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Re: New society ponders universe's design, etc

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  • Stephen E. Jones
    Group Here are excerpts from recent webbed scientific news articles. Some of these links may not work. My comments are in square brackets. Your comments and
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 1, 2002
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      Here are excerpts from recent webbed scientific news articles. Some of
      these links may not work. My comments are in square brackets. Your
      comments and criticisms are welcome.

      My last such excerpts post is at:

      This looks like it is CED's first message for 2002, so once again I wish
      you and yours a Happy New Year!


      http://www.vny.com/cf/news/upidetail.cfm?QID=234261 United Press
      International Friday, 7 December 2001... New society ponders
      universe's design ... WASHINGTON, Dec. 6 (UPI) -- The leading
      proponent of the hypothesis that the universe is the product of mindful
      planning has launched an international society to give this idea a fair
      hearing. William A. Dembski, a research professor at Baylor University
      in Waco, Texas, [said] he hoped his Princeton-based International
      Society for Complexity, Information and Design would "push the
      discussion forward." Last year, Dembski's theory that the universe was
      not the product of a random set of circumstances, as orthodox
      Darwinists teach, had caused a crisis at his university. At the time, he
      said he was opposed by professors stuck in methodological naturalism,
      a stricture obliging scientists to be provisional atheists, even if their
      research surfaces evidence to the contrary. ... Dembski's opponents
      accused him of practicing bad science and endangering Baylor's
      scholarly reputation. At one point, the controversy became so frenzied
      Robert Sloan, the university's president, spoke of McCarthyism.
      Though Sloan supported Dembski's work, according to Baylor's
      spokesman Larry Brumley, he dismissed him from his position as head
      of the university's Center for Complexity, Research and Design.
      Dembski, who holds a doctorate in mathematics, another in
      philosophy, and a Master of Divinity degree [said] "things have been
      patched up" with the Baptist school's administration. ... "Dr. Dembski
      has spent the last several months building bridges with faculty and
      staff," Brumley told UPI. "A number of them are very interested in his
      work and have entered into a fruitful and productive dialogue with Dr.
      Dembski." Dembski's theory is called Intelligent Design -- or ID. In his
      research, Dembski applies mathematics and statistics to detect purpose
      in the makeup of the natural world. As the magazine, Christianity
      Today, put it, "He is looking for the difference between a jumble of
      clouds and skywriting that broadcasts a message." ... Dembski
      expressed the hope that "the new generation will take these ideas and
      run with them." ... he was encouraged by the great interest of many
      students in ID. "The rebelliousness of the young might just prompt
      them take on the reigning (Darwinist) ideology," ... ISCID, the new
      society he heads as executive director, is focusing on the young. It
      invites undergraduates and graduates to submit papers for cash prizes
      of $1,000 and $2,000, respectively. The society will conduct summer
      workshops in Princeton for graduate and undergraduate students plus
      exceptional high school juniors and seniors. It will award postdoctoral
      fellowships and give research grants. ... The society, whose star-
      studded board of fellows includes scholars from around the world, also
      is planning biennial conferences, the first of which will take place at
      Oxford University in England in the summer of 2003. Though himself
      an evangelical Christian, Dembski made clear that ISCID would not
      discriminate against papers of young researchers refuting the concept
      of Intelligent Design. "The point is that I want them to at least consider
      it, which is something doctrinaire Darwinists do not do." Dembski
      stressed, "Intelligent design is fundamental to the understanding of the
      universe -- both from the religious and the scientific point of view."
      But he was quick to add this would not automatically substantiate the
      Judeo-Christian belief in a "creatio ex nihilo" or creation from nothing.
      Dembski pointed out, for example, the German Enlightenment
      philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) saw in the order of the
      universe the hand of an architect who had arranged matter. Yet that
      said nothing about who had created matter. "This is a question only
      faith can answer," Dembski said. "As a Christian -- though not as a
      scientist -- I hold a doctrine of Creation." [The new scientific
      revolution gathers speed! But as always in the past history of science,
      it is opposed by those who have a vested interest in the existing

