Countdown to Extinction

There are only a handful of articles left in the November 2012 edition of Acts & Facts that are worth close inspection. One of these, oddly enough, is by the prolific Brian Thomas. Most of Thomas’ Acts & Facts articles seem to be repeats of stuff that we have already covered, but his November article – Human Mutation Clock Confirms Creation – is a rare exception in that it seems to be largely new. Continue reading

The ICR Needs YOU!

A month ago the Natural Historian was wondering where the next generation of creation scientists were hiding – not the next crop of believers, but the next “scientists” like Russell Humphreys and Henry Morris. The Institute for Creation Research may be asking themselves the same question as, accompanied by a stock photo of a person in a lab coat inspecting unlabelled agar plates, Jake Hebert writes in the newly-released December Acts & FactsWanted: Young Creation Scientists“:

ICR, together with the rest of the creation science movement, has made great strides in the last 40 years. In many areas, the superiority of the creation worldview has been clearly demonstrated. Even now, ICR is making exciting discoveries in the fields of biology and geology, and we have started new research initiatives in the field of astronomy. However, there is much work that still needs to be done, and this work is hindered by a lack of trained scientists.

Yes, it’s all like that. I’ll not spoil it for you by quoting more – go and read it all, next time you need a laugh. The take-home message is that budding creationists should by all means go to university and get a science degree, but they should keep their heads down so they don’t get “persecuted.” I’m guessing Hebert means “laughed at” there.

I realise that I’m not yet done with the previous month’s edition of the magazine, so I’ll get back to that before I do much further on December.

Omnivorous Neanderthals

The most recent missed Brian Thomas article was called Neandertals Apparently Knew Medicinal Plants. The primary subject was a Naturwissenschaften paper from August called Neanderthal medics? Evidence for food, cooking, and medicinal plants entrapped in dental calculus (available open-access, at least for the rest of the month), which examined hardened dental plaque (calculus) from Sidrón Cave Neanderthals and the microfossils and molecules embedded within it:

Our results provide the first molecular evidence for inhalation of wood-fire smoke and bitumen or oil shale and ingestion of a range of cooked plant foods. We also offer the first evidence for the use of medicinal plants by a Neanderthal individual.

The first conclusion that Thomas draws is the same as Jeff Tomkins did a couple of weeks ago, namely that Neanderthals were human. As such, the same response can be made as then: while it’s true that any reasonable definition of ‘human’ not arbitrarily restricted to what we currently call Homo sapiens would need to include Neanderthals, and even that a case can be made for the idea that the distinction between H. sapiens and Neanderthals in fact lies at the subspecies level, there are still differences (primarily morphological) between the two groups. The creationist narrative being pushed is that Neanderthals are just another group descended from Adam, and their claims that they were “fully human” and “identical” to modern humans – both true if you use certain definitions both of ‘human’ and ‘identical’ – are not so much contrary to the current scientific view as an attempt to undermine it. The appeal of saying ‘we’re right, the scientists were wrong’ to the creationists, no matter how accurate that really is, cannot be understated. Continue reading


Today’s DpSU, by Brian Thomas, is called Newly Found Biochemical Is Essential for Life. With a title like that you could be forgiven for concluding that the élan vital had been discovered. However, the implications of the headline seems to oversell the real discovery more than a little. The angle that Mr Thomas is actually going for is, oddly enough, a variation on the most typical anti-Junk DNA argument. Continue reading

Evolutionary Back Pain

The human vertebral columnOur first catchup post is the most recent That’s a Fact video, Back Trouble. The vertebrate spine originally appeared in aquatic animals, and has had a number of different roles aside from being the central supporting column in the human skeleton. The story runs that due to the processes that evolution follows – that it can do little more than modify what already exists rather than completely redesign an organism from the ground up – the human spine is not quite the structure that would have been created had it been designed specifically for that purpose. This narrative, which I’m sure you’ve all heard, at least partially blames human back pain on this effect.

I can’t tell you to what extent that’s true or not. It’s probably true that a good portion of the back troubles experienced by modern humans comes not from the fact that the spine is not designed for bipedalism, but that it isn’t designed for bipeds with lousy posture. However, an upright orientation for the spine just gives it a whole plethora of new ways to get injured. The ICR video, of course, argues against the evolutionary explanation – one thing I can tell you is that they did a poor job of it: Continue reading

Turning it Off and On Again

You may well have noticed by this point that I haven’t posted in a while. You weren’t warned of this hiatus because it was entirely unplanned – I had originally expected that no-matter what I planned I would wind up posting a few times a week right through exam season. Exams are over now, all 27 hours of them, and I find myself having not posted in a good week and a half. I’m going to retroactively claim this as a good idea, as it certainly was quite helpful.

