Wrinkled fingers get a grip—but not on evolution.
Most parents get asked by young children after a long soak in the tub, “Why do my fingers and toes get wrinkly in the water?” Until recently that remained a scientific mystery. Only in this millennium have scientists discovered that the nervous system directly causes this rippling. The autonomic (involuntary) nervous system triggers vasoconstriction in the deeper parts of the skin, shrinking it and leaving the greater surface area above it to wrinkle.
Having discovered this interesting feature of our design, scientists naturally wonder about the wrinkles’ function. In 2011 a group proposed the “rain-tread hypothesis”: the idea that wrinkles serve like tire treads to increase traction.
“That seemed like a clever hypothesis that would be easy to test,” according to Tom Smulders, a Newcastle University evolutionary biologist. Though precisely how they do so still remains a mystery, wrinkles now have a proven functional value. Smulders’s study published in Biology Letters describes how test subjects were timed as they manipulated 45 submerged objects. After soaking their fingers for a half hour, the volunteers were able to complete the exercise 12% faster than they could with smooth, unsoaked fingers. Repeat tests with wrinkly soaked fingers and dry objects, in contrast, revealed no wrinkle-enhanced performance.
Since wrinkles also didn’t hurt performance with dry objects, why aren’t our fingers always wrinkled? Smulders suggests, “With wrinkles, less of your skin surface touches the object, so there may be issues of sensitivity.”1 However, if this is the case, there is apparently no detrimental effect on dexterity. The possible effect of fingertip wrinkles on sensation was not examined in the study.
“They show that the wrinkles have a biological function,” according to Columbia University biomechanical engineer Xi Chen, who previously analyzed the way the shrinkage of the deeper skin tissues causes the surface skin to wrinkle. And Rensselaer Polytechnic’s Romann Weber, who helped develop the rain-tread hypothesis, agrees that Smulders’ tests “are a good practical demonstration of the benefits that wrinkles provide.”
Though the effect of wrinkled toes on walking has not been tested, that would be another question to explore. The evolutionary search for a survival advantage to explain how this subtly designed feature developed will also entail exploring whether or not primate animals have similar wrinkles in their anatomy. The team writes, “It is unclear at present whether the wrinkling of wet glabrous skin evolved in our ancestors to support walking in wet conditions, manipulation of objects or both. Further experiments, combined with a comparative study to investigate which other species share this feature with humans, will provide deeper insights into how long ago it may have evolved, and for which primary function.”2
While wrinkly fingers to improve our underwater manual dexterity are a fine example of a good design, they do not provide support for the idea of evolution. Even if evolutionists could demonstrate that wrinkled fingers provide such a huge survival advantage that all ancestors without them died off, they still would have no way of actually observing and demonstrating how the genetic information to produce this feature came into being by random chance.
What those wrinkled fingers and toes in the tub should be doing is providing parents with an opportunity to say, “God designed your skin on your fingers to wrinkle that way so you could hold onto things underwater better. And scientists think wrinkled toes might help you to walk on the wet ground without slipping as easily.”
How exactly the wrinkles do that, by the way, is still up for grabs, and perhaps will be the subject of additional biomechanical studies.
These 19th century slave shackles, on display in the Creation Museum, are a sad reminder of how some people have distorted Scripture to support slavery, oppression, and racial discrimination. The signage here explains, “In the mid nineteenth century various distortions of Bible passages were used to justify slavery. Some people denied the biblical truth that all humans are descended from Adam and Eve, claiming that ‘blacks’ were not human. Actually, everyone has the same skin color—there are not ‘black’ or ‘white’ people, for all people are basically a shade of brown. Others distorted what the Bible teaches to argue falsely that dark skin color was a curse upon Noah’s son Ham. Actually, the curse was pronounced upon Ham’s son Canaan and had nothing whatsoever to do with skin shade.” Photo: by Elizabeth Mitchell at Creation Museum, Petersburg, Kentucky.
The Creation Museum does not promote the erroneous “curse of Ham.”
Earlier this week the late Martin Luther King, Jr. was honored on a day set aside to acknowledge his efforts to secure civil rights for all, especially African-Americans. Historically, some people have promoted racist ideas on the pseudo-biblical basis of the “curse of Ham.” I write “pseudo-biblical” because there is really no such thing in the Bible.
Unfortunately, some people cast aspersions on those (like Answers in Genesis) who stand for biblical truth by falsely claiming that we promote such a racist philosophy. Worse than that, they falsely claim the Bible promotes it. The Bible does not support or condone racism.
