Have Canadian scientists uncovered the key that makes an evolutionary origin of life plausible?
University of Montreal biochemist Sergey Steinberg, along with student Konstantin Bokov, were looking to answer the question of how chemicals could spontaneously self-assemble into a life-form. Evolutionists have failed over and over again to answer that question, instead positing a host of wild, unprovable ideas.
According to CBC News, Steinberg and Bokov looked to ribosomes for their hypothesis. (The ribosome is a cell organelle responsible for building proteins based on RNA instructions.) The duo discovered that ribosomes are assembled using “relatively simple structural rules,” akin to a three-dimensional puzzle. The scientists developed a mathematical model to show that the rules could only result in a ribosome; if the rules were altered, the ribosome “simply wouldn’t hold together.”
Stephen Michnick, another University of Montreal scientist, praised the research: “The assembly followed rules that were logical and for which there were no alternatives.” Michnick claimed the study explains a critical step in the random formation of the earliest life. And in a clear swipe at creationism, Steinberg added, “In the absence of such explanations, some people could imagine unseen forces at work when such complex structures emerge in nature.”
But imagine watching any sort of machine self-assemble based on a perfect blueprint that wouldn’t allow any result except that machine. Would we be content to conclude that the self-constructing assembly was a product of mere chance? Of course not. The news release casts further doubt on the scientists’ explanation, since it claims Steinberg “examin[ed] the molecular self-organizing processes that preceded the living cell.” (Obviously those processes are not observable in nature, but are instead entirely within the imagination of evolutionists.) The release also notes, “[T]he construction of the ribosome likely followed an ordered series of steps to form the structure found in the first living cell” (emphasis added).
Given staunch belief and an active imagination, we don’t doubt that we could come up with exotic, just-so explanations for the existence of just about anything. Evolutionary scientists already believe that evolution happened, and since they “know” that it happened, any wild idea—self-assembly, random chance, or both (perhaps on the backs of crystals!)—passes for a hypothesis. Never mind that besides these woeful explanations, none explains how the genetic code came to have meaning or how ribosomes were able to interpret that meaning. Compared to Genesis 1, the evolutionary model of origins sounds downright miraculous!
Philip Skell, a member of the National Academy of Sciences for more than three decades, cautions against protecting Darwinism through censorship.
Skell, a professor emeritus at Penn State University known as the “father of carbene chemistry,” is writing to defend Forbes magazine for including both pro- and anti-Darwin commentators to mark Darwin’s birthday earlier in the month. (Biologist Jerry Coyne, author of a recent book defending Darwinism, had attacked the publication within its own pages.)
I don’t think science has anything to fear from a free exchange of ideas between thoughtful proponents of different views. Moreover, there are a number of us in the scientific community who, while we appreciate Darwin’s contributions, think that the rhetorical approach of scientists such as Coyne unnecessarily polarizes public discussions and . . . overstates both the evidence for Darwin’s theory of historical biology and the benefits of Darwin’s theory to the actual practice of experimental science.
Coyne seems to believe the major importance of biological science is its speculations about matters which cannot be observed, tested and verified, such as origin of life, speciation, the essences of our fossilized ancestors, the ultimate causes of their changes, etc. . . .
Examining the major advances in biological knowledge, one fails to find any real connection between biological history and the experimental designs that have produced today’s cornucopia of knowledge of how the great variety of living organisms perform their functions. It is our knowledge of how these organisms actually operate, not speculations about how they may have arisen millions of years ago, that is essential to doctors, veterinarians, farmers and other practitioners of biological science.
Skell eventually concludes:
It is unseemly and scientifically unfruitful that a major focus in biology should have turned into a war—between those who hold that the history of those unique organisms is purely a matter of chance aggregation from the inorganic world and those who hold that the aggregation must have been designed for a purpose.
It is surely not a matter that must or can be settled within the provenance of experimental biology. Above all, declaiming orthodoxy to either of those propositions promotes incivility and draws energy and resources away from the real goal—advances in experimental biological science. These studies, if not derailed, indicate that further advances of great utility can be expected during the 21st century.
We’ve certainly come to the same conclusions as Skell, and it’s encouraging to read the conclusions of yet another qualified scientist who sees things as they are. However, elsewhere Skell notes, “It is more crucial to consider history in the fields of astrophysics and geology than in biology . . . electromagnetic radiations arriving at our detectors inform us of the ongoing events that occurred billions of years ago . . . [a]nd the rock formations of concern to geologists have resided largely undisturbed since their formations.” We hope he realizes that presuppositions—and the difference between origins science and operational science—matters as much in astrophysics and geology as in biology.
Another example of “evolution in action”—need we even bother examining the reality to confirm this isn’t what Darwin predicted?
Time and time again, we encounter reports of an animal evolving “right before our very eyes.” So far, every time we’ve dug into the details, it turns out the scientists and reporters are—knowingly or unknowingly—pulling a bait and switch. While the headlines suggest animals are “evolving” in such a way that supports molecules-to-man evolution (i.e., Darwinian evolution), the facts merely show how natural selection can reduce the genetic information in a given animal population—the opposite of Darwinian evolution.
