Do bees and humans share a bold explorer gene?
Bee scouts—their mission: to explore strange new fields, to seek out new flowers and new sources of food, to boldly go where no bee from their hive has gone before.1 But what motivates a bee scout? What makes her take risks, explore the unfamiliar, unselfishly bring back news of her discoveries and set out again to spend herself for the sake of the hive?
“Most foragers wait to be told what to do, but not scouts,” says entomologist Gene Robinson, whose team’s results were published March 9 in Science. “Scouts go out and search for food on their own. … Our results raise the interesting possibility that there’s a genetic toolkit for this kind of behavior.” Genetic activity associated with “novelty-seeking behavior”2 has been identified in vertebrates, Robinson’s team notes. They’d like to know if the same genes play an analogous role in bees.
Graduate student Zhengzheng Liang put a paint dot on bees visiting unfamiliar sugar water stations. “Food scouts, who make up 5 to 25% of a colony’s foraging force, search independently for new food sources,” the team found, “and continue to do so even when plentiful sources have been found.”2 A smaller percentage of a swarm is devoted to nest site reconnaissance. Some bees do both, with nest scouts being 3.4 times more likely to join the food scout force than less adventuresome bees.2
To discover the biochemical underpinnings of such bold bee behavior, the explorers were dispatched and their little brains analyzed. Risk-takers demonstrated increased transcription from genes coding for the production of several kinds of neurotransmitter receptors. (Nerve cells pass on messages using various chemicals called neurotransmitters. Nerve cells that actively receive lots of messages may have lots of corresponding neurotransmitter receptors present on their cell membranes.) Increased activity of the same neurotransmitters has also been seen in some vertebrate animals and humans that are prone to try new and risky things. “These signaling systems also are implicated in personality differences between humans that are related to novelty seeking.”2 Follow-up tests in which the sugar water was laced with substances to enhance or inhibit these neurotransmitters also correlated with scouting behavior.
Robinson’s group concludes, “Our results demonstrate intriguing parallels between honey bees and human novelty-seeking behavior. Although the molecular mechanisms that produce this behavioral variation are similar, it is unknown whether both species inherited them from a common ancestor or evolved them independently.”2
These results are what we would expect in a world whose biochemistry and inhabitants were designed by a common Designer. Of course, there is no way to know yet whether the increase in neurotransmitter activity is a genetic cause of behavior in scouting bees—or risk-taking people for that matter—or whether the increased activity results from the behavior.
A biblical understanding interprets this discovery as evidence that God used the same sorts of molecules in many different kinds of creatures. Genes for similar molecules are often similar, regardless of the organism, because the genetic “alphabet” is consistent throughout the living world God created. Furthermore, God made all kinds of creatures about 6,000 years ago fully equipped with the behaviors needed to thrive. That certain behaviors are associated with particular biochemical manifestations does not suggest those behaviors evolved over millions of years.
Paleoanthropologists debate identity of the deerslayers.
Bones belonging to several of southwestern China’s ancient occupants have anthropologists debating whether they represent a new species of human or not. Fossils discovered in 1989 in Red Deer Cave (Maludong) in Yunnan Province, together with a stone-encased partial skeleton found in 1979 in a neighboring province, have been subjected to careful anatomical analysis. The Chinese-Australian team publishing its findings in PlosONe3 suggests these bones belonged to a distinct evolutionary line of humans contemporary with modern humans, an opinion that has garnered international attention.
