Monthly Archives: February 2017

Why Darwinism Is False

Why Darwinism Is False

Jonathan Wells
Discovery Institute
May 18, 2009

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Jerry A. Coyne is a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at The University of Chicago. In Why Evolution is True, he summarizes Darwinism—the modern theory of evolution—as follows: “Life on earth evolved gradually beginning with one primitive species—perhaps a self-replicating molecule—that lived more than 3.5 billion years ago; it then branched out over time, throwing off many new and diverse species; and the mechanism for most (but not all) of evolutionary change is natural selection.”1

Coyne further explains that evolution “simply means that a species undergoes genetic change over time. That is, over many generations a species can evolve into something quite different, and those differences are based on changes in the DNA, which originate as mutations. The species of animals and plants living today weren’t around in the past, but are descended from those that lived earlier.”2

According to Coyne, however, “if evolution meant only gradual genetic change within a species, we’d have only one species today—a single highly evolved descendant of the first species. Yet we have many… How does this diversity arise from one ancestral form?” It arises because of “splitting, or, more accurately, speciation,” which “simply means the evolution of different groups that can’t interbreed.”3

If Darwinian theory were true, “we should be able to find some cases of speciation in the fossil record, with one line of descent dividing into two or more. And we should be able to find new species forming in the wild.” Furthermore, “we should be able to find examples of species that link together major groups suspected to have common ancestry, like birds with reptiles and fish with amphibians.” Finally, there are facts that “make sense only in light of the theory of evolution” but do not make sense in the light of creation or design. These include “patterns of species distribution on the earth’s surface, peculiarities of how organisms develop from embryos, and the existence of vestigial features that are of no apparent use.” Coyne concludes his introduction with the bold statement that “all the evidence—both old and new—leads ineluctably to the conclusion that evolution is true.”4

Of course, “evolution” is undeniably true if it means simply that existing species can change in minor ways over time, or that many species living today did not exist in the past. But Darwin’s claim that all species are modified descendants of a common ancestor, and Coyne’s claim that DNA mutations and natural selection have produced those modifications, are not so undeniably true. Coyne devotes the remainder of his book to providing evidence for them.

Fossils

Coyne turns first to the fossil record. “We should be able,” he writes, “to find some evidence for evolutionary change in the fossil record. The deepest (and oldest) layers of rock would contain the fossils of more primitive species, and some fossils should become more complex as the layers of rock become younger, with organisms resembling present-day species found in the most recent layers. And we should be able to see some species changing over time, forming lineages showing ‘descent with modification’ (adaptation).” In particular, “later species should have traits that make them look like the descendants of earlier ones.”5

In The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin acknowledged that the fossil record presented difficulties for his theory. “By the theory of natural selection,” he wrote, “all living species have been connected with the parent-species of each genus, by differences not greater than we see between the natural and domestic varieties of the same species at the present day.” Thus in the past “the number of intermediate and transitional links, between all living and extinct species, must have been inconceivably great.” But Darwin knew that the major animal groups—which modern biologists call “phyla”—appeared fully formed in what were at the time the earliest known fossil-bearing rocks, deposited during a geological period known as the Cambrian. He considered this a “serious” difficulty for his theory, since “if the theory be true, it is indisputable that before the lowest Cambrian stratum was deposited long periods elapsed… and that during these vast periods the world swarmed with living creatures.” And “to the question why we do not find rich fossiliferous deposits belonging to these assumed earliest periods prior to the Cambrian system, I can give no satisfactory answer.” So “the case at present must remain inexplicable; and may be truly urged as a valid argument against the views here entertained.”6

Darwin defended his theory by citing the imperfection of the geological record. In particular, he argued that Precambrian fossils had been destroyed by heat, pressure, and erosion. Some of Darwin’s modern followers have likewise argued that Precambrian fossils existed but were later destroyed, or that Precambrian organisms were too small or too soft to have fossilized in the first place. Since 1859, however, paleontologists have discovered many Precambrian fossils, many of them microscopic or soft-bodied. As American paleobiologist William Schopf wrote in 1994, “The long-held notion that Precambrian organisms must have been too small or too delicate to have been preserved in geological materials… [is] now recognized as incorrect.” If anything, the abrupt appearance of the major animal phyla about 540 million years ago—which modern biologists call “the Cambrian explosion” or “biology’s Big Bang”—is better documented now than in Darwin’s time. According to Berkeley paleontologist James Valentine and his colleagues, the “explosion is real, it is too big to be masked by flaws in the fossil record.” Indeed, as more fossils are discovered it becomes clear that the Cambrian explosion was “even more abrupt and extensive than previously envisioned.”7

What does Coyne’s book have to say about this?

“Around 600 million years ago,” Coyne writes, “a whole gamut of relatively simple but multicelled organisms arise, including worms, jellyfish, and sponges. These groups diversify over the next several million years, with terrestrial plants and tetrapods (four-legged animals, the earliest of which were lobe-finned fish) appearing about 400 million years ago.”8

In other words, Coyne’s account of evolutionary history jumps from 600 to 400 million years ago without mentioning the 540 million year-old Cambrian explosion. In this respect, Coyne’s book reads like a modern biology textbook that has been written to indoctrinate students in Darwinian evolution rather than provide them with the facts.

Coyne goes on to discuss several “transitional” forms. “One of our best examples of an evolutionary transition,” he writes, is the fossil record of whales, “since we have a chronologically ordered series of fossils, perhaps a lineage of ancestors and descendants, showing their movement from land to water.”9

“The sequence begins,” Coyne writes, “with the recently discovered fossil of a close relative of whales, a raccoon-sized animal called Indohyus. Living 48 million years ago, Indohyus was… probably very close to what the whale ancestor looked like.” In the next paragraph, Coyne writes, “Indohyus was not the ancestor of whales, but was almost certainly its cousin. But if we go back 4 million more years, to 52 million years ago, we see what might well be that ancestor. It is a fossil skull from a wolf-sized creature called Pakicetus, which is bit more whalelike than Indohyus.” On the page separating these two paragraphs is a figure captioned “Transitional forms in the evolution of modern whales,” which shows Indohyus as the first in the series and Pakicetus as the second.10

But Pakicetus—as Coyne just told us—is 4 million years older than Indohyus. To a Darwinist, this doesn’t matter: Pakicetus is “more whalelike” than Indohyus, so it must fall between Indohyus and modern whales, regardless of the fossil evidence.

(Coyne performs the same trick with fossils that are supposedly ancestral to modern birds. The textbook icon Archaeopteryx, with feathered wings like a modern bird but teeth and a tail like a reptile, is dated at 145 million years. But what Coyne calls the “nonflying feathered dinosaur fossils”—which should have come before Archaeopteryx—are tens of millions of years younger. Like Darwinists Kevin Padian and Luis Chiappe eleven years earlier, Coyne simply rearranges the evidence to fit Darwinian theory.)11

So much for Coyne’s prediction that “later species should have traits that make them look like the descendants of earlier ones.” And so much for his argument that “if evolution were not true, fossils would not occur in an order that makes evolutionary sense.” Ignoring the facts he himself has just presented, Coyne brazenly concludes: “When we find transitional forms, they occur in the fossil record precisely where they should.” If Coyne’s book were turned into a movie, this scene might feature Chico Marx saying, “Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?”12

There is another problem with the whale series (and every other series of fossils) that Coyne fails to address: No species in the series could possibly be the ancestor of any other, because all of them possess characteristics they would first have to lose before evolving into a subsequent form. This is why the scientific literature typically shows each species branching off a supposed lineage.

In the figure below, all the lines are hypothetical. The diagram on the left is a representation of evolutionary theory: Species A is ancestral to B, which is ancestral to C, which is ancestral to D, which is ancestral to E. But the diagram on the right is a better representation of the evidence: Species A, B, C and D are not in the actual lineage leading to E, which remains unknown.

 

Wells' Descent Chart 

It turns out that no series of fossils can provide evidence for Darwinian descent with modification. Even in the case of living species, buried remains cannot generally be used to establish ancestor-descendant relationships. Imagine finding two human skeletons in the same grave, one about thirty years older than the other. Was the older individual the parent of the younger? Without written genealogical records and identifying marks (or in some cases DNA), it is impossible to answer the question. And in this case we would be dealing with two skeletons from the same species that are only a generation apart and from the same location. With fossils from different species that are now extinct, and widely separated in time and space, there is no way to establish that one is the ancestor of another—no matter how many transitional fossils we find.

In 1978, Gareth Nelson of the American Museum of Natural History wrote: “The idea that one can go to the fossil record and expect to empirically recover an ancestor-descendant sequence, be it of species, genera, families, or whatever, has been, and continues to be, a pernicious illusion.”13 Nature science writer Henry Gee wrote in 1999 that “no fossil is buried with its birth certificate.” When we call new fossil discoveries “missing links,” it is “as if the chain of ancestry and descent were a real object for our contemplation, and not what it really is: a completely human invention created after the fact, shaped to accord with human prejudices.” Gee concluded: “To take a line of fossils and claim that they represent a lineage is not a scientific hypothesis that can be tested, but an assertion that carries the same validity as a bedtime story—amusing, perhaps even instructive, but not scientific.”14

Embryos

So evolutionary theory needs better evidence than the fossil record can provide. Coyne correctly notes: “When he wrote The Origin, Darwin considered embryology his strongest evidence for evolution.” Darwin had written that the evidence seemed to show that “the embryos of the most distinct species belonging to the same class are closely similar, but become, when fully developed, widely dissimilar,” a pattern that “reveals community of descent.” Indeed, Darwin thought that early embryos “show us, more or less completely, the condition of the progenitor of the whole group in its adult state.”15

But Darwin was not an embryologist. In The Origin of Species he supported his contention by citing a passage by German embryologist Karl Ernst von Baer:

“The embryos of mammals, birds, lizards and snakes, and probably chelonia [turtles] are in their earliest states exceedingly like one another…. In my possession are two little embryos in spirit, whose names I have omitted to attach, and at present I am quite unable to say to what class they belong. They may be lizards or small birds, or very young mammals, so complete is the similarity in the mode of formation of the head and trunk in these animals.”16

Coyne claims that this is something von Baer “wrote to Darwin,” but Coyne’s history is as unreliable as his paleontology. The passage Darwin cited was from a work written in German by von Baer in 1828; Thomas Henry Huxley translated it into English and published it in 1853. Darwin didn’t even realize at first that it was from von Baer: In the first two editions of The Origin of Species he incorrectly attributed the passage to Louis Agassiz.17

Ironically, von Baer was a strong critic of Darwin’s theory, rejecting the idea that all vertebrates share a common ancestor. According to historian of science Timothy Lenoir, von Baer feared that Darwin and his followers had “already accepted the Darwinian evolutionary hypothesis as true before they set to the task of observing embryos.” The myth that von Baer’s work supported Darwin’s theory was due primarily to another German biologist, Ernst Haeckel.”18  Haeckel maintained not only that all vertebrate embryos evolved from a common ancestor, but also that in their development (“ontogeny”) they replay (“recapitulate”) their evolutionary history (“phylogeny”). He called this The Biogenetic Law: Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny.

