Focus: creation news and views 40(1)
Evolutionist says evolution can’t explain complexity
Austrian theorist Gerd Müller has proposed radical change to orthodox evolutionary thought because he says it can’t properly explain how complex structures arise. He and others want a revision or even a replacement of the standard theory of evolution. His main objection is that evolution “largely avoids the question of how the complex organizations of organismal structure, physiology, development or behaviour—whose variation it describes—actually arise in evolution.”
Müller is convinced that molecules-to-man evolution is true, but his “extended evolutionary synthesis” proposes that variation is “more predictable and selection effects are less directional” than previously argued.
While Müller’s reasoning is complex and not easily summarized, it nevertheless shows that the more scientists understand, the harder it becomes to explain the complexity of life within the accepted framework … particularly when it rules out—a priori—the Creator.
However, interpreting the facts within a biblical worldview (an accurate historical record) gives a better explanation of the same issues Müller raises than interpretation based on a secular, materialistic worldview (with its necessarily invented history).
- Müller, G.B., Why an extended evolutionary synthesis is necessary, Interface Focus 7:20170015, August 2017 | doi.org/10.1098/rsfs.2017.0015.
Turkey bans teaching evolution to young students
Turkey has moved to banish Darwin’s ideas from the school classroom by 2019. Evolution will be described in biology textbooks as a “controversial theory” and students will not be exposed to it until they start higher education. Although Turkey has long been known as a secular state, the majority of citizens are Muslims and, for some time now, the government has been increasingly moving away from its secular tradition.
“Ninth grade students do not have the background to discuss the ‘Origin of Life and Evolution’ section in biology,” an education official said.
It’s a shame that governments in once-Christian countries (‘the West’) don’t or won’t see how destructive this dogma is to the health of students, and therefore the health of a nation, and stop teaching evolution as fact to school children.
- NEOnline | IR, Turkey removes Darwin’s theory of evolution from the school curriculum, neweurope.eu, June 2017.
Slugs inspire sticky substance
Ever tried to apply a plaster bandage to wet skin? It’s not easy. However, researchers recently developed a new adhesive that can stick to wet and dynamic surfaces, like wet skin, or a blood-covered organ. It is made up of two layers: a sticky surface and a flexible base. The two layers working together stick better to wet surfaces compared with current adhesives. It sticks in minutes, even when exposed to blood. It even works on organs as they move in the body. And in rats, tests have shown it to have fewer complications than other adhesives.
The idea came from the slug species Arion subfuscus, found in North America and western Europe. It can secrete yellow mucus that sticks really well to the wet surfaces on which it often lives.
This adhesive is yet another in a long line of examples of biomimetics: using God’s designs in the living world better to understand the world and create better technology. See also creation.com/biomimetics.
- Li, J. et al., Tough adhesives for diverse wet surfaces, Science 357:378–381, July 2017 | doi: 10.1126/science.aah6362.
Evolution of new virus species in a flask?
Scientists have recently claimed to have observed the evolution of viruses in a flask. They grew ‘bacteriophage λ’ (a virus that infects bacteria) in the laboratory on two different strains of E. coli, each of which had different receptors (i.e. binding sites) on its surface. Viruses are tiny infectious agents that are not truly living, as they can’t reproduce on their own; they must hijack the machinery of truly living cells.
The virus was initially able to infect both of these strains. It was then isolated so that only one of these strains was available for it to infect. After a number of generations, the virus lost the ability to infect E.coli that displayed only the alternative receptor. The researchers ended up with two different strains of bacteriophage λ that could each only infect one of these two very specific E. coli strains.
The researchers declared that they had observed speciation for the very first time in a tiny laboratory flask and that this was evidence of evolution. Of course, speciation was a part of the creation model even before Darwin (see creation.com/speciation). But is this really evolution?
Particles-to-people evolution would have required an overall massive increase of new genetic information. But what we are seeing in this flask is specialization caused by the loss of a function. The virus could previously infect bacteria with either of two receptors, but could now infect only one. So nothing new was created, and instead it is an example of specialization coming about through the loss of information.
- Meyer, J. et al., Ecological speciation of bacteriophage lambda in allopatry and sympatry, Science 354(6317):1301–1304, November 2016 | doi: 10.1126/science.aai8446.