Incidentally, we prefer to avoid the term “races” in favor of “people groups.” The Bible doesn’t refer to people groups as races. Neither does it disparage any people on the basis of their skin shade. In fact, God punished Moses’ siblings Miriam and Aaron for criticizing Moses’ marriage to an Ethiopian, presumably dark-skinned, woman (Numbers 12).
The entire human population of today is descended from Noah’s family. Many people groups can be traced through geography, history, and language. After Noah’s descendants were dispersed through confusion of their languages from the Tower of Babel, people spread through the world and acquired a number of additional distinctions as a result of their isolation through a variety of genetically related mechanisms. Children taught this correct biblical history should understand that all people are related. We are, as the Bible says, “of one blood” (Acts 17:26). See AiG’s Chart of people groups (pdf) to learn more. Biblical truth should combat racism, not promote it.
The Bible does not teach that Noah cursed his son Ham, that this alleged curse had anything to do with skin color, or that a biblical curse justifies oppression of darker skinned people. In the years after the global Flood, the Bible records that Noah got drunk on wine and passed out naked in his tent. His son Ham mocked Noah to his brothers, and soon afterward Noah pronounced a curse upon Ham’s youngest son, Canaan. Noah actually prophesied about the future of each of his sons’ descendants as part of this pronouncement. Biblically, a “curse” often refers not to a vengeful condemnation but to a prophecy of a bad outcome. Noah never cursed his son Ham, but he did prophecy in Genesis 9:24–27 that the descendants of Ham’s son—Noah’s grandson, Canaan—would somehow serve those of his brothers.
We are not told why Noah specifically pronounced this future for Canaan and his descendants. There has been much speculation on that point. See Feedback: The Curse of Canaan to learn more about this and about the historical fulfillment of the “curse of Canaan.”3 In any case, the future role of Canaan’s descendants in serving the descendants of his uncles did not mean that they (much less the people of Africa!) were divinely doomed to slavery.
Neither did Noah’s prophecy have anything to do with the shade of anyone’s skin. There is no basis—biblical or otherwise—for claiming that all dark-skinned people descended from Ham. Many Hamitic people (like Egyptians and many Chinese) are not dark-skinned at all. Even Canaan’s descendants were not dark-skinned. And many dark-skinned people, in India for instance, are descendants of Shem.
At the Creation Museum, we have an entire room devoted to a biblical explanation for the origin of people groups. In the same room, we have displays chronicling and condemning racism. Furthermore, a museum display explicitly states that it is wrong to argue “that dark skin color was a curse upon Noah’s son Ham.” Yet the museum’s detractors declare otherwise. While we still hear occasionally of individuals or churches that misuse the Bible to perpetuate racist notions, we hope this display helps eliminate that.
All people are descended from Adam and Eve. All people groups and variations developed over the past 6,000 years are equal in the sight of God (Romans 10:12). People who have misused the Bible in an effort to promote slavery and racial oppression have been tragically wrong. Biblically, there is absolutely no justification for racism or forced conditions of servitude.
Evolutionary thinking, on the other hand, provides support for racism. Darwin, in his world-changing tomes The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life and The Descent of Man, proclaimed his belief that some people groups are more highly evolved than others. In The Descent of Man, Darwin repeatedly called people with darker skin “degraded” and hundreds of times described them as “savages.” In fact, Darwin actually predicted in The Descent of Man that civilized people would someday exterminate such savages. Darwin’s own words provided “scientific” justification for the next century of “racially” based atrocities. Though evolution is not the cause of racism, the late evolutionist Stephen J. Gould noted, “Biological arguments for racism may have been common before 1859, but they increased by orders of magnitude following the acceptance of evolutionary theory.”4
Evolution, despite claims to the contrary,5 cannot rescue the world from the scourge of racism. Rightly accepting what the Bible actually says about the origin of people groups and about God’s love for all is the basis on which to build a better tomorrow.
AiG President Ken Ham has a written a blog item this weekend about the non-existent “curse of Ham.” You can also learn more about the ways evolutionists like Darwin, Ernst Haeckel, and even James Watson (of DNA fame) have promoted extreme racial prejudice. See the top link below.
Could cloning technology resurrect humanity’s past, and should it?
Is Harvard geneticist George Church planning to follow in the footsteps of Jurassic Park’s John Hammond (portrayed in the movie by Sir Richard Attenborough) by re-creating Neanderthal people? He’d like to give it a try. In the film, Hammond cloned dinosaurs from DNA preserved in amber and incubated the cloned material in crocodile eggs. Church says to produce Neander-babies he’ll needs human embryos and a willing surrogate mother.
