Friday, June 29, 2012

Just a brief up date, June 29.

The local near-shore fishing has been very dependent on the prevailing winds. For example, 9 days ago I had easily caught over 10 legal (over 12 inch) calico bass, and 3, +28 inch barracuda on a 5 hour trip. However, that afternoon the northwest winds kicked up, and shifted to WNW by Friday. They blew at ~15 knots until Sunday. The water temperature dropped, and the fishing dropped with it. Yesterday the wind shifted to the South and the shallows ( <7 fathoms) warmed to ~65 F. I still had to work to scratch 3 legal bass. The Joker in the Pack is that there are some really good size (20-30 lb) yellowtail, and halibut that moved in, are still lurking in the kelp beds. My article for the Baylor University Medical Center Proceedings intended to rebut the creationist stupidity of Joe Kuhn was a "go" on Friday May 25th, and killed on the following Monday. Somebody got to somebody over the weekend. One of the BS criticisms was I had posted a few early comments to this blog. But, never start a large project without a backup plan. The National Center for Science Education will carry the article in their Reports from the NCSE. There are some rather time wasting changes to the overall format. More significantly, I don't need to "play nice" with the Baylor editors any more about why they published Kuhn's piece of crap in the first place. I have distracted myself with some newspaper rants against creationists. I have particularly had fun with the comments on a Nation article, "What's the Matter With Creationism," and more recently comments following a creationist Letter to the Editor. Each had some points of interest.

Mrs. Chatman has posted more cretocrap, but I cannot be bothered until the Kuhn article is reformatted, and revised.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

I don't want to get sucked into the Global Warming issue

But, it could happen. I have read a lot about methane chemistry since it is realted to the origin of life in the late Hadean.

I just wrote what was to be a short comment on the marine retention, and recyling of carbon. It was kicked out by the Real Climate nannybot as "spam." While Real Climate seems to me to be one of the best climate blogs, their nannybot is a piece of shit.

I'll just post here, and use a link at Real Climate.

Several comments in this thread have been related to ocean retention of volatiles, and ocean mixing times. In coastal archaeology we have a problem radiocarbon dating materials derived from marine carbon. Marine upwelling brings sequestered carbon in the form of carbonate, and CO2 which is incorporated into littoral fish and especially mollusk shells. We can even see a difference in contemporaneous shells from brackish water and open shore habitats. For example, Mytilus and Chione can significantly vary. When contrasted with softwood charcoal, or collagen from terrestrial animals, upwelling carbon from southern California is about 450 RC years old.

Ocean/atmospheric equilibrium of carbon 14 generated in atmospheric atomic weapons tests demonstrated a rapid mixing of surface waters of just a few years. This gives an estimate of the mixing, and retention time for the Humboldt, and California currents. Marine releases of methane might leave sooner as CO2, and carbonate are obviously heavier, and could have even undergone repeated cycles of consumption and decay.

The potential significance of marine methane releases is obviously moderated by carbon retention times. A fairly simple experiment would be to measure the C14 in modern open-coast organisms (eg Mytilus sp.), and grasses, or non-riparian soft-wood species just slightly in-land.

Friday, June 22, 2012

We're doomed- Doomed I say!!!111!!

Or so says Guy McPherson, professor emeritus in the Departments of Natural Resources, and Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at the University of Arizona. Actually, he said, We're Done.

For those not inclined to wander over to read his blog, he maintains that due to global climate change, humanity will be extinct. Soon. He predicts, " ... the near-term demise of Homo sapiens," adding that "I’d give us until 2020 at the latest." Personally, I cannot think of any professional biologist that I have had at least one beer with who thought we could sustain our current civilization for long. I am classically ambivalent. Is there an eminent breakthrough in nano-technology that will make energy "free," or chemosynthesis trivial? Will we soon design genes wholesale?

I doubt it. But, I'd like to be wrong.

While I agree the methane has hit the fan, I must point out that Prof. McPherson is wrong. And I am not being an optimist.

We are well and truly screwed. But, we have been here before. There have been several radical climate events in our human evolution as dire as the one we face. From genetic data, we know that humanity experienced at least one "recent" severe population bottleneck event about 70,000 years ago. Modern humans carry a small number of genes that were "salvaged"* from two Hominid populations, the Neanderthals, and the Denisovans which are now long extinct.

