1. MSNBC: “Death Toll Passes 22,000 in Myanmar Cyclone”

Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims of the cyclone and tidal wave that crashed into Myanmar (formerly called Burma, in southeast Asia) this week, reportedly causing more than 22,000 deaths (as of earlier this week).

Additionally, an almost unfathomable tens of thousands more were reported missing and up to a million homeless in the literal and figurative wake of the cyclone, which included a tidal wave up to 12 feet high that washed away many of the houses in low-lying villages. The people of Myanmar will also have to cope with the destruction of agricultural areas known as the country’s “rice bowl.”

When natural disasters strike, the question of “where was God?” echoes in the hearts and minds of people worldwide—especially when today’s high-tech media can bring us raw footage of the disaster and the affected masses. For many atheists, the existence of death and suffering was the prime reason for their abandonment of God. But understanding Genesis as true history allows us to see the destruction of nature as not part of God’s original “very good” plan for earth and humankind, but rather as something aberrant—not what God originally intended.

And so, starting from Genesis, we can give answers to those who ask where God was in the midst of the Myanmar cyclone. God created this world and pronounced it “very good,” and it was not then a world of death and destruction. However, in Genesis 3, Adam and Eve violated God’s commandment and ate the fruit of the tree, which brought death into the world (Romans 5:12) as part of the Curse. What we see today is not the “best possible” creation of a loving God, but rather the sin-filled, cursed corruption of the original paradise. Natural disasters, suffering, violence, and death are all signposts that point us back to the effect of sin in making our world what it is today—but they are also crucial reminders of our need for a Savior (Romans 5:17)!

2. BBC News: “Platypus genetic code unravelled”

It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for: the mapping of the genome of the funny, furry duck-billed platypus.

It is interesting to take a closer look at one of God’s strangest creatures, the duck-billed platypus, known for its odd combination of features. What isn’t so thrilling is to read the many evolutionary interpretations of the platypus genome!

The genome was published in the journal Nature by a group of more than 100 scientists from the U.S., U.K., and Australia. The platypus was chosen because of its unusual features—a duck bill, mole eyes, lizard eggs, and beaver tail—Chris Ponting of the University of Oxford’s MRC Functional Genetics Unit half joked. Unsurprisingly, this reflects evolutionists’ beliefs that platypuses are, in a way, at an evolutionary “crossroads” between mammal and reptile.

BBC News reports that the platypus genome shows “[t]he animal comes from an early branch of the mammal family . . . [h]owever, it lays eggs like a reptile . . . this unique mixture of features is reflected in its DNA.” We wonder how much this was just a case of scientists finding what they were already looking for, since Ponting adds that “the genome sequence enabled scientists to look back in time to see what an early mammal would have been like”—in other words, the platypus was already regarded as a primitive mammal.

Louisiana State University’s Mark Batzer explained that “[o]ne big surprise [of the study] was the patchwork nature of the genome with avian, reptilian and mammalian features.” Yet since DNA is an organism’s blueprint for producing different features, and since the platypus does indeed have various bird-like and reptile-like features in addition to the various things that make it a mammal, we shouldn’t be at all surprised to find that that’s what the platypus genome codes for! In a way, this would be similar to finding a house that combined several styles of architecture that helped it match its landscape better, then looking at the house’s blueprint and discovering the same combination of architectural styles on the blueprint. Was it a strange conflation of styles by the errors of a photocopier, or was it the genius of a skillful architect who wanted to perfectly match the house to a unique environment?

3. National Geographic News: “Dino-Era Bird Fossil Found; One of Oldest Known”

Dubbed “the dawn of the Confucius bird,” a new bird fossil discovered in China is said to be from the time of the dinosaurs but is remarkably well preserved.

Officially named Eoconfuciusornis zhengi—as is translated above—the bird fossil was discovered outside of Beijing along a forested lakeside two years ago. Now, a team of scientists publishing in the journal Science in China describe the find.

Beijing Institute professor Zhang Fucheng, lead author on the study, explained, “Eoconfuciusornis was extraordinarily well preserved for the fossil to have contained such depth of detail.” According to the study, E. zhengi likely died, fell to the bottom of a lake, and “was quickly covered in sediment”—131 million years ago.

Yet despite its age, National Geographic News reports that “[t]he specimen’s fully developed, modern-looking wings and symmetrically balanced tail feathers were etched into the stone in curved lines of black and brown.” (See the photo on National Geographic’s website.)

Thus, according to these scientists, this basically modern bird came shortly (on the evolutionary timescale) after Archaeopteryx—the notorious dino-to-bird “transitional form”—yet came before the likes of Microraptor gui, a supposed feathered dinosaur that also has been propped up as an example of the dino-to-bird transition.

