1. BBC News: “Finnish College Gunman Kills 10”

Finland has been shaken by another violent school shooting, the second in less than a year.

Matt Juhani Saari, 22, shot and killed 10 people at a vocational college in the town of Kauhajoki, Finland. Cornered in by police, he shot himself and died later at a hospital.

The school shooting has eerie similarities to another one that took place in Finland last November (see News to Note, November 10, 2007 for coverage) in that in both cases, the killers posted YouTube videos of themselves brandishing guns shortly before the killings. In the case of Saari, the video of him firing a handgun at a shooting range concludes with him turning to the camera, saying “you die next,” and firing three times in the camera’s direction.

Tragically, local police even interviewed Saari Monday in response to the video, but did not have enough evidence to revoke his gun license and let him go.

Unsurprisingly, Saari spent a short stint in the Finnish military before being expelled after opening fire on fellow soldiers. “He wasn’t very good at shooting and didn’t really know how to handle a gun,” a fellow recruit told media.

Saari was in his second year of culinary training at a vocational college in Kauhajoki, where approximately 150 students were on the morning of the shooting. Dressed in black and wearing a ski mask, Saari first opened fire, then started fires, as the Associated Press reports, using gasoline bombs. All but one of the victims were reportedly burned beyond recognition.

In all, Saari killed eight female students, one male student, and one male teacher, and also wounded a female student.

Just before last year’s shooting, killer Pekka-Eric Auvinen claimed online he would act as a “natural selector” to “eliminate all who I see unfit, disgraces of human race, and failures of natural selection.” He concluded, “It’s time to put NATURAL SELECTION & SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST back on tracks!” [emphasis in original]. He also called himself a “social Darwinist” and, during the massacre, wore a shirt that read, “humanity is overrated” in all-caps.

That T-shirt was a reminder of the shirt worn by Columbine killer Eric Harris during that massacre, which read “natural selection” in all-caps. Unsurprisingly, Saari, too, looked up to Harris and his Columbine co-murderer Dylan Klebold. Der Spiegel reports that Saari “was apparently fascinated by the American students who shot up Columbine High School in 1999” in an article explaining how Saari had planned the shooting since 2002.

The Irish Times reports that Saari’s YouTube profile listed “guns, computers, sex, and beer” as his hobbies, along with noting that he liked horror movies and heavy metal. Video clips of the Columbine massacre were tagged among his favorite YouTube videos.

The latest revelation, however, is that Saari and Auvinen knew one another. The Telegraph reports that the two played on the same team in an online game called Battlefield 2, communicating via headset. The two also messaged one another over the Internet, talking about plans for a school shooting and pledging to “do it together” and even buying their weapons from the same store.

“[B]oth expressed a similarly worded hatred for humanity,” The Telegraph explains, adding that the death of Saari’s older brother in 2003 may have contributed to his state of mind.

As happens after every tragic school shooting—and, indeed, after any tragedy or case of loss—many people are asking why the shooting happened. The answers range from political to sociological to psychological, and most have some amount of truth to them. But the ultimate answer to “why?” lies in the book of Genesis. By remembering humankind’s willing Fall into sin and the consequential Curse on earth, we understand that God is not to blame for violence and death—whether human-caused or nature-caused—but that such horrors are indicative of being separated from God.

That’s why Christians praise God for sending His Son to bridge the gap and bear the penalty for our sin, opening an escape route and reuniting us with God. While the consequences of sin are still with us, we know that God is loving and will ultimately wipe away every tear (Revelation 21:4).

But when the tale of cosmic history students are taught includes eons of amoral death and violence, with the animals of humanity merely the accidental result of billions of years of chance, and morals simply a social construct to make us feel better, why should anyone be surprised when—quoting Darwinian “scripture”—self-proclaimed “natural selectors” pick up guns and start shooting?

2. (Sydney) Daily Telegraph: “Fingers and Toes Evolved from Fins Say Scientists”

Evolutionary scientists have discovered the origin of fingers and toes: fishlike creatures that swam the seas hundreds of millions of years ago. So what exactly was the science behind the discovery, which was reported in Nature?

The researchers took a look at fossil specimens of Panderichthys, a fish and alleged transitional form. Evolutionists believe the extinct (as far as we know) Panderichthys to be a transitional form that shows part of the sequence from fish to terrestrial tetrapods (though, as The Telegraph puts it, Panderichthys was “nonetheless more fish than tetrapod”).

But scientists wondered how fish fins slowly evolved into weight-bearing limbs with articulated joints, an obvious necessity for walking on land. Were there any signs of such change in Panderichthys?

