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1. ScienceNOW: “Digging Deeper for Martian Life

Well, last week the news was that Martian water may linger just beneath the surface of the red planet. This week, scientists report that Martian life may be beneath the Martian surface-but too deep for us to detect, they caution. Of course there are lots of problems with assuming the presence of water, in and of itself, is promising for the origin of life.

Astrobiologist Lewis Dartnell of University College London joined British and Swiss colleagues in publishing their theory in this week’s Geophysical Research Letters. “[I]f life did evolve and persist on Mars, it likely settled at least 2 meters below the surface,” the team concludes, noting that “the hardiest cells we know of could not possibly survive the cosmic radiation levels near the surface.”

The problem-for evolutionists who believe Mars once harbored life, anyway-is that current probes on Mars lack drilling equipment capable of mining down far enough to sample the supposed habitat of Martian life. But despite the lack of evidence for Martian life, many evolutionists will surely hold onto their faith that it once existed; Dartnell, using religious language, explains, “The Holy Grail … is finding a living cell that we can warm up, feed nutrients, and reawaken for study.” In fact, this story is quite similar to another from last autumn, when the story was that past Martian missions missed life because their tests weren’t “robust enough” (see the October 28, 2006, News to Note, item #6).

American astrobiologist Andrew Steele caps off the article with an intriguing quote of his own: “If we find that Martian chemistry progressed toward life but didn't produce it, that’s as valuable as finding life.” In other words, any indication that chemistry can “progress” toward life on its own will leave astrobiologists (and others) overjoyed; this is why the slightest sign of naturally occurring organic material puts evolutionists in a tizzy.

See our Origin of Life Q&A and our Life on Mars? section for a full treatment of this topic.

2. “No Big Bang? Endless Universe Made Possible by New Model

An article slated to appear in an upcoming issue of Physical Review Letters is already making waves in the astrophysics world. The article, by University of North Carolina physics professor Dr. Paul Frampton and UNC graduate student Lauris Baum, outlines a cosmological model that rivals the popular big bang model many secular scientists propose for the origin of the universe.

Bible-believers shouldn’t jump to conclusions, however; despite this new model’s contrast with the big bang, its description of the universe is even more at odds with the Genesis account than the big bang model is. The new model describes an “endless” universe that expands “until all matter fragments into patches so far apart that nothing can bridge the gaps[-e]verything from black holes to atoms disintegrates.” At this point, each “fragmented patch” collapses individually, then re-expands big-bang style to become its own universe. Thus, with each cycle of expansion/contraction, infinite new universes are created.

Unsurprisingly, this new cosmology has similarities to other “oscillating universe” theories proposed in the past, but merely rests on different assumptions, as the authors admit. But even as secular cosmologies come and go-or expand and contract, perhaps-the Bible’s cosmology remains the same.

3. ScienceDaily: “Anthropologist Confirms 'Hobbit' Indeed A Separate Species

In last year’s August 26 News to Note, item #1, we reported on the then-latest classification status of skeletal remains discovered in 2003 on an Indonesian island. The remains, which are mostly from a single small human (now frequently referred to as a “hobbit”), were initially claimed as an extinct hominid species, Homo floresiensis. But three years later, an international research team concluded that the LB1 skull, as it’s been catalogued, instead belonged to a modern, dwarf human with microcephaly (an abnormally small, improperly developed head). This conclusion was partially an attempt to account for the “sophisticated tools and evidence of a fire” at the site.

Now there’s another twist: a Florida State University paleoneurologist claims the remains, dated to 18,000 years ago, really are from a different species. Dean Falk, whose team’s conclusions are published in this week’s issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, examined a “virtual endocast” of the “hobbit’s” braincase and compared it with “computer-generated reconstructions of nine microcephalic modern human brains and 10 normal modern human brains.” The result?

They found that certain shape features completely separate the two groups and that Hobbit classifies with normal humans rather than microcephalic humans in these features. In other ways, however, Hobbit's brain is unique, which is consistent with its attribution to a new species.

Interestingly, the researchers claim the hobbit’s brain is “highly evolved” and “advanced in a way that is different from living humans.” Thus, there’s no possibility evolutionists could claim this species (if it really should be classified as a separate species) as an evolutionary precursor to Homo sapiens. This leaves evolutionary scientists wondering the same things Falk is:

“It's the $64,000 question: Where did it come from?” she said. “Who did it descend from, who are its relatives, and what does it say about human evolution?”

Thus, despite its small stature, it appears this hobbit may have had all the mental faculties of modern humans. Whether or not it’s a separate species (originally defined to classify reproductive compatibility, though the definition has since grown stricter) may be tossed around for awhile (as with Neandertals); however, tool- and fire-making evidence indicates that this hobbit was likely a descendant of Adam and Eve.

Should this surprise Bible-believing Christians? Certainly not! After all, the Bible speaks of giants, and the average height of modern-day people groups ranges substantially. This simply attests (along with many other features) to the incredible diversity of God’s original creation.

For more on the topic of human origins and anthropology, see our Anthropology and Apeman Q&A.

4. BBC NEWS: “‘Terror birds’ never met humans

It seems scientists were a bit off in their approximate date for the extinction of Titanis walleri, the “giant carnivorous ‘terror bird’” that once stood 7 feet (2 m) tall and weighed an estimated 330 lbs (150 kg). “It had been thought the fearsome beasts became extinct as little as 10,000 years ago-a time when humans shared their North American habitat,” the BBC NEWS article explains. But-oops-did we say 10,000 years? No, no, make that two million years ago, scientists now say. Of course date changes like this are not uncommon, so why should we believe this new date? This new figure is based on chemical analysis of T. walleri bones found in Florida and Texas, whereas the previous figure “would have coincided with the mass extinction of other mega-fauna that occurred in North America at the end of the Pleistocene [Epoch],” the article explains.

Of course, this isn’t a first; scientists play the dating game all the time, in the areas of paleontology, anthropology and geology. The question is, for how long will the public think radiometric dating is trustworthy?

5. BBC NEWS: “Antarctic hill surprises experts

Support for creation geology is coming from an out-of-the-way location: Antarctica. To be more specific, support is coming from a “drumlin” (a small hill molded by glacial activity) that has formed below Antarctic ice in what secular geologists consider the blink of an eye. Professor Tavi Murray of Swansea University, who is on the team that made the discovery, explained:

We went from this feature not being there, to suddenly, bam, this big mound had risen from the sea-bed. This was a really big surprise … [p]eople think of glaciated landscapes as representing thousands or tens of thousands of years of time; then suddenly here we have this thing that is the size of a large warehouse popping up in this very short period.

The entire article, in fact, is devoted to this notion that things are happening more quickly than many glaciologists thought:

The drumlin … is growing 10 times faster than had been expected.

The speed of its growth has altered the scientists' perceptions of past drumlin formation.

But instead of representing what the ice was doing over a really long time-scale formation, [other drumlins] are really brief snap-shots of what has happened in the past.

The bed underneath these ice streams must be changing really rapidly, much more rapidly than we thought before.

And, in case you didn’t get it the first time:

[T]he beds of these ice stream[s] can be changed much faster than we have previously thought possible.

Perhaps most intriguing is that all this geologic activity is happening currently; imagine the rapid speed of geologic change if, say, the earth were to experience the massive upheaval of a global flood, followed by an ice age. Put these together, and you end up with geology that both explains what we observe and supports the Genesis account of history.

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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