1. CNN news: “Body proves Bigfoot no myth, hunters say”

Two hunters for the fabled ape-man “Bigfoot” claim to have made the ultimate discovery in the woods of Georgia: the body of a dead male sasquatch. Although the body is likely a hoax, the media flurry and reactions can certainly tell us a great deal about the creation-evolution controversy.

According to a CNN news report this week, two amateur Bigfoot hunters stumbled upon the body of the creature in a wooded area of northern Georgia and also claimed that they saw several living ones in the same location. Although the two state that extensive testing will be done by various scientists, they only released purported DNA test results from the intestine of the alleged creature indicating human, possum, and “indeterminate” DNA so far.

We will say up front that we are highly doubtful of the authenticity of this supposed Bigfoot discovery. The secretive manner in which the discoverers are handling this supposed landmark event leaves much to be desired in terms of scientific rigor.

The press conference on Friday (August 15) did little to assuage these concerns over the authenticity, as the photographic and DNA evidence seemed inconclusive at best. We are hopeful some more trustworthy analysis takes place over the weekend. We will comment further in an article early next week as hype hopefully gives way to facts.

2. San Francisco Chronicle: “Judge Says UC Can Deny Religious Course Credit”

The San Francisco Chronicle reports on Judge James Otero’s ruling that the University of California may deny science credit for students from Christian high schools.

The U.S. district judge was hearing a case that pitted Christian schools against the University of California (a system with several schools sprinkled throughout the state). Originating in 2005, the Christian schools maintained that the university relied on an unconstitutional anti-religious bias in its review of high school science classes.

Explaining the plaintiff’s position was Jennifer Monk of Advocates for Faith and Freedom, a legal representative of the Christian schools. “It appears the UC is attempting to secularize private religious schools,” Monk said. The schools claimed the university rejected any courses with any reference to God’s involvement in history or any alternative to evolution.

On the other hand were university officials such as Charles Robinson, UC vice president for legal affairs, who countered that the ruling allowed his school to “apply the same admissions standards to all students and to all high schools without regard to their religious affiliations.”

Judge Otero, in siding with the defendants, explained that he rejected the plaintiff’s case because the university, rather than rejecting any material from a religious viewpoint, rejected only what curricula failed to teach the required science, history, and critical thinking. The judge also said the plaintiffs failed to show anti-religious hostility on the part of the university, or that the students were denied the ability to attend the school.

Additionally, the university system has apparently approved some courses with religious views, such as classes taught using Chemistry for Christian Schools and Biology: God's Living Creation that discuss creation as well as evolution. Among the books used in rejected courses were Christianity’s Influence on America and Biology for Christian Schools, both of which instruct that the Bible is the inerrant starting point for knowledge. “[If scientific] conclusions contradict the Word of God, the conclusions are wrong,” Otero cited from the latter book as a reason for its rejection.

Furthermore, students who are denied automatic credit based on science courses can remain eligible by “scoring well in those subjects on the Scholastic Assessment Test” (SAT), reports the Chronicle.

Monk said the university was nonetheless making generalizations based on publisher. “If it comes from certain publishers or from a religious perspective, UC simply denies them.”

One might expect that our response to this news would be as easy as a quick dismissal of the judge’s decision, especially since the judge’s quote from Biology for Christian Schools sounds like it could have come from our website (and obviously represents our viewpoint).

Without having specifically reviewed the rejected courses and texts, however, we can’t say for sure whether the university was only tossing out insufficient coursework or not. Since many courses teach evolution as unquestionable truth, it is no surprise that students are expected to have some understanding of evolution. But we wonder whether public school students, if tested, would actually score better than Christian school students on tests over evolution and earth history. That would be a much more accurate barometer of whether Christian students understand evolution or not. After all, how many great scientists of the past several hundred years exclusively studied, performed, and proclaimed Bible-uplifting research?

It also seems clear that some valid texts have probably been disallowed merely due to their unabashed proclamation of God’s Word as inerrant, or simply because they present young-earth creation as opposed to old-earth creation or vague intelligent design.

