A difference of opinion between intelligent design and evolution is ongoing — anyone who looks into the structure of the cell and sees the myriad of operations occurring has to stop and wonder: How can evolution account for this? And if evolution is a culling process, what generated the initial set of entities to be culled? On the other hand, intelligent design advocates have to answer some questions also: Why does the mitochondria structure in the cell exist? How does one account for adaptations? Where did that pesky reverse transcriptase come from?

Anyone looking at a system as complex as the cell is inclined to make statements that such complexity could never have evolved. One would do well, however, to look into the phase space of a very simple coupled polynomial system. The phase space solution set of these polynomials become chaotic in the mathematical sense of the word. An incredible complexity exists in even the simplest equations. Steven Wolfram has show that simple generators can produce the complex patterns on a mollusk shell. So complexity in itself is not an indicator of intelligent design.

Consider the mitochondria structure in the cell. This is a structure which provides cellular energy. Current thinking is that, at some point, a cellular organism ingested a bacterium of similar structure to the mitochondria, and instead of the bacterium’s proteins being digested, as usually happens, the bacterium instead survived as a symbiote within the cellular organism. The fact that the structure exists indicates a fortuitous occurrence rather than a structured design — unless one wants to argue that this ingestion was part of the design.

Also adaptations clearly occur. Man has been adapting domestic animals and grains for millennia. MRSA is a bacterium which has adapted to the human immune system, much as AIDS has adapted to the human T cell. And clearly these adaptations have passed beyond the somatic. The existence of reverse transcriptase throws a monkey wrench into the orderly intelligent design process. No electrical engineer would design a control system with a pole in the left hand plane, which is what a molecular design with reverse transcriptase amounts to.

So if God exists as an intelligent designer, are we to believe that it is as Woody Allen quips: ” …the worst you can say about Him is that basically He’s an underachiever.”

Evolution theorists have to do a little introspection also. Evolution in its strictest sense is the process by which adaptations make the transition from the somatic to the germ line. That is to say, adaptations that are passed along to offspring. Organisms with the adaptation, in the sense that they are more suited to the environment, survive to procreate. Less well adapted to the environment, they do not survive and eventually they are eliminated (rendered extinct). Thus evolution is a culling process — the fittest are those organisms which survive, with continued existence being the only criteria. But this begs the questions of the adaptations in the first place. Where did they come from and what was the source of the original pool from which viable processes were ‘selected’? Evolution is a backwards acting process, a culling of options. Somewhere in the process there is a need for new adaptations, new structures. There is some support for the hypotheses that radiological mutations provides such a pool. Other thought suggests that matter is endowed with self-organizing properties.

The physical world is described by the laws of thermodynamics. The second law, which states that entropy tends to increase, leads to the ultimate final state being the heat death of the universe. Evolutionists are constrained by this law. There is a preferred direction for processes. Combining things together into a higher energy state seems to violate the second law. If, as Ben Stein notes, life evolved from lightning striking the mud puddle, there are a lot of missing links, most of which violate the second law.

Note that the fact that they are missing is not surprising: Why shouldn’t they be missing. Millions of years could have passed under identical geological conditions which produced our fossils without proteins and amino acids being preserved — they are just too fragile. Only after life adapted and generated shells, bones and mineral inclusions could there be a preserved slice of the process to study.

But life itself seems to violate the second law. The significant factor, the one spark that distinguishes life from all other matter seems to be the ability to self-organize. The question is whether self-organization is another natural law which we have overlooked or the result of some prime mover or intelligent designer. Certain nanostructures are known to self organize — the so-called self-assembly process. So it is conceivable that all that electrified mud self organized into amino acids, complex phosphate chains, proteins and that the sieve of selection gave us the foundations of cellular metabolism.

Is self-organization a result of a process that has been overlooked and is responsible for that initial pool of selectees we evolved from? Or is this process the indicator that there is some higher intelligence guiding the development of life, but in a way that is far more clever and inscrutable than either side in the debate supposes?

As the Glorious Heartland is once again covered with snow to a depth sufficient to fill Southerners with eternal horror for the first time in the season, your gentle (but angry) author feels a burning need to once again rail against the greatest peril of the season: other drivers. So we proudly present this classic rant for your enjoyment and edification. If it forces even one horrible driver off the road, well, then, it’s all worth it, isn’t it. I mean, think of the children!

