Posted by: paulgarner | August 29, 2012

Latest Creation magazine

Just a quick plug today. The latest edition of CMI‘s Creation magazine (Vol. 34, No.4, October 2012) is out now and it features my article on ‘The Church Fathers and the Genesis Flood’ (pp. 14-15). Check out the contents here.

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Posted by: paulgarner | August 9, 2012

Early Homo and extant graptolites

In this week’s Nature, Meave Leakey and others (2012) describe new fossils from Koobi Fora, northern Kenya, that clarify the taxonomic status of KNM-ER 1470, the type specimen of Homo rudolfensis. Ever since 1470 was discovered in 1972, there has been controversy about whether it belonged with other lower Pleistocene Homo fossils in a single, highly variable species or whether it provided evidence of multiple species of early Homo. This new study supports the multiple species hypothesis. Assuming that these early Homo species are members of the human holobaramin, it seems that post-Babel humanity underwent quite a bit of diversification and that modern human variability is much diminished from what it was in the past.

Elsewhere, Mitchell et al. (2012) present a new phylogenetic analysis suggesting that the modern pterobranch hemichordates known as rhabdopleurids should be regarded as extant graptolites, a group otherwise known only from fossils. The authors state that “Rhabdopleura nests among the benthic, encrusting graptolite taxa as it shares all of the synapomorphies that unite the graptolites.” Now I think that Rhabdopleura as a living graptolite is quite exciting. Graptolites are important zonal fossils for the Lower to Mid Palaeozoic, and were thought to be long extinct. Take my word for it: if this were a dinosaur or something it would be a big deal.

References

Leakey M.G. and six others. 2012. New fossils from Koobi Fora in northern Kenya confirm taxonomic diversity in early Homo. Nature 488:201–204.

Mitchell C.E. and three others. 2012. Phylogenetic analysis reveals that Rhabdopleura is an extant graptolite. Lethaia DOI: 10.1111/j.1502-3931.2012.00319.x.

Posted by: paulgarner | July 27, 2012

Where did all the lithium go?

This story is a few days old now, but I thought it was worth drawing attention to it all the same.

One of the great successes of the standard big bang model is its ability to predict the abundances of light elements observed in the universe. According to the standard model, the light elements (hydrogen, helium and lithium) were produced by nuclear fusion in the first few minutes of the big bang 13.7 billion years ago. And in the case of hydrogen and helium the predictions of the standard model appear to be confirmed to a high degree of accuracy.

But there has always been a problem with lithium: there simply doesn’t seem to be enough. In fact, observed lithium levels are three or four times lower than the standard model predicts. So the unresolved question is: where did all the primordial lithium go?

Now a study in the 13 July edition of Physical Review Letters complicates the matter further. Fabio Iocco of Stockholm University and Miguel Pato of the Technical University of Munich have found that microquasars – small black holes left behind by supernovae – may be a potential source of lithium. As matter spirals into the black hole, it approaches the speed of light and is heated up to 100 billion degrees Kelvin. Under such conditions, lithium can be produced by the collision of pairs of helium nuclei, and ejected out into space.

Iocco and Pato calculate that if such microquasars make up just one percent of the stellar-mass black holes in our galaxy, then this mechanism could have produced as much lithium as the big bang. Iocco adds a proviso: “We do not claim to know that microquasars necessarily have that kind of yield. But our provocative message is that physics could allow it.”

If confirmed, this finding would exacerbate the problem of the missing primordial lithium and may suggest that the standard model is in need of some modification.

Reference

Iocco F., Pato M. 2012. Lithium synthesis in microquasar accretion. Physical Review Letters 109:021102.

Posted by: paulgarner | July 24, 2012

Skinks et al?

Spotted this in our local Oxfam charity shop the other day:

If you can’t read the Oxfam label it says:

LIZARDS OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA
by I. Skinks
First edition
£15

Well it made me chuckle.

Posted by: paulgarner | July 23, 2012

Dealing with those who differ from us

I want to commend to you an excellent article by Roger Nicole on the Founders Ministries website. Entitled ‘Polemic theology: how to deal with those who differ from us’, it does what it says on the tin. Structured around three questions – (1) What do I owe the person who differs from me? (2) What can I learn from the person who differs from me? and (3) How can I cope with the person who differs from me? – it offers some superb advice on handling matters of controversy.

Although it has as its focus areas of theological disagreement and is not addressed specifically to the creation-evolution controversy (which encompasses scientific disagreements as well), it doesn’t take too much imagination to apply the principles that the article sets out in that area also. And if they were, perhaps the whole landscape of the origins debate (among believers at least) might be transformed, and in a good way.

It’s a searching and challenging article, and complements Todd Wood’s recent contribution, ‘Surrender’, on the Colossian Forum.

Of course, as I read these articles, I ask myself whether I have personally lived up to these standards, and know that I have not. May God grant me – indeed all of us – a fresh measure of his Spirit to do so.

HT: Steve Jeffery on Facebook for drawing Roger Nicole’s article to my attention.

Posted by: paulgarner | July 18, 2012

National Trust to review Giant’s Causeway exhibition

It was probably never going to end well.

I predicted a couple of weeks ago that the new Giant’s Causeway visitor centre was going to prove controversial because it dared to mention creationism. And so it proved. Never mind that the entire exhibition presents the geology of the causeway from the mainstream perspective and that the only mention of creationism is a modest acknowledgement that some people don’t accept the mainstream view. This was sufficient to reduce hordes of crusading anti-creationists to red-faced apoplexy. So it is unsurprising that the National Trust has today announced that it will be reviewing its exhibit, presumably with a view to appeasing its critics.

