1. Sciencedaily: “Evolution Can Cause a Rapid Reduction in Genome Size

Different genome size in two “related” species of cress (genus Arabidopsis) is called the result of a rapid evolutionary process.

Thale and rock cress plants supposedly shared a common ancestor 10 million years ago.

Since thale cress has five chromosomes and rock cress has eight, researchers are trying to figure out how they evolved from the same ancestor. Thale cress has 125 million base pairs with 27,025 genes. Rock cress has 207 million base pairs with 32,670 genes. About 80% of the gene sequences match up, but thale cress has 17% fewer genes, reports the source article in Nature Genetics 43:476–481.

The researchers conclude that the ancestral plant had a large genome similar to that of rock cress. They consider thale cress to be a more highly evolved, streamlined version of the plant, stripped of superfluous information.

Many of the sequences “missing” in the smaller genome are intergenic sequences and sections of transposable DNA. Intergenic sequences, sometimes called “junk DNA,” are not useless vestigial leftovers from evolution. They often regulate the genes that surround them. Transposable DNA sections are often found near mutation-prone hotspots which produce many variations in the organism. Reshuffling or eliminating these bits of DNA from a genome does not result in the evolution of a new kind of organism but just more variations within the organism’s “kind.”

Molecular clock calculations, also reported in the source article, assign thale cress an age of 3.1 million years and rock cress, 1.1 million years. Rock cress plants are said to have experienced “less natural selection because they are on average younger.” Molecular clock calculations assume constant mutation rates, compare two genomes, postulate the existence of a common ancestor, and back-calculate how long it would take the two modern genomes to have diverged from the hypothetical one. These calculations are very problematic because they assume that conditions have never caused the mutation rate to change and also use the presumed existence of a common ancestor to prove the age of the common ancestor.

Note that rock cress plants are thought to have a larger genome because they have experienced “less natural selection.” Natural selection does not produce new kinds of organisms. Natural selection allows the organisms with characteristics better adapted to their environment to survive and reproduce. Thus, if the thale and rock cress are in any way “related” to one another, they have not evolved; they merely represent different variations of the same biblical kind.

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2. Northwestern University: “Jurassic after dark: Did dinosaurs love the nightlife?

Big dinosaur eyes evolved because of the ecologically driven need to hunt food at night . . . so say researchers in a study from UC–Davis.

A bony ring limiting eye size is present in most lizards, dinosaurs, and birds. After measuring this ring in 33 dinosaur and flying reptile fossils, researchers concluded that animals equipped with larger eyes are more likely to be nocturnal. “Big eyes let in more light allowing animals to see in the dark” (www.sfgate.com).

Since many dinosaurs thought to be carnivorous had large eye rings, they concluded these carnivores hunted at night. The long-necked diplodocus, believed herbivorous, had small eyes more suitable to daytime activity.

The researchers’ conclusions challenge the evolutionary belief that nocturnal mammals evolved because carnivorous dinosaurs ruled the day.

The study made guesses about the behavior of extinct animals using “modern animals as a guide to see activity patterns.” Measurements were compared to those of modern birds. However, while structural features may suggest abilities a creature may have had—such as good night vision—conclusions about the animals’ behavior may still be wrong. For instance, large sharp teeth do not imply an animal is a carnivore. See Feedback: Distorting for Darwin?. And even if an animal became carnivorous in the post-Fall world, we know from Genesis 1:30 that it was originally herbivorous and later was able to adapt to a different diet.

The researchers concluded that the need to hunt at night caused carnivores to evolve large eyes. We, starting from the Bible’s eyewitness account in Genesis, conclude that God created animals with a variety of features which enabled them to cope with various environments. Those animals reproduced after their kind and did not change into different kinds of animals.

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3. USAToday: “Genetics journal reveals dark past

The dark history of human genetics illustrates the dangers of science misunderstood and misused.

The current Annals of Human Genetics reveals a disturbing skeleton in the closet of science. The journal chronicles how a number of respected scientists pushed for immoral social and political agendas on the basis of naive scientific conclusions.

Started by the renowned statistician Karl Pearson in 1925, the journal was originally called the Annals of Eugenics. It was to “devote its pages wholly to the scientific treatment of racial problems in man.” Many geneticists believed human “character, which they felt fully fit to judge, was inherited,” ignoring the myriad of other factors that influence an individual’s personality and abilities. Widespread acceptance of this “scientific” position led to social atrocities including forced sterilization, immigration restrictions keeping out the “unfit,” and Hitler’s genocidal horrors. Due to the unpopularity of eugenics after World War II, the journal changed its name.

