Focus: creation news and views
Mars’ red surface “quite recent”
Until 2004, Mars’ red colour was presumed to have been formed by water flowing over the planet’s surface billions of years ago, rusting rocks. But that idea had to be abandoned when the Mars Rovers landed and found certain minerals that would have been destroyed by flowing water. (I.e. suggesting that the red dust on Mars was never in contact with water.)
Now researchers at the Aarhus Mars Simulation Laboratory in Denmark have ed the idea that grinding down of rocks by wind erosion could produce a red material that stained the dust on Mars. They gently tumbled quartz sand in glass flasks for seven months—simulating the mild wind flowing over the Martian surface—then added powdered magnetite, an iron oxide present on Mars. This formed the mineral hematite, which is deep red, giving all the dust a reddish hue.
Having observed in the laboratory that this process can occur relatively quickly, “I think it means that Mars wasn’t always red,” said lead researcher Jonathan Merrison. “Before this work, I think most people in the field kind of thought the Martian surface was billions of years old and had always been red. This work seems to imply that it could be quite recent—millions of years instead of billions of years.”
From billions to just millions of years—but why not reduce it further down to only thousands of years? (Or less?) After all, it only took seven months in the lab! Maybe anything less than “millions of years” sounds too close to a biblical timeframe.
- Space.com, 21 September 2009.
Turning back the evolutionary ‘clock’
Even by evolutionists’ own reckoning, the supposed 3.8-billion-year evolutionary ‘history’ of life on Earth isn’t long enough for evolution to have worked its ‘magic’.
So, it wasn’t too surprising that a paper published in Nature journal that pushes back the evolutionary origins of life to 4.4 billion years ago was welcome news to many. The study used computer modelling to show that asteroid bombardment presumed to have occurred from 3.8 to 4.5 billion years ago would not have sterilized the entire habitable zone on Earth as previously thought. Hence life could have started earlier and persisted.
However, the ever-changing evolutionary storyline and timeline conveniently ignores the fact that claimed ‘evolutionary’ processes such as genetic mutations are not information-gaining and therefore cannot have turned microbes into man, no matter how many billions of years are invoked. The evolution “train” is going the wrong way—see creation.com/train.
Furthermore, this idea just shifts the problem to the alleged origin of the first living cell from non-living chemicals—how would chemical evolution have been able to work its ‘magic’ in such a short time? And as with biological evolution, real chemistry goes in the wrong direction as well, so long ages would not help here either (see creation.com/origin).
- Reuters, reuters.com, 20 May 2009.
- Nature 459(7245):335, 419–422, 21 May 2009.
Origin of flowering plants—Darwin’s “abominable mystery” persists
Charles Darwin wrote to British botanist Joseph Hooker in 1879 lamenting that the (evolutionary) origin of the flowering plants (called angiosperms) was an “abominable mystery”. Various modern-day evolutionists quoted recently in a review in Nature journal indicate it still is. And that’s despite such technological advances as DNA sequencing and the many fossil finds since Darwin.
“We’re a bit mystified,” said botanist Michael Donoghue. “It doesn’t appear that we can locate a close relative of the flowering plants.”
Else Marie Friis of the Swedish Museum of Natural History uses synchrotron radiation to generate a 3D image of the inner structures of fossilized plants, but admits to being unable to trace them back to a single common ancestor. “From these fossils, we cannot say what is the basic form,” she said. Gene-based attempts to find a possible ancestor have failed to identify any reasonable candidates. “The nonangiosperm ancestor just isn’t there,” lamented William Crepet of Cornell University. “I’m starting to worry that we will never know, that it transformed without intermediates.”
In the aforementioned letter to Hooker, Darwin wrote that he would like “to see this whole problem solved”. No doubt today’s evolutionists would too. But they’ll never find a nonangiosperm ancestor to the flowering plants for one very simple reason—there wasn’t any. All the various kinds of flowering plants today descended from their own kind, just as the Creator programmed them to do. (Genesis 1:11–12)
- Science, 324(5923):28–31, 3 April 2009.
Dawkins fears “something worse” than Christianity?
In recent years, Richard Dawkins has tapped into public concern about ‘jihadist’ terrorism by using it as an opportunity to highlight the ‘evils’ of religion—going on to direct his barbs against Christianity and the Bible.
