Program For September

The September program will be Saturday the 19th at the Center for Community Cooperation, 2900 Live Oak Street in Dallas. Proceedings will get underway at 2 p.m. The format will be a general discussion of the topic.

This item is also posted on the Skeptical Analysis blog.


Electron energy states

Some Background

Here’s a story from a few years back. I wrote this term paper for an undergraduate physics class. I got an A in the course, and when Scott Chase, at the time moderator for the sci.physics discussion list, asked me to submit an item on the EPR paradox, I dressed up my term paper a bit and sent it in. The discussion has since been revised and improved by Scott and others, and you can find it here:

Does Bell’s Inequality rule out local theories of quantum mechanics?

In 1935 Albert Einstein and two colleagues, Boris Podolsky and Nathan Rosen (EPR) developed a thought experiment to demonstrate what they felt was a lack of completeness in quantum mechanics.  This so-called “EPR Paradox” has led to much subsequent, and still ongoing, research.  This article is an introduction to EPR, Bell’s Inequality, and the real experiments that have attempted to address the interesting issues raised by this discussion.

One of the principal features of quantum mechanics is that not all the classical physical observables of a system can be simultaneously well defined with unlimited precision, even in principle.  Instead, there may be several sets of observables that give qualitatively different, but nonetheless complete (maximal possible), descriptions of a quantum mechanical system.  These sets are sets of “good quantum numbers,” and are also known as “maximal sets of commuting observables.”  Observables from different sets are “noncommuting observables”.

The heart of the matter is the measurement of quantum mechanical properties of sub atomic particles. To make it short, measuring such a property, measuring anything, involves interacting with the property so that additional parts of the Universe are irreversibly affected. For sub atomic particles it is claimed the measured property does not have the measured value until the measurement is taken. A classic example is the thought experiment involving Schrödinger’s cat.

For decades the argument raged back and forth over whether the studied particle had a built-in property that was measured. The ultimate conclusion was it did not. In my mind I sought to demonstrate the opposite. I supposed that, in my example, a radioactive nucleus has built in a specific time when decay will occur. When the time comes, the decay event happens.

Then I thought about it, and I realized that this could not be. The proof is in the decay statistics, and I will get into that in a different post. It’s going to be a Quiz Question.

The conclusion is, amazingly, that things happen in the Universe without having a cause. This contradicts most conventional wisdom. The batter hits a home run because he swung the bat. Swinging the bat was a principal cause for the home run. On another level this is not always the case. An atomic particle decays, and nothing has caused it.

Close Encounters

This and a number of other counterintuitive aspects of quantum physics have caught the attention of certain fringe elements. People seeking to rationalize claims of the paranormal have turned at times to spooky elements of quantum mechanics. For the North Texas Skeptics an early encounter was health quack Charlotte Gerson, whom we reviewed 23 years ago:

The lady (she is not quoted in the Gerson flier, and I didn’t get her name) found that with a family it was difficult to stick to the Gerson diet unless the whole family participated, which meant everyone ate nothing at home but fresh vegetables (organically grown, I assumed). Her grocery bill, as a consequence, was $200 per week. This is amazing when you realize that previously in this century unprocessed food was the cheapest way to eat. It is a statement of how we have come to depend on the food processing industry.

Another man was also questioning the Lady X, and he seemed to be asking some very intelligent questions. He was wearing a medical pager, and I asked him if he was a doctor. He said he was, but he declined to be identified. He considered it professionally unwise to acknowledge interest in alternative medicine. His wife was diagnosed with breast cancer, and he was seeking anything that promised hope. For some reason the conversation turned to other quack medical practices, and the subject of homeopathy came up. I was surprised when he stated complete confidence in homeopathy. Not only that, but the two others in our little conversation knot expressed the same convictions. Of course I shouldn’t have been surprised. Where did I think I was anyhow?

How could homeopathy work, I asked? What could possibly be the mechanism for the effectiveness of a remedy that mathematically could be demonstrated to consist of pure water after all of the active ingredient had been diluted out? One man (who also claimed to be a practicing alchemist) suggested quantum mechanics (Q-M). When I stated that I had some slight knowledge of Q-M he retreated slightly and stated, “But it produces results,” meaning that even if we don’t know the mechanism, we still have the empirical results to prove the effectiveness. (I wondered to myself that if he were willing to abandon Q-M and to fall back on results, then why had he bothered to mention a plausible mechanism in the first place.) My companions pointed out the famous work of Jacques Benveniste and the futile attempts by the “Amazing” Randi to debunk him. My own recollection of the whole affair was somewhat different. Skeptical Inquirer readers will recall Martin Gardner’s account of the “experiment effect” in the winter 1989 issue.

Gerson did not invoke quantum mechanics, but her audience that day encompassed this mentality. Which brings us to the curious case of homeopathic quack Jacques Benveniste.

After the Nature controversy, Benveniste gained the public support of Brian Josephson, a Nobel laureate physicist with a reputation for openness to paranormal claims. Experiments continued along the same basic lines, culminating with a 1997 paper claiming the effect could be transmitted over phone lines. This was followed by two additional papers in 1999 and another on remote-transmission in 2000 by which time it was claimed that it could also be sent over the Internet.

Homeopathy Explained

The principle behind homeopathic remedies is that a small amount of the substance known to produce a symptom will remedy the cause behind the symptom. My example: poison ivy causes a rash, a small amount of the substance from the plant will alleviate the symptoms. But the small amount needs to be really small. Surprisingly, the more dilute the active ingredient the more potent. Homeopathic pharmacology identifies dilutions using the letters X and C. Something that is diluted 10 to 1 is said to be 1X. 1000 to 1 is 3X, and so on. For higher dilutions C, representing dilutions in factors of 100, is used. 20C is a dilution of one part in 10020. That’s one part in 1040. The Avagadro Constant is 6.022×1023 per gram molecular weight. For a kilogram of a 20C homeopathic compound we would expect to find not a single molecule of the active ingredient, this to an astronomical degree of certainty.

So, how does this work? Quantum mechanics explains it. The previous existence of the ingredient in the solution has left its memory, despite being diluted to zero. It’s a remarkable claim, with no basis in quantum mechanics to back it up.

Industrial Homeopathy

In 2004 we encountered a Mr. Greg Nichols, who promised to amaze us:

More recently we received the following e-mail (it always seems to start with an e-mail out of the blue):

To: <>I have an interesting test for your group. Please call or e-mail for details.


Greg Nichols

We were naturally interested, and we invited Mr. Nichols to drop by. He came to our February meeting, even though we were snowed out of our meeting place, and we all had to huddle together inside a fast food place on Live Oak Street.

What Mr. Nichols had to show us was a substance that, when applied to the outside of a beverage container, would improve the taste of the beverage inside.

Even we skeptics had to agree that this was, indeed, a paranormal claim. We eagerly looked forward to the opportunity to see this miracle performed under controlled conditions.

Oops! That was the sticker. We wanted, as we always do, to completely control the test in a manner that would eliminate testing bias or even, gasp, trickery.

For example, I have the opinion that if somebody sees a magical substance applied to the outside of his drink container, that person might, just might, perceive a difference in taste. I would naturally insist that the test involve tasters who were required to sip identical drinks from identical containers without knowing which container had been so treated.

We are sorry to report that our insistence on these minor details eventually led to a complete breakdown in the negotiations between us and Mr. Nichols (and his partner, Mr. Willis). To make a long story short, Nichols and Willis told us in no uncertain terms what we could do with our challenge. More specifically, we received a final e-mail:

Dear John,I guess I have to talk to you like you’re a moron. Either you and your buddies can’t read, won’t read, are stupid, ignorant, or all of the above.

When you get the information we want to us, we can talk. When you are ready to comply with our demands, requests and concerns about the fairness of your so-called “Challenge”, we can talk.

I won’t print the rest of their dispatch here, because they became rather rude a few sentences later. However, you can read all the e-mail exchange on the NTS Web site. Here is the URL:

Mr. Nichols and Mr. Willis never did explain to us how their product was supposed to work. It’s possible they didn’t understand, themselves, because they had never studied quantum mechanics.

Structured Water

There is more odd stuff. There is structured water:

At first glance my mind played a trick on me. I thought they were selling mercury. You know, the liquid metal at room temperature, mercury? It goes by the symbol hg from Hydrargyrum, an archaic term for it. But I was glad to realize that this isn’t the symbol for that poisonous metal at all but stands for a molecule, which all my lost years learning chemistry were informing me wasn’t simply possible. Nine hydrogen atoms forming a molecular bond. This “water” is supposed to super-hydrate us and provide us energy. The thinking may be something like this: “More hydrogen, more will be the hydration.”

