Saturday, 30 July 2016
“Nature is smarter than our theories.”
This is how Roman Rafikov, an astrophysicist at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, commented on exoplanets that according to naturalistic planet formation theories are in the wrong place.
We can thank HR 8799b for this admission. It is a distant giant or a huge planet that orbits very far from its star.
Science has a longish article on how exoplanets don’t fit in with traditional naturalistic thinking:
“When astronomers discovered the first exoplanet around a normal star 2 decades ago, there was joy—and bewilderment. The planet, 51 Pegasi b, was half as massive as Jupiter, but its 4-day orbit was impossibly close to the star, far smaller than the 88-day orbit of Mercury. Theorists who study planet formation could see no way for a planet that big to grow in such tight confines around a newborn star. It could have been a freak, but soon, more ‘hot Jupiters’ turned up in planet searches, and they were joined by other oddities: planets in elongated and highly tilted orbits, even planets orbiting their stars ‘backward’—counter to the star’s rotation.”
And this is hardly the end of the matter. The article introduces distant giants:
“Ground-based telescopes … have found giant planets several times the mass of Jupiter, orbiting their star at more than twice the distance Neptune is from the sun—another region where theorists thought it was impossible to grow large planets. Other planetary systems looked nothing like our orderly solar system, challenging the well-worn theories that had been developed to explain it.”
Astronomers used to believe that giant planets migrated to the orbits they now follow, but some are not convinced by this explanation.
Science publications often describe exoplanets as ‘weird’, ‘anomalies’ or even ‘impossible.’ Some are so weird that no theory can explain their formation.
Recently, astronomers found a planet with three suns.
The diversity we are beginning to see in exoplanets is staggering. It’s a far cry from the one-size- fits-all model.
What is obvious is that Earth is a unique planet. Some astronomers are willing to admit that there’s no place like home in the entire universe.
So, if nature looks smart, there most probably is a reason for it. I would suggest that the answer is not blowing in the wind, but should be sought in the Supreme Designer, who is the Father of all Ingenuity.
Clery, Daniel. 2016. Forbidden planets: Understanding alien worlds once thought impossible. Science (28 July).
Thursday, 28 July 2016
A captive orangutan has learnt to utter something that sounds a bit like hoo or huu, and this has inspired Darwinists to speculate about the evolution of language.
New Scientist gives us a summary of what occurred:
“An orangutan has shown an ability to emulate human speech for the first time — a feat that gets us closer to understanding how human speech first evolved from the communications of ancestral great apes.”
This account is heavily biased towards Darwinism. The ape did not utter a single human word, but only a few sounds – or perhaps ‘grunts’ is a more befitting description.
Evolutionists were nonetheless impressed, as they tend to be when something like this happens:
“ ‘Rocky’ the ginger ape has astonished experts by producing sounds similar to words in a ‘conversational context’.”
Then the storytelling attempts to reach the stratosphere:
“ ‘This opens up the potential for us to learn more about the vocal capacities of early hominids that lived before the split between the orangutan and human lineages to see how the vocal system evolved towards full-blown speech in humans,’ says lead researcher Adriano Lameria, from the University of Durham, UK.
His team conducted a game in which the ape mimicked the pitch and tone of human sounds and made vowel-like calls.”
The orangutan’s calls are a far cry from language. Parrots and some other birds can do a lot better, yet evolutionists don’t get carried away by their prowess.
When it comes to speech, apes and monkeys just don’t have the necessary organs. No amount of wishful thinking can be of any help.
For Darwinists, the origin and evolution of language is an enigma. Some refer to it as Darwin’s problem (but it’s not his only one). It cannot be solved by storytelling.
However, they have tried a variety of approaches, for instance apes gesticulating with their arms, taming ourselves, gorilla song, ape laughter, and marmoset communication featuring listening.
But none of them are convincing. Apes differ too much from us.
Whereas some would say that the monkeys’ loss of voice control kept them from evolving language, a more plausible view is that only humans are programmed to learn language.
And that sets us apart from all other creatures. Only humans were created in the image of God.
New Scientist staff and Press Association. 2016. Orangutan learns to mimic human conversation for the first time. (27 July).
