1. Nature: “German E. coli outbreak caused by previously unknown strain

Highly virulent strain of Shiga-toxin producing Escherichia coli continues to wreak havoc.

A deadly strain of enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) is causing an epidemic in Germany. At least 26 people have died, and more than 2,700 cases have been reported in 13 countries1 (including 4 in the United States2). Most are traceable to Germany. The source of the infection continues to elude epidemiologists.

EHEC are so dangerous because they produce Shiga toxin. Attacking blood vessels in the kidney and digestive tract, Shiga toxin causes bloody dysentery and hemolytic uremic syndrome. EHEC victims are treated with fluids and supportive care but not antibiotics, as these bacteria generally respond to antibiotics by increasing Shiga toxin production. (Experimental treatment with monoclonal antibodies3 is being tried.)

Thanks to the newest DNA sequencing technology, researchers sequenced the bacteria’s genome in record time and forwarded the results to laboratories worldwide. The germ has been identified as Escherichia coli O104:H4 (STEC O104:H4), a bug originally identified in Münster, Germany, in 2001, when it caused five infections. “Seven genes crucial to both bugs' survival are identical, as are 12 virulence/fitness genes.” However, “the 2001 bug likely swapped genetic material with other bacterial strains,”1 making it far more virulent than its cousin.

Alexander Mellmann of the University Hospital of Münster commented, “Everything we know so far indicates it is an evolved strain. If it was completely unknown, we’d struggle a lot more in our effort to fight it.”1 His statement calls to mind a common misconception about bacterial modifications and bacterial resistance. What he means is that the present bug is an identifiable bacteria which has changed in some way. If the bacteria had truly evolved, it would be changing into something other than E. coli. By comparing the genomes and behavior of the 2001 and 2011 bugs, researchers hope to track down its source.

The new version of 0104 has acquired genes for resistance to eight classes of antibiotics and to the mineral tellurium dioxide. Neither antibiotics nor tellurium are used to treat EHEC, but exposure to them has probably selected out those with these resistance patterns. Because tellurium was historically used in the treatment of tuberculosis and leprosy as well as in industry, an environmental source is possible. Strain 0104 is unknown in animals. So far food sources have remained the most suspect, but epidemiologic detective work has not produced any answers yet.

The antibiotic-resistance and tellurium-resistance patterns are not directly relevant to treatment. Rather, these characteristics provide clues to 0104’s source and ultimately to its history. Bacterial strains do not have to “evolve” resistance to antibiotics; they just have to survive when their non-resistant neighbors get killed off. Then those harboring genetic mutations conveying that resistance or resistance genes obtained from other bacteria,4 reproduce and pass on that information to the new population.

God created a good world in which bacteria were not harmful. The majority of E. coli strains are still beneficial. But many bacteria in this sin-cursed world have become pathogenic. As bacterial genomes get modified by mutations and genetic material received from other bacteria, new pathogenic strains emerge.

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2. Science magazine: “Why Mars Is a Planetary Runt

Mars is a runt because it formed quickly and was lucky enough to stay out of the way of on-coming traffic. So goes the latest step in the planetary shuffle.

Radiometric dating of Martian meteorites has always produced inconsistent results. The latest dating surprises have prompted creative additions to the nebular hypothesis. This theory about the origin of the solar system suffers from many inconsistencies.5 Among its problems, it fails to explain the disproportionately small size of Mars compared to Earth and Venus. The latest radiometric dating modifications are being used to explain why Mars is a runt.

Thousands of meteorites have been found over the years. Cosmochemists believe that around a hundred of these are from Mars because their chemistry matches the chemicals found in the Martian dirt and atmosphere. These rocks were presumably ejected from Mars as a result of asteroid collisions.

Scientists analyze Martian rocks with radiometric dating just as they do earth rocks. To explain their bizarre results, many have noted that extreme heat,6 exposure to acid,7 and impact heating (shock)7,8 can alter the actual decay rate or the decay rate calculations.9 The hafnium-182/tungsten-182 decay clock is one of the methods producing cryptic data. Therefore, planetary geochemists Nicholas Dauphas and Ali Pourmand have tried to find another isotope clock in non-Martian meteorites and use it to calibrate the Martian system.

