Dairy products prominent among early Saharan inhabitants.
Laboratory scrutiny of pottery shards suggests herders in the pre-desert days of the Sahara* consumed dairy products. Food residue from pottery found at the Takarkori rock shelter in the Libyan Sahara contains animal fats, not only fats from meat but also those from milk. Pottery shards and many cattle bones were dug from the same Holocene (post-Ice Age) layers, confirming the cultural importance of cattle suggested by rock art. Some Saharan rock art emphasizes cows with “full udders,” and some drawings even depict milking.
But in addition to providing a peek into pots from the past, evolutionists point out that humans had to evolve lactose tolerance in order to take advantage of the rich nutritional value of dairy products. It is now widely thought that humans were originally lactose intolerant as adults and that “as dairying spread, so did genes that confer lactose tolerance.” The proteins and fats embedded in the shards reveal the pots once held not just milk but also butter, cheese, and yogurt. Lactose-intolerant people are often able to tolerate fermented dairy products like yogurt and cheese. Nevertheless, lead author Julie Dunne says, “You’re really seeing evolution in action over a very short timescale.”
Human babies, like those of mammalian animals, are born with the ability to digest milk. Lactose, the disaccharide sugar in milk, must be broken down into its simpler components in the small intestine to be absorbed. Lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose, is produced by cells lining the small intestine. In premature babies, the gene coding for lactase is sometimes not yet active. And in much of the world’s population, the gene is downregulated after weaning, eventually producing some degree of lactose intolerance. Those whose genes are not downregulated are said to have “lactase persistence.” However, even lactose-intolerant people still have genes coding for lactase enzyme; they are just switched off.
In an adult with lactase persistence, one or both alleles of the lactase gene remain switched on. Because several different genetic variants are associated with the ability to digest lactose after infancy—lactase persistence (LP)—evolutionists consider the appearance of lactose tolerance in scattered populations an example of convergent evolution. Dunne and colleagues say their findings “provide a context for understanding the origins and spread of [not only the European genetic variant but also] other, independently arising LP-associated gene variants in sub-Saharan Africa.”1
While not dangerous, lactose intolerance can result in a loss of some of the nutritional value of milk as well as nausea, bloating, and diarrhea. When undigested lactose passes from the small intestine into the colon, the bacteria living in the colon are able to break down the lactose with consequent excessive production of gas. Symptoms can vary greatly, however, as can the amount of tolerable dairy products, and factors other than genetics are likely involved.
Lactase persistence, regardless of its genetic variant, is inherited as an autosomal dominant trait. Much of the population of Europe and northern India has lactase persistence. There is a patchy distribution of lactase persistent people in Africa. And there is some correlation of prevalent lactase persistence in populations where dairying is common.2 Many scientists believe lactase persistence has been naturally selected because it can broaden nutritional options, though it is difficult to see this as a major survival advantage. Also, particularly in some smaller African populations, lactase persistence is thought to result from other factors such as genetic drift.3
Tracing the geographic spread of dairy products does not reveal “evolution in action.” Mutations responsible for lactase persistence actually represent a loss of genetic information, a shut-down of normal regulation. If anything, the prevalence of lactase persistence is a testimony to the fact an all-knowing Creator designed the human genome with the ability to change.
Although the Bible describes Abraham sharing his dairy products in Genesis 18:8, just a few centuries after the global Flood, it does not tell us when people began drinking milk. Adam and Eve’s lactase genes may have been switched off since there is no necessity for adults to drink milk. But they certainly had lactase-coding genes. A gene expressed in infancy and downregulated later when lactase is not needed is a very efficient arrangement. The regulatory aspect of the lactase gene changes with any of several mutations, allowing for variation in human populations. But no new information is generated. Nothing had to evolve. There is nothing about changes in the on/off switching of an existing functional gene that supports the idea of upward evolution.
*For a biblical and scientific explanation of how the Sahara desert came to be and its connection to Noah’s Flood, see the section “Wet deserts during the Ice Age?” in Chapter 3: The Mystery of the Ice Age.
Physicists applaud around the world as CERN scientists announce finding “the missing cornerstone of physics.”
