The quality of some of the designs in nature is remarkable. And this is true regardless of the mechanism that was used in their formation.
"Unlike a mountain climber swinging from a rope, a spider suspended from its silk thread hardly ever twists. Although the flexibility and strength of a spider’s dragline outperforms the best synthetic fibres, surprisingly little has been published on the twist properties of the thread. A new study however, by a research team from Oxford and Rennes Universities, published in Nature, reveals just how good the damping properties of spider silk are."
Thursday, March 30, 2006
The quality of some of the designs in nature is remarkable. And this is true regardless of the mechanism that was used in their formation.
The fossilization of "fragile" biological structures is occasionally a topic of discussion in the world of origins. Some argue that these structures cannot *really* be geologically old (to wit, on the order of millions of years old) because they are still intact.
Here we see that the process of embryo fossilization is coming to into light.
"We wanted to find what conditions would allow a dead embryo to be preserved for about a month, enough time for it to be encased in minerals," Rudolf Raff said.
The dead spherical embryos do not last long under normal seawater conditions. If the cell's own degradation processes don't destroy it, nearby bacteria will. The embryos must die in the presence of a so-called "reducing" substance, such as hydrogen sulfide. Such reducing substances slow or stop the internal degradation processes that occur very soon after cells die and also inhibit voracious bacteria.
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
How shall Christians reconcile our faith with science? In this news summary, you'll read about the perspective of physicist Dr. John Polkinghorne.
[By the way, I recently read the book "One World" written several years ago by John. It has some interesting thoughts that emphasized the unity of the Christian worldview with knowledge gained from modern science.]
"Science, explained Dr Polkinghorne, uses enquiry, reason and the postulation of theories which can be verified or quashed by experiment while Christianity asks other and deeper sorts of questions as to why things are as they are and how do our lives fit in with the purposes of creation. These questions are verified by faith.
Science looks at one level - Christianity at another. Yet both these views can be held together and there is a link between them. Deny any one of these views and our picture of the world is incomplete."
Here's a perspective released by Reasons To Believe on the recent discovery of water on Enceladus.
"Does the discovery of a water geyser on Saturn’s Enceladus moon provide hope for finding evidence of life? “Clearly this discovery is exciting, but we must be careful not to jump to conclusions about life’s origin and naturalistic evidence for evolution when the data does not substantiate it,” warns astrophysicist, Dr. Jeffrey Zweerink, research associate at the science/faith think tank, Reasons To Believe."
There are a few mysteries surrounding Big Bang Cosmology. The two most well known are the unknown physical identities of "dark matter" and "dark energy". In this article, one candidate for dark matter is discussed.
"An international team of researchers are now theorizing that dark matter could be a class of particles known as "sterile neutrinos". These particles, formed right at the Big Bang, could account for the Universe's missing mass, and would have the handy side effect of speeding up the early formation of stars."
One counter to ID's cosmological fine-tuning argument is that our universe is one of many universes, each with varying conditions and differing physics. As pointed out in this article, there's no scientific evidence for this hypothesis and there many never be scientific evidence for it.
"There are dozens of ways to mathematically imagine a larger universe that our universe is only a part of. One is for universes to bud off each other. We’d be directly connected to zillions of other universes, but we’d never find them unless we stumbled on one of the submicroscopic connections.
Another possibility is that our universe is like an expanding bubble in a pot of soup. The soup itself would be expanding, so the bubbles never touch. If we lived in this kind of universe, it would be impossible to get any information about the universe beyond our bubble.
All this might be nothing but speculation. Mathematically, there’s no requirement that our universe has to have a bigger hyperuniverse to live in."
Monday, March 27, 2006
It has been said that the physics of the universe is balanced on a razor's edge. One such example is the very slight imbalance between matter and antimatter in the early universe. Read what physicist Stephen Weinberg said about this..
"If there had not been a small excess of electrons over anti-electrons, and quarks over anti-quarks, then ordinary particles would be virtually absent in the universe today. It is this early excess of matter over antimatter, estimated to be as one part in about 10^10, that survived to form light atomic nuclei three minutes later [after the Hot Big Bang], then after a million years to form atoms and later to be cooked to heavier elements in stars ultimately to provide the material from which life would arise." ("Life in the Universe")This news article discusses some of the research in this area to understand more about why this fortuitous imbalance exists.
