Sunday, 24 February 2008
Science journals have featured countless stories about the evolution of the human brain. Scientists are puzzled since humans have much bigger brains than any other species. Their suggested explanations have often been mutually exclusive. For instance, the old text book explanation relied on eating meat but a few years ago an article in New Scientist, a popular science magazine, suggested that eating starch was the secret of brain growth.
But both explanations fail to answer why other meat or starch eating species do not have big brains.
At the recent AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) annual meeting in Boston, Richard Lewontin, a distinguished biology professor at Harvard University, acknowledged that stories about human brain evolution have not been based on facts. Reporting on the meeting for the journal Science, Michael Balter quoted Lewontin as saying, “We are missing the fossil record of human cognition, so we make up stories."
The title of Balter’s article seems to be an admission of sorts: “How Human Intelligence Evolved--Is It Science or ‘Paleofantasy’?”
According to professor Lewontin, it is fantasy. Lewontin suggests that there is much cause for pessimism in the study of human origins.
Science reporter James Randerson of Britain’s Guardian newspaper was even more brunt, saying, “We know nothing about brain evolution.” Randerson went on to summarise Lewontin’s reasons for pessimism. “The handful of hominid fossils stretching back 4m years or so” cannot tell us whether any of them were our ancestors. We “do not have the have the faintest idea what the cranial capacity [of a fossil hominid] means”. Moreover, we do not even know which hominids walked upright and which did not.
Lewontin is well-known for his outspokenness. In 1997 he wrote in The New York Review of Books that scientists often choose to make up “unsubstantiated just-so stories” because they “have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism… Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.”
Obviously, the scientific community cannot ignore Lewinton’s recent conclusions. If the ruling paradigm (naturalism or the view that nature is all there is) leads us into a blind alley, might there be something wrong with it?
Balter M. 2008. How human intelligence evolved -- Is it science or 'paleofantasy'? Science 319:1028.
Lewinton, Richard. 1997. Billions and billions of demons. The New York Review of Books, p. 31, (9 January 1997).
Randerson, James. 2008. We know nothing about brain evolution. Guardian February http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/science/2008/02/the_distinguished_biologist_pr.html
Saturday, 23 February 2008
Take a large bowl. Pour some liberal theology on the bottom, add a pinch of Indian philosophy and sprikle some evolution on top and you will get a mixture that once again attempts to re-interpret Chistianity.
Deepak Chopra is a medical doctor and alternative medicine guru whose newest book The Third Jesus: The Christ We Cannot Ignore (Crown publishing, 2008) presents Jesus as a cosmic Christ, a spirit guide whose teaching is no longer the monopoly of the Christian church. Chopra’s Jesus attempted to save the world by showing the way to God- consciousness.
Why, then, the third Jesus? Chopra, who has written over 50 books, teaches that the first Jesus was a Jewish rabbi who changed western religion by his life. The second Jesus is the Jesus of theology and church dogmas, the cause of strive and countless battles. Chopra’s third Jesus is a saviour but not the only saviour and certainly not God’s only begotten Son. Chopra believes that Jesus’ followers put words into his mouth many centuries later, for instance, the saying that faith in Jesus is a prerequisite for salvation. Chopra says that the third Jesus “embodied the highest level of enlightenment.”
Interviewed by Time magazine, Chopra suggested that God should be a woman: “The next stage of human evolution has to be the survival of the wisest, not the survival of the fittest. For that we need intuition, compassion and a woman God.”
Chopra’s Jesus is a typical new age saviour. Believing in him does not require real repentance or even biblical faith. However, the Jesus of the New Testament says that He is the only way to eternal life: ”I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Peter testified of Jesus: ”Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).
The third Jesus is a false Christ who has nothing to do with the real Jesus.
Chopra Center. The Third Jesus: The Christ We Cannot Ignore
By Deepak Chopra. http://www.chopra.com/thirdjesus/excerpt
Talking with Deepak Chopra. Time (European edition) 171:8, 14. (25 February 2008).
Sunday, 17 February 2008
New neighbour for T-rex?
It seems that dinosaurs have recently acquired many new neighbours. At the beginning of the year, science journals announced that beetles lived during the dinosaur era. Recently, we learned that platypuses were also existent at that time. Now we can add modern birds to the list.
For a long time Darwinists have advised us to look at the bird feeder if we want to get a glimpse of latter-day dinosaurs. They believe that finches and woodpeckers are the descendants of the "terrible reptiles".
Evolutionists maintain that modern birds appeared ”only” 60 million years ago or about five million years after the demise of the dinosaurs. But a recent study published in the journal BMC Biology refutes this view. A research team at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor led by graduate student Joseph Brown examined the rate of mutation with the help of the molecular clock. Mutations are basically copying mistakes that have a habit of accumulating in the genome of a species. Evolutionists believe that the clock is ticking at a reasonably uniform pace, and thus suppose that the amount of accumulated mutations helps to find out when certain species broke off from a common ancestor.
