Friday, 29 April 2016
A new paper published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society A on the secrets of the chameleon’s tongue discloses hi-tech design that involves three integrated systems. The abstract uses design language:
“The ballistic projection of the chameleon tongue is an extreme example of quick energy release in the animal kingdom. It relies on a complicated physiological structure and an elaborate balance between tissue elasticity, collagen fibre anisotropy, active muscular contraction, stress release and geometry. A general biophysical model for the dynamics of the chameleon tongue based on large deformation elasticity is proposed. The model involves three distinct coupled subsystems: the energetics of the intralingual sheaths, the mechanics of the activating accelerator muscle and the dynamics of tongue extension. Together, these three systems elucidate the key physical principles of prey-catching among chameleonides.”
We would not associate expressions like 'complicated physiological structure' and 'elaborate balance' with random processes. In other words, the chameleon’s tongue does not look as though it was the product of the blind Darwinian watchmaker.
The BBC gives some more details:
“The chameleon's tongue is able to extend to twice the length of the body while unravelling telescopically.
Past research has shown if the tongue were a car, it could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in one hundredth of a second.”
The article goes on to discuss the details of the tongue:
“Part of the secret of the chameleon's success, the researchers confirmed, is special stretchy tissue within the tongue.
At the core of the tongue is a bone, which is surrounded by 10-15 layers of very thin fibrous tissues, then a muscle.”
No wonder engineers are interested in copying the tongue’s mechanism in robotics.
Biomimicry or biomimetics, i.e. copying amazing design seen in nature, has become a flourishing research field.
Engineers are eager to copy the elegant design they see in the moth’s eye, flying snails and even flies, for instance.
The chameleon’s tongue also reminds us that we live in a fallen world where animals and plants need weapons and defensive strategies to survive.
Briggs, Helen. 2016. Chameleon's tongue gives up secrets. BBC News. (20 April).
Moulton, Derek E., Thomas Lessinnes, Stephen O’Keeffe, Luis Dorfmann and Alain Goriely. 2016. The elastic secrets of the chameleon tongue. Proceedings of the Royal Society A. (20 April).
Wednesday, 27 April 2016
Transhumanist Zoltan Istvan thinks humans have a huge problem:
“Humans are handicapped by our biology. We operate tens of thousands of years behind evolution with our inherited instincts, which means our behavior is not suited towards its current environment.”
He seems to think that he has found a solution to our dilemma:
“Futurists like to say evolution is always late to the dinner party. We have instincts that apply to our biology in a world that existed ages ago; not a world of skyscrapers, cell phones, jet air travel, the Internet, and CRISPR gene editing technology. We must catch up to ourselves. We must evolve our thinking to adapt to where we are in the evolutionary ascent. We must force our evolution in the present day via our reasoning, inventiveness, and especially our scientific technolog. In short, we must embrace transhumanism -- the radical field of science that aims to turn humans into, for lack of a better word, gods.”
This has next to nothing to do with orthodox Darwinism that relies on random processes.
We already are wonderfully made, but we can never become gods, regardless of what we do. But we can become God’s children through faith in Christ.
“The transhumanist believes we should immediately work to improve ourselves via enhancing the human body and eliminating its weak points. This means ridding ourselves of flesh and bones, and upgrading to new cybernetic tissues, alloys, and other synthetic materials, including ones that make us cyborg-like and robotic. It also means further merging the human brain with the microchip and the impending digital frontier. Biology is for beasts, not future transhumanists.”
It seems that Mr. Istvan has read a bit more science fiction than is good for his health.
Transhumanists are by no means the first to think of superhumans. Friedrich Nietzsche toyed with the idea in the late 19th century, and Aldous Huxley envisioned his brave new world way back in 1931.
And then we heard about Superman and Batman and a big bunch of other comic book characters.
There is a tendency to see science as a secular saviour that can solve all our problems.
It might be good to remember that C. S. Lewis already warned of scientism.
Moreover, wishful thinking will not solve humanity’s basic problem that is sin.
Istvan, Zoltan. 2016. Transhumanism and Our Outdated Biology. The Huffington Post (21 April).
Monday, 25 April 2016
50 years ago, evolution was in big trouble. Mathematically, it just didn’t add up. A group of prominent scientists met at Wistar Institute for a conference to try to solve the problems. It produced a monograph entitled Mathematical Challenges to the Neo-Darwinian Interpretation of Evolution.
