Monday, 29 February 2016
Once upon a time, some evolutionists used to believe that our brain was basically made up of three parts, viz. the reptilian, the paleomammalian and the neomammalian, that were tinkered together by evolution.
Physician and neuroscientist Paul D. MacLean proposed this hypothesis in the 1960s and explained it at length in his book The Triune Brain in Evolution (1990).
Carl Sagan, for instance, popularised this view. Time magazine claimed in 2008 that fear “is embedded by evolution in our lizard brain.”
MacLean’s hypothesis has long since fallen out of favour. Neuroscientists have begun to see the human brain as a wonderful organ. Some have likened it to a well-organised library. Research suggests that our brains may be designed to help us learn rapidly.
The human brain even inspires engineers to build smarter computers.
New research published in the journal Neuron attempts to explain why our brains are so fast. Science Daily summarises the findings:
“Surprisingly complex interactions between neurotransmitter receptors and other key proteins help explain the brain's ability to process information with lightning speed, according to a new study. Scientists combined experimental techniques to examine fast-acting protein macromolecules, known as AMPA receptors, which are a major player in brain signaling.”
The results suggest something that is a far cry from the three-part brain hypothesis:
" ‘The findings reveal that the interplay between AMPA receptors and their protein partners that modulate them is much more complex than previously thought,’ says lead researcher Derek Bowie, a professor of pharmacology at McGill and Director of GÉPROM, a Quebec interuniversity research group that studies the function and role of membrane proteins in health and disease.”
For all intents and purposes, our brain looks like it was superbly designed. Its size remains a Darwinian dilemma, and its complexity and effectiveness challenge evolutionary explanations.
McGill University. 2016. What makes the brain tick so fast? New study sheds light on the workings of brain neurotransmitter receptors. Science Daily. (25 February).
Saturday, 27 February 2016
A century ago, penguins were thought to be primitive, reptilian-looking birds.
Evolutionists have had to change their view. Now, some are even willing to see nanoscale design in these birds.
Recently, researchers found another indication of design in penguins. This time it had to do with anti-freezing:
Commenting on the discovery in the journal Science, Patrick Monahan writes:
“Ever wonder how penguins stay ice-proof? Researchers have discovered microscopic structures in the feathers of Humboldt penguins that keep them from icing up—and that could lead to similarly ice-resistant materials. Humboldt penguins, which live on rocky beaches on the west coast of South America, swim in below-freezing waters that flow north from the Antarctic Ocean. And yet, their feathers rarely get icy.”
This would suggest an exquisitely designed feature. And that is exactly what they found:
“To find the penguin’s antifrosting secrets, researchers examined pieces of the feathers through an electron scanning microscope. They found that the penguin’s feathers are full of tiny, micrometer-scale interlocking barbs, they report this month in The Journal of Physical Chemistry C. This creates a dense net of fibers that water can’t penetrate—and it also traps air bubbles that prevent heat transfer, keeping water from freezing on the feather’s surface. But looking on an even smaller scale, researchers found tiny wrinkles on the surface of these barbs. These spaces also trap pockets of air, which decrease the amount of contact area between the feather and droplet. This makes water droplets less attracted to the feather’s surface.”
The Science article also includes a biomimicry connection:
“Inspired by these structures, researchers created a membrane of tiny overlapping nanofibers with similar deicing powers, which may pave the way for uniquely ice-resistant materials.”
Biomimicry has to do with copying intelligent solutions seen in nature. It is a booming research field, with no shortage of ideas.
Monahan, Patrick. 2016. How penguins stay ice-proof. Science (26 February).
Thursday, 25 February 2016
700 quintillion is a huge number: “a 7 followed by 20 zeros,” as Nathaniel Scharping puts it in Discover magazine.
That is the assumed number of planets in the universe, at least according to a new study by astrophysicist Erik Zackrisson at Uppsala University, Sweden, and colleagues.
And none of them is like Earth.
The figures are drawn from a computer simulation based on the Big Bang model.
Zackrisson’s research throws cold water on the hopes of those who wish to believe that the universe is teeming with life. First, Scharping gives some background data:
“Current estimates hold that there are some 100 billion galaxies in the universe containing about 10^18 stars, or a billion trillion.
