Saturday, 30 May 2009
Grand Aunt Ida seems to be the great grandmother of lemurs but not of humans. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
Leading science publications Nature and Science have taken a surprisingly critical approach to Grand Aunt Ida who has recently been basking in the limelight.
The lemur fossil found in Germany is remarkably well preserved. Ida was dubbed Darwinius massillae in honour of Charles Darwin’s 200th anniversary. The latter part of the name comes from Messel, the place where her remains were found.
The popular press claimed Ida was the link that had long been missing between humans and apes. For instance, BBC’s webpages called her our earliest ancestor.
However, many leading evolution researchers think Ida has little if anything to do with human origins and development. A Nature editorial calls Ida a hyped-up fossil find. “In normal circumstances, the interpretation of the specimen given in the paper (J. L. Franzen et al. PLoS ONE 4, e5723; 2009) would have been no more contentious than that of any other fossil primate, and a good deal less so than some.”
Nature suggests that Ida has “little to do with human ancestry”. Ann Gibbons, writing in the journal Science, concurs: “Many of the leading scientists who study primate evolution don't think Ida lives up to her billing as a human ancestor; most think she's a relative of lemurs instead.”
She goes on to say, “Some worry that the publicity framing Ida as a human ancestor will backfire as her true identity and lowly origins are revealed.”
Even before Franzen et al. submitted their paper to PLoS ONE, a TV-documentary and a book were in the works. Although Ida was not presented as a human ancestor in the original paper, the words The Link, used in both the documentary and the book, gave the general public a misleading view of the lemur fossil.
It seems that Ida is just a lemur’s great aunt and no amount of hype will be able to change her into a monkey’s aunt.
Perhaps Ida says more about what some people want to hear than what an old lemur fossil represents. In a time when bread might be becoming scarce, the public will still want their circuses.
Gibbons, Ann. 2009.Celebrity Fossil Primate: Missing Link or Weak Link? Science 324: 5931, 1124-1125. (29 May)
Nature. 2009. Media frenzy. (Editorial). Nature 459: 7246, 484 (28 May. 2009). http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v459/n7246/full/459484a.html
Sunday, 24 May 2009
Next week, Answers in Genesis’ Creation Museum celebrates its second anniversary. The 7 C's of History are used as a model explaining the past, present and future of our planet.
Two years ago Answers in Genesis opened its Creation Museum for the public in Petersburg, Kentucky. The international media were present at the opening ceremonies. The reporters were not exactly silent on what they thought about the idea of a non-atheistic view of earth history, either.
Humanists and atheists who are known for their great love for freedom of speech – as long as it has to do with their freedom, that is – joined the celebrations by demonstrating against the museum. They even hired an aeroplane and flew it around the building. A banner festooned with the words “Thou shalt not lie” was seen flying in the wind behind the plane.
The free publicity obviously increased interest in the museum and the interest has not waned in the two years it has been open. Last week, Answers in Genesis estimated that over 715 000 visitors had been to the museum.
In contrast, the evolutionists’ tour starring our supposed grandmother Lucy (aka Australopithecus afarensis ) has not been able to attract as much attention as they had hoped for.
The Creation Museum relates the history of our planet from a biblical perspective. Adam and Eve are seen as real, historical people. The visitor will probably notice that the Christian view of reality that consists of the seven C’s of history (Creation, Corruption, Catastrophe, Confusion, Christ, Cross and Consummation) provides a better explanation than the atheistic great story based on Darwinian evolution.
Saturday, 23 May 2009
For a lemur, happiness is finding a long lost Great Aunt. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
The ado about a primate fossil known as Ida brings to mind the media circus surrounding the supposed finding of Jesus’ family tomb in 2007. The similarities are striking. A press conference and maximum publicity before an in-depth examination of the case.
Many serious scientists then protested the by-passing of peer review. Indeed, when they examined the case more closely, they found that the evidence was anything but convincing.
The Ida case is slightly different. While the fossil was introduced to the public at the American Museum of Natural History in New York on May 19th, it also had a research paper written and published in PloS ONE.
However, some scientists suspected that the study was far too superficial. They maintained that Science or Nature, for instance, would not have published such a paper. New Scientist also suspected that the ”hoopla” was ”unbridled”.
Sometimes, when there is a rush to publish a book and produce a TV documentary, money might be a more pertinent criterion than careful research.
Ida, who measures a metre or over three feet including the long tail, was named Darwinius massillae in honour of Charles Darwin’s 200th anniversary.
A private collector found the bones in 1983 in Messel, Germany. But it was not until Jörn Hurum, a paleontologist at the Oslo Natural History Museum obtained the remains of Ida that the era of Great Aunt speculation began in earnest.
There is a tendency in Israel, for instance, to be suspicious of finds bought from private collectors. China has had her share of fossil scandals, also. While not all collectors are crooks, we should not throw caution to the winds, either.
