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Pope Benedict XVI is hosting a summit of some scholars this weekend to discuss natural selection and evolution. This is interesting both because of the Roman Catholic Church's previous tacit endorsement of evolution (which Pope John Paul II called “more than a hypothesis”), because of the current Pope's historical emphasis on creation (though not necessary biblical creation), and because Cardinal Christopher Schönborn, who will deliver an important address at this weekend's conference, has made comments such as “[Darwinism] is a myth that has become history.”
The Guardian puts its own spin on the story, announcing boldly “Pope prepares to embrace theory of intelligent design” and stating that “the theory of 'intelligent design' is taught in some US states (implying-incorrectly-that it is taught in public schools).
Stephen Horn, who is organizing the conference, cautioned that the meeting “has nothing to do with creationism … Catholic theology does not endorse creationist views,” according to a Reuters article on the meeting. It sounds like minds within the Catholic hierarchy are in disagreement, since Cardinal Schönborn calls Darwinism “a myth” yet Mr. Horn states that Catholic theology does not endorse creationist views (presumably therefore concluding that God did not even create the universe). What's clear (though not surprising) is the absence of any reference to Genesis.
Researchers at Emory University and the University of St. Andrews conducted an experiment to study whether chimpanzees can pass cultural behavior over multiple “generations” (in fact, not different generations; merely different individual chimps). Basically, two separate chimpanzees were taught to open a special box (which contained fruit). After each of these “starter” chimps learned how to open the box, a new chimp was allowed to observe the procedure, then brought in to see if it could open the box. The technique was successfully passed along a six-“generation” chain of chimps. (This may seem more groundbreaking than it actually is; scientists already determined that chimpanzees learn the social behavior of groups, so the learning aspect is not novel, only the education of succeeding “generations.”)
Dr. Victoria Horner, one of the researchers, touts the findings as “show[ing] great similarity between human and chimpanzee behavior, suggesting cultural learning may be rooted deep within the evolutionary process.” But this contention, in reality, is simply based on circular reasoning. Evolutionists believe humans descended from an ape-like ancestor, they therefore recognize all similarities in behavior between hominids as evidence of evolution. It is just as consistent to understand that God simply created apes to be one of the most intelligent animals (therefore allowing them to pass on behaviors, etc.), even though they are not made in the image of God. If no other primates existed, evolutionists might point to the intelligence of quadruped mammals-like cats or dogs-as evidence of evolutionary theory.
But even if scientists discovered a primate more intelligent than chimpanzees, would this somehow “prove” evolution? It would be no less rational to understand this as another of God's creations.
This one is not too surprising. Scientists from Syracuse University and Boston University have signed onto the idea that a 30-mile network of canyons in Antarctica was carved out of the surrounding bedrock by “catastrophic draining.” The scientists estimate that the flood that carved the canyons carried approximately 1,000 times the volume of water of Niagara Falls-but at the same rate. Laura Webb, one of the researchers on the study, explained that Lake Ontario would take about a month to drain at that rate.
Time and time again, scientists conclude that canyons and other geologic features were carved by the force of “a lot of water over a little time,” in contrast to the old-earth “little water, lot of time” model. Yet secular scientists, even while postulating large-scale local floods as the source of water for these catastrophic events, ignore the obvious conclusion that one Flood is responsible for it all. Why? A flood of global proportions would wreak such havoc (creating so many fossils and such destruction) that it would undermine the entire idea of “millions of years” that evolution requires, and would also require a supernatural explanation for how the entire world could be flooded simultaneously.
Researchers studying fish embryos were surprised to find that the cells that form fish's eyes are not built “on location,” but rather are formed in individual locations throughout what becomes the fish's head. The cells then migrate to and amass where the eye is formed. Although scientists are unsure if the same process occurs in humans, this shows another layer of complexity in the “chemical programm[ing]” of animal cells. (To learn more about some of the awesome (truly) mechanisms God uses in the development of embryos, read these chapters of Creation: Facts of Life and the The New Answers Book.)
Stories like this always capture our imagination. Many scientists are so quick to dismiss various “monsters” in the Bible and elsewhere as legendary or mythical. This goes especially for dragon legends, which are found around the world and whose descriptions invariably fit much of what we know about dinosaurs, in addition to legends about sea monsters and similar “mythical” creatures. (Although note that this does not mean AiG believes every tale of an unknown animal is automatically true!)
Well, we're a bit biased in linking to this news item. Scroll down to the fourth news “blurb” on the page and you'll see why-a mention of our Research Paper Challenge 2007. The grand prize this year is a whopping $50,000 scholarship to Liberty University. The contest is partially oriented around one of our newest resources, Evolution Exposed. If you'd like more information about the contest, which is open to students aged 14-21, see our detail page.
For those of you who remember item #4 from last week's News to Note, the US government has restored “Evolutionary biology” to a list of majors approved for federally funded Smart Grants. Evolutionists can sleep well tonight.
One of the disappointing developments in the creation/evolution debate is the recent emphasis some groups place on understanding evolution as a core element of understanding God. Formerly, compromisers merely attempted to “fit” evolution into the Bible through a variety of problematic method; now, evolution is being exalted as a key piece of the Episcopal religion. This Episcopal Church catechism focused on evolution as “designed to help readers better understand their own religion.” Understanding evolution and “millions of years” as a part of Christianity requires one to severely alter their idea of who God is.
This news shouldn't be too surprising, though. A Pew Forum study released this week indicates that “mainline” Protestant denominations (as opposed to evangelicals), like the Episcopal Church, are the Christian group most likely to accept evolution by natural selection—even more likely to reject that evolution was guided by a “supreme being” than Catholics.
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.