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1. FOX News: “DNA Discoverer: Blacks Less Intelligent Than Whites”
The Nobel Prize-winning co-discoverer of DNA has caused considerable outrage by asserting that testing shows Africans’ intelligence to be inferior to that of whites.
James Watson, one of three scientists awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1962 for helping discover the structure of DNA,1 created considerable controversy by telling London’s Sunday Times that his pessimism about African progress is because “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours—whereas all the testing says not really.” Watson added that although he hopes intelligence is evenly distributed across racial groups, “people who have to deal with black employees find this not true.”
Calling his assertion a “hot potato,” Watson further explained that
[T]here is no firm reason to anticipate that the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution should prove to have evolved identically. Our wanting to reserve equal powers of reason as some universal heritage of humanity will not be enough to make it so.
Despite this, Watson made clear that he rejects discrimination against blacks, instead suggesting that “there are many people of color who are very talented, but don’t promote them when they haven’t succeeded at the lower level.”
Other scientists, such as professor of biological sciences Steven Rose of the Open University, were quick to repudiate Watson’s comments:
This is Watson at his most scandalous. If he knew the literature in the subject, he would know he was out of his depth scientifically, quite apart from socially and politically.
Watson, a self-proclaimed atheistic secular humanist, is no stranger to controversy. In 2003 he told London’s Telegraph that “Every time you understand something, religion becomes less likely.”
What is perhaps most notable is that despite the flak from other scientists, Watson is being entirely true to his atheistic, Darwinist beliefs. Basing his claim on empirical evidence (which, we’ll note, is neither uniform nor conclusive, nor does it conform fully to standards of scientific experimentation) as well as the presupposition of evolution, Watson has concluded that there is no reason to assume all “races” have evolved the same level of intelligence. Given an evolutionist understanding of human history, this idea (however unlikable to most people) is no less “scientific” than many other hypotheses. What’s more, the idea has fueled racism, especially in the early twentieth century, when the indigenous inhabitants of many continents, including Africa, were mistreated under the banner that they were less evolved.
The Bible provides a starkly different—and far more positive—view on the “races.” For a starter, the Bible tells us that all people are of one blood, descended from Adam through Noah. The confusion and dispersion at Babel, described in Genesis, caused people to move away from another, which eventually led to the skin-deep differences we encounter today due to environmental adaptation. For an explanation of what the Bible says about how the “races” came about, see “Interracial Marriage”
On Friday, Watson clarified and apologized for his comments after he was suspended from his duties at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York. Apologizing, Watson explained:
I can certainly understand why people, reading those words, have reacted in the ways they have. To all those who have drawn the inference from my words that Africa, as a continent, is somehow genetically inferior, I can only apologise unreservedly. That is not what I meant. More importantly from my point of view, there is no scientific basis for such a belief.
Watson further clarified his position in comments published in the Independent:
We do not yet adequately understand the way in which the different environments in the world have selected over time the genes which determine our capacity to do different things. The overwhelming desire of society today is to assume that equal powers of reason are a universal heritage of humanity.
It may well be. But simply wanting this to be the case is not enough. This is not science. To question this is not to give in to racism. This is not a discussion about superiority or inferiority, it is about seeking to understand differences, about why some of us are great musicians and others great engineers.
Concluding, the BBC article on the apology notes that “[p]eople from different racial groups can be more genetically similar than individuals within the same group”—something Answers in Genesis has long emphasized as well. Two Caucasians may, for example, have far less genetically in common than a Caucasian and an African (although all three are overwhelmingly similar, genetically speaking!). This goes right along with the Bible’s explanation for the origin of people groups.
AiG–U.K.’s Paul Taylor also commented on this story on Friday. You can read his comments in “DNA Pioneer in Evolutionary Racism Storm.”
2. An Anniversary We Would Like to Forget
Saturday, October 27, marks the fortieth anniversary of the passage of the 1967 Abortion Act in Britain, which legalized abortion in the country.
Answers in Genesis laments the increasingly anti-life political and social developments that have swept much of the world in the past quarter century, and with next Saturday marking a major anniversary of one of those political developments, we join hands with other Christian groups and ministries in the U.K. protesting the Act.
This coming Thursday, AiG–U.K.’s Paul Taylor will issue a more complete comment on the Act, on abortion, and on the Bible’s defense of the unborn child. In the meantime, visit our Get Answers page on human life to read about the Christian stance on abortion and euthanasia.
3. BBC News: “Skies to be swept for alien life”
A new telescope array designed in part to spot alien life got to work this week near San Francisco, California.