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These past weeks, we had our first major snowstorm of the year in the Land of Lincoln. Oh, not that there hadn’t been snow before, but this was the first snowstorm that truly deserved the “storm” part. Blizzard Warnings, Blowing Snow Advisories, and all that. Which meant, of course, it was time for Morons on Ice (well, snow).

There is really only one rule to driving on snow: Change is bad. Speeding up, slowing down, turning, changing lanes—these things cause trouble. Remember that, and you’re fine. Forget that, and, well, you’re a moron. This means of course that you can drive 50 mph perfectly safely, if the road is straight, and you’re not surrounded by morons who don’t know about things like braking distance on snow and ice. It also means that you can drive 15 mph and be a complete hazard on the road…apparently a very popular option.

There is a certain type of driving moron who thinks that by driving 10-20 mph slower, they have somehow “paid their dues” to the Snow Gods and are thereafter absolved of any need to modify their other stupid driving habits. So they’ll slam on the brakes, jam on the accelerator, weave through traffic, take turns abruptly, fail to signal and do all the other things that actually cause accidents on snow, ice, or for that matter perfectly clear pavements under a sunny sky.

And, on snow, this has the added benefit of jamming up traffic behind these fools, since often it’s not possible to pass at all, much less safely, due to snow and ice blocking parts of the road or requiring a much greater amount of time and distance to pass cars safely. As I was reminded of why I hate driving to work in the snow (hint: it’s not the snow, the road, or the wind), I compiled this handy catalog of Morons on Ice:

The Scatterbrained/Ungoverned Venturers (S/UVs) These drivers have chosen the “safest” vehicle for snow: a 4WD SUV of monstrous proportions. They then either drive that SUV in the exact same way they would on dry city pavements in Chicago—brake or gas pedal jammed to the floor at all times (these are the ungoverned venturers) or they creep along at 10 mph, despite having the vehicle best able to travel straight lines safely in snow (these are the scatterbrained). Since you can’t see around them, unless you too have decided to express your hatred of the Earth in your vehicle choice, you’re stuck wondering why they bothered to buy a huge SUV instead of the tiny rice burner they clearly think they’re driving.

The Oblivious These drive any sort of vehicle, though they seem to favor larger sedans. They drive fast or slow but either way have apparently decided that driving in snow removes any requirement to observe what other vehicles happen to be doing. I was nearly rear-ended by one of these while stopped, in the only open lane of a road, waiting for someone to turn left, at the end of a line of six cars! The moron never even stopped, but he was able to swerve left at the last moment, into oncoming traffic, and barrel past the line (including the left turning car, who had the presence of mind not to get in front of the charging idiot). You’d think that the driving conditions would indicate that you should pay more attention, not less, but you’d be wrong where these fools are concerned.

NASCAR Rejects Real NASCAR drivers are skilled professionals who are amazingly good at not crashing into other cars in the worst of conditions. But the rejects here drive like NASCAR drivers without the skill, training, or special tires. Every stop light is a starting line, and every intersection is a finishing line. Each start or stop requires full, pedal-to-the-metal acceleration or braking. Strangely this behavior doesn’t mix well with snow, slush, and ice. It does, however, lead to amusing results like fishtailing out of control and spiralling through an intersection into a ditch. Sadly, sometimes they wind up slamming into a car which is actually proceeding through the intersection in an orderly fashion.

The Post-Hoc Expert These are the morons who find themselves in an accident of any sort, clearly entirely their fault, and then make increasingly absurd arguments about why they weren’t really to blame and why they deserve a break from the usual consequences of being either stupid or unlucky on snow. Why everyone else should have to foot the bill for their driving habits is, of course, never addressed. They are the “whiny little bitches” of snow driving, and deserve the contempt reserved for such.

So there we have it, a brief catalog of the worst offenders, who turn a Winter Wonderland into the Demolition Derby, and bring to every snowy intersection the level of stress of a trip “outside the wire” in Iraq. Come to think of it, that’s probably a good solution: ship these people to Iraq and force them to serve convoy duty. After all, there’s not a lot of snow there, and in sandstorms nobody can see anything anyway. And most of their bad habits could be an asset in driving supply convoys, where mad dashes through crowded streets are a survival habit, not a muderous rampage.

But whatever you do, get these people off the streets of the Heartland during Winter!