News to Note, June 25, 2011

A weekly feature examining news from the biblical viewpoint

by Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell on June 25, 2011

Collagen coils, microfossils, chimp rights, tree frog biodiversity, high-tech tools

1. Collagen Coils

Collagen coils kept fossilized fragments intact.

Ever since evolutionist Mary Schweitzer’s discovery of collagen in fossilized dinosaur bones, controversy has raged over the authenticity of her findings.

2. More Microfossils

Algae to bones . . . what’s the difference?

Microfossils of algae found in the Canadian Yukon by Harvard earth scientists Francis Macdonal and Phoebe Cohen show convincing evidence of biomineralization.

3. Chimp Rights

“They’re not people, you know . . . ”

So says the villain in the film Rise of the Planet of the Apes. In real life, the ethics of chimp research are being debated by Congress, the NIH, and animal rights activists. And chimps’ “rights” are being weighed against the value of the medical information needed to save human lives.

4. Tree Frog Biodiversity

Statistical analyses swimming in a sea of assumptions sing of millions of years in both directions.

A Stony Brook University team has determined that the more millions of years a creature has lived in a place, the more species of it are there. The time factor statistically outweighs all other ecological parameters.

5. High-Tech Tools

The human brain evolved because early humans developed technology?

A Lund University study appearing in this month’s Journal of Human Evolution claims that the earliest Homo sapiens sapiens “wandered across Africa” for over 100,000 years “looking like us anatomically but not thinking the way we do today.” They believe these poor ignorant creatures evolved better brain power because they figured out how to think abstractly and work together to develop technology.

And Don’t Miss . . .

  • Last week we examined a Huffington Post column exhorting us to let others do our thinking for us. Now a new posting tells us that Christian faith requires us to accept evolution. The author argues that nature and the Bible are “basically the same thing.” Yet to equate God’s infallible Word with nature—which is corrupted and fallen (Genesis 3) and studied by humans with their ever-changing scientific beliefs and fallible discoveries—undermines the biblical ground on which true Christian faith is based. For a thorough refutation of this dangerous dual revelation heresy, read chapter four of Coming to Grips with Genesis (edited by Dr. Terry Mortenson and Dr. Thane H. Ury and available from the AiG online bookstore), and read our response, posted here yesterday.
  • NASA’s Messenger, the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury, has revealed some surprises. Massive volcanic craters at the poles seem to be deep enough to shade frozen water from the nearby sun. The presence of water has not been confirmed, but the presence of abundant sulfur and potassium has been. These elements “evaporate easily and were thought to have escaped Mercury during its hot formation or soon thereafter.” Larry Nittler of the Carnegie Institution adds, “This is changing our view of the origin of Mercury.” Read more about problems with the origin of the solar system at Origin of the Solar System.
  • Induced pluripotent stem cell technology took a leap forward at Purdue University. Investigators successfully generated iPSCs from a patient with a genetic disorder causing blindness. They were then able to “correct the genetic defect” and guide those cells to develop into normal retinal pigment cells. They are hopeful that these cells will be able to restore vision and pave the way for the iPSC treatment of other causes of blindness.
  • The endangered Arabian oryx, gone from the wild for decades, has been bred in captivity and successfully reintroduced into the wild. The story has provided some media writers with an opportunity to declare their assumption that the unicorn is only a creature of fiction inspired by the symmetry of the oryx horns. Actually, the highly respected Austen Henry Layard did propose the oryx as a candidate for the real unicorn. Read more about the biblical unicorn at Will the Real Unicorn Please Stand Up?
  • A study from the University of Washington has demonstrated an advantage to the “survival of the weakest.” Saying that in some situations, “organisms increase their chances of survival if they evolve some level of restraint that allows competitors to survive,” the investigators did not actually witness any new kinds of creatures evolve. However, they did demonstrate an ecological version of “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Using three competing strains of E. coli—one which produced antibiotics, one that was antibiotic-resistant, and another that was antibiotic-sensitive—they found that the whole community thrived better when the more robust resistant bug grew a little slower. By not crowding out the antibiotic-maker, the resistant bug’s “restraint” allowed the antibiotic-maker to keep the sensitive bacteria in check. This sort of research has ecological applications and may ultimately have implications for medical research.
  • Johan Huibers, the Dutch builder who is constructing a full-size replica of Noah’s ark to call people’s attention to biblical truth, received a good deal of media coverage this week. The video clip calls attention to the enormity of the ark’s dimensions. “It’s a long way down!” says the journalist looking over the edge. No cartoon rendition, this Noah’s ark should be seaworthy (as it floats on a steel barge) and ready to sail up the Thames in advance of the Olympics next year.
  • A Penn State group examined the genomes of 32 mammalian species to calculate mutation rates. They focused their attention on “neutrally evolving segments” thought to have no fitness-value and therefore to be unaffected by natural selection. Comparing mutation rates with the “generation time” of each species, they confirmed that creatures that reproduce more quickly also mutate more quickly. Since male mutation bias also seemed to be more significant in the fast reproducers, they believe they have confirmed the cause of male mutation bias. While confirming a “long-standing evolutionary assumption,” the team did not actually see anything evolve into a new kind of creature. They have confirmed a biological version of Murphy’s law, which would probably affect the speed of speciation within created kinds, but they do not demonstrate that mutations add up to produce new kinds of creatures beyond those boundaries.

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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, the 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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