1. BBC News: “‘Complexity’ of Neanderthal Tools”

To our Neanderthal readers: on behalf of all Homo sapiens, pardon our past arrogance and TV commercials about cavemen—not to mention other incorrect portrayals of you!

A US–British team honed in on stone tools known that were used by Neanderthals and “early modern humans” (as BBC News describes our Homo sapiens ancestors). The work was published in a recent issue of the Journal of Human Evolution.

To put it bluntly, the stone tools developed by our Homo sapiens ancestors were “no more sophisticated” than those devised by Neanderthals. Thus, in the BBC’s words, “The findings cast doubt on suggestions that more advanced stone technologies gave modern humans a competitive edge over the Neanderthals.”

The researchers recreated the stone tools, both wide ones known as “flakes”—used by both early modern humans and Neanderthals—and narrower “blades,” thought to have only been used by Homo sapiens.

Based on the idea that the later blades were superior, “[s]ome archaeologists often use the development of stone blades . . . as evidence for the superior intellect of our species,” continues the BBC report.

But the researchers, led by the University of Exeter’s Metin Eren, analyzed their recreation of the tools—determining how many were produced, how much cutting edge was created, how efficient the tools were, and how long the tools lasted. The surprising result? The team found that neither type of tool was more useful than the other, and the flakes were, in some ways, even more efficient than the blades. Thus, blades were not a technological advance representing modern humans’ superiority.

“When we think of Neanderthals, we need to stop thinking in terms of ‘stupid’ or ‘less advanced’ and more in terms of ‘different,’” cautioned Eren. “Our research disputes a major pillar holding up the long-held assumption that Homo sapiens was more advanced than Neanderthals.”

The research also reinforces the idea that our ancestors did not edge out Neanderthals thanks to our superiority, but rather Neanderthals disappeared for other, unknown reasons.

Commenting on the news, the London Natural History Museum’s Chris Stringer, head of human origins, notes that Homo sapiens tools have been found with greater specialization. Nonetheless, he explained, “There are now very few paleoanthropologists who consider the Neanderthals to have been ‘stupid’ . . . we know that the Neanderthals were very capable technicians, and that their tools would have been excellent for activities such as butchery, working skins or wood.”

Eren’s study confirms what young-earth creationists have long taught: Neanderthals, based on their physical similarity and archaeological evidence of their lifestyle, were fully intelligent, “modern” humans. It is likely that the genes coding for at least some of their skeletal differences survived on the Ark, and after Babel, groups that have become known as Neanderthals migrated into Europe. Likely exacerbating their skeletal “differences” was rickets. But what’s certainly clear is the humans who are now called Neanderthals were intelligent, capable humans, made in God’s image and descended from Adam, just as are the myriad of other people groups, despite our physical differences, that live on the world today.

2. New York Times: “A Teacher on the Front Line as Faith and Science Clash”

A lengthy article in the New York Times examines a microcosm of the controversy over evolution education in public school classrooms—and even mentions AiG’s student-aimed bestseller Evolution Exposed.

The story follows the class of David Campbell, a Jacksonville, Florida, area high school science teacher. Campbell is teaching evolution this year thanks to changes in Florida state education standards—which now require schools to specifically teach evolution. Times reporter Amy Harmon writes,

With a mandate to teach evolution but little guidance as to how, science teachers are contriving their own ways to turn a culture war into a lesson plan. How they fare may bear on whether a new generation of Americans embraces scientific evidence alongside religious belief.

In other words, Harmon is confirming what Answers in Genesis has long emphasized: if students are not amply equipped and educated by their parents, Sunday school teachers, youth leaders, and pastors to understand the truth and importance of the Bible’s account of origins, the indoctrination they receive in public school will overtake them.

For Campbell’s students, a lecture on Mickey Mouse kicks off the discussion of evolution. Campbell uses a series of slides showing Mickey Mouse’s “evolution” over the years to introduce the concept of selection—artificial selection by Walt Disney cartoonists, in this case.

Harmon’s story also follows the development of Bryce Haas, a student of Campbell’s who, at the start of the story, apparently balks at Campbell’s comments such as

“Evolution has been the focus of a lot of debate in our state this year. If you read the newspapers, everyone is arguing, ‘is it a theory, is it not a theory?’ The answer is, we can observe it. We can see it happen, just like you can see it in Mickey.”

Perhaps Haas would have been happier being taught by Campbell’s colleague Teresa Yancey, a biology teacher just down the hall. Yancey believes that animals do adapt, but (according to Campbell) said, “I don’t think we have this great massive change over time where we go from fish to amphibians, from monkeys to man. We see lizards with different-shaped tails, we don’t see blizzards—the lizard bird.” Campbell cites feathered dinosaurs in response.

