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News to Note, March 19, 2011

A weekly feature examining news from the biblical viewpoint

on March 19, 2011

Another reminder, Neanderthal niftiness, the naked-neck gene, and more!

1. Japan Tsunami Reminder

Japan is still suffering from the effects of a devastating earthquake and tsunami that have taken more than 6,000 lives with over ten thousand more missing.

2. Neanderthal Niftiness

Neanderthals were no novices when it came to wielding fire, new evidence suggests—evidence that adds to our understanding of Neaderthals as intelligent, modern humans.

3. The Naked-Neck Gene

Creationists emphasize that genetic mutations have never been shown to generate new, beneficial information in organisms (and often have deleterious effects), which undermines Darwinists’ case. And mutations in the naked-neck chicken are no exception.

4. Slime Molds and Life

The cellular slime mold might seem to be a lowly form of life—maybe just the sort that could conceivably have evolved from inanimate matter. But new research reminds us just how wrong such fanciful imaginings are.

5. News that Proves Evolution?

It’s the news that, in the mind of one of our critics, “proved” evolution.

The story begins with the discovery of the “amoebalike” Capsaspora owczarzaki living inside snails. Strange enough, that obscure microorganism is “one of the closest relatives to animals,” the Times declares as a starting point for discussing the supposed evolutionary transition of such unicellular creatures to animal life.

And Don’t Miss . . .

  • Back in June 2009 we covered the incredible quantum-mechanical process that scientists think is behind birds’ amazing navigational abilities. Although we missed it in January, a reader has notified us of more research exploring how quantum effects may power birds’ internal compasses. Moreover, the research suggests that European robins can “maintain quantum entanglement in their eyes a full 20 microseconds longer than the best laboratory systems,” prompting one researcher to ask, “How can a living system have evolved to protect a quantum state as well—no, better—than we can do in the lab with these exotic molecules?” A great question, indeed!
  • Biologists claim to have “caught evolution in the act.” But is it so? The researchers discovered that hybrid flower species Tragopogon miscellus, bred in the lab in 2004, had “relaxed control of gene expression in its earliest generations” but now has regained control. What that means, however, is that the earliest hybrids “hit a reset button on gene expression, turning them all on—[which] could allow subsequent generations to experiment by switching off different genes,” in one of the scientist’s words. In other words, the “evolution” was based on genes that already existed in the original plant genome, not on new genes produced through random processes.
  • The “foundations of empathy” are found in the chicken, some researchers report, because hens show signs of distress when their chicks are threatened. But a Wall Street Journal book review challenges the extent of true altruism in animals, arguing that “the moral world of humans, to even the most casually reflective observer, reaches far beyond such primal urges [as sex, territory, possessions, reciprocity, kinship].”
  • “Difficult decisions ahead on Mars,” reports BBC News, because U.S. government funding of a new mission could be compromised. The joint ESA–NASA mission has, among other priorities, the goal of “drill[ing] below the planet’s surface to search for signs of life.”
  • “[T]ens of thousands of specimens” of marine fossils have turned up over the years in a Virginia sandpit. But just what could have caused whale, shark, dolphin, sea turtle, seal, crocodile, and other species to have been buried together? A catastrophic flood, perhaps?
  • Non-embryonic stem cells are playing a growing role in medical research. Some scientists have recently used them to better understand eye disorders, others to research stroke and heart disease research therapies, and others to study genetic problems that contribute to mental illness. Even horse owners are being encouraged to save foals’ umbilical cord tissue for future stem cell recovery.
  • Hot political news in the U.S. last week was a secret video recording showing the top fundraiser for government-assisted National Public Radio making controversial political statements while wooing would-be donors. The intelligent design-defending blog Evolution News and Views notes that the fundraiser’s statements about NPR’s one-sided coverage of climate change news implies that public radio is also biased when it comes to covering the origins debate. (For more background, see NPR officers compare deniers of climate change to birthers and flat earth believers.)

For more information: Get Answers

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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