1. BBC News: “Aquatic Deer and Ancient Whales”

Several species of chevrotains (mouse deer) hide from predators in the water. Does that prove evolution?

The small, somewhat deer-like ruminant creatures are known to retreat into the nearest body of water and submerge when a predator is nearby, often swimming to safety. According to some scientists, that behavior suggests that whales evolved from small, deer-like creatures.

The scientists came up with the idea after two encounters with chevrotains in Indonesia. Both times, chevrotains sought refuge in the water, even submerging completely for several minutes at a time. This matches other descriptions of the creature’s behavior given by people familiar with it.

So is this truly evidence that similar creatures evolved into whales? For one thing, the scientists seemed surprised at the chevrotains’ aquatic capabilities. “Seeing it swim underwater was a shock. Many mammals can swim in water. But other than those which are adapted for an aquatic existence, swimming is clumsy. The mouse-deer seemed comfortable, it seemed adapted,” said Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne, one of the researchers.

Okay, then—so the chevrotain is one such mammal that is “adapted.” It’s as if the hypothesis rests not on anything unique about chevrotains, but rather on the scientists’ change in perception: a creature they assumed was not a good swimmer actually is. Their mental perception of the creature has “evolved” from non-aquatic to aquatic, so likewise they suggest that deer-like mammals evolved to live in the water. Yet the whole time, chevrotains are behaving as locals always knew they had.

Another problem is the comparison of chevrotains to deer. “The behavior is interesting because it is unexpected. Deer are supposed to walk on land and graze not swim underwater,” said Erik Meijaard, an ecologist with the Nature Conservancy. But—again—chevrotains aren’t deer, and there’s no reason to assume that they must originally have behaved like deer. Other mammals, from otters to hippos, do well in water (we would say they were designed for a partially or fully aquatic lifestyle); why are chevrotains not considered part of this group?

The answer, if you couldn’t guess, is that it fits into evolutionists’ preconceived hypothesis on whale origins. The authors tie their hypothesis in with a controversial fossil known as Indohyus. The BBC News article claims Indohyus was “a ruminant animal that looked like a small deer, but also had morphological features that showed it could be an ancestor of early whales.” Not only was the interpretation of those features questionable (as we reported in 2007); but as we wrote then:

If hippos, manatees, and cetaceans are all mammals of varying aquatic lifestyles, we would expect them to have certain features in common, since (1) God would have designed them, to varying extents, for their habitats, and (2) adaptation through pre-existing information would promote certain features compatible with watery life.

Thus, while the scientists believe “all early ruminants may also have led a partially aquatic lifestyle” (in the article’s words), we would agree that that is a possibility. But the article continues, “Hippos . . . [show] a behavior that may have been lost over time by other modern species such as sheep and antelope.” In other words, perhaps all ruminants had aquatic capabilities, but many lost those capabilities over time. That loss of capability is the opposite of what molecules-to-man evolution would require. But it fits in neatly with the creation model of kinds that have lost genetic information and capabilities over time. God created many creatures, and that included such water-tolerating mammals as chevrotains, hippos, whales, and perhaps Indohyus.

2. CNN: “Oldest Known Bible Goes Online”

The world’s oldest known Bible: should it disturb Christians?

CNN reports on the launch of an online version for the world’s oldest Bible, the Codex Sinaiticus, discovered in the nineteenth century in Egypt and including several Apocryphal books. The report also notes that “the New Testament books are in a different order, and include numerous handwritten corrections—some made as much as 800 years after the texts were written.” An older BBC News article on the codex explains:

The Codex—and other early manuscripts—omit some mentions of ascension of Jesus into heaven, and key references to the Resurrection, which the Archbishop of Canterbury has said is essential for Christian belief.

Other differences concern how Jesus behaved. In one passage of the Codex, Jesus is said to be “angry” as he healed a leper, whereas the modern text records him as healing with “compassion.”

Also missing is the story of the woman taken in adultery and about to be stoned—until Jesus rebuked the Pharisees (a Jewish sect), inviting anyone without sin to cast the first stone.

