and thus played a crucial role in attainment of flight by bats.

1.  Yong-Yi Shen, Lu Liang, Zhou-Hai Zhu, Wei-Ping Zhou, David M. Irwin, and Ya-Ping Zhang, “Adaptive evolution of energy metabolism genes and the origin of flight in bats,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published online before print April 26, 2010, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0912613107.
2.  For more on the pitfalls of measuring positive selection, or tying it to adaptive fitness, see 09/05/2008, 01/13/2010 bullet 6, and 02/17/2010 bullet 4.
We will have to call this the Mighty Mouse theory of bat evolution.  It’s about as credible as the character who always managed to fly in for the rescue at the last moment (Wikipedia), and about as cartoony, too.
    Papers like this are another reason we really, really need to end the one-party rule in science.  The Darwin Party is so corrupt, its members have convinced themselves that this kind of research constitutes evidence for evolution.  Undoubtedly, the leaders of the regime will stack this paper on top of their growing pile of propaganda to intimidate doubters by showing them the mounds of scientific evidence supporting Darwin’s theory.  But this paper makes no sense at all unless one already is a member of the Darwin Party, has pledged allegiance to Darwin, and already vowed to interpret everything in the light of common descent by random mutations and natural selection.  Then the reasoning is deductive: since we already know as axiomatic truth that bats evolved from rodents, then “this result supports our hypothesis that energy metabolism genes were targets of natural selection that included a balancing cytonuclear coevolutionary constraint, which allowed adaptive changes in energy demands and thus played a crucial role in attainment of flight by bats.
    The fogma is so thick they can’t see it.  Only those outside of it can see what is going on.  Simply put, adding energy to a mouse will not make it fly.  Adding piecemeal goals to a Darwinian story will not make Darwinian theory fly, either.  Darwinians need to think consistently with their theory.  They cannot look in retrospect and say, Because bat flight evolved, this or that modification must have contributed to the overall complex trait.  Bat flight is a package deal.  As fossils have shown, bats appear abruptly in the record fully capable of flight and probably capable of sonar.  More importantly, there is no “target of selection” in terms of an overall complex trait.
    Think of a cow.  What will it take to help Bessie evolve flight?  Well, a high metabolism will surely be among the requirements.  So let’s say that Tinker Bell comes along with her mutation wand and starts zapping poor Bessie in the gonads.  Among the calves that don’t die as embryos, maybe there will be one some day that survives with a slightly higher metabolic rate.  Are we getting warmer?  Are we on the way to evolving flight in Bessie’s descendents?  It’s not necessary to press the point to see how absurd this tale is already, and we haven’t even tried to talk Bessie into the advantages of how nice it will be for her descendents with wings some golden day, millions of years from now, to be able to efficiently escape their human predators that are trying to hunt them down for hamburger.  (Don’t tell her that the human predators by then will have co-evolved into fearsome fighters flying at Mach 2.)  Darwin’s theory demands that every beneficial mutation confer survival advantage right now, not millions of years in the future.  It has no goals, no targets, no visions, no plans.  A mouse in its hole has no desire to sprout wings and become a bat, no matter how nice it might be for feeding, breeding, and avoidance of predators.
    Once again, we see how the Darwin supernaturalists conceal their miracles with misdirection and euphemisms.  Everyone believes in miracles, you realize; and everyone is a supernaturalist.  Darwinists only pretend to be naturalists.  Their slip is showing every time they use logic and reason, which are not made of particles and forces.  Look for the miracle-talk in this sentence: “The evolution of flight in bats was a major factor leading to the success of this amazing group of mammals, although the evolution of this ability has required complex changes in the anatomy of these animals.”  OK, students, barrage the teacher with your questions.  But teacher, how did this evolution occur?  How can a Darwinian process be factored? – that sounds like algebra, a form of intelligent design.  What do you mean by success – survival?  The mice seemed to be pretty successful, because they still survive today and are more numerous than bats.  How did the complex changes in the anatomy of bats occur simultaneously with the metabolic changes?  How were they coordinated and tuned?  You talked about changes in bone density and “the development of wings” – Wow!  Isn’t that a giant leap for batkind?  Didn’t Darwin say that nature takes no giant leaps, but only slight, successive modifications?  What were the modifications, and how did they confer survival value?  What do you mean by a “target” of natural selection?  That sounds like anthropomorphism.
    Who will ask these and other questions, if not creationists, the intelligent design movement, or at least critics of neo-Darwinism?  Scientists need critics to keep them in line.  When it comes to Darwinism, though, the whole regime is corrupt.  Don’t look for critical thinking from the NAS, the NIH, NASA, the NSF, or the major secular journals.  The news media aren’t holding them accountable, either (02/18/2010), except for independent sources like CEH.  Many individual scientists have their heads on straight but those who try to buck the establishment risk marginalization or expulsion.
    Totalitarian regimes typically become so corrupt that they become caricatures of themselves – fodder for political cartoons.  That is certainly the case with the Darwin Party today.  The rank and file largely ignore the ideology.  They go along with it and repeat the party line on cue to stay out of trouble.  No one dares speak out against it, even though an elementary course in baloney detecting could expose its nonsensical fables.  The folly of theory-incestuous papers like this one shows that a thorough housecleaning is long overdue.  Open the castle doors, DODO* bigots, and answer the challenge!  Your mental health depends on lively and open debate.  Listen to your founder: “A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question” – Charles Darwin.
Next headline on:  MammalsGeneticsDarwin and Evolution Dumb Ideas
*DODO: Darwin only, Darwin only.
Cosmologist Suffers Paranoid Delusions: Media Promotes His Views     04/26/2010    
April 26, 2010 — “They’re coming to get us, and I’m sure of it, because I know everything.”  What would you think of someone who talked like that?  What if he were one of the most famous cosmologists alive today?  The man is Stephen Hawking – that wheelchair-bound math wizard who talks with a speech synthesizer and once fell into a black hole in The Simpsons.  Now, the Discovery Channel is poised to air his views on SETI and alien life, and the science media, as usual, can’t get enough of his opinions.
    The BBC News reported that Hawking considers it “perfectly rational” to believe that aliens exist, but he also believes we should do everything possible to avoid making contact.  He said, “We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet.”  Normally, scientists do not try to build a universal principle from a sample size of one, nor make such generalities castigating all sentient beings in the universe because of the sins of some.*  PhysOrg briefly parroted these opinions without comment, as did Jessica Griggs at New Scientist.  Clara Moskowitz gave Hawking the most paranoid-sounding headline, though, on “If Aliens Exist,They May Come to Get Us, Stephen Hawking Says.”
    Along with Hawking’s evidence-challenged delusions that they’re out to get us, he believes he has an inside scoop on the secrets of the universe.  The next episode of his Discovery Channel series, Moskowitz revealed, is titled, “The Story of Everything.”
*  This is the “Hollywood Fallacy.”  Consider two filmmakers making documentaries about Los Angeles.  One shows off all the glamour and glitz: Hollywood movie stars, Rodeo Drive, Disneyland, beaches with gorgeous girls, all the best.  Filmmaker #2 makes a film about gangs, drugs, riots, fires and earthquakes.  Which is the truth?
    Hawking is undoubtedly thinking of the downside of European conquest of the Americas, and perhaps other instances of conquest, but such broad-brush depictions are not useful without specifics.  The Portuguese were interested primarily in trade, for instance, whereas their neighbors, the Spaniards, sailed to conquer.  And not all the conquered people were worse off after conquest (though many were).  Before the 16th century, the Mayans were throwing girls to volcano gods and committing ritual human sacrifice in ways that shock archaeologists today.  Tribal warfare in some lands before Europeans arrived was brutal and vicious.  It was often replaced by colonization that was also brutal in different ways, but not always.  And we must ask, what peoples did the well-known tribes conquer before them?
    Many of the early mountain men were respectful to the Native Americans; trade was welcome, and developed into a mutually beneficial relationship.  Is it their fault if later generations took advantage of the doors they had opened?  Some of the mountain men were appalled at treatment of the Indians and intervened on their behalf.  Sometimes the immigrants tried to be peaceful and introduce trade, only to be massacred for their kindness.  We all know the bad cases (slavery, genocide, epidemics); colonization and empire are often synonymous with greed and avarice.  But some colonizers attempted to be peaceful and benevolent and establish mutually attractive relationships with natives, and some native peoples accepted the terms.  Once in awhile colonization brought new blessings and opportunities.
    There’s another more major problem with Hawking’s fear of aliens.  Can he really compare what happened on Earth, where all the parties involved belong to Homo sapiens, with what might happen between people and aliens?  When you talk specifics, you can have a meaningful conversation and bring clarity.  Generalities often serve only to reinforce stereotypes.
With all due respect to Hawking’s struggle with ALS and the courage he has exhibited in his many years proving that a life is valuable despite physical disabilities, these factors are no excuse for saying dumb things.  The men in blue suits tried to cure this madman of his delusions by subjecting him to shock treatment in NASA’s “Vomit Comet” in 2007 (picture on, but it obviously didn’t work.  But then, would you expect evolutionary psychologists (02/16/2010, 02/28/2010) to cure paranoia brought on by evolutionary cosmology?  The Discovery Channel should look for more rational content at the Discovery Institute.  We had a little fun here at Hawking’s expense, the poor, good-natured genius.  Now read what physicist Rob Sheldon thinks of all this.
Next headline on:  CosmologySETIMediaDumb Ideas
To Sleep, To Dream: To Dream, Perchance, to Learn     04/25/2010    
April 25, 2010 — When you have learned a complex task, take a nap and dream about it.  A new study shows that dreaming helps consolidate the memory in your mind and helps you perform the task better next time around.
    Science Daily reported on research by scientists at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.  They tested 99 subjects by having them learn a 3D maze.  Some subjects reviewed the task while awake; others were given a 90 minute nap.  A few hours later, the subjects were retested on their ability to work the maze.  Only the subjects who napped and dreamed about the maze performed better – up to 10 times better.
    Dr. Robert Strickgold, an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and senior author of the study, was surprised and excited about these results.  “What’s got us really excited, is that after nearly 100 years of debate about the function of dreams, this study tells us that dreams are the brain’s way of processing, integrating and really understanding new information,” he said.  “Dreams are a clear indication that the sleeping brain is working on memories at multiple levels, including ways that will directly improve performance.”
    Even though subjects reported diverse dreams about the maze, like being lost in a bat cave, or just hearing the background music from the maze, dreaming appeared to be associated with success in the second trial.  Just thinking about the maze while awake did not have the same beneficial effect.  One researcher thought “that the dreams were an outward reflection that the brain had been busy at work on this very task.”  In other words, the dreams don’t cause you to remember the task – they are just indications that the brain is at work consolidating and integrating the information for the next run.  The hippocampus may be solving the details of the maze, while the higher cortical areas may be thinking of how that task applies to other similar complex tasks.  Co-author Dr. Erin Wamsley offered this explanation:
Our [nonconscious] brain works on the things that it deems are most important,” adds Wamsley.  “Every day, we are gathering and encountering tremendous amounts of information and new experiences,”she adds.  “It would seem that our dreams are asking the question, ‘How do I use this information to inform my life?’”
Strickgold offered an evolutionary speculation for the apparent unique aspect of brain physiology that allows this integration and consolidation during sleep:
“In fact,” says Strickgold, “this may be one of the main goals that led to the evolution of sleep.  If you remain awake [following the test] you perform worse on the subsequent task.  Your memory actually decays, no matter how much you might think about the maze.
    “We’re not saying that when you learn something it is dreaming that causes you to remember it,” he adds.  “Rather, it appears that when you have a new experience it sets in motion a series of parallel events that allow the brain to consolidate and process memories.
It appears that just like Phillip Benfey in the 04/23/2010 entry, Dr. Strickgold has just offered a requirement for evolution without a specification for how it could have been fulfilled.  He also begged the question why sleep would evolve as a solution.  In addition, in speaking of “the evolution of” any complex phenomenon, any mention of “one of the main goals” is grounds for disqualification from Darwinism.
Sorry to have to keep excusing these Darwinist indiscretions; hope you can pardon the transgressor and move along to the soul of this story, if you will pardon the suggestive term.
    Notice Wamsley’s line, “Our [nonconscious] brain works on the things that it deems are most important.”  What is the subject of that sentence?  Is it a piece of meat?  Is it a person?  If it is a person, how can it be you, if you are asleep?  We don’t seem to have much control over our dreams.  Who is doing the deeming during the dreaming of what is most important?  Was Wamsley referring to some ghost in the machine that goes to work when you go to sleep?  These are intriguing questions we may not be equipped to answer.  Similar questions come begging from her line, “It would seem that our dreams are asking the question, ‘How do I use this information to inform my life?’”  Normally we think of sentient beings asking questions, not dreams.
    One explanation is to say the brain is like a sophisticated computer.  That way, the brain is not a person, but a physical object, a processing machine.  (How it got programmed, by a designer or by evolution, is another question.)  But that’s a misdirection pretending to be a solution.  Of the many fascinating essays in David Berlinski’s latest book, The Deniable Darwin (see Resource of the Week for 03/13/2010) is his 2004 essay, “On the Origins of the Mind” (pp. 421-441).  He doesn’t provide an answer – he claims all we know so far is “darkness, mystery and magic” about this fundamental question – but his essay is valuable for unmasking the pretensions of evolutionary psychology.
    Evolutionists commonly use three similes to naturalize the mind.  They say the brain is like a computer, or a like a secretory organ, or like any other product of natural selection.  Of the first, that the brain is like a computer, Berlinski argued that it suffers from a displacement problem.  “A machine is a material object, a thing, and as such, its capacity to do work is determined by the forces governing its behavior and by its initial conditions,” he said.  “Those initial conditions must themselves be explained, and in the nature of things they cannot be explained by the very device that they serve to explain.”  Trying to simplify the simile by replacing the computer with an abacus, he explained, would do nothing to eliminate the infinite regress.  One still have to explain the human hand, arm, and brain that manipulates the balls of the abacus down the wires with fine muscle control, purpose and intent.  “No chain of causes known to date accommodates the inconvenient fact that, by setting the initial conditions of a simple machine, a human agent brings about a novel, an unexpected, an entirely idiosyncratic distribution of matter.”  The causal chain simply gets pushed back, or displaced, to a point where it can be conveniently ignored.  That’s why the computer analogy is a distraction, not an explanation: “A simile that for its persuasiveness depends on the very process it is intended to explain,” Berlinski chuckled, “cannot be counted a great success.”  Ditto for the other two similes.*
    Which leads to the “ordinary, very rich, infinitely moving account of mental life that without hesitation we apply to ourselves.”  Modern secular science disallows mentalistic explanations, even though we use them and take them for granted in everyday “folk psychology” (attributing intentions, reasonings and emotions to one another by visual and auditory cues).  The language of action and intention sounds very soulish.  It is, indeed, the explanation that has endured for thousands of years.  It is intuitive, predictive, and coherent.  When the Darwinian naturalistic detour has remained at square one for 150 years, it seems non-naturalists are being overly magnanimous.  This is especially so when an appeal to an infinite regress is arguably a kind of appeal to supernaturalism.
Next headline on:  Human BodyHealthAmazing Facts
*On animal dreams:  Have a dog?  Ever watched it shake and snarl when sleeping, as if it is having dreams?  Without a Spock-like mind-meld, we cannot know what goes on in an animal brain in sleep, especially since we don’t even understand what goes on in our own, but it is certainly likely that animals experience the same, or similar, processes of dreaming, consolidation and integration of learned experiences during sleep as humans.  Similar experiments on rats would most likely show them improving their performance on a rat maze after whatever measurement of dream-sleep is appropriate.
    None of these observations bear on the issues in the subsequent discussion above about infinite regress and the uniqueness of the human mind.  One cannot claim that animal dreams show brains evolved without begging the question of evolution.  Animal behavior, furthermore, does not involve language with semantics and syntax, or the ability to act purposefully in the novel, unexpected and idiosyncratic ways that characterize human behavior.  Human brains possess processing equipment that resembles that of animals in many respects; it is another thing entirely to say humans are “merely” more of the same.  If minds (not hydrogen + time) are the cause of minds, it is reasonable to expect to find degrees of mental capacities and processing abilities at various levels appropriate to each organism’s needs and purposes.
  Who helped Copernicus the most?  The surprising answer, according to astronomy historian Owen Gingerich, was the Protestants.  Wait – were’t those the ones who tried to suppress the new view?  Your history is wrong.  Read about it in the 04/30/2004 entry.

