Archive for April, 2010

Archaeoraptor Disaster

 

Every fossil discovery has a unique story, and the story of the Archaeoraptor is no exception. In November 1999, a feature article in National Geographic titled “Feathers for T. Rex?” played out to be one of the worst debacles in the now storied history of the new fossil discoveries. The article claimed to provide “a true missing link in the complex chain that connects dinosaurs to birds.”

Discovered at Xiasanjiazi in China’s northeastern Liaoning Province, the fossil named Archaeoraptor liaoningensis appeared to have the body of a bird with the teeth and tail of a small, terrestrial dinosaur. The “discovery” seemed to fit the missing link criteria by filling in the gap of the popular reptile/dinosaur-to-bird scheme. The Archaeoraptor was displayed to have a long, bony tail like that of dinosaurs along with the specialized shoulders and chest of birds.

The Associated Press was the first to notice the story, and soon the major news networks were reporting the discovery of the new missing link that looked like a “fierce turkey-sized animal with sharp claws and teeth.”

The celebration was on. Philip Currie of the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Alberta, Canada, weighed in, proclaiming the Archaeoraptor to be the first dinosaur capable of flying. The story had barely broken before questions about the fossil started taking flight, leaving the National Geographic suddenly embroiled in one of the hottest scientific controversies in decades.

The questioning was started by Storrs Olson, the eminent curator of birds at the prestigious Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History. In a letter to the National Geographic Society, Olson stated that the story reached “an all-time low for engaging in sensationalistic, unsubstantiated, tabloid journalism.”

Olson was on target, and the National Geographic found itself in the embarrassing position of having to retract the entire article because, as it turned out, the Archaeoraptor fossil was a fake—a neatly contrived composite of a bird and a dinosaur tail.

In reflecting on the incident, Olson laid blame for the fossil fiasco clearly on “zealous scientists” that have abandoned the scientific method to become “proselytizers of the faith” promoting “scientific hoaxes,” and “the paleontological equivalent of cold fusion.”

Several months later in the March 2000 issue of National Geographic, the magazine published a letter to the editor from Xu Xing, one of the scientists who had first examined and discussed the fossil discovery. The letter stated, “After observing a new, feathered dromaeosaur specimen … [t]hough I do not want to believe it, Archaeoraptor appears to be composed of a dromaeosaur tail and a bird body.”

Seven months later in October 2000, National Geographic published a five-page article by veteran investigative reporter Lewis Simons describing how the hoax evolved. In the article “Archaeoraptor Fossil Trail,” Simons pined on the painful discovery: “An investigative reporter does some digging to unearth the truth behind a case of fossil fraud.”

Simons explained how farmers in China had developed a profitable hobby of selling the fossils they “discovered.” They doctored the fossils to follow basic market economics to increase the value of their “discoveries.” In the excitement, evolutionists were conveniently blinded by their belief in the theory. 

The Archaeoraptor illustrates the problem when the theory becomes more important than the evidence. Tragically, Charles Darwin touted this approach in a letter to John Scott in 1863: “I would suggest to you the advantage … let the theory guide your observations.”

Evolutionists continue in the Darwin tradition—let the theory mask the interpretation of the evidence.

Even in an era with unsurpassed technological advances, fraud in science continues to invade deep into the ranks of esteemed institutions. Storrs Olson, of the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History, in 2000 lamented that there “probably has never been a fossil with a sadder history than this one.”

Proof of the hoax was not long in coming. Later in March 2001, Nature published the results of the fossil investigation. Using high-resolution X-ray computed tomography (CT), the investigators concurred that the fossil was a forgery built in three layers. Timothy Rowe concluded that Archaeoraptor represents two or more species and that it was assembled from at least two, and possibly five, separate specimens. If there is any light at the end of the tunnel, Rowe gave a positive spin in the Nature article on the Archaeoraptor forgery, saying that technology may prevent future forensic fraud.

