Our Coastline in Tatters: Let’s Relocate West Pointers and Teach Them a New Kind…

first_imgThe world knows that the God of Nature has blessed Liberia with a wonderful coastline—350 miles of a great and rich natural resource.But just as we Liberians have done and continue to do with most of our natural resources, even the most important of all, our human resources, we have not only neglected but simply wasted our rich, immaculate coastline. We have thrown it to the wind and the ocean to do with it whatever they wish. And surely, if one gives Mother Nature a chance, the opportunities she gives us can provide a serious blessing—or a bane.We Liberians have foolishly, and unpatriotically chosen the latter; and like so many other instances, have turned God’s blessing of a wonderful coastline into a bane, which means an annoyance, a blight, a curse.When the people of West Point recently met with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, they told her they were in prison—why? Because the government has allowed their wonderful beach to imprison and distress them with the rushing and overwhelming waves from the Atlantic, which have destroyed their homes and turned them into captives of their own habitat.Remember, nearly 36 years ago when the Daily Observer was being born, the publisher sent a young reporter, K. Neville A. Best, to West Point, assigning him to “go bring a story.” Keith dutifully went and returned with a piece which became the headline of our maiden issue, February 16, 1981: “West Point Dwellers Are Angry.”There were several dignitaries, including President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Vice President Joseph N. Boakai, other politicians, as well as diplomats, businesspeople and journalists, who in 2011, following the death of Daily Observer Editor-in-Chief Stanton Peabody, came to our Library named after him, to sign the Book of Condolence. We had and still do, on permanent display, our maiden issue. When the American Ambassador, Linda Thomas Greenfield, saw the headline, “West Point Dwellers Are Angry” she exclaimed, “They are still angry.”Well, three and a half decades later, that is exactly what West Point leaders told President Sirleaf when they met her last week.What kind of country do we live in where, year in, year out, decade in, decade out, we seem not to be able to make much progress? How is it that the people of West Point have lived in the same squalor for so long? How is it that all these decades we have done nothing to arrest the ecological problem that has brought so much erosion and pain to West Point; and not there only, but to New Kru Town, threatening one of our leading high schools, the D. Tweh?We then have the terrible sea erosion that seriously threatens Hotel Africa and the Unity Conference Center, a major investment undertaken during the Tolbert administration. It was that imposing complex that in July 1979 hosted the Summit Conference of the Organization of African Unity (OAU, now African Union-AU). That was when President W.R. Tolbert was elected OAU Chair.Another major Liberian city being washed away by the Atlantic before our very eyes is our second city, Buchanan, Grand Bassa County. The Minister of Lands, Mines and Energy, Mr. Patrick Sendolo, has recently told the Daily Observer that it would take about US$250 million to fix all these places being destroyed by sea erosion. The government may not have all the money at once, but it could begin one place at a time, especially New Kru Town, where a major high school is under the threat of extinction. Can we afford that, given the educational crisis in which the nation finds itself at this time? It would seem to us that GOL would make this Priority Number One and do something immediately to save D. Twe. GOL should next tackle the problem in West Point. The people told the President when they met her that they want to be relocated somewhere along the Bomi Highway.We think this is a reasonable request. There is most certainly plenty of land there that could be shared with our beleaguered West Point brothers and sisters. True, there is not much water in that Bomi region, and you know the West Pointers are seafarers and fishermen. However, here is an opportunity to introduce these fishing experts to another kind of fishing—fish ponds. They could even be taught to grow lobsters, too, and that would financially empower them. Here is an excellent opportunity for creativity and innovation. Let us reach out to our West Point folk and welcome them and give them a new, productive life, where there will be schools, clinics, recreation facilities, churches and mosques and fishponds, where they can still grow fish—of a very different kind, from ponds rather than from the ocean—and lobsters, too.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more

