Thursday, 30 June 2016

Bird Feathers Haven’t Evolved in ”100 Million Years,” Wings Trapped in Amber Suggest


The ancient feathers look at lot like this one.




Joel Kontinen

The little feathers trapped in amber are assumed to be almost 100 years old. Whereas New Scientist reports that they belonged to tiny flying dinosaurs, National Geographic is more forthright and acknowledges that what was found was dinosaur-era bird wings:

Rare Dinosaur-Era Bird Wings Found Trapped in Amber. Bone, tissue, and feathers show the almost 100-million-year-old wings are remarkably similar to those on modern birds.”

They sure look like bird wings with modern-looking feathers.

The NG article states:

Two tiny wings entombed in amber reveal that plumage (the layering, patterning, coloring, and arrangement of feathers) seen in birds today already existed in at least some of their predecessors nearly a hundred million years ago.”

But then NG couldn’t resist interpreting the finds from a philosophical perspective:

A study of the mummified wings, published in the June 28 issue of Nature Communications and funded in part by the National Geographic Society's Expeditions Council, indicated they most likely belonged to enantiornithes, a group of avian dinosaurs that became extinct at the end of the Cretaceous period.

Here’s the gist of the science part. It certainly does not suggest that the feathers came from dinosaurs:

The two new samples, weighing in at only 0.06 and 0.3 ounces (1.6 and 8.51 grams), contain bone structure, tracts of feathers, and soft tissue. They are the first Cretaceous plumage samples to be studied that are not simply isolated feathers, according to study co-author Lida Xing of the China University of Geosciences.

Soft tissue has also been found in Archaeopteryx feathers.

The very idea of soft tissue lasting “150 million years” or even “100 million years” is anything but credible.

But NG goes on to say:

Skin, muscle, claws, and feather shafts are visible in both samples, along with the remains of rows of primary asymmetrical flight feathers, secondary feathers, and covert feathers. All are similar in arrangement and microstructure to modern birds.”

Is there anything in the feathers that would suggest a dinosaur connection?

No. All the details point to a bird as the owner of these exquisite body parts. Darwinian evolution assumes that dinosaurs turned into birds, but given the enormous number of changes that would be needed in such a transformation, this scenario belongs to the realm of science fiction.

Source:

Romey, Kristin. 2016. Rare Dinosaur-Era Bird Wings Found Trapped in Amber. National Geographic (28 June).


Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Missing Antimatter: A Huge Problem for the Big Bang

The Big Bang should have produced equal amounts of matter and antimatter. Image courtesy of NASA.




Joel Kontinen

Cosmic inflation or the unexpected acceleration of the baby universe for no known reason is not the only serious problem with the Big Bang.

The other dilemmas include quantum fluctuations, dark matter, dark energy, too rapidly forming galaxies and missing antimatter.

The very idea of a quantum fluctuation hardly sounds like science.

Recently, some researchers acknowledged that they doubt the existence of dark energy.

Early galaxies grew too fast for the Big Bang.

And then there’s the issue of antimatter. Or, to put it more precisely: There isn’t any antimatter, although there should be, if the Big Bang were true.

This is no laughing matter. ABS Science says:

The Standard Model of particle physics — which accurately describes all the particles and interactions that make up our universe — says our universe shouldn't exist.

Or at least, the matter that makes up all the stuff in existence shouldn't be here. It should have been wiped out by the matching antimatter that was created with it in the first second after the Big Bang
.”

The BB should have created equal amounts of matter and antimatter, but the antimatter has obvious gone AWOL and is not about to return.

Matter and antimatter would have destroyed each other, thus leaving no universe for us to study.

Each particle (electron, proton, neutron etc.) should have a matching antiparticle with the opposite charge.

Researchers are currently trying to simulate the assumed conditions following the Big Bang. They are smashing particles together near the speed of light in the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in order to figure out how the world of matter got rid of the antimatter.

But all the facts suggest that there never was a Big Bang. The BB has to be propped up with unknown and totally hypothetical entities or features to keep it alive.

Some of the attempts used in bolstering up faith in an old solar system are beginning to sound like the epicycles that were used to explain the movements of the planets in the ancient Ptolemaic (geocentric) system.

An even more desperate attempt is to speculate about multiverses or multiple universes that are totally unscientific.




Source:

Hobbs, Bernie. 2016. The antimatter mystery: Annihilation and a universe that shouldn't exist. ABS Science (24 June).

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Clever Ants “Created An Elaborate Farming System 25 Million Years Ago”


A termite mound in Queensland, Australia. Image courtesy of Dale Eaton, Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0).





Joel Kontinen

The Bible describes ants as very industrious creatures. ”Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!” Proverbs 6:6 (NIV) exhorts us.

This is no empty plea: Some ants are capable of building anthills that are over 9 metres (30 feet) high.

Taking their size into account, humans would have to erect buildings that are over 2 kilometres (1.25 miles) high to be able to compete with these clever builders.

Ants can make use of temperature differences in order to cool their mounts and use hi-tech to keep their body temperature bearable in a hot desert. They are also known to be good at mathematics and be able to build living rafts.

