This blotched (also known as “classic”) tabby pattern requires the cat be homozygous for the recessive form of the Tabby gene. This tabby is Tab/Tab. Image credit: Helmi Flick, from news.sciencemag.org
The top cheetah’s spotted pattern is dictated by the dominant form of the Tabby gene. This cheetah could therefore be TaM/TaM or TaM/Tab. The bottom cat is a king cheetah. The exotic blotches and the characteristic wide black stripes on its back result from the recessive form of the Tabby gene. The king cheetah is Tab/Tab. Image credit: Greg Barsh/Ann va Dyk Cheetah Preserve, from news.sciencemag.org
The black-footed cat, Felis nigripes, native to southern Africa, is the smallest African cat. Males average around four pounds and females only about three pounds. Its name comes from the black undersides of its feet.1 While exhibiting a number of genetic differences from other cats in the study, it has the same mutation of the Tabby gene as domestic cats with an atypical swirled coat pattern. This particular mutation is not expressed as reproducibly as the blotched mutation. Image credit: Pierre de Chabannes (www.photozoo.org) from Wikimedia Commons
Tabby trait traced through genetic analysis ties together the cat family tree.
King cheetahs, rare cheetahs with a blotched color pattern, were once thought to be a separate species from their spotted cheetah counterparts. And while the evenly striped “mackerel” pattern of domestic tabby cats is among the most common coat around, a blotchy tabby pattern with wider, more irregular whorls predates the establishment of modern domestic breeds. Mackerel tabby markings appear in medieval art, but the taxonomist Linnaeus documented the blotched tabby as a common domestic variation in 1758. A study just published in Science2 reveals the genetic basis for these heritable variations. Tracing the Tabby gene ties the tiger and even “king cheetah” to the kitty in your lap.
The color of individual cat hairs is regulated by a locally acting hormone that regulates each hair follicle’s melanin production. However, that hormonal switch is regulated by the gene (Edn3). And Edn3 only implements instructions from another gene that sets the tabby pattern. Researchers tracked the genetic difference between mackerel and blotched tabby patterns to a single gene locus, which they appropriately nicknamed Tabby.3 Because the pattern is pre-set in the genome and then regulated follicle by follicle, the pattern in a cat never changes.
Wild or domestic, tabby cats with a blotched pattern are homozygous for a recessive form of the Tabby gene. The mackerel pattern is dictated by a dominant form of the Tabby gene. Carrying their investigation further, the researchers found that Tabby regulates tiger stripes, cheetah spots, and even the odd pattern of the southern African black-footed cat. The exotic and rare king cheetah (see photo) with dark whorls of coalescing spots and wide black stripes on its back is actually just the blotched tabby variation. Wild king cheetahs are native to a small region of sub-Saharan Africa, and those sampled are in captivity. The blotched variation, based on analysis of the genomes and pedigrees of these king cheetahs, suggests the mutant blotched form entered that population through one homozygous and two heterozygous animals.
Though the researchers speak of the evolution of cat color, no evolution of new kinds is evidenced here. Instead, we see the researchers tracing the connections between varieties of cats. Dramatic differences here are traceable to variations in a single gene. God created all kinds of land animals on the 6th day of creation week about 6,000 years ago. He put the potential for great variety in the original created kinds. All the cat varieties we see today are descended and diversified from the cats on the Ark with Noah. The effect of this single mutation within different varieties of cats highlights the enormous difference a small genetic change can make. Yet that change does not introduce the raw material for evolution of a non-cat.
In the beginning were the laws of physics (not!).
Outspoken “anti-theist” Lawrence Krauss appeared on CNN’s Faces of Faith program last Sunday to explain how the universe created itself from nothing. Krauss, in London at the time, was interviewed about his new book, A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing. Many of our readers were disappointed because creationist astronomer Dr. Danny Faulkner,4 originally asked by CNN to appear on the program, was not included. CNN reported late Saturday they were having difficulty with Skype and needed to cancel.5
Krauss says he would prefer a universe without God. He therefore wants to celebrate how the laws of physics explain how the big bang happened without any “supernatural shenanigans.”