Red Deer Cave people, so named because their cave also contained bones from their extinct red deer dinner, as well as stone and antler tools of possible culinary use, read “true human” to everyone’s satisfaction. “They clearly had a taste for venison, with evidence they cooked these large deer in the cave,”4 says paleoanthropologist author Darren Curnoe. However, with carbon-dated charcoal in the cave—possibly left over from cooking fires—clocking in at (what we contend is an inflated) 11,500 to 14,500 years old, evolutionary anthropologists are trying to figure out how these people managed to still be alive and well in East Asia at a time when all other known species of humans, like Neanderthals, are believed to have disappeared. (Evolutionists generally place the end of the most recent Ice Age 10,000 to 15,000 years ago and believe Neanderthals disappeared by about 30,000 years ago, or at least before the last Ice Age ended.) Similar geologic strata elsewhere evidence “modern humans in southern China, who began to make pottery for food storage and to gather wild rice … full-blown farming,” Curnoe said. “The Red Deer Cave people were sharing the landscape with these early pre-farming communities, but we have no idea yet how they may have interacted or whether they competed for resources.”4
But the big question among anthropologists is really who these unusual-looking people were. Or, rather, how they got to be who they were. In some ways their bones conform to modern expectations, but not all. Curnoe says, “We have discovered a new population of prehistoric humans whose skulls are an unusual mosaic of primitive features, like those seen in our ancestors hundreds of thousands of years ago.” He adds, "These new fossils might be of a previously unknown species, one that survived until the very end of the ice age around 11,000 years ago. Alternatively, they might represent a very early and previously unknown migration of modern humans out of Africa, a population who may not have contributed genetically to living people.”4
Cranial capacity measurements were approximate but within human norms, with brains “moderate in size” compared to other humans from the Ice Age era. Investigators believe the frontal part of the brain was typical of modern humans although the parietal lobes may have been a little smaller. Like Neanderthals and Homo erectus, these people had prominent brow ridges. Their skull bones were fairly thick, and molars were large. The jaws jut forward but the chin is almost absent. “These are primitive features seen in our ancestors hundreds of thousands of years ago,”4 Curnoe explains. More unique features—traits not typical of either modern or known ancient humans—are a flattened face with a very broad nose and eye sockets, a jaw that could accommodate large chewing muscles, and an enlarged joint joining the jaw to the rest of the skull. Curnoe says, “In short, they’re anatomically unique among all members of the human evolutionary tree.” Curnoe’s team believes the Red Deer Cave people could have evolved independently, but they concede it is possible they represent descendants of a group of people that diverged from the “out of Africa” crowd and became geographically and genetically isolated, allowing them to develop these unique features.
Other experts are less impressed. Washington University anthropologist Erik Trinkaus considers Curnoe’s conclusions “an unfortunate overinterpretation and misinterpretation of robust early modern humans, probably with affinities to modern Melanesians [living people indigenous to the South Pacific] … There is nothing extraordinary.” Max Planck Institute’s evolutionary anthropologist Philipp Gunz concurs, “I would be surprised if it really was a new human group that was previously undiscovered. … Modern humans are a very diverse species … exceptionally variable, especially if you compare modern humans to our closest fossil relatives, the Neanderthals.” He agrees the skulls look unusual but notes actual measurements “plot very close, or even within, the modern human range of variation. I would say it’s not completely unexpected for a modern human … so my gut feeling is that this is not a new species.”
What will provide the definitive answer? DNA, of course. Gunz notes, “It should be fairly easy to extract DNA from these fossils, and then we will know for sure how related they are to us as a modern human species.”
Efforts to extract DNA have been unsuccessful but attempts are ongoing. Until DNA can be obtained, just how closely the genome of these people resembles that of early modern humans, Neanderthals, or Denisovans will remain anybody’s guess. But one thing is certain, these people do not represent either a new or an old evolutionary line, just a line of people descended from Adam and Eve, and more recently from Noah’s family.
All survivors of the global Flood disembarked from the ark. After building a civilization in the plain of Shinar, their descendants dispersed from the region of the tower of Babel to spread through the world. Both the researchers and those commenting on the work note human appearance can vary greatly. Geographic isolation of a small population predisposes to development of unique characteristics. Paleoanthropologist Isabelle De Groote of London’s Natural History Museum adds, “It’s possible these were modern humans who inter-mixed or bred with archaic humans that were around at the time. The other option is that they evolved these more primitive features independently because of genetic drift or isolation, or in a response to an environmental pressure such as climate.”5
Like Neanderthal and Denisovans, these people who made tools and cooked deer were made in the image of God. Several factors tend to produce somewhat inflated results in many carbon-dated samples, such as Flood-related changes in the biomass of the earth and changes in the earth’s magnetic field. We can be confident the ancestors of the deerslayers and those of their farmer-neighbors migrated to the area we know as China less than 4,300 years ago, some time after Babel.
New Scientist’s “God Issue” explains away religion as a part of our evolutionary heritage and demands God perform to prove Himself.
