When it comes to a God’s-eye view of the physical universe, the European Space Agency’s Planck telescope mission may have given us the closest approximation yet.
Imagine looking up into a clear, starry night sky, unpolluted by urban light or the overpowering moon. Thousands of stars are visible as you stare above—even though your eyes cannot take in the whole night sky at once. Now imagine that your eyes are so powerful that you can see every star there is in any direction you look, all the way to the edge of the universe. And imagine you do count every star in every direction, night after night, until you can produce a perfect map of every light in the universe.
That mental exercise is a rough approximation of the work of the recently launched Planck mission, whose grandiose goal is to capture—from earth’s viewpoint—the light of the whole universe shining toward us. For Planck’s purposes, however, “light” refers to electromagnetic radiation at wavelengths below the visible spectrum, corresponding especially with cosmic dust.
The telescope has just completed its first attempt at the mission, producing a photographic map of the universe from earth’s perspective. Astronomers hope that repeating the process will help them home in on the most accurate version of the map by accounting for contamination.
As with most large-scale, government-funded astronomy projects, an evolutionary view of the universe motivates the Planck mission. With the data, scientists want to better understand the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation that is considered the “first light” from—and a prime evidence of—the big bang. Astronomers also plan to deconstruct the data in search of evidence for “inflation,” a hypothetical hyper-expansion of the universe in the moments following the big bang.
“It’s a spectacular picture; it’s a thing of beauty,” said ESA Planck expert Jan Tauber of the map. And indeed, to call the universe of stars, galaxies, and more around us beautiful, spectacular, awe-inspiring, or marvelous would still be an understatement. Some of God’s most beautiful creations were hidden until the development of powerful telescopes, and the almost unthinkable size of the universe powerfully illustrates the omnipotence and transcendence of our Creator. As for evolutionary astronomers interpretations of Planck’s cosmic map, creationists have alternative models to explain the CMB, and both creationists and many evolutionists have raised problems with inflationary models.
What were humans like a million years ago—fur-wearing, meat-eating, tool-making Britons?
Scientists working in Norfolk have turned up evidence that humans inhabited Britain around one million years ago, significantly earlier than was previously believed. The evidence comes not in the form of human fossils, but rather stone tools that were discovered at a dig site.
Most of the details of just who these “first” Britons were are only indirectly related to the tools discovered, however. For example, the scientists who discuss the find in the journal Nature suggest the tools belonged to Homo antecessor (“Pioneer man”) and, based on estimates of the temperature at the time, propose that the humans may have worn fur and built fires to keep warm.
Despite some mostly minor skeletal differences, such as a flatter face, creationists speculate that Pioneer man was fully human. Even evolutionists agree that Pioneer man walked upright, and the evidence shows H. antecessor to have been a tool-maker and shelter-builder that perhaps wore clothes. Based on this, we conclude that so-called Pioneer man was an ordinary human descended from Adam and Eve, not fundamentally different from humans living today.
What’s important to remember, though, is that the association of the tools discovered with H. antecessor is based entirely on evolutionary dating methods—as is conjecture about those humans’ lifestyle. Based on deduction from Genesis, we can conclude, first, that the tool-makers were highly intelligent beings created in God’s image; second, that they almost certainly wore clothes (since humans first wore clothes in the Garden of Eden); and third, that the tools and their makers lived far more recently than one million years.
Biologists have identified the function of what were once considered vestigial structures: the wings of flightless birds.
What good are wings on a flightless bird—like the ostrich? Although scientists have previously suggested temperature control and reproductive display as the main uses of ostrich wings, a team reporting at the annual meeting of the Society for Experimental Biology believes it has determined their most important purpose. Moreover, the scientists connect their research to the study of “winged” dinosaurs.
The team, led by the University of Antwerp’s Nina Schaller, argues that ostriches do, in fact, use their wings to help them move—just not off the ground. Instead, the birds employ their wings as giant rudders, helping them maneuver and brake while running at high speeds. The researchers arrived at the conclusions through extensive study of ostriches raised by Schaller herself, along with airstream experiments.
