Focus: news of interest about creation and evolution
Jupiter origin mystery
Information from the Galileo space probe about Jupiter’s atmosphere has left theorists baffled. It was previously thought that Jupiter had been formed from colliding comets, so its atmosphere should be similar to that observed in comets. But the space probe has picked up much higher levels of the ‘noble gases’ argon, krypton and xenon than expected.
With the accepted evolutionary theory about how the solar system formed now thrown into doubt, astronomers are looking for other possibilities. For example, could Jupiter have formed elsewhere in space, later being sucked in towards the sun, to its present position? However, this raises the problem of explaining Jupiter’s near-circular orbit around the sun.
New Scientist, November 20, 1999, p. 6.
Nature, November 18, 1999, p. 269.
Researchers have created a ‘DNA computer’ made of strands of synthetic DNA and used it to solve complex problems. While others have already had success with DNA computing, this study shows that it can be scaled up and moved out of test tubes onto the solid surfaces needed to make it practical.
Much more development will be required before DNA molecules replace silicon chips. However, as one gram of DNA can hold the information-equivalent of a trillion CDs, scientists are looking to use DNA’s amazingly designed information storage capacity (able to hold the ‘blueprints’ of life) to overcome looming limits to microchip power. Also, as the fledgling DNA computer solved problems in far fewer steps than a conventional computer, the researchers expect biocomputers to be capable of dealing with problems of greater complexity while using less space.
The Sunday Mail (Brisbane), January 16, 2000, p. 20.
Minneapolis Star Tribune, startribune.com, January 13, 2000.
Nature, January 13, 2000, pp. 143–144, 175–179.
Planned ‘super-computer’ slower than real life
IBM plans to spend $US100 million building a new ‘supercomputer’ to simulate a basic biological process—protein folding. Proteins (e.g. insulin) are assembled as long chains, which then must fold into the correct three-dimensional shape in order to perform their function. As simulating this basic life process is beyond the reach of contemporary computing, the ‘Blue Gene’ supercomputer is being built to run 500 times faster than the world’s fastest computer today.
It is expected to take five years before the supercomputer will be ready to tackle the ‘grand challenge’ of protein folding. And even if everything works as planned, it will still take Blue Gene about a year to run a computer simulation of the folding of a single protein. How long does it take living cells to actually fold one? Less than a second!
As one IBM researcher noted, ‘It’s absolutely amazing, the complexity of the problem and the simplicity with which the body does it every day.’
New York Times, nytimes.com, December 6, 1999.
New Scientist, December 11, 1999, p. 8.
Children believe in God
Psychologists have been surprised to find that children believe in a creator God regardless of whether they are exposed to religious faith. They reported that children in Britain and Japan gave similar answers when asked who created various natural objects. The children had abstract notions of a Creator despite not having been influenced by concepts of God from organised religions.
As the Oxford University psychologist leading the study reports, her Japanese research assistants were surprised at the children’s responses, given that ‘We Japanese don’t think about God as creator—it’s just not part of Japanese philosophy.’
Religion Today, religiontoday.com, November 2, 1999.
At the recent World Futures Studies Federation conference in the Philippines, many scientists on the Science and Technology panel were worried about ‘the international decline in religious belief.’
Given continuing advances in gene technology, the panel’s main concern was that with ‘the decline in traditional sources of moral guidance’, humans were less likely to use genetic engineering knowledge responsibly. The scientists’ preferred future is for our capacity to modify genetic material to be ‘still circumscribed by some form of spiritual or ethical code.’
New Scientist, December 18, 1999, p. 53.
Ironically, many of those lamenting the loss of belief in moral absolutes have been active in promoting evolution. For example, Oxford’s Professor Richard Dawkins admitted in a recent radio interview:
‘… any kind of politics that is based on Darwinism for me would be bad politics, it would be immoral. Putting it another way, I’m a passionate Darwinian when it comes to science, when it comes to explaining the world, but I’m a passionate anti-Darwinian when it comes to morality and politics.’
Without the Creator God of the Bible, no consistent basis for ethics is possible —morality is ‘just another opinion’.
‘Time’ ages redwood tree
Time magazine recently reported that ‘The world’s oldest tree, known as “Eternal God”?, is a redwood that lives in the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park in California. Eternal God is 12,000 years old.’
In reality, tree-ring counts of drill-core samples show that the oldest living organisms are 4,000-year old bristlecone pines (‘The oldest living things’, Creation 10(1):10). Redwood trees (Sequoia sempervirens, which is Latin for ‘ever-living’) generally range from 600 to 1,200 years, with the oldest recorded—felled in 1934 — being around 2,200 years. A Prairie Creek living redwood and tourist landmark, ‘Big Tree’, is signposted ‘Estimated Age: 1500 yrs’.