In Why Evolution Is True, Coyne writes that “the ‘recapitulation’ of an evolutionary sequence is seen in the developmental sequence” of various organs. “Each vertebrate undergoes development in a series of stages, and the sequence of those stages happens to follow the evolutionary sequence of its ancestors.” The probable reason for this is that “as one species evolves into another, the descendant inherits the developmental program of its ancestor.” So the descendant tacks changes “onto what is already a robust and basic developmental plan. It is best for things that evolved later to be programmed to develop later in the embryo. This ‘adding new stuff onto old’ principle also explains why the sequence of developmental stages mirrors the evolutionary sequence of organisms. As one group evolves from another, it often adds its developmental program on top of the old one.” Thus “all vertebrates begin development looking like embryonic fish because we all descended from a fishlike ancestor.”19

Nevertheless, Coyne writes, Haeckel’s Biogenetic Law “wasn’t strictly true,” because “embryonic stages don’t look like the adult forms of their ancestors,” as Haeckel (and Darwin) believed, “but like the embryonic forms of their ancestors.” But this reformulation of The Biogenetic Law doesn’t solve the problem. First, fossil embryos are extremely rare,20 so the reformulated law has to rely on embryos of modern organisms that are assumed to resemble ancestral forms. The result is a circular argument: According to Darwin’s theory, fish are our ancestors; human embryos (allegedly) look like fish embryos; therefore, human embryos look like the embryos of our ancestors. Theory first, observation later—just as von Baer had objected.

Second, the idea that later evolutionary stages can simply be tacked onto development is biologically unrealistic. A human is not just a fish embryo with some added features. As British embryologist Walter Garstang pointed out in 1922, “a house is not a cottage with an extra story on the top. A house represents a higher grade in the evolution of a residence, but the whole building is altered—foundations, timbers, and roof—even if the bricks are the same.”21

Third, and most important, vertebrate embryos are not most similar in their earliest stages. In the 1860s, Haeckel made some drawings to show that vertebrate embryos look almost identical in their first stage—but his drawings were faked. Not only had he distorted the embryos by making them appear more similar than they really are, but he had also omitted earlier stages in which the embryos are strikingly different from each other. A human embryo in its earliest stages looks nothing like a fish embryo.

Only after vertebrate embryos have progressed halfway through their development do they reach the stage that Darwin and Haeckel treated as the first. Developmental biologists call this different-similar-different pattern the “developmental hourglass.” Vertebrate embryos do not resemble each other in their earliest stages, but they converge somewhat in appearance midway through development before diverging again. If ontogeny were a recapitulation of phylogeny, such a pattern would be more consistent with separate origins than with common ancestry. Modern Darwinists attempt to salvage their theory by assuming that the common ancestry of vertebrates is obscured because early development can evolve easily, but there is no justification for this assumption other than the theory itself.22

Although Haeckel’s drawings were exposed as fakes by his own contemporaries, biology textbooks used them throughout the twentieth century to convince students that humans share a common ancestor with fish. Then, in 1997, a scientific journal published an article comparing photos of vertebrate embryos to Haeckel’s drawings, which the lead author described as “one of the most famous fakes in biology.” In 2000, Harvard evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould called Haeckel’s drawings “fraudulent” and wrote that biologists should “be both astonished and ashamed by the century of mindless recycling that has led to the persistence of these drawings in a large number, if not a majority, of modern textbooks.”23

But Coyne is not ashamed. He defends Haeckel’s drawings “Haeckel was accused, largely unjustly,” Coyne writes, “of fudging some drawings of early embryos to make them look more similar than they really are. Yet we shouldn’t throw out the baby with the bath water.”24 The “baby” is Darwin’s theory, which Coyne stubbornly defends regardless of the evidence.

Vestiges and Bad Design

Darwin argued in The Origin of Species that the widespread occurrence of vestigial organs—organs that may have once had a function but are now useless—is evidence against creation. “On the view of each organism with all its separate parts having been specially created, how utterly inexplicable is it that organs bearing the plain stamp of inutility…  should so frequently occur.” But such organs, he argued, are readily explained by his theory: “On the view of descent with modification, we may conclude that the existence of organs in a rudimentary, imperfect, and useless condition, or quite aborted, far from presenting a strange difficulty, as they assuredly do on the old doctrine of creation, might even have been anticipated in accordance with the views here explained.”25

In The Descent of Man, Darwin cited the human appendix as an example of a vestigial organ. But Darwin was mistaken: The appendix is now known to be an important source of antibody-producing blood cells and thus an integral part of the human immune system. It may also serve as a compartment for beneficial bacteria that are needed for normal digestion. So the appendix is not useless at all.26

In 1981, Canadian biologist Steven Scadding argued that although he had no objection to Darwinism, “vestigial organs provide no evidence for evolutionary theory.” The primarily reason is that “it is difficult, if not impossible, to unambiguously identify organs totally lacking in function.” Scadding cited the human appendix as an organ previously thought to be vestigial but now known to have a function. Another Canadian biologist, Bruce Naylor, countered that an organ with some function can still be considered vestigial. Furthermore, Naylor argued, “perfectly designed organisms necessitated the existence of a creator,” but “organisms are often something less than perfectly designed” and thus better explained by evolution. Scadding replied: “The entire argument of Darwin and others regarding vestigial organs hinges on their uselessness and inutility.” Otherwise, the argument from vestigiality is nothing more than an argument from homology, and “Darwin treated these arguments separately recognizing that they were in fact independent.” Scadding also objected that Naylor’s “less than perfectly designed” argument was “based on a theological assumption about the nature of God, i.e. that he would not create useless structures. Whatever the validity of this theological claim, it certainly cannot be defended as a scientific statement, and thus should be given no place in a scientific discussion of evolution.”27

In Why Evolution Is True, Coyne (like Darwin) cites the human appendix as an example of a vestigial organ. Unlike Darwin, however, Coyne concedes that “it may be of some small use. The appendix contains patches of tissue that may function as part of the immune system. It has also been suggested that it provides a refuge for useful gut bacteria. But these minor benefits are surely outweighed by the severe problems that come with the human appendix.” In any case, Coyne argues, “the appendix is still vestigial, for it no longer performs the function for which it evolved.”28

As Scadding had pointed out nearly thirty years ago, however, Darwin’s argument rested on lack of function, not change of function. Furthermore, if vestigiality were redefined as Coyne proposes, it would include many features never before thought to be vestigial. For example, if the human arm evolved from the leg of a four-footed mammal (as Darwinists claim), then the human arm is vestigial. And if (as Coyne argues) the wings of flying birds evolved from feathered forelimbs of dinosaurs that used them for other purposes, then the wings of flying birds are vestigial. This is the opposite of what most people mean by “vestigial.”29

Coyne also ignores Scadding’s other criticism, arguing that whether the human appendix is useless or not, it is an example of imperfect or bad design. “What I mean by ‘bad design’,” Coyne writes, “is the notion that if organisms were built from scratch by a designer—one who used the biological building blocks or nerves, muscles, bone, and so on—they would not have such imperfections. Perfect design would truly be the sign of a skilled and intelligent designer. Imperfect design is the mark of evolution; in fact, it’s precisely what we expect from evolution.”30

An even better example of bad design, Coyne argues, is the prevalence of “dead genes.” According to the modern version of Darwinism that Coyne defends, DNA carries a genetic program that encodes proteins that direct embryo development; mutations occasionally alter the genetic program to produce new proteins (or change their locations); and natural selection then sorts those mutations to produce evolution. In the 1970s, however, molecular biologists discovered that most of our DNA does not encode proteins. In 1972 Susumu Ohno called this “junk,” and in 1976 Richard Dawkins wrote: “A large fraction of the DNA is never translated into protein. From the point of view of the individual organism this seems paradoxical. If the ‘purpose’ of DNA is to supervise the building of bodies, it is surprising to find a large quantity of DNA which does no such thing.” From the point of view of Darwinian evolution, however, there is no paradox. “The true ‘purpose’ of DNA is to survive, no more and no less. The simplest way to explain the surplus DNA is to suppose that it is a parasite, or at best a harmless but useless passenger, hitching a ride in the survival machines created by the other DNA.”31

Like Dawkins, Coyne regards much of our DNA as parasitic. He writes in Why Evolution Is True: “When a trait is no longer used, or becomes reduced, the genes that make it don’t instantly disappear from the genome: evolution stops their action by inactivating them, not snipping them out of the DNA. From this we can make a prediction. We expect to find, in the genomes of many species, silenced, or ‘dead,’ genes: genes that once were useful but are no longer intact or expressed. In other words, there should be vestigial genes. In contrast, the idea that all species were created from scratch predicts that no such genes would exist.” Coyne continues: “Thirty years ago we couldn’t test this prediction because we had no way to read the DNA code. Now, however, it’s quite easy to sequence the complete genome of species, and it’s been done for many of them, including humans. This gives us a unique tool to study evolution when we realize that the normal function of a gene is to make a protein—a protein whose sequence of amino acids is determined by the sequence of nucleotide bases that make up the DNA. And once we have the DNA sequence of a given gene, we can usually tell if it is expressed normally—that is, whether it makes a functional protein—or whether it is silenced and makes nothing. We can see, for example, whether mutations have changed the gene so that a usable protein can no longer be made, or whether the ‘control’ regions responsible for turning on a gene have been inactivated. A gene that doesn’t function is called a pseudogene. And the evolutionary prediction that we’ll find pseudogenes has been fulfilled—amply. Virtually every species harbors dead genes, many of them still active in its relatives. This implies that those genes were also active in a common ancestor, and were killed off in some descendants but not in others. Out of about thirty thousand genes, for example, we humans carry more than two thousand pseudogenes. Our genome—and that of other species—are truly well populated graveyards of dead genes.”32

But Coyne is dead wrong.