J. R. Stewart, B. Stringer
"Human Evolution Out of Africa: The Role of Refugia and Climate Change" Science 16 March 2012: Vol. 335 no. 6074 pp. 1317-1321

W. Amos, J. I. Hoffman
"Evidence that two main bottleneck events shaped modern human genetic diversity" Proc. R. Soc. B 7 January 2010 vol. 277 no. 1678 131-137

There is the possibility that few species not currently domesticated will have a "favored" position on Earth. There will soon be hundreds of millions of humans in forced migration. They will encounter people already in place, and unwilling to share. There is an ethnographic study of how people behave under highly stressed conditions; Colin M. Turnbull's "The Mountain People." This is the advantage that an anthropologist, and archaeologist has over a biologist. We recognize that humans are very nasty, and tenacious.

PS: Someone missed my point. Hundreds of millions of people will be slamming into hundreds of millions of other people. They will slaughter each other. The chaos of war favors the spread of chaos, and disease. Additional hundreds of millions of more people will be killing each other just in reaction, plus hundreds of millions more will die from famine and disease. Humanity, in a genetic sense, will be just fine with a mere few hundred thousand survivors.

*Salvaged might mean kidnapped and raped.

"No evidence of Neandertal admixture in the mitochondrial genomes of early European modern humans and contemporary Europeans" AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL ANTHROPOLOGY 146:242–252 (2011)

Post Script: One of Guy McPherson's blog fans wanted to know why I did not mention being a chemist in my blog profile. I was a paperboy, a janitor, and forklift driver too. I felt like focusing on my academic jobs for my blog profile.

Two good methane chemistry articles are;

R. J. Ciceron, R. S. Oreroland

Donald J. Wuebbles, Katharine Hayhoe
2002 “Atmospheric methane and global change”
Earth-Science Reviews 57 177–210

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

On Reading a Graph

Long ago, I taught a course on statistics, and math modeling to medical students and faculty (the faculty refused to do their homework). One lecture set was on "how to read a graph." This is apparently still a mystery to many people.

In the Gallop poll data, the number of people who could be broadly called creationists were about 82% in 1982. This includes nearly anyone religious who thought that God either created Adam and Eve less than 10,000 years ago, or that God allowed/directed evolution to do the work. That year, only 9% accepted the fact of human evolution without any divine intervention. This left 9% undecided. The data are remarkably stable until 2000. Then, a trend lasting until today appeared. In 2001, about 3% of the "undecided" became acceptors of evolutionary biology regarding the origin of humanity. Was this a "post millennial" bounce for rationality? The number of creationists did not increase. From 2001 to 2006, the undecided fraction shifted another 1% to the evolution column. More significantly, from 2007 until today, there has been a decline in the percentage of creationists, and an increase in the number of Americans who agree that, "humans evolved, but that God had no part in the process." The number of "undecideds" dropped, but the deficit also went to the creationists, particularly those who believed that, "God created humans in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years." This was clarified in the 2008 data which showed a restoration of the "undecided" percentage, and continued decline in creationists.

In the most recent Gallop poll, 78% of respondents could be said to be creationists, at the extremely broad criteria used earlier, and 7% are undecided. A mere 1% (within polling error) of "evolutionists" has shifted to "undecided." The only striking observation is that the "creationists"- most loosely defined- have not increased! In fact, there is a 4% deficit from the ~82% which had been essentially stable from 1982 until 2007, and additional weakness since 2008. On the other hand, the ~6% increase in pro-science thinking seems stable.

The question then arises, "Should theistic evolutionists be lumped with the young earth creationists?" I'll argue the negative in a new post.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Mrs. Chatman swings from the stars for a Big Bang.

Mrs. Chatman made a post asserting there were 6 "kinds" of evolution, and that the first 5 had no empirical support. Her exact words were, "It is all opinion, theory, and hypothesis from scientists who believe in evolution."

She has repeated a very common creationist lie. I have found it in Seventh Day Adventist tracts, creatocrap from the Institute for Creation Research, and in Jack Chick's "Big Daddy." So, I invested far too much effort writing a rebuttal.