Another question: the court is quick to rule against biblically based texts deemed inferior, but what about texts based on anti-God agendas that likewise (allegedly) fail to teach critical thinking or present wacky ideas rooted in the rejection of creation?

Ultimately, this case is representative of the public—and academia’s—continued refusal to acknowledge the role of presuppositions in shaping how we acquire knowledge, including in the scientific sphere. As long as many schools, scientists, and even courts view scientific truth as the objective result of “majority rules” thinking, people will continue to dismiss the Bible’s account of origins out of hand as “disproved” by modern science. And as a consequence, public institutions will maintain a bias against Scripture if it goes against the prevailing “wisdom.”

For a more positive development regarding the state of California and education (especially Christians there who are homeschooling), see item seven below.

3. MSNBC/AP: “Stone Arch Collapses in Southern Utah Park”

If an arch collapses in a desert and no one is around to hear it, does it still shout “millions of years”?

Utah’s famous Arches National Park is one arch short this week, after the collapse of one of its largest and most photographed arches—Wall Arch.

No one was around when the arch collapsed sometime early last week, the forces of gravity and erosion finally bringing down the natural spectacle. “They all let go after a while,” commented Paul Henderson, the Arches National chief of interpretation.

And it’s exactly the interpretation of Henderson and others that we disagree with! The popular view of the park’s 2,000 or so arches is that they were formed through millions of years of slow erosion carving out each arch. (For example, the park’s website reads, “Throughout the park, rock layers reveal millions of years of deposition, erosion and other geologic events.”)

As one News to Note reader pointed out, if these arches take millions of years to form, but collapse at a rate of several in a century, there’s no way there would be any remaining for us to see! (According to the Wikipedia article on Arches National Park, 43 arches have collapsed since 1970; however, no source is cited for the information and we could not verify the number—or any other number—elsewhere. The AP article names the (partial) 1991 collapse of Landscape Arch as the most recent.)

This simple math, which corresponds with other calculations, indicates that—even starting with uniformitarian assumptions—the facts just don’t support millions of years of earth history.

4. ScienceNOW: “Stem Cell Lines Mark Birth of New Field”

The case for embryonic stem cell research has weakened even further after the successful creation of pluripotent stem cells out of patient’s existing cells.

Scientists at Harvard and Columbia announced the news, which was quickly followed up by another report from Harvard—the generation of disease-specific stem cell lines for ten diseases. The stem cells used to generate these lines were “induced pluripotent” stem cells—iPS—created by reprogramming adult cells. Among the diseases covered are two types of muscular dystrophy, Parkinson’s disease, Type 1 diabetes, and Down syndrome.

“[This] opens the door to a new way of studying degenerative diseases,” explained Douglas Melton, a diabetes researcher at Harvard. Using induced pluripotent stem cells avoids many of the ethical problems with stem cell research (specifically embryonic stem cell research).

As research in this field continues, scientists are discovering increasing potential in creating and manipulating stem cells without crossing ethical boundaries. By supporting morally sound stem cell research, we can look forward to treatments that don’t predicate the healing of a life on the taking of a life.

5. ScienceNOW: “Water Striders Put Best Foot Forward”

The incredible water strider: is its “just so” construction a hallmark of evolution or a testimony to creation?

Oft-forgotten though it may be, the humble water strider doubtlessly belongs on a list of the most incredible animals due to its almost magical ability to walk on water. What makes the insect’s strides even more unbelievable is that they are conducted using long, thin feet—exactly the opposite of the boat-like underside you might expect for a water-walking creature.

Marveling at the creatures, physicist Dominic Vella of Paris’s famous École Normale Supérieure wondered exactly what determines the length of water striders’ legs. Scientists have long known that water striders rely on the surface tension of water to keep them afloat. Surface tension, caused by water molecules attracting each other, effectively tightening the surface and allowing light, widely spread objects to stay afloat.

