1. BBC News: “Floodwaters Create ‘Grand Canyon’”

It’s the “Grand Canyon of Durham” in England: a miniature canyon carved into a barley field by “torrential rain” over a weekend.

A canyon hundreds of yards long cuts through a 25-acre field belonging to Houghall College. The gaping gully may look like it’s been there for centuries, belying the fact that the field was flat and uninterrupted just a few weeks ago.

Instead, the canyon is the work of perhaps just “a few minutes [or] a couple of hours” of rapid erosion, Durham University geomorphologist Jeff Warburton (who lives close by) told the Daily Mail. Of course, at 14 feet (4.3 m) deep and more than 80 feet (24.4 m) at its widest, the ravine is a far cry from the Grand Canyon. Nonetheless it’s a testimony to the power of water. (The Daily Mail features a dramatic photograph of the gorge, and BBC News has a video.)

The erosion began when Durham received 3 inches (7.6 cm) of rain in a single day, setting the stage for the runoff that dug out the canyon. Houghall College’s Pete Whitfield discovered the canyon in time to see some of the watery action. “I heard this rushing like Niagara Falls, and I could see this water wearing away the land.” Whitfield added, “It’s an amazing phenomenon, but I estimate it’s the result of water from up to 120 acres of flooded land.”

Daily Mail reporter Neil Sears concludes, “It is an extraordinary illustration of the power of nature—and shows that enough water, flowing with enough force, doesn’t need decades to carve a path through the earth.” Whether intentional or not, his comment—and the physical fact of the Grand Canyon of Durham—is profound evidence for the plausibility of the worldwide Flood carving out many of the world’s geological features. If 120 acres of runoff from a day of rain dug a 14-foot-deep gorge in the earth, what would happen when enough water to cover the surface of the earth from 150 days of water from above and below (the “fountains of the great deep” and the “windows of heaven”) retreated (even if through solid rock, rather than soil)?

AiG–UK’s Paul Taylor took a closer look this week at the Grand Canyon of Durham and its implications in Durham’s Grand Canyon. (We also covered the erosive results of modern-day catastrophic flooding in October 2007 and February 2008.)

2. AP: “Scientists Find HIV’s ‘Missing Link’ in Ill Chimps”

Hot news about chimps, “missing links,” and evolution—but the story has nothing to do with human origins or anthropology. What could it be?

The results of a nine-year-long study of chimpanzees reveal new insight into HIV and HIV-like viruses, reports the Associated Press on a study conducted in Tanzania. Specifically, the study examined chimps infected with SIV, a virus similar to HIV, which causes AIDS in humans.

SIV, however, causes no symptoms or illness in many of the apes and monkeys who have it. “If we could figure out why the monkeys don’t get sick, perhaps we could apply that to people,” explained study head Beatrice Hahn, a professor of medicine at the University of Alabama—Birmingham.

Chimpanzees are a different story. Hahn and colleagues discovered that of the chimps they studied at Tanzania’s Gombe National Park, those infected with SIV had a death rate 10 to 16 times higher than those without SIV. Those chimps also showed T-cell white blood proteins well below normal—just as in humans with AIDS. Furthermore, the strain infecting the chimps is the “closest relative possible” to HIV. According to Hahn, both chimps and humans probably first became infected with the virus in the same way: by eating infected monkeys.

But why are monkeys and apes other than chimps able to survive SIV infection? Daniel Douek, an AIDS researcher with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speculates that the difference is due to some “evolutionary adaptation, probably on the cell receptors,” the AP reports, while “the infection of chimps is more recent so they haven’t adapted.” (Douek was not involved in Hahn’s study.) Compounding the evolutionary flavor of the AP coverage is that Douek calls Hahn’s research the “‘missing link’ in the history of the HIV pandemic.”

What Douek calls an “evolutionary adaptation” could truly be a biological change—a decrease in genetic information, for instance, that allows monkeys and non-chimp apes to avoid AIDS. Or, perhaps just as likely, chimps and humans could be the ones with (degenerative) mutations that render us susceptible to SIV/HIV. Each hypothesis is contingent on ongoing study of SIV.

As with all diseases, HIV/AIDS forces us to ask how could a loving God allow such suffering? The answer to that question can be found in Genesis 3.

3. LiveScience: “Human Stabbed a Neanderthal, Evidence Suggests”

It’s a sad case of violence in Iraq: evidence of human-on-human violence from more than 50,000 years ago (allegedly).

What makes the case unique is that the victim was a Neanderthal—specifically, an individual now called Shanidar 3, judged to be between 40 and 50 years old. In addition to signs of arthritis, one of Shanidar 3’s ribs shows a deep slice—presumably the only remaining sign of what was once a lethal wound.