Tuesday, 26 July 2016
An Egyptian limestone statue measuring 45 X 40 centimetres sheds light on the time of Joshua. It was excavated at Tel-Hazor, north of the Sea of Galilee.
Tel-Hazor is the largest excavation site in Israel. Archaeologists have made many important discoveries at Hazor, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, during the past 30 years.
Earlier this year (2016) they found part of an Egyptian statue. Science Daily reports:
“Only the lower part of the statue survived, depicting the crouching feet of a male figure, seated on a square base on which a few lines in the Egyptian hieroglyphic script are inscribed.
This is not surprising considering the special status of the king of Hazor who was the most important king in Southern Canaan at the time. The extraordinary importance of Hazor in the 15th-13th centuries B.C.E. is indicated also by the Biblical reference to Hazor as 'the head of all those kingdoms' (Joshua 11:10).”
Secular researchers often use B.C.E. instead of B.C. to count the years before Christ’s birth, but that does not change the fact that the statue hails from the time of Joshua:
“The population of Hazor in the second millennium BCE is estimated to have been about 20,000, making it the largest and most important city in the entire region. Its size and strategic location on the route connecting Egypt and Babylon made it 'the head of all those kingdoms' according to the biblical book of Joshua (Joshua 11:10). Hazor’s conquest by the Israelites opened the way to the conquest and settlement of the Israelites in Canaan.”
Archaeology is a friend of the Bible. It confirms biblical history, people, buildings, places and even catastrophes such as earthquakes.
Statues, coins, ossuaries (bone boxes) and seal impressions show names mentioned in the Bible.
This should not be a surprise for us. After all, the Bible describes the true history of mankind accurately and reliably.
Hebrew University of Jerusalem. 2016. Historic find: A statue of an egyptian official at tel-hazor in israel. Science Daily (25 July).
Sunday, 24 July 2016
What would evolution be without its just so stories?
It might probably sound a bit more boring. Stories make good headlines, even if their credibility might be questionable.
Recently, the journal Current Biology published a paper entitled Just So Stories about the Evolution of Apoptosis.
Apoptosis means programmed cell death. Without it, cells would keep on living past their due dates, causing cancer and other unpleasant diseases.
The paper’s abstract says:
“Apoptosis is a form of active cell death engaged by developmental cues as well as many different cellular stresses in which the dying cell essentially ‘packages’ itself for removal. The process of apoptotic cell death, as defined at the molecular level, is unique to the Metazoa (animals).”
What it does not say is that like some molecular machines, apoptosis is irreducibly complex.
It could not have evolved through a stepwise Darwinian process. All parts had to be present at the start, or the mechanism would not work.
However, the paper attempts to explain why apoptosis can be seen in many different life forms:
“Yet active cell death exists in non-animal organisms, and in some cases molecules involved in such death show some sequence similarities to those involved in apoptosis, leading to extensive speculation regarding the evolution of apoptosis.”
Their use of the word 'speculation' seems to be an honest definition of what they are trying to do:
“Here, we examine such speculation from the perspective of the functional properties of molecules of the mitochondrial apoptotic cell death pathway. We suggest scenarios for the evolution of one pathway of apoptosis, the mitochondrial pathway, and consider how they might be tested. We conclude with a ‘Just So Story’ of how the mitochondrial pathway of apoptosis might have evolved during eukaryotic evolution.”
'Just so story' might also be a befitting description of what they’re trying to do. It is often used in an attempt to keep the Divine Foot outside, as professor Richard Lewontin famously suggested.
Controlled cell death is a very complicated process. In 2002 Sydney Brenner, H. Robert Horvitz and John E. Sulston were awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for identifying genes that control apoptosis.
For more details, I would suggest you read Philip Bell’s excellent article on apoptosis in the Journal of Creation.
It shows how such a process could not have evolved.
Bell, Philip. 2004. The non-evolution of apoptosis. Journal of Creation 18(1): 86–96.
Green, Douglas R. and Patrick Fitzgerald. 2016. Just So Stories about the Evolution of Apoptosis. Current Biology 26 (13): R620–R627 (11 July).
Friday, 22 July 2016
This summer has not been good for dark energy, one of the several unknown factors used to prop up the Big Bang. Some astronomers want to get rid of it.
