Monday, 30 August 2010

Amazing discovery: Solar flares have an effect on radioactive decay



Solar flares can have an effect on radioactive decay. Image courtesy of NASA.




Joel Kontinen

Researchers usually assume that radioactive elements decay at a constant rate although some studies conducted in the past few years (read more here and here) throw a dark cloud over this view.

Last week Stanford University published an intriguing report on the effect of solar flares on the decay of radioactive elements. This new research challenges ingrained beliefs in the reliability of dating methods.

It all began at Purdue University, where a group of researchers was trying to use the decay rate of radioactive isotopes to generate random numbers. They soon found out that the decay rates were not as regular as they had assumed and that there were irregularities in research conducted in the field.

Then they discovered that silicon-32 and radium-226 decay slightly faster in winter than in summer. Peter Sturrock, emeritus professor of applied physics at Stanford University, says: "Everyone thought it must be due to experimental mistakes, because we're all brought up to believe that decay rates are constant."

In December 2006 Jere Jenkins, a nuclear engineer at Purdue University, measured the decay rate of manganese-54 and found out that it dropped slightly about a day and a half before a solar flare.

Jenkins and Ephraim Fischbach, who studies random numbers at Purdue University, concluded that the Sun’s neutrinos have an effect on the decay rate.

Peter Sturrock, who studies ”the inner workings of the sun”, advised them to check previous research results on how the Sun’s rotation had an effect on the decay rate of radioactive elements measured on Earth. They found a clear 33-day cycle.

In other words: isotopes do not decay at a constant rate.

The discoveries at Purdue and Stanford could revolutionise our thinking about dating methods. Faith in millions of years might well weaken once people realise the significance and implications of the research results.

However, the ideological baggage associated with the idea of millions of years might cause some skeptics to reject the new discoveries like they initially refused to believe in the discovery of soft tissue in dinosaurs and carbon-14 in diamonds.

Source:

Stober, Jan. 2010. The strange case of solar flares and radioactive elements. Stanford University News. (23 August).

Sunday, 29 August 2010

A new monkey fable: Feel like crying? – Thank evolution, it’s good for us



These reptiles will hardly cry of sorrow.




Joel Kontinen

Evolutionists have often pondered over the origin of laughter. However, they have not focused much on crying though they have attempted to find out why we cry.

Only humans are known to cry for emotional reasons.

Tears have an important function in keeping our eyes moist. Scientists who believe in Darwinian evolution have nevertheless wanted to associate crying with natural selection that would not have preserved this ability if it had not been beneficial to humans as a species.

Jesse Bering, a psychologist at the Institute of Cognition and Culture at Belfast University believes that ”those of our early ancestors who were most empathic probably thrived” since they were able to build strong communities in which crying could have been a powerful weapon. Crying signals both empathy and guilt and can according to Bering be a mechanism produced by evolution that helped to preserve strong social bonds.

Randy Cornelius, a psychologist at Vassar College, thinks that tears originated as an intraspecies communication method. ”There'd be a selection pressure to develop a signaling system that wouldn't let predators in on the fact that you're vulnerable," he says.

These kinds of stories do not have anything to do with empirical science and cannot be tested or falsified. They are nevertheless part and parcel of the Darwinian worldview in which storytelling plays a major role.


Source:

Aubrey, Allison. 2010. Teary-Eyed Evolution: Crying Serves A Purpose. NPR. (23 August).

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Marks of Lucy’s stone tool found? Anthropologists disagree on old bones



Nature recently advertised the marks of the assumed stone tools of Australopithecus on its cover.




Joel Kontinen

Did Lucy use stone tools? Recently Nature published a letter that reported the discovery of bones in Ethiopia assumed to be approximately 3.4 million years old. Anthropologists think that they bear the marks of stone tools. They calculated the age of the bones from the volcanic ash in the region.

Shannon McPherron, Zeresenay Alemseged and colleagues believe that the marks in the bones are evidence of the earliest use of stone tools. They assume that Australopithecus afarensis used the tools 800, 000 years before H. habilis learnt to make such implements.

Not all anthropologists agree with the interpretation of McPherron and Alemseged. Tim D. White, a paleoanthropologist at the University of California, Berkeley, told the New York Times that the ”claims greatly outstrip the evidence”. Sileshi Semaw, a paleoanthropologist at Indiana University says that he is ”not convinced of the new discovery.” He goes on to say that trampling animals or other natural causes have often misled scientists in the past.

The researchers have not found any tools at or near the site where they discovered the bones so the debate has to do with the cause of the marks. No evolutionist will publicly admit that H. sapiens could have used the tools to carve up Australopithecus since they do not believe that modern man had evolved at the time.