This cozy Neanderthal scene at France’s Museum for Prehistory in Eyzies-de-Tayac is a testimony to the improving image of Neanderthals in modern times. Despite the hoopla over geneticist George Church’s proposal to try cloning Neanderthals so that they can apply their intellectual distinctiveness to modern problems, bioethicist Arthur Caplan is of the opinion that we don’t need to “worry about what will happen to real estate values should a new crop of ‘Flintstones’ move in” because he doubts anyone will really try it.6 Image : Patrick Bernard AFP/Getty Image File through www.cnn.com
Church, who was involved in the Human Genome Project, believes he can rebuild the DNA for a complete Neanderthal from DNA in Neanderthal fossils. He proposes transplanting Neanderthal DNA into a human embryo at an early stage. Church anticipates the synthetically produced Neanderthal DNA would then direct the embryo’s development as a Neanderthal. After initially growing in the lab, the “test-tube Neanderthal” would be transplanted into a human surrogate’s uterus.
“Now I need an adventurous female human. It depends on . . . a lot of things, but I think it can be done,” Church says. “Neanderthals might think differently than we do. They could even be more intelligent than us. When the time comes to deal with an epidemic or getting off the planet, it’s conceivable that their way of thinking could be beneficial.”
Legally, such experimentation would likely be possible only in the United States, as the U.S. Congress has not yet succeeded in agreeing on legislation to prohibit human reproductive cloning. Since the successful cloning of sheep at Scotland’s Roslin Institute produced “Dolly” in 1997,7 several efforts to pass such legislation have gotten bogged down in disagreements about specific provisions. Therefore, although human cloning for reproductive purposes is prohibited or restricted in some states, there are currently no federal laws prohibiting human cloning.8
Church’s idea is already generating ripples among ethicists. Bioethicist Bernard Rollin of Colorado State University said “I don’t think it’s fair to put people . . . into a circumstance where they are going to be mocked and possibly feared,” commented Colorado State University bioethicist Bernard Rollin. And Philippa Taylor of the Christian Medical Fellowship said, “It is hard to know where to begin with the ethical and safety concerns.”
Those ethical concerns must begin with a consideration of the life of the human embryos that would be lost in order to conduct the experiments and ultimately hybridize the Neander-person embryo. Human cloning is already considered, even among secular circles in the United States, a morally questionable enterprise. Many kinds of animals have been cloned, and cloning is likely to be an increasingly useful adjunct for meeting agricultural needs. However, statistically, most cloning attempts fail, and many clones suffer debilitating problems.
The Human Genome Project “Cloning Fact Sheet” states:
Due to the inefficiency of animal cloning (only about 1 or 2 viable offspring for every 100 experiments) and the lack of understanding about reproductive cloning, many scientists and physicians strongly believe that it would be unethical to attempt to clone humans. Not only do most attempts to clone mammals fail, about 30% of clones born alive are affected with “large-offspring syndrome” and other debilitating conditions. Several cloned animals have died prematurely from infections and other complications. The same problems would be expected in human cloning. In addition, scientists do not know how cloning could impact mental development. While factors such as intellect and mood may not be as important for a cow or a mouse, they are crucial for the development of healthy humans. With so many unknowns concerning reproductive cloning, the attempt to clone humans at this time is considered potentially dangerous and ethically irresponsible.9
The American Medical Association and the American Academy for the Advancement of Science have issued statements opposing human reproductive cloning. The Center for Genetics and Society concurs with this assessment, saying:
Human reproductive cloning is almost universally opposed. Overwhelming majorities reject it in opinion surveys. Many international agreements and countries (though not the United States) formally prohibit it. Some oppose reproductive cloning because of safety considerations. Animal cloning is seldom successful, and many scientists believe that reproductive cloning can never be made safe. Human reproductive cloning would also threaten the psychological well-being of cloned children, open the door to more powerful genetic manipulation technologies, and raise other social and ethical concerns.”10
All humans, included Neanderthals, have descended from Adam and Eve. And while it is heartening to see Neanderthal intellect and humanity being recognized nowadays, they are not our evolutionary ancestors. They were one of the varieties of people that lived after the global Flood, descended from Noah’s family. Fossils of people preserved in Ice Age sediments include Neanderthals, Homo erectus, and Denisovans. The overlap of Neanderthal DNA and Denisovan DNA (none having yet been recovered from Homo erectus) with modern human DNA is a result of the fact that all people since the global Flood have been descendants of Noah’s family.
