News to Note, January 16, 2010

A weekly feature examining news from the biblical viewpoint

on January 16, 2010

Neanderthal’s blush; Darwin, MD?; Y all this talk of evolution; and more!

1. Incorrect Neanderthal Stereotype

The stereotype of Neanderthals is that they were hulking, hairy troglodytes quite different from “refined” modern humans. Now there’s even more evidence of how incorrect that stereotype is.

2. Research in “Evolutionary Medicine” Saving Lives?

Can more research into “evolutionary medicine” result in saved lives?

3. Did Fish Gills Evolve?

Did fish gills evolve to help fish breathe, or did they evolve to help fish regulate body chemicals? Or did fish gills evolve at all?

4. ScienceNOW: “Y Chromosome Evolving Rapidly

Is the Y chromosome a “hot spot of evolution”—in both humans and chimpanzees?

“As is well-known, humans and chimps share 98% of their DNA,” writes ScienceNOW’s Ann Gibbons, reporting on research that suggests the human Y chromosome underwent “extraordinary” evolution in the last six million years. (As creationists have pointed out before, the 98 percent figure is exaggerated—see the links below.)

It is strange, then, that one region of the Y chromosome differs by more than 30 percent in humans and chimps. That was the surprising result of a genetic study by Massachusetts Institute of Technology geneticist David Page, whose team assumed the Y chromosome would be little different between the two species (believing both inherited Y chromosomes from our common ancestor). Instead, the human Y chromosome has many genes—about one-third—that do not exist at all in the chimpanzee’s. (The study concludes that chimps have “lost” these genes since evolving from a common ancestor with humans, though we wonder why the scientists do not conclude that humans gained the genes—perhaps because it would represent “too much” evolution in too short a time?)

Duke University geneticist Huntington Willard, commenting on the study, said, “Just when we thought we were getting the sense that we had a pretty good picture of what our genome is like and how it evolved, we get tossed this curve ball.” Of course, the alternative perspective (that our genome did not evolve) finds the news unsurprising. Chimps and humans share not a common ancestor, but a Common Designer, the Lord of heaven and earth, and therefore we need not expect nor be surprised by particular degrees of genetic similarity or difference.

5. Coral Reefs Seen as General Cradles of Evolution

Are beautiful coral reefs Charles Darwin’s best friends? Perhaps so, for according to one team of paleontologists, they serve as “general cradles of evolution.”

6. And Don’t Miss . . .

  • Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims of this week’s earthquake in Haiti. See our comments in Bringing Relief.
  • We wrote in November about the Global Witnessing Challenge, and we wanted to again remind readers of the challenge—which begins in just over 70 days.
  • A Divine Creator is “outside the realm of physics,” but the idea of “whether [life] exists in other universes outside of our own” is apparently fair game for physicists who authored Looking for Life in the Multiverse for Scientific American. The topic seems far more speculative and faith-based than religious topics that the authors may (we suppose) scoff at.
  • Der Spiegel reports on the sad legacy of an unbiblical view of human skin color—commonly (mis)called, even today, “race.”
  • Last week we mentioned our October 2008 discussion of the imminent “death” of the Phoenix Mars lander. But Phoenix may still be “alive,” and NASA is set to investigate that possibility soon.
  • Religious individuals are—no surprise—less likely than non-religious individuals to engage in the celebrity worship and obsession that seems increasingly common in modern culture. “The less religious you are the more likely you will worship celebrities. You’ll be able to replace Jesus with George Clooney on some level,” one researcher explained.
  • Research into the wrinkly skin of the shar-pei breed of dog offers insight into artificial selection: “There was probably a mutation that arose in that gene that led to a really wrinkly puppy and a breeder said, ‘hey, that looks interesting, I'm going to try to selectively breed this trait and make more of these dogs,’” explained one scientist.
  • Can stingrays use tools? Perhaps not in the same sense that many animals can, but the research reminds us of the surprising levels of intelligence seen in many organisms.
  • Investor’s Business Daily offers an editorial discussing changes the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine has made to promote research into adult stem cells—a strong testimony to its promise relative to embryonic stem cell research.
  • Amazing animal travels are a testimony to the Creator’s design—whether the short-term trips of the puffin or the annual migration of the Arctic tern.
  • The website Ministry-to-Children.com interviewed Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis, earlier in the month.
  • Quick quiz: who called our Creation Museum “so monumentally peculiar and sad . . . like a museum of science, but of course there’s no science in it”? The answer: actor Paul Bettany, who portrayed Charles Darwin in the film Creation, which hits U.S. theaters this Friday. Bettany visited our museum last June.

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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, 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.