1. UCal–Santa Barbara: “The evolution of direct reciprocity under uncertainty can explain human generosity in one-shot encounters

What’s in it for me?

Evolutionists have long struggled to explain human generosity. Evolutionary dogma dictates that behavior patterns which “unnecessarily give up resources without return” should die out in favor of behaviors that “retain those resources” for self or family. Some have argued that other group dynamics are involved. But no model has explained the evolution of altruistic behavior toward complete strangers.

Psychological tests show that people tend to be generous to those they may meet again and also generally avoid cheating them. But those tests inexplicably show the same tendency with complete strangers even when the test-giver assures participants they will never again meet. Researchers at the Center for Evolutionary Psychology in Santa Barbara think they’ve figured it out. They point out that even when you’re sure you’ll never meet a stranger again, there is always a possibility you could be wrong.

They’ve programmed a computer simulation in which there is an unlikely but remote possibility of encountering a stranger again. Given that scenario, their computer calculated that the cost-benefit ratio of being nice, or at least of not being a cheat, came down on the side of being nice. Most simulated people got in the habit of being honest and generous because it paid off.

From a selfish point of view, you should avoid cheating anybody you might meet again. Because you never know who you might meet again, you logically should not cheat anybody. Since the laws of probability allow that you could eventually encounter the same people again, you are well-advised not to cheat others because long-term losses will outweigh short-term gains.

The researchers conclude that “human generosity, far from being a thin veneer of cultural conditioning atop a Machiavellian core, may be a bedrock feature of human nature.” They add, “Surprisingly, however, evolution favors a mind that does not follow the logic of economic maximization when cooperating, but rather one designed to be generous even when rational assessment indicates that one’s generosity will most likely never be repaid.”

What is being examined here is not evolution but the psychology of human nature. Human nature is inherently sinful, according to the Bible, yet the God-given conscience does prompt some genuinely unselfish behavior. At the same time, the study demonstrates that enlightened self-interest can motivate anyone to behave in socially acceptable ways.

This study should remind us of our sinful tendency to have ulterior motives. When a person receives salvation from Jesus Christ, the new nature begins to battle with the old. The Apostle Paul wrote about this frustration long ago when he said, “For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:22–24). As Christians, we can be confident that the Lord will eventually by His grace complete the work He has started in each of us, (Philippians 1:6) so we answer with Paul, “I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25).

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2. LiveScience: “Freaky Mutant Mouse Steals Genes to Resist Poison

How mighty mutant mice got their super-powers

Homeowners and farmers in Germany and Spain are losing the battle against the European house mouse. Poison-resistance is on the rise, and researchers reporting in Current Biology have found out why. The house mouse genome is receiving some unexpected foreign aid from Algerian mice.

These mice are different species, and no one thought they could successfully interbreed. “We are looking at two species that are 1.5 million to 3 million years removed,” Rice University biologist Michael Kohn says. The two species do coexist in Africa and Europe, but when they interbreed, all of the male hybrids and many of the females are sterile. Yet “that narrow window of a few fertile females must have been enough to leak DNA,”1 Kohn adds. The hybrid genome contains “a chunk of [Algerian] DNA that includes the resistance.” And now these rather robust fertile hybrids are getting to be a real problem.

Viewing this successful hybridization as a new and unexpected type of evolution, Kohn says, “For animals, we did not know that there seems to be another pathway how [sic] you can evolve, by adopting a gene from another species and incorporating it into your own DNA. . . . In microbes it’s quite well understood . . . but I don’t think anyone could have thought this type of thing could happen in animals.” He adds, “They are a little bit further apart than humans and chimps. That’s not a trivial amount in terms of breeding.”

The rodenticide warfarin, introduced in the 1950s, works by disabling the protein vkorc1. That protein is required to activate vitamin K. Without vitamin K, the rodent’s blood cannot clot and it soon dies. By 1964, warfarin resistance was appearing. A point-mutation on the gene which codes for the warfarin target area on vkorc1 can produce this resistance. Survivors are able to reproduce and pass this mutation on.

Algerian mice are generally warfarin resistant. They are thought to have had a vitamin K-deficient diet. If that was the case, those with the genetic ability to survive now possess and pass on the necessary “work around” to avoid warfarin death. Kohn’s group has discovered that the resistance in Algerian mice is provided by “adaptive protein evolution of vkorc1 . . . resulting in radical amino acid substitutions that apparently cause anticoagulant tolerance” along with other effects.2 The Algerian mice were able to adapt to a vitamin K deficient diet because they possessed the genetic information to do so.

