Focus: creation news and views
Inside DNA, a 2nd code!
Since the genetic code (DNA) was deciphered in the 1960s, a core assumption in biology has been that DNA determines how proteins are made. However, recent research has revealed that scientists have “missed half of the picture” (as one of the researchers put it). That’s because it’s now realized that there is “a second code hiding within DNA”.
The genetic code comprises 64 three-letter codons made from a 4-letter ‘alphabet’. This latest discovery shows that some codons, dubbed duons, can have two functions. I.e. not just to describe how proteins are made, but also to instruct the cell on how genes are controlled.
So, a single genome, but two ‘languages’: one to convey information about protein sequence, the other about gene control. “One language is written on top of the other,” a University of Washington media release explained, “which is why the second language remained hidden for so long.”
As if there wasn’t already enough evidence that “DNA is an incredibly powerful information storage device”, surely this latest discovery should give diehard atheists cause for thought. Such dual-function information stored in DNA had to come from an information-provider. (As Dr Werner Gitt has pointed out in his book Without excuse—available via creation.com/store.)
Actually, for some time, geneticists have realized that there are several other coding languages such as the epigenetic and splicing codes—see Creation 30(2):42–44, 2008 and creation.com/splicing.
- Second code uncovered inside the DNA, time.com, 13 December 2013.
- Scientists discover double meaning in genetic code, washington.edu, 12 December 2013.
- Exonic transcription factor binding directs codon choice and affects protein evolution, Science 342(6164):1367–1372, 2013.
Our great-grandfathers had more brainpower
A new study led by psychologist Michael Woodley (Umeå University, Sweden) has found that our 19th century ancestors were “substantially cleverer” than we are.
The researchers compared reaction times (reflex speed) as an indicator of our ‘fleetness of mind’ or general intelligence across the generations since the 1800s.
(Although the alternative indicator IQ is a useful measure of general intelligence today, the researchers could not meaningfully compare it directly across different eras as earlier generations usually had only limited access to education, nutrition, and hygiene, which would have boosted modern results.)
They compared modern reaction times with those measured in the late 19th century by Francis Galton (Charles Darwin’s first cousin who founded eugenics (Creation 28(1):18–22, 2005; creation.com/eugenics). They found that an average man in 1889 had a reaction time of 183 milliseconds, but in 2004 it had slowed to 253 milliseconds. For the average woman, too, there was a deterioration over this same period: from 188 down to 261ms. The researchers say this slowing in our reflexes can be equated to a loss of 14 IQ points since Victorian times. This “pronounced decline” is three times larger than previous theoretical estimates.
Along with genetic studies showing progressive mutational degradation of our human genome, with about 100 new mutations per generation (see John Sanford’s book Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of the Genome—creation.com/store), here is yet more evidence of our being in “bondage to decay”, just as the Bible says (Romans 8:19–22).
- Were the Victorians cleverer than us? Research indicates a decline in brainpower and reflex speed thanks to ‘REVERSE’ natural selection, dailymail.co.uk, 13 May 2013.
- Were the Victorians cleverer than us? The decline in general intelligence estimated from a meta-analysis of the slowing of simple reaction time, Intelligence 41(6):843–850, 2013.
Yukon dino footprints resemble “blobs with toes”
University of Alaska researchers have found thousands of dinosaur footprints fossilized in the rocks along the banks of the Yukon River, Alaska.
Preserved in strata classified as Cretaceous, the dino prints were described as “natural casts” formed after the creatures stepped in mud, and sand then filled in their footprints. The resulting fossils were described as looking like “blobs with toes”.
It’s clear that the prints were preserved in most unusual conditions. There could not have been much time between the animal stepping in the mud and the sand filling in the depression, otherwise the print would have eroded away. And the thickness of the strata indicates that the water level was rising, therefore allowing for more sediment to be deposited on top.
Thus footprints like this are classic evidence for the inundatory stage of Noah’s Flood, specifically the period as the waters were approaching their peak. (Another example: Thousands of footprints found in China, Creation 33(2):47, 2010; creation.com/dino-panic.) These provide an amazing glimpse of the attempts of the animals to escape the rising waters of Noah’s Flood. Given the animals were still alive at the time they left these footprints, the waters had not yet completely covered the earth. But once the earth was entirely inundated, all land-dwelling, air-breathing animals perished.
