Lungfish lurch and shimmy to show the way up the evolutionary ladder.
Lungfish—lobe-finned air-breathing fish—are considered by evolutionists to be the closest living relatives of the ancestral creatures they think evolved to bring vertebrate life to land. Fossils don’t walk or swim, so evolutionary biologists at the University of Chicago designed a specialized tank to film lungfish locomotion. They analyzed the video hoping to learn how ancestors of terrestrial vertebrates evolved the ability to walk.
The lungfish species they examined has particularly slender spindly lobed fins containing no long bones but only the segmented bones normally found in these fish. It has no sacrum to allow stabilization of the bones in the pelvic fins, nor does it have any structures resembling feet. Thus this fish is equipped with no appendage adaptations that could be construed as terrestrial preparations. Researcher Neil Shubin says, “If you showed me the skeleton of this creature and asked me to make a bet on whether it walks or not, I would have bet it couldn't. Their fins seem like the furthest thing from walking appendages possible.”
Nevertheless, the lungfish pushed off the bottom of the tank with their pelvic fins, lifting themselves up as they moved forward. They sometimes used their pectoral fins for balance but not for locomotion, so the researchers refer to their “gait” as “bipedal.” At times they used an “alternate-gait, walking/running” type of motion, shimmying their way across the tank. At other times they used their pelvic fins synchronously to “bound/hop” along the bottom. And at other times they “used a wide range of asymmetrical gaits.”1 “I find it exciting and surprising that even with such small fins, this lungfish is able to not only propel itself, but lift its body clear off the bottom as well,” says researcher Heather King. “If you were to look at just the skeleton of the lungfish, you might never guess that it was capable of this behavior, especially since they don't have feet!” Although lungfish lack feet, the team noticed the pelvic fins pushing against the bottom were able to bend at many locations to form the shape of a foot for pushing off.1 The researchers expressed astonishment at the fish’s ability to “lift” itself off the bottom even though the buoyant density of the fish would make such a movement nearly effortless, requiring little muscular effort or bony support.
Thus, the researchers claim lungfish and our aquatic ancestors could have evolved the motor skills required for an evolutionarily advanced “bipedal gait” while still living in water. Shubin explains, “This shows us — pardon the pun — the steps that are involved in the origin of walking. What we're seeing in lungfish is a very nice example of how bottom-walking in fish living in water can easily come about in a very tetrapod-like pattern.”
The team concludes that lungfish “relatives,” the supposed ancestors of terrestrial vertebrates, did not have to evolve feet or toes or a skeleton able to bear weight before learning how to walk. “It shows what's possible in an aquatic medium where you don't have to support yourself,” says Shubin. The team then suggests fossil trackways consistent with locomotion like a lungfish “bipedal gait”1 could belong to our aquatic ancestors. Those ancestors could have spent millions of years on their stepwise march up the evolutionary ladder underwater before taking the leap to land. The evolutionary “rethink” referred to in the media is merely the idea that toes and leg-bones-connected-to-hip-bones did not have to evolve before fish learned to walk.
The Chicago team has done a marvelous job of demonstrating the way lungfish move along underwater. The ability to lift itself up is particularly useful as a lungfish must pop its mouth above water to breath. But such a motion is practically effortless thanks to the fish’s buoyancy and overcomes none of the anatomical obstacles to terrestrial ambulation. The team has not shown us anything demonstrating evolution in the past or present. Indeed, anything seems “possible in an aquatic medium where you don’t have to support yourself”! But gravity is the hurdle an evolving terrestrial would have to conquer, and practicing walking motions for millions of years wouldn’t overcome any of the mechanical challenges demanded for transition to terrestrial life.
The lungfish is not a transitional form; it is a fish designed to breath air. (Incidentally, there are other fish that breath air and other fish that scoot across land.) As the team points out, everything about the lungfish skeleton screams fish. The coelacanth—another lobe-finned fish—swims and uses gills; the lobe-finned lungfish scoots/walks/hops across the bottom and grabs air—both are fully functional and adapted for their environments. Neither demonstrates anything about “our aquatic ancestors,” since we have none.
God created all kinds of fish on the fifth day of Creation week, each able to reproduce after its kind. Just one day later, He created land animals and man. He did this about 6,000 years ago, not millions of years ago. He did not require evolutionary processes to produce terrestrial vertebrates but only His Word. Christians must not compromise and try to stuff evolutionary thinking into the biblical history given to us by God. And as we look at research like this, we should see an interesting kind of fish designed to live in shallow aquatic environments and not its imaginary family tree with non-existent cousins crawling out onto land.