They couldn’t solve the dilemma. The problems are still there. To address them, the Royal Society is holding a meeting in November. A notice posted on the Society’s website explains why the conference is necessary:
“Scientific discussion meeting organised in partnership with the British Academy by Professor Denis Noble CBE FMedSci FRS, Professor Nancy Cartwright, Sir Patrick Bateson FRS, Professor John Dupré and Professor Kevin Laland.
Developments in evolutionary biology and adjacent fields have produced calls for revision of the standard theory of evolution, although the issues involved remain hotly contested. This meeting will present these developments and arguments in a form that will encourage cross-disciplinary discussion and, in particular, involve the humanities and social sciences in order to provide further analytical perspectives and explore the social and philosophical implications.”
It is bound to be interesting, as professor Denis Noble is an outspoken critic of Darwinian mechanisms. Together with some other prominent researchers and professors, such as James A. Shapiro, Eva Jablonka and Eugene Koonin, he has launched a website called the Third Way.
They believe strongly that random mutations and natural selection cannot explain biodiversity.
It remains to be seen, however, whether the participants are willing to go far enough, i.e. the throw the entire naturalistic paradigm overboard.
New trends in evolutionary biology: biological, philosophical and social science perspectives. The Royal Society.
Here’s a brief video on the significance of the Wistar Conference, featuring Dr. Paul Nelson:
Saturday, 23 April 2016
The Hubble Space Telescope has just given us a stunning view of the Bubble Nebula.
New Scientist gives some background facts:
“The giant bubble, also known as NGC 7635, is a cloud of gas and dust 10 light years across, located in the constellation Cassiopeia. It was discovered by William Herschel in 1787 and has been partially photographed by Hubble before, but this is the first time the telescope has captured its full glory in a single image.”
The Bubble Nebula reminds us of the beauty we see in creation, and it’s not just us: The Old Testament writers also realised that only an awesome God could make such an awesome universe.
“The heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1) and “He has made everything beautiful in its time,” (Ecclesiastes 3:11, English Standard Version).
We can see beauty everywhere, even in us. This challenges the indifferent Darwinian view of the cosmos.
Even in a world that suffers from Adam’s sin, we see amazing comeliness in both the small (such as a peacock spider) and the huge (for instance, galaxies).
We also enjoy wonderful colours and discern mathematical symmetry in all kinds of everything.
Aron, Jacob. 2016. Hubble telescope catches stunning picture of the Bubble Nebula. New Scientist (21 April).
Thursday, 21 April 2016
Fossils often present more puzzles for evolutionists than they solve. Thus, when they found the remains of monkeys in South America, they had to speculate that the Platyrrhini, as the new world monkeys are called, crossed the ocean on rafts from Africa.
With the discovery of seven teeth of a monkey known as Panamacebus in Panama, they have to postulate that the owner of these teeth must have swum across a stretch of ocean that was 160 kilometres (100 miles) wide, as they believe there was no land bridge between North and South America at the time.
Quite a swimmer. Or perhaps a champion sailor.
Stories like these might make evolution interesting, but the only ones they would convince are those who rule out more credible scenarios, including the global flood and its aftermath.
The remains are assumed to be “21 million years” old - another story that lacks hard evidence.
Barras, Colin. 2016. 21-million-year-old fossil is North America’s first monkey. New Scientist (20 April).
Tuesday, 19 April 2016
A recent article in The Conversation attempts to disclose the evolutionary secrets of beards. Why do some men sport them? And why do some women find them attractive?
The quest for finding a Darwinian answer for a variety of phenomena is not new. As Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881–1955) famously put it, “Evolution is the light that illuminates all facts, a curve that all lines must follow” and Theodosius Dobzhansky wrote an essay in 1973 entitled Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution.
So does this also include beards?
The Conversation article obviously starts with the basic assumption that it does:
“What is the point of a beard, evolutionarily speaking? Children, women, and a whole bunch of men manage just fine without one. But take a walk down some streets these days and you’ll be confronted with all sizes and shapes of groomed (and less groomed) facial hair – from designer stubble to waxed moustaches and hipster beards.
When we see men paying attention to their appearance, it’s easy to assume that they’re just angling for partners. But our research on beards and voices shows that beards probably evolved at least partly to help men boost their standing among other men.”
Author Tamsin Saxton throws in some Darwinese, such as “evolution through sexual selection,” for good measure.
Evolutionists need this concept, as natural selection cannot explain the beauty we see in the animal kingdom and elsewhere.
