1. BBC News: “‘Grape’ Is Key to Fossil Puzzle”

A grape-sized cell inching along the ocean floor may be one of the world’s “oldest” living fossils.

It sounds like an alien character from a pulpy science fiction story: a mud-covered single-celled ball the size of a grape that lives on the ocean floor and was found off the Bahamas.

Researchers led by the University of Texas’s Misha Matz describe the strange creature, named Gromia sphaerica, in an article soon to be published in the journal Current Biology. Approximately an inch (2.5 cm) in diameter, the creature uses tiny leg-like structures to move along slowly, while numerous openings act as mouths and waste ports. How slowly? Perhaps only a few centimeters a month!

But it’s the movement of these creatures that is of the most interest to researchers. Because the creatures live on seabeds where the current is almost nonexistent, their tracks aren’t washed away. These tracks look just like tracks found in the fossil record “up to 1.8 billion years ago.”

Formerly, such tracks were thought to have been the work of multi-celled organisms, because they believed that the key to the tracks was bilateral symmetry. BBC News reports, “Fossil experts believe bilateral symmetry is what gave the organism the ability to make the tracks, with the impressions being produced when the organism moved its weight from one side to another.” However, it adds that bilateral symmetry wasn’t thought to have evolved until 542 million years ago, during the Cambrian explosion. Discovery News reports:

Charles Darwin first noticed the Cambrian Explosion and thought it was an artifact of a poorly preserved fossil record. The precambrian trace fossils were left by multicellular animals, he reasoned, so there must be some gap in fossils between the nearly empty Precambrian and the teeming world that quickly followed. But if the first traces were instead made by G. sphaerica, it would mean the Explosion was real; it must have been a diversification of life on a scale never before seen.

According to Matz, “It wasn’t a gradual development of complexity. Instead these things suddenly seemed to burst out of a magic box.” Need we elaborate?

“[G. sphaerica] may be the ultimate living fossils of the macroscopic world,” adds Matz, and he’s right: if these creatures were over a billion years old, no other living fossil could compare. Even though they are far younger than that—presumably from Day 5 of Creation Week, when God filled the water with creatures—they nonetheless attest that the fossil record wasn’t formed by extremely ancient creatures, but by some plants and animals we still see today. And, while this may explain how such tracks could have been made so “early” (assuming, of course the ancient age of the fossil layers, which we rebut in Get Answers: Geology), scientists are nonetheless confronted with the Cambrian explosion, described in this article as “still one of the biggest questions in animal evolution.”

2. BBC News: “The Science World’s Unsung Hero?”

2009 marks the anniversary of the birth of one of the greatest scientists of all time.

Are we calling “Charles Darwin” a great scientist? Sorry, no (although he did make some valuable scientific observations, it’s his main conclusions that were so wrong). Instead, we’re referring to James Clerk Maxwell, and 2009 is the 178th anniversary of his birth. BBC News is noting the accomplishments of Maxwell, who is one of the greatest physicists of all time. But you don’t have to take our word for it; in the words of Albert Einstein, “One scientific epoch ended and another began with James Clerk Maxwell.”

The BBC’s Giancarlo Rinaldi reports that, four years ago, scientists voted Maxwell’s theory of electromagnetism into a tie for the top equation of all time; he also placed third in a poll for the top physicist of all time.

Rinaldi is covering a new statue of Maxwell that sits on George Street in Edinburgh, Scotland, home of Edinburgh Academy and the University of Edinburgh where Maxwell attended.

“It is quite remarkable that there is not more recognition of James Clerk Maxwell in either the public consciousness of great scientists or, indeed, until now in the shape of a permanent monument in his home city,” said Sir Michael Atiyah, a former president of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

“[I]n scientific circles his achievements stand comfortably beside any other greats of the field,” Rinaldi notes. “The mobile phone, satellite communications, television and radio were all made possible by his work.”

What isn’t reported is that Maxwell was a Christian who took a stand against evolution and atheistic models of cosmology. The fact that he was able to so brilliantly revolutionize our understanding of physics is a powerful reminder that one can embrace creation and still develop credible scientific theories—something that didn’t used to surprise anyone. Now, evolutionists argue that only they can conduct good science. But examples like James Clerk Maxwell stand in their way.

3. Christian Today: “Most Britons Unaware of Darwin Anniversaries, Poll Finds”

The anniversary of Darwin’s birth and the publication of On the Origin of Species is coming up soon—did you know? Should you care?

The multi-denominational Christian Today reports on the results of a survey commissioned by theology think tank Theos: 80 percent of Britons are unaware that 2009 marks two high holidays of Darwinism. In this case, it’s the 200th birthday of Darwin and the 150th anniversary of his revolutionary book On the Origin of Species.