ECOWAS Provides US$126K to Fight Fistula

first_imgMarcel Alain de Souza, president of ECOWAS Commission gives a symbolic check to VP BoakaiThe Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has provided US$126,919 worth of assistance for the rehabilitation of the treatment unit for fistula patients (US$80,000) and (US$46,919) to support victims, including education.Marcel Alain de Souza, president of the ECOWAS Commission, presented the check yesterday during the celebration of International Day to end Obstetric Fistula at the Monrovia City Hall, under the theme, “ECOWAS Restoring Hope and Dignity for Fistula Survivors.”Obstetric fistula, which is often unrecognized by majority of the population, is a condition that manifests itself in an uncontrollable leakage of urine and or stool due to perforation of a woman’s birth canal, leading to urinary tract infections and strong odors.President Souza said the root causes of fistula are early or forced marriage, early childbearing, female genital mutilation (female circumcision), absence of prenatal consultations and medical assistance at the time of delivery, malnutrition, poverty, among others.He noted that childbearing condition affects young women aged 15 to 24 and older women living in rural areas, adding that “Many women who suffer from fistula are ostracized from community life and abandoned by their husbands or loved ones and families.”President Souza said the 2017 celebration provides the opportunity to take stock of the problem of fistula in the West Africa region and also engage the community, particularly ECOWAS member states, to accelerate the implementation of solutions to eradicate it.Souza said the ECOWAS Commission, through its Center for Gender Development, took the initiative in 2010 to implement a program to provide medical and financial support to women and girls who are victims of fistula in member states.He said the program is a response to the debilitating social and economic problems that affect women and girls in the region.President Souza said as part of the program’s implementation, the Department for Social and Gender Affairs in 2015 developed an ECOWAS Regional Action Plan for the fight against Obstetric fistula in West Africa, in collaboration with UNFPA.The document supports all interventions by ECOWAS member countries in the fight against fistula, he said.Vice President Joseph N. Boakai, who received the check, lauded the ECOWAS Commission, and the ECOWAS Gender Development Center for the support in the fight against fistula.VP Boakai said the Liberian government has been providing support to women with inoperable fistula cases and those survivors with a degree of continence, stating that “We have provided medical and material support as well as income generating activities.”To enforce this fight, he said, Liberia has six doctors and more than seventy nurses, midwives and physician assistants who have been trained and have treated 875 fistula patients.Dr. Fatimata Dia Sow, ECOWAS Commissioner for Social Affairs and Gender, who gave the keynote address, extended her solidarity to all women suffering from fistula on this International Day, which is set aside to convey sympathy, but also commitment to stamp out the disease in West Africa.Dr. Sow said the issue of obstetric fistula affects a category of women that is often forgotten because they sometimes live far from health centers and areas where they cannot access opportunities.To reverse the trend, he said, ECOWAS through its Gender Development Center, has launched an ambitious program to combat obstetric fistula within the objective of training, socially and economically reintegrating 1,500 patients in the region per year.She said the center is working with specialists to provide fistula repair surgery to victims, plus psychological and financial assistance, as well as to organize awareness campaigns to prevent the scourge.Dr. Sow said despite efforts by ECOWAS member countries to improve the reproductive health of women and girls, it is still among the zones with the highest number of women with fistula, 50,000 to 100,000 cases per year, quoting a World Health Organization 2009 report.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more

IAC holds inter-faith gathering, discussion on ethnic relations

first_img…at National Library todayThe Indian Action Committee (IAC) will be hosting an inter-faith gathering and discussion on the current state of ethnic relations in Guyana at the National Library today starting at 16:30h.The IAC, in an advisory, said it recognises that ethnic relations in Guyana has been characterised by suspicion, mistrust, and even bouts of politically instigated violence. The aftermath of the 1997 General Election was one such horrific event in the form of the January 12, 1998 acts of violence and arson targeting mainly Indo-Guyanese; perceived supporters of the then victorious People’s Progressive Party/Civic party.The IAC said it also understands that society can either choose the path of hate or of reconciliation. The IAC chooses the path of reconciliation.The IAC is of the strongest opinion that this continuing state of affairs will eventually destroy Guyana and so the organisation is taking this initiative to foster dialogue towards the goal of reconciliation in the context of social cohesion and national unity.This event is intended to shed light on the urgent need to tackle ethnic unity and tolerance in our society. It is expected to be an occasion of fostering dialogue and deep reflection on the need for all stakeholders to work in the interest of national unity and prevent terrible events such as January 12, 1998, from recurring.Organisations which have been invited to today’s event include the Social Cohesion Ministry, the Office of the Leader of the Opposition, the Inter-Religious Organisation, the African Cultural and Development Association, the Amerindian People’s Association, the National Toshaos’ Council, the Central Islamic Organisation of Guyana, the Guyana Hindu Dharmic Sabha, the Viraat Sabha of Guyana, the Guyana Central Arya Samaj, the Hindus for Selfless Service, the Private Sector Commission, the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Lions’ Clubs and SASOD.According to the organisers, following prayers from the three major religions and a brief welcome from an executive member of the IAC, a panel of learned individuals will deliver brief remarks and then the floor will be opened to the members of the public to ask questions of the panellists.The IAC is inviting the general public to participate in the discussion.last_img read more