That brings us to Boston Globe coverage of cod evolution. Taking a closer look at one aspect of a report we covered last month, correspondent Murray Carpenter announces,
Evolution still brings to mind the kind of change that happens over millions of years, such as humans evolving from forerunners of apes. But there is increasing evidence that species can evolve quite quickly, within our lifetimes, and that human intervention in the natural world is speeding up that process.
Again, the implication is that the “evolution” we observe in nature is the same as broader “evolution” over millions of years. Yet the same word is being defined differently in the two instances.
In this case, the cod fish’s “evolution” fits decisively within the creation paradigm; in fact, it could serve as a textbook example of the workings of natural selection. Carpenter explains, “Decades of intense fishing for the largest cod have meant the species has evolved along the lines of the survivors, which is to say, smaller cod.” Large cod are nowadays “especially rare.”
The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences report that Carpenter cites showed that not only cod fish size, but also the sizes of 28 other “commercially harvested plants and animals,” had changed in response to human harvesting at a rate three times faster than what occurs in nature.
Carpenter also reports that cod fish size does not appear to be recovering from the effects of human harvesting, even in protected habitats. According to Douglas Swain of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, “This result supports the hypothesis that there have been genetic changes in growth in this population in response to size-selective fishing.” If there are no more large cod to be found, that would mark a loss of genetic information—not a gain, as would have been required for molecules-to-man evolution.
In the article’s conclusion, however, Carpenter quotes the University of Maine’s Michael Kinnison, one of the authors of the PNAS paper. “It would be nice to change that public perception so that folks really understand that evolution is an everyday process . . . going on around us all the time.” We agree—if only folks would likewise understand that this “evolution” we observe is, in fact, the exact opposite of fish turning into philosophers over millions of years.
A mountain range the size of the European Alps—larger than anyone expected—has finally been measured.
How could people have missed such huge mountains for so long? The answer is simple: the range lies in Antarctica deep beneath the ice. Though originally discovered in the 1950s, they have only recently been measured.
Scientists used aircraft with ice-penetrating radar, along with a network of seismometers, to determine the size and shape of the range. The Gamburtsevs, as the mountains are known, are not only similar in size to the Alps; they also appear similar in aspect, with “very sharp peaks and valleys,” explained Fausto Ferraccioli of the British Antarctic Survey. Scientists are eager to drill through the ice, as one radar survey revealed liquid water—warmed by the earth—deep below the ice in the valleys below.
But how did the mountains get there? Up until scientists discovered the range last century, the prevailing wisdom was that the Antarctic interior would be essentially flat. “It all adds to the mystery—from the tectonic perspective of how these mountains were created,” Ferraccioli said, “and from the glacial history perspective of how the East Antarctic ice sheet was formed and didn’t erode these peaks.”
Ferraccioli told Reuters that “the mountains would probably have been ground down almost flat if the ice sheet had formed slowly. But the presence of jagged peaks might mean the ice formed quickly, burying a landscape under up to 4 km (2.5 miles) of ice.” Rapid ice formation—could that fit into a catastrophic Ice Age model?
We probably shouldn’t be surprised: new U.S. president Barack Obama is more “popular” than Jesus.
Obama finished in the number one spot, with Jesus listed as the second most commonly named “hero.” People responding “God” put Him in eleventh place.
Note that the Harris poll did not ask respondents to select from a list; rather, the survey asked more than 2,500 Americans to name whomever they admired most. Respondents were allowed to name up to three individuals.
Unsurprisingly, presidents fared well in the survey. In addition to Barack Obama in the first spot, Ronald Reagan came in fourth; George W. Bush, fifth; Abraham Lincoln, sixth; and John F. Kennedy, eighth. Franklin D. Roosevelt, George Washington, and Bill Clinton also finished in the top 20. Other U.S. political figures finishing well were (in descending order of popularity) John McCain, Hillary Clinton, Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice, and Sarah Palin. Others who were mentioned by more than one percent of respondents were Martin Luther King Jr., airline pilot Chesley Sullenberger, Mother Teresa, Billy Graham, Mahatma Gandhi, Oprah Winfrey, George S. Patton, and Bill Gates.
The most common justification respondents used for identifying a hero was “doing what’s right regardless of personal consequences.” (See the complete poll results [PDF].)
The results—especially when compared with results of the same poll conducted in 2001—clearly show how many identified “heroes” are determined by the vicissitudes of current events and public opinion. Nonetheless, our guess is that people are thinking of religious heroes (such as those from the Bible) less and less. We also predict that at the rate things are going, Jesus will continue to move down the list of “popularity.” But then again, Jesus didn’t come to be popular!
Remember, if you see a news story that might merit some attention, let us know about it! (Note: if the story originates from the Associated Press, Fox News, MSNBC, New York Times or another major national media outlet, we will most likely have already heard about it.) And thanks to all of our readers who have submitted great news tips to us. If you didn’t catch last week’s News to Note, why not take a look at it now? See you next week!
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