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Archive for the ‘Intelligent Design’ Category

from OneNewsNow:

Ida_skeletonThe president of Answers in Genesis says an alleged new “missing link” found by scientists is nothing more than an extinct primate. 

 On Tuesday, scientists in New York unveiled what they described as the missing link in human evolution, a fossilized skeleton reportedly 47 million years old. They said the creature — nicknamed “Ida” — had four legs and a long tail, was about the size of a small cat, and had human-like nails instead of claws, along with a bone in her foot that is similar to humans.
 
According to Associated Press, scientists said while the creature is not a direct ancestor of monkeys and humans, it provides a good indication of what that ancestor may have looked like.

Ken Ham, president of the apologetics ministry Answers in Genesis, finds it ironic that the same scientists, in a research paper detailing their findings, toned down their pronouncements after pressure from colleagues in the scientific community.
 
“One of those reviewers said that…whether nor not it’s going to be a transitional form, or missing link, is a judgment for the scientific community,” Ham states. “And he’s quoted as saying that [issue] will be sorted out, or at least debated extensively in the community for years, once the paper is published.”
 
Ham says the fossil is similar to a modern lemur, and in no way resembles a human skeleton. 
 
The ministry has stated: “Because the fossil is similar to a modern lemur (a small, tailed, tree-climbing primate), it’s unlikely that creationists need any interpretation of the ‘missing link’ other than that it was a small, tailed, probably tree-climbing, and now extinct primate — from a kind created on Day 6 of Creation Week.”

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you wouldnt find an article like this in an American paper. How ironic that it would appear in Pravda. The Russian Newspaper that was the former official newpaper for the Athiest Communist government of the Soviet Union.

from Pravada:

Young people, and even adults, often wonder how all the varieties or “races” of people could come from the same original human ancestors. Well, in principle, that’s no different than asking how children with different color hair (i.e., blond, brunette, brown, red ) can come from the same parents who both have black hair.

Just as some individuals today carry genes to produce descendants with different color hair and eyes, humanity’s first parents, Adam and Eve, possessed genes to produce all the variety and races of men. You and I today may not carry the genes to produce every variety or race of humans, but humanity’s first parents did possess such genes.

All varieties of humans carry genes for the same basic traits, but not all humans carry every possible variation of those genes. For example, one person may be carrying several variations of the gene for eye color ( i.e., brown, green, blue ) , but someone else may be carrying only one variation of the gene for eye color ( i.e., brown ). Thus, both will have different abilities to affect the eye color of their offspring.

Some parents with black hair, for example, are capable of producing children with blond hair, but their blond children (because they inherit only recessive genes) will not have the ability to produce children with black hair unless they mate with someone else who has black hair. If the blond descendants only mate with other blondes then the entire line and population will only be blond even though the original ancestor was black-haired.

In reality there is only one race – the human race – within which exists myriad variations and permutations.

The evidence from science shows that only microevolution (variations within a biological “kind” such as the varieties of dogs, cats, horses, cows, etc.) is possible but not macroevolution (variations across biological “kinds”, especially from simpler kinds to more complex ones). The only evolution that occurs in Nature is microevolution (or horizontal evolution) but not macroevolution (vertical evolution).

The genetic ability for microevolution exists in Nature but not the genetic ability for macroevolution. The genes (chemical and genetic instructions or programs) for microevolution exist in every species but not the genes for macroevolution. Unless Nature has the intelligence and ability to perform genetic engineering (to construct entirely new genes and not just to produce variations and new combinations of already existing genes) then macroevolution will never be possible in Nature.

We have varieties of dogs today that we didn’t have a couple of hundred years ago. All of this is just another example of microevolution (horizontal evolution) in Nature. No matter how many varieties of dogs come into being they will always remain dogs and not change or evolve into some other kind of animal. Even the formation of an entirely new species of plant or animal from hybridization will not support Darwinian evolution since such hybridization does not involve any production of new genetic information but merely the recombination of already existing genes.

Modifications and new combinations of already existing genes for already existing traits have been shown to occur in nature but never the production of entirely new genes or new traits. This is true even with genetic mutations. For example, mutations in the genes for human hair may change the genes so that another type of human hair develops, but the mutations won’t change the genes for human hair so that feathers, wings, or entirely new traits develop. Mutations may even cause duplication of already existing traits (i.e. an extra finger, toe, etc. even in another part of the body!), but none of these things qualify as new traits.