      ABCNEWS December 7, 2001 ... A new study on the power of prayer
      over pregnancy reports surprising results; but many physicians remain
      skeptical. ... NEW YORK, Oct. 4 - This week, researchers at Columbia
      University and Cha Hospital of Korea have hesitantly stoked the fires of
      medicine, theology, and philosophy with an article reporting that women
      undergoing in vitro fertilization had higher rates of pregnancy when groups
      of strangers anonymously prayed for them. ...The Study Researchers at
      Columbia University conducted the study with 199 women at an in vitro
      fertilization clinic in Korea. Unknown to the patients and their doctors,
      groups of strangers from the US, Canada, and Australia were asked to pray
      for their success in getting pregnant. Pictures of patients in the test group
      were sent to the people praying when the women began hormone treatment
      and prayer continued for the next three weeks. No one knew which group
      was which until the three weeks was up. The patients in the study were all
      undergoing in vitro fertilization .... According to the latest statistics from
      the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, the success rate of in
      vitro fertilization averages 22.8 percent live births per egg retrieval. To the
      surprise of the researchers, the women who were prayed for ended up with
      a significantly higher pregnancy rate than those who were not prayed for.
      "About 50 percent got pregnant in the prayer group and about 26 percent
      in the non-prayer group," ... Dr. Roger A. Lobo... said ... Lobo and his
      colleagues initially questioned whether to publish their findings, since the
      results seemed so unlikely. Yet the findings were so statistically
      overpowering, the research team decided to share them ... This study is one
      of many that have been done on religion and medicine, and while the results
      are statistically significant, the benefits of prayer have by no means been
      conclusively proven. ... [In a naturalistic paradigm, evidence of the
      supernatural never *can* be accepted. No mattre how "statistically
      significant" the results are, they will always be referred to vague or even
      unknown naturalistic causes, or it will be said that more work needs to be

      Connected telegraph.co.uk [...] The greatest Briton ... 16/12/2001 .. By a
      process of natural selection, it has to be Sir Isaac Newton for Robert
      Matthews IT is hard to believe that two years have passed since all those
      silly millennial "greatest ever" polls, and harder still to believe that the BBC
      is running another poll, this time for a forthcoming series on The Greatest
      Briton. Great Briton? Sir Isaac Newton For anyone with the slightest
      scientific disposition, it is a question with only one sensible answer: Sir
      Isaac Newton. The work of no other scientist - including that of Darwin,
      Faraday, Turing - has the same combination of everyday application and
      cosmic scope. ... [This is Matthews' pick, not the result. It will be
      interesting to see how Darwin does finish up. It is not just scientists, so
      maybe Britney Spears will win! :-) The discussion is at

