News to Note, July 25, 2009

A weekly feature examining news from the biblical viewpoint

on July 25, 2009
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The slightly less grand canyon, “missing links” of death and suffering, violence in Iraq, and more!

1. The Slightly Less Grand Canyon

It’s the “Grand Canyon of Durham” in England: a miniature canyon carved into a barley field by “torrential rain” over a weekend.

2. HIV Missing Link?

Hot news about chimps, “missing links,” and evolution—but the story has nothing to do with human origins or anthropology. What could it be?

3. Ancient Violence in Iraq

It’s a sad case of violence in Iraq: evidence of human-on-human violence from more than 50,000 years ago (allegedly).

4. Leaps of Developmental Logic

Small biological changes that take generations—like some birds’ beaks growing longer or shorter in certain ecological niches—can be explained and understood by creationists and evolutionists. But when it comes to explaining developmental “leaps,” evolutionists must make a leap of logic.

5. ScienceNOW: “Jupiter's Been Hit!”

It may not rock your world, but the planet Jupiter has been slammed by some unknown object.

An amateur astronomer, Anthony Wesley, was the first to report evidence of the incident. Wesley had been photographing Jupiter with his telescope in Murrumbateman, Australia, when he noticed a dark spot rotating into view in Jupiter’s south polar region. Wesley soon realized something was amiss and contacted professional astronomers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who took a closer look with the NASA Infrared Telescope on Hawaii.

The NASA astronomers found more evidence of a collision, with the planet showing the same infrared signature it did when the remains of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 hit in 1994. However, they can’t be sure whether the impact was caused by a comet or an asteroid. Either way, the object is estimated to have been up to a kilometer (0.6 mile) in diameter and to have been traveling at tens of thousands of miles per hour.

Astronomer Heidi Hammel of the Space Science Institute called the impact “a bit of a surprise,” adding, “We all thought these were a little more rare.” In a sense, it’s a good thing that the impacts on Jupiter aren’t too rare, since incoming cosmic debris could otherwise threaten Earth. Jupiter, with significant gravity due to its mass, acts as a sort of solar system “vacuum cleaner” to help minimize the number of objects headed toward Earth. (We reported on this and other life-friendly aspects of our Solar System on July 12 and July 26 of last year.)

6. And Don’t Miss . . .

  • Time magazine recently brokered readers’ questions for New York Times executive editor Bill Keller. One question, bridging the first and second pages of the interview, asked Keller, “Should journalists strive to present ideas as balanced, regardless of the actual credibility of either side?” Keller responded, “I don't think fairness means that you give equal time to every point of view no matter how marginal. You weigh the sides, you do some truth-testing, you apply judgment to them. We don’t treat creationism as science.” Whether one agrees or disagrees with Keller’s assessment of the role of “balance” in media reporting, the takeaway here is a point-blank admission of de facto anti-creationism in the media—or at least at the New York Times.
  • A study of speciation, despite being laced with the terminology of “evolutionary diversification,” reveals nothing that the creation model cannot accommodate.
  • A major earthquake last week in the ocean near New Zealand—which, thankfully, harmed no one—has moved the country’s south island 12 inches (30 cm) closer to Australia, experts say. “The country is deforming all the time because of being on the plate boundary, but this has done it in a few seconds, rather than waiting hundreds of years,” said seismologist Ken Gledhill. Perhaps the movement gives us an idea of what one devastating Flood year of catastrophic plate tectonic movement could do. (Read more in Can Catastrophic Plate Tectonics Explain Flood Geology?)
  • A new paper reports on more progress developing effective non-embryonic stem cells, though this particular research continued to experiment with hybrid mouse embryos. (Explore our previous coverage of life-honoring stem cell research.)
  • Reader’s Digest reports on the impressive results of Validus Preparatory Academy in New York City. While the success is inspiring, one line tripped up at least one of our readers (and us, as well): “When studying evolution, ninth graders examined cell phones from the past 20 years to see how features have adapted.” But such pedagogy seems likely to mislead students, as the sources behind new cell phone features are intelligent designers—not random mistakes.
  • A team from Victoria University in New Zealand believes the coloration of the native Araliaceae tree evolved as a camouflage defense against an extinct bird predator, the moa. But creationists can explain coloration through natural selection as well—or, perhaps just as likely, through the idea that the tree was created with this form of coloration.
  • We missed the initial reports, but one reader helped us by pointing to a more recent report on a new play about the 1925 Scopes trial. The play, titled One Hot Summer, focuses less on the trial itself and more on the local businessmen who plotted—for economic reasons—to help create the controversy. At least in that sense, playwright Curtis Lipps tells a more accurate tale than the infamous Hollywood version of the trial, Inherit the Wind. Read more about the new play in the Herald-News local paper. (But take our quiz about the trial afterward to make sure you’ve got your facts straight!)

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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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