Ark Encounter sails forward in Kentucky.
[Editor’s Note: This news item has been updated as of February 16, 2012, to reflect the current status of the Ark Encounter project.]
As reported nationwide this past week in a syndicated Associated Press article picked up by dozens of newspapers and websites, the Ark Encounter themed attraction is tentatively scheduled to break ground in a few weeks.
In addition to a full-size Noah’s Ark, the Ark Encounter has planned other phases that include a replica of the Tower of Babel, a first-century village, and other attractions. Designed by Answers in Genesis (host of this News to Note feature), most of the Ark Encounter will be financed by private equity in an LLC, while the cost of the Ark itself will be funded by AiG through donations and boarding pass sales. Thanks to Kentucky’s excellent program of tax incentives designed to promote the development of tourism in the state, the project will be located in the northern part of the state and in the same region as AiG’s Creation Museum.
While the AP article was accurate, it would have been more complete and less confusing to the reader if the piece explained the nature of the tax incentives. Most readers* will jump to a wrong conclusion that the Ark Encounter will take money from the state budget and thus is taxpayer funded. In reality, the only taxpayer involved is the person who chooses to visit the Ark and pays sales tax there (e.g., on tickets, food, etc.), and if the Ark reaches certain attendance milestones, then a part of the collected sales tax will be rebated to the Ark. In the end, the state will see added revenue because of the Ark Encounter’s presence in Kentucky, not only because of the sales tax it will retain, but also through the revenue generated by new businesses and new jobs the Ark will help create in the region. (See this article for details on the funding of the project: Feedback: Taxpayers Will Not Be Paying to Build the Ark Encounter.)
*Indeed, the very first posting to our hometown newspaper’s website which offered comment on this AP article revealed the confusion such a piece can create: “I also don't understand how public tax money can be used for the promotion of this kind of religious agenda.”
Dawn over Vesta expected to shed light on ancient origins
NASA’s Dawn space probe, after an almost four year trip, is now orbiting Vesta—one of the largest objects in the asteroid belt. Dawn will orbit Vesta until next year and then move on to the dwarf planet Ceres. Vesta and Ceres are the most massive bodies in the asteroid belt located between Mars and Jupiter. Dawn’s mission is to determine their actual mass, analyze their geological composition, and gather data for detailed topographical maps.
Ceres and Vesta are thought by many scientists to be protoplanets leftover from the rubble of the solar system’s formation. Their geological make-up is probably very different. Vesta is believed to have a metallic core and a history of volcanic activity. Vesta also has a massive crater near its south pole. Debris from this crater is thought to have reached Earth in the form of about 200 meteorites.
Three types of meteorites are believed to have come from Vesta: howardite, eucrite, and diogenites. All are crystallized from magma. Vesta is extremely bright, and these HED meteorites reflect light in the same way as Vesta’s surface, leading investigators to suspect the missing chunk of Vesta is their source. Equipment on Dawn should be able to determine the mineral and elemental composition of Vesta’s surface to a depth of about one meter. This information can be compared to the composition of the HED meteorites.
“We are beginning the study of arguably the oldest extant primordial surface in the Solar System,” said Dawn's principal investigator Christopher Russell. “The images received to date reveal a complex surface that seems to have preserved some of the earliest events in Vesta's history, as well as logging the onslaught that Vesta has suffered in the intervening eons.”
Russell refers to Vesta as the “oldest extant primordial surface” because radiometric analysis of HED meteorites has been interpreted to indicate that Vesta finished accreting in the first 5–15 million years1 of the solar system’s existence and spent the rest of its history getting remodeled by volcanic activity and collisions.
Radiometric dating of meteorites is the source of the estimated 4.6 billion year age of the solar system. In addition to the unproveable nature of the assumptions underlying these dating methods, such an age is in conflict with a variety of other observations about the earth and space.2 Furthermore, the nebular hypothesis explanation of the solar system’s origins has serious problems such as its failure to accurately account for angular momentum and the improbability that bits of debris would accrete together to form asteroids and planets.
Data coming from Dawn will be giving us information about Vesta’s present composition and allow us to make some guesses about the volcanic activity and collisions that have literally shaped it. But statements about its age or the events occurring during the birth of the solar system will be based on assumptions that should not be accepted as factual.
