Tragedy in Colorado is a stark reminder of the sin and death that clouds this world.
The midnight premier of The Dark Knight Rises, the latest movie in the Batman saga, turned to tragedy in Aurora, Colorado, this week as a lone gunman killed at least a dozen people and wounded at least fifty. The 24-year-old man, armed with multiple weapons and equipped with riot gear, broke into the crowded theater through an emergency exit, created confusion with a smoke bomb of some sort, and heartlessly began unloading his weapons into the frightened people.
I have used several words in this description—confusion, frightened, heartlessly, killed, dark, and tragedy—to point out just a few of the thoughts and emotions this sort of horror brings to mind. First of all, let me share our condolences and promises of prayers for the victims and families and community touched by this rampage. In the wake of events like this—such as the Columbine High School shooting of fifteen people not so far away from Aurora in 1999 and the 2007 shooting tragedy at Virginia Tech—many people ask why a good and loving God allows these things to go on. If He loves us, why does He let people do these sorts of things?
Tragedies surround us. Not only tsunamis and mass shootings and terrorist attacks but also the diseases and deaths that touch us all, robbing us of those we love one by one. Human history began gloriously about 6,000 years ago when a loving Creator made Adam and Eve in His own image and offered them, literally, the world—a very good world. They knew the God who made them and loved them. Yet they rebelled against His authority, and that dark day of rebellion was the watershed moment for human history—the day when all our tragedies began.
One of the most moving scenes in John Milton’s classic Paradise Lost, a fictionalized account of the fall of man, comes near the end when Adam is granted a peek into the future. Adam is heartsick when he sees the horrors his descendants—us, all of humanity—would experience in the millennia to come. He saw the fear, the heartlessness, the selfishness, the deaths haunting the future. He had to face the truth of the consequences of his rebellion against God. He saw that all his descendants would be born with a sinful nature determined to rebel against God also. The Bible confirms the truth that Adam’s sin brought death into the world, such as Romans 5:12—“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.” In Milton’s epic poem Adam was also shown the promise of the Deliverer—Jesus Christ—whose shed blood on the Cross would pay for man’s guilt.
Yet as we look around us we need always to realize that man’s rebellion started the problems in this world. Death and suffering are not God’s fault, but man’s. From an evolutionary perspective, death has always been part of this world and is even the agent of progress as the weak die to make room for the strong. But God tells us the truth in the Bible. Death is not what we were created for. Death is an intruder, the enemy. And thanks to God’s grace in sending His Son Jesus Christ, “The last enemy that will be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:26).
We do not proclaim that “evolution” causes people to plan assaults on theaters. But in a world where an evolutionary worldview tries to write God out of history, in a world where people justify the idea that they can create their own morality apart from God and then cry “foul” when someone else’s vision of acceptable behavior intrudes on their own, people lose sight of truth. We point out that the true history of death is rooted in human rebellion, as explained by the Bible.
Please read AiG–CCO Mark Looy’s remarks yesterday concerning these tragic events. Also, right after 9/11, AiG produced a witnessing booklet Why Does God Allow Suffering and Death? It is appropriate once again to share with you a PDF of the booklet (revised since 9/11) for you to read and forward to people who may be struggling right now with the question of why God allows bad things to happen.
Can Karabo catch up with Lucy’s legacy?
Entombed for many years—about two million according to Lee Berger but no more than a few thousand based on biblical history provided by the Creator of the universe—a fossil has remained encased in solid rock and unnoticed in Berger’s South African laboratory for three years. Finally someone noticed a telltale tooth. Now, the rest of Karabo (or maybe his cousin) can be seen using CT scans taken through rock. But soon, unprecedented worldwide online interactive coverage of his “dis-entombment” should forever secure Australopithecus sediba’s spot in the public mind.
Karabo, meaning “the answer,” is the name Berger has given to his signature fossil, Australopithecus sediba. Berger claims his australopithecine ape, which made its public debut in 2011, is the oldest human ancestor yet found. He believes Au. sediba is “the answer” to the search for “the missing link.” (See “Sediba with a little sleight of hand” for a discussion of the various features Berger claims are human-like.)
