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The Year of the Worm

The Year of the Worm

Intermediate

A special section in the December 11, 1998 issue of the journal Science was devoted to a celebration of the roundworm Caenorabditis elegans. Although a lengthy name has been conferred on this creature, the organism itself is actually at most about 1 mm long. Of the 20,000 or so known species of roundworm or nematode, most are parasites. This species, however, (generally called by the more catchy title of C. elegans), lives free in the soil. Hardly visible to the naked eye, an individual worm nevertheless appears very large when viewed through an ordinary microscope. Except for cells destined to become eggs or sperm, this animal consists of only 959 cells. The whole creature is quite transparent so that, through the microscope, one can easily view the various cells and organs. Development of an individual is fast too, requiring only three days in a life span of two or three weeks. Such an organism seemed ideal for laboratory studies. Thus in 1963 Cambridge biologist Sydney Brenner began a research program which continues to the present. And what fascinating results have been obtained! Read the rest of this entry »


Does Information Run Your Life?

Does Information Run Your Life?

Intermediate

We all like to communicate, don’t we – at the very least to tell others what to do. Indeed a slang expression has been coined about this “Communication is the name of the game!” People, of course, are able to communicate in words. However there are other sorts of communication which do not involve words, but which nevertheless involve information. Some scientists, especially in their study of biology, have become very interested in information and its source. Dr. A. E. Wilder-Smith, for example, discussed the genesis of biological information in his 1981 book The Natural Sciences Know Nothing of Evolution. Moreover this fall two new books on this subject (by Dr. William A. Dembski) are scheduled to be released. Dr. Dembski is an associate editor of Origins and Design (www.arn.org) and the titles of these new books are The Design Inference (Cambridge) and Mere Creation: Reclaiming the Book of Nature (InterVarsity). Dr. Dembski’s interest in information theory is in its implications for origins theory. This also was Dr. Wilder-Smith’s concern. In addition there is another book recently translated from German, which provides fascinating insights on this topic. The title of Dr. Werner Gitt’s book is In the Beginning was Information. Read the rest of this entry »


History is full of sad stories. Nobody needs to tell us that. Nevertheless many tragic events have been obscured by the mists of time. It sometimes seems that we scarcely know or care any more about the crusades, European wars or treaties during the Middle Ages or events before or after that time. Eighty years ago however, the assassination of the Romanovs, the Russian czar and his family took place in the Siberian town of Yekaterinburg. The events were so shrouded in mystery, and the victims so interesting (particularly the four beautiful daughters), that public interest in the story has never faded. Now, thanks to some remarkable espionage carried out in Russia during the final years of the Communist regime, and to some recently developed skills in forensic science, the final chapter on the Romanov saga will be written during the summer of 1998. If all goes according to plan, the Romanovs will be buried in the family sepulchre in St. Peter and St. Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg. The funeral service with appropriate imperial grandeur is scheduled for July 17 — 80 years to the day after their untimely deaths. Read the rest of this entry »


Evolutionists have long had a difficult time trying to account for the development of cells with nuclei. The first step, of course, is to agree on a suitable ancestor. The popular choice is bacteria (prokaryotes) which typically have only a single circular chromosome lying free in the cell. Unfortunately there are numerous structural and metabolic differences between the assumed ancestors and presumed descendants. Various theories have been proposed to explain how this new cell type might have developed, but none has proved extremely satisfactory. Thus the old theories tend to get recycled. An explanation is accepted for a while and later falls into disfavour as another old theory is retrieved from mothballs. The problem is that none of these theories fits the observed facts very well at all. Read the rest of this entry »


How Scientific Myths Are Made

How Scientific Myths Are Made

Intermediate

A myth, one might imagine, is a story or explanation that is widely believed, but has no basis in fact. While there were numerous myths in the past, modern man believes that he has no need for such fabrications. Science, after all, undertakes to explain everything, and it is empirical and objective, so the saying goes. But even in science, some myths do creep into the public consciousness. It is interesting to notice how popular misunderstandings of scientific information appear and are propagated. An example springs to mind. Consider the recent studies on the “age” of the human race, for example. The conclusions and some headlines were actually misleading. One wonders how many readers obtained an inaccurate understanding of the issue. Let us investigate that case. Read the rest of this entry »


The Human Genome and the Master Architect

The Human Genome and the Master Architect

Intermediate

Sometimes the good old days look so appealing. Wouldn’t it be nice to return to the optimistic and traditional 1950s, for example? Alternatively a nice isolated cottage in the woods somewhere would be fine. We could spend our days far from the terrors of technology and pure science. Obviously however, such visions are unrealistic. Christians were placed in this world to be the salt of the earth. There is no escape from the dilemmas of this life. Read the rest of this entry »