1. “Ken Ham says: “I’m Excited about Expelled!”

By the time you read this, Ben Stein’s Darwinism-questioning film Expelled has been in theaters for more than a day. So, have you seen it yet?

In an e-mail that went out to a number of Answers in Genesis supporters, Ken Ham urged readers to see the new documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed which opened yesterday (April 18):

I have already attended two previews of Expelled, and I look forward to seeing it again—that’s how great this film truly is. It exposes how radical evolutionists will persecute those who don’t accept evolution. It gives many examples of scientists and others whose careers have been ruined by the “evolution police”—yet at the same time manages to be humorous, thanks to its witty host (actor Ben Stein) and the insertion of funny movie clips.
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Although it’s important to note that the film does not specifically advocate biblical creation nor discuss our Designer, what it does do is offer overwhelming evidence that Darwinism is dogma masquerading as science, and that suppression of academic freedom is what is keeping Darwinism in place.

You can read our full review of the film and even get a Movie Outreach Kit from our U.S. bookstore. Plus, visit the Expelled website for resources, including a theater locator. You can also view several clips of the film at WingClips.com.

As Ken Ham said, “Your support for the movie could help ensure that millions more people see the powerful evidence for design and learn about the loss of academic freedom at the hands of evolutionists.”

2. ScienceNOW: “Did Dinosaurs Gawk at the Grand Canyon?”

Any article on old-age dating methods that begins, “How could everyone have gotten it so wrong?” is obviously going to be of interest to creationists.

Following that opening sentence, ScienceNOW’s Phil Berardelli writes:

New research indicates that the Grand Canyon is perhaps 65 million years old, far older than previously thought—and old enough that the last surviving dinosaurs may have stomped along its rim.

Now, regular News to Note readers may remember that it was only six weeks ago that old-earth-believing scientists reported the Grand Canyon’s age at not 6 million years old (the previous view), but rather 17 millions years old. And now, in the short span of six weeks, the canyon has gained another 48 million years!

So what’s behind this new re-dating? It seems researchers at the California Institute of Technology (a.k.a. Caltech) have developed a radiometric dating technique that is based on a phosphate-containing material called apatite.

Reporting in an upcoming issue of the Geological Society of America’s Bulletin, the team reports that samples of apatite taken from the deepest parts of the Grand Canyon were exposed by erosion 55–65 million years ago, though not all of the canyon formed at the same time.

Surprisingly, the University of New Mexico–Albuquerque’s Victor Polyak, who was behind the recent dating of the canyon to 17 million years ago, didn’t dispute the new age. “There were more processes shaping what is now the Grand Canyon than previously thought,” he said.

What is tragic, really—we don’t think we’re exaggerating—is that we so often hear radiometric dating cited as one of the top reasons people reject the Bible’s account of history as “unscientific,” “mythical,” and downright false. Yet radiometric dating has resulted in wild inaccuracies and often contradicts itself, and this changing canyon date is a prime example. Just weeks ago, it was radiometric dating (uranium–lead testing, to be precise) that dated the western end of the canyon to 17 million years old. Of course, in this case old-agers can invent a “rescuing device” to salvage their faith in radiometric dating: different parts of the canyon formed at different times, which is ultimately unfalsifiable. If scientists find a hundred different dates from a hundred different parts of the canyon, will they start to question radiometric dating? Not likely. Rather, they will either blame “contamination” or invent more “just-so” stories for how the canyon could have come together, bit by bit, with dates ranging all over the last hundred million years of alleged earth history.

