1. AP: “JPL Worker Sues over Intelligent Design Demotion

For an employee of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in the Los Angeles area, sharing his views on the origins issue in the workplace was allegedly grounds for a demotion.

The employee, David Coppedge, is an information technology specialist who was formerly a leader on the Cassini space probe’s system administration team. But Coppedge was “harassed and demoted,” reports the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, after he loaned such DVDs as Unlocking the Mystery of Life to what the Discovery Institute’s Evolution News & Views calls “interested co-workers.”

Coppedge has responded with a lawsuit under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act that requests a court order allowing him to share his beliefs. However, Loyola Law School professor Gary Williams told the Tribune, “If an employee is talking about anything in the workplace that is not related to work, the employer is entitled to say that ‘I don’t want you to do this.’”

On the other hand, Discovery Institute attorney Casey Luskin, a consultant on the Coppedge legal team, noted, “Coppedge was punished even though supervisors admitted never receiving a single complaint regarding his conversations about intelligent design prior to their investigation, and even though other employees were allowed to express diverse ideological opinions, including attacking intelligent design.” If Coppedge was indeed singled out, it certainly suggests his pro–intelligent design views may have been the reason.

While the details of the case have yet to be disclosed—a spokesperson for the Jet Propulsion Lab declined to comment because the lawsuit had not yet been delivered—the treatment of Coppedge portrayed by media reports certainly sounds like discrimination on the basis of origins belief. Whether a Los Angeles County courtroom agrees is yet to be seen.

2. ScienceNOW: “Clever Crows, Complex Cognition?

They’re back in the news: crows, which sometimes seem to rival—or beat out—dolphins and chimps for the title of “man’s closest intellectual rival.”

The impressive intelligence of various members of the crow family (and, in particular, genus Corvus) is not a topic we’ve shied away from, having discussed experiments and other news on the topic several times in the past (most recently on February 27). ScienceNOW reports on new research that “suggests that the brainy birds may be even smarter than was previously thought.” It seems previous work has come under some mild criticism, as described by ScienceNOW’s Gisela Telis:

[Critics argue that] the birds sought each stick because they wanted it, not because they understood the stick’s potential function. The distinction, although subtle, marks the difference between high- and low-level learning, and it speaks to a central question of cognition research: How do you determine whether an animal is thinking through its actions, or simply learning through association a series of behaviors and combining them?

In response, a team from the University of Auckland devised a new experiment. They gave a group of crows the opportunity to use a stick—which was too short—to try to obtain out-of-reach food. Eventually, the crows learned there was no way the stick could help them access the food, and hence lost interest in the stick. The scientists next divided the crows, teaching only one group about using a variety of sticks to obtain food.

The team then let members from both groups tackle a particularly tricky problem requiring the use of the previously useless short stick. Unsurprisingly, the group that had been trained to use sticks completed the exercise successfully. But so did the members of the other group, with one member “star[ing] at the setup for less than 2 minutes and then perform[ing] the whole trial correctly on her very first attempt.” (You can watch one bird complete the feat via the link above.)

In Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the team argues that the crow’s use of the short stick despite its previous uselessness shows that the crows were thinking about it in the context of tool-use. Commenting on the study, University of Oxford zoologist Alex Kacelnik said, “These animals learn something interesting, no doubt, and can use it flexibly to generate new behavior, a feat that until a couple of decades ago was thought to be restricted to humans and other apes.”

While evolutionists often suggest that the intelligence of apes makes them nearly human—and reminds us of our supposed shared ancestry—studies such as this suggest the opposite. Apes are special, as are crows and all of God’s creations. But only mankind was created in His image (Genesis 1:27).

For more information:

3. ScienceDaily: “‘Ancestral Eve’ Crystal May Explain Origin of Life’s Left-Handedness

The “chirality problem” isn’t exactly one of the most prominent topics of debate when it comes to origins. But that doesn’t mean evolutionists have forgotten the problem it poses for an “accidental” origin of life.

As the building blocks of protein, amino acids are fundamental to life—and for that reason, evolutionists continue trying to figure out how amino acids could have arisen through chance processes. But even if evolutionists account for the “accidental” appearance of the amino acids and other organic molecules, they face another hurdle: what about chirality?