Partially funded by Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen, the $50 million Allen Telescope Array will eventually combine 350 twenty-foot (6 m) dish antennas that will “sweep more than one million star systems for radio signals generated by intelligent beings.” Right now, the first 42 dishes are in operation, producing radio maps of the Andromeda and Triangulum galaxies. (The project needs another $25 million for completion.)
According to BBC News, the array’s creators—the SETI Institute and the Radio Astronomy Laboratory—“hope [the array] will help spot definite signs of alien life by 2025.” A statement released by SETI senior astronomer Seth Shostak claimed the ’scope “may lead to the discovery of thinking beings elsewhere in the Universe.”
The hubbub over the prospect of intelligent life has only increased in past years—even as our explorations farther and farther into space have turned up no signs of life many hoped would be out there. Fueled by evolutionary presuppositions, modern science is heading against the current of evidence by continuing to fund new astronomy projects designed to probe planets, moons, extrasolar planets, and far-off stars and galaxies for even the faintest, most inconclusive data that could be interpreted as showing life elsewhere may be possible.
As we’ve noted before, humankind—especially under the influence of evolutionary theory—will spend countless hours pondering the existence of intelligent life in the universe (earth notwithstanding!), yet will laugh at the signs of intelligence and design that both enfold and compose us here on earth.
4. The Local: “Creationism to be banished from Swedish schools”
Creation science may soon be kicked out of Christian school science classes in Sweden in what’s being called a government “crack down.”
In extremely disappointing news from Scandinavia, Sweden’s Local reports on a Swedish government crackdown on “the role religion plays in independent faith schools,” including the teaching of intelligent design and creation in science classes alongside evolution. This is part of a growing trend—which has seen recent success in Canada and elsewhere in Europe—to stem the tide of intelligent design and creation science by removing it not only from public (government-run) school classrooms, but also from independent religious schools.
To read more about the ban, visit “Swedes Ban Creationism from Schools—Including Christian Schools!” from AiG–U.K.’s Paul Taylor.
5. Penn State Live: “Probing Question: How do songbirds learn to sing?”
A press release from Penn State University this week draws attention to the incredible mental capabilities of “ordinary” songbirds.
Penn State’s Alexay Kozhevnikov, an assistant professor of physics and psychology, explains that bird songs are meant for far more than human enjoyment:
In a bird’s world, a sloppy song can have serious consequences, Kozhevnikov said. “It means he’ll have a very tough time mating,” he noted. “One major reason songbirds sing is to attract females who choose their mates on the basis of song quality.”
Males who don’t pick up the skill of singing from their fathers, meanwhile, are doomed to sing “poorly structured” songs that “lack the wealth of acoustic structure.”
What are the females attracted to? “There is some research that has tried to find out which aspects of the song are most attractive to females,” Kozhevnikov explains, citing “tempo precision or the bird’s ability to repeatedly and precisely hit the same rhythm” that “might be an indication that the singer is fit and in great shape.”
Kozhevnikov is researching how bird brains coordinate the sophisticated songs. “The hope is that the principles of such an organization might be general and what we learn about studying the birds might be applicable to humans.” Humans already resemble birds (and whales and dolphins) in being able to listen to a sound and reproduce it (perfectly or not). The press release explains the professor’s research:
Using a tiny, lightweight device [... Kozhevnikov] has measured the electrical signals of individual neurons firing in one of the bird’s brain areas responsible for singing, an area known as the high vocal center, and found their ability to repeatedly hit the same rhythm to be within a millisecond, or one-thousandth of a second.
Talk about precision! Kozhevnikov emphasizes that “from an engineering/neuroscience point of view, [this bird capability is] a marvel. It’s, I believe, the most precise sequence in nature found to date.”
Disappointingly, Kozhevnikov does not see the amazing capabilities in such tiny brains as evidence of intelligent design; rather, Kozhevnikov credits anthropomorphic “Mother Nature” for “creating” the capability through natural selection. “If a bird doesn’t sing an attractive song, his genes are going to be out of the genetic pool of the population.” If the evolutionists are right, then it’s only a matter of time before songbirds are replicating Bach and Beethoven with that sort of precision! But a “little bird told us” that it’s actually not evolution that’s responsible for this incredible capability. While natural selection may play a part in fine-tuning the song, we submit that the creator was not “Mother Nature,” and that the bird was designed to do what it does do, and it does do it well, and always has.
And for those of you who have been reading News to Note for a while, you’ll recall that this isn’t the first mention of unexpectedly sophisticated bird intelligence. (See the September 22, 2007, and August 25, 2007, editions for recent stories on that topic.)
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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