1. ScienceNOW: “Most Planets May Be Seeded With Life”

Are the seeds of life commonly planted when a planet is formed?

Scientists reporting in the journal Astro-ph have detected a simple sugar known as glycolaldehyde in a dusty region of space known as G31.41+0.31 (secular astronomers believe stars are forming there, though this has not been observed). The region, which is some 26,000 light-years from earth, was examined using France’s IRAM radio dish array. ScienceNOW reports that glycolaldehyde “can apparently form in a simple reaction between carbon monoxide molecules and dust grains” (and it’s been found in space before, a press release notes).

According to one of the researchers, University College London astrophysicist Serena Viti, this may mean glycolaldehyde is “common throughout star-forming regions.” And what could that imply? That “wherever there is starmaking and planet formation going on, organic building blocks could be assembling as well,” notes ScienceNOW’s Phil Berardelli. And according to the study, glycolaldehyde “can react with propenal to form ribose, a central constituent of RNA.”

Of course, media coverage gives the false impression that it’s just a hop, skip, and a jump to the sort of complex genetic code even simple forms of life require. The element that goes unreported—and, it would seem, unnoticed in the minds of these astronomers—is that having a piece of a component of a code is not the same as having a legitimate code, nor does it explain where the code would have come from. Spilling ink on a piece of paper doesn’t spell out sensical sentences!

Additionally, we would note that when it comes down to it, even subatomic particles could be considered “building blocks of life.” So finding substances labeled “building blocks of life” merely begs the question, since one must presuppose that building blocks could self-assemble for such a discovery to be meaningful. Actually, we should be asking secular astronomers, “Is this the best you could find?”

Furthermore, no matter what quasi-organic substances astronomers find in space, none of them can preclude the accuracy of the Genesis account. At most, they can only keep evolutionists’ faith alive that maybe, just maybe, those simple sugars underwent the necessary reactions to form ribose, then somehow self-organized with other components into a code that magically interpreted and built itself into a self-replicating life-form.

In other astronomical news, scientists have observed more indications of liquid water on Saturn’s moon Enceladus, reports National Geographic News. And anytime indications of water are found in space, quotes like this one—from NASA’s Candice Hansen—are never far behind:

“We cannot say whether there is life or not. But if we can conclude that there is liquid water, then we can say at least the ingredients are there.”

Evolutionists seem to believe that observing the ingredients of life is evidence that those ingredients could self-organize. Taking this logic into the kitchen, couldn’t we say that since we observe flour, sugar, eggs, and the like, cakes are able to mix and bake themselves?

2. ScienceNOW: “The Long Road to Modernity”

Yesterday’s humans weren’t as sophisticated as today’s humans—according to today’s humans.

In the evolutionary model, did human intelligence increase gradually or was it a great cognitive “leap” that led to our modern sophistication? That’s the question anthropologists are trying to answer based on a “hominid site” in Ethiopia.

The site is known as Gademotta, and archaeologists previously dated it to some 235,000 years ago. The “problem” is that the site is home to “Middle Stone Age” tools and weapons that are more advanced than evolutionists predict: objects evolutionists believe were designed by Homo sapiens no more than 195,000 years ago.

Meanwhile, Gademotta has been re-dated to 280,000 years old, which only aggravates the problem for evolutionists. What were such advanced tools doing supposedly long before modern humans arrived on the scene? Not only that, but a Kenyan site called Kapthurin, which also harbors Middle Stone Age technology, has been dated to 285,000 years old.

The answer is simpler than you might imagine. The University of California–Berkeley’s Leah Morgan and Paul Renne, who re-dated Gademotta, conclude that the tools were probably not created by H. sapiens after all, but rather came from intermediates between H. erectus and H. sapiens. Throw in a few fossils dated within a hundred thousand years of the sites, and the problem is “solved,” evolutionists declare.

