Creation-Evolution Headlines
March 2011
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“The public has a distorted view of science, because children are taught in school that science is a collection of firmly established truths.  In fact, science is not a collection of truths.  It is a continuing exploration of mysteries.  Wherever we go exploring in the world around us, we find mysteries.  Our planet is covered by continents and oceans whose origin we cannot explain.... The origin of life is a total mystery, and so is the existence of human consciousness.  We have no clear idea how the electrical discharges occurring in nerve cells in our brains are connected with our feelings and desires and actions.”
— Freeman Dyson, “How We Know,” New York Review of Books, March 10, 2011.
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Psychologist Analyzes ID Belief with Emotionally Loaded Poll     03/31/2011      
March 31, 2011 — Without any critique, Science Daily and PhysOrg reproduced a bizarre press release from University of British Columbia that alleges, “Death anxiety prompts people to believe in intelligent design, reject evolution.
    A contrived psychological survey, replete with imagining one’s own death and then reading quotes from Michael Behe and Richard Dawkins, scared 1,674 respondents into indicating a preference for intelligent design (ID), unless they read another passage from Carl Sagan’s writings reassuring them that naturalism can provide a sense of meaning, after which they showed reduced affinity for ID.
    This led psychologist Jessica Tracy to claim, “These findings suggest that individuals can come to see evolution as a meaningful solution to existential concerns, but may need to be explicitly taught that taking a naturalistic approach to understanding life can be highly meaningful.
    The poll was intentionally biased.  Right in the abstract of the paper in PLoS One,1 the authors called intelligent design “a purportedly scientific theory that lacks any scientific evidence,” as opposed to “evolutionary theory (ET), a theory supported by a large body of scientific evidence.”  It presented belief in ID as a psychological problem that needs to be remedied through education and mental manipulation.  The press release even got the definition of ID wrong:

British evolutionary biologist Prof. Dawkins, like the majority of scientists, argues that life’s origins are best explained by Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection.  However, intelligent design advocates such as Prof. Behe, a U.S. author and biochemist, assert that complex biochemical and cellular structures are too complex to be explained by evolutionary mechanisms and should be attributed to a supernatural creator.
The definition of ID according to IntelligentDesign.org is: “The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.”  ID makes no claim about supernatural causes or God.  If the authors did not even understand what they were studying, it is doubtful their conclusions have any validity.
    The press release did not define “meaningful,” nor were any percentages indicated.  The questions were not stated.  Claiming that a majority of scientists believe something is a bandwagon argument that has nothing to do with the merits of a theory; in the history of science, many successful theories went against the mainstream for a long time.
Update 04/01/2010: Live Science came out with their take on the story.  Jennifer Welsh, reporter, provided a definition of I.D. closer to the actual definition, but proceeded to say ID is not a scientific theory (“It is not based in science”) but evolution is “scientifically supported”.  The article gave complete credence to Tracy’s study and opinions.
1.  Tracy, Hart and Martens, “Death and Science: The Existential Underpinnings of Belief in Intelligent Design and Discomfort with Evolution,” PLoS One, 6(3): e17349. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0017349, 03/30/2011.
Time to turn the tables and psychoanalyze the psychs.  Wasn’t it fear of death and judgment that turned many a Darwinist to atheism – a convenient escape from worry about the hereafter?  Of course it was.  And isn’t it easy for anyone to call their critics crazy?  How about reading the ID literature instead of playing mental games on lay people?  Can you believe it – a “scientific paper” that rules out the validity of an opposing theory right in the front of the abstract.  Who are they kidding that evolution has loads of evidence and ID has none?  Jessica, how do you spell D-N-A?
    This pseudo-academic study is wrong on so many levels.  It was not subjected to any unbiased critique by scholarly adherents of intelligent design or by philosophers of science.  The pollsters could pick and choose quotes to achieve the desired outcome.  And even if the poll numbers mean anything (a very dubious notion, considering the subjectivity and up-front bias), the truth of a proposition has nothing at all to do with how it makes people “feel” or whether it makes them “uncomfortable.”
    Worst of all, the guppy media (again) showed themselves ever so willing to swallow whatever crud comes out of the Darwin culvert and barf it along to the people downstream, never stopping to think if it is even edible, if it even qualifies as science.  Understand: Science Daily and PhysOrg are shills for the PR departments of the Darwin-drunk universities.  When have they ever spit the crud back upstream?
    If Darwin-lovers think they can turn the pseudoscience of psychology on their critics, well, guess what; their critics can return the favor.  Nothing is accomplished by this kind of posturing other than granting its practitioners a certain intramural satisfaction, like peasants in the castle walls reassuring themselves that the Visigoths are not really a threat (05/09/2006, 02/01/2007 commentaries).  We sentence Jessica Tracy and her lackeys to read The Nature of Nature and Signature in the Cell as penalty for academic stupidity.  And we put the guppy media on notice: we’re sick of your barf and we’re not going to take it any more.  It’s not like the good old totalitarian days.  Now there is Creation-Evolution Headlines.
    As for whether or not Darwinism reduces any sense of meaning or purpose, read what the greatest proponents of Darwinism have said themselves in Jerry Bergman’s new book, The Dark Side of Darwin (Master Books, 2011), ch. 4.  Example: “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.” – Richard Dawkins.  Let Jessica Tracy read the book and tell us how anyone can get meaning out of that.
Next headline on:  Mind, Brain and PsychologyIntelligent DesignDarwin and EvolutionEducationDumb Ideas
Plants Have Social Networks     03/31/2011      
March 31, 2011 — Plants may be mostly stationary, but they have connections.  They are so well connected, in fact, that they have both intranets, extranets and internets.  Inside their own vessels, they communicate with proteins and RNA molecules from root to shoot (04/23/2010); outside, they have many social relationships with other organisms.  They even “friend” their partners, just like humans do on Facebook.
    Ferris Jabr wrote about plant communication on New Scientist this week.  “The botanical underground is a social network of powerful alliances and nepotism,” the article began.  “Decoding its messages could lead to radical change in farms and forests.”  Jabr wrote in terms of Darwinian competition, survival, antagonism, defense and kin selection, but the story is really about amazing mechanisms plants employ to communicate. 
We’ve known for some time that plants respond to one another, but only now are we realising how subtle and sophisticated their interactions can be.  Plants continually eavesdrop on each other’s chemical chatter – sometimes sympathetically, sometimes selfishly.  Some plants, like the Scandinavian rhododendron, assist their neighbours by sharing resources.  Others recognise close relatives and favour them over strangers.  And at least one parasitic plant homes in on its host’s telltale chemical scent....
    “Plants don’t go out to parties or to watch the movies, but they do have a social network,” says Suzanne Simard, a forest ecologist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.  “They support each other and they fight with each other.  The more we look at plant signalling and communication, the more we learn.  It’s really incredible.
Attributing selfishness or pugnacity to plants is, of course, an unjustified anthropomorphism.  Without eyes, ears or brains, plants have uncanny abilities to send signals and respond to them.  Some of these, Jabr described in the article, are volatile compounds wafted through the air.  Even more amazing, though, are highways of fungal filaments in the soil that can relay messages and nutrients from plant to plant:
Beneath the forest floor, each spoonful of dirt contains millions of tiny organisms.  These bacteria and fungi form a symbiotic relationship with plant roots, helping their hosts absorb water and vital elements like nitrogen in return for a steady supply of nutrients.
    Now closer inspection has revealed that fungal threads physically unite the roots of dozens of trees, often of different species, into a single mycorrhizal network.  These webs sprawled beneath our feet are genuine social networks.
Through these fungal highways, plants share not only nutrients, but information, Jabr said.  “When a caterpillar starts to munch on a tomato plant, for example, the leaves produce noxious compounds that both repel the attacker and stimulate neighbouring plants to ready their own defences.”  Plants recognize their own species and work together for the common good.  But plants are also within communities of diverse organisms that benefit from each other’s contributions to the community.
    We can’t yet speak the language of plants, but we know they speak through codes made of “soluble compounds including phenols, flavonoids, sugars, organic acids, amino acids and proteins, secreted by roots into the rhizosphere.”  Even though “How these indicate relatedness is still a mystery,” a practical application would be for farmers to plant crops with the plants’ “friends” – “the strategic positioning of different crops or garden plants so they benefit one another by deterring pests, attracting pollinators and improving nutrient uptake.”  In other words, instead of planting pesticide-drenched monoculture crops, they could go back to methods of Native Americans, who used such techniques for centuries.

Did these capabilities evolve slowly over millions of years?  Darwin’s “abominable mystery” – the emergence of flowering plants, the largest and most diverse group of plants on earth – was dealt another blow this week.  Beautiful, detailed leaves that look like they were pressed in a book were found exquisitely preserved in the Jehol strata in China, reported New Scientist.  Being dated at 123 million years old puts an advanced angiosperm “roughly contemporary with the ancestors of all flowering plants around today.”
    Reporter Colin Barras claimed that “Flowering plants had an evolutionary edge over the conifers and other gymnosperms that were around at the time, and rapidly took over.”  The problem with such explanations, though, is not the survival of the fittest, but the arrival of the fittest.  Even assuming their own timeline, evolutionists have no explanation for how complex plants, communications networks and all, seemed to appear abruptly, fully formed, without ancestors.

Darwinism is the hacker in the social network, the malware among people just wanting to share good news.
Next headline on:  PlantsFossilsDarwin and EvolutionAmazing Facts
  Whoops; most natural selection studies were based on flawed statistics (03/30/2009).  Maybe it’s because Darwinists haven’t yet evolved the integrity science demands (03/12/2009).

Science Discovers the Unexpected and the Obvious     03/30/2011      
March 30, 2011 — Young’s Law jokes, “All great discoveries are made by mistake.”  Here are some recent examples.

  1. Arch-istan:  Think the world’s natural features are all well known?  “Researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society have stumbled upon a geological colossus in a remote corner of Afghanistan: a natural stone arch spanning more than 200 feet across its base,” reported PhysOrg.  It now ranks as the 12th largest natural bridge in the world.
        “It’s one of the most spectacular discoveries ever made in this region,” a spokesman for the Society said.  And there’s probably more: “The arch is emblematic of the natural marvels that still await discovery in Afghanistan” if only the warlords would let people in.
  2. Sing for surgery:  A lady needed knee replacement surgery, but her blood pressure was too high.  Science Daily reported, “While the patient was unresponsive to aggressive pharmacologic interventions, the woman’s blood pressure dropped dramatically when she sang several religious songs.”  Maybe they’ve stumbled upon a new therapy: “Singing is simple, safe, and free.  Patients should be encouraged to sing if they wish.”
        The story did not explain whether it was the singing that was effective, or the words.  Depending on the songs (which were not mentioned), it could have been the concepts expressed by the songs that gave this particular patient comfort.  The article said that “larger studies are needed” to see if singing will be advised for patients.  If so, it could make for a strange new auditory environment in hospitals depending on the singers’ skill (and harmonization).  Arguably, though, there are songs that might raise blood pressure.
  3. Nice termites:  Termites are a farmer’s friend, claimed New Scientist.  An ecosystem scientist in Australia “has shown that the insects can increase the yield of wheat crops by 36 per cent.”  Ants and termites can loosen the soil in arid climates like earthworms do in more temperate climates.  They also bring more nitrogen into the soil.
        “Never mind fertilisers and pesticides: for a natural solution to boosting crop yields in arid regions, turn to termite power,” said Wendy Zukerman at New Scientist; however, she quoted critics who pointed to some potential downsides. 
  4. Mammoth protein:  Protein samples have been extracted from a mammoth said to be 600,000 years old.  Science Daily quoted a “bio-archaeologist” from the University of York who remarked, “Until several years ago we did not believe we would find any collagen in a skeleton of this age, even if it was as well-preserved as the West Runton Elephant.”
        The specimen, 85% intact, is the most complete and well-preserved mammoth found so far.  See artist rendition of the West Runton Elephant on PhysOrg.
  5. Non-renewable energy:  Wind and wave power seem to be models of clean, green, renewable sources of energy.  Not so, says Axel Kleidon of the Max Planck Institute.  New Scientist claims, as summarized by reporter Mark Buchanan, “Build enough wind farms to replace fossil fuels and we could do as much damage to the climate as greenhouse global warming.
        Kleidon’s argument, being taken seriously in the UK, is that the second law of thermodynamics dictates that devices built to take advantage of winds and waves are doomed to emit much of the energy gained as heat – back into the atmosphere.
On the other hand, scientists occasionally state the obvious:
  • Hearing media reports about uncommon acts of goodness can make good people even better (PhysOrg).
  • Lack of motivation is a barrier for exercise in boys (PhysOrg).
  • Researchers given intellectual challenge and independence are more likely to come up with innovations (PhysOrg).
  • Beautiful people are happier (PhysOrg), but there was a lot of spread in the data (to say nothing of subjectivity).
  • Distressed areas have more poverty (PhysOrg).
Lastly, PhysOrg made the astonishing discovery that “conscientious people earn more and save more for retirement.”
Must be publish-or-perish time at some universities.  Scientific discovery needs to be distinguished from scientific explanation.  Sometimes scientists stumble upon new ideas, sometimes they reinforce the obvious, and sometimes they upset apple carts (05/19/2010) – only to have other scientists turn them right-side up again.  Occasionally, scientists discover new, useful principles by careful, methodical research.  Whether accidental or methodical, their findings must always be filtered through human limitations.  That’s why discernment is required for anyone evaluating their claims.
Next headline on:  GeologyHealthMind and BrainTerrestrial ZoologyMammalsFossilsPhilosophy of Science
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First photo from the MESSENGER spacecraft since entering orbit around Mercury was posted by New Scientist.  Hundreds more are coming soon.

Scientists: Who Can You Believe?     03/29/2011      
March 29, 2011 — Scientists form a kind of knowledge priesthood in our modern world, but when long-taught principles get overturned, it raises questions on what scientists really know.

  1. Windy geology:  Wind is a more powerful force for eroding mountains than previously thought.  University of Arizona quoted Paul Kapp, an associate professor of geosciences at U of A saying, “No one had ever thought that wind could be this effective.  You won’t read in a textbook that wind is a major process in terms of breaking down rock material.”
        According to the press release, “Bedrock in Central Asia that would have formed mountains instead was sand-blasted into dust” called loess that forms large sedimentary deposits.  Looking at the extent of the Loess Plateau south of the Gobi Desert, the largest deposit of wind-blown sediment known, Kapp calculated that wind can be just as effective as rivers and glaciers in wearing down mountains.
  2. Sabertooth vegan unicorn:  A fossil of a very strange beast called Tiarajudens has been found in Brazil with 5-inch-long, dagger like teeth, resembling those of a sabertooth cat.  This dog-size animal, though, was apparently vegetarian.  PhysOrg said archaeologists found it, but they probably meant paleontologists; National Geographic News showed an artist reconstruction of it baring its teeth in a fierce pose.
        One of the discoverers remarked that it “looks like a combination of different animals, and it takes some time to believe it when you see this animal in front of you.”  Usually, dagger-like canines are marks of carnivores.  Did these animals use them to hunt plants?  Or did they intimidate rivals or scare off predators?  No one knows.  National Geographic speculated, “The answer may lie in evolutionary experimentation,” a statement that implicitly personifies evolution.
        Jorg Frobish, commenting on the fossil in Science,1 said that synapsids like Tiarajudens have been “historically but erroneously known as ‘mammal-like reptiles’” – another reversal from what many textbooks and TV documentaries have called them.
        In this specimen, “the degree of heterodonty (tooth differentiation) in Tiarajudens is remarkable.”  Saber teeth are “exceedingly uncommon in herbivorous forms,” he added, saying the teeth in Tiarajudens are “extraordinary”.  What does this mean for our understanding of fossil teeth?
    These findings raise a question: When is a saber tooth a saber tooth, and when is it a tusk or simply an enlarged canine?  The existing literature is quite imprecise, but saber teeth tend to be laterally compressed, whereas tusks tend to be rather round in cross section and continuously growing, such as in modern elephants, wild boars, and walruses.  Finally, the distinction of saber teeth and tusks from ordinary large canines appears to be vague and primarily based on length.  Tiarajudens seems to further blur this distinction, since anomodonts evolved both approaches (saber teeth and tusks) to enlarge their canines, even though they might have had similar functions, such as deterring predators and intraspecific display or combat.
    Frobish and the authors of the paper in Science2 mentioned evolution often, but only in respect to their belief that these animals evolved.  For instance, Cisneros et al said, “This discovery provides new insight into the evolution of heterogeneous dentition in therapsids and broadens our understanding of ecological interactions at the end of the Paleozoic.”  That, however, does not explain how or why saberteeth evolved in this particular animal.  They admitted that “The function of the saber teeth is unknown, but probable uses include deterring attack from predators and intraspecific display or combat.”
        Evolutionists would have expected such derived features to evolve much later, not 260 million years ago.  Will they ever know without being able to watch the animals in action?  Whatever evolutionists have to say about it now, they clearly did not predict finding saber teeth so early.  Cisneros told Live Science it was “like finding a unicorn,” it was so bizarre.  “You see it, but you don’t believe it.
  3. Early Americans:  The Clovis culture was supposed to represent the oldest human presence in North America, but now stone-tool evidence of “paleo-Indians” has been found in Texas at a level said to be 2,500 years older.  PhysOrg said this discovery is “rewriting what anthropologists know about when the first inhabitants arrived in North America.”  Michael Walters [Texas A&M] said, “This discovery challenges us to re-think the early colonization of the Americas.”
A search on PhysOrg for the phrase “previously believed” turned up 2,640 results; “once thought” produced 3,860 results.
1.  Jorg Frobisch, “Paleontology: On Dental Occlusion and Saber Teeth,” Science, 25 March 2011: Vol. 331 no. 6024 pp. 1525-1528, DOI: 10.1126/science.1204206.
2.  Cisneros, Abdala, Rubridge, Dentzien-Dias and Bueno, “Dental Occlusion in a 260-Million-Year-Old Therapsid with Saber Canines from the Permian of Brazil,” Science, 25 March 2011: Vol. 331 no. 6024 pp. 1603-1605, DOI: 10.1126/science.1200305.
Oh, but they KNOW evolution is a FACT.  Considering stories like these, on what grounds are we supposed to give the priesthood of scientists such epistemic priority that their opinions matter by default more than those of any other honest scholar in any other field of knowledge?
    After all, scientists are not the only ones interested in finding the truth about nature.  When aspects of that truth are inaccessible to empirical observation, such as the history of the world, and when their stories keep changing so drastically and so often, it would seem other honest truth seekers should have a place in the discussion.
Next headline on:  GeologyFossilsEarly ManDating MethodsDarwin and EvolutionPhilosophy of Science
Plagiarizing Nature     03/28/2011      
March 28, 2011 — Copying someone else’s invention is a crime, but researchers in biomimetics are doing it with impunity and getting away with it.
  1. Leaf power:  “Why come up with new ways to generate clean energy, when we can copy what plants have been doing for millennia?”  That’s what led Daniel Nocera and colleagues at MIT to develop artificial leaves that try to mimic photosynthesis.  According to New Scientist, “His company, Sun Catalytix, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is attempting to commercialise the artificial photosynthesis technology.”  But what if a student said, “Why come up with a new term paper, when I can copy what graduate students already have published online?”
        Science Daily quoted Nocera saying “A practical artificial leaf has been one of the Holy Grails of science for decades.”  His artificial leaf is “made of inexpensive materials that are widely available, works under simple conditions and is highly stable,” the article said.  Sounds like natural leaves have those benefits nailed already.  “In laboratory studies, he showed that an artificial leaf prototype could operate continuously for at least 45 hours without a drop in activity.”  Natural leaves last much longer than that.
        Nocera hopes his plagiarism might power poor third-world homes far from electrical power grids.  “Our goal is to make each home its own power station,” he said.  Unlike plant leaves, though, the invention only splits water into hydrogen and oxygen; it does not make sugar and food.
  2. Bird mimic:  If you see SmartBird flying around, “it’s actually an energy-efficient robot, weighing just 500 grams, that captures the elegance of a bird in flight,” reported New Scientist.  The article includes a video clip of the robot that looks remarkably lifelike, shape, wings and all, though it does not lay eggs, snatch fish out of the sea, or sing; it also needs ground controllers to guide it.  It was made by Festo, a company also guilty of plagiarizing penguins and elephants.
  3. Bee strategy:  Bees and ants survey their surroundings with a search strategy called quorum sensing.  According to PhysOrg, Aron Kisdi, a University of Southampton engineer, proposed using a swarm of 40 to 60 robots on Mars to search like honeybees.  “Bees will leave the nest, gather information, and determine the best new location” by working in swarms.  Kisdi thinks this is a good strategy for robots on Mars.  They would explore caves and other things, then return by the shortest route, like bees do.  Unlike current all-in-one rovers, the robot swarm could survive the loss of individual robots.  The article includes a video clip of Kisdi’s rolling, jumping robot called the Jollbot.
  4. DNA bot:  At the University of Oxford, they’re plagiarizing DNA to build tiny robots.  Live Science caught the plagiarists in action: “The thinking behind scientists’ interest in super-small DNA bots is that in order to replicate some amazing abilities in nature, one must go very small.”  Even more shocking, they are using intelligent design: “‘Information is programmed into the design of the base sequences of the DNA strands,’ [Andrew] Turberfield said.”
In Science March 18, Marc Lavine reviewed a recent book on biomimetics edited by Robert Allen with the amusing title Bulletproof Feathers: How Science Uses Nature’s Secrets to Design Cutting-Edge Technology (University of Chicago Press, 2010).  He began,
Where does the inspiration for something new originate?  For scientists and engineers, sometimes it appears in the cross-fertilization of known concepts from diverse fields or the rare flash of a new idea, but more often it comes from leveraging what is already known by building on things that work well.  Increasingly, researchers are turning to nature for inspiration, by looking to organisms that do things we are unable to do on our own or do them better than we can—often functioning with an economical use of limited resources and energy.  Animals that fly, explore deep under water, can see without light, or even stick to glass walls are all being studied with the hope of developing new materials, structures, or devices that may enhance our everyday lives.
He spoke of bioinspiration and biomimicry as hot areas of research – using nature as a starting point for solving problems of interest to technology.  The book includes six illustrated chapters by leaders in biomimetic research, who talk about marine organisms that inform sonar and underwater sensing technologies, glass sponges that use fiber optics, and deep-sea fish that guide submarine builders with ways to overcome pressure and darkness.
    Even humans provide inspiration for inventors.  Should robots look human?  Industrial robots, or those that enter hazardous environments, need not resemble us, but there is a growing market for robots that can empathize with the disabled, the elderly, and children.  Achieving realistic robotic servants will require work in compact energy sources, artificial muscles and lifelike materials.
Biomimetic engineers have already learned a lot from nature, and no doubt the further study of organisms and their often surprising capabilities will suggest, for example, new ways to design materials, to create imaging and communication techniques, and to build stronger or more aerodynamic structures.  The inspiration comes from observing what is normal for the organisms and wondering how they function and how we might mimic key features or superior properties.
Lavine ended with praise for the book’s photographs: “Browsing through it, readers will encounter natural mechanisms that have stimulated researchers looking for new ideas,” he said; and with an appeal to young investigators, added, “That may be as good a way as any to find your own inspirations and scientific connections.”
1.  Marc Lavine, “Engineering: Living Inspired,” Science, 18 March 2011: Vol. 331 no. 6023 p. 1389, DOI: 10.1126/science.1192323.
The nerve of these people.  The Inventor should sue!  Stealing intellectual property and making money off it – how dare they?  A judge should throw the book at them – oh, wait – the Judge of all the universe is already seated.  Actually, He delights in the beings He created, and into whom He placed his image, exercising their creativity.  Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, it is said.
    What is missing, though, is proper referencing of the source.  It would be like visitors to Kitty Hawk admiring the plane in detail and trying to copy it without ever mentioning the Wright Brothers.  As Paul explained in Romans 1, the evidence for design is clear, but without excuse, men do not glorify God as God, neither are thankful (Romans 1:18-22).  It’s understandable that the wrath of God is against those who plagiarize his work, using their own intelligent design, but suppress the truth by claiming the superior designs in nature just happened by evolution.
    For those who are thankful and acknowledge God as Creator, this is a wonderful time to get into science.  Home school parents and Christian school parents should get their precocious youngsters who like science on a fast track into biomimetics research.  Young scientists can do it without any Darwin worship, and if they succeed, they will not only show the value of design-based science, but make the world a better place.  That’s not plagiarism; that is wagering to be a major player in 21st-century science.
Next headline on:  PlantsBirdsTerrestrial ZoologyGeneticsHuman BodyBiomimeticsIntelligent Design
  Harness ATP synthase, a cellular motor?  Why not?  It gives free energy, and was already designed.  See the 03/27/2008 entry for the scoop.

