1. Discover: “Big Idea: Bring Ancient Voices Back to Life

I love Lucy’s voice: it sounded just like an ape!

By constructing anatomical models of extinct animals, scientists make educated guesses about how those animals sounded. But the August 9, 2012, online edition of Discover Magazine shares more than sounds from the past. It acquaints readers with the insight of Bart de Boer, an “expert in the evolution of speech.”

De Boer’s research1 involved an experimental model using plastic tubes to duplicate the sounds he believes Lucy and family (fossils of the ape Australopithecine afarensis, believed by evolutionists to be our ancestor) could have produced. People listened to the sounds to see how clearly they could distinguish them. There was a great deal of blurring of sounds, especially vowels, suggesting that Lucy’s family lacked the anatomical ability to articulate precisely. Therefore, de Boer concludes that Lucy’s vocal anatomy was useful for  “dominance interactions or used for territorial defense, but disadvantageous for creating subtle acoustic distinctions necessary for speech”2 and “advantageous for producing loud, low-frequency calls, but disadvantageous for producing large sets of precisely timed, subtly distinct sounds.2 In other words, Lucy probably sounded like the ape she was.

The anatomical clue guiding de Boer was the presence of a hyoid bulla in the Australopithecine afarensis fossil generally called “Lucy’s child.” The hyoid bone is a tiny bone near the larynx (the “voice box”). In many monkeys and apes (such as female chimpanzees), this bone has “a cup shaped extension”2 called the hyoid bulla, to which the air sacs attach. The air sacs in gorillas and chimpanzees can extend well into the neck and chest. Air sacs, present in many animals but not humans, increase vocal resonance and may also prevent hyperventilation. De Boer says, “Air sacs make sounds louder and lower-pitched, just the way a musical instrument sounds lower and louder when it’s bigger. I was in Brazil recently and heard howler monkeys in the wild. They sounded like scary monsters because of their air sacs.”

chimp bulla The human hyoid bone provides a support for the tongue. The female chimpanzee’s hyoid bone has a cuplike extension that provides an attachment point for the passage leading to her air sacs. (Male chimps just have a ridge.) Image from Bart de Boer, “Air Sacs and Vocal Fold Vibration: Implications for Evolution of Speech” to appear in Theoria et Historia Scientiarum uvafon.hum.uva.nl/bart/papers/deBoerTHS2010.pdf

Plastic models of primate air sacs obscure the clarity of bellowing sounds to human observers. Therefore, de Boer concludes that the changing lifestyle of the bipedal ancestors of humans made the ability to articulate an increasingly important survival skill. However, nothing about A. afarensis anatomy suggests it sounded like anything but an ordinary ape. De Boer supports his contention by the claim that humans retain useless vestigial remnants of primate air sacs in the form of laryngeal saccules and occasionally as pathoglogical laryngocoeles. He further notes that some fossils of Neanderthals and H. heidelbergensis have been found with hyoid bones lacking bulla. Therefore, he believes speech evolved between the “Lucys” and the Neanderthals. De Boer writes, “This indicates that air sacs disappeared somewhere between 3.3 million years ago and 500 000 years ago in human evolution.”2

According to Ann MacLarnon of the University of Roehampton in London, de Boer provides clear evidence supporting the idea that the need to produce complex sounds to communicate better made air sacs shrink. More sounds meant more information could be shared, giving those who lacked air sacs a better chance of survival in a dangerous world.3

De Boer has demonstrated one reason it is anatomically impossible for chimpanzees to articulate like humans. Other reasons include their lack of intricate anatomical connections between the tongue and the hyoid bone. And by pointing out that Neanderthals and H. heidelbergensis both have hyoid bones like other humans, he reminds us of recent research asserting “Neanderthals were probably able [sic] of vocalizing voluntarily, with communicative intentions and in a sophisticated way,”4 (not a surprise to us since Neanderthals and H. heidelbergensis were just people). However, de Boer has not proven anything about human evolution. He’s only shown why apes sound like apes and humans sound like humans.