No doubt this is to the chagrin of Darwin’s most fanatical fans, who have organized a slew of “celebrations” of Darwin for next year in Britain and around the world. Disappointingly, this includes Theos, who is issuing a “major new report on the compatibility of Christianity and Darwinian evolution.” Theos director Paul Woolley explained, “Our project aims to ‘rescue’ [Darwin] and ensure that next year Darwin is recognised as a supremely gifted scientist rather than a theologian or anti-theologian.”

Of course, Darwin became agnostic, so he was only as “anti-theologian” as any, presumably. And Darwinism is fully compatible with numerous god or gods—just not the God of the Bible!

In a few weeks, expect the world’s media to cover Darwin intensively—as his February 12 birthday approaches. As for our coverage (we wouldn’t call it celebration!) of these Darwinian anniversaries, see Year of Darwin.

4. PhysOrg: “Superglue from the Sea: Synthetic Sea Worm Glue May Mend Shattered Knee, Face Bones”

Fracture a bone? Let us put it back together with our worm glue.

The lowly sandcastle worm spends its time building tube-shaped homes out of small bits of sand and shell, all held together by a glue it produces. University of Utah bioengineer Russell Stewart describes, somewhat humorously, how the worm grabs pieces, adds glue, then “puts it onto the end of the tube and holds it there for about 25 seconds, wiggling it a little to see if the glue is set, and then it lets go.”

Now, Stewart and colleagues at the University of Utah have created a synthetic version of the glue and are hopeful it will one day have medical applications. But right now the “first-generation prototype” of the synthetic glue performs only 37 percent as well commercial superglue. So what’s the draw?

Unlike most glues, which weaken when wet, the sandcastle worm’s glue stays strong in its wet environment. University of Utah bioengineer Patrick Tresco explains, “Most current adhesives do not work when surfaces are wet so they are no good for holding together bone, which is wet and bloody. There is nothing like [the sandcastle worm’s glue] on the market today.”

That could be useful in repairing smaller fractures, such as non-weight-bearing joints or fractures in the face, or assisting rods, pins, and screws in larger fractures. “An adjunctive adhesive could reduce the number or volume of metal fixators while helping maintain accurate alignment of small bone fragments to improve clinical outcomes,” the bioengineers report in Macromolecular Biosciences.

Not only that; the glue could even be a vehicle for administering a variety of drugs to the fracture site—painkillers, growth factors, antibiotics, anti-inflammatory medicines, or stem cells. This would also be a marked improvement over today’s treatment of fractures.

As the team continues to improve their synthetic recreation of the sandcastle worm’s glue, they hope to make the concoction biodegradable, so that it will eventually be replaced by re-grown bone. They hope to test the glue on animals soon, with possibly human tests in 5 to 10 years.

This wet-environment glue is yet another bit of “biotechnology” from God’s creation that amazes scientists and could have useful new applications—once the engineers perfect their “re-creation”!

For more information:

5. Slate: “Return of the Neanderthals”

If we’re bringing back mammoths, should we let Neanderthals join the party? And what would they think of our auto insurance TV commercials?

Last week we covered the possibility of bringing woolly mammoths back from the ice age, one angle of coverage on the mammoth genome project. Penn State University biochemist Stephen Schuster commented, “It could be done. The question is, just because we might be able to do it one day, should we do it?”

This week Slate’s William Saletan turns that question toward Neanderthals: should we bring them back if we could? Saletan asks, “How would you feel about rewinding human evolution to a species that’s almost like us, but not quite?”

Neanderthals, from what we know, exhibited numerous “modern” behaviors and actually had larger brains than today’s humans do. The evidence shows that they were within the range of variability for the human body; they may have suffered from rickets, which would explain some skeletal differences. The grounds for treating them as a separate “species”—and certainly as inferior—comes straight from evolutionary dogma.

Saletan quotes Nicholas Wade of the New York Times, who pointed out last week that bringing Neanderthals back might answer such questions as if they could speak. (As descendants of Adam, we believe Neanderthals could speak as well as any other human group—though it’s theoretically possible, although unlikely, that Neanderthals as a group could have had a population-specific difference in that regard.)

The problem is, bringing Neanderthals back would require a lot of laboratory play—in other words, using what we’ve learned from cloning to modify Neanderthal DNA and allow a modern human to give birth to one. So here’s the crazy idea Saletan co-opts from geneticist George Church: to appease those (e.g., us) who frown on human cloning and similar experimentation, why not just raise a Neanderthal using a chimpanzee surrogate?

Apparently Saletan thinks this idea resolves any moral concern. “No human clones or products involved,” he writes confidently, then adds, “[a]t least, no ‘modern’ humans.” Thanks for the reassurance.