Big Daddy Frame 10- Blackboard with 6 kinds of evolution

1. Cosmic Evolution - Big Bang makes hydrogen
2. Chemical Evolution - higher elements evolve
3. Planetary Evolution, i.e. evolution of stars and planets from gas
4. Organic Evolution - life from rocks
5. Macroevolution - changes between kinds of plants and animals
6. Microevolution - changes within kinds

1. Cosmic Evolution, which tries to explain the origin of time, space, and matter.

Creationists like to exploit the different meanings of the word “evolution” as seen in this “list of kinds of evolution.” And to be fair, there are scientists who use the word “evolution” to mean a process of transformation. Recently, Harvard University has used this sense of “evolution” to organize a brief science curriculum covering topics from the origin of the universe, to the origin of new biological species today. I find it amusing that they are unknowingly following a pattern laid down first by creationists. But, it does make it much easier to debunk the main lie told about these “kinds of evolution,” of course this is that there is a lack of evidence for these events to have occurred, and be still occurring today.

The first of Mrs. Chatman’s “kinds” was “Cosmic Evolution, which tries to explain the origin of time, space, and matter.” This is properly known as Cosmology. The Belgian priest, Monsignor Georges Henri Joseph Édouard Lemaître, was also an accomplished astronomer, and professor of physics. He proposed in 1927 that the Universe was expanding based on Einstein’s General Relativity, and then four years later that the Universe had had a discrete beginning. The direct observations by Edwin Hubble at the Mt. Wilson observatory lead to the discovery in 1929 that that Lemaître was in fact correct. So, the expanding universe and Big Bang origin of the universe has had direct observational support for over 80 years.

The data do not stop there. One implication of the Big Bang theory was that there must be a fading background “glow” which should be everywhere in the universe. Calculations by Ralph Alpher, Robert Herman, and George Gamow in 1948 indicated that this radiation should be in the microwave frequencies generated from an energy of about 3 degrees Kelvin. This was detected accidentally in 1965 by Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson of Bell Labs. A team of researchers at nearby Princeton University led by Robert Dicke realized what Penzias and Wilson had detected. The NASA Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) (launched in 2001) has completed a map of tiny temperature variations in this cosmic background which corresponds with the formation of the first galaxies in the universe. The project has also refined the age of the universe to 13.7 ± 0.13 billion years.

The third test of the Big Bang origin of the universe is the distribution, and abundances of atoms of different elements. I’ll leave this to a later comment. The trigger of the Big Bang is still under study. Two recent books which summarize our current understanding are;
Krauss, Lawrence
2012 “A Universe From Nothing” New York: Free Press

Susskind, Leonard
2005 "The Cosmic Landscape: String Theory and the Illusion of Intelligent Design" New York: Little and Brown Publishers

Helpful websites are;

2. Chemical evolution, which tries to explain the elements.
3. Stellar and planetary evolution, which tries to explain the universe.

Part 1.

The “kinds” of evolution under items 2, and 3 are convoluted in the minds of creationists everywhere. The questions, and answers are also complex because we have to refer back and forth between experimental laboratory results here on earth, and astronomical studies from the deepest reaches of space.

By knowing the age and background temperature of the Universe today, we can calculate the approximate temperature at the Big Bang. This was an extraordinary 10^30 degrees Kelvin. At that temperature normal matter, baryonic matter, cannot even exist and all the physical forces with the exception of gravity are mashed into a single unified force. As the universe expanded it cooled, and below 10^28 degrees Kelvin the first ordinary matter condensed, and the weak, strong, and electromagnetic forces began to separate. Atoms could not have existed yet, and didn’t emerge until the temperatures dropped to an average of around 10^6 degrees Kelvin, or about the temperature of the stars seen today. The cosmic microwave background radiation is a remnant of this era around 300 to 500 thousand years after the Big Bang. But long before this, neutrons and protons could exist, and to a limited extent interact forming nucleons.