laryngeal sacculeThe laryngeal saccule is a small blind pouch beneath the false vocal cords. Placement of the muscles that move the true vocal cords during speech cause mucous to squeeze out of the saccule to lubricate the true vocal cords, resulting in a self-regulating continual as-needed lubrication system, perfectly designed by a loving Creator to help humans speak comfortably to him and to each other. Image from P. Porter and J. Vilensky, “The Laryngeal Saccule: Clinical Significance,” Clinical Anatomy 25: 647–649 (2012). onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ca.22015/full

As to de Boer’s claim the humans bear a useless vestigial remnant of primate air sacs, analysis of human anatomy reveals a different picture. The laryngeal saccule is a small blind pouch tucked up under the false vocal cords. Lined with an abundance of mucous-producing glands, it lubricates the vocal cords simultaneously with their movements. The precise placement of the muscles that move the vocal cords causes them to compress the saccule and squeeze out mucous just when it is needed. No other function5 is known for the laryngeal saccule in humans, but lubrication of the vocal cords seems valuable enough, hardly making the saccule a useless vestige!6

A laryngocoele is an enlargement of the saccule. Small laryngocoeles occur in about 8% of normal people. Large laryngocoeles may present as neck masses full of mucous, pus, or just air—particularly in people who play wind-instruments. Enlargement is also sometimes associated with laryngeal cancer.7 Pathological laryngocoeles are products of a sin-cursed world, not evolutionary throwbacks to primate air sacs.

Thus, this laryngeal saccule design serves the needs of human beings, who can accomplish more by speaking than bellowing. Air sacs serve the functions for which God designed them in primate animals—apparently to augment their useful bellowing while preventing hyperventilation—but primate animals are not designed with either the mental or anatomical ability to speak. God, our common Designer, intended the differences to make our bodies and theirs work the way He intended. Adam and Eve were created as fully formed human beings with the ability to speak. Speech did not have to evolve. Nothing about this research lends credence to notions about human evolution.

2. FOX News: “Hero guard shot thwarting attack at Family Research Council HQ

“Domestic terrorism” strikes at conservative advocacy group.

The sense of security of those who take a stand for biblical values came under fire, literally, this week. A lone gunman entered the Washington, D.C., offices of the Family Research Council (FRC) and, thankfully, was stopped by the building’s manager who happened to be acting as a security guard at the time. The man, Leo Johnson, confronted the Virginia man and was shot in the arm while subduing him. Authorities term Mr. Johnson’s actions heroic, noting he probably prevented a much greater tragedy.

Witnesses say the gunman said something about the FRC’s policies. FRC confirmed with us that the gunman was carrying a Chick-fil-A bag and that, once he was disarmed, he said, “Don't shoot me, it was not about you, it was what this place stands for.” The Family Research Council is a nonprofit conservative advocacy group that works to advance “faith, family and freedom in public policy and public opinion.” It takes a stand against abortion and “gay” marriage. The FRC recently stood behind Chick-fil-A as the restaurant was criticized for CEO Dan Cathey’s statements proclaiming God’s definition of marriage.

The FBI and the police are jointly investigating the crime and the gunman’s background. James McJunkin of the FBI’s Washington field office said of the gunman, “We don’t know enough about him or his circumstances to determine what his connection is to this group [the research council] or his mental state, or what he was doing or thinking of doing.” However, the attack on the FRC combined with alleged statements about FRC’s biblical stands is a reminder of the Lord Jesus’s statements that men hate the light of God’s truth and those who espouse it (John 3:19–20, 7:7b, 15:18–25). There is a great deal of hatred, even in America, for those who refuse to compromise what God’s Word teaches.

The Family Research Council often reminds our government officials that they have a responsibility to protect the religious freedom, the lives of the unborn, and the integrity of marriage and the family in this country. Biblical morality is under fire in this country and around the world. Traditional morality (which is based on the Bible) is turned upside down, and it is often considered a “hate crime” to correctly identify sinful behavior.

Yet God, our Creator, not only has complete knowledge of us but also—because He is our Creator—the prerogative to define morality. Answers in Genesis CEO Ken Ham stated, soon after the incident, “FRC and their leader Tony Perkins are good friends of AiG. From the news reports and others we trust, it seems this person who shot the guard was wanting to use his actions to make a statement concerning FRC's biblical stand. Sadly, we are seeing more anti-Christian sentiment growing in this culture.”