In every scientific debate over the age of the earth and dating methods, Christians must remember that there are facts—such as the amount of different isotopes in rocks—that creationists and evolutionists agree about. The disagreement is over the interpretation of these facts: the assumptions that are used to filter the facts and determine what they really mean. In this case, a table may help explain:

Creationists Evolutionists
Observed fact amount of an isotope in a rock amount of an isotope in a rock
Unchanging assumption age of the earth rate of decay, starting isotope levels, etc.
Variable conclusion rate of decay, starting isotope levels, etc. age of the earth (and Canyon)

As for us, our view on the Grand Canyon hasn’t changed one bit. As we wrote in March,

What’s incredible is that even amid ample evidence that canyons can be carved within an extremely short period of time, those who believe in an ancient earth (a requirement of Darwinian evolution, by the way) stick to the idea that water might only erode an inch or two of rock in a thousand years! Yet in three days in July 2002, a flood caused by the overflow of Canyon Lake in Texas carved a mile-and-a-half-long canyon up to 80 ft (24m) deep in places (see News to Note, October 13, 2007, item #2). Imagine what a global Flood could cause—one caused by forty days of rain and subterranean eruptions of water that transcended the then-highest mountains and covered the earth for a year!

3. New Scientist: “Neanderthals Speak Out after 30,000 Years”

You’re wandering the ominous halls of a secular natural science museum after hours one night. Walking through the “prehistoric” man displays, the model of a 30,000-year-old Neanderthal behind you opens his mouth and ekes out a ghastly sentence: “Evolution . . . is . . . true!”

A far-fetched night at the museum? Of course. But making a Neanderthal talk has been the latest project of Florida Atlantic University anthropologist Robert McCarthy, who has used a computer synthesizer in an attempt to replicate what Neanderthals may have sounded like.

McCarthy reconstructed Neanderthal vocal tracts based on fossils (said to be 50,000 years old) to create the synthetic voice. However, he says Neanderthals lacked the “quantal vowel” sound important to modern speech.

The argument that Neanderthals couldn’t communicate as well as modern humans goes against signs of Neanderthal complexity and communication unearthed by archaeologists, however.

McCarthy’s Neanderthal voice simulation replicated a Neanderthal pronouncing a single letter, E. However, it sounds different than a modern human saying the same sound (compare the Neanderthal’s E to a supposed modern human’s E).

While McCarthy says this would have limited Neanderthal communication, Washington University anthropologist Erik Trinkaus disputes the finding’s significance: “Ultimately what is important is not the anatomy of the mouth but the neuronal control of it,” Trinkaus says, referencing Neanderthals’ large brains. Neanderthals also possessed a version of the FOXP2 gene (the so-called “language gene”) that is unique in humans, separating us from other animals (including chimpanzees). Humans missing FOXP2 suffer from language and speech disorders.

Ultimately, it is impossible to reproduce with absolute accuracy what Neanderthals would have sounded like, and what vowels they could produce, from mere fossils. Furthermore, even if Neanderthals were unable to produce a particular vowel, that may not be any more of a sign of communication breakdown than the inability of certain modern humans to pronounce the sounds of various foreign languages. For all we know, Neanderthals may have been able to produce many more sounds than modern humans can.

Most important to remember, though, is that despite some skeletal differences, archaeologists have shown Neanderthals to be highly intelligent individuals who likely differed little from other humans during their time on earth, and who, like us, descended from Adam and thus carried God’s image.

4. AP: “Possible Ancient DNA Found”

DNA from (supposedly) more than a quarter of a billion years ago may have been found in an underground nuclear waste dump in New Mexico, reports the Associated Press.

The possibly-DNA-bearing salt crystals were extracted from the U.S. government’s Waste Isolation Pilot Planet near Carlsbad, New Mexico. The crystals have been verified to contain cellulose (described as “the microscopic stuff in wood or cotton”) in addition to the possible DNA.

“We did see some ancient DNA in the salt, but not a lot, and we have to continue experiments to try to verify that it is ancient DNA,” reported University of North Carolina School of Medicine professor Jack D. Griffith. Griffith and his team reported on the find in this month’s Astrobiology.

The cellulose, strands of which are only about twice the diameter of DNA, is probably what remains of “ancient” algae. The cellulose and possible DNA were found in saltwater inclusions in the salt crystals and thus were unfossilized.

Griffith and his team think astrobiologists should be looking for cellulose on other planets, because the material is so hardy and abundant (on earth, anyway) that, they presume, it might be the most easily found legacy of life on another world. Yet even if it were possible for life to spontaneously self-organize on a planet, without any sort of guiding Intelligence, why do these scientists think the evolutionary path would have resulted in extraterrestrial life using DNA or producing such molecules as cellulose? But is this idea any less idealistic than expecting to find humanoid aliens on other planets whose cultures parallel our own—though not as absurd as believing that the complexities of even “simple” life-forms could have appeared by chance.

