1. PhysOrg: “Darwin’s Theory of Gradual Evolution Not Supported by Geological History, Scientist Concludes

The fossil record doesn’t agree with Darwinian evolution: are evolutionists finally catching up to this long-time creationist claim?

Not quite, we’re afraid; in this case scientist Michael Rampino, a geologist at New York University, has argued that the fossil record is more compatible with a history of evolution punctuated by rapid post-catastrophe evolution rather than Darwin’s slow-and-gradual version. The argument is presented in the journal Historical Biology.

Rampino argues that the importance of extinctions in (evolutionary interpretations of) the fossil record shows that the process of evolution was more similar to that described by Patrick Matthew. Matthew, a Scottish horticulturalist who was a contemporary of Darwin, published the idea of evolution by means of natural selection nearly thirty years earlier than Darwin did; however, the idea was not widely publicized and Matthew’s contribution to the development of the idea was never widely known.

What makes Matthew’s ideas distinct from Darwin’s is the role of “catastrophic mass extinctions followed by relatively rapid adaptations,” explains Rampino. “In light of the recent acceptance of the importance of catastrophic mass extinctions in the history of life, it may be time to reconsider the evolutionary views of Patrick Matthew as much more in line with present ideas regarding biological evolution than the Darwin view.” (In some ways, this is similar to the more modern evolutionary idea of punctuated equilibrium.)

For creationists, Rampino’s conclusion is interesting for two key reasons. First, it deals yet another blow to the widely dismissed idea of millions of years of slow, steady, gradual evolution. Of course, this evolutionary perspective leaves less room for evidence of evolution in the fossil record, since it suggests that biological development happens rapidly—“faster” than can be captured by a supposedly slowly forming fossil record. Second, Rampino’s work reminds us that even most evolutionists now recognize the fossil record as primarily a record of catastrophes, both local and global—quite similar to creationists’ views chalking most of the fossil record up to the work of the global Flood.

2. New Scientist: “Earth May Have Had Water from Day One

“In the beginning, there was water.” It’s not quite Genesis 1:1–2, but the conclusion of a new study does line up with the Genesis account.

Where did all of earth’s water come from? Scientists led by University College London computational chemist Nora de Leeuw aimed to answer that question. Specifically, the team’s work targets a major “puzzle” for those who believe our planet formed through “evolutionary” processes: how could earth have held on to liquid water during the super-hot formation of the solar system?

Previously, scientists have suggested that comets or asteroids brought water to an otherwise dry earth millions of years after it formed. One problem with this idea, however, is that earth’s chemical makeup doesn’t match most comets’—which would be expected if enough comets (or asteroids) crash-landed as to fill earth’s oceans.

But in a simulation, De Leeuw’s team showed that dust particles on the early earth could have held on to water molecules even at temperatures as high as 630˚C (1,166˚F), meaning that earth wouldn’t have simply been “boiled dry” in the beginning. One of the researchers, University of Arizona’s Michael Drake, notes that “[Q]uite possibly most of” earth’s water could have been here from the start.

Of course, the simulation, which was based on old-age presuppositions about planetary formation and earth history, doesn’t confirm the biblical account of creation. Genesis teaches that the earth was originally covered in water, with dry land only appearing on Day 3 of Creation Week. Moreover, the earth existed before the sun or other planets, an idea totally incompatible with evolutionary ideas. Nevertheless, it’s interesting that old-earthers are finally concluding that the early earth was (at least partially) “wet,” which is quite different from the long-held evolutionary notion of the early earth as nothing more than a mass of molten rock.

3. ScienceNOW: “Neandertal Brains Developed More Like Chimps’

Talk about insulting: our Neanderthal kin/ancestors, who have already taken years of unfair abuse, are now having their brains compared to chimps’!

The evidence has been overwhelmingly clear: there’s no reason to pick on Neanderthals as half-wits. From their methods of tool-making to the size of their brains, Neanderthals were clearly as “modern” as the next human. And because their DNA is found in many Europeans today, it’s doubtful (especially to creationists) that Neanderthals constituted a clearly defined subgroup of humanity.

Even so, popular perception has made “Neanderthal” a derogatory term, and new research from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology threatens to reinforce that inaccurate view. Scientists at the institute examined a number of CT scans of human and chimp brains in various stages of development, comparing the process of development in different parts of the brain. One major difference the team uncovered is how quickly the parietal and temporal lobes and cerebellums of the human brain develop in the first year of life. Among other processes, these regions influence speech and social interaction, two areas that clearly distinguish humans from chimps.

Because researchers cannot examine Neanderthal brains, they examined the imprints of brains on the inside of nine Neanderthal skulls, including a newborn’s and a one-year-old’s. The team concluded that Neanderthal brain growth did not encompass the same quick development of the parietal, temporal, and cerebellum areas as in the other human brains studied. “Although they have the same brain size as us, Neandert[h]als missed something that humans got in the first year of life,” one researcher explained, suggesting Neanderthals may have been inferior at language and complex social behavior.

