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Friday, August 22, 2014

More Amazing News About Breast Milk

Posted by jlwile on January 27, 2014

This is an oligosaccharide - a molecule made up of a few simple sugars linked together. (click for credit)

This is an oligosaccharide – a molecule made up of a few simple sugars linked together.
(click for credit)

Approximately a year ago, I wrote about the bacteria in human breast milk. While that may sound like a bad thing, it is actually a very good thing. Over the years, scientists have begun to realize just how important the bacteria that live in and on our bodies are (see here, here, here, here, and here), and the bacteria in breast milk allow an infant to be populated with these beneficial microbes as early as possible. Not surprisingly, as scientists have continued to study breast milk, they have been amazed at just how much of it is devoted to establishing a good relationship between these bacteria and the infant who is consuming the milk.

For example, research over the years has shown that human breast milk contains chemicals called oligosaccharides. These molecules, such as the one pictured above, contain a small number (usually 3-9) simple sugars strung together. Because oligosaccharides are composed of sugars, you might think they are there to feed the baby who is consuming the milk, but that’s not correct. The baby doesn’t have the enzymes necessary to digest them. So what are they there for? According to a review article in Science News:1

These oligosaccharides serve as sustenance for an elite class of microbes known to promote a healthy gut, while less desirable bacteria lack the machinery needed to digest them.

In the end, then, breast milk doesn’t just give a baby the bacteria he or she needs. It also includes nutrition that can be used only by those bacteria, so as to encourage them to stay with the baby! Indeed, this was recently demonstrated in a study in which the authors spiked either infant formula or bottled breast milk with two strains of beneficial bacteria. After observing the premature babies who received the concoctions for several weeks, they found that the ones who had been feed bacteria-spiked formula did not have nearly as many of the beneficial microbes in their intestines as those who had been feed bacteria-spiked breast milk.2

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Cellular Communication – Another “Truth” Destroyed

Posted by jlwile on January 20, 2014

The insulin-producing cells in the islets of the pancreas use a communication strategy that is probably not the most common form in nature (click for credit).

The insulin-producing cells in the islets of the pancreas use a communication strategy that is probably not the most common form in nature (click for credit).

Naturalistic evolutionists are forced to look at the world very simply. After all, they think there is no plan or design in nature. Instead, they believe that random events filtered by natural selection are responsible for all the marvels we see today. Because of this unscientific way of thinking, they tend to look for simple processes to explain amazingly complex interactions in nature. Cellular communication is a perfect example of how this simplistic way of looking at things can produce serious errors.

In order for the different cells of an organism to be able to work together, they must communicate with one another. One of the most well-studied versions of cellular communication is called endocrine communication, and the insulin-producing cells in the islets of the pancreas (illustrated above) provide an example of how it works. These cells produce insulin, which is then released into the bloodstream. When cells in the liver, skeletal muscles, and fat tissues are exposed to this chemical, they absorb glucose (a simple sugar) from the blood. By controlling the release of insulin from the pancreatic islets, then, the body can control how much glucose is in the blood.

Now, of course, this is a great design for cellular communication that needs to affect a wide array of cells in many different places. It makes the release of the chemicals easy to control but their effect long-ranging. As a result, when the body needs widespread communication in different cells, endocrine communication is used. However, there are often times when cells need to communicate with other cells that are nearby. This is called paracrine communication, and biologists have taught (as fact) for many, many years that paracrine communication happens in essentially the same way as endocrine communication. For example, one of the volumes of the Handbook of Cell Signaling says:1

Paracrine interactions induce signaling activities that occur from cell to cell within a given tissue or organ, rather than through the general circulation. This takes place as locally produced hormones or other small signaling molecules exit their cell of origin, and then, by diffusion or local circulation, act only regionally on other cells of a different type within that tissue. (emphasis mine)

In other words, a cell releases some signaling chemicals, and those chemicals simply have to find their way to their targets via diffusion or some other local means of movement. Of course, such a signalling scheme is rather inefficient for communication with nearby cells, and new research indicates that it’s not the way paracrine communication is done.

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Watch The Ham/Nye Debate FREE At Home!

Posted by jlwile on January 17, 2014

On February 4th at the Creation Museum in Kentucky, Ken Ham and Bill Nye will debate the question, Is creation a viable model of origins?

On February 4th at the Creation Museum in Kentucky, Ken Ham and Bill Nye will debate the question, Is creation a viable model of origins?

