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News to Note, May 21, 2011

A weekly feature examining news from the biblical viewpoint

by Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell on May 21, 2011
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Neanderthal neighbors, cone snails go on the offensive, the gene that folds the brain, super-plants, Darwin’s disease, and more in this week’s News to Note.

1. Neanderthal Neighbors

So, were Neanderthals and “modern humans” neighbors in Russia or not?

Two new studies on Russian Neanderthals are challenging anthropological views. Infant skeletons from the Mezmaiskaya Cave were carbon dated with a new improved method. The report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concludes that Neanderthals became extinct in the Caucasus at least 40,000 years ago, too early to share Russia with modern humans.

2. Snails Go On the Offensive

The venom gland in a poisonous mollusk sheds light on the origin of defense/attack structures.

Predatory marine cone snails paralyze their prey with neurotoxic peptides delivered through a harpoon-like tooth.

3. The Gene that Folds the Brain

The gene LAMC-3 is essential to the formation of convolutions in the human brain, but how it “evolved to gain [these] novel functions” remains a mystery.

4. Super-Plants

Plants capture a little of the sun’s abundant energy and make it available for us. What if we could help them to do it better?

5. Darwin’s Disease

“Every generation thinks they have the answers to life’s great questions . . .”

The University of Maryland School of Medicine annually invites specialists to apply modern medical insight to history’s enigmatic sufferers. They recently considered the baffling maladies afflicting Charles Darwin.

And Don’t Miss . . .

  • Moses probably saw the Middle Kingdom temple dedicated to the crocodile god. Now tourists can see it too at the new Madinet Madi visitor center south of Cairo. Built during the reign of Amenemhat III of the 12th Dynasty, the temple honored Sobek, the crocodile-headed god, by raising crocodiles to be mummified. Traditional dates for Amenemhat III are about 1859–1813 B.C., but both secular and Christian Egyptologists now argue for a more recent date. That recent date (around 1500 B.C.) would correspond to the time of the Israelite oppression. Amenhamet’s daughter, Sobekneferu, named for the crocodile god, was probably Moses’s foster mother. For more information about Egyptian chronology and the Bible see Doesn’t Egyptian Chronology Prove That the Bible Is Unreliable?
  • Astronomers at the Institut Pierre Simon Laplace in Paris have developed a computer simulation suggesting that planet Gliese 581d could be habitable. By habitable, they mean that under the right conditions it could hold onto an atmosphere and have liquid water. Evolutionary scientists consider these the minimal necessary conditions under which life could evolve. Gliese 581d thus could be habitable if it has a carbon dioxide atmosphere sufficiently dense to keep the planet warm so the water wouldn’t all freeze. Read more about alien life at “I’d Love to Baptise an Alien” and Super-Earths?.
  • A giant ant fossil from Wyoming resembles winged ant fossils found in Europe. Scientists are trying to figure out how the giant ant—presumed to require tropical temperatures like today’s biggest ants--crossed a cold land bridge to North America. They answer that the earth’s atmosphere was very different then, resulting in episodes of intense global warming. They assume the ant crossed during a heat wave. In terms of Flood geology, however, the land bridge wasn’t formed until after the Flood (over 4,000 years ago), the earth’s atmosphere was the same as today’s except with no smog, and the king-sized ant got a ride to its grave in Wyoming on a watery express.
  • Volcanologists have produced an accurate simulation of the Mount St. Helens eruption. Seismic activity had predicted the eruption, but not the rapidity and extent of the devastation. The new simulation takes into consideration the effect of gravity on the ash and gases as well as the topography of the area and the physics of the blast. Such simulations may help make accurate predictions when evaluating seismic data in the future and also provide creation scientists with a real-life model of the rapidity with which catastrophic geologic events can remodel the earth. Mount St. Helens is important because it is a laboratory to examine scientific models related to some geologic effects of the global Flood, and it provides a laboratory for analyses of radiometric dating methods since the actual age of the volcanic rocks is known. For more information, see Three Decades Since Eruption of Mount St. Helens.
  • A new book by economist Robert Fogel suggests that “technology has sped human evolution in an unprecedented way during the past century.” Citing improvements in size, shape, and longevity of the human body which have occurred “more rapidly during the past three centuries than over many previous millennia,” the book says the human evolution has “outpaced traditional evolution” in a timeframe “minutely short by the standards of Darwinian evolution.” We hasten to point out that this short time frame has been made possible by the fact that no evolution was involved. Bigger healthier humans are still humans. In fact, given a long enough time frame, evolution still could not happen because the human genome cannot acquire new information to evolve into a higher order of being.
  • Among the mocking commentary about Answers in Genesis that occurred this past week as the Ark Encounter project (managed by a non-profit subsidiary of AiG) crossed another hurdle, some humanist detractors tied the future full-size Ark into another topic of their derision of Christianity: the prediction by radio broadcaster Harold Camping that the rapture will occur today. Their mocking took the form: “Why start building an Ark when the rapture is about to occur?” AiG normally does not delve into eschatology, but because adherents to today’s rapture argue that the Flood of Genesis occurred in the year 4990 BC and that 7,000 years later another judgment was due (the year AD 2011), it’s a question that a Genesis-based ministry has been frequently receiving. For our recent article on the May 21 predicted rapture, see Feedback: Can We Know? Regardless when the rapture occurs, God’s Word remains reliable and authoritative, and it is our prayer nobody will reject the Bible because a man’s prophecy goes unfilled today.

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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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