Focus: creation news and views
Even tiny babies have a sense of right and wrong
In an ingenious series of experiments involving puppets and ‘morality plays’, Yale researchers seem to have established that even at six months, babies have a sense of right and wrong. Psychology Professor Paul Bloom says,
“A growing body of evidence suggests that humans do have a rudimentary moral sense from the very start of life. With the help of well designed experiments, you can see glimmers of moral thought, moral judgment and moral feeling even in the first year of life.”
This challenges the common idea that babies are born with a ‘blank slate’ as far as morality goes. However, some other authorities are not yet convinced, preferring other explanations for the results. But Professor Bloom, whose department has researched infant morality for years, insists that “Some sense of good and evil seems to be bred in the bones.”
This should not be surprising, since Paul in Romans 2:14 refers to the
requirements of God’s law being written on the hearts of even those brought up without it.
- “Babies know the difference between good and evil at six months, study reveals”, www.dailymail.co.uk, 9 May 2010
Mammal hair in amber
A quarry in southwest France has revealed strands of mammalian hair that have astonished researchers. They are almost perfectly preserved in amber that is ‘dated’ at 100 million years—way back in the so-called ‘Age of Dinosaurs’. Hair is one of the chief characteristics that define mammals, and these specimens are so “remarkably similar” (read: “identical”) to modern mammal hair that researchers say that the discovery implies that the structure of hair “may have remained unchanged throughout most of mammalian evolution.”
This of course is no surprise once one puts aside the related fantasies of an ‘age of dinosaurs’ and the idea of millions of years itself, and instead bases one’s thinking on the Genesis account.
- See also creation.com/mammal-hair-in-amber, as well as Creation 28(2):38–40, 2006 (creation.com/evolutionary-stasis)
- “Mammalian hairs in Early Cretaceous amber”, Naturwissenschaften, 14 May 2010.
Not jam, but honey (just as the Bible says)
According to an article in New Scientist:
“The Bible didn’t dub it ‘a land flowing with milk and honey’ for nothing. Not only are the oldest known beehives in the world in what is now Israel, but bee-keepers of the time selected the best bees for the job.”
The article was referring to the excavation of 30 clay cylinders in the ancient town of Tel Rehov in Israel. The cylinders were identical to beehives portrayed in ancient paintings, but which had not previously been supported by any hard evidence. “Ancient Egyptian wall paintings depict bee-keepers, but a painting can be a dream,” explained Guy Bloch of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. “We have found the first real evidence for bee hives in the ancient Near East.”
The researchers say the apiary could have housed up to 200 hives (over 1,000,000 bees) at its peak.
The remains of bees were found in two of the hives. The bees were Turkish bees, not Syrian—Turkish bees produce up to eight times as much honey as Syrian bees, and are less aggressive. Bloch commented that “these bee-keepers must have been highly skilled.”
The researchers were evidently surprised at their find. They had been of the mindset that the biblical reference to Israel as a land with “honey” must have actually meant jam, as no evidence had been found for beekeeping. “Our discovery suggests that this aspect of the Bible may need to be reinterpreted,” says Bloch.
The Bible’s account of history does not need to be ‘reinterpreted’, as it means just what it says, and what it says is true.
- “Biblical bee-keepers picked the best bees”, newscientist.com, 7 June 2010.
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(25):11240-11244, 22 June 2010.
Life “infinitely more complex” than biologists expected
Ten years after the hoop-la surrounding the Human Genome Project, Nature journal reflected on how the study of biology has been affected by the findings.
Prior to the sequencing of the human genome, biologists had assumed that it could contain as many as 100,000 genes that code for proteins. (Sequencing pioneer Craig Venter even suggested 300,000.) The actual number turned out to be closer to 21,000, which meant that the code was much more complex than had been anticipated. Non-coding DNA, which used to be called ‘junk’ DNA, is now recognized to be crucial, but knowledge of its functions is as yet rudimentary. “We fooled ourselves into thinking the genome was going to be a transparent blueprint, but it’s not,” said cell biologist Mel Greaves, of the Institute of Cancer Research, UK.
Biologists are now said to be “struggling” with the question of whether humans can ever comprehend an organism, or a cell, or a molecular pathway, down to the finest level of detail. “When we started out, the idea was that signalling pathways were fairly simple and linear,” explained Tony Pawson, a University of Toronto cell biologist. “Now, we appreciate that the signalling information in cells is organized through networks of information rather than simple discrete pathways. It’s infinitely more complex.”