The problem with the hafnium-tungsten dating method is thought to be that the Martian mantle’s chemical composition got altered by intense heat before recrystallizing as crust. Pieces of crust then got knocked into space, and some later fell to Earth as meteorites. In order to draw conclusions about the composition and age of Mars’s mantle from these meteorites, the researchers needed to find a way to recalibrate their clock so that they could trust its ability to “look back in time.” Dauphas and Pourmand found that hafnium-176/hafnium-177 decay mirrors that of the hafnium-tungsten system, but the hafnium system ratios do not get altered by heat. Therefore, they used their data to re-analyze the data obtained with hafnium-tungsten clocks. “They found that it took just 2 million to 4 million years to form Mars.”

The nebular hypothesis asserts that the solar system formed as dust orbiting the newborn sun stuck together to make tiny planets. Continuing to collide, some came together while others shattered. Scientists modeling this planetary dance have been unable to explain why Mars didn’t get bigger. Now they believe it grew for two to four million years and then stopped having collisions. Planetary dynamicist David Minton suggests that Jupiter wandered in close, pushed debris in Mars’s orbital path out of the way, and then moved back out with Saturn. “It seems crazy,” Minton says, but “there are all these ways of moving planets around early in the solar system’s history.”

One of the problems with the nebular hypothesis is the notion that colliding star dust would stick together rather than bouncing off or exploding on impact like the debris in Saturn’s rings. Instead, the story goes that planets grew by glomming onto the planetary embryos they bumped into, except of course when they disintegrated. This chaotic, anything-can-happen-in-a-collision scenario gets even more fanciful when planets must drift in and out of their orbits to make a way for little Mars to avoid any collisions that could make it grow but still allow the ones that knocked off the meteorites we’re finding on earth.

The creative nature of planetary dynamics is now augmented as the isotopic clock recalibration is gladly accepted into the solar system fairy tale. However, other recalibrations should be considered. Research has shown that the half-life of lutetium-176 is dramatically altered by extreme heat, changing from 41 billion years to just 8 days.10 If uniformitarian assumptions can fail dramatically in the face of heat, acid, and impact, might it not be wise to consider that none of these dates from meteorite dating are trustworthy? Instead, consider that God plainly told us the truth: on the fourth day He shaped matter into the sun, moon, and stars.

For more information:

3. ABC News: “Were Ancient Human Migrations Two-Way Streets?

Homo erectus . . . Out of Asia?

Archaeological findings in the Caucasus are upsetting human evolutionary dogma. Homo erectus fossils at Dmanisi are believed by evolutionists to date from 1.7 million years ago. Now a team has found over a hundred Homo erectus-associated stone artifacts in deeper layers dated at 1.85 million years. Such a time frame would mean Homo erectus in Asia predated Homo erectus in Africa.

Believing that the ancient occupants of the Dmanisi “are the first representatives of our own genus outside Africa, and they represent the most primitive population of the species Homo erectus known to date,” David Lordkipanidze of the Georgia National Museum adds that they “might be ancestral to all later H. erectus populations, which would suggest a Eurasian origin.”

The Out of Africa model and the Multiregional model are the rival models for human evolution. Both models stipulate that “pre-human” Homo erectus evolved in Africa and then colonized widely. (Homo erectus fossils have been found in Australia, Indonesia, and Asia from Siberia to the Caucasus.) The Out of Africa model, drawing on mitochondrial Eve data, asserts that Homo sapiens then evolved in Africa and spread out, replacing all previous “pre-human” populations. The Multiregional model asserts that the “pre-humans” went on to evolve into real Homo sapiens in many places, not just Africa.

If the evolutionary community were to accept the dates from this study of the Caucasus’s artifacts, the Out of Africa model would suffer. Either humanity’s ancestors would not have evolved in Africa at all, or Homo erectus would have had to colonize Eurasia, migrate back to Africa, evolve into modern humans, and then move out in all directions to replace itself.

Richard Potts of the Smithsonian urged caution. “The new evidence at Dmanisi consists of stone tools, not fossil bones. So we don't really know who the toolmaker was.”

Wil Roebroeks of Leiden University actually proposed an “Out of Asia” scenario for Homo erectus in 2005. Recommending continued investigation, he commented, “The Dmanisi evidence has forced us to have a good fresh look at some of our basic assumptions.”

Marvin Lubenow, creationist expert on human origins and author of Bones of Contention, maintains that the mitochondrial Eve interpretations are flawed.11 He also wrote that “Homo erectus is fast becoming the human evolutionist’s worst nightmare” (page 117, Bones of Contention). Although we do not have any genomic data on Homo erectus as we do for Neanderthals, this “pre-human” fossil’s transitional status has been threatened with every new fossil found. Homo erectus is morphologically human, differing from modern humans no more than Neanderthals do. Furthermore, the dates accepted by evolutionists for modern humans overlap their dates for Homo erectus, challenging the evolutionary paradigm requiring a superior population to out-compete and replace its less fit forebears.

