News to Note, January 19, 2008

A weekly feature examining news from the biblical viewpoint

on January 19, 2008

On the docket this week: human rights denied for a chimp; the good, the bad, the bacteria; another biblical seal discovered; counting up to evolution; and an actor thanks God, evolution for baby

1. AP: “Chimps Are Not People, Austrian Court Rules, Group Says

The Supreme Court of Austria has ruled that a chimpanzee cannot be legally declared a person, reports the Associated Press. But for how long?

The case originated after the Association Against Animal Factories, an animal rights group, attempted to have the chimpanzee “Matthew Hiasl Pan” declared a person for guardianship purposes. The original ruling against personhood was appealed, taking the case to Austria’s highest court.

The animal rights group, worried that the chimp will be sold without the protections of personhood, says it will appeal the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

As far as news reports suggest, the animal rights association is seeking personhood for chimps only as a pragmatic measure to gain protection for this particular chimp—not as an attention-getting promotion of evolutionary doctrine. We wonder, however, how long it might be until a group does push for some form of “human” rights for chimpanzees (or even other primates) on the basis that they are closely related to us on the evolutionary tree. It’s an idea that would have sounded entirely absurd decades ago but seems—sadly—more possible now!

2. ScienceNOW: “Mmmm … Bacteria

“When you eat a cup of yogurt, billions of bacteria make their way to your gut.” Appetizing?

Researchers from Imperial College and the Nestlé Research Center, experimenting with bacteria that (when ingested by humans) can create positive biological responses, may have discovered how to help people shed a few extra pounds: add such “good” bacteria to other foods.

Noting that the human gut hosts 1,000 species of microorganisms, the ScienceNOW article explains that the bacteria helped diminish the function of bile acids, which aid the small intestine in harvesting fat after meals. Thus, the bacteria can help keep a person slender. The bacterial supplement is currently being tested on mice.

This is one experimental example of how microbes, which are often very generally synonymized with “germs,” are actually quite beneficial in most scenarios. Microbes of various sorts live in a variety of helpful, symbiotic relationships with plants and animals, helping us perform tasks (such as digesting food) we cannot complete on our own.

But where do microbes, such as bacteria, fit in the creation picture? When did God create this vast array of life-forms? To read an in-depth treatment of this question, visit Microbes and the Days of Creation, published in the new Answers Research Journal. ARJ is a professional, peer-reviewed technical journal for the publication of interdisciplinary scientific and other relevant research from the perspective of the recent Creation and the global Flood within a biblical framework.

3. Old Testament Evidence Found on Ancient Jerusalem Seal

A stone seal discovered in Jerusalem bears a name mentioned in the Old Testament and is yet another connection between archaeology and the Bible.

4. Cultural Evolution of Counting Overturned

A new look at the counting systems of some Pacific islanders is overturning previously held views on the “cultural evolution” of counting, reports ScienceNOW.

5. AOL News: “McConaughey, Girlfriend Are Expecting

How did actor Matthew McConaughey find himself on the pages of News to Note? At first blush we didn’t see his connection to Genesis, but then we dug deeper.

We don’t happen to know McConaughey’s specific religious beliefs, but a recent comment leads us to believe McConaughey isn’t a young-earth creationist.

Announcing on his website that he and his girlfriend are expecting a baby, McConaughey wrote, “Got some blessed news . . . a newborn concieved [sic] . . . yes, my girlfriend Camila and I made a baby together.”

Now for the unexpected twist: McConaughey wrote that the couple was “wowed by this miracle of creation and this gift from God,” then added:

Wish us the best, keep us in your prayers, and God bless evolution.

McConaughey’s phrase seems especially provocative given his acknowledgment of the child as being a “miracle of creation” from God. However, “God bless evolution” seems representative of the growing trend to glorify evolution as some sort of mystical force, putting a religious spin on what has long been claimed to allow atheists to lead intellectually fulfilled lives.

Of course, we aren’t alleging that McConaughey was specifically aiming a barb at creationists or making some deep philosophical statement. More likely, McConaughey was referencing natural selection (which is not amino-to-actor evolution) and the widely touted attractiveness of him and his partner. Nevertheless, it is interesting to see how evolution continues to saturate the public consciousness and intermingle with religious ideas.

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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