Did “hobbits” inhabit Indonesia’s Flores Island more than a million years ago?
It has been some time since we last reported on the “hobbits” of Indonesia—the casual term for “ancient” humans who left behind bones and tools on the Indonesian island of Flores. Scientists continue to debate whether the hobbits were, basically, otherwise “ordinary” humans affected by congenital disease or whether they were far more different—the latter view having given rise to the Homo floresiensis classification.
Now, a team reporting in the journal Nature contributes a new evolutionary perspective on when the hobbits might have inhabited Flores and, consequently, what they may have been. The team, led by the University of Wollongong’s Adam Brumm, began by investigating the question of how long the hobbits or their ancestors inhabited Flores.
The scientists studied dozens of stone blades that were buried on the island. The blades were all buried below a layer of volcanic ash that, by old-earth dating methods, was dated to slightly more than one million years before present. Ergo, the researchers claim the hobbits or their ancestors may have lived on Flores over one million years ago.
That, on its own, may seem a less-than-revolutionary evolutionary view. However, it is at odds with current evolutionary estimates of when Homo erectus—the hominid suspected to have given rise to H. floresiensis (if it is a separate species)—migrated out of Africa. Brumm’s team has thus put forward a “contentious theory”: not only that the hobbits evolved from something more primitive than Homo erectus, but that a hominid more primitive than Homo erectus traveled as far from Africa as Indonesia.
Even scientists who accept that the hobbits were different from modern humans don’t accept the team’s conclusions, however. “There are many ways in which artifacts can move through sediments,” said University of Illinois–Chicago anthropologist James Phillips. He also pointed out that the team’s dating implied the hobbits never changed their tool-making style over a million-year period, something Phillips finds unlikely.
Beginning with God’s Word, not only do we realize that one million years is an impossible time frame for the hobbits to have lived on Flores; we also recognize that the only humans to have lived are descendants from Adam and Eve, who were created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27); however different the “hobbits” may have been, they were created in God’s image and were fully human. Further, at this point we still agree with the many scientists who reject H. floresiensis as a classification, finding it more likely the hobbit bones were from perhaps-diseased and diminutive but otherwise ordinary humans.
A faraway gaseous planet may also be, in a metaphorical sense, “rocky”: astronomers hope it will be a “Rosetta stone” for exoplanetary research.
Planet CoRoT-9b is a newly discovered “exoplanet”—that is, a planet found outside our solar system, orbiting a star other than the sun. Like nearly every exoplanet discovered, CoRoT-9b is a gas giant; in that regard, it is not particularly special. Why the news, then?
CoRoT-9b’s orbit places it directly between its host star and our own planet every 95 days. For the eight hours the planet is directly between us and its star, astronomers can study changes in the light the star gives off to try to infer the composition of CoRoT-9b’s atmosphere.
What makes the planet special, however, is that unlike most exoplanets discovered to date, CoRoT-9b’s orbit is not extremely close to its host star. Because of this, most of these so-called “hot Jupiters” discovered to date are thought to be unrepresentative of most gas giants in the universe.
“We hope that when we can investigate this planet, it will have characteristics which are close to other giant gas planets outside our solar system,” explained study member Claire Moutou of the Laboratory of Astrophysics of Marseilles, who dubbed the planet a potential Rosetta stone. Moutou believes CoRoT-9b may be similar to Jupiter and Saturn in our own solar system.
Not only is it fascinating to learn more about the planets God has placed in our universe; it is also interesting to learn how different the known exoplanets are from our own Earth.
It isn’t alien life, but it’s the closest thing to it that routinely excites astronomers: the stuff that life is made of.
The Herschel Space Observatory has detected the chemical signatures of “potentially life-building molecules” in the Orion nebula, Space.com reports. (The vast Orion nebula lies some 1,350 light-years away from Earth and is thought to be a star-forming region.)
The report notes that the discovery included identification of “a few common molecules that are precursors to life-enabling molecules, including water, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, methanol, dimethyl ether, hydrogen cyanide, sulfur oxide and sulfur dioxide.”
The University of Michigan’s Edwin Bergin, one of the Herschel Space Observatory’s principal investigators, said that the data and similar data in the future “will provide a virtual treasure trove of information regarding the overall chemical inventory and on how organics form in a region of active star formation.”
As with nearly all astrobiology studies, however, the spin on Herschel’s discovery suggests the erroneous view that life is little more than a mixture of the right ingredients. Finding chemical compounds that also exist in life-forms is cause for excitement. But if life required a designer, the existence of prebiotic compounds no more implies life than a pile of unrefined metal implies a steel skyscraper. As long as astrobiologists ignore this fact, however, signs of “potentially life-building molecules” will be interpreted as having the potential to build life (through chance interaction) out of themselves.