The big bang model suggests, colloquially speaking, that in the beginning “nothing” exploded. Those who recall the law of conservation of mass and energy would consider this event a primordial violation. Krauss’s book explains how he believes the big bang happened without violating this law.
According to Dr. Danny Faulkner,
Lawrence Krauss’s new book, A Universe from Nothing, is well written, and is one of the best treatments of the subject, the subject being how some physicists think that the universe came into existence apart from a Creator. His thesis is not new, for others have already made similar arguments. This contention is speculative and controversial, even among people who largely agree with Krauss.
In the interview Krauss came across very confident, but he used many cautionary words such as “plausible,” “could,” “probably,” “possible,” and “can.” Indeed, his book is filled with such terms, indicating the speculative nature of what he is saying, though many people reading and listening to him will miss this caution and come away thinking that Krauss has somehow proved that God does not exist.
Krauss criticizes creationists for assuming God was involved in our origins rather than seeking alternative explanations. But Krauss makes his own assumptions. Dr. Faulkner explains:
Other physicists view Krauss’s case as controversial, because it is a bit premature, relying upon a number of assumptions about quantum mechanics and cosmology.
Krauss was also a bit smug in asserting that he doesn’t presume answers before asking questions, unlike those who believe in creation, even calling those who believe in creation lazy.
Krauss clearly has made some assumptions, such as his atheistic bias, though he backpedalled a bit on that one in direct response to a question, insisting that he is more of an anti-theist. He says that there is no evidence for God, though he didn’t explain what kind of evidence that he might accept.
Would he consider testimony from someone who talked with God? Moses, the writer of the biblical account of creation made just this claim, and I expect that this is what Krauss had in mind when he dismissively referred to “Iron Age peasants.” However, Moses was Bronze Age, not Iron Age. Nor was he a peasant, having been raised in the house of Pharaoh and thus educated in the best schools then available.
So how do the laws of physics supposedly explain how the universe created itself from nothing? Big bang cosmologists need a source of “negative energy” to balance the massive amount of energy of our universe, which was supposedly produced by the big bang. In physics we normally assign a negative value to gravitational potential energy. Some physicists propose our expanding universe could therefore generate the necessary negative energy. Dr. Faulkner explains,
This is the escape hatch that Krauss and others propose, that the sum of the energy in the universe is exactly zero, so the universe appeared in a manner that did not violate the conservation of energy.
Of course none of this is proved, and Krauss does admit this, though many people reading his book or watching the interview may miss that point.
But there still remains the problem of where the physical laws, came from. The best that Krauss can argue is that those laws came into existence with the universe, so that the universe popped into existence in a manner that is consistent with itself. This is the meaning of the “ultimate free lunch,” a phrase Krauss used in the interview.
Thus, Krauss asserts—completely without proof—that the laws of physics created themselves along with everything else. This reasoning is circular.
Big bang cosmologists cannot confirm their assertions in the untestable unobservable ne’er-to-be-repeated past. Yet Krauss “celebrates” these assertions as if they were actual discoveries because they make him more comfortable with his decision to ignore the possibility that a Creator God exists.
Nevertheless, God’s Word tells us that people suppress the truth that their Creator exists, fooling themselves. (See Romans 1:18–22.) The laws of physics6 cannot explain their own existence. An orderly universe could not spring into existence from a random event. The very consistency that God established when He created the universe is what makes the laws of physics work so reliably. Krauss’s “ultimate free lunch” isn’t really free. The “escape hatch” he relies on may work on paper, but God will not be impressed. God says that those who, seeing His creation, refuse to acknowledge His existence “are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). And God’s assessment of their intellectual prowess: “Professing to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:22).
Genomic study suggests the presence of ancient anatomically modern humans all over Africa.
Evolutionary anthropologists generally believe humans evolved in Africa and spread out from there. They have debated whether modern humans branched from the evolutionary tree in the eastern or southern parts of the continent. Analysis of the genomes of southern African people suggests instead that the modern human genome bears geographic footprints from many parts of the continent. Moreover, the study has identified a genetic variation that may also be associated with a genetic factor related to brow ridges in Neanderthals.