Our watery moon
Scientists have long assumed that the moon would be largely depleted of water and other volatile compounds, but recent research suggests the bulk of the interior of the moon is wet. Volcanic glass beads brought back from the Apollo 15 and 17 missions revealed the presence of water in areas formed by volcanic eruptions on the moon’s surface. Recent observations made by satellites orbiting the moon show these are widespread, indicating the presence of considerable amounts of water in the moon’s interior.
Since the moon was supposedly formed from the debris left behind after a collision between a Mars-sized object and the early earth, volatile compounds like water should not have survived the heat of the impact. The presence of so much water in the interior of the moon challenges conventional models of lunar formation.
However, the Bible suggests that the earth and the solar system were made from water so it should be no surprise that evidence of water is found not only on the moon but elsewhere in the solar system.
- Milliken, R.E. and Li, S., Remote detection of widespread indigenous water in lunar pyroclastic deposits, Nat. Geosci. 10: 561–565, July 2017 | doi:10.1038/ngeo2993.
- Moon has a water-rich interior, sciencedaily.com, July 2017.
Mummy DNA supports biblical history
In the first full DNA sequencing of ancient Egyptian mummies, researchers have found that the people of pharaonic times were more closely related to modern and ancient Europeans and near-eastern inhabitants than to present-day Egyptians. The mummies “have these closest genetic links to the Fertile Crescent and the eastern populations of what’s now Israel”, said research leader Johannes Krause. Modern Egyptians have a sub-Saharan African component to their genome, from cultural admixture in more recent times, but this wasn’t found in the ancient mummies.
This is consistent with the biblical claim that the early Egyptians descend from the line of Mizraim, Noah’s grandson. In recent decades, however, it has been widely touted by some secular researchers that Egyptians were likely descended from African people, in line with the secular, evolutionary ‘Out of Africa’ theory of human origins. This theory is not supported by the latest DNA evidence. Instead, the Bible’s account has been vindicated.
- Watson, T., Mummy DNA unravels ancient Egyptians’ ancestry, Nature 546(7656):17, May 2017 | doi: 10.1038/546017a.
T.rex had scales, not feathers
Many evolutionists today teach that birds evolved from theropod dinosaurs, a group that includes the T. rex and Velociraptor. Many museums and dinosaur books now depict these creatures with downy feathers in a bid to illustrate the supposed evolution of feathers. To their dismay, a recent study involving fossilized dinosaur skin from T. rex and four other tyrannosaurids revealed only scales in every single case. No feathers were found—nor have they ever been found in this group. This was contrary to evolutionary expectations, since alleged ‘extensive feather coverings’ had been claimed for dinosaurs supposedly ancestral to tyrannosaurids. So what did the researchers do? Simple—just changed the story. They concluded that these bigger theropod dinosaurs must have first evolved feathers, and then lost them again, reverting to scales. Contrary to this convoluted just-so story, the Bible tells us that dinosaurs did not evolve into birds. Each and every creature was created to reproduce after its own kind.
- Bell, P. et al., Tyrannosauroid integument reveals conflicting patterns of gigantism and feather evolution, Biology Letters 13:6, June 2017 | doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2017.0092.
Bird hatchling discovered in amber
An amazing piece of Burmese amber, found at the Angbamo site in northern Myanmar, has revealed a hatchling of an extinct group of birds known as Enantiornithes. Most of the skull and neck, bones of a wing and hindlimb, skin and soft tissue of the tail, the right foot with claws, and a number of fully formed flight feathers are preserved.
Claimed to be 99 million years old, the bird in amber has a full set of flight feathers. There is no evidence that it was any ‘less-evolved’ than modern birds.
Those operating within an evolutionary/long-age framework have also failed to provide any realistic answer for the copious amount of amber that is found. However, the time of the global Flood (Genesis 6–8) provides an excellent mechanism for such exquisite and rapid preservation of vast numbers of organisms in amber. During this time a mass of uprooted trees carried along by flood waters, crashing into each other, would have released large amounts of tree resin into the water. The sticky tree resin would have engulfed any organism small enough to be trapped in it such as this baby enantiornithine; freezing the hatchling in time. See also creation.com/amber-needed-water.
- Xing, L. et al., A mid-Cretaceous enantiornithine (Aves) hatchling preserved in Burmese amber with unusual plumage, Gondwana Research, June 2017 | doi: 10.1016/j.gr.2017.06.001.
- Romey, K., Baby bird from time of dinosaurs found fossilized in amber, nationalgeographic.com, June 2017.