Close-up of the telltale tooth that alerted Berger’s team to the presence of the bones inside the rock.1
“What we found inside of this enormous rock is what appears to be the remainder of either the skeleton of Karabo or another skeleton entirely,” says Berger. “We have discovered parts of a jaw and critical aspects of the body including what appear to be a complete femur (thigh bone), ribs, vertebrae and other important limb elements, some never before seen in such completeness in the human fossil record. This discovery will almost certainly make Karabo the most complete early human ancestor skeleton ever discovered. We are obviously quite excited as it appears that we now have some of the most critical and complete remains of the skeleton, albeit encased in solid rock. It's a big day for us as a team and for our field as a whole.”2
By comparison, “Lucy”—aka Australopithecine afarensis—established a reputation in the evolutionary hall of fame for supposedly experimenting with bipedality 3.2 million years ago (see “A Look at Lucy’s Legacy”). Berger believes Au. sediba had evolved to acquire several additional human-like traits mixed with ape characteristics by about a million years later. This timing would just precede the earliest accepted date for Homo erectus fossils. (Again, see “Sediba with a little sleight of hand” to see how these desirable dates were obtained.) Some controversy has surrounded those dates and the place of Au. sediba on the human evolutionary tree. Media coverage, however, dubbing it the “new human species from South Africa,”3 Berger’s liberal dispersion of Karabo casts to museums worldwide, a catchy name, and of course Karabo’s memorable portrait beaming with charisma (see “Forensic fantasy” in News to Note, December 31, 2011: Year in Review) have nearly secured Au. sediba’s place in the public mind. Berger’s plans for the future should make that a certainty.
“The world is going to be able to watch and interact live as we expose this discovery,” Berger explains. Karabo is to be released from his rocky prison at a laboratory studio being built by Berger and the National Geographic Society at Maropeng Visitor Centre in Gauteng, South Africa. The excavation will be open to interactive public viewing online. In addition, major museums (yet unspecified) worldwide will even be equipped with “virtual outposts” allowing visitors to control cameras and microscopes in the laboratory. Berger says, “The public will be able to participate fully in Live Science and future discoveries as they occur in real time—an unprecedented moment in palaeoanthropology.”1
The pits at Malapa Cave north of Johannesburg, South Africa, have already yielded portions of an australopithecine female and a young male, but Berger says there is evidence of at least six individuals in the cave. What’s in the rock? Berger explains, “There's also the possibility that we have two bodies that are intertwined [in the rock]. Part of the fun of this project is that as soon as we find out, the world will find out with us.”
The internet will likely achieve for Karabo the kind of fame that Lucy’s discoverer (Donald Johanson) could only have dreamed of. But as with Lucy, it is only the speculative interpretations of evolutionists that are making the media splash, not the actual scientific observations. What can be observed in both cases are the skeletal characteristics of some extinct varieties of apes. Not only are the millions-of-years claims based on unverifiable assumptions, but so are the claims that an ape-like ancestor could evolve into a human. None of the skeletal characteristics revealed in sediba’s analysis are transitional forms en route to becoming human but only minor variations of features found on apes. And as with Lucy, speculation about how sediba could have used its hands and how it walked are based on highly speculative interpretations of the data. The imagination must connect the dots—ape characteristics and how “primitive” Homo species are presumed to have lived—to paint Karabo as the “missing link.”
God created land animals and the first two humans supernaturally on the sixth day of Creation Week. Humans were not made from animals, and only humans were made in the image of God. Man is unique physically, mentally, and spiritually. Any similarities shared with apes occur because we share a common Designer, not a common ancestry. “The answer” is in Genesis, not in South African rocks.
Dolphins-by-design or big-thinkers-that-bumbled-into-existence?
