Designing man’s best friend has obscured knowledge of the original domestic dog.
Doggie DNA analysis published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests no dog today resembles the original. A team led by evolutionary biologist Greger Larson of Durham University examined genetic data from 1,375 dogs representing 35 breeds along with DNA from the grey wolf. (The grey wolf is thought to be the ancestor of all modern dogs, big and small.)1 The study demonstrates the dramatic effect of domestication on dog diversity.
Larson, the lead author, says there is much we do not know about the history of dog domestication. The team found discrepancies between the earliest archaeological records of domestic dogs and previously held genetic ideas about the ancient roots of various breeds. This alerted them to the fact that cross-breeding had affected all known breeds and that it was reproductive isolation that made some breeds initially appear ancient.1
“We really love our dogs and they have accompanied us across every continent,” Larson says. “Ironically, the ubiquity of dogs combined with their deep history has obscured their origins and made it difficult for us to know how dogs became man’s best friend. All dogs have undergone significant amounts of cross-breeding to the point that we have not yet been able to trace all the way back to their very first ancestors.”
After comparing genomic information to archaeological data, Larson’s multinational team concluded that modern breeds depicted on pyramids and in ancient texts really are not ancient. Even the “genetic signatures” of breeds like the Akita, the Afghan Hound, the Basenji, the Dingo, and the Shar-Pei, previously thought to be ancient, appear to have been greatly altered.1 Cross-breeding, human migration, and historical disasters such as two world wars have all combined to change domestic dog populations. Those breeds that appear the most genetically different are also not likely to represent the oldest domestic kinds but are distinctive due to their geographic isolation and cultural exemption from the popular “Victorian-initiated Kennel Clubs that blended lineages to create most of the breeds we keep as pets today.”
Doggie diversity is a good illustration of variation within a created kind. The diversity attainable within the canine genome and its mutations is remarkable. A variety of genetic mechanisms including mutations, natural selection, artificial selection, and the population changes that occur in small populations affected by genetic bottlenecks have combined to produce the dogs we see today. Of course, this bears no relationship whatever to notions about evolution of one kind of creature into another, despite the fact that some evolutionary thinkers misuse the illustration as “an interesting demonstration of evolution at work”2 showing “without a doubt that evolution is true.”2 Change within a created kind is not evidence for evolution of one kind changing into a new kind, because such “new kinds” would require new genetic information, not just a reshuffling of existing information. However, evolutionists have never provided us with a proven biological mechanism for producing new genetic information.
The originally created canine, like all kinds of creatures, was created to reproduce after its kind. The canine genome originally created by God has provided the raw material for an innumerable variety of canines, but they are all still canines. Mutations have resulted in a loss of genetic information within certain groups of dogs but have not provided the information for dogs to evolve into a non-dog. No evolution in the molecules-to-man sense was required to produce dog diversity, and such evolution has never been demonstrated by the study of fossils or living creatures.
Famous evolutionist considers skeptics a threat to human survival.
Richard Leakey, part of the “first family of paleontology,”3 predicts skepticism about evolution will soon be extinct. He predicts the next 15 to 30 years will produce scientific discoveries supporting evolution so overwhelming “even the skeptics can accept it.” But, if he’s wrong, he predicts a bleak future for humanity.
Richard Leakey followed in the footsteps of his famous parents Louis and Mary Leakey—evolutionary paleontologists credited with numerous hominid discoveries—rather than those of his paternal grandparents, who were missionaries in Kenya.5 Richard Leakey is an atheist but, according to Associated Press, “insists he has no animosity toward religion.” He doesn’t mind people having faith in their own good works and a happy afterlife, but he believes humanity’s salvation is to be found only in evolution.
“If you get to the stage where you can persuade people on the evidence, that it’s solid, that we are all African, that color is superficial, that stages of development of culture are all interactive,” Leakey says, “then I think we have a chance of a world that will respond better to global challenges.” He is concerned about both biological and sociocultural threats to human survival.
Humanity, Leakey contends, may not be able to prevent its own extinction without a firm belief in evolution. “If we’re spreading out across the world from centers like Europe and America that evolution is nonsense and science is nonsense, how do you combat new pathogens, how do you combat new strains of disease that are evolving in the environment?”
Of course, for Leakey, evolution is an irrefutable fact. “If you don’t like the word evolution, I don’t care what you call it, but life has changed,” he says, and adds, “You can lay out all the fossils that have been collected and establish lineages that even a fool could work up. So the question is why, how does this happen? It’s not covered by Genesis. There’s no explanation for this change going back 500 million years in any book I’ve read from the lips of any God.” Creation scientists do not, however, deny that the world and the life in it has changed through a number of natural processes, but those processes do not include evolution of life from non-life or evolution of humans from ape-like ancestors.
