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Living Surprises, Living Hopes

Here are ten recent discoveries about plants and animals that are surprising and inspiring. Some of them may lead to technologies that can improve our own lives.

More Evidence Cambrian Explosion was Un-Darwinian

The Cambrian Explosion (the abrupt appearance of animal phyla in the earliest fossil layers bearing multicellular body plans) remains unmuffled. Known by Darwin as a problem for his theory, it has become more problematic to his followers over time. There are now many more Cambrian fossils than Darwin knew of, and they continue the pattern: sudden appearance of complex animals, complete with legs, digestive systems, eyes, and nervous systems. Discoveries of Precambrian fossils have not helped: the ones that are more than microbial appear to be mere colonies of cells with no relationship to animals. Here are more discoveries that fit this pattern.

More Upsets for Darwin

For every hyped-up demonstration of evolution in action the media announces with gusto, there are setbacks that often do not get the splashy headlines. Here are three recent examples.

Science Grab Bag

Here's a random assortment of things floating around in the science news media – some fascinating, some informative, some disgusting. We’ll let the readers decide which is which. Since it’s Friday the 13th, a day to enjoy like any other day, we’ll give you a baker’s dozen to sample.

Darwinian Explanations: Show or Snow?

We all know the proverbial “snow job.” That’s putting on an entertaining song and dance without doing the assignment. A college sophomore (wise fool) writes a 15-page term paper full of jargon that, on closer inspection, didn’t follow directions or didn’t answer the question – it reveals ignorance of the subject. A job applicant makes an impression with humor or appearance without demonstrating ability to do the work. A junior makes up a fanciful story to cover up why he didn’t mow the lawn. Scientists are supposed to explain things based on observation and testable hypotheses. If Darwinians really believe that an unguided, impersonal, purposeless mechanism led to the diversity of life on Earth, they need to show the evidence. Here are a few recent examples of evolutionary explanations. Check whether they “show” evolution, or distract attention with a “snow” job.

What Do Scientists Know About Prehistory?

Evolutionary biologists and geologists speak of events happening millions or billions of years ago as concrete facts. They are not observational facts, though; they are inferences from indirect evidence. Indirect evidence can often lead to different conclusions; in fact, some philosophers like Duhem and Quine argue for “under-determination of theory by data,” meaning that data can never converge to support just one theory. Some can demonstrate logically that there are an infinite number of theories that can explain a set of data. Evolutionary scientists counter that there are only one or a few that are reasonable (implying that theirs is among the limited set of reasonable ones). Recent discoveries that threaten to overturn past reasonable theories, though, cast doubt on their confidence.

Body Talk

Scientists sometimes just prove the obvious, like that men and women are different. If we can talk body without talking bawdy, there are some new discoveries about body works that should put a spring in your step today about how your body works.

Nature Does It Right

Scientists and engineers continue to find well-designed features in living things that are worth imitating.

Hear Ye: Another Darwinian Prediction Falsified by Fossils

In a classic test of evolutionary “post-diction” (predicting what should be found in the fossil record), scientists made a bold prediction of what insect ears would look like before the evolution of bats. Believing that the presence of bats, a new predator with sonar, would spur the evolution of insect ears, the scientists predicted that earlier insects would have less-developed ears, or none at all. Then they found exceptionally-preserved insect fossils from the Green River formation in Wyoming, and compared the fossil evidence with their prediction. What was found?

Cells Optimize Their Tasks

The key to design in manufacturing is optimization – hitting the “sweet spot” between competing interests. It’s not always possible to have all the elements of a product be ideal. A laptop computer, for instance, can’t have an extra-large monitor and simultaneously have long battery life and compact design. A muscle car cannot be expected to have the best gas mileage. In the heyday of “faster, better, cheaper” spacecraft, engineers often joked, “pick any two.” In the same way, living cells have to optimize their operations. A couple of recent papers explore how they find that sweet spot.

Dino Expert Plays Chicken

Jack Horner, the dinosaur hunter who was science advisor to the Jurassic Park movies, wants to create a real dinosaur. He won’t use the movie method, trying to extract blood from Jurassic amber, because “DNA degrades too quickly,” he said. But he has a method he thinks will work: un-evolve a chicken back into its dinosaur ancestor.

Humans Evolved from Pigeons

Experiments with pigeons show that their intelligence matches or exceeds that of chimpanzees. If evolutionists can infer that chimpanzees are our closest living relatives based on intelligence, why wouldn’t it be just as logical to infer that humans evolved from birds? As some recent articles show, such a whimsical story does not exceed in silliness what some evolutionists actually do claim.

Cambrian Explosion Louder Still

Darwin started a tradition of worrying about the Cambrian Explosion. Over time the problem has only worsened; now we know that all the animal phyla appeared suddenly in the oldest strata containing metazoan (multi-celled) animals. In recent decades, evolutionists had hoped that the strange Ediacaran fossils would provide the needed missing links. In addition, some thought they had found embryos of early metazoans in the exceptionally-preserved Precambrian beds of China. Those hopes have now been dashed, leading to moans and groans from Darwinians.

Human Variability Can Be Rapid

All living humans are interfertile – one species by definition. People from all parts of the globe can marry and have children, even though global travel is relatively recent in human history. Yet we know there is considerable variability between tribes and nationalities. Does this variability take millions of years? Does it lead to the origin of new human species? Recent evidence shows that variations can be rapid, both genetic and acquired, without reducing interfertility.

Hopping Fish and Other Darwin Mysteries

The chieftans of evolutionary theory insist that their doctrines have come a long way since Darwin. Discoveries in molecular biology, population genetics, biogeography, paleontology have left the Victorian concepts of evolution outdated and antiquated, they would say. Yet a look at the evolutionary literature shows otherwise. Simplistic just-so stories, Darwinian phrases like “survival of the fittest” and “missing link,” iconic fossils, and antiquated principles continue to be the rule, as the following articles illustrate.
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