Friday, 28 April 2017

Star-Nosed Mole Defies Darwinian Expectations

Star-nosed mole. Image courtesy of US National Parks Service, Public domain.




Joel Kontinen

When a science publication describes an animal as weird, we can be sure that the creature does not match Darwinian expectations.

National Geographic recently introduced the star-nosed mole (Condylura cristata) to its readers. The bizarre creature is totally blind, but it is amazingly quick:

The mole hunts by bopping its star against the soil as quickly as possible; it can touch 10 or 12 different places in a single second...

With each touch, 100,000 nerve fibers send information to the mole’s brain. That’s five times more touch sensors than in the human hand, all packed into a nose smaller than a fingertip
.”

While it lives below ground in perpetual darkness and feeds on earthworms, the mole can also swim and use its sensitive star to detect prey in water.

The NG article credits evolution for the creature’s skills, but it is certain that the blind watchmaker could not produce such a well-designed animal.

Some animals, for instance the duck-billed platypus, the spiny anteater, a singing fish, the now extinct pig-footed bandicoot (Chaeropus ecaudatus) and a warm-blooded fish, don’t fit the Darwinian mould.


Source:

Engelhaupt, Erika. 2017. Inside the Bizarre Life of the Star-Nosed Mole, World's Fastest Eater. National Geographic (23 April).

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Homo naledi Turns Out to Be Much Younger Than Expected


Homo naledi. Image courtesy of Lee Roger Berger research team, Creative Commons (CC BY 4.0).




Joel Kontinen

This has been an interesting week for the evolution of two assumed human ancestors.

First, the journal Science suggested that Australopithecus sediba should be tossed out of the human family tree. Then, National Geographic acknowledged that Homo naledi is “only” 200,000 – 300,000 years old, making it far too young to be a direct human ancestor.

Both discoveries were known to be very controversial.

In 2010 Lee Berger and his team discovered Australopithecus sediba that was once touted as a human ancestor but was later practically tossed aside by some other anthropologists.

Then, in 2015 Professor Berger and colleagues published a paper on what they claimed to be a new human species. Found in a cave in South Africa, their discovery consisted of 1,500 pieces of teeth and bones that were not dated, and some experts thought they might be too young to fit into our family tree.

One of the estimates put their age at 912,000 years BP (before present).

Now, in an interview published in National geographic, Berger suggested that H. naledi might be a lot younger.

For evolutionists, the curved ape-like fingers, small skull and other primitive features of H. naledi are an enigma. They believe that modern H. sapiens appeared some 200, 000 years ago, leaving practically no time for evolution.

Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum in London thinks that H. naledi might be “a relic species, retaining many primitive traits from a much earlier time.”

Prof. Berger has likened it to the Coelacanth (Latimeria chalumnae), the living fossil that was supposedly able to retain primitive features for 400 million years.

Others have compared it to the hobbit or H. floriensis that has been the source of heated debate since its discovery in 2003.

And least one thing is sure: there’s no end in sight for updates to our assumed family trees, and artists will hardly have to fear for their jobs until the day comes when Darwinian evolution will be tossed out as pseudoscience.

Source:

Barras, Colin. 2017. Homo naledi is only 250,000 years old – here’s why that matters. New Scientist (25 April).

Monday, 24 April 2017

Holocaust Remembrance Day: Time to Remember What Science Gone Wrong Can Do and What Some Heroic Dissenters Did

The Warsaw Ghetto in 1943. Image: Public Domain.





Joel Kontinen

Just two days after Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson and many others praised the wonders of consensus science, it’s time for Holocaust Remembrance Day.

It is a stark reminder of how far science can go astray. Just over 70 years ago, eugenics was seen as a valid field of research, and Josef Mengele was conducting scientific experiments on Jews at Auschwitz.

Historians will tell us that the Holocaust was inspired by Darwinian evolution. German Nazis sought to help natural selection to get rid of the “unfit”.

Fortunately, among all the destruction, Oskar Schindler and other brave dissenters saved the lives of hundreds of Jews.

Sir Nicholas Winton shipped 669 Jewish children to Great Britain.