Ida, who is supposed to be 47 million years old, is remarkably well preserved: 95 per cent of her earthly remains are present. In contrast, Lucy (Australopithecus afarensis), one of the more complete fossils ever found, is only 40 per cent intact. Moreover, even the contents of Great Aunt Ida’s stomach are present.
Ida resembles the lemurs that are still found in Madagascar although she does not have a ”tooth comb” that they use for grooming their fur or a long ”grooming claw”.
The earthly remains of Great Aunt Ida are remarkably intact. Their preservation suggests a rapid catastrophic burial. Seen from a creationist perspective, poor Ida might well have met her end in the same world wide flood that probably also took the life of another icon of evolution – Grandmother Lucy.
Beard, Chris. 2009. Why Ida fossil is not the missing link. New Scientist. (21 May) http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn17173-why-ida-fossil-is-not-the-missing-link.html
Sunday, 17 May 2009
Old human hairs were found in hyena coprolite. But just how old are they? Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
A new study published in the Journal of Archaeological Science raises new questions about the reliability of the ages assigned to ancient human fossils. Dr. Lucinda Backwell of the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, and her colleagues found old human hairs in coprolite or fossilised dung in a cave used by hyenas.
They assume that the hairs are 200 000 years old, which would by far be the oldest discovery of its kind. According to Dr. Backwell, “This find is so unusual as the human fossil record at this time is exceedingly poor, and of course hair is relatively fragile and degrades easily. It is the first non-bony material in the early hominid fossil record.”
The width of the hairs matches that of modern humans and the shape is also similar. In other words, the find does not support Darwinian evolution.
Backwell and her colleagues think that the hairs belonged to either Homo heidelbergensis or to what are assumed to be the earliest Homo sapiens.
From a creationist perspective, the find is interesting. Is it really logical to believe that human hairs can last 200 000 years? Like the recent discovery of soft tissue and collagen in a Hadrosaur bone thought to be 80 million years old, it seems to stretch credulity past the breaking point.
Gray, Richard. 2009. 200,000 year old human hair found in dung. Telegraph. co.uk http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/environment/archeology/5299352/200000-year-old-human-hair-found-in-dung.html
Saturday, 16 May 2009
If we believe in millions of years, Earth might not look like this in three billion years from now. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
The May issue of Scientific American has a feature article on the future of our planet. Planetary scientists David C. Catling and Kevin J. Zahle suggest that Earth is becoming drier due to the weakening of its atmosphere.
Discussing the enormous variety of planetary atmospheres in our solar system, they speculate that the difference is the result of leakage: during billions of years, the atmospheres of most planets has for the most part disappeared into space.
Part of Earth’s atmospheric gases are still leaking into space. If this goes on for billions of years, Earth will eventually become a hot world like Venus or a red planet like Mars. This scenario is based on the belief that there was a time when all planets resembled each other.
The major reason for this is a belief in naturalistic cosmic evolution. When one rejects the possibility that Earth is habitable because it was originally designed to be habitable, one embarks on a never-ending journey of speculations.
Jay Wile, who has a PhD in chemistry, states on the DVD Global Warming: A Scientific and Biblical Expose of Climate Change that a naturalistic view of our planet leads one to suppose that Earth is more vulnerable than it is and that it could easily loose its delicate balance. This has resulted in an almost hysterical fight against global warming.
If we believe that God has created the world, it is easier for us to trust that He will also protect Earth from premature destruction.
The fact that planets have atmospheres suggest that they cannot be billions of years old. Many other details, such as the existence of short-term comets, the weakening of Mercury's magnetic field and the atmosphere of Saturn’s moon Titan indicate that our solar system has to be much younger than the 4, 6 billion years based on the big bang model.
Answers in Genesis–US & Coral Ridge Ministries. 2008. Global Warming: A Scientific and Biblical Expose of Climate Change. DVD.
Catling, David C. ja Kevin J. Zahle. 2009. The Planetary Air Leak. Scientific American 300:5, 24-31 (May 2009). http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=how-planets-lose-their-atmospheres&sc=WR_20090512. (The article’s web version is entitled Our Planet's Leaky Atmosphere.)
Sunday, 10 May 2009
Reverend Michael Dowd collected the best webpages that defend the ideas of ol’ Charles. Image from Wikipedia, ranked as the top site by Dowd.
Michael Dowd’s e-magazine The Evolutionary Times dropped into my mailbox during the weekend. As usual, the May issue was full of praise to evolution.
Reverend Dowd discloses that he got the idea for a short article entitled Evolution as Meaningful, Inspiring Fact after hearing an evolution skeptic voice doubts about the evidences for evolution in a radio programme.
Thus, Rev. Dowd decided to write an article that would list the best resources on inspiring evidences for evolution.
