Showing posts from July, 2010

BSG/CGS conference day #2

The first full day of presentations at BSG/CGS was great. We had great talks on the creation of plants in Genesis 2, the dominion mandate in Genesis 1, underwater debris flows, and mechanisms for halite and anhydrite deposition in a submarine environment. Very nice. The baraminology session went fine also. Gordon Wilson argued that we should be more conservative in our delimitation of baramins, and Roger Sanders presented evidence that the Verbenaceae are a single holobaramin. I closed that session with my sediba talk, which was a lot tamer than I expected. To this crowd, my conclusions were far less controversial than they are to certain other folk (who, I might add, did not show up). In the afternoon, we had presentations on radiohalos, dinosaur tracks, geology in Christian textbooks, and post-Flood climate modeling. It was a very good day.

The CGS and BSG boards met at dinner and settled on next year's conference venue: Rapid City, SD. The date will be July 27-29, 2011.…

BSG/CGS conference day #1

I'm currently at the BSG/CGS conference, and the BSG proceedings are now posted.

That is all. More later.

Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com.

More theology in PNAS

This week's PNAS has more theology. Murray and Schloss respond to Avise's oddly out of place theological article, and Avise replies. I don't have a PNAS subscription, so I can't read the letters without paying. Any generous soul who would like to forward me copies would be greatly appreciated.

Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com.

Still catching up

I just gave two talks at Summit, and now I'm working on my slides for one of my talk this weekend at the BSG/CGS conference. While I'm still catching up from my vacation, I noticed a few things of note that I wanted to share. After a nice long sabbatical, Paul Garner is back with a whole series of posts on his experiences doing field research on the Permian sandstones in the U.S. this summer. Check it out. Also, CMI has an interesting interview with Ariel Roth that is worth reading.

I'm going to try posting from the conference this weekend, but I don't know exactly what the internet situation will be. So no promises. I'll definitely post more when I get back next week.

Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com.

I'm back!

Farewell, sweet vacation! But I don't think I'm ready to go back to work yet... oh well.

I'm still catching up on all the interesting stuff that happened while I was away. I see there's another fossil primate on the cover of Nature. I also skimmed over the latest Journal of Creation. Jean Lightner's getting hammered in the letters section over her views on "biblical taxonomy." I haven't read through the whole thing yet, but let me toss this out: I think the view espoused by some creationists that there is a divinely-inspired and revealed taxonomy is totally incorrect. I've explained why in Understanding the Pattern of Life. I'll probably have more to say about that later. I also noted Peter Borger's article claiming to solve the issue of "homoplasy and nested hierarchy." Big claim for a short paper, but I sincerely hope he's on to something. (But I would be more optimistic if he didn't consistently refer to Doug…

From the Library: On Some Instances of the Power of God

For those just joining us, "From the Library" spotlights interesting items in the library of the Center for Origins Research at Bryan College.

This week's book is an extraordinary look into Sir Richard Owen's understanding of design. The volume it appears in is titled Lectures Delivered before the Young Men's Christian Association, in Exeter Hall, from November, 1863, to February, 1864. Owen's lecture is titled "On Some Instances of the Power of God as Manifested in His Animal Creation." There is also a longer book form of this lecture, but I haven't been able to obtain a copy. This condensed version still contains quite a powerful argument.

And that makes me sort of sad. As I read this essay, I thought about the ID debate and my evolutionary creationist brothers in Christ, and I wished any of them could write anything remotely as compelling as Owen had. He almost convinced me... but not quite.

The lecture is divided into roughly two sec…

Still on vacation

My vacation is almost done (that's me in the pic). I'll be back at the end of this week.

Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com.

Henning Museum sneak peak

Some readers might know that I double as curator of the Henning Museum at Bryan College in addition to my duties as CORE director. We've been really busy this summer upgrading some of our exhibits, and I wanted to give you a sneak peak.