The problem is, it seems that all “good specimens” of Panderichthys come from a single location: a brick quarry in Latvia, where the color of the clay is nearly identical to the color of the bones—making it “nearly impossible to see what is going on” with skeletal details, explained Uppsala University researcher Per Ahlberg, one of the authors of the Nature study.

So Ahlberg and colleagues decided to use a hospital CT scanner to better discern the Panderichthys skeleton. “We could see the internal skeleton very clearly, and were able to model it without ever physically touching the specimen,” Ahlberg explained.

According to the team, the scans revealed “rudimentary fingers” that had previously been (surprise!) “overlooked.” The Telegraph reports:

The image shows stubby bones at the end of the fin skeleton clearly arrayed like four fingers, called distal radials. There are no joints, and the bones are quite short, but there could be no doubt as to what they were.

Strangely, however, the heavily hyped “transitional form” Tiktaalik, which is considered by evolutionists to be farther along in the fish-to-tetrapod sequence, had fins that “remained largely fish-like.”

“What we have shown is that the hand and the foot emerge from pre-existing bits of the fin skeleton that were just reshaped, rather than being entirely new bits that were bolted onto the existing fin skeleton,” Ahlberg claimed. And in the imagination of evolutionists, that might be so.

But we would like to call to readers’ attention the story of the coelacanth. For many years, the coelacanth was only known from the fossil record and was considered to have gone extinct some 65 million years ago (when it disappeared in the fossil record). What’s more, it was thought to be a transitional form that used its lobed fins to walk on the ocean floor. In fact, evolutionists believed the coelacanth evolved into a land-walking tetrapod.

Since 1938, however, dozens of live coelacanths have been discovered, disrupting not only evolutionary interpretations of the fossil record, but also disproving evolutionists’ claims that it walked. Instead, these coelacanths swim along just like any fish, using their fleshy, bone-filled lobed fins to paddle—not to walk.

And so it goes, we suspect, with Panderichthys (and Tiktaalik, for that matter), even if they ever “walked” (keeping in mind that “walking” can be loosely defined in evolutionary circles to include any ambulation across a solid surface, such as slithering with the use of fins)—the evidence that their skeletal structures necessarily enabled walking, or digit development, is purely in the imaginative minds of evolutionists, who need to identify transitional forms to support their preexisting acceptance of evolution. It’s even possible we’ll discover Panderichthys or Tiktaalik in the deep sea someday, swimming with strong fins that God designed just for that purpose.

P.S. Even ignoring the testimony of the coelacanth against evolution, don’t forget that evolutionists still haven’t given evidence that chance mutations could result in the genetic information that would have been required to “reshape” (to use Ahlberg’s word) fishy fins into fingers—or to transform fish to philosophers!

3. National Geographic News: “Neanderthals Ate Dolphins, Seals, Cave Remains Suggest”

Fine dining for our Neanderthal kin may have consisted of some seafood delicacies—both familiar and unfamiliar to modern tongues.

Excavations of two caves in Gibraltar turned up indications that Neanderthals fed on mussels, fish, dolphins, and seals—foraging for seafood just as so-called “modern” humans do.

This discovery undoes one of the reasons cited for why Neanderthals died out, whereas other humans have survived to this day. Researchers had previously thought other humans’ ability to harvest food from the sea gave them a nutritional edge. But it appears such skill and practice were not exclusive to “modern” humans.

The bones of the aquatic creatures even show signs of having been cooked over a fire and hit with stone tools to separate meat from bone. Furthermore, these remains are found throughout “various layers” of the caves—a sign that seafood wasn’t a one-time menu option for Neanderthals, but rather at least an occasional dietary element.

“It seems to suggest that this wasn’t a one-off, but that these guys were doing it on a regular basis,” commented Clive Finlayson, a Gibraltar Museum anthropologist who contributed to the study, which was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The question is, were Neanderthals eating seafood as much as other humans? Arizona State University anthropologist Curtis Marean, who has found evidence in South Africa of seafood consumption by other early humans, wants to answer the question. Marean has found evidence in South Africa of ancient piles of thousands of shell pieces indicating the extent shellfish were consumed by the humans living there. This compares to “just” 149 shellfish pieces found in the Gibraltar caves. So if there is a difference (as yet undetermined) between Neanderthal consumption of shellfish versus other humans’ consumption of shellfish, was it due to relative ability or relative availability?

“I don’t think that the success of one or the other had to do with subsistence, with the way they hunted or fed,” Finlayson opined. “There may be other factors coming into this, or it may just have been a question of luck.”

We agree. The evidence consistently and overwhelmingly shows that Neanderthals were fully human and engaged in intelligent activities. Their cranial capacity was even larger than modern humans’ (although evolutionary anthropologists dismiss this as only giving them an edge in hunting). The Bible clearly teaches that all humans, no matter what their exact skeletal nuances, were created in the image of God, descended from Adam through Noah. While some sub-groups have died out, they don’t deserve to be treated as anything less than “modern,” especially when we repeatedly find how similar they are to us.