Dinosaurs Lived in Vast Ecological Zones     04/24/2010    
April 24, 2010 — Don’t think of dinosaur species living in small ecological zones.  Their habitats covered vast areas, according to a new study: “Researchers at McGill University are unlocking the mysteries of the little-known habits of dinosaurs in discovering that the entire western interior of North America was likely once populated by a single community of dinosaurs,” reported Science Daily.
    Dinosaurs in North America inhabited ecological niches comparable to those of mammals today.  They were mobile and adaptable: “They were able to colonize and dominate the landscape over very large distances, and were not nearly as constrained as we might have once thought,” said Matthew Vavrek, a PhD student at McGill.  The team compared “alpha diversity” (diversity within an area) to beta diversity (diversity between areas) and found that beta diversity was low – comparable to wide-ranging mammals.  This speaks of homogeneous communities covering the entire Western interior.
    The team recognized that they are “just beginning to scratch the surface of dinosaur ecology.”  This initial study raises many new questions about gene flow, migration, and affects of the dinosaurs on other megafauna and plant communities.

To the extent the conclusions in this study are reliable, they raise interesting questions about climate as well.  Today’s western interior is highly stratified into biomes characterized by temperature, rainfall, flora and fauna.  There are deserts, riparian zones, grasslands, chaparral, arboreal forests, and timberline meadows.  Does the presence of dinosaur species across nearly continent-sized regions indicate that the climate or geography was radically different in the past?  If so, what would that imply about earth history as well as political debates over human impact on the environment?  These are questions that can be posed, not answers we are proposing.
    One needs to be cautious with concepts, techniques and inferences in studies like this.  Some terms that are taken for granted in science become rather slippery when one has to pin them down.  Take ecological niche, for instance, or predator.  The differences between elements of these set can arguably outweigh the things they have in common.  A wolf spider and a grizzly bear can both be considered predators, for instance, and a human and a bedbug can both inhabit the same ecological niche.  Terms like these are useful for human theories and conversations.  It is difficult to defend the notion that they refer to realities that are actually “out there” in the world, independent of human reasoning.  To what does alpha diversity and beta diversity refer?  Sounds Greek.  The Greeks were humans, after all, not dinosaurs; although they were mammals.
    The authors themselves admit that they are barely scratching the surface of dinosaur ecology.  Let’s let them scratch some more.  There can be surprises in lower layers.  Maybe they are not even scratching the right surface.
Next headline on:  Dinosaurs
April 23, 2010 – Genetic Entropy & the Mystery of the Genome (2005) is an original and important piece of research by Dr. John C. Sanford that casts serious doubt on the Darwinian paradigm.  Sanford, a highly qualified scientist and genetics researcher from Cornell, invented the gene gun process, pathogen-derived resistance and genetic immunization.
    Phillip E. Johnson highly recommended this book, “which provides a lucid and bold account of how the human genome is deteriorating, due to the accumulation of mutations.  This situation has disturbing implications for mankind’s future, as well as surprising implications concerning mankind’s past.”  Sanford has since devised Mendel’s Accountant, a much more realistic computer model of evolution than the pro-Darwinist counterparts.  Even under the most optimistic conditions, this open-source program shows that Darwinian evolution cannot lead to progress under realistic mutational load.  Buy Genetic Entropy from Amazon or other booksellers readily found with an internet search on the title.
Next resource of the week:  04/17/2010.  All resources: Catalog.

Update on Interplant Internet     04/23/2010    
April 23, 2010 — One of the early “amazing” stories reported in these pages concerned the startling observation that plants use a kind of “email” system in their own interplant “internet” (see 07/13/2001).  What has been learned in the nine years since that story appeared?  Quite a lot, and another fascinating article about plant communication appeared this week in Science Daily.  Scientists at Duke, Cornell and the Universities of Helsinki and Uppsala confirmed that micro-RNAs are engaged in two-way communication as part of gene regulation between cells.  A Duke team member said, “To our knowledge, this is the first solid evidence that microRNAs can move from one cell to another.”  According to the article, this adds to the list of molecules involved in communication: hormones, proteins, and now micro-RNAs.
    The packets of information stored in these molecules regulate how tissues and organs are developed in leaves, roots and organs.  Listen to one example of how proteins control a waterproofing layer:

They also add a new element to the already complex interplay in Arabidopsis roots between two proteins, known as Scarecrow and Short-root, that Benfey’s team had described in earlier work.  Those proteins interact and restrain one another to allow the assembly of a waterproofing layer of cells that ultimately enables plants to control precisely how much water and nutrients they take in.
    The researchers now show that Short-root moves from cells in the plant’s inner vasculature out into the waterproofing endodermis that surrounds it to activate Scarecrow.  Together, those two transcription factors (genes that control other genes) activate microRNAs, known as MIR165a and 166b.  Those microRNAs then head back toward the vascular cells, meeting and degrading another transcription factor (called Phabulosa) as well as other regulatory factors along the way.
The two-way communication works across cell borders.  The “internet” nature of these between-cell signals is essential for correct patterning of tissues, the article explained.  Susan Haynes of NIH said, “This study provides important insight into how cells communicate positional information to orchestrate the complex process of tissue and organ development.”
    The article concluded by noting that the specific instances discovered here are most likely indicators of a general phenomenon that will be noticed throughout biology.  Duke systems biologist Philip Benfey tacked on an evolutionary comment:
He said there’s also reason to think that the specific regulatory interactions they’ve uncovered were key in the evolutionary transition from single-celled algae to land plants.
    “ “Formation of vascular tissue with a surrounding endodermal layer that acts as waterproofing was a key milestone in the evolution of land plants,” Benfey said.  “Without a tube to conduct water, you can’t grow a tree or a sunflower.”
This comment amounted to a requirement without a specification.
It was really painful to reproduce Benfey’s Darwin malapropism in this otherwise fascinating entry.  It’s kind of like having to endure someone telling an insensitive joke or belching during a speech.  Let’s deal with it quickly and move along.  This is another indiscretion from an evolutionist who has not learnt good manners.  One cannot simply assume that miracles will occur on cue, simply because Mr. Darwin needs them.  A single-celled alga needs a tube to conduct water.  Yes, the tube needs a waterproofing layer, too.  Without these requirements being met, you can’t grow a tree or sunflower.  Fine; understood.  But Mr. Benfey, who is going to snap his fingers and call for Tinker Bell to zap the alga with her mutation wand by your script?  How many gazillion algae will have to die before one struggles to get the internet right and the email system working?  Remember, you don’t believe in miracles or end-goals, so this all has to happen by an undirected process with each and every step producing survival value.  LOL, LOL (Lots of Luck, Laugh out Loud).
    Ahem; back to our regularly scheduled celebration.  Ladies and gentlemen, we call attention to this fine discovery by the teams at Duke, Cornell, Uppsala and Helsinki, and thank them for dazzling us with insights into another living design that predated our own.  Here we thought we invented the internet, only to find it was there long before our feeble attempts at two-way packetized communication.  My, what will we discover next!
Next headline on:  PlantsCell BiologyAmazing Facts
Blood Clotting Fibers May Lead to Better Networks     04/22/2010    
April 22, 2010 — We all know that blood clotting has kept us alive many times.  We would never have survived childhood scrapes and cuts had it not been for a cascade of responses in blood that builds a network of fibers quickly upon which a scab of tissue stops the flow of blood and begins repairs.  That first network of fibers must be flexible enough to withstand stretches and strains that are likely to be ongoing as the child runs to mom (or a wounded soldier gets airlifted by medics).  How is the strain distributed to keep the network from tearing?  Scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill wanted to know, and Science Daily told about their findings.
    In short, individual fibers of fibrin become stiff when they stretch.  As they stiffen, the less-stretched fibers nearby have the flexibility to take up some of the strain.  Dr. Michael R. Falvo explained: “So in effect, strain stiffening in the individual fibers acts to distribute strain equitably throughout the network and thereby strengthen it.”
    This simple yet elegant solution is pregnant with possibilities.  The article said that “their findings may bring about a better understanding of this remarkable strengthening mechanism and may help to guide new design strategies for engineered materials.”
Long-time readers will recall that the blood-clotting cascade was one of Dr. Michael Behe’s examples of irreducible complexity in his classic book Darwin’s Black Box.  Here we see a second aspect of evidence for intelligent design in the same subject: research into the design of blood clotting leads to human design solutions.  One can envision better fishing nets, a more robust electrical grid, or a better internet because of the concept of strain distribution discovered in fibrin networks already at work in your body.  Can anyone find anything in this story for which Darwin can take credit?  It’s intelligent design from every angle.
Next headline on:  Human BodyHealthBiomimeticsIntelligent Design
  A “User’s Guide to Life” – by a materialist.  Where does it go wrong?  Find out in the 04/25/2003 entry.

What Can Fossil Leaf Measurements Tell About Evolution?     04/21/2010    
April 21, 2010 — Flowering plants burst on the scene in the fossil record 140 million years ago in the geologic timescale, creating an “abominable mystery” for Charles Darwin.  What can be learned by measuring the stems and leaves of fossil specimens?
    Dana Royer and colleagues from Wesleyan University in Connecticut embarked on a project to measure ratios of petiole width and leaf area from 179 species of angiosperms (flowering plants) from three areas of the Albian period, cited 100-110 million years old.  The majority of the fossils had a low leaf mass per area.
    They compared these ratios with the growth habits of living gymnosperms and angiosperms.  Assuming that today’s growth patterns held in the past, they inferred that the fossil angiosperms were short-lived, fast-growing species – like weeds.
    What does this mean?  Science Daily quoted Dr. Royer: “While this doesn’t tell us anything directly about the earliest angiosperms – the oldest angiosperm pollen is around 140 Ma old – the Albian marks the time when angiosperms begin to be very diverse and important ecologically,” he said.  “It is likely that explosive growth is one reason for the success of angiosperms.”

The number of assumptions in the method and its presuppositions outweigh any validity of the conclusions.  First, the dating of the fossils is imbued with evolutionary assumptions.  Second, the statement “the Albian marks the time when angiosperms begin to be very diverse and important ecologically” is miracle talk.  It is distraction for “We have no idea what happened.”  Basically, complex plants “emerged” and ”exploded” onto the scene, like universes, Cambrian animals and everything else does in Darwinian theory.
    Suppose – just suppose – for the sake of argument, just allow the remote possibility – that plants were created.  Then no amount of measuring petioles and leaf area is going to tell you how they evolved.  You can measure them with a micrometer, and have them listed in spreadsheets to four significant figures.  You can produce the most dazzling Powerpoint presentations.  You can even establish a relationship between the ratios and growth habits of living plants (as they did).  Even if you believe plants evolved, none of this busy work provides one iota of evidence for evolution.  Strip away the assumption of evolution, and restrict yourself to empiricism.  All you have done is describe certain mathematical relationships between living species, with a possible inference that those relationships held in the past among extinct species.
    If that’s all Dr. Royer was trying to do, fine; he said, “While this doesn’t tell us anything directly about the earliest angiosperms... the Albian marks the time when angiosperms begin to be very diverse and important ecologically.”  That could be the third day of creation, presumably.  Has he proven otherwise by anything he has done?  There seems to be an evolutionary undertone in the article, but where is the evidence for millions of years of slow, gradual change by mutation and selection, followed by explosive diversification of complex, wholly new forms of plants?  “It is likely that explosive growth is one reason for the success of angiosperms,”  he concluded.  Amen, hallelujah.  That’s what they were designed to do: succeed.  And your point is?  Don’t couch miracle talk in hidden variables.  Tell us Darwinly how “explosive growth” evolved: here, at the Cambrian explosion, and at the birth of a universe out of absolutely nothing.  Until then, don’t call it science; call it leaf collecting.
Next headline on:  PlantsDarwin and EvolutionFossils
Crows Use Tools in Sequence     04/20/2010    
April 20, 2010 — Watch a one-minute video clip on the BBC News.  A New Caledonian crow in New Zealand figures out how to use three tools in sequence to get at food that is out of reach.  This amazing display of animal intelligence surprised researchers at the University of Auckland who already knew about the legendary problem-solving behavior of corvids, a group that includes crows, rooks and ravens (see 08/11/2009, “Crow Fulfills Aesop Story”).
    The article said, “The crows, which use tools in the wild, have also shown other problem-solving behaviour, but this find suggests they are more innovative than was thought.”  They can even whittle branches into hooks and tear leaves into barbs to reach hard-to-get food.  Until recently, scientists had thought these tool-making skills were restricted to primates.  The article continues, saying that primate mammals now have rivals in tool-making with these birds.  “Experiments have shown that the birds can craft new tools out of unfamiliar materials, as well as use a number of tools in succession.”  The lead author of the paper in PNAS about the experiments said, “Finding that the crows could solve the problem even when they had to innovate two behaviours was incredibly surprising.”
    These observations raise questions about the interpretation of tool use as a measure of intelligence.  Even octopi have been seen “using halved coconut shells as tools, by scooping them from the seabed, galloping off with them and then later using them as a shelter” (see 12/16/2009, bullet 1).  But does this differ in extent or in kind from the work of a hermit crab, or a diatom, or of bees in building a honeycomb? 
When the crow makes a space shuttle to build a space station, we will really take notice.  It’s great fun to watch smart animals, but there is really no comparison, even with chimpanzees.  Think about the tools we take for granted: elevators, automobiles, cell phones, video games, Facebook – these are all light-years beyond pulling a nut out of a cage with a stick.  All things being equal, if we were stuck with beaks and wings, we would probably have computers with peckboards by now and ten thousand ways of interpreting inflections of the word caw.
    In a real sense, all living things display intelligence, in that they use coded information to direct energy for functional work.  This makes sense if the intelligence is derived intelligence from a higher intelligence.  Whether in crows, or conch shells, or bacteria, or dolphins, or humans, that intelligence is parcelled out, or programmed, in each organism appropriate to its needs and purposes.  This top-down view of intelligence is natural to us; we build intelligence into our own robots.  The movies are filled with ideal stories of building a robot with the magical something, that sentience, that would make it like us.  Why would we not be the sentient creations of a creative intelligence?  But accounting for the “emergence” of intelligence from the bottom up, on the other hand, begets a thicket of philosophical problems – not the least of which is how one could ever know that is true.
    Man is the only living being who makes tools to make other tools.  Only man can think abstractly and communicate instructions for making tools verbally, using language, with complex syntax and semantics, to another person who can understand those instructions and carry them out.  Only humans manipulate symbols and mathematical calculations in their minds; humans can envision a product through a complex series of steps, and organize all the materials, with teamwork as required, to bring it to fruition (04/17/2010).  Humans have the upright posture and complex hands to grip things tightly or manipulate fine objects for tool use.  Only humans consider the use of tools for other than bodily needs, like charity or the arts.  Only humans feel guilt, wonder, curiosity about eternity, a need for understanding, a need for significance.  The makeup of our bodies, our brains, our minds, our eyes, our hands, our ears, our faces, our speaking apparatus, our songs, our emotions, and the immaterial selves of which we are each aware, even as our cells recycle themselves throughout our lives – all these observations make sense if we are truly designed for a relationship with our Maker.  It all started there: with intelligence, communication, and personhood: in the beginning was the Word.
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Flies Turn on a Dime     04/20/2010    
April 20, 2010 — A fly can turn 180 degrees in one tenth the time it takes you to blink an eye.  Beating their wings 250 times a second, they don’t even have to think about each wing beat, PhysOrg said about studies at Brown University using high-speed cameras and image tracking software.  “[Attila] Bergou discovered that flies rely less on their brains than previously thought and more on the clever design of their wings,” the article said.  “To make a turn, a fly simply twitches a muscle that rolls its shoulder slightly.  The wing does the rest, naturally adjusting over the course of a few beats, tilting by about 9 degrees, and creating drag forces that wheel the insect around.”  The article includes a 32-second video clip that allows you to watch the turn in slow motion.
    The U-turn of the fly is much faster than anything man-made can achieve.  A scientist at Harvard is looking enviously at the fly, the article said, for envisioning electrical flying robots that may some day come close to matching the fly’s design specifications.
Evolution makes sense when you think in generalities.  When you look at things in detail, and measure what is required to make them function, you start thinking in terms of design specifications.  You want to imitate them.  When you try to imitate them, and find out how hard it is, you become an intelligent design believer.  Darwinian excuses like, “Evolution had a million year head start,” begin to sound like desperate question-begging attempts to hang onto an obsolete dogma that has lost its credibility in the details.
Next headline on:  Terrestrial ZoologyIntelligent DesignBiomimeticsAmazing Facts
  Can evolution be programmed?  Check out three attempts at “evolutionary computing” last year (04/06/2009) and see if it was evolution or something else.

