1. National Geographic News: “Human Brains ‘Evolve,’ Become Less Monkey-Like With Age

Does the developing human brain portray the evolution of humans from ape-like creatures?

A study led by Washington University in St. Louis neurobiologist Jason Hill has documented the “strikingly nonuniform” growth of the human brain during childhood development. By comparing MRI scans of infant brains with those of young adults and macaques, researchers concluded that “the expansion patterns in infant brains are ‘remarkably similar’ to how human brains have changed since humans and macaques diverged from a common ancestor about 25 million years ago,” National Geographic News reports.

“The parts of the [brain] that have grown the most to make us uniquely humans are the same regions that tend to grow the most [after birth],” Hill explained. He is referring to the regions of the brain responsible for language, reasoning, and other forms of sophisticated thought, which together experience twice the degree of growth relative to other important brain regions.

The apparent implication of the study is that the mirroring of post-birth brain development in humans with differences between human and monkey brains provides evidence for evolution. However, the paper makes no such claim; instead of using the scans to prove evolution, the authors use evolution to interpret the scans, arguing that “[i]mportant inferences can . . . be made through comparative studies with extant nonhuman primates.” Among those inferences are that “it is evolutionarily advantageous to put those resources more into the maturation of regions that are better suited to early survival, such as being able to see and recognize your mother,” Hill said.

But the team also points out that the delayed growth of these brain regions till after birth may help early life experiences shape their development—an idea that is fully compatible with special creation. So, once again, we see that the starting point—raw data (the MRI scans)—isn’t where the controversy lies (unless the data are actually flawed); the disagreements arise in the interpretation of the data in light of either the creation or the evolutionary worldview.

2. BBC News: “Fossil Links Humans and Monkeys

Is a fossil found in Saudi Arabia the latest “missing link” between man and monkeys? Or is it only the latest misunderstood ape-like creature?

Saadanius hijazensis isn’t your usual missing link: even the evolutionists who gave that name to a few bits of skull agree that Saadanius was not human. That’s no surprise, as the fossil has been dated to around 29 million years old—far older than evolutionists’ date for the evolution of the earliest humans.

But the fossil may nonetheless be labeled a “missing link,” because researchers claim it may be the common ancestor of Old World monkeys and apes—and, therefore, ultimately of humans (in the evolutionary worldview). For that reason, research leader William Sanders, a paleontologist from the University of Michigan, hailed the fossil as “an extraordinary find,” claiming further that “Saadanius is close to a group that eventually led to us.”

The researchers are still hesitant, though, to conclude that Saadanius is the definitive link between modern primate groups. “There could have been a suite of creatures at the time that were very similar and one of them became our ancestor,” Sanders explained.

Because Saadanius is not considered a missing link between apes and humans, the creationist response is straightforward: whether ape or monkey (which is impossible to determine for certain, given the sparse remains found), Saadanius descended from a created kind that was not created in the image of God. Rather than representing evolution from one “lower” species into a “higher” species, it merely represents a perhaps extinct (or unidentified) primate.

3. ScienceDaily: “‘Dawning of a New Age’ in Bacteria Research

Couldn’t inorganic matter have easily evolved to become simple, unicellular life-forms? If only (for evolutionists) it were so simple!

The research of Loyola University microbial geneticist Alan Wolfe’s team into E. coli bacteria has led to a startling discovery: bacteria are significantly more complex than most scientists previously believed. According to the scientists, the finding marks the “dawning of a new age” in understanding bacteria.

The excitement concerns a molecular reaction known as protein acetylation, which was previously thought to be rare in bacteria. The team reports in Molecular Microbiology that protein acetylation is far more widespread in bacteria and has a significant impact on bacterial physiology. Wolfe explained, “There is a whole process going on that we have been blind to.”

Protein acetylation is a process allowing for modification of proteins to alter their function. It was formerly believed to occur primarily in eukaryotic life-forms—those that have a nucleus, including plants and animals. “Bacteria have long been considered simple relatives of eukaryotes,” the researchers wrote, adding, “Obviously, this misperception must be modified.”

