Wednesday, August 21, 2019

More Information About the Denisovans

Discover Magazine has an article on new finds at Denisova and their context in early modern human evolution.  Bridget Alex writes:
Nestled in foothills of Russia’s Altai Mountains, Denisova Cave has been a research mecca since 2010, when fossil DNA from the site revealed a previously unknown human lineage, now called the Denisovans. Scientists have been working hard to reconstruct the cave’s history, through ongoing excavations as well as new analyses of materials recovered years ago.

First, what everyone wants to know: Yes, they found more human remains. In addition to the four Denisovan specimens (one pinky finger, two adult molars and a baby tooth), the cave has yielded 12 fossils from ancient humans, including teeth, toes, fingers and unclassifiable fragments.

Based on their genomes, proteins and physical appearance, the collection contains four Denisovans, three Neanderthals and one hybrid cross between the two human types. Excavators have also found four more fossils that belong to the Homo genus, but haven’t yet been assigned to a particular human species. Additional DNA sequences, recovered directly from the dirt, suggest the presence of even more individuals.
As reported last year, Denisova 11 has been determined to be the offspring between a Neandertal mother and Denisovan father. As with other finds in Asia, we are finding that there appears to have been considerable population mixing over the course of at least 100 thousand years. Although the article indicates that the Neandertals were “sandwiched” in between two modern human occupations, that is difficult to square with any hybridization model. I suspect that the habitation patterns were more complex.

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Space X Launch Fails After Rocket Bounces Off Firmament

I think I worried my family last night by laughing so hard at this story that they thought I was going to herniate.  Those of you who follow the news know that Babylon Bee is in a tussle with Snopes about whether or not their stories constitute “fake news.”  Anyone with two grey cells to rub together knows the difference, including Snopes, but they are trying to get the Bee de-platformed because quite a few of the Bee's stories point out the idiocy of some of their favorite political positions.

Anyway, the Bee is not above poking fun at just about anything in the Christian world and I missed this story when it came out.
A SpaceX launch ended in tragedy Thursday as the rocket intended to carry a cellular satellite into orbit around the earth bounced off the firmament described in the opening chapters of Genesis, sources confirmed.

The rocket accelerated higher and higher above the flat earth and toward the sun and moon a mere 3,000 miles away before suddenly bouncing off the glass-like dome containing the earth.

“We totally didn’t see this coming,” a SpaceX launch expert told reporters moments after the crash. “Where we seem to have gone wrong is in using NASA’s fake globe model rather than employing flat-earth models drawn by conspiracy theorists operating off ultra-literalist readings of the King James Bible.”

“We won’t make that mistake again, I tell you what,” he added.
They manage to skewer the literal reading of Genesis and the biblical evidence for a flat earth in one post.  Many Christian writers, including Phil Senter and John Walton, have written about the language describing the firmament and have argued (persuasively, in my opinion) that it can only be read as a hard dome because that is how the ANE people saw it. 

Humor at its best.

Friday, August 02, 2019

Lutheran Church Tackles Creation Days

Christian Post has an article on the recent Lutheran Synod resolution involving the “creation days.” Michael Gryboski writes:
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod passed a resolution at their convention affirming the belief that God created the Earth “in six natural days.”

At the 67th Regular Convention of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod on Tuesday, the theologically conservative denomination adopted Resolution 5-09A, titled “To Confess the Biblical Six-Day Creation.”

“We confess that the duration of those natural days is proclaimed in God’s Word: ‘there was evening and there was morning, the first day,’” resolved the resolution.

The resolution also declared that the creation of Adam as the first human being was a “historical event” and rejected the claims of the theory of evolution.
As noted in the article, there is some debate about what the word “natural” means in this context.
Another delegate expressed concern over the alleged “lack of clarity” on the definition of the word “natural” as used in the resolution.

Supporters responded that the term “natural” was defined by the Bible’s own words, describing the days as having an evening and a morning.
This has always struck me as a peculiar defense given how the scriptures actually reads:
14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. 16 God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day. (Genesis 1:14-19, NIV)
Every translation reads pretty much the same way.  That happens on the fourth day. Without the sun and moon, you cannot have “evening and morning.”  There is no reasonable context for it.  To argue this implies that the entire universe revolves around a 24-hour earth day.  We know this is not so.

It is notable that the vote was 662 in favor and 309 against, so there is quite a bit of dissent about the resolution.  The rider involving evolution, while not taking center stage, is a slap in the face to those congregants who accept it.  The rising science of coalescence theory is hard to square with the idea of Adam and Eve being the first humans.   As Dennis Venema and Scot McKnight put it in their book Adam and the Genome,
As our methodology becomes more sophisticated and more data are examined, we will likely further refine our estimates in the future. That said, we can be confident that finding evidence that we were created independently of other animals or that we descend from only two people just isn’t going to happen. Some ideas in science are so well supported that it is highly unlikely new evidence will substantially modify them, and these are among them: The sun is at the center of our solar system, humans evolved, and we evolved as a population.
I always find it somewhat interesting that these large denominations fight tooth-and-nail over social issues that are somewhat fluid in society, such as homosexuality and female ordination, and yet, for issues in which there is actually hard, scientific evidence, retreat to a very flat, conservative interpretation of scripture.

Interestingly, the new T-shirt being issued by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America celebrates both science and LGBT rights.  That is not true for the science part.