And now it seems that dark matter is faring even worse. A two-year search for this elusive stuff found absolutely nothing.
Astronomers believe that this stuff should “be made up of particles that have some mass and interact weakly with other matter,” as New Scientist puts it; hence the name weakly interacting massive particles, or WIMPs.
But a fancy name does not mean that it really exists. In the standard model, i.e. the Big Bang, dark matter is needed to keep galaxies together, otherwise they might fly apart and the universe would be a mess.
Writing in New Scientist, Jacob Aron says: “What’s unknown is how often these particles bounce off each other – their scattering cross section – and their mass. They should also occasionally bump into normal matter. These rare collisions are what experiments like the Large Underground Xenon detector (LUX) are designed to pick up, in order to determine WIMPs’ properties.”
But they didn’t find “a single whiff”.
Basically, the Big Bang model says that in the beginning there was a quantum fluctuation that occurred for no reason at all, and then the universe suddenly accelerated for no reason, breaking all cosmic speed limits during a brief epoch called inflation.
The BB model should have produced as much antimatter as there is matter and thus blown everything up.
Obviously, it didn’t. Instead, we see a finely tuned universe in which early galaxies grew too fast for the Big Bang.
Everything in our cosmic neighbourhood points to Divine foresight.
God by His sovereign wisdom created a habitable place for us.
Aron, Jacob. 2016. Dark matter no-show puts favoured particles on death row. New Scientist (21 July).
Wednesday, 20 July 2016
Many geological discoveries suggest that our planet was once much warmer than it is now. We have read of Arctic dinosaur fossils, camel fossils in Canada, pollen from tropical trees in Antarctica
and a fossilised tropical forest in Norway, to name just a few examples.
We can probably add another interesting discovery to this list. An article posted on Live Science gives the gist:
“A network of ancient rivers lies frozen in time beneath one of Greenland's largest glaciers, new research reveals.”
The article then mixes data and assumptions, featuring belief in millions of years:
“The subglacial river network, which threads through much of Greenland's landmass and looks, from above, like the tiny nerve fibers radiating from a brain cell, may have influenced the fast-moving Jakobshavn Isbrae glacier over the past few million years.”
We shouldn’t forget that that no one has actually dated the rivers and radiometric dating has serious defects.
It almost always is in conflict with dates obtained through the molecular clock approach.
Michael Cooper, a doctoral candidate in geography at the University of Bristol, UK, who with his colleagues wrote a paper on the rivers, thinks that the
“Shape of the valleys and canyons beneath the ice [suggest that they were] likely formed by rivers cutting the rock away over time, rather than by the glacier.”
He points out that the valleys were V-shaped instead of being U-shaped. He proposes that they were formed before the ice age.
That might well have been during or just after the great Flood.
Huge aquifers in arid Northern Kenya, a semi-desert known for its Born Free books and TV series featuring the lioness Elsa and her cubs, might likewise be remnants of Noah’s Flood.
Mountain gaps and massive fossil graveyards also speak of a universal watery catastrophe.
We can’t be absolutely sure whether the hidden rivers are relics of Noah’s Flood but that seems to be a valid interpretation. What we know is that they are a glimpse into a world that differs a lot from ours.
Ghose, Tia. 2016. Secret World of Primeval Rivers Lies Beneath Greenland Glacier. Live Science (5 July).
Monday, 18 July 2016
The scientific community is facing a huge crisis.
Increasingly, researchers are publishing results that others can’t replicate. Scientific misconduct is on the rise. Many papers have been retracted, as scientists were less than rigorous in their research.
Unfortunately, at least one good paper was also retracted for no other reason than its use of two non-Darwinian keywords.
Now two scientists are proposing an interesting reason for increasing scientific misconduct: evolutionary forces.
Writing in New Scientist, Simon Oxenham says:
“Paul Smaldino and Richard McElreath at the University of California Davis used an evolutionary theory-based computational model to analyse the problem of bad science. They found that ‘the most powerful incentives in contemporary science actively encourage, reward and propagate poor research methods and abuse of statistical procedures’. In short, it’s natural selection for shoddy science.”
Well, if that is what evolution-believing researchers think, how can we trust anything they say?
