We were deluged with media tips this week about the Wall Street Journal’s front-page coverage of a Noah’s Ark replica.
The full-sized reconstruction of Noah’s Ark sits on 270,000 square feet on a small island in Hong Kong, where it was built by the billionaire Kwok brothers. At 450 feet (137 m) long, this ark’s spacious interior houses a restaurant, an exhibition hall, a children’s museum, and a rooftop luxury hotel (“Noah’s Resort”), along with 67 pairs of fiberglass animals.
As a Christian, I am always embarrassed for my deluded brothers who feel a children’s tale is somehow a way to exhibit their faith. God bless them for their intention, but they should realize how stupid they make Christians look by first (1) Thinking there is enough water hidden somewhere to flood the planet (2) Underestimating the number of animal species needing to be saved my [sic] about a billion (forgetting about plants).
A project 17 years in the making but whose foundations were just set in 2004, the Ark replica was constructed in conjunction with five Christian organizations. The replica Ark’s specifications match what the Bible records, giving visitors a true perspective of the massive scale and carrying capacity Noah’s ship had. (Read more about determining the Ark’s size in Thinking Outside the Box.) That sets it apart from many other Ark replicas around the world, which are all built on a smaller scale.
For instance, the widely publicized “Dutch ark” is built on a 1:5 scale—see Noah’s Ark—Sailing in the Netherlands? and Johan Huibers and His Ark. (See also a Wall Street Journal slideshow of other Ark replicas around the world.) A worker on the Dutch ark, however, emphasized that the Hong Kong ark-builders and the Dutch ark-builders “stand for the same goal as far as I can tell.” She added that the Dutch team is working on a full-size water-faring ark now.
Among the Kwok brothers, the Hong Kong ark is especially a project of Thomas Kwok, whom the Journal identifies as an evangelical Christian. In the 1990s, Thomas, the middle Kwok brother, even set up a church on the 75th floor of a Hong Kong skyscraper.
The Ark replica project also highlights the international scope of the creation movement, which has been covered in several articles over the past few months (see the February 11 News to Note and last week’s, where we reported that China could become the world’s largest Christian country by 2050). That said, the article notes that the team must devise a marketing strategy to attract mainland Chinese to see the ark, as many of them are not familiar with the Genesis account.
For better or worse, the Journal article spends time relating the Flood story to modern-day economic troubles. “Some latter-day Noahs believe the biblical story of a flood washing away man’s misdeeds resonates in a time of sunken financial institutions and economic tumult.” The article quotes one woman who praised the Ark replica, saying, “When you go to Disneyland, there’s really no message there. But at Noah’s Ark, there is such a strong message that life goes on.” While this is indeed one of the messages of Noah’s Ark—that God chose to preserve life—we hope visitors will recognize that the Ark represents far more than that: the true history of Genesis, including the necessity of God’s judgment of sin and the Ark of salvation He provided then—and provides now through Jesus Christ.
Early humans weren’t very good at swinging from trees. But if you think that has evolutionists doubting human evolution, think again.
Even evolutionists admit that the transition from ape to apeman to man contains plenty of guesswork and speculation. One of the ongoing debates in evolutionary circles is what the first step (so to speak) was for the earliest true humans: to “spen[d] some time in the trees even as they adapted to their new ground-dwelling lifestyle,” or whether “our distant ancestors’ arms, legs, and feet were more humanlike than apelike and poorly adapted for climbing.” The debate can be restated as a question: how quickly did tree-dwelling apes (allegedly) evolve into ground-dwelling humans?
Worcester State College anthropologist Jeremy DeSilva decided filming chimpanzees could advance the debate—an obvious reflection of his evolutionary presuppositions. In Uganda’s Kibale National Park, DeSilva recorded chimps’ anatomical movements as they climbed around in trees. The chimps flex their ankles by raising their feet some 45 degrees from the resting position—far more than humans could do without suffering serious injury. Instead, humans bend their ankles 15 to 20 degrees at most when attempting the equivalent action.
Next, DeSilva examined a variety of ape and human fossils, looking at the main bones that compose the ankle joint (the tibia and talus bones). His study shows that “all of the hominin [i.e., human fossil] ankle joints resembled those of modern humans rather than those of apes.” That’s no surprise to creationists!
Of course, this news doesn’t necessarily change the minds of any evolutionists. Some, such as Stony Brook University anthropologist William Jungers, point out that modern humans can still climb trees without such ankle-flexing capacity. But DeSilva doesn’t think early humans could have been simultaneously good at ground-walking and tree-climbing, instead concluding that “full bipedalism would have evolved relatively rapidly as tree-climbing ability declined,” ScienceNOW reports.
Perhaps human bipedalism “evolved” even more quickly than DeSilva suspects: instantaneously, as in at the instant that God created Adam. That’s what the evidence indicates—in this case, more evidence of the unique features and abilities of both apes and humans.
Who were the first tool users: Humans? Apes? Crows? No, say evolutionists; it may have been “scorpion-like sea beasts” (and no, they’re not kidding)!
The story starts with fossil tracks found five years ago in Wisconsin. The dozens of tracks are each about 4 inches (10 cm) wide and occur in rocks said to be 500 million years old. From the looks of the tracks, the creatures that made them were multi-legged and appeared to be “dragg[ing] some weight on their left sides.”
In fact, the tracks look like those made by “modern-day hermit crabs,” National Geographic News reports. But that is a problem for evolutionists, who don’t believe hermit crabs evolved until 300 million years after the Wisconsin fossil tracks were made. (Thus, this is another example of evolutionists turning the facts upside-down and interpreting the fossil record according to their presuppositions.)
