Focus: creation news and views
Atheists most in love with E.T.
Atheists are much more likely to believe in aliens than are those with religious convictions.
Vanderbilt Professor of Astronomy David Weintraub reveals the figure in his book Religions and Extraterrestrial Life—How Will We Deal With It?
As the title suggests, Weintraub investigates how different religious communities have addressed the question of extraterrestrial life.
He quotes a poll which shows that 55% of atheists are convinced that life will be found elsewhere in the universe, as are 44% of Muslims, 37% of Jews, 36% of Hindus and 32% of Christians. Of Christians, the breakdown was Eastern Orthodox (41 percent), Roman Catholics (37%), Methodists (37%), Lutherans (35%) and Baptists (29%).
- Salisbury, D., Are the world’s religions ready for E.T.?, news.vanderbilt.edu, 29 September 2014.
600 million-year-old ‘living fossils’?
Danish researchers recently examined a curious deep-sea ‘mushroom’, dubbed Dendrogramma, but it has proven difficult to categorize. It does bear some similarities to corals, jellyfish, and comb jellies, but it doesn’t have some of the defining traits of those groups.
The researchers also noted several similarities with the ‘Ediacaran fauna’—strange soft-bodied life forms found lower than Cambrian fossils (‘dated’ to 635–540 million years ago—see also creation.com/ediacaran-explosion). If so, this would make Dendrogramma the longest-lived ‘‘living fossil’’ of all multicellular creatures—600 million years of no evolution (according to their own ‘dating’ methods)!
- Just, J. et al., Dendrogramma, new genus, with two new non-bilaterian species from the Marine Bathyal of Southeastern Australia (Animalia, Metazoa incertae sedis)–with similarities to some medusoids from the precambrian Ediacara, PLOS One, 3 September 2014 | doi: 0.1371/journal.pone.0102976.
Blue blood from ‘living fossil’ helping mankind
The horseshoe crab has long been regarded as a ‘textbook’ example of a ‘living fossil’. Its fossil representatives are found even in layers labelled as Ordovician, supposedly 450 million years old. And they look much the same as modern-day horseshoe crabs; certainly there is no evidence of any substantive evolution in all that massive alleged time.
The blue blood of the animal is also useful for mankind (see also Creation 26(4):24–25, 2004; creation.com/horseshoe-crab). It has been used for decades to help test for microbial toxins and impurities. Called the Limulus Amebocyte Lysate test (LAL), results are available within the hour and can determine quickly whether someone has a bacterial or a fungal infection.
According to a report that described the horseshoe crab as “an ancient animal, more [sic] than half a billion years old” researchers are now close to perfecting a synthetic substitute for LAL by “cloning their ancient chemical wisdom”.
The irony is the glib way in which these long timespans are inserted into such discussions, while missing the obvious; that the ‘unevolved’ crab itself is evidence against the very notion of its ‘ancient’ status.
- The Blood Harvest, theatlantic.com, 24 February 2014.
Creature smashes and rebuilds its genome
In an astonishing display of life’s incredible intricacy and diversity, the single-celled pond-dwelling organism Oxytricha trifallax can break its entire genome (complete set of DNA) “into nearly a quarter million pieces and rapidly reassemble those pieces when it’s time to mate”. It stores it “as thousands of scrambled, encrypted gene pieces.” Then upon mating, it “rummages through” this jumble of pieces of DNA code, assembling some 225,000 fragments into the correct sequence in some 60 hours.
Oxytricha is some 10 times the size of a human cell. Whereas we have 46 chromosomes, it has 16,000, and has two nuclei. Active DNA is in one ‘working nucleus’, and the second stores the archive of genetic material destined for the next generation—this is the one that is dismantled and rebuilt.
Like many other one-celled organisms, though, it reproduces by binary fission: one cell splits into two cells genetically identical to the first. The purpose of the mating is for DNA exchange, to rejuvenate aging genes and replace them with new ones. One researcher said, “It’s kind of like science fiction—they stop aging by trading in their old parts.”
- Kelly, M., In one of nature’s innovations, a single cell smashes and rebuilds its own genome, princeton.edu, 8 September 2014.
One long-lasting look
It’s enough to make your eyeballs pop out of their sockets—an allegedly 300 million-year-old fossilized fish with the ‘micro’ details of the eye tissue still preserved.
Researchers found mineralized rods and cones (light-detecting cells in the retina) in the fossil of Acanthodes bridgei unearthed in Kansas, USA. It’s worth noting that bacteria are thought to play a part in such amazing preservation of detail—along with rapid burial, which obviously is necessary to prevent scavenging.