Now, a paper published in PLOS ONE suggests ants already used an elaborate farming system “25 million years ago”. The study looks at what we see termites doing in our time:

Termites are among the most diverse and ecologically important groups of insects in modern ecosystems, playing a critical role as natural decomposers of plant tissues. Termites typically rely on gut symbionts to decompose organic matter. However, members of the subfamily Macrotermitinae have turned to agriculture by developing a highly specialized, symbiotic relationship with fungi of the genus Termitomyces (Basidiomycotina). The fungus-growing termites cultivate fungi in gardens/chambers inside the colony and then exploit the ability of the fungi to convert recalcitrant, nitrogen-poor, plant material into a more easily digestible, protein-rich food source After ingestion and brief mastication of woody material, modern Macrotermitinae excrete rounded pellets known as primary faeces or mylospheres, composed of concentrated, undigested plant fragments and Termitomyces spores, which germinate and colonize the plant material, thus forming fungal gardens. The critical ecological role of fungus-growing termite colonies as biodiversity and bioproductivity hotspots within African savannah ecosystems has been well documented in recent years. Indeed, much of the decomposition of woody plant material in Africa and Asia takes place as a result of fungus-growing termites, with estimates suggesting that more than 90% of dry wood in some semiarid savannahs is reprocessed by members of the Macrotermitinae.

And then it suggests that ants were the first insect farmers. They haven’t changed their habits in the meanwhile.

What the paper doesn’t say is that ants challenge the very idea of Darwinian evolution: These intelligently made animals are living fossils that haven’t changed for “100 million years”.

Source:

Roberts, Eric M et al. 2016. Oligocene Termite Nests with In Situ Fungus Gardens from the Rukwa Rift Basin, Tanzania, Support a Paleogene African Origin for Insect Agriculture. PLOS ONE (22 June).

Friday, 24 June 2016

Mudskippers Defy Darwinian Dogma of Transition from Water to Land


Mudskippers will dry out if they’ll adopt a terrestrial lifestyle. Image courtesy of H. Krisp, Creative Commons (CC BY 3.0).




Joel Kontinen

New research proposes that sea animals might have “evolved the ability to live on land many times,” as a report posted on Science Daily puts it.

This challenges “the perception that this extreme lifestyle shift was likely to have been a rare occurrence in ancient times. New research shows 33 different families of fish have at least one species that demonstrates some terrestrial activity and, in many cases, these behaviors are likely to have evolved independently in the different families.”

This Darwinian optimism might be uncalled for, however:

Convergent evolution has for ages been the standard Darwinian method for explaining away features shared by unrelated species, such as echolocation in bats and dolphins.

However, the transition from land to sea – another Darwinian dogma associated with the jump from sea to land – is likewise fraught with difficulties. Mathematician and philosopher David Berlinski calculates that a cow-like creature living on dry land would have needed at least 50, 000 morphological changes for such a move. From skin to the breathing apparatus, almost everything has to be changed if the cow wants to stay alive in its new watery environment. Like transforming a car into a submarine, it needs an enormous amount of changes.

Moreover, Tiktaalik, once assumed to be the earliest terrestrial creature, has lost its iconic status, as land animals predate it by several million years according to the evolutionary timescale.

Now, evolutionary ecologist Dr Terry Ord, an evolutionary ecologist at the University of New South Wales and a co-author of a new paper published in the journal Evolution, acknowledges that the real threat for sea animals trying to settle on land is drying out:

"The real difficulty in developing a fully-fledged terrestrial lifestyle may be in preventing drying out. This has direct consequences for them breathing on land because they still require their gills, which need to stay moist to function properly."

Mudskippers can jump onto land but if they won’t return to the sea, they will eventually dry out. They are not designed to be terrestrial creatures.

Darwinian stories tend to be entertaining but often a bit fishy.

Source:

University of New South Wales. 2016. Fish out of water are more common than thought. Science Daily. (22 June).






Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Protein Compounds in Exceptionally Well Preserved “1.88-Billion-Year-Old” Microfossils


Modern cyanobacteria are anything but simple. Image courtesy of Kelvin Song, Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0).




Joel Kontinen

‘Exceptionally’ is the key word in a paper recently published in Nature Communications on microfossils discovered the Gunflint Chert in Canada. They are assumed to be 1.88 billion years old, but they don’t appear to be that ancient:

The significant degradation that fossilized biomolecules may experience during burial makes it challenging to assess the biogenicity of organic microstructures in ancient rocks. Here we investigate the molecular signatures of 1.88 Ga Gunflint organic microfossils as a function of their diagenetic history. Synchrotron-based XANES data collected in situ on individual microfossils, at the submicrometre scale, are compared with data collected on modern microorganisms. Despite diagenetic temperatures of ~150–170 °C deduced from Raman data, the molecular signatures of some Gunflint organic microfossils have been exceptionally well preserved. Remarkably, amide groups derived from protein compounds can still be detected.

The researchers suggest that the microfossils resemble modern cyanobacteria. They are also known as blue-green algae and they are featured in several evolutionary stories.

They are the earliest living fossils.

We would not expect to find remains of proteins in “1.88 billion- year-old” fossils.