The researchers were shocked that these two mouse species could successfully hybridize because they believed that millions of years of separation should have allowed sufficient genetic differences to accumulate to prevent successful crossing. As creationists, we are not quite so shocked, since we would expect these two species to be part of the same created kind.3 Thus after their ancestors emerged from Noah’s ark, multiplied, and spread abroad, only a few thousand years of segregation could have occurred. The genetic differences accumulated were not sufficient to make interbreeding completely impossible.

Kohn considers these mice to be even more different than chimps and humans. Yet the so-called similarity between chimp and human genomes is an example of impressive-sounding numbers describing a not-so-impressive reality. Biases in the methodology used to compare the genomes makes the similarity appear greater than it truly is.4 Furthermore, even if there really were a 99% similarity as some claim, there would still be a difference of at least 3 million base pairs. Read about more differences in Are Humans and Chimps Related? and If human and chimp DNA are so similar, why are there so many physical and mental differences between them?.

In the case of European and Algerian mice, however, the similarities are evidently greater than suspected, as evidenced by their successful hybridization. Natural selection favoring warfarin resistant hybrids and their successful procreation have produced a formidable rodent adversary. But no evolution of the sort required for molecules-to-man evolution has occurred. The hybridization provided the house mouse with new information, but it was new mouse information. The mice are still mice, just mightier than before.

3. Yahoo News: “ A Mosasaur Tail: How Ancient Reptiles Came to Rule the Oceans

A whale of a tale.

The mosasaur was a marine lizard, not a whale. But like the whale, evolutionists believe it started out—ancestrally speaking—without much in the way of swimming adaptations. Over 27 million years, researchers claim it evolved into such an excellent swimming predator that it ruled the seas.

Mosasaur fossils are found in the late Cretaceous layers of the geologic column. Evolutionists believe mosasaurs coexisted with dinosaurs from 98 to 65 million years ago and became extinct along with the dinosaurs at the K-T boundary. Johan Lindgren and colleagues from Lund University believe they have now traced the evolution of the mosasaur by analyzing its locomotion.

The group has accomplished this feat by carefully analyzing the skeletons of four varieties of mosasaurs. Since they don’t have soft tissue to examine, they assume the fins and tail structures were just like those of extant animals like sharks and sea snakes. Therefore, they filled in gaps with modern configurations.

Swimming patterns of living creatures range from the undulating pattern seen in sea snakes to the pattern seen in tuna wherein “the body is held somewhat rigid and motion is restricted to the posterior tail.”5 Although the authors admit morphology and swimming style do not always correspond, the undulating pattern is good for bursts of speed but not endurance. The more rigid pattern is generally suited for long pursuit in the open ocean.

Because there are four known types of mosasaurs, the authors believe these types represent evolutionary stages. By classifying the swimming style suited to the morphology of each, they assert that the mosasaur progressed through evolutionary stages of morphology as it climbed to its ocean throne. Whatever information is missing they add by inserting information from a suitable living creature. Thus they have “discovered” the “Incremental stages of major evolutionary transitions within a single animal lineage [such as] are rarely observed in the fossil record.”6

Carbon isotope analysis of tooth enamel suggested that each variety had a different sort of ocean habitat. [page 462, original article] Yet that fact is a logical consequence of the fact that each variety possessed adaptations suitable for its habitat.

The authors also noted that each variety tends to occupy a characteristic place in the geologic column. [page 462, original article] Yet that should not be surprising since, at the time of the global Flood, upheavals would have overwhelmed and buried mosasaurs in relation to their varying habitats and swimming abilities.

In reality, the authors have just lined up four varieties of mosasaurs in order of swimming ability. Neither segregation within the geologic column nor evidence of distinctive habitats proves the varieties evolved sequentially over 27 million years. They have not observed “incremental stages of major evolutionary transitions within a single animal lineage . . . in the fossil record.”

From a biblical point of view, the original mosasaurs were created fully functional on the fifth day of Creation week about 6,000 years ago. Given the genetic variability available within the mosasaur genome (and possibly variety from mutations after the Fall), varieties more suited to certain habitats may have emerged. Yet any new varieties were only a product of the genetic diversity available within the original created kind or kinds (or potentially from mutations after the Fall). These varieties would have lived at the same time, each in its most suitable habitat.

4. ScienceDaily: “Largest-Ever Map of Plant Protein Interactions

A cellular roadmap for the mustard plant reveals some secrets.

An international team involved in the Interactome Mapping Consortium has collaborated to map thousands of protein-protein interactions in Arabidopsis mustard plants and to correlate them with the genes that code for each protein. According to Joseph Ecker of the Salk Institute, “These data along with data from future ‘interactome’ mapping studies like this one should enable biologists to make agricultural plants more resistant to drought and diseases, more nutritious, and generally more useful to mankind.”