Amino acids that are otherwise identical come in two distinct structural forms, known as “left-handed” and “right-handed” (a situation called chirality). In life-forms, essentially all amino acid biomolecules are of the left-handed form while sugars are right-handed. What’s the big deal? The problem is that all conceived ways of producing amino acids “accidentally” (i.e., as was thought to have happened on the primordial earth) yield both left- and right-handed amino acids simultaneously. Not only does this not explain the exclusivity of left-handed amino acids in life, but also, when the two forms interact directly, the result is toxic to life. Thus, any process producing the amino acids required by life would seemingly have doomed life as well.

Scientists publishing in Crystal Growth & Design claim to have an answer, however. A press release from the publisher states vaguely, “The scientists used mixtures of both left- and right-handed aspartic acid . . . in laboratory experiments . . . . They found that under conditions that could have existed on primitive Earth, left-handed aspartic acid crystals could have formed easily and on a large scale.” But the issue is not merely production of left-handed amino acids; it is how left-handed amino acids could be produced without right-handed amino acids being produced as well. (Of course, even if evolutionists solve that problem, they still have no clue how such basic organic molecules “self-arranged” into a reproducing life-form.)

Furthermore, don’t forget that even if evolutionists have a minimally plausible scenario for, e.g., the origin of left-handed amino acids, the scenario usually puts very specific constraints over primordial earth’s environment, for example. If, someday, evolutionists have a reasonable answer for overcoming all the many hurdles of an accidental origin for life (something certainly not the case now), they still must demonstrate requirements that were conducive and present on the early earth. Of course, even then, the evolutionary scenario would remain no more plausible (and far less, we would say) than the true history given in the book of Genesis.

4. USA Today: “192 Nations Plan ‘Robust’ Earth Day

This week marked the fortieth anniversary of Earth Day, an occasion to celebrate—or even worship—“Mother Earth.”

A USA Today newspaper profile of the event includes the usual coverage of environmentalist events, attitudes toward the environment, and the like. But Earth Day was “also bringing controversy” this year, they report. Now, just who could find fault with such a benign, positive event as Earth Day?

Answers in Genesis, that’s who! Or, at least, that’s the implication of the USA Today article, which gave us two paragraphs:

Critics of Earth Day include Jason Lisle and Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis, a ministry of creationists. They say some events are a doorway to paganism and New Age mysticism.

“People are taking it to an unbiblical extreme,” says Lisle, a research scientist. “They’re worshiping the creation, not the creator,” he says, and using global warming as a “scare tactic” to get people to support climate-change legislation.

The average reader’s perception, no doubt, is that creationists (or those of us at Answers in Genesis, at least) are dismissive of any “environmentalism” and don’t think we should care for the earth at all. On the contrary, we’ve argued that the true basis for environmental stewardship is believing that the earth is part of God’s creation—not a cosmic accident—and that God has commissioned us to be stewards of the earth (Genesis 1:28). As for global warming, we’ve pointed out that one’s view on the age of the earth has a lot to do with the validity of “climate change” claims. As for whether Earth Day opens the doorway to unbiblical views, we ask only this: in all the coverage of Earth Day, which is emphasized—or even worshipped: what was created or who created it?

5. The Huffington Post: “The Danger of Ignoring Creationism

A few weeks back, we responded to a Huffington Post blog entry by Clergy Letter Project founder Michael Zimmerman. He recently fired back.

“I find myself writing about yet another major creationist organization’s criticisms of my work for The Huffington Post,” he begins, continuing:

This time the attack is coming from Answers in Genesis, the people behind the $27 million creation museum-cum-theme-park just outside Cincinnati. You know who I mean—they’re the folks who show dinosaurs and humans comfortably cavorting and who declare that the Earth is only 6,000 years old.

There are two issues I need to address.

The first, why the criticism leveled by Answers in Genesis is meaningless nonsense, is rather trivial. The second, however, why any of us should care in the least about what creationist organizations have to say, is far from trivial.

While Zimmerman claims his first point is trivial, it’s the more important of the two to us; after all, we aren’t going to disagree with Zimmerman that evolutionists should take us more seriously (although certainly not in the same way Zimmerman means!). Nonetheless, we’ll see that his tactic on both points is almost underhanded. He goes on:

Let me dispense with the trivial point first. Last month I discussed why social Darwinism was both a misnomer and a terrible idea, both scientifically and socially. Not surprisingly, Answers in Genesis disagreed. They simply repeated their argument that social Darwinism is a “logical . . . conclusion of Darwinian scientific theory” and then, grotesquely, pointed to the existence of serial killers to support their absurd contention. . . . Such behavior is nothing new for Answers in Genesis and their founder, Ken Ham.

