Focus: creation news and views
Finding questions root of Darwin’s tree
DNA analysis of 29 animal species ‘calls into question the very root of the animal tree of life’.
The analysis places the fragile comb jellyfish, which has well-developed tissues, before the humble sponge, ‘which has no tissue to speak of’.
This is surprising because the order should be the other way around; the simple should evolve first, then the more complex.
But the researchers quickly changed their evolutionary story to fit. Study leader, Casey Dunn of Brown University said:
‘This finding suggests either that comb jellies evolved their complexity independently from other animals, or that sponges have become greatly simplified through the course of evolution.’
Heads I win; tails you lose!
- Physorg.com, physorg.com/news123945544.html, 5 March 2008.
Viruses are tiny particles that can’t reproduce on their own, but hijack the machinery of truly living cells. But they still have genetic material, long strands of DNA (or sometimes RNA) enclosed in a protein sheath. As one University of California researcher explained: ‘The genome is about 1,000 times longer than the diameter of the virus. It is the equivalent of reeling in and packing 100 yards of fishing line into a coffee cup, but the virus is able to package its DNA in under five minutes.’
So how do they pack it in?
The answer is in a packaging motor, which for its size is twice as powerful as a car engine. It can capture and begin packaging a target DNA molecule within a few seconds. The motor also manages to repair defects in the DNA as it packs, and even seems to be able to change speed. As the researchers say, ‘Just as it is good for a car to have brakes and gears, rather than only being able to go 60 miles per hour, the DNA-packaging motor may need to slow down, or stop and wait if it encounters an obstruction.’
Life depends upon the long double-thread information molecule DNA, and it could not function without ‘machines’ capable of dealing with such long double-threaded molecules. Yet the information for these machines is itself coded on the threads! Thus the code needs the machines, and the machines need the code. Life presents us with many such ‘chicken-and-egg’ problems for which naturalistic theorists have no answer. Creationists do have an answer—in the beginning, God created a fully functional chicken, which then laid an egg. Problem solved! (For a more detailed article, see creation.com/virusmotor.)
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 104(43):16868–16873, 23 October 2007.
- PHYSORG.com, www.physorg.com/news112896152.html, 29 October 2007.
Acknowledging design (but not the Designer)
If scientists acknowledge design in nature, then by implication they’re acknowledging a Designer, right?
Hence evolutionary biologists have generally been careful not to use the word ‘design’ in their scientific writing.
However, staunch evolutionist Kenneth Miller, addressing the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, now says that scientists have made a strategic mistake in avoiding such language when describing their work.
In his presentation, entitled ‘Communicating Science in a Religious America’, Kenneth Miller said:
‘There is “design” in nature, and we should take that word away from the intelligent design movement.’
- New Scientist 197(2644):8, 23 February 2008.
Horseshoe crabs—‘a good plan’
Evolutionary paleontologists interpret the fossil-bearing rock layers as a ‘record’ of millions of years of evolution, rather than a legacy of the Genesis Flood just a few thousand years ago. They are therefore regularly surprised when fossils of organisms just like those living today (so-called ‘living fossils’) are found ever deeper in the rock strata.
Recently, rocks claimed to be 445 million years old have yielded two horseshoe crab fossils, so well-preserved (consistent with rapid burial as per the biblical Flood) that there’s ‘even evidence of their compound eyes’. Proponents of evolutionary theory have some explaining to do, as the presumed age pushes their supposed evolutionary origins back at least 100 million years earlier than previously thought.
‘We wouldn’t necessarily have expected horseshoe crabs to look very much like the modern ones, but that’s exactly what they look like,’ said researcher David Rudkin of the Royal Ontario Museum in Canada.
Rudkin went on to praise their design, but wrongly credited it to the horseshoe crabs themselves: ‘This body plan that they’ve invented, they’ve stayed with it for almost half a billion years. It’s a good plan,’ he said.
- LiveScience, www.livescience.com/animals/080128-horseshoe-crab.html, 1 February 2008.
- Palaeontology 51(1):1–9, 2008.
Bang! Another thumping headache for evolutionists
Paleontologists from Virginia Tech, using rigorous analytical methods, have identified another explosive evolutionary event in the fossil record. They dubbed it the ‘Avalon Explosion’ (‘dated’ 635–542 million years ago, at the beginning of the Ediacaran ‘period’, according to evolutionary thinking).
This bang creates a second thumping headache because it means that every bodyplan found in the Ediacaran appears suddenly rather than evolving gradually. The other explosion occurs later, in the Cambrian, but there is no known relationship between the two.
Darwin believed that long periods of time would be needed for the different kinds of animals to evolve gradually by small changes. Shuhai Xiao, associate professor of geobiology at Virginia Tech, said:
‘Darwin’s perception could be represented by an inverted cone with ever expanding morphological range, but the fossil record of the Cambrian Explosion and since is better represented by a cylinder with a morphological radiation at the base and morphological constraint afterwards.’