One of the most fundamental requirements for a planet to sustain life is to orbit in the ‘habitable zone’ of a star — the ‘Goldilocks’ region where the temperature is just right and liquid water can exist. Astronomers have, to this point, discovered around 30 exoplanets in the habitable zones of stars. Simply extrapolating that figure based on the known number of stars suggests that there should be about 50 billion such planets in the Milky Way alone. Probability seems to dictate that Earth-twins are out there somewhere. ”
The wildest speculations put the number of Earth-Like Planets at 100 Billion Billion.
Scharping dashes any such hopes:
“But according to Zackrisson, most planets in the universe shouldn’t look like Earth. His model indicates that Earth’s existence presents a mild statistical anomaly in the multiplicity of planets. Most of the worlds predicted by his model exist in galaxies larger than the Milky Way and orbit stars with different compositions — an important factor in determining a planet’s characteristics. His research indicates that, from a purely statistical standpoint, Earth perhaps shouldn’t exist.”
Scharping’s article has a rather intriguing title: Earth May Be a 1-in-700-Quintillion Kind of Place.
It certainly looks like it was fine-tuned for life, designed to be inhabited.
In contrast, even the most Earth-like exoplanets, such as Kepler-438 B, might not be habitable at all.
While Venus and Mars orbit the Sun in its habitable zone, they are anything but habitable.
We now know that giant gas planets like Saturn keep Earth habitable, protecting us from comets and other potentially hazardous objects.
Previous research has also suggested that Earth is probably a unique planet. Some scientists say that there’s no place like home elsewhere in the universe.
Scharping, Nathaniel. 2016. Earth May Be a 1-in-700-Quintillion Kind of Place. Discover (22 February).
Tuesday, 23 February 2016
Charles Darwin saw the Cambrian Explosion as a big dilemma. At least one evolutionary biologist acknowledged that it still presents a real headache for evolutionists.
Evolutionists have tried one explanation after another, with dismal results.
The Cambrian Explosion, with its exquisite animals such as trilobites and tardigrades (that are still with us), is not easily explained away by Darwinian mechanisms.
A ”520 million year” old fossilised brain makes the Darwinian story highly improbable and impossible.
Nevertheless, recently the journal Nature attempted to provide a solution to the confounding dilemma:
“An evolutionary burst 540 million years ago filled the seas with an astonishing diversity of animals. The trigger behind that revolution is finally coming into focus.”
This time, the assumed “big trigger” is oxygen.
Nature quotes palaeontologist Erik Sperling (Stanford University, California) as saying:
“If oxygen levels were 3% and they rose past that 10% threshold, that would have had a huge influence on early animal evolution. There's just so much in animal ecology, lifestyle and body size that seems to change so dramatically through those levels.”
This will not solve anything, however. Any kind of life needs more than just water. And oxygen cannot give birth to complicated organisms.
What is needed is genetic information coded in a way that enables it to build functional multicellular animals. That is – and will forever be – beyond the power of Darwinian mechanisms.
Fox, Douglas. 2016.What sparked the Cambrian explosion? Nature 530, 268–270 (18 February 2016) doi:10.1038/530268a.
Sunday, 21 February 2016
It is no secret that evolution does not work, at least in the sense it is usually understood. This has prompted some ardent Darwinists to re-define how they understand evolution.
Unwilling to admit the obvious, i.e., if something looks like it was designed, it probably was designed, they desperately want to cling on to a naturalistic answer to the problem.
It has become increasingly difficult to deny that design in nature is real. To evolutionists, the very concept seems be something akin to a nightmare.
Some time ago, computer scientist Richard Watson, who is an associate professor at the University of Southampton, UK, attempted to solve the dilemma by suggesting that evolution is evolvable.
This idea has been around for at least two decades or so.
Writing in The Conversation, his title already lets the Darwinian cat out of the bag to catch the nasty design mice: Intelligent design without a creator? Why evolution may be smarter than we thought.
He makes it clear that he will not accept any explanations that acknowledge the existence of authentic design.