So what were these first atomic nuclei, and how can we study them? In the 1920s, chemical elements were proven to be built from three subatomic particles, neutrons, protons and electrons. Mass is the main property of neutrons and protons, and electric charge is carried by protons (+) and electrons (-). The easiest of these particles to form, and therefore the first, is the neutron. Neutrons decay into a proton, an electron and a neutrino. The simplest atom is Hydrogen with just a proton and an electron. Adding a neutron generates Deuterium, an isotope of hydrogen. Smashing two protons together with a combined energy of about 10^7 degrees overcomes the electromagnetic force, and binds then together with the strong nuclear force creating Helium. This process, called nuclear fusion, is what powers nuclear bombs, and stars. It is easier to form helium by fusing two nuclei of deuterium than by bare protons, and makes helium isotopes with mass 3, and 4. Only tiny traces of Lithium (3 protons) could have been formed just after the Big Bang and before the first stars. The next heaviest nuclei are Beryllium (4 protons, with 3 to 6 neutrons). This could not form just by the addition of protons to existing nuclei because the extremely short half life of Be-8 blocks this route, and only extremely small amounts of Be-7, and Be-9 could have formed. So, the Big Bang theory predicts that about 75% of the early mass of the universe was hydrogen, just under 25% was helium, 0.01% deuterium, and less than a millionth of one percent lithium, and beryllium.

How have we tested all this? The nuclear physics is tested in accelerators. The next big results will be from the European CERN experiments since we Americans have dropped out of “big science.” The development of space telescopes coupled with spectrographs allows the direct measurement of the atomic composition of extremely distant stars, and interstellar gasses. We find that the proportion of atomic nuclei is exactly as predicted by Big Bang nucleosynthesis.

The CERN Large Hadron Collider will smash pairs of lead nucleons, each with an energy of 5.75 X 10^14 electron volts. The collision energies will be well over 10^20 eV. This is still well below the energies of the Big Bang, but it is expected to generate quark-gluon storms similar to the post-inflation period just before the emergence of the first neutrons.

2. Chemical evolution, which tries to explain the elements.
3. Stellar and planetary evolution, which tries to explain the universe.

Part 2.

The Big Bang creation of atoms was limited to 75% hydrogen, just under 25% helium, 0.01% deuterium, and tiny traces of lithium, and beryllium. The physical forces were all fixed, and the weakest and most profound force was gravity. It was gravity that controlled the next stage in atom building. As hydrogen, and helium were swept together by gravity the density, or pressure of the gas increased. This heats the gasses. The deeper the gravity well, the greater the pressure, and the greater the heating. Stars are masses of hydrogen and helium that have heated by gravitational collapse to temperatures high enough to trigger fusion. This starts at about 15 million degrees, or 1.3 thousand electron volts per nucleon resulting in the simplest fusion path of 3 hydrogen nuclei fusing into one helium. The larger the mass of gasses condensing, the faster the temperature raises and the sooner fusion begins. The heat released by hydrogen fusion is what powers a thermonuclear bomb. What keeps stars from exploding is their deep gravity well. But, the heat of fusion does act against gravity, stopping the increasing pressure from gravitational collapse.

The maximum temperature in the interior of a star depends on how much gas was available to collapse to build it. Basically, the larger the star the hotter the maximum core temperature. As the size and core temperature of a star increases, different fusion pathways from hydrogen to helium take over, and release even more energy as heat, and as neutrinos. But, there is no way to go simply from hydrogen to the heavy elements. I mentioned this earlier. What stops the reaction is the extreme instability of Berylium-8 which decays into helium in less than a trillionth of a second. This problem was solved theoretically by Fred Hoyle in the 1950s. He proposed that three helium nuclei (alpha particles) could fuse essentially instantly in the core of a large enough, and hot enough star to form the stable carbon-12 nucleon (6 protons and 6 neutrons). This “triple alpha” process was shown observationally/experimentally to occur in 1957 by William A. Fowler who received the 1983 Nobel Prize for this work. In spite of the fact that this reaction is rare even under the best of conditions, nearly all the carbon in the universe formed this way.

Once carbon is formed, other higher elements follow by the addition of more alpha particles, or protons. There are other pathways also opened once the Be-8 barrier is overcome, particularly the formation of elements by Beta decay which removes one proton from a heavier element converting it into a lighter one. As the concentration of heavier elements increased, they also undergo fusion reactions, for example two carbon-12 nuclei fuse to make either a Neon-20 + Helium, or a Sodium-23 + Hydrogen. These are called s-reactions because they are all slow.

