Creation 32(1):7–11, January 2009
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Focus: creation news and views
White blood cells sprout “legs”
When there is an infection, white blood cells are rushed to the site to “eat” the invading germs. But how exactly do they get there?
Researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, have overturned previous “wisdom”, that the white cells move somewhat like inchworms. They showed that they move more like millipedes (illustrated)—sprouting tiny “legs” less than a micron (1/25000 inch) long. These legs have sticky adhesion molecules called LFA-1 (Lymphocyte Function-Associated Antigen-1), so they can bind to partner adhesion molecules on the surface of the blood vessels. The report below states, “Tens of these legs attach and detach in sequence within seconds—allowing them to move rapidly while keeping a good grip on the vessels’ sides.”
These “legs” also act as probes, sensing exit signals. And while these legs keep the cells from being swept away by the strong blood flow, this flow helps the adhesion molecules to enter “highly active states”. This is needed to force them to dig into the vessel walls so they can sense the proper signals, and to leave at the right place.
So even “simple” white blood cells now sprout legs with three functions: “gripping, moving and sensing distress signals from the damaged tissue.”
- Science Daily, www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090504094424.htm, 4 May 2009.
Amazing brain—designed to compensate
A ten-year-old German girl born with half a brain is nonetheless “witty, charming and intelligent”—but what puzzled researchers still more is that she sees perfectly well, too. Normally, each half (hemisphere) of the brain only processes half of the field of vision. So when someone loses a hemisphere through injury, for instance, they can only see objects in the left or right half of their visual field.
MRI scans have now shown that in this girl, nerve fibres which should have gone to the missing left hemisphere have been diverted to the right instead, so that one hemisphere processes the entire visual field. This is part of a growing awareness of the brain’s amazing (designed) plasticity and flexibility in adapting to such handicaps (see also creation.com/brainier).
It’s hard to conceive how such a mechanism could have evolved by natural selection, given that it is useful only in rare instances—which would be fatal in the wild anyway (i.e. to our alleged animal ancestors).
Dr Lars Muckli of the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research referred to “the powerful algorithms the brain uses to rewire itself.” (An algorithm is a set of rules for solving a problem.) He said that if we could understand these—and the way the brain processes information—it could lead to a huge advance in computer “intelligence”.
- University of Glasgow news, www.gla.ac.uk/news/headline_125704_en.html, 20 July 2009.
More Mars life disappointment
Prospects of discovering life on Mars have been dealt yet another blow, this time by researchers at the Pièrre and Marie Curie University in France. Franck Lefèvre and François Forget say that something in the Martian environment is rapidly destroying methane. Therefore this suggests conditions on the planet are much harsher than previously thought.
- New Scientist 203(2720):15, 2009.
- Nature 460(7256):720–723, 2009.
Huge volcanic eruptions
Scientists studying the geology of south-west China say that past volcanic eruptions in the Emeishan province disgorged some 500,000 cubic kilometres (km3) of lava. That is 150,000 times more lava than erupted in the last 25 years from Kilauea, Hawaii’s famous volcano. And the lava flows from Mt St Helens (1 km3), Vesuvius (4 km3) and Pinatubo (10 km3) also pale in comparison.
Paul Wignall from the University of Leeds, UK, in collaboration with the Chinese University of Geosciences in Wuhan, reported in Science that the eruption occurred violently when China was submerged beneath a shallow sea. “Like throwing water into a chip pan”, the explosion of steam, lava and ash covered an area nearly the size of England in 75 metres of ash and rocks. After the initial eruption, gigantic volumes of basaltic lava spewed from the earth and streamed across the countryside in flows 30 to 200 metres deep. All the while, marine sediments mixed with the lava, leaving deposits between the flows and on top of the volcanic pile.
This enormous mixture of lava, ash, sediment and destruction is exactly what we would expect from the devastation of Noah’s Flood. It occurred during the first half of the Flood as the waters were rising, and it is clear from the catastrophic evidence that it did not take long—just hours and days, perhaps weeks at the most.
- Science 324(5931):1179–1182, 2009.
- University of Leeds press release, www.leeds.ac.uk/media/press_releases/current09/volcanic.htm, 29 May 2009.
“Time to correct the textbooks” say evolutionists—the appendix is no longer an “evolutionary remnant”
The appendix has long been disparaged by evolutionists as a “useless evolutionary artifact”, or “vestigial organ”, despite repeated demonstrations that it has functions (Creation 30(4):37, 2008). For example, it serves as a “safe haven” for good bacteria needed to repopulate the intestines after bouts of diarrhea—see creation.com/appendix4.