He basically says that while evolution might initially be dumb and blind, it is not at all that stupid. He believes that it can learn. His thesis features the regulatory connections between genes and neural networks:
“The evolution of regulatory connections between genes, which govern how genes are expressed in our cells, has the same learning capabilities as neural networks. In other words, gene networks evolve like neural networks learn. While connections in neural networks change in the direction that maximises rewards, natural selection changes genetic connections in the direction that increases fitness. The ability to learn is not itself something that needs to be designed – it is an inevitable product of random variation and selection when acting on connections.”
A major drawback with this approach (from the naturalistic /materialistic perspective, that is) is that it assumes that at its inception, the genome is already complicated. It does not address the dilemma of how Darwinian processes could ever come up with such an intelligent system.
Ignoring this obvious shortcoming, Mr. Watson nevertheless pursues his Darwinian pipe dream:
“The exciting implication of this is that evolution can evolve to get better at evolving in exactly the same way that a neural network can learn to be a better problem solver with experience. The intelligent bit is not explicit ‘thinking ahead’ (or anything else un-Darwinian); it is the evolution of connections that allow it to solve new problems without looking ahead.”
In their desire to exclude the supernatural, some other Darwinians have also gone to great lengths to concoct “unsubstantiated just-so stories”, as they “cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door,” as Harvard professor Richard Lewinton famously put it.
Watson, Richard A. 2016. Intelligent design without a creator? Why evolution may be smarter than we thought. The Conversation (28 January).
Friday, 19 February 2016
A tumbleweed known as hairy panic has invaded the town of Wangaratta, Victoria, turning it into a surreal scene that could be from a horror film.
In some places, the grass stalks of Panicum effusum reach up to the roofs of houses.
Residents have laboured for hours, trying to clear their gardens of the stuff, only to see it return with a vengeance.
The weed grows very fast and can turn into a nightmare, as seen in Wangaratta.
Thorns and thistles are consequences of the Fall described in Genesis 3. Adam’s disobedience brought suffering and death into the world.
But even in a fallen world, there is an abundance of beauty.
Even Panicum effusum is quite beautiful. Only after it dies and dries up, it becomes a nuisance. It might be fatal for sheep if they eat too much of the weed, but otherwise the panic is not that serious.
BBC news. 2016. Australia town consumed by 'hairy panic' (18 February).
Thursday, 18 February 2016
It’s a snail and it lives in the ocean. It is so beautiful it is called a sea butterfly.
And it can fly – by flapping its wings – or appendages that look like wings – under the water.
The tiny snail Limacina helicina only lives in the Arctic and Antarctic waters. As it has a heavy shell, it would sink to the bottom if it didn’t fly.
Recently, David Murphy at John Hopkins University in Baltimore and colleagues examined how the sea snails fly. They published their findings in the Journal of Experimental Biology.
Reporting on the discovery, New Scientist included some evolutionary spin and the standard millions of years dogma:
“Even though gastropods and insects diverged from a common ancestor 550 million years ago, sea snails use the same clap-and-fling mechanism flies use, which involves bringing their wings together then quickly pushing them apart.”
If a similar trait appears in two widely distinct animals, the usual Darwinian explanation is convergent evolution, which amounts to hand waving. Or we might see it is Darwinspeak for no comprendo. In any case, it does not really explain anything.
New Scientist also includes a biomimicry connection:
“Brad Gemmell at the University of South Florida, who studies the swimming techniques of marine animals, thinks that the unique propulsive mechanism could be incorporated into new designs of micro flying vehicles.”
Unfortunately, he can’t resist putting a bit of Darwinian spin on what appears to be an obvious example of excellent design:
“Animals have had millions of years of selective pressure helping to test and design the best strategies and how to move through a fluid using comparatively little energy.”
Evolutionary design is an oxymoron, as the Darwinian watchmaker is supposed to be blind.
It would be more logical and more honest to admit that the beautiful little snail has always known how to move efficiently in water.
Ceurstemont, Sandrine. 2016. Sea butterflies fly underwater just like insects do in the air. New Scientist (17 February).
