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1. Reuters: “Chimps on treadmill offer human evolution insight

Every once in a while a new piece of “evidence” in the evolutionary mythology of mankind shows up that makes many wonder if evolutionists are really even listening to the assertions they’re making. Such stories, admittedly, make the job of reporting the news much more entertaining, but there seems to be no limit to the jumps in logic some researchers will make for the sake of headlines.

The most recent example of this comes from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. To test the theory that “human ancestors began walking upright because it used less energy than quadrupedal walking,” scientists hooked five chimpanzees and four humans up to facemasks and placed them on a treadmill to measure their “energy expenditure and biomechanics.” They also taught the chimpanzees to walk on the treadmill on two legs and on all fours. (There was no word on how they made the humans walk, but one does wonder if they had them scampering on the treadmill on their hands and feet.)

Every once in a while a new piece of “evidence” in the evolutionary mythology of mankind shows up that makes many wonder if evolutionists are really even listening to the assertions they’re making.

What were the results?

the researchers said people walking on a treadmill used just a quarter of the energy relative to their size compared to chimpanzees knuckle-walking on four legs.

But ...

Overall, the chimpanzees used about the same amount of energy walking on two legs compared to four legs, but the researchers saw differences among the individual animals in how much energy they used based on their gaits and anatomy.

With such “clear” evidence, it’s no wonder that the story has to fill the reader in on the importance of this finding:

“This paper provides strong support for the fact that energy savings played a role in the evolution of bipedalism,” one of the scientists, University of Arizona anthropologist David Raichlen, said in a telephone interview.

If nothing else, this story does emphasize how preconceptions underlie and affect interpretations of the evidence. These researchers, for example, believe that humans evolved from apelike organisms 4–7 million years ago and would likely have found any result to be “strong support” for their theory.

What is not asked, however, is this: if walking upright saves so much energy and non-teleological mutations and natural selection favor energy efficiency, then why aren’t all apes playing hopscotch and dancing the foxtrot? For that matter, why haven’t other quadrupedal species discovered this locomotive marvel? One would expect to see aardvarks ambulating down the street. After all, in the evolutionary worldview, humans are certainly not special.

The researchers also claim to have dug deep into the fossil record and “found anatomical features such as hind legs that might use less energy in locomotion.” The report does not give details as to which fossils they studied, but better energy efficiency in the past certainly does not lend any support to dirt-to-doctor evolution; in fact, it is just as likely that, as a result of the Fall, shuffling about has gotten less energy efficient.

In reality, humans walk like no other creature, since God made man to take a special place on the earth. This report does nothing but emphasize that fact. To read more about this supposed evolutionary transition, see Back problems: how Darwinism misled researchers and our Anthroplogy Q&A.

2. LiveScience: “Scientist: Human Origin Impossible to Pinpoint

Could this be the end of a debate that has been raging for years? Despite many claims of incontrovertible “fact” in evolutionary textbooks, researchers have been far from unified on the origin and development of modern humans (see Evolution Exposed for an in-depth look at what biology textbooks say on the issue). According to the report:

Debate over the origins of modern humans has simmered among anthropologists for years, with one theory asserting that Homo sapiens migrated across the world from a single point in Africa. The other theory states that multiple populations of Homo sapiens independently evolved from Homo erectus in regions beyond Africa.

To end this debate, a group of researchers, led by Andrea Manica of the University of Cambridge, examined genetic data and took skull measurements from “105 populations around the world.” In their report in the July 19 issue of Nature, the team claims that they:

[found] that both genetic and skull variability decreased with distance from Africa. So populations in southeastern Africa held the highest variability compared with populations in other countries.
“Humans seem to have poured out of Africa, spread out across the world, but at a really quite uniform rate such that you get this lovely gradual loss of diversity,” said study team member William Amos of the University of Cambridge.
The results held even when the scientists accounted for climate, since climate conditions can lead to changes in skull features.

Now, of course, a creationist would certainly point out that all humans arising from a single population is exactly what the Bible has said all along. All humans, after all, are descendants of Adam through Noah’s family. The diversity of humanity is another reminder of the amazing knowledge or our Creator who programmed in a vast array of variability in the first two humans.

