Japan is still suffering from the effects of a devastating earthquake and tsunami that have taken more than 6,000 lives with over ten thousand more missing.
The 9.0-magnitude quake devastated much of the Tōhoku region of Japan, with the tsunami it caused washing away much of the wreckage from the quake—and causing new wreckage of its own. Since the horrific incident, the country has struggled to ensure survivors receive adequate food and shelter; meanwhile, workers are attempting to control overheating problems caused by the tsunami’s power disruption at the damaged Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.
National Geographic News provides a collection of twenty dramatic photos showing the extent of the damage and reminding us of the awesome power of geologic and hydrologic forces.
In the aftermath of any natural disaster, especially one so brutally and indiscriminately devastating as this, the cries “Where was God?” and “How could a loving God . . . ?” grow louder than usual. At Answers in Genesis, we are greatly saddened at the rising numbers of victims of this tragedy, and we pray for the well-being of the survivors.
But in answer to the question of how a loving God could allow such a tragedy, we point to the consequences of human sin—not the sin of Japanese people, but of one man, Adam. As the ancestor of all humankind, Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden is the ultimate cause of the death and suffering we see in the world today. God, in His holy character, could not allow sin to go unpunished, and the Curse of Genesis 3 marks the mortality of man and the harshness of the earth. All humans suffer the effects of the Curse, though some of its effects—like the tsunami in Japan or the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004—are more concentrated.
The good news is that our bondage to sin has been undone through the saving work of Jesus Christ, who bore our punishment on the Cross. Those who believe in Him are not condemned (John 3:18) but have eternal life (John 3:16). We pray that as a result of this tragedy, both tsunami survivors in Japan and the world that is watching will have another opportunity to hear this, the saving message of the Gospel and the reality of God’s love amid suffering.
(For more on this topic, see Massive Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan and “Lost” without Genesis: Coping with the “Death Wave”.)
Neanderthals were no novices when it came to wielding fire, new evidence suggests—evidence that adds to our understanding of Neaderthals as intelligent, modern humans.
Scientists from Leiden University and the University of Colorado–Boulder drew the conclusion after an exhaustive study of both archaeological sites in Europe and previous research on the use of fire in ancient Europe. By the end, the team had amassed data on 141 archaeological “fireplace” sites, listing the specific evidence associated with each site and assigning a confidence level to the historicity of each site.
Specifically, the scientists had the highest confidence that inhabitants had “control” of fire if the evidence at the location included two or more of the following: the presence of charcoal, heated stone artifacts, burned bones, heated sediments, and hearths. Old-earth dating methods used by the team suggest Neanderthals had continuous control of fire dating back to around 400,000 years ago—“yet another indication that they weren't dimwitted brutes as often portrayed,” the news release notes. Indeed, Neanderthals “may well have conserved and transported fire from site to site.”
“Until now, many scientists have thought Neanderthals had some fires but did not have continuous use of fire,” explained University of Colorado Museum of Natural History curator Paola Villa. “We were not expecting to find a record of so many Neanderthal sites exhibiting such good evidence of the sustained use of fire over time.”
The team also confirmed that Neanderthals used fire to make pitch (a substance familiar to creationists, thanks to Genesis 6:14) by burning the bark of birch trees in holes in the ground. (Pitch can be produced from trees by burning bark in the absence of air.) The pitch would likely have been used in toolmaking. “This means Neanderthals were not only able to use naturally occurring adhesive gums as part of their daily lives, they were actually able to manufacture their own. For those who say Neanderthals did not have elevated mental capacities, I think this is good evidence to the contrary,” Villa said.
Because of the old-earth assumptions used in the team’s dating methods, we can’t say that Neanderthals’ control of fire was “continuous,” but that may be safely assumed with the ample evidence of their intelligence. Moreover, the dating methods led the team to another conclusion, that early Europeans inhabited the cold north without the help of fire—a conclusion one scientist says is “difficult to imagine.” While the dates may be uncertain, the abundant evidence from this study and others is that Neanderthals, like all our human ancestors, were highly intelligent, not fundamentally different from any other Homo sapiens, and created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).
Creationists emphasize that genetic mutations have never been shown to generate new, beneficial information in organisms (and often have deleterious effects), which undermines Darwinists’ case. And mutations in the naked-neck chicken are no exception.
Sometimes called a “churkey or turken,” the naked-neck chicken lacks feathers on its neck, giving it a turkey-like appearance. Scientists led by developmental biologist Denis Headon of the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute have uncovered the genetic mutation and developmental process that results in this strange feature.
