Tuesday, 29 April 2014
Brian Tomasik wants to reduce suffering in humans and “other sentient beings.” Interviewed recently on Vox.com, he spoke on killing video game characters and the need to alleviate the sufferings of insects:
“Even if you count just raw number of neurons, insects outweigh humans by a few orders of magnitude. While humans may matter a lot more for instrumental reasons related to the trajectory of the far future, in terms of pure morally relevant amount of sentience, insects may dominate on Earth at the moment.”
While insects are tiny, Mr. Tomasik thinks that they are by no means insignificant and have the right to be happy:
”Unfortunately, this has pessimistic implications for the net balance of happiness and suffering in the wild. Many insects live just a few weeks, and they give birth to hundreds or thousands of offspring, most of which die shortly after being born. Life even for the survivors may also involve hunger, disease, and death by predation, lack of water, or something else.”
He is especially worried about the suffering that humans cause by raising insects for food:
“As one example, insects are raised and cooked for food in many parts of the world, such as Mexico and Thailand. In many cases, these insects are fried or roasted alive. And entomophagy may become more popular in Western countries as well. I think raising insects is a bad idea because they have such high infant-mortality rates that their cultivation inherently leads to lots of unavoidable suffering. But if insects are raised for food, there should at least be welfare standards for their living conditions and especially for their slaughter. Some entomophagy companies in the US claim that freezing their insects to kill them is humane, but it's disputed whether freezing is actually painless for insects. More research and attention is needed here.”
He is critical of any methods that might hurt insects:
“Another area where humans affect even more insects is pest control on crops. It's not clear that insecticide use per se causes net harm -- because the insects killed would have died naturally, and it may be that insecticides keep insect populations much lower than they would otherwise be. But if we do use insecticides, we should favor those that kill more quickly and less painfully. "Natural" pest-control methods like Bt sprays or introduction of predator insects may be among the most unpleasant, because evolution has presumably designed insects to find death by bacteria or predators painful. Investigating which insect-control methods are most humane, and developing new ones, could be a way to help literally trillions of insects through a person's career.”
While eliminating all kinds of suffering might be a laudable mission, we should remember that morality is an immaterial trait that cannot have come about by blind Darwinian processes. In a purely Darwinian world we would not be expected to judge a tendency like killing insects to be morally wrong.
In order to pass moral judgement on whether something is right or wrong, we would have to admit the existence of a Moral Lawgiver, who is not of this world. To do so, we have to believe that as humans we are special – immensely more valuable than insects.
Matthews, Dylan. 2014. This guy thinks killing video game characters is immoral. Vox.com (April 23).
Sunday, 27 April 2014
Intelligent design in nature is so evident that it is becoming increasingly difficult to deny it. In recent years, researchers have copied many amazing designs they have seen in the animal kingdom.
Biomimicry or the imitation of intelligent solutions seen in nature is a flourishing field of hi-tech engineering. Instead of relying on blind, purposeless Darwinian processes, researchers are looking at design features.
Recently, researchers drew inspiration from the mantis shrimp. According to a news release from the University of California, Riverside (UCR):
“Inspired by the fist-like club of a mantis shrimp, a team of researchers led by University of California, Riverside, in collaboration with University of Southern California and Purdue University, have developed a design structure for composite materials that is more impact resistant and tougher than the standard used in airplanes.”
The peacock mantis shrimp is a 10–15 cm (4–6 in.) -long “rainbow-colored crustacean with a fist-like club that accelerates underwater faster than a 22-calibur bullet. Researchers, led by [David] Kisailus, an associate professor of chemical engineering, are interested in the club because it can strike prey thousands of times without breaking.
The force created by the impact of the mantis shrimp’s club is more than 1,000 times its own weight. It’s so powerful that Kisailus needs to keep the animal in a special aquarium in his lab so it doesn’t break the glass.”
While deadly weapons speak of a fallen, groaning world, they nonetheless also indicate that intelligence was needed to produce them.
The researchers published their paper “Bio-Inspired Impact Resistant Composites” in the journal Acta Biomaterialia.
You can read about previous bio-inspired solutions here, here, here and here.
Nealon, Sean. 2014. Mantis Shrimp Stronger than Airplanes. Inspired by mantis shrimp, researchers design composite material stronger than standard used in airplane frames. UCR Today (April 21).