While scientists are fond of using words like ‘innovative’, ‘groundbreaking’ and ‘novel’ in the abstracts of their papers, they tend to exaggerate the importance of their findings:
“Smaldino and McElreath found that their model pushed researchers to do less rigorous science, and publish more false positives. They suggest that their model shows that bad science can be explained as a result of the evolutionary selective pressures that are acting on scientists.”
Putting it in slightly different words, it seems that scientific misconduct thrives in the Darwinian community.
For instance, evolutionary psychologist Marc Hauser, a champion of Darwinian morality, was accused of scientific misconduct.
So perhaps we should thank evolution for bad science.
Oxenham, Simon. 2016. Evolutionary forces are causing a boom in bad science. New Scientist (8 July).
Saturday, 16 July 2016
If you think that Earth is just an ordinary planet, or that our solar system is in no way special, you might want to think again.
While we keep on hearing of new exoplanet discoveries almost weekly, none of them resemble our just right blue planet.
Ours is a privileged world.
Astronomers have known for some years that many star systems are really weird. Hot Jupiters and Super Earths orbit systems that look anything but friendly.
Now it seems that some systems are really strange.
A report in Science says:
“Far-off solar systems keep getting weirder: Researchers have spotted a super-Jupiter orbiting a star in a three-sun system at a distance twice as far as Pluto is from our own sun. That makes the planet, dubbed HD 131399Ab … by far the widest ranging exoplanet in a multistar system, the scientists report online today in Science. Preliminary data suggest that the gas giant—about four times the mass of Jupiter—orbits the largest and brightest of the three stars (which has about 1.8 times the mass of our sun) once every 550 years or so. The other two suns in the system … smaller stars that orbit each other relatively tightly and quickly, lie somewhere between 45 billion and 60 billion kilometers away.”
Obviously, researchers do not expect to find little green men in these worlds – or creatures of any colour, for that matter.
“The intricate dance of the planet and these stars … is taking place about 320 light-years from us. Measurements at near-infrared wavelengths suggest that HD 131399Ab’s atmosphere contains water vapor and methane, and that the planet’s cloud tops are about 850 K (577°C).”
This odd star system is a major problem for naturalistic scenarios:
“It’s not exactly clear where this odd world formed, the team notes: It might have coalesced closer to the main star in the system and then migrated outward to its present locale, or it may have formed in orbit around the smaller pair of stars only to be ejected and then captured by the larger star.”
‘Exactly clear’ is an understatement. Some exoplanets are so weird that they have practically killed off all naturalistic planet formation theories.
But Earth seems to be fine-tuned for life.
Perkins, Sid. 2016. Distant planet has three suns and a year more than 500 times longer than ours. Science (7 July).
Thursday, 14 July 2016
The toco toucan (Ramphastos toco) has an enormous beak, roughly one-third of its total length. Evolutionists have proposed at least two explanations for this:
Charles Darwin thought its size could be explained by sexual selection.
Latter-day evolutionists assumed that the bird ate fish because its beak looked like it did.
However, both guesses were as wrong as wrong could be. Many animals that look carnivorous actually eat vegetables or fruit.
Bagheera kiplingi is a spider that eats acacia leaves. Fruit bats drink nectar and eat tropical fruit. The giant panda mostly eats bamboo. Tiarajudens eccentricus, an extinct a dog-sized, sabre-toothed animal, ate plants.
And Moschus cupreus, a sabre-toothed mammal that still lives in Afghanistan, is not a predator.
A paper in Science suggests that the toucan’s beak
“serves primarily as a thermoregulator. Infrared thermography techniques, which allow detailed observations with minimal disturbance to the birds, show that the birds alter blood flow to the bill according to ambient conditions, effectively using it as a radiator to ‘dump heat’.”
The abstract gives some details:
“The toco toucan (Ramphastos toco), the largest member of the toucan family, possesses the largest beak relative to body size of all birds. This exaggerated feature has received various interpretations, from serving as a sexual ornament to being a refined adaptation for feeding. However, it is also a significant surface area for heat exchange. Here we show the remarkable capacity of the toco toucan to regulate heat distribution by modifying blood flow, using the bill as a transient thermal radiator. Our results indicate that the toucan's bill is, relative to its size, one of the largest thermal windows in the animal kingdom, rivaling elephants' ears in its ability to radiate body heat.”