So what story did evolutionists concoct to explain the tracks? The researchers decided the tracks were made by ancient sea scorpions, an extinct group of creatures that were like a “cross between a scorpion and a horseshoe crab” (according to lead study author Whitey Hagadorn). Evolutionists already believe sea scorpions were one of “the first marine animals to evolve for life on land,” so this fits into their scenario.
But what about the fossil indication that they were dragging something? Here’s where the tale grows tall. Sea scorpions apparently breathed underwater by using gills on their tails. The researchers suggest that the creatures could have stuffed their tails into the shells of snails or some other sea critter. This would have allowed the sea scorpions to walk onto land while keeping their gills moist with humid air trapped inside the shells—like the opposite of scuba gear, the scientists explain.
While it seems far-fetched, this story may become part of the widely accepted “facts” supposedly supporting the evolution of terrestrial life. (Indeed, the tale seems to be largely motivated by the fact that evolutionists believe sea scorpions evolved for life on land.) And while it’s not impossible that sea scorpions could have engaged in such adventurous behavior, the more reasonable explanation is that these indeed are hermit crab tracks. Evolutionists, however, can’t make this admission because it would upset their timeline for the evolution of hermit crabs 300 million years later in the fossil record.
“Neanderthal” may actually be an umbrella term referring to three different subgroups, according to a new DNA study.
Using computer simulations, researchers at the University of the Mediterranean analyzed DNA sequence fragments from 12 Neanderthal fossils. The results indicate that “Neanderthals” may have been three or four distinct genetic groups. Of the subgroups, one appears to have lived in Western Europe, a second in Southern Europe around the Mediterranean, a third in Eastern Europe (extending into the Middle East), and a possible fourth subgroup in Western Asia.
Although the LiveScience article calls Neanderthals “cavemen-like creatures,” the archaeological facts confirm Neanderthals as intelligent, civilized humans, who—as the article does mention—may have interbred with (other) modern humans. The creation model understands Neanderthals as, essentially, modern humans with a few peculiar skeletal differences (possibly made more peculiar by rickets). Some of these features even exist, to a lesser degree, in modern humans. If Neanderthals were around today, the differences would probably be considered comparable to the superficial differences that separate humans now. Additionally, discovering that there was likely a range of Neanderthal types (rather than one monolithic group) supports the idea that the descendants of Noah included a range of variation within the human kind, only some of which survives today.
That said, we echo the caution given by the study’s authors, who note that the results were based on a limited sample of mitochondrial DNA fragments. Princeton University anthropologist Alan Mann explained, “This is very interesting research but it’s very premature in our study to be able to draw any but the most generalized and preliminary conclusions.”
Scientists have made yet another stem cell breakthrough—once again, with adult stem cells.
In the joint U.S.–Brazilian project, 20 of 23 patients with type 1 diabetes were able to go for up to four years without insulin injections. Instead, those patients produced their own insulin after receiving a transplant of stem cells taken from their own bone marrow. Even the three who could not produce enough of their own insulin needed less injected insulin than before.
The researchers concluded that success is based on how soon the transplant occurs after the diagnosis of diabetes. For those who had been diagnosed with diabetes more than three months prior, their immune systems had already destroyed the body’s islet cells. The team also clarified that this was not a complete cure for type 1 diabetes, nor would it be of benefit to those with type 2 diabetes (whose bodies still produce insulin).
Diabetes U.K. research director Iain Frame cautioned, “We would like to see this experiment carried out with a control group for comparison of results and a longer-term follow up in a greater number of people. . . . It would be wrong to unnecessarily raise the hopes of people living with diabetes about a new treatment for the condition on the back of the evidence provided in this study.” But while exuberance is unwarranted, it is nonetheless encouraging to learn of another potential medical treatment based on life-honoring adult stem cells (i.e., those that don’t require destruction of an embryo—a tiny, developing human life).
Praying is just like ordinary conversation—but is that really evidence against Christianity?
In what seems to be a common experiment, a team led by University of Aarhus researcher Uffe Schjødt used an MRI machine (technology developed by a creationist, by the way) to scan the brains of 20 “devout Christians” while they prayed. The result, according to Schjødt: “It’s like talking to another human. We found no evidence of anything mystical.”
The experimenters required participants to engage in two types of activities, each broken into a religious and a secular phase. The first type of activity was recitation: first the Lord’s prayer, then a nursery rhyme. Unsurprisingly, areas of the brain associated with rehearsal and repetition were active.
Next, the participants engaged in two improvisational activities. First they spoke personal prayers, then they improvised requests to Santa Claus. Both of those activities activated patterns in the brain “seen when people communicate with each other,” including regions that process personal desire, consider how another individual might respond, and recall previous memories of interpersonal encounters.
One notable difference was in the prefrontal cortex, which was active in the improvised prayer but inactive in the requests to Santa Claus. The researchers believe this reflects the fact that the participants did not actually believe Santa Claus was real, whereas they certainly did believe God was listening.
Schjødt admitted that the outcome “pleased” (New Scientist’s word) both atheists and Christians. Atheists see nothing “mystical” (the report doesn’t say what they were expecting), while Christians point out that prayer is supposed to include a conversational element. Along these lines, we imagine skeptics chemically analyzing the water Jesus converted into wine in John 2:1–11. “There’s nothing mystical about the chemical makeup,” they would say, “except that this is a superior vintage.” Of course, that’s missing the point: naturalistic science cannot apprehend the supernatural, nor would we expect a brain scan to show the “mystical.” If it did, there would no longer be anything “super” about the supernatural!
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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