Both the Khoe and the San people are click-speaking tribes and share many traits. Historically the San were hunter-gatherers and the Khoe were herders. The researchers in this study, “Genomic Variation in Seven Khoe-San Groups Reveals Adaptation and Complex African History,” analyzed 2.3 million genetic variations among 220 people from 11 southern African population groups. Seven of these groups were Khoe-San people, and the variations among them formed a pattern that distinguished them from the others.
The Khoe-San genomes also share genetic components with far-distant African tribal groups, such as the east African Maasai, well-known for their cattle-herding. The researchers therefore suggest that east African herders brought their lifestyle and their genes to southern Africa in the distant past.
Evolutionists conventionally date modern humanity’s Out-of-Africa migration at about 60,000 years ago. The researchers in this study estimate the Khoe-San people diverged from other African populations long before, at about 100,000 years ago. Analysis of the genomic data suggests a later geographic split within this group, the northern and southern branches possessing some differences in the genes affecting the immune system. Based on the great diversity and apparently widespread genetic contributions, the authors conclude, “Both population structure and geographic distribution of genetic variation suggest a complex human population history within Africa.”7 They also say that anatomically modern humans must have already appeared before the Khoe-San people became somehow isolated and diverged from the rest of the African population.7
Anatomically modern humans lack the heavy brow ridges of Neanderthals. Some additional skeletal features of the collarbones and rib cage are also notable distinctions. One of the commonly occurring genetic variants in the Khoe-San people is a gene (RUNX2) known to affect bone and cartilage growth and thought possibly responsible for the unusual skeletal features of Neanderthals.8Therefore, the researchers keep open the possibility that the African genetic melting pot included archaic humans too.7
So what are we to make of all this? First of all, of course, no molecules-to-man evolution or evidence of ape-like ancestors is in view here. This study is purely concerned with variations among human populations. The huge ages cited (60,000 years and 100,000 years) are based on the usual unverifiable assumptions inherent in molecular clock dating.9
It is of course no surprise to find evidence that human ancestry is complex and intermingled. Even the link to the Neanderthal population, which is associated with Europe and Asia and which left a genetic footprint in our modern genome, is no surprise. All people are descended from Adam and Eve through Noah’s family. When the rebellious people of the post-Flood world dispersed from the Tower of Babel, they were already related. The results are consistent with the biblical history of humanity after the Flood.
Can’t we be good without God?
Can evolutionary science explain the origin of moral standards? An article in the fall 2012 Assemblies of God Enrichment Journal, written by William Lane Craig, examines this question as he reviews a book by atheist Sam Harris, The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values.
Addressing the pros and cons of Harris’s position, Craig admires the fact that Harris declares that genuine morality must be objective: “valid and binding independent of human opinion.” Nazi genocide, for instance, was inherently evil, even if some people thought they were doing a good thing. And it would still have been evil even if the Nazis had won. Given that genuine morality is not a relative, culture-specific construct, where did it come from?
From an evolutionary point of view, humans are merely insignificant products of random natural processes. As such, they should have no intrinsic value, merit no moral consideration, and exact no moral obligations from each other. From a naturalistic viewpoint, morality is purely derived from the selfishness of evolution: cooperative and even sacrificial behavior enhances group survival so that the more altruistic individuals are more likely to pass on their genes. As such, we humans are suffering from an exaggerated opinion of our own goodness and “delusions of moral grandeur.” Atheist Sam Harris attempts to fill the void for us, show us we really are significant, justify our moral sense, and supply a naturalistic foundation for morality without God.
Harris re-defines good in order to re-define moral. Good and moral according to Sam Harris describe whatever maximizes “the well-being of conscious creatures.” Craig points out that Harris has not succeeded in explaining morality, only in re-defining it as doing whatever is “conducive to the flourishing of sentient life.” Harris admits, if thieves and murderers were as happy as others, then his moral landscape wouldn’t be very moral, since evil people would be quite happy. Since 3 million psychopathic Americans (an extremely exaggerated statistic cited by Harris)10 derive great pleasure from hurting others, when they are very “good,” they are really very horrid, and the rest of us better get out of the way!