Irena Sendler, a Polish social worker, teamed with 20 others and smuggled 2,500 children out of the Warsaw Ghetto, some in ambulances and trams between October 1940 and April 1943 and placed them in Catholic homes.

Under the pretext of inspecting the ghetto's sanitary conditions during a typhoid outbreak, Mrs Sendler and her assistants went inside in search of children who could be smuggled out and given a chance of survival by living as Catholics,” the Daily Mail reported in 2008, when she died at age 98.

She risked her life in the brave operation and despite being caught in 1943 and tortured, she refused to betray any of her helpers – and outlived those who tried to stop her.

Source:

Dead at 98: Heroic Irena Sendler, who helped save 2,500 Jewish children from the Nazis. Daily Mail 12 May 2008.


Saturday, 22 April 2017

Does Mother Earth Day Inspire the March for Science?

Mother Earth has become a cultural icon.




Joel Kontinen

It used to be known as Earth Day. The United Nations has gone a step further and re-named it The International Mother Earth Day.

The green ideology behind this move could hardly have been more obvious.

Some would even say that the mushroom is our brother.

Some others want to give apes and rivers the same rights we have.

The post-Christian world wants its share of holy days, such as Darwin Day and Earth Day.

It is probably no coincidence that the March for Science takes place on 22nd April or (Mother) Earth Day.

To mark the day, we have a celebrity scientist (Neil deGrasse Tyson) warning of the dangers “science denial”.

If this sounds like the newspeak introduced by George Orwell, the most likely explanation is that it indeed is.

By this he means being sceptical of consensus science, i.e. Darwinian evolution and human-induced climate change.

It seems that most of the marchers are leaning left politically. Some of them are probably worried about the war on science, which, as we know, is another illustration of Orwellian newspeak.

We should not forget that while we have a mandate to care for Earth, we should certainly not worship it – that would be idolatry.

Sources:

International Mother Earth Day

Staedter,Tracy. 2017. Neil deGrasse Tyson Warns Science Denial Could 'Dismantle' Democracy. Live Science (20 April).


Thursday, 20 April 2017

LHS 1140b: Newly Discovered Super-Earth Might Not Be a Good Place for Life

LHS 1140b. Image courtesy of ESO/spaceengine.org.




Joel Kontinen

The naturalistic worldview can’t tolerate the possibility that we are unique or that our planet might be very special. It requires a universe that is teeming with alien life.

After all, if life evolved on Earth, it should have evolved elsewhere as well, the naturalist thinks.

Thus, from time to time we are bombarded with the news of the discovery of an Earth-like exoplanet that might harbour life.

The latest candidate is LHS 1140b. Described as a “rocky, temperate super-Earth,” it orbits a red dwarf every 25 days, some 40 light years from us.

Red dwarfs tend to be anything but calm, throwing our flares that would soon snuff out all emerging life, but astronomers assume that the star LHS 1140 is unusually calm.

They hope it has liquid water. However, we can’t be sure of that. It might well be wishful thinking.

NASA and other space agencies have made so many false alarms in the past, so it’s best to remain a bit sceptical.

New Scientist discusses five of the best candidates for alien life. None of them are very convincing.

The Trappist system turned out to be a big disappointment after the initial excitement died off, and the other recently discovered “Earth-like” planets – Proxima b, Kepler 186f and GJ 132b – have not fared well, either.

What we know is that Earth’s twin is still missing and will probably remain so, as life only comes from life. It cannot be produced by Darwinian mechanisms.

It has to be created. In the beginning God createdis still the best explanation for why there is life anywhere in the universe.

Source:

Crane, Leah. 2017. The five best exoplanets in the galaxy to check for alien life. New Scientist (19 April).

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Amber Discloses “99-Million-Year-Old” Symbiosis Between Beetles and Termites


An artist’s impression of an ancient niche. Image courtesy of Chenyang Cai et al, 2017. Early Evolution of Specialized Termitophily in Cretaceous Rove Beetles, Current Biology.