Researchers writing in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology have now concluded, “Charles Darwin was wrong: The appendix is a whole lot more than an evolutionary remnant.” Darwin had theorized that the appendix was all that remained, evolutionarily speaking, from a larger structure called a cecum (or “blind gut”; from Latin caecum = blind), which he said would have been in now-extinct ancestors and used for digesting food.
However, this latest study highlights problems with Darwin’s idea. Several animal species living today have an appendix attached to a large cecum that is used in digestion. Also, Darwin had thought that appendices were in only a very few animals, but in fact more than 70% of all primate and rodent groups have species with an appendix.
“Maybe it’s time to correct the textbooks,” said William Parker, assistant professor of surgical sciences at Duke University Medical Center and lead author of the journal paper. “Many biology texts today still refer to the appendix as a ‘vestigial organ’.”
- Duke Medicine News and Communications, www.dukehealth.org/HealthLibrary/News/evolution_of_the_appendix_a_biological_remnant_no_more, 20 August 2009.
Children see the world as “designed and purposeful”
We have earlier reported psychologists’ surprise to discover that even children not exposed to “religious faith” (e.g. in Japan) believe in a Creator God (see “Children believe in God”, Creation 22(2):7, 2000).
Nearly a decade later, with now a “preponderance of scientific evidence” affirming that “children believe in God even when religious teachings are withheld from them”, evolutionists are endeavouring to claim it as “an evolutionarily useful skill”. That is, it’s something that evolution hard-wired into our brain.
Dr Justin Barrett of the University of Oxford’s Centre for Anthropology and Mind says that children have “a predisposition to see the natural world as designed and purposeful and that some kind of intelligent being is behind that purpose.” He cited one study where young children who were asked why the first bird existed replied, “To make nice music” and, “Because it makes the world look nice”.
According to Barrett, it is evolution that explains our “predisposition” to believe the world was created, and also the widespread public resistance to believing evolution.
“Children’s normally and naturally developing minds make them prone to believe in divine creation and intelligent design,” says Barrett. “In contrast, evolution is unnatural for human minds; relatively difficult to believe.”
For more information, see creation.com/braingod.
- New Scientist 201(2694):30–33, 2009.
- The Telegraph, www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/religion/3512686/Children-are-born-believers-in-God-academic-claims.html, 24 November 2008.
Sauropod dinosaurs held their heads up high
For many years scientists produced drawings and reconstructions of dinosaur icons like Apatosaurus and Diplodocus showing their heads held high.
However, in recent decades researchers said these depictions were wrong because computer models of their vertebrae showed their necks could not have bent sharply enough. They also said their hearts could not have handled the high blood pressure if the beasts lifted their heads so high. So, museum displays and movies began to show the sauropod dragons with their heads in front and their necks horizontal.
Now, Mike Taylor of the University of Portsmouth, UK, and colleagues argue that these dinosaurs did indeed hold their heads high, as they were originally depicted. They compared the dinosaur vertebrae with the vertebrae of living animals such as mammals and birds, which all hold their heads up. Although they published a detailed paper in Acta Palaeontologica Polonica, they are not expecting the debate to be settled overnight.
Science is about observation, and since dinosaurs are not alive we can’t observe the way they held their heads; we can only speculate. If the posture of the dinosaur’s head is so controversial when we have their well preserved skeletons, then how much more so are questions about the time in which they lived, how they were buried and why they went extinct?
- New Scientist 2710:5, 2009.
- Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 54(2):213–220, 2009.
Fossil squid ink to write with!
A fossilized squid from Jurassic rock has yielded ink with which researchers were able to draw the creature and write its Latin name, Belemnotheutis antiquus.
“The structure is similar to ink from a modern squid so we can write with it,” said Dr Phil Wilby of the British Geological Survey, adding that the creature itself was similar to modern-day squid. “It is difficult to imagine how you can have something as soft and sloppy as an ink sac fossilised in three dimensions, still black, and inside a rock that is 150 million years old.”
It certainly would be difficult to imagine it from a long-age evolutionary perspective, as biochemicals such as those in squid ink would have long ago “fallen apart” (due to the randomizing effects of molecular motion) if the claimed vast time periods were true. (See Creation 30(3):12–15; creation.com/real-jurassic-park.) It makes much more sense to view this fossil as a legacy of Noah’s Flood (Genesis 6–9), only around 4,500 years ago. That global Flood would have rapidly buried marine and other organisms under layers of water-borne sediment, thus explaining why today we find, worldwide, the remains of creatures in sedimentary rock, many of them stunningly well-preserved.