Not all scientists are convinced by this latest salvo against the multiregional theory for the rise of modern humans, however. John Hawks of the University of Wisconsin–Madison says that this latest paper is based on outdated genetic research and that skull variability is no indication of the “origin of people.” (Professor Hawks should not be surprised on this last point—quite a few evolutionists have been inventing stories based on scant skeletal evidence for years.)

The report continues:

In his own research, Hawks is finding that natural selection has led to changes in thousands of genes during only the past few thousand years.
“I’m really thinking just the opposite of this paper,” Hawks said. “There are differences in the skull between populations, including their variability, but it is mostly due to very recent effects and not the origin of modern humans.”

Except for the claim of “origin of modern humans” in an evolutionary context, one might expect to find such a sentiment from a creationist researcher discussing the variation in humans that arose after mankind was dispersed at the Tower of Babel over 4,000 years ago. In fact, it is interesting to find that bits and pieces of the true history of the world are coming through in these competing materialistic theories—despite their attempts to construct an account of the past that excludes God.

Contrary to what this article concludes, however, the origin of humanity is very easy to pinpoint. We would invite scientists from both the out-of-Africa and the multiregional camps to look no further than Genesis 1–11 to solve this dilemma once and for all. (Hint: It wasn’t an apelike ancestor.)

3. BBC News: “Megaflood ‘made Island Britain’

One geological feature often used as prime evidence of gradual, millions-of-years formation is the Grand Canyon. In fact, some evolutionists are ready with lawyers should anyone even suggest a different view. They recognize that if the icons for eons of time are stripped away, then they can no longer spin whimsical yarns about supposedly ancient fossils.

For years, creationist researchers have been documenting the amazing power of “a lot of water over a little time” to carve out some astounding topology (see, for example, A canyon in six days, Grand Canyon, and Mount St. Helens—evidence for Genesis). It is interesting to note how such claims, when made by creationists, are often ridiculed in the secular world; when the same types of claims come from evolutionists, on the other hand, the story is quickly trumpeted around the internet.

For instance, a recent report from BBC News (citing a paper in the journal Nature) claims that “deep scars on the [English] Channel bed ... must have been cut by a sudden massive discharge of water.” This catastrophic “megaflood” is believed to have separated Britain from the rest of Europe in a very short time. (A sneak preview of the just-released Nature article appeared in newspapers several months ago.)

The article explains the mechanisms behind the Channel’s formation:

Scientists tell the journal Nature [sic] that the torrent probably came from a giant lake in what is now the North Sea.
Some event—perhaps an earthquake—caused the lake’s rim to breach at the Dover Strait, they believe.
Dr Sanjeev Gupta, from Imperial College London, and colleagues say the discharge would have been one of the most significant megafloods in recent Earth history, and provides an explanation for Britain's island status.

While the theory isn’t new, this study is one of the most detailed examinations of high-resolution sonar maps of the Channel basin to date.

The images detail deep grooves and streamlined features, the hallmarks of landforms that have been gouged by large bodies of fast-moving water.
At its peak, it is believed that the megaflood could have lasted several months, discharging an estimated one million cubic metres of water per second. And from the way some features have been cut, it is likely there were at least two distinct phases to the flooding.

Let’s take stock here: an enormous amount of water, a short timeframe, evidence of water-gouged landforms, and a large basin left behind. Does this sound strangely familiar?

Back in Britain, however, this particular group of researchers is quick to assert that the flood that formed the Channel happened “200,000 years ago.” Though the article does not tell how they obtained such a date, one can assume that they are relying on their preconceived notions about the age of the earth. According to a biblical interpretation, it is likely that the Channel was formed at some point after the waters receded from the one true “mega-Flood” that the world has experienced. For more information on the likely scenario concerning this event, see Flood cuts off Europe.

4. ScienceDaily: “How Pathogens Evolve to Escape Detection

Evolution is one of those amazingly versatile words that can be bent and warped to mean whatever one wants it to mean. To many scientists, abiogenesis (the spontaneous generation of life from nonliving matter billions of years ago) equals evolution; natural selection equals evolution; artificial selection equals evolution; and, also, mutation/loss of genetic information over time equals evolution. In fact, one wonders if including the word evolution is a prerequisite for publication in many secular journals—whether it adds anything to the research or not.

The problem with such warping and twisting is that it obscures which parts of the research are real, scientific observations and which parts of the research are biased assumptions about the past. Any reader, whether Christian or not, should learn to pick apart the issue to see which is which. Let’s take a closer look at a recent example.

