We’re less than two weeks away from Darwin’s birthday, and the news media isn’t forgetting.
A steady uptick in articles on Darwin and evolution heralds the bicentenary of the British naturalist’s birth on February 12. Even though Answers in Genesis already has our Year of Darwin campaign in response (e.g., major conferences in February), we decided to take a peek at four of the more interesting stories.
What Darwin Didn’t Know—A lengthy Smithsonian piece hails On the Origin of Species as “a vibrant and engaging work of literature,” in part because (it alleges) Darwin knew his work was “just the beginning.” In addition to reviewing Darwin’s life and oozing over the centrality of evolution today, the author points out how (curiously) Darwin actually lacked evidence for his hypothesis in such fields as geology and paleontology. (But don’t worry, the author offers piles of more recent “evidence” to prop Darwinism up.)
Hatred of Slavery Drove Darwin Ideas, Book Says—Could it be that Darwin hypothesized evolution for anti-slavery reasons? That’s the wild idea of a new book, Darwin’s Sacred Cause. Reuters reports that authors Adrian Desmond and James Moore argue “a passionate hatred of slavery was fundamental to his theory of evolution, which challenged the assumption held by many at the time that blacks and whites were separate species.” Essentially, they believe (in Moore’s words), “We can’t figure out where else” the idea for evolution came from, other than in an attempt to counter racism. We’d call that specious logic, especially considering the racist implications of Darwin’s idea and Darwin’s own comments about the “savages” of other races. To read more, see Chapter 1: Darwin’s Garden.
The Sins of the Fathers, Take 2—Newsweek’s Sharon Begley takes a look at a renewed form of Lamarckism, the old proto-evolutionary idea that the behavior and experience of animals can affect their progeny (such that muscle builders have more muscular children, or giraffes extending their necks to reach distant leaves will yield longer-necked offspring). While Lamarck’s ideas were abandoned long ago, experiments with water fleas and lab mice in the last ten years have shown definite connections between parent experience and offspring behavior. Despite identical genes, water fleas will only grow defensive “helmets” if their mothers encountered predators. While this “new Lamarckism” isn’t on track to replace Darwinism as the standard dogma of naturalistic science, it reminds us that there’s far more to biology than even Darwinists know!
Remote Island Celebrates Pioneer—Remember the famous nineteenth-century biologist who came up with the theory of evolution? Alfred Russel Wallace was his name—does that surprise you? Wallace, a Welsh scientist who devised evolution around the same time as Darwin, rarely receives credit for his contribution—despite the fact that reading Wallace’s writing helped prompt Darwin to publish On the Origin of Species. Residents of the Indonesian island where he once lived aren’t forgetting him, however. (For a fascinating in-depth look on the origin of Origin, see There is no Darwin Conspiracy.)
Pull the Plug on Atheism—Evangelist and apologist Ray Comfort has launched a new website in the run-up to Darwin’s birthday: one that counters both evolution and atheism. He’s even hoping to find contacts to help him run anti-evolution billboards in time for Darwin’s birthday. If you or anyone you know could help, view his email appeal or pass it to a friend.
This just in: sea sponges are not the oldest animal around, according to a recent evolutionary analysis.
Back in April of last year we covered a “new study mapping the evolutionary history of animals” that “shocked” scientists: sophisticated comb jellies, not simple sea sponges, were the world’s oldest animal lineage.
Now, yet another study has come out against sea sponges, but it isn’t comb jellies at the base of the animal tree of life this time; instead, “a group of amoeba-shaped creatures called Placozoans” hold the title for world’s oldest animal. The analysis was performed by American Museum of Natural History scientists Rob DeSalle and Sergios-Orestis Kolokotronis, and, according to LiveScience, confirms other genetic studies.
Of course, all such genetic studies presuppose evolution because they conclude all genetic differences are the result of millions of years of mutations.
More interesting is that, based on their reconstruction of the supposed animal tree of life, DeSalle and Kolokotronis believe nervous systems evolved separately in both “lower” and “higher” animal groups. “Things in organisms that look alike a lot of times aren’t really derived from a common ancestor,” DeSalle said. “The nervous system of cnidarians and Bilateria are constructed with the same molecules and often times using the same genes. But it is possible that the cnidarians’ nervous system really is not the same nervous system found in Bilaterians.” As if it’s not incredible enough to believe the nervous system evolved once, these evolutionists are quite credulous that it could have evolved twice—or more!
And as for comb jellies, well—we guess they had their fifteen minutes of fame!
It’s a bit of a riddle: three fish are totally unlike one another, yet they’re all the same species. How can it be?
Like most riddles, the answer seems quite obvious once you’ve heard it: one fish is male, one fish is female, and one fish is a juvenile. That’s the answer in the case of Cetomimidae whalefish, which up until recently was only known for its female members.
Meanwhile, “seemingly related” species known as Mirapinnidae (“tapetails”) and Megalomycteridae (“bignose fish”) had been found, albeit only juvenile tapetails and only male bignose fish.
The skeletons of all three fish seemed to indicate that they were related—but there were “so many differences no one could believe they were the same fish at different sexes or stages in life,” explained David Johnson, an ichthyologist at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. But “[t]he pieces kept falling into place,” he said.
The clue that confirmed Johnson’s suspicion was a DNA analysis that finally showed the three fish were the same species, despite the incredible differences in habitat and anatomy. For instance, juveniles live within 600 feet of the surface, while adults live thousands of feet below. Even stranger, while females grow expansive mouths to collect what little food is available, the male jaws fuse shut, and the males survive on energy stored up from their meals as larvae. Yet they develop oversized noses to help sense deep-sea smells.