Brown and his colleagues concluded that modern birds already lived some 100 million years ago.
The use of the molecular clock involves many assumptions. For instance, the steady rate of the clock is based on the belief that mutations accumulate in different species at the same speed. However, according to chemist Dr. Jonathan Sarfati, observations have shown that the mutation rate is constant over a generation in an organism. Thus the clock cannot tick at the same speed for bacteria and elephants, for example. Brown actually suggested that if one assumes that the mutation rate is constant in different bird species this can lead the research astray.
Turning dinosaurs into birds would otherwise also be impossible. Changing scales into feathers would be an insurmountable hurdle. No one has been able to explain convincingly how it could have happened even in theory. For instance, Scientific American acknowledged in 2003 that it was time to discard old notions of feather evolution. Richard Prum and Alan Brush, the authors of the article, admitted that the evolution of feathers was problematic. But they nevertheless chose to believe that it was possible and had happened.
In real life, turning a dinosaur into a bird is an extremely flimsy idea since evolutionists themselves believe that Archaeopteryx, the ”reptile bird” that was supposed to have lived already about 80 million years before the dinosaurs became extinct 65 million years ago. And Archaeopteryx had fully developed, aerodynamic feathers.
The recent study, which was also reported by National Geography News, suggests that at least in theory some researchers are willing to discard the outdated view that the finches at the nearest bird feeder are latter-day feathered dinosaurs.
Read more about Archaeopteryx here.
Brown, Joseph; Rest, Joshua S.; Garcia-Moreno, Jaime; Sorenson, Michael D. & Mindell. David P. 2008. Strong mitochondrial DNA support for a Cretaceous origin of modern avian lineages. BMC Biology 2008, 6:6. http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/6/6/abstract
Goudarzi, Sara.2008. Modern Birds Existed Before Dinosaur Die-Off. National Geographic News. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/02/080208-bird-origins.html
Prum, Richard O. & Brush, Alan H. Which came first, the Feather or the Bird? Scientific American 288:3, 60-69 (March 2003).
Sarfati, Jonathan & Matthews, Michael. 2003. Refuting Evolution 2. Green Forest: Master Books.
Saturday, 16 February 2008
Charles Darwin's birthday was celebrated on February 12. Image: Wikipedia
Charles Darwin’s birthday (February 12) is evolving into a secular alternative to Christian holy days such as Christmas and Easter for atheists, humanists, skeptics and other evolutionists. Thus many Darwinists are in the habit of wishing each other Happy Darwin Day and even sending Darwin Day cards via the internet.
St. Charles celebrates his 200th birthday next year but the science journal Nature already reminded its readers of the importance of his birth and wished all a happy Darwin Day.
In the USA February 12 has traditionally been remembered as Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, but humanists and other anticreationists want to push Lincoln aside and replace him with a man who was born on the same day and the same year (1809) - Charles Darwin.
Abraham Lincoln was president of the United States from 1861 to 1865. He advocated the elimination of slavery and during the Civil War he issued a declaration that abolished slavery in the southern states.
Darwin’s view of mankind was much more sombre than Lincoln’s. In his book Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex (1871) he predicted, “At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace throughout the world the savage races. At the same time, the anthropomorphous apes. . . will no doubt be exterminated. The break will then be rendered wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilized state, as we may hope, than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as at present between the Negro or Australian and the gorilla.” (vol. 1, p. 201).
In other words, Darwin did not have a very bright view of the Australian aborigines or other people of colour.
Darwin’s thoughts had far-reaching consequences. In Australia, aboriginals were hunted down like animals and they were almost brought to extinction. In the United States, a pygmy named Ota Benga was first exhibited in the St. Louis World Fair (1904) and later in the Bronx Zoo and in many countries eugenics was used to eliminate undesired traits from mankind. This evolution was starkest in the programs of the German Nazis.
Recently, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologised, saying he was sorry how his country had treated the aborigines. He remembered to mention Darwin’s harmful effect.
Perhaps we should think twice before we start sending Darwin Day cards.
Darwin, Charles, 1871. (republished 1981) The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Ham, Ken; Wieland, Carl; Batten, Don. 1999. One Blood: The Biblical Answer to Racism. Green Forest: Master Books.
Wieland, Carl. 2008. A sorry day—with an unlikely twist.