But perhaps Dawkins is becoming a little more circumspect given that recently he said: “There are no Christians, as far as I know, blowing up buildings. I am not aware of any Christian suicide bombers. I am not aware of any major Christian denomination that believes the penalty for apostasy is death. I have mixed feelings about the decline of Christianity, in so far as Christianity might be a bulwark against something worse.”
Trouble is, Richard Dawkins has himself been a major player in the apparent “decline of Christianity” in the UK and elsewhere in the West. By promoting evolution, a crutch for his ardent atheism, he has implicitly or otherwise helped spread the idea that ‘all religions are equally valid (or rather, invalid)’—even among many in the church. Thus with the voice of Christians sufficiently muted that Jesus is no longer unashamedly and publicly proclaimed to be the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6), the rise of non-Christian religious ideas (including those that have no edict to ‘do unto others as you would have them do to you’) has largely gone unchallenged.
Restoring the culture to a love-your-neighbour attitude will probably take more effort now than it would have when Dawkins was young, but is surely not impossible—see the DVD Creation Evangelism in an Islam-Aware World, addresses p. 2.
- The Times, timesonline.co.uk, 2 April 2010.
Evolution controversy in Israel
As Ben Stein’s documentary Expelled showed, evolutionists will often try to sideline individuals who question evolution, rather than engage the issues.
That’s exactly what happened earlier this year, when Israel’s chief scientist in their Ministry of Education, Gavriel Avital, encouraged students to critically examine the evolutionary teaching imposed upon them.
“If textbooks state explicitly that human beings’ origins are to be found with monkeys, I would want students to pursue and grapple with other opinions. There are many people who don’t believe the evolutionary account is correct,” Avital said. “There are those for whom evolution is a religion and who are unwilling to hear about anything else. Part of my responsibility, in light of my position with the Education Ministry, is to examine textbooks and curricula.”
There were immediate calls for Avital’s dismissal.
“It is clear that Avital is not fit for the job,” said Jonathan Erez of Hebrew University, and his earth sciences colleague, professor emeritus Yehoshua Kolodny agreed. “Denying evolution is like denying science itself,” said Kolodny. “Catholics and Protestants long ago ended their war against evolution, and Avital is for all intents and purposes joining the radical fringe of evangelicals in the United States.”
Even the leading newspaper Haaretz weighed in, with an editorial calling on the Minister of Education, Gideon Sa’ar, to sack Avital.
But probably the most outrageous public utterance was that of Tel Aviv University’s Hava Yablonka. He said that Avital’s comments were tantamount “to saying that space should be given in textbooks to the view that the earth is flat and the sun revolves around it. It’s astonishing that the chief scientist of a government ministry can say such bizarre things.”
- Haaretz, haaretz.com, 21, 23, 24 February 2010.
Solomon’s walls found in Jerusalem?
An archaeological dig next to the Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem has uncovered what archaeologists say are fortifications dating back 3,000 years.
The fortifications include a monumental gatehouse and a 69-metre-(77-yard)-long section of an ancient wall. Although the fortifications were first excavated in the 1860s and most recently in the 1980s, archaeologist Eilat Mazar says her dig is the first complete excavation. It is also the first to uncover “strong evidence for the wall’s age”—pottery shards, which archaeologists often use as an indicator of the likely age of findings.
However, not all archaeologists accept the Mazar team’s dating of the wall, “because it would match the Bible’s account that the Hebrew kings David and Solomon ruled from Jerusalem around that time.” Such archaeologists say that David’s monarchy was largely mythical and that there was no strong central government with sufficient manpower and resources to build such massive fortifications in the 10th century BC.
However, how long can those who doubt the biblical account hold out against the ever-increasing archaeological evidence that the Bible is an accurate historical account? See creation.com/archaeology.
- MSNBC.com, msnbc.msn.com, 22 February 2010.
‘Bearded lady’ syndrome is not evolution
A condition that spurs excessive hair growth over the entire human body, congenital generalized hypertrichosis (CGH), first appeared in the medical literature in the mid-1800s, with the case of bearded Mexican-born woman Julia Pastrana.
Although the condition is extremely rare, researchers have now been able to perform extensive genetic analysis on three Chinese families with the disorder. They discovered the specific genetic mutations underlying CGH, showing that it is indeed a genetic disorder, and they found the DNA deletions associated with it.
