Primate psychology is said to imply an evolutionary basis for the human midlife crisis.
Midlife crisis is not just a human phenomenon, according to a recent survey of 508 great apes. Social science strongly suggests that humans, regardless of culture, gender, or socioeconomic circumstances, tend to experience a midlife dip in their overall happiness. A wide variety of unsubstantiated theories abound to explain the phenomenon. Until now, about the only thing no one had suggested was the origin of our species. Now an international team led by psychologist Alexander Weiss suggests the clue to crisis may lie in a shared ancestry with our supposed “evolutionary cousins.”1
“We hoped to understand a famous scientific puzzle: why does human happiness follow an approximate U-shape through life? We ended up showing that it cannot be because of mortgages, marital breakup, mobile phones, or any of the other paraphernalia of modern life,” explains economist Andrew Oswald, coauthor of the study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “Apes also have a pronounced midlife low, and they have none of those.”
“The U-shape found in human studies of age and well-being evolved in the common ancestors of humans and nonhuman primates, particularly the great apes,”1 the team suggests. While they acknowledge there could be other contributing factors, they believe work like theirs “could affirm Darwin’s view that ‘He who understands baboon would do more towards metaphysics than Locke.’”1
The researchers opted not to have the chimpanzees and orangutans in zoos and sanctuaries around the world fill out their own surveys. Instead, they adapted happiness-assessment questionnaires used with humans by having zookeepers and caretakers answer for the apes. For instance, primate caregivers were asked, “How successful do you think the subject (the ape) is in achieving its goals?” and “How happy would (you) be if (you) were the subject for a week?”3 Though he admits the surveys were somewhat anthropomorphic, lead author Alexander Weiss considers them reliable.4
Humans may manifest behavior associated with midlife crisis by abandoning marriages for younger partners, changing careers, and buying fancy cars. Lest we ask what sort of goals an ape might set, Weiss says, “You don’t have the chimpanzee hitting mid-life and suddenly they want a bright red sports car. But there may be other things that they want like mating with more females or gaining access to more resources.”3
Oswald speculates that midlife crisis spurs adaptive changes, saying, “Maybe evolution needed us to be at our most dissatisfied in midlife.”4 Emory University primatologist Frans de Waal, author of Our Inner Ape, commenting on the study, suggested that less subjective measurements such as levels of stress-related hormones might have been more reliable but agrees with the evolutionary implications.4
If objective measurements confirm the primates’ U-shaped dip, then the results could ultimately contribute to the capacity of primate care facilities to optimize primate quality of life. After all, while primates do not share any evolutionary ancestry with humans, we as humans should be good stewards of the animals in our care.
The proposed applications of this study’s evolutionary conclusions, however, are disturbing. The researchers suggest governments design economic policies affecting human well-being on the basis of evolutionary considerations.1 They imply that evolutionary understanding could enlighten our grasp of the spiritual and the intellectual. To follow these suggestions would be foolhardy, building policies and principles of philosophy and psychology on fairy tales.
Nothing about this study supports the notion that humans and apes share a common ancestor. Owners of horses and dogs and cats and even milk-cows can attest to the fact that their animals can seem happy or moody. These owners can also note trends over time and even anthropomorphize human emotions and thoughts onto the animals. But such observations are no more indicative of common evolutionary ancestry than similar anatomical designs.
Will the Supreme Court uphold religious freedom in America?
The world’s largest Christian university, Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, has re-filed its lawsuit petitioning the courts to protect American religious freedom. Liberty Counsel, in 2010, filed the first private lawsuit against ObamaCare, the new health care reform law, on the day the President signed it. The suit maintains that the law’s mandate requiring businesses and individuals to finance the destruction of unborn children is a violation of religious freedom.
Liberty Counsel, which filed the suit on behalf of Liberty University and private citizens, asserts that Congress has exceeded its constitutional authority. Attorney Mat Staver is dean of Liberty University School of Law and founder of Liberty Counsel, a non-profit defender of religious freedom, the family, and sanctity of life.5 During a phone interview yesterday, Mr. Staver explained that ObamaCare’s provisions empower bureaucrats (who are typically not elected officials) to force individuals and businesses to purchase particular sorts of insurance benefits. These unprecedented provisions overstep congressional authority and trample on the constitutional rights of all employers. In addition, ObamaCare infringes upon the Free Exercise of Religion.
“ObamaCare is the biggest funding of abortion in American history,” said Staver in an October press release. “Under the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate, ObamaCare will for the first time require employers and individuals to directly fund abortion. This abortion mandate collides with religious freedom and the rights of conscience.”
