Re: We Are Not Alone - Or Are We?, etc

From: Stephen E. Jones (
Date: Fri Jan 28 2000 - 09:57:28 EST

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    Below are web article links, headlines and/or paragraphs for the
    period 9-26 January, in descending date order, with my comments
    in square brackets.


    ScienceDaily ... 1/26/2000 We Are Not Alone - Or Are We? The annals of
    science fiction are filled with advanced extraterrestrial creatures like
    Klingons and Wookies, Vogons and Romulans, all carrying on in a human
    sort of way. And while screenwriters and novelists weave stories around
    these characters, some people scour the heavens for signs that such highly
    evolved beings really are out there. But a new book by two University of
    Washington scientists contends that, contrary to popular thought, we just
    might be alone and Earth might be unique, if not in the universe at least in
    this celestial neighborhood. In "Rare Earth," published this month by
    Copernicus Books/Springer, paleontologist Peter Ward and astronomer
    Donald Brownlee examine the remarkable confluence of conditions and
    events that deposited life-forming chemicals on Earth, allowed simple life
    to gain a foothold and then protected the planet sufficiently and created just
    the right environmental factors for advanced life to slowly evolve. ... [That
    the Earth is special has long been part of the Christian argument from
    design. The opposite view, that life in general and intelligent life in
    particular is common throughout the universe has been almost an article of
    faith among scientific materialists. Now more and more of them are starting
    to realise just *how* special the Earth is. The article lists "Factors that
    made advanced life possible" which could have come from Hugh Ross's
    writings!] ...
    ABCNEWS ... January 26, ... Elephant Seals Get Fat Males Live Large A
    large bull elephant seal, surrounded by his harem, bellows to proclaim his
    dominance. Size does matter when it comes to elephant seals; the heavier
    they are, the better their odds of mating. (Burney Le Boeuf/UCSC) ... "The
    male is three to 10 times larger than the female," says Burney Le Boeuf,
    professor of biology at UCSC, who has studied northern elephant seals
    (Mirounga angustirostris) for 30 years. "It almost looks like a different
    species." And since only the biggest brutes get a chance to mate, the
    animals are growing in size with each generation, he adds. The large adult
    males come to shore at the start of the breeding season and compete, often
    by fighting, for access to the females. (Burney Le Boeuf/UCSC) ... "It's not
    atypical for one male to mate with 150 females in one season," Le Boeuf
    says. "He might do that for four years in a row. ... Meanwhile, more than
    90 percent of the males that are there, all of whom have high libidos, never
    get a chance to mate. It's a power struggle, and it's based on the ability to
    fight and being large." ... It apparently also has an impact on life
    expectancy. Females live around 18 to 20 years, Le Boeuf says, but "no
    male I know of has ever lived longer than 14 years." ... [A good example of
    sexual selection. But whether it's doing anything for the long-term good to
    the species is unclear.] Yahoo!
    ... January 25 ... Lifting of UK Ban Could Lead to Egg Banks-Doctor By
    Patricia Reaney LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's decision Tuesday to lift its
    ban on women using frozen eggs in fertility treatments could soon lead to
    the establishment of human egg banks, a leading fertility expert said
    Tuesday. Dr. Mohamed Taranissi, the director of the only British clinic
    licensed to freeze human eggs, welcomed the decision and said it will help
    many people.... In addition to lifting the ban on a woman using her own
    frozen eggs, the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA) --
    the body that regulates fertility treatment in Britain -- opened the door for
    women to donate frozen eggs to others. ... [No thought is here seems to be
    given to the children from such egg banks who, if this anonymous donor
    option goes ahead, may never know who their biological mother was.]
    ... Yahoo! ... January 25 ... Dolly's 'Dad' Dismisses Cloning
    Fears By David Luhnow EDINBURGH (Reuters) - Three years ago,
    one of history's most extraordinary creatures was born: an unassuming
    Scottish sheep named Dolly who became the world's first mammal
    cloned from an adult. Now Dolly's "Dad," the scientist who led the
    Edinburgh-based team that cloned her, and a former colleague have
    written a book telling the story of the unlikely 20th Century icon -- a
    tale they hope history will remember as one of human achievement and
    not human folly. ... [The artcicle goes on to explain the "folly" part:
    "the world began to ponder the possibilities both fascinating and
    frightening: the cloning of humans, spare body parts made in a lab, and
    designer babies." Indeed. I wonder if 100 years from now they will
    wish, on balance, that we had left well enough alone?]
    Yahoo! ... January 25 ... Patagonia Vulture Valley Yields New Top
    Dinosaur By Robert Elliott LA BUITRERA, Argentina (Reuters) - ...