Your DNA Repairman Is Handy as an Octopus     03/27/2011      
March 27, 2011 — Some 10 times a day in a given cell, your DNA breaks on both strands.  This is an emergency.  Unless repaired quickly, serious diseases, like cancer, can develop.  But no fear: the first responder is an octopus-shaped protein complex that rushes to the rescue, wraps around the damaged site, and brings in all the parts needed to fix it.  Such mechanical acrobatics in the cell are only now coming into clearer focus.
    A press release at the Scripps Research Institute described this amazing repair system called MRN with its three protein subunits (Mre11-Rad50-Nbs1; for illustration, see Science Daily).  The researchers wanted to find out how MRN “can repair DNA in a number of different, and tricky, ways that seem impossible for ‘standard issue’ proteins to do,” the press release said.  These proteins are not static balls of amino acids; they have dynamic, interactive, moving parts.  The motor in the complex, Rad50, “is a surprisingly flexible protein that can change shape and even rotate depending on the task at hand.”  Here’s the octopus part of the story:

The scientists say that the parts of the complex, when imagined together as a whole unit, resemble an octopus: the head consists of the repair machinery (the Rad50 motor and the Mre11 protein, which is an enzyme that can break bonds between nucleic acids) and the octopus arms are made up of Nbs1 which can grab the molecules needed to help the machinery mend the strands. 
They saw “a lot of big movement” in the repair operation.  First, the complex has to assess the damage:
When MRN senses a break, it activates an alarm telling the cell to shut down division until repairs are made.  Then, it binds to ATP (an energy source) and repairs DNA in three different ways, depending on whether two ends of strands need to be joined together or if DNA sequences need to be replicated.  “The same complex has to decide the extent of damage and be able to do multiple things,” [John] Tainer [Scripps Research Professor] said.  “The mystery was how it can do it all.
Tainer described how some of the parts interact: “Rad50 is like a rope that can pull.  It appears to be a dynamic system of communicating with other molecules,” he said.  It uses ATP, the energy currency of all life, to get into shape: “When not bound to ATP, Rad50 is flexible and floppy, but bound to ATP, Rad50 snaps into a ring that presumably closes around DNA in order to repair it.
    How a set of proteins can sense damage, migrate to a repair site, assess the extent of the break and select the correct repair option, link up to other tools, bring in parts, and put everything back together again is surely one of the wonders of biology coming to light with new observing techniques.  The research was funded by the National Cancer Institute, the National Institutes of Health, and the Department of Energy, and published in Nature Structural and Molecular Biology,1 March 27, 2011.
    The abstract did not mention evolution except to say that the parts are “conserved” (unevolved) across all living things.  The researchers studied this complex in yeast and archaea – among the simplest of microbes.  A different paper in a different journal studied another wonder of the cell without mentioning evolution (except to mention “evolutionarily conserved proteins”).  In PLoS Biology,2 Linton Traub [U of Pittsburgh] discussed how proteins coat vesicles that dive into the cell membrane to bring in substances from outside the cell.
    In “Regarding the Amazing Choreography of Clathrin Coats,” Traub described clathrin-mediated endocytosis (see 10/17/2003, 05/15/2005, 11/04/2005, 02/02/2010, bullet 3).  He started with a recounting of the discovery of clathrin, a three-spoke protein that wraps around vesicles like a geodesic dome, and then described some of the latest findings: “Yet, what we have learned over the past decade is that the assembly of these core components is augmented and precisely regulated at vesicle bud sites by an abundance of additional proteins” – at least 40, at last count.  The realization that so many players are involved in this critical import process “puts to rest the parsimonious assertion that the complexity of clathrin coat assembly is wildly overstated,” he said.
1.  Williams...Tainer et al, “ABC ATPase signature helices in Rad50 link nucleotide state to Mre11 interface for DNA repair,” Nature Structural and Molecular Biology, (published online 27 March 2011), doi:10.1038/nsmb.2038.
2.  Linton M. Traub, “Regarding the Amazing Choreography of Clathrin Coats,” Public Library of Science: Biology (PLoS Biol) 9(3): e1001037. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001037>
The facts themselves scream intelligent design so clearly, any additional comments would be superfluous.  Was evolution useful to any of this research?  Does an octopus need a hot air balloon?
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Neurons Know What to Do     03/27/2011        
March 27, 2011 — Neurons are among the most vital cells in the body: after all, your brain is largely composed of neurons.  Neurons are transmission lines of information that keep a body in touch with itself and the world.  None of the other body organs would work without neurons.  The increasingly powerful tools of microscopy are allowing neuroscientists to figure out how they develop and operate.
  1. Motors in a network within a network:  In an article entitled “Motors on a mission,” PhysOrg described how the human nervous system, a vast network of billions of neurons, can be conceived as a network of networks: “Within each neuron is a microscopic network of its own, a complex system of signal transmissions.  Proteins receive signals at the cell’s dendrite and transmit them at the axon at the other end, passing the impulses from one neuron to another and allowing human beings to think, perceive and move.
        The network within a single neuron is a system of microtubules.  On these cellular highways, myosin motors carry the molecules of signal transduction from place to place.  Proteins needed by the axons and dendrites are made in the neuron and packaged into bubble-like vesicles, which are carried by various types of myosins.  “Neither the two proteins themselves nor the microtubules know where the proteins should end up,” (after all, they are blind), “so a mix of dendritic and axonal proteins will go both ways, to the dendrite and to the axon,” the article said.
        When a protein ends up at the wrong end, other myosins round up wayward vesicles and turn them back.  Myosin Va acts as a filter at the axons, allowing axon-bound vesicles in but carrying dendrite-bound packages out.  Axonal proteins that end up in a dendrite are placed on the surface of the cell, where Myosin VI plucks them off and carries them to the axon.  Myosin VI also helps axonal proteins find the axon in the first place.  How these molecular machines recognize which is which was not explained.
  2. Hearing in a crowded room:  How do neurons get their information to the right target in the intensely crowded environment of the brain?  It’s like shouting to a friend in a crowded room.  Another article on PhysOrg described how they do it, with the headline, “‘Can you hear me now?’  Researchers detail how neurons decide how to transmit information.”
        The article described how researchers at Carnegie Mellon and U of Pittsburgh are finding out the mechanisms neurons use to communicate.  Neurons can fire separately or together when communicating, like when you shout alone to a friend, or get some friends to shout together.  One researcher explained, “Neurons face a universal communications conundrum.  They can speak together and be heard far and wide, or they can speak individually and say moreBoth are important.  We wanted to find out how neurons choose between these strategies.”  They found that “the brain had a clever strategy for ensuring that the neurons’ message was being heard.” 
    Over the short time scale of a few milliseconds, the brain engaged its inhibitory circuitry to make the neurons fire in synchrony.  This simultaneous, correlated firing creates a loud, but simple, signal.  The effect was much like a crowd at a sporting event chanting, “Let’s go team!”  Over short time intervals, individual neurons produced the same short message, increasing the effectiveness with which activity was transmitted to other brain areas.  The researchers say that in both human and neuronal communication alike, this collective communication works well for simple messages, but not for longer or more complex messages that contain more intricate information.
        The neurons studied used longer timescales (around one second) to convey these more complex concepts.  Over longer time intervals, the inhibitory circuitry generated a form of competition between neurons, so that the more strongly activated neurons silenced the activity of weakly activated neurons, enhancing the differences in their firing rates and making their activity less correlated.  Each neuron was able to communicate a different piece of information about the stimulus without being drowned out by the chatter of competing neurons.  It would be like being in a group where each person spoke in turn.  The room would be much quieter than a sports arena and the immediate audience would be able to listen and learn much more complex information.  (Source: Carnegie Mellon University).
    This effective two-strategy style gave the researchers ideas about designing man-made communication networks around the same principles.
  3. Mapping the brain:  Researchers at the Max Planck Florida Institute spent five years devising methods to map the cerebral cortex, and find how the neurons fit together.  PhysOrg said they identified nine cell types in rat brains, and “were able to quantify the number of neurons per type, their locations within the cortical column and their functional responses to two behavioral states....”  It required terabytes of information for each neuron.  The cerebral cortex in humans is the “largest and most complex area of the brain, whose functions include sensory perception, motor control, and cognition.”
  4. Bilingual neurons:  Neurons used to be classified by the kind of chemical messages, called neurotransmitters, they conveyed.  Now, according to Science Daily, two teams have found neurons that speak two languages; they can use one neurotransmitter at slow speeds, and another at high speeds.  This mechanism, called co-transmission, “allows a single neuron to use two different methods of communication to exchange information.
        Researchers at the University of Montreal found that neurons that typically use dopamine to communicate can also use glutamate for signals needing faster transmission.  Researchers at Douglas Mental Health University Institute also found that neurons that typically use serotonin used to transmit “information for controlling mood, aggression, impulsivity and food intake” are also capable of transmitting “acetylcholine, an important messenger for motor skills and memory.
        A messenger, however, is only as good as the message it carries.  Serotonin, for instance, does not mean “control aggression” in and of itself.  There has to be a convention, a code, an agreement between parties, for something to signal something else and produce a response.
  5. Outside/Inside Learning:  An animal needs to gather information from the outside world and store it in memory.  How this is accomplished was described in another article on PhysOrg about research done by a Swiss team.  “It is well established that environmental enrichment, providing animals with rich sensory, motor, and social stimulation, produces both dramatic increases in the number of synapses in the brain and enhanced learning,” the article began.  This means that outside information produces structural changes on the inside.
        New techniques are allowing scientists to watch the brain form new synapses (the junctions between neurons) in response to environmental signals.  “Remarkably, both the disassembly of pre-existing synapses and the assembly of new synapses were necessary to enhance learning and memory upon environmental enrichment,” they found, adding, “We have shown that circuit remodeling and synaptogenesis processes in the adult have important roles in learning and memory.”  A protein named beta-Adducin is apparently critically important in the formation of new synapses.  For more on synapses, see 12/23/2010.
How did these complex systems come to be?  Another article on PhysOrg titled “The evolution of brain wiring: Navigating to the neocortex” proposed to answer that question from a Darwinian viewpoint.  The lead researcher in Paris wanted to know how axons find their targets.  “The research, published by Cell Press in the March 24 issue of the journal Neuron, reveals a surprising new evolutionary scenario that may help to explain how subtle changes in the migration of ‘guidepost’ neurons underlie major differences in brain connectivity between mammals and nonmammalian vertebrates.”
    Identifying differences, though, does not establish that one group evolved from the other.  Dr. Sonia Garel admitted, “What controls the differential path-finding of thalamic axons in mammals versus nonmammalian vertebrates and how these essential projections have evolved remains unknown,” but then suggested that a protein named Slit2 acts like a molecular switch for guiding developing neurons to their target areas in the brain.  Since Slit2 positions neurons, she thought that minor differences in the resulting positions provides “a novel framework to understand the shaping and evolution of a novel and major brain projection” in different groups of animals.  Why, that might even affect brain connectivity.  A brain permitting her to reason as a neuroscientist could not be far behind: “Since an increase in cell migration has participated in the morphogenesis of the neocortex itself, these novel findings reveal that cell migration can be considered as a general player in the evolutionary changes that led to the emergence of the mammalian brain.
Oh, barf.  There she goes again: scenarios, frameworks for understanding, participants and general players (see personification) and emergence, amply seasoned with maybes and perhaps.  You’re a scientist, aren’t you?  Think, don’t imagine!  Prove your case with facts and evidence.  If imagining scenarios is the new scientific game, we can think of many more that are more entertaining.
    Aside from that brief episode of Malice in Blunderland, this was an amazing series of articles.  Most of them avoided the temptation to insert evolutionary speculation into their work.  Think about it; how a complex set of mechanical processes – motors, chemical signals, guideposts, filters, networks, transmission rules – all converge into the brain of a neuroscientist looking into his or her own head and reasoning about it is astonishing.  In the history of intellectual ideas prior to the invention of the electron microscope and other tools that allow us to see neurons and watch these processes, who could have dreamed such complexity underlies human thought?  We should stand in humble awe at the hardware and software given to our minds and souls to use (02/11/2011, 03/05/2011).
    Incidentally, a human brain said to be 2,500 years old was found in remarkably fresh condition, cerebral folds and all, in a waterlogged pit, reported Live Science.  Aside from the issue that such fragile tissue – usually the first to decay – could survive degradation for so long, this illustrates that it takes more than a brain to think.  You might get a buried car to work again with enough repairs, but the mind or soul – whatever you want to call it – that operated this brain is long gone, even if they could hotwire its neurons once again.  It takes most of a whole body to run a brain, and a brain to run a body.
    Have you ever looked at an X-ray or MRI image of your own brain?  There’s more going on inside than you can possibly imagine (see also 03/24/2011, 12/06/2010, 11/19/2010)  We all have comparable physical equipment; some choose to use it more wisely than others.
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We Are Filled with Viruses     03/26/2011        
March 26, 2011 — Viruses have a bad connotation.  We immediately think of the ones that cause disease: “I’ve got a virus,” you say when feeling under the weather.  Actually, you have trillions of them all the time, even in the best of health.  A single gram of stool sample can have 10 billion of them!  What does that mean?  Scientists are only beginning to find out.
    One thing it means is that they can’t be all bad.  Elizabeth Pennisi reported in Science this week about work at the University of British Columbia and Washington University to explore the human virome.1  She began her report,
In the past decade, scientists have come to appreciate the vast bacterial world inside the human body.  They have learned that it plays a role in regulating the energy we take in from food, primes the immune system, and performs a variety of other functions that help maintain our health.  Now, researchers are gaining similar respect for the viruses we carry around.
Bacteria have been easier to count than the tiny viruses.  Many of our internal viruses are bacteriophages that invade and kill bacteria.  This suggests they play a role in keeping the brakes on bacterial infections.  “For every bacterium in our body, there’s probably 100 phages,” Pennisi wrote.  The number of virus species identified in stool samples of healthy adults varied from 52 to 2773.  “The viromes varied significantly from one individual to the next; they were even more diverse than the bacterial communities within the same individuals,” Pennisi reported.  “But each person’s viral community remained stable over the course of the year.”  That is, unless they go on a different diet or eating regimen; then the viromes change.  But people who eat the same foods tend to converge on virus profiles.  Researchers also found that infants with fevers had more viruses than healthy infants.
    We are full of viruses, in other words, but we don’t know what they all do.  This is “a true frontier” of research, with much to learn.  “Ultimately, those viruses are incredibly important in driving what’s going on” one scientist from the University of British Columbia said.  It’s not enough to know your bacteria; you have to know the viruses that interact with them. 
1.  Elizabeth Pennisi, “Microbiology: Going Viral: Exploring the Role Of Viruses in Our Bodies,” Science, 25 March 2011: Vol. 331 no. 6024 p. 1513, DOI: 10.1126/science.331.6024.1513.
It’s always been intriguing that viruses look incredibly well designed.  Some bacteriophages look like lunar landing capsules, legs and all.  Scientists have learned that some viruses have shells like hard plastic (05/07/2004) and pack their DNA into their capsids with motors generating remarkable force, in an orderly manner (03/20/2007, 12/30/2008).  They are also extremely effective in finding their target cells, inserting their DNA, and commandeering the genetic machinery to make copies of themselves.
    Evolutionists don’t know what to do with viruses.  They are not considered transitional forms between molecules and life.  Intelligent design would describe their design and predict that they have functions, but would be at a loss to explain harmful viruses.  It takes Biblical creation to explain that they were probably designed for good originally, but some became harmful because of the Fall due to sin.  The analogy might be to a science fiction movie where robotic servants went berserk, or to the broom of the sorcerer’s apprentice that multiplied and could not be stopped.  Sometimes a single mutation can turn a beneficial bacterium into a disease-causing terror; the same could be true with viruses.
    Maybe they were intended to be regulators of bacteria.  Maybe they were designed to convey information to the body about new environments, and were equipped to copy themselves to spread the word so that the body could be prepared.  Who knows?  This is, after all, a frontier of research.  For philosophers, it’s noteworthy that we are stumbling onto a reality right around us – right within us – about which we have been largely oblivious, with the potential to dramatically change our understanding of nature.
    Given that an athlete running the high hurdles in the peak of health is carrying around trillions of viruses, intuition suggests that most of what they do for us is good.  The scientific research appears poised to find many beneficial functions for our viral passengers.  It happened with bacteria; it took society a long time to change the emotional response from “germs... uggh!” with the householder running to get the antibacterial spray, to an appreciation of the many good things bacteria do for us.  Now we look differently upon our bacterial passengers.  We have learned they outnumber our own cells, and are learning that our viral passengers outnumber the bacteria 100 to one.  Expect amazing things to be discovered about these tiny, mysterious machines.
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  Four years ago, biologists held a symposium to find macroevolution, so that they could battle the “antievolution community”.  So what did they come up with?  Get ready to laugh: revisit the 03/28/2007 entry.

Plants Spring into Action     03/26/2011      
March 26, 2011 — We shouldn’t take plants for granted.  They seem so slow and stationary, but actually they move and breath and carry on their lives in truly amazing ways.  Plants really show off their glory in the spring.  But how do they know, without eyes, what time it is?
    In “The science of spring,” PhysOrg explored how plants know when to spring into action when it’s time to come out of their winter slowdown.  Siburn Sung [U of Texas, Austin] found that an interplay of genes responds to the temperature.  In the lab plant Arabidopsis, he found that a special molecule named COLDAIR is repressed in winter, inhibiting the plant’s ability to produce flowers.  After 20 days of frigid temperatures, the molecule gets turned back on; but it takes another 10-20 days to prime itself for the warmth of spring.  This begs the question, though, of how genes respond to external factors, and how they measure the days.  “Well, we know that there are several things done by cold – but how? That we don’t really know yet,” Sung remarked.  Then he speculated about the evolution of flowering plants.  They evolved 150 million years ago, he claimed, but had to learn how to deal with winter relatively recently.
    Once it’s time to bloom, how do plants do it?  Scientists from Harvard and China, reporting in PNAS,1 tried to figure that out.  “Despite the common use of the blooming metaphor, its floral inspiration remains poorly understood,” they began.  They studied an Asiatic lily and found that, contrary to earlier hypotheses about differential growth of layers, “the edges of the petals wrinkle as the flower opens, suggesting that differential growth drives the deployment of these laminar shell-like structures.”  This gave them some ideas: “This functional morphology suggests new biomimetic designs for deployable structures using boundary or edge actuation rather than the usual bulk or surface actuation.”
    In Science this week,2 Sarah Wyatt celebrated plant movement by reviewing a new book called The Restless Plant by Dov Koller (Harvard, 2011).  We need to unload our childhood impressions of plants as inanimate objects, she said, and dance with the plants: “plants move.  They just do so on their own time scale and in their own way.”  With the advent of time-lapse photography, we can now appreciate their clever ways of getting around. 