Assuming a Neander-person could be cloned, given the differences in environment and experiences, there would still be no way to know such a modern Neanderthal was revealing the nature of Neanderthals from the past. New York University bioethicist Arthur Caplan points out that cloning a person would not produce a person like the original person anyway. He writes:
If I have a twin and I die I am not still alive because my twin lives on. Cloning creates a new person–one who might look like the source of the cloned genome and have many traits in common but would still be an independent novel person.
Nor can cloning bring back the dead. It cannot do this for pets much less people. A cloned dog does not know the tricks and behavior of the “old” dog that is dead. Unless you can replicate the developmental and environmental experiences that the original animal or person had you will not resurrect the dead via cloning.11
There also remains the question of how a Neanderthal clone would be treated in society. Considering the fact that our society refuses legal protection to the lives of the unborn, the status of a cloned Neanderthal—who would be the product of research that killed many human embryos along the way—would be questionable at best. In fact, after Church’s speculations bounced around the internet for a couple of days, CNN published bioethicist Arthur Caplan’s opinion:
It would by unethical to try and clone a Neanderthal baby. . . . At best it might shed some light on the biology and behavior of a distant ancestor. At worst it would be nothing more than the ultimate reality television show exploitation. . . .
We love to think that the key to tomorrow lies in what humanity can be designed or empowered to do. Thus, the fascination with human cloning.6
While even most secular circles at present consider human reproductive cloning to be morally irresponsible, there is no guarantee they will maintain the same stand on Neanderthal cloning. They typically do not recognize the human embryo as deserving of protection. It doesn’t take much of a leap to see how they would consider the Neanderthal—only in recent years recognized as intelligent and human—an experimental subject. Such a person would be subject to all sorts of indignity, exploitation, and danger. A biblically grounded stand for the sanctity of human life must oppose even beginning this sort of experimentation.
Toothed bird adds to knowledge of avian biodiversity in the age of dinosaurs.
A toothy robin-sized bird has been identified in the Early Cretaceous Chinese Jehol Group in northeastern China. The bird is a previously unidentified species, Sulcavis geeorum, but it appears to be an enantiornithine, a group of extinct birds represented by many species. The bird’s teeth are well-enameled with enamel extending into grooves on the teeth.
These close-up photos show this enantiornithine bird's sharp teeth. Evolutionists consider these teeth, which have well-preserved grooves and a coating of protective enamel, to be highly evolved. However, nothing about the discovery suggests these teeth or this bird evolved from any other kind of animal. The bird's well-designed teeth reveal the hand of our Creator, who made all kinds of birds, including the toothed kinds that are now extinct, on the fifth day of Creation week. Image credit: Photos from J. O'Connor et al., “A new enantiornithine from the Yixian Formation with the first recognized avian enamel specialization,” Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology (2013) www.tandfonline.com
This fossil has larger teeth than those found on other enantiornithines. The teeth appear sharp and have grooves on the lingual surface. There are other types of extinct toothed birds, but this tooth enamel is an attention-getter because, as the authors of the report in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology write, “No previously recognized avian specimen is known to possess any form of enamel ornamentation or specialization.”12
Enantiornithines share the same place in the fossil record as dinosaurs. Enameled teeth appear from an evolutionary point of view to be a highly evolved feature, so evolutionists believe they served an important function that was taken over by evolution of horny beaks and gizzards in other birds. There is no suggestion of a gizzard in this fossil or in any known enantiornithines. Two other groups of Mesozoic birds are believed from fossils to have had a gizzard, as indicated by apparent gastroliths (gravel) in the digestive region.12 Birds with gizzards would be less in need of teeth.
Although the LiveScience article states that the fossil “was so well preserved that some of its stomach contents were still present,” this is evidently an error. The authors of the journal article do not report stomach contents. Instead, they report being pleased to see such well-preserved teeth because they hope the teeth will provide a clue about what the bird ate. They write, “Compared with other Mesozoic groups, stomach contents are hardly ever preserved within enantiornithine specimens; therefore, this new tooth morphology reveals new evidence regarding the diversity of trophic niches occupied by the clade.”12 Only two known enantiornithine fossils preserve stomach contents, one with crustacean exoskeletal parts and another with bits of amber (dried tree sap), and they were not found in China.12 The authors conclude, based on the tooth shape and protective enamel, that “Sulcavis geeorum may have been especially well adapted for a diet of hard food items relative to other Jehol birds.”12
Birds with teeth are now extinct, as are some toothless birds. And research suggests that even toothless birds do have genes for teeth but that they are not expressed—are “turned off”—in modern birds.13 But these facts do not provide proof for bird evolution. Chiappe explains one flaw in evolutionary thought about why birds supposedly de-evolved their teeth, saying, “The traditional view is that teeth are heavy, and the birds evolved beaks as a way of making their bodies lighter. These teeth are pretty small and it's hard to imagine that they had such a huge impact on the weight of the animal.”
