Bill Nye battles back at critics.
Popular TV personality Bill Nye, whose awarding-winning PBS-TV programs teach science to children, decided to engage in some video preaching last week. His YouTube video had logged over 2.3 million showings in its first week and drew enough criticism to prompt him to appear on CBS This Morning to defend his point of view.
While denying that he is attacking religion, Nye continued to prove that his concept of “provable science” falls short of reality. Nye fails to distinguish between genuine “provable science”—experimental, observable, and operational science,the kind of science that invents new technology, figures out how things work, finds cures for diseases, and tracks hurricanes—and historical (origins) science.
In the CBS interview, Nye said:
This morning, talking about Hurricane Isaac, and we're watching satellite maps made with spacecraft orbiting the earth, and this all comes from science. If you have this idea that the earth is only 6,000 years old, you are denying, if you will, everything that you can touch and see. You're not paying attention to what's happening in the universe around you. As I say, this is bad for kids.
Nye does not seem to realize that no scientist alive can “touch and see” what happened 6,000 years ago, much less what happened in the “deep time” supposedly billions of years in the past. Hurricane tracking, orbital satellite deployment, and space exploration are experimental, operational science, not historical science. But claims about the big bang and molecules-to-man evolution are completely different. It is absurd to suggest that a young earth creationist is somehow unable to “believe in” meteorology and space exploration.
Historical science is the kind of science that draws conclusions about the untestable, unrepeatable, unobservable past. The origin of the universe, the earth, and all life already happened. With all due respect to science fiction writers from H.G. Wells to Gene Roddenberry, no scientists can go back in time to observe, examine, and perform repeatable controlled scientific tests to evaluate what happened. The scientific method can be applied to the world of the present—observing rocks, genes, and stars in the present—but in order to extrapolate the information gained back to the unobservable past, those facts must be interpreted. And those interpretations depend on a person’s worldview.
Evolutionary humanists like Nye have a prior commitment to reject the eyewitness account of the Word of the Creator God and are therefore prejudiced against any explanations for our origins that “allow a divine foot in the door.”1 Creation scientists recognize that accurate conclusions about our unobservable past must accord with the eyewitness account of the Word of God.
Nye’s remarks in his viral video are an example of the increasing tendency among evolutionists to frighten people into thinking biblical creationists are incapable idiots whose presence inhibits progress. For instance, he said, “When you have a portion of the population that doesn't believe in it [evolution], that holds everybody back.” He demands that adults keep their creationist views to themselves. Nye has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. Perhaps he is unaware that many scientists who discovered key principles important in his own field—like Sir Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday, and James Clerk Maxwell—believed in a Creator God and expected to find His orderly handiwork in the world of science. Despite Bill Nye’s assertions, a worldview that honors God as Creator of the universe and the physical laws in it did not hold these scientists back at all.
Bible-believing creation scientists at Answers in Genesis try to educate adults and children to know that the conclusions we come to about our distant past depend on where our thinking starts. If our thinking, like Nye’s, were to start with a prior commitment to reject the only available eyewitness account of our origins—the one in the Bible—then we would have to make up stories to explain the origin of life from non-living elements through random processes, stories to explain the origin of information from random chaos, stories to explain the source of orderly reliable physical laws, and even stories to explain the origin of matter and energy from nothing. If on the other hand we are willing to start our thinking with the one reliable source of information about the past, then we find that what we see in God’s Word often helps us makes sense of what we discover.
Read our complete analysis of Nye’s statements, Bill Nye’s Crusade for Your Kids, learn why God cares what children believe, and be sure to watch our two YouTube videos, below, as Dr. David Menton and Dr. Georgia Purdom, both veteran educators and scientists, share their insights about Nye’s crusade to gain your children’s hearts and minds for evolution, and then one by Answers in Genesis President Ken Ham:
Handedness of early humans speaks volumes.