Sunday, 10 February 2008
UNESCO (The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) publishes a quarterly newsletter entitled A World of Science. The current issue (January-March 2008) takes up the theme it began last year. UNESCO has decided to provide its readers with an in-depth orthodox account of evolution. Thus, the authors of the two-part article, Patricia Vickers-Rich, Peter Trusler and Draga Gelt, present the “Great Story” of our planet, taking the neo-Darwian explanation of the emergence of all life from non-life and its random evolutionary development at face value.
True to the Darwinian story, they do not neglect to mention our supposed foremother Lucy. The most spectacular detail in their article is the use of her old species name Praeanthropus afarensis instead of the more current form Australopithecus afarensis. It seems that Vickers-Rich and her collegues found the term ”Southern ape” (Australopithecus) less convincing than "pre-human" (Praeanthropus). However, in this case changing the name will not change the facts.
Although the authors acknowledge that Lucy has curled figers and toes like modern monkeys, they speculate that this ”pre-human” could well have walked upright in addition to climbing trees. At least they remember to include an illustration of a very ape-like Lucy walking upright in their article.
Perhaps Lucy really needs some support. Lucy’s status as a link between apes and humans has been contested almost since its discovery in 1974. Recently, professor Yoel Rak at Tel Aviv University and colleges published a study in the online version of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) in which they compared the jaw bones of gorillas, chimpanzees and modern humans with those of extinct Australopitheces. They concluded that the ape’s jaw bones were morfologically almost identical with two representatives of the Australopithecus family (Australopithecus robustus and Australopithecus afarensis), but differed considerably from modern man. Rak’s study suggests that Lucy cannot be the foremother of Homo sapiens.
It thus seems that Lucy is just an extinct ape. The authors of the UNESCO newsletter have got it wrong.
Siegel-Itzkovitch, Judy, 2007. Israeli researchers: 'Lucy' is not direct ancestor of humans. (16.4.2007) http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1176152801536&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull
Vickers-Rich, Patricia; Trusler, Peter and Gelt, Draga. 2008. The Rise of animals (Part II). A World of Science 6:1, 2-8.
You can read more about Lucy here and here.
Saturday, 9 February 2008
Image courtesy of NASA.
Saturn’s moon Titan is an enticingly mysterious world. The Huygens probe landed on Titan in January 2005 and has since then sent images and other data about the moon. A research team at Johns Hopkins University in Laurel, Maryland led by Ralph Lorenz has examined the images and drawn their conclusions about the data. Recently they published their findings in Geophysical Research Letters.
Titan’s surface is covered with lakes made up not of water but of liquid methane and ethane. The surface temperature of this big moon is approximately -178 °C, keeping the methane liquid though some of it condenses and forms clouds as it cools in the atmosphere. Thus the rain on Titan is liquid methane.
The solid surface of Titan is covered by dynes of a substance resembling sand. The dynes are made up of tholin that is composed of carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen.
Tholin has been named after the Greek word for ’muddy’. It is formed as sunlight splits the methane molecules apart and the atoms combine to form larger molecules. Laboratory tests have indicated that if this has continued for billions of years there should be much less tholin on Titan than there is. The researchers concluded that Titan’s present methanological cycle cannot have continued so long but must have begun much later.
Lorenz believes that earth’s hydrological cycle began early in the history of our planet but he suspects that Titan’s methanological cycle must be relatively young.
Although not all astronomers are willing to discard the idea of a 4.6 billion year old solar system, Titan’s tholin speaks for a much younger moon than was supposed.
The next step would be to admit that the entire solar system is only 6000 years old.
Ball, Philip. 2008. Titanic climate change in store. Nature News 6.2. 2008. http://www.nature.com/news/2008/080206/full/news.2008.553.html
You can read about more evidence for a younger solar system here.
Wednesday, 6 February 2008
The Fall brought thorns and thisles to the world
In his book Good Golf (Macdonald, 1985) Peter Chamberlain compares human life to a golf ball. Both get hard blows and eventually end up in a hole in the ground. We no longer live in paradise but among thorns and thistles, just like the sad account of the Fall in Genesis chapter 3 tells us.
Genesis, the first book of the Bible, describes a perfect world where everything was very good. Mutations had not degenerated mankind and hard knocks were unheard of. But then everything changed.
Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command. This began the way of the golf ball. The apostle Paul describes this in Romans 8: 21-22, saying that the entire creation is subject to “bondage to decay” and “has been groaning” because of sin.
God had a solution to this bondage. He sent His Son to redeem mankind. John writes in his Gospel, ” For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Jesus and the New Testament writers regarded early humans as real people. For them, Genesis was not merely an illustration but history that helps us to understand the world around us. We cannot understand the good news of the New Testament if we ignore the bad news of the Old Testament. Paul shows clearly that it was a real man (Adam) and not an apeman who fell into sin. “Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin” (Romans 5:12).