To be honest I feel rather sorry for the National Trust, which was probably trying to make its new visitor centre a model of inclusiveness. Sadly they failed to anticipate just how irrational “rationalists” can be.

Posted by: paulgarner | July 10, 2012

Origins 2012: Genesis, Creation and the Flood

Coming up very soon is Origins 2012, the annual joint conference of the Creation Biology Society and the Creation Geology Society, which takes place this year at Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Virginia. The full conference schedule (including some special bonus talks) is now available on the CBS website.

Once again, creation is being hotly debated among evangelicals, and now you have the chance to consider these issues for yourself. At the ORIGINS 2012 conference, July 26-27, creation scientists will gather in northern Virginia to present their latest cutting-edge research. Then on Saturday, July 28th, seven creationist theologians from Europe and America will address the vital importance of Genesis. This conference is ideal for Christian pastors, teachers, students and those struggling to make sense of science and the Bible.

I’m sorry to say that I can’t make the conference this year and I shall miss being there very much. But I’d certainly encourage anyone who can make it to do so. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

Posted by: paulgarner | July 9, 2012

Todd Wood at Evolution2012

Todd Wood is currently at Evolution2012 in Ottawa and blogging each day about the conference. Check out his first few posts: Saturday and Sunday – parts one and two.

Todd is also one of two scientists whose life stories are featured in an interesting article in the latest Christianity Today. The other is Darrel Falk. You can read the article here.

Posted by: paulgarner | July 6, 2012

The Giant’s Causeway controversy: some free advice

Yesterday I posted the news that the National Trust had included creationism in its new visitor exhibition at the Giant’s Causeway in County Antrim. I predicted that this would set the cat among the pigeons and I wasn’t wrong. The National Trust has been besieged by critics – egged on by the likes of P Z Myers and Jerry Coyne.

But what does the exhibit in question actually say? Allow me to quote the National Trust’s own press release:

The Giant’s Causeway visitor centre provides a state-of-the-art exhibition area which showcases the science and the stories of the Giant’s Causeway.

All of the information presented to visitors in relation to how the Giant’s Causeway was formed, and how old it is, clearly reflects mainstream scientific understanding that the Causeway stones were formed 60 million years ago.

For centuries the Giant’s Causeway has prompted debate about how it was formed and how old it is.

One of the exhibits in the Giant’s Causeway visitor centre tells the story of the part the Giant’s Causeway played in the historic debate about how the earth’s rocks were formed and about the age of the earth.

In this exhibit we also state that for some people this debate continues today.

And here is the actual part of the exhibit that refers to creationism:

Like many natural phenomena around the world, the Giant’s Causeway has raised questions and prompted debate about how it was formed.

This debate has ebbed and flowed since the discovery of the Causeway to science and, historically, the Causeway became part of a global debate about how the earth’s rocks were formed.

This debate continues today for some people, who have an understanding of the formation of the earth which is different from that of current mainstream science.

Young Earth Creationists believe that the earth was created some 6000 years ago. This is based on a specific interpretation of the Bible and in particular the account of creation in the book of Genesis.

Some people around the world, and specifically here in Northern Ireland, share this perspective.

Young Earth Creationists continue to debate questions about the age of the earth. As we have seen from the past, and understand today, perhaps the Giant’s Causeway will continue to prompt awe and wonder, and arouse debate and challenging questions for as long as visitors come to see it.

Now you might be forgiven for thinking this is fairly modest stuff. It doesn’t affirm the creationist position or offer a creationist interpretation of the site. It simply acknowledges that not everyone accepts the mainstream view of the age of the earth. It could even be seen as a worthy attempt by the National Trust to strike an inclusive note in a province that has historically been beset by religious division and prejudice.

But not so according to the internet critics. No, this National Trust exhibit is, in fact, nothing less than a national disgrace, an attack on the very foundations of free thought, a dangerous concession to the faith-heads and myth-mongers, and can only lead inexorably to the downfall of western civilisation.

Some of you may feel this is a trifle hot headed and I would find it hard to disagree. We live in a nation in which our economy is flatlining, our media, politicians and bankers are caught up in scandals and our young people face an uncertain future – but what seems to raise the ire of these modern Chicken Littles is the acknowledgement by a public body that creationists exist.

Really?

So here’s my advice to the wilder critics racing around cyberspace declaring that the sky is falling. Take some time out from your laptop, lie down for a while in a cool room and try to regain a sense of perspective. It will do you and everyone else the power of good.

Posted by: paulgarner | July 5, 2012

Creationist views represented at the Giant’s Causeway

Well this is going to set the cat among the pigeons:

An exhibit in the new Giants’ Causeway Visitors’ Centre acknowledges the creationist view of how the world-famous stones were formed.

The National Trust said it wanted to “reflect and respect” the fact that some people contest the views of mainstream science.

Its state-of-the-art new complex, which opened on Tuesday, features an interactive audio exhibition showcasing the stories and the science behind the Giants’ Causeway.

It looks at the origins of the basaltic columns on the Co Antrim coastline.

The trust said that the exhibit gives recognition to the fact that, for creationists, the debate about the age of the Earth is still ongoing.

A statement read: “The Giants’ Causeway has always prompted debate about how it was formed and how old it is.

“One of the exhibits in the Giants’ Causeway Visitors’ Centre interpretation tells the story of the part the Giants’ Causeway played in the debate about how the Earth’s rocks were formed and the age of the Earth.

“This is an interactive audio exhibition in which visitors can hear some of the different debates from historical characters.

“In this exhibition we also acknowledge that for some people, this debate continues today and we reflect and respect the fact that creationists today have a different perspective on the age of the Earth from that of mainstream science.”

I can already hear the rending of garments and gnashing of teeth. You can read the full report on the Ulster TV website.

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