Not so fast, says University of Zurich anthropologist Marcia Ponce de León, who criticizes the study’s small Neanderthal sample size and notes that the newborn Neanderthal’s skull was incomplete. However, the researchers respond that modeling human brain growth with slower parietal, temporal, and cerebellum development results in adult brain shapes that look like Neanderthals’, and that they’ve “confirmed their findings in a second, more complete Neandertal newborn.”

The two biggest problems, of course, are that there are neither extant Neanderthal brains nor living Neanderthals to study, both of which render the team’s conclusions highly speculative. Given the evidence that Neanderthals were intelligent and social (with evidence of behaviors far more sophisticated than chimps’), one wonders how severely their skills could have been handicapped. It is, however, theoretically possible that Neanderthals, as a group, had a condition that affected their speech and/or social interaction, or that the studied individuals had such a condition.

4. PhysOrg: “Oldest Fossil Shrimp Preserved with Muscles

Scientists at Kent State University and Ohio University have discovered the oldest known shrimp fossil. And—no surprise for young-earthers—it looks like it could have been formed yesterday.

The fossil, found in Oklahoma and dated at 360 million years old, is considered important not only for its alleged age, but also for its detailed preservation: even the outline of the shrimp’s muscles were preserved in stone, something that’s relatively rare.

Kent State paleontologist Rodney Feldmann explains, “When the animal died, it came to rest on the seafloor. The muscles then were preserved by a combination of acidic waters and a low oxygen content as the animal was buried rapidly.” The theme of rapid burial comes up again and again with well-preserved fossils, collectively attesting to catastrophic forces in creating much of the fossil record.

As for the creature itself, ScienceNOW carries a photograph of the fossil juxtaposed with a modern shrimp. As we said, despite a supposed 360 million years of evolutionary history, the shrimp looks as if it could have been fossilized yesterday.

5. ABC News (U.S.): “Atheist Ministers Struggle With Leading the Faithful

In a story that reveals just one of the many dark consequences of extracting the Bible from culture and supposed reality, we learn about pastors who no longer believe in God.

“Reading the Bible is what led me not to believe in God,” one pastor, who now describes himself as an atheist, told ABC News. “Jack,” as the report refers to him, is a Southern Baptist pastor who has spent more than two decades in ministry. He explains, “I spent the majority of my life believing and pursuing this religious faith, Christianity. And to get to this point in my life, I just don’t feel like I believe anymore.”

Sadly, Jack points to questions he had about the Bible as the root of his atheism. “The more I read the Bible, the more questions I had. The more things didn’t make sense to me—what it said—and the more things didn’t add up.” He specifically named the account of Noah’s Ark as one of the passages that tripped him up, calling it “improbable.”

Another pastor, pseudonym “Adam,” says, “I live out my life as if there is no God”—a telling statement given that he also claims we can’t “prove that there is not a God.” He also notes that he “live[s] no differently than [he] did when [he] was a fervent believer.” For Adam, it was the work of atheists like Richard Dawkins that drove him away from the faith. He claims that before reading Dawkins, he had “never really looked at secular teaching or other philosophies.”

Both Jack and Adam told ABC News that they now prefer to teach from passages in the Bible that they still believe in, such as passages emphasizing good behavior. They would leave the ministry, but the current economy prevents that, they say.

We are greatly saddened by stories like Jack’s and Adam’s, especially given that doubts about the truth of the Bible are at the center of their stories (given that the “new” atheists spend much of their time attacking God’s Word). That’s why it is crucially important for the entire church to learn why the Bible can be trusted on all topics it addresses, from Noah’s Ark to the existence of God, which is at the heart of our mission.

And Don’t Miss . . .

  • How do mammal brains develop? New research into the “complex patterns of connections in the brain” suggest neurons “are capable of self-organizing with mathematical precision,” which sounds to us like evidence for a creative designer—not chance processes.
  • Related to our story last week on parthenogenesis in a snake is news of a self-cloning lizard species that is entirely female.
  • It’s finally happened: scientists at the Large Hadron Collider have “reproduced” the big bang, creating a super-hot subatomic explosion that some think will shed light on how the big bang supposedly worked. Of course, the experiment does nothing to actually prove the big bang was a historical event.
  • Are the basic building blocks of human eyesight “practically perfect”? That claim contradicts what evolutionists frequently say (giving our eyes as an example of “bad design”), but it’s one of the points of a New York Times article on the incredible workings of life. “You might say, well, the human body is sloppy, but no, we’re better designed than any robot,” says one of the quoted researchers.
  • A reminder of the beauty of God’s creation: starling “murmurations”: complex patterns made by flocks of flying birds that still elude a full scientific explanation.
  • The idea that life on earth was “seeded” from space hits several obstacles, but some scientists think one—steller radiation—might matter less than was thought. Nonetheless, one scientist is candid: “It must be admitted that all versions of panspermia suffer from a hole in our knowledge, concerning how to go from an astrophysically delivered entity which contains substantial information to one which has the characteristics of what we normally regard as life.” Yet these scientists, who hold onto the hope that as-yet undiscovered alien life somehow survived on earth and evolved into us, think creation is a stretch?

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