Thus, even in the absence of genomic data, it seems reasonable to consider Homo erectus as human beings. Like Neanderthals, Homo erectus left abundant evidence of their ability to use tools, control fire, and bury the dead. Not all variations among humans have survived, but all descended from a literal Adam and Eve.12 As to the starting point of human migration, the Bible’s eyewitness account assures us that people spread out from the region of Ararat after the Flood to the plains of Shinar and then to the rest of the world.

For more information about Homo erectus see “Homo erectus: A Man for All Seasons” and “Homo erectus: All in the Family” in Bones of Contention by Marvin Lubenow.

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4. Nature: “Female australopiths seek brave new world

Smile, crunch the numbers, and make something out of nothing.

Analysis of strontium isotopes in South African hominid teeth has provided enough material to get published in Nature, but it took some creative statistical efforts. This study analyzed tooth enamel from two different species of hominids and determined that they had gender-related cultural patterns similar to modern humans and chimpanzees.

Minerals like strontium get concentrated in plants and the animals that consume them. The isotopes of strontium native to a particular location can thereby be permanently incorporated into the tooth enamel of children growing up there.

Enamel from the teeth of eight Australopithecus africanus and eleven Paranthropus robustus skulls were assayed for strontium isotopes. All the fossils were from the dolomite valley caves of Sterkfontein and Swartkrans. Strontium isotopes from the fossils were compared to the strontium isotopes present in 170 plants and animals that live in the region today.

On the evolutionary version of the human family tree, Australopithecus africanus and Paranthropus robustus are both considered distant relations of humans. The Austrolopithecus is supposedly on the branch that evolved into humans. The Paranthropus branch is considered an evolutionary dead end. Besides having different evolutionary destinies, these two non-human primates are believed to have lived at different times—2–3 million years ago and 1.2–2 million years ago, respectively.

Big teeth were assumed to belong to males and small teeth to females. When the species were analyzed separately, no patterns were significant. However, when all the data was pooled, “about 90% of the larger teeth looked local, compared with less than half of the smaller teeth.” One researcher told Nature, “we did have to combine these samples in order to get a valid statistical result.”13

The group believes “the behavioural patterns of our primate relatives” will help us understand the evolution of the human family. “The females grew up somewhere else,” says archaeologist Julia Lee-Thorp. She adds, “It's a very small clue, but it's something that is at least hard evidence for what we really didn't have before.”

Thus, fossils that aren’t even believed by the evolutionists to be on the same “human track” of the evolutionary tree or to have lived at the same time are being lumped together. Their enamel is then evaluated in comparison to isotope data obtained from modern flora and fauna—presumably unchanged over 2 million years. From this information, we are expected to get some hints about the origin of the human families.

This example illustrates that enough determined statistical gymnastics can make about any point you want. Some would call that a bit of a stretch.

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5. LiveScience: “Jaw-Dropping Similarity Found in Whales and Pelicans

Heads I win; tails I win—the beauty of convergent evolution.

A computer analysis comparing the bone strength of pelicans and whales is said to provide “compelling evidence” for convergent evolution. Because both pelicans and rorqual whales (such as blue whales and humpbacks) stretch their jaws wide to engulf large amounts of water along with their next meal, both need very strong jaws.

Daniel Fields of Yale analyzed CT scans and determined that “both species exhibit the exact same pattern of bending resistance.” Interpreting the data as “a pretty textbook example of convergent evolution,” he adds, “You have two unrelated animals contending with really similar selective pressures, which forces them to adopt similar adaptations . . . It's a really compelling example that has the potential to show you how evolution proceeds.”

Convergent evolution is the notion that when organisms whose ancestral paths do not cross possess a similar feature, they evolved that feature independently to cope with similar challenges. When organisms do possess some sort of homologous structures, then they are assumed to share a common ancestor. Thus, whether a common ancestor can be invoked or not, evolutionists have a convenient explanation available.

In this case, the fact that both animals possess bones strong enough to bend instead of break while gulping their food is taken as prima facie evidence for their evolution. They simply evolved their mighty gulps independently because they needed to. No mechanism offered. Nothing. This is not compelling evidence of how evolution proceeds. It is compelling evidence that both animals can eat lunch without breaking their jaws. How did they acquire that ability? God, their common Designer, used the same good design more than once.

