1. National Geographic News: “Odd Fish Find Contradicts Intelligent-Design Argument”

Scientists have discovered yet another missing link—but like others, this one strikes us as a little fishy.

The discovery was helped along by CT scans of several fish fossils, conducted in the hopes of filling a “longstanding gap in the flatfish fossil record.” Flatfishes are strange-looking fish that have both eyes on the same side of their body, as in the case of flounder.

National Geographic News writes, “The discovery of a missing link in the evolution of bizarre flatfishes . . . could give intelligent design advocates a sinking feeling.” So what’s the scoop? Evolutionists have long wondered how “modern” lopsided flatfishes could have come about from primitive flatfish; the article describes it as a “mystery” and evolutionary biologist Richard Palmer of the University of Alberta described it as having been “a major, major puzzle.” But according to the new study, the CT-scanned fish fossils show bone structures that look normal on one side of the skull but with a moved-up eye on the other.

This arrangement is thus considered an intermediate step between the so-called primitive and modern flatfishes. “Once you get that extra degree of movement, having a slightly shifted eye is going to be a lot better than having no shifted eye at all,” explained study author Matt Friedman, a paleontologist with the University of Chicago and the Field Museum.

National Geographic News interviewed zoologist Frank Sherwin of the Institute for Creation Research, an organization devoted to biblical, young-earth creation. We share Sherwin’s perspective:

Zoologist Frank Sherwin, science editor for the Institute for Creation Research, called the findings “underwhelming.”
“We do not deny that there is minor variation that occurs within created groups or kinds,” he said, adding that he fails to see the new paper as evidence of a progression from one flatfish form to another.
“Fish have always been fish, all the way down to the lower Cambrian,” he added.
“We have no problem with the variation within flatfish. What we’re asking is, Show me how a fish came from a nonfish ancestor.”

Whether these flatfish are a variation within their kind or are instead a unique variation of flatfish created on Day 5 of Creation Week, we can clearly explain their origin through the biblical model of creation. Also notable (as we’ve pointed out before) is that such major gaps in evolutionists’ story of the fossil record rarely come to light until they are thought to be filled.

But most humorous is that evolutionists seem to think the shifting eyes of a few fish fossils can shift our eyes from intelligent design toward the tale that all the complexities of life evolved through accidental mutations over millions of years.

2. New York Times: “Ancient Tablet Ignites Debate on Messiah and Resurrection”

An ancient stone tablet covered with Hebrew text has created a “quiet stir” in biblical and archaeological circles, reports the New York Times.

As with so many “discoveries” (both paleontological and archaeological), the find was actually made long before its significance was noted. In this case, the stone tablet was found around a decade ago but only drew attention after a paper was published on the stone last year. Ever since, attention on the stone has been on an upward spiral.

So what could the 87 lines of Hebrew text on the stone say that would cause a stir? According to the Times, the text—which may date from before the birth of Christ—“may speak of a messiah who will rise from the dead after three days.” The Times concludes that if so, the text “suggests that the story of [Christ’s] death and resurrection was not unique but part of a recognized Jewish tradition at the time.” One wonders if the unsaid conclusion, then, is that the gospel accounts of Christ’s death and Resurrection may be fabrications based on a cultural motif of the time period, since it is stated that this find may “contribute to a developing re-evaluation of both popular and scholarly views of Jesus.”

As a whole, the text is mostly the record of an apocalyptic vision allegedly delivered by the angel Gabriel. One of the passages causing the stir is found in lines 19 through 21 of the tablet: “In three days you will know that evil will be defeated by justice.” That is a central part of the basis for this incarnation of the argument that Christ’s death and Resurrection were just an off-the-shelf plot device.

Underwhelmed (again)? Indeed, what the text says (in the translation the Times publishes) certainly seems to be a far cry from the stone’s reportedly Christianity-challenging message that the media has promoted!