Maxwell’s Demon Helps Run Your Muscles     04/19/2010    
April 19, 2010 — James Clerk Maxwell once speculated that the second law of thermodynamics could be violated if an agent or “demon” could sort the hot and cold molecules at a barrier, thus overcoming the tendency toward thermal equilibrium.  Something like this has been found at work in the molecular machines in our muscles.  The actin-myosin motor is able to convert the random thermal motion (Brownian motion) of its environment into unidirectional motion due to the structural arrangement of its protein parts.  The work was discussed in PNAS by researchers at Nagoya University in Japan.1
    Myosin is like a robot walker on an actin racetrack.  The robot uses ATP for energy.  Each stepwise cycle requires ATP hydrolysis, but there is more energy in the action than can be accounted for by the ATP alone.  The researchers determined that, as has long been suspected, the structure of the motor allows random thermal motion to be captured as with a ratchet.  This “Brownian ratchet” mechanism helps propel the motor down the track in what they call a “functional funnel” of the energy landscape.  “Our study embodies these theoretical models, indicating that a Brownian ratchet mechanism is likely to contribute substantially to the energy conversion of the actomyosin motor,” they said.
    The researchers believe this clever mechanism underlies not only the actin-myosin complex but other molecular machines as well.  Single-headed kinesin, for instance, moves in a similar way down its highway – the microtubule.  Suddenly, it seems one can find Brownian ratchets everywhere in the cell:

Interestingly, it has been shown that this unidirectionality arises during the transition from the weak microtubule-binding to the strong microtubule-binding states; the same result has been reported for the conventional kinesin.  These results imply that the energy landscape for the kinesin-microtubule interaction is asymmetric (with 8-nm periodicity of the microtubule), suggesting that the same Brownian ratchet mechanism as found here is inherent in the kinesin-microtubule system.  Myosin V moves along the actin filament in a dimeric form with high processivity.  A clock-escapement-like mechanism to regulate ADP release has been shown to play a critical role in the high processivity.  In addition, the longer and more positively charged loop 2 of myosin V, which makes the energy landscape for the actin-myosin interaction deeper, would contribute to the high processivity.  The asymmetric funnel would also help the detached head of myosin V, which exhibits an extensive Brownian motion, to quickly find the preferential binding site.  A Brownian ratchet-like mechanism may also contribute to the force generation via a strain-dependent weak-to-strong transition, as has been shown by a recent in vitro SME [single-molecule experiments] of myosin VI.
    From a general point of view, such an asymmetric funnel as found in the present study can be regarded as “functional funnel,” i.e., the energy landscape designed to fulfill functions efficiently and robustly.  The functional funnel may be nature’s ingenious mechanism that enables molecular machines to harness the thermal noise, just as the “folding funnel” enables proteins to find their native structures efficiently and robustly via a Brownian search.
The “folding funnel” refers to the process by which proteins fold upon exiting the ribosome – another active area of research.  It appears that thermal noise ratcheting also plays a role in achieving efficient and robust solutions quickly in that environment.
    The authors did not speculate about how evolution might have hit upon this “ingenious mechanism” for efficient transportation.  Instead, they said the mechanism was “designed to fulfill functions efficiently and robustly,” leaving the identity of the designer as a separate question.  Their phrase “clock-escapement-like mechanism” recalls some familiar terminology from a long-forgotten, pre-Darwinian scholar by the name of William Paley.
1.  Takano, Terada and Sasai, “Unidirectional Brownian motion observed in an in silico single molecule experiment of an actomyosin motor,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published online April 12, 2010, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0911830107.
How Maxwell would have marvelled to know that the benevolent demons (actually, little robotic angels) he envisaged were busily at work inside him, keeping his heart beating, his lungs breathing, and his fingers writing across the page.  His contemporary, Darwin, would undoubtedly have cringed to hear the phrase “clock-escapement-like mechanism” to describe something in the cells he dreamed were little more than undifferentiated blobs of jelly-like protoplasm.
Next headline on:  Cell BiologyPhysicsIntelligent DesignAmazing Facts
Genetic Subcode Discovered     04/18/2010    
April 18, 2010 — Computer programmers know all about subroutines.  One master program can easily call other programs, which can return results back to the master program.  That’s very 1960s.  Today’s modular software responds dynamically from disparate sources and responds to feedback from embedded triggers.  They can call routines written in other codes or languages.  We’re beginning to find that the genetic code is also far more advanced than the 1960s image of DNA to RNA to protein – the Central Dogma, as it was called.  Now, researchers in Europe have uncovered “novel sequence biases and their role in the control of genomic expression.”
    Science Daily reported on work from the Computer Science Department of ETH Zurich and the SIB Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics.  Researchers there have been chasing “possible sub-codes in genomic information.”  One of the problems with the Central Dogma was understanding how translation is regulated.  Cells need to respond quickly to stimuli and risks.  What determines which genes are switched on and off, and the rate at which protein products are produced? 
The researchers from ETH and SIB now identified a new sub-code that determines at which rate given products must be made by the cell.  This information has several interesting implications.
    First, it provides novel insights into how the decoding machinery works.  Secondly, and more pragmatically, it makes possible to read information about gene expression rates directly from genomic sequences, whereas up to now, this information could only be obtained through laborious and expensive experimental approaches, such as microarrays.  “A cell must respond very quickly to injuries such as DNA damage and to potent poisons such as arsenic.  The new sub-code enables us to know which genes are turned-on quickly after these insults and which are best expressed slowly.  One benefit of this study is that we now can get this information using only analysis of the coding sequence,” said Dr. Gina Cannarozzi.
The insight into an additional level of genetic information stored in sub-codes can also provide a new look at the translation processes in the ribosome, the article said.  It can help scientists understand how the ribosomes “know” at what rate to recycle their transfer-RNAs (tRNA) to achieve optimum rates of protein synthesis.
The article said nothing about evolution.  Surprised?  Of course not.  If mutations were marginally tolerable in the days of the Central Dogma, they are going to be much tougher now that we know the genetic information system involves codes within codes and hierarchical levels of information.  Darwinists will deal with this like they always do: by pumping out more Central Fogma.*
*Fogma (n): Dogma so thick you don’t even realize it’s there unless you’re outside it (05/14/2007 commentary).
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Albert Instant was grimacing.  His Caltech buddy Kan x 10-3 had challenged him to say “cosmological constant” five times fast, and it left him with hair in a tussle and tongue sticking out.  “This will never work.  I need a catchy marketing phrase for the term,” he thought.  “Ask your colleagues for ideas,” Elsa said.  “A waste of time,” Albert replied; “Neil’s a bore, and Edwin’s bubble-headed ideas are more toil and trouble than they’re worth.”
    So he hopped on his bicycle, shifted into red, and rode down the world line where Stephen was hawking history books for a brief time.  As he was riding through Pasadena, the crisp logo on a Max Factor store caught his eye.  “Olay!  That’s it,” he exclaimed.  “Smooth, isotropic, stabilizing – and most of all, easy to pronounce!”  And that, students, is how Max Factor became almost synonymous with the expansion term in the instantaneous field equations of cosmetology, the study of the makeup of the universe.*
Maybelline we should get back to our regular science reporting....
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*Explained on AVON television documentaries.

  Robert Bakker is a renowned dinosaur expert.  He had some strong words to say about the creation-evolution controversy.  Which side do you think got more of his heat?  Prepare to be surprised: revisit the 04/13/2008 entry.

Psychologists Portray I.D. as a Form of Evolution     04/17/2010    
April 17, 2010 — No need to draw a line between design and evolution, say two psychologists at the University of Iowa.  Intelligent design is really a lot like evolution.  They think we need to “better appreciate the actual forces that unite the processes of change across both evolutionary and developmental timescales.”
    This strange theory was announced by Science Daily this week about a paper in the upcoming issue of American Scientist by Edward Wasserman and Mark Blumberg.1  The press release gave some examples to show how intelligent design evolves:

The authors note that even such grand human engineering achievements as suspension bridges and the space shuttle evolved through a process that owes more to lessons learned from failure than to foresight and purpose.  Similarly, close examination reveals that such behaviors as Olympic high jumping and jockeys’ thoroughbred riding styles can also be found to have originated through trial-and-error learning, in which the inventor may be blissfully unaware of the achievement until only after it has emerged.
They called Richard Dawkins’ argument about drawing a line between things that are designed and things that merely looked designed an “arcane argument.”  That’s because in a way, Wasserman and Blumberg argued, everything evolves.
    At first glance this must strike some as terribly simplistic, or an equivocation that offers no solution at all.  It’s hard to believe no one in the Darwin or I.D. camps has not given such things plenty of thought already – and shot them down, else the battle would not still be raging.  But press releases can sometimes leave out important points.  Did the paper fill in some missing pieces of argument?
    The key point in the paper is that human intelligent design does not usually involve foresight and planning as is usually assumed.  Having introduced William Paley, Charles Darwin and Richard Dawkins, with their evolving ideas about design, the authors aimed their critique at the intuitive but dubious assumption that humans always engineer their contrivances with foresight and purpose.  They referred to engineer Henry Petroski, who wrote in 1993 that human inventions “do not spring fully formed from the mind of some maker but, rather, become shaped and reshaped through the (principally negative) experiences of their users....”  Form doesn’t follow function; it follows failure.
Such uncritical acceptance of purpose and foresight in human design may well be unwise.  After all, do we really know how door hinges and can openers were created?  In fact, we may know less about the origins of these everyday contrivances than we know about the origins of bivalve shells, sharks and hedgehogs.  By attributing the origins of animals and artifacts to different kinds of designers—one blind, the other intelligent—both Darwin and Dawkins lapse into the same kind of “designer thinking” that ensnared creationists like Paley.  Such thinking rests on the familiarity and deceptive simplicity of mentalistic explanations of behavior, as when Dawkins uncritically appeals to the foresight and purpose of the watchmaker rather than entertaining possibly deeper questions about the origins of the watch.  He may be giving human designers too much credit.
From there, Wasserman and Blumberg argued that the history of any human invention is usually a history of failure and modification – a kind of evolutionary history.  They drew from examples in the origin of powered flight, bridges, pyramids, cathedrals and space shuttles.  “It is through this plodding process that today’s designs—typically instantiated in the form of a detailed blueprint—embody all of the hard, painful, but often unacknowledged lessons of the past,” they said.  “Most of us are ignorant of that history, yet we glibly proclaim that the final products were intelligently designed, thereby perpetuating the myth of the creative moment.”  Clearly, though, there have been some cases of invention that did not take this path of failure, but went directly from original concept to plan to product.  Did they list any of those examples?  No.
    Their next step was to evolutionize the mind so as to set the human designer into the context of organic evolution: “Because of the writings of Darwin, Dawkins and other biologists, many of us are now open to understanding the organic world in evolutionary terms—but are we equally willing to apply such evolutionary thinking to that last bastion of designer intelligence, our minds?”  The brave – or fools – follow as Wasserman and Blumberg draw from examples of tool making by crows and chimpanzees.  Do they represent examples of emergent creativity and insight in the animal kingdom, or just collected learning experiences?  The authors declare their skepticism of “mentalistic” explanations for animal tool-making; “Indeed, we are unconvinced that creativity and insight are proper explanations even for human behavior.”  One hopes that creativity and insight were not requirements for writing their paper.
Of course, few people are unnerved when the cognitive prowess of crows or other animals is questioned.  Things get stickier when we express similar skepticism about the human mind.  Yet as with the invention of human artifacts, we see good reason to doubt the prevailing belief that novel human behaviors—what we might call behavioral inventions—are necessarily the products of a designing mind.
For evidence, they went to the world of sports.  High jumpers and jockeys have learned novel ways of achieving better performance sometimes by accident.  Without design or forethought, athletes discover, once in awhile, new moves that work better.  If they work, they are kept: that’s psychologist Edward Thorndike’s Law of Effect, propounded decades after Darwin’s death: “successful behavioral variations are retained and unsuccessful variations are not.”  Sounds positively Darwinian.  Darwin, who believed everything in nature proceeded according to fixed laws, would have been pleased to see even human intelligent design encompassed by an extension of his own law of natural selection.  Wasserman and Blumberg were pleased, too:
Our prime point here is the importance of the search for originsDarwin has taught us that the search for the origin of species reveals the action of natural mechanisms that do not require guidance from a creative, intelligent designer.  Similarly, Petroski has taught us to look beyond the romance of the iconoclastic inventor and the drama of the creative moment to appreciate the real origins of human artifacts.  Petroski’s insight should free evolutionists from their continuing dispute with creationists over where to draw the line between things that really are designed and things that only appear to be designed.  Belief in the existence of that false line only serves to obscure the powerful selectionist processes that are at work in producing so many of the world’s creations—both organic and synthetic.
It sounds like they have just subsumed all of intelligent design into Darwinism.
1.  Edward Wasserman and Mark Blumberg, “Designing Minds: How should we explain the origins of novel behaviors?” American Scientist 98:3 (May-June 2010), page 183, DOI: 10.1511/2010.84.183.
That’s one way to win a debate: eat your opponent.  I’m afraid Mr. Darwin will find his meal a bit disagreeable and will end up vomiting it up, only to be swallowed up himself by what he disgorged, which, like a Klein bottle, leaves an outside observer wondering who is inside and who is outside.  But if you are looking at a Klein bottle, you are outside it by definition, using your mind to observe it.  This implies that Darwin just swallowed himself.  Q.E.D.
    If anyone can find a sillier thesis than this to explain away intelligent design, published in a serious journal, by all means send it in, but give our readers a week to recover from the abdominal pains of laughter from this one.  Presumably in the Psychology Department of the University of Iowa is some distance from the Engineering Department.  Also, presumably, it is not required of psychology papers to get peer review by engineers.  Anyone who has gone through a design review process and taken a product from concept through design through fabrication, bench test, readiness, field test, delivery and operations will read this paper and go “Huh?  No wonder those guys are in the Psych Bldg. and not over here making the big bucks with the geeks.”  Just because humans learn from failure, and occasionally gain insight by serendipity, does not mean they are following a Darwinian process or fixed law of nature.  And just because humans find ways to continually refine and improve their inventions does not mean it resembles mutation and selection.  Wasserman and Blumberg picked and chose examples to dress up their preconceived notions, but ignored many examples of deliberate, intentional, successful first-time design.  Mozart could write manuscripts of verifiable masterpieces, right out of his mind, with no erasures or cross-outs.  Works of genius like this have no Darwinian explanation.  Even if mistakes in a project are made along the way, as happened often with Edison’s inventions, a hallmark of human invention is the foresight to envision a possibility and to bring together the pieces against their natural tendencies carrying a concept forward to fruition with dogged determination – sometimes against seemingly insurmountable odds.  What on earth does that have to do with Darwinism?  Zippo.  Even a Zippo lighter illustrates intelligent design.  Wasserman and Blumberg really need to go read some basic books on intelligent design before pretending to be ready to talk about it.
Exercise: Think of examples of human design that contradict their portrayal of human invention following a Darwin-like process of tinkering via failure.
    Wasserman and Blumberg understand Darwinism less than they understand intelligent design.  Darwin may have liked the concept of fixed laws of nature, but natural selection is not a law in the usual sense, even assuming the human mind can explicate unambiguously what a “fixed law of nature” could possibly refer to.  Natural selection, at best, is only a constraint, a boundary.  It says, “Can’t go there, or you die.”  It has no power to create anything.  The exquisite contrivances of nature (wings, eyes, livers, limbs, ATP synthase) had to “emerge” by the accumulation of accidents that didn’t cause death.  There it is again: the Stuff Happens Law makes its inevitable appearance in Darwinland, as usual.  Science flies out the window; stuff happens, whatever will be will be, someday over the rainbow a miracle may happen to you if you wish upon a star, and pigs can fly after enough tornadoes run through junkyards.  Keep the stuff that doesn’t die, and that’s Darwinism.  Anyone expect to get a brain by this process?  Notice that Darwinism does not keep the stuff that will someday add up to an eye.  Darwinism knows nothing of eyes.  It is a blind galley slave to the immediate present.  Bad accident: die.  Neutral or good accident: live a day longer.  Nothing adds up in Darwinland.  Nothing has foresight, purpose, or plan.
    Wasserman and Blumberg are half-right on one point: there are no mentalistic explanations in Darwinland.  Darwin cannot say that the crow is thinking ahead to create a tool to get the nut out of the bottle.  Having assumed evolution, they failed to realize they were arguing in a circle to consider crow tool-making as ancestral to human inventiveness, but this is all academic by now, because they already shot the lights out in their little theater of the absurd, so the crowd may as well go home.  They just attributed their own minds to fixed laws of nature.  That includes their own creativity and foresight.  They just shot the credibility, therefore, out of their own thesis; their arguments do not refer to anything that could be true, universal, necessary, or certain.  Good grief.  Why did we waste our time on this?  Well, no experiment is ever a failure, really; it can always be used as a bad example (Rettinger’s Law).
Next headline on:  Darwin and EvolutionIntelligent DesignDumb Ideas
April 17, 2010 – Sometimes you want bite-sized reading material when sitting in the recliner while the TV is on mute for commercials.  Then have a copy of How To Be An Intellectually Fulfilled Atheist (or Not) by William Dembski and Jonathan Wells beside you.  Each self-contained chapter is just 2 or 3 pages.  The subtitle explains the purpose of this 2008 paperback: “The compelling argument for Intelligent Design behind the controversial documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.”  The authors, both double-PhD credentialed, need no introduction as leaders of the I.D. movement.
    This book fills in many of the scientific details the film didn’t have time to cover.  Its 25 short chapters will inform you about Miller’s zap experiment, the RNA World, spontaneous generation, the problem of oxygen and mixed-handed amino acids in origin-of-life experiments, panspermia, God-of-the-gaps arguments, irreducible complexity and other subjects that can round out your knowledge of the case for intelligent design.  Published by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute; find it at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.
Next resource of the week:  04/10/2010.  All resources: Catalog.

