Friday, 30 September 2016
It almost takes a miracle to keep starlings from colliding. When hundreds of thousands of birds fly very close together and none fall to the ground, it well-nigh looks like magic.
But it isn’t. They follow a very precise strategy.
And now it seems that other birds have a somewhat similar trick that prevents collisions.
University of Queensland researchers filmed budgerigars flying towards each other in a narrow tunnel. They repeated the test 100 times, just to be sure, and noticed that almost always the birds veered right to prevent collisions.
Occasionally, the birds used a different approach. According to New Scientist,
“The budgerigars also tended to fly past each other at different heights, which prevented mid-air collisions on the rare occasions that one of the birds veered left.”
They did not observe a single crash.
Researchers hope to use these findings to design more efficient anti-crash systems in drones.
Unfortunately, the researchers decided to give credit to evolution. They believe that birds have evolved these strategies for “150 million years”.
But Darwinian explanations tend to be implausible.
They are hardly more credible than Rudyard Kipling’s just-so stories of How the Leopard got His Spots or How the Camel got His Hump.
Since evolution is a bumbling trial-and-error method, thousands of birds must have collided and potentially died before the strategy eliminated all crashes.
Where are all the fossils?
Klein, Alice. 2016. Budgies reveal the rule that means birds never collide in flight New Scientist (28 September).
Wednesday, 28 September 2016
Science, scientism and reason are popular words that many people understand precisely the way they want to.
Sceptics have re-defined science. It used to be a search for the best explanation, but somewhere along the way Darwinists hijacked the word, making it the search for the best naturalistic explanation.
This has had far-reaching consequences. Some have embraced thinking that hails from the teaching of Eastern philosophers and they question the very reality of our existence.
Elon Musk, for instance, believes we might be living in a computer simulation.
Many other sceptics think we are insignificant. This is what Bill Nye, the 2010 Humanist of the Year, believes about humans:
“I'm insignificant. ... I am just another speck of sand. And the earth really in the cosmic scheme of things is another speck. And the sun an unremarkable star. ... And the galaxy is a speck. I'm a speck on a speck orbiting a speck among other specks among still other specks in the middle of specklessness. I suck.”
Consciousness and free will are hard dilemmas for Darwinists and so is the existence of the self.
Recently, Robert Lawrence Kuhn wrote an article on Live Science in which the difficulties brought by Alzheimer's to his 100-year old mother prompted him to take a critical look at selfhood.
He seems to think that while the self might be real, it is material, located in the brain.
While sceptics might invoke reason for this choice, ignoring all but the material dimension is not very reasonable.
As British writer G. K. Chesterton put it, atheists have a doctrine against the supernatural. This eventually leads to the destruction of reason.
The Bible takes an entirely different approach. We are made in God’s image and as such we are accountable to Him for all our deeds, choices and misdeeds.
And He freely offers us pardon, friendship and eternal life through faith in Jesus.
Kuhn, Robert Lawrence. 2016. Is Your 'Self' Just an Illusion? Live Science (7 September).
Monday, 26 September 2016
Professor Stephen Hawking keeps on seeing threats here and there. Recently he again warned us of the danger of trying to contact aliens.
He thinks there might be life on Gliese 832c, an exoplanet that orbits a red dwarf star some 16 light years from us. It is five times as big as Earth and has a year (i.e., the length of one orbit) that lasts a mere 36 days.
Last year, Professor Hawking launched the $100 million Breakthrough Listen initiative with Russian tycoon Yuri Milner with the aim of finding extraterrestrial life:
“The Breakthrough Listen project will scan the nearest million stars for signs of life, but I know just the place to start looking. One day we might receive a signal from a planet like Gliese 832c, but we should be wary of answering back,” The Independent quotes him as saying.
He is afraid that the little green men might kill us off.
This is not the first time he warns us of bad aliens.
In his naturalistic /materialistic world, the universe should be teeming with life, some of which might be far more intelligent than we are.
And since the only model he knows of is our fallen world, he obviously thinks aliens must also be bad.
He believes that the universe made itself through natural laws. He has everything popping out of nothing.
But quantum fluctuations cannot salvage lazy thinking.
By ignoring the supernatural dimension, Prof. Hawkins is in effect endorsing the flatland view of reality.
He has previously warned humanity of the threat posed by artificial intelligence (AI), so seeing threats all over the place seems to be second nature to him.
Griffin, Andrew. 2016. Stephen Hawking warns that humanity should not respond to aliens in case they kill us all. The Independent (23 September).