He concluded that the best evolution defending websites were Wikipedia and Talk Origins.
Both sites are known for their evolutionary propaganda. Rev. Dowd has probably not heard that at least one U.K. university will drop the grades of students caught in using Wikipedia as a source in their written assignments. (Wikipedia is admittedly a reasonable source of images depicting Charles Darwin, but that is an entirely different story.) Talk Origins is known for not letting facts stand in the way of defending evolution.
According to Rev. Dowd, cosmic complexity can be spiritually nourishing and deeply empowering. It seems likely that he will not let the facts spoil a good theory anytime soon.
Dowd, Michael. 2009. Evolution as Meaningful, Inspiring Fact. The Evolutionary Times (May). http://thankgodforevolution.com/node/1520.
Saturday, 9 May 2009
A 6th century painting of Augustine of Hippo. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
Oxford professor Alister McGrath has often taken on atheists and especially on Richard Dawkins. He resists the Darwinists' insistence of using evolution to exclude the idea of a creator God.
In a recent Christianity Today article, McGrath discusses the views of Augustine of Hippo (354–430) in an attempt to explain the creation days of Genesis according to the theistic evolution model.
At the beginning of the article, McGrath states:
Many evangelicals fear that innovators and modernizers are abandoning the long Christian tradition of faithful biblical exegesis. They say the church has always treated the Creation accounts as straightforward histories of how everything came into being.
I would agree with professor McGrath. There is a real danger of mutilating Scripture by re-interpreting it so that it conforms to the interpretations of naturalistic science, i.e. evolution and millions of years of earth history.
Darwinian evolution is basically an atheistic explanation for the existence of life. No wonder Dawkins is fond of the idea.
It is a pity that McGrath does not realise his own inconsistency. Instead, he appeals to Augustine’s idea of the difference between instantaneous creation (Psalm 33:6–9) and a God who is still active within creation (John 5:17). McGrath uses this to argue that God could have chosen Darwinian evolution as His method of creation:
For Augustine, God created a universe that was deliberately designed to develop and evolve. The blueprint for that evolution is not arbitrary, but is programmed into the very fabric of creation. God's providence superintends the continuing unfolding of the created order.
McGrath then proposes to give nature the ability to create:
Augustine argues that Genesis 1:12 implies that the earth received the power or capacity to produce things by itself: "Scripture has stated that the earth brought forth the crops and the trees causally, in the sense that it received the power of bringing them forth."
However, the Bible makes it clear that this has to do with “after its kind”. We cannot assume that Augustine was conferring to nature the ability to form new biblical kinds.
Later, McGrath states: “ The real issue here is not the authority of the Bible, but its right interpretation.”
Indeed. A careful exegesis of Genesis 1:1-2:4 shows that the author clearly meant the days as ordinary, 24-hour days. While Augustine’s view was not typical of the early church fathers he certainly did not advocate belief in millions of years of death and bloodshed as God’s method of creation. Augustine believed that God could have created the world instantly.
In sum: using Augustine to justify theistic evolution is evidence of poor logic.
McGrath, Alister. 2009. Augustine's Origin of Species. Christianity Today (8 May).
When Did We Die? New Doubts About Dinosaur Extinction.
In the mind of the layman, some scientific hypotheses have become true after they have been repeated time and again. We have, for instance, all heard that dinosaurs became extinct when an asteroid hit the Earth 65 million years ago.
However, this hypothesis has recently encountered great difficulties.
It is a rather old belief. In the late 1970s or early 1980s Luiz Alvarez and his colleagues found surprisingly high levels of iridium around K-T boundary (the Cretaceous - Tertiary boundary). In addition, as most scientists assumed that there were very few dinosaur fossils in the Tertiary, they concluded that the dinos must have become extinct after an asteroid hit the Earth.
An impact crater found in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico supported the view.
A new fossil find weakens the credibility of this hypothesis. Recently a study published in the journal Palaeontologia Electronica suggests that not all dinosaurs died at the time of the asteroid impact. Jim Fassett of the U. S. Geological Survey in Sante Fe, New Mexico, and his colleagues examined dinosaur bones recently found in the Ojo Alama Sandstone in the San Juan Basin. Their detailed chemical investigations suggest that some dinosaurs outlived the asteroid impact.
Fassett and his team also examined the rocks surrounding the bones in order the rule out the possibility of flowing water having deposited the fossils into younger rocks.
In other words, the fossils were found in too young rocks.
From a creationist perspective, it is an interesting scenario that supports the young earth model. Most dinosaurs probably died in the global flood of Noah’s day when volcanoes might well have erupted and asteroids hit the Earth.
But unfortunately, mainstream science has not discarded the myth of a billions of years old Earth.