The Archaeoraptor disaster follows a fraud legacy starting with Haeckel’s embryos that founded Darwin’s “most important” evidence for evolution. 

Darwin on Marx

 

Darwin had a significant influence on Karl Marx. Struggle and survival are central to Darwin’s theory of evolution. The full title of The Origin is –

On the Origin of Species by means of natural selection and the Survival of the Fittest in the Preservation of Favoured Races.

Darwin’s premise on survival and struggle in nature paralleled Karl Marx premise on class struggle. Marx summarized the importance of “struggle” in the first line of chapter one of The Communist Manifesto, published in 1848 –

“The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.”

Karl Heinrich Marx was born in Germany on May 5, 1818. In 1843, Marx moved to France, but ordered to leave by the French authorities after participating in an assassination attempt on Frederick William IV, King of Prussia in 1845. After a time in Belgium and Prussia, Marx and his new comrade, Friedrich Engels, finally settled in London, England in 1849.

By the time Marx had moved to London in 1849, Darwin had already moved his young family from London to the Down seven years earlier. Even though Down is located just sixteen miles from London, ironically they never met even though Darwin greatly influenced the works of Marx and Engels.

Marx and Engels immediately recognized the significance of Darwin’s theory. Within weeks of the publication of The Origin of Species in November 1859, Engels wrote to Marx –

“Darwin, by the way, whom I’m reading just now, is absolutely splendid. There was one aspect of teleology that had yet to be demolished, and that has now been done…. One does, of course, have to put up with the crude English method.”

Marx wrote back to Engels on December 19, 1860 –

“This is the book which contains the basis in natural history for our view.”

The Origin of Species became the natural cause basis for Marx’s emerging class struggle movement. In a letter to comrade Ferdinand Lassalle, on January 16, 1861, Marx wrote –

“Darwin’s book is very important and serves me as a basis in natural science for the class struggle in history.”

Marx inscribed “sincere admirer” in Darwin’s copy of Marx’s first volume of Das Kapital in 1867. The importance of the theory of evolution for Communism was critical. In Das Kapital, Marx wrote –

“Darwin has interested us in the history of Nature’s Technology, i.e., in the formation of the organs of plants and animals, which organs serve as instruments of production for sustaining life. Does not the history of the productive organs of man, of organs that are the material basis of all social organisation, deserve equal attention?”

To acknowledge Darwin’s influence, Marx asked to dedicate Das Kapital to Darwin. However, Darwin graciously replied –

“Dear sir; I thank you for the honor that you have done me by sending me your great work on Capital and I heartily wish that I was more worthy to receive it, but understanding more of the deep and important subject of political economy. Though our studies have been so different, I believe that we both earnestly desire the extension of knowledge and that this in the long run is sure to add to the happiness of Mankind. I remain, Dear Sir, Yours faithfully, Charles Darwin.”

At Karl Marx’s funeral in Highgate Cemetery in London, Engels spoke at Marx’s graveside March 1883 –

“Just as Darwin discovered the law of evolution in organic nature, so Marx discovered the law of evolution in human history”

The American researcher Conway Zirckle explains why the founders of Communism immediately accepted Darwin’s theory –

“Marx and Engels accepted evolution almost immediately after Darwin published The Origin of Species. Evolution, of course, was just what the founders of communism needed to explain how mankind could have come into being without the intervention of any supernatural force, and consequently it could be used to bolster the foundations of their materialistic philosophy.”

Darwin had an undeniable and profound influence on the works of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in the development of Communism. Although not intended by Darwin, the effect of the theory of evolution emerged as the single most significant social engineering movement of the twentieth century.

Speculations run wild on what the twentieth century would have looked like without the theory of evolution and Karl Marx. What’s your speculation?

Darwin, an Agnostic

On April 26, 1882, a four-horse funeral carriage carried Charles Darwin to Westminster Abbey in London. Darwin lies just a few feet from the burial place of Sir Isaac Newton in an area of the Abbey known as Scientists’ Corner. Emma, his wife, refused to attend the funeral activities planned by Parlimentary decree.