"One of the greatest mysteries of the universe is its apparent composition of only matter, and not antimatter. If matter and antimatter were created equally at the time of the Big Bang, matter and antimatter should have annihilated into pure energy. Clearly, this did not happen. How did our universe of matter survive?"
Friday, March 24, 2006
Scientists are finding more and more purpose for non-coding DNA.
"Researchers at the McKusick-Nathans Institute of Genetic Medicine at Johns Hopkins have invented a cost-effective and highly efficient way of analyzing what many have termed “junk” DNA and identified regions critical for controlling gene function. And they have found that these control regions from different species don’t have to look alike to work alike."
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
The neural organization of the brain is incredibly efficient and is serving as a design template for building better computers.
[Do you realize how much 1 gigawatt is? Check out this power consumption table.]
"We are taking knowledge from neuroscience and using it to build better computers," said Kwabena Boahen, an associate professor in the Department of Bioengineering who directs a research group tasked with mimicking the functions of the brain's complex neural system using silicon chips..."
His goal is to eventually create a silicon computer that works as efficiently as the human brain. According to Boahen, the brain is capable of performing 10 quadrillion (that's 10^16) "calculations," or synaptic events, per second using only 10 watts of power. At this rate, he says, a computer as powerful as the human brain would require 1 gigawatt of power.
The popular origins debate would lead one to believe that there are two views in origins: one held by young earth creationists and another held by atheistic evolutionists. The fact of the matter is that there are several different views. When given the opportunity I like to share some of these views on my blog - even though I may not necessarily agree with them.
''I have a somewhat higher opinion of God than people who are creationists," he said, believing instead in a God who made a ''creative universe."
Miller sees no rift between science and faith. He believes passionately in evolution -- that random mutations and natural selection gave rise to every living thing. And he believes in a God who is always present in life, even if he isn't intervening to design each flagellum, thumb, or flipper that has appeared through natural history. Miller believes that God reigns above nature, providing a moral order to the universe, an ingrained right and wrong that guides people through all the questions science can't answer.
I suspect that one day microbial life will be discovered on another planet in our solar system. This is because over the course of Earth's history asteroid and meteorite collisions have resulted in tons of material from Earth being sent to other parts of the solar system.
"Once one planet comes down with life, they all get it," said NASA scientist Jeff Moore, comparing the spread of life to the spread of the common cold.
Two groups of researchers have used computer simulations and models to test the theory. One found that the Jovian moon Europa and Titan, one of Saturn's moons, would receive bits of earth thrown up by the impact of a large meteor -- with up to 100 pieces landing during a 5 million year period -- while the other showed that a few bacteria would survive the meteor strike.
Sunday, March 19, 2006
Last week Dr. James Shapiro spoke at the American Physical Society Annual Meeting on understanding genomic evolution in light of modern science and information theory. His views are considered to be radical by traditional Darwinists, but his paradigm is yielding some interesting insights into biological change.
"Assume no previous theories about genetics and evolution. What conclusions would we draw from molecular data (e.g. genome sequences)? We start from basic principles of cellular information processing: cells behave cognitively using signal transduction networks; signal transduction involves weak noncovalent interactions; allosteric properties of biomolecules; multivalent storage of information in DNA sequences and nucleoprotein complexes; inertness of naked DNA. Genome informatics thus requires formation of nucleoprotein complexes. Complex formation requires generic repeated signals in the DNA; repetition also permits cooperativity to stabilize weak interactions. DNA is a functional structural component of nucleoprotein complexes, not a passive data tape. Specificity in DNA nucleoprotein complex formation involves combining multiple generic signals and/or sequence recognition by small RNAs. Novel combinations of generic signals and coding sequences arise in genomes by iteration and rearrangement. Cells possess natural genetic engineering functions that actively restructure DNA molecules. These internal DNA remodeling functions act cognitively in response to internal and external inputs. They operate non-randomly with respect to (1) the types of new structures produced and (2) the regions of the genome modified..."
Friday, March 17, 2006
Astronomers and exobiologists get really excited about the presence of liquid water on planets other than Earth. A year 2000 study published in the journal Science got a LOT of people excited about the possibility that gullies on Mars were formed by flowing liquid water in the geologically recent past. Now here's a re-evaluation of the data.