Not long ago, I discussed a debate that will take place between Bill Nye the Anti-Science Guy and Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis. As I wrote, I tried to get tickets to the debate, but they sold out minutes after they went on sale. It turns out that the demand for this debate has been overwhelming, so Answers in Genesis has teamed up with Google+ and Youtube to give anyone who wants it a live streaming video feed of the debate!

The url for the live stream is debatelive.org. If you go there now, you can sign up to watch the debate. If all goes well, I will be watching it via this service and will blog about my thoughts the next day.

Ken Ham and Bill Nye the Anti-Science Guy

Posted by jlwile on January 6, 2014

On February 4th at the Creation Museum in Kentucky, Ken Ham and Bill Nye will debate the question, Is creation a viable model of origins?

On February 4th at the Creation Museum in Kentucky, Ken Ham and Bill Nye will debate the question, Is creation a viable model of origins?

More than a year ago, Bill Nye was in an anti-science video that tried to convince people the creationist view should be censored. As I pointed out then, this is an incredibly anti-science notion. Unfortunately, this isn’t the only example of Mr. Nye’s anti-science behavior.

Nevertheless, I now have to give Mr. Nye some credit for doing something very pro-science: He is going to debate Ken Ham on the question, “Is creation a viable model of origins?” The debate will take place on February 4th at the Creation Museum in Kentucky. It is good to see that Nye is stepping away from his promotion of censorship and is interested in actually engaging the creationist view. I tried to order tickets online as soon as they were available, but the event seems to already be sold out!

Now even though this is a positive step towards a more pro-science attitude for Bill Nye, many evolutionists are trying to convince him to be more anti-science. As one Christian-turned-secular-humanist put it:

Will the Bill Nye-Ken Ham Debate Advance the Secular Cause? Of course not. Debates are all about the faithful on each side saying their side wiped the floor with the other side. I am not sure why Bill Nye decided to debate Ken Ham. Nothing good can come of it.

I obviously disagree. I think debate is usually a good thing, because it allows us to hear another point of view from someone who actually believes in that view. For the creationists who attend the debate (and I suspect they will be the large majority), they will hear from an evolutionist who actually believes in evolution. This will be good, because most likely, much of what they hear about evolution comes from creationists. For the evolutionists in attendance, they will hear about the creationist point of view from a creationist. This is also good, since most of them have probably never bothered to get the creationist view from someone who actually believes it.

In an effort to help Mr. Nye with his budding pro-science attitude, I will give him a piece of advice: Be Prepared!

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Chromosome Fusion? It’s Getting Harder and Harder to Believe.

Posted by jlwile on December 9, 2013

An illustration of the fusion of two chromosomes. (public domain image)

People have 23 pairs of chromosomes, for a total of 46 chromosomes. Most apes have 24 pairs of chromosomes, for a total of 48 chromosomes. One very popular piece of genetic evidence for the idea that humans and apes have a common ancestor is that human chromosome 2 looks like two chimpanzee chromosomes that have been stitched together. As the evolutionary story goes, the common ancestor between apes and humans had 24 pairs of chromosomes, and it initially passed them to those animals that began evolving into apes and humans. The apes kept that number of chromosomes, but after the human lineage split off from the chimpanzee lineage, something happened to fuse two of the chromosomes, leading to only 23 pairs of chromosomes in humans. As Dr. Francis Collins puts it:1

The fusion that occurred as we evolved from the apes has left its DNA imprint here. It is very difficult to understand this observation without postulating a common ancestor.

This idea has been around for a long time, but I never put much stock in it. Why? Because even if human chromosome 2 is the result of two independent chromosomes being fused together (an example of which is shown in the illustration above), I don’t see why this can only be understood in the context of evolution. After all, we know that chromosome fusion events happen in human beings today.2 Thus, if human chromosome 2 really is the result of a fusion of two chromosomes, it could have happened early in the history of human beings. It need not have happened to some hypothetical evolutionary ancestor. Any event that restricted the human population to those who arose from the people who originally experienced the chromosomal fusion would then fix that chromosome in the population. A worldwide Flood in which a single family was saved would be one example of such an event.

Regardless of whether or not human chromosome 2 is evidence of common ancestry, it’s getting hard to understand how it could even be the result of two chromosomes fusing.