3. GreenFluorescentBlog: “New model for gene birth

Extrapolation from yeast hatches new evolutionary model.

Evolutionists believe organisms acquire and accumulate new genetic information that provides blueprints for new kinds of organisms. However, the source of such new genes has always remained a little fuzzy, to say the least.

Since gene “duplicates” and various “near-repeats” of genetic sequences do appear in genomes, evolutionists believe some new genes come from reorganization of existing genetic sequences. However, according to a study called “Proto-genes and de novo gene birth,” published in Nature,De novo gene birth [from non-coding “junk” DNA] remains poorly understood, mainly because translation of sequences devoid of genes . . . is expected to produce insignificant polypeptides rather than proteins with specific biological functions.”8 In other words, there has been no proof that there are any biologically useful molecules encoded in genetic “junk.” (Read how “junk” DNA can be seen as God’s tools at ‘Junk’ DNA: Evolutionary Discards or God’s Tools?)

A Harvard-led team of evolutionary biologists, after comparing the genes in various strains of budding yeast to each other and to those in similar yeast species, has developed a new evolutionary model. Noting that some “junk” DNA gets translated into RNA, the team writes, “These translation events seem to provide adaptive potential.”8 They conclude therefore that their work “illustrates that evolution exploits seemingly dispensable sequences to generate adaptive functional innovation.”8

In some strains of yeast, genes appeared to be replaced by “pseudo-genes” (non-functioning mutant sections), so the team believes further mutation could render a gene unrecognizable. They call the unrecognizable version of the gene a “proto-gene” and note that it would become part of the “junk” DNA. Then they propose the process could proceed in the other direction and birth a new gene. The new gene would be retained over generations if it encodes for something useful.

Reporting on “Proto-gene and de novo gene birth” as published in Nature, a molecular biology blogger writes:

If their model is further developed and strengthened, this could be the “missing link” in molecular evolution. If laboratory experiments will show that such proto-genes can actually become bona fide genes, it will be a blow to a lot of anti-evolutionists [sic] claims that proteins such as we see today could not have been created by evolution, because they are too complex and too efficient, that there are no known “proto-genes” they could have evolved from (emphasis his).

We must note, however, that the researchers did not demonstrate any non-coding genetic material could become bona fide genes. Thus, to call the non-coding sequences “proto-genes” is presumptive and misleading. Furthermore, even if the non-coding sections of DNA do provide a reservoir of genetic information, that information could only provide the raw material for variation within a kind of organism and still does not provide a leg up the evolutionary tree.

Thus, at best, the Harvard team has unearthed a mechanism by which the organisms created by God can vary. But they have not discovered the “missing link” in molecular evolution or shown how upward evolution (changing one kind into a different kind, say an ape to a human or a dog to a horse or a robin to an eagle or a bean plant to an oak tree or a dinosaur to a bird) could happen simply by time and chance and the laws of nature working on matter.

4. NewScientist: “Meteorite's left-handed molecules a blow to ET search

Left-handed amino acids in Tagish Lake meteorite complicate the search for life in outer space.

Planetary geologists have found unusual chemistry in the Tagish Lake meteorite. Amino acids found in fragments show a preponderance of left-handed amino acids. Since an unequal proportion of left- and right-handed organic molecules is normally considered “a signature of life”—and since this meteorite contains no evidence of biological inhabitants past or present—the search for extraterrestrial life just got a bit more complicated.

Some organic (carbon-containing) molecules can exist in mirror image forms. Such compounds are called chiral—pronounced kīrəl, like “spiral” with a k. Synthetic organic compounds generally consist of equal proportions of left- and right-handed mirror image forms. But when living things produce organic compounds, the products are homochiral—consisting of only one of the possible mirrored forms. Biochemical processes require specific mirror-image forms of molecules to function. (This is the reason the “DL” vitamins you can buy are usually cheaper than the corresponding “L” forms of vitamins—only the “L” part is actually usable by your body, but the “DL” is usually cheaper to produce.)