The Restless Plant presents a “guided tour of plant movements.” Koller starts with the classic, rapid leaf movements of the sensitive plant and [Venus] flytrap but then provides a broader understanding of plant movement that includes growth responses, expansion of plant organs, and movements of individual cells and organelles.  The world of plants becomes a fascinating dance with many movements: contractile roots pulling a bulb into the soil; the folding of leaves and flowers at nightfall; leaves and flowers tracking the Sun; roots searching for water and nutrients; the explosion of seeds into the world at large; and growth responses to light, gravity, water, temperature, and touch.
Wyatt referenced Roger Hangarter’s Plants-in-Motion web site that has time-lapse videos of plant movements (the one of morning glory twining is pretty cool); the site actually includes an educational green-screen tutorial on how students can actually dance with time-lapse videos of plants in motion.  Wyatt also referred to David Attenborough’s TV episode, “The Private Life of Plants,” parts of which are viewable on YouTube.
    Wyatt described plant movements as motorized to solve the physics problems of mechanical motion:
“Motors” provide these movements, and, although the use of the term for some of the responses is not without controversy, the analogy is sound.  For more rapid, reversible movements, motors involve turgor-driven responses in specific cells (pulvini) that are filled or drained of water as needed for movement.  For the slower growth movements, the tropisms, the motors are growing cells within specific regions of the plant.
Some of the most basic things about plants remain mysterious, she said; “the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why,” one botanist said.  Wyatt was clearly impressed with the “intricacies and beauty” of plant movements after reading Koller’s book.  “You will never look at plants the same way again,” she said.
    If plants are so smart, maybe they like music, too.  The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London is trying to find out.  PhysOrg reported that “One of Britain’s most prestigious orchestras has performed to a rather unusual audience – row upon row of plants, in an attempt to see whether the music helps them grow.”  The music, Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik and Symphony No. 40 is available for download on QVC UK for gardeners who would like to continue the experiment.  The site includes a video clip of the orchestra playing the first movement of the 40th to its leafy audience.  Whether the plants responded is not yet known (they didn’t applaud), but human viewers will get a kick out of the unusual experiment, and will enjoy the timeless beauty of Mozart’s music while watching.
1.  Liang and Mahadevan, “Growth, geometry, and mechanics of a blooming lily,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published online before print March 21, 2011, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1007808108.
2.  Sarah Wyatt, “Plant Science: A Ballet of Plant Movement,” Science, 25 March 2011: Vol. 331 no. 6024 p. 1520, DOI: 10.1126/science.1203705.
Evolutionists are clueless about the evolution of plants (12/30/2010, 09/22/2010, 07/03/2009), so run them out of symphony hall so they won’t upset the daisies.
    Moody Institute of Science made one of their most beautiful and intriguing films about plant movements back in the 1990s: Journey of Life (available from Christian Book.com and Amazon).  Parts of this were also incorporated in Wonders of God’s Creation (see Moody Publishers).  Get these evergreen videos for your home library, and then get into the garden or forest and look at your fellow travelers on God’s green Earth with new appreciation.
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Evolution Goes Against Darwin     03/25/2011      
March 25, 2011 — Evolutionists are coming up with new ideas far afield from Charles Darwin’s original ideas of spontaneous variation and natural selection.  The new ideas even differ from neo-Darwinism, and some of them are making other evolutionists angry.
  1. Mating of the quickest:  A new phrase, “mating between the quickest,” is supplanting survival of the fittest according to three Australian biologists who want to “expand” Darwin’s theory to account for observations of the invasive cane toad.  PhysOrg reported that their new notion of evolution does not depend on survival or reproduction.  It’s called ”spatial sorting” and it “relies on genes for speed accumulating at the increasingly fast-moving frontline.”
        The researchers from the University of Sydney hasten to explain that their ideas of evolution go beyond Darwinism.  Professor Rick Shine explained that mating between the quickest “challenges the long-held view that natural selection is the only driving force for evolution.”  He said that “For over 150 years, biologists have believed that evolutionary change is caused by only two factors: survival and reproduction,” but spatial sorting does not.  The article ended,
    Unlike natural selection – a process first described by Charles Darwin, stating that traits which help an organism survive and reproduce will build up over time – spatial sorting does not require an animal’s survival or reproduction to be increased by it being quicker.  The new process can only work within the limits set by natural selection, but may be an important cause of evolutionary change in species that are expanding their ranges into new territory.
  2. Survival of the slowest:  The “longest-running evolutionary experiment in the world” has been going on at Michigan State.  Since 1988, 50,000 generations of bacteria have been monitored for evolutionary change by Richard Lenski’s team, reported PhysOrg.  One of the subsets of the experiment uncovered a surprise: “bacteria that evolve slowly are more likely to survive in the long term than those evolving more quickly.”  This might be called the hare-and-tortoise theory of evolution:
    In the study, the researchers investigated four genetically distinct clones of Escherichia coli clones, and sampled them periodically to look for the presence of five specific beneficial mutations.
        They discovered that after 500 generations all lineages had acquired beneficial mutations but two had significantly more than the others, which should suggest they were more likely to survive in the long-term than the other line of bacteria.  What they found instead was that after 1,500 generations the other two lineages had gone on to dominate.
    This seems to say that accumulating beneficial mutations does not help either fitness or survival – contrary to neo-Darwinian theory.  Tim Cooper compared the fast-evolving clones to the fabled hare: “the hare would win a 100 meter race, but the tortoise might win a marathon.”  In long-term evolution, though, organisms have to survive for the long haul.
        Another PhysOrg entry on this story emphasized the change from classical Darwinism: “Some outcomes of the evolutionary race buck conventional wisdom,” the headline announced; “In some cases, less fit organisms may out-survive their in-shape counterparts, according to a study reported in the March 18 issue of Science.1  One of the team members commented on how this long-term evolutionary experiment continues to “yield surprises,” framing the unexpected result as an insight into the “richness and complexity of evolution.”
        It should be noted that all the ending bacteria were still members of the same species, E. coli.  And beneficial mutations are in the eye of the human beholder.  “They discovered that one of the genes in which beneficial mutations were found at the 500 generation mark was topA, a gene involved in winding DNA into a twisted band, which makes it easier for genes to be turned on and off.”  Sometimes what appears beneficial in one context can have bad consequences in other parts.
  3. War of the fitness definitions:  The concept of “inclusive fitness” or “kin selection” was defended in a war of words in this week’s Nature,2 with no less than five letters to the editor arguing against a paper by Martin Nowak, Corina Tarnita and Edward O. Wilson last August3 that claimed the concept should be abandoned.  In showing the limitations of inclusive fitness, they tried to keep the old Darwin story in the lead: “We argue that standard natural selection theory in the context of precise models of population structure represents a simpler and superior approach, allows the evaluation of multiple competing hypotheses, and provides an exact framework for interpreting empirical observations.”
        The defenders would have none of this.  “Clearly kin selection is a strong, vibrant theory that is the basis for understanding how social behaviour has evolved,” some said; others attacked the experiments or reasoning in the Nowak et al paper.  Kin selectionists are the real Darwin defenders, a letter by Ferriere and Monod claimed:4 
    By opposing ‘standard selection theory’ and ‘inclusive fitness theory’, we believe that Nowak et al. give the incorrect (and potentially dangerous) impression that evolutionary thinking has branched out into conflicting and apparently incompatible directions,”  In fact, there is only one paradigm: natural selection driven by interactions, interactions of all kinds and at all levels.  Inclusive fitness has been a powerful force in the development of this paradigm and is likely to have a continued role in the evolutionary theory of behaviour interactions.
    On his blog, kin selection defender Jerry Coyne really ramped up the rhetoric:
    The only reason this paper was published is because it has two big-name authors, Nowak and Wilson, hailing from Mother Harvard.  That, and the fact that such a contrarian paper, flying in the face of accepted evolutionary theory, was bound to cause controversy.  Well, Nature got its controversy but lost its intellectual integrity, becoming something of a scientific National Enquirer.  Oh, and boo to the Templeton Foundation, who funded the whole Nowak et al. mess and highlighted the paper on their website.
        The lesson: if you’re a famous biologist you can get away with publishing dreck.  So much for our objective search for truth—a search that’s not supposed to depend on authors’ fame and authority.
    Nowak, Tarnita and Wilson remained adamant in their response.  “Inclusive fitness theory is neither useful nor necessary to explain the evolution of eusociality or other phenomena,” they said.5  “It is time for the field of social evolution to move beyond the limitations of inclusive fitness theory.”  Denyse O'Leary at Uncommon Descent had some fun with this fight; Jonathan M. also took the opportunity on Uncommon Descent to examine the weaknesses of peer review.  Science Daily, notably, took the side of the kin selectionists against the Harvard evolutionists.
  4. Survival of the weakest:  (Warning: joke.)  Do only the weak survive?  According to Science Daily, when talking about abalone shells, researchers at Carnegie Mellon “discovered that an ideal amount of weak bonds actually make for an overall stronger material that can withstand more stress.”
        As you can see, this is not a story about evolutionary theory, but about the quest to mimic biology in creating flexible materials.  Still, the headline illustrates the pervasiveness of evolutionary lingo.  It was actually a story about intelligent design: “In short, a little bit of weakness gives a material better mechanical properties.  Nature knows this trick.”
  5. Survival of the unfit: New 03/27/2011:  Research by Britons reported on PhysOrg casts doubt on “survival of the fittest.”  The article said, “Conventional wisdom has it that for any given niche there should be a best species, the fittest, that will eventually dominate to exclude all others.”
        That’s conventional Darwinism, but they found unexpected diversity after watching multiple generations of bacteria.  If food is plentiful, and mutations affect both fit and unfit equally, the unfit don’t get squeezed out by the fit.  They concluded there must be “a new principle [of evolution], one in which both the fit and the unfit coexist indefinitely.”  Apparently they measured fitness in terms of the ability to use food well.  If that is the criterion, then maybe the obese are fit in evolutionary terms.
Meanwhile, some scientists are raising doubts about the ability of evolutionary theory to explain biological data.  In a new paper in Science,6 Wake, Wake and Specht faced the problem of convergent evolution (homoplasy), saying, “Understanding the diversification of phenotypes through time—“descent with modification”—has been the focus of evolutionary biology for 150 years.  If, contrary to expectations, similarity evolves in unrelated taxa, researchers are guided to uncover the genetic and developmental mechanisms responsible,” they said, hinting that standard evolutionary theory is faced with serious anomalies to its explanatory framework.
    The authors acknowledged, “Phenotypes and taxa are expected to diverge as evolution proceeds.”  However, this is often not the case.  It is not enough, they argued, to notice a pattern of similarity and say it evolved by homoplasy (the “diametric opposite of homology”.  Scientists need to explain more: What are the processes?  What are the mechanisms?  These need to be the targets of research.  Although the authors accept and defend the concept of convergent evolution, their acknowledgement that the facts contradict expectations opens doors to non-Darwinian explanations.  Casey Luskin at the Discovery Institute examined the implications of this paper.
1.  Woods...Cooper...Lenski et al, “Second-Order Selection for Evolvability in a Large Escherichia coli Population,” Science, 18 March 2011: Vol. 331 no. 6023 pp. 1433-1436, DOI: 10.1126/science.1198914.
2.  Nature, 25 March 2011.
3.  Nowak, Tarnita and Wilson, “The evolution of eusociality,” Nature 466 (26 August 2010), pp. 1057–1062, doi:10.1038/nature09205.
4.  Brief communication arising: Regis Ferriere and Richard E. Monod, “Inclusive fitness in evolution,” Nature 471 (24 March 2011), pp. E6–E8, doi:10.1038/nature09834.
5.  Brief communication arising: Martin A. Nowak, Corina E. Tarnita, and Edward O. Wilson, “Nowak et al. reply,” Nature 471 (24 March 2011), pp. E9–E10, doi:10.1038/nature09836.
6.  David Wake, Marvalee Wake and Chelsea Specht, “Homoplasy: From Detecting Pattern to Determining Process and Mechanism of Evolution,” Science, 25 February 2011: Vol. 331 no. 6020 pp. 1032-1035, DOI: 10.1126/science.1188545.
Despite Jerry Coyne’s posturing, evolution is not an objective search for truth.  It is a way of looking at the world with a foregone conclusion (no God, no Creator, nature makes itself), and then making up stories to fit that belief.  This becomes clear when upstarts show up from time to time trying to make up new sub-plots for the fiction and promptly get slapped down by the mandarins.  It’s fun when the mandarins (Coyne and Wilson) slap each other.
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Weird Science Tolerated by Science Reporters     03/25/2011      
March 25, 2011 — What are the boundaries between science and pseudoscience?  Before answering, look at some of the stories that made headlines on science news sites recently.
  1. Legendary science:  Siberia plans to study the Yeti, reported PhysOrg.  Yeti has nothing to do with extra-terrestrial intelligence; it’s the popular name of a legendary abominable snowman locals report having seen living in the Himalayas, like Bigfoot in North America.  “Officials in a Siberian region have announced plans to open a scientific institute for researchers to study yetis, despite opposition from academics,” the article said.
        A local university hurried to distance itself from this project.  But is the absence of solid evidence grounds for branding something as pseudoscience?  After all, cosmologists look for dark matter, dark energy, cosmic strings, inflation, and other unobservable entities.  Biologists search for missing links.  Throughout the history of science, credible researchers have sought evidence for unobservable things in the name of science, SETI being a notable example.
  2. Martian invasionSpace.com seriously entertained the notion that life on Earth began at Mars.  “New Tool May Reveal Your Alien Ancestry,” announced Mike Wall; “It’s possible that the family tree of all life on Earth has its roots on Mars – and a new device could put that theory to the test in a few years, researchers say.”  David L. Chandler also wrote up the story on PhysOrg.
        The test would involve digging in Martian soil, separating out possible organisms, and sequencing any DNA or RNA found.  An instrument being developed at MIT and Harvard is being given the name SETG: Search for Extra-Terrestrial Genomes.  “It’s a long shot,” one of the designers said.  A positive detection would not necessarily mean life originated on Mars; “we could have originated on Mars” is one option; “Or if it started here, it could have been transferred to Mars.”  Space.com interviewed Chris Carr [MIT], one of the inventors, who emphasized the looking before the understanding.  When, though, does this become a science project?  How does SETG differ from the YETI institute?
  3. Intelligently designed Everglades:  Thousands of mounds in the Everglades offer high ground for rich collections of plants, birds and wildlife.  Where did they come from?  A new theory suggests that some of them are unnatural; “Heaps of trash left behind by prehistoric humans might have given rise to many of the tree islands found in the Florida Everglades,” claimed Live Science.
        “This goes to show that human disturbance in the environment doesn’t always have a negative consequence,” a proponent of the theory from McGill University said.  “Hundreds to thousands of years ago, some of the things humans did actually created valuable ecosystems.”  It’s not clear if Gail Chmura was suggesting modern landfills can be beneficial, but one thing is clear: to test her hypothesis, she had to use intelligent design techniques – i.e., to determine if humans left their trash in these heaps on purpose.  How the unobserved tribes lived in the swamps before the middens piled up was not explained.
  4. They came from space:  Panspermia and six other theories about the origin of life were posted by Charles Q. Choi on Live Science.  The seven notions – Miller spark discharge, clay, deep-sea vents, cold fusion, RNA world, metabolism first, and panspermia are all controversial and mutually contradictory.
        Does having multiple controversial, contradictory theories improve the odds that at least one will turn out to be scientific?  Unless and until one of them succeeds, are any of them scientific?  Even if one wins a consensus, will it have any necessary connection with the real world, or will it remain a hypothesis forever, since no one can go back in time to test it?
  5. Futurist paleoanthropology:  Some day the successors of humans may find bones of us and wonder what they were.  That’s a speculation posted on PhysOrg in the name of science.  This thought experiment, like a Russian doll, embeds deeper puzzles: “Further research would show Homo sapiens walked upright, lived in communities and buried their dead,” the article said; “But this future intelligent organism might be faced with an old puzzle--determining where Homo sapiens came from.
        What this implies is that scientists today do not know where Homo sapiens came from.  Bernard Wood “argued it’s not so easy to determine whether relatively new fossil finds are early members of the human evolutionary family or prehistoric apes.”  In the article, Wood shared a number of worries about understanding human history.
        Wood’s paper was described as a thought experiment – a term some in science consider an oxymoron.  Does getting funding from the National Science Foundation confer scientific legitimacy on puzzles embedded in a thought experiment?  How much time do paleoanthropologists get to figure things out and still be considered scientists?
  6. In the matrix:  Mike Treder titled an eye-catching article on the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies website, “We’re all alone and no one knows why.”  He invoked the Fermi Paradox (if aliens exist, they should have found us by now) and the Copernican Principle (we are nothing special) to sort out the pros and cons of three propositions: (1) We are the first beings capable of expanding into the cosmos, (2) Others have migrated but have made themselves undetectable, or (3) Others have hit roadblocks either by destroying themselves or hitting an impassible radius.  He considered the first proposition absurd based on evolution and the Copernican principle.  The third option he considered more plausible than the second.
        After considering objections, he concluded that aliens just can’t get out very far.  He wanted to avoid any conception that we are somehow special, if not unique.  “All in all, it seems clear to meirrefutably logical – that some sort of cosmic roadblock, as yet unidentified, must exist,” he ended.  “Either that or we are in a simulation.”  Since none of his speculations are testable, but rely on assumption-driven deductions, do his ideas belong in science, pseudoscience, philosophy, or some other category?
All the above weird and speculative claims were tolerated and even promoted by leading science reporting websites.  Creationists and advocates of intelligent design, though, are routinely excluded from offering their research, evidence and insights within academia and the media.  Why is that?  Is it because their ideas are more weird than the above?  After all, Dykstra’s Law quips that everyone is someone else’s weirdo.  Is science a matter of sociology, then – being in the right peer group?  On what basis do the science news media exclude intelligent design ideas while promoting all the above without with nary a peep of criticism?
    For decades now, philosophers of science have pointed out that there is no set of necessary and sufficient conditions for calling a theory scientific; there is no one set scientific method, and there is no means of validating science from within.  There is no agreement on scientific explanation, scientific evidence, scientific verification, or scientific objectivity; and the sociological influences on science cannot be ignored.  Within this messy situation, one would hope that observation plays a leading role, along with honesty, fairness, and logical consistency.
Just as an accountant can count but not account for counting, a scientist can do science but not scientifically test science.  Science can’t even account for the validity of our sensations relating to the external world.  Some evolutionary epistemologists have tried to argue that our survival required evolution to give us reliable sensation of the external world, but that is not necessarily so, even assuming evolution: all natural selection would do is ensure reproduction.  Besides, the argument is circular, assuming evolution to base a conclusion on evolution.  One cannot escape philosophy – and ultimately, theology, which validates philosophy (philosophy cannot account for the laws of logic it employs).
    The only starting point that is logically consistent is faith in a personal righteous God who made the world and has granted to humans the ability to perceive the creation using the somewhat trustworthy, if not infallible, sense equipment he provided.  This accounts for intelligence, the laws of logic, values of honesty and integrity, and the correspondence theory of truth (that our senses provide access to a real world).  Any other starting point is hopelessly muddled in self-contradiction, trying to account for these requirements without sufficient causation or validation.
    Everybody has faith in something.  A scientist may as well have faith in a world view that works: “in the beginning was the Word... all things were made by Him” (John 1:1-3).  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, Solomon said; it’s only the beginning.  You can’t even start being wise without it.  As evidence we offer some of the bullet points above.
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  It’s a question a kid would ask to perplex mom or dad – how does a spider rappel down its web without getting dizzy?  Find the answer in the 03/29/2006 entry.

Sensing the World Requires Intelligent Design     03/24/2011        
March 24, 2011 — How do our bodies make sense of the external world?  Through our senses, of course; at least they are the entry points of data into the mind.  Behind those senses are remarkable mechanisms that we use but do not actively operate.  The design in their automatic operations is slowly being revealed with better observing techniques.

  1. Sensing sound with motors:  “From grinding heavy metal to soothing ocean waves, the sounds we hear are all perceptible thanks to the vibrations felt by tiny molecular motors in the hair cells of the inner ear,” began an article on PhysOrg.
        A single mutation – one amino acid change – in a molecular motor protein called myo1c is enough to disrupt the function of the myosin motor in the hair cell and cause hearing loss.  The mutation causes a reduced sensitivity, perhaps due to making it spend less time attached to actin filaments.  The amino acid is “highly conserved” (unevolved) throughout the superfamily of myosin motors, the article said.
  2. Sensing light with circuits:  A novel microscope technique has allowed scientists at Max Planck Institute to decode the eye’s complex circuitry, Science Daily reported.  “The properties of optical stimuli need to be conveyed from the eye to the brain,” the article began.  “To do this efficiently, the relevant information is extracted by pre-processing in the eye.” (See also 03/31/2008).
        One example of pre-processing accomplished by ganglion cells is responding to light moving in a particular direction.  “This direction selectivity is generated by inhibitory interneurons that influence the activity of the ganglion cells through their synapses.”
        Just as with man-made network protocols, the scientists “discovered that the distribution of the synapses between ganglion cells and interneurons follows highly specific rules.”  These ganglion cells intercept and process the visual information before it is received by the brain.  The article described various rules the network of cells follow in activating or inhibiting visual information.
  3. Sensing time with clocks:  All living things follow “circadian rhythms,” biological responses to changes in time of day, month, and year.  As in other mammals, the human master clock is located in the brain – specifically, in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), a group of nerve cells in the hypothalamus near the visual cortex.  In response to its data inputs, the SCN can direct the brain to produce more or less melatonin, a hormone that induces sleep.
        Live Science described how the SCN works.  There are internal inputs, like genes and proteins produced in the body, and external inputs from the senses.  “Biological clocks aren’t made of cogs and wheels, but rather groups of interacting molecules in cells throughout the body,” the article said.  One of the proteins is aptly named CLOCK – “an essential component in directing circadian rhythms in humans, fruit flies, mice, fungi and other organisms.”  Another is SIRT1, which senses energy use in cells.  The balance of these factors affects how the SCN directs the body to respond to light and darkness and other factors.
        Disruption of the biological clock can lead to a host of problems.  Jet lag is a common example.  Fortunately, clock repair is available for that: “Eventually your body is able to adjust its circadian rhythms to the new environment” by a kind of clock reset.  Other dysfunctions, though, can lead to more serious problems, like “obesity, depression and seasonal affective disorder.”  That’s because “hormone production, hunger, cell regeneration and body temperature” are some of the processes that rely on accurate circadian rhythms.
All sensory inputs must be processed by the brain.  Fortunately, the brain, like good computer systems, has redundancy mechanisms that give it “plasticity” – the ability to change as we learn, or as parts become damaged.  Science Daily described how researchers at the University of Michigan Medical School are testing mice to see how “the plasticity of the brain allowed mice to restore critical functions related to learning and memory after the scientists suppressed the animals’ ability to make certain new brain cells.”
    Fault-tolerant artificial networks, like the power grid and the internet, provide for alternate routes when hubs become unavailable.  Similarly, we have “mechanisms by which the brain compensates for disruptions and reroutes neural functioning,” the article said.  Part of this is recovering from loss of the ability to make new brain cells by giving existing cells more activity and longer life spans.
    “It’s amazing how the brain is capable of reorganizing itself in this manner,” Geoffrey Murphy, an associate professor of molecular and integrative physiology at the medical school said.  “Right now, we’re still figuring out exactly how the brain accomplishes all this at the molecular level, but it’s sort of comforting to know that our brains are keeping track of all of this for us.
It makes sense that readers will sense the wonder of the senses a little more after reading these sensible articles, free as they were of evolutionary nonsense.
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More Soft Tissue Found in Old Fossils     03/23/2011        
March 23, 2011 — A reptile skin fossilized in rock said to be 50 million years old has been found.  According to Science Daily, scientists at the University of Manchester reported the discovery of amide molecules in “fossilized soft tissue of a beautifully-preserved reptile.”  The original paper, accessible to the public, was published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.1 
    According to Roy Wogelius, a geochemist who used infrared analysis on the fossil, “The mapped distributions of organic compounds and trace metals in 50 million year old skin look so much like maps we’ve made of modern lizard skin as a check on our work, it is sometimes hard to tell which is the fossil and which is fresh.
    The use of infrared and X-ray technologies opens up new avenues for non-destructive exploration of fossilized material.  The article did not explain how the organic molecules could last for millions of years except to state that they are using “modern analytical chemistry and 21st century techniques to understand how such remarkable preservation occurs....”
    With their writeup, the BBC News presented pictures of the fossil and infrared data.  As for how the soft tissue survived, the BBC offered this explanation: “The details from the study suggest that when skin’s organic compounds began to break down, they formed a chemical bond with trace metals that, under certain circumstances, then go on to build a ‘bridge’ with the surrounding minerals.  A result of this process meant that the skin and remaining soft tissue was protected from further decomposition or further erosion” – but for 50 million years?  The reporter did not elaborate on how rarely this bridging occurs, or why it closely resembles modern gecko skin using the same analysis techniques.  According to the story, Wogelius and his team tried to analyze fossilized dinosaur skin said to be 67 million years old (12/03/2007), but were unable to map any biological structure – not because the soft tissue was absent, but because it tended to fall apart too easily.  The paper referenced the work by Mary Schweitzer on dinosaur soft tissue (01/30/2011, 04/30/2009).
    In a related article, Science Daily said, “A University of Alberta-led research team has discovered that insects that bore into trees as long ago as 90 million years, or as recently as last summer, leave a calling card that’s rich with information.”  The article mentioned samples of amber said to be 90 million and 17 million years old without any indication that there has been any evolutionary change over that expanse of time – a period in which evolutionists claim all the major mammals, including whales, evolved.  Instead, the press release simply ended, “This discovery will help researchers understand the history of insect infestations.”
1.  Edwards...Wogelius et al, “Infrared mapping resolves soft tissue preservation in 50 million year-old reptile skin,” Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B, published online before print March 23, 2011, doi: 10.1098/rspb.2011.0135 (open access).
Watch out for the suggestive wording in articles like this.  The first article used the phrase “building blocks” twice.  That phrase is commonly used by evolutionists seeking to make the origin of life sound as easy as A-B-C.  The end of the article also talked about using the techniques to infer the long-term status of buried wastes, a red herring that sidesteps the damaging implications of finding still-intact soft tissue in rock alleged to be millions of years old.
    Over and over, articles like these promise readers that discoveries are helping scientists “understand” the world.  If they truly understood, they would admit that the evidence only makes sense if these fossils are recent.  The millions of years are not in the fossils in the rocks, remember, but in the rocks in evolutionists’ heads.
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Better Life Origin Through Chemistry     03/22/2011      
March 22, 2011 — Jeffrey Bada went digging through Stanley Miller’s old 1958 spark-discharge vials and found more amino acids.  When Miller added rotten-egg gas (hydrogen sulfide, H2S) to the mix, more amino acids were produced: “A total of 23 amino acids and 4 amines, including 7 organosulfur compounds, were detected in these samples,” his team reported in PNAS.1  Apparently Miller never reported the results of that experiment.2  Some of the amino acids found occur in life; others do not.  They comprised a 50-50 mixture of left-handed and right-handed forms.
    What’s the upshot of this?  “The simulated primordial conditions used by Miller may serve as a model for early volcanic plume chemistry and provide insight to the possible roles such plumes may have played in abiotic organic synthesis,” the paper said.  Maybe a volcano erupted under Darwin’s warm little pond.  Maybe that is how it got warm.  At least any organisms hadn’t yet evolved noses to have to worry about the awful smell – something Bada had to contend with as he analyzed the samples.  He also believes the experiment shows amino acids could have formed within space rocks.
    The paper was summarized by PhysOrg, Live Science and the BBC News, which headlined, “Tests shed light on life origins.”  In another BBC News article, the headline read, “Classic ‘life chemistry’ experiment still excites,” without explaining who, or what, got excited.  Bada said he wants to repeat old Miller experiment with modern equipment.
   
1.  Parker, Cleaves,... Bada et al, “Primordial synthesis of amines and amino acids in a 1958 Miller H2S-rich spark discharge experiment,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published online before print March 21, 2011, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1019191108 (open access).
2.  Perhaps Miller failed to report the results because the analytical methods he used in the 1950s were not as sensitive as today’s methods which are up to 10 orders of magnitude greater.  On the other hand, Bada reported that yields from the sulfide run were an order of magnitude greater than those from Miller’s earlier spark-discharge apparatus.  Furthermore, Miller could have used such techniques as they improved up till his death in 2007.
Go ahead and cook your amino acids by intelligent design.  We’ll give you as many as you want.  In fact, we’ll give you a whole earth packed with amino acids, arranged in sets, all left-handed (to overcome one huge improbability, see book), and assume they are combining and recombining at fantastically rapid rates.  Conditions could not be better for forming a usable protein molecule!  Now read chapters 6 and 7 from our online book.
    See also the 05/02/2003 about the “useful lie” made out of the Miller experiment, and Miller’s own attempts with other ingredients in 2002 (10/31/2002) before his death.  If hydrogen sulfide added such powerful magic to the potion, one would think Miller would have concentrated on it more between 1958 and 2002.  He was more honest about the problems with chemical evolution than many others.  They get an F in chemistry for turning his iconic experiment into the building blocks of lie (03/19/2008).
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  Revisit the astonishing discovery of soft tissue and blood vessels in a T. rex leg bone (03/24/2005).  The claim has held up to six years of scrutiny (04/30/2009) and has led to subsequent discoveries (01/30/2011).

Evolution Everyone Can Agree On     03/21/2011      
March 21, 2011 — The controversy over Darwinian evolution concerns one core question: Can an unplanned, undirected process generate new functions and complex organs of irreducible complexity without design?  No one really doubts that organisms vary in horizontal or downward ways – either by modifications of existing genetic information, or by deleterious mutations that somehow allow animals to continue to survive.  Here are some recent examples.