As we move into the future of genetics, particularly in light of the human genome project, the journal sounds a solemn warning about the dangers of misunderstood and misapplied science.

“Eugenics is often dismissed as a crank movement energized by pseudoscience, but we need to bear in mind that science is in any day what scientists do and defend. The science of “eugenics fell squarely in the mainstream of scientific and popular culture,” it warns. “Many biology journals today have roots in the era.”

Science today is exalted as the source of infallible truth, but it remains as susceptible to error now as ever. Science is based on observations made by fallible human beings. And scientific conclusions are influenced by the biases of those making them.

To avoid being led astray by “what is falsely called knowledge” (1 Timothy 1:20), we must begin our thinking with God’s Word. Genuine truth, correct scientific conclusions, and truly good social policies will never violate God’s unchanging Word.

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4. ScienceNews: The eyespots have it after all

So with peacocks—the classic Darwinian example of sexual selection—do the eyes have it or not?

Darwin said that peacocks with the most impressive plumage reproduce most successfully. But do they? And if so, why?

Investigations concerning the second question have explored everything from survival disadvantages of highly visible, cumbersome plumage to a search for links between the immune system and feather quality.

This study re-explored the question of whether peacocks with more eyespots attract females better or not. Previous studies produced contradictory results. The present study found a threshold below which males could not attract mates. Researchers concluded there must be a multiple factors involved in successful peacock courtship.

At a molecular level, the evolutionary view of peacock plumage cannot answer the problem of irreducible complexity. In other words, impressive feather development requires so many factors, regulated by different genes, to be present at once that none of them could have evolved with a survival advantage individually.

Finally, if pretty peacocks successfully court lots of peahens and produce lots of pretty offspring, they have not advanced the cause of evolution at all because they have not produced a new kind of animal or even evolved new information. Their offspring are still peafowl whose genomes consist only of reshuffled peafowl genes.

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5. Washington Post: “Pope: Humanity not random product of evolution in Easter Vigil homily

The pope’s Easter message credits divine “creative Reason” for man’s origins but disputes God’s version of how He did it.

The pope claims that the creation account in Genesis is not “an account of the process of the origins of things, but rather . . . a pointer toward the essential.” Even though the “sweep of history established by God reaches back to the origins, back to creation,” he warns against accepting God’s account of those origins. Admitting that “Only because God created everything can he give us life and direct our lives,” he denies the source of that truth.

The pope bases his beliefs on mere human reason. He declares it is not reasonable to believe humans “evolved randomly.” Why? Because “life would make no sense.” By teaching that it is okay to “accept the theory of evolution” so long as you believe “that God, not random chance, is the origin of the world,” the pope is substituting his own fallible thoughts for God’s perfect Word.

The pope says “salvation history” must begin with creation because “the creation story is itself a prophecy” pointing to “new life” in Christ but considers that creation story unhistorical. Yet the Lord Jesus Christ validated its historicity when He warned “Have ye not read” in Matthew 19:4. And as Jesus warned in John 5:46–47, widespread disbelief in Genesis has been the stumbling block that has kept many from coming to saving faith in Him.

The pope’s message, mixing truth with error, contradicts and undermines God’s Word.

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6. Science magazine: “Pluto's Expanding Atmosphere Confounds Researchers”and UniverseToday.com

Pluto’s atmosphere is expanding dramatically.

Pluto is the only dwarf planet known to have an atmosphere. Its nitrogen-methane atmosphere, previously 60 km thick, has now swelled to 3000 km (1864 miles). It also contains some carbon monoxide.

Pluto made its closest approach to the sun in 1989. Astronomers expected that its atmosphere would diminish as it cooled when Pluto gained distance from the sun. Since the opposite occurred, it is possible that other factors have caused Pluto to absorb heat more efficiently, perhaps a darkening of the surface ice. Solar energy absorbed by the dark frozen surface may be the heat source now causing the atmospheric gases to expand. Another proposed explanation for the rapid expansion is interaction with the sun’s 11-year solar cycle.

