News to Note, September 25, 2010

A weekly feature examining news from the biblical viewpoint

by Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell on September 25, 2010
Featured in News to Know

A Divine divide, nuanced Neanderthals, outdated science, “reliable” radiometric rates, a fossil “treasure trove,” and more in this week’s News to Note.

1. Red Sea Parted “Naturally”?

This week:

  1. Divine divide?
  2. Nuanced Neanderthals
  3. How old is SIV?
  4. Funding for outdated science
  5. Reliable radiometric rates?
  6. Fruitflies and evolution
  7. A fossil “treasure trove”
  8. And Don’t Miss . . .

Did you miss it? Catch last week’s News to Note or any other!

Note: Over the course of four weeks, starting last week, we are having guest columnists contribute to News to Note. Keep checking back to read different takes on the latest news—but always from a biblical worldview.

A recently reported study by meteorologist Carl Drews has suggested a way in which the waters of the Red Sea could have parted “naturally,” enabling the children of Israel, led by Moses, to cross as pharaoh’s army pursued (Exodus 14). Such an explanation might leave God with credit for the timing of the event, but little else.

2. Science Daily: Neanderthals More Advanced Than Previously Thought: They Innovated, Adapted Like Modern Humans, Research Shows

New research concludes that, consistent with the biological evidence, the Neanderthals were quite human.

A seven-year study of two separate Neanderthal cultures in Italy (the study is to be published in the December issue of the Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory) is “rehabilitating” the Neanderthal people’s image in the eyes of the world. While these cultures coexisted with a “modern” Homo sapiens population, the southernmost of the two Neanderthal groups was geographically separate and would have likely had no contact with them. Previous findings consistent with cultural innovations among Neanderthals have prompted suggestions that they were somewhat less-than-human and had cultures contaminated by the “real human” cultures. Now, the findings of all sorts of tools, ornaments, and hunting implements in a Neanderthal culture remote from conventional human populations demonstrate that they did not require exposure to a truly “sentient” species but had the creative ability to come up with the tools needed to cope with their harsh environment on their own.

3. SIV in Present Form

A new study of the Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV), a virus infecting “almost all African monkeys” but not sickening them, has led to speculation about how long the virus has been around in its present form.

4. The US Government and Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Creationists are frequently accused of ignoring “real science” in favor of their own agendas. Well, when it comes to embryonic stem cell research, the U.S. government, at least the present administration, is guilty of ignoring “real science” in favor of its political agendas . . .

5. PhysOrg: “Research shows radiometric dating still reliable (again)

Recent measurements of radioactive decay rates at Purdue University as well as laboratories in Europe gave scientists whose faith in the absolute accuracy of radiometric dating methods a bit of a jolt when they appeared to vary slightly at the time of solar flares.

Scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, working with others from Oak Ridge National Laboratory and several universities, have now restored their own confidence in radiometric dating methods by demonstrating that neutrinos, such as those emitted in a solar flare, do not alter the decay rate of gold-198.

Efforts to discover variation in radioactive decay rates in the past century have shown none. Nevertheless, these experiments—of necessity—can only be conducted in the observable present. When we, as young earth creationists, point out that radiometric dating is based on several unprovable assumptions, including the assumption that the decay rates of radioactive isotopes have never varied, we are pointing to the possibility that decay rates may have varied significantly in the distant past, at times remote from the realm of observable science.

Thus, while the scientists at NIST can sleep well at night now knowing that solar flares don’t apparently cause alterations in decay rates but just alterations in the reliability of their instrumentation, there is still no way for them to prove that decay rates have always been the same. There is, in fact, mounting evidence for the idea that radioactive clocks “ticked faster” in the far past, yielding countless discrepancies between actual verifiable rock ages and those determined by radiometric dating. The huge ages calculated for the age of the earth may make evolutionists who think that “given long enough, anything can happen” comfortable, but those numbers are not really supportable when the data is examined with an eye to its uneasy foundations.

(Additional unprovable assumptions also haunt radiometric methods. See below for further reading.)

6. Fruit Flies and Advantageous Mutations

A study of 600 generations of fruit flies, just reported in Nature, sought to unravel the mystery of how advantageous mutations could become fixed in the population.

7. LA Times: “Construction crews unearth fossil ‘treasure trove’

A new fossil find containing a wide variety of species of animals all buried together has been unearthed at a utility dig site near Los Angeles.