So let’s take a look at where this claim is coming from. The progenitor of this news-making hypothesis about the meaning of the text is Hebrew University Bible professor Israel Knohl, who is described by the Times as “iconoclastic.” Knohl’s idea that the “suffering messiah” motif originated before Christ was originally proposed in a 2000 book. The catch? Knohl had “no textual evidence from before Jesus” for his theory, reports the Times, and thus it was largely disregarded. After Knohl read about the stone, he then added this evidence to his idea (or, one could argue, used his idea to interpret the evidence), which resulted in his now-newsmaking thesis.

Let’s read what the Times summarizes of Knohl’s idea, with our emphases:

In Mr. Knohl’s interpretation, the specific messianic figure embodied on the stone could be a man named Simon who was slain by a commander in the Herodian army, according to the first-century historian Josephus. . . . Mr. Knohl focuses especially on line 80, which begins clearly with the words “L’shloshet yamin,” meaning “in three days.” The next word of the line was deemed partially illegible . . . says the word is “hayeh,” or “live” in the imperative. It has an unusual spelling, but it is one in keeping with the era. Two more hard-to-read words come later, and Mr. Knohl said he believed that he had deciphered them as well, so that the line reads, “In three days you shall live, I, Gabriel, command you.” To whom is the archangel speaking? The next line says “Sar hasarin,” or prince of princes. Since the Book of Daniel, one of the primary sources for the Gabriel text, speaks of Gabriel and of “a prince of princes,” Mr. Knohl contends that the stone’s writings are about the death of a leader of the Jews who will be resurrected in three days.

Let’s begin by examining the “facts,” as well as the artifact. Our first point, then, is that this news-making theory is (a) just one and the latest hypothesis on the stone; was (b) made by an “iconoclastic” professor who we can presume isn’t “unbiased” when it comes to Christianity; and is (c) based heavily on said professor’s interpretation of partially illegible and, in one case, atypically spelled words.

Secondly, the Times points out early that given concerns over artifact forgery, the tablet’s authenticity will likely not be verified for years (if, indeed, full verification is even possible), and scholars will even then probably continue to debate the exact meaning and authorship of the text, although at present, there does not seem to be reason to doubt the stone’s authenticity.

Third, what about the date? The current conclusion that the stone was inscribed toward the end of the first century BC was established by an analysis of the shape of the Hebrew script and the language use. A chemical examination of the stone is underway, but no radiometric date has been reported. Thus, while there are indications of the general time period of the text, its origin before Christ’s death and Resurrection is also an unproved conjecture; if the tablet originated after Christ’s earthly ministry, it may even represent a borrowing of the widely reported account of Christ’s resurrection.

Fourth, as mentioned above (and this time in the Times’s words), “The stone is broken, and some of the text is faded, meaning that much of what it says is open to debate.” Also, Moshe Bar-Asher, president of the Israeli Academy of Hebrew Language and emeritus professor of Hebrew and Aramaic at the Hebrew University, spent extensive time studying the tablet’s text. Regarding Knohl’s hypothesis, Bar-Asher commented, “There is one problem: In crucial places of the text there is lack of text. I understand Knohl’s tendency to find there keys to the pre-Christian period, but in two to three crucial lines of text there are a lot of missing words.”

Finally, Knohl’s interpretation is that the tablet’s messiah figure is a man named Simon, yet the Times’s wording and the comments of Hebrew expert Ada Yardeni show that this, too, is uncertain. The possibility that the tablet could apply to Christ Himself is obviously tied in on the interpretation of who the stone is about as well. With so many uncertainties in Knohl’s theory, we don’t consider it a paramount “threat” to Christian doctrine.

But let‘s step back now from criticism for a moment. Forget about the many problems with Knohl’s interpretation. What if what he said is accurate? What if the tablet is no forgery and predates Christ’s ministry recounted in the New Testament, and what if Knohl’s reading of the partly illegible words is accurate and his interpretation fair?

In that case, we may consider the words of Talmudic culture expert Daniel Boyarin of the University of California–Berkeley. “Some Christians will find it shocking—a challenge to the uniqueness of their theology—while others will be comforted by the idea of it being a traditional part of Judaism,” Boyarin said.

