Focus: news of interest about creation and evolution
Iguana surfing—same facts, different story.
Last issue we reported on the 15 iguanas that were seen surfing in to colonize a new island, having traveled hundreds of kilometres across open ocean on a vegetation raft. We were delighted at this demonstration of one of the ways creatures were dispersed after the Flood. Surprisingly, the very same event was featured in the world’s leading anti-creationist journal, NCSE Reports (July/Aug 1998, p. 6), as a demonstration of an ‘evolutionary mechanism’ (!).
Vulture vortex victory
Designers of aircraft wings have long tried to overcome the various problems of ‘drag’ associated with the lifting power of wings.
One of these is the drag loss associated with the tips of wings, where the flowing air causes spiraling flows called vortices. This is why aircraft designed to operate efficiently at high altitudes have to have very large wingspans.
Many different shapes for wingtips have been tried, with mixed success, in order to alleviate this problem.
A group of Swiss researchers noticed that vultures, birds with relatively short wingspans, seemed to be remarkably efficient soarers.
So they designed wingtips which imitate the special spreading tip-feathers of vultures.
The results are described as ‘startling,’ allowing them to halve the span of the wing for the same lift/drag ratio.
Flying, p. 109, January 1999.
Even the lowly and despised vulture displays super-intelligent programming.
Making rapid rocks
We previously reported (Creation 17(2):8, 1995) that mud was turning into solid rock in Norfolk salt marshes in a matter of months.
Now Max Coleman of the University of Reading has found out that this happens due to the co-operative action of two types of bacteria that live in seawater. The resultant stony deposits are of iron sulphide and iron carbonate.
Coleman believes that such deposits, because they happen so quickly, could easily preserve fossils ‘before they can rot.’
New Scientist, p. 25, 19 September 1998.
At the time of the Genesis Flood, many of the creatures buried rapidly would have been covered in (often salty) mud.
The action of such bacteria might help explain the rapid hardening needed for beautifully preserved fossils, which are plentiful (and are impossible to reconcile with slow hardening over long time-spans).
The capacity for rich and varied speech is unique to humans. We have our vocal chords deep in the throat, forming a large cavity, which allows us to create the rich range of sounds typical of human speech. No animal has such an arrangement.
Because of this efficient design for speech, adults cannot simultaneously breathe and swallow food or drink without risk of choking.
However, infants do not have a problem with this because they are born with the vocal chords higher in the throat, allowing breathing and suckling at the same time, without choking. As a child grows, mainly in the first six years, the vocal chords move down to the adult position.
New Scientist, pp. 46–47, 5 December 1998.
We are indeed beautifully designed.
A while ago, evolutionists would not have expected to find any fossils in rocks that they thought were, say, three billion years old—life supposedly hadn’t evolved yet. However, fossils of bacteria kept turning up in progressively ‘older’ rocks (no surprise to creationists), which allowed less and less ‘time’ for the first life to evolve in the hypothetical, oxygen-free ‘early atmosphere.’
Now an Austrian/Swiss team of scientists has looked at rock from Western Australia’s Pilbara region, supposedly around 3.5 billion years old, and found fossilized cyanobacteria.
These appear to be indistinguishable from the same (oxygen-producing) creatures making the mat structures called stromatolites in the shallows of Shark Bay, some 500 kilometres away on the coast.
BBC News (internet) 27 March 1999.
The West Australian, 26 March 1999.
Researchers have long known that some plants, like cotton, corn and tobacco, when suffering insect attack, are able to send out chemical distress signals. These summon wasp species which are natural predators of that caterpillar type.
The incredible sophistication of these signals has now come to light. For instance, the same plant will send out one signal if being attacked by corn ear worms, and another when attacked by tobacco bud worms.
The plants even ‘sweeten the deal by producing nectar to feed the wasps, giving them an incentive to stay.’
CNN website, 4 February 1999.
The researcher concerned found it ‘amazing.’ But her expressed awe was for ‘evolutionary forces,’ not the obvious creative intelligence on display.
An eye-full of design
Have you ever taken a picture of someone with the sun behind them? The resulting picture looks washed out, no matter how carefully you work out the exposure. This washed-out effect or lack of contrast is caused by light bouncing around inside the camera, between the lens and the film.
Physicist Edward Kelley says, ‘So I copied the design of the human eye, which uses liquid to fill the gap between lens and retina [thus overcoming this problem].’ Of course you cannot fill your camera with fluid because it would ruin the film. However, the new digital cameras do not have film.
So Kelley made a digital camera with silicone oil between the lens and the device which senses the image. The modified camera is up to 70 times better than one filled with air.
New Scientist, p. 17, 5 December 1998.
Egyptian chemistry lesson
Ancient Egyptians synthesized chemicals for cosmetics, forensic chemists in France say. Egyptian cosmetic powders contained ingredients that were so rare that they had to have been synthesized. And all this was going on up to 4,000 years ago.
