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1. [email protected]: Water could be flowing on Mars today

The science hullabaloo this week is that liquid water may have recently flowed on Mars, according to one interpretation of recent photography from the late Mars Global Surveyor. Although Martian water is known to exist in the form of ice and may exist underground, this is the first indication of any recent, liquid surface water.

The photographic evidence for the liquid water comes in the form of growing gullies on the surface:

One of the gullies was snapped first in 2001, and then again in 2005. During that time, about 300 metres of new deposits had been formed. In another gully, formed sometime between 1999 and 2004 in a crater in the Centauri Montes region, a number of finger-shaped branches appeared over an area of about 600 metres.

Thus, some scientists credit water for the formation of these finger-shaped branches and gully extensions. For example, in a widely reported quip, Kenneth Edgett of Malin Space Science Systems (part of the Mars Global Surveyor team) claimed this evidence was a “squirting gun” in favor of liquid water on the Martian surface.

Yet the enthusiasm lacks ubiquity: geologist Allan Treiman of the Lunar and Planetary Institute counters the common view, “Nothing in the images, no matter how cool they are, proves that the flows were wet, or that they were anything more exciting than avalanches of sand and dust.” Even so, evolutionary scientists believe “they [now] have a better idea where to look” for microbial organisms, and thus are not largely challenging the findings.

So what should a creationist think? Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that it is evolutionists who effectively believe that “where water is, life will soon follow.” Since creationists realize that the origin of life takes far more than chemicals, it doesn't really matter-in terms of the creation/evolution debate, anyway-in what form water exists on Mars.

2. ScienceNOW: Little Foot Not So Ancient

The australopithecine fossil “Little Foot” is now a missing link no more, according to scientists. News reports on Little Foot give an interesting peek into the apeman dating game. To see what we mean, examine the opening paragraph from the ScienceNOW report:

Like the price of oil, the age of the famous hominid fossil known as Little Foot has fluctuated dramatically in the past decade. Named for its rare foot and toe bones, the South African australopithecine was originally estimated to be 3 million to 3.5 million years old, making it one of the oldest members of the human family. Other estimates dated Little Foot back as far as 4.1 million years, or as recently as 2.5 million years. Now a team of geochronologists thinks it has finally nailed down the fossil's true age-2.2 million years old-perhaps indicating that ancient hominids arrived in South Africa much later than currently thought.

Similarly, a Telegraph article on Little Foot throws out various dates for the fossil, yet claims that “now the apeman has been dated precisely to 2.2 million years old.”

Even ignoring the 11363problems of radiometric dating and simply looking at past “dates” for this alleged apeman (actually an extinct ape of the same type as 14619), how precise do you think this latest date is?

3. [email protected]: Built in compass helps bats find their way home

An interesting field study has reliably demonstrated that bats have a complex inner compass for the earth's magnetic field. Princeton University researchers led by Richard Holland transported bats 12.5 miles (20 km), released them, and tracked them as they flew back to their roosts without difficulty. Next, the team used an artificially generated magnetic field to confuse the bats' internal magnets, then released the bats from the same spot. The result? The bats “all took off in the wrong direction,” though they eventually corrected their paths and found their way home.

Thanks to this finding, bats can now be listed with numerous other animals exhibiting the incredible design of an internal magnetic compass.

4. BBC NEWS: Australia overturns cloning ban

The Australian parliament has now passed legislation that will allow for the cloning of human embryos for stem cell research, BBC NEWS reports. The measure, which was passed by the Australian Senate in November, was approved in the House of Representatives by an 82-62 vote. Interestingly, one of the justifications given for lifting the ban on embryonic cloning sounds similar to peer pressure: “This work's being done in Sweden, England, the United States, in Japan,” complains Kay Patterson, author of the bill. You can almost hear the crowd whining, “And if all the other countries get to do it, why can't we!?”

The result may be that countries end up competing to offer researchers the most lax laws when it comes to protecting human life. And tragically, without a return to a biblical foundation, there may be no solution to this degradation of standards. See our Q&A: Cloning for more reading on this topic.

5. The Denver Post: Standing up for science

This opinion piece from The Denver Post is hardly worth mentioning, except for its service as a recitation of some common arguments for evolution-in particular, that teaching evolution is the foundation for our economy. Essentially, the article argues that

1) Teaching evolution is an essential component of a rigorous scientific education and a shining example of the power and objectivity of the scientific method.
2) To weaken the teaching of evolution is to erode the teaching of science itself.
∴ Science is the fuel that drives the innovation that feeds our economy, and if we do not act soon to strengthen science education in the United States, our nation will lose our competitive edge in science, medicine and technology.

Of course, Answers in Genesis doesn't oppose the teaching of evolution, but only opposes the fact that teachers are not free to give “the rest of the story” on evolution.

The author also throws out other old canards, such as that evolution is not a belief/philosophy/opinion and rather “the name given to a natural process that was discovered by man” (sounds as though the author is confusing conjectured 14577 with observable natural selection), and that “there is no inherent conflict” between evolution and religion (with the author trying to justify that view by explaining that “[e]volution does not deny or confirm the existence of God” and that “[m]any religious people fully accept evolution).”

But the piece trips over itself nearer the end, when it explains

because intelligent design proposes a supernatural explanation, an idea that is not testable and most probably not observable, it violates two fundamental requirements of the scientific method. If we teach intelligent design as a scientifically acceptable alternative to evolution, we undermine the very essence of the scientific method.

In other words, anything supernatural is by definition unscientific, according to the author! (Perhaps the author believes teachers shouldn't teach molecules-to-man evolution in science classes either, since any origins “science” is unscientific and, hence, cannot be a “shining example of the power and objectivity of the scientific method”!)

Remember, if you see a news story that might merit some attention, let us know about it! And thanks to all of our readers who have submitted great news tips to us. If you didn't catch last week's News to Note, why not take a look at it now? See you next week!

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