Many scientific discoveries support the Genesis account of the age of our planet. For instance, the recent discovery of collagen in dinosaur bone and carbon 14 found in diamonds are rather strong evidences for a young earth.
Moskowitz, Clara. 2009. Some Dinosaurs Survived the Asteroid Impact. LiveScience (28 April)
Monday, 4 May 2009
Some claim that swine flu supports Darwinian evolution. However, reality tells a different story. For instance, stromatolites have resisted change almost since the beginning of life on earth.
LiveScience editor Robert Roy Britt claims that swine flu is evolution in action. He says that without evolution we would not have seen the current epidemic.
Viruses change, Britt writes, so we are seeing evolution in real life.
This is an old trick. First, evolution is defined as change and later the definition is changed so that it refers to the gradual development of all existing species from the same unicellular organism during millions of years.
Viruses can change as a result of mutations and exchange genetic material horizontally, but they do not evolve in the Darwinian sense of the word. This in not the kind of change that would increase their genetic information.
Darwinian evolution is impossible without this kind of change.
However, Britt is reluctant to let facts spoil a good theory. He regards swine flu as an excellent excuse for attacking evolution skeptics. Britt assures us that evolution is one of the “most solid theories in science”. To support his claim, he mentions fossils, DNA and fruit flies.
All of these support nicely the Genesis version of origins. What they do not do is lend support to the neo-Darwinian explanation of life.
Britt, Robert Roy. 2009. Swine Flu Is Evolution in Action. LiveScience (28 April) http://www.livescience.com/health/090428-swine-flu-viral-evolution.html
Saturday, 2 May 2009
Hobbits were obviously master toolmakers.
In 2003 tiny human fossils were found on the Indonesian island of Flores. The 1-metre- tall Flores Man (Homo floresiensis) was soon dubbed Hobbit after Tolkien’s diminutive Middle Earth hero.
It now seems that these Hobbits have left us proof of their dexterity. They used sharp-edged stone tools.
Archaeologist Mark Moore of the University of New England in Armidale, Australia, and his colleagues examined over 11 000 stone tools found in the Liang Buan Cave on Flores island.
With a brain capacity of a third of H. sapiens, Hobbits were nevertheless able to craft so good stone tools that when people classified as H. sapiens later came to the island, they used the very same pattern in their tools. This became obvious when the archaeologists examined the layers in the cave. H. sapiens obviously used the same cave after the Hobbits.
Moore even suggests that H. floresiensis and H. sapiens might have interacted.
Although Hobbits were small, we have no reason to think that they were not fully human. They were obviously no more primitive than individuals classified as Homo sapiens. Like us, they were the descendants of a real man called Adam.
Culotta, Elizabeth. 2009. Did Humans Learn From Hobbits? ScienceNOW Daily News. (17 April) http://sciencenow.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/2009/417/3
Friday, 1 May 2009
A new soft tissue find is good news for creationists. Hadrosaurs in the Answers in Genesis Creation Museum.
Science reported on a new discovery of soft tissue and collagen in Hadrosaur bone.
In 2006 a research group led by Mary Schweitzer of North Carolina State University found soft tissue and collagen in a Tyrannosaurus rex leg bone. The discovery gave rise to much debate as many scientists found it hard to believe that collagen and soft tissue could be preserved for 68 million years.
Now Schweitzer’s group recovered collagen, haemoglobin, elastin and laminin in a Hadrosaur assumed to be 80 million years old.
AAAS (the publisher of Science) chose an interesting approach in reporting the find in its newsletter This Week in Science. The title focused on the dinosaur – bird connection. It was a bit difficult to guess what the story was about without actually reading the text.
The find makes it almost impossible to believe that dinosaurs could have lived millions of years ago. This might be the reason why Science introduced the bird connection.
A more pertinent approach would have been questioning how soft tissues and collagen could possibly have been preserved for 80 million years.
Nature and New Scientist, however, were more transparent in their choices of titles.
Dalton, Rex. 2009. Age-defying dinosaur collagen. Nature News (30 April) http://www.nature.com/news/2009/090430/full/news.2009.422.html.
Hecht, Jeff. 2009. First dino ‘blood’ extracted from ancient bone. New Scientist (30 April) http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn17060-first-dino-blood-extracted-from-ancient-bone.html
Schweitzer, Mary H., Wenxia Zheng, Chris L. Organ, Recep Avci, Zhiyong Suo, Lisa M. Freimark, Valerie S. Lebleu, Michael B. Duncan, Matthew G. Vander Heiden, John M. Neveu, William S. Lane, John S. Cottrell, John R. Horner, Lewis C. Cantley, Raghu Kalluri and John M. Asara. 2009. Biomolecular Characterization and Protein Sequences of the Campanian Hadrosaur B. canadensis. Science 324: 5927, 626 – 631 (1 May 2009).