The present study shows that, in addition to the fine-scale morphologies, the molecular biosignatures of some Gunflint organic microfossils have been exceptionally preserved. In fact, despite the 1.88-Gyr-long geological history that they experienced, Kakabeka Falls and Schreiber Beach organic microfossils exhibit C- and N-XANES spectra sharing strong similarities to those of modern cyanobacteria and modern micro-algae. Despite a higher content of aromatic compounds compared to modern microorganisms, these microfossils exhibit a quite high content of oxygen-based functional groups (carbonyl, phenolic, carboxylic and hydroxyl groups). In addition, these microfossils still contain amide functional groups (absorption feature at 288.2 eV), which were likely to be involved in the proteinaceous compounds synthetized by the once living organisms.”

Once again, the facts do not support the evolution story. If practically no change occurs in “1.88 billion years”, evolution is in big trouble.

Source:

Alleon, Julien et al. 2016. Molecular preservation of 1.88 Ga Gunflint organic microfossils as a function of temperature and mineralogy. Nature Communications 7: 11977 (17 June).



Monday, 20 June 2016

Gospel of Jesus' Wife Is a Forgery


Gospel of Jesus' Wife, public domain.




Joel Kontinen

In the first century A.D., the apostles had to fight against false doctrines and false gospels that sought to undermine Christianity.

Gnostic gospels portrayed a Jesus that was different from what the four genuine Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) tell us.

In 2012, Harvard professor Karen King went public with a fourth-century document that said Jesus was married. Written in Coptic, it is a fragment that includes Jesus’ dialogue with His disciples.

The New Testament gospels were all written in the first century, so the Coptic text is a lot younger.

It is not the only attempt to provide a wife for Jesus, who, given His extraordinary mission was not married – at least there’s nothing in the New Testament that suggests He was.

The Gospel of Jesus' Wife has made headlines in recent days. An article in Life Science explains why:

A papyrus holding text that suggests Jesus Christ was married and whose authenticity has been a matter of intense debate since it was unveiled in 2012 is almost certainly a fake.

Karen King, the Harvard professor who discovered the Gospel of Jesus's Wife and has defended its authenticity, has now conceded that the papyrus is likely a forgery and that its owner lied to her about the provenance and his own background
.”

The article goes on to say:

“The concession comes after Walter Fritz, a resident of North Port, Florida, revealed that he is the owner of the papyrus that claims Jesus had a wife. Fritz said this to Ariel Sabar, a journalist for The Atlantic who wrote an exposé published June 15.

Less than a day after that article was published, more documents came out revealing a fake Greek manuscript the owner had posted on his website and a blog in which the owner’s wife talks of restoring a second century Christian gospel, a project that apparently left part of the manuscript in fragments.

Then on the evening of June 16, King conceded that the papyrus is likely a forgery. The new evidence ‘tips the balance toward forgery,’ King told Sabar.
"

False gospels differ diametrically from authentic Scripture. Details suggest that the NT gospels are eyewitness documents. Archaeology confirms that the Bible is about real history and real people.

And the real Jesus rose from the dead in a real resurrection.

Sceptics have launched many more or less bizarre attempts to discredit the Bible but they have all failed.

In contrast, the Bible is the Word of God and it cannot fail.


Source:

Jarus, Owen. 2016. Gospel of Jesus's Wife Likely a Fake, Bizarre Backstory Suggests. Live Science (17 June).



Saturday, 18 June 2016

Elon Musk, Computer Simulations and Transhumanism: Atheists Are Getting Religion


A virtual world? Image courtesy of Maurizio Pesce, Creative Commons (CC BY 2.0).




Joel Kontinen

Are atheists embracing religious belief? Writing in The Spectator, journalist Daniel Jackson thinks that they are.

But it is not a theistic faith they have accepted. They obviously believe that they can evolve into secular gods, with a little help from technology.

This approach is known as trans-humanism or post-humanism.

Billionaire businessman Elon Musk famously said that we might be living in a computer simulation.

This, of course, would necessitate belief in some sort of intelligent design, as a computer simulation does not just happen.

Some believe that given “the increasing pace of progress in computer technology, we will eventually be able to synthesise reality and consciousness.”

Mr. Musk’s beliefs prompted Jackson to write:

It is a tired argument, but Atheists are increasingly behaving like members of a religious sect. There is factionalism and infighting amongst them. They have icons; Spinoza, Darwin, Dawkins (and something close to a martyr in Christopher Hitchens). And now they can choose to believe in a creator.”

Atheists can revere Charles Darwin, as he popularised a creation myth known to both ancient Indian and Greek philosophers, featuring descent with modification in which marine creatures crawl onto dry land and gradually change into terrestrial animals and some eventually into humans.

This, if anything, is a religious view but a version that knows nothing of sins committed against a transcendental Creator and their dire consequences.

Atheists want to have a say in how this assumed evolution will proceed in the coming days. While scientism seems to run the show, a better word might be wishful thinking.

The Spectator article describes it as bunkum.

Source:

Jackson, Daniel. 2016. Atheists are embracing Gods and creationism. The Spectator (8 June).