Alberta Dominion Provincial Playdowns to be decided at Fort St. John Curling Club

first_imgThe Alberta Dominion Curling Championships feature all of the best club curlers, many of which were getting their first throws in last night during a warm up session at the curling club.There is only the one draw tonight, but Saturday and Sunday will be very busy on the ice with draws throughout the day. The action will start early at 10 a.m. Saturday, with the second draw starting at 2 p.m., and the final draw of the day at 7 p.m.The curling starts an hour earlier on Sunday at 9 a.m. with the Championship Round on both the A and B side of the bracket. The semi-finals start at 12:30 p.m. with the finals for the tournament getting underway at 4:00. – Advertisement –last_img read more

Manchester United manager latest: Van Gaal out, Fergie in?!

first_imgManchester United fans are calling for the head of manager Louis van Gaal – and they know who they want to replace him.The Dutchman looks destined for the sack following a 2-0 defeat at Stoke on Boxing Day lunchtime, and there is widespread speculation Jose Mourinho will be the man to replace him.But it seems many of the Old Trafford faithful have a different view on who is the right man to rescue their season… Alex Ferguson and Louis van Gaal 1last_img


first_imgBY ADAM RORY PORTER: Fabulously stormy weather at Buncrana pier in Inishowen.The gentleman ‘Wind Surfing’ is my good friend Justin MacLochlainn from the Buncrana Camera Club and the ‘white noise’ filled picture is the hailstones at around 140 kmph I hear! WOW! ADAM DOES IT AGAIN WITH SEA STORM SNAPS was last modified: December 6th, 2013 by John2Share this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)last_img read more


first_imgThe Donegal interest at the European Badminton Championships in Karlskrona, Sweden, ended today in defeat for Sam and Chloe Magee.In the doubles, Russia’s Sergei Lunev and Evgenia Dimova came back from a set down to snatch a 19-21, 21-16, 21-17 victory against the brother and sister team from Raphoe.Earlier today Chloe was beaten in the singles by another Russian, Natalia Perminova, who won in straight sets 25-23, 21-6. The Russian world No. 121 will face the winner of Bulgaria’s Linda Zerichi and Poland’s Kamila Augustyn for a place in the quarterfinal.The defeat was a real upset – with Chloe ranked 42nd in the world and set to represent Ireland at the Olympics in London this summer.   BADMINTON: RUSSIAN UPSET FOR MAGEES IN EUROPEANS was last modified: April 18th, 2012 by BrendaShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Tags:BADMINTON RUSSIAN UPSET FOR MAGEES IN EUROPEANSlast_img read more

