1. BBC News: “Baby Tale Not Black and White

Out of Britain comes more news that upsets the idea of “race.”

Last January we covered news of British babies Leah and Miya Durrant: biological twins despite the fact that one had light brown skin, blue eyes, and red hair (like her mother) while the other had dark brown hair and skin (like her father). Along with two older siblings that also looked to be from different “races,” the family was a stark visual rebuttal to the idea that “race” is a meaningful term.

Although the story isn’t quite the same, another British couple has once again overturned casual assumptions about skin, hair, and eye color inheritance and shown race to be a specious concept. The Sun reports on Angela Ihegboro and her husband Ben, who, along with their son Chisom and daughter Dumebi, all have dark brown skin, hair, and eyes—reflecting their Nigerian heritage. But newly born daughter Nmachi has pale, sand-colored skin, blonde hair, and blue eyes—“white,” but not albino (as was confirmed by doctors).

Angela explained that she was “speechless” when first seeing the baby, which was delivered via caesarean section. But she added, “She’s beautiful and I love her. Her colour doesn’t matter. She’s a miracle baby. But still, what on earth happened here?”

Geneticists are puzzled with Nmachi’s appearance, because neither Ben nor Angela are aware of any ancestors with light hair or skin—although Ben’s (Nigerian) mother has blue eyes. Oxford University geneticist Bryan Sykes, who called the birth “extraordinary,” suggested an unknown mutation may be at work: “The rules of genetics are complex and we still don’t understand what happens in many cases.” Fox News reports that the Ihegboros will work with geneticists who hope to determine the genetics behind Nmachi’s unexpected coloration.

As with the Durrant story and many others, the Ihegboros’ new daughter reminds us of the fluidity and inaccuracy of the idea that there are multiple human races, each with sharp boundaries such as hair or eye color. Even the idea that a “black” couple had a “white” baby falsely portrays human skin color, which in actuality is merely different shades of brown (determined by more or less melanin in the skin). We all belong to a single human race (Acts 17:26), with many types of superficial differences having arisen or become more pronounced since the dispersion at Babel.

2. Scientific American: “Our Neandertal Brethren

Evolutionists, like creationists, believe that Neanderthals were fully human, the same species as we are.

“[W]e must reclassify Homo neanderthalensis as Homo sapiens neanderthalensis, a subspecies of Homo sapiens,” writes evolutionist Michael Shermer, reporting on a study published in Science that we covered in May. The study revealed that a small percentage of those living in Europe and Asia inherited genes from Neanderthals. “In other words, our anatomically hirsute cousins are actually our genetic brothers,” Shermer declares, referencing the work of evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr.

Thus, according to the current evolutionary interpretation, Neanderthals were not a separate species that went extinct; “instead population pockets of Neandertals died out around 30,000 years ago, whereas other Neandertal populations survived through interbreeding with their modern human brothers and sisters, who live on to this day.”

Given the plentiful evidence that Neanderthals were highly intelligent—along with how slight the anatomical differences between “modern” humans and Neanderthals are—creationists have long argued that “Neanderthal” simply refers to the remains of certain humans with bulky builds and related characteristics, the result of genetic differences but perhaps exacerbated by conditions such as rickets.

Of course, evolutionists do not accept that “Neanderthals” descended from Adam and Eve through Noah, as biblical creationists do; nor that the humans known as Neanderthals lived only a few thousand years ago (rather than tens of thousands of years). Many creationists also believe that other taxonomic groupings (e.g., Homo erectus) describe beings who were fully human and hence our ancestors. Perhaps evolutionists will one day come to the same conclusion.

3. PhysOrg: “New Hypothesis for Human Evolution and Human Nature

From pets to livestock, humans often have a close relationship with animals. But is that part of the story of human evolution?

Pennsylvania State University biological anthropologist Pat Shipman has a new theory on what she calls the “animal connection,” humans’ special relationship with animals. “Establishing an intimate connection to other animals is unique and universal to our species,” she says. Explaining the puzzle behind her new book The Animal Connection, she continues,

“No other mammal routinely adopts other species in the wild—no gazelles take in baby cheetahs, no mountain lions raise baby deer. Every mouthful you feed to another species is one that your own children do not eat. On the face of it, caring for another species is maladaptive, so why do we humans do this?”

In the book as well as a forthcoming journal article, Shipman argues that as ancient humans grew intelligent, some began to learn more about the food web through observation, eventually understanding the “behavior of potential competitors [and] reap[ing] a double evolutionary advantage.” Humans therefore domesticated the wolf/dog not for food (since “[w]olves eat so much meat themselves that raising them for food would be a losing proposition”), but rather to turn hunting competition into a “living tool.” She also points out that many other historically domesticated animals provide not meat (primarily), but rather “renewable resources for tasks such as tracking game, destroying rodents, protecting kin and goods, providing wool for warmth, moving humans and goods over long distances, and providing milk to human infants.”

