1. ABC News Blogs: “Evolution: ‘Overwhelming and Compelling’

On Thursday night on American television, ABC News included a segment in its nightly news broadcast (World News Tonight with Charles Gibson) covering the National Academy of Sciences’ newly released book, Science, Evolution and Creationism, described as “a strongly-worded answer to the Creationist movement and the doubts about Darwin that many people express in polls and elsewhere.”

Though the book is really an update of versions published in 1984 and 1999, it now includes coverage of alleged missing link and “walking fish” Tiktaalik.

The purpose of the book, according to the NAS, is to help “students as well as adults who wish to become more familiar with the many strands of evidence supporting evolution”—strands that the book says are “grow[ing] at a rapid pace.”

In addition to covering Tiktaalik, the book argues that without understanding evolution, combating viruses would be impossible, and states that “[e]volution is both a fact and a process that accounts for the diversity of life on Earth.”

As we’ve pointed out previously, there is a growing trend—which this updated book reflects—of scientists treating Darwinian theory as an absolute, indisputable fact central to science rather than as a set of testable scientific hypothesis (tested extensively enough, some would say, to be christened “theory”). Secular scientists are growing more dogmatic about evolution, even while accusing creationists (and others who question evolution) of dogmatically believing in untestable “stories.”

We believe both evolution and creation are frameworks used to interpret the evidence, but at heart, both come down to untestable presuppositions about God, nature, time, and even our ability to observe the world around us.

And, interestingly, although the NAS book pays lip service to religion and science getting along (with “science” being the absolute authority, of course), a survey several years ago showed 93% of NAS members to be atheistic or agnostic. When it comes to worldviews, then, what would we expect the NAS to say?

For more information, see our full article, “The Creation/Evolution Battle Resumes.”

2. BBC News: “Not One But ‘Six Giraffe Species’

The giraffe, the world’s tallest animal, may not be a single species but instead may contain several species, according to a report in BMC Biology.

The report analyzed the genes of African giraffes and concluded that “variation in hair coat colour is evident across the giraffe’s range in sub-Saharan Africa, suggesting reproductive isolation.” Lead study author David Brown, a UCLA geneticist, explained that, “Using molecular techniques we found that giraffes can be classified into six groups that are reproductively isolated and not interbreeding.”

Giraffes are currently considered one species, though there are further subspecies divisions. The research suggests division into six or more different species, with varying coat colors.

Traditionally, the “species” designation referred to organisms that could interbreed; two organisms of the same species could, whereas two organisms of different species shouldn’t have been able to. However, the species designation is increasingly used for more narrow delineation, and numerous examples of members of different species (or genera, or even families) mating successfully have become more frequent. For example, although the team suggests six or more giraffe species, Brown notes that, “although the giraffes look different, if you put them in zoos, they breed freely.”

So why does this matter? As time passes, different populations lose genetic information as they naturally adapt to their surroundings, diverging genetically from other populations. Sometimes these divergences lead to organisms that cannot interbreed; other times, the organisms look dramatically different but can still interbreed.

If we reverse the process and head back in time, we recognize that at creation, the number of created kinds must have been far fewer than the number of species we observe today. This is particularly significant when discussing such issues as how long it took for Adam to name the animals and how all of the animals could have fit aboard Noah’s Ark; the biblical description of “kinds” is much broader than today’s idea of species.

Also, when we see variations of similar animals in the fossil record, we see it as different members of the same or similar kinds that naturally adapted to different habitats, becoming increasingly unique along the way.

3. MSNBC: “Scientists Abuzz over More Efficient Web Servers

In another example of technology inspired by nature, a honeybee dance has helped scientists design a new model for Internet server technology.

The honeybee waggle dance, used to direct other bees toward the best sources of nectar, is amazing in itself, as the MSNBC article describes:

When a scout bee has discovered an attractive nectar source, it dances on the floor of the hive, waggling its body rapidly from side to side. Each element of the dance—including motion, scent and possibly even sound—gives eager followers clues to the nectar’s whereabouts.
The number of turns, for example, indicates distance, while the angle of the bee’s principal dance lines signals the proper flying direction relative to the sun. For particularly good sources, the bee may repeat the whole sequence several times so more workers can get in on the act. The moves are so telling, in fact, that researchers can learn the location of a flower patch simply by watching a dancing bee.

The article further describes how the rate of dances shifts to focus attention on newly discovered nectar sources, ensuring a consistent flow of nectar. So why, asked scientists, couldn’t web servers respond with similar dynamism with peaks and troughs of web traffic?

In the server model, electronic advertisements between servers function as the dances, and such factors as revenue or page hits function as nectar. Servers being used post ads for other servers to come “help out” with web traffic. Furthermore, a similar system has been suggested to help Internet providers save on electricity costs.

“It is amazing how inspiring the natural world can be,” said Craig Tovey, co-director of Georgia Tech’s Center for Biologically Inspired Design who helped pioneer the model. The MSNBC article adds, “The bees, it seems, are showing once again that it really pays to mimic Mother Nature.”

Of course, mimicking “Mother Nature” is, in reality, mimicking one of God’s many fascinating designs—bee dances being one of the most unique and, when it comes to evolutionary theory, inexplicable behaviors we observe in nature.

For more information:

4. BBC News: “Beetles and Dinos Living Together

Most of the beetles that exist today lived among the dinosaurs, according to new research published in the journal Science, extending the supposed beetle history to 110 million years previous to what was once believed.

While prevailing theory once held that beetles arose along with flowering plants, said by secular scientists to have been approximately 140 million years ago, researchers have dated over 100 beetle families to before that time.

Lauding the survivability of beetles—of which there are more than 300,000 species—study coauthor Johannes Bergsten of Imperial College London said scientists have yet to find the answer to what causes high speciation rates in beetles.

Here is something that is abundantly clear, however: despite the dating game, beetles in the fossil record and beetles today are all plainly beetles! They have speciated as different beetle populations naturally adapt to different environments, but what we have not seen is beetles giving rise to anything other than beetles, even over the alleged millions of years!

For more information:

5. ScienceNOW: “A Baby Planet’s First Steps?

Finding extrasolar planets (exoplanets) is increasingly frequent news these days, but more unique is finding a “baby” exoplanet, as was reported on in this week’s issue of Nature.

Astronomers have already identified some 270 exoplanets, but a new wobble in the motion of the star TW Hydrae indicates a newly discovered exoplanet, probably about 10 times the mass of Jupiter and orbiting TW Hydrae every four days.

The team that discovered the planet, from the Heidelberg, Germany, Max Plank Institute for Astronomy, believes the planet is less than 10 million years old, far younger than other calculated ages for exoplanets. Lead study author Johny Setiawan explained, “Before this discovery, it was not clear what the real time scale of planet formation was. . . . [The discovery] shows us that what we call protoplanetary disks are indeed protoplanetary.” Setiawan is referring to large discs of dust and gas surrounding young stars that, some have theorized, coalesce into planets over long periods of time. The process has not been observed, and this new exoplanet has some hoping for final validation of the idea.

One problem, however, is that some scientists, such as planet expert Jack Lissauer of the NASA Ames Research Center, aren’t convinced that the object orbiting TW Hydrae is a planet. There’s a possibility that it is, rather, a brown dwarf. This highlights the fact that exoplanet “observations” are all merely analyses and interpretations of fairly impersonal data.

Another problem, quite obviously, is that the “observation” is being made in one instance in time, not over the alleged 10 million years since the planet formed. Rather than making the hypothesis fit the evidence, are Setiawan and others making scant data “fit” their preferred hypothesis?

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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