    "There is nothing comparable to this so it is probably a new species," the
    wiry Apesteguia said. The tip-off were the two cervical vertebrae each
    measuring 3.84 feet, the biggest ever unearthed. "They were so big they
    seemed like a femur or tibia, but on closer examination they turned out to
    be neck vertebrae," said Jorge Gonzalez, a technical artist from the
    Argentine Natural Sciences Museum in Buenos Aires who is in on the dig.
    With 10 to 12 vertebrae making up the neck, scientists envision a
    planteating sauropod stretching 154-160 feet from head to tail and
    towering 45 feet. That is roughly half a city block long and five stories
    high. ... Also at:
    ABCNEWS ... January 26, ... "The lush vegetation brought the plant-eaters
    and they in turn attracted the meat-eaters," said paleontologist Carlos
    Munoz, head of the Florentino Ameghino museum in Cipolletti. In the
    Cretaceous period 100 million years ago, La Buitrera was a forested plain
    dotted by lakes and sluiced by a huge river that probably flowed into the
    Pacific, unobstructed by the Andes mountain range, which had yet to be
    born. Bones of dinosaurs that died along the river were swept downstream
    and dumped on a bank that is now hard, brown sedimentary rock. The
    fossils of what is believed to be the largest animal ever on Earth were
    found by Avelas on a ridge overlooking the canyon left by the river. The
    spot is perched atop the 128-foot walls of the gorge, which is too narrow
    in sections for access by vehicle or even horse. ...The "Rio Negro Giant"
    now consists of some 20 individual body parts including femurs, ribs and
    tail bones that lie strewn about the excavation site, patiently worked on
    eight hours a day with picks, brushes and plaster by the team of Argentine
    biologists, technicians and paleontology students. ... [More on the largest
    dinosaur fossil ever found. It's a pity it's only plant-eating. We could have
    had "Cretaceous Park"! :-)]
    ...ABCNEWS ... January 25, ... Venting Life Deep Down Life Without
    Sunlight. In the dark, crushing depths along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge - shown
    here as the ragged, thin line running down the middle - are communities of
    creatures that survive amid a toxic brew of metals and temperatures
    reaching 700 degrees Fahrenheit. ... By Jennifer Viegas ... Alien creatures
    with seemingly supernatural powers. Strange, smoke-filled landscapes
    stretching for miles. Glistening gold nuggets strewn about. A larval shrimp
    can swim long distances, traveling to other hydrothermal vents. It loses its
    eyes once it settles on a site. It feeds on microbes - growing and harvesting
    them off its body. ... Welcome to the ink-black depths of the Atlantic Ocean,
    where cracks in Earth's crust spew toxins and superheated water, a
    combination that fuels an odd menagerie of life. ... Scientists from the British
    Mid-Ocean Ridge Initiative (BRIDGE) program think life on Earth may
    have begun at hydrothermal vents. A recent report by the Natural
    Environment Research Council stated that conditions for the origin of life
    might have followed this recipe: ... scientist John Parkes and his colleagues
    write, 'Why do we need to seek the origin of life in the wider realms of
    outer space when the conditions were right here, on our own familiar
    planet?" [Interesting article on oceanic vents with a list of conditions
    needed for the origin of life. Good question about why look for the origin
    of life in space when the same conditions would have applied here on
    Earth. But the fact is that chemical evolutionists *have* been simulating
    those conditions the last 40+ years and life has not popped into existence,
    and indeed it appears to have only popped into existence *once* here on
    Earth! This is good evidence that physico-chemical processes while
    necessary to create life are not sufficient and that what is also needed is
    CNN .... Japanese scientists breed clone of a clone ... January 24, 2000 ...
    TOKYO (AP) -- Japanese scientists have bred the clone of a cloned bull,
    the first time a large cloned animal has itself been cloned, researchers said
    Monday. The calf born Sunday night is part of a project to study the life
    expectancy and aging of cloned animals, scientists at the Kagoshima
    Prefectural Cattle Breeding Development Institute said. The three
    generations of genetically identical bulls -- the original animal and the two
    clones -- are being studied at the institute in southern Japan. ... Also at:
    [It was originally thought that the cells of cloned offspring would be have
    the same age as the parent, but this seems now not to be the case.]
    BBC ... , 22 January, 2000, ... Giant dinosaur eggs found ... A
    team of South Korean palaeontologists say they have discovered the
    world's largest fossilised dinosaur eggs. The 20 eggs, measuring 41cm (16
    inches) from tip to tip, were discovered in a giant nest thought to be 100
    million years old. Experts say they could yield new information about how
    dinosaurs reproduced and the sort of parental care they gave their young.