Not many Neanderthal skeletons have been found, but one of the more complete ones, dubbed “Regourdou,” was found in France in 1957 buried near the Lascaux Cave. “This skeleton had a mandible and parts of the skeleton below the neck,” according to anthropologist David Frayer, author of a recent study of the skeleton. “Twenty-plus years ago, some people studied the skeleton and argued that it was a right-handed individual based on the muscularity of the right arm versus the left arm.” (With use, the bones of the dominant arm get a bit thicker.) But that finding remained controversial. Why? Because the implications that Neanderthals could be right- or left-handed suggests Neanderthals also had linguistic abilities. Frayer’s team now reports a strong correlation between Regourdou’s arms and teeth, a finding with broad implications for anthropological understanding of early humans.
What do teeth have to do with handedness? Examination of Regourdou’s teeth and the teeth of over two dozen other Neanderthals and Homo heidelbergensis reveals “labial scratches.” These scratches are on the “lip-side” of their front teeth. (Labial means “lip.”) Similar scratches are found on the teeth of some living hunter-gatherer people. They seem to have been produced by inadvertently striking the teeth with a cutting tool while holding an object with the teeth and one hand and sawing with the other. Because these scratches are obliquely angled, they appear different when made with the right hand or the left.
“Labial scratches” have been found on the teeth of European Neanderthal specimens, including Regourdou, and also on the Homo heidelbergensis skeletal remains from Sima de los Huesos, a cave in Spain’s Atapuerca Mountains. Because Regourdou’s mandible and arm bones are available for study, Frayer’s group was, by studying the scratches and the diameter of arm bones, able to corroborate earlier conclusions that Regourdou was right-handed. And if right-handed, then Regourdou may have had some things to say!
It turns out that 16 of the 18 European Neanderthal specimens have right-handed scratches. And all of the tooth sets from Sima cave bore the marks of right-handed owners. Overall, 93% of these early humans, based on dental evidence, were right-handed. This percentage reflects the right-handed propensity seen worldwide in humans today.
Handedness is a human characteristic,2 and about 90% of modern humans are right-handed. Handedness starts in the womb, as unborn babies show a decided preference in thumb-sucking, and that preference correlates with their handedness in adolescence.3 Language, which is a uniquely human ability, is primarily a function of the left side of the brain in the vast majority of people, regardless of whether they are left- or right-handed. Nevertheless, many scientists have suspected there is some correlation between left-handedness and the location of the brain’s language centers.4
Evolutionary anthropologists have long resisted the idea that Neanderthals had a dominant hand because that would imply they had the capacity for language, a novel concept for beings habitually considered lower on the evolutionary scale than modern humans. Archaeology has not found any evidence of writing thus far, but the Neanderthals’ intellectual reputation has been improving in recent years as more and more discoveries suggest early humans could think abstractly. Recent findings in Spain have suggested Neanderthals did paint. (See our illustrated report at News to Note, June 23, 2012) Anatomy of the Neanderthal and Homo heidelbergensis hyoid bone—the little bone that supports the tongue—shows it is characteristic of humans and not apes, as we recently discussed.5 That finding supports a 2011 study’s conclusion that Neanderthals were probably capable of “vocalizing voluntarily, with communicative intentions and in a sophisticated way.”6
These findings do not surprise us, as God’s eyewitness account reports He created Adam and Eve the same day He created land animals. The biblical account has no room for evolution. And He created humans in His own image. Adam and Eve were able to speak from the beginning. Neither linguistic ability nor language had to evolve. Since Neanderthals and Homo heidelbergensis were simply varieties of human beings who eventually became extinct by the end of the Ice Age, we would expect them to have had quite a lot to say. After all, their relatives were among those dispersed from the Tower of Babel after confusion of their languages. The Bible’s account of history makes sense of the growing body of evidence that these early people were pretty much like people today.
Does speciation really demonstrate “evolution’s power”?
