This article is from
Creation 44(3):7–11, July 2022

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Focus 44(3)

creation news and views

Finches sing to their eggs to reprogram their babies

The idea that an adult organism’s development is all pre-programmed in its genes, in a microscopic amount of DNA, is, when you think of it, stunning. But evidence has been emerging for some time that there is much more to it, with pre-birth environmental factors shown to influence the later adult in several ways.

© Tony Bosse | Dreamstime.com16460-nest

For example, when the weather gets persistently hot, zebra finches incubating eggs give off special ‘heat-calls’ in the last one-third of the incubation period. Ingenious experiments have shown that this is what causes the baby birds to emerge smaller than others exposed to different maternal calls. Smaller size makes it easier to keep cool in the heat. In their later life, these birds were more successful at having offspring than those not exposed to heat calls within the shell.

Just how this happens is not clear, but more recent research suggests that it’s tied up with the function of mitochondria. These are the tiny ‘energy factories’ of the cell, which carry stretches of DNA of their own. These mitochondria are somehow ‘reprogrammed’ by the special sounds, which in turn makes the embryos grow more slowly and emerge smaller.

Since the parent birds obviously don’t understand what is happening, the fact that they ‘know’ when and how to change their songs must itself be a pre-programmed behaviour. All this is just one more example of the astonishing complexity of the masses of programmed information inside living things.

  • Udino, E. and 6 others, Prenatal acoustic programming of mitochondrial function for high temperatures in an arid-adapted bird, Proc. R. Soc. B 288:20211893, 2021.
  • Mariette, M. and Buchanan, K., Prenatal acoustic communication programs offspring for high posthatching temperatures in a songbird, Science 353(6301):812–814, 2016.

Human brain neurons unique

Brain researchers at MIT compared the neurons (brain cells) in the cortex (outermost layer) of the brains of humans with nine other mammals, including two primates.

© Nexusplexus | Dreamstime.com16461-brain

Neurons transmit signals by opening or closing channels that allow ions such as potassium and sodium to be pumped in or out of the neuron. This pumping through the ion channels requires energy.

In the non-human creatures, they found a close relationship between the size of the neurons and the density of the ion channels, with the density of ion channels increasing with the size of the neurons. However, humans did not fit the pattern; they were quite different. Humans had a much lower density of ion channels than was expected based on the other creatures. This means that humans have a much higher energy efficiency.

“We think that humans have evolved out of this building plan that was previously restricting the size of cortex, and they figured out a way to become more energetically efficient, so you spend less ATP per volume compared to other species,” remarked Mark Harnett, an associate professor of brain and cognitive sciences at MIT.

Notice the language, attributing problem solving to evolution: “figured out a way…”? How can mutations figure out anything? No, this testifies yet again to the uniqueness of mankind, ‘made in the image of God’ (Genesis 1:27), and the supreme skill of the Creator in crafting us.

  • McDonnell, S., Researchers find a striking difference between neurons of humans and other mammals, medicalxpress.com, 10 Nov 2021.

Solar system is stable and unique

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As more data is gathered of other star systems in the Milky Way, secular scientists seem perplexed. They are increasingly forced to acknowledge that our solar system is unique, and surprisingly stable. This stability holds Earth in the ideal Goldilocks Zone (i.e., ‘not too hot; not too cold’), which supports life. Stuart Clark writes: “…a new picture is emerging of how solar systems form in a chaos of planet building with no certain outcome. … a nagging question is becoming louder: instead of being the archetypal solar system, are we actually the freak?”

None of the 3,600 planetary systems discovered so far (and 5,000 identified exoplanets) resembles our system. Many are highly compact, such as Kepler-90 where Earth-sized planets and gas giants orbit close to the parent star. (All eight planets orbit inside the equivalent distance of Earth’s orbit.) It is believed that gravitational attraction has reduced the planetary orbits substantially or rendered them highly elliptical.

Medium-sized planets are common in other star systems, but none exist in ours, which is composed of either gas giants such as Jupiter or Saturn, or small solid planets like Earth. Attempts at modelling the solar system (the Nice model) suggest that Jupiter and Saturn have together resisted such gravitational pull in our system, and given stability to Earth’s orbit. And yet very small changes in the model parameters lead to instability.

This latest research thus highlights more evidence of intelligent design, although not acknowledged by naturalistic scientists.

  • Clark S., Shaken and stirred, New Scientist 252(3363):46–49, 4 Dec 2021.

Discounting ‘race’ in kidney testing

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Controversial UK medical guidance that included a person’s ethnicity in assessing kidney function has recently been scrapped. How well the kidneys are performing in filtering and excreting the body’s waste is related to the glomerular filtration rate (GFR).

This is complicated to measure directly, so routine screening blood tests report an estimated GFR (eGFR). This is based on a single blood measurement of a waste product called creatinine. The way this creatinine level correlates with the GFR varies with age, sex and other factors. So a formula is applied to try to take all that into account.