      The New York Times ... December 4, 2001 Challenging Particle Physics as
      Path to Truth ... In science's great chain of being, the particle physicists
      place themselves with the angels, looking down from the heavenly spheres
      on the chemists, biologists, geologists, meteorologists - those who are
      applying, not discovering, nature's most fundamental laws. Everything,
      after all, is made from subatomic particles. Once you have a concise theory
      explaining how they work, the rest should just be filigree. Even the kindred
      discipline of solid-state physics, which is concerned with the mass behavior
      of particles - what metals, crystals, semiconductors, whole lumps of matter
      do - is often considered a lesser pursuit. "Squalid state physics," Murray
      Gell-Mann, discoverer of the quark, dubbed it. Others dismiss it as "dirt
      physics." Recently there have been rumblings from the muck. In a clash of
      scientific cultures, some prominent squalid-staters have been challenging
      the particle purists as arbiters of ultimate truth. "The stakes here are very
      high," said Dr. Robert B. Laughlin ... who shared a Nobel Prize in 1998 for
      discoveries in solid-state physics. "At issue is a deep epistemological matter
      having to do with what physics is." Last year Dr. Laughlin and Dr. David
      Pines ... published a manifesto declaring that the "science of the past,"
      which seeks to distill the richness of reality into a few simple equations
      governing subatomic particles, was coming to an impasse. Many complex
      systems - the very ones the solid-staters study - appear to be irreducible.
      Made of many interlocking parts, they display a kind of synergy, obeying
      "higher organizing principles" that cannot be further simplified no matter
      how hard you try. .... The squalid-staters are challenging them in a debate
      over how the universe is made and how science should be done. Following
      the method of Plato, the particle physicists are inclined to see nature as
      crystallized mathematics. In the beginning was a single superforce, the
      embodiment of an elegant set of equations they call, only a bit facetiously,
      the theory of everything. Then along came the Big Bang to ruin it all. The
      universe cooled and expanded, the single force splintering into the four
      very different forces observed today: electromagnetism and the weak and
      strong nuclear forces, which work inside atoms, are described by quantum
      mechanics and special relativity. The fourth force, gravity, is described by
      an entirely different theory, general relativity. The particle physicists'
      ultimate goal is "grand unification" - recovering the primordial symmetry in
      the form of a single law - a few concise equations, it is often said, that
      could be silk-screened onto a T- shirt. This approach, in which the most
      complex phenomena are boiled down to a unique underlying theory, is
      called reductionism. The problem, the solid-staters say, is that many forms
      of matter - ranging from the exotic like superconductors and superfluids to
      the mundane like crystals and metals - cannot be described in terms of
      fundamental particle interactions. When systems become very complex,
      completely new and independent laws emerge. "More is different," as the
      Nobel laureate Philip W. Anderson put it ... Like Aristotle, they [the solid-
      staters] lean toward the notion that it is the equations that flow from nature
      instead of the other way around. Mathematics is just a tool for making
      sense of it all. "For at least some fundamental things in nature, the theory
      of everything is irrelevant," declared Dr. Laughlin and Dr. Pines .... "The
      central task of theoretical physics in our time is no longer to write down
      the ultimate equations but rather to catalog and understand emergent
      behavior in its many guises, including potentially life itself." ... [It is
      interesting to see the Realism vs Nominalism philosophical struggle now
      showing up even in physics. Another example of how science has to start
      with metaphysical assumptions about reality. I like the bit about "Many
      complex systems ... appear to be irreducible!]

      The New York Times ... December 11, 2001 Engineers Ask Nature for
      Design Advice ...What does a flower known as the sacred white lotus have
      to do with house paint? In the world of biomimicry, everything. The white
      lotus is a symbol of purity, yet it grows in swamps around the world. The
      secret of how the flower rises above its dismal environment was discovered
      by a German botanist, Dr. Wilhelm Barthlott ... who spent 20 years
      studying the microscopic architecture of thousands of plant surfaces with a
      scanning electron microscope. Dr. Barthlott noticed that the leaves that
      needed the least amount of cleaning before they were scanned had the
      roughest surfaces. And the cleanest leaf of all - the white lotus - turned out
      to have tiny points on it, like a bed of nails, Dr. Barthlott found. When a
      speck of dust or dirt falls on the leaf, it teeters precariously on those points.
      When a drop of water rolls across the tiny points, it picks up the poorly
      attached dirt and carries it away. The lotus, in other words, has a self-
      cleaning leaf. The lotus effect, as it is called, has been applied to a house
      paint made in Germany called Lotusan. The paint ... is guaranteed to stay
      clean for five years without detergents or sandblasting. ..The lotus effect is
      an example of biomimicry, an engineering approach that has been gaining
      momentum in recent years as manufacturers look to nature to solve some
      engineering problems. By looking at the way plants and animals handle
      similar kinds of problems, the engineers hope to make products that are
      less polluting, use fewer materials and even cut costs. ... Nature has
      inspired engineers for a long time, for things like hypodermic needle tips
      shaped like rattlesnake fangs and Velcro, which is based on the same
      principle as those cockleburs that stick to socks in a walk through a field.
      But the search for biological designs with commercial potential has become
      more sophisticated and more widespread... I is an example of thinking
      about manufacturing in a different way. "The question we ask is, How
      would nature solve this problem?" said David Oakey ... "When you ask that
      question, you move in directions you never would have thought about." ...
      [Another example of how humans, being designers, intuitively recognise
      design in (and hence a Designer behind) nature (Psalm 19:1; Romans