Evidence pouring in from genome-sequencing projects shows that virtually all of an organism’s DNA is transcribed into RNA, and that even though most of that RNA is not translated into proteins, it performs essential regulatory functions. Every month, science journals publish articles describing more such functions. And this is not late-breaking news: The evidence has been accumulating since 2003 (when scientists finished sequencing the human genome) that “pseudogenes” and other so-called “junk DNA” sequences are not useless after all.33 Why Evolution Is True ignores this enormous body of evidence, which decisively refutes Coyne’s Darwinian prediction that our genome should contain lots of “dead” DNA. It’s no wonder that Coyne falls back again and again on the sort of theological arguments that Scadding wrote “should be given no place in a scientific discussion of evolution.”

Biogeography

Theological arguments are also prominent in The Origin of Species. For example, Darwin argued that the geographic distribution of living things made no sense if species had been separately created, but it did make sense in the context of his theory. Cases such as “the presence of peculiar species of bats on oceanic islands and the absence of all other terrestrial mammals,” Darwin wrote, “are facts utterly inexplicable on the theory of independent acts of creation.” In particular: “Why, it may be asked, has the supposed creative force produced bats and no other mammals on remote islands?” According to Darwin, “on my view this question can easily be answered; for no terrestrial mammal can be transported across a wide space of sea, but bats can fly across.”34

But Darwin knew that migration cannot account for all patterns of geographic distribution. He wrote in The Origin of Species that “the identity of many plants and animals, on mountain-summits, separated from each other by hundreds of miles of lowlands, where Alpine species could not possibly exist, is one of the most striking cases known of the same species living at distant points without the apparent possibility of their having migrated from one point to the other.” Darwin argued that the recent ice age “affords a simple explanation of these facts.” Arctic plants and animals that were “nearly the same” could have flourished everywhere in Europe and North America, but “when the warmth had fully returned, the same species, which had lately lived together on the European and North American lowlands, would again be found in the arctic regions of the Old and New Worlds, and on many isolated mountain-summits far distant from each other.”35

So some cases of geographic distribution may not be due to migration, but to the splitting of a formerly large, widespread population into small, isolated populations—what modern biologists call “vicariance.” Darwin argued that all modern distributions of species could be explained by these two possibilities. Yet there are many cases of geographic distribution that neither migration nor vicariance seem able to explain.

One example is the worldwide distribution of flightless birds, or “ratites.” These include ostriches in Africa, rheas in South America, emus and cassowaries in Australia, and kiwis in New Zealand. Since the birds are flightless, explanations based on migration over vast oceanic distances are implausible. After continental drift was discovered in the twentieth century, it was thought that the various populations might have separated with the landmasses. But ostriches and kiwis are much too recent; the continents had already drifted apart when these species originated. So neither migration nor vicariance explain ratite biogeography.36

Another example is freshwater crabs. Studied intensively by Italian biologist Giuseppe Colosi in the 1920s, these animals complete their life cycles exclusively in freshwater habitats and are incapable of surviving prolonged exposure to salt water. Today, very similar species are found in widely separated lakes and rivers in Central and South America, Africa, Madagascar, southern Europe, India, Asia and Australia. Fossil and molecular evidence indicates that these animals originated long after the continents separated, so their distribution is inconsistent with the vicariance hypothesis. Some biologists speculate that the crabs may have migrated by “transoceanic rafting” in hollow logs, but this seems unlikely given their inability to tolerate salt water. So neither vicariance nor migration provides a convincing explanation for the biogeography of these animals.37

An alternative explanation was suggested in the mid-twentieth century by Léon Croizat, a French biologist raised in Italy. Croizat found that Darwin’s theory did “not seem to agree at all with certain important facts of nature,” especially the facts of biogeography. Indeed, he concluded, “Darwinism is by now only a straitjacket… a thoroughly decrepit skin to hold new wine.” Croizat did not argue for independent acts of creation; instead, he proposed that in many cases a widespread primitive species was split into fragments, then its remnants evolved in parallel, in separate locations, into new species that were remarkably similar. Croizat called this process of parallel evolution “orthogenesis.” Neo-Darwinists such as Ernst Mayr, however, pointed out that there is no mechanism for orthogenesis, which implies—contrary to Darwinism—that evolution is guided in certain directions; so they rejected Croizat’s hypothesis.38

In Why Evolution Is True, Coyne (like Darwin) attributes the biogeography of oceanic islands to migration, and certain other distributions to vicariance. But Coyne (unlike Darwin) acknowledges that these two processes cannot explain everything. For example, the internal anatomy of marsupial mammals is so different from the internal anatomy of placental mammals that the two groups are thought to have split a long time ago. Yet there are marsupial flying squirrels, anteaters and moles in Australia that strikingly resemble placental flying squirrels, anteaters and moles on other continents, and these forms originated long after the continents had separated.

Coyne attributes the similarities to “a well-known process called convergent evolution.” According to Coyne. “It’s really quite simple. Species that live in similar habitats will experience similar selection pressures from their environment, so they may evolve similar adaptations, or converge, coming to look and behave very much alike even though they are unrelated.” Put together common ancestry, natural selection, and the origin of species (“speciation”), “add in the fact that distant areas of the world can have similar habitats, and you get convergent evolution—and a simple explanation of a major geographic pattern.”39

This is not the same as Croizat’s “orthogenesis,” according to which populations of a single species, after becoming separated from each other, evolve in parallel due to some internal directive force. According to Coyne’s “convergent evolution,” organisms that are fundamentally different from each other evolve through natural selection to become superficially similar because they inhabit similar environments. The mechanism for orthogenesis is internal, whereas the mechanism for convergence is external. In both cases, however, mechanism is crucial: Without it, orthogenesis and convergence are simply words describing biogeographical patterns, not explanations of how those patterns originated.

So the same question can be asked of convergence that was asked of orthogenesis: What is the evidence for the proposed mechanism? According to Coyne, the mechanism of convergence involves natural selection and speciation.

Selection and Speciation

Coyne writes that Darwin “had little direct evidence for selection acting in natural populations.” Actually, Darwin had no direct evidence for natural selection; the best he could do in The Origin of Species was “give one or two imaginary illustrations.” It wasn’t until a century later that Bernard Kettlewell provided what he called “Darwin’s missing evidence” for natural selection—a shift in the proportion of light- and dark-colored peppered moths that Kettlewell attributed to camouflage and bird predation.40

Since then, biologists have found lots of direct evidence for natural selection. Coyne describes some of it, including an increase in average beak depth of finches on the Galápagos Islands and a change in flowering time in wild mustard plants in Southern California—both due to drought. Like Darwin, Coyne also compares natural selection to the artificial selection used in plant and animal breeding.

But these examples of selection—natural as well as artificial—involve only minor changes within existing species. Breeders were familiar with such changes before 1859, which is why Darwin did not write a book titled How Existing Species Change Over Time; he wrote a book titled The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. “Darwin called his great work On the Origin of Species,” wrote Harvard evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr in 1982, “for he was fully conscious of the fact that the change from one species into another was the most fundamental problem of evolution.” Yet, Mayr had written earlier, “Darwin failed to solve the problem indicated by the title of his work.” In 1997, evolutionary biologist Keith Stewart Thomson wrote: “A matter of unfinished business for biologists is the identification of evolution’s smoking gun,” and “the smoking gun of evolution is speciation, not local adaptation and differentiation of populations.” Before Darwin, the consensus was that species can vary only within certain limits; indeed, centuries of artificial selection had seemingly demonstrated such limits experimentally. “Darwin had to show that the limits could be broken,” wrote Thomson, “so do we.”41

In 2004, Coyne and H. Allen Orr published a detailed book titled Speciation, in which they noted that biologists have not been able to agree on a definition of “species” because no single definition fits every case. For example, a definition applicable to living, sexually reproducing organisms might make no sense when applied to fossils or bacteria. In fact, there are more than 25 definitions of “species.” What definition is best? Coyne and Orr argued that, “when deciding on a species concept, one should first identify the nature of one’s ‘species problem,’ and then choose the concept best at solving that problem.” Like most other Darwinists, Coyne and Orr favor Ernst Mayr’s “biological species concept” (BSC), according to which “species are groups of interbreeding natural populations that are reproductively isolated from other such groups.” In Why Evolution Is True, Coyne explains that the biological species concept is “the one that evolutionists prefer when studying speciation, because it gets you to the heart of the evolutionary question. Under the BSC, if you can explain how reproductive barriers evolve, you’ve explained the origin of species.”42

Theoretically, reproductive barriers arise when geographically separated populations diverge genetically. But Coyne describes five “cases of real-time speciation” that involve a different mechanism: chromosome doubling, or “polyploidy.”43 This usually follows hybridization between two existing plant species. Most hybrids are sterile because their mismatched chromosomes can’t separate properly to produce fertile pollen and ovaries; occasionally, however, the chromosomes in a hybrid spontaneously double, producing two perfectly matched sets and making reproduction possible. The result is a fertile plant that is reproductively isolated from the two parents—a new species, according to the BSC.

