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Creation 31(3):7–11, June 2009

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Focus: creation news and views


Oxford University Press has removed a number of words associated with Christianity from its latest edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary, including “sin”, “devil”, “psalm” and “saint”.

The publisher says the changes have been made to reflect the fact that Britain is a modern, multicultural, multifaith society. Oxford University Press selects words for the junior edition with the aid of the Children’s Corpus, a list of words from general language, words in children’s books, and terms related to the school curriculum. Lexicographers consider word frequency when making additions and deletions to the dictionary.

With fewer children in the UK exposed to Christian teaching than in past years, and references to biblical terms being purged from school textbooks, it’s hardly surprising that these words are dropping from everyday language—and hence from the dictionary.

How much harder will it be for evangelists to tell this generation that Jesus died “for their sins”? (Hebrews 7:27)

  • The Telegraph (UK), www.telegraph.co.uk/education/3569045/Words-associated-with-Christianity-and-British-history-taken-out-of-childrens-dictionary.html, 8 December 2008.

Inclined orbit mystery

Every known planet has an orbit that lines up with the equator of its star—except, apparently, planet XO-3b. Observations made by Guillaume Hébrard of the Institute of Astrophysics in Paris and his colleagues indicate that XO-3b’s orbit is tilted by 70 degrees.

This poses a problem for evolutionary ideas about the origins of planets.
The widely accepted theory is that they “coalesced from rotating discs of material and were gradually dragged inwards to their orbits by friction with leftover gases.”

So astronomers are suggesting that XO-3b was knocked into its “cock-eyed orbit” by another planet bumping into it billions of years ago.

But such a planet would have had to have been huge to have had such an effect, as XO-3b has the mass of 12 Jupiters. What’s more, astronomers say that such an event should have caused a gravitational wobble in the star, but no such wobble has been detected.

  • New Scientist 199(2674):8, 20 September 2008.

Vatican hosts “Year of Darwin” conference


The Vatican is sponsoring a five day conference at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome to mark the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species. The subject is the compatibility of evolution and creation.

According to BBC News, leading American evolutionary biologist Prof Francisco Ayala plans to tell the conference that “the so-called theory of intelligent design, proposed by creationists, is flawed”.

Ayala is quoted as saying: “The design of organisms is not what would be expected from an intelligent engineer, but imperfect and worse. Defects, dysfunctions, oddities, waste and cruelty pervade the living world.”

Of course Ayala is incorrect. The staggeringly complex designs that scientists are still discovering in living things cannot but have been designed by a highly intelligent “engineer” (Romans 1:20). While defects and cruelty are indeed present in the current world, mutations and other “imperfections” evident today reflect a once-perfect creation that was cursed as a consequence of the first man’s sin (Romans 8:19–22; see creation.com/romans8).

This again highlights the problem of focusing on “design only” while ignoring Genesis history, which accounts for both perfection and imperfection in the living world.

  • BBC news, news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7920205.stm, 3 March 2009.

Tiny insect’s unique eyes inspire advanced camera

The tiny strepsipteran parasite Xenos peckii is an apparently obscure insect, but it turns out to have amazingly well designed eyes that human engineers have copied.

This insect lives in paper wasps, usually without killing them. The female spends her whole life inside, so needs no eyes. But the male needs to find other wasps with females inside, so has special eyes, shaped a bit like raspberries, to help. Sex pheromones from the female advertise the general area where the wasp containing the female can be found. (Articles under creation.com/carnivory explain where insect parasites fit into the biblical Creation/Fall model).

Insects have compound eyes. While most have hundreds of lens facets, Xenos eyes have only about 50. But each facet is larger, and has about 100 light receptors forming an individual retina. So while most insects see “points” of the visual field, this insect sees “chunks” of real images. This requires vast changes in the insect brain to process these images.

This eye design is unique to the insect world, but is similar to special eyes of now extinct trilobites (Creation 21(1):23, 1998; creation.com/trilobite). But no evolutionist could claim that one evolved from the other because they are vastly different branches of life. Yet the common design principle makes sense with a common Designer.

Now engineers at the British aerospace and defence company BAE Systems have designed an imaging system for missiles and unmanned vehicles, modelled on this eye. This camera has nine lenses, and can scan a wide area then zoom on to one spot without losing the overall field of view. The leader, Leslie Laycock, states, “The wide view and compact nature of the camera means that it could be used in keyhole surgery or CCTV systems.”

