1. BBC News: “Darwin Teaching ‘Divides Opinion’

Darwinism is a controversial topic, and many believe creation should be taught in the classroom. But why is that news?

A survey conducted by the British Council in ten countries has revealed that the majority of respondents who were familiar with Darwinism think it should be taught alongside other views on life’s origin. (The survey is part of the council’s year-long “Darwin Now” program.) But in spite of the support for teaching multiple views that the survey revealed, the council’s press release on the survey puzzlingly declares, “Darwin Survey Shows International Consensus on Acceptance of Evolution.”

Surveyers interviewed 11,000 people from Argentina, China, Egypt, India, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, Spain, and the U.S. Among those respondents who were familiar with Darwin’s theory (apparently just under two-thirds of all respondents; only 70 percent reported knowing who Darwin was), those from Argentina were most likely to believe (68 percent) that other perspectives on life’s origin should be taught in science classes alongside Darwinian evolution.

Interestingly, in no country surveyed did a majority believe only evolution should be taught. Respondents from India were most likely to have that view (49 percent), followed by those from Spain (42 percent). Also interesting is that Spain was the country with the smallest proportion of respondents who believed other perspectives should be taught alongside Darwinian evolution—but at 38 percent, that fraction is almost as large as the number in Spain advocating evolution-only.

As for the scientific merits of the idea itself, only 41 percent of American respondents who claimed to be familiar with Darwin and his theory agreed that enough scientific evidence exists to support it. In fact, in only one country—China—did a majority of respondents agree that life on earth, including humans, evolved as a result of natural selection, with no supernatural intervention.

Despite the press release’s title, then, the survey is a clear confirmation that many people worldwide are not convinced by the naturalism-infused science used to support Darwinism. Further, a global majority believes Darwinism shouldn’t have exclusive reign in science classes on life’s origin. (For all the results, see the press released linked above.)

Everyone is free to take an online version of the survey. Be warned, however, that many of the questions seem to be worded with little thought or awareness of young-earth creation views. (For example, question three implies that creationists do not believe life has changed at all since creation.)

2. ScienceDaily: “Junk DNA Mechanism that Prevents Two Species from Reproducing Discovered

Has the U.S. government finally supported creationist research? Alas, no, but the results of a National Institutes of Health study fit squarely within the young-earth creation framework.

Researchers at Cornell University report in PLoS Biology the results of a genetic examination of fruit flies (“Species-Specific Heterochromatin Prevents Mitotic Chromosome Segregation to Cause Hybrid Lethality in Drosophila”). The scientists learned that “junk” DNA can be responsible for rendering two otherwise closely related species unable to interbreed.

The team examined cross-breeds between the closely related fruit flies Drosophila melanogaster and D. simulans. The flies are closely related, and male D. melanogaster can breed with female D. simulans to produce viable male offspring. Female offspring of such a cross, however, die as embryos. The question is, why? Lead author Patrick Ferree calls it an “unsolved problem,” elaborating, “What are the elements that are killing these female hybrids and how are they doing that?”

By looking more closely at the genetic composition of the D. melanogaster x D. simulans embryos, the scientists found a specific DNA segment that appears only in the father fly’s X chromosome and that leads to embryo death. Because only female offspring receive an X chromosome from their father (males receive a Y chromosome), only the female cross-breeds die.

The location of the fatal DNA segment was in the male X chromosome’s heterochromatin, a region full of what is sometimes called “junk” DNA. The segment halts the initial divisions of the embryo by preventing the male X chromosome from separating as it should. The researchers believe the cellular machinery from the mother no longer “recognizes” the heterochromatin of the father’s. In fact, the part of the paternal X chromosome believed to be causing the trouble has some five million DNA base pairs, compared to only 100,000 in the equivalent portion from the mother.

The researchers believe such problems may cause reproductive incompatibility in other similar species. Cornell’s Patrick Ferree explained, “[The study] points to a species-specific difference in heterochromatin between these two species. This could explain other instances when you have female hybrid lethality.”

The species on earth today descend from the original created kinds of Genesis 1. The many inter-species breedings that are possible today (e.g., zonkeys, wholphins), as well as the close similarities within biological groups (e.g., the canine group) that are distinct from one another, remind us of this fact. But exactly why the created kinds have fractured into many incompatible species has only been answered indirectly by creationists, who point to the speciating effects of genetics and geography. By investigating a case of mixed-success cross-breeding, the scientists at Cornell have given us greater insight into how genetic differences have contributed to the further division of the created kinds.

3. PhysOrg: “Charles Darwin Really Did Have Advanced Ideas about the Origin of Life

Charles Darwin was convinced that life’s origin didn’t involve a creator, even though there was no (and still is no) scientific explanation of how life could have begun without one.

