1. ScienceDaily: “Huge Genome-Scale Phylogenetic Study of Birds Rewrites Evolutionary Tree-of-Life”

New science has “completely redrawn” the avian tree of life, undoing the previous view of bird relationships.

The largest-ever genetic study of birds, run by the aptly named Early Bird Assembling the Tree-of-Life Research Project, has evolutionists scrambling to update their charts of evolutionary relationships. “The study challenges current classifications [and] alters our understanding of avian evolution,” reports ScienceDaily. In fact, even the scientific names of dozens of birds will have to be changed to reflect the study’s results.

The team conducting the study examined DNA from 169 bird species in all major living groups of birds. Interestingly, the news release points out that “[t]he evolution of birds has been notoriously difficult to determine” and that “[m]any previous studies of avian evolution yielded conflicting results.” Furthermore, we read that:

This is probably because modern birds arose relatively quickly (within a few million years) during an explosive radiation that occurred sometime between 65 million and 100 million years ago. The result of this rapid divergence early in the evolutionary history of birds is the fact that many groups of similar-looking birds (for example, owls, parrots and doves) have few, if any, living intermediary forms linking them to other well-defined groups of birds. This makes it very difficult to determine how some of these groups are evolutionarily related.

Many readers will note that this explanation plays directly into creationists’ hands—it is, essentially, the evolutionary doublespeak for facts that are explained clearly by the creation model. The alleged “rapid divergence” in birds, with “few, if any” living intermediary forms tells us that birds did not all evolve gradually from a common ancestor, but rather different unique kinds of birds were created at the beginning (though there has been variation within those kinds since creation).

Previously, bird groupings were based more on shared environments and lifestyles; however, various genetic connections between the birds have forced evolutionists to conclude different birds adapted to different environments or lifestyles independently. This has led to such counterintuitive conclusions as falcons not being closely related to hawks and eagles and white, swift-flying tropicbirds not being related to pelicans and other waterbirds. Also, bright, day-loving hummingbirds are now said to have evolved from drab, nocturnal nightjars.

The Field Museum’s Sushma Reddy, one of the authors of the study, explained, “We now have a robust evolutionary tree from which to study the evolution of birds and all their interesting features that have fascinated so many scientists and amateurs for centuries.” On the contrary, it sounds like this genetic analysis, which was predicated on assumed-to-be-true evolution, has actually muddled our understanding of bird kinds.

Ultimately, there are two models to explain the origin of life on earth: creation and evolution. Both viewpoints interpret facts according to their presuppositions, and thus each side has developed different models of biology, zoology, etc. When it comes to birds, which model seems to best explain the facts—the “latest, greatest” evolution model that replaces yesterday’s and results in counterintuitive relationships, or the biblically derived creation model that explains the life we see in logical groupings of created kinds with in-kind variation?

2. BBC News: “Diamonds Hint at ‘Earliest Life’”

The diamond may be more than a girl’s proverbial best friend—it may be an old-earther’s best friend, too, if a recent Nature report is accurate.

Some diamonds are considered by those who believe in an ancient earth to be among the oldest substances around. So it’s no surprise that if traces of life were trapped inside such crystals, they would correspondingly be considered “ancient.”

The scientists publishing in Nature were examining zircon crystals “formed a few hundred million years after the Earth came into being.” Less than half of a millimeter across, the crystals were found in the Jack Hills of Western Australia. They are considered the only remnants of long-since-eroded rocks.

So what’s the “smoking gun” of life hiding in the zircon crystals? Using chemical analysis of diamond and graphite inclusions in the crystals, the research team discovered that the crystals contained a form of carbon “often associated with plants and bacteria,” in the words of the BBC News report. Thus, the finding may indicate proof of ancient life on earth.

Now we get to separating fact from fiction—or, at least, evolution-driven speculation. First, let’s read what one of the authors of the paper, Martin Whitehouse of the Swedish Museum of Natural History, had to say about the research:

“We’re all a little s[k]eptical. When you look at the carbon isotopes they could be interpreted as biogenic because we know that biologic processes do generate light carbon isotopes. But of course there are other processes that can do that.”

The researchers list chemical reactions with carbon oxides, extraterrestrial origin of the material, and contamination as other possible sources of the carbon isotopes in the diamonds. For instance, commenting on the possibility of contamination, University of Copenhagen professor Minik Rosing explained, “If you look at the photos that they present you always see these diamonds sat in cracks and fissures and cavities [as opposed to being deeply embedded within the host zircon crystals]. There is always fear that they might actually not be primary.”

And Whitehouse acknowledges Rosing’s first problem. “The problem with the Jack Hills is that we don’t have the rock. The carbon isotopes alone are not a distinct biosignature.”

But Rosing also suggests the possibility that it was an inorganic chemical process that produced the light carbon isotope. Referring to the carbon found in the diamond inclusions, Rosing claimed, “That to me is completely the opposite of a biological signature. That’s the signature of some chemistry—a fractionation process or something.” Furthermore, Rosing points out that “if the diamonds and zircons are of extraterrestrial origin” the isotopes give no such indication of life. “If that is the case, then every other argument about these zircons falls apart,” Rosing said. “Then we don’t know anything.”

Thus, it sounds like secular scientists have already done a pretty good job disputing this find. But forgetting about their own doubts, let’s continue to look at why this find, if it could be “proven” to be a sign of life, is considered evidence for ancient life.

Unsurprisingly, it’s the age-old (pardon the pun) evolutionists’ argument of radiometric dating again! Dating of some of the zircon crystals “suggested” (in the words of the BBC) that they formed “as far back as 4.4 billion years ago.” If you accept that date, then, except for the possibility of contamination, the carbon isotopes in the diamond inclusions must also be that old. But take a look below for resources exposing the old-earth presuppositions required to make radiometric dating “work.”