But speciation by polyploidy (“secondary speciation”) has been observed only in plants. It does not provide evidence for Darwin’s theory that species originate through natural selection, nor for the neo-Darwinian theory of speciation by geographic separation and genetic divergence. Indeed, according to evolutionary biologist Douglas J. Futuyma, polyploidy “does not confer major new morphological characteristics… [and] does not cause the evolution of new genera” or higher levels in the biological hierarchy.44

So secondary speciation does not solve Darwin’s problem. Only primary speciation—the splitting of one species into two by natural selection—would be capable of producing the branching-tree pattern of Darwinian evolution. But no one has ever observed primary speciation. Evolution’s smoking gun has never been found.45

Or has it?

In Why Evolution Is True, Coyne claims that primary speciation was observed in an experiment reported in 1998. Curiously, Coyne did not mention it in the 2004 book he co-authored with Orr, but his 2009 account of it is worth quoting in full:

“We can even see the origin of a new, ecologically diverse bacterial species, all within a single laboratory flask. Paul Rainey and his colleagues at Oxford University placed a strain of the bacteria Pseudomonas fluorescens in a small vessel containing nutrient broth, and simply watched it. (It’s surprising but true that such a vessel actually contains diverse environments. Oxygen concentration, for example, is highest on the top and lowest on the bottom.) Within ten days—no more than a few hundred generations—the ancestral free-floating ‘smooth’ bacterium had evolved into two additional forms occupying different parts of the beaker. One, called ‘wrinkly spreader,’ formed a mat on top of the broth. The other, called ‘fuzzy spreader,’ formed a carpet on the bottom. The smooth ancestral type persisted in the liquid environment in the middle. Each of the two new forms was genetically different from the ancestor, having evolved through mutation and natural selection to reproduce best in their respective environments. Here, then, is not only evolution but speciation occurring in the lab: the ancestral form produced, and coexisted with, two ecologically different descendants, and in bacteria such forms are considered distinct species. Over a very short time, natural selection in Pseudomonas yielded a small-scale ‘adaptive radiation,’ the equivalent of how animals or plants form species when they encounter new environments on an oceanic island.”46

But Coyne omits the fact that when the ecologically different forms were placed back into the same environment, they “suffered a rapid loss of diversity,” according to Rainey. In bacteria, an ecologically distinct population (called an “ecotype”) may constitute a separate species, but only if the distinction is permanent. As evolutionary microbiologist Frederick Cohan wrote in 2002, species in bacteria “are ecologically distinct from one another; and they are irreversibly separate.”47 The rapid reversal of ecological distinctions when the bacterial populations in Rainey’s experiment were put back into the same environment refutes Coyne’s claim that the experiment demonstrated the origin of a new species.

Exaggerating the evidence to prop up Darwinism is not new. In the Galápagos finches, average beak depth reverted to normal after the drought ended. There was no net evolution, much less speciation. Yet Coyne writes in Why Evolution Is True that “everything we require of evolution by natural selection was amply documented” by the finch studies. Since scientific theories stand or fall on the evidence, Coyne’s tendency to exaggerate the evidence does not speak well for the theory he is defending. When a 1999 booklet published by The U. S. National Academy of Sciences called the change in finch beaks “a particularly compelling example of speciation,” Berkeley law professor and Darwin critic Phillip E. Johnson wrote in The Wall Street Journal: “When our leading scientists have to resort to the sort of distortion that would land a stock promoter in jail, you know they are in trouble.”48

So there are observed instances of secondary speciation—which is not what Darwinism needs—but no observed instances of primary speciation, not even in bacteria. British bacteriologist Alan H. Linton looked for confirmed reports of primary speciation and concluded in 2001: “None exists in the literature claiming that one species has been shown to evolve into another. Bacteria, the simplest form of independent life, are ideal for this kind of study, with generation times of twenty to thirty minutes, and populations achieved after eighteen hours. But throughout 150 years of the science of bacteriology, there is no evidence that one species of bacteria has changed into another.”49

Conclusions

Darwin called The Origin of Species “one long argument” for his theory, but Jerry Coyne has given us one long bluff. Why Evolution Is True tries to defend Darwinian evolution by rearranging the fossil record; by misrepresenting the development of vertebrate embryos; by ignoring evidence for the functionality of allegedly vestigial organs and non-coding DNA, then propping up Darwinism with theological arguments about “bad design;” by attributing some biogeographical patterns to convergence due to the supposedly “well-known” processes of natural selection and speciation; and then exaggerating the evidence for selection and speciation to make it seem as though they could accomplish what Darwinism requires of them.

The actual evidence shows that major features of the fossil record are an embarrassment to Darwinian evolution; that early development in vertebrate embryos is more consistent with separate origins than with common ancestry; that non-coding DNA is fully functional, contrary to neo-Darwinian predictions; and that natural selection can accomplish nothing more than artificial selection—which is to say, minor changes within existing species.

Faced with such evidence, any other scientific theory would probably have been abandoned long ago. Judged by the normal criteria of empirical science, Darwinism is false. Its persists in spite of the evidence, and the eagerness of Darwin and his followers to defend it with theological arguments about creation and design suggests that its persistence has nothing to do with science at all.50

Nevertheless, biology students might find Coyne’s book useful. Given accurate information and the freedom to exercise critical thinking, students could learn from Why Evolution Is True how Darwinists manipulate the evidence and mix it with theology to recycle a false theory that should have been discarded long ago.

 

 

Notes
1 Jerry A. Coyne, Why Evolution Is True (New York: Viking, 2009), p. 3.
2 Coyne, Why Evolution Is True, pp. 3-4.
3 Coyne, Why Evolution Is True, pp. 5-6.
4 Coyne, Why Evolution Is True, pp. 18-19.
5 Coyne, Why Evolution Is True, pp. 17-18, 25.
6 Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species, Sixth Edition (London: John Murray, 1872), Chapter X, pp. 266, 285-288. Available online (2009) here.
7 J. William Schopf, “The early evolution of life: solution to Darwin’s dilemma,” Trends in Ecology and Evolution 9 (1994): 375-377.
James W. Valentine, Stanley M. Awramik, Philip W. Signor & M. Sadler, “The Biological Explosion at the Precambrian-Cambrian Boundary,” Evolutionary Biology 25 (1991): 279-356.
James W. Valentine & Douglas H. Erwin, “Interpreting Great Developmental Experiments: The Fossil Record,” pp. 71-107 in Rudolf A. Raff & Elizabeth C. Raff, (editors), Development as an Evolutionary Process (New York: Alan R. Liss, 1987).
Jeffrey S. Levinton, “The Big Bang of Animal Evolution,” Scientific American 267 (November, 1992): 84-91.
“The Scientific Controversy Over the Cambrian Explosion,” Discovery Institute. Available online (2009) here.
Jonathan Wells, Icons of Evolution (Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, 2002), Chapter 3. More information available online (2009) here.
Stephen C. Meyer, “The Cambrian Explosion: Biology’s Big Bang,” pp. 323-402 in John Angus Campbell & Stephen C. Meyer (editors), Darwinism, Design, and Public Education (East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press, 2003). More information available online (2009) here.
8 Coyne, Why Evolution Is True, p. 28.

9 Coyne, Why Evolution Is True, p. 48.
10 Coyne, Why Evolution Is True, pp. 49-51.
11 Kevin Padian & Luis M. Chiappe, “The origin and early evolution of birds,” Biological Reviews 73 (1998): 1-42. Available online (2009) here.
Wells, Icons of Evolution, pp. 119-122. 
12 Coyne, Why Evolution Is True, pp. 25, 53.
Chico Marx in Duck Soup (Paramount Pictures, 1933). This and other Marx Brothers quotations are available online (2009) here.
13 Gareth Nelson, “Presentation to the American Museum of Natural History (1969),” in David M. Williams & Malte C. Ebach, “The reform of palaeontology and the rise of biogeography—25 years after ‘ontogeny, phylogeny, palaeontology and the biogenetic law’ (Nelson, 1978),” Journal of Biogeography 31 (2004): 685-712.
14 Henry Gee, In Search of Deep Time. New York: Free Press, 1999, pp. 5, 32, 113-117.
Jonathan Wells, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design (Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, 2006). More information available online (2009) here.