However, sexual selection has become a controversial concept.
In 1870 Charles Darwin tried to show in his book The Descent of Man that peahens were enthralled by the peacock’s long tail. However, research shows that this isn’t true.
But a lack of facts has never kept evolutionists from speculating. In 2012, for instance, New Scientist had an article entitled: Why Haven’t Bald Men Gone Extinct?
Given the absence of evidence, evolutionists tend to use just so stories.
Saxton, Tamsin. 2016. Hirsutes you sir: but that beard might mean more to men than women. The Conversation (14 April).
Sunday, 17 April 2016
While Darwinists tend to think that evolution is real, one thing that has definitely not evolved is their less than meticulous use of the word 'evolution'.
They use it so carelessly in a wide variety of meanings that one might suppose they do it on purpose to muddy the waters.
A recent example features a study on the behaviour of ermine moths (Yponomeuta cagnagella) published in the journal Biology Letters.
An article in Science puts an evolutionary spin on the results:
“Moths from high light pollution areas were significantly less attracted to the light than those from the darker zones … Overall, moths from the light-polluted populations had a 30% reduction in the flight-to-light behavior, indicating that this species is evolving, as predicted, to stay away from artificial lights.”
So, what the article does is to equate a change in behaviour with evolution. The moths have not changed physically; they are still moths of the very same species than before.
Darwinian evolution (i.e. in its molecules to man definition) would probably head towards a speedy extinction, if its adherents were a bit more cautious – and honest – in their use of terms.
Now it lies in the emergency ward, kept artificially alive through fact-free storytelling and speculation. (You can read about some examples here, here, here and here.)
Morell, Virginia. 2016. Your porchlight is causing moths to evolve. Science (12 April).
Friday, 15 April 2016
Despite its tiny head, the Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) manages to migrate thousands of kilometres from the United States and southern Canada to Mexico.
They do so “in such an optimal, predetermined way,” says Professor Eli Shlizerman at the University of Washington. “They end up in a particular location in Central Mexico after two months of flight, saving energy and only using a few cues."
He is the lead author of a paper published in the journal Cell Reports on the Monarchs’ navigation skills. They found out that the butterflies depended on input cues they received from the Sun, using their eyes and antennae.
“The horizontal position of the Sun” and “keeping the time of day” give the butterflies “an internal Sun compass for travelling southerly throughout the day."
The researchers also designed a model system that imitates the monarchs’ navigation.
Butterflies are designed intelligently to be effective. They make use of build-in hi-tech. Previous research has disclosed that a magnetic compass guides the Monarchs’ flight.
Butterflies are a bad headache for evolutionists, as they challenge Darwinian evolution and their assumed evolution is a complete mystery.
Gill, Victoria. 2016. Great monarch butterfly migration mystery solved. BBC news (14 April).
Wednesday, 13 April 2016
Sceptics tend to believe that the ancient Israelites were mostly illiterate and that the Old Testament books were written rather late, several centuries after the events that they describe.
They assumed that the Bible was a collection of old nomadic tales that had little to do with real history.
We can now confidentially discard this view. An analysis of old inscriptions found in the desert fortress of Arad written ca. 600 BC suggests that most people could write at the time.
This is the take away message of a recent paper published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Commenting on the discovery, Live Science writes:
“Key parts of the Old Testament may have been compiled earlier than some scholars thought, suggests a new handwriting analysis of text on pottery shards.
The shards, found at a frontier fort dating to around 600 B.C., were written by at least six different people, suggesting that literacy was widespread in the ancient kingdom of Judah, said study co-author Israel Finkelstein, an archaeologist and biblical scholar at Tel Aviv University in Israel.
‘We're dealing with really low-level soldiers in a remote place who can write,’ Finkelstein told Live Science. ‘So there must have been some sort of educational system in Judah at that time.’
The writing shows that the kingdom had the intellectual resources to write and compile large chunks of the Old Testament during this period, he added.”
Arad was a remote desert fortress, so the soldiers stationed there were not expected to be very educated and yet all six – from the commander to the deputy quartermaster – were able to use proper spelling and syntax.
This should not be a big surprise. After all, the Mosaic writings emphasise the role of education in teaching the coming generations about God’s laws.
Archaeology has confirmed 50 real people in the Old Testament and several historical events described in the Bible, including catastrophes such as Noah’s Flood described in Genesis and the earthquake that devastated Israel during the time of the prophet Amos, ca. 750 B.C.