Evolutionists believe that, if given enough time, random or chance mutations in the genetic code caused by random environmental forces such as radiation will produce entirely new genes for entirely new traits which natural selection can act upon or preserve.

However, there is no scientific evidence whatsoever that random mutations have the ability to generate entirely new genes which would program for the development of entirely new traits in species. It would require genetic engineering to accomplish such a feat. Random genetic mutations caused by the environment will never qualify as genetic engineering!

Mutations are accidents in the sequential molecular structure of the genetic code and they are almost always harmful, as would be expected from accidents. Of course, just like some earthquakes that don’t do any damage to buildings, there are also mutations that don’t do any biological harm. But, even if a good mutation does occur for every good mutation there will be hundreds of harmful ones with the net result over time being disastrous for the species.

Furthermore, only those mutations produced in the genes of reproductive cells, such as sperm in the male and ovum (or egg cell) in the female, are passed on to offspring. Mutations and any changes produced in other body cells are not transmitted. For example, if a woman were to lose a finger it would not result in her baby being born with a missing finger. Similarly, even if an ape ever learned to walk upright, it could not pass this characteristic on to its descendants. Thus, modern biology has disproved the once-held theory that acquired characteristics from the environment can be transmitted into the genetic code of offspring.

Most biological variations within a biological kind (i.e. varieties of humans, dogs, cats, horses, mice, etc.) are the result of new combinations of already existing genes and not because of mutations.

For those who are not read-up on their biology, a little information on genes would be helpful here. What we call “genes” are actually segments of the DNA molecule. DNA, or the genetic code, is composed of a molecular string of various nucleic acids (chemical letters) which are arranged in a sequence just like the letters found in the words and sentences of a book. It is this sequence of nucleic acids in DNA that tells the cells of our body how to construct (or build) various proteins, tissues, and organs such as nose, eyes, brain, etc. If the nucleic acids in the genetic code are not in the correct sequence then malfunctioning, or even worse, harmful proteins may form causing serious health problems and even death.

There is no law in science that nucleic acids have to come together in a particular sequence. Any nucleic acid can just as easily bond with any other. The only reason for why nucleic acids are found in a particular sequence in the DNA of the cells of our bodies is because they are directed to do so by previously existing DNA. When new cells form in our bodies the DNA of the old cells direct the formation of the DNA in the new cells.

The common belief among evolutionists is that, if given millions of years, radiation and other environmental forces will cause enough random changes (mutations) to occur in the sequential structure of the genetic code of a species so that entirely new sequences for entirely new genes will develop which in turn will program for the formation of entirely new biological traits, organs, and structures that natural selection can then act upon.

Would it be rational to believe that by randomly changing the sequence of letters in a cookbook that you will eventually get a book on astronomy? Of course not! And if the book were a living being it would have died in the process of such random changes.

Such changes, as transforming one book into another or the DNA of one species into the DNA of another, especially one more complex, simply cannot occur by random or chance alterations. It would require intelligent planning and design to change one book into another or to change the DNA of a simpler species into the DNA of a more complex one.

Yes, it is true that the raw biological materials and chemicals to make entirely new genes exist in every species, but the problem is that the random forces of nature (i.e. radiation, etc.) simply have no ability to rearrange those chemicals and biological materials into entirely new genes programming for entirely new traits. Again, mutations only have the ability to produce variations of already existing traits. It would require intelligent manipulation of genetic material (genetic engineering) to turn a fish into a human being. The random forces of the environment cannot perform such genetic engineering!

If the environment doesn’t possess the ability to perform genetic engineering and if macro-evolution really did not occur then how else can one explain the genetic and biological similarities which exist between various species and, indeed, all of life. Although it cannot be scientifically proven, creationists believe that the only rational explanation for the genetic and biological similarities between all forms of life is due to a common Designer who designed and created similar functions for similar purposes and different functions for different purposes in all of the various forms of life from the simplest to the most complex. Even humans employ this principle of common design in planning the varied architecture of buildings!

If humans must use intelligence to perform genetic engineering, to meaningfully manipulate the genetic code, then what does that say about the origin of the genetic code itself!