Requiring people to pay for abortifacient medications is morally the same as requiring them to pay for conventional abortions. “ObamaCare’s forced funding of abortion is unconstitutional under the First Amendment Free Exercise of Religion Clause and the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” Liberty Counsel explained.6 Institutions and business owners that refuse to violate their Christian principles in this matter face an onerous fine. Any sort of fine for practicing religion is a violation of our constitutionally protected freedom, but the punitive figure is $10 million per year.7
The First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States opens with the promise, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” To be fined for religious practices the government considers objectionable is a clear violation of the amendment’s guarantee. By imposing such a fine the government, in effect, prohibits the free exercise of religious convictions upholding the sanctity of human life.
The 4th Circuit Court dismissed the original lawsuit unheard, but the Supreme Court has since overturned the circuit court’s reasoning. Staver explained that Liberty’s suit had been dismissed—not on its merits—but on the ground that the Anti-Injunction Act (AIA) bars any sort of injunction pre-empting collection of a tax. The Supreme Court has since ruled that fines imposed for refusal to comply are not “taxes” but “penalties.” Penalties do not fall under the purview of the AIA.
After initially rejecting Liberty’s request to have the case reexamined, the High Court, in a very unusual move, Staver explained, granted Liberty’s Petition for Rehearing. Considering this a reason for optimism, he said, “Our fight against ObamaCare is far from over.” He indicated that the High Court’s reversal and willingness to have the case heard suggests that some of the justices wish to examine “the merits of the case” more closely.
Some people fail to realize that abortifacient medications at issue are not ordinary contraceptives. Abortifacients prevent or disrupt the implantation of an embryo. Under the new law, businesses must provide medical coverage for these drugs as a “contraceptive” benefit. But the “morning-after pill” and the “week-after pill” destroy the lives of unborn human beings. They prevent the implantation of an embryo or destroy an embryo soon after implantation. Being required to provide this “service” violates the Christian principles of many American institutions and business owners who, unlike churches, are not exempt from the law.8
Some courts around the country have granted temporary exemptions from the murderous mandate, and others have not. A judge in Oklahoma, for instance, has “ruled the business regulations governing craft chain Hobby Lobby trumped its owners’ religious beliefs.” Will the 4th Circuit Court, and the Supreme Court after it, fulfill their constitutional obligations to protect our religious freedom? Or will they allow Congress and the President to chisel it away? We must all pray and wait to find out.
Read more about the historical path to religious freedom in America in News to Note, October 13, 2012. The idea of paying a fine to practice your religion should chill every American, even those who don’t oppose the use of abortifacients. Our hard-won religious freedom is too precious to surrender.
Bill Nye claims denying the earth is 4.54 billion years old is like believing the earth is flat.
Bill Nye was interviewed by CNN after possible 2016 presidential candidate Senator Marco Rubio stated that “the age of the universe has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow” and that the dispute over the question “has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States.” (Be sure to read the complete quotation and last week’s analysis of Rubio’s remarks at News to Note, November 24, 2012.) Nye, a popular children’s television personality, is an outspoken evolutionist and secular humanist who has made dire predictions that American progress will grind to a halt if American children fail to accept evolutionary ideas.9
Nye, claiming earth is 4.54 billion years old, mixed up historical science with experimental “here and now” science in his attempt to build a case for the economic relevance of evolutionary thinking. Both Nye and the CNN interviewer used this convenient conflation of concepts in an attempt to discredit Rubio’s statement.
Throughout the interview, satellite and telescope images of the earth and space as well as videos showcasing scenic vistas and interesting animals played in the background. Nye’s credentials—such as they are—lingered on screen. (Nye’s only earned degree is a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering. His other credentials are merely honorary degrees.) The images and captions, falsely implying Nye is an expert in all things scientific, reinforced Nye’s erroneous contention that life as we know it would not be possible if Americans had not historically accepted evolutionary dogma as factual. Additional captions quote Nye’s claims that “We need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers for the future.”9
Nye’s scientific “expertise” consists only in accepting by faith the worldview-based opinions of the majority of secular scientists. He ignores the positions of the hundreds of masters- and doctoral-level scientists (including those in the fields of physics, geology, astronomy, biology, and medical science, many with degrees from secular universities) who do hold that a young earth position is scientifically reasonable.10 Sadly, those who, like Nye, cannot grasp the distinction between what can be examined and tested in the present and what they believe ought to be true about the untestable unobservable past are creating a gap in the scientific literacy of those who follow their lead. In fact, Nye and other evolutionists are deceiving the public so that many are incapable of thinking critically about this issue.