BAE Systems are borrowing from other designs in nature as well, e.g. modelling a self-cleaning super adhesive surface on the gecko’s foot (cf. Creation 26(1):22–23, 2003; creation.com/geckoman). For more examples of man borrowing from the master Designer, see the articles under creation.com/biomimetics.

[For a related article, see ‘Bug Eye’ broadens field of view]

  • BBC Focus Magazine, p. 17, December 2008.
  • Science 286(5442):1178–1180, 5 November 1999.

Fossilized fish brain

A fossilized brain has been discovered inside the braincase of a fossil iniopterygian—a creature said to be an “extinct relative” of today’s rabbitfish (also known as ratfish or ghost shark). The fossil was “dated” as being around 300 million years old.

“Fossilized brains are unusual, and this is by far the oldest known example,” said palaeontologist John Maisey, curator of the American Museum of Natural History in New York. “Soft tissue has fossilized in the past, but it is usually muscle and organs like kidneys.”

Well preserved fossils (particularly soft tissues) around the world are consistent with rapid burial in the global Flood of Noah’s day, around 4,500 years ago, not slow-and-gradual processes over supposed millions of years. See “What’s the rabbitfish–T. rex connection?” on p. 38 this issue.

  • Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, doi:10.1073/pnas.0807047106, 9 March 2009.
  • USA Today, www.usatoday.com/tech/science/discoveries/2009-03-02-fossilized-brain_N.htm, 2 March 2009.

Can we make “green energy” as plants do?


The current push for “green energy” has given fresh impetus to the decades-old quest by scientists around the world to mimic the way plants do it, by converting sunlight into fuel. In leaves, photosynthesis converts carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O) into oxygen and carbohydrates such as glucose—the sugary fuel plants need and which we also need to power our bodies.

Note that artificial photosynthesis differs from photovoltaics, the method used in solar panels, which generates an electrical current that can’t easily be stored but must be loaded onto the electrical grid.

“When we say artificial photosynthesis, we mean trying to do what nature does in green leaves: absorb light at room temperature and ultimately convert the light into chemical fuels,” said Catherine Murphy, a chemist at the University of South Carolina, Columbia.

Researchers are clear about the benefits: “The production of hydrogen [the first stage of photosynthesis is splitting the water molecule] using nothing but water and sunlight offers the possibility of an abundant, renewable, green source of energy for the future,” enthuses Tom Mallouk, a professor of chemistry and physics at Pennsylvania State University.

But there’s still a long way to go, admits Mallouk, with practical artificial photosynthetic systems being at least 10 years away. “There are many technical problems to be solved to equal the efficiency of nature’s way.”

“Ask me again in 10 years and I’ll probably say another 10 years,” he said.

  • McClatchy Washington Bureau, mcclatchydc.com/homepage/v-print/story/ 54687.html, 23 October 2008.

Storm over New Scientist cover

With “Darwin was wrong” emblazoned on the cover of New Scientist, the inside editorial and feature article explained that DNA evidence has forced a dramatic rethink of Charles Darwin’s evolutionary “tree of life”. As early as 1993 some biologists were proposing that the “tree” was really more like a “web”. As more molecular data has become available, biologists have become increasingly polarized, with some doggedly defending the tree concept, while others argue that the notion is obsolete and needs to be discarded.

“We have no evidence at all that the tree of life is a reality,” says Eric Bapteste, an evolutionary biologist at the Pièrre and Marie Curie University in Paris, France.

Yet Darwin had argued that the tree of life was a fact of nature. Biologist W. Ford Doolittle of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada, says that the tree-of-life concept was absolutely central to Darwin’s thinking, going so far as to say that without it evolutionary theory would never have happened. As Bapteste says, “If you don’t have a tree of life, what does it mean for evolutionary biology?”

However, both Doolittle and Bapteste stress that their downgrading of the evolutionary tree of life doesn’t mean that they are abandoning the theory of evolution.

Meanwhile, the New Scientist cover itself has generated a storm. One leading anti-creationist blogger writes that he is “still angry” that in the midst of his and other skeptics’ efforts, “New Scientist hands the creationists a propaganda goldmine”. Such is his anger that he says, “Don’t buy New Scientist. Don’t support those that provide support for creationists.”

But New Scientist is strongly misotheistic—see our detailed rebuttal creation.com/24myths.

  • New Scientist 201(2692):5, 34–39, 24 January 2009.
  • Ediacaran, ediacaran.blogspot.com/2009/01/new-scientist-creationist-shills.html, 25 January 2009.