  1. Churkey lurkey:  The Transylvanian naked neck chicken is an ungainly bird with a long red neck (see picture in a BBC News) article).  “The ‘churkey’ owes its distinctive look to a complex genetic mutation, according to scientists.”  A vitamin A derived substance apparently gives the strong red color to the neck.  Fortuitously, the lack of feathers on the neck helps the bird withstand heat – an advantage in hot regions.  This is an example of loss of function that inadvertently helps these birds survive in specific environments.
  2. Plant doubling:  “Evolution in the act” was announced by an article on Science Daily.  The story concerned a hybrid plant introduced to America that underwent a spontaneous doubling of its genes.  Before, the hybrid experienced relaxed gene expression, but after the doubling, expression was regained, the plants became vigorous again, and started to spread.
        “No one had extended this to natural populations and the rapidity at which this can occur, and that’s pretty astonishing,” a researcher from Iowa State University remarked.  Another considered this like nature hitting a “reset button” after gene expression had been disturbed by hybridization.  This is an example of down-and-back-up evolution; even so, the hybrid was introduced on purpose by breeders and does not represent a natural state.
  3. Human evolution:  The BBC News published a story about cleaner fish that pick the parasites out of sharks’ mouths, without the sharks taking advantage of the free food (see 01/13/2003, 06/22/2004, 11/23/2009, 01/13/2010, bullet 4).  Divers interested in watching the phenomenon have flocked to an observing site at a seamount off the Philippines, where the sharks come in gently for their dental treatment.  The article quipped, “A huge dive tourism site has evolved around them.”
Seen on birthday party napkins: “I’m not aging; I’m evolving.” 
Evolution is a word with many meanings.  The root of the word just means unfolding – nothing controversial about that.  It can mean change over time of any kind, like the evolution of technology or the change from a landscape from a meadow to a forest.  In the debates over Darwinism, it is important to specify the meaning at issue.
    At seminars by the most ardent Biblical creationists, it is common to see presentations showing the variations in human skin color, horse size and traits, and dog breeds arising from either artificial selection or the kind of natural selection best described as stabilizing selection.  Biblical creationists accept a broad degree of horizontal variation from original created kinds.
    That kind of “evolution” is a far cry from what Darwin promoted: the common ancestry of all life from a single cell accidentally produced in some warm little pond, producing the vast array of plants and animals by a purposeless, unguided process.  Jokes about humans evolving instead of aging, or evolving a tourism site are just that: figures of speech not to be confused with Darwinism.  Beware of equivocation.
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A Bad Kind of Sexual Selection     03/20/2011      
March 20, 2011 — Darwin taught a kind of sexual selection that presumed mate choice can lead to extravagant sexual differences.  There is a kind of sexual selection going on among humans that is by intelligent design – with bad consequences.  In this case, the selections are not being made by potential mates, but by parents.
    According to PhysOrg, “In the next 20 years in large parts of China and India, there will be a 10% to 20% excess of young men because of sex selection and this imbalance will have societal repercussions, states an analysis in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).”
    What has led to this harmful imbalance?  For one, it is Asian preference for sons, based on cultural traditions with long histories.  For another it is abortion law: “A preference for sons in China, India and South Korea combined with easy access to sex-selective abortions has led to a significant imbalance between the number of males and females born in these countries.”  Finally, in China, the 30-year-old one-child policy has pressured many parents to make sure their one child is a boy (09/18/2010).
    What is the cost of this deliberate sex selection?  “The societal implications mean that a significant percentage of the male population will not be able to marry or have children because of a scarcity of women,” the article stated.  “In China, 94% of unmarried people aged 28 to 49 are male, 97% of whom have not completed high school, and there are worries the inability to marry will result in psychological issues and possibly increased violence and crime.
Where are the feminists?  Where is the outrage about baby girls being selectively aborted?  Is this an evolutionary trait of human beings that forces dictators and parents to make irrational decisions, or are human beings morally responsible for their actions and the consequences?  We all know the answer.  Evil choices are especially egregious when they affect the next generation.
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Limits of Science Noted     03/19/2011      
March 19, 2011 — Biology used to be simple to classify: plants and animals.  Up to the 1990s, that transmogrified into eukaryotes and prokaryotes.  Then the prokaryotes got split into archaea and bacteria.  But now, according to New Scientist there are debates about opening up a fourth kingdom of life – with the realization that 99% of cell species refuse to be cultured in a lab where they can be studied.  This history calls into question what scientists know about the natural world.  Are taxonomists really carving nature at its joints, or are scientific classification systems mere conveniences of the human mind?  And if observable reality can be so difficult to classify, what about unobservable reality?  Consider the following surprises and reversals:
  1. Selfish birds:  Ornithologists used to consider fairy wrens altruistic, because they would nurture the eggs of other birds.  Now, PhysOrg reported a change of view: these birds are selfish little schemers, thinking ahead for their own benefit: “The study showed that the seemingly selfless little helpers are in fact carefully calculating accountants.”  Were either of these fair characterizations, or misleading metaphors projected onto animals lacking self-consciousness? 
  2. Apex nadir:  The Apex Chert in Australia has long been considered scientific evidence for the origin of life at least 3.5 billion years ago.  Now, according to PhysOrg, that evidence has been debunked (see 02/27/2011, bullet 7).  The strange shapes in the rock have nothing to do with life.  This reversal of opinion could reverberate through other research programs, like the search for ancient life on Mars or in meteorites.
  3. Trilobite orgyPhysOrg described mass kills of trilobites as distant as Oklahoma, Morocco, and Poland.  “A smothering death by tons of hurricane-generated storm sediment was so rapid that the trilobites are preserved in life position.”  So did the scientists conclude evidence of a global catastrophe?  Apparently not; rather than reason along those lines, Carlton Brett seemed oblivious to the geological implications and concentrated instead on interpreting the ecology and behavior of the ancient arthropods, describing them as naked and having a sex orgy.  Was he committing science with that metaphor, or projecting base human interests on mindless animals?
  4. Now we have it right:  A “new evolutionary history of primates” was announced by PhysOrg, claiming that the “robust new phylogenetic tree resolves many long-standing issues in primate taxonomy.”  Whenever new-and-improved announcements are made, questions rise about what went wrong with the old.  Right away came the surprises: “The genomes of living primates harbor remarkable differences in diversity and provide an intriguing context for interpreting human evolution.”  But does science aspire for contexts for interpretation, or for getting the world right?  And what should become of the faith readers had placed in earlier evolutionary histories announced with similar confidence?
  5. Changing climate change:  Climate change (formerly global warming; see 03/08/2011) has been attributed to human industrial pollution, but PhysOrg reported on evidence of ancient hyperthermals that they claim led to warming periods lasting up to 40,000 years.  Such warming periods, if they occurred, could not have been caused by humans.  But instead of calling into question the foundational evidence underlying the politically-charged debate about anthropogenic warming, the article focused on how today’s scientists might use this data to predict the impact of human-caused climate change.  Is that the conclusion that the evidence demanded?
  6. Political science:  Speaking of politics, New Scientist published an article about a Yale sociologist who studied effective and ineffective ways to convince climate skeptics.  The researcher, however, appeared focused on changing Republican minds instead of Democratic minds.  Why didn’t he use his research impartially?  Should science be a tool for manipulating one party?
  7. Pros and cons:  An article on the BBC News raises questions about who is allowed to do science.  Is it the sole domain of professionals?  While Mark Kinver entertained views that volunteers are vital to science data collection, he entertained critical views that “The argument for prohibiting their use was that the volunteers were incompetent, and their data would be biased.”  While training and ethics are desirable, does the statement imply that all scientists are competent and unbiased?
  8. Peace dividend:  Angola, long embroiled in a civil war, just unearthed its first dinosaur, PhysOrg reported.  All can probably agree this is a good step for a war-torn country, but the article focused on the political angle – how Angola seems to be on the verge of a “research renaissance” after years of political strife.  This raises not only questions about what dinosaur bones have to do with politics, but how many other parts of the world are off limits to research due to political isolation and war.  If a great deal, how much of the world can scientists say they understand?  This case resembles the item above about 99% of microbes falling outside scientists’ observations.
A few articles directly questioned the ability of science to get the world right.  Julian Baggini in New Scientist explained “The self: why science is not enough,” arguing that even if neuroscience multiplies its data, understanding of ourselves will be unattainable.  “The main reason is that the very notion of a science of the self depends on us identifying its subject – the self – from the perspective of first-person experience,” he said.  “Science can correct false beliefs about what sustains that experience, and it can explain what makes such experience possible, but it cannot change what it means to be a self without erasing the very data it depends on.
    Meanwhile, Liz Else at New Scientist discussed what art can do for science and vice versa: “While science is about understanding the complexity of the structure of the material world, art indicates the deeper implications of scientific advancement and helps shape new paradigms.”  Can these fields of experience, both mediated by the human mind, be relegated to separate compartments, or is there a continuum?  Is science a kind of art?  Can art be approached scientifically?  Some scientists are artists, and vice versa; can their personalities be compartmentalized?  If science tries to understand the structure of the world according to an old paradigm, what becomes of its epistemic priority when art helps shape new paradigms?
    The BBC News summed up many of the above problems with its Today feature, “Does science have all the answers?”  Tom Colls asked, “As scientists discover increasing amounts about life, the universe and everything, are we approaching a point where we can rely on science alone to answer all of life’s big questions?”  He invoked a bit of the old warfare thesis (disfavored by historians of science), describing a “cultural struggle taking place between religion and science.”  First volley was given to a champion of that dichotomy, Peter Atkins, who calls religion “fantasy” and is convinced that there is no question in the universe science cannot address.  Then Colls entertained a variety of contrarian views by academics who feel Atkins left the lab behind and has no more moral authority “than a priest, or a nun, or the guy who runs the sweetshop down the road.”  Colls then opened the floor to readers to present their opinions.
This might be a good time to review the Guide to Evolution on the right sidebar, especially Finagle’s Creed, “Science is true.  Do not be misled by facts.”  Scientists are people, aren’t they?  Have you ever met any person who was infallible?  Do the collective efforts of fallible people ensure failings are weeded out?  Even if so, what fallible person could judge that science has arrived at a true conception of the world?  Can there be any science without honesty and morality, and if not, how can evolutionists claim that morality evolved?  If honesty evolved, when did it become honest enough to deserve our trust?  Will it become more honest in the future, or fluctuate between honesty and dishonesty?  If your “self” is following this line of reasoning, and you want honest answers, where did that desire come from?  This entry asks questions.  You have to supply the thinking.
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  Fossil finds reported March 2004 included polar dinosaurs (03/29/2004), mammals in an Arizona cave said to be 10 million years old (03/11/2004), and remarkably modern-looking butterflies in amber said to be 25 million years old (03/17/2004), so well preserved they challenged evolutionists to explain the lack of evolutionary change without resorting to just-so stories.  That month, also, a secular geologist was bold enough to rethink the geological layers as possibly fractal patterns not tied to long ages.  He questioned the dogma about gradualism formulated in the 19th century by Sir Lyell Lot (say that name real fast and you get the pun).

It’s Raining Methane on Titan’s Dunes     03/18/2011      
March 18, 2011 — Imagine a world where it rains liquid natural gas.  That world is Titan, the Mercury-sized moon of Saturn.  In Science this week,1 Cassini scientists reported large equatorial clouds over Titan’s vast dune fields, and a darkening of the surface after an apparent cloudburst.  Since only hydrocarbons can be liquid at the temperatures there, and methane is the most abundant, they have concluded that it has rained methane on the bizarre moon that has some atmospheric properties familiar to Earth: weather reports.
    The story has been reported on Space.com, PhysOrg, and National Geographic, echoing the press release from JPL.  In National Geographic’s article, lead author Elizabeth Turtle estimated that the local weather may have varied from a drizzle to a flood.  Changes in surface brightness after the clouds were noted between October 2010 and January 2011.  According to the paper, the clouds extended over 1000 km but did not leave evidence of standing liquid on the ground.
    Tetsuya Tokano from the University of Zoln in Germany commented on this discovery in the same issue of Science.2  The tropics on Earth are lush and wet; “But why are there apparently long dry seasons at Titan’s equator, in contrast to Earth’s tropical rainforest climate?” he asked.  The Cassini scientists reason that due to Titan’s seasons, clouds do not remain near the equator for long.  The rain did not leave lakes or puddles, but probably just wet the surface, including the icy sand grains making up the dunes.


1.  Turtle, Lunine et al, “Rapid and Extensive Surface Changes Near Titan’s Equator: Evidence of April Showers,” Science 18 March 2011: Vol. 331 no. 6023 pp. 1414-1417, DOI: 10.1126/science.1201063.
2.  Tetsuya Tokano, “Planetary Science: Precipitation Climatology on Titan, ” Science, 18 March 2011: Vol. 331 no. 6023 pp. 1393-1394, DOI: 10.1126/science.1204092.
None of the reports discussed the age issue, but it seems seasonal rains like this would have left evidence of vast deposits of sedimentation if cloudbursts have been going on for billions of years.  It appears that the drainage channels are being formed by currently active dynamic weather and are not relics of past epochs.  Unlike Earth, Titan does not appear to have plate tectonics or volcanoes (at least in abundance), and its surface winds are primarily confined to equatorial latitudes.  That means the surface is pretty static.  Methane may cycle through the atmosphere, but not liquid ethane that should have formed a global ocean miles deep after 4.5 billion years of steady precipitation (07/31/2008).
    So we have raining methane on Titan, and reigning dogma on Earth.  In fact, it’s reigning cats and dogmas, speaking of the reigning cats in academia who sit on their A.S.S. (age of the solar system) and never budge.  Some stand-up scientist should model what the conditions on Titan would be expected to look like after billions of years of erosion and ask whether the model fits the observations.  It might shed some light where the sun never shines.
Next headline on:  Solar SystemGeologyDating Methods
Mummified Trees in the Arctic: Are They Millions of Years Old?     03/17/2011        
March 17, 2011 — Arctic wood in a “polar desert” has been discovered that is “so well preserved that the wood can still burn, and even the most delicate tree structures, such as leaves, are present” reported PhysOrg.  Joel Barker (Ohio State) remarked, “The dead trees look just like the dried-out dead wood lying outside now.” How old are they?
    “The Hazen Plateau on Ellesmere Island, a polar desert where winter temperatures can currently dip down to 50 below zero, is currently too cold and dry to support forests; the only living trees that now dot the park’s desolate landscape are dwarf willows,” the article explained, adding the following interpretation: “Therefore, the pieces of wood must have come from trees that lived millions of years ago, when the Arctic was still warm enough to support forests.”  Barker tried to bracket the age from sediment cores to at least 2 million years, and from pollen, no older than 12 million years.  From tree rings, Barker and his team determined that the forests were barely hanging on at the northern extent of their range during a period of warmer climate.
    Barker believes the trees were buried rapidly in a landslide.  In future work, he plans to see if any remain buried in an upright position.  “In addition, he plans to compare specific tree components, such as leaf cuticles, from mummified material with the same components from contemporary trees of the same species,” the article said.  “Differences between the mummified and contemporary components of the same tree species may provide clues about the evolution of those species.”  But since the same species in the fossils are identifiable from living counterparts, only slight variation has occurred, if any – not the origin of species.
This is an update on the Chronicles of Blarneya reported on 12/18/2010).  Recall that a team member said this: “When we started pulling leaves out of the soil, that was surreal, to know that it’s millions of years old and that you can hold it in your hand.”  Scientists do not hold millions of years in their hands.  They hold them in their heads.
Next headline on:  PlantsFossilsDating Methods
Notable Notes and Quotable Quotes
“What policy advisers anoint as ‘science’ for intended public authority always embodies unstated policy-related commitments, including presumptions over the defining questions.  Such social questions in public science should be recognized and debated openly.  Scientific knowledge should inform public issues, not define them.” — Brian Wynne [Lancaster University, UK], in a letter to Nature (471, 03/17/2011, p. 305, doi:10.1038/471305b), responding to John Beddington’s call for “gross intolerance” against pseudoscience last month (see 02/27/2011, bullet 10).
    In another letter to Nature on this topic in the same issue (p. 305), Andy Stirling [University of Sussex] wrote, “Science does not monopolize social rationality.... rational scepticism is as important outside as inside the social practices of science.  Hence the motto of Britain’s Royal Society, ‘Nullius in verba’: take nothing solely on authority – even from scientists.

Double Ratchet Found in ATP Synthase     03/16/2011        
March 16, 2011 — ATP synthase, the rotary engine in all living things, has another trick in its design specs: a ratcheting mechanism that improves the efficiency of ATP synthesis.  ATP is the “energy currency” of cellular life, so the efficiency of production of ATP is of vital importance.  (For background and animation, see CMI article.)
    Three European scientists, reporting in PNAS,1 used quantum mechanical approaches to study the energy flow during production of ATP in the beta subunits (the active sites of the motor-driven enzyme).  The alpha subunit rotates like a waterwheel (12/22/2003), engaging a camshaft called the gamma subunit.  Three ATP are formed in the beta portion for each 360° cycle.  That results in one ATP for each 120 degrees of rotation: “There are three active sites at which the reaction may take place and these are subject to conformational changes during the revolving cycle,” they explained (a conformational change indicates moving parts).  Hints that more was going on each 1/3 turn were brought to light when other researchers noticed slight pauses at 90° and 30°.
    The authors found two transition states within the 120° motion that favor the reaction one way, like a ratchet.  The first of these transition states occurs via a double proton transfer.  The second occurs via a conformational change as the third phosphate ion bonds with oxygen on ADP (adenosine diphosphate), forming ATP (adenosine triphosphate).  “These two TSs [transition states] are concluded crucial for ATP synthesis,” they said.  They found that as the enzyme progresses into these states, energy barriers are set up that block the reverse direction, just like a ratchet on a tool.  “This change could indicate a ‘ratchet’ mechanism for the enzyme to ensure efficacy of ATP synthesis by shifting residue conformation and thus locking access to the crucial TSs.”2
    It’s “demanding” to study these machines.  “The complex function of ATP synthase makes this enzyme special compared to many other enzymes and makes computational investigation challenging,” they said.  Many other teams study these amazing molecular machines, and a full understanding of the reaction mechanism awaits elucidation, but the authors felt “we have shown how the positions of alpha-S344 and alpha-R373 [two amino acid residues in the active site] may drastically influence the rate and, in this way, attenuate the reversal of these reaction steps.”
    Since ATP synthase is known to permit both synthesis and hydrolysis of ATP, (i.e., the motor is reversible), it will be interesting to see if the ratchets have some kind of clutch mechanism to favor hydrolysis under certain conditions.  For more on ATP synthase, see 09/22/2010, 08/04/2010, 01/07/2010, 05/25/2009, 03/27/2008, and 08/10/2004, or search on "ATP synthase" in the search bar above.


1.  Tamás Beke-Somfai, Per Lincoln, and Bengt Nordén, “Double-lock ratchet mechanism revealing the role of [alpha]SER-344 in F0F1 ATP synthase,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published online before print March 7, 2011, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1010453108.
2.  The authors measured energy barriers of 43 kJ/mol and 40 kJ/mol in the two transition state ratchets.
Over the last eight years of reports on ATP synthase in these pages, the trend has been to find more and more detail supporting efficient design, and less and less credibility these molecular rotary engines could have evolved by chance.  Remember that they are vital to every living cell – even primitive bacteria.  Now we see that individual amino acid positions in the active site are critical.  Even “point mutations of alpha-S347Q and alpha-S347A have dramatic effects on ATP synthase function both for synthesis and hydrolysis,” they said, pointing out that one known mutation reduces function and another disables it altogether.  No wonder these amazing machines are “highly conserved” (unevolved) in all domains of life.
    The authors did not mention evolution except for one quick stink bomb, “Performing this reaction efficiently is likely a key biochemical reason for the early evolutionary development of the enzyme complex, so understanding the detailed catalytic steps is most desirable.”  What?  The need for efficiency somehow caused accidents to occur that “developed,” in some blind, unguided way, this finely-tuned, multi-part, 100% efficient engine beyond human capability to manufacture?  “Evolutionary development” is an oxymoron, like blind guide.  Let’s repair the sentence: “Performing this reaction efficiently is likely a key biochemical reason for the original design of the enzyme complex, so understanding the detailed catalytic steps is most praiseworthy.”  Ah, much better.
Next headline on:  Cell BiologyIntelligent DesignAmazing Facts
  This tree of life is real: remember last year’s report about Moringa oleifera, a tree with multiple healing powers?  Revisit the 03/09/2010 entry.  Exercise: research this tree and find out if any scientists or benefactors have taken up the challenge of unleashing its “huge amount of human potential” for improving life in poor countries.  Maybe you could help bring that about.

Follow the Insects     03/15/2011      
March 15, 2011 — Science has good reason to study insects – not just because they are the most numerous and diverse animals on the planet.  They know some tricks we would do well to emulate.  Robot designers are taking the lead on following insects.