Tuesday, 16 February 2016
A long time ago, a flower was trapped in amber. Discovered recently in a mine in the Dominican Republic, the 2-centimetre (0.4 inches) long flower is “perfectly preserved”. Assumed to be between 15 and 45 million years old, it is “very similar” to its modern day relatives.
In other words, it has hardly changed at all. Strychnos electri, as it is called, “is thought to be a long-lost relative of modern plants including sunflowers, coffee, peppers, potatoes and mint.”
Evolution should be about change, but time and again we hear about stasis or non-change. In these cases, evidence does not match Darwinian expectations.
What they do suggests, however, is that flowers have been flowerers – and beautiful ones, too – for a very long time.
Some plants, such as ferns, araucariaea, cycads and the Wollemi Pine (Wollemia nobilis), have not changed since dino days.
Coghlan, Andy. 2016. Beautiful amber fossil flower reveals plant history of New World. New Scientist (15 February).
Monday, 15 February 2016
Design and evolution don’t go well together. Either an organism evolves or it is designed, but it seems that often design is so obvious in the animal kingdom that experts just can’t avoid the D-word.
And that D does not stand for Darwin.
A new paper published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) features a tiny creature with a single cell:
“Diatoms are unicellular algae that form an intricate silica cell wall. A protective shell that is light enough to prevent sinking while simultaneously offering strength against predators is of interest to the design of lightweight structural materials. Using three-point bending experiments, we show that the diatom shell has the highest specific strength of all previously reported biological materials. Fracture analysis and finite element simulations also suggest functional differentiation between the shell layers and features to mitigate fracture. These results demonstrate the natural development of architecture in live organisms to simultaneously achieve light weight, strength, and structural integrity and may provide insight into evolutionary design.”
There you have it: evolutionary design. To all intents and purposes, it looks designed. It is so well designed that engineers are interested in copying its structure. It is anything but heavy, yet it is extremely strong and does not break easily.
Creation abounds in intelligent solutions that strongly suggest design that cannot be explained away by evolution.
No wonder biomimicry or copying these solutions is such a flourishing field of research. Here are some inspiring examples:
· The moth’s eye
· Super sunscreen
· Mantis shrimp club
· Gecko feet
· The human eye
Aitken, Zachary H. et al. 2016. Microstructure provides insights into evolutionary design and resilience of Coscinodiscus sp. Frustule. PNAS (published online on 8 February ahead of print).
Sunday, 14 February 2016
The world around us – or even within us – does not look like it’s the product of Darwinian evolution in which all traits should basically serve the survival of organisms.
What we often see is beauty, redundancy and over-design that does not seem to have any survival value.
One might compare nature with the Baroque, a 17th century artistic style known for its exuberance and grandeur. This is the theme of a new video, The Biology of the Baroque, produced by Discovery Institute, featuring prominent biologist Michael Denton, known for the book Evolution: A Theory in Crisis (1985).
Dr Denton has recently written a new book, Evolution: Still a Theory in Crisis. The video summarises the gist of his thesis:
Saturday, 13 February 2016
Can an enormous natural archway really withstand wind and other kinds of erosion for 65 – 2.5 million years?
That is what we are told.
But the obvious answer is that it cannot. Just remember what happened to some of the 12 Apostles in Australia: They went the way of London Bridge in the children’s song, tumbling down into the ocean.
New Scientist published a series of photographs taken by Stefan Kröpelin (University of Cologne) and his colleagues during their recent trip to the Sahara. The pictures suggest a more watery past for the now arid region.
Some geological formations, such as the Aloba Arch in Chad, look like they were formed by Noah’s Flood some 4,500 years ago.
Here are some other possible Flood monuments:
· Three Sisters near Sydney, Australia
· Heavitree Gap near Alice Springs, Australia
· Megatsunami and giant boulders in Cape Verde
· A Fossilised tropical forest in Norway
· Huge aquifers in Northern Kenya
· Dinosaur graveyards almost everywhere
· The Mother and Child Rock in Zimbabwe
PS. Here’s a picture of a natural bridge assumed to be 500 million years old. The article is in Finnish, but the image will give you a good idea of this dilemma for believers in millions of years.
