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News to Note, April 2, 2011

A weekly feature examining news from the biblical viewpoint

on April 2, 2011
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A godly heritage?; what’s religion?; we’ll wait for the softcover edition; and more!

1. National Geographic News: “Odd Saber-Toothed Beast Discovered—Preyed on . . . Plants?

Eat softly and carry big teeth—was it the unwritten policy of the saber-toothed Tiarajudens eccentricus?

Federal University of Piauí paleontologist Juan Carlos Cisneros discovered the fossil in Brazil and led the study that reports on the find in the journal Science. The remains belong to a therapsid, a term paleontologists use to describe a group of extinct reptiles with mammalian characteristics.

Receiving most of the attention are the creature’s teeth, which are described as combining the canines of a saber-toothed cat, a shark-like palate studded with replacement teeth, the incisors of a horse, and large molars like a capybara’s. But despite the ferocious appearance, the creature would have been strictly a plant-eater, Cisneros and his team report.

To explain the oversize canines, the team hypothesizes that T. eccentricus’s saber teeth may have scared off predators or intimidated rivals of the same species. And while the team chalks up the saber teeth to “evolutionary experimentation,” it’s interesting that creationists are criticized for believing animals like theropod dinosaurs could have been created vegetarian. “Just look at their teeth,” evolutionists scoff, “How could that jaw be designed for eating plants?” To the contrary, some creatures living today with fearsome fangs (such as the fruit bat) feed on plants. Furthermore, changes at and after the Fall could have altered God’s original herbivorous dental designs.

2. Grandpa Cancer

Cancer, perhaps like nothing else, reminds us of the brokenness, the suffering, and the mortality of creation in this present age, all traceable back to Adam’s sin. Genesis makes it clear that man, along with everything else in the original creation, was “very good” (Genesis 1:31). We can infer that cancer was not a part of that, since the Bible describes death as an “enemy” (1 Corinthians 15:26). But now, evolutionists are proposing that cancer may actually be our ancestor!

3. Religion? What is That?

“Religion? What’s that?”—the earnest question of future Australian, Irish, Swiss, and other children?

Scientists presenting at a recent meeting of the American Physical Society have predicted that religion is on its way out—at least, in nine countries the team studied.

4. National Geographic News: “Pictures: New Dinosaur, Crocodile Cousin Found in Brazil

“After a while, crocodile,” goes part of the rhyming children’s parting. In this case, an ancient crocodilian looks quite the same as modern crocodiles, even after a long while of some supposed 65 or more million years.

Paleontologists discovered the nearly complete skull of the newly described ancient species Pepesuchus deiseae in Brazil. Considered the cousin to the modern crocodile, P. deiseae is classified as a crocodilian, the grouping home to modern-day alligators, caimans, gharials, and crocodiles.

Thanks to the fossil skull being in “incredibly good condition,” paleontologists were able to build a replica of the skull showing the creature’s likely appearance when alive. And despite the fossil’s supposed multi-million-year-old age, the replica shows that the creature looked remarkably similar—to the point of indistinguishability, at least on the surface—to modern crocodilians (which, after all, are considered to be “living fossils”).

While evolutionary theory doesn’t prohibit a group of creatures from remaining unchanged over millions of years, every discovery of an inhabitant of the fossil record that looks nearly identical to its living kin validates the creation worldview while adding one to the “anomaly” tally of the evolutionary worldview.

5. BBC News: “Jordan Battles to Regain ‘Priceless’ Christian Relics”

International intrigue, ancient symbols and codes, flash floods in remote archaeological sites, a 2,000-year-old buried secret, and the truth about early Christianity: are they all plot elements of the latest blockbuster page-turner?

  • Has new research “rocked” some creationists’ claim that a Utah petroglyph (rock impression) said to represent a dinosaur isn’t a dinosaur at all? Although the Bible doesn’t stand or fall on the interpretation of a petroglyph, read our full response to this latest criticism.
  • A reminder that race is just a “pigment of our imagination,” as University of California–Irvine sociologist Ruben Rumbaut puts it in an NPR interview: Hispanics, an ethno-linguistic group rather than a racial group, have shown highly contradictory census responses to the question of their race, with Hispanics of different generations not agreeing over whether they are “white.” In reality, of course, nearly all humans can be accurately described as having brown skin, whether the light, creamy brown color common in latitudinal extremes or the dark brown color common in equatorial groups; biologically, we are all of “one blood” (Acts 17:26), and the concept of “race” is purely a social construction that overlays what are, quite literally, superficial differences.
  • Scientists are again imitating God’s creation with the Festo “SmartBird,” a human-controlled robot flier whose shape and aerodynamics mimic a seagull’s.
  • Did Darwin ignore the principle of “survival of the unfit but resilient to mutation”? Scientists are learning how the mechanism of survival of the fittest (formally known as the “competitive exclusion principle”) doesn’t always hold, depending on the underlying mutation rate of the organism in question. Either way, without mutations generating beneficial new information, the organisms that survive can never be “more highly” evolved than those that preceded them. Dogs remain dogs, cats remain cats, apes remain apes, and so on.
  • Speaking of Darwin, what’s the latest on his self-described “abominable mystery,” which we last discussed in July 2009? A fossil newly discovered in China “pushes back the date of when flowering plants diversified to . . . a couple of million years earlier than Darwin had previously thought, suggesting that these ancient blooms had longer to evolve than he suspected.” Yet the fossil—which the research implies would have been one of the earliest flowering plants in existence—is described as “resembl[ing] a modern-day buttercup,” and the photograph betrays its entirely modern appearance.
  • Christopher Hitchens, one of the so-called “New Atheists” who has vocally attacked religion and God in the past decade, has cancer, as we reported last year. Interestingly, The Telegraph describes that Hitchens is receiving a form of cancer treatment co-developed by evangelical Christian Francis Collins, current head of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (and an occasional topic in these pages due to his evolutionary views). That leads The Telegraph to opine in the headline, “Atheist Christopher Hitchens Could Be ‘Saved’ by Evangelical Christian.”
  • BBC News reports that Macaque monkeys exhibit basic math skills—specifically, judging relative quantities. The monkeys’ skill disappears, however, if the objects to be counted are edible! Nevertheless, the news reminds us of the intellectual abilities of much of God’s creation.

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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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