5. National Geographic News: “Oldest Living Tree Found in Sweden”

It’s the world’s oldest living tree, say Swedish researchers—but don’t worry, they didn’t stay up late counting the rings.

National Geographic News reports on the 13-foot (4m) conifer found in Sweden back in 2004. The tree itself (a Norway spruce) isn’t that old, but researchers allege that the root system dates back 9,550 years.

A team at Umeå University led by Leif Kullman says the tree’s old age is due to its ability to clone itself. Each time a trunk dies off—around every 600 years, according to Kullman—the roots sprout a new trunk to replace the dead one. The oldest continuously standing trees are thought to be bristlecone pines from the western United States, the oldest of which is thought to be 5,000 years old—just over half the age of Kullman’s tree.

The question on our minds, of course, is one every creationist—in fact, one every person (Christian or not) should ask regularly: how do you know? In this case, how does Kullman’s team know the tree is nearly ten millennia old? In this case, the answer the team gives is radiocarbon dating.

Interestingly, this tree’s date, Kullman notes, cancels out previous studies (“the general conception,” he says) that said the spruce migrated to the area only 2,000 years ago. Was that previous research in error, or has the perceived infallibility of radiocarbon dating overridden a more accurate account of these trees’ history?

National Geographic News also quotes Tom Harlan, of the University of Arizona’s Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, who offers tepid support for Kullman’s research: “The date seems a little early but not out of line with other things we have seen.”

Remember our table from item #2? Let’s apply it again to this research:

Creationists Evolutionists
Observed fact carbon isotope levels in the roots carbon isotope levels in the roots
Unchanging assumption age of the earth 14C production rate
Variable conclusion 14C production rate age of the earth (and tree)

Once again, creationists do not dispute the “hard facts” of radiometric dating; we rather disagree with the faith evolutionists have in uniformitarianism—the idea that, for example, the rate of 14C production must be identical to what it was in the past. We put our faith in Scripture, including its clear teaching of a recent creation approximately 6,000 years ago.

6. ScienceNOW: “Case Closed for Free Will?”

It appears free will is an illusion, report researchers this week in Nature Neuroscience.

A recent experiment set out to determine whether we subconsciously make our choices before we consciously make them—that is, whether when our conscious mind makes decisions, it merely reflects subconscious decision-making beyond our control. Designed to go beyond a famous experiment of the 1980s that supposedly suggested free will was an illusion, John-Dylan Haynes of the Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin submitted 14 subjects to functional MRI scanning while they decided on which of two buttons to press.

The key was, the decision could be made at any time, but the volunteers were asked to report on the exact moment of their conscious choice as based on a “clocklike device in the scanner.” So what’s the big news? A brain pattern that coded for a left or right choice was located in the frontopolar cortex of the volunteers up to ten seconds before they made their decision about which button to press; the brain pattern successfully predicted the “conscious” decision about 60% of the time—in other words, it was wrong almost half of the time! That may appear to be a pretty successful rate (even if not perfect), but when you consider that random guessing should be right 50% of the time, this experiment suddenly seems much less revolutionary. Nonetheless, Haynes claims, “[T]here’s not very much space for operation of free will. The outcome of a decision is shaped very strongly by brain activity much earlier than the point in time when you feel to be making a decision.” Even U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke neurologist Mark Hallett falls into the trap, with ScienceNOW reporting it confirmed his “understanding of free will as a perception rather than a driving force.”

What seems much more reasonable is that while subconscious motives do affect conscious choice, such that there is a connection between a subconscious brain signal and the final conscious decision, that doesn’t mean our consciousness is unable of carrying out, considering, or rejecting subconscious motivations.

We would have to conclude that Nature Neuroscience erred in publishing a paper with at least one such leap in logic. Of course, if this research is correct, we apparently came to this conclusion well before we realized it!

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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