But another roadblock appears due to the extreme stability of the iron nucleus. Elements formed with atomic mass higher than iron are less stable, and the end result is that iron cores begin to form in massive active stars. (There are still stars today a million times larger than the sun, and these were much more common in the early universe). There is no further nuclear synthesis in the iron core, and the star acquires a stratified structure with most of the active nuclear fusion happening away from the core. This is leading to the collapse of the star, and a Super Nova.

Experimental evidence:

C. W. Cook, W. A. Fowler, C. C. Lauritsen, and T. Lauritsen
1957 “B12, C12, and the Red Giants” Phys. Rev. 107, 508–515

I received my first Isotope Producer License when I was about 20 years old. I used thermal neutrons generated in a TRIGA Mark IV nuclear reactor to produce radioactive isotopes. Beta decay is accompanied by the emission of a gamma ray, and the energy of the radiation indicates the mass of the nucleus. This kind of research is called Neutron Activation Analysis. It was quite new back then.

Suggested reading;

Dickin, Alan P.
2000 “Radiogenic Isotope Geology” Cambridge University Press

Helpful websites;

2. Chemical evolution, which tries to explain the elements.
3. Stellar and planetary evolution, which tries to explain the universe.

Part 3.

Rapid nucleosynthesis in Novas and Super Novas.

The origin of elements (nucleosynthesis) in Part 2 was limited by the stability of the iron nucleus which blocked the formation of heavier elements. The sequence of reactions in the s-process are hydrogen (H) transmutes (or evolves, if you insist) to helium (He), He to carbon (C), C to neon (Ne), Ne to oxygen (O), O to silicon (Si), and Si to iron (Fe). Each of these reactions released energy in the form of heat which keeps the star from totally collapsing. As this happens, the star is being organized into layers of nucleons, with the lighter ones towards the surface and iron at the center.

Without the radiated heat from nuclear fusion in the iron core, the star begins to collapse again. This gravitational collapse increases the core temperature. If the star was large enough, the core temperature gets high enough to force iron fusion. Because iron is so stable, this reaction absorbs energy without releasing any back. The result is even more gravitational collapse, and higher temperatures until the iron nucleons are broken down into He, H, and neutrons which stream out toward the surface. At the same time, the outer shells of the star are falling inward towards the core, increasing pressure and temperature. They cannot fall forever, and will “bounce” from the core back out to the surface again.

This process cannot last long. The neutrons streaming out from the core are absorbed by the in-falling nuclei raising them to higher atomic mass by Beta decay. The recoil from the collapse will blast the star, and the newly formed heavy elements into space. These are called Super Novas. Next, gravity eventually will collect them back into new stars where the entire sequences repeats. These next generation stars will start with an enriched chemistry of heavy nuclei. The consequence is that they generate even heavier elements in the next nova.

Experimental/Observational evidence; With the invention of space telescopes, and charge coupled detectors, we can now observe these events directly. Particularly important are the gamma ray studies showing us the existence of newly formed radioactive isotopes. A review of these discoveries as of 1997 is cited below.

David Arnett and Grant Bazan 1997 “Nucleosynthesis in Stars: Recent Developments” Science Vol. 276 no. 5317 pp. 1359-1362
DOI: 10.1126/science.276.5317.1359

Two specific examples are discussed here;

Roger A. Chevalier 1997 “Type II Supernovae SN 1987A and SN 1993J” Science Vol. 276 no. 5317 pp. 1374-1378
DOI: 10.1126/science.276.5317.1374

Helpful Websites;

“Kinds” of evolution 1,2,3 a summary and extension

The origin of the elements following the Big Bang origin of the universe is neither a mystery nor unsupported by direct scientific evidence. There is still much to be learned, but we can dispense with the lie that they are without clear and obvious evidence. The energy released in the Big Bang, regardless of source, cooled and this resulted in the formation of neutrons from a quark, and gluon storm of tremendous heat and pressure. The continued cooling provided conditions where neutrons decayed to protons, electrons, and neutrinos. Protons found electrons becoming hydrogen. Accelerated protons found each other becoming helium. Neutrons continued to add themselves forming the isotopes of deuterium, and helium 3, and 4. Traces of lithium were made, but the Big Bang nucleosynthesis process was blocked at beryllium-8 due to its nearly instant self destruction back into helium.