"Recently, Bart was studying the lunar landscape in high-resolution images taken in 1969, prior to the Apollo landings, for her research on processes that modify the lunar surface.
"Totally by accident, I saw gullies that looked strikingly like the gullies on Mars," she said.
"If the dry landslide hypothesis for the formation of martian gullies is correct, we might expect to see similar features on the moon, where there is no water," she said. "We do."
Gullies in the moon's 10-mile-diameter (17 kilometer) crater Dawes are similar in structure and size to those in a martian crater that MOC photographed. Micrometeorites hitting the smooth slopes and crater on the airless moon could easily trigger small avalanches that form gullies, Bart said."
Thursday, March 16, 2006
In 1981 Alan Guth first proposed the notion of a rapid period of inflation shortly after the Big Bang. Over the last few years astronomical observational evidence for this modification to the standard Big Bang has supported this theory. This article describes even more evidence.
[Side note: I remember debating origins with a fellow several years ago and he mentioned that he didn't like the notion of inflation since there wasn't much evidence for it. He saw it as a "band-aid" to Big Bang cosmology. Now this fellow wasn't inclined to believe in the Big Bang anyhow because he was a Hindu and believed in an eternal universe (not one that had a creation date in the finite past.) Today I hear the same comments about "dark energy" and "dark matter" - that they are hacks or fix-ups to the Big Bang model of the universe. Perhaps in a few years we'll be able to point to observational or even experimental evidence for those constructs.]
"Astronomers have for the first time penetrated the fog of the earliest universe and caught sight of it as a tiny marble-sized infant, just one-trillionth-of-a-second-old.
The remarkable view comes from the best-ever picture of early light, seen in the form of faint microwaves, unveiled today, and confirms the inflationary "Big Bang" theory of how the universe began, as well as why galaxies exist."
We live in a Goldilocks universe in that the physics of the universe are "just right" to allow for the existence of life. This fact requires an explanation and design is a compelling proposition.
Some have tried to sweep this argumentation under the rug by stating that this fine tuning is simply a result of anthropic selection. But is it really? Dr. Richard Swinburne provides a strong counter-argument..
"On a certain occasion, the firing squad aim their rifles at the prisoner to be executed. There are twelve expert marksmen in the firing squad, and they fire twelve rounds each. However, on this occasion, all 144 shots miss. The prisoner laughs and comments that the event is not something requiring any explanation because if the marksmen had not missed, he would not be there to observe them. But of course, the prisoner's comment is absurd; the marksmen all having missed is indeed something requiring explanation; and so, too, is what goes with it the prisoner's being alive to observe it." Now - in this linked article, you'll read about an award that Dr. Barrow, a proponent of cosmological design, has received to do research that explores the scientific evidence for a deeper spiritual reality to life.
"Cambridge University cosmologist and mathematician John Barrow was awarded $1.6-million yesterday to do research into whether God is sitting at the control panel behind the Theory of Everything about the universe...
He is one of the leading proponents of the anthropic principle of the universe, the dials-set-right idea -- the notion that the universe is, in Goldilocks's words, "just right" for life on Earth. Because if it were a little bigger or smaller, a little colder or warmer, a little younger or older, then life wouldn't exist...
It takes nearly 10 billion years to make the building blocks of living complexity in the stars and, because the universe is expanding, it must be at least 10 billion light years in size. We could not exist in a universe that was significantly smaller."
According to many evolutionary trees, the dinosaur discussed in this article should have been found with feathers.
"The discovery of a new dinosaur species without feathers usually doesn't generate as much of a stir as finding a feathered one, but a newfound fossil has scientists questioning the very origin of feathers. Prior to this finding, most scientists believed that both feathered dinosaurs and birds all evolved from one ancient feathered ancestor. The newfound species is a member of the feathered dinosaur family, but it lacks feathers... "This is a dinosaur that genealogically you expect to have feathers," Chiappe told LiveScience. "So what's going on here that it doesn't?"
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Here's a case where the shape design of the cochlea has been vindicated after further research. Previously researchers could find no discernable relationship between the spiral shape and the way that sounds are processed.
A good description of the operation of the "surprisingly complex" cochlea can be found in this write-up of the same story, "A New Twist to the Cochlea: Why It's Shaped the Way It is".