Until recently, that formula had included an additional correction factor if the patient was African or Afro-Caribbean. However, this has been shown to cause an overestimation of real GFR in these people by about 25%. Experts at Kings College Hospital in London expressed concern that this may result in failure to diagnose kidney disease or—if disease is detected—may underestimate its severity.

“Ethnicity and race are social constructs and do not match genetic categories,” says Paul Cockwell, president of the UK Kidney Association. Instead of drawing conclusions based on social constructs like ‘race’, he said it was “more appropriate to take into account individual risk factors”.

While the post-Fall accumulation of mutations means that some groups are more (or less) prone to certain illnesses than others, these findings sit well with Scripture. Despite our minor differences, we are all one human race, going back to Adam and Eve.

  • Liverpool, L., Kidney test adjustment based on ethnicity cut from UK medical guidance, newscientist.com, 24 Aug 2021.
  • UK Kidney Association, About eGFR, ukkidney.org, accessed 5 Jan 2022.

More problems for ‘progressive creation’

© Didier Kobi | Dreamstime.com16464-skull

In the field of ‘human evolution’, the Omo 1 fossils, found in Ethiopia between 1967 and 1974, have long been acknowledged by all as being human, Homo sapiens.

Not only that, they are indisputably of the ‘modern’ type. They have “unequivocal modern human characteristics, such as a tall and globular cranial vault and a chin”.

Till now, they have been stated as having a maximum age of 200,000 years. But they have recently been redated. Volcanic ash around and above the bones has a chemical ‘signature’ linking it to a particular past eruption of the Shala volcano, some 400 km (250 mi) away. The ash has been radiometrically ‘dated’ to 230,000 years ago, so that now becomes the minimum age assigned to the fossils.

This highlights a major problem for ‘progressive (old-earth) creationists’. Their entire program is based on accepting secular ‘ages’ and then somehow fitting them into Genesis. They claim that only ‘true moderns’ in the fossil record came from Adam. (To them, Neanderthals, etc. must all be ‘soulless’ non-humans, despite the evidence that they and modern-type humans had children together).

They were already faced with a huge challenge when the dates on such ‘modern’ human fossils were only a few tens of thousands of years. But as ‘moderns’ have been ‘dated’ further and further back, finding a way to make the biblical genealogies fit becomes off-the-charts impossible. Their version now has Adam being created at least 230,000 years ago.

How much more reasonable to start with the obvious meaning of Scripture, then critically evaluate the secular age claims. From examining the results of volcanic eruptions happening in recent years, it is clear that dating methods give vastly exaggerated ages (see e.g. creation.com/nzvolcano).

  • Martin, A., Scientists find oldest ever confirmed human fossils are even older than previously thought, sky.news.com, 12 Jan 2022.

AI inventor

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Can Artificial Intelligence (AI) invent something, and if so, is it legally recognized? Apparently so, depending on the country. In South Africa an AI system called DABUS (Device for the Autonomous Bootstrapping of Unified Sentience) was listed on a patent—a first—as the named inventor of a new type of food container. The owner of the patent is Stephen L. Thaler, who created DABUS.

Important criteria for something to be patentable are: It is new, not obvious, and useful. There is little doubt that people can use AI to invent things which meet these criteria.

The lawyer involved in this case, Ryan Abbott, says that to establish who (or what) truly invented something, certain questions would be asked. If the inventor is AI, then its computer code would be inspected, and the programmers of the code would be involved in the process.

Everything comes from God. God created people and imbued them with creativity. People made computers and learned over time how to program a degree of creativity into their programs. So, computers can combine things, and can come up with new concepts/better designs.

The comments by Neil Sharkey, Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics at the University of Sheffield, apply today just as much as when he made them in 2010: “It is the person who designs the algorithms and programs the machine who is intelligent, not the machine itself” (see creation.com/robots-not-intelligent).

  • Pretz, K., A First: AI system named inventor, ieee.org, 18 Jan 2022.

Horses and donkeys can make human-looking stone ‘tools’

creative commons16466-stones

Equids have now joined the unintentional toolmaker club. Equids regularly kick and stamp rocks to trim their hooves. A Spanish research team placed a horse and three donkeys in an enclosure with lumps of flint and quartzite. After 52 days the rocks and flakes were examined. Much of it (pictured), strongly resembled flakes and cores created by human flint knapping.

“For us it was a surprise that donkeys can make flakes like human ones,” said Domínguez-Solera, part of the Spanish research team. It has long been assumed that “intentional flaking of stone tools is one of the hallmarks of hominin evolution”. But some evolutionists are now urging a more cautious stance on this position due to the findings.

Equids supposedly lived beside alleged human ancestors for millions of years, “so their ‘tools’ throw a much bigger spanner into the works. ‘We say be careful– this flake could be made by an [equid],’” continued Domínguez-Solera. Of course, not all evolutionists agree. Some say the results, while interesting, should not change textbooks just yet.

Such research and debate highlight the issue of making positive assertions about artefacts from the past when no-one was there to observe them being made. Without more context, i.e., other signs of human activity, a stone tool might ‘neigh’ be what they thought. It might have been made by an equid (or another unintentional toolmaker) instead.

