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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Human Body Hair is Useless, Right? WRONG!

Posted by jlwile on July 30, 2012

Many evolutionists think that body hair in humans is useless. The data say otherwise. (Click for credit)

One of the many reasons scientists are rejecting the hypothesis of evolution (see here and here, for example) is that many of its predictions have been falsified (see here, here, here, and here for even more examples). The more we learn about the world around us, the more clear it is that the predictions of the evolutionary hypothesis just don’t work. This is probably most apparent when it comes to “vestigial organs,” biological structures that are supposed to serve no real purpose; they are simply leftover vestiges of the evolutionary process. As Darwin himself said, they are like the silent letters of a word. They don’t serve a purpose in the word, but they do tell us about the word’s origin.

I have written about vestigial structures many times before (here, here, here, here, here, here, and here) because they are so popular among evolutionists. However, as the data clearly show, the evolutionists are simply wrong about them, and the more research that is done, the more clear it becomes. The latest example is human body hair. This has always been a favorite among evolutionists. Here are two evolutionary descriptions of human body hair. The first comes from a book specifically designed to help the struggling evolutionist in his attempt to convince people that his hypothesis has scientific merit.1

Humans, like all other organisms, are living museums, full of useless parts that are remnants of and lessons about our evolutionary histories (Chapter 6). Humans have more than 100 non-molecular vestigial structures. For example, our body hair has no known function.

The second comes from a textbook2

Body hair is another functionless human trait. It seems to be an evolutionary relic of the fur that kept our distant ancestors warm (and that still warms our closest evolutionary relatives, the great apes).

As is the case with most evolutionary ideas, serious scientific research has shown that such statements are simply wrong.

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One Way To Think About the Complexity of the “Simplest” Life Form

Posted by jlwile on July 27, 2012

A cluster of 14 computers. The simulation discussed in this article used a cluster of 128 computers. (Click for credit)

I have always been fascinated by the question, “How simple can life get?” After all, anything that is alive has to perform certain functions such as reacting to external stimuli, taking in energy and converting that energy to its own use, reproducing, etc. Exactly how simple can a living system be if it has to perform such tasks? Many biologists have investigated this question, but there isn’t a firm answer. Typically, biologists talk about how simple a genome can be. The simplest genome belongs to a bacterium known as Carsonella ruddii. It has 159,662 base pairs in its genome, which is thought to contain 182 genes.1 However, it is not considered a real living organism, as it cannot perform all the functions of life without the help of cells found in jumping plant lice.

The bacterium known as Pelagibacter ubique has the smallest genome of any truly free-living organism. It weighs in at 1,308,759 base pairs and 1,354 genes.2 However, there is something in between these two bacteria that might qualify as a real living organism. It is the bacterium Mycoplasma genitalium. It’s genome has 582,970 base pairs and 525 genes.3 While it is a parasite, it performs all the standard functions of life on its own. It just uses other organisms (people as well as animals of the order Primates) for food and housing. Thus, while it cannot exist without other organisms, it might be the best indicator of how “simple” life can get.

If you follow science news at all, you might recognize the name. Two years ago, Dr Craig Venter and his team constructed their own version of that bacterium with the help of living versions of the bacterium, yeast cells, and bacteria of another species from the same genus. Well, now a scientist from Venter’s lab teamed up with several scientists from Stanford University to produce a computer simulation of the bacterium!

Their work, which seems truly marvelous, gives us deep insight into how complex the “simplest” living organism really is.

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

A Real-Life Example of “Convergent Evolution”

Posted by jlwile on July 25, 2012

Several times in the past (here, here, here, here, and here), I have written about convergent evolution and the problems it poses for anyone who wants to believe that all the amazing organisms we see today are the result of a mindless evolutionary process. As a quick review, remember that in general, evolutionists claim that similarities are the result of common ancestry. All vertebrate limbs look very similar, for example, because all vertebrates evolved from a common ancestor. While evolution “tweaked” the design of each animal’s limb so that it could be properly adapted to its environment, the basic structure of the vertebrate limb is the same in all vertebrates because they all inherited that basic structure from a common ancestor.

Of course, as is usually the case for evolution, more and more data have been collected that are inconsistent with this idea. Dolphins and bats, for example, both use sonar to navigate and to seek out prey. However, there is no hypothetical sonar-using common ancestor that links them. Thus, while they are very similar in this regard, evolutionists have to say that this particular similarity is not due to common ancestry. Instead, it is the result of “convergent evolution.” Both animals evolved the ability to use sonar independently, along different evolutionary lines. In other words, evolution “converged” on the same system in two different, unrelated cases.

