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Investigating Origins

Archaeological, scientific and historical articles dealing directly with the issue of origins, evolution, the early chapters of Genesis and the Genesis Flood. (Genesis 1-9).

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When many people hear about the controversy over human origins, they usually think of creation versus evolution. However, some of the most heated debates occur within the theory of evolution itself. According to the November 3, 2007, issue of the journal Science News, 'Given limited evidence about long-gone populations of our predecessors, researchers devise competing evolutionary scenarios that are often difficult to disprove and that can easily accommodate whatever ancient bones turn up next' (Bower 2007: 280).

An example of this takes the form of an ancient braincase and partial upper jaw unearthed in Kenya in 2000. The discoverers claim that these two fossils prove that there were two species of Homo (the genus that includes modern humans) that lived at the same time in East Africa between 1.9 million and 1.4 million year ago. However, as Science News reports, 'one prominent anthropologist rejects that conclusion, placing both new fossils in a single species that preceded Homo sapiens'-that is, modern humans (Ibid.).

Standard evolutionary theory maintains that Homo habilis, a small-brained primate that is believed to have evolved about 2 million years ago from earlier primates in East Africa, evolved into the larger-brained Homo erectus about 1.6 million years ago, and that Homo erectus evolved into us. After teaching this as dogma for decades, some scientists are beginning to doubt this scenario. Anatomist Fred Spoor of University College London and his colleagues maintain that H. habilis and H. erectus evolved separately, and lived side by side in East Africa for half a million years (Ibid. 282).

They base their conclusion on the two fossil finds mentioned above. The first is a piece of upper jaw, which was found in a layer of volcanic ash dated under current assumptions to 1.44 million years ago. The jaw, which still contains six teeth, belongs to H. habilis, according to Spoor. The second find is a small braincase whose age is estimated at 1.55 million years, and 'bears several traits unique to H. erectus,' according to Science News (Ibid.).

The journal further points out: 'Since the two species coexisted in the same region for such a long time, each must have had separate origins between 3 million and 2 million years ago, [Spoor and his colleagues] contend. Few hominid fossils have turned up from that period' (Ibid.). Spoor concludes that modern humans evolved from H. erectus, possibly via an intermediate species as yet unknown, while H. habilis was a 'sister species' of H. erectus that eventually reached an evolutionary dead end (Ibid.).

Not all scientists agree. Tim White of the University of California, Berkeley, one of the leading anthropologists of all time, has classified both fossils as H. erectus and as important contributions to the study or origins, 'but hardly the stuff of major evolutionary revisions,' in the words of Science News (Ibid.). He rejects Spoor's image of the human evolutionary line branching out into multiple species, maintaining instead the standard, familiar model of early hominids evolving in a straight line (Ibid.).

This controversy demonstrates the high degree of uncertainty that surrounds the search for human origins. Despite the fact that the popular image of ape-to-hominid-to-man is presented as all-but-irrefutable fact, the truth is not so well known, and everything we know about the origin of the human race could change at any moment with any new discovery.

Reference:

Bower, B. 2007. 'Fossil Sparks.' Science News 172, no. 18.

Unfilled gaps, incomplete fossils, and incorrect anatomical reconstructions should give us pause before we jump to hasty conclusions about a missing link between fish and tetrapods...

There is a little-known irony in the controversy between creationists and evolutionists about the age of the world. The majority of scientists

There is a little-known irony in the controversy between creationists and evolutionists about the age of the world. The majority of scientists - the evolutionists - rely on a minority of the relevant data. Yet a minority of scientists - the creationists - uses the majority of the relevant data. Adding to the irony is the public's wrong impression that it is the other way around. Therefore, many ask: 'if the evidence is so strongly for a young earth, why do most scientists believe otherwise?' The answer is simple: Most scientists believe the earth is old because they believe most other scientists believe the earth is old!

Going round in circles

They trust in what's called 'circular reasoning', not data. I once encountered such a clear example of this misplaced trust, that I made detailed notes immediately. It happened when I spoke with a young (in his early thirties, career-ambitious, and upwardly mobile) geochemist at Sandia National Laboratories, where I then worked as a physicist. I presented him with one piece of evidence for a young world, the rapid accumulations of sodium in the ocean. It was ideal, since much of geochemistry deals with chemicals in the ocean.