In other words, the Cambrian and Avalon explosions demonstrate that the fossils do not support evolutionary expectations. But when considered as the order of burial by Noah’s Flood, the pattern is easily explained.
- Science 319(5859):81–84, 4 January 2008.
- Science Daily, www.sciencedaily.com/releases/ 2008/01/080103144451.htm, 4 January 2008.
Mithen ‘even more mystified’
In his book The Singing Neanderthals, University of Reading (UK) archaeologist Steven Mithen tried to answer the question: ‘Why should evolution have created a species [i.e. humans] that can sing with such remarkable beauty?’
He said his research had persuaded him that ‘musicality is deeply embedded in the human genome, with far more ancient evolutionary roots than spoken language.’ Yet Mithen himself, at the time of writing his book, admitted to being distinctly unmusical, ‘unable to carry a tune or match a rhythm’.
When some friends suggested that he’d been ‘turned off’ music as a child, and that some coaching in singing could help him find his voice, Mithen decided to try it. For one year he subjected himself to singing lessons—and got frustrated.
‘In The Singing Neanderthals I argued that singing is a means for achieving well-being through social bonding,’ he wrote recently in New Scientist. ‘Sadly, that was not my experience—I simply became cross, stressed and dissatisfied. My singing wasn’t good for my family life either, as my children didn’t appreciate the late night practising.’
What else did Mithen learn from a year of trying to sing? Mithen concludes: ‘By understanding just how remarkably difficult it is to sing—to simultaneously and unconsciously manage pitch, rhythm, timbre, tone and dynamics—I am even more mystified as to why humans have evolved such an amazing ability.’
The answer, of course, is that they didn’t. It’s a gift, from the Giver of life, breath and everything else (Acts 17:25).
- New Scientist 197(2644):38–39; 23 February 2008.
The secret of giving
Nature journal described Japan as ‘A country without alms’, bemoaning the low level of charitable giving, compared to western nations such as the USA. Japan is ‘a culture in which individuals, rich or not, do not generally donate’.
In the West, holding a single fund-raising event can raise millions of dollars, but fund-raising efforts in Japan generally fall flat. Some Japanese organizations, such as the Kidney Foundation in Tokyo, have given up fund-raising because they lose money on it. In Japan, as the locals admit, ‘the will to give is weak’.
We previously reported (Creation 29(4):31, 2007) that certain Japanese authorities noticed their need for an organisation like the Samaritans in the UK. But how likely is it that selfless Samaritan-like behaviour can arise among a people unfamiliar with the famous parable (Luke 10:25–37) and other biblical injunctions encouraging generosity? Similarly, in the West, as the teaching of evolutionary theory undermines the biblical worldview, levels of giving are falling as the proportion of Bible-believers declines—see ‘Who really cares?’, Creation 29(2):9, 2007; and also creation.com/needy.
- Nature 450(7166):24–25, 1 November 2007.
Is TB ‘very good’?
Researchers from the United States, Turkey and Germany found evidence of tuberculosis in a human skull from western Turkey. The tiny 1–2 mm lesions aligned along the bone just behind the right eye socket indicate a type of tuberculosis that destroys brain membranes.
Dated at 500,000 years, it is the oldest evidence for tuberculosis in humans. Previously the disease had only been recognized in mummies from Egypt and Peru dated to an age of several thousand years.
However, the 500,000-year date was not etched on the skull. It was assigned on the assumption that evolution is true. But we know that suffering and disease, including tuberculosis, did not exist in the ‘very good’ world that God originally created. They are a consequence of the Curse He placed on the earth after mankind sinned.
Therefore, the skull would be from one of the populations of humans that migrated away from the Tower of Babel after the confusion of languages after the Flood. As such, it would be less than 4,500 years old.
- Physorg.com, www.physorg.com/news116230398.html, 7 December 2007.
Fossil sea ‘monster’
Scientists recently excavated a gigantic pliosaur in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, in the Arctic Ocean. A pliosaur is a short-necked plesiosaur. ‘The Monster’, as they nick-named it, was half as long again as the previous record pliosaur, discovered in Australia.
Checking in at 15 m (50 ft), the researchers said it is one of the largest, relatively complete plesiosaurs ever found. Its teeth were as long as cucumbers, and a small car could easily fit in its mouth.
During the summer of 2007, the team excavated tonnes of the surrounding shale by hand, recovering parts of its skull, neck, back, shoulder, and flipper. Remarkably, they also discovered the buried remains of three more marine reptiles nearby—a long-necked plesiosaur, an ichthyosaur and another pliosaur.