Organic compounds have been found in meteorites but generally as chiral mixtures. Their non-specific chirality attests to their non-biological origin and their non-usefulness as starting molecules that some evolutionists suggest “seeded” earth with the chemical building blocks for life.

We reported in June that the Tagish Lake meteorite, which fell over British Columbia in 2000, contained amino acids.9 Further analysis by Daniel Glavin’s team, reported July 31 in the journal Meteoritics and Planetary Science, has now demonstrated that 43 to 59% of the amino acids aspartic acid and glutamic acid present in the fragments is left-handed. All of the amino acid alanine, however, is present in the usual 50-50 proportion. Other tests rule out the possibility of terrestrial contamination.

The investigators suggest a way in which ordinary chemical and physical processes can produce chirality. (They do not suggest a biological origin, and the compounds are not 100% homochiral like those produced by living cells.) Only left-handed forms of aspartic and glutamic acids can form crystals after being dissolved in water. Alanine molecules are able to fit into crystals regardless of their chirality. The team hypothesizes the amino acids in the meteorite at some time in the rock’s history dissolved in water, preferentially concentrating and preserving the organic compounds in crystalline form.10

A commonly noted problem—though by no means the only or even the greatest one arguing against the possibility of the random evolution of life from non-living chemicals—has been the fact that life is based on complex homochiral (left-handed) biomolecules that could not have evolved randomly. The finding of a slight excess of one of the chiral forms of simple organic molecules in the Murcheson meteorite (Australia, 1969) led Dr. Ronald Breslow to publish research showing that chemical reactions starting with homochiral molecules end up producing homochiral molecules. (Breslow’s work became famous for his suggestion that advanced alien dinosaurs might be a danger to humanity.)11

Thus, some evolutionists suggest that homochiral organic molecules dropped on earth from outer space could have provided the chiral chemicals needed to produce life. But Dr. Breslow, whose paper raised this possibility, admitted there is no known way such “building blocks could assemble into structures with the exciting properties of life.”12

Thanks to this discovery, scientists searching for extraterrestrial life can no longer rely on the presence of homochiral molecules to indicate the success of their search. For instance, Alberto Fairen of the SETI project notes, “As evidence mounts that [left-handed] excess occurs naturally across bodies in the solar system, any strategies designed to search for life based on looking for this excess require serious rethinking.” Harald Steininger of the ExoMars alien-hunting project of the European Space Agency indicates he’s not worried, though. He says, “A swimming pool full of [left-handed] amino acids is not alive. Life shows in many different aspects, and chirality is only one of them.” Nevertheless, many evolutionary scientists still presume earth received a delivery of pre-biotic space dust to start the evolutionary ball rolling.

These researchers have not only documented an unexpected chiral specificity to non-biologic organic molecules but also proposed a way in which non-biological chemistry could have produced that imbalance. They have not, however, shown a way such molecules—even preferentially left-handed ones—could randomly interact to produce life. A whole swimming pool full of left-handed amino acids and even additional chemical ingredients of life would still lack the organizing information and machinery to produce living cells. Nothing in nature has ever demonstrated a way in which life can randomly emerge from non-living chemicals. Observational science continues to confirm the law of biogenesis—life comes from life. To call these amino acids “pre-biotic” is to presume without proof (and thereby mislead the public) that life could spring into existence without God.

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5. Smithsonian: “Nature: Journalists Distort Animal Studies of ‘Gay’ Sexuality

Biologists take journalists to task for teasing titillation.

Biologists Andrew Barron and Mark J.F. Brown have confirmed that many journalists sensationalize studies of animal sexual behavior. Their report, published in Nature, is illustrated with a number of tasteless examples. They ascribe the motivation to a greedy desire to increase readership. Their interpretation of the problem with this sort of journalism deserves our attention.

The biologists examined 48 articles from the mainstream media concerning 11 scientific studies. They write, “The vast majority of studies reporting sexual contact between pairs of males or females were presented in media articles as documenting gay, lesbian or transgender behavior. This is not innocuous — these are terms that refer to human sexuality, which encompasses lifestyle choices, partner preferences and culture, among other factors.”