Donegal athletes strike gold at Ulster cross-country championships – Pic Special

first_imgATHLETICS: 17 of Olympian YAC budding young athletics stars contested the recent N.Ireland and Ulster Even Age Cross Country Championships in Rostrevor, Newry with great success. With top three medals, All Ireland qualification places for top 12 runners and top three club and county team medals up for grabs, the competition could not have been any fiercer, and all our Olympian’s rose to the challenge and competed with great heart. Sean Mc Ginley keeps going from strength to strength and put in a fantastic performance coming 5th in the u14 Boys race. Sean was the first runner home for the County Donegal team which were the overall winning county, so Sean rightfully bagged himself an extremely well deserved Gold medal for his efforts as well as a chance to compete at the All Ireland Cross Country Championships.Boyd Russell competing in an age group above himself competed out of his skin to come a very creditable 14th position. He was also the fifth and final counter for the winning Donegal County team so he too claimed a well deserved Gold medal and All Ireland spot to boot.Olympian’s full results are as follows:U10 BoysJames Russell- 36th U10 GirlsTara Mc Dermott- 25thOrla Duddy – 27thGrace Duddy – 33rdU12 GirlsHolly Duddy- 47thLeah Barr- 63rdEllen O’ Donnell – 86thAine Carlin – 93rdU12 BoysBoyd Russell – 14th (Gold medal as 5th counter for winning Donegal County)Jimmy Doherty – 55thOisin Harkin – 82ndU14 GirlsNuala Bose – 36thCiara Doherty- 52ndAnna Duddy – 85thOrla Mc Dermott – 91stU14 BoysSean Mc Ginley – 5th (Gold medal as 1st counter for winning Donegal County)Bobby Doherty- 49thAgain every single one of our Olympians competed with such great heart and certainly gave it their best, which you couldn’t ask for any more. We are so proud of every single one you! Keep up the great training TRAININGTraining will continue every Tuesday night at 7:00 – 8:15pm and Saturday mornings from 11am till 12.15pm at the Glenswilly pitch.We are insured to cater for any and all abilities from 8 years of age right up to senior and master’s level who wishes to train, keep fit, have fun, and/or compete at a local to national/ international standard. New members as always are more than welcome. For further details, please do not hesitate to contact Martin O’ Donnell on 863838240 or message us via Facebook (Olympian AC) or feel free to come down and have a chat on any of our club nights.Donegal athletes strike gold at Ulster cross-country championships – Pic Special was last modified: October 27th, 2016 by Mark ForkerShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Tags:athleticsChampionshipsCross Countrynewspic specialSportlast_img read more


first_imgGardai have today stepped up in their investigation to catch burglars who assaulted two elderly sisters during a vicious house-raid.THE late Suzy Arthur who died after the raid. (Pic: NewsPixIreland)One of the sisters, Suzy Arthur, never came out of hospital after raiders threw her to the ground and broke her hip during the raid on July 1st.She died at Letterkenny General Hospital eleven weeks later on October 10th. Gardai today stepped up their investigations by carrying out checkpoints close to the women’s home at Feddyglass in Raphoe.Gardai asked motorists if they had travelled the main Letterkenny to Lifford Road on the day in question.Anyone who had were questioned further by Gardai operating another interview checkpoint at another location close-by.Gardai believe an English Traveller gang, sometimes based in nearby Derry, are behind the raid on the elderly sisters’ home. The dead woman’s surviving sister Isa, 91, is still reovering after her ordeal.The women’s nephew Tom McKean, who looked after the women, paid tribute to Gardai in their efforts to catch the thugs who targeted Suzy and Isa.“I can say nothing but good things about the Gardai which is one thing I cannot say about the men who did this.“I would appeal to anyone who may have noticed anybody in the area at the time to contact Gardai.“Any small detail may help bring these evil men to justice,” he said. GARDAI SET UP CHECKPOINTS IN HUNT FOR TRAGIC SUZY’S ATTACKERS was last modified: October 29th, 2013 by StephenShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Tags:FEDDYGLASSISA ARTHURraidersRaphoeSuzy Arthurlast_img read more

Missing Link, or Just Jawboning About Ear Evolution?