Interestingly, the news of this modern bird from deep in the fossil record has not been widely reported, and the few evolutionists who have commented on it have generically said that it, e.g., “adds to the remarkable diversity of the species” (says Xing Xu of the Chinese paleontology institute, who discovered M. gui). For now, we have to wonder if that silence and those generic responses are a tacit acknowledgment that this “modern” bird shouldn’t have shown up so “early” in the fossil record.

4. National Post: “The Hollywood Holy Grail”

Under the subtitle “New film takes Da Vinci Code conspiracy theories and shaky evidence to new heights,” Canada’s National Post looks at the follow-up to The Da Vinci Code: the upcoming “documentary” (if it can be called that) Bloodline.

The basis for the film is “research” done by amateur treasure hunter “Ben Hammott”—actually a pseudonym formed by rearranging the letters in “the tombman”—who claims to have discovered the body of Mary Magdalene. Some conspiracy theorists have argued that Jesus survived the crucifixion, then moved to southern France with His wife, Mary Magdalene. Thankfully, the National Post takes a close look at what amounts to a near-hoax that even Da Vinci Code believers scoff at.

Hammott, who will not reveal his true identity, alleges that he discovered the “apparent tomb of a Knight Templar” in a hole in a rural cave in southern France. Excited, he fetched a Hollywood director who then “lowered a pole into the tomb with ‘some sticky stuff on the end’” and removed the shroud from the body.

The director and treasure hunter also used the pole to retrieve hair from the corpse’s head. The hair was then sent off for DNA analysis at Canada’s Lakeland University. The result of the testing was less than blockbuster-worthy, however: even the corpse’s gender could not be ascertained. However, the individual was “traced to a genetic grouping that originated in the northern Middle East and spread into Europe.”

So let’s hear the two views on the film. First, Bloodline producer Rene Barnett claims the research and discoveries the film presents “clearly call into question the historical Jesus and the story that we've been taught all these 2,000 years.” Barnett also believes the tomb may be that of Mary Magdalene, despite the lack of DNA evidence to even show the body was a woman’s.

But Andrew Gough—who, as a contributor to The Dan Brown Companion and the operator of a web forum on “esoteric mysteries,” is no stranger to conspiracies—has a different view. “I think almost all the pillars in the film are fraudulent,” Gough claims, adding, “I may have been born at night, but it wasn't last night, you know? [Hammott] has no credentials.” Furthermore, Gough reports knowing Hammott personally. “The story [of discovering the tomb] is different every time [Hammott] tells it,” he adds.

At this point, it may sound as though Bloodline isn’t even worth commenting on (or is even a complete hoax, which is entirely possible). Sadly, though, the film has already received press from the mainstream media in the U.S. (such as excerpts shown on ABC’s program Good Morning America), and we have no doubt many will see the film without bothering to research the integrity of its conclusions. Do your part to stay informed!

(Visit the Internet Movie Database to watch the Bloodline trailer.)

5. FOX News: “State Legislators Seek Bills to Allow Questioning of Evolution Theory in Schools”

Despite a series of losses, the movement to allow more open discussion of evolution in public school classrooms hasn’t been silenced.

The latest battleground is Florida, where a bill has been passed in the House of Representatives to require schools to teach “critical analysis of evolution.” Additionally, Michigan, Missouri, Louisiana, and Alabama all have similar bills under consideration in state government.

Unsurprisingly, evolutionists claim these bills are merely a “smokescreen” for teaching creation or intelligent design, which would pit these bills against the 2005 Dover ruling that teaching intelligent design in schools was an unconstitutional imposition of religion.

Alan Hays, the Florida representative who sponsored the bill, claimed it would “not permit, nor authorize, nor allow the teaching of creationism or intelligent design,” but would rather “encourage teachers and students to engage in discussion that criticizes evolution,” reports FOX News. Similar bills in the other states mentioned aim to protect teachers who introduce ideas critical of evolutionary theory.

Fascinatingly, Eugenie Scott of the evolution-promoting National Center for Science Education—who has previously been on record for suggesting that evolution and religion can coexist peacefully (though she is an atheist)—said that allowing criticism of evolution in the classroom may encourage students to “flip over to this dichotomous thinking that God must have created us” (emphasis added). Apparently Scott is letting her true colors show: religion and evolution can coexist together peacefully—so long as the religion doesn’t say anything about God creating humans.

At Answers in Genesis, we try to encourage parents to remember that they have the responsibility, first and foremost, for educating their children about the true origin of life. We also note that evolutionist schoolteachers cannot be expected to give a valid defense of what the Bible says about origins (nor even necessarily intelligent design), so expecting legislation to change the climate in public school science classrooms may be putting hope in the wrong place.

That said, we strongly applaud efforts to ensure the classroom is open for discussion, that different viewpoints are protected, and that teachers have the freedom to bring up valid scientific criticism of evolutionary theory. None of this, however, will ever replace the role of Christian parents in raising their children to understand what God says in His Word—about origins and a whole lot more!

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