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1. FOX NEWS: “Mars Probe Finds Deep Hole on Red Planet

The Search for Terrestrial Intelligence came up empty-handed again this week, as FOX NEWS carried a story on a large dark spot, possibly indicating a deep hole, found on Mars:

A very dark spot on Mars could be an entrance to a deep hole or cavern, according to scientists studying imagery taken by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
The geological oddity measures some 330 feet (100 meters) across and is located on an otherwise bright dusty lava plain to the northeast of Arsia Mons[.]

Okay, that’s science—no leaps of logic or flights of fancy. Then we arrive at paragraph three:

The hole might be the sort of place that could support life[.]

A-ha! Now we know why this possible hole is receiving such attention: because it could be, just could be the habitat for that ever-so-elusive Martian life. The article goes on to explain that this possible cave “may cause more scientists to ponder about potential subsurface biology on Mars.”

Once again, faith in abiogenesis is fueling irrational exuberance in the search for extraterrestrial life. The “Mars hole” isn’t all, however; carries a UPI article, “Search for life in space getting closer,” explaining that an upcoming European Space Agency mission will scan hundreds of stars and study the light from dozens of planets for life signs. Glenn White of Open University explains the proposed goal of the appropriately named “Darwin” mission, set to launch in 2018:

“Once the mission gets up, we are pretty sure that, if there is life out there, we are going to have an extremely high probability of telling you whether life has started on a planet[.]”

White’s comment on the mission is wisely qualified with the phrase “if there is life out there.” We’ll be waiting with bated breath to see what Darwin sees.

In the (minimum) eleven-year interim, why not review our Alien Life / UFO Q&A, Astronomy & Astrophysics Q&A, and Origin of Life Q&A, which together provide powerful reminders of why Answers in Genesis doesn’t believe life has sprung (or will spring) up by chance in any part of the universe.

2. BBC NEWS: “T. rex was ‘slow-turning plodder’

Fearsome, lethal Tyrannosaurus rex: a cunning, quick, dexterous dinosaur that ruled the ancient world, right? Not quite. Several of those attributes weren’t true of the famous T. rex, including—as is being reported this week—the idea that T. rex was a quick predator. On the contrary, a Stanford University team reports in the Journal of Theoretical Biology that T. rex “was unlikely to have topped 40km/h (25mph) and would [have taken] a couple of seconds to swivel 45 degrees[.]” The team came to this conclusion after detailed computer modeling of T. rex motion based on previous biomechanical work.

One important principle that this research highlights is the substantial amount of guesswork that plays into our scientific understanding of the past. The science presented to the public—including to schoolchildren—is often caricatured and even distorted. This pseudoscientific environment, fueled by the rush of the media to repackage esoteric experiments into all-important, absolute facts, and general disinterest of the public to research things for themselves, is an obstacle to the constructive discussion of science. A prime example are the millions who blindly accept old-earth dating methods without even a modicum of understanding how the technique works. Many can claim dinosaurs died out long before man arrived on scene, but far fewer can explain how we “know” this.

Another interesting corollary of this new T. rex finding is that it minimizes one objection to the “cohabitation” of dinosaurs and humans (as is presented by the Bible and widely lampooned by anticreationists): that humans could not have survived amid carnivorous dinosaurs such as T. rex (which were not originally carnivorous, anyway, according to the book of Genesis). However, understanding that T. rex (and presumably other large, carnivorous dinosaurs) were not so swift on their feet helps us better conceptualize how our human ancestors would have dealt with wildlife threats—not unlike human populations who, even today, live near dangerous carnivores.

3. ScienceNOW: “Stem Cells Without the Fuss?

There may be—we emphasize, may be—a solution on the horizon that would quiet the current debate over the use of embryonic stem cells, a type of stem cells harvested from human embryos that, in general, require the destruction of an unborn child. This debate has raged on despite the success of generally unobjectionable adult stem cell research.

In this week’s issue of Nature, however, and in the upcoming issue of Cell Stem Cell, Japanese and American researchers from Kyoto University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Harvard University announced a “reprogramming” technique that has rendered fetal mouse cells “indistinguishable” from embryonic stem cells: they “appear to have all the same traits as [embryonic stem] cells[.]”

