In this episode of ID the Future, David Boze and CSC Senior Fellow Dr. Jonathan Wells discuss the connections to intelligent design in the new movie Man of Steel. While the story of Superman may be fantasy, it centers on real scientific matters such as genetic manipulation and information storage inside the cell.
A petition urging the Obama administration to ban the teaching of creation and intelligent design in U.S. schools was recently filed on the White House website.
The 116-word petition claims that even though Darwinian evolution is "treated as scientific fact by 99.9% of all scientists," some schools still erroneously give credence to the "controversy" of non-evolutionary theories.
"[Creationism and intelligent design] have no basis in scientific fact," the petition claims, "and have absolutely zero evidence pointing towards these conjectures. These types of loopholes in our education are partially to blame for our dangerously low student performances in math and science. Therefore, we petition the Obama Adminstration [sic] to ban the teachings of these conjectures that contradict evolution."
Since the petition was posted on June 15th, well over 30,000 people have signed the measure.
This year, ORIGINS 2013 (the joint meeting of the Creation Biology Society and the Creation Geology Society) will be meeting in Pittsburgh, PA, a day prior to the International Conference on Creationism. Because of this year's ICC, the ORIGINS conference is condensed to a single day, and Dr. Steve Austin is also leading a geology field trip.
Casey Luskin reports in ENV...with Stephen Meyer's new book, Darwin's Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design, out this week and catching some noteworthy attention, recent articles in leading scientific journals are confirming some of his key arguments about the Cambrian explosion. The two arguments I have in mind are: (1) that the Cambrian explosion was a real event in the history of life, and (2) that standard unguided evolutionary theories have failed to explain it.
A characteristic of reports about human ancestors has been the hailing of a particular fossil species as a critical link in the evolutionary chain. Invariably, this gets plenty of media publicity. With the passing of time, the discoveries do not seem so dramatic and the puzzles and challenges appear unresolved. We are currently witnessing this pattern of discourse in relation to Australopithecus sediba, known from two specimens recovered in 2008 from the Malapa Cave site in South Africa and published in 2010. The most recent analyses appeared in Science in April 2013, and some have suggested "that A. sediba may just be the most important hominin (modern humans and their extinct relatives) discovery yet." The New Scientist report commenced thus:
"Our closest non-human ancestor lived in South Africa. That's the conclusion of a battery of studies carried out on two strange skeletons discovered near Johannesburg in 2008. They represent a likely stepping stone between the ape-like australopiths and the first members of our own genus."
Fossil elements of the two partial skeletons of Australopithecus sediba. The grey shadows represent skeletons of A. africanus, adjusted for different body proportions. (Credit: Science/AAAS. Source here)
It is customary for the discoverer and co-workers to present the strongest arguments they can find to attract interest in their research. In this case, the thesis is that A. sediba is a "mosaic of ancient australopith and modern Homo features" and that this makes it convincing as a transitional form. An independent assessment of the findings has been made by William Kimbel in Nature. He is not convinced.
"[The two skeletons] have been the focus of scrutiny because of both their excellent preservation and claims that this hominin - a species more closely related to humans than to chimpanzees - lies at the base of the Homo lineage. A series of reports published in Science sheds light on the morphology of A. sediba but, in my view, does little to elucidate its role in later human evolution." (p.573)
First, Kimbel looks at dental morphology. He finds methodology problems that raise serious questions about the conclusions drawn.
"The researchers take] the unconventional step of using only the Arizona State University Dental Anthropology System - a graded series of minor crown variants originally devised to distinguish recent human populations from one another - to decipher relationships between hominin species that are millions of years old. I have serious doubts about the phylogenetic meaning of morphological similarity in this case. These concerns are compounded by the authors' reliance on the gorilla as the sole outgroup in their cladistic analysis." (p.573)
Second, analysis of the mandible suggests that insufficient attention has been given to the samples comprising a sub-adult (with only its second molar erupted) and a presumed adult female.
Third, the upper and lower limb dimensions show many ape-like affinities and suggest arboreal climbing behavior. The New Scientist report refers to this as an "unusual feature of A. sediba: its arms and legs show it was far more comfortable swinging in the trees than most australopiths."