Many have confused natural selection with evolution itself. Yes, Charles Darwin did show that natural selection occurs in nature, but what many don’t understand is that natural selection itself does not produce biological traits or variations.

Natural selection can only “select” from biological variations that are produced and which have survival value. The real issue is what biological variations can be naturally produced. What biological variations are naturally possible? When a biological change or variation occurs within a species and this new variation (such as a change in skin color, etc.) helps that species to survive in its environment then that variation will be preserved (“selected”) and be passed on to offspring. That is called “natural selection” or “survival of the fittest”. But, neither “natural selection” nor “survival of the fittest” has anything to do with producing biological traits and variations.

The term “natural selection” is simply a figure of speech. Nature, of course, does not do any active or conscious selecting. It is an entirely passive process. Darwin did not realize what produced biological variations. Darwin simply assumed that any kind of biological change or variation was possible in life. However, we now know that biological traits and variations are determined by the genetic code.

Natural selection works with evolution but it is not evolution itself. Again, since natural selection can only “select” from biological variations that are possible, the real question to be asking is what kind of biological variations are naturally possible. How much biological variation (or how much evolution) is naturally possible in Nature? As we have seen all biological variation or evolution is limited to within plant and animal kinds.

Another reason for why macroevolution is not possible in Nature is because a half-evolved and useless organ waiting millions of years to be completed by random mutations would be a liability and hindrance to a species – not exactly a prime candidate for natural selection. In fact, how could species have survived over, supposedly, millions of years while their vital (or necessary) organs were still in the process of evolving!

How, for example, were animals breathing, eating, and reproducing if their respiratory, digestive, and reproductive organs were still incomplete and evolving? How were species fighting off possibly life-threatening germs if their immune system hadn’t fully evolved yet?

Scientist and creationist Dr. Walt Brown, in his fantastic book “In The Beginning”, makes this point by saying, “All species appear fully developed, not partially developed. They show design. There are no examples of half-developed feathers, eyes, skin, tubes (arteries, veins, intestines, etc.), or any of thousands of other vital organs. Tubes that are not 100% complete are a liability; so are partially developed organs and some body parts. For example, if a leg of a reptile were to evolve into a wing of a bird, it would become a bad leg long before it became a good wing.”

Usually what is meant by the term “biological kind” is a natural species but this may not always be the case. The key to keep in mind here is that in order for evolution in nature to occur from one biological “kind” to another biological “kind” entirely new genes would have to be generated and not just merely modifications and/or recombination of already existing genes. If, for example, offspring are produced which cannot be crossed back with the original stock then there is, indeed, a new species but if no new genes or traits developed then there is no macro-evolution (variation across biological kinds) and the two distinct species would continue to belong to the same “kind”.

Science cannot prove we’re here by creation, but neither can science prove we’re here by chance or macro-evolution. No one has observed either. They are both accepted on faith. The issue is which faith, Darwinian macro-evolutionary theory or creation, has better scientific support.

If some astronauts from Earth discovered figures of persons similar to Mt. Rushmore on an uninhabited planet there would be no way to scientifically prove the carved figures originated by design or by chance processes of erosion. Neither position is science, but scientific arguments may be made to support one or the other.

What we believe about life’s origins does influence our philosophy and value of life as well as our view of ourselves and others. This is no small issue!

Just because the laws of science can explain how life and the universe operate and work doesn’t mean there is no Maker. Would it be rational to believe that there’s no designer behind airplanes because the laws of science can explain how airplanes operate and work?

Natural laws are adequate to explain how the order in life, the universe, and even a microwave oven operates, but mere undirected natural laws can never fully explain the origin of such order.

Of course, once there is a complete and living cell then the genetic program and biological mechanisms exist to direct and organize molecules to form into more cells. The question is how did life come into being when there was no directing mechanism in Nature. An excellent article to read by scientist and biochemist Dr. Duane T. Gish is “A Few Reasons An Evolutionary Origin of Life Is Impossible” .

There is, of course, much more to be said on this subject. Scientist, creationist, debater, writer, and lecturer, Dr. Walt Brown covers various scientific issues ( i.e. fossils, so-called transitional links, biological variation and diversity, the origin of life, comparative anatomy and embryology, the issue of vestigial organs, the age of the Earth, etc. ) at greater depth on his website at http://www.creationscience.com .