Yet disappointingly, initial results were not all positive. The ScienceNOW article reports that of 121 mice embryos that had these specially made stem cells injected, 20% developed tumors after birth. Team leader Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University explained that the mortality rate “shows the danger of using retroviral vectors [used to “reprogram” the cells], which can turn on cancer-causing genes.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the ScienceNOW article preemptively warns those who oppose embryonic stem cell research (on ethical grounds)—like us—from drawing too much hope from the breakthrough:

In this environment, the reprogramming studies, preliminary as they are, are likely to be seized on by critics of [embryonic stem] cell research as further evidence that there is no need for the contentious practice of destroying early embryos to obtain stem cells. [Harvard’s Konrad] Hochedlinger and others hasten to point out that research needs to progress on all fronts because all systems “have their limitations.”

Of course, it is precisely because of the lack of proper ethical limitations that we hold on to hope that advances in medicine can come without the cost of human lives. And, again, we can’t understand why there is still a push that all fronts—in particular those with ethical concerns and loss of life—progress when there has been greater success with the use of adult stem cells, which does not cost life in order to save it.

4. LiveScience: “Origins of Human Nervous System Found in Sponges

According to evolutionist scientists, popular cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants may not be as fictional a concept as previously thought! Or so suggests recent research appearing this week in PLoS ONE. The study reviews the recent finding that “sponges contain about 25 genes that are very similar to human genes found in the ‘synapses’ of nerve cells[.]” These synapses play a crucial role in learning and memory, the LiveScience article on the research reports.

Based on these similar genes, the study’s authors conclude that “the evolutionary origins of the nervous system are much older than scientists previously thought.” Sponges, the researchers point out, don’t have nervous systems. Yet in addition to having “similar” genes to humans, those “similar” genes produce proteins that “were found to interact with one another in ways similar to proteins in human synapses.” [emphasis added] Todd Oakley, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California–Santa Barbara who participated in the research, explained the pattern of similarity:

“Not only do they have [human synapse genes], they also have this signature that they may be functioning in a similar way in the absence of a nervous system, as they do in the presence of one,” Oakley told LiveScience. [emphasis added]
The function of the sponge genes are not clear, but their human counterparts combine to form complex protein “machines” important for synaptic communication, Oakley said.

Noticeably, whereas the article describes the genes as “very similar,” Oakley states categorically (albeit with some editorial alteration) that the sponges have the human synapse genes. We suspect this is due to Oakley’s (and evolutionists’ in general) view that if two genes are similar in two organisms that share a common ancestor (which, ultimately, are all organisms in the evolutionary worldview), the two genes are presumed to be the same gene, merely mutated in different directions over eons of supposed evolutionary history. Accordingly, the article notes:

The researchers speculate that the sponge genes were recycled over evolutionary time, with small modifications, to create the nervous systems of later animals.

The creationists’ view, by contrast, is to emphasize that similarity can never prove evolution nor disprove creation. Evolutionists explain similarity through their worldview as the inevitable result of shared ancestry across all life. We creationists explain similarity through our worldview as the understandable result of one Designer creating a system of life that shares the same world. Indeed, the only statement in the article that uniquely supports either creation or evolution is the final paragraph:

Other genes would also have had to evolve or to have been co-opted to create complex nervous systems, such as our own. Scientists think an estimated 77 to 1,000 genes are important for human synaptic communication, Oakley said.

Thus, while similarities are easily explained by creation and evolution, the differences are only explained well by the creation model; the evolution model, despite its supposed emphasis on empirical support, has never shown that mutations increase information—such as yielding the hundreds of genes required just for our nervous system—as Darwinian evolution requires. While this is interesting postulation, note that mechanism for the creation of new genes has neither been described, nor demonstrated, but is apparently blindly believed to have taken place.

5. “Study of staph shows how bacteria evolve resistance

One of the most common canards in the creation/evolution debate is that bacterial resistance to antibiotics proves that “evolution”—implying microbes-to-man evolution—is empirically verified, indisputable reality. Of course, the informed reader knows that what is being reported as evolution is actually natural selection, which creationists agree with—a reduction of genetic information, not an increase, which is necessary for molecules-to-man evolution.

Although we’ve tackled this misunderstanding on numerous occasions, its ubiquity—and this article from—prompt us to give the explanation again.