Ceurstemont, Sandrine. 2016. Secret Sahara reveals fairytale formations and ancient lakes. New Scientist (12 February).
Thursday, 11 February 2016
Richard Dawkins has recently made more headlines by tweeting and re-tweeting questionable content than by anything even remotely resembling science. However, on the eve of Darwin Day (due to arrive on the 12th), he was featured in a BBC article that discusses whether evolution is merely a theory.
The article tried to explain what scientists mean when they say something is a theory.
By invoking Darwin, we get the impression that by evolution the BBC is referring to the Darwinian microbes to man story. Dawkins was quick to point out that by having to define what they mean by theory, scientists were already losing the battle, so he prefers to use the word fact instead.
“The evidence for evolution is so strong that to withhold assent [i.e. to not call it fact] would be perverse," he says.
There are several problems here. First, evolutionists tend to see minuscule changes, say in the shape of a bird’s peak or a moth’s colour, and then extrapolate these by many orders of magnitude.
But natural selection is not evolution. While it might explain the survival of the fittest, it cannot account for the arrival of the fittest.
Genetic information does not just happen. Neither does it increase through Darwinian mechanisms. In contrast, it tends to decrease with mutations.
Losing a trait can hardly be called progress.
Second, it would be preposterous to call anything perverse in a purely Darwinian world that does not accept a moral Lawgiver.
Dawkins seems to be bluffing.
BBC. 2016. The Vocabularist: When is a theory 'just a theory'? (9 February).
Soon it will be Darwin Day (12 February). It is also known as Academic Freedom Day, but Darwinians tend to shy away from such things, as they prefer to silence all other views except their own.
Discovery Institute grants the Censor of the Year (COTY) award on individuals or organisations, recognising their “outstanding efforts in silencing debate about Darwinian evolution and alternative theories of life's origins.”
This year’s award goes to the Commission on the General Conference of the United Methodist Church. While their motto is Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors, they refused to accept a book table sponsored by Discovery Institute for their General Conference.
Showing their preference for theistic evolution, they were unwilling to let people hear about intelligent design.
In 2015 the COTY award went to Neil deGrasse Tyson, and in 2014 to Jerry Coyne.
It is a big mystery why some churches think that evolution is the way God chose to create living beings. Jesus, the apostle Paul and even John Wesley would certainly have disagreed with them.
Klinghoffer, David. 2016, Closed Minds, Closed Doors: United Methodist Church Commission Is Censor of the Year. Evolution News and Views (9 February).
Tuesday, 9 February 2016
Some plants living in very poor soil eat bugs. However, catching them requires a lot of effort and energy. To avoid false alarms – and wasting energy – the Venus Flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) counts how many times a potential meal touches it.
Research published in the journal Current Biology shows that the hair-like sensors on the Dionaea muscipula’s trap had to be touched twice before the trap shut. Keeping an insect captive and digesting it required the plant to count to five.
This sounds less like Darwinism and a lot more like intelligent design. It seems that this is a strategy given to some plants to cope in a post-Fall world where struggles are often the norm.
The Venus Flytrap is not the only plant that knows how to count. In 2013, eLife published a paper entitled Arabidopsis plants perform arithmetic division to prevent starvation at night. Obviously, dividing is more complicated than merely counting to five.
Plants are amazingly smart. Their very elegant design shows that they’re not accidents.
And there’s no lack of beauty in them, either.
Brouillette, Monique. 2016. Video: Venus flytrap counts to avoid being tricked. Science (21 January).
Sunday, 7 February 2016
Richard Dawkins and some other ardent evolutionists have used junk DNA as an argument for undirected evolution. They have called it the ultimate parasite and vestigial and some still dislike the idea that it could actually have a function.
However, in 2010, the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (ENCODE) project disclosed that most of what was thought to be junk or useless leftovers from Darwinian evolution actually had beneficial consequences for us. In other words, junk DNA or, as it usually defined, “the strand of DNA that does not carry the information necessary to make proteins,” is anything but junk.
We keep on getting to know of more ways of how this assumed evolutionary junk is actually very necessary for us and for other living creatures as well.