New Scientist, p. 27, 13 February 1999.
Much technology would have been lost (to differing degrees in the various groups of people) following the Babel dispersion. Clearly, the level of technology around when Noah built the Ark was much greater than many imagine today, due to the prevailing false belief in the upward progression of man from grunting animal to astronaut.
Siberian link for Amerindians
Languages naturally group into a small number of ‘families,’ which may each represent one of the original ‘stem’ languages resulting from the dispersion at Babel. Thus English, Italian, German, Russian and Sanskrit, along with many more, can all be traced back to a common Indo-European source. In remote Siberia, there are 500 people who speak a language called Ket. All other languages belonging to that language family, called Yeniseian, became extinct last century.
Now Merrit Ruhlen of Stanford University tells of 36 words in Ket which correlate with those in Na-Dene, a language family which includes Navajo and Apache. For instance, the word for birch bark, ch’ee (hard to transliterate into English) is identical in Ket and several Na-Dene languages. The word for breast is tuhguh in Ket, and t’uga in a Na-Dene language.
Ruhen says he found many other similarities as well. All of this confirms that the two groups are closely related, as people migrated from Asia across the Bering Strait (then a land bridge) into North America.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 95:13994–13996, November 1998.
Languages change rapidly, especially in small, isolated populations with no writing. This finding has two implications. First, the Yeniseian and Na-Dene families may represent only one stem language.
Second, to have such close correlations still existing makes little sense if the migrations were as much as 11,000 years ago, as is commonly believed. From the biblical record, they would have been less (possibly much less) than some 4,000 years ago.
Big bang proponents believe that as they look further out into space, they are looking back many billions of years, to a time much closer to the alleged primordial event.
So as telescopes have looked further and further out, big bangers, who believe that stars and galaxies evolved over millions of years, would expect to eventually see all the very early stages of galaxies forming. There was some initial excitement at finding some galaxies with bluer light, interpreted as younger galaxies.* Lately, the Hubble telescope has been able to look out to a distance of 12 billion light-years. To big bangers, this means they are looking at things as they were very close to the beginning. However, instead of seeing any ‘protogalaxies,’ they see proper ‘galaxies with huge families of stars.’
The Cincinnati Enquirer, p. A20, 9 October 1998.
The big bang, an almost infinitely flexible concept, has been ‘salvaged’ a myriad of times (in the face of contrary results and failed predictions) by ‘twiddling the knobs.’ This discovery will doubtless trigger off another round of ‘readjustment.’
Mind, man and monkey
New ways of mapping brain function have caused a researcher at Johns Hopkins University to overturn a belief about the human brain.
Previously, scientists had only been able to work on the brains of non-human primates like monkeys. They had assumed that, due to their ‘evolutionary closeness’ to humans, the place where monkeys stored their short-term ‘working memory’ would be the same in humans.
The breakthrough came with functional MRI* scanning in humans, which is able to safely measure differences in blood flow in regions of the brain while tasks are performed.
Humans turn out to have a unique location, significantly further back, for short-term memory (stm) storage.
The areas in humans analogous to the monkey stm site appear to be used for uniquely human functions, such as abstract reasoning and planning for the future.
ScienceDaily webzine, 27 January 1999.
*Magnetic Resonance Imaging—which was invented by the creationist Raymond Damadian (Creation 16(3):35–37, 1994).
Aping human rights
Because the (Genesis) foundation upon which Western culture was built proclaimed that only people were created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26–27), they have been assigned ‘rights’ and legal standing quite distinct from the animals. The more our society is ‘evolutionized,’ the more we can expect this distinction to erode. New Zealand’s parliament recently considered a bill to give great apes certain legal rights. Others are calling for a U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Great Apes. People in the U.S. are considering a lawsuit on behalf of a chosen chimpanzee to set a legal precedent.
Though thoroughly secular, the journal New Scientist fortunately took a strong stand against this nonsense. They pointed out that humans and chimps have a lot of DNA in common, but genes are not ‘cake recipes’—a few genes can make a crucial difference. What’s more, on the basis of assumed evolutionary continuity, one would ‘have to argue continuity between apes and monkeys.’ And then between monkeys and ... .So there is no reason for not giving ‘legal rights’ to lab rats. [Extending the argument further along the evolutionary spectrum, why not rights for cockroaches?]
The journal also cited Ronald Nadler, a psychology professor at the Yerkes Primate Centre, as saying that because the great apes look like us, researchers get ‘sucked in’ to overemphasizing the similarities, and overlooking the differences, which he says are ‘substantial.’ He agrees that chimps ‘should not be sitting alone in small cages. But that’s because the animals are distressed, not because they are obviously human.’
New Scientist, pp. 3, 20–21, 13 February 1999.