    The nest, which measures 1.5 metres (four-anda-half feet) across, was
    found at a site near Tongyong City. ... [What an omelette! :-) BTW, the
    land egg is an *enormous* problem for Darwinists. It is amazingly
    complicated and probably irreducibly complex. Evolutionists not only have
    to imagine aquatic animals being prepared by the `blind watchmaker' to
    invade the land, they also have to imagine it preparing their eggs to do it as
    ... Electronic Telegraph 20.01.00 ... Study shows why the girls give some
    men short shrift By Roger Highfield TALLER men really do get the girls,
    according to a study which has revealed that childless men are about 1.5
    inches shorter than fathers. The discovery that women look down their
    noses at short men follows decades of research on birds and animals that
    has put the emphasis on the female when it comes to selecting a mate.
    Given that tallness could be linked with factors that suggest a mate is "fit"
    the term used by evolutionary biologists to describe someone who can sire
    healthy offspring - the study shows how similar evolutionary considerations
    are at work in human populations. ... [More on this tall men sexual
    selection story. Note again that Neo-Darwinian "fitness" does not
    necessarily have anything to do with physical fitness.]
    ... Electronic Telegraph 20.01.00 ... New step in evolution of DNA
    computing By Roger Highfield DNA, the vehicle of inheritance, could one
    day be harnessed by supercomputers in order to carry out complex
    calculations. ... An important step forward in the quest to use the vast
    potential of DNA deoxyribonucleic acid - for tasks now performed by
    silicon microchips has been reported by a team from the University of
    Wisconsin-Madison. DNA computing exploits the way in which
    information can be stored on DNA through the deployment of enzymes
    which act like software in executing operations. ... [More on this DNA
    computing story. Note that DNA and enzymes "act like software"! Maybe
    that's because it *is* software?]
    Electronic Telegraph 20.01.00 ... Golden chance to save eyesight
    Malnutrition caused by vitamin A deficiency could be banished from the
    Third World. Roger Highfield reports A GOLDEN rice that can fight
    malnutrition has been created by genetic modification. This development
    underlines how much of the recent GM food furore has focused on First-
    World angst about the theoretical risks rather than practical benefits for the
    developing world. ... Earlier at:
    ... Gene-Altered Rice May Help Fight Vitamin A Deficiency Globally
    By Guy Gugliotta Washington Post Staff Writer ..., January 14, 2000
    ... scientists have created a strain of genetically altered rice to combat
    vitamin A deficiency, the world's leading cause of blindness... The new
    "golden rice," ... contains three transplanted genes that allow plants to
    produce rice kernels carrying beta-carotene, a compound that is
    converted to vitamin A within the human body. ...[the] team is also
    completing work on another genetically modified rice strain with
    increased iron content. Iron deficiency-anemia, the world's worst
    nutrition disorder, affects nearly 2 billion people. ... [GM has great
    potential to improve the lot of humans in poor countries-assuming they
    can afford it!].
    ... Electronic Telegraph 20.01.00 ... Saliva test finds boys with taste for
    violence By Electronic Telegraph Correspondent BOYS likely to grow up
    violent and disruptive can be identified by analysing their saliva, researchers
    say. The early onset and persistence of such behaviour is associated with
    low saliva levels of the stress hormone cortisol, they found. Compared with
    those having higher or fluctuating cortisol levels, boys aged seven to 12 in
    this category began anti-social acts at a younger age, exhibited three times
    more aggressive symptoms, and were three times more likely to be labelled
    "mean or combative" by their classmates. ... See similar but different story
    Yahoo! ... January 16 ... Study Shows Bratty Behavior Makes Boys
    Popular WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Psychologists said on Sunday they
    had helped explain why some boys become bullies -- because aggressive
    behavior may make boys popular with their playmates. A study of 452 boys
    in the fourth, fifth and sixth grades -- ages 9 through 12 -showed about a
    third of them were popular while showing antisocial behavior. "These
    findings suggest that highly aggressive boys can be among the most
    popular and socially connected children in elementary classrooms," the
    researchers wrote in the American Psychological Association's journal
    Developmental Psychology. ... [The first story claims a physico-chemical
    cause for anti-social behaviour but the second finds psycho-social reasons
    for what seems to be the same thing!]
    ... Scientists tackle 'Schroedinger's cat' paradox. January 19, 2000 ...