The New Scientist has just published “The God Issue” to explain the stubbornly persistent place of religion in modern society. One article claims the existence of God (or god or gods) is a scientifically falsifiable concept. Claiming the civilizing benefits of religion have conferred an evolutionary benefit, several articles explain that religion’s refusal to die is the result of an evolutionarily tendency of humans to believe in a deity.
“Like it or not, religious belief is ingrained into human nature,” the introduction asserts. “And a good thing too: without it we would still be living in the Stone Age.”6 On that basis, the articles entitled “To rule out god, first get to know him” and “We are all born believers” detail experiments demonstrating babies are more interested in inanimate shapes appearing to chase each other than those that move randomly. The baby-findings are interpreted as proof that “our highly social nature”7 renders us “strongly attracted to explanations of events in terms of agent causation,”7 the idea that things happen because someone—even an invisible someone—causes them to happen. This tendency makes humans “very receptive to explanations that invoke design or purpose.”7 One author concludes, “This attraction to religion is an evolutionary by-product of our ordinary cognitive equipment, and while it tells us nothing about the truth or otherwise of religious claims it does help us see religion in an interesting new light.”7
“Religion is deeply etched in human nature and cannot be dismissed as a product of ignorance, indoctrination or stupidity,”8 the editor writes, adding, “Religious claims still wither under rational scrutiny and deserve no special place in public life.”8 The solution: “Experiments with adults … suggest we do not simply outgrow this attraction but that it must be forcibly tamped down through formal education.”7
Articles deride the common distrust of atheists. Philosopher John Locke wrote in support of religious liberty at a time when such views were anything but politically correct. But he is quoted as saying, “Those are not at all to be tolerated who deny the Being of a God. Promises, Covenants, and Oaths, which are the Bonds of Humane Society, can have no hold upon an Atheist.”9 Locke was pointing out that without some sort of divine moral standard and accountability, individuals tend to make up their own rules. Thus, the magazine points to the civilizing influence of religion and suggests atheists should keep the morality, admit much of it came from the evolutionary bent toward a “god-is-watching” frame of mind, and pitch the rest.
The Bible is not a science textbook but all it contains relating to science is consistent with what we see. Scientific facts are always interpreted in accord with the worldview of the observer. Furthermore, “origins science” is beyond the realm of observable science since hypotheses cannot be subjected to repeatable tests. And even renowned atheist Stephen Jay Gould said, “Science can say nothing about the supernatural. Whether God exists or not is a question about which science is neutral.”10
In “God is a testable hypothesis,” atheist physicist Victor Stenger argues Gould is wrong. He writes, “The gods worshipped by billions either exist or they do not. And those gods, if they exist, must have observable consequences. Thus, the question of their existence is a legitimate scientific issue. … We can consider the existence of God to be a scientific hypothesis and look for the empirical evidence that would follow.”10
Much of Stenger’s reasoning consists of his own opinions, such as his assertion, “The Intelligent Design movement failed in its effort to prove that the complexity found in some biological systems is irreducible and cannot be explained within Darwinian evolution. Life on Earth looks just as it should look if it arose by natural selection.”10 Of course, his interpretation reflects the atheistic worldview he embraces. In fact, arguments about irreducible complexity are valid, and Darwinian evolution does not fully explain “Life on Earth.” It cannot, for instance, explain how molecules randomly combined to become alive and to harbor, transmit, and decode information. We can well make the analogous statement that life on earth looks just as it should look if it arose at the hand of our common Designer as described in Genesis.
To scientifically test the existence of a god, our God, or any gods, Stenger demands miracles be scientifically observable, testable, repeatable, and of course available-on-demand. In this world of video-on-demand and have-it-your-way burgers, Stenger requires God to be a being who is subject to human command, just the opposite of the true and living God, whose existence and attributes Stenger denies as he “suppresses the truth in unrighteous” (Romans 1:18-20 & 2:14-16). He further writes off all miracles by lumping the countless claims in the names of many false gods with biblical miracles—of which the greatest, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, is well attested in history, as much as any event in history.11
We spend a lot of time on this website explaining how the very rocks testify to the truth of the global Flood of Genesis, thus joining the Resurrection of Jesus Christ as a key distinctive between biblical Christianity and the many religions on mankind’s menu. But aside from that important distinction, let us consider Stenger’s contention that God (or god or gods) should be testable in a scientific sense on the basis of miracles and other answers to intercessory prayer.