An ardent conservationist, Leakey believes acceptance of evolution is essential to the medical research needed to save humanity from extinction. “We may be on the cusp of some very real disasters that have nothing to do with whether the elephant survives, or a cheetah survives, but if we survive.” His comments perpetuate the fallacy that antibiotic resistance is molecules-to-man evolution in action. As explained in many articles on this website, however, microbes are designed to change, producing new varieties, and mechanisms such as natural selection can result in resistant populations of pathogens. But the sort of observable change seen in microbes does not supply the genetic information to produce new kinds of creatures—or the sort demanded by a hominid evolutionary tree.
Evolutionists believe humans evolved from ape-like ancestors. Because of this preconceived notion, they consider most ape-like fossils to be hominids (human ancestors). If they can unearth and arrange a chronological series of fossils each displaying progressively more human-like features, then skeptics who deny evolution, Leakey believes, will be silenced, marginalized, or ignored. However, it is only evolutionary imagination and art work that ancestrally connect the varieties of apes and humans.
Biblically we know God created animals (including primates) and Adam and Eve on the sixth day of Creation Week about 6,000 years ago. The fossil record contains samples of many kinds of animals, but transitional forms are absent because God designed animals and humans to reproduce “after their kinds,” not to evolve one into another. Many fossilized animals are extinct, including the kind of ape popularly known as Lucy, Australopithecus afarensis. (Read about the new holographic Lucy exhibit at the Creation Museum, and watch for an informative upcoming article about Lucy’s real legacy to learn more.) Fossils of humans from the Ice Age are found, too. (See Who Were Cavemen?)
But the fossil record is not so clear on the evolutionary lineage as Leakey claims. In fact, no transitional evolutionary ape-men are found at all, at least not any that stand up to careful scrutiny. Laying out fossils of various apes (like “Lucy” and “Ardi”) and various humans (like Homo neanderthalensis and Homo erectus) in a row does not prove evolution happened or that those species are ancestrally related. Only accepting as a starting point the unverifiable idea that hominid evolution must have happened results in such an interpretation.
Leakey says “even a fool” can look at the fossils and work up the evolutionary story. But the Bible considers someone who denies the existence of God to be just such a “fool.” The Bible says, “
The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1). Those who accept the testimony of God (the only eyewitness to Creation) as authoritative can understand that the fossil record is indeed “covered [i.e., explained] by Genesis.” We don’t find “500 million years” covered in the Bible because the earth is only about 6,000 years old, and those millions of years are likewise derived from unverifiable assumptions and imaginative interpretations about the past. In fact, what we read in God’s Word explains what we observe in the fossil record.
The Bible also provides a logical basis for morality, as well as clear teaching that “color is superficial.” The Bible teaches that all people are of “
one blood” (Acts 17:26) and equally important to their Creator. Nothing about evolutionary principles will rescue the world from destructive racism, as Leakey implies. On the contrary, evolutionist Stephen J. Gould observed, “Biological arguments for racism may have been common before 1850, but they increased by orders of magnitude following the acceptance of evolutionary theory.”6
Neither does medical progress rely on acceptance of evolution, as we discussed last week. Leakey fears dissemination of anti-evolutionary ideas will lead to the extinction of humanity, but the Bible makes clear that God created without evolution. Jesus Christ—not an evolutionary philosophy that denies Christ’s rightful position as our Creator (Colossians 1:16–17)—is the solution to the world’s problems and the deepest and most eternal needs people have.
Teeth track patrimony (property inherited through the male line) and prosperity in early agricultural society.
A team from Cardiff, Bristol, and Oxford Universities has trekked across central Europe assessing the strontium isotopes in teeth. The teeth of 300 Neolithic skeletons, that is. The test subjects seem to have been farmers from the earliest days of European farming. These dental records give clues not to their deaths but to the lives of these men and women from long ago.
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 people living there. By analyzing the strontium isotopes in the teeth, therefore, the team determined the likely locale of the food consumed by these people in life.
Those bodies buried with tools, such as adzes, are assumed to have been better off economically than those without. Correspondingly, those favored “men buried with adzes appear to have lived on food grown in areas of loess—the fertile and productive soil favoured by early farmers,” says Cardiff professor Alasdair Whittle. “This indicates they had consistent access to preferred farming areas.”
Loess is a loose fertile soil normally formed from windblown fine sediment. Much loess was produced with the glacial till left in the wake of the Ice Age. The term loess was first applied to the fertile soil of the Rhine Valley. The team speculates the economically prosperous farmers of early Europe had access to more fertile land than their neighbors.