Now please understand that this similarity is very deep. Indeed, the genes that allow this process to happen are nearly identical in these two animals.1-2 So in order to understand the use of sonar in dolphins and bats, evolutionists have to believe that evolution just happened to come up with the same system (all the way down to the genes) for navigation and predation in two completely different lineages.

If this were the only case in which unrelated organisms have amazingly similar systems, it might be reasonable to chalk it up to evolution just being “lucky” enough to come up with the same system twice. However, as evolutionist Dr. Simon Conway Morris tells us, nature abounds with examples of this. Indeed, most evolutionists believe that eyes must have evolved independently in unrelated lineages as many as 60 times in order to be consistent with the data at hand!3

If all of that seems far fetched to you, don’t worry. You are not alone. Most reasonable people can see when an attempt to explain around inconvenient data becomes desperate.

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Another “Fact” I Was Taught Bites the Dust

Posted by jlwile on July 23, 2012

One of the fascinating things about science is that its conclusions are constantly changing. Because of new experimental techniques and closer investigation, many “scientific facts” that I was taught at university are now known to be false. This makes science interesting, to say the least! As someone who has published original research that has drawn conclusions regarding the nature of the atomic nucleus, I often wonder how long it will take for some of those conclusions to be demonstrated false!

In a previous post, I discussed Bateman’s Principle, which some evolutionists considered to be a scientific law. However, we now know that not only is Bateman’s Principle not true in many, many species, it was also based on faulty experiments. In the course of the discussion that followed, a commenter mentioned another scientific “law” that is probably wrong – the idea that a woman is born with all the egg cells she will ever have. I decided to look into this topic, and I was amazed at what I had missed in the course of my normal scientific reading. Thank you, Shevrae, for alerting me to the new advances in this area.

In case you didn’t have a detailed course on human anatomy and physiology, you might not know that it has been considered a scientific fact since the 1950s that when a woman is born, she has all the egg cells she will ever have. This “fact” is based on some really good research. During the fourth month of development in the womb, it has been shown that female babies start producing oogonia, which are cells that start to develop into egg cells. However, they are stopped early in their development and are surrounded by a protective layer of cells. This structure (the cell that is “frozen” in development and its protective case) is called a primordial follicle.

When a woman is born, she has hundreds of thousands (sometimes millions) of primordial follicles in each ovary, but some degenerate during childhood. When she reaches puberty, she generally has about 400,000 primordial follicles in her ovaries. After puberty, hormone cycles regularly cause some of the primoridal follicles to continue development. The nature of the protective cell layer changes, and the cell inside the protective layer continues its development into an egg cell. Interestingly enough, however, the process will not fully complete unless the developing egg cell is fertilized by a sperm. If no fertilization takes place, the cell that has been developing dies without ever forming a true egg cell.

All of the above statements are (as far as we can tell) true. Based on these facts, it has been taught for more than 60 years that since a woman starts out with hundreds of thousands of primordial follicles when she is born, she never makes any new ones. Thus, a woman is born with all the potential egg cells she will ever have. New research indicates that this conclusion is false.

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Dinosaur Feathers? Probably Not.

Posted by jlwile on July 20, 2012

A Sinosauropteryx fossil showing the 'fuzz' that has been interpreted as either proto-feathers or collagen, (Click for Credit)

In 1996, a farmer and part-time fossil hunter in the Liaoning Province of China found a fossil that he recognized was rather unique. It had all the hallmarks of a dinosaur, but it had some “fuzz” on the head, neck, back and tail that looked like hair or feathers. Over the years, two distinct interpretations of this “fuzz” have emerged. Some scientists, like world-renowned paleornithologist Dr. Alan Feduccia, considers it to be nothing more than collagen fibers that remain from skin structures such as frills. Others, like paleontologist Dr. Mike Benton, think it is the remains of “protofeathers,” an evolutionary precusor to bird feathers. Given the current “birds evolved from dinosaurs” craze, you can guess which view is held by the majority of those who have studied the fossil.

Of course, science is not done by majority vote. It is done by examining the data. So what do the data say about this “fuzz?” Well, in 2007, Feduccia and some colleagues published a study in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. In that study, they examined the detailed structure of the “fuzz.” They showed that its structure is exactly what you would expect for protein fibers that would be used to stiffen a system of frills. In addition, they say:1

The fibres show a striking similarity to the structure and levels of organization of dermal collagen. The proposal that these fibres are protofeathers is dismissed.

Of course, that’s not the end of the story.