Looking for life in all the right places
NASA’s extrasolar planet-hunter, the $600-million Kepler space telescope, has “confirmed the discovery of its first alien world in its host star's habitable zone.”2 Over the past 16 months, Kepler has discovered 2,326 “potential planets” beyond our solar system. Kepler-22b is the first of these to be confirmed “in the habitable zone.” To be in the “habitable zone,” an exoplanet must appear to be neither too hot nor too cold for liquid water to exist and have the potential for holding onto an atmosphere. From an evolutionary point of view, where there is water, life as we know it could have evolved.
Exoplanets like Kepler-22b are first spotted by the “transit method.” In other words, because a planet orbiting its star should appear to fractionally dim the star’s light during its transit, anything that makes a star fade could be a planet. If the “candidate” continues to dim the light during successive orbits, it is classified as a full–fledged planet. The time required for the exoplanet to orbit its star indicates its distance from the star. And that information, combined with an estimate of the star’s energy output, is used to determine whether the exoplanet is in the habitable zone. In the case of Kepler-22b, the planet’s orbit is considerably closer to its sun than Earth’s to ours, but Kepler-22b’s sun is not as hot as ours. (There have also been at least two giant “habitable zone” planets discovered to date among the over 700 known exoplanets.)3
Kepler-22b was one of the first exoplanets spotted by the space telescope; therefore, it is the first to be confirmed to be in a “habitable zone.” The presence of an atmosphere cannot yet be determined for exoplanets, and the atmosphere’s components would be a key factor in maintaining Earth-like temperatures. An exoplanet’s size—in this case only 2.4 times the radius of Earth—is compared to estimates of its mass to determine whether the planet is primarily solid, liquid, or gaseous. That information is also not yet known for Kepler-22b. Thus headlines referring to Kepler-22b as “Earth’s twin” may be a bit premature.
So why all the excitement? Why the 600-million-dollar interest in identifying planets in the “habitable zone” when planets 600 light years away cannot be reached for manned exploration except in science fiction? The reason boils down to evolution. Evolutionary scientists believe life evolved by random interaction of water and chemicals on Earth and therefore assume the same may well have happened anywhere conditions are similarly amenable.
The Bible does not say that God didn’t create life elsewhere, but the Bible does tell us God created all life on Earth during the first six days of Creation week about 6,000 years ago. God spent that week preparing a place for Adam and Eve, and He created them in His image. Despite the fun of sci-fi and the delightful discoveries in the heavens that “declare the glory of God,” (Psalm 19:1) neither mankind nor the universe evolved, and there is no reason to believe life evolved elsewhere.
Scientists have never observed life evolve from non-living components. Thus, finding the right chemicals and the right conditions for life to exist elsewhere should not suggest to us that it has. And yet, even if life were to be indisputably found on another world, its existence would not prove molecules-to-man evolution ever occurred. Such life would simply be another demonstration of God’s creative power to create life where He chooses. Meanwhile, recognizing the whole of creation was corrupted due to man’s sin (Romans 8:21–22), we continue to doubt the existence of sentient life elsewhere, despite the exultation expressed by SETI director Jill Tarter: “For the first time, we can point our telescopes at stars, and know that those stars actually host planetary systems - including at least one that begins to approximate an Earth analogue in the habitable zone around its host star.”4 The discovery is fascinating, but if we wish to know we are not alone, we’ll get more reliable results by getting to know the God of the Bible.
The Passing of a Well-Known Atheist
An atheist of many striking contradictions and ironies passed away on Thursday. Christopher Hitchens, the acerbic author of God is not Great—How Religion Poisons Everything, was known as one of the “new angry atheists.”5 His public lectures/debates, frequent appearances on TV, and countless articles and books gave him a large following even beyond the intelligentsia. He died of cancer-related causes at the age of 62.
At one moment, Hitchens could use his considerable wit and mastery of the English language to skewer politicians (e.g., President Bill Clinton) and religious leaders (Mother Teresa, even), and at another moment, he could use his tongue to be disarmingly polite and charming. It’s the latter that was on display when he toured the Creation Museum in 20106; his celebrated caustic side seemed to be more on display when he had an audience to play to.