As young-earth creationists, we’re much more skeptical of radiometric dating techniques and don’t believe such old ages are possible (and certainly not provable). We do believe, however, that both H. sapiens and H. erectus are fully human descendants of Adam and Eve, and thus made in God’s image. The existence of “intermediates” between H. erectus and H. sapiens is just a sign that we are all from the same created kind (along with Neanderthals); thus, associating advanced tool-making with these humans is unsurprising.

Additionally, the entire notion of what makes tools “modern” and otherwise is quite susceptible to not only evolutionary presuppositions, but also guesswork and speculation. Did one human civilization develop a new technology because it was actually more intelligent / more highly evolved—or was it just that their circumstances led to the discovery of the technology, while others’ never did?

For example, in National Geographic News’s coverage, Renne is quoted giving a “modern analogy” to the old/new tool dichotomy. “A modern analogy might be the transition from ox-carts to automobiles, which is virtually complete in North America and northern Europe, but is still underway in the developing world,” Renne said.

Perhaps an alien civilization that had its own evolutionary ideas might come to earth and believe ox-carts and autos represent the technology of two related but different species—one more highly evolved than the other. But, of course, all people groups are made in the image of God; none are more sophisticated or intelligent. Rather, circumstances and related factors determine what sort of technology we use, and situational dichotomy of technology extends back into human history ever since Babel.

3. ScienceNOW: “Sea Change for Turtle Origins?”

Turtle evolution is yet again in the news—and, yet again, the evolution is only in evolutionists’ minds.

In October, it was a fossil in New Mexico that held the key to the evolution of the turtle shell. In November, it was a fossil species from Scotland that was “a missing link between ancient terrestrial turtles and their modern, aquatic descendants.”

Now, two fossils from southwestern China are overturning previous wisdom while simultaneously “rais[ing] more questions than they answer,” reports ScienceNOW’s Erik Stokstad. While evolutionists previously believed turtles were originally terrestrial and only later spread to the sea, these “most primitive” turtle fossils found in China appear to have been marine creatures. Their limbs appear more suited for swimming than walking, and the fossils were discovered near a coast in what are thought to be marine sediments.

According to the ScienceNOW report, the small turtles not only lacked hard shells—as do some marine turtles today—but also lacked beaks and had teeth, unlike all other known turtles. Called Odontochelys, the turtle appears to have a bony underbody (plastron) but no upper shell (carapace).

Several media headlines, such as the BBC’s, suggest the find answers how the turtle got its shell; for instance, the BBC News article claims the find “shows that the turtle’s breast plate developed earlier than the rest of its shell.” But the ScienceNOW report makes it clear that, actually, the fossil has prompted several different interpretations by evolutionists. For example, the Chicago Field Museum’s Olivier Rieppel, one of the scientists describing the fossils, believes Odontochelys is the most primitive of turtles. But University of Toronto–Mississauga scientists Robert Reisz and Jason Head suggest that perhaps Odontochelys did, in fact, descend from land-based turtles, but lost the bones in its armor along the way, much like modern soft-shelled turtles. And Yale’s Walter Joyce wonders if Odontochelys is just an “oddity,” while study coauthor Chun Li of the Chinese Academy of Sciences calls Odontochelys “an ideal missing link for turtle evolution.”

So with all the various ideas on turtle evolution batted about in the news over the past three months, it seems we could suggest almost any story for turtle origins. Ours is that God created turtles—likely at least two distinct kinds, during Creation Week. Since then, turtle populations have lost genetic information through natural selection and mutations, so the turtles preserved by the Flood—and those we find today—are more diverse than the original created turtles, and may well be missing some features.

In this sense, our explanation isn’t that different from what evolutionists suggest, except three basic things: (1) whether turtles could have evolved new features because of new genetic information; (2) how long ago changes happened and fossil formed; and (3) whether turtle ancestry traces all the way back to the original cell. On the first point, we have never observed the development of new genetic information; the second and third points lie in the realm of origins science, which is rooted in presuppositions about the past.

In other words, creationists can ask and answer the same questions as evolutionists when examining changes in kinds of animals over time (looking at fossils and present individuals). The differences are rooted in the paradigms each group takes on faith: information-adding mutations and natural selection evolving single cells into vertebrates over millions of years versus primarily information-destroying mutations and natural selection resulting in diversity within God’s created kinds from a few thousand years ago.

