Focus: news of interest about creation and evolution
In a spin over spiders
The ‘ancient cousins’ of modern spiders could have been spinning webs 300 million years ago, according to new research.
An ‘unusually well preserved’ arachnid (spider) fossil unearthed from a mine in Ohio, USA, has what appear to be silk-spinning structures on its body.
But other researchers, while admitting that the structures resemble those of modern spiders, are yet to be convinced that the ancient arachnids had the capacity to spin webs.
BBC News, <news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3267605.stm>, 14 November 2003.
Evolutionists’ doubts are understandable, given the obstacles to such intricate design features (see Creation 23(2):20–21, 2001) arising by evolution, even if hundreds of millions of years were available (which they weren’t). However, the evidence fits with the biblical account of fully-functional creatures (including web-spinning spiders) being created around 6,000 years ago to pass on their design features to subsequent generations. The detailed preservation of such fossils is consistent with rapid burial in the biblical Flood.
An Australian court judge has ruled that physical violence to a pregnant woman’s abdomen to deliberately kill the unborn baby does not constitute murder—nor manslaughter—not even ‘grievous bodily harm’.
The case arose when a Sydney man could not persuade his girlfriend to abort their baby, so he attacked her when she was 24 weeks pregnant.
Tragically, the unborn baby bled to death, and ‘did not take a breath outside the uterus’.
While the judge acknowledged the woman had ‘some soreness’, there was no evidence to show grievous bodily harm. ‘At common law, a foetus cannot be a victim of violence.’
The Australian, 10 October 2003, p. 7.
The Bible makes it clear that the unborn baby is a person (Genesis 25:21–22, Psalm 139:13–16, Jeremiah 1:5, Luke 1:41–44). From conception, the embryo is biologically fully human, with its full complement of DNA. Well before the 24th week, this person is moving—even sucking a thumb. But the ruling, while distressing, is not surprising. Aided by large sectors of Christendom, Western society has rejected the Bible’s authority in Genesis in favour of the ‘scientific consensus’—which also says we are just evolved animals. Even endangered animals have received more sympathy from the courts.
Givers live longer
A five-year study of elderly married couples has found that the amount of practical support they received from friends and relatives, or the amount of emotional support from a spouse, did not have much effect on their health.
But for the givers, it was a very different story. Even after allowing for factors such as age, sex, physical and mental condition, and socio-economic status, researchers found a 42% reduction in mortality among those who regularly gave practical support to others, and a 30% reduction for those who gave emotional support.
Science, 25 July 2003, p. 461.
Jesus said, ‘It is better to give than to receive’ (Acts 20:35), but this makes no sense if evolution were true—i.e. if we are the result of millions of years of fierce competition in a dog-eat-dog world. The Bible says we were created by God to love and serve Him and our fellow man (Mark 10:43–45).
Scientists have long puzzled over how the ancient Jews made a blue dye used to colour garments worn during religious ceremonies. Although they knew the dye, called tekhelet, was prepared from a pigment extracted from shellfish, the exact knowledge of how to produce it was lost 1,500 years ago.
Now the mystery has apparently been solved—it seems fermentation is the key. An amateur scientist isolated the blue pigment from cockles, then fermented it for 10 days at 50ºC (120ºF).
The watery solution turned green. But when a cloth dipped in the green fluid was sun-dried, the dye reacted with the oxygen in the air, and turned blue.
New Scientist, 20 September 2003, p. 24.
Notions that man was once ‘primitive’ do not fit with the evidence that ancient man was intelligent, inventive and innovative. (Recommended reading: The Puzzle of Ancient Man, by Donald Chittick)
‘Life-starter’ vents—billions or thousands of years old?
At various places on the seafloor, jets of superheated (400ºC, 750ºF) mineral-rich water spurt out of hydrothermal vents. Feeding off the chemicals in the hot fluid, colonies of microbes live around these vents.