Creationist Carl Baugh was not beyond invoking spooky aspects of sub atomic physics. We ran an account of his explanation back in 2000:

Dr. Baugh went on to explain how all of this ties together.  The famous German mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss originally studied the Earth’s magnetic field about 200 years ago and found that it was decreasing.  Actually it is not only decreasing, but it is varying up and down.  It is pulsing.  It pulses about eight cycles per second, and this action is what energizes water naturally.

The structure of water accounts for this effect.  As shown in the diagram, a water molecule is two atoms of hydrogen bound to an atom of oxygen.  The three atoms are not in line-the hydrogen atoms are separated by about 104.5 degrees (see Fig. 2).  This angle can stretch and rebound, and this motion is what puts energy into the water.


Figure 2. Diagram of water molecule showing angle between hydrogen atoms.

In clouds the molecules are spiraling downward.  When a water molecule passes through a thermal barrier this angle is flexed, and the water picks up energy from its environment.  This is why clouds darken.  Clouds get darker because the water is picking up energy.

One NASA engineer has told Baugh that they are producing mechanisms to energize water following Baugh’s principles.  They have learned that today we are depleting ourselves of energy by constricting the spiraling of the molecules.  Pipes, conduits, and channels constrict the natural flow of water and de-energize it.  Water that has so been mistreated takes energy out of our bodies rather than adding it.

An engineer added energized water to his regular organic fertilizer and was able to produce corn eighteen feet tall with three ears per stalk.  On another occasion at a university they added a few gallons of energized water to a sour well, and by the next morning the anaerobic bacteria in the well had been wiped out.

A rancher in West Texas once told Baugh that he now realizes why his cattle will drink rain water in muddy puddles rather than well water.  The cattle feel more energy from drinking the energized rain water than from drinking the de-energized well water.  Van Liew agreed, citing the fact that dogs drink out of puddles rather than their water dish.  The rain water still contains all the information that God put in it.

Baugh explained that living systems today use only 3% of the information stored in their DNA.  The other 97% is what geneticists call “junk” DNA.  In reality, that 97% tells the active 3% how to respond.  Energized water corrects this problem (presumably making more of the 97% active).  By conducting experiments in gene splicing and recombination geneticists today are playing God, and they need to stop that and get back on track.

Toward the end of the program van Liew and Baugh took calls from listeners.  Nancy posed the question of whether life on Earth would be more viable today had Adam and Eve never sinned.

I would like to answer that last (Nancy’s) question. Life on Earth would be more viable today if students weren’t forced to study quantum mechanics.

Regarding structured water, the acknowledged expert is Dr. Gerald Pollack:

You may have heard about “structured water” before. Many are quite skeptical, and some don’t even believe it exists, let alone that it has any value. But it’s important when trying to find high quality water. Water filtration processes used to clean our water supply frequently de-structures the water, so the question is whether or not this matters. Dr. Pollack explains this challenging concept in the following lecture:

“In terms of the water that we drink, it’s really a complicated issue,” Dr. Pollack admits.

But “the water inside your cells is absolutely critical for your health. If you have a pathology of an organ, it’s not only the proteins inside that organ that are not working, but also the water inside that organ. That near-protein water is not ordered in the way it should be.

So what you want to do is reestablish a kind of “ordering.”

What this means is that if you don’t have properly structured water in your cells, it can impact the functioning of the much larger protein molecules (and others) that are interfacing with it.

In fact, the protein molecule in your cells cannot be viewed as just a molecule by itself. It’s actually the molecule PLUS the water. These two factors together form the “entity” of the molecule in question.

“If you need that entity to function properly–take a muscle for example—if the muscle is not functioning, it’s the protein and the water that are not functioning,”Dr. Pollack explains. “You need plenty of this ordered/structured water and proteins in their right form in order to make the muscle function properly. So if you have a muscle injury then both are not functioning.”

So, how do you restore it?

Restructuring Water in Your Cells Creates Tissue Healing

Classically, one way of doing it is to use infrared radiation (heat). By applying heat to the muscle, you increase blood supply, which is helpful. But you’re also building water structure! Dr. Pollack’s research shows that infrared heat is very effective for ordering cellular water. In terms of the source of the infrared heat, as long as it emits the right wavelength of radiation, it will be effective. According to Dr. Pollack, the wavelength of 3 micrometers (microns) is ideal and very effective.

The sun also emits this wavelength, which may be yet another reason why sun exposure has such profound health benefits and just feels good through and through. Interestingly, the human body also emits radiation within the ideal range, which may explain why simple physical contact, including ‘hands-on healing,’ can contribute to improved health!

“I know there is a lot of skepticism about that,” Dr. Pollack says, “but from a physical point of view, it’s entirely possible.”

Another way to structure water is to use light.

The visible light spectrum, ultraviolet (UV) and near infrared also builds ordered water zones. Again, light therapy has been used for years to remedy various maladies, such as depression and jaundice, for example. But it’s only now that scientists are beginning to understand why such therapies work.

Clearly, one of the primary health benefits of sun exposure and UVB’s is that it makes your body create vitamin D, which we now realize is absolutely crucial for optimal health. But the fact that it also helps structure the water within your cells may be yet another contributing factor. After all, your body is a conglomerate of symbiotic relationships.

Dr. Pollack goes further addressing the question of whether we should drink structured water. He tells us the issue is still open to debate. Healing waters from the Ganges and from Lourdes have been studied. They have the same structure as water found in cells. It’s important for readers to remember:

In 1858 in the grotto of Massabielle, near Lourdes, France, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared 18 times to Bernadette Soubirous, a 14 year old peasant girl. She identified herself as The Immaculate Conception. She gave Bernadette a message for all: “Pray and do penance for the conversion of the world.” The Church investigated Bernadette’s claims for four years before approving devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes. Lourdes has since become one of the most famous shrines, attracting more than a million pilgrims each year. There have been thousands of miraculous cures at this shrine.

Structured water is something not to be sneezed at. But what would happen if you swallowed structured water. Regrettably, this question has not been answered. But, one thing is known: “structured water tends to stay together.” It’s wonderful  we have people like Dr. Pollack to conduct critical research into these questions.

The Global Healing Health site has additional information on structured water:

One of the fundamental perceptual changes that we need to make is to acknowledge that water is a living substance, not the inert “wet stuff” that we’ve dismissed as unimportant and treated it as. I know this may be hard for some, but I can assure you that life will be harder for those who do not accept water’s living, intelligent nature as truth, than for those who do. This is not because water will get pissed off or angry at us, but because we — meaning those who can’t get themselves to form a healthy relationship with water based on mutual respect — will have cut ourselves off from its most sublime gifts. And here’s a clue. If you are unwilling to establish a healthy relationship with water, you can’t establish one with anyone else, including yourself.

We can continue drinking water that has been forced to go through various “short cut” processes in order to “protect” us from harm, but what we’ve been getting is sicker, earlier in life, and therefore, for longer periods of time. Because we often continue to function day-to-day for quite some time in spite of chlorine and fluoride baths, which combine with countless chemicals that are in the processed foods that we eat and the simulated dairy products that we drink (“milk” as it is presently known, is definitely not milk), we believe that we’re putting our best nutritional foot forward. But this is not so.

The site also cautions us about GMO foods. They look natural and taste natural and have the appearance of being natural, but they can’t be metabolized by the body. This is because they lack the vibrational signatures. They don’t have the specific frequencies of light that would allow our cells, our protein, and our enzymes to respond.

Energized Water

Structured water is closely related to energized water. The American Monk’s Blog has a link to a report from Silva International. “Imagine the possibilities if you make a conscious effort to manipulate theenergies around you.” The report cites the work of Dr. Masura Emoto:

Research by Dr. Masaru Emoto done on crystals of various types of frozen water seems to show that besides environmental factors, thought; prayer, sound and words impress an effect on water.

Dr. Emoto used a device called a Magnetic Resonance Analyzer (MRA) and found that all substances have their own unique magnetic resonance field and must be understood functionally at the atomic or even sub-atomic level in order to achieve the complete cure of all diseases. Water being the essential component to all life became one focus of attention. Using the MRA he was able to measure objects of interest in micro levels smaller than molecules and believes he has discovered why diseases occur.

According to Dr. Emoto, the specific vibrating wave generated by the electrons orbiting the nucleus of an atom, and believed to be the source of energy behind the creation of all things emits a magnetic resonance. The magnetic resonance is influenced both positively and negatively by our thoughts. Negative thoughts influence micro-elements and microorganisms in our body, in such a way that illness results. His belief is that water is alive and has memory. Other research even suggests that the information recorded in water can be transferred to
other water molecules. Dr. Emoto suggests that the most effective cure for disease is an awareness that we are living in cooperation with microorganisms at moment of our lives and that they respond to thought.

Magnetic Resonance

Readers not familiar with magnetic resonance analyzers can obtain additional information on theDiscover Magazine site:

This is my fourth post on  ‘quantum resonance spectrometry’ (QRS), a strange medical technology that seems to be becoming increasingly popular in China. Proponents claim that QRS can quickly and painlessly diagnose almost any disease. However, as I discussed last time,the technology has a dubious history.

