Tag Archives: Reasons to Believe

New research on human hand proves humans did not evolve from chimps

Mon, 17 Aug 2015 14:12:22 +0000

hands of chimp and human

Dr. Fazale Rana, a biochemist and Christian convert whose father was a Muslim, writes for Reasons to Believe, Aug. 13, 2015:

The human hand is remarkable. It permits humans to manufacture and use a wide range of tools, distinguishing us from animals and undoubtedly contributing to our success as a species.

One of the unique features of the human hand is our lengthy thumbs. In contrast, chimpanzees have much shorter thumbs, strikingly disproportionate to their long fingers.

In spite of the human hand’s elegant design, many evolutionary biologists believe that it was shaped by an evolutionary history. They believe a knuckle-walking ape-like creature evolved the capacity for bipedalism, freeing the hands, which in turn evolved to become more dexterous. While long fingers and a short thumb are ideal for knuckle walking, they have limited utility for tool making. Presumably, strong selective pressure influenced the thumb and finger proportions (along with it the dexterity of the hand) as hominids began to use tools.

New work, however, undermines this standard evolutionary story.1 Researchers from George Washington and Stony Brook universities recently presented data that suggests that the last common ancestor of humans and chimps possessed a human-like hand, not a chimp-like hand. In other words, the human hand is primitive and the chimpanzee hand represents an evolutionarily advanced state.

These researchers reached this conclusion after doing a careful comparison of human hand proportions with those of monkeys, apes, and the fossil remains of early hominid species and by using this hand data to build an evolutionary tree. They discovered that the hand proportions of monkeys and apes are quite diverse, and the human hand isn’t necessarily that unique. The evolutionary tree they built indicated that human and gorilla hands are very similar, suggesting an ancestral state. On the other hand (no pun intended), chimps and orangutans display similar hand proportions, reflecting convergent evolution.

This work has far-reaching implications when humanity’s origin is viewed from an evolutionary vantage point. Even though the standard evolutionary model regards the last common ancestor of humans and chimps as chimp-like, this latest study indicates that this view is incorrect. That is, the evolutionary ancestor of humans wasn’t a knuckle-walking ape-like creature at all. In fact, it’s not clear what this creature looked like.

Perhaps even more significant is the recognition that the human hand didn’t evolve over time to be better adapted for tool use. It seemingly was capable of doing so all along. With this latest insight, evolutionary biologists are left without an explanation for the origin of the remarkable manual dexterity of humans and the genesis of tool usage.

Time and time again the standard account of human evolution turns out to be incorrect. In this particular instance, the idea that the human hand evolved under selective pressure associated with development and use of increasingly sophisticated tools has been a mainstay of human evolution for nearly four decades. And yet, a single study overturns this idea. This latest work begs the question: How secure is any idea associated with human evolution?

If you want to read about another mainstay idea in human evolution that has been cast aside, check out this article: “The Leap to Two Feet: The Sudden Appearance of Bipedalism.”

Footnote:

1 Sergio Almécija, Jeroen B. Smaers, and William L. Jungers, “The Evolution of Human and Ape Hand Proportions,” Nature Communications 6 (July 2015): id. 7717, doi:10.1038/ncomms8717.

~Éowyn

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Bible vindicated by recent discovery of farming along Sea of Galilee 23,000 years ago

Genesis 4:1-3 says: “And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LordAnd she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord.”
Dr. Hugh Ross writes for Reasons to Believe, Sept. 10, 2015, that:

A continuing source of challenges to the Bible’s credibility and authority is the claim in Genesis 4 that the first humans were engaging in agriculture and soon thereafter even in metallurgy. Skeptics point out the complete lack of archeological evidence that humans previous to the Neolithic Revolution participated in any kind of agriculture or metalwork.