Saturday, 24 September 2016
Each year, Harvard University awards research that differs quite a bit from the run-of-the-mill papers flooding science journals. While the Ig Nobels are meant to be funny, they are based on real research.
Often, the research has a Darwinian connection. Or what would we say about this year’s economics prize, awarded to Mark Avis, Sarah Forbes, and Shelagh Ferguson, for assessing the perceived personalities of rocks, from a sales and marketing perspective?
According to the evolutionary worldview, rocks are our distance ancestors. Life and consciousness are afterthoughts. ‘Personality’ should actually be a big dilemma for Darwinists.
This year’s biology prize is no less Darwinian. It was awarded jointly to “Charles Foster, for living in the wild as, at different times, a badger, an otter, a deer, a fox, and a bird; and to Thomas Thwaites, for creating prosthetic extensions of his limbs that allowed him to move in the manner of, and spend time roaming hills in the company of, goats.”
In attempting to be as authentic as possible, Mr. Foster ate worms, while Mr. Thwaites munched grass like his hirsute mates.
In a Darwinian world, man is just another animal, related to things like mushrooms. So why not eat grass and worms and live like our four-footed cousins?
Each winner also received a $10 trillion monetary compensation for their ordeal. Robert Mugabe might not like this, but it is a Zimbabwean banknote, hardly worth the paper it is printed on.
Bohannon, John. 2016. Sex life of rats, personalities of rocks awarded Ig Nobel Prizes. Science (22 September).
Thursday, 22 September 2016
Ants are ingenious creatures. While they have a miniature brain, they can do some basic arithmetic, and build living rafts and huge anthills.
Some of these structures are over 9 metres (30 feet) high. Taking their size into account, humans would have to erect buildings that are over 2 kilometres (1.25 miles) high to be able to compete with these clever builders.
Some ants have come up with an elaborate farming system. Evolutionists believe this happened some “25 million years” ago.
Recently, New Scientist (NS) described another amazing ability, viz. bridge building, that ants are good at:
“BARRO Colorado Island is tiny and sits in the middle of the Panama Canal. Here, below the forest dome, a diminutive predator scuttles over dead leaves and along narrow branches. Nearly blind, this Eciton army ant follows a trail of chemical signals laid down by her sisters. She pushes forward, relentlessly, in search of prey. Whatever she finds, she’ll bring back to the nest to share with her colony.
But then she stops. The ground has dropped away in front of her. There is no scent trail, just empty space. Other members of the colony that were following begin to climb over her. Now, instead of walking in a line, they grip hold of one another using hooks on their feet, adding body after body to build an impromptu bridge. More and more join in, until they traverse the gap. And there they remain until the entire foraging party, numbering hundreds, has crossed. Then, as suddenly as it came into being, the bridge disperses, and the ants continue on their way.”
NS says that this is “an impressive feat of coordination.” Given their “very limited brainpower” and despite having no “overview of the situation” they manage to do the impossible.
This would be difficult if not impossible to explain by invoking Darwinian processes that tend to be more or less myopic.
But in a created world we would expect animals to be intelligent.
Hess, Peter. 2016. Get inside the collective mind of a genius superorganism. New Scientist (7 September).
Tuesday, 20 September 2016
No megastructure. No aliens.
Not so long ago SETI enthusiasts thought they saw evidence of a “massive extraterrestrial construction project”, as New Scientist puts it, near Tabby’s star.
A star can become 1 per cent dimmer when an exoplanet crosses in front of it. This occurs at regular intervals. However, astronomers were unable to explain why Tabby’s star or KIC 8462852, as it is officially known, became 20 per cent dimmer – sporadically.
Recent research suggests that asteroids or alien megastructures can’t explain what is happening. The proposed solution is a swarm of interstellar comets.
The problem is that no one knows whether they exist.
Jason Wright at Pennsylvania State University, who initially came up with the idea of alien megastructures, now thinks the dimming may be caused by an interstellar cloud between us and the star.
This might well be a plausible explanation as Tabby’s star has been dimming for a hundred years or so.
This has not been a good year for the SETI folks. It has cast doubt on the famous wow signal and the strong radio signal coming from the star HD 164595.
It seems that those who reject the Christian worldview tend to believe in more or less bizarre phenomena.
There seems to be a strong correlation between belief in Darwinian evolution and in UFOs, for instance.
Hall, Shannon. 2016. ‘Alien megastructure’ star may be explained by interstellar junk. New Scientist (19 September).
Sunday, 18 September 2016
Science calls them the “oldest-ever proteins.” Their assumed age is “3.8 million years”, and researchers extracted them from ostrich egg shells found in Laetoli, Tanzania.