15 Coyne, Why Evolution Is True, p. 79.
Darwin, The Origin of Species, Chapter XIV, pp. 386-396. Available online (2009) here.
16 Darwin, The Origin of Species, Chapter XIV, pp. 387-388. Available online (2009) here.
17 Coyne, Why Evolution Is True, p. 73.
Karl Ernst von Baer, “On the Development of Animals, with Observations and Reflections: The Fifth Scholium,” translated by Thomas Henry Huxley, pp. 186-237 in Arthur Henfrey & Thomas H. Huxley (editors), Scientific Memoirs: Selected from the Transactions of Foreign Academies of Science and from Foreign Journals: Natural History (London, 1853; reprinted 1966 by Johnson Reprint Corporation, New York). The passage quoted by Darwin is on p. 210.
Jane M. Oppenheimer, “An Embryological Enigma in the Origin of Species,” pp. 221-255 in Jane M. Oppenheimer, Essays in the History of Embryology and Biology (Cambridge, MA: The M.I.T. Press, 1967).
18 Timothy Lenoir, The Strategy of Life (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1982), p. 258.
Frederick B. Churchill, “The Rise of Classical Descriptive Embryology,” pp. 1-29 in Scott F. Gilbert (editor), A Conceptual History of Modern Embryology (Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), pp. 19-20.
19 Coyne, Why Evolution Is True, pp. 77-79.
20 Simon Conway Morris, “Fossil Embryos,” pp. 703-711 in Claudio D. Stern (editor), Gastrulation: From Cells to Embryos (Cold Spring Harbor, NY: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, 2004).
21 Walter Garstang, “The theory of recapitulation: a critical restatement of the biogenetic law,” Journal of the Linnean Society (Zoology), 35 (1922): 81-101.
22 See Chapter Five and accompanying references in Wells, Icons of Evolution.
See Chapter Three and accompanying references in Wells, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design.
23 Michael K. Richardson, J. Hanken, M. L. Gooneratne, C. Pieau, A. Raynaud, L. Selwood & G. M. Wright, “There is no highly conserved embryonic stage in the vertebrates: implications for current theories of evolution and development,” Anatomy & Embryology 196 (1997): 91-106.
Michael K. Richardson, quoted in Elizabeth Pennisi, “Haeckel’s Embryos: Fraud Rediscovered,” Science 277 (1997): 1435.
Stephen Jay Gould, “Abscheulich! Atrocious!” Natural History (March, 2000), pp. 42-49.
“Hoax of Dodos” (2007). Available online (2009) here.
24 Coyne, Why Evolution Is True, p. 78.Notes
25 Darwin, The Origin of Species, Chapters XIV (p. 402) and XV (p. 420). Available online (2009) here.
26 Darwin, Charles. The Descent of Man, First Edition (London: John Murray, 1871), Chapter I (p. 27). Available online (2009) here.
Kohtaro Fujihashi, J.R. McGhee, C. Lue, K.W. Beagley, T. Taga, T. Hirano, T. Kishimoto, J. Mestecky & H. Kiyono, “Human Appendix B Cells Naturally Express Receptors for and Respond to Interleukin 6 with Selective IgA1 and IgA2 Synthesis,” Journal of Clinical Investigations 88 (1991): 248-252. Available online (2009) here.
J.A. Laissue, B.B. Chappuis, C. Müller, J.C. Reubi & J.O. Gebbers, “The intestinal immune system and its relation to disease,” Digestive Diseases (Basel) 11 (1993): 298-312. Abstract available online (2009) here.
Loren G. Martin, “What is the function of the human appendix?” Scientific American (October 21, 1999), Available online (2009) here.
R. Randal Bollinger, Andrew S. Barbas, Errol L. Bush, Shu S. Lin & William Parker, “Biofilms in the large bowel suggest an apparent function of the human vermiform appendix,” Journal of Theoretical Biology 249 (2007): 826-831. Available online (2009) here.
Duke University Medical Center, “Appendix Isn’t Useless At All: It’s A Safe House For Good Bacteria,” ScienceDaily (October 8, 2007). Available online (2009) here.
27 Steven R. Scadding, “Do ‘vestigial organs’ provide evidence for evolution?” Evolutionary Theory 5 (1981): 173-176.
Bruce G. Naylor, “Vestigial organs are evidence of evolution,” Evolutionary Theory 6 (1982): 91-96.
Steven R. Scadding, “Vestigial organs do not provide scientific evidence for evolution,” Evolutionary Theory 6 (1982): 171-173.
28 Coyne, Why Evolution Is True, pp. 61-62. 
29 Coyne, Why Evolution Is True, p. 46. 
30 Coyne, Why Evolution Is True, pp. 81.
31 Susumu Ohno, “So much ‘junk’ DNA in our genome,” Brookhaven Symposia in Biology 23 (1972): 366-70.
Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene (New York: Oxford University Press, 1976), p. 47.
32 Coyne, Why Evolution Is True, pp. 66-67. 
33 A few of the many scientific articles published since 2003 that document the function of so-called “junk” DNA are:
E.S Balakirev & F.J. Ayala, “Pseudogenes: are they ‘junk’ or functional DNA?” Annual Review of Genetics 37 (2003): 123-151. 
A. Hüttenhofer, P. Schattner & N. Polacek, “Non-coding RNAs: hope or hype?” Trends in Genetics 21 (2005): 289-297.
J.S. Mattick & I.V. Makunin, “Non-coding RNA,” Human Molecular Genetics 15 (2006): R17-R29.
R.K. Slotkin & R. Martienssen, “Transposable elements and the epigenetic regulation of the genome,” Nature Reviews Genetics 8 (2007): 272-285.
P. Carninci, J. Yasuda & Y Hayashizaki, “Multifaceted mammalian transcriptome,” Current Opinion in Cell Biology 20 (2008): 274-80.
C.D. Malone & G.J. Hannon, “Small RNAs as Guardians of the Genome,” Cell 136 (2009): 656–668.
C.P. Ponting, P.L. Oliver & W. Reik, “Evolution and Functions of Long Noncoding RNAs,” Cell 136 (2009): 629–641.

34 Darwin, The Origin of Species, Chapters XIII (pp. 347-352) and XV (p. 419). Available online (2009) here.
35 Darwin, The Origin of Species, Chapters XII (pp. 330-332). Available online (2009) here.
36 Alan Cooper, et al., C. Mourer-Chauviré, C.K. Chambers, A. von Haeseler, A.C. Wilson & S. Paabo, “Independent origins of New Zealand moas and kiwis,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 89 (1992): 8741-8744. Available online (2008) here.
Oliver Haddrath & Allan J. Baker, “Complete mitochondrial DNA genome sequences of extinct birds: ratite phylogenetics and the vicariance biogeography hypothesis,” Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 268 (2001): 939-945. 
John Harshman, E.L. Braun, M.J. Braun, C.J. Huddleston, R.C.K. Bowie,
J.L. Chojnowski, S.J. Hackett, K.-L. Han, R.T. Kimball, B.D. Marks, K.J. Miglia,
W.S. Moore, S. Reddy, F.H. Sheldon, D.W. Steadman, S.J. Steppan, C.C. Witt & T. Yuri, “Phylogenomic evidence for multiple losses of flight in ratite birds,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 105 (2008): 13462-13467. Abstract available online (2008) here.
Giuseppe Sermonti, “L’evoluzione in Italia – La via torinese / How Evolution Came to Italy – The Turin Connection,” Rivista di Biologia/Biology Forum 94 (2001): 5-12. Available online (2008) here.
37 Giuseppe Colosi, “La distribuzione geografica dei Potamonidae,” Rivista di Biologia 3 (1921): 294-301. Available online (2009) here.
Savel R. Daniels, N. Cumberlidge, M. Pérez-Losada, S.A.E. Marijnissen &
K.A. Crandall, “Evolution of Afrotropical freshwater crab lineages obscured by morphological convergence,” Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 40 (2006): 227–235. Available online (2009) here.
R. von Sternberg, N. Cumberlidge & G. Rodriguez. “On the marine sister groups of the freshwater crabs (Crustacea: Decapoda: Brachyura),” Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research 37 (1999): 19–38.
Darren C.J. Yeo, et al., “Global diversity of crabs (Crustacea: Decapoda: Brachyura) in freshwater,” Hydrobiologia 595 (2008): 275-286.
38 Léon Croizat, Space, Time, Form: The Biological Synthesis. Published by the author (Deventer, Netherlands: N. V. Drukkerij Salland, 1962), p. iii.
Robin C. Craw, “Léon Croizat’s Biogeographic Work: A Personal Appreciation,” Tuatara 27:1 (August 1984): 8-13. Available online (2009) here.
John R. Grehan, “Evolution By Law: Croizat’s ‘Orthogeny’ and Darwin’s ‘Laws of Growth’,” Tuatara 27:1 (August 1984): 14-19. Available online (2009) here.
Carmen Colacino, “Léon Croizat’s Biogeography and Macroevolution, or… ‘Out of Nothing, Nothing Comes’,” The Philippine Scientist 34 (1997): 73-88.
Ernst Mayr, The Growth of Biological Thought (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1982), pp. 529-530.
39 Coyne, Why Evolution Is True, pp. 92-94. 

40 Coyne, Why Evolution Is True, p. 116.
Darwin, The Origin of Species, Chapter IV (p. 70). Available online (2009) here.
H. B. D. Kettlewell, “Darwin’s Missing Evidence,” Scientific American 200 (March, 1959): 48-53.

41 Ernst Mayr, The Growth of Biological Thought (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1982), p. 403.
Ernst Mayr, Populations, Species and Evolution (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1963), p. 10.
Keith Stewart Thomson, “Natural Selection and Evolution’s Smoking Gun,” American Scientist 85 (1997): 516-518.

42 Jerry A. Coyne & H. Allen Orr, Speciation (Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates, 2004), p. 25-39.
Coyne, Why Evolution Is True, p. 174.

43 Coyne, Why Evolution Is True, p. 188.

44 Douglas J. Futuyma, Evolution (Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates, 2005), p. 398.

45 Wells, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design, Chapter Five (“The Ultimate Missing Link”), pp. 49-59.

46 Coyne, Why Evolution Is True, pp. 129-130.

47 Paul B. Rainey & Michael Travisano. “Adaptive radiation in a heterogeneous environment,” Nature 394 (1998): 69-72.
Frederick M. Cohan, “What Are Bacterial Species?” Annual Review of Microbiology 56 (2002): 457-482. Available online (2009) here.

48 Coyne, Why Evolution Is True, p. 134.
National Academy of Sciences, Science and Creationism: A View from the National Academy of Sciences, Second edition (Washington, DC: National Academy of Sciences Press, 1999), Chapter on “Evidence Supporting Biological Evolution,” p. 10. Available online (2009) here.
Phillip E. Johnson, “The Church of Darwin,” The Wall Street Journal (August 16, 1999): A14. Available online (2009) here.

49 Alan H. Linton, “Scant Search for the Maker,” The Times Higher Education Supplement (April 20, 2001), Book Section, p. 29.

Frederick M. Cohan, “What Are Bacterial Species?” Annual Review of Microbiology 56 (2002): 457-482. Available online (2009) here.

50 Paul A. Nelson, “The role of theology in current evolutionary reasoning,” Biology and Philosophy 11 (October 1996): 493 – 517. Abstract available online (2009) here.
Jonathan Wells, “Darwin’s Straw God Argument,” Discovery Institute (December 2008). Available online (2009) here. Jonathan Wells, “Darwin’s Straw God Argument,” Discovery Institute (December 2008). Available online (2009) here.