Two species of plump bluish-green Cryptasterina sea stars, similar in appearance, thrive in Australian waters. As distinct species they do not interbreed. In fact, they do not even breed the same way! Their distinctions have prompted a group of evolutionary biologists to analyze their DNA in an effort to decipher their evolutionary history. Researchers were surprised to learn that they diverged from each other rapidly and recently.
Cryptasterina pentagona and Cryptasterina hystera are genetically very similar. Analysis of their nuclear and mitochondrial DNA suggests they diverged from a common ancestral sea star about 6,000 years ago. The researchers acknowledge some uncertainty, since the mutation rate in the past cannot really be known. Nevertheless, the evolutionary biologists are pretty confident these sea stars went their separate ways—metaphorically speaking—between 1,000 and 20,000 years ago.
For such a dramatic change in the manner of reproduction, “even 20,000 years is still stupidly fast,” says Richard K. Grosberg, co-author of the study published in July’s Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Commenting on the speed of the divergence, Chicago evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne said, “I’m amazed that quite a change occurred in such a short period of time.”
So what’s the dramatic difference? One of these species, C. pentagona, has both male and females forms and reproduces by broadcasting both male and female gametes into the water where fertilization happens as they float around in proximity to each other. That is the way most starfish reproduce, and the larva drift until they are ready to settle down as adult starfish. C. hystera, on the other hand, is a hermaphrodite that fertilizes itself and then keeps the larvae in its body until they reach adulthood.
The researchers suspect the ancestral star reproduced in the typical way, by broadcasting gametes into the water. That method of reproduction requires male and female starfish to be somewhere in the same vicinity if success is to be achieved. The researchers hypothesize that a localized decreased population density may have favored the alternate form of reproduction, and relative isolation of the hermaphrodites allowed differences to concentrate until the separate species ceased to cross-breed. Of course, there is no way to know for certain that this happened, but recent research with lizards7 and snakes8 has shown that parthenogenesis (females cloning themselves) occurs as a reproductive strategy to deal with such conditions in those animals.
So does this discovery demonstrate that molecules-to-man evolution not only happens but might happen more quickly than supposed? Actually, no. Nothing about this discovery has anything to do with molecules-to-man evolution, the phrase we use to refer to the evolution of one kind of creature into another. No new genetic information to transform into a non-starfish was being obtained. In fact, starfish demonstrate a variety of reproductive strategies ranging from asexual reproduction to sexual reproduction using the “broadcast” strategy to sexual reproduction as with these hermaphrodites. Some species are even sequential hermaphrodites, actually switching genders periodically, thus maintaining sources of both male and female gametes in the population. This suggests the genetic potential for these variations existed within these invertebrates from creation.
Speciation is generally associated with isolation of organisms whose traits are favored under certain circumstances, such as a low population among starfish with the genetic information to function as hermaphrodites. Through the process of natural selection (and other processes), those equipped to function best under the circumstances have an advantage favoring their survival and reproduction, so that the population soon exhibits those characteristics. But the starfish are still reproducing after their kind, just as God designed them to do. No evolutionary power is being demonstrated here.
Pro-life cause does not need shaky science.
Recent publicity over Missouri Congressman Todd Akin’s ill-advised comment that “legitimate rape” rarely results in pregnancy (a comment he later retracted) has brought the science of the matter into the media limelight. That bit of controversial science consists of an analysis by respected pro-life advocate and retired general practitioner John Willke. Dr. Willke’s leadership in the pro-life movement has justifiably brought him a great deal of respect. His opinion on the prevalence of pregnancy following forcible assault has, however, raised questions about the biology of human reproduction and diverted attention from the central issue. Furthermore, Congressman Akin, who is running for the U.S. Senate, has now become a controversial figure in the nation as America heads towards national elections in November.