These atmospheric changes likely represent a seasonal variation, but with a 248-year orbit, Pluto’s seasons will last for decades. NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft should reach Pluto by 2015 in time to make more observations of Pluto’s atmosphere before the nitrogen gas freezes for the 120-year winter.

Pluto was considered our ninth planet until a tenth one was discovered. Hundreds of other trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs) have since been found, including a few large enough to be called dwarf planets. Pluto was reclassified as a dwarf planet in 2006 because it is much smaller than any planet and shares its region of the solar system with many other similar sized TNOs.

And Don’t Miss . . .

  • Next week will mark the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Version of the Bible. Standing on the shoulders of giants, scholars translated from the original Greek and Hebrew while using earlier work translated by William Tyndale and others.

    This news article addresses the contribution the KJV’s majestic language has made to everyday speech. But we should remember that the KJV represents the culmination of the efforts of countless individuals who for centuries suffered persecution, often death, for even possessing Bibles, much less sharing Bibles with others or translating them. In a world where 600 million people still do not have God’s Word in their language, we should not take for granted the heritage of possessing an English Bible, allowing it to get dusty from disuse or twisting its teachings to fit man’s fallible ideas. Let us be diligent to read it, study it, believe it, and build our thinking on it from the very first verse.

  • Has the “god particle” made a fleeting appearance at the Large Hadron Collider? A leaked memo hints that the long-sought Higgs boson may have been detected. Hoax, statistical anomaly, or genuine data awaiting confirmation—no one knows.

    The Higgs boson, which may or may not exist, is the subatomic particle believed to impart mass to other particles. Its existence would explain why subatomic particles have rest-mass but photons do not. The particle has been dubbed the “god-particle” because it controls the nature of all other particles. For more information on the “god particle” and the Hadron Collider see Beams Collide Today in Expensive Hadron Collider.

  • A white ram named Rowley recently sired 60 black lambs from 37 white ewes. While the black lambs have no doubt surprised the owners, the Daily Mail’s report that white fleece is dominant and black recessive is a little too simplistic: fleece color is controlled by many genes. While a pair of recessive genes is required for solid black, other genes produce patterns, patches, or graying. The lambs in the photographs appear to have white patches and therefore have not been the mysterious recipients of “rogue genes.” Test breeding the ram would elucidate the matter further as would information about his ancestry.
  • Researchers speculate that planets on exoplanets might be black in order to absorb the solar energy available from the star—or stars—around which they orbit. The documented existence of many planets orbiting stars other than our sun is no problem for creationists. But the problematic assumptions for evolutionists are clearly stated: “The research presumes first that plant life similar to that on Earth could evolve on an exoplanet in the ‘habitable zone’ around its star - which is not a given, but the odds of which are difficult to estimate. The idea then is that photosynthesis there would resemble that seen on our own planet, whereby plants use energy from the Sun.”

    Actually the odds are not difficult to estimate. The odds are zero. Evolution has not happened there or here. But if God did choose to create plant life elsewhere, He could certainly create photosynthetic machinery designed to glean whatever form of solar energy was available in that setting.

  • The SETI project facility at Mount Shasta is to be shut down due to lack of funding. Previously, funding has come through NASA, private support, and direct government grants. Needing $5 million dollars to operate for the next two years, project directors plan to seek government support via the Air Force. SETI projects monitor space for orderly coded signals suggestive of an intelligent source.

    Because information from the satellite-mounted Kepler telescope recently revealed 1235 more exoplanets, many who believe in evolution are distressed. They contend that the odds are great that some of those planets have earth-like conditions requisite for the evolution of life. Belief in cosmic companions springs from such evolutionary presuppositions.

  • “The navigational precision of humpback whales” tracked over a 600-mile migration “cannot be explained by known theories,” concludes a New Zealand study. Migratory creatures are usually thought to navigate using an internal compass aligned with earth’s magnetic field, but researchers believe it “unlikely” the whales could achieve the precision to deviate less than one degree using that method. We can be confident, like the scientists, that there is a yet-to-be-discovered physical explanation for this ability. We can also be confident that God designed the whale with this phenomenal ability.
  • The largest fossilized spider ever found is the same size as its “modern-day relatives.” This golden orb-weaver spider, found in volcanic ash in Mongolia, has a one-inch body and 2.5 inch long legs. The spider is alleged to be 165 million years old. Of course, this date was determined by dating the rocks in which the fossil was found.

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