Now a few quotes from the linked article:
"Scientists have long wondered whether the cochlea's coiled-up shape plays an important role in how it processes sound. Although intuition said it should, theoretical models did not support the idea. The new work by Manoussaki, who is an applied mathematician, and colleagues has now shown that the spiral shape probably increases hearing sensitivity to low frequency sounds by as much as 20 decibels."
The Noah's Ark mystery lives on as described in this article. I honestly think this is a goose chase - but we'll see.
"High on Mount Ararat in eastern Turkey, there is a baffling mountainside "anomaly," a feature that one researcher claims may be something of biblical proportions.
Images taken by aircraft, intelligence-gathering satellites and commercial remote-sensing spacecraft are fueling an intensive study of the intriguing oddity. But whether the anomaly is some geological quirk of nature, playful shadows, a human-made structure of some sort, or simply nothing at all — that remains to be seen.
Whatever it is, the anomaly of interest rests at an elevation of 15,300 feet (4,663 meters) on the northwest corner of Mount Ararat, and is nearly submerged in glacial ice. It would be easy to call it merely a strange rock formation. But at least one man wonders if it could be the remains of Noah's Ark — a vessel said to have been built to save people and selected animals from the Great Flood, the 40 days and 40 nights of deluge as detailed in the Book of Genesis.
The Genesis blueprint of the Ark described the structure as having a 6-to-1 length-to-width ratio (300 cubits by 50 cubits). The anomaly, as viewed by satellite, is close to that 6-to-1 proportion."
Many skeptics of Big Bang cosmology have trouble with theoretical concepts like dark matter and dark energy. In fact, they think that these are signs of a failing paradigm.
However, recently, there have been several new potential explanations that astrophysicists are investigating including one where they claim that dark energy can be explained through a modified version of general relativity.
This particular article discusses another candidate for dark matter.
"Dark matter could light up the first stars in the universe if the dark matter is made up of sterile neutrinos. According to a paper by Peter Biermann, (Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie, Bonn) and Alexander Kusenko (University of California at Los Angeles), recently published in "Physical Review Letters", sterile neutrino decays speed up the formation of molecular hydrogen and light up the first stars as early as 20-100 million years after the Big Bang. The light from these first stars then ionizes the interstellar gas by 150-400 million years after the big bang, in accordance with the observations."
Sunday, March 12, 2006
Over the last few years biological molecular motors have been studied with increasing scrutiny for potential use in future nano applications. As described in this Science journal article, these biomotors operate much more efficiently in the context of their biological "highly organized architectures" than they do in artificial settings. In a sense there's an "engineered Gestaltism" (if you will) that can be observed. The work in this article describes a model that can be used to help understand these systems better.
"Protein cooperativity allows systems of biomotor assemblies to operate with greater determinism and efficiency and often provides physiological functionality that cannot be achieved by single molecules (1–9). For example, cooperation between RNA polymerase molecules can result in increased rates of transcription (2), and increased transport velocities have been observed with groups of monomeric kinesin motors (3, 4) and with multimotor assemblies comprising dimeric kinesins and dyneins (5). In the latter case, assemblies traveled in vivo with velocities up to 10 times as high as those observed in vitro. This result implies the presence of intermotor interactions in vivo that are not reproduced in in vitro assays. Although models of biomotor cooperativity (1, 6) can explain generic aspects of multimotor transport and predict new modes of transport such as spontaneous oscillations (7–11), the molecular details that give rise to these cooperative effects remain elusive. Many systems of motors are arranged in highly organized and hierarchical architectures in vivo (12, 13), but it is not clear how features such as the mechanical compliance of motor-motor linkages and intermotor spacing influence collective dynamics."
This journal article was published back in January, but it should serve as a reminder that life as we know it is minimally very complex. In this study, scientists have determined that the simple M. genitalium requires about 380 genes to live and reproduce.
This should ground us in our thinking when we discover liquid water on planets or moons outside of planet Earth. (Of course, I'm referring to this story, Saturn Moon Has Water Geysers and, Just Maybe Life.).
"Mycoplasma genitalium has the smallest genome of any organism that can be grown in pure culture. It has a minimal metabolism and little genomic redundancy. Consequently, its genome is expected to be a close approximation to the minimal set of genes needed to sustain bacterial life. Using global transposon mutagenesis, we isolated and characterized gene disruption mutants for 100 different nonessential protein-coding genes. None of the 43 RNA-coding genes were disrupted. Herein, we identify 382 of the 482 M. genitalium protein-coding genes as essential, plus five sets of disrupted genes that encode proteins with potentially redundant essential functions, such as phosphate transport. "
Thursday, March 09, 2006
There are several myths that circulate in the public about origins. One is that evolutionary change is unremitting. The fact of the matter is that the fossil record is categorized largely by stasis (or the lack of change) and whenever change does seem to occur, it occurs quickly.