This suggests a major dilemma for Darwinians: How many toucans perished during a heat wave before evolution found a cure through increasing the size of their beaks?
Glenn J. Tattersall, Denis V. Andrade and Augusto S. Abe. 2009. Heat Exchange from the Toucan Bill Reveals a Controllable Vascular Thermal Radiator. Science 325: 5939, 468–470.
Tuesday, 12 July 2016
It seems that each new fossil discovery presents a fresh dilemma for Darwinian evolution. Two exceedingly well-preserved bird fossils found in an ancient lake-bed in Wyoming are no exceptions.
A paper published in the Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History describes a bird now known as Calciavis grandei.
At least the first part of the name is a misnomer. Calci means ‘hard’ or ‘stone’ and avis ‘bird’, but according to a report posted on Science Daily, the specimens are “completely intact with bones, feathers, and soft tissues.”
The flightless birds are roughly the size of a chicken. They are assumed to be “50 million years” old and relatives of ostriches.
Ostriches are flightless African birds, but some of their cousins must have succeeded in getting over to America, or evolution had to find another solution to their close kinship with the Calciavis grandei.
Darwinians will now have to choose to believe in either rafting or convergent evolution.
1. The birds rafted from Africa, much like the old world monkeys had to do, as a wide ocean separated Africa and South America.
While continental drift might have brought the continents a bit closer, hundreds of kilometres still separated them. The birds would have been expert mariners.
Evolutionists also have to assume that tarsiers rafted from Asia to Africa and back again – several times, that old world monkeys rafted to South America and then either swam or rafted to Central America.
2. The birds evolved in both Africa and America. While Darwinists often invoke convergent evolution, it makes their case even less credible.
So, they’re welcome to pick their favourite fable. In either case, it’s anything but credible.
Virginia Tech. 2016. Ostrich relative lived in North America about 50 million years ago. Science Daily. (5 July).
Sunday, 10 July 2016
Some pterosaurs were as big as giraffes. With a wingspan of 10–11 metres (32–36 ft.), they seemed to be too large and too heavy to fly.
So, how did they do it?
A recent post in The Conversation suggests that in a way they resembled giant bats, with exquisitely designed features:
“Unlike birds with feathered wings, pterosaurs had a membrane that stretched from the end of an elongated fourth finger to their legs (more similar to a bat than a bird). This membrane had internal structures called actinofibrils to strengthen the wings, and provide structural support. They also had a unique bone in their wrist called the pteroid, which controlled the leading edge of the wing.”
But it seems that like some extinct mosaic-like animals (such as Archaeopteryx and Tiktaalik) and some living mosaics (for instance, the duck-billed platypus and the spiny anteater), they also shared some features with another kind of living animal, viz. the bird:
“Pterosaurs also had a highly specialised respiratory system, similar to that of birds, with air sacs in addition to their lungs. This is a much more effective breathing system, which is important for providing the large amounts of energy needed for flight. Pterosaurs had air sacs in their necks and trunk, and larger creatures also had them in their wings. In many cases, the air sacs invade the bones and hollow them out, making their wing bones extremely thin-walled. This is referred to as skeletal pneumaticity and is another important element contributing to large pterosaurs' ability to fly.”
The take away message from this post is that the pterosaurs were designed for flight.
Darwin-defying top-down design is very evident in these amazing creatures of yesteryear.
Martin-Silverstone, Elizabeth. 2016. Pterosaurs should have been too big to fly – so how did they manage it? The Conversation (30 June).
Friday, 8 July 2016
When describing the octopus, journalists tend to run out of superlatives. A writer in Nature described it as an eight-legged marvel and another used the expressions octopus ballet and uncanny intelligence.
Few animals can match its intelligence.
And its genome is also full of surprises. When researchers sequenced its genome they found that the octopus has more protein-coding genes (33,000) than we do.
Popular science websites concocted intriguing headlines from the octopus genome. Some suggested that the octopus had alien DNA or at least weird DNA and that it was not of this world at all.
The genome abounds in transposons or transposable elements (TEs). Also known as jumping genes, they can move from one place to another within the genome.
Jumping genes move about in the part of the genome once dismissed as junk.
Now we know that it was a misnomer and it has important regulatory functions.