Friday, 25 April 2014
In 2011 science writer John Horgan wrote a blog post at Scientific American.com with a revealing title: Pssst! Don't tell the creationists, but scientists don't have a clue how life began.
For the non-theist, the origin of life remains a hard nut to crack. Recently, Chemical Reviews published an 82-page paper on the topic. Among other things, it acknowledged:
“The origin of life is a fascinating, unresolved problem whose deciphering would have important scientific, epistemological and social implications. Over time, philosophers and scientists have proposed many different theories for the origin (or origins) of life, but we are still far from understanding which principles governed the transition from inanimate to animate matter.”
From Charles Darwin’s warm little pond, evolutionists have suggested a variety of scenarios, none of which are credible. The RNA world, for instance, will not produce life from non-life.
The recent Chemical Reviews paper suggests:
“Although finding consensus about the nature and definition of life is a very difficult issue, and will remain as a subject of debate probably for a long time, there is nowadays relatively widespread agreement on which features should be shared by the simplest living systems. They must possess a genetic apparatus able to store and transmit information to their progeny, some sort of metabolism for gathering nutrients and energy from the environment, and a selectively permeable boundary that separates and distinguishes them from that environment.”
There are a number of insurmountable problems with getting life from non-life. First, it simply does not happen. Second, information always needs a sender. Third, the sender has to be intelligent.
De nihilo nihil, the Roman 1st century poet Persius is quoted as saying. Nothing comes from nothing.
Ruiz-Mirazo, Kepa, Carlos Briones and Andres de la Escosura. 2014. Prebiotic Systems Chemistry: New Perspectives for the Origins of Life. Chemical Reviews 114, 285–366.
Wednesday, 23 April 2014
Richard Dawkins has used the inverted retina argument in an attempt to say that an intelligent creator could not have designed the human eye.
Poor design is a favourite argument but it is nevertheless a bad argument.
Recently, Creation Ministries International released a YouTube video clip that looks at it and finds it wanting:
“This claim doesn't make sense, after all, octopus retinas are wired in the supposedly correct way but their sight is poor compared to ours.
Ophthalmologist Dr Peter Gurney has shown there are good reasons our eyes are wired the way they are. In particular, it allows our photoreceptors to be in close contact with two special tissues necessary for regenerating the photoreceptors and absorbing excess heat. But these tissues are both opaque, so if our retinas were wired the other way you'd be trying to look through two opaque surfaces, which means you'd see nothing.”
The video also points out that eagles “have the same wiring as us and they are renowned for their eagle eyes.”
Monday, 21 April 2014
The book of Genesis speaks about the Fountains of the Great Deep that in Noah’s day contributed towards the global flood that destroyed the early Earth. (The NIV calls them the springs of the great deep.)
It now seems that a recent discovery confirms that there is in fact much water under us. A recent paper in Nature by Professor Graham Pearson and colleagues at the University of Alberta, Canada, found evidence of “massive amounts” of subterranean water.
What they actually found was ringwoodite, a mineral containing a “significant amount of water -- 1.5 per cent of its weight”:
“The first terrestrial discovery of ringwoodite confirms the presence of massive amounts of water 400 to 700 kilometers beneath Earth's surface. Ringwoodite is a form of the mineral peridot, believed to exist in large quantities under high pressures in the transition zone. Ringwoodite has been found in meteorites but, until now, no terrestrial sample has ever been unearthed because scientists haven't been able to conduct fieldwork at extreme depths.”
Seen from a Genesis perspective, the discovery is interesting. Moses was not writing fiction when he mentioned the Fountains of the Great Deep that ushered in the global flood in Noah’s day.
Water-rich gem points to vast 'oceans' beneath Earth's surface, study suggests. Science Daily. March 12, 2014.
Saturday, 19 April 2014
Kepler-186f, a star orbiting a red dwarf star some 500 light years from us is the latest exoplanet that might just about have liquid water. And, in a Darwinian scenario, water almost always means that there might be life.
The planet is comfortably within the star’s habitable zone.
What is often overlooked is that Venus and Mars also orbit the Sun in the habitable zone, so any declaration of the certainty of alien life might be a bit premature, especially as red dwarfs – unlike our sun – are known to be somewhat unstable.
Writing in Answers magazine, astronomer Danny Faulkner states:
“Red and orange stars produce dangerous magnetic activity. Since these stars are cooler than the sun, habitable planets must orbit more closely – and face greater harm. Another potential problem is insufficient radiation to support photosynthesis.”