“What we’ve got is a rib injury, with any number of scenarios that could explain it,” said Duke University evolutionary anthropologist Steven Churchill, one of the researchers on Shanidar 3. (Shanidar 3 was one of nine Neanderthals found in the 1950s in a cave in northeastern Iraq.)

Churchill and colleagues used crossbows to fire spears into animal carcasses to learn the sort of damage ancient spears may have caused. By varying the force of the crossbows, the team simulated the difference between thrusting spears and long-range projectile weapons.

As it turns out, the high-force attempts (simulating a direct spear thrust) did too much damage, breaking ribs rather than slicing them. Imitating the force of lighter projectile weapons, however, made “distinct cut marks in the bones without injuring surrounding bones,” said Churchill. Another insight came when the team compared the wound with injury records from the U.S. Civil War and realized Shanidar 3’s wound probably healed slightly. The scientists concluded that the Neanderthal probably received the wound weeks before he died, perhaps succumbing to lung damage.

The study turns speculative, however, when it comes to fingering a suspect. Archaeological evidence suggests non-Neanderthal humans favored spear throwers, devices that held spears or darts and enabled longer-distance and more powerful throwing. Neanderthals preferred long thrusting spears, it seems, with more sophisticated spear tips.

Thus, the researchers believe Shanidar 3 may have been killed by a non-Neanderthal. For evolutionists—who consider Neanderthals and “modern humans” to have been separate species—the facts in the case of Mr. Shanidar are particularly suggestive. Referencing evidence of another murdered Neanderthal, Churchill claimed, “If the Shanidar 3 case is also a case of inter-specific violence and if Shanidar 3 overlaps in time with modern humans, we’re beginning to get a little bit of a pattern here.”

Creationists view Neanderthals as fully human and thus should consider Shanidar 3’s fate as typical of many humans across history ever since Cain murdered Abel in Genesis 4. The death of Shanidar 3 need not be interpreted in a grand evolutionary scheme of “us versus them” or “interspecies aggression,” as Churchill puts it. Rather, if skin and hair were routinely preserved, we would find plentiful evidence of violence between members of different people groups even though all were human.

If anything, Shanidar 3’s apparent murder reminds us that Neanderthals and “the rest of us” shared the same earth, lived in the same ways, and descended from the same first man and first woman. The more interesting debate is whether Neanderthals went entirely extinct (as have, no doubt, other people groups) or whether their genes survive in many modern Europeans, as some studies have suggested.

4. ScienceDaily: “How Evolution Can Allow for Large Developmental Leaps”

Small biological changes that take generations—like some birds’ beaks growing longer or shorter in certain ecological niches—can be explained and understood by creationists and evolutionists. But when it comes to explaining developmental “leaps,” evolutionists must make a leap of logic.

In a paper newly published in the journal Nature, a team of researchers from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and Temple University argue that the “leaps” of evolution may be the result of “random fluctuations” and a phenomenon called partial penetrance. Examples of such leaps would include traits like the number of wings on an insect or the number of limbs on a primate, where no “middle ground” (intermediate point) exists.

Partial penetrance is, simply, the idea that the same genetic mutation may have different effects on different members of a population. The degree of difference in the effects is called “noise.” The scientists studied partial penetrance in Bacillus subtilis bacteria, examining spores the bacteria produce. The spores are a way of reproducing in tough times; a spore does not grow or perform any other function, but just survives with a separate copy of DNA from its parent.

When the so-called “wild type” of B. subtilis produces spores (“sporulates”), it always does so in the same way, producing a single, smaller spore with a single identical copy of the parent chromosome. However, in one mutation, the spore fails to communicate its existence clearly to the parent, meaning sometimes the parent doesn’t “know” the spore is there. The research team examined possible outcomes in B. subtilis individuals with the mutation:

  • The individual sporulates normally, creating one extra chromosome and giving it to the spore.
  • The individual makes two extra copies of its chromosome, still giving the spore one, but leaving itself with two.
  • The individual creates two spores but only one extra chromosome; then it gives each spore a chromosome. The parent and both spores die.
  • The individual makes two extra copies of its chromosome and creates two spores; each of the spores and the mother all end up with one chromosome.

The team initiated further mutations to B. subtilis individuals—for example, increasing the signals to tell the bacteria to replicate chromosomes and decreasing the signals of successful spore creation—which resulted (no surprise) in a dramatic increase in the proportion of bacteria producing multiple spores.

For the researchers, the study buttresses their faith in the ability of evolution to account for developmental leaps. “If 10 percent of the population makes 2 spores and the rest makes 1, that works. It solves the need for a quantum jump between 1 and 2 spores,” Caltech biologist Avigdor Eldar said.

Michael Elowitz, also a Caltech biologist, added, “It illustrates a somewhat unfamiliar mode in which developmental evolution might work. Qualitative changes from one form to another can proceed through changes in the relative frequencies—or penetrance—of those forms.”