That’s the thrust of new research on Darwin’s writings, published in the journal Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres (“Charles Darwin and the Origin of Life”). In the paper, scientists—including evolutionary origin-of-life theorist Jeffrey Bada, whom we’ve reported on before (in September and October 2008 and January 2009)—discuss Charles Darwin’s opinion on the origin of life.

Darwin famously references a “Creator” in the last paragraph of some editions of On the Origin of Species, giving the false impression that he was an avowed theist despite the implications of his new theory. Actually, the phrase was added to try to reduce the controversial nature of the already-controversial book. University of Valencia biochemist Juli Peretó, the lead author of the study, said of the Origin passage, “It is utterly wrong to think that [Darwin] was invoking a divine intervention; it is also well documented that the mention of the ‘Creator’ . . . was an addition for appearance’s sake that he later regretted.”

Letters and other documents reveal Darwin’s true views on the initial origin of life, argue the study authors. “The intimate relationship between the vital phenomena with chemistry and its laws makes the idea of spontaneous generation conceivable,” Darwin wrote in one notebook, while in a letter to English botanist Joseph Hooker, Darwin speculated that inanimate matter may have arranged itself into life in a warm pool with the right chemical components and energy sources. The paper authors emphasize that “many . . . lines of evidence demonstrat[e] that Darwin took for granted a natural origin of life,” even taking a somewhat favorable view of spontaneous generation.

Of course, spontaneous generation had been experimentally discarded through the work of Louis Pasteur. Thus, as with many evolutionists today, Darwin had faith in an unscientific, mystical process as the ultimate explanation for the origin of life. “Darwin . . . had an amazingly modern materialist and evolutional vision about the transition of inanimate chemical matter into living matter,” Peretó noted in an all-too-true reference to the connection between materialism and evolutionary beliefs.

It isn’t that we think Darwin’s idea is, by itself, a totally worthless idea. On the contrary, Darwin helped clarify our understanding of natural selection, as well as offering more evidence of natural selection; creationists have no disagreement with that idea. However, Darwin went beyond observable science and made a materialistic leap of faith. Evolution of all life from a single ancestor would be an appropriate idea for a science fiction story, perhaps, but it certainly is not a conclusion based on rigorous scientific research, nor is the idea so compelling that one must be viewed as intellectually deficient if he resists it. Besides, the most important point is that Darwin had already rejected God and His Word, laying the foundation for his quest for a godless theory of origins.

4. The Times: “Skull of Huge Sea Monster that Could Have Eaten T. rex Found in Dorset

Was the skull of an ancient Leviathan found in Dorset?

Fossil hunter Kevan Sheehan originally spotted the skull sticking out of a cliff face exposed by a rockslide. It took him four years of hard work to finally uncover well enough for extraction.

The eight-foot-long (2.4 m) skull belonged to a pliosaur, an aquatic reptile reminiscent of the dinosaurs but with four fins, powerful necks, and sharp teeth. And if the creature’s body is proportional to the size of its skull, it will be one of the largest pliosaur fossils ever found—perhaps some 54 feet (16 m) long, having originally weighed between 7 and 13 tons. Paleontologists hope to examine the cliff further to see if the rest of the fossil is buried inside, but that project could take decades, warns Dorset earth science manager Richard Edmonds.

Of particular importance was the good preservation of the fossil. “Pliosaur skulls are very big, but not that robust, in general, and you tend to find them crushed flat—completely pancaked,” explained plesiosaur expert Richard Forrest. (Plesiosaurs were similar to pliosaurs.) “What is fantastic about this new skull, not only is it absolutely enormous, but it is pretty much in 3-D and not much distorted.”

University of Portsmouth paleontologist David Martill described what fearsome predators pliosaurs may have been: “They had massive big muscles on their necks, and you would have imagined that they would bite into the animal and get a good grip, and then with these massive neck muscles they probably would have thrashed the animals around and torn chunks off. It would have been a bit of a blood bath.”

Isaiah 27:1 refers to the “the reptile that is in the sea,” the “fleeing” and “twisted” serpent called Leviathan. Job 41 also describes Leviathan, as God refers to its “outer armor” of “strong scales” and says, “Around his teeth there is terror,” and, “In his neck lodges strength.” Does that sound anything like a pliosaur?

While it isn’t possible to know whether Leviathan was a pliosaur, plesiosaur, mosasaur, or some other marine reptile, the Old Testament passages that discuss it seem to clearly refer to a creature that is not on earth today (as far as we know)—and that hails from the time of dinosaurs, just thousands of years ago in the biblical timeline. Like other accounts of dragons and sea monsters, the Bible’s mentions of Leviathan remind us that humans were alive to see such beasts, many of which were fossilized in the Flood of Noah’s day. Fossil hunter Kevan Sheehan has found one more evidence of that.