Dendrochronologists (tree-ring experts) say that Time’s claim (also in The Guinness Book of Records) has no basis in fact, with the error possibly due to overzealous reporting and/or negligence in checking sources. (See also ‘Living tree “8,000 years older than Christ” (?)’ Creation 17(3):26–27.)
Time, November 15, 1999, p. 18.
The Guinness Book of Records 1998, pp. 228–229.
sempervirens.org, January 14, 2000.
swparks.com, January 19, 2000.
humboldtredwoods.org, January 14, 2000.
It is very likely that the global Flood some 4,000+ years ago uprooted or buried all trees, so one would not expect tree-ring dates of living trees today to be any older.
TV dinosaur walk ‘highly speculative’
The incredible world-wide popularity of the BBC television documentary (and book) Walking with Dinosaurs was accompanied by accusations from scientists and lay viewers alike that the producers had abandoned scientific integrity for the sake of attracting viewers.
Using the example of scenes where cynodonts were suckling their young and pair bonding for life, the senior editor of the scientific journal Nature said that the series was ‘irresponsible’ in stating ‘guesswork’ as fact when it had ‘no proof’. He said that the program is ‘presented as science and the fundamental tenet of science is that it must be able to be tested. There must be some way to verify it, otherwise it is nothing more than a bedtime story.’
Even a paleontologist consulted in the making of the series conceded that, ‘Much of the animal behaviour and natural history in “Walking with Dinosaurs’? is pure speculation, with little or no hard evidence to support it. But the program presents speculation as fact.’ Another consultant agreed that the program was ‘a highly speculative exercise’ but defended it by saying that ‘Science is about taking risks, making hypotheses, rather than about certainties.’
Daily Star (UK), October 20, 1999, p. 20.
The Times, October 6, 1999, p. 5.
New Scientist, November 13, 1999, p. 51.
To make the images of these creatures walk on the screen took millions of dollars, the latest computer technology, and lots of intelligent people—yet evolutionists say the real ones happened without any intelligent design.
Radioactive dating techniques ‘prove’ that the earth is billions of years old, say evolutionists. However, these techniques are based upon several assumptions, including that rates of radioactive decay have always been constant. Now new research has shown that decay rates can vary according to the chemical environment of the material being tested.
While the relatively small variation (1.5%) observed so far is unlikely to persuade ‘old-earthers’ to adopt a biblical time-line, the discovery that radioactive dating ‘can no longer be called precisely “clocklike” prompted the journal Science to comment, ‘Certainty, it seems, is on the wane.’
Earth and Planetary Science Letters 171, 1999, pp. 235–328.
Science, October 29, 1999, pp. 882–883.
For more details: Journal of Creation 14(1):4–5, 1999.
Fish origins scaled back
The discovery of two fossilised fish in ‘lower Cambrian’ rocks pushes their supposed age back more than 50 million years on the evolutionary time scale.
The problem for evolution is that this finding makes it even harder to explain fish origins. This is because it further reduces the time available for them to have theoretically ‘evolved’ from non-fish, and to have developed their highly complex nervous system and mode of breathing along the way.
With the fossil record acknowledged as ‘far from complete’, these two fish add to the evolutionists’ difficulties of explaining what they call the ‘Cambrian explosion’—a ‘seemingly abrupt’ explosion of life.
New Scientist, November 6, 1999, p. 27.
Nature, November 4, 1999, pp. 42–46.
Man or Mouse Chicken?
A comparison of human DNA with that of mice and chickens concludes that ‘the organisation of the human genome is closer to that of the chicken than the mouse’—the exact opposite of expectations from evolutionary theory.
Nature, November 25, 1999, pp. 411–413.
Funding evolution research
In the frenzied reaction to the Kansas School Board’s decision to deemphasise the teaching of evolution (Kansas controversy, Creation 22(1):8), one common accusation is that creationists in the USA are winning battles because they are better funded than evolutionists.
A University of California professor has tested that contention by requesting from various research institutions (e.g. NASA and the Department of Energy) details of how much public money each agency spends on research guided by evolutionary theory.
The total was $US10 billion—which doesn’t include indirect research at educational institutions, or the billions of tax dollars spent on textbooks and audio-visual material for teaching evolution.
Probe Ministries, probe.org, October 14, 1999.
An international consortium of geneticists working on mapping the human genetic code has identified 97% of the DNA base (letter) sequence of Chromosome 22 (existing technology cannot decipher the remaining 3%).
These geneticists strove for five years to work out the sequence on this 545-gene chromosome, one of the smallest in humans, and there are another 22 chromosome pairs yet to do. Nevertheless this announcement received huge news coverage.
Some populist media claimed that this ‘breakthrough’ had ‘cracked the code of life’, revealing ‘how life itself originated’ and even ‘whether philosophers were right about free will.’(!)
Nature, December 2, 1999, pp. 445, 447–448, 467–468, 489–495.
The Daily Telegraph (UK), December 2, 1999, p. 32.