In this article, you'll see yet another example of evolutionary stasis over a period of 11 million years. The only thing that has changed is the creature's teeth shape. [By comparison, it is proposed that humans and chimps shared a common ancestor about 5 million years ago.]
"Last year scientists described the body of a squirrel-like rodent found for sale in a meat market in Laos. They believed it belonged to a previously undescribed family and named it Laonastes aenigmamus.
But they failed to fully inspect the fossil record. Upon closer analysis of the creature's teeth, a second group of researchers determined it was a member of the previously known rodent family Diatomyidae. So a family thought to have died out 11 million years ago is still alive and kicking, the scientists report in the March 10 issue of the journal Science...
A recently discovered fossil of Laonastes matched the "living" specimen in skull shape and overall size. The only difference is that the "living" specimen's teeth are slightly more pointed.
"It looks like possibly one of the things that's been changing in family is improved cutting of vegetation," Dawson told LiveScience. "But over 11 million years you'd expect some differences in the structures."
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
Can we really appreciate the complexity of the process of the biological fusion of sensory data? Consider the amount of data that we collect from our surroundings..
"The eye sends at least ten million bits to the brain every second. The skin sends a million bits a second, the ear one hundred thousand, our smell sensors a further one hundred thousand bits a second, our taste buds perhaps a thousand bits a second. All in all, over eleven million bits a second from the world to our sensory mechanisms." (The User Illusion)Our brains collect all of this information, intelligently integrates it, and prunes it down to less than 100 bits for our consciousness to process.
This same fusion problem is now being studied by artificial intelligence researchers so that we can make machines more aware of their surroundings. Like most people who build things for a living, the researchers have a healthy respect for the complexity involved.
"Electronics and computing engineers from the University of Ulster have teamed up with neuroscientists, physicists and biologists from across Europe to investigate the incorporation of the senses we humans take for granted into intelligent computer systems of the future."
“The ultimate aim is to create machines which can capture information through sensory perception, process it in a way similar to the brain and then act intelligently on that information. The research will have practical application in a wide range of areas including robotics and industrial automation.
“The results of the research project are very promising - this is a very complex problem area but we have made some progress. We were able to create a theoretical model on how aspects of the process work and also to produce a demonstration system in hardware and software that merged vision and touch – albeit at a very basic level compared to that of living forms. We would hope that in the future we could create models that are more faithful to biology. Once we can get the models right we may be able to implement better, more realistic systems.”
Perhaps you've heard of the highly speculative PAH world hypothesis which "proposes that the use of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) was a means for a pre-RNA World basis for the origin of life."
Well this astronomical study seems to suggest that the radiation emitted from young galaxies seems to be highly destructive to PAH formation.
Some quotes from the article..
"Scientists said Tuesday they have found evidence that the earliest galaxies in the universe could have been extremely hostile environments for life. Using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, a team led by graduate student Yanling Wu of Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., reached this conclusion after studying the formation and destruction of polycyclic-aromatic-hydrocarbon molecules in more than 50 extremely distant blue compact dwarf galaxies. The organic molecules, comprising mostly hydrogen and carbon, are thought to have been among the first building blocks for life...
"Because BCD galaxies are metal poor and very compact, the intense ultraviolet radiation from young stars will destroy PAH molecules even if they are formed," Wu said. "The threshold for when these PAH molecules stop being destroyed is still uncertain."
The situation leads to "an interesting paradox, where the young stars responsible for the formation of PAHs may also be the main culprit of their destruction," wrote co-author Vassilis Charmandaris of the University of Greece, Heraklion.
In this press release about professor Deng's NSF award you'll read some of her thoughts on learning from the design of insect flight. Oh wait did I say design? Yes I did. The fact of the matter is that complex design patterns exist in nature. This is indisputable. The debate these days is about what mechanism has the "right stuff" to create such complexity.
"Biomimetics is the application of natural systems in modern technology, which has attracted a growing interest in the robotics research community...