Nor are there words of forgiveness from the cross. Jesus does not say “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”

Such a description suggests that this ancient manuscript shows our modern Bible to be a fraud, with all the miracles of Jesus and His claims to be Messiah mysteriously missing. But consider the alternative view:

  • The CNN article notes that many of the changes are as minor as “the alteration of a single letter,” while the BBC News article states that “many of the other alterations and differences are minor.” Indeed, we examined several discrepancies; the omitted verses are, almost across the board, not central to the biblical accounts. For example, consider two of the verses missing: Matthew 23:14 and Luke 17:36. Removing those verses does not change the Bible from saying that Jesus is Lord to saying that He isn’t, or from saying that Jesus rose again to saying that He didn’t. If a person were to try to strike all verses from the Bible that recorded miracles or Jesus’s claims to be God, the result would be a very different (and far longer) list of missing verses.
  • Many modern Bible translations either exclude or bracket the verses in question, anyway. For instance, the New American Standard Bible and the Holman Christian Standard Bible put such verses in brackets and note that some manuscripts omit the bracketed text. The New King James Version does not bracket such verses but does footnote that some manuscripts omit the passages. The New International Version excludes the verses entirely. So it’s not as if the missing verses are presented by modern English translations as original when they really might not be; most modern versions acknowledge that there is some uncertainty over whether or not the verses were part of the original, inspired manuscripts. And, again, since these verses are not central to Christianity, it’s less of an issue than some suggest.
  • The Bible didn’t drop out of the sky in completed form; we recognize the role of inspired and godly individuals in recording, collecting, and preserving God’s Word. From the time of the Apostles’ ministry to the closing of the canon, fragments of both genuine and fake gospels circulated (though the latter only later). Human copyists and translators through the centuries could introduce an error—accidentally or intentionally—just as easily as any of us could today (and the Codex Sinaiticus has missing Old Testament fragments as well). The existence of minimally divergent manuscripts shows the role of human error but, conversely, elevates the important role of the early church in weighing the evidence and clarifying which books were canonical and which were erroneous (again, by accident or by intent). Likewise, the inclusion of Apocryphal books may have been done for historical purposes, even though the early church consistently rejected these books as canonical.
  • As always, presuppositions come into play. If two versions of a book are slightly different, does that mean one has added material or that the other has deleted material? Furthermore, there is no concrete way to determine (1) which extant manuscript was first (the Codex Sinaiticus or the Codex Vaticanus), (2) the content of manuscripts that no longer exist, or (3) whether just because a manuscript is the oldest means it is the most accurate copy.
  • Ignored by news reports is how similar the codex is to the today’s Bible. The media points out the few, mostly minor, discrepancies but ignores the fact that the essential message of the New Testament remains unchanged.

Ultimately, believers and unbelievers alike are faced with a key question, “Who would die for a lie?” And if all the supernatural doctrines of Christianity were introduced after the fact (as some skeptics believe), why do the earliest manuscripts not omit all references to Christ’s deity, the miracles, the Resurrection, etc.? The Codex Sinaiticus is an interesting insight into early church history, and while it reminds us of the important role copyists and others played in preserving God’s Word, its age and similarity to today’s translation confirm, rather than dispute, the Bible’s accuracy.

3. BBC News: “Monkeys Recognise ‘Bad Grammar’”

If you ain’t no good speaker of English, maybe you should talk to one o’ them thar monkeys to straight’n ya out.

An experiment performed on cotton-top tamarin monkeys suggests that they may have the ability to recognize inconsistent grammar. Reporting in the journal Biology Letters, scientists describe playing a series of different words to the monkeys over a loudspeaker. Each of the words shared either the same first syllable or second syllable, such as “‘shoy-bi,’ ‘shoy-la,’ ‘shoy-ro,’ and so on,” according to head researcher Ansgar Endress, who continued, “The idea is that they get used to the pattern if you play it long enough.” In another test, the second syllable stayed the same, with such words as “bi-shoy” and “la-shoy” playing over the loudspeaker.

The monkeys heard either the first or second group of words for a half hour one day to “familiarize” them. But the next day, the researchers played a new set of words, some of which were consistent and others inconsistent with the grammatical pattern in the words played the day before.

“We simply measured how often the monkeys looked to the speaker when we played the items,” explained Endress. “If they got used to, or bored by, the pattern, then they might be more interested in items that violate [it]—because they are something new—than in items that are consistent with the pattern.” Apparently the primates paid more attention to words that violated the pattern.

