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News to Note, January 17, 2009

A weekly feature examining news from the biblical viewpoint

on January 17, 2009
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“Almost”; the gas about gas; gems or fools’ gold?; thanks for nothing, Charlie; and more!

1. Life Almost Created in a Lab

The media went wild this week over the “almost” creation of life in the lab.

Researchers at the Scripps Research Institute have created something “tantalizingly close” to life’s origin, asserts LiveScience editorial director Robert Roy Britt. It’s not life, the researchers caution, but it’s nonetheless fueling the hopes of evolutionists that life could have evolved spontaneously.

2. Mars Methane: Life?

Finally—life on Mars! Is it the evidence for what evolutionists already believe?

Fox News touted “more good evidence” that there is life on Mars, while Britain’s tabloid The Sun cried “Life on Mars” and declared, “Alien microbes living just below the Martian soil are responsible for a haze of methane around the Red Planet, [NASA] scientists believe.”

3. Gems or Fool's Gold?

They’re the “gems” of evolution—but what are their imperfections?

Earlier in the month, the journal Nature reported 15 alleged transitional forms that have already received significant press coverage in the past. So does this rehashing “illustrate the breadth, depth and power of evolutionary thinking”? Let’s take a look at the gems one by one and see which ones we’ve already covered.

4. Have Charles Darwin’s Theories Helped Us at All?

Thanks, Mr. Darwin—for nothing!

In a surprisingly candid article (with a blasphemous title), Britain’s Times asks readers, “What has Charles Darwin done for you? Do you feel better or worse for the news that a gibbon is your close cousin?”

5. ScienceNOW: “The Flashiest Dino of Them All”

A “dinosaur” that had “feathers” wasn’t using them for flight—rather it was for vain purposes.

The little-known dinosaur in question is Beipiaosaurus, first found in 1999 in China, with “ early plumage . . . [that] wasn’t used for flight.” According to a team led by paleontologist Xing Xu of China's Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Beipiaosaurus instead may have used the “mysterious” supposed feathers “to attract mates or defend its territory.”

The stiff, long feathers Xu is referring to are known as elongated broad filamentous feathers (EBFFs) that resemble porcupine quills, not bird feathers. That’s not only the wrong shape for flight features; they’re also distributed wrongly: on the dinosaur’s head, neck, and tail. That’s where some modern birds exhibit so-called display feathers, which gave rise to the team’s idea that the EBFFs were used to attract mates.

The entire issue of feathered dinosaurs is controversial, even among some evolutionists. Additionally, reports do not describe exactly what fossilized features were found by head paleontologist Xing Xu, who has previously jumped to identify dinosaur feathers even when that conclusion isn’t clear from the fossils. While nothing biblical restricts the possibility of feathered dinosaurs (or feathered fish, for that matter), the evidence—as always—seems to be mostly reside in the minds of scientists who already believe dinosaurs evolved into birds.

6. Washington Post: “Basest Instinct”

Many readers of the Answers in Genesis website are likely already familiar with the name Ota Benga. Now the readership of the Washington Post is as well.

Ota Benga was an African Pygmy born in 1881, captured and exhibited as a “savage” at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair and later incarcerated as a missing link in the Bronx Zoo. Tragically, he committed suicide after his release, depressed that he would never be able to return to Africa.

For those of you who read the article linked above, the name Ann Hornaday might sound familiar: she is the great-great-great-niece of Bronx Zoo director William Hornaday, who put Benga on display. The occasion for her article is the new film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which features an African Pygmy character named Ngunda Oti who tells the title character his story of being exhibited in a zoo monkey house.

We won’t spoil the harrowing account Hornaday tells, tying her family history into the Ota Benga tragedy; here’s just a taste to whet your appetite:

I’d never heard [Ota Benga’s] name until several years ago, when I heard his story on the radio. I was sipping coffee and reading the paper, wondering with half an ear how anyone could put a fellow human being in a zoo, when the name “William Temple Hornaday” rang out. I put the coffee down, mortified, and listened more closely. In 1906, Verner, looking for a place for Benga to live, finally brought him to the Bronx Zoo, where Temple welcomed him and, at first, simply let him walk the grounds, helping the workers, befriending the animals and keeping a relatively low profile. But one early September weekend, Temple decided to move Benga’s hammock into an orangutan’s cage, where he encouraged Benga to engage in such “picturesque” activities as playing with his simian companion, weaving caps out of straw and shooting his bow and arrow.

Continue on to Basest Instinct to read the intimate perspective of someone unknowingly connected to the Ota Benga affair.

For more information:

7. 'Spookfish' Looks in the Mirror

The brownsnout spookfish isn’t exactly a household name, but scientists have just discovered its claim to fame: eyes that incorporate not only lenses, but also mirrors to see into murky Pacific Ocean depths.


Remember, if you see a news story that might merit some attention, let us know 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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