Of special interest is that ostriches’ intertarsal muscle, once considered “rudimentary,” has an important role in allowing the birds to execute such maneuvers as high-speed zigzag running. The team supports their claims with evidence from the ostrich-like rhea, another flightless bird whose wings are used similarly to “execute rapid zigzagging as a means of escape and use their wings to maintain balance during these agile manoeuvres,” Schaller explained.
The scientists extend their findings to bipedal dinosaurs whose small forelimbs may have resembled wings. Because it is clear dinosaurs could not use such limbs for locomotion, the team conjectures that dinosaurs used them instead for balancing and maneuvering. Importantly, using forelimbs for such purposes would have reduced some dinosaurs’ high energy cost of moving around such massive bodies.
Although testing hypotheses about dinosaur locomotion is difficult (given that we cannot observe or experiment on living dinosaurs), the team’s program of study is an excellent way to infer more about how dinosaurs lived and moved. By relying on good observational study of modern creatures, rather than evolutionary presuppositions, the team has suggested a sound interpretation of not only the wings of flightless birds, but also the forelimbs of bipedal dinosaurs. While such wings (and forelimbs) may not be identical to God’s original, perfect design (i.e., it could be that the created kind today’s ostriches descended from could fly), they are not the useless remnants of a wasteful evolutionary process.
Was the moon formed separately from the earth, or were the two originally one body?
Some compromising Christians claim Genesis 1 can be neatly reconciled with secular science’s claims about the origin of the universe, the solar system, the planet earth, and life. But, as we’ve noted elsewhere, the Bible clearly teaches that the earth was created before the sun, which flat-out contradicts the old-age view.
What about the moon? Within the old-age camp, the dominant perspective on the moon’s formation is that the primordial earth was struck by another astronomical body, fracturing the earth and causing a lump of mass that would become the moon to spin off into orbit. Because, according to that model, the moon was once part of the earth, scientists predict a correlation in the physical composition of the two bodies.
But is such a correlation present? Scientists continue to study materials recovered as far back as the Apollo moon missions to answer that question, and data gathered by Japanese moon mission Kaguya is the latest information scientists are analyzing. Specifically, Kaguya has turned up evidence of the mineral olivine. Olivine is common in the earth’s mantle, but—contradicting the evolutionary explanation of the moon’s formation—it has hardly turned up on the moon.
Based on spectral analysis, however, Kaguya has found olivine on the edges of major craters in places where the moon’s crust is thin. Scientists reporting on the data in Nature Geoscience suggest that objects colliding with the moon broke through the crust, pushing hidden olivine from the moon’s mantle or lower crust upward. “The finding is exciting [because] for the first time there appears to be evidence for rocks exposed on the surface of the moon that do not originate from the upper lunar crust,” explained University of Cologne geochemist Carsten Münker.
Does that settle the case in favor of the lunar impact hypothesis? It certainly does not: for one thing, there are other explanations for the presence of olivine on the moon; for another, even some old-age scientists reject the lunar impact hypothesis. For creationists, the lunar impact hypothesis requires an unbiblical perspective not only on the age of the earth and the moon, but also on the historical characteristics of the earth when the moon was formed—covered with a molten surface (as evolutionists assert), or with water, land, and plants (as Genesis 1:1–19 teaches)?
One Christian denomination has reemphasized its adherence to a literal, six-day creation as described in Genesis 1–11.
The official news organ of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church reports that delegates to the church’s general conference in Atlanta have voted to reaffirm the denomination’s belief in a plain interpretation of Genesis, including (especially) the important—but controversial—events of the book’s first eleven chapters.
Those events are “not an allegory,” declared current Adventist president Ted Wilson, but are instead “authentic, true, and literal.” Other delegates agreed, with one arguing that creation is “important for all our doctrinal systems” (which Answers in Genesis regularly points out) and another adding that (for Adventists, at least) “our faith informs our science,” rather than the converse.
Naturally, Answers in Genesis applauds any Christian denomination’s embrace of a plain reading of Scripture, including the crucially important first chapters that establish so many doctrinal concepts and have a direct connection to the gospel. Answers in Genesis takes no stance, however, on denominational disagreements that stem from shared plain readings of Scripture. To read more about what it means to be a parachurch ministry—and how we negotiate the sometimes-tricky waters of the many denominations within the church, see Where Do We Draw the Line? (See also our official mission statement and statement of faith.)
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