They object to applying to animals terms that describe human behavior and sexual orientation. As an example of how scientists can influence the proper reporting of their research, they quote a conservation biologist who steadfastly pointed out to reporters, “Lesbian is a human term. The study is about albatross. The study is not about humans.” When reporters pressed her to make interpretations applicable to humans, she refused.

Evolutionary scientists investigate questions such as “How did such traits evolve, and what are their functions and biological bases?” Barron and Brown object to sensationalistic reporting because they say such journalistic treatment “inaccurately” presents homosexual behavior as aberrant. “To the general public,” they write, “such inaccurate coverage implies that homosexuality is some sort of illness, which marginalizes a section of human society.”13

Thus, Barron and Brown consider such reporting irresponsible. Why? Because they consider taking advantage of the fact that homosexual behavior is somehow more appealing to people’s voyeuristic natures than heterosexual behavior promotes the notion that human homosexual behavior is aberrant.

We would agree that the use of titillating headlines about animals is an unprofessional journalistic practice. Such material often graphically describes what would in humans be quite unseemly. The Apostle Paul described the widespread development of homosexuality in Romans 1 and in Ephesians 5:11–13 cautioned, “It is shameful even to speak of those things which are done in secret.

Far from doing the “gay” community a disservice by implying their behavior is deviant, however, many people have used such animal behavior to strongly imply that homosexuality is simply natural and therefore acceptable human behavior (since we’re seen as animals as well). Author Luiz Sérgio Solimeo in the book excerpt “The Animal Homosexuality Myth” explains the false logic underlying their claim. He explains the origins of such animal behavior from a logical point of view based on the biblical distinction between humans and animals. (See www.narth.com/docs/animalmyth.html for more information.) God’s Word tells us the truth about homosexual behavior—it is not “natural” according to Romans 1:26–27. Scripture also makes clear, incidentally, that male-female sexual activity outside of marriage is also sinful.

Ascribing human moral standards to animals reinforces the unbiblical concept that humans are merely highly evolved animals. Humans are made in the image of God and therefore have a uniquely spiritual nature not shared by animals. Additionally, our Creator, who both understands human needs and has the right to govern His creation, established marriage and standards to govern our sexuality, clearly setting us apart from animals in this regard. Even Peanuts cartoon character Charlie Brown once revealed an important theological distinction when, speaking to his dog Snoopy, he said, “You dogs are so lucky. You don’t have to worry about things like sin and salvation.” Snoopy replied, “Yes, theologically speaking, we dogs are off the hook.”14 Evolutionary thinking in the final analysis pretends that humans are not accountable to God or responsible to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Creator and Redeemer. But fooling ourselves with assumptions from secular science will never get us “off the hook” with God.

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  • Good News!
  • And Don’t Miss . . .

    • School Leadership 2.0—a website dedicated to providing resources to help “school leaders and aspiring school leaders to come together to meet present and future challenges”—has recently posted an article called “An Evolving Controversy: The Struggle to Teach Science in Science Classes.” The article by political science professors Michael Berkman and Eric Plutzer—coauthors of the book Evolution, Creationism, and the Battle to Control America’s Classrooms—was originally published in American Educator. Author Michael Keany, retired educator and cofounder of School Leadership 2.0, says that, despite a national consensus on the need to improve science education, “our schools have a long way to go.” He writes, “One of the worst areas—highlighted in the 2011 National Research Council’s Framework for K-12 Science Education as one of the four core ideas in the life sciences—is evolution.” (Readers may recall we discussed the National Research Council’s work on science education standards in News to Note, May 19, 2012.) Echoing Berkman and Plutzer, Keany claims that there is no controversy about whether molecules-to-man evolution has occurred. Typical of evolutionists, he tries to build his case for evolution of new kinds of organisms from the fact that organisms vary within their kinds. These two are not the same; the latter involves reshuffling and sometimes loss of genetic information whereas molecules-to-man evolution requires an organism to randomly acquire new genetic information. Furthermore, variation “within kinds,” such as speciation, is regularly observed in the present, whereas molecules-to-man evolution has never been observed and involves an effort to explain the unobservable origins of life without God. Keany agrees with Berkman and Plutzer that teachers who even acknowledge the existence of controversy about any of the tenets of evolution are undermining the education and scientific literacy. Be sure to read today’s blog posting, Educators Who Want Indoctrination in Evolution, by Ken Ham and Steve Golden analyzing the article from American Educator. For more information about the importance of honest and open acknowledgement of controversial and untestable assumptions underlying evolutionary thought in the development of genuine science literacy, see The Teacher Protection Academic Freedom Act.