“We have now found the missing cornerstone of particle physics,” announced Rolf Heuer, director of the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN) on July 4. “We have a discovery. We have observed a new particle that is consistent with a Higgs boson.” Thundering applause resounded from the packed auditorium in Geneva and at the 36th International Conference on High Energy Physics in Melbourne, Australia, which was linked by a live feed.4 Joe Incandela and Fabiola Gianotti, the heads of the two large teams of scientists at CERN, announced they have detected a new subatomic particle consistent with the elusive Higgs boson, commonly called the “god particle.”
The Standard Model of physics is the currently most-accepted model to explain how the physical universe works. Within the Standard Model, which involves quantum physics, some high-energy particles—like electrons and quarks, the tiny particles comprising protons and neutrons—have rest-mass, and other particles—photons, essentially particles of light energy—have no rest-mass. But the Standard Model has not found the reason some particles have rest-mass and others do not. Theoretically, the universe is filled with a Higgs field mediated by Higgs bosons that impart rest-mass to particles of matter as they interact with it.5 The Higgs boson thus is the theoretical—and now likely observed—subatomic particle that imparts rest-mass to matter.
Mass is a measure of how much matter something contains. Gravity acts on mass to give things weight and ultimately to hold the physical universe together.
Such a subatomic particle is extremely unstable. Therefore, in an effort to find proof of the existence of the elusive particle and then to study its characteristics, physicists have for several years been colliding beams of high-energy protons in the 17-mile long Large Hadron Collider under the Alps. They study the debris resulting from the collisions in search of subatomic particles. Now that a subatomic particle closely fitting the expected characteristics of the predicted Higgs boson has been repeatedly found by the two teams, they believe they’ve found it. Read more about the physics involved and the significance of the findings at Beams Collide Today in Expensive Hadron Collider.
Over the past months there have been rumors and hints that this discovery was imminent. In particle physics, for a discovery to be deemed truly “discovered,” it must be detected repeatedly such that there is only the remotest possibility that the signals detected could have resulted from random chance. This is called a “five –sigma” level of certainty, and that is the benchmark that has finally been reached. 6
Notably, as further testing examines the nature of this subatomic particle, physicists hope to learn more about the way the universe works. As with the results thus far, repeatable observations are made and the data interpreted and compared with hypotheses and predictions. This is an excellent example of how experimental science works and how science can help us understand the way God upholds His creation.
What these results do not (and will not) reveal, as many media pundits suggest, is how the universe originated. British scientist Peter Higgs—who was on hand in Geneva for the announcement6—postulated the existence of the Higgs field that produces the Higgs boson “as the way that matter obtained mass after the universe was created in the Big Bang.7 As one of the CERN researchers added, “Without it, or something like it, particles would just have remained whizzing around the universe at the speed of light.”7
Although many believe the collision of the proton beams in the LHC re-creates the conditions immediately after the big bang and therefore claim the Higgs discovery will unlock the secret of how the universe blew into existence without God, it does no such thing. The ability to create a situation in a present-day well-designed and enormously expensive laboratory does not prove the situation ever came about naturally in the past or that such an event produced the universe in which we live. A discovery that deepens our understanding of the nature of matter and energy does not rule out a supernaturally created origin for that matter and energy.
“Thanks, nature!” Gianotti said to laughter, alluding to the unpopular layman’s term for the Higgs boson, the “god particle.” The term was coined by physicist Leon Lederman, much to the consternation of Higgs and many in the Higgs-hunting business,8 due to his book title, The God Particle: If the Universe is the Answer, What is the Question? But though the Higgs boson can help us better understand the way the physical universe works and fill in the gaps in the Standard Model of physics, it does not explain how the universe could come into existence without allowing “a divine foot in the door.”9
Study proves growth rings in bone cannot be used to determine whether an animal is cold-blooded or warm-blooded.
In an effort to determine whether bone “growth rings” vary in thickness seasonally in mammals as they do in cold-blooded animals, investigators have invalidated the standard interpretation of a clue to dinosaur thermophysiology. Were dinosaurs cold-blooded or warm-blooded? Without living dinosaurs to examine, paleontologists can only guess on the basis of indirect clues in the fossilized bones.
“We did not design it [the study] to find a response to the thermophysiology of dinosaurs,” explained lead author Meike Köhler of Spain’s Catalan Institute of Paleontology. “We sought to better understand the physiology of extant mammals and how the environment affects them—how their growth changes as a result of external temperatures, rain and the availability of food and water.” But soon the research team realized its work was relevant to the dinosaur question.