Nervous re-think

The headline summed it up: “Mini marine animals challenge evolution”. DNA analysis of tiny sea creatures called placozoans is forcing evolutionists to rethink their ideas about (supposed) evolutionary relationships between organisms. Placozoans are now said to be “the closest living thing to the ancestor of all animals”.

However, this dramatic re-drawing of the alleged evolutionary “family tree” means that the nervous system would have had to have developed twice—“evolving independently in simple organisms like jellyfish and also in complex animals.”

Explaining how something as complex as the nervous system might have arisen “by evolution” once is hard enough, let alone twice.

  • New Scientist 201(2693):14, 31 January 2009.

Built-in moral sense

Joshua Knobe of the Department of Philosophy at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill was recently asked by a journalist whether there are “universal morals”. Knobe indicated that it appears that people do indeed have some kind of innate moral sense, and that it’s a “phenomenon” that can be observed even in the very young.

It’s a phenomenon also that seems to arise in all different cultures with people speaking very different languages,” he said. “It seems like there’s some reason to think that this thing, the thing we’re talking about here, is not just something we happen to have learned in this culture, but it’s something that’s really built into us as human beings. It seems like some aspect of our moral sense is somehow just part of our kind of biological nature.”

An innate moral sense—by evolution? No, it is “written on their hearts”—by God (Romans 2:15).

  • ABC Radio National, www.abc.net.au/rn/allinthemind/stories/2009/2493436.htm#transcript, 21 February 2009.

A century later, Haeckel’s influence continues

Many readers would know of Ernst Haeckel (1834–1919) and his famous embryo drawings which he used to support his “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny” idea. (I.e., the development of the individual embryo repeats its alleged evolutionary history—see Creation 18(2):33–36, 1996, creation.com/haeckel).

Perhaps less well known is that he was not shy in promoting his atheistic agenda. A 1907 archived news item from The New York Times is headlined “Kaiser honors Haeckel” and reads “BERLIN, March 8.––Emperor William to-day bestowed on Prof. Ernst Haeckel, the celebrated Darwinian and founder of the Association for the Propagation of Ethical Atheism, the title of Excellency, in honor of his golden jubilee as a doctor.”

A century later, despite even evolutionists having demonstrated that Haeckel’s embryo drawings were fraudulent (Creation 20(2):49–51, 1998, creation.com/fraud), textbooks continue to leave today’s students with the impression that abortion is merely getting rid of embryos “at the fish stage”.

So much for “ethical” atheism.

  • The New York Times, 9 March 1907, p. 1.

“Simple” cell has coordinated motors

Many “simple” single-celled creatures have an amazing electrical outboard motor that drives the whip-like cord to swim—the flagellum (Creation 27(1):24–25, 2004, creation.com/flagellum; By Design ch. 10), which even has a clutch (Journal of Creation 22(3):9–11, 2008, creation.com/clutch).

But if that wasn’t complex enough, researchers at the University of Virginia reported that when the “simple” alga Chlamydomonas swims, “molecular motors operate in an amazingly coordinated manner”. One report says:

“The new U.Va. study provides strong evidence that the motors are indeed working in coordination, all pulling in one direction, as if under command, or in the opposite direction—again, as if under strict instruction.”

The study could help humans as well, since a greater understanding of how cells move could lead to cures for degenerative nerve diseases that cause paralysis and blindness.

  • Science Daily, www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/0902 13161043.htm, 25 February 2009.
  • Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0809849106, 12 February 2009.

Chasing Chickenosaurus

Renowned American paleontologist Jack Horner wants to grow a dinosaur from a chicken embryo.

Impossible? Something out of science fiction? Not according to Horner. It’s simply applying what evolutionists have taught for years in school and university textbooks. As New Scientist reported earlier this year: “Look closely at a developing embryo and you can see some ancestral forms briefly appear.”

That led Horner to encourage Hans Larsson of McGill University in Canada to try to grow a dinosaurian tail on a chick by splicing the fast-growing tip from a young chicken embryo onto the tail of an older embryo before it turned into the normal chicken pygostyle (which holds the tail feathers).

The experiment didn’t work. But instead of questioning the long-taught “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny” premise on which it was based, Horner and other evolutionists say the failure “points to the tremendous complexity of the development process”.

Horner is said to dream of one day walking on stage on The Oprah Winfrey Show with a chickenosaurus following him on a leash. However, what really excites him is that a dino-chicken “would be shockingly vivid evidence of the reality of evolution … The creature would be its own sound and vision-bite.”