Fourth, the rib cage and vertebral column was claimed to be Homo-like. Kimbel raises questions about what is primitive and what derived and suggests that there is nothing in the fossil material that can be regarded as unexpected.
Finally, the issue of gait is considered. Ann Gibbons drew attention to sediba's unusual way of walking in an article for Science:
"If you happened to be in South Africa about 2 million years ago, you might have seen an odd sight: an older female hominin sashaying down a wooded slope, perhaps in search of water. She walked upright, but she wasn't human, and she moved with what to our eyes would have looked like a distinctly strange gait. She was a member of Australopithecus sediba, and [. . .] she may have twisted from side to side, rolling her feet inward with each step. "Sediba's got swag," says paleoanthropologist Lee Berger of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. (p.132)
Kimbel is not impressed. He describes the research conclusions as controversial.
"The proposed 'hyperpronation' of the foot and extreme inward rotation of the leg and thigh suggest an ungainly bipedal stride that might have made it into Monty Python's 'Ministry of Silly Walks' sketch. The presumed inversion of the foot at the heel-strike of the surprisingly ape-like calcaneus, combined with a vertical shank (tibia), outwardly angled thigh (femur) and a long, lordotic lower back - all hallmarks of terrestrial bipedality in Australopithecus and Homo species - constrains the reconstruction. Prominent osteophytic growths on the pelvis and fibula at the attachment sites of the thigh musculature raise the possibility of a gait that was pathologically impaired, but DeSilva and colleagues argue that this locomotor pattern was adaptive. However, if A. sediba was a descendant of A. africanus, which, similarly to the even older A. afarensis (dating to between 3.7 million and 3.0 million years ago), shows no trace of this pattern, then it is hard to imagine the selective advantage that would accrue from such a kinematically peculiar gait." (p.574)
The general conclusion from Kimbel is that the grounds for claiming A. sediba to be a transitional fossil in the human lineage are weak. The research tells us more about the Australopithecenes, but little more.
"Given the mix of features seen in A. sediba, it is difficult to understand why these researchers insist that it lies at the base of the Homo lineage. Similar intellectual gymnastics are required to comprehend the authors' argument that no African Homo fossils exist from before the time of A. sediba. Although the recent papers constitute a fascinating further analysis of the A. sediba fossils, I do not think that they provide compelling evidence that this species is anything other than an unusual australopith from a Pliocene-Pleistocene time period that is already populated by a fair number of them." (p.574)
Hesitation on hominin history
William H. Kimbel
Nature, 497, 573-574 (30 May 2013) | doi:10.1038/497573a
Extensive studies of fossil skeletons of Australopithecus sediba provide fascinating details of the anatomy of this hominin species, but do not convincingly indicate its position on the evolutionary route to modern humans.
Is science really the realm of free inquiry, open to every good idea? Biologist Rupert Sheldrake says modern science is mired in various dogmas - boundaries you're not supposed to cross, at least if you value your job and your reputation.
The popular king of horror stories, Stephen King, told NPR in an interview published Tuesday that he believes in God and intelligent design, and shared about his personal faith experience.
"If you say, 'Well, OK, I don't believe in God. There's no evidence of God,' then you're missing the stars in the sky and you're missing the sunrises and sunsets and you're missing the fact that the bees pollinate all these crops and keep us alive and the way that everything seems to work together," said the author of The Shining, The Green Mile, and Dreamcatcher, which were all adapted into full-length motion pictures.
The cosmos, he tells NPR, is "built in a way that to me suggests intelligent design.
Discovering Intelligent Design (DID) is the first full curriculum to present the scientific evidence for intelligent design in both cosmology and biology in an easy-to-understand format. The curriculum includes a textbook, a workbook, and a DVD with multimedia video clips that are integrated into the readings. Developed by home school educators Gary and Hallie Kemper, and Discovery Institute research coordinator Casey Luskin, DID uniquely fills a specific niche in the intelligent design literature.