Furthermore, the team found that strontium in the teeth of women indicated they were more likely to have been born in other places than the men, whose teeth often matched their locale. The researchers believe “this is a strong indication of patrilocality, a male-centred kinship system where females move to reside in the location of the males when they marry.” Dr. Penny Bickle explains, “Community diversity seems to have happened very early on in the transition to agriculture and probably occurred through inheritance and kinship systems rather than individuals competing for wealth.”
Anthropologists consider the earliest farmers in Europe to belong to the Neolithic, or “new stone age,” period. Stone tools of all sorts have been found with all “categories” of humans, including Neanderthals, Homo erectus, and these modern humans. An adze is useful for shaping wooden tools. Studies like this provide a window into the sort of society the people who replenished the earth after the Flood, the Tower of Babel, and the post-Flood Ice Age were creating. A society in which there was probable economic stratification and a family unit of some sort, likely dominated by the male, sounds pretty familiar. Furthermore, the fact that the apparently economically well off appear to have had access to the fertile land built by loess is a reminder that even the post-Flood Ice Age served as a blessing. Glaciers scraped and pulverized tons of sediment that became the fertile loess, ultimately blessing the lives of those striving to populate the post-Flood world.
Define habitable. It’s harder than it sounds!
The question of whether alien life exists moved from the realm of science fiction to a real search for extraterrestrial life long ago. Space is a big place, so scientists want to know where to look—hence the need to define habitable. Just where would alien life be, if it exists?
Of course the search for alien life is driven by the belief that life evolved by random processes and therefore could have evolved anywhere conditions were right. The “right” conditions would depend on the characteristics of such a life-form, so scientists have long tried to determine the sorts of organisms that could evolve. Only then can they know where to look. (“Look” here is a somewhat metaphorical or wishful term, since our ability to actually “look” for alien life in most of the galaxy is limited by great distances.)
As data from the Kepler project and other telescopes have become available, the number of planets deemed “habitable” has become truly astronomical. At least 770 exoplanets have already been discovered. Now that more star survey data have been collected, astrobiologist Caleb Scharf says, “We could be in a situation where there are a billion objects that conceivably match expectations for habitability—the right-sized planet around the right sort of star. How do you categorize them in a tree of possibilities for life?”
Scientists are devising indices to denote the likelihood of a planet being habitable. There are multiple ways to categorize habitability. Some are deduced from astronomical assessments such as size, orbit, and luminosity of the associated star. Others relate to supposed stellar and planetary history, thereby being based on unverifiable assumptions about the distant past. Even astronomical observations are limited by present technology, it not being possible for instance to be certain of planet composition and of any atmosphere so far away.
“Goldilocks planets” are those deemed to be neither too hot nor too cold (a la the porridge from the “The Three Bears”/Goldilocks fairy tale) to support liquid water, which is necessary for life as we know it. Dr. Abel Mendez of Puerto Rico’s Planetary Habitability Laboratory has codified these parameters as the Habitable Zone Distance scale. So far, four known planets appear habitable by this index, although scientists note that conditions can fluctuate over time, ending “evolutionary experiments” with life.
To take into account these changing conditions, a “dwell time index” purports to compare how long a planet has actually been in the habitable zone with the time required for life to evolve on earth. This index involves two major areas of unverifiable speculation, since neither the stellar history “out there” nor the evolution of life “down here” can be evaluated in the present day by experimental science. Uncertainty about stellar history afflicts even cosmology based on conventional evolutionary assumptions because “many of these alien worlds confound conventional theories of planet formation and solar system development.”
The Earth Similarity Index rates planets “by their resemblance to our own planet, on a scale from zero to one, based on their mass, radius, density and surface temperature.” According to Mendez, “This index is based on life as we know it—and that is Earth.” Compared to earth’s “1,” 0.66 for Mars sounds promising, and GJ667Cc at a distance of 0.85 seems to be the highest yet. At a distance of 22 light years, however, both diplomacy and specimen collection are out of the question.
Once again, scientists are assuming that life actually evolved, and then assuming that any evolving life would have followed earth’s evolutionary pattern. While evolutionary scientists readily admit that unusual life-forms quite unlike earth’s could exist, the baseline assumption that life evolved at all cannot be falsified or verified by experimental science. It is pure imagination.