How dolphins were able to “evolve such large noggins”4 is the “just so story” recently brought to light by evolutionary biologist Michael McGowen from Detroit’s Wayne State University and colleagues. The team, whose work was published June 27 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, compared the genomes of dolphins, cows, horses, dogs, mice, elephants, humans, chickens, and even the platypus.5
The well-known evolutionary tale tells of how nearly 50 million years ago a land-based ancestor traded in its limbs for fins, learned to hold its breath a long time, and tripled its brain size to eventually produce dolphins. The story is particularly interesting when compared to the story about how ape-like ancestors learned to walk upright before bumping up their brain size to become ancestral humans. In both scenarios, the upward evolving mammal—be it terrestrial or aquatic—acquired “complex cognitive capacities.”6 The team writes that their results provide “some evidence for convergent [evolutionary] features in the genomes of dolphins and primates.”5 Apparently altering the standard method of locomotion and getting up off of all fours is key to intellectual evolutionary progress!
The team examined 10,000 protein-coding genes in the dolphin and compared them to genes in land animals. Because of their presupposition that land mammals evolved before cetaceans (dolphins and whales)—they defined the 228 differences they found as mutations. Mutations are changes. They see these observable present-day differences as evidence of unobservable changes from a hypothetical common ancestor. Some of these differences involved genes associated with brain growth, neuronal interconnections, sleep, and “human intellectual disabilities.”6
Because bigger brains and increased cognitive abilities would need to be fueled efficiently, genes coding for more efficient glucose transport across the blood-brain barrier than that found in the land animals were also considered evidence of “adaptive evolution.”6 Other genetic differences seemed associated with having lots of mitochondria, an important cellular feature for active animals with a high metabolic rate—such as large aquatic mammals. (Swimming is hard work for any mammal, after all, even for a dolphin.)
Because these genetic differences are interpreted by the researchers as remnants of dolphin evolution from land animals, they are considered a roadmap clocking the evolution of the ancestral dolphin. Calculations of rates of molecular evolution, however, do not prove animals evolved from other kinds of animals but simply assume such evolution happened and then calculate how long it supposedly took.
The unique features blueprinted by the dolphin genome are merely the design features required for significant animal cognitive abilities and for efficient life in the water—a life for which God equipped certain of His creatures when He created all kinds of creatures about 6,000 years ago. The other genes are similar because they code for proteins and structures needed in many creatures designed by God, the common Designer of all. Animals were created to reproduce after their kinds, not to evolve into new kinds, and that is what we observe in nature.
God told us in Genesis 1:21 what He did and when. On the 5th day of Creation Week—one day before He created land animals—“God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind.” And when some Christians—such as theistic evolutionists—try to merge evolutionary dogma with the Bible, they, in effect, accuse God of lying, being incapable of communicating effectively, or being too forgetful to remember the order in which He did things.
Life as we know it is still as we know it.
The “most alien life-form yet”—also known as GFAJ-1—has faced an uphill battle since first being described in Science in 2010. This little bacterium-that-could from arsenic-rich Mono Lake captured NASA astrobiologists’ attention in 2010 due to its apparent ability to evolve into an arsenic-dependent organism. Researchers initially thought GFAJ-1 was capable of rewriting the standard recipe for DNA when forced to subsist on arsenic instead of phosphorus, a key constituent of DNA. The toxic lake was made to order in the wake of a challenge from Paul Davies of Arizona State’s BEYOND Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science. The picturesque California lake seemed to be the perfect place to search for arsenic-based microbial life. Davies suggested the existence of a “shadow biosphere” full of alternative life-forms that evolved through “an independent genesis.”7 Such a discovery would support expectations, he contended, that bizarre alien life had also evolved.
Many searching for aliens are sure that life evolved on earth and therefore must have also evolved elsewhere. The BEYOND Center’s website, for instance, states, “If life has formed at least twice on Earth, it is certain to be common throughout the galaxy and beyond.”7 Davies has since rejected the possibility that GFAJ-1 represents that “shadow biosphere” because, he said, “It was clear from early on that GFAJ-1 did not constitute evidence for a second genesis.” Nevertheless, research has continued as experimental science has been in full swing to see if the original research on the Mono Lake bacteria could be replicated.
