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1. ScienceNOW: “Evolutionary Sprint Made Us Human”
Although the news has received relatively little attention, scientists publishing in the journal Genetics last week have showed that “[m]any more genes separate humans from chimpanzees than scientists believed.”
Evolutionists are fond of citing studies that indicate human/chimp DNA similarity of 98% or greater, and such citations have worked their way into popular culture, amounting in the eyes of most people as another piece of evidence in favor of evolution.
What seems to be less well known is that such estimates are inaccurate because they exclude other genomic differences. Elie Dolgin reports for ScienceNOW:
It’s often said that there’s only 1% to 2% difference between the genomes of chimps and humans, two species that had their most recent common ancestor about 5 million years ago. But that percentage refers to the nucleotide differences in shared genes.
A team at Indiana University–Bloomington took a “closer look” at gene duplication and loss in six mammalian genomes, a project that entailed looking at 120,000 genes in 10,000 gene families. They discovered that gene turnover is
faster in primates than in dogs or in rodents, and even faster in humans, who swapped genes 1.6 times faster than monkeys and 2.8 times quicker than nonprimates. Thanks to this rapid change, 6.4% of the 22,000-odd human genes aren’t present in chimps, making the gap between the two suddenly seem much wider.
The divergence includes a group of brain genes that “more than doubled in size in humans.”
For evolutionists, the discovery is interpreted as “providing fuel” for natural selection; after all, in the evolutionary framework, any difference between two genomes can only be explained by such forces as natural selection and genetic drift. If humans and chimps have similar genomes, it’s considered a signpost of our evolutionary lineage; if we have dissimilar genomes, an evolutionary mechanism is invoked to understand and interpret the dissimilarity. That’s how presuppositions work: by recasting and interpreting what we observe such that it fits with what we already believe. For creationists, this news fits perfectly with our understanding that chimps and humans are unique creations of God, not siblings with a few trivial genomic differences.
2. PhysOrg: “Study Casts Doubt on Creationism”
Apparently the newest evolutionary icon is the friendly, hefty St. Bernard dog breed—or so hints a University of Manchester press release carried by PhysOrg.com.
A team of University of Manchester biologists led by Dr. Chris Klingenberg has concluded that cranial changes in the St. Bernard “can only be explained through evolution and natural selection.” The press release adds that this may “ironically [challenge] the theory of creationism”—ironically because the breed is named after an 11th-century priest. The conclusion, which was published this week in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, came after Klingenberg's team examined the skulls of 47 St. Bernards covering a span of 120 years.
“[St. Bernard] features ... became more exaggerated over time as breeders selected dogs that had the desired physical attributes,” explains Klingenberg. “In effect they have applied selection to move the evolutionary process a considerable way forward, providing a unique opportunity to observe sustained evolutionary change under known selective pressures.”
The “sustained evolutionary change” Klingenberg references is, first, the presence of broader skulls in modern St. Bernards; second, a steeper angle between the nose and forehead in modern St. Bernards; and, third, a more pronounced ridge above the eyes of modern St. Bernards. According to Klingenberg, these three modern features are exactly what the breed standards prefer and would not have originated due to factors of survival. “[W]e can be confident that they have evolved purely through the selective considerations of breeders,” Klingenberg emphasizes.
So, is this evolution in action? It depends on what one accepts as the precise definition of evolution. In the most broad scientific sense, evolution—a word far older than Darwin, by the way—simply refers to fluctuations in a population’s gene frequencies (often specified as expressed gene frequencies) over time. Of course, the word evolution is used so frequently as shorthand for full-scale, molecules-to-man Darwinism that many people are unaware of the more accurate definition.
Using this more specific definition—of fluctuations in gene frequencies—we wholeheartedly agree that the St. Bernard study shows “evolution in action.” But such evolution in action bears only a fantasized resemblance to the molecules-to-man narrative Darwin (and others) popularized. The fluctuations in the skull shapes of St. Bernards have occurred due to artificial (breeder, in this case) selection of the genes already present in the St. Bernard genome. No matter what the fervor of the dog breeders, they can only select genotypes (or phenotypes, more specifically) that already exist. Studies of information theory invariably reinforce the principle that information originates only from information, not from randomness; thus, the “evolution” observed in St. Bernard skulls in no way corroborates the eons of information-gaining “evolution” some scientists invoke to explain our existence.
So, what about selection, both natural and artificial—what do creationists think? First, selection/adaptation in no way contradicts the explanation for the origin of life presented by Genesis; on the contrary, it is understandable that an all-knowing God would invent a mechanism of adaptation for His creatures. Second, selection/adaptation is observed in the present, unlike molecules-to-man evolution, which is a framework about the unrepeatable past designed to explain evidence we uncover in the present. Third, the principles of natural selection were outlined by creationists, such as English chemist and zoologist Edward Blyth, before being later adopted and recast by the likes of Darwin.
Without exception, evolutionists’ showpieces of “evolution in action” are really just (at best) examples of natural or artificial selection manipulating existing genetic information and resulting in phenotypic changes over multiple generations. Why, then, are these examples widely trumpeted in the media as countering creation theory? Klingenberg's own words suggest the root problem is simple ignorance:
Creationism is the belief that all living organisms were created according to Genesis in six days by ‘intelligent design’ and rejects the scientific theories of natural selection and evolution.
But this research once again demonstrates how selection—whether natural or, in this case, artificially influenced by man—is the fundamental driving force behind the evolution of life on the planet.
Klingenberg’s blatant error in stating that “creationism . . . rejects . . . natural selection” in the first paragraph can’t help but cause us to doubt his conclusions in the second paragraph!