The team demonstrated a complex mechanism by which natural selection can influence the genome. They unveiled a way that plants increase their genetic diversity. And they were shocked to discover that pathogens attack the same complex targets in organisms even after “about a billion years of evolution.”

Proteins must work together for organisms to function properly. The researchers have identified 6,205 pairs of protein interactions for Arabidopsis, and they’ve only mapped two percent of the “interactome” so far. Plants engage in a lot of gene duplication. 1,900 of the interacting pairs of proteins appear associated with prior gene duplication. This process enables a plant to put the same protein to work in a lot of different places. “These gene duplication events apparently give plants some of the genetic versatility they need to stay adapted to shifting environments.”

Correlation of those protein interactions with the genes which code for them can explain complex inheritance patterns. The protein combinations which offer a plant the most survival advantages in its particular habitat will be naturally selected and passed on. In this way, of course, the genome is influenced and retains the most useful gene duplicates.

Believing that “plants have unique features that evolved in response to their environments and ecosystems,” the authors add, “We observe a dynamic rewiring of interactions following gene duplication events, providing evidence for a model of evolution acting upon interactome networks.”7 Although we would point out that there is no evidence to support the notion of the mustard plant evolving from or into some other kind of plant, the elucidation of the varying functions plant cells can accomplish by duplication-based rewiring explains much about the genetic diversity of plants.

The most surprising finding surfaced during analysis of the plant’s enemies. The bacterium Pseudomonas syringae and the fungus Hyaloperonospora arabidopsidis were found to target the same complex of interacting proteins in Arabidopsis. This was a shock to the researchers because evolutionists believe “these two pathogens are separated by about a billion years of evolution.” Without the possibility of an ancestral explanation, the researchers consider convergent evolution to be the only allowable answer. They say, “Pathogens from different kingdoms deploy independently evolved virulence proteins” which are specific for the same complex target.8

Yet it is only the researchers’ commitment to the notion of evolutionary time scales that makes this finding shocking. The biblical age of the earth has allowed only about 6,000 years for the organisms created in Creation Week to sort out and develop variations. And because all organisms operate with the same biochemistry, we should not be surprised to learn that the same protein complexes can be targets for different pathogens. Particularly, we would add, since those pathogens are not actually separated by a billion years of history.

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5. Christian Post: “‘God Particle’ Existence to Be Determined by 2012

The elusive god-particle teases physicists but tantalizes theistic evolutionists.

The so-called “god-particle” is in the news again. Physicists from the CERN Large Hadron Collider (LHC) reporting at the International Europhysics Conference on High-Energy Physics in Grenoble, France, have reported two “spikes in their data consistent with the Higgs boson.”9 (We reported a leaked memo discussing the first one here in April.) The physicists acknowledge the data could represent the real Higgs boson or just a computer glitch.

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 hypothetical particle has been dubbed the “god-particle” because it controls the nature of all other particles. The somewhat irreverent name was coined by physicist Leon Lederman and has nothing to do with proving or disproving God’s existence.10

Despite recent rumors, there has been no definitive evidence that there really is a Higgs boson. The LHC was built to smash atoms into their components hoping to find, among other things, evidence for the Higgs boson’s existence.

Many physicists are just excited to be getting closer to discovering whether or not the Higgs boson exists. “Discovery or exclusion of the Higgs particle, as predicted by the Standard Model, is getting ever closer,” CERN’s Director for Research and Scientific Computing, Sergio Bertolucci, said. “Both occurrences will be great news for physics, the former allowing us to start the detailed study of the Higgs particle, the latter being the first proof of the incompleteness of the Standard Model, requiring new phenomena to be happening within the reach of the LHC.”9

The Standard Model in particle physics predicts the existence of the Higgs boson particle. The Model is also used to support the big bang, a secular explanation for the origin of the universe.

Some people believe the LHC is re-creating the conditions purported to exist moments after the big bang. Therefore, they assume that discovery of the Higgs Boson would “prove” the big bang really happened. So while many particle physicists are enjoying their quest to better understand the nature of matter and energy, theistic evolutionist Dr. Karl Giberson of BioLogos Foundation has declared, “This experiment is one of the most significant of this third millennium . . . an extraordinary event for the Christian to contemplate.”

Ignoring the many flaws in big bang cosmology, Giberson says, “What is most exciting in this experiment is that it lets us push back a bit closer to that mysterious moment almost 14 billion years ago, when our universe emerged in the big bang. What the LHC might demonstrate is a piece of the grand puzzle: where does mass come from?” He adds, “If Christians can embrace the big bang theory, instead of inventing odd and implausible reasons to reject it, they will be drawn into a most wonderful world of grandeur that will greatly enlarge their concept of God.”

