Nature Alerts Researchers to Threat of Intelligent Design Movement

It can’t be ignored anymore, reported Nature in two articles this week.  Geoff Brumfiel1 asked academic researchers, “Who has designs on your students’ minds?”  He reported on the rise of IDEA Clubs (Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness, such as the first one at UC San Diego), highlighting the story of Salvador Cordova’s prospering IDEA club […]

Genes Must Be Expressed in the Right Order

A team of scientists in Switzerland made neural cells switch on a transcription factor earlier during the embryo’s development.  The result?  Axons (long branches of nerve cells) refused to grow to the spinal cord and to the peripheral target.  To the mice, this meant they couldn’t feel things on the skin due to stunted nerves.  […]

In the Beginning, Hydrogen: Was It Miller Time?

A press release from University of Colorado says that the spark-discharge experiments of Stanley Miller in the 1950s (see 05/02/2003 entry) might be relevant again.  Why?  Researchers used new models to estimate the amount of hydrogen in the early earth’s atmosphere, and came up with numbers 100 times higher than before.  If hydrogen did not […]

Whose Side Is Unenlightened?

Here’s an opportunity for readers to compare arguments on both sides of the debate about origins and the nature of science.  Donald Kennedy, Editor-in-Chief of Science, wrote an editorial last week that claims the sunrise of the intelligent design movement threatens “twilight for the Enlightenment.”1  He wrote that the “retrogression to the pre-Darwinian zoologist William […]

Astrobiology: Much Ado About Nothing So Far

The mood at a NASA Astrobiology Institute conference is very upbeat, according to Leonard David at, reporting from the meetings in Boulder, Colorado.  The participants have set their goals high: Consider it nothing short of the cosmic quest for all time: Understanding the origin, evolution, distribution, and fate of life on Earth and in […]

Flagellum Described in High-Performance Lingo

The bacterial flagellum, a virtual icon of the intelligent design movement, has been studied by many researchers, notably Howard Berg of Harvard, an expert on chemotaxis (the attraction of bacteria to chemical stimuli).  Berg was interviewed in Current Biology1 and talked like a race car mechanic when discussing this molecular machine, though he is not […]

You Can Help Find Life on Mars

Astronomy Picture of the Day pulled a fast one for April Fool’s Day, humorously suggesting viewers might help scientists find water on Mars.  (The Mars in the picture was the candy kind.) The joke was on them, because they got baloney all over their faces with this line: “Finding water on different regions on Mars […]

ID in the News

PBS aired a segment on the anti-Darwinism controversy in the schools Monday (see PBS transcript).  Ken Ham and Stephen Meyer presented arguments for criticizing Darwin, while Eugenie Scott and others defended exclusive evolutionary teaching.  The Discovery Institute blog Evolution News analyzed the 14:32 minute segment, complaining that 90 minutes of Meyer’s interview received only 30 […]

NAS President Calls on Scientists to Defend Darwinism

The man who described a cell as “a factory that contains an elaborate network of interlocking assembly lines, each of which is composed of a set of large protein machines” (see 02/10/2003 entry) now wants his fellow scientists to oppose efforts to attribute this factory to design.  Bruce Alberts, president of the National Academy of […]

How to Get Something from Nothing: Genetic Code, Syntax Explained?

Two articles in recent science literature attempt to show that complex entities, like the genetic code and the syntax of human language, are no big deal.  They can emerge from precursors by chance.     In PNAS recently,1 veteran researcher Harold J. Morowitz (George Mason U) and two colleagues proposed a new theory for the […]

Agnosticism Loses: Arkansas Science Must Be Atheistic

Updated 05/08/2005:  “What I’m trying to do here is not to deal directly with the existence or non-existence of God, but restore to science the agnostic viewpoint that there could be or could not be rather than the dogmatism that actually currently exists… that absolutely precludes the existence of God.”  These were the words of […]

Baloney Detecting Exercise for Students

Jeff Barbour’s brief history of everything was published on Universe Today.  His essay, entitled “Where does intelligent life come from?” paints a short but sweeping panorama from the Big Bang to humans.  Its style is somewhat like watered-down Carl Sagan or gilded Neil deGrasse Tyson (see 09/29/2004 entry).  Here’s a sample about the origin of […]

Mars Makeover Underway

Amazing claims about Mars are coming in almost too fast to fathom, reports Space.Com, especially from the European Space Agency’s Mars Express orbiter.  These include evidence for recently active volcanos, frozen ice beds, methane and vestiges of glaciers and waterfalls.  Activity is “only yesterday” in the standard geological timescale.  One said, “it could start up […]

The Future of Biology: Reverse Engineering

Just as an engineer can model the feedback controls required in an autopilot system for an aircraft, the biologist can construct models of cellular networks to try to understand how they work.  “The hallmark of a good feedback control design is a resulting closed loop system that is stable and robust to modeling errors and […]

Bacterial Engineering On Par With Higher Life

Bacteria aren’t the simple life-forms microbiologists used to envision, writes Zemer Gitai in Cell.1 Recent advances have demonstrated that bacterial cells have an exquisitely organized and dynamic subcellular architecture.  Like their eukaryotic counterparts, bacteria employ a full complement of cytoskeletal proteins, localize proteins and DNA to specific subcellular addresses at specific times, and use intercellular […]
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