- Thousands of dino tracks found along Alaska’s Yokun River, livescience.com, 25 September 2013.
Wild imaginings about ET
A Scottish scientist believes that the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) may find signs of alien life not in radio signals but rather in the form of huge machines built in space by alien civilizations.
Dr Duncan Forgan from Edinburgh’s Royal Observatory suggests for example that we should look for ‘megastructures’ that might be millions of miles wide. Such would signify an ‘advanced’ civilisation which might have the power to destroy planets, and even to reshape solar systems.
“We may detect the presence, or remains, of an alien civilization that felt the need to move their star!” Forgan mused.
- New hunt for aliens who “move stars”, uk.news.yahoo.com, 8 July 2013.
A very fishy story
Do you know why you use hand gestures to help you get your point across when speaking to others? (And many people even do it while speaking via telephone, when the other person can’t even see them! So do people born blind, even when talking to each other, although they have never seen a gesture and their gestures are unseen (Nature, 26 November 1998).) According to Professor Andrew Bass of Cornell University, you can thank your fish ancestors for that.
Bass says that the coupling between our speech and hand movements can be traced back to a developmental compartment in the brain of fishes. While fish fins and forelimbs are mainly used for locomotion, they also function in social communication, including fishy ‘gestural signalling’:
“Coupling of vocal and pectoral-gestural circuitry starts to get at the evolutionary origins of the coupling between vocalization (speech) and gestural signalling (hand movements). This is all part of the perhaps even larger story of language evolution.”
What a lot of ‘fish talk’. This overlooks the fact that any fish ‘signalling’, such as attracting a mate, is completely devoid of linguistic syntax and semantics.
- Why do we gesticulate?, sciencedaily.com, 2 July 2013.
Scientists’ herd mentality?
A University of Bristol Ph.D. student has exposed uncomfortable truths about the scientific journal peer-review process.
His just-published study on a proposed new model for peer-reviewing describes a phenomenon known as herding which “subjects the scientific community to an inherent risk of converging on an incorrect answer and raises the possibility that, under certain conditions, science may not be self-correcting”.
In other words, scientists are too scared to be seen to be challenging the dominant paradigm for fear they will be ostracized or perhaps even lose their job.
Despite being given freedom under the model to make their own judgments, herding occurred in three different conditions which caused study leader Mike Peacey to suggest that the “subjective views of scientists should be encouraged in peer-review”.
One report pointed out that bankers had been roundly criticized for herding: if your banker gives bad advice, that could cost you financially but if a scientist gets it wrong, people’s lives may be at risk.
The hallowed process of peer review is not all it is cracked up to be, either. When a prominent medical journal ran research past other experts in the field, it found that most of the reviewers failed to spot mistakes it had deliberately inserted into papers, even after being told they were being tested.
- Scientists falter as much as bankers in pursuit of answers, theconversation.com, 5 December 2013.
- Modelling the effects of subjective and objective decision making in scientific peer review, nature.com, 4 December 2013.
- How science goes wrong, economist.com, 19 October 2013.
British schoolchildren have “No idea who Jesus was”
In the UK, the rampant rise of evolution-fuelled secularism, and even hostility to Christianity, has had consequences that should be of concern to even non-Christians.
The government’s own education watchdog has found that “children are so badly taught in religious education lessons that they don’t know why Jesus is a key figure in Christianity”. A recent report from OFSTED (Office for Standards in Education) found that in 60% of schools, teaching on religious things is so weak that “pupils are given only a superficial knowledge of faith”.
Even some secularists seem rightly alarmed that basic knowledge of the most significant figure ever to have shaped the history of humanity, and especially the UK, is in danger of being lost.
- Jonathan Petre, The pupils who are so badly taught they don’t even know who Jesus was, dailymail.co.uk, 6 October 2013.
- Religious education: realising the potential, report available, ofsted.gov.uk, 6 October 2013.
Fossils in Venezuela’s oilfields
Oil companies’ surveys in Venezuela have revealed what paleontologists describe as a ‘treasure trove’ of fossils. The 12,000 recorded specimens include a six-tonne mastodon, a giant armadillo the size of a car, a crocodile bigger than a bus and a sabre-toothed tiger.