first_imgTetrapod vertebrates (four-footed animals with backbones) comprise a dizzying array of species, both living and extinct.  When is it justifiable to arrange different forms into an ancestral evolutionary sequence, especially when some members are extinct and others are still alive today?  On what basis can scientists claim that a discovery demonstrates evolution?  Some Chinese scientists entered their latest attempt to exhibit a missing link.  They discovered a fossilized “primitive” mammal they claim fills a gap in the evolution of the mammalian middle ear.  Their paper was published last week in Nature.1  A press release from the National Science Foundation reproduced on EurekAlert emphasized the evolutionary message: “This early mammalian ear from China is a rosetta-stone type of discovery which reinforces the idea that development of complex body parts can be explained by evolution, using exquisitely preserved fossils,” said Richard Lane of the NSF.  The lead author said, “This new fossil offers a rare insight in the evolutionary origin of the mammalian ear structure.”  He also said, “Yanoconodon clearly shows an intermediate condition in the evolutionary process of how modern mammals acquired their middle ear structure.”  Nothing in the press release indicated anything short of complete vindication for evolutionary theory with this find.    Zhe-Xi Luo et al described a new eutriconodont mammal species, Yanoconodon, they found in the fossil-rich province of Liaoning, China.  After providing the customary description and classification sections, they attempted to explain two observations.  First and most notable was the structure of the middle ear.  They claimed it represents a clear transitional form between the attached bones of mammaliaformes (“mammal-like reptiles”) and detached middle ear bones of mammals.  Second, they noted the extra vertebra (26 instead of 19 for most mammals, and 22 for the nearest relative) and the presence of lumbar ribs, unusual for mammals but present in some widely-separated groups.  This they explained by convergent evolutionary manipulation of Hox genes that govern the divisions of the vertebral column (sacrum, ilium, lumbar) and the presence or absence of lumbar ribs.  Experiments on lab rats show that these traits can be manipulated by knockout or overexpression of these master-switch regulatory genes.    There is no clear evolutionary transition in the vertebral characteristics.  The authors noted that Yanoconodon’s nearest alleged relative, Jeholodens, lacks lumbar ribs.  Moreover, they found another pair of relatives on a different branch, one that has lumbar ribs and one that doesn’t.  For an animal to have 26 vertebra is “exceptional,” they said; the only other one is Repenomamus, a dog-size Cretaceous mammal that preyed on dinosaurs.    The focus of the paper, though, was on the middle ear bones.  The authors went into great detail to try to establish Yanoconodon as a transitional form.  In the evolutionary scenario, primitive mammals emerged from reptiles with the bones at the rear of the jaw still attached to the jaw.  Over evolutionary time, the rear bones began to gradually separate from the back of the jaw.  Presumably, this gave some advantage to hearing because the incipient middle ear bones (ossicles), the hammer, anvil and stirrup (or malleus, incus and stapes) were more free to vibrate.  Eventually, the ossicles became completely separated from the jaw as in modern mammals and were devoted solely to hearing.  The authors identified parts they called malleus and incus, but did not find a stapes.    In support of the story, the authors found that in Yanoconodon the ossicles had partially detached, remaining connected to the jaw only by an ossified Meckel’s cartilage.  Further, the malleus and incus bore a resemblance to the completely-detached ossicles of the platypus (Ornithorhynchus paradoxus), a fur-bearing monotreme.  They also pointed out that platypus ossicles emerge during development with an attachment to the jaw via Meckel’s cartilage, then become detached later.  The arrangement in Yanoconodon, they said, may be pedomorphic – a case of “arrested development” in which the embryonic attachment was maintained into adulthood.    So that’s the story.  How good a transition is it?  The well-known skeptic and pseudoscience fighter James Randi thought this was ”very cool” as a demonstration of evolution.  He gave it a big write-up at his James Randi Educational Foundation where he reproduced the figures from the original paper.  The figure he left out, however, is the cladogram (phylogenetic tree), which, surprisingly, shows “homoplasies [convergent evolution] of DMME [definite mammalian middle ear] in basal mammals” in six places on the tree.  One of them is Hadrocodium, a lower Jurassic mammal lacking some of the typical features of mammals but having a complex hearing system (see Reference.com).  Does this mean that an even less derived species had mammal-like middle ear bones, separated from the jaw?  If so, Yanoconodon is too late to be considered a transitional form.  Randi displayed some ignorance of modern evolutionary theory by using the pedomorphy hypothesis to conjure up the ghost of Haeckel: “It’s one module in development that flaunts a lovely example of embryonic recapitulation of evolutionary history,” his article boasts.  (Recapitulation is dismissed by most Darwinists these days.)    The authors of the original paper did not even claim that Yanoconodon represents a straight-line evolution from attached middle ear to separate middle ear.  It represents, rather, a possible pedomorphic characteristic capable of two different evolutionary explanations.  