Joel Kontinen

Symbiosis is not a modern invention. A paper published in the journal Current Biology re-writes the known history of symbiosis between beetles and termites:

Tracking the relationship between ancient termites and symbionts like rove beetles has proved challenging; this new evidence indicates that rove beetles partnered with termites 80 million years sooner than previously thought,” Live Science reports.

The previous record-holding termitophiles were “19 million years” old.

Found in a mine in Burma (Myanmar), Cretotrichopsenius burmiticus are only 0.7 millimetres (0.03 inches) long and look like today’s rove beetles that live in symbiosis with termites.

This shows that there’s hardly anything new under the sun. Most insects trapped in amber look practically the same as today’s animals.

Beetles are living fossils that haven’t changed since the heydays of the dinosaurs.

New discoveries are pushing back the dates when animals lived. If this trend continues, we will sooner or later have all kinds of organisms living at the same time and Darwinian evolution will be in big trouble.

Source:

Weisberger, Mindy. 2017. Amber Tomb Trapped Ancient, Termite-Loving Beetles. Live Science (13 April).

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Live Science Tries to Explain the Ten Plagues of Egypt "Scientifically", and Fails



The Plague of Flies, c. 1896–1902, by James Jacques Joseph Tissot. Public Domain.




Joel Kontinen

Easter is the season when sceptics try to cast doubt on the reliability of the Bible.

One of their strategies is to explain away the miraculous in the Bible, but often their brave new theories lack substance.

Jesus’ death is their favourite, but they also have naturalistic versions of other events, such as Saint Paul’s conversion, which according to their view was caused by a meteor.

This time Live Science attempts to give a scientific explanation for each of the 10 plagues described in the Old Testament book of Exodus:

The 1st plague, blood, was probably caused by a red algae bloom colouring the Nile red.

The 2nd plague, frogs, is not so special as frogs tend to drop from the sky every now and then.

The 3rd plague, lice, might be associated with the bubonic plague.

The 4th plague, flies, might have been any wild animal, including some bigger ones, such as snakes, lions or bears.

The 5th plague, livestock disease, could have been caused by rinderpest.

The 6th plague, boils, could have been smallpox.

The 7th plague, hail, might have been caused by an eruption on the Greek island of Santorini.

The 8th plague, locusts, might be a consequence of the Santorini eruption.

However, according to some estimates the volcano on Santorini might have erupted 300 years before Moses' time.

The 9th plague, darkness, was could have been caused by a solar eclipse (which, however, never last for three days) or by ashes from the Santorini eruption.

The 10th plague, death of the firstborn, might have been caused by eating grain infected by the poisonous algae bloom.

But why would this only kill the firstborn, some of whom were still babies, and no one else?

For Live Science, the answer is not even blowin’ in the wind.

In 2010 the National Geographic Channel aired a programme that featured rather similar explanations.

It is probably needless to say that their solutions were not at all credible.

Source:

Live Science Staff. 2017. The Science of the 10 Plagues. Live Science (11 April).

Friday, 14 April 2017

Easter: The Resurrected Christ Lives in Spite of Conspiracy Theories and Fake News


Image: El Greco (1580): Jesus Carrying the Cross, Public domain.




Joel Kontinen

Easter seems to be a difficult time for unbelievers. While Christians celebrate the passion of Jesus Christ that brings salvation for all who believe in Him, atheists and other sceptics try to explain why they are unwilling to accept the testimony of hundreds of reliable witnesses who saw the Lord Jesus alive after the resurrection.

They have invented several conspiracy theories as an excuse for not believing a historical fact.

The Apostle Paul says that Jesus is the Last Adam.

The first Adam brought death into the world by eating from a tree.

The Last Adam overcame death by dying on a tree.

Just in time for Easter, Graham Lawton asks whether atheism is a religion. While he would not agree with my conclusion, atheism requires faith. It relies on a speculative and ever-changing narrative of how we got here.

In contrast, the Bible is based on true history. Jesus’ empty tomb confirms that He is truly risen.

Have a blessed Easter time!

Source:

Lawton, Graham. 2017. Faith of the faithless: Is atheism just another religion? New Scientist (11 April).