Although scientists already knew that bacteria, as with all life, are exceedingly complex, this discovery adds to our awareness of just how complex many of the supposed “simplest” life-forms actually are. Moreover, it adds to our skepticism of the vague, “just-so” yarns spun by evolutionists trying to explain how the first life formed.

For more information:

4. LiveScience: “Survival Tactic Evolves in Flies Using Bacteria, Not Genes

Natural selection, the force driving so-called “survival of the fittest,” is at the heart of both evolutionist and creationist explanations for life’s diversity. But in one strange case, natural selection is not at work on an animal.

The principle of natural selection is straightforward: some organisms are better adapted to their environment than others. They survive (or, more generally, they reproduce more frequently); others don’t (reproduce less frequently). The premise of natural selection is that differences in organisms are what allow some creatures to survive better than others. For example, short-haired dogs living above the Arctic Circle will not survive (and reproduce) as well as long-haired dogs. The basis for these differences is usually genetic.

A new study by University of Rochester biologist John Jaenike sheds light on an unusual case of natural selection, however, occurring in the fly Drosophila neotestacea. As with many organisms (including humans), some D. neotestacea enjoy a symbiotic relationship with bacteria. In this case, one type of bacteria protects the flies from a parasitic worm that may otherwise leave female flies infertile.

Jaenike’s research showed that natural selection in the flies has been furthered not by differences in the flies themselves, but in whether they carry the bacterium, known as Spiroplasma. If they do, the females are ten or more times more likely to remain fertile if attacked by parasites. And because the bacteria are passed down from a mother fly to its offspring, they are “inherited” in a manner similar to genes.

“Normally, you’d think that a species would evolve resistance using its own genes, but in this case they evolved resistance by spread of this symbiont,” Jaenike said. But as in previous examples of natural selection that are labeled “evolution,” we find no increase in genetic information—either in the flies or in the bacteria. Thus, natural selection working in D. neotestacea is not the same process as—and so is not evidence for—the “evolution” allegedly responsible for the diversity of life we see around us.

5. BBC News: “Stem Cell Therapy ‘First’ in Trial on Arthritic Knees

Scientists have developed a new stem cell therapy that will soon be tested—using adult stem cells.

The therapy, to treat osteoarthritis, is based on an existing procedure in which a patient’s cartilage cells are removed, propagated in the laboratory, and returned to the patient via injection. The new procedure will additionally remove stem cells from the patient’s bone marrow, growing them in the lab along with cartilage cells and likewise returning them to the patient. Doctors hope using the two types of cells in conjunction may stimulate the cells’ growth.

The treatment will be tested on several dozen individuals with damaged knees, with results compared to patients receiving only cartilage cells or only stem cells. If successful, the therapy may one day be used in lieu of joint replacement surgery, which can be considerably invasive.

Keele University orthopedic expert Sally Roberts noted, “Stem cells certainly have huge potential—we just need to learn how to harness it properly.” We agree; the news is the latest in a long line of reports showing the successes and promise of adult stem cell treatments—which do not require the destruction of human life, as embryonic stem cells do. Of course, it remains to be seen whether this treatment will be effective.

6. And Don’t Miss . . .

  • Large, carnivorous dinosaurs like T. rex inspire fear even today in their portrayal as cunning hunters who chased down their prey. But could such supposedly fearsome dinosaurs have actually been scavengers? The possibility adds credence to the (already reasonable) notion that humans and dinosaurs lived together, as Genesis 1 teaches..
  • The Sydney Morning Herald offers a powerful and thought-provoking—and (seemingly, although we do not know the author) Christian—look at the popular idea that any good religion is a tolerant religion.
  • The humble egg shell: “one of nature’s most elegant creations”—as ScienceNOW reports—or one of the Creator’s?
  • Most of us know that plants are more sophisticated than they may appear in a moment’s examination. Now, a new study adds to our understanding of plant “thought.”
  • Triceratops and Torosaurus: two different dinosaurs or one and the same?
  • The tragic yet inspiring story of Richard Rudd’s accident and near-coma reminds us of the importance of respecting all human life.

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