Gravity came to be the most important force in the next step, the formation of stars. The earliest stars were mostly huge things, millions of times larger than our sun. They quickly (in universal time scales) generated the elemental nuclei up to iron’s 26 protons via the “slow” process . Again the process was blocked, but this time by the stability of the iron nucleus. That very stability, ironically, lead to the greatest explosions observed in the universe today, the super nova. Those events generated the rest of the heavy elements to uranium (and maybe higher). Once there were ample amounts of heavy elements, other more interesting things do start to appear - planets.

This is, step by step, observed and verified scientific fact. Naturally creationists denied it could ever be true.

In the creationist’s freakish version of reality, planets just spring into existence by magic. For many decades, all leading creationist “thinkers” insisted that there were no planets other than those around the Earth. Henry Morris, founder of the Institute for Creation Research, was still trying to deny that science could discover extra-solar planets, or even the origin of the moon in the late 1990s. See for example his nonsense published as “The Stardust Trail.”

Duane Gish claiming that the non-existence of extra-solar planets was important to Christian faith wrote, “Our faith is based on the certainty of eyewitness accounts, not the uncertainty of the wobble of stars.”

"As far as distant stars and galaxies are concerned, there is no evidence either in science or Scripture, that any of them have planets." Henry Morris, The Biblical Basis for Modern Science (Grand Rapids: Bier Book House, 1984) p. 244.

Science knows, and every American should know that extra-solar planets are common. Science knows, and every American should know that the nebular hypothesis as proposed by Immanuel Kant in 1755 has been proven. (Somewhat to my surprise, the Wikipedia article in this is excellent, and I'll just refer readers there). This does not slow down the creationists who continue to deny reality, for example: "NASA Data Derail Nebular Hypothesis" by Brian Thomas of the ICR.

Two features of the modern nebular hypothesis are that there will be a circumstellar disk which will have remnants following the formation of inner planets. This is called the Kuiper Belt. It was recently decided by astronomers that Pluto was better described as a Kuiper Belt object. There should also be an even more distant, spherical distribution of matter around a star called the Oort Cloud. These two concentrations of matter also have the interesting feature of explaining the origin, and persistence of comets. And this is why creationists hate and deny their very existence. Young Earth Creationists insist that the rather short cometary lives (hundreds to thousands to millions of years) somehow "proves" that the Earth is merely 6,000 years old. This is why we can read such stupidity as, “This imaginary cloud is called the "Oort Cloud," named after the astronomer who proposed it. The problem is that there is no observational evidence such a cloud exists at all.” “The Stardust Trail” Henry Morris.

Unfortunately for creationists, we have all the data we need. Even better, every feature of the Nebular Hypothesis: circumstellar disks, Kuiper Belts, and Oort Clouds, have been directly observed around other stars. And, how do we know that our solar system was built from earlier generations of stars? The most obvious way is the analysis of extra-solar dust grains still found today. There have been hundreds of scientific publications on these observations in just the last few years. Just use the Google; "extrasolar dust" is a good one. Then, "extrasolar disks" will reveal space telescope images of planet formation recorded for over a decade.

4. Organic evolution, which tries to explain life springing from inanimate matter.

We do no know exactly how life originated on Earth. We do know that it happened at least once at the end of the Hadean era, or about 3.9 billion years ago.* But, recall that the creationists, like Mrs. Chatman or Jack Chick, insist that there is no evidence that this could have occurred at all. Here is just a glimpse at the available evidence.

There are bacteria which "spring from inanimate matter" all the time. At least in the sense that they require absolutely no organic form of nutrition. And we know that "organic" molecules have no particular magic. There was once the thought that the organic "stuff" of life was completely different from "inorganic" or mineral matter. This seems still to be the thought of the ignorant. Known as vitalism, this concept was shown to be false by F. Wöhler, in his 1828 synthesis of urea, a "live" compound, from inorganic stock chemicals ("ON THE ARTIFICIAL PRODUCTION OF UREA" Annalen der Physik und Chemie, 88, Leipzig).