4. ScienceNOW: “DNA: Too Much—or Too Little—Can Be a Bad Thing”

From mid-November, a reminder that mutations are nearly always counterproductive.

A linchpin to the Darwinian model is that, once in every great while, a mutation occurs that adds something to an organism—a new feature that allows that organism to better survive in its environment.

Part of the great challenge (too great, in our opinion) to Darwinism is finding enough of these mutations to account for the incredible diversity and “apparent” design in life. Even considering the supposed hundreds of millions of years of evolution, remember that every element of every intriguing design, every social behavior, every bit of biodiversity must have sprung up through these unobserved, extremely unlikely information-adding mutations. Not only that, but evolutionists are forced, by their interpretations of the fossil record and evolutionary lineages, to conclude that many sets of information-adding mutations occurred not just one unlikely time, but numerous times, and often in conjunction with others.

While scientists have never observed any information-adding mutations, we are aware of numerous destructive mutations—those that destroy or corrupt good information, and thus do the opposite of what evolution would require. ScienceNOW’s Jennifer Couzin reports on a disease known as retinoblastoma, a childhood eye cancer that is related to at least one mutation and may be traceable to others.

According to Couzin, “All youngsters who develop retinoblastoma in both eyes inherited a defective gene that caused the disease.” However, in eight out of ten cases, neither parent has the defect-causing mutation; rather, the mutation somehow arose in the male sperm. Now, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia believe they’ve found a link between the fathers’ genetic damage and their likelihood of producing the retinoblastoma mutation in sperm.

Specifically, the scientists were looking at regions of DNA called copy number variations, or CNVs. Focusing on 37 CNVs considered large (involving more than half a million DNA bases), the team found that fathers producing the retinoblastoma mutation had more CNVs than others—about eight, on average, versus three.

While the research is still in nascent stages, University of Pennsylvania geneticist Elizabeth Chao speculates that the DNA in fathers with numerous CNVs may be more susceptible to radiation damage. Or, CNVs may merely indicate a “less stable genome,” although the fathers aren’t at a higher risk of cancer themselves.

Related studies have connected a high number of CNVs to cancer-causing Li-Fraumeni syndrome as well as schizophrenia. These are sad reminders of the Fall and consequential Curse in Genesis 3—and reminders that observational science continues to find that genetic mutations are frequently—though not always—a source of disease, and never a source of hypothesized evolutionary healing.

5. LiveScience: “Origin of Sex Pinned Down”

At the beginning He made them male and female—emphasis on the “and”?

We all descended from hermaphrodites, according to a new study in the journal Heredity. That’s evolutionists’ answer to the question of how the two sexes evolved from our supposed asexual ancestors. While the conclusion focuses on plants, the researchers believe the same explanation likely extends to animals (“like us,” opines LiveScience’s Jeanna Bryner).

The study, conducted by researchers with the United States Department of Agriculture and the University of Pittsburgh, focused on wild strawberry plants. According to the study, two genes located in different spots on a chromosome determine whether a strawberry plant will be a certain sex, hermaphroditic, or neuter. One gene codes for female organs, the other for male; each can be “on” or “off,” thus leading to four possibilities: hermaphroditic (both “on”), male, female, or neuter (both “off”).

The distinction of male and female in all organisms likely all trace back to the same genetic development, goes the apparent logic of the study. This is in spite of the fact that, first, the researchers acknowledge human sex is determined quite differently (“this mixing and matching is not possible,” LiveScience reports); second, the researchers actually believe the evolution of sex occurred “independently and repeatedly” from hermaphroditism in different plant lineages—and, thus, is even less likely than the one-time evolution of sex.

It seems to us that since evolutionists must account for the evolution of sex, they’re basically making a stretch: pointing to one example of how genes determine sex as if that explains where the genes came from in the first place. In fact, USDA researcher Kim Lewers half admits this:

“All of the animals and plants that are bi-sexual, or have two sexes, are theorized to have evolved according to a particular set of steps. Until now, no example had been found of the very earliest steps. Therefore, those steps were undemonstrated to be true.”