I wanted to see how he explained possible ways for sodium to get out of the sea fast enough to balance the rapid input of sodium to the sea. Creationist geologist Steve Austin and I wanted the information in order to complete a scientific paper on the topic. We went around and around the issue for an hour, but he finally admitted he knew of no way to remove sodium from the sea fast enough. That would mean the sea could not be billions of years old. Realizing that, he said, 'Since we know from other sciences that the ocean is billions of years old, such a removal process must exist.'

I questioned whether we 'know' that at all and started to mention some of the other evidence for a young world. He interrupted me, agreeing that he probably didn't know even one percent of such data, since the science journals he depended on had not pointed it out as being important. But he did not want to examine the evidence for himself, because, he said, 'People I trust don't accept creation!'

Faith, not science

I asked him which people he was relying upon. His answer was, 'I trust Stephen Jay Gould!' (At that time Gould, a paleontologist, was still alive and considered the world's most prominent evolutionist.) Thus the geochemist revealed his main reason for thinking the earth is old: 'People I trust,' i.e., scientific authorities, had declared it. I was surprised that he didn't see the logical inconsistency of his own position. He trusted Gould and other authorities but ignored highly relevant data!

Perhaps the geochemist thought it so unlikely the earth is young that he wasn't going to waste time investigating the possibility himself. But if that were the case, then it shows another way the old-world myth perpetuates itself - by intellectual inertia.

I remember having similar attitudes when I was a grad student in physics, while I was still an evolutionist. I was wondering about a seeming inconsistency in biological evolutionism. But, I told myself, surely the experts know the answer, and I've got my dissertation research to do. I had no idea that (a) the experts had no answer for it, and (b) the implications were extremely important, affecting my entire worldview.

Before I became a Christian, I resisted evidence for a recent creation because of its spiritual implications. The geochemist might also have been resisting such implications, and was merely using scientific authority as a convenient excuse.

The Bottom Line

Many scientists are not the independent seekers of truth the public imagines, so the public should not trust them blindly. For a variety of reasons, scientists depend on other scientists to be correct, even when they themselves have some reason for doubt. Unfortunately, as most creationist scientists can tell you, the young geochemist's reaction is not at all exceptional. Many scientists, without serious questioning, trust the opinions of their own 'experts'. However, I'm happy to report that others, when presented with creationist data, have become very interested and have investigated it. Many have become creationists that way, as I did.

D. Russell Humphries, Ph.D. is a Creationist physicist, writer and speaker for Creation Ministries International. Dr. Humphreys received a B.S. degree in physics at Duke University, 1959-1963. After this, he moved to Louisiana State University (LSU) to study postgraduate physics. In 1969, while doing his dissertation research for LSU in the mountains of Colorado, he committed his life to Christ. In 1972, he was awarded a Ph.D. in physics, on cosmic rays and ultrahigh energy nucleon-nucleon interactions, by which time he was a fully convinced creationist due to both the biblical and scientific evidence. His full bio can be read at: http://creationontheweb.com/content/view/3568. This article has been reproduced here with permission from CMI.

Carbon 14 dating is fraught with problems.

A recent series of genetic studies has revealed tantalizing hints of the origin of the human species. What's more, these new discoveries would seem to lend support to the ancient history of the human race as outlined by the book of Genesis.

Thanks to these and earlier studies of human genetics, scientists now know that the human race had a single point of origin and then spread out from there. One of the most recent of these studies was completed in December 2007, when a group of anthropologists and geneticists examined 3.9 million DNA sequences from 270 people belonging to four human populations around the globe. According to Gregory Cochran of the University of Utah, a member of the team, the study indicates that genetic variation among humans increased rapidly as they spread out from their point of origin and became agriculturalists (Biello 2007: 30).

Another discovery made by this spate of recent studies is that the human race as we know it is much younger than scientists had previously postulated. Geneticist Noah Rosenberg of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, who participated in a comprehensive study of human genetic variation published in the February 2008 issue of the prestigious journal Nature, concluded from his studies:

We are a young species. Different human populations have not been separated for long enough periods of time to develop their own new alleles [different forms of the same genes] (ibid.).

After quoting Prof. Rosenberg, the June 2008 issue of Scientific American reported:

Many geneticists therefore express doubt that genes have evolved very much in the relatively short span of human existence in all parts of the planet (ibid.).

