Sunday, 30 August 2009
Time writes about the shrinking sheep of Scotland.
Today, the average wild Soay sheep of Scotland is five per cent smaller than its forefathers were 25 years ago. According to Time magazine this does not mean that ”evolution has been repealed in Scotland” but that climate change is making it possible for smaller, less fit sheep to survive the winter.
The Time article is based on a study that Tim Coulson of Imperial College London and his colleagues recently conducted. Arthur Wies, a biologist at the university of Toronto, assumes that this adaptation is a result of evolution that is related to climate change.
Although the article in Time associates shrinking sheep with Darwinian evolution, their changes are probably due to natural selection that can explain the survival of sheep but not the origin of sheep. Winters on the St. Kilda islands have become shorter and milder. There is more food than before and even the smaller and younger sheep are able to survive the winters of Northern Scotland and get descendants that are smaller than before.
Natural selection is often confused with evolution. However, the survival of small sheep in harsh climate does not propel Darwinian evolution. Only by increasing genetic information could a sheep evolve into something that is not a sheep. But now ”evolution” is going in the wrong direction, producing mini sheep that are basically less fit.
It seems that in Scotland they will have to get used to counting smaller sheep.
Walsh, Bryan. 2009. Why Are Scotland’s Sheep Shrinking? Time (Europe) 174:3, 38-39. (27 July).
Saturday, 29 August 2009
A new book by an atheist has a surprising message: religion is beneficial.
Religion is good for people. It gives us a reason for living and makes us happy. Religion is also beneficial for society as especially Christians have set up schools and hospitals and help the have-nots.
The idea is not new. Theologians and sociologists have known this for decades but now the thesis comes from a surprising source.
Bruce Sheiman, who regards himself as an atheist, reaches this conclusion in his fresh book An Atheist Defends Religion: Why Humanity Is Better Off with Religion than Without It.
Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and some other militant atheists have in recent years followed the example of T. H. Huxley and attacked religion viciously. Now, however, it seems that moderate atheists also want their voice to be heard.
Recently, Sheiman’s atheist colleague Bradley Monton defended intelligent design.
I wonder what atheists will next defend? They might for instance show that the global flood of Noah’s days helps us to understand the birth of fossil graveyards and that the empty tomb speaks convincingly of the resurrection of Christ.
We should keep in mind that even C. S. Lewis was an atheist before he became one of the best-known defenders of Christianity. Those who earnestly seek the truth usually find it.
Galli, Mark. 2009. A Pretty Good Religion. Christianity Today. (27 August) http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2009/augustweb-only/134-41.0.html
Friday, 28 August 2009
A new book describes intelligent design as science.
Usually, detractors of intelligent design dismiss it as religion clothed in scientific garb. Darwinists have for instance labelled it as a Trojan Horse for smuggling religious views into science teaching. They are often unable or unwilling to make a distinction between creationism and intelligent design.
A fresh book written by an atheist challenges the Darwinian understanding of intelligent design. Bradley Monton attempts to approach the issue objectively in his book Seeking God in Science: An Atheist Defends Intelligent Design (Broadway Press, 2009). Monton, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Colorado, concludes that intelligent design is science.
According to Monton, intelligent design is a genuine attempt to seek the truth and it could thus be included in the school science curriculum.
Monton’s theses are unusual. He acknowledges that intelligent design arguments have made him less certain of his atheism but he nevertheless tries to fit design into his worldview that excludes the supernatural.
It seems that Monton is an honest atheist.
A few years ago Anthony Flew, who for half a century was the best-known spokesman for atheism, acknowledged that arguments for ID caused him to understand that God exists.
Design in nature is obvious. The apostle Paul wrote:
” For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).
Gilson, Tom. 2009. ID's Unlikely Defender. (28 July)
Monday, 24 August 2009
Newly found squid ink suggests that the assumed millions of years never existed. Image of a modern-day squid courtesy of Hans Hillewaert, Wikipedia.
Palaeontologists have found fossilized squid ink in England. The one-inch (2.5 cm) long black ink sac of a fossil assumed to be 150 million years old was well preserved.
The ink is as good as new. The researchers used it to draw a picture of the squid. They also used the ink to write the squid's Latin name Belemnotheutis antiquus.
Dr. Phil Wilby of the British Geological Survey said that the animal closely resembles modern squids. He suggests its preservation is an enigma. ”It is difficult to imagine how you can have something as soft and sloppy as an ink sac fossilized in three dimension, still black, and inside a rock that is 150 million years old,” he said.