3. Naples (Florida) Daily News: “Ben Bova: Hello? Why Isn’t Anybody Answering?”
Science fiction author Ben Bova offers a few explanations for why our search for extraterrestrial life (which is growing more robust with time) has turned up nothing so far.
Commenting in the Naples Daily News, Bova aims to answer a rather puzzling question: if we have been watching and listening for extraterrestrial life for so long—and, since the 1950s, using powerful telescopes to help the search—why is it that we’ve found nothing? “No little green men. No intelligent signals,” writes Bova, who then asks, “Are we alone in the universe?”
But Bova is not out to convince anyone that we’re alone. Rather, Bova proceeds to present a number of explanations for why aliens are so shy. Many of the facts Bova includes are often mentioned when discussing ET life and remind us that there are many, many, many stars out there, all spread over incomprehensibly large distances. The implication, of course, is that we simply haven’t cast our net far enough.
Bova then points out that according to the big bang model, intelligent life would have to “arise” (through magical abiogenesis) on planets circling younger stars, which would have started their life cycles with heavier elements, such as oxygen, carbon, potassium, and iron. “The atoms of our bodies,” says Bova, “were manufactured inside ancient stars, now long dead.” Older stars and stars near lethal radiation sources could not give rise to advanced life, Bova writes.
Even given these constraints, though, there are “millions of stars like the sun, young enough to contain the elements necessary for life and far enough away from the galaxy’s radiation-drenched core to allow life to flourish.” What about them? Bova asks. He proposes four answers:
Bova’s internal logic is flawless. But his presupposition—that abiogenesis is responsible for life on earth—is essentially blinding him to other possibilities, such as that life was created only on earth—and nowhere else. In fact, Bova’s answers to why we haven’t found ET life are a sign that the evidence—in this case, the lack of ET life—is trumped by the dogma—that abiogenesis would allow life to spring up throughout the universe.
Of course, evolutionists protest that we just don’t yet have the investigative resources to conduct an exhaustive search for extraterrestrial life. That’s true, but the search can always be pushed farther and farther away as the technology allows. But as we’ve often said, some people will go to great lengths to search for the least bit of intelligence on faraway planets—without giving the slightest thought to the intelligence that was required to design life on earth. And once again, it is evolutionary dogma that accounts for the blinders.
4. The Telegraph: “Cavemen ‘May Have Used Language’”
Despite frequent caricatures of Neanderthals as mentally deficient, grunting cavemen, scientists continue to find evidence that Neanderthals were intelligent beings quite a lot like us.
Specifically, scientists studying Neanderthal (sometimes spelled as Neandertal) DNA have found a “language gene” that, till now, had been found only in modern humans. London’s Telegraph reports:
Their controversial findings create the tantalising possibility that Neanderthals were in fact capable of speech much like humans and communicated with each other through their own language.
[. . .]
It is a stark contrast to the traditional image of Neanderthals as simple-minded cavemen [sic] and the latest research has shed new light on how Neanderthals evolved from our common ancestor more than 400,000 years ago.
The scientist leading the Neanderthal genome project, Svante Paabo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, also emphasized that the common portrayal of Neanderthals is inaccurate:
“It is not a compliment to be called a Neanderthal, but we are finding that the Neanderthal DNA looks much more like contemporary humans than chimps.”
Paabo added that “the human variations of this gene involved in the use of language are not found in apes. . . . By looking at their DNA, we have found that from the point of view of this gene, there is no reason they would not have spoken like we do.”
Some, like Oxford University scientist Simon Fisher, disagree with Paabo. “This is a really fascinating study, but analysis of a single gene is not enough to resolve the big question of whether or not Neanderthals were capable of speech.” We agree, of course; in fact, without conversing with a Neanderthal, we could never be sure what his speech capabilities were. That’s why Answers in Genesis relies on the Bible’s history, which declares that all men were descended from Adam (and Eve). This includes Neanderthals, and that’s why we are not surprised to witness the steady “rehabilitation,” as some have called it, of the Neanderthal image.
Oxford Brookes University professor Simon Underdown, meanwhile, is emphatic that the old image of troglodyte Neanderthals is finally on its way out: “This research should finally blow away the last vestiges of the Neanderthal as a dull-witted cave man.”
We’ll see if popular culture takes notice!
5. National Geographic News: “Solomon’s Temple Artifacts Found by Muslim Workers”
Workers have discovered artifacts on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem that date to the First Jewish Temple period, from the eighth to the sixth centuries BC.
Found by Muslim workers doing maintenance, the artifacts “may be the first physical evidence of human activity at the Temple Mount . . . in that time,” reports Mati Milstein for National Geographic News.
The description of what was unearthed is particularly interesting. “The findings include animal bones; ceramic bowl rims, bases, and body sherds; the base of a juglet used to pour oil; the handle of a small juglet; and the rim of a storage jar,” the report echoes, based on the Israel Antiquities Authority announcement.
According to Haifa University’s Ronny Reich, the discovery “most certainly” indicates that the temple was used during the aforementioned time period. “This is the first time we have shards from the Temple Mount with a [uniform] date,” Reich told National Geographic News, adding interestingly, “You can say that this was written in the Bible—but the Bible is a text and texts can be played around with. This is physical evidence.”
Archeological finds can never independently verify the Bible’s authenticity; nevertheless, such finds continue to corroborate the Bible’s account of history, helping it show itself to unbelievers as accurate “in earthly things.” Also, Reich seems to forget that physical evidence can be “played around with,” too, and must be interpreted through a framework—such as biblical history!
The Temple Mount’s archeological secrets will likely remain shrouded in mystery, however: religious leaders do not allow archeological excavations due to the mount’s holy status in Judaism and Islam.
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