The placement of Yanoconodon in an evolutionary sequence also required a tool that maximizes “parsimony” (simplicity) between competing possibilities of phylogenetic trees when all the characteristics are analyzed.  In the technical explanation below, keep in mind that homoplasy refers to convergent evolution – similar traits appearing in unrelated groups.Yanoconodon and its eutriconodontan kin are nested within the crown Mammalia (Fig. 2) by the parsimony of all characters.  The absence of DMME [definite mammalian middle ear] in eutriconodonts, an in-group of crown Mammalia, is in sharp contrast to modern monotremes [like Platypus] and therians [more derived mammals, including marsupials and placentals] that have DMME.  This phylogeny requires one of the following two evolutionary scenarios: either (1) DMME was present in the common ancestor of monotremes, eutriconodonts and therians; but eutriconodonts re-evolved the middle ear attachment to mandible, or (2) DMME was absent in the common ancestor of monotremes, eutriconodonts and therians, and this is retained as a paedomorphosis in eutriconodonts; but DMME evolved in extant monotremes, and separately in therians.  Paedomorphosis, or retention of fetal or juvenile characteristics of ancestors and relatives through developmental heterochrony [differences in developmental rates], is a common phenomenon in vertebrate evolution.  The heterochronic (‘premature’) ossification of Meckel’s cartilage in eutriconodonts is the immediate cause for this paedomorphic connection of middle ear and mandible, and is why there is an overall homoplastic distribution among therians (with DMME), eutriconodonts (without DMME), monotremes (with DMME) and pre-mammalian relatives (without DMME) (triangles in Fig. 2).  The paedomorphic connection of the middle ear to mandible of eutriconodonts and mammaliaforms is consistent with their lack of the long-bone epiphyses for terminating skeletal growth, as seen in modern mammals.Clearly, they are favoring scenario 2.  The cost, though, is to believe that definite mammalian middle ear (DMME) evolved twice – once in monotremes (platypus), and separately in therian mammals.  Maybe that’s why the editors of Nature hedged a little in their praise of this paper:2The formation of the three tiny bones of the middle ear from components of the reptilian lower jaw was a key event in mammalian evolution.  Never before has this transition been seen so clearly as in a primitive fossil mammal found recently in a new locality of the Yixian Formation in China, 300 km west of the classic sites in Liaoning.  In this specimen the middle-ear bones remain connected to the lower jaw by Meckel’s cartilage – a transition associated with a corresponding remodelling of the lower back.  But the situation is not as clear-cut as it seems.  The evolutionary relationships of the fossil suggest that either the ‘modern’ middle ear evolved twice, independently or that it evolved and was then lost in at least one ancient lineage.The complexity of the situation did not stop the authors from ending their paper on a triumphant Darwinian note.  Speaking only about the vertebral column in their fossil, they felt that juggling Hox genes provides “a plausible mechanism for the evolutionary patterns” in lumbar ribs and numbers of vertebra.  Again, homoplasy (convergent evolution) comes to the rescue: either the uneven patterns of lumbar ribs in the phylogenetic tree arose because they had similar functions, or were lost in others for the same reason.  In conclusion, they felt they had illustrated “two cases for extrapolating the Hox gene patterning of laboratory mice to early mammal phylogeny on a grand evolutionary scale.”1Zhe-Xi Luo, Peiji Chen, Gang Li, and Meng Chen, “A new eutriconodont mammal and evolutionary development in early mammals,” Nature 446, 288-293 (15 March 2007) | doi:10.1038/nature05627.2Editor’s summary, “An early look at mammals,” Nature 446:7133.Evolutionary papers are like contracts: the bold print giveth, and the fine print taketh away.  Darwin just handed us a reverse mortgage without telling us the benefits are all coming from a reduction of equity [equity n.: fairness, impartiality, justice].  James Randi performed his glitzy commercial like James Garner, touting all the wonderful benefits of evolutionary reverse mortgages, but we just read the fine print and found the alleged benefits overpowered by serious problems.    Anyone who thinks explanations just “jump right out of the data” should listen to the Philosophy of Science lecture series from the Teaching Company.  Jeffrey Kasser shows that it is devilishly hard to prove the simplest scientific statement, such as “all copper conducts electricity” by either deduction, induction, empiricism or anything else.  In a related course from the Teaching Co., Steven Goldman shows how philosophers have struggled for centuries with the question of whether the observations of our senses actually tell us anything about the real world.  If such basic and simple explanations about things right under our noses that we take for granted cannot be established with certainty, how much less inferences about the unseen past?  The issues of proof and explanation are far more difficult and complex than most people realize.Did you know, for instance, that David Hume in the 18th century argued that induction provides no justification for explanation or prediction, that we do not “see” causes, and that philosophers of science have never answered his challenge successfully?  Did you know that Karl Popper essentially dismissed induction as having anything to do with scientific explanation?  Did you know that induction is not necessary to discover anything in science, and that deduction has about as many problems as induction?  