According to the researchers, the probability of finding a fossilized ink sac is one in a billion. The new discovery joins dinosaur soft tissue and C-14 found in diamonds to challenge belief in millions of years.
The squid fossil shows signs of rapid burial, suggesting it met its end in a catastrophe such as Noah’s Flood. In addition, it shows no signs of evolution.
BBC News. 2009. Ink found in Jurassic-era squid. (19 August)
Derbyshire, David. 2009. 155million years old and still inky: The perfectly preserved squid fossil amazing scientists. Mail Online (19 August) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1207367/The-150million-year-old-squid-fossil-perfectly-preserved-scientists-make-ink-ink-sac.html
Sunday, 23 August 2009
Skeptic Michael Shermer ponders the origin of religion. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
People have a tendency to explain reality in accordance with their worldview. This is no surprise since when they encounter issues that they cannot satisfactorily explain, they tend to suffer from cognitive dissonance, i.e. a mental conflict resulting from an attempt to believe in two or more mutually incompatible views simultaneously.
Thus, Sigmund Freud, for instance, developed a theory (or rather a hypothesis) of the origin of religion. In a typical Freudian manner he explained how sacrifices began.
Recently, Michael Shermer, editor of Skeptic magazine, outlined his view of the origin of religion. He suggests that humans believe in God since we have a tendency to ”find meaningful causal patterns in nature to make sense of the world”.
Shermer concocts his explanation by mixing animistic beliefs, voices that early people heard on the African savannah and social expediency.
Michael Shermer is an atheist who regards Darwinian evolution as fact. He thinks religion is a by-product of evolution that is beneficial for our existence.
Shermer assumes that aeons ago wild humans living on the savannahs of Africa associated the rustle they heard in the grass with predators and later learnt to discern other causal patterns in nature. He thinks this is ”the basis for the belief in souls, spirits, ghosts, gods, demons, angels, aliens, intelligent designers, government conspiracists, and all manner of invisible agents intending to harm us or help us.”
Natural selection plays a major role in Shemer’s explanation. it is good for us to live in peace with other people, and religion offers a set of rules for this that serves the evolution of our species.
Morals and religions are ruses that natural selection devised to get us to observe social and moral rules. At some stage, people came up with the idea of outsourcing the origin of these norms and they invented God to serve as lawgiver.
Shermer’s explanations of the development of religion are no more convincing than Freudian storytelling. They are mostly traditional Darwinian stories. It seems that their main purpose is to lessen Michael Shermer’s cognitive dissonance.
Shermer, Michael. 2009. Homo religious. http://skepticblog.org/2009/08/18/homo-religious/ (18 August).
Thursday, 20 August 2009
T. H. Huxley, known as Darwin’s Bulldog, thought this was how ape-like creatures learned to walk on two feet. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
A recent study on the wrist bones of chimpanzees and other apes purports to solve a long-standing Darwinian conundrum, viz. the origin of bipedalism. The findings, published in the Journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggest that previous models should be re-evaluated.
The dispute on how we learnt to walk upright on two feet has been brewing since the days of Charles Darwin. Some believe that apes rose up to walk on two feet. Others, however, think that apes came down from trees and began using their feet.
The researchers, led by Tracy Kivell, compared the wrist bones of 91 gorillas, 104 chimpanzees and 43 bonobos. They found traits that they interpreted as supporting knuckle walking in only six per cent of the gorillas. But 96 per cent of the chimpanzees and 76 per cent of bonobos had some of these traits.
According to Physorg.com, the recent study challenges the view that humans must have evolved their upright walking from a knuckle-walking ancestor. It also suggests that knuckle-walking evolved at least two times.
Seen in a critical light, this study does not disclose anything about human development. An ape has so long hands that they will prevent it from running upright. They could hardly be used for writing a blog, either.
And feet differ even more. An ape’s feet look like hands. However, a Darwinist wants to believe that these differences are not essential.
P.S. The researchers would do well to take a look at how some other simians, such as the Vervet monkey (Cercopithecus aethiops), use their feet. No Darwinist will claim that they are our cousins but they do occasionally stand on two feet.
Physorg. com. 2009. Bipedal humans came down from the trees, not up from the ground. (10 August) http://www.physorg.com/news169137362.html
Sunday, 16 August 2009
If we believe that Lucy is our grandmother, we will regard vestigial organs as relics of our animal past.
