Science: Knowing vs. Crowing
Every week, it seems, some new discovery casts doubt on common scientific knowledge. News reports about embarrassing finds contrast sharply with confident claims about less observable things – like evolution.
- Mystery illness: Science reported last week that the Veterans Administration has pulled the plug on research about “Gulf War Syndrome.”1 Why? The suite of ailments from the first gulf war did not re-materialize in the second gulf war, and no one is sure there even is a biological cause. Yet the “syndrome” was widely reported in the news at the time and led to lawsuits and investigations. There may have been other causes, like exposure to sarin toxin, but nobody is sure what it was, or if it was psychological. Was it much ado about nothing? Science has not been able to say one way or the other for 18 years.
- Squid mixup: A common belief about neurons has been turned on its head. NPR and New Scientist reported that modeling human neuron energetics based on squid neurons is misleading. Mammalian brain cells are apparently much more efficient than the easily-studied neurons in squid, which had been used to model neuron efficiency. One researcher noted from this discovery how much we have to learn: “There is always this tendency that if you’re working in an area and your experiments are working well and you’re getting good data, to not think of the larger context in which this is occurring.”
- Rethinking hate crime: Who hasn’t heard about the menace of hate crimes? There ought to be a law. That’s the common reaction to well-publicized crimes motivated by hate against particular groups, but Science Daily reported that criminologists at the University of Leicestor are rethinking the concept. The article said, “many hate crimes are in fact lower-level forms of harassment committed by so-called ‘normal’ people who may not necessarily ‘hate’ their victim.” Although the researchers supported hate crime legislation, their findings seem to undermine the reason for the legislation in the first place.
- Rain gauge: Scientists at the University of Mexico in Mexico City announced a surprise: measurements of rain by meteorologists may be way off the true amount. Live Science reported this “audacious” proposal “the scientists, and not the instruments, have been wrong.” At issue is whether raindrops are able to break a “speed limit” used in scientific models. The result: “meteorologists relying on specialized rain gauges or Doppler radar over the years might have been overestimating the amount of rainfall by as much as 20 percent.”
- Shower risk: Here’s another thing to worry about. Your showerhead may be teeming with disease bacteria. A paper in PNAS2 said that biofilms inside your showerhead may harbor many more opportunistic disease bacteria than previously thought. They’re kidding, right? Surely health scientists have been on top of this. “Despite implication as a potential source of disease, the microbial composition of the showerhead environment is poorly known,” they said. “Characterization of natural microbial communities by use of culture techniques may drastically under-sample the actual numbers and diversity, because most microbes are not readily cultured with standard methods.” If you are running to soak your showerhead in bleach, they said that some of the worst types are resistant to chlorine. Maybe it’s time to use the bathtub.3
These articles were about subjects right under the scientists’ noses, so to speak. They raise serious questions about what other scientific claims hold up to scrutiny and what other commonly-accepted notions will be undermined tomorrow. When it comes to Darwinism, though, science reporters seem to cast all caution to the wind and make wildly confident pronouncements:
- Plant genes: PhysOrg proudly announced an “evolution coup” describing a study that “reveals how plants protect their genes.”
- Chimp tools: Anthropologists watched chimpanzees hunt army ants in Africa, and saw the light. “Chimps pack specialized tools,” reported Live Science. The researchers explained that this “could shed light on the evolution of humans,” according to reporter Charles Q. Choi.
- Human tools: Speaking of tools shedding light on evolution, Science Daily said that a survey of stone tools in Botswana “sheds new light on how humans in Africa adapted to several substantial climate change events during the period that coincided with the last Ice Age in Europe.” One anthropologist gave an eyewitness account of a history he never witnessed: “As water levels in the lake went down, or during times when they fluctuated seasonally, wild animals would have congregated round the resulting watering holes on the lake bed,” he said. “It’s likely that early human populations would have seen this area as a prolific hunting ground when food resources in the region were more concentrated than at times when the regional climate was wetter and food was more plentiful and the lake was full of water.” His subjects were unavailable for comment.
- Seed light: Light was also shed on evolution in a report on PhysOrg. A new paper in American Journal of Botany is helping solve Darwin’s “abominable mystery” about the evolution of flowering plants (angiosperms). Researchers peering into seeds are finding “clues into the evolution of the first flowers,” the article claimed. The findings “shed some light on the possible role of the endosperm in early angiosperms,” but not whether angiosperms evolved in the first place.
- Evolve or perish: “A dinosaur-killing asteroid may have wiped out much of life on Earth 65 million years ago,” stated as if this is obviously true by Live Science. Jeremy Hsu of Astrobiology Magazine talks like he knows just how life survived. The story revolves around microbes named mixotrophs. Presumably this sheds light on how larger organisms also survived, because some of them (like birds and mammals) obviously did.
Science last week printed two warm, complimentary stories about Hopi Hoekstra (Harvard), the peppered-mice lady (see 08/28/2009) and how her research is shedding light on evolution. “We’re trying to reconstruct the evolutionary path, genetic step by genetic step,” she said, with kudos from her colleagues. No one questioned whether fur color changes in mice has anything to do with molecules-to-man evolution.
1. Eliot Marshall, “VA Pulls the Plug on Disputed Study of Gulf War Illness,” Science, 11 September 2009: Vol. 325. no. 5946, pp. 1324-1325, DOI: 10.1126/science.325_1324.
2. Feazel et al, “Opportunistic pathogens enriched in showerhead biofilms,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, September 14, 2009, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0908446106.
3. To avoid panic, we should realize that bacteria are with us constantly. “In our daily lives, we humans move through a sea of microbial life that is seldom perceived except in the context of potential disease and decay,” the authors said, pointing out that there may be a million bacteria per square meter in the air in your house, and ten million in a liter of tap water. The ones who should be concerned are “persons with compromised immune or pulmonary system.” Still, you might want to avoid breathing in the aerosol directly from the showerhead, as this could invite mycobacteria into the lungs in higher quantities than normal.
These articles speak for themselves. The Darwinists pontificate on things they cannot possibly know. Scientific verification should be directly proportional to the detail available for study, but with evolution, the detail available is inversely proportional to the chutzpah in the press releases. Wandering in the dark of their naturalistic world view, evolutionists are blind guides thinking each new tall tale is going to shed light on evolution. Don’t follow them into the ditch.