Humans have the same light-receptor cell types; rods for night vision, and cones for colour vision. The researchers concluded that A. bridgei had the same complex neurological mechanisms for colour vision as today’s fish.
Had it not been so, no doubt it would have been said to be less ‘evolved’—and thus claimed as evidence for evolution. But because the fossil here shows that fish vision was just as complex all those vast alleged eons ago, this becomes evidence that colour vision ‘evolved very early’.
This is just one more example of how evidence tends to get interpreted to suit a paradigm (belief system).
- Tanaka, G., Mineralized rods and cones suggest colour vision in a 300 Myr-old fossil fish, Nature Communications 5:5920, 2014 | doi:10.1038/ncomms6920.
When we touch something, the traditional view has been that nerve cells (neurons) in our skin send information to the brain, which then processes that information.
But Swedish researchers have found that neurons in our skin do “advanced calculations” to process “geometric data” about objects we touch before the brain does.
These “first-order tactile neurons” then relay that information to the brain. Their calculations are “the same type” as those performed by brain neurons.
Truly, we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).
- Pruszynski, J.A. and Johansson, R.S., Edge-orientation processing in first-order tactile neurons, Nature Neuroscience 17:1404–1409, 15 September 2014 | doi:10.1038/nn.3804.
Chameleon colour nanotechnology
Chameleons are tree-climbing, insect-eating lizards that are about 17–60 cm (7–24 inches) long. They have a number of remarkable design features, including telephoto eyes, a catapult tongue with a suction cap, and most famously, the ability to change colours quickly.
In our previous chameleon article (Creation 26(4):28–33, 2004; creation.com/chameleon), we discussed how some chameleon colours come from yellow and red pigment cells (chromophores) that can change size, which changes the perceived colour. Also, there are large cells containing the brown-black pigment melanin. These have ‘tendrils’ that can shift the pigment to and from the outer skin layers, darkening and lightening the skin.
Lately, research from the University of Geneva found an important role for another type of cell, called an ‘iridophore’. This is a type also important for cuttlefish and squid colour changes (see Creation 32(1):22–23, 2010; 34(1):23, 2012). Chameleon iridophores contain microscopic crystals of guanine, a DNA base that can also form reflective crystals. For example, it is in the skin of silvery fish, and in the focusing mirrors in spookfish eyes (Creation 31(4):32–33, 2009).
In the chameleon iridophores, guanine crystals are arranged in a very regular triangular pattern, resulting in intense structural colours. Furthermore, the colour can be changed quickly by changing the spacing between the crystals. When the chameleon is relaxed, the crystals are close together, reflecting short wavelengths of light, i.e. blue. If it is agitated, the lattice expands, spreading out the crystals, reflecting longer wavelengths, i.e. yellow and red.
Chameleons also have a deeper layer of iridophores, but this one has larger crystals arranged chaotically. This is very good at reflecting the sun’s infrared (‘heat’) radiation, so might be helping to keep the chameleon from over-heating.
- Teyssier, J. et al., Photonic crystals cause active colour change in chameleons, Nature Communications 6:6368, 10 March 2015 | doi:10.1038/ncomms7368.
- Webb, J., Chameleon colours ‘switched by crystals’, bbc.com, 11 March 2015.
- Senior author Prof. Michel Milinkovitch made the usual vacuous homage to evolution: “Chameleons invented something completely new in evolution.” The actual evidence, stripped of materialistic presuppositions, points to a Designer designing something unique for chameleons.
‘Kind’ evolution saved baby?
An abandoned newborn baby boy survived for six days in a drain in Australia’s largest city, Sydney. According to a paediatrician who is also a state politician there, the astonishing outcome was due to the ‘kindness’ of evolution. Andrew McDonald, noting that newborns could survive without fluid for several days, said: “It was a very lucky baby. But evolution was kind to us.”
McDonald failed to explain why the built-in mechanisms credited for the baby’s survival should be seen as the result of evolution, rather than good design. Such continued (and mostly fact-free) parroting of evolutionary ‘explanations’ acts to reinforce the whole belief system in many minds.
- Patty, A., Newborn in drain: How a baby can survive for six days without food or water, smh.com.au, 24 November 2014.
Scientists continue work on cloning the woolly mammoth
We have written much about woolly mammoths over the years. In a previous issue (Creation 34(2):47, 2012; creation.com/mammoth-clones), Dr Robert Carter wrote, “But what about the goal of cloning a mammoth from frozen tissues? As a geneticist, I say: ‘Fat chance!’ With enough time and money, someone might eventually create a genetically-engineered elephant with mammoth genes in it. This will not be easy as elephants are not a model organism for creating cross-species hybrids (unlike the fruit fly or the bacterium, E. coli, which have been used extensively for such things).”