Most of the fossils were found in a large area north of the Orinoco River, and many are said to reek of “a strong smell of oil”. They have been ‘dated’ at anywhere from 14,000 years ago to 370 million years ago. But is such a mind-bogglingly broad age range even meaningful? Without any hint of irony, the head paleontologist at the Venezuelan Institute for Scientific Research, Ascanio Rincon, said:
“Paleontology is fun. It seems that it has no use, but it has economic implications. With a fossil record, we can determine the age of an oilfield.”
- Out of the oil emerges Venezuela’s ‘Jurassic Park’, phys.org, 5 September 2013.
Giving ear to imaginary voices
A new global movement among professional clinical psychologists is taking a very different approach to treating patients who ‘hear’ phantom voices. Instead of trying to silence or ignore the voices, patients are being encouraged to ‘engage’ with the voice—whether perceived as benign or malevolent.
Rufus May, a UK clinical psychologist who himself is part of the four percent of the population that hears voices, was recently treating a patient when one of her voices, called ‘Top Dog’, asked for its own Facebook page. When they granted its request, Top Dog “went on a forum for other people who hear voices and said, ‘Hey you lot, I’m a voice. Is anybody else out there a voice and they want to share ideas with me?’”. Now May says there’s a whole community of voices online, who talk to each other from different countries around the world.
Many older readers would no doubt have once regarded such overt encouragement of the ‘voices’ as unthinkable in any western (‘Christian’) country a few years ago. However, it’s right in line with the adage (often attributed to G.K. Chesterton) that if people stop believing in the God of the Bible, they don’t then believe in nothing, they’ll believe in anything—see creation.com/superstition.
- Why it’s healthy to give imaginary voices their own Facebook pages, abc.net.au, 5 December 2013.
Evolutionists don’t have an iron-clad answer to soft dino tissue
Evolutionary dogma teaches that dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago. But this has been upset by finding soft tissues and molecules that should long ago have disintegrated over such eons: blood vessels and blood cells, proteins such as hemoglobin, osteocalcin, actin, tubulin, collagen; bone cells (osteocytes), DNA, and the fast-decaying carbon-14 (see Double-decade dinosaur disquiet, Creation 36(1):12–14, 2014; creation.com/dino-disquiet). However, evolutionists are unwilling to abandon this dogma (a short age would be fatal to evolution, so might point to a Creator to whom we are accountable, and the atheistic evolutionists can’t have that!). So instead of believing the known facts of these discoveries and their breakdown rate, they have faith in an unknown method of preserving these tissues.
Dr Mary Schweitzer, a fideistic theistic evolutionist who made most of those discoveries, tested a method that she had proposed earlier: that iron from hemoglobin might have preserved these tissues. She argues that iron might “act in much the same way formaldehyde does to preserve the tissues and proteins.” She soaked ostrich blood vessels in both water and in hemoglobin extracted from red blood cells. The blood vessels in water were degraded in a week, while those soaked in hemoglobin were intact after two years. So “Haemoglobin (HB) increased tissue stability more than 200-fold, from approximately 3 days to more than two years at room temperature (25°C [77°F]).”
However, problems remain. Iron is nothing like formaldehyde, which directly cross-links proteins. And even bodies embalmed in formaldehyde are known to decay eventually. Even if bacteria and enzymes are stopped, the proteins and DNA will eventually succumb to ordinary chemistry, especially reactions with water, over millions of years. One might also ask how realistic a concentrated laboratory hemoglobin extract is, compared to the real world. Indeed, tissues rich in blood vessels, such as lungs and gills, often decay very quickly. One infamous example is the gills of dead basking sharks that rot and slough off to form the pseudo-plesiosaur shape (see creation.com/plesiosaurs2).
For more, see creation.com/dino-desperation.
- Iron preserves, hides ancient tissues in fossilized remains, NC State University, news.ncsu.edu, 26 November 2013.
- A role for iron and oxygen chemistry in preserving soft tissues, cells and molecules from deep time, Proceedings of the Royal Society, B: Biological Sciences 281(1775):20132741, 27 November 2013.
Evolutionary timeline doesn’t fig-ure
The evolutionary timeline, drawn from man’s idea that evidence from such things as the fossil ‘record’ and molecular genetics can tell us about evolution, presents many contradictions. The latest is that fig wasps came before figs! As Science Daily put it:
“A 115-million-year-old fossilized wasp from northeast Brazil presents a baffling puzzle to researchers. The wasp’s ovipositor, the organ through which it lays its eggs, looks a lot like those of present-day wasps that lay their eggs in figs. The problem, researchers say, is that figs arose about 65 million years after this wasp was alive.”