Translation: this is what we already believed, without evidence, since it’s necessary within the evolutionary model. Of course, the scientists believe the strawberry genes are the evidence they’re looking for.

Again, our question is, how does pointing to these strawberry genes—the source of sexual diversity in strawberry plants—explain the source of the actual genes? Isn’t it a bit like pointing to the gene that controls eye color as an explanation for how the eye could have evolved in the first place?

The researchers have bypassed the more serious question of how mutations could account for the information to produce sexual organs that “matched” one another, or why natural selection would favor the development of sexual organs—or individuals that couldn’t reproduce unless they found a mate (making it more difficult to survive than asexually reproducing organisms)—in the first place.

As for human sexuality, Christ reminded us when He quoted Genesis 1:27 that, for humankind, “He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female’” Matthew 19:4. While some creations of God (e.g., many kinds of plants) may reproduce asexually or hermaphroditically, it is clear that—from the beginning—humans have been male and female, all part of God’s plan for humanity.

6. BBC News: “Mystery of Dolphins’ Speed Solved”

A new study has determined how dolphins swim so fast: really, really powerful tails.

The mystery of dolphins’ amazing speed is so confounding that it is even described by a paradox. Gray’s Paradox, named after zoologist Sir James Gray, was rooted in his 1936 observations of dolphins swimming at more than 20 miles (32 km) an hour, a press release notes. Yet he concluded dolphins’ muscles couldn’t be powerful enough to support such speeds.

Researchers at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have finally solved the “paradox” by studying the movement of water around dolphins while they swim. The study involved a technique called “digital particle image velocimetry” that required the dolphins to swim through tanks with millions of tiny bubbles, the speed and direction of which were then measured.

While Gray concluded that the secret to dolphin speed lay in their anti-drag skin, the researchers discovered he had underestimated the actual strength of the dolphin’s tail. In the team’s tests, the dolphins exerted an average of 200 lbs (91 kg) of force while swimming, maxing out at 400 lbs (181 kg) of force while “walking” upright mostly above the water, as seen in dolphin shows. (Human swimmers exert about 60 to 70 lbs (27–36 kg) of force at most.)

So it seems this is yet another example of God’s design in dolphins, which are also well-known for their keen intelligence.

For more information:

7. LiveScience: “How Fishy Technology Could Power the Future”

Energy-generating turbines could take a cue from fish, according to a new study.

Traditional turbines are most effective in powerful currents, but researchers are trying to change that so that slower currents can produce power. Today, smaller-current turbines use principles of lift to become “underwater windmills” and maximize their production. But a team led by Michael Bernitsas at the University of Michigan is looking at underwater creatures for inspiration.

“We live in air so we are used to lifting surfaces that support birds, sail boats and airplanes," explains Bernitsas. However, most swimming organisms propel themselves by creating small vortices in the water. To emulate the behavior, Bernitsas’s team built a device called VIVACE (Vortex Induced Vibrations for Aquatic Clean Energy) that features cylinders that oscillate in moving water as turbulence builds vortices. Because of water’s high density (relative to air), the vibrations carry quite a bit of energy: up to 10 times more than the same volume with tidal turbines. Yet the VIVACE system works in currents moving only 2 miles (3 km) an hour, so slow that tidal turbines are uneconomical.

Interestingly, the team was inspired by fish scales to create a rough surface in the VIVACE cylinders, which resulted in an increase in power output of between 40 and 70 percent over a smooth cylinder. According to Bernitsas, “The roughness helps to convert more of the kinetic energy of the water into vortex energy.”

The team is also attempting to learn from the efficiency of schools of swimming fish, which share vortices to move faster. While Bernitsas’s team does not know how to combine the vortices of individual cylinders, they have experimented with “tails” that prevent each cylinder’s vortex from interfering with the others’.