There is another fact to be gleaned from these new discoveries, one that lends plausibility to the Genesis scenario of a sudden choking off of almost the entire human species, to be followed by a worldwide expansion. Scientific American reported:

Instead of [human] evolution working on a relatively small number of genes to actively promote functional adaptations-a process known as positive selection-"the alternative is a demographic factor, which is a bottleneck," explains geneticist Marcus Feldman of Stanford University. A bottleneck describes the rise of a new population from a few individuals. Feldman participated in a study of DNA samples from 938 people in 51 different populations, finding evidence for the alternative explanation in declining DNA sequence (haplotype) variation with increasing distance from Africa. The work appeared in [the journal] Science in February [2008] (ibid. 31).

A relatively young human species, a single point of origin, a sudden reduction of the human population to a small number of individuals, followed by a spreading out these individuals from their point of origin to become agriculturalists all across the globe-all these scenarios reflect the basic outline of the early history of the human race as described in the book of Genesis.


Reference
Biello, D. 2008. 'Need for Speed?' Scientific American 298, no. 6.

Most scientists bristle at the idea that the extremely complex compounds and chemicals that led to the first life were put together by intelligent design. Only a theory involving pure chance will even be considered. However, the notion that the building blocks of life needed to be formed not by blind accident but by the intentional manipulations of an outside, intelligent entity is gathering steam.

At one time, the vast, overwhelming majority of scientists wrongly believed in spontaneous generation - that life could spring suddenly from non-life. The Bible, on the other hand, makes it clear that a living being only appears 'after its kind,' and never from non-life. We now know that the Bible was right and almost every scientist was wrong. As the journal Science News, mentioning some of the false theories held by earlier scientists, observed:

Maggots don't arise spontaneously out of dead, rotting meat. Aphids never materialize within drops of morning dew. Aristotle and others who believed in the spontaneous generation of life were dead wrong (Barry 2008: 27).

Instead of springing spontaneously from non-life, all life must have had an intelligence guiding and controlling its formation. Intelligent designers in the laboratory are currently trying to do just that: guide and control the creation of life from non-life, as Science News reported:

Scientists are on the verge of creating living cells by piecing together small molecules that are themselves not alive. The result would be the world's first human-made life forms, synthetic cells made more or less from scratch. (Ibid.).

Some scientists, such as John Glass of the J. Craig Venter Institute, are trying to 'whittle down' the genome of a bacterium to its barest essentials and then synthesize that minimal genome. Other scientists are planning to assemble various molecules and genes to make a whole cell, not just a genome. Still others 'hope to assemble a cell from more-primitive molecules that better mimic the molecules probably involved in the origin of life. If successful, these scientists may uncover clues about how the original 'spontaneous generation' of life occurred billions of years ago' (Ibid.).

These scientists have encountered problems in their endeavor, however. Glass's cell, called Synthia, would consist of a manmade genome, but with a natural membrane enclosing it. 'Essentially,' noted Glass, 'we are commandeering the shell of a [pre-existing] cell' (Ibid. 28). Another scientist, Albert Libchaber of Rockefeller University, successfully created a protein system that produced fat, but he had to use an extract from an existing bacterium, 'essentially borrowing the entire system from a living organism without knowing fully what it consisted of or how it worked' (Ibid.).

These problems demonstrate the difficulty in creating life from non-life, which in turn argues for the impossibility of such immeasurably complex life forms ever having come into existence by pure chance. As Giovanni Murtas of the Enrico Fermi Research Centre observed, 'Using [modern] biological molecules, I find it hard to believe that an early simple cell…can ever have existed with only 30 to 40 genes' (Ibid.).

After quoting Murtas, the Science News article asked rhetorically: 'But how could it be possible for the first cells to have already evolved more than 40 working genes?' (Ibid. 29). This is the entire point: If intelligent human designers can't create life from non-life without using pre-existing life forms, then how could Earth's original life forms have formed by themselves, without external creation or guidance?


Two hundred years ago, the vast, overwhelming majority of scientists believed, contrary to the Bible, in spontaneous generation. Today, the vast, overwhelming majority of scientists continue to believe (again in contradiction to the Bible) in an alternate form of spontaneous generation: that the first life sprang from non-life. They were wrong back then, and the Bible was right. It appears that the situation has not changed.

Reference:

Barry, P. 2008. 'Life from Scratch.' Science News 173, no. 2.

Stephen Caesar holds his master's degree in anthropology/archaeology from Harvard.