While excessive body hair has previously been reported in terms of being a ‘throwback’ to our supposed evolutionary hairy ancestors (i.e. ‘atavism’—see e.g. Creation 28(2):7, 2006), the hairiness invariably turns out to be the result of the genetic code being corrupted, a mutational loss of information. This is not evidence of microbes-to-man evolution (an uphill process requiring the progressive acquisition of new genetic information). Rather, it is a downhill process, right in line with the Bible’s account of living things having originally been created “very good” (Genesis 1:31) but now in “bondage to decay” (Romans 8:19–22).
- American Journal of Human Genetics 84(6):807–813, 12 June 2009.
How the giraffe didn’t get its neck
How did the giraffe get its long neck? Evolutionists have come up with various ideas, but there’s still no consensus.
It was said that giraffes evolved long necks because it allows them to reach leaves that smaller animals can’t. But giraffes tend to prefer particular types of leaves rather than leaves at particular heights, “suggesting that competition for different leaves may not have naturally selected strongly for longer necks”.
Therefore it was proposed that giraffes evolved longer legs to run away from predators and needed an equally long neck to reach the ground to drink. But the evidence for that idea, too, “remains flimsy”.
So a more recent idea became popular: that sexual selection, rather than natural selection, drove the evolution of the giraffe’s neck. Proponents pointed to the fact that male giraffes wrestle for dominance by “necking” and “head clubbing” each other, with those with the longest necks and heaviest heads tending to be the victors (and therefore winning the females).
But this idea too has now “bitten the dust”. If long necks were a sexually selected trait, researchers expected to find that long necks should be more exaggerated in males than in females—but they are not. The male necks should also have been disproportionately larger relative to other parts of the body—but there is no difference between the sexes. And the researchers also expected a sexually selected characteristic to have a survival “cost”, but they found that male giraffes are generally no more vulnerable to predators than females.
- BBC News, news.bbc.co.uk, 14 May 2009.
Blind snakes went a-rafting, yo-ho, ho, ho!
Did you know that there are snakes that live underground? “Blindsnakes are not very pretty, are rarely noticed, and are often mistaken for earthworms,” explains Penn State University biology professor Blair Hedges. “Nonetheless they tell a very interesting evolutionary story.”
How so? Well, these burrowing snakes with reduced vision—which is why they are called “blind”—have rarely been found in the fossil record. So Hedges and his colleagues have examined the genetics of blindsnakes in hope of developing an evolutionary lineage.
But their results—based on estimated evolutionary timeframes for genetic mutation—raise a problem. These creatures are presumed to have originated in Madagascar and India, yet are now found all around the world. So how did they manage to colonize Australia, South America and the Caribbean islands?
Hedges and his team say the blindsnakes could have crossed the ocean by floating on flotsam. As National Geographic explained, “In other words, the snakes went rafting, crossing oceans aboard floating vegetation stocked with their insect prey.”
While Science Daily conceded that “floating across oceans seems an unlikely mechanism for a burrowing animal to spread to new continents”, they reassured readers that “the crossing would have taken no more than six months and might not have been too difficult for blindsnakes.”
Hedges was resolute: “Our data now reinforce the message that such ‘unlikely’ events nonetheless happened in evolutionary history.”
Evolutionists have long pooh-poohed creationists’ suggestions that floating vegetation might have been one mechanism by which animals became distributed after the Flood. But when it comes to their own paradigm, it’s suddenly okay.
- Biology Letters, doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2010.0220, 31 March 2010.
- Science Daily, sciencedaily.com, 31 March 2010.
- National Geographic, news.nationalgeographic.com, 1 April 2010.
Bird’s head inspires Bullet Train efficiency
Japan’s “Bullet Trains” travel at up to 320 kilometres per hour (200 mph). However, trains coming out of tunnels at those speeds make a very loud noise like a thunderclap (because of the change in air pressure on emerging), which annoys local residents.
So Bullet Train chief engineer Eiji Nakatsu asked himself, “Is there something in Nature that travels quickly and smoothly between two very different mediums?”
An avid birdwatcher, Nakatsu thought of the design of the kingfisher that dives into water for fish with very little splash. Copying the shape of the bird’s head to remodel the front of the Bullet Train resulted not only in a quieter train, but also one that uses 15% less electricity even while the train travels 10% faster.
Nakatsu recognized the design in ‘Nature’ was worth copying. That design didn’t come about by itself, but needed a Designer. The Bible tells us Who that Designer is (see e.g. Colossians 1:15–18).
- Biomimicry Institute, biomimicryinstitute.org, 12 April 2010.