We quadrupled the number of shells on display. This is the museum's most significant collection, and we wanted to put as much of it on display as we could, which is to say we've put maybe 2-3% of it on display. We also added a giant clam to the exhibit. It's not big enough to bathe in, but it's still pretty large.

We reworked and expanded our skull exhibit. Joining the lion, leopard, and various local critters are the North American porcupine, a jackrabbit, and casts of a dugong and a giant beaver.

Our mineral exhibit got a huge boost from a donation of six beautiful specimens from Bulgaria and the acquisition of a huge amethyst geode. Very nice.

In addition to many locally-collected insects and spiders, our new arthropod exhibit …

From the Library: "After its Kind"

For those just joining us, "From the Library" spotlights interesting items in the library of the Center for Origins Research at Bryan College.

Longtime readers will recall my ambivalence towards mendelian models of speciation:
Mendel is not enough
Mendel is REALLY not enough

Very briefly, the model posits that God created organisms with a fixed set of alleles (gene versions). As time went on and the populations began to spread out, certain combinations of alleles became fixed in certain populations, and those populations became species. As I wrote previously,
This model is still quite popular with creationists for what I consider to be mostly psychological or apologetic reasons: (1) It does not require the generation of new attributes or "genetic information" (whatever that is) after creation. (2) All changes can be perceived as degenerative, since the originally created heterozygous condition is broken up and disturbed as species separate out alleles from t…

Frogs do the weirdest things...

Check out these red-eyed tree frogs:

Here's the research article:

Caldwell et al. 2010. Vibrational Signaling in the Agonistic Interactions of Red-Eyed Treefrogs. Current Biology 20(11):1012-1017.

Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com.

Endogenous filoviruses

Readers will recall Liu and Soper's exogenation hypothesis for the origin of retroviruses. They speculated that retroviruses - like the AIDS virus HIV - originated as escaped particles from what were originally endogenous parts of certain eukaryotic genomes (like our own). While I like the idea of thinking backwards from the standard evolutionary model to come up with a creationist idea, I always found their hypothesis a bit limiting. It could really only explain retroviruses, which are just one family among many different types of viruses. In relation to that shortcoming, I previously noted the discovery of remnants of a bornavirus in mammalian genomes, but they were just fragments that looked more like insertions. Now, Taylor et al. report evidence of filovirus-like sequences in some mammals. You'll recall filoviruses as causative agents of the notorious ebola hemorrhagic fever.

From a creationist perspective, this report is complicated by the phylogenetic analyses of t…

The Nature of Evolution

A while back, you might remember I stirred things up when I declared that there was evidence for evolution, that it wasn't a theory in crisis, etc. In terms of the culture war, underestimating the enemy is the worst thing you can do. In terms of truth-telling, it's just false to say that evolution is a failure or on the verge of collapse. Over and over, I emphasized that creationists can continue to be creationists, that we don't have to believe evolution, that we can still remain skeptical and search for other explanations. I just wanted to acknowledge that there's a good case, a really good case, to be made for evolution. That's really not such a big deal, but people still don't seem to understand it.

Which brings me to the subject of this post. I recently received an email suggesting that I needed to define what I meant by "evolution" when I wrote,
There is evidence for evolution, gobs and gobs of it. It is not just speculation or a faith ch…

A page from Darwin's diary

Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com.

Amiel's Darwin biopic Creation

I finally got to see Creation, the Charles Darwin biopic from director Jon Amiel, starring Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly. I've posted quite a lot about this movie previously (here, here, here, here, here, here, and here), so I won't rehash all that now.

I found the film to be a dull cliche, to be honest. It was so dull, I don't really have much to say about it. It was just ... meh.

It wasn't all bad. Paul Bettany did a good job playing Charles, and he certainly looked the part far more then Henry Ian Cusick in Darwin's Darkest Hour. I also thought the photography was strikingly lovely in places. But that's pretty much it.

