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1. Guardian Unlimited: “I am creating artificial life, declares US gene pioneer

According to Britain’s Guardian, a team assembled by DNA researcher Craig Venter is on the verge of creating artificial life in the lab.

DNA researcher Craig Venter is “poised to announce the creation of the first new artificial life form [sic] on Earth,” reported the Guardian last weekend on an announcement expected “within weeks.” A team assembled by Venter has already fashioned a synthetic chromosome in the laboratory using chemicals made in the lab. The chromosome is 381 genes long and was carefully “stitched” together by the team. It is based on the bacterium Mycoplasma genitalium and has been named Mycoplasma laboratorium.

If the chromosome can be transplanted into a living bacterial cell and successfully seize control of the cell, it will effectively be a unique life form, reports the Guardian. As expected, the idea of “creating” life (though life is not truly being created; perhaps “rebuilt” is a better word) is rife with ethical questions. Venter argues that his project is “a very important philosophical step in the history of our species” and that we will now have the “hypothetical ability to do things never contemplated before.”

Dr. Georgia Purdom, a fully qualified, in-house molecular geneticist for Answers in Genesis, took a close look at Venter’s claims this week, deconstructing, explaining, and commenting on this supposed creation of artificial life:

Keep in mind that life is not being created from “scratch.” The scientists are using their intelligence to do it! They are using a sequence for the man-made chromosome that is similar to a pre-existing bacterial chromosome, using pre-existing DNA bases to make the man-made chromosome, and putting the chromosome into a pre-existing bacterial cell. All the pre-existing items were created by God!

To read the rest of her expert analysis, visit Have Scientists Created a New Life-form in the Lab?

2. AP: “Texas Canyon Was a Geological Rush Job

Even secular scientists agree that the mile-and-a-half-long Canyon Lake Gorge, Texas, which is up to 80 feet (24 m) deep, didn’t take millions of years—rather, it was carved out in three short days in July 2002.

When the spillway to Canyon Lake in Texas overflowed five years ago, the resulting torrent sliced through layer after layer of rock in just three days, creating a canyon that looks like a miniature of the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

The water exposed “rock formations, fossils and even dinosaur footprints” and dug so deeply that Bill Ward, a retired University of New Orleans geology professor who has spent time examining the gorge, commented that “there wasn’t a blade of grass or a layer of algae [left].”

The official website for the Gorge Preservation Society notes that the peak flow of the floodwater was some 67,000 cubic feet per second (1,897 cubic meters per second), nearly 200 times the typical rate. (You can view an aerial photo of part of the gorge at the site as well, and our site hosts a close-up of the damage the gorge-formation caused.)

Furthermore, other geological formations—such as Devonian Fossil Gorge north of Iowa City, Iowa—have been similarly formed by flash flooding. Yet the AP story on Canyon Lake Gorge confidently explains,

Neither compares to the world’s most famous canyon. It took water around 5 million to 6 million years to carve the Grand Canyon, which plunges 6,000 feet at its deepest point and stretches 15 miles at its widest.

Why is it that, even in the face of firsthand evidence that deep gorges can be formed by floods in mere days, secular scientists still insist other canyons took millions of years to form—even when no one observed these millions of years? The answer, of course, is that these uniformitarian interpretations are a linchpin of the “geologic column,” the long-age interpretation of the fossil record that is absolutely required for Darwinism to make sense.

In spite of this, secular scientists have not been able to deny the evidence for rapid formation of numerous geologic features worldwide, especially when the evidence occurs right before our eyes! And if a single overflowing spillway in Texas can carve a mile-and-half-long, 80-foot-deep gorge in three days, imagine the geological havoc a worldwide Flood—and its retreat—would cause over the span of more than a year!

For more information:

3. BBC News: “River reveals ‘Jurassic dragon’

Fossilized vertebrae previously belonging to a “sea monster” have been uncovered in Northern Ireland in a “chance in a million” discovery, reports the BBC.

Found in Colin Glen, an area described by park ranger Paul Bennett as “rich in fossils and [...] of great geological interest,” the 2 3/4-inch (7 cm) section of backbone is from a plesiosaur said to have lived more than 144 million years ago and possibly as long as 190 million years ago. (The substantially divergent dates are not explained in the article, nor is any information given on how the age estimates were deduced.)

Plesiosaurs, which Bennett notes could grow to some 20 m (66 ft) long, were long-necked, small-headed creatures that swam using four flippers. Their sharp teeth and snapping jaws have helped characterize them as menacing aquatic predators, thus the christening of the creature as a “sea monster” or “Jurassic dragon.”

The existence of modern-day plesiosaurs, presumably hiding in such places as the ocean deep and even Loch Ness, is sometimes discussed in creationist circles. A living plesiosaur would certainly be a surprise to secular science, which considers them to have gone extinct with the dinosaurs (although plesiosaurs were not actually dinosaurs, but aquatic reptiles). A carcass reeled in by the Japanese fishing trawler Zuiyo-maru in 1977 was for years the object of plesiosaur-centric speculation, but the carcass was in all likelihood the remains of a basking shark (based on detailed analysis). For these reasons, we recommend against creationists using the story as evidence for extant plesiosaurs.