On his website, Dr. Brown even discusses the possibility of any remains of life on Mars as having originated from the Earth due to great geological disturbances in the Earth’s past which easily could have spewed thousands of tons of rock and dirt containing microbes into space. In fact, A Newsweek article of September 21, 1998, p.12 mentions exactly this possibility.

An excellent source of information from highly qualified scientists who are creationists is the Institute for Creation Research (http://www.icr.org) in San Diego, California. Also, the reader may find answers to many difficult questions concerning the Bible (including questions on creation and evolution, Noah’s Ark, how dinosaurs fit into the Bible, etc.)at http://www.ChristianAnswers.net.

It is only fair that evidence supporting intelligent design or creation be presented to students alongside of evolutionary theory, especially in public schools which receive funding from taxpayers who are on both sides of the issue. Also, no one is being forced to believe in God or adopt a particular religion so there is no true violation of separation of church and state. As a religion and science writer, I encourage all to read my Internet article “The Natural Limits of Evolution” at my website http://www.religionscience.com for more in-depth study of the issue.

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from Fox News:

crown_of_thorns_galaxyAn unusual large galaxy with a shape bordering between spiral and elliptical has been spotted by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.

NGC 7049 sits in the southern constellation Indus, and is the brightest of a cluster of galaxies, a so-called Brightest Cluster Galaxy (BCG). Typical BCGs are some of the oldest and most massive galaxies, which provide excellent opportunities for astronomers to study the elusive globular clusters lurking within.

The halo, a ghostly region of diffuse light surrounding the galaxy, is composed of myriads of individual stars and provides a luminous background to the swirling ring of dust lanes surrounding NGC 7049’s core.

Small faint points of light sprinkled throughout the galaxy represent globular clusters, which are gravitational groupings of several hundreds of thousands of stars. They contain some of the first stars to be produced in a galaxy.

NGC 7049 has far fewer such clusters than other similar giant galaxies in very big, rich groups. This indicates to astronomers how the surrounding environment influenced the formation of galaxy halos in the early universe.

Hubble captured this image using its Advanced Camera for Surveys, which is primed to hunt galaxies and galaxy clusters in the remote and ancient universe. The space telescope recently imaged a group of colliding galaxies chosen in an online voting contest.

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“the Vatican is also set to play down the idea of Intelligent Design, which argues a “higher power” must be responsible for the complexities of life.”

Now does anyone need ANY further proof that Roman Catholicism is a false belief system? For a so called “christian church” not to believe that God is responsible for the complexities of life is just ludicrous!

If a belief system does not hold that the God of the Bible is the ultimate creator and origin of ALL creation then it cannot claim to be a Biblical belief system!

Genesis 1:1:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

John 1:1-3:

“In the beginning was the Word, [logos] and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; [i.e., before creation] all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.”

Colossians 1:15-17

[Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the first-born [prototokos] of all creation; for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

One of the key words in the Colossians passage above (“…and in Christ all things hold together”) is the Greek word sunistemi which means “to stand-together,” “to be compacted together,” “to cohere,” “to be constituted with.”

This passage can be applied to the structure of the atom, for example. The nucleus of every atom is held together by what physicists call “weak” and “strong” forces.

Among secular scientists today there are many who acknowledge that God exists. But He is usually considered as only a First Cause-the One who brought the universe into existence and set it into motion. But most of these same scientists assume God was not involved after the initial act of creation.

This is contrary to clear statements in the Bible that God is very much involved in every event that takes place in the ongoing history of the entire universe. Causality links everything together, because God “works (Gr: energizes) all things according to the counsel of His will.” (Ephesians 1:11.)

 

from The Daily Telegraph:

Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, head of the Pontifical Council for Culture, said while the Church had been hostile to Darwin’s theory in the past, the idea of evolution could be traced to St Augustine and St Thomas Aquinas.

Father Giuseppe Tanzella-Nitti, Professor of Theology at the Pontifical Santa Croce University in Rome, added that 4th century theologian St Augustine had “never heard the term evolution, but knew that big fish eat smaller fish” and forms of life had been transformed “slowly over time”. Aquinas made similar observations in the Middle Ages.