In the 1980s, New Zealand geologists claimed ironstone pods found in ‘3.5-billion-year-old’ rocks in northeastern South Africa were ancient hydrothermal vents. Based on their reports, many scientists came to believe these pods showed what the ancient oceans were like and explained how life first got a foothold on earth.
But two US geologists who have carried out a new analysis, say that the pods are nothing more than deposits from underground springs active in the last few thousand years, not billions of years. One of the original researchers laments ‘Quite a few people, including me, have been burnt by this.’
Geology, October 2003, pp. 909–912.
Nature Science Update, <www.nature.com/nsu/031027/031027-6.html>, 18 Nov. 2003.
Which illustrates that all such pronouncements about the unobserved past are based on assumptions, and even long-held ideas can be dramatically overturned by new research.
In the latest edition of The Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World, the highest mountains on various continents have had their heights revised downward from the previous edition.
Kilimanjaro (Africa) has been lowered by three metres to 5,892 m (19,331 ft) while AconÂcagua (South America) and Kosciusko (Australia) have each lost one metre to now stand at 6,959 m (22,831 ft) and 2,229 m (7,313 ft) respectively.
While the reduction in height is mainly attributed to the greater accuracy of modern surveying techniques, this is not the whole story, as erosion is clearly a factor. Mount Cook, the highest peak in New Zealand at 3,754 m (12,316 ft), lost 10 metres (~30 ft) when, in 1991, an avalanche of rock and ice removed its entire top.
Meanwhile, many of the world’s largest lakes have also shrunk. The Dead Sea is 16 m (52 ft) shallower than it was three decades ago. Lake Chad, once the fourth-largest in Africa, has shrunk by 95%, and the Mesopotamian Marshlands have shrunk by 93%. The coastline of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan has had to be redrawn because of the reduction in the Aral Sea, and Antarctica, too, has had to be redrawn following the disintegration of the Larsen ice shelf in 2002.
The Telegraph, <www.telegraph.co.uk>, 18 November 2003.
Such rapid changes in the earth’s geography might surprise many who are used to thinking in terms of ‘slow-and-gradual’ processes over millions of years. As we have pointed out before, erosion at places like Niagara Falls, the white cliffs of Dover, as well as these well-known mountains occurs far too quickly to fit a millions-of-years timescale. The biblical timescale fits the evidence better.
Some people worry about an asteroid smashing into the earth—similar to the one believed to have caused the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. But a report in the September 2003 Geology journal looks to the threat from below, not above.
It says, basically, that civilization could end in … a giant belch. A deadly burp of methane from deep in the ocean is being blamed for having wiped out much of life on the planet 250 million years ago [the alleged ‘Permian-Triassic extinction’]—an even worse catastrophe than the one believed to have hit the dinosaurs nearly 200 million years later. This methane supposedly came from methane hydrates formed in the enormous pressures in the ocean depths (cf. Journal of Creation 15(2):89–93, 2001).
And it could happen again—calculations show even just 1% of the ocean volume can contain so much methane that its explosive force would be 10,000 times greater than if all the nuclear weapons now on the earth were detonated at once.
So a local disturbance, such as an earthquake, could force methane to rapidly exit the ocean in a giant flammable burp, with flooding, ‘explosions and conflagrations’ destroying most of terrestrial life.
The Cincinnati Post, 15 October 2003, p. 5A.
Of course, there were no mass extinctions 250 or 65 million years ago—and no millions of years either. Such stories attempt to explain the geological evidence without reference to the biblical eyewitness account of earth’s history (i.e. they ignore the creation and the Flood).
A comet is a ‘dirty snowball’ of ice and dust, speeding around the solar system. When a comet’s orbit nears the sun, the heat and light cause material to escape from the snowball, forming a cloud around the head and a tail up to millions of kilometres long.
In 1998, astronomers saw an object near the sun which they suspected was a headless comet.