Some News to Note readers may find the name Michael Zimmerman rings a bell. If so, don’t be surprised; Zimmerman is the creator of the “Clergy Letter Project” and its “Evolution Sunday” event.
This week, Zimmerman contributed an interesting opinion piece to the online Huffington Post. (For helpful background on the Clergy Letter Project and Evolution Sunday, see Ken Ham’s discussion in Churches in praise of . . . Darwin!) The essay not only dismisses the idea that “social Darwinism” has much to do with Darwinism; it also names us specifically. Zimmerman states:
[S]ocial Darwinism" is a concept whose woeful misnaming has led to serious damage. Social Darwinism is a bizarre name in that it has precious little to do with either Darwin or the theory of evolution to which his work gave rise.
Zimmerman argues that social Darwinism is a misapplication of the concept of “survival of the fittest,” itself a slightly incorrect interpretation of the working of natural selection. (In reality, rather than only the “fittest” surviving environmental pressures, it is only the “least fit” who do not survive. This may seem a semantic triviality, but there is a substantive difference.)
Answers in Genesis and other creationists have attacked the evolutionary worldview indirectly through revealing the evils of social Darwinism, a view that (we contend) ultimately influenced Hitler. Zimmerman agrees, calling social Darwinism “despicable,” but adds that we “somehow think . . . that an unpopular social policy that sounds like science can undercut sound scientific ideas.” He then quotes from David DeWitt’s article Jefferson vs. Hitler:
Social Darwinism is not a perversion of the principles of Darwinian evolution. On the contrary, it is taking them to their natural, logical conclusion. Further, if there were no connection to evolution then why is it called social Darwinism?
Zimmerman’s argument is that the name actually is a misnomer, thus rebutting DeWitt’s rhetorical question. Not only that, but Zimmerman continues,
In addition to knowing that social Darwinism is unrelated to evolutionary principles, proponents of evolution also understand a larger truth. They understand that even if the two were actually linked, human society allows us to move beyond some biological imperatives.
What should creationists make of Zimmerman’s argument? First off, logically speaking, it’s true that arguing against the moral consequence of an idea is not the same as arguing against an idea itself. If evolution were true, it would be true regardless of whatever negative “biological imperatives” it had given us. Of course, most people already realize this, even if many ignore the distinction when arguing.
The difference is whether social Darwinism is a logical normative conclusion of Darwinian scientific theory, as we have claimed. But to DeWitt’s answer in the affirmative, Zimmerman says only that “it has precious little to do with either Darwin or the theory of evolution” and provides no reason for believing his claim is historically true. Zimmerman does not explore why anyone would come to the conclusion—as did not only social Darwinists, but also have serial killers and others.
Moreover, consider Zimmerman’s point that “even if the two were actually linked” society could move beyond the imperatives of evolution. This does not dispute the idea that social Darwinism may be either a fair or the only logical interpretation of Darwinism; it only claims society could go in a different direction should we want to. The question is, why, in the true (atheistic) Darwinist’s worldview, should we want to. Ultimately, the answers all boil down to self-interest, at which point we must ask why an atheist’s self-interest should include others’ well-being.
Granted, at present, nearly all atheists are still “cultural Christians” and do want some form of humanistic social harmony. Compromising Christians, however, are quite different from “true” Darwinists, in that they are attempting to meld Christian morality with an evolutionary history of life. To them, we counter not that their sense of morals is misplaced, but rather that God and evolution cannot be reconciled.
Our Creation Museum continues to draw visitors to the greater Cincinnati area—and looks forward to another exciting spring/summer season with many more new visitors, God willing.
The museum was recently given the “Star of Tourism” award, an honor bestowed by the Northern Kentucky Convention and Visitors Bureau. While 2009 saw a decline in tourism dollars brought to the region, bureau officials named the Creation Museum as one attraction that helped tourism in the region “survive” economically.
Regarding the museum, bureau president Tom Caradonio said, “I’ve been doing this for almost forty years. I’ve never seen an attraction have a turnstile blow off the door as fast as y’all’s did.” Caradonio also noted that because over half of Creation Museum visitors are from more than 250 miles away, it has helped local hotels survive.
The Creation Museum was obviously not founded as a mere tourist attraction, of course, though we thank God for the nearly one million visitors who have visited since the May 2007 opening. In fact, we hope to see the one millionth visitor to the museum some time in the next few weeks—it could even be you!
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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