Now that I’m back I intend to do some minor housekeeping. I’ve rewritten my old about page, consigning my cringe-worthy original to history. I also fully intend to take a step back and see if there aren’t better ways of getting my point across than what at times turn into stream-of-consciousness paragraph-by-paragraph rebuttals. In other words, I’m going to try to do a bit more planning and proof-reading of my posts. The 18-month anniversary of this blog passed during the hiatus, so this is a good a time as any to start making the good writings. We shall see if it actually works or not.

However, the most important change I want to make right now is to get back to actually posting stuff. With that in mind I have another ‘publish’ button to push, right after I do a once-over of what I’ve written…

Neanderthals Were Human

As everyone should know by now, all modern humans descended from populations that left Africa are also partially descended from our late cousins, the Neanderthals. A paper published a couple of weeks ago in PLoS One comes to the unsurprising conclusion that North Africans also have the same mixed ancestry. Today we have an article called Neandertal DNA Research Confirms Full Human Status. It’s by Jeff Tomkins, who when he last commented on this subject screwed up quite impressively – this time around we have a slight improvement, at least.

The question of where Neanderthals should be classified is a legitimate issue. They are traditionally considered to be their own, separate species – Homo neanderthalensis, where we are of course Homo sapiens. But an alternative method is to give Neanderthals a subspecies level status, as Homo sapiens neanderthalensis. While I’m a long way from being any kind of expert, this is a form that I’m quite fond of. However that being said that classification makes us Homo sapiens sapiens, and even one “wise” is frankly one too many.

There are a number of things going for the subspecies idea. Certain stricter definition of the very concept of a “species” have it that if two populations can at all viably interbreed, as we have evidence for here, then they must be the same species. There is also increasing evidence that Neanderthals weren’t the dumb brutes everyone imagines they were – they were arguably at least our equals in many of those things we think we are so great at, if not necessarily the same species as us. Even if we don’t want to extend our self-congratulatory species label to the Neanderthals it makes sense to call them, and likely many other Homo species, “human.” If we one-day found a “lost tribe” of Neanderthals (we wont) we would, from at least a moral and ethical standpoint, have to call them such. Continue reading

One for the Car Fans

At long last the YOM election posts have ceased, at least for now. Today’s post is called Design & Precision: What is the World’s Fastest Car?

Needless to say, it’s a strange analogy that they make:

The 2011 Bugatti Veyron Super Sport currently holds the title of the world’s fastest production car, clocking in at 267.9 mph. It has a 1,200 horsepower 8.0 Liter W16-cylinder, 64-valve dual OHC engine with a quad turbocharger that can take it from 0-60 mph in 2.4 seconds and from 0-100 mph in just five seconds.

This speedster is a real gas hog, consuming 8 mpg in the city and 13 mpg on the highway. But if you can afford $2.4 million for the car, who cares about fuel economy! The car is 175.7 inches long, 78.7 inches wide and 47.4 inches high with a 106.7 inch wheel base and a 4.9 inch ground clearance. Total curb weight is a hefty 4,486 pounds.

I couldn’t begin tell you if any of that were true, though I must say it sounds excessive. Fuel economy, by the way, has more uses beyond expense – what if you just don’t like stopping for petrol? Oh, and there’s the small matter of the environment, but only atheist communists care about that kind of thing. Continue reading

Solnitsata: The Oldest, Richest Town in Europe

Some of the Varna treasure, believed to be associated with SolnitsataFor today’s article we have ‘Oldest’ European Town News Misses the Obvious, by Brian Thomas. This is one of those rare archaeology articles, which tend to be unusual in other aspects beyond simply their broader subject matter.

The background here is that the ruins of (what is believed to be) the oldest known ‘town’ in Europe have been discovered in the Varna province of Bulgaria, near to the present-day city of Provadia. The town’s economy is believed to have been based around it’s salt mines, salt having been a very important commodity in the fifth millennium BC. Indeed, the value of said mineral cannot be overstated – the BBC article that Thomas uses as one of his references notes:

[The town’s] discovery in north-east Bulgaria may explain the huge gold hoard found nearby 40 years ago.

Salt really was worth something back in the day. Continue reading

Gravity – the god of our Age

Throughout history, human beings have had the tendency to reject their Creator, and replace Him in their lives with gods of their own making.  From the Greek and Roman pantheons, to the Egyptian sun-god, people would rather worship a god that they create than the God who created them.  Such false gods always have the following characteristics.  (1) They are attributed one or more characteristics or powers that belong only to the Living God, especially a power over some aspect of nature.  (2) They are given allegiance, worship, or reverence above God in at least some way.  (3) They are created either physically or conceptually by man. (4) They are not the Living God, the Creator of all things. Continue reading