And the fossilized squid with its ink sac is no exception, as Wilby himself observed: “They can be dissected as if they are living animals, you can see the muscle fibres and cells.”
- BBC News, news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/wiltshire/8208838.stm, 19 August 2009.
Dog hair genetics
Now that scientists have deciphered the sequence of “letters” on dog (wolf) DNA, geneticists are “mining” these data to find the genes that produce the various distinguishing characteristics of breeds of dogs. The first gene identified was the one in which mutations caused small size. Others are involved in coat colour.
Now three genes involved in determining coat length, curl and pattern have been identified. Dog hair can be short, medium or long, straight, wavy or curled and dogs can have “furnishings”, which are the typical wiry hair, moustaches and bushy eyebrows of schnauzers and Australian terriers. The geneticists studied over 1,000 dogs from 80 breeds in the United States and found that mutations in just three genes accounted for most of the variation in coat types.
Bassett hounds, which have short hair, have none of the mutations. The Bichon Frisé (French for curly lap dog), has all three mutations.
These changes give no support to the claim that mutations created all the genetic information in living things. The mutations modify something already in existence; they don’t create anything fundamentally new. See: The evolution train’s a-comin’ (Sorry, a-goin’—in the wrong direction), creation.com/train.
- ScienceNOW Daily News, sciencenow.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/2009/827/1, 27 August 2009.
Another Richard Dawkins book
Leading evolution-populariser Richard Dawkins’ new book The Greatest Show on Earth was published recently.
Among other things in it, he attacks young-earth creationists, whom he says make up 40 percent of people in America, by saying that not believing in evolution is like not believing that the Romans ever existed, or that the Holocaust ever happened. Thus he disparagingly refers to creationists as history-deniers and “40-percenters”. Dawkins says that “thoughtful and rational churchmen and women accept the evidence for evolution”, citing sundry Bishops and the Pope as examples.
However, he rebukes preachers who, although believing that evolution is true and that Adam and Eve weren’t real people, “will blithely go into the pulpit and make some moral or theological point about Adam and Eve in their sermons without once mentioning that, of course, Adam and Eve never actually existed!”
Dawkins addresses those church leaders directly: “Think about it, Bishop. Be careful, Vicar. You are playing with dynamite … Shouldn’t you take greater care, when speaking in public, to let your yea be yea and your nay be nay?”
How ironic. Evolutionists complain about the Church telling scientists what to do, yet here is an evolutionist and fanatical atheist telling preachers what to teach!
But Richard Dawkins has a point. Church leaders who conceal their unbelief in God’s Word from their congregations while happily receiving a pay packet from them are indeed being disingenuous. And they ought to note that their compromising of the Bible with evolution does not in any case appease Dawkins. In his TV diatribe against theistic religion called The root of all evil? (broadcast in 2006—see creation.com/dawkins-on-compromising-churchians), Dawkins said:
“Oh but of course the story of Adam and Eve was only ever symbolic, wasn’t it? Symbolic?! Jesus had himself tortured and executed for a symbolic sin by a non-existent individual. Nobody not brought up in the faith could reach any verdict other than barking mad!”
See CMI’s rebuttal of the evolutionary claims in Dawkins’ latest book.
- The Times Online, entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/book_extracts/article6805656.ece, 24 August 2009.
Alien radio signals prove elusive
The Allen Telescope Array in northern California, named after Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, is the world’s only telescope devoted primarily to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). It scans the skies for alien radio signals over a broader range and more intensively than any of the earlier SETI projects.
The first findings of the ATA were released recently, but, as New Scientist reports: “Sadly, it has not turned up any alien civilisations as yet.”
However, the search is unlikely to be called off anytime soon, given the evolutionary presuppositions undergirding the life-on-other-planets idea. See Gary Bates’ book Alien Intrusion: UFOs and the Evolution Connection, available from addresses on p. 2.
- New Scientist 203(2722):4–5, 2009.
The dinosaur sat down?
Scientists have found a trackway of a theropod dinosaur (a carnivorous dino type that includes T. rex, Allosaurus and Velociraptor) beautifully preserved in soft mud, now turned to stone, at St George in south-western Utah, USA. As well as leaving a trail of footprints, the dinosaur occasionally dragged its tail, and in one place sat in the mud and left impressions of its small front paws. The tracks were discovered in a deposit of sediment called the Whitmore Point Member.