Infinitely more complex—a sentiment echoed by University of California biochemist Jennifer Doudna. “It seems like we’re climbing a mountain that keeps getting higher and higher,” she said. “The more we know, the more we realize there is to know.”
- Nature 464(7289):664–667, 1 April 2010.
Bone complexity: explained by function not evolution
Bones provide most of the structure and support in vertebrates. They are analogous to girders in the building industry, but bones have a huge advantage over man-made girders, in that they are constantly rebuilding and redesigning themselves to cope with changing stress directions (Creation 12(2):20–24, 1990; creation.com/bones). This involves a fine balance of the activity of bone-depositing cells (osteoblasts) and bone-resorbing cells (osteoclasts). One very important part of bone growth is a protein called osteocalcin, which is designed to match the crystal structure of the main bone mineral, hydroxyapatite (Journal of Creation 18(1):11–12, 2004; creation.com/bone).
All this points to a master Designer of bone. And further support inadvertently came in an evolutionary journal. Two archaeologists trying to find ways of identifying fragments of “prehistoric” bone pointed out: “Bone microstructure does not increase in complexity or refinement through vertebrate evolutionary sequences; instead, it is patterned according to the biological circumstances of the animal.” Notice what this really means: the stale cliché “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution,” is refuted. Evolutionary ideas provided no help at all. Rather, a more fruitful line of enquiry was to act like biblical creationists: ask, “Why is a structure this way? What is its function?” This actually led to useful answers in explaining why a particular bone was finely structured in a certain way. In reality, nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of design!
- Journal of Archaeological Science 37(5): 957–970, 2010.
Rapid canyon formation revisited
Geologists recently investigated Canyon Lake Gorge, Texas, USA, a 22-km long, 7-m deep gorge, that was cut by raging floodwaters in three days, because it has given researchers a rare first-hand look into canyon formation. We have commented on this previously (A gorge in three days! Creation 31(3):32–33, 2009; creation.com/canyon-lake-gorge).
The researchers found that the flood was so rapid that the ability of the floodwaters to carry sediment limited the erosional capability of the flood. However, the flood was able to pick up and move large limestone boulders metres in diameter from the broken bedrock. This would have caused most of the erosion as they were carried along in the sediment-laden waters.
Canyons and gorges have long been thought to form by small water flows over millions of years. However, the researchers stated that there are no real ways to tell the difference between canyons formed rapidly by megafloods, and those that formed over millions of years of slow erosion. So why evoke millions of years at all if we know it doesn’t take that long to form them—and when the only observed ways to form canyons is rapidly? Millions of years is the foundation of secular geology, and yet appears totally unnecessary the more we learn about how landforms are actually created. The uniformitarians who profess “the present is the key to the past” should be more consistent.
- Nature Geoscience, doi: 10.1038/ngeo894, 20 June 2010.
Did Craig Venter really create life?
Many newspaper headlines reported that after 15 years of research, Craig Venter and his team made a new life form (the genome of a bacterium). Many atheopaths claimed things like “God exists, and his name is Venter”. But what did he really do?
Actually, it’s highly questionable that he really made new life, for at least three reasons:
- All living cells have enormously complex operating machinery. Venter didn’t make this, but used the machinery of an already-existing cell.
- The information for this machinery, i.e. the cell’s software, was likewise not invented from scratch. Rather, Venter decoded the information of an already existing cell, modified it, and synthesized new DNA with this information—over a million “letters” worth. Then he implanted this DNA software into a very similar cell with the hardware (both varieties of the tiny germ Mycoplasma).
- Even making DNA molecules this long has enormous chemical and physical difficulties. Venter used proteins from yeast to help.
But even if, in the distant future, Venter makes a genuinely synthetic gem, would it disprove creation? Not at all! It would not be a process of time and chance, but intelligence and foresight.
- See creation.com/synthetic-life-by-venter for more information.