Of the 35 different species already identified, not a single claim has been made for a transitional form. The finding of the wide variety and number of creatures all buried together (about 1450 bone fragments having being recovered) is consistent with a post-Flood Ice Age burial by local catastrophic watery conditions, particularly given the occurrence in LA where there is so much else that is of Ice Age origin (e.g., the La Brea pits).

The fossilized creatures have been “dated by observing the layers of sediment they were found in and fall at about 1.4 million years ago.” “Comparison of the fossils with those from other sites revealed their age.” This claim should remind us of more problems with the dating methods: Carbon dating, being based on the radioactive decay of carbon-14 with a half-life of only 5730 years, could not possibly date any organic material at 1.4 million years, as the carbon-14, due to the mathematics of the situation, would have long since dissipated. Therefore, fossils are dated according to the layers they are found in, as these were. However, radiometric dating methods do not work on sedimentary rock, the kind of rock fossils are generally found in. Hence, even more assumptions are required.

And Don’t Miss . . .

  • A “changing constant”? This oxymoron refers to the idea that some things we’ve long “known” to be fixed numbers in physics may not be so unchanging after all. Data collected simultaneously from both northern and southern skies has suggested that the fine-structure constant, which is related to the strength which attracts electrons to atomic nuclei, may vary slightly. Then again, in light of the latest article by Answers in Genesis’ astrophysicist Dr. Jason Lisle, it may be that the fine-structure constant (which is also related to the speed of light) is not changing in the usual sense of the word.
  • The skeleton of a toothed bird with a wingspan of 17 feet, discovered in Chile, has been assigned a place as a newly discovered member of the “pelagornithid” group. (Pelagornithids were massive birds with pseudoteeth, pointy projections of bone rather than true teeth with serrated edges.) Claiming the skeleton is five to ten million years old, the scientists do acknowledge that it is a true bird. “Although these animals would have looked like creatures from Jurassic Park,” they were created on the fifth day of creation by our Creator God along with the smallest birds and the creatures in the sea.
  • This opinion piece suggests that “science” and religion should keep quiet about things that they cannot know, perhaps meeting on the ground of intelligent design. The declaration that “the books of Moses, if read as scientific texts, are complete failures” fails to recognize the fact that, although the Bible is not a science textbook, when it speaks of science, it is accurate. Furthermore, the worldwide Flood described in the Bible explains much of our world’s geology. No one can truly know anything about the unobservable past without an eyewitness account, which Christians have in the Word of God, the Bible.
  • A beached whale of unknown type may represent a hybrid not previously identified. If so, then this huge creature resulted from interbreeding within a biblical “kind” whose ancestors were created by God on the fifth day of the world’s existence, when “God created great whales” and designed them to reproduce “after their kind.”
  • A review of some unusual hybrids reminds us that biblical “kinds” and biological “species” are not synonymous. The ability to cross-breed and produce a healthy and fertile hybrid, even a new biological species, tells us that the parent creatures are members of the same biblical kind. Their genomes are compatible, and the new species thus produced are not examples of evolution—not having any new genes, just a reshuffling of the old ones—and are rather just interesting members of the same kind.
  • X-ray diffraction studies of collagen from dead animals explores the question of how fine detail can be preserved in some fossils. Collagen is a major structural protein, so preservation of detail requires maintenance of its structural integrity. Collagen from a dolphin “buried for a year and then dehydrated” retained its molecular structure with “few signs of degradation.” The article acknowledges that rapid burial is essential to fossilization. The global Flood, with massive upheavals of silt and mud, rapidly buried countless creatures, accounting for the majority of today’s fossil record. See Soft Tissue Fossilization for more information.
  • The discovery of skulls of two previously undiscovered types of large horned dinosaurs in Utah, dubbed Kosmoceratops and Utahceratops, has paleontologists scrambling to figure out how several different types of large horned dinosaurs managed to evolve and coexist on the same limited land mass. Their concern reflects their presupposition that fossilized animals lived where they died. However, the finding of lots of fossils together is consistent with the cataclysmic upheavals and massive currents expected in a global Flood, sweeping large numbers of creatures together for rapid burial.
  • The Humanist Society of Scotland vocally opposed Pope Benedict’s visit to the U.K., proclaiming on billboards that “two million Scots are good without God.” We know that the Bible declares that no one is good by God’s standards but that God has provided an answer to our sin problem through Jesus Christ.

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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