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February 12th

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News Story Archive

The Bacterial Flagella Evolved not Designed.  In an article published on-line 9/6/2006 in Nature Reviews Microbiology (or see short summary), Mark Pallen of the University of Birmingham and Nicholas Matzke of NCSE,  review the evidence for the evolution of the bacterial flagellum.  They handily dismiss the need for any great conceptual leaps in creating a model of flagellar evolution and speculate as to how an experimental program focused on this topic might look. 

Growing evidence that evolution is not just real but is actually still happening to humans today.  "From 1970 to 2000, the view was that although natural selection is very important, it is relatively rare,  That view was driven largely because we did not have data to identify the signals of natural selection. In the last five years, there has been a tremendous growth in understanding how much selection there is. Everywhere we look, there appears to be very widespread signals of natural selection in many genes and many processes."  wrote Dr. Jonathan Pritchard, a geneticist at the University of Chicago, in a recent article in PLoS-Biology.  Our insight to evolution and natural selection has  deepened as we have gained the ability to read the human genome.

Irreducible Complexity Refuted - By reconstructing ancient genes from long-extinct animals, scientists have for the first time demonstrated the step-by-step progression of how evolution created a new piece of molecular machinery by reusing and modifying existing parts. The findings offer a counterargument to doubters of evolution who question how a progression of small changes could produce the intricate mechanisms found in living cells. This experiment refutes the notion of "irreducible complexity".

A 375-million-year-old fish fossil with the beginnings of legs - A large scaly creature not seen before, it appears to be a long-sought missing link in the evolution of some fishes from water to walking on land. The skeletons have the fins, scales and other attributes of a giant fish. It shows anatomical traits of a transitional creature, a fish that is still a fish but has changes that anticipate the emergence of land animals — and is thus a predecessor of amphibians, reptiles and dinosaurs, mammals and eventually humans. See also Shubin et al., Nature 440 (2006) 764-71

A Catholic Scientist and Priest Looks at Evolution - Father George V. Coyne,  Vatican Observatory Director and Jesuit, shares his convictions that  (1)  the Intelligent Design (ID) movement, while evoking a God of power and might, a designer God, actually belittles God, makes her/him too small and paltry; (2) our scientific understanding of the universe, untainted by religious considerations, provides for those who believe in God a marvelous opportunity to reflect upon their beliefs.

Breakthrough of the Year: Evolution in Action  Today evolution is the foundation of all biology, so basic and all-pervasive that scientists sometimes take its importance for granted. At some level every discovery in biology and medicine rests on it, in much the same way that all terrestrial vertebrates can trace their ancestry back to the first bold fishes to explore land. Equipped with genome data and field observations of organisms from microbes to mammals, biologists made huge strides toward understanding the mechanisms by which living creatures evolve. 

Inteligent Design is Religion according to the decision (139 page PDF) in  Kitzmiller v. DoverJudge John E. Jones III concluded that, "The proper application of both the endorsement and Lemon tests to the facts of this case makes it abundantly clear that the Board's ID Policy violates the Establishment Clause. In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents."

"IS IT SCIENCE YET?" Matthew Brauer, Barbara Forrest, and Steven Gey offer a definitive assessment of the legal issues involved in the Dover Pennsylvania trial of Kitzmiller v. Dover in their new law review article published in the Washington University Law Quarterly (2005; vol. 83, no. 1).  With almost 150 pages of closely reasoned argument and almost 600 footnotes of meticulous documentation, "Is it science yet?" is sure to become the leading treatment of the constitutionality of teaching "intelligent design" for the foreseeable future.