Before considering whether or not miracles occur, the worldview of the observer must be considered. People who deny the existence of anything supernatural can never concede the possibility of a miracle since a miracle, by definition, is “interference with Nature by supernatural power.”12 C.S. Lewis summed this up when he wrote the following:
The question whether miracles occur can never be answered simply by experience. Every event which might claim to be a miracle is, in the last resort, something presented to our sense … And our senses are not infallible. If anything extraordinary seems to have happened, we can always say that we have been the victims of an illusion. If we hold a philosophy which excludes the supernatural, this is what we always shall say. What we learn from experience depends on the kind of philosophy we bring to experience. … If immediate experience cannot prove or disprove the miraculous, still less can history do so. … For if they [miracles] are impossible, then no amount of historical evidence will convince us. If they are possible but immensely improbable, then only mathematically demonstrative evidence will convince us: and since history never provides that degree of evidence for any event, history can never convince us that a miracle occurred.13
Scientific methodology operates in the realm of the natural world. It is not equipped to test for miracles. And science devoid of worldview cannot interpret its own facts. Science can answer whether an observed event was fully in accord with what natural laws would produce. But who or what put those natural laws into motion? And even with an ordinary event—was it be caused by routine random circumstances or could it have resulted from circumstances divinely brought together? What about an observation unexplained by natural scientific laws? Was it miraculous, misinterpreted, or incorrectly observed? Is our understanding of the science incomplete? Science cannot pass that kind of judgment on itself.
Neither can God’s existence be tested by requiring God to perform tricks on command. He proved His existence by creating the universe. Romans 1:20 indicates creation itself attests to God’s existence and at least some of His attributes. And the Resurrection of Jesus Christ proves His identity as the God (Romans 1:4) who judges, loves, and redeems rebellious human beings. The ability to see and accept the existence of God really is built into people, but not by evolution. Rather, being made in the image of God, we humans are able to recognize His hand in the world. Those who refuse and elevate fallible human knowledge above Scriptural revelation of God become “futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts [are] darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they [become] fools” (Romans 1:21–22).
Atheists celebrate unbelief in D.C. today.
The “Reason Rally” sponsored by several atheist organizations expects over 10,000 at today’s gathering in Washington, D.C. Speakers include Richard Dawkins, PZ Myers, and a slate of other outspoken atheists. According to Barry Kosmin, co-author of a 2008 survey, atheists constitute 1.6% of America’s population but attract a disproportionate amount of attention because they “make the noise and the news. They are the radicals and the provocateurs.”
One rally attendee says, “We are proud to be the Marines of free thought, proud to be the edge of the sword.” Another says, “The majority of us just want rational public policies based on facts, not someone’s book of cobbled together fantasies. Atheists have to carry our weight on an intellectual and a moral basis.”
The rally will be followed Sunday by the annual atheist conference in Bethesda. Although the conference theme is “Come out, come out, wherever you are,” one speaker—Pastor M—plans to speak in disguise “so he can keep his pulpit even though he’s lost his faith.” We cannot help noting the blatant lack of moral integrity evident in this closet-atheist clergyman who is deliberately deceiving his congregation to keep his job, his position, and their trust.
While the name “Reason Rally” suggests atheism is rational and Christianity is not, the same God who created the universe and its physical laws also gave humans the ability to reason. Reason is the way we make inferences and draw logical conclusions from available information. Biblical faith and reason are not in conflict. Hebrews 11:6 informs us without faith we cannot please God, but Hebrews 11:1 describes such faith as “the substance of things hoped for” and “the evidence of things not seen.” Isaiah 1:18 records God’s call on His people to reason and thereby understand how sinful they were. Jesus Christ for 40 days after His crucifixion showed Himself alive by “many infallible proofs” (Acts 1:3). Christian faith is not meant to be a blind faith but a reasonable faith by which we see the Word of God is consistent with the scientific evidence in nature, the historical evidence of Christ’s Resurrection, and the inner conviction of our sinfulness and guilt compared to the standards of our holy Creator God. Acts 17:17 records the Apostle Paul reasoning with Jews and Gentiles about faith in Christ. Indeed, all Christians are likewise exhorted (1 Peter 3:15) to be ready with reasonable answers about our hope in Christ.
There will be some Christians in the vicinity of this weekend’s events to do just that. We may pray their witness with the atheists they encounter will effectively plant seeds of God’s truth.