Of additional concern to a ministry like AiG that seeks to uphold good science and medical practices is how the controversy has spilled over into the evolution/creation debate. Secularists, such as a Vanity Fair columnist on August 24,9 have likened Dr. Willke’s medical opinion to the “junk science” of creationism. For these reasons, and also because I am a gynecologist, I am weighing in on this issue.
Willke’s opinion that rape only rarely results in pregnancy is based on his own review of statistics concerning the probability of viable pregnancy occurring from a single incident and the statistics describing the crime itself. He recognizes the great emotional trauma associated with sexual assault. For three decades, Dr. Willke has maintained his opinion that this emotional trauma can “radically upset [the victim’s] possibility of ovulation, fertilization, implantation and even nurturing a pregnancy.” His belief is based on the fact that the hormones influencing human reproduction are strongly influenced by emotion, though he freely admits that no one knows how much this acute trauma decreases the pregnancy risk and therefore suggests his own estimates.10
A realistic, controlled scientific study of this subject is beyond the reach of either pro-life or pro-abortion advocates due to a number of obvious problems.11 Furthermore, conclusions may magnify biases when extrapolated and applied to whole populations. Nevertheless, a 1996 study published by the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology supports what we know of the biology of reproduction. That study of 404 rape victims aged 12 to 45 concluded that the chance of pregnancy was about 5%.12 A 2012 gynecology text estimates between 2 and 5%.13
What we know of the human reproductive system doesn’t provide the reliable off-switch we wish it had. Stress-induced infertility is documented with chronic stress, not acute trauma. The hormonal and ovarian factors promoting ovulation may be well underway when trauma occurs. Implantation depends on hormonal preparation of the uterine lining, and that is directly dependent on ovarian hormonal production, independent of emotions.14 And sperm survive in the reproductive tract of a woman for a period of time regardless of a victim’s emotional state. Therefore obstetricians and gynecologists generally consider the probability of pregnancy occurring as a result of an assault to be about the same as when no assault is involved. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology has issued a statement saying the suggestion that a sufficiently stressed assault victim’s body acquires some sort of control over ovulation, fertilization, and implantation “contradicts basic biological truths.”15
Though we all wish the evils one human inflicts on another had no lasting consequences, minimizing those consequences, even statistically, does not make them less real. And, as a gynecologist, I can attest that the risk of pregnancy is only one of the repercussions of this heinous crime. The physical risks of disease, injury, and unwanted pregnancy are only the beginning. A victim’s life can be forever changed as she deals with her own fears, flashbacks, self-recrimination, difficulty forming trusting relationships, and even the social stigma that exists even in our enlightened society. Furthermore, a decision to abort a pregnancy imposes the additional burden of guilt on a woman, for the baby growing within her is guiltless of the crime.
The central issue here is not whether the number of pregnancies following assaults is significant. Some people might even consider a 2-5% risk “rare,” but that isn’t the point. The moral issues related to pregnancy have to be faced regardless of the circumstances of the pregnancy. The embryo is either a human life of value or it isn't, regardless of the situation concerning the baby’s origins. Pro-abortion advocates naturally play the “what about rape” card to tug at the heartstrings of the public and the fears of politicians. And as Dr. Jane Orient, a practicing internist and executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, has noted, “Politicians who claim to be pro-life are often adamant about preserving an exception for rape or incest,”13 but this exception ignores “the reality of what an abortion is.”13
As we pray for a national return to the truth that an unborn child of any age is a human life of value in the sight of our Creator and deserves legal protection from murder in a just society, we should not be sidetracked by playing a numbers game to exaggerate or minimize how many “little murders” might be “acceptable.” God knows the circumstances surrounding every child’s conception as well as the heartaches of its mother, and our hearts should continue to echo and imitate His love and concern. Psalm 139:13–16 describes our heavenly Father’s concern both for the unborn and for each woman who for whatever reason finds herself pregnant.
“Eggs-actly what evolved first, egg-laying or live-bearing mammals?” evolutionists ask.