SHOW ME THE SCIENCE.  To date, Daniel Dennett says, the proponents of ID have not produced anything. No experiments or observations that undermine evolution.  Instead, the proponents of ID misuse scientist's work, then after an expected angry rebuttal, they cite it as evidence of a "controversy"..... NY Times August 28th 2005

Cobb County Anti-Evolution Stickers: Let’s Get The Facts Right. An appeals court Judge recently criticized the ruling made earlier this year that ordered the removal of anti-evolution stickers placed by the Cobb County school board in textbooks, saying that the words on the stickers are "technically accurate".  They are not, and they contain factual errors and misconceptions. ....MORE

Dover PA - a contemporary Scopes trial 39 years in the making. Chris Mooney  describes how ID theorists and other creationists don’t like what the overwhelming body of science tells us about where human beings come from. Their recourse? Trying to interfere with the process by which children are supposed to learn about the best scientific (as opposed to religious) answer - interference representing the epitome of anti-intellectualism..... The  American Prospect Online, Aug 10, 2005

Isn't Intelligent Design 'just' a theory? In fact, says Massimo Pigliucc it is worse: intelligent design is not even a (scientific) theory, it's a idea that used to have some philosophical valence in pre-scientific times, but is clearly dead now. Ironically, ID is "just' a theory" in the derogative sense reserved by creationists for evolution. ID is a hunch of irreducibly superstitious and insecure people who really can't stand the thought of a universe where they are not the center of all attention....MORE

Evangelical Scientists Refute the Theory of Gravity using a Corollary of of Intelligent Design.  "Intelligent Falling" asserts that the theories used by secular physicists to explain gravity are not internally consistent. Secular scientists admit that Einstein's ideas about gravity are mathematically irreconcilable with quantum mechanics. This fact, Intelligent Falling proponents say, proves that gravitational theory is in crisis..... More from The Oinion 8/17/05

President Bush takes a hammering for his remarks about evolution and intelligent design after implying that "...both sides ought to be properly taught...".  As Glenn Branch of the NCSE stated, Bush would have done better to heed his White House science adviser, John Marburger, who has said that evolution was the 'cornerstone of modern biology' and who has characterized ID as not even being a scientific theory." ..... More

Dinosaur Fossil Embryos of "Extreme Evolutionary Significance".  Tiny fossil embryos curled up inside a clutch of African dinosaur eggs nearly 200 million years old hint at a remarkable story of evolution, scientists report -- the transformation of an early tribe of plant-eating animals only a few feet long that became, over millions of years, the largest animals ever to walk the Earth..... More from - SFGate 7/29/05

ID may as well stand for Incompetent Design.  "You have a philosophic choice between evolution or belief in ID, so called intelligent design. But even a first-year engineering student would be embarrassed to have designed your lower back....." More from Science, Letters, 7/22/05 

Evolution at Work (and creationism nowhere in sight) from The Loom by Carl Zimmer shows how evolutionary trees and natural selection are at the very core of a vitally important area of medical research in understanding the road map for future research on the new strain of HIV. More at http://www.corante.com/loom/archives/034163print.html

Newly discovered dinosaur called 'evolution caught in the act' of dietary shift.  Fossil bones of a new tribe of feathered dinosaurs that died by the hundreds 125 million years ago are giving scientists fresh insights into the evolution of the lineage from fierce carnivores to placid plant-eaters. More from - SFGate 5/5/05

Evolution Sticker Shock  - While there’s plenty of room for adults to disagree on matters of religion or science, this debate pits a minority of evangelical believers in the literal word of the Creation against 150 years of scientifically generated data. More at ... Op-Ed 12/16/04 The Seattle Times

Why It's Unconstitutional to Teach "Intelligent Design" (Divine Design) in the Public Schools - Supreme Court precedent holds that state-sponsored attacks on evolution in public schools are unconstitutional. Why, then, are evolution opponents trying to change curricula? Aren't these efforts doomed to fail when challenged in court, or are they just symbolic protests? More at.... http://writ.news.findlaw.com/dorf/20041222.html

In the September 2004 issue of Christianity Today, Editor John Wilson suggests "intelligent design clean up its act",  he argues that it's time for ID'ers "to engage in constructive criticism of the Young Earth view," and that If ID is going to claim pursuit of scientific work, "it would be more becoming to do some of the work first". More at ....  http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2004/009/24.62.html

Joy now reigns among some -- but fortunately not all -- citizens of Dover, Pa. - The Dover Area School District board has leaped ahead in the hot competition to be the leading contender in the world series of scientific nonsense and the next school system taken to court for teaching creationism.