Darwin’s tombstone simply reads – “CHARLES ROBERT DARWIN BORN 12 FEBRUARY 1809. DIED 19 APRIL 1882.”

Westminster Abbey, although originally founded as a Christian church during the first-century, has since emerged simply as a cultural center for the Church of England and the British Monarchy.

Like Westminster Abbey, Darwin beliefs changed over his lifetime. Four-years before his death in 1878, when challenged by a sermon published by the popular theologian E. B. Pusey, Darwin responded in a letter to N.H. Ridley: “Many years ago, when I was collecting facts for the ‘Origin’, my belief in what is called a personal God was as firm as that of Dr. Pusey himself.” Notice Darwin’s verb choice in the sentence: “was” not “is”.

Even though christened as a child at the Church of St Chad’s, graduated from Christ’s College of Cambridge University, and buried at Westminster Abbey, Darwin is thought of as an agnostic today based on his own words. In his autobiography, Darwin wrote – “The mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble by us; and I for one must be content to remain an agnostic.”

Darwin at Christ’s College

After a failed attempt to study medicine at University of Edinburgh and fearing that his son would “ne’er do well,” his father enrolled young Charles at Christ’s College, University of Cambridge, in 1827 to obtain a Bachelor of Arts degree in theology. A theology degree would qualify Darwin to become a clergyman in the Church of England—a guaranteed government professional.

Darwin’s father, Robert Darwin, thought this was a sensible career move. A “living” as an English clergyman would at least provide a comfortable income. In the Victorian era, clergymen in were trained as naturalists. Studying nature and exploring the wonders of creation were thought to be essential for clergymen in gaining an understanding of God’s creative handiwork.

While studying nature was perfect for the young Darwin, the aspect of becoming a clergyman was a different twist especially since Darwin was raised, as a Unitarian, to challenge the Church of England.

Since enrollment required acceptance of the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England, the thought of attending Christ’s College mandated a measure of reflection. Darwin wrote in his autobiography, “I asked for some time to consider, as from what little I had heard or thought on the subject I had scruples about declaring my belief in all the dogmas of the Church of England; though otherwise I liked the thought of being a country clergyman.”

On finally signing acceptance of the articles to enter Christ’s College in 1828 at the age of nineteen, Darwin recalls: “I did not then in the least doubt the strict and literal truth of every word in the Bible, I soon persuaded myself that our Creed must be fully accepted.” Note the key words—“persuaded myself”.

Darwin found the Bible to inspire new ideas. In the characteristic free-spirit legacy, Darwin recalls, “inventing day-dreams of old letters between distinguished Romans and manuscripts being discovered at Pompeii or elsewhere which confirmed in the most striking manner of all that was written in the Gospels.”

Theology, however, was not Darwin’s first priority: “No pursuit at Cambridge was followed with nearly so much eagerness or gave me so much pleasure as collecting beetles.” Nature was Darwin’s focus.

At Cambridge, Darwin’s interest in Euclid’s mathematics, and geometry equaled that of his interest in William Paley’s Evidences of Christianity. Darwin aligned with Paley’s classic design perspective of creation. Darwin writing, “I am convinced that I could have written out the whole of the Evidences with perfect correctness… The logic of this book as I may add of his Natural Theology gave me as much delight as did Euclid.”

Later in life in retrospect, Darwin reflects, “Upon the whole the three years which I spent at Cambridge were the most joyful in my happy life; for I was then in excellent health, and almost always in high spirits.”

The question arises: why did Darwin finally claim that Christianity was a “damnable doctrine”?

Book Description



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Darwin, Then and Now is a journey through the most amazing story in the history of science - the history of evolution. The book encapsulates who Darwin was, what he said, and what scientists have discovered since the publication of The Origin of Species in 1859.

With over 1,000 references, Darwin Then and Now is a historical chronicle of the rise and fall of the once popular theory of biological evolution.

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