Many readers will have already arrived at the same conclusion we do: this experiment, rather than explaining how molecules-to-man evolution might proceed, shows just the opposite. The mutations introduced in B. subtilis do not result in any new information; rather, they merely cause bacteria’s previously designed behavior to run off the tracks, often endangering the parent bacteria or the offspring. And when the parent produces multiple spores and chromosomes, it is not doing anything unique; it is just repeating a behavior already programmed into it.

By analogy, if a similarly intentioned experiment were performed on theropod dinosaurs’ scale-producing genes, we might see dinosaurs with too many scales or not enough scales. We wouldn’t see a dinosaur growing feathers!

Additionally, the mutations in the experiment were induced by the researchers—intelligently designed, in a sense. Thus, even if the mutations resulted in some truly unique behavior or function, we could not conclude that the bacteria could have acquired the behavior or function by chance. So yet another genetic experiment confirms the creation model of genetics, information, and “devolution.”

5. ScienceNOW: “Jupiter's Been Hit!”

It may not rock your world, but the planet Jupiter has been slammed by some unknown object.

An amateur astronomer, Anthony Wesley, was the first to report evidence of the incident. Wesley had been photographing Jupiter with his telescope in Murrumbateman, Australia, when he noticed a dark spot rotating into view in Jupiter’s south polar region. Wesley soon realized something was amiss and contacted professional astronomers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who took a closer look with the NASA Infrared Telescope on Hawaii.

The NASA astronomers found more evidence of a collision, with the planet showing the same infrared signature it did when the remains of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 hit in 1994. However, they can’t be sure whether the impact was caused by a comet or an asteroid. Either way, the object is estimated to have been up to a kilometer (0.6 mile) in diameter and to have been traveling at tens of thousands of miles per hour.

Astronomer Heidi Hammel of the Space Science Institute called the impact “a bit of a surprise,” adding, “We all thought these were a little more rare.” In a sense, it’s a good thing that the impacts on Jupiter aren’t too rare, since incoming cosmic debris could otherwise threaten Earth. Jupiter, with significant gravity due to its mass, acts as a sort of solar system “vacuum cleaner” to help minimize the number of objects headed toward Earth. (We reported on this and other life-friendly aspects of our Solar System on July 12 and July 26 of last year.)

6. And Don’t Miss . . .

  • Time magazine recently brokered readers’ questions for New York Times executive editor Bill Keller. One question, bridging the first and second pages of the interview, asked Keller, “Should journalists strive to present ideas as balanced, regardless of the actual credibility of either side?” Keller responded, “I don't think fairness means that you give equal time to every point of view no matter how marginal. You weigh the sides, you do some truth-testing, you apply judgment to them. We don’t treat creationism as science.” Whether one agrees or disagrees with Keller’s assessment of the role of “balance” in media reporting, the takeaway here is a point-blank admission of de facto anti-creationism in the media—or at least at the New York Times.
  • A study of speciation, despite being laced with the terminology of “evolutionary diversification,” reveals nothing that the creation model cannot accommodate.
  • A major earthquake last week in the ocean near New Zealand—which, thankfully, harmed no one—has moved the country’s south island 12 inches (30 cm) closer to Australia, experts say. “The country is deforming all the time because of being on the plate boundary, but this has done it in a few seconds, rather than waiting hundreds of years,” said seismologist Ken Gledhill. Perhaps the movement gives us an idea of what one devastating Flood year of catastrophic plate tectonic movement could do. (Read more in Can Catastrophic Plate Tectonics Explain Flood Geology?)
  • A new paper reports on more progress developing effective non-embryonic stem cells, though this particular research continued to experiment with hybrid mouse embryos. (Explore our previous coverage of life-honoring stem cell research.)
  • Reader’s Digest reports on the impressive results of Validus Preparatory Academy in New York City. While the success is inspiring, one line tripped up at least one of our readers (and us, as well): “When studying evolution, ninth graders examined cell phones from the past 20 years to see how features have adapted.” But such pedagogy seems likely to mislead students, as the sources behind new cell phone features are intelligent designers—not random mistakes.
  • A team from Victoria University in New Zealand believes the coloration of the native Araliaceae tree evolved as a camouflage defense against an extinct bird predator, the moa. But creationists can explain coloration through natural selection as well—or, perhaps just as likely, through the idea that the tree was created with this form of coloration.
  • We missed the initial reports, but one reader helped us by pointing to a more recent report on a new play about the 1925 Scopes trial. The play, titled One Hot Summer, focuses less on the trial itself and more on the local businessmen who plotted—for economic reasons—to help create the controversy. At least in that sense, playwright Curtis Lipps tells a more accurate tale than the infamous Hollywood version of the trial, Inherit the Wind. Read more about the new play in the Herald-News local paper. (But take our quiz about the trial afterward to make sure you’ve got your facts straight!)

For more information: Get Answers

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