According to study member Marc Hauser, “Simple temporal ordering is shared with non-human animals. This has an important role. In bird song or whale song, for example, there’s a temporal ordering to the notes and that's critical for communication.” The team members believe their study shows that human language acquisition relies on unlearned memory processes that are not language specific. The team claims this furthers our understanding of the “evolution of language.”

The ability to recognize patterns is, indeed, necessary for communication—whether in humans or animals. As creationists, we should not be surprised that creatures have a pre-programmed pattern-recognition capability—a designed feature that defies the ability of accidental mutations. Animal communication does not show that language evolved; it shows that communication is central to life as God designed it.

4. ScienceDaily: “Robo-Bats with Metal Muscles May Be Next Generation of Remote Control Flyers”

As far as fliers go, most humans probably prefer watching birds or butterflies to bats. But in addition to sonar, bats have other interesting design features.

Robotics researchers at North Carolina State University are working on “micro-aerial vehicles” (MAVs), small flying machines that may one day assist in such tasks as exploring collapsed buildings. While larger unmanned aerial vehicles follow the principles of airplanes and helicopters on a smaller scale, downsizing those human creations results in some problems.

The researchers have turned to bats instead, developing robotic bats that offer “increased maneuverability and performance” over miniature planes and helicopters. “We are trying to mimic nature as closely as possible because it is very efficient,” Stefan Seelecke, one of the researchers, said. “At the MAV scale, nature tells us that flapping flight—like that of the bat—is the most effective.”

Basing their work on research into bats’ skeleton and muscles, the team completed a prototype “robo-bat” skeleton that weighs in at just six grams. Once the skeleton is fitted with super-elastic “shape-memory” joints, the wings will always return to a home position during each flapping cycle. Other alloys that respond to electric currents will help the bat stay lightweight and provide “simultaneous action and sensory input.” Seelecke adds that the robo-bat will “allow us to do tests where we can control all of the variables—and finally give us the opportunity to fully understand the aerodynamics of flapping flight.”

Airplanes and helicopters are incredible feats of human engineering, and they certainly have their place. But flying organisms are still the envy of human designers as they continue to learn about the adeptness of birds, bats, and other flying creatures. With every human “redesign” of such creatures—as in the case of the robo-bat—there is indirect recognition of the Designer’s handiwork (even if the engineers credit such design to the hand of evolution).

For more information:

5. The Telegraph: “Creationism Question in ‘Misleading’ Science GCSE”

Even testing to see if pupils know what creationists say is too much, declare evolutionists in an outcry over a GCSE exam question.

The GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education, a test in subject competency for U.K. secondary school students) in question was prepared by the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance. The controversy in the U.K. concerns a question that required examinees on June 22 to match four “theories of how new species of plants and animals have developed” with the sentence that best described them.

The four theories presented were creationism, intelligent design, Darwinism, and Lamarckism. The correct sentence describing creationism read, “Fossils of all the different kinds of animals appear suddenly in the rocks, with no evidence of ancestors.” Intelligent design was said to be based on the “complicated way in which cells work.”

According to critics, the problem was both that creationism and intelligent design appear to have been placed on an equal level with Darwinism, and that they were all described as “theories.” One such critic was University of Sussex education lecturer James Williams, who said, “This gives an unwarranted high profile to creationism and intelligent design as ideas of equal status with tested scientific theories.”

An AQA spokesman answered, “Merely asking a question about creationism and intelligent design does not imply support for these ideas. Neither idea is included in our specification and AQA does not support the teaching of these ideas as scientific.” However, the AQA acknowledged the confusion over the word “theory,” called the question “misleading,” and promised not to include similar questions in future tests.

The entire outcry reminds us of the controversy ignited last year when Michael Reiss, then Royal Society director of education in the U.K., merely stated that if creation is brought up by a student, teachers shouldn’t shoot it down without explanation. “I think a better way forward is to say to them, ‘Look, I simply want to present you with the scientific understanding of the history of the universe and how animals and plants and other organisms evolved,’” he had said, clearly not endorsing creation. Yet he was summarily forced to resign.

