February 12 is Darwin Day to mark the birthday of Charles Darwin. There is an organization which exists to encourage encourages schools, museums, churches, and universities through the registry of the Darwin Day Celebration website. The stated purpose is to “honor the life and work of Charles Darwin.” The National Center for Science Education is the major supporter of the celebration.
Leading up to Darwin Day, February 8-10 this year is designated as Evolution Weekend. Michael Zimmerman who initiated this event says, “Evolution Weekend is an opportunity for serious discussion and reflection on the relationship between science and religion.” He goes on to say, “Those claiming that people must choose between religion and science are creating a false dichotomy.” According to Zimmerman, 202 congregations in 45 states and five foreign countries are holding Evolution Weekend events. Several large denominations are a part of this effort.
We agree that we do not have to choose between science and faith. We have posted many articles pointing out that evolution is not the issue. Change certainly happens in living things, and the Bible talks about specific examples of evolution such as what Jacob did with Laban’s flocks. The issue is Naturalism, based on common descent from one-celled life to human beings.
What is the best animal eye? Engineers at the University of Illinois have been researching that question. They have now built the world’s best camera by copying that animal. Their new camera could help military drones see camouflaged or shadowed targets. Their discovery also will allow surgeons to perform many kinds of operations more accurately. They have learned all this from the animal which possesses the best eye known to science. The best animal eye belongs to a small creature known as the mantis shrimp. Here are some of the ways the mantis shrimp’s eyes are superior to all others:
The mantis shrimp eye can sense polarized light which has waves that undulate in one plane. Light reflecting off of a surface is always polarized. This ability allows the mantis shrimp to see objects that would otherwise be invisible because of blending into the background.
A mantis shrimp’s eyes are constructed so that each pixel has a rhabdom which is a rodlike structure made of light receptors. The rhabdoms have threadlike structures called microvilli alternately stacked at right angles. That means the shrimp has cells in the two hemispheres of the eye which are tilted 45 degrees to each other allowing their eyes to detect four polarization directions.
The eye of the mantis shrimp can detect an extensive range of light intensities of light to dark known as the dynamic range. This means that they can see clearly even when there is a very bright area next to a very dark area.
The mantis shrimp is the only animal that can sense a full spectrum of colors and can see the polarization of each color. That means that when there is a complicated background, the animal can still get a clear image.
Electrical and computer engineer Victor Gruev and his research team have already made a camera based on the best animal eye. It has a dynamic range which is about 10,000 times higher than today’s commercial cameras. Gruev and the team are working on a commercial version of their camera. Produced in bulk quantities the improved sensors would cost only $10 each.
February 12 has been designated as Darwin Day by the U.S. government with Senate Resolution 374 and House Resolution 699 both being pushed by the American Humanist Association. The stated goal is “..support of designating February 12, 2018, as Darwin Day and recognition of Charles Darwin as a worthy symbol of scientific advancement on which to focus and around which to build a global celebration of science and humanity intended to promote a common bond among all of Earth’s people.” With Darwin Day comes the return of Evolution Weekend in which various churches use the weekend of February 9-11 to promote their view that “evolution is sound science and poses no problems for their faith.” The Clergy Letter which Michael Zimmerman circulates among denominational congregations states that “Evolution Weekend makes it clear that those claiming that people must choose between religion and science are creating a false dichotomy.”
All of this is a strange mix of good ideas and bad ideas along with fact and opinion. It is also replete with attacks on the Bible and denigration of those who claim that bad science is involved. The stated goals are wonderful. The failure to define what is meant by evolution and accurately present what Charles Darwin actually discovered dilutes the value of the weekend and of Darwin Day itself.
It would be wonderful if Darwin Day not only commemorated the birth of Charles Darwin but presented his primary discovery. What Darwin discovered was that living things are designed so that they can change and adapt to environmental conditions and changes humans make to improve crops and animal husbandry. Unfortunately, atheists attempt to add the writings of those who oppose the idea that humans are special. Instead, they suggest that all of life has equal value because they deny the spiritual dimension of humans.
The headline of a lead article in USA Today for November 8, 2017, said: “Our Ancestors Were Rats.” Written by Doyle Rice, the article claims that fossils prove our distant ancestor was a rat.
According to the article, Steve Sweetman of the University of Portsmouth in the U.K. says we know about this ancestor of ours. He said it is “undoubtedly the earliest yet known from a line of mammals that led to our own species.” The article further said that line of mammals included blue whales and pygmy shrews. Sweetman says the mammals they have discovered “were small furry creatures.” He speculates that they were nocturnal, possibly burrowers, and ate insects and possibly plants.
