Climate Scientist Resigns Because of the “Craziness” of the Field

Climate Scientist Dr. Judith Curry (click for source)
Climate Scientist Dr. Judith Curry
(click for source)
Dr. Judith Curry holds an earned Ph.D. in geophysical sciences from The University of Chicago. For the past 14 years, she has been on the faculty at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and for the majority of that time, she was the chairperson of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. She has authored 186 peer-reviewed scientific papers and has two books to her credit. By any objective measure, she is a giant in the field of climate science.

I wrote about Dr. Curry more than six years ago, when Scientific American branded her a heretic. What was Curry’s heinous crime against science? She didn’t toe the party line when it came to global warming. She didn’t claim that global warming wasn’t occurring, and she didn’t claim that people aren’t responsible. Instead, she simply started stressing the real uncertainties involved in climate science. That, of course, is an unpardonable sin, and as a result, she is routinely demonized by those who know significantly less than she does about climate.

Why has she decided to resign, even though she has not reached traditional retirement age? She discusses this on her blog, and I encourage you to read the entire article. Like most of the entries on her blog, it is thoughtful and revealing. She mentions several factors that have contributed to her resignation, and then she says this:

A deciding factor was that I no longer know what to say to students and postdocs regarding how to navigate the CRAZINESS in the field of climate science. Research and other professional activities are professionally rewarded only if they are channeled in certain directions approved by a politicized academic establishment — funding, ease of getting your papers published, getting hired in prestigious positions, appointments to prestigious committees and boards, professional recognition, etc.

How young scientists are to navigate all this is beyond me, and it often becomes a battle of scientific integrity versus career suicide… [emphasis mine]

The sad fact is that her observations are 100% accurate, and they can be applied to at least one other field of scientific inquiry – the investigation of origins.

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Lichen Kept This Secret from Scientists for Almost 150 Years!

The stringy stuff hanging on this tree is a lichen from the genus Bryoria. (click for credit)
The stringy stuff hanging on this tree is a lichen from the genus Bryoria.
(click for credit)
If you have been reading this blog for a while, you know that I am fascinated by mutualism – the phenomenon where two organisms of different species work together to benefit one another (see here, here, here, here, and here, for example). Creationists expect such relationships to be common throughout nature, and at least one line of research seems to indicate that some organisms are designed to produce them. I suspect that we understand very little about this amazing process, and it is probably more common than most scientists think.

Consider, for example, the longest-studied mutualistic relationship. Way back in 1867, Swiss botanist Dr. Simon Schwendener proposed that a lichen (like the one pictured to the left) is not a single organism. Instead, it is composed of two different organisms, a fungus and an alga (the singular form of algae), that work together so that each benefits. His hypothesis was rejected by the scientific consensus, but as has been the case throughout the history of science, the consensus was demonstrated to be wrong, and Dr. Schwendener was vindicated. Nowadays, the lichen is one of the most common examples given to explain the concept of mutualism. The alga does photosynthesis and shares its food and oxygen with the fungus, while the fungus supports the alga and supplies it with water and salts.

You would think that since Dr. Schwendener proposed this mutualistic relationship nearly 150 years ago, scientists would know pretty much everything there is to know about lichen. However, there was one major mystery that hadn’t been solved over that entire timespan – how can genetically similar lichen be so wildly different? The picture above, for example, is of a specific lichen, Bryoria fremontii. Another lichen from the same genus, Bryoria tortuosa, is composed of the same species of fungus and the same species of alga. From a genetic standpoint, the fungus and alga in both lichens are virtually identical. Nevertheless, one lichen is brown while the other is yellow. In addition, one produces a chemical known as vulpinic acid, while the other does not.

How can two lichen composed of genetically-identical partners look and behave so differently? We may now know the answer, which has been hiding in plain sight for almost 150 years!