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And Don’t Miss . . .

  • The Bible speaks of a fertile Middle East. Paleoclimatology confirms that those arid regions once had a rich landscape. So what happened? A new study by geophysicist Larry Vardiman, using the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) computer model, has demonstrated that the lush Middle East of the past can be fully explained by volcanic action associated with the global Flood. The mid-oceanic ridge, a permanent record of the catastrophic opening of the fountains of the deep (Genesis 7:11), extends into the Arabian Sea. While uniformitarian geologists maintain the ridge formed slowly, rapid volcanic activity would have been produced extreme heating of the oceans. Hot surface temperatures, when plugged into the WRF, simulate the conditions required for a lush Middle East. What a gracious blessing in the wake of the greatest judgment the earth has ever known! For more information see A Well-Watered Land: Numerical Simulations of a Hypercyclone in the Middle East.
  • A lengthy and accurate article on the future Ark Encounter (being designed by Answers in Genesis) appears on the front page today of the Kentucky Enquirer. It presents a good summary of what has been accomplished so far and what should be occurring over the next few months as AiG builds a full-size Noah’s Ark and eight other attractions in Northern Kentucky.
  • Dutch contractor Johan Huibers is building a full-size replica of Noah’s Ark near Rotterdam. He hopes to dock it at London during the 2012 summer Olympics. Huibers has previously built a half-size version. He is building the ark as a testimony to the literal truth of the Bible’s account of the global Flood. See our previous article about his previous, smaller-scale Ark: Johan Huibers and His Ark.
  • Inventors of a new technique to examine the crystalline graphite components buried in metamorphic rocks got quite a surprise. The “carbonaceous particles are millions of years younger than the rock in which they are found.” Study co-author Dominic Papineau said, “The carbon in the graphite is not as old as the rock. That can only ring a bell and require us to ask if we need to reconsider earlier studies.” This result is another reminder that radiometric dating methods are based on unprovable assumptions.
  • Physicists in CERN laboratory in Geneva report they’ve managed to generate over 300 antimatter particles and keep them trapped in a magnetic containment field for up to 1000 seconds. Antimatter14 has never been found in nature, but scientists believe the big bang had to produce it. Some people think that producing antimatter will confirm the big bang, but it will not. Scientists are only producing conditions they believe prevailed at the time of the big bang. Furthermore, doing something in a laboratory today in no way proves it happened naturally in the past.
  • Genomes of Columbian mammoths have been sequenced and found to overlap with the woolly mammoth genome. Columbian mammoths were larger than the woolly species and are found in temperate regions. Woolly mammoths are found in colder regions. All are extinct. Although evolutionary biologists have held that the Columbian mammoth migrated to North America 1.5 million years ago and the woolly counterpart only 400,000 years ago, they now readily conclude “they came into contact . . . at some point in their evolutionary history.” Obviously, more than their habitats had to overlap to achieve this hybridization. These mammoths, mastodons, and elephants represent different species within the same created kind. For more information, see Mammoth Genes Making a Comeback and News to Note, January 22, 2011.

For more information: Get Answers

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  1. online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304778304576373650243960700.html Back (1) Back (2) Back (3)
  2. www.CDC.gov/ecoli/2011/ecoliO104/ Back
  3. www.Nature.com/news/2011/110527/full/news.2011.332.html Back
  4. The Genesis of Pathogenic E. coli Back
  5. Chapter 3: Origin of the Solar System Back
  6. Billion-fold acceleration of radioactivity demonstrated in laboratory Back
  7. www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/News/2010/April/15041003.asp Back (1) Back (2)
  8. www.psrd.hawaii.edu/May10/YoungerALH84001.html Back
  9. Note: Woodmorape’s article (ref. 6) cites actual decay rate alteration due to extreme heat. The other reference articles (ref. 8 added June 24, 2011) refer to alterations in the ratios of the elements involved by means other than decay (recrystallization, impact heating, chemical reactions) thereby making the calculations inconsistent and uninterpretable. As stated in this article, the problem with the hafnium-tungsten system was thought to be in the latter group. Back
  10. www.AnswersInGenesis.org/tj/v15/i2/acceleration.asp Back
  11. The Neandertals: Our Worthy Ancestors Back
  12. Feedback: “The Search for the Historical Adam” and Population Genomics Back
  13. www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-13609260M Back
  14. News to Note, May 14, 2011 Back