Though Harris attempts to provide a naturalistic basis for what we “ought” to do, Craig says, science only describes what “is,” not what “ought” to be. (Of course, here I would interject that evolutionary science also attempts to proclaim what “was” but has no objective testable way of doing so, the long-gone past being accessible only to history—such as that provided in the Bible.) As we often point out, without a divine source of morality, there can be no objective morality, only popular opinions. Cultural taboos, perhaps, but not absolute standards of right and wrong. Harris makes what Craig terms “a half-hearted stab” at this problem by pointing out that the inherent human tendency to value logical consistency and evidence proves humans have evolved to know right from wrong. (This is analogous to the fallacious evolutionary idea that the fact we are here proves we must have evolved.)
Harris winds up by saying everything we do is actually determined by naturalistic processes anyway, so the idea of “choice” and “free will” is an illusion. Harris therefore considers us to be morally responsible even for accidents. Therefore, according to Harris, we can imagine what we “ought” and “ought not” do, but we’re only fooling ourselves.
Craig rightly points out that, while Harris claims to show that morality exists without a source, he instead makes a case that no morality exists at all. The only problem here is the questionable foundation from which Craig derives his own opinions. Craig is a “theist”—he does believe in God, and he defends the resurrection of Jesus Christ. However, examination of Craig’s writings and videos demonstrate that Craig himself has a foundation built on the shifting sand of biblical compromise. While rightly pointing out Harris’s semantic sleight of hand, Craig is willing to pick and choose how much of the Bible’s literal history to accept. He sees no inconsistency between molecules-to-man evolution and Scripture. He considers Genesis to be a “theologically rich, stylized narrative.”11 Thus while Craig is correct in pointing out the need for an objective, divine source for genuine morality, he dictates to that “Divine Source” which parts of His Word he will accept.
“Good Without God,” a presentation recently delivered by Answers in Genesis speaker Dr. Tommy Mitchell in Branson, Missouri, explored the positions of those who declare they can be truly good without God. Jesus Christ, who affirmed the truth of the events recorded in Genesis, declared that holy God is the only one perfectly good (Mark 10:18). And the Bible records that we are all sinners in need of God’s grace through the shed blood of Jesus Christ (Romans 3:23 and 6:23).
Having thoroughly researched Sam Harris’s works, Dr. Mitchell agrees, “There are things that are right or wrong. Harris is attempting to give a materialistic explanation for these things. In his view, since right and wrong exist, there must be a materialistic explanation. In his writings, he tries—unsuccessfully—to make a case for morality without an ultimate moral authority.” However, Dr. Mitchell’s basis for his analysis is trust in the Word of God, which he recognizes as authoritative from the very first verse. If we accept the opinions of Craig, we must grant him the honor of telling us which parts of God’s Word are actually worthy of our attention. No, thanks.
Cosmologist asserts physics theories will explain the big bang without a “supernatural jumpstart.”
Because modern science has discovered so much about how nature works, Cal Tech cosmologist Sean Carroll predicts in his essay “Does the Universe Need God?” that forthcoming cosmological models will eliminate any need for a belief in God. “As we learn more about the universe,” Carroll says, “there's less and less need to look outside it for help.”
Carroll writes that by making “some assumptions about the types of matter and energy that pervade the universe, we can play the movie backwards in time to reconstruct the past history of our universe.”12 Evolutionary cosmologists extrapolate back 13.7 billion years to the big bang. Carroll considers the big bang model “established beyond reasonable doubt”12 because cosmologists can model what happened from a split second after the big bang until now. The only question that remains, he says, is what happened in the moment before.