Would we not assume that this newly discovered fossil had a skeleton and traces or impressions of fur? Wouldn’t we have found coprolite (petrified poop) to make claims about what the animal’s diet was or perhaps plant or insect material in the animal’s stomach? Would we not also assume that the biosphere in which the animal lived was well documented by fossils of what the animal ate? Are we not assuming that the “line of mammals that led to our own species” has been so well documented that no reputable scientist would deny it?
The fact is that an undergraduate student was sifting through rocks and fossils in a box in his geology lab when he found two teeth which he showed to Sweetman who is a mammal expert. That is all the evidence we have for this rat which was supposedly our ancestor. How do you determine the animal had fur from two teeth?
There is great controversy about the phylogenetic trees that various scientists have constructed to develop theories about the history of life on planet Earth and human life. Many scientists believe that multiple trees and cladistic techniques better explain the history of life than the our ancestor was a rat version that Sweetman promotes.
In July of 1925, a silly trial took place in Dayton, Tennessee. A school teacher named John Thomas Scopes had broken Tennessee law by teaching evolution. People call it the Scopes monkey trial.
On the prosecution side was William Jennings Bryan, the spokesman for fundamentalist advocates of the Bible. (Bryan is sitting on the left side of the picture.) Clarence Darrow was the humanist opponent arguing for the defense. (You can see him standing on the right questioning Bryan. The judge had moved the trial outside because of the heat in the packed courtroom.) At the time, people called it “the trial of the century.” After eight days of the trial, it took the jury nine minutes to convict Scopes, and the judge fined him $100.
The problem was that no one bothered to define “evolution.” Nobody took the time to see what the Bible really said. The weaknesses of denominational teaching were attacked, not the evidence or understanding of what science and the Bible actually say on the subject. Both sides claimed a win, but in reality, neither side won. Books, theatrical productions, and movies have perpetuated the story, and it has given great promotional value to the little town of Dayton.
The latest example of how this battle goes on appeared on July of 2017 when a statue of Clarence Darrow was dedicated on the Dayton courthouse lawn. The dedication drew an organized protest by fundamentalists who already have a statue of William Jennings Bryan in the area. The newspapers billed it as a “religion versus science” debate. A recent Gallup poll shows that the number of Americans who believe that evolution is the only possible answer to the origin of all living things has grown from 9% in the late 1980s to 19% today.
The origin of life complexity continues to baffle science. There are two competing scientific theories on the origin of life. One is called the “Darwin school of thought” which posits that meteorites brought elements to Earth that led to the formation of compounds which led to RNA and then to DNA. The second theory says that life originated in mineral-rich hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor.
The problem with both of these theories is that they are not explaining the origin of life complexity. They are only explaining some of the compounds that would be necessary to form life. Many scientists question the possibility of either of these theories and whether organic compounds could survive in the conditions of the early Earth. The bigger issue is how you could move from those compounds–no matter how they were formed–to a living cell.
You not only must have the ingredients to make life, but you also need a protected environment in which those compounds can be combined. Life could not begin in a toxic atmosphere or if there were agents on Earth’s surface that would destroy the ingredients. RNA and DNA involve long strands of nucleotides. Scientists in the laboratory can only produce such chains in a carefully controlled environment. The time element involved in producing increasingly complex molecules is also an issue.
When we enter probabilities into this process, the odds of each step happening by chance are very unlikely. Then to put all the steps together in the right order makes the probability of it happening by chance outside the scientific limits of what is possible.
Turkish education minister Ismet Yilmaz has announced changes to the textbooks in that country. Starting next fall, the Turkish government will remove evolution and all references to Charles Darwin from the textbooks along with 170 other topics that do not coincide with the Islamic government views. The new curriculum to replace these topics is said to be “value-based” and in harmony with student development.
The current biology course for twelveth grade biology has a section titled “The Beginning of Life and Evolution.” It is being replaced with a unit titled “Living Beings and the Environment.” This new course will include discussions of adaptation, mutation, and natural and artificial selection without mentioning evolution or Darwin. An earlier section for an eleventh-grade philosophy class will be titled “Evolution and other Ontological Opinions.”
The situation is complicated in Turkey not only because of the influence of Islam but also because of the failed coup in 2016. The government is using the schools as a way to control the population. Included in the new curriculum are units about the groups that the government is fighting such as the Kurdistan Worker’s Party and the U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen.