An astounding find that may change the world of paleoanthropology, and challenges our perception of what it means to be human.  A possible new species of tiny human has been discovered, which lived on the remote Indonesian island of Flores just 18,000 years ago. Researchers have so far unearthed remains from eight individuals who were just one meter tall, with grapefruit-sized skulls. These astonishing little people, nicknamed 'hobbits', made tools, hunted tiny elephants and lived at the same time as modern humans who were colonizing the area.

Ancestor of Tyrannosaurus rex discovered with clear impressions of downy feathers from head to tail.   The 130-million-year-old fossils from northeastern China provide the first direct evidence that tyrannosaurs had protofeathers and support the hypothesis that some dinosaurs evolved a feathery covering to help them keep warm. Xing Xu, et al. Nature, 2004, 431, 680-4

New genomic-scale data offers powerful, unprecedented resolution of the evolutionary tree. The finding is important because an accurate depiction of a tree of life promises biologists a summary of the history of life on Earth during
 billions of years Rokas et al., Nature, 2003, 425, 798 - 804

Biologists Detail Evolution of Gene Related to Brain's Growth that has been under intense Darwinian pressure in the last few million years, changing its structure 15 times since humans and chimps separated from their common ancestor.

Fossils of 160,000-year-old skulls fill gap in human evolution record and support out-of-Africa theory.
A major discovery of 160,000-year-old "near-modern" humans, the oldest humans yet found, shows a thickly muscled subspecies of Homo sapiens and a wonderful confirmation of human evolution. (T.D.White et al., Nature, 2003, 423, 742-747)

A confirming example of co-evolution, what Darwin first noticed during his famed voyage aboard the Beagle, has been shown by two biologists studying the lives of hummingbirds and flowers on Caribbean islands. A remarkable example of animals and plants that evolve to meet each other's needs. (E.J. Temeles & W.J. Kress, Science, 2003, 300, 630-633).

Artificial Life Experiments That Show How Complex Functions Can Evolve have been carried out by an interdisciplinary team of scientists at Michigan State and Caltech, with the help of powerful computers. They have used a kind of artificial life to create a road map detailing the evolution of complex organisms. These findings show how complex functions can originate by random mutation and natural selection. (R.E. Lenski, et al., Nature, 2003, 423, 139-144 )

Fossils of a four-winged, feathered dinosaur that lived 128 million years ago in trees and glided to earth to seize its prey have been unearthed in China, a find that American scientists say could revolutionize the long debate over the origin of flight in birds (Xing Xu, et al., Nature, 2003, 421, 335-340 ).

"New Study Suggests Missing Link that Explains How Dinosaurs Learned to Fly" (Jan.17, 2003) - Two-legged dinosaurs may have used their forelimbs as wing-like structures to propel themselves rapidly up steep inclines long before they took to the skies, reports a University of Montana researcher in the January 17 issue of the journal Science. The new theory adds a middle step that may link two current and opposing explanations for how reptiles evolved into flying birds.

"Using Computers, Scientists Successfully Predict Evolution of E. Coli Bacteria" (Nov. 14, 2002) - Rresearchers at the University of California at San Diego have created a computer model that accurately predicts how E. coli metabolic systems adapt and evolve when the bacteria are placed under environmental constraints.

"Extending The Ice Core Record Beyond Half A Million Years" (Nov. 5, 2002) A new ice core being drilled by a consortium of European laboratories has surpassed previous ages, and looks like its extending the ice core record several hundred thousand years into the past.

Ohio Survey - Scientists Support Evolution, Reject"Intelligent Design" (Oct.11,2002) Ohio university scientists overwhelmingly view "intelligent design" as religious, not scientific. Majority (93%) of scientist were not aware of "any scientifically valid evidence or theory challenging evolution/natural selection."


"The purpose of science is not to find everlasting wisdom, but to put an end to everlasting error."
Bertold Brecht in "The Life of Galileo Galilee