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An Odd View of an Old Debate

Posted by jlwile on November 20, 2013

Mr. Strock's book

Carl Strock is a journalist-turned-columnist who recently retired from the Schenectady Gazette after 25 years of service. After he traveled to Israel and wrote some decidedly anti-Israel columns, the Gazette received numerous complaints. In response, his editor told him to stop writing about Israel for a while and submit all of his columns to her for editing. This bothered Strock, because he saw it as censorship. After continuing his columns with less frequency, he eventually retired. However, he has not stopped writing. He has a blog at the timesunion.com and has written a book, From D’burg to Jerusalem, The Unlikely Rise and Awful Fall of a Small-Town Newsman.

Why am I writing about Mr. Strock? Because in his book, he mentions a debate he had with me back in 2006. I had actually forgotten about the debate, but when a reader in Schenectady told me about being mentioned in his book, I recalled the event. I got his book and planned to read the entire thing, but it just isn’t my cup of tea. However, I did read some parts of the book, including the chapter that discusses the debate. I found his view of that event to be very odd.

Here’s what prompted the debate: Strock had written some columns in the Gazette regarding creationism and intelligent design. Since he obviously knew little about either subject, his columns provoked some rather heated responses, which he seemed to find surprising. Eventually, he tired of people pointing out his ignorance, so he said:

I will meet any of them in open forum, and we’ll see who’s ignorant of what. (p. 161)

A student who was using one of my textbooks at the time contacted me, and (of course) I agreed to meet Mr. Strock in open forum. Strock was surprised, but he agreed to the debate. I thought the debate was amatuerish but informative. Based on what he has written in his book, he obviously disagrees.

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The Bacterial Flagellum: More Sophisticated Than We Thought!

Posted by jlwile on November 18, 2013

This is a schematic of a bacterium's flagellum (image in the public domain).

The bacterial flagellum is a symbol of the Intelligent Design movement, and rightly so. After all, bacteria are commonly recognized as the “simplest” organisms on the planet. Nevertheless, their amazingly well-designed locomotive system has continued to amaze the scientists that study it. In 1996, Dr. Michael Behe highlighted the intricate design of the bacterial flagellum in his book, Darwin’s Black Box. While some have tried to explain it in terms of Neo-Darwian evolution, they have not come close to succeeding.
Not only is the bacterial flagellum amazingly well-designed, it is far more versatile than anyone imagined.

Some bacteria (like Escherichia coli) have multiple flagella, which makes it very easy for an individual to navigate in water. All the bacterium has to do is adjust which flagella are spinning and how they are spinning, and the single-celled creature can do acrobatics in the water. However, the vast majority of bacteria have only one flagellum. It was thought for a long time that because of this, it is difficult for them to make sharp turns in the water.

Two years ago, this thinking changed abruptly when a group of physicists from the University of Pittsburgh showed that the bacterium Vibrio alginolyticus, which has only one flagellum, can make sharp turns with ease. They showed that in order to execute such a turn, the bacterium backs up, lurches forwards, and swings its flagellum to one side.1 The entire maneuver takes less than a tenth of a second and results in a 90-degree turn. So not only is the bacterial flagellum an exquisite “outboard motor” that propels the bacterium through the water, it is also a rudder that allows the bacterium to make sharp turns at will!

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The Great Debate, Take 2

Posted by jlwile on September 26, 2013

The skulls of some primates. Based on genetics, most evolutionists believe the chimpanzee is our closest living relative, but physical characteristics indicate the orangutan is. (click for credit)

Last night I once again debated Dr. Robert A. Martin, a vertebrate paleontologist who is professor emeritus at Murray State University. The previous debate was on the broad subject of creation versus evolution. This time, the organizers of the event wanted us to narrow our discussion, so we chose to talk about dinosaurs and people. Before I discuss the debate, I want to thank Dr. Martin for participating in it. I personally think the best way to understand an issue is to hear from multiple sides, so I think debates can be extremely helpful to those interested in controversial topics. However, it is difficult to get evolutionists to participate in debates about the creation/evolution controversy. I thank Dr. Martin for being committed to education strongly enough to be an exception to that general rule!

Since Dr. Martin had the weaker position scientifically, I allowed him to choose whether to present his case first or second. He chose to go second, so I was up first. The initial activities (songs, introductions, and remarks from the organizers) made it clear that for some reason, the audience this year was overwhelmingly creationist. The previous year, creationists were in the majority, but there were many evolutionists present. That didn’t seem to be the case this year, so I started by thanking Dr. Martin for being willing to act as a lion in a den of Daniels.

