Friday, December 1, 2023

The Fish That Landed

Tiktaalik roseae is a 375-million-year fossil fish that was discovered in the Canadian Arctic in 2004. Its discovery is believed to shed light on a point in evolutionary history when the very first fish ventured out onto land. It is sometimes referred to as a "fishapod".

Tiktaalik roseae is a genus of extinct lobe-finned fish from the late Devonian period, when the earliest forests appeared along with land animals such as arthropods (myriapods, arachnids and hexapods). Tiktaalik had some features like those of four-legged animals. It is an example of an ancient sarcopterygian fish which adapted to a swampy oxygen-poor water habitat. The creature is regarded by evolutionists as a transition from fish to tetrapod.

What I find exciting about this discovery is the critical method and logistics of the exploration over four summers in the Alaskan Arctic. Tiktaalik was discovered through a well-conceived methodically launched project to find a predicted specimen and demonstrates the predictive capacity of paleontology. 

The discovery by Daeschler, Shubin, and Jenkins was published in the April 6, 2006, issue of Nature and quickly recognized as a transitional form. Jennifer A. Clack, a Cambridge University expert on tetrapod evolution, said of Tiktaalik, "It's one of those things you can point to and say, 'I told you this would exist,' and there it is."
Neil Shubin, one of the paleontologists who discovered tiktaalik, holding a cast of its skull.

"After five years of digging on Ellesmere Island, in the far north of Nunavut, they hit pay dirt: a collection of several fish so beautifully preserved that their skeletons were still intact. As Shubin's team studied the species they saw to their excitement that it was exactly the missing intermediate they were looking for. 'We found something that really split the difference right down the middle," Daeschler said.

Ahlberg and Clack’s review explains Tiktaalik's importance:

The Nunavut field project had the express aim of finding an intermediate between Panderichthys and tetrapods, by searching in sediments from the most probable environment (rivers) and time (early Late Devonian). Second, Tiktaalik adds enormously to our understanding of the fish-tetrapod transition because of its position on the tree and the combination of characters it displays.

Martin Brazeau, gloats:

"Creationists haven't said a lot about Tiktaalik, and it's no surprise. However, a few responses have trickled out and they more or less run in the same vein. I thought this was a rather telling remark on Tiktaalik posted over on Dembski's blog. We're treated to an excerpt of the pre-transformation version of the DI's original response that goes:

I especially like Crowther’s last sentence which I present in its original form (bold type included): “There’s a problem with the Darwinist position that runs even deeper than this, however: If Darwinian evolution is an undisputed fact, as its chief defenders routinely claim, why is this fossil find being billed as such an crucial piece of evidence?”

Icing on the cake! I love it!!!

What I love even more is all this rhetoric and absolutely no reference to the actual fossil material. So, I'll take that as meaning that these guys have nothing to say about its transitional status. The real icing on the cake is all this puff and no real substance.

Unfortunately, the media's response to the discovery is not quite the same as the palaeontological community's interpretation of it. Therefore, by responding to these articles, creationists and their ilk are just blowing smoke. The importance of Tiktaalik has nothing to do with proving the fish-tetrapod transition. That's pretty much taken care of by a wealth of data from the past 100 years."

One wonders why Brazeau even cares what creationists think. Does he harbor a certain fear that maybe the scheme he presents could point to a Creator?

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Women in the American Scientific Affiliation

Janel M. Curry, Executive Director of the American Scientific Affiliation (ASA)

Dorothy F. Chappel

Roles of women in STEM fields, including social and natural sciences, have changed significantly since WWII. Studying the inclusion of women in the American Scientific Affiliation (ASA) provides a distinctive gender-based case study related to Christian mission and the evangelical Christian community. Analysis of fifty years of newsletters, leadership statistics, and membership numbers illuminates the story of women over time. The history of women in the ASA parallels the larger advancement of women, while also illuminating unique challenges within the evangelical Christian context.

Read "Women in the American Scientific Affiliation: Past, Present, and Future" by Janel M. Curry and Dorothy F. Chappel

Saturday, October 21, 2023

The Genesis Rulers Through the Lens of Anthropology

Dr. Tim Daughtry, a Christian Apologist, reviews The First Lords of the Earth: An Anthropological Study

The book of Genesis is typically read and interpreted by Christians and Jews in one of two ways. In one approach, Genesis is treated as a literal and accurate description of human origins and early human history. In this literalist view, Adam and Eve were not only real people, but they were also the first people on Earth. In the other approach, Genesis is read as a series of folk stories and myths that reveal important truths about humanity when interpreted allegorically. In this view, Adam and Even are characters in the creation story rather than real people who existed in history. The important point in this mode of interpretation is not that Adam and Eve were real historical characters but that that the story reveals important truths about human pride, disobedience, estrangement from God, and the hope of reconciliation.

In The First Lords of the Earth, Alice Linsley offers a fresh perspective through the lens of Biblical anthropology. Drawing from over forty years of research into Genesis along with scientific studies of ancient cultures, symbols, beliefs, and linguistic analysis, Linsley makes the case that the important figures of Genesis were not only real people but were members of the early Hebrew caste of ruler-priests who moved from Africa into the Fertile Crescent and Ancient Near East. As just one example, she makes the case that the Adam and Eve of Genesis were not the first humans, but neither were they mythical archetypes. Instead, Adam was a real ruler who lived in a vast area around the Nile River and whose sons Cain and Seth married the daughters of Enoch, who lived at the same time. The book’s exploration of early Hebrew kinship, marriage, and ascendancy patterns places these and later Biblical characters in an evidence-based historical context and provides rich anthropological context for the Scriptural accounts of the lives of later figures such as Abraham, Noah, and Joseph. The title of the book derives from the anthropological evidence that these and other early figures in Scripture were powerful ruler-priests with extensive domains in the lands described in the Bible.