We would redefine Boyarin’s words a bit: while at first it may appear to some to be a challenge to Christ’s uniqueness, the story actually reminds us that Christ fulfilled the prophecy of the Old Testament. For example, in Hosea 6:2 we read, “After two days He will revive us; On the third day He will raise us up, that we may live in His sight” (NKJV). The Jews also had the example of Jonah, who was in the belly of the fish for three days, as Christ referenced (with regard to his own entombment) in Matthew 12:39–41.

Thus, even if Knohl has interpreted the stone correctly, the stone’s text does not trump nor predate the story of Christ; rather, it echoes the prophecies of Christ from the Old Testament. Perhaps, if Knohl is right about everything except his interpretation that the stone is about a “Simon” being the Messiah, it would seem the stone could even be a valid account about Christ—though such a hypothesis goes far beyond what we know about the stone now and probably beyond what we ever may know.

3. Space.com: “What Makes Earth Special Compared to Other Planets”

Earth is one special planet—and it seems the more we learn, the more we know it!

It doesn’t take a professional astronomer to identify several of the distinguishing features of Earth: abundant liquid water (and the temperature required for that), a protective atmosphere, a geological system neither overactive nor dead.

Oh, yeah, and one more thing: Earth is known for being home to all kinds of life! Space.com’s Clara Moskowitz writes, “The fact that Earth hosts not just life, but intelligent life, makes it doubly unique.”

Moskowitz’s article includes a litany of specifics on what makes Earth unique, including:

  • the existence of water at the Earth’s surface—neither too much nor too little—that is in liquid form
  • proximity to the sun—neither too much heat nor too little
  • system of plate tectonics that enables the carbon-silicate cycle regulating temperature
  • the right size—large enough to hang on to its atmosphere, but not so large to hold on to too much atmosphere and consequently too much heat
  • its protection by “big brother Jupiter,” whose gravity helps divert and vacuum up incoming debris and keep Earth safe
  • the moon’s stabilizing effect on our planetary rotation, which prevents the poles from shifting unexpectedly

Somewhat intriguing (yet also Earth-worshipping, in a way) is the comment of astrophysicist Gregory Laughlin of the University of California–Santa Cruz: “From our anthropocentric viewpoint, we naturally separate ourselves from the planet that we live on, but if one adopts the point of view of an external observer, it is the ‘planet’ (taken as a whole) that has done these remarkable things”—remarkable things such as “fashion[ing] together tiny pieces of the metal in its crust, and has flung these delicately constructed objects to all of the other planets in the solar system” (in reference to rockets and the like).

“You hear all the time how Earth-like Mars is, but if you were taken to Mars you wouldn’t feel happy there at all,” commented (in a dramatic understatement!) University of Washington astronomer Don Brownlee. Brownlee added that “the idea that [Earth] is a typical planet is nonsensical.”

This is contrasted with the view of evolutionist Alan Boss, a Carnegie Institution planet formation theorist, who claimed, “[E]verything has been pointing in the direction of, ‘Hey, the solar system, which we thought was unique, is not unique at all . . . [c]ertainly there will be other planets that support life . . . I think life is actually quite common. I think we’re going to find there are literally billions of [Earth-like planets] in the galaxy.”

Boss’s evidence-less faith in life off-earth is echoed by others. For example, in a LiveScience article this week—“How NASA Might Find Rock-Eating Microbes on Mars”—the first commenter, TD, writes (regarding Martian life):

At the very least, they are probably places where microbes live just under the surface. And that means life [on] Mars. It might not be an “Imminent Discovery” in a timespan of months, like we were hoping with Phoenix, but at least the fact of life on Mars can finally be discovered. . . . The 1960’s are over—it’s time to discover life on Mars.

Both Boss and TD are exhibiting religious adherence to the dogma known as Darwinism (and its associated worldview): in spite of the evidence that Earth is indeed unique and that the existence of life on Earth is no mere accident, evolutionists cling by faith to their worldview. While it masquerades as science, the evolutionary worldview is, at heart, just as much a religious worldview as biblical creation.

