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Origins News Round-Up for May 28, 2014

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May 28, 2014 Tags: Brain, Mind & Soul, Genetics, Human Origins, Morality & Ethics
Origins News Round-Up for May 28, 2014

Today's entry was written by Hannah Birky. You can read more about what we believe here.

One of the biggest stories in recent science news involves a 12,000-year-old Paleoamerican girl, named “Naia” by the divers who discovered her skeleton in an underwater cave near the Yucatan Peninsula in 2007. Naia is a significant find because she provides information that can help scientists better understand the evolutionary relationship between Paleoamericans and Native Americans. According to an article in the Washington Post, “A paper published Thursday [May 14] online in the journal Science argues that the discrepancy in appearance between the Paleoamericans and later Native Americans is most likely the result of recent, and relatively rapid, human evolution — and not the result of subsequent migrations of people into the Americas.” National Geographic provides more information on the discovery and the puzzle of the markedly different facial structures of the evolutionarily related Paleoamericans and Native Americans.

Other noteworthy news has to do with climate change. According to a news article from Science, the next two centuries will see the collapse of major glacial structures in West Antarctica, leading to a rise in global sea level of approximately three meters. Though this may not sound like much, the demise of West Antarctica will have a significant effect on the climate. The field of agriculture, especially, will need to adapt to the new weather patterns and temperatures in order to increase yields and keep up with a growing global population. The Guardian reports on the impending devastation for Middle Eastern and Asian agriculture particularly. It’s worth reading thoughts on climate change and environmental stewardship from oceanographer Jorge Vazquez (interviewed by Christianity Today) and also climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe, who offers up five reasons why evangelical Christians should care about climate change.

BioLogos president Deb Haarsma was interviewed recently by Christian Women in Science, a group within The American Scientific Affiliation. Her comments on life as a Christian scientist are included alongside interviews from three other female Christian scientists. BioLogos founder and former president Francis Collins was also interviewed this month by USA Today on current medical research and the future of medicine. Along that line, scientists have made a major breakthrough in understanding the way that enzymes alter genes. The kiwi bird has provided scientists with genetic information on the evolution of flightless birds. Finally, if you’re curious about the way your brain creates memories and why your childhood memories are scarce, check out this two-minute-long video from AAAS on the creation of new neurons.

Hannah Birky is a senior at Bethel College (Indiana) where she majors in Cell and Molecular Biology. She has served as an intern at BioLogos and plans to begin graduate school next fall, studying genetics.

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May 29th 2014

“Along that line, scientists have made a major breakthrough in understanding the way that enzymes alter genes.”

To be clear, this is not an account of something that happens naturally in human cells - it concerns the way a bacterial system works that may be harnassed for biotechnology purposes to make targeted genetic changes in human cells. Very useful for experimental purposes, but a very big step if used clinically to fix or even modify human genes in the germ line. 

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