For the same reason they still believe that Lucy left the Laetoli footprints.

The most logical solution to the dilemma would be to admit that Lucy could not have been capable of using stone tools and that faulty assumptions behind dating methods have led them astray.


Sources:

McPherron, Shannon P. & al. 2010. Evidence for stone-tool-assisted consumption of animal tissues before 3.39 million years ago at Dikika, Ethiopia. Nature 466:7308, 857-860.

Wilford, John Noble. 2010. Lucy’s Kin Carved Up a Meaty Meal, Scientists Say. The New York Times (11 August).

Thursday, 26 August 2010

The resurrection of a dead gene?



Juan de Flandes: Resurrection of Lazarus. Image courtesy of Wikipedia. Some evolutionists believe in a rather different kind of resurrection.




Joel Kontinen

Recently, the New York Times featured an interesting resurrection story, embedded into a Darwinian wordview that otherwise basically denies the supernatural. Gina Kolata writes:

The human genome is riddled with dead genes, fossils of a sort, dating back hundreds of thousands of years — the genome’s equivalent of an attic full of broken and useless junk. Some of those genes, surprised geneticists reported Thursday, can rise from the dead like zombies, waking up to cause one of the most common forms of muscular dystrophy. This is the first time, geneticists say, that they have seen a dead gene come back to life and cause a disease.”

She was referring to a paper published in Science that discussed the origin of Facioscapulohumeral Muscular Dystrophy (FSHD). The NYT version of what the paper says is considerably more vivid than the matter-or-fact reporting in Science.

The belief in the resurrection of dead genes stems from the view that humans are full of vestigial organs and our genome is mostly made up of junk, leftovers from a Darwinian process.

When Darwinian biologists found that most sections of our DNA did not code for proteins, they assumed that they were junk. However, when they learned more about these introns, some were ready to change their minds.

In 2003 Scientific American quoted John Mattick, a molecular biologist at the University of Queensland, who stated that the failure to recognize the importance of introns ”may well go down as one of the biggest mistakes in the history of molecular biology.” He went on to say: ”What was damned as junk because it was not understood may, in fact, turn out to be the very basis of human complexity.”

Recently, Nature also admitted that junk DNA is a misnomer.

The idea of a resurrected gene is based not on science but on Darwinian mythology.

Sources:

Gibbs, Wayt W. 2003. The unseen genome: gems among the junk. Scientific American 289:5, 26–33 (November 2003).

Kolata, Gina. 2010. Reanimated ‘Junk’ DNA Is Found to Cause Disease. The New York Times (19 August). http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/20/science/20gene.html?_r=3&hp

Lemmers, Richard J. L. F. & al. 2010. A Unifying Genetic Model for Facioscapulohumeral Muscular Dystrophy. Science 329: 5994. (20 August) http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/science.1189044v1

Sunday, 22 August 2010

The New York Times on bizarre science blogs



Science blogs that bow to Charles Darwin deal with many subjects but rarely with science. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.



Joel Kontinen

If we assume that science blogs deal with science, we will probably be mistaken, The New York Times suggests.

The newspaper is hardly known for its conservative views so that its article on science blogs is quite a surprise.

Already the title of Virginia Heffernan’s article, Unnatural Science, might tell us something of its content.

Heffernan read some well-known science blogs and discovered that the scientists and other people who write them hardly ever focused on writing about science. PZ Myers, who has acclaimed notoriety for being a feisty defender of atheism, for instance chooses to insult those who do not share his godless worldview.

Myers’ views of the Eucharist celebration in the Roman Catholic Church or the assumed child marriage of the prophet Muhammed are by far more egregious than the Danish cartoon featuring Muhammed that raised blood pressure in Muslim countries a few years ago.

It is rather difficult to understand how anyone could promote scientific knowledge by insulting Muslims, for instance, but perhaps ”science blogs” have a logic of their own.

Often these blogs use science as a smoke screen for attacking those who do not bow to Charles Darwin.

The Scientific American newsletter lends support to Ms. Heffernan’s thesis. Almost all its columnists and writers are atheists/free thinkers/skeptics, who seem to have a hard time trying to understand why most people reject their worldview.


Source:

Heffernan, Virginia. 2010. Unnatural Science. The New York Times. (30 July).

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Scientific American: Doubting evolution is dangerous!




Joel Kontinen



It might be dangerous to read this blog, at least according to Scientific American. The popular science magazine laments that so few Americans (45%) believe in Darwinian evolution.