What sort of catastrophe engulfed these majestic masters of the sea, overwhelmed them all and buried them quickly under metres of sediment? It would have to be a catastrophe of biblical proportions.
- Physorg.com, physorg.com/news123947703.html, 5 March 2008.
Bacteria ‘more complex than imagined’
According to evolution, bacteria (and other prokaryotes) are ‘primitive’ organisms, while the cells of complex (eukaryotic) organisms like humans have a much higher level of sub-cellular organisation.
However, recent research by University of California biochemists ‘blurs the distinction between eukaryotic cells and those of prokaryotes by showing that bacterial cells are more complex than scientists had imagined.’
The researchers have identified how microcompartments—the ‘mysterious’ molecular machines present in a wide variety of bacteria—are able to close in three dimensions, forming a protective shell around enzymes.
The key principle is that a large number of hexagons are combined with 12 strategically located pentagons to create a structure which is completely closed—a principle well understood by architects and soccer ball manufacturers.
Just as soccer balls were designed, so too the bacteria—they are not ‘primitive’ and did not ‘just evolve’.
- Science 319(5866):1083–1086, 22 February 2008.
- Physorg.com, www.physorg.com/news122826699.html, 21 February 2008.
Dinos could breed when young
Researchers have found fossilized ‘egg-making’ tissue in two juvenile female dinosaurs—Allosaurus and Tenontosaurus.
From growth rings inside the fossilized shin-bones, the researchers calculated that the two specimens were aged eight and ten—very young for these dinosaurs, which lived to about 30 years of age. Accordingly, these dinos could breed long before they reached adult size. On this basis, the dinosaurs that came off the Ark did not first have to grow to full-size before being able to ‘multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number upon it’ (Genesis 8:17). (See also Creation 28(1):44–47, 2005; creation.com/dinogrowth.)
- BBC News, news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/7181993.stm, 17 January 2008.
Bird brain super computer
A combined effort by a dozen European researchers (including biologists, physicists and statisticians) examined starlings in the skies above Rome to discover how they could stick together in flocks and move in unison, almost like a super-organism.
The Starling Project, as it was called, analyzed the three-dimensional positions of several thousand individual birds on the wing. They concluded that each starling is continuously computing the positions of an average of six or seven of its neighbours, regardless of how far away they are. They described starlings as having a pre-programmed, numeric, object-tracking ability, which enables the flock to stop predators picking off stragglers.
‘By interacting within a fixed number of individuals the aggregation can be either dense or sparse, change shape, fluctuate and even split, yet maintain the same degree of cohesion.’
The scientists concluded that starlings have brilliant bird brains and are much smarter than they had given them credit for.
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 105(4):1232–1237, 29 January 2008.
Dawkins’ USA campaign—for atheism
Richard Dawkins, the UK’s most outspoken atheist, has America in his sights.
‘America has a problem with evolution,’ he says, and so has embarked on a campaign to try to change that. He has enlisted the help of UK advertising guru Robin Wight ‘to rebrand atheism in a less negative light’.
The American campaign includes a ‘Bible Belt’ lecture tour—when lecturing, Dawkins sometimes wears his T-shirt bearing the slogan ‘Evolution? the greatest show on earth’. He plans to release the paperback version of his bestseller The God Delusion in the US in early 2009—the year the campaign will ‘go global’ to mark the bicentenary of Charles Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of his On the Origin of Species.
- Times Online, www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/science/article 3087486.ece, 23 December 2007.
Newly discovered stars ‘shouldn’t exist’
‘It seems as though every time astronomers point their telescopes at the night sky, some weird new finding forces them to revamp their theories.’ So began an article in ScienceNOW reporting the recent discovery of nine white dwarf stars, and went on to say: ‘The stars defy their expected chemical makeup and by rights shouldn’t even exist.’
That’s because the newly discovered stars are different from other white dwarfs in a number of characteristics, including having atmospheres made entirely of carbon, with no traces of hydrogen or helium.
Patrick Dufour, of the University of Arizona said that the unexpectedly unique chemical signature of these stars ‘tells us that nature has found a way that we didn’t know to make white dwarf stars without the usual hydrogen or helium surface layers’. Astronomer Klaus Werner of Germany’s Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics agreed. ‘There is currently no explanation for how such stars can be formed,’ he said. ‘It’s a real challenge to stellar-evolution theory.’
- Nature 450(7169):522–524, 22 November 2007.
- ScienceNOW Daily News, sciencenow.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/2007/1121/1, 21 November 2007.
Burgess Shale time scale—it happened in a rush
The Burgess Shale in the Canadian Rockies is famous for its layers upon layers of magnificently-preserved creatures—even soft tissue has been preserved in remarkable detail.