The common, vague portrayal is that antibiotics cause bacteria to adapt by somehow overcoming the antibiotic attack mechanism, evolving more sophisticated genomes to dodge the antibiotics.

What actually happens, as even evolutionists will confirm, is that certain members of a population of bacteria have—due to mutations—a makeup that prevents the antibiotic from having its desired effect. For example, an antibiotic may destroy bacteria by eliminating its ability to absorb a certain nutrient. While this may kill most of the bacteria, those bacteria that lack this ability (due to destructive mutations) would not be affected. With the former group of bacteria removed, the latter group of bacteria would increase in number, resulting in the appearance that the single, monolithic population of bacteria has adapted to beat the antibiotic.

This article, which reports on careful observations Rockefeller University researchers conducted on bacteria in a patient, does not explain how the bacteria became resistant to antibiotics. However, it does note that the bacteria became resistant to one antibiotic that was not even used on the patient. This reinforces the reality that resistance is not induced by the introduction of antibiotics that force bacteria to evolve, but rather that resistance is the result of antibiotics killing all the bacteria that are susceptible to the antibiotic, leaving the resistant varieties to thrive.

Numerous in-depth articles on our site address this topic. See our Mutations Q&A for articles on this and similar topics.

6. ScienceNOW: “Froggy Went a-Rafting

A recent evolutionary finding from Central and South America lends support to creationists’ post-Flood speciation model. Biologist S. Blair Hedges and colleagues at Penn State University conducted extensive research on frogs in Central and South America, plus the Caribbean, collecting tissue from nearly 300 kinds of frogs in genus Eleutherodactylus. The goal? To determine more about the largely unexplored evolutionary history of the genus, and to determine how species are related across geography.

The team’s results overturned previous scientific “assumption,” which held that “frogs on different islands evolved at different times from separate South American emigrants.” Instead, the research indicated that:

[T]he frogs in Central America are in a distinct part of the family tree from those on Caribbean islands. And the frogs on the islands are more closely related to each other than to frogs anywhere else, meaning they all evolved from one ancestral population, which rafted from island to island and developed into all the various species.

The researchers also concluded that this island-to-island speciation occurred “only 50 million years ago, more recently than the existence of a land bridge between any Caribbean islands and Central and South America,” further supporting the idea that rafts made of “decaying plants, reeds, and roots, which can stretch for a mile and can surf along the ocean currents,” carried adult frogs or even frog eggs to new destinations.

We don’t agree with the timeline given (which is based on the assumption that evolution occurred). We do believe that the researchers’ methods to discern frog relationships are largely valid, as frogs would have all descended from an original amphibian (possibly frog) kind.

But, in particular, this research supports our post-Flood view of speciation that includes the possibility that animals traveled great distances on naturally occurring rafts. Once again, scientific research ostensibly reinforcing the evolution model is equally applicable to the creation model.

7. Harvard University Gazette: “A tale of two scholars: The Darwin debate at Harvard

This interesting story, from Harvard University’s news office, reviews a talk given by Aramont Professor of the History of Science Janet Browne of Harvard University. The talk, at the Harvard Museum of Natural History, reviewed the life of Louis Agassiz, a 19th-century “ambitious institution-builder and fundraiser as well as one of the most renowned scientists of his generation” who is viewed with strange curiosity now because of the fact that he did not accept Darwin’s theory of evolution:

Agassiz was unimpressed with Darwin’s book, which he called “a scientific mistake, untrue in its facts, unscientific in its methods, and mischievous in its tendency.”

In a revealing look at the current mentality of scientists, the University Gazette described the talk as “a reminder of Agassiz’s stature and achievement despite his rejection of Darwin’s challenging theory.”

Indeed, the view nowadays from the scientific mainstream is not merely that accepting creation precludes one from contributing to natural history and the like, but rather that accepting creation precludes one from contributing to any body of science. On the contrary, while creation-believing scientists are definitely in the minority, there are thousands of successful, doctored scientists (including some listed on our creation scientists page) who accept the Genesis account of creation, and thousands more who reject Darwinian evolution (though not necessarily accepting the Bible’s account of creation).