4. National Geographic News: “Ancient River Camps Are Oldest Proof of Humans in Paris”

Evidence of ancient riverside camps in Paris would seem to be a sign of civilization in 7600 BC—3,500 years before Creation.

The evidence comes from a recent archaeological dig not far from France’s Seine river that turned up thousands of arrowhead bits and animal bones “from about 7600 BC,” reports National Geographic News. The site was likely used by a nomadic tribe that camped on what then was likely the shore of the Seine before moving on.

The archaeological survey of the site was commissioned by Inrap, the French governmental archaeology agency, as part of preparations for a new recycling plant construction project.

As is typical with archaeological reporting, however, the dates of the find are boldly given without justification—as though “7600 BC” is an indisputable fact, established without any presupposed starting points.

But as with fossils, we don’t find tags on artifacts that give exact dates of origin. Secular archaeologists use several methods to date finds, including radiometric dating, dating by analysis of sediments covering archaeological sites, and perceived complexity of and material used in the artifacts. However, all of these methods are deployed in ignorance of the Bible’s clear, firm date of Creation around 4000 BC.

5. ScienceNOW: “Eyeless Worm Senses Light”

In terms of physical capabilities, the eyeless worm may at first look unimpressive. But its ability to detect light, reports ScienceNOW, “may help illuminate the evolutionary history of vertebrate eyes.”

The worm, Caenorhabditis elegans, has been a frequent subject of research over the years, but until recently it was not known that the eyeless worm has the ability to detect light. That is, not until University of Michigan–Ann Arbor neurobiologist Shawn Xu and colleges noted that the millimeter-long C. elegans had the humorous habit of trying to wiggle away from the bright light of the scientists’ microscopes.

Xu’s team then began to play with the worms, using flashes of light to direct the course of worms and discovering that the worms are highly sensitive to some ultraviolet light (UV-A), which is lethal to them. The scientists concluded that the light-sensing capability helps the worm stay in its (safe) natural habitat: underground.

For evolutionists, the eyeless worm represents a stepping-stone on the path to eye development. Evolutionists since Darwin have, in the face of the eye’s astounding complexity, hypothesized how light-sensitive spots could have gradually evolved, through curvature, the addition of a lens, and the like.

What’s more notable, however, is that this animal is perfectly designed for its habitat. The light sensitivity guides the worm and keeps it safely underground, away from the life-threatening light and near its nutrients. While evolutionists still have no explanation for the origin of genetic information (as would be required for the evolution of UV-sensing neurons or the development of the complex eye), creationists can easily understand the light-sensing eyeless worm as a perfect creation of the Creator God.

6. BBC News: “Robots Scale New Heights”

An American team has engineered wall-climbing robots that mimic insect behavior.

The robots, which are about the size of a remote-controlled car, use electrostatic charges to cling to walls—similar to how balloons hang on to walls after being rubbed.

More specifically, the robots have tracks that have both the ability to produce positive and negative charges, which the wall responds to by generating the opposite charge.

The team hopes to develop the technology for use by the military, the service industry, and (of course!) the toy industry. And their inspiration? The insect world, for one thing at least. “The team is now working on a way to apply their technology to more insect-like robots, to mirror the way that creatures such as flies are able to walk upside-down,” reports the BBC. It’s an always-welcome reminder that God was the original pioneer of technologies that amaze us today as we attempt to replicate them—as well as designs far beyond our current level of understanding!

For more information:

7. John Templeton Foundation: “Sir John Templeton Dies at Age 95”

Sir John Templeton, global investor and renowned philanthropist, died of pneumonia at Doctors Hospital in the Bahamas this week. He was 95.

Templeton founded the Templeton Prize, the world’s largest annual award given to an individual, to “recognize exemplary achievement in work related to life's spiritual dimension.” Sadly, over the years Answers in Genesis was often compelled to point out times when the award went to staunch evolutionists and even agnostics. While Templeton’s goal was to ask questions, our goal at Answers in Genesis is to show that there are real answers—spiritual and otherwise—to be found when we start from Scripture.

To continue reading, visit Obituary: Sir John Templeton.

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