  1. Print a fly:  New printers are allowing inventors to print the paper-thin wings they need to design insect-mimicking robots.  Live Science told about how the technology is providing shortcuts for robot designers, because “Production of an untethered, flapping-hovering machine itself is very challenging, and only a few have been made successfully to date.”  Hod Lipson, robot inventor at Cornell, shared that much remains to be learned about how flapping wings work: “One reason that so few flapping-hovering machines have been demonstrated is that they are very difficult to design, laborious to make, and challenging to stabilize.”  They must be in awe of the tiny gnat.
  2. Feed a bat:  Designers at the University of Western Ontario, Canada, have invented a robo-moth they are using to study bat sonar.  The BBC News told how they tested their electronic bug with continuous-emitting bats, and found that the flying mammals are able to differentiate between fluttering and stationary objects.  The article, which includes a 3-second video clip, did not say if any bats choked on the food.
  3. Walk the walls:  It’s not just the flying that tantalizes inventors about insects; it’s also their feet.  New Scientist described how researchers at Tongji University in China studied the sticky feet of insects “to create the next generation of climbing robots.”  Insects squirt a sticky fluid that creates suction with walls and ceilings.  Minghe Li used a mixture of honey and water onto pads of his robot, but it didn’t work right till he discovered and imitated the tiny grooves on insect feet.
        The article also mentioned work on gecko feet.  The designers working on gecko mimics have problems replicating the flexibility of their nanoscopic hairs.  The human-designed carbon nanotubes stiffen when made short.  Minghe Li envisions a day when “combining the adhesion methods of insects and geckos could one day lead to the ultimate sticking machine.”
Monarch butterflies are on the move, reported Live Science.  Thankfully, their numbers are rebounding from an all-time low in the 2009-2010 season.  “It takes the butterflies about four generations – four cycles of mating, egg-laying and hatching – to reach the northern extent of their migration in the upper United States and Canada,” the article said.  “There, ahead of the approaching autumn weather, a bizarrely long-lived ‘super generation’ is hatched and makes the long flight all the way back to the forests of Mexico to live out the colder months in a quiet stupor, clinging to the trees before heading for Texas to mate and lay eggs come springtime.”
    The remarkable life cycle of butterflies, and the epic migrations made by monarchs, will be showcased in stunning color, sound, and science in the upcoming film Metamorphosis from Illustra Media.  Its producers expect the case for intelligent design to be powerfully augmented when added to its predecessors that explored the cell (Unlocking the Mystery of Life), the universe (The Privileged Planet), and the fossil record (Darwin’s Dilemma).  A preview trailer of the film, being released this summer in high-def on Blu-Ray, is available on the Illustra site.
The only article that mentioned evolution was the BBC story about robo-moths and bats.  Even then, it was only about minor changes between bats that are intermittent and continuous callers.  “He [Dr. Brock Fenton] suggests that bats could have evolved the radar-like echolocation strategy to improve their chances of catching more nutritious insect prey.”  That statement, of course, flies in the face of neo-Darwinian theory, that seeks to exclude teleological causes.  To be completely impartial, Dr. Brock should have also examined the possibility that intermittent emitters devolved from continuous callers.
    But why even mention evolution?  It was certainly not germane to any of the stories.  Biomimetics is design-focused: what can we learn from living things, and how can we apply it?  As shown once more, this is one of the most productive and exciting trends in 21st-century science.  And as the new film Metamorphosis will show, Darwinism is hopelessly inadequate to explain the origin of the amazing design features of insects.
Next headline on:  Terrestrial ZoologyBiomimeticsPhysicsIntelligent DesignMedia
Surprises in Science Never End     03/14/2011      
March 14, 2011 — In a perfect world of scientific knowledge, scientists would understand everything and be able to predict everything according to their best theories.  The number of surprises that continue to turn up, however, show that we remain far from that perfect world. 
  1. Paleoecology: Chilly dinosaurs:  “It has long been thought that the climate of the Mesozoic, the age of the dinosaurs, was generally warm across the planet,” began an article on PhysOrg.  “However, a recent study challenges this theory.”  An international team measured oxygen isotopes in bones and teeth of fossils from the Jehol biota (02/21/2003) to infer that the animals lived in a temperate climate with harsh winters.
  2. Paleoanthropology: Neanderthal firemen:  A complete reversal of thinking about Neanderthals has been going on for some time now (09/22/2010, 05/08/2010, 09/23/2008).  PhysOrg added more fuel to the idea that Neanderthals were not “dimwitted brutes as often portrayed,” but smart, organized and successful, able to control use of fire for 400,000 years in the evolutionary timescale.  That was one surprise in a paper in PNAS mentioned in the article.
        That discovery comes at a price, though.  “The second major finding in the PNAS study – perhaps even more surprising than the first – was that Neanderthal predecessors pushed into Europe’s colder northern latitudes more than 800,000 years ago without the habitual control of fire,” the article continued.  “...Archaeologists have long believed the control of fire was necessary for migrating early humans as a way to reduce their energy loss during winters when temperatures plunged below freezing and resources became more scarce.”  In fact, “the oldest traces of human presence in Europe date to more than 1 million years ago,” it said.  That’s 600,000 cold winters without fire.  No one seemed to be questioning the dates (cp. 12/20/2009).  New Scientist suggested a high-protein diet and active lifestyle helped them survive, but would jumping jacks in a blizzard after an uncooked mammoth steak prevent hypothermia?
  3. Paleobiology: Surprising lost world:  Crinoids are rare in today’s oceans.  A New Zealand team stumbled upon “over 1000 crinoids belonging to an as yet undescribed species on Admiralty seamount” recently.  “We were surprised to find such extensive populations,” a team member said.  The article compared it to finding Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Lost World of living dinosaurs.
        What makes it surprising is that crinoids have largely died out.  In the evolutionary timeline, they were abundant from 250 million to 65 million years ago.  “Today, however, they were only thought to exist in small numbers in the deep sea, possibly because of pressure from recently evolved predators.”  The article said this population “may have been thriving for around 25,000 years,” leaving unresolved the question of what happened in the intervening 64,975,000 years.
  4. Geology: Fast volcanoesNational Geographic News accompanied a dramatic picture of a Montserrat volcano with the headline, “‘Sleeping’ Volcanoes Can Wake Up Faster than Thought.”  For a sleeping volcano to come to life, the soft magma down deep needs to mix with sticky magma in the chamber.  “According to current theory, it would take several hundred or perhaps a thousand years for the heat to distribute through the chamber and make the magma fluid enough to erupt.”
        That sounds like simple physics that should have been understood long ago.  Something must be wrong; “But a new model based on fluid dynamics shows that hot, deep magma can mix with the older, sticky stuff much easier than believed, scientists say.”  The new idea is that mixing in the throat of the volcano is “much more efficient than we previously had understood,” a geologist at the University of Washington remark, casting doubt on what was understood previously.
  5. Evolution: Tree of Fly:  The latest celebration from ATOL (Assembling the Tree of Life) is a tree of life of Diptera, flies.  Science Daily reported on how the work “Adds Big Branch of Evolutionary Knowledge,” but did include some surprises: “The study showed that the nearest relatives of Drosophila, the fruit fly that many key scientific discoveries have been based on, are two unusual parasites: bee lice, wingless flies that live on honey bees; and Cryptochetidae, flies used as biological controls of crop pests.”
        Not mentioned as surprising, but arguably so, is the fact that “members of the oldest, still-living fly families are rare, anatomically strange flies with long legs and long wings that grow up in fast-flowing mountain waters.”  Any insect with long wings seems pretty advanced.  Another candidate surprise is that flies underwent “bursts of diversification” separated by 40 million and 115 million years.  That should surprise believers in Darwinian gradualism.  The article did not mention any flightless ancestors.  “Flies’ origins and evolutionary history began in wet environments,” an expert said, begging the question of how winged flight originated.
The number of surprises that continue to turn up also raises questions about how much more remains to be discovered.  What is the ratio of known to unknown?
The naïve reads these stories and assumes that science is converging on the truth, correcting errors as we go, marching triumphantly onward.  The informed realizes that a surprise is an admission of prior ignorance or error.
    There is hardly a scientific truth left intact from a century ago, and recognizes that much of what we think we know today is vulnerable to tomorrow’s findings.  How much of what we think we know today will survive another century?  Surprise is a function of human fallibility; our science is not omni-science.
    When stories about unobserved prehistories and ancestries are thrown in, the potential for misunderstanding is multiplied.  How many of you really believe that anatomically similar human ancestors went through 600,000 freezing winters without fire?  How many believe that crinoids sat on the ocean floor for 600 million years without evolving, to show up now on the Admiralty seamount?  If it weren’t for a pre-commitment to billions of years of evolution (07/15/2010), such notions would be laughed out of court.  It takes a long time of indoctrination to learn how to believe impossible things.
Assignment: Explain to Science Daily how “evolutionary knowledge” is an oxymoron.
Next headline on:  FossilsDinosaursEarly ManTerrestrial ZoologyMarine BiologyDarwin and EvolutionDating Methods
Feather Color Is a Costly “Complex System Design”     03/13/2011        
March 13, 2011 — The brilliant, shimmering colors in the breast feathers of the Bird of Paradise have long fascinated ornithologists.  Alfred Russell Wallace was perhaps the first Englishman to see the magnificent birds in their native Malaysian habitats and wrote, “the richness of their glossy orange colouring, and the exquisite delicacy of the loosely waving feathers, were unsurpassable.”1
    Now, with the use of electron microscopes, scientists are beginning to understand how feathers are able to flash such intense colors.  We now know that the colors are not produced by pigments but by organized geometrical patterns, called photonic crystals, giving the phenomenon “structural color” through refraction instead of pigmentation color through reflection.  According to Pete Vukusic [U of Exeter] in Current Biology,2 the structure is more complex than thought:
The performance and function of such simpler systems as biological multilayers are well recognized, but despite recent progress in the use and development of measurement and modeling techniques in this area, there are many other structurally coloured systems whose detailed action and function are poorly understood.  This is largely due to the morphological complexity of their systems’ inherent photonic structures, which makes it difficult to discern their role and effectiveness.  Photonic effects arising from complex system designs are usually attributed generically to coherent scattering and their purpose ascribed generally to conspecific communication or to camouflage.  This is rather too vague, however, and it invariably overlooks strategic design features that have key implications in aspects of display behaviour.
Vukusic, an expert on insect structural color, elaborated on some of the structural complexities in photonic crystals: (1) multiple photonic systems interacting together; (2) absorbing pigments that modulate the optical effects; (3) variations on the refractive index periodicity, “a biological noise of sorts, which supplements or complements the sample’s inherent structural order or quasi-order.”  In addition, these complexities may be enveloped in larger geometrical envelopes that modulate the far-field effect.  “Achieving a fundamental grasp of any resulting light-manipulation mechanisms,” he said, is no easy task.
    A recent study pointed out something interesting in the feathers of the Bird of Paradise feathers (Parotia lawesii): “This bird species is well-known for its ultra-bright and rapidly-changing saturated iridescent chest-feather colours that take centre-stage during courtship display,” Vukusic noted.  The feathers make use of melanin cylinders and air spaces in the keratin matrix of the barbules, probably tuning the refractive index of the colors produced by the periodic patterns.  For picture of the bird see press release on U of Groningen site.
    Even more intriguing, though, the barbules in cross section have a boomerang shape.  The new study discovered the effect: Stavenga et al “confirmed that the multilayer geometry imposed by the uniquely curved cross-sectional shape of this species’ barbules enables it to reflect intense saturated colour concurrently in three different directions.”  This shape also causes “unusually abrupt and dramatic change in feather hue with changes in the angle of observation,” such as when the male orients himself in front of the female during courtship displays.  Vukusic noted, though, that its effect on female behavior has not been established.  Nevertheless, “This is an optical effect which a human observer notices but which until now has been unquantified and its mechanism poorly understood.”  Stavenga et al said with evident delight:
This allows each barbule to work as three coloured mirrors: a yellow-orange reflector in the plane of the feather, and two symmetrically positioned bluish reflectors at respective angles of about 30°.  Movement during the parotia’s courtship displays thereby achieves much larger and more abrupt colour changes than is possible with ordinary iridescent plumage.  To our knowledge, this is the first example of multiple thin film or multi-layer reflectors incorporated in a single structure (engineered or biological).  It nicely illustrates how subtle modification of the basic feather structure can achieve novel visual effects.
The power of iridescent flashing doesn’t just happen.  It involves control at the microscopic level in three dimensions, and a fourth dimension of time in the way the male manipulates the feathers for best effect.  “Control not just of colour reflection but of the directional distribution of colour reflectance is likely to be a key behaviourally-linked characteristic of many iridescent animals and plants,” Vukusic said, pointing out that the structural color controls angle, wavelength, polarization simultaneously.  The reference to “engineered or biological” structure by Stavenga et al hints that engineers might well learn some novel visual tricks from the bird of paradise.
    Why would a bird invest such energy in these microscopic mechanisms?  “Rapid and intense changes in animals’ structural colours, whether through dynamic or orientational means,” Vukusic pointed out, “require structures or processes that are costly to create.”  He did not speculate about evolution of this capability; instead, he pointed out the design that contributes to adaptation: “Such are the costs and, invariably, such is the optical efficiency and the optimisation of the systems’ designs, that significant biological function should genuinely be served.”  And indeed it is: the “feather barbule design appears very highly adapted for the purpose of promoting during display stronger and faster hue shifts when compared to most other iridescent feather systems.”  Further investigation “will yield superior understanding of the biological function such adapted iridescence strategies offer their hosts.”
1.  Michael Flannery, Alfred Russell Wallace: A Rediscovered Life (Discovery Institute Press, 2011), pp. 34, 51.
2.  Pete Vukusic, “Structural Colour: Elusive Iridescence Strategies Brought to Light,” Current Biology, Volume 21, Issue 5, R187-R189, 8 March 2011, 10.1016/j.cub.2011.01.049.
3.  Stavenga, D.G., Leertouwer, H.L., Marshall, N.J., and Osorio, D., “Dramatic colour changes in a bird of paradise caused by uniquely structured breast feather barbules,” Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B (2010), epub ahead of print.  From reference provided by Vukusic; see abstract at Pub Med.
This fascinating article was a good example of how to write science without Darwin.  Vukusic did not mention evolution one time.  Maybe he just forgot, but who needed a Charlie story tacked onto the observational facts anyway?  This was good old-fashioned scientific investigation.  The researchers noticed a trait that was intriguing and beautiful, and wondered how it works.  They used advanced microscopes to investigate the structure.  They determined which geometric features produce the optical effects.  They observed that the trait is costly yet well adapted to the birds’ mating behaviors, noting that the “feather barbule design appears very highly adapted for the purpose” of sexual display, to say nothing of the fascination they arouse in human observers.
    The lack of Darwin-talk was intensified by design language in the article.  Though an evolutionist himself (see quotes in New York Times article), Vukusic in this paper spoke only of feather design, adaptation, and purpose.  Everybody can accept that.  This illustrates how intelligent design concepts in an article do not require any religious references.  The reader can make those inferences himself.  “Just the facts, ma'am” is all that is required in a scientific paper to point where the evidence leads, without taking the reader there by the hand.  We applaud Dr. Vukusic for not turning on the Darwin fogma machine.  Nobody wants to hear that butterflies and birds arrived at these superior designs by “convergent evolution” or how natural selection paid the high cost of photonic crystals just to pass on bird genes.
    By analogy, the bird of paradise feather illustrates how to write a scientific paper fit for paradise.  The structural color is produced by facts ordered to produce a design inference.  Make it as bright and shimmering as possible, from every angle.  The melanosome cylinders can act as absorbers for Darwinian wavelengths that serve no purpose other than to interfere.  The effect on the reader will be intense admiration and appreciation for brilliant light.
Next headline on:  BirdsPhysicsIntelligent DesignBiomimeticsAmazing Facts
  Ancient stones arranged in order, with animal carvings, said to be much older than the pyramids.  What do the stones of Gobekli Tepi signify?  Read the 03/10/2009 entry.

Don’t Tell the Creationists     03/12/2011        
March 12, 2011 — John Horgan, a blogger for Scientific American, wanted to use this headline 20 years ago, but the editor didn’t let him.  Now that editor is gone, so Horgan let the cat out of the bag: “Pssst!  Don’t tell the creationists, but scientists don't have a clue how life began.”  Well, he just did.
    Horgan lamented that the situation is even more lamentable today.  Based on Dennis Overbye’s “romp into theories of the cradle of life” published in the New York Times last month, Horgan concluded, “Geologists, chemists, astronomers and biologists are as stumped as ever by the riddle of life.”  You name it: protein-first, DNA-first, metabolism-first, RNA World (an erstwhile leading contender) – they’re all stumping the scientists with insurmountable problems.
    “The RNA world is so dissatisfying that some frustrated scientists are resorting to much more far out—literally—speculation,” Horgan continued.  By that he means panspermia.  He realizes that Crick’s old escape route doesn’t solve anything: “Of course, panspermia theories merely push the problem of life’s origin into outer space.  If life didn’t begin here, how did it begin out there?
    Horgan ended by comforting himself with the argument that creationists have a similar problem, how to explain the origin of God.  “And at least scientists are making an honest effort to solve life’s mystery instead of blaming it all on God.

Creationists don’t blame God; they thank Him and worship Him for the marvel of life.  Do you see the anti-Creator hysteria that leads evolutionists to frantic rants of desperation to keep from admitting the obvious—that life was created?  Thanks to John for being honest enough to admit the problem (something the snooze media almost never do), but then he played dog in the manger: “We might be clueless, frustrated, desperate, empty-handed and broke, but nobody else gets to play the origins game.”  Let’s fix his last sentence: “At least we clueless power-hungry pseudo-scientific demagogues can blame God instead of making an honest effort to follow the evidence where it leads.”
    In the new anthology about naturalism, The Nature of Nature (ISI, 2011), Christian de Duve (see 03/01/2011) tried to defend methodological naturalism as the best approach for science, but then had to confront the problem of the origin of life.  Even though he clearly admitted that the problem is unsolved, he appealed to vast periods of time for the improbable (online book) to happen and expressed his faith that naturalism would solve it some day over the rainbow.  He thus issued promissory notes for futureware backed with the collateral of reckless drafts on the bank of time (07/02/2007).  But it’s not God-of-the-gaps when the gaps get wider; it’s naturalism-of-the-gaps (03/02/2011).
    Could any other human activity get away with this?  Does the losing team get to play the series?  Does the town drunk get to be Grand Marshall? (maybe in the Doo-Dah Parade).  Does the least qualified get the job? (only with affirmative action).  Does the loss leader get to push out the competition? (Well, sometimes, but that is tactics, not honest business.)  All right, then; if evolutionists are the losers, the Darwine drunks, the least qualified, and the loss leaders, let’s call for reform.  Get the dogs out of the manger.  How about a showing up with a nice kitty: a huge sabertooth cat (02/28/2011).
    For a response to Horgan’s old chestnut about who created the Creator, watch sabertooth Sarfati pounce on CMI.
Next headline on:  Origin of LifeGeneticsPhilosophy of ScienceBible and Theology
Assessing Evolutionary Explanations     03/11/2011      
March 11, 2011 — No matter the biological discovery, evolutionists are ready with their explanations.  The explanations, however, are often riddled with puzzles, surprises, and seemingly arbitrary appeals to chance.  Do such explanations really provide more understanding than those of creationists, who explain that living things were designed for a purpose?
  1. Shrimp deal:  “Many deep-sea species have close relatives living in shallow, relatively warm water, but how shallow-water species were initially able to cope with the huge hydrostatic pressures of the deep ocean is poorly understood,” said a researcher at the University of Southampton.  According to PhysOrg, the team studied closely-related shrimp that live in shallow waters and near deep-sea vents – environments with astonishing differences in pressure and temperature.
        The observations merely demonstrated that these shrimp can live in either environment.  Their evolutionary explanation had to invoke an unobserved ancestor: “These physiological capabilities were probably inherited from an ancestral species shared by both shallow-water and related vent species.”
        The explanation, however, begs the question of how the putative ancestor gained the ability to survive both environments in the first place.  And if the living species have that ability, what has been explained?  Evolutionary theory appears to be a superfluous appendage to an observation that the shrimp are designed to survive in a wide variety of conditions.
  2. Hunt for and gather a story:  We have a mystery.  “One of the most complex human mysteries involves how and why we became an outlier species in terms of biological success” – particularly, why are human hunter-gatherer cultures so different from those of other primates?  PhysOrg again came to the rescue to explain the mystery and deliver understanding, this time from scientists at the University of Arizona “who study hunter-gatherer societies”.  The article promised their work is “informing the issue by suggesting that human ancestral social structure may be the root of cumulative culture and cooperation and, ultimately, human uniqueness.”
        Clearly humans had ancestors, and some of them hunted and gathered – as some cultures do today.  At first glance this explanation (actually just a suggestion) seems like a tautology; early humans had a unique ancestral social structure that gave birth to a modern unique social structure.  The ASU team, intent on deriving human uniqueness from other primates, studied 32 modern foraging tribes, and found the obvious: they identified “human hunter-gatherer group structure as unique among primates.
        But how did they get that way?  That’s the evolutionary question.  “The increase in human network size over other primates may explain why humans evolved an emphasis on social learning that results in cultural transmission,” Professor Kim Hill offered.  “Likewise, the unique composition of human ancestral groups promotes cooperation among large groups of non-kin, something extremely rare in nature.”  Humans are unique because they evolved to be unique.  Is that what he just said?
  3. The hand is quicker than the stone:  “Stone Tools Influenced Hand Evolution in Human Ancestors, Anthropologists Say.”  That’s a headline on Science Daily that claims research at University of Kent “confirmed Charles Darwin’s speculation that the evolution of unique features in the human hand was influenced by increased tool use in our ancestors.”  But did the tools shape the hand, or did the hand shape the tools?
        Here’s the data: “Research over the last century has certainly confirmed the existence of a suite of features in the bones and musculature of the human hand and wrist associated with specific gripping and manipulatory capabilities that are different from those of other extant great apes.”  Then, the explanation: “These features have fuelled suggestions that, at some point since humans split from the last common ancestor of living apes, the human hand evolved away from features adapted for locomotion toward alternative functions.
        A creationist reading this is going to reject the assumption that humans split from a common ancestor.  What can evolutionists argue as evidence for their view?  One of the them at U of Kent put forward the possibility that the human hand “may have been subject to natural selection as a result of using simple cutting tools.”  But why would a primate use tools without the equipment to do it?  And what about a stone causes a hand to evolve?  New Caledonian crows have probably been using tools longer than evolutionists think humans have, but their beaks do not appear to be changing much from those of other birds (see 05/26/2009 and links).
        Somehow, their “may have” suggestion evolved into a triumph for Darwin:
    Dr [Stephen] Lycett, Senior Lecturer in Human Evolution at the University’s School of Anthropology and Conservation, explained: ‘140 years ago, writing from his home at Down House in Kent, Darwin proposed that the use of stone tools may have influenced the evolution of human hands.
        ‘Our research suggests that he was correct.  From a very early stage in our evolution, the cultural behaviour of our ancestors was influencing biological evolution in specific ways.’
    Did the cultural behavior influence the evolution of the hand, or did the hand influence the cultural behavior?  Or did both evolve together?  In any of these cases, it is not clear that the observations about the uniqueness of the human hand have been explained at all.
  4. Progress in size:  Researchers at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center have convinced themselves that “Evolution Drives Many Plants and Animals to Be Bigger, Faster,” reported Science Daily.  The challenge, though, is whether they could convince a nonbeliever in evolution with their explanation.
        “Organisms with bigger bodies or faster growth rates tend to live longer, mate more and produce more offspring, whether they are deer or damselflies, the authors report.”  So far, a correlation between size and fecundity is all they’ve served up.  Whether lizards, snakes, insects and plants, the organisms in their sample of 100 species (as found in the literature on natural selection) displayed a “very widespread pattern” appearing to support the claim that “larger body size and earlier seasonal timing – such as earlier breeding, blooming or hatching – confer significant survival advantages.
        Questions arise immediately from this explanation, though: why doesn’t every animal and plant evolve to get bigger and faster over time?  And why were so many extinct species much larger than their modern counterparts?  If a prey animal gets bigger, but its predator simultaneously grows bigger and faster, has the prey animal won any survival advantage? (see “Slippage on the treadmill,” 03/17/2003).  Another question: why don’t animals converge on a Goldilocks model – a medium size?  The authors themselves were puzzled by that.  “If organisms are supposedly well-adapted to their particular circumstances, then why is it so seldom the case that the individuals that survive and reproduce the best are the ones that are not too small, nor too big, but just right?”
        Their initial explanation, therefore, required several auxiliary explanations.  “The authors explored three possible explanations,” they said: (1) size is costly, (2) environments fluctuate (think Darwin’s finches), and (3) “A third possibility is that natural selection drives one trait in one direction, while simultaneously driving another, genetically correlated trait in the opposite direction.”  Perhaps this could be dubbed the “House divided against itself cannot evolve” theory.
        The problem with composite explanations, though, is figuring which one is the right one.  If your doctor tells you your weight gain is caused by (1) lack of self-control, (2) genes, or (3) cancer, you would demand to know which one matters most.  Composite explanations, further, violate Ockham’s Razor (see Ockham, Jan 2010 Scientist of the Month).  Unless evolutionists come forward with a primary cause for the effect that can also explain the exceptions, it seems doubtful they’ve explained anything.
  5. Your inner tumor:  Surely one of the most bizarre explanations offered by evolutionists recently is in the title of a story on New Scientist: “Tumours could be the ancestors of animals.”  According to writer Colin Barras, this is “the idea that cancer is our most distant animal ancestor, a ‘living fossil’ from over 600 million years ago.”  According Barras, Charles Lineweaver and Paul Davies have put forward the notion that “cancer is not simply linked to the evolution of animals – it was the earliest animals.
        As justification, the evolutionists showcased a tumor’s ability to evade the immune system and to generate blood vessels (angiogenesis).  Understandably, though, “Reactions to Lineweaver and Davies’s idea vary from cautious enthusiasm to outright scepticism,” one calling it an “imaginative metaphor,” another, “a step too far.”  “There is no evidence to believe that the ability to develop blood vessels is an ancient feature of animals,” a critic said.
        In response, Lineweaver used evolution to justify evolution: “Fully developed angiogenesis had to have evolved from proto-angiogenesis,” he said.  “I think it’s clear that some form of proto-angiogenesis was very important for the earliest animals.”    How or why “proto-angiogenesis” (whatever that is) would have evolved in some unobserved ancestor incapable of understanding why it would be “very important” some day is left as an exercise in imaginative metaphor.
In the heady days of logical positivism (around the 1930s), Carl Hempel attempted to eliminate anecdotal explanations in science and replace them with deductive logic.  To him, it was essential for an explanation to refer to natural laws and initial conditions such that the result had to happen.  Subsequent philosophers have undermined that vision.  Hempel’s “covering law model” leaves out too many favored explanations, and simultaneously legitimizes some quack explanations.  His model left biologists with “physics envy,” because clear laws of nature are hard to come by in biology.  There are too many variables and complexities to be able to predict or retrodict events in natural history with deductive logic appealing to laws of nature.
    Nevertheless, it would appear desirable that scientific explanations aspire to more than ad hoc stories, complex explanations requiring multiple auxiliary hypotheses, composite explanations, mere suggestions, or tautologies (such as “things are as they are because they were as they were” – an explanation that works in reverse just as well).  If the evolutionary explanation reduces to “stuff happens,” or things evolve because they evolve, then alternatives like intelligent design would seem to have grounds for competing in the marketplace of explanation.
The Darwin Storytelling Empire is a corrupt racket.  It’s long overdue to expose their pretensions to providing superior scientific explanations.  That’s why you read Creation-Evolution Headlines.  All the other clueless news media just parrot the myths emanating from the clueless Darwinists, with no critical analysis whatsoever, thinking they have done their job.  Their product is as empty as a balloon held aloft by hot fogma.  (For definition of fogma, see the 05/14/2007 commentary).
    What about science in general?  In the late 20th century after logical positivism collapsed, philosophers of science were left wondering if scientific explanation was even possible.  Some, like van Fraassen, concluded that explanation was not even the business of science.  Describing useful patterns in experience in more and more detail was sufficient, he said; leave explanation to others, because it gets into metaphysics.  But where does that leave the presumed epistemic superiority of science over the humanities, philosophy, or even theology?  Why should science get an elevated status in the academy and popular culture if it cannot explain why the world is the way it is?
    The key insight that undermines the Darwin explanatory program is that explanation requires presuppositions in the conceptual realm: the need for knowledge, truth, ethics, honesty, logic, universality and consistency.  None of those things can be derived from evolutionary naturalism.  When you hear an evolutionist assuming any of these things, you know he or she is cheating.  Theology provides the only grounds for reasoning toward true truth about a real reality.  When enough people employ the two-pronged attack on Darwinism (exposing their vacuous explanations and their pilfering of theological presuppositions), there may be hope of toppling the corrupt Darwin Storytelling regime (12/22/2003 commentary).
Next headline on:  Marine BiologyEarly ManDarwin and EvolutionDumb IdeasPhilosophy of Science
On the Horizon
Gear up for messages from Mercury.  The MESSENGER spacecraft is nearing its orbit insertion on March 17.  The science phase begins April 4.  Given the surprises from the first three flybys (07/09/2008, 06/11/2009 bullet 1, 10/04/2009 bullet 12, 07/29/2010 bullet 2), we can expect more amazing images and puzzling phenomena.  Live Science posted an interview with Sean Solomon, mission director, about what the team hopes to learn from the first orbital mission of the innermost planet.

If Pigs Have Wings, SETI Could Be Robots     03/11/2011      
March 11, 2011 — The SETI program is still waiting to catch a sentient signal from deep space, but in the absence of data, people are free to speculate.  Michael Dyer, a computer science professor at UCLA, is certain that the first aliens to visit Earth will be robots.  He even attached a probability to it, according to Adam Hadhazy, a reporter published on Live Science.  “If an extraterrestrial spaceship ever lands on Earth, I bet you that it is 99.9999999 percent likely that what exits that ship will be synthetic in nature.”
    Has Dyer watched too many science fiction movies, or does his prediction have any scientific grounding?  His reasoning involves several ideas.  For one, space travel is hard on biology.  For another, robots are not as vulnerable to harsh environments and poison gas.  A third is his belief, based on the inevitability of artificial intelligence (AI), that humans will eventually replace themselves on Earth by robotic progeny.  That implies that advanced aliens will have already reached that point in their evolution.  Seth Shostak was quoted in the article in agreement with Dyer’s idea that alien visitors will be made of hardware and software, not cuddly biology.
    While speculating about alien evolution (see also the 07/21/2010), Dyer continued wondering whether futuristic robots could ever have empathy.  Will they be programmed, like Hal 9000 in A Space Odyssey to follow the mission, even if it means killing humans?  (That idea seems so 2001).  Will they destroy the freedom of the remaining humans, even if programmed with mercy?  “I think the most we can hope for is to embed software into all intelligent synthetic entities to cause them to want to protect the survivability of biological entities, with humans at the top of the list for protection,” Dyer said.
    Every speculation brings new dilemmas, however.  Dyer looked into his crystal ball: “I can foresee my robotic master not letting me do any activities that it deems will be harmful to my long-term survival,” he said, “so I’m no longer allowed to eat ice cream while lying on the sofa watching junk TV shows.”  Or allowed to watch the latest Hollywood alien-invasion flick, Hadhazy added.