The Blaze's Billy Hallowell reports that...Ball State University, a public institution in Muncie, Indiana, is purportedly looking into claims that a course centered around the subjects of creationism and intelligent design constitutes a violation of the separation of church and state. The college purportedly began its investigation after the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), a church-state separatist group, sent a letter of complaint regarding physics and astronomy professor Eric Hedin.
And some faculty members are sticking up for the physics professor...
The DVD is available, Blu-ray soon.
Insect eyes may be tiny but they belong to a "remarkably sophisticated class of imaging systems". They have compound eyes, made up of hundreds or thousands of optical units or facets. Considered as optical systems, these facets are simpler than the vertebrate eye design because there are no moving parts to focus the light.
"In the case of the 'apposition' eye of daylight insects, each facet is optically isolated from its neighbour and equipped with its own lens and set of photoreceptors. Because each facet accepts photons from only a small angle in space, the light sensitivity of apposition eyes is rather low and the spatial resolution is limited by the number of facets that can be packed on to the small head of the insect. However, apposition eyes provide their bearer with a panoramic view of the world as well as with an infinite depth of field, without the need to adjust the focal length of the individual lenses." (Borst & Plett, 2013, 47)
The hemispherical digital camera with nearly 200 tiny lenses (Credit: John A. Rogers, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Source here)
In addition to the wide field of view and the infinite depth of field, compound eyes have low aberrations and high acuity to motion. This latter characteristic is very desirable for flying insects and for micro aerial vehicles (MAVs). Thus far, most MAVs have been fitted with fisheye lenses that provide a wide-angle field of view. However, the information gathered has limitations for calculating the special movement that is required to facilitate motion stabilisation alongside navigation.
"With regard to potential applications, the camera proposed by Song et al. might constitute an optimal front-end visual sensor for tiny aircraft called micro aerial vehicles (MAVs). [. . .] Song and colleagues' camera would provide all the advantages of an apposition eye. Using it to compute a MAV's self-motion could on the one hand facilitate motion stabilization in space while on the other enabling spatial navigation." (Borst & Plett, 2013, 48)
Several research groups have taken up the challenge of developing "compound" cameras that mimic a hemispherical arthropod eye. Precision engineering with dimensions measured in micrometres must be combined with recently devised electronic technologies to achieve the goal. The research paper describes the use of elastomeric compound optical elements, deformable arrays of thin-film silicon photodetectors, and the means by which the necessary alignments can be achieved.
"Here we present a complete set of materials, design layouts and integration schemes for digital cameras that mimic hemispherical apposition compound eyes found in biology. Certain of the concepts extend recent advances in stretchable electronics and hemispherical photodetector arrays, in overall strategies that provide previously unachievable options in design. Systematic experimental and theoretical studies of the mechanical and optical properties of working devices reveal the essential aspects of fabrication and operation." (Song et al., 2013, 95).
By adopting the strategy of biomimicry, the distinctive characteristics of compound eyes are clarified.
"The arthropod eye offers resolution determined by the numbers of ommatidia, and is typically modest compared, for example, to mammalian eyes. Two other attributes, however, provide powerful modes of perception. First, the hemispherical apposition design enables exceptionally wide-angle fields of view, without off-axis aberrations. [. . .] The second attribute is the nearly infinite depth of field that results from the short focal length of each microlens and the nature of image formation. In particular, as an object moves away from the camera, the size of the image decreases but remains in focus. A consequence is that the camera can accurately and simultaneously render pictures of multiple objects in a field of view, even at widely different angular positions and distances. [. . .] Even though movement of the object away from the camera changes its size in the corresponding image, the focus is maintained. Objects with the same angular size that are located at different distances produce images with the same size, all of which is consistent with modelling." (Song et al., 2013, 97-98).
We should note that arthropod eye designs do not conform to the cobbled-together architecture that is associated with evolutionary tinkering. The driver for biomimetics research is the recognition of exquisite design that extends and inspires human creativity. Exquisite design is the hallmark of an intelligent agent. For more on this point, go here.
Recent discoveries of fossilised compound eyes of the Middle Cambrian predator Anomalocaris, and of an Early Cambrian arthropod, have documented clear examples of modernity in some of the earliest known arthropods. These exquisite fossil eyes provide evidence of abrupt appearance in the fossil record. There is no 'audit trail' here to support blind, tinkering, evolutionary transformation. Thus, biomimetic research and the fossil record provide complementary sources of evidence for intelligent design.
