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1. ScienceNOW: “Human Evolution Is Speeding Up

The rate at which humans evolve is 100 times faster than it was 5,000 years ago, reports ScienceNOW on a human DNA analysis project reported on in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week.

Led by University of Utah paleoanthropologist Henry Harpending, the team analyzed DNA from 270 individuals, searching for single-nucleotide polymorphisms in sequence data from Europeans, Africans, and Asians. After the analysis, the team concluded that the rate of evolution “has accelerated in 1800 human genes, which encompass about 7% of the human genome.”

“The pace of change has accelerated a lot in the last 40,000 years, especially since the end of the Ice Age,” explains Harpending. The source for most of the mutations, the scientists speculate, is a series of “recent” population booms.

Not all evolutionists are convinced, however. Yale University geneticist Kenneth Kidd cautions that, while he doesn’t deny recent rapid selection, “I am not yet convinced that so much rapid selection at so many places in the genome has occurred. ... I think we need much more data.”

AiG’s Dr. Georgia Purdom said of this research:

“The researchers suggest two reasons for human ‘evolution’ speeding up: an increase in population size and increased migration of humans to new environments (changing lifestyle, diet, and other selection pressures). Although creationists would not agree with the time scale of 40,000 years ago, these two reasons they suggest for the ‘speed up’ would have occurred shortly after Noah’s Flood and the Tower of Babel event around 4500 years ago. In Genesis 9:1 God commanded Noah and his sons to be fruitful and multiply, and after the confusion of languages at the Tower of Babel, people migrated to different parts of the earth that had been drastically altered by the Flood. It is conceivable that natural selection would have occurred in the human population helping them adapt to their new environments. However, this is not an example of human evolution. Humans are still humans! This is why it is so important to not equivocate the terms natural selection and evolution and to clearly define them (see this past Friday’s Feedback, Feedback: The Nature of Myth, for more information on this issue).”

Be sure to check back soon for an in-depth article on this news from Dr. Purdom.

2. AP: “Evolution Keeps Pregnant Women Upright

Apparently each of us has not only a mother to thank, but also evolution for bringing us into the world safe and sound—or so implies recent research published in Nature.

“Scientists think they have figured out why pregnant women don’t lose their balance and topple over,” reports the Associated Press on a question that surely has plagued most of us on a regular basis. The three-member team that solved the puzzle says we have evolution to thank for the “elegant engineering” that allows women to adjust their center of gravity and thus stay upright. And just what is the elegant engineering?

Harvard anthropology researcher Katherine Whitcome found two physical differences in male and female backs that until now had gone unnoticed: One lower lumbar vertebra is wedged-shaped in women and more square in men; and a key hip joint is 14 percent larger in women than men when body size is taken into account.

Whitcome referred to the supposed evolution of the features as “absolutely beautiful … a little bit of tinkering can have a profound effect.”

Of course, none of this research indicates any evolution was required; the news can be interpreted just as easily as two more of the design features of a gracious, omnipotent God. The treatment of the news is indicative of a growing trend, however: blithely referring to all biological discoveries (or so it seems) as “thanks to evolution,” even when they clearly point to our Creator’s providence.

3. ScienceNOW: “Clues to a Steamy Martian Past

Mars Rover Spirit’s stuck right front wheel scraped up quite a discovery last April, reported NASA mission controllers earlier this week at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

The discovery, unsurprisingly, is all about possible Martian life. When Spirit’s broken wheel created a wheel rut, scientists noticed “a bright white layer under the characteristic red dust” of the planet. After “preliminary spectrographic analysis indicated the presence of water-soluble minerals,” NASA decided to examine the region in more detail.

Analysis of a nearby rock showed it to be formed of siliceous sinter, containing 98 percent silica. “It could have only been produced by one of two processes: Either its constituent minerals crystallized from hot springs, or it formed from the residue of fumaroles, steamy caustic volcanic vents,” explains the ScienceNOW summary.

Thus, NASA scientists, knowing that “hardy microbes survive in fumaroles and hot springs” on earth (such as at Yellowstone National Park), concluded that perhaps such implied Martian hot springs or fumaroles could have been a habitat for Martian microbes.

The news is yet another tidbit in a long line of “possibilities” that, to date, have turned up no specific evidence of Martian life. Intriguing as the news is, we won’t exactly be holding our breath for Martian life to turn up anytime soon.

4. Lexington Herald-Leader: “Pick Kentucky’s Most Intriguing Newsmaker

A lot can happen in a year—for just one person. What about for an entire state? Trying to partially answer that question for the state of Kentucky, the Lexington Herald-Leader asks who is the most “intriguing newsmaker” in the state in 2007. And AiG–U.S. President Ken Ham is one of the nominees.

That’s right! Former Australian schoolteacher Ken Ham was nominated along with politicians, actors and actresses, athletes, criminals, and others (even including a famous horse). The nomination is a reminder that, months ago though it may have been, the Creation Museum’s opening created a worldwide splash that brought in media groups from around the U.S., Europe, and elsewhere, and is still creating news and controversy.

Briefly recounting some of that controversy, the Herald-Leader’s simple description of Ham reads,

T. rex [sic] in Paradise? The Aussie transplant and Answers in Genesis founder delighted fundamentalists and confounded evolutionists by opening a $27 million Creation Museum in Northern Kentucky.

If this is all news to you, be sure to visit http://www.creationmuseum.org/ and learn about the cutting-edge “walk through history” that presents the Seven C’s of history through engaging displays, stunning artistic depictions, and interactive media.

And for those who consider Ham the most intriguing figure of the year in the state, voting at http://www.kentucky.com/601/story/255923.html ends December 19.

5. BBC News: “Dawkins: I’m a Cultural Christian

Atheist partisan Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion and numerous books on evolution, still considers himself a “cultural Christian” despite rejecting the claims of Christ.

Dawkins was on the BBC’s Have Your Say responding to comments by Member of Parliament Mark Pritchard, who, also on Have Your Say, “accused ‘politically correct’ people of undermining Christmas.” Dawkins said he did not want to rid the U.K. of its Christian heritage and that he enjoys singing Christmas carols.

“I’m not one of those who wants to stop Christian traditions,” said Dawkins. “This is historically a Christian country. I’m a cultural Christian in the same way many of my friends call themselves cultural Jews or cultural Muslims.” Dawkins speculated that the threat to such traditions comes from “rival religions and not from atheists.”

On one hand, it is certainly more welcome to hear Dawkins expressing his comfort with Christmas traditions than it would be to hear him attacking Christmas festivities with the fervor with which he attacks religious belief. There is little doubt that many other atheists, filled with fond childhood memories and the like, are similarly willing to tolerate religious festivals. However, are there not also atheists who would prefer every vestige of religion removed, including even seemingly innocuous Christmas carols? While Dawkins presumably wishes to portray atheism as a carefree, live-and-let-live philosophy, atheism can just as easily fuel those who would prefer to ostracize and strangle Christianity and its traditions.

We also wonder how much of Dawkins’s moral compass—which he claims to retain despite his atheism—is rooted in the fact that he is a cultural Christian. Tragically, transplanting Dawkins’s atheistic beliefs to a country devoid of religious backdrop—as Britain, the U.S., and elsewhere may soon or eventually be—may result in a society where morals are deemed unworthy and survival of the fittest reigns supreme.

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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