But we shouldn’t focus on the past. The important question is: how well do today’s QRS devices work? In this post I’ll look at some examples of the technology in action.

First some terminology. I believe that QRS is essentially the same product as “Quantum Resonance Magnetic Analysis” (QRMA) and “Quantum Resonance Analysis” (QRA). As far as I can tell, these are all variants of Ronald Weinstock’s original invention, “Magnetic Resonance Analysis” (MRA). For more details, see the previous post. Note that none of these technologies is related to Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).

Searching for some evidence on how QRS works, I discovered this TV segment broadcast onCCTV-1, the Chinese state TV channel. According to the show, QRS measures the magnetic field surrounding a sample of the patient’s hair. The hair’s field is, we’re told, a copy of the body’s own magnetic field. This field supposedly contains information about the health of all of the organs in the body. Water molecules which “remember” magnetic states are mentioned, which sounds like a reference to the strange “water memory” theories of Japanese author Masaru Emoto, which I discussed last time.


In addition to this, quantum physics accounts for psychic phenomena. Blogger Craig Weiler explains it:

This is not an easy topic, as you can imagine.  Yet many fundamental underpinnings of the arguments against the existence of psi are based on a belief that it is incompatible with physics.  This is simply not true.  Most of the people who make this argument have no idea what the real situation is in the world of physics.  Much thanks here goes to Chris Carter and his book “Parapsychology and the Skeptics.”   He gives the clearest explanation I have read so far and I’m borrowing heavily from his take on this.  It is an excellent book and I highly recommend it.

Observer Created Reality

Most people believe in an observer independent universe.  This is a notion of classical physics that is no longer valid and is the first thing that must be addressed in any discussion about psychic ability and physics.  Quantum physics has totally re-made this view of the world.  An observer independent universe is one where an observer exhibits no effect on the universe.  The universe operates of its own accord and the observer is unimportant in the process.  That’s not what actually happens.  We not only don’t live in this universe, we don’t live in an observer dependent universe either.  We live in an observer created universe.

Supposed Reality

We have to listen to people like Craig Weiler, because they have studied this to great depth. He goes on to remind us of a few facts regarding our perceptions and reality:

Reality is not there when it is not being observed. We know this to be true at the quantum level but we don’t notice it because of a phenomenon called decoherence.  Basically, because the bazillions of quantum level phase relationships interfere with each other, they appear on the macroscopic level to even out, or decohere, much like the curvature of the earth appears to disappear in a limited area of its surface.  This decoherence effect allows us to get away with ignoring quantum effects on macroscopic objects and why classical physics works so well in the ordinary world.

We now know that something does not happen unless somebody observes it happening. Craig uses a technical term, bazillions, to accurately account for the total number of phase relationships that interfere with each other.

Physicist Quacks

Russell Targ is another serious researcher in this frontier of science:

Russell Targ (born April 11, 1934) is an American physicist, parapsychologist and author who is best known for his work on remote viewing.

Targ originally became known for early work in lasers and laser applications. He joinedStanford Research Institute (SRI) in 1972 where he and Harold Puthoff coined the term “remote viewing” for the practice of seeking impressions about a distant or unseen target using parapsychological means. Targ’s work on remote viewing has been characterized aspseudoscience and has also been criticized for lack of rigor.

Disregarding for a moment the allegations of pseudoscience, a review of Targ’s insight is beneficial:

In this article I will present what I consider to be the  very best evidence for psychic abilities. These abili­ties—which we all possess—offer a spacious mind that can change your life and your view of reality. Buddhists and Hindus have known this since before the time of Christ. The scientific evidence is now over­whelming, and modern physics has the means and tools to embrace it. Such abilities have many names; ESP (extrasensory perception) is presently the most familiar. Others include clairvoyance and psi. The lat­ter is derived from psi ?, the twenty-third letter of the Greek alphabet, referring to the Greekpsych?, meaning “psyche” or “soul.”

As we all know, Russell Targ, along with physicist Harold Puthoff, opened up the science of remote viewing over 40 years ago. Targ explains:

Remote Viewing. At Princeton University, Profes­sor Robert Jahn and his associate Brenda Dunn over­saw two decades of remote viewing experiments with Princeton students as subjects. They asked students in the laboratory to describe their mental impressions of what it looked like where someone else was hiding at a randomly chosen distant location. These students had to fill out a thirty-item checklist to quantify their perceptions in this game of psychic hide-and-seek. Their findings — spanning several years and compris­ing a series of 411 trials — showed that it is no harder to look hundreds of miles in the distance than it to describe a person around the corner. Furthermore, it is no harder to describe a randomly chosen hiding place to be selected in the next hour, day, or week than it to describe a hidden contemporaneous event under way at the moment. Jahn’s highly significant results were published in Proceedings of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers in 1982 as a replication of our original SRI remote viewing experiments, which had been published in the same journal six years earlier.

Modern physics would describe these phenom­ena as nonlocal in that they are experimentally found to be independent of space and time. Nonlocality and entanglement, which were first described by Erwin Schrodinger in the late 1920s, are now among the hot­test research topics in modern physics. This intrigu­ing phenomenon is explained very clearly by Anton Zeilinger, one of the world’s leading experimentalists in quantum optics, in his 2010 book Dance of the Pho­tons: From Einstein to Teleportation: “Entanglement describes the phenomenon that two particles may be so intimately connected to each other that the measure­ment of one instantly changes the quantum state of the other, no matter how far away it may be. This nonlo­cality is exactly what Albert Einstein called ‘spooky’; it seems eerie that the act of measuring one particle could instantly influence the other one.”

Robert Jahn also oversaw the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Lab, which attempted to demonstrate psychic control of random event generators. Jahn is now retired, and the lab was closed in 2007.

Targ and Puthoff’s work on remote viewing at Stanford Research Institute has been roundly criticized, particularly by writer Martin Gardner:

My review of Mind-Reach, by Russell Targ and Harold Puthoff—a book on the testing of clairvoyance—appeared in The New York Review of March 17. Shortly thereafter theNYRreceived an interesting letter from Aaron Goldman, Sherman Stein, and Howard Weiner, three top mathematicians at the University of California, at Davis. Although their letter does not deal with P and T (as Puthoff and Targ are called), it concerns the closely related work of Charles Tart, a colleague of the three mathematicians at Davis.

Tart’s reputation as a parapsychologist is even higher than that of P and T. When his latest book, Learning to Use Extrasensory Perception, was published last year under the imprimatur of the University of Chicago Press, it was widely hailed as a major breakthrough. (See The New Yorker’s “Talk of the Town,” December 13, 1976.) Tart shares with P and T the conviction that ESP powers can be markedly strengthened by electronic teaching machines. The major work of P and T in this field, made possible by an $80,000 grant from NASA, was with a four-choice machine designed by Targ. I discussed this test, considered a failure by almost everybody except P and T, in my Scientific American column, October 1975.


Two oddities from modern physics give aid and comfort to claims of the paranormal.

  • Absence of causation
  • Non local action

If something can happen (a decay event), and there is no cause, then a basic feature of traditional science has been violated. This provides an opening to be exploited by anybody claiming to provide the absent cause. The supposed cause, available to be inserted, can be something like a mental power or a disembodied spirit.

Non local action can be invoked to back up claims for remote viewing and mental telepathy. Also prognostication.

Invoking odd physics to bolster claims will only purchase the claimant so much. At a certain point claims of the paranormal need to be demonstrated, and here is where they fall down. You can maintain that the human mind has the ability to influence a random event generator, but the lack of any measurable success will ultimately prevail. History has borne out that experimental failure will deter neither these claimants nor their supporters.

All About Ghosts

Saturday, 15 August, the North Texas Skeptics will give a presentation on Ghosts. It may not be all you ever wanted to know about ghosts, but it’s what we have. The presentation and discussion will be at the Center for Community Cooperation, 2900 Live Oak Street in Dallas, starting at 2 p.m.

A PowerPoint presentation has been prepared to get the discussion going. A PDF form of the presentation is available on request. Individual slides are below. You can join the presentation on Skype. Contact us if you need assistance joining the Skype video conference.





































Wacko In The Sky

This has been reposted from the Skeptical Analysis blog. This month, on the 18th, the NTS will host a discussion of this topic. Contact us and join the discussion on Skype.

The Skeptic email discussion list is rich in skeptical lore. Creationism, psychic powers, astrology, cults, all are topics ripe for batting about. More than 15 years ago the topic of chemtrails bubbled up:

The term chemtrail is a portmanteau of the words “chemical” and “trail,” just as contrail is a contraction of “condensation trail.” Believers in the conspiracy theory speculate that the purpose of the claimed chemical release may be for solar radiation management,psychological manipulation, human population control, weather modification, or biological or chemicalwarfare, and that the trails are causing respiratory illnesses and other health problems.[1][9][10]Contrails are formed at high altitudes (5–10 miles or 8–16 kilometers) and if any chemicals were released at such altitude they would disperse harmlessly and fall many hundreds of miles/kilometers away, or degrade before touching the ground.