As a young man, Hitchens was a radical socialist. Through the influence of the writings of George Orwell and others, Hitchens’ youthful exuberance for leftist beliefs moderated over time and he came to distrust big government. Hitchens even backed a Republican president’s war in Iraq this past decade, although his support of President Bush’s action was motivated more by his antipathy towards the Abrahamic monotheistic religions than anything, in this case extremist Islam in the Middle East.7 He was not easily pigeonholed in other ways. Hitchens’ unpredictability was manifested when he became one of the rare secular humanists who believed that human life begins at conception. Additionally, there were surprises within his family: his brother Peter is a well-known Christian writer in England, and one parent was a Christian and the other had a Jewish heritage. Also, we note with irony that Christ was in this atheist’s name, for Christopher means “Christ-bearer.”
Hitchens was largely unashamed of his licentious life, unrepentant even in his final months (e.g., when interviewed for a Charlie Rose PBS-TV program). His “wild side” somewhat lessened his reputation as an intellectual. Nevertheless, his considerable intellect and language skills garnered many opportunities for him to challenge what he considered to be stupid (such as biblical creation) and nefarious (especially Christianity and Islam). While Hitchens often marched to the beat of his own drummer and could confound friends with his unexpected views, one thing did not moderate in his life: he was in an ongoing crusade against the “evils” of the three major monotheistic religions. But without an absolute standard other than a trust in his own reasoning, it was still merely his opinion when he issued his moral pronouncements, including what he determined was evil.
As we have written many times on this website, the Bible tells us that God is the Creator of everything and, therefore, all things belong to Him; thus He is the One to define absolute standards of behavior, which He has written down in His Bible. Atheists may label actions as good or evil, but in their meaningless, purposeless, and evolution-formed universe, they do not have an ultimate foundation for defining what is good and evil. But God’s Word does.
Furthermore, God gave us the answer in the Bible as to why there are diseases like the cancer that struck Hitchens and the death it can cause (as taught in Genesis 3; see the PDF of our booklet Why Is There Death and Suffering), but He also offered a solution: eternal life through Christ.
The use of logic and language (Hitchens mastered the latter with his rapier-like wit) only makes sense in an ordered universe made by the omnipotent God who created everything. Furthermore, the apostle Paul taught that people are without excuse if they reject a belief in God, for they “suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools . . . .”
Hitchens is no longer shaking a fist at his Creator. The ultimate and saddest contradiction of his life (unless we become aware of a deathbed conversion) was that at the end, he repudiated God’s Word and God Himself.
Locals lose in lottery to atheist outsiders
Santa Monica’s churches and local police officers for almost six decades have blessed their community by providing a massive nativity scene utilizing 14 of the 21 vandal-proof fenced display areas in the city’s Palisades Park. Now atheists led by a non-resident, Damon Vix, have pushed the city to allot the spaces by lottery and then outbid the churches and police officers for the spaces. Eighteen spaces went to atheists in the lottery. Their displays include a “Happy Solstice” sign, a Thomas Jefferson quotation, and signage asserting that Jesus Christ, Satan, Santa, and King Neptune are mythological.
City attorney Marsha Moutrie points out, “Though the City can designate particular space . . . for winter displays and prohibit displays in other park space, it cannot favor one speaker or message over another.”8 She also writes, “Everyone has equal rights to use the streets and parks for expressive activities, irrespective of residency.”
Hunter Jameson, representing churches that normally work together to provide the nativity display, says the City policy has been manipulated by outsiders to deprive passersby of “a month long, time-honored tradition supported by 14 Santa Monica-based organizations representing thousands of local residents.”8
He says,“These new groups applying for permits aren’t even Santa Monica residents.” Jameson urges local residents to petition their City Council to rectify the situation next year by granting local preference in allotting spaces.
The Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee is thus asking the taxpayers of the community—the people whose funds paid for the construction and maintenance of the vandal-proof display areas—to let their representatives in city government know their will regarding allocation of those spaces. If Moutrie’s interpretation of the law prevails, the opinions of the taxpayers and voters will not matter, as any outside organization whatsoever would be able to outnumber and outbid the people of the community and tell them how their public property is to be used. This may prove an interesting test case to watch, given its implications for local autonomy in the rest of the country.