The Neolithic Era (néos is “new”; líthos is “stone”) or New Stone Age, the last part of the Stone Age, was a period in the development of humankind that first began about 10,200 BC in some parts of the Middle East (and later in other parts of the world)ending between 4,500 and 2,000 BC.
The Neolithic commenced with the beginning of farming, which produced the “Neolithic Revolution”. It ended when metal tools became widespread (in the Copper Age or Bronze Age; or, in some geographical regions, in the Iron Age). In other words, the Neolithic Revolution was the beginning of human civilization, enabled by farming and the domestication of animals, which led to villages, towns, specialized agriculture, the manufacturing of household goods, and trade.
Dr. Ross continues that, until a recent discovery, archeological and DNA evidence had placed the Neolithic Revolution in the Persian Gulf region and Mesopotamia about 12,000 years ago. But the biblical accounts of the Garden of Eden and Noah’s flood imply that humans were living in the Persian Gulf region during much of the last ice age. Antarctic and Greenland ice cores establish that the last ice age persisted from 12,000 to 120,000 years ago.
Sea of Galilee-MAP
Now, a research team in Israel has found evidence that humans living along the shore of the Sea of Galilee 23,000 years ago were cultivating wild cereals, i.e., they were “tillers of the ground” 11,000 years before the beginning of the Neolithic Revolution. 
The members of the research team are Ainit Snir, Dani Nadel, Iris Groman-Yaroslavski, Yoel Melamed, Marcelo Sternberg, Ofer Bar-Yosef, and Ehud Weiss.
Below is the abstract of Snir, et al.‘s article, “The Origin of Cultivation and Proto-Weeds: Long Before Neolithic Farming,” in the peer-reviewed journal Plos One (July 22, 2015):

Weeds are currently present in a wide range of ecosystems worldwide. Although the beginning of their evolution is largely unknown, researchers assumed that they developed in tandem with cultivation since the appearance of agricultural habitats some 12,000 years ago. These rapidly-evolving plants invaded the human disturbed areas and thrived in the new habitat. Here we present unprecedented new findings of the presence of “proto-weeds” and small-scale trial cultivation in Ohalo II, a 23,000-year-old hunter-gatherers’ sedentary camp on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, Israel. We examined the plant remains retrieved from the site (ca. 150,000 specimens), placing particular emphasis on the search for evidence of plant cultivation by Ohalo II people and the presence of weed species. The archaeobotanically-rich plant assemblage demonstrates extensive human gathering of over 140 plant species and food preparation by grinding wild wheat and barley. Among these, we identified 13 well-known current weeds mixed with numerous seeds of wild emmer, barley, and oat. This collection provides the earliest evidence of a human-disturbed environment—at least 11 millennia before the onset of agriculture—that provided the conditions for the development of “proto-weeds”, a prerequisite for weed evolution. Finally, we suggest that their presence indicates the earliest, small-scale attempt to cultivate wild cereals seen in the archaeological record.

Dr. Ross concludes:

The [Israeli] team’s discovery also answers the skeptics’ challenge to the credibility of claims in Genesis 4 about the technological achievements of the earliest humans. We now have evidence sustaining the compatibility of biblical and archeological data on the civilization achievements of early humans.

See also these other cases of the confluence of science and faith:

~Éowyn

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Enough with the Blood Moon apocalypse porn!

There is a frenzy on the Internet that the Blood Moon phenomenon is a sign of the end days. WND, among others, is obsessed with blood moons — that, beginning in April 2014, a tetra or series of four blood moons or total lunar eclipses that coincided with the biblical “feast” days of Passover and Tabernacles portends the end days. Blah, blah, blah.