Theistic evolutionists like to suggest that God was the cosmic trigger-puller who subsequently fine-tuned the results. But Carroll contends that as contemporary physics theories are experimentally tested, the need for such divine initiation will vanish. Carroll writes:
Over the past five hundred years, the progress of science has worked to strip away God’s roles in the world. He isn’t needed to keep things moving, or to develop the complexity of living creatures, or to account for the existence of the universe. Perhaps the greatest triumph of the scientific revolution has been in the realm of methodology. Control groups, double-blind experiments, an insistence on precise and testable predictions—a suite of techniques constructed to guard against the very human tendency to see things that aren’t there. There is no control group for the universe, but in our attempts to explain it we should aim for a similar level of rigor.12
“None of this amounts to ‘proof’ that God doesn’t exist, of course,” Carroll admits. “Such proof is not forthcoming; science isn’t in the business of proving things.”12 And he concedes “the idea of God” might serve useful functions, such as motivating people to follow rules or helping them deal with death. But Carroll sees no need for God to explain how we got here. And why we’re here, he says, is irrelevant.
Knowing how something works does not reveal how it originated in the unobservable past. Despite Carroll’s claims, understanding how something in nature works does not mean God didn’t design it. (In fact, Romans 1:20 indicates that even from the time of creation enough could be discerned to call attention to God’s creative power.13) And though Carroll asserts that science can explain the increasing complexity of life, evolutionary science has never demonstrated a mechanism through which new genetic information to fuel upward molecules-to-man evolution can be acquired. Carroll’s convenient way of minimizing God to a useful role only in the mysterious is absurd. Such is analogous to saying if we can figure out how an inventor’s product works, we can revoke his patent and claim the device sprang into existence through a random convergence of fortuitous events.
The danger of theological compromise as practiced by theistic evolutionists is clear from Carroll’s essay. Carroll counters the theistic evolutionary contention that God triggered the big bang by saying, like Lawrence Krauss (as discussed in item 2 today), that the laws of physics alone were sufficient to get things going. To the claim that God fine-tuned the universe, Carroll insists an infinite number of parallel universes made all options open, and only the ones that work (like ours) survived. (See News to Note, July 23, 2011, for more on this.) And to the theistic evolutionist compromise that God used evolution, Carroll asks why nobody thought of it before Darwin popularized evolutionary theory.
When people dispute and reinterpret the Bible with every wind of man’s ideas instead of testing man’s fallible ideas against the Word of the infallible God, they destroy all foundation for belief. To spar with those who do not believe in God using a compromised interpretation of God’s Word is pointless. Theistic evolutionists pick and choose how to reinterpret the Bible in order to shove fallible human ideas into it. Therefore they argue from a position of no authority. They have already denied God’s authority and His ability to clearly communicate the truth in His Word.
Finally, Carroll acknowledges that “assumptions” underlie the certainty of the big bang. Yet assumptions are by nature unverifiable. He also claims events beginning one second after the big bang are in “the realm of empirical testability.”12 In such he confuses historical and experimental science. How atomic particles and molecules and energy behave now is testable, but that behavior does not reveal how they came to exist. Carroll writes:
Cosmologists sometimes talk about the Big Bang, especially in popular-level presentations, in ways that convey more certainty than is really warranted, so it is worth our time to separate what we know from what we may guess.12
The problem is, Carroll has trouble seeing that the cosmological events about which he is certain are also guesses since he has rejected the only eyewitness account of those origins in favor of unverifiable uniformitarian assumptions. Curiously, Carroll rightly extols the virtues of “control groups, double-blind experiments, and insistence on precise and testable predictions” and even admits “there is no control group for the universe.” Yet he claims that the cosmological ideas defining the events of our origins are beyond doubt. He is certain that cosmological models will ultimately displace God and close the book on Genesis when they are finally tested experimentally. Yet they can never be tested experimentally because the time of origins is in the untestable past. Computer models based on the same unverifiable assumptions as the theories they “test” cannot possibly prove those theories true, being at best electronic examples of circular reasoning.
Bible-believing Christians didn’t invent God to fill in the answers science can’t provide. Observable science actually affirms biblical truth.14 We need to “look outside” for help not just to know where we came from but also to know where we’re going. We are accountable to our Creator, the holy God of the Bible against whom we all have rebelled. We trust what the Bible says from the first verse, and so we understand our need for a Savior not just to deal with life’s issues on this side of the grave (and even to understand why there is a grave) but to be prepared for the eternity to come. The cross is not a crutch—it is the answer to every person’s deepest need, whether he admits it or not.
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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