The book offers a detailed look at a number of factors of early Hebrew culture, but one of the most interesting was the evidence that belief in God Father and God Son, along with a Messianic hope, was an important theme in Hebrew thought going back 6000 years that foreshadowed the beliefs of Christianity. Linsley makes a powerful case that the foundations of Christianity were present in early Horite and Sethite Hebrew beliefs that were present long before Abraham’s time.

The First Lords of the Earth is an excellent resource for a wide range of readers, including those interested in early Hebrew history for its own sake and for those who want to deepen their understanding of Scripture.


Related Reading: The First Lords and Their Authority; The First Lords and Messianic Expectation; The Adam and Eve of History

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

The 2023 Nobel Prize Awards


Methods for vaccine production before the COVID-19 pandemic. 
© The Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine. Ill. Mattias Karlén

The 2023 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine will go to Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman for their discovery that modifying mRNA – a form of genetic material your body uses to produce proteins – could reduce unwanted inflammatory responses and allow it to be delivered into cells. While the impact of their findings may not have been apparent at the time of their breakthrough over a decade ago, their work paved the way for the development of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, as well as many other therapeutic applications currently in development. 

As of 2023, 116 Nobel Prizes in Physiology or Medicine have been awarded to 215 men and 13 women. The first one was awarded in 1901 to the German physiologist, Emil von Behring, for his work on serum therapy and the development of a vaccine against diphtheria.

Vaccination stimulates the formation of an immune response to a particular pathogen. This gives the body a head start in the fight against disease in the event of a later exposure. Vaccines based on killed or weakened viruses have long been available, exemplified by the vaccines against polio, measles, and yellow fever. In 1951, Max Theiler was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for developing the yellow fever vaccine.

Yellow fever was fairly common and claimed many lives in the tropics. The disease is caused by a virus and is transmitted to people by insects and also from one person to another. Max Theiler succeeded in transmitting the virus to mice, which paved the way for more in-depth research. When the virus was transmitted between mice, a weakened form of the virus was obtained that could make apes immune. In 1937 Theiler succeeded in obtaining an even weaker variant of the virus. This variant, 17D, came to be used as a human vaccine.

The 2023 Nobel Prize in physics will go to a team of 3 scientists who used lasers to clarify the behavior of electrons, and many prior Nobels have honored basic research. Pierre Agostini, Ferenc Krausz and Anne L’Huillier developed "experimental methods that generate attosecond pulses of light for the study of electron dynamics in matter". They have given us new tools for exploring the world of electrons inside atoms and molecules.

Friday, September 22, 2023

Huge Spider Fossil Found in Australia

 Photo credit © Michael Frese

The second largest spider fossil has been found in Australia. It dates to 11-15 million years ago. It is around five times bigger than similar spider species living today. In terms of size, it’s comparable to a modern wolf spider at around 50 millimeters or 2 inches toe-to-toe.

The spider is named "Megamonodontium mccluskyi", a reference to its nearest living relatives, a group of tiny brush-footed trapdoor spiders from the genus Monodontium. The latter name is after Dr Simon McClusky who discovered the fossil in June 2020.

Read more here: Astonishing 15-Million-Year-Old Spider Fossil is the Second Largest Ever Found

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Tips for STEM Teachers

If you are teaching STEM-related courses, congratulations because you are trailblazing a generation of engineers and technology experts. This is an opportunity to be at the forefront of something that could potentially shake up the job market in the years to come.

If you are looking for encouragement and advice, here are some tips that should help anyone who teaches a STEM-related course.

1. Integrate All Four STEM Subjects

As stated earlier, STEM combines four subjects: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. As a STEM teacher, you should familiarize yourself with all these subjects and be ready to integrate them into your teaching methods. As a result, the students will get real-world, meaningful learning. 

As a STEM educator, you help your students apply what they learn to real-life situations. You can do that by setting up practical lessons where their knowledge is tested, and they have to use what they have learned to solve real-life problems.

This should help them develop thinking, investigative, reasoning, and creative skills that should come in handy in this modern and technology-oriented world.

2. Have a Good STEM Curriculum

It can be relatively hard to find a STEM curriculum that has been set out by the relevant educational authorities, particularly because it doesn’t exist. However, several sites have put up agood and reliable STEM lesson guides.

One of the most popular and highly recommended ones is eFGI for Teachers. Here, you will find a variety of tools to boost your students’ math and science skills, as well as ideas on how to enliven the classroom with engineering projects.

They have lesson plans, class activities, outreach programs, and also web resources, among a host of other things that could guide you to make your STEM lessons as interactive and educative as possible.

Another site that offers good and reliable lesson guides is TeachEngineering. However, you must be cautious in the STEM teaching guides you use because not every guide that claims to be a STEM guide is actually a STEM guide.

Here are a few things you can use to determine if the guide is suited for STEM lessons.

A good STEM lesson is guided by the seven-step engineering design process in solving problems:

Focuses on real-world problems.

Provides for multiple right answers and reiterates the importance of failure as a part of learning.

Involves students in productive teamwork.

Teaches students to access reliability of information.

Helps students to develop critical thinking and ability to analyze data.

Applies rigorous math and science content.

Immerses students in hands-on inquiry and open-ended exploration.

Supports a teaching process that is mainly student-centered and inquiry-based.

Requires students to tap into their design skills and create a prototype of the solutions.

Using this checklist, you can now know which online teaching curriculum is good enough for you to use and can include in your STEM teacher preparation.