Exaggeration about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

This Good Morning America segment is typical of the ridiculous exaggeration regarding a real problem
In my previous post, I promised to discuss two scientific frauds that have recently come to light. The first had to do with research related to vaccines. The second one is the topic of this post, and it has to do with an environmental issue. The environmental issue is a real one, but unfortunately, it has been exaggerated to such an extent that many will pass it off as just another environmental extremist scare now that the science related to it is better understood. To get an idea of the exaggeration, you can click on the YouTube video and see how Good Morning America reported on it.

The man being interviewed in the video is oceanographer Charles J. Moore. He is generally credited for discovering the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” which is a real environmental problem. Oceans have constant circular currents called gyres. When a bit of plastic gets caught in such a current, the current tends to trap it there. Over time, this leads to a large concentration of plastic in that area of the ocean.

In general, most ocean travelers avoid the gyres, as they are a nuisance to navigate through and do not hold a wealth of the kind of ocean life people typically want to see or harvest. However, he and his team decided to travel through the gyre that exists in the North Pacific. He calls it a “subtropical high,” and here is his description as found in the journal Natural History1

Yet as I gazed from the deck at the surface of what ought to have been a pristine ocean, I was confronted, as far as the eye could see, with the sight of plastic. It seemed unbelievable, but I never found a clear spot. In the week it took to cross the subtropical high, no matter what time of day I looked, plastic debris was floating everywhere: bottles, bottle caps, wrappers, fragments.

This is what was eventually named “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” In his article, Moore says that another marine researcher, Curtis Ebbesmeyer, estimates the size of the garbage patch to be roughly that of the state of Texas. He and some colleagues also published a paper that supposedly measured the mass of plastic found in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and found that it is six times the mass of the plankton found there.2

Now all this seems incredibly dire. However, it is nothing more than a fraud.

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Anti-Vaccine Researcher Andrew Wakefield Committed Fraud

Science is self-correcting. Over time, mistakes made by scientists are generally uncovered by other scientists. Sometimes, the mistakes are found quickly. Often, the mistakes take a long time to uncover. But mistakes are simply that: mistakes. Creation is very complex, and as scientists, we can often be fooled by that complexity. What we see as the “obvious” conclusion from a study might not be the correct conclusion at all, because there is often an underlying complexity that was not considered. So while many, many mistakes happen in the course of doing science, it is to be expected. Thus, when a scientist is found to have made a mistake, it doesn’t mean the rest of the scientist’s work is worthless. Even very good scientists make mistakes.

Scientific fraud is another matter altogether. While no scientist should be condemned for making mistakes, all scientists who commit fraud should be strongly and vigorously denounced. There have been two reports of scientific fraud that have come out over the past two days, and I consider it my duty as a scientist to make sure my readers are informed of them. I will discuss the first (and most egregious) in this post.

It involves the nonsensical idea that vaccines cause autism. This idea has been thoroughly tested by various scientific studies, and it is simply wrong. Indeed, I debated a proponent of this idea recently. The debate was hosted, produced, and heavily advertised by an anti-vaccination group. It went so poorly for my opponent that all mention of it has been wiped away from the anti-vaccine site.

Despite the fact that the conclusions of science could not be clearer when it comes to vaccines and autism, there are many people who still believe that vaccines cause autism. Many of them are followers of Andrew Wakefield, the one responsible for the the fraud I wish to discuss in this post.

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What Makes Bone So Strong?

Even this electron microscope image of hydroxyapatite crystals in bone doesn't reveal its amazing secret.
(Public domain image)
Bone is a truly incredible substance. It is as strong as steel but at as light as aluminum. Not only is it strong, but it is surprisingly flexible as well. As is the case with most things God made, human technology cannot come close to producing something with bone’s amazing properties. Consider, for example, the work of Antoni Tomsia at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. He and his colleagues are trying to artificially produce something with the characteristics of bone, but they simply cannot come up with anything as elegant and sophisticated as bone. He says:

People want a strong, light, and porous material, which is almost a contradiction in terms, but nature does it…Bone is made from calcium phosphate and collagen, which are both extremely weak. But nature mixes them together at room temperature and without toxic chemical [sic] to create something that is very tough — this fascinates us.

What makes bone so special? The short answer is that we don’t really know. However, we are learning. For quite some time now we have known that bone is a mixture of many things, principal among them a protein called collagen and a calcium compound called hydroxyapatite. The collagen gives bone its flexibility, while the hydroxyapatite gives bone its strength.