Ghose, Tia. 2016. The Bible Is Really Old, Handwriting Analysis Reveals. Live Science (11 April).
Monday, 11 April 2016
The latest Darwinian story features raw meat and our faces, making a connection between them in the lives of our assumed ancestors.
The research itself, published in the journal Nature, does not sound very groundbreaking. Its title merely states: Impact of meat and Lower Palaeolithic food processing techniques on chewing in humans. However, when reporting on the results, the BBC manages to come up with a juicier version, viz. Meat eating accelerated face evolution.
We have narrower faces and smaller teeth than the big apes.
1) Our ancestors had a more ape-like face and bigger teeth.
2) They evolved from ape-like creatures via Darwinian mechanisms.
1) The assumptions cannot be tested.
2) Even in the inflated timeline that evolutionists use, there is not enough time for the changes that are needed to make our ancestors fully human.
3) Evolution can’t produce the genetic information that would be needed in such a transformation.
An implausible Darwinian just so story, involving major changes over millions of years.
An article in Science once suggested that this kind of speculation might be paleofantasy. In 2008, Richard Lewontin, a professor emeritus at Harvard University, acknowledged that we don’t know anything about brain evolution.
Often, Darwinian storytelling trumps facts.
It might be the only way to try to keep an endangered theory from becoming completely extinct.
BBC. 2016. Meat eating accelerated face evolution (9 March).
Zink, Katherine D and Daniel E. Lieberman. 2016. Impact of meat and Lower Palaeolithic food processing techniques on chewing in humans. Nature 531 (7595), 500–503.
Saturday, 9 April 2016
In a report on the pros and mostly cons of the Spanish siesta, the BBC invokes evolution as the ultimate explanation: “Millions of years of evolution have given our bodies a finely-tuned internal clock.”
This is not an isolated incident. Evolution is often used as an explanation for almost anything.
In Darwinian thinking, natural selection is almost a miracle worker. The facts speak an entirely different language, however.
The late Philip S. Skell, a member of the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and Emeritus Evan Pugh Professor at Pennsylvania State University, was sceptical of Darwinian explanations. Writing in The Scientist, he lamented how natural selection was used to explain practically anything:
”Natural selection makes humans self-centered and aggressive – except when it makes them altruistic and peaceable. Or natural selection produces virile men who eagerly spread their seed – except when it prefers men who are faithful protectors and providers. When an explanation is so supple that it can explain any behavior, it is difficult to test it experimentally, much less use it as a catalyst for scientific discovery.”
Mutations have not fared any better. They mostly destroy and eliminate.
In 2013, the journal Experimental Physiology published a paper by Dennis Noble, a Professor Emeritus of Oxford University, entitled Rocking the Foundations of Evolutionary Biology. He basically said that Neo-Darwinism was wrong: “All the central assumptions of the Modern Synthesis (often also called Neo-Darwinism) have been disproved.”
There’s more. Epigenetics is a big challenge for Darwinian orthodoxy.
And soft tissue in dinosaurs and marine reptiles as well as radiocarbon in dinosaur bone challenge the millions-of-years mantra.
When it comes to our internal clock, the Darwinian dimension seems to be totally superfluous – it’s merely another just so story that has nothing to do with true science.
BBC Magazine. 2016. The end of the Spanish siesta? (9 April).
Thursday, 7 April 2016
The golden ratio is a hallmark of great beauty. We’ll get it if we divide a straight line into two parts so that the longer part divided by the smaller part is as long as the entire line divided by the longer part. It is often symbolized by the Greek letter Φ (phi).
We can see the ratio in ancient buildings such as the Parthenon in Athens and in many paintings. Leonardo da Vinci and many other famous masters used it in their art.
Numerically stated, it roughly equals 1.618, which happens to be very close to what we’ll get when we divide a number in a Fibonacci sequence by the number preceding it, for instance 233 by 144.
In a Fibonacci sequence the next number is the sum of the previous two numbers, for instance 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, or
Fn = F n-1 + F n-2.
Translated into real life, it spells beauty.
We can find this sequence practically everywhere in nature, from the very small to the huge – in tiny seeds, shells, the petals of a flower and compound eyes, and even in the arms of spiral galaxies. (See examples here and here.)
What is interesting is that we can also see the golden ratio in us. The distance from our navel to our heels and from our navel to the top of the head follows the ratio, which is also seen in our fingers.