One lengthy scene in the article—when Campbell teaches his students about the difference between faith and science—is particularly difficult for a creationist reader to endure. Campbell appears to target Haas as he teaches far more than just the basic tenets of evolutionary theory, presenting his personal view on faith and science as though it is a scientific theory as well. And as Harmon skims over the evidence for evolution that Campbell presents in following weeks, we doubt most of Campbell’s students heard from anyone—certainly not in their classroom—with equivalent authority or information to challenge Campbell.

Harmon later shares that Haas, who was raised reading the Bible for an hour each Sunday (although it was also mentioned he had stopped attending church when he was 16), lost his father last year. Haas told Harmon, “Evolution is telling you that you’re like an animal. That’s why people stand strong with Christianity, because it teaches people to lead a good life and not do wrong.”

Meanwhile, the Times article tries to rouse sympathy for Campbell, whose students, Harmon writes, “were not grasping the basic principles of biological evolution.” Harmon continues:

The discovery that a copy of “Evolution Exposed,” published by the creationist organization Answers in Genesis, was circulating among the class did not raise his flagging spirits. The book lists each reference to evolution in the biology textbook Mr. Campbell uses and offers an explanation for why it is wrong.
Where the textbook states, for example, that “Homo sapiens appeared in Africa 200,000 years ago based on fossil and DNA evidence,” “Exposed” counters that “The fossil evidence of hominids (alleged human ancestors) is extremely limited.” [Read the chapter this passage is from in Chapter 10: The Origin of Humans.] A pastor at a local church, Mr. Campbell learned, had given a copy of “Exposed” to every graduating senior the previous year.

We certainly salute the local pastor who distributed copies of Evolution Exposed—presumably taking advantage of our special outreach discount of 75% for cases of 36 books. These cases are designed to maximize the number of students who can easily find a Christian response to what their textbooks teach.

In a finale of evolutionary proselytizing, Harmon quotes a number of student questions addressed to Campbell during his lecture on human evolution, along with Campbell’s confident and authoritative answers. According to Harmon, while Haas probably was not converted to evolutionary dogma, he did answer a recent test question asking for evidence of evolution—a change from his original refusal to do so.

The close look Harmon’s article takes at evolutionary indoctrination in the classroom is a strong reminder of the battle over the minds of the next generation. With increasing state-granted authority, evolutionists are pursuing the minds of children up to five days a week. How can an untrained Christian youth—even if he or she attends church each week, which is increasingly a rarity—compete with that level of indoctrination? While we encourage our readers to learn about and understand evolution (yes, you heard that right—why would we be afraid of it if God’s Word is Truth?), parents and Christian leaders must commit to teaching and equipping the next generation, and Answers in Genesis is thankful to offer resources to help you do so.

3. The Economist: “Beetle Drive”

Britain’s leading newsmagazine weighs in on “one of the lies regularly promulgated by creationist ideologues.” Uncalled-for, ugly allegations aside, we have to, ironically, wonder about the “truth” of that statement.

In an uninformed piece in the magazine’s science and technology section, the Economist looks at dung beetles, alleging that they provide an “object lesson in the speed of natural selection.”

The article first attacks creationists for arguing that one can’t observe evolution in action, citing the old canard of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in response. We’ve explained time and time again that this is actually an example of natural selection favoring microbes that already have the genes coding for resistance; they’re not evolving anything. (See Antibiotic Resistance of Bacteria: An Example of Evolution in Action? for a good overview.)

Of course, natural selection affects microbes much more rapidly than larger species, who reproduce on a far longer time scale, the magazine points out. “For species with longer generations, examples [of evolution] are less numerous. But they do exist.” This segues into the magazine’s cursory examination of dung beetles, rooted in research at Indiana University published in the journal Evolution.

Indiana University’s Harald Parzer and Armin Moczek have been studying a dung beetle species, Onthophagus taurus, that is “now heading rapidly towards becoming at least four” species, the Economist reports. Studying the beetles worldwide, the researchers found an inverse correlation between the size of male beetles’ horns (which they use to compete for mates) and the size of their sexual organs.

The scientists hypothesized that limited resources mean that the male beetles must make a “choice” between longer horns, which allow them to more easily win mates, and larger sexual organs, which make it more likely that they will impregnate females.

And indeed, the scientists’ research confirmed this hypothesis; they believe natural selection has produced the similar tradeoff in at least ten other beetle species.