Besides, we pointed out last week how unbelievable different modern humans can be. Why do the minor skeletal differences of Neanderthals make them a different species?

4. The Telegraph: “Crows May Be Smarter than Apes”

If there were an animal version of the popular trivia program Jeopardy!, it might pit a chimpanzee against a dolphin against a crow. The surprising thing is, the crow might win!

Since the inception of News to Note, one of the recurring themes we love to present is the intelligence of many animal kinds—not just apes. It seems ape intelligence is repeatedly implied to be evidence for our shared ancestry, when in fact God created many clever animals.

Even the crow, small though it may be compared to other animals, displays remarkable intelligence. We’ve covered news of crow intelligence previously, in many News to Note segments (see links below). Now, a team from Auckland University (New Zealand) has published even more evidence that crows are quite intelligent—showing, as The Telegraph puts it, that they can “reason causally and use analogy in a way not seen even in our closest relatives, the great apes.”

Auckland University’s Russell Gray and Alex Taylor, along with colleagues, formulated a series of tests to help figure out how crows think. The tests all involved a device referred to as a “trap tube”: a horizontal tube separating the crows from food; if the crow tries to remove the food in the wrong way, the food becomes trapped away, inaccessible to the hungry crow.

There are clues, however, on the device, such as the location of the hole and the color of the rim, to help show the crows the right way to remove the food. But would the crows really “understand” how the task works? Do they use reason to help them understand?

To answer the questions, Gray, et al., tested six New Caledonian crows with variations on the trap tube device. New Caledonian crows are known to make tools out of leaves, even “customizing” them into perfect implements to dig out food.

In the first set of tests, the crows were faced with a standard trap tube device with three “arbitrary features” inside to help the crows understand the trap. But then the testers switched things up: the features clueing the crows in were removed—yet three of the six crows were still able to solve the problem and extract the food without the hints.

Next, the scientists introduced a trap tube device with two holes, one trapped and the other open. The smartest crows were unable to repeatedly outsmart the trap, showing reluctance to move the food into either hole. However, this showed the crows did recognize that the holes could be associated with the trap.

Then the researchers threw the birds for a loop (figuratively): they presented the birds with a table version of the trap tube problem, whereby the crows had to decide whether to pull food across the table or into a hole in the table. The hints of the problem correspond with the trap tube device hints. The Telegraph explains the result:

Strikingly the crows in the University of Auckland study were able to solve the trap-table problem after their experience with the trap-tube. By solving the trap-table the crows demonstrated that they had not just learnt to pull away from the specific hole in the Perspex trap-tube, but could generalise what they understood to a novel problem.

Gray explained, “The crows appeared to solve these complex problems by identifying causal regularities. The crows’ success with the trap-table suggests that the crows were transferring their causal understanding to this novel problem by analogical reasoning. However, the crows still had trouble differentiating holes with bottoms from holes without.”

Compare the crows’ success to what apes accomplished: in a recent study, great apes were tested to see if they could transfer knowledge from the trap tube device to the trap table (and vice versa). All twenty failed to figure out the similarities.

Taylor explained, “It was very surprising to see the crows solve the trap-table. The trap table was visually different from the trap-tube in its color, shape, and material. Transfer between these two distinct problems, the trap-tube and trap-table is not predicted by theories of associative learning and is something not even the great apes have so far been able to do.”

As reported in a New Scientist write-up on the research, Taylor added, “This is the most conclusive evidence to date for causal reasoning in an animal.” The conclusion of The Telegraph was that “[T]he birds are able to outsmart people’s closest relatives”—but of course we beg to differ. While apes exhibit clear signs of intelligence, God created many other animal kinds that impress and surprise us with their craftiness. Ape intelligence is not evidence for evolution.

5. BBC News: “Collider Halted Until Next Year”

Think Europe’s Large Hadron Collider might generate world-devouring black holes? Calm down, it won’t happen until at least next year.

We’re referencing unfounded rumors that the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator that began operations earlier this month, would create tiny black holes that would grow larger and swallow/destroy the earth. For background on the collider and the big-bang and black-hole hype, see A Miniature Big Bang or More Hot Air?

The $9 billion collider had begun operating but was not yet creating the massive particle collisions it was built for. Last Friday, however, the collider ran into problems. Failure of some 100 magnets allowed a substantial amount of liquid helium to leak out of the accelerator tube. The liquid helium helps keep the 17-mile-long (27 km) tube colder than outer space, allowing maximum efficiency.

