WORLD editor-in-chief Marvin Olasky asks, “Should we hug evolution to further evangelism?”
Framing his question in the biblical narrative of Queen Esther, Olasky writes, “In every generation moments of truth arise” and names abortion, same-sex marriage, and evolution as today’s “three great cultural flashpoints.” He goes on, “We can hedge on them and justify our hedging: Playing it cool here will help me gain for Christ people who would otherwise walk away.”
Should Christians bow to popular views on such issues in the hopes of making Christianity more “seeker friendly”? (Most readers should know the view of Answers in Genesis, which we’ll note shortly.) If “God’s call to deliver the message of the gospel, individually and collectively” is truly part of our mission, shouldn’t we avoid needless controversy over esoteric issues like whether mutations can lead to new genetic information?
Continuing with a focus on the “flash point” of evolution, Olasky writes,
[A]ttempts to unify antitheses generally defy logic. . . . How can Creation be a sovereignly guided sequence and at the same time a sequence of chance, with random mutations and survival of the fittest? . . . [T]heistic evolution contradicts the biblical account. . . .
Theistic evolutionists logically have to discount other parts of the Bible as well. It’s not just that when we de-historicize parts it's hard to stop. (Were Noah, Abraham, and Moses also metaphors?) We also have to discredit Paul the apostle, who cited early Genesis as fact (see Romans 5, 1 Corinthians 11 and [1 Corinthians 15], and 1 Timothy 2). . . . For that matter, Jesus also saw it that way (Matthew 23, Luke 11).
Olasky concludes, “For such a time as this we must learn to trust God to change hearts without our having to back away from the Bible.” This lines up well with the view of Answers in Genesis: compromise on Genesis ultimately undermines God’s Word completely, forcing a domino effect of de-historicization and “metaphorization” that crashes straight through the gospel. Too much of the church has mistakenly thought it can abandon Genesis and continue to evangelize without abandoning the rest of Scripture. But history (e.g., survey data from church denominations) has shown that the ultimate result of such compromise is to show the world that all of Scripture, like Genesis, can be safely reinterpreted as helpful moral tales and parables—but not the Truth.
In another breakthrough in stem cell research, scientists have developed non-embryonic stem cells that are more easily manipulated.
Compared to embryonic stem cells from mice, human embryonic stem cells (harvested from living human embryos, which are then discarded)—when used for lab research—are difficult to work with. For example, unlike embryonic stem cells from mice, human embryonic stem cells grow slowly, making it more difficult to generate genetically modified human stem cell lines.
Now, a team from the Harvard Stem Cell Institute and the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Regenerative Medicine has used a growth factor discovered in work with the mouse cells and has employed it the propagation of human stem cells. However, rather than using embryonic stem cells, the researchers derived pluripotent human stem cells by reprogramming adult cells. When the growth factor was applied, the cells were much easier to work with, which will enable targeted changes in specific genes.
Once again, we have an example of stem cells created and employed in research purposes without requiring the destruction of viable, living human embryos. Answers in Genesis fully supports this program of life-honoring, successfully used stem cell research—which shows the needlessness of continued embryonic stem cell research.
While some researchers continue to expand the flexibility of stem cells derived from adult cells, others are successfully using such adult-derived stem cells in the hopes of curing disease.
A team at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine is using adult-derived stem cells to study one of a family of heart conditions known as cardiomyopathy. The scientists collected skin cells from two individuals with a genetic disorder that commonly leads to a dangerous thickening of the heart muscle. The team then reprogrammed these cells to become pluripotent stem cells (functionally similar to the stem cells controversially harvested from human embryos, which are, thus, destroyed).
From there, the scientists created heart cells with the cardiomyopathic characteristics of the individuals. Although researchers have a general understanding of what leads to the disease genetically, they do not yet know how this leads to the actual, life-threatening cardiomyopathic symptoms. “We knew there was potential in using pluripotent stem cells from people with genetic disorders to develop diseases in vitro, but our study is the first to successfully create abnormal heart cells,” explained study leader Ihor Lemischka “Now that we have developed these cells, we can study why they become enlarged and develop treatments to prevent them from overgrowing.”
As with the previous news item (#2a), the research shows us that stem cells derived from adult cells—and, hence, gathered without the destruction of human life—can be at least as effective, if not far more so, as embryonic stem cells in disease research and treatment.