Ahead of a papal-backed conference next month marking the 150th anniversary of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, the Vatican is also set to play down the idea of Intelligent Design, which argues a “higher power” must be responsible for the complexities of life.

The conference at the Pontifical Gregorian University will discuss Intelligent Design to an extent, but only as a “cultural phenomenon” rather than a scientific or theological issue.

Monsignor Ravasi said Darwin’s theories had never been formally condemned by the Roman Catholic Church, pointing to comments more than 50 years ago, when Pope Pius XII described evolution as a valid scientific approach to the development of humans.

Marc Leclerc, who teaches natural philosophy at the Gregorian University, said the “time has come for a rigorous and objective valuation” of Darwin by the Church as the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth approaches.

Professor Leclerc argues that too many of Darwin’s opponents, primarily Creationists, mistakenly claim his theories are “totally incompatible with a religious vision of reality”.

Earlier this week, prominent scientists and leading religious figures wrote to The Daily Telegraph to call for an end to the fighting over Darwin’s legacy.

They argued that militant atheists are turning people away from evolution by using it to attack religion while they also urge believers in creationism to acknowledge the overwhelming body of evidence that now exists to support Darwin’s theory.

The Church of England is seeking to bring Darwin back into the fold with a page on its website paying tribute to his “forgotten” work in his local parish, showing science and religion need not be at odds.

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When I heard this I was like what? But then it turns out to be pretty neat!

do a Google on  “Laminin”

Colossians 1:17:

“He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together”

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An excerpt from Charles Spurgeon’s  “The Greatest Fight in the World”  His final manifesto:

The history of that human ignorance which calls itself “philosophy” is absolutely identical with the history of fools, except where it diverges into madness. If another Erasmus were to arise and write the history of folly, he would have to give several chapters to philosophy and science, and those chapters would be more telling than any others.

I should not myself dare to say that philosophers and scientists are generally fools; but I would give them liberty to speak of one another, and at the close I would say, “Gentlemen, you are less complimentary to each other than I should have been.” I would let the wise of each generation speak of the generation that went before it, or nowadays each half of a generation might deal with the previous half generation; for there is little of theory in science to-day which will survive twenty years, and only a little more which will see the first day of the twentieth century.

We travel now at so rapid a rate that we rush by sets of scientific hypotheses as quickly as we pass telegraph posts when riding in an express train. All that we are certain of to-day is this, that what the learned were sure of a few years ago is now thrown into the limbo of discarded errors.

I believe in science, but not in what is called “science.” No proven fact in nature is opposed to revelation. The pretty speculations of the pretentious we cannot reconcile with the Bible, and would not if we could. I feel like the man who said, “I can understand in some degree how these great men have found out the weight of the stars, and their distances from one another, and even how, by the spectroscope, they have discovered the materials of which they are composed; but”, said he, “I cannot guess how they found out their names.”

Just so. The fanciful part of science, so dear to many, is what we do not accept. That is the important part of science to many—that part which is a mere guess, for which the guessers fight tooth and nail. The mythology of science is as false as the mythology of the heathen; but this is the thing which is made a god of. I say again, as far as its facts are concerned, science is never in conflict with the truths of Holy Scripture, but the hurried deductions drawn from those facts, and the inventions classed as facts, are opposed to Scripture, and necessarily so, because falsehood agrees not with truth.

Two sorts of people have wrought great mischief, and yet they are neither of them worth being considered as judges in the matter: they are both of them disqualified. It is essential than an umpire should know both sides of a question, and neither of these is thus instructed. The first is the irreligious scientist. What does he know about religion? What can he know? He is out of court when the question is—Does science agree with religion? Obviously he who would answer this query must know both of the two things in the question.

The second is a better man, but capable of still more mischief. I mean the unscientific Christian, who will trouble his head about reconciling the Bible with science. He had better leave it alone, and not begin his tinkering trade. The mistake made by such men has been that in trying to solve a difficulty, they have either twisted the Bible, or contorted science. The solution has soon been seen to be erroneous, and then we hear the cry that Scripture has been defeated. Not at all; not at all. It is only a vain gloss upon it which has been removed.

