Focus: creation news and views
Plant hopper gears
The plant hopper Issus coleoptratus is found in European gardens, and can hop from leaf to leaf. The distances involved are much longer than the insect’s body length. The baby insects, called nymphs, take off in only 2 milliseconds. Unless the jumping legs push off at almost exactly the same time, their jumps would be lopsided, and they would spin out of control. Indeed, the legs start within 30 microseconds of each other. Nerve impulses are too slow to achieve such synchrony.
Instead, the insects achieve synchrony with another example of irreducible complexity: intermeshing cog gears. These comprise tiny teeth about 30 micrometers high covering a curved strip about 400 micrometers long.
One report states, “Gears are ubiquitous in the man-made world, found in items ranging from wristwatches to car engines, but it seems that nature invented them first.” The journal Nature says:
“The discoverers, Zoologists Malcolm Burrows and Gregory Sutton at the University of Cambridge, UK, say that this seems to be the first example in nature of rotary motion with toothed gears.”
One report pointed out some of the remarkable design features:
“The gears in the Issus hind-leg bear remarkable engineering resemblance to those found on every bicycle and inside every car gear-box. Each gear tooth has a rounded corner at the point it connects to the gear strip; a feature identical to human-made gears such as bike—essentially a shock-absorbing mechanism to stop teeth from shearing off.”
However, the researchers still believe that they evolved. But the problem is how they evolved by a Darwinian step-by-step method. Like many other machines in living organisms, they would not work unless fully formed. So natural selection would not pick the hypothetical in-between forms.
For more, see creation.com/gears.
- Interacting gears synchronize propulsive leg movements in a jumping insect, Science 341:1254–1256, 13 September 2013.
- Functioning ‘Mechanical Gears’ seen in nature for first time, sciencedaily.com, 12 September 2013.
Remnants of a town dated to about 2,000 years ago have been discovered on the northwest coast of the Sea of Galilee, in Israel’s Ginosar valley. Archaeologist Ken Dark of the University of Reading in the UK, leader of the team that discovered the architectural remains and pottery during a field survey, said that the ancient town might be Dalmanutha, a place Jesus visited (Mark 8:10).
“Vessel glass and amphora hint at wealth,” said Dark, while “weights and stone anchors, along with the access to beaches suitable for landing boats … all imply an involvement with fishing.” The artefacts suggest that Jews and those following a polytheistic religion were living side-by-side in the community. The name Dalmanutha has not previously been firmly linked to a known archaeological site.
- Biblical-era town discovered along Sea of Galilee, livescience.com, 16 September 2013.
- Archaeological evidence for a previously unrecognised Roman town near the Sea of Galilee, Palestine Exploration Quarterly 145(3):185–202, September 2013.
Liars are more evolutionary advanced?
UK scientists are proposing that cheating and lying are the inevitable evolutionary consequences of living in cooperative communities. That is, first cooperation (trust between individuals) had to evolve, paving the way for opportunistic exploitation of another individual’s trust. The researchers claim to have shown from ‘game theory’ and observation of 24 primate species that “the evolution of cooperation can create selection pressures favouring the evolution of tactical deception”.
Reporting on this, at least one journalist understood the [im]‘moral’ of the story: “So we humans needn’t feel too bad about our tendency to cheat and lie.”
But then again, the journalist is presuming the researchers weren’t lying about their findings …
- The evolution of lying, theconversation.com, 16 May 2013.
- Cooperating and cheating go hand in hand, abc.net, 15 May 2013.
- Cooperation creates selection for tactical deception, Proceedings of the Royal Society B 280(1762):20130699, 7 July 2013.
Colossal canyon discovery
An enormous mega-canyon has been discovered beneath the deep ice of Greenland. Scientists used airborne radar data to ‘see’ through the 3-km (2-mile)-thick ice sheet, and were shocked to find a huge canyon similar in scale to the world-famous Grand Canyon of the USA, but nearly twice as long. It is carved up to 800 metres (2,600 feet) deep into the solid bedrock that underlies the ice, beginning in the middle of Greenland and continuing northwards to the sea. It is the world’s longest canyon.