In a recent survey published in Science and conducted by the National Science Board, only 45 per cent of the respondents affirmed that modern man has evolved from an animal. In addition, only 33 per cent said they believed in the Big Bang.

The danger that Scientific American refers to has not decreased in the past few years. Previous surveys have given similar results in the USA, United Kingdom and elsewhere. There are far more Darwin doubters than atheists, humanists and other ”free thinkers” would like.

This is not strange since reality, all the way from the tiny nano motors in a cell, looks like it has been designed.


Source:

Krauss, Lawrence M. 2010. Faith and Foolishness: When Religious Beliefs Become Dangerous. Scientific American (August).

Friday, 20 August 2010

A journey inside a cell

Joel Kontinen

Protein synthesis is not the product of chance but the digital information coded in DNA directs it. This brief video produced by the Discovery Institute shows that the cell has been designed to function intelligently.



The apostle Paul wrote in Romans (1:20), ”God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made.”

Thursday, 19 August 2010

A Taiwanese surprise: lion + tiger = liger




The Taiwanese ligers can grow into big cats like this descendant of a lion and tigress kept in a German zoo.




Joel Kontinen

Last weekend saw the birth of three ligers in a private zoo in Taiwan. The cubs are the offspring of an African lion and a Bengali tigress. One of the tiny ligers died soon after birth but the other two survived.

Animal rights activists are not pleased with the zoo owner for letting different species mate.

Far from providing support for Darwinian evolution, the yet tiny cubs remind us that the biological concept of species is fuzzy and differs from the Genesis concept of kind.

Genesis tells us that animals produce offspring after their kind.

Creationists often use the term baramin, from the Hebrew words bara (created) and min (kind), instead of species. Thus, for instance the dog kind (wolf, coyote, dingo, dog) is one biblical kind. Lions and tigers both belong to the cat kind.

Ligers remind us that Moses knew what he meant when he wrote that animals produce offspring after their kind.


Source:

Taiwan zoo faces fine over 'liger' cubs. BBC news 17 August 2010. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-10994934

Sunday, 15 August 2010

When an anthropologist got enough of Darwinian storytelling



Evolutionists are fond of monkey tales but not all scientists think they are true.




Joel Kontinen

Recently, John Hawks, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Wisconsin—Madison, wrote in his blog that has had enough of Darwinian storytelling.

Evolutionists are fond of just so stories. The term originated with Nobelist Rudyard Kipling’s 1902 collection Just So Stories for Little Children. The tales were light-hearted explanations of how animals got a certain trait, as the names of the stories indicate, for instance How the Leopard got His Spots or How the Camel got His Hump.

Although Hawks is an evolutionist, he takes a more critical approach to fossil discoveries than the Darwinian popularizers of science and he does not believe in all monkey fables.

Recently, he listened to an NPR programme on evolution. Hawks says that some of the stories presented in them “actually drive me up the wall”. One episode claimed that eating meat made us smarter.

He says that this is merely a just so story. “How did meat make us smarter?", he asks, "Is it a magical meat property? If I fed enough meat to the local deer, would they get smarter?"


Source:

Hawks, John. 2010. "Just-so stories" driving me crazy. John Hawks Weblog. (3 August) http://johnhawks.net/node/14504.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Thou shalt not doubt Darwin

Although Darwin year came and went, this documentary is still making news.





Joel Kontinen


Writing in a recent issue of e- Skeptic, Jonathan Lowe takes issue with how the documentary Darwin: The Voyage that Shook the World managed to include pro-Darwin scientists in a film that is critical of Darwin. He thinks that they were deceived into taking part. The evidence? Creation Ministries International used Fathom Media to produce the film. (Read CMI’s response to alleged deception here.)

Lowe, who is a novelist, then asks a number of pro-Darwin scientist, for instance doctors John Hutchinson and Brian Charlesworth, to counter the claims of the film. They are adamant that irreducible complexity can be explained away by the Darwinian method of using old parts in new contexts, that Darwin’s reliance on the uniformitarian views of Charles Lyell is no problem, Darwin’s finches support evolution and DNA is mostly junk.

In other words, when it comes to Darwin, there is not much skepticism in e-Skeptic.

The ”junk DNA” argument is especially interesting. Nick Matzke, formerly of the National Center for Science Education, claims:

The genomes of animals and plants, at least those with large genomes like humans, are mostly junk. And whatever you’ve heard from creationists, or even certain poorly-informed scientists, saying that ‘junk DNA’ isn’t junk is mostly wrong.”

It seems that either Matzke has overlooked recent research published in Nature on the complexity of the genome or he chooses to ignore it.