Intelligence and the Pentagon
Just as some artificial intelligence (AI) researchers are pointing out that human brains don’t function like computers, a team in Switzerland is trying to create a computer model to mimic the way the brain does work. The software has apparently been able to simulate the way the “neocortical column” (the basic building block of the outer layer of our brain) behaves. This ‘Blue Brain’ project, with a team of 35 researchers, has led to claims that its anticipated “virtual brain” will have emotions and “even become conscious”. Given that scientists do not even understand the nature of consciousness, that seems an ambitious target. And even if it did succeed in exhibiting “human smarts”, it is estimated that with current technology, such an AI brain would need to be “the size of the Pentagon”.
- “Brain blueprint”, bbcfocusmagazine.com, November 2009.
New eye discovery demolishes Dawkins
©istockphoto.com/ODV; ©istockphoto.com/mipan; wikipedia.org
Dawkins has long attacked the design of the human eye, claiming that it is “wired backwards”. Long ago, we interviewed a leading ophthalmology researcher, Dr George Marshall, who said, “The idea that the eye is wired backward comes from a lack of knowledge of eye function and anatomy.” (Creation 18(4):20–21, 1996; creation.com/marshall). This was thoroughly vindicated by a 2007 discovery that certain cells, the Müller glial cells, form a fibre obtic plate that guides light to the photoreceptors with virtually no distortion or loss.
A discovery this year demolishes Dawkins. Researchers Amichai Labin and Erez Ribak at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa found, “The retina is revealed as an optimal structure designed for improving the sharpness of images.” The Müller cells have a number of extra functions: leaking out “noise” (light reflected off other parts of the eye), reducing chromatic aberration (where different colours are refracted differently by a lens), tuning out non-visible wavelengths which reduces radiation damage to sensitive cells, and sharpening images by directing light to specific receptors.
Dr Ribak says, “The new understanding of the role of Müller cells might find applications in more successful eye transplants and better camera designs.”
So this favourite atheopathic “bad design” turns out to be “an optimal structure” and an inspiration for superior cameras! For more information, see creation.com/mueller-cells-backwardly-wired-retina-v-dawkins.
- Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. USA, 10.1073/pnas.0611180104, 7 May 2007.
- Physical Review Letters 104, 16 April 2010 | DOI:10.1103/PhysRevLett.104.158102.
- New Scientist 206(2759), 8 May 2010.
‘Old Earth’ key to evolution belief
Many church leaders today say “the age of the earth is not important”. But a University of Minnesota study has found that high school and college students who believe the earth is billions of years old are much more likely to accept evolutionary theory.
The same thing happened in Darwin’s day. Darwin’s ideas needed an ‘old earth’—and long-age proponents like Charles Lyell paved the way. (See Mortenson, T., The Great Turning Point, addresses p. 2.)
A key factor is that long-age ideas weaken peoples’ view of the “Books of Moses” as being straightforward history, and particularly the understanding that Earth’s topography, fossils, etc., are largely a legacy of the Genesis Flood. In fact, Lyell’s stated aim was to “free science from Moses” (see creation.com/lyell).
Recognizing that the survey results hold a strategic key in improving acceptance of evolutionary theory by students, University of Minnesota associate professor in biology, Sehoya Cotner, observed: “The role of the Earth’s age is a key variable that we can use to improve education about evolution, which is important because it is the unifying principle of biology.”
(Of course evolution is not the ‘unifying principle’ of biology, though evolutionary curricula present it as such. See creation.com/superfluous.)
So, to counter the evolutionists’ strategy of teaching an ‘old earth’ as a way of softening up students to accept evolution, Christians should be “vaccinated” to resist such teaching with information refuting long ages, e.g. see creation.com/101-evidences-for-a-young-earth.
- Physorg.com, 10 March 2010.
- Evolution 64(3):858–864, March 2010.
Largest dinosaur graveyard ever
The fossils of dinosaurs (as for some other animals) are often found jumbled and smashed together in big fossil graveyards or bonebeds. Some are so large they are referred to as megabonebeds. Now the biggest dinosaur megabonebed ever found has been discovered near Hilda, about 50 km north of Medicine Hat in Alberta, Canada. It contains thousands of remains, mostly of the plant-eating ceratopsian (horned) dinosaur Centrosaurus.
Such finds are forcing progressive revision of previously common uniformitarian explanations for bonebeds, such as dinos drowned while crossing a river. Researchers have this time interpreted the animals as having died during the flooding of a vast coastal landscape during a huge storm. They say that “with no high ground to escape to, most of the members of the herd drowned in the rising coastal waters. Carcasses were deposited in clumps across kilometres of ancient landscape as floodwaters receded.” Sound a bit like something a global Flood might do?