So “chemtrails” is a subset of “conspiracy theories,” itself encompassing JFK assassination theories, 9/11 cover up theories, black helicopters and the like. Conspiracy theories derive from a human personality quirk. Paranoia may be a necessary ingredient. The simple and more rational explanation is rejected in favor of one that quenches the thirst.

A common symptom is the ability to reject any sensible suggestion as an attempt to cover up the truth—a deeper sign of deception and reinforcement of the theory. Writings of the theorists are telling. Here are some excerpts from Chemtrail Central, “Searching for Answers in the Chemtrail Issue.”

Chemtrails: 600 strains of an aerosolized thought control vaccine tested
posted by: Ellyn @ Sat Jan 31, 2015 12:10 am
600 strains of an aerosolized thought control vaccine already tested on humans; deployed via air, food and water

Chemtrails: Geoengineering is Not the Answer to Climate Change
posted by: Ellyn @ Thu Mar 20, 2014 3:55 am
Geoengineering is Not the Answer to Climate Change, by Dr. David Suzuki

Chemtrails: Twenty-year hiatus in rising temperatures has climate scient
posted by: Sore Throat @ Wed Apr 03, 2013 11:32 pm
So let’s see. For the past decade and a half the sky has been covered with a sun shielding haze emitted from high altitude aircraft.

Stratospheric Welsbach seeding for reduction of global warming

So with the billions spent on this covert activity it seems that “they” are forestalling the inevitable. Of course, this isn’t truly addressing the root of the problem, only treating a symptom (much the same as much of modern medicine). CO2 levels are still progressively building up in the atmosphere, oceans are becoming increasing acidic. But this “pause” in global temperature rise eliminates the perceived urgency of the problem, and allows climate change deniers to claim there is no problem. So is this clandestine activity actually helping, or is it in reality sowing the seeds of our destruction? Meanwhile the Greedy Lying Bastards keep feeding like pigs at the trough.

It’s no surprise seeing Natural News among the references:

Natural News (formerly Newstarget) is a website founded and operated by Mike Adams. It is based in Cedar Creek, Texas.

It is dedicated to the sale of various dietary supplements, promotion of alternative medicine, controversial nutrition and health claims, and various conspiracy theories, such as “chemtrails“, the purported dangers of fluoride in drinking water (as well as those ofmonosodium glutamate and aspartame), and purported health problems caused by allegedly “toxic” ingredients in vaccines, including the now-discredited link to autism.

I’ve touched on Mike Adams and Natural News in previous posts

How cell towers are frying your brain and causing mass confusion

NaturalNews Insider Alert ( ) email newsletter

The Health Ranger Dear NaturalNews readers,

The brains of everyone living within range of cell towers are being damaged by electropollution.

A hard-hitting new scientific study published in the British Medical Journal reveals how cell towers cause mental confusion, irritability and loss of sleep, among other brain-altering side effects:

Specific phenomena which confound the chemtrail theorists include:

  • Contrails with long duration
  • Crosshatch patterns of contrails
  • Contrails that spread to enormous width

Explanations given by scientists and the military, and which are rejected by the theorists, include:

  • Long duration contrails have been known since American bombers started flying high-altitude missions in World War Two.
  • Contrails that persist for a long time are spread horizontally by wind shear.
  • The supposed measurement of 6.8 parts per million of barium beneath a contrail hatch was erroneous due to misuse of the measuring equipment.
  • Military organizations have never seriously considered using contrails to affect climate. Furthermore, there has been no serious effort at climate control by the military.

Photographs such as the one below aid and abet these conspiracy stories.

Olivier Cleynen from Wikipedia: Ballast barrels in a prototype Boeing 747. Photographs of flight test barrels are sometimes said to show chemtrail planes.

These are some ballast containers installed in a test aircraft. Water is pumped from one container to another to shift the center of gravity of the plane, but if you are of the proper mindset this is a setup for spraying chemicals into the atmosphere.

Chemtrails 911 gives insight to this mindset:

Exposing aerial crimes and aerosol operations… …because it’s an emergency!!


Since approximately 1998, thousands of people started noticing airplanes spraying X’s, parallel lines, and grid patterns across our skies. These trails initially look like contrails but actually aren’t. According to the U.S. Air Force, contrails are condensation trails and happen when hot engine exhaust momentarily condenses ice crystals into pencil-thin vapor trails that quickly vanish like the wave behind a boat, very much like your breath when talking outside on a cold winter day. Chemtrails, on the other hand, linger for hours and will spread out to form large areas of “cloud” cover.

There are several theories as to why these operations may be occurring. However, most of the documentation available points to geo-engineering and space weaponry as the reasons that these spray operations are occurring. A concept that keeps popping up in major governmental studies is the idea of spraying aluminum oxide particles into the atmosphere to create a sunscreen.

Others pick up on the meme:

Following the Money: Obama, 9/11, Chemtrails, Climate Change, $Trillions in Carbon Taxes
Posted by Harold Saive on March 11, 2013

Harold Saive elaborates:

Note: This 2010 article gains significant light in the context of more recent research on the history of weather modification:

Originally published Tuesday, August 10, 2010

One 9/11 agenda was targeted murder of carbon trading companies with precision of a pilotless drone attack

Why does Franklin Raines of Freddie/Fannie own the patent for a carbon trading computer originally owned by Carlton Bartels, CEO “Cantor Fitzgerald/ ? – a company whose employees were murdered by a well-guided jet aircraft that crashed into their offices on 9/11/2001? Wasting no time, why did the new Democratic Congress (2006) give the patent to Raines obamaimmediately following the election?

It is statistically significant that 44 % of the souls murdered on 9/11 (including firefighters, police etc.) worked for companies that were in competition with the Chicago Climate Exchange. (CCX)? Al Gore, Obama, Maurice Strong, and whoever in Congress owns stock in CCX stands to cash in on $Trillions if they can pass enforceable Cap and Trade legislation.

And finally the truth is revealed:

There is more to the chemtrails story than I can possibly unravel in a single post. Perhaps when I chance upon another ripe fruit I’ll share it with readers. In the mean time keep your eyes trained on the sky. And keep reading.

Flash Update

This breaking news has only come to us since the Fourth of July holiday weekend. Readers are cautioned to pay close attention to the following and to take the necessary precautions:

There is a new gay conspiracy to turn more people to homosexuality this Fourth of July. Emboldened by Obama and his Supreme Court cronies’ decision to disrespect America’s Christian heritage by allowing gay marriage, gays are now salivating at the thought of seducing the nuclear family into their lifestyle.

The CDC confirms that since the 2015 fireworks season, there has been a drastic 1.2% increase in the amount of men confirming their homosexuality. Even more troubling there is now an estimated 53% of men suspected to be secretive or agnostic by their homosexuality.

While the link between fireworks and geo-engineering vis-a-vis chemtrails is well known in the scientific community, the phenomenon of placing lurid chemicals known to induce homosexual inclination is a development unique to the Obama Administration.

Remember, you have been warned.

No Blade of Grass

I’m reposting this from the Skeptical Analysis blog.

I was trying to remember how I got to this topic, and then I recalled we were having crackers with our salad, and crackers are made of wheat, which is a grass. So we were eating grass. And I got to wondering how long people have been eating grass, and I recalled that grass has not been around all that long. The earliest grass fossils (as I recalled) were only 30 or so million years old. Being the skeptic that I am I decided to look it up. I entered something like “origins of grass” in Google, and this is one of the thingsthat came up:

The origin of grass pushed well back into the ‘Mesozoic’

Michael J. Oard

Creationists are often challenged on the fossil record. Evolutionists commonly confront us with such questions as: if practically all fossils are the remains from a pre-Flood environment, where was such and such an organism at a particular time within the geological column? One of those challenges has been the first appearance of grass, which supposedly evolved in the Cenozoic. ‘Why aren’t grasses found in pre-Cenozoic rocks?’ evolutionists charge.

Whoa! Where is this coming from? And just who is Michael J. Oard, and why is he speaking in nonsensical terms?

And now we are back to the creationists. Michael Oard is associated with Answers in Genesisand has published several creation “science” articles in their in-house journalAnswers. Together with Peter Klevberg he has contributed “Green River Formation Very Likely Did Not Form in a Postdiluvian Lake”. Indeed. For the junk rag Creation he has written, among other things, “Do Rivers Erode Through Mountains”. His answer is that a global flood must be assumed. The geological evidence is … absent. He has also written the book “Flood by Design”. You see where this is going.

