Design, Darwin, discoveries, and discrimination
Science | This year’s top science stories include new discoveries that highlight the hand of God
by Julie Borg
Posted 12/28/17, 09:54 am
This year brought significant scientific developments and some not-so-new happenings, such as ongoing attempts by secular scientists to silence colleagues who reject Darwinian evolution. New discoveries in 2017 hold the potential to do much good, as well as harm, while other findings point us in awe and wonder toward God. The following articles offer a brief sampling of some of the year’s most notable events.
The struggle between evolutionary theory and creationism marched on this year with at least two scientists who took a stand for creationism suffering professional consequences. Andrew Snelling, a geologist with more than 45 years of credible research experience, filed an official complaint earlier this year against the National Park Service for discriminating against him because of his creationist worldview. For four years, the Park Service refused to grant Snelling permission to collect rock samples from the Grand Canyon. He eventually won permission to collect specimens during an August rafting trip. Mark Armitage chalked up a similar victory for creationism when California State University, Northridge, settled a wrongful termination case with him for $399,500. Administrators fired Armitage when he said he believed the soft tissue he found in a dinosaur horn pointed to a young earth. A case of religious discrimination without such a happy ending involved Wikipedia erasing its page for Gunter Bechly, a biologist who turned from a staunch supporter of Charles Darwin to a proponent of intelligent design. His Wikipedia page remains deleted, although a German translation slipped by censors and remains accessible.
Bioethicists continue to warn we are quickly heading toward creating genetically enhanced babies. This year, researchers took a step in that direction when scientists used genetic material from three parents to sidestep infertility and create a baby girl. When scientists first developed mitochondrial replacement therapy, they touted it as a treatment allowing women with serious mitochondrial disease—genetic defects in the mitochondrial DNA passed down to their children—to give birth to healthy babies. But critics quickly warned doctors would use the technique to treat more than genetic abnormalities and create designer babies. Many worry the birth of this little girl is the first move in that direction.
Putting human brain cells in rodents
Several studies conducted this year involved researchers implanting human brain cells into rodents. The implanted cells spawned new brain cells and developed the six layers of the cortex, the brain region that controls thought, speech, judgment, and other advanced functions. In one of the studies, human brain cells implanted in mice grew and connected to the rodents’ circulatory system, carrying electrical signals to multiple regions of the animals’ brains. In another study, researchers implanted human brain cells into rats’ brains, in the areas that process visual signals. The brain cells integrated with those of the rat and began to function. Many researchers hail these experiments as a step toward enhancing knowledge useful for treating brain injury, stroke, schizophrenia, autism, and other disorders. But ethicists warn we are sliding down a slippery slope toward The Island of Dr. Moreau.
Scientific discoveries show the hand of God
The past year brought a plethora of new scientific discoveries showing a precision and complexity in nature that points to the creative design of our God, not the random mutations of Darwinian natural selection. In one study, Swiss scientists discovered jumping genes, once considered useless pieces of junk, actually contribute to a vital, fine-tuned network, unique to humans, that influences every single event in the body. Intelligent design experts noted the study not only shows how precisely our world is designed but that such processes, found only in humans, show the impossibility that all living organisms descended from one common ancestor. In another study, researchers in Munich discovered multiple and very intricate processes that must work together with exceptional timing in order for us to interpret the direction of a sound. In yet another study, two bioethicists analyzed thousands of different types of proteins, each with its own unique structure, that fold into a three-dimensional shape that determines its function. Even the secular researchers admitted that cannot happen by chance, but they conjectured some other mechanism must be involved, rather than giving credit to a creator.
Archaeological discoveries confirm the Bible’s accuracy
Two archaeological discoveries published over the past year continue to confirm the Bible’s accuracy. Underneath a shrine many consider the tomb of the Old Testament prophet Jonah, archaeologists unearthed the 2,600-year-old palace of King Sennacherib, the Assyrian king who led the attack on the northern tribes of Israel and exiled their people. A second discovery in Israel put to rest the assertions of Bible critics that King Solomon did not build the Temple in Jerusalem. Bible skeptics argued Solomon was not powerful enough to organize the mining operation needed to supply copper to make a bronze alloy used extensively in building the ornate temple. Experts believed Egyptians mined the nearby copper deposits 200 to 300 years before Solomon. But recent high-precision radiocarbon dating of ancient animal dung at the site showed the mining camp reached its zenith in the 10th century B.C.—the era of Solomon’s reign.
Julie is a clinical psychologist and writer who lives in Dayton, Ohio. She reports on science and intelligent design for WORLD Magazine and WORLD Digital.