In view of the assumptions underlying the expectations for finding extraterrestrial life, two Princeton scientists have advised caution. Their study, published earlier this year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, evaluates the great expectations reflected in so many habitability headlines. By using a Bayesian statistical analysis designed to filter out the effect of assumptions on scientific conclusions, astrophysicist Edwin Turner and exoplanet expert David Spiegel conclude the expectations of finding extraterrestrial life have been built “more on optimism than scientific evidence.”7 Turner explains, “Our paper really just calls into question one of the few pieces of evidence we use for life elsewhere. The fact that life developed on Earth quickly has encouraged people to think that the probability of it happening elsewhere is quite high. It’s consistent, but it’s not really strong evidence. In fact there is no evidence.”8
The Princeton scientists point out that many scientists assume life would have evolved as quickly elsewhere as on earth, and other scientists note the tendency to assume life would evolve along the same lines as on earth. However, no one (in the evolutionary camp) seems to be noticing the greatest assumption of them all—the idea that life randomly evolved from nonliving components. Abiogenesis is now assumed as a fact of earth’s past by evolutionary scientists, yet it has never been observed. If admitting the other assumptions suggests a caveat even in the evolutionary community, then factoring in the fact that the foundational concept of the whole habitable planet hunt is itself a mere assumption would cripple the entire operation.
The starting assumptions about the origin of life determine the final interpretation of data. Turner says, “If scientists start out assuming that the chances of life existing on another planet as it does on Earth are large, then their results will be presented in a way that supports that likelihood.”
Origins science attempts to peer into the untestable, unobservable, unrepeatable past, thereby necessitating many starting assumptions. God shared His eyewitness account of our origins in the Bible, and accepting His eyewitness account is the basis of a biblical worldview. How much more would a biblical worldview that God created all that is—as He said He did—about 6,000 years ago (and without evolution) overturn present evolutionary dogma, not to mention the hunt for E.T.’s home?
Read more about what the Bible does and does not say about the possibilities of life in outer space at Kepler’s Mission: To Boldly Seek Out Where Life Could Have Evolved.
Scientifically literate people can disagree about the causes and cures of climate change, study finds.
A new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change dispels the notion that people who disbelieve currently popular ideas about climate change are scientifically illiterate. On the contrary, ScienceNews reports, “High science literacy actually boosts the likelihood that certain people will challenge what constitutes credible climate science.” The researchers attribute people’s propensity to see climate change as an unsettled issue to “cultural factors such as attitudes toward commerce, government regulation and individualism.” They find that these cultural factors affect “what people accept as truth.”
“Simply improving the clarity of scientific information will not dispel public conflict” about climate, Yale Law School’s Dan Kahan writes.
Kahan’s team surveyed 1,540 American adults to assess scientific literacy, political ideas about the role of government in the economy, and personality. People were classified as either more individualistic or more egalitarian in outlook, and this factor was the primary determinant of the position people took on climate change issues. “People with high degrees of individualism tended to have attitudes that were pro-industry and skeptical of risks,” they found. Egalitarians “tended to be morally ambivalent towards markets because they think that’s what causes social disparities,” Kahan says, and were therefore willing to see higher levels of regulation as necessary in the face of risks to society.
These findings will likely affect the strategy of policy makers as well as educators. The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) recently took up the banner for the politically correct view of climate change. NCSE director Eugenie Scott recognized that “people are very emotionally concerned” and if they “feel threatened ideologically, politically or economically, ‘all the science in the world won’t convince them.’” NCSE opposes “teaching the controversy,” as we pointed out in our analysis of the recent debate in Tennessee regarding legal protection for public school teachers wishing to critically analyze controversial issues, including climate change.
As Dr. Andrew Snelling, who holds a PhD in geology from the University of Sydney in Australia, has pointed out, the debate over climate change is far from a settled issue even among secular scientists. He said, “There is a lot of controversy, not over climate change itself, as everyone agrees climate changes, but over the cause of such changes, specifically whether man has contributed significantly to such changes. I am personally aware of several secular professional scientific societies whose memberships are very divided on this issue, and the continuing debate is heated. Therefore to assert there is no controversy over climate change is utterly deceitful. Students should be told the truth about this debate among professional scientists.”
By demonstrating that political and economic philosophy affect the views of scientifically literate people, this study supports our contention that holding a politically incorrect worldview does not prove a person is unwilling or unable to understand science. As scientists seek answers requiring knowledge of the untestable past—whether of origins, age of the earth, or history of the global climate—assumptions must be made. Those assumptions are inevitably influenced by worldview. Thus, not only do political opinions about the appropriateness of regulatory measures influence the way scientifically literate people view the evidence, so do presuppositions about global history.
Many theologically conservative Christians—as well as many secular scientists—are uncomfortable with the politically correct version of the man-made global warming crisis. The impact of global warming initiatives on the welfare of people is also a concern to many who simply want to be sure decisions are based on sound scientific reasoning and not emotional overkill. As Bible-believing Christians we see the “dominion mandate” of Genesis 1:28 as a call for a balanced, responsible view of environmental stewardship.
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