It’s no wonder Saletan defends Church’s wild idea, since the former writes, “Every serious scientist knows that we and other animals evolved from the same ancestors.” His logic continues with:

I don't see how conservatives can object. They didn’t object last year when scientists announced the cloning of rhesus macaque embryos. That, too, was the creation of nonhuman primate life. Follow the human lineage three branches beyond the primate order, and the rhesus macaques are still with us. Follow the human line two more branches, and the chimps are still with us. One more branch, and you’re down to us and the Neanderthals. If it’s OK to clone a macaque and a chimp, it’s pretty hard to explain why, at that last fork in the road, you’re forbidden to clone a Neanderthal.

Well, Mr. Saletan, please let us make it clear to you: we don’t accept that Neanderthals are just another branch in the evolutionary tree because we don’t accept the evolutionary tree in the first place!

Plus, according to Saletan’s logic, we’re just the next branch up, anyway. In fact, based on evolutionary logic, why are we forbidden to clone “modern” humans?

The Bible is extremely clear that God made animals to produce after their kind. Separately, God made the first man, Adam, in His own image. But like the animals, there is variability within the human kind, and some “variants” have died out, such as Neanderthals. This doesn’t mean Neanderthals weren’t every bit as human as we are today; it just means the genes coding for certain features have disappeared—or, more likely, have diffused and thus have a less dramatic effect on a larger population (see Are Europeans Neandertal?). Plus, what we know of Neanderthal behavior from archaeology confirms their intelligence and humanity.

Since at this point it seems unlikely there will ever be any morally sound way to “bring back” Neanderthals, there (hopefully) won’t be an opportunity to observe how “modern” they actually are. Though if they were to be brought back through a chimpanzee–Neanderthal “hybrid,” would it be any surprise if evolutionists claimed the hybrid confirmed ape-to-human evolution?

6. LiveScience: “People Said to Believe in Aliens and Ghosts More Than God”

More people believe in aliens and ghosts than in God—according to a perhaps-unreliable survey.

LiveScience editorial director Robert Roy Britt cautions that the survey questions weren’t published in the Daily Mail along with the results, and since the wording of questions can play into the survey results, these results may be inaccurate. Furthermore, the survey was conducted by a marketing firm in concert with the release of a paranormal X-Files film on DVD.

The results showed that only 54 percent of respondents believe in God, compared to 58 that believe in the “supernatural.” One wonders how those who account for the difference can believe in the supernatural without belief in God.

And 37 percent claimed “aliens and ghosts were the basis of their belief system,” though we would ask what this actually means—at least, beyond credulity when it comes to tales of the paranormal.

Britt makes an important point near the end of his study—one we hope more skeptics would take note of: “Religion and belief in the paranormal are not linked as one might imagine. A handful of surveys show just the opposite, in fact.” Britt quotes Baylor researcher Rodney Stark who explains that “Paranormal beliefs are very strongly negatively related to religious belief.” Britt also notes that “most devout practitioners of a religion have been shown to be the least likely to believe in Bigfoot, ghosts, or aliens.”

We reported on the Baylor study “What Americans Really Believe” in News to Note, September 27, 2008, item #6. That study found that 31 percent of the irreligious expressed “strong belief” in occult and the paranormal—compared to only 8 percent of those who attend church more than once a week. What’s clear is that acknowledging God and His orderly creation makes one less gullible when it comes to unfounded humanistic ideas—whether it’s ET or evolution! It seems that when individuals give up belief in God, they must find something else to put their faith in—and more often than not, it’s either aliens and the paranormal, or evolutionary science.

For more information:

7. LiveScience: “Scientists Team Up with Hollywood”

If you thought Hollywood was already as evolutionized as it could get, think again.

The Science and Entertainment Exchange, a new initiative of the National Academy of Sciences, is designed to “connect the entertainment industry with scientists and engineers to work on everything from movies, television, and even video games,” LiveScience reports. The initiative was kicked off in Los Angeles’s Creative Artists Agency last week with presentations to Hollywood directors, producers, and writers.

Among the topics was one on “our place in the universe” by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History. Other topics included infectious diseases, the future of genomics, and artificial intelligence.

Perhaps this initiative will never amount to anything; perhaps it will. Either way, our guess is that Hollywood will continue to generate entertainment that weaves not just potentially entertaining, operational, cutting-edge science, but Darwinian “science” and philosophy together—and insidiously “evolutionizes” the culture. Every Christian needs to be aware of such hidden indoctrination, and the power Hollywood has in shaping young minds. A great place to learn more is Carl Kerby’s Remote Control: The Power of Hollywood on Today’s Culture.

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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