Originally, astrobiologists grew GFAJ-1 in progressively more phosphorus-poor conditions, forcing it to adapt. They thought it had incorporated arsenic into its DNA and even become dependent on the ordinarily toxic element. Now two new studies published in Science have demonstrated that GFAJ-1 actually did not bond any phosphorus into its DNA but only managed to subsist on infinitesimally small amounts of phosphorus. There was in fact a minimal amount of phosphorus without which GFAJ-1 could not survive. And the apparent dependence on arsenic was probably just dependence on an amino acid contaminating the arsenic solution. This is the way experimental science operates, performing repeatable controlled experiments, which in this case have called into question the original suspicions about the nature of this microbe.
Reports about GFAJ-1 make frequent use of the “e word.”8 For example, “Over multiple generations in the lab, scientists forced them to evolve further, gradually ramping up the arsenic concentrations while lowering the amount of phosphorus available to the organisms” (emphasis ours). And, “This suggests they have nothing to do with a newly evolved tolerance to arsenic” (emphasis ours). Yet never was there any change remotely suggestive of molecules-to-man evolution. These bacteria simply displayed their ability to vary within their created kind. They never acquired genetic information to become a new kind of organism. They never became non-bacteria.
Far from evolving, GFAJ-1 displayed its remarkable adaptive ability. As the authors of one of the follow-up studies noted, microorganisms surviving extreme conditions like those in Mono Lake face the challenge of discriminating against a “highly abundant but toxic chemical mimic”9 in order to incorporate only the required genuine compound. They explain, “Organisms typically adapt to such conditions not by incorporating the mimic in place of the essential salt but by enriching for the [essential] salt at multiple stages, from preferential membrane transport to the selectivity of metabolic enzymes.”9 Furthermore, the DNA did not bond any detectable arsenic into its structure. The researchers write, “The end result is that the fundamental biopolymers conserved across all forms of life remain, in terms of chemical backbone, invariant.”9
Furthermore, even if arsenic-based microbes had been discovered, they would not be evidence for molecules-to-man evolution, either terrestrial or extraterrestrial. There would be no evidence they had evolved from non-living elements. They would simply be examples of an unusual created design. As it is, Davies of the BEYOND project has dismissed GFAJ-1’s as proof of an alternative line of evolution because he assumes these bacteria are already in the evolutionary line of existing bacteria. But the random emergence of living things from nonliving components has never been observed, neither conventional life-forms nor biochemically aberrant ones. God created all kinds of living things about 6,000 years ago and equipped them to vary within their kinds to adapt to changing environments but to only reproduce after their kinds. Nothing in science has demonstrated anything to the contrary.
It isn’t a matter of what God could have done but rather a matter of what God said He did.
Theistic evolution made a guest appearance in the People of Praise section of Fort Wayne, Indiana’s Journal Gazette last weekend. High school biology teacher David Butler summed up his arguments favoring theistic evolution. Many Christians fail to see the subtle problems with this particular point of view.
Saying that he tells students he believes in evolution “with divine guidance,” Mr. Butler connects his growing “understanding of what evolution truly means” with his growth as a Christian. He says he believes “God started it all and that he is still watching over his creation.” This statement sums up the essence of theistic evolution.
While we agree with Mr. Butler that “God gave us the gift of reason,” we would hasten to point out that man’s reasoning ability is neither infallible nor all-knowing. Those attributes belong only to God. And man’s reasoning ability is further distorted by a rebellious sinful nature, which causes us to be darkened in our reasoning (Ephesians 4:17–18), a condition that is by no means completely healed when we become Christians. Our first parents yielded to the serpent’s challenge, questioning whether God was really telling them the truth with those awful words, “Yea, hath God said?” (Genesis 3:1). Since that time man has continued to rebel against God’s Word. And refusing to believe what God has plainly revealed in His written Word about our origins is not a godly use of God’s gift of reason but a rebellious perversion of God’s gift with a 6,000-year precedent.