All right. That explains a lot. I should have suspected. The tip off should have been the language—in particular the way certain words are used.

  • creationists: not used in a disparaging context
  • evolutionist: used in place of the term “scientists”
  • Flood: capitalized as though the reader already knows which flood and of which fame

Of course, I should have glanced to the bottom of the page:


That’s it. This is from a “creation science” journal. We started seeing this kind of thing 50 years ago:

Creation science (dubbed “scientific creationism” at the time) emerged as an organized movement during the 1960s. It was strongly influenced by the earlier work of armchair geologist George McCready Price who wrote works such as The New Geology (1923) to advance what he termed “new catastrophism” and dispute the current geological time frames and explanations of geologic history. Price’s work was cited at theScopes Trial of 1925, yet although he frequently solicited feedback from geologists and other scientists, they consistently disparaged his work. Price’s “new catastrophism” also went largely unnoticed by other creationists until its revival with the 1961 publication of The Genesis Flood by John C. Whitcomband Henry M. Morris, a work which quickly became an important text on the issue to fundamentalist Christians and expanded the field of creation science beyond critiques of geology into biology and cosmology as well. Soon after its publication, a movement was underway to have the subject taught in United States’ public schools.

[Some links deleted]

A subsequent book is Scientific Creationism by Henry Morris.

Additionally court rulings, beginning, several decades ago, have prohibited teaching biblical statements regarding the creation of the universe, the special creation of the human race and Bible-based history in public schools. The courts have correctly ruled there is no factual basis for these stories and, further, that teaching them amounted to religious proselytizing through government authority and at public expense. Religious fundamentalists, particularly Christians in the United States, sought a way around these legal constraints by seeking to establish biblical stories as scientifically grounded, and thereby allowable under the law. “Creation science” was given birth in this manner.

What so impresses me about finding this item is that such things still exist. A Supreme Court decision in the case McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education in 1982 affirmed that “creation science” is religion and not science. The Court further ruled in 1987 in the case  Edwards v. Aguillard in 1987 that a Louisiana law mandating equal treatment of “creation science” with the principles of biological evolution was in violation of the Constitution, because the law was religiously motivated and served no secular purpose.

Creationists reacted to this ruling almost immediately, and religious proponents with legitimate scientific credentials began work on resurrecting the concept of Intelligent Design, most notably outlined over 200 years ago by William Paley. Paley’s idea was that living forms are so complex and so uniquely constructed that they cannot be the consequence of materialistic processes. They must have been designed by a higher intelligence.

I was living in Dallas, Texas, at the time, and a local religious organization under the direction of Jon Buell was in the process of developing a book directed toward science education at the high school level. The organization still exists. It’s the Foundation for Thought and Ethics, and the book is Of Pandas and People: The Central Question of Biological Origins. The book came out in 1989, and the FTE followed up with a second edition, which corrected some errors from the first. A follow up book, The Design of Life: Discovering Signs of Intelligence in Biological Systems by Jonathan Wells and William Dembski came out in 2007. Wells and Dembski are fellows with the Discovery Institute Center for Science and Culture, the leading organization promoting Intelligent Design.

The Pandas book did not fare much better with the courts than traditional “creation science” had before it. A plan to introduce the book into the science curriculum of the Plano, Texas, public schools was forced to back track under pressure from local citizens. A subsequent attempt by a school board in Pennsylvania led to the court case Tammy Kitzmiller, et al. v. Dover Area School District, et al. In that case Federal Judge John E. Jones III ruled that Intelligent Design rests on religious concepts and has no demonstrated scientific merits.

I have previously reviewed the Pandas book in a disjoint series of posts.

Anyhow, seeing this item from the Journal of Creation brought back old times. These were times when the argument against creationism involved simply laying out a few facts and then enjoying a good belly laugh. It’s good to see the fun has not gone out of the game. Where to start?

Let’s take the “journal” article itself. If I had picked up this piece of paper early in the morning before having my cup of coffee I might possibly have mistaken it for something published in a scientific journal. Unfortunately I do not drink coffee, but I do read some scientific journals, and this item attempts mightily to impersonate one. For your reading pleasure, and in case ever goes out of business,  I have posted a copy of this item. It has:

  • A title
  • An author’s name
  • No abstract, unfortunately
  • The journal name, volume number and page number at the bottom of the page
  • A list of references

Let’s look at the references:

1. Oard, M.J., The geological column is a general Flood order with many exceptions; in: Reed, J.K. and Oard, M.J. (Eds.), The Geological Column: Perspectives within Diluvial Geology, Creation Research Society Books, Chino Valley, AR, pp. 99–121, 2006.
2. P r a s a d , V. , S t r ömb e r g , C .A. E . , Alimohammadian, H. and Sahni, A., Dinosaur coprolites and the early evolution of grasses and grazers, Science 310:1177–1180, 2005.
3. Piperno, D.R. and Sues, H.-D., Dinosaurs dined on grass, Science 310:1126–1128, 2005.
4. Anonymous, Dung grasses up dinosaurs, Nature 438:399, 2005.
5. Piperno and Sues, ref. 2, p. 1126.
6. Prasad et al., ref. 1, p. 1,179.
7. Piperno and Sues, ref. 2, p. 1127.
8. Barrick, W.D. and Sigler, R., Hebrew and geologic analyses of the chronology and parallelism of the Flood: implications for interpretation of the geologic record; in: Ivey, Jr., R.L. (ed.), Proceedings of the Fifth International
Conference on Creationism, Pittsburgh, PA, pp. 397–408, 2003.
9. Note: see also Catchpoole, D., Grass-eating dinos: A ‘time-travel’ problem for evolution, Creation 29(2):22–23, 2007.

This is so good. The references are numbered and cite original sources of the pertinent content. Some citations are to legitimate scientific research. Others, not so much.

The first reference cites Michael J. Oard, the author of this paper. Of course, what better authority to cite for this material than the person writing it. I don’t have a copy of the referenced book, The Geological Column: Perspectives within Diluvial Geology, but Earth’s Surface Shaped by the Genesis Flood, also by Oard, is on-line. The following illustrates the level of science practiced by these old-style creationists:

Figure 3.2. Tas Walker’s biblical geological model for biblical earth history (courtesy of Tas Walker,

In Oard’s paper on the origin of grass, he seems to argue that the mythical flood of Noah in the Bible explains the fossil record for the origin of grass. That’s likely not Oard’s exact intent, because the story of creation in Genesis has that grass of all varieties came into being during the week of creation, about 6000 years ago.

In telling his story, Oard unfortunately finds it necessary to fall back on terminology used by real scientists. In their arguments for biblical inerrancy creationists often must use traditional scientific language. this is because the creationists have never gone through the process of creating a complete scientific framework for their suppositions. Left without a complete and coherent framework, they often find themselves posing their arguments in language that contradicts their argument. For example, “Mesozoic” and “Cenozoic” describe periods in Earth’s history millions of years in the past, which past is supposed to have begun only 6000 years ago in the creationists’ arguments.

Oard compounds his difficulties by having to rely on actual scientific research, research that contradicts his premise. He cites two articles from the journal Science, articles which also argue that dinosaurs ate grass. In making these references, he ignores the findings of the cited research. The following diagram is from Piperno, D.R. and Sues, H.-D., Dinosaurs dined on grass, Science 310:1126–1128, 2005:

Phylogeny for grasses from GPWG (11)

This figure is a cladogram showing the phylogeny of Poaceae:

The Poaceae (also called Gramineae or true grasses) are a large and nearly ubiquitousfamily of monocotyledonous flowering plants. With more than 10,000 domesticated and wild species, the Poaceae represent the fifth-largest plant family, following the Asteraceae,Orchidaceae, Fabaceae, and Rubiaceae. Though commonly called “grasses”,seagrasses, rushes, and sedges fall outside this family. The rushes and sedges are related to the Poaceae, being members of the orderPoales, but the seagrasses are members of order Alismatales.

Grasslands are estimated to compose 20% of the vegetation cover of the Earth. Poaceae live in many other habitats, including wetlands, forests, and tundra.

Domestication of poaceous cereal crops such as maize (corn), wheat, rice, barley, and millet lies at the foundation of sedentary living and civilization around the world, and the Poaceae still constitute the most economically important plant family in modern times, providing forage, building materials (bamboo, thatch) and fuel (ethanol), as well as food.

[Some links deleted]

What this cladogram illustrates is something that is not supposed to exists in Michael Oard’s world. This lays out the biological evolution of different species of grasses. This evolution, according to Oard, was not supposed to have happened. Oard believes, and he wants others to believe, that all species were created at one time by a mythical person only a few thousand years ago. Yet, he is unable to tell his story, he is unable to make his argument, without falling back on the very science he denies.