Many scientists are surprised because they assumed that all the major features of the earth’s land surface had already been discovered. What is more, they don’t understand how the canyon can be so deep and sharply cut, because their long-age thinking has led them to believe it is about 4 million years old. In such a length of time, the unrelenting grinding force of glaciers should have worn the canyon down into a shallower valley with a rounded, U-shaped cross-section.
The scientists say that the canyon formed before Greenland was covered with ice, and that “the distinctive V-shaped walls and flat bottom suggests water carved the buried valley.” They think a river must have been responsible. But by all accounts, that must have been some river! If they took off their long-age glasses and used biblical ones instead, they would see that high-energy, channelized run-off during the closing stages of the global Flood very quickly carved the canyon. This happened as the freshly-formed landmasses rose and the ocean basins sank, about 4,500 years ago.
- ‘Grand Canyon’ of Greenland discovered under ice sheet, livescience.com, 29 August 2013.
- Paleofluvial mega-canyon beneath the central Greenland ice sheet Science, 341(6149): 997–999, 30 August 2013.
‘Terror Bird’ probably a herbivore, instead
Based upon its size and enormous, ferocious-looking beak, scientists have long assumed that the ‘Terror Bird’, Gastornis, was a ruthless carnivore.
However, recent research has undermined this assumption.
First, US paleontologists found fossil footprints said to belong to an American cousin of Gastornis which do not show any imprints of sharp claws, needed to grapple prey.
Second, the bird’s large size and (presumed) inability to move fast throws into question its ability to capture prey.
Third, analysis of the calcium isotope composition in the bones of Gastornis matches that of herbivores, not carnivores.
As we have explained many times previously, just because a creature has carnivorous ‘equipment’ (‘ferocious’ teeth, claws, beaks, etc.), does not necessarily make it a carnivore. See, e.g., “The ‘bird of prey’ that’s not”, creation.com/vegetarian-vulture; “‘Carnivorous’ dinosaurs had plant diet”, creation.com/veg-dinos.
- Terror Bird’s beak was worse than its bite: ‘Terror Bird’ was probably a herbivore, sciencedaily.com, 29 August 2013.
Darwin descendant finds faith, thanks to Dawkins & Co.
Laura Keynes is Charles Darwin’s great-great-great-granddaughter, holds a doctorate from Oxford University in philosophy, and is recently reported as now professing “a passionate Catholic faith”.
She was in her 20s when a flurry of atheist publications from the likes of Richard Dawkins brought the ‘God debate’ to public prominence. To Keyne’s surprise, “I expected to be moved from agnosticism to atheism by their arguments, but after reading on both sides of the debate, I couldn’t dismiss a compelling intellectual case for faith.”
What’s more, Keynes actually credits “Dawkins and company” for driving her away from atheism. She explains, “One of the things that made me wary of ‘new atheism’ was the strange mix of angry emotion I encountered there: anger at the thought of God; anger at any restrictions on behaviour; anger at thwarted will; pride in the exertion of will; pride in feeling intellectually superior; contempt for anyone who reveals human vulnerability in asking for the grace of God.”
She also noted that “it’s odd for people who [claim they] value reason so highly to make such large concessions to emotion.”
Laura Keynes now finds that when friends and family see her, many of them “raise arguments against Christianity, unprovoked …”.
- If only Charles Darwin could see his descendant now, NCRegister.com, 14 August 2013.
Creation is always ‘the turning point’
Many times previously we have emphasized the importance of Genesis creation in evangelism (see creation.com/evangelism). It’s especially critical for winning people in animistic and majority-Buddhist regions to Christ (creation.com/backwards; ~/mission-not-impossible; ~/binumarien; ~/namblong; ~/liberating-animists).
In context of possible freeing-up of opportunities to present the Gospel in Burma, the Chairman of the Bible Society of Myanmar, Rev Saw Shwe, recently said:
“Bibles are really essential for reaching Myanmar people of other faiths. They want the whole Bible, not just a New Testament, because the creation story in Genesis is always the turning point from their Buddhist ideology.”
- Bible League International: Bringing the Word of God to the people of Myanmar, bl.org.au, 2013.
‘Hopes’ of life on Mars fade
NASA’s Curiosity rover on the surface of Mars has detected no methane gas in the Red Planet’s atmosphere—a finding described as a setback for hopes of finding life there. The results were a surprise to some, given previous reports of the presence of methane on Mars—but those reports were based on observations from afar (by Earth-based telescopes and orbiting spacecraft), rather than actual on-the-ground analysis of the Martian atmosphere.