Sadly, Louis Agassiz’ story is not entirely commendable:

Agassiz’s idea of nature was an essentially static one: God had placed the various species of plants and animals in specific places around the globe, and there they had remained, in the same forms and quantities as when they were first created.

(We’ll interject at this point that this view fails to account for natural selection, which does not contradict, but rather complements, the biblical view; in addition, this view ignores the catastrophic effects of the Flood.)

There was a hierarchy to organisms, but not an evolutionary one. Some were more complicated and advanced, but he did not believe as Darwin did that more complicated organisms evolved out of simpler ones.

(On this point, we agree—but not, as you will read, with Agassiz’ next conclusion.)

Agassiz had similar ideas about humans. The five races of man were indigenous to specific sections of the earth. Highest in development were white Europeans. Lowest were black Africans. Agassiz took a very dim view of racial mixing.

Sadly, and again, Agassiz’ view fails to account for the Bible’s clear teaching that we are all of one blood, and instead his belief on this point more closely resembles the Darwinian view toward humanity. Read more about that topic in our Racism Q&A.

At the very least, we hope that some of the bright minds at Harvard were reminded that belief in creation is held by enough people—from all academic and intellectual backgrounds—to merit more than scoffing and instant dismissal.

8. USA Today: “Poll shows belief in evolution, creationism

The results of a USA Today/Gallup Poll, released and reviewed in Friday’s edition of USA Today, reaffirm previous surveys that show a United States populace with no consensus on the creation/evolution issue. Of particular note are two questions of the June 1–3 survey, the first which asked pollees to respond on the truthfulness of human evolution and human “creationism,” and the second which asked pollees to rate their familiarity with evolution and creationism. Complete poll results are available on the USA Today website.

For the first question, pollees rated both evolution and creationism on the following scale: “definitely true,” “probably true,” “probably false,” “definitely false,” and “no opinion.” Only 18% of respondents accept evolution as definitely true, compared to 39% who believe creationism is definitely true; additionally, only 15% of respondents answered that creationism is definitely false, whereas 28% answered that evolution was definitely false. Three percent of respondents to each question answered “no opinion.”

Furthermore, 66% of respondents think creationism is either definitely or probably true, compared to 53% who think the same about evolution.

Puzzlingly, the poll numbers do not comport with one another; for example, the three percentage-point discrepancy between those saying evolution is definitely true and those saying creationism is definitely false, and the 11 percentage-point discrepancy between those saying creationism is definitely true and those saying evolution is definitely false. These seemingly conflicting figures cannot be explained by poorly phrased questions, as the questions are written in such a way that should preclude, for example, an old-earth creationist from answering positively toward both evolution and creationism. Even so, the figures do not line up perfectly.

Also interesting is the fact that more respondents said evolution was probably true than definitely true, whereas more respondents said creationism was definitely true than probably true. This is presumably because of the foundational role of creation within the Christian/biblical worldview; Bible-believing creationists stand on the Word of God as not only definitely true, but also as our “starting point.” By contrast, many who accept evolution may do so merely because it is what they were taught in schools, or because they have the impression that science overwhelmingly supports it (without having reviewed that science themselves). Thus, these individuals label evolution as probably true, leaving only the die-hard, committed naturalists to accept evolution as definitely true.

The next question asked how familiar respondents were with evolution and creationism, allowing the following responses: “very familiar,” “some-what [sic] familiar,” “not too familiar,” and “not at all familiar,” with 1% answering “no opinion” in each case. The responses to these were fairly similar, with 82% claiming familiarity with evolution, and 86% claiming familiarity with creationism.

Of course, this result will no doubt infuriate evolution educators, who—despite their virtual monopoly on public school education—will decry the lack of evolution education relative to the influence of “creationist propaganda.” We suspect that the fraction who reported a lack of familiarity with both creation and evolution are just not interested in the topic. Also thought-provoking, though not reported, would be figures indicating what evolutionists and creationists said about their own familiarity with the opposing (as most of us say) view.

The results are ultimately affirming to the work of Answers in Genesis and other ministries that uphold the Bible’s account of creation. That said, oft-cited inaccuracies about creation—and the increasing secularization Europe and the United States in particular—are reminders of the need for ongoing efforts to teach the Bible’s account of man’s origin and creation science ... to promote the good news of the gospel.

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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