These growth rings are complex concentric layers surrounding blood vessels in dense compact bone. Such rings are found in both cold-blooded and warm-blooded vertebrates. “Cold-blooded” animals are more accurately called ectothermic, because their body temperature is controlled by the environment outside their bodies (hence, ecto-) and may be cold or hot. “Warm-blooded” animals are endothermic, their body temperature being internally (endo-) controlled.
These concentric bony layers may be evenly spaced or vary in thickness, like tree rings. The rings in cold-blooded (ectothermic) reptiles and amphibians typically have thin “lines of arrested growth” (LAGs) thought to form during seasonal times of dryness and deprivation due to metabolic slowing. Without much data, scientists have previously assumed warm-blooded (endothermic) animals would have evenly spaced rings without LAGs due to their ability to maintain the high metabolic rate required to control their own body temperature despite seasonal variations.
“It may seem surprising that until now there has not been a similar systematic study to prove or disprove whether it is only ectotherms that leave these marks in their bones during growth,” Köhler said.
Her team studied the thigh bones of 115 wild ruminants of various sizes from a variety of ecosystems all over the world. They found, to the surprise of many, that all these endothermic mammals, exposed to seasonal variations, have LAGs just like ectotherms. They also confirmed that metabolic rate varies seasonally even in endothermic animals and does correlate with the bony rings. Therefore, one of the key bits of evidence previously believed to show most dinosaurs were cold-blooded (ectothermic)—the presence of LAGs in all types of dinosaurs except sauropods10—is no longer valid.
“The first finding of a LAG in a dinosaur (in the 1980s by Reid, published in Nature) has led to the conviction that dinosaurs are ectotherms,” said Köhler. “Our findings that LAGs are consistently present in large homeothermic mammals (ruminants) of all ecosystems and under all climatic conditions falsifies this argument.”
In addition to the LAGs, this study confirms the correlation between the time of rapid growth, high metabolic rate, and the corresponding highly vascularized portion of the bony rings. Since these highly vascularized areas are also seen in dinosaur bones, U.C.–Berkeley paleontologist Kevin Padian explains, “The [dinosaur] bone growth patterns . . . establishes [sic] that they grew just like large mammals do, and at comparable rates. So their physiology could not have been like lizards and crocodiles, which grow much more slowly and whose bones look very different inside.” Also commenting on the research, Florida State’s Gregory Erikson says, “This is a fantastic paper, it provides the much needed background work that should have been done in the first place. Paleohistologists have been viewing dinosaur bones all wrong by assuming they show a mix of reptilian (growth lines) and avian/mammalian traits (highly vascularised woven bone). This remarkably thorough study shows that dinosaur bones are more like those of endothermic animals than anyone realised.”
But does this information demonstrate dinosaurs were warm-blooded (endothermic)? No. What this information demonstrates is that the presence of LAGs in bone cannot be used to determine whether an organism is endothermic or ectothermic. And it does demonstrate that there truly is a correlation between high metabolic rate, rapid growth, and highly vascularized bone. Thus, we might reasonably surmise that at least some dinosaurs had a high metabolic rate and were capable of rapid growth. Perhaps, we also might surmise, this rapid growth potential enabled large dinosaurs to reach their gigantic sizes in reasonably short timespans.
Paleontologist Padian commented, “Actually there never was any evidence that dinosaurs were ectotherms. It was just sort of like, well, dinosaurs are reptiles, and living reptiles are cold-blooded . . . so dinosaurs were cold-blooded.” Evolutionists who are determined to believe birds evolved from dinosaurs very much want to show dinosaurs were endothermic because birds are endothermic. But even if dinosaurs were more endothermic than living reptiles, would that prove dinosaurs evolved into birds? No. It would only illustrate more of the created variety in the world God created.
From a creationist perspective, the endothermic/ectothermic question for the dinosaurs has no particular ramifications. While evolutionists insist that endotherms evolved from ectotherms, we simply maintain that God created both endotherms and ectotherms during Creation Week about 6,000 years ago. God’s eyewitness account in Genesis tells us that He created animals to reproduce after their kinds, and no animal kinds have ever been proven to evolve into other kinds nor is there any known mechanism by which one kind of animal can acquire the new genetic information to become a new kind of animal. Warm-blooded birds were created the day before land animals, including dinosaurs, whatever their metabolism and their thermophysiology were like.