As partial evidence of her theory, Shipman notes that the vast majority of “prehistoric” art (e.g., on cave walls) shows not plants, water, tools, weapons, or human relations but rather animals. Ultimately, Shipman concludes that the pressure for humans to develop language stems from our observations of and interest in animals.

By emphasizing humans’ caregiving role with animals over the years, Shipman is indirectly referencing Genesis 1:28—God’s command to Adam and Eve (and their descendants) to be responsible for wildlife and the animal kingdom. Humanity’s care and concern for animals (including responsible use) is not rooted only in self interest, but also in biblical mandate.

4. AP: “Congregations Struggle in Aging, Decaying Churches

A Methodist church whose congregation once numbered more than 10,000 members has fallen to under 400 today—a decline reflecting the slow collapse of mainline Protestant churches in the U.S.

The Associated Press covers the increasing difficulty many mainline (generally theologically liberal) churches face gathering the financial support to pay for costly upkeep to aging church buildings. While paying for the maintenance of old buildings is not exclusively a difficulty for mainline churches, the article reminds us of the sad “de-Christianizing” of the United States over the course of the twentieth century.

In Detroit—the home of the Methodist congregation mentioned above—there are now only 16 Methodist congregations, compared to a high of 77. “[The United Methodist Church’s] decline in fortune is mirrored among Protestant denominations like the Lutherans, Presbyterians, and Episcopalians, which have seen membership drop in recent decades while the average age of remaining worshippers gets older,” writes the AP’s Tom Breen.

Robert Jaeger, executive director of the Partnership for Sacred Places, adds, “A lot of these churches have shrunk from 500 members to 100 members, or from 800 members to 200 members. They look at the trend lines and they see the decline in membership and wonder, ‘Gosh, in 10 or 15 years are we going to be gone?’” Jaeger’s group recommends churches open their doors to more community programs to help foot the bill of ongoing maintenance.

It is unlikely that a single explanation accounts fully for the decline of mainline Protestant churches in the U.S., given that some other denominations have declined while some mainline churches remain strong. Nonetheless, Answers in Genesis believes that those churches’ general abandonment of the historicity of the Genesis account is partly to blame. By compromising on Genesis, churches (including most of the mainline denominations) undermine the power of Scripture as well as the gospel itself, with the truth of God’s Word replaced with Bible “stories.” Compromise has not succeeded in drawing seekers to the church, contrary to what compromising Christians often claim.

Note: Next month on this website, we will be posting a front-page web article from a Bible-believing/creationist Methodist pastor, who will comment on the creation/evolution issue and how it has affected his denomination’s spiritual health.

5. USA Today: “Myths Widen the Science-Religion Divide

In June we discussed the work of Rice University sociologist Elaine Ecklund, whose survey of scientists revealed that, among other things, “the academy seems to have a ‘strong culture’ that suppresses discussion about religion in many areas.” Ecklund now weighs in on the topic in a USA Today opinion piece.

“Is a dialogue between science and religion possible—or even necessary?” she asks, adding, “If you are concerned about the advancement of science, you must ask yourself whether a dialogue between science and religion is worthy of promotion and engagement or staunch opposition.”

According to Ecklund, “the conversation between science and religion is besieged by misunderstanding and myths on both sides.” For example, she claims the religious falsely believe that all scientists are “atheists who are interested in attacking religion and the religious community.” Nevertheless, although half of scientists surveyed consider themselves religious, only a fifth are involved in a house of worship (including a church, temple, or a mosque).

She also reports that “evangelical Christians are quickly catching up and surpassing other religious groups in terms of education levels.” However, she cites no hard facts in her claim that “many young Americans may not be learning what they should about science because their religious upbringing poses a barrier.”

Ecklund’s findings do help shed light on misunderstandings concerning the social conflict between atheists, theologically liberal Christians, and others versus conservative Christians—commonly portrayed as “science versus religion.” But her caricature, as with so many others, incorrectly portrays science and religion as epistemologically “horizontal”: two ways of knowing that may be substituted, in whole or in part, for the other. Rather, a proper understanding of science and religion juxtaposes them vertically: one’s religious foundation (worldview) forms the logical basis for one’s perspective on science. Based on that, biblical Christianity provides a logical justification for science, while atheism fails to explain why we should trust scientific knowledge.

6. And Don’t Miss . . .

  • Adult stem cells are finding use in another medical therapy: removing plaque from arteries (in conjunction with nanoparticles). That marks yet another successful use (in pigs, at least) of adult stem cells, which do not require the destruction—and devaluation—of life, as do embryonic stem cells.
  • Spiders encased in amber: despite their alleged age of millions of years, they look quite like spiders today.
  • Is a gene responsible for sperm production 600 million years old? That conclusion, based on the fact that the gene was found across a variety of organisms, is “unexpected because many sex-specific genes, including other genes involved in sperm production, are usually under evolutionary pressure to change.” Couldn’t the commonality be better explained, then, by common design?

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