See “Blood Moon Prophecy

Dr. Hugh Ross is an astronomer and best-selling author, with a degree in physics and a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Toronto. He travels the globe speaking on the compatibility of science with Christianity. His organization and website, Reasons to Believe (RTB), is dedicated to demonstrating, via a variety of resources and events, that science and biblical faith are allies, not enemies. Below is Dr. Ross’ rebuttal to the Blood Moon end-days porn.
~Eowyn
blood moon

Blood Moons? An End Times Sign? (Part 2 of 2)

By Dr. Hugh Ross
March 19, 2015

Popular Bible preacher John Hagee has authored a book and produced a movie by the same name, Four Blood Moons (in theaters March 23 only). On the film’s website the San Antonio megachurch pastor states, “The heavens are ‘God’s billboard.’ He’s been sending signals to earth, and we haven’t been picking them up.” In part 1 of this series, as an astronomer I analyzed those “signals,” a series of four (tetrad) total lunar eclipses that supposedly ushers in prophetic activity ahead of the return of Christ. Now, as a student of Scripture and as one who believes in premillennial eschatology, I convey my primary, biblical criticism.
Biblical Concerns
1. Earth phenomena might be responsible for lunar darkening. Three biblical passages mention the Moon taking on a blood-like appearance: Joel 2:31, Acts 2:20, and Revelation 6:12. All three state that both the Moon and the Sun take on a darkened appearance. These passages also imply that the darkening will be visible to all of humanity. However, there is no darkening of the Sun during a total lunar eclipse. Furthermore, total lunar eclipses last only a couple of hours and are visible to a fraction of humanity.
Eight other biblical texts describe the darkening of the Moon’s light, but not the blood color: Ecclesiastes 12:2; Isaiah 13:10; Ezekiel 32:7–8; Joel 2:10; 3:15; Matthew 24:29; Mark 13:24; and Revelation 8:12. In all these passages not only is the Moon’s light darkened but that of the Sun and stars as well. In Revelation 8 the darkening of the Sun, Moon, and stars is preceded by a third of the world’s forests and grasslands being burnt up and a huge mountain set ablaze. Ash from volcanic eruptions and from forest and grass fires both reddens and dims sunlight, moonlight, and starlight.
I personally have seen the reddening and dimming effect of forest fire smoke several times. Not only does the Moon look blood-red but the Sun and stars do as well. I have seen the noontime Sun dimmed to such a degree by forest fire smoke that my environs were as dark as night.
The worldwide injection of dust into the atmosphere offers a consistent and satisfactory explanation for all the Bible passages describing the dimming or reddening (or both) of the Moon’s light. It explains, too, how the entire human population would notice the phenomenon and that many people would begin to fear God as a result. The same cannot be said for Hagee’s lunar eclipse hypothesis.
2. “Great lights” benefit animals but say nothing about prophecy. Another interpretive concern lies in the treatment of Genesis 1:14. Hagee and others (such as Mark Biltz of El Shaddai Ministries and Larry Huch of Larry Huch Ministries) appeal to this verse as justification for looking to the Moon for signs of God’s interventions in human history. Genesis 1:14 (and 1:16) does say that the two great lights (the Sun and the Moon) will serve as signs. However, it says that from creation day four forward they will serve as signs to mark seasons, days, and years, not that they will serve as signs to mark prophesied events.
Throughout creation days one, two, and three, light from the Sun and Moon penetrated Earth’s atmosphere, but because of overcast skies at that time, creatures on Earth’s surface could not make out the form of the bodies responsible for the light. On creation day four Earth’s atmosphere first became transparent. Now creatures on Earth’s surface could discern the positions of the Sun, Moon, and stars in the sky. Knowledge of those positions enabled them to determine what part of the year and day they were in and, thus, determine when they should feed, reproduce, migrate, hibernate, and so on. Support for this interpretation stems from the observation that all the life described in Genesis 1 before creation day four does not require knowledge of the positions of the Sun, Moon, and stars to perform their life functions, but all the life described after creation day four in Genesis 1 needs that knowledge to regulate their complex biological clocks.
3. Numerous world events have yet to occur. Finally, Old Testament prophecies regarding the second rebirth of Israel indicate that several events must yet take place before anyone can conclude that the Great Tribulation, the time of the end that precedes Christ’s return, is at hand. A sampling of these events (again, from a premillennial perspective) includes:

While one can argue that these political and economic events could happen in the very near future, so far none have occurred.
Rather than get caught up in the fulfillment of end-times prophecy, I believe Christians should take comfort in Christ’s promise to return and should remain busy promulgating the Gospel. He will return to Earth once his followers have taken the good news of salvation to all the people groups of the world and have raised up many disciples. Instead of waiting for a sign in the sky, we can make his return imminent by completing the task he assigned us. His Holy Spirit promises to help.