This symmetry and beauty does not make sense in a Darwinian world that is obsessed with survival, but it fits in nicely with what the Bible says.
God creates everything to be good. We can see much beauty, even in our fallen world. As the psalmist says, “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works” (Psalm 139: 14, NKJV).
Hom, Elaine J. 2013. What is the Golden Ratio? Live Science (24 June).
Tuesday, 5 April 2016
The SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) project has used radio telescopes to scan the skies for signs of extraterrestrial life. After 50 years of searching, they have found absolutely nothing.
Even the famous wow signal was probably a false alarm.
Most exoplanets are very different from Earth, and even the ones that might in principle be habitable might not be – or even exist.
This has not stopped people from speculating about how we should communicate with aliens. Stephen Hawking, for instance, has warned us of big bad aliens.
The SETI Institute is not going to throw in the towel, however. New Scientist states:
“Over the next two years, the institute will turn the Allen Telescope Array – a group of 42 antennas in northern California that are dedicated to SETI research – towards 20,000 red dwarf stars to listen for radio signals that might be signs of life.”
This might well be wishful thinking:
“Red dwarfs tend to be more active than sun-like stars, shooting out energetic flares that could fry nearby planets.”
And that is not the only problem:
“They’re also so dim that their habitable zone – the region around the star where temperatures are right for liquid water – is close enough that the planets there would be tidally locked to the star, showing the same face to it at all times. That means one side of the planet could be drenched in scorching eternal sunlight, while the other experiences a frigid constant night.”
But if one embraces the Darwinian view of life, one has to believe that we are not special – even if the evidence shows that we are.
In contrast, some researchers believe that Earth is extremely unique and that there’s no place like home elsewhere in the universe.
Grossman, Lisa. 2016. SETI looks at red dwarf stars in its search for ancient aliens. New Scientist (4 April).
Sunday, 3 April 2016
Astronomers have debated the age of Saturn’s rings for four centuries, without reaching a solution.
Many details in the Saturnian system don’t fit in with the assumed 4.5 billion year age of the solar system.
Space.com reports on a new study soon to be published in the Astrophysical Journal. Based on computer modelling, it puts a 100 million year old limit to Saturn’s rings and the planet’s inner moons Tethys, Dione and Rhea, prompting the site to suggest that they might be younger than the dinosaurs.
They “haven't seen the kinds of changes in their orbital tilts that are typical for moons that have lived in the system and interacted with other moons over long periods of time. In other words, these appear to be very young moons.”
If Tethys, Dione and Rhea were billions of years old, tidal effects should have caused them to move on to longer orbits.
The researchers also suggest that Enceladus was probably formed during the Cretaceous period.
They are not questioning the assumed age of Saturn or of the solar system, but having moons so near Saturn is an enigma.
And 100 million years is a tiny fraction of the solar system’s assumed age.
Signs of relative youth are seen everywhere in the solar system, and the Saturnian system is no exception. Saturn appears to be “2 billion years” too young. Enceladus has a global ocean and jets of water-ice. Mimas might also have a sub-surface ocean, and Titan has rivers and lakes filled with ethane and methane.
It would be difficult to explain how they could be as old as many people tend to assume.
On our good Earth, radiocarbon in diamonds refute the dogma of millions of years.
Howell, Elizabeth. 2016. Saturn's Moons and Rings May Be Younger Than the Dinosaurs. Space.com (25 March).
Friday, 1 April 2016
An octopus living over 4,000 metres (13,000 feet) deep below the surface in Hawaiian waters is new to science. Photographed by NOAA’s Deep Discoverer vessel, it might look a bit like a ghost, but it is definitely an octopus.
A report posted on the NOAA website states that although the strange animal resembles the common shallow-water octopus, it has unique traits:
“This animal was particularly unusual because it lacked the pigment cells, called chromatophores, typical of most cephalopods, and it did not seem very muscular. This resulted in a ghostlike appearance, leading to a comment on social media that it should be called Casper, like the friendly cartoon ghost. It is almost certainly an undescribed species and may not belong to any described genus.”
Invoking Darwinian explanations would be of little or no use, as this octopus shows that even weird animals conform to the after its kind principle mentioned in Genesis.
Hybrids, such as ligers, zonkeys, geeps, grolars, wholphins and leopons, likewise suggest that the Genesis principle is still valid.
Vecchione, Michael. 2016. Deep Discoverer Discovers a Very Deep, Ghostlike Octopod. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (2 March).