Vestigial organs have played a major role in the Darwinian understanding of our past. Surgeons used to cut off organs like the appendix that they thought were junk left over from the deep time of evolution. However, the very concept of vestigial organs is now becoming increasingly vestigial.
It seems that the primary purpose of vestigial organs is to show that all beings have developed from a common ancestor.
Newer research has shown that the idea of vestigial organs was based on a lack of knowledge. When a researcher who had adopted a Darwinian worldview did not find a function for an organ, he or she often regarded it as vestigial, a relict from man’s animal past.
The appendix, tonsils and spleen have been regarded as vestigial organs that no longer serve the function they once did. However, with the increase in knowledge about ourselves, these beliefs have been shown to be myths.
Recently, National Geographic News discussed several organs once thought to be vestigial but are now known to have a beneficial impact on our body.
In 2007, the Journal of Theoretical Biology published a study that revealed that the appendix is a storehouse for beneficial bacteria, helping us to digest food.
In 1977 The Lancet published a comprehensive longitudinal study on World War II veterans. Veterans who had lost their spleen were twice as likely to die from heart disease and pneunomia than those who had it intact.
Once again the creation model explains reality much better than the evolution model. The Fall brought suffering and harmful mutations into the world. In spite of this, humans are still “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). We do not have useless organs although not all of them might function optimally.
Darwinian assumptions and the lets’ cut it off attitude have often hampered progress in the medical sciences.
Koerth-Baker, Maggie. 2009. Vestigial Organs Not So Useless After All, Studies Find. National Geography News.(30 July) http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/07/090730-spleen-vestigial-organs.html
Friday, 14 August 2009
Ben Stein has noticed that criticism is not without risks.
For five or six years, Ben Stein wrote a popular bi-monthly column for the New York Times. However, atheists were offended with his 2008 documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. They also expressed their dislike of his views in the Times.
It seems that there is no room for the Designer in the liberal media.
Then Ben Stein criticised another icon of the left leaning media: Barack Obama or more specifically, his economic policy. Times promptly informed Ben Stein that the paper will no longer publish his column.
In other words, press freedom does not seem to fare well in the USA.
Stein, Ben. 2009. Expelled From the New York Times. The American Spectator (10 August)
Sunday, 9 August 2009
Crows are more innovative than chimpanzees. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
According to Darwinian evolution, chimpanzees are almost human. They should thus belong to the wisest of animals.
However, when it comes to tasks requiring innovation, crows are much better than chimpanzees.
Recently, researchers at Oxford University noticed that New Caledonian crows were able to use three different tools in the right sequence to get food.
According to a study published in the journal PloS One, the crows first had to use a short tool to get at a longer one. Next, using this, they had to drag the longest tool within reach so that they could get at the food.
Of the seven crows, five were repeatedly able to use the right tools in the right sequence. Four of the birds succeeded on their first attempt.
Chimpanzees have not succeeded in similar tasks. Although animals have some innate intelligence due to creation , there is an insurmountable intellectual chasm between humans and animals.
It seems that when it comes to innovation, crows are closer to people than chimpanzees.
In other words, the crows did bother to comply with the predictions of the Evolution model.
PhysOrg.com. 2009. Crows can use 'up to three tools'. (5 August) http://www.physorg.com/news168701856.html
Saturday, 8 August 2009
Charles Darwin was unable to come to grips with suffering. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
Two 19th century men unexpectedly lost some of their nearest and dearest. Charles Darwin’s mother died when he was eight and his eldest daughter Annie when she was ten.
In his misfortunes, Charles Darwin did not turn to God. Instead, he turned against Him, attempting to eliminate the Creator from reality. While his family had a long history of doubting the Bible, Annie’s death made him reject even the possibility of a remote Deistic God.
Darwin had a contemporary who experienced the same kind of grief but did not end up with a shipwrecked faith.
Joseph Scriven (1819-1886), who penned the hymn What a Friend We Have in Jesus , was born into a wealthy Irish family and was educated at Trinity College in Dublin. His later years were all but uneventful.
When Scriven was about to get married, his fiancée was drowned the day before the scheduled wedding. Scriven was 25 years old.
Misfortunes have caused many to turn away from God or even deny His existence but Scriven did the opposite.
For him, Jesus was not just a great teacher or prophet but much more. He knew what the Lord meant when He told the disciples, “You are my friends if you do what I command” (John 15:14).