5. LiveScience: “Sea Creature’s Amazing Eyes Could Inspire New DVD Players

Genesis 1 makes no mention of DVD players, of course, and we’re certainly not saying God had such technology in mind when He designed sea life. But mantis shrimp have “the most complex vision systems known to science” that, reportedly, may one day inspire better DVD players.

The eyes of the mantis shrimp are superior to human eyes in two key ways. First, while human eyes can see three colors (which combine to make up the visible spectrum), the mantis shrimp sees twelve. Second, the shrimp’s eyes are able to convert light that is polarized one way to a different polarity. A team of American, Australian, and British scientists report on the incredible design in Nature Photonics (“A Biological Quarter-Wave Retarder with Excellent Achromaticity in the Visible Wavelength Region”).

The shrimp’s eyes are actually similar in some respects to technology called quarter-wave plates, which are designed to convert light polarity in CD and DVD players and some camera filters. However, quarter-wave plates only work well for one color of light. The eyes of the mantis shrimp, on the other hand, work well across a broad light spectrum, much broader than that of human-made devices, the paper reports. The researchers believe the shrimp’s ability is used in hunting, communication, or sexual signaling.

Nicholas Roberts, of the University of Bristol’s Ecology of Vision unit, said of the shrimp’s eye,

“It really is exceptional—out-performing anything we humans have so far been able to create. What’s particularly exciting is how beautifully simple it is. This natural mechanism, comprised of cell membranes rolled into tubes, completely outperforms synthetic designs. It could help us make better optical devices in the future using liquid crystals that have been chemically engineered to mimic the properties of the cells in the mantis shrimp’s eye.”

The Nature Photonics paper made the same point more esoterically: “This complex and novel structural design exemplifies why natural photonic systems continue to offer biomimetic inspiration for the design and construction of new artificial photonic structures.” While human-engineered technology accomplishes incredible tasks and requires great ingenuity (both to create and, sometimes, to operate!), time and time again we find designs of God’s that are far superior. Is it rational to think that the mind-boggling design in living creatures is the result of the directionless work of time, chance, and the laws of nature working on raw matter, as evolutionists claim?

6. And Don’t Miss . . .

  • Astronomers have spotted a cluster of galaxies that lie some 10.2 billion light-years from earth, BBC News reports. If galaxies are spotted even farther away, however, it will mean trouble for the big bang model, which predicts galaxies wouldn’t have formed so long ago that we could see them if they were so far away. As for how we could see the light from galaxies so far away if the universe is young, visit Does Distant Starlight Prove the Universe Is Old?
  • Scientists at the Ohio State University have linked volcanic activity to the beginning of an ice age, supposedly 450 million years ago. That scenario isn’t so different from creationist models of a single catastrophic period in earth history, beginning with the Flood year and continuing through the Ice Age, with volcanoes playing an important role throughout—see Setting the Stage for an Ice Age.
  • Researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine are using embryonic stem cells to learn more about human germ (reproductive) cells, hoping to one day overcome infertility. What is tragically ironic is that harvesting embryonic stem cells requires the destruction of viable human embryos—all in the name of addressing fertility issues. As such, it would seem to be a case of killing Peter to resurrect Paul.
  • Svante Paabo, whose work on Neanderthals we discussed in October 2007 and last February, is about to release his analysis of the entire Neanderthal genome. Among the topics he discusses is whether the ancestors of “modern” humans and Neanderthals interbred—to which he says, “I’m sure that they [did]. But did it give offspring that contributed to us?” In response to the news, Chris Stringer of the London Natural History Museum said, “I used to believe Neanderthals were primitive, but in the last 10,000 to 15,000 years before they died out, around 30,000 years ago, Neanderthals were giving their dead complex burials and making tools and jewellery, such as pierced beads, like modern humans.” We disagree with the timeline, of course, but are excited to learn more about Paabo’s results and conclusions.
  • Richard Dawkins is in the news—yes, again—and this time it’s because he’s planning a new book that will target teenagers. What is a Rainbow, Really? will include illustrations and will “look to explode myths and legends about the natural world with science,” the Guardian reports. But is Dawkins, who has accused Christians of “child abuse” for teaching their children about God, being hypocritical?
  • “[W]hat was the trigger for the single cell microorganisms to assemble and organize into multicellular organisms[?]” That question “has remained unanswered until now,” according to a report on a study of the Cambrian explosion recently published in Molecular Biology and Evolution. The study looked at how a “sudden surge in the calcium concentration of the Cambrian seawater” was “mandatory for the aggregation and stabilisation of multicellular sponge structures[.]” But what is necessary is not always sufficient; evolving organisms would have required not only energy and certain substances, but also a mechanism to increase genetic information. Also important to remember is that the “simply organized organisms” of which new phyla are said to have evolved “nevertheless survived the last 500 million years almost unchanged.”

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