Charles R. Darwin, in a letter to the botanist Joseph Hooker wrote, "It is mere rubbish thinking at present of the origin of life; one might as well think of the origin of matter." A few years later in 1871, he had observed, "It is often said that all the conditions for the first production of a living organism are present, which could ever have been present. But if (and Oh! what a big if!) we could conceive in some warm little pond, with all sorts of ammonia and phosphoric salts, light, heat, electricity, etc., present, that a protein compound was chemically formed ready to undergo still more complex changes, at the present day such matter would be instantly devoured or absorbed, which would not have been the case before living creatures were formed. "

The study of the origin of life is actually called abiogenesis. It was, as Darwin noted, nothing but speculation until the 1950s. Then, in 1953 a short paper by Stanley Miller for Science magazine brought origin of life studies into actual experimental research (“A Production of Amino Acids Under Possible Primitive Earth Conditions” Science vol. 117:528-529). What Miller had shown was that a very simple set of starting conditions, common gasses, hot water, and an electric spark would produce many of the chemicals essential to the origin of life. There were many critics, especially creationists. Miller and others repeated his experiment with different gasses, and energy sources. It was so simple to set up even high school chemistry labs could manage. Miller's last paper was published posthumously 55 years later, "A Reassessment of Prebiotic Organic Synthesis in Neutral Planetary Atmospheres" (H. James Cleaves & John H. Chalmers & Antonio Lazcano & Stanley L. Miller & Jeffrey L. Bada 2008 Orig Life Evol Biosph 38:105-115). This group at the University of California's Scripp's Institute demonstrated that under a neutral atmosphere, or even with a trace of free oxygen, ample amino acids could form in the presence of common minerals such as borax, or calcite.

A recent book reviewing the last 58 years of abiogenesis research, and pointing out several still large gaps in our knowledge is;
Deamer, David W.
2011 “First Life: Discovering the Connections between Stars, Cells, and How Life Began” University of California Press

A bit more technical is;
Schopf, William (editor)
2002 "Life's Origin: The Beginnings of Biological Evolution" University of California Press

For some really up-to-the-minute research see;
NASA's Astrobiology Institute website

* Rosing, Minik T. and Robert Frei 2004 U-rich Archaean sea-floor sediments from Greenland – indications of >3700 Ma oxygenic photosynthesis" Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 217 237-244 (online 6 December 03), Oleg Abramov, Stephen J. Mojzsis 2009 “Microbial habitability of the Hadean Earth during the late heavy bombardment” Nature 459, 419-422 (21 May) | doi:10.1038/nature08015;

5. Macro evolution, which tries to explain one specie evolving into things another specie.
6. Micro evolution, which explains variations within a specie.

I was planning to keep to a single 'kind' of evolution per day. But, the local fishing has really improved the last few days, and I want to get back out tomorrow. And, the notion that we have some sort of problem demonstrating 'macro' evolution is a joke. 'Macro' evolution is merely 'micro' evolution across long periods of time. Science professionals not actually specialists might read;

Carroll, Robert L.
1998 'Patterns and Processes of Vertebrate Evolution' New York: Cambridge University Press,


Valentine, James W.
2005 On the Origin of Phyla University of Chicago Press (Professor Valentine's book is probably the best study of the pre-Cambrian, and Cambrian eras available in English).

For non-scientists I recommend;

Carroll, Sean B.
2005 'Endless Forms Most Beautiful' New York: Norton


Shubin, Neal
2008 Your Inner Fish New York: Pantheon Books

One major problem is that few people, especially creationists, even know what a 'species' is. I recommend reading 'What is a Species, and What is Not' by Ernst Mayer

We have obviously observed the emergence of new species, in nature, in experiments, and induced in laboratories. I have compiled a list of dozens of examples ranging from plants, insects, fish, reptiles, birds, and mammals. Some have been known for over a century. The central strategy used by creationists to deny this reality is to try and change the meaning of 'species,' and to even change the meaning of 'evolve.'

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

I am fairly pleased with my last hacks on Mrs. Chatman

The latest of her creationist posts to the Waynesville Guide, Pulaski County's only daily newspaper were basic steals from Jack Chick's notorious "Big Daddy." Her probable source was Frame 10, the Six Kinds of Evolution.

Of course, I have a backup copy.

Some of Mrs. Chatman's lies have been copied from the Institute for Creation Research, and others from the Answers in Genesis gang. The basic framework of my refutation of her creatocrap is the larger project to expose Jack Chick's "Big Daddy" as the fraud it is. I'll be creating a new blog for the Jack Chick rebuke since he has shown the propensity to claim copyright infringement against critics of his gross misrepresentations and lies about science.