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from Fox News:

A professor at a Vatican-sponsored university expressed dismay Tuesday that some Christian groups reject the theory of evolution — implicitly criticizing the literal interpretation of the Bible. 

Further emphasizing the official Catholic stance, a Vatican official restated the Church position that evolution is not incompatible with faith.

Both men spoke at a press conference ahead of a March event aimed at fostering dialogue between religion and science, and appraising evolution 150 years after Charles Darwin’s landmark “On the Origin of Species.”

The forum is being organized by Rome’s prestigious Gregorian Pontifical University, which is highly influential in Vatican circles, and by the University of Notre Dame in the U.S. state of Indiana.

Popes going back to the mid-20th century have “recognized the scientific value of the theory of biological evolution,” Gennaro Auletta, who teaches philosophy of science at the Gregorian, told reporters. “Greater understanding and assimilation of such subject matter by clergy and faithful has been hoped for.”

“I would like to point out that unfortunately one cannot say that about the faithful of all Christian confessions, as media reports indicate,” Auletta said.

Auletta appeared to be referring to stories about fundamentalist churches that maintain a literal interpretation of the Bible, including the belief that the world was created in six days.

Monsignor Gianfranco Ravasi told reporters that: “One thing is sure. Evolution is not incompatible with faith.”

“Creationism from a strictly theological view makes sense, but when it is used in scientific fields it becomes useless,” Ravasi said.

Quoting the late Pope John Paul II, Ravasi said that “evolution can no longer be considered a hypothesis.”

Pope Benedict XVI warned last week against fundamentalists’ literal interpretations of the Bible.

The pontiff told a gathering of intellectuals and academics in Paris that the structure of the Bible “excludes by its nature everything that today is known as fundamentalism. In effect, the word of God can never simply be equated with the letter of the text,” Benedict said.

Benedict, in a book published last year, praised scientific progress, but cautioned that evolution raises philosophical questions that science alone cannot answer. In the book, he stopped short of endorsing what is known as “intelligent design.”

Intelligent design proponents believe that living organisms are so complex they must have been created by a higher force, rather than evolving from more primitive forms.

Vienna Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, an influential cardinal considered close to Benedict, has condemned a U.S. federal court decision that barred a Pennsylvania school district from teaching intelligent design in biology class.

Schoenborn has said he wants to correct what he says is a widespread misconception that the Catholic Church has given blanket endorsement to Darwin’s theories.

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 Genesis 5:27:

So all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred and sixty-nine years; and he died

Kind of takes the wind out of the sails of those who say that the Bible cannot be taken literally doesn’t it?

From The Independent:

Who wants to live for ever? A scientific breakthrough could mean humans live for hundreds of years

By tweaking our DNA, we could soon survive for hundreds of years – if we want to. Steve Connor reports on a breakthrough that has the science world divided

A genetically engineered organism that lives 10 times longer than normal has been created by scientists in California. It is the greatest extension of longevity yet achieved by researchers investigating the scientific nature of ageing.

If this work could ever be translated into humans, it would mean that we might one day see people living for 800 years. But is this ever going to be a realistic possibility?

Valter Longo is one of the small but influential group of specialists in this area who believes that an 800-year life isn’t just possible, it is inevitable. It was his work at the University of Southern California that led to the creation of a strain of yeast fungus that can live for 10 weeks or more, instead of dying at its usual maximum age of just one week.

By deleting two genes within the yeast’s genome and putting it on a calorie-restricted diet, Longo was able to extend tenfold the lifespan of the same common yeast cells used by bakers and brewers. The study is published later this week in the journal Public Library of Science Genetics.

There is, of course, a huge difference between yeast cells and people, but that hasn’t stopped Longo and his colleagues suggesting that the work is directly relevant to human ageing and longevity. “We’re setting the foundation for reprogramming healthy life. If we can find out how the longevity mechanism works, it can be applied to every cell in every living organism,” Longo says.

“We’re very, very far from making a person live to 800 years of age. I don’t think it’s going to be very complicated to get to 120 and remain healthy, but at a certain point I think it will be possible to get people to live to 800. I don’t think there is an upper limit to the life of any organism.”

For most gerontologists – people who study the science of ageing – such statements are almost heretical. There is a general view in this field that there is a maximum human lifespan of not more than about 125 years. Jeanne Calment, the oldest documented person, died at the age of 122 years and 164 days. According to the orthodox view of ageing, she was one of the few lucky enough to have reached that maximum, upper limit of human lifespan.