Faith in the multiverse
The “anthropic principle”—the idea that the physical features of our world are ideally suited for life on earth—has been an annoyance to those who believe that our universe and life on earth are products of random processes. Indeed, it has been difficult to explain even the physical constants of the universe without resorting to some sort of “intelligent design” position. Multiverse to the rescue!
The notion that parallel universes exist is not a new idea. The latest versions of the multiverse concept postulate that there exist other realities in which even the physical laws which govern our universe are different. Thus, given enough time and enough realities, random processes could result in absolutely anything. And the random processes which produced “us” are just the only ones we know about.
Recent articles in Scientific American have explored various scientists’ opinions on the multiverse issue. Those that oppose the possibility must necessarily do so on the basis of the physics in this universe. Those who accept the possibility can argue from an “anything goes” position in which the only rules which exist are those they choose to imagine. Thus the multiverse would be completely untestable based on any scientific principles.
The latest Scientific American article tries to recruit the inflationary hypothesis3 espoused by big bang cosmologists to scientifically demonstrate that multiverses should exist while still allowing that the absence of evidence for their existence is equally okay. After all, enough time may not have passed, the writer reasons, for the big-bang-generated bubble which represents our universe to have bumped into other reality bubbles!
The Scientific American article concludes that those who reject the multiverse’s existence are arrogantly claiming to be omniscient or at least capable of intuitively understanding all physical realities. Then it appeals to the inflation paradigm on which current big bang cosmology depends (as if either the inflationary hypothesis or the big bang were proven facts) and uses it as scientific support for the multiverse.
The multiverse question must of necessity be a matter of faith, and not even the kind of faith held by Bible-believing creationists who are able to see that no valid indisputable scientific observations violate God’s Word. Yet reputable secular scientists are able to freely discuss their faith-filtered scientific opinions on the multiverse question while mocking the positions held by creation scientists.
The article equates faith in the Bible’s account of creation with faith in “comfortingly familiar childhood notions like Santa Claus, local realism, [and] the Tooth Fairy.” How curious that the scientifically supportable information in the Bible is mocked while faith in a multiverse—by definition allowed to violate any scientific laws—is respected! While multiverse notions make good fodder for sci-fi, we need to remember that the idea represents one more effort to randomize God out of the reality human beings must face in this world and the next.
Turtles in search of their long lost ancestor discover genes trump holes in the head.
Evolutionary paleontologists and biologists have always found turtles confusing. Turtles are reptiles, but a confusing array of anatomical and fossil data has left them in a clade by themselves. (A clade is a group of organisms thought to be descended from a common ancestor.) Now geneticists are suggesting a molecular tie-breaker.
Members of the diapsid clade are defined by the presence of two large temporal holes in each side of the skull, providing pathways for strong jaw muscles to attach. Crocodiles, lizards, snakes, and dinosaurs qualify for membership on this basis. Birds have gained membership even though they have the wrong kind of skull because evolutionists have decided they descended along the reptile evolutionary branch.
The shell is not the turtles’ only evolutionary puzzle. Lacking temporal skull holes, turtles don’t seem to fit into the diapsid clade. Turtle fossils are dated by evolutionary paleontologists to the Triassic period 230 million years ago, and fossilized turtles look just like today’s turtles. Thus, there is no fossil evidence to gain the turtle diapsid membership. To account for this discrepancy, evolutionists have presumed a common reptile ancestor predated even the diapsids.
But turtles may be the next group to get unambiguously promoted to diapsid after all and even linked to lizard cousins. Previous genetic studies have suggested turtles were diapsids though they lacked temporal holes. A new genetic study reported in Biology Letters offers “unambiguous evidence” based on microRNA, according to molecular paleobiologist Kevin Peterson.
MicroRNA molecules are not involved in protein production but instead regulate the expression of many genes. Genes which appear to be common to different organisms can be regulated by specific microRNA molecules, resulting in major morphological differences. Evolutionists believe that new microRNA molecules can evolve over millions of years, and they maintain that “once established in a clade they are rarely lost.”