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Creation: So who created God?

Ring galaxyThe Ring Galaxy, with a span of 100,000 light years, is 600 million light years away from Earth. Visible in the gap (at about one o’clock) is yet another ring galaxy that likely lies even farther in the distance. [NASA]

Dr. Hugh Ross is a Christian physicist and astronomer who writes books and a terrific blog, Reasons to Believe, showing how science and Christianity can be very compatible. More than that, Dr. Ross uses science to demonstrate the truths of our Christian faith.

In his Summa Theologica, St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) famously reasoned for the existence of God by pointing to “the chains of effecting causes that exist in the world. Things here are produced by their causes; these causes in turn were produced by their causes, and so on. Ultimately, there must be a first cause….”

In his post of April 7, 2014, Dr. Ross answers a very good question from a non-believer on who/what created that first cause. Here’s the question:

Hello,

Let me start by saying I’m not actually a believer at this moment. When listening to the lectures, I hear a lot of talk about the complexity of things being a big proponent for creation or design because somebody created it. But at some point in the paradigm you’re at least admitting that, somewhere, something just existed that was at least as complex as, or more complex than, us….If we couldn’t have just existed, how could you say God just existed without something creating him. I’d like to hear your answer on that.

— Submitted by an attendee of an RTB event in San Antonio, TX

Dr. Ross gave a brilliant answer, pointing out that cause-and-effect can only happen in our Universe of space and time.

For if we say that X caused Y, X must have happened some time before Y.

But the Creator of the Universe cannot Himself be contained in that Universe. That means the Creator is outside our Universe of space and time, which in turn means that the Creator, the First Cause, is outside of time and, therefore, has no cause.

As St. Thomas Aquinas put it:

Where there is motion, there is a mover, and ultimately a first mover, itself unmoved. This is God.Ultimately, there must be a first cause which is itself uncaused. This is God.

Here is Dr. Ross’s answer:

Dear not-yet-a-believer,

Your question is one of the most important any human being could ask—and one that most Christians are ill prepared to answer.

As I understand your query, if explaining the natural realm’s ability to support life, especially human life, requires extreme levels of complexity and design, then would not the cause of all this complexity and design need a cause that is even greater than Him? As Richard Dawkins puts it, the problem with Christianity is accounting for who “designed the Designer?”1

The question of who created God was the heart of my debate with Lewis Wolpert at Imperial College in London. (You can listen to the debate here). In a nutshell, I explained that, today, physicists across the philosophical spectrum acknowledge that the space-time theorems are unassailable. If the universe contains mass and if general relativity reliably describes the movements of bodies in the universe, the theorems are valid. Those theorems establish that space and time had a beginning at the origin of the universe. They imply that the causal agent of the universe is not subject to space and time—thus, that agent can create space-time dimensions at will.

Of course, any entity—such as the universe and everything subject to the laws and dimensions of the universe—that is constrained to a single dimension of time, where time cannot be stopped or reversed, must have a beginning. Ultimately, such entities must be traceable back to a creation event. However, an entity not constrained by time need not have been created.

The Bible declares in multiple passages that God created time (e.g., John 1:3; Colossians 1:16–17). Psalm 90 adds that God can arbitrarily compress or expand time as we know it. In my book Beyond the Cosmos (3rd edition), I include diagrams illustrating that this compression and expansion of time is only possible for beings with access to the equivalent of at least two dimensions of time. Scripture also declares that God has no beginning, no ending, and is not created (e.g., Psalm 90:2; Hebrews 7:3). These declarations could be true only of a Being who created time, rather than one who is subject to time.

Philosophers responding to Dawkins have pointed out that he made a category error. God is in a different category than the universe or humans in that He is not subject to the physical laws of the universe or to its space-time dimensionality.

