1. PhysOrg: “As a River Runs Through it, a Death Valley Stream Offers Insights into Flooding and Climate Change”

Amid the otherworldly Death Valley of California, geologists are seeing a 1941 stream diversion carve out the land before their very eyes.

Death Valley holds the record for the hottest, driest place in North America and sits at an extreme elevation of 282 ft (86 m) below sea level. In this strange environment, rivers cannot flow out to sea, but nonetheless can ravage the land during flash floods—giving geologists “a rare glimpse into a range of geological changes that might otherwise take centuries to unfold.”

Boston College geologist Noah Snyder and BC graduate Lisa Kammer took a close look at Gower Gulch, carved over the past 66 years by Furnace Creek Wash. The wash has been diverted by a dam since the 1940s that protects a village from flash flooding during rare rainstorms; it has since sliced the gulch out of the sandy hills and sedimentary rock surrounding it.

The team’s study of Gower Gulch, published in this month’s edition of Geology, included review of 50 years of aerial photography and a laser-based study of the region’s elevation. The results are an intriguing reminder of the catastrophic power of water, as the press release explains:

[A]t some points, the creek cuts into the land, leaving deep slices in the bedrock from the surge of flood waters brought on by as little as a half-inch to an inch of rain falling over the watershed that rolls out of the Funeral Mountains. At other points, where soft, sedimentary rocks sit below the surface, the creek has had a widening effect on its channel.

The press release also notes—and this is important—that water’s ability to reshape the earth is not due to “the steady flow of a routinely-fed creek or river,” but is instead the result of periodic storms. “Under normal conditions,” the release explains, “the effects of rivers and streams take eons to clearly manifest themselves in the land.” But with the combination of man-made diversions and flash flooding, such eons of geological work can take place over a short period of time.

The connection to Noah’s Flood and the young-earth model of geology should, by this point, be pretty obvious: as we (and others) have emphasized for what seems like eons, a lot of water over a little time—as in the case of floods or the Flood—can do at least as much geological work as a little water over a lot of time. In fact, the Boston College team’s research, as noted in the previous paragraph, suggests that flooding—not the slow flow of water—is almost exclusively responsible for the observed geological carving (at least in the case of Gower Gulch).

Furthermore, the effects of Furnace Creek Wash are viewable before geologists’ eyes; they are not hypothesized effects over millions of years that are outside the realm of scientific observation. Gower Gulch, the press release notes, gives geologists a natural field for experimentation.

Geologists repeatedly discover the catastrophic effects of local flooding on the earth’s surface, resulting in the same conclusion each time: that substantial amounts of water can have the same geological effect in a short period of time (even laying down rock layers) that hypothesized millions of years of slow water flow would have. For instance, back in October we reported on Canyon Lake Gorge in Texas, a canyon up to 80 ft (24 m) deep that was chiseled out in three days in 2002 when a spillway overflowed.

It’s abundantly clear, based on the work of geologists who accept Noah’s Flood and those who don’t, that flooding has the power to rework the earth’s surface. The effects of a worldwide, earth-covering flood that involved both rain from above and the fountains of the deep opening from below would, over the course of the year it lasted, have geological effects almost beyond our imagination and could have easily accounted for characteristics of the earth’s surface we see today: a world ravaged by catastrophic water flow. What, ultimately, does this mean? The Grand Canyon and its ilk are not testaments to millions of years of evolution, but rather signposts of the righteous judgment of God that came—and reminders of the one to come (II Peter 3:10).

For more information:

2. AP: “Australia to Apologize to Aborigines”

Australia will formally apologize next month to the Aborigine people for mistreatment during the last century, reports the Associated Press.

Government officials hope the apology will lead to better relations between Aborigines (the indigenous people of Australia) and other Australians. The apology is specifically for and to the “stolen generation” of Aborigines: some 100,000 mostly mixed-blood Aborigine children who were “taken from their parents under state and federal laws based on a premise that Aborigines were a doomed race and saving the children was a humane alternative.”

Aborigines are, as a group of a half-million, more poor and more likely to be jailed, unemployed, or illiterate than other Australians; the life expectancy for Aborigines is also 17 years behind that of non-indigenous Australians.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin clarified, however, “The apology will be made on behalf of the Australian government and does not attribute guilt to the current generation of Australian people.”

Regardless of the once-perceived humanity of the program that created the “stolen generation,” any policy based on the notion of “race” is almost certainly doomed to failure because the concept of “race,” itself, is in error. The idea of separate, isolated human races is a denial of reality: that we are all one race—of “one blood,” as the Bible says in Acts 17:26. All of us, whatever our superficial coloring, trace our heritage back through Noah’s sons and even further back through Noah to Adam. Therefore we all inherited Adam’s sin—that’s the bad news—but we are also all equally eligible for (though equally undeserving of) the blood of Christ that washes away our sin (and that’s the good news).