The attitude of most mainstream gerontologists towards the idea that people may one day live for many centuries – or even 1,000 years, as one scientific maverick has suggested – is best summed up by Robin Holliday, a distinguished British gerontologist, in his recent book Aging: The Paradox of Life. “How is it possible to make these claims?” Holliday asks. “The first requirement is to ignore the huge literature on ageing research… The second is to ignore the enormous amount of information that has been obtained by the study of human age-associated disease; in other words, to ignore the many well-documented textbooks on human pathology. The third is to propose that in the future, stem-cell technology, and other technologies, will allow vulnerable parts of the body to be replaced and/or repaired. The new ‘bionic’ man will therefore escape from ageing,” Holliday says.

Like many experts on the science of ageing, Holliday is deeply sceptical about the idea that the ageing process can somehow be circumvented, allowing people to extend their lives by decades or even centuries. “The whole [anti-ageing] movement not only becomes science fiction; it is also breathtakingly arrogant,” Holliday says. An immense hinterland of biomedicine suggests that death at a maximum age of about 125 is inevitable, he says.

But that is precisely what Valter Longo is suggesting with his work on the yeast that can live longer than 10 weeks. “We got a tenfold life-span extension, which is, I think, the longest that has ever been achieved in any organism,” he says.

By knocking out two genes, known as RAS2 and SCH9, which promote ageing in yeast and cancer in humans, and putting the microbes on a diet low in calories, Longo achieved the sort of life extension that should in theory be impossible. As Anna McCormick, head of genetics and cell biology at the US National Institute on Aging, remarked: “I would say tenfold is pretty significant.”

Calorie restriction is now a well-established route to extending the lives of many organisms, from yeast and nematode worms to fruit flies and mice. But the jury is still out on whether calorie restriction can extend the life of humans, although a diet rich in calories certainly increases the risk of obesity, diabetes and other life-shortening conditions.

Biologists believe that restricting calories causes many animals to flip into a state normally reserved for near starvation. Instead of spending their precious energy reserves on reproduction, they shut down everything but their basic body maintenance, in preparation for better times ahead when breeding would stand a better chance of success.

This idea fits in with the more general view that animals tend to follow one of two life strategies – either one of high fecundity and short lifespan, or one of long lifespan and low reproductive capacity.

Mice, for example, divert much of their limited resources to high reproduction, having several litters of young a year, but they have a short life of just a couple of years. But bats, which are roughly the same size as mice, have just one or at most two offspring a year, and can live for 30 years or more.

Why one species of animal lives longer than another of comparable size, and why some animals appear to age faster and die younger, have been the subject of extensive scrutiny for decades. As bats and mice show, it is possible for genes to extend lifespan – so the question is: why do they not do it more often, or even all the time? And the logical extension of this question is: why do we age at all? Why don’t we live for ever?

One of the most convincing answers to this is known as the disposable soma theory. In short, the idea is that genes can extend an organism’s lifespan, but only as a trade-off between the costs and benefits of doing so. It is possible to keep on mending the machinery of the body as it suffers daily wear and tear, but there comes a point when it is no longer worthwhile and the costs become too expensive, much like the point when fixing an increasingly decrepit car gets too much. At this point the body, or “soma”, becomes disposable. By then, though, from the gene’s point of view, it won’t matter – as long as it has managed to “escape” this broken-down body and replicated itself inside the younger, fitter bodies of the next generation.

Longo says that the disposable soma theory, invented by Professor Tom Kirkwood of Newcastle University in the late 1970s, is one of the strongest ideas around to explain the nature of ageing.

However, Longo has another theory that is causing a second group of scientists to tear their hair out. He believes that ageing may not simply be a side-effect of the wear and tear of life, but is also a genetically programmed condition designed to rid the population of aged individuals to make way for younger ones.

It is an alluring idea, albeit one thought to have been discredited by the evolutionary biologists George Williams and John Maynard Smith 40 years ago. It is a common assumption among non-scientists that ageing and death occur in order to make way for the next generation, but this suggests that ageing is a genetic programme honed by natural selection. It also assumes that it is an altruistic act brought about for the benefit of the future population.