Naked-neck chickens first appeared in Romania several hundred years ago, and since then have become popular livestock in warm regions, as the birds tolerate heat better than other chickens and consequently produce better meat and eggs. Therefore, the mutation resulting in the chicken’s naked neck has been beneficial for the mutant birds.
But does the mutation add any information to the chicken’s genome? Headon’s team found that the mutation causes overproduction of a molecule called BMP12, which blocks feather production. Chicken necks seem especially sensitive to the effects of BMP12 because a particular acid, derived from Vitamin A and produced on the chicken’s neck skin, enhances BMP12’s effects.
Therefore the mutation, however beneficial, does not add any information to the chicken genome; it merely short-circuits some of the existing information to allow overproduction of a molecule the chicken already makes. Moreover, the acid produced on the chicken’s neck helps “prime” the bird for the effects of the mutation—enabling easy adaptation to warmer environments. “We think all birds have this priming or readiness to lose neck feathers first,” Headon explained, noting that ostriches also lack neck feathers. “Once you have a mutation that increases BMP12 in skin, the neck is the region that’s ready to lose its feathers.” But it’s clear that this mutation does not support Darwinism—and, by contrast, shows the hand of the Creator in helping creatures adapt to varying climates. Unsurprising, however, Headon concludes, “Evolution has always found it easy to lose neck feathers whenever it gets hot and the bird gets big” (emphasis ours).
The cellular slime mold might seem to be a lowly form of life—maybe just the sort that could conceivably have evolved from inanimate matter. But new research reminds us just how wrong such fanciful imaginings are.
In fact, it’s not even clear whether we should describe the cellular slime mold as an incredible creature or as incredible creatures. The slime mold can live as a unicellular organism, but when under duress, individual slime mold cells join together to behave in concert and build a multicellular organism-of-sorts. The multicellular slime mold grows a small spore-holding stalk to propagate the species.
Stanford University scientists have taken a closer look at the inner workings of slime mold cells. Their research shows that slime mold cells “have a tissue structure that was previously thought to exist only in more sophisticated animals.”
In animals, proteins help organize cells into “epithelial” layers, such that each cell touches other cells, but the cells together keep a complete surface open to the formation’s interior. These structures are found in many animal organs, such as in intestines, where the surface of cells helps to absorb nutrients; elsewhere, these epithelial layers can secrete substances into the hollow area. In the multicellular slime mold, the tissue secrets two proteins that help the stalk stay upright.
The scientists believe that this shows that “the ancient ancestor of slime molds and animals” must have had the two proteins. But common design seems to better explain how two distantly related forms of life, one of which appears quite simple, could share this complex cellular capability.
It’s the news that, in the mind of one of our critics, “proved” evolution.
The story begins with the discovery of the “amoebalike” Capsaspora owczarzaki living inside snails. Strange enough, that obscure microorganism is “one of the closest relatives to animals,” the Times declares as a starting point for discussing the supposed evolutionary transition of such unicellular creatures to animal life. But what the Times explains next is anything but a “proof” of evolution:
The origin of animals is also one of the more mysterious episodes in the history of life. Changing from a single-celled organism to a trillion-cell collective demands a huge genetic overhaul. The intermediate species that might show how that transition took place have become extinct. “We’re just missing the intervening steps,” said Nicole King, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California, Berkeley.
The article goes on to explain several lines of evolutionary research investigating the connection between single-celled life and animals, including a DNA study said to have shown that “[t]he cousins of animals turn out to be a motley crew.” So what’s the evidence supporting an evolutionary origin of animals?
Researchers also haven’t yet found an explanation for “another source of innovation” animals have called microRNA, which helps regulate genes and has not been found in what the Times calls “single-celled relatives of animals.” MicroRNAs are more frequent in animals with more cell types; sponges have just 8, while humans have 677.
To us, the case for Darwinian evolution is weaker than ever. The more scientists are able to research the inner workings of life, the more two things become obvious. First, life is incredibly complicated, even in the simplest cell; evolutionists’ explanations for the origin of that complexity continue to be little more than hand-waving and just-so stories. Second, however sophisticated our inner biology is, there is no evidence that over time and generations cells can make themselves more complex except in ways already coded for genetically. Both of these evidences are far more consistent with special creation than with Darwinian evolution. At the same time, the “evidence” of evolution is almost entirely evidence of similarity across forms of life—often with the help of an old-earth interpretation of the fossil record. But the old-earth interpretation is based on unprovable assumptions, and the similarity evolutionists see can be explained with common design just as well (if not better) than as with common descent. Until evolutionists recognize these arguments, their “proofs” of evolution will continue to fall short of convincing creationists—or anyone paying close attention to their claims.
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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