For more information:

3. LiveScience: “One Common Ancestor Behind Blue Eyes”

A single human is behind everyone with blue eyes today, reports LiveScience on recent research. We could have told them that!

The research team discovered a genetic mutation that, between six and ten thousand years ago, effectively created blue eyes. The mutation affected the OCA2 gene, which helps coordinate melanin production. Melanin gives our skin, hair, and eyes their coloring.

The mutation adjacent to the OCA2 gene, however, flipped a genetic “switch” that disabled the ability to create brown eyes. That’s according to the University of Copenhagen’s Hans Eiberg. The mutation limits the action of the OCA2 gene, limiting melanin production in the iris and “dilut[ing] brown eyes to blue.” A completely disabled OCA2 gene would result in albinism.

Also interesting is that brown-eyed individuals have substantially more variation in their melanin-coordinating DNA than blue-eyed individuals. This reduced variation indicated to the researchers that one ancestor was responsible for the blue-eyes mutation; all blue-eyed ancestors, then, are linked back to that ancestor.

Obviously, the mutation must have happened after the Curse (if it is a mutation; see below). It’s also likely it happened after the Flood in one of Noah’s descendants (though it could have happened before and survived through someone on the Ark) and was then disseminated throughout Europe, the Middle East, and India (the last two areas have a lower proportion of blue eyes). The broader variation in brown-eyed individuals would be from Noah’s three sons and their wives. So, what is the evolutionist explanation for “having nobody on Earth with blue eyes 10,000 years ago to having 20 or 40 percent of Europeans having blue eyes now” not to mention significant percentages of blue-eyed people worldwide? Researcher John Hawks suggests: “This gene does something good for people. It makes them have more kids.” Apparently pretty mobile kids at that!

Though some lean toward blue eyes as being a mutation, we don’t want to overlook the possibility that this is part of created genetic diversity that could have existed right from the start with Adam and Eve and survives today.

For more information:

4. National Geographic News: “Comet Built Like an Asteroid, Scientists Find”

At least one comet isn’t quite what astronomers expected, based on the results of NASA’s Stardust mission.

The Stardust mission retrieved samples of the comet Wild 2 for NASA, bringing them back to earth in 2006. Studies of these samples are overturning previous thinking on what comets are and where they come from, National Geographic News explains.

Although Wild 2 orbits like a comet, a chemical analysis by scientists indicates that the comet’s composition is asteroidal, resembling objects from the inner solar system’s famous asteroid belt rather than “pristine and ancient materials expected to be deep-frozen in the much more distant Kuiper Belt.”

“The first surprise was that we found inner solar system materials, and the second surprise was that we didn't find outer solar system materials,” explained study leader Hope Ishii, a physicist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Some astronomers believe this analysis confirms computer models that show “a major shake-up in the formation of the solar system that would have scattered materials far and wide—causing, for instance, inner solar system materials to reach the outer solar system.” Astronomers add that Wild 2 couldn’t have always been in the inner solar system, or it would have lost all of its dust and ice and not-so-melodramatically faded into oblivion.

Disappointed astronomers are pondering theories as to why Wild 2 contained none of the “pristine samples that predate the solar system,” which was part of the motivation for the Stardust mission (hence its name), as the team explained:

81P/Wild 2 has been widely anticipated to be a reservoir of presolar material, including stardust, cryogenically preserved since the accretion of the planets.

National Geographic News adds, “The researchers thought they would detect ancient stardust that collapsed to form our own sun and planets.” Ishii claims such ancient comets must exist because airplanes in the earth’s atmosphere have collected their dust.

Of course, the reason astronomers object to the idea that comets could be located within our solar system is their assumption about the age of the solar system (and, thus, the amount of time comets would have been exposed to sunlight). Viewing the solar system through a young-age lens makes the “problem” of the missing ancient comet dust disappear.

For more information:

  • The Tale of a Comet
  • Get Answers: “Young” Age of the Earth & Universe
  • Get Answers: Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • 5. New Scientist: “Ancient bones suggest cavemen wore boots”

    A New Scientist article briefly covered on the magazine’s website tells us of another invention of our clever forebears: footwear.

    Toe bones from a cave in China were analyzed by two scientists from St. Louis’s Washington University, who determined that the person the toes belonged to wore shoes. Footwear affects the way a human walks, altering the toe bones.

    The duo compared the cave skeleton’s toe bones to those of modern Americans, “late-prehistoric” Inuits (who wore shoes), and other late-prehistoric Native Americans (who went barefoot). The cave skeleton’s toes most resembled Inuits’, indicating he wore some sort of shoes regularly.

    The skeleton’s reported age is 40,000 years, though no explanation is given for that determination. Whatever era he’s from, ancient shoe-wearing is a reminder that our ancestors were not troglodytic dolts (not on the whole, anyway), but rather intelligent humans made in the image of God.

    For more information:

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