This 20 m (66 ft) thick layer of sediment is loaded with dinosaur trackways at various horizons through it, including tracks of smaller and larger theropods as well as clawmark tracks indicating the animals were swimming in deep water, just managing to scratch their claws along the sand on the bottom. The sediment layers are also packed with fossils of sharks, lungfish, coelacanths, ray-finned fish, crustaceans, clams and other animals, and plants.
While the authors spent their time discussing whether the dinosaur could rotate its forearm, they overlooked the more significant evidence of the huge watery catastrophe recorded in the rocks.
The dinosaur tracks preserve the frantic efforts of the animals trying to flee from the rising waters of Noah’s Flood, occasionally stumbling and falling in the mud as they fled.
- The Salt Lake Tribune, www.sltrib.com/Utah/ci_11828632, 6 March 2009.
- PLoS ONE 4(3):e4591, doi:10.131/journal.pone.0004591, 6 March 2009.
Planets that go backwards
Two extrasolar planets have been discovered orbiting backwards, i.e. in the opposite direction to their respective stars’ spin. WASP-17b and HAT-P-7b are gas giant planets which are orbiting “very close” to their stars, about 1,000 light years from Earth.
Backwards-orbiting planets contradict the “nebular hypothesis” of evolutionary astronomers, which proposes that the sun, the earth and the rest of the solar system formed from a nebula or cloud of dust and gas. Such a collapsing cloud would result in objects orbiting in the same direction. But counter-orbiting bodies such as comets (see ‘Backwards’ comet perplexes scientists in Creation 31(4):38–39, 2009) and these two newly discovered planets add to the weight of evidence contradicting the nebular hypothesis—see creation.com/solarsystem.
- New Scientist 203(2722):14, 2009.
At innovation, children are champs, chimps are chumps
According to an article in New Scientist, “chimps will never create steam engines, stone pyramids, or even a simple wheel.”
The article was reporting that researchers taught 11 young chimps to dip a stick into a hole in a box to scoop out honey from inside. Then they showed them a better way, i.e. how moving the stick in the hole could release a latch that opened the box, giving access to not just all the honey but a stash of peanuts too. None of the chimps adopted the better solution, in stark contrast to most 3-and 4-year-old children shown the set-up.
One of the researchers, psychologist Andrew Whiten of the University of St Andrews (UK), mused: “There’s something curious going on in these non-human species, where they get stuck on simpler techniques.”
- New Scientist 203(2719):15, 2009.
“Creationists will trumpet”
A recent editorial in New Scientist referred to a controversial paper in the Journal of Biogeography which challenged the evolutionary orthodoxy by arguing that orangutans, not chimpanzees, are our closest evolutionary relatives. The New Scientist editor applauded the journal editors for their decision to publish “this challenging paper” despite knowing that other evolutionist scientists stridently opposed to publishing such “scientific heresy” would “question the judgement of the journal”. But then, this:
“One possible outcome, though, is that creationists will trumpet the paper as evidence that the theory of evolution is crumbling. If the experts themselves cannot get their story straight, they will crow, why should we believe anything they say? That, of course, is shameless intellectual dishonesty (though what else would you expect from a movement built on intellectual dishonesty?). A paper questioning one aspect of evolution is not evidence that evolution itself is in trouble. … We cannot censor ideas just because we are worried that a small bunch of religious fanatics will twist them for their own ends.”
The so-called “twisting” might have involved reminding folk about all of the hype about chimp and human DNA. That was supposed to “prove” conclusively that chimps are our closest evolutionary relatives. So it is surely reasonable for creationists to highlight other evidence (e.g. anatomical) which is inconsistent with that. That orangutans have been seriously proposed as our closest relatives shows that the DNA evidence for chimps being the closest to our ape ancestors is not the knock-out argument that evolution-promoters have claimed.
- New Scientist 202(2713):3,6–7, 2009.
Origin-of-galaxies model “badly wrong”
According to standard evolutionary models of how our galaxy’s cosmic neighbourhood came into being, the Milky Way should be surrounded by thousands of tiny satellite galaxies, rather than the mere 25 known ones.
“We see only about 1 per cent of the predicted number of satellite galaxies,” laments Pavel Kroupa of the University of Bonn (Germany). And there’s a problem with their location and motion, too—most of the galaxies orbit the Milky Way in an unexpected manner. “It is the cleanest case in which we can see there is something badly wrong with our standard picture [the big bang] of the origin of galaxies,” says Kroupa.
- New Scientist 203(2722):37–39, 2009.
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