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1. BBC: “Starch ‘fuel of human evolution’

They are the icons of evolution that many have used to prop up Darwinism: Galapagos finches, peppered moths, Lucy, the Miller–Urey research, Archaeopteryx, and potatoes. Wait a second—potatoes?

That’s right, it seems, based on recent research published in Nature Genetics. The scientists were hoping to help answer the question of what provided the boost in calories to fuel the expansion of human brains, thought by evolutionists (of necessity) to have increased in size dramatically since our supposed ape-brained ancestors.

Experts once thought the answer lay in meat, but study participant Nathaniel Dominy, an anthropologist at UC–Santa Cruz, explains why the team considers that possibility doubtful:

“Even when you look at modern human hunter-gatherers, meat is a relatively small fraction of their diet. To think that, two to four million years ago, a small-brained, awkwardly bipedal animal could efficiently acquire meat, even by scavenging, just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.”

So if meat isn’t the answer, what else could possibly account for the increase in calories? The team thought they were closing in on the answer after they discovered that humans carry extra copies of gene AMY1, which is necessary for the production of a starch-digesting enzyme called amylase that is present in saliva. Chimpanzees, for example, have only two copies of the gene.

Intrigued, the team examined groups of humans with different diets and discovered a positive correlation between the starch consumption in each diet and copies of AMY1 in each group’s members. For example, the members of a Japanese group, who consume rice-rich diets, had more copies of AMY1 than the members of an Arctic group, who eat mostly fish.

Thus, the team concluded that in locales with an abundant supply of starch, natural selection favored individuals with the gene. This starch-digesting favorability increased after humans mastered fire, the researchers argue.

Interestingly, it’s an evolutionist—who happens to be a professor of philosophy of science—who points out the layer of interpretation such studies as this rely on. John Dupré of the University of Exeter “urge[s] caution when interpreting the findings,” reports the BBC. Dupré explains:

“Lots of things differ between ourselves and our closest relatives and apart from the difficulty of establishing the relative places in the evolutionary sequence of any of these, the assumption that there is any one fundamental to such change is dubious.”

Of course, while we agree that there are dubious assumptions and much interpretation involved, and that “[l]ots of things differ between ourselves and [chimps],” we go a step farther: removing evolution (in any Darwinian sense) from the explanation entirely. Indeed, the study’s results can be understood with equal, if not more, clarity and coherence within the creationist framework.

First of all, although the researchers simply assumed that “evolution” had “made” this gene, AMY1’s origin cannot be explained by natural selection acting on chance mutations, which has never been shown to create new information. The only explanation for the origin of the massive amount of information in both animal and human genomes is an intelligent creator. Also, note that the difference in AMY1 copies among various people groups that were tested does not indicate the presence of any new information, just as photocopying a newspaper article does not give you new information.

Second, the process of natural selection—environmental adaptations that manipulate pre-existing genetic information—can explain why various people groups average varying numbers of AMY1 copies. Natural selection (as it is actually observed, not as evolutionists portray it) is entirely compatible with the Bible’s account of creation. It is both observed in nature and is an important theoretical construct for understanding how life-forms adapt to their environments, such as humans with extra AMY1 copies enjoying an advantage in high starch environments, with the opposite being true in low-starch environments.

The problem is, the actual results of studies, such as this one, are often framed in evolutionary interpretation that is treated as just as factual as the results. It often takes a trained eye to spot and distinguish the evolutionary interpretation from the actual discovery.

Of course, that’s our goal with News to Note—to train your eyes to distinguish factual observations from evolutionary interpretations, which are based on false assumptions!

2. Baptist Press: “I.D. rift hits Baylor again

We’re saddened to report on a recent administrative action at Baylor University (a Baptist school) in Texas, where administrators ordered a professor’s personal website be shut down because of “anonymous concerns” that the site supported ideas associated with the intelligent design movement (IDM).

Baylor’s record on dealing with academic freedom, particularly as it concerns intelligent design the IDM, is now all the more odious. In 2000, Baylor removed intelligent design theorist William Dembski, now at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, because Dembski “refus[ed] to rescind a statement supporting Intelligent Design as a legitimate form of academic inquiry.”

The professor under fire this time is Robert Marks, distinguished professor of electrical and computer engineering, who launched a website called the “Evolutionary Informatics Lab” in June to study whether natural selection can use chance mutations to generate new information. “Marks’ conclusions, as explained on the website, placed limits on the scope of Darwinism and offered scientific support for Intelligent Design,” explains Baptist Press.

The debate, surprisingly, does not concern the validity of Marks’ research, but rather “Baylor’s policies and procedures of approving centers, institutes, products using the university’s name,” according to Lori Fogleman, director of media communications at Baylor. In July, after giving an interview to the IDM-promoting Discovery Institute, Marks was asked by Baylor’s engineering school dean to remove the website. In response, Marks requested a meeting for discussion, but just shy of a week before the scheduled meeting, all references to the Evolutionary Informatics Lab on Marks’ website were forcibly removed.

Should we be surprised? Dembski, the previous victim, offers a fairly chilling perspective on academic freedom when it comes to disagreement with Darwin:

You have to understand, in the current academic climate, Intelligent Design is like leprosy or heresy in times past. To be tagged as an ID supporter is to become an academic pariah, and this holds even at so-called Christian institutions that place a premium on respectability at the expense of truth and the offense of the Gospel.