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Upset Creationist

Posted by jlwile on July 16, 2012

Last week, I posted an article about three different things that have recently upset some atheists. It seems that in writing that article, I upset a creationist. Ken Ham, the president and CEO of Answers in Genesis, took offense at the article, claiming that it took “a slap” at Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum. Before I respond to his unfounded claims, I do want to make it very clear that I am a big fan of the Creation Museum, as anyone who has seriously read my materials should know. For example, back when the Creation Museum celebrated its one millionth visitor, I wrote:

As anyone who reads this blog regularly knows, I have some problems with the Answers in Genesis ministry. At the same time, however, Jesus tells us that we must judge a tree by its fruit (Luke 6:43-45), and the fruits of the Answers in Genesis ministry show that it is a very good tree.

One of those fruits is the wonderful Creation Museum, which just recently welcomed its one millionth guest. This is a remarkable achievement, given the fact that the museum has been around for less than three years.

What makes the museum so popular? Well, unlike many museums, it actually makes its visitors THINK. Rather than just mindlessly repeating the dogma of the day regarding origins, it actually shows how strongly a person’s preconceived notions can affect the conclusions that he or she draws from the scientific data. It also has a lot of world-class displays, including one of the famous fish eating another fish fossils and an amazing discussion of the construction processes that could have been used by Noah to build the ark.

There are some things I don’t like about the museum, but they pale in comparison to the things I like about it. I know most evolutionists are furious about the Creation Museum, and it’s easy to understand why. The more people think, the less they will believe in evolution!

In addition, when atheist blogger Dr. PZ Myers visited the museum, I complimented the security staff, discussed how excellent one of the exhibits is, and mentioned that Ken Ham’s behavior towards those with whom he disagrees is significantly better than that of Dr. Myers. Even in the article that offended Mr. Ham, I indicate that the Creation Museum is significantly more scientifically accurate than most museums, including the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History! In the end, there is just no way to make the case that I am anything but a huge fan of the Creation Museum.

With that out of the way, let me respond to three things that Mr. Ham brings up in his article.

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One Global Warming Alarmist Now Admits He Went Overboard

Posted by jlwile on July 12, 2012

Dr. James Lovelock one year before he wrote his book warning of global warming's dire consequences. (Click for credit)

Dr. James Lovelock is a bit of a “renaissance man.” He has a PhD in medicine from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and he has done medical research at Harvard, Yale, and the Baylor College of Medicine. However, he started working for NASA more than 50 years ago, and his research interests broadened considerably. As a part of his NASA work, for example, he invented the electron capture detector, which led to the detection of CFCs in the atmosphere, helping to draw a definitive link between CFCs and ozone destruction. He is the author of the “Gaia hypothesis,” the odd idea that about one billion years after forming, earth became the home of an incomplete life form that started shaping this planet’s evolution to complete its own development. According to this idea, the earth and all its inhabitants are simply parts of one gigantic life form, named Gaia (after the Greek goddess of the earth).

As odd as the Gaia hypothesis is, it motivatd Lovelock to study the earth’s systems, and as he studied them, he became convinced that global warming was a threat to Gaia. In 2006, he wrote a book called The Revenge of Gaia: Earth’s Climate Crisis and the Fate of Humanity. It was full of the hysterical nonsense that is typical in the global warming literature, including absurd statements like:1

…before this century is over, billions of us will die and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the arctic region where the climate remains tolerable.

Clearly, then, Lovelock was convinced that global warming was going to radically change the world as we know it, devastating the human population. Time Magazine seemed to agree with him, because the next year, it named him one of 13 “Heroes of the Environment,” saying:

Jim Lovelock has no university, no research institute, no students. His almost unparalleled influence in environmental science is based instead on a particular way of seeing things. It is a way of seeing things as systems of connections, responses and feedback that applies both to experiments and instruments (of which he is a gifted inventor), and to the world itself.

How quickly times change. In a mere six years, Lovelock has significantly altered his tune. He still believes that global warming is real. However, he has finally taken the time to seriously look at the data, and even he admits that doomsday scenarios such as the ones that he painted in his book are wrong.

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Upset Atheists

Posted by jlwile on July 10, 2012

The Smithsonian Institutes's flyer advertising its IMAX theater. The dinosaur in the photo comes from the Creation Museum.

As I have been surfing the blogosphere over the past few days, I have seen three stories that relate to atheists being upset. I’ll start with the first one, which is both ironic and hilarious at the same time. It seems that the Smithsonian Institute has produced a flyer (shown on the left) promoting its IMAX theater. To entice the reader, there is a prominent picture of a dinosaur on the front cover. I am sure the marketing department chose the picture because it is so realistic. Here’s the problem for the Smithsonian: the picture is of a model from the Creation Museum, which promotes young-earth creationism! I find this particularly funny, since the Smithsonian has attacked the museum on its blogs.