American creationist groups that want to include their particular view of biology in education may want to look at what is happening in Turkey. The new curriculum, which is religiously based, is turning the classroom into a political football. It will be interesting to see if the Turkish government will remove evolution from the educational system without causing major civil unrest.
There is a tendency for the media to be “splitters” instead of “lumpers” when it comes to human history. Splitters are people, in and out of the academic community, who want to put a new label on everything they find in the fossil record. Every new find is given a new name and assumed to be a new species. The result is that people believe there have been many species of humans. In the past, splitters justified slavery by maintaining that some races were actually inferior species and could be used by more fit (more advanced) species of humans. Lumpers are those who maintain that all of the variations are simply racial variations and that there is only one human species.
The Bible is clear that God looks at all humans as having equal value (Galatians 3:28). The advent of Christianity ended the barriers between humans even though greed and selfishness continue to plague the planet. The splitter mentality attempts to classify the Neanderthals as a different species of humans, even though evidence suggests this is not scientifically correct. Scientists studying the human genome have found genes in all of us that seem to be related to the Neanderthals. On April 27, 2017, the journal Nature published a report of a study of some mastodon bones found in the San Diego are two decades ago. The conclusion of a team of scientists was that marks on the bones indicate they were split open to get at the marrow. They suggest that the bone fractures and potential hammer stones found with them were the work of possible Neanderthals. Previous archaeological studies suggest that humans arrived in the Americas some 15,000 years ago. Dating of the mastodon bones is close to 130,000 years ago. Many other scientists question this new report.
In 1974 paleoanthropologist Donald Johanson introduced the world to a claimed ancestor of humans which was classified as Australopithecus afarensis or the “southern ape from afar.” The story is that because the song “Lucy in the Star With Diamonds” was playing on the radio at the time of the discovery, the specimen was nicknamed “Lucy.” Lucy is being displayed in museums throughout the world and has had extensive exposure in the United States. The claim is that she is a link giving proof of the evolution of humans from apes. Johanson has a model of human evolution suggesting that apes became erect first, and then their brains developed to make them human. It appears that Lucy’s sacrum and hip might have been arranged in a somewhat vertical position to facilitate erect walking, and Johanson feels that is support for his theory.
The truth is that most of what we know about Lucy and about characteristics that separate humans from apes strongly supports the idea that Lucy was a monkey, and does not support the claims of those who promote naturalism as an explanation of human origins. Here are some of the problems:
1-The brain size of Lucy was about 422 cc. A human’ brain is closer to 1470 cc or more. Chimps’ brains are around 520 cc.
2-Lucy’s mandible (lower jaw) is V-shaped like a monkey’s, not C-shaped like a human’s.
3-Lucy has short, curved toe and finger bones like monkeys. Humans’ are generally straight.
4-Lucy’s humerus (upper arm bone) and femur (upper leg bone) are the same size. A human generally has a 2:1 ratio in size with these bones.
5-Recent studies have shown that Lucy had an exceptionally powerful upper body. This is typical of apes that spend long amounts of time climbing in trees.
6-Lucy’s rib cage was conical (like an ape) while human rib cages are barrel-shaped.
7-Lucy may, in fact, have been a male. The pelvis is heart-shaped and ridge-less which is typical of males.
One of the most interesting examples of design in living things is the ability that various forms of life have to migrate great distances for a wide variety of reasons. Sea turtles have an uncanny ability to return to the same beaches over and over to lay their eggs. Whales can travel long distances when they are ready to calve, giving their offspring a greater chance of survival. Migrations can be critical to animals or plants other than the animal making the migration. Sometimes the migration is critical to an environmental ecosystem. The salmon migration in Alaska, for example, is critical to the entire area sustaining plant life and a wide variety of animal life.
When insect migrations are studied, the question of how they make the migrations and why becomes even more complicated. Monarch butterflies make migrations of great lengths even though their life expectancy is too short for any single butterfly to make the entire migration. The champion of insect migrations is the globe skimmer dragonfly (Pantala flavescens). This insect has wide wings that look very delicate, but those wings can carry it for thousands of miles seeking wet seasons when it can reproduce. Migration has spread this insect’s DNA worldwide to every continent except Antarctica. Globe skimmers can fly for hours without landing and have been seen as high as 20,000 feet (6,200 m) in the Himalayas. They are sometimes called wandering gliders because they can glide on thermals in a way similar to birds. They seem to prefer moist winds, and they don’t stop for bad weather.