In the course of his essay, Mr. Butler emphasizes the scientific importance of the law of biogenesis—that living things only come from living things. Yet the evolutionary theory he supports trumpets the belief that the first living cell came from non-living matter by chance, in clear violation of this well-established law of biology! He goes on to offer observable phenomena such as natural selection and speciation as evidence for the evolution of new kinds of organisms—a process that would require the acquisition of new genetic material—and he indicates “beneficial mutations” would supply this information. Yet mutations—even those offering limited benefit in certain situations—do not create new genetic information but instead destroy existing information. And he assumes that so-called vestigial organs and anatomical similarities between animals and humans must be evidence of evolution, seemingly unaware that they are well-explained by our Common Designer.
Remarkably, Mr. Butler indicates that embryogenesis from a one-celled zygote—already equipped with a complete genetic blueprint containing all the information needed to develop a complex human being—serves as proof that all living things evolved from a single organism “that developed billions of years ago.” From an evolutionary point of view, such a hypothetical progression would have had to produce or acquire genetic information countless times over billions of years in its “upward” evolutionary course. Thus, Mr. Butler’s statement fails miserably even as an analogy, much less as a proof!
Writing “it’s not a crime to use our minds to explore and theorize the wonders of the universe and nature,” Mr. Butler implies that creation scientists do not care about scientific information relevant to our origins. He presumes “extremists” (like those associated with the “Creation Museum, Petersburg, Ky.”) are mired in “ambiguity or fear about how we evolved.” Those notions are simply not true. Creation scientists are as interested in understanding genetics, astronomy, geology, biology, and the fossil record as any other scientists. But when addressing past events that cannot be tested by repeatable experiments or observed to be happening in the present, creation scientists allow their thinking and their scientific models to be guided by the only reliable eyewitness account available—the one provided by God in the Bible. Our refusal to accept evolution is not the result of fear but the result of a decision to accept the authoritative Word of the eternal Creator over the untestable opinions of fallible people, most of whom deny the Creator and His Word.
What Mr. Butler fails to realize is that historical science—the kind of science concerned with origins—cannot verify the truth of its claims about the past by the same methods used in the experimental sciences to find cures for diseases or develop new technology. He makes much of the definition of a theory as “an extremely well-substantiated explanation of some aspects of the natural world that incorporates facts, predictions and tested hypotheses.” However, the events that occurred “in the beginning” are over; they cannot be replicated and tested and observed. Experimental science reveals information about the present and makes predictions about the present. Conclusions about the distant past, however, are guided by presuppositions and biases.
Without the option of experimental testing of unrepeatable unobservable events long past, the conclusions of origins science demand certain starting assumptions. If our starting assumption accepts the validity of the only eyewitness account available—the one in the Bible—then that eyewitness account will guide our scientific interpretations. Such an approach has produced an understanding that God created all kinds of living things to reproduce after their kinds (only varying within their kinds), that humans and animals have certain design similarities but that humans are also distinct from animals in many ways, and that geological phenomena can be explained by models based on the events recorded in Genesis including the global Flood.
On the other hand, rejection of God’s eyewitness account substitutes the authority of fallible human opinions for God’s infallible Word and in essence calls God a liar. That attitude is not so unexpected in non-Christians, but it is a particularly sad way for Christ’s blood-bought people to behave.
Jesus Christ spoke of literal events in Genesis, such as the creation and marriage of the first man and woman (in Matthew 19:4–5) and the global Flood in Noah’s day (in Matthew 24:38–39). Christ also connected the importance of accepting the accounts of Moses with a good understanding of who He is and why He came. He said, “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” (John 5:46–47). Moses’ writings in Genesis explain how God created a perfectly good world, how that good world was corrupted after man sinned, and how God planned to send Christ into the world to suffer the awful penalty for mankind’s sins.
So who should Christians believe? People who were not present to see our origins, or the Son of God who bought us with His precious blood (1 Peter 1:18–19)? We should believe the Son of God by whom, through whom, and for whom all things were created (Colossians 1:16–17). John 1:3 informs us, “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” Accepting theistic evolution is a compromise position that distorts the true meaning of evolution and thereby claims support from evidence that actually stands against it. Regardless of any good intentions, theistic evolutionists also twist Scripture and weaken the fabric of biblical doctrine. How can ignoring the very words of Jesus Christ promote genuine Christian growth?
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