Digital cameras with designs inspired by the arthropod eye
Young Min Song, Yizhu Xie, Viktor Malyarchuk, Jianliang Xiao, Inhwa Jung, Ki-Joong Choi, Zhuangjian Liu, Hyunsung Park, Chaofeng Lu, Rak-Hwan Kim, Rui Li, Kenneth B. Crozier, Yonggang Huang & John A. Rogers
Nature, 497, 95-99 (02 May 2013) | doi:10.1038/nature12083
In arthropods, evolution has created a remarkably sophisticated class of imaging systems, with a wide-angle field of view, low aberrations, high acuity to motion and an infinite depth of field. A challenge in building digital cameras with the hemispherical, compound apposition layouts of arthropod eyes is that essential design requirements cannot be met with existing planar sensor technologies or conventional optics. Here we present materials, mechanics and integration schemes that afford scalable pathways to working, arthropod-inspired cameras with nearly full hemispherical shapes (about 160 degrees). Their surfaces are densely populated by imaging elements (artificial ommatidia), which are comparable in number (180) to those of the eyes of fire ants (Solenopsis fugax) and bark beetles (Hylastes nigrinus). The devices combine elastomeric compound optical elements with deformable arrays of thin silicon photodetectors into integrated sheets that can be elastically transformed from the planar geometries in which they are fabricated to hemispherical shapes for integration into apposition cameras. Our imaging results and quantitative ray-tracing-based simulations illustrate key features of operation. These general strategies seem to be applicable to other compound eye devices, such as those inspired by moths and lacewings (refracting superposition eyes), lobster and shrimp (reflecting superposition eyes), and houseflies (neural superposition eyes).
Borst, A. & Plett, J., Seeing the world through an insect's eyes, Nature, 497, 47-48 (02 May 2013) | doi:10.1038/497047a
Beciri, D., Arthropod eye design inspires novel digital cameras, rob-aid, (2 May 2013)
:: Next Page >>
Presented by Access Research Network. Browse this page to review all posts. Choose a tab at the top of the page to read only those subjects of interest. Browse the right-hand column below to read by specific category.
| Next >
|<< <||> >>|
Evolution has become a favorite topic of the news media recently, but for some reason, they never seem to get the story straight. The staff at Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture started this Blog to set the record straight and make sure you knew "the rest of the story".
A blogger from New England offers his intelligent reasoning.
We are a group of individuals, coming from diverse backgrounds and not speaking for any organization, who have found common ground around teleological concepts, including intelligent design. We think these concepts have real potential to generate insights about our reality that are being drowned out by political advocacy from both sides. We hope this blog will provide a small voice that helps rectify this situation.
Website dedicated to comparing scenes from the "Inherit the Wind" movie with factual information from actual Scopes Trial. View 37 clips from the movie and decide for yourself if this movie is more fact or fiction.
Don Cicchetti blogs on: Culture, Music, Faith, Intelligent Design, Guitar, Audio
Australian biologist Stephen E. Jones maintains one of the best origins "quote" databases around. He is meticulous about accuracy and working from original sources.
Most guys going through midlife crisis buy a convertible. Austrialian Stephen E. Jones went back to college to get a biology degree and is now a proponent of ID and common ancestry.
Complete zipped downloadable pdf copy of David Stove's devastating, and yet hard-to-find, critique of neo-Darwinism entitled "Darwinian Fairytales"
Intelligent Design The Future is a multiple contributor weblog whose participants include the nation's leading design scientists and theorists: biochemist Michael Behe, mathematician William Dembski, astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez, philosophers of science Stephen Meyer, and Jay Richards, philosopher of biology Paul Nelson, molecular biologist Jonathan Wells, and science writer Jonathan Witt. Posts will focus primarily on the intellectual issues at stake in the debate over intelligent design, rather than its implications for education or public policy.
A Philosopher's Journey: Political and cultural reflections of John Mark N. Reynolds. Dr. Reynolds is Director of the Torrey Honors Institute at