New planet hotter than most stars
Astronomers from Ohio State University and Vanderbilt University have discovered a planet with a surface temperature hotter than most stars. The planet KELT-9b has a surface temperature of 4,600 K (~4,300°C or ~7,800°F; cf. the sun’s surface is 5,722 K; most stars are red dwarfs with a surface temperature <4,000 K). The planet must have a warm yellow glow.
The astronomy team presented their results in the journal Nature and also at the American Astronomical Society spring meeting (2017). They found that the planet, which is 2.8 times bigger than Jupiter—but only half as dense—would be continually bombarded by stellar radiation from the nearby star, the bright blue KELT-9.
The planet orbits so closely that its ‘year’ is only 1.5 days, and it is tidally locked to the central star KELT-9, which at least shields the night side from the intense radiation. But the day side is so hot that molecules such as water, carbon dioxide, and methane can’t form there—and if they could form on the night side, it would probably only be temporarily.
The environment of this planet is a far cry from the ideal environment God has created for life on Earth. Certainly life as we know it could not exist on a planet such as KELT-9b. And with its atmosphere constantly blasted with high levels of ultraviolet radiation, it is an unlikely place to find any sort of life.
- A planet hotter than most stars, sciencedaily.com, June 2017.
Mystery ‘Wow!’ signal finally explained
In 1977 a signal—called the Wow! signal—was obtained from space. Some speculated that it might be from an intelligent alien source. (See creation.com/wow). Now it is known that it was not from little green men, but from a comet. Time, real science, and cool heads have won out over the hype that tends to override common sense when it comes to a ‘signal from aliens’. The original source has been found.
Two comets, P/2008 Y2(Gibbs) and 266/P Christensen, which were not known back 40 years ago when the Wow! signal was first obtained, appeared again in the night sky from November 2016 through to February 2017.
A report from phys.org says:
“The team reports that radio signals from 266/P Christensen matched those from the Wow! signal 40 years ago. To verify their results, they tested readings from three other comets, as well, and found similar results. The researchers acknowledge that they cannot say with certainty that the Wow! signal was generated by 266/P Christensen, but they can say with relative assurance that it was generated by a comet.”
- Yirka, B., Wow! mystery signal from space finally explained, phys.org, June 2017.
Sennacherib’s palace found under ruins
Biblical creationists trust Scripture as a true history of the world, and not just when it comes to Genesis, where the focus is on fields such as geology and biology. That history extends to Christ and beyond, and so it is no surprise when discoveries in archaeology also confirm and match the Bible’s statements.
Out of the chaos of the ongoing conflict throughout the Middle East, a king’s palace has been discovered at Nineveh—just outside Mosul in Iraq—after an explosion at a site long revered as the tomb of the prophet Jonah.
Based on a marble cuneiform inscription, archaeologists confirmed the site as the palace built by the Assyrian king Sennacherib about seven centuries before Christ and later refurbished by his son Esarhaddon.
We know of Sennacherib’s attack and siege of Jerusalem under King Hezekiah from 2 Kings 18–19, 2 Chronicles 32, and Isaiah 36–37. This siege ended when an angel of the Lord struck down 185,000 Assyrians (Isaiah 37:36). Sennacherib then returned to Nineveh where his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer murdered him (v. 38) and another son, the abovementioned Esarhaddon, took the throne.
The discovery from this ancient site at Nineveh reminds us once more that we can make sense of the world by looking at all things through the lens of Scripture.
- Islamic State looting uncovers ancient palace beneath Jonah’s Tomb, timesofisrael.com, February 2017.
- Ensor, J., Previously untouched 600 BC palace discovered under shrine demolished by Isil in Mosul, telegraph.co.uk, February 2017.
Mathematics as old as we thought!
The evolutionary model of man has it that we came from lower life forms, through ape-like ancestors of lesser intelligence to the modern Homo sapiens that we are today. The Bible is clear that evolutionary history is wrong. Rather, Adam and Eve were created perfect and highly intelligent, and we have actually been descending from that state ever since sin entered into the world. It comes as no surprise then to find another confirmation of biblical history in the form of the Babylonian clay tablet, Plimpton 322 (P322).