Creationist astrophysicist Dr. Jason Lisle points out, “Regardless of the outcome, the LHC will give us no reason whatsoever to believe that such conditions have ever actually existed. Just because something can be done today doesn’t mean it has ever happened in nature in the past.” The results will, however, give us another clue about the way God upholds the universe He created.

Here we see examples of two scientists and their two worldviews. On the one hand is Dr. Lisle who recognizes that no genuine scientific discovery will ever contradict God’s Word. He understands that the big bang idea is an interpretation that not only has scientific problems but also contradicts God’s Word.

Dr. Giberson, on the other hand, accepts big bang cosmology as fact and so has to compromise God’s Word (see how at Chapter 10: Does the Big Bang Fit with the Bible?) to fit popular secular notions. Apparently BioLogos Foundation exists to do this very thing—to compromise God’s Word to fit the popular ideas of the times.

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And Don’t Miss . . .

  • The movie Rise of the Planet of the Apes was released yesterday. A prequel to the Planet of the Apes saga, it explains how the apes evolved to surpass humans. Caesar the chimp, portrayed by actor Andy Serkis, is presented as “an unknowing, very innocent child” who exhibits human emotions and even learns to read and write. When Caesar “confronts humanity’s dark side,” he organizes a revolt. As in the original series, common ancestry between apes and humans is assumed as fact. The computer graphics giving Caesar extremely expressive human features reinforce that theme. Viewers should notice the whites of Caesar’s eyes, a human feature, along with other subtle human features and a suggestion of increased cranial capacity. One trailer shows a time when Caesar assumes a human gait instead of the side-to-side rocking ape-walk that a chimp must assume in order to walk upright. (The anatomy of the muscles and bones in the ape pelvis make this gait unavoidable.) Also, viewers should keep in mind that the genetic limitations of chimpanzees make the “evolutionary” advances depicted impossible. Read more about the real differences between humans and chimps at Are Humans and Chimps Related?, If human and chimp DNA are so similar, why are there so many physical and mental differences between them? and News to Note, July 9, 2011.
  • Neanderthals and “modern humans” coexisted in both time and geography, leading anthropologists to wonder why Neanderthals became extinct. To find the answer, Cambridge archaeologists surveyed a database of Neanderthal and H. sapiens sites in southwestern France. Modern sites outnumbered the Neanderthals 147 to 63. The modern sites were double the size of the Neanderthals even though dwelling sizes were comparable. The density of tools and animal bones—an indicator of meat consumption—were also about double in the modern sites. The researchers believe these factors indicate the modern humans outnumbered Neanderthals ten to one. They conclude that competition for resources likely drove the Neanderthals to extinction. Some anthropologists disagree, however, pointing out that the two groups may have utilized resources differently, eliminating mere competition as the cause of the Neanderthal demise. Since recent genetic evidence suggests the two groups interbred, we could say that although Neanderthal culture, like many other human cultures, mysteriously died out, their descendents are within us and among us, for we are all descendents of Adam and Eve. See also News to Note, May 21, 2011 and Recovery of Neandertal mtDNA: an evaluation.
  • The spring tide in southeastern Alaska unveiled a fossilized thalattosaur, a marine lizard traditionally dated to be 220 million years old. Time and tide wait for no man, so experts had only a few hours to excavate the fossil. They removed two huge slabs with rock saws and sent them on to Fairbanks for the arduous process of chipping out the skeleton. As the photograph shows, the fossil is “reasonably complete.” Hopefully the skull is hidden in one of the slabs. The thalattosaur group includes several species of lizards with an eel-like body and a long flattened tail. The few specimens found have all come from the Triassic layer, a distinctive part of the geologic column seen all over the world. The extensive fossil population and sedimentation pattern of the Triassic layer11 is consistent with its formation during the early part of the global Flood.
  • The rapid resolution of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has been a mystery, albeit a good one. The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute has figured it out. Bacteria “inside the slick degraded the oil at a rate five times faster than microbes outside the slick—accounting in large part for the disappearance of the slick some three weeks after Deepwater Horizon’s Macondo well was shut off.” The WHOI team had been pessimistic about the prospects of microbial clean-up because nutrients the microbes require—nitrogen and phosphorus—are scarce in the slick. These oil-eaters process the oil using cellular respiration to produce carbon dioxide and energy, but what they do with all that energy is another mystery. “They didn’t use it to multiply.” The bacterial population remained strangely stable, perhaps due to the lack of nutrients. WHOI was almost afraid to release the news, fearing oil companies would assume a cavalier attitude toward environmental protection. We must marvel that the microbes God created fulfilled their function by processing our debris, helping us clean up our mess.

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