Gentle gorilla "gestural motherese" said by some to be a clue to how human behavior evolved.
Baby talk—“gestural motherese” to anthropologists—is not just a uniquely human way of communicating, according to a study of gorillas published in June in the Journal of American Primatology. Eva Maria Luef and Katja Liebal filmed 24 lowland gorillas in two zoos to analyze the way gorillas communicate during play. Samples from the 120 hours of video may be seen at www.naturenplanet.com and nationalgeographic.com.
Researchers were surprised to see that adult female gorillas “used more tactile gestures than they use with other adults, touching, stroking and lightly slapping the youngsters.” In a gesture the researchers call hand-on, “mothers put the flat hand of their hand on top of the [infant's] head,” meaning “stop it,” explained Luef. The gesture was used repetitively and gently with an infant, whereas when used more forcefully with a fellow adult seemed to mean, “I've had enough.”
Infant gorillas also communicated with the adults using similar gestures. “The adults, when addressing them, may have that in mind, knowing the infants prefer tactile gestures,” Luef said. She indicated she is “less certain about why the older gorillas repeated their gestures with infants, but it's possible that the older gorillas know that their messages are easier to comprehend when repeated.” But she said this sort of repetitive gentle gestural communication helps “infants to build the repertoire of signals they will use as adults, in order to communicate with the rest of the gorilla group as well as shows that older animals possess a certain awareness of the infants' immature communication skills.”
Among primates, the rhesus monkey is known to use a vocal kind of baby talk. Among humans, “regardless of their language, people baby-talk in the same way, with a raised pitch and a swooping, sing-song style.” Commenting on the research, Steve Ross, director of the E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes, said, “Like many studies with primates, I think there is the potential to use this information to form some ideas about how human behavioral and cognitive processes have evolved.”
As we know from God's eyewitness account of His own creative activities 6,000 years ago, however, He created apes and humans the same day but very differently. Humans are made in the image of God. The fact that animals have ways of communicating with each other does not imply that humans evolved from animals. God created Adam and Eve with the ability to use verbal language to formulate and communicate complex abstract thoughts. In fact, as we discussed inaccording to the Bible, prior to the incident at the Tower of Babel, all people continued to speak one language. Thus it is not surprising that, regardless of language, all humans communicate with their babies the same way. Evolution is not needed to explain this common feature of humanity, only the eyewitness account recorded in the Bible.
Dawkins’ Selfish Gene versus E. O. Wilson’s Social Conquest
Sparks are flying in a war of words waged between “twin giants of genetic theory,” Oxford’s Richard Dawkins and Harvard’s E. O. Wilson. The latest battle erupted when Prospect magazine published Dawkin’s scathing review of Wilson’s new book, The Social Conquest of Earth.
Wilson’s book promotes the idea that “kin selection” inadequately explains the origin of cooperation and that “group selection” must be an additional driving force of evolution. Wilson says “after years of research on the subject”11 in 2010 he joined his voice to those of Martin Nowak and Corina Tarnita to demonstrate, as he writes in the New York Times, “that the mathematical foundations of the kin selection theory are unsound.”11 The three touched off a colossal controversy by publishing their work, “The Evolution of Eusociality,”12 in Nature. (We explored the fallout from that battle in News to Note, May 7, 2011) Last week’s feature, “Snuggle for survival,” further explores “group selection.”
Looking to Darwinian authority, Wilson—whose great area of expertise even according to Dawkins lies with social insects—writes, “Charles Darwin correctly deduced its role, first in the insects and then in human beings — respectively in “On the Origin of Species” and “The Descent of Man.”11
But rebutting the list of scientists Dawkins claims for his own side of the conflict—the “selfish gene/kin selection” side—Wilson points out that scientific truth is not determined by appeal to authority or majority opinion. Wilson writes, “The science in our argument has, after 18 months, never been refuted or even seriously challenged—and certainly not by the archaic version of inclusive fitness from the 1970s recited in Prospect by Professor Dawkins. . . . In any case, making such lists is futile. If science depended on rhetoric and polls, we would still be burning objects with phlogiston [a mythical fire-like element] and navigating with geocentric maps.”13
So what does Dawkins say about Wilson, and why is he so upset? Dawkins attacks Wilson’s theory—the idea of group selection especially—“as implausible and as unsupported by evidence.” Dawkins writes that to get to the good parts of Wilson’s book about social insects “one is obliged to wade through many pages of erroneous and downright perverse misunderstandings of evolutionary theory.” Dawkins says that Wilson’s book is so full of errors he finds it “impossible to recommend,” concluding, “This is not a book to be tossed lightly aside. It should be thrown with great force.”