Evolutionary biologists know that such an idea is based on “group selection” and that mathematically this cannot occur because it will always be undermined by more selfish mutants. Organisms carrying the altruistic genes for premature ageing and death would, for instance, be susceptible to selfish-gene cheats that decide to exploit the situation to their own, and their offspring’s, advantage. They could simply live a bit longer than their peer group and so make sure they are the ones that exploit the available resources left behind by their prematurely dead peers.

But Longo is convinced that his experiments on manipulating the genes of yeast show that ageing is not a mere side-effect of life, but a deliberate, genetically programmed process honed by natural selection. “Basically, it is the first demonstration, to our knowledge, that ageing is programmed and altruistic,” Longo says. “The organisms we have studied die long before they have to in order to provide nutrients for ‘mutants’ generated within their own population. Thus, billions of organisms die early so that a few better-adapted individuals can grow.”

This raises the possibility that the same process happens in humans, and that, as a result, many people are dying earlier than they need to. “Programmed human ageing is just a possibility. We don’t know whether it’s true yet or not. But if ageing is programmed in yeast, and the [metabolic] pathway is very similar, then isn’t it possible that humans also die earlier than they have to?”

Valter Longo says that no one has so far proved him to be wrong on his programmed-death idea. But this may be one heresy too far for the rest of science.

From the Archives: Jeremy Laurance reports from Japan, the country with more centenarians than any other (see independent.co.uk/science)

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from The Christian Post:

From jellyfish fossil finds to the newly discovered function of the appendix, a science and technology watchdog group has released a list of some of the year’s top news that reflect mounting evidence supporting intelligent design.

The Access Research Network – which reports on science, technology and society from an intelligent design perspective – recently released its “Top 10 Darwin and Design News Stories” list for 2007.

“Overall in 2007 I’d say we’ve observed a growing consternation running through many scientific disciplines over Darwinian explanations of the evidence that were once thought to be resolved long ago,” said Kevin Wirth, ARN director of media relations.

Among the top stories the group considers a “growing burden” to Darwinists is the increasing level of complexity being discovered in small biological systems such as living cells and in early life history such as jellyfish. Newly uncovered jellyfish fossils in Utah were dated back 200 million years earlier than the oldest specimens of the modern jellyfish yet showed the same complexity as modern orders and families of jellyfish. These findings, according to ARN, challenge Darwin’s molecule-to-man theory because they reveal that there was an insufficient amount of time for complex life to have developed only via the Darwinian principles of random mutations and natural selection.

Darwin’s “Tree-of-Life” model was also hit hard in 2007 when a scientist at the National Center for Biotechnology Information published a paper claiming the tree pattern could not explain major transitions in biological evolution and instead proposed a “Biological Big Bang” model.

ARN executive director Dennis Wagner noted that science is still recovering from a whole generation of people who have been raised according to “Darwinian fairytales,” such as the teaching that human and chimpanzee genetics only differ by 1 percent and that the appendix is a leftover evolutionary vestige.

“These are Darwinian ‘arguments from ignorance’ that continue to be discarded as scientists uncover the incredible design and purpose of biological systems,” he said.

But the challenges to Darwinism have not been without opposition.

The group notes in its list that political and academic persecution against those who question the evolutionary theory has also been a hallmark for 2007.

“Our modern western culture is so ingrained in the naturalistic Darwinian creation story that those who challenge the story, even with scientific evidence in hand, are treated as outsiders and outcasts,” observed Wagner.

He hopes that Ben Stein’s documentary “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed,” scheduled for release in early 2008, will serve as a “eye-opener” to Americans on the growing hostility toward individuals who have suggested alternative views to Darwinism.

The debate about origins is expected to heat up again significantly in 2008, Wirth said.

“I think we’re beginning to see a growing trend overall that the sufficiency of Darwinian explanations to describe how life evolved is turning out to be substantially inadequate in a growing number of fields, particularly in the areas of genetics and molecular biology,” he noted.

“I think it’s becoming clear that Darwinism is on the verge of one of the greatest challenges it has faced in many decades.”

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Hat Tip Answer The Skeptic:

The fine tuning that exists in our universe is simply amazing. Check out this short video from The Privileged Planet

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