“[T]his is undoubtedly a psychological blow,” said Robert Aymar, director-general of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), parent to the collider project.

Because the collider was planned to undergo maintenance shutdown for the winter anyway, CERN has decided to go ahead and keep operations offline until next spring. That will give engineers time to (hopefully) understand what caused the magnets to overheat by as much as 212˚F (100˚C).

In other words, physicists will have to wait until next year before “recreating” the big bang (supposedly)!

6. The Wall Street Journal: “Look Who’s Irrational Now”

Mollie Ziegler Hemingway takes a look at stereotype made popular by the media: Christians are irrational, superstitious people, through and through. But does the evidence back that up?

Hemingway starts with a claim by notorious rabble-rouser Bill Maher, who snuck into our under-construction Creation Museum last year while filming for his anti-religion film Religulous.

“You can’t be a rational person six days of the week and put on a suit and make rational decisions and go to work and, on one day of the week, go to a building and think you’re drinking the blood of a 2,000-year-old space god,” Hemingway quotes Maher as saying earlier this year.

Last week, however, Baylor University released a comprehensive study, “What Americans Really Believe,” that challenges the idea that religious people are more irrational or superstitious than those who reject religion. In fact, the poll—conducted by the Gallup Organization for Baylor’s Institute for Studies of Religion—revealed that “Christian religion greatly decreases belief in everything from the efficacy of palm readers to the usefulness of astrology,” and indicates that irreligious and those from mainline Protestant denominations are “much more likely to believe in the paranormal and in pseudoscience than evangelical Christians.”

The poll produced an index of belief. On average, 31 percent of those who never attend a house of worship expressed “strong belief” in occult and the paranormal, compared to only 8 percent of those who go to church more than once a week.

Hemingway also uses the new poll as ammunition against detractors of U.S. vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, whose connection to creationism has drawn significant criticism (see Is She Really a Creationist? and News to Note, September 13, 2008 item #8). According to Hemingway, 36 percent of survey respondents belonging to the United Church of Christ (Barack Obama’s former denomination) believed in the paranormal, versus only 14 percent of those in the Assemblies of God (Sarah Palin’s former denomination).

Hemingway, who also cites a 1983 book and 1980 study in support of the recent conclusion, concludes with a quote by Christian apologist G. K. Chesterton: “It’s the first effect of not believing in God that you lose your common sense, and can’t see things as they are.”

As such scholars as Rodney Stark (in For the Glory of God) have concluded, belief in the Creator God is a requisite foundation for belief for in a logical, orderly, understandable universe. Without that basis, why should atheists think the universe can be scientifically understood?

7. Nature News: “US Election: Questioning the Candidates”

The U.S. presidential election pits two evolutionists against one another, it seems, as Nature News reports candidate Barack Obama’s comments on origins education.

A series of questions was presented to the campaign of Senator Obama (Senator McCain’s campaign declined to participate). Of interest to those following the creation/evolution controversy was this question:

Do you believe that evolution by means of natural selection is a sufficient explanation for the variety and complexity of life on Earth? Should intelligent design, or some derivative thereof, be taught in science class in public schools?

Sen. Obama (or, perhaps, campaign staff on his behalf) responded, “I believe in evolution, and I support the strong consensus of the scientific community that evolution is scientifically validated. I do not believe it is helpful to our students to cloud discussions of science with non-scientific theories like intelligent design that are not subject to experimental scrutiny.”

The reference to “clouding” discussions of science seems inappropriate, since, in fact, keeping criticism of evolution (let alone alternatives to evolution) out of curricula actually deprives students of critical thinking opportunities, indoctrinating them one-sidedly rather than allowing fair discussion and debate.

On the other side of the political fence, Sen. McCain has expressed his personal belief in evolution, noting in a debate last year, “I believe in evolution. But I also believe, when I hike the Grand Canyon and see it at sunset, that the hand of God is there also.” (We’ve noted that the hand of God seen at the Grand Canyon is mostly God’s hand of judgment during the Flood.)

Even so, Nature News reports that McCain told the Arizona Daily Star in 2005 that he believes students should have access to “all points of view” when studying human origins. However, Nature News also references an Aspen Times article from 2006 in which McCain said of the controversy in the classroom:

I think Americans should be exposed to every point of view. I happen to believe in evolution. . . . I respect those who think the world was created in seven days. Should it be taught as a science class? Probably not.

Since educational standards are, by and large, a local and state issue in the U.S., it’s not clear how much influence the next president will have on what students are taught. Nonetheless, it is disappointing to see politicos decry open discussion and critical thinking as “clouding” young minds or to imply that intelligent design (but not evolution) is not subject to experimental scrutiny, ignoring the difference between origins and operational science.

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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