Laetoli footprints left by “normal human”
Thirty years after being discovered, the famous Laetoli footprints in Tanzania, Africa, are again causing a stir among anthropologists. Dated as being 3.6 million years old, the footprints have generally been presumed to have been made by Australopithecus afarensis (‘Lucy’), a species regarded by many as having walked in a crouching mode like chimpanzees do, i.e. with knees and hips bent when walking on two legs. (Note also evidence of knuckle-walking—see creation.com/lucy-knuckle.)
However, researchers have now filmed human subjects walking across a purpose-built sand trackway either walking normally or with crouched, chimpanzee-like gaits, and compared the footprints. To their amazement, the researchers found that the Laetoli prints are identical to modern human footprints made walking normally.
“Based on previous analyses of the skeletons of Australopithecus afarensis, we expected that the Laetoli footprints would resemble those of someone walking with a bent knee, bent hip gait typical of chimpanzees, and not the striding gait normally used by modern humans,” said anthropologist David Raichlan, of the University of Arizona. “But to our surprise, the Laetoli footprints fall completely within the range of normal human footprints.”
Indeed. Evolutionary researcher Russell Tuttle had already noted some years ago that these prints were just like modern humans who went habitually barefoot. (See creation.com/lucy-walk.) So why aren’t they accepted as what they obviously are, i.e. made by humans? Because of the ‘dating’—humans were not supposed to have evolved yet.
- PLoS ONE 5(3):e9769, March 2010.
- Science Daily, sciencedaily.com, 20 March 2010.
Look for aliens on Earth?
Arizona University physicist Paul Davies has proposed that the best way of proving that extra-terrestrial life exists elsewhere in the universe is to use evidence from Earth.
“We need to give up the notion that ET is sending us some sort of customised message and take a new approach,” he said. Davies argues that the search for ET should focus on Earth’s deserts, volcanic vents, salt-saturated lakes and the dry valleys of Antarctica as places that might harbour “weird” microbes that belong to a “shadow biosphere”.
But evolution has huge problems explaining these extremophiles. See Life at the extremes, Creation 24(1):40–44, 2001.
- The Telegraph, telegraph.co.uk, 25 January 2010.
‘Stone Age’ surgery surprise
The remains of an elderly man discovered in an ancient tomb at Buthiers-Boulancourt, France, have forced archaeologists to re-think evolutionary notions about ‘Stone Age’ man. That’s because the ‘Early Neolithic’ remains, i.e. ‘dated’ as being 7,000 years old, show evidence of surgery, “suggesting our Stone Age ancestors were more medically advanced than first thought.”
Archaeologists Cécile Buquet-Marcon and Anaick Samzun, and forensic scientist Philippe Charlier, said that the left forearm of the man had been surgically amputated while the patient was anaesthetised, and the wound was cleaned afterwards in sterile conditions. The man’s remains showed that he survived the operation, although he evidently continued to suffer from osteoarthritis.
From the true history of the Bible, the evolutionary notion of a primitive ‘Stone Age’ is incorrect—man practised horticulture and agriculture and made metal tools from the beginning, i.e. around 6,000 years ago. The amputee in the Buthiers-Boulancourt tomb in reality dates from after the Genesis Flood (which occurred about 4,500 years ago), followed by the dispersion from Babel after the descendants of Japheth began settling in Europe. See the book by Bill Cooper, After the Flood, addresses p. 2.
- Antiquity 83(322), antiquity.ac.uk, December 2009
- Daily Mail, dailymail.co.uk, 26 January 2010.
Small dogs originated in the Middle East
Researchers have discovered that the IGF1 gene found in all small dogs is closely related to one found in grey wolves in the Middle East.
Dr Melissa Gray of the University of California said that this and other studies point to the Middle East as the place of origin and domestication of small dogs. She interpreted the findings in evolutionary terms: “It just gives us a greater understanding of the history of domestic dogs, being that they’re a close companion animal, and how they’ve evolved to have this great amount of variation.”
Actually, as our article about dogs starting on p. 28 in this issue makes clear, the “great amount of variation” is mostly inbuilt, and in no way is evidence of microbe-to-mutt evolution. Instead, these findings make complete sense in light of the Bible’s account of people and animals repopulating the Earth after disembarking from the Ark’s landing site in the Middle East, following the Genesis Flood.
- BMC Biology 8:16, 24 February 2010.
- ABC News Online, abc.net.au, 25 February 2010.