What Oard seeks to demonstrate in his paper is that the geological record is produced not by successive layers of fossils laid down in chronological order by natural sedimentation processes, but are the result of a cataclysmic flood (the “Flood of Noah”) a few thousand years ago. What real scientists consider to be a chronological record is interpreted by religious fundamentalists as the result of “hydrological sorting” that occurred when almost all life on Earth was extinguished by the supposed flood. Creationists go to great lengths to fabricate this case.

The following is also from Oard’s on-line book:

Figure 3.3. Graph of the timing of the Flooding and Retreating Stages with Walker’s five phases (drawn by John Reed).

This is a graphical representation of the biblical account:

Noah was six hundred years old when the floodwaters came on the earth. And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives entered the ark to escape the waters of the flood. Pairs of clean and unclean animals, of birds and of all creatures that move along the ground, male and female, came to Noah and entered the ark, as God had commanded Noah. 10 And after the seven days the floodwaters came on the earth.

11 In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, on the seventeenth day of the second month—on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened.12 And rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights.

13 On that very day Noah and his sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, together with his wife and the wives of his three sons, entered the ark. 14 They had with them every wild animal according to its kind, all livestock according to their kinds, every creature that moves along the ground according to its kind and every bird according to its kind, everything with wings. 15 Pairs of all creatures that have the breath of life in them came to Noah and entered the ark. 16 The animals going in were male and female of every living thing, as God had commanded Noah. Then theLord shut him in.

17 For forty days the flood kept coming on the earth, and as the waters increased they lifted the ark high above the earth. 18 The waters rose and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. 19 They rose greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered. 20 The waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than fifteen cubits.[g][h] 21 Every living thing that moved on land perished—birds, livestock, wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the earth, and all mankind.22 Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died. 23 Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; people and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds were wiped from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark.

24 The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days.

But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded. Now the springs of the deep and the floodgates of the heavens had been closed, and the rain had stopped falling from the sky. The water receded steadily from the earth. At the end of the hundred and fifty days the water had gone down, and on the seventeenth day of the seventh month the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. The waters continued to recede until the tenth month, and on the first day of the tenth month the tops of the mountains became visible.

Oard takes the biblical story a step further as he starts to form the argument for hydrological sorting:

Figure 3.4. Walker’s two stages of the Flood (left) with the two phases of the Retreating Stage (right). (Stages and phases renamed and drawn by Mrs. Melanie Richard).

The Science papers describe research that incorporates not actual grass fossils, but fossilphytoliths recovered from dinosaur coprolites, fossilized dung. The phytoliths are typically silica formations in plants, and they tend to remain after the soft components decay. Since different plants produce different phytolith forms, scientist study phytolith fossils to trace the existence of the related plants. Finding phytolith fossils characteristic of Poaceae in fossil dinosaur dung has led the researchers to conclude that grass existed as far back as into the Mesozoic:

Grasses (family Poaceae or Gramineae), with about 10,000 extant species, are among the largest and most ecologically dominant families of flowering plants, and today provide staple foods for much of humankind. Dinosaurs, the dominant megaherbivores during most of the Mesozoic Era (65 to 251 million years ago), are similarly one of the largest and best known groups of organisms. However, the possible coevolution
of grasses and dinosaurs has never been studied. Now, Prasad et al. (1) report on page 1177 of this issue their analysis of phytoliths—microscopic pieces of silica formed in plant cells—in coprolites that the authors attribute to titanosaurid sauropods that lived in central India about 65 to 71 million years ago. Their data indicate that those
dinosaurs ate grasses.

[Dinosaurs Dined on Grass, Dolores R. Piperno and Hans-Dieter Sues. Science 310, 1126 (2005); DOI: 10.1126/Science. 1121020]

Oard takes this bit of serious research and runs with it, some may conclude further than is justified:

From a creationist point of view, this study pushes back another taxon in the continued extension of
fossil ranges with further research.1 Moreover, we can ask, why hadn’t grass been well documented from
earlier than the mid Cenozoic? Could it be that the Flood was too catastrophic for its preservation? We also wonder what other fossils will be found in much earlier and much later strata, according to the uniformitarian geological column.

The coprolites also bring up an interesting question in relation to the Flood paradigm. Where did the dinosaurs obtain grass and other vegetation during the Flood? The coprolites certainly mean that the dinosaurs died soon after eating. I suggest that these dinosaurs were not overwhelmed at the very beginning of the Flood but later, allowing for a time of terrestrial habitation (including eating) as the waters rose. The dinosaurs could have already inhabited relatively higher areas before the Flood, or else had fled to higher ground at the start of the Flood. But, then when these dinosaurs were overwhelmed by the Floodwaters, their demise and deposition within the strata was quick. Such an idea would favour the creationist hypothesis of ecological zonation and possibly the fleeing of the animals to higher ground as the Floodwaters continued to rise on the earth. Furthermore, this could offer support for the idea that the Ark did not start floating until Day 40 because it was built on higher ground.8,9

I can say little beyond what Oard has already stated. If ever there was fantasy on display, this is it. If ever ignorance were enshrined, this would be its temple. For this gift the civilized world thanks Michael Oard.




Creating Information

Two summers ago I volunteered to review physics texts for the Texas Education Agency. The reviews were held in a large hall in a hotel in Austin, and other teams were reviewing other books. In particular I ran into a creationist I had met twenty years previous. He is Walter Bradley, and he was reviewing biology texts for the State of Texas. What I found odd about this was:

  • Dr. Bradley has no academic standing in the subject of biology. He is former chairman of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M University.
  • Bradley is an acknowledge creationist, a position he has taken in opposition to basic principles of biology.

Here is Dr. Bradley with fellow creationist Ide Trotter at the text book review:

Wikipedia has this to say:

Bradley was one of the pioneers of the concept of intelligent design, attempting to explain topics not yet understood by science as the activity of God. Bradley’s writings on the subject anticipated some of the concepts later articulated by William Dembski and Michael Behe, and he was a participant in early meetings regarding the wedge strategy, a religious public relations campaign with a goal of reshaping American culture to adopt evangelical Protestant values.

I struck up a conversation with Dr. Bradley, and the topic naturally turned to Intelligent Design. What is pertinent to this is that Bradley posed this question to me: As new organisms develop by biological evolution, where does the new information come from?

I knew the answer to the question, but I did not press Dr. Bradley on it. I will give the answer now, and it is counter-intuitive. New information comes from completely random processes. I have highlighted that statement. Carry this forward to the discussion of observed evolution by random mutation and natural selection—Darwinian evolution.

Prior to the development of Nylon, there was no bacterium that could eat the substance. You have a fabric made of wool or cotton, and it is subject to attack by any number of bacterial agents. Not so with Nylon. Eventually a bacterium was discovered that could “eat” Nylon:

In 1975 a team of Japanese scientists discovered a strain of Flavobacterium, living in ponds containing waste water from a nylon factory, that was capable of digesting certain byproducts of nylon 6 manufacture, such as the linear dimer of 6-aminohexanoate. These substances are not known to have existed before the invention of nylon in 1935.

Further study revealed that the three enzymes the bacteria were using to digest the byproducts were significantly different from any other enzymes produced by other Flavobacterium strains (or, for that matter, any other bacteria), and not effective on any material other than the manmade nylon byproducts.

A random mutation had produced a bacterium that could eat Nylon. This was a new organism that filled a newly-created niche (Nylon) in the environment. This was Darwinian evolution in action. What do the creationist say in response?

Many supporters of evolutionary theory have claimed that nylon-eating bacteria strongly demonstrate the kind of evolution that can create new cellular structures, new cells, and new organisms.1 However, examining only the apparent, visible beneficial trait can be misleading. Recent research into the genes behind these traits indicates that no evolution has taken place.2In fact, the genes of nylon-eating bacteria show that they have been degraded through mutation.

The gene that mutated to enable bacteria to metabolize nylon is on a small loop of exchangeable DNA.3 This gene, prior to its mutation, coded for a protein called EII with a special ability to break down small, circularized proteins. Though synthetic, nylon is very protein-like because inventor Wallace Carothers modeled the original fiber based on known protein chemistry. Thus, after the mutation, the new EII protein was able to interact with both circular and straightened-out nylon. This is a clear example of a loss of specification of the original enzyme. It is like damaging the interior of a lock so that more and different keys can now unlock it.

This degeneration of a protein-eating protein required both the specially-shaped protein and the pre-existence of its gene. The degeneration of a gene, even when it provides a new benefit to the bacteria, does not explain the origin of that gene. One cannot build a lock by damaging pre-existing locks. Nylon-eating bacteria actually exemplify microevolution (adaptation), not macroevolution. Science continues to reveal, though, how benevolent is our Creator God, who permits bacteria to benefit from degradation, and man also to benefit from bacteria that can recycle synthetic waste back into the environment.