The latest work found that “turtles and lizards share four unique miRNA gene families that are not found in any other organisms' genome.”4 Thus researchers are now confident that turtles and lizards are closely related and that their common ancestor lost its temporal holes during millions of years of evolution.
As the Common Designer of all things, God created the various kinds of organisms during the creation week, each fully functional and mature. Many creationists believe there were two created kinds of turtles, and over the past 6000 years “turtle populations have lost genetic information through natural selection and mutations, so the turtles preserved by the Flood—and those we find today—are more diverse than the original created turtles, and may well be missing some features.”5 There is no fossil evidence, of course, to suggest that turtles (or even any non-existent pre-turtles) ever had any temporal holes to lose. Furthermore, as the Common Designer, God could utilize bits of regulatory genes in more than one kind of creature without having those creatures share a common ancestor.
Incidentally, while microRNA is being used in this instance to support the notion of a common ancestor, we’d like to point out the enormous differences in the microRNA found in chimps and humans. A 2006 study of human and chimpanzee brains discovered 51 microRNA molecules unique to humans and 25 unique to chimps,6 yet one more reminder of the differences Christ our Creator (Colossians 1:16) built into the unique biological designs of humans and chimps.
Precise measurements of distortions in cosmic microwave background radiation (CMBR) are now being used to redraw the cosmic map of ancient deep space.
Data from the Atacama Cosmology Telescope have been analyzed in an effort to locate faraway galaxies. The mass in those galaxies is believed to have caused gravitational distortion of the CMBR’s inherent small irregularities. Since secular astronomers believe the light being observed required billions of years to reach earth, they interpret their findings as a map of the universe-that-was.
CMBR is a very uniform type of radiation emanating from all directions in outer space. NASA’s Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe detected extremely tiny fluctuations in CMBR thought to represent slight temperature variations. Astronomers using the Atacama telescope have statistically analyzed the way these fluctuations vary and determined that the pattern of their distortion indicates the locations of distant galaxies. This method of locating galaxies is called gravitational lensing.
Since big bang cosmology predicted that CMBR would be leftover from the explosion, the 1965 discovery of CMBR was interpreted by many as proof that the big bang happened. Later measurements showing the relative constancy of CMBR temperature throughout the universe presented problems for the big bang idea, since even big bang estimates of the age of the universe do not allow enough time for CMBR temperature to reach a steady state. While the discovery of CMBR caused many astronomers to choose the big bang from the menu of available secular theories of the universe’s origins, it did not prove the big bang happened.
Another problem unexplained by the big bang was discovery that the universe is expanding at an accelerated rate. Secular cosmologists therefore postulated the existence of undetected dark energy to fuel such expansion and calculated that at least 70% of the universe consists of dark energy. The research derived from Atacama, reported in Physical Review Letters, also claims to have proven the existence of dark energy. Yet once again, discovery of something predicted by a particular model does not prove that model is accurate. Furthermore, neither dark energy nor CMBR is a problem for creation cosmology models.
The latest technique may be building a more accurate cosmic map—or not. We should realize that the interpretation of the data depends on many assumptions. It assumes that the tiny fluctuations in the CMBR result from slight density variations in the explosive products of the big bang. In fact, big bang cosmologists postulate that these tiny irregularities in density were the gravitational “seeds” around which galaxies formed. Big bang believers exclude the possibility that those tiny fluctuations could be caused by intervening material because big bang cosmology needs those tiny fluctuations to provide a way for the galaxies to have formed. Thus the technique demands that the tiny fluctuations be an inherent feature in the CMBR but that apparent distortions of those fluctuations must be caused by the gravitational pull of galaxies. The technique further assumes that the CMBR is coming from far beyond the farthest galaxies, an assumption which cannot be proven one way or the other.
Secular astronomers who adhere to non-big bang ideas have pointed out that the big bang depends on the existence of a number of heretofore undiscovered entities, including dark matter and dark energy. Yet, like the discovery of CMBR, discovery of dark energy (if the latest results are being interpreted correctly), would not prove the big bang actually happened.
Summing up the meaning of CMBR, creationist astrophysicist Dr. Jason Lisle says, “The CMB is a lot like an inkblot test; what people ‘see’ in it is far more indicative of their own biases and assumptions than anything about the universe.”
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