The origin of life is one of the most hotly debated topics in science today. The current reigning theory is that life first sprang from non-life in a 'prebiotic soup' ('prebiotic' means 'pre-life') of various chemicals in the early Earth's oceans. Over vast amounts of time, some of these chemicals gradually came together and formed molecular chains that would eventually form the first primitive life forms.

Despite the popularity of this theory, it is more speculation than scientific fact. One of the leading experts in this field is Antonio Lazcano, professor of the origin of life at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México and president of the International Society for the Study of the Origins of Life (ISSOL). He wrote in the journal Natural History:

Given so many difficult and unanswered questions about life's earthly origin, one can easily understand why so many investigators become frustrated and give in to speculative fantasies. But even the most sober attempts to reconstruct how life evolved on Earth is a scientific exercise fraught with guesswork. The evidence required to understand our planet's prebiotic environment, and the events that led to the first living systems, is scant and hard to decipher. Few geological traces of Earth's conditions at the time of life's origin remain today. Nor is there any fossil record of the evolutionary processes preceding the first cells (Lazcano 2006: 37).

One theory of life's origin is the 'heterotrophic' theory, which maintains that the first life evolved 'abiotically,' that is, from systems of nonliving organic molecules ('organic' means it contains carbon). According to this theory, amino acids were chemically combined in a prebiotic soup and 'cooked' by various sources of energy (Ibid.).

Two famous experiments were conducted to prove the plausibility of this scenario. The first was performed by Stanley Miller (Stanley Miller's Experiment) and Harold Urey in 1953; they created a 'prebiotic soup' in a laboratory, ran a current through it, and produced carbon-based compounds. 'But if a highly reducing [containing certain gases necessary for life] atmosphere was destined for the scientific dustbin,' notes Lazcano, 'so was the origin-of-life scenario to which it gave rise' (Ibid. 36).

In 1988, chemist Günter Wächtershäuser theorized that iron and sulfur were necessary for the first life to appear. Despite its wide popularity, as Lazcano pointed out, 'there is little empirical support for Wächtershäuser's hypothesis' (Ibid. 39). He goes on to point out that:

since the Earth's geologic record from those early times is so sparse, the rocks cannot answer the kinds of questions raised by the Miller-Urey and Wächtershäuser experiments. Most rocks that are more than three billion years old have so thoroughly metamorphosed that life's precursor molecules are no longer detectable. There is no direct evidence of Earth's environmental conditions at the time of life's origin, either. No one knows the temperature of the early Earth, its ocean acidity, the composition of its atmosphere, or any other factors that may have substantially affected early life. Nor is there any fossil record of entities predating the first cells (Ibid. 39-40).

The Miller-Urey and Wächtershäuser experiments did show that amino acids, purines, and pyrimidines, all of which are biologically significant, easily formed under atmospheric conditions thought to be like those of the early earth (Ibid. 40). 'Yet,' cautions Lazcano,
'exactly how those simple organic compounds assembled themselves into more complex molecules, or polymers, and then into the first living entities remains one of the most tantalizing questions in science' (Ibid.).

Some scientists speculate that RNA may solve this 'tantalizing question.' According to Lazcano:

the first entities that could replicate, catalyze, and multiply would have truly marked the origin of life and its evolution. Surely, RNA meets all those requirements. But RNA is also highly unstable. A self-catalyzing, self-replicating RNA molecule is unlikely to have arisen spontaneously. So where did it come from? The answer is not so clear. This difficulty has led to the suggestion that a pre-RNA world of primordial living systems predated and gave rise to the RNA world. Such a pre-RNA world would have spawned the first 'genetic polymers' capable of encoding and perhaps transmitting information….Did systems of such polymers predate the RNA world? The answer to that question remains unknown. Precisely how the first genetic machinery evolved also persists as an unresolved issue….The exact pathway for life's origin may never be known (Ibid. 41).

Reference:

Lazcano, A. 2006. 'The Origins of Life.' Natural History 115, no. 1.

Stephen Caesar holds his master's degree in anthropology/archaeology from Harvard

Hubble's new images have shown that celestial bodies can indeed coalesce without a parent star providing the requisite dust and gas. The best place to witness these awesome births of planets is the Milky Way galaxy's Orion Nebula, which is only 1,500 light-years from Earth...

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ABRT 24 | 4/13/2019