This might be a bit misleading, as collagen has been discovered in dinosaur bone, and collagen is certainly a protein.
Scientists have estimated that collagen could last perhaps 1– 2 million years if kept frozen, otherwise it would not last even half a million years.
Laetoli lies just south of the Equator on a plain where temperatures would hardly ever fall below the freezing point, so it seems that dogma (millions-of-years) means more to these researchers than letting the evidence speak for itself.
The preservation of DNA in “1.4 million year” old plankton, as well as blood vessels and radiocarbon (C-14) in dinosaur bone make it practically impossible to believe in millions of years.
But what beats all other discoveries of ancient protein is that of protein compounds in “1.88 billion year old” cyanobacteria.
Gibbons, Ann. 2016. Oldest-ever proteins extracted from 3.8-million-year-old ostrich shells. Science (16 September).
Friday, 16 September 2016
Secular Moon origin hypotheses have not fared well recently.
And the ones that do make it into headlines rely too much on fiction and speculation.
The latest casualty is the view that relies on the collision between a Mars-sized body and a proto-Earth. A paper in Nature compared the potassium-41 and potassium-39 levels in lunar rocks and terrestrial rocks.
Science Daily summarises the results:
“The leading theory for the moon's formation got in trouble recently when it was revealed that the moon and Earth are isotopic twins. Now highly precise measurements of the isotopes of an element that was still condensed at the ‘cut off’ temperature when material started to fall back to Earth suggest a dramatic solution to the problem.”
The expression ‘got in trouble’ is an understatement. The hypothesis or story is practically dead.
Washington University in St. Louis. 2016. Moon is proto-earth's mantle, relocated, chemistry suggests. Science Daily. (12 September).
Wednesday, 14 September 2016
Professor Stuart Burgess: Sceptics Can’t Avoid Irreducible Complexity: They’re Standing on a Knee Joint That’s Irreducibly Complex
While evolutionists expect to see bad design, there is no such thing in nature.
Richard Dawkins was as wrong as wrong could be when he wrote about what he thought was poor design, especially when he claimed that the human eye was the work of a complete idiot.
It is actually a good example of superb design and has inspired engineers to build better cameras.
But, then, Dawkins has never designed anything.
Everything we see in nature is designed very well, even in a fallen world. Many excellent features in the animal kingdom and in us are better designed than the smart devices humans have built.
Prof. Stuart Burgess of the University of Bristol, UK, lectured on biomimetics at the recent Creation Declares conference in London.
In his talk, he quoted Charles Darwin, who said:
“If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.”
There are numerous such things, not only in animals but also in us. In addition to the dragonfly’s delicate design, birds’ wings, fish jaws, we also have something that every sceptic needs, i.e. the knee joint that is irreducibly complex.
Burgess, Stuart. 2016. Inspiration from Creation: Lessons from Biomimetics. Lecture given at the Creation Declares Conference in London, UK. (9 September).
Tuesday, 13 September 2016
When I attended my very first creation conference in the United Kingdom in 2006, it drew some 400 participants. Now, ten years later a two-day conference attracted almost a thousand people from 12 countries.
The speakers at the Creation Declares were some of the best scientists and theologians within the creationist movement, including professor Stuart Burgess, and doctors Jonathan Sarfati and Vij Sodera.
The talks they gave at the conference reminds us that creation declares the glory of God, even after the Fall that brought bad things into the world and Noah’s Flood by which He punished the evil that was rampant in the ancient world.
Thursday, 8 September 2016
Can science explain why some people choose to tell lies?
Live Science published an article that attempts to say that it does. The conclusion was inspired by the story that U.S. swimmer Ryan Lochte and three of his team mates told the press.
They claimed that they were robbed at gunpoint.
However, surveillance cameras told a very different story. The article suggests that the swimmers lied in order to avoid embarrassment.
It speculates that lying starts at a very young age. Adults might use the same strategy they learnt as kinds to wiggle out of a difficult situation. The obvious motive is to avoid punishment and embarrassment.
It should not matter in a Darwinian world whether individuals told outright lies, as it does not acknowledge the existence of a Divine Lawgiver who ultimately sets the rules.
Even scientists can’t always resist misconduct.
It’s a very different story in a Christian world. Truth is all-important, and God’s Word infers that lying is a sin.
Kubota, Taylor. 2016. Lochte's Lies: How Science Explains Fibbers. Live Science (19 August).
There’s probably only one living fossil that can tie its body in a knot and still survive.