Methane is considered a key indicator of microbial life, therefore its apparent absence reduces chances that Martian soil contains living microbes or organic fossil materials that would produce the gas.
Despite the setback, some researchers remain upbeat about the possibility of life on Mars, pointing out that on Earth, “there are many types of terrestrial microbes that don’t generate methane.”
There is a glaring inconsistency: a simple molecule like methane (CH4) is alleged to be evidence that it came from life; the incredibly complex molecules of living organisms are claimed to be evidence that they came from non-living chemicals.
- Life on Mars hopes fade after rover findings: study, uk.news.yahoo.com, 19 September 2013.
- Curiosity finding reduces hopes of finding life on Mars, gizmag.com, 24 September 2013.
Neandertal leatherworking discovery
Evolutionists have long portrayed Neandertals as primitive subhumans. This claim has been retreating at high speed for many decades, with discovery after discovery of their sophisticated human behaviour. For example, cooking with utensils and spices, a bone flute, trading jewellery, cosmetics, ‘high-tech superglue’, grave rituals and more. Conversely, these discoveries support what creationists have long taught: Neandertals were fully human, and post-Babel descendants of Adam.
However ‘progressive-creationists’ say that God created over billions of years, because of their commitment to secular dating methods. This entails that Neandertals pre-dated Adam, so they must hold that these were some form of soulless pre-humans. But a major blow was the sequencing of the Neandertal genome, which showed interbreeding with ‘moderns’, thus clearly the same created kind.
The evidence also indicated that these nomadic hunters made sophisticated hunting javelins, and constructed shelters of hide on wooden frames. But direct evidence of sophisticated tools has been sparse, and when present it was often assumed that the technology had been borrowed from ‘moderns’.
However, researchers at Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology found a type of specialized bone tool (a lissoir, a smoothing or polishing instrument) used in leatherworking at two Neandertal sites in France. The microscopic wear on one of them is consistent with their use in modern times “to obtain supple, lustrous, and more impermeable hides.” According to their secular dating (at 50,000 years) this was before they had contact with ‘moderns’—so by secular assumptions, the technology could not have been borrowed. In fact, the researchers suggest the possibility that the technology was invented by Neandertals and passed to other humans.
- Neandertals made the first specialized bone tools in Europe, pnas.org, 12 August 2013.
Geneticists get ‘Adam’ and ‘Eve’ timing wrong—again
New analysis of the male sex chromosome (the ‘Y’ chromosome) has overturned earlier pronouncements from evolutionary geneticists that men’s most recent common ancestor lived around 50,000 years ago. They have shifted the date back to 135,000 years ago—i.e. about the same as geneticists had earlier claimed for the ‘mother of all women’ (on the basis of analysis of mitochondrial DNA, which only women pass on to their children).
Of course they try to distance their findings from having anything to do with the biblical Adam and Eve. Except for the ‘dates’, the genetic data are compatible with all people being descendants of Adam and Eve. The data don’t require large populations of people. And the inflated ‘dates’ derive from evolutionary assumptions about history and mutation rates. When currently measured rates of mitochondrial DNA mutation are used, for example, the timeframe for ‘Eve’ reduces considerably. The genetic data actually agree better with biblical history than the evolutionary story.
Simple solution to the moon’s magnetic puzzle
Two samples of volcanic basalt from the moon were found to be more strongly magnetized than expected. Study lead-author Clément Suavet explained that when lava solidifies, it takes on the magnetic field in its environment.
Most scientists say that the moon formed 4.6 billion years ago and that churning in its molten core worked like a dynamo creating its magnetic field. If this were so, the field should have decayed long ago, but lava samples from meteor impacts show the magnetic field was much stronger for much longer than expected.
Some scientists suggested that meteorite impacts may have lurched the moon and kept its dynamo going for longer. Others suggested that the inside of the moon wobbled and stirred the core, keeping the field going.
However, the latest basalt samples mean the magnetic field was even stronger for even longer, raising even more questions. Suavet said, “The question is, when and how did the dynamo decay?”