  • New Scientist 201(2697):44, 28 February 2009.

Mixed-up ideas about solar system history

A news release from the University of Wisconsin reports that analysis of dust from the comet Wild 2, collected in 2004 by NASA’s Stardust mission, is “challenging common views about the history and evolution of the solar system and showing it may be more mixed-up than previously thought.”

Expecting to find “primitive low temperature materials” from the outer reaches of the solar system, the researchers were surprised to find tiny crystals that “appear to have been forged in the hotter interior, much closer to the sun.”

According to University of Wisconsin geology professor John Valley, “These findings are causing a revision of theories of the history of the solar system.”

His comments were echoed by fellow Wisconsin geologist Noriko Kita: “Observations from this sample are changing our previous thinking and expectations about how the solar system formed.”

Michael Zolensky, a NASA cosmic mineralogist at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, put it even more strongly. “This really complicates our simple view of the early solar system,” he said.

  • Science, 321(5896):1664–1667, 19 September 2008.
  • University of Wisconsin–Madison News Release, www.news.wisc.edu/releases/14750, 18 September 2008.

Greyhound speed limit


Is there a limit to how fast greyhounds and racehorses can run? That’s what researcher Mark Denny of Stanford University (USA) wanted to find out. So he analysed records from greyhound and horse races since the 1920s.

Denny found that victorious greyhounds and racehorses progressively got faster until the 1970s, when winning times began to plateau.

It seems therefore that breeders have now selected breeding stock with an optimum body type for fast running. Denny says that greyhounds and racehorses have now reached a peak speed for their species.

This is a good example of how selective breeding reaches limits to what can be achieved, because selection can only work on what is already there. (And mutations are no help—see creation.com/train.) Exactly the same principle is at work with natural selection. Natural selection is a far cry from the creative, “uphill”, limitless process imagined by Darwin—and also by many of today’s lay-folk, beguiled by sloppy public education. (See creation.com/muddy.)

  • New Scientist 200(2685):16, 6 December 2008.

Fossil footprints “just like ours”

Footprints found in sedimentary rock in Ileret, northern Kenya, dated by evolutionists as being 1.5 million years old, have caused a sensation.

The reason? The footprints show that whoever made them had “an essentially modern human foot function and a style of bipedal locomotion matching today’s people.” That is, they walked just like we do. But Homo sapiens is not supposed to have evolved until 200,000 years ago.

The footprints were left by individuals “walking on a muddy river bank”, according to a Reuters report. Archaeologist David Braun, of South Africa’s University of Cape Town, said, “It was kind of creepy excavating these things to see all of a sudden something that looks so dramatically like something that you yourself could have made 20 minutes earlier in some kind of wet sediment just next to the site.”

The prints looked familiar because they were familiar, totally human prints made by people descended from Adam and Eve. Unfortunately, their belief in evolution over millions of years prevented the researchers from considering that simple possibility.

For more, see creation.com/ileret.

  • Science 323(5918):1174–1175, 1197–1201, 27 February 2009.
  • Reuters, uk.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUKTRE51Q1GR 20090227, 27 February 2009.

“Year of Darwin” hype

Richard Dawkins (see p. 6) and other evolutionists have indeed followed through with their earlier stated intention to make 2009 a year in which evolution is proclaimed as never before.

As we go to press, the worldwide “celebrations” of the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his Origin of Species continue without respite.

For example, Australia’s city of Darwin (yes, it was named in honour of Charles Darwin) is hosting a number of “Year of Darwin” events, including an international symposium at its Charles Darwin University: “Charles Darwin: Shaping our Science, Society and Future”.

Elsewhere in Australia, too, there was no escape, with certain country towns in New South Wales flying banners across the main street emblazoned with “Happy 200th Birthday Charles Darwin”.

And in Melbourne, “Evolution—The Festival” included a “Darwin Dinner”, with guests eating their way up the evolutionary tree. Starting with “crusty arancini symbolising the earth’s crust”, the menu proceeded to “primordial soup” (seafood bisque), invertebrate life (scallops, prawns and oysters), then fish, reptiles, birds and mammals. Dessert was marked with meteorites of churros with a “lava” centre—representing “the killer asteroid that ended the age of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago”.

  • Northern Territory News Special Feature, 12 February 2009, pp. 19, 30.
  • Evolution—The Festival, evolutionaustralia.org.au/index.php?page=street-banners, 18 February 2009.