      http://www.apa.org/monitor/chimps.html APA Monitor Volume 32, No.
      11 December 2001 Chimps have minds of their own Researcher urges
      science to recognize the idea of diversity among minds. ... Human
      assumptions that chimpanzees likely share watered-down versions of the
      human mind has clouded our interpretation of chimpanzee behavior,
      according to Daniel Povinelli .... Researchers have relied too much on the
      idea that because chimpanzees and humans evolved from a common
      ancestor, any trait in humans must have a comparable trait in chimpanzees.
      ... In particular, he believes, it's not true for "theory of mind"--the human
      ability to understand the world from others' perspectives, which
      comparative psychologists have long tried to pin on chimpanzees. ... he
      summarized several years of research from his lab looking at how
      chimpanzees reason about social behavior and physical objects. It
      demonstrates, he said, that instead of using an understanding of others'
      beliefs and intentions to figure out social situations, chimps use more
      concrete cues such as others' posture and gaze. For example, they are just
      as likely to reach out for food to a person who isn't looking at them as to
      someone who is looking at them, but won't reach out to someone with his
      or her back turned. "They are extremely sensitive to face and eyes, but they
      don't imbue them with the psychology of seeing," ... Their view of the
      world isn't muddied by the complex reasoning humans do trying to figure
      out the world. "... "humans alone appear to have evolved a system for
      explaining those statistical regularities in terms of unobservable events such
      as mental states and physical forces." ... [Another example of how
      evolutionary thinking hinders cience.]

      BBC ... 25 December, 2001 ... 'Natural genetic engineer' laid bare ...
      It has to be one of the cleverest lifeforms on the planet - and scientists have
      just been given the best handle yet on its inner workings. Agrobacterium
      tumefaciens is a microbe that infects plants; it gives them tumours that start
      producing the chemicals on which the microbe likes to feed. The bacterium
      can gorge itself on this nutrient supply because it has evolved the unique
      ability to transfer DNA into plants and change their behaviour - a skill that
      has led some to dub it the "natural genetic engineer". ... Researchers have
      hijacked A. tumefaciens to make plants do more useful things than just turn
      themselves into microbial dinner tables. The bacterium has helped plant
      scientists create new crops that grow larger, are resistant to disease and
      even produce drugs in their leaves. And such modifications should become
      easier and more sophisticated now that the complete genetic code of A.
      tumefaciens itself has been cracked. ... "It's a tricky little bug," said Dr
      Steve Slater, from Cereon Genomics .... "It causes the plant to make a safe
      home for it and then engineers the plant to feed it," ... The DNA sequence
      of the bacterium, known as strain 58, has been deposited in a public
      database for all to see and use ... A. tumefaciens has about 5,500 genes
      distributed on two circular structures known as plasmids and on two larger
      chromosomes - one of these is also circular; the other is linear in shape.
      This arrangement is quite unusual in bacteria. Scientists hope the new
      information will give them a better insight into the bacterium's remarkable
      infectious process and also tell them something about the evolution of
      disease in plants. "Knowledge gleaned from the genome sequence of A.
      tumefaciens could be key to understanding the evolution of plant-microbe
      relationships," said... Dr Derek Wood. ... Dr Slater said it was
      extraordinary that a microbe should carry around genetic material that
      could be used to control the cells of a higher organism. This is the only
      case in nature where DNA and proteins from bacteria are transferred into
      plants or animals ... "The thing I think is really astounding is that the genes
      are expressed in the plant cell; the bacterium is carrying around genes that
      have transcriptional control elements that are eukaryotic-type - are plant-
      type. It's really amazing." .... "This is the only case in nature where DNA
      and proteins from bacteria are transferred into plants or animals," said
      Eugene Nester ... "At one time, many scientists said it couldn't be done.
      But in fact, normal tobacco plants contain the A. tumefaciens DNA."
      And Dr Slater added: "What the full sequence gives us is the ability to look
      for additional genes that may be involved in the tDNA transfer and identify
      ways that we might be able to enhance the process and make it more
      efficient." ... [So how did a prokaryote acquire part of a eukaryote genome
      by Darwinian means? And why would it do it on Darwinian premises, since
      bacteria have no trouble surviving and multiplying? And why has only one
      bacterium the ability to do it?]