The film reduced the complexity of Darwin's life and thought to a God vs. science melodrama. On the side of God, we have Emma, a nagging, disapproving prude of a wife and the Reverend Innes, a stern, trite believer in not asking questions. On the side of science is Darwin and his pals Huxley and Hooker. But it's not just tha…


I'll be vacationing for the next two weeks. I have some posts scheduled to publish while I'm gone, and I will check in from time to time to see if there's any pressing news. Otherwise, expect sporadic email communication until July 25. I intend to be as blog-free as possible.

Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com.

Musings on coral reefs and creationism

I read an interesting article on coral symbioses in PNAS last week, which set me to thinking about creationism and coral reefs. Corals come in several varieties. Many corals are solitary creatures that grow in deep water. The more familiar reef-forming corals live in colonies and have photosynthetic symbionts called zooxanthellae. They make sometimes giant reefs, and given the growth rate of corals, these monstrous reefs have been something of a problem for creationist chronology, which would limit modern reefs to at most 4500 years old. For example, parts of Australia's Great Barrier Reef are thought to be as much as half a million years old. Creationists have written about reefs on numerous occasions (Roth, Roth again, Hodges, others).

I'm not well-versed in creationist responses to the coral reef problem, but I was intrigued by Barbeitos et al.'s article on loss of coloniality and symbiosis in coral phylogeny. The existence of symbiotic, colonial corals and nonsym…

Meanwhile in Nature

Last week's Nature had some interesting articles in case you missed them. First, new ancient fossils purport to be the oldest multicellular life (they're Palaeoproterozoic in case you're curious). Fossils from this "time period" are notoriously difficult to verify as fossils and not just weird rock formations. I'm no expert in geochemistry, but this paper looks unusually thorough in the author's argument that these really are fossils. I'm not even going to try putting these in a creationist context, since I am simply too unfamiliar with paleontology.

El Albani et al. 2010. Large colonial organisms with coordinated growth in oxygenated environments 2.1 Gyr agoNature 466:100-104.

Speaking of interesting fossils, Lambert et al. report in the same issue the discovery of a giant sperm whale, which they named Leviathan melvillei. What's interesting about it is that it's got teeth in its upper jaw, unlike the modern sperm whale. That makes it a r…

Spider crab moulting!!

Happy fifth of July! Here's a giant spider crab moulting:

Not as cool as fighting dinosaurs, but still cool.

Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com.

From the library: Noe Architectus Arcae

For those just joining us, "From the Library" spotlights interesting items in the library of the Center for Origins Research at Bryan College.

The full title of this week's book is Noe Architectus Arcae in Diluvio Navarchus Descriptus et Morali Doctrina Illustratus. It was written by a German Jesuit named Jeremias Drexel and published in Antwerp in 1640. Our copy is a first edition. Drexel was quite well-known in his own time. He wrote thirty different books (nine published posthumously), and during the last twenty years of his life, more than 150,000 copies of his books were sold.

I'm highlighting this book not because I've read it (which I haven't - it's entirely Latin), but because it exemplifies an interesting historical trend on Noah's Ark. In 1554, a French monk named Johannes Buteo published a pamphlet that attempted to analyze the logistics of Noah's Ark, its structure, how it was built, how many animals it carried, how much room w…

Reflections on Evolution 2010

There's something energizing about a good science conference. Hanging out with smart people, talking about smart things, listening to smart talks. There's just something cool about being in the same room with people like Joe Felsenstein or Doug Futuyma. Just being there re-energizes my brain. I had a really good idea for a whole new research project while I was there, and I got a few smaller ideas for improvements to other projects I'm working on.

Then I came home, and I noticed an outrageous banner ad at a creationist blog proclaiming: "2013: Darwinism Falls." Ugh. I understand that there are people who think (mistakenly) that there's a big crisis in evolutionary biology and it's going to collapse, but I've never encountered anyone arrogant enough to set a date. So I clicked on the ad, and it was pretty sad. It's some site run by an engineer. What is it with engineers? Why is it the most arrogant and vitriolic antievolutionists are engin…