News to Note, October 31, 2009

A weekly feature examining news from the biblical viewpoint

on October 31, 2009
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Who’s Darwin?; going their separate ways; the faith of Darwin; and more!

1. Tell Us Something We Don't Know

Darwinism is a controversial topic, and many believe creation should be taught in the classroom. But why is that news?

2. DNA Prevents Reproducing Between Two Species

Has the U.S. government finally supported creationist research? Alas, no, but the results of a National Institutes of Health study fit squarely within the young-earth creation framework.

Researchers at Cornell University report in PLoS Biology the results of a genetic examination of fruit flies (“Species-Specific Heterochromatin Prevents Mitotic Chromosome Segregation to Cause Hybrid Lethality in Drosophila”). The scientists learned that “junk” DNA can be responsible for rendering two otherwise closely related species unable to interbreed.

3. The Faith of Darwin

Charles Darwin was convinced that life’s origin didn’t involve a creator, even though there was no (and still is no) scientific explanation of how life could have begun without one.

4. Meet Leviathan

Was the skull of an ancient Leviathan found in Dorset?

Fossil hunter Kevan Sheehan originally spotted the skull sticking out of a cliff face exposed by a rockslide. It took him four years of hard work to finally uncover well enough for extraction.

5. From the Ocean to Your Living Room

Genesis 1 makes no mention of DVD players, of course, and we’re certainly not saying God had such technology in mind when He designed sea life. But mantis shrimp have “the most complex vision systems known to science” that, reportedly, may one day inspire better DVD players.

6. And Don’t Miss . . .

  • Astronomers have spotted a cluster of galaxies that lie some 10.2 billion light-years from earth, BBC News reports. If galaxies are spotted even farther away, however, it will mean trouble for the big bang model, which predicts galaxies wouldn’t have formed so long ago that we could see them if they were so far away. As for how we could see the light from galaxies so far away if the universe is young, visit Does Distant Starlight Prove the Universe Is Old?
  • Scientists at the Ohio State University have linked volcanic activity to the beginning of an ice age, supposedly 450 million years ago. That scenario isn’t so different from creationist models of a single catastrophic period in earth history, beginning with the Flood year and continuing through the Ice Age, with volcanoes playing an important role throughout—see Setting the Stage for an Ice Age.
  • Researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine are using embryonic stem cells to learn more about human germ (reproductive) cells, hoping to one day overcome infertility. What is tragically ironic is that harvesting embryonic stem cells requires the destruction of viable human embryos—all in the name of addressing fertility issues. As such, it would seem to be a case of killing Peter to resurrect Paul.
  • Svante Paabo, whose work on Neanderthals we discussed in October 2007 and last February, is about to release his analysis of the entire Neanderthal genome. Among the topics he discusses is whether the ancestors of “modern” humans and Neanderthals interbred—to which he says, “I’m sure that they [did]. But did it give offspring that contributed to us?” In response to the news, Chris Stringer of the London Natural History Museum said, “I used to believe Neanderthals were primitive, but in the last 10,000 to 15,000 years before they died out, around 30,000 years ago, Neanderthals were giving their dead complex burials and making tools and jewellery, such as pierced beads, like modern humans.” We disagree with the timeline, of course, but are excited to learn more about Paabo’s results and conclusions.
  • Richard Dawkins is in the news—yes, again—and this time it’s because he’s planning a new book that will target teenagers. What is a Rainbow, Really? will include illustrations and will “look to explode myths and legends about the natural world with science,” the Guardian reports. But is Dawkins, who has accused Christians of “child abuse” for teaching their children about God, being hypocritical?
  • “[W]hat was the trigger for the single cell microorganisms to assemble and organize into multicellular organisms[?]” That question “has remained unanswered until now,” according to a report on a study of the Cambrian explosion recently published in Molecular Biology and Evolution. The study looked at how a “sudden surge in the calcium concentration of the Cambrian seawater” was “mandatory for the aggregation and stabilisation of multicellular sponge structures[.]” But what is necessary is not always sufficient; evolving organisms would have required not only energy and certain substances, but also a mechanism to increase genetic information. Also important to remember is that the “simply organized organisms” of which new phyla are said to have evolved “nevertheless survived the last 500 million years almost unchanged.”

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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, 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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