Rodent-like mammals with bumpy back teeth beat out dino competitors by munching on flowers.
An extinct group of mammalian multituberculates is believed by evolutionists to have prospered despite having to share their world with dinosaurs and to have survived the dinosaur mass extinction event. “How?” many have wondered. Evolutionary biologists, publishing their findings in Nature, suggest the evolving complexity of the multituberculate teeth allowed the critters to diversify their diet to include evolving flowers. Such flower power enabled the furry opportunists to survive whatever (the big meteor, according to the usual scenario) killed off the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous period, about 66 million years ago by evolutionary reckoning.
Using software for topographical mapping of land, the team analyzed teeth from multituberculate fossils around the world. Multituberculates have molars characterized by several rows of bumpy cusps. The team correlated the complexity of molar surfaces with body size and the strata where fossils were found. Multituberculates have been found in Cretaceous and Paleocene layers, ranging from 165 to 34 million years ago by conventional dating. Evolutionists date flowering plants to the mid-Cretaceous, about 90 million years ago.
“For millions of years, mammals were unable to develop much due to competition from the dinosaurs,” explains co-author Alistair Evans. “This study shows how multituberculates bucked this trend—they increased from the size of a mouse to the size of a beaver and were able to take on new roles in the ecosystem. … They did this prior to the extinction event which killed off the large dinosaurs—generally considered a turning point in mammalian evolution. Compared to other mammals of the time, they were really ahead of the game. They also did rather well out of that extinction event, in fact increasing in size and tooth complexity immediately after it.”
“These mammals were able to radiate [fill ecological niches] in terms of numbers of species, body size and shapes of their teeth, which influenced what they ate,” adds lead author Gregory Wilson. “If you look at the complexity of teeth, it will tell you information about the diet.” Considering the strata where fossils were found, Evans observes, “Multituberculates seem to be developing more cusps on their back teeth, and the bladelike tooth at the front [a typical rodent feature] is becoming less important as they develop these bumps to break down plant material. At the height of multituberculate evolution, these animals had teeth as complex as many modern plant-eating mammals—an attribute that certainly contributed to their evolutionary success.”
This evolutionary story looks impressive because it appears to correlate edible flowers, body size, bumpy teeth, and the big bad meteor generally acknowledged by many evolutionists with mass extinction of dinosaurs. But that interpretation is wholly dependent on implicit acceptance of unproven concepts such as the idea that all things living evolved from simpler forms over millions of years. The radiometric dating methods by which the extreme age of the earth is justified are themselves based on a number of unverifiable uniformitarian assumptions, including the non-occurrence of a global Flood. Biological transformation of one kind of organism into another has also not been demonstrated either in living things or in their fossilized remains.
The fossil facts ferreted out by this group of investigators are consistent with creationist models of Flood geology. Much of the geologic column is a timeline of the year of the global Flood and records the order in which plants and animals were buried. It is reasonable to assume plants and animals in the pre-Flood world dominated habitats most suitable for them. The geologic column can give us some clues about that pre-Flood world. Amidst the upheavals associated with the weeks during which floodwaters surged upward and buried billions of living things, those things in habitats first to be overwhelmed would generally occupy lower positions in the geologic column. Thus the fact that dinosaurs appear in the Jurassic and Cretaceous layers of rock with a number of other animals does not mean that those animals evolved at the same time but rather that they likely lived in habitats overwhelmed at about the same time. Creatures fossilized higher up in the rock layers were likely either able to temporarily flee rising waters or occupied habitats overwhelmed later—perhaps due to higher elevations farther inland. The association of mostly gymnosperm plants with dinosaur fossils suggests dinosaurs shared their most common habitats with more gymnosperms than flowering plants. Floral environments were likely overwhelmed later, as angiosperm fossils appear higher. Similarly, finding multituberculates in layers where dinosaurs appear says something about the location of their habitats relative to the rising waters—possibly sharing lowland habitats with dinosaurs—rather than saying anything about when those animals came into existence.
Without any extant multituberculates to observe or any fossilized multituberculates containing recent lunches, we cannot be sure what they ate at the time of the Flood. We can be sure however that all animals were vegetarian in the beginning (based on Genesis 1:29-30) and did not have to evolve the ability to munch flowers.
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