Now astronomers have confirmed that the sun does indeed sometimes decapitate comets. Pictures taken from a NASA spacecraft in May 2003 revealed that as two comets passed close to the sun, the heads vaporized in the heat, but the tails continued on their path.
New Scientist, 21 June 2003, p. 26.
The visible decay of comets—giving them a maximum age of thousands of years, not millions or billions—speaks of a young universe. (See also Creation 25(3):36–40, 2003.) Accumulating evidence frustrates attempts by long-age astronomers to explain the origin of comets, as the following report shows.
Astronomers have a problem—where are the precursors of comets hiding?
It had been thought that the icy outer reaches of our solar system are the source of the stream of comets that we see from earth. But a ‘meticulous search’ of that area—known as the ‘Kuiper belt’—turned up only 4% of the expected number of ‘trans-Neptunian objects’ (TNOs), i.e. lumps of dirty ice.
Writing in the Astrophysical Journal, the researchers admit their findings are ‘wildly inconsistent’ with the observed number of short-period comets. Consequently, they say that ‘models for the origin of [short-period comets] are missing some important process.’ (See also Journal of Creation 16(2):15–17, 2002.)
Science, 5 September 2003, p. 1304.
The evolution of suicide bombing
Natural selection played a part in producing suicide terrorism, says anthropologist Scott Atran, a professor at the University of Michigan in the US and at the National Centre for Scientific Research in Paris. Suicide bombing involves the manipulation of human sentiments that are part of biological evolution, he claims.
‘Natural selection gives us all sorts of dispositions and desires that were adaptive in ancestral environments’, he explains. ‘Now, our cultural milieu picks certain of these adaptations or their by-products and is able to trigger them to produce behaviours that have nothing to do with what they originally evolved for.’
Discover, October 2003, p. 22.
If you believe that evolution is responsible for everything in the cosmos, you have to find a way to give a materialistic rationale for both selfless compassion and for mankind’s propensity for rape (see Creation 23(4):50–53), genocide, torture, serial killing—and terrorism. In fact, Genesis explains our capacity for both good (we are made in God’s image) and evil (that image was marred when Adam rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden).
Fish aren’t dimwits
Far from being dunces held back by a three-second memory, fish are highly intelligent. They have been observed tracking social relationships of other fish in their shoal, using tools to build nests and bowers, and exhibiting impressive long-term memories (of at least three months).
UK researchers said that fish ‘can even be favourably compared to non-human primates’.
The Daily Mirror (UK), 1 October 2003, p. 13.
The Examiner (Tasmania), 20 September 2003, p. 25.
The fact that fish intelligence can be equated to that of chimps highlights the fallacy of standard evolutionary expectations that the apes, as ‘our closest evolutionary relatives’, would be the animals to most closely match the intelligence of humans. There was (and is) no evolutionary progression from ‘primitive’ to ‘advanced’—all kinds of animals were created separately, with man being made in the image of God.
New evidence shows that pterosaurs were not primitive, cumbersome flyers but had a highly developed sense of balance. In fact, they might even have outperformed today’s birds in complex aerobatic manoeuvres.
X-ray scans of pterosaur skulls have revealed a massive flocculus—the region of the brain that integrates signals from joints, muscles, skin and the balance organs.
In birds, this region is unusually large compared to other animals, occupying between 1 and 2% of total brain mass. But in pterosaurs the flocculus occupied an incredible 7.5%—probably because of their large wing size [fossil pterosaurs have wingspans up to 15 metres (see Creation 24(2):31, 2002)].
Researchers think that by gathering information from the sensitive wing membranes, the flocculus could build up detailed in-flight maps of the forces being experienced by their ‘smart wings’, giving the pterosaurs excellent flight control.
New Scientist, 1 November 2003, p. 19.
Nature, 30 October 2003, pp. 910–911, 950–953.
How and when could such a flight-controlling brain have evolved? The first pterosaurs were fully-functional pterosaurs—see Pterosaurs and bats have always been pterosaurs and bats!