  Dyer did not explain if alien synthetic life implies intelligent design (12/03/2005).  He also did not place a value on his bet, or explain how or when he would have to pay up.  Presumably, there is a .0000001 percent chance it is not synthetic; that would give him an out.
    Question: why is this on Live Science?  Are we to the point where, in the name of science, there are no restraints on speculation, no requirements to test ideas against evidence, no distinctions between science and science fiction, no epistemic modesty, no restraints on hubris?  Has the mission of science been usurped by storytellers with limitless imaginations?  Answer: “I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do.” (see IMDB.com).
Next headline on:  SETIMind and Brain
  Can an evolved brain reason?  Think about it with a return visit to the 03/12/2008 entry.

Evolution by Loss     03/10/2011      
March 10, 2011 — Evolutionists have added a counter-intuitive notion to their explanatory toolkit.  It surfaced this week in Nature,1 then reverberated around the media: our ancestors became human when they lost genetic information from ape-like ancestors.
    New Scientist exemplified the new story line: “Key to humanity is in missing DNA.”  Reporter Andy Coghlan explained the central idea:

The key changes are not in bits of DNA that humans acquired as they evolved – extra genes that we have but chimps and other animals do not – but in chunks of DNA that we lost.  What’s more, the chunks in question are not even genes at all, but sequences of DNA that lie in between genes and act as switches, orchestrating when and where specific genes are turned on and off through the course of an animal’s development.
While popular reporters (e.g., Live Science, National Geographic) are swapping punch lines about a more prurient aspect of the story (the loss of stiff structures from a particular part of the male anatomy), the real punch line is the notion that the descent of man really was that – a descent of genetic information.  Zoe Corbyn wrote for Nature News, “The approach differs from that in most studies ... in looking at what has been deleted from the human genome rather than what is present.
    The researchers identified 510 genetic regions present in chimpanzees but missing in humans.  Only two of these have been tested so far for function.  The original paper mentioned loss of information a dozen times, but gain of information only once – and that just as a possibility: “Deletions of tissue-specific enhancers may thus accompany both loss and gain traits [sic] in the human lineage, and provide specific examples of the kinds of regulatory alterations.”  One of the losses affected male anatomy; the authors explained this as having something to do with the evolution of monogamy, though it is unclear whether that would be a cause or effect, even in evolutionary terms.  In National Geographic, Rhonda Snook, a specialist in sexual anatomy, said, “theories linking simpler genitalia to monogamy are still tenuous.”
    The other genetic loss involves the brain: the removal of a factor ostensibly limiting brain size.  According to the authors and reporters, this somehow led to the expansion of the human brain, instead of a tumor, and by implication, our intelligence and rationality.  That idea would appear to only make sense if brain structure and function were already pregnant with intellectual and rational possibilities.  In that case, why would a factor evolve to restrict expression of such a valuable asset in lower primates?
    “We think losing highly specific enhancer regions is one of the mechanisms that has contributed to the evolution of human traits,” said David Kingsley (Stanford), a co-author of the study, as quoted in New Scientist.  Apparently other evolutionists think this is a wonderful new story line:
Hats off to them,” says Ewen Birney of Cambridge University.  “It has long been thought that evolution would work by deleting as well as creating things, and it has long been thought that the bulk of human evolution occurs in regulatory information,” he says.  “However, this is a real example of both of these things being shown to be true rather than people simply making arguments for them.
    Svante Pääbo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, and a lead researcher into the genetic differences between humans and their close relatives, including chimps and Neanderthals, says the new work is “a beautiful study”.  “I’m sure several groups will now study the role of the gene involved in brain cortex formation very carefully,” he says.  “I’m hopeful that the other elements in their list of almost 500 conserved features lost in the human genome will turn out to be interesting too.”  Watch this space.

1.  McLean, Reno, ... Bejarano, Kingsley et al, “Human-specific loss of regulatory DNA and the evolution of human-specific traits,” Nature 471 (10 March 2011), pp. 216–219, doi:10.1038/nature09774.
Here is the new story of evolution:
Once upon a time, because Stuff Happens, a cell emerged that had all the potential of every living thing.  Evolution, the goddess of Nature, began whittling down that potential in the Great Ancestor, producing, as original information was left on the cutting room floor, trilobites, sharks, giant sequoias, butterflies, sea tortoises, tyrannosaurs, eagles, petunias, blue whales, mice, dogs, and chimpanzees.  Last and least, humans emerged with the leftovers.
Darwin must be moaning in [insert eternal destination].  In this twist on his theory story, you are not even as highly evolved as a mouse.  From the slightest bit of data, whole worldviews have been given credence by philosophically-challenged academics and an inebriated press with the moral propriety of middle school boys.  Try this notion on your term paper, car, software, or retirement plan: see what you create by removing parts.
    “Watch this space,” Coghlan ended his tale.  We adapt an observation from our 08/19/2004 commentary:
Interesting ending: “Watch this space.”  This implies that there is nothing to watch except space: i.e., emptiness, a void, a vacuum.  If, after 151 years of speculation about human evolution, the evolutionary story has left nothing but a space, asking us to watch it as if something important is about to happen sounds like an empty promise from a used Darwinmobile salesman.  Any takers?
Another space to watch is the contents of the evolutionists’ skulls.  It’s easier to do now because Birney just took their hats off.  They, too, display emptiness, a void, a vacuum, their contents having been sacrificed on the altar of the Bearded Buddha (cartoon).
Next headline on:  Early ManGeneticsDumb Ideas
Tip Link
Exciting new 3-D light microscope promises to open our eyes to wonders of the cell: see New Scientist and PhysOrg for demo.

Bone Structure Matches Animal Size     03/10/2011      
March 10, 2011 — The bigger the animal, the more weight it has to carry.  How can large animals maintain strong bones without making them heavier?  It turns out all animals have struts in their bones called trabeculae, but the larger the animal, the fewer, stronger, and farther apart are the struts.  This new finding is leading to ideas that may improve your car.
    PhysOrg reported on a team from Imperial College London and the Royal Veterinary College that was curious about bone structure in various mammals.  Looking at femurs from 90 different species of mammals, reptiles and birds, they “found that trabeculae, typically found near joints, have different geometry depending on the size of the species.”  This was news to them.  Dr. Michael Doube at Imperial College London said,

“Scientists had not previously known that the structure of trabeculae varied, or scaled up, depending on the size of the animal.  We assumed that trabeculae would be important in supporting the weight of larger creatures such as Asian elephants, which can weigh more than three tonnes.  However, we were surprised to find that animals that have comparatively lighter loads, such as the Etruscan shrew, weighing three grams, also has trabeculae supporting its tiny body.  Our study is helping us to see how the remarkable geometry of trabeculae supports loads in all creatures, no matter how big or small they are.”
In addition, they found that the mass of bone per unit volume was roughly constant in big and small animals, but “the trabeculae in bigger animals were thicker, further apart and less numerous.”
    Moving from observation to explanation, they reasoned that “the big trabecular struts inside the bones of larger animals help to support their heavier load without the need for thicker and denser bones.  Using this structure saves valuable energy in larger animals because they do not have to grow, maintain and carry extra bone tissue around with them.”  Neat idea.  From explanation they moved to application:
The scientists say new structural materials could be developed, which are inspired by geometry inside femurs.  These materials would contain a lattice work of stiff foam that would be reinforced in certain areas, depending on the load being exerted on that particular section.  This type of material could be used in car bodywork, only being reinforced in areas of the car where loads are heaviest.  This could make cars lighter and more fuel efficient.
A capital idea, worthy of stimulus by some entrepreneur.  The scientists delved deeper into their biomimetic hunch and generated 200 computer models of “virtual bones,” giving their open-source code, named BoneJ, to anyone who wants to download it (see BoneJ.org).  About 1500 downloads from 250 institutes and organizations have taken a look at it.  Some of them might have great ideas for lightweight aircraft and automobiles.  Think of the slogans: Tough as an elephant or Built to fly like a bird.
    Now that they understand bone structure better, the team wants to study animal motion and joints “to understand the relationship between how animals walk and bone structure.”  What might come of that?  Understanding bone deformities, for one thing; reconstructing the movement patterns of extinct species, for another.  Their research was published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
Bravo!  Great science with no evolution!  We wish to praise researchers who get the best aspects of science right: observation, explanation, and application to help improve our lives.  Sir Francis Bacon stressed that you will know good science (like good character) by its fruits.  Biomimetics again shows how a design-focused science not only leads to understanding, but to practical benefits.
    We called this “design-focused science” but lest Eugenie and Rick Dawk have a fit, there was no need to mention God, Creator, or religion in this project.  There was, however, an unspoken assumption that animal bones are well designed for what they do (go back and read the quotes for clues).  Was that a science-stopper?  Clearly not.
    It would have been so tempting for the reporter to toss in the Darwin fogma, claiming that animals evolved these amazing optimal solutions by blind chance.  But fogma not only blinds, it stinks.  Who needs useless smoke?  Who needs to hear tall tales, like notions that vastly different animals all converged on the same solution to optimize strength per unit mass?  Clear the air, stick to the observations, and make the theory do something helpful.  Observation – explanation – application: that is classical science.  It worked for Faraday, it’s fair for our-a-day. 
Next headline on:  MammalsIntelligent DesignBiomimetics
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Young Galaxy Cluster Already Mature     03/09/2011      
March 09, 2011 — “Isn’t that special.”  The remark, in common parlance, is a generic way of avoiding a judgment call.  When astronomers were confronted with the sight of a galaxy too mature for its age, Space.com reported the response: “And that makes it special, researchers said.
    The headline was, “Surprise!  Ancient Galaxy Cluster Still Looks Young.”  Actually, that is backwards.  It should read, “Young Galaxy Cluster Looks Mature.”  The import of the story is that a remote mature-looking cluster has been found, dating from a time, according to big-bang cosmology, when the universe was in the adolescence of its presumed 13.7-billion-year age.  “The surprising thing is that when we look closely at this galaxy cluster, it doesn’t look young,” an astronomer said; “many of the galaxies have settled down and don’t resemble the usual star-forming galaxies seen in the early universe.”
    The cluster, labeled CL J1449+0856, was observed by the European Southern Observatory’ Very Large Telescope (VLT), at the Paranal Observatory in Chile.”  It had “all the hallmarks of being a very remote galaxy cluster,” but looks like “a mature object, similar in mass to the Virgo Cluster, the nearest rich galaxy cluster to the Milky Way, researchers said.”  They based their age estimate on the cluster’s ability to trap hot gas near its center – gas that gives off characteristic X-rays.
    How to explain the anomalous age?  Space.com quoted Raphael Gobat from Paris:

“These new results support the idea that mature clusters existed when the universe was less than one quarter of its current age,” Gobat said.  “Such clusters are expected to be very rare according to current theory, and we have been very lucky to spot one.  But if further observations find many more, then this may mean that our understanding of the early universe needs to be revised.
Gobat did not explain why any mature galaxies would exist at that young age, or how any theory predicted how rare they might be.  One thing they agreed on, though, was that the cluster’s maturity “makes it special.”
This announcement is another in a long tradition of anomalous sightings of early maturity (01/08/2002, 09/21/2005, 04/02/2009).  It’s like finding an old man in the maternity ward (10/14/2005).  If this keeps up, the infants in the maternity ward are going to be the “special” ones.  Yes indeed; if that happens, “this may mean that our understanding of the early universe needs to be revised,” Gobat said, going to bat for his colleagues.  The dubious word there is understanding.  Do revisions include overhauls or scientific revolutions?  And to whom does his pronoun our refer?  Maybe some mavericks already have more understanding not at risk of revision.
Next headline on:  StarsCosmologyDating Methods
  How can you recognize people by their voice alone?  The answer is in the vortex: see the 03/15/2007 entry, with no evolution in it.

Word Choice Affects Scientific Impact     03/08/2011      
March 08, 2011 — The emotional reaction to scientific ideas can change depending on the words used.  Can words manipulate public opinion?
    “Wording matters,” said Jonathon Schuldt [U of Michigan] in a press release posted on PhysOrg.  His team found that opinion polls yielded a 16% difference among Republicans depending on whether they were asked if global warming or climate change was a big problem.  The responses might also vary depending on the temperature of the day they were asked.  Democrats, unexpectedly, showed less divergence, the majority showing concern for both terms; this was attributed to a “ceiling effect” (from an already high level of belief), “Or it could be that Democrats’ beliefs about global climate change might be more crystallized, and as a result, more protected from subtle manipulations.”
    On the BBC News, Erika Wright tackled the problem of “spaghettification” of scientific jargon: “Scientists use language to give authority to their work, but if the words become jargon, they can end up alienating the audience instead of convincing them,” the subtitle said.  An example is the phrase, double-blind randomized controlled trials, which sounds self-contradictory.  How can something be random and yet controlled?
    Scientists can hype their own image with jargon, too: when a scientist uses the word derma for skin, “It invests the product with a certain authority that it wouldn’t otherwise have,” Barry Delaney, an advertising consultant quoted by Wright, said.  He pointed to other examples like using poly- as a prefix for everything, or always condensing phrases into acronyms.  His humorous example: MYFB for “makes you feel better,” which is sometimes all that acronyms do.  “Mystification is the name of the game,” Delaney remarked (see equivocation).
    The history of science provides examples of pragmatic analogies and metaphors that may or may not contribute to understanding.  When electricity was not understood, words like flow and current tried to make it seem like water, something familiar.  More recently, quantum mechanical properties have included spin, something humans can visualize, but which has nothing to do with the actual physical effect, Wright explained.  “So instead of helping us by applying familiar words, the subtle differences just leave us more confused,” she pointed out.  Yet neologisms (new words) unrelated to experience can also confuse.
    Unexplained by Wright was why she believed it is the job of scientists to “convince” people of their “authority” instead of “alienating” them.  Isn’t that the skill set for politicians?  In the global warming article, Norbert Schwartz, a colleague of Schuldt, noted the effect of “framing” an argument by word choice: “When the issue is framed as global warming, the partisan divide is nearly 42 percentage points,” he said; “But when the frame is climate change, the partisan divide drops to about 26 percentage points.”  The press release said, “The good news is that Americans may not be as polarized on the issue as previously thought.”  But that’s a value judgment, not a scientific finding.  It’s conceivable to imagine times when polarization is good news.
    PhysOrg described a physiology professor who conjures up Batman as a teaching aid.  Professor E. Paul Zehr [U of Victoria, BC] “uses Batman to establish a framework, grounded in his fictional universe as well as our real one, in order to discuss the various components of exercise and physical training and illustrate how the body’s physiological systems respond,” the article said.  “His experiences in teaching undergraduate courses in physiology and neurophysiology made him realize that connecting science to popular culture helped students understand the lessons better.”

Metaphors and analogies can be effective teaching tools, but they carry the risk of dragging in extra baggage that can mislead.  Is your knowledge of physiology enhanced by watching a movie of a caped hero with super powers?    How is electricity like a flowing liquid?  Do you understand quantum mechanics better by visualizing spinning balls?  How else would you visualize an incomprehensible phenomenon?  What words would you use?  What happens when a scientific phenomenon has political and economic implications, like “climate change”?
    Science is not value-neutral.  Scientists are human beings with emotions and biases of their own.  They often want more respect than their fellow human beings simply because they are scientists.  Respect in any profession must be earned, not assumed.  In many cases it is earned by scientists, but we have seen over and over that some scientific explanations for phenomena (especially evolution), when stripped of jargon, amount to little more than “stuff happens.”  A bum could say that.
    What is most worrisome is when scientists take up the political banner and try to convince the public and the government on policy decisions based on their presumed authority.  When it fails, and they try to “frame” their arguments for best effect, they have left the science lab.  At that point their opinions deserve no more rights than those of any other member of the public.  Ideally, their findings should be simply published as factually as possible.  It is the job of policy analysts to determine which scientific facts merit attention in political positions, and for voters to weigh the merits of the arguments.
    Those ideals are visionary, of course.  In practice, we know, scientists are not value-neutral; they are subject to motivations and pressures, and tend to see everything they do as important.  Facts can be co-opted for both sides of a debate.  An informed public with critical thinking skills is vital to avoid unthoughtful action nudged by the “framing” rhetoric of scientists and other politicians.
    “Climate change” is a recent egregious example.  When “global warming” took heat after Climategate, scientists quickly migrated to climate change as their pet phrase.  It’s clever, because it’s irrefutable.  No matter what happens, they can’t lose.  If the climate gets hotter, they win.  If it gets colder, they win.  If it doesn’t change at all, they still win, because zero is a valid number on a scale of change.  Subconsciously, everybody knows what they are talking about (liberalism, cap-and-trade, carbon footprint, UN sanctions, global summits, drastic effects on the economy, apocalyptic scenarios), but the phrase hedges their bets by sounding so innocuous nobody could be against it (see 03/08/2011 and comments on Evolution News about NPR’s way of reporting the issue).  Evolutionary rhetoric is rife with similar rhetorical tricks (see the 02/02/2011 entry, “Metaphors of Evolution”).
    The primrose path is an apt metaphor; it’s prim, it’s rosy, it’s a path – a tempting route, especially when the pied piper of science calls.  Wise people choose their paths based on the destination.
Next headline on:  Politics and EthicsEducationPhilosophy of Science
Evolve This:
“Just one of these [brain] circuits, however, contains between 10,000 and 100,000 neurons, each of which makes about 10,000 interconnections, totaling upwards of 1 billion connections—all within a single circuit.  This is a radically hard problem to address.”  – Clay Reid [Harvard Medical School], quoted in PhysOrg about his work published in the March 10 Nature.  See also the 02/11/2011 entry.

Enceladus Geyser Heat Much Higher Than Thought Possible     03/07/2011      
March 07, 2011 — The Enceladus problem – accounting for the heat source of a tiny moon of Saturn – just jumped by more than an order of magnitude.  “Cassini Finds Enceladus Is a Powerhouse,” reported Jet Propulsion Laboratory today.  “Heat output from the south polar region of Saturn’s moon Enceladus is much greater than was previously thought possible,” the press release said; “....15.8 gigawatts, approximately 2.6 times the power output of all the hot springs in the Yellowstone region, or comparable to 20 coal-fueled power stations.”  That’s “more than an order of magnitude higher than scientists had predicted” based on a re-analysis of infrared data taken in 2008.  Previous estimates were 1.1 to 1.4 gigawatts.
    The results were published in the Journal of Geophysical Research on March 4.  Lead author of the study, Carly Howett [Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado] was dumbfounded by the results.  “The mechanism capable of producing the much higher observed internal power remains a mystery and challenges the currently proposed models of long-term heat production,” she remarked.  The only suggestion for a way out of the problem was to propose episodic outbursts.  “A possible explanation of the high heat flow observed is that Enceladus’ orbital relationship to Saturn and Dione changes with time, allowing periods of more intensive tidal heating, separated by more quiescent periods,” the article suggested.  That proposal, however, has the bad philosophical side effect of making our observations a special time: “This means Cassini might be lucky enough to be seeing Enceladus when it’s unusually active.
    Since extra heat might melt the ice, an appeal to life was predictable: “The possibility of liquid water, a tidal energy source and the observation of organic (carbon-rich) chemicals in the plume of Enceladus make the satellite a site of strong astrobiological interest,” Howett said.

Quick!  Look over there!  The use of the L-word is a tactic similar to the used car salesman pointing to a hired streaker when the prospective buyer is about to look under the hood (04/27/2009, 06/26/2009).  A persistent buyer might not be distracted.  Then the salesman tries another tactic: “That’s strange; it was working before.  Every time I tried it the engine ran fine.  You just happened to come by at a bad time.”
    Among all the other Saturn surprises (12/07/2010, 02/02/2009), Enceladus was already a big problem for the assumed age of the solar system (A.S.S.) (08/30/2005, 03/13/2007, 01/28/2011 bullet 2).  Now it is a BIG problem (pronounce it beeeeeg; señor.  But señorita: Encéladus is not pronounced like enchilada).
    Darwin skeptics who nevertheless cling to Lyell’s myth of millions and billions of years should take note of observations like these (08/04/2007).  The two moyboys (03/31/2007 commentary), Charlie & Charlie (Lyell & Darwin), were part of the same radical movement Peter warned about (II Peter 3:3-6). 
Next headline on:  Solar SystemPhysicsDating Methods
You Have Electronic Skin     03/07/2011      
March 07, 2011 — Your skin has resistance with memory.  That makes it like a memristor, researchers at the University of Oslo are saying.  A memristor is a device that remembers the last current it experienced, and varies its resistance accordingly.
    New Scientist explained what they found:
They found that when a negative electrical potential is applied to skin on various parts of the arm, creating a current, that stretch of skin exhibits a low resistance to a subsequent current flowing through the skin.  But if the first potential is positive relative to the skin, then a subsequent potential produces a current that meets with a much higher resistance.  In other words, the skin has a memory of previous currents.
The scientists have attributed this ability to sweat pores.  The sweat glands contain sodium, a conductive material:
The longer skin is exposed to a negative potential, the lower the subsequent resistance, until it maxes out when sweat fills the pore.  Conversely, a positive potential pushes the ions back, thinning the layer of sweat lining the pore walls and increasing the skin’s resistance to current.
It’s not clear what function this ability provides skin.  Another researcher at the University of South Carolina found memristive behavior in amoebas, and called it “primitive intelligence.”  Whatever function it might have, it could offer medical scientists new ways to test for skin abnormalities.
    The memristor was suggested by Leon Chua at UC Berkeley as a fourth basic unit of electronic circuits, but a working model was not built till 2008 by Stanley Williams of Hewlett Packard’s Palo Alto lab, the article said.
    A website called Memristor.org reports on memristor news and potential applications, such as non-volatile computer memory and signal processing, most of which appear to be in the design and patent stages.
Intelligent design theory would say, “If it’s there, it might have a function.”  Let’s follow this and see if a function is found in human skin or is just a byproduct of some other function.  Evolution, by contrast, would just say, “stuff happens.”
    Send in your suggestions for the function of memristors in skin, or research projects that could test for a function.  Does it signal temperature response, as with goose bumps?  Is it behind the “electricity” when finding a mate?  Does it regulate sweating?
    Meanwhile, be glad your electronics don’t short out when you dive into a swimming pool.  Look at that picture of Dr. Irwin Moon on the right sidebar.  One wonders what his skin remembered about a million volts.
Next headline on:  Human BodyPhysicsAmazing Facts
  If you don’t think astrobiologists have a vested interest in keeping the taxpayer money flowing, read the 03/13/2006 entry.

Alien Life in Meteorites Claimed     03/06/2011      
March 06, 2011 — After scrutinizing rare meteorites for over a decade, a NASA astrobiologist decided to go with his announcement: he may have found alien life.  Fox News began his story, “We are not alone in the universe – and alien life forms may have a lot more in common with life on Earth than we had previously thought.  That’s the stunning conclusion one NASA scientist has come to, releasing his groundbreaking revelations in a new study in the March edition of the Journal of Cosmology.”
    There are only about nine CI-1 carbonaceous chondrites known.  In the ones Dr. Richard B. Hoover has cracked open and studied, he has found “fossilized remains of micro-organisms not so different from ordinary ones found underfoot – here on earth, that is.”  That’s one of the strange things about this story.  If these are organisms that originated independently of earth, why would some of them be recognizable as “generic species here on earth”?  Another problem is that the samples contain no nitrogen, an essential ingredient in life as we know it.  All amino acids and DNA contain nitrogen.
    Hoover tried to be extremely careful with his samples, and expected a hotbed of controversy.  He has invited scrutiny of his work by 100 experts, and wants thousands of scientists around the world to weigh in on its validity.  Some, like David Marais, another NASA astrobiologist, are taking a wait-and-see attitude: “These kinds of claims have been made before, he noted – and found to be false.”  Seth Shostak of the SETI Institute doesn’t rule out the possibility but recognizes the controversial claim will have far-reaching implications.  He speculated that this might support panspermia of some sort: “It would suggest, well, life didn’t really begin on the Earth, it began as the solar system was forming.”  That raises other questions of how and where environments in the early solar system could have been more conducive to life than planet earth.
    Rob Sheldon, a colleague of Hoover’s and an advocate of intelligent design, mentioned Hoover last December in his blog response on The Procrustean responding to the arsenic-life claim (12/02/2010).  He indicated that Hoover probably would have expected alien life to be very different biochemically from earth life.
    On a different but related story, New Scientist and the BBC News speculated that “Meteorites ‘could have carried nitrogen to Earth’” in the form of ammonia carried on chondrites, chips of asteroids.  Aside from questions left begging about whether these “missing ingredients for life” had anything to do with the origin of life, that story appears contradictory to Hoover’s, who found no nitrogen in his samples.  “If someone can explain,” Hoover said, “how it is possible to have a biological remain that has no nitrogen, or nitrogen below the detect ability limits that I have, in a time period as short as 150 years, then I would be very interested in hearing that.