To better understand how insects fly and hover, she is studying the wing kinematics, body dynamics, flight control systems and aerodynamics of flies and bees. Both have wings that can flap, rotate and deviate, essentially making a figure eight pattern as they move through the air.
“A fly can make a 90 degree turn in 50 milliseconds,” Deng said. “This is a result of their highly maneuverable wings, enhanced aerodynamics, sophisticated neural motor control systems and advanced sensory systems, all of which provide great lessons to build man-made flying machines at small size.”
Monday, March 06, 2006
The advanced communication abilities of insects is quite remarkable. Read about how "streaker" scout bees lead the direction of bee swarms.
"In the spring, large bee colonies of around 20,000 to 30,000 bees usually divide into two groups. One stays at home with a daughter of the queen, who then becomes queen. The original queen and the rest of the bees then leave in a massive cloud to form a new colony.
Scout bees, which comprise about five percent of the swarm, negotiate among themselves via dance communication as to where the new home will be located.
Beekman and her team photographed such bee swarms on the move. The sealed glands did not deter the scouts, which seem to operate as independent agents once the swarm takes flight.
"They (the streaker scouts) do not seem to move en masse," she said. "Instead, we think that an individual flies over the swarm, exits the swarm and then either waits for the swarm to catch up again or circles back to re-enter the swarm from behind. By not flying en masse, the scouts ensure that there will always be bees streaking and thus guiding the swarm."
In this summary article, you'll see that there's great complexity with respect to bat echolocation systems. ID proponents question the notion that such systems could arise without the assistance of intelligent direction. Now this doesn't preclude evolution as a mechanism - it's just that the selection forces would seemingly need to be highly fine tuned to shape such a system and as it stands now I think the evidence for these fine grained selection forces is scant. This leaves us to speculate about other ways in which intelligent influence could have shaped the design of these complex systems.
[Additional info: Referenced PloS Biology article]
"In an article published in the open access journal PLoS Biology, University of Maryland psychology professor Cynthia Moss reports on new research that shows bats have methods for echolocating food in "clutter" that may be more complex than scientists have thought...
"In each case we found that the bats spent more time strobing when the insect was positioned near a plant, a strong indication that they used sonar strobe groups to try to distinguish the insect from the background clutter," Moss says. "They also varied the intervals between pulses in the strobe group, depending on the distance between the prey and clutter."
Here's a fascinating summary about the planning and time keeping ability of hummingbirds.
"In the new work, the researchers found that free-living hummingbirds tested in their breeding territories in the Canadian Rocky Mountains have timing abilities that are considerably more impressive than those that have been shown previously in the laboratory. Not only were the hummingbirds able to remember how long it had been since they had last emptied a flower, but they could also keep track of the time since the last visit to eight different flowers, and could continue to do this through the course of a day. In essence, these birds can maintain, over long periods of time, at least eight independent stopwatches, each of which is started by a visit to a particular flower and is reset when the bird next empties that flower.
The work shows that animals in the real world are capable of more impressive timing feats than have been previously considered. The findings also suggest that animals may be capable of planning their future with some degree of precision."
Sunday, March 05, 2006
In this article about the study of bacteria from the last shuttle disaster you'll find some comments about panspermia. This notion has become popular lately since abiogenesis on Earth seems very unlikely given the short amount of time that was available for it to occur on the early Earth.
[Note: This article refers to the Earth as being 4.15 billion years old. I'm not sure if this was a misquote as most scientists believe that the earth is 4.5 billion years old. Also the earth-resurfacing Late Heavy Bombardment occurred about 3.9 billion years ago - leaving at most 50 million years (not 300 million years) for life to arise.]
For Welsh, the idea that life on earth began as panspermia describes moving through the universe and establishing itself, is not a difficult concept to grasp. There is widely accepted scientific evidence from ancient fossils of life on earth 3.85 billion years ago, Welsh said. In addition to that, it is scientifically accepted that the earth is 4.15 billion years old, leaving just 300 million years for life to arrive, Welsh said.
The steps life took to form, such as DNA, replication, photosynthesis and other evolutionary movements seem too complex, Welsh said, for them to develop in 300 million years.