Nye tried to connect “exploding stars and especially the big bang” to our economy by saying we “rely on those elements [supposedly created then] for our everyday life in order to have the quality of life that we have.” Knowledge of the behavior of those elements is essential for technological and medical advancement, which affect the economy. But the origin of those elements and their hypothetical behavior billions of years ago are categorically different issues, completely unrelated to economic growth. Nye’s “proof” for the age of the earth is the existence of radioactive decay in some of those elements. As he struggled to recall whether strontium decays into rubidium or if it were the other way around, Nye assured listeners of the accuracy of the 4.54 billion years by saying, “You can look at this ratio, the half life of that reaction, is 48.8 billion years. This is measured in laboratories. Sometimes laboratories will observe something for fifteen years to get it just exactly right, so then you work backwards to the age of the rocks.” What Nye fails to mention is that the experimentally determined values—even those that take fifteen years to validate—can only be “worked backwards” for billions of years by making many unverifiable assumptions about the untestable past. (For an explanation of these unverifiable uniformitarian assumptions and interpretations, see Radiometric Dating, Radiometric Dating: Problems with the Assumptions, Radiometric Dating: Making Sense of the Patterns, and The Fallacies of Radioactive Dating of Rocks.)
Nye attacked Senator Rubio’s comments, saying, “He went on to claim that there is no connection between our scientific understanding of the age of the earth and our economy, and I very, very strongly disagree with that.” Then the interviewer, explicitly misrepresenting Rubio’s remarks, planted a false idea in viewers’ minds when she asked Nye, “You obviously don't agree that science has nothing to do with the economy and growth?” Yet notice that Senator Rubio never said that science has nothing to do with economic growth. Recall, Rubio said the “dispute amongst theologians” about the age of the earth
. . . has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States. I think the age of the universe has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow.
While Rubio did not take a position on the question, he at least acknowledged, in essence, that worldview-based interpretations in historical science determine the answers people accept. He therefore took a stand for the freedom of Americans to believe and teach those worldviews to their children. As we noted last week,11 President Obama has publicly answered the same question the same way.
Nye explained that “deep understanding” of “the nuclear reactions that take place in elements” has allowed the invention of smoke detectors and smart phones and television. He then insinuated this technology is built on evolutionary beliefs about the time of our origins, saying, “So this claim that it has nothing to do with the economy is, as far as I am concerned, is just wrong. Now I’m not goin’ after anybody’s religion, that’s not it, it’s just that the earth is not 6,000 or 10,000 years old, that’s not, and furthermore we rely on these discoveries for our everyday life, especially here in the developed world.”
Some technologies rely on the behavior of radioactive elements over brief spans of time. Conventional radiometric dating results from worldview-based interpretations and unverifiable assumptions about those radioactive elements over billions of years. But such technological applications do not depend on acceptance of those unverifiable assumptions but only on observable experimental science. Scientists producing these inventions do so without any reliance on whether radioactive decay has been going on for 6,000 years or 4.54 billion years. Nye is using the wrong kind of examples to support his case.
Finally, Nye provides an obvious example of his confusion. The interviewer asks, “Do you still believe that teaching children that the earth is anything but 4.5 billion years old is the same as teaching them that the earth is flat?” Nye answers, “It’s a pretty good analogy—in that you can show—you can very easily demonstrate—that the earth is not flat—with a little more diligence and a little more understanding you can show that the earth cannot possibly be 10,000 years old.” Again, backed up by NASA satellite images of earth, Nye indicates knowledge of earth’s shape—which can be observed and verified—are comparable to billion-year claims.
Those billion-year claims depend on unverifiable assumptions, not on verifiable observational science. The assumptions include—without support—the belief that all processes (geological, biological, astronomical, etc.) have proceeded at the same pace and in the same way since the universe supposedly sprang into being from nothing. Yet nothing in science can support such claims. Experimental scientific support demands controlled repeatable observations, but the earth is already here. We cannot go back in time and observe its origins, nor can we experimentally recreate the earth, the sun or any star in the laboratory.
We must rely on a historical record to understand unobservable past events. Any history “in the rocks” must be calibrated using a historical record from an eye-witness of that history. And that record of history is in the Bible. On the other had, the shape of the earth is observable. Even ancient people observing the masts of ships disappearing over the horizon (due to the earth’s curvature) deduced the earth’s shape. But nobody can observe that which is needed to support belief in billions of years.