Evolution is one of those amazingly versatile words that can be bent and warped to mean whatever one wants it to mean.

Researchers at Cornell University’s Boyce Thompson Institute have been studying how the bacterium Pseudomonas syringae “infects tomatoes by injecting a special protein into the plant’s cells and undermines the plant’s defense system.” (So far, so good—these are repeatable observations.) The article continues:

“Plant breeders often find that five or six years after their release, resistant plant varieties become susceptible because pathogens can evolve very quickly to overcome plant defenses,” said Gregory Martin, Cornell professor of plant pathology [...]. “However, every now and then, breeders develop a plant variety that stays resistant for 20 years or more.”

That first sentence contains one of the “buzzwords” any astute reader should watch out for: because. One can certainly observe the amount of time a plant is resistant to a particular pathogen. The plant breeders artificially select certain genes for their resistant qualities, though even these varieties become susceptible in only a short time. However, the cause of that susceptibility is based on speculation—not observation. The researchers admit this later in the article:

The researchers found that the Fen gene is present in both cultivated tomatoes and many wild tomato species, leading them to believe that the gene is likely ancient in origin and that many members of the tomato family have used it to resist P. syringae [sic] infections over the years. Since the Fen protein still detects AvrPtoB-like proteins from some strains of P. syringae [sic], prompting an effective immune response, the researchers believe new P. syringae [sic] strains have only recently evolved a version of AvrPtoB that includes an E3 ubiquitin ligase enzyme that interferes with the plant’s surveillance.

What was observed? The Fen gene (the gene that protects the plants from the bacteria) is present in tomato plants in the wild and the ones that were artificially selected. In fact, this Fen gene still detects some strains of P. syringae—though not all strains—whatever the type. Then, however, we run into another one of those buzzwords: believe. Based on their prior expectations about the origin of life, they believe that this denotes an “arms race.” Basing their conclusions on this belief about the unobservable past, the researchers have put their “best guess” forward as to why this happened, certified it as grade A evolution, and are distributing it as “proof.”

But is this really the only interpretation? First of all, it is important to notice that the Fen gene is already present in the tomato plants (even the researchers think this is evidence that the gene is “ancient in origin”). The problem is that they assume that since the tomato plants are losing immune resistance to P. syringae, that the bacteria must be developing new genetic information to attack the plants.

What they don’t state is how the AvrPtoB protein “evolved.” This has nothing to do with new information arising by chance over millions of years, but everything to do with natural selection on a (much!) shorter timeframe, living in a fallen world.

By the way, not all research on plant defenses is blemished by appeals to the mystical power of evolution.

5. “Pluto’s Moon is an Ice Machine

Although Pluto is no longer classified as a planet, it is still generating headlines, or, rather, its moon, Charon, is causing some astronomers to take notice. Many secular researchers consider the Kuiper Belt Objects (of which Pluto-Charon are a part) to be primordial leftovers of the formation of the Solar System about 5 billion years ago. They are cold, distant objects (many binary) that seemed to have very little reason to be geologically active. After all, planets and moons usually generate heat when radioactive elements break down over time (some, on the other hand, can also generate heat from tidal forces, which are not the cause here); thus, there is only a limited “fuel supply” that can keep the object active. In most cases, the smaller the object is, the less fuel that’s available. The less fuel that’s available, the less time it can be active.

From a biblical standpoint of a six-thousand-year-old creation, most objects in the Solar System could very well be active with plenty of “power” left in the core. However, the big bang model with its ancient universe has much more difficulty explaining why moons that should have run out of fuel are still active—even when relying upon uniformitarian assumptions about radioactivity (for more information, see Enceladus: A Cold, Youthful Moon).

On that point, this tiny moon never knew about the big bang model. An article on states:

Slushy geysers on Pluto’s moon Charon apparently coat the tiny world in ice crystals, making it something like the outer solar system’s equivalent of an ice machine.
There are no photos of the geysers or the ice. Instead, astronomers learned of the ice deposits after discovering the spectral fingerprints of ammonia hydrates and water crystals in light coming from the moon. The findings suggest that ammonia-laced liquid water from deep inside Charon is seeping out through cracks onto the moon's frigid surface.