“Friends Are Friends Forever”—humpback whales’ favorite song, perhaps?
Researchers who have tracked the movements of various types of baleen whales for decades have learned that some humpback whales form lasting bonds with one another and reunite repeatedly as years go by. This is despite the fact that they spend most of the year apart migrating and breeding, and despite the vastness of the ocean that comes to separate them.
In particular, the bonds the scientists observed occurred between female humpbacks of similar age. Each summer, they reunited to feed and swim together in Canada’s Gulf of St. Lawrence. The team also discovered that the females with the most stable and longest-lasting friendships gave birth to the most calves over the years. But how the whales find each other remains a mystery. “It’s an excellent question and I would like to know the answer. Where do they meet, and how do they recognise each other?” asked one of the scientists, Christian Ramp of the Mingan Island Cetacean Study. “I was expecting stable associations within one season, not beyond.”
We’ve reported on whale intelligence before, and this story seems to be another indication that whales are among the brightest animals on Earth. While the scientists chalk the whales’ friendships and recognition capabilities up to evolution, to us such friendships among non-humans are an example of God’s creative design.
What do air mattresses have to do with young-earth creation? Enough to earn them a mention in News to Note, it would seem!
Researchers from the University of Freiburg and Competence Network Biomimetics have successfully imitated one plant’s incredible ability to heal its own membranes. Modeled on the woody climbing plant liana, the team’s “bionic coating” sealing foam can quickly repair holes in structures that contain pressurized gas, such as tires or air mattresses. A company working in conjunction with the team hopes to use the foam for other industrial uses, perhaps even on bridges.
Every time researchers take a cue from nature in engineering new human technologies, they are indirectly acknowledging the ingenuity of the Creator. As we’ve discussed before, the life-forms around us contain systems far more sophisticated than any designed by humans. If that’s not a testament to intelligent design, what is?
If you’re looking to take an ocean voyage but can’t find a human navigator for hire, perhaps a crocodilian would serve just as well.
Crocodiles are spread throughout Southeast Asia, the East Indies, and Australia, and despite their tendency to occupy rivers and bays, they have been spotted in the open ocean and have been tracked covering 250 miles (400 km) in just a few weeks’ time. Now, a study led by University of Queensland zoologist Hamish Campbell has uncovered more about how the creatures accomplish the feat.
The researchers employed the use of an acoustic tracking system in a Queensland river, along with ultrasonic transmitters fitted on 27 crocodiles. After collecting data for a year, the researchers came to a surprising conclusion: the subset of crocodiles that headed out to sea and back made wise use of the river’s current to help them reach their goal. Specifically, the crocs only swam when the tide flowed in their direction of travel, and otherwise sojourned on land or sank to the bottom to avoid the current’s effect.
“This study shows [the crocodiles] possess a detailed understanding of their local environment and current systems,” Campbell explained. Although the scientists don’t yet understand how the crocs know when the currents or tides are going in the “right” direction relative to their destination, they suspect crocodiles may have the ability to sense the planet’s magnetic field, as some other creatures do (birds, most famously). While evolutionists have no choice but to conclude such an incredible ability was the result of chance mutations, we see divine design as a (much) more reasonable explanation. For that reason, news of Campbell’s study earns a place in our series of design stories this week.
In what seems like routine news, astronomers have found more evidence that water once flowed on Mars.
“Huge seas” is the latest speculation, based on evidence of geologic mapping of the Hellas Planitia region of Mars. According to the scientists, the data indicate a lake in the basin of Mars’s largest impact crater around four billion years ago.
Unsurprisingly, what has the researchers excited is evidence that the conditions on Mars were “more favourable for the evolution of life at this time than they were on Earth,” BBC News reports. Of course, the presupposition is that in “favorable” conditions the probability of life evolving is greater than zero.
Looking for an exotic vacation destination? If you’re an anaerobic organism, Mars may be just the right place.
Canadian scientists have discovered a thought-provoking ecological system on Axel Heiberg Island, in the far north of the country. Known as the Lost Hammer spring, the site hosts a variety of bacteria that live off methane in an environment thought to be similar to some on Mars.
According to the scientists, the water doesn’t freeze despite the cold due to its salt content; the water contains methane and sulfate, which are thought to sustain the organisms. For the researchers, the obvious question was whether the same scenario might exist on Mars.