 

 

 

 

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Nicotine shown to reduce symptoms of schizophrenia

Nicotine shown to reduce symptoms of schizophrenia

A new study has revealed how smoking can normalize the impairments in brain activity associated with...

A new study has revealed how smoking can normalize the impairments in brain activity associated with schizophrenia, unlocking an entirely new field of drug research to combat the disease(Credit: mariephotos/Depositphotos)

For years researchers have noted an unusual association between smoking and schizophrenia. Across multiple studies it was identified that people with schizophrenia were much more likely to smoke than people without the disease. New research may have finally solved the mystery while also paving the way for the development of new, more targeted treatments for several mental health conditions.

A meta-analysis of worldwide studies conducted in 2005 definitively showed what many doctors had been anecdotally noting for decades. Schizophrenia patients were much more likely to become heavy smokers than than those in the general population. In fact some studies found over 80 percent of those diagnosed with schizophrenia were smokers. There were many social and psychological hypotheses proposed to explain this strange anomaly, but none were ever sufficient.

A new study published in Nature Medicine has not only revealed how smoking can normalize the impairments in brain activity associated with schizophrenia, but unlocks an entirely new field of drug research to combat the disease.

The study expanded on the recent discovery of a genetic mutation, labelled CHRNA5, that was identified as being associated with the cognitive impairments seen in schizophrenic patients. The scientists took mice with the CHRNA5 gene variant and discovered they displayed similar characteristics to those suffering from schizophrenia, such as an inability to suppress a startle response and an aversion to social interaction.

Using brain imaging technologies the research team discovered the mice with the CHRNA5 gene variant displayed symptoms of hypofrontality, a state of decreased blood flow in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. Hypofrontality is commonly thought to be a prominent cause of many symptoms of schizophrenia, as well as being associated with other psychiatric conditions including Bipolar Disorder and ADHD.

As well as identifying the role this gene variant plays in causing hypofrontality, the study examined how nicotine acted to restore normal activity to the prefrontal cortex. The researchers found that within one week of daily nicotine dosing the impaired brain activity in mice with schizophrenic characteristics had normalized.

“Since the repeated administration of nicotine restores normal activity to the prefrontal cortex, it could pave the way for a possible therapeutic target for the treatment of schizophrenia,” says Uwe Maskos, the main author of the study.

The authors of the study also believe the research may have broad applications for novel drug development across the mental health field.

Source: University of Colorado BoulderInstitut Pasteur (via Eurekalert)

Tipu Sultan, the man who started India’s freedom struggle.

“Tipu Sultan a great Indian hero, freedom fighter and the first ruler to fight against British imperialists”

 

Tipu Sultan was a great king and an Indian hero who was amongst the first to fight the British and was able to defeat them.

The 18th century king died fighting the British in the last Anglo-Mysore war. Renowned litterateur Girish Karnad said that Tipu Sultan’s place would have been even higher, had he been a Hindu.

Karnad was not off the mark, as Tipu Sultan was the first and only Indian king of the era who saw East India Company’s design and fought against them.

Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah on Wednesday said that Tipu Sultan had fought three wars against the British and he was in a true sense the man who started India’s freedom struggle.

The words that India’s freedom struggle began with Tipu Sultan, are quite true. Tipu was the most formidable enemy, this is acknowledged by the British even today and he is listed among the fiercest adversaries that include Napoleon Bonaparte. Tipu’s anniversary was celebrated across state on November 10.

Experts say that while Tipu Sultan laid his life for the country, right-wing extremists who quote from distorted history, selectively target Tipu. They say that his attack in Coorg is used to defame him and his army is accused of atrocities, which are exaggerated.

The reality was that medieval era kings did attack territories to subdue rebellion. A case in point is Shivaji’s attacks including his seize of Surat, which was burnt and destroyed by the Maratha army.

Though Marathas kept looting and attacking across the country, this aspect is not recalled and Shivaji along with other Maratha rulers are termed as ultra-nationalists. However, Tipu Sultan is systematically targeted and denied his due status.

Karnad said that it was a fact that Muslims were not given their due recognition. “Had he been Hindu, Tipu Sultan’s stats would have been similar to Shivaji. He was the first to unify the region that was in disarray then, just like Shivaji formed his empire in adjoining Maharahstra”, he adds.

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said that Tipu Sultan was a true secularist and a great hero. He said it at the event organised by Karnataka government on Tipu Sultan’s anniversary. The CM rejected the BJP and right-wing groups’ propaganda to demean the status of the Sher-e-Mysore.

Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) had tried to disrupt the Tipu Sultan Jayanti function and had resorted to violence and stone pelting. The police had taken action and a VHP leader Kuttappa died when he got injured in the melee.

Godhra train burning was BJP’s pre-planned conspiracy

“Godhra train burning was BJP’s pre-planned conspiracy to create communal divide for winning Gujarat election”

 

“The burning of Sabarmati Express at Godhra was a pre-planned conspiracy”, claim leaders of Patel agitation.

They have alleged that it was planned to create communal divide and set off riots so that the BJP could win the Gujarat election in 2002.

The stunning statement of the Patel leaders has once again brought to fore the mystery of the fire in the Sabarmati Express, which led to riots across Gujarat.

Rahul Desai and Lal Bhai Patel, who are leaders of the Patidar Samiti, who have now openly said that Godhra train fire was pre-planned. The BJP is a communal party and had there been no communal carnage, Narendra Modi won’t have been re-elected as chief minister in 2002, said Desai.

Earlier too there have been questions raised over the circumstances surrounding the mysterious train blaze at Godhra. But Patel agitation leaders’ charge has come as a surprise. Patels are angry at the crackdown on them, especially, the leader of agitation Hardik Patel, who is in jail on sedition charges.

The bodies of the dead were taken around along with processions, rousing tempers and the result was riots all over the State. It is alleged that ‘go ahead’ was given from the top and there were verbal orders to police and administration to let rioters attack Muslims, their houses and establishments.

The result was a pogrom which led to over 1,000 killings and mass rapes. This became a blot on the secular fabric of India. Separate commissions looked into the train fire and the riots that followed but the mystery had remained. 

Congresswoman tells Netanyahu to end abuse of Palestinian children

Congresswoman tells Netanyahu to end abuse of Palestinian children

Palestinian children protest to show solidarity with child prisoners in Israeli jails, Gaza city, January 2015.

Mohammed AsadAPA images

A member of Congress said she had “a clear message” for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was in Washington on Wednesday: he must respect the rights of Palestinian children.

As US President Donald Trump and the Israeli leader held a joint press conference at the White House, Representative Betty McCollum of Minnesota challenged Israel’s systematic abuses of Palestinian children in a post on Facebook.

“Israel’s military detention system arrests, interrogates and prosecutes as many as 700 Palestinian children – as young as 11 years old – every year,” McCollum says. “Abuse is rampant and children often have no lawyer or parent present during detention and interrogation.”

“Israel must end the abusive military detention of Palestinian children,” she adds. “Israeli children, Palestinian children – all children – should be able to live free of systematic, state-sponsored human rights abuses! Respecting the human rights of children is the only path to peace and security in the Middle East.”

McCollum also took to Twitter to demand accountability from Netanyahu:

Breaking silence

McCollum continues to break with the vast majority of US lawmakers who refuse to challenge Israeli policy.

In June 2015, the Democrat authored a letter, co-signed by 18 other members of Congress, demanding that the Obama adminstration push Israel to end its abuses of Palestinian children.

Two months later, the lawmaker called for sanctions on the Israeli Border Police unit responsible for killing Palestinian teenagers Nadim Nuwara and Muhammad Abu al-Thahir on 15 May 2014.

The boys were shot in cold blood at a Nakba Day protest – their killings caught on video – near the Ofer military prison in the occupied West Bank village of Beitunia.

McCollum initiated another push in June 2016 urging Obama to appoint a special envoy to protect the rights of Palestinian children under Israeli occupation. Lawmakers who signed McCollum’s letter condemned Israel’s rampant use of administrative detention – incarceration without charge or trial – against Palestinian children in Israeli military jails.

Grassroots activists with the No Way to Treat a Child campaign – a joint initiative of Defense for Children International – Palestine and the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) – have been working closely with lawmakers on the issue of Palestinian children in detention.

“Congresswoman McCollum’s leadership and integrity inspires us,” AFSC’s Jennifer Bing told The Electronic Intifada.

“Her voice is among a growing number of Congress members who are speaking up for the human rights of Palestinian children – children who face systematic oppression and denial of rights by the Israeli army,” Bing added.

Inspired by the No Way to Treat a Child campaign in the US, activists in Australia gathered the support of 49 members of Parliament last November on a letter calling for Israel to end its abuses of Palestinian children.

 

Natives Fabricated Mass Sex Attack by Immigrants

Mass sexual assault in Frankfurt by refugees ‘completely made up’

One purported victim of ‘sex rioting mob’ was not in city at time of alleged attack

 

Prosecutors are investigating two people for allegedly fabricating an account of a mass sex attack by Arab migrants in Frankfurt.

Claims that a “sex rioting mob” of around 50 men assaulted a group of women over the new year were reported by German tabloid Bild earlier this month.

The report, which suggested the attackers lived at a refugee shelter in central Hasse, was widely re-circulated by right-wing news sites.

In an article since taken down from its website, Bild interviewed a chef who runs a restaurant in Fressgass, a busy shopping district, as well as a 27-year-old woman.

The chef alleged that dozens of Arab men came into his restaurant in, stole his customers’ jackets and sexually assaulted multiple women.

The 27-year-old female told the paper: “They grabbed me under my skirt, between the legs and on my breast – everywhere.”

Yet, police said on Tuesday they believed the allegations were “completely baseless”. One of the purported victims of the alleged attack was not in Frankfurt at the time of the purported crime, they said.

“Interviews with alleged witnesses, guests and employees led to major doubts with the version of events that had been presented,” police told German daily Frankfurter Rundschau.