For a more thorough answer to this question, I suggest reading Beyond the Cosmos. The book includes a description of scientific evidence for the existence of nine dimensions of space and for a Being who brought into existence ten space-time dimensions.

~Eowyn

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Hollywood’s Noah vs. What the Bible says about the Flood

The FloodNoah, the Hollywood blockbuster disaster flick starring the surly Russel Crowe, is due to hit movie multiplexes in 5 days.

Crowe is infamous for throwing a phone at a New York hotel staffer in 2005, for which he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault to avoid jail time.

An early review from The Hollywood Reporter confirms previous descriptions of the movie as a gross reinterpretation of the biblical story, one that attributes the cause of the great flood to man’s abuse of the environment and global warming. In the words of the reviewer, Noah is “the original disaster story,” pushes “aggressive environmentalism” and “heavy-handed ecological doomsday messages,” has a “complete omission of the name ‘God’ from the dialogue,” and distorts the opening line of Genesis from “In the beginning God created heaven and earth” into “In the beginning there was nothing.”

Even worse than omitting God entirely from the dialogue is the movie’s depiction of the fallen angels, that is, DEMONS, as good-guy helpers of Noah. In the words of the review:

“But by far the most startling apparition in this context are the Watchers, the so-called Nephilim, or fallen angels only glancingly mentioned in the Bible. Here they take the form of giant, ferocious-looking rock people … who not only come to Noah’s aid by doing the heavy lifting in building the ark but cut down, stomp on and otherwise decimate the hordes who eventually besiege the ark in hopes of climbing aboard at the last minute.”

Physicist Dr. Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe has made a trio of videos about the Great Flood. This is Part One:

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ga6hwXwVrtk&feature=youtu.be]

Here’s what the Bible says about the Flood:

Genesis 6:5-14

Yahweh saw that human wickedness was great on earth and that human hearts contrived nothing but wicked schemes all day long. Yahweh regretted having made human beings on earth and was grieved at heart. And Yahweh said, ‘I shall rid the surface of the earth of the human beings whom I created — human and animal, the creeping things and the birds of heaven — for I regret having made them.’

But Noah won Yahweh’s favor.

This is the story of Noah: Noah was a good man, an upright man among his contemporaries, and he walked with God. Noah fathered three sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth.

God saw that the earth was corrupt and full of lawlessness. God looked at the earth: it was corrupt, for corrupt were the ways of all living things on earth.

God said to Noah, “I have decided that the end has come for all living things, for the earth is full of lawlessness because of human beings. So I am now about to destroy them and the earth. Make yourself an ark out of resinous wood. Make it of reeds and caulk it with pitch inside and out. This is how to make it: the length of the ark is to be three hundred cubits, its breadth fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits. Make a roof to the ark, building it up to a cubit higher. Put the entrance in the side of the ark, which is to be made with lower, second and third decks. For my part I am going to send the flood, the waters, on earth, to destroy all living things having the breath of life under heaven; everything on earth is to perish. But with you I shall establish my covenant and you will go aboard the ark, yourself, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives along with you. From all living creatures, from all living things, you must take two of each kind aboard the ark, to save their lives with yours; they must be a male and a female. Of every species of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that creeps along the ground, two must go with you so that their lives may be saved. For your part, provide yourself with eatables of all kinds, and lay in a store of them, to serve as food for yourself and them.”

Noah did this; exactly as God commanded him, he did.

Genesis 7

Yahweh said to Noah, “Go aboard the ark, you and all your household, for you alone of your contemporaries do I see before me as an upright man. Of every clean animal you must take seven pairs, a male and its female; of the unclean animals you must take one pair, a male and its female (and of the birds of heaven, seven pairs, a male and its female), to preserve their species throughout the earth. For in seven days’ time I shall make it rain on earth for forty days and forty nights, and I shall wipe every creature I have made off the face of the earth.”

Noah did exactly as Yahweh commanded him.