This was explained as being due to anoxic conditions (i.e. lacking in oxygen) on the bottom of the supposed tranquil lagoon where the animals lay. These conditions are said to have prevented them rotting away while they were slowly covered by fine sediment, layer by layer, and preserving the eons of time over which evolution unfolded.
According to a report published in the Journal of the Geological Society this iconic story is wrong. The laminated shale did not settle from a tranquil lagoon, but was deposited quickly from a thick slurry that avalanched down a steep slope and blasted across the ocean floor.
Evolution is running out of time. Catastrophic deposition means the rocks formed quickly—so where can they find all those millions of years?
- Journal of the Geological Society 165(1):307–318, 2008.
Evolution creates racists
Research by psychologist Jennifer Eberhardt of Stanford University in California and her colleagues found that many Americans still unconsciously dehumanise their black fellow citizens by subtly associating them with apes.
The results ‘stunned’ the researchers. On reflection, Eberhardt said that depictions of human evolution—which often pass through ‘vaguely African-looking ancestors’ and end with a white Homo sapiens—may dehumanise blacks. One subtlety is the way the skin colour of the ‘ancestors’ changes from dark to light as evolution progresses—i.e. dark skin means more ape-like and fair skin means more human.
However, in an editorial commenting on the finding, New Scientist was careful not to blame evolutionary theory per se, but rather the Victorian portrayal of it. ‘Biology textbooks would do well to replace the classic Victorian depiction of human evolution as a progression from dark-skinned, broad-nosed australopithecines to a European-looking Homo sapiens with one that makes it clear that dark-skinned, broad-nosed Homo sapiens are no less highly evolved.’
New Scientist also said that the study by Eberhardt and her colleagues ‘falls short’ because most of the participants were white American university students—the editors indicated that further research is needed to see whether people of other nationalities and ethnic backgrounds also associate ‘black’ with ‘ape’.
As it happens, the community outcry following the recent push by South Africa’s education system to introduce the teaching of evolution into Year 12 has confirmed that is indeed the case. The Mail & Guardian quoted some black teachers as saying that evolution is a racist theory. It ‘terribly undermines black people, … . It means blacks were apes,’ they said.
So, the problem is not just the ‘Victorian’ portrayal but rather evolution itself. It’s an inherently racist idea that is not supported by the scientific evidence.
(Note that a widely-used textbook, Hunter’s Civic Biology, defended by evolutionists during the Scopes Trial, promoted white supremacy and eugenics. See Creation 29(2):34–36, 2007; creation.com/scopeswind.)
- New Scientist 197(2643):5,10; 16 February 2008.
- Mail&Guardian online, www.mg.co.za/articlePage.aspx?articleid=323114&area=/insight/insight_national/, 17 January 2008.
Crested dinosaur drowned in Mexico
An international research team led by scientists from the Utah Museum of Natural History unveiled the fossilized remains of another casualty of Noah’s Flood—a hadrosaur, or duck-billed dinosaur.
Excavated in the 1990s in north-central Mexico about 27 miles west of Saltillo, the dinosaur was young when it died. But it was still estimated to have been some 7.5 m (25 ft) long. To be preserved it would have had to have been buried promptly, and this would need lots of sediment, which would need lots of water.
And lots of water there was. The researchers said the floodwaters were deep and flowing eastwards depositing thick layers of sediment over a huge geographical area. The sea level was rising continuously. Deposition was rapid and variable, causing slumping and cross-layering in the strata.
The research team struggled to explain what happened. They realized that sea levels were high and suggested that powerful storms devastated the coastline, killing off entire herds of dinosaurs. But, when they are talking about herds of dinosaurs being killed by a storm they are talking about a storm of biblical proportions. Try Noah’s Flood for size.
- Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 27(4):917–930, 2007.
- Revista Mexicana de Ciencias Geologicas 21(3):335–352, 2004.
The tale of a hummingbird
Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, found that a species of bird called Anna’s hummingbird makes its chirping sounds with its tail.
Using high speed video the researchers found the bird moves its tail ultra-rapidly. In a jet of air the trailing vane of a tail feather, consisting of a sheet of interconnecting hooks and barbules, fluttered up and down. A travelling wave moving the entire length of the feather created the 4 kHz chirping.
(For more on this, see creation.com/2birds.)
- Proceedings of the Royal Society B 275(1637):955–962, 22 April 2008.
Mars ‘too salty to support life’
No liquid water has ever been found on Mars. But over the past two years, observations from NASA spacecraft orbiting Mars and from two robotic rovers on the surface have convinced many scientists that water—a key condition for survival of life—once flowed on the surface of Mars.
However, new data from one of the surface rovers indicates that the planet was far ‘too salty’—researchers say microbes could not have survived in such salty and highly acidic waters.
- ABC News, www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/02/16/2164485.htm, 18 February 2008.