The latest instalment comes from cancer research. A study conducted in the Universities of Bath and Cambridge, UK, found that this assumed junk “plays a role in suppressing cancer.”
A press released issued by the University of Bath states:
“In recent years it has become apparent that a lot of this non-coding DNA is actually transcribed into non-coding RNA…
Now a team of scientists from Bath, Cambridge and the USA has identified a piece of non-coding RNA – transcribed from a stretch of DNA that doesn’t code for a protein – that stops cells turning cancerous.
The researchers hope their discovery, published in Nature Communications, will help develop new treatments for cancer.”
Cancer can be caused by switches that determine which cells should replicate and which should die off. Sometimes the switch gets stuck in the on position, leading to a spread of cancer.
Dr Lovorka Stojic, who works at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, discovered that a strand of non-coding RNA known as GNG12-AS1 “prevents the growth switch getting stuck and suppresses metastasis. The specific genomic region where this non-coding RNA is located often gets damaged in breast cancer patients – this control is removed and the cancer cells spread.”
The role of non-coding RNA is more complicated than this. To keep cells healthy, it employs two mechanisms: 1) “regulating the levels of DIRAS3, one of its neighbouring genes that is involved in cell replication” and 2) “suppressing a network of genes that prepare cells to change their shape and prepare for metastasis.”
To sum up: non-coding RNA does not sound at all like junk. It prevents cancer from spreading.
It appears to be a very intelligent solution.
University of Bath. 2016. 'Junk' DNA plays role in preventing breast cancer. (February).
Friday, 5 February 2016
Where's the Evolution? “120 Million Year Old” Lacewings Were “Surprisingly Similar” to Modern Butterflies
There is very little new under the sun. We tend to get reminders of the stasis or lack of evolution in the animal kingdom almost weekly. The latest instalment features extremely well preserved fossilised dino-era lacewings that resemble modern butterflies though they are assumed to be at least “50 million years” older.
An article posted on Phys.org highlights the similarities:
“Large butterfly-like insects known as Kalligrammatid lacewings, which fluttered through Eurasian fern- and cycad-filled woodland during the Mesozoic Era, have been extinct for more than 120 million years. But with new fossil analyses, scientists at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History have discovered that these ancient lacewings were surprisingly similar to modern butterflies, which did not appear on Earth for another 50 million years.”
The choice of some expressions like “strikingly similar” and “closely resemble” is particularly telling, as it calls evolutionary change into question:
“Through taxonomic, anatomical and geochemical studies, scientists led by Smithsonian paleoecologist Conrad Labandeira revealed that Kalligrammatid lacewings likely served as important pollinators during mid-Mesozoic times, using mouthparts that were strikingly similar to the elongated, tubular structures that modern butterflies have to sip nectar-like fluids from flowering plants. What's more, their wings bore eyespot patterns that closely resemble those found on some butterflies today, which may have helped to distract or deter potential predators.”
It is anything but easy to make a fossil, as very special circumstances are needed, such as a global flood with accompanying volcanism. And preserving tiny details for “120 million years” almost defies logic.
Evolutionists often try to invoke convergent evolution as an explanation of why distinct animals would have the same physical traits. In effect, it suggests that evolution does not work.
However, this obviously does not keep them from concocting evolutionary stories regardless of how unconvincing they might sound.
Phys.org. 2016. Scientists discover butterfly-like fossil insect in the deep Mesozoic (3 February).
Wednesday, 3 February 2016
Many biblical scholars take a very different approach to Genesis and creation than what Jesus or the New Testament authors did. They regarded it as true, authoritative and inspired.
Unfortunately, some modern day scholars disagree with them. Writing in the January/February 2016 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, Shawna Dolansky, who is Adjunct Research Professor at Charleton University in Ottawa, Canada, suggests that the creation accounts in Genesis were not meant to be taken literally.
She points out that we live in a world that differs a lot from the times of the biblical authors. She thinks that the Genesis creation accounts were written to explain reality:
“Like other ancient peoples, the Israelites told multiple creation stories. The Bible gives us three (and who knows how many others were recounted but not preserved?). Genesis 1 differs from Genesis 2–3, and both diverge from a third version alluded to elsewhere in the Bible, a myth of the primordial battle between God and the forces of chaos known as Leviathan (e.g., Psalm 74), Rahab (Psalm 89) or the dragon (Isaiah 27; 51).”