Discussing the bizarre features of the hagfish in a BBC Earth article, Colin Barras seems to be overwhelmed by the creature’s uniqueness. He says they are vertebrates, but
“They do not actually have bony vertebrae in their backs: they are literally spineless. They have several hearts, and at least twice as much blood in their bodies as other fish. On top of that, they have only half a jaw, yet they can still tear through tough flesh.”
But the strange features don’t end here:
“What's more, hagfish have skin so floppy that it should seriously compromise their swimming. They lack scales, they can absorb some of their food straight through their skin – bypassing their half-jawed mouths altogether – and they have an almost unrivalled ability to turn seawater into thick gloopy slime.
Put simply, hagfish are like nothing else in the animal kingdom. But it is possible that many of their unusual traits can be explained by one final feature. These fish can tie their bodies into tight knots.”
While evolutionists might describe them as primitive, modern hagfish haven’t given away the features their “300 million year old” ancestors had.
In other words, Darwinists would acknowledge that hagfish were around before the heydays of the dinosaurs and other dino-age creatures.
Stasis or the absence of evolution is a not-so-rare element in the fossil record, often more common than change that always occurs after its kind, just like Genesis shows us.
Barras, Colin. 2016. Hagfish are a strong contender for the strangest fish alive BBC Earth (8 September).
Tuesday, 6 September 2016
Perhaps best known as a fierce cartoon character, the Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) has for decades been on the verge of extinction.
Many of these notoriously ferocious marsupials suffer from a cancer known as the devil facial tumour disease (DFTD) that is very contagious.
However, researchers recently noticed that the devil's immune system is helping it to recognise the cancer and fight against it.
They saw changes in seven genes, five of which are known to have an effect on “cancer or immune function” in other animals and also in humans.
This development is being hailed as rapid evolution, though we can’t see any morphological changes in the animals, i.e., their size and shape hasn’t changed at all.
But their immune system is fighting against disease, like it does in all living creatures.
It seems that this is yet another case in which Darwinists use the e-word for something that has nothing to do with any of the classical definitions of (goo-to-you) evolution.
Boddy, Jessica. 2016. Tasmanian devils are rapidly evolving resistance to a contagious cancer. Science (30 August).
Sunday, 4 September 2016
The latest space signal is almost certainly a false alarm. No aliens there.
Last year, Russian astronomers picked up a strong radio signal coming from the star HD 164595, some 95 light years away from us.
The signal has been making headlines in recent weeks, probably due to discoveries like the nearest exoplanet Proxima b and Tabby’s star or KIC 8462852 that initially seemed to send a regular message that could not be explained by orbiting planets.
But like the famous wow signal, the message was probably caused by comets.
SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) is (in)famous for searching for life in the wrong places.
Its history is fraught with false expectations, and very often science fiction has trumped science.
Despite all the false alarms, New Scientist is confident that aliens must be lurking somewhere in the universe:
“Although we don’t know enough about the origin of life to say for sure, it is almost certain that aliens have arisen from the primordial goo elsewhere. Even if the odds of life are incredibly low, a universe 93 billion light years wide provides ample rolls of the dice to get things started. For Earth to be the sole flame of light in the darkness suggests some kind of outside influence, whether a supreme being or the reality that we live in an artificial simulation. Aliens are far, far more likely.”
But only if we a priori rule out the God who in the beginning created everything.
Life cannot create itself.
Aron, Jacob. 2016. Spoiler alert: Why strange signals are never really from aliens. New Scientist (1 September).
Friday, 2 September 2016
Charles Darwin called the origin of flowering plants an abominable mystery that was difficult to account for by his theory.
Flowers do appear suddenly and fully formed in the fossil record. Even the earliest flowers look very modern.
Flowers need pollinators and pollinators need flowers. Evolutionists might need to invoke co-evolution, mutualism or symbiosis, but flowers are nevertheless beautiful, and many insects do a good job in helping them spread.
A recent paper in Nature concludes that the more variety in flowers (and insects) there is in a meadow, the more beneficial it is for us.
Science Daily summarises the findings of the research:
“The more it swarms, crawls, flies the better it is, say scientists. A diverse ecosystem populated by many species from all levels provides higher ecosystem services. Even rather unpopular insects and invisible soil-dwelling organisms are important.”
They are good for our health.
Reminds us of the very good world of Genesis.
Technical University of Munich (TUM). 2016. Flowering meadows benefit humankind: Greater biodiversity in grasslands leads to higher levels of ecosystem services. Science Daily. (17 August).