Dembski added that he knows of faculty at Baylor who support the IDM but “who don’t have tenure and don’t speak up on the topic.” However, Dembski’s harshest criticism is reserved not for anything directly relating to the IDM, but rather for Baylor’s handling of the situation:

Dembski said the way the Baylor administration has dealt with Marks in this case is “inexcusable by any standard, certainly Christian but even secular.”

Dembski supported his comments by citing specific secular institutions that would find Baylor’s disregard of academic freedom “unconscionable”—even beyond typical complaints that intelligent design research is stifled.

The Discovery Institute’s Robert Crowther adds that he believes IDM “has become such a controversial issue in academia because of the scientific threat it poses [to Darwinism. ...] ‘There are new discoveries being made all the time that are leading a number of scientists to not just question Darwinian evolution but to actively pursue research into Intelligent Design.’”

There are several points to take away from this sad news. First is the obvious—that even many “Christian” schools (some effectively Christian in name only) have become founts of Darwinism. Second, all too well known is that despite evolutionists’ cries that virtually all scientists agree wholeheartedly with Darwinism, such cries are untrustworthy when academicians are afraid to speak out with their criticisms because of the harsh consequences associated with those that do. Even questioning Darwinism, let alone actually voicing support for the intelligent design movement or true biblical creation, can doom one’s reputation a priori in science fields. Despite this fact, hundreds of scientists have signed an official statement dissenting from Darwinism, in addition to the many scientists who go beyond accepting the tenets of the intelligent design movement and accept, specifically, the Bible’s account of creation.

But ultimately, the saddest lesson to learn from this story is the attitude many—including, apparently, some Christian academia—are not even willing to fairly consider the creation/evolution issue. Apparently, Baylor’s leadership is so frightened of standing against secular dogma that in dealing with Marks, it did not even consider the validity of the ID research presented.

We certainly hesitate to question the faith of anyone who, for example, works at a Christian university, and we know there are many Christians who attend Baylor today and who have graduated or taught at Baylor. However, we must ask how the administrators of any Christian school could so vigorously combat research that supports the notion of a Creator! And don’t forget, we’re not even talking about the six-day, recent creation that Bible metaphorizers dispute; we’re talking about anything that flies in the face of Darwinism. Perhaps this should not be surprising, considering Dembski claims an old guard at Baylor “supports secularization.”

3. LiveScience: “Oldest Identifiable Footprints Found

For the first time ever, fossilized creatures considered to have lived during the Paleozoic Era (240–540 million years ago by uniformitarian dating methods) have been unearthed along with their own footprints. Writing in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, researchers describe fossils of Diadectes absitus and Orobates pabsti that were recently discovered in central Germany. Not far away were fossilized footprints that have been matched with the animals, thanks in part to the “exceptional preservation” of the bone remains.

Although the LiveScience article covering the research does not say if the researchers suggested any cause of fossilization, one has to ask what sort of long-term process could account for the fossils of both the bodies and footprints of not one, but two creatures in close proximity. Team member Dale Berman of Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum of Natural History even comments on the rarity of the fossils’ intact extremities: “[i]t's rare that we get feet with all the toe and wrist and ankle bones [intact].” Would the long-age, gradual process of fossilization proposed by uniformitarians have preserved these creatures and their footprints without disruption by scavenging animals or weather erosion? It certainly doesn’t seem likely.

Additionally, the footprints are prompting scientists to “rethink how the ancient creatures moved.” Unlike most reptiles we see today, and like many mammals, the fossil creatures’ footprints appeared to have been imprinted under the reptiles’ bodies, rather than somewhat out to the side. Of course, since the creatures, one of which is an entirely new discovery, have “no close living relatives,” it is difficult to formulate any definite ideas of their behavior.

4. ScienceDaily: “Dinosaur To Birds: Height Or Flight?

A tiny Mongolian dinosaur is wreaking havoc on evolutionists’ traditional ideas of how flight (and birds) evolved. A North Carolina State University press release, adapted by ScienceDaily, describes the work of researchers led by Julia Clarke, assistant professor of paleontology at N.C. State.

When studying the newly discovered, tiny dinosaur species Mahakala omnogovae and comparing it to “other small meat-eating dinosaurs including birds,” the team found that small size had “evolved well before the ability to fly.” Not only that, but the representatives in each dinosaur lineage “did not get uniformly smaller as time went on,” as previously thought; instead, some dinosaur lineages saw their size triple. The press release explains how this causes a problem:

If miniaturization of dinosaurs occurred well before the origin of flight, then this raises other questions about the ways that paleontologists have traditionally explained trends in the early history of birds. [...] “Now we see that small size occurs well before many other innovations in locomotion and growth strategy. It forces us to look at the ways we were explaining trends within this part of Dinosauria, and to question our previous assumptions.”

Of course, one key assumption is that birds evolved from dinosaurs! But not having anywhere else to turn to to explain the origin of birds, evolutionists will continue to promote the dino–bird link, even when forced to rewrite the story of how birds actually evolved (or when, or where, or why, etc.).

Remember, if you see a news story that might merit some attention, let us know about it! And thanks to all of our readers who have submitted great news tips to us. If you didn’t catch last week’s News to Note, why not take a look at it now? See you next week!