For example, Sarah Zielinski wrote a post discussing how a group of creationist students from Liberty University visits the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History every year. She then mentions the “other side,” where a secular group of students from Indiana University visited the Creation Museum. She posts a video that the students made, and not surprisingly, rather than trying to address the evidence set forth in the museum, the students simply try to mock it. After the visit, the students stop at a restaurant about 10 miles away, and one of them says:

If there is a nexus of all the misinformation and propaganda against science and progressive education it is about 10 miles…education in general…it’s about 10 miles down the road.

Well, when the Smithsonian’s marketing department wanted to depict a dinosaur, it chose one from this nexus of misinformation. Not surprisingly, this hasn’t gone over well with some in the atheist community. For example, “The Friendly Atheist” mentions the founder of the museum, Ken Ham, saying:

*Sigh*

You win this round, Ham…

Smithsonian people, I know it’s just a picture of a random dinosaur and you would never endorse Creationism garbage, but you’re getting the image from people who wrongly believe dinosaurs lived with people.

To me, it’s not surprising that the Smithsonian unwittingly used a picture from the Creation Museum. While there are things in the Creation Museum with which I strongly disagree, overall, I found it to be significantly more scientifically accurate than most museums, including the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. Thus, it’s not surprising to me that they found one of the Creation Museum’s dinosaur models to be an accurate depiction of a dinosaur.

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

The “God Particle” Is A Stupid Name

Posted by jlwile on July 5, 2012

The lines between these two charged particles represent the electric field that they produce. (Click for credit)

The media is abuzz with the announcement that two separate groups have discovered evidence for the existence of the Higgs boson, which has been called “the God particle.” That’s an unfortunate name, because the Higgs boson has nothing more to do with God than any other particle in His creation. Now don’t get me wrong. It’s not that the Higgs boson is unimportant. Indeed, it is very important, and if the results announced really do indicate the existence of the Higgs boson, it is a major victory for the Standard Model of physics. It just has nothing special to do with God.

To understand what the Higgs boson is, think of something that is probably a little more familiar to you: the electromagnetic force. When two particles are charged, they affect one another through the electromagnetic force. If they are oppositely charged, they will attract one another, and if they both carry the same charge, they will repel one another. We can represent this interaction with a series of field lines, such as those given in the illustration above. Those lines show you the electric field, which causes the charged particles to interact with one another.

But how do these particles interact? How does one charged particle “know” that there is another charged particle out there, and how does it “know” whether to be attracted to it or repelled by it? The answer is that the charged particles exchange photons (particles of light). This exchange allows the electromagnetic force to work. If it weren’t for the exchange of photons, the two charged particles could not affect one another, so without the exchange of photons, there would be no electromagnetic force. In “physics speak,” we say that photons mediate the electromagnetic field.

The Higgs boson is, like the photon, a mediator. It is supposed to mediate the Higgs field, which is what the Standard Model of physics says determines the mass of every particle in the universe.

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Dr. Gowaty Answers Dr. Coyne’s Question

Posted by jlwile on July 4, 2012

In one of his blog entries, Dr. Jerry Coyne asks the following question:

Sometimes I wonder why this small pack of loonies thinks that so many scientists—certainly at least 95% of biologists—are so deluded as to believe in Darwinism? Are we all simply victims of a 150-year hoax, a hoax involving fields as diverse as embryology, geology, morphology, genetics, biochemistry, and biogeography—all of which erroneously point to the same conclusions? Or do they think it’s a vast conspiracy in which scientists in their smoke-filled labs meet to push a theory that’s knowingly wrong—perhaps as a way to attain our real goal: universal atheism?

Not surprisingly, the correct answer isn’t given by Coyne. He is not the victim of a hoax, nor is he part of some wild conspiracy. Instead, he and those like him are simply stuck in a failed paradigm.

Someone who knows a lot about how people can be stuck in a failed paradigm is Dr. Patricia Adair Gowaty. She is the lead author of the study that demonstrated the flaws in the experiment used to construct the now-debunked Bateman’s Principle. Here’s how she sees the effect of paradigms:

Paradigms are like glue, they constrain what you can see…It’s like being stuck in sludge — it’s hard to lift your foot out and take a step in a new direction.

That’s why people like Jerry Coyne are so hopelessly devoted to evolution. They are stuck in its sludge, and they simply can’t take a step in a new direction, regardless of the fact that the data are clearing pointing that way.