The three references cited are listed below:

  1. Thwaites, W.M. 1985. New Proteins Without God’s Help. Creation/Evolution. 5 (2): 1-3.
  2. Anderson, K.L, and G. Purdom. 2008. A Creationist Perspective of Beneficial Mutations in Bacteria.Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference on Creationism. Pittsburgh PA: Creation Science Fellowship and Dallas, TX: Institute for Creation Research, 73-86.
  3. Yasuhira, K. et al, 2007. 6-Aminohexanoate Oligomer Hydrolases from the Alkalophilic Bacteria Agromyes sp. Strain KY5R and Kocuria sp. Strain KY2. Applied and Environmental Microbiology. 73 (21): 7099-7102.

The author of this is “Brian Thomas, M.S.

Brian Thomas received his bachelor’s degree in biology in 1993 and a master’s in biotechnology in 1999 from Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches, Texas. He taught junior high and high school at Christian schools in Texas, as well as biology, chemistry, and anatomy as an adjunct and assistant professor at Dallas-area universities. Since 2008 Mr. Thomas has been a science writer and editor at ICR, where he contributes news and magazine articles, speaks on creation issues, and researches original tissue fossils. He is the author ofDinosaurs and the Bibleand a contributor to Guide to Creation Basics,Creation Basics & Beyond, and Guide to Dinosaurs.

Interesting points of his argument are:

  1. This degeneration of a protein-eating protein required both the specially-shaped protein and the pre-existence of its gene.
  2. The degeneration of a gene, even when it provides a new benefit to the bacteria, does not explain the origin of that gene.
  3. One cannot build a lock by damaging pre-existing locks.
  4. Nylon-eating bacteria actually exemplify microevolution (adaptation), not macroevolution.
  5. Nylon-eating bacteria actually exemplify microevolution (adaptation), not macroevolution.
  6. Science continues to reveal, though, how benevolent is our Creator God, who permits bacteria to benefit from degradation, and man also to benefit from bacteria that can recycle synthetic waste back into the environment.

1. Regarding the prerequisite of a specially-shaped protein, another prerequisite is the existence of the bacterium. I hate to be picky, but still another prerequisite is the existence of the planet Earth. This is not a well-based point to argue from.

2. The origin of the original gene is not explained. The origin of the original gene is not at issue here. Darwinian evolution is classically step-wise. Every novel feature is derived from or is built upon an existing one.

3. The “lock” mentioned here is an analogy. A mechanical lock is a device that is used by people, and Thomas is reminding us that a lock that is damaged, such as by putting a .357 Magnum slug through it, does not produce a useful mechanism. The problem with this argument is this is not a lock mechanism built by people. This is a gene that expresses the production of a protein (or an RNA sequence), and it has been altered, and the altered form produces a result that allows the bacterium to digest Nylon.

4. Yes, this is micro evolution. What did Thomas think this was all about? Just about all gene mutations produce micro changes in the offspring. Darwinian evolution, including the the formation of new species, is the accumulation of micro-changes.

5. I am going to let Brian Thomas have this point. I mean, if it’s God doing all of this, then who am I to dispute it?

Back to Walter Bradley’s challenge. New information does come from random processes. People who employ genetic algorithms to develop improved systems (e.g., Diesel engines) use random processes to inject variation into trial designs. It works in modern industry. It works in nature.

Anthropogenic Global Warming

The NTS program presentation for today is Anthropogenic Global Warming.

  • 2:00 p.m.
  • Center for Community Cooperation
  • 2900 Live Oak Street
  • Dallas, Texas

Some members will be participating by Skype. To join the discussion on Skype connect to prasadgolla75075.

A PDF copy of the presentation is on-line here.

Phone Prasad Golla if you have problems connecting: 972 351 3342

The Heat Of Darkness

This is being reposted from the Skeptical Analysis blog in conjunction with our planned discussion of anthropogenic global warming (AGW).

The Heat Of Darkness

I will try to keep the introduction brief. It’s a little bit of physics that I was supposed to have learned a long time ago but retained only a little.

The planet Earth reflects about 30% of the light it gets from the sun. One way of saying this is the albedo of the Earth is 30%. Wikipedia says 30% to 35%, but I was only guessing. The remaining 65% to 70% the Earth gets to keep, and this warms the Earth.

Keep this in mind. The Earth does not keep this energy forever. If it did, then the Earth would keep getting hotter and hotter until it melted, and we know that has not happened recently. When the surface of the Earth is warm it radiates invisible infra-red energy out into space. The hotter the surface becomes the more intensely it radiates energy. After a time the Earth’s surface reaches a temperature at which the combined reflected and radiated energy exactly equal the energy received from the sun. This is a system in equilibrium.

OK, that’s not strictly true. One problem we poor students had to solve was to calculate this average surface temperature. The solution was about 20 degrees F cooler than what we actually measure. What was wrong? What was wrong, and we knew this going in, is that the sun is not the sole source of heating for the Earth. The Earth contains within it a vast nuclear reactor, large quantities of uranium and thorium undergoing radioactive decay and releasing heat. Enough heat to keep the Earth’s average surface temperature where it is now. Which some would say is just about right.

Electromagnetic energy (including visible light and infra-red) must pass through the Earth’s atmosphere coming in and going out. The atmosphere intercepts some of that energy passing through in both directions. To get to the point, the Earth’s surface reflects some visible light and some infra-red, but it (mostly) only emits energy in the form of infra-red radiation. Without consulting any charts I am going to say a large amount of infra-red energy passes through the atmosphere on the way out into infinite space, never to return again. But some of this infra-red making the trip out gets absorbed by the atmosphere.

This illustration from Wikipedia shows what goes on with energy and radiation in this circumstance. The plots for an idealized absorber/emitter show that as surface temperature increases, the body emits more energy and preferentially in the short wavelengths (for example, visible light). When the surface temperature is lower the total emission is less, and the distribution is concentrated in the longer wavelengths (infra-red). At ordinary surface temperatures on Earth (especially not the glowing lava from a volcano) the emission is entirely in the infra-red and longer wavelengths.

So, what would happen if the amount of energy getting absorbed on the way out were to increase? To answer my own question, more energy would be retained by the Earth as a whole (atmosphere plus ground plus water). The temperature of the Earth’s surface would rise until it reached a point that the amount of energy starting the trip out would be enough so that enough would make it out, and the inward and outward flows would balance again.

What would cause the atmosphere to increase its infra-red absorption rate (absorb a greater fraction of the infra-red passing through)? The answer is “some change in the nature of the atmosphere.”

The atmosphere is mostly nitrogen and oxygen gas. Water vapor makes up some, and argon gas and carbon dioxide make up even less. Due to some well-known principles of quantum mechanics, water molecules interact readily with photons in the infra-red part of the spectrum. Water molecules have a number of energy levels at which to store energy, and certain wavelengths of infra-red have just the right energy to raise the energy of a water molecule by the amount of the difference of two of the molecule’s well-defined energy levels. A water molecule readily interacts with a photon of the proper wavelength and absorbs all of its energy. This kind of interaction likes to be all or nothing. That’s why they call it quantum mechanics.

So, water vapor in the atmosphere is an excellent absorber of infra-red energy and contributes greatly to keeping the Earth’s surface warm. What about carbon dioxide? The same is true with carbon dioxide, but not so much, because, for one thing, there is much less of it. Water accounts for 36% to 72% of the I-R absorption, and CO2 accounts for 9% to 26%. CO2 makes up 0.039% of the atmosphere, while water makes up about 0.4%. It’s apparent that of the two major “greenhouse” gasses in the air, CO2 is pound for pound more absorbent of infra-red than water.

People who doubt the effect that something like water has on heat retention need to visit a desert climate. In Tucson, Arizona, the relative humidity may linger around 10%, and in the day time the temperature regularly exceeds 110F. When the sun goes down you look up, and you see nothing between you and the cold void of outer space but a layer of dry air. The temperature rapidly drops as energy radiates into space. The sky “feels” cold. A demonstration with CO2 uses an IR imaging system and a CO2 fire extinguisher. On the imaging view screen you can see all manner of objects in a completely dark room, because they emit IR. Spray a cloud of CO2 in front of these objects, and they disappear, because the CO2 has absorbed the IR.

Even so, water has a greater over-all effect on heat retention in the atmosphere, so what’s all the fuss about CO2? We regularly put a lot of water in the air and never give it a thought. The difference is that water has a transport mechanism called “rain” that removes it from the atmosphere as fast on average as it goes in. CO2 has no such mechanism. CO2 is removed mainly by the process of photosynthesis by plants, and it takes a long time to remove a large slug of CO2 from the air. The average life of a water molecule in the air is about 9 days. The average life of a CO2 molecule in the air is 20 years. That large slug of CO2 will show effects for about 200 years.

That was my brief introduction, and I now get down to the business of what has come to be called global warming. The CO2 concentration in the air has gone up 35% since the advent of the industrial revolution, and it appears that much of this has been due to the burning of fossil fuels and the destruction of forests.