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Evolutionists Couldn’t Have Been More Wrong About Antibiotic Resistance

A colony of bacteria similar to the one analyzed in the study being discussed.  (click for credit)
A colony of bacteria similar to the one analyzed in the study being discussed. (click for credit)
Back when I went to university, I was taught (as definitive fact) that bacteria evolved resistance to antibiotics as a result of the production of antibiotics. This was, of course, undeniable evidence for the fact that new genes can arise through a process of mutation and natural selection. Like most evolution-inspired ideas, however, the more we learned about antibiotic resistance in bacteria, the more we learned that there was a problem. It turns out that some cases of antibiotic resistance in bacteria were not caused by antibiotic-resistant genes. Instead, they were caused by the deterioration of genes that exist for other purposes. For example, the Anthrax bacterium can develop resistance to a class of antibiotics called quinolones, but it is the result of a mutation that degrades the gene that produces gyrase, the enzyme that those antibiotics attack. This allows the bacterium to survive the antibiotic, but the degraded gyrase gene causes the bacterium to reproduce much more slowly.

There are, however, specific genes found in bacteria that do produce proteins which fight antibiotics. It was generally thought that these genes arose through mutation and natural selection in response to our development of antibiotics. However, we now know that this just isn’t true. Antibiotic-resistant genes existed long before people developed antibiotics. I first wrote about this more than five years ago, when researchers found bacterial, antibiotic-resistant genes in permafrost alongside mammoth genes. Obviously, people weren’t making antibiotics when mammoths were alive. Thus, those genes existed long before human-made antibiotics. Later, I wrote about researchers who found bacterial, antibiotic-resistant genes in fossilized feces from the Middle Ages. Once again, this shows that antibiotic-resistant genes have been around long before our development of antibiotics.

Now an even more impressive study has been released. In it, researchers analyzed the DNA of a bacterium from the genus Paenibacillus. These bacteria form colonies, such as the one shown in the image above. The colors in the image indicate the density of bacteria – the brighter the yellow color, the higher the density of bacteria. While this genus of bacteria has been found in many, many environments, the specific species analyzed in the study was special: it has been living in a cave that has been isolated from the modern world. In fact, the cave is so isolated that no animals had ever ventured into it. When the researchers analyzed the DNA of this bacterium, they found all sorts of antibiotic-resistant genes.

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Young-Earth Creationist Wins Lawsuit

Electron microscope image of three soft bone cells from a dinosaur fossil
Electron microscope image of three soft bone cells from a dinosaur fossil

More than three years ago, I wrote about the sad story of Mark Armitage, a gifted scientist who has become an expert in microscopy. In addition to running his own microscope company, he also worked as the Manager for the Electron and Confocal Microscopy Suite in the Biology Department at California State University Northridge. While on a fossil dig in the Hell Creek Formation in Montana, he discovered a 48-inch Triceratops horn. When he and his colleague soaked it in weak acid to remove the mineral components, they recovered soft, brown tissue.

If that’s not exciting enough, he also examined the fossil with a scanning electron microscope, and he found actual bone cells! Not only that, he saw no evidence for mineralization in the cells. In other words, he wasn’t looking at cells that had gone through petrifaction. He was looking at cells that still had their original components. So not only had he found soft tissue in the fossil, he had found soft cells!

Obviously, this kind of find is amazing. Not surprisingly, he and his colleague, Dr. Kevin Lee Anderson, wrote a report on their discovery so that other scientists could learn from it. The report was published in the peer-reviewed, secular journal entitled Acta Histochemica.

Not long after that, the Darwinian Inquisition struck. He was fired from his position at California State University Northridge. As I reported previously, he decided to sue the university. Why? According to him, one faculty member stormed into his lab and shouted:

We will not tolerate your religion in this department, or your creationist projects either!

Armitage thus concluded that he was being discriminated against based on his religion.

Apparently, he was right, because his case has been settled, and he says that he is very pleased with the result.

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More Confirmation of a Creationist Prediction

The centromere is the point at which a chromosome and its duplicate attach during cellular reproduction. (click for credit)
The centromere is the point at which a chromosome and its duplicate attach during cellular reproduction.
(click for credit)
Uninformed people often say that creationism cannot make testable predictions. Since testable predictions are a necessary part of any scientific theory, these people claim that the creationist view isn’t scientific. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth! Creation scientists regularly make testable predictions, many of which have already been verified by further scientific research (see here, here, here, here, here, and here).