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    1. Bart de Boer’s work was published last year in the Journal of Human Evolution Journal of Human Evolution, DOI: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2011.07.007 and is available online as “Air Sacs and Vocal Fold Vibration: Implications for Evolution of Speech” to appear in Theoria et Historia Scientiarum uvafon.hum.uva.nl/bart/papers/deBoerTHS2010.pdf Back
    2. Bart de Boer, “Air Sacs and Vocal Fold Vibration: Implications for Evolution of Speech” to appear in Theoria et Historia Scientiarum uvafon.hum.uva.nl/bart/papers/deBoerTHS2010.pdf Back (1) Back (2) Back (3) Back (4)
    3. www.newscientist.com/article/mg21228404.400-our-ancestors-speak-out-after-3-million-years.html (article by Charles Harvey, 23 November 2011) Back
    4. www.biolinguistics.eu/index.php/biolinguistics/article/view/188 Back
    5. The saccule, like other structures in a child’s upper respiratory system, also has infection-fighting lymphoid tissue that regresses with age. Comparative anatomist Victor Negus (1949, cited in J. Delahunty and J. Cherry, “The Laryngeal Saccule,” The Journal of Laryngology and Otology 83(8):803–815 (August 1969). Published online June 29, 2007. journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?aid=1164052) claimed this as support for the saccule being only a useless evolutionary left-over. However, the evolution of humans from ape-like ancestors is not recapitulated by the growth of a child to an adult. Negus’s conclusion was based on a false analogy. Back
    6. Some animals have saccules but without the abundant mucous-producing glands found in humans. Therefore, D.F.N. Harrison’s text on comparative anatomy of the larynx reports the lubrication in humans must be unimportant because other sources of mucous in the respiratory tract are sufficient. (from D.F.N. Harrison’s book The Anatomy and Physiology of the Mammalian Larynx, published by Cambridge University Press in 1995, pages 93 and 95.) These conclusions ignore the more refined design suited for humans, for whom speech is very important, instead maintaining the fiction of our common ancestry with apes. Back
    7. Information about the laryngeal saccule and laryngocoeles obtained from P. Porter and J. Vilensky, “The Laryngeal Saccule: Clinical Significance,” Clinical Anatomy 25:647–649. onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ca.22015/full and K. Fredrickson and A. D’Angelo Jr., “Internal laryngopyocoele presenting as acute airway obstruction: Ear, Nose and Throat Journal 86 (2):104-108 and J. Delahunty and J. Cherry, “The Laryngeal Saccule” The Journal of Laryngology and Otology 83(8): 803–815. Published online 29 June 2007 at journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=1164052. Back
    8. A. Carvunis et al. “Proto-genes and de novo gene birth” Nature 487 (19 July 2012): 370–373. Back (1) Back (2) Back (3)
    9. News to Note, June 18, 2011 Back
    10. D. Glavin et al. “Unusual nonterrestrial l-proteinogenic amino acid excesses in the Tagish Lake meteorite” Meteoritics & Planetary Science 47(8): 1347–1364, DOI: 10.1111/j.1945-5100.2012.01400.x. Back
    11. News to Note, April 21, 2012 Back
    12. R. Breslo, “Evidence for the Likely Origin of Homochirality in Amino Acids, Sugars, and Nucleosides on Prebiotic Earth,” Journal of the American Chemical Society 134 (16): 6887–6892, DOI: 10.1021/ja3012897. Back
    13. A. Barron and M. Brown, “Let’s talk about sex,” Nature 488 (9 August 2012): 151–152. Back
    14. Quoted by creationist researcher Martin Lubenow in Bones of Contention, p. 307. Back