New Scientist likewise acknowledges some of the difficulties:
“Red dwarf stars are highly active, producing frequent flares and strong winds of radiation. And as Kepler-186f is slightly larger than Earth, if it has a similar internal structure, it would support a stronger magnetic field. That would spark interactions between any potential atmosphere and stellar radiation that could create frequent and spectacular auroras visible from large regions of the planet.”
However, spectacular auroras are not what life would first and foremost need. Many astronomers know that in contrast to Earth, exoplanets tend to be more or less weird, and some will admit that contrary to evolutionary expectations, alien life might not even exist.
Among the trillions of stars, there’s no place like home.
Faulkner, Danny. 2014. Not just another star. Answers 9 (1): 66–67.
Grossman, Lisa. 2014, Smallest life-friendly exoplanet may be lit by auroras. New Scientist (17 April).
Thursday, 17 April 2014
When Jesus’ tomb was empty and the early disciples went to tell others of the unexpected news,
some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all the things that had happened. When they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, saying, “Tell them, ‘His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept.’ And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will appease him and make you secure.” So they took the money and did as they were instructed; and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day. (Matthew 28: 11–15, NKJV.)
A soldier caught sleeping while he was supposed to do guard duty would have been executed, so the conspiracy theory was by no means credible.
It was a desperate attempt to explain away the obvious, i.e., that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead.
Moreover, if He had truly risen, He had to be God.
Throughout the centuries, sceptics have invented many excuses for not taking the eyewitness accounts in the gospels as real history.
But these attempts (for instance, Mistaken Identity, Swoon Theory, Body Moved, Visions, Annihilation) fail to account for the consequences of the resurrection.
Before the resurrection, the disciples were hiding behind locked doors. Visions or make-belief could not transform them into bold witnesses who “turned the world upside down”. Even sceptics like Paul and Jesus’ brother James joined their ranks.
Rejecting Jesus’ resurrection amounts to denying history.
Chaffey, Tim. 2014. Resurrection—No Doubt About It . Answers 9 (2). Answers in Genesis (March 11).
Tuesday, 15 April 2014
Easter is a time that sceptics don’t like. It reminds them of one of the greatest miracles of all time. The Last Adam, God who had become a man, died for the sins of the first Adam and entire humankind.
Several centuries before His incarnation, the Old Testament prophets had predicted many fine details of His life, for instance, His mother’s virginity, His birthplace (Bethlehem), the manner of His death (crucifixion) and even burial (in a rich man’s tomb), accurately.
However, in a fact-free article, John Prytz ignores this evidence, claiming:
“There's no evidence for the existence of God, yet there is massive amounts of evidence for the reality of the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny and especially Santa Claus. But we know that the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny and especially Santa Claus are fictitious or mythological and have no basis in reality.”
Mr. Prytz assumes that this proves that God does not exist. In effect, he seems to believe that the universe made itself from nothing for no reason. Denying history, he chooses to take an outdated Darwinian approach to religion (i.e., monotheism evolved from polytheism).
Fortunately, disbelief in God does not make Him non-existent. Easter reminds us that Jesus Christ rose from the dead and He lives.
Prytz, John. 2014. In Santa Claus, The Tooth Fairy And The Easter Bunny We Trust. Ezine Articles (April 4).
Sunday, 13 April 2014
Some see fruit flies (Drosophila hydei) as pests that spread diseases and cause financial losses for farmers. Some others see them as poster boys for Darwinian evolution.
However, researchers have seen that the mutations they have caused have merely reduced the flies’ fitness. The effect has been diametrically opposite of what evolution would need. Mutants, i.e., damaged fruit flies, could never survive outside the laboratory.
But there is more to fruit flies. They are astonishingly clever dodgers. According to a recent article on the New Scientist website,
We all know how hard it can be to swat flies, but nobody knew how they pull off their incredible evasive manoeuvres. Now high-speed photography reveals that flies steer like helicopters, despite not having rotors.
Researchers built a tiny winged robot to mimic the flies’ manoeuvres:
Using cameras operating at 7500 frames a second, plus a winged robot, Florien Moirés of the University of Washington in Seattle and his colleagues studied how flies respond to approaching threats. First they presented fruit flies (Drosophilae hidey) with an expanding dark circle on a screen, simulating a looming predator. The flies made rapid banked turns with just a few wingbeats.