When stone tools found by themselves without a fuller context are built into a human evolution narrative, even more caution should be applied to such an interpretation. Of course, the Bible is clear on human origins and our timeline. Any human-made stone tools would have been knapped by Noah’s intelligent descendants as they rebuilt society post-Flood from 4,500 years ago onwards.

  • Domínguez-Solera, S.D. and 3 others, Equids can also make stone artefacts, J. Archaeological Science: Reports 40(A)103260, 2021; sciencedirect.com.
  • Lawton, G. Stones smashed by horses can be mistaken for ancient human tools, newscientist.com, 1 Dec 2021.

NASA to recruit theologians

Space agency NASA recently announced their intention to hire 24 theologians to assess how humanity’s views of God and creation would be impacted if life was discovered on other planets. The study will be overseen by Princeton University which received a $1.1 million grant from NASA.

As CMI’s Gary Bates pointed out in his book Alien Intrusion: UFOs and the evolution connection, NASA has considered such potential impacts for many years. But previously they believed that the idea that ‘we are not alone’ could have even brought about the fall of modern civilization.

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They don’t seem to regard this as a problem anymore. Continuing space exploration reveals an ever-increasing number of extrasolar planets, and each new discovery brings associated hype about perhaps finding ET life on them. Plus, throw into the mix modern science fiction’s message about advanced ET life, and it means that humanity is now almost expecting to find sentient and advanced alien life ‘out there’.

Even many Christians buy into this idea, wondering why God would make such a big universe if Earth is the only occupied planet. However, the idea that any ETs could possess intellect similar to humanity would be a huge problem for the Gospel. The reasons are comprehensively covered at creation.com/did-god-create-life-on-other-planets. The reality is that despite thousands of extrasolar planets being found, Earth looks more, not less, unique (Isaiah 45:18).

  • Burgess, K., Heavens above: NASA hires priest to prepare for an alien discovery, thetimes.co.uk, 22 Dec 2021.

Intelligent life ‘out there’ highly unlikely now

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The journal Astrobiology specializes in life in outer space. This can only be speculation since there is no evidence of any life other than on Earth.

A recent paper looked at the likelihood that intelligent life arose elsewhere in the universe and effectively concluded that it’s very unlikely.

They came to this conclusion even after accepting the evolutionary narrative for how life arose on Earth. That is, they accepted that cellular life arose spontaneously from non-living chemicals, and then transitioned into more complex eukaryotic life (cells with a nucleus, mitochondria, etc.). These cells then combined to form multicellular organisms, which subsequently evolved into intelligent life. All this, of course, by mindless, naturalistic processes. No intelligence is allowed.

The authors acknowledge that at least three of these ‘transitions’ have no known plausible mechanisms. None. Nevertheless, they assume that these things must have happened on Earth over billions of years. Even assuming this happened on Earth, they reasoned that the likelihood of intelligent life arising elsewhere looks vanishingly small.

Note that it has been known for decades that the simplest living cell arising from non-living chemicals by natural processes is improbable in the extreme (see creation.com/origin-of-life). How much less likely is it that complex intelligent life arose by itself from natural processes?

  • Snyder-Beattie, A.E. et al., The timing of evolutionary transitions suggests intelligent life is rare, Astrobiology 21(3):265–278, 3 Nov 2021; liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/ast.2019.2149

How are you handling your inner chimp?

©Lorna Roberts | Dreamtime.com16469-chimp

An African-British woman who claimed her company’s CEO was engaging in a racial slur when he asked her at a workshop about her ‘inner chimp’ has lost her case with the UK’s Employment Tribunal. The tribunal concluded that the comment related to a ‘mind management’ theory which “divides inner feelings into the rational (human) and irrational (chimp)”. It aims to help people “understand and manage their emotions and thoughts” and is widely credited with “helping [UK] Olympic gold medallists Victoria Pendleton and Sir Chris Hoy to victory on the cycling track”.

While the CEO’s comment seems unrelated to race in this instance, Africans are used to evolution-related derogatory comments. For example, black footballers commonly experience ‘monkey chants’ when one of them has the ball. With evolution increasingly dominating the culture, this is no surprise. Darwin himself wrote of darker-skinned groups as less evolved. The corollary to this is that they are supposedly closer to our alleged ape ancestors than other humans are.

The notion that human behaviour involves some irrational acts and impulses, and that there might be ways to better control these, is hardly revolutionary. Nor is it hard to understand biblically. Labelling such things as ‘chimp-derived’ is one more fact-free homage to evolution. It seems tailor-made to provide a convenient excuse for bad behaviour—‘evolution made me do it’.

In any case, it’s likely the British Olympians owe their cycling victory less to ‘chimp’ mind-control speculations than to the revolutionary new engineering design of their cycles. Ironically, perhaps, one of the leaders of the team that developed this much-lauded technology was design expert (and committed creationist) Prof. Stuart Burgess (creation.com/burgess).

  • Duell, M., HR manager loses race discrimination case over ‘inner chimp’ comment, Daily Mail on msn.com, 14 Feb 2022.