While the technology may be a long way off from competing with current power-harnessing systems on a large scale, it’s nonetheless an interesting nature-inspired design—and, hence, a nod to the Creator’s ingenuity!

For more information:

8. BBC News: “Rare Bronze Age Necklace is Found”

An amber necklace that could be 4,000 years old has been dug up near Manchester.

Archaeologists discovered the necklace while excavating a type of stone-lined grave known as a cist, and have dated the find to around 2,000 BC.

While we may not be as confident about the exact date, the find is a reminder that, like us, our human ancestors appreciated art and wore jewelry. In fact, the style of this necklace wouldn’t seem out of place in certain circles today.

Also of interest is that the nearest source of amber from the time may have been the Baltics, reminding us of ancient trade and travel and the “modernity” of humans since creation.

For more information:

9. The Telegraph: “£35,000 of Taxpayers’ Cash Given to ‘Atheist Bus’ Group”

British taxpayer dollars are benefiting lectures on atheism—all part of a government program to fund “debates about the place of religion in public life.”

Britain’s Telegraph reported that the pro-secularism British Humanist Association—which, as we noted in October, has funded an atheistic bus campaign in London (soon mimicked in the United States)—has received more than $50,000 in government money for a series of conferences on “whether it is right for the devout to be given special treatment in the workplace.” (The story curiously disappeared from the Telegraph’s website a few days later. The Welsh Western Mail has a similar report.)

One honestly wonders if much headway will be made in the debates (one passed, three to come over the next three months), other than a government-funded regurgitation of the same old views. Also, although termed debates, the news reports only on the humanist speakers. For example, one of the conferences will be keynoted by philosopher A. C. Grayling, who has claimed, “Religious belief shares the same intellectual respectability and rationality as belief in the existence of fairies.” Another will be led by a legislator whose views on abortion have earned him the moniker “Dr. Death.” While BHA chief executive Hanne Stinson claims “Speakers are being asked to explore the issues, not to push a line,” we imagine their talking points will be more than a little predictable.

As for us, it’s hard to disagree with one critic’s comparison of the situation to paying the Taliban to lecture on women’s rights.

For more information:

10. Cincinnati Enquirer / Kentucky Enquirer: “Creation Museum Deal Ends”

The Creation Museum is once again the center of an evolutionist-hatched controversy concerning local area tourism promotions.

Last week, the Cincinnati Zoo and our own Creation Museum (about 25 miles from each other) launched a deal to co-promote the venues’ holiday celebrations via a discount combo ticket. Billed as “Two Great Attractions, One Great Deal,” the promotion was similar to those the zoo offered with other area attractions, and specifically promoted the zoo’s nationally known Festival of Lights along with the museum’s live nativity, Bethlehem’s Blessings.

Two-and-a-half days later, the deal was scrapped after the zoo received nationwide criticism for partnering with the museum. Critics argued that the semi-publicly funded zoo should not partner with a religious institution—especially not one promoting a literal book of Genesis.

The Enquirer quotes Cincinnati radiologist James Leach, one of the protesters. “They seem like diametrically opposed institutions. The Cincinnati Zoo is one of this city’s treasures. The Creation Museum is an international laughingstock.”

A zoo spokesperson clarified that the intent of the discount was not to “endorse” the museum; nonetheless, the deal was considered “distracting” and canceled.

Enquirer columnist Peter Bronson writes—in an opinion piece defending the promotion—“I suppose next they will try to ban Santa Claus because all that stuff about reindeer pulling his sleigh pulled across the sky has not been peer-reviewed in a scientific journal.” Of course, we don’t equate creation with Santa Claus (and there are several peer-reviewed scientific journals for young-earth creationism, such as our Answers Research Journal); still, Bronson is right in pointing out evolutionists’ double standards. After all, the zoo website also mentions the Easter bunny.

Meanwhile, one commenter on the Enquirer article asked why the supposed “pro-science” crowd hasn’t demanded the zoo remove its own holiday displays.

To read our full response to the incident, visit Expelled from the Zoo.

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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