Nye even claimed that teaching a child the earth is young is “asking that kid not to use his or her critical thinking skills, not to use the ingenuity that made the United States what it is today.” However, explaining the difference between historical and observational science is equipping a child to use “critical thinking skills.” Belief in evolution actually inhibits critical thinking and is not the foundation of today’s technology or tomorrow’s hopes.
Were you thankful for your dinosaur’s drumsticks?
Ever mindful to immerse the world in evolutionary mythology, the Smithsonian.com’s “Dinosaur Tracking” column on Thanksgiving Day zoomed in on your turkey’s genealogy. While it is good to be aware of the currently popular classification system, it is vital for us to make our children—who are constantly exposed to evolutionary dogma from many directions—understand the implications of calling a bird a dinosaur.
We can borrow an analogy from Shakespeare, “What’s in a name? that which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet.”12 Juliet, in the play Romeo and Juliet, argues that names are irrelevant. While the tragic outcome in the classic play is well known, the tragic consequences of surrendering to the evolutionary implications of calling your Thanksgiving dinner a dinosaur are more subtle.
Man-made classification systems change to reflect current observations and understanding. That is good and reasonable. But reclassifying birds as dinosaurs reflects not scientific observations but only evolutionary imagination. Those pushing to get our children to believe, as columnist Brian Switek writes, “Birds are dinosaurs. That’s a fact,” accept this “fact” without genuine support and demand you do the same. They believe dinosaurs evolved into birds. Their contention is part of a belief system that insists simple life forms evolved through random natural processes from nonliving elements and then over billions of years evolved into progressively more complex living things, including humans.
Is there any support that dinosaurs did indeed evolve into birds and that birds are therefore just a highly evolved special category of dinosaur? No. The dinosaur family tree, as laid out in Switek’s article and numerous other sources, is a product of imagination because it does not just categorize variations among dinosaurs—a reasonable taxonomic endeavor for paleontologists—but assumes that those dinosaurs evolved from simpler forms and evolved into different kinds of creatures.
A large part of the case for dinosaur evolution rests on the presumption that non-feathery “dino-fuzz” along the edges of some fossils represents evolutionary predecessors of feathers. Those fibers often blossom—but only under the influence of the artist’s brush—into feathery plumes rivaling peacocks. Those plumes bring out the latent psychologists among paleontologists as they struggle to explain the evolutionary function of “proto-feathers.” The usual presumed function generally has something to do with attracting mates, staying warm, and feathering nests. Yet none of this behavior, much less the actual evolutionary steps in feather development, can be supported. They are mere supposition. But to make the evolutionary case more plausible, some genuine birds with genuine feathers get recruited to the ranks of dinosaurs. After all, man-made classifications can reflect wishful thinking. (See News to Note, November 17, 2012, News to Note, November 10, 2012, News to Note, November 12, 2011, and What? Another feathered dinosaur claim? for more information.)
There are a host of problems in the evolutionary dinosaur-to-bird scenario. Respiratory systems, body aerodynamics, finger embryology, and the complexities of the feather compared to scales present irreducible complexities for the evolutionary paradigm. The problems are not solvable by experimental, operational science because no kind of creature has ever been observed evolving into another kind of creature. There is no observable mechanism to make the new genetic information for such evolutionary transitions attainable through natural processes. Evolutionists interpret fossils as proof that such evolution happened because their worldview rejects the alternative—that the various kinds of creatures were designed, specially created by God without evolution.
God’s historical record in the Bible indicates He created birds on the fifth day of Creation week and then created land animals—which would have included dinosaurs—on the sixth day. He created living things to reproduce “after their kind,” varying within their kinds but not evolving into more complex or different kinds. Scientific observation confirms that this still happens today.
Discussing dinosaurs and biblical apologetics over turkey leftovers may give you indigestion, but we owe it to our families to be sure they understand the truth. Calling a bird a dinosaur doesn’t make it one. If we give in to the new vocabulary and assume “a bird by any other name would taste as good,” we implicitly accept all the evolutionary propaganda that attempts to write God’s truth—from Creation to Christ—out of history, out of faith, out of life. And the consequences for that acquiescence will for many, who may then reject the Bible’s truth about salvation, be truly and eternally tragic.
Evolutionary scientists suggest a simple chemical candidate to carry genetic information in the earliest life forms.
No one has ever demonstrated life randomly emerging from nonliving elements. Nevertheless, molecules-to-man evolution would have required such an event. Evolutionists hypothesize that before DNA evolved, RNA did the job of coding and duplicating information as well as directing construction of simple life forms. But could a simpler molecular polymer have carried coded genetic information before the “RNA-world” evolved?