Once again, researchers are using biomimicry or copying an intelligent solution they see in nature. Inspired by the dragonfly’s skills they have built tiny flying robots, and they have copied the design found in gecko feet to build a tiny robot that could walk up on all kinds of surfaces.
Who, we might ask, initially designed these intelligent solutions?
Osborne, Samuel. 2014. Flies steer like mini-helicopters to avoid attackers. New Scientist (10 April).
Friday, 11 April 2014
Sceptics tend to claim that the Bible is not based on real history. However, ancient inscriptions tell a very different story.
Just a few years ago, sceptics doubted the existence of King David, for instance. They cannot honestly do so any longer after the discovery of a 9th century B.C. inscription with the text House of David . It was found in Tel Dan in northern Galilee.
In addition to kings, archaeological remains also mention high priests, a scribe and even minor officials such as Nebo-sarsekim (Jeremiah 39:3).
The March/April issue of Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR) has an article entitled Archaeology Confirms 50 Real People in the Bible. Written by Lawrence Mykytiuk, an associate professor at Purdue University, the article discusses – and lists – only those characters whose existence has been confirmed by authentic inscriptions.
The article is somewhat misleading, as it only deals with Old Testament people. If it had included New Testament characters as well, the list would have been a lot longer.
Nevertheless, it emphasises that the Bible is based on real history. It describes the lives of real people, who lived at particular places at a particular time in history.
In other words, it is exactly that what we would expect. After all, God’s Word is truth. But it is more than that – it indicates the way to salvation.
Mykytiuk, Lawrence. 2014. Archaeology Confirms 50 Real People in the Bible. Biblical Archaeology Review 40 (2): 42–50, 68.
Wednesday, 9 April 2014
Jets of water-ice seem to be blasting from Saturn’s tiny moon Enceladus. This has created buzz in the extraterrestrial life community with hopes of finding at least microbial life on the moon that is only 500 kilometres (just over 300 miles) wide.
Data recently obtained by NASA's Cassini probe suggest that a large lake the size of Lake Superior might lurk on Enceladus.
What the life-searchers have not thought about critically is the signs of youth and the existence of so much water on a moon that they believe is 4.5 billion years old.
A moon that old should probably be very dead. But obviously, it isn’t.
Like many other moons, for instance Jupiter’s moons Europa and Io and Saturn’s moon Titan, Enceladus shows signs of youth, just what we would expect from the model based on Genesis.
Moons are not the only objects in our solar system that display signs of youth. There is ice on Mercury, which is - or at least should be - a big dilemma for long-agers.
Amos, Jonathan. 2014. Saturn's Enceladus moon hides 'great lake' of water. BBC news (3 April).
Monday, 7 April 2014
Evolutionists used to dismiss non-coding DNA as junk. However, a recent article posted on EurekAlert suggests that there is more to it:
“In many organisms, there is much more DNA in a cell than is needed to code for all the necessary proteins. This non-coding DNA was often referred to as ‘junk’ DNA because it seemed unnecessary. But in retrospect, we did not yet understand the function of these seemingly unnecessary DNA sequences.”
The article suggests that calling it junk was based on ignorance:
“We now know that non-coding DNA can have important functions other than encoding proteins. Many non-coding sequences produce RNA molecules that regulate gene expression by turning them on and off. Others contain enhancer or inhibitory elements. Recent work by the international ENCODE (Encyclopedia of DNA Elements) Project (1, 2) suggested that a large percentage of non-coding DNA, which makes up an estimated 95% of the human genome, has a function in gene regulation. Thus, it is premature to say that ‘junk’ DNA does not have a function -- we just need to find out what it is! ”
In a recent study, Diane Burgess and Michael Freeling at the University of California, Berkeley looked at “conserved” non-coding DNA sequences (CNSs) in a variety of plants, such as rice, banana, and cacao. They “compared the genome (one copy of all the DNA in an organism) of the model plant Arabidopsis, a member of the mustard family, with the genome of columbine, a distantly related plant of the buttercup family.”
So what did they find?
“Nearly all of the deep CNSs are associated with genes involved in basic and universal biological processes in flowering plants—processes such as development, response to hormones, and regulation of gene expression. They found that the majority of these CNSs are associated with genes involved in tissue and organ development, post-embryonic differentiation, flowering, and production of reproductive structures. Others are associated with hormone- and salt-responsive genes or with genes encoding transcription factors, which are regulatory proteins that control gene expression by turning other genes on and off.”