How about the facts that philosophy of science since the heady days of logical positivism in the 1930s has become a welter of conflicting opinions between realists and anti-realists and every position in between, with no one being able to define with any justification what constitutes an observation, let alone a scientific explanation or theory? It would do you good to struggle with some of these issues for awhile before evaluating a paper claiming to have found a transitional form in Darwin’s storyland.    Surprisingly, the usual Darwin propaganda outlets who usually go ape over every missing link story didn’t seem to pay this claim much attention.  Maybe they realized critics could easily shoot it down.  We’re going to display this as an example, though, to educate our readers on how to evaluate such claims in general.  OK, so a four-legged fossil animal was found.  There are lots of four-legged fossil animals.  What right does anyone have to arrange them into an ancestral sequence?  What justification is there for the implication that complex hearing bones were evolving by a naturalistic, aimless, pointless, purposeless process, with advanced mammalian hearing as the product?  If you take away the evolutionary assumption, no such inference jumps out of the observations.    To see why, visualize a 3-dimensional plot with data points scattered throughout like dust particles in the air.  Here and there, some seem to cluster together, but no obvious trend reveals itself.  How can one justify drawing lines through the dots that show an ancestral tree pattern?  An almost infinite number of patterns could connect the dots.  What right does one scientist have to claim his pattern is the “true” pattern that tells what actually happened before there were observers?    One needs to understand the Darwinist process of drawing phylogenetic trees, because the story really breaks down right there.  These scientists used a “maximum parsimony” computer program to produce their tree.  Why did they select that?  They could have chosen instead to use “maximum likelihood” or Bayesian analysis, or some yet-to-be-discovered new method that will enjoy fad status for awhile.  Even so, the method they used required choosing between 218 equally parsimonious trees.  For those who need proof how arbitrary this process is, read the following quote from the paper:This is based on the strict consensus of 218 equally parsimonious trees of PAUP (Phylogenetic Analysis Using Parsimony and Other Methods, version 4.0b) analysis of 436 characters (1,000 heuristic runs with unordered multi-state characters) that can be scored for 102 comparative taxa (97 mammaliaforms including 25 extant mammals, plus three cynodonts as outgroups).  For each equally parsimonious tree, tree length = 2,188, consistency index = 0.375, retention index = 0.803.What would happen if they included different organisms as outgroups, or lightened the consistency requirements, or used some other criterion for establishing the consensus?  How much was the result dependent on the way the traits of the various organisms were described by others?  To what extent were evolutionary assumptions embedded in all the data to start with?  Anyone thinking that The One and Only True Tree came out of this exercise is a good customer for the next beachfront property sale on the Isle of DeBris.    We have reported previously (07/25/2002, 10/01/2005) that all such trees are compromises between contradictory data points, and therefore represent human assumptions imposed on the data, not independently-verifiable patterns that exist “out there” in some value-free, assumption-free Logicland.  This is an important fulcrum of this discussion; all the team’s inferences about evolutionary transitions hinge on the validity of their phylogenetic tree.  But their tree is a product of human imagination, not a fact of history.  Understand that and the whole paper falls apart.  The only thing that is left is an unusual fossil that fits who-knows-where into some scheme by who-knows-who about who-knows-what that happened who-knows-when.  Insert your guess here.  It can be considered just as valid as anyone else’s, including the one in this paper.    Suppose you sent four different teams into a grocery market on a mission to read the ingredients on every box of processed food and arrange them all into a phylogenetic tree.  The hapless victims would soon find themselves making arbitrary decisions among a mess of complications.  One group might try to locate all the products containing lecithin, while another would use statistical analysis based on percentages of recommended daily allowances of vitamins, carbohydrates, fats and proteins.  A third team might approach the problem by sorting everything according to texture, color, odor or some other physical characteristic, while the last team would feel confident they had the final answer, because a clear phylogenetic pattern emerged when they arranged the products by geometrical shape.  Cheerios evolved from granola, they say.    Each team has its own concept of a phylogenetic tree, and has plenty of evidence to support it.  Which one is right?  Clearly, none is right.  In this contrived case, all the products were created by intelligent design.  Arranging designed items into an evolutionary pattern is an exercise in futility.  General Mills can produce both cheerios and granola.  But even if nobody knew the products were designed, arranging them into an ancestral tree pattern would be hopelessly messy.  Group one might get a good-looking pattern arranged by lecithin content, only to find that separate branches have members with and without coconut.  