However, the hydroxyapatite in bone is stronger than hydroxyapatite made in the lab. Why? It has to do with the size of the crystals. When hydroxyapatite is made artificially, the individual crystals that form are very large. In bone, the crystals are very small, on the order of 3 billionths of a meter long. These nanocrystals have long been thought to be the reason that hydroxyapatite in bone is so strong. However, scientists haven’t been able to understand why the nanocrystals stay so small in bone.

Now Klaus Schmidt-Rohr and his colleagues might just have figured that part out!

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Bacteria That Cause Tooth Decay….Good for you?

A human mouth infected with thrush.
(Image in the public domain)
You are looking at the inside of a person’s mouth. I know…the picture is gross. However, sometimes science is gross. You just have to get used to it. In my opinion, the science is well worth the gross picture. What makes this picture more gross than most pictures of a person’s mouth is that this mouth is infected with a yeast called Candida albicans. That’s what is causing the yellow gook you see in the mouth. This infection, commonly called thrush, is not very serious. Of course, it’s not very pleasant, either.

Interestingly enough, the yeast in question is called a dimorphic fungus. This means it can exist in one of two forms. It can exist as a collection of individual yeast cells, or it can grow threadlike structures called hyphae. These hyphae clump together to form a fungal body called a mycelium, which is what you are looking at in the gross picture above. The microscopic photo below shows you both forms of Candida albicans.

Candida Albicans in both forms. Click image for credit.

So if you have Candida albicans in your mouth, you won’t have thrush as long as the cells don’t form hyphae. If they stay in their yeast cell form, your mouth won’t look like the picture above. The interesting question, of course, is what keeps them from forming the hyphae?

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“Conserved DNA” and “Useful DNA” – An Evolutionary Predicament

As I have stated before, naturalistic evolutionists are forced to have a very simplistic view of life. Since they cannot accept that life was designed by an incredibly intelligent designer, they are forced to look at life through a ridiculously simplistic lens. This produces all sorts of problems for them. One of the more recent ones involves the amount of DNA that is “conserved” in class Mammalia.

For those who don’t know the term, “conserved DNA” is DNA that is similar across many different species. In the simplistic evolutionary view, DNA that is very important will be very similar in many different organisms, because important DNA cannot change very much. As Tina Hesman Saey writes in Science News1

About 7 percent of the human genome is similar to the DNA of other mammals, said Arend Sidow of Stanford University. Because it is similar, or “conserved,” geneticists assume this DNA is the most integral.

As Saey’s article indicates, this leaves Sidow to conclude that, “very little of the human genome is really necessary.” According to evolution, if only 7% of the human genome is conserved across all of class Mammalia, this indicates that most mammalian DNA was mutating freely, with very little constraint, during the long period of mammalian evolution. This, in turn, indicates that most mammalian DNA does little to affect the survivability of the mammal in question, and thus most mammalian DNA is not necessary. Indeed, the title of the article is, “Genome may be full of junk after all.”

Like most evolution-inspired ideas, however, this flies in the face of what science tells us about DNA.

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Debate on Vaccination Vanishes from Anti-Vaccination Website

On Monday, December 13th, I debated Dr. Boyd Haley on the question “Do Vaccines Cause Autism?” I took the scientific position, which is no. It was sponsored by the International Medical Council on Vaccination, which produces all sorts of anti-vaccine misinformation. Prior to December 13th, they publicized the debate heavily, and their website indicated that a recording of the debate would be posted after the debate was finished.

Interestingly enough, the recording was never posted on their website. Now something even more interesting has happened. Currently, there is absolutely no mention of the debate on their website at all. If you Google the word “debate” and restrict the domain to the International Medical Council on Vaccination’s website, you find several addresses where it was once mentioned:

www.vaccinationcouncil.org/2010/12/04/debate-on-vaccination/
www.vaccinationcouncil.org/tag/debate/
www.vaccinationcouncil.org/page/4/
www.vaccinationcouncil.org/page/2/

However, if you go to those addresses now, you get either an error message or a list of other articles. If you search for “debate” using the search box on the International Medical Council on Vaccination’s website, you find nothing related to the debate.