Lowe discusses many other arguments included in the film, always giving a Darwinian spin on issues. He ends his apology for Darwin by quoting Dr. Brian Charlesworth: ”Appealing to non-natural processes to explain away difficulties simply means you are not doing science. ”

The e-Skeptic reviewer regards Darwinian evolution and billions of years as fact. All critical assessments of the weaknesses of the non-theistic wordview are absent. There seems to be no room for discussing the significance of the presence of C-14 in diamonds or soft tissue in dinosaurs in an otherwise skeptical world.


Source:

Lowe, Jonathan. 2010. Distorting Darwin. e-Skeptic (4 August).

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Stephen Meyer on the origin of digital information in DNA

Joel Kontinen

It is not difficult to see that the information embedded in DNA looks like a digital code. In a recently released video, Dr. Stephen Meyer, author of Signature in the Cell, argues that the best scientific explanation for the digital information in DNA is that is has been designed intelligently.




In his book In the Beginning Was Information (1997), Dr. Werner Gitt came to the same conclusion as Dr. Meyer does, namely that a message requires a sender, and an intelligent message requires an intelligent sender.

Source:

Gitt, Werner. 1997. In the Beginning Was Information. Bielefeld: Christliche Literatur-Verbreitung.

Monday, 9 August 2010

The Jerusalem Post: Evidence of Old Testament time earthquake found in Israel



The prophet Amos depicted in a Russian icon. Image courtesy of Wikipedia. Recently, archaeologists found evidence of a huge earthquake, probably the one that Amos mentioned in his book.




Joel Kontinen

The Old Testament book of Amos mentions an earthquake that obviously was so massive that the prophet counted the years from it instead of giving the year in the reign of the king, as was usual.

Recently, Israeli archaeologists found the remains of a Philistine temple near Kiryat Gat and signs of an Old Testament time earthquake of approximately eight on the Richter scale.

This is interesting since the book of Amos (1:1) begins with the words:

The words of Amos, one of the shepherds of Tekoa – what he saw concerning Israel two years before the earthquake when Uzziah was king of Judah and Jeroboam son of Jehoash was king of Israel.”

The same earthquake is also mentioned in the book of Zechariah (14:5):

You will flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah.”

Commenting on the discovery, professor Aren Maeir suggests that the temple confirms what the book of Judges says about Samson and the temple of Dagon and what the Old Testament reveals about a great earthquake that devastated Israel.

Once again, an archaeological discovery supports the history of the Bible.


Source:

Hartman, Ben. 2010. Temple found in Philistine home of Goliath. The Jerusalem Post. (29 July).



Saturday, 7 August 2010

A tiny motor that never gets tired



Joel Kontinen

Even when we sleep, our cells do not rest. Recently, Physorg.com reported on a discovery that features a tiny nano motor that produces ATP or adenosine triphosphate.

ATP has a vital task in energy production in cells. We might compare it to petrol (or gas, if you prefer) that a car needs. Our cells need adenosine triphosphate in order to function.

According to Physorg,

ATP synthases are among the most abundant and important proteins in living cells. These rotating nano-machines produce the central chemical form of cellular energy currency, ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which is used to meet the energy needs of cells. For example, human adults synthesize up to 75 kg of ATP each day under resting conditions and need a lot more to keep pace with energy needs during strenuous exercise or work. The turbine of the ATP synthase is the rotor element, called the c-ring. This ring is 63 A in diameter (6.3 nm, or 6.3 millionths of a millimeter) and completes over 500 rotations per second during ATP production.”

The speed is really incredible. The tiny rotor completes 5,000 rotations in the time the world’s fastest man runs 100 metres.

Recently Thomas Meier of Max-Planck Institute and colleagues found out that cells use the water in nano rotors in converting power to a form that it can use more easily.

ATP synthesis speaks clearly of intelligent design. Already the first cell needed it. It can in no way have evolved through random processes.




Source:

Cells use water in nano-rotors to power energy conversion. Physorg. com. 3 August 2010. http://www.physorg.com/news200047448.html

Sunday, 1 August 2010

William Lane Craig on Richard Dawkins’ problem with the Designer’s designer



Joel Kontinen

Richard Dawkins likes to give the impression that he trusts in science. However, as Dr. William Lane Craig shows on this brief video clip, Dawkins seems to have serious problems with modern science.

In his The God Delusion Dawkins famously suggested that a designer needs a designer. Taken at face value, this view would lead to an endless string of explanations (the designer’s designer’s designer’s … designer) and no explanations would eventually be possible.