Carbon dioxide is just carbon and oxygen joined into a molecule. The atmosphere contains a lot of oxygen (about 21%) but no carbon except in carbon dioxide, methane and some other minor gasses. If you can manage the carbon, you can keep the CO2 out of the atmosphere. Fossil fuels (coal-almost pure carbon and hydrocarbons-petroleum and natural gas) transport carbon, that has been sequestered underground for millions of years, back to the atmosphere. Trees store a lot of carbon, as well, and removing them without growing new ones to replace them returns their carbon content of the atmosphere.

None of that would matter if there were not detrimental effects of global warming. Nobody has yet projected more than a two to five degrees rise in atmospheric temperature in the next 100 years. However, even that small amount will have a very noticeable effect. If the oceans warm by that amount they will expand, and the sea level will rise. If the water locked in the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets melts and flows into the oceans, the sea level will rise by several feet. There are some places that cannot tolerate such a rise in sea level. The Republic of Maldives is a collection of islands in the Indian Ocean on average less than five feet above sea level. The state of Florida is not much better, and the city of New Orleans is right at sea level with some parts lower than the surface of the Gulf of Mexico just a few miles away.

Also, there is concern with runaway warming. If warming melts the northern snow belts, then the darkened landscape will absorb more heat from the sun, and warming will increase, causing more snow and ice to melt. It’s called positive feedback.

Again, none of this would be controversial, except that some people do not want to take responsibility for what we are all doing to contribute to global warming. People do not want to stop burning gasoline in their cars. They do not want to stop burning coal in their power plants. They want to cut down forests to plant annual crops. And so on.

So, what do people do? They do what people always do. They shoot the messenger who brings the bad news. It’s as though if the message goes away then the problem will go away. As with all problems there is a profit to be made solving the problem. Which brings us to the matter of Heartland Institute.

A quick trip to their home page reveals their message in a circulating marquee:


Left-wing groups commit fraud, but we’re fighting back! Join our legal defense fund and remove false and defamatory materials and prosecute the true criminals.

The site also mentions a number of these “left-wing” groups:

NCSE (National Center for Science Education)
Huffington Post
Pacific Institute

Some of these groups I am familiar with, others not so much. The Huffington Post I read often, and I can swear to you it has a liberal slant. Also, let’s call Greenpeace a given, although I am not sure why. When did protecting the environment become a liberal idea? How come conservatives have not picked up on this and marched with it? This is what I sometimes wonder when I consider the original meaning of the word conservative.

The NCSE promotes the teaching of science-based concepts in public schools. What conservative organization would be against this idea? It’s possible that because creationism has become the foster child of conservative politicians the NCSE is now on Heartland’s radar. The NCSE has been for the past 30 years a champion of teaching the science of biological evolution, and this science is now targeted by conservative groups. The NCSE strongly opposes teaching creationism, including the story of Genesis and the modern Intelligent Design form, in public science classes. Let’s make matters even worse. Recently the NCSE put “global warming” denial alongside creationism as one of the pseudo sciences it will oppose.

A little reading of Thinkprogress gives the impression of a liberal attitude, and Desmogblog is obviously liberal due to its stance against climate science denial. That brings us to Pacific Institute.

Pacific Institute was founded by Peter Gleick, an American scientist specializing in environmental issues. More recently he stepped down as head of the organization after revealing he had obtained confidential documents from Heartland using a faked identity. He created a bogus Gmail account and sent e-mails to Heartland claiming they were from a named board member and asking that duplicate notices from Heartland be sent to the new address, as well. He received confidential documents from Heartland and released these documents to various outlets, including Desmogblog, which has posted them on the Internet.

Gleick has clearly stepped beyond the bounds of legitimate science and into the realm of advocacy. In addition to his disconnection from the Pacific Institute, the San Francisco Chronicle has dropped his on-line blog.

Gleick was apparently motivated to tap into Heartland materials by an anonymous correspondence he received containing a memo that Heartland now says was forged. Heartland acknowledges the other published documents obtained by Gleick but contends the forged document has harmed its reputation. They are threatening legal action.

It is impossible to reconcile Gleick’s actions as those of a serious scientist. Particularly his release of unsubstantiated evidence is outside accepted practice. Regarding the materials Gleick obtained from Heartland, it was not his job to do this kind of thing. This is best left up to others, such as Desmogblog and this blog. The Skeptical Analysis blog makes no claim for political neutrality, but there will always be an advocacy for real science and for doing the right thing.

I have reviewed the purloined materials, and I am happy to report they confirm what everybody knew all along. It brings me to wonder why Gleick went to all the trouble to expose the obvious. Did anybody think for a moment that Heartland has a legitimate agenda that caters to the public interest? Any difference between Heartland and a for-profit propaganda mill is difficult to discern. Here is part of an item posted on Desmogblog regarding the materials from Gleick:

We are releasing the entire trove of documents now to allow crowd-sourcing of the material. Here are a few quick highlights, stay tuned for much more.

Confirmation that Charles G. Koch Foundation is again funding Heartland Institute’s global warming disinformation campaign. [Update: Apparently even the Koch brothers think the Heartland Institute’s climate denial program is too toxic to fund. On Wednesday, Koch confirmed that it did not cut a check for the $200K mentioned in the strategy memo after all. A statement released on and the states that “…the Charles Koch Foundation provided $25,000 to the Heartland Institute in 2011 for research in healthcare, not climate change, and this was the first and only donation the Foundation made to the institute in more than a decade. The Foundation has made no further commitments of funding to Heartland.”]

The allusion is apparently to an item in Heartland’s 2012 fundraising plan. It shows an anticipated $25,000 expected for this year from Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation. For those who do not watch the news, the Koch (coke) brothers are politically conservative billionaires whose family fortune originated with the petroleum industry.

Particularly telling is a Heartland memo titled “Confidential Memo: 2012 Heartland Climate Strategy” and dated January 2012. The contents appear to be no longer confidential, so a bit of disclosure is in order.

One paragraph speaks of the development of a “Global Warming Curriculum for K-12 Classrooms.” This is being developed by David Wojick, who has a long history of working for industrial organizations opposed to climate science. According to Sourcewatch, “He has a Ph.D. in philosophy of science and mathematical logic from the University of Pittsburgh, and a BS in civil engineering from Carnegie Tech. He has been on the faculty of Carnegie Mellon and the staffs of the US Office of Naval Research and the Naval Research Lab.” Also “Wojick has been described as a journalist and policy analyst. According to a search of 22,000 academic journals, Wojick has not published any research in a peer-reviewed journal on the subject of climate change.” The Heartland memo states that Wojick will be paid $100,000 to develop 20 educational modules with the funds coming from “The Anonymous Donor.”

The memo also states that Heartland funds “high-profile individuals who regularly and publicly counter the alarmist AGW message.” These include Craig Idso at $11,600 per month, Fred Singer at $5000 per month (plus expenses) and Robert Carter, at $1667 per month.

About Idso, Sourcewatch has this to say:

Craig D. Idso is Chairman, founder and former President of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, a contrarian Arizona-based group funded in part by ExxonMobil. He is the son of its president, Sherwood B. Idso[1], and the brother of its vice president, Keith E. Idso.

According to Sourcewatch, Fred Singer “runs the Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP).., which publicizes his own views on various topics, primarily climate change, ozone depletion, risks of chemical pollution (from DDT and others), nuclear power, and space policy.” He has a long history of advocacy for concerns who have behaved badly in the public arena. Again from Sourcewatch:

In 1993, Singer collaborated with Tom Hockaday of Apco Associates to draft an article on “junk science” intended for publication. Apco Associates was the PR firm hired to organize and direct The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition for Philip Morris. Hockaday reported on his work with Singer to Ellen Merlo, Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs at Philip Morris.

Sourcewatch has this to say about Robert Carter:

According to the Sydney Morning Herald in 2007, Carter was “on the research committee at the Institute of Public Affairs, a think tank that has received funding from oil and tobacco companies, and whose directors sit on the boards of companies in the fossil fuel sector” and believed, SMH said, that “the role of peer review in scientific literature was overstressed.”

If you have been reading along with me you have noticed one peculiar consistency. None of the people just mentioned are serious scientists working in the field of atmospheric science, environmental issues or any of the topics they are being paid to speak on. The word propaganda has a long history of various implications, but this case best illustrates the modern English usage.

When a dedicated cadre of serious scientists develops an idea that many in our society find objectionable, the only recourse for those who oppose this idea is to out-talk the scientists and call them liars and fools. The irony of this approach is that the accuser must take on the role of a liar or a fool. Another course of action would be to do real scientific research and develop opposing conclusions. The various industrial and political groups could take that route if they chose. Obviously they have not, and the reason they have not is because they cannot. If they could, they would. But they cannot, and they do not.