Darwin as Canary in a Coal Mine     04/16/2010    
April 16, 2010 — The state of evolution teaching is like the fabled canary in a coal mine, Sean Carroll told Science.1  That’s why the molecular biologist from the University of Wisconsin, Madison is cutting back on his research and undergraduate teaching to concentrate on his new appointment: vice president for science education at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.  Asked by Elizabeth Pennisi in a Newsmaker interview about the concerns of high school teachers he has contacted, he said:

Well, we probably were brought together over the teaching of evolution.  That was issue [number] one, ...  because biology without evolution is kind of like physics without gravity.  It’s also sort of a canary in the coal mine for the state of science education.  There’s so much propaganda against evolution, but you see the same sort of techniques being used against climate science or stem cells or whatever it might be.
Note: This is Sean B. Carroll, not the cosmologist Sean M. Carroll of Caltech; far enough back, though, they probably had a common ancestor.
1.  Elisabeth Pennisi, “Newsmaker Interview: Sean Carroll and the Evolution of an Education Maven,” Science, 16 April 2010: Vol. 328. no. 5976, p. 294, DOI: 10.1126/science.328.5976.294.
Let’s see if years of research and teaching has elevated Dr Carroll above the lot of mortals so that he can lecture the rest of us on how not to engage in propaganda.  First of all, since he is keen to protect Saint Darwin from the Neanderthals, has he in his own research demonstrated the innovative power of evolution?  Pennisi’s article would certainly have produced the best example of his PhD expertise to impress the would-be challengers to the title of “pioneer in the field of evolutionary development.”  Here it is.  Ready?  “His most recent paper describes how the polka dots on a fruit fly wing were patterned according to the distribution of a molecule involved earlier in the fly’s development.”  Well, Whoopie View with a polka-dot dress.  He starts with fruit flies, he ends with fruit flies; but not one polka dot developed into a canary.  It sounds, therefore, like we are at liberty to parse his paragraph for possible propaganda.  Baloney Detectors, ON!
  • Assertion: Teaching of evolution is issue number one.  Analysis: The popularity of an issue is not necessarily relevant to its importance.  Undoubtedly teacher lounge time is popular as well.  And how scientific was his sample?  Did he include Christian schools?  Well, guess what!  What were the questions?  Maybe the issue they were concerned about was how dogmatic the textbooks are about evolution.  Don’t assume they were all pro-NCSE.
  • Assertion: Biology without evolution is kind of like physics without gravity.  Analysis: This is the old canard in a cold mind known as association and analogy.  Try ours instead: Biology without evolution is kind of like Russia without Stalin.  See?  Anyone can do it.  It’s fun.  Achieves the desired result; no evidence or argument required.  Here are some more analogies submitted by a regular reader: Biology without evolution is like:
    • Africa without malaria
    • Food without botulism
    • Lincoln without Booth
    • Middle Ages without the Black Plague
    • Mexico without drug wars
    • Washington DC without lying politicians
    • CBS without the BS
    • Christmas without atheists
  • Assertion: Evolution is a canary in the coal mine for the state of science education.  Analysis: Analogy mixed with non-sequitur.  Most of biology and medicine gets along fine without evolutionary storytelling tacked on.  Biology was doing fine for centuries before Darwin created the Great Society for Storytellers and liberated biology from empiricism (12/22/2003 commentary).  The research of Linnaeus, Jenner, Mendel, Pasteur, Lister, Carver, Watson and Crick and many other giants of biology and medicine owed nothing to Darwin.  If anything, Darwinism represents dead weight – a useless requirement to fit uncooperative data into a predetermined story line.  It wasted decades of effort on now discarded ideas like vestigial organs and junk DNA.  Nevertheless, Carroll’s badly-scrambled metaphor can be salvaged with a few alterations.  The canary represents morality and a vibrant altruistic society (not evolution).  The coal mine is the descent into secularism.  Evolution is the poison gas belching upward from the depths.  Now the analogy fits the state of our country’s decline perfectly.
  • Assertion: There’s so much propaganda against evolution.  Analysis: Anyone can hide behind a broad brush, unsupported claim intended to generate fear.  Some examples, Dr. Carroll?  We’ll supply one going the other direction – yours.
  • Assertion: You see the same sort of techniques being used against climate science or stem cells or whatever it might be.  Analysis: Generalities, no specifics, blanket accusations: “whatever it might be”.  Let’s take him up on it and include “tenure” in the unspecified category “whatever it might be.”  Insert any issue Dr. Carroll feels passionate about.  Go ahead; he left the door wide open.  And he revealed by his short list that he’s not really motivated by science education, but by the leftist political agenda.  Perhaps he feels that high school science teachers should teach the modern scientific method: you know, hide the decline, falsify data, collude in your emails, get unelected judges to give you what the public won’t vote for, etc.
When Dr. Carroll is not reasoning in a circle (source), pushing against the Humvee (source), shushing the co-conspirators (source), reassuring the fearful (source), or practicing his intolerance (source), he’s telling high school science teachers how to teach science.  You notice that Science gives this guy the open mike with no challengers.  From his platform at HHMI, let him explain to science teachers how Howard Hughes tinkered blindfolded with accidents in a hangar without a plan while drinking, and a Spruce Goose “emerged”.  No wonder home schooling is big.
Next headline on:  EducationDarwin and Evolution
SETI and other Pointless Gimmicks     04/15/2010    
April 15, 2010 — Astrobiologist Paul Davies sure knows how to ask interesting questions, and ruffle feathers in the process.  His new book about SETI, The Eerie Silence, reviewed by Leslie Mullen in Astrobiology Magazine, defaced some long-standing notions.  But are his suggestions any improvement?
    Davies thinks the Voyager record was a “pointless gimmick.”  He thinks that SETI has been described as a religion.  He argues that it is probably useless to look for life in radio signals.  Yet he thinks we should expand the search for alien intelligence in marks of intervention in our DNA, or in neutrino beams, or in interstellar waste dumps.
    At times he seems to be talking like an intelligent design advocate masquerading as a materialist.  Mullin quotes him:
To a physicist like me, life looks to be a little short of magic: all those dumb molecules conspiring to achieve such clever things!  How do they do it?  There is no orchestrator, no choreographer directing the performance, no esprit de corps, no collective will, no life force – just mindless atoms pushing and pulling on each other, kicked about by random thermal fluctuations.  Yet the end product is an exquisite and highly distinctive form of order.  Even chemists, who are familiar with the amazing transformative powers of molecules, find it breathtaking.  George Whitesides, Professor of Chemistry at Harvard University, writes, “How remarkable is life?  The answer is: very.  Those of us who deal in networks of chemical reactions know of nothing like it.”
Most of the extrasolar planets found so far are gas giant planets like Jupiter, and are not likely to have life as we know it.  Davies says there is nothing in the laws of chemistry or physics to indicate life is inevitable, or even a cosmic imperative.  He notes there is no mathematical regularity to life, revealing some underlying basic law of nature.  Instead, “the chemical sequences seem totally haphazard.”  And yet, life has its own sense of order, since re-arranging those chemical sequences can upend the whole system.

“So the arrangement is at once both random and highly specific – a peculiar, indeed unique, combination of qualities hard to explain by deterministic physical forces,” he writes.

But in the next sentences, he is talking about some “law of evolution” accounting for the origin of life as well as its development into physicists like himself.  At one moment Davies describes SETI as a religion, but then says the discovery of ETI would be hard on traditional religion.  He deplores the silence on the one hand, but then calls it a “golden silence” to consider how precious it would mean life is.  Whether or not Davies’ beliefs are coherent, they represent a mind struggling honestly with stubborn realities of physics, life and intelligence – and questions that the “eerie silence” are keeping in front of astrobiologists.  Mullins ends, “By stretching our minds to try to envision all the possibilities in our search for aliens, not only may we one day find what we seek, but in the process we also will learn about many other deep and enduring mysteries of the cosmos.”
Learn to question glib statements.  Consider that last platitude by Mullins.  Is it always a good thing to stretch your mind to envision all the possibilities of things?  Stretch your mind to consider all the possibilities of pigs flying.  Did that do you any good in the deep and enduring mysteries of flying porcines?  Some minds stretch so far they break.  Some minds stretch in the wrong directions; they consider useless mysteries that do no one any good.  Some stretch to imagine evil things.  Was it good for Eve to consider the possibilities of disobeying God?  Come now; stretch your mind wisely.
    The article is worth reading to get a sense of the schizophrenia of the modern mind.  Knowledgeable scientists like Davies cannot deny the complexity of the cell and the seeming “magic” of life’s organization, but they desperately want to hang onto their materialism.  Between his irrational leaps into fantasyland (looking for alien footprints in our DNA, and failing to see it would require I.D. to do so, etc.) Davies is a little more realistic than many astrobiologists about the complexity of life.  His statements in The Privileged Planet are memorable.  Add to those his memorable quotes above, which should be printed on billboards, distributed at school board meetings, and thrown into the faces of the Darwin Party hacks who say intelligent design is not science.  Look at what Davies said!  Life is so organized for function, there is no law of nature or possibility of chance to produce it.  There is nothing like it in regular chemistry.  A high-level, well-recognized astrobiologist said this, not someone affiliated with the Discovery Institute.  What are we to make of this?  Are we to retreat with Davies into the non-explanation that this is just some peculiar state of affairs, a “a peculiar, indeed unique, combination of qualities hard to explain by deterministic physical forces”?  That’s indistinguishable from the Stuff Happens Law.  Remember, explaining something with the phrase “stuff happens,” or its cognates (it emerged, it arose) is the antithesis of scientific explanation.  It is an admission of defeat, disqualification, dropping out of science.  It is a tacit admission that other players need their time at bat.  Let the world hear.  Materialistic science has no answers to the origin of life.  It is time to admit the bankruptcy of materialism and let the debate include those who have been excluded – those who add design to the equation, which makes all the difference, and clears the fog from the mysteries of life.  Are we to let the SETI materialists pursue their quest endlessly, while their critics are forced to disprove a universal negative?  Talk about stacking the deck.  Time to reboot the game and re-initialize the rules for fairness.
    Would that Davies would read Signature in the Cell and face up to the fact that he has no way out; there is no chance explanation, law-of-nature explanation, or combination of the two that can produce life without intelligent design.  He knows the science behind this well enough to concede the facts to Meyer.  Is he brave enough to cast his lot with the despised I.D. people?  Pray he does in time, like former atheist Anthony Flew, who died this week (see Uncommon Descent).  Flew had to admit after a lifetime of teaching atheism that the evidence for intelligent design was compelling.  Follow the evidence, then follow the implications.  Yes, there is intelligent life out there, just not what you were seeking, Paul.  Ask your namesake.  You can even find the footprints in your DNA.
Next headline on:  SETIDarwin and EvolutionIntelligent DesignOrigin of Life
  Lucy was a gorilla, and other Peanuts puns (04/10/2007).

Conflicting Reports About Earthlike Planets     04/14/2010    
April 14, 2010 — Are earth-like planets rare or common?  Your opinion might depend on which news stories you read.  “Polluted Old Stars Suggest Earth-like Worlds May Be Common,” reported and Science Daily.  The idea is that hydrogen in the atmospheres of white dwarfs might have come from water, which might be remains of rocky planets that got swallowed up before the old stars died.  That’s a lot of speculation riding on a series of maybes.
    PhysOrg, by contrast, had pessimistic news for earth-like planet hunters today.  A study announced at the Royal Astronomical Society turns “planetary theory upside down” by showing that a significant fraction of extrasolar planets known as hot Jupiters orbit retrograde and at high inclinations.  Theoretically, planets should orbit prograde with low inclinations from the dust disks in which they formed.  How they got into their weird orbits is a huge puzzle.  Six out of 27 studied were going backwards.  The findings “challenge conventional wisdom” about planet formation.  They also dim prospects for earth-like planets, because large gas giants in such unusual orbits would most likely perturb small rocky planets from their habitable zones:

To account for the new retrograde exoplanets an alternative migration theory suggests that the proximity of hot Jupiters to their stars is not due to interactions with the dust disc at all, but to a slower evolution process involving a gravitational tug-of-war with more distant planetary or stellar companions over hundreds of millions of years.  After these disturbances have bounced a giant exoplanet into a tilted and elongated orbit it would suffer tidal friction, losing energy every time it swung close to the star.  It would eventually become parked in a near circular, but randomly tilted, orbit close to the star.  “A dramatic side-effect of this process is that it would wipe out any other smaller Earth-like planet in these systems,” says Didier Queloz of Geneva Observatory.
Only two of the six have a nearby companion that might qualify as perturbation sources.  The addition of gravitational influences complicates an already problematic theory of planet formation.  National Geographic has diagrams of the weird orbits of the newly-discovered planets.
These reports illustrate how little scientists know about planet formation, and how much speculation rides on flimsy data.
Next headline on:  Stars and AstronomySolar SystemPhysics
Venus May Be Hot with Active Volcanoes     04/13/2010    
April 13, 2010 — We already know Venus is hot from its suffocatingly dense atmosphere, but additional heat could be coming from underground.  Results from the European Space Agency’s Venus Express orbiter suggest that volcanoes have erupted any time between now and 2.5 million years ago, a “geologically recent” time compared to the assumed age of the planet (4.5 billion years).  The evidence consists of compositional differences on three lava flows that suggest they have not been exposed to weathering as long as others.
    PhysOrg and are among the news outlets reporting the findings.  All are mentioning the old conundrum about Venus’s young-looking surface.  “The geological history of Venus has long been a mystery,” Sue Smrekar at JPL remarked.  That’s because the paucity of large craters, and their apparent closeness in age, suggests that the whole planet was resurfaced relatively recently in the last 10% of its history.
    That scenario was challenged this month in a paper in Geology, however.1  Hansen and Lopez believe that a rich and complex history is revealed in features named ribbon tesserae terrain (RTT).  They believe the RTT are old and predate the global resurfacing (see summary on this GSA press release).  Since this idea runs contrary to what other geoscientists have been claiming about Venus since the days of the Magellan mission (1990-1993), we will have to wait and see whether their claim can withstand critical analysis.  On first glance it appears to be vulnerable to charges of special pleading that the oldest terrain somehow escaped catastrophic processes that admittedly smothered at least 80% of the surface.  The authors argue that the RTT formed during a distinct ancient epoch on Venus but that individual units, some covering millions of square kilometers, display temporal evolution that “records a rich and prolonged history that awaits discovery.”
1.  Hansen and Lopez, “Venus records a rich early history,” Geology, April 2010; v. 38; no. 4; p. 311-314; DOI: 10.1130/G30587.1.
There are numerous problems with standard explanations of Venus, and these add to the problems.  The fact that our “sister planet” is so different from Earth is the main one.  No plate tectonics, an extremely slow spin, a choking poisonous atmosphere, no large moon – the list was aggravated when Magellan led scientists to conclude that 90% of the planet’s history had been erased.  Hansen and Lopez are trying to rescue some of that history, but still need to explain what kind of mechanism would smother 80% of a globe the size of earth in what looks like a single event so late in its history.  Imagine something like that happening on Earth.  The energy required to support that kind of catastrophe is phenomenal.  Why did it slow down to a near stop, such that evidence for continuing activity has been difficult to detect?  For a planet smothered in lava it would be surprising not to find activity going on now.  Whatever the history, it is anything but uniformitarian.  There are many questions that deserve a fresh look by clear-thinking scientists not beholden to the moyboy* club.
*(millions of years, billions of years).
Next headline on:  Solar SystemGeologyDating Methods
Life, an Elegantly Simple Mistake     04/12/2010    
April 12, 2010 — The ribosome is a complex molecular machine made up of multiple protein and RNA parts.  Last year, winners of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry (see 10/10/2009) were praised for elucidating the structure and activity of ribosomes.  News stories described “the whole complicated process of transcription initiation, an operation that is of crucial importance in all organisms, because it determines which genes are expressed, and when.”  The process from gene to protein “must be carried out with great precision” and involves “the use of complicated assemblies made up of many different proteins, often referred to as molecular machines.”  (See also 09/03/2009 and the 08/24/2009 entry, “DNA Translator More Complicated Than Thought.”)
    Researchers at the Salk Institute, however, essentially said this week in a press release, Elementary, my dear Watson-Crick: as for the origin of life, “elegantly simple organizing principles seen in ribosomes.”  The press release explained, “Taking their hints from relics of this evolution left behind in modern cells, researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies concluded that after only two waves of ‘matching’ and some last minute fiddling, all 20 commonly used amino acids were firmly linked with their respective codons, setting the stage for the emergence of proteins with unique, defined sequences and properties.”  Their conclusions are being published by PNAS next week.
    If you are asking who did the linking, matching and fiddling, it was not a person, like an intelligent designer, in their thinking.  They spoke of their findings “shedding light on the origin and evolution of the genetic code.”  The number of ways evolution was personified in this short press release was astounding.  Like some goddess, “Evolution” seemed to be working toward personal goals all over the place:
  • ...two waves of ‘matching’ and some last minute fiddling...
  • “Although different algorithms, or codes, were likely tested during a long period of chemical evolution, the modern code proved so robust that, once it was established, it gave birth to the entire tree of life,” says the study’s lead author Lei Wang, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Chemical Biology and Proteomics Laboratory.
  • If chemical or physical interactions between amino acids and nucleotide indeed drove the formation of the genetic code, [David B. F.] Johnson reasoned, then he should be able to find relics of this mutual affinity in modern cells.
  • “Also, the ribosome emerged from an early evolutionary stage of life to help with the translation of the genetic code before the last universal common ancestor,” explains [Lei] Wang ...
  • “We now believe that the genetic code was established in two different stages,” says Johnson.
  • But once some primitive translational mechanism had been established, new amino acids were added to the mix and started infiltrating the genetic code based on specific amino acid/anticodon interactions.
  • “We found evidence that a few amino acids were reassigned to a different codon but once the code was in place it took over,” says Johnson.  “It might not have been the best possible solution but the only one that was viable at the time.”
The authors admitted to only one area where their work did not “shed light” –
Their data does not shed much light on the early code, consisting of prebiotically available amino acids—the kind generated in Stanley Miller’s famous “zap”-experiment.
“Zap experiment.”  Has kind of a Frankenstein ring to it, does it not?  PhysOrg echoed the whole press release without a double-take.
Here’s an entry parents can use to hone their precocious students’ baloney detecting skills.  It’s too easy for high schoolers, though.  Better put this in the file for junior high.  The whole article is like a primer on how not to reason scientifically.  Many of the classic fallacies are present: personification, of course, but also glittering generalities, loaded words (euphemism), card stacking, sidestepping, circular reasoning, non-sequitur, and much more.  Particularly noteworthy are the miracle phrases (emergence; gave birth to the entire tree of life) and personifications hidden in passive-voice verbs and subjunctive mood constructions (amino acids were firmly linked with their respective codons; the modern code proved so robust that, once it was established).  A simple exercise when seeing these phrases is to stop and ask, WHO linked it?  WHO proved it robust?  WHO established it?  It will be a profound educational revelation for a young student to realize there are actually irrational people in our scientific institutions saying dumb things.
    Don’t let evolutionists, who are supposed to believe evolution is mindless and directionless, get away with personification.  It is the besetting sin of the Darwin Party.  We need to turn out an army of baloney-detecting young people to arrest the logical drunks, even when they hark from prestigious organizations like the Salk Institute.  If they want to engage in Frankenscience, fine: just make them be consistent.  No guidance, no interference, no assuming what needs to be proved, no baloney.  Do the zap experiment the right way: turn the zapper on the sea water, walk away, and watch it, with hands off, like a good empiricist, for millions of years.  Anybody want to predict how many codes and ribosomes and translation mechanisms will “emerge” from the zap experiment?  Zip.
Next headline on:  Origin of LifeDarwin and EvolutionDumb Ideas
  Remember the “Gospel of Judas” flap of 2006?  We reported on it in the 04/09/2006 and 04/07/2006 entries (the day after the Fish-a-pod Tiktaalik flap, 04/06/2006).

Evolution as “Scientific Literacy” Dropped by NSB; Sets Off Firestorm     04/11/2010    
April 11, 2010 — Can you be called scientifically literate if you deny that humans evolved from lower animals?  What if you deny the universe began with an explosion?  American students have typically scored low on those questions, leading to charges that they are scientifically illiterate compared to other countries in Europe and Asia.  But now, the National Science Board (NSB) decided to drop those hot-button questions in the 2010 edition of Science and Engineering Indicators, a biennial compilation of the state of global science, on the grounds that they don’t accurately reflect students’ knowledge of science, but rather their beliefs.  The decision set off angry protests in certain quarters.
    Yudhijit Bhattacharjee reported on this issue in the April 9 issue of Science.1  He quoted Joshua Rosenau of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) calling it “intellectual malpractice” to discuss scientific literacy without mentioning evolution.  “It downplays the controversy,” he said.  Jon Miller, a science literacy researcher at Michigan State, conducted the survey until 2001.  As the one who added the survey question in the first place, he thinks the current board is making a big mistake.  “If a person says that the earth really is at the center of the universe, ... how in the world would you call that person scientifically literate?” he asked.  Bhattacharjee said, “those struggling to keep evolution in the classroom say the omission could hurt their efforts.”
    But the NSB defended its decision to drop the “value-charged” question on evolution as a misleading indicator:

NSB officials counter that their decision to drop the survey questions on evolution and the big bang from the 2010 edition was based on concerns about accuracy.  The questions were “flawed indicators of scientific knowledge because the responses conflated knowledge and beliefs,” says Louis Lanzerotti, an astrophysicist at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark and chair of the board’s Science and Engineering Indicators (SEI) committee.  John Bruer, a philosopher and president of the James McDonnell Foundation in St. Louis, Missouri, and the lead reviewer for the chapter, says he recommended removing the text and related material because the survey questions “seemed to be very blunt instruments, not designed to capture public understanding” of the two topics.
Bruer noted that 72% of Americans answered the question about humans evolving from earlier species correctly when the question was prefaced with the phrase, according to the theory of evolution.  This shows that the questions “reflect factors beyond unfamiliarity with basic elements of science.”  The controversy over Indicators thus boils down to the question whether a student needs to believe, rather than simply know, the facts of a theory to be considered scientifically literate.  Critics of the change, however, see the preface as biasing the answers students will give.
    Bhattacharjee ended by showing signs that the controversy over inclusion of evolution questions in Indicators will undoubtedly surface again in the next round.  Lanzerotti feels the board should have explained why the questions were dropped, while “Miller believes that removing the entire section was a clumsy attempt to hide a national embarrassment.”
1.  Yudhijit Bhattacharjee, “NSF Board Draws Flak for Dropping Evolution From Indicators,” Science, 9 April 2010: Vol. 328. no. 5975, pp. 150-151, DOI: 10.1126/science.328.5975.150.
Well, now, it sounds like the NCSE has flip-flopped on whether there is a controversy about evolution.  Their talking points used to say that “there is no controversy over evolution.  Any putative controversy is one concocted by creationists and the Discovery Institute.”  Now, NCSE rep Josh Rosenau got uptight about Indicators because “it downplays the controversy.”  What controversy?  The controversy over whether there is a controversy?  Does he think now we should teach the controversy?
    If students have to believe rather than understand a scientific theory, then science has become a religion.  According to the radical Darwinists, a scientist could have a PhD, earn international honors in science, publish hundreds of papers in peer-reviewed journals, and save millions of lives through his or her discoveries, and yet, if a Darwin doubter (roster), could be judged scientifically illiterate.  Do you want radicals like that influencing education policy?  Do you want them requiring recitation of a pledge of allegiance to Darwin?  Do you want them forcing science curricula to say that to understand science, you must believe that “nothing” banged and became everything by an unguided process?  The only “national embarrassment” is the ill-named National Center for Science Education itself.  Let’s call it what it is: the DODO Dogma Dictatorship.
Next headline on:  EducationDarwin and EvolutionCosmologyPolitics and EthicsBible and Theology
April 10, 2010 – Here’s a good book for parents who want to inspire their children to excel.  John Hudson Tiner has written a number of excellent biographies of scientists aimed at precocious students.  This time, we point out For Those Who Dare (Master Books, 2002).  In this handy-size book there are 101 brief biographies of “great Christians and how they changed the world.”  Each is just two or three pages, appealing to the young person on that rainy April day needing something to occupy time without overloading the attention span.
    Tiner’s characters cover all kinds of fields from actors to explorers to inventors, but there is a strong contingent of great scientists included – many featured here in Scientist of the Month.  Tiner keeps his facts straight while keeping the stories interesting.  Adults will enjoy this one as much as the students.  Find it at Master Books or search online for other booksellers.
Next resource of the week:  03/27/2010.  All resources: Catalog.

You Live in a Wormhole in a Black Hole     04/10/2010    
April 10, 2010 — Is it publish or perish time?  A physicist at Indiana University thinks that “our universe could have itself formed from inside a black hole existing inside another universe.”  Let Nikodem Paplowski explain his idea:

But he also notes that since observers can only see the outside of the black hole, the interior cannot be observed unless an observer enters or resides within.
    “This condition would be satisfied if our universe were the interior of a black hole existing in a bigger universe,” he said.  “Because Einstein’s general theory of relativity does not choose a time orientation, if a black hole can form from the gravitational collapse of matter through an event horizon in the future then the reverse process is also possible.  Such a process would describe an exploding white hole: matter emerging from an event horizon in the past, like the expanding universe.”
    A white hole is connected to a black hole by an Einstein-Rosen bridge (wormhole) and is hypothetically the time reversal of a black hole.  Poplawski’s paper1 suggests that all astrophysical black holes, not just Schwarzschild and Einstein-Rosen black holes, may have Einstein-Rosen bridges, each with a new universe inside that formed simultaneously with the black hole.
    “From that it follows that our universe could have itself formed from inside a black hole existing inside another universe,” he said.
Got that?  Find out more at the source: Indiana University news room.  Ker Than accepted all of this as wonderful science in National Geographic News.  “Like part of a cosmic Russian doll, our universe may be nested inside a black hole that is itself part of a larger universe,” he said, in a fact-free rhapsody of joyful speculation.  “In turn, all the black holes found so far in our universe—from the microscopic to the supermassive—may be doorways into alternate realities.”  By all means, then, we should investigate these realities with the scientific method.  He handed the mike to Poplawski, who gave the operative quote of the story: “It’s kind of a crazy idea, but who knows?”  Another cosmologist chimed in with, “Everything people ask in this business is pretty weird.”
1.  “Radial motion into an Einstein-Rosen bridge,” Physics Letters B, by Nikodem J. Poplawski. (Volume 687, Issues 2-3, 12 April 2010, Pages 110-113.)
Cosmologists have way too much time on their hands.  Imagine that; universes just emerge from black holes, and then cosmologists emerge to tell about it.  Instead of inhabiting theoretical universes, where angels can dance on the head of a pin, how about coming back to the one and only universe science could ever know about?  If academia wants to fund speculation like this in the name of science, just because the math works, then open up the playing field to those who can also find adequate causes in their white-hole cosmologies, like Humphreys.
Next headline on:  CosmologyPhysicsDumb Ideas
Blind Fish Lead the Blind     04/09/2010    
April 09, 2010 — Imagine miniature subs that can negotiate tight spaces or murky waters in the dark.  Meet Snookie: a device created by researchers at the University of Technology Munich, who took their inspiration from blind cave fish.
    The report on Live Science says that the blind Mexican cave fish Astyanax mexicanus is born with eyes that degenerate in adulthood, because eyes are of no use in the darkness of its cave habitat.  Instead, the fish has a heightened sensitivity along its lateral line – a sense organ running from gill to tail that contains “hundreds to thousands of fine sensory hairs located on the scales or in tiny ducts beneath the skin.”  Like the inner ear, the article says, the lateral line can pick up tiny variations in pressure and water flow that give it an exquisite sense of its surroundings.  An African frog uses its lateral line to distinguish between edible and inedible insects purely on the vibrations they set up in the water.
    So why not build a similar organ on robotic submarines?  That’s what the team at University of Technology Munich did.  Their “Snookie” swimming robot “can orient itself in murky waters with an artificial sensory organ inspired by the lateral line.”  It had to be small enough to get into tight places but large enough to hold all the electronics.  They found out that getting a sensory picture from pressure vibrations is harder than with light, but it’s good enough to report pressure changes less than one percent in a tenth of a second from obstacles and movements a hand’s breadth in front and on either side.
    Who would have thought that blind cave fish would inspire robots?  One day, Snookie’s descendents could inspect sewer lines, investigate shipwrecks, locate flight recorders, assist scuba divers, and much more.  They might even swim in swarms and explore environments with teamwork.  Undoubtedly their descendents will be products of intelligent design – not mutation and selection.
This fun and interesting story needs one clarification; the fish’s lateral line did not “emerge” by evolution as if stimulated from its dark cave environment.  It was already there, as it is in most fish and amphibians.  They have what they need; landlubbers have what they need – by design that we can study and imitate.
Next headline on:  Marine BiologyBiomimeticsIntelligent DesignAmazing Facts
  “Excellent role models” said scientists at Johns Hopkins University of – what? – cockroaches.  Find out why in the 04/13/2005 entry.

Another Fossil “Human Ancestor” Claimed     04/08/2010    
April 08, 2010 — Meet Australopithecus sediba – or is it Homo something?  Scientists are arguing over how to classify new fossils found in a cave at Malapa, South Africa.  Announced today in Science,1 the fossils, alleged to be just under 2 million years old, are producing a strange mixture of hopeful headlines and cautionary counsels from experts.
    As could be expected, headlines in the popular press tease their readers with tantalizing titillations: “Fossil Skeletons May Be Human Ancestor” wrote Charles Q. Choi for Live Science.  Ker Than wrote “‘Key’ Human Ancestor Found: Fossils Link Apes, First Humans?” for National Geographic.  And Jeff Hecht wrote “Almost human: closest australopithicine [sic] primate found” for New Scientist.  And anything that might please Darwin has to include the shedding-light motif: Science Daily’s long headline proclaimed, “New Hominid Shares Traits With Homo Species: Fossil Find Sheds Light on the Transition to Homo Genus from Earlier Hominids.”  True to tradition, PhysOrg dutifully paraded the iconic image of the march of progress from ape to man, complete with racist skin colors and sexist depictions of naked males only, their right legs or arms artfully concealing their private parts.  It’s not quite clear why most of these charts leave the highest man beardless, unless the chart is Lamarckian, in which case a spare tire should also be evident.
    Yet a closer look at the articles reveals a great deal of doubt about many aspects of the story.