The good news of the New Testament guarantees that our golf ball days are only temporary. A day will come when thorns and thistles will no longer hurt us. As Revelation 21:1-5 says,
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away'.”
You can be part of this new creation when you believe in Jesus Christ, the Creator of the entire universe and our Saviour.
You can read an illustration of the consequences of the Fall here.
Sunday, 3 February 2008
This journal upset Evolutionists
Answers in Genesis launched a new peer reviewed online journal in January and promptly received comments from an unexpected source - the science journal Nature. Originally set up by T. H. Huxley and other Darwinists to be a voice for evolution, it is still staunchly committed to a naturalistic view of origins. For instance, in a recent editorial Nature stated that evolution was a scientific fact just like atoms or Earth’s revolution round the moon.
Faithful to its anti-creationist stance, Nature made a distinction between science and “science” in its comments. The article put the word science in quotes when referring to the AIG journal. It seems that by their definition everything that smacks of criticism of Darwinism cannot be regarded as genuine science.
The Nature article included the views of two well-known evolutionists. Keith Miller, a theistic evolutionist, admitted that this was not the first peer reviewed creationist publication. Indeed, Creation Research Society Quarterly (CRSQ)has been published for over 40 years and the Journal of Creation for 22 years. Miller emphasised the need to “educate non-scientists about the scientific process”. Creationists would agree, provided this is not Orwellenianese for “indoctrination”.
Eugenie Scott, the executive director of the pro-evolution National Center for Science Education, who has previously admitted that bringing up alternatives to Darwinian evolution tends to confuse students, claims that publications like the Answers Research Journal are part of an ongoing battle to exclude science from local curricula. This statement has nothing to do with the truth, since no creationist would dream of putting an end to science.
Contrary to what Nature claims, creationists do not want to “discourage the teaching of evolution.” More evolution should be taught, not as dogma but with warts and all. As AIG, ICR, CMI and other creationist organisations have shown, there is much to write about in evolution.
2009 is a momentous year for evolutionists the world over. Not only do they celebrate Darwin’s 200th birthday, but it will also be 150 years since the publishing of the Origin of Species. Might the Darwinists be a little scared that some dissidents will spoil their nice birthday party? At least Eugenie Scott conceded, “Creation science is alive and well and appealing to a substantial minority of the American public.” She could as well have included that its influece is by no means restricted to the US.
Nature’s peer review might be in need of an update. Geoff Brumfiel, who wrote the article, defined intelligent design as “a belief that a higher being shaped evolution”. While some ID supporters might accept this interpretation, many others would disagree.
You can read more about Answers Research Journal here.
For a more intelligent definition of intelligent design read this.
You can read an analysis of this panic here.
Brumfield, Geoff . 2008. Creationists launch ‘science’ journal. Nature 451:7178, 382-383.
Luskin, Casey. 2008. Nature Fulfilling Its Charter to Defend Evolution at all Costs. Evolution News and views. 11. 1. 2008. http://www.evolutionnews.org/2008/01/nature_fulfilling_its_charter.html#more
Nature 2008. Spread the word. Evolution is a scientific fact and every organisation whose research depends on it should explain why. Nature 451:7175, 108.
Saturday, 2 February 2008
Duck-billed platypus. Image: Wikipedia
The Duck-billed platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) is an enigmatic creature that defies simple classifications. It is a mosaic that differs considerably from all other known animals. It is a mammal with a duck’s bill, a rather long tail and webbed feet. Females do not give birth to live offspring but baby platypuses start their wanderings by cracking an egg open.
It was thought that the platypus, which currently only lives in Australia and Tasmania, and closely related species separated from a common ancestor some 17-65 million years ago. But a new study shows that this view is incorrect. According to National Geographic News, a research team led by Timothy Rowe at the University of Texas in Austin used CT scanning to examine a jaw bone of the species Teinolophos. It was supposed that Teinolophos, which is said to have lived 112.5 to 122 million years ago, was the ancestor present-day platypuses.
The study revealed that the animal had the same kind of capacity to sense its prey with an electric receptor in its nose as a platypus. The researchers concluded that what they thought was a Teinolophos jawbone actually belonged to a platypus. In other words, platypuses already lived with the dinosaurs.
Recently, New Scientist wrote about Chinese salamanders that were said to have lived over 100 million years before the advent of Tyrannosaurus rex. The salamander, which can be approximately 1.8 metres (about six feet) long, is an endangered species, but it still lives in China.
Many animal species seem to remain surprisingly similar for eons, resisting change into other species. Might this have to do something with the fact that God created all animals according to their kinds?
Brahic, Catherine. 2008. Top 100 weirdest amphibians list launched. New Scientist 21 January 2008.
Norris, Scott. 2008. Platypus Much Older Than Thought, Lived with Dinos. National Geographic News. 22 January 2008.