- Ancient ‘fig wasp’ lived tens of millions of years before figs, sciencedaily.com, 5 December 2013.
T. rex tooth found in another dinosaur’s tailbone
There are at least two important things to be understood from the recent discovery of a T. rex tooth embedded in the fused tail vertebrae of a hadrosaur (duck-billed dinosaur).
Firstly, the secular millions-of-years dating of the fossil to a time long before man ever walked on the planet must be wrong given the biblical no-death-before-the-Fall timeline. That is, before Adam sinned, there was no carnivory by dinosaurs (Genesis 1:30), nor did any dinosaurs die. Therefore this fossil (like all others, in fact) is only thousands of years old, not millions.
Secondly, this fossil is way down the strata in Cretaceous rock, with all the attendant signs of widespread catastrophic burial processes, pointing to having been laid down during the global Flood of Noah’s day (Genesis 6–9, i.e. about 4,500 years ago). And because the hadrosaur’s bones have grown over the tooth and puncture wound (indicating it managed to escape from the T. rex and survive for at least weeks or some months afterwards), it shows that animal carnivory had come into the world before the Flood (not after, as some have claimed).
- Crunch! T. rex tooth found in dino tailbone, nbcnews.com, 15 July 2013
Turning human evolution theory upside-down
DNA extracted from a supposedly 400,000-year-old femur (thigh bone) from a Spanish cave “completely changes what we know—or thought we knew—about human evolution.”
For one thing, as Professor Chris Stringer of London’s Natural History Museum points out, it’s “shattered the previous record of 100,000-year-old DNA”. (But could DNA have even lasted 100,000 years? The survival of DNA is a major problem for the evolutionary timeline—e.g. see creation.com/dino-dna.)
Evolutionists are also surprised that the DNA more closely matched that found in Denisova Cave in Siberia, than that of Neandertals, in Europe. Professor Allan Cooper, Director of the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA at Adelaide University, was reported as saying this discovery “has turned human evolution theory on its head”. He also said:
“Everybody is mixing with everybody else and providing a complete mess at this stage, which, really it’s hard to keep up. But it certainly shows, I think, the ways in which we think about species forming and maintaining themselves is probably not that accurate.”
As Australia’s national broadcaster put it, “Put simply, this find means it’s back to the drawing board for evolutionists, trying to trace back to a common ancestor.”
- DNA discovery turns human evolution theory upside-down, abc.net.au, 5 December 2013.
- A mitochondrial genome sequence of a hominin from Sima de los Huesos, nature.com, 4 December 2013.
The ‘puzzle’ of Saturn’s ‘youthful appearance’
Did you know that Saturn, reputed by evolutionists to be 4.5 billion years old, is “much brighter than expected for a planet of its age” and that this is “a question that has puzzled scientists since the late sixties”?
Hardly surprising if you didn’t know of this, because such confessions of evolutionary-age ‘puzzles’ aren’t generally publicized until or unless an evolutionist can come up with a plausible-sounding ‘explanation’.
Hence the fanfare heralding a recent paper in Nature Geoscience which has attempted to explain the mystery, yet doggedly keeping to the long-age paradigm. That is, evolutionists are steadfastly avoiding any inference that the reason Saturn looks young, is that it is! (Just as the Bible says.)
Here’s the University of Exeter’s Professor Gilles Chabrier’s summary of the ‘explanation’:
“Scientists have been wondering for years if Saturn was using an additional source of energy to look so bright but instead our calculations show that Saturn appears young because it can’t cool down. Instead of heat being transported throughout the planet by large scale (convective) motions, as previously thought, it must be partly transferred by diffusion across different layers of gas inside Saturn. These separate layers effectively insulate the planet and prevent heat from radiating out efficiently. This keeps Saturn warm and bright.”
Really? But why should Saturn be so different from the other gas giants?
Such a foolish bias (Psalm 14:1, 53:1, cf. Psalm 19:1) in the face of Saturn’s brightness and many more pointers to its youthfulness (see creation.com/young-saturn) seems absurd—but the Bible explains that, too (2 Thessalonians 2:10–11).
- Saturn’s youthful appearance explained, sciencedaily.com, 30 April 2013.
- Layered convection as the origin of Saturn’s luminosity anomaly, Nature Geoscience 6(5):347, 2013.