Noah was six hundred years old when the flood came, the waters over the earth. Noah with his sons, his wife, and his sons’ wives boarded the ark to escape the waters of the flood. (Of the clean animals and the animals that are not clean, of the birds and all that creeps along the ground, one pair boarded the ark with Noah, one male and one female, as God had commanded Noah.)

Seven days later the waters of the flood appeared on earth. In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, and on the seventeenth day of the month, that very day all the springs of the great deep burst through, and the sluices of heaven opened. And heavy rain fell on earth for forty days and forty nights.

That very day Noah and his sons Shem, Ham and Japheth boarded the ark, with Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons, and with them every species of wild animal, every species of cattle, every species of creeping things that creep along the ground, every species of bird, everything that flies, everything with wings. One pair of all that was alive and had the breath of life boarded the ark with Noah, and those that went aboard were a male and female of all that was alive, as God had commanded him. Then Yahweh shut him in.

The flood lasted forty days on earth. The waters swelled, lifting the ark until it floated off the ground. The waters rose, swelling higher above the ground, and the ark drifted away over the waters. The waters rose higher and higher above the ground until all the highest mountains under the whole of heaven were submerged. The waters reached their peak fifteen cubits above the submerged mountains.

And all living things that stirred on earth perished; birds, cattle, wild animals, all the creatures swarming over the earth, and all human beings. Everything with the least breath of life in its nostrils, everything on dry land, died. Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out, people, animals, creeping things and birds; they were wiped off the earth and only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark.

The waters maintained their level on earth for a hundred and fifty days.

Genesis 8

But God had Noah in mind, and all the wild animals and all the cattle that were with him in the ark. God sent a wind across the earth and the waters began to subside. The springs of the deep and the sluices of heaven were stopped up and the heavy rain from heaven was held back. Little by little, the waters ebbed from the earth. After a hundred and fifty days the waters fell, and in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. The waters gradually fell until the tenth month when, on the first day of the tenth month, the mountain tops appeared.

At the end of forty days Noah opened the window he had made in the ark and released a raven, which flew back and forth as it waited for the waters to dry up on earth. He then released a dove, to see whether the waters were receding from the surface of the earth. But the dove, finding nowhere to perch, returned to him in the ark, for there was water over the whole surface of the earth; putting out his hand he took hold of it and brought it back into the ark with him.

After waiting seven more days, he again released the dove from the ark. In the evening, the dove came back to him and there in its beak was a freshly-picked olive leaf! So Noah realised that the waters were receding from the earth. After waiting seven more days, he released the dove, and now it returned to him no more.

It was in the six hundred and first year of Noah’s life, in the first month and on the first of the month, that the waters began drying out on earth. Noah lifted back the hatch of the ark and looked out. The surface of the ground was dry! In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth was dry.

Then God said to Noah, “Come out of the ark, you, your wife, your sons, and your sons’ wives with you. Bring out all the animals with you, all living things, the birds, the cattle and all the creeping things that creep along the ground, for them to swarm on earth, for them to breed and multiply on earth.”

So Noah came out with his sons, his wife, and his sons’ wives. And all the wild animals, all the cattle, all the birds and all the creeping things that creep along the ground, came out of the ark, one species after another. Then Noah built an altar to Yahweh and, choosing from all the clean animals and all the clean birds he presented burnt offerings on the altar.

Yahweh smelt the pleasing smell and said to himself, “Never again will I curse the earth because of human beings, because their heart contrives evil from their infancy. Never again will I strike down every living thing as I have done. As long as earth endures: seed-time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.”

Psalm 104:1, 5-9

Bless Yahweh, my soul, Yahweh, my God, how great you are! 

You fixed the earth on its foundations, for ever and ever it shall not be shaken; you covered it with the deep like a garment, the waters overtopping the mountains.

At your reproof the waters fled, at the voice of your thunder they sped away, flowing over mountains, down valleys, to the place you had fixed for them; you made a limit they were not to cross, they were not to return and cover the earth.

~Eowyn

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