Such megabonebeds, while gradually forcing uniformitarians closer to Flood explanations, offer a seeming puzzle to creationists as well—the bones in this and some other cases show signs of having been scavenged by frenzied meateaters. Creationist researcher Michael Oard has intensively studied such issues, along with so-called ‘nesting sites’ and megatrackways. His findings make fascinating and encouraging reading in a new book, Dinosaur Challenges and Mysteries (meanwhile see his article in Creation 25(2):10–12, 2003; creation.com/dinotracks).
- CBC news, www.cbc.ca, 18 June 2010.
Moth eyes inspire anti-reflective surface—but difficult to copy
Reflected glare is a problem for viewers of display screens, and it’s also a problem for solar cells—light that’s reflected can’t be converted into electrical energy. But researchers have noted that although moths see well at night, their eyes don’t shine in light, meaning that they are harder for predators to see. This is because the moths have orderly arrays of tiny bumps, or nipples, on the surface. They are smaller than the wavelengths of visible light, and they deflect and absorb light rather than reflect it—much like the nippled foam on the walls of sound-proof rooms.
Several Chinese researchers at American universities have found a way to mimic this moth eye structure for solar cells. One of them says, “Moth eyes are not very reflective. We found our inspiration in nature, trying to mimic the natural nanostructure.”
Their method is much cheaper than normal anti-glare coatings—all they need is a suspension of nanoparticles, a template mask on a solar cell wafer, and spinning the wafer in the solution. The nanoparticles just assemble into place. The resulting pattern reduces reflection to only 2%, compared with 35–40% without anti-reflection coatings.
However, it has not been so easy for TV screens. The nanoparticle coatings are quite fragile. But Michael Foley, president and CEO of Reflexite, a Connecticut-based company, says that if they can make such screens economically, “100 percent of the television market would convert that day.”
- “Moth eyes may hold key to more efficient solar cells”, physorg.com, 22 February 2008.
- “Moths’ Eyes Inspire Reflection-Free Displays”, LiveScience.com, 25 May 2010.
‘ET found by NASA’
‘ET found by NASA—Life on Saturn moon’ was the bold newspaper headline in June this year. Titan is one of 62 moons orbiting Saturn and the only moon in our solar system known to have an atmosphere—mostly nitrogen with traces of methane and ethane. So what is the evidence for this momentous claim? Two things:
- “[Researchers] say hydrogen gas flowing down through Titan’s atmosphere disappears at the surface, suggesting it could be being breathed by alien bugs.”
- “Also the lack of chemical acetylene on the surface has led scientists to believe it may be being eaten by something.”
One wonders what they have concluded from the lack of dog food on the surface. Professor John Zarnecki of the Open University is quoted as saying, “In four billion years time, when the sun swells into a red giant, it could be paradise on Titan.” In the meantime, ET had better keep his/her/its coat on; the surface temperature on Titan is about minus 178° C.
- The Sunday Mail (Brisbane, Aust.), 6 June 2010, p. 54.
Species numbers slashed
Many anti-creationists often triumphantly claim that Noah could never have fitted ‘all those millions of species’ into the Ark. A recent reassessment of the likely total number of (non-bacterial) species on the planet has come up with the figure of 5.5 million.
This is far less than the commonly-cited figure of over 30 million, from a 1982 suggestion by Smithsonian Institution researcher Terry Erwin. The latest figure, said to be “perfectly reasonable”, is based on work by Andrew Hamilton of the University of Melbourne, Australia.
His work suggests that up to 3.7 million of his drastically lowered species count is from one invertebrate group alone, the arthropods (e.g. insects, spiders and crustaceans). But Noah was only required to take creatures that breathe through nostrils, i.e. vertebrates (Gen. 7:22). And millions of species live in the sea—whereas God’s instructions for the Ark referred to land-dwellers. Add to that the fact that the biblical kind is broader than species, and we are left with probably fewer than 20,000 animals—even allowing for extinct types—on board Noah’s Ark. See also Noah’s Ark: A Feasibility Study (available from addresses, p.2; show book cover).
- “Global biodiversity estimate revised down”, newscientist.com, 9 June 2010.