This statement is problematic, as the creation accounts in Genesis 1 and 2 approach creation from two different viewpoints: Genesis one describes the creation of the universe from the earth’s perspective. Chapter two relates the creation of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Even more problematic is equating them with the poetic passages in Psalms and Isaiah.
Hebrew experts would say that Genesis is history.
However, failing to see this, she goes on to say:
“This battle that preceded creation has the Mesopotamian Enuma Elish as its closest analogue. In Enuma Elish, the god Marduk defeats the chaotic waters in the form of the dragon Tiamat and recycles her corpse to create the earth.”
Professor Dolansky suggests that the creation stories in Genesis were myths like the ones that other ancient cultures had. She says that this does not mean they are not true but they “are stories that convey and reinforce aspects of a culture’s worldview.”
However, many details suggest that Genesis is the original document and the other Near Eastern creation texts were corruptions of it.
In a culture permeated with Darwinian thinking, many writers try to explain away Genesis by postulating it is something other than what it says and what Jesus believed. (You can read some of their views here, here, here and here.)
Genesis is important. It is the foundation of the Christian worldview and should not be dismissed as myth.
Like all other books of the Bible, Genesis describes real people who lived in a real geographical setting at a real historical time.
Dolansky, Shawna. 2016. The Multiple Truths of Myths. Biblical Archaeology Review 42 (1): 18, 60 (January-February 2016).
Monday, 1 February 2016
Many people tend to think that ancient men could not have been as clever as we are. This is in keeping with the Darwinian idea that humans evolved very gradually from ape-like creatures and learning was a hit-or-miss affair. They were not expected to accomplish much intellectually.
However, many discoveries suggest that this view is badly outdated. Homo Erectus, for instance, made engravings and Neanderthals were anything but the caricature presented by 19th century evolutionists, who portrayed them as stooping, grunting ape-men.
Cave paintings were astonishingly sophisticated. New Scientist even speculated that cavemen might have invented the cinema.
Then, the ruins of Göbekli Tepe in modern-day Turkey showed that instead of living in simple dwellings, hunter-gatherers could already build towns.
Stonehenge in Britain has also caused a rethink of evolution-based views.
Then there’s the Antikythera Mechanism. With at least 30 gear wheels and pointers, it was a mechanical computer for calculating the movements of the sun, moon and probably also some planets.
And it was built 2,000 years ago.
There’s more. Recently, astroarchaeologist Mathieu Ossendrijver of Humboldt University in Berlin examined Babylonian clay tablets at the British Museum. The documents, dated from 350 BC to 50 BC, were a great surprise to him and everyone else.
The journal Science summarises the findings, stating that Babylonian astronomers
“also employed sophisticated geometric methods that foreshadow the development of calculus. Historians had thought such techniques did not emerge until more than 1400 years later, in 14th century Europe.”
Ossendrijver also published a report in Science entitled The Ancient Babylonian astronomers calculated Jupiter’s position from the area under a time-velocity graph.
Jupiter was important for Babylonians, as they identified it with their chief god Marduk. It seems that astronomers wanted to know precisely where the planet was at each stage:
“Ossendrijver figured out that the trapezoid calculations were a tool for calculating Jupiter’s displacement each day along the ecliptic, the path that the sun appears to trace through the stars. The computations recorded on the tablets covered a period of 60 days, beginning on a day when the giant planet first appeared in the night sky just before dawn.”
Comparing the tablets to older Babylonian texts from ca. 1800 BC to 1600 BC, he was able to see that the Babylonians had developed “abstract mathematical, geometrical ideas about the connection between motion, position and time that are so common to any modern physicist or mathematician.”
The discovery also throws light on how Noah could build a big ocean-going vessel 4,500 years ago and how the wise men from the east were able to reach Bethlehem after the birth of Christ.
Cowen, Ron. 2016. Math whizzes of ancient Babylon figured out forerunner of calculus. Science (28 January).