Evolutionists aren’t joking when they ask, “What came first, the live-birth or the egg?” A recent review in Science, “Reproduction in Early Amniotes,” by paleobiologist P. Martin Sander suggests commonly held beliefs about this question might be in error. The question is important to the evolutionary tale of terrestrial conquest, as evolutionists hold that 50 million years after four-legged amphibians evolved, evolutionary changes in reproduction enabled amniotes—reptiles, birds, and mammals—to evolve.
Amniote embryos—whether in a shell or not—develop within a set of membranes. The eggs of fish and amphibians have no membrane wrappers, are typically jelly-like, and may be fertilized after they are laid. Evolutionists believe fish and amphibians evolved before amniotes.
The key innovation, Sander believes, had to be a move toward a shelled egg in order to fill the world’s diverse terrestrial habitats. The deeper layers in the fossil record preserve live-bearing reptiles and mammals without evidence of eggs, however. This has led some evolutionists to think amniotes first evolved as live-bearers.
On the other hand, evolutionists generally consider the egg-laying mode of reproduction to be more primitive than live-bearing. Some reptiles retain their eggs internally until they are fully developed and give birth to live young. Therefore, according to Sander, “Observations on lizards show that live bearing evolves readily from egg laying (by embryo retention) but not the other way around.”16
Since the fossil record doesn’t seem to support what evolutionists generally consider the sensible order of development, Sander in his review tries to answer the question, “If egg-laying really is more primitive, then where are all the early egg-laying mammals?” He concludes that during the evolution of the egg, the membranes in which amniote embryos are wrapped had to evolve long before the calcified shell. Therefore, he believes leathery-shelled eggs, which would not have easily fossilized, must have been prevalent in primitive amniotes, including mammals. Then 90 million years later, by the time calcified shells evolved, he maintains, mammals and other amniotes had diversified and filled the world’s habitats.
Most mammals, of course, do not lay eggs. Sander is suggesting that since egg-laying seems more primitive, early mammals must have laid eggs even though there is no actual evidence for it. He concludes that the earliest mammals to evolve must therefore have laid leathery soft-shelled eggs that would not be expected to fossilize well. He advises a diligent search for “fossils of early amniote embryos and eggs”16 in order to put the pieces together and elucidate the evolutionary history of amniotes. “These eggs are probably out there,” Sander says, “but nobody has looked hard enough for them or they have not been recognized.”
Evolutionists see the more elaborate egg—one with protective membranes and a soft shell—as an evolutionary advance. The calcified shell in their view is an additional advance. And since organisms with such an egg—amniotes—are able to reproduce outside of water—unlike amphibians with their exposed jelly-like eggs—evolutionists believe egg evolution enabled land animals to evolve. (Remember, they also believe the marine mammals represent a return to the water later in the evolutionary saga.) Furthermore, they believe increasingly complex behavior had to evolve along with the shelled egg, as fertilization must take place before the eggs are laid.
What is the proof that any of this is true? There is none. There is no proof that either scenario actually happened. The author in this article debates the order in which evolution happened because the actual evidence doesn’t really fit either. The evidence is, however, consistent with biblical history. The Bible records the creation of all kinds of animals during the same week about 6,000 years ago. Those animals reproduced after their kinds using a variety of methods. Much of the fossil record reflects the order of burial in the rising turbulent waters of the global Flood. None of the fossil record represents the order in which animals evolved because they didn’t evolve. Hence, the fossil record of the evolution of early mammalian egg-layers is missing because, well, they didn’t evolve.
Egg variety does not demonstrate evolutionary ascent but just different kinds of eggs suitable for different habitats and lifestyles. Common designs using membranes wrapped around embryos were suitable for a number of different amniotes, those with soft shells, those with calcified shells, and those with no shells. And the unshelled jelly-like eggs of amphibians and fish are suitable for their lives, not proof they represent a primitive less evolved form. It’s not evolution, just eggs.
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