“One of the alleged victims was not even in Frankfurt at the time the allegations are said to have taken place.”

They concluded: “Masses of refugees were not responsible for any sexual assaults in the Fressgass over New Year. The accusations are completely baseless.”

No sexual assaults were reported to police from the the area over New Year before the Bild report, they said.

Investigators were looking into whether the pair had made up the story.

Bild‘s editor-in-chief Julian Reichelt issued an apology on behalf of the tabloid, writing in a tweet: “We apologise for our own work. I’ll shortly announce what Bild will do about it.”

BJP disowns ISI spy.

 

BJP disowning ‘ISI spy’ Dhruv Saxena is Hindutva hypocrisy at its worst

But the deafening silence in mainstream media over the BJYM IT coordinator’s involvement in recently busted MP espionage ring is simply unbelievable.

 |  ANGIOGRAPHY  |   Long-form |   15-02-2017

Angshukanta Chakraborty

ANGSHUKANTA CHAKRABORTY

 @angshukanta

 
 
 
 

Five days have passed since an alarmingly disturbing story broke in the Indian mediasphere. Dainik Bhaskar Post (DB Post), published from Bhopal, front-paged on Friday, February 10, the busting by the Madhya Pradesh Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) of an alleged spy ring selling state secrets and sensitive details about Indian Army deployments to the dreaded Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence agency, or the ISI.  

11 arrested for spying for ISI from Madhya Pradesh. No Islamic terror angle here! @dbpostnews

 

According to DB Post, and other follow-ups that were posted in online portals of some of the media outlets, 11 persons, “all Hindus”, including a Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) – the BJP youth wing – member and its district IT cell coordinator based in Bhopal, Dhruv Saxena, were arrested by MP ATS in this connection.

According to DB Post:

“This may be the tip of the iceberg, but as of now, ATS has nabbed 11 people, all Hindus, from four districts of the state, namely Bhopal, Gwalior, Jabalpur and Satna. All these men had been clandestinely operating various mediums to send classified information out to their Pakistani handlers. The ATS conducted the operations on a tip-off received from the central intelligence agencies and the Jammu and Kashmir Police.

While three of the detainees were working as handlers for ISI agents working in India, eight were running parallel telecom exchanges, facilitating the ISI spies to call up military personnel posted in J&K, impersonating senior Army officers. They fished out details about possible operations, deployment of force and relayed photographic records of Army bridges in the region. The parallel telecom exchanges were being run in Bhopal and Gwalior.”

Naturally, the charges are extremely grave and under usual circumstances (read with names of suspects that sounded generic Muslim) one would expect Indian media, particularly the boisterous TV channels that practically live-telecast the JNU agitation, to justifiably outrage, question, send reporters to Bhopal en masse, try and dig deeper, unearth the nasty espionage ring that compromised India’s national security and sold its soul to Pakistan, for a few extra bucks.

One of the 11 arrested in Madhya Pradesh for spying on Indian army was rather close to top state BJP leaders. @dbpostnews

 

Instead, we have pin-drop silence.

The reasons are obvious as to why there are no shrill TV debates on this and why Major Gen Bakshi isn’t sobbing copiously over it! https://twitter.com/daipayanhalder/status/830034340381806592 

View image on TwitterView image on Twitter

This is “Nationalist” Spying against Indian Army on behalf of ISI. Includes connection to BJP.

 

We have pin-drop silence from the TV channels that decided to brand JNU “anti-national” merely on the account of its students holding a talk on Afzal Guru on his death anniversary. We have pin-drop silence from the channels that ensured 24X7 coverage of the JNU agitation exactly a year back, that saw the arrest of the JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar.

We have pin-drop silence from media outlets and Twitter superstars who claimed that the staunchly Marxist and atheist JNU PhD student Umar Khalid had made over “850 calls to the Gulf countries”, and had to be an aspiring jihadi. We have pin-drop silence from newsanchors who claimed Hafiz Saeed was sponsoring the JNU agitation. The month-long obsession with JNU and turning it into a media epicentre continued despite the whole thing being triggered by a “doctored video” of “anti-nationals” chanting “anti-India slogans”, as it was soon discovered.

Absolutely amazing and eye-opening this silence is, when the keywords that usually make those in the BJP/RSS quarters, and in the nationalist media in the country, sit up and scream their patriotic lungs out – ISI, Pakistan, espionage, national security, state secrets – are ALL not just present, but ominously informing each and every aspect of this case.

spy-5_021517034508.jpg
Why has been Dhruv’s name being struck off from the BJYM’s Bhopal website, when its Google cache clearly shows him as the district IT cell coordinator? [Photo: Indiatoday.in]

So, why this deathly silence now over something that needs immediate national and international attention? Why a cyber-espionage cell operating in a BJP-ruled state, involving personnel who have their social media sites flooded with photos featuring BJP leaders, including the Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, and the party general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, evokes no interest at all from politicians and journalists who fall back on national security to silence critics at every step, who brand human rights activists as anti-nationals who must be sent to Pakistan, who hide behind the Indian soldier every time there is an election around the corner?

So it came as no surprise that BJP also disowned Dhruv Saxena, arrested in MP for providing crucial info abt army deployments to ISI 4/n pic.twitter.com/cHETBWwd1b

Never mind if Dhruv had pics with the CM or BJP National Gen Secy. Anyone can have pictures with anyone, they said 5/n pic.twitter.com/pcGoPMwI4u

View image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Pic from his FB account showed him as a BJYM District IT coordinator, wishing the BJYM president on his B’day. 6/n

 

Why indeed, we must ask.

Tiny portals are unearthing details and asking questions that should have been ideally asked in glitzy newsrooms of the national capital that set the national agenda.

Questions such as:

A) Why is it that Dhruv Saxena, who belonged to BJYM, the BJP’s youth wing, and was the district coordinator of the BJYM’s Bhopal IT cell, is now being disowned by the state BJP president Nandkumar Singh Chauhan and the BJYM chief Anshul Tiwari?

B) Why has been Dhruv’s name struck off from the BJYM’s Bhopal website, when its Google cache clearly shows him as the district IT cell coordinator?

.@altnews_in did a brilliant job of retrieving the page frm Google cache & lo and behold, it showed Dhruv as the District IT Coordinator 9/n

 

C) Why, in the age of PM Narendra Modi-driven demonetisation and a cashless push from the topmost elected leader of the country, is a cyber spy ring – that has committed alleged cyber fraud involving “parallel telecom exchanges”, “activated SIM cards with no legal paperwork”, “impersonations of Indian Army officers” on mobile calls to extract Army deployment in sensitive states like Jammu and Kashmir and passing them on to their “ISI handlers”, three among those detained, as well as other crimes that directly threaten national security – of no interest to the TV and print media published/broadcast from Delhi and NCR?

MP district coordinator for BJP IT cell Dhruv Saxena nabbed by the ATS for being an ISI agent. Why are the patriotic journalists silent ?

 

D) Why, when the Madhya Pradesh ATS chief, Sanjeev Shami, has said that a case under various sections of the Indian Telegraph Act, and also Sections 122 and 123 of the Indian Penal Code, which deal with collecting arms, information for waging war against the country, has been lodged against the 11 accused, is there practically zero interest in the national media about this extremely unsettling case of national insecurity?

Dhruv Saxena who was helping the ISI was spreading canards about JNU and muslims on social media and endorsing the likes of Tarek Fateh

 

It is imperative that we ask why at this juncture are these questions not being asked by the usual suspects whose bread and butter is harping on national security and instilling the climate of fear among ordinary citizens of the country.

BJP has a history of disowning its members/volunteers when embarrassed, so here is another one. 1/n

 

Is it because the BJP/RSS and the Sangh Parivar-facilitated, Hindutva-milking commentariat have a long and illustrious history of dubious disavowals and disowning of persons, events, instances that do not fit the hypernationalist script? 

2 yrs ago, they disowned AmiteshSingh of their Pune unit after he was arrested for his hate tweet. 2/n

 

Is it because the BJP/RSS habitually disown any person or affiliated organisation that has gone awry, or deviated slightly from the narrative of Hindu piety, or has exposed the BJP IT cell as a conglomerate of rabid trolls threatening journalists, women, Bollywood stars, opposition leaders, seculars and liberals and operating on orders from the very top?

So it came as no surprise that BJP also disowned Dhruv Saxena, arrested in MP for providing crucial info abt army deployments to ISI 4/n

 

Is it because the idea of a Hindu, BJP-affiliated, nationalist being caught with his patriotic pants down, ferrying out state secrets to the common enemy-in-chief Pakistan – the nationalist bogeyman and one-stop answer to every problem in the country, the raison d’être of the staggering national security apparatus that looks increasingly rudderless and exploited by the mercenaries – is exactly what destroys the Sangh Parivar’s claim to a prioi patriotism?   

 

Patriotism by default of those born Hindu and espousing Hindutva was in fact blown to smithereens a long time ago when the RSS decided to side with the British Empire and not the freedom fighters who were demanding complete independence. It was once again proven to be a hoax when the RSS disowned Nathuram Godse, who killed Gandhi blaming him for Partition and dividing a “civilisationally Hindu” India.

70 years on, as Godse is being revived as a Hindutva icon – let’s admit it, he was never really deserted – and as nationalism becomes a shouting match for those in TV studios and party headquarters taking orders from Nagpur, we have one more scathing exposé, as it were, of the hypocrisies around these grand narratives.

As “murmurs of feared infiltration” within the BJP camp get a passing mention in a news portal, exactly as the 11 detainees, particularly the BJYM member now disowned by the party, are seen more as aberrations than the norm, (the norm being that those conspiring to sell state secrets to Pakistan must have a Muslim, or at least a non-Hindu name), we realise the gravity of the case which we simply want to unsee, wish it disappeared.