“I think, for me at least, it is much more likely that a comet hit the earth with a few spores than it is that life just suddenly came about in 300 million years,” Welsh said. “It seems just logical for life to have gotten here on a comet than it does for life to have suddenly sprung up in only 300 million years. Panspermia isn’t just a science fiction idea; and maybe it is and we’re just talking nonsense, but maybe we’re not. Our little bacteria may lend evidence to that.”
This article recaps some of the recent archaeological finds in Israel that support the historicity of the scriptures.
"National headlines announcing three recent archaeological discoveries not only reaffirm the historical trustworthiness of the Bible’s narratives, they also highlight the important role biblical archaeology plays in Old and New Testament studies, according to Southern Baptist scholars Eric Mitchell and Steven Ortiz...
“Archaeology over the past century has affirmed the historicity of the Bible accounts time and time again,” Mitchell said.
Friday, March 03, 2006
Ever heard of the "other gospels"? The Gospel of Judas is getting a lot of attention recently because of the Da Vinci Code - but in reality this gospel like the other non-canonical gospels is not recognized by most Christians as being reliable and inspired works. Not only do some of these gospels contain contradictory statements to the canonical texts, they also were written much later than the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John - which were probably written during the first century. (Reference)
"He says the text is valuable to scholars of the second century but dismissed the notion that it'll reveal unknown biblical secrets. He speculated the timing of the release is aimed at capitalizing on interest in the film version of "The Da Vinci Code" a fictional tale that centers on a Christian conspiracy to cover up a marriage between Jesus and Mary Magdalene.
"There are a lot of second-, third- and fourth-century gospels attributed to various apostles," Robinson said. "We don't really assume they give us any first century information."
Right before our eyes we're seeing scientific evidence that devastates a traditional bastion of atheism. And that is the notion that life is largely the result of chance and contingency.
The numerous examples of convergence suggests that there's a "deep fabric to biological forms" and that Darwinian evolution navigates over a few nodes of occupation that likely were "effectively predetermined from the Big Bang." (Simon Conway Morris, Life's Solution)
"Dr. Harold Zakon and colleagues, in a paper recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, show that African and South American groups of fish independently evolved electric organs by modifying sodium channel proteins typically used in muscle contraction."
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
What does it take to become an astrophysicist? A physics degree and a batch of magic mushrooms.. Just kidding. Anyhow.. here's a new theory that attempts to thwart the "many worlds" interpretation of quantum mechanics. But be sure to keep "Occam's Razor" handy - as it includes a few strange notions such as causality running backwards.
In all fairness, the "many worlds" interpretation of quantum mechanics runs a bit loose with the science too.
Now a few quotes from the linked article...
"Scientist Ron DeHaas has developed a theory that answers many of the puzzling questions about the universe. The most fascinating aspect of the new theory is that it suggests that causality actually moves backwards through time; that is, cause follows effect, rather than vice versa.
Negative-time information quanta, herein referred to as "backyons" provide the hidden variable necessary to establish a deterministic model of quantum physics. Backyons provide information about the future to systems, thereby determining which of multiple possible outcomes must arise. One single universe (the "ultimate observer") outcome is demanded by this model; that universe may be open, flat, or closed. As a result of determinism provided by this model, scientific laws work.
A t- information quantity (particle? string?), herein referred to as the "backyon," brings Einstein (a la EPR) and Copenhagen together, and untangles entanglement. It eliminates the need for many universes, and in fact demands only one."
I have yet to read this book or the thesis paper that preceeded it for teleological considerations but I wanted to point out that gradualism is indeed being challenged by members of the scientific community as being the sole mechanism for evolutionary change. Just in the last few days, theories such as "sudden origins", "facilitated variation", and now "composition evolution" have shown up in the news. This tells me that its not just the ID folks and creationists that are recognizing that the emperor has no clothes.
"‘Challenging gradualism has been seen as evolutionary heresy, but I show that evolution by natural selection needs to be separated from the assumption of gradual change - large adaptive changes need not be seen as evolutionary heresy...’
His new theory shows that sex, symbiosis and other mechanisms involving the coevolution of cooperating entities move beyond the normal evolutionary dogma of ‘accumulation of small changes’.
This has important consequences for what one considers difficult for evolution, he says: ‘For example, the concept of “irreducible complexity” (believed to indicate that a system can’t be evolved) depends on the assumption of “successive slight modifications”.
‘Some systems that appear to be irreducibly complex could in fact be easily evolved by compositional mechanisms."