“Before RNA-based organisms arose, peptide nucleic acids [PNAs] may have been used to transmit genetic information by the earliest forms of life on earth,”13 writes a team of American and Swedish scientists who have discovered a potential building block for PNAs in cyanobacteria. This simple molecular building block (AEG) could hypothetically polymerize to form a code-carrying PNA, an evolutionary “dream molecule.” Cyanobacteria are photosynthetic bacteria believed by evolutionists to represent some of the earliest life forms. Therefore, the team writes, “It is tantalizing to hypothesize that the presence of AEG in cyanobacteria may be an echo of the pre-RNA world.”13
RNA is a polymer consisting of nucleobases attached to a chain of ribose sugar-and-phosphate building blocks. A “peptide nucleic acid” (PNA) is, analogously, a small polymer in which nucleobases ride on the molecular backbone of a small amino acid chain. (Peptides are chains of amino acids.) AEG is the amino acid N-(2-aminoethyl)glycine.
Some chemical reactions occur spontaneously when the ingredients are present under the right conditions. Therefore, the discoverers hypothesize that molecules of AEG could spontaneously react with each other to form peptides. If the AEG molecules happened to have nucleobases attached to them, the resulting peptide nucleic acid (PNA) would resemble a super-simplified version of RNA.
The order of the nucleobases in RNA and DNA “spells” coded information to guide the formation of proteins. Evolutionists searching for a genetic jumpstart for life look for the simplest possible molecules that could conceivably carry this code. AEG was just a theoretical candidate to build the hypothetical PNA backbone. AEG was unknown in nature until its unexpected discovery in many types of cyanobacteria. This discovery has sparked the evolutionary imagination. Although coauthor Paul Alan Cox admits, “We just don't have enough data yet to draw that sort of conclusion,” the team writes, “The production of AEG by diverse taxa of cyanobacteria suggests that AEG may be a primitive feature which arose early in the evolution of life on earth.”13
Cyanobacteria are photosynthetic organisms, and evolutionists attribute the oxygen atmosphere of earth to them. Some are preserved as microfossils in the Early Archean Apex Chert of Western Australia, conventionally dated to 3.5 billion years ago. The dates themselves and the idea that life arose spontaneously from nonliving elements are unsubstantiated ideas based on unverifiable assumptions about the untestable past, the time of life’s origins. But because evolutionists are determined to explain life without God, they naturally look to life’s simplest types of organisms and the simplest possible chemical reactions in search of evidence to support their ideas.
In addition to these problems, however, is the problem of information. Random sequences of nucleobases are not genetic information. Nucleobases in PNAs, like those in RNA and DNA, would be like an alphabet. But without an understandable language, information to be transmitted, a producer of information, a decoder, and a method of using the decoded information, the nucleobase “words” would be utterly meaningless gibberish. Without God to provide the original information in the genomes of all created kinds of organisms, all the PNAs in the world could only be chemical chaos.
Biological observations tell us life only comes from life. And information must have a source. The living Creator God made all physical matter and all living things in the beginning, about 6,000 years ago. And He created the genetic code to enable all kinds of living things to reproduce and vary within their created kinds. His eyewitness account is in Genesis. And no scientific discoveries have ever shown life, or information, emerging through random natural processes from non-living components. Without that genetic jump-start—a genuine source of information and the machinery to interpret and apply it—life could never get off the ground . . . or out of the primordial scum.
Tourism here in the Cincinnati/Tri-State area is on the rise, according to a study just reported in news.cincinnati.com. Area attractions last year drew 22 million visitors, and that is good news for the local economy. The photo series included with the announcement is this snapshot (image credit: news.cincinnati.com) of a familiar site for the 1.7 million who have already visited the Answers in Genesis Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, since it opened in 2007. Located just off Interstate 275 at exit 11, the state-of-the-art 70,000 square foot Creation Museum features this meeting with an animatronic Utahraptor in Corruption Valley, a part of the museum illustrating the effects of sin on the world. The early history of the earth comes to life as visitors of all ages Walk Through History. Stargazers Planetarium and Snakes Alive! videos and dioramas, animatronics and fossils, dinosaurs and dragons throughout the museum not only bring biblical history to life but also showcase many scientific models that help us to understand how the events described in the Bible explain what we see in today’s world. The Creation Museum is a great place for the believer and the skeptic, for the young and the old. It is a place to find out the biblical and scientific basis for young-earth creation. It is a place to see how you can trust what the Bible says from Creation to Christ and beyond. Make plans now to be part of the next 22 million visitors to the area, and don’t miss the special activities planned for this year’s Christmas Town. See CreationMuseum.org for more information.
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