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Hobbits Were Brain Diseased Modern Humans

The discovery of fossils of miniature humans in Indonesia, designated Homo floresiensis but nicknamed Hobbits, was one of the most exciting and controversial announcements of 2004. Since then, interpretations of the fossils have fallen into two camps: those who think the skeletons represent normal humans with the brain-defective disease microcephaly, and those who think they represent evolutionary missing links. A new paper compared skulls of H. floresiensis with those of modern humans, Homo erectus, and humans with microcephaly. The result favors the interpretation that the Hobbits most likely were diseased modern humans.

When Science Gets Political

The classic view of the scientist as an unbiased observer of nature was shattered with the development of the atomic bomb. Suddenly, it became apparent to the physicists working out the equations of nuclear fission could not absolve themselves completely of responsibility for the political uses of their research. Yet since the days of the French Academy of Sciences in the 17th century, kings and other rulers have called on natural philosophers to inform their decisions. These days, scientific institutions state political opinions at will. Some recent news items show them inserting their opinions beyond what the data alone might indicate.

Cold Dinosaurs Resembled Warm Dinosaurs

Cold dinosaurs were just like warm dinosaurs, scientists have found. Species living in the Antarctic, with up to six months of winter darkness, show no major differences in bone structure than those who lived in temperate climates. This was a surprise that falsified earlier studies. Whatever adaptations the high-latitude dinosaurs had did not show up in their bone structure.

Poison Rat: Did It Evolve?

The African crested rat has a unique way of deterring predators. It licks the bark from a poisonous tree (the same one native hunters use to poison their darts), and licks it onto its fur. Any predator that tries to eat the rat becomes very sick, and quickly learns to keep its distance. This kind of defense has been seen in other animals, but is the first known case of a mammal using a substance from another organism to make itself toxic to predators. Is it a classic case of evolution?

Cell Chaperones Keep Proteins Properly Folded

Imagine linking together a chain of 300 plastic shapes, some with magnets at various places. Then let it go and see if you could get it to fold spontaneously into a teapot. This is the challenge that cells face every minute: folding long chains of amino acids (polypeptides) into molecular machines and structures for the cell’s numerous tasks required for life. DNA in the nucleus codes for these polypeptides. They are assembled in ribosomes in single-file order. How do they end up in complex folded shapes? Some polypeptides will spontaneously collapse into their native folds, like the magnetic chain in our analogy. Others, however, need help. Fortunately, the cell provides an army of assistants, called chaperones, to monitor, coax, and repair unfolded proteins, to achieve “proteostasis” – a stable, working set of proteins. That army is so well-organized and complex, scientists continue to try to figure out how it performs so well in the field.

Clue or Clueless on Plant Evolution

An article on The Scientist promised to provide “clues to plant evolution,” but the data seemed like clues to something else – namely, design. The article was about how plant proteins interact with one another – the “interactome” (another word to add to genome and proteome). Did the work actually fulfill evolutionary predictions? Even if they claim it did, did it really?

Earth Uniqueness Up; SETI Down

Our earth seems special – maybe because it is. Some astronomers are seriously considering that life might be rare or unique on our rare (or unique) planet. If so, hopes for finding sentient aliens on the celestial radio dial drop accordingly. The 50th anniversary of the first SETI search came, unfortunately for search enthusiasts, came at a time when funding is harder to get.

Archaeopteryx Reclassification Raises Fear of Creationists

Archaeopteryx isn’t the first bird. At least, not today. It may be reclassified again, but Xing Xu, the man who brought a panoply of “feathered dinosaurs” to the world’s attention, has announced another Chinese fossil that led him to shuffle the bird evolution tree around, putting Archaeopteryx, an “icon of evolution” since its discovery in1861, onto a branch that includes dinosaur terrors like Deinonychus. At least, today. The backstory behind the shuffling of family trees, an upset that raises questions about everything evolutionists that they knew about the evolution of birds, is political, not scientific. Evolutionists are worried about how creationists are going to “spin” the news.

Weird Evolution Tales

Evolutionary theory leads to some fantastic tales. Since evolution is often presumed to be a fact that explains everything in biology, and is itself not subject to testing or doubt, everything in biology must be viewed through an evolutionary lens. This hard-core stance on evolution often leads to assertions and explanations that appear contrived, if not preposterous, to Darwin doubters. Here are some recent examples of weird evolution stories that made it past the logic inspectors simply because evolution is unquestioned.

Butterfly Swarm Buries Darwin

Billions of butterflies, flashing their gossamer wings with brilliant colors, have swarmed over Darwin, leaving him unable to breathe. Figuratively, that is. Illustra Media’s new documentary Metamorphosis, just released on Blu-Ray last week, leaves little room for Darwin’s theory, while making a powerful case for intelligent design. The film is already being hailed as a masterpiece.

Norway Killer Cultural Christian, Practical Darwinian

Initial news reports about mass murderer Anders Breivik, who slew over 90 civilians in his home country on July 23, described him as a “right-wing fundamentalist Christian.” Now that his 1500-page manifesto has been published, it is clear that any associations with Christianity were cultural and political, not personal. His prime motivation was to halt the Islamization of “Christian” Europe brought on by political correctness and multiculturalism. A review of his writings show him closer to secular science and the social Darwinists than to the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Texas Press Perpetuates ID Myths

Some reporters refuse to listen. Advocates of intelligent design (ID) have clarified their definitions, their evidences, and their goals for years now, with numerous books, essays, web articles, papers and lectures, but the secular mainstream press continues to misrepresent their positions, and divert discussion from the issues to red herrings. A vote by the Texas School Board concerning supplementary materials to match science standards offered the latest example. The Associated Press story is filled with talking points and generalities; the Discovery Institute response is detailed and to the point, citing scientific journal references for support. Will intelligent design ever get a fair hearing in the mainstream media?

OOLs for Evolution

Soviet communists may or may not have needed Rules for Revolution, but Darwinists, without doubt, need OOLs for Evolution: i.e., origin-of-life scenarios. Obviously, Darwinian evolution won’t get past square one without a self-replicating system complex enough to call “life” in place. Whether or not a given evolutionist is a Marxist materialist or a theistic Darwinist, OOL is a key link in the naturalistic dream of an unbroken chain of natural causes from big bang to man. It’s proving a tough link to find.

Fossil Finds Feed Facile Fables

Remarkable fossils continue to come to science’s attention, yielding clues about past ecological conditions. Once in awhile, whole fossil specimens – even graveyards of many organisms – are uncovered, but most fossils are mere fragments. Placing fossils into interpretive stories requires knowledge of other fossils and comparisons with living species. Even then, the history of life is not directly observable. Fossils, being silent, can only show their current state; the lack of access to the past, combined with ignorance of all the clues, leaves room for alternative interpretations. Evolutionists, in their desire to fit fossils into a preconceived story, sometimes go far beyond what the actual fossil evidence is capable of saying – and some of their explanations border on the miraculous.

Evolutionary Psychology Is So 1980

Evolutionary psychology, popular in the 1980s, has been criticized by some evolutionists as flawed in its basic assumptions. In practice, evo-psych explanations were often so speculative, they amounted to little more than “evolutionary storytelling,” according to an article on PhysOrg. Popular articles still arise from time to time telling us that our minds evolved to cope with hunting and gathering, not the stresses of modern city life (see for instance, “Evolutionize Your Life” from the 07/14/2011 entry). A team now admits that the foundations of evolutionary psychology were always questionable. But never fear, they say: new evo psych is coming!
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