  • Taxonomy: Experts disagreed strongly on whether these specimens should be classified within Australopithecus or Homo.  If it had been classified within Homo, it would have represented a dead-end lineage of no consequence to human evolution.  There appears to have been a strong controversy between the discoverers and other experts about which taxon to use.
  • Traits: The skeletons appear to have a mosaic of traits: long limbs and small brain capacity, but indications of upright posture and human-like teeth.
  • Provenance: Experts disagreed whether the bones were buried together, or fell through to other levels after burial.
  • Dating: The dating depends on the provenance, yet was measured with U-Pb dating of materials below the bones.  Assigning a date is critical to how evolutionists perceive the specimen’s relationship to human ancestry.
  • Hope: No one is claiming these fossils clarify a human evolution story.  Hopes that it might are put in future tense: “This new Australopithecus sediba species might eventually clear up that debate, and help to reveal our direct human ancestors.”
  • Credibility: Lee Berger, the lead author of the paper, has been involved in sharp controversies with other paleoanthropologists about which hominids represent human ancestors.  Michael Balter wrote for Science,2Some of Berger’s other past claims have sparked strong criticism, including a highly publicized 2008 report of small-bodied humans on Palau, which Berger thought might shed light on the tiny hobbits of Indonesia.  But other researchers say the Palau bones belong to a normal-sized modern human population.”  Berger gave this new fossil a suggestive name: sediba is local lingo for “wellspring” – as if his discovery can garner significance merely by naming it that way.
  • Candidacy: Michael Balter’s headline in Science accompanying the paper is more guarded than the popular press: “Candidate Human Ancestor From South Africa Sparks Praise and Debate.”
  • Dispute: Balter quoted Tim White’s opinion: “Given its late age and Australopithecus-grade anatomy, it contributes little to the understanding of the origin of genus Homo.”
  • Burial: The authors’ hypothesis about how the bones were buried contains many ad-hoc elements (see below).
  • Sequence: Balter considered the opinion of Chris Stringer of the London Natural History Museum: in summary, “At no earlier than 2 million years old, A. sediba is younger than Homo-looking fossils elsewhere in Africa, such as an upper jaw from Ethiopia and a lower jaw from Malawi, both dated to about 2.3 million years ago.”
  • Deflation: Even Lee Berger, the discoverer, made this admission: “Berger and his co-workers agree that the Malapa fossils themselves cannot be Homo ancestors but suggest that A. sediba could have arisen somewhat earlier, with the Malapa hominins being late-surviving members of the species.”
  • Meaning: All Balter could say in conclusion is confusion: “However they are classified, the Malapa finds ’are important specimens in the conversation’ about the origins of our genus, says [Susan] Antón [New York U], and ‘will have to be considered in the solution.’”  The statement implies that the conversations do not include solutions – only questions.
A second paper accompanying the discovery announcement considered the geological context of the fossils.3  It defends a hypothesis that the skeletons were buried in a debris flow into the cave before scavengers could harm them.  Others, however, are not so sure: “Geochemist Henry Schwarcz of McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, notes that the team suggests that the hominin bodies might have been moved by river flows after they fell into the cave from holes in the earth above,” explained Michael Balter.  “If so, the fossils may not be tightly associated with the dated deposits below and above them.”  Dirks et al dispute that, calling attention to the fact that “the bones were partly articulated with each other, implying that they were buried soon after death.”  A lot of interpretation depends, however, on the dating of the sediments above and below the bones.  The paper’s hypothesis includes many ad-hoc elements: carnivores were attracted to vertical shafts where prey animals had fallen to their deaths: “These factors could have operated to accumulate a diverse assemblage of carcasses in the chamber below, away from carnivore activity,” the authors speculated.  “The sediments imply that subsequent high-volume water inflow, perhaps the result of a large storm, caused a debris flow that carried the still partially articulated bodies deeper into the cave, to deposit them along a subterranean stream.”  It would seem this complex sequence of happenstance occurrences would obfuscate any conclusions about dating.
Update 04/09/2010: True to tradition, the counter-claims quickly ensued.  “Please, please, not again,” moaned Carl Zimmer in Slate, recalling the hype about Ida last year (05/19/2009, 03/03/2010).  Zimmer accepts evolution but denies (with Berger) that the term “missing link” have any validity.  As for this fossil, “None of the experts I spoke to this week were ready to accept Berger’s hypothesis about A. sediba’s special place in the hominin tree,” he said.  “It might actually belong to a different branch of hominin evolution.  It may have evolved its Homo-like traits independently of our own ancestors.”  It would seem its ability to illuminate much of anything about human history is dubious.  Zimmer quoted Daniel Lieberman of Harvard admitting, “The origins of the genus Homo remain as murky as ever.”
    Meanwhile, Nature News weighed in on the significance (or lack of it) of this fossil.  “Claim over 'human ancestor' sparks furore,” headlined Michael Cherry: “the researchers’ suggestion that the fossils represent a transitional species in human evolution, sitting between Australopithecus and Homo species, has been criticized by other researchers as overstated.”  Quotes from Tim White (UC Berkeley) were especially harsh.  He said the Berger team’s claim that these skeletons had anything to do with the rise of Homo is “fossil-free speculation” adding with Ida overtones, “the obsession with Homo in their title and text is difficult to understand outside of a media context.”  Another said the bones could represent nothing more than variation within other known species.  Another noted that the earliest Homo skeleton predates this find by half a million years.  Berger countered that the earlier fossils are less complete.  A supporter of Berger’s classification may have taken more than he gave when he said, “The Malapa specimens will rekindle the debate about the validity of the taxon Homo habilis, and will make us look more carefully at the variability of Australopithecus africanus and her sister species.”  (For info on Homo habilis, see 08/09/2007, 05/27/2009, and 09/21/2009).  Cherry ended his article with doubt: “the latest finds raise important questions about the ancestry of humans.”  That statement raises the possibility that Berger’s fossil is a step backwards in understanding.  For difficulties with the Homo classification, see the 05/27/2009 entry.
1.  Berger et al, “Australopithecus sediba: A New Species of Homo-Like Australopith from South Africa,” Science, 9 April 2010: Vol. 328. no. 5975, pp. 195-204, DOI: 10.1126/science.1184944.
2.  Michael Balter, “Candidate Human Ancestor From South Africa Sparks Praise and Debate,” Science, 9 April 2010: Vol. 328. no. 5975, pp. 154-155, DOI: 10.1126/science.328.5975.154.
3.  Dirks et al, “Geological Setting and Age of Australopithecus sediba from Southern Africa,” Science, 9 April 2010: Vol. 328. no. 5975, pp. 205-208, DOI: 10.1126/science.1184950.
If the storytellers cannot agree on their own story, why should the audience judge the performance a history class rather than a comedy?  The bones are real; the interpretations are highly questionable and fallible.  Most likely this is another extinct ape out of many extinct apes that lived not so long ago.  Wishful-thinking Darwinian paleoanthropologists are eager to divine human attributes in whatever bones they find.  They fight and squabble over where the bones fit into their mental picture of how philosophers emerged from screeching monkeys in the trees.  Pay them no mind; we’ve seen this comedy show so many times before, and we know the eventual outcome.  Someone else will appear on stage with a new bone and announce, “Everything you know is wrong.” (02/23/2001, 02/19/2004).
Next headline on:  Early ManFossilsDarwin and EvolutionDating Methods
Leapin’ Lizards: Giant Lizard Discovered     04/07/2010    
April 07, 2010 — A large species of lizard unknown to science has been discovered alive and well in the Philippines.  The BBC News has a picture of the monster, a class of monitor lizard, that measures 2 meters from snout to tail.  That makes it about 2/3 the size of its famous cousin from Java, the Komodo Dragon.  The new lizard, Varanus bitatawa, sports bright blue, green and yellow skin.  Footnote: the fearsome-looking creature eats fruit.
    See also the National Geographic story for more information and pictures.  It ends with the tantalizing possibility that additional species may be out there, waiting to be found.
Update 04/27/2010: Live Science reported the discovery of another monitor lizard, Varus obor, in Indonesia.  This species, nicknamed the Torch monitor, is 1.2 meters long, has a black body and bright orange head.  In contrast to the fruit-eating one found in the Philippines, this one lives on small animals and carrion.
Some lessons from this story: (1) There may be more large animals around our globe that remain to be discovered.  (2) You can’t always tell the diet or behavior of an animal by appearance alone.  How much more so when dealing with fossils?  Other monitor lizards, like the Komodo dragon, eat pigs, and sometimes people.  (3) What is unknown to science is not necessarily unknown to humanity.  The local tribespeople knew all about Varanus bitatawa; they hunted it for meat.  So get famous; go find that missing supersaurus that is lurking in the jungles of some tropical isle.
Next headline on:  Terrestrial ZoologyAmazing Facts
Smelling Evolution in Bird Genes     04/07/2010    
April 07, 2010 — The zebra finch genome has been sequenced; it revealed some surprises.  In the chicken, only 70 of the 500 genes encoding smell receptors produce active proteins.  In the zebra finch, 200 do.  What does this mean?  According to a press release from Weizmann Wonder Wander at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, Israel, it means Darwin has been at work in strange ways:
A comparison of the zebra finch genome to those of other bird species sheds some light on how this sense evolved in the birds: Unlike mammals, in which all the different species share most of their smell receptor gene families, 95% of the receptors in the finches appeared to belong to families unique to them.  In other words, it is possible that each bird species evolved its own array of smell receptors separately, rather than using ones passed down from a common ancestor.
If this idea is true, evolution is apparently capable of focusing hundreds of finely-tuned mutations toward a goal – and not only that, but tailoring the results individually to every species of bird.
Statements like this make you wonder where the Weizmann Wonder Wander scientists have been wandering.  If they were really wise men, they would wonder about the history of their land as they wonder (reference) instead of wandering into a bar.
    Darwin is the new Baal in the land of the Philistines, and Darwinists are the new wizards of the sacred art of divination called genoscopy.  They can see what normal people would never dream of seeing: miracles of chance that shed light on evolution – the grand myth wherein living beings emerged from the void.  Chant along with them the Invocation to Darwin-Baal:
Owa, tuffu, lyam
Owa, tuffu, lyam
Great Darwin, shed the light!
Owa, tuffu, lyam.
A mortal idol can’t shed what he doesn’t have (reference).
Next headline on:  BirdsGeneticsDarwin and EvolutionDumb Ideas
  “Fake Darwinism Created by Intelligent Design.”  Find out what that paradoxical headline means in the 04/13/2004 entry.

Early City Uncovered in Syria     04/06/2010    
April 06, 2010 — A complex, stratified society with industry appears to have burst on the scene 4000 to 6000 years ago in northern Syria.  Science Daily reported, “The mound of Tell Zeidan in the Euphrates River Valley near Raqqa, Syria, which had not been built upon or excavated for 6,000 years, is revealing a society rich in trade, copper metallurgy and pottery production.”  They believe the site predates the invention of the wheel, but it shows remarkable complexity, with copper and obsidian production, the use of official seals, and hints of ideology, symbolic communication, and commerce across a broad region.
    According to Gil Stein, the director of the Oriental Institute excavating the site, “This enigmatic period saw the first development of widespread irrigation, agriculture, centralized temples, powerful political leaders and the first emergence of social inequality as communities became divided into wealthy elites and poorer commoners.”
    The article says, “Tell Zeidan dates from between 6000 and 4000 B.C., and immediately preceded the world’s first urban civilizations in the ancient Middle East.  It is one of the largest sites of the Ubaid culture in northern Mesopotamia.”