    Physicists say they have managed to nudge atoms back and forth between
    our everyday world and the strange quantum realm where objects can
    paradoxically be in two places at the same time. If physicists can further
    refine their control over this realm, it could result in incredibly fast
    quantum computers able to crack even the toughest encryption codes used
    by conventional computers today. ... Also at:
    BBC..., 20 January, 2000, ... Scientists probe the quantum world
    ... The researchers from National Institute of Standards and Technology
    (NIST) in Colorado, US, say they were able to keep a beryllium ion in a
    Schrodinger's cat-like state for as long as 100 millionths of a second. ... To
    achieve this, the beryllium atom was cooled to close to absolute zero and
    isolated from all types of radiation and energy sources. The team then used
    lasers to force the atom's single electron into two states of spin, which also
    forced the atom to be in two places at the same time. ... [It will be
    interesting to see if this quantum computing will ever be economically
    feasible and reliable enough for mission-critical computing.] The
    Scientist 14[1]:13, Jan. 10, 2000 ... Chimeraplasty Potential As research
    advances, hopes rise, but efficiency and safety are still concerns By Paul
    Smaglik ... If single-gene disorders are akin to minor misspellings in the
    human genome, then it stands to reason that the biological equivalent of a
    word processor's search-and-replace function could correct them. Some
    researchers are hoping that chimeraplasty can be that tool. The biological
    software--a chimeric oligonucleotide constructed from both DNA and
    RNA--was invented and first tested in vitro in 1994. But before it can be
    "shipped" to the clinic, its developers and others must optimize it and
    debug it. Gene therapy researchers, in particular, are enthusiastic about the
    tool, because correcting defects in existing genes rather than flooding a
    patient's body with duplicate, correct copies seems safer. ... "What's really
    neat about this oligonucleotide is that it's specifically designed to correct
    the misspelling of the gene that you are interested in," comments Blaese.
    The molecule, designed to be homologous to the target gene, contains the
    normal spelling of the genetic typo. The oligo then base-pairs with the
    endogenous genomic sequence. But because it contains a correctly spelled
    gene and the target gene contains a misspelling, the resulting mismatch
    triggers the cell's repair machinery, researchers think. ... [This sounds
    *much* better correcting the original `text' rather than trying to write a
    new chapter. The analogy to a word-processor's search-and-replace
    function is nice from an ID perspective.],6121,120156,00.html
    The Guardian Observer ... Jan 09 03:41:29 2000 Biography How Darwin's
    other half lived Robin McKie follows Alfred Wallace in Snadra Knapp's
    Footsteps in the Forest and Gavan Daws and Marty Fujita's Archipelago ...
    January 9, 2000 ... Few men have led lives that inspire so dramatically as
    Alfred Russel Wallace's. Born in near poverty, denied higher education,
    and refused recognition during his early life, the naturalist was afflicted by
    hardships that would have broken most men. Even after becoming a
    biologist he suffered appalling misfortune: a ship fire destroyed his priceless
    Amazon specimens, he contracted malaria, was maimed in a gun accident,
    and lost a brother to yellow fever. Yet Wallace endured and became a
    noted collector of rare animal and plant specimens; invented the science of
    biogeography, the study of animal distribution; and, in a fitting response to
    'the ague', cracked the secret of natural selection in the midst of a malarial
    fever. He became a supporter of women's rights, socialism, land
    nationalisation, and - in case you thought he was too good to be true -
    spiritualism. As E.O. Wilson states in a prologue to Archipelago , Wallace
    succeeded because he was 'an intense young man, totally focused,
    awesomely persistent, resilient to tropical disease that killed so many
    others, and nobly selfless'. However, his greatest achievement remains the
    unravelling of natural selection, a theory that still obsesses humanity -
    though we usually associate its principles with its codiscoverer, Charles
    Darwin, with whom Wallace announced joint success in their breakthrough
    at the Linnean Society in London in 1858. ... He had found the key to the
    origin of species and, still in an 'ague fit', sketched out a paper which he
    posted to Darwin. The letter arrived on 18 June, 1858 like a thunderbolt,
    for Darwin had also been pondering a similar notion. In the end, a joint
    reading of papers was arranged. 'But what if Wallace, instead of sending his
    paper to Darwin, had sent it to a journal in London to be published?' ask
    Daws and Fujita. And what about those discrepancies in dates and postings
    that lead some academics to suggest Darwin received Wallace's manuscript
    much earlier and plagiarised it? Whatever else, it is clear the great
    evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr is right when he says: 'Whenever one
    speaks of natural selection, one ought to mention both Darwin and
    Wallace.' [Although Darwin had been working on evolution by natural
    selection longer, Wallace was the first to produce a paper for publication
    and so should have the priority. Also it is hard not to believe that Darwin
    benefitted from reading Wallace's paper in producing his own. Darwin's
    prevailing of his powerful friends Lyell and Hooker to have his own
    paper published at the same time as Wallace's was IMHO *disgraceful*.]

    Stephen E. (Steve) Jones ,--_|\ Email:
    3 Hawker Avenue / Oz \ Web:
    Warwick 6024 -> *_,--\_/ Phone: +61 8 9448 7439
    Perth, Western Australia v "Test everything." (1 Thess. 5:21)

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