Creation physicist Russell Humphreys proposed a simple solution (see creation.com/moons-mag). First, the moon is only about 6,000 years old, appearing on Day 4 of Creation Week. Second, the magnetic field comes from electric currents circulating in the core, not a complicated dynamo. Third, these electric currents decay relatively quickly, which is why the moon’s field is so weak today. Finally, the magnetic field had not decayed much when the meteorite impacts formed the basalt ‘seas’ on the moon. This was at the same time as the global Flood on earth, only 1700 years after it formed.
- Persistence and origin of the lunar core dynamo, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110(21):8453–8458, 2013.
- Mystery of Moon’s magnetic field deepens, space.com, 10 May 2013.
Fossil frog “still looks gooey”
A fossilized (‘mummified’) frog found in southwestern France in 1873 has long been thought to be merely a cast—albeit a finely detailed one showing “exceptionally well-preserved external morphology”. However, thanks to modern imaging technologies (e.g. X-ray tomography), it turns out to have “exquisite preservation” of its internal anatomical features as well.
National Geographic said the specimen “looks less like a fossil and more like the crispy remains of a modern frog left out in the sun too long” and that it “still looks gooey after over 34 million years”.
For those with eyes to see, the worldwide abundance of beautifully preserved fossils actually presents a very strong message against the millions-of-years paradigm—see creation.com/seeing-the-pattern.
- Fossil frog still looks gooey after over 34 million years, livescience.com, 25 September 2013.
- A re-interpretation of the Eocene anuran Thaumastosaurus based on microCT examination of a ‘mummified’ specimen, PLoS ONE 8, 9: e74874, 2013.
Surprise, surprise, children put self before others
One school of thought in academic psychology is that children are born inherently ‘good’—a notion directly at odds with what the Bible says (e.g. Psalm 51:5, Romans 7:18), and with the everyday reality of a parent’s experience!
Now a psychological study has formally documented graphic self-centredness in very young children. When three-year-olds were given some stickers and asked how they should divide them with another child, they responded by saying that they and others should share equally. But their actual behaviour was a different story: they kept most stickers for themselves!
It was not until the children reached seven and eight years of age that they began to divide up the stickers more fairly.
Compare the biblical injunction to do to others as to oneself—Luke 6:31, Philippians 2:4, James 2:8; and Jesus’ second commandment, “Love your neighbour as yourself.” These clearly presuppose that benefiting and loving oneself are the default states that don’t require any instruction. This latest study confirms what the Bible already taught.
- At age three we are all hypocrites, abc.net.au, 21 March 2013.
Submerged forest discovered in Gulf of Mexico
The Genesis Flood 4,500 years ago set the scene for the world’s Ice Age (creation.com/ice), when sea levels were lower than they are today (creation.com/ark-animals-to-australia). Creationists have estimated that period to have lasted about 500 years (creation.com/tackling-the-big-freeze), time enough for substantial forests to have become established in areas where growing conditions were conducive.
Scuba divers recently discovered a “primeval underwater forest” about 18 m (60 ft) below the sea surface of the Gulf of Mexico. The stumps and fallen logs of Bald Cypress trees cover at least 1.3 square kilometres (0.5 square miles), and the area teems with fish and other marine wildlife.
Ignoring the Bible’s timeline of history, scientists ‘dated’ the forest at about 52,000 years old. But the evidence fits the biblical timeframe beautifully. E.g., when the Cypress trees are cut, “they still smell like fresh Cypress sap”. What’s more, the site “has just a few years to be explored, before wood-burrowing marine animals destroy the ancient forest.”
- Primeval underwater forest discovered in Gulf of Mexico, livescience.com, 8 July 2013.
More ‘disarray’ for evolution’s ‘tree’
Once again, hot debates arise between evolutionists over the placement of fossil creatures in evolution’s ‘tree of life’. The Nature headline put it this way, “Fossils throw mammalian family tree into disarray”.
This latest controversy concerns two fossils of what has been described by paleontologists as a newly discovered haramiyid species. One research team says the group belongs in mammals, another research team says they don’t.
Observing the fracas, Richard Cifelli, a vertebrate paleontologist at the Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, said, “These new fossils change everything.”
- Fossils throw mammalian family tree into disarray, nature.com, 7 August 2013.