Just three months from the dreaded Bhopal “fake encounter”, in which eight SIMI activists were gunned down in broad daylight after a controversial jailbreak on Diwali night last year, we have the Shivraj Singh Chouhan-ruled Madhya Pradesh in a soup almost as big as the last one. The Bhopal “smartphone encounter” is still shrouded in mystery, pointing to the likelihood of the Chouhan government not allowing a proper investigation into the cold-blooded shooting to death of the eight inmates.

Now, the emergence of a massive spy ring within just three months, which reports quoting sources in the MP ATS say is only the “tip of the iceberg”, is reason enough for the BJP government in Madhya Pradesh to do some soul-searching, and take the right steps, instead of brushing this under the thick carpet of politically convenient amnesia, as it did in the case of the murderous Vyapam scam.

As for those in the media who have opted for selective silence over this issue, not even giving it a ticker on their 24X7 television channels, how exactly have you served journalism with your extreme cowardice?

Also read – ISI spies and sex rackets: BJP’s MP unit has become a haven for criminals

http://indiatoday.intoday.in/embed/ifgb3ggzy8

 
 
 
 
 
 

Writer

Angshukanta ChakrabortyANGSHUKANTA CHAKRABORTY @angshukanta

Opinionator at DailyO. Because criticism is the opium of the classes.

Lauren Booth on Visit My Mosque Experience

Lauren Booth on Visit My Mosque Experience

 

Lauren Booth on Visit My Mosque Experience
 

Didsbury Mosque, Manchester, was one of the faith venues in the North West of England to open its doors to the wider community at the weekend for the annual Visit My Mosque day.

From 12.30, a steady stream which rapidly grew to a tidal wave of local people came to see what are the mysteries beneath the minarets in their midst. Or in the case of Didsbury, behind the stained glass windows. The building was originally built in 1883 as a Methodist Chapel, becoming a mosque in the 1960’s.

Anna Fryer, her husband and two primary aged children were enjoying samosas in the mid afternoon throng. Anna is the Lib Dem candidate for the Didsbury East ward. Whilst pleased to be looking around, she wondered about access to mosques year round.

“It is incredibly welcoming here. The disconnect is that we see (through the media) this religion as separate and different in some ways. Whereas we might have more of an understanding if we could access the places of worship more often,” she told Aboutislam.

Visitor studies Al Fatihah

Visitor studies Al Fatihah

In fact, Didsbury Mosque opens its doors every Sunday afternoon to anyone interested in paying a visit. The signs outside are not as effective as door to door canvassing, a note for all UK mosques to take into account.

The day in its third successful year is drawing support from politicians such as leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, who again attended his local mosque. Local businesses including Subway had provided the food for guests at Didsbury.

Visitors entering the vast wooden front doors were met by Muslims from Somalia, Tunisia, Pakistan and some of the growing number of British converts to Islam born and raised in Greater Manchester.

Jenny and Simon, a professional couple, had interesting and technical questions about salah [prayer] timings and the meaning of Al Fatihah the opening verses of the Qur’an and the start to every prayer cycle.

Simon told Aboutislam he was pleased to “now know what’s going on inside this mosque. Next time we drive past, we can look at the building and think, ‘ah we know what people are doing inside there right now.”

Jenny said: “There is a load of nonsense about isn’t there (on the news)? So it’s nice to just come in and balance that out a bit.”

InspirationalLauren Booth on Visit My Mosque Experience

Sarah Morgan is a ceramicist from Chorlton. She had come with her friend India, both felt moved to attend by the negative political and media campaigns targeting Muslims in Europe and the US.

At Maghrib, the artist stood behind the rows of women as they bowed and prostrated in prayer.

Afterwards, she told Aboutislam: “I liked the feeling of women being united, of supporting one another. I found it moving and powerful. People knowing what to do. Today has given me a further insight into what Islam actually means and I’d certainly like to find out more.”

Lauren Booth, Daughter Alexandra, Sarah from Killarney Ireland

Lauren Booth, Daughter Alexandra, Sarah from Killarney Ireland

Children from all parts of the community had their faces painted as flowers and tigers, their hands decorated with elaborate henna. Old and young, asked questions of Muslim neighbors, feeling relaxed enough to do so.

Alicia, from Northenden, is a sixth form student at Manchester High School for Girls, who describes herself as a “non practicing Catholic.” She and her family came to “show solidarity with our community”.

Alicia was surprised and impressed by elements of Muslim worship. She told Aboutislam: “You guys have so many prayers! I admire your dedication. I have Muslim friends at school and I’ve seen them pray but I didn’t know they had other ones as well. That takes dedication’. Her message to anyone who feels nervous about going to a mosque for the first time is ‘Just come do it. They are so lovely and it’s really interesting as well you learn so many new things.”

Taking off shoes at the door was something which Martin, a language assistant from Manchester High School for Girls felt, gave a sense of intimacy.

United

 Jenny and Simon

Jenny and Simon

One specific element of Muslim tradition and understanding was mentioned by all those interviewed by Aboutislam. It is an element that Christians in particular expressed having admiration for.

The Ummah, a single community of believers bound together by ties of religion.

“The idea of this community which comes together is a universal message we can all learn from,” said Anna Fryer.

More needs to be done, in the next twelve months to reach further into the community, beyond the generous Christians, good-hearted charity workers and middle class families who attended so widely at the weekend.

The Muslim community must encourage and enable those who live in social impoverishment across the UK, to interact and access local mosque facilities.

Sarah Morgan, artist

Sarah Morgan, artist

Some mosques, like Didsbury already offer free health screenings to local residents. But do the poor realize those who live beyond the plush residential streets in the neighborhood. Yesterday’s demographic turnout showed that as unlikely.

In the time of Prophet Muhammed, peace be upon him, the poor were fed, children educated, women respected and the whole community served by the mosque.

Mosque committees should use this weekends success to continue or to kick start projects to support the elderly, feed the hungry and help poor families, whatever their faith. And in the meantime, letting more local people know they are welcome to visit at any time, is a good start.

First ever blueprint unveiled to construct a large scale quantum computer

First ever blueprint unveiled to construct a large scale quantum computer

February 1, 2017
First ever blueprint unveiled to construct a large scale quantum computer
Prototype of the core of a trapped ion quantum computer. Credit: Ion Quantum Technology Group, University of Sussex

An international team, led by a scientist from the University of Sussex, have today unveiled the first practical blueprint for how to build a quantum computer, the most powerful computer on Earth.

 

This huge leap forward towards creating a universal quantum computer is published today (1 February 2017) in the influential journal Science Advances (1). It has long been known that such a computer would revolutionise industry, science and commerce on a similar scale as the invention of ordinary computers. But this new work features the actual industrial blueprint to construct such a large-scale machine, more powerful in solving certain problems than any computer ever constructed before.

Once built, the computer’s capabilities mean it would have the potential to answer many questions in science; create new, lifesaving medicines; solve the most mind-boggling scientific problems; unravel the yet unknown mysteries of the furthest reaches of deepest space; and solve some problems that an ordinary computer would take billions of years to compute.

The work features a new invention permitting actual quantum bits to be transmitted between individual quantum computing modules in order to obtain a fully modular large-scale machine capable of reaching nearly arbitrary large computational processing powers.

 
 
 
 
 
 
A short film where Prof Hensinger unveils the blueprint for a large scale quantum computer. Credit: University of Sussex

Previously, scientists had proposed using fibre optic connections to connect individual computer modules. The  introduces connections created by electric fields that allow charged atoms (ions) to be transported from one module to another. This new approach allows 100,000 times faster connection speeds between individual quantum computing modules compared to current state-of-the-art fibre link technology.

The new blueprint is the work of an international team of scientists from the University of Sussex (UK), Google (USA), Aarhus University (Denmark), RIKEN (Japan) and Siegen University (Germany).

Prof Winfried Hensinger (2), head of Ion Quantum Technology Group (3) at the University of Sussex, who has been leading this research, said: “For many years, people said that it was completely impossible to construct an actual quantum computer. With our work we have not only shown that it can be done but now we are delivering a nuts and bolts construction plan to build an actual large-scale machine.”

First ever blueprint unveiled to construct a large scale quantum computer
Prof. Hensinger (right) and Dr Lekitsch (left) with a quantum computing blueprint model behind a quantum computer prototype at the University of Sussex. Credit: University of Sussex

Lead author Bjoern Lekitsch, also from the University of Sussex, explains: “It was most important to us to highlight the substantial technical challenges as well as to provide practical engineering solutions”.

As a next step, the team will construct a prototype quantum computer, based on this design, at the University.

The effort is part of the UK Government’s plan to develop quantum technologies towards industrial exploitation and makes use of a recent invention (4) by the Sussex team to replace billions of laser beams required for quantum computing operations within a large-scale quantum computer with the simple application of voltages to a microchip.

 
 
 
 
 
 
Video explaining the design of a scalable trapped ion quantum computer. Credit: Lekitsch et al. Sci. Adv. 2017;3:e1601540

Prof Hensinger said: “The availability of a universal quantum computer may have a fundamental impact on society as a whole. Without doubt it is still challenging to build a large-scale machine, but now is the time to translate academic excellence into actual application building on the UK’s strengths in this ground-breaking technology. I am very excited to work with industry and government to make this happen.”

The computer’s possibilities for solving, explaining or developing could be endless. However, its size will be anything but small. The machine is expected to fill a large building, consisting of sophisticated vacuum apparatus featuring integrated  silicon microchips that hold individual charged atoms (ions) using electric fields.

The blueprint to develop such computers has been made public to ensure scientists throughout the world can collaborate and further develop this brilliant, ground-breaking technology as well as to encourage industrial exploitation.

 
 
 
 
 
A popular science lecture given by Prof. Hensinger explaining the principles of quantum computing

 Explore further: Construction of practical quantum computers radically simplified

More information: ‘Blueprint for a microwave trapped ion quantum computer’ B. Lekitsch, S. Weidt, A.G. Fowler, K. Mølmer, S.J. Devitt, Ch. Wunderlich, and W.K. Hensinger, Science Advances 3, e1601540 (2017) advances.sciencemag.org/content/3/2/e1601540 

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