Obviously, very little can be gleaned from the indistinct glimpses we have of the distant moon, and, as the article states, NASA’s New Horizons space probe will be able to verify these observations when it arrives in 2015. But for the time being, it is interesting to note that while the astronomers recognize that the most feasible explanation for the possible geysers is “heat from radioactive materials in Charon’s interior,” they are strangely silent on how such materials could still be there in appreciable amounts in such a tiny moon after billions of years.

6. MSNBC: “Why does the survival of the fittest allow runts?

We’ve all heard it before on TV or in biology textbooks: evolution removes those members of a species that are less fit. This, after all, has been one of the assumptions about how evolution prunes the gene pool and somehow blindly selects those attributes that are better adapted to the environment. (As we’ve said before, however, survival of the fittest, natural selection, is certainly not the same thing as slime-to-squid evolution and can work only upon pre-existing information.) In fact, the belief that “survival of the fittest” is such an irresistible force has led some researchers to help it along from time to time.

What does one do, however, with the recurrence of “less-than-ideal” members of the species? In the case of red deer populations on the Isle of Rum, Scotland, one group of researchers wanted to understand why natural selection had failed to remove the “runts.” After studying 34 years worth of data over eight generations of deer, the group found that:

[...] a genetic tug-of-war related to sex may be responsible. When red deer search for mates, each sex instinctively looks for different qualities. Males seek out females that will produce the biggest, toughest sons, and females seek males that carry a genetic blueprint for the best offspring-creating daughters.

Instead of the genes for weaker deer being removed, the deer are simply reshuffling the existing information.

Such an evolutionary paradox creates weak members of each sex every generation alongside stronger members, and the “bad” genes don’t disappear because they’re inextricably tossed back and forth between the sexes, like a hot potato.

The researchers, of course, see this lack of change as a confirmation of evolution. But it is obvious that this “evolutionary paradox” is hardly what one would expect for a process that is supposedly, as the article says, “running towards an optimal solution, looking for the best puzzle pieces to play with.” The lack of change—no overall increase in genetic information—cannot also be proof for change. If anything, this lack of change points to the limits of mere natural selection (with no guidance mechanism). Hopefully these secular scientists will see how limited it truly is.

7. Elements of design

And finally this week, we take a break from picking apart the historical preconceptions of many naturalists to examine how observational science is leading to some exciting new discoveries. Of course, these technological “breakthroughs” are not nearly as new as they may seem—God created them about 6,000 years ago.

Physorg: “Synthetic nanoadhesive mimics sticking powers of gecko and mussel

Two Northwestern University biomedical engineers have developed a new adhesive substance that “functions like a sticky note and exhibits strong yet reversible adhesion in both air and water.” Where did they find their inspiration for this modern marvel?

Messersmith and Lee imitated a gecko’s foot by nanofabricating arrays of silicone pillars that exhibit enough flexibility to adapt to rough surfaces. Next they brought in the mussel power, coating the pillars with a very thin layer of a synthetic polymer, designed by the researchers, that mimics the wet adhesive mussel proteins.

LiveScience: “Secret to Abalone Shell Strength Revealed

Mother-of-pearl is not just an attractive accent; it is also a heavy-duty material that could one day revolutionize structural design. An article from LiveScience explains:

Also called nacre, the material has long puzzled scientists because it is 3,000 times more break-resistant than the mineral that comprises its building blocks, aragonite. Recently, researchers have started to examine the intricacies of the hardy structure in hopes of learning how to replicate it in durable man-made materials.
Close up, the shell resembles a brick wall, with a twist. Organic mortar lies between clumps of mineral-crystal bricks aligned in irregular columns. The columns of crystals interlock like zippers, but each column faces a different direction than its neighbor.
[The researchers] predict that this irregular, interlocking design stands behind nacre’s brute force.

ScienceDaily: “Miraculous Mosquito Legs

The mosquito may not be anyone’s favorite insect, but that doesn’t mean that the pest isn’t packed with some amazing design features.

Mosquitoes walk on water better than water striders, cling to smooth ceilings and walls as tightly as geckos, and clutch the skin of their victims with annoying tenacity in search of blood. [...]
The secret to mosquito water walking appears to be feathery scales a few microns across that in turn are covered with nanoscopic ribbing, forming what the physicists have dubbed (in an apparent fit of excessive prefixing) a micronanostructure. [...]

God’s creative power should never cease to amaze any open-minded researcher. Even what we might consider the simplest organisms display an amazing wisdom that should leave all humans in awe.

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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