Evolutionists contend that birds lost their teeth at least four times based on where they appear in the fossil record. However, many layers of the fossil record preserve animals in the order their habitats were overcome by the rising waters of the global Flood of Noah’s time. Therefore, those layers are a timeline of habitat destruction and death over a short period of time, not a timeline of evolution of new kinds of animals over millions of years.
There is nothing about the fossil evidence to demonstrate anything about the evolution of birds from other kinds of creatures. Instead, what we see here is a well-developed set of teeth on an extinct bird that coexisted with dinosaurs. Stripped of tales of millions of years and notions about non-birds evolving into birds—never-observed, worldview-based contentions that are scientifically unverifiable because they are untestable—this bird’s teeth serve as a testimony to the truth of the Genesis account of creation. God’s record of creation says that He created all kinds of creatures in the beginning, not as evolved products built on the templates of simpler creatures but fully mature and able to reproduce after their kinds.
“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15).
In the wake of the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in the United States, we should remember that the 54 million unborn babies that have perished are not its only victims. Many women suffer from unexpected guilt for the life-ending decisions they can never undo. Others say they feel nothing—and they may not, at least at present—yet the action they have chosen will affect them. Perhaps it will harden them to the sanctity of human life, or perhaps it will return to haunt them later, but they will likely at some point either face or somehow try to evade the reality that the life they destroyed was their baby’s.
When a woman enters a pro-life crisis pregnancy center—and these actually outnumber the number of free-standing abortion clinics across the country—she is greeted by a response she does not expect—love.14 Love not just for her unborn baby but also for her. Counselors and medical professionals concerned for the life of the unborn are equally concerned about the well-being of the mothers who are suffering.
“When women are given a place where they are heard at a difficult time in their lives — and they can slow down the decision — they are more likely to make a life-giving decision,” says Maureen Yockey, director of Calvary Chapel’s non-denominational Alternative Pregnancy Centers in Colorado. Despite Planned Parenthood propaganda to the contrary, crisis pregnancy centers are not high-pressure dens of scare tactics.14 Of those who come through their doors, Yockey says, “Most women do not want an abortion, but feel they have no choice due to their circumstances. Pregnancy centers exist to make sure women truly have a choice. By providing information, support and free services, pregnancy centers have allowed hundreds of thousands of women to escape the pains of abortion.”14
As many people heard messages in their churches rightly exhorting us to remember the sanctity of human life last Sunday—Sanctity of Life Sunday—we need to remember that among the listeners and the family and friends of the listeners were some of those 54 million would-be mothers. For those facing or recalling the convicting truth of the decision they made, we must share the vital truth that Jesus Christ died for the sins of all people (Hebrews 2:9). His blood was shed in order to offer forgiveness to any willing to come to Him in repentance and faith. Those to whom God’s forgiveness is offered include women who have had abortions and medical professionals who performed them.
The Bible includes many examples of people who received God’s forgiveness. Prominent among these is the Apostle Paul. Paul, prior to his conversion, thought that he was serving God by persecuting Christians and having them legally murdered. Later, he wrote, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15). And in the very next verse (1 Timothy 1:16) he pointed out that Jesus Christ had forgiven him and could forgive anyone. Jesus Himself said, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Luke 5:32).
We should all regard our own sins, whatever they are, as dark and filthy before a holy God. And we should also remember that we don’t remove the guilt of those sins by rationalizing them—whatever the circumstances, fears, and pressures contributed to them. But the guilt of those sins—including the sin of killing a baby—will be forgiven by God if we freely admit to God our guilt and accept the forgiveness offered to us through Jesus Christ.
Women suffering from post-abortion guilt can find counseling, comfort, and support at crisis pregnancy centers. Most have support groups and counseling freely available. If you are suffering, there are more than 2,000 of these centers scattered across the country ready to help you. They are there to help.
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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