Octopuses are marvels in others ways as well. Some are able to live 4,000 metres (13,000 feet) below the surface.
And octopuses are living fossils that have hardly changed in “95 million years”.
Science World Report. 2016. Octopuses Are Aliens With Weird DNA And Superpower Capabilities. (June 13).
Wednesday, 6 July 2016
A lioness in India. Image courtesy of Rupal Vaidya, Creative Commons (CC BY 2.0).
On a farm in Russian Dagestan, a lioness runs after a flock of sheep.
But instead of having them for dinner, Mashka rounds them up. She herds them like a sheep dog and brings them home.
The lioness has been on the farm since she was a cub. The farmer says that she’s very obedient.
She does eat meat, though, but only the beef that her owner gives her.
According to the Darwinian story, nature should be red in tooth and claw. However, at times it isn’t.
Even more or less fierce felines can defy evolutionary expectations.
Recently, we heard of a cat on an Irish farm that adopted ducklings.
This reminds us of Eden, when bad things had not yet happened. Thorns did not grow, and death did not reign in the animal kingdom. Small creatures did not fear big ones or even humans.
Hybrid felines, such as a liger and savannah cat, suggest that Genesis is a more credible source on the cat kind than The Origin of Species.
BBC News. 2016. The lion herding sheep in Russia's Dagestan. (2 July). The BBC report includes a brief video.
Monday, 4 July 2016
While the entire idea of human evolution has always been more or less fuzzy, it has now turned out to be a total mess.
We can thank a new assumed date of 912,000 years BP (before present) for Homo Naledi for this devolution.
In 2015 Lee Berger and his colleagues published a paper on what they claimed to be a new human species. Their discovery consisted of 1,500 pieces of teeth and bones.
Lee Berger is also known for the discovery of the very controversial Australopithecus sediba that was once touted as a human ancestor but was later practically tossed aside.
The success of purported human ancestors tends to be very brief. Some, like nutcracker man and Taung child a.k.a. Australopithecus africanus, have fared a little longer.
Soon after Berger and colleagues published the discovery of H. naledi in the rather obscure journal eLife, some anthropologists voiced their scepticism of its inclusion in the human family tree. They even doubted that all the bones and pieces belonged to the same species.
This scepticism hasn’t gone away. And the fossils were never dated.
Several studies have suggested that radiometric dating cannot be trusted, as it tends to give too old dates for fossils.
However, it seems that Darwinists can come up with a date for fossils without actually dating them. In their method, the evolutionary tail wags the Darwinian dog:
Mark Collard, a biological anthropologist at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, and his colleagues developed a computer model with which they could analyse skull, jaw and tooth features of assumed human ancestors.
The model suggests a date of 912,000 years BP for H. naledi, which would make it too young for a human ancestor, as the oldest specimens of the fully-human H. erectus are much older.
The Hobbit or H. floresiensis has likewise rocked the Darwinian paddleboat that is now drifting in the wrong direction.
Choi, Charles Q. 2016. Newfound Human Species Suggests Africa Was Evolutionary Melting Pot. Live Science (29 June).
Saturday, 2 July 2016
An article recently posted in the UCLA Newsroom suggests that we can use evolution to explain “the ‘births’ and ‘deaths’ of every American-made car and truck model from 1896 to 2014.”
The researchers invoke the fossil record to make their case:
“Applying an evolutionary biology approach worked so well because the automotive industry’s technological records are very similar to the paleontological fossil record,” says Michael Alfaro, a UCLA professor of ecology and evolutionary biology.
However, the thinking behind the two approaches is diametrically different. Whereas Darwinian evolution is supposed to have no ultimate goal or direction, with natural selection acting on random mutations to come upon a solution of sorts, each car make and model was designed by human engineers, who used their intelligence in the task.
One of the things that evolution does not do is designing.
With the passing of years, the cars looked different, as engineers found new ways of improving them, for instance.
Things change, but calling it evolution is a gross misuse of the E-word.
Evolution is without doubt one of the most misused of all words, due to its variety of meanings. And all too often Darwinists tend to muddy the waters and use different definitions of evolution in the same article.
Wolpert, Stuart. 2016. Technique from biology helps explain the evolution of the American car. UCLA Newsroom (24 June).