The key to the water strider’s gravity-defying leg, Vella discovered, is its ability to bend like spring steel. Thus, unlike a rigid leg, the water strider’s leg bends in direct response to the force of surface tension; the longer the leg, the more it can support. ScienceNOW’s Rachel Zelkowitz continues the explanation:

Vella developed an equation to determine how much surface tension supports a bent leg of any given length could achieve. At very short lengths, the leg is essentially rigid, so adding more length increases the amount of weight it can support. But at a certain point—which depends on the radius of the leg’s curvature and its elasticity—adding more length makes the object bend significantly. That adds drag but doesn’t increase the weight the thing can support.

That’s all intriguing, but now comes the most interesting part. Vella measured the legs of some water striders and determined that they were just shorter than this critical length—long enough to maximize the amount of weight they can support, but not so long that they add extra drag.

No one seems to believe such perfection is coincidental, of course; but who or what should water striders thank for “such luck”? Vella has an opinion: “Evolution’s testing that [leg-length] limit out.”

In this case, it’s not so ridiculous an idea that, if the genetic information were there to begin with, natural selection would favor those water striders who didn’t sink! The question is, how many generations of water striders would have to drown—presumably before reproducing—before developing the “just right” combination of leg rigidity, leg length, body weight, and so forth? Natural selection could not have favored intermediate forms that all drowned on the way to the only water strider that didn’t drown!

Creationists offer explanations that range from at least as plausible to much more plausible than natural selection acting on information-reshuffling and information-reducing mutations. In this case, the creationist explanation is the only believable one; the perfect design is a blaring signal that points to the ingenuity of the Creator. No wonder engineers at Carnegie Mellon are building robots that emulate the incredible water strider!

6. LiveScience: “Elephants’ Legendary Memories Help Herds Survive”

Perhaps an elephant should stand in for the “sage owl” character sometimes portrayed in cartoons.

Researchers studying elephant behavior determined that female elephant adults are able to retain memories of faraway sources of food and water, helping them find nourishment and survive through scarce situations, such as droughts.

“Our findings seem to support the hypothesis that older females with knowledge of distant resources become crucial to the survival of herds during periods of extreme climatic events,” explained the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Charles Foley, lead author of the study.

Foley’s team based its research on the mortality rates of three elephant groups during a severe 1993 drought. Specifically, the team discovered a correlation between the mortality rate of calves and the age of the female elephants, along with the groups’ movements; they speculate that the old, matriarchal elephants led the two more successful groups to better locations while the third group, with younger mother elephants, stayed put and suffered as a result.

Although this simple correlation between matriarchs and survival can’t verify the hypothesis, the researchers also point out that some of the oldest matriarchs in the two more successful tribes were at least five years old during a drought near the end of the 1950s. The scientists think the matriarchs may have been remembering their travels from that earlier drought.

“It’s enticing to think that these old females and their memories of previous periods of trauma and survival would have meant all the difference. The data seem to support the speculation that the matriarchs with the necessary experience of such events were able to lead their groups to drought refugia,” Foley added.

We’ve previously covered research that reveals elephant intelligence. For instance, elephants have joined humans, great apes, and (to some extent) dolphins in showing they recognize themselves in the mirror (see item #3). Learning about the intelligence of non-primate animals disrupts evolutionists’ portrayal of great apes as almost quasi-human in their capabilities—and reminds us that God created many highly intelligent (relatively speaking) creatures, well adapted to their environments.

7. OneNewsNow: “Home-Schooling Decision Should Withstand Challenges”

Christian homeschoolers in California may no longer be under pressure thanks to a change of heart on the part of the Second District Court of Appeals.

Last week, the court unanimously reversed its own ruling from February—never enforced—that would have clamped down on homeschooling in the state by requiring formal teaching credentials on the part of homeschooling parents.

The court decided that a state prohibition on home schooling would violate parents’ constitutional right to direct their children’s education.

We applaud the court’s new decision and rejoice, with homeschooling advocates and practitioners everywhere, that ordinary parents will still be able to legally provide a Christian education for children in the home. We strongly support homeschooling parents and offer a variety of resources for parents, ranging from free educational materials to our multi-grade science and history curricula.

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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