The picture given by both outcries is clear: evolutionists want no mention or discussion of creation or intelligent design whatsoever, even if the sole purpose is to explain what evolutionists find wrong with creation. This attitude seems strange considering the high percentage of creationists among the general population, a fact that causes evolutionists continual consternation. If Darwinian evolution is so clearly accurate and creation is so clearly in error, why should evolutionists be afraid of teaching students the difference and ensuring they understand the debate? Instead, given the culture of censorship, it makes the message of creation all the more potent when students hear the Genesis message and realize they were never given a fair understanding of what creationists actually believe.

In related news, the same James Williams quoted above has urged evolution indoctrination begin in primary school, reports The Argus. “Misconceptions set in primary school will be very difficult, if not impossible, to correct over ten years later,” he said, attacking such television programs as The Flintstones and Barney that feature human–dinosaur interaction (in the evolutionary worldview, dinosaurs died out about 65 millions years before modern humans appeared). Does Williams assume that rather than having good scientific reasons for accepting creation, all creationists have merely been brainwashed by children’s television shows?

For more information:

6. And Don’t Miss . . .

  • The Wall Street Journal reports that noted geneticist Francis Collins has been nominated to head the U.S. National Institutes of Health. We quoted Collins—a theistic evolutionist who considers himself an evangelical Christian—in May, when he told Time magazine that intelligent design was “not a scientific proposal” and “not good theology either.” Still, we hope Collins’s Christian morals are a positive force at the NIH.
  • It’s another set of mixed-“race” siblings: the Daily Mail reports on the three children of Cornel and Carla Nurse, each of whom has a different shade of brown skin (as all humans do). Mr. Nurse notes, “They all have our facial features. It’s just the color of their skin which is different.” The Nurse family joins “rainbow” biological families we covered in January, last July, and October of 2006, all of which remind us that humans—no matter the skin color, hair color, eye color, height, weight, facial features, etc.—are all of one blood, just as the Bible teaches (Acts 17:26).
  • A new study suggests that so-called “mega-volcanic” eruptions may not be significant enough to spark an ice age, and emphasize the role of other meteorological factors. Many creationists believe the Ice Age was initiated, in part, by volcanism during and after the global Flood, so this research may prove fruitful in reminding us of other factors behind the Ice Age. However, the Flood would have likely caused far more volcanic activity than what these uniformitarian researchers take into account.
  • LiveScience reports on research into the skeletal forms of the “first animals to emerge from the ocean and walk on land.” After much work (no doubt presupposition-infused), one paleontologist claimed, “Some looked like crocodiles, some looked like little lizards, some like moray eels, and some were snake-like.” Or perhaps they just were crocodiles, lizards, moray eels, and snakes!
  • A blog reviews recent comments by famed physicist Stephen Hawking, who says humans have embarked on a stage of “self-designed evolution.” Hawking believes humans will “discover how to modify both intelligence, and instincts like aggression” through genetic manipulation within the next century. Of course, the difference between genetic manipulation and Darwinian evolution is that the former relies on an intelligent source for information, whereas the latter goes against everything we know about informatics.
  • National Geographic News reports on a trio of dinosaur fossils discovered in Australia and recently described in the journal PLoS One. The trio includes the first new sauropod dinosaur discovered in Australia in 75 years.
  • Chinese scientists announced that a genus of orb spider builds a replica of itself to throw off predators. Is the ability due to design or is it just an accident of evolution?
  • A frustratingly fallacious—and (be warned) vulgar and profane—column in the San Francisco Chronicle reiterates the idea that homosexuality among animals shows that God endorses homosexuality. This entire argument rests on a significant fallacy: that whatever happens in nature (whether in animals or in humans) is what God intended and what God decrees as “right.” Obviously this is not the case; animals kill, rape, and steal, for instance, without anyone deducing that God approves of such acts. The author ignores (willfully or not, we don’t know) the Christian view of creation as imperfect, having been corrupted by the Fall and Curse. Of course, we don’t expect the author to acknowledge this, since he instead blathers, “Life on Earth is messy and bloody and constantly evolving and transmuting and guess what? So is sexuality, and love, and connection, and what it means to exist.” Not very deep, we would say. (The author also fails to report that some examples of homosexuality in the animal world are not actually “natural,” as we reported last month.)

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