Furthermore, beyond the shaky science of radiometric dating, evolutionists still have yet to come up with a plausible explanation of how atoms could self-organize into code-bearing, code-interpreting, metabolizing, reproducing cells—and how these cells could have found their way through chance mutations into the complex animals and humans alive on the earth today.

3. MSNBC: “Test Shows Mars Soil Has Nutrients for Life”

If off-season vegetables shipped in from far-away places are getting too expensive, perhaps it won’t be too long before vegetables will come straight from Mars!

Okay, to call the above just a stretch would be a stretch in itself! Nonetheless, data from NASA’s Phoenix lander suggests that Mars would be hospitable for some forms of life—including asparagus, most notably.

Phoenix tested a sample of Martian dirt and determined that the dirt contained several elements, including potassium, magnesium, and chlorine, though the soil was quite alkaline (with a pH between eight and nine). “This is the type of soil you’d probably have in your backyard,” explained Sam Kounaves of Tufts University. “You might be able to grow asparagus pretty well, but probably not strawberries,” Kounaves added. (Strawberries grow better in acidic soil.)

Phoenix’s main mission is to search Mars for signs of life, and so it’s no surprise that the discovery of these nutrients has been quickly hailed as “promising signs” of habitability. However, Phoenix cannot test for carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen, which are necessary for life. In other words, as Kounaves emphasized, Phoenix didn’t find anything that would preclude life—but, of course, that’s a far cry from finding actual evidence for life!

Furthermore, as scientists have known, the top layer of Martian soil is exposed to high levels of ultraviolet radiation, so that layer may not be hospitable regardless of the nutrients. But don’t give up hope, evolutionists! “There could be microbes living meters and meters underground,” Kounaves added.

Thus, this new finding falls in line with the bulk of our research on the Red Planet: though it doesn’t prove the possibility of life, it doesn’t disprove it, either—and thus evolutionists use it as a basis for clinging to the hope that evidence of life may some day be found (and prove an evolutionary origin for life on Mars and elsewhere).

4. LiveScience: “Cave Men Loved to Sing”

Those oft-portrayed cave-painting “cavemen” were more than mere artists: they were concertmasters skilled in mixing visual art with sound, reports LiveScience.

Research conducted by Iegor Reznikoff, a specialist in ancient music at the University of Paris X, has uncovered a strange connection between ancient cave paintings and musical acoustics: the most densely painted areas of several French caves are also those with the best acoustics.

Reznikoff’s conclusion is that those responsible for the paintings had “fine-tuned” hearing that allowed them to recognize the acoustics of various parts of those caves. Thus, they painted in those locations as they sang or hummed—where the music sounded best. LiveScience reports:

A trained vocalist was sent through the caves testing different sounds and pitches in various locations. Spots of maximum resonance, or places where the voice was most amplified and clear, were noted in each section and later laid over a map of the cave drawings. The vast majority of the paintings, up to 90 percent in some cases, were located directly at, or very near, the spots where the acoustics were the absolute best, they found.

Additionally, Reznikoff ties his hypothesis in with cave exploration. When exploring caves with only torches—which couldn’t fit into small passages—ancient hunters could have used their voices like sonar to determine the layout and size of the caves they were in. LiveScience also includes this impressive finding:

Single red spots were even discovered in the most resonant areas of tiny tunnels where people could only have crawled in the dark, suggesting that the paintings were not just coincidentally located in the biggest, best open spaces where the sound was also rich[.]

Additionally, such outdoor venues as the Altar Stone at Lac de Merveilles in France—which is covered with more than a thousand pictures—are considered prime acoustic environments.

The classic view of cavemen and other “ancient” humans is that they were brutish, preliterate dolts who had not even a fraction of the culture, sophistication, or intelligence of today’s humans. But research like Reznikoff’s reminds us that our human forebears were incredibly intelligent, skilled in ways most modern humans lack, and—most importantly—created in the image of God.

5. ScienceDaily: “Microscopic ‘Clutch’ Puts Flagellum in Neutral”

Tiny bacteria-bound flagella have a clutch-controlled microscopic motor much like that of ordinary automobiles, according to research conducted at Indiana University–Bloomington and Harvard University.

The research, which appeared in a recent issue of the journal Science, focused on the flagellum-bearing bacterium Bacillus subtilis. The scientists discovered that the bacteria use a protein clutch to disengage their “tiny but powerful” engines from their flagella.

Although scientists have long known how the motor moves the flagella, what was unknown was what keeps the flagella from spinning. The protein clutch is, in fact, very similar to a car’s clutch. As it interacts with a rotor protein, the rotor itself changes shape and, as a result, disengages from the flagellum’s proton-powered engine.

Interestingly, the discovery of the protein clutch was a complete accident—the scientists were actually hoping to learn more about what causes communal behavior (biofilm formation) in B. subtilis, but ended up learning about the flagella because biofilms may be disrupted by “hyperactive bacterial cells whose flagella continue to spin.”

Also exciting is that the find may help nanotechnology experts figure out ways to regulate the tiny engines they design. The news release points out that the B. subtilis flagella can rotate at more than 200 times a second and is driven by a significant horsepower considering its tiny size.

Surely this incredible discovery—one of the important details of the even-more-incredible microscopic motor—couldn’t have evolved by chance, right? Apparently that’s not the view of project leader Daniel Kearns, an Indiana University biologist. “We think it’s pretty cool that evolving bacteria and human engineers arrived at a similar solution to the same problem.”

The real credit, of course, goes to the awesome Creator, who—with neither microscopes nor millions of years—engineered this bacterium to function in its environment via the almost-unfathomable, microscopic complexity of the flagellum motor.

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