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Fractals: Complex, Soothing Beauty in Nature

Fractals are seen in fern leaves.




Joel Kontinen

First, we see an overall pattern. Then, when we take a closer look, we see that the very same pattern is repeated at a smaller scale, and then on an even smaller one.

These patterns are called fractals and they occur everywhere in nature, from fern leaves to the branches of a tree, snowflakes, ocean waves, animal colouration patterns and even Saturn’s rings.

Writing in The Conversation, University of Oregon physics professor Richard Taylor describes this phenomenon:

My scientific curiosity was stirred when I learned that many of nature's objects are fractal, featuring patterns that repeat at increasingly fine magnifications. For example, think of a tree. First you see the big branches growing out of the trunk. Then you see smaller versions growing out of each big branch. As you keep zooming in, finer and finer branches appear, all the way down to the smallest twigs. Other examples of nature's fractals include clouds, rivers, coastlines and mountains.”

Fractals are often seen in tree branches. Image courtesy of Ronan, Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0).

The great beauty we see everywhere in nature, for instance in the form of fractals, the golden ratio or Fibonacci numbers, challenges naturalistic thinking.

Even in a world that is groaning from the consequences of the Fall, we see amazing beauty in all kinds of everything, from giant galaxies to deep sea creatures.

Source:

Taylor, Richard. 2017. Fractal patterns in nature and art are aesthetically pleasing and stress-reducing. The Conversation (31 March).

Monday, 10 April 2017

Language Evolution Is Still a Naturalistic Mystery

No comprendo. Image courtesy of Thomas Lersch, Creative Commons (CC BY 2.5).



Joel Kontinen

Introducing a new book on language evolution, New Scientist contributor Alun Anderson writes: “I much prefer a speculative account of how language might have evolved to an invocation of miracles.”

Despite its name - The Truth about Language: What It Is and Where It Came From (University of Chicago Press, 2017) - Michael Corballis does not disclose the truth about language.

Anderson begins his review by acknowledging that our language skills are extraordinary:

HUMAN language has long appeared miraculous. It has enabled us to accumulate knowledge, build cultures and conquer the planet, making us a creature seemingly apart from the rest of the animal world.”

Anderson says that Corballis, an emeritus professor at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, mentions two plausible explanations, only to reject them:

During the 19th century, Alfred Russel Wallace doubted whether natural selection could explain such a unique power. In our century, Noam Chomsky, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology academic who has dominated linguistics for 60 years, has supported a hypothesis that language and thought arose suddenly within the past 100,000 years.

In The Truth About Language, Michael Corballis rejects all such ‘miraculist’ explanations. He lays out a plausible route by which spoken language might have evolved, not from the calls of our primate ancestors, but through stages in which a language of gesture and mime dominated
.”

Corballis suggests that humans acquired language by thinking back on what they had done, for instance on the details of a hunting trip, and on what they planned to do in the future.

This might merely be a just-so story, as both Corballis and Anderson admit. But they have nothing better to suggest.

Language evolution continues to be an enigma for Darwinists for several weighty reasons:

Monkey brains were not made for talking.
Apes cannot learn grammar.
Darwinian stories cannot explain why we speak while apes cannot do so.
Darwinian explanations are merely speculations.
• The Darwinian theory of mind fails to account for language acquisition.

Source:

Anderson, Alun. 2017. How the brain’s ability to time travel may have led to speech. New Scientist (5 April).

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Spider-Man Snail Catches Prey with Lasso

The shell of Thylacodes squamigerus, a close relative of the newly discovered snail. Image courtesy of Chad King (SIMoN / MBNMS), public domain.




Joel Kontinen

All is not well in Darwinland. Several kinds of animals defy evolutionary expectations:

Marsupials should not look like placental mammals, but some do.

Mammals should not lay eggs, but the platypus and the spiny anteater break this rule.

Fish should not sing, but some do.

Spiders are not expected to fly, but spiderlings (i.e., young spiders) can take to the air and let the wind carry them for hundreds of kilometres.