P322 is thought to be a powerful, exact ratio-based trigonometric table. The tablet, discovered in the early 1900s at Larsa, an ancient Sumerian city, is thought to be around 3,700 years old. A fresh study looking at its text now claims that P322 supersedes the Greek astronomer Hipparchus’ ‘table of chords’ (120 BC, over 1500 years later) as the world’s oldest trigonometric table. The study’s authors claim that while the discovery of trigonometry is attributed to the ancient Greeks, it now needs to be reconsidered in light of the much earlier, computationally simpler, and more precise Babylonian style of sexagesimal (base 60) trigonometry.
In the centuries after Noah’s Flood and the Babel dispersion, maths had to have been used to build such magnificent ancient structures as the tremendously precise Great Pyramid of Giza, the Ziggurat of Ur, or the passage tomb at Newgrange. So the discovery of this advanced mathematical table, inscribed only a few hundred years after Noah’s Flood, fits well with the biblical history of man.
- Mansfield, D.F., Wildberger, N.J., Plimpton 322 is Babylonian exact sexagesimal trigonometry, Hist. Math. August 2017 | doi.org/10.1016/j.hm.2017.08.001.
Death Valley jellyfish fossils
What are claimed to be the world’s oldest jellyfish fossils have been found in sandstone in Death Valley, California—one of the hottest places on Earth.
The fossils, ‘dated’ at 540 million years on the geological timescale, are said to be the oldest record of a “stranding event”, because marks in the rock around the jellyfish suggest currents distorted the bodies before they were fossilized. Jellyfish fossils have also been found elsewhere including Western Australia (creation.com/fossil-jellyfish-pilbara).
Of the find, lead author and geologist Aaron Sappenfield notes that the fossils are of “really high resolution” and have “surprising detail”. Jellyfish stranded on beaches today don’t survive very long at all when exposed to the elements and to scavengers. Sappenfield confirms they are very difficult to preserve, but tries to explain this by postulating a “unique” set of conditions. First, he points out, large scavengers such as the birds and crustaceans which today will quickly eat a stranded jellyfish were (by evolutionary reasoning) absent in those ‘Cambrian times’. Second, he proposes that the sand was “microbe-rich” and unusually “sticky”, supposedly helping their preservation.
Jellyfish comprise some 98% water, which quickly evaporates in the sun, so their bodies readily collapse and the thin layers left quickly decompose. And even granting the evolutionary idea that land predators had not evolved yet, microbes causing decomposition would have. So while Sappenfield is correct that fossilizing these delicate creatures requires extraordinary conditions, “microbe-rich” environments are hardly the solution.
Rapid burial in a lot of sediment, widespread during the Genesis Flood, seems key to explaining the fossils of these delicate creatures with such surprising (to long-agers) detail, preventing their impressions in the sand from being eroded in the next tide. As the livescience.com article’s caption to a Sappenfield photo of one of the specimens admits: “this jellyfish was likely buried in sand after it became stranded”. But they overlook the need for it to be rapid.
- Weisberger, M., Desert fossils reveal 540-million-year-old jellyfish ‘graveyard’, livescience.com, August 2017.
- Sappenfield, A.D. et al., Earth’s oldest jellyfish strandings: a unique taphonomic window or just another day at the beach? Geol. Mag. 154(4):859–854, July 2017 | doi: 10.1017/S0016756816000443.
Barley genome decoded—with a lot of work!
Scientists from 10 countries have worked together to map the genome of the barley plant, the fourth most abundant cereal crop worldwide.
Director of Western Barley Genetics Alliance (Western Australia) Professor Chengdao Li said that this genome map would greatly assist those involved in breeding new barley varieties (drought resistance, higher yield, etc.).
“Barley has a large and complex genome, with 5.1 billion genetic letters assembled into seven chromosomes,” Professor Li said. “This research was so large and complex that no single country had the capacity, so an international collaboration was essential.”
Plant scientist and CMI-Australia head Dr Don Batten commented:
“Plants can produce all the organic compounds needed for life from simple chemicals (water, CO2, etc.). Consequently, they have an amazing range of biochemical pathways. However, wall cress, or mouse-ear cress (Arabidopsis thaliana), also a flowering plant, has only 119 million letters in its five chromosomes. What does all the extra DNA coding do in barley? That will comprise an interesting and protracted research program. Hopefully the dead-end evolutionary idea of ‘junk DNA’ (that huge chunks of an organism’s genome are useless leftovers of evolution) has finally been buried and will not hinder this research, as it has done with human DNA.”
- Fulwood, J., Genetic map points the way to advanced new barley, Ground Cover 129, July–August 2017 (Grains Research & Development Corporation).