News to Note, April 9, 2011

A weekly feature examining news from the biblical viewpoint

on April 9, 2011

Instantaneous change, the skeleton’s orientation, our ancestor formaldehyde, and more!

1. Just Add Bacteria

It’s evolution in an instant—or natural selection in six years, to be more precise.

Researchers report in the journal Science the discovery of “evolution” in the whitefly Bemisia tabaci that has occurred in less than a decade. The change is in response to bacteria of the genus Rickettsia that have rapidly infested most whiteflies in Arizona, the state where the research was conducted.

2. On the Skeleton's Orientation

In portraying cavemen as dimwits, popular stereotypes often show them as unkempt—and recklessly heterosexual—brutes: claiming brides by clubbing cavewomen over the head and dragging them away. But less frequently portrayed are “homosexual cavemen,” like the one supposedly unearthed in a Prague suburb.

3. LiveScience: “Poisonous Chemical Linked to Origin of Life on Earth

Evolutionists have spent decades trying to figure out how the first life could have arisen from the right chemicals. But lack of progress has led some scientists to speculate that perhaps poisonous formaldehyde was our inanimate ancestor.

Formaldehyde, known for its widespread indirect use in preserving biological specimens, may one day be better known as evolutionists’ best hope in explaining how life could have originated on earth through chance processes. The compound, though poisonous, is based on carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, all of which are crucial to life. That basic fact is what has led Carnegie Institution geoscientist George Cody to suggest, “We may owe our existence on this planet to interstellar formaldehyde.”

Cody is certainly aware of formaldehyde’s reputation, noting that his claim is “ ironic [since] formaldehyde is poisonous to life on [e]arth.” But Cody’s team has identified a specific chemical reaction involving formaldehyde that would result in simple organic compounds. Moreover, such compounds are similar to those that have been discovered on meteorites and comets, giving the team confidence that formaldehyde may be responsible for many of the organic compounds that exist naturally in space.

“Establishing the likely origin of the principal source of organic carbon in primitive solar system bodies is extremely satisfying,” Cody said. The team appears to have made a good contribution to observational science in discovering the specific chemical reaction transforming poisonous formaldehyde into organic compounds. That said, the speculative, “origins science” claim that the output of such reactions could self-arrange into primitive life remains ridiculous.

4. AP: “UK Astrophysicist Wins $1.6 Million Religion Prize

This year’s Templeton Prize—awarded annually to someone “who has made exceptional contributions to affirming life’s spiritual dimension”—has gone to British astrophysicist Martin Rees.

Rees has contributed to the controversy over design in the universe by arguing that physical laws appearing to be fine-tuned for life are a consequence of “an infinity of other universes” in a broader multiverse.

He “professes no religious belief,” the AP reports, and thereby Rees joins a series of prizewinners whose “contributions to affirming life’s spiritual dimension” came in the face of eschewing organized religion. But Rees adds, “I grew up in the traditions of the Anglican Church and those are ‘the customs of my tribe.’ I’m privileged to be embedded in its wonderful aesthetic and musical traditions and I want to do all I can to preserve and strengthen them.”

Of course, that sterile treatment of religion—while certainly superior to the views of atheists who attack Christianity as one of society’s greatest ills—fails to engage the uncompromising message of the Gospel that forces an answer to Christ’s question in Mark 8:29, “Who do you say I am?”

And on the subject of humankind’s place in not only the enormous cosmos, but potentially in a (totally unproven!) multiverse, Rees laments, "These thoughts do make it hard to believe in the centrality of human beings.” Yet the emptiness of space and the apparent uniqueness of earth can just as easily be interpreted as representing the extent of God’s creative act on earth as well as our limited perspective and understanding compared to God’s.

And Don’t Miss . . .

  • The Tennessee House has approved a bill protecting teachers from retaliation if they discuss alternatives views of evolution and global warming in the classroom. Interestingly, one legislator who voted against the measure referred to the film Inherit the Wind. Both the bill and the film reference are part of the evolving news story we first covered last month. (You can watch Dr. David Menton’s video about the film at www.answersingenesis.org/media/video/ondemand/wind/inherently-wind).
  • Have cavefish lost sleep because of evolution? A study comparing fish of the same species that live in above-ground water versus those living in caves revealed that the cavefish require far less sleep, apparently because they “carry a dominant gene for less sleep.” But the study does not show the origin of that gene, which, for example, could have been selected out of the above-ground fish because of the different environment. What the study actually shows, therefore, is adaptation—not evolution.
  • An advertisement for a Resurrection Sunday service has been deemed too controversial and banned, The Christian Post reports, because it mentioned Jesus. The national theater chain that was to carry the advertisement worried “their constituents might be offended by such an advertisement.”
  • News releases, one from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and another from Cell Press, describe improved methods for generating induced pluripotent stem cells from skin cells. The method is described as a “game changer” and adds to the argument that there is no legitimate reason to continue exploring research into (human) embryonic stem cells, which can only be harvested by killing an unborn child.
  • Among the news stories this week is a study of a fossil impression of a mayfly-like creature supposedly preserved some 300 million years ago. We reported on the find when it was first announced two-and-a-half years ago.

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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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Answers in Genesis is an apologetics ministry, dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ effectively. We focus on providing answers to questions about the Bible—particularly the book of Genesis—regarding key issues such as creation, evolution, science, and the age of the earth.