Does this surprise me? Not really. Does it disappoint you? If so, don’t worry. You can watch the debate here. (Thanks to Matt Fig for converting it to Youtube format.) Once you watch it, perhaps you will understand why such a heavily-promoted event has been wiped off the website of the group that hosted it!

NOTE: In addition to uploading the debate to Youtube, Matt Fig found the International Medical Council on Vaccination’s original post publicizing the debate:

https://web.archive.org/web/20101210075650/http://www.vaccinationcouncil.org/2010/12/04/debate-on-vaccination/

You can watch the debate here

On Monday, December 13th, I debated Dr. Boyd Haley, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, University of Kentucky, on the question “Do Vaccines Cause Autism?” I took the scientific position, which is that they do not. In my previous post on the subject, I noted that if you want to see the shoddy science promoted by those who believe that vaccines cause autism, you should watch the debate.

Well, despite the technical problems associated with the debate, I think it really did show how shoddy the science is on the anti-vaccination side. However, you don’t have to take my word for it. You can watch the debate yourself:

Click Here To Watch The Debate

Thanks to Matt Fig for converting it to Youtube format!

If you are having trouble viewing that file, here is a larger file that is not compressed. You shouldn’t need anything other than Windows Media Player to watch it.

Click here for the larger file

The Faith of Some Evolutionists is Mind-Boggling

I just came across an article in the journal Science called “Irremediable Complexity?” 1 In the article, the authors describe an evolutionary idea called “constructive neutral evolution,” which was first proposed in 1993. The paper starts out stating something that is quite obvious:

Many of the cell’s macromolecular machines appear gratuitously complex, comprising more components than their basic functions seem to demand.

Of course the cell seems “gratuitously complex” to an evolutionist, since an evolutionist is forced to believe that everything found in cells (as well as the cells themselves) developed as a result of random processes acted on by natural selection. You would not expect amazingly complex things to be produced that way. Nevertheless, when you look at cells, you see all sorts of amazing complexity. Of course, those of us who understand science know that the cell’s machinery is not gratuitously complex. It is simply very well designed by a Designer who built a lot of adaptability and diversity into His creation.

The paper goes on to ask how we can understand such “gratuitous complexity” in light of evolution. The real answer is that you cannot. However, that’s not the answer an evolutionist likes, so the authors have to come up with something else. They quickly reject the widely-held adaptationist belief that the complexity is just the result of natural selection preserving any random changes that improve basic function. While they admit that this view can explain some of the simpler aspects of the cell, it clearly fails when discussing some of the really complex parts of the cell.

Their reasoning is quite valid, but their proposed solution takes even more faith to believe than the adaptationist view!

Continue reading “The Faith of Some Evolutionists is Mind-Boggling”

Not So Fast, NASA

I recently commented on NASA’s paper regarding bacteria that can successfully incorporate arsenic into their biochemistry. Well, another blogger who has more expertise related to the paper has posted a very critical analysis. It is worth reading.

Essentially, the blogger believes that it is very possible the bacteria that lived in the arsenic-only cultures might have been scavenging phosphorous from others in the population that had died. As a result, the blogger is skeptical that arsenic was incorporated into the bacteria’s biochemistry to any meaningful extent.

The blogger is especially critical of the analysis claiming to have found arsenic incorporated into the bacteria’s DNA. He thinks the DNA-related data can be explained by contamination:

If this data was [sic] presented by a PhD student at their committee meeting, I’d send them back to the bench to do more cleanup and controls.

Based on the comments, it seems the blogger is sending a modified version of the post to Science as a letter to the editor. It will be interesting to see how the NASA group responds.

Debate: Do Vaccines Cause Autism?

The International Medical Council on Vaccination disseminates a lot of misinformation regarding vaccines. It claims to offer resources that will aid in “critical thinking for a critical dilemma.” Unfortunately, it does quite the opposite. It uses scaremongering and shoddy science in an effort to get people to stop giving critical medical care to their children.

They will be hosting a live debate on Monday, December 13th at 8 PM Central Time. The title of the debate is “Do Vaccines Cause Autism?” I have been asked to defend the scientific answer, which of course, is no. The debate is free, but you should sign up for it in advance. You can do that here.

If you have been deceived by those who want you to believe that vaccines cause autism, you might want to attend the debate so you can learn the actual science behind vaccination. If you know the science behind vaccines and therefore realize that they don’t cause autism, the debate might still be an interesting thing to attend so that you can see the shoddy science used by the anti-vaccination movement.