One of the more stunning examples of a confirmed creationist prediction is given by the nature of DNA. Since the 1970s, evolutionists have taught (as an indisputable fact) that the majority of the human genome is made up of useless stretches of nonsensical sequences which have been collectively referred to as “junk DNA.” However, in a Herculean study of human DNA, the ENCODE team demonstrated that a minimum of 80% is used by the cell and therefore should not be referred to as “junk.” One of the scientists on the team (Dr. John A. Stamatoyannopolous) stated:

I don’t think anyone would have anticipated even close to the amount of sequence that ENCODE has uncovered that looks like it has functional importance…

Actually, there were several scientists predicting this very result! Creationists have been doing so for years.*

Well, now that we know the vast majority of the human genome is functional, some scientists have removed the evolutionary blinders from their eyes (at least when it comes to the nature of DNA) and have begun to look at regions of the DNA that scientists have been assuring us could not possibly have any function whatsoever. When they study such regions, they (not surprisingly) find that those regions do have a function, and it is often a very important one.

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Dr. James Tour Tells Us How Little We Know About the Origin of Life

James Tour is a giant in the field of organic chemistry.
James Tour is a giant in the field of organic chemistry.
A few days ago, a reader asked me to review an article by Dr. James Tour, as well as a video of a talk that he gave. I was initially hesitant to do so, because Dr. Tour is a giant in the field of organic chemistry. For example, he is the T. T. and W. F. Chao Professor of Chemistry at Rice University. For those who aren’t familiar with the academic structure of universities, only the most elite professors are appointed to a position that is named in honor of someone else. This is called an “endowed professorship,” and anyone who holds such a position is in the upper echelon of academia. He has won several awards for his outstanding research accomplishments, including being named by Thomson Reuters as one of the top ten chemists in the world in 2009. Not only is his research outstanding, but he is also an excellent teacher, having earned the George R. Brown Award for Superior Teaching at Rice University in both 2007 and 2012. What could I possibly add to the words of someone so knowledgeable and distinguished?

After reading the article, however, I do think I have something to offer. Because of the nature of what he is trying to discuss, his article is very, very technical. There were times, quite frankly, when my eyes glazed over a bit. I didn’t listen to a lot of the video (it seems to cover the same ground as the article), but it is also quite technical. For those who do not have the fortitude to make it through such a technical article or talk, I thought I could summarize it.

The “take home” message is straightforward: We have no idea how some of the most basic molecules necessary for life could have been produced by unguided processes. Why does Dr. Tour feel compelled to write a detailed article making a statement that, in my mind, is quite obvious? He explains:

Those who think scientists understand the issues of prebiotic chemistry are wholly misinformed. Nobody understands them. Maybe one day we will. But that day is far from today. It would be far more helpful (and hopeful) to expose students to the massive gaps in our understanding. They may find a firmer — and possibly a radically different — scientific theory. [Note that “prebiotic chemistry” refers to the chemistry that occurred on earth before life existed.]

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Watch Your Assumptions: They Can Lead To False Conclusions!

Poor assumptions can lead to myths instead of facts (image from shutterstock.com by Thinglass)
Poor assumptions can lead to myths instead of facts (image from shutterstock.com by Thinglass)
I am always on the lookout for experiences that can be turned into a “teachable moment.” Over the past two weeks, I have had two such experiences, so I thought I would write about them. The first one was a result of my article entitled Reflections on the Ark Encounter, which is a positive review of the latest attraction produced by Answers in Genesis. The day after it was published, I got a Facebook message from someone who had shared my post with a friend of hers. In reply, this friend asked if I was a “real” scientist. She assured him that I was and shared my Facebook page with him. She was rather taken aback when her friend sent her the following reply:

A mimeographed “PhD” from whatever fundamentalist “college” he sent his box tops to is not qualification to shine a real scientist’s shoes, let alone make claims about the natural world. Further, any parents who buy into this complete fiction, and indoctrinate their kids in this manner, are guilty of emotional and mental child abuse, and in my opinion should be prosecuted. I cant think of a better way to sabotage a child’s future in a modern, scientific and technological society.

This didn’t surprise me, of course. I am used to having my credentials questioned and being insulted because I don’t slavishly “toe the line” when it comes to today’s scientific consensus. That comes with the territory. Indeed, Dr. Dan Shechtman was asked to leave his research group because he dared to question the scientific consensus. Of course, the data eventually proved him to be correct and the scientific consensus to be wrong. However, that was until after being ridiculed as a “quasi-scientist” by one of the greatest chemists who has ever lived!