Looking back to the “Wilson thesis” as presented in the paper12 co-authored with Nowak and Tarnita, Dawkins writes, “The 2010 paper would never have been published in Nature had it been submitted anonymously and subjected to ordinary peer-review, bereft of the massively authoritative name of Edward O. Wilson. If it was authority that got the paper published, there is poetic justice in deploying authority in reply.” Thus Dawkins justifies his “reluctant” appeal to the authority of “more than 140 evolutionary biologists, including a majority of the most distinguished workers in the field” and accuses Wilson of “wanton arrogance.”
Dawkins primary point is that natural selection operates on genes, not on organisms. The organism is merely a vehicle transporting genes and allowing them to express their phenotypic bids for survival and replication. Since a “group” doesn’t replicate, Dawkins says Wilson doesn’t know what he is talking about. Dawkins explains, “A gene’s success depends on the survival and reproduction of the bodies in which it sits, and which it influences via ‘phenotypic’ effects. This is why I have called the organism a “survival machine” or ‘vehicle’ for the genes that ride inside it.”
A curious point of interest in these arguments is the repeated appeal to authority. Science shouldn’t be decided by the majority. However, evolutionists routinely point to the majority opinion of mainstream science when supporting evolutionary views that conflict with creationist positions. For this reason, for instance, during the recent debate about the Tennessee Teacher Protection Academic Freedom Act, prominent evolutionists contended vehemently that there really was no controversy because mainstream scientists agreed evolutionary history was factual.14
As to authority, in the area of historical/origins science, it is impossible to actually deploy testable repeatable scientific experiments apart from reliance on a number of unverifiable assumptions about the past. After all, the origin of all things already happened. It is impossible to return to time before it happened to run controlled experiments. The authority of a reliable eyewitness—God—weighs in on the side of biblical creation.
Moreover, while debating which way cooperation evolved, both Dawkins and Wilson assume that molecules-to-man evolution and hominid evolution from brutish ape-like ancestors actually happened. Yet those assumptions are based on belief, not testable facts. The combatants here are merely arguing about the target on which natural selection acts.
Dawkins tells us that an organism is a mere vehicle to transport genes. Yet evolutionary dogma maintains that these genes must not only transfer from one vehicle to another of the same kind but also recombine and mutate to create brand new kinds of living vehicles. Somehow, new genetic information must appear. So while the combatants bitterly face off over the subject of natural selection’s attention, they never address the fundamental question of how new kinds could arise from the random knocking about of these genes, much less how life could arise from the cooperation of lifeless molecules.
See the more extensive discussion of Nowak and Wilson’s position in last week’s News to Note.
The writer of a Yahoo News blog that was posted this week chose to present attendance figures for the Creation Museum, here on the outskirts of Cincinnati in Petersburg, Kentucky, as if the Creation Museum were “evolving” to extinction. Her article, “The Creation Museum evolves: hoping to add a life-size ark project, the museum hits fundraising trouble,” also presented the $22 million already raised for the Ark Encounter as a failure. In truth, museum attendance figures have far exceeded the 250,000 projected for the first year every year. Attendance at new museums and zoos typically drops after their first year of operation and their highly publicized openings. The Creation museum drew 400,000 people the first year (2007), and has been averaging around 300,000 annually since, which was to be expected. Furthermore, daily attendance numbers this summer, despite the heat, the bad economy, and high gas prices, have typically exceeded those from last year. The Creation Museum certainly does not consider the 1.6 million visitors during its first five years of operation to be a sign of failure or a predictor of doom! And while the Ark Encounter does not yet have a definite date to begin construction, the fact that $22 million has already been raised in donations and investments in a year and a half (and during difficult economic times!)—compared to the 7 years required to raise the $27 million required for the Creation Museum project—is a positive, not a negative. Be sure to read Ken Ham’s response to the Yahoo blog writer’s clear agenda.
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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