Because of the difference in sexual organ size and hypothesized impossibility of successful interbreeding between different beetle populations, the researchers believe O. taurus may soon become four different species. And that, dear reader, is what the Economist would apparently label “evolution in action”—presumably proof that everything evolved from slime. The story concludes, “Since it is known when these populations were introduced, and none is more than half a century old, evolution seems to have worked its wonders well within a human lifetime. Darwin, no doubt, would have been delighted.”

Evolutionists may be “delighted” at such discoveries, but they hardly provide evidence for how a single cell—let alone unorganized molecules—could have adapted into complex humans. The changes the male beetles are undergoing do not add new features or require new genetic information; they simply favor those who already have genes that code for, e.g., large horns.

Consider this: if one human society favored individuals with green eyes, such that green eyes eventually became dominant and green-eyed individuals wouldn’t choose a blue-eyed person as a mate, that would certainly not offer evidence that all humans evolved from apes! Likewise, adaptive changes in an individual created kind—even if leading to new “species”—does not offer evidence that all of life descended from primordial slime.

4. LiveScience: “Scientists Learn How Nemo Finds His Way Home”

After young orange clownfish (like Nemo from the Disney/Pixar film Finding Nemo) hatch, they spend nearly two weeks in the open sea, probably carried by currents far from home. Yet afterward, they often return to near the very spot where they were born—how?

Specifically, the clownfish return to their sea anemone homes in coral reefs near shore, such as the reefs surrounding offshore islands in Papua New Guinea. The reefs are often located in shallow water that lies directly below overhead rainforest foliage.

Curious as to the navigational success of the fish, researchers led by Danielle Dixson, a James Cook University marine biologist, captured clownfish who had recently returned to their reef homes.

In a lab on the boat, the researchers inserted the fish into various streams of seawater containing different scents. One of the streams included sea anemone scent, while another contained leaves from the rainforest flora that overhangs the reefs. The result? The clownfish swam straight for those two scents, while largely ignoring others.

Dixson explained, “No one ever predicted that clownfish would be attracted to the scent of leaves. I just figured they might like beach water. I saw the islands had heavy vegetation, and I said, ‘Let’s give it a shot.’”

Even aquarium-born clownfish, who were also tested, were strongly attracted to the leaf and anemone scents. This indicates that the preference is “built into” clownfish rather than being acquired after birth, and the clownfish are then capable of smelling and tracking down the scents from afar.

Dixson noted that, in the context of conservation, the study may mean humans must protect more than just the reefs themselves; the rainforest vegetation could be just as crucial in guiding clownfish back home.

The clownfish thus joins a long list of incredible creatures whom God equipped with “advanced migratory technology” to aid in their life cycle and navigation.

5. BBC News: “Cattle Shown to Align North-South”

Out for a vigorous hike and lose your way? No need to reach for that compass; just be on the lookout for deer or cattle instead.

A team of scientists reporting in Proceedings for the National Academy of Sciences has used the computer program Google Earth to confirm a strange suspicion—that cattle tend to align their bodies north-to-south.

The researchers, led by the University of Duisburg-Essen’s Sabine Begall, started with Begall’s research into the magnetic sense of mole rats. Mole rats, along with many species of birds, some species of fish, and bats, use the earth’s magnetic field to assist them with navigation—enabling great feats of high-accuracy migration in many species.

If mole rats have this capability, then what of larger animals? Begall wondered. To answer her question, she led her team in a survey of Google Earth images of more than 8,000 cattle in more than 300 pastures worldwide. The photographs were not of high enough resolution to allow the team to distinguish the cows’ heads from their rears; even so, the team could tell that the animals tended toward a north–south alignment.

The team then examined the body positions of nearly 3,000 wild deer in 277 locations in the Czech Republic. Among the deer, the majority were facing northward, with about a third facing southward—echoing the north–south orientation of the cattle.

Having ruled out the influence of sun position or wind direction as major causes of such an orientation, the team hypothesized that, at least in the case of the deer, such an orientation may have an as-yet-unknown anti-predator motivation.

Sensory biologist John Phillips of Virginia Tech University commented that the new study may confirm that a sixth, magnetic sense may be “virtually ubiquitous in the animal kingdom.”

Indeed, as we saw in item #4 above, scientists are continually astonished at the sensory abilities God designed in many creatures. Obviously much more research is needed to confirm the team’s satellite-based study, and there could be factors other than a magnetic sense at play that haven’t been thought of.

Even so, given that so many of God’s creatures have an internal compass, perhaps you should ask yourself: which way are you facing right now, and why?

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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