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Reflections on the Ark Encounter

A view of the Ark Encounter (click for a larger image)
A view of the Ark Encounter (click for a larger image)

Yesterday, I toured the Answers in Genesis Ark Encounter with my wife and a friend. I wanted to visit the encounter as soon as it opened, but because of trips to Italy and China, yesterday was the first opportunity we had. I didn’t know what to expect, so I went in with an open mind.

I originally thought the Ark Encounter would be like the Creation Museum, with a parking lot close to the entryway. I was wrong. When we parked and got out of the car, we could see the ark, but it was a long way off. A building in the parking lot served as a “bus terminal,” where we were picked up and taken to the Ark itself.

When we got off the bus, my first thought was, “Wow. That’s big.” I have seen many models of the Ark over the years, and they all attempt to give you an idea of how big it was, usually by having scale models of trucks or elephants beside it. However, there is simply no substitute for seeing the massive structure built to its actual dimensions! Answers in Genesis bills the Ark as the largest timber-framed structure in the world, and I can believe that. *

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A Desperate Attempt to Solve an Intractable Problem

Artist's conception of a large asteroid hitting the earth (click for credit)
Artist’s conception of a large asteroid hitting the earth (click for credit)

One of the many problems associated with an ancient earth is the young, faint sun. In a nutshell, we think we understand the way a star produces energy, and based on this understanding, a star starts off dim and grows brighter over time. Based on what we know, then, the sun should have been about 25% dimmer 3.8 billion years ago, when most evolutionists think life first emerged on earth. However, if the sun really were 25% dimmer back then, the earth would be far too frigid to support life.

This problem has been recognized for more than 40 years now, and evolutionists have worked hard on it (see here and here), but a solution has remained elusive. However, a recent paper has proposed a possible solution, and I found it interesting, because it illustrates exactly how desperate evolutionists are to get rid of this intractable problem.

In essence, the paper says that the way to fix the problem is to have earth pummeled by very large (greater than 100 kilometers in diameter) asteroids. They are so large that the authors call them “planetesimals”:

Planetesimals exceeding 100 km in diameter pummeled the early Earth for hundreds of Myr, resulting in large volumes of melt produced both by immediate depressurization and by subsequent mantle convection driven by the impact.

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Another Creationist Prediction Confirmed

A cluster of the bacteria discussed in the article
A cluster of the bacteria discussed in the article

Dr. Richard Lenski, an evolutionary biologist at Michigan State University, has been running a long-term experiment on evolution. Indeed, it has been named the LTEE (Long-Term Evolution Experiment). It started back in 1988 and is still running today. It has followed 12 populations of the bacterium Escherichia coli through more than 50,000 generations, examining how environmental stress changes the bacteria’s genetic and physiological characteristics. More than 6 years ago, I discussed how the project was confirming the creationist view of the genome, and it continues to do just that. In addition, it has inspired another experiment that specifically confirmed a creationist prediction while, at the same time, falsifying an evolutionary one.

To understand what has happened, we need to go back to 2008. In that year, the LTEE showed that even though Escherichia coli normally can’t make use of a chemical called citrate when oxygen is present, one of the their populations developed that ability after 31,500 generations of existence.1 As a result, it was dubbed the “citrate plus” population. How did that happen? At the time, no one knew. However, evolutionists thought it was the result of some rare event or combination of events, exactly the kind upon which evolution depends. New Scientist put it this way:

By this time, Lenski calculated, enough bacterial cells had lived and died that all simple mutations must already have occurred several times over.

That meant the “citrate-plus” trait must have been something special – either it was a single mutation of an unusually improbable sort, a rare chromosome inversion, say, or else gaining the ability to use citrate required the accumulation of several mutations in sequence.

Lenski himself was bold enough to write:

So the bacteria in this simple flask-world have split into two lineages that coexist by exploiting their common environment in different ways. And one of the lineages makes its living by doing something brand-new, something that its ancestor could not do.

That sounds a lot like the origin of species to me. What do you think?

Not surprisingly, a recent experiment has shown that the evolutionary predictions of Lenski and New Scientist are wrong. At the same time, it demonstrated that the predictions of both intelligent design advocates and creationists were correct.

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