So, first, did we argue that social Darwinism is a “logical . . . conclusion of Darwinian scientific theory”? What we actually wrote was:

. . . 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.

We contend that our statement has at least a little more nuance than Zimmerman’s quotation (which itself seems somewhat contorted) suggests. First, we had pointed out that “[L]ogically speaking, it’s true that arguing against the moral consequence of an idea is not the same as arguing against an idea itself,” a distinction Zimmerman apparently thinks we miss. Second, notice that Zimmerman does not answer our critique of his view (in the quoted paragraph and further on); he ignores it completely. Our response to his original piece was detailed; his response is a single sentence claiming we were repeating old arguments. We certainly were, because (as we pointed out) we did not find Zimmerman’s arguments convincing (for reasons we also pointed out)!

As for the mention of serial killers, we lacked the space to develop that line of argument in full (instead relying on a link to a more thorough article, Darwin’s Sad Legacy). Our point there is neither ad hominem attack nor grotesqueness but rather to point out what we believe are logically valid conclusions of Darwinism. We have articulated this point clearly in other places, and we regret that concision may have made it less clear to Zimmerman in this instance. Again, however, he offers no logical response, but only ridicule.

Next, Zimmerman turns to his second point and attempts to dismiss all our arguments simultaneously by painting us loony. He digs up two “outrageous but all-too-typical examples” of our thought process, one which he quotes and another which he describes:

“[T]he spread of AIDS can be stopped—by simply rejecting false evolution”

In an even more extreme move . . . Answers in Genesis opted to commemorate the fifth anniversary of 9/11 by running ads . . . laying the attack at the feet of evolution.

Ridiculous, right? But as Ken Ham pointed out yesterday in a blog entry titled The Rest of the Story—Exposing Misquotes by an Atheist Professor, those quotations are pulled out of context, and the message is consequently quite different than what Zimmerman implies.

Zimmerman closes the piece with an extended warning on how creationists and the like are trying to take over the country, allow the supernatural into science, etc.: “Answers in Genesis and the Discovery Institute have the ability to shape public policy in frightening ways.” On some points, he’s right, but on most he seems to either distort or misunderstand the arguments. And what if a supernatural explanation turned out to be true? How can one come to correct conclusions if the correct answer is excluded at the outset? However, we hope Zimmerman reads this and offers a more detailed response to our previous post (along with an acknowledgment that he has used quotations of our material out of context).

(Correction: in our post in March we said that Zimmerman was “presumably a Christian” since he lobbies clergy and argues that Christianity and evolutionary ideas are compatible. However, we have since been notified that Zimmerman is on record as an atheist.)

6. And Don’t Miss . . .

  • Worm and human brains and computer chips are all strikingly similar—“they represent the most efficient way of wiring a complex network in a confined physical space,” says one scientist. But does that suggest brains evolved (as the same scientist argues), or that they were designed?
  • Was God’s covenant with Abraham a near-copy of another ancient treaty? In fact, the article presupposes that “the Hebrew Bible was being assembled around the same time as this treaty,” though it notes that “biblical scholarship differs” on that point—which we would emphasize!
  • An ancient cockroach modeled in 3-D shows that “little has changed in over 300 million years of evolution.” Or could it be that neither 300 million years nor any Darwinian evolution has happened, which explains the similarity to modern cockroaches!
  • At Lake Michigan College, a new creationist club meets “to talk about alternatives to the accepted scientific view of how the earth formed and life began.” The club has the support of some science faculty, and plans a trip to our Creation Museum at some point.
  • A reader tipped us off to an interesting photograph on a Chinese website, asking what the two sculptures on the left are supposed to represent (implying that they perhaps represent sauropod dinosaurs). It’s anyone’s guess, and we obviously haven’t seen the sculptures for ourselves, but it’s not an unreasonable idea.
  • If you haven’t kept up on some of the latest in Neanderthal research, a press release from Pennsylvania State University provides a good overview.
  • Is what remains of a wall in a Greek cave the oldest known man-made structure? Or is the optically stimulated luminescence dating method unreliable?

For more information: Get Answers

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