It turns out that it is not at all easy to clone an extinct species of elephant, yet scientists have continued to work toward that goal. A Popular Science article reported the difficulty scientists have had in splicing mammoth DNA into the DNA of elephant cells growing in the laboratory. They started with a culture of skin cells taken from an Asian elephant and managed to add the DNA for small ears, subcutaneous fat, hair length, and hair colour from a mammoth. This is amazing in its own right, but putting potential issues of morality aside, this is still a far cry from cloning. In fact, it follows from what we wrote three years ago in these very pages.
- Fecht, S., Woolly mammoth DNA successfully spliced into elephant cells: but don’t expect mammoth clones any time soon, Popular Science, popsci.com, 24 March 2015.
- Technology is progressing at an accelerating pace. We need to stay informed. Need more? See our cloning Q&A page: creation.com/cloning.
Human jaw find; too young?
Of all the humans who have ever lived on earth, some have skulls that are characterized by greater ‘robusticity’ than most humans alive today, who are called ‘gracile’ by comparison.
Evolutionists have long wanted this robusticity to be a neat marker of an ancient, lesser evolved type of human. The continued discovery of obvious humanity associated with Neandertals, and even Homo erectus—both very robust groups—has long made this difficult.
Another problem arises when gracile (‘modern’) skulls are found that, according to dating schemes, must be ‘older’ than more robust types. For example, Australian Aboriginal skulls from Kow Swamp ‘dating’ at c. 10,000 years were robust enough to be regarded as erectus. Yet Lake Mungo Aboriginal specimens, supposedly 40,000 years old, were, like modern Aboriginals, gracile.
Now a similar problem has arisen with a human jawbone from Taiwan, which it is claimed could be as young as 10,000 years. But the strong jawbone and large teeth mark it as ‘too robust’ for that timeframe. It’s even “more robust than much older Homo erectus fossils from Java and northern China”.
Even many evolutionists are abandoning the simplistic ‘robust = old, gracile = young’ scheme, and realising that there were many diverse groups coexisting at the same period—very compatible with the biblical history of human dispersion post-Babel. One researcher said, “This is a very different, complex and exciting story compared to what I was taught in school.” Unfortunately, it is still told with an overriding evolutionary spin.
- Choi, C., Ancient human fossil could be new primitive species, livescience.com, 27 January 2015.
No evolution = proof of evolution?
Fossilized bacteria said to be 2 billion years old, found in Western Australia, have been discovered to be identical to still-living bacteria found today in mud off the west coast of South America. Amazingly, the researchers used this as evidence for evolution. They say they have demonstrated a Darwinian principle, that well-adapted organisms don’t evolve any further if there are no changes to their environment.
Evidence of no evolution isn’t evidence for evolution; rather, no evolution is stasis (see Creation 28(2):38–40, 2006; creation.com/stasis). So what the researchers have done is assumed the truth of evolution without having observed it. But if one assumes that real evolution occurs (not just minor shifts and adaptations), the bacteria would compete with other organisms over that alleged timespan of two billion years, even in that limited ecospace. No change occurring in all that near-unimaginable stretch of time seems to be the antithesis of Darwin’s theory.
- Sulfur-cycling fossil bacteria from the 1.8-Ga Duck Creek Formation provide promising evidence of evolution’s null hypothesis, PNAS 112(7): 2087–2092, 17 February 2015 | doi: 10.1073/pnas.1419241112.
Diamonds by blowtorch alone
Scientists once thought that natural diamonds needed intense heat and pressure over many millions of years to form. However, recent discoveries continue to challenge this belief (cf. Creation 25(3):7, 2002; 25(1):9, 2002). A television series in the UK has shown that small diamonds can be made using the flame of a common oxyacetylene torch, under ordinary conditions, in just 8 hours. No increase in pressure is necessary.
It’s believed that this heat-alone method could form larger diamonds if the heating process continues for days instead of hours. Of course, if a combination of heat and pressure is used, it’s already been demonstrated that diamonds can be made much faster still—in just minutes.
Large, gem-quality diamonds that are identical to natural diamonds are easily made today in laboratories. Regarding natural diamonds, heat and pressure are both found in abundance deep under the ground; the factor that has been proven to be unnecessary is the millions of years.
