News to Note, May 19, 2007

A weekly feature examining news from the biblical viewpoint


1. Reuters: “Evangelist Jerry Falwell dies at 73

Well-known Christian leader Jerry Falwell, founder of Thomas Road Baptist Church and Liberty University, died this week in Lynchburg, Virginia, at the age of 73. The apparent cause of death was a heart rhythm abnormality, Reuters reports.

Decried as “intolerant” by critics, Dr. Falwell was known for his strong stands against abortion, homosexual behavior, and the secularization of society. Liberty University, which awarded an honorary doctorate to AiG President Ken Ham three years back, educates nearly 10,000 on-campus students a year (and an equal number through extension programs) and takes a strong stance on Genesis creation.

The AiG family extends our deepest condolences to the Falwell and Liberty University families while, at the same time, rejoicing in Falwell’s home-going. We are posting a more complete tribute to Falwell, courtesy of Liberty University science professor and Answers in Genesis affiliate Dr. David DeWitt.

2. National Geographic News: “Human Ancestor Had Lime-Size Brain

A newly found, intact skull of an alleged human ancestor is revising evolutionists’ understanding of human cranial development, National Geographic News reports.

Duke University primatologist Elwyn Simons and colleagues discovered the skull near Cairo, Egypt. To date, it is one of only two complete Aegyptopithecus zeuxis skulls found—but, strangely enough, it is less than half the size of the other complete skull. This has led researchers to conclude that the new skull is that of a female and the previously discovered skull that of a male.

The small size of the newly discovered skull (see just how small at has unseated evolutionary assumptions about cranial development in human ancestors:

The skull—of a species related to apes, humans, and monkeys—is evidence that the more advanced and bigger brains of African primates developed later than previously believed, researchers said.

Furthermore, one scientist, Florida State University anthropologist Dean Falk, argues that A. zeuxis’ “lime-sized” brain was “even less advanced than the researchers propose.”

Here’s our question: what evidence is there that this tiny-brained, lemur-like primate was, in any way, a human ancestor, especially now that its cranial development doesn’t fit in with evolutionists’ own paradigm? Increasingly often now, these alleged human ancestors are either rehabilitated upward and given a more human status or, alternatively, revised downward as scientists realize the evolutionary connections to humankind just aren’t there.

Dare we ask it, but should those who cling to evolutionary views of human development amid these revisions continue to be small minded about this field of study?

3. ABC NEWS: “Oyster find ‘proves Bangkok was under the sea’

It may not be as astonishing as marine fossils at the top of Mt. Everest, but a giant oyster shell is the latest sea-native-on-dry-land item to remind us of the global Flood.

The huge international news agency Agence France-Presse (which, by the way, is soon to release a major feature article on the Creation Museum for worldwide distribution in up to eight languages) has released a story that outlines the discovery of “[a]bout 100 pieces of 30 different types of shell” near Bangkok, Thailand, including one “rare giant oyster shell.” The shells were unearthed at a building site.

“This is an ancient shell, this oyster is from about 5,500 years ago,” explained Suwat Tiyapairath, a geologist for the Thai government. “This proves that we were once under the sea.” Of course, to Tiyapairath, who presumably is speaking from the standpoint of long-ages geology, this is merely a confirmation that “many parts of central Thailand were beneath the sea more than 5,000 years ago,” as the article ascribes to geologists.

For biblical creationists, however, these findings are very present reminders of the global Flood that occurred only four thousand years ago.

4. MSNBC: “Ancient star nearly as old as the universe

If you’re a long-time supporter of Answers in Genesis, you’re probably familiar with the satirical illustration of fossils with identification tags being unearthed. (“Hi, I’m a 65-million-year-old T. rex!”)

We’ve often explained how fossils and the like can only be “dated” using methods based on unprovable assumptions. These dating methods, while heavily cited in popular and academic literature, often contradict one another.

Such dating methods don’t stop at fossils, however; an MSNBC article from describes the dating of HE 1523, which now holds the record as “oldest star” at a supposed 13.2 billion years old. (Although scientists note that older stars are probably out there.) HE 1523 was dated by analyzing the level of uranium and thorium in it, then using the known current half-life of these elements to extrapolate an age for the star.

This method, however, highlights the many assumptions required for these methods of dating. Scientists must assume a constant half-life for various elements; they must assume they can accurately decide the star’s original level of various elements; they must accept that they are accurately measuring the star’s current mass of these elements, and so forth.

But as with radiometric dating on earth, we must ask: why accept the dates given by such a shaky, assumption-riddled model when we have an eyewitness account that clearly explains the maximum age of such “old” stars?

5. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “The nose knows

Researchers at the University of Missouri–St. Louis have honed in on another of God’s amazing designs: the function of the snout of the paddlefish, a threatened fish found in the Mississippi River Basin.

Paddlefish (also called spoonbills, spoonbill catfish, or spadefish) get their name from the protruding, flat snout that extends from their skull. Although the protrusion was once thought to be used for digging, fighting, or greeting, biologist Lon Wilkens’ careful experimentation indicates the paddlefish snout has an electrical function.

By carefully depriving juvenile paddlefish of various senses (one at a time), Wilkens determined that “the fish were using a sensory system other than sight and smell.” Then, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports,

Looking through the literature, he stumbled on an experiment involving the electrosensory systems of sharks, in which researchers exposed the sharks to electrodes that mimicked the electrical signals of their prey.

Wilkens set up the same test for his juvenile paddlefish, and—success!—the paddlefish successfully found the electrode tips he had created. To verify this hypothesis, Wilkens confirmed that paddlefishes’ favorite snack, plankton, emit a “detectable electrical signal.”

Although Wilkens’ conclusions are not yet fully established, this seems to be yet another incredible design feature from an incredible Creator. (By the way, other examples of wonderful design in nature can be found in AiG’s soon-to-open Creation Museum in a specially designed exhibit called “The Wonders of Creation.”)

6. LiveScience: “Greenpeace Building Replica of Noah’s Ark

It’s a creationist’s dream: a replica of Noah’s Ark will be assembled atop Mt. Ararat as a prelude to a worldwide proclamation of the truth.

The only “concerns”? First, the architects of this plan are not Bible-believing creationists (presumably), but rather activists for Greenpeace, an international environmental advocacy organization. Second, the proclamation Greenpeace will announce from on high is a call for action against global warming (see our cautionary article about global warming). And third—and perhaps most troubling—Greenpeace’s replica will be a diminutive 32 ft x 13 ft x 13 ft (9 3/4 m x 4 m x 4m).

The first two aren’t really problems, of course; this project highlights both the timelessness of the story of the Ark and the story’s pervasiveness throughout world cultures. But the scale and proportions of the Greenpeace Ark does worry us. We’ve explained in the past the danger of “bathtub” arks that lead to false ideas about the size of the Ark; such inaccurate models, albeit seemingly innocent, lead to poorly researched (but widely repeated) claims that the Ark couldn’t accommodate enough animals. This model is just big enough (unlike miniature models) to fuel the idea of Ark inadequacy.

For answers to numerous questions about the Ark, including its size and capacity, see our Noah’s Ark topic page.

7. Intelligent Design Advocate Denied Tenure

An assistant professor of astronomy at Iowa State University has apparently been denied tenure because of his support of intelligent design—or so indicates circumstantial evidence.

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 all the latest News to Know, why not take a look to see what you’ve missed?

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