Why is this called an enigmatic period?  It’s not enigmatic at all if you understand the Table of Nations and Biblical chronology after Babel.  People with complex culture and intelligence spread out and built cities rapidly – and the first were in the fertile crescent, just like this one.  Given how quickly we know humans can migrate, it’s no wonder that other societies sprung up far and wide soon after.  And how do they know these intelligent people did not have wheels?  Maybe they just didn’t find any yet.  Undoubtedly they are not expecting such early people to be that intelligent.
    Evolutionists, by contrast, have a real challenge on their hands.  Civilization just burst on the scene only a few thousands years ago (the dating gets a little questionable back that far).  Yet they tell us that anatomically modern human beings, with fully developed brains and hands and upright posture and evidence of symbolic understanding and social behavior, the ability to organize their habitats, decorate themselves, cook with fire and even play music, lived a million to two million years before the first cities appeared.  Some of them even migrated all the way to Asia.  All they did was hunt and gather and hide out in caves for a time interval orders of magnitude more than all known human history, then bang!  Someone got the idea to plant seeds, and presto! instant cities appeared with irrigation, commerce, metallurgy and stratified society.  If that story makes any sense to you, you’re smoking a controlled substance.  The Bible’s history fits the facts of archaeology – just as the continuing evidence shows.  Breathe in some fresh air and evaluate the sober explanation.
Next headline on:  Early ManBible and Theology
Human Genome “Infinitely More Complex” Than Expected     04/05/2010    
April 05, 2010 — Ten years after the Human Genome Project was completed, now we know: biology is “orders of magnitude” more complicated than scientists expected.  So wrote Erika Check Hayden in Nature News March 31 and in the April 1 issue of Nature.1
    An air of daunting complexity haunts the article.  The Human Genome Project was one of the great scientific investigations of the end of the 20th century.  Some compared it to the Manhattan Project or the Apollo program.  It used to be tedious, painstaking work to read the sequence of DNA letters.  Now, deciphering genomes is a matter of course.  But with the rush of data coming from genomes of everything from yeast to Neanderthals, one thing has become clear: “as sequencing and other new technologies spew forth data, the complexity of biology has seemed to grow by orders of magnitude,” Hayden wrote.
    A few things were surprisingly simple.  Geneticists expected to find 100,000 genes in the human genome; the count is more like 21,000.  But with them came a huge surprise in the accessory molecules – transcription factors, small RNAs, regulators – all arranged in dynamic interacting networks that boggle the mind.  Hayden compared them to the Mandelbrot set in fractal geometry that unveils deeper levels of complexity the closer you look. 
“When we started out, the idea was that signalling pathways were fairly simple and linear,” says Tony Pawson, a cell biologist at the University of Toronto in Ontario.  “Now, we appreciate that the signalling information in cells is organized through networks of information rather than simple discrete pathways.  It’s infinitely more complex.
Hayden acknowledged that the “junk DNA” paradigm has been blown to smithereens.  “Just one decade of post-genome biology has exploded that view,” she said, speaking of the notion that gene regulation was a straightforward, linear process – genes coding for regulator proteins that control transcription.  “Biology’s new glimpse at a universe of non-coding DNA – what used to be called ‘junk’ DNA – has been fascinating and befuddling.”  If it’s junk, why would the human body decode 74% to 93% of it?  The plethora of small RNAs produced by these non-coding regions, and how they interact with each other and with DNA, was completely unexpected when the project began.
    These realizations are dissipating some of the early naďveté of the Human Genome Project.  Planners predicted we would “unravel the mysteries behind everything from evolution to disease origins.”  Cures for cancer were envisioned.  We would trace the path of evolution through the genetic code.  That was so 1990s.  Joshua Plotkin, a mathematical biologist at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, said, “Just the sheer existence of these exotic regulators suggests that our understanding about the most basic things – such as how a cell turns on and off – is incredibly naďve.”  Leonid Kruglyak, a geneticist at Princeton University in New Jersey, commented on the premature feeling that the data would speak for itself: “There is a certain amount of naivety to the idea that for any process – be it biology or weather prediction or anything else – you can simply take very large amounts of data and run a data-mining program and understand what is going on in a generic way.”
    Some are still looking for simple patterns in the complexity.  Top-down approaches try to build models where the data points fall into place:
A new discipline – systems biology – was supposed to help scientists make sense of the complexity.  The hope was that by cataloguing all the interactions in the p53 network, or in a cell, or between a group of cells, then plugging them into a computational model, biologists would glean insights about how biological systems behaved.
    In the heady post-genome years, systems biologists started a long list of projects built on this strategy, attempting to model pieces of biology such as the yeast cell, E. coli, the liver and even the ‘virtual human’.  So far, all these attempts have run up against the same roadblock: there is no way to gather all the relevant data about each interaction included in the model.
The p53 network she spoke of is a good example of unexpected complexity.  Discovered in 1979, the p53 protein was first thought to be a cancer promoter, then a cancer suppressor.  “Few proteins have been studied more than p53,” she said.  “...Yet the p53 story has turned out to be immensely more complex than it seemed at first.”  She gave some details:
Researchers now know that p53 binds to thousands of sites in DNA, and some of these sites are thousands of base pairs away from any genes.  It influences cell growth, death and structure and DNA repair.  It also binds to numerous other proteins, which can modify its activity, and these protein–protein interactions can be tuned by the addition of chemical modifiers, such as phosphates and methyl groups.  Through a process known as alternative splicing, p53 can take nine different forms, each of which has its own activities and chemical modifiers.  Biologists are now realizing that p53 is also involved in processes beyond cancer, such as fertility and very early embryonic development.  In fact, it seems wilfully [sic] ignorant to try to understand p53 on its own.  Instead, biologists have shifted to studying the p53 network, as depicted in cartoons containing boxes, circles and arrows meant to symbolize its maze of interactions.
Network theory is now a new paradigm that has replaced the one-way linear diagram of gene to RNA to protein.  That used to be called the “Central Dogma” of genetics.  Now, everything is seen to be dynamic, with promoters and blockers and interactomes, feedback loops, feed-forward processes, and “bafflingly complex signal-transduction pathways.”  “The p53 story is just one example of how biologists’ understanding has been reshaped, thanks to genomic-era technologies,” Hayden said.  “....That has expanded the universe of known protein interactions – and has dismantled old ideas about signalling ‘pathways’, in which proteins such as p53 would trigger a defined set of downstream consequences.”
    Biologists made a common mistake of assuming that more data would bring more understanding.  Some continue to work from the bottom up, believing that there is an underlying simplicity that will come to light eventually.  “It’s people who complicate things,” remarked one Berkeley researcher.  But one scientist who predicted the yeast genome and its interactions would be solved by 2007 has had to put off his target date for a few decades.  It’s clear that our understanding remains very rudimentary.  Hayden said in conclusion, “the beautiful patterns of biology’s Mandelbrot-like intricacy show few signs of resolving.”
    There’s a bright side to the unfolding complexity.  Mina Bissell, a cancer researcher at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, confesses she was “driven to despair by predictions that all the mysteries would be solved” by the Human Genome Project.  “Famous people would get up and say, ‘We will understand everything after this’,” Hayden quoted her saying.  But it turned out for good, in a way: “Biology is complex, and that is part of its beauty.
1.  Erika Check Hayden, “Human genome at ten: Life is complicated,” Nature 464, 664-667 (April 1, 2010) | doi:10.1038/464664a.
Who predicted the complexity: the Darwinians or the intelligent design proponents?  You already know the answer.  The Darwinians have been wrong on this matter time and time again.  The origin of life would be simple (the Warm Little Pond of Darwin’s dreams).  Protoplasm would be simple.  Proteins would be simple.  Genetics would be simple (remember Darwin’s pangenes?).  The carrier of genetic information would be simple.  DNA transcription would be simple (the Central Dogma).  The origin of the genetic code would be simple (the RNA World, or Crick’s “frozen accident.”).  Comparative genomics would be simple, and we would be able to trace the evolution of life in the genes.  Life would be littered with the trash of mutations and natural selection (vestigial organs, junk DNA).  Simple, simple, simple.
Next headline on:  GeneticsHuman BodyDarwin and EvolutionIntelligent Design
The Earth Should Have Frozen     04/03/2010    
April 03, 2010 — According to stellar evolution theory, the earth should have frozen solid four billion years ago, because the young sun could not have put out the heat it does in its middle age.  Called the “faint young sun paradox,” this problem has puzzled scientists for decades.  A new study has failed to solved the puzzle.
    Science Now described work by a team at the University of Copenhagen.  They studied minerals in rocks in Greenland thought to be 3.8 billion years old – among the oldest claimed on Earth – for hints of carbon dioxide levels:
Too much CO2, and magnetite can’t form, whereas the opposite is true for siderite.  Based on the ratio of the minerals, the team reports in tomorrow’s issue of Nature1 that CO2 levels during the Archean could have been no higher than about 1000 parts per million—about three times the current level of 387 ppm and not high enough to compensate for the weak sun.
These “very surprising” results were no comfort to theorists who had hoped that Earth could have avoided a big freeze via greenhouse gases.  Now they are toying with other ideas: less land and bigger oceans, which might have allowed water to absorb more warmth; or early life that reduced the kinds of atmospheric gases that help clouds form, allowing more sunlight to reach the surface.  Their favorite suggestion was that Earth’s albedo (reflectivity) was lower back then, eliminating the need for greenhouse gases to compensate.  Isn’t it amazing, though, how the albedo’s changes were tuned to the sun’s output to keep the temperature stable?
The Earth’s surface environment over the approximately 4 billion years (Gyr) recorded in geologic formations appears to have been maintained within a relatively narrow range in which liquid water was stable.  This is surprising because the factors that determine surface temperature have evolved owing to temporal variations of the Sun’s irradiance, the Earth’s albedo and cloud cover, and concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases over geologic time.  It is not readily apparent to what extent this apparent thermostasis can be attributed to physico-chemical feedback mechanisms, metabolic interventions from living organisms, or combinations of unrelated secular changes.

The paper by Rosing et al boasted that there is “No climate paradox under the faint early Sun,” but then admitted to quite a few other uncertainties:
  • There is little consensus on when the first continents emerged, or the rate of growth since continental nucleation.
  • There is no simple relationship between the mass of continental material extracted from the mantle and the surface area of exposed land....
  • We have chosen to use the present-day area/volume relationship (Fig. 2a), which probably overestimates the continental area, and in consequence, the albedo for the early Earth.
  • Because the timing and rate of growth of the Earth’s continents is a matter of debate, we have included a scenario in which the surface area occupied by continents is constant over geologic time as one end-member in our model (see Methods).
In other words, the temperature compensation works if one makes many ad hoc, arbitrary assumptions about factors or combinations of factors nobody knows anything about.
    Others think there is still a need for some greenhouse-induced global warming back then; “Temperatures during the Archean were at least as high as they are today, despite the weaker sun,” claimed James Kasting [Penn State], according to the Science Now article.  Rosing shrugged his shoulders and said, “I think that our paper is just one link in a long chain of further refinements of our understanding of the early Earth and of the dynamics of our planet” – a lot of words meaning clueless. 
1.  Rosing, Bird, Sleep, Bjerrum, “No climate paradox under the faint early Sun,” Nature 464, 744-747 (1 April 2010) | doi:10.1038/nature08955.
Evolutionary scientists can be such braggarts.  They say they know this, and they know that, but you look at their assumptions and methods, and there is no basis for confidence about any of it.  The only thing that is rock solid in their mushy opinions is unwavering allegiance to Darwin and the billions of years he needed.  Even when it causes insurmountable challenges from other branches of investigation, like stellar evolution, they just chalk it up to future work – a “long chain of further refinements of our understanding.”  Did you see much “understanding” in these articles?  How about letting some others exhibit their understanding without the requirement of allegiance to Darwin.  Look, to have a chain of understanding, you’ve got to have some links – solid links.  A chain of spaghetti-O's won’t hold much.  This primordial spaghetti-O chain of reasoning needs to be fortified with iron.  It’s so insipid, it’s enough to make a young son faint. 
Next headline on:  GeologyDating MethodsSolar System
  One reader said the mock courtroom drama in our 04/15/2003 commentary made his day.

Snakes Alive!  An Evolutionary Tale     04/03/2010    
April 03, 2010 — Blind snakes that look like worms: they rule the world.  They’re everywhere.  Where did they come from?  “Blindsnakes are not very pretty, are rarely noticed, and are often mistaken for earthworms,” admits Blair Hedges, professor of biology at Penn State University.  “Nonetheless, they tell a very interesting evolutionary story.”  So reported Science DailyNational Geographic News said, “New Blind Snakes Found; Help Explain World Domination.”  But what kind of explanation is this?  Since they are found on Madagascar and on every continent, “the snakes went rafting.”  There’s a cartoon in there somewhere.
    The articles reveal a puzzle and a preposterous theory.  The blind snake family arose after India and Madagascar split.  Then they showed up on Australia – an island continent with no land bridge at time of their alleged arrival.  “How did the snakes cross continents?” NG asked.  Good question.  Like worms (but with backbones and rudimentary scales and poor eyesight), these strange snakes burrow underground, and are found on every continent.  Continental drift can’t be the answer.  We don’t have any fossils of them.  How did they emerge all over the globe, including South America and the Caribbean islands?
    Here is Nat Geo’s answer.  Give it your best baloney detecting analysis:

In other words, the snakes went rafting, crossing oceans aboard floating vegetation stocked with their insect prey.
    “Some scientists have argued that oceanic dispersal is an unlikely way for burrowing organisms to become distributed around the world,” Hedges said in a statement.
    “Our data now reinforce the message that such ‘unlikely’ events nonetheless happened in evolutionary history.
Science Daily elaborated on how evolutionists came to this conclusion.  Since fossils are nonexistent for these animals, their history was inferred from genetics.  “Floating across oceans seems an unlikely mechanism for a burrowing animal to spread to new continents,” Science Daily admitted, but then proposed that it happened more than once.  If the snakes could have lived six months on vegetation rafts stocked with their insect prey, maybe, just maybe, it could have happened.  After all, in evolutionary theory, stuff happens.
Welcome to modern evolutionary science, where the story’s the thing.  The more preposterous, the better.  These same people will refuse to hear (or even acknowledge) theories by Biblical creationists about how animals became distributed after the Flood.  If “unlikely events nonetheless happened in... history” is an acceptable explanation, we need a level playing field.
Next headline on:  Terrestrial ZoologyGeologyDarwin and Evolution
Is the Internet Age Redefining Science?     04/02/2010    
April 02, 2010 — To a middle school student, science is a clear category; it’s a subject you take, along with history, language, or P.E.  You have a science teacher; you read a science textbook.  You learn about the scientific method.  In the real world, though, categories are not always so clearly delineated.  In fact, the leading science journal, Nature, seems to be asking some fundamental questions about the methods and materials of its very reason for being.
    This week, Nature presented a debate between two cancer researchers on whether scientific research should proceed “hypothesis first” or “data first.”  The controversy has arisen, in part, by the technology available.  Large-scale genomic surveys are now possible, and funds are being focused away from traditional methods toward obtaining vast databases of genetic information.  Robert Weinberg is alarmed at the trend; he argued that mere data collection without understanding is pointless and that the funding shifts are discouraging small research projects from which major insights have been traditionally been made.1  Todd Golub argued that patterns in complex phenomena become apparent only when there is sufficient data available.2  It takes a lot of data to separate signal from noise; therefore data collection is essential before new hypotheses can be generated.  The interesting thing about these articles is not who won the debate, but that a question so basic about the scientific method needs to be asked nearly 400 years after Francis Bacon.  To what extent is the question a consequence of the sheer volume of data that can be accumulated and stored?  The scientific method was devised when data was written with a quill on parchment.
    Peer review is another focal point of dispute.  Last week, Nature applauded a British research council that is cracking down on the practice of flooding review agencies with grant applications.3  Because the odds of winning a grant are low, “low success rates lead researchers to submit more applications in the hope of securing at least some funding, overburdening peer reviewers,” the editors explained.  “The system ends up rewarding safe, short-term research proposals that meet everyone’s approval, at the cost of the innovative suggestions it should be supporting.”  The council now says that if you don’t secure funding, you are limited to one application the following year.  They feel the council’s new “‘blacklisting’ rule is a radical, unpopular but courageous effort to address a crisis in the peer-review system.”  But will the cure be worse than the disease?
The consequences of the revised policy are uncertain.  Thanks to other peer-review changes, applications have already been cut by about a third since last year, and success rates are up.  But the new policy’s threat of exclusion may further discourage adventurous funding bids.  The EPSRC also runs the risk of alienating its community, making it harder to find peer reviewers – who are in increasingly scarce supply.
The rule has already generated inequities and complaints.  Nature still thinks it was a good move that requires fine-tuning.  No one is sure at this point what will happen.  Could luck play a role in who gets in the game?  “Other scientists have worried that an application is marked ‘unsuccessful’ if it falls below the halfway point on a list of proposals ranked by panels of peer reviewers — a criterion that not only seems arbitrary, but also risks taking out good researchers who are simply unlucky.”  Imagine if the loser in this process had been a young new Isaac Newton.  The editors left it open if the council’s “gutsy gamble” will work, and noted that other councils are watching what happens.
    Letters to the editor are often interesting to read.  Three biologists from three widely respected scientific institutions wrote Nature last week in a huff, challenging the editors’ definition of science.  As a follow-up to the Human Genome Project, now 10 years old, Nature’s editors had written that it is “Time for the epigenome” project.4  The three scientists were “astonished” at that editorial,5 claiming that it seemed to “disregard principles of gene regulation and of evolutionary and developmental biology that have been established during the past 50 years.”  Their complaint was not just about disagreements on traditional practices, but about Nature’s acceptance of the idea that the epigenome has a “scientific basis” at all.  Undoubtedly the editors would take umbrage at challenges to their ability to judge what constitutes science.
    The internet age is shifting the dynamics of scientific practice.  However comfortable the world was with the peer-reviewed publishing paradigm, times have changed.  Instant internet access is democratizing science in many ways.  Nature has read the tea leaves and is adjusting.  In a dramatic move, Nature’s editors are opening up their once-impregnable editorial fortress and letting the peasants in.  “Nature’s new online commenting facility opens up the entire magazine for discussion,” the Editorial announced this week.6  They have some concerns about signal to noise; comments will be vetted and monitored to weed out libel, obscenity or unjustified accusations – but not trivia.  They will review their approach after a few months.  Nevertheless, the popularity of internet blogs has not been lost on Nature and they are seeing the value of interesting and lively dialogue.  It appears from the comments to this editorial that many think it’s a great idea.
    Perhaps the best way to evaluate good science is with some form of measurement.  Alas, another paper in Nature pointed out serious failings in that regard.  In an Opinion piece last week,7 Julia Lane proposed, “Let’s make science metrics more scientific.”  She wasn’t discussing better ohmmeters or ammeters – the subtitle explained, “To capture the essence of good science, stakeholders must combine forces to create an open, sound and consistent system for measuring all the activities that make up academic productivity, says Julia Lane”  She described the problem in stark reality:
Measuring and assessing academic performance is now a fact of scientific life.  Decisions ranging from tenure to the ranking and funding of universities depend on metrics.  Yet current systems of measurement are inadequate.  Widely used metrics, from the newly-fashionable Hirsch index to the 50-year-old citation index, are of limited use.  Their well-known flaws include favouring older researchers, capturing few aspects of scientists’ jobs and lumping together verified and discredited science.  Many funding agencies use these metrics to evaluate institutional performance, compounding the problems.  Existing metrics do not capture the full range of activities that support and transmit scientific ideas, which can be as varied as mentoring, blogging or creating industrial prototypes.
    The dangers of poor metrics are well known – and science should learn lessons from the experiences of other fields, such as business.  The management literature is rich in sad examples of rewards tied to ill-conceived measures, resulting in perverse outcomes.  When the Heinz food company rewarded employees for divisional earnings increases, for instance, managers played the system by manipulating the timing of shipments and pre-payments.  Similarly, narrow or biased measures of scientific achievement can lead to narrow and biased science.
Whether Lane’s suggestions will solve these is another question.  The fact that she opened them up for discussion in Nature should be enough to raise eyebrows among those who think of science as an unbiased enterprise.  Lane’s paper did more to elaborate on the problems than to solve them.  Moreover, her solutions sound like an internet-age Web 3.0 pipe dream:
How can we best bring all this theory and practice together?  An international data platform supported by funding agencies could include a virtual ‘collaboratory’, in which ideas and potential solutions can be posited and discussed.  This would bring social scientists together with working natural scientists to develop metrics and test their validity through wikis, blogs and discussion groups, thus building a community of practice.  Such a discussion should be open to all ideas and theories and not restricted to traditional bibliometric approaches.
Something “should” be done, she ended: “Some fifty years after the first quantitative attempts at citation indexing, it should be feasible to create more reliable, more transparent and more flexible metrics of scientific performance.”  She claimed “The foundations have been laid” but it’s evident that little is being done yet.  That means all the problems she listed are today’s risks and realities.  Someday, over the rainbow, “Far-sighted action can ensure that metrics goes beyond identifying ‘star’ researchers, nations or ideas, to capturing the essence of what it means to be a good scientist.”
    It’s clear that science is evolving, as it always has.  But what is it evolving from, and what is it evolving toward?  If science itself is not stable, has it ever been – or will it ever be – a reliable method of gaining understanding?8 
1.  Robert Weinberg, “Point: Hypotheses first,” Nature 464, 678 (1 April 2010) | doi:10.1038/464678a; Published online 31 March 2010.
2.  Todd Golub, “Counterpoint: Data first,” Nature 464, 679 (1 April 2010) | doi:10.1038/464679a; Published online 31 March 2010.
3.  Editorial, “Tough love,” Nature 464, 465 (25 March 2010) | doi:10.1038/464465a; Published online 24 March 2010.
4.  Editorial, “Time for the epigenome,” Nature 463, 587 (4 February 2010) | doi:10.1038/463587a; Published online 3 February 2010.
5.  Ptashne, Hobert and Davidson, “Questions over the scientific basis of epigenome project,” Nature 464, 487 (25 March 2010) | doi:10.1038/464487c.
6.  Editorial, “Content rules,” Nature 464, 466 (25 March 2010) | doi:10.1038/464466a; Published online 24 March 2010.
7.  Julia Lane, “Let’s make science metrics more scientific,” Nature 464, 488-489 (25 March 2010) | doi:10.1038/464488a; Published online 24 March 2010.
8.  “Understanding” is not the same thing as explanation, prediction, and control.  Scientific theories can provide those things and still be wrong or lacking in understanding of reality.  See the 3/17/2010 commentary.
Science is mediated through fallible human beings.  It is not “out there” in the world, to be retrieved in some unbiased way.  Human beings have to figure out not only what nature is showing us – they have to figure out what nature is, and what science is.  At every step there are decisions to be made by creatures who don’t know everything and who weren’t there at the beginning.  We must divest our minds of the notion that science is an unbiased method that obtains incontrovertible truth.  That is certainly not the case to an evolutionist.  If blind processes produced human beings, we have no necessary or certain access to external reality.  Some philosophers have tried to defend “evolutionary epistemology” – a notion that if evolution had not put us in touch with reality, we would not have survived.  That’s a self-referential fallacy that assumes reality is real and that evolution is capable of addressing philosophical questions.
    Science is supposed to be a systematic attempt to discern and understand the natural world, but all attempts to define science in ways that keep the good stuff in and the bad stuff out have failed.  Take any definition of science and you will find examples: is science methodologically rigorous?  So is astrology.  Is science restricted to repeatable observation?  Better not talk about dark energy or black holes.  Does it make predictions?  Some sportscasters score better than the 5% confidence level considered statistically significant in scientific experiments.  Is it the consensus of the learned?  Astrology, alchemy and Ptolemaic astronomy had long and established credentials.  Is it restricted to explanations based on natural law?  So much for chaos theory, probability and any explanation invoking contingency, like evolution.  Is it restricted to natural explanations for natural phenomena?  Read creationist journals and you will find much of this, yet the scientific establishment routinely excludes their views.  Consistent philosophers of science have had to agree that by any normal definition, creation science is scientific – or else you wind up excluding other approaches the establishment doesn’t want to give up.
    No two philosophers of science agree completely on what science is, let alone what scientists should be doing.  Philosophers differ wildly on the nature of scientific discovery, the nature of scientific evidence, and the nature and propriety of scientific explanation.  The whole field is riddled with deep and unresolved questions.  If you resort to an operational definition, it becomes circular: What is science?  Science is what scientists do.  What do scientists do?  Science.  In practice, “science” is often defined as whatever those in power take it to mean.  As shown by the letter to Nature above, they sometimes can’t agree among themselves.
    The practice of science has changed considerably over the centuries.  In the early 18th century, interested amateurs like James Joule worked independently and discussed their findings at local scientific societies that were little more than clubs.  Today there is rapid, instantaneous conversation via the internet – some good, some bad, some ugly.  Science has become a human social phenomenon wielding immense political and economic power.  Many individual scientists do their work honestly; they really want to figure out the truth about some phenomenon, find a cure, bring clarity to a question about nature, organize our accumulating data in a useful way.  At every level, though, human frailty is an intrinsic factor.  Consider these very practical issues that each require decisions based on fallible human opinions:
  1. Who gets funding.
  2. How one increases the odds of getting funding.
  3. How much funding is needed (meat over gravy).
  4. How much one has to go along to get along.
  5. What school one goes to, and how it affects prestige.
  6. How one’s work is perceived by one’s peers.
  7. The availability of peer reviewers.
  8. Whether the peer reviewers are unbiased or potential rivals.
  9. How many peer reviewers are enough.
  10. Whether a glass ceiling exists for women researchers.
  11. Whether the good-old-boys club keeps out young or female entrants.
  12. Whether a consensus represents confidence or inertia.
  13. To what extent a consensus muscles out the mavericks.
  14. Whether a maverick has a view worth hearing (who decides?)
  15. The effect of tenure or the lack of it on objectivity.
  16. Whether corporate funding biases the findings.
  17. Whether government funding biases the findings.
  18. Whether individual hubris biases the findings (think Mesmer).
  19. The influence of one or more strong personalities in a field (think Freud).
  20. Whether quantity of research activity correlates with significance.
  21. Whether number of published papers correlates with understanding.
  22. Whether volume of writing on a subject correlates with its value.
  23. The extent to which references reinforce dogma (see 03/17/2006).
  24. How long it takes for new knowledge, or falsified theories, to become generally known (01/15/2010).
  25. Whether public comments provide signal or noise.
  26. Whether an expensive project provides value.
  27. How a project’s perceived value is to be measured.
  28. How the quality of scientific activity or results is to be measured.
  29. At what point a project outlives its usefulness.
  30. Whether the issue being investigated is a scientific question.
These and other issues raise an interesting thought: is a kid doing a science project she loves, or a citizen scientist pursuing a question out of his own interest and curiosity, closer to the pure scientific ideal?  But if so, how would they ever afford to build a Large Hadron Collider?  The expense of large scientific research programs has created a monstrosity of institutions, political processes and issues about what it is science is trying to do and why.  It might be compared to how San Francisco became a boom town to support the gold miners.  A lot of ancillary activity emerged (including crime and saloons) whose relevance to the activity of mining was questionable.  Nevertheless, we’re stuck with Big Science.  Whether more openness to public visibility via the internet will keep it honest (or make it honest) remains to be seen.
Exercise:  Add to our list of non-epistemic factors that must be considered in evaluating the nature and results of science.
Next headline on:  Politics and EthicsEducation
Tree of Life – or of Evil Knowledge?     04/01/2010    
April 01, 2010 — Evolutionary trees are now widely available in a web database.  Scientists can upload and download huge amounts of information on evolutionary relationships of plants, animals and protists.  But is this a case of scientific progress, or of mass deception?
    You can go to and find a treasure trove of phylogenetic information.  The number of people involved, papers referenced, and information stored is impressive.  PhysOrg quoted Bill Piel of Yale explaining why it was needed: “Phylogenies were being published at an explosive rate.  What we needed was a database where we could compile them so people could use them later.”  Digital trees can now be shared among scientists and provided to the public.  “Since the first prototype was developed, researchers have contributed more than 6,500 trees from over 2400 articles, describing the relationships among well over 60,000 terminal taxa.”  The press release describes the amount of work and effort that has gone into the project, making improvements and upgrades to the software, standardizing the formats and adding features.  Visualization tools in particular have received a major upgrade.  One user called it a “huge leap forward.”
    One question no one seems to be asking is whether the information is valid.  Last year, Bapteste and Doolittle announced that Darwin’s tree of life was dead and New Scientist proclaimed “Darwin Was Wrong: Cutting Down the Tree of Life” on its cover (01/22/2009; see also 02/01/2007 and 04/11/2008). 
This is an important lesson on the danger of symbolism over substance.  If you look at, you could be swayed by the air of sophistication of the site.  How could so many scientists be wrong?  All that effort, all that technology, all that collective activity carries with it an implicit message that This Must Be True.  It’s like a mighty bandwagon full of fanfare and glory proclaiming the Emperor in his new clothes.
    Beware.  The only thing that matters is whether Darwin’s tree of life concept is true.  Notable scientists (who are not the despised creationists or advocates of intelligent design) have shown that Darwin’s phylogenetic tree is a fiction.  It was a useful lie that, like a ladder, helped evolution gain acceptance, but now that evolution is widely accepted, the ladder is no longer needed (02/01/2007).  That makes TreeBase and all the highfalutin software that supports it much ado about sound and fury signifying nothing, a tempestuous comedy of errors of labors lost that’s not all well even if, measure for measure, it ends well.  Any society of sufficiently motivated fallible humans can come up with the trappings you see at TreeBase.  Avoid the shaming of the true.
Next headline on:  Darwin and Evolution
  Get a load of this evolutionary tale: sharks are closer to humans than to bony fish.  (Evolutionarily, that is; not in the sense of scuba diving.)  Read about the wacky claim in the 04/09/2002 entry.

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Featured Creation Scientist for April

Sir Charles Bell
1774 - 1842

Have you heard of Bell’s Palsy?  Bell’s Nerve?  Bell’s Phenomenon or Bell’s Spasm?  These are medical terms attributed to the work of Charles Bell, a Scottish surgeon who is regarded as the premier anatomist of the early 19th century.  If you are the youngest in the family, take heart: Charles was the youngest of four boys, but outshone his brothers – one another distinguished anatomist, and one an esteemed jurist.  Charles Bell was also a devout Christian who saw the hand of God in human anatomy.  He contributed to the Bridgewater Treatises, that collection of natural theology essays by esteemed scientists.  He also provided an annotated and illustrated edition of Paley’s venerable Natural Theology.

One of the gifts from childhood Charles brought to his medical career was skill in art.  His ability to sketch anatomical parts accurately contributed to elegant books of anatomy published from 1798 onward.  “These drawings, which are remarkable for artistic skill and finish, were taken from dissections made by Bell for the lectures or demonstrations he gave on the nervous system as part of the course of anatomical instruction of his brother” states a biography at  One of his original contributions was tracing the activity of the mind to the facial muscles and showing how emotions were expressed.  Another, just during the Napoleonic crisis, was his discovery (independent of similar work by Francois Magendie) that some nerves go from the brain to the muscles (motor nerves) and others go from the sense organs to the brain (sensory nerves).  Bell-Magendie’s Law and other findings relating to perception and reflex response, “as a whole must be regarded as the greatest in physiology since that of the circulation of the blood by William Harvey” (Ibid.).  Bell’s book Idea of a New Anatomy of the Brain (1811) has been called the “Magna Carta of neurology”

In 1815, just three years into his 24-year service as surgeon at Middlesex Hospital, he went to Brussels to treat the wounded from the Battle of Waterloo.  John Hudson Tiner (see 04/10/2010 Resource of the Week) says, “Charles Bell was present on June 18, 1815, at Wellington’s decisive defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo.  It was one of the bloodiest battles in history.  About 45,000 soldiers lay dead or dying in an area of three square miles.  Bell worked tirelessly in their treatment.  His coat became stiff with blood, and he only stepped aside when the prolonged exertion left his arms and hands incapable of functioning” (For Those Who Dare, pp. 127-128).  Nevertheless, the death toll was high in spite of his heroic efforts.  Bell learned from these experiences things that would help future battlefield surgeons.  He had also treated the wounded from Coruna in the hospital at Portsmouth in 1809, and had “rendered meritorious services” there.

Upon return from the war, he also served as professor of anatomy, physiology and surgery at the College of Surgeons of London.  His fame continued to grow until in the 1830s he was one of the foremost scientific men in London.  In 1826 he had been made a fellow of the Royal Society; in 1831 he was knighted by King William IV.  On the European continent some considered him greater than William Harvey.  Rather than remain in London to die there, he returned to Edinburgh in 1836, and continued teaching and writing up till his last year.

The Sir Charles Bell Society, an organization of neurosurgeons specializing in facial nerve, organized in 1996 in Cologne and remains active today.  “Disorders of the facial nerve are extremely complex and can seriously decrease the quality of life in many patients,” the society home page states.  “The intention of the SCBS is to concentrate knowledge and to present a platform of exchange for all people and professions dealing with facial nerve problems.  It is dedicated to the collection, the dissemination and the interchange of ideas relating to the facial nerve, thus furthering cooperation and encouraging global friendship to improve the quality of care of facial palsy patients.”

Bell wrote the Fourth Bridgewater Treatise in 1833, entitled, The Hand: its Mechanism and Vital Endowments as evincing Design.  (a digitized version can be located on Google Books).  Bell said, “If we select any object from the whole extent of animated nature, and contemplate it fully and in all its bearings, we shall certainly come to this conclusion: that there is Design in the mechanical construction, Benevolence in the endowments of the living properties, and the Good on the whole is the result.”  (These quotes are taken from Christine Dao’s booklet, Thinking God’s Thoughts After Him: Great Scientists Who Honored the Creator, Institute for Creation Research 2009, p. 10).  How shall a man respond to the evidence of design?  Here are the words of a scholar, anatomist, surgeon, professor, and scientist:

Now, when a man sees that his vital operations could not be directed by reason—that they are constant, and far too important to be exposed to all the changes incident to his mind, and that they are given up to the direction of other sources of motion than the will, he acquires a full sense of his dependence....

When man thus perceives that in respect to all these vital operations he is more helpless than the infant, and that his boasted reason can neither give them order nor protection, is not his insensibility to the Giver of these secret endowments worse than ingratitude?

In his mature years, Bell was aware of the uniformitarian debates surrounding London.  He maintained that “our notions of the ‘uniformity’ of the course of nature must suffer some modification” in light of the proofs of a beginning and the “great revolutions that have taken place” in the condition of the earth and the structure of animals living on it.  Dao says, “Bell thought science should be allowed to follow the evidence—even if it leads to a supernatural origin.”

In 1836, along with Lord Brougham, Charles Bell annotated and illustrated a new edition of Paley’s Natural Theology, thus placing him firmly in the long tradition of eminent scientists using reason and evidence to infer a benevolent designing intelligence from the observations of the natural world consistent with the revelation of the Deity revealed in Scripture.

Epilogue.  That noble tradition continues today.  Speaking of the hand, Dr. Randy Guliuzza (P.E., M.D.) of ICR has written a short article on the design of the hand as an introduction to the subject.  If you can ever hear him speak live and give his longer Powerpoint presentation about the marvels of the hand, you will be truly amazed.  The discoveries made in the last 168 years would even have Sir Bell shouting Hallelujah: “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised” (Psalm 96:4) for we are indeed “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:13).

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

A Concise Guide
to Understanding
Evolutionary Theory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Souder’s Law
Repetition does not establish validity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advice from Paul

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

I Timothy 6:20-21

Song of the True Scientist

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

from Psalm 104

Maxwell’s Motivation

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

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

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

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“Thank God for ... Creation Evolution Headlines.  This site is right at the cutting edge in the debate over bio-origins and is crucial in working to undermine the deceived mindset of naturalism.  The arguments presented are unassailable (all articles having first been thoroughly ‘baloney detected’) and the narrative always lands just on the right side of the layman’s comprehension limits... Very highly recommended to all, especially, of course, to those who have never thought to question the ‘fact’ of evolution.”
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“I was grateful for for help with baloney detecting.  I had read about the fish-o-pod and wanted to see what you thought.  Your comments were helpful and encouraged me that my own ‘baloney detecting’ skill are improving.  I also enjoyed reading your reaction to the article on evolution teachers doing battle with students.... I will ask my girls to read your comments on the proper way to question their teachers.”
(a home-schooling mom)

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

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(a student at Northern Michigan U)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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