Furthermore, diamonds must be cooled very quickly (quenched); slow cooling would allow them to anneal into graphite, a soft form of carbon contained in so-called pencil lead. Also, substantial amounts of Carbon 14 have been found in natural diamonds—good evidence that they are less than a million years old Creation 28(4):26–27, 2006; creation.com/diamonds).
- Grow Your Own Diamonds!–Bang Goes The Theory–BC, youtube.com.
Scots humanists up the ante
UK news site Christian Today recently reported on two attempts by atheist fundamentalists in Scotland to further expunge Christianity from public life. The Scottish Secular Society (SSS) want a ban on the teaching of creationism in schools (discussed at length at creation.com/school-attack). And they are funding the University of Glasgow to set up a study to investigate the ‘privileged status’ of religion in Scotland.” Study leader Prof. Callum Brown says “We will scour the [legal databases] for examples of where church privilege has led to discriminating laws, for example laws that prohibit what you can do on Sunday.”
The SSS argues at length for tolerance and neutrality, but this rings hollow. As Scots churchman Rev. David Robertson pointed out, they show paranoia about biblical creation but have nothing to say about dealing with poverty and the ravages of sexual abuse and drug addiction. They’re “so terrified that children might be infected by the idea that God the Creator actually had something to do with Creation, that they are asking politicians to determine what should be taught in science lessons.” The fact is, science first flourished where a biblical worldview held sway (see Creation 31(3):12–14, 2009; creation.com/whyscience), so undermining Christianity is hardly going to improve science.
- Woods, M., Scottish Christianity is under threat from militant atheists … , christiantoday.com, 5 November 2014.
Goofy dinosaur with vacuum suction?
A team of fossil experts led by Yuong-Nam Lee (Daejeon, South Korea) have recently taken a fresh look at an enigmatic dinosaur, Deinocheirus mirificus, bones of which were first discovered in Mongolia in 1965. Newer finds from the Gobi region (2006 and 2009) helped fill the knowledge gaps but it lacked a skull, until “a tip from another researcher led [Lee’s team] to recover it from the private market in Germany.” They describe a large, seven-ton dinosaur with a curious mosaic of features—a toothless bill, tall spines that would have supported a sail on its back, and long arms (2.4 m, 8 ft) equipped with ‘killer claws’. Tufts of feathers are also imagined.
It is said to be a 70-million-year-old ancestor of the ostrich that, as well as eating plants, had “a massive tongue that created suction for vacuuming up food from the bottoms of streams, lakes and ponds”! Asked for comment, another notable fossil expert said, “The find is tremendous but is a cautionary tale about jumping to conclusions without enough evidence.” We would agree, especially when one considers the whereabouts of the skull and the imagination regarding a tongue and how it was used. And there’s not a shred of evidence to support the assertion of bird ancestry (see creation.com/re4).
- Lee, Y.N. et al, Resolving the long-standing enigmas of a giant ornithomimosaur Deinocheirus mirificus, Nature 515(7526):257–60, 13 November, 2014.
- Scientists describe newly discovered dinosaur as ‘one of the weirdest’, ‘pretty goofy’, foxnews.com, 23 October, 2014.
Bacteria that run on electricity
It’s hard for us in the 21st century to imagine life without electricity. However, biologists at the University of Southern California (USC) have discovered that some bacteria had it first. Instead of digesting food for energy, they are “essentially eating and excreting electricity.” Lead researcher Kenneth Nealson is growing these germs on electrodes—the equivalent of humans trying to power up by “shoving our fingers in a DC electrical socket”, which he doesn’t recommend.
The higher voltage electrode generates an excess of high-energy electrons that ‘feed’ the bacteria, which ‘excrete’ electrons onto the lower-voltage electrode that accepts them. This makes an electric current that ‘powers’ the bacteria.
Dr Nealson says that it’s a huge discovery of a “whole part of the microbial world that we don’t know about.” His Ph.D. student Annette Rowe has discovered eight kinds of ‘electron-eating’ bacteria. But he points out that it’s really not that surprising—all life, including ours, fundamentally runs on electron flow. E.g. we eat carbohydrates that have excess electrons, and breathe oxygen that readily takes electrons. The reactions are very complex, but in our cells they create a voltage, which in turn generates an electrical current of protons. This positively-charged electricity runs the world’s tiniest motor, ATP synthase, which makes ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the ‘energy currency of life’ (Creation 31(4):21–23, 2009; creation.com/atp-synthase).
- Brahic, C., Meet the electric life forms that live on pure energy, New Scientist 223(2978):5,8–9, 19 July 2014.
- Anthony, S., Biologists discover electric bacteria that eat pure electrons rather than sugar, redefining the tenacity of life, extremetech.com, 18 July 2014.