Swedish gospel singer Pelle Karlsson sings about the amazing love of the Creator of the Universe who in spite of His awesome greatness still loves little people. Scriven had discovered this same secret. He turned to the only one who could offer him real consolation in his sorrow and anguish: Jesus, His Saviour.
Afterwards, Scriven packed his bags and left Ireland for Canada. To forget his own troubles he used most of his time and energy to help others. He was called The Good Samaritan of Port Hope.
In Canada Scriven fell in love with a young lady but she soon died of pneumonia.
In 1855 he received news of her mother’s grave illness. He could not see her but sent her a little poem that is practical theology at its best. He never intended it to be published.
Most of us know the words:
Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer.
The song What a Friend We Have in Jesus reminds us of our privilege of being able to take all our burdens to the Lord and be confident that He listens to us. He is present even when all others have left us.
In the midst of anxiety we can confidentially approach Him, since according to Hebrews 4:15-16 He is our High Priest who understands our weaknesses.
The Bible also calls Him Immanuel, ‘God with us’. Scriven understood that God is not aloof from us. The transcendent became immanent in Christ. He became our faithful friend.
While misfortunes caused Charles Darwin to loose his faith in God, Scriven took a more constructive approach. He knew he had a friend who would never desert him.
Joseph Scriven’s “little poem” has been a great source of inspiration for perhaps millions of people.
Keynes, Randal. 2002. Darwin, His Daughter & Human Evolution. New York: Riverhead Books.
Sanders, Roger W. 2009. Darwin’s Personal Struggle with Evil. Answers 4:1, 32-33.
Tuesday, 4 August 2009
A new study shows that chimpanzees are not innovative. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
Chimpanzees learn by imitating other chimps. They are able to teach their descendants how to crack nuts but their cultural achievements are mostly restricted to finding ways of getting food.
Recently, Andrew Whiten, a psychologist at St Andrew’s University in the UK, and Sarah Marshall-Pescini taught 11 young chimpanzees to lower a stick through a hole to scoop honey from a box. Five of the chimps succeeded in their attempts either independently or after watching the demonstration.
Next, Whiten and his colleagues showed the five chimpanzees how they could move the stick around the hole to release a latch that would open the box, making it easier for them to get at the honey and the peanuts hidden inside.
None of the chimpanzees were able to do it. "They didn't get it,” Whiten says. “They didn't show any kind of cumulative cultural evolution. "
In contrast, most three- and four-year old humans were able to open the box without much difficulty.
The study shows that there is an insurmountable chasm between humans and apes that cannot be explained away by Darwinian just so stories.
The answer is not blowing in the wind. It can be read on the opening pages of Genesis. God created man in His image. Like God, humans are capable of innovation. However, apes, like other animals, are not very good at inventing new strategies.
Callaway, Ewen. 2009. Apes may imitate but they struggle to innovate. New Scientist (22 July). http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn17499-apes-may-imitate-but-they-struggle-to-innovate.html?full=true
Sunday, 2 August 2009
T. rex bone contained collagen.
Can dinosaur proteins and soft tissue be preserved for tens of millions of years? Many researchers would think that it is impossible.
A fresh study confirmed that a Tyrannosaurus rex bone contained traces of proteins. This is causing a headache for those who believed dinosaurs roamed the earth millions of years ago.
In 2007 researchers found collagen in the bone of a T. rex that was assumed to be 68 million years old. Skeptics believed it was due to contamination. They assumed that the collagen originated from other fossils in the laboratory where they were analysed.
Recently, Marshall Bern, Brett Phinney and David Goldberg analysed this T. rex bone by mass spectrometry, confirming that it had traces of hemoglobin and collagen. The study will be published in the September issue of the Journal of Proteonic Research.
According to Bern and his colleagues, at least some of the proteins were very likely original, stemming from the T. rex.
It is basically impossible for collagen to be preserved for 68 million years. Mainstream researchers are nevertheless reluctant to give up the belief in millions of years although several recent discoveries suggest that they never existed.
In addition, collagen was recently also discovered in a Hadrosaur assumed to be 80 million years old.
Bern, Marshall, Brett S. Phinney ja David Goldberg. 2009. Reanalysis of Tyrannosaurus rex Mass Spectra. Journal of Proteonic Research.
EurekAlert! 2009. Reexamination of T. rex verifies disputed biochemical remains. (29 July) http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2009-07/acs-rot072909.php