While both evolutionists and creationists can explain sexual dimorphism (where males and females of the same species are distinct in size and anatomy), each case is nonetheless quite curious, and the Cetomimidae whalefish may be the most curious of all!
Remember the hobbit? It’s back in the news—again.
Anatomical researcher Karen Baab of Stony Brook University and anthropologist Kieran McNulty of the University of Minnesota have conducted a new analysis of the skull of Homo floresiensis, the so-called “hobbit” found on the Indonesian island of Flores. Since its discovery, scientists have hotly debated whether the hobbit is actually a unique human species, or whether it was simply a diseased pygmy.
Based on her 3-D shape analysis, Baab believes the hobbit was not a modern human, reporting in the Journal of Human Evolution that the skull is more consistent with a minimized human ancestor’s than with a minimized modern human’s. “The overall shape of the [hobbit] skull, particularly the part that surrounds the brain (neurocranium) looks similar to fossils more than 1.5 million years older from Africa and Eurasia, rather than modern humans,” explained Baab.
The researchers’ conclusion—that the hobbit was not microcephalic (diseased with an abnormally small skull)—flies in the face of studies conducted by other scientists. “The degree of asymmetry in [the hobbit skull] was within the range of apes and was very similar to that seen in other fossil skulls. We suggest that the degree of asymmetry is within expectations for this population of hominins, particular given that the conditions of the cave in Indonesia in which the skull was preserved may have contributed to asymmetry.”
Baab concludes that it may never be possible to determine for sure just what the “hobbits” were, and we agree, which is why presuppositions play a paramount role. Evolutionists conclude that, if the hobbit resembles other human “ancestors,” it must be an ancestor too; but what if those so-called ancestors were actually a now-extinct genetic variation on modern humans? Besides, one of the key exhibits in the case for hobbit humanity is evidence of fire use in the cave where the hobbits were found. That should go a long way toward settling the debate in favor of hobbit humanity, yet it seems to be conveniently ignored here.
In (somewhat) related news, the Associated Press reports that few are showing up to see our supposed ancestor “Lucy” at Seattle’s Pacific Science Center: only 60,000 have showed up, compared to the 250,000 the museum hoped to bring in.
The center is now facing a half-million-dollar loss after doling out millions to bring Lucy to the museum. And according to the AP, other museums are now reconsidering their role in Lucy’s 10-city tour. Chicago’s famous Field Museum—no stranger to evolutionary promulgation—has withdrawn.
It may be difficult to determine how much the low attendance numbers are due to economic circumstances versus skepticism over the evolutionary story of human origins. At the very least, it’s that many fewer children who won’t be exposed to evolutionary indoctrination!
A wasp boring into the brain—it may sound painful, but it could be a key to gentler brain surgery.
Researchers studying female wood wasps have noted the ingenious apparatus the wasps use to bore into pine trees, where they lay their eggs. The needle-like egg-laying tube includes two dovetailed shafts that feature backward-facing teeth. The wasp rapidly oscillates each shaft backward and forward, with the teeth helping the needle-like tube move farther in. This tension created by the teeth keeps the shaft open. “It can insinuate itself into the tissue with the minimum amount of force,” notes Imperial College London’s Ferdinando Rodriguez y Baena, one of the researchers.
Rodriguez y Baena and his colleagues are working to replicate the wasp apparatus for surgical use. A prototype developed by the team places a silicon needle amid tiny fin-shaped teeth only 50 micrometers long. In contrast to existing “rigid” surgical probes, the new design is flexible enough to move through safer surgical routes. New Scientist’s David Robson explains that the flexibility allows the probe to bypass “high-risk areas of the brain during surgery” and “reduce the number of incisions needed to deliver cancer therapies.”
So while a brain-boring probe inspired by a needle-like wasp bore may sound quite painful, the technology may actually result in the opposite. It’s another marvelous design in nature that hadn’t yet dawned on human engineers.
The common perception of viruses is entirely negative (for good reason), but a possible virus therapy could change popular opinion.
MIT’s Technology Review covers a potential breakthrough in treating those with spinal cord injuries: using genetically engineered viruses to help support the re-growth of spinal tissue.
University of California–Berkeley bioengineer Seung-Wuk Lee is hoping the viruses can serve to replace the tissue scaffolds that support vital body tissues and provide chemical signals to keep the tissue functioning correctly. Since viruses are self-replicating and self-assembling, they could replace the scaffolds once engineered to express the right characteristics.
Lee is working with a bacteriophage virus (one that infects bacteria but cannot infect animal cells) called M13 that is long and thin, similar to the protein fibers that compose the body’s natural scaffolding. In the lab, Lee and colleague Anna Merzlyak have injected M13 into a solution containing neural-progenitor cells. The viruses “align themselves like a liquid crystal,” creating fibrous strands similar to neurons. Magnetic fields can even help the virus spread into a more complex arrangement.
The next step for Lee is to test M13 in live animals, monitoring for their immune system reaction. If those tests succeed, M13 could eventually be the therapeutic backbone for regenerating damaged spinal cord tissue.
Remember, if you see a news story that might merit some attention, let us know about it! (Note: if the story originates from the Associated Press, Fox News, MSNBC, New York Times or another major national media outlet, we will most likely have already heard 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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