Scratching their heads, they might wonder if the coconut evolved by convergent evolution (homoplasy), or whether the coconut was present in the common ancestor but was lost in various lineages and retained in others.  No amount of energy, enthusiasm, diligence and detail is going to justify what inferences these researchers are making.  They are just playing games.  Data notwithstanding, the patterns they are producing are nothing but mythical constructions of their own imaginations.    This illustration helps answer a counter-argument from some Darwinists.  They complain that every time they produce a good transitional form, creationists allege that two more are produced: one on each side of the transitional form.  Such a complaint is bogus, because it embeds a prior evolutionary assumption.  It presupposes a linear sequence.  The “missing link” terminology misleads the reader into visualizing a straight line, with an early “primitive” animal, a later “derived” animal with complex features (like detached middle-ear bones), and a gap in between that the evolutionist triumphantly fills in with his new transitional form.  Toss out that picture, because it is nothing like what is found in either the fossil record or the zoo.  Recall the supermarket or the 3-dimensional plot with scattered data points.  No amount of new data points or processed food products added to the mix will justify inferring an evolutionary pattern.  It cannot be done.  Unless you already assume that the data points or the supermarket products evolved, you cannot convince a critic that the data imply an ancestral relationship, and you could never convince a well-trained philosopher of science that you are justified in making such an inference.  Conversely, there is no way an evolutionist can deny the creationists’ inference that God created a wide variety of creatures, and gave each the kind of bones and ears and ribs and toes that it needed for its ecological niche.  Bring up plesiomorphies (close similarities), and he could answer that a certain amount of sorting out of characters occurred since the creation, but no new information was added.  Prove him wrong.    So is Yanoconodon a transitional form on the “grand evolutionary scale” of life?  On what basis could anyone make such a claim?  There are plenty of contradictions in the story.  For one thing, if Hadrocodium already had a DMME, then Yanoconodon surely wasn’t inventing it for the first time.  Considering this skeleton to be a new species is fraught with difficulties in the first place.  You can’t tell whether a fossil is reproductively isolated from other fossils.  How do they know it was not some other animal whose skeleton got deformed in the fossilization process?  What is a “species” anyway, if not a human concept imposed on a bewildering array of complicated data?  Why do some of its features show up in some distant branches, but some not show up in its alleged closest relative?  How do they know the developmental stage of this fossil?  Maybe it was a juvenile and its ossified Meckel’s cartilage had not yet dissolved.  How much can you tell about the morphology, lifestyle and complexity of an animal from its bones?  Imagine the surprise if these scientists had classified a platypus knowing only the skeleton, and then were shown a living one, with its duck bill, poison spur, electrical sensors, specialized fur and numerous other advanced characteristics.    The paper is filled with jargon (plesiomorphy, apomorphy, pedomorphy, heterochrony, homoplasy), but no amount of hand-waving justifies their interpretation.  Jargon is, at best, a convenience for those playing the game; at worst, it is bluffing and obfuscation.  Most important, their story is based on the flimsiest piece of ossified cartilage and says nothing about how a complex system of hearing, employing finely-tuned ossicles, evolved.  The complexity of mammal hearing is staggering.  The ability of tympanic membranes and ossicles and cochleae to amplify the minutest pressure waves in air is breathtaking in its efficiency.  But then, the body has to be able to transmit that information to the brain, process it and respond to it.  Hearing cannot be evaluated on the basis of an ossified bit of cartilage.  It must be understood in context of the whole process of hearing, and how it fits into the lifestyle and survival of the entire organism.  Darwinian theory disallows teleology or goal-seeking behavior.  A consistent Darwinist must erase from his theory any suggestion that these tetrapods somehow “wanted” to evolve advanced sound systems by modifying their jaws.  Each tiny alteration, wrought by mistake, would have had to confer a selective advantage with sufficient benefit to outcompete all the population lacking it.  Remove the assumption of evolution and the story becomes implausible to the point of absurdity.    There is a somewhat trusted method of scientific reasoning called inference to the best explanation.  It is not infallible, but applied to the complex design of the mammalian ear, would certainly prefer the design explanation over the chance explanation.  A corollary would be that simpler animals would be designed with simpler equipment.  This would provide a “top-down” approach, similar to explaining supermarket products as all designed, with some complex products designed for formal dinners and simpler ones for snacks.  Scientifically and logically, the “top-down” explanation is just as valid as the “bottom-up” explanation.  For those not already blinded by Darwin dogma, most people, we expect, would feel the design inference much better supported by the evidence.(Visited 42 times, 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