In making my case, I concentrated on the evidence that indicates dinosaur fossils are not millions of years old. I stressed the soft tissue that is being found in fossils that are supposed to be millions of years old (see here, here, here, here, and here, for example). I also discussed the fact that several dinosaur bones from different locations around the world all have enough carbon-14 in them to indicate that their maximum age is less than 40,000 years old. I also discussed how living organisms like the coelacanth, Wollemi pine, and tuatara falsify the geological-column thinking that leads most scientists to conclude that humans and dinosaurs didn’t live at the same time.

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Richard Dawkins Produces Another Theist

Posted by jlwile on August 29, 2013

This is Dr. Laura Keynes, who returned to the faith of her childhood after reading the New Atheists and those who replied to them. (Click for credit.)

Dr. Laura Keynes grew up in Cambridge, arguably the intellectual center of the United Kingdom. She studied at the University College of Oxford on a full-ride scholarship and ended up earning a Doctor of Philosophy degree. Her doctoral thesis was on epistemology, the study of knowledge and justified belief. As her last name indicates, she is the great-grandniece of the famous economist John Maynard Keynes. She is also the great-great-great-granddaughter of Charles Darwin.

Why am I telling you about this young lady? Because she recently wrote an article entitled, “I’m a Direct Descendant of Darwin…and a Catholic.” Now the title didn’t surprise me at all. I know a lot of Catholics (and even more Protestants) who believe in evolution. Indeed, one of the leaders of the Intelligent Design movement, Dr. Michael Behe, says:1

You can be a good Catholic and believe in Darwinism. Biochemistry has made it increasingly difficult, however, to be a thoughtful scientist and believe in it.

However, as I read the article, I couldn’t help but smile. You see, Laura was raised Catholic but drifted away from the faith after her mother became a Buddhist and her brother rejected all organized religion. By the time she was studying for her Doctor of Philosophy degree, she was an agnostic. During that time, however, Richard Dawkins had opened up an international dialogue on the existence of God with his thoroughly awful book, The God Delusion. Well, Laura decided to read Dawkins and his fellow New Atheists, and she says:

I expected to be moved from agnosticism to atheism by their arguments, but after reading on both sides of the debate, I couldn’t dismiss a compelling intellectual case for faith. As for being good without God, I’d tried and didn’t get very far. At some point, life will bring you to your knees, and no act of will is enough in that situation. Surrendering and asking for grace is the logical human response.

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The Inquisition Strikes Again – Twice!

Posted by jlwile on August 8, 2013

This is 19th-century artist Cristiano Banti's interpretation of Galileo before the Inquisition in Rome. (public domain image)

In March of this year, I wrote a post about an article that would later appear in the peer-reviewed journal Acta Histochemica. It was an exciting report about soft tissue recovered from a fossilized Triceratops horridus horn. Unfortunately for the lead author, Mark Armitage, it was too exciting for the High Priests of Evolution. According to Creation Ministries International:

Until recently, Mark served as the Manager for the Electron and Confocal Microscopy Suite in the Biology Department at California State University Northridge. Mark was suddenly terminated by the Biology Department when his discovery of soft tissues in Triceratops horn was published in Acta Histochemica.

He is currently seeking relief in a legal action for wrongful termination and religious discrimination by the University.

Now, of course, the exact details of why Armitage was fired from California State University Northridge are not publicly known. However, the timing of the event speaks volumes. It’s not every day that a university employee gets fired right after publishing a paper in a peer-reviewed journal!

If the article was the motivation for Armitage’s termination, it wouldn’t surprise me. As more and more evidence against the ruling scientific dogma of the day continues to accumulate, the only thing the fervently faithful can do is call out the Inquisition in an attempt to squelch that evidence.

That’s what happened when Grand Inquisitor Jerry Coyne decided that Dr. Eric Hedin at Ball State University had to be silenced. He called in the attorneys and forced the university to cancel a course that introduced students to Intelligent Design, as well as the arguments against it. Obviously, the university had to give in to the attorneys, since there was no way it could afford to face an easily-avoided lawsuit. The only good news that comes from this Orwellian situation is that Dr. Hedin will not be fired.

Of course, squelching competing ideas is incredibly anti-science, and it never works. The evidence will win out, and science will eventually correct itself. Thus, the High Priests of Evolution are fighting a losing battle. The only thing their Inquisition can do is delay the inevitable.