But while living plesiosaurs have not been found, many “living fossils” have been found, including the coelacanth, a fish previously declared by secular science to have been extinct for 65 million years, based on the fossil record. (Although the tune quickly changed when a live coelacanth was found in 1938!) Furthermore, if plesiosaurs were around even several hundred years ago, they could help account for the tales of sea monsters shared in most seafaring cultures (and mentioned in the Bible; Job 41:31 describes Leviathan as “mak[ing] the sea like a pot of ointment”).

4. AP: “Scientists: Appendix Protects Good Germs

The actual function of the human appendix—which has been long derided by some scientists as a useless leftover of evolution—has “finally” been uncovered, reports the Associated Press.

Surgeons and immunologists at Duke University Medical School, whose hypothesis was published in an online edition of the Journal of Theoretical Biology, suggest that the job of the appendix is to produce and protect beneficial germs for use in the intestines.

The AP story notes that the appendix’s job “seems related to the massive amount of bacteria populating the human digestive system.” Most bacteria in the human body is helpful and is used to aid digestion. Duke surgery professor Bill Parker, who participated in the study, labeled the appendix a “good safe house for bacteria” and a “bacteria factory” that cultivates good germs. If a disease such as cholera or amoebic dysentery destroys the useful bacteria in the human gut, it is the appendix’s job to “reboot” (to use the AP story’s term) the digestive system.

In modern, developed countries, however, the appendix is less important. Not only are epidemics of cholera and amoebic dysentery no longer threats, but gut bacteria can also be repopulated through contact with other people, Parker explains. But in less developed countries, the appendix may still be useful.

Other scientists agreed that the new theory makes sense, with one suggesting the tonsils (also at one time considered a useless evolutionary leftover) may have a similar function.

Evolutionists once counted some 180 structures in the human body as “vestigial”: useless remnants from our evolutionary past that served no purpose in “modern” humans. Functions have since been found for nearly all those structures—as a creationist would expect: excellent design and function make sense with a wise, all-knowing God (too bad many evolutionists were blinded to this all those years). And although the tide has been turning for a while, at least in some circles, indicating that the appendix likewise played an important role in the human body, this recent paper pretty much settles the debate (though further study is certainly merited).

One final note: the AP article cautions (and we second) that this theory in no way reduces the danger of appendicitis and the importance of seeking medical attention for acute abdominal pain.

5. BBC News: “Teachers ‘fear evolution lessons’

The teaching of evolution in schools continues to become more stress-ridden for instructors, reports the BBC. In a new book, a scientist who also serves as a Church of England priest argues against putting creation and evolution education on the same level.

Michael Reiss, head of science at the Institute of Education in London, warns that pupils could leave school with “gaps in their scientific knowledge” because of the influence of creationism. Reiss estimates (on what basis, the article does not say) that one in 10 individuals in the UK accepts the literal truth of the creation accounts in the Koran or Bible. He adds that both Christian and Islamic creation movements have resulted in an increasingly difficult environment for evolution education, arguing in particular that:

The number of Muslim students has grown considerably in the last 10 to 20 years and a higher proportion of Muslim families do not accept evolutionary theory compared with Christian families.

In a new book, Teaching about Scientific Origins: Taking Account of Creationism, Reiss argues that instructors should “tackle the issue head-on, whilst trying not to alienate students.” He added, “By not dismissing their beliefs, we can ensure that these students learn what evolutionary theory really says—and give everyone the understanding to respect the views of others.”

But apparently “not dismissing” creation beliefs isn’t the same, to Reiss, as putting creation and evolution on equal footing. The BBC includes Reiss’s qualification that “any teaching should not give the impression that creationism and the theory of evolution are equally valid scientifically.”

In other words—as we’ve seen in other jurisdictions—it’s perfectly fine to believe in a creation story, so long as you don’t assert that the story has any scientific basis. That is what is meant by “respec[ting] the views of others.”

In Reiss’s defense, he is suggesting a less dictatorial way of handling the issue of origins education as the classroom debate continues to grow; many of his opponents cling to a more rigid defense of evolution in the classroom. For example, Hilary Leevers of the Campaign for Science and Engineering argues that “Further discussion of creationism should occur in religious education as it is a belief system, not one based on science.” Of course, the presuppositions underlying evolutionary theory are just as much a “belief system” as other religious presuppositions, as Ken Ham clearly describes in “Evolution Is Religion.”

Additionally, this quote from the article demonstrates the bias pretty clearly: “But Prof Reiss argues that there is an educational value in comparing creationist ideas with scientific theories like Darwin's theory of evolution because they demonstrate how science, unlike religious beliefs, can be tested.” Note how creationists have “ideas,” how “scientists” have “theories,” and how “Darwin's theory of evolution ... can be tested.” Never mind scientists who are creationists and who have creationist theories that can be tested scientifically (one example being the RATE project). Or the fact that you can’t objectively test origins—and that what is testable of evolution theory, i.e., natural selection, is something creationists also accept.

It is encouraging to hear that pupils are continuing to raise questions about evolution in the classroom, despite authorities’ attempts to stifle honest inquiry. While Answers in Genesis does not condone mandating educators to teach creation (such policies would inevitably result in evolutionists mis-teaching creation theory), we do strongly believe students and teachers should have the academic freedom to discuss the weaknesses and presuppositions inherent in Darwinism. But no matter what level of academic freedom is allowed in the science classroom, it is the ultimate responsibility of parents, pastors, and lay leaders to clearly explain the reliability of Genesis—and all of God’s Word—to each new generation.

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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