News to Note, June 18, 2011

A weekly feature examining news from the biblical viewpoint

by Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell on June 18, 2011
Featured in News to Know

The molecular clock goes off-line, the priesthood of science 3. The Tagish meteor’s amino acids, cryptic mutations, leaping over fitness valleys, and moe in this week’s News to Note.

1. Molecular Clock Off-Line

The molecular clock just went off-line.

2. Priesthood of Science

The priesthood of science discourages people from thinking for themselves.

3. Alien Amino Acids

Organic chemistry lab in a meteorite sparks speculation about the origin of life.

4. Cryptic Mutations

Cryptic variation and preadaptation—fancy words for the obvious.

5. Leaping Mutants

Statistics suggest a way for eukaryotic mutants to leap over fitness valleys.

And Don’t Miss . . .

  • Swedish researchers have by-passed the stem cell step and reprogrammed mature skin cells to develop into brain cells. After activation of just a few genes, the fibroblasts developed into specific types of nerve cells. These included the dopamine-producing cells needed in Parkinson’s disease. Instead of inducing the cells to revert to an embryonic-like stem cell state, the researchers got the mature cells to directly change their identity. They hope this technique will expand upon all the advantages of adult stem cells and those hoped for with embryonic and induced pluripotent stem cells while avoiding both medical side effects and moral issues.
  • Despite the cry, “Their weapon is evolution,” the deadly E. coli causing the latest epidemic does not owe its success to evolution. In fact, killing the host is a particularly bad evolutionary idea! Bacteria exchange genetic material, but they never acquire information to change into something besides bacteria. God created the world very good. Bacteria were originally harmless. However, we believe that God provided a number of mobile bits of information called genomic islands to enable microorganisms to survive and fulfill their complex ecological roles. Changing conditions in the post-Fall world have allowed helpful bacteria to become dangerous (pathogenic). A combination of mutations, horizontally transferred genes, environmental changes, and host changes can transform harmless microorganisms into vicious ones such as we are seeing in Germany. Though the death toll had reached 39 by mid-week, we are thankful to hear that the number of new cases seems to be slowing. Suspicion is strong that 0104’s genetically acquired resistance enabled it to thrive in the environment and somehow contaminate the seeds used to grow bean sprouts, the suspected food source. However, no contaminated seeds have been found. The path to contamination remains a mystery.
  • When resources are limited, there is strong competition between organisms with similar needs, and some might not survive to reproduce. This very sensible statement was confirmed in a study of protists. The researchers claim their findings experimentally validate “the phylogenetic limiting similarity hypothesis,” a subset of Darwinian evolutionary theory. Since phylogenetic similarity is based on similarity of needs and other characteristics, their results are not surprising, but they do not prove evolution from a common ancestor. Some protists were still protists, and the others were dead.
  • The coelacanth, a living fossil thought to survive only in the fossil record until its discovery in 1938, lives to be over 100. So say calculations from a 21-year study using submersibles to observe coelacanths near Cosmoros. Living at depths of 525 to 650 feet and probably bearing young at even greater depths, individual fish can be distinguished by “unique white markings on their sides.” Coelacanths apparently age gracefully and have low mortality rates (unless they wind up on somebody’s menu).
  • An Australian discovery of a uniquely shaped dinosaur vertebra matching the Baryonyx walker has paleontologists puzzling over the cosmopolitan range of the long-snouted spinosaurid group. Spinosaurids were believed to be native to southern England. Professor Vickers-Rich points to this find as evidence of the surprising worldwide distribution of dinosaurs. She adds, “The things we’re finding are changing the way we think, that’s great, that’s real science.” Paleontologists assume that fossilized creatures were buried within their native habitats. We certainly would not be surprised that dinosaurs had a worldwide distribution. However, the global Flood did cause massive upheavals and would have scrambled the organisms it buried. Thus, we would not discount the possibility of dead animals washed far from their native homes.
  • The NY Times recently published an editorial accusing Kentucky of violating the First Amendment by allowing its tax incentive program to apply to the Ark Encounter. Answers in Genesis has responded with the following letter (which has yet to be printed):


    A May 30 editorial leads readers to the wrong conclusion about the proposed Ark Encounter attraction in northern Kentucky. Taxpayers, contrary to what was stated, will not see their money used to build or operate the Ark Encounter. No money will be taken out of the state’s budget to fund the Ark.

    If the Ark meets attendance goals and sees tourism dollars flow into the state, it will receive rebates on sales taxes paid by its visitors. At the end of an operating year, the money going back to the attraction will be from those who chose to visit; no unwilling taxpayer will subsidize the Ark. Thus, there is no establishment of religion. Neither is anyone being forced to visit and hear about the history of the Earth according to the Bible, including its account of the Ark.

    It’s too bad the Times wasn’t able to better fact-check its editorial.

    Mark Looy
    Chief Communications Officer
    Answers in Genesis

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