      ... December 18 ... Howling Amazon Monster Just an Indian Legend?
      BRASILIA, Brazil (Reuters) - Imagine this: a hairy, six-foot monster,
      howling and stinking of death, crossing your path in the semi-darkness
      under the canopy of the mighty Amazon jungle. Among Amazon Indians,
      legend has it that such a creature stalks the forests like a tropical
      Abominable Snowman -- never photographed or captured. The animal
      species called "Mapinguari," or giant defenders of the forests, by the
      Indians, is also known to the thousands of hunters that brave the forests
      every year. One such person, Joao Batista Azevedo, says he saw a
      Mapinguari 20 years ago after a 45-day canoe ride from the nearest village.
      "I was working by the river when I heard a scream, a horrible scream," the
      now 70-year-old Azevedo [said] ... "Suddenly something looking like a
      man came out of the forest, all covered in hair. He was walking on two legs
      and thank God he did not come toward us. I will always remember that
      day." Veteran Amazon ornithologist David Oren takes such stories very
      seriously. So much, in fact, that since 1988 he has been on a quest to find
      one of the creatures in the name of science and has led several expeditions
      into the depths of the world's largest rain forest to hunt for it. ... Oren's
      theory is that the beast could be the world's last living giant ground sloth --
      a distant relative of existing tree sloths -- that became extinct more than
      10,000 years ago. That belief has cost him dearly, he says, in the often
      conservative scientific community where reputation is everything. The
      National Geographic Society turned him down and he has funded his
      expeditions largely with his own money. Paul Martin, a ... leading expert on
      the theory that humans were responsible for the extinction of such animals
      as the giant ground sloth, is one skeptic. ..."I think he is 13,000 years too
      late. This sure does sound like the hunt for a Bigfoot or the Loch Ness
      monster," Martin said. "The part of me that is completely romantic is
      rooting for David Oren. But where the science part of me is concerned I
      don't give him a chance." Oren argues that a kind of giant ground sloth
      could still be alive in the Amazon because the forests offer huge, remote
      areas providing the necessary isolation to survive. Thick and impenetrable,
      the Amazon's continuous forest covers an area larger than all of Western
      Europe and is home to up to 30 percent of the world's animal and plant life.
      ... "What they describe: a creature approximately two meters (six feet) tall
      when standing upright; a very strong, unpleasant smell; extremely heavy
      and powerful build; capable of breaking thick roots with its footsteps," the
      article says. ... In his Brasilia villa, Oren keeps more evidence that includes
      a clay mold of a footprint, about an inch deep, with three large toes. The
      toes face backward because the creature walks on its knuckles, he says.
      A series of pictures includes a photo of claw marks on a tree, eight of them
      about a foot long and an inch deep. ... [The bit about "in the often
      conservative scientific community ... reputation is everything", explains
      why most scientists are too afraid to question Darwinism and support

      "What is life? To the physicist the two distinguishing features of living
      systems are *complexity and organization*. Even a simple single-celled
      organism, primitive as it is, displays an intricacy and fidelity unmatched
      by any product of human ingenuity. Consider, for example, a lowly
      bacterium. Close inspection reveals a complex network of function and
      form. The bacterium may interact with its environment in a variety of
      ways, propelling itself, attacking enemies, moving towards or away
      from external stimuli, exchanging material in a controlled fashion. Its
      internal workings resemble a vast city in organization. Much of the
      control rests with the cell nucleus, wherein is also contained the genetic
      'code', the chemical blueprint that enables the bacterium to replicate.
      The chemical structures that control and direct all this activity may
      involve molecules with as many as a million atoms strung together in a
      complicated yet highly specific way." (Davies P.C.W., "God and the
      New Physics," [1983], Penguin: London, 1990, reprint, p.59. Emphasis
      in original)
      Stephen E. Jones sejones@... http://members.iinet.net.au/~sejones
      Moderator: CreationEvolutionDesign@yahoogroups.com
      Group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CreationEvolutionDesign
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