Is this another claim in the tradition of the Martian meteorite ALH 84001?  Is NASA trying to get more funding (01/07/2005) for astrobiology?  Possibly.  They’ve probably learned how to be more careful by now and give the appearance of honest skeptical inquiry.  In the early stages of controversial announcements, the Marais wait-and-see response is wise.  The best advice is to look carefully at the raw data, check assumptions, and ask the right questions.  The first question is to verify if this really is fossilized living material.  The second is to rule out contamination.  The third is to avoid jumping to conclusions and to consider all the possibilities.
    With the Martian meteorite, the similarities to cells were superficial and never widely accepted as anything more than coincidental shapes.  Years after the huge flurry of media hype, after scientists found other ways the shapes could have been generated chemically, the hubbub died down.  Now only a few scientists believe it (12/14/2000, 11/20/2001, 03/18/2002, 05/15/2002, 01/30/2004, 03/23/2006, 09/01/2009).
    Maybe this time things will be different.  Hoover seems more cautious than McKay.  What if the majority confirms that this was living material?  Does it mean life evolved in outer space?  No; it could have been created somewhere else, or it may be earth life that got here by a round trip.  Creation scientist Walt Brown has a theory that asteroids and comets were ejected from earth at the time of the Flood, when hyper-pressurized water shot into space from the fountains of the great deep, carrying rocky material from the continental margins with it.  It’s a speculative idea, but it’s one possibility to have life get out to space and back.  As for the Fox News lead-in that “We are not alone in the universe,” good grief; this is about the solar system, not the universe (see extrapolation).
    Materialists will undoubtedly hype evolution, but the details revealed so far should be as puzzling to them as to their critics.  No nitrogen, but similar to earth life?  Astrobiologists have long tried to argue that life found elsewhere is bound to be very different from ours, but from the photos, these structures look remarkably similar to known bacteria.  Nothing in creation science or intelligent design requires life only to be found on earth anyway (see initial thoughts by ID advocate Denyse O'Leary on Uncommon Descent).  And why are these structures found only in a very rare class of meteorites, instead of all of them?
    Further speculation is unwise till the claim goes through the scrutiny of skeptical scientists.  This commentary should only caution readers that healthy skepticism of spectacular claims is always in order, and to beware of being led down the primrose path by the media to answers without first asking the questions.
    Already Fox News’s exclusive story is echoing around the world on other news sources and blogs.  Undoubtedly there will be more to say later about this claim.  Have your Baloney Detector tuned and ready.
Update 03/07/2011: Criticisms of the claim are starting to come in from the scientific community and from evolutionists (see Space.com, PhysOrg, and Fox News follow-up story), so don’t get too excited about alien bacteria just yet.  Space.com also posted a gallery of past alleged proofs of alien life.
Update 03/08/2011: New Scientist said there is “monster mud-slinging” going on among scientists about this claim.  Jeffrey Bada pointed out that minerals can show “many non-biological artefacts” to confuse the observer.  Alison Olcott Marshall [U of Kansas] said, “Morphology alone isn’t enough; geological context isn’t enough – you need all the pieces.  You need multiple lines of evidence: morphology that is highly reminiscent of biology, a geological context that makes sense and strong chemical evidence.”  New Scientist also hinted that the paper might have been a last gasp for the Journal of Cosmology, a journal deemed dubious by other astrobiologists.  It may go out of business in a few months.  This story is looking like a bright meteor – in and out of public attention in record time.
Next headline on:  Solar SystemOrigin of Life
Is the Mind a Computer?     03/05/2011      
March 05, 2011 — After a computer named Watson beat two contestants on Jeopardy last month, people are asking if the human mind is becoming obsolete.  What are the similarities and differences between gray matter and deep blue?
    PhysOrg asked, “Machines beat us at our own game: What can we do?”  For one thing, they should have waited a few days, because the same PhysOrg on March 1 reported that Congressman Rush Holt (D-NJ) beat Watson the Computer in a subsequent match.  He told an applauding audience that it was a victory for “neuron based thinking, instead of semi-conductor thinking.”  But was Watson really thinking?  Are neurons and semiconductors just different instantiations of the same process?
    The first article asked, “Watson’s victory leads to the question: What can we measly humans do that amazing machines cannot do or will never do?”  One immediate response was like a Jeopardy question: “Who – not what – dreamed up Watson?”  Obviously, Watson was a human creation: “While computers can calculate and construct, they cannot decide to create.  So far, only humans can.
    Computers are very good at sorting through databases of facts.  It’s a rather trivial operation to find an answer in a large database.  Human minds are not quite as fast at that mundane task, but that should not make us feel inferior (see 02/11/2011, 01/15/2011, and 11/19/2011).  That’s why humans subcontracted that work to machines of their making.  “Watson does just one task: answer questions,” a computer scientist said.  Computers known as expert systems have done well at finding solutions to problems, given the right inputs.  That’s not the same as thinking, feeling, choosing, creating, and knowing.
    “Can Watson decide to create Watson?” is a good follow-up question to those who disparage the human brain.  “Experts in the field say it is more than the spark of creation that separates man from his mechanical spawn,” PhysOrg continued.  “It is the pride creators can take, the empathy we can all have with the winners and losers, and that magical mix of adrenaline, fear and ability that kicks in when our backs are against the wall and we are in survival mode.”
    Don’t leave out art, music, language and spirituality: what the article called “song, romance, smiles, sadness and all that jazz” are parts of “that indescribable essence of humanity” computers just can’t duplicate at this time.  New Scientist discussed computer-created music and chance music from random audience actions, but reporter Kat Austen concluded, “from my experience it's unlikely that audience-driven composition is going to be snapping at Chopin’s heels any time soon.”  Computers can probably duplicate the capacity of some humans for perfect pitch (see New Scientist), but even if computers can be programmed to generate music in sonata form, will they feel its beauty or know what they have achieved?  Sci-if notwithstanding, Watson’s creators recognize the great divide between mind and machine:
I see human intelligence consuming machine intelligence, not the other way around,” David Ferrucci, IBM’s lead researcher on Watson, said in an interview Wednesday.  “Humans are a different sort of intelligence.  Our intelligence is so interconnected.  The brain is so incredibly interconnected with itself, so interconnected with all the cells in our body, and has co-evolved with language and society and everything around it.
    “Humans are learning machines that live and experience the world and take in an enormous amount of information – what they see, what they taste, what they feel, and they’re taking that in from the day they’re born until the day they die,” he said.  “And they’re learning from all the input all the time.  We’ve never even created something that attempts to do that.
Artificial intelligence (AI) tries to create learning machines, but the article said, “there have been great advances in the field, but nothing near human thinking.”  Ferrucci has been working in AI for 25 years and admitted no one feels like they are getting near the finish line.  “I’m not sure we’ll ever really get there,” he said.  Readers will undoubtedly enjoy the response of Bart Massey [Portland State U]: “If you want to build something that thinks like a human, we have a great way to do that.  It only takes like nine months and it’s really fun.”  (He was referring, probably, to the initiation of the process, not childbirth and diapers.)
Update 03/08/2011: An intelligence analyst at Mercyhurst College, Kristan Wheaton, is not worried about Watson.  According to PhysOrg, she said that computers may be good at extracting data, they are very poor at analyzing data, especially when the inputs have deceptive information like propaganda from state-run news sources.  “The technologies are improving rapidly, though, and there might be machines capable of mimicking human intelligence at some point, but the last job I think they are going to get is that of the intelligence analyst.” Update 03/10/2011: Live Science explored another skill humans have over computers: the ability to tell a good joke. Recommended reading:
– Raymond Tallis reviewed two books on consciousness for New Statesman and challenged the notion that neuroscience is providing a material explanation for the mind.
– Response to Tallis article by Denyse O'Leary on Uncommon Descent #1 and #2.  O'Leary is co-author of The Spiritual Brain.
– David Berlinski, The Deniable Darwin and Other Essays (Discovery Institute press, 2009), “The Soul of Man Under Physics” (1996) and “On the Origin of the Mind” (2004).
– Michael Flannery, Alfred Russell Wallace: A Rediscovered Life (Discovery Institute Press, 2011).  Wallace, co-discoverer of natural selection with Darwin, denied Darwin’s materialism and believed the human mind and soul required intelligent design.
– Previous entries: 06/25/2007, 08/13/2007, 02/16/2011, 02/06/2011, 12/06/2010, 10/22/2010.
Think about thinking.  Now think about what you were thinking about thinking about thinking.  Now ask if it was morally responsible for you to follow those directions.  You just did things computers cannot hope to do.
    Our brains have tools; we can concentrate on a test question, trying to recall something we memorized; we can practice a skill or a good habit till it becomes second nature; we can let our innate search engine find an answer, like a person’s name, while we turn to other things; we can take our brains to sleep; we can play Jeopardy; we can focus on creating a melody or visualizing a piece of art.  But we have awareness of self behind those activities, choosing to do them, like a carpenter using tools.
    Raymond Tallis aptly said, “The idea of consciousness as a ‘show’ is ultimately derived from the bankrupt representational theory of the mind – a notion that things are present to us by virtue of being ‘represented’ or ‘modelled’ in the brain.  You cannot get to representation, however, without prior (conscious, first-order) presentation, so the latter cannot explain the former.”
    If you could travel inside a working brain, you would see a lot of neurons firing, and a lot of neurotransmitters traveling across synapses (12/23/2010), but you would not see a thought, language, creativity, or a concept.  It would be like trying to figure out a movie by watching the electrons in TV set.  Brain damage and drugs can affect the mind and consciousness, but it does not follow that the mind is material.  The mind uses the brain, but mind is not a secretion of the brain, as some early Darwinists argued.  If it were, their own thoughts about that would be self-refuted.
    As for the statements in the above articles about brains evolving or co-evolving with language, well, that’s the effect of old Darwine on the brain again.  Sober up.
Next headline on:  Mind and BrainPhilosophy of Science
What Scientists Don’t Know and How They Don’t Know It     03/04/2011      
March 04, 2011 — In light of another huge science scandal, questions rise about what scientists know.  Several recent stories cast doubt on the infallibility of the scientific method – and even the ability of scientific inquiry to solve some mysteries.
  1. Fraud exposed:  92 peer-reviewed papers published over a decade, now found out to be fraudulent?  How is that possible?  UK Telegraph sounded the alarm about Joachim Boldt, “regarded as a leading specialist in intravenous fluid management” with colloids, published widely in leading British medical journals.  “Experts described Mr Boldt’s alleged forgeries as possibly the biggest medical research scandal since Andrew Wakefield was struck off last year for falsely claiming to have proved a link between the MMR vaccine and autism.... Mr Boldt’s alleged forgeries date back up to a decade.
        Even worse, “British patients could have been put in danger” by treatments given under the authority of science.  Colloid treatment he said was safe “can result in complications including heart and kidney failure, fluid entering the lungs and anaphylactic shock.”
        It appears that Boldt “forged the signatures of his alleged ‘co-authors’ on his studies, conducted drugs trials without official approval and claimed money for operations that he never performed,” possibly to win the graces of manufacturers of the expensive colloid medicines.  A fellow medical researcher was stunned: “For me, it shakes the world I work in and makes me feel less confident in it, and if I were a member of the public I would feel the same,” he said.
  2. Free the radicals:  We have all been taught by health professionals that free radicals in food are to be avoided.  That’s why antioxidants are popular.  Well, then, this headline on Science Daily is sure to raise eyebrows: “Free Radicals May Be Good for You”.  What?
        Sure enough, researchers in Sweden are saying that free radicals do our body good, acting as “signal substances that cause the heart to beat with the correct force.”  Heaping on the disbelief, the article added, “The idea that free radicals are generally dangerous and must be counteracted is, ... a myth”.  The researchers do not deny that free radicals can cause damage; they just support the old adage of “everything in moderation.”  Did we need a scientist to reiterate advice from mom and dad?
  3. Rocky theories:  Forget everything you learned about the origin of the Rocky Mountains.  Now PhysOrg has the truth to solve the “enigma” of a major mountain range being pushed up deep inside a tectonic plate without subduction or a collision between plates.  The old theory “didn’t explain the facts,” geologists at University of Colorado are claiming.
        Instead, they presented a theory that sucks: an unusually thick lithosphere that pulled down the region into the fluid mantle, creating a “suction” that formed a basin, conveniently allowing the strange Pierre Shale to flow in, then presto: it “amplified mountain-building forces far inland and forced the formation of the Rockies”.
        Exactly what mountain-building forces they referred to was left unstated, nor how such forces would be amplified by suction.   If you believe their new explanation, then you will probably like their ad: “The hypothesis, if confirmed, could not only unravel the geological origin of the Rockies, but could also illuminate the mechanisms that have led to mountain ranges worldwide,” including “other puzzling mountain belts.”  Exactly how the hypothesis could be confirmed was not explained.
  4. Whoops, eye was wrong:  “Eye evolution questioned” was the headline on a report in The Scientist.  “Invertebrates with vertebrate-like vision challenge the idea that the two groups of organisms have distinctly different visual receptors.”  Will Darwin concede, then?  After all, he’s pressed against the wall: “The standing dogma of eye evolution is challenged with the discovery of an invertebrate that sees light like vertebrates do, rather than like their more closely related cousins, according to a study published today (March 1) in EvoDevo.”  Dogma is a strange bedfellow in a science article, but this one, a “standing dogma,” must have been sleepwalking in the lab.
        One possible Darwinian escape is obfuscation: “Now the story is more complicated than it was before, when we thought there was a clear-cut division between vertebrates and invertebrates.”  One outsider noted that evolutionary expectations had influenced prior work: “No one has looked for opsins in many animals, and this is exactly what we should be doing.”  Should implies moral responsibility.
        Rather than concede the argument to intelligent design, The Scientist offered more ways out for Darwin, such as bluffing: “Now it’s unclear which photoreceptor originally gave animals sight, and which kind evolved to sense light later.  Or, perhaps an ancestor used both receptors to see, and over the millennia, one variety or the other lost its visual function.”  The reporter did not seem to notice this answer only multiplies problems for evolutionary theory.  Instead, Amy Maxmen cheerfully noted that ciliary opsin genes have even been found in sightless brachiopod embryos.  Parrying that surprise into a win for evolution (02/25/2010), she ended, “brachiopods may provide key insights into how vision first evolved.
  5. Too old to be evolved:  Protein remains in a fossil scorpion said to be 417 million years old stunned researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.  According to PhysOrg, “Their work upends the conventional view that organic material, such as that found in the outer portion of exoskeleton, doesn’t endure in extremely old fossils because it’s readily broken down by hungry microbes and other natural processes.”
        Now scientists are changing their tune and saying that chitin and other proteins can be saved from “degradation by microorganisms even after 500 million years.”  Would they say this if there was no need to preserve the evolutionary date?  Obviously no one can directly test millions of years on fossil proteins.  Is the commitment to the date driving the explanation?
  6. Gift horse:  Can you tell a fossil horse’s age by its teeth?  Maybe so, but some evolutionists divine even more: horse tooth evolution.  Live Science claimed, “From the Horse’s Mouth: Teeth Reveal Evolution.”  Reporter Wynne Parry was aglow with suggestions from a paper in Science1 that purported to show a “timeline of changing tooth features that matches up with the climate record.”  According to Parry’s summary, horses first “emerged” 55 million years ago, then their teeth “changed noticeably” during a cool spell 33 million years ago, then “changed markedly” 18 million years ago when grasslands took over.  She apparently glossed over several difficulties in the paper.
        The paper in Science was a bit puzzled by time dilation required by their theory: “Some evolutionary changes in equid dentitions seem delayed with respect to the mesowear shifts,” they said.  “The most apparent of these is an early Miocene increase in dietary abrasion among anchitheres at 23 to 19.4 Ma without a notable change in crown height.... The first mesodont equines appear later, about 18.8 to 17.5 Ma.”  A million years is a long time to go without being able to eat.  One would think the poor animals would have gone extinct.  As a way out, the team of four said, “However, most equids demostrate [sic] highly variable mesowear scores, with most samples yielding mesowear scores well below the extreme values (Fig. 1E), suggesting that selection for taller, more durable dentitions may have been episodic.”  While we’re “suggesting,” maybe a few horses got lucky and won proper dentures from Dr. Nature’s mutation store, allowing them to pass on their genes during the tough episodes, till softer food returned the teeth to earlier norms – until the time came for all horses to evolve the tough high-crown dentures.  Is that what they were “suggesting”?
        The authors simply assumed the teeth adapted to changing food supply by “selection pressure,” whatever that is (01/29/2011, 10/03/2010): “The famous ‘Great Transformation’ in molar crown morphology leading to the subfamily Equinae probably originated during intervals of heavy selection pressure due to pronounced increases in dietary abrasion among populations that were pioneering new habitats.”  Presumably selection could have pressured some of them into evolving into forest horses, growing giraffe-like necks and new dentures to eat pine needles off trees, but that didn’t happen.  In evolution, some stuff happens, but not other stuff.  Who knows why?
        For more problems with horse evolution, see 06/30/2005 and 03/18/2005.
Scandals point out the vulnerability of science to human moral failings.  One check on science that we have all been taught is reproducibility – the ability of other scientists to confirm a claim.  These days, though, the complexity of many studies makes reproducing an experiment so difficult as to be rare.  It also goes without saying that claims about the unobservable past are not reproducible even in principle.
    In the wake of the Climategate scandal, Nature2 last month stressed the need for more transparency in published research on research that is reproducible in principle: genomics.  Scientists need to provide, the Editors said, “essential details needed to reproduce the analysis” – often missing in published papers.  The interior of the editorial contained this disturbing line:
If genomics were as politicized as climate science, the authors of studies in which the information trail is missing would probably face catcalls, conspiracy charges and demands for greater transparency and openness.  Instead, many in the field merely shrug their shoulders and insist that is how things are done.
The editorial, titled “Devil in the details,” ended by hoping new software tools will aid transparency, a “laudable goal” (indicating an unreached goal).  Software tools, though, have to be used by people.  Is it “realistic” for scientists to heed the sermon?  Even the Editors were unsure.  After all, scientists, like other sinners, are only human.
1.  Mihlbachler, Rivals, Solounias, and Semprebon, “Dietary Change and Evolution of Horses in North America,” Science (4 March 2011): Vol. 331 no. 6021, pp. 1178-1181, doi: 10.1126/science.1196166.
2.  Editorial, “Devil in the details,” Nature 470 (17 February 2011), pp. 305–306, doi:10.1038/470305b.
With apologies to the late Robert Jastrow, we conclude: For the public who has lived by faith in the reason of scientists, the story ends like a bad dream.  They have followed the science reporters up the mountains of ignorance; they are about to conquer the highest peak; as they pull themselves over the highest rock, they are greeted by a band of sinners who have been sitting there for centuries.
Next headline on:  Philosophy of SciencePolitics and EthicsFossilsDating MethodsMammalsGeologyHealthDarwin and Evolution
  Darwinism has consequences today – in law (03/15/2005).  Be very afraid when they classify you as unfit.  Even the Supreme Court appears to have been influenced by the discredited evolutionary Recapitulation Theory of Ernst Haeckel (03/08/2005).

Daffy Daffodil Darwinism     03/03/2011      
March 03, 2011 — The daffodil flower has an extra part.  This can only mean it evolved.  That’s what science reporters are saying, leading some readers to wonder how they got there from here.
    Most flowers are made of petals, sepals, carpels and stamens, but the distinctive trumpet-shaped corona of the daffodil seems unrelated.  The BBC News began with a tame article that buried the E-word evolution in the text: “It’s the way novelties evolve in nature,” claimed Robert Scotland of the University of Oxford.  His team dissected bulbs looking for the developmental origins of the corona, and found that it develops later and independently of the four other flower parts.  “The evolution of novelty within such a highly conserved but diverse system is interesting,” Scotland continued.  “It’s part of understanding the natural world.  Whether that’s new species, new genera or just what the trumpet of a daffodil is.”  (Note: conserved means unevolved.)
    By next day, the BBC News Wales was ready for a Darwin Parade, with Robert Scotland acting as Grand Marshall.  A video clip called the daffodil “an example of evolution in action,” putting the evil-lution in the pronunciation that Brits are wont to do.  After celebrating the daffodil as the national flower of Wales and praising its chemical extracts that help slow the progress of Alzheimer’s Disease, the narrator called the daffodil “a symbol of evolution as well as a symbol of Wales.”