In other words, the plant genomes look increasingly like they have been designed very intelligently. There’s no room for blind Darwinian processes in this scenario.
New functions for 'junk' DNA? EurekAlert, 31 March 2014.
Saturday, 5 April 2014
It looks like a sheep, but it already has tiny horns. The geep, as the animal is called, was born on a farm in Ireland two weeks ago.
Not sure what a geep is? Don’t worry. I didn’t know either, before I read a recent BBC article on the offspring of a buck goat and a ewe. This tiny geep is nimble and seems to be thriving.
Hybrid animals like geeps are obviously a mystery for Darwinian evolution, but they fit in well with the Genesis-based creation model. We’ve had creatures like ligers and a grizzly - polar bear hybrid, for instance.
Sheep and goats belong to the same Genesis kind, which is a much wider concept than the biological term species. Sheep and goats actually belong to the same biblical kind, just like dogs and wolves make up one kind.
Geep: Rare 'goat-sheep' born on Irish farm. BBC news 4 April 2014.
Thursday, 3 April 2014
The Big Bang model has been struggling for decades. In 1980 Alan Guth invented inflation as an attempt to solve the horizon problem caused by the almost uniform temperature of the different parts of the universe.
If, as Big Bang advocates believe, the universe is 13.8 billion years old, then this is a huge problem. One edge of the universe would be 27.6 billion light years away from the other edge and there would not be enough time for the temperature to become uniform.
Guth proposed that in its infancy the universe had a quick growth spurt in which it exceeded the speed of light. No one knows what caused it and what caused the universe to decelerate.
Reports of recent research claim that the Smoking Gun of the Big Bang has been found. According to a news in focus article in Nature:
“Astronomers have peered back to nearly the dawn of time and found what seems to be the long-sought ‘smoking gun’ for the theory that the Universe underwent a spurt of wrenching, exponential growth called inflation during the first tiny fraction of a second of its existence.
Using a radio telescope at the South Pole, the US-led team has detected the first evidence of primordial gravitational waves, ripples in space that inflation generated 13.8 billion years ago when the Universe first started to expand.”
The Nature article acknowledges that up to now “conclusive evidence for it [i.e., inflation] has been lacking.” It sees the discovery as a great breakthrough although the evidence could be interpreted in other ways as well.
However, this is not the first time that theory trumps evidence. Other astronomers are already calling for caution, as inflation is by no means the only possible explanation for what has been detected.
In a purely naturalistic /materialistic universe, there could be no cause for sudden inflation and no mechanism for slowing it down. In contrast, everything in the universe appears to be fine-tuned for life.
A much more plausible explanation begins with the words “In the beginning God created”.
Cowen, Ron. 2014. Telescope captures view of gravitational waves Nature 507 (7492): 281–283.
Tuesday, 1 April 2014
During the dark ages of Darwinism, researchers assumed that language evolved from the grunts of ape-like creatures. Thia view has, however, evolved quite a bit since then.
In the 1960s Noam Chomsky initially suggested that humans may have a universal grammar and be predisposed to learn languages. In this sense – and many others as well – humans are unique.
An article in New Scientist reports on two recent studies on language learning that seem to support this view:
“People instinctively organise a new language according to a logical hierarchy, not simply by learning which words go together, as computer translation programs do. The finding may add further support to the notion that humans possess a ‘universal grammar’, or innate capacity for language.”
To test this theory, “Jennifer Culbertson, a linguist at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, and her colleague David Adger of Queen Mary University of London, constructed an artificial ‘nanolanguage’ ".
Culbertson and Adger tested it on adults, who seemed to know instinctively how sentences are build in a certain language.
In the other study, “David Gomez, a neuroscientist at the University of Chile in Santiago, and his colleagues measured blood flow in the brains of 24 newborn infants as they listened to recordings of spoken nonsense syllables. The syllables differed in a linguistic property called ‘sonority’, which describes the consonants that most easily precede and follow one another.”
They seemed to know instinctively how words are constructed. Both studies support the view that we have an innate capacity for learning language.
This should be no surprise to those of us who take the Bible, including its opening chapters, as history. After all, Adam was able to communicate with God and with Eve from the very beginning. And he was intelligent enough to name all the land animals that God brought to him at the dawn of history.
Holmes, Bob. 2014. Born to chat: Humans may have innate language instinct. New Scientist (31 March).