Then there’s the latest discovery of a tiny worm snail called Thylacodes vandyensis. Found in the Florida Keys, it uses its slime in an exotic way. Live Science explains:

T. vandyensis … casts mucous strands in Spidey-style nets to trap plankton and other organic material. Afterward, it hauls in its prizes, eats the gooey net along with whatever food it was able to catch, and recycles the slime to produce a new snare.”

It seems that the lowly snail invented the lasso – or something very much like it.

Source:

Weisberger, Mindy. 2017. Newfound 'Spider-Man'Snail Is an Expert Web Slinger. Live Science (5 April).

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Spiders Defy Darwinian Expectations


Image courtesy of Little Grove Farms, Creative Commons (CC BY 3.0).




Joel Kontinen

Spiders keep on amazing us with their skills, Some can glide for over 20 metres, some gather water with their webs.

As David Attenborough puts it, we have yet to invent a material that would be as strong, light and elastic as spider’s silk.

Using their webs, spiderlings can climb hundreds of metres into the air, and with a little help from strong winds, practically fly for thousands of kilometres.

There’s more:

Bagheera kiplingi is a Central American spider that mostly eats vegetables.
Peacock spiders are astoundingly beautiful.

Spiders have remained practically unchanged for aeons. A ”49 million years” old specimen trapped in amber looks very much like today’s spiders, as does an older one dated at ”165 million years”.

They remind us of the wonders of creation as well as the consequences of the Fall.

Source:

BBC Earth. 2017. When Baby Spiders Leave the Nest, They Take to the Air. (1 April).

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Ticks and Blood Cells Haven’t Evolved in “20 Million Years,” Amber Discovery Suggests


Image courtesy of George Poinar, Jr., Oregon State University.




Joel Kontinen

Some animals change over time. Others don’t.

Most of the creatures buried in amber show little or no change in “tens of millions of years”.

Examples include insects such as ants (see an image here; the text is in Finnish), beetles and spiders,things like bird feathers and even flowers.

A new paper by Emeritus Professor George Poinar, Jr. published in the Journal of Medical Entomology adds to the list.

Science Daily attempts to reconstruct what happened:

Two monkeys grooming each other about 20-30 million years ago may have helped produce a remarkable new find - the first fossilized red blood cells from a mammal, preserved so perfectly in amber that they appear to have been prepared for display in a laboratory.”

Discovered in the Dominican Republic, the amber also held a tick and the parasite Babesia microti that still makes life uncomfortable for humans and animals.

Two small holes in the back of a blood-engorged tick, which allowed blood to ooze out just as the tick became stuck in tree sap that later fossilized into amber, provide a brief glimpse of life in a tropical jungle millions of years ago.”

Nothing much new under the sun, it seems. While the dates are inflated, the discovery shows that life in the fallen world has its disadvantages.

Source:

Oregon State University. 2017. Monkey business produces rare preserved blood in amber fossils. Science Daily. (3 April).


Sunday, 2 April 2017

New Darwinian Water to Land Transition Story: Big Eyes Did It

Tiktaalik: I spy with my little eye something beginning with m. Image courtesy of Nobu Tamura, Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0).



Joel Kontinen

Science Daily calls it a provocative study, and it is.

Darwinian tales tend to be goal-oriented or teleological.

Why do we have four limbs? an evolutionist might ask. The answer: because we have a belly.

This brings us to the new water-to-land transition story:

A new study suggests it was the power of the eyes and not the limbs that first led our aquatic ancestors to make the leap from water to land. The researchers discovered that eyes nearly tripled in size before -- not after -- the water-to-land transition. Crocodile-like animals saw easy meals on land and then evolved limbs that enabled them to get there, the researchers argue.”

So, marine animals were able to direct their evolution to get “easy meals”.

This is exactly what biologist Aldemaro Romero warned researchers of in an essay he wrote in 2016: He pointed out that they should not expect to see predestination or preadaptation in biology, as evolution had no plan or purpose.

In other words, the blind watchmaker can’t see.

However, everything in us and the animal kingdom looks designed and the most logical explanation is that it is designed.


Source:

Northwestern University. 2017. Vision, not limbs, led fish onto land 385 million years ago. Science Daily. (7 March).