“If you have a situation where you have very cold salty water, it could potentially support a microbial community, even in that extreme harsh environment,” explains McGill University microbiologist Lyle Whyte. “There are places on Mars where the temperature reaches relatively warm -10 to 0 degrees and perhaps even above 0º C, and on Axel Heiberg [Island] it gets down to -50, easy. The Lost Hammer spring is the most extreme subzero and salty environment we’ve found.”
The team’s discovery is thrilling insofar as we continue to learn about the incredible hardiness and diversity of the life-forms God created. And it may well be that such organisms could survive in the right Martian environment. But there’s nonetheless an implicit logical jump that Whyte and his team make: assuming that life could exist on Mars (or anywhere, for that matter) without God placing it there.
Titan, one of Saturn’s most famous moons, has long been a target of speculation for the existence of life off Earth—speculation that continues to grow.
Researchers propose that the disappearance of hydrogen molecules on Titan’s surface may be evidence of methane-based life, i.e., based on methane rather than water. “We suggested hydrogen consumption because it’s the obvious gas for life to consume on Titan, similar to the way we consume oxygen on Earth, explained NASA astrobiologist Chris McKay. “If these signs do turn out to be a sign of life, it would be doubly exciting because it would represent a second form of life independent from water-based life on Earth.”
The NASA press release includes buried tidbits that indicate a more cautious perspective, however: “non-biological chemistry offers one possible explanation . . . methane-based life forms are only hypothetical [and s]cientists have not yet detected this form of life anywhere . . . [w]ater is frozen solid on Titan’s surface and much too cold to support life as we know it.” Thus, it seems like a humorous understatement when the release quotes Johns Hopkins University’s Darrell Strobel, who notes that the findings “do not definitively prove” (our emphasis) the existence of life on Titan.
More circumspect is NASA’s Mark Allen, who wisely said, “Scientific conservatism suggests that a biological explanation should be the last choice after all non-biological explanations are addressed. We have a lot of work to do to rule out possible non-biological explanations. It is more likely that a chemical process, without biology, can explain these results—for example, reactions involving mineral catalysts.”
Where did it all begin? The European Low Frequency Array telescope aims to find out.
The telescope will collect radio waves from sites in England and elsewhere across Europe, then send the data to a supercomputer in the Netherlands that will process the information. Among other things, scientists hope to learn when the first stars were formed.
“The . . . telescope will produce an enormous volume of data which will enable a significant amount of science, [including] potentially searching for alien intelligence,” said University of Portsmouth cosmologist Bob Nichol. “Maybe we can answer the age-old question ‘Are we alone?’”
We certainly hope the telescope array is a success and look forward to learning about the good, observational science accomplished thanks to the technology. But as with any science, astronomy is built on presuppositions—and most modern astronomy is built on evolution-friendly presuppositions. So it’s no surprise that the researchers behind the new telescope array speak as if life were an accident and our origins shrouded in mystery.
Mixed “race” marriages have increased to 15 percent of all new marriages in the U.S. in 2008, according to a new Pew Research Center study.
Fifty years ago, fewer than one in 1,000 new marriages were between individuals from different so-called “racial” backgrounds; now, the proportion is one in 60. Asians and Hispanics remain the groups most likely to marry outside their “race,” although the increase in such marriages has largely come from increase in the proportions of blacks and whites marrying outside their groups. Interestingly, the most frequent “interracial” coupling in the U.S. is between whites and Hispanics.
While our use of quotation marks above may seem excessive, it serves a point: the idea of humanity being broken up among a variety of so-called races is not only a biologically and historically cumbersome notion, it’s also unbiblical. The Bible, starting in Genesis, makes it quite clear that we all descended from Adam through Noah’s family, and that we are all consequently of “one blood” (Acts 17:26; see also Colossians 3:11). After the dispersion at Babel, language barriers, geographic distance, and other historical contingencies contributed to superficial variation that, along with cultural differences, created the idea of “race.” Furthermore, Darwinists in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries exacerbated problematic, prejudiced racial perspectives by implying that some racial groups were less evolved than others.
At Answers in Genesis, we use the term “people group” to refer to the constantly shifting, historically contingent demarcations of human ethnicity, culture, language, skin shade, etc. What’s important is that the Bible makes no prohibitions for intermarriage between members of different people groups, but is rather clear about prohibiting one type of intermarriage: between a believer and a nonbeliever.
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, the 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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