Did Robert tie the corona to a mutation?  No.  Did he identify a common ancestor?  No.  Did he explain how the corona produced better fitness?  No.  (No fair saying that it manipulated humans to plant more of them.)  Did he contribute to understanding the natural world?  You decide if this is understanding or evil-illusion.
    Happy St. David’s Day anyway.  “Brothers be ye constant.  The yoke which with single mind ye have taken, bear ye to the end; and whatsoever ye have seen with me and heard, keep and fulfil.” – David, patron saint of Wales, March 1, 588.  Yes, brethren, bear the yoke of defeating dumb Darwinism with constancy.  For relief, search on Google or Bing for images of daffodils and resolve to plant some bulbs next fall.
Next headline on:  PlantsDarwin and EvolutionDumb Ideas
Go to the Cell, Thou Sluggard     03/02/2011        
March 02, 2011 — Solomon ordered the lazy man, Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise (Proverbs 6:6).  Today, he would probably tell lazy materialists needing wisdom to consider the cell.  Several recent scientific papers and news stories illustrate why materialism faces a stiff challenge from design features found in the fundamental units of life.
    A dazzling animation of cell activity should be watched before reading this entry.  “The machine of DNA in real time” can be found on YouTube.  It is a product of Walter+Eliza Hall, which publishes additional biology animations on their WEHI.TV website.  Portions of this video are like upgrades on the memorable DNA animations from the 2002 Illustra media documentary “Unlocking the Mystery of Life” (see excerpt on YouTube).
  1. Machines with 3-D forceNature said,1 “During migration, cells interact with their environment by exerting mechanical forces on it.  A combination of two techniques shows that they do so in all three dimensions by a push–pull mechanism.”  The article went on to describe how “mechanobiology” is an emerging field within biophysics.
        Cells are no longer to be viewed as bags of chemicals bouncing around at random.  “In contrast to passive objects such as water droplets, living cells actively probe their environment by exerting forces on it as they migrate,” authors Hersel and Ladoux said.  “Such forces not only drive mechanical events such as cell deformation but also trigger cellular processes such as cell–environment adhesion signalling and cytoskeletal reorganization.”
  2. Two ways to stop:  A car can slow down either by braking or downshifting.  Similarly, cells can down-regulate gene expression in different ways, reported Science Daily.  “The binding of repressor proteins to DNA provides a molecular switch for such regulation,” the article explained.  “Although the two types of protein have been identified as silencers of gene expression, each one uses a distinct molecular mechanism to halt the process,” according to research at Michigan State University.
  3. Trains and derailment:  Scientists have been finding that many diseases are caused when machinery goes awry, like a train going off-track.  Science Daily reported one case, where “Collisions of Protein Machines Cause DNA Replication Derailment.”
        Cell division is a risky process, physically speaking (see animation mentioned above).  Error analysis of cellular machinery presupposes machinery that is designed to work.
        Millions of base pairs have to be copied in a complex operation involving hundreds of protein and nucleic acid factors.  “DNA damage, if not kept in check, can lead to many problems including cancers,” the article said.  “Researchers have shown that the process of replication is even riskier than originally thought.”  If this is so, the wonder is that the machines work so well most of the time to preserve life on the planet.  As one biology professor used to say, “The wonder is not that we get sick.  The wonder is that we are ever well.”  Fortunately, redundant DNA damage response systems are able to handle most emergencies.
  4. Lock shapes the key:  Another article on Science Daily examined how proteins fold into their specific three-dimensional shapes, vital to their functions.  German researchers wondered how partners could bind to unstructured proteins that had not yet folded.  Studying one particular enzyme, they found that local interactions were sufficient to induce binding to the active site.  “These results are of fundamental importance for understanding the mechanism of protein-protein interactions,” the article said.
  5. Codes upon codesNature discussed a recent revelation about the genetic code that expands the information content of DNA.1  It now appears that base pairs can flip over and reconnect to neighboring nucleotides in new ways separate from the standard Watson-Crick pairing.  These transient pairs, called Hoogsteen base pairs after the discoverer, provide additional genetic information for the cell.  Honig and Rohs said, “Evidence of transient changes in base-pairing geometry highlights the fact that the information held in DNA’s linear sequence is stored in three dimensions.
        Describing a paper in the same issue that explored this finding, they said, “Nikolova and colleagues’ discovery reminds us that DNA offers proteins not only an enticing linear alphabet, but also a set of conformations that can be recognized in a sequence-dependent way.  Understanding how the linear sequence of bases in DNA is recognized by proteins is therefore a problem that must be solved in three dimensions.”
  6. Long live the diatom:  Talk about longevity: researchers at University of Gothenburg have found diatom spores buried in seafloor sediments that were able to revive after more than 100 years in a state of suspended animation.  “We revived hundreds of genetic individuals of diatoms and induced them to start dividing again and to form cloned cultures,” a team member said.  “The oldest are more than 100 years old, the youngest quite fresh.”
        How does this translate to our experience?  “As diatoms normally divide once a day, this means that for a diatom a period of 100 years is equivalent to 40,000 generations,” the article explained.  “In human terms, this means genetic material equivalent to around 800,000 years.
        There’s a reason for this capability.  “What makes diatoms special is that if the environment they live in becomes too inhospitable they form resting spores, which gather in sediment at the bottom of the sea.  When conditions improve, the spores can be revived.”
  7. Blood explosion:  Scientists have been studying blood chemistry for over 100 years, but they have missed a lot, said Science Daily.  “After three years of exhaustive analysis led by a University of Alberta researcher, the list of known compounds in human blood has exploded from just a handful to more than 4,000.”
        This information can provide a wealth of new information for tracking disease conditions.  Biochemist David Wishart said, “By combining research from the past with our new findings we have moved the science of blood chemistry from a keyhole view of the world to a giant picture window.”  Whatever happens now, the announcement shows that previous descriptions of blood have been overly simplified, compared to the complexity now being unveiled.
  8. Organized turnover:  Programmed cell death (apoptosis) works together with cell division (mitosis) to keep us healthy, explained Live Science.  Apoptosis or “cell suicide” is common in fetal development as webbing between fingers and toes is dissolved to give shape to our hands and feet.  It also supports the immune system.  The lining of the intestines is similarly renewed by a balance of cell death and cell division.  “Because new cells replace old, worn-out ones, our tissues remain healthy,” the article said.  Look how orderly the process is:
    During apoptosis, the cell shrinks and pulls away from its neighbors.  Then the surface of the cell appears to boil, with fragments breaking away and escaping like bubbles from a pot of hot water.  The DNA in the cell’s nucleus condenses and breaks into evenly sized fragments.  Soon the nucleus itself disintegrates, followed by the entire cell.  A cellular cleanup crew made of phagocytic cells – immune cells that engulf and dispose of dead cells and debris – arrives on the scene to mop up the remains.
  9. Perfect spring:  Elastin is a springy protein found in elastic tissues of animals.  In “Solving the riddle of nature’s perfect spring,” PhysOrg discussed work at the University of Manchester to figure out how elastin works in order to “lead to the development of new synthetic elastic polymers.”
        Its properties are truly amazing: “Elastin allows tissues in humans and other mammals to stretch, for example when the lungs expand and contract for respiration or when arteries widen and narrow over the course of a billion heart beats.”
        The article, though, ascribed all this to evolution in a grossly inappropriate personification of evolution’s mindless, undirected process: “The study, published in the science journal PNAS (March issue), revealed how evolution has triumphed where engineering has so far failed by generating a molecule with near-perfect elasticity that will last a lifetime.
  10. Human junk no mo:  Geneticists have been intrigued by thousands of repetitive sequences in primate genes, particularly one type called the Alu element.  Once thought of as useless genetic junk, these Alu elements are emerging as important regulators of gene expression.
        PhysOrg reported on work by University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine looking for function in these repetitive sequences.  “It’s been hard to say whether these Alu-derived exons actually do anything on a genome-wide level,” the senior author of the study said.  “Our new study says they do – they affect protein production by altering the efficiency with which messenger RNA is translated into protein.”
        Although the article called this “a mechanism that could contribute to the evolution of different biological characteristics in different species,” no examples were mentioned.  The press release seemed to be bluffing by claiming that Alu elements “have been linked to human and primate evolution” or that “Repetitive elements of the genome can provide a playground for the creation of new evolutionary characteristics.”  The claim is based on finding them in primates but not other animals, an argument that assumes evolution rather than demonstrating it.
  11. Shipping department:  “Proteins find their way with address label and guide” was the catchy headline of an article on PhysOrg.  After being transcribed and folded, proteins have to be shipped to their work sites.  “For proteins to find their way, they have a built-in signal linked to them, a kind of address label,” the article began, reporting on work by a team in Sweden.  “Moreover, they are helped by a particle that guides them to the cell membrane.”  The particle under study is SRP, “signal-recognizing particle.”  The opening paragraph is worth a mind-boggling exercise:
    Calculations indicate that each human cell contains roughly a billion protein molecules.  In other words, it’s crowded inside the cell, and order must be maintained.  What’s more, newly generated proteins often need to be transported from the place they were produced to the place they are to perform their tasks.  These proteins have a kind of address label, a signal sequence, that specifies what place inside or outside the cell they need to be transported to.  This transport must function flawlessly if order is to be maintained in the cell, but also for the cell to be able to communicate with its surroundings.  If a protein winds up in the wrong place, it can lead to serious disorders like cystic fibrosis.
    It’s not just the insides of cells that need transport.  A video on PhysOrg called “Embryo’s cell stampede” shows how cells themselves migrate in a controlled fashion in a growing organism.  “Cells don’t just sense where they are in the growing embryo and develop into the appropriate tissue,” the short article said.  “They move around and migrate to where they need to be.”  The phrase “cell stampede” connotes the order required to keep each cell targeted properly in a crowded, dynamic process.
  12. Rotary engine specs:  An international team investigated the stiffness of the stator in one of nature’s most amazing cellular machines, ATP synthase (see 09/22/2010 and embedded links).  Publishing in PNAS,3 the authors measured the stiffness of the stator and found it 10 times stiffer than the rotor.  That a biological cell has rotary motors that can be analyzed in engineering terms is an astonishing discovery of the past two decades.
Evolutionists seeking to explain these things from non-life have a much greater challenge than Darwin and his friends did, when he wrote to Joseph Hooker, speculating that perhaps chemicals in a “warm little pond” came together to form the first life.  Each of the systems described above seems not only real, but necessary for cell maintenance and survival.
1.  Hersel and Ladoux, “Biophysics: Push it, pull it,” Nature 470 (17 February 2011), pp. 340–341, doi:10.1038/470340a.
21  Honig and Rohs, “Biophysics: Flipping Watson and Crick,” Nature 470 (24 February 2011), pp. 472–473, doi:10.1038/470472a.
3.  Wachter et al, “Two rotary motors in F-ATP synthase are elastically coupled by a flexible rotor and a stiff stator stalk,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published online February 22, 2011, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1011581108.
Whatever is true, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good report, think on these things (Philippians 4:8).  Do these discoveries make you think materialism?  No; that would be false, ugly, and discredited, like that stoooopidddd line in #9 that the study of elastin has “revealed how evolution has triumphed where engineering has so far failed by generating a molecule with near-perfect elasticity that will last a lifetime.”  Lovely.
    This is a wonderful time to be alive (in terms of opening the cellular black box).  Knowledge is exploding about the complexity of the cell, and there is no sign of it slowing down (see new light microscope coming out with 50-nanometer resolution, reported by the BBC News).
    The old canard about creation was that it is a “God of the gaps” argument – as science progresses, there is less for God to do.  But what if the gaps are getting wider as science progresses?  The argument cuts both ways; evolutionists can be accused of Darwin-of-the-gaps.  When they are reduced to arguing that evolution has triumphed where engineering has failed, you know they are in trouble.  Victory for intelligent design is imminent.  Hasten the victory; take these arrows and shoot them into the Darwin castle (03/29/2008 commentary).  There are millions of victims of materialistic indoctrination needing liberation.
Next headline on:  Cell BiologyGeneticsHuman BodyOrigin of LifePhysicsIntelligent DesignAmazing Facts
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Cool video: Remember our obituary on Benoit Mandelbrot? (11/12/2010).  Watch a new facet of the maverick’s legacy: new 3-D fractal animations posted on New Scientist.  Dazzling!

Taking Control of Natural Selection     03/01/2011      
March 01, 2011 — Are humans evolving?  If so, should they?  Two recent articles asked these questions as if natural selection is something we should no longer allow to push us around.  We should take control of it for our own good.  But then, it wouldn’t be natural selection, would it?
    On the BBC News, Olly Bootle posted a big picture of the elderly big-beard Darwin and asked, “Are humans still evolving by Darwin’s natural selection?”  Ever since the father of evolution proposed his theory, “scientists have wondered whether humans were resourceful enough to remove themselves from the grip of natural selection,” he said.  Under a photo of a moon-boot print next to a bare footprint, the caption reads, “Could technological advances stop the human species from evolving?”  The tone of the article is that it can, and humans should take control of natural selection.
    Bootle pointed to examples of microevolution in humans – lactose intolerance, changes in height or weight or skin color, increasing life expectancy – and admitted these minor changes are like those Darwin saw: “In any case, the changes were very small and very slow, similar to those at work in Darwin’s evolutionary studies.”  But Darwin, we all know, was talking about a far greater world view – the evolution of all life from a primordial cell.  Bootle omitted any evidence for that.
    What, then, of our evolutionary future?  “Technology may have stopped some evolutionary forces such as predation and disease, but that does not mean humans have stopped evolving,” he said, inserting a brief doubt whether we can discern our own evolution from the inside.  But globalization and technology bring powerful forces into the game: “The direction of our future evolution is likely to be driven as much by us as by nature,” Bootle ended.  “We may be less dependent on how the world changes us, but ever more so on our growing ability to change the world.
    It’s about time we do, said elderly Nobel laureate Christian de Duve in an interview with Clint Witchalls on New Scientist, who summarized the interview this way: “We have evolved traits that will lead to humanity’s extinction, says Christian de Duve – so we must learn to overcome them.”  But why would humans want to interfere with the process that brought them up?  De Duve explained that it’s because we are rapidly exhausting our natural resources.  Then he summarized the standard view of natural selection as an unguided, uncaring process when Witchall asked him, “You think that natural selection has worked against us.  How?

Because it has no foresight.  Natural selection has resulted in traits such as group selfishness being coded in our genes.  These were useful to our ancestors under the conditions in which they lived, but have become noxious to us today.  What would help us preserve our natural resources are genetic traits that let us sacrifice the present for the sake of the future.  You need wisdom to sacrifice something that is immediately useful or advantageous for the sake of something that will be important in the future.  Natural selection doesn’t do that; it looks only at what is happening today.  It doesn’t care about your grandchildren or grandchildren’s grandchildren.
This strange series of anthropomorphisms about natural selection was followed by an even more bizarre one, the labeling of this kind of evolutionary short-sightedness as “original sin.”  Indeed, that was the title of his latest book: Genetics of original sin (Yale University Press).  For salvation, we must “act against natural selection,” de Duve told the interviewer, “and actively oppose some of our key genetic traits.
    Witchalls worried that population control (the cause of resource depletion) might be “ethically dubious”.  De Duve responded that the number of inhabitants needs to be reduced somehow.  “Hunters do it by killing off the old or sick animals in a herd,” he pointed out.  But lest he be found to support negative eugenics (e.g., abortion, euthanasia, genocide), he added, “but I don’t think that’s a very ethical way of limiting the population.”  If it’s not very ethical, maybe it’s a little bit ethical.  What if people in power decide it is very ethical?  Would they pay any attention to the advice of an aging biologist?  Whatever he meant, he advocated birth control as the best method for population reduction.
    Giving more power to women, he feels, can also help.  Why would that be?  “Speaking as a biologist,” he said, “I think women are less aggressive than men, and they play a larger role in the early education of the young and helping them overcome their genetic heirloom.”  He did not seem to consider whether it would also decrease warfare and totalitarianism, which seem to have been big players in population reduction, particularly in the 20th century.  Did he mean that women should teach the young not to get married and have children?  Did he consider whether the aggressive men, after giving women some power, would take it back?  Whatever he meant, he remained “cautiously optimistic,” in order to give a message of hope to the young that they can do something about their evolution – although presently “there is not much evidence that this is happening.”  Maybe he feels false hope is good for their evolution.
You have just witnessed smart people acting dumb.  If incoherence is a measure of folly, then please explain how Bootle and de Duve were not incoherent by considering the human mind the product of a mindless, uncaring, unguided, amoral process, then lecturing us on ethics and wisdom.  What is ethics in Darwinland?  What is wisdom?  Take away these concepts from their thieving hands, where they raided the Judeo-Christian smorgasbord of values, and they are empty handed, because they cannot get such things at Darwin’s table.
    Natural selection is what natural selection does.  If it produces a brain by mistake (01/26/2011), or a venomous snake, then natural selection “doesn’t care” one whit, as de Duve himself admitted.  “It doesn’t care about your grandchildren or grandchildren’s grandchildren.”  It is totally selfish, shortsighted, and uncaring.  Ethics and wisdom are defined by what natural selection does, period.  If it gives rise to a population that destroys itself, so be it.  Happens all the time.  Why fight it?
    Notice that de Duve and his interviewer know about the Bible.  They know the Judeo-Christian doctrine of original sin.  They feel it.  When Witchalls asked him about his use of the term “original sin,” he answered, “I believe that the writers of Genesis had detected the inherent selfishness in human nature that I propose is in our genes, and invented the myth of original sin to account for it.  It’s an image.”  He quickly added, “I am not acting as an exegete – I don’t interpret scripture.”  Well, he just did, and a jolly botched interpretation of Genesis 3 and Romans 2-3 it was.  Instead of sticking to his job as a biologist, he followed up his myth information by preaching a salvation sermon with all the fervor of an evangelist: “We must act against natural selection and actively oppose some of our key genetic traits.”  As if we could.  That’s like telling dogs to actively oppose their dogness.  There he goes again, stealing concepts like responsibility, wisdom, and morality from the Christian world view.
    Christian de Duve is a CINO, Christian in name only (literally).  One wonders if his parents had better hopes for him by giving him that honorable name than to see him become, despite his accomplishments in genetics, an incoherent babbler and peddler of self-refuting philosophy.  As for Olly Bootle, this is what our education system produces when Charlie worship, the state religion, cannot be criticized: a complete dupe for the Darwin dope.
Next headline on:  Early ManDarwin and EvolutionMind and BrainPolitics and EthicsEducationDumb IdeasBible and Theology
  In March 2004, geologists were reconsidering the origin of geological layers (03/05/2004).  And who could forget the cowboy analogy of the big chromosome round-up in cell division? (03/04/2004.

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“I really enjoy reading your posts and often send out links to various friends and family members to direct them to your site.  You have an incredible gift and I truly appreciate how you use it.... I have been a satisfied reader of your headlines for the last 5 years at least... can’t remember when I first stumbled on your site but it is now a daily must-stop for me.”
(a senior software engineer in Ohio)

“Thank you so much for your news.  I’ve fully enjoyed your articles and commentary for a while now and look forward to the future.”
(a doctor in North Carolina)

“I like your stuff.”
(a doctor in New York)

“Thank you and may God bless you all at CEH, for the wonderful work you do.”
(a retired surveyor in Australia)

“The information you put out there is absolutely superb.”
(a lawyer in Kansas)

“Your website is the best website on the web for keeping me current of fast developing crev material.”
(a medical doctor in California)

“I am a Christian & really appreciate the creation websites, I check your site every night.”
(a logger in New Zealand)

“I just found your website a day or so ago and am totally addicted.  You don’t know what that says, considering I’m only now – within the last few days, as a matter of fact – a ‘recovering’ old-earther ... Talk about going down internet ‘rabbit trails.’  I could go deeper and deeper into each ‘headline’ you post and never get anything else done...
(a home school educator, graphic designer, painter, former geologist in Texas)

“I very much enjoy your web site.  I have used it as a resource for debating evolutionist for about a year.  I am impressed at the breadth of journals and quantity of articles you report on.  I have recommended your site to several of my on line friends.  I don’t care if you publish this post but I wanted you to know how thankful I am for all the hard work you do.”
(an engineering recruiter in California)

“I pray that our Lord continue to give you strength to continue writing your articles on Creation-headlines.  I have been really blessed to read it daily....Unlike all other creation sites I am familiar with, yours has such a high scientific quality and your discussions are great.”
(a scientist and university professor in Iceland, where 95% of the people believe in evolution)

“Thank you for the work you do ... I scratch my head sometimes, wondering how you have the time for it all.”
(a former atheist/evolutionist in aerospace engineering, now Biblical creationist)

“I’m a regular (daily :) reader of your site.  It is amazing the amount of work that you impart in such a project.  Thank you very much.”
(an IT professional with a degree in mechanical engineering from Portugal)

“I find your site so helpful and you are so fast in putting up responses to current news.  I have your site RSS feed on my toolbar and can easily see when you have new articles posted.”
(a geologist in Australia)

“I have been reading your website for several years now.  Working in an environment where most people believe that there are only two absolutes, evolution and relativism, it has been wonderful to be able to get the facts and the explanations of the bluffs and false logic that blows around.  I have posted your website in many places on my website, because you seem to have the ability to cut through the baloney and get to the truth--a rare quality in this century.  Thank you for all that you do.”
(a business analyst in Wisconsin)

“...this is one of the websites (I have like 4 or 5 on my favorites), and this is there.  It’s a remarkable clearinghouse of information; it’s very well written, it’s to the point... a broad range of topics.  I have been alerted to more interesting pieces of information on [this] website than any other website I can think of.”
(a senior research scientist)

“I would assume that you, or anyone affiliated with your website is simply not qualified to answer any questions regarding that subject [evolution], because I can almost single-handedly refute all of your arguments with solid scientific arguments.... Also, just so you know, the modern theory of evolution does not refute the existence of a god, and it in no way says that humans are not special.  Think about that before you go trying to discredit one of the most important and revolutionary scientific ideas of human history.  It is very disrespectful to the people who have spent their entire lives trying to reveal some kind of truth in this otherwise crazy world.”
(a university senior studying geology and paleontology in Michigan)

“Hi guys, thanks for all that you do, your website is a great source of information: very comprehensive.”
(a medical student in California)

“You are really doing a good job commenting on the weaknesses of science, pointing out various faults.  Please continue.”
(a priest in the Netherlands)

“I much enjoy the info AND the sarcasm.  Isaiah was pretty sarcastic at times, too.  I check in at your site nearly every day.  Thanks for all your work.”
(a carpet layer in California)

“I just wanted to write in to express my personal view that everyone at Creation Evolution Headlines is doing an excellent job!  I have confidences that in the future, Creation Evolution Headline will continue in doing such a great job!
    Anyone who has interest at where science, as a whole, is at in our current times, does not have to look very hard to see that science is on the verge of a new awakening....
    It’s not uncommon to find articles that are supplemented with assumptions and vagueness.  A view point the would rather keep knowledge in the dark ages.  But when I read over the postings on CEH, I find a view point that looks past the grayness.  The whole team at CEH helps cut through the assumptions of weary influences.
    CEH helps illuminate the true picture that is shining in today’s science.  A bright clear picture, full of intriguing details, independence and fascinating complexities.
    I know that Creation Evolution Headlines has a growing and informative future before them.  I’m so glad to be along for the ride!!”
(a title insurance employee in Illinois, who called CEH “The Best Web Site EVER !!”)

“Thank you very much for your well presented and highly instructive blog” [news service].
(a French IT migration analyst working in London)

“Please keep up the great work -- your website is simply amazing!  Don’t know how you do it.  But it just eviscerates every evolutionary argument they weakly lob up there -- kind of like serving up a juicy fastball to Hank Aaron in his prime!”
(a creation group leader in California)

“I just want to thank you for your outstanding job.  I am a regular reader of yours and even though language barrier and lack of deeper scientific insight play its role I still draw much from your articles and always look forward to them.”
(a financial manager and apologetics student in Prague, Czech Republic)

“You guys are doing a great job! ... I really appreciate the breadth of coverage and depth of analysis that you provide on this site.”
(a pathologist in Missouri)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Irwin Moon
1907 - 1986

This month we want to remember a science popularizer who had an enormous impact through film.  Dr. Irwin Moon, founder of Sermons from Science and Moody Institute of Science (1945-1996), produced a string of movies that were extremely popular in churches during the 1950s through 1990s.  They are still available from Moody Video and Vision Forum.

Though styles have changed over the years, the series of about 18 films are still well worth watching.  In these films, beginning with God of Creation (1945) through The Ultimate Adventure (1971) and beyond, Dr. Irwin Moon used science to illustrate Biblical truths.  His live demonstrations of scientific principles dazzled audiences.  Subjects included everything from optical illusions, time and relativity, time-lapse photography of flowers blooming, fish sounds, atomic bombs, honeybees, Venus flytraps, blood vessels and almost everything else under the sun in chemistry, biology and physics.

    At one moment he could be frying an egg on a cold piece of wood.  Another he could be shattering a glass with sound.  And another he could be demonstrating how time speeds up or slows down at relativistic speeds, showing how a rattlesnake “sees” heat, or taking the viewer inside a beating heart.

    Sometimes Dr. Moon put his own life at risk with “don’t try this at home” demonstrations.  In Signposts Aloft he flew to a long-lost aircraft in the Sahara from World War II.  In Windows of the Soul he trained his own eyes to see with upside-down lenses, even riding a motorcycle and flying an airplane with the inverted vision his brain had learned to correct.  And in Facts of Faith, he wowed viewers by sending a million volts through his own body, with lightning bolts emerging from his fingertips.

    Expressions of the beauty of creation and the wisdom of God were never far from his lips.  A former pastor and Bible teacher, Dr. Moon knew more about science than many scientists.  Secular versions of the films were popular for years in high schools and colleges.  “Sermons from Science” auditoriums were well attended at several Olympic Games.

    A brief history of Sermons from Science and Dr. Moon’s colorful life story is featured at the Wonders of Science website.  Dr. Moon’s unique method of ministry often struck a chord with military men, college science majors, and other groups that might not be prone to seek out a church.

Fortunately, Dr. Moon’s vision of using science for God’s glory is carried forward in two avenues today.  For decades now, Dean Ortner has continued the ministry of stage demonstrations (currently named Wonders of Science) to illustrate the connection between science and spirit.  Earning the nickname The Million Volt Man, Dean has climaxed hundreds of live demonstrations with the dangerous stunt of sending electrical energy powerful enough to ignite lumber through his whole body.  On stage he sends messages through a beam of light, freezes his shadow, and does many other amazing stunts – each performance wrapped around the gospel.

    The film ministry, too, is stronger than ever, in its rebirth as Illustra Media.  After Moody Institute of Science folded in 1996, the production crew reorganized first as Discovery Media Productions, issuing a steady stream of dazzling creation films on astronomy, biology, zoology and physiology (a good sampling was combined into the trio The Wonders of God’s Creation); another jewel is the duo Journeys to the Edge of Creation. 

Around 2001, the team made friends with the Discovery Institute, and to avoid confusion as an independent company, changed its name to Illustra Media, starting a new line of productions on Intelligent Design.  The films Unlocking the Mystery of Life (2002) and The Privileged Planet (2004) were most recently joined by Darwin’s Dilemma (2010), forming a rock-solid trilogy refuting Darwinism and exhibiting the power of intelligent design theory for science.  Illustra Media has surpassed the outreach of Dr. Irwin’s early films with state-of-the-art productions of high quality and exciting content.  These films have been translated into over 20 languages and are currently having a major impact around the world.  Especially exciting are reports from former Soviet bloc countries that large crowds, hungry for meaning after decades of atheist propaganda, are gathering to watch these films and responding in large numbers.

Illustra’s newest documentary called Metamorphosis is nearing completion and should be available this summer.  It will tell the amazing story of butterflies, particularly the Monarch butterfly, which migrates thousands of miles and undergoes a remarkable life cycle inexplicable by evolution.  The subtitle of the film is, “The power and beauty of intelligent design.”  You can expect that this film, like the others, will be graphically, sonically, and informationally wonderful.

Dr. Moon’s story is an inspiring example of the power of one man’s vision to use creative means, geared to the times, to reach millions of people with the unchanging message of the gospel.  It prompts us to end this story with an old but clever challenge, “What on earth are you doing, for heaven’s sake?”


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.
Copies are also available from our online store.

A Concise Guide
to Understanding
Evolutionary Theory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Souder’s Law
Repetition does not establish validity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advice from Paul

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

I Timothy 6:20-21

Song of the True Scientist

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

from Psalm 104

Maxwell’s Motivation

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

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

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

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“I really enjoy your website, the first I visit every day.  I have a quote by Mark Twain which seems to me to describe the Darwinian philosophy of science perfectly.  ‘There is something fascinating about science.  One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.’  Working as I do in the Environmental field (I am a geologist doing groundwater contamination project management for a state agency) I see that kind of science a lot.  Keep up the good work!!”
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(Access Research Network 12/28/2007).

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

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

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(an auto technician in Missouri)

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

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

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(a newspaper editor in Wyoming)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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(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)

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(a documentary film producer, remarking on the 07/10/2005 commentary)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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