Meanwhile, as Vix vies to influence public opinion by Jeffersonianisms, another Jefferson quotation, for which the context and source—the Declaration of Independence—is widely known, deserves an airing:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Though Jefferson was a deist and employed his own form of amateur textual criticism in compiling The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, he did not eliminate Christ’s references to Noah’s Flood, Satan, or His own second coming from his manuscript, nor did he remove the account of Christ’s birth—the event Vix is so opposed to publicly honoring. Jefferson had a particular abhorrence for the idea of a government-selected state religion, which many of the original states and European countries had. During his presidency, Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptist Association that, under the Constitution, Congress should “‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.”9
Many who loudly point to Jefferson when denying the constitutionality of allowing Christians rights of free expression and religious practice ignore the context of Jefferson’s statement. They often suggest he meant the people involved in government are constitutionally prohibited from following or discussing biblical principles. They also ignore his assertion in the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom that truth has nothing to fear from open expression and discussion of ideas. And they likewise ignore his bold declaration, echoed by all the signers of our country’s founding document, that the Creator God is the source of all our human rights.
Indeed, Scripture tells us God is the source of every good and every perfect gift (James 1:17). This truth was recognized by the Founding Fathers who understood God—man’s Creator—is the one from whom all man’s rights come—rights a just government must protect. John Quincy Adams even explained in an 1837 speech that “the birthday of the Savior of the world”—that event Vix finds offensive—is “indissolubly linked” to the birth of our nation. How? Because, he said, the birth of the United States of America is “a leading event in the progress of the Gospel.” And he added that the Declaration of Independence—which Jefferson penned—“laid the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity.”10 Thus, as Vix and his followers demand their rights even at the expense of the rights of others, perhaps they should ponder the divine source of all human rights and the biblical basis by which our Founding Fathers understood government’s role in protecting them.
The global warming gospel or the green dragon?
Texas Tech climatologist, Katharine Hayhoe, a professing evangelical Christian, speaks to politically and theologically conservative groups to convince them that climate change is not only real but caused by human activity. She presents data and her interpretation of it to encourage Christians in particular to be good stewards of the earth. Hayhoe says, “People ask me if I believe in global warming. I tell them, 'No, I don't,' because belief is faith; faith is the evidence of things not seen. Science is evidence of things seen. To have an open mind, we have to use the brains that God gave us to look at the science.”
Aside from the question of whether global climate change is a natural or manmade phenomenon—which is explored elsewhere (see links below) on our website—we’d like here to note a couple of things about Hayhoe’s statement. Hebrews 11:1 does tell us faith is “the evidence of things not seen,” and observational science does examine evidence. Yet evidence is gathered and observed and tested and interpreted by human beings. And all human beings—lacking omniscience—view evidence through their own presuppositions. Scientists design tests based on their hypotheses, essentially educated guesses. If an educated guess misses the mark, chances are the scientific experiments designed to gather data will miss the evidence needed or the scientist may even misinterpret the data gathered.
Scientific models are judged to be useful if they accurately describe what happens and predict future occurrences. Models that fail to do so should be replaced. But science is rarely so simple. Models of complex phenomena may have some merits and still have shortcomings. Models are based on the data available and the human imagination interpreting it. As more data becomes available, many models get replaced, but some do not because they come to represent the agendas of certain individuals, political points of view, or worldviews. As long as human beings lack omniscience, scientific conclusions will remain mutable and fallible.
Furthermore, origins science requires the scientist to make inferences about evidence that cannot be subjected to repeatable tests. Origins science is intimately entangled with faith—either faith that there is a supernatural cause for our origins or faith that there is not. And if we believe there is supernatural cause for our origins, we must decide whether we believe the eyewitness account God gave in the Bible or not. If not, what alternative will we choose? Whatever version of origins science we espouse, we choose it on the basis of faith, and then we examine the evidence of science through the lens of that worldview. And since contradictory claims cannot be simultaneously true, only one account of our origins can actually be true.
Hayhoe makes the demarcation between faith and science sound so neat and tidy, but scientists make their human judgments in accordance with their biases and presuppositions. We are supposed to use the brains that God gave us. But those brains are always biased, and we would be wise to recognize our own biases and those of policy-makers and scientists. Particularly when it comes to origins science, all parties examine the evidence with a faith-based bias. Untestable assumptions about the past are best evaluated through eyewitness accounts, and we find in the Bible God’s eyewitness account of the